Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Vietnam

Halong Bay Vietnam
Halong Bay

Vietnam was one of the countries that we spent the longest in, just behind Thailand. I suppose the main reason for this is that we had to arrange to get our visas ahead of time when we were back in the UK and visa was the most expensive from our travels around Asia.

During our time in Vietnam we travelled from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the South to Hanoi in the North stopping at a few towns along the way. Overall we spent a little under the 30 days our visa entitled us to in Vietnam. 

Starting in Saigon, we spent one day walking around to all the sights of the city including the War Museum, the Ho Chi Minh Palace, Notre Dam church, the Post Office and to some of the markets. While we were here we stayed at Diep Ahn Guesthouse, where the owner Anh, gave us a recommended route to walk to see all the sights which was really useful. One day we did a day trip to the Mekong Delta which included seeing some of the locals floating markets and seeing how some of their local snacks are made. I can't remember exactly what they were but one was a coconut candy and another was a sweet rice paper which were both delicious.

On our last day in Saigon we took a half day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels which were impressive to see. There is a 100m stretch of tunnel that has been widened for the average Westerners build with exits every 20m. I managed the first 20m before needing to get out, I actually freaked out just as we got in the tunnel but with tons of people behind me I couldn't get out. I always knew I wasn't keen on confined spaces but this time I was panicking and trying to get out as quickly as possible. Even when I think back about the experience I feel a little funny. After our half day trip to the Tunnels we had a few hours to grab dinner and to have a quick shower as we had booked ourselves onto a sleeper bus to our next destination - Nha Trang.


Nha Trang is a beachy resort, full of bars to visit. We weren't so much there for the bars, I wanted some beach time! In the evenings the beaches would have locals coming with their children for a swim as well which I thought was nice to see. We didn't stay long until we were on another sleeper bus to Hoi An.



Hoi An is a coastal town that everybody should visit when in Vietnam, it is a UNESCO Heritage town with some truly spectacular buildings. It is also beautiful by night, some buildings are lit up in different colours, there are little lanterns floating down the river and lanterns hanging in trees and overhead. Hoi An is well known for tailoring so we decided we wanted to have something tailor made as well - Danny had a suit and I had a playsuit made. It was quite a fun experience! Hoi An also has some lovely local food, there is an abundance of good restaurants and you can also get cooking classes.

After Hoi An we spent a couple of days in Hue - not a stop everyone will make but it has some significant sites from the war. There is a Citadel there that is now in ruins for a large part with beautiful gates riddled with bullet holes. You don't really need long in Hue, but there were some nice restaurants there as well. After a couple of days in Hue we booked ourselves onto a sleeper train to Hanoi. I was really excited about this as I had decided a long time before that I wanted to experience a sleeper train during our travels round Asia and the time was finally here!


I actually managed to get a decent amount of sleep while on the train, getting up once to go to the bathroom. We shared our cabin with an elderly Vietnamese couple who spoke no English. We tried to communicate a few times with them trying to ask where we were from, unfortunately they didn't understand. They were very nice though, and were letting us know when we were close to arriving in Hanoi so we could get our things together.

Once getting into Hanoi station we took a taxi to our hotel. We'd gotten in to Hanoi pretty early so we couldn't check in, but we were able to go to the small dining room at the back of the hotel to have some breakfast which was much needed. Once we were checked in, we were given a map of Hanoi with recommendations of where to go, things to see etc. We were only out for a couple of hours before we had to run back - the heavens opened and did not stop.


We got absolutely drenched. There were a couple of days where it absolutely hammered down with rain, which as it turns out was the back end of a cyclone. We tried to brave the weather one of the days with waterproofs etc, but we ended up seeking refuge in a café overlooking Hoam Kiem lake for a couple of hours before plucking up the courage to get back to the hotel again.

We had been planning a trip to Halong Bay which looked touch and go because of the weather, but fortunately we managed to time it just right and went for a two day one night trip. We booked the trip through our hotel and went for a mid-range offer. We were picked up early by a bus which was already pretty full and were driven to Halong City before being registered and boarding the boat. The first day it was still a little grey, but it was great to be there. We sailed out to the caves where there is a 'surprise'. After the caves, we had time to kayak around the bay which was great to get closer to some of the rock formations.


After kayaking, we took off to where we would be mooring for the night and having dinner. Before getting ready for dinner we all changed into our swimwear to have a little swim, and to watch the gorgeous sunset. That evening was really fun, we had a good dinner followed by playing Uno with the others on the trip and also trying our hands at fishing - none of us caught anything but we weren't using bait so it's not surprising really.

