Categories
Journal Travel

Chatuchak Market, Bangkok

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Covering over 35 acres with more than 15,000 stalls — I’ve just stepped into the biggest market in Thailand.

If you’re in Bangkok when the weekend market is on, visit it. It’s awesome. It’s so big that every time you visit you’ll get lost in another section you didn’t know about before. The scale of this place is huge and I didn’t quite realise it until it came time to leave.

Dropped off by taxi outside a few stalls I’m thinking, this is a nice market, just like most of the others I’ve seen. A few minutes later after walking past those initial roadside stalls I realise it’s bigger than I thought, but still not as big as I eventually found it out to be.

Anything you need to buy, this place has it at a price you can haggle. Leatherwork sections, bag sections, clothing sections, food sections, illegal animal sections, furniture sections, section sections, every section you can think of and we also saw a magician.

It’s the kind of market where you can come to Thailand with nothing but a passport and a bit of Baht and buy everything you need to stay here for as long as you want.

It’s a nice concept.

To the holiday goer with an empty suitcase, I say to you, go crazy. Myself — as a man with a single hand-luggage sized backpack I had to show more restraint, buying only a T-Shirt, small day bag that holds a camera, passport and sunglasses (The North Face, faux style), a smaller sack on a string (for carrying just my camera and some money), a couple of leather bits and some super airy, lightweight shorts.

Walking through this market, I think we circled the same set of stalls a few times. Every direction seemed to take us to the same place. After navigating our way finally out into the main strip we had our first taste of pork on a stick (so. freaking. great) and Mango with Sticky Rice (also great).

Fed and ready to head out we start walking in thee direction we think is right. We start to see a whole bunch of new stalls and a guy selling the cutest puppies out of a box. This wasn’t the way we came in? We continue walking, hoping to reach an edge so we can find our bearings. There are signs that tell you section numbers but as the Internet has destroyed my long term memory, I’d forgotten our starting point.

An hour later and after seeing a man spinning around while pouring a drink from one container held as high as his head into another by his hip we finally found an edge to cling on to. We were saved!

Half an hour later we finally hit the road we came in on and with no taxis willing to charge on the meter we decide to walk a stretch of it.

Getting lost on the highway we give in to a Tuk Tuk driver who takes us home.

Categories
Journal Travel

The Long Walk to Khao San Road














The smell of jet-lag is in the air but we were up and fresh to cease the day. We decide to walk to Khao San and see what all the fuss is about.

The walk is only about 3km but as we were walking shiny thing kept distracting us turning a ~30 minute walk into nothing short of a few hours. Despite this is was actually way worth it. We visited lonely temples, beautiful streets and after straying through a wooden-stepped tunnel we hit a river crossing. The scene was amazing. Waters in the bay were green with floating plant life and ferocious rippling as countless catfish (way too man for the space they were in) we’re attacking bread crusts a little Thai boy was throwing in. A boat came and picked up the people, the boy ran out of crusts and we continued to the famous Khao San Road.

Stark white rooftop needles grab our attention and again we’re sidetracked down another street where we find ourselves in the Buddhism Protection Centre of Thailand. White lion sculptures surround white buildings encasing golden statues that sit within a tranquil garden.

We carry along up a main road and come to an open gate this gate was big and it had a few guards so we did the tourist thing and gestured as best we could to one sitting down “can we go in and look around?”. When confusion left his face and the look of understanding stepped in, he shunned us in and carried on reading his newspaper.

We stumbled upon the floating palace, well, not quite — we still had to walk all the way down to the river. So we did, along the way seeing a two-foot reptilian beast, the largest I’ve seen in the wild, stare at us and scuttle away behind a fallen log. I wanted to get a photo but his stealth moves were next level.

We got to the end and saw the rooftops of what we assume was the floating palace, though there were guards with real guns this time and some chains set up around the viewing area so we turned around for the final leg of our journey to Khao San Road.

