Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Why you should visit Pula, Croatia


When I was asked on a group holiday to a villa on the outskirts of Pula, I didn't know what to expect.
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Monday, 9 October 2017

Myanmar: A bizarre 24 hours in Naypyitaw


Visiting Myanmar - was Burma - was one of those travel experiences that really sticks with you. 

The madness of Yangon left us feeling totally overwhelmed. The beauty of Bagan left us in complete awe. The hill tribe villages near Kalaw left us feeling humbled. The sixty-five kilometre trek left me without two toenails... but that's another story for another day!

And the surreal emptiness of Naypyitaw left us feeling... unnerved. 

Naypyitaw is the new, purpose-built capital city of Myanmar, and since being built in 2006 has begun to find itself as a stop on the tourist trail. It's fairly centrally located, and we visited the capital after spending a few days in Yangon. What is bizarre, however, is how sparse the city is. At just over 7,000 square km in size - four times the size of London! - the official population claims to be around 1 million. That quite clearly is just not the case. It is desolate! And what's more unnerving than a brilliantly clean, modernised city in an otherwise impoverished and simplistic country? The empty 20-lane highways and un-occupied hotels intrigued us, but left us feeling... discombobulated. 

How we got here

We arrived from Yangon by bus - or 'elite express coach' should I say - costing a modest £5 each (April 2016) for the six hour journey. We booked this through our hotel and travelled on the JJ Express Bus (info and tickets here) which was quite honestly the nicest bus we had the pleasure of using during out six months in SE Asia! Clean, reclining seats, TV with USB ports, air con, free water, snacks and blankets - we felt like royalty. Megabus, sort it out! We stopped at a service station half way through our journey which again was pretty clean and modern - I only wish all the service stops were this nice!

Where we stayed

We booked a one night stay at Man Myanmar Hotel which cost around £35 in April 2016. We were given a superior room which was huge and clean, with a big bed and nice bathroom. Again, by Myanmar standards this was total luxury! The hotel was completely dead - like the rest of the city - and whilst there was a fairly inviting looking pool there was absolutely nothing else on site or in the vicinity. Oh, and a rat in the restaurant.

What we did

On arrival we checked in to our room and immediately headed out. There was little/no public transport available, and city is so large you couldn't access it all on foot. Motorbikes are banned for some reason, too! So, with the help of Google translate (after spending two months in Thailand where everyone spoke English, this felt bizarre!) we were able to arrange a taxi to collect us from our hotel and take us to see the sights. I mean, there aren't many. Half a day of 'exploring' was plenty!

First up, Uppatasanti Pagoda. A huge structure which is almost the same size as Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon - in fact just 30cm shorter, and pretty much a like-for-like replica. We were told that it was purposely built to be just shorter so as not to take away from Myanmar's #1 spiritual site in Yangon! On arrival we were pointed towards a lift, which took us to the elevated entrance of the temple. Of course, the site was almost entirely empty and being Westerners we attracted a lot of attention from the handful of locals we saw. The pagoda really is an impressive sight, totally gilded in gold, and houses a Buddha tooth relic.

We were then taken by our driver to a 'mystery location' (mystery 'cos we didn't ask for it, and language barrier meant we had no idea what he was trying to tell us) which turned out to be a caged albino elephant. This was really heartbreaking, and not something we wanted to fund or encourage in any way, so we made polite noises and jumped back in the taxi sharpish.

The final stop on our grand tour (no irony here) was the twenty lane highway. Allegedly built so the military government could land aeroplanes and helicopters in the event of protests - which should tell you something about said government - it is a sprawling motorway that was, naturally, completely empty of cars. Well, that's not entirely true. We were there, in a car, and we saw a couple drive past whilst we posed for a picture slap bang in the middle of it! Very bizarre.

And, well, that was it! Back to the hotel we went. In the evening we got another expensive taxi to the Emerald hotel down the road (too far to walk, and no pavements...) for weird Italian food. On the plus side the wifi was super fast both in our hotel and Emerald so we made the most of it by downloading films, books and the like. The rest of Myanmar struggles with internet connectivity, so we completely abused the lightening fast speeds.

I feel like I probably haven't sold Naypyitaw to you, but it was a creepy interesting 24 hours. A friend of ours had visited and told us to stop by just to check it out, and I'm kind of glad we did. Yes, it was weird, and I suppose that was the draw. It really signposted to us just how bizarre the government is there, and whilst it was fascinating to see just how sparse the city was, it did leave us feeling quite despondent. 'Cos in a country of huge poverty, this gross expense is just wasted. Super fast wifi, huge highways and an almost Western-level infrastructure - for the government officials and their families who live there. Only after later visiting some of the more remote parts of Myanmar did we realise how extraordinarily sad Naypyitaw is.

