Tag: #travel

Hanoi Eat and Drinks Diary Part One

Hanoi Eat and Drinks Diary Part One

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Hanoi. Such a beautiful city.

Exploding with life and culture and chaos, all encompassed in beautiful French Architecture, traditional simple Vietnamese lifestyle and the freshest of fresh cuisine.

The first and most important decision when travelling is the hotel choice. This can be a make or break for your chosen time in any given city.

Without a doubt, the best hotel in Hanoi is The Sofitel Metropole. Hands down.

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The Hotel Metropole Hanoi is an award-winning French colonial-style hotel lying in the heart of Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem Lake and the magnificent Opera House.

Boasting a classical white façade, green shutters, original wrought iron detail, wood paneling and a lush courtyard lawn, the hotel is one of the region’s few remaining hotels of its era.

Located steps from the Opera House in Hanoï’s French Quarter, this legendary property brings guests into intimate contact with the opulence of another era.

Surround yourself in heritage as you stroll stately corridors and explore a dramatic past. Behind its classical white façade green shutters original wrought iron details and stately wood paneling reside over a century of stories.

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Some of the most famous people in the world have chosen to stay here. The hotel has seen a myriad of prominent visitors throughout its reign, including famous actors such as Charlie Chaplin, who one of the property’s suites is named after. Chaplin celebrated the most special of moments at the hotel, notably, his honeymoon in 1936.

Other frequent guests include revered world dignitaries and famed celebrities. It was at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi that the first motion picture showing occurred within the region, and it is the locale where Somerset Maugham wrote The Gentleman in the Palour, and where Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American.

Can you believe this….what a discovery…forty years after the bombs stopped falling on Hanoi, and less than one year after a chance discovery of an air raid shelter in its back garden, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi has opened the excavated bunker as the anchor attraction in a new Path of History tour.

You can go deep underground and explore the air raid shelter built during the war.  It has been said that the guests were ushered underground during the raids and then after wards ally led back to the dining room or bar to continue socialising…How surreal.

 

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Watch my FB live video as I tour the grounds of the Sofitel.


Next stop..the full tourist day.

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If you are prepared to battle the chaotic traffic, the heat and the crowded streets, then start walking to see the amazing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum the large memorial in Hanoi. It is located in the center of Ba Dinh Square, which is the place where Vietminh leader Ho Chi Minh, Chairman of the Communist Party of Vietnam from 1951 until his death in 1969, read the Declaration of Independence on 2 September 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The structure is 21.6 meters (70.9 feet) high and 41.2 meters (135.2 feet) wide. Flanking the mausoleum are two platforms with seven steps for parade viewing. The plaza in front of the mausoleum is divided into 240 green squares separated by pathways. The gardens surrounding the mausoleum have nearly 250 different species of plants and flowers, all from different regions of Vietnam.

The embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh is preserved in the cooled, central hall of the mausoleum, which is protected by a military honor guard. The body lies in a glass case with dim lights. The mausoleum is closed occasionally while work is done to restore and preserve the body but is normally open daily from 09:00 to 11:00 to the public. Lines of visitors, including visiting foreign dignitaries, pay their respects at the mausoleum every day.

After a quick look, and a moment of silence , we hailed a taxi, negotiated a fair price ($12) and arranged for the driver to take us and see more iconic monuments before taking us back to the hotel.

The high level of humidity, the midday sun, cranky kids plus my white shorts and the now streaky spray tan streaming down my legs…was the dominating factor in this decision.  Luckily for us our driver was super knowledgeable on all historical events and monuments in Hanoi. Big bonus. Plus aircon. Double bonus.

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‘Binhs Taxi Luxury Tour’ then headed over to the beautiful Hanoi Opera House.

One of the few places in Hanoi to catch a symphony, this century-old French colonial building is a major city landmark. While the interior could use some sprucing up, this imposing Opera House is still on the list of top things to see in Hanoi, given its architectural beauty, historical significance and repertoire of internationally celebrated musicians.

Completed in 1911 after 10 years of work, in its heyday this popular Hanoi attraction served as a center for high-end entertainment, theater and classical music. Frequented by French colonial officials and their wives and largely unvisited by the Vietnamese, the Hanoi Opera House was a monument of European culture. For most of the French era, artists who performed at the Opera House were almost exclusively European, but in the 1940s Vietnamese could rent what they called ‘the Western theatre’ to hold special performances and concerts, especially to raise money for charitable causes such as victims of floods.

Just outside the Opera House is a very modern and cool coffee house. The perfect spot to sit and enjoy the iced traditional Vietnamese Coffee. As mentioned in previous posts, this was fast becoming new new obsession.

Next.. Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple.

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Hanoi tourists and locals alike head to Hoan Kiem Lake when seeking a place to get away from the noise of the city. Peaceful and quiet, the lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda sitting in the centre on a small island.

The temple attracts many visitors and was built in commemoration of the 13th century military leader Tran Hung Dao who was renowned for his bravery in the battle against the Yuan Dynasty. Stunning, eerie and very commanding of respect. Beautiful temple.

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We jumped out here to take a walk around the lake. You will see all sorts of local customs. From the stunning Red Bridge, food stalls, and the locals enjoying lunch or practising Thai Chi.

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Before much of city wakes up and the constant hum of motorbikes kicks in, there is a peaceful “spiritual” side to Hanoi that many visitors miss. As the fruit sellers set up their wares and the children head to school in their crisp white uniforms, Tai Chi occurs daily in most of Hanoi Park’s. Its beautiful to watch. And a much needed little time out in this hustling city.

And then…..massage time. An absolute joy to have a full body massage to ease the stress of the very touristy day and unwind. Then it’s back to hotel for a cocktail by the pool and a swim and prepare for dinner.

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The City View Cafe, is an Asian bar and casual dining restaurant. It is the perfect place to sit outdoors and look down to the crazy city below. Its intoxicating. The view across the Lake is stunning and simply looking down and watching the cars, bike, buses and people all jostling to get somewhere is an amazing sight from above.

Great food, better cocktails and the ambience is priceless.

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A full exciting and wonderful day in Hanoi.

And that is how Hanoi Day one went down…… Sx

Maldives | Wanderlust Luxury

Maldives | Wanderlust Luxury

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When you think of bucket list travel, you won’t go too far into your wish list before the Maldives pops up. I’m thinking, if you’re like me, probably somewhere in the top three destinations in the world.

Well, it certainly has been on mine for some time, and in January I was fortunate enough to tick it off the bucket list.

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I took advantage of a very cost effective package from Luxury Escapes, some months earlier, and booked The Park Hyatt, Hadahaa in the Maldives. My travelling partner for this super romantic, honeymooner paradise, sunset walk love fest…was my 14 yr old daughter! A strange duo for this type of vacation, I agree, however, it was actually a special and bonding experience for both of us. One I will treasure forever.

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So, before you book your trip, here are few things you should know.

Firstly, if you are travelling pretty much from anywhere in the world, the Maldives are a freaking long way away.

We flew from Melbourne to Singapore, and had a 3 day layover to break up the travel. Singapore is a vibrant and beautiful city, with great shopping, restaurants and some pretty amazing sight seeing.

We visited the the famous Marina Bay Sands.  With 3 mighty towers below, an infinity edge pool at the top, and standing tall at 191 mtrs high in the sky, the view from the Sky Deck is simply breathtaking.  We went at night for the ever impressive view of the CBD city lights and the bay below.

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We then walked across the bridge and down to the Gardens by the Bay. This is Singapore’s number one tourist attraction.

