Sunday, 21 September 2014

What's in My Bag...

I recently got a new bag as a Birthday treat from my mum. We found this cute little brown leather bag in a Fossil Outlet shop for a bargainous £30! It's the perfect size to carry everything you need without over-packing and has plenty of pockets for all your bits and bobs...

Bag - Fossil Outlet
Sunglasses - Vietnam
Concealer - Collection
Purse - Vietnam
Stick Perfume - Zara
Ipod + Radio adapter
Lip Balm - Bioderma, Vichy, Nivea
So from doing this little exersise I have come to one conclusion: I carry around far too many lip balms. Small note though; if you haven't tried the little stick perfumes from Zara then get on it! They smell amazing and cost like £4 - perfect when you have a smaller bag.

My iPhone would of course also be in this stash, but I was using it to take the photo, so we can all imagine!

What's go-to bag these days?

Alice x

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

My Vietnam Experience / RealGap Review

As you know I recently returned from a four week trip travelling around the North of Vietnam - the 'Vietnam Experience' which I booked with RealGap (see their website here). All year I had told myself that I wanted to travel somewhere this summer as its the last summer before I finish University and head into the real world, so I thought it would be a perfect time to go. 

I debated about asking friends to travel with or even going alone, but in the end I decided that I wanted a trip where I could where I could meet new people and be completely in control of where I was going without having to compromise with friends when it came to budget and location. Obviously there is a small risk that you will end up on a trip with people you don't get on with, but with 14 others on mine I thought that risk was pretty small. Luckily, my group was amazing and we all bonded extremely quickly - I certainly made some friends for life!

And my final reason for booking through RealGap was the fact that once it was booked that was it. No working out routes, no booking accommodation, no booking transport... The itinerary was all organised for you and all that was left to do was booking flights. If you are going on your first trip alone it definitely puts you at ease as it's pretty risk-free and safe!

Now the trip itself. Vietnam was absolutely stunning, I can't even describe how beautiful and interesting a country it is. With it's incredibly rich and recent history full of war and conflict, it is amazing how the country has rebuilt itself in a short time. Every place we went to was so different; Hanoi and it's crazy roads full of motorbikes and street food felt like worlds away from the quiet and stunning countryside scenery of Sapa.
Excuse the sweaty back - we had just trekked for 10km!
The Itinerary had a few flaws, a few boring days where we felt like we were just wasting time, but on the whole there was a great mix of activities and excursions and also provided plenty of time to bond with the group over food and drinks in the evenings. The Vietnamese guides we had were great and taught us a lot about traditions and cultures whilst also being part of the group and, by the end of the trip, good friends.

Highlights of my trip:
  • Seeing various temples and learning about Buddhism
  • Cycling through the stunning scenery in Tam Coc
  • Tasting endless delicious Vietnamese Spring Rolls
  • Spending a night at the Hot Springs and the National Park in more basic accommodation
  • Experiencing the Night Bus on our trip to Hoi An (not part of the itinerary, we organised this amongst ourselves)
  • Trekking through Sapa
  • Staying with the home-stay family in Sapa (the food was amazing!)
  • Kayaking through caves at Halong Bay
  • Jumping off the boat at Halong Bay
Scenery in Tam Coc
Whether with RealGap, with friends, or alone - if you feel like trying something new and stepping out of your comfort zone - travel. Yes it can be expensive but as a friend of mine said the other day, it is what life is all about. Not saying you need to travel to the other side of the world either - my year I spent in France was the best year of my life so far and I am so thankful that I did it.

It will teach you more about yourself and other cultures than you ever imagined. Saying yes to that trip that you have been thinking about for years will be the best decision you make, I promise.

Which country is top of your travelling list?

Alice x

For more photos of my time away, see my last post here

Monday, 15 September 2014

Vietnam in pictures

I'm going to let the photos speak for themselves...

Floating Fishing Village - Halong Bay
Volleyball on a beach at Cat Ba Island - Halong Bay
Halong Bay
The cutest child I have ever met - Sapa
Waterfall in Sapa
River in Sapa

Halong Bay (again, too beautiful!)
The family we stayed with in Sapa

Our Group
We were excited to have found a waterfall!
Jumping off the boat at Halong Bay
Underwater Beer Selfies
Me and Helena went Paragliding - Hoi An

The trekking group

After a month in the most incredible country I have ever been, I am back! Vietnam was absolutely stunning; seeing its scenery, culture and history with a brilliant group of people made it the best month and exactly what I needed.

For those of you familiar with the country, I travelled around the north; starting in Hanoi, then Ninh Binh and Tam Coc, followed by Hoi An, and then trekking through Sapa before finally having a week at the stunning beaches on Halong Bay. Every place we went was like a completely different country in itself, with completely different scenery and culture.

If you didn't know, I travelled with RealGap which is a company where you meet up with a random group of people and the whole trip is planned out for you. It was an amazing trip and I met some friends for life so if you are thinking about travelling and don't fancy going it alone, definitely check out RealGap here. (Full review of the trip coming soon!)

Being in the little Vietnam bubble away from work, university and the real world was bliss and although I miss it already, I feel refreshed and ready for my final year at university!

For more photos of my time away, follow me on Instagram: alicesmithh

How has your month been?

Alice x