How to travel in 2019

So you have been dreaming of travelling for weeks, months or perhaps even years and you have finally decided that this is it - 2019 is going to be the year you make your travel dreams come true.

Well that is fantastic news! and I am glad you stopped by, below I share with you 10 things you can do to make sure you make it happen

1. Set a clear and well defined goal

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Setting a goal will give you a specific outcome to work towards, something which will keep you focused and on the right track. Like a lighthouse it will guide you in the right direction helping you adjust your trajectory if you get a little lost.

When setting your goal make sure it is SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Here is a simple example of a framework you can use to set your own goal:

By ‘X’ (date) I will have done ‘X’ (what) by ‘X’ (how).

i.e. By June I will have saved £3,000 by working at the local coffee shop on a Saturday.

Also make sure that your goal is positively framed to help you focus on the benefit of achieving what you are working towards.

Goals give you a sense of purpose and provide you with a point of reference when making decisions or taking action. Once you have written out your goal, every time you make a decision or take action pause and ask yourself “Does this help me achieve my goal of X?” if the answer is ‘Yes’ then fantastic! If the answer is ‘No’ then find a way to stop.

2. Create a Vision Board

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Vision boards are a fantastic way to keep your Goal alive and at the forefront of your mind. You want to create a visual representation of your ideal outcome and make it inspiring, exciting and fun. Keep it somewhere visible, where you can see it everyday…ideally somewhere like your bedroom (so you can look at it when you first wake up and before you go to sleep) or in your office or kitchen, wherever works for you as long as you can see it every day. This will keep you focused and motivated to work towards your goal.

To create the vision board, you can go Old School and cut out pictures from newspapers or magazines and stick them on a large piece of cardboard (ideally A3 or bigger) or if you prefer you can create it on your computer and simply print it out!

3. Do your research

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If you have no idea where you want to go or what you want to do, doing some research will help you get a better understanding of what your options are. If you know where you want to go, then you can jump straight to doing research about that particular location(s) to ensure you are knowledgeable about where you are going.

Research doesn’t have to be boring, you can watch Youtube videos, read blogs, follow other travellers on Instagram. You can also go into your local travel agent like STA travel or Trail Finders and pick up some free Brochures (also good source of material for your Vision Board cut outs). Speak to other travellers and ask them questions and if you don’t know any, join one of the many Facebook Groups and start conversations with people on there. In the main, people are super helpful and happy to answer your questions.

4. Set your Budget

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Once you have decided where you want go and have done your research, it is time to set yourself a realistic budget. How much money you will need will depend on a combination of factors such as:

  • The Country you are travelling to

  • The length of time you want to stay

  • The type of travel you want to do

  • The activities you want to tick off your bucket list

  • Where you live in relation to the places you want to travel to

  • Your spending habits

If you are flexible about your destination and your main priority is to explore another country for as long as your funds will allow, then you could look at it the other way round - Find out how much money you can save in the time frame that you have and then decide where it would go the furthest. For example places in Asia will be substantially cheaper than the likes of New Zealand or Australia.

5. Create a plan

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As the saying goes…fail to plan, plan to fail.

Now, granted that spontaneity and adventure go hand in hand with travelling but I still believe that it is always good to have a basic plan, even if you are the wildest of cats.

Having a plan makes things easier, cheaper and more likely to maximise the time you have. It is extremely helpful to have a plan for both the things you need to do in order to reach your goal of travelling (save money, visas, bookings etc) and a plan for when you actually arrive at your destination (accommodation, transport, activities etc.). Having a plan doesn’t mean you have to stick to it down to a T, but it gives you a blueprint from which you can then make educated and spontaneous decisions.

6. Start saving

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Does this even need an explanation? Unless you are a very financially fortunate individual (in which case good for you, skip ahead to number 7!) the majority of you reading this (myself included) will need to save money to fund at least part of their travels. Create a savings plan that is attainable for your circumstances and start saving right now…whether the plan is to earn more or spend less or the combination of both (which really is the ideal option) the sooner you start the sooner you will reach your goal.

Even the smallest adjustments soon add up, I like the quote ‘Look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves’ I have found this to be so true (even in different currencies! :P)

7. Write a Bucket List

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Writing a list of all the amazing things you want to experience on your travels is the perfect way to get super excited for what awaits you if you focus, commit and work hard to make your dream come true.

Be bold and brave and write your wildest travel aspirations down on paper. I never thought I would be brave enough to do a bungee jump and a skydive, yet somehow I ticked both of them off!

Even better, include a visual representation of the things on your list to your Vision Board. It will help you keep the focus on momentum, which is particularly handy when you are saying no to shopping or nights out to save your pennies!

8. Set some personal policies

You may find that compromises are necessary to achieve your goals and that is ok, it makes the outcome even more worth it. This is where the focus and commitment comes in, to ensure you follow through with your plan and take the actions you know you need to take to achieve you want to achieve. A good way to do this is to set some personal policies.

