world according to sam

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. Mark Twain

Tag: blogging

Good Morning Vietnam … Part II

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Backpackers, trekkers, back to nature adventurers and hardcore travel masochists should look away now … Mr H and I are somewhat namby-pamby, limp-wristed travellers in comparison to those that wish to immerse themselves in disease, danger or disaster and disgusting dunnys – we like to err on the cautious side.  Happy to enjoy new encounters be they food, sensory, cultural or experiential we also like to feel safe and welcome and know that we are not going to be faced with wildlife in the loos or be murdered in our beds. Holidays are too precious to be preoccupied with hidden or even imagined dangers, it may be dull but I do like to know where I next lay my head (and bum!)

Our experience was of Central Vietnam, chosen for the temperate year round weather with not too much rainfall at the time we travelled, in September. We spent our first 10 days in Hue, followed by 10 days in Danang, near to Hoi An.  We were very much on a relaxation holiday rather than too much of a cultural, immersive expedition but did see and do some lovely things whilst catching up on some much needed rest and lovely spa treatments.

The Ana Mandara Hotel is situated down a dirt track outside of Hue on the beach, but a short drive into town  Hue is clustered around the Perfume River, which splits the capital of the Nguyễn Dynasty in two. There are endless must-see historic sites, especially those that are UNESCO World Heritage designated. Our sightseeing  included the ornate Imperial Citadel, colourful Thanh Toan Bridge, royal tombs and the Forbidden Purple City.

The Vietnamese are friendly and very keen to speak English taking great pride in their fluency and aptitude. They are generally very honest, but as you would in any city always ask the price of taxi fares/cyclo taxis pre-ride – great fun (and a little bit hairy!) to sit on the front of a cycle and be taken on a ride through busy traffic. We once had a cyclo fare escalate 500% as our ‘driver’ caught sight of a $50 note.

After a day or two recovering from the long journey, we took a boat trip on the Perfume River to the pagodas and temples. A fascinating trail, though disembarking was a little precarious (No health and safety here, we had to jump from the boat to the grassy river bank). We organised this with our guide from our airport private transfer. The money goes directly to the family who also sell soft drinks and beers for $1. And have a good supply of overpriced tourist toot! (Be prepared to see the children dressed in silk pyjamas on your return to the boat! a very enterprising and persuasive marketing tool!). The pagodas and temples are breathtaking but a half day trip was enough for me (decent Loos are scant!) – good idea to organise with other hotel guests – I think we paid $100 for the trip split between two couples and bought soft drinks and a couple of momentos to further boost the coffers of our hosts. It is just as easy to walk down to the rivers edge in Hue and be enticed on to one of the many boats moored there – depending on how adventurous a traveller you are! You will also see oxen and children playing on the river banks as you travel down the river, both banks are covered in lush vegetation and trees, with little else (true in 2012) to spoil the view.

Most hotels offer shuttle services into the towns which are free and efficient. Our waitress at the first hotel was lovely and invited us to an authentic Vietnamese coffee house that was tucked away, we were the only Westerners there so if you are offered hospitality do accept it, this was not a cynical ruse (believe you me, Mr H has not one UNcynical bone in his body and an acute aversion to acts of kindness, just in case!!!) but a genuine cultural expedition – with her offering to pay for our cyclos and coffee (both of which were refused, obviously!). The Vietnamese people we experienced both in our accommodation and out an about exploring were genuinely warm and engaging.

After 10 days we took a private transfer across the Hai Van pass. Absolutely stunning vistas across oyster bays (obligatory tourist stop near the top for genuine ???  pearl jewellery.) It’s possible to stop and see the fishermen that live on traditional boats year round. This same journey can be done as a passenger on old Russian motorbikes with ABS Motorbike Tours! We chose a large, comfy executive car!!

