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#TravelInReality – Week 2

Hey everyone! We’re comin at ya from Phong Nha – in the middle of no where. This is the second post of our #TravelInReality series. If you haven’t read the intro, you can go here. Also, you can read last week’s post here.

We will be answering questions about traveling together as a couple – the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ll be writing week-by-week, and this week we traveled from Nha Trang to Hoi An to Phong Nha in Vietnam. If you have any questions you want us to answer, leave a comment below or send us an email!


1.) Where did you travel to this week, where did you stay (5 star or no star) and how did you get there?

We took the 11 hour over night train from Nha Trang to Danang where we jumped in a taxi for the hour journey to Hoi An and checked into the Phuoc An Hotel (2 star) for two nights. Next we ventured back to Danang and boarded a train to Dong Hoi where we once again jumped in an hour taxi ride to Phong Nha where we checked into the Phong Nha Farmstay.

2.) What was the most challenging part of this week?

KP: Definitely the 10-hour overnight train ride from Nha Trang to Hoi An. Omg, it was one of the worst trips I’ve ever taken. From the smell of cigarettes to a baby screaming, I had a splitting headache the whole time. Not to mention, we were too big for our third tier bunk!

Sam: The overnight train from Nha Trang to Danang was pretty shite. A six-bed sleeper where we had the top bunks, two feet of space to move and breathe the limited amounts of air and a baby that didn’t know how to keep quiet. We both got no sleep and we felt so dirty when we left the train from the old pillows and bed sheets we were forced to use.

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Gettin comfy in our sleeper beds.

3.) What was the most annoying thing he/she did this week?

KP: He likes to ask me a million times if I locked the door or the suitcase, then proceeds to show me exactly how to do it, like I’m 12 years old.

Sam: Her frustration when reading directions on a map. Mapping is something I usually will leave up to Kelly because I have no interest in figuring out the problem of getting from A to B. Sometimes its fun to see her get frustrated and angry and blame ‘the map’ or for the worst directions ever. We however always seem to get into an argument over map reading and I try to be a voice of reason, which to her comes off as being rude and all hell breaks loose. Maybe not saying anything at all will be better next time.

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Exploring Hoi An

4.) Did you do anything romantic?

KP: Not intentionally, but I’ve noticed that anytime we cross a street, we always reach out for each other’s hand. Pretty sure we’ve done this since our first day in Ho Chi Minh City.

Sam: I told her I loved her each day. I also sat in a store while she had a dress fitted in Hoi An …. That’s pretty romantic. Also gave her a kiss in the Dark Cave in Phong Nha.

5.) What was the number one topic that came up the most?

KP: If it wasn’t about whether there were bugs in our bed or not, then it would be our hopes and fears about job prospects when we get back to the real world.

Sam: Besides discussing our travel logistics… this week Kelly brought up marriage on a couple of occasions. However I just played it off like it was nothing.

KP: In my defense, I brought it up when discussing visa logistics!

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Kayaking through flooded rice paddies in Phong Nha

6.) What was the best bar or restaurant you went to?

KP: Hgon Luc in Hoi An. Hands down. It’s a small, two story restaurant on the waters edge with a roof top bar and amazing set menus. For $7, I got an order of Cau Lau (noodle dish), White Rose (minced pork dumpling with garlic) and Fried Wonton – all local and unique to Hoi An. It also came with spring rolls, grilled fish in banana leaf, steamed vegetables and rice. It finished with a chocolate banana pancake. FOR SEVEN DOLLARS!

Sam: The best restaurant would have to have been ‘Café 43’ which is in Hoi An. This authentic Vietnamese family run restaurant has insanely delicious food at the cheapest of prices.

7.) Favourite memory from the week?

KP: Pretty much our entire 3 days in Phong Nha. That place is magical. On our first day, we met two American guys, who we got on with really well, and we explored the area with them. We went exploring through caves, ziplining, motorbiking, swimming, and even got a mud bath inside a cave. It was unreal. Huge thanks to Sean and Peter for being awesome dudes!

Sam: It would have to have been sitting in a hammock up on the cliff line at the Wild Boar Eco Lodge in Phong Nha. The view is stunning photos cant give it justice.

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Relaxing at the end of civilisation

9.) If you could tell your partner one thing you wish he/she did differently, what would it be?

KP: I wish he would shave his beard.

Sam: I wish she would wear matching pairs of socks that are not worn inside out. It’s embarrassing.

10.) From 0 to 10, 0 being “I could break up with him/her right now” to 10 being “I could marry him/her right now”, how in love do you feel after this week?

KP: This week was truly incredible. To be honest, we barely even fought, which is saying a lot for two long term travelers who are both really stubborn. I’d say we’re sitting comfortably at a 7/10.

Sam: After her marriage talk earlier this week she lost a point in my books for being pushy. So she is sitting at a comfortable 7/10. Good job pal.

Motorbiking through Phong Nha

Motorbiking through Phong Nha

Fun Fact About Sam/Kelly:

KP: Sam’s deathly afraid of heights. But he went ziplining so I’ve got to give him props for conquering that fear!

Sam: Kelly has a tiny upper lip.


 

Stay tuned for next week! To stay up to date, subscribe to the blog!

Review: Rainbow Divers, Nha Trang, Vietnam

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After a week of walking around the streets of Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, I was definitely ready to jump back in the water and explore the big blue. Once arriving in Nha Trang we were quick to head over to the Rainbow Divers Shop and organize our two days of diving.

Rainbow Diver’s are the longest established and only PADI dive center, CDC and IDC’s that operates in Vietnam and have been around for over 17 years. The founder and owner Jeremy Stein was Vietnam’s first PADI Course Director and single handedly created Vietnam’s diving industry. His international teams of dedicated and professional staff work to the best of their abilities to make the experience as memorable as possible for you on each day you dive. Rainbow Diver’s exclusively teach PADI Courses and continue to set a high standard across the board with quality, safety and the number one goal – fun.

