Balanced bling || Jewellery with meaning from Daisy London

For my sister, Natalia, and ALL the sisters…

I don’t know about you, but I am really enjoying the chill in the air at the moment…

…Don’t get me wrong, I am the ultimate sun-worshipper, but after a good dose of vitamin D in Portugal earlier this month, I’m totally happy to slip into Autumn’s amber and gold leaf-strewn landscape, and feel the fresh frosty air kiss my nose and fingertips as canal walks from Hackney through to Islington become the order of the day.

Everything is crisp and cosy. And as it should be. And these familiar chills in the air, and return of pumpkin lattes listed on coffee shop blackboards, has turned my mind to Christmas, and how quickly the last year has flown by.

 Last Christmas….

I have a huge family, as does Jamie; so thoughts of Christmas inevitably evolve to thoughts of Christmas shopping, which for the pair of us is no mean feat – but no matter what, my priority is always to ensure I have the most thoughtful treats sorted for my mum and sister.

It’s been just the three of us for most of my life. This spiritual duo are my lifeline and while Christmas is not about the gifts, it is about the giving; making the festive season the time to spoil and thank them for errrrrthang.

My sister and I haven’t seen that much of each other in recent years, so last Christmas I particularly wanted to give her a gift that showed her how much I love her – I was thinking a necklace – striking the balance between being a beautiful piece of jewellery, with heart and soul behind it.

Cue the discovery of Daisy London – Designer of the iconic Chakra bracelet, Daisy London is known for its wellness focused jewellery and contemporary designs.

With collections inspired by Eastern philosophy, good karma, and of course classic British daisies, as well as limited edition designs from celebrity collaborators, Daisy London is a range of meaningful pieces that add a personalised touch to your style. – Each in silver, gold and rose gold.

I went straight for the Chakra collection. My sister (Natalia) and I have grown up under our mum’s spiritual guidance, so books on the Chakra’s, Reiki sessions on the sofa and crystal healing for everything* are part of our make up – so it felt natural and right to honour our upbringing in a significant way. 

*To note, I definitely didn’t appreciated how amazing it is to have a mum like ours enough until the last couple of years when I began delving into the chakras, as part of my yoga training…

I chose the 18ct rose gold Heart Chakra (Anahata) necklace for Natalia, and opted for an 18” chain so that it sat right at the heart centre.

Just like Natalia, the heart Chakra stands for love, compassion and altruism, emotionally connected with love, self-control and forgiveness – and striving towards acceptance of self and others.

And I suppose I want her to know that I have nothing but unconditional love, forgiveness and acceptance towards her, so as well as being a beautiful necklave, it seemed like a fitting gift.

Needless to say she loved it as much as I loved giving it to her…

This year…

…I’ve been eyeing up Daisy’s Chakra range ever since, wondering when I would justify treating myself to a few pieces – namely the Throat Chakra necklace (Vishuddi); a choice I had somehow managed to convince my was nothing more than based on the design, rather than being especially connected to Vishuddi Chakra.

However, the further I dive into my yoga practice, I’ve come to learn that Vishuddi is a chakra I’m totally connected with.

Vishuddi is the blue wheel of energy at our throat, connected with communication and truth.

When I’m happy I sing non-stop, tell the people I love just how much I love them, talk to strangers and really find my voice when teaching a class.

Anyone who has taken one of my classes or seen my practice will know it’s a feminine, fluid flow with a lots of movement and space created in the hips – the physical body part associated with Vishuddi (as well as the throat of course – but there aren’t many pose that work the throat) and the element water.

I’m a total water baby, seeking out the sea and craving being by the waves when I need to heal and when I ‘m having fun (Vishuddi is the blue wheel of energy – like water) so perhaps there is more in my choice piece of jewellery than I first thought…

Since treating myself to the rose gold Vishuddi necklace, I have been in touch with the lovely ladies at Daisy London, who (amazingly!) interviewed me for their Blog

It’s been amazing to work with a brand that I love so much so head over to their site, a read if you fancy, and maybe make a Christmas wish list while you’re there – or pick a pressie for someone you love…. It’s not really that long until 25th December after all…..

n a m a s t e

 

Castaway on Heavenly Palm Beach : Koh Rong Island, Cambodia

I’m It won’t take long for the murky waters of Sihanoukville’s backpacker beaches to fade into the horizon as Palm Beach’s private long tail boat skims the tops of tiny ocean peaks towards Cambodia’s beautiful, and largest, island of Koh Rong; an azure promise land of pure shores and pristine white beaches.