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Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Lunch at The Red Lion, Odiham


What makes for a blissful Saturday, I hear you ask?
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Monday, 18 September 2017

Myanmar: Yangon


Blimey, it's been a while since I posted about our six month South East Asian adventure - I suppose real life has caught up with me!
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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Celebrating 30 in Cambridge


Tomorrow marks my 30th birthday - a big one, by all accounts!
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Monday, 21 August 2017

Brunch at The Holly Bush, Frensham


My tour of Surrey brunch spots continues!
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Friday, 18 August 2017

Chilli, lemon and crab linguine


Another day, another pasta recipe.
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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Introducing: Lizzie, Lately


This blog refresh has been a long time coming.
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Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Brunch at The Ivy, Cobham


There aren't many places in Surrey you can go out for brunch in heels.

The Ivy, is one of them. 
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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Spain: Seville in Spring


The final instalment of my Spanish series; Seville was the last stop in our Spanish road trip. 
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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Brunch at Jackson + Rye, Guildford


Walking up Guildford's cobbled high street you are flanked with a heady mix of high-end, high-street and independent retailers - some of the firm favourites and some offering something a little jazzy. 
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Monday, 10 July 2017

Spain: The Alhambra, Granada


If you're in Granada, The Alhambra will undoubtedly be topping your 'to do' list.

Set at the eastern edge of Granada, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it is Andalucia's Moorish masterpiece. It dates back to the thirteenth century when built by the first Moorish ruler of Granada - later being used as a palace by a string of emperors and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

It is, of course, known as a stunning example of Islamic architecture; the Palacios Nazaríes in particular showcasing the intricate Arabic inscriptions and geometric patterns it has become famous for. 

In short, it's blimmin' beautiful. The symmetry, complexity and sheer scale is second to none. Yes, it's a tourist trap, but it's completely worth braving the crowds for. The tiles! Stunning. 

Practical tips

Book your tickets in advance. This is essential! We have friends who have visited without buying tickets before hand and they weren't able to get in. We bought our tickets online (link here) a month or so in advance, and took a print out of the booking with us. We had to queue for a couple of minutes to collect our tickets, but it was a fairly stress-free experience! 

If you haven't bought tickets, you can get a great view over the Alhambra at Mirador San Nicolás in Albaicín. 

When you book, you are asked to select a visit time - the small print states you can visit at any point during your 'shift'. The morning shift runs from 8.30am - 2.00pm and the afternoon shift 2.00pm - 8.00pm (or 6pm in Winter months). Your booked slot allows you to visit the Palacios Nazaríes during that set time; be sure to arrive with enough time to make your way across the site - they recommend an hour before. 

Take water, wear good shoes, enjoy the amazing views over Granada from the top!

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Friday, 30 June 2017

A simple prawn and cherry tomato pasta


I'm always keen to add simple, tasty recipes to my mid-week repertoire.
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Sunday, 25 June 2017

Spain: two days in Granada


Granada made the second stop on our Spanish road trip - in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, it is home of The Alhambra and free tapas. Yes, you heard it here first.
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Friday, 23 June 2017

Warm chicken, feta and grilled peach salad


Hot, innit?
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Friday, 16 June 2017

Spain: Marbella Old Town



When we told people we were visiting Marbella, we were met with sniggers.
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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

How to personalise your walls in your rented home


Living in a rented flat can make personalising your home difficult.
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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

How and why you should hire a scooter in SE Asia


Hiring a bike is undoubtedly the best way to get around in SE Asia. Push bikes are fun, but Asia is all about the scooter. In countries like Vietnam and Indonesia, scooters reign supreme on the road. Join in, you know you want to!
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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Some thoughts on approaching 30


Turning thirty is a big deal, right?
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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Vietnam: a perfect week in Hoi An


Oh Hội An, what a dream. 
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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Chickpea burgers, and a new project


'Cos nothing says HELLO! better than a well-dressed burger, right?
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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Royal Exchange, Lindford


If you were to ask me what makes a good Sunday, my response would undoubtedly include walking in the sunshine with friends, to a good pub. 
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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Vietnam: Riding the Hai Van Pass without a tour


Dubbed the 'one of the best coast roads in the world' by Jeremy Clarkson, the Hải Vân Pass is spectacular.
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Monday, 20 March 2017

Thai Khun, Guildford: Cookery School


Last year we spent almost two months in Thailand, where we fell in love with both the country and the cuisine.
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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Vietnam: a 36 hour stopover in Hue


Huế - once at the heart of the Nguyễn dynasty - may not be topping everyone's Vietnam must-see list.
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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Vietnam: Ninh Bình to Phong Nha


Ninh Bình is known as 'the inland Halong Bay' to many, for its towering limestone karsts and stunning scenery.
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Monday, 27 February 2017

Tom Kha Gai


My favourite dish we discovered in Thailand; Tom Kha is a coconut milk soup fragranced with lemongrass and galangal, with a chilli kick.
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Friday, 24 February 2017

Three days in Copenhagen: a photo diary


After spending six months of 2016 travelling SE Asia, I knew 2017 had a lot to live up to.
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Thursday, 9 February 2017

The importance of self care


"You can't pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first."

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