OLIVIA ROUND BANGKOK

Known for: Excellent variety of food
Beautiful ancient temples
Shopping capital of Thailand
Famous party street Khao San Road
Home of the Monitor Lizard
Knock-off stores

Colour, action, beauty, trendy, passion and vibrancy are the words I would use to describe the city of Bangkok. Wander down the waterfront comforted by the blanket of warm air, smell the delicious fried noodles and marvel at the beauty of the temples juxtaposed with the modern high-rise buildings. 

WHAT TO DO

1. Take a walk along the waterfront. Everything is more beautiful at golden hour / dusk, it’s a known fact. Make your way down the narrow alleyways, watch the elderly men and women setting up their little stalls, skippers mooring their boats, cruises floating down the canal adorned with pretty fairy lights and a dull echo of laughter and celebration. 

2. Learn the art of traditional Thai Massage at The Sukosol Hotel. If travelling with a companion, take the lesson in a duo so while one person is the model (a great role if you ask me), the other will be instructed by the massage therapist, then you switch. I found it really valuable to learn because now D & I can give each other massages at home, you just have to keep it quiet that you know the skill or all your friends will be knocking at your door. 

3. Relax by the pool during the heat of the day. It may sound like a cop-out for an adventure travel blogger to say “chill” but it’s so important, otherwise you totally burn out. I make sure I pace myself, and I have realised the importance of taking a day off to enjoy the place you’re staying, especially in 30º heat.

4. Visit Wat Pho Buddhist Temple. Home to the famous ‘leaning buddha’, Wat Pho is situated along the waterfront, close to all the action of the city. The beautiful, gilted gold filigree designs are just stunning and give you a true sense of traditional Thai religious architecture. Entry is 100 baht which is roughly $10, and the temple is also the home to many stray kittens and even the odd monitor lizard!

The best time to visit is during the early evening before closing as it is generally a bit quieter and perfect for picturesque photos at golden hour.

Travel tip: Stop to admire the stunning architecture and detailing

5. Party the night away on Kao San Road. Okay I’ll admit, I’m not the typical bucket mixer drinker (I’d much rather a rum in a quirky old-school underground jazz bar) but I do love a good dance, and everything always seems more lively at night. Kao San is everything you’d imagine from Bangkok city – loud music, bright lights, hecklers, scorpions on sticks, knock-off Calvin Klein underwear and faux Gucci bags. Go there and embrace it. 

6. Walk down Soi Cowboy strip. Strip in this case has a double meaning as it is essentially the dressed up ‘red light district’ of Bangkok. Pak Pong is historically the classic, but Cowboy has the country element which makes it even more fascinating. If you’re afraid of seeing a bit of skin then this isn’t the place for you, but after travelling for years, my eyes have been exposed to a lot, and I actually find the grungier parts of town quite intriguing. I wouldn’t recommend taking too many photos out of respect for the performers.

7. Catch the flower night market. We were lucky enough to stumble upon it one evening after dinner (around 11pm), and the market was just being set up. Row upon row of streets, little shops sell bright yellow marigold bouquets, locals ride around on bicycles running deliveries and both young and old are busy weaving offering baskets.

8. Play with the local animals. If you’ve been following me for a while now, you’ll know that I make a conscious effort to seek out the cutest local animals and hang out with them for a while. Bangkok has plenty of little fury friends to hang out with, you just have to go out exploring.

Travel tip: Monitor Lizards like to hang out in Bangkok so keep your eyes peeled. We saw one by Wat Pho temple.

WHERE TO STAY

The Sukosol Hotel

Enter the lobby to the beaming smiles of hotel staff, gracious greetings and a relaxed atmosphere. The Sukosol staff give an outstanding Thai welcome which was genuine and continued throughout our stay. As I have said in the past, the staff can really make an experience special, and this was one of the kindest welcomes yet.

My birthday happened to fall on a day we were staying and after countless swims in the refreshing pool, hours of playing cards and reading under the trees, I returned to our room to find a delicious moist chocolate cake topped with strawberries and candles! I felt so chuffed that the staff would go out of their way to make my day even more special, it was truly magical. A special thank you to The Sukosol team and my lovely bf David.

The rooms and decor are really elegant and comfortable, and the pool area was so nice that we spent an entire day enjoying it. If you can say that about your hotel, you know it’s good!

