31 July 2014

kawaii bunny art keepsakes - Japan

I have a slightly small obsession with Japan and anything cute or kawaii. If you've been reading my posts for a while you'll probably already know this. Japan is my favourite country to visit and travel in. Hands down.

So while in Japan last month I was on the look out for a keepsake to remind me of this visit. And I spotted some very cute bunny art that I couldn't go past... 

Japanese gift wrap

Don't you just love how well everything is packaged up and presented in Japan? Even though I knew what was in this gift-wrapped box - it was so much fun opening it when we got home.

I just love these illustrations. I also love that even though my Japanese is limited I can more or less understand what each individual piece means...

kawaii bunny drinking beer - Japan
biiru de kanpai
beer, cheers!

Kawaii bunny and fish friends - Japan
taisetsu na taisetsu na watashi no tomodachi itsumademo
my precious precious friend forever

Kawaii Japanese art

Okay, so I can't do a proper translation for this last one. As far as I can tell it's referencing a summer festival, and mentions the green and bright leaves. If anyone out there can translate this for me I would be very grateful. I bought it because it reminded me of summer, and the season I was visiting Japan in.

And here is where they have ended up in my home...

Kawaii Japanese art
a lovely little shelf in the living room that was just waiting to be filled!

Kawaii Japanese art
bedside table, spare bedroom

Kawaii Japanese art
bookshelf, our bedroom

 ( \  __  /  )
(   = '.' =  )
( " ) _ ( " )
... so what do you think?

28 July 2014

holiday romance - relaxing with your 'better half'

I think that going on holiday with your 'better half' is one of the best ways to relax and spend time together. Separately, I love to 'people watch', particularly when travelling. Watching other people go about their lives can be so interesting!

... so I am often surprised when I see couples who are obviously on holiday together looking bored and disengaged. I noticed this a lot while in Thailand last month.

Now, I'm not claiming to be an expert on holiday romance, and to be honest this feels like quite a strange topic for a blog post. But I do want to share some of the things my 'better half' and I do when on holiday together to ensure we really do make the most of our time. So here goes...

Holiday romance - Thailand

holiday romance - setting some ground rules

When you go on holiday with someone, it's pretty important to enjoy the time with that person. The person who's sitting opposite you and seeing what you're seeing. So our main holiday rule is:
  • No devices! This means - no phones, tablets, laptops, WiFi, internet. When lying side by side on the beach or sitting across from each other over breakfast I refuse to be one of those couples who are glued to their mobile phones. We talk... 

activity breeds enjoyment and memories

... and when talking gets old (come on - you can only talk for so long!!) we explore.

1. Leave the comfort of the pool or your beach lounger and explore your surroundings.
You never know what you might find. While in Thailand hubby and I left our resort and all the people hanging round the pool, walked 20 minutes down the road and found our own private beach for the day. It was amazing!

Private beach - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

2. Sample local food and drink. Challenging, relaxing and fun!
Not only do you get to try something new and potentially delicious, but you also get to share a new experience together. And hey, there's nothing like washing down a meal with a nice chilled beer or cocktail, right!?

Local beer - Thailand

3. Book a couples massage or spa day.
The one activity you should splash out on! Go on, indulge...

Having a massage - Thailand

4. Go for a swim at sunrise or sunset.
While everyone else is sleeping or eating take ownership of the beach or pool. Trust me, it's all yours for the taking.

Ko Phi Phi Beach at sunset - Thailand

5. Read a book together.
This may sound a little nerdy, but personally it's one of the most lovely, relaxing things you can do with your other half. My hubby and I will often choose a book together and then take turns reading a chapter aloud. Way better than watching TV together!

6. Enjoy a private breakfast
Most resorts these days offer some kind of breakfast buffet option. And most, if asked will pick a selection of food for you and deliver to your room. Take your breakfast to the beach or wherever else you feel like eating.

