Landroamers

Two Girls, One Goal: Roam the Globe

Emirates Air-Line: A Bird’s Eye View of London

cablcarLondon is England’s most popular tourist destination, and for good reason. From Buckingham Palace to the London Eye, this capital city is full of places to visit and activities to do – and we’re happy to show you our favourite one! The Emirates Air-Line is a cable car taking you from Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks, with breath-taking views of the River Thames and Canary Wharf en route.

HOW TO GET THEREgreenwich

Simply take the Jubilee’ line on the underground to the North Greenwich stop, and then walk across the square outside the station to get to the Greenwich terminal. The staff are incredible friendly and will help you with any queries you have once you arrive.

TICKETS

Return tickets start from only £8.40 for oyster card holders, making it a cheap, fun and unique attraction for you to add to your London to-do list.

THE CABLE-CAR

Stunning sunset views!

SUNSET VIEWS

A one way trip across the river lasts around ten minutes, giving you plenty of time to take in the amazing views that London has to offer. The scenery is particularly stunning as sunset, with the warm colours giving London an extra picturesque feel. Kick back and relax on the comfortable seats as the cable-car takes you high into the sky and across the river, with an informative video playing on a small screen, or get your cameras out and capture a bird’s eye view of England’s capital city.lookout 3

If you’ve never been on a cable-car, it’s easy enough; just wait in the designated area and, when the cable cars come into the station at reduced speed, you can hop in easily! It’s a bit of a thrill being up to 300ft in the air, but it gives you the chance to see some amazing views.

THE ROYAL DOCKS

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Did you know, that the Air-Line is used by many to commute every day? We wouldn’t mind working near the Docks; there are some wonderful things to see on the other side of the Air-Line, including the ‘Sunborn London’ – a magnificent yacht-turned-hotel! Plus, planes flying from London City Airport are low over your heads, so it’s  perfect for plane spotting!

Thanks to the Emirates Air-Line team for showing us London’s hidden gem! Check out their twitter page @EmiratesAirLDN for more exciting news, and let us know when you visit!

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The Guinness Storehouse: An Unmissable Dublin Experience

15628751_10207623016908952_1653656984_oWhen you think of the Irish, one thing tends to come to mind: drinking. From Bulmers to Baileys, there’s a drink for every occasion – and the pubs will always be full! But when it comes to drinking, the top choice is Guinness every time for an Irishman, and you simply can’t visit Dublin without visiting the Guinness Storehouse too. Thank you to the team at the Guinness Storehouse for letting us see where the magic happens!

FINDING THE STOREHOUSE

We took the 747 Airlink Express bus from the Airport to Heuston Station, which took about an hour. In the last stretch of the journey, you will see the Guinness Factory on the left hand side of the road – DO NOT BE FOOLED! The factory is not the same as the Storehouse, and the entrance on Victoria Quay is for trucks (and yes, we found that out the hard way). Instead, exit the station and turn right, walk up past St Patrick’s Hospital and then follow the directions signposted!

THE TOUR

15682394_10207623014748898_182276119_oThe tour itself is designed to last about an hour, with seven floors of interactive and fascinating information about the history, production and popularity of Guinness. You’ll find the gift store on the first floor, filled with ‘Guinness’ marked merchandise ranging from Christmas
baubles to waterproof jackets – and don’t worry, you’ll have to pass it again on the way out!

The second floor is where you’ll get your first taste, in a room where you will literally drink, sleep and breathe Guinness; there are four cylinders pouring out the different smells of Guinness ingredients, and a bar serving you miniature glasses of the beer. As it’s a self-guided tour, you can spend as much time as you like getting eerie shots of your Guinness in the steam, so go crazy!15631171_10207623016628945_946582350_o

The next few floors are interactive and highly informative, ranging from a wide-screen room playing all the adverts ever shown, to a bar where you pour your own pint! There’s a lot more to it than you’d think; you have to tilt the glass and slowly straighten it as you pour, wait a few minutes for it to settle and then fill it to the top – but, if you manage to pour a drinkable pint, you’re rewarded with a certificate. One for the CV, we think!

THE DRINK

15658600_10207623015388914_43421076_oFinally, you reach the top floor, a.k.a the Gravity Bar. Looking out onto Dublin from the seventh floor of the Storehouse, with a fresh Guinness in your hand and a room filled with equally happy people, you know you’ve peaked in life. The staff at the bar are incredible, there’s free Wifi and there are plenty of seats for you to sit down and enjoy your final drink.

AN IRISH EXPERIENCE

As travellers, it’s our responsibility to experience the culture of the country we’re visiting and, as cultures go, the Irish culture of drinking is certainly up there. Even if you don’t like Guinness, the Storehouse provides a fun, cheap experience that is the epitome of Irish. Follow up your tour with a pub lunch and a pint at Temple Bar, and you’ll become Irish.

Honest.

 

 

 

WIN a Travel Journal!

Ever wonder how we stay so organised when we travel so much? It’s a well-known fact that travellers keep a journal, and we’ve teamed up with www.gifts.co.uk to give you a FREE, amazing travel journal to kick off your adventures!

20161105_160843-1It comes with a set of miniature scratch-maps, perfect for keeping track of all the places you go, that are perfect for decorating your home when you eventually return! We love that they come in such a pocket size – it’s perfect for travelling light!20161105_161110-1

In the journal itself are pages and pages of ‘diary’ style layout for jotting down your favourite memories – who knows, maybe one day you’ll start blogging from your journal entries! There are also extra little pages, including your personal details in case you leave this little gem behind, and pages to tick off your check list!

