Category Archives: Travel

Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort

Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, tropical pool with flowers and bridge. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, room and bed with towel swan. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, room and bed. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort room in Siem Reap Cambodia. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort lounge area of room in Siem Reap Cambodia Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, view from balcony terrace. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort balcony terrace in Siem Reap Cambodia. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, pathway through the trees. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, pool area with palm trees and flowers. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, tropical pool area with palm trees. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, tropical trees and flowers. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, path through the trees. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, pathway through the forest with tropical plants. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, dining area next to pond with lily pads. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, bridge over pond water with lily pads and flowers. Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort in Siem Reap Cambodia, dining area next to pond water with lily pads.

After a hectic few days battling the crowds and enjoying city life in Bangkok, arriving at Sokhalay Angkor Villa Resort felt like another world. A tranquil little oasis surrounded by nature, it was exactly what our worn out bodies and minds needed. We arrived around mid-afternoon, and after sacrificing sleep to make the most of our time in Bangkok, we decided to spend the rest of the day relaxing in the sunshine and playing around in the pool to wind down properly.

Our room was so beautifully furnished and such a generous size. With gorgeous dark wood throughout, traditional textiles and a spacious open plan layout, it felt both luxurious and homely all at once. The beds here were also one of the most comfortable things I’ve ever slept on, in fact we both found ourselves reminiscing about how dreamy they were for pretty much the rest of our holiday! I don’t think I’ve ever slept so well. Our room was on the ground floor and its doors opened out onto a private terrace overlooking the pool, surrounded by greenery and tropical flowers. We couldn’t have asked for a prettier view to wake up to, especially in the early morning as the sunlight peeked through the trees and glinted off the pool.

We spent quite a few of our afternoons and evenings around the pool, even if only for an hour or so. It would have been a real shame not to take advantage of such a pretty area and it was pure bliss to jump in and cool off after spending the day getting hot, sticky and covered in dust at the temples and from walking through town.

Wandering along the the lush, tree lined pathways in the early morning light and again in the evenings as we made our way home under the lanterns and street lamps was such a wonderful way to start and finish each day. It’s rare for me not be rushing out of the hotel eager for the days adventure, but everywhere was so beautiful and relaxing here that it was hard not to slow down and take your time.

Breakfast was delicious, and there was a huge variety to choose from, all laid out buffet style in the main dining area. The staff here really deserve a special mention too, they were wonderful, especially Luy who worked in the restaurant at breakfast. He was one of the friendliest, kindest and most helpful people we have ever come across. He asked our names on our first day and said hello to us every morning. We so enjoyed talking to him about life in Cambodia and hearing his recommendations over breakfast.

One important thing to note, this resort is actually a number of separate hotels all in one place. We stayed at the Villa Resort, which is made up of the wooden villas surrounding the pool, but there are also 3 hotel blocks on site to choose from too. They all have access to the same facilities, including an indoor pool and spa inside the main hotel block. Despite this, it never felt crowded and the large grounds meant it often felt like we had the place all to ourselves.

Far enough away from the busy centre to be a relaxing and peaceful retreat, but close enough to all of the main attractions, it was the perfect base to explore Siem Reap from. The town was just a quick Tuk Tuk ride away and it took us barely 30 minutes to reach Angkor Wat. We had such a wonderful stay here, and I’ve already recommended it to almost everyone I know.

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Temples of Bangkok

Temples of Bangkok Thailand, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.

Even though our time here was cut short, we were able to spend one full morning and afternoon exploring the temples of Bangkok. There were a few smaller temples on our original list, but we didn’t want to rush between them and end up feeling like we hadn’t given each one enough of our time to fully appreciate, so we decided to focus on just the main three.

What I found most interesting was the way each temple had its own unique style, but yet was still unmistakably Thai. The three are all excellent examples of traditional Thai architecture. Each one has been expanded, added to and remodelled numerous times over the centuries, and the combination of different architectural styles that exist side by side is really quite charming.

One thing you need to keep in mind when visiting the temples is that you should dress respectfully. Many temples will not allow you to enter if you have your knees, shoulders or chest on show, or are wearing tight fitting or sheer clothing. I found Wat Phra Kaew to be the most strict with this, however I think even if it’s not technically enforced, it’s just polite to cover yourself up when visiting somewhere that is regarded as a highly sacred place by a lot of people.

