Posts Tagged With: shopping

May 22nd – Day 3 – Chinese, Canal trip and Chiang Mai

The adventure has officially begun! Today I woke about 6:45 ready for adventures and after a quick shower, headed down for breakfast. In honesty I hadn’t slept well the night before – it turns out that turning off your air conditioning in a country where the ambient temperature is upward of 25c outside isn’t such a good idea.

Breakfast was, like most hotels, a buffet style but in Thailand this buffet included curried vegetables, rice and soups – although I initially stuck with the conventional yoghurt and cereal, followed by some French toast, potatoes, an egg and I did brave some curried vegetables (which were pretty good!).  I also had some amazing fresh pineapple juice, and some terrible tea. I ate breakfast with Karl, since Petra didn’t want breakfast and it was nice to get to know someone in the group a bit more.

Breakfast

After breakfast I went to my room and jammed all my stuff into my bag before meeting the group in the lobby. I have a pretty small bag compared to most people – all the Canadians have tons of luggage, only Jaqueline has a smaller bag than me, so I feel pretty good about how much stuff I’ve brought (I was really worried about this before the trip).

My bag is really reasonable in comparison to others

We loaded the bags onto 2 minivans and travelled over to the Grand Palace, our first stop for the day. The minivans are ours for the day which is great because we can leave all our luggage with the drivers whilst we go explore – I didn’t think twice about this but some others seemed concerned about leaving their bags with the drivers.  Maybe I’m too relaxed, or maybe I should really worry a bit more?

The Grand Palace opens at 8:30 and we got there pretty much bang on time (good score, GAdventures).  Unfortunately it seemed like the entire population of China also got there for 8:30. This place was CRAZY, it was busier than Disneyland at opening time.  In fact it reminded  me a lot of Disneyland – without the rides.  Lots of tour guides waving flags and babbling in foreign tongues whilst people shove and jostle to get through ridiculous security procedures that involve tying a piece of yellow twine around your bag to prove it is safe.

Busier than Disneyland!

There were so many people at the Grand Palace that it was actually fairly uncomfortable – I’m not great in crowds and this was one of the busiest places I’ve ever been.  We queued to go through security and then had a short wait whilst Dek (our CEO) picked up our tickets and then joined another queue (no, a crush – there was nothing orderly about this one) to get through the turnstiles and into the palace.

Once we finally made it through the crush, Dek took us to a shady spot (it was already over 30c at 9am!) to describe some of the history of the Grand Palace and it’s many buildings.  The palace has a lot of Hindu styling which surprised me since Thailand is a mostly Buddhist country but a lot of the Royal history is Hindu and the practices follow a combination of both cultures.  To say that the palace is beautiful is to do it an injustice – this place is quite seriously one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited. There were whole buildings decorated in gold, others with ornate sculptures and carvings, and incredible murals and paintings too.

The amazing view as you enter the palace

This building is made entirely of gold mirror tiles, like a giant abstract gold mirror ball

A close up of the giant mirror ball tiles

Another angle on the giant mirror ball building

Dek, our CEO and Thailand guide

Phra Si Ratana

Amazing carving and sculptures too

The lines of the buildings are so beautiful

The symbolism here is amazing

Another incredible statue

This is where the Emerald Buddha lives, but cameras are forbidden inside

The official highlight of the trip is a chance to see the Emerald Buddah (actually made of Jade) which is housed in an oppulant building of it’s own which you have to remove your shoes to go into.  Dek stayed to guard our shoes, and we proceeded to push our way through the throngs of Chinese to get into the temple to see this famous Buddah. It was really an interesting experience, and the Buddah looked good, but there were an unnecessary amount of people and photography wasn’t permitted, so you’ll just have to believe me on that one.
After the Emerald Buddah, the crowds thinned a bit as we headed into the more modern section of the palace with the latest buildings added in the 1850s – these were built in European or Western style, but with Thai roofs – quite a neat mixture.  We timed it perfectly to hit the changing of the guard procession, and got to see the white uniformed guards following a drummed march off duty.

Chakri Mahaprasat

Beautiful temple, possibly my favourite so far

Changing of the guard

It’s clear that the monarchy in Thailand is still very important to the country, and (unlike in the UK) they seem very proud and happy with their King.  We finishes the tour with a quick chat about the funeral processes in Thailand which involve cremation and spreading of ashes to the earth and water, following the Buddhist principles of returning the physical body to the elements whilst the spirit/soul moves on to it’s next life. Apparently some people get buried with something they want to have in their next life – money, nice clothes, etc are common but occasionally people will go with a car or something else they’re attached to!