Personal policies are basically rules or guidelines you intentionally set yourself that will help you make choices that ultimately help you achieve your goals. For example, a personal policy might be ‘I don’t buy lunch for work, I pack my lunch instead’ or ‘I don’t buy new makeup unless I have completely ran out of what I currently use’ or ‘I don’t buy new books, I do a book exchange instead’. These are personal policies that will reduce your spending and ultimately help you save the money you need to travel, however, they can really be about anything i.e. ‘I only watch videos/read blogs which help me maintain a positive and healthy mindset’ or ‘I write a gratitude journal every day to keep me focused on the goof things in my life’.

Once you have these in place, they will trigger a more helpful response when being faced with a choice. For example if you walking around a shopping centre and you see a new eye palette that would set you back £30, you will think - I can’t buy this because it goes against my personal policy not buying new makeup unless I have completely ran out of what I have.

Give it a go, you will be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes especially as you become more consistent at adhering to your policies.

9. Stay inspired

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I am not going to lie or sugar coat this, at times it will be tough.

Like any other goal that you want to achieve, there will be times when you will doubt yourself, when you will wonder if you have what it takes to make it happen, when you will question if hibernating at home whilst everyone else is out will really be worth it. The answer is yes. Yes you can do this, yes you have what it takes, yes it will be worth it. If this is what you want, what you really really want then YES, YES, YES. All you have to do is just keep going.

What helps in those tough moments is staying inspired as much as you can. Look at your vision board, read your bucket list, read that book that makes you want to push the boundaries of your comfort zone, watch that film that makes you want to see the world, talk to that friend who also wants to live a wild adventure. Do whatever it takes to stay on the right track and you WILL get there.

10. Work on your mindset

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This goes hand in hand with the previous point. I love the quote, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t you are right”, your mindset will really determine if you reach your goal or not, so you want to make sure you take care of it. Feed it good things, help it grow and in return it will give you what you need to take the actions you need to take to get to where you want to be. Your thoughts drive your behaviour and your behaviour drives your actions so make sure your thoughts are setting you up for success!

What is the Difference between Coaching and other interventions?

It can sometimes be confusing to distinguish between interventions such as coaching, mentoring, consulting and counselling.

These interventions are similar in some ways as they all involve building a professional relationship between the practitioner and the client. This relationship should be based on mutual respect and trust and forms the basis for confidential conversations, with the aim to achieve a specific result. 

Coaching focuses on helping individuals identify what it is that they want to achieve and how to achieve it.

Counselling is about understanding your past and present situation and self acceptance.

Mentoring focuses on the mentor sharing their own experience, knowledge and skills with others, helping them advance and make progress in their own life.

Consulting involves providing expert advise a specific topic in order for the client to obtain a specific result. 

In all instances, the practitioners need to develop certain skills to provide a professional and valuable service such as: building rapport, active listening, verbal and non verbal communication, an honest and trust worthy work ethic.

Equally, there are also ways in which these interventions differ from one another, some of these differences are: 

Focus 

In Counselling the focus is on past events and experiences and how these effect the client’s current behaviour and emotional well being. 

In Mentoring the focus is on teaching by passing on knowledge, skills and experience from the Mentor to the Mentee.

In Consulting the focus is on the Consultant providing advice and guidance which will allow the client to achieve a specific desired result.

In Coaching the focus is on the future. The Coach will aim to unlock the client’s potential by using questions which increase the client’s awareness and encourage the client to take action to achieve their desired outcome. 

Guidance 

In Mentoring and Consulting, the practitioner will provide advice and guidance to the client based on personal knowledge and expertise. On the other hand, in Counselling and more so in Coaching, the aim is to elicit results by empowering the client to reflect, make their own decisions and find their own solutions. Unlike the other interventions, Coaching follows the principle that the client is the expert of their own life and that they are therefore the best person to identify the most successful strategy to move forward. 

Agenda 

In coaching, the Agenda for each session is set by the client. Although the Coach will provide the structure and will help the client navigate the process, the client decides the content for the discussion. In Mentoring and Consulting, the practitioner will decide what topics to cover and will set a specific schedule to follow as part of the agreed program. 

There are additional difference between these interventions which make each practice the most appropriate option depending on an individual’s requirements. Someone who wanted to learn how to increase sales may be best placed working with a sales consultant, someone who wanted to understand a childhood trauma should seek the assistance of a counsellor, an entrepreneur wanting to tap into someone’s expertise would be likely to find value in working with a mentor and someone wanting to get clear on their direction and achieve their goals in the fastest most effective way, would make a great client for a Coach. 

DO YOU WANT TO FIND OUT HOW COACHING CAN HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS?













What is the GROW Model?

The GROW model is a framework used in coaching. The name of the model is an acronym for the four key stages covered in the coaching process, these are - Goals, Reality, Options and Will/Way forward. 

The model provides a structure and guidelines to help the client navigate the process of getting from where they are to where they want to be. 

It is the responsibility of a coach to have in-depth knowledge of the GROW model and it’s individual stages, as well as develop the ability to use the framework in an organic and flexible way, allowing the client to retain the freedom of setting their own agenda for each session. 

The four stages of GROW are: 

Goal - This stage focuses on starting with the end in mind. Here the client will get clear on exactly what outcome they desire, what it is they want to achieve and by when. The client will be guided through a process of exploration and will set well defined goals with intention and purpose. 

Types of questions explored at this stage would be:

  • What is your desired outcome? 