A couple more temples later (these things are everywhere), and we come to a bridge where we stand overlooking a modest river seeing first hand the rich/poor divide of Bangkok. It’s a view that evokes emotion. Not happiness, and perhaps not quite sadness — something more inquisitive. A why? A how? A hope for change that’ll never come?

To think if we simply got a taxi we would have missed all of this.

Then finally, finally, Khao San Road!

What a load of bollocks.

Tourist haven, tourist food, tourist merchandise. It may as well have been Camden town with just a few more lady boys, suit sellers and self-entitled “Gap Yaar” hippies!

Okay, the Patthai noodles were pretty good. If you’re in the area it’s worth a look just because it is Khao San Road and it’s known — but if you miss it, you can find a strip just like it in every other country.

Categories
Journal Lifestyle Travel

Bangkok: Day One

After sleeping for more than 15 hours (well deserved by the way), the day was pretty much gone and we left to explore at roughly 5 o’clock, Thai time. We were still foggy eyed from the trip over and didn’t want anything too strenuous so we did what we do and went shopping.

Anywhere new we go, we like to walk places to get a feel for the area and really explore… 8km later and we hit CentralWorld, this crazy big mall that houses a whole lot of stuff over 5 enormous floors. I’m not gonna lie, the walk knackered me is probably part of the reason why I when it came to ordering a beautiful chicken noodle soup from a street vendor outside (it was a lucky dip whether we got a chicken foot or something, er, meatier), I managed to spill half the bowl scalding my wrist. If that wasn’t enough I also dropped my fresh pomegranate juice breaking the bottle and spilling it everywhere. If this all happened at the same time then perhaps it would have been a forgivable passing moment, but the 5 minute interlude means I’m probably just an idiot when tired.

The food began to digest and I was feeling myself again. Charlotte and I began to explore the mall. We looked around for a bit and then stopped for some coffee at Black Canyon Coffee. I was going to get my usual black Americano but the menu was really persuasive and instead I ordered an Iced Hazelnut Frappucino and Charlotte got a Watermelon Smoothie. Both were great and we head off to explore more floors. The mall closed at 10 so we head out where we wandered through the swanky bars on the lower floor with a cheeky ice-white Lamborghini peeking from around the corner. This definitely wasn’t where I parked my car and we found the exit only to be greeted by a 25 foot, inflatable Snoopy surrounded by another 40/50 mini Snoopys. Some sort of tribal ritual possibly? More likely a marketing stunt? Either way we took some photos before hailing a taxi to take us back to our still-warm bed.

This taxi driver — like the first one — couldn’t find our hotel either.

Day Two: Khao San Road.

Categories
Journal Lifestyle Travel

London to Bangkok via Abu Dhabi

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Setting off.

I’m not usually phased by much and setting off travelling didn’t seem that big of a deal — until the night before when I freaked out about the size and weight of my hand luggage! “They won’t let me on the plane!”, “it’ll get destroyed as checked luggage!”, “I need to get rid of all me clothes!”. It ended up being fine and in retrospect the panic I placed on my backpack was actually more likely the idea of travelling finally sinking in and how unprepared I was for it. The next morning I woke up and instead of panic, a serene calmness washed over me. I left the house and however prepared I was or was not — it didn’t matter — I had left.

Leaving on a jet plane.

When it comes to flying, I’m accustomed to a certain type of experience. Anything less than the cramped, rushed and lack of empathy just really doesn’t sit right with me — complements from RyanAir, of course.

Wait. What’s that you say? RyanAir is actually really really terrible and no one should be subject to being treated like aviated cattle?!

Well blow me down; you’re right!

London to Bangkok via Abu Dhabi with the sky-high-luxury Etihad Airways. Window seats on the wing, as requested for both flights. Lamb Kofta with Basmati Rice and Olive Sauce for dinner, served with a lovely feta infused side salad and topped off with a Chocolate Orange Delice for desert. Food at 37000 feet had never tasted so good!