After the end of the tour there was a request from the group for a toilet, which seemed to be lacking in the actual complex of the Grand Palace.  Our guide popped us back on the minibus and we headed towards the river, our next stop – where he discovered that the toilets were closed.  No problem – a bit of chatting away in Thai with locals and he was pointed to the university building down the street, where we processed like a group of school children on excursion before invading the university cafeteria building for a quick pee break. The university building actually had a small exhibit showing the old city wall and some bits and pieces which were found in the canal/river next to their site.

Dek on a Deck

Once everyone was suitably refreshed we headed down to the river to board a long tail boat for our river trip.  The purpose of this trip was not to see the major sites, but to see some of the other parts of Bangkok – including the houses which literally border to the river.  These people live their whole lives around the river, even their bin lorries (garbage trucks) float up and collect the bags from the edge of the water.

We saw a lot of interesting sites on this trip, including a water monitor (lizard) which made everyone quite excited, and a huge variety of standards of living from almost collapsed buildings to luxury waterside properties.  I think the highlight for everyone was when a old lady in a canoe floated up and sold us beers (ice cold) in the middle of the river. Clearly a tourist trap, but a great experience too!

Our boat arriving

Boat Selfie

Steve took my photo too

One of the grander places on the river side

The boat trip finished fairly quickly and then we jumped back on our mini bus to head to the airport – a trip of about 45 minutes.  The airport in Bangkok really is streamlined – check in was smooth (although some of the party had problems with overweight luggage) and security also simple (again, others had liquids in their hand luggage and other issues – being a frequent flier is paying off!)

Once we made it through security we stopped at the ‘Food Stop’ for a spot of lunch. I bought a Pad Thai and a coke, which cost 255 baht (£5, $8) – not much to us, but REALLY expensive compared to most Thai food! The food was okay, nothing really special. After my food I decided to treat myself (and our CEO) to a Krispy Kreme doughnut – after all, it’s a holiday! It’s Mango season in Thailand and as a result, they had special Mango doughnuts – I chose a Mango Twirl and a coffee, and together with a doughnut for our CEO, it cost 178 baht (£3.50, $5).

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Pad Thai at the airport

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Krispy Kreme Mango Twirl


The group dynamic was a bit weird at this point – a few people chose to sit apart from the rest of us. I think it’s going to take a while to bond with everyone!

Whilst we were waiting, Dek (our CEO) talked about the options for the ‘free choice’ day in Chiang Mai. I was really interested in doing something called the Flight of the Gibbon which is a zip lining adventure course near Chiang Mai which I had read about.  Dek told me that there are lots of competitive options there, and recommended a different company, called Dragon Flight, which is cheaper and better in his opinion.  He showed me their website and it does look pretty good – I think i’ll trust his local knowledge and save myself 1000 baht! The course has 47 platforms, 26 zip lines and the longest zip line is 800 meters – can’t wait!

We headed to our gate (B8, if you’re keeping track) to board our flight (WE164, with Thai Smile airlines). It was a small bus gate but since the plane was also small, that wasn’t really a problem. The plane was a Airbus A320-200, and the flight was short and uneventful – although they did present us with a funny bag snack pack containing a bottle of water and what looked like it was meant to be a Tuna sandwich.

Obligatory plane selfie

Obligatory plane selfie

Bag of food, our 'smile meal'

Bag of food, our ‘smile meal’

Water and a suspect tuna sandwich

Water and a suspect tuna sandwich

As we came in to approach Chiang Mai, it was clear we were in a completely different region of Thailand – where Bangkok had been hot and flat, Chiang Mai was green and hilly.  I asked Dek and he confirmed that Chiang Mai is about 330m above sea level.  Chiang Mai means New City, but it’s also centered around an area called Old Town, so it’s quite a juxtaposition to get your head around.

In Chiang Mai we only had one van, so with all our luggage it was really full when we all got in! Luckily the journey to the hotel was short! During the van trip, Dek briefed us on the stay in Chiang Mai and what our plan was.

Backpacking! (And front packing)

Backpacking! (And front packing)

Tight pack on the van

Tight pack on the van

Nice hotel!

Nice hotel!

Our hotel in Chiang Mai is really nice – the Empress Chiang Mai.  I have a nice sized room and we got around 2 hours to sort ourselves out before meeting at 7pm to head out to the Sunday Night Market, which is a huge attraction in Chiang Mai. Before our meeting I headed down to the hotel bar to use my ‘welcome drink’ voucher, which was presented to me- a glass of what tasted like apple juice… Not that exciting!

