4 April 2014

Halong Bay & Cat Ba Island, Vietnam | A Beauty Backpacker

Halong Bay

We had just one night in Hanoi before we made our way over to Halong city. With past bus journeys been such a nightmare, we thought we'd hit the jackpot with this fully cushioned, air conditioned, couple of hours journey. With a stop along the way at an actual store.
We booked our trip to Cat Ba Island through our hostel, which included the bus to Halong and the boat to Cat Ba.

With Cat Ba as the goal, we weren't anticipating the scenic tour of Halong Bay - in hindsight this was the best way to see it, but as we hadn't booked to stay on the boat overnight we weren't allowed to take advantage of any meals, so the day long trip was a pretty hungry one.
The tour was pretty breathtaking, the Islands are pretty much deserted, dotted with floating homes and the odd boat as we were in off season. The first tour of the caves was worth seeing, but as they've added their faved neon lights to the rock, it does feel a little Disneyland.

You can take canoes and boats out around the islands, but be prepared for more of a workout than you'd think.
We might some really great people on the boat, it's a great day and night opportunity but fears of seasickness - despite deathly still waters - had us avoiding it.
Instead, we arrived at Cat Ba Island just as the sun was setting. 

Cat Ba Island
From what we saw of the island, the majority of 'life' all seems to be based on one side, with a more industrial side near the locals' dock area.
With this in mind it meant another 40 minute bus, packed tightly, to get to the other side of the island.
This is one thing you can't really avoid as there are no other options (or at least not in the pitch black) which meant we really had to push to be taken further than where they were trying to drop us of. You'll be fully aware when you're in the lively part, neon lights everywhere as you should expect. It's not far out to a few of the other hotels but we were again wary of been taken to a 'friends' hotel and been taken advantage of in cost.

We stayed in Cat Ba Dream which is in prime spot on the front - nothing amazing, but all seemed pretty similar from what other people said.

The island is the idyllic place to hire a moped - at least to practise, if this is where you're kicking off your trip. We were in off season, but I'm pretty sure it'll always be pretty quiet on the roads. We hired for the day and did a tour of the entire island. There's gorgeous scenery around every single corner and it was genuinely one of my favourite days of the whole trip having the chance to fully explore without a guide. Always step off the opposite side to the exhaust as it gets scalding hot, I was too aware of this in order to avoid another mass injury but there were plenty of bandaged legs on the island.

The beaches are in small coves and most are essentially tourist beaches with cafés and loungers for hire. I think it was the Cat Co 3 beach that has beach huts as a resort just off the beach. They were out of our budget at this point but they would be perfect for silent paradise if there's just a couple of you. We hired a canoe here, which allowed us to go out to more of the smaller islands there.

There were a couple of bars that were obviously the hub of the front when we were there, drinks - as expected - are cheap, but still good, and the setting is ideal for meeting people.

The island was actually where we spent the most time, which was nice to just stay still for 3 days instead of constantly been on the move.

It's definitely worth your time if you're in Hanoi, and the two hour bus journey out to the dock will seem like 5 minutes with what you're used to. 

Photos by me & Victoria Carter

2 April 2014

Lush Skincare | Let the Good Times Roll

Whether you fall into dry skin, combination skin or oily skin, exfoliator is almost essential somewhere in your routine. No need to over use, but at least once a week there should be a pretty intense scrub in your routine, or something just a little milder if you're sensitive to a mild dermabrasion.

I can't say I'm bowled over by scented face products - unless it's rose, I mean. - but the seriously fudge smelling Let the Good Times Roll Cleanser* from Lush Skincare, had me pretty lusted. If you hate fudge, avoid at all costs. When used in the evening and followed with the normal lotions and potions, the gorgeously sweet scent is still there in the morning. Not over poweringly so, just a pretty nice scent to wake up for the Monday morning grind.

This has made it's way into my routine two to three times a week. It's quite course, but because of the creamy cleanser, it's balanced out to not be too harsh. I use it post make-up removal, and give an equal scrub all over my face. I found that concentrating scrubs on problem areas didn't make anything better, if anything it just aggravated it. So, a mild scrub all over, after placing a grape size of it in my palm and emulsifying it a little with water, before putting it on my face.

Breath that scent in once you rinse it off - I just use splashes of water for this, but for an extra bit of exfoliation use a damp cloth then pat your face dry.
Et voila! Another item to add to the Sunday routine that will make your Monday mornings a little sweeter.

31 March 2014

Small Bag Essentials

The bag. I'm definitely a bag girl, over a shoe girl - but that doesn't mean I'm not putting any effort into the latter... I got the bag above when I was in Malaysia and despite the massive impracticalities of a small bag, it at least stops me filling a massive tote with countless unusables. So, I'll brief you on my view on the small bag essentials. I'll leave out the endless receipts/train tickets/chocolate bars, just for your convenience.

The Beauty
Obviously not content with one lip product, I've gone three-fold. You can head over to my staple pinks post for a little more depth, but the Kardashian Beauty Lip Plumping Gloss* and MAC Creme Cup are my easy go tos. Alongside the colours, Maybelline Baby Lips is my easy lip balm, especially as my lips seem pretty content at the moment. And, my Sephora Monoi perfume smells super sweetly of dolly mixture, for a quick refresh. Hand sanitiser always comes in handy - no pun intended - especially if you edit the above contents to cater for a night out.

The Tech
Obviously not about to leave without my phone. I just have a clear gel case from ebay, with a photo of one of the many amazing sunsets from my time in South East Asia - this one is Cat Ba island to be specific. Headphones, always coiled to save the infuriating detangle while on the commute.

The Rest
It's sunglasses weather! I tend to whip mine out at the earliest opportunity, but they may finally be a long term in my bag again. These London Retro sunglasses* from MyOptique are in a super cute tortoise shell, which makes a difference to my moody black frames. The little silver detail by the eye makes them look a whole lot more expensive and there's the perfect pairing of a sturdy leather case, to avoid car key scratches which have happened one too many times in the past. The majority of the range is unisex and come as sunglasses or just the frames with the suitable lens. Judging by my life being centred around computer screens, the plain lenses may not be in the too distant future for me!
Chewing gum, of course the ultimate in essentials and with a small bag, comes the need for a small purse. The above is a spontaneous by-the-checkout purchase from H&M, originally designated solely for nights out, it's made its way into the everyday. On the lookout for an upgrade, if the high street would catch onto the small bag needs.