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Often described as one of Southeast Asia’s most divine stretches of coastline, backpackers heading to Koh Rong will tend to stay on the fairly generic Saloem Beach ; where shack-style bars and beds for the night line up along a sandy stretch occupied by flame throwers, hooller-hoopers & paradise seekers.

Those seeking a more peaceful paradise should opt to stay on Palm Beach, a private beach dipping softly into crystal-clear water, so clean you can count the blankets of tiny tropical fish meander pass your ankles as you wade into the sea; set against a backdrop of dense forest, under the cover of all encompassing heat and the occasional relief of its gentle off shore breeze.

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Here, dotted along the beach and hidden back into the jungle are 38 thatched bungalows each with private balconies. In a range of different sizes and offering varying levels of luxury, Palm Beach accommodates for budgeting backpackers, families, friends and honeymooners taking that step a little further off the beaten path.

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The living is easy at Palm Beach:
Sun-lounger or Swing? Snorkel or Swim? Mai Tai or Margarita? Are among the decisions you’ll be faced with during your time (which you’ll no doubt request to extend) here. All of which can be languidly fit into your lazy days thanks to the help of Rick and his friendly, dedicated team.

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On arrival, we eagerly stepped off the resort’s private ferry and on to Palm Beach’s jetty, tasting the salty sea air on our lips with our hedonistic-home-for-the-week in sight.

Your bags will be spirited away to their rightful home as guests are guided to Palm Beach’s Bar & Restaurant and handed their signature Welcome Drink (espresso shot, condensed milk, vanilla & ‘A LOT’ of whiskey).

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Extending our welcome further was the psychedelic sounds of The Beatles, their discography to be that afternoon and evening’s soundtrack, complementing the call of the quiet call of the jungle and the gentle movement of the tide.

That afternoon, the lyrics to the likes of I’ve Just Seen a Face and Drive My Car played out to many a round of Welcome Drink ($3.50) setting the bar for the calibre of playlists at Palm Beach – a definite relief for anyone who has spent their fair share of time in Asia with a zero tolerance policy for psytrance or Justin Beiber!

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After a brief introduction to Palm Beach and all it has to offer, how you choose to spend your time here is up to you:

Creative types while away days on their balconies or rocking under palm trees to sketch, paint or write.
Sun worshippers bask in the unbroken glare of the 30 degree heat, glistening in the island’s home made coconut oil ($3.50)

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The more adventurous (or those inclined for life in the shade) will trek into the private jungle to seek out vine-covered hideaways, meeting locals on route to Prek Svay fishing village on their path.

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Visits to Prek Svay, to join the locals on their fishing trips, can be arranged along with spectacular sunset snorkelling and fishing trips on offer every afternoon for $15 per person (weather permitting, but this doesn’t tend to present any problems in Koh Rong) and should you need anything else, all you need to do is ask.

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What you won’t find yourself doing here is checking emails, insta-bragging or idly scrolling through Facebook (missing the beauty that surrounds you) thanks to Palm Beach’s decision not to offer wifi* throughout the island, suggesting (via a blackboard over the bar) that guests talk to each other instead.

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*There is a small hotspot behind the bar for those needing to check-in with anything or anyone online.

Thanks to the digital detox, instead you’ll pass your evenings in Palm Beach’s bar and restaurant, gravitating towards new friends for fresh fish barbecues, cold beers and back-to-back rounds of Jenga, Polker, Uno…and conversation!

Breakfast and lunch are also served here, with predominantly western options on the menu and all very reasonably priced.

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If the lure of that day’s beating sun and the cocktails on tap haven’t sent you to sleep by 9pm; night dwellers can sneak off for a midnight swim in shores sparkling with plankton under unbroken starlit skies. Making for very special secret memories to last a lifetime.

Surrounded by turquoise seas and living in total freedom, you won’t want your spell on the magical Palm Beach to end – but as the saying goes, all good things must…

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Check-out and the reality of totalling your bar tab is an early 8:30am start with Palm Beach’s ferry leaving the island at 9:30am – in plenty of time to return with that day’s lucky arrivals for their fair share of paradise.

