26 July 2014

Maya Bay, Thailand - aka 'the beach'

While in Thailand last month hubby and I did a day trip out to Maya Bay, also known as 'The Beach' from the famous 2000 film staring Leonardo Dicaprio. This famous movie was based on the book by Alex Garland (which is a great read by the way!).

You hope, and you dream
and you never believe that something's gonna happen for real
A man dies...
leaves you a mystery map to a secret island
and your life is different
It won't ever be the same again
- Alex Garland, The beach

Maya Bay, Thailand - our first glimpse of the beach
Maya Bay, Thailand - our first glimpse of the beach

As we rounded the corner of Ko Phi Phi Lee Island and took in our first glimpse of Maya Bay - and it looked to be every bit 'The Beach' paradise we had been promised...

... a circle of towering cliffs enclosed the sheltered bay, powdery white sand, sparkling green/blue crystal clear water, and the sun reflecting the sky back into our eyes...

Maya Bay Thailand, aka The Beach

If we had been the only people visiting Maya Bay then it would have been paradise. Absolute paradise...

...but since The Beach was filmed here in 1999, and Leo graced these silky shores, the daily reality of Maya Bay is actually a bit more like this... tourists everywhere!

The real Maya Bay Thailand, aka The Beach

There were so many boats, that there was not a single place in Maya Bay where you could safely swim. And all of them were pumping fuel into the water (it smelt like we were at a gas/petrol station).

There were so many people that, well it was bloody noisy, and not relaxing at all. Here's a short clip my hubby took while we were there. Unfortunately this is the real Maya Bay paradise experience for the majority of people that visit 'the beach' these days...

video

Now before you get too disheartened, I did met some lovely people on holiday at our resort who had paid a bit more to visit Maya Bay first thing in the morning (at about 6am). They had 'the beach' to themselves for almost an hour before the other boats started arriving. So, if it's your hearts desire to really see Maya Bay at it's best get in early! We arrived at about 9am and as you can see it was extremely busy by then.

From 'the beach' you can take a two minute stroll inland to where the camp was supposedly set up in The Beach Movie...

'The Beach' or Maya Bay Thailand

...and the path leads up to a small look out over another gorgeous lagoon. I think this is the spot in the movie where Leo and his French mates jump over the cliffs to reach the camp. In acutual fact it's a pretty sweet spot for snorkelling.

'The Beach' or Maya Bay Thailand

'The Beach' or Maya Bay Thailand

Tired of the noise, and our illusions of 'paradise' shattered (owwwww) we left Maya Bay, aka The Beach in search of quieter waters.

Ko Phi Phi Lee, Thailand

Hopefully I haven't put you off visiting Maya Bay. It is a naturally beautiful spot. You just need to get there super early to enjoy it!

If I'd learnt one thing from travelling, 
it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. 
Don't talk about going to Borneo. 
Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens. 
― Alex Garland, The Beach

19 July 2014

Brighton beach - London's best day trip

We've had a bit of a 'heat wave' in London this past week. It's been humid, sticky, and on most days bright and sunny.

So what better way to indulge the English sun? Why a day out to Brighton beach of course - one of the best known beaches in the UK, and my favourite London day trip...

Brighton Beach with a view of Brighton Pier
Brighton beach, with a view of the old west pier in the background

Getting to Brighton from London is very easy - you simply catch a train from either London Victoria, London Bridge or London St Pancras train stations, and the journey takes approximately one hour. Once your arrive in Brighton, follow the crowds and walk straight down the high street. The high street is on a lovely downhill slope so you'll reach the famous pebbly beach in no time.

Brighton beach has a great cosmopolitan vibe, and in summer there are always hundreds of people out and about enjoying the water, seaside cafés and bars, local art and galleries

We strolled along the waterfront towards Brighton Pier...

Brighton beach front

... and stopped for two (or three) turns on Brighton's own merry-go-round on the beach! 