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The Rainbow Diver’s dive team is one big family with staff members who have been diving between seven to twenty years. Individually they have dove between 6000 – 25, 000 dives each. There is no lack of experience amongst the team and all members are enthusiastic for you to get the most out of each day. The team is made up of people from multilingual backgrounds, which makes it easy for any traveller to communicate any issues they may have. Rainbow Divers further offers a full range of available PADI courses, from Open Water to Instructor and a variety of options for people who want to dive for fun or just snorkel. Rainbow Divers has their own restaurant and bar at two locations.

Rainbow Divers provides all divers with dive gear that is regularly serviced and of great quality. This includes your wetsuit, fins, mask, snorkel, dive computer, BCD, regulator, tank and needed weights. Another great service provided by the Rainbow Divers team is that you are not responsible to set up your own gear. I mean if you really wanted to I am sure you would be able to. Your dive guide will set up your gear then on arrival at the dive sites you will be called upon to head back, jump into your gear, buddy check and proceed into the water. The dive boat is also spacious with a lower and upper sun deck with an onboard toilet, wet and dry area. On each trip, the divers are provided with a complimentary meal which is almost like a buffet with drink options of tea, coffee and fresh water. With food options including freshly made sandwiches, an array of fruit, cakes and muffins.

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My two days of diving:

We arrived at the dive shop at 6:30am both mornings to have an early breakfast before heading out to the dive sites. The menu had many options to choose from and the food was delicious. We went with a full breakfast option and banana and chocolate pancakes. Highly recommend! The bus arrived to take the team and divers a short 10-minute drive down to the pier to board the boat. Once climbing aboard the bus we were introduced to Shawn who throughout our time diving with Rainbow Divers was exceptional and operated in the most professional manner at all times. We were also introduced to Colin Parker, who is a National Geographic Photographer and operates as a team member. He snaps photos throughout the dive for purchase later on at a very reasonable price. We were also lucky enough to watch a short video, which showcased his exceptional work and the amazing photos he has taken below sea level.

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Once arriving at the pier we were ushered down to the boat where we boarded and got comfortable. Then, we were introduced to the rest of the team and our dive guides for the day. My dive guide’s name was Quyen, and he had been diving for many years with thousands of dives under his belt. He said to me he knew the area like the back of his hand, which reassured me for a great dive. After sliding into my wetsuit and heading out to the dive sites, Quyen showed me our planned dive and let me know of what we may see under the water. This excited me and I couldn’t wait to jump in and head on down. Once arriving at our location the captain tied up and we were in the water before I knew it.

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Nha Trang is not known for their large fish; however that being said you never know what you are going to see when you are down there. Many things you will see in the water are much smaller but just as awesome. When speaking with Jeremy he told me that on just one site in Nha Trang there is more species of coral than on the entire Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

On my first dive in Nha Trang, I was lucky enough to see nudibranches, sea horses, frog fish, trigger fish, lion fish, shrimp and many coral formations, just to name a few. I also was taken through a small swim through that was filled with thousands of fish. A moment that will stay with me forever! Once resurfacing I was extremely impressed and had an enormous smile on my face not only because what I had seen, but also this was my longest dive thus far 58 minutes. My confidence was at an all time high as I felt super relaxed the entire time under the water with Quyen.

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After a quick second breakfast of sandwiches and muffins I was back in the water for my second dive, which was just as memorable as the first. This dive we spent much more time viewing the different types of corals and their formations and the fish that camouflaged themselves amongst these.

After completing my dive and jumping back aboard, I had the ability to take my seat and not stress about packing up the gear as my dive guide Quyen made quick work of this. Soon we were heading back to the pier, jumped back onto the bus and had arrived back at the dive shop where we logged our dives.

After reflecting on the day I was extremely impressed in the way that Rainbow Divers operated. It was what a 5 star service is supposed to be like – stress free. You are there to dive and have a memorable experience and don’t have to worry about all the setting up and packing down.

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Day Two:

After arriving at the shop early in the morning once again, heading by bus to the pier, boarding the boat and meeting the team, before I knew it we were back in the water with our dive guide Quyen. He had informed us of the dive site, our plan and what we may see. Once down below we were graced with excellent visibility for the second time diving with Rainbow Divers. On our first dive we saw cuttlefish, eels, crabs, corals and shrimp as well as many other species of fish.

The second dive is by far my most memorable with the discovery of a large octopus that we spent a great period of the dive patiently waiting for this creature to come out into the open. Unfortunately, it stayed sitting up under a large rock, although we got some great footage on the Go Pro.

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After two days of exceptional diving and memories that I will have forever I was very impressed with how everything was managed and fell together. The staff is always happy to help you with a smile on their face. Someone immediately answered any questions I had onboard and you could just see how the Rainbow Diver’s family is so experienced diving and working together. Awesome experience!

After my experience with Rainbow Divers, I wouldn’t just be a return customer. I would highly recommend this dive center to anyone looking to dive anywhere throughout Vietnam. They have many locations throughout Vietnam. The price is reasonable, especially for the service you are provided with. The reputation of Rainbow Divers does speak for itself. You truly get what you pay for with diving and to dive with a company that demonstrates 5 stars across the board in terms of their service, equipment, instruction and guides really makes for a memorable experience.

If you have any inquiries or are looking to dive across Vietnam click the link here

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Disclaimer: I was a guest of Rainbow Divers in Nha Trang, Vietnam in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy.

Tiger Muay Thai & MMA Training Camp, Phuket

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I had always been interested in spending a period of time at a fitness camp somewhere around the globe since a young age. As a great period of my life has been spent playing sport and further studying Personal Development Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) Teaching at University I have always had this great interest in fitness and challenging myself at any chance I am given.

Earlier this year I finally saw the opportunity to make this dream a reality and spent one month training at Tiger Muay Thai Training Camp in Phuket, Thailand. Now I had heard mixed reviews from friends and read mixed reviews online, but I just went with my gut feeling and booked.

The week before leaving for Tiger I felt like I was mentally preparing myself for the unknown and found myself watching transformation videos on YouTube and reading more and more reviews of others experiences. Before I knew it I was on a plane and had arrived at Phuket airport where my driver stood holding my name scribbled on a board.

