ESCAPE..THAILAND’S ISLANDS-PART 2, RAILAY

Having gotten over my jet lag and effortlessly adjusted to life in Koh Samui (see Part 1, Koh Samui) I headed on down to the Andaman Coast, destination Railay.

There is 1 airport in Koh Samui, it is privately owned so flights in and out of here are not cheap like other internal Thai flights but they are quite spectacular. The airport resembles a resort with lush landscaped gardens,boutique style shopping and pretty swanky toilets!!  Passengers are ushered to the planes via the runway, in converted golf carts and the views of Koh Samui from the air are breath taking

Flight: Koh Samui to Krabi with Bangkok Air, approx 50 mins flight, £87 with in-flight snack

Krabi airport to Ao Nang by shuttle: 30 mins

Ao Nang to Railay by long boat (there is a hire booth on the beach) approx 15 mins

Railay long boats

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suitcases

Railay is accessibly only by boat and yes, you do have to climb in and out of a ‘long boat’ clutching your suitcase through the sea, but it is so worth it. Laid back, chilled and welcoming I can’t recommend it enough.  In my books it is as close to a slice of paradise as it gets. I would go there again in a heartbeat.

Railay-cove

Stayed at: Railay Bay resort and spa prices start at £150 for a double room

visited: Nang Phra beach, a beach like something out of the Jurassic period, with towering rocks, caves and stalagmites. No dinosaurs , but plenty of monkeys in the surrounding forest. It’s a busy tourist destination and at the weekends the traffic from Ao Nang to this beach is quite overwhelming, so avoid if you’re looking for solitude.

Railay stalagmites

Tham Phra Nang fertility caves, a shrine full of carved wooden phalluses

fertility-cave

fertility cave

walked: through The forest to Tonsai beach, welcome to the chill-out zone!

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Tonsai beach

 

Ate : fresh grilled fish at the local style restaurants between the East and West beaches

Chilled: roof top balconies of the local bars

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watched: the sunrise and the sunset

Railay sunset

indulged: in some early morning canoeing off Railay Beach and the nearby rocks. For those of you into rock climbing , this is the ultimate jungle gym

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rocks

Next: Part 3, Kamala, Phuket

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Escape… Thailand’s Islands, Koh Samui

My travel bags: The Brewer Holdall, The Angel bag 

Angel Koh Samui

Travelled with: Thai Airways from Heathrow /£750.00 return ( Mid Feb) , 12hrs to Bangkok/13 hrs return to Heathrow. Perfect service and customer care from start to finish.

Connecting flight Bangkok to Surat Thani with Thai smile £35 single ( mid Feb ), 55 mins. Great service, you even get served drinks and a snack

Bus from Surat Thani to Don Sak port, then boat to Koh Samui approx 2 hrs, spectacular scenery and air conditioned decked cabin. I chose to sit on the deck and watch the views.

temple

Mandara

Stayed at: Bandara resort and spa from £85 per night including breakfast. The breakfast is on the beach restaurant and quite spectacular, not to mention the views

Bo phut

Bophut fishing village is a 5 minute walking and is totally charming with a large selection of chill out cafes on the beach as well as restaurants and a weekly market selling just about everything from fried grasshoppers to suits.

Chaweng

sunset

Optional day trips:  Chaweng, Big Buddha

fruit

 

Eat: fruit- lots of it, Fresh fish- sold by weight, grilled in front of you, Phad Thai- it’s so, so good

coconut

Drink- Coconut Cappuccino, as many fresh coconuts as you can

Relax- enjoy the sunsets

Angel sunset

 

NEXT: Escape Thailand’s Islands, Krabi and Railay

Travel Japan, part 2… Miyajima,Hiroshima, Kamakura & Tokyo

If you’ve made it to Kyoto, a day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island should be your next port of call.

For all details relating to Kyoto, flights and internal travel visit the 1st part of this blog ‘Travel Japan… Kyoto in Autumn’

Miyajima is a small Island off the coast of Hiroshima known as the ‘Island of the gods’, home to the Itsukushima Shrine and its iconic Floating Torii Gate.