  • When do you want to achieve this by?

  • How will you know if you have achieved it? 

  • How will you feel when you achieve your goal? 

  • What would happen if you didn’t achieve your goal? 

Reality - This stage looks at the client’s current situation, both from a practical perspective and an emotional one. The client will be encouraged to think about where they are now in relation to their goal, how far they have come and how far they still have to go to get to where they want to be. This stage is a reflective one, which will require the client to take stock of what is happening and understand themselves and their current state. 

Types of questions explored at this stage would be:

  • What is happening right now that tells you you are not where you wan to be? 

  • What aspects of your current situation are you happy with? 

  • What aspects of your current situation need to change in order for you to move forward? 

  • What is holding you back from moving forward? 

  • What resources do you need in order to achieve your goal? 

Options - During this stage the client will begin to look at potential strategies to use to move towards achieving their goal. They will be invited to look at their situation from different perspectives and points of view, by getting creative and focusing on finding solutions.  

Types of questions explored at this stage would be:

  • What could you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? 

  • What could you do if money wasn’t an object? 

  • What would your friends may suggest you do?

  • What would you do if you had a superpower? 

  • What would you do if you could dedicated all your time and effort to this one goal?

Will/Way Forward - By this stage the client should have a clear idea of what it is that they want to achieve and where they are right now in relation to it, as well as having a good idea of the different ways they could get closer to their desired outcome. The next step is to ensure that the client is ready and committed to taking action. Without action, coaching simply becomes a pleasant and insightful conversation which may raise the client’s awareness but without yielding real change and most importantly results. 

Types of questions explored at this stage would be:

  • Which step do you need to take to move closer to your goal? 

  • What specific actions will you take?

  • When will you take these actions?

  • What do you need in order to ensure that these actions are taken? 

  • What could stop you from taking these actions? 

The above provides a simplified outline of how the GROW model is structured, of course each stage is composed of multiple layers which combined with a coach’s knowledge and intuition are used to support the client through a transformational process. 

Want to experience the GROW model in action?

What is the role of a Coach?

Simplistically my role as a coach is to increase a client’s awareness of themselves and their situation, in order to identify what they want to achieve and what they need to do to achieve it. 

I do this by : 

Being Positive & Professional - Having a positive attitude is vital in setting the right mood for the coaching relationship. A Coach should be an uplifting influence on the client and should strive to always provide value, be responsible, reliable and trustworthy. 

Using the GROW model effectively and flexibly - As a Coach I will have a clear and in-depth understanding of the individual stages of the GROW model and the importance and value of exploring each. This means making sure that the goals set by the client are specific, measurable, achievable and time bound, as well as in line with their core values and beliefs. I work to raise my clients’ awareness of their current situation and help them explore what they could do in order to get closer to what they want, ensuring they are clear on what specific actions they have agreed to take and that they are committed to doing so.  

Effective questioning - A successful coaching relationship greatly relies on the Coaches’ ability to ask questions which encourage the client to learn about themselves. As a result, Coaches are experts in asking questions which require the client to reflect and verbalise their thoughts, dreams and desires.

Active listening - As well as asking the right questions, a Coach requires the ability to actively listen to the client’s responses and be acutely aware of both what the client is saying and what the client isn’t saying. It is my job as a Coach to be 100% laser focused on what my client is sharing with me and to increase their awareness by highlighting anything which they may be indirectly saying, i.e. pointing out a change in body language or tone of voice or passing comments which imply a limiting belief such as “ I know this will sound stupid but..”

Awareness of values and beliefs - Coaching takes a holistic approach and as such it is important for a coach to ensure that the client is aware of their values and beliefs and that whilst guiding the client through the goal setting process, attention is paid to ensuring that the impact on those values and beliefs is considered. Additionally, the client may be holding on to negative or limiting beliefs which could be stopping them from achieving what they want. In such instances, it is my responsibility as a Coach to help the client become aware of and subsequently challenge those beliefs. 

Being able to build rapport - The coaching relationship creates a safe, confidential and non-judgmental place for clients to share some of their most raw thoughts and deepest desires. As such, Coaches need to be able to quickly and effortlessly build rapport with clients, ensuring they feel comfortable and safe opening up and sharing information about their lives. 

Being aware of the client’s thinking style - A way to quickly build rapport and effectively connect with clients is to become aware of their preferred thinking style. Having this awareness allows me as a Coach to use words which my clients can relate to, making the questions I ask tailored to their individual preference and easier to understand. 

Keeping to the client’s agenda - Coaching is not about giving advise or telling clients what to do. A Coach should never project their own experiences, opinions and judgments on to clients. It is my responsibility to always keep to the client’s agenda in an unbiased and non-judgmental way, whilst providing a framework that ensures that the client is focusing on the future and on how to move forward.  

Providing the client with accountability - As a Coach I will be a sounding board, I will help my clients review their progress, find the motivation to take action, reflect on learnings and provide encouragement to ensure that they remain on track. I will also ensure that clients have a clear and agreed action plan with specific time lines and strategies to minimise the likelihood that the actions won’t be taken. 