Gardens by the Bay is a huge, colourful, futuristic park in the bay area of Singapore. The famous Supertree structures offer an impressive skywalk over the gardens, over-sized seashell-shaped greenhouses recreate chilly mountain climates and there are hundreds of trees and plants to discover.

Walking through the 3 gardens is magical. At one point during an animated light show, we, along with everyone else, stopped walking and lay on the concrete path and looked up to the night sky to enjoy the most delightful show of music and lighting! Amazing.

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Next stop, the Maldives.

Now, depending on which island you are staying on, depends on how many flights, boats and transfers you will require to get there.  Out of Singapore you will fly to Male, which is the capital of the Maldives. An airport and a small fishing port with not much else, this is island you want to be at for the least amount of time! So book your transfers accordingly.

To get to The Park Hyatt Hadahaa, is quite a trek. We flew out of Singapore mid morning to Male, which takes approximately 4.5hrs. We then waited 2 hours at the Male airport for our connecting domestic island hopper flight to another smaller island.( Approx 1 hr) Then after another wait, we were greeted by the Park Hyatt skipper and jumped aboard a traditional speed boat and taken to the island of Hadahaa, which is another 50 minutes.

The Park Hyatt is located directly on the equator and under the Milky Way, so as I said previously, it’s a freaking long way away! There is nothing else around you either, so its very isolated, which can be a bit confronting, and its tiny!

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But from the minute you arrive, that is all forgotten.

This island is simply breathtaking.

The sand is so white is is blinding.

The ocean is so clear with bright greens and vivid blues, it will take your breath away.

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And this was to be our home for the next 5 nights. A small pinch ourselves moment and then we were taken to our villa.

I decided on the over water bungalows, because once again, it was a bucket list, and I really enjoyed the idea that we could snorkel directly form our deck. Plus, that view of a seemingly never -ending ocean was pretty enticing.

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The island itself is very small, approximately 400m x 500m, so a quick walk around the entire island is very doable.  It is the island you go to if you seriously want to do nothing. Nothing!

I’ll admit at first, my daughter and I were little surprised that it was so small, with limited  things to do. The sum total of the island activities included yoga, snorkelling and kayaking. How would we entertain ourselves for 5 nights and 6 full days!

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But then pretty quickly, we adapted to island life and embraced the nothing. And it was awesome. Doing nothing was what it should be about. No rushing, no scheduling of activities, just reading, relaxing, swimming, talking and…nothing much else. Paradise.

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Of course, if you want dive, surf or escape you can..there are tours daily to other islands nearby, but once we had decided that ‘nothing’ was the nature of the week, thats what we did.

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There is nowhere quite like this in the world. The untouched beauty of this 5 star island resort is impressive. I chatted with the resort manager in length about the design of the resort, and he stressed that when planning the layout of the villas, both land and ocean, it was an important detail in the brief to ensure that minimum landscaping was done. Therefore all of the buildings are set between the foliage, within the pattern of the landscape.

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This is particularly evident upon arrival, where you are taken to the open air, sand floor welcome lobby. It is organic and natural, and is made from locally sourced timber and designed to reflect and upturned traditional Madilvian fishing boat. A perfect welcome.

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The main pool area, just off the beach is also stunning.  A salt water oasis overlooking the ocean was the perfect spot to mix up the tanning and swimming locales.

So I guess in summary, this getaway, albeit quite a trek, was worth every one of the 23hrs to get home! The over water bungalow was simply perfect.

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The morning yoga on the private deck or on the white sand over looking the ocean was surreal.

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The best bit…I spent quality time with one of my kids. That is the kind of bucket list travel to aim for.

…Sx

Detox and Design Tour -Phuket Cleanse Thailand- November 2016

Detox and Design Tour -Phuket Cleanse Thailand- November 2016

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Summer in coming.

That reality often sparks Summer body panic in most of us. It’s now that we scramble to get motivated and shed the winter layer that ever so quietly creeps on. Get ready for less clothing, warmer days, and if you’re like me, the agony of the annual swim wear purchase.

Well, what if I could tell not to panic. Stay calm, and it will all be fine.

I can. And it starts right here with Wanderlust Luxury Travel, in conjunction with Phuket Cleanse, and our ‘Design and Detox’ Tour to Thailand.

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Phuket Cleanse is the world’s most exciting health retreat!  I know for a fact, because I was a guest there earlier this year and really changed my whole attitude to health and fitness. It was amazing.

The Phuket Cleanse package is all inclusive, and this November, it also includes the never done before Design Element, at no additional charge.

You package includes absolutely everything – accommodation, food, cleansing protocols, fitness classes, detox master classes, transportation, excursions, laundry, 4 evening massages per week, and complimentary airport pickup.

Once you have flown into Phuket you need not spend another cent whilst you are there.
It is very flexible and you can arrive at any time of the day or night, on any day of the week, for the duration that suits your travel plans.

In November, the Interior Design team from White Chalk Design,  will be heading over to Phuket Cleanse to consult on the upcoming renovation and makeover of the current villa and retreat facilities. So we have decided to incorporate a “Design” element into the amazing current cleanse and fitness program. Design and Detox is born!

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The Design Element  

You can join us as we shop for the furniture, art and accessories in the local stores and shopping districts.

Learn the art of creating a beautiful functioning bathroom, whilst staying on budget.

How to choose the right tiles, cabinetry materials and fixtures for wet areas.

What is the best paint colour in dark rooms versus lighter rooms.

How to arrange furniture, hang art, and when to use special feature lighting and other bespoke pieces.

Come with us and learn the skills to enable you to design and manage your own renovation at home. Watch and learn as we do site and spatial plans, then arrange concept sheets and imagery for the re-design of the villas.  We can then bring 3D colour concepts to life in the construction phase.

The Design Element is scheduled during  various times in the day, so it won’t interfere with your training, yoga and fitness programs. You will be able to join in on all activities, at your own pace.

It will be very relaxed, informative and most of all, lots of fun.

 

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The Health and Fitness Element 

Experience the Raw Food Lifestyle!

Your chefs in the Phuket Cleanse Raw Food Laboratory will create for you mind blowing dishes that will stimulate your every taste bud. What’s more exciting is they will teach you how to do the same in your raw food cooking classes. You will indulge in a menu that will get your body into peak operating condition.

Each day the kitchen creates the most beautiful raw food cuisine – unique masterpieces some say. They rarely make the same thing twice unless it is a guest favourite. The raw food menu is second to none. It is comprised of fresh organic vegetable and fruit juices along with raw foods that naturally detoxify and assist in restoring the optimal function of the digestive system. We will work with you to tailor your nutritional program to fit your goals.

Click here for more info on the detox and raw food  :

Raw Food Link

 

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Fitness Goals 

Your fitness program is designed to allow you to play in your body every which way and
discover the workouts that make your body sing.

At Phuket Cleanse you create your own personal fitness program from any of the one-hour daily group exercise classes. There are many to choose from:  you can attend workouts from a diverse range of cardio, strength, and flexibility classes. Beach classes, hiking, boxing, TRX, HIIT, kettlebell, running, stretch classes, core strength ..the list goes on and on. And the variety is huge.

Plus..the timetable runs all day. From sunrise until sunset and then into the night. Plus…there are nutritionists, personal trainers, life coaches, wellness coaches, onsite supplements and vitamins, O2 therapy, infrared saunas, massage therapy, cooking classes, ice baths, bikes plus a beautiful pool and relaxation area.

