Author: Bitterballenbruid

The Malta Diaries: Week 1

You remember how I told you I love Malta, right? Well now I’m here – for 2 months!! (I quit my job, but that’s a story for another time…)

St Julians, Malta

I’m on a Workaway project close to Sliema and St Julian’s and I’d like to document my trip, more for myself than anything. And as I’m flying solo (except for a weekend visit from the Dutchie, halfway into my trip) I should actually have time to write… so here goes!

Day 1

I arrived at Luqa airport on Monday, so it was one of the least Mondayish Mondays I’ve ever had. God it feels good to be free!

In case you don’t know, buses in Malta are shit! I mean they’re cheap and all and the network is pretty decent, but they’re almost never on time. (My first bus was 15 mins late, therefore cue missing my connecting bus – which only runs ever hour – and so I had to take 3 buses instead of 2. Then the 3rd bus was over 10 mins late.)

But you have to laugh. Patience is a virtue and all that…

So after spending almost 2 hours to get to my accommodation (it was supposed to take an hour) I realised that it didn’t matter anymore… OH. MY. GOD.

I’m literally living in paradise. No joke. I’ve checked with my hosts and they’re happy for me to write about my experiences and share photos – except of the kids. But I’m not going to post any pictures of their house or anything because I feel like that’s an invasion of their privacy. But here’s a picture of their cheeky sheep:

In the Workaway advert it said I’d get my own double bedroom, with a private entrance, bathroom, kitchen and washing machine. I was expecting like a little granny annex or something.

What I actually have is a 3 bedroom house all to myself – it’s massive! There’s an open-plan lounge, fully equipped kitchen, bathroom with bath, shower and washing machine, a massive double bedroom and a walk-in wardrobe! Needless to say I’m VERY comfortable here 🙂

I have to work for 3 hours per day, Monday – Saturday in exchange for accommodation plus money for food. (*More details about my Workaway position at the end of this post…*)

So this means there’s plenty of time left for exploring!

Day 2

After my first 3 hour shift and learning the ropes I wanted to explore the surrounding area on foot.

I went to The Top of the World, Gharghur. It’s a lovely hike and the views are amazing if you’re in the area, but I wouldn’t bother making a special trip or anything. However I’m really happy I have this relatively close by – being the nature girl that I am!! And as I’m travelling solo I can sit on cliff edges without the Dutchie freaking out! 😉 (Sorry not sorry, dear husband…)

Top of The World, Gharghur

Top of The World, Gharghur

Day 3

On Wednesday, after completing my duties, including looking after a parrot (that’s one to add to the CV, eh?) I headed to Sliema, hoping to get my bus card (the Tallinja card) sorted. No such luck, I’d recommend just doing it online. (My card finally worked after about 5 times of trying! It’s a very frustrating website. Good luck!)

Sliema was much busier than when I visited 4 years ago and there’s loads of construction going on (that applies to pretty much everywhere on the island actually!) but I’m still glad I went for nostalgic reasons ❤ (The Dutchie and I spent our first wedding anniversary on holiday in Sliema.)

Sliema promenade, Malta

Sliema promenade, Malta

I then walked to St Julian’s and Spinola Bay! OMG… the water is just SO BLUE! I also went for a cheeky drink in the sunshine and I can confirm that G&Ts are still cheap as chips on Malta!! €2.50!!

St Julians, Malta

Day 4

I fancied staying a bit closer to ‘home’ so I took a bus to Mosta on Thursday. The Rotunda of Mosta (also known as Mosta Dome) is really beautiful, as are the streets and I ended up walking round for hours and taking pictures. It’s a really nice city, but probably not a must-see in Malta to be completely honest.

Mosta Dome

Mosta Dome

Streets of Mosta

Streets of Mosta

Day 5

Day 5 was supposed host my first outing to Mellieha… my favourite place on Malta! Maar helaas niet. But unfortunately not. I missed my bus (doh!!) and the next one wasn’t for another hour, so I just jumped on the next bus and ended up in Valletta.

I wasn’t overly enamoured with Valletta the first time I went there (again, 4 years ago). But this time I liked it WAY more. On my bus journey over there, I checked my Trip Advisor App and saw that I’d saved a couple of gluten free cafes in my list, and as I was starving I headed straight to Piadina Caffe. (Yes, two ffs). One diet Kinnie and a gluten free focaccia later, I was a very happy girl and ready to explore! (At the end of the trip I’ll probably do a dedicated post about being GF in Malta if anyone is interested!)

Piadina Caffe, Valletta

Piadina Caffe, Valletta

I then did what I do best: wandered round aimlessly for hours on end, taking in the city… and lots of photos obviously!!

I stumbled upon this one street, which I’m pretty sure is Insta-famous, and took probably one of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken:

Valletta street scene

Valletta street scene

Instagram clearly agrees because it’s got about 200 likes 🙂

Day 6

Yesterday I decided I couldn’t be dealing with buses (!!) so I explored Naxxar (prounounced something like nash-ar) on foot. I also visited the Top of the World again and racked up over 20k steps!

Pretty street in Naxxar, Malta

Pretty street in Naxxar, Malta

Day 7

Today I’m off to Floriana, near Valletta, because they’re holding a ‘festa’ there! The Maltese festa is a (religious) village feast – the Maltese love their patron saints and so a party is held in their honour every year – some villages even celebrate multiple times per year! According to MaltaUncovered.com I should expect “Lots of colours, lots of sound and lots of locals for starters…” And fireworks… don’t forget the fireworks!!