Providing Structure - Coaching sessions need to follow a framework to ensure that they don’t turn into casual conversations. Clients are guided through a learning process during each session, this provides them with a clear structure to work through  in order to - understand what outcome they desire, become aware of what is stopping them at the moment, think about what they could do to move forward and decide what they will do to make progress in the fastest and most effective way. 

Want to work with me to achieve your goals?

CHIANG MAI - MINI GUIDE

MY SHORT GUIDE TO CHIANG MAI

I personally enjoyed Chiang Mai a lot more than Bangkok. Although the chaos in Bangkok has it's appeal and character, I found it too overwhelming for the senses, favouring the atmosphere of the more relaxed and slower paced Chiang Mai. 

I should highlight that I spent a week in Chiang Mai and only a few days in Bangkok. I should also add that I spent the majority of my time within the walls of the Old Town in Chiang Mai, only venturing further afield during some of the tours. 

Here are share with you my guide of what to do whilst visiting Chiang Mai. Some are recommendations of activities I personally took part in, others are things I wish I had done but didn't have the chance to do and a few are general attractions which are very popular with the tourists and worth a mention. Without further ado...

MUST DOS IN CHIANG MAI

1. Elephant Sanctuaries - Read about the one I went to here

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2. Cooking Classes - Read about the one I did here 

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3. Spas - There are many, below is a picture of the one I went to twice and I loved it both times!

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4. Eating out. The are so many amazing restaurants in Chiang Mai it is almost too hard to chose. Some of my favourites were Dada Kafe, Dash Restaurant & Bar and Cooking Love. 

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5. Temples

6. Jungle Trekking

7. Hill Tribe Tours

Here are a couple of links to websites I found helpful...check them out for more information and of course always do your own research! 

https://uk.viator.com/Chiang-Mai/d5267-ttd

http://www.travelhubchiangmai.com

Whatever you do, have fun, be safe and be ethical i.e. no riding elephants or pictures with chained tigers :( 

xoxo

EATING OUT IN CHIANG MAI

My favourite Restaurants in Chiang Mai

When I left Bangkok headed for the popular northern destination that is Chiang Mai, I was expecting to arrive in a hillside mid-sized town with a rural feel. I am not sure why or how I developed such a misconception, but my vision of Chiang Mai was not very accurate at all. 

Chiang Mai is in fact the second largest city in Thailand and a hub for tourists and backpackers alike. One aspect I really enjoyed, is that although the city is large, it is divided into the 'Old' and 'New' town, by a series of walls. The area in the Old Town, where we stayed and mainly explored, still feels cosy.

There is a wide and varied range of places to eat in Chiang Mai, but let me share with you 4 of my favourites, which all happen to be within th walls of the Old Town. I promise you won't be disappointed if you choose to pay these places a visit! 

My 4 must visit restaurants in Chiang Mai 

 

DASH Teak House

In my opinion the strongest selling point of this particular place is the atmosphere. It is by far one of the prettiest dining venues with a very romantic feel, especially in the evening. 

There are is a large outdoor seating area with candle lit tables as well as the indoor area, with a bar and live musicians (who were very talented). 

The menu includes both Thai and Western options, both times we visited we opted for Thai dishes. I have tried the tempura Vegetables (pictured below) as well as the chicken satay skewers for starters, and they were both delicious.

We also tried the Chicken in Tamarind sauce as a main and were blown away, I worried the chicken might be dry under the crust it is incased in, but it was tender and although I hate the word "succulent". We ordered steamed rice and a prawn curry and shared everything between two people (it was more than enough). 

Dada Kafe 

I was on the hunt for a nice healthy restaurant that served fresh food, especially for breakfast and lunch. This is where Dada Kafe comes in. It was everything I wanted and more..

I don't know about you but in the last couple of years I have developed a borderline unhealthy addiction to avocado.

You can therefore imagine my delight when I found that the menu at Dada Kafe included sandwiches with avocado, eggs with avocado, avocado on toast and avocado salads! I was a happy girl. 

Tuna and Avocado sandwich Dada Kafe
Eggs and Avocado Dada Kafe

We visited this place for breakfast and lunch on a number of occasions, some of the things we tried were the tuna sandwiches (top left) the set menu option which comes with OJ and tea/coffee (top right), the veggie burger (bottom) and the chicken sandwich (featured in the video). 

All of the dishes were fresh, tasty and reasonably priced. Average of $10 for 2 people. They also have a great selection of juices and smoothies. 

Vegetarian Burger Dada Kafe
Veggie Burger Dada Kafe
Coffee and donuts in Chiang Mai

We stumbled upon this place by chance during a morning of exploration and ended up coming back just so I could take pictures of the food (what a great excuse ay!). 

Both times the restaurant was extremely busy with people being turned away, it is indeed very popular and rightly so. There is a pretty courtyard surrounded by plants and french looking garden furniture, the breakfast options are out of this world and the coffee is GOOOOOD! They also have a lot of imported european produce and you can find typical cured meats and cheeses from places like Italy and Germany. 

The second time we visited, the owner gave us free donuts (pictured above) to apologise for the long wait, a really thoughtful touch and great sign of excellent customer service. 

Omelette in Chiang Mai

I ordered the greek omelette with feta cheese and roasted vegetables (above) and fruit salad with yogurt (below). 