Click here for all of the fitness programs available :

Fitness Link

 

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Yoga Time

Bikram Hot Yoga. Haha and Yin Yoga. Aerial Yoga. Power and Astanga Yoga. Partner and Acro Yoga. Beach Yoga. Sunrise and Sunset Yoga.

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Whatever your yoga style, you can experience it all here. Or, it is the perfect time to try something new. I loved aerial yoga when I was at Phuket Cleanse earlier in the year. It was really incredible. And something that I am so glad that I learned to do.

Click here for the Yoga schedule :

Yoga Link

 

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Mind 

When you meditate in the group meditation, you will experience of ‘quantum coherence’. When a group meditates together, they achieve a group synchronized brainwave state, a potent state for prayer, sending love, and doing manifestation work.

Click here for the mind series inclusions :

Mind Link

 

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The Program 

Head into Summer feeling amazing, in both mind and body.

Learn some important interior design skills .

Cleanse and feel alive again.

Make new friends.

Go to the local markets and enjoy the festivities.

Spend the day on a nearby island, via a traditional Thai fishing boat and then do some snorkelling, swimming, a beach massage or just lie in the sun and breathe it all in.

Hike up to Big Buddha, high on the hill and take in the amazing views over Phuket.

Swim in the pool and then doze in the hammock.

Stand Up Paddle Board in the ocean.

Wander down to end of the street for a mani – pedi, or more massage and beauty treatment options. (Cost not included, but very reasonably priced.)

Watch the sunrise over the water as you do your yoga mediation. Or sleep in…. The daily activity level is entirely up to you. Go hard, or go slow…your choice.

Click here to see the full Phuket Cleanse Program :

Program Link

 

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If you think this might be something you would like to do. Please send me an email and we can book you in.

The Dates

November 15th – November 22. You can choose to join 5 or 7 nights …or more.

The Price

5 days 1 person USD 2,000
5 days 2 people sharing a room USD 3,000 (USD 1,500 each)
7 day 1 person USD 2,660
7 days 2 people sharing a room USD 4,060 (USD 2,030 each)

To convert to AUD, we use –  AUD Convertor

 

Booking

Please email:  serena@whitechalkdesign.com.au to discuss booking your stay, plus anything  you want to know about this tour. We can answer your queries and send you a FAQ sheet.

Also jump onto the Phuket Cleanse site, and get a detailed view as to what it is all about.

If booking with Phuket Cleanse direct, please make sure you mention  you are wishing to book in for the ‘Design and Dextox’ tour.

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Looking forward to seeing you in November!!

 

..Sx

 

 

Vietnam Luxury Tour 2017

Vietnam Luxury Tour 2017

 

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Wanderlust Luxury Travel

Vietnam 2017

Tour Active –  10 Nights / 11 days

Tour Active plus Recharge – 14 Nights / 15 Days

Tour Price Active Only – 10 Nights : $ 5950 per person Twin Share. $ 7950 single

Tour Price Active plus Recharge – 14 Nights : $ 6950 per person Twin Share. $ 8950 single

 

Tour Style: Luxury
Tour Dates: May 2017 FINAL DATE TO BE CONFIRMED

 

Price Includes the following:

Ho Chi Minh (3 nights)

Luxury Boutique 5 Star Fully Escorted

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3 Nights’ luxury accomodation at the iconic 4.5 Star Caravelle Saigon in a Deluxe room located in the centre of the fashion, entertainment district. Free Wifi. Breakfast daily.

Saigon Street Food Night Tour on Bikes or taxi option.
Cu Chi Tunnel Tour via Speedboat along the Saigon River – Includes Lunch Ben Thanh Night Market
Day Spa Half day
Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office and Saigon Cathedral of Notre Dame tour. Arrival and Departure group transport
The Wanderlust Luxury Travel Welcome Pack
Traditional Vietnamese Dinner at Nha Hang Ngon
VIP entry to Glow Rooftop Skybar

 

Hanoi (2 nights)

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Economy Flight from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi
Arrival Transfer to hotel
2 nights’ luxury accomodation at the famous 5 star Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. Deluxe room. Includes WiFi. Breakfast Daily.
Tour the Old Quarter, Lake Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh Square, Vietnam Women’s Museum, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Water Puppet Theatre Show
Dinner at the Vietnamese Rooftop restaurant overlooking Lake Hoan Kiem.

 

Sapa Mountain Village (3 nights)          

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Limousine Transfer from Hanoi to Sapa (approx 5 hours)
2 Nights accomodation at 4 star Victoria Sapa Hotel. Free WiFi. Includes Breakfast & Lunch daily.
Guided tour to Lao Chai, Ta Van Village, Cat Cat, Sin Chai Waterfall
Traditional Vietnamese Market Tour.
Local Dinner
Overnight Train to Hanoi

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Transfer from Hanoi Train Station to Halong Bay
2 Night cruise on the luxury Paradise Cruise on Halong Bay and surrounding areas
Luxury cabin with Ensuite
Welcome Cocktail
Halong Bay Seafood Lunch
Cruise past Hoa Cuong Fishing Village, Soi Sim Beach, Coconut Three Islands
Tour Luon Cave area in a traditional bamboo rowing boat.
Site Seeing includes – Lan Ha Bay, Cua Van Floating village, Tien Ong Cave, Titov Island.     Vietnamese Dinners.
Sunrise Tai Chi Session on the deck
Visit Sung Sot Cave, hike up the 600 steps to the most impressive cave in Halong Bay.
Breakfast included.
Cooking Class.
On Board Spa Treatment.

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Transfer from Ha Long Bay to Hanoi Airport.
Economy flight to Hoi An
3 Nights luxury accomodation at 5 star Sunrise Premium Beach Resort Hoi An. Deluxe Room with breakfast daily.
Fully escorted tailor experience at Yaly for custom clothing.
Walk the streets Behind the Canals.
Visit Japanese Bridge
Fishing Boat tour along the river.
Walk Hoi An Ancient town
Sunrise Yoga
Optional Cooking Class
Transfer To Danang Airport

 

Itinerary Details

Day One

Upon arrival into Ho Chi Minh International Airport, you will be met by your transfer at the airport after baggage and customs/immigration clearance.
Serena will be at the hotel to meet you and ensure that check-in is smooth!
The day or night is yours to settle in, refresh with your spa voucher and acclimatise to the Vietnamese heat.

This evening join everyone for Welcome drink in the bar.

Day Two

After breakfast we take our walking history tour of Ho Chi Minh City.
Located right in the heart of the city, The Central Post Office is one of the oldest buildings in Ho Chi Minh City. It was built around 1886 – 1891, based on the design of Gustave Eiffel – a famous French architect and has become a significant symbol of the city, just like its opposite neighbour Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral, which we will also visit. Diamond Plaza is also located in this district, so a well deserved spot of shopping here is a welcome break from the heat and architectural history tour.

After the walking tour we can head back to hotel to freshen up, relax by the pool or check into the spa for a treatment.

At Sunset it is time to head over to the famous chaotic Ben Thanh Markets, to sample a variety of local produce, ‘designer’ labels and footwear.

After the markets and a traditional light dinner we can enjoy a cocktail at Glow Rooftop Bar.

Meals Included : Breakfast / Dinner

Day Three

After breakfast we take an early history tour to Cu Chi Tunnels via speedboat along the famous Saigon River.
During the Vietnam War, Communist guerrilla troops dug tens of thousands of miles of tunnels, including an extensive network running underneath the Cu Chi district northwest of Saigon. You can choose to crawl through the tunnels or follow the guide above ground. A traditional lunch on a floating pontoon on the river is provided before we head back to Ho Chi Minh on the luxury speedboat.

