A quick trip to Phuket

I recently decided to substitute the winter blues of Hong Kong for the tropical blues of Phuket. Although my passport has seen the Thailand stamp many times, this was my first jaunt to the popular island and I was excited to see what it was like.

While most of the four-day trip was spent at the beach or by the pool, I did manage to unearth a few gems during my time in this tropical Thai paradise…

Where to stay

If you read my Seoul review, you’ll know I’m a massive fan of airbnb. The accommodation site has listings covering everything from el cheapo units to luxury condos. Once again, it came through with the goods. We stayed at The Residence Kalim Bay in Kathu (close enough to all the action, without being in the heart of it). The apartment we booked was exactly what we were after: spacious, modern, comfortable, clean and located in a complex that had a nice pool (and pool bar). With restaurants, shops and the beach all within effortless reach, we couldn’t have been happier with our holiday digs.

Kata Noi Beach Phuket Thailand

Kata Noi Beach Phuket Thailand

Phuket Thailand

Koh Phi Phi ThailandWhat to do

Despite being a bit of a tourist trap, the Phi Phi Islands are exquisite and definitely worth braving the crowds for. We did a day tour (pretty standard and very easy to book); it included lunch, some island hopping and snorkeling. Make sure your camera has a full battery – it’s a truly breathtaking corner of the world.

If you have access to your own transport, zipping up to check out the Big Buddha is easily done. The monument itself is well-maintained and the views allow you to take in all sides of Phuket. The road leading up to the Big Buddha is pretty steep and windy but does pass by a couple of elephant retreats and a bird park if you’re keen to capitalise on the drive.

There are lots of watersports outfits (offering jet ski, banana boat and ski biscuit hire) along Patong Beach. Parasailing was something I hadn’t done before so was keen to give it a go when I saw it was on offer. So glad I did – it was a total rush and a lot of fun. Worth doing if you’re keen to get the pulse racing.

For hassle-free beach time, venture to Kata Noi Beach. Tucked over the hill from busy Kata Beach, Kata Noi has less bells and whistles making it perfect for relaxing.

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Koh Phi Phi Thailand

Koh Phi Phi Thailand

Koh Phi Phi Thailand

Big Buddha Phuket Thailand

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Phuket Thailand

Eating and drinking

Pan Yaah came recommended to us by our airbnb host. Perched on a cliff edge overlooking the water, the location is gorgeous. Combined with a delicious selection of Thai food, a comprehensive cocktail menu and good service, you have a combo that’s sure to please. Worth swinging by for a bite to eat if you’re in the area.

Baan Rim Pa is a Phuket institution and, if you’ve ever been to this award-winning joint, it’s not hard to understand why. Everything about dining here is enjoyable; the staff are helpful and friendly, the open-air setting is superb (like eating in an upscale tree house), and the food really is exceptional. A culinary highlight for me was the tom kha gai served in a coconut. Insanely good and worth making the effort to get to.

Snorkelling Koh Phi Phi Thailand

Koh Phi Phi Thailand

Kathu Phuket

Happy travels!

E x

Hello 2015!

BGBC flowers

2015 is in full bloom which means we’ve had over a week to figure out what our New Year’s resolutions are. As you’ll see from the list below, we’re all about bite-size changes this year – you know, little nips and tucks to everyday life that we’ll actually make happen.

No matter the size of your goals this year, we hope 2015 is big and bright for you!

Emma

  • Be in bed by 10pm on weeknights.
  • Take homemade lunches to work (at least a couple of days a week).
  • Have fresh flowers in the house.
  • Master a few more recipes (my kitchen currently does not rule).
  • Make Pilates my ‘thing’.

Charlotte

  • Use spare moments and downtime to read actual books or the news (i.e. not Facebook!).
  • Lie in, every now and again.
  • Make time to actually talk on the phone to loved ones, no matter the time difference.
  • Never have chipped nails.
  • SPF – wear it.

E & C x

Winter warmers

While Charlotte is soaking up the Sydney sun, the switch has been flicked from ‘cold’ to ‘very cold’ in Hong Kong and I’m freezing my socks off! If you’re a winter wuss like me, here are a few bits and pieces I swear by to make the chilly months slightly more bearable…

Hong Kong winter

Teapigs

Not all tea is created equal and Teapigs is proof of that. This cult UK brand landed on HK shores a while ago (available online, select health food shops and international supermarkets) and totally transformed my tea game. My brew of choice: liquorice & peppermint.  Served in biodegradable tea temples (not tea bags), this worship-worthy herbal infusion is naturally sweet, making it a perfect pick-me-up. While on the slightly pricy side, the Teapigs range is totally worth it (and a tea bag is good for at least three cups – not that I’m counting).

