Friday, July 23, 2010

Hi from Hainan!

I actually wrote this post nearly a year ago but never ended up publishing it, so I thought I might as well now.
A popular holiday spot for expats living in Asia, Hainan island was somewhere I visited fairly often during my time in China. And here I am once again. There are more tourists and kids than I remember, not something I would have noticed in my youth plus I've definitely been spoiled with amazing holiday locations. It's your typical tropical island: golden beaches with clear blue water, palm trees, bars in the middle of swimming pools, but without a lot of the trashiness that can come with certain other resorts (Cancun, I am looking at you). If I'm being totally honest I can't tell you how much or little there is to do on the island. Every time I've been I've stayed in a huge hotel on the beach with plenty of pools and things to do. I've always stayed in Sanya, which is an area at the southern most tip and
where most of the hotels are concentrated. Like a regular tropical holiday, most time is spent on the beach. I took a banana boat ride and some friends went scuba diving. Overall, I would say this is a great holiday stop if you are living in Asia, but if you're going to come all the way to Asia from somewhere else I would hit up the Thai or Malaysian islands instead.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Getting Deals: The Hotel

I like to think of traveling as one of my favorite hobbies, and I know as well as anyone that this hobby happens to be a huge money drainer. A few relaxing weeks can quickly become thousands of dollars before you've even left your house. Money is probably the biggest deterent to a lot of people traveling (or at least, this is what I tell myself. Because why else wouldn't you want to travel?). One thing I refuse to skimp on is the activities, because if you're not going to visit the sites you want or do the activities you want, what's the point of being there?
So that leave a few things: accommodation, flights, food, and transportation.
Quite possibly the most important thing you need to do is set a total budget, then divide that by the number of days and work out what you have to spend on what. Once you start working out what you need to spend money on you realize that what may seem like a lot may not get you very far.

The first thing I do is look on discount hotel sites. Unless you're staying in a hostel or couch surfing (both good options, but not for me personally) you probably are going to be staying in a hotel. Sites I've used include,, and It's important to check a few different sites because often the same hotel will come up with different prices depending on where you're looking. It also makes searching quick and easy since you can pull up loads of hotels in one area, compare prices and see pictures of them all. Another great site I've discovered is They have huge discounts, often on really nice places in great locations. The only problem with this site is that there are only limited number of locations available at one time so this would be great if you are lucky enough to find where you want to go or are just looking to get away and don't mind where you go.

If you have the option of traveling in the off season and during the week, you can save a lot of money on the hotel. Actually a lot of cities are wonderful to visit during the off season as you avoid both the crowds and the extremes of the weather. If you're lucky enough to be able to travel during the low season, definitely take advantage of it.

Extra tip: If you are walking into a hotel on the day without a booking, often they will lower their price slightly to give you a deal (don't ask for too much of a reduction, $20 tops) since selling a hotel room at a slightly lower price is better for them than having an empty room.

Let me know of any other tips you have for getting great deals on hotels.
Happy traveling!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Culzean Castle, Scotland

These photos were taken on a recent trip to Culzean Castle in Scotland. The building itself was fairly interesting, although we accidentally went on an incredibly drawn out tour that made me want to sleep for a hundred years. The top floor used to belong to the Eisenhower's and they would stay there when they visited Scotland. The real beauty of this place though was the sprawling grounds. The gardens are beautiful and well-maintained, there is a duck pond, and it sits right on a clifftop at the coast. It would be such a wonderful place to come on a warm summer's day with a picnic (which in Scotland usually occurs one or two times a year, if we're lucky).

Monday, July 12, 2010


(Academy of Athens)
(Athens University)(National Library)
As you have probably heard Athens has been having some economic/political problems which led to a few strikes earlier this year and the bombing of a bank which killed three people.
We stayed at the Melia Hotel Athens, which ended up being really close to where the bank bombing took place. It was still all black and there was piles of flowers and photos outside, it was really sad.The ground floor restaurant in our hotel was closed when we arrived as there were lots of cracks in the glass from where rocks had also been thrown. A little disconcerting.