Then there’s the entertainment. Films like Lucy, 22 Jump Street, Guardians of the Galaxy, Begin Again, countless TV shows and my personal favourite, outside cameras so you can see the plane land from the pilot’s perspective. I could go on and on about this little window of happiness. 750 hours of entertainment at the tip of my finger (touch screen technology too). The food, free drinks and entertainment were only made better by the overear headphones, fleece lined blanked and mini toiletries kit that greeted us on our seat before take off.

The 7 hour trip from London to Abu Dhabi just flew by, and despite the bad puns, after three hours in the Abu Dhabi airport checking out their array of watches and hanging out in Burger King with a coke, we had another 6 of it all over again.

On the flight from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok the place was a little smaller and had three seats instead for two next to the window but the screens were better and they had a USB and universal charger for my juice hungry devices. They also had WiFi but the price was sky-high so that didn’t takeoff for us.

Touch down.

Landing in Bangkok we were ready to get to our hotel and plonk out. We booked a cab inside the airport as every guide book and internet article has advised – 1,200 baht and I can’t help feel a little ripped off. We happily paid anyway because you can’t put a price on peace of mind and the also the sandman was getting agitated waiting for us.

After roughly an hour and a half of our driver getting out at every Tuk Tuk station and asking for directions, we made it to the hotel. The UMA Residence looks lovely on the website but man, arriving here just made our 20 hour trip worth every minute.

Then we signed in and our room was occupied… so they gave us a free upgrade. Hello bedtime!

Categories
Journal Travel

For now, London, farewell.

London, you pulled me back in with your stuffy commutes, great coffee shops, good work and a fast paced lifestyle.

I left you once and I’m leaving you again.

For now — we just can’t be together. It’s not you. Don’t ever think it’s you. Sure, nowhere is without it’s flaws but your bustling ambience shone over all of that.

Truly, it’s not you. It’s me.

I need to see more, do more, be more. One day, who knows? Maybe we’ll see each other again. Maybe we’ll have what we had before or maybe we’ll just be friends. Of course I’ll miss you. I’ll definitely think about you often and all the great times we’ve had. We’ll always have Belsize. Remember that? We were perfect together but right now I need to spread my wings.

I have something else to tell you.

You’re not going to like this but I have to be honest with you. You deserve to know.

I’m… I’m seeing other countries.

Not at the same time, never at the same time. I’m not like that — but after you there will be Thailand. Sure she’s beautiful, but I doubt she’ll have your personality.

And, well… There’s more. It’s not just Thailand. There will be Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. A lot of the USA.

I know how this sounds. Please remember how much you mean to me. You were my first and no one can take that away from us.

I love you. I’ll miss you.

Categories
Journal Travel

Tickets Booked, Here We Go!

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Last week I was freelancing in London and Charlotte came up to meet me for lunch. We went to EAT, got some food and made the call and officially booked our tickets to travel the world!

Charlotte did all the work (thank you!) — comparing prices, speaking to agencies and sorting out insurance. All I had to do was I fork over the cash for my ticket.

We’re leaving in November and gone for 6 months so we’ll be back in time for the British summer. Hmm, maybe we’ll go to Malta again instead – then we know it’ll be a sunny summer!

This is our route:
London > Abu Dhabi > Bangkok > Singapore > Australia > New Zealand > L.A > New York > London

Abu Dhabi is only a 3 hour stop-over but the airport looks so awesome it’s made the list.

It doesn’t quite feel real yet. When we booked I got a surge of ‘woah, it’s happening!’ but that’s died down — probably because my mind’s focus is on Modest Industries; sorting out bookkeeping, accounts, business banking, branding, etc. On top of that I’ve had a fully booked freelancing schedule but that’s nothing to complain about.

Knowing me I’ll be sky high on a plane, it’ll sink in and I’ll be like “holy crap, it’s really happening!”.

That said – I still need to buy a backpack and actually get my travelling stuff sorted.

