Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Alice's Adventures in Thailand

Thailand has always been a dream destination for me, and before I went, I could only imagine what it might be like through postcards with photos of beaches and paradise. I've blogged quite a bit about my travels through Asia recently, but I've not yet shared my thoughts on Thailand, where we spent 2 and a half weeks of our holiday. Now here's the practical bit, price wise, we discovered that if you book through agoda.com on a Friday you get huge discounts, so we did that and stayed in 4 star hotels for a fraction of the price. They seemed even better than my usual go to site whilst travelling which is almost always airbnb.com. You really can live like a King on next to nothing if you do it right! For internal flights, go with Thai Airways  or Airasia, they seem to do the best deals.

How did I feel about Thailand? Well we can't say we didn't cover some ground, having spent time in the east, west and north and finally landing ourselves in Bangkok, the capital. We did have some wonderful times there, the most magical thing about it being that we had crossed paths with one of my oldest best friends in Kuala Lumper (there's a post about this here) and subsequently, she and her brother changed their plans to travel on with us. But in all honestly, Thailand didn't quite live up to the utopia it was in my mind, and whilst we had some good times, we actually had some really awful experiences there as well. Here is the breakdown of the different areas.

Ko Samui / Koh Phangnan

We started off exploring the little islands on the east side of Thailand. After a very long journey, and a mix up at our hotel (whoever it was staying there before us had decided to extend their stay and not tell people) so we decided to give up the ghost on exploring for that evening and instead stop at a little restaurant nearby called 'Orgasmic'. It sounded cheesy, but needless to say, we ended up with champagne overlooking the beach and some really amazing seafood. It was one of those moments where you realise you are exactly where you're meant to be at that precise moment.

Exploring Ko Samui was great fun. We rented a scooter for the first time, and after a wobbly start, drove almost right round the island. We nicknamed the little bike 'Ron' - and Ron really did do us a great service. In all honestly, with the local standard of driving I did fear for my life a few times, but Trig was surprisingly good at controlling the bike, even though neither of us drive at home. After our expedition we explored some of the local stalls and shops and spoke to the locals. I can't fault Ko Samui for it's beauty.

We chose to stop at Koh Phangnan next to experience the Full Moon Party. Koh Phangnan is a bigger island than we ever realised, and we were staying at nice little beach hut on the other side of the island. Not to worry though, they loaded us up with rum buckets and we sat on a 'song thaew', a converted pick up truck, that they filled to them brim with people, the unlucky ones standing up and hanging off the back of the car. We were going pretty much downhill the whole way at a crazy speed, but we all survived the journey!

We then met up with our friends from England. A few more rum buckets later, and all the advice we had been given about staying safe, and about how tourists are targets just became a distant memory, I am ashamed to say. The last thing I remember is dancing on a stage, and then suddenly I was in a taxi home without Trig. Piecing the bits together the next day, I had wandered to try and find my taxi ride home (which we'd already paid for) and ended up being taken to a cash machine in a taxi, paying two men and a taxi driver way over the odds, who told me the rest of my journey was paid for. It sounds completely irresponsible to get into a cab with strangers, but it seemed commonplace for taxi drivers take an address from each person and put strangers in the back of their cars together. I was then put into his friends taxi, who demanded more money and tried to scare me. Trig on the other hand, woke up on the beach being kicked by strangers. It could have been so much worse.  If anyone warns you about a Full Moon Party as a tourist, from what we've learnt, its not an exaggeration. It is a vipers nest, we heard stories of people being drugged and having all their belongings stolen, or seriously hurt, or worse. Obviously we had just had too much to drink and a few opportunists decided to fleece me for a bit of money, but we were fine. We just kicked ourselves afterwards for losing each other.

We spent the next few days chilling out and trying to lose our hangovers, before heading to the West coast islands.