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In DaNang we stayed at Fusion Maia. A stunning resort with an all inclusive spa (heaven), again on the beach but the sea in Vietnam is a little brackish in colour, as warm as bath water but I was never quite sure what was lurking beneath. I was advised that the colour was due to the time of year and followed heavy rains, earlier in the year the sea is blue but the Indian Ocean it ain’t!  Fusion Maia is a unique all-villa resort, five-star service with each villa having its own pool and garden.  The single storey villas are L shaped rooms with open bathrooms and offer a lot more space than your average hotel room.  Breakfast can be taken any time of day, although the traditional (but SPECTACULAR!) breakfast with egg station is offered at conventional hours and then throughout the day a selection of bento boxes are on offer.  The Fusion Maia also has a little Lounge outpost in HoiAn where there are additional (inclusive) express beauty services available, an extensive cocktail menu and an international menu while waiting for the shuttle bus back to the resort.

We did a cookery course which we loved, it was great to understand the basis of all Vietnamese food, a delicious balance of sweet combined with salty and sour, how to make real Pho and delicious Summer rolls!  Danang itself did not hold much allure for us but can be interesting if you have time and want to explore a working city, it is the financial capital of Vietnam.  Not too far away is the picturesque HoiAn. A pretty waterside town that looks straight out of a film set. The town has incredible  tottering Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples and ancient tea warehouses and virtually traffic free cobbled streets. HoiAn is the place to go if you want any clothes made. Make sure you go in the first day to give you time for any alterations. Also be very clear with what you want. My top tip is if you have any clothing that you love and would like copied take it with you. You won’t be disappointed as long as you choose your fabrics and designs. carefully. (They were very keen to show us the Next catalogue as a source of inspiration!??!) In HoiAn there are some fabulous restaurants including Morning Glory (cookery book is great), Mermaid Restaurant, Mango Mango and Cargo Club. Also fantastic pasties and baguette – a legacy of the French colonisation between 1887 and independence in 1954.

Not to be missed if you are around, on the 14th day of every lunar month, at night, the old town of Hoi An switches off its lights and closes to motorised traffic.  The town is transformed by flickering candlelight, multi-coloured lanterns and hoards of visitors who’ve come to see the full moon lantern festival whereby little paper bird lanterns are strewn across the river creating a magical view of the town and banks of the river.

A very funny guide to Vietnam is the TopGear show, if you are not a fan of Clarkson, Hammond and May then avoid – silly but does illustrate (amusingly and irreverently) Central Vietnam.

 I hope that in the future we will return to spend a couple of nights in Hanoi and enjoy the stunning overnight cruise in Halong Bay, a trip to the mountain villages of Sapa down to Nha Trang and across to Laos … Our Asia adventure should definitely be continued.

One tip that works for me after travelling long haul is to ensure that my accommodation is good quality and quiet to catch up on sleep so when I return to see the delights of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh I will save that part of the trip until home time when I have acclimatised to the traffic flows and Vietnamese city pace.  A jet lagged me would make for a tired and emotional travel companion and many travellers we encountered had found the city experience rather overwhelming.

 Chào buổi sáng Vietnam

For Good Morning Vietnam Part 1 Click here 

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Social Media ….. A few of my favourite things …

Steps : I can’t keep manually counting steps so until I avail myself of a Jawbone/FitBit/Flex I shall no longer be reporting on my steps

Green Juice : Nope, not doing it!

HIIT : See above

hankie flower

I think like me, my blog followers will be new to the thrills of blogging and much of social media … the blogosphere permits anyone (yep, anyone!) to  share their thoughts, views, rants and philosophies ( I will NOT be sharing my philosophies in a freaky-new-age-crocheted-cottage-cheese way anytime soon, as those that know me will think I have taken leave of my senses) and of course, for me, expressing my views, unabridged,  that is the attraction …. it’s me. talking and no-one stopping me mid-flow.  A bonus at my age as if anyone does stop me mid-flow my brain ambles off to who knows where – so many half finished conversations ……

But I did think that if my readership/following is new to blogging too, then I should share some of my favourite things I have discovered as an introduction.   For those partial to a little retail therapy (the activity of shopping to make yourself feel better, my own personal form of self-medicating – I have forewarned you that I can be shallow), t’internet, the information superhighway is the only way to go with aisle cruising in the world’s largest department store 24/7- IN ONE CLICK!