The merry-go-round is one of my favourite things to do on Brighton beach and I always take it for a spin or two, often to the amusement of onlookers as mostly it's kids that enjoy this ride. But, hey - there is nothing better than a merry-go-round on the beach, sea air in your hair, and the view! 

Brighton Beach merry-go-round on the beach

As well as the beach there's a whole heap of cool stuff to do in Brighton if you're planning on making a weekend of it:
  • shopping on North Laine
  • water sports
  • seafront clubs and bars in the evening
  • coffee sampling at the many independent cafés
  • Brighton Pier for some carnival type entertainment
  • and of course every visit to Brighton must include fish and chips on the beach

View of Brighton beach from Brighton Pier
view of Brighton beach from Brighton Pier

We made the mandatory visit to Brighton Pier, enjoyed a ice-cream, watched the crazy rides and then tied the knot again! (Just kidding.) 

Ride on Brighton Pier

Just married on Brighton Pier

Ahhh... my favourite Brighton merry-go-round again...

Brighton beach merry-go-round

And a sunset...

Brighton west pier sunset

It's not quite so sunny this weekend so I'm having a quite one in London. What's everyone up to?

14 July 2014

eating fresh in Ko Phi Phi - Thailand

Last week I filled you in my most recent relaxing adventure in unwinding in seductive Ko Phi Phi Island - Thailand. I still can't emphasise enough how gorgeous Ko Phi Phi is, but today I want to tell you all about the food, cause well it was amazing too...

Scrumptious, fresh, zingy and mouth-watering are just a few of the words I would use to describe Thai food, which is characterised by the emphasis placed on always using fresh ingredients, strong aromatic components and a spicy edge.

Lucky for us there was small local village within a five minutes walk from our resort, and this is where we ate pretty much all of our meals...

Ko Phi Phi village - Thailand

Our favourite spot for eating was the amazing Mint Restaurant. Quiet due to the low season, but the most amazing food I've had in a long time that was cooked from scratch in the little corner kitchen where we watched our dishes being created before our very eyes!

Mint cafe - Ko Phi Phi village, Thailand

And of course we washed down the food with some cool local beer!

Drinking a cool beer at Mint cafe - Ko Phi Phi village, Thailand

Some of our favourite Mint cafe dishes...

Chicken and vegetable wantons - Ko Phi Phi Thailand
chicken and vegetable wantons

Fresh chicken salad - Ko Phi Phi Thailand
fresh chicken salad - a little spicy and zingy with chilli and lime in the mix

Green chicken curry with sticky rice - Ko Phi Phi Thailand
green chicken curry with sticky rice

Massaman curry - Ko Phi Phi Thailand
massaman curry

And yep, here's me after picking up some much needed supplies (beer!). Not the most flattering pic, but hey I was feeling pretty happy.

Ko Phi Phi Thailand

As well as Mint cafe there were lots of other lovely spots for eating, and in regards to taste - the food was all first class. My mission now is to find a Thai restaurant in London that can measure up.

One day we went for a small hike to the local view point...

View point - Ko Phi Phi Thailand

... it was a hot day, so a fresh coconut with ice-cream was in order to refresh ourselves afterwards.

Fresh coconut and ice-cream - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
fresh coconut and ice-cream :)

Another favourite of mine that I always sample when in Thailand is the crispy Thai pancakes, which can be served with either a savoury or sweet filling.

Pancake with honey - Thailand
pancake with honey

And, yes we had a favourite dinner spot in the village too - Pad Thai restaurant. Again, amazing fresh dishes and squeezed juices, friendly staff and a free cooking show if you wanted to watch your meal come together before your eyes....

Pad Thai restaurant - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
Pad Thai restaurant - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Chicken with tamarind and cashew - Thailand
delicious chicken with tamarind and cashew 

Pineapple fried rice - Thailand
the amazing Pineapple fried rice

So... Hungry? I am!

13 July 2014

embracing 'engrish' (^o^) in Japan

One of my favourite past times while living in Japan all those years ago was hunting out hilarious engrish examples. Always good for a laugh!