Miyajima-island-3

 

Make sure you take time out to indulge in some Momiji Manju ,a steamed bun filled with a bean jam filling

food Hiroshima

We headed on down from Hiroshima to Tokyo by train, taking time out to check out Harajuku. Tokyo is a blog all on its own, too much to do, too much to say. But this is how Harajuku makes me feel:

Tokyo Ginza

an opportunity to do some essential gift shopping, with so much cuteness how does one even choose?

kyoto cutness

And of course it is vital to check and see what Muji flagship store have on offer, food things we never get to see in our UK Muji shops

food Muji

Next a day trip to Kamakura  which is full of beautiful shrines and temples. From the Great Buddha of Kamakura

Kamakura Budha

to the local Totoro

Kamakura pokemon

Before  boarding the train to head on back,taking great care to depart without causing oneself serious injury 🙂

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TRAVEL… Serenity ( and gelato) at Lago Maggiore, Italy

Photography & travel: Brian Minkoff Photography

Flights: British Airways to Milan approx. £130pp

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Bag: The Islington bucket bag ( for Island hoping) The Newington clutch bag ( for fine dining)

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Stayed at: Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees, Stresa, Lake Maggiore, Italy.

Rooms £200+ a night per couple

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Fine dined at: Hotel Verbano on the island of Isola dei Pescatori

Ristorante Lo Stronello

For a great value meal on a nice terrace in the centre of town:  Ristorante Pizzeria Mamma Mia, Stresa (no website)

A must….Trips to all the islands (none more than 15 minutes away by ferry boat)

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Isola Bella

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Isola Madre

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Isola dei Pescatori

The Botanical gardens on the Isola Madre are world famous and an essential visit.

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Enjoy…taking the circular ferry ride about (1 hour) without getting off at the islands is a relaxing treat.

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Eat..pasta, fresh fish from the lake ( pike, zander, perch, trout and black bass) and of course gelato. L’Angolo del Gelato was an almost daily post dinner ritual

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ESCAPE… Weekend in Sofia

My trusty travel companions were The Brewer holdall  which contained all I needed clothes wise for the weekend ( it was just an escape after all) and my Hoxton bag which was perfect for keeping my wallet and phone whilst strolling, people watching and eating of course.

bags

I travelled from Heathrow to Sofia with British Airways /club class £670 return /duration 3 hours ( correct at time of writing)

vista

Stayed at: Hotel Marinela , prices start at £100 per night for a King room with city views. Comes complete with loud peacocks in the morning ( not kidding) and loud music at night so..if you are looking for a quiet hideaway this hotel is not for you. But if you want to see some life, this hotel is quite an adventure and the rooms are nice and spacious.

vitosha 2

Stroll down pedestrian Boulevard Vitosha for a spot of people watching and a good coffee. If you are lucky you can catch a glimpse of snow on Mt Vitosha, which hangs over at the far end of the Boulevard and looks like something out of a film set.

coffee

Then head on round the corner to Tsar Shishman Street and Angel Kanchev Street-here you will find a complete melting pot of  the very old and somewhat run down with the very trendy and excitingly new- designer boutiques, artisan cafes, artisan eateries, speciality shops and downright traditional ones too.

grocers

nuts

Graffitti

Highly recommend:

Made in Home or Made in blue– home made food, good for veggie lunches, chill vibe

The Tea House serves teas, vegetarian food and has live jazz music nights

Bistro pesto Little Italian place serving salads ,two types of pasta and that’s it  !! but who needs more?

cafe

If you want to try the best homemade Bulgarian ‘Banitsa’ ( pie) some great bakes and perfect coffee, do not miss a pit stop at Daro  I absolutely loved this place!!

ice cream

And if you scream for Ice Cream you can queue and get the best one at Gelateria Naturale

Other things to do, which do not involve food are…

Visit the famous Alexander Nevsky Church  the interior is truly stunning, then pick up a Sofia Free Tour , they also do a free hiking and a free biking tour.