TO ENTER: To enter this competition, just like our picture on Instagram and comment letting us know you’ve given ‘gifts.co.uk’ a like on Facebook. We’ll choose a winner randomly on MONDAY 7th NOVEMBER 2016 before 6pm GMT, so don’t miss this opportunity to win this free travel journal!

GOOD LUCK!

Vietnam: A Fifteen Day Fast Track

Hidden costs are never a pleasant discovery, particularly after you’ve spent lots of money on a trip of a lifetime, and especially when the hidden fee comes in the form of visas. Luckily, if you have a UK passport like us you’re allowed fifteen days visa-free, so we’re here to give you a crash course guide to making the most of Vietnam in just fifteen days!

TRAVEL

Getting in to Vietnam isn’t a problem from any of the bordering countries by either plane or coach, depending on how far your budget stretches. We flew into Ho Chi Minh City and decided to follow the usual backpacker route UP the country. Motorcycles are an incredibly popular mode of transport in Vietnam but we opted out; the impossibility of carrying bags, the insane driving and our lack of experience sent us opting for coaches instead!

sleepr busOur local friend recommended that we use THE OPEN BUS Coach Company , which has ‘sleeper’ buses around Vietnam, following the usual route. These were essentially coaches with bed-like seats, reclined and in bunk-bed style all through the bus. They were bizarre, but incredible; we completed overnight journeys in relative comfort, although there were a few bumps in the road – figurative and literal ones!

IMPORTANT NOTE: There are many ‘Open Bus’ companies in Vietnam, but the original and therefore the best is ‘The Sinh Tourist’ (see hyperlink above.) BE WARNED that many of the other companies operate under the same name, so it’s important to go to the headquarters in Ho Chi Minh City and book through there, otherwise you get the bad-quality version of the Open Bus, where you get treated very badly. On one of the ‘fake’ buses which we accidentally boarded, the conductors separated the white tourists from the Vietnamese in an incredibly racist manner, so be careful to get the right company!

The type of ticket you get has different prices depending on the amount of stops you have. Our route was HO CHI MINH CITY to MUI NE to DA NANG to HOI AN to HUE to HANOI which consisted of over 1,700km of travelling for only £32GBP! This was definitely the cheapest transport we’d ever seen, and it was an absolute bargain! Yes, you have to sit on a coach for up to 16 hours at a time, but the price is definitely worth it!

WHAT TO DO?

tunnelsHo Chi Minh City: This bustling city is full of cultural activities, especially the Cu Chi Tunnels, which is the perfect place to experience the Vietnamese war. Tickets cost £7GBP (price negotiable with tour operators) and include transport and a tour of the tunnels. They were horrible claustrophobic, dark and sweaty inside, but it really makes you think about the conditions the soldiers were in. They also show you lots of the traps that the Vietnamese used against the Americans – they were brutal! Definitely an insightful day trip!pool mui ne

Mui Ne: This was by far our favourite place; we found a hostel for less than £5GBP a night with two pools, air-conditioning and excellent cleanliness. We took this as ‘rest and relaxation’ time; with cheap cocktails, beautiful weather, wonderful pools and a relaxing atmosphere, it’s the perfect place to wind-down and soak in the Vietnamese weather. Plus, an absolute MUST DO is the Mui Ne sunrise sand-dune trip, which is absolutely stunning! Check out the pictures on our Instagram!

Da Lat: Although we didn’t go, we’ve heard wonderful things about this scenic, mountainous region of Vietnam, and therefore recommend that you stop by – and share your pictures of it if you do! We love to learn more!danang infinity pool

Da Nang: This was a stopover for us on the way up, and it turned out to be a little underwhelming; the ocean wasn’t particularly photogenic, and the area where our hostel was situated was a little rough. However, there was a wonderful pool available to use near the sea for £3GBP, and the weather was excellent!

Hoi An: This city is definitely worth a visit, particularly at night! The typical Vietnamese lanterns light up the bustling streets, and there are lots of handmade gifts for sale up and down the roads. Plus, this is the perfect place to get tailored clothing for bargain prices; Vietnamese silk and other beautiful materials are much cheaper here. We treated ourselves to beautiful silk dresses for bargain prices; just as your hostel staff to direct you to a good tailor, as there are lots of poor quality ones in between the good ones.

Hue: Another beautiful city, this time with a famous Citadel as its main attraction. We only stayed here for a few hours as the bus timetables made it hard for us to stay longer, so we didn’t get to see the beautiful architecture, but it’s another ‘to-do’ stop.

hanoi2Hanoi: The final destination before we flew out of Vietnam was Hanoi, which was just as bustling as promised. Ha Long Bay trips go from here, but we missed out as it has a reputation for being ‘too toursity’ – plus, they weather wasn’t great for us. The city has cute markets on Sundays, however, which were fun to scour and situated on a street near lots of cultural performances. We loved it!

 

Happy travelling everyone!

How to stay Fit and Healthy whilst Backpacking

We all know the struggles of travelling on budget- fitness goes out of the window! When we travel we love to indulge in good food (lots of good food), lazing on the beach for long periods of time and a nice few drinks to end the day with. What’s a good trip without a lot of treats?  Sadly this lifestyle can really catch up with us after a few months, and as two very keen health and fitness fanatics (although, not perfect ones for sure) we have had to find a way to keep on top of this whilst away. So if you would like some of our advice on what works for us, here is our straightforward, fool proof plan to keeping fit whilst backpacking!

