RAILAY BEACH, KRABI, THAILAND – june 2014

For three weeks, I’ve been travelling around Thailand. We’re currently waiting to board our flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, so it’s the perfect time to blog my memories of Railay while still fresh in my mind. Hopefully our plane won’t mysteriously disappear in the Indian Ocean before I can publish this post–

East of overpopulated and Westernized Phuket lies Railay, where you’ll find truly some of the most beautiful beaches on Earth.

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Although mildly traumatising, the trek there was totally worth it. It’s not an island, but the small peninsula of Railay is inaccessible to cars, surrounded by limestone mountains speckled with palm trees. I didn’t know this beforehand, so when we landed late in Krabi, I was surprised to hear that we would need to take a boat.  I’ve always been a little afraid of boats, so when I saw the rickety long tail boat waiting for us to board in the pitch black, I was not happy.  Two Dutch girls and my boyfriend tried to assure me it was safe – that Thais and tourists sail this route multiple times daily – but I was panicking. This is all I saw behind me for the 20 minute journey:

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Right after an enormous beetle 3 inches in diameter scurried underneath my feet, the Thai driver stopped about a 800 metres from shore.  With our huge 15 kg suitcases, he says we have to get out and walk the rest of the way, thanks to the low tide…

Almost ten minutes later, we arrived on shore, exhausted and soaking wet from the hip down- definitely a story!

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We stayed at the Railay Princess Resort and Spa, aka my dream hotel. I search for infinity pools in every city I visit, and this hotel had a beautiful one. The Princess, as we called it, was clean with a great restaurant, and every patio had a sign warning you that adorable monkeys might come in to your room and steal the mini bar items. Although we kept our door closed (bugs beware), I couldn’t get over how cute that was. Monkey complaints have obviously been made before. Ultimately, the best part of this hotel was the PRICE – Luxury hotels are usually out of the question for me as a budget traveller, but this one was only $18 USD per night each-literally cheaper than a hostel in Paris.

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Of the three beaches on the peninsula (within 5 minutes of each other), Phranang Cave Beach was of course our favourite.  Huge limestone rocks and caves are everywhere and aesthetically unbeatable.  The trail there is covered with monkeys.  This was really the highlight of my trip.  Adjacent to Phranang, Railay West had sandy outdoor restaurants and pretty sunsets, so we spent our nights there. Dusk is my favourite time of day at the beach, so I loved this.

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The third beach, Railay East is somewhat of the port of the peninsula, rarely seeing swimmers, unless they’re trekking from a boat like we did. My boyfriend stepped on a rock and cut his foot there on the way back from elephant trekking on the mainland (a more enjoyable trek). Three days later when arriving in Koh Samui, we realised how infected the wound was, and had to go to the hospital. We joked all night about our status as international hospital critics, having gone in Spain, too.

  1. Malaga, Spain: D – slow, solo español
  2. Koh Samui, Thailand: A+ – quick, not crowded, young doctors

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Other notable places:

  • Ethical elephant trekking- 800 baht/hour ($25 USD)
  • Railay Garden View – a decent eco-hotel up a mountain with a nice view, where we stayed for 2 nights, only because they were already paid for ($22 USD/night)
  • 250 baht ($8 USD) massages (all over Railay)
  • Koh Phi Phi Ley – arguably the best beach in the world (it’s the filming location of The Beach with Leonardo Dicaprio), and its sister island, Koh Phi Phi Dom (way less touristy and larger with beaches almost as picturesque)- a day trip took us to both, a few more islands, lunch, and snorkeling- 1500 baht ($50 USD)
  • Phra Nang Noi Cave – a scary walkway deep into a bat filled cave (40 baht)
  • Thai pancakes…MMMM

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LONDON – two year compilation

I’ve lived in London for almost two years now, so friends are always asking me what they should do while travelling here- this is it!

SHOP on Brick Lane and surrounding area for cute vintage shops.  Absolute Vintage and Blitz are favourites of mine.  Don’t leave Shoreditch without eating Indian food and checking out the infamous street art.  Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill is littered with cute boutiques from the UK & France. Harrod’s and Liberty’s are world-famous department stores and obligatory stops for a first time in London.

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CLUB at The Box or Cirque in Soho.  If you don’t know, don’t worry.

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EAT at the Sloane Square Food Market on Sundays.  DINE at Andrew Edmunds for great British food and an authentic antique atmosphere. WALK Portobello Road on a weekend afternoon.

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PREDRINK at Sketch on Conduit Street.  The high-priced restaurant has five charming rooms each with a unique theme.  Plus, you’ll never pee in trendier toliets than the ones there.

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Other notable things to do:

  • Take a nightbus home at 3am and ride on the mezzanine, where it feels like an after party.
  • Go for a drink and observe locals’ infamous pub culture.  Here’s how a Londoner would choose a pub
  • Thurloe Square
  • The Grenadier Pub
  • Experimental Cocktail Club
  • Le relais de Venise l’Entrecote or 108 Brasserie (on the same st)
  • Fischers- Austrian restaurant Marylebone High St
  • Chinatown for food at 6am

PAMUKKALE, TURKEY – march 2014

 

Pamukkale was by far the coolest place I’ve ever been to.  The pictures kind of speak for themselves…

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Our trip to Istanbul was a mere week, so Pamukkale was a big decision.  It’s further from Istanbul than expected, and the choices are plane or bus (trains go out of the way to stop in random cities).  We chose to take a $30 overnight bus there (mainly to save on a night’s accommodation and because it happened to be cheaper than flights that day), and a plane back, which was only 10 quid! Total the Pamukkale transport was £30/$50-not too bad!