Categories
Journal Lifestyle Travel

Home Is Where The Clouds Are

Charlotte leaving Malta

Lexi and Marcus looking dapper

The Shed's Lounge

The Shed's Decking Area

Shed's Kitchen

Charlotte happy in the kitchen

Shed's Comfy Bedroom

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Fine Fields

Misty Morning Field

Cheeky Lex

No Name Street

Sandwich in Sandwich

Charlotte Skimming Whitstable

Charlotte walking by Beach Huts

Seagulls Scavenging

Brum (kind of) car in Whitstable

Signwriting in Whitstable

We boarded a plane drenched in clear skies and sun we landed in what can only be described as a colour – grey. Landing in England is like someone’s sucked the colour saturation out of life. Thankfully I’m starting to see more blue!

We’ve been back in the UK for just over a week now, although it doesn’t feel that long as we haven’t actually been at home that much.

We arrived back on Thursday morning and as soon as we said hello to everyone and dropped our stuff off we were straight out the door again to the shops! The reason we came back was for my cousin’s wedding and as I’d lost a load of weight – I didn’t have a suit that fit. I bought a grey suit from River Island that was okay but nothing special. It was good for a backup if I couldn’t find anything else before the wedding on Saturday.

Charlotte had found this amazing “Rustic Shed” on Airbnb (not sure how it can be called a shed though, it was bigger than our London flat!). It’s based about 10 minutes away from Sandwich – the place, not the food (unfortunately) – which was perfect as the wedding’s reception was taking place over there in The Bell Hotel. We decided to go up a night before and leave a couple days later so we could take our time and enjoy the area. The shed was incredible! It had everything you’d need, an awesome kitchen with breakfast bar and a really comfy sofa which pulled out into a bigger-than-a-bed sofa bed that faced a huge TV with freeview and stacks of DVDs.

Debs, our host, was bubbly, friendly and pretty much me if I was a woman – she was into photography, gadgets, super enthusiastic about everything and an all round really nice person who was easy to get on with and had the coolest little dog.

The best part for me about staying there was the morning views – coming out of the bedroom there’s a big window overlooking a misty field where horses play. There’s some decking with a picnic bench right outside. Eating breakfast there was a highlight (I couldn’t not have sandwich).

I’d recommend going there, meeting Debs and staying in an awesome flat overlooking horses playing in the field.

Anyway – back to my suit shenanigans. On the way up to the shed we naturally pass by Lakeside, a massive shopping mall just off the M25. We popped in there because I still wanted a better suit, Charlotte still needed a dress and they’ve got a good food-court. We got there, browsed a bit and then decided to split up and reconvene after we’ve got what we needed so we could enjoy the rest of our time there at a leisurely pace.

One hour later, Charlotte found her dress and I had turned into the girl. Still trying on suits, still rushing around and then I ended up in Next. Their suit department was massive. I found a really nice dark teal suit that fit perfectly so I reserved that, ran to the car, returned my River Island suit, went back to Next and almost bought the wrong suit! The suit I liked I asked to be put behind the till for later, an when I asked for it back the girl brought back a vivid blue suit. She said “was this the one”, and I was all like “yup” and Charlotte was all like “Are you a moron? That’s a totally different colour and 6 sizes too big” to which I replied “Oh yes, this isn’t the right suit”. The til girl realised her horrible mistake, begged for our forgiveness and of course rectified the problem.

With a suit and accommodation sorted we settled in and then the next day went to Alexi and Kathryn’s wedding. Getting there we must have passed more than 6 churches in the space of a mile and ended up in the wrong one! Luckily we had a few minutes to get to the right one and made it on time to see the bride walk down the aisle (I wish I could say the same for my folks!). The wedding was traditionally English and was beautiful, as was the reception and everyone looked proper dapper. Towards the end of the night some greek music blasted through the speakers. You know it’s good when Zorba the Greek drops and everyone is dancing and clapping and trying to keep up with it.