Breakfast - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

7. When in doubt just go for a walk.
Beach walks, bush walks, road walks - you'll always find something of interest...

Beach walk - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Happy summer holidays!!

26 July 2014

Maya Bay, Thailand - aka 'the beach'

While in Thailand last month hubby and I did a day trip out to Maya Bay, also known as 'The Beach' from the famous 2000 film staring Leonardo Dicaprio. This famous movie was based on the book by Alex Garland (which is a great read by the way!).

You hope, and you dream
and you never believe that something's gonna happen for real
A man dies...
leaves you a mystery map to a secret island
and your life is different
It won't ever be the same again
- Alex Garland, The beach

Maya Bay, Thailand - our first glimpse of the beach
Maya Bay, Thailand - our first glimpse of the beach

As we rounded the corner of Ko Phi Phi Lee Island and took in our first glimpse of Maya Bay - and it looked to be every bit 'The Beach' paradise we had been promised...

... a circle of towering cliffs enclosed the sheltered bay, powdery white sand, sparkling green/blue crystal clear water, and the sun reflecting the sky back into our eyes...

Maya Bay Thailand, aka The Beach

If we had been the only people visiting Maya Bay then it would have been paradise. Absolute paradise...

...but since The Beach was filmed here in 1999, and Leo graced these silky shores, the daily reality of Maya Bay is actually a bit more like this... tourists everywhere!

The real Maya Bay Thailand, aka The Beach

There were so many boats, that there was not a single place in Maya Bay where you could safely swim. And all of them were pumping fuel into the water (it smelt like we were at a gas/petrol station).

There were so many people that, well it was bloody noisy, and not relaxing at all. Here's a short clip my hubby took while we were there. Unfortunately this is the real Maya Bay paradise experience for the majority of people that visit 'the beach' these days...


Now before you get too disheartened, I did met some lovely people on holiday at our resort who had paid a bit more to visit Maya Bay first thing in the morning (at about 6am). They had 'the beach' to themselves for almost an hour before the other boats started arriving. So, if it's your hearts desire to really see Maya Bay at it's best get in early! We arrived at about 9am and as you can see it was extremely busy by then.

From 'the beach' you can take a two minute stroll inland to where the camp was supposedly set up in The Beach Movie...

'The Beach' or Maya Bay Thailand

...and the path leads up to a small look out over another gorgeous lagoon. I think this is the spot in the movie where Leo and his French mates jump over the cliffs to reach the camp. In acutual fact it's a pretty sweet spot for snorkelling.

'The Beach' or Maya Bay Thailand

'The Beach' or Maya Bay Thailand

Tired of the noise, and our illusions of 'paradise' shattered (owwwww) we left Maya Bay, aka The Beach in search of quieter waters.

Ko Phi Phi Lee, Thailand

Hopefully I haven't put you off visiting Maya Bay. It is a naturally beautiful spot. You just need to get there super early to enjoy it!

If I'd learnt one thing from travelling, 
it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. 
Don't talk about going to Borneo. 
Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens. 
― Alex Garland, The Beach

19 July 2014

Brighton beach - London's best day trip

We've had a bit of a 'heat wave' in London this past week. It's been humid, sticky, and on most days bright and sunny.

So what better way to indulge the English sun? Why a day out to Brighton beach of course - one of the best known beaches in the UK, and my favourite London day trip...

Brighton Beach with a view of Brighton Pier
Brighton beach, with a view of the old west pier in the background

Getting to Brighton from London is very easy - you simply catch a train from either London Victoria, London Bridge or London St Pancras train stations, and the journey takes approximately one hour. Once your arrive in Brighton, follow the crowds and walk straight down the high street. The high street is on a lovely downhill slope so you'll reach the famous pebbly beach in no time.

Brighton beach has a great cosmopolitan vibe, and in summer there are always hundreds of people out and about enjoying the water, seaside cafés and bars, local art and galleries

We strolled along the waterfront towards Brighton Pier...

Brighton beach front

... and stopped for two (or three) turns on Brighton's own merry-go-round on the beach! 