 

Exercise

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The oldest rule in the book, and by far the most effective. Exercise. You need to be keeping active to live a truly healthy lifestyle- you can’t just rely on your diet to do all the work. Now let’s be honest, most backpackers can’t afford a gym membership whilst away/ are never in one place for long enough that it would be worthwhile to get one. Therefore if we do want to exercise on our travels, most people have to find alternative ways to do so.

Here’s what we do:

  • Go for a RUN! This is simple, free way to get some exercise that will also get you out and about in new places. It is a great way to see the sights and explore the area you are visiting- what better way to exercise than in beautiful places? However a word of caution: Running on hard ground surfaces such as concrete pavements can be bad for your knees in the long run (no pun intended), so we would suggest running along softer grounds such as a beach or a grassy area when possible. It can be hard to motivate yourself to go for a run, so get yourself an amazing playlist and maybe find a friend to be your running buddy!
  • mt doomGo for a HIKE. There are hiking trails pretty much anywhere, so have a quick Google search and get out there! Another great opportunity to experience the natural beauties of the area you’re in. You might even spot some incredible hidden gems!
  • SWIMMING- When travelling we are often in places that have a beach/ pool nearby, so use this to your advantage and do a lot of swimming! It is a great way to stay fit, so try to avoid paddling in the shallow end and get some real swimming done! Even if you are no where near a beach you can often search if there are any open swimming pools in the area; sometimes hotels offer the use of their pools for a small fee.
  • If you happen to be staying in a hotel that has a gym, USE IT! Even if it isn’t a regular thing, exercise whenever possible is better than nothing!
  • 14101755_10206713940382607_1468530053_nMake your own 5 minute fitness routine that you can do in your hotel/hostel room. This is the option we use the most as its the easiest way for us to work exercise into our busy routines. Obviously we mostly try to do this when everyone is out of the room to avoid too much embarrassment, but it really is a great way to keep fit. Some examples of short exercises we do are:
    • Sit ups
    • Press ups
    • Plank
    • Squat-kicks
    • Burpees
    • Jumping Jacks
    • Tricep Dips

As long as you commit to doing these quick workouts every day, you’ll be able to maintain a reasonably good fitness level. Start with 3 sets of each activity. Keep increasing the number of reps you do in a set over time, and eventually your stamina should increase too. Set yourself goals and aim to achieve them- this will help motivate you to keep it up. It is very easy when travelling to just say “I don’t have time today” or “I have barely slept, I’m too tired” but these workouts will take only five minutes out of your day! Commitment is key.

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  • 12933001_10205913270458406_6842715303893601101_nMost importantly, just stay active whenever possible in any ways you can. Go cycling in Amsterdam. Do a jungle trek in Costa Rica. Snorkel in the Bahamas. Try Salsa dancing in Madrid. Go rock climbing in Yosemite. Do a walking tour of NYC. Do yoga on the beach in Bali. Do a Muay-Thai boxing lesson in Thailand. Surf your heart out in Australia. No matter where you are, finding something active to do will definitely pay off. You don’t have to be pumping weights in the gym to keep fit, every little helps. And its an added bonus to say that you have experienced some of these incredible adventures and ticked them off the bucket list!

 

It really doesn’t matter what level of fitness you are starting at/ how much you are able to do. The important thing is that you are starting somewhere and consistently progressing.

 

Food and Diet

Let’s be honest, the biggest factor in weight gain for most people whilst away from home is our ‘holiday diet’ and what we eat when abroad. It’s so hard to eat healthy when you can’t really afford to buy the things you would get in a typical food shop at home. Street food is far cheaper than restaurants in most places, so it is extremely tempting to get fried chicken every day for dinner. For travellers on a budget it is often very tempting to just get a lot of cheap instant noodles to get us by.

Now, we know the whole fun of being on holiday is that you should be able to do and eat what you please. We don’t really think it is completely necessary to dramatically change your diet whilst you are away- EAT WHAT YOU WANT! As long as you are keeping fit with exercise we believe that you can afford to treat yourself to some delicious snacks. However, there are some ways that we can try to avoid having an excess of unnecessary calories every day, and eat delicious food that is also extremely good for you.

We recommend:

  • Avoid buying loads of snacks that are high in sugar/salt from convenience stores such as 711, and opt for fresh fruit from a market stall instead- far more hydrating and full of amazing vitamins that you will most likely be lacking whilst travelling! Not to mention fruit is so refreshing when its hot, and tastes good too! We don’t expect you to cut out snacks completely (we all need a bit of chocolate every now and then), but maybe limit yourself a bit more. If you have a long day of travelling ahead of you, stock up on healthy snacks such as nuts, bananas and apples to keep you going throughout the day. They are also release energy slower throughout the day so it will do you a favour in the long run.
  • DRINK LOTS OF WATER. This is a point we really can’t stress enough!!! Water benefits EVERYTHING! Drinking lots of water speeds up your metabolism, so if you are going for those chocolate bars, at least help your body process them easier! It will also keep your skin hydrated and glowing. If you are doing a lot of walking in the heat, you will need to drink even more to replace the fluids in your body. We recommend buying the biggest bottles of water in the shop as this is far more economical and you definitely should be getting through at least one of these a day! Remember you should drink at least 8 glasses of water a day on average. Whilst in a hot country, sweating and  exercising, you should be drinking even more! If you struggle to get through this much in one day, a good trick is to chug one glass of water straight away before pouring your next one, and then pace yourself on the next. If you drink  the glasses of water in pairs like this, it makes it feel a lot easier to get through the 8 glasses, as it feels more like 4! When you eat out, opt for a bottle of water instead of a fizzy drink/ beer, this small change is really going to help you cut down on calories.
  • EAT WHAT THE LOCALS EAT. In places like South East Asia, western restaurants are more expensive and the food tends to just be greasy burgers/ below-average pizzas. Whilst the Asian cuisine is mostly fresh and healthy with lots of vegetables and little frying. Try to opt for leaner meats and fish whenever you can, and boiled rice over fried rice.
  • If there are kitchen facilities in your accommodation, try your best to COOK FOR YOURSELF whenever possible! In some countries like New Zealand and Australia where it is quite expensive to travel, eating out can be a big issue for your budget! If you are cooking for yourself you can make sure you are getting a much more balanced diet. A lot of travellers on a budget will opt for lots of pasta and rice, but there are ways to eat well at a decent price! We found that buying meat from a butcher was a lot cheaper and you can get great deals there by getting the reduced meat offers. Salad and vegetables are probably quite pricey for your budget, however they are worth the investment if you want to stay healthy! A good way to save money is to opt for canned vegetables, canned fish and beans (such as peas, kidney beans, tuna etc.). These are a lot cheaper than fresh food but are still pretty good for you.
  • If you’re frying food, invest in a jar of COCONUT OIL– it is honestly a miracle oil and is actually multi-purpose (it can also be used for oil pulling to whiten your teeth, body moisturiser, and hair conditioner). Studies have proven that cooking with oils such as olive oil/ vegetable oil can actually be harmful to you, as when heated to a high enough temperature, oils change their molecular compositions, breaking down into shorter chains known as Aldehydes which are actually cancer-causing and can increase the risk of heart disease. Coconut oil is much better for you and doesn’t cost much more. Controversially, even butter is better to cook with than cooking oils! Anything with a thicker consistency is going to be a better option, as they are longer-chain hydrocarbons, and therefore need more heat to oxidise- so the risk of releasing aldehydes is very low. Stick to using oil as a salad dressing, to get the polyunsaturated fats in a healthy way!

 

Other Tips

  • Get plenty of sleep! This one can be difficult when travelling as you’re on such a crazy schedule all the time. Realistically you’re going to get no sleep after a Full Moon Party, but whenever you can, try to aim for at least 7 hours sleep a night.
  • Look for stalls selling smoothies/ fresh fruit juice- they are a great energy boost and source of vitamins. If you can, get some power foods in there such as kale, spinach or avocado. They’ll turn your smoothie a weird colour but it doesn’t affect the taste and they provide a hell of a lot of nutrients!
  • Try not to overdo it with alcohol. We all love a good night out, but try to limit how many drinks you have (hard to do, we know). Alcohol drastically slows down your metabolism, and is full of calories, along with all of its other health issues. So we recommend limiting binging as much as possible.
  • Take multivitamins. They’re arguably just a placebo, but if you aren’t eating that well whilst away, they could be a good replacement for the essential vitamins you’re lacking.

 

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If you have any questions about any of these tips or would like to know more about our fitness routine and diet, feel free to get in touch with us or comment below. We’d love to hear your feedback!
Happy Travelling!

WORKAWAY: Giving Something Back

tara and meMore often than not whilst travelling, you hear somebody preaching about “the real” parts of the country in which you’re in; in other words, the parts of the country that are off the beaten track. Whilst we personally believe that being on the tourist/backpacker track is enriching in terms of meeting new people and doing the main activities the country has to offer, we do also like to drop off the map from time to time. Each country we visit has so much to offer us in terms of sights, food and lifestyle, that it’s almost daylight robbery! But, now we’ve found a way to give something back through the website workaway.info’.

WHAT IS WORKAWAY?

Simply put, ‘workaway’ is a website filled with advertisements for all sorts of different types of voluntary work, in a country of your choosing. With a vast database of unique and rewarding volunteering availabilities, we were almost spoiled for choice! From teaching to building and babysitting to gardening, it has endless opportunities available for willing people.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

As volunteers, the standard agreement is that you are given food and accommodation in exchange for a set number of hours per week; the unique nature of each project applies also to the amount of work and responsibilities you have. For example, one project could ask for one week only of 2 hours per day, whereas another could require a minimum of 3 weeks and 5 hours a day of work. It’s entirely unique and incredibly flexible; once you pay the minimal joining fee of $29USD, you are able to get in contact with the hosts to discuss and finalise your details. These days, so many wonderful volunteering projects expect a hefty fee, so this is an economic way to do a good deed!

OUR WORKAWAY EXPERIENCE

viewsAs we had a little extra time in Thailand, we decided to take the opportunity to give something back to a community. We wanted a laborious type of volunteering, and with a few quick strokes we found the perfect place for us; a future holistic centre in need of tiling. Our hosts replied quickly and happily, and arranged to pick us up on the day we specified – and so began our adventure!