Happy Sunday everyone, hope you’ve had a great week!

Hayley x

 

Week 1 stats (up to Sunday): 

Photos taken: 137

Distance covered on foot: 76 km

Steps: 117k

Bus rides taken: 6

Destinations visited: Top of the World, Gharghur, Naxxar, Mosta, Sliema, St Julian’s, Spinola Bay, Valletta, Floriana

Lowlights: the buses!!

Things I have learned about Malta this week:  

  • Walking anywhere outside the main tourist areas feels like dancing with death! There are rarely any footpaths. Ever seen Italians drive? Same.
  • There are cranes everywhere 😦
  • Dead cactus smells like wet dog.

 

Workaway.info

For anyone wanting more info about this Workaway position:

I’m mainly looking after the family’s menagerie of animals: 2 horses, 4 dogs, countless stray cats, a sheep, chickens, 2 ducks and a parrot! Plus some light cleaning duties: mostly hoovering, sweeping and mopping.

It’s very fair. They’re actually looking for someone to replace me at the end of June, preferably for 3 months as they’re away a lot in the “summer” (it’s 20-22 degrees at present! So summer enough for me!!) it’s mostly going to be house sitting / looking after the animals. If you’re interested and can stay for 3 months, please contact Rachel via their Workaway advert 🙂 You won’t regret it!!

 

 

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The best Vietnamese food in Hilversum

Caphe Eij & Wijs, Hilversum

A couple of years ago, there were a total of zero places selling Vietnamese food in Hilversum! When I wanted rice paper rolls I had to go to Utrecht, to Kimmade. Hardly a chore, as I’m in Utrecht a lot anyway… but now we have 3 Vietnamese places in Hillywood! 🎉

This makes me super happy as I looooooooove Vietnamese food. On our “big trip” to Asia back in 2016 it was our favourite cuisine hands down!! Beating the food of Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia!! 

I just love the freshness and the use of herbs (think shitloads of coriander and mint) and it’s one of a handful of cuisines that is naturally lactose and gluten free, making it ideal for me! 😋

So, if I’ve managed to tickle your taste buds already, here’s where to get your Vietnamese fix in Hilversum: 

1. Viet Kitchen @ Mout

Viet Kitchen @ Mout, Hilversum

Regular readers of this blog will know I’m obsessed with Mout!! The best kitchen at Mout is Viet Kitchen and the best thing from their menu is the pork skewers (it’s called “gegrilde sate – Saigon pork” on the menu). Make sure you get some sriracha sauce if you like it hot! (They don’t serve it as standard so you have to ask.) 

2. Caphe Eij & Wijs

Caphe Eij & Wijs, Hilversum

This place has been a cafe for years (as in coffee), but last year they started serving Vietnamese food too! It’s good, but not amazing. The rice paper rolls are decent, better value than the ones at Mout as they have more meat and less rice noodles. The Banh Xeo (Vietnamese crispy pancake filled with beansprouts and meat) is also good, but I’ve had better (see below!) 😉 The Dutchie enjoyed his pho but I can’t comment as I never order it outside of Vietnam as I always find it so disappointing! The chicken skewers were just ok, not enough sauce!!

I’d therefore recommend this place for a drink and a bite (rice paper rolls) maybe not a full meal… plus, if you do go, the mural on the wall is hella cute! 

3. Mai Taste

In my opinion this is the best Vietnamese food you can get in Hilversum. The Banh Xeo is spot on! So crispy and delicious. They’re a little stingy with the prawns, but hey, no one’s perfect eh? The other stand out dish is the chicken curry – Ca ri ga. Superb. It tastes even better the next day, if you can restrain yourself that is!! Value-wise, this is also the best out of the three. But I guess that’s logical as they’re a takeaway place, not a restaurant. They also give you free kroepoek with orders over €20. Gratis is gratis, no?

Damn, this is making me hungry!!

Where’s your favourite place to eat Vietnamese food in the Netherlands? 

Hayley x 

 

10 Things I love about Holland

It’s been almost 5 years since I moved to Holland, and seeing as 5 is my lucky number I thought I’d handcraft a love letter to the Netherlands. My little kikkerlandje! 😀

Bike ride Hilversum

1. Cycling 

I haven’t owned a car since I’ve lived here and I don’t miss it at all. Cycling is just so much fun!

2. Bitterballen

You know it!!! The best deep fried Dutch delicacy known to woman.

3. Trains (and public transport in general)

When Dutch people complain about NS I just have to laugh! They should go and live in the UK for a couple of weeks and then they’d appreciate just what a great thing they’ve got going.

4. Gezelligheid

It’s very important to understand Dutch culture if you live here and gezelligheid is your fast-track way to start to understand how Dutch people work.

5. Tolerance

The Netherlands is very accepting society and one of the things I personally love is their acceptance of dogs (and cats) everywhere. They’re allowed on trains, in cafes, pubs… you name it. Don’t be surprised if you see a cat sleeping on the bar in your local kroeg (pub) – it’s very normal here!

Ubuntu beach

6. Beaches

Holland has some really great beaches!! (As well as some fantastic beach bars!) My absolute favourite is Zandvoort.

7. Racing

Since Max Verstappen joined Formula 1 – everyone has gone crazy about racing. He’s actually dual-nationality (Belgian and Dutch) but he chose to race for NL. We also have a couple of great circuits here – Assen, Zandvoort and Spa (in Belgium).