My favourite beauty blogger ever is Caroline Hirons , she is funny, irreverent, she rants, loves tea, hates coriander. throws a mean raised eyebrow (aint’ no Botox in that forehead), LOVES The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The Kardashians (but in a good and ironic way) . a skin obsessive – but above all really knows her stuff …. I try not to buy anything skincare wise until I have checked out her blog – although an exception is the Garnier Miracle Skin Cream (see previous blog) which I bought on my way through Waterloo one evening (train delay, I think!) .  Because Caroline and a few others are so good at what they do I will not be concentrating my efforts on beauty blogging alone – though I will let you know if I find anything FABULOUS or the source of the Fountain of Youth obvs.

On Twitter, my favourite tweeters are the brilliantly funny Camilla Long, Caitlin Moran, India Knight, Lorraine Candy, Dawn O ‘Porter and Lauren Laverne who often have tweet-chats together that as a follower I can be part of (in a voyeuristic but not creepy way)  and live vicariously through …. I would much rather take in their view on the world than the skewed reporting of the traditional mediums, all the ladies above are officially my ‘girl crushes’ – if there was a group at school that I would want to be part of – this is it.   Funny, intelligent, well read, controversial  ….. OH I AM JUST GREEN WITH ENVY!  At school I was the same, punching above my weight in choosing my friends, choosing the truly brainy girls that were also super athletic, each of them high achievers that could run like the wind.  I joined the athletic club with them but had to restrict myself to shot-put and javelin though I did manage to make the netball team too, they were tall and willowy whilst I was short and lumpy (though not nearly as lumpy as I am now!).  I stay relatively mute on Twitter as I just can’t perform and be funny in 140 characters – it feels like too much pressure but one of my favourite pastimes is watching the oft hilarious commentary on TV programmes … it’s a bit like having a group of friends round discussing what you are watching except they don’t interrupt your viewing. Search Hashtag any TV documentary or terrible reality show to see what is being said.

 

Instagram is my favourite social media …. and this is where I look to hang out (on the sidelines, in an unobtrusive way), with the ‘cool girls’, the Beauty & Health Editors and Industry Commentators …. Alessandra Steinherr, Sali Hughes, Calgary Avansino …. this is where I go to find my what’s hot and what’s not in the realms of the beauty industry.  This is where you get the heads up on what is going to be launched, what’s worth trying in a bright visual fashion – no need to get those glasses out .  I feel less conspicuous here and am happy to post pictures I have taken on my travels – though I am constantly berated for using naff filters and frames by my children, but with my failing eyesight (to be covered in a later blog) said filters seem to make my pictures look soooo much more interesting and pro-feshunall!

 

And then there is the creative talent* see disclaimer below that I simply wouldn’t know about without snooping about on the various platforms …. Lie Down I Think I Love You, not only a brilliant name but also a brilliant design company that has just opened a boutique coffee shop in Hoxton on Kingsland Road, combining sublime  bags, purses and accessories using vintage silk scarves served up with coffee and cake.  I haven’t visited  yet to sample the beverage and baked fare but I have some of their bags …. Then there is George Raggett whose Social, Political and Cultural Commentary in the form of Cartoon Illustrations are very funny, he will even create original art to order.  My most recent discovery Abby Cook, another genius artist very different to George but nonetheless equally talented, gorgeous prints, stationery and cards of animals, food, feathers and fashion – all make great gifts and are something a little more unusual than the sometime anodyne high street offering .