The afternoon is yours to relax by the pool, or take time out to use you day spa voucher.

At sunset we are collected either by Vespa (if you’re game) or taxi and taken to the back streets of Saigon for our Saigon Steer Food Tour.

A quick, fun and very tasty overview of Ho Chi Minh City’s best street food.
Get a glimpse of local life as you sample a range of dishes in a little neighbourhood that’s been serving cheap and cheerful street food for nearly 30 years.

During the tour, you’ll try everyday Vietnamese dishes, some with a little taste of France, some with a little taste of China. There’s even a little taste of Korea! We finish our eating adventures with Vietnamese dessert-in-a-glass.
This tour is designed to give you the confidence to go out and try street food on your own once you’re released back into the wilds of Ho Chi Minh City.

Meals Included : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day Four

After breakfast we will be collected via luxury transfer and taken to the Ho Chi Minh Airport for our flight to Hanoi.
Luxury transfer from Hanoi Airport to our hotel.
Once settled in at the iconic 5 star Sofitel Legend Metropole, the afternoon is yours to relax by the pool or stroll the tree lined French Inspired streets and get acquainted with beautiful Hanoi.

Tonight we shall be inspired by a traditional sunset Water Puppet Theatre show.
The folkloric water puppet guilds and villages were established and respectfully remained and preserved until now.
The Vietnamese folkloric water puppetry includes: land puppetry and water puppetry.

After the theatre show we shall dine at one of Hanoi’s famous roof top Vietnamese Restaurants, overlooking beautiful Lake Hoan Kiem.

Meals Included : Breakfast, Dinner.

Day Five

After breakfast we head out and take our guided tour to the famous Hi Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Womens Museum, walk around the Lake, and absorb the culture of the famous Hanoi Opera House in the Old Quarter.
Sampling the famous Vietnamese iced Coffee is a ‘must do’

Lunch today is casual and pulling up a stool with a local street vendor and dining on the traditional Vietnamese baguette, Banh Mi. The tasty crunchy roll with fresh herbs and meats is a refreshing treat.

The rest of the afternoon is yours to shop, or relax by the pool.

Dinner / Drinks tonight are your choice to do as you please.

Meals Included : Breakfast, Lunch

Day Six

After breakfast, we head off to stunning mountain village of Sapa. (Luxury Coach)
The Queen of the Mountains, Sapa regally overlooking a beautiful valley, lofty mountains towering over the town on all sides. Welcome to the destination in northwest Vietnam, gateway to another world of mysterious minority cultures and luscious landscapes.

Upon arrival, we will check in to The Victoria Hotel, high in the mountains and then you can enjoy a spa treatment of your choice, to refresh you from our journey.

Dinner tonight is down in the local town square.
A colourful town, full of history, you will be enchanted with the culture, the people and the vibrancy.
After dinner its back to hotel to wind down and prepare for tomorrow.

Meals Included : Breakfast, Dinner.

Day Seven

After breakfast we will be collected for our guided tour of the local villages, waterfalls and markets.
A full day of hiking Ta Phin Village, meeting the local villagers, seeing the homestay accomodation, and exploring this amazing town and nearby areas.

You will be captivated with lush rice terraces, the amazing views and the gentle villagers who live off the land. A truly spectacular day.

The afternoon and evening is yours to rest and relax.

Meals Included : Breakfast

Day Eight

After a breakfast in town, we will be taken to the local markets to partake in the culture that keeps this town buzzing. Produce, local handicrafts and fabrics aplenty. You will be tempted to buy the most amazing cloths and bags. The colour, smell and chaos will cement how amazing this part of the world is.

After lunch, we will drive to the nearby water falls and marvel at the beauty of the waterfall and nearby caves.

This evening we head back to the main town for dinner and then we board our overnight train. The Victoria Express, back to Hanoi.

Meals Included : Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner.

Day Nine / Ten

After an early arrival into Hanoi, we will then be met by our transfer coach and driven to Halong Bay, to board a traditional Indochine vessel for our Halong Bay cruise.
Designed in the style of a traditional Vietnamese junk, it features a spa and sauna. A large sun terrace is available onboard. Free WiFi is available.

The Paradise Luxury Classic is the only ship in Halong Bay to offer royal banquets- don the robes of a dignitary and feast on a menu of delectable Vietnamese cuisine fit for a king. Relax on the sundeck, furnished with comfortable outdoor bed.
Between mealtimes and excursions take part in onboard activities, including cooking demonstrations and an introduction to Vietnam’s fascinating tea and cafe culture.

• Halong Bay Seafood Lunch
• Cruise past Hoa Cuong Fishing Village, Soi Sim Beach, Coconut Three Islands
• Tour Luon Cave area in a traditional bamboo rowing boat.
• Site Seeing includes – Lan Ha Bay, Cua Van Floating village, Tien Ong Cave, Titov Island. •Vietnamese Dinners.
• Sunrise Tai Chi Session on the deck
• Visit Sung Sot Cave, hike up the 600 steps to the most impressive cave in Halong Bay.
• Breakfast included.
• Cooking Class.
• On Board Spa Treatment.

Day Eleven The Relax Package Commences

Today we travel back to the Hanoi Airport, via luxury transfer and board our flight to Hoi An.
** Or if you are leaving us here you can board your next flight to your onward destination.

Upon arrival into Hoi An, we will be transferred via coach to the Luxury 5 star Sunrise Premium Beach Resort, located right on the beach in Hoi An.
The evening is yours to unwind and swim in the large pool or at the beautiful beach. Dinner tonight is located at the poolside bistro.

Day Twelve

Breakfast at your leisure.
Relax by the pool. Lie on the sunbeds at the beach.
Today is all about unwinding and relaxing.
Got for a bike ride to the surrounding beaches, walk across the road from the hotel and have relaxing massage. Do a workout in the state of the art gym. The day is all yours to do as little or a much as you like.

At sunset we will head into Old Hoi An, to wander the streets, and admire the beautiful old town which seemingly has been frozen in time.
A bustling fishing village, it has old world charm and character of the French and Asian influence.

If you would like to visit our recommend tailor Yaly and have garments made, tonight is the night to do so.
We will dine locally in Old Hoi An tonight.

Meals Included : Breakfast, Dinner.

Day Thirteen

Sunrise Yoga
Breakfast
Rest day

Day Fourteen

The morning is yours to do as you wish.
Late afternoon we will take traditional fishing boat along the river to Old Hoi An. We will go and collect any custom made clothes.
Walk over the famous Japanese Bridge, light a river candle and make a wish, then onto a local restaurant for our farewell dinner.
Then its back to hotel to pack and prepare for departure tomorrow.

Meals Included : Breakfast, Dinner.

Day Fifteen

Check out, say our goodbyes and begin the journey home or if you’re continuing on..to your next destination.

 

Not included in tour

International Airfares; Items of a personal nature; phone calls; passport; laundry; tips except for meals/beauty services included in the itinerary (beverage tips separate); personal transport; vaccinations; excess baggage; travel insurance.
Meals not specifically mentioned in the itinerary; beverages unless specifically described. Optional excursions or activities that may be offered but not included in the tour price.

Hanoi Eat and Drinks Diary Part One

Hanoi Eat and Drinks Diary Part One

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Hanoi. Such a beautiful city.

Exploding with life and culture and chaos, all encompassed in beautiful French Architecture, traditional simple Vietnamese lifestyle and the freshest of fresh cuisine.

The first and most important decision when travelling is the hotel choice. This can be a make or break for your chosen time in any given city.