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As we drove down towards my accommodation at ‘Two Home hotel’ nearby to the training facility I couldn’t believe the amount of gyms and training facilities that could all be within a kilometer on a tiny little road. I will admit it I was slightly taken back as I really had no idea what I had got myself into. Was I going to quit? Would I be able to get though each day unbroken? Would I see a change?

The next morning I awoke early and made my way up to Tiger and checked in. I was handed a class schedule for the Muay Thai and Fitness classes. These classes didn’t sound too tough with Body Fit, Ocean Blooms Raw Fitness, Cross Training, Olympic Weight Lifting and Combat Conditioning… Oh how I was so wrong. I had prepaid for an all Inclusive Fitness experience, which allowed me to attend all Muay Thai & MMA classes, fitness classes and full access to the indoor and outdoor gym. Each fitness class is 1 hour and the Muay Thai classes run twice a day (morning and afternoon) and last 2.5 hours.

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The fitness classes were awesome, mostly targeting cardio, strength and burning fat and had you working at a high intensity for between 20-40 minutes of the workout. I found these workouts extremely positive with constant positive reinforcement and motivational speeches. The added bonus was each class you attended you really had no idea if you would be working individually, in pairs or as a group. The best feeling was at the completion of a class when you’re on your hands and knees, huffing for air, dripping with sweat from head to toe and glance up to look around and see everyone is there with you for their own reasons with a common goal.

I was lucky to become mates with a fellow Aussie on the first day and two Kiwis on the second day. These guys were there for my entire stay which made the time much easier. We all shared meals together on a daily basis, trained together and hung out together by the pool. I was very thankful to have the ability to spend time with these guys as they gave me a newfound drive to push myself harder each day. When we would take part in fitness classes it became a bit of a competition against one and other as to who could do more in the allocated time or who was ‘smashing it out’ better.

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The hardest part of my stay at Tiger was to stay strict on my diet, but with a restaurant like ‘Tony’s’ it made life much easier. Tony’s restaurant served healthy portions of food at a cheap price with options such as brown rice with sweet potatoes and chicken breast or protein shakes. Any request you have at Tony’s I can assure you they will do their best to assist you. Here are some other delicious dishes.

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Throughout my visit, I stayed strict on my training with a set goal of around 5 hours of fitness 6 times a week with Sunday as a rest day. These 5 hours comprised of Muay Thai classes, fitness classes and gym sessions. I followed my movements each day and week with my Fitbit and aimed for over 20km travelled by foot daily, which I exceeded regularly. When I arrived at Tiger Muay Thai Fitness Training Camp I was feeling heavy and slow on my feet hovering around the 85kg mark. When I left Tiger, I had a smile on my face and felt like I had cleansed my mind body and soul through the strict training and dieting with a loss of 7kg. It was an awesome feeling!

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For anyone looking into a Fitness Training Camp, I recommend doing your research and find somewhere that suits your needs. There are many different camps around Thailand and other countries, which offer you classes, accommodation and food options at an affordable price. I went with the Tiger Muay Thai Training Camp as they have a sensational coaching staff across the board and have many international MMA fighters whom attend the camp to better their techniques and skills from the likes of James ‘The Sledge Hammer’ McSweeney, who fought in the UFC and most recently K1. If you immerse yourself in the experience and set solid short term and long term goals, you will leave satisfied with a memory of a great life changing experience. Here’s to making a change in your life and ticking off that bucket list!

Review: Mejico Bangkok, Thailand

http://www.mejico.asia/

Earlier in the year we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to dine with the Mejico Restaurant in Sydney and this was a very memorable experience. The food, drinks and customer service were flawless from the moment we entered their doors and we left feeling very captivated with the whole experience.

So as we arrived in Bangkok we saw no better opportunity than to dine with the new Mejico Restaurant, which had opened its doors in December 2014. This modern Mexican restaurant is centrally located within the Central World Mall and has an “upbeat atmosphere, friendly service and authentic flavors.” These are their own words and I guarantee they are nothing but the truth. Mejico’s motto really says it all ‘from market to table, this is how we eat!’

As we arrived at Mejico, we were greeted by friendly faces at the door who lead us to our table and seated us. This restaurant is stunning with such a cool vibe and rustic feel with cane hanging lights, vibrant colours splashed on the wall and trendy décor. Mejico really knows how to captivate the eye. The layout of the restaurant really adds to the experience with indoor and outdoor seating, a huge Tequila bar and large kitchen visible through their big glass windows. There is nothing like watching the chefs do what they do best to create exquisite tastes.

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After being seated we were lucky enough to speak with the Head Chef, Martin, who comes from Mexico and have his recommendations on what food options would truly blow us away. Martin discussed how the flavors of Mejico Bangkok has a different twist to Sydney as each location uses as much of the local produce as possible to create each dish, which in turn creates different flavors. From conversation with Martin you could really see his passion for Mexican cuisine and how keeping this as authentic as possible is extremely important.

After discussing dishes and recommendations with Martin we took a few moments to look over the menu and everything just seemed to jump up off the page. Each dish looked so delicious and appealing that it made it extremely hard to make decisions especially at times of indecisiveness. After hemming and hawing, we had made our decision and placed our order.

First to arrive were our drinks which included a ‘Mejico Bangkok’s Signature Margarita’ which looked and tasted delightful with a drop of coconut to keep the local twist present. Now one of the coolest things about Mejico is their drinking game where you choose a ‘Price, Intensity and Flavor’ on a wheel. Once this has been done the final number will match to a tequila shot or drink that can be made using Tequilas or other liquors from around the globe. Really, really cool! So for example I chose Price – cultured, Intensity – scaredy cat and Flavor – woody, which left me with a tasty tequila shot and chaser.

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The food began to arrive with one of their signature entrees of Guacamole and banana chips, which is smashed tableside. The General Manager, Dayna talked us through the process of smashing the guacamole and created this dish in front of our eyes. From first taste this dish brought back fabulous memories of Mejico Sydney however there was a twist to the flavor with the adding of pumpkin seeds. Yum, yum, yum!