 

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

Temples of Bangkok Thailand, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, glittering gold. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, glittering gold mosaic tiles. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, gold kannari kinnon statue. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, glittering gold mosaic tiles and gold yaksha demon statue guardian at the entrance to Phra Mondop. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, colourful yaksha demon statues around gold stupa. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, glittering gold. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, girl lighting incence offering with flowers.

Temples of Bangkok Thailand, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, glittering gold.
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew are both housed within the same complex and are one of Bangkok’s biggest tourist attractions, drawing crowds so huge that it would be almost unbearable if the surroundings weren’t quite so breathtaking. This was the first temple we visited and it remained my favourite of the three. As far as I’m concerned it’s a must visit if you’re in the city, and somewhere that is definitely worth battling the crowds to see at least once.

Wat Phra Kaew dates from 1782 and is also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, as it houses one of Thailand’s most sacred Buddhist relics, Phra Kaew Morakot – the Emerald Buddha. Carved from flawless green jade and adorned with gleaming gold, it sits enshrined high above the altar in the main hall. Due to the treasures it holds and its links to Kings past and present, Wat Phra Kaew is considered to be Thailand’s most important and scared temple.

The complex was an awe inspiring introduction to Thai culture and a complete assault on the senses. Glittering mosaics studded with jewels adorning almost every surface, golden spires, the smell of incense, fresh flowers and candles, the bustling crowds and the sounds of thousands of excited people outside being reduced to a whisper as soon as we stepped into the main shrine. It was unlike anywhere else I’d ever been, and I felt completely awed by its scale and sheer beauty.

Whilst we were here, Thailand was still in mourning for King Bhumibol Adulyadej. As we walked into the grounds we saw thousands of Thai people, all dressed in sombre black, queuing in a snaking line around the perimeter to pay their respects to the King, whose body was lying in state in the Throne Hall. It was really quite humbling to see how much he was loved and how much he meant to the people of Thailand, with many of them waiting for hours in line just to pay their respects and say goodbye.

 

Wat Pho

Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Pho bronze lion statue. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Pho gold buddha statues. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Pho garden with statues. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Pho garden with temple. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Pho stupa mosaic details close up. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Pho gold buddha statue with flowers and mosaic stupas. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Pho gold buddha statue with offerings inside central shrine. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Pho gold reclining Buddha statue at the Temple of The Reclining Buddha.

As we walked in to Wat Pho, or the Temple of The Reclining Buddha, it immediately had a different vibe to the glitzy Wat Phra Kaew. Here the mosaics adorning the temples were more earthy and neutral toned, it was less crowded and it felt much more relaxed and in tune with its surrounding area. It was incredible to think this was just down the road from where we had been.

That all changed as we got closer to the main draw of the site, The Vihara of the Reclining Buddha. Suddenly we were right in the middle of a crowd again, and the large open spaces were now taken up with brightly coloured marquees selling water and offering prayers and blessings. The atmosphere became much livelier as people gathered around the area and excitedly queued to see the Buddha.

The 46m golden Reclining Buddha really is a spectacular sight and the scale is quite overwhelming. Honestly, it’s far bigger than the photos make it look! I spent a good few minutes just staring up in awe at the huge face looking down on me.

Wat Pho is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok, dating back to before Bangkok was established as the capital. It houses the largest collection of images of the Buddha in Thailand and is also considered to be the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t have time to get ourselves a massage, which is still practiced here, and spend a little more time in the quieter areas.

 

Wat Arun

Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Arun the Temple of Dawn. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Arun the Temple of Dawn at golden hour sunlight. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Arun the Temple of Dawn garden and close up of guardian statue. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Arun the Temple of Dawn close up of mosaic detail. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Arun the Temple of Dawn, money offerings hanging across pathway. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Arun the Temple of Dawn at dusk. Temples of Bangkok Thailand, Wat Arun the Temple of Dawn at night.

We arrived at Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, just as the very first signs of twilight were beginning to darken the sky, and found ourselves with the complex almost to ourselves. Just a handful of others, monks and members staff were still walking around. It felt much more serene here. It seemed quiet and empty in comparison, and the dying light bathed the whole area in a soft glow as it bounced off the porcelain encrusted towers.

