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

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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

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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.

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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 JAPAN.. KYOTO IN AUTUMN

Photography and travel: Sawako Muraoka

(Featured image: Kiyomisu-Dera Temple in autumn)

Flights: JAL from Heathrow, around £600 return London-Tokyo/Haneda airport  (Arriving at Haneda Airport is very useful as it’s only a 15 min train ride into Tokyo, it takes a lot longer from Narita. There is also a little shopping village inside the airport – useful for last minute gift buying and your final noodle fix)

Bag: The Rena bag in Moss Green

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Stayed at:

  • Self catering apartment which was fully equipped with a little kitchen and washing machine. Would especially recommend if you’re staying for a few nights as it’s a lot cheaper than most hotels and you have your own kitchen. Most hotel rooms are also very small so apartments can be more comfortable.
  • Highland Shimabara Guest House Approx. £65/night –  but this varies a lot depending on season

Dine out: Traditional meal served at a Kyoto’Ryokan’  (including the prettiest plate of pickles you’ve ever seen )food 3

food 2

food 1

Arashiyama Bamboo Groveso beautiful and the trees are so tall!

kyoto bamboo
“Ojizo San”  is what these little statues are called , you see them a lot round shrines, they are there to protect people.

kyoto statues

Fushimi inari – Shinto shrine with thousands of “tor-ii” gates lining pathways up a mountain. We didn’t make it all the way!

Kyoto shrine

 

 Travelling around Japan – with JR Pass: this is a train pass only available to people who are not resident in Japan. You can use it as often as you like and go anywhere as long as it’s on a JR train and you reserve a seat. (It doesn’t include the fastest Shinkansen called Nozomi fyi. The second fastest is fast enough though!) It costs from around £180/week. Definitely recommend getting this if you’re going to multiple places.

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Travel Japan.. part 2 to follow!

RE BALANCE…. INNER PEACE IN EL PUERTO

Bag: The brewer holdall as my on-board luggage and The Hoxton bag for my daily use

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Flight: London to Gibraltar, approx. 3 hours.  I had an unsettling early morning flight having been sat next to an extremely drunk and rather intimidating group, out on their stag do. Adieu Monarch, can’t say I will miss you.

Gibraltar to Cadiz: approx. 1hr 40 mins by car

Stayed at: El Puerto, 10km outside Cadiz

puerto-breakfast

Ate breakfast at: Bar Vicente, owned by 3 generations of the same family, next door to the local market so the perfect spot for people watching. Had a traditional breakfast of Pan con tomate with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice for only 4 Euros. Could sit there every day.

Ate Tapas at: Bar Apolo, recently renovated, delicious freshly cooked food and great value. Be sure to try the local cuttlefish Choco

hoxton cadiz

Visited:  Cadiz, ferry crossing to Cadiz from El Puerto takes 25 minutes and costs 2.65 Euros one way. The central market sells fish like you have never seen, but go early as they close early. Have to confess I struggled with the sharks

sharks

Street food– plenty of choice surrounding the market, I settled for La Taperia de Lula, don’t miss it! They certainly know how to cook the most delicious regional dishes including Arroz Negro– rice with squid ink.

rice

Swam at: Las Redes, the best and longest stretch of beach, perfect for swimming and walking but very full at the weekends.

square-Lucar

Excursion: Sanlucar de Barrameda. All that you would expect from a traditional, white Spanish Village: sun washed central square, bars, cafe’s and ice cream parlours. Some lovely historic sites here as well.

bodegas-obregon

Drink: sherry out of the cask at Bodegas Obregon and why not have a small tapas whilst your at it

fans

Buy: Tejas ( Tile biscuits) flat , handmade almond biscuits to die for from Cien Palacios- it’s all they do and they come in beautiful tins.  A fan from the market if you really want a piece of Spain to take back home.

Hoxton-promotion

Take advantage of our 50% discount offer 22-10 to 29-10-17 bu ising code:

hoxtoncream17 at the checkout. (Free UK p&p, whilst stock lasts)

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sunset

The Rena bag… with a touch of French

Location: Chelsea Harbour

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Model: Emilie R

Bag: The Rena bag in Taupe

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Coat: Sandro, Paris

Lipstick: ‘Bad blood’ by Urban Decay

Photograhy: Brian Minkoff

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All but given up on our British summer? well we certainly have at NM HQ. So, here’s a quick masterclass in how, if you are French and experiencing a London summer, you transforms our cool Rena bag into something very chic and pretty hot in just 3 easy steps:

1)Remove the detachable strap- you now have a soft, oversized clutch bag with contrast detailing around the Zips

2) Add red coat

3) Apply red lipstick

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When the British sun comes out, catch a snap of it!

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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!