WHERE TO EAT

Mango Vegetarian & Vegan RestaurantAfter exploring Khao San Road for a while, we were very hungry and happened upon this exquisite veggie place. After um-ing and ahh-ing over whether or not it would be tasty or another odd vegan place, we went in and sat on the floor and were instantly greeted by a super lovely young high school aged girl and two kittens. We spent a good 20 mins playing with the cats and chatting to Bam before even opening the menu. We ordered the crispy goyza curry with black rice and a veg burger. We also got a mango & passionfruit smoothie which was super slushy and delicious and on our last day we treated ourselves to the molten chocolate lava cake (vegan) with coconut ice-cream.

Inn A Day restaurant: Located right on the waterfront, we found X restaurant through Trip Advisor, and as anticipated, it lived up to the rave reviews. I would highly recommend the vegetarian spring rolls, in fact we decided that they were the best we had ever eaten, ever. The sweet & sour vegetables with rice was tasty too. Such a quaint and trendy little restaurant attached to a backpackers so go there for cool vibes, cold beer and the bomb food.

The Sukosol’s breakfast buffet: Look no further than the best hotel in town. From freshly made croissants, omelettes and waffles, the food is fresh and there is plenty to choose from.

There’s also a lovely bar to enjoy a cool drink in the evening.

WHAT TO WEAR

Visiting on the cusp of peak season, you’ll still experience highs of 30º, which means you’ll be in swimming togs most of the time if that’s your thing. Otherwise lightweight cotton dresses work a treat, and my favourite city sandal, the Birkenstock. Judge away, but when you can walk for hours on end sight seeing you’ll be thanking me for the expert tip.

This was the cool city view from our room in The Sukosol. Bangkok is such a fun city and whether you’re a city slicker or not, there is so much to see and do, I would recommend checking it out and then hopping on a sleeper train up to Chiang Mai.

Love,

Liv x

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Sankara Resort, Ubud

A hidden urban oasis in Ubud is not hard to find, but only those in the know will know that the pick of the bunch is Sankara Resort.

Sankara is an easy walk to the busy Ubud centre, but set back in a quiet neighbourhood to feel like you can totally unwind when you get home.

Top: Zaful • Shorts: Vintage

Step into the home of another Pramana Experience family, as staff shower you with warmth, relieve you of your bags, hydrate you with freshly squeezed juice and settle you into your room.

Dress: Ripcurl

One thing I always check is the comfort of the bed (second is the length of the bath, followed by the room service menu). Sankara, you well and truely ticked the box. But why am I not surprised. You have to experience it to see what I mean.

The hotel is great for travellers who love trying their hand at new activities and the staff share local knowledge and skills in a daily afternoon class. We gave woodcarving a go. While the instructor suggested David should come and work for them, I don’t think anyone was as impressed with my skills, but kindy showered me with encouragement as my cute little lizard looked like what my baby cousin would have made in primary school.

You can also learn the art of Balinese dance (now this is my turn to shine), cooking using special Balinese spices and how to make the traditional offering basket.

I also set my alarm for morning yoga which was similar to Power Vinyasa style, lots of breathing and some tough stretches, perfect to set you up for a day of running round after monkeys at the monkey forest.

Our room featured a gorgeous private pool on the balcony, which was shrouded with lush greenery to ensure privacy.

My boyfriend and I joked that we could dance around like kids and not disturb anyone, which is the great luxury of having your own pool!

For breakfast we enjoyed fresh watermelon juice and pancakes by the pool. This is the beauty of being on holiday in the tropics, fresh fruit is abundant and so delicious.

Top: Zaful • Shorts: Vintage

If you’ve had enough of chlorine, there is a gorgeous outdoor stone waterfall shower in the room, which I certainly made some good use out of.

Swimwear: Tigerlily

The dining area is lovely in the open air and the manager Leon will make sure you feel right at home. We really enjoyed chatting to him about his experience working on cruises and travelling to many different countries around the world. He also shared with us the history of Ubud and how he’s experienced a change over the years due to popularity among tourists.

Another super cute feature Sankara have is a book loan out system – similar to what you commonly find in hostels.

Every part of the hotel is aesthetically curated to perfection, from the walkways to the rice fields, the staff and the ornamentation. It truely feels like living in your own paradise.

When it was time to move on, one of the lovely staff members made me the most beautiful rose out of a paper napkin and told David to gift it to me. I kept it the entire trip because it meant so much to me that someone would go out of their way to make my day.  That is the kind of gesture that sets Sankara apart from other resorts.

Dress: Homemade vintage

If you have any questions about Sankara or any of the other Pramana Experience resorts, flick me a message in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks again to Mr Wayan Wardika for having us visit your lovely villas.

Photography by my lovely boyfriend David Evans & myself.