Anyway, the first night we decided to go out and see Sex and the City 2 since it had just come out. When we left the theater at around 11:30 p.m. the feeling outside had dramatically changed, there was literally no one about, but there were police officers with large guns walking around and we encountered a few guys who made very lewd comments. Overall, it left us with a very uneasy feeling and we seriously considered leaving right then and going to Santorini early.
We decided to stay though but needless to say didn't walk anywhere at night again.

Athens is not a very pretty city but it was nice to see the Athens trilogy, which consists of the National Library, Athens University, and Academy of Athens (all pictured above). We had a wonderful dinner one night at a restaurant in Syntagma Square, where there are a few fancy hotels. It was hellishly expensive (and I think we were the only ones under the age of 30 in there paying for our own dinners) but seriously yummy and had a lovely view of the acropolis.

So I'm adding Athens to the list of places I won't be visiting again but am glad I saw once.

Pic of the sunset from the rooftop pool at the hotel.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Avoiding the Heat

Today it's 97 degrees and tomorrow it's meant to be above 100 so I am taking refuge inside my air-conditioned bedroom. Being from Britain, I do not do well in extreme temperatures.

Anyway, yesterday I went shopping on SE Hawthorne which is a notoriously "bohemian" area in Portland-not somewhere I would usually shop, but I managed to find a rather cool sweater without even looking. I got it for $14 and the intense sequin detailing on the arms and the fact that it's 50% wool made me think it's probably worth a bit more so I thought it was a great deal! I am usually pretty funny about "vintage" shopping just because I don't really like the idea of wearing clothes someone has worn before but I ignored those feelings and bought this beauty anyway!

I would have tried it on but I can't even bear the thought of putting on a sweater and jeans at the moment.

I also picked up this painting at an antique store to hang above my bed. I'm trying to make my room a little more Grown Up, even though the only time I'm here is holidays and the purple walls are not helping. Maybe I'll make that a summer project, since it's unbearably warm I could repaint my room. I would probably just do it a neutral eggshell white as every time I have painted a color I get sick of it in six months, but any suggestions on fabulous colors I could paint my walls would be much appreciated!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

So now that summer is here I have been spending a lot of time watching movies, something I rarely have the chance to do during the regular year. It's one of the main reasons why I stay up until around 5 in the morning doing nothing but starting at my computer screen (yes, my life is that exciting).
Anyway, I decided to do a review of the movies I've seen in the last couple of days.

First up: Toy Story 3
Now I have to admit that about 75% of why I went to see this movie is because my little brother wanted to. The other 25% was because I vaguely remember enjoying the first one years ago (and then hating the second). So surprisingly I actually really enjoyed this! It was a nice family friendly movie, didn't run on for too long (about an hour and a half I think) and overall was nice and satisfying. Not sure I would've gone to see it with my friends but if you have anyone young you're taking to the cinema it's definitely something they will enjoy.
Rating: 4.0/5

And then there was Letters to Juliet.
I know this isn't everyone's opinion, but whenever I see Amanda Seyfried in a movie, I don't expect much. Let's be honest, the only reason she's in anything is because she's blond and pretty. But regardless it was a decent chick flick with a cutesy story about a woman who wrote to "Juliet" many years ago about her one true love and returns many years later, with the help of Seyfried, to find him.

Rating: 2.5/5

Alexis Bledel has continuously disappointed me since her departure from Gilmore Girls (anyone see Post Grad? that was painful). But I actually quite enjoyed this movie and I like both of the male costars (Jake from One Tree Hill and Jason from Friday Night Lights). The plot is interesting, it's about a mortgage broker working on Wall Street and his girlfriend and "the new guy." You are never really sure which point of view is right up until the very end and it definitely questions the trust we put in narrators.
Beyond the plot twist though, it's little more than your typical love story.

Rating: 3.0/5

And finally, Wild Child starring Emma Roberts. It's about a teenage girl who rebels against her father and gets sent to a boarding school in England her mother once attended. Despite her snarky L.A. attitude and many attempts to get expelled, she ends up fitting and and finding true friends. A chick flick, but a good watch if you're bored.

Rating: 3.5/5


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