Whilst still beautifully decorated, the style is much more paired-back here. Seashells are mixed in with china fragments to create the rustic mosaics which decorate the main stupa, and white space dominates giving it a lighter, more airy feel. It was the perfect end to our day, walking around in the twilight and taking in the view as we waited for the boat to take us back across the river.

Renovation work is currently being performed on the main stupa, so it was covered in scaffolding and we didn’t get to go to the top or see it lit up at night. It wasn’t any less incredible though, and it’s actually great to see that these wonderful pieces of history are being actively preserved for future generations to enjoy.

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Anantara Sathorn Bangkok

Anantara Sathorn Bangkok hotel Thailand pool area view from balcony. Anantara Sathorn Bangkok hotel Thailand room one bedroom suite. Anantara Sathorn Bangkok hotel Thailand room lounge area one bedroom suite. Anantara Sathorn Bangkok hotel Thailand city skyline view from balcony. Anantara Sathorn Bangkok hotel Thailand room one bedroom suite. Anantara Sathorn Bangkok hotel Thailand pool area. Anantara Sathorn Bangkok hotel Thailand breakfast beside the pool. Anantara Sathorn Bangkok hotel Thailand pool area with strawberry daiquiri cocktails. Anantara Sathorn Bangkok hotel Thailand pool area. Anantara Sathorn Bangkok hotel Thailand pool area. Anantara Sathorn Bangkok hotel Thailand Zoom skybar and restaurant views of city. Bangkok Thailand city skyline with skyscrapers at night from the top of Zoom rooftop sky bar. Anantara Sathorn Bangkok hotel Thailand pool area at night.

I don’t think we could have picked a nicer hotel for the first stop of our trip in Bangkok. After the horrendous journey there including a 17 hour delay, no sleep and a missing suitcase, rolling into the Anantara Sathorn felt like heaven.

As soon as we stepped out of our taxi we were greeted with smiles and staff who couldn’t do enough to help us and make sure our stay got off to the best start possible. Check in was a breeze, the guys on reception immediately took charge of sorting out our missing case with Thai Air and we were shown up to our room a few minutes later and left to settle in and relax. The room was spacious, airy, spotlessly clean and felt so homely with the lounge area and two large balconies. I loved starting each day sitting out on the balcony with a cup of tea as the early morning light bathed the skyline in a sunny haze.

After throwing our suitcases in the lounge and staying awake just long enough to watch the sun rise over the city, we had a quick nap before getting ready to head down for breakfast. To say I was excited would be an understatement! After two days of mostly aeroplane food and snacks I couldn’t wait to eat something more substantial and breakfast really didn’t disappoint. There was a little something for everyone, from fried breakfast and cereals, to fresh fruit, salad, soups, pancakes, pastries, waffles, noodles and traditional Thai breakfast, plus an egg station for fresh eggs and the most delicious omelettes. Each day the selection changed slightly, and I looked forward to it every single morning. It was one of the nicest hotel breakfasts I’ve eaten, and the best one of our whole trip.

We only got to spend one lazy afternoon by the beautiful pool area, and I really wished we’d had more time so we could have spent another afternoon or so relaxing here. It feels like a little oasis right in the middle of the madness of the city, and laying under an umbrella with a daiquiri in hand, feeling the heat of the sun on your skin was pure bliss.

To top everything off, the hotel also has its own sky bar ‘Zoom’ perched at the top of the main tower. It offers the most spectacular panoramic views across the city and has a great little restaurant too. We treated ourselves to dinner and a celebratory Chang here on our first night, and whilst it was a bit more expensive than the other meals we ate here, the food was great and the atmosphere and views made it so worth it.

The Anantara Sathorn was the perfect introduction to Thailand and its legendary hospitality. The central location made it a great base to explore the city from and the generously sized room was a dream to come home to after a long day out and about. We were both quite sad to leave, and not only because of the exceptional breakfast! I couldn’t recommend it more if you’re planning a trip to Bangkok.

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48 Hours in Bangkok

Bangkok Thailand city skyline with skyscrapers at night from the top of Zoom rooftop sky bar.