8. Klein maar fijn

Being such a small country, it’s so easy to get around! You can drive top to bottom in 3-4 hours or west to east in around 1.5 – 2 hours! Making it so easy to explore 🙂

9. Work-life balance

Dutch people know how to relax!! Whether it’s on a terrace soaking up the sun or on a boat, bike or just chilling in their garden – relaxed is their middle name. And it’s infectious!

10. Amsterdam

So, yes, as I’ve pointed out in other posts, there’s so much to explore besides Amsterdam… but that doesn’t stop it being good! Where else in the world can you walk along the canals in the red light district with a spliff in one hand and a stroopwafel in the other, whilst narrowly avoiding being run over by a bike? Ik hou van Amsterdam ❤

So there it is: my Top 10. What’s your favourite thing about Holland?

Hayley x

 

4 Podcasts I am currently listening to…

I’m a bit late to the podcast party, but better late than never eh? My friend H introduced me to a couple of podcasts a while back and I just couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about! Why would you want to just sit there and have someone talk at you, without being able to respond?

Photo credit: SophieCliff.com

But then I tried listening to a podcast while eating my breakfast, or doing chores like hanging washing or emptying the dishwasher. (My friend listens to them while driving.) And then I suddenly got it, it’s just like background noise – radio without the music. You don’t SIT and listen to it. You listen to it while doing other stuff. (Btw, no idea why people listen to podcasts while doing the hoovering, ditto listening to music while hoovering!! A neighbour of mine used to do that, so not only would I be able to hear the hoover, but also his music blasted over the hoover noise. Very fucking annoying. Just FYI.)

Anyway, podcasts. There a few I’m really enjoying at the moment, so I thought I’d share…

1. Sophie Cliff – Practical Positivity

I’ve been reading Sophie’s blog for a couple of years and she recently launched a podcast so I thought I’d give it a go, and I love it! All this positivity bullshit can get pretty annoying, but she does it in a way that’s practical (do you see what she did there) so it doesn’t end up being preachy. It’s just useful, straightforward advice and tips that Sophie uses herself to stay positive (and productive)! Of all the bloggers out there, Sophie produces a hell of a lot of content and her followers (including me) are often left scratching their heads as to how she fits it all in alongside a full-time job! In her podcast she shares her personal experiences and breaks big topics down into chunks so you can put her tips into practice. Highly recommended if you’re looking to make 2019 your year! (I bloody am!)

2. Kayte Ferris & Jessica Rose Williams – The Little Chapters

I can’t actually remember how I came across this podcast, but I really enjoy it! To be completely honest I don’t follow Kayte or Jessica’s blogs and I only follow one of them on Instagram (I think Kayte) because they’re a bit too slick – not really my cup of tea (nothing personal) but the podcast is fab! They vibe off each other really well and discuss subjects like clutter, comparison, money, social media and routine – all of which I’ve found really interesting! Give it a go 🙂 these girls are really fun to listen to!

3. Sam Sparrow – The Travelust Podcast

The last podcast episode from this series was posted in April 2018, so unfortunately I don’t think Sam is recording any more… however there are 8 episodes available so plenty to get your teeth into! As the title suggests, it’s all about travel!! Sam chats with fellow bloggers about their travels, they talk about their experiences in their own particular niches and give the odd travel tip too. It has a really relaxed and friendly feel to it. Basically just like listening to two mates chatting about travelling.

4. Dr Rangan Chatterjee – Feel Better, Live More

I must admit, I haven’t listened to all of the episodes from Feel Better, Live more – as there are over 50 available on iTunes and some of them are over an hour long!! But the ones I have listened to I have really enjoyed! Dr Chatterjee has some awesome guests on the show, who are all experts in their field and coupled with his knowledge (he’s been a GP for 16 years) he provides some solid advice, backed up with medical info and research, but without getting into complicated medical terms. Which makes complete sense, because I’ve just read his slogan: “Health has become overcomplicated. I aim to simplify it”. A man of his word! Recommended!

 

Which podcasts are you currently listening to? And which do you recommend?

Hayley x

 

 

Volunteering at LASSie animal shelter and sanctuary in Langkawi – Everything you need to know

Langkawi LASSie

Langkawi LASSie (which stands for Langkawi Animal Shelter and Sanctuary Foundation) is a non-profit animal shelter which was set up to receive, rehabilitate and care for animals that are neglected, abused and in need. It is located at the Bon Ton resort in Langkawi, Malaysia, close to Pentai Cenang beach.

Langkawi LASSie

LASSie a privately funded, small-scale operation (aided and supported by the Bon Ton and Temple Tree resorts) therefore they are always in need of volunteers to help out. We volunteered in Jan 2019 and had the most brilliant time, but when trying to plan our visit I couldn’t find much information online other than LASSie’s own website, so I’m here to rectify that now 🙂

So if you’re planning a visit… here’s all you need to know:

Langkawi LASSie

There are currently about 150 dogs on the property, we looked after about 50 and the rest are looked after by staff. I didn’t count all of the cats but I would guess at about 50-60! Some of the cats are free roaming so it adds a friendly feel to the resort, you might make some furry mates along the way!

Unlike other sanctuaries, for example Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Chiang Mai and Lanta Animal Welfare (LAW) on Koh Lanta, Thailand, it’s completely free to volunteer here. This is because LASSie is small and not as “developed” as the other sanctuaries I have visited. It’s all about the animals, which I love!