The next day we were taken through some of the little islands on our way back to shore. We were very lucky as the storm seemed to have well and truly cleared which resulted in blue skies and sun. I am so glad we got the opportunity to visit Halong Bay, it was truly beautiful.





Once we got to shore, we got back on a bus and were driven back to Hanoi. We spent a couple more days in Hanoi with some warmer weather, we visited the Water Puppet show which I would highly recommend to anyone who visits Hanoi, the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum which I found a little creepy - you go into a dimmed room and shuffle round Ho Chi Minh's embalmed body. In all honesty, we spent a little bit too long in Hanoi, we should have organised our days better so we could have fitted a trip out to Sapa as well - something we will definitely do when we go back.

After our time in Vietnam came to an end, we flew back to Bangkok to get ready to go down for some Thai Island hopping - the main beachy part of our travels! 

Kate x

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Body Shop Wishlist


The Body Shop is a shop that has never really been on my radar. When I was younger, I would regularly buy their body butters (my favourite has always been their Coconut body butter) but that was the extent of my Body Shop collection. I've always known they have good products, so I really don't know why I don't shop there more often.

One of my earliest memories of The Body Shop is going there with my Mum so she could buy a hairbrush. She let me pick out something as well, and of all the things I could have chosen, I picked up a perm comb. Yes, really.

After reading and watching product reviews of TBS products, it's left me browsing their website and building a wishlist. What's even better - they are permanently lowering their prices over here in Australia. (Rumour has it that it's in response to Sephora opening their first store in Oz this year).

1. Honey Bronze Bronzing Powder - I've always had mixed feelings on using bronzer. My first bronzer was a MAC bronzer that I bought a few years back. I was never that sure on how to use bronzer but I do have to be very careful that I don't put too much on and risk having a muddy looking face. My current bronzer is Benefit's Hoola, but I like the fact that the Honey Bronze Bronzing Powder comes in different shades depending on your skin tone. Being quite fair, I would probably buy Shade 01 as it looks like it could be quite subtle.

2. Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter - I have never used a cleansing balm or butter, but I am increasingly curious about them. I've always been pretty loyal to the Clinique 3-Step Facial Soap but I think it's about time I branch out and try other cleansers. Especially since the price has lowered on the Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter it is on a level with the Clinique Soap.

3. Hemp Hand Protector - I have some real problems with my hands, they are often very dry and I have started to suffer from eczema on my right hand. It can get very very red and sore if I'm not careful. I've read some really good things about this hand cream, so I'd definitely like to give it a go.

4. Peppermint Intensive Foot Rescue - I'm very guilty of neglecting my feet, so I do really need a product targeted at my feet rather than just using a body butter on them. I've previously used Soap & Glory's Heel Genius which I quite liked. I've heard good things about this product, so I'm curious to know whether it delivers good results. Since summer is only a couple of months off, I really need to get my feet into shape before the sandals come out.

5. Vitamin E Hydrating Toner - I used to use the Clinique Clarifying Lotion as part of the 3-Step routine, I've never really tried any other toner. I know Clinique don't ever use the word toner for their Clarifying Lotion, but it's used at the same point in a skincare routine so I see them as being the same thing. The Clarifying Lotion isn't cheap, so I'm curious to see how a cheaper product will fare.

I'm also open to recommendations - what are your favourite TBS products?

Kate x

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Mini Drugstore Haul

la roche-posay, bioderma, hydraluron, vaseline spray moisturiser

Australia is known for being quite expensive, and now being a traveller I'm trying to keep my spending under control, which is insanely difficult at times. While in Australia I have 'splashed out' on a couple of higher end products when my skin has been in need. Typically, they are all running out at the same time. Priceline (Australia's equivalent to Boots or Superdrug) occasionally have brilliant offers on and a couple of weeks ago they had 40% off all skincare so I made sure I got to a store to take advantage of the offer.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo $27.99/£15.50 - I heard good things about this before I left the UK but my skin was never bad enough for me to consider buying it. While I was in Melbourne during the summer my skin took a turn for the worse and I was trying everything I could think of to bring it under control, including buying this. I noticed an improvement after starting to use this, but I wouldn't say it was a miracle product but I do think it has helped which is why I'm keeping it in my skincare routine.