Without a doubt, the best hotel in Hanoi is The Sofitel Metropole. Hands down.

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The Hotel Metropole Hanoi is an award-winning French colonial-style hotel lying in the heart of Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem Lake and the magnificent Opera House.

Boasting a classical white façade, green shutters, original wrought iron detail, wood paneling and a lush courtyard lawn, the hotel is one of the region’s few remaining hotels of its era.

Located steps from the Opera House in Hanoï’s French Quarter, this legendary property brings guests into intimate contact with the opulence of another era.

Surround yourself in heritage as you stroll stately corridors and explore a dramatic past. Behind its classical white façade green shutters original wrought iron details and stately wood paneling reside over a century of stories.

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Some of the most famous people in the world have chosen to stay here. The hotel has seen a myriad of prominent visitors throughout its reign, including famous actors such as Charlie Chaplin, who one of the property’s suites is named after. Chaplin celebrated the most special of moments at the hotel, notably, his honeymoon in 1936.

Other frequent guests include revered world dignitaries and famed celebrities. It was at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi that the first motion picture showing occurred within the region, and it is the locale where Somerset Maugham wrote The Gentleman in the Palour, and where Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American.

Can you believe this….what a discovery…forty years after the bombs stopped falling on Hanoi, and less than one year after a chance discovery of an air raid shelter in its back garden, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi has opened the excavated bunker as the anchor attraction in a new Path of History tour.

You can go deep underground and explore the air raid shelter built during the war.  It has been said that the guests were ushered underground during the raids and then after wards ally led back to the dining room or bar to continue socialising…How surreal.

 

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Watch my FB live video as I tour the grounds of the Sofitel.

Next stop..the full tourist day.

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If you are prepared to battle the chaotic traffic, the heat and the crowded streets, then start walking to see the amazing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum the large memorial in Hanoi. It is located in the center of Ba Dinh Square, which is the place where Vietminh leader Ho Chi Minh, Chairman of the Communist Party of Vietnam from 1951 until his death in 1969, read the Declaration of Independence on 2 September 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The structure is 21.6 meters (70.9 feet) high and 41.2 meters (135.2 feet) wide. Flanking the mausoleum are two platforms with seven steps for parade viewing. The plaza in front of the mausoleum is divided into 240 green squares separated by pathways. The gardens surrounding the mausoleum have nearly 250 different species of plants and flowers, all from different regions of Vietnam.

The embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh is preserved in the cooled, central hall of the mausoleum, which is protected by a military honor guard. The body lies in a glass case with dim lights. The mausoleum is closed occasionally while work is done to restore and preserve the body but is normally open daily from 09:00 to 11:00 to the public. Lines of visitors, including visiting foreign dignitaries, pay their respects at the mausoleum every day.

After a quick look, and a moment of silence , we hailed a taxi, negotiated a fair price ($12) and arranged for the driver to take us and see more iconic monuments before taking us back to the hotel.

The high level of humidity, the midday sun, cranky kids plus my white shorts and the now streaky spray tan streaming down my legs…was the dominating factor in this decision.  Luckily for us our driver was super knowledgeable on all historical events and monuments in Hanoi. Big bonus. Plus aircon. Double bonus.

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‘Binhs Taxi Luxury Tour’ then headed over to the beautiful Hanoi Opera House.

One of the few places in Hanoi to catch a symphony, this century-old French colonial building is a major city landmark. While the interior could use some sprucing up, this imposing Opera House is still on the list of top things to see in Hanoi, given its architectural beauty, historical significance and repertoire of internationally celebrated musicians.

Completed in 1911 after 10 years of work, in its heyday this popular Hanoi attraction served as a center for high-end entertainment, theater and classical music. Frequented by French colonial officials and their wives and largely unvisited by the Vietnamese, the Hanoi Opera House was a monument of European culture. For most of the French era, artists who performed at the Opera House were almost exclusively European, but in the 1940s Vietnamese could rent what they called ‘the Western theatre’ to hold special performances and concerts, especially to raise money for charitable causes such as victims of floods.

Just outside the Opera House is a very modern and cool coffee house. The perfect spot to sit and enjoy the iced traditional Vietnamese Coffee. As mentioned in previous posts, this was fast becoming new new obsession.

Next.. Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple.

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Hanoi tourists and locals alike head to Hoan Kiem Lake when seeking a place to get away from the noise of the city. Peaceful and quiet, the lake surrounds Ngoc Son Temple, a pagoda sitting in the centre on a small island.

The temple attracts many visitors and was built in commemoration of the 13th century military leader Tran Hung Dao who was renowned for his bravery in the battle against the Yuan Dynasty. Stunning, eerie and very commanding of respect. Beautiful temple.

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We jumped out here to take a walk around the lake. You will see all sorts of local customs. From the stunning Red Bridge, food stalls, and the locals enjoying lunch or practising Thai Chi.

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Before much of city wakes up and the constant hum of motorbikes kicks in, there is a peaceful “spiritual” side to Hanoi that many visitors miss. As the fruit sellers set up their wares and the children head to school in their crisp white uniforms, Tai Chi occurs daily in most of Hanoi Park’s. Its beautiful to watch. And a much needed little time out in this hustling city.

And then…..massage time. An absolute joy to have a full body massage to ease the stress of the very touristy day and unwind. Then it’s back to hotel for a cocktail by the pool and a swim and prepare for dinner.

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The City View Cafe, is an Asian bar and casual dining restaurant. It is the perfect place to sit outdoors and look down to the crazy city below. Its intoxicating. The view across the Lake is stunning and simply looking down and watching the cars, bike, buses and people all jostling to get somewhere is an amazing sight from above.

Great food, better cocktails and the ambience is priceless.

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A full exciting and wonderful day in Hanoi.

And that is how Hanoi Day one went down…… Sx

Eat and Drinks Diary – Ho Chi Minh City- Part One

Eat and Drinks Diary – Ho Chi Minh City- Part One

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One of my favourite cities.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Formally known as Saigon..

It is famous for the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War, stunning French architecture, traffic mayhem , cheap guesthouses and 5 Star hotels, street food and high end roof top bars, crowded markets and luxury designer stores.

It is a crazy and intoxicating clash of commerce and culture. And it will grab you by the throat and drag you along for the ride. This is why it is one of my favourite cities…

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So, we left a chilly Melbourne winter and flew via Singapore with Jetstar to Ho Ch Minh. Its an easy trip. We arrived at 9pm local time and after a seamless exit through customs and visa approval, we hopped straight into the pre booked a car that was waiting kerbside. I always suggest this as my preferred option upon arrival. It can be a bit daunting landing in a foreign country at night and its just easier to spend a little more and get to the hotel. (**check with your hotel prior to travel, as most will offer courtesy shuttle, so you can pre book it before you leave home.)

I had booked the Hotel Liberty Central Riverside. It is as it sounds, on the Saigon river, located in District One, which is the best district for nightlife and shopping. 600 mtrs to the Ben Thanh Market, 20 minute walk to the Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon and only 15 minutes to The Saigon Opera House. It has a fitness centre and roof top bar with a pool..so all my preferences were ticked!

Life balance!

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http://odysseahotels.com/saigon-centre-hotel

 

Day One:

After a traditional Vietnamese breakfast which consists of Pho Bo ( beef noodle soup), lots of chilli, coriander, bamboo shoots and fresh lime…we hit the Ben Thanh Markets.

