Monday, 20 November 2017

Ko Phi Phi Popular Questions

Ko Phi Phi (or Phi Phi Island) is one of the most popular destinations in the whole of South East Asia - due to it's bright turquoise waters, the beautiful Maya Bay (made famous by the film The Beach), the island's reputation for a good time and - of course - the notorious Monkey Beach. Ko Phi Phi is an extremely popular destination when it comes to backpacking, travelling or, simply, Thailand Holidays. Here are some of the most popular questions about the island answered: 

Where is Ko Phi Phi? 

Ko Phi Phi Don, part of the Phi Phi Islands (made up of six islands, the most popular being Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh), is nestled in the middle of Phang Nga Bay - equally distanced between the Krabi and Phuket mainland. Ko Phi Phi is part of the Krabi province and is the largest island.

How do I get there?

There are two options to take when travelling to Ko Phi Phi - either a ferry or a speedboat from one of the mainlands (either Krabi or Phuket). The ferry takes around two hours from Phuket or roughly 90 minutes from Krabi. The ferry is the most popular option among tourists and travellers usually because of the price - and although it takes longer than a speedboat, getting the ferry can be quite enjoyable. There are refreshments sold on the boat (grab a pot of noodles for a cheap tasty snack), they usually play films on the televisions and there is also an open deck for those who want to tan. The ferries travel everyday and tickets can be bought online, in guesthouses or from travel agents. I would recommend buying them from a guesthouse or travel agent.

Do I have to pay to enter? 

Ko Phi Phi has an entry fee of 20 baht (about 50p) each which goes towards cleaning the island and helping to maintain it. Make sure you have this on you for your arrival to speed up the entry process.

Can I catch a tuk tuk or taxi on the island? 

There are no taxis, busses or tuk tuks on Ko Phi Phi so you will be walking and cycling around the island. The island isn't too big so it shouldn't be a problem walking around - and this of course gives you the freedom to explore wherever you want. I definitely recommend walking up to the viewpoints to look over the entire island from above.

Is there wifi and bank ATMs? 

Most restaurants and hotels offer free wifi. If your hotel does not offer free wifi, its really easy to go and find a place where you can grab a drink and use some free wifi. The electricity is on 24 hours a day. There are ATMs scattered over the island so withdrawing money is easy. Just remember that there are bank charges, so try to get out enough money so that you do not have to keep making small transactions and racking up charges.

What is the best thing to do there?

In my opinion, one of the best experiences is to do one of the boat trips around the island. This may not be everyone's cup of tea (getting on a boat and visiting various stops around the island), but it is one of the best ways to see the entire island. I would recommend booking a half-day boat tour which takes you to Monkey Beach, the Viking Caves, the Pileh Wall (to do some snorkelling), Pileh Lagoon and finally Maya Bay. It is much cheaper than a full day tour and includes pretty much all of the same destinations - just without the excessive drinking and after party. You still get to chill with wild monkeys which is the best! For more info on these read my What To Expect: Ko Phi Phi Half Day Boat Trip post.

Is the island expensive? 

How much you spend on the island obviously depends on what you do. Overall I would say that eating and drinking on Ko Phi Phi is much more expensive than in other parts of Thailand, but there are ways to make your stay on Ko Phi Phi cheaper. Opt for street food over expensive restaurants, buy your drinks from 7/11 (the supermarket) and drink them on the beach rather than paying more to drink in bars, and consider visiting during low season when prices will be lower. I would highly recommend visiting the restaurant Cosmo for cheap pizzas.

A trip to Ko Phi Phi is one that you will not forget and I would definitely recommend visiting.

Have you ever been to Ko Phi Phi? 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

6 Tips for Holidaying with a Big Group

There is something quite special about travelling with a big group of people, whether it be with friends or family members. There is, however, no avoiding the reason why this type of travelling doesn't happen too often: it can be so difficult to organise. With careful planning and cooperation from everyone, though, you can ensure that you do get to have a group holiday to remember. Follow this tips to make the process a little bit easier! 

1.    Pick an All-Round Destination
A big travel trip including plenty of people probably isn't the time to go off-piste. It's best to stick to the tried and tested breaks away, because it's no longer just you that you need to cater to when you are away - it's everyone. You may usually love skiing or rock climbing or hitchhiking, but other people in the group may not.

2. Don't Stress about the Travel
You might be in charge of planning the trip, but you can't take care of every small detail. If something's got to give, make it the journey to the destination. While it would be nice to have everyone on the same flight, this may not be possible. Don't stress - everyone can book a flight that works best for them. Trying to get everyone to the airport at the same time won't be easy, especially if people have different responsibilities to take care of before they can travel.