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Standing on the “Watermelons”

We were expected to work 5 hours a day 5 days a week in exchange for accommodation and three meals a day. Obviously, it was no 5-star accommodation, but we’re used to roughing it a little; we were given a room with a makeshift bed and plug sockets – all we needed! Our project was based inside little dome rooms, which would be turned into bedrooms and meditation rooms in the future. The curious design of these houses had the villagers calling them “watermelons”!

Our job in the day was to mosaic tile a future bathrooms; our hosts showed us how to make the cement ‘mud’, the right amount to add to each piece, how to break the tiles safely and how to clip them into a suitable shape for the design. Who knew mosaicking was so complicated? Still, it was a very relaxing atmosphere and a therapeutic task. With music playing and our focus peaked, the hours and days passed easily. Art really is therapy! We really loved our mosaic experience, particularly seeing the progress!

mosaic closeupAlthough we were required to have 5 hours of work a day, the way we managed that was very flexible. Aside from the responsibility of watering the orchard at specific times (for the centre hopes to be semi self-sustained food-wise) we were free to work whenever. Usually, we did 3 hours in the morning and two after lunch, but this was entirely up to us.

Mealtime was a very interesting experience, and often amusing. A lady in the village cooked our lunch and dinner, with a repetitive menu of rice and a varying array of vegetables. Did you know that you could cook cucumber? We certainly didn’t! While not particularly appealing, the hosts had a shopping list laying around for any extra necessities. And, luckily for us, breakfast was rice-free (except on days when the excessive rice leftovers were turned into ‘mango sticky rice’ – no joke!) and consisted of fruit, cereal, the occasional pancakes and eggs! Yum! As travellers, it’s nice to not have to worry about making your own meals all the time!

So much rice!

So much rice!

Of course, depending on what volunteering project you choose, you may not be alone! We worked alongside around 5-10 different workawayers of all different nationalities and ages, and made budding friendships with our fellow workers! It’s amazing how many wonderful people we met, all who had no problem adjusting to the lifestyle and making us feel welcome. Many of them even stayed for 4 weeks at the site, and many had been doing workaway projects across the globe! Evenings and mealtimes were spent talking and exchanging stories from all over the world!

WHY DO WORKAWAY?

  • Free volunteering: most days, volunteering requires donations and money that many of us simply don’t have! But with workaway, you can do a good deed for free (minus the initial, miniscule fee!)
  • Meet new people for longer: you make so many friends whilst travelling, but workaway offers you the chance to stay in the same place for longer – so you can meet people for more than a night or two! When you find the people that you really click with, you can even journey on with them!
  • A break from travelling: it’s the chance to settle down for a week or two in the same spot, air out your bag and get a little routine going! Sometimes, it’s nice to have a laundry basket instead of a ‘dirty clothes bag’!bench
  • It’s entirely flexible: there’s no binding contract here; if you find that your volunteering isn’t to your liking, you can leave without a fuss! On the flipside, if you find that you love where you are, you can extend your stay!
  • A wide variety: the website is easy to navigate and offers thousands of volunteering opportunities that range vastly. It’s like an encyclopaedia for volunteering!

We loved our workaway experience, and are taking new skills, memories and friends with us as we continue our journey! Share your workaway stories with us!

CHIANG MAI: AN ELEPHANT SANCTUARY DAY

For anyone travelling in South East Asia, Thailand is famed for its vast array of elephant tours and sanctuaries, both positively and negatively. The most desired activity in the North (followed closely by cooking classes and Muay Thai boxing) is a day with elephants, and we were sucked straight into this idea. However, we did our research beforehand and opted for a day in an elephant sanctuary.

ELEPHANT RIDES

elephantAlthough this seems like the most exciting and tale-worthy experience with elephants, it’s actually incredibly cruel, and elephants are often rescued from places which offer riding. In order to tame an elephant enough to make it safe for tourists to ride them, they are essentially beaten from a young age, torn from their mothers and starved so they become submissive, which is an utterly horrendous technique. Furthermore, the fact that such animal cruelty occurs for tourists makes it even more despicable; travellers have paid for animals to live miserable lives, for the sake of ‘entertainment’. Thankfully, there is a vast array of sanctuaries that have rescued elephants from this, and now use tourist money to ensure they live happy lives.

WHY GO TO ELEPHANT SANCTUARIES?

Whilst you don’t get to experience riding an elephant, you get to live with the knowledge that you are not funding animal cruelty. Moreover, the day itself is full of other, more fulfilling activities that help you care for such a precious animal, rather than endanger it. Our day was filled with bathing and feeding the elephants, and learning to make special ‘medicine’ for them, as well as hundreds of photo opportunities!

OUR EXPERIENCE

grassWe were taken to an elephant sanctuary very early in the morning, with a guide that had swallowed one too many pages from the urban dictionary and kept coming out with phrases such as “let’s hit the town!” We changed into (hideous) overalls, and headed out to meet out elephants, who had all been rescued from either a circus or a riding centre – and one had even escaped into a village, before being rescued!

feedingOur biggest task was feeding the elephants, which happened three or four times during our day. Elephants eat around 200kg of food per day each, so it’s a huge task! We fed them bananas to get to know them, and they grabbed bushels of them with their trunks, throwing them into their mouths in fast, repetitive motions. It was like watching a conveyor belt of food go into their mouths – these animals are greedy! We also ventured into a green patch and chopped plenty of tall grass, which they once again consumed at astonishing speed!

waterfunAfter feeding, our next task was bathing them. The saying “happy as a fish in water” could easily swap out the fish for an elephant; the second they went into the lake, they submerged themselves with delight and practically went snorkelling! Our happy elephants rolled around as though they weighed nothing (despite weighing almost 3 tonnes!), and we had to make sure one of their playful kicks didn’t break a rib! We were all given a brush and bucket and waded in happily after them, keeping them wet and washing as best we could! Who knew elephants loved water? NOTE: We thought we were standing on a soft riverbed, but it turns out to be sunken elephant poo – they release around 70kg of poop a day! Ew!