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This is the place to find local handicrafts, ‘faux’ Nikes and lots of T-shirts, sunglasses, belts , travel bags and electronics …You name it ..and it is here. It also has an amazing array of market food, fruit, vegetables, dried fruits and most important the Vietnamese herbs and greens for the traditional street foods and soups.

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Expect to spend about 2- 3 hours here and prepare to bargain. Start at half asking and creep up to no more than two thirds of the original price. The Vietnamese people thrive and expect bargaining…so don’t be shy.

Getting used to the traffic in Vietnam is probably the most difficult task to master.  The streets are full of honking trucks, taxis and motorbikes on a intensity level not known in Western Countries, with road rules that don’t exist. Bikes, cars and people seem simultaneously, collectively and individually to be heading straight at each other.

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Be warned, drivers will not slow down, or stop, so therefore you must be confident. Step out into the traffic, start walking, keep an even gait at all times  and just keep walking.

DO NOT STOP. I liken it to blood flow. It keeps going and flowing at a natural pace. The traffic will ebb around you. They anticipate your speed and adjust to suit. The honking of horns is considered a polite gesture…to let you know they are near…not as an angry one. So take a deep breath and go for it. (it will take you a day to get used to it.)

Once we had loaded up at the markets, it was time for lunch. Vietnam is all about fresh  and light food. So we headed to a local restaurant and ordered all the traditional options. More Pho soup, fresh rice paper rolls, vegetable noodles and completed the feast with my new obsession.

Vietnamese Coffee.

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Iced or hot, this is an addictive blend of ox-strong black coffee and sweetened condensed milk. Addictive. Delicious. Heart Racer. More please.

After lunch we did what any other 3 gals would do next…hit the day spa. We found a clean, modern beauty salon near the market and proceeded to spend the next four hours being completely pampered. Leg scrubs, body massages, facial steams, eyelash extensions, tummy wraps, pedicures, manicures, eyebrow wax, hand massage, foot massage, head massage..total cost $300.

It was the best few hours and totally refreshed we headed back to hotel to change for the night time activities.

… Sx

 

Snail Mucin. The latest skincare craze from Asia.

Snail Mucin. The latest skincare craze from Asia.

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Move over Snake Venom. Take a seat Bee Pollen. Dragons Blood? Out! …There’s a new craze in town and its slowly taking off. (no pun intended)

Snail Mucin.

When we think of snails, we think of our basic garden variety. (do not to step on them.)

Or the uber chic French variety. (eat them.)

Now, the Asian variety. (slather it all over  your face.)

Thanks to a skincare obsessed culture in Asia, there’s always a new way to plump, rejuvenate, hydrate, and purify your skin—and the ingredients are most likely in some form of a nature. Unlike most Western beauty products, Asian skincare tends to emphasize natural ingredients over harsh chemicals. And what could be more natural than snail slime?

Snail enzyme is a high-efficacy active ingredient comprised of proteins, glycolic acids and elastin commonly found in skin creams and sheet masks.

Like the name suggests, snail cream is made from snail mucin extract—the mucus that protects and heals the snail’s undercarriage when it slides over jagged terrain.
In beauty products, snail mucin firms and restores skin by replenishing moisture and supporting cell regeneration (which helps fade acne scars, smooth uneven complexions and reduce hyperpigmentation).1428430850-snail2.jpg

Click to Buy : http://www.sephora.com/premium-time-returning-serum-P376222?om_mmc=aff-linkshare

Discovered in Chile, by a group of Chilean snail farmers who noticed that handling the critters softened the skin on their hands and quickly healed any cuts. Naturally, one of the first snail creams on the market was launched by a Chilean beauty brand. And then quickly went worldwide.

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Never one to shy away from an innovative skincare product. And being slightly obsessed with all things skincare, (thanks Mum!) I had no choice but to pick up some creamy snail muscus in a jar, whilst on a recent trip to Asia.

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(Click to Buy : http://www.yesstyle.com/en/snailwhite-snail-white-snail-secretion-filtrate-moisture-facial-cream/info.html/pid.1035326332)

I chose to buy the Snail White cream. Then went back and added the facial mask and brightening cream. I also bought a couple of jars of traditional snail secretion cream from a pharmacy in Thailand. The packaging is not as pretty, its all written in Thai, but I was assured its the real deal. I hope!

I have been using the Snail White, think Snow White… for about 2 weeks and I think my skin appears fuller and maybe a little softer. The cream itself is quite rich, odour free and does feel little slimy, but I think that could just be mind over matter thing. It feels nice once it settles and wears well under makeup.

So, if you see me crawling across the garden path, real slow, with super glowing skin…

It worked.

 

…Sx

So, I Tried a Health Retreat in Thailand. Hello Phuket Cleanse.

So, I Tried a Health Retreat in Thailand. Hello Phuket Cleanse.

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I’m not very Zen. I try to meditate and I become restless. I eat well 5 days a week then I snack too much on the weekends. I travel frequently, so any credit I gain in fitness and health reverts back far quicker than it took to achieve. I work out 6 days a week and I’m still chubby. As Will Farrell says, “I work out just to look fat.”

So, I decided to try something completely opposite to what I’ve been doing for the past few years. Focus on my core fitness, eat raw food and learn to mediate and do yoga.

How? A Health Retreat. In Thailand. For 7 days. Say hello to Phuket Cleanse.   (http://phuketcleanse.com)

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Phuket Cleanse is a one stop retreat with the emphasis on fitness, nutrition and detox education. It is based in Rawai Beach, South of Phuket, and is run by an American couple Mel and Stanton Proctor. This actually was one of the main selling points for me when I was online researching retreats. The Americans are number one in the world for customer service, so I figured it would be very highly service orientated and organised. My hunch paid off. It was. And more.

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Upon landing in Thailand, my eldest daughter (who I bribed into coming with me) were greeted by the retreat driver and driven directly to Phuket Cleanse. We landed late at night, so check in was quick and once in our rooms we slept well and woke ready to take on this new and exciting challenge.

Day One went something like this: Sunrise meditation Yoga at the beach. Let me just say, it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever done. The sun rising, the calming mindfulness and the stretching was the hands down (no pun intended) best way to start the day. I plan to do it daily at home. I just won’t have that stunning view!

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Breakfast at 7am – select from raw food, eggs, juices, elixirs, and smoothies. All the food is raw vegan and simply delicious. Clean, healthy and fresh. There is a communal eating area, so day one you feel a little like the new kid in school, but within no time you are chatting with people from all over the world. Everyone is there for different reasons and ultimately the same goal. The learn to create a healthier version of themselves. Most guests were repeat customers so that was very encouraging.

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There is daily timetable with all of the activities listed and you simply choose how you would like to spend the day. There are multiple activities going on at one time, including yoga, running, Muay Thai Boxing, Bikram yoga, stretching, TRX, HIIT, and more …so the choice is huge.You simply choose to do a little or as much as you like. We chose a morning hike around Amphoe Mueang, which was uphill, hot and pretty hard. At the top there is a stunning view and 50 squats. It was a good way to settle in, adjust to the heat and acclimatise to our new surroundings.