As we got ready to meet at 7pm, a bit of drama happened when one of the Canadians got their credit card stuck in an ATM and our CEO had to run to the rescue.  It all ended up okay, but they seemed really stressed by it – understandably.

We took a red truck ride to the Sunday Market. The red trucks in Chiang Mai are great – they’re like a cross between a taxi and a bus. You get on and pay almost nothing (20 baht – £0.40, $0.50) for your ride, and the driver takes you there but he also stops and picks up other people and goes wherever they want to go too.  Because we were 9 people, we got our own truck for just 180 baht.

Our red truck to the market

Our red truck to the market

The Night Market is huge, and crazy busy – tons and tons of stalls line the streets of the old town. They shut all the streets to traffic, so it’s just people walking around shopping and lots of food stalls.  The primary focus of this market is hand made and craft stalls – locals make things and bring them down to sell. I bought a couple of trinkets, but since my backpack is pretty tight already resisted the urge to go crazy and buy a ton of things.  During the market we got split apart as a group by the sheer volume of people, so I ended up on my own which was actually great as I got to go explore a few temples and food stall areas alone.

Sunday Night Market

Sunday Night Market

A temple at night. There are over 300 temples in the old town of Chiang Mai.

A temple at night. There are over 300 temples in the old town of Chiang Mai.

Hand made crafts

Hand made crafts

Glass blowing

Glass blowing

Everywhere you are in the world, there is Starbucks. I didn't try it.

Everywhere you are in the world, there is Starbucks. I didn’t try it.

The market was really colourful

The market was really colourful

Colourful elephants

Colourful elephants

Neat little lamp. If I had space in my bag, this guy would come back with me.

Neat little lamp. If I had space in my bag, this guy would come back with me.

When I got bored of the market, I decided to walk back to the hotel – about a 40 minute walk. Dek had provided us all with maps and the route is really simple, and it gave me a chance to see more of the city. I really like Chiang Mai – it’s small and friendly and not hot and noisy and crazy like Bangkok.

Back in the hotel, I bought a 50baht internet voucher and sent a few reassuring texts home before heading to bed. We have a 9am start tomorrow for our cooking adventure!

Want to read part 4? It’s here!

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Categories: South East Asia, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A bag for Southeast Asia – Osprey Farpoint 70

My prep continues for the trip to South East Asia, as the clock is ticking down – my gAdventures app now happily reminds me i’ve just got 70 days until departure!

Thankfully most of the gear I bought for my adventure to Peru is the same stuff i’ll need in South East Asia, but one thing I did need is a sensible travel bag.  As you probably know I do a lot of travel for work – but that’s always ‘easy’ travel – a suitcase, into a taxi, into a hotel.  Whilst this trip is fairly comfortable, it’s much more suited to a backpack style packing than a suitcase, so it’s time for me to invest.

For Peru I borrowed my friends bag, a Haglöfs backpack, but since i’m no longer living in Sweden, that’s not a convenient option.  On top of that, i’m planning to more of these style trips, so it makes sense to invest in my own.

Osprey-Farpoint-70-Travel-Backpack-0.jpg.001

Osprey Farpoint 70

Today, I decided, was shopping day – and I headed into an area of London where there are a bunch of outdoors shops.  I’d already done a bit of research online so I knew roughly what price point I was looking at, and who stocked which brands.  In the end my decision was fairly easy – hanging right by the entrance to Cotswold Outdoor was the beautiful Farpoint 70 from Osprey.  It’s a brilliant idea – a 70 litre backpack which combines a holdall style packing with the carrying convenience of a backpack.  The whole thing zips up so you can hide the backpack straps and turn it into checked luggage, or you can quickly unzip it and stick it on your back at the other end.  On top of that, there’s a front section which doubles as a day-pack, but zips to the main bag when you’re ready to carry them together.

Backpack-6

Two bags in one!

What a brilliant idea!

Essentially it’s two packs in one, but they can be carried as a single pack – one of my big fears about having my own pack was having to do that silly front/back carry which you see travellers doing all the time.

A 70 litre pack should be enough for 18 days, plus some space for souvenirs.  The really neat thing about this pack is that rather than packing top-down as most backpacks do, it unzips open like a hold-all.  This makes it much easier to get in and out of it when you’re travelling quickly between different hotels – rather than having to delve deep into the bag to find that one illusive item.

BackpackPacked

Front-loading packing system

I’m really happy with my purchase, and looking forward to getting to the stage where I can pack it!

Video review here

Categories: Gear, Shopping, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Outfittery – My box arrived!