Love,

Liv x

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Dedari Kriyamaha Villas, Ubud

Tucked away in the forest and off the beaten track you’ll find the hidden gem that is Dedari Kriyamaha Villas managed by Pramana Experience.

Walk into the sanctuary and feel the warmth of the staff as they welcome you with all their heart regardless of whether you look like a supermodel or a drowned rat from a wet and wild motorbike ride… of course we were the latter.

In the traditional Pramana Experience way, you’ll be offered a delicious frozen drink made of mint, lime, ginger + honey while the staff explain the fun activities you can partake in during your stay. It’s not uncommon to want to order the “welcome drink” even after you’ve been welcomed.

We were escorted to our villa under an ornately adorned parasol as the heavy tropical shower hit the thick canvas brim. The friendly concierge led us down a quiet path to our secluded leafy green paradise.

Equiped with a state-of-the-art modern kitchen, you can either cook for yourself or order from the onsite restaurant. We enjoyed dining in the restaurant as it has a lively energy with golden lights and sometimes even a great live duo performing, however when some kids got a little raucous (as they do) the staff offered to deliver our meal to our room which was lovely.

The villa’s private pools are generous in length and perfect for an early morning refresh or evening cool off.

If you’re an early riser, there is a great rice field tour which runs from 8am – 9am. It’s nothing taxing on the body, so haul yourself out of the ridiculously comfortable bed and explore the rice plantation, learn about the harvest, befriend some cows, meet some locals and don’t forget to take some sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting a bit muddy.

If that’s your exercise done for the day, treat yourself to a complimentary 10 minute massage in the spa and enjoy high tea in the restaurant.

The room service menu is extensive, and having the kitchen handy means you can reheat your toast and noodles later. A Pramana Experience breakfast always consists of a delicious fresh bread and pastry basket, tea or coffee, juice or fruit, muesli or cereal and a sweet or savoury breakfast option. The lunch and dinner menus feature both Western and Indonesian cuisine.

The two features I check first in a hotel is the bed and the bath. Dedari Kriyamaha Villa certainly receives a high score for having two of the best I’ve enjoyed, but you’ll have to try them out for yourself!

Throughout our stay, the staff were friendly, attentive and went the extra mile to make us feel welcomed and at home. I really appreciate this aspect of Pramana Experience as it definitely makes the stay more memorable. Thank you to Mr Wayan Wardika and his lovely team, we wish you all the best and hope to visit you again soon. Suksma!

Photography by my lovely boyfriend David Evans & myself.

Love,

Liv x

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OLIVIA ROUND BARBADOS

Known for: Surfing
Rum + seafood cuisine
Resorts and beach clubs
Scuba diving and water sports
Island life

“You’re on island time now” they tell you. Just remember to look before crossing the road as the average speed limit is… let’s just say it’s fast.

It’s the common joke, for some reason Barbadians are always in a hurry. Hop on a local reggae bus and you’ll be holding onto your seat (and stomach) the entire ride. It’s wild, and they certainly know how to have fun.

Barbados is a British Commonwealth country, and largely owned by expat Brits. There is a UNESCO site and many colonial houses on the island juxtaposed between the seafood and rum shacks populated with locals having their afternoon respite. I loved seeing the contrast of culture, vibrancy of energy and warmth of both travellers and locals alike.

🇧🇧 Still can't believe where I am right now 💙🌊🐚🐠 #OliviaRoundBarbados

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I spent one week on the island, and made many British and local Barbadian friends who shared their top tips for having the best time in Barbados. They told me to pass them on, and to tell you not to ask if they like Bob Marley when you visit, but to say hi and they’ll shout you a rum.

 

WHAT TO DO

1. Go for a Hobie Cat ride. When offered a ride an hour before my flight, I didn’t even stop to question logistics. Instead I bolted to grab my togs and GoPro and hit the ocean for a hair-raising, adrenaline pumping ride.

2. Swim in resort pools. Walk down the beach and take your pick. You may even score a free afternoon tea or BBQ dinner.

🇧🇧 I dived 🙊 #OliviaRoundBarbados

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I love meeting other travellers and got chatting to a man in his 80s who used to visit the same resort every year with his wife who has now passed. He asked if he could enjoy a rum with us and have me take his picture, I obliged and after showing him the back of my camera he chucked, “My, I do look handsome tonight!” beaming from ear to ear. It’s moments like these that I get so much pleasure out of my job.

3. Ride on the reggae bus. There are normal buses in Barbados, and then there are “Reggae buses”. Opt for the latter. Do bare in mind they drive very fast, music is very loud, and sometimes there is a poison substance involved. You’ll see animals, school kids, grandmas, workmen, office ladies, you name it, they all ride the bus.