Langkawi LASSie

How long can you volunteer for?

The minimum period for volunteering is 2 weeks, working 6 days a week with one day off – so if you’re able to commit to that – in return you get to spend a couple of weeks with some fantastic cats and dogs. Of course they prefer longer stays if you have the time! 🙂 We’d love to go back for 2 months if we can! LASSie currently welcomes up to four live-in volunteers at a time.

Langkawi LASSie

Are there other ways to help out? 

If you can’t dedicate that much time, you can come and help walk the dogs in the morning, from 10am – 12 noon. Unfortunately this is only for people aged 16+ as a lot of the dogs are quite large and strong! Kids are welcome, but they won’t be able to walk the dogs themselves.

You can also spend some time socialising with the cats. Again, I’d recommend coming between 10am – noon as there will be more volunteers around at that time to help you.

Playing aka socalising with the cats

Playing aka socalising with the cats

Multi-tasking :)

Multi-tasking 🙂

You could adopt a pet (!!) or donate toys, treats, medicine, building materials, food, or money. The best thing to do is send an email via the website to see what is needed at that time. (For example when I was there, the dogs had loads of balls, but they didn’t really like to play with them, they preferred squeaky toys and ropes.) If you’re looking to adopt it’s probably best to make an appointment.

Cats at Langkawi LASSie

Cats at Langkawi LASSie

Volunteer Accommodation

Free staff accommodation is included. (No, you won’t be staying at the Bon Ton resort… hahahaha!!) It’s basic and very rustic, but has everything you need including mosquito nets, air co, fridge, kettle, toaster, shower and a flushing toilet (sometimes 🙃). You’ll have a few flatmates; we had geckos, centipedes and a beetle! (I swear it was a cockroach but the Dutchie maintains it was a beetle…) We also had 2 dogs on our front porch: Rosie and Gizzy ❤️❤️ they’re absolutely adorable!!

Staff accommodation at Langkawi LASSie

Staff accommodation at Langkawi LASSie

Rosie <3

Rosie ❤️

Gizzy

Gizzy ❤️

Staff Food

You get free staff meals: breakfast is milk, bread, butter and jam. Then lunch and dinner changes on a daily basis but is generally rice, one type of protein, lots of veggies and sometimes noodles. It’s good hearty Malaysian food and will fill you up after a hard days work.

Food at Langkawi LASSie

When eating, you sit in the staff ‘restaurant’ – which is a actually a store room – with a few furry friends! There are fans and wifi, so no complaints here! Once you’ve finished eating, you need to wash up your own plate, cutlery and glass. Remember: you’re a staff member so no one is cleaning up after you.

One staff drink per day is included for example tea, coffee, soft drinks, fresh juices etc. And the cherry on the cake is that once a week you get to enjoy a 3 course meal at the Bon Ton restaurant which is superb!!!

Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi

Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi

But a volunteer isn’t in it for the free stuff, right? The main focus here is the cats and dogs.

What do the volunteers do?

The day starts at around 9.45am when you walk your “own” dog(s). We looked after Rosie and Gizzy, the volunteer next to us also had his “own” dog called Jon Jon. Then you start walking the rest of the dogs at 10am.

Dog walking at Langkawi LASSie

Walking Happy and Peaches

Walking Happy and Peaches

All of the dogs are walked in their “packs” to avoid fights and all “packs” are kept at a safe distance from each other. Each day follows the same routine so that the dogs all know roughly when they’re going to be walked.

Depending on how many volunteers there are, the walking finishes between 12 and 12.45pm. If you finish early you can play with the cats until lunchtime.

Cat heaven!

Cat heaven!

Between 12.45 and 1pm the dogs are all fed and it’s the volunteers duty to help with the feeding, pick up empty bowls and then wash them all ready for the next feed. Once this is all done, the humans get to eat!! Yum!!

We generally finished eating around 2pm so we’d go back to our bedroom and cool off in the airco / lie down ready for the afternoon shift!

‘Rotation’ starts at 3pm where dogs are let out in a large yard to have a run around off the lead. Again they are let out in their individual “packs” and get around 10-20 mins to play, get flea and tick checked and depending on the day some of the dogs have a shower under the hose. Rotation follows the same pattern every time, again so that the dogs get into a routine (it also makes it easier to remember for the humans too!)

Poppy enjoying the run

Poppy enjoying the run

Rotation at Langkawi LASSie

Rotation at Langkawi LASSie

Playing with Jack during rotation

Playing with Jack during rotation

Once all of the dogs have had their allotted time, been flea and tick checked and are all safely back in their cages for the evening… the last job is… you guessed it… picking up all the poo!! You’re done by about 6pm!

Poo duty!

Poo duty! (That’s paint on his shorts… don’t worry!)

Is it difficult working at LASSie?

Generally the work is really easy if you love animals and don’t mind getting dirty!!

Excited for walkies!!

Excited for walkies!!

Occasionally there will be a difficult situation, for example dogs fighting… but never try to break it up with your hands!! We used loud noises such as clapping or if they were really naughty… spraying them with water!

We also experienced a few animals dying. At the beginning of one week someone had dumped 6 kittens, unfortunately by the end of the week there were only 4 left. There was also a cat dropped off in a polystyrene box one day, it looked like she’d been in a road traffic accident and we didn’t see her again so I don’t think she made it either 😢

If you can’t handle situations like this, I wouldn’t encourage you to volunteer. LASSie are doing an amazing job, but as with anything, they can only do their best.