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Our next dish was from the Mejico raw bar menu, ‘Carpaccio’. This dish is created from seared spiced beef, tajin capers, fennel, jalapeno dressing and seasoned vegatables. Just reading this off the menu had my taste buds going and let me tell you I was not at all disappointed. An absolute explosion of tastes that go so well together and had me wanting more!

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Soon to follow was our order of Tacos, which for me was a hard decision to be had so I decided to get both the ‘Chicken and Chorizo’ and ‘Soft Shell Crab’ Tacos. These come in pairs so are perfect to share with others to mix and match as Kelly and myself did. These tacos were unbelievably good and once again I was looking at my plate thinking should have I ate that a little slower to truly appreciate the taste. Excitement had definitely got the best of me!

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After sitting back and admiring the beauty of the restaurant our main dishes made their way to our table, which consisted of a Lamb Shank and Agave Glazed Carrots. The Lamb Shank is accompanied with Mole de Olla sauce and crispy sweet potato chips and with the recommendation of both Martin and Dayna this was accompanied with taco wraps, onions, lime and herbs. If we wished to be as authentic Mexican as possible we would need to create our own wraps using our main dish. I was quick to jump at the idea, and I was not at all disappointed. The Lamb just fell off the bone and was so tender and delicious. I highly recommend this dish when dining at Mejico.

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Last but not least our desert from Mejico’s Signature Dishes ‘Churros Fondue’ which we were told was a big twist from the Mejico Sydney’s dish. From the moment the desert rested on our table accompanied by a coffee I was speechless. The dish was presented beautifully and I almost felt guilty pulling this apart and eating it. The flavors and presentation were striking.

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After consuming the last slither of Churros I arched back in my seat and reflected on the stunning meal we had just had and was blown away once again with Mejico. The standard that is set both in Bangkok and Sydney is something special and you can really see the passion the Chefs have for the Mexican cuisine as this is evident in the food that is served. Their menu has many different options for all kinds of fussy eaters and you will not leave disappointed. The Mejico Bangkok Restaurant left me once again smiling and wanting more. I will be sure to return in the near future and highly recommend anyone searching for a meal that will leave an everlasting impression to make a booking at Mejico and experience what I have been so lucky enough to be able to have experienced.

To make a booking with Mejico Bangkok click here

To make a booking with Mejico Sydney click here

http://www.mejico.asia/

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Mejico Restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy.

Review: Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel

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If you’re seeking a stylish hotel which boasts character and charm then look no further than the Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel. The hotel is located in the central hub of Bangkok city a stone throw from the action, shopping districts and BTS. You will be sure to receive a five star service from their accommodation options to recreational areas and dining. The Anantara Siam Hotel provides their guests with many added amenities that contribute in making your stay memorable, satisfying and relaxing.

We arrived at the Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel after a 35-minute drive from the DMK airport to be greeted by the hotel staff and ushered into the lobby where we would check into our accommodation. My first impressions of the lobby area and the stunning décor were nothing but five star class. From entering the front doors the high ceilings and artwork captures your eye immediately. The hotels signature masterpiece lies on the landing between the bottom and first level and covers the length of the wall. This piece of art is so intricate and details that it tells a story.

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Whilst checking in at the lobby we were informed of the new technology the hotel offered to all guests staying on the property. This included a top of the line mobile phone, however not like your standard phone. This device acted as your very own personal GPS, tour guide, recommendation database, online reservation provider and even offered you free international calls to selected countries (These included home for both of us Australia and America). This device could be used inside and outside of the hotel and I personally see this as an exceptional and outstanding touch the hotel offers to guests and a step ahead of other hotels as there is nothing worse than getting lost in a foreign country and not being sure what is on offer, especially for large cities such as Bangkok.

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After checking into our Deluxe Room on the 6th floor, overlooking the pool we took some time to sit back and relax. Our room was impressive with a large bathroom (great bath and strong water pressured shower) and a living space that extended out from the bed to a seating area and desk working space. The room had a strong Wi-Fi connection and large flat screen television that showed many foreign programs from across the globe.

After relaxing we jumped up and headed to use the Fitness Centre facilities at the Anantara Siam Hotel. The gym is large and spacious with everything you will need including a separate squash court, boxing area and yoga studio from the weight and cardio room. It was excellent to see the staff genuinely interested in my training and assisting with a short session of pad for with the gloves. After walking out of the gym dripping with sweat I launched into the pool to cool off. The pool area is sensational with an abundance of lazy chairs and an area dedicated to children’s play equipment.

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That evening we took a short stroll to the central plaza shopping center, which is about a 400m walk from the hotel and sits opposite another large shopping mall. These malls have everything and anything you may be in search of from top of the line brands to outlet stores. If the weather is not on your side the staff at the hotel will be more than happy to order you a taxi to where ever you wish to go. Important to note these taxis are all on the meter as well.

The following morning we awoke early from our comfortable sleep and headed down to the morning buffet served in one of the restaurants of the hotel. As we arrived the layout was something I personally really like – an open kitchen where you can see the chefs cooking your food fresh for you. We indulged in cuisine options from around the globe from eggs and bacon to dumplings and pork buns to cold meats and pastries. The food was delicious and the staff was sure to check our food options met and exceeded our expectations. Highly recommend the morning buffet!

After breakfast I took some time to adventure through the hotel and find what else was on offer (As Kelly was off being pampered at the Health Spa). With the assistance of some friendly staff I discovered the hotel offers a large business center with conference rooms, high tea in the lobby, has a pop up Cigar and Whiskey lounge and a bakery that sells absolutely spectacular food options. These are only a handful of the treats the Anantara Siam Bangkok Resort offers there are many more small stores selling all types of goods from crockery to book and food.

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Once Kelly returned it was time to head down for our reservation for lunch at the Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel’s very own Spice Market Restaurant. As we walked into the restaurant I was genuinely excited to eat here as it felt like I was eating in at a traditional Thai spice market with the props and old cane baskets. We ordered Tom Yum Koong, Cashew Chicken, Green Curry with Australian Beef Cheeks and Mango Stick Rice. The food was exceptional and left my taste buds watering especially the beef cheeks absolutely delicious and I would highly recommend this dish to anyone dining at the hotel. We spend the afternoon venturing around the hotel once again making the most of the Fitness Centre and large pool.