Our journey to Phuket on a private transfer was supposed to take 6 hours by bus and boat, BUT in actual fact took 14. We were taken onto a bus after leaving the boat, which stopped again shortly after picking us up by a roadside cafe, where we had to wait for four hours for a transfer. During this time, they tried to convince us to pay significantly more money before they took us on our way. When we refused, they took us to a public bus, which confirmed that we'd been well and truly duped. We were with two Australians who needed to catch a flight from Phuket, and we felt so sorry for them! Phuket itself was OK, though my card got cloned, so my memories there aren't necessarily the best. We felt threatened by some of the local lady workers who were quite aggressive with us, and decided to stick to a safe looking bar. A woman approached Trig and asked him to play a board game with her. Trig being the big kid he is played along, as he always sees the best in people, but I knew something was up, and asked him to stop. Turns out the same woman did that afterwards to an Irish man we met, who then was threatened with a hammer when he didn't hand over his cash to a man working with her. So far Thailand was teaching me to be very, very on guard.

Koh Phi Phi

We took a day tour out to Koh Phi Phi and this was truly the most stunning part of our whole time in Thailand. Koh Phi Phi is famously where they filmed 'The Beach', starring Leonardo Di'Caprio. We chilled out in the sun, did a bit of snorkelling and had some lunch, before a storm decided to hit. Getting on and off one of the little boats to the main ship was the biggest challenge!

Chiang Mai

On our first night in Chiang Mai, we rocked up to our hostel, and met a really friendly lady-boy who ran the establishment. She gave us some great tips on where to go out, and after a frustrating amount of time on the phone trying to resolve my card cloning issues, we headed out for some food and to one of the bars she recommended.

The bar we went to was called 'Zoe in Yellow', a really cute little establishment all lit up by tiki lights. The night started to pick up, when we bumped into the hotel manager again. She bought myself and Jon (my friends brother) a drink, and we returned the favour. Julia wasn't feeling the night, so Trig offered to walk her home. What happened next was indescribable really. I went into a complete blackout, and I was alone in a city in Thailand, 20 minutes walk from home, with no comprehension of how to even function. Now I am never the type of girl to get drunk and not accept responsibility. I am convinced I was spiked, because I've never ever experienced such a thing before in my life, and I hadn't really been drinking that evening. I was completely lost, and completely vulnerable. Trig spent the rest of the night being propositioned by the manager of the hotel who wouldn't leave him alone. Luckily, I was alright in the end. I may not have been though, and the whole experience shook me to my core.

For the next few days, I was incredibly ill. We had booked a trek to see the elephants, but I really shouldn't have attempted it! I pulled myself together and convinced myself I could go, despite still being quite ill 3 days later.

If you ever visit Chiang Mai and go to see the elephants, please visit a humane place, like the Elephant Sanctuary. You have to book in advance of your visit but the majority of the tourist targeted places are cruel to their elephants. If I had understood this beforehand, I wouldn't have gone. The Mahoot who was 'driving' our elephant kept hitting the elephant with his hook, and even drew blood at one point. The elephant seemed to spend the rest of his time tied to something. Afterwards I researched it, and it turns out the procedure for training an elephant literally translates to 'breaking his spirit'. They are taken away from their mothers at a young age mistreated, beaten, and starved so that they as wild animals learn how to respect and listen to their trainers. For more information on this, PETA explains it well here. I don't think I've ever felt so guilty in my life.

After this, we visited a local village tribe, where everyone embarked on a trek to a jungle waterfall. I unfortunately was still very ill, so I stayed behind with the villagers. We obviously couldn't communicate with each other verbally, but I actually felt really at peace lying on one of the surfaces of what seemed like the local meeting point / wooden hut. One of the local men shook some lychee down from a tree and opened them up to give his children some fruit, which they all shared with me. They all sat around talking for hours, and it made me think about how far removed we can be in the western world from simple pleasures like this. I don't think I can remember the last time I sat around and just talked to my neighbours for hours.