Fruit Salad in Chiang Mai

My boyfriend ordered the scrambles eggs with shrimp (below). Everything was unbelievably tasty and fresh. 

Scrambled eggs and shrimp in Chiang Mai

Cooking Love

This place is ALL about the food. The restaurant itself and the customer service is pretty average and nothing to rave about, but the food, oh where do I start....

The pictures I took don't do the dishes ANY justice, the lighting was bad and I was so impatient to eat that I didn't even care about the perfect picture (sorry, not sorry). 

The ingredients are fresh and all I can say is that the cooks in this place really know what they are doing, everything tastes A-mazing. There aren't enough culinary words in my vocabulary to express what I want to say when describing this food, all I can humbly suggest is that if you ever find this place in Chiang Mai, you go and eat here.

Be prepared to queue up, because there is always a line and be prepared to eat a lot, because the portions are very generous and you will not want to leave any food on your plate. 

Stir Fried Pumpkin Cooking Love

Stirfried Pumkin - who knew PUMPKIN could taste so good! (above)

Sweet and Sour Chicken Cooking Love

Sweet and Sour Chicken (above)

cashew nut chicken cooking love

Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce (above)

For more information on these restaurants you can also check out my 'What I eat in a day - Chiang Mai Edition' video, which features these 4 amazing places. 

Where to eat in Chiang Mai?

I am well aware that the enjoyment of food (like many things in life) is a subjective experience and one that will greatly depend on what type of diet you follow (At this point in time, I eat everything including meat) therefore I can only offer you guys my humble opinion, however, I am confident in recommending each one of these places to you, as I would to any of my dear friends. 

- All of these places also had great vegetarian options and vegan options. 

- All of these places were very reasonably prices (all under $20 for 2 people) 

- Not all of the restaurants have a website, I have linked the ones that do. For the others, a quick search online will be enough to give you info such as the address and reviews. 

Please let me know if you visit any of these restaurants yourselves and what you thought of them!

Speak to you next time 

Love Vx 

 

 

LIEBSTER AWARD!

Liebster Award Nomination? Say what....

How exciting that this Blog has been nominated for a Liebster Award. However big or small you always feel like a bit of a rock star or Hollywood actress when you are nominated for an 'Award' oooohhhhh, how fancy! 

In reality the Liebster award serves as a great way to bring attention to new Blogs and to remind the hard working people with big dreams behind them, that there is in fact someone enjoying their efforts on the other side of the screen! 

I have been nominated by a cool duo over at 33andfree, they did something very Eat, Pray, Love-ish and quit their jobs in LA, sold their stuff and exchanged it all for an adventurous life on the road...how awesome. Head over and check out their blog. 

Here are the questions I have been asked to answer as part of the Liebster Award nomination: 

What is it about travel that made you focus on that? 

Travelling is something I have always dreamed of doing, but circumstances or my own fears got in the way year after year. When I eventually decided to book a one way ticket to Australia, move out of my flat and give my notice in at work I was motivated by the thought 'If I keep saying one day I will do it, that 'one day' will never come'. So I took the leap knowing that whatever happened at least I had tried. 

What has been your favorite country?

It truly is hard to pick, but probably New Zealand because of the sheer amount of untouched natural beauty. 

Have you learned something new while traveling?

Practically speaking I have learnt to Scuba Dive! On a deeper and more personal level, I have learnt that I will always be afraid of something and that is perfectly ok, the important part is to acknowledge and accept my fears, yet not give them the power to stop me from doing whatever it is I want to do. 

Did you have an eye opening moment on any trip?

I had two. One whilst swimming with wild dolphins in Kaikoura NZ, and another whilst hugging an elephant. I realised what complete and utter joy feels like. 

If someone said that you had one last trip, what would it be? 

South America

Do you travel for something other than the actual location? (i.e. music festival, sporting event, etc.)

I do love the sun, so if I have a choice I tend to choose locations with good weather. 

Do you prefer nature or city for traveling? 

I like a combination of both, I am very much about the balance and too much of one thing bores me, so I like to keep it varied. 

What is the most beautiful city you have been to?

Dubrovnik, Croatia

What is the most remote place you have been to?

Where I was born is pretty remote! A small mountain village in the middle of Sicily. In terms of where I have travelled to, probably Gili T - although very popular with tourists these days, it still felt pretty remote whilst I was on a shabby boat trying to get there. 

What advice can you give to people starting to include travel in their life?

Be spontaneously organised - what I mean is, be aware of where you are going (i.e. top 10 things to do, top 10 places to eat, top 10 places to stay), have accommodation for when you first arrive and then see where life takes you. You get a feel for a place once you are there in person and it is much easier to make better choices.

These are the Rules to follow to continue the Liebster Award tradition

Rules:

Participation is optional and you can politely turn down nominations should you choose.  If you do accept, you need to follow these simple rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their site on your blog.

  • Display the award on your blog (as a post and/or in the sidebar)

  • Answer the 10 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

    • Nominate 5-10 other bloggers for the award and inform them via social media.

  • Create your own set of questions for your nominees

 My nominations are: 

Whats Katie Up To

Northern Lauren

Urban Twists

Qu-een.org

Forktrails

My Questions for the Nominees are: 

Why did you decide to start a Blog?