EOS hand lotion

Cute, compact and delicious-smelling, EOS hand lotion is an absolute must-have for winter. The nifty (can’t remember the last time I described something as ‘nifty’) tube is easy to carry in your purse or pocket. The formula is quickly absorbed and paraben-free.

Super Food Lab

The cooler air can often wreak havoc with your immune system (and that is not cool). To help stay feeling well (and hopefully sickness-free), upping your fresh juice and smoothie intake is worth doing. I recently discovered Super Food Lab’s Super Red Antiox and am hooked. Made with nutrient-dense pomegranate, goji berries, blueberries and cranberries, this is a supplement powder that actually tastes as good as it sounds. If you’re on the green juice bandwagon, try giving their Super Green version (made with wheat grass, barley, spirulina and chlorella) a go instead. I especially love the fact both these powders are available in travel sachets (packs of 10) – it makes them super handy to have at work or on the go.

Lanolips

I’ve made no secret about my love of Lanolips – it is, without a doubt, the best lip balm I’ve ever used. Morning, noon and night, I keep my pout plastered with this stuff and it works a dream. I’m currently burning through the Apple 101 Ointment which is also doubles as an awesome cuticle balm.

Tallore

Homemade soup is one of the very few things I genuinely love about winter. While there is no shortage of places that sell soup around HK, finding a decent one (delicious, healthy and well-priced) can be tricky. I couldn’t believe my luck when I stumbled across Tallore – an artisan soup joint – in Wanchai. Along with serving amazing gourmet soup (five flavours available daily), this Belgian eatery also has hearty sandwiches and fresh salads on offer. If you don’t live or work near Wanchai, Tallore is on the books with Food Panda (whoop whoop).

Foxtail & Broomcorn

Noodles are always a good idea but especially during winter. Because Hong Kong is a bit of a wonderland on the noodle front there are limitless options. One place worth specifically scoping out, however, is Foxtail & Broomcorn. This modern little noodle bar in Sheung Wan has only been open a few months and already has a loyal following with queues out the door daily. With a focus on wholesome food, the menu includes eight MSG-free noodle dishes and an array of low-carb mains. In terms of noodles, the ‘Tokyo’ (fresh ramen noodles, onzen egg and harissa beef ribs in chicken broth) gets my vote. Slurp-tastic.

Stay warm!

E x

Finding my mat

Unlike Hong Kong, Sydney offers a plethora of yoga studios to choose from – from the see-to-be-seen hotspots to smaller, holistic studios tucked away on back streets. Given that my regular practice consisted of Pure (and I’m not knocking it, I went all the time), I wasn’t quite prepared for just how overwhelmed I would be at the variety on offer. So many places, so little time. And spread out. So spread out – seriously, Hong Kongers you forget how lucky you are!

Sydney is one of those cities – on the weekends lululemon is practically mandatory and every third person is carrying a yoga mat. It’s like a little slice of heaven for someone like me and despite my ridiculously healthy lifestyle taking a slight turn (in my defence, I’m in a new city and I need to meet people!), I have relished in exploring what Sydney has to offer.

Finding a great yoga studio is like choosing a potential partner; it’s a commitment – you want to find somewhere that makes you feel comfortable but challenges you at the same time, invites you to go deeper and broaden your horizons. At home, I knew who I loved, the style I craved, and I had a pretty nailed routine… In Sydney, I’m starting that all over again, so here are my tips for finding a great studio, no matter where you live:

  • Location is key: with no MTR and $3 bus rides, you need to really think about a) when you practice and b) where you are at that time – I love evening classes, so somewhere close to work makes much more sense
  • Don’t listen to the hype: when I arrived, everyone was like “you have to try this place” and in all honesty, I didn’t enjoy it – it may be one of the most popular places to practice, but it didn’t float my boat and I was happy with that
  • Get outside your comfort zone: I challenged myself to an Ashtanga class – scary, so scary!
  • Talk to people: the best way to get a feel for a studio is to chat with the people there, in the studio I ultimately decided on, everyone is friendly, smiles and there’s a good vibe – lots of places don’t have that, so it’s important to find somewhere that makes you feel welcome
  • Try, try, try: unlike Hong Kong, so many places do trial weeks – make the most of them, experience as many teachers as you can and keep trying until you find the right fit, it’s worth it in the long run!
  • Instagram: there are so many yogis on Instagram it’s ridiculous! Start following local yogis in your city and see where they practice, where they hang out etc. and you’ll find your groove in no time!

C xYoga in Sydney

Seoul got soul

You know a city is pretty special when you leave feeling like you could live there. This was the case for me after spending five amazing days in Seoul.