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We then headed back to retreat to try out the infamous ice bath before lunch. To sit in a spa filled with ice at a general temp of minus 5* was challenge to say the least. I only managed to go in and jump straight out. A total of about 1 second. My whole body was shocked and it literally took my breath away. The goal is to sit in the ice water, hands and toes out of the ice, for obvious reasons..you want to keep them!…for about 15-20 minutes. The reason…An ice bath simply freezes you back into a youthful version of you. Getting sun, participating in cold thermogenesis, and sweating in a steam sauna and an infrared sauna are all ways that will help you feel rejuvenated! So we alternated between the ice and the steam room and then headed to lunch. (by the end of the 7 days I was able to sit in the ice bath for 15 minutes..yay me)

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More delicious raw salads and vegetables and then we had an orientation meeting. To discuss the program and what we planned to achieve. Included in the retreat is a consultation with a nutritionist,  a fitness instructor, a life coach, plus a host of others. We locked in all of our relevant meetings and then it was time to soak up some sun (vItamin D and rest is paramount in achieving good health) and then prepare for the afternoon activities, cooking lessons and coaching talks.

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We chose Muay Thai boxing with a professional Thai boxing champ at the gym and it was intense. The heat is about 38*, the humidity is high and you can feel all the toxins escaping as you sweat it all out. Such a great workout.

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Back to the retreat, for dinner and a massage and then to bed. Day one was intense and extremely satisfying.

I don’t plan to list what we did everyday, because there is actually just too much to write..we did so much.  So, I will list at the end of this post the breakdown of how it goes at Phuket Cleanse and a little brief as to what its all about courtesy of ‘Book Yoga Retreats Thailand” Scroll to the bottom to read more.

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So…I have come away from this experience, with more knowledge about how important it is to be mindful, relax and eat clean. Life is a balance but we can all benefit from slowing our pace and being grateful for who we are. I have learnt that training hard and fast is not always the right thing to do. Stretching, yoga and walking may be a better way to stay healthy and fit. Have you ever seen a chubby yoga instructor…No? I didnt’t think so.

Ps Aerial Yoga is my new thing…go find somewhere local to you and try it..Its amazing! Seriously. You’ll really enjoy the challenge.

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I loved this experience at Phuket Cleanse and after 7 days I feel clean, lighter and motivated to continue the with the knowledge I learned whilst there. I plan to go back. I have included some images of our time there, we made some wonderful friends, and I was extremely lucky to share it all with my daughter.

Until Next time Phuket Cleanse….. Sx

 

 

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So…What is it all about:

Fitness and workouts (five cardio classes, five weekly HIIT cardio classes, five weekly Muay Thai classes, and 15 weekly strength and conditioning classes, three weekly walking hikes)
Various yoga styles sessions to choose from (five Aerial yoga classes, 10 Bikram and Hot flow yoga classes, five Hatha and Yin yoga, three Power and strength yoga, and three beach and outdoor yoga)
Spa and recovery treatments (four weekly evening massages, daily ice bath and herbal steam sauna, far infrared sauna, daily magnesium body scrub, and 1 complimentary natural spa treatment)
Beach trips and activities (weekly ocean therapy beach trips, one weekly health store shopping trip, one weekly trip to Olympic athlete training center, one weekly boat trip to coral island, and one weekly trip to night market)
Schedule orientation and consultations (pre-arrival guide book, induction and orientation,one complimentary weekly health and fitness consultation, and one complimentary physiotherapy consultation)
Educational classes (five weekly raw food cooking classes, five weekly health and fitness educational classes, guided meditation classes)

Detox supplements
Phuket Cleanse provide a full range of supplements – protein, wheat-grass, spirulina, and dark leafy green juices and salads.

One weekly health store shopping trip
One weekly boat trip to coral island
One weekly trip to night market
One weekly trip to Olympic athlete training centre
Weekly ocean therapy beach trips

Oxygen therapy
Breathe in electricity! Oxygen therapy for 20 minutes will deliver more electrons into your system and brighten up your mood and clarity. What does it mean to be fully human? What does it mean to activate the bells and whistles of our DNA? You will know when you experience the Phuket Cleanse ‘Electrify me’ treatment that includes oxygen, ozone, far infrared sauna, ice bathing, and helio therapy.

Magnesium meltdown
Phuket Cleanse have created a daily magnesium sweat lodge experience to nutrify you with magnesium and trace minerals from the Dead Sea, Epsom Salt Lake, and the Himalayan Mountains, among other places. You will begin to know what it was like to be human when magnesium and minerals were abundant in every bite of our food. You will notice increased sharpness, clarity, reduced anxiety, and an overall feeling of being whole.

Infrared sauna therapy
The far infrared sauna with Ozone delivers electrons (little particles of electricity) into your system. The process will boost your metabolism and provide great healing. As part of your all-inclusive program, you will be excited to book in daily for this treatment as a powerful boost to your healing!

Juicing
The best part of this juicing program is that you will pick up the juicing habit while there and will return home a lifelong juicer. Most customers start living more and more on juice when they return home due to the energy and sense of well-being juicing provides them. Phuket Cleanse, are always creating and improving their juices, making sure they provide guests with the optimal balance of nourishment.

Promthep cape
Leading up the mountain from the Nong Han lagoon is Phuket’s most famous viewpoint, Promthep cape – where Phuket Cleanse sometimes do sunrise yoga and Tai Chi. This popular spot is framed by a collection of white windmills gently blowing on the hills behind, but the main attraction is in the small island slightly out to sea.

Sunday boat trip and snorkeling
The Sunday boat trip, island hopping on a traditional Thai longtail boat, is incredibly popular with guests. You will tend to visit Coral island, as it has some wonderful snorkeling activities – look out for crabs, starfish, and other marine creatures! It’s just a 20 minute boat ride away from the resort.

(You can stay 3  nights, 5 , 7 or endless. Rates are approx $400USD pp per night,all inclusive.)

 

http://phuketcleanse.com/resort/

 

48 hours & Sydney’s Finest Bars

48 hours & Sydney’s Finest Bars

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This week was fun.

I flew to Sydney to attend the annual design trade fair, where I am able to source new furniture and homeware accessories for our current design and interior projects at White Chalk Design.  (http://www.whitechalkdesign.com.au)

It is always a productive few days and there is nothing better better than sourcing new products for clients as they are being released hot off the press.

But…what I enjoy more, is finding inspiration out of the design fairs. Out and about. Researching and staying in new hotels. Checking out the latest bars and pubs. Sampling what I can from the real world and determining whether elements can be utilised in our projects.

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Primus Hotel Sydney : (http://www.primushotelsydney.com)

Art Deco Glamour.

Recently launched and located right in the heart of Sydney at 339 Pitt Street, this brand new, seriously stunning hotel,  housed the Sydney Water Board’s offices from the building’s construction in 1939 until 2009. The former Sydney Water Rating Chamber, once a bustling office space, is now the hotel’s lobby, a grand room with cathedral-like dimensions. Eight spectacular red scagliola columns, each eight metres tall, surround a large, beautifully restored skylight.

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It is truly stunning. The old world vibe mixes beautifully with the original restoration and the new design elements.  The ground floor used to house the 30 or so secretary offices partitioned by frosted glass, and a bustling work place.  You can literally close your eyes and be instantly transported to the chic 1930s. Glamorous women in pencil skirts, high heels and cigarette holders, typing on manual typewriters, whilst the male boss barks orders in a charcoal suit and hat. I swear I heard them echoing around the walls!

As and to the old, the designers have kept the old drinking bubblers on the walls for authenticity. Ceramic bowls with rust anchored on geometric wall paper walls. Classic old meets new. (the bubblers are for show only)

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Also occupying the ground floor is the lobby bar and the Wilmot, a high-end restaurant serving contemporary Asian cuisine. The design and vast material selection is mix of Art Deco,  Hollywood Regency and New York 5Th Avenue. It soothes the senses and is indeed aimed at the highest 5 star market.

There is also a roof top deck with pool and bar which is very calming and much needed in the hustle of the busy Sydney CBD. The perfect spot to sip on a refreshing Whisky Sour and unwind.