This article is a continuation of the Outfittery shopping experience.  Read the first blog entry for the background information!

Look, it’s here:

My first outfittery box!

My first outfittery box!

It’s really cute how they make it look like a suitcase, and I guess it’s practical too (in Sweden parcels get delivered to your local shop, not your home – so I had to carry it home from there – the handle is a definite bonus point!)

Of course I dived straight in and opened up:

Opening the box

Opening the box

Beautifully presented, I must say – a set of outfits tied with string, and a note from my stylist:

A note from Sarah

A note from Sarah

Digging in I decided to unpack and see what was in the box:

The contents of the box

The contents of the box

3 outfits, plus underwear, socks, a white shirt and a spring jacket, and a pair of shoes.  Not a bad selection – lets dig in and try them on!

The outfits are actually detailed on the Outfittery website so i’ve already read about them by the time the box arrived, and unfortunately the packers (I assume Sarah didn’t actually pack the box herself!) had put the wrong set of jeans with the wrong shirts for outfits 1 & 2 – easily remedied of course!

So, here goes… outfit 1:

Outfit 1

Outfit 1

Outfit 1 - on!

Outfit 1 – on!

So here we have a pair of jeans (Selected), paired with a Nowadays cotton shirt and a Pierre Cardin sweater.  It’s not a bad look, but there are definitely some issues.  First of all – blue sweaters are a no-no for me, since that was my school uniform colour!

Secondly, the jeans are just too long.  Looking at the shipping forms I see that they sent me 32″ leg jeans – I wear a 26/27″ at best, a 28 is just about bearable – but a 32″ is definitely too long!

Too long!

Too long!

So, onwards – outfit 2:

Outfit 2

Outfit 2

Outfit 2 - on!

Outfit 2 – on!

This was an odd outfit combination for me – a polo shirt (Tommy Hilfiger) and a pair of Levis.  Very typically american, but again the same jeans problem – 32″ legs!  I’m not a big fan of polo shirts since tucked in they emphasise my belly and untucked they look a little scruffy.  In the outfit pack was also a shirt – by eterna.

Eterna shirt

Eterna shirt

I tried really hard to like this shirt, since it’s a nice colour and has a ‘no iron’ fabric which would be great for all my business travel.  But no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t fall in love with it – it’s a ‘modern cut’ style and it just felt too big.

So far, not much luck… Onwards…

Super Slim shirt

Super Slim shirt

White shirt, disaster

White shirt, disaster

The least said about the white shirt the better. I loved the style but I really need to work out a lot more before I can pull off a Super Slim fit shirt!

Outfit 3

Outfit 3

Outfit 3 - on!

Outfit 3 – on!

Now we’re talking!  A pair of Jack and Jones chinos paired with a Bellfield shirt… This is much more me!  The Chinos are a 30″ leg, so just about bearable, although I will probably get them altered.  There’s also a belt, by Ben Sherman, which paired really well. These went straight into the ‘keep’ pile!

Zip up cardigan

Also part of that outfit was a cardigan with a zip which was by edc by Espirit.  Again, a nice fit and it really made the outfit for me.  See – I even managed a smile!

Jacket

Jacket

Jacket

Jacket

Alongside the outfits was also a jacket.  This isn’t a style I would necessarily have tried in a shop, but actually it’s growing on me.  My initial reaction was ‘farmer’ and i’m not sure yet whether I want to keep it or not, but it’s something different and after all – that’s why I tried this site in the first place.  The fit was good, and it matched really well with the shoes:

Shoes & Underwear

Shoes & Underwear

Shoes

Shoes

I’m really happy with the shoes!  Polo Ralph Lauren, they’re so comfortable and a dark green colour so match well with the jacket.  Keep pile!

Boosted after my success with the latter outfits, I decided to retry some of the earlier stuff in different combinations, but no… still not a fan.  The polo shirt made me look fat from this angle!

Model posing

Model posing

So, all said and done i’m keeping about half of the stuff from the box.  In the iPhone app you can easily add comments on each item:

Feedback time

Feedback time

And that’s it – I’m going to wait a day or two before I ship it all back so that I can try things on again.  Spot anything you think I should keep??

 

Want to try it out for yourself? Use this link, and you’ll get a €50 credit (as will I)

Categories: Shopping | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Outfittery – a new shopping experience!