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The following morning we made our way down to the buffet breakfast, which was held in a different location of the hotel next to the Aqua Bar that over looks their beautiful garden and pond in the center of the hotel. The food options were once again spectacular and after four plates I tapped out and retreated back to our room. As it was now time for us to check out we slowly packed our belongings, made our way down to reception where our taxi awaited us, said goodbye and were on our way.

The Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel has many different accommodation options to suit the needs of all travellers from solo to business and couples to families. The hotel further plays host to weddings in their spacious ballroom that is impressive. If your looking for a comfortable stay in Bangkok whether for business or leisure check out the Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotels website here to make a reservation. The hotel offers five star services in a great location with staff that will assist you in order to make your stay as comfortable and relaxing as possible.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel, Thailand in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy.

Review: Four Seasons Resort, Chiang Mai, Thailand

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If luxury, relaxation, and exquisite food are something you are seeking then the elegant Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai will meet all your desires and needs. This Resort is tucked away amidst the jungles of Chiang Mai and sits beneath a surreal landscape of the mountainside. The Four Seasons Resort boasts of 5 star class with excellence across the board. From their outstanding customer service, breathe taking accommodation options, mouth-watering cuisine and first class facilities this resort is a stay everyone needs to experience.

We arrived in the early evening to Chiang Mai airport to be greeted by our personal driver at arrivals and ushered into our Mercedes-Benz for the 40-minute journey to the Four Seasons Resort. Once we were strapped in our driver welcomed each of us and insisted we relax and enjoy the journey to the resort with complimentary in car Wi-Fi, bottled water and refreshment towels.

Once we arrived at the front gates of the Four Seasons Resort, Chiang Mai it was simply stunning driving up the long looping driveway, which mazes around their 32-acre property. We were greeted by hotel staff as we stepped out of the car and before we knew it we were walking into our very own Private Pool Villa. The villa was absolutely stunning as we gazed at each other in utter amazement. As we entered the doors the room just exploded with ‘luxury’ from the enormous living space, spectacular bathroom inclusive of all you would ever need from his and her sinks, a large bath, indoor and outdoor showers to the outdoor pool and spa with your very own outdoor entertainment area. As you gazed in from the rear of the villa you saw its true beauty from the pool through the living space to the extra comfortable bed, which if I were to describe in a few words would simply be what I imagine a cloud to feel like. All amenities you could ever imagine or need were only fingertips away. It was a simply stunning villa, which displayed nothing but privacy and luxury.

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Our Private Pool Villa at the Four Seasons Resort, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

We immediately had to test out the pool and might I add it was nothing but amazing set to 30 degrees and large enough to swim laps in the morning. After my swim the indoor and outdoor showers were calling my name. I like nothing more in the world than to wind down under a rain shower, which has the perfect pressure and this villa had just that.

After laying down on cloud nine (bed) we found it a struggle to find the motivation to leave our room as we were just so comfortable! So on that note we decided to order room service and test out what the Four Seasons Resort had to offer. We ordered bruschetta with blue cheese, a club sandwich, pasta with parma ham and a mixed satay. Our order arrived promptly and was set out in our living space. We definetly made a great selection as the food was absolutely delicious.

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We awoke early the next morning after a sound sleep to meet at the lobby for the morning alms giving to the monks. This was a surreal experience offering food, fruit and water to the monks in exchange for a blessing of good luck. Soon after we decided to venture about the property and take some photos of the beautiful grounds the Four Seasons Resort calls home. On our morning stroll we discovered a women who is employed to walk the ground of the resort and create these masterpieces using flowers from the gardens. These are truly striking and can be found throughout the grounds. On arrival at the resort be sure to admire her masterpiece placed in the center of the lobby.

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As we ventured down to the poolside the beauty of the Four Seasons Resort opened up as their pools look down across their rice paddies up into the mountainside of Chiang Mai. This landscape was the setting for our breakfast at Sala Mae Rim Restaurant where we would indulge in their buffet. The food options were impressive and extensive from cold meats and cheese to freshly made omelets and pastries. I would highly recommend their breakfast option at the Four Seasons Resort.

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After our breakfast I decided to have some down time and lay by our pool in the villa while Kelly treated herself to a spa and massage treatment. On her return I could tell she enjoyed every moment. Before lunch we took part in a resort tour where we were taken into the residences of the Four Seasons Resort, which are the largest and most spectacular accommodation options to stay. These options can accommodate up to ten people sleeping and has everything from the villa but bigger. We were taken to view a standard room which are extremely luxurious as well with each room containing their own private balconies which look out across the pond, rice paddies and up into the mountains.

We had lunch at the Sala Mae Rim Restaurant and dined in a traditional Thai style with the food options we chose. Our menu included a soft shell crab dish, Kaow Soi, which is a famous Chiang Mai curried noodle dish, and mango sticky rice, which topped off a delicious meal. The waiting staff and the atmosphere are amazing. Its important to note this restaurant is also famous for their High Tea option, which attracts people from all around the world and from what I could see it looked appealing.

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After a short but needed siesta we suited up to experience rice planting with the farmers from the Four Seasons Resort. Kelly and I were provided with traditional clothing to wear and escorted down to the rice fields. Our rice farmer explained the steps of rice farming from planting to harvest and even gave each of us the opportunity to plant our own rice. After completing our planting we were greeted by the resident water buffalo and lead down to the rice barn where we would sit back, relax and enjoy a rice themed cocktail and snack. The rice barn faces back towards the resort on the far corner of the pond and is a spectacular venue to host a romantic dinner. However be sure to book early in your stay as this option is only available for one couple per night and is a must!

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Once we had finished our drinks it was time to take a dip in the Four Seasons Resort Pool and watch the farmers parade as they played traditional music whilst strolling through the rice paddies and out around the resort. The landscape view from the pools is truly mesmerizing.