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Even the bathrooms are fancy. I mean seriously, what is not to love here??  Limestone, marble, gold, black,  white…Tick. Tick. Tick. Heaven. Thank you Primus Hotel.

 

Bondi Icerbergs: (http://icebergs.com.au)

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A slight change in pace, after walking most of the day through the design fair at Homebush,  we headed down to the famous Bondi Beach and on to Bondi Icebergs for lunch. The sun was shining, the beautiful people were lounging around the pools and the almost famous celebrities were eating lunch in the main restaurant. If you’re visiting Bondi, you can visit the surf club section for a bite to eat, the main Icebergs Bistro or Terrace Bar for a fancy lunch or dinner, or simply pay $6 and laze in the historic ocean sea bath. The choice is yours and any option is a winner.

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The atmosphere here is pretty chilled. The view and ocean is the key player, so it is very cathartic to just sit and sip a chilled Rose and enjoy the ambience. So thats what we did. Until dusk.

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Coogee Pavilion: (http://merivale.com.au/coogeepavilion)

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Deciding to stay beachside, I was keen to explore the latest quirky hotel fitout by the Merivale group and Justin Hemmes. Famous for Sydney bars such as The Ivy, The Establishment, Hemmesphere…to name just a few from this ever growing empire.

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This Hotel is located right on the beach at Coogee. It has 180* views of the ocean. It is amazing. 3 floors and a roof top bar, this pub is probably the quirkiest of all the Hemmes thus far.

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You wander through the rooms and can feast your eyes on hundreds of vignettes set around the 3 floors. I can’t even begin to imagine where they source these items from, but this is what certainly adds the eccentric character to this beachside pub. Its a focal and talking point. Especially if your table has critters under glass looking at you.

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The roof top bar was my favourite. Sitting upstairs, with the ocean summer breeze, cocktail in hand, it felt very Bahamas mixed with Maui, and a sprinkle of Out Of Africa thrown in for good measure. Apparently the design brief for the roof top bar was based on a fictional character… an eccentric botanist in his conservatory. That works!

The Rooftop houses four indoor and outdoor bars each with its own exotic flair.

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Walk the famous beachside track from Bondi to Coogee and then you have no excuse to indulge at the Coogee Pavillion. Life’s a balance after all.

Hotel Palisade: (http://hotelpalisade.com)

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Switching gear on Day 2 (not really..another bar) and I was determined to find the latest roof top bar Henry Deane, at The Palisade Hotel in Millers Point. I had seen images of it on Instagram and wanted to see it for myself.

I should point out, my 20 year old daughter accompanied me on this ‘work trip’ and was quite surprised (aka pleased) to hunt out bars and hotels, rather than the more traditional mother /daughter get away of shopping and mani / pedis.

So, this stunning 100 year old building, sits alone and is now a multi-level boutique pub/cocktail bar/hotel. It was once an overnight nap-and-grog stop for Anzacs and “wharfs”.  A newly built rooftop cocktail bar, above the pub,  pays homage to the Australian engineer-architect who designed the building, Henry Deane.

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The cocktail bar, which sits over two levels – the top floor and rooftop of the original hotel is very fresh and light.  It’s complete with pink-leather sofas, copper furnishings, double-hung windows and marble everywhere.

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Separate to the Henry Deane bar, there are nine boutique hotel rooms opened in December and each named after an Anzac. Half have views over Barangaroo and the waterfront. The other half look out over Millers Point towards the bridge. It is quite small upstairs, cosy in fact… but this just adds to feeling of being in the right place. And that view!

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Downstairs is more black and white and geometric, with wall panels and custom papers plus exotic leathers and masculine sofas. The ground floor is a typical old school pub. We actually thought we may have been at the wrong spot when we got there. Its very understated. But very busy.

As a designer it is so refreshing to see a shift away from the cold retro, prohibition style bar design that seems to be everywhere at the moment.

Every new bar these days seems to have red exposed brick, copper exposed bulbs, no soul and is bare, boring… and on every corner.

Let it go people. It’s time.

Lets do more Detail. More Design. More Accessories. More Products. More Glamour.

More everything.

Thank you Sydney for the inspiration and being a perfect host.

 

…Sx

One & Only Hayman Resort : Day One

One & Only Hayman Resort : Day One

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Hayman Island.

Luxury. Indulgent. Breathtaking.

This year I was fortunate enough to visit quite possibly one of the most beautiful Islands in the world…Big call I know…But I remain firm…Hayman Island is a premier resort located amongst the Whitsunday Islands, offering unrivalled luxury.

To put it mildly…it’s pretty freaking perfect!

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From the minute you land, the full luxury, rock star treatment begins. The handsome crew from Hayman Island Luxury Launch Crew meet you at the airport, then with the utmost discretion lead you into a cool air-conditioned room to refresh and sip a glass of bubbly. Whilst you relax, they collect and load your luggage onto the Island’s very own luxury super yacht. Once aboard, more bubbles, canapés and the crew present you with a welcome pack, your room key and you’re all checked in. It feels indulgent because it is!

A one-hour luxury launch transfer is an experience itself, departing the Great Barrier Reef Airport and gliding through the water to and from your island paradise, the perfect way to start this vacation…costs vary, but expect to pay $200 return p/p.  If you choose to arrive on Hayman by helicopter or private sea plane from the airport, the cost jumps again to approximately $1000 p/p…

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Hayman staff greet you at the jetty upon arrival, one staff member per couple, and escort you by buggy to your resort room. It is quite the cavalcade, and once again reiterates the very personal and luxurious experience that the One & Only hotel brand is world renowned for.

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A massive renovation of Hayman Island commenced in 2013 and officially relaunched as One & Only Hayman Island in 2014. You very quickly see where the $300 million plus was spent, and it hasn’t been in vain. Hayman Island has received numerous international awards and recognitions. ‘Conde Nast Traveler’ has named Hayman Island as one of the ‘Top 3 Hotels and Resorts Worldwide’, and Forbes Magazine went one step further, declaring it ‘The World’s Best Beach Resort’. Hayman Island is the only Australian island to be accepted as a member of the prestigious organisation ‘The Leading Hotels of the World’.

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So its a big deal for this resort that originally opened in 1950 with a few beach shacks and a modest swimming pool. In 1980, a new vision for Hayman when Ansett Chairman, and my old boss!, Sir Peter Abeles, set out to create a truly magnificent luxury resort, establishing Australia’s highest standards and unsurpassed service. Hayman closed in 1985 and a $300 million rebuild project commenced. In 1987 the Pool Wing opens and we are introduced to the iconic Hayman salt water pool, that winds its way through the West Wing of the resort. (It is the size of 7 olympic size pools)

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Over the next 2 decades it is bought and sold to various hotel groups and millions and million are spent in upgrading and expansion of the resort. And wow…..it was worth every cent.

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So… back to us…and accomodation…we decided to stay in a beach view suite. The accomodation levels are varied and as the resort only accommodates a small number of guests, the once 300 rooms …now 150 larger rooms are spacious and you never feel crowded. Once again..this helps the luxury vibe. Very little noise. Or people.

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The pool access rooms are smaller, but the ground level has direct access to the magnificent swimming lagoon. A private deck, sun beds and a ladder to the pool…you may never leave your room!

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Or, if you are feeling very indulgent, you may prefer to stay in a full beach villa with your own private pool, hammock and garden.

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The room choice is pretty endless, but whatever style you choose, trust me, you won’t be complaining.

Day One……

…Sx