The merry-go-round is one of my favourite things to do on Brighton beach and I always take it for a spin or two, often to the amusement of onlookers as mostly it's kids that enjoy this ride. But, hey - there is nothing better than a merry-go-round on the beach, sea air in your hair, and the view! 

Brighton Beach merry-go-round on the beach

As well as the beach there's a whole heap of cool stuff to do in Brighton if you're planning on making a weekend of it:
  • shopping on North Laine
  • water sports
  • seafront clubs and bars in the evening
  • coffee sampling at the many independent cafés
  • Brighton Pier for some carnival type entertainment
  • and of course every visit to Brighton must include fish and chips on the beach

View of Brighton beach from Brighton Pier
view of Brighton beach from Brighton Pier

We made the mandatory visit to Brighton Pier, enjoyed a ice-cream, watched the crazy rides and then tied the knot again! (Just kidding.) 

Ride on Brighton Pier

Just married on Brighton Pier

Ahhh... my favourite Brighton merry-go-round again...

Brighton beach merry-go-round

And a sunset...

Brighton west pier sunset

It's not quite so sunny this weekend so I'm having a quite one in London. What's everyone up to?

14 July 2014

eating fresh in Ko Phi Phi - Thailand

Last week I filled you in my most recent relaxing adventure in unwinding in seductive Ko Phi Phi Island - Thailand. I still can't emphasise enough how gorgeous Ko Phi Phi is, but today I want to tell you all about the food, cause well it was amazing too...

Scrumptious, fresh, zingy and mouth-watering are just a few of the words I would use to describe Thai food, which is characterised by the emphasis placed on always using fresh ingredients, strong aromatic components and a spicy edge.

Lucky for us there was small local village within a five minutes walk from our resort, and this is where we ate pretty much all of our meals...

Ko Phi Phi village - Thailand

Our favourite spot for eating was the amazing Mint Restaurant. Quiet due to the low season, but the most amazing food I've had in a long time that was cooked from scratch in the little corner kitchen where we watched our dishes being created before our very eyes!

Mint cafe - Ko Phi Phi village, Thailand

And of course we washed down the food with some cool local beer!

Drinking a cool beer at Mint cafe - Ko Phi Phi village, Thailand

Some of our favourite Mint cafe dishes...

Chicken and vegetable wantons - Ko Phi Phi Thailand
chicken and vegetable wantons

Fresh chicken salad - Ko Phi Phi Thailand
fresh chicken salad - a little spicy and zingy with chilli and lime in the mix

Green chicken curry with sticky rice - Ko Phi Phi Thailand
green chicken curry with sticky rice

Massaman curry - Ko Phi Phi Thailand
massaman curry

And yep, here's me after picking up some much needed supplies (beer!). Not the most flattering pic, but hey I was feeling pretty happy.

Ko Phi Phi Thailand

As well as Mint cafe there were lots of other lovely spots for eating, and in regards to taste - the food was all first class. My mission now is to find a Thai restaurant in London that can measure up.

One day we went for a small hike to the local view point...

View point - Ko Phi Phi Thailand

... it was a hot day, so a fresh coconut with ice-cream was in order to refresh ourselves afterwards.

Fresh coconut and ice-cream - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
fresh coconut and ice-cream :)

Another favourite of mine that I always sample when in Thailand is the crispy Thai pancakes, which can be served with either a savoury or sweet filling.

Pancake with honey - Thailand
pancake with honey

And, yes we had a favourite dinner spot in the village too - Pad Thai restaurant. Again, amazing fresh dishes and squeezed juices, friendly staff and a free cooking show if you wanted to watch your meal come together before your eyes....

Pad Thai restaurant - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
Pad Thai restaurant - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Chicken with tamarind and cashew - Thailand
delicious chicken with tamarind and cashew 

Pineapple fried rice - Thailand
the amazing Pineapple fried rice

So... Hungry? I am!
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