The morning after the wedding we had breakfast with my family at the pub where they stayed. Getting all the family together in one place at the same time is becoming a rare treat so it’s always enjoyable, especially as the immediate family grows bigger and bigger. After that we went for a walk around Sandwich with Theo, Anna and the kids. It’s a really pretty place and super friendly.

We got back to the shed and Charlotte and I did what we do best. Put on some comfortable clothes and kicked back with our terrible food haul from Tesco (and by terrible I mean amazing), some meat and veg from a local farm shop and watched TV and films for the rest of the day/evening/night. That was pretty great.

On the way home we stopped by the pretty little seaside town of Whitstable (famous for it’s oysters) and took a walk along the pebbled beach and got a 99 flake. Then we went into town – oyster shells everywhere – browsed the boutique shops and left for home.

So now we’re back home about to head out to Hastings and Charlotte’s birthday is coming up on Tuesday and I haven’t got her anything yet. I don’t even have a clue.

Categories
Journal Lifestyle Travel

Gostra – The Maltese Tradition of Running Up a Greasy Pole

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It’s awesome. The maltese game of Gostra is an age old tradition of greasing up a wooden pole with three flags attached at the end (each of religious meaning) and holding it over the sea. The aim of the game is for crazy brave men run up the pole and (attempt) to capture the flag.

The annual tradition stems back to the Middle Ages where this used to happen all around the islands of Malta and Gozo, but now it’s only held in one place – Spinola Bay – just down the road from where we’re staying in Sliema!

When we got there both sides of the bay were packed with locals, tourists and oversized camera lenses. The people anchored up on their boats definitely had a good view, but without question the best seat (or shall I say bed!) was the guy kicking back on his Lilo floating directly under the pole. DANGGEERR ZOONNEE!

Anyway, the highlight was definitely the nut shots, though the atmosphere when someone caught a flag was pretty cool too.

Then we went and binged on a cous cous chicken wrap, doughnuts and ice-cream.

Categories
Journal Lifestyle Travel

Cold Beers, Warm Seas

Well that's a big deck!

Down below.

Lexi, Theo, Eva and Steph

Lex, Theo, Eva, Steph, Yana, Charlotte and Anna

Lexi and Eva

Trail blazing

Theo and the kids in the deep blue

Stephan, Theo, Marcus and Charlotte

Nice place to park

Marcus and Eva

Lexi and Marcus

Stephan, Theo and Marcus

Cheeky kiss on the deck

Last Sunday Steph organised a day out on the boat with everyone. I’ve been before with Charlotte, Steph and Yana, but this time we also had Theo, Anna and their kids with us.

Life jackets for kids, check. Massive bowl of pasta salad, check. Beers, check. Cameras, check. Chill mode activated, check.

My niece and nephew have never been on a boat before, so it could have gone either way but they loved it! The waves were high and the boat taking to the sea at full speed must have made the whole journey seem like some sort of kick-ass roller coaster to them, giggling to each other as the boat bounced heavily up and down.

The sea that day was pretty rough so the captain suggested we go to the south of Malta where the sea would be protected from the high winds by the island. I’m not sure exactly the name of where we went, but it was this place. Not far off from the shore were fish farms – the captain mentioned that when the winds blow north, the smell of the fish food leaves a nasty smell making the bay not so popular, but as the winds were blowing in the opposite direction, we struck lucky.

As we pulled into the bay on the boat and while the captain was looking for a good place to drop anchor, we noticed water spewing out of one of the cliffs. Everyone was a bit grossed out thinking we were about to swim near a sewer, but it turns out that it’s just really warm sea water. The bay is set next to a power plant that sucks up the sea’s cold water to cool down the machinery and pours the warm, (still clean) sea water back into the bay essentially giving us a heated sea bay…

It was AWESOME!