From kimchi to K-Pop, Seoul’s got it all going on. If you have plans to visit this South Korean metropolis – or if you’re in need of inspiration for your next city break – here are a few highlights from my trip…

Where to stay

As is the case with many big Asian cities, decent hotel accommodation is pretty pricey in Seoul. Keen to be central but not wanting to shell out big bucks for a small, below-average hotel room, we decided to scour airbnb for a place to stay. We struck gold with Daysom Guesthouse, a traditional Korean hanok thought to have been built about 120 years ago. Although not very big, it was cute, comfortable and easy to get to via airport limousine (i.e. airport bus). We were close to bus stops, subway station entrances, as well as just a five-minute stroll to Changdeok Palace.

I’m a big fan of airbnb, having only had positive experiences with the platform. If you haven’t used the site to scope out accommodation options before, it’s worth doing (especially in big cities) as I think you’re more likely to get a better feel and understanding of the place.

Seoul is sprawled so location is key. Have an idea of the neighbourhoods you want to spend time in and the things you want to do before you book anywhere.

Seoul

Daysom Guesthouse

Wood and Brick Seoul

What to do

There’s no shortage of things to do and places to go in Seoul.

Exploring the Gyeongbok Palace  and the Changdeok Palace is worthwhile. While Gyeongbok (closed on Tuesdays) is the bigger, more famous of the two, I actually preferred Changdeok – there were less people and the ‘secret garden’ (which you need to buy an extra ticket and be part of a tour group to visit) is beautiful.

The N Seoul Tower is a place that doesn’t seem to get much airtime but is worth a visit. Accessible by cable car or bus, the area around the base of the tower has basically become Seoul’s answer to the Love Lock Bridge in Paris. Hooked along railings and handle bars, thousands of colourful padlocks and have been popped and locked for the world to see. While it might not have the same romantic vibe as its French counterpart, it’s a fun spot to take photos and chow down on churros.  The view is good too.

Bukchon Village was one of my favourite pockets of Seoul. Utterly picturesque, this neighbourhood is made up of beautifully restored hanoks with what feels like an endless array of little shops, cafes and galleries to discover. I could have happily spent hours there.

We decided to check out the DMZ (the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea). Booking a tour was easy to sort the day before (our airbnb host lined it all up for us). Because it was just a half-day trip, there wasn’t much down time which I liked. The history between the North and South is really interesting so factoring the tour into our trip was time well spent.

If you’re a culture vulture, you can’t go past the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Literally heaving with groundbreaking installations and exhibitions, this gorgeous museum was a definite Seoul highlight.

If you want absolute confirmation that you’re not a cat person, go to a cat café. We visited Cat Playground in Myeongdong and I didn’t touch a single cat (a good effort considering there were 46 of them sifting around). I found watching the ‘cat people’ most entertaining. I’m glad I ticked the cat café box but won’t be rushing back to one any time soon.

Gyeongbok Palace

Gyeongbok Palace

N Seoul Tower

Bukchon Village

Myeongdong

DMZ Korea

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art SeoulWhere to shop

Seoul’s shopping scene is really impressive. South Korea is incredibly fashion-forward and pretty fearless when it comes to style. I loved discovering Korean brands (most of which I’d never heard of) and exploring the independent boutiques dotted along the streets in most neighbourhoods.

I found the best places to shop were Garosugil (a very trendy part of town lined with street-level boutiques), Myeongdong (basically Seoul’s answer to Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay but bigger and busier) and Hongdae (student-ville with massive flagship locations for New Balance, H&M, Forever 21 etc).

Aside from clothes, South Korea is a mecca for cosmetics and beauty products. I fell in love with Too Cool For School – kind of like Kiehl’s but cheaper.

Changdeok Palace

Changdeok Palace

Bukchon Village

Eating and drinking

In terms of café culture, Seoul schools Asia. Seriously. I was in awe of the number of gorgeous, independent cafés serving great coffee and good food. Two of my favourites were Wood & Brick in Jae-Dong (near Bukchon Village) and Talk Service in Gangnam-gu.

We found Gangnam great for bars – there are lots of little spots to grab a drink (just be sure to look above street-level to find them).

If you’re not keen for Korean food, you’re bound to find something to eat in Itaewon (along the main pedestrian street behind the Hamilton Hotel). This place reminded me of a slightly cleaner, toned down version of Lan Kwai Fong.

Kimchi

Korean BBQ

Korean BBQ

I loved Seoul and can’t wait to go back. It’s definitely one of the best city breaks I’ve had since living in Asia. Add it to your travel ‘to do’ list’!

E x