Personally, I like long bus rides – they’re somewhat of an adventure…and this one was not an exception.  Thirty minutes after leaving the bus station in Istanbul the woman behind me started violently puking.  It was LOUD-we moved immediately, despite the strangely rigid system of assigned seats on Turkish buses.  Anyway, nine hours later, we arrived in Denizli, boarded a little three-dollar shuttle, and reached the tiny town of Pamukkale.

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The town was truly tiny, and everything surrounded the travertines.  Everyone seemed to know each other.  Owners of restaurants ate, waited on tables, and cooked all simultaneously.  We stayed in the family-run Mustafa Hostel, which was basic but likable.  Typical of the town, we had to walk through the family’s living area to get to our room! Haha.

The top of the travertines is basically an extension of the town of Pamukkale.  The antique pool, also called Cleopatra’s pool, is somewhat boring and expensive (we chose not to go in).  There are also a few places to eat (which pale in comparison to restaurants on the bottom of the travertines) and the Roman ruins.  Next to the white “cotton castles” the ruins seemed out of place, but were still surprisingly beautiful.  To say the least, I would absolutely recommend Pamukkale to anyone.

BEAUTIFUL BUDAPEST – november 2013

My Burbur (aka my best friend Nicole) crossed the pond over from New York to stay with me in London for a week and take a quick city break in Budapest.  Neither of us had ever been anywhere in Eastern Europe before so it was definitely an adventure.

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Late November felt like Christmas time there, cold but not quite as bitter as February.  Mulled wine was, to our delight, sold everywhere and only about $2 USD per cup.  We went everywhere with a cup of it warming our hands and bellies…even the free communism tour we ended up sneaking away from.

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Saturday night was probably the highlight of our trip.  We met two American baseball players in our hostel and all went to Lukacs bath for a Sparty “magical bath party,” which cost about $25 per person for entry and locker.  Basically you enter a beautiful Hungarian building, all bundled up, only to undress down to your swimsuit and plunge waist deep into a 30°C courtyard bath (meaning it’s outdoors, but don’t worry – the warm waters and heavy drinking keep you from ever feeling the slightest bit cold).  The entrance to the actual bath is indoors, so you don’t even miss a beat between the heated indoor bar and warm outdoor pool, which steam is rising from, making for a really unique vibe.  We had SUCH a blast – never in my life have I been to such a cool club, or whatever you want to call it.  The only bad part about this night was that we couldn’t get any pictures, not that we were sober enough to, anyway.  This one of the four of us is from one of the American baseball players, who had an underwater camera.

A more normal bar/club we lingered at was the infamous Szimpla.  It had the coolest atmosphere and we definitely understood why everyone always raves about it!

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Budapest is actually split into Buda and Pest.  Almost everything is located in Pest, but one night we did walk across the Danube river on the Szechenyi Chain Bridge to go to the Budapest palace museum.  We tried to take all the possible forms of transportation offered in Budapest – because there are A LOT:  trams, metros, taxis, buses, boats (which we didn’t get to), and of course walking.

Near our hostel, we came across an incredible, and very inexpensive, restaurant called Anker Klub, whose food was hip but not very Hungarian.  For us, this was a breath of fresh air (you’ll understand if you’ve ever eaten Hungarian food).  Across the street was a charming little vintage clothing store that I can’t remember the name of…

Another notable place is the market (Nagy Vasarcsarnok).  It was touristy, but fun, and unexpectedly made us feel like we were in Asia.

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A few of our Hungarian options: big fried veal chop, goose leg, or knuckle of pork.
Typical Hungarian…sandwich?

We stayed at Pal’s Hostel, an adorable chain of apartments next to St. Stephen’s Basilica in Pest, that I would recommend to anyone, despite what happened.  To save money, sometimes I book one less night at a hostel and make sure my return flight is around 6am.  Then, I sightsee all day and party all night, just to pick my bags up from the hostel at about 2am and head straight to the airport.  We did that in Budapest, except the hostel did not have 24-hour reception.  The owner told us someone would be there at 2am to give us our bags, but we waited thirty minutes and no one showed up.  We ended up calling cops who did not speak english, waiting until 4am, and almost missing our flight, but the man finally showed up, more flustered than I’ve ever seen anyone.  The New Yorker in me screamed and yelled until we not only got all of our money back for the entire weekend, but also got a free VIP taxi to the airport!

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The last day we went to Széchenyi Medicinal Bath, where we got fish pedicures and massages.  Both were predictably nice, but I wouldn’t say necessary.  We only decided to splurge on them because it was our last day and the prices were cheaper than New York or London.  The outdoor bath was amazing though – and it even started snowing while we were bathing!  I was worried we wouldn’t be able to bath because of the time of year, but I realized going in the summer actually would not be nearly as exciting.