The seas were clear blue, warm and deep. Perfect for jumping and diving off of the boat. Swimming underwater with goggles was really cool. As the water was so clear, the light rays shone through the sea to create beams of light all the way to the seabed and watching the schools of fish swim around with that effect going on was like something out of a movie. Times like that I wish so hard that I had a GoPro (hint hint, GoPro!) – I’m planning to get one when I’m back in the UK before departing on more travel adventures.

Charlotte and I swam to the rocky shore nearby. Sea Urchins (uh oh) and jagged rocks made it hard to climb out, but once we managed that we saw this bay filled with so much sea life. All the little colourful fish in rock pools, small crabs darting in and out of holes in the rocks and the kind of sea shells you buy on a bracelet (though these ones were still occupied!). We played around there for a bit, then my brothers joined in for a little explore before we headed back to the boat for some lunch.

Lunch on a boat after a swim just always tastes better than anywhere else. Pasta salad, fresh baguettes, cheese, meat, beer and Nutella (it’s all about the Nutella). Then just a quick ray-catching session on the front of the boat and another dip to cool off before facing the waves of fury on the ride back.

Back home – tired and relaxed – we got takeaway pizza from one of our favourite Sliema Pizzeria’s, Vecchia Napoli.

Categories
Journal Lifestyle Travel

Baia Beach Club

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Marcus, Theo and Stephan

Stephan and Theo

Lexi and Eva

Anna, Charlotte and Yana

Malta – being super hot and sitting on the Mediterranean sea – naturally has a whole load of beach clubs (like Café del Mar). Last Saturday we went to Baia Beach Club for the second time, but this time there were more of us.

My oldest brother, Theo (that cockney bloke from Masterchef), came to Malta with his wife, Anna, and two kids, Eva (4yo) and Lex (2yo). We’re all staying with my middle brother Steph and his girlfriend Yana.

Let me break that down.

Three bedrooms (technically two, we’re on a fold-out couch in the office), Six grownups, three different “target demographics”, two kids that are hooked up to an IV sugar drip that constantly feeds them with ruthless energy!

It’s actually pretty great. Me and my brothers don’t really hang out too often and it’s great to have a week together, the WAGS are all cool and the kids are ridiculously cute… and cheeky.

Back on topic – we went to Baia Beach Club located in Armier. It’s quite a drive from Sliema and feels like it’s right out in the sticks. When we arrived we saw that either side of Baia was absolutely packed with sun beds. Maybe 30-40 either side? They were so packed together that because of the shade umbrellas, those two whole sections of the beach were in shadows. Baia, on the other hand, was perfect.

There was a designated sandy beach with spaced-out sun-loungers, waiter service and a swimming zone cordoned off from the beautiful boats anchored nearby (because nothing ruins a trip to the beach like being ran over by a boat!). We chose the sandy beach over Baia’s concrete haven because kids fall over.

The water was nice – it’s always nice – I saw a couple set up towels on the beach and what looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s younger twin came over and told them to shimmy along. No arguments there.

The best thing about going to the beach with kids is that there’s always someone to go in the water with. They had their inflatable rings and armbands. Lex and Eva both had a go with my swimming goggles to see the fish, unfortunately around that area there weren’t any fish to be seen. Probably because they were hanging out by the rocks but I digress.

Lex and I had a kick-ass time playing mini-football, Eva and I spoke about pre-school and how she destroyed the sun by hosing it down with water but it was the bad sun which is why we still have a sun and the bad sun is in a different world. Then we sang, well, she sang and I copied but I couldn’t get the words right so I was told to stop. Then I tried to teach Eva to beatbox because I thought it’d be funny to see a 4 year old girl beatbox.

For lunch I had a Roasted Duck Salad. The salads come in massive bowls – most of us had salads. Stephan has this amazing mixed meat sandwich thing, with maybe Ftira (traditional Maltese bread) or focaccia bread. Either way, it looked amazing.

Later that evening we ordered Chinese Takeaway from Pavilion. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much because I hadn’t had a really good Chinese yet in Malta. That changed when the doorbell rang.

Ding Dong.

It was amazing.