 

DISCLAIMER  I must ‘fess up here, ALL OF THE ABOVE IN THE FINAL PARAGRAPH ARE KNOWN TO ME –  one half of the Lie Down I Think I Love You duo is my very talented cousin, Lisa, both George and Abby have attended school with my own kids but this does not diminish their talent and they do not even know I have written about them …. yet!  Hope that’s okay with them but do check them all out for unique gift ideas

 

Other Social Media that I have not yet ‘fallen in love with’ are Pinterest …. don’t know why, its all very visual and lovely but I just don’t get it but then I often am a late starter on these things.  Snapchat …. simply takes too long for these wrinkly, vision impaired eyes of mine to focus before the image has disappeared in 5,4,3, 2 ….. , Tumblr, Foursquare, Flickr – the list is endless but I am slowly wading through these but of course with all these new mediums it is easy to disengage from the real world, spending too much time at a computer … on which note I’m off for a stroll.

 

Let me know what you think of all these new ways of communicating   and don’t forget to sign up to my blog to receive regular updates

 

 

 

 

Day Two In The Big Blogger House

Steps taken since my last blog 3323 (in the absence of a FitBit, Jawbone etc these were manually counted)

Green Juice drunk 0

HIIT Mins – didn’t quite make High Intensity today

 

 

So I have made the decision to blog …. And now the difficult bit for a technophobic perimenopausal ( I hate that there is even a name for BEFORE you are menopausal to make you feel even older as you kiss goodbye to your child-bearing years) person …. Wading through the akismets, widgets, metas and how to’s is mind-blowing particularly when trying to keep up with what’s actually happening in the world – I have become obsessed with potential ‘Blog’ material. Everything I have done this week I have been mentally giving a title. Will this blogging malarkey push me back into my sometime compulsive behaviour?  I keep this under tight control but a new interest can send me spiraling into habitual checking for a period of time – this has happened over the years – one of the most recent was downloading the Daily Mail app to my iPhone . I spent a VERY long time  checking the showbiz updates to make sure I wasn’t missing a Cheryl Cole outfit post or the demise of a celebrity love triangle. I have now seen Kim Kardashian in every ill fitting bum backward (belfie) shot you can imagine …. Compulsion over!

Back to widgets and whatnots, I love the cheery tone of the WordPress site which is written simply even for someone like me who only half (quarter) understands social media – it’s an age thing but I do love that they have Happiness Engineers, much less smug than Apple Geniuses (though I do always develop an unhealthy adoration –  ie I want to marry them and have their little Apple genii babies – for anyone who can rescue my Mac from the “spinning-trivial-pursuit-wheel-of-death”). Everything about WordPress has a Cali style ‘come join the fun’ feel, so of course I want to join the party – why WOULD I choose any other blogging format?

 

So without further ado,  it is that I have decided to Publish and be damned!! WordPress re-assures you that nothing is set in stone and if your widgets and whatnots are not working for you simply change your theme or seek out the help of a happiness engineer ( I will, just so they CAN engineer my happiness!).  Needless to say there are annual charges for every ‘off piste’ tweak you want to make in colour palettes, design, non ads, the list and choices are endless but I think I should keep it simple until I know I can produce a body of work that someone (anyone, please?) actually wants to read.  And of course I had my first post yesterday and anxiously checked my stats throughout the day ….. compelling viewing for me, I feel myself slipping back into the compulsive checking again, MUST keep that under control …. I even had a view in Japan – how? …..  Whilst the other 50 views may have been close friends or family members I definitely DON’T  know anyone in Japan …. oh my goodness …. I am going global!! Think of the merchandising, the potential …. oh, wait a minute …. The World According To Sam dot com ….. a five letter acronym …. Oh Sam, you fool!!!

 

So here goes anyway  ……….. let me know what you want me to write about …. I’m planning on reviewing some places I have been and some products I have tried, a sort of Me, My World and I sort of thing but would love some ideas ….

Coming up later today …. a review on a beauty product …. In the words of Shaw Taylor “Keep ‘Em Peeled” (if you remember Shaw Taylor you are certainly the right demographic to be reading this post)

Blogging definition

 

 

And so the story begins ….

cropped-img_34105.jpgA novice to the world of blogging, previously only exercising my voyeuristic skills, whilst remaining mute, I have decided to pen my thoughts in a blog – but for whom I know not. Having recently left a busy London career in the beauty industry in a bid to forego my 5 hour daily commute from the Surrey/Hamsphire borders to Kensington I embarked on a programme of renewal, for myself and my home in the hope that I may also go to the gym more often, build in a four minute high intensity training session every day and even on occasion drink a green juice ….

