Two word review of Is Tropical

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” So thought William Shakespeare and er… Spinal Tap.

Is Tropical, MAO Livehouse, August 24, 2012

“Is shit.”

Stealing ritzy-glitzy fun in the Hawaii of China…

When visiting Sanya you really have two choices if you want that high-end, ritzy-tropical glamour experience. You can pay through the nose for it, or grow a pair and steal it! Here’s how *mischief ensues*…

Hang out on the beach at Yalong. Do beachy stuff till you’ve got sand wedged up each and every crevice. This beach really is beautiful and that’s partly why I wouldn’t recommend shelling out to stay – legitimately, anyway!- at one of the glitzy resorts. It’d be far too tempting to spend your time glued to a pool-side beach-lounger, in which case you’d miss these beautiful shores which are –in the words of my Antipodean travel buddy- better than those on Australia’s Gold Coast. High acclaim indeed!

So go comb for your shells. Build your castles (mine had a moat, natch). Sip your coconut juices through a straw. But THEN –when your feet and knees are sore from the rub of the shale and your sticky-sunscreeny skin is coated with sand that makes you look like a glasspaper model of yourself it’s time to treat yourself to a little luxury. Follow in my footsteps…


1)      You’ve stored your stuff in the PADI locker-hut that’s about (in beachy-pirate speak) 50 paces to ye right as ye first entered the bay. Here, for 20 RMB you can rent a locker, thus avoiding someone running off with your bag full of treasures (read: passport/camera/money etc) as you pull your best beach-bum moves. Now, when you collect your stuff, exit the locker hut to the left, following a decked pathway up to the 4.5 out of five star “Aegean Conifer Resort, Sanya”. There’s a sign that says entrance is for guests only, but -meh- who’s checking? Time to throw caution to the wind like jetsam from a sinking ship (OK – enough maritimey lingo) and just walk on in. Step one accomplished!

2)      The main draw of the Aegean for me was the labyrinth of pools that twist and wind around the hotel gardens. Lined with sun-loungers and complete with swim-up bar I would have probably koshed a member of hotel staff on the head if they’d tried to stop me swimming. However, overactive imaginations aside, violence was completely unnecessary here as simply installing yourself poolside with enough confidence to assert your right to be there is plenty.


Reccommended internal monologues to boost your blagging gusto:

“Prevet. I am Natascha. It is real shame in heart to be in tropical paradise without my husband. Boris so busy what with the cosmonauting and the oil tycooning and the international football team-managing. Peasant, please wipe my tears with this meagre 10 million rouble note. *sigh*”

“My mission (and I accept it) is to secretly grade the hotel for World Hotel Rating project. I am meant to feel shady, but in an oh-so-snooty way. Yes. I judge you, experience. I judge you hard.”

“This is the eighties and I AM Joan Collins, dahhhhling.” (This was my preferred.)

Or, for those lacking in near-pathological delusions simply try “I DO have a room in this hotel. I do, I do, I do… ”

3)      So you’re very happily butterfly stroking-along, mojito on the bar top and it hits you – “what’ll I do when I want to leave? My swimwear’s soaked and it’ll look very suspect if I make a dash for it dripping wet. Eeeeep!” Never fear. This is the beach, don’t forget. So you have towels. Dry yourself off poolside, all the while pretending that you don’t want to use the hotel towels (or pleb-rags, as you’re now calling them) because your towels are far more superior Egyptian cotton and kinder to your highly-strung skin. It’s not at all in order to avoid having to sign out hotel towels with the attendant who wants your invisible hotel keycard or anything. No. It’s my precious, precious skin. Once dry, slip on a casual overlayer (mine was a long linen shirt) and bundle your stuff in your beach bag. Then avoid the hoardes of potentially suspicious hotel staff swarming at the back entrance to the hotel by taking a path to the right which leads to the conference suite. Follow the unguarded path, which leads to the equally unguarded back entrance to the hotel – you’re on floor two! Wahey! Once inside the hotel, keep your sashay on. Think Joan from Mad Men.  Follow the corridor around until you hit the lobby, where you can fully dry-up and change in the bathroom. Step out from there looking fresh as a daisy and bam! You have the run of the hotel amenities. Drink at the bar, eat and the restaurant and generally live it up like Lord or Lady of the Manor! Cucumber sahhhhndwichis, anyone?

O, South Korea, how I love thee. Part One.

Ace trip to South Korea. Part One = Seoul. So crammed. No room for full sentences. Don’t ask questions. Just pretend you’re Johnny 5 and read with speed to keep it Ko-real!!

1)      Taxi ride: 4.30AM. Eeeeep – so early! Me and me chums Mason, Bret and Alex. Driver’s advice for SK:

“[in Chinese] Americans. Don’t AIDS.”

Excellent start.

2)      Airport: Bret = going to Hong Kong, not SK with us. Bret = at wrong airport. Bret = brown pants. Oh dear. >_<

3)      Flight: Smooth, although weird beefy noodles.

4)      Arrival in SK:  Accidentally attempt to steal stickers. Oops. Eat fish soup and kimchi (pickled-cabbagey stuff). Drink soju (national drink of Korea) x5. Drink Family Mart (sort of Korean Co-op) soju x[probably?]3.


Wake up in jimjilbang (24 hour spa, with dorm rooms for sleeping) in orange jumpsuit. Guantanamo, anyone? Hotter than inner ring of hell (despite presence of “ice room”, nattily decorated with polar bears). Too hot = no sleep = 3.3AM check out. Attempt to find KFC (I’ve heard it’s ‘real chicken’ in SK. As opposed to ‘China Chicken’, which seems to be entirely composed of the arse of the bird. And occasionally the feet. Avoid at all costs.

Anyways, attempt to locate ‘real chicken’-based establishment by showing this pic:

to passing Koreans. Group of teen boys tells me “No! Not tasty. Eat kimchi! I love you!” Not helpful. But one man directs me to ‘Lotteria’ “the Korean KFC”. I find it, but amazingly he comes back ten minutes later to check I got there safely.

5)      Realisation: Koreans = Nicest people in the world. N.B. Also have to give credit for near-universal commitment to ‘business casual’ attire.

6)      Cable car trip to N Seoul Tower: Wobbly, high altitude affair.

7)      Lotte World Indoor/Outdoor Theme Park: roller coasters named “Pharoah’s Fury” and “French Revolution”, log flume, indoor hot air balloons, trapeze artists, ‘peanut-coated squid’, dodgy Butlins-esque stage show, Disney rip-off parade, ice-skating rink, laser and pyrotechnics show, monorail, and more corn dogs than you can shake a corn dog stick at. REFUSE to leave this magical place until thrown out.

8)      Day of Korean Culture: Part one = visit to ancient settlement. Part two = visit to one of Seoul’s many ‘HOFs’ (fried chicken and beer shacks). Restaurant review = mixed. Positive side: first time I’ve seen white breast meat since leaving UK (mmmm…’real chicken’ indeed!) Negative side neatly summed up in this lil’ scrawl:

9)      Meet friends in foreigner-ville, Itaewon: Visit “Hooker Hill”, followed by “Homo Hill”. Verdict = unimpressed (ain’t no Amsterdam). Also, heavy US military presence not impressed by my mate’s whooping of “Uhmerrica!”

10)   See covers band at tiny club in Hongdae. They have Beatles haircuts and sing Beