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Saturday, 19 April 2014

TRAVEL: SIX SENSES DINING ON THE ROCKS EXPERIENCE, KOH SAMUI

The restaurant & view...
Our amazing meal...

What we ate...

Appetiser: soft bread with bread sticks and pumpkin dip
Pre-starter: some sort of chicken concoction (of course I didn't write this one down, sorry! haha)
Starter: soft shell crab, parsnip puree, honshimiji mushroom, lemon truffle aioli & chive oil
Main course: teriyaki duck with sweet potato, baby turnips, macadamia nut and lychee gel
dessert: graham wafer and chocolate charred marshmallow and smoked vanilla contrasted with passion fruit

Taking you way back to our first week in Thailand, me and Rob took a trip to the Six Senses resort in Koh Samui for the dining on the rocks experience. I've decided to save this blog post until last as our evening was just so amazing, I'll never forget it. The Six Senses resort is located in Bohput right up on the highest point on the island which was around 20 minutes from our hotel so we grabbed a taxi there and back so we could enjoy a drink. 
When we arrived we was taken to our table and bought over a citrus cocktail selection of warm bread and bread sticks with pumpkin dip (never tried it before but it was delicious!!) while we looked through the menu and decided what to eat, there was so much choice trust me when I say it took a while! After we had ordered our meal we was bought out a pre-starter which was with compliments from the chef, it was some sort chicken concoction (he said what it was too quickly so I didn't get a chance to write it down haha) but it was super yummy all the same! 
We both opted for a three-course meal where you tailor your own dishes rather than a set menu, me and Rob both went for the soft crab to start as we'd both never tried it before and was apparently feeling adventurous that evening! We ordered some wine to go with our meal and I was seriously impressed as they match your wine to each individual course as they know what works well with what dish, how crazy! To start with we were both bought out a glass of Italian white wine to go with our starter and it complimented the dish perfectly. I was overwhelmed by how good the crab was, as I said me and Rob had never tried it so we was taking a bit of a gamble but it was so delicious!
For my main course I chose the teriyaki duck, again I wanted to chose something that I wouldn't normally go for and it was so good! Rob went for beef and again our wine was matched to our courses and we both had red wine but different types, I never used to like red wine but I've truly been converted and it's a perfect 'dinner drink'. The restaurant was one of those where you have small meals but each dish is bursting with the most incredible flavours that just melt in your mouth, I had sweet potatoes, baby turnips and macadamia nuts with my duck - you'd never think to put them all together but it just worked so well. That's when you realise that this restaurant is a different level of amazingness altogether and the chefs know food better than food knows itself! 
I chose the 'campfire' for dessert which was a mixture of wafer, chocolate brownie, marshmallow, smoked vanilla and passion fruit - one of best desserts I've ever eaten, it was so nice to have a small amount of everything as you can try a bit of this with a bit of that, you know? Each mouthful was just bursting with the most incredible flavours and was unlike anything I've ever had before!
This meal was hands down one of the best that I've ever eaten in my life, the head of staff came to introduce himself to us and each staff member ensured that we had everything we needed throughout our meal and were constantly bringing out drinks and keeping our water topped up for us. The meal was amazing and I really enjoyed eaten five small courses as it was great to have a taster of each dish but we still walked away feeling full up after our meal (although Rob did try and drop a joke about going to McDonalds afterward but I let that one slide!). 
This resort is a must for anyone visiting Koh Samui! The 'dining on the rocks' experience is so perfect for a special occasion or a real treat night out as it's not cheap. Talking of romance someone actually proposed to his girlfriend whilst we was having dinner and it was so sweet! If you're looking at making a reservation at the resort then you can do so here.
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*Thanks to the staff at Koh Samui resort & the marketing team for making our visit so enjoyable!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

TRAVEL: GRAND HYATT HOTEL, BANGKOK

Dining area/lobby...
Breakfast...
Our room...

This hotel marks the beginning and the end of our trip to Thailand as we stayed in Bangkok for one night when first arriving in Thailand and also our last night before we headed home. We stayed in the Grand Hyatt hotel in Erawan, Bangkok, and it was the perfect place to spend after/before a full day of travelling! When we first arrived in Bangkok it was around 7pm so we grabbed a taxi straight to the hotel and checked in, we showered and changed after a long flight and went to grab a quick bite to eat before getting some rest. Jet lag is so so rubbish as you want to sleep more than anything but you just can't - we were so lucky to have such a beautiful room so we just relaxed in bed and watched some films until we fell asleep.

The rain shower in the bathroom was insane, it was so powerful and I could genuinely spend so long in there! Me & Rob have decided that we need to get one when we move out (and have become rich apparently?), we also had a lovely bath in our room and big fluffy white dressing gowns and slippers... pretty much sums up my evening haha. Our first night at the hotel was a flying visit as we had a flight the next day to Koh Samui so we got up and enjoyed breakfast before heading back to the airport. The range of food at breakfast was amazing, there was everything you could ever want from a cooked breakfast to muesli, fruit, cereal, pastries, eggs, yoghurts and the list goes on!

The lobby and dining area of this hotel was breathtaking (especially the staircase!) and my pictures really don't do it justice! When we returned to the hotel for our second stay we arrived about 3pm so we headed to the rooftop pool which was so lovely - it's so surreal being in a pool in the middle of a city but I actually really like it. Oh, and of course I forgot my camera so I have no snaps of the pool - doh! (Have a peak at the pool here though as it really was beautiful!). We stayed by the pool until around 6pm, we knew we had a long day travelling ahead of us so we wanted to make the most of the weather and relaxation before heading home and the hotels pool area was the perfect place for this!

We had to check out at 6.15am the next morning (ouch) as we had an early flight so we grabbed a quick breakfast and the hotel booked a taxi to the airport for us. The staff were so accommodating at the hotel and really went out of their way to ensure our stay was a great one - I also forgot my Kindle charger and wasn't sure how I was going to get through the journey home without one but of course the hotel had one for me... amazing!

This hotel is located in the Erawan district of Bangkok which is a lovely area packed full of designer shops and lovely restaurants. We ventured out of the hotels for our meals but didn't stray too far as we aren't huge fans of Bangkok, it's just so hectic! So this hotel was just a pit stop to get some rest before heading onto the next leg of our journey, I'd recommend this hotel as it's great to enjoy a luxury hotel once you've just stepped off of a long haul flight and this hotel does just the job (and more!) It's around 20 minutes from the hotel and costs around £8 in a taxi and is well worth the trip into Bangkok! If you're staying in Bangkok then I'd definitely take a look at the hotel and you can book it here.

Have you been to Bangkok before? What did you make of the city?

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*Thanks to the Grand Hyatt team for making our stay so pleasurable and helping to arrange our trip!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

LIFESTYLE: HOW TO TRAVEL ON A BUDGET


So, we're nearing the end of my #Thailandtravelseries posts! - I really hope you've enjoyed them all (there's still 3 more left don't worry) and it's given you lots of advice and tips if you're thinking of planning a trip to Thailand. I wanted to do a more general post on travelling and thought it would be nice to share my tips on how to travel on a budget, everybody wants to visit beautiful places but sometimes the price tags can be scary so I'm sharing some advice on how to make it affordable!...

1.) Saving money before your trip: One of the key things to travelling is saving before you set off, even right up until the last minute you want to take as much as you can with you (it's always better to bring leftover money home rather than not have enough). Our trip this time around was quite last minute but luckily I'd had some freelance jobs just before we booked it so my finances just stretched to cover our trip but last time we went to Thailand for six weeks and we started saving around 5/6 months before we left. 

If you know the dates you've booked to go then try to set monthly targets of how much you can save i.e £100 a month. Keep the money in savings so it's not likely to get eaten up by bills (or shopping) from your current account. There are plenty of ways of making money and the internet is a great way to start!  Go through your wardrobes/rooms and sell any unwanted items on eBay, Depop or if you're a blogger then why not have a blog sale? If the weathers nice then do a car bootsale, I usually do two or three a year and tend to make between £80 and £150 on each one. When you're saving try to keep your disposable income to a minimum, when out shopping buy necessities and items that you need rather than want. Also, if you're a big socialite then try to keep nights/meals out to birthday or evenings that you would like to attend rather than just going out on a whim and spending money unnecessarily. 

Also, when changing up your money don't leave this right until the last minute as it's great to compare rates and get the best deal. I always check the likes of the Post Office, Tesco and Thomas Cook when changing up money and take your time to make sure you're getting the most from your money, event if it's only £10-£20 difference, in somewhere like Thailand that will buy you a meal so it all counts. Both times that we have been to thailand me and Rob have both chosen to use a Thomas Cook cash passport card, the cards always have a great exhange rate when you load money onto them and if you have any money left on it when you get home you will get the same exchange rate which is great. It's like a debit card so you will have a pin and if you loose it you can just report it lost or stolen and they will re-send another one for you. It's also great in case you run out of money as you can give your parents your details and they can load money onto it (this is what happened to me and Rob the first time around!) You get given a pin number but this can be changed at an ATM in case you want to keep it the same as your normal debit card. 

2.) Booking to suit your budget: Depending on where you are travelling but for most far away destinations the flight will be your main cost as its a long haul flight. You can search around for deals on the internet and we have booked with both DialAFlight and the Flight Centre, our flights cost £470 this time around as we booked last minute but when we booked in advance before we managed to get them for £400 return. Both of our flights to Thailand have been indirect and we stopped at both India and Abu Dhabi, the stopover times are normally quite good and were between 1-3 hours for us. It's quite nice to get off the plane and stretch your legs too - although if we could afford it we'd much rather travel direct and just get there but it depends what suits your budget.