3. Get Wise with Accommodation
You are all travelling overseas to spend time together so don't get let down by your accommodation. If you book yourself into a hotel then you'll all be under the same roof, but you will have to spread yourselves out over multiple rooms. You're also unlikely to have an adequate "common" area where you can socialise with one another. Instead, considering renting a large home like those offered by Villa Hunters. You'll have all the space you need to relax and unwind together, and if you get a place with its own BBQ and other amenities, you'll also be also have your own party onsite without having to go out!

4. Plan Group Activities
Group activities are always fun and are a great way to spend quality time together. Before you go, look at booking some group activities that everyone can get involved in. A few ideas is bowling, a spa day, biking or surfing lessons.

5. Plan for Downtime
Holidays shouldn't be stressful, but they can become a little bit overwhelming and tiring if you are constantly doing things. If you are going away for more than a few days, make sure you schedule some downtime in - when there's nothing planned other than soaking up the simple pleasures of being away from home. It's a good idea to have a nice blend of social events, fun activities, and time when you can just read or play cards.

6. Relax
Although it may be difficult to organise and people may not quite stick to the plans you have made, try to just relax and go with the flow. The most important thing is that you are all away together - so make memories rather than just attempting to tick off the list of activities that you have planned.

Have you ever been in charge of organising a big group holiday?

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Early Christmas Jumper Edit

It's that time of year againnnn! Well, I might be a little bit early but the shops are starting to play Christmas music, restaurants and eateries have brought out their Christmas menus and the Christmas market has arrived in Bristol - do I need any more excuses?! Clothing brands are bringing out their Christmas jumpers for this year left, right and centre and it's got me feeling excited. I'd be lying if I said I didn't write this post while listening to a few Christmas songs! I've decided to have a little sift through the jumpers that have been hitting the shops so far and choose my favourites to hopefully give some inspiration. Its that time of year when staff dos start getting organised, Christmas parties are planned and... of course... Christmas Jumper Day is exactly a month from today (if you haven't heard of it, it's for a great cause - get everyone together in the office to wear festive knits and donate money to save children's lives). 
Here are my nine favourite Christmas jumpers so far. As you can tell, my favourite colours are black and grey... 

Which are your favourites? 

Europe: Great For First Time Solo Travellers

Travelling alone can be beneficial in so many ways. You tend to meet more people than if you are travelling with others, you don't have to stick to anyone else's plans or ideas and you can find yourself in more unique situations than if you were with someone. Sometimes, a little self-discovery can go a long way - and this is definitely the case when it comes to travel. Even if right now, catching a flight alone scares you, it won't before long. Solo travel can be incredibly rewarding; you just have to take the smallest first step. Europe is a great place to take your first solo travel steps in, and is full of beautiful countries with so much to see, do and explore. Here are a few reasons why Europe is a great place to start your solo travels:

1. It's Close 
For anyone who is nervous about travelling alone and being so far away from home, Europe isn't too far away. Even those who love to travel and find new places can get homesick, so the beauty of Europe is that it isn't too far away from home - just a few short hours on a plane, in fact. Jumping on a flight to France or going to explore Germany is much more manageable than seeing Singapore or heading to Haiti for your first trip.

2. The Weather is Alluring 
The weather in Europe is always alluring, especially compared to the UK. You can enjoy much warmer weather, making it the perfect place to experience travel alone - especially because you're always going to feel good about travel when the weather is on your side.

3. Accommodation 
Planning a travel trip away in Europe can be surprisingly easy compared to planning one in, say, South America. There are plenty of accommodation options available - you can always find very nice holiday houses in Spain  and there are great options in Portugal and other countries too. A lot of the time, you'll find that you are renting from British owners and expats with holiday businesses.

4. The Food is First Class 
European food is great and you will always have the option to eat something you love. Europe is a great place to start trying new and exotic foods that will be far easier on the eye than if you flew to Thailand and jumped right in to eating scorpions and tarantulas! There are so many great options - head to Bologna in Italy where bolognese was invented. The bolognese there is like no other! If you're feeling nervous about travelling alone, a gelato in Italy or some gyros in Greece should calm your nerves. The big foodie cities in Europe are the perfect destinations for anyone who loves food.

5. Friends are Easy to Make 
Above all else, remember that you'll never actually be alone for too long - especially not in Europe. So many people travel to the European continent alone and there will be so many opportunities to make friends with people who are similar to yourself. You will make friends for life and experience things together that you will remember forever. Solo travellers are always looking to meet other travellers, so just pop in to a bar or hostel and say hi - you will be welcomed!

Where are your favourite places in Europe?

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

#StoryTime: Crashing a Moped in S/E Asia

"We'll meet you back at the hostel to catch the sunset with a beer." Louisa said, securing the clasp of her helmet onto her head. Her hair, like mine, was still dripping wet and sparkling under the sun from the lagoon we had just been swimming in.