Finally, we learned how to make elephant ‘medicine’, after a long day of playing with them. We were taken to a shaded area with a huge mortar and pestle, and we took it in turns to crush out ingredients such as salt and ginger into paste. This apparently aided their digestion which, given the sheer quantity of food, seemed like a good idea! Plus, they really seemed to like it!

SAYING GOODBYE

flowerWhen it was eventually time to head back to our hostel, we had to say goodbye to our elephants. Naturally, the best way to do this was with some more bananas – which, we found out were donated from the local village when they were past human edibility. It was particularly touching because the elephants held your hand with their trunks in farewell, and one even brought us a flower! True love? We think so!handholding

In all seriousness, we think a day with elephants is a must-do, but be careful what you sign up for! These creatures are innocent and loveable, and don’t deserve to be tortured for tourist demands, so opt for a sanctuary day instead of riding! You’ll have the best day, guaranteed!

HOW TO: THAILAND’S FULL MOON PARTY

Legend has it, the Full Moon Party was initially just a group of friends celebrating a birthday, but these days it’s a once-a-month mental beach party! On average, 20,000 people arrive on Haad Rin Beach on the island of Koh Phangan every month to drink, dance and party! It’s a night you won’t forget, and we have the perfect guide!

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ACCOMODATION

beachThe islanders are smart and know how to make money and, as such, most hostels have a minimum night’s stay of 3 or 4 nights. This might seem unfair and annoying, but you’ll certainly be needing the next day to recover, so it’s only really one or two extra nights. There’s loads of amazing beaches on the island itself, so there’s plenty to do apart from the full moon party. Plus, there are parties almost every night (such as a jungle party!) so it’s definitely not the worst place to spend a few more days!

We highly recommend paying that little extra for air conditioning, as we’d originally gone for the cheaper option and almost drowned in our own sweat. It’s hot! There are tons of options for little private rooms, but most come with a fan instead so it’s not worth it! Our air-conditioned 20 bed dorm was far more welcoming!

PREPARATIONS

Here’s where things get a little harder – but we have a kit list and price list for you!

  • TSHIRTS: Basic Full Moon Party uniform demands the wear of a hideous neon yellow/ green/ pink or orange t-shirts. If you’re buying more than one make sure to haggle; you can reduce the price from 150baht to 100!
  • RAVE PAINT: Half the fun of a night out is getting ready, particularly when there’s paint involved! Do not buy paint at street stalls as they are more expensive; instead, opt for buying it at the supermarket for around 40baht per pot! HOWEVER, you can get free rave paint when you arrive at the beach or when you order drinks at certain bars, so play it by ear!
TRANSPORT

tranpsortIt will cost you 100baht to get to the Full Moon Party, with no haggling possible. Unfortunately, taxi drivers know that you need to get to Haad Rin Beach and they have all decided to charge 100 baht per person, so save time and pay up. You will have to pay upfront, but you will get there.

Taxi drivers will also wait until they have the full 8 people in their vehicles, as they’re trying to make the most amount of money as possible. Please be patient; the party lasts all night and they’re just trying to make a living!

Typically, it’s easier to negotiate price for the way back, so hopefully you can save some money on the way back!

THE PARTY

raveUpon arrival, you will receive a wristband after paying your entrance fee of 150baht and then you’re in! The walk up from the entrance to the beach is full of drink stalls selling buckets of alcohol and mixers (yes, buckets!) for 150baht, but you can negotiate if buying more than one. BEWARE: Thai alcohol and energy drinks are a little different, so don’t overdo it on the buckets as they are very strong!hands

The beach itself is a party animal’s heaven! The entire stretch is filled with miniature stages for different genres of music, with bright lights and people everywhere! Hop onto a podium, admire the fire tricks – but, no matter what your vodka tells you, don’t try to jump the flaming rope! Trust us, we’ve seen people getting pretty burnt from a misjudgement!

But, on a serious note, the night is crazy and definitely one you won’t forget! If you can handle yourself, you can catch the sunrise on the beach and still be partying! Drink up and enjoy the ride!

TOP TIPS

  • Wear footwear! The temptation to walk through the sand barefoot is great, but getting glass in your foot and ending your night early isn’t worth it!firetricks
  • Watch your buckets! It’s really cool to have your drink in a sandcastle bucket, but it’s also easier to get spiked so be careful.
  • Don’t bring your valuables! There’s certainly no ID checks in Thailand, so leave what you can securely locked up to avoid losing it on the beach – trust us, you won’t find them again!
  • Don’t go to the toilets! They’re disgusting and you have to pay for them, plus there’s no toilet roll – if possible, hold it in!
  • Enjoy the night! Going to a Full Moon Party is bucket list material, so make the most of it!