Koh Rong being the same size as Hong Kong, and Palm Beach being the opposite end of the island to Paradise beach means guests must book a return journey to Palm Beach’s on its private ferry; which can be done from their office on Serendipity Beach ($25 return / person).

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As there’s always one who thinks they can outsmart this slightly higher ferry fee (usually $10) by jumping on a cheaper boat and making their own way to Palm Beach, be warned now:
This attempt will leave you on the wrong side of Koh Rong, seven hours away from the resort with the only options of reaching Palm Beach being a $50 slow taxi boat, or one long trek (backpack in tow) through the jungle.

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Like going the extra mile(s) to reach Palm Beach, the private boat is also worth the extras; marking the start of your journey to the edge of the world, sharing the ferry with new friends and the week ahead’s Jenga challengees.

Prices at Palm Beach range from £18 to £45 / night and bookings can be made online here.

Those already in Sihanoukville can also pop into the Palm Beach office, next door to Mick & Craig’s, and chance availability for that night or the next.

Thank you so much to Roy, Rick and the whole team at Palm Beach for having us. Our (twice) extended stay was very special.

The Jungle Book: Monkeying Around at Greenex Farms, Kerala

“Thou art of the Jungle and not of the Jungle,” wrote Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book; as though setting the scene for north Kerala’s densely green Wayanard Region, where those in the know will find Greenex Farms, a unique eco-retreat tucked among almost impenetrable jungles, set against the backdrop of the state’s second highest mountain, Chembra Peak

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A far cry from the well-trodden backpacker path, Jamie and I took the decision to take on the 3 hour death-defying (local) bus ride through winding mountainous roads to the tiny town of Chundale; followed by endless bouncing through vast tea and coffee plantations in a 4×4 to the secluded Greenex Farms, where so much more than just the bear necessities of life were waiting for us.

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On the tip of the Nilgiri hills, south India, towering 2,600ft above sea level and smiling down over ‘Gods own country,’ is where you’ll find Greenex Farms. At one with its natural habitat and under a sky-high canopy of palm trees; this is a true nature-lovers’s retreat where you won’t come closer to playing Swiss Family Robinson, while genuinely rejuvenating your soul.

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Sharing your surroundings with every exotic bird imaginable, cheeky monkeys, friendly frogs, traditonal tea-pickers, brightly coloured coffee beans, peppercorn trees – and the occasional huntsman spider – at Greenex Farms you can expect 360 degree jaw dropping jungle views played out to the cacophony of natures private coversation; be it from a stay in the tree-house for the brave, the sunflower cottage for the romancers, or the plush orchid house for those splashing out (as Jamie, Ben, Lauren and I did!)

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While the Wayanard Region serves as the jumping off point to conquer Chembra Peak mountain (check ✅) the Meenmutty waterfalls and Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary; Greenex Farms itself has more than enough to keep you occupied with its three nature trails (Tortoise, Monkey and Rabbit), bird watching spots, bamboo rafts, badminton court and natural spring pool.

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imageLike a modern day Tarzan and Jane (one of us had binoculars, magnifying glass and “expedition attire” packed), a leisurely day was spend wandering the exotic fauna of our emerald surroundings.

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Languidly we moved from successful completion of the Monkey Trail to working up a sweat on the badminton court, swinging in hammocks, dipping in the spring water pool (sharing our swimming space with only the frogs), bamboo rafting and finally curling up in our queensize bed as one of Kerala’s tropical monsoon unleashed itself on us as the sun started setting. – A perfect way to spend a day.

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For those looking to stay a few nights here exploring everything that the Wayanard region has to offer, the incredibly helpful and attentive team at Greenex Farms will do all they can to help plan your day and arrange your transport – always a ferocious 4X4 to bound through PG-tip topped hills and take on the rugged routes of south India’s mountains.

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Also arranged around your schedule are delicious, organic – and of course homegrown – meals. Breakfast can be arranged from 6:30am for early birds with Indiana-action-packed days, and as late as 10:30am for those sleeping late in their fluffy queen size beds and spending the day on site.

Dinner can be arranged to be served the moment you return to Greenex, after a hard day’s trek. A soul-warming Vegetable Birinani and a Potato-Stuffed Paratha quicker than you can say “The Jungle Book;” yes please!