What has been your biggest challenge to overcome as a Blogger? 

What have you learnt about yourself through Blogging? 

If you could wake up anywhere in the world, where would it be?

If you could speak any other language what would it be?

What would you choose as your last meal on earth?

What is your Favourite Quote? 

What advice would you give to your teenage self? 

If you could have a super power what would it be?

There you have it guys! I hope you enjoyed this post, make sure to also check out the other blogs and share the love! 

Speak to you soon 

V x 

 

 

 

LANNA KINGDOM ELEPHANT SANCTUARY

If you have read my Blog Post on swimming with wild dolphins in New Zealand, you will know that my encounter with those beautiful creatures was the first time ever in my life that I cried tears of pure joy. 

Well, my visit to the Elephant Sanctuary marks the second time in my life that I have wept in complete awe of these gentle and majestic creatures. 

Just thinking about having had the opportunity to experience such an encounter and looking back at the pictures makes me feel extremely grateful and a tad emotional...so let me get on with telling you how the day unfolded. 

After an online search and with the help of trip advisor it quickly became apparent that elephant tours/shows form a large portion of the tourism in Chiang Mai. There are a plethora of companies offering half day tours and full days tours, yet both my partner and I had a very strict criteria for the tour we wanted to go on - NO ELEPHANT RIDING OR ELEPHANT SHOWS or any other tour which involved elephants being 'Trained' to do something to entertain onlookers. 

With this criteria in mind, we found Lanna Kingdom Tours. They are #3 on TripAdvisor with great reviews and rightly so. One of the reasons we favoured this tour compared to others was that it seemed to have fewer people in the group with a more intimate feel. 

We emailed the company as instructed on their website and received a prompt reply confirming the availability for the tour. On the website it also states that they require a 50% deposit for the tour to be paid online, but as we were going on the tour the next day we were allowed to pay the full amount in cash after the tour (2,500 THB per person + optional but well deserved gratuity). If you don't want to pay in advance online it is worth asking them if they will accept the full payment in cash; In my experience they were very accommodating. 

The next day we were picked up from our hotel lobby at 8am (on time), I was pleasantly surprised to find that our means of transport was a very modern, spacious and well equipped mini van with air con and free bottles of water. I was particularly surprised because during a conversation with another couple we met at the thai cooking class , we were told that their 1.5 hour drive to a different elephant camp had been at the back of a crammed pick up truck turned mini van. This is also when we met our lovely tour guides for the day Patty and Bamboo. My expectations were further exceeded when I learnt that out group for the day was formed of only 4 people, my boyfriend and I and another couple!!! Our drive lasted 45 minutes - 1 hour.

When we arrived at the camp we were provided with clothes, shoes and a hat and were able to store our belongings in lockers. We were also advised to hold on to our cameras as we would have plenty of opportunities to takes pictures.

Then, I saw the elephants and my heart stopped. Three elephants were idly roaming around the field, chewing on their bamboo breakfast. At this time the sanctuary only has 3 Elephants, all females and all rescued from either riding tours, elephant shows or working camps. Two are adult females (one of which is pregnant) and one is a 2 year old baby elephant. 

Lanna the baby elephant and most active and cheekiest of them all, quickly introduced herself to the group by coming over to the changing rooms to drink water from the tap...this was only the beginning of her mischievousness. 

We had a chance to familiarise ourselves with the elephants and take a few pictures, before being asked to sit down so that Patty could explain what to expect from the tour and inform us of the history of the sanctuary. 

I was left heartbroken when I saw the branding on this elephant's back. This elephant was rescued from a working camp. The star represents her name and number represents her number out of the elephants in the working camp.

ACTIVITIES

  • Familiarise & Interact with elephants in an open field

  • Learn about the elephants

  • Feed elephants

  • Prepare herbal vitamin balls and feed them to elephants

  • Give elephants mud bath

  • Bathe elephants

  • Apply special oil to elephants after bath

  • Eat lunch (included in price) as you watch the elephants roam around

  • Cry when you realise it is time to leave

INFORMATION & HISTORY

During a sit down conversation, Patty explained how the Sanctuary came to be. 

Lana Kingdom Tours offers a variety of tours. Up until 7 months ago one of the tours on offer was an elephant tour which included elephant riding and an elephant show.

Mr Pop the owner of the business was keen to receive feedback from his clients and over time it became apparent that although the tourists were entertained by the elephants, they were left heart broken by the fact that the elephants didn't look happy.

Mr Pop himself felt saddened by the fact that he was supporting this trade and eventually reached a point where he could no longer find it in himself to be involved in something he was himself against.

Although the tours provided much needed profit, Mr Pop decided to stop providing the elephant tour as part of his selection. Instead he concentrated more on other tours I.e. Temple tours and raised enough funds to build his own sanctuary.

Lana the 2 year old elephant (named after the company) was the first elephant Mr Pop was able to buy. She was rescued from an Elephant Show, where her mother worked. Overtime, Mr Pop was able to save enough money to buy two more elephants, one from an elephant riding camp and one from a working camp (this is where elephants are chained to tree trunks and made to carry the trees).