When we finally landed in Bangkok over 17 hours late, exhausted and minus one missing suitcase, all we could think about was crawling into bed. Our original plan had been to arrive on New Years Eve at 6pm, throw our things into our room and head straight out to celebrate. Instead, we ended up spending the first few moments of 2017 queuing to board our flight from Beijing after a sleepless night. As if that wasn’t enough bad luck for one holiday, once we finally arrived in Bangkok we then found that Nat’s suitcase had gone missing! After a teary chat at the lost baggage desk we had no choice but to head to the hotel and hope that they might call us.

We pulled up to the hotel just after 6am, and as we finally sat our weary bodies down on the bed in our room, we were greeted with a beautiful hazy sunrise over the city from our balcony window. After a huge breakfast, many cups of coffee and a much needed shower, we were about to set off to a mall to buy Nat some clothes and toiletries, when we got the news that the case might have been found! Resting our hopes on this, we spent the day lazing around the pool, napping and nervously waiting. Thankfully, by that evening the suitcase had been found and was on its way to the hotel. Things were starting to look up, and so we decided that to make up for the two days that had been lost, we were going to make the most of the 48 hours we had left.

If I’m being completely honest, Bangkok was the place I was least looking forward to visiting on our trip. I’d heard such mixed things from others who I’d spoken to, and many said it was dirty, horribly humid, far too busy and that they couldn’t wait to leave. We went with the lowest of expectations, but both came away saying how much we’d enjoyed it. Yes it was busy, yes it was a little dirty, but there was also so much to see and do. We could have happily spent many more nights here, and I would definitely recommend visiting.

With only two days left, we had to cut a lot of the things that were on our list of must sees. We didn’t get to party on Khao San Road, we missed the floating markets and we didn’t get chance to visit some of the smaller temples. However, the things we did do gave us a really good taste of Bangkok and the variety of sights and experiences it has to offer.

 

Take a ferry down the Chao Phraya River

Bangkok Thailand dock pier on the Chao Phraya River. Bangkok Thailand Chao Phraya River riverfront apartments and balconies with colourful washing hanging up. Bangkok Thailand Buddhist monk in sunglasses standing on the dock on the Chao Phraya River. Bangkok Thailand Chao Phraya River ferry, brightly coloured wooden riverside homes on the water. Bangkok Thailand boats Khlongs on the Chao Phraya River. Bangkok Thailand wooden house on the Chao Phraya River. Bangkok Thailand little boy looking out onto the Chao Phraya River from the ferry boat.

This was very much a happy accident, but something I would really recommend, especially if you’re short on time like we were. After a morning of walking around we found ourselves near to a ferry port and thought we’d fit in a little ride on the river to take us a few stops down to Chinatown to get lunch. It was another thing we could tick off that we’d done, and we’d get to where we were going quicker too, perfect! We were a little confused by the map, but decided to get the orange ferry instead of one of the more comfortable looking tourist boats. We brought our tickets (25p!) and piled on, along with what seemed to be far too many other people. After around 5 stops though, it suddenly dawned on us that we were going in the opposite direction to where we wanted to go!

Nat persuaded me that we may as well stay on now and just get off at the stop we wanted on the way back down. I have to admit, I wasn’t very keen on this idea at first. I just wanted to get lunch and explore as much as possible, I didn’t want to be sat on a boat for an hour! We stayed on and rode all the way to the top until Pak Kret Pier, then made our way back down finally getting off at the correct stop around an hour and a half or so later. It turns out it was actually an excellent way to see a lot of the city in a very short space of time. We went past temples, monuments, cute little restaurants, riverside homes and got to people watch to our hearts content as people went about their everyday lives.

 

Explore the neighbourhood

Bangkok Thailand Chinatown city streets with motorbikes, engines, spare parts and machinery. Bangkok Thailand Chinatown view of the Chao Phraya River from river front restaurant. Bangkok Thailand Chinatown city streets with street sign. Bangkok Thailand Chinatown city streets. Bangkok Thailand food. Curry, rice, papaya salad. Bangkok Thailand view of Wat Arun and tourist boat on the Chao Phraya River.

Sometimes it’s nicest just to have a wander around when you’re in a new city. It’s the best way to get a feel for a place and you’ll always uncover some hidden gems you’d never have otherwise come across.