Kittens at Langkawi LASSie

Kittens at Langkawi LASSie

Kitten at Langkawi LASSie

Kitten at Langkawi LASSie

Would you recommend volunteering at LASSie?

Wholeheartedly, YES!!!! It was only my second ever volunteering experience but now I’m totally hooked. The Dutchie and I both absolutely loved it. Yes, it’s hard at times but it’s 100% worth it. The work is just so rewarding and you go to bed feeling like you’ve really helped with something! So if you get the chance: JUST DO IT!!

Group photo!!

Group photo!!

Dog walking with a view!

Dog walking with a view!

YOLO

YOLO

Is there anything else I need to know?

Cenang Supermarket is 10 mins walk away, apparently so is the beach (but we didn’t walk there directly from LASSie).

There’s a washing machine on site, behind the volunteer housing. (We didn’t know this and ended up paying to wash our clothes at a local launderette!)

To get around the island, you can either hire a moped or download the Grab app and take cheap taxis. (It’s the Asian version of Uber, except much less expensive!)

Recommended things to bring:

Travel towel (towels are not provided)

Extra pillow (your travel pillow will do!) and a sheet if you have enough room in your luggage

Refillable water bottle (you can fill your water bottles at the bar for free)

Coffee and / or tea if you like specific brands (otherwise you can buy tea / coffee in Cenang supermarket)

Recommended things to buy when you’re there:

Toilet roll (if needed… otherwise there is a bum gun… hahaha!)

Malaysian sim card (there is wifi but it only works in the restaurant)

Langkawi LASSie

Getting licked by Elvis!

Ok, I think that’s it!! I’ve tried to be as detailed as I possibly can, but if there’s anything I’ve missed or you have any questions, please fire away! And if you’re going to LASSie… lucky you! I’m jealous! Please say hi from me 🙂

Hayley x

www.langkawilassie.org.my

Update 9th Feb 2019: LASSie are currently trying to raise €6,000 to save 6 abandoned puppies, if you’d like to donate you can do so here. Thanks for your support!

 

 

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour: a detailed review

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

I recently went to Chiang Mai for 2 weeks and as I was staying for a decent period of time I fancied doing some kind of tour or activity, in addition to my week volunteering at Elephant Nature Park (a separate post will follow on that asap). In the past I’ve really enjoyed all of the tours I’ve done on holiday: a Jeep Tour in Antalya, Turkey; Bat Caves in Battambang, Cambodia; a Mekong Delta Tour in Vietnam and countless other boat tours for that matter (!) plus various cooking classes in Thailand, Bali and Cambodia. Seeing as I’ve done lots of cooking classes already, I ruled that out, but I still fancied something food-related. Either that or a boat tour, so I looked up some options on Trip Advisor and found ‘Chiang Mai Street Food Tours’ with rave reviews! Sold!

I was picked up promptly from my hotel by our driver and host, Sonny. (He was actually even a few minutes early!! Quite a rarity in Thailand! AND the best driver I’ve experienced in Thailand so far… most taxi drivers seem to have a death wish!) I was joined by two Americans, a woman around my age and an older American guy. Having such a small group was great as we got more time with Sonny and he was able to answer any questions we had and we also had plenty of time to chat in between ‘courses’.

We started off in a little side-street restaurant with 3 pork dishes which we had to order ourselves in Thai 😊 We were given a ‘cheat sheet’ and Sonny helped us with our pronunciation. In addition to useful words and phrases, our handout also included a list of the most common street food dishes, in English and Thai along with pictures and a description of the ingredients. Super handy! I’ll be keeping hold of this for future trips!

We tried Grilled Pork with Dressing (Nam Tok Moo), Minced Pork Salad (Laap Moo) and some BBQed Pork (Moogata – BBQ). I can’t tell you which was my favourite as they were all so tasty! The four of us polished off the lot! I liked the fact that Sonny ate with us so he felt part of the group than a ‘guide’. The grilled pork was served with sticky rice which Sonny showed us how to ball up and eat with our fingers.

Next we walked a short distance to our first street food market where we tried a local Chiang Mai sausage (Sai Ua). Delicious! With a good kick of spice too!

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

We then sat down at a street food stall with plastic seating and had the famous local dish Khao Soi alongside a pork and noodle broth dish, I forgot to write the name down (doh) but here’s a pic:

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

Khao Soi is a northern Thai dish with influences from Burma, which consists of flat egg noodles topped in a rich creamy coconut curry. It’s usually served with deep fried egg noodles on top, for texture, plus picked mustard greens, red onions and a wedge of lime.

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

Khao Soi

Next up was a sweet treat in the form of Coconut Dumplings (Khanom Krok) made with rice flour! Yum! Very moreish and not too sweet either which was perfect for me as I’m not really into super-sweet things.

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

Coconut Rice Dumplings

We then hopped back into Sonny’s pickup truck and headed to the other side of Old Town where we had Soy Sauce Pork (Khao Ka Moo) which is slow cooked pork knuckle, Fried Chicken and Morning Glory! (Tee hee!) The Thai name for Morning Glory is Pad Pak Bung.

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

Morning Glory, Soy Sauce Pork and Fried Chicken

Because I’m gluten intolerant I only tried a teeny bit of the pork and I skipped the fried chicken, so Sonny went and got me some plain grilled chicken – without me asking! What a sweetie! This is a good point to note that they’re very happy to accommodate any dietary requirements… when we were first picked up he asked if we had any restrictions and was well versed in gluten and wheat as well as lactose.