For dinner, we dined at Terraces, the Italian Restaurant found on the ground of the Four Seasons Resort overlooking the pond. We arrived just after sunset and immediately ordered our starters, which included a chicken Caesar salad and bruschetta. Now I have had bruschetta from restaurants on a global scale and I will say compliments to the chef as this starter is mouth watering and makes you just want more. Our mains consisted of a pizza and linguine, which again were sensational. Their menu included all kinds of Italian influenced dishes and the local favorites I honestly found myself struggling to choose what I wanted to eat as there were so many different options that sounded so good! The drink menu is also extensive with cocktails, beers and wine from all around the world. I topped the night off with a whiskey on the rocks and a delicious tiramisu.

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The following morning we awoke from our villa, had a refreshing morning swim and spa in our private pool, called for a cart and were driven down to breakfast at Sala Mae Rim once again for our buffet breakfast. After filling up we decided to walk off the food coma and head back to our villa as we would be checking out in a few hours time.

After finding myself falling into the mattress once again I took a moment to appreciate the true beauty of our pool villa room. Everything that you could imagine, want or need can be found within the vicinity of the villa or is a phone call away. It is like your very own get away where you feel just at home where you can decide on utter privacy or to adventure the grounds and the greater Chiang Mai. The resort provided all options for guest tours and will cater to all your needs. As we said our goodbyes and checked out of our villa and were ushered into our private car I honestly felt like the room had left an ever lasting impression on me as everything I could have ever imagined was just there ‘luxury, relaxation and exquisite food’.

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To make a reservation with the Four Seasons Resort, Chiang Mai, Thailand – click here

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Four Seasons Resort, Chiang Mai, Thailand in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy.

Advancing My Abilities Underwater With La Bombona Diving, Koh Tao

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So the time had come I take the plunge and complete my Advanced Divers Course. Now as I was certified with PADI for my Open water I would now undertake the advanced course in SSI with La Bombona Diving. To clear things up this does not change anything as they are essentially the same just with different labels and a few different ways of doing certain things underwater. You can switch from PADI to SSI and visa versa.

I arrived at La Bombona Diving early one morning to complete some paperwork and commence the training. Now the breakdown of the course is actually quite simple in that you watch a short water safety video then plan out your 5 dives and the skills in which you are interested in further developing. This should not at all be daunting for anyone as you should be fairly confident with your diving. Now there are several options for the skills you can complete however with the assistance of our instructor Tom we chose skills that would be beneficial in assisting us to be the best divers we could be.

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The skills we chose included:

  1. Navigation (how to correctly set a bearing to begin your dive then understand how to set a bearing to find the boat at the completion of your dive).
  2. Perfect Buoyancy (Always the hardest however the most fun in finding that point where you hover in the water with every breathe in and out. For those who are talented upside down perfect buoyancy)
  3. Night Dive & Limited Visibility (This is basically a night dive with your instructor to say that you are confident swimming with a small torch underwater)

NOTE: If you complete your advanced course with La Bombona in Koh Tao you may be lucky enough to see the ‘Bioluminescence’)

  1. Deep Diving (A dive to 30 meters where you complete a few different tests which shows you how coordination and thinking can be slowed down drastically)
  2. Underwater Naturalist (This is learning to understand the underworld and having the ability to come back aboard and tell others about what you saw and didn’t see)

There are many other options in which you can choose for example ‘Fish Identification’ where essentially you learn more about marine life and certain fish and corals above land. Then on your dive you are challenged to discover and make note of your findings. For example, the fish that you saw and how these can be categorized into small, medium and large sizes and different coral formations. All of these skills are there to better your confidence under water and attain a greater knowledge and understanding of the underwater world.

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Fast forward to our stride entry into the water for our first of five dives at location one Mango Bay. Now this was personally my longest dive ever being 57 minutes all thanks to some wise words from our instructor Tom. He simply told me to imagine I was breathing in and out through a straw and really concentrate on 4 seconds of breathing in and 6 seconds of breathing out. Trust me there is nothing worse than coming up from a dive on reserve and your buddy has half a tank. After completing our navigation and perfect buoyancy requirements we had time to adventure the underworld and slowly rise to the surface.

Dive number two took place at Twins where we completed our navigation tests and the correct use of our computers underwater. I can confidently say I now am able to use a compass as I was never a boy scout or had the use for a compass but now I have this down pack. Dive number three was soon to take place as the sun lowered below the horizon we endeavored on our night dive and my god I was excited. Call me crazy but I love night diving as the little fish are now all hidden and the big boys are out to play. I will pat myself on the back for discovering an enormous spotted stingray within two minutes of entering the water, however that was about it for me.

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The next morning we were back in the water to complete our fourth dive at Hin Won Pinnacle. This would be time to complete our 30 meter deep dive and partake in the colour, pressure and narcosis tests. The deep dive was truly something special after slowly coming up to the surface we stumbled upon several gigantic grouper! Our fifth and final dive was at the beautiful Lighthouse point where we partook in a combination of underwater naturalist and fish identification. The lighting here was perfection like looking into a glass of clear water. We surfaced and gave each other a high five as we knew we were now Advanced SSI Divers.

After completeing the course we reassembled at La Bombona’s Diving Café where we finished our paperwork, logged all of our dives, drank a beer and were awarded with our new SCUBA Diving licenses and La Bombona shirts.

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Why you should choose La Bombona Diving – The instructors are what I deem as over qualified in the sense they are SO good at what they do. They posses the ability to stay so calm and keep you calm underwater. You never seem rushed at any point to go down the buoy line and the dive is all about having fun while staying safe. Personally from diving with La Bombona my confidence has grown ten fold and I was so lucky to have the ability to dive with such an awesome instructor whose second home is literally 15 meters below the ocean.

What I have taken away from the course is the ability to now travel anywhere in the world and dive to 30 meters confidently and in a way I feel is safe. The team at La Bombona go beyond the normal training and throw in so many extras to help you in turn become over qualified as well.

Now you might be saying to yourself this must cost a few dollars. In all honesty completing your Advanced Diving or any other course with La Bombona Diving in Koh Tao is extremely affordable and doesn’t at all burn a hole in your pocket. La Bombona keep the groups small with the instructors and work with you so you can get the most out of the course.