Visit the Borisova Gardina Park, for some street entertainment or a little rest, then the park in front of the National Theatre for some live Jazz

If you’re tired and need a taxi download the Taxime app and only use that, if you pick one up from the street you could be charged as much as triple

And if you want a different eating adventure come night time try Umami  complete with landscaped gardens, ponds and exotic birds… it’s an experience!

 

Travel….Off to Lyon

Photography and content: Brian Minkoff photography

Bag: The Islington bucket bag from Not on the High Street

  • Eurostar from Kings Cross directly to Lyon: 4hrs 40 mins prices start from £90 return
  • Stayed at: The Carlton Lyon,  which thankfully had brilliant air conditioning throughout-it was 37 centigrade outside. Prices start at £195 for a double in July

 

Comfy:

comfy

Waiting for the lift:

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Off for an iced something and a quiet read:

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  • Many, many ice creams were essential given the heat. The best was Terre Adelice,  Green Chartreuse was my favourite flavour-but was almost tempted by the Goats Cheese or Tomato and Basil, Check out  some of the flavours here

Love at first sight:

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  • Boat trips to and from the modern Confluence were a mere 2 euros each way

Dive in:

Dive-in

My new friend Paul Bocuse:

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Great meals to be had at:

  • Institute Paul Bocuse –where his trainees learn the ropes ! We had a fantastic slow cooked beef rib on a bed of macaroni cheese and a shoulder of Moroccan lamb with spices were the stars. And it would have been rude not to try the Macaron desert – a macaron with a mousse of mango and passion fruit filling, with salted caramel ice cream or the Chocolate bomb with very very rich melted chocolate inside, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce !!!!
  • Le Cintra terrase, in a beautiful square near the Town Hall- where we indulged in some fantastic home cured salmon and whole sea bass.
  • It was too hot to wander the vast shopping mall but we did salad it on the Terasse of Le Paradis du Fruit , Red Mullet and Tempura Prawn salad was lovely. As was the Passion fruit smoothie.

Blending in with the locals:

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Many quirky buildings along the Confluence including The orange Cube behind the bag

 

 

ESCAPE…. LES BAINS D’OVRONNAZ

If you are looking for a quick escape, scenically beautiful and restorative for body & soul, the Thermal pools at Ovronnaz Switzerland might just hit the spot.

The Rena at Lac Lemand

Ovronnaz is a sleepy, quiet village, 4,300 feet high and nestled at the foot of The Muverans mountain range , in the Valais region. On route you will pass sprawling vineyards and unspoilt valleys finally reaching the bubbling thermal springs of Ovronnaz, offset by glaciers and majestic mountains. Ovronnaz offers outdoor thermal pools and terraces as well as a full panoramic SPA, it’s an absolute treat. Open both summer and winter, with late night openings on a Friday (babies and children welcome  and children under 6 go free). This  gem of a place is surprisingly low key, quiet and a unique opportunity to be pampered at the heart of nature.

Lake Geneva

I travelled to Ovronnaz via Easyjet cabin luggage only with my Rena bag and a stopover at Lausanne and Lake Geneva

village ovronnaz

Patio vista ovronnaz

The Rena at O'vvronaz

Indoor spa ovronnaz

Location: Thermal pools at Ovronnaz, Valais, Switzerland

Bag: The Rena bag in Dove

Travel: London Luton to Geneva with Easyjet , £127 ( at time of travel, June 2017) flight time 1hr:30mins

Train and local bus to Ovronnaz : 3hr 38mins mins from Geneva train station/ approx. £85 per person return journey ( at time of travel, June 2017)

Day pass to Spa and pools: Day passes for the outdoor pools and SPA facilities start at 50 SF/£40 per person and can be bought in advance online. Accommodation at the resort starts at SF205/£166 per person per night including SPA and pool pass.

towards Ovronnaz