The Gili Islands: Day Trip Drama

Indonesia is a country full of beautiful islands, the most famous being Bali, but there’s a trio of spectacular islands known at the Gili Islands. Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan (commonly known as Gili T) form a threesome of incredible places to relax, sunbathe and take a cool coconut drink on the beach. Well, since we were already in one famous destination, we decided we’d try out another!

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THE JOURNEY TO PARADISE

We woke up bright and early, full of energy and excitement at the prospect of our trip to Gili. Unlike most travellers, we were a little pushed for time so opted for the day trip, but we’ve heard several amazing tales of sunrises on the islands – so, if you have the time, try an overnight stay!

Having bartered the price of the trip the day before, we headed out with our tickets and got on the hour and a half long “coach” (or, in Balinese style, a run down van) to Sanur Beach, where we transferred onto a “fastboat”.

Fair warning, it’s cheap for a reason. In all seriousness, the fast boats to the Gili Islands have hundreds of terrible reviews from customers of all ages. Prepare yourselves for a three hour trip in the blistering heat, wondering where your luggage is and praying you don’t vomit all over the poor person in front. Luckily for us, we weren’t there during peak season, where we’ve heard horror stories about overfilled boats.

But – fear not! We definitely had the trip of a lifetime!

THE ISLANDS

boatWe disembarked on the sandy shores of Gili Meno, and gazed around in wonder. All around were little wooden huts, selling snorkelling or snacks and looking perfectly picturesque. As we ventured up onto the makeshift roads (dusty tracks, shaded by trees), we witnessed the public transport available on the island: horse and carriage! There are no cars or motorbikes on the Gili Islands, making it a timeless, unique experience!

While Gili T has a reputation for partying and having legal drugs (watch out when ordering mushroom pizza!), all three islands are famed for their stunning snorkelling and swimming trips. All along the beachfront, there are stalls selling day trips and renting masks and fins, so we headed over and bartered for our trip.

SNORKELLING TRIP

diveWe ended up on a little fishing boat with a father and son, ready for snorkelling! As usual, the Indonesians were incredibly friendly and helpful; after we told our captain that we wanted to swim with turtles, he took us to his favourite, lucky spots. We did five swims throughout the day, cooling off in the beautiful ocean and admiring the wonderful undersea life.

13732248_260662967646289_581712818_n(1)Finally, we got the signal and saw over to our captain, who pointed below at two enormous turtles swimming with the tropical fish! And, let us tell you, they are faster than you think! The minute we dove and tried to get a closer picture, they swam away into the deep blue sea – but fear not! There turned out to be more turtles camouflaged in the seaweed, and we managed to get an underwater photoshoot on the way!

The vast array of sea creatures was a real treat on our trip. From turtles to blue tangs (aka Dories from Finding Nemo), we really got what we came for! We even managed to dive and grab a starfish for a close up picture!starfish

After a few hours, we returned to shore and treated ourselves to a fresh coconut milk drink, just what we needed after a tiring day of swimming! Even though the weather had seemed to turn, we managed to avoid rain and even got a tan – success all round!

HEADING HOME

So, after a wonderful day swimming in the deep blue sea, sipping on coconuts and lapping up the sunshine, we braced the fastboat once again and finally made it back to Bali. And that was when the trouble began.

Unbeknownst to us, we’d been given the wrong ticket to get home; the ticket office on Gili Meno had read our address wrong and issued us a ticket for the wrong coach home. Ignorant to this mistake, we hopped aboard the coach, gave our accommodation name and sat back in total ease.

Not ten minutes later, the bus pulled up and called out our name. Confused, we explained that we were staying two hours away and this was absolutely not our accommodation – and luckily, there was another passenger who translated for us. After much arguing and having to stand our ground, the driver furiously continued driving (quite maniacally), until everyone had been dropped off and it was the last stop. He took us to Ubud, two hours from our accommodation, and demanded that we get out.

fishNaturally, we refused. After a heated argument, and threats to call the police, we took his details and marched off to a police station ourselves, seething. It was dark by this point, and we’d been stranded two hours from where we lived because of a mistake in admin that was not our fault! The injustice continued at the police station, where the officers laughed and shrugged, clearly unperturbed by our problem – but more than happy to take pictures with us! They simply rang the company, listened to their lies that it was all our fault (??) and called us a taxi.

Tired, defeated and fed up, we headed home, resigned to the fact that we’d have to pay for our transport home despite having bought a return ticket with the tour company. At least the driver was friendly and funny, playing upbeat music after we’d told him our dramatic day!

RESOLUTION

Fear not guys: the next day, we marched up to the boat company’s head office and demanded a refund. After three hours of arguing and sit-in protesting, they refunded half of the amount of money just to shut us up, and we decided to take the victory! It was disappointing to encounter such nice people on the island, and such rude staff members at the headquarters, but no harm no foul!starrr

Despite this slight hitch, the Gili Island trip was fantastic, unique and unforgettable! Things are never going to go smoothly, but we managed to laugh it off and not stress, so it was a success all round!

If you can, pay slightly more (it’s still dirt cheap!) for the better tour companies to avoid our hassle, and enjoy your island hopping!