Patty explained that not all tours mistreat their animals, in fact they serve a good purpose because in Thailand now there are more elephants than there is food for them, therefore if left in the wild many would die of starvation. The problem arises when Elephants are abused to bring in more profit and as tourists it is difficult to distinguish companies which ethically look after their animals and those which don't.

However, if more tourists show interest and support for wanting to care for the animals instead of riding them or being entertained by them, then more companies will be forced to stop these activities which cause elephants so much pain and sadness.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE - If you visit Thailand DON'T support Elephant Riding or Elephant Show tours. Instead choose to do the right thing by those beautiful creatures and opt for a tour that allows these animals to be treated well and not forced to endure mistreatment for your entertainment. 

PREPARING THE MEDICINE BALLS

Elephants eat A LOT! All they do is eat and poop. They only sleep 3-4 hours a day and always at night, usually between 12am and 4am. To help with their digestive system, the elephants at the sanctuary are given medicine balls containing tamarind. 

The medicine balls are completely natural. Because tamarind has a really sour taste, it is mixed with pieces of banana and sugar cane. 

FEEDING THE ELEPHANTS THE MEDICINE BALLS

The elephants LOVE the taste of the medicine balls because they are sweet. LANNA kept hovering around the table impatiently waiting for her turn to be fed! 

TIME TO GET DIRTY!

Elephants love rolling around in mud, the four of us along with the three elephants got to get down and dirty in a pool of mud. It was dirty, it was smelly and it was sooooooo much fun. 

For the elephants this is like a day at the spa. The mud is rubbed on their skin almost like a scrub to remove dead skin.

TIME TO GET CLEANED UP!

The mud bath is promptly followed by a much needed jump in the lake. Here the elephants are washed and brushed. It is incredible to watch them play in the water and observe how much happiness it brings them. 

DRYING OFF IN THE SUN

All the fun and running around took it's toll on little Lanna, who decided to lay down and enjoy the sun. Soo cute <3

MOISTURISING IS KEY!

Like all the ladies out there, these three female elephants know the importance of maintaining their skin nice and moisturised! After the bath, we rubbed a water+tamarind solution on the elephants, which helps & protects their skin. 

LUNCH TIME

After all the fun, we had the opportunity to shower and change back into our clothes before being served a delicious lunch. Pad Thai, Watermelon and the most delicious rice cakes I have ever tried! 

The day ended at around 1:30pm when we had to say goodbye to the elephants and were driven back to our accommodation. 

This was without a doubt one of the best and most emotional experiences of my life. I would recommend it to anyone and I look forward to the day that elephants will be treated with the care and respect they deserve instead of being exploited for selfish human entertainment. 

Love V x

VIP BUS - BANGKOK TO CHIANG MAI

After spending a few days in Bangkok, we decided to make our way up to Chiang Mai, the second biggest city in Thailand situated in the Northern part of the country. 

I have always heard good things about Chiang Mai, I have also heard that it is cheaper than the souther part of Thailand. These two factors combined with a weather forecast of pure sunshine made the decision to come here a no brainer. 

After some expert googling, it became apparent that the best way to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is via overnight sleeper train. Flights are quicker but more expensive, buses are cheaper but less comfortable. 

Armed with such information and having read positive reviews (on this other blog  our intention was to catch the #9 sleeper train which departs Bangkok at 18:10pm and arrives in Chiang Mai at 07:15am the next day. Unfortunately what we didn't realise is that you have to book your tickets 3 days in advance MINIMUM. Unable to get tickets on this (or any other train on our required date) we were left in a bit of a predicament. 

FUNNY STORY ALERT & TOP TIP FOR THE LADIES - NEVER TRUST THE BOYFRIEND'S BOOKING SKILLS

We decided to have a look at flights, my boyfriend took charge of the task at hand and promptly started googling away on his iphone. After a few minutes I was delighted at his announcement of having found 2 flight tickets at the ideal time with Thai Lion Airways (a company I had never heard of...but anyhow). The price was excellent, only a few dollars more than the train and the travel time was substantially reduced. What a win! After asking him to ensure that all the details were correct prior to paying for the tickets, he happily confirmed that it was all in order and completed the purchase. We happily continued about our business until the email confirmation for the flights was delivered to my email address. 

My darling boyfriend, although equipped with good intentions had failed to notice that the aforementioned 'ideal flight tickets' had been booked for the wrong Month! We looked at each other in disbelief and were left with no option but to laugh hysterically. " At least this will be a funny story to share, we both agreed"....Good thing he is cute ;) 

Eventually (after putting myself in charge of making the bookings lol) we were left with no other option but to take an overnight bus. I wasn't crazy about the idea of sleeping on a chair for 11 hours, especially as I was picturing a long journey in a hot crammed smelly bus, with uncomfortable seats. 

The booking process was simple I used the website 12go.asia you are able to read reviews, pick from different departure times, choose your seats and pay online. It only took a few minutes and I received the confirmation email within minutes. If you are interested we travelled with Lignite Tour PK Dep 20:15pm Arr +1 07:35am two one way tickets cost us THB 1,243 (approx $35 USD, $47 AUD, £28 GBP)

On the day we took a taxi to Morchit Bus Station, walked to our ticketing desk to collect the actual tickets and after waiting for an hour (it is recommended you get there at least 30 minutes before departure) we boarded the bus on time.