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Breakfast and lunch are served in the “Arivia” restaurant, while dinner is served either in Arivia, the jungle fire-pit (monsoon dependant) or in your room with a small service charge of £1 /100IRS.

The menu offers two options for all three meals: buffet (£4 for breakfast and £7 for both lunch and dinner) and a-la-carte.

As a couple on an Indian backpacker budget, the thought of spending £42 a day on food was a little too hard to stomach. However, in reality (and to everyone reading this in Europe), this is a fair price for generous quantities of delicious, vegetarian and ethically sourced meals – each accompanied by warm Ayeuverdic mineral water.

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Swerving the buffet in favour of a la carte gives guests the option of paying standard rate prices for very good food; spicy Masala Omlettes come in at £1.20, as does a stack of Coconut Sugar Pancakes, and dinner will work out at about £6 for a couple.

Hoping not to deter any backpackers looking for a walk on the wild side, Greenex Farms offers an eco tent and dorm room accommodation at £16 a night, scaling itself up to tree houses and cottages, with the most lavish option being its four Orchid apartments at around £50 a night.

A gem of a tip for anyone travelling India is to book accommodation via ClearTrip on a Thursday as on this day of the week, discounts of up to 70% are offered! – Thanks to Lauren and Ben for that bit of advice.

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The only downside a backpacker might find with a stay at Greenex farms is that the hotel doesn’t provide Internet, and the nearest town with small wifi cafe is a 40 minute walk or £2.50, pre-arranged 4×4 journey away; meaning that arranging the next leg of your journey can’t be pre-booked with ease.

It’s a very minor downside though, and I know we were happier to live a slice of life in the jungle without Facebook at our fingertips – making going blind to our next destination that little bit more adventurous. – and I’ll always have Indiana Lance by my side every step of the way…

Thank you again to Greenex Farms for a truly wonderful stay. A magical and remote home-away-from-home. We would recommend a stay here to everyone.

 

 

A Day in Colaba: Bombay’s Old British Quarter

Bombay’s Colaba, the old British quarter, is reinventing its Raj heritage into the vibrant backpacker district of the city, packed with bars, restaurants, shops and sights.

If you’re up early enough, head out for a morning walk as the city awakes to watch masala chai (tea) being brewed on the side of the road, bumper-to-bumper brightly coloured vehicles delivering anything and everything from fresh milk to school children, and a hive of fishermen out on their daily catch in a rush to get their cargo from shore to seafood restaurant.

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Then later on enjoy said seafood at Mumbai’s grand old Parsi cafe Cafe Mondegar, which cooks up the city’s best and most thickly spiced Tandoori prawns, served with soft cheese and garlic naan and tall, chilled Kingfisher beers all for around £3. The iconic Cafe Mondegar was refurbished and turned into a bar in the 90s with cartoonist, Mario Miranda’s, murals painted all over the walls smiling down on you as you dine to the soundtrack from their retro jukebox’s playlist.image

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At Colaba’s most southern tip, overlooking the Arabian Sea, is one of India’s most unique landmark’s, The Gateway to India, a  colossal structure built in 1924 to welcome the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay and free to visit.

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The Gateway to India also serves as a jumping off point for Elephanta Island, 10km to the east of Mumbai, in its Harbour. It is on this small island, surrounded by the Arabian Sea that you will find the Elephanta Caves, natively known as Gharapurichi Leni, a network of sculpted caves dated to between the 5th and 8th centuries.

The first collective of caves is a large group of five Hindu caves, the second, a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. he Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures, representing the Shaiva Hindu sect, dedicated to the Lord Shiva.

You can buy your tickets at The Gateway to India for 60p each way and board the ferry from under the monument to the island.

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The steep walk up to the island’s highest point, where the hidden caves lie, is just as interesting as the final attraction. Under the watchful gaze of mischivious monkeys, you’ll make the steep climb past stalls selling slightly sorry looking bags and jewellery (save your shopping for Rajestan or the south coast!) and BBQed corn on the cob: smokey, smothered in lime, spices and salt, and so delicious you’ll feel slightly resentful when said monkeys, or passing cow, inevitably swipes it from you mid-bite.

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The last ferry leaving the island and returning to Colaba departs at around 5pm, so you’ll catch views of Mumbai’s impressive skyline, dominating the horizon, as you drift back to the mainland.