Indonesia: Bali’s 5 Best Beaches

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When we think of Bali, we envision idyllic, lush beaches with crystal clear waters. And paradise is exactly what we found. There’s a variety of different beaches in Bali to suit every personality type, from the action packed surfer to the all-day tanner. We took the time to really wind down and enjoy some quality R&R on its picturesque beaches so that we could tell you all about it, and these were our favourites:

1: Virgin Beach, Karangasem (a.k.a. White Sand Beach)

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This was by far our favourite beach in Bali. In Balinese, it is called “Patir Putir” and is not very well known by tourists, and is actually a favourite spot for the locals/ some well-informed expats. It is one of Bali’s best kept hidden secrets and was the highlight of our trip! It was extremely clean and pristine- the kind of place you could put on a postcard!

In Bali we recommend making friends with a taxi driver, as if you stay loyal to them they will give you really good rates and also take you to their favourite spots. No one knows Bali better than the people that live there! We did this, and asked our taxi driver what his favourite beach was. He told us about the Virgin Beach, famous for its pure white sand. The surrounding beaches along the coast are known to have volcanic, black sand, which is what makes this beach stand out so much in the area.

Be warned that you have to pay a small fee to use the beach, but it is so worth it. There are a few reasonably priced restaurants/ cafes along the beach selling fresh fish and ice cold drinks, and if you buy something from them you can use their sun beds for free. We treated ourselves to some fresh coconut and spent the day lounging and taking in the glorious view.  If you want a quiet, relaxing day in paradise, this is the beach for you!

2: The Gili Islands, Lombok

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Although not technically in Bali, or a specific beach, the Gili Islands are the ideal spot to get some sun by the sea. A fast boat from Sanur will get you there easily, we went with a company called ‘Blue Water Express’ which was reasonably priced and we managed to haggle the price down quite a lot. Make sure you don’t go with the original asked price!! The only thing about this company is that we had an issue getting back to our hotel after as their shuttle bus service was extremely disorganised and we ended up on the wrong bus! So make sure you triple check that you are going to the right place!

12523960_10205882037625558_2530667310156646668_n12799163_10205887942985235_541905475467696820_nAll three islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air) have absolutely beautiful beaches and no matter which one you go to you will not be disappointed. Gili T is more of a party destination, whilst Gili Meno and Air are more peaceful; you will feel like you have escaped to a remote desert island. The Gili Islands are the best place to go for snorkelling in Bali. You can go on a boat trip around the three islands for a very cheap price that will take you to all the best spots to see amazing sea life. We particularly loved swimming with the huge turtles in Gili Air, it is an amazing experience you should make sure not to miss! We highly recommend the Gili Islands.

3: Seminyak Beach, Seminyak

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12932709_10205906687721795_8282354059768813702_nSeminyak beach is a huge, clean stretch of beach with small waves. This makes it the perfect spot to take a beginners surfing lesson! We tried this and fell in love with it, after all Bali is famous for its surfing! We highly recommend ‘Wayan Tembok Surf Lessons’, the guys were amazing teachers and made us enjoy every second of it!

1958127_10205906668521315_2518807718721063633_nThe thing we love most about Seminyak beach is its atmosphere in the evening. The sun sets so beautifully on this beach, and you can get the most stunning photos- it is a photographers dream! Restaurants and bars line the beach, offering outdoor seating (often in the form of beanbags- AWESOME!) and uplifting, live music which creates the perfect holiday vibe. This was our favourite way to spend the evenings in Bali, sipping on cocktails on a beanbag watching the sunset. Don’t miss it.

4: Kuta Beach, Kuta

This is an extremely touristy beach, which can be quite off-putting for some people, but if you are a keen surfer and would like to ride some bigger waves, then this is the beach for you. It is not ideal for swimming as the waves really are quite big and the water is hot (not exactly going to cool you down after sunbathing for an hour); however this is the beach that gives Bali its famous surfing name. We met so many experienced surfers who came to Bali purely to surf in Kuta, and at the beach you will notice that the majority of stalls along the beach will be offering beginners surfing lessons.

Kuta is notorious for its party scene, and we can certainly think of worse places to be sleeping off a hangover! If you are interested in meeting other travellers, this would be a great place to do it, as cheap accommodation and bustling nightlife attracts a huge amount of backpackers to this area, making it one of the most popular beaches in Bali. Although there are many tourists and travellers at this beach (it is very busy) it is still kept extremely clean with clear waters. However, with this amount of tourists, come lots of people trying to sell to the tourists. So be aware that someone definitely will try and sell you a cold drink/ pair of sunglasses every ten minutes!

5: Batu Belig Beach, Kerobokan

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12936646_10205837706437306_7709036575932193009_nAt the beginning of our trip we were staying in a hotel close to this beach, and we fell in love with it. It’s quite out of the way (we couldn’t find it the first time, oops!) but it’s worth it when you get there. The beach and the water are both very clean; its waves are tiny compared to Kuta and Seminyak, making it better for swimming. Like most beaches in Bali, it looks amazing when the sun is setting. It is not as busy and hectic as Kuta and Seminyak, as it is less of a backpacker’s area. The beach is lined with expensive resorts and beach clubs, providing a much different atmosphere to the other beaches. One night we treated ourselves to dinner with a view (of the spectacular Indian Ocean) at ‘Mozaic Beach Club’. It was fantastic, but be warned, very pricey for Bali standards. For all our fellow chocaholics, we highly recommend the sharer dessert which the chef serves you at your table, it’s incredible!

 

No matter what beach you go to in Bali, we’re sure you will be blown away. It truly is a paradise island. We hope this article has managed to give you some helpful insight on the ideal beach for you.

HAPPY TANNING!

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