My vision of a dingy old bus couldn't have been further away from reality. The bus was on two floors, new, modern and clean. A hostess showed us to our seats....this is what we found 

  • Everyone is given a soft blanket. The chairs are not normal chairs, as well as being larger than usual they are MASSAGE CHAIRS! which you can activate at the push of a button when ever you want.

  • The space between your seat in front of you is big enough for you to outstretch your legs and more. The back of the chair can recline backwards (not all the way but at around a 45 degrees angle and the foot rest can be opened up for your legs to be stretch out in front of you.

  • All seats have individual TVs which offer films in both Thai and English (not a huge collection but good enough)

 

  • Soon after we left everyone was given snacks (soy milk and a brioche). At around midnight we made a stop, here we were given a ticket which we could exchange for either a drink or a bowl of soup....I picked the soup but regretted it.

  • There is FREE WIFI on board which worked pretty well

The journey was smooth and comfortable, I was sincerely surprised at the quality of service on these VIP busses. We were due to arrive at 7:30 am, however the bus arrived two hours in advance at around 05:30am. Some people may find this frustrating, as most types of accommodation will not allow you to check in that early in the morning. It didn't bother us too much, however I may have felt differently had I been on my own especially as not all types of accomodation have 24/7 reception and not many public places are open at the time of day.

On arrival we were able to book a taxi via the taxi stand at the station. Once we arrived at our accommodation we were told we couldn't check in until 12pm (as expected). Thankfully through a combination of eating some breakfast and spending time by the hotel pool, we were able to entertain ourselves until check in.

Overall I would recommend the VIP Bus option to travel around Thailand, especially if the train is not available. We tried booking a train back to Bangkok in a weeks time but again...the tickets have already sold out (REMEMBER TO BOOK IN ADVANCE!) so we have decided to take the same bus back down...this time, knowing what I know I feel much more comfortable and happier that the journey won't be the experience from hell i imagined the last time! 

I hope this helps some of you out there, happy travels!!! 

V x 

 

 

ZABB E LEE COOKING SCHOOL - CHIANG MAI

I love cooking. I love learning about food, buying food, cooking food and especially eating food! It should therefore come as no surprise that one of the activities that was on my Thailand Must Dos was taking a cooking class. 

Chiang Mai is deemed to have some of the best cooking classes in Thailand so on one lazy afternoon, after spending the morning by the pool we decided to book a class at  Zabb E Lee cooking school. There are many cooking classes available in Chiang Mai, which can make the task of picking a good one a little overwhelming. As usual my trusted method of making travel choices  is to use the power of people's reviews and recommendation online. 

Zabb E Lee ranks #2 on TripAdvisor. The school at #1 offers a full day of cooking which seemed too long. The school runs both morning courses 9am-2pm and evening courses 4.30pm-9pm. We emailed the cooking school, opting for the evening course (900 TBH per person) and received an email back straight away. We were asked for the name of our hotel and told to wait at the lobby at the pick up time of 4pm. 

As instructed we were picked up by Snooker - our cooking instructor and charming entertainment for the evening. He was friendly and funny and put us in a good mood almost instantly with his bubbly demeanour. 

After picking up the rest of the group from their accommodation (10 of us in total) we were taken to the local market. This is the only market allowed within the walls of the 'Old Town'. Here Snooker pointed out various types of vegetables, spices and local produce typically used in Thai cuisine.  

IMG_8333.jpg

We were given the chance to buy a few things to take home (like thai spices and herbs) if we so wished and were then back in the car headed for the cooking school. 

On arrival one of the things that most impressed me was how well equipped, organised and clean the cooking spaces were. Everything was neatly laid out and ready for us. 

First we were given a welcome drink and nuts around the dining table, this is also when we chose which dishes we wanted to cook. Everyone cooks 6 types of dishes and within each type there are 3 options to choose from. The dishes can also all be catered to your diet i.e. can be made vegan or vegetarian, can choose fish to replace meat and can be made as spicy or as mild as desired (this was great as I don't eat spicy food)

Everyone will cook one dessert (no choice) which is the Sticky Rice with Mango and Coconut Sauce. 

Tom Kha Kai (above)

tom yum kung (above)

pad thai (above)

hot and sower seafood stir fried with rice (above)

typical thai rice steamer (above)

panang curry with chicken (left) thai green curry with prawns (right)

spring rolls (above)

fresh spring rolls 

sticky rice with mango (above)

The whole evening was  a great experience both for myself as a lover of cuisine and my boyfriend who normally doesn't even like standing in a kitchen. 

We were all given clear instructions and step by step demonstrations making it an easy and stress free process. One of the aspects I was also impressed by was that everyone had individual stations and equipment meaning that we all received the same learning experience (If you have read my review of the cooking class I took in Gili T, you will know that in that class we were put into pairs and had to share tasks when preparing the meals).

The members of our group were all great fun, which made the evening extremely enjoyable and to add to the delight, our instructor Snooker constantly provided the group with an injection of fun and good humour. 

I would highly recommend including a cooking class in your itinerary when visiting Thailand and I would particularly recommend Zabb E Lee when choosing one in Chiang Mai.