Bioderma Créaline Solution Micellaire $29.99 - A cult product among beauty bloggers, I was looking through Priceline a little over six months ago and discovered that a whole range of Bioderma products are available to buy, compared to the UK where Bioderma was only just beginning to be available in select pharmacies before I left (if it's now available in Superdrug/Boots please let me know!). I was never bothered enough to want to order on eBay or ask a friend to buy me a bottle on their holidays in France. However, seeing as it was so easily available here I figured it was worth a try. It does a good job at removing my eye make up without making the skin around my eyes sore - something that countless other make up removers have done. I will be honest though, when I'm back in the UK I'm not so sure I will go to the great lengths to get a bottle of this, I got on quite well with the B. Pure Micellar Water which is less than £5 and very easy to get hold of.

Hydraluron Moisture Booster $34.99/£24.99 - A product I used back in the UK as well as over here, when I arrived to Australia last September my skin had a nasty shock - I had gone from hot and humid climates to the cold and windy climate of Springtime Melbourne. My skin dried out very quickly so I knew it was time to buy a tube of this. During the Australian summer I didn't need to use this, but now as we are back into winter it has become a firm staple in my skincare routine again. I don't think I reviewed this while I was back home, but I think the fact I'm repurchasing this speaks wonders. I was very tempted to try out the new Jelly, but seeing as my last tube has lasted me 10 months I think I'm best off sticking to the serum so I can fit it into my backpack.

Vaseline Intensive Care Spray Moisturiser in Cocoa Glow $9.99/£3.99 - This was a product I have been curious about and I wasn't sure if it was more of a gimmick. I'm quite lazy when it comes to moisturising my body but with this I get just the right amount on my legs and arms, it sinks in quite quickly and smells lovely. The only downside is because it's in a can I don't really know how much I've used, so I'm not sure if this is a product that will go down quite quickly.

So that is my mini 'haul' that should keep me quiet for a while. I've just got to hope they don't do a 40% off make up promotion any time soon...

Kate x
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The prices in AUD are pre-discount.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Beauty Products I Miss

Beauty-Products-I-Miss

It's now been almost nine months since I left the UK to go travelling. When I was packing, I aimed to keep my make-up and skin care to a minimum as I was in Asia first and I didn't think I'd wear much. 

To be honest, I never really thought about what I would need once I'd left Asia, and arrived in Australia. For four months I was working in an office and essentially having a regular routine. Having not taken the time to think ahead to what I would want for Australia, it left me wishing I had certain products with me.

So what are those products? It's a mixture of skincare and make up, especially certain brands I can't get over here.

Una Brennan Tea Flower Superfacialist Deep Clean Pore Purifying Clay Mask
This is quite possibly the product I miss the most. I was always a firm fan of Origins Clear Improvements mask until I tried this. This works so well with my skin. Whenever I could feel a breakout coming on, it would really help my skin and minimise the breakout or clear it up completely. I come from a hard water area in the UK, but over here in Melbourne the water is incredibly soft. Despite being here for almost five months now I don't think my skin has gotten used to it. As a result my skin has been awful. I feel like I'm back to being a teenager again with the spots I've been getting
Urban Decay Naked 1 & Naked 2
I absolutely love these palettes, but decided not to bring either of them with me. A decision I seriously regret. While I was in Malaysia I tried to buy my favourite shade from the Naked palette - Sin, but typically it was  sold out, and I didn't like any of the similar shades. I ended up buying All That Glitters by MAC, but it's just not quite the same. I have been sorely tempted to order either the new Naked 3 palette or the Naked Basics palette to be sent over here, but I'm so torn. 

Dr Jart Water Fuse BB Cream
This is a product that I actually brought out with me, but alas it has run out. I can't find Dr Jart out here and when I was in Asia I couldn't find this formula. I was quite slow on the uptake with this BB cream, but once I bought it I could see why it is so popular. You barely need anything and it rubs in without feeling greasy. I always thought it offered a pretty decent level of coverage too.

No7 Beautiful Skin Cleansing Brush
I only got into the cleansing brush movement within the past year. I really was close to packing this and again, it's something I wish I had. I never got around to review this but I really did feel like there was a difference with my skin, and it certainly felt cleaner. I've been tempted at times to treat myself to a Clarisonic whilst being over here.

Benefit Dallas Box Blusher
Dallas is my absolute favourite boxed blusher by Benefit, but when I came away I decided to bring another of their boxed blushers with me - Coralista which is another of my favourites. After using Coralista almost every day now, I'm getting a little bored and would quite like to have some bronzed-ish cheeks!
I can buy Benefit products out here, but they do feel a little pricey still, but the prices always do sound worse in $!

Are any of these products you can't live without? 

Kate x