"Sounds good!" Lewis and I said almost in complete unison, climbing onto our shared moped. We were in Vang Vieng in northern Laos - a backpacker-oriented town nestled on the Nam Song river. Our plan was to stay here for just a night or two to take in the beauty, visit a nearby lagoon and to experience the 'best nightlife' (according to other backpackers we had met) in Laos. This was our second destination in Laos so far after Luang Prabang (and only my third in Asia).

We had spent the day at the Blue Lagoon, a stunning lagoon with bright blue waters that was definitely one of the biggest tourist traps we had seen in Laos. Before visiting Vang Vieng we had looked up things to do there, trying to prioritise favoured activities and attractions, and the Blue Lagoon was always at the top of everyone's list. While people crammed into the waters and queued endlessly to climb up the trees and jump and swing into the water (over-crowded was probably an understatement), you could still appreciate the sheer beauty and understand why every tourist and traveller wanted a slice of the lagoon heaven.

It was a gloriously hot day and we had driven, by moped, around 20 minutes from the town centre with a couple - Jannis and Louisa - who we had met the night before and become friends with. Lewis and I had originally planned to get a tuk tuk from the town centre to the lagoon, however Jannis had suggested that a moped would be a cheaper and more fun way of getting there, so we agreed and went to a nearby moped rental. It was also something that both Lewis and I said we wanted to check off our South East Asia travels list. I had never ridden a moped before and neither had Lewis, which I actually didn't realise at the time (he had spent four months in South East Asia a few years before so I just assumed he had been on one). We agreed that Lewis would drive and that I would go on the back, jotted down the route to the lagoon on a piece of paper, and then we were off.

The drive to the lagoon was fine; our first stop was a nearby petrol station where we filled up our tanks for the journey ahead. Although a bit shaky at first, Lewis got the hang of driving the moped really easily. We had to cross a bamboo bridge in order to get to the right road to the lagoon which was absolutely terrifying - it was the tiniest, wobbliest little bridge that felt like it was about five centimetres wide and held up by twigs. But we drove over it and made our way to the lagoon with no problems.

Our way back, however, was a bit of a different story. We pulled out of the car park of the Blue Lagoon (yes, that is how much of a tourist trap it now is - there is a car park), and turned onto the main road. Jannis and Louisa were in front and the sun was just beginning to drop, cooling the air. We'd be back in perfect timing to watch the sunset. The first part of the journey was truly blissful; within a couple of seconds we were driving down a small fenced road that was wedged between endless green paddy fields on one side and dramatic blue-grey mountains on the other. It was absolutely beautiful. The air was warm and thick yet the breeze soaring through my hair and rustling my dress cooled me, and my mouth tasted of saltwater and beer.

As Lewis settled into driving and I admired the stunning backdrop around us, we started chattering and singing along together. We felt so free - soaring through the countryside in Laos, neither one of us with any commitments or plans. Just us, hot weather and endless exploring. That's when a sharp turning suddenly appeared and before either of us could grasp what was going on, a voice (which I now realise belonged to myself) was shouting. We were skidding off the road. It's no lie when people say that accidents happen in blurry slow motion when you experience one yourself. It felt like we were skidding for minutes, gravel and bits of dirt flying everywhere, creating dense clouds of dust all around us. Of course it was just a split second. Lewis was desperately trying to regain control of the bike to make the sharp turn, jerking the handlebar left then right and trying to slam on the brakes. We were heading straight for a deep ditch under a spikey barbed fence, and seemed to be picking up even more speed as we skidded.

Monday, 13 November 2017

3 Tips for Catching Your First Flight Alone

Flying alone for the first time can be a pretty nerve-wracking thing to do, but once done its one of those things that will never bother you again. Here are a few tips for catching your first flight alone: 

1. Make sure all documents are easily accessible
The most important thing to do is to make sure that you have all of your documents in a place that is easily accessible. Your passport, plane tickets, travel insurance, boarding passes and any other important documents should be put in a safe place in hand luggage and not in checked/hold luggage. You will need to present these documents throughout the process of flying (when checking in, boarding the plane, etc). This is the most important part of flying and if you have all of the correct documents, then anything that is forgotten/left after these shouldn't be too much of a problem.

2. Arrive early 
Make sure that you arrive at the airport early enough to check in, go through security and customs, reach your gate and board the plane. There can be long queues so make sure that you arrive at least 2 hours early. I would say 3 to be safe. Check whether your airline provides online check-ins as this can save a lot of time.

3. Dress comfy and pack essentials in hand luggage
There's a big chance that you're going to be sat in a small, cramped seat for several hours so make sure that you are wearing something extra comfortable. There is a chance (I learnt the very hard way...) that your luggage may get lost/delayed, so it's a good idea to pack essentials such as a toothbrush, spare pair of underwear, baby wipes etc in hand luggage. This means that if anything does happen to your luggage, you are slightly prepared.

Most of all, relax! Once you are seated on the plane and taking off, you will realise that there was nothing to worry about. Travelling alone is a great experience!