Our last and final stop was the big city itself. I was probably the most excited about Bangkok because I had heard so much about the crazy lifestyle. As a group, we did some sightseeing, but the explorers in us quite frankly were a bit knackered by this point, so we instead decided to spend our last few days checking out the night time activity, as that does seem to be what Bangkok is known for. We got lost in chinatown, and invited into more than enough dodgy back alley bars (no thanks!)

Highlights were seeing a thai boxing match, visiting the poshest cinema ever, where we got to lie on beds, and were given a gourmet buffet, and silly tuktuk rides complete with 80's dance classics. All in all, Thailand was a good mixture of good and bad adventures, none of which I will be forgetting any time soon!

Have you ever been to Thailand? What did you think? x

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

My Little Frenchie Box - Review

As most of us know, subscription boxes can be very more-ish. I do love surprises. Over the past year, I have tried many different types of subscription boxes, steadily becoming addicted, from food based boxes to makeup and even cat toys. Whilst some have worked out to be very good value, others have been  a little disappointing. I decided to review 'My Little Box' as I've only just recently discovered it, and found it to be one of the best I've encountered so far for value. So far, My Little Box have been on point in selecting really great quality products and making me smile with their quirky french additions. Each month they choose a different theme, and it really does feel like they handpick every item to fit this with a great deal of thought. The box itself only costs £10 a month (you get a small discount if you have it delivered to your workplace, otherwise it is £11) and £3.95 p&p.

To explain 'My Little Box' without using the word 'random' would be hard. Each month you get a selection of makeup, beauty treats, accessories, and something a bit extra to make you smile. This month was collated by Ines De La Fressange, a french model. Here's the breakdown;

1. Ines De La Fressange Smartphone case - This little red case is pretty stylish and smart looking, and protects my phone! This is something I needed to invest in for myself but would probably never have gotten round to doing.

2. Complexion Enhancer - Embellisseur Teint De Peche £9.50 (full sized) - This is a really lovely tinted moisturiser! I actually find it hard to find peach/pink based moisturisers that don't contribute to my red face problem, but this adds a subtle glow without caking yourself in foundation. Its rather nourishing for the skin, too.

3. DHC Oil Blotting Paper (£4.00 for 100 sheets) - This month I have recently embarked on a quest to give up makeup and let my true self shine through (a post on this WILL follow as it's been a bit of an eye opening experiment). The trouble is, the shine itself really is a problem so this couldn't have arrived on my doorstep at a more useful time.

4. L'oreal Brow Artist Plumper - It's not really too much of a surprise that L'oreal might feature in this box, as a french company. But I was really quite surprised that this got thrown in on top of everything else, considering what I paid for it! Again this is not something I'd bother investing in myself, but this clear gel has being doing a great job so far at keeping my brows tidy.

5. Terrybly Khol Pencil £23 (full sized) - GREAT addition to the box, considering the box cost half the price of this one item alone. Having put this little waterproof gem to the test, I can confirm that it blends beautifully and doesn't budge!

5. Les petits mots d'ines - This is my absolute favourite item in a subscription box to date, ever! It's a jar of little messages in scrolls, and you open one a day for a snippet of wisdom. Todays message read 'If all good things come to an end, why don't we start with the dessert?' which is a bit quirky but I can't say I disagree with the sentiment.

The value of this box greatly exceeds what I paid for it and continues to do so every month, so I'll be sticking with 'My Little Box' for a while! It's definitely one way to brighten up a bleak day in the office. To top it all off, you also get a fab little magazine with some really interesting content, and a wall card too. This months read 'Life is never what it seems, and that's the great thing about it.' I wholeheartedly agree, My Little Box.

Do you have a favourite subscription box? x

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

5 things I would quite like to spend $100 on - Paypal Giveaway!

I know I am not American, but the equivalent in pounds is £65, and 5 things I would spend £65 on is not frankly as catchy. Seeing as I've teamed up with 'The ARTcademy' this month to offer $100 Paypal giveaway, I started thinking about what thrifty retail therapy I'd quite like to treat myself to this month myself. The sales may be gone, but the deals are still out there!