To round off a superb evening the plan was to end with Mango Sticky Rice (Khao Niew Ma Muang)… however the stall had out of rice! Haha! So we just had mango and coconut milk instead… still delicious! And actually, we were all pretty full, so maybe skipping the rice wasn’t a bad thing! It was topped with some mung beans which were yummy and added a nice crunch to the dish!

Chiang Mai Street Food Tour

Mango Sticky Rice (without the rice!)

I was dropped back to my hotel at around 10.30pm, so it was quite a long evening. Online it said the tour lasted 2 – 2.5 hours so we overran somewhat. (My pick up time was 7pm).

Overall, the Chiang Mai Street Food Tour was fantastic tour and I’d highly recommend it. I also wrote a short review on Trip Advisor and gave it 4 stars there, simply because of the price.

At €25 EUR / $29 USD / £23 GBP I did find it slightly expensive, especially for Chiang Mai! I roughly totted up the price of the dishes in my head and that comes to around 300-350 baht p.p. which is about €10. I realise that other costs also need to be taken into account – admin, Trip Advisor commission, fuel and tour guide fee… but still… it’s a little on the pricey side so I wouldn’t recommend it for budget travellers.

FYI: I paid for the tour myself and am writing this review because I loved it 😊

 

THE LOWDOWN

Cost:

€25 via Trip Advisor (Roughly $29 USD / £23 GBP / 1,000 baht.) Prices correct as of November 2018.

Transport:

Includes pick up and drop off to/from your hotel in Chiang Mai Old Town.

Stuff to bring:

Mosquito repellent, comfy shoes and clothes (I wouldn’t recommend wearing a dress/skirt as you have to clamber in and out of the truck) and a tip for the tour guide (if you are so inclined… my fellow tour mates and I agreed on 200 baht each – about €5 – which is about 20%. I’m sure 100 baht would suffice though!) Plus an umbrella / jacket if the weather calls for it.

What not to bring:

No need to bring water as this is provided for you.

 

Please do let me know if you take the tour! Would be interested to hear what you think!

Hayley x

 

 

The best flexible work spots in Hilversum for freelancers

Freelancer? Remote worker? Me too! (The latter.) I often work from my office at home, but sometimes you need to get out of the house! Maybe you need some human interaction… or even just a good coffee! Enter the coffee shop… no, not that kind!! We’re in the Netherlands but I’m talking beverages here!!

Freelancers need a good cafe where they can hang out and work… somewhere with strong wifi and equally strong coffee…

I’ve visited A LOT of cafes in Hilversum over my 4 years of working from home, so let me share my favourite spots with you:

1. MOUT

Mout Hilversum

If you follow me on Instagram, you will know I’m here, A LOT. And why? Because it’s so damn good. Food halls are fantastic concepts in general but here it’s done really well. Drinks are ordered at your table by waiting staff, and food is ordered at each individual food stall using your table number. A lot of food halls require queuing and waiting for your food, but here they will bring it to your table as soon as it’s ready. Simple and effective.

The choice is massive, from Vietnamese food to salads, Italian to fish and chips, to Latin American food and Dim Sum. They really have it all. My personal tip: the sweet potato fries with Parmesan and basil mayo are THE ONE!!

Oh and there’s free, open wifi, a water dispenser, and the place is massive so there’s loads of seating to choose from, inside and out. (They also do bitterballen, but not very good ones unfortunately… )

Mouthilversum.nl | Naarderstraat 8

 

2. Bagels & Beans

It can get a little noisy in here, so it depends what kind of work you’re doing. I can’t go here when I’m working on spreadsheets!! But other than that, it’s a good bet. The food is delicious, the wifi works and it’s split on 3 levels so you’ll almost always find a place to sit.

The best thing on the menu is without a doubt the Paddo burger (mushroom burger). They have gluten free and low gluten bagels and there are lactose free options too. Everyone’s a winner.

Bagelsbeans.nl | Kerkstraat 3

 

3. Presto Coffee & More

This is a cute little place slightly out of the centre. Which is good, because generally it means it’s quieter than the other places I’ve mentioned so far. The wifi is good and the interior is really cool – industrial meets homely. Bag yourself a seat on the turquoise sofa if you can!! There’s also plenty of outside seating but unfortunately not much view to speak of.

They have gluten and lactose free options and a page of specials, so there’s always something new to try. The banana bread (gluten/lactose/sugar free) comes highly recommended! 😀

Presto Facebook page (no website) | Herenstraat 20

 

4. Your Coffee

Your Coffee Hilversum

I think everyone in Hilversum knows this place… hence it’s always packed! But you can usually find a table as there’s loads of seating inside (2 levels) and out. There’s also a section / play area for kids upstairs… but this post is about remote working, so moving swiftly on!!

If you’ve built up an appetite whilst working they do an excellent Buddha bowl and the chicken thighs with spelt bread is also really good!

There’s no service upstairs, but if you can’t be bothered to walk downstairs to order they have these little notes where you can write your order and then put it inside a ball and drop it down a drainpipe-esque chute! A fun way to order and it works!!

Yourcoffeehilversum.nl | Kerkstraat 38A

 

5. Doppio Espresso

I went here this week and had a Bountyccino!! OMG. And it’s lactose free… WIN! There’s a terrace outside and plenty of space to sit inside. It’s actually quite deceptive just how large it is inside, so I doubt you’ll ever struggle to find space. Lots of staff so service is attentive. Recommended!

