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Thailand – Part 2

My last post on our Thailand holiday ended after our visit to the hot springs.  That night, we stayed in a house in a nearby village.  I was a little nervous about this but we actually ended up having a fantastic time.  Local women cooked us some amazing food and the children played music while we ate.  After we had finished eating, we had a go at playing the instruments with them and later on, we were shown some Thai dancing.  The highlight of the evening was setting off a lantern which we all wrote our names and wishes on!The next morning we went to the temple in the village to offer food to the monks.  Then we visited a local school where we helped some 4 year olds with their English.  We played games and sang with them and it was loads of fun!  After that we went to a mushroom farm and a rice farm to see how they worked which was really interesting.  We got to pick some mushrooms which were then deep fried for our lunch and served with a delicious sweet chilli dip!  Since we’d arrived in Thailand we’d been to quite a few temples but here we were shown around one properly and it was fascinating to hear about how people use the temples and why they are built the way they are.We left the homestay after lunch to go to Chiang-Mai where we stayed for 2 nights.  My favourite thing about Chiang-Mai was the night market which is held from 6pm until midnight and was literally just around the corner from our hotel.  There were so many things I could have bought but didn’t have room in my suitcase for!  I did manage to pick up quite a few pieces of jewellery, gifts for my family and a lovely mango wood dish for our new kitchen.  While in Chiang-Mai we also did a Thai cooking course which was great fun.  We ate way too much food but it was all so good so totally worth it and I can’t wait to try out some of the recipes we learnt!We left Chiang-Mai on an overnight train back to Bangkok but I think I’ll leave it here for today as I seem to have written way more than I intended!

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Thailand – Part 1

I’ve ended up with hundreds of photos from my holiday to Thailand. Don’t worry, I’m not going to put all of them up, but even after I’ve narrowed them down there are still too many to put in one post!

We flew to Bangkok where we spent a few days visiting temples, Buddha images and eating the amazing street food, before meeting up with our travel group.  We went with a company called Intrepid who arrange tours in lots of different countries where you travel around with a local guide.  We decided to do two tours – one more cultural tour and one relaxing tour of the islands.

The first tour was the cultural one.  We ended up in a group with eleven girls and Nick – luckily the group leader was a guy so Nick wasn’t completely outnumbered!  The first morning of our tour was taken up with a 6 hour train journey North out of Bangkok – we saw some stunning scenery – and a ride on a songthaew to reach Sukhothai, the ancient capital of Thailand. We spent the next morning cycling around the ruins of the old temples which were spectacular.  Our guide had a arranged for a local woman to cook us lunch and I’m not exaggerating here – it was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in my whole entire life!

That afternoon we had a four hour bus journey to Lampang.  I was super excited as we were on our way to visit the elephants!  First thing next morning we went to the elephant hospital.  It was heartbreaking to see the poor elephants who had had to have legs amputated because of land mines on the Burmese border.  It was good to see that the elephants are now being well looked after and they even came over to say hello to us!  Next door to the elephant hospital is an Elephant Conservation Center where we saw an elephant show.  We were amazed by strong and clever they are and how much they seem to love their trainers.  The elephants can play tunes on chimes, paint pictures and lift very heavy tree trunks.  After the show we went on a half hour elephant ride which was so exciting!!  The elephants are massive but they are surprisingly agile – they can walk up narrow, muddy tracks with seemingly no effort!

That night we were going to stay in a village with a local family.  On the way we stopped off at the Sankhampang Hot Springs where we saw a butterfly bigger than I knew could exist (look at the size of its legs!) and had a quick swim.

I think I’ll tell you about our evening in the homestay another time as we managed to fit loads in that night and I don’t want to overload on the photos!

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Instagram Thailand Round Up

Hi everyone, I’m home from Thailand!  We had a fantastic time and I will get around to posting photos in the next few weeks.  In the meantime I thought I’d do my first Instagram post using some of the photos I posted while I was away….

1. Excited for our holiday!
2. Sparkling wine at Heathrow.
3. From the train North out of Bangkok.
4 & 5. Old temples at Sukhothai.
6. Rice paddy.
7. My new bracelet.
8. From inside our mosquito net at the homestay.
9. Beautiful temple in Chiang Mai.
10. Chiang Mai night market – amazing!
11. Another stunning temple.
12. Hot pink leather interior of a Bangkok taxi!
13. Feet of the massive Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, Bangkkok.
14. 5am breakfast after a night train.
15. Arriving at Koh Phangan.
16 & 18. View from the hotel restaurant!
17. Than Sadet Beach on Koh Phangan.
19. Huge rainstorm in Koh Tao – hard to capture!
20. Pool in our Koh Samui hotel.
21. Palm trees at the pool side.

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I’m off to Thailand!!!

Today is the day we  finally leave for Thailand! I can’t wait!  Our flight isn’t until ten this evening but we’re getting to Heathrow quite early, mainly because I’m paranoid about the coach breaking down but also so that I can fit in some last minute airport shopping (but Nick doesn’t know that yet…!).  We’re flying to Oman and then changing plane to get to Bangkok.  We’ll spend a couple of days in Bangkok before traveling around for just over two weeks and then finishing up with five days on the beach.  I’m so excited!  I’ve got a couple of posts scheduled for while I’m away and will probably be around on Twitter and Instagram when I can find Wifi. (If you want to follow me on Instagram my username is helenasblog.)  See you in three weeks!!! :-)

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Summer Essentials: Bug Spray!