On our last night, we stumbled upon the Bitter Deck after getting the ferry back across the river from Wat Arun. It has a wonderful wooden deck, decorated with fairy lights and the most beautiful views of Wat Arun. Sadly the Wat was undergoing renovations, so we didn’t get to see it all lit up, but it was still a pretty magical sight. The food and service was incredible too, everything was so full of flavour and our waiter went out of his way to make one of the dishes vegetarian for me. It was one of the nicest meals we had in Bangkok, and that’s saying something, as everything we ate in Thailand was delicious!

 

See the temples

Bangkok Thailand temples, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. Bangkok Thailand temples, The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.

You can’t come to Bangkok and not visit at least one of the city’s spectacular temples. Seriously. There were originally a few smaller and less touristy temples on our list alongside the big ones, but with our limited time we thought it made most sense to see the main three – The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. I was prepared to be awed, but honestly they were even more grand than I could have ever imagined. The beautiful architecture, glittering gold and intricate detailing decorating every square inch completely took my breath away.

If you can only fit one in, I’d recommend The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, both are within the same complex. We did this one first and it remained our favourite of the three, even despite it also being the busiest.

You can see more of the temples in my Temples of Bangkok post. They really deserved their own post, and I took far too many photos to include here!

 

Jump in a Tuk Tuk

Bangkok Thailand Tuk Tuk traffic.

Tuk Tuks are one of the quickest and easiest ways to get around in Thailand and they’re rediculously good fun too, especially in Bangkok’s crazy traffic! They can be a little more expensive than a standard taxi, especially if you don’t haggle with them over the price, but there’s nothing like zooming through Bangkok’s busy streets in the back of one.

 

Watch Muay Thai at Rajadamnern Stadium

Bangkok Thailand Muay Thai fight in the ring at Rajadamnern Stadium. Bangkok Thailand Muay Thai fight knock down in the ring at Rajadamnern Stadium.

This is going to be the kind of thing you either love or hate, but for us it was something we were definitely not going to miss whilst we were here. We saw many ‘fight nights’ advertised, but we wanted to make sure we saw the real thing and not a staged show so we headed to Rajadamnern Stadium. It’s one of the two main stadiums for modern Muay Thai and it hosts fights four nights a week, running Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 6pm.

Each night there are 9 fights, with a mixture of relative beginners and seasoned pros competing. The atmosphere was electric, a live band played rhythmic traditional Thai music throughout the matches to help the fighters keep their rhythm and the crowd shouted and cheered with almost every hit.

I won’t lie, it was brutal, especially the matches with guys in the heavier weights. Blood and sweat were flying, and we saw one guy knocked clean out by a kick to the chest who had to be stretchered out of the ring. Of course, Muay Thai is about much more than just this though. Many of these fighters have spent years honing their craft, perfecting their physical skills as well as sharpening their minds. Winning is as much about tactics as it is about physical strength. It was one of my highlights of the whole trip.

My biggest tip if you want to catch a few matches yourself – Don’t pay extra for the ‘VIP front row’ seats, even if the ticket sellers try to tell you it’s the only tier with seating. It’s not. The view is better from the 2nd tier, as you’re not looking up at the ring and it’s much cheaper too.

 

Take in the skyline from a rooftop bar

Bangkok Thailand city skyline with skyscrapers at night from the top of Zoom rooftop sky bar.

We were lucky enough to be staying at a hotel with its own sky bar, Zoom, so this was a no-brainer. The panoramic views of the city at night were spectacular, and there’s nothing like drinking an ice cold beer with a view.

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Home Again

Fashion travel blogger Stephanie of FAIIINT laying in tree silhouette looking over beach and crystal clear blue ocean at Lading Island Hong Islands Thailand.

It’s been a crazy month packed full of adventures since we last spoke, and I’m so excited to finally share them all with you. Since I started this blog 5 years ago this has been the longest break I have ever taken, and although I can’t wait to get stuck back in, I was definitely in need of the break!

It was so nice to unplug for a while and I feel like it’s done me a lot of good to be a bit disconnected. I’m going to try to keep this up on a smaller scale now that I’m home too, with mini breaks here and there. I don’t think you truly realise just how much time you mindlessly spend online until you can’t even refresh Instagram unless you can find free WiFi and you find yourself getting a little twitchy!

There are so many photos to sort through and things I can’t wait to tell you all about! I’ll be spreading the travel posts out, so that hopefully it’ll be a nice mixture of travel and the usual outfits and fashion related stuff you’ve come to expect.

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