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Here are the costs for completion of your diving courses with La Bombona Diving and feel free to access their website and make bookings online at:

http://www.labombonadivingkohtao.com/en/

Open Water Course: 7500 baht ($220 USD)

Advanced Course: 7000 baht ($200 USD)

Refresher Course: 1500 baht ($42 USD)

EFR Course: 3000 baht ($84 USD)

Rescue Course: 8000 baht ($235 USD)

 

Follow La Bombona on Social Media:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/labombonadiving

Twitter – https://twitter.com/labombonadiving

Instagram – https://instagram.com/labombonadivingkohtao/

Disclaimer: I was a guest of La Bombona, Koh Tao in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy!

Review: La Bombona Diving – The Best on Koh Tao

Who to dive with in Koh Tao, Thailand?

We left Surat Thani aboard the cozy night boat to arrive at 6am on the stunning island of Koh Tao. Slowly waking up, we collected our belonging and disembarked the ship to be immediately bombarded by taxi drivers and promotional staff handing out flyers from all the different companies across the island trying to rope us in on their ‘great deals’. Now I don’t know what you’re like at 6 am, but confrontational conversation isn’t on my list of things to do so we just smiled, said no thank you and strolled on by to find our pre-booked accommodation on the island.

Now when you arrive on Koh Tao, you will discover there is an abundance of dive companies spread throughout the tiny island. However all companies don’t operate they same way. We were lucky enough to find La Bombona Diving, Koh Tao!

Lets talk a little about La Bombona!

La Bombona Diving is a multi language diving school that caters to all of your needs underwater and above land. The staff is extremely professional and knowledgeable and are all about having some fun whilst always operating in a safe and considerate manner. Their dive center is located close to the pier area and offers bargain prices.

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La Bombona Diving Center, Koh Tao

La Bombona offers the following courses; Refresher, Try Dives, Open Water, Advanced, Rescue and First Aid and Divemaster. All diving gear is provided by the company on each dive you undertake and is clean and great quality (BCD, Mask & Snorkel, Wetsuit, Fins and Regulator).

La Bombona operates from a spacious and large 3 level boat that motors through the ocean to the best dive sites throughout Koh Tao. Each day brings forth different scheduled dive locations and the opportunity to night dive every other day (This is a must!!).

La Bombona’s owners Rocio and Alberto are exceptional at what they do and have such an amazing team. You will see these two working each day and may be lucky enough to be apart of their group when undertaking your course and training. I can’t tell you the total amount of dives logged for all staff working for La Bombona however I can tell you there is quite a lot, and they are all very well experienced. They know exactly what they’re doing and conduct business in a manner that is so calm and genuine. They truly are an amazing company to dive with as its not just about getting in the water and exploring, but really appreciating the entire experience and the knowledge they can pass onto you. There is no greater feeling than diving with a group of people who have such a great knowledge and understanding of SCUBA diving and the ocean!

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Now about the fun dives:

We jumped onboard with La Bombona and took part in two days of fun diving for two consecutive mornings. Fun dives operate both morning and afternoon. For the morning session you meet at the pier around 6:20am and are back on land around 11am. The afternoon session meets around 11:30am and returns around 4pm. Those interested in night diving meet at 5:30pm and return around 8:30pm. It’s important to note for each fun dive you are provided with a guide, all gear, breakfast, fruit and drinks (coffee, tea and water).

So prior to our fun dives we had met with Rocio and Sam (our guide) at the dive centre and were fitted for our dive gear. We had been informed of our dive locations for each morning and were told to meet at 6:20am each morning down by the Pier.

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Day 1:

We arrived at the crack of dawn to meet with our guide and be taken to our boat. Now this boat is awesome, and it’s big with lots of space to move about freely. There is even a cat, which lives aboard the boat! We were allocated our tanks and set up our gear. Once this was done we were taken above deck to discuss our dive locations and what we might see. Our first dive location for the day was Hin Won Pinnacle and our second site would be the Lighthouse.

After buddy checking and launching into the water it was easy to see why Koh Tao is one of the best locations in the world to dive. As we hit the bottom we explored into the unknown discovering large schools of barracuda, razorfish, parrotfish and the stunning formations of corals. After climbing back onboard I was yet again ready to jump back into the water. Lighthouse really put on a show for us with such clear visibility we were yet again graced with an abundance of fish and stunning corals. It was great to see our guide knew his way around under water and pointed out certain things we may have missed. This truly made today a special day!

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After climbing back aboard we slowly packed away our gear and dried off. We then we taken away by the pure beauty of Koh Tao and the surroundings as we motored back into port. Once arriving back we returned to La Bombona dive shop where we logged our dives and thanked our guide for an excellent morning.

Day 2:

Once again we arrived at 6:20am to meet with our guide and climb aboard the boat. Our dive locations today would be Southwest Pinnacle, which was a 45 minute boat ride from the shores of Koh Tao and Shark Island. Our dive guide let us know quite early on that Southwest Pinnacle is known for the occasional whale shark so I was itching to get into the water and explore. After setting up aboard we sat down and looked over todays dive locations and what we may see. In all honesty all that was running through my mind was ‘whale shark, whale shark, whale shark’!

We got ready, buddy checked and launched into the unknown. Southwest Pinnacle today had some stunning visibility and we were lucky enough to find giant grouper and be circled on several occasions by enormous schools of barracuda, which ranged in sizes from small to large. This truly was a surreal experience to be motionless in the water with barracuda circling you. Our second site Shark Island was an awesome dive as where we launched and dropped down we immediately came across a large spotted stingray and large trigger fish. However there was a strong current this was absolutely fine as we swum around a hundred meters into this and then simply rode this back to the boat.

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I came aboard the boat with a smile from ear to ear today and immediately felt the need to organize further advancements in my SCUBA certifications. After conversation with Rocio we agree it would be time for me to do my advanced course. As all my dives with La Bombona had been such great experiences and I had not at all felt rushed, pressured or stressed at any stage I knew this dive centre would be the one for me!

Keep posted for my next article on my experiences of undertaking my Advanced diving course with La Bombona Diving, Koh Tao.