For those of you who are in the dark here - Engrish (イングリッシュ) is a slang term for the misuse of the English language by native East Asian speakers. The word 'Engrish' itself relates to their inability to pronounce the letter L - often substituting it for R. There are a tonne of examples out there - and if you're interested in seeing some I recommend you check out Engrish.com.

It's worth noting that my hunt for engrish has always been in good humour. I'm sure there's a tonne of examples where kanji is used incorrectly in English speaking countries. In particular I think back to the 1990s craze for Asian kanji tattoos. I mean - how many people out there have a tattoo where they don't actually know the meaning?

Anyway... whenever I go back to Japan I always pick up a few engrish souvenirs. There's a lot to choose from! This trip I held onto my restraint and picked up just two t-shirts...

Japanese engrish clothing - Japan
The lip smiles
live in the happy past

Japanese engrish clothing - Japan
SNAZZY
LUDICROUS

Why did I choose these?
  1. The sales girl was very friendly - and encouraged me to try lots on. Often in Japan store staff will ignore you if you're Gaijin in hope that you won't need their help.
  2. The sales girl also thought the t-shirts were very funny, although I couldn't be sure if she was just laughing because I was. She kept pointing, nodding her head and saying 'snazzy', all with a smile :)
  3. The name of the store itself. I mean who could walk past NICE CLAUP?
Japanese engrish clothing - Japan

Hope you're having a lovely weekend.

7 July 2014

unwinding in seductive Ko Phi Phi Island - Thailand

Imagine this...

...sparkling crystal clear water as far as the eye can see, white powdery sand between your toes, fishing boats dotted along the horizon line, fresh coconut water running down your chin and a soft wind ruffling the leaves of a nearby coconut tree... (man I could be in marketing!!)...

Long tail boat - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
long tail boat - Ko Phi Phi

My dear friends this relaxing heaven exists - it's called Ko Phi Phi island in Thailand, and it's precisely where I recently spent an amazing week doing, well not much at all.

It's quite unusual for hubby and I to have a full week of 'down time' with nothing to do than soak up a few rays. Normally we opt for city breaks or exploring new cultures so this type of holiday was quite new for us. But it didn't take more than a few moments to adjust. Especially with such a lovely welcome...

Ko Phi Phi, Thailand - the perfect honeymoon spot

Relaxing on our beach-front balcony - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
hubby relaxing on our beach-front balcony

Beautiful Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

It was amazing week. I haven't felt so relaxed and happy in a long time. And even though we are now home in London I'm still holding onto 'my zen'.

This was my hammock for the week... not a bad spot right?

Hammock time - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

All we really had to worry about was falling coconuts!

It's currently the early rainy season in Thailand and we were warned about the weather not being great in June, but in actual fact it was pretty good. And as a bonus the beach was quiet and peaceful. Perfect when you're trying to get away from everything.

Yes, we had a few mornings that looked like this...

Early morning - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
early morning - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

... but personally they were a welcome relief from the sun (think freckles and pale skin)...

Relaxing at Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

... and by lunch time the cloud had dissappeared and we would have a bit more of this...

Fishing boats - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

One day hubby and I roused ourselves from our hammocks and went for a walk through the middle of the island. It was hot and sticky, but worth the effort as we found our own little slice of private beach...

Empty beach - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Empty beach - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

And when swimming in the ocean became a little overwhelming (ha ha)... we headed for the pool, paused to admire some of the local tropical flowers, or picked up a paper. Thanks Buddha! 

Infinity pool - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
infinity pool - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Flower - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Flower - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Buddah - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

And when we got tired of the pool (yeah right!) we headed back to the beach again, often with a beer or two in hand. I could never get tired of a view like this...

Amazing beaches - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Amazing beaches - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

 Okay, enough now, right?

You know what to do. Get online and book yourself a holiday now! Thailand is not an expensive country to travel in, it's devastatingly beautiful and Thai people are most lovely, friendliest souls you'll ever meet.

On the beach, you can live in bliss. 
Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys 
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