The worst thing about holidays is getting bitten by all those bugs!  I really hate having itchy bites so have invested in a few different insect repellents this summer.

Jungle Formula Maximum
When I went to get my injections done for Thailand, the nurse told me I needed to get a bug spray containing at least 50% DEET which this one does.  I’m not entirely sure why DEET sprays are better than non-DEET sprays but I don’t think it’s worth ignoring the nurse as I didn’t get the malaria vaccination so don’t want to catch that!  This spray has a pretty strong smell and lasts up to 10 hours.  Hopefully it does the job.

Ultrathon Insect Repellent

This one contains 35% DEET.  I took it to Kos and only got one bite during the whole week.  Again it has a strong smell but I think that’s better than having bites which itch for weeks after you get home from holidays!

Kiwiherb Herbal Insect Repellent

This insect repellent is natural so doesn’t contain any DEET.  I prefer to use natural products wherever possible but got this one before the nurse told me I’d need a spray with 50% DEET.  It smells much better than the other two – kind of like aniseed/liquorish mixed with lemon – so it’s a shame it isn’t strong enough for me to use in Thailand!

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Kos

Here are some photos from our trip to Kos which I mentioned in my NOTW post a couple of weeks ago.  I went with my sister (Maddie), mum, stepdad and two step brothers (Tom and Matt) and stayed at the Aegean Village in Kardamena.  The weather was stunning all week and we didn’t see a cloud the entire time we were there.  We spent most of our time relaxing by the pool or at the beach opposite the hotel but we also took the local bus into the main town of Kos one evening and Maddie, Tom and I went on a guided coach tour organised by Thompson one day.  The coach took us around a couple of villages as well as to a family run honey factory, the Asklepion and a traditional Greek house turned museum which was really interesting.  Anyway, here are the photos… I hope they don’t take too long to load!

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Help – Accommodation Needed in Aberdeen?!

I had a really lovely time in Kos and will get round to posting photos as soon as I have some spare time!

Right now I’m going to ask for your help.  I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before but I am moving to Aberdeen with Nick to start my first graduate job.  The job starts on September 3rd and we will be in Aberdeen for 6 months before moving to Kent.  We’re having real trouble finding a flat to rent and lots of the letting agents we’ve spoken to have been very unhelpful.  We’ve been told that there are more people needing flats than flats themselves so presumably they are being let regardless of how helpful the letting agents are!

We’re moving up from Cardiff which is making it difficult to arrange viewings.  We thought about flying up for a day next week but all of the viewings we had made have now been cancelled as the properties have been let already!  We’ve been searching for weeks and weeks now and are starting to get a bit desperate.

I thought maybe if this post gets tweeted and shared around we might be able to find a landlord or agency that could help?!

Here is a list of what we are looking for:

  • Modern, 1 bedroom flat
  • Furnished
  • 6 month lease
  • Walking distance to the city centre (we’ve been told Rosemount and Union Grove are good areas)
  • Parking
  • Up to £700 per month
  • We are non smokers and have no pets!

We’d really like to have a flat sorted, with the deposit paid, before our trip to Thailand – we’re leaving next Friday.

I’d be so, so grateful if you could tweet or share this post in some way.  You can contact me through Twitter @hels89 or email helena@helenasblog.co.uk.  Thank you in advance!

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Graduation

After 4 years at university, yesterday I graduated with a Master of Engineering in Engineering Mathematics with First Class Honours! It was a really nice day and the sun even managed to come out for a while as well. Here are a few photos…..





I’m off to Kos in a few hours so haven’t got much time to write anything else at the moment…. need to start packing!

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Devilishly Delicious Chocolate Cake

Last weekend my sisters and I made a birthday cake for our mum. It turned out really well so I thought I’d post the recipe for you. The recipe is from a book I had for my birthday back in November called the Chococo Chocolate Cookbook by Claire Burnet. The cake we chose was the Devilishly Delicious Chocolate Cake – with a name like that who wouldn’t want to make it!?

Cake Ingredients
225ml full fat milk
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
75g cocoa powder
100g unsalted butter
225g golden caster sugar
3 eggs

Frosting Ingredients
200g dark chocolate
250g mascarpone
1-2 tbsp sifted icing sugar

 

 Cake Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease two 20cm sandwich tins.
  2. Pour the milk into a jug with the lemon juice and leave to sour while you prepare the rest of the cake.
  3. Sift flour, bicarb of soda and cocoa powder into a bowl.
  4. In another bowl cream the butter and sugar together until soft and fluffy.  Gradually add the eggs and beat.
  5. Fold the soured milk and flour alternatively into the egg mixture.
  6. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and bake for 25 minutes.

 

Frosting Method

  1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  2. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before adding the mascarpone and icing sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Then use to sandwich the cakes together and ice the top and sides.  (Make sure the cake is cool before you ice it!)
  4. We decided to add strawberries and mini marshmallows to decorate.
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Easter Cakes

I thought I’d show you some of the cakes I made with my sister for Easter.  We made raspberry cupcakes with whipped dark chocolate ganache icing and some corn flake cakes.  I was going to post the recipe for the cupcakes but they didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped which I think was because my dads oven is a bit useless, but might have been because I sort of made the recipe up as I went!  I’ll try them again soon in a different oven before I post a recipe for you.

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