4. Swim with turtles. The best advice I was given was to head to Lone Star restaurant and head out when there is a snorkelling squad already out. They will be feeding the fish, so there are bound to be flurries of beautiful fish and turtles if you’re lucky.

🇧🇧 So thankful to have the opportunity to visit this place 🙏🏼✨ #OliviaRoundBarbados

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Travel tip: Don’t chase the turtles. Imagine how you would feel being followed by a big goliath 8 times your size. 

5. Give the monkeys some love. Avoid getting scratched (rabies) but you can gently pat the baby monkeys who go for walks with their owners. After talking to some locals we found out that these monkeys are well cared for, which is good to hear given the animal cruelty around the world these days.

6. Visit the colourful village of Holetown. Terribly overpriced, but cute to peruse in the heat of the day. The houses are straight out of Edward Scissorhands.

7. Visit Nancy. Ask any local about Nancy, and they’ll spin you a yarn. She’s known for her hearty meals, few words and a stiff, ice cold rum. In order to visit Nancy, you must do your own research (it’s part of the fun of finding her).

8. Walk everywhere. This tip probably features on every travel list I write, but I can’t stress enough the value of walking. You see far more, get a better sense of the place and you’re always bound to get chatting to locals along the way.

9. Hit Mullins Beach Club for a dance. They played everything from Rolling Stones to Red Hot Chilli Peppers (and we thought it was a jazz night?!) 100% recommend for a fun night out. Don’t be surprise if you get asked out for street karaoke afterwards.

10. Visit Oistins once only and buy yourself a little handmade momento, but trust me, once is enough. My mum bought me a super cute pink turtle necklace to remember our holiday by. I still wear it back home, so it was the perfect souvenir.

WHERE TO STAY

I found a cute little AirBnB house in Paynes Bay, which is honestly one of the best locations to be based in. There are however many great hotels including the Tamarind, Fairmont Royal Pavilion and Coral Reef Club.

🇧🇧 Where the royals stay 🌴👑 #OliviaRoundBarbados

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🇧🇧 Post about Barbados on my website soon featuring lots of handy tips! 💙 #OliviaRoundBarbados

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WHERE TO EAT

Coral Reef Club: Best buffet breakfast I’ve ever eaten. From sweet waffles, pastries, fruit and muesli, to hearty fry ups with hash browns and eggs. I had about 5 breakfasts one morning.

Lemongrass Noodle Bar: This Holetown haunt is not your typical Barbadian cuisine, but it’s pretty delicious Thai food in a gorgeous setting. Beware, it’s super spicy, so not for the faint hearted!

Tamarind Resort: The Tamarind’s restaurant serves up some nice cocktails and lunch snacks. Don’t skip the kumara fries, they’re pretty good. The view is also spectacular. If you ask them nicely they’ll give you some bar snacks to eat by the pool, complimentary.

Travel tip: Have a good supply of snacks to keep your blood sugar up throughout the day.

WHAT TO WEAR

I wore a long shirt in the evenings to avoid mozzie bites, but apart from that minimal clothing is required! Grounds are very uneven and there are little to no footpaths so wear sturdy footwear.

🇧🇧 Tevalicious in Barbados 👍🏼 comfort first always, don't care what anyone says 😉 #OliviaRoundBarbados

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Tevas were my go-to and I was very thankful for them. A light wraps skirt is always a good choice too as you can toss it on over your bikini.

Next stop: London.

Love,

Liv x

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LOVE is when 285,000 travel girls have your back

It’s easy to feel alone, especially while travelling. I know I have, along with the 285,000+ girls who are also members of a Facebook community Girls LOVE Travel. In saying this, life experiences unite us and restore an overwhelming feeling of warmth.

Lara Bothe, an 18-year-old girl from Germany devastatingly lost her father in the 9/11 tragedy in 2001. This morning she posted on the page tentatively asking if someone might go down to the World Trade Centre to leave a token of love in his honour as she was not in NYC.

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 7.13.35 AM

The overwhelming response of kind words, gestures and acts of selfless kindness brought me to tears. Although I’m sitting here on the other side of the world in New Zealand, I too could offer my condolences and love along with hundreds of other girls who may have shared similar experiences or just have an open, empathetic heart.

Photo: Jenna Znak

Lara commented graciously, thanking each girl and mentioned that it would be tough going through graduation. A local New Yorker suggested she would even take a photograph of her own graduation cap next to Lara’s father’s name.