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The intimating size of the city might deter you from exploring its famed brash, chaotic and glitzy nightlife, dominated by a chronic lack of space –  and if that’s the case you can sneak into the wildly impressive Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the most elegant, famous and beloved hotel in the city, with former guests including kings, maharajas and John and Yoko.

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Before getting politely asked to leave, try a cocktail in the Harbour Bar and gaze out onto India’s most spectacular swimming pool, and then reawaken your culture shock as you step out into the madness just outside the towering gold doors…

 

Boutique Abode: Bombay’s First Hip Hotel

Mumbai is a city of dreams; the home of Bollywood bling and bumper-to-bumper traffic. At its most southern tip overlooking the Arabian Sea, tucked behind the colossal structure and one of India’s most unique landmark’s, The Gateway to India, lies Mumbai’s unofficial tourist district, Colaba.

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It is here you’ll stumble upon Colaba’s hippest hotel, Boutique Abode, a tranquil haven of beautiful design and luxurious accommodation, taking inspiration from the city and celebrating its magic with chic, modern interpretations of historical features, paying subtle homage its heritage and bohemian past.

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Here, 20 airy, comfortable rooms with sumptuous beds, high bright ceilings and original artwork become your stylish home-from-home as you explore Mumbai’s mesmerizing labyrinth of slum dog millionaires, kicking off in colourful Colaba.

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Aptly located a stones throw from The Gateway to India, built in 1924 to welcome the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay, expect to be warmly greeted by Abode’s friendly staff in the stylish and homely lobby,  library and breakfast area, decked in a delightful mix of antique and up cycled furniture, some of which is available to buy.

It’s in here, between 8.00am and midday that a breakfast of fresh fruit, serve-your-own rice dishes, do-it-yourself toast with local honeys, jams (and Nutella), and eggs made to order, are served with fresh watermelon juice, masala chai and fresh coffee. Also available is a 24-hour light menu serving salads and light meals inspired by Mumbai’s street food with the option of enjoying in your room.

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With fluffy cloud-like beds, tranquil shower rooms or stylish stand-alone bathtubs, a peaceful treatment room and the option to have dumbbells, yoga mats and exercise balls delivered to your room; you could be forgive for never leaving Boutique Abode, treating the place like a heavenly homestay and soaking up the best of Bombay via its carefully curated shop and inspired interior.

However, being located in the vibrant and colourful neighbourhood of Colaba, experiencing a grand renaissance (Indian-style) with new cafes, restaurants and bars opening every week, its definitely worth spending some time getting to know the area as well.

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There are four types of room at Abodo Boutique, starting with a ‘Basic’ room at £40/night ranging to a ‘Superior Luxury’ room at £126/night.

All of the rooms are well appointed with eclectic furnishings made by local craftsmen, with additional luxuries offered the more superior your room. A stay in a ‘Basic’ room will guarantee that you enjoy the distinctive charm of the hotel, with breakfast included, whereas a ‘Superior Luxury’ room offers everything from a writing desk and a free standing bathtub through to a rain shower and luxury bathroom products.

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Much more than just a luxury hotel, Boutique Abode is committed to positively impacting on its local area and supporting its home country. For example, their car service is provided by women from Mumbai (who in many cases are single parents and the sole earners in the family) with Boutique Abode helping them source their own cars and encouraging them to be self sufficient. If staying here you can opt to book your own taxis, but for a little more money it’s worth supporting the women’s car service and giving a little back.

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Similarly, Boutique Abode works with a school for the bind with whom they set up fantastic and trustworthy massage therapy. Blind people in India often face discrimination and massage is a stable job which enables them to earn a living, so by booking a treatment through Boutique Abode, you are doing your bit to give back.

Recycling is a challenge in India, but Boutique Abode do their bit. Stylish, and refillable, stainless steel bottles are used in the bathrooms for shampoo, conditioner and shower gel to reduce wastage, and any leftover soaps are donated to a local NGO for under-privilegded women. For more information on their many initiatives you can contact impact@abodeboutiquehotels.com

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To book a stay here contact: enquiries@boutiquehotels.com / +918080234066

First Floor, Lansdowne House, M.B. Marg (near Regal Cinema),
Apollo Bunder, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharastra, India, 400001