Follow La Bombona on Social Media:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/labombonadiving

Twitter – https://twitter.com/labombonadiving

Instagram – https://instagram.com/labombonadivingkohtao/

 

Disclaimer: I was a guest of La Bombona in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy!

Review: Asia Divers Resort

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Looking for somewhere to bunk down on the island of Koh Tao, Thailand?

Look no further than Asia Divers Resort. Tucked away beneath the jungles of Koh Tao, this resort boasts luxury with a mere five-minute walk to Sairre Beach. The resort is located within the Haad Sairre Area amongst their stunning and peaceful, green tropical gardens. Asia Divers Resort is located in an area that has great access to everything you would need from a gym, shops, pharmacy, excellent restaurants and bars.

This modern resort caters for the needs of a wide spectrum of travellers from those travelling on a budget to those who don’t mind to splurge at an affordable price. The resort offers standard, comfort and superior rooms with air conditioning at a higher rate than fan. Each room includes your very own balcony, satellite TV, free wifi and a large swimming pool to kick back and relax when taking some much owed down time.

Asia Divers Resort further offers SCUBA diving courses and conducts training for those wishing to become certified or undertake further training. The resort charters a daily boat, which takes divers out to spectacular diving locations around Koh Tao. Fun dives can be booked for both morning and afternoon and includes hire of all gear and total of two dives at two different locations on the reef.

Our stay:

We stayed 4 nights with Asia Divers Resort in a comfort room on the third floor. Our room came with a ceiling fan and cold water however might I add this is all you truly need on the island. Hot showers are over rated when it’s so hot outside. Each room has modern shutters on the windows, which slide open with the fly/mosquito screens for those at night who don’t mind a cold breeze. These rooms are just as the name states ‘comfortable’ with large balconies, which look across to the jungle, over the pool and down to the ocean side of Koh Tao and are cleaned daily with fresh towels and bedding.

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The rooms were large and clean with comfortable beds and great pressure in the showers. These qualities ticked all the boxes for me in terms of what I see as essential elements to a great stay. The Internet connection was great throughout our stay in all areas of the resort. The staff always acted in the most professional manner and catered to all of our needs and questions we had.

We dined at the Asia Divers Resort Restaurant on several occasions, as the food is exceptional and at a competitive price. Once again there are food options for all types of fussy eaters from burgers to pizza to all types of Thai dishes. I can assure you will find something on their menu to satisfy your taste buds.

However we didn’t dive with Asia Divers Resort each day they were running SCUBA training courses in the pool and taking those certified out onto the reef for fun dives and further training. From what we could see they conducted themselves in a very professional manner and all gear was clean, new and of a top standard.

The pool is stunning at the hotel and nothing else says relaxing after a long day of diving then to kick back by the pool with a drink in hand. To then freshen up and walk on down to Sairee Beach and watch the stunning sunset truly caps off a day well spent.

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Watching the sunset from Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand.

For those looking to stay at a quality resort on the island of Koh Tao, Thailand which will meet all your needs click the link below to make a reservation:

http://www.asiaresortkohtao.com/

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Asia Divers Resort in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy!

Why You Shouldn’t Categorise Yourself While Travelling

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It would be fair to say when it comes to travel I think a little bit differently than the normal traveller, nomad, backpacker, soul searcher whoever you may be. I place myself in a different category of travel; something that you may find so simply strange. Hence the name Sir Wanderlust. Throughout my many years of walking the globe, I still to this day have not come across someone parallel to myself in their vision of travel. Every traveller seems to categories themselves from the moment they leave their front door into a stereotypical group of travellers or establish themselves within this category whilst out exploring.

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Lets paint the picture; You leave the house as:

  1. A traveller is someone who would usually travel for work or pleasure seeing those things along the way they wish to see mapping out their every move. Usually resting up in Hotels and not afraid of spending a few dollars. These are stereotypically the older generations ‘fossils’.
  2. A tourist is someone who walks around looking almost confused, holding an extended pole with a camera on the end taking photos of anything and everything. Usually resting up in Hotels or stay with relatives/friends. Travelling in packs of 20 plus.
  3. A nomadic traveller is someone who spins the globe and sees where they end up. Makes plans to not make plans. Not one to spend a lot of cash or finds it hard to dish out a large sum. Nomads usually would find other avenues to attain accommodation working for accommodation in hostels or Couch surfing. Laid back and take each day as it comes.
  4. A backpacker is someone who is looking for the closest bar and good times. Has saved a set amount for a wild trip jumped on the bus tours and isn’t shy of blowing a little bit of money if it means having some serious fun. “Backpacking” tends to be a trip funded by mummy and daddy.
  5. A soul searcher is someone who travels for love or to find love somewhere around the globe. This may be from meeting that special someone online to just taking a chance and flying to Paris, standing under the Eiffel Tower and hope she arrives and sweeps you off your feet.

I find it hard to categorise myself amongst these groups of travellers as I feel so utterly unique in my adventures. I would never identify myself as any of the above however a combination as I hold certain elements. I hold this mentality that I need to work hard, to travel harder.

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I have no boundaries or limitations when I travel because I have worked and juggled a handful of jobs at the same time to get to where I am. I am not talking working a 9am-5pm – I am talking sunrise until 2,3,4am for weeks on end with little to no sleep. Sacrificing time with your family, friends and significant others. We all know in order to put our full devoted attention into something we need to sacrifice time, however for me I have always wanted to make the most of my life and this desire to travel the world trumps everything.

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With my approach to travel I am happy to tuck into a cozy hostel 32 bed mixed dorm room; however when I am looking for that change I will check into a luxurious hotel. The difference between myself and nomadic travelers and backpackers is they seems to be on this extreme budget and if we get so caught up on how much we can spend each day I feel this takes away from the experiences and memories you can make. While I’m all about the couch surfing to save a few dollars, work aways or just working for accommodation for a few nights to experience something different, I never want to feel I have limitations when I travel and it all comes back to the way you wish to travel. You never need to categorise yourself amongst the stereotypical groups so go out and create something different just like I have.

Experience the world, work hard, travel harder and create your own identity.