One #GLT member couldn’t have put it better, “It’s humanity at it’s finest. There are always more beautiful souls helping than there are who harm. This is a reminder of how much love there is in the world! ❤”

Wise words in my opinion, and a message we must all take away from this story. You never know what your neighbour is going through and extending a little love, even to a stranger can do a world of good. We’re in this life together, let’s stop racing round competing, and instead build one another up with love and positivity.

My thoughts are with Lara and her family, thanks for sharing your story and to the #gltLOVE community.

Love,

Liv x

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How to travel as a VEGETARIAN

In some countries, being “vegetarian” is a foreign concept. “So, you don’t eat cows?” “You eat chickens though right?” “Wait, so how do you survive?”

Following a veggie diet while travelling can be an absolute dream (Bali, Thailand, Australia) but it can also be a nightmare and lead to many hungry nights (Japan, China, Iceland). So here are a few tips to surviving in a meat lovers city, followed by my top veggie haunts across the globe.

What to do when you can’t find vegetables

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OLIVIA ROUND ROME

Known for: Roman history
Basilicas + cathedrals
Foodie's paradise
Ancient architecture
Beautiful art

Push open the shutters, inhale the aroma of rich brewed coffee and look at row upon row of ancient buildings lining the cobble stone streets.

In New Zealand our oldest building, Kemp House, is nearly 200 years old, The Pantheon in Rome however was built in 117AD, and is still used as a Roman-Catholic church to this day.

During a bleak winter week in England, I booked a fly-out-tomorrow spontaneous getaway to Italy, and without hesitation (and a ticking time-out server pressing my deadline) I chose Rome.

WHAT TO DO

10pm Friday night, I checked into a gorgeous BnB called Salotto Monti. When I first arrived I thought I’d booked a dud as there was no signage to be seen and no signs of life.

After bumbling my way through broken Italian, a game of charades with some locals and doubtful thoughts that the streets would be my home for the night – the big wooden door opened and a little head popped over the bannister of a spiral staircase. “You are here!” cried a petite Italian woman. “Buonasera” I replied as I turned to thank the entourage of helpers peering through the doors behind me.

Two days in Rome was not going to make me an expert on the place by any means. However I was content with the amount of activities I fit into my schedule. If you’re only visiting for 2 days also, you might like to follow my itinerary. Continue reading “OLIVIA ROUND ROME”

OLIVIA ROUND OAHU, HAWAII

Known for: Water activities
Island lifestyle 
Traditional Hawaiian culture
Music & dance
Volcano, waterfalls and great hikes

Get tossed around in the enlivening surf in the morning, break a sweat up to a mountain summit, lay under a palm tree in a hammock in the heat of the day and cool off at an Eastern beach, floating in ultimate relaxation in the blue azure ocean. Why would you want to leave Hawaii?

Photo of Diamond Head peak

WHAT TO DO

1. Take a tour with Hoku Tours. Our host Kanamu was witty and knows absolutely everything about Oahu. The trip lasted 11 hours, and Kanamu shared fascinating stories and history the entire time. If you’re going to take any tour, this is the one.

Photo of waterfall in Hawaii
Swimming under a waterfall

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OLIVIA ROUND ICELAND

Known for: Geysers
Glaciers
Great hiking and snow sports
Caves
Natural hot springs
Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)

Feel the crisp wind biting at your ankles as you hike up a snowy mountain overlooking a sea of turquoise blue glaciers. Warm your hands on hot chocolate, sing loudly to a great road-trip playlist and take a night bath in a cave. Iceland is the place to be this winter.

icelandmountains

WHAT TO DO

1. Visit Blue Lagoon in the early evening to watch the sun go down, or en-route from/to the airport (it’s nearby). Soak your tired muscles and cleanse your face with the active clay minerals in the natural vivid blue geothermal spring. The iconic pool has been running since 1976 and is well frequented by tourists and locals, so try to visit off-peak if possible, but don’t miss it. $65 NZD.

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OLIVIA ROUND SAPPORO

Known for: 4th largest city in Japan (population)
Snow sports
Natural Onsen Hotsprings
Mountain ridge walks
Historical villages
Nikka Whisky

Ski down a snow capped mountain in the morning, hike through the woods at lunch, warm up with an early evening onsen and dive into crisp, fluffy sheets at the Keio Plaza for a good night’s sleep.

sapporo-11

We arrived at midday in Sapporo itinerary-free but eager for adventure after seeing countless magical photographs in books and online.

With picturesque snowy mountains, wild animals and rugged wilderness, I couldn’t help feeling a touch of nostalgia for New Zealand. Continue reading “OLIVIA ROUND SAPPORO”