1. Cheap flights to Portugal on Skyscanner.com. Right now I really am missing the sun, and I could do this for £45 from the UK, and still have change for a few sangrias on the beach.

2. I mentioned in a previous post my love of bags. This Maisy Mock Croc bag from Paul's Boutique is one of the best sellers, an expensive looking bag without the expensive price tag.

3. Two pairs of heels in the sale at Asos. (£25 & £40) 

4. Some train tickets to Cambridge and a few cocktails this Friday night, to celebrate my friends birthday. (I am doing this one, pictures to follow).

5. These two outfits from H&M, who are always great value. I am basically drooling over any of their printed tees right now.

I've joined forces with the great team at the 'ARTcademy' for one lucky person to win a $100 Paypal Giveaway, which you can join below! I found the Artcademy whilst looking for courses online, and discovered that they run fab blogging seminars. If you're interested you can visit them here

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

What would you spend $100 on? 

Brazilian Keratin Hair Treatments - Just an Expensive Blow Dry or Hair Hero?

I've been thinking about getting a hair straightening treatment done for some years now, but there has been some part of me which has been holding on to the idea of keeping my natural curly hair. When I was younger, my well conditioned, soft hair used to form perfect curls and it was effortless. But those days are sadly long gone. I am kidding myself. When I first came across the idea of Brazillian Keratin straightening, and realised it only lasted for around 3 months, it seemed a perfect non committal opportunity to give it a go. So last week I bit the bullet, and went up to The Alterity Studio, a lovely little salon in Covent Garden in London. I found this salon through a Groupon deal, which meant I could get the £200 treatment for just £59! That's £59 that will supposedly save me an hour in the morning everyday, and give my poor hair a chance to grow without heat damage, so that sounded like a good deal to me.

I always have a strange deep set fear about visiting a new salon. I don't know if it's the anticipation of having to break the ice and make conversation with someone new for a substantial period of time, or the slight guilt at accepting a cup of tea from someone you don't know, or my past rare experiences of snotty nosed workers who look down on you for turning up in your t-shirt and jeans. None of this happened at the Alterity Studio. I felt instantly welcome, accepted gratefully the offer of tea (this was the day after my visit to Brighton, and needless to say it had left me a bit of a sore head that only a good brew could tackle). 

My experiences in The Alterity Studio taught me so much about the process. Keratin straightening is actually quite unlike other straightening techniques, it is a natural substance which exists naturally in your own hair and contributes to its elasticity. It coats the hair, rather than breaking the bonds of its structural make up, helping it to be healthier over time. Plus, you won't need to put the irons on it everyday!

How it works:

- Firstly, your hair is washed and blow dried
- The keratin treatment is applied carefully in very small sections to ensure every strand is covered
- The treatment is left in for 20-30 minutes
- The hair is then straightened again at about a 300 degree temperature, in very small sections so as not to miss a strand.
- Et voila! All you need to do now is NOT wash your hair for at least 24 hours (though some website seem to recommend 72). 

I have to admit I was a little skeptical, but the results have been really great. You can see the results below after just blasting it with the hairdryer (not even blowdrying!) My hair is now much shinier, smoother, and not at all frizzy, even when I leave it to dry naturally. Considering I have really thick hair, this is a victory in itself. Sure, if you want your hair poker straight you'll still need to blow dry a bit or get the irons out, but I'm not fussed about it being perfectly straight, I just wanted less unruly hair. Considering how curly my hair naturally is, this really is a lot better. I've not been straightening my hair really at all since the treatment. It's already thanking me for it! What's even better is that the Alterity Studio are continuing to offer such a great discount, which means it won't break the bank when I am ready to go back.

Jives wanted to get in on the action too!

Have you had hair straightening treatments before? Would you ever consider it?