 

In my first weeks of ‘resting’ I managed to: clear several man drawers of an assortment of detritus, I lay claim to the man drawer descriptive BEFORE Michael McIntyre and refuse to be defined by his humour and my age*; decorate a small study and my entire entrance hall with my brand new 3 year old (ie brand new three years ago but never used!) Dulux PaintPod™ (of which more another time); made several trips to the charity shop with the cast-offs from a wardrobe purged of everything not worn in the past 18 months, just like the magazines tell you to, engage the services of a plasterer and a decorator to FINALLY re-plaster and redecorate my bedroom from a gruesome claret to a soothing whiter shade of pale; book a holiday; purchase a Vitamix, the all singing all dancing eye wateringly expensive …food blender; create some order in my bathroom cabinets, lovingly cleansed all my Bobbi Brown pallets inside and out with Klorane eye make up remover (why?), and shampooed my make up brushes, and sorted lips from eyes from cheeks into Muji space-saving stackable storage labeled with a labeling gun, no less; speak to insurers and catch up on all those things I normally squeezed into my walk from the tube to the office at the beginning of the day or office to tube at the end of the day … But now I seem to be on top of all those jobs and cabin fever is setting in and so my blogging story begins …

 

I was always brought up to be polite and never immodest … Well, the odd time I have dipped my toe into the social media pond I have managed to leave my humility at the information-super-highway door and show off in the most shameful way. Breakfast posts? Check! Feet posts? Check! Proud Mumma posts? Check, check and double check!! Children shaming posts – oh yes!!

 

 

Furtively poring over tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram images, Social media has taken me right back to my neurotic teen self … You know the sort of thing … Does my bum look big in this tweet? Does my post make me look thin/pretty/clever? Shallow, moi? So as I begin this journey you will need to be my confidante, teacher and guide ….

I will welcome criticism, constructive and otherwise …. I await my first trolling so that I may caste them out into the ether in a fit of pique and shall daily check my followers on all the mediums to further feed my neurosis in the same way I used to jump on the scales every morning to check that I hadn’t gained a pound overnight I was Bridget Jones before she even took shape on the pages of Helen Fielding’s unforgettable Diary.

 

 

About me …. As far as demographics go, I have checked and I am a Generation X-er married to a Baby Boomer with two Generation Y offspring …. An empty nester who likes nothing better than filling that nest again with my own children, other people’s animals, food, wine, beauty stuff and friends. An ardent consumer of beauty products luxe and otherwise, a consummate shopper and researcher of all things retail … as I have got older my love of fashion hasn’t dwindled but rather been diminished by my burgeoning curves and a lack of high street retailers that don’t want to dress me in ‘big girl’ dresses and waterfall necklines (with my honey-bunz, anything that adds volume in the chest area is a serious no-no!). I would like to live in a world created by Chrissie Rucker of The White Company, all muted greys, naturals and a palette of whites … sublimely chic but then I am drawn to something ridiculously frivolous ….. and pink …. Or worse still …. TWEE! I love a ‘theme’ but not fancy dress, and to hang out around Bermondsey, Brick Lane and Shoreditch and pretend to be a hipster … any excuse to throw on a comfortable pair of Birkenstocks in the name of fashion – not comfort

 

Next year, I will be 50 – there I have said it, actually committed my true age to the internet, the point of no return. My younger brothers no longer have to pretend to be my older brothers and my friends can stop badgering me to admit that George Michael’s Last Christmas is not ‘before my time’ – but David Cassidy is, other than in the Partridge Family … and my children can revert to calling me mum in front of strangers instead of Sam (I used artistic license there – is that permitted in the blogging fraternity/sorority?) … If I slip up on blogging etiquette do let me know

 

Twice I was a mother,

Once I was a wife,

Tore off the labels,

Now all that’s left is life.

Gretchen Crier

 

 

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