The other day, a Facebook targetted ad popped into my feed offering something I was actually interested in (I know, I was shocked too!). The promise was a personal shopping experience with a stylist, delivered right to my door.  Intrigued, I read on, and was quickly directed to their website – www.outfittery.com. *

The service works like this:

  • You sign up and complete a survey on your style preferences.  This is quite simple, with questions like ‘which of these brands to you like’ and ‘which of these items would you never wear?’
  • My style photos

    My style photos

    After that you upload a few photos of yourself, either via their iPhone app or directly via the website

  • You tell the website your sizes, and any fitting preferences
  • You schedule an appointment with your stylist
  • The stylist calls you at your appointed time and you have a friendly chat for 15 minutes
  • They send you a box of clothes which match your personal style
  • You try on everything in the comfort of your own home and pick the items you want to keep
  • You return the box with any unwanted items in it, and pay the invoice for the remaining goods

The concept sounded too good to be true – although i’ve been learning a lot about my style preferences, I always struggle to create whole outfit combinations so this is the ideal for me.  Plus, who couldn’t use a little style advice from time to type?!

So, I signed up.  I filled out the survey and was allocated ‘Sarah’ as my stylist. This is Sarah (on the right).

Sarah, my stylist

Sarah, my stylist

I specified a phone call time of 7:30pm the day of my signup, but unfortunately due to an admin mess up the call didn’t happen, but Sarah followed up with an email the next morning apologising and we set up a call that day instead.  During the call she introduced the concept in more detail and asked me tons of questions about my style preferences – what fit of jeans do I like? do I prefer V neck or round neck sweaters? how about the leather on my belt – should it be shiny or aged style? Literally everything was covered, and she told me she would create 2-3 outfits and put them in a box for me, then call me in a few days to ask what I thought of them.  The maximum value of the box is €1,500 – so i’m likely not to want everything!

Browsing the Outfittery website they have a few example outfits listed on there so you can see the sort of thing a box would contain – for me, those included these outfits (which I also have the option to order if I wanted):

Outfit

Exmaple Outfit 1

Outfit

Example Outfit 2

Outfit

Example Outfit 3

So now I wait… the box should arrive in a few days, and then I get to pick what I like!  Cross your fingers! I’ll update you once the clothes are here.

 

The box arrived… read more here!

* In the interests of disclosure – the above link gives you a €50 discount code. I also earn one if you click it and then order a box.

Categories: Shopping | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Still to buy…

mspowerhoudi_darkdenimI’m on a mission today! I’ve still got a few things to get on my shopping list for Peru… Hoping to tick almost all of them off this weekend. Continue reading

Categories: Gear, Peru | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 months to go!

Well here we are – September 1st. That means it’s exactly two months until I leave for my big adventure to Peru! I’ve still got loads to do before I go!

Thinking from the top of my head, the first big thing I mustn’t forget is the second injection of Twinrix on September 12th.  Apparently the travel clinic will text me to remind me, but i’m still trying to keep that date locked in my head.  After that the only medical thing I need to remember is I have to take two ‘shots’ of the Cholera medication at the start of October, and I must also get hold of some Mosquito spray with DEET.

I also still need to find a lot of clothes, a big backpack and many other things – hoping to do a lot of this when i’m in London for the weekend on the 19th-21st September.  My spreadsheet still feels like the majority of it is un-purchased, rather than bought, which is kind of scary considering how much money i’ve already spent!

The last thing is that I must get some more practice hikes in, before the weather turns fowl!  Swedish Winter starts in about October, so the clock is definitely ticking on this!

BRB, panicking!

Categories: Gear, Peru, Training | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hiking Pants dilemma

When I went shopping the other day, I discovered a problem which I hadn’t anticipated.

Hiking PantsI’m too short for hiking pants.  Or at least, I’m too short to buy the hiking pants on offer in Sweden.

I’m 5’7″ (172cm) tall, which isn’t unusually short, but certainly is below average for a male in Sweden.  However, my body is a bit disproportionate and my inseam is only 28″ (70cm).  That causes problems with hiking trousers much more than any other clothing, because hiking trousers have a knee patch.  On the models of hiking pants I tried on, the knee patch falls exactly where my knee ends.

Unfortunately for me, Swedish people tend to be proportionally taller than Brits, so the shops here don’t stock “Short” versions of the hiking pants.  That leaves me with an odd shaped body and very definitely a problem in buying the correct gear for the trip.

Fortunately I have a trip to London planned in September, so I will try to pick up my hiking pants whilst i’m there.  If anyone has any top tips for where to buy appropriately sized trousers, i’d love to hear it!

 

Update:  After a second shopping spree, I managed to locate some shorter style hiking pants in the Sale (“Rea”, in Swedish) section.  They’re not particularly high quality but they will do for training hikes and days when I’m not on the Inca Trail!

Categories: Gear, Peru | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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