Doppioespresso.nl | ‘s-Gravelandseweg 14

 

So, those 5 are all in Hilversum but if you fancy going a bit further afield I can also suggest the following:

 

6. Heidezicht

Heidezicht

This place has also featured on my Instagram account a fair few times recently! To be honest I haven’t worked here yet – but I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t! The location is great, in the middle of the Hei (heathland) hence the name… and it’s just a lovely, peaceful place to hang out.

Not too many food options on the menu, but the charcuterie platter (pictured above) is pretty good. In terms of borrelhapjes (for once you’ve finished working, as it’s open til 8pm): the garnalenkroketjes are good (8/10), bitterballen are ok (7/10) but unfortunately the groentekroketjes are decidedly average (5/10).

Heidezicht.nl | Randweg 203, Bussum

 

7. Theehuis ‘t Bluk

This place also has a great view. It’s *technically* located in Laren but from Hilversum it’s a nice walk or cycle through the Hei to get to it!

Good wifi and menu – the borrelplanken are very good – especially the cheese one! Service can be a bit hit and miss… but hey, we’re in Holland remember!

Bluk.nl | Zuiderheide 2, Laren

 

8. Brambergen

I’m a sucker for a view!! What can I say!? This place is also located a bit out-of-the-way in ‘s-Graveland. But it’s well worth the drive or cycle as you’re surrounded by nature! I wouldn’t recommend walking from Hilversum because it’s too far, about an hour walk according to Google.

It’s situated right next to the visitor centre for the Natuurmonumenten – “Nature Monuments’ (jeez, how do you translate that?!) Here it is in Dutch anyhoo: Bezoekerscentrum Gooi en Vechtstreek – Natuurmonumenten)

It can get a little busy at times, but usually it’s quiet enough to work. (Tip: avoid Wednesday afternoons as many kids are off school then and it does get rammed!) The kaasstengels are excellent and they also do gluten/lactose/sugar free banana bread!

Brambergen.nl | Noordereinde 54d, ‘s-Graveland

 

I hope you enjoy these work spots! If you try any of them out, please do let me know what you think!

Did I miss one? Please let me know! I’m always looking for cute new hangouts! 🙂

Hayley x

 

My travel plans for 2018 and beyond

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

I’ve been debating about whether to post this or not because I don’t want to appear like I’m boasting. One of my main goals in life is to not be a dick, especially online. So yeah, there’s that.

But maybe online bragging isn’t actually bragging at all. Perhaps we’re all just talking about and sharing what we love most? What we spend most of our time on, and possibly most of our money on.

We all have those friends who post a gazillion baby pictures online. Others share car pics, or fancy food they’re eating in restaurants, or photos of their outfit/shoes/handbags… other friends of mine are having extensions or renovating… so then you get all the interior design posts. Everyone’s got their own thing.

Mine is travel. It’s my true passion. And once my bills are paid – it’s what I spend most of my time dreaming about and therefore what I like to spend my money on.

So this is personal post today because I’ve been a busy little bee. I’ve been booking trips and using our savings to make the next 5 months bloody brilliant! I’m so excited I’m almost beyond words… almost! 😉 And the fact that I’m so excited means I’m telling anyone and everyone who will listen about my plans… and that includes you!

 

Sept 2018 – Lisbon, Portugal

The first trip we have planned is to Portugal for my birthday! We have two sets of friends who live in Portugal, so we’re lucky to be able to stay with them, which reduces our travelling costs significantly! 🙂 (By the way… I’m probably going to write a separate post about how I save money for travelling, as it’s something I get asked all the time!)

We’re going to spend three nights with our friends in Lisbon and then two nights at our other friend’s place which is around an hour away from Lisbon. I’m not sure where it is exactly, but her description is: “in the middle of nowhere” so I’m looking forward to a city trip AND a couple of days to switch off and enjoy the surroundings (or lack thereof). Hiking and nature = my idea of heaven!

 

Oct 2018 – Helsinki, Finland

October sees a visit to my 23rd country with my favourite Finn! (Does it matter that I only know 2 Finnish people!? Haha… oops!) My lovely friend Senja from Het Finse Meisje is going to play tour guide in her hometown of Helsinki for a weekend in October and I can’t think of a better way to explore a new city than with locals! 🙂 Although Senja isn’t a local herself anymore, she knows the city a million times better than I ever could and we’ll be meeting up with some of her friends too, so hopefully they can show us all the new hangouts and hotspots!

 

Nov 2018 – Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll already know about this one. I’m sooooooooooooooooooo excited to go back to Thailand!!! Although I’ve been twice before, I’ve never been to Chiang Mai. I’m going on my own for 2 weeks as the Dutchie has run out of holiday, so this will be my second ever solo trip!!

Photo by my friend MA

I’m going to spend a week volunteering at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai and the other week I’ll be working remotely (no, *your* boss is a legend!!) and exploring the city.

 

Dec 2018 – UK

It wouldn’t be Christmas without seeing the family would it? We’re off to the UK in mid-December for our annual ‘fake Christmas’ which coincides nicely with my work Christmas conference.