The flight will be your big outlay but try to book that far in advance so it gives you a chance to recuperate some funds, once in Thailand we spent around £350/£400 each for 17 days which is pretty good considering that was all of our meals, day trips, alcohol (and a few cheeky nights out). We pre-booked our accommodation and internal flights (which you can get from around £30 if you book in advance with Bangkok Airways & Air Asia) so hopefully that gives you a rough idea of the cost of living. If you aren't travelling to Thailand then just google 'cheap flights to...' and always have a look at search comparison websites such as ebookers and skyscanner.

When it comes to hotels and booking accommodation I would say that Expedia and Booking are my go-to sites as you can tailor the price range and they always have such a wide choice of places to look through. If you're staying in one place for a long amount of time then maybe check Trip adviser for reviews. If you are going to book your travel as you go (we did this the first time around) then all I would advise is that you pre-book your first night and make sure it's near the airport as the first thing you'll want when you get off the plane is a bed! We found accomadation from as little as £7 a night for a couple and it can range up to as much as you want to spend but it's a great place for budget.

3.) Working to a budget whilst travelling: I think this point is quite important but make sure you use it as a rough guideline and aren't too strict on yourself. This trip to Thailand me and Rob put our money together and divided it by the number of days we travelled which left us with a budget of around £44 a day which in Thailand will get you relatively far! Aim to spend under your budget each day, so on a typical day me and Rob would eat some cheap street food for dinner and have a couple of beers on the beach, then for lunch we'd grab a giant corn on the cob from the beach which kept our day cheap. Then if we fancied a night out/nice meal or a day trip we'd have extra money in our budget for that.

Always make sure you have a back up debit/credit card for any emergencies or if you run out of cash, and as I mentioned before it's always handy giving your travel money card details to a parent or someone who can pay extra money in should you need it. 

I really hope this post has helped anyone planning a trip away and helps you to save some money somewhere along the way! What are your top tips for travelling on a budget?

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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

TRAVEL: NOVOTEL KAMALA BEACH, PHUKET - SOUL KITCHEN RESTAURANT

What we ate...

Appetiser: a selection of bread with dips & oils
Pre-starter: mixed chicken and sweetcorn in a crispy golden cup
Starter: prawn in coconut milk with galangal, coriander, strew mushroom served in a coconut 
Main: massaman beef curry, deep fried sea bass with garlic & pepper, stir-fried broccoli, cauliflower, mushroom, carrot, asparagus with oyster sauce
Dessert: sweet Thai mango with sticky rice and sweet coconut cream

In yesterdays post (here) I spoke about our stay at the Novotel Kamala Beach resort in Phuket on our last night at the hotel we enjoyed  5-course (yes 5!!) at their Soul kitchen restaurant. When we arrived at the restaurant the staff had custom made a menu for us which we was super impressed about. As we were ordering our drinks a selection of breads with dips and oils was brought to the table, I opted for wine as I'd had enough Chang/Singha to last me a while but Rob stuck with the beer.

Our pre starter was these little golden cups filled with chicken and sweetcorn mixed and was actually so nice! We wasn't really sure what to expect with this starter but was pleasantly surprised, we had 5 mini cups each which was a great size for a pre starter. Our main starter was a coconut filled with coconut milk, prawns, mushrooms and coriander - I found this starter super filling so I only had around a quarter of it, I don't usually go for a soup when drinking wine as it doesn't sit quite right. The mushrooms and prawns in this starter were delicious and I'm glad I tried it but just couldn't finish it.

The main course was hands down my favourite part of the meal - everything was so good! We had a beef massaman curry which is probably my favourite Thai dish - If you've never tried it you really need to, it's curry paste, coconut milk, potato, onion and peanuts... so yummy! Our massaman here was no exception and the beef just feel apart in your mouth it really was cooked to perfection. The previous night out for dinner we had tried sea-bass but it had nothing on this one, I've never tried sea bass before but now I'll be eating it much more as this one was so nice. Our dinner was also served with rice and a vegetable stir fry mix of broccoli, cauliflower, mushroom, carrot & asparagus which complemented our main dishes perfectly. 

For dessert we enjoyed fresh mango with sticky rice and a coconut sauce, I absolutely love mango it's probably my favourite fruit but I preferred it without the coconut sauce as it was a little too sweet for me. It's also a typical Thai dish to have sticky rice with your dessert but it's just not for me as I'd much rather my rice with a main rather than dessert, it's just one combination that just doesn't quite go for me I'm afraid. 

Overall, our meal was lovely and the staff were so attentive to us throughout the whole meal and kept our drinks topped up (the most important part, obviously haha). It was a really nice touch to have a set menu prepared for us and we thoroughly enjoyed trying different courses that we may not have picked from the menu ourselves - it's the best way to try new food! If you're looking to stay at the Novotel in Kamala beach, Phuket you won't be disappointed as our stay was an excellent all-rounder! You can check out the hotels latest deals and book your stay here.
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*Thanks to Novotel and Accor for making our stay so special and helping to arrange our trip!