We’re also going to Maastricht in December for the Christmas markets with the Dutchie’s Mum and sister. It’s a tradition we started in 2015 in Koblenz (we missed 2016 as we were in Asia) and then in 2017 we went to Düsseldorf, so this year we want to see how the Dutch Christmas markets compare to their German rivals! This is our Christmas present to his Mum/sister – ‘presence over presents’ and all that 🙂

 

Dec 2018 & Jan 2019 – Malaysia

On 29th Dec we’re flying to KL baby!!! We’ll be spending New Year’s Eve in Kuala Lumpur… woop woop!! Then we have 4 nights in Penang and 11 nights in Langkawi! I absolutely cannot wait… I already have the feeling this is going to be one of the best trips we’ve been on! Fingers crossed!!

We’ve never been to Penang or Langkawi so any tips are – as always – much appreciated!

 

How about you? How are your next 5/6 months looking travel-wise or otherwise?!

Also, which destination(s) would you most like to hear about from my travels?

Hayley x

 

My favourite destinations – Cancale: The Oyster Capital of Brittany

Over the next few months, I’m going to start sharing some of my favourite places on earth, because it’s something that I love to write about. I *almost* want to keep some of them a secret… but Cancale is too good not to share!

Cancale - The Oyster Capital of Brittany

So, if you’re ever in Bretagne (Brittany) in France and you’re a seafood lover – make sure Cancale is top of your ‘to do’ list! It’s dubbed “the oyster capital of Brittany” with very good reason!

 

Cancale is located on the coast of North-West France, close to Saint-Malo. It is a small, picturesque fishing port, but due to its popularity, it has a large number of bars, cafes and restaurants. Most of the restaurants specialise in – you guessed it – seafood! In other words… mine and the Dutchie’s idea of heaven!! (If it’s possible, I think he even loves Cancale more than I do!!)

Huîtres

Oyster farming is still a major activity in the port and there are oyster beds covering about 7 square kilometres – easily seen from the pier at the harbour. These beds harvest about 25,000 tons of oysters each year. (Source)

Cancale - The Oyster Capital of Brittany

To sample them, you don’t need go to a restaurant, oh no – the way to do it is to have someone from the market stalls shuck them for you and then eat them perched on the wall overlooking the beach. The oyster stalls are located at the far end of the port next to the lighthouse (more details below).

Oysters at Cancale, France

Cancale

See how happy we were with our oysters?!

A fraction of the price and very authentic! Tip: We only had diet coke with us on our last trip, but sensible (and I suspect – French) people brought along a bottle of chilled white wine!

Obviously it has to be good weather to sit on the beach and devour oysters, so plan your trip wisely. But people don’t come to Northern France for the weather! But if it rains, you can always go to a restaurant…

Cancale, France

Crèpes et Coquillages

The only restaurant we’ve been to in Cancale, and therefore the only one I can recommend is: Crèpes et Coquillages. (Other reviewers on Trip Advisor definitely agree with us!) The moules (mussels) with Roquefort sauce were nothing short of amazing… in fact I’ve gone off mussels of late, but these brought the love back. *That’s how good they were!*

We also had the fish soup – a steaming bowl of orange, crabby deliciousness and my Mum had a galette (crèpe) which she said was superb. (As superb as a crèpe can be I guess. Boring imo!)

Bar le Tapecul

We’ve also been to Bar le Tapecul for a drink; it’s a lovely cosy little bar and if you’re lucky you can grab a seat outside! Bliss!

Bar le Tapecul, Cancale

I hope that’s persuaded you to visit Cancale and if so, there’s a bit of logistical info below. Any questions, just shout!

Where’s your favourite place in the world to eat oysters?

Hayley x

 

THE LOWDOWN

Getting to Cancale: 

Public transport: There are no trains to the town, so if you’re using public transport you need to take a bus to / from St-Malo.

By car: Put “Chez Victor, Cancale” into your sat nav. (We use Google maps.) This will send you right to the end of the port – you’ll see the car park on the left. The road is aptly named Rue des Parcs. Cost is around €1.50 per hour.

Oysters:

Prices vary depending on size and quality. You can get #1 oysters (the biggest/best) for around €5.60 for a dozen. You also need to pay extra for napkins and lemon (50 cents each).

 

“But you’re so good with kids…”

A few weeks back, my brother commented “You’re so good with kids.” It came a bit out of nowhere, but I said thank you and genuinely accepted the compliment. Something I’m not normally that good at doing. I went back to playing ‘tea party’ with my nieces and felt satisfied. HE GOT IT.

I’m tearing up right now, writing this.

You see, normally when people give you such a compliment, they have to go and ruin it by adding “You’d be such a good mother…” or “When *are* you having kids?” or my personal favourite: “You’ll feel ready / change your mind one day…”

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is.

I am child free, by choice.

If you’re good at cooking, no one bangs on about how you MUST be a chef. (Unless you’re like reaaaaaaally good, Masterchef standard, and then they’ll just send the application off for you! Bastards!) Anyway, just because you’re good at cooking doesn’t mean you want to dedicate your life to it, to spending your evenings and weekends in a hot, sweaty kitchen. The long hours, the pressure.

Maybe you just want to cook in your own kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, at your own pace, with a glass of wine.

I’ve got plenty of other metaphors and I could bang on for another few paragraphs, but I’m sure you get my point.

I’m 35 now. Almost 36. Most people have stopped asking me if/when I’m going to have kids… thank god! I think about 90% of my close friends and family now understand and accept the fact that it’s not going to happen.

But maybe you’re not so lucky – and I feel for you. Really I do.

I’ll just wrap up by saying another thank you to my brother. You are a legend in many ways, and this is just one of them.

Hayley x

 

Are you child free? What have your experiences been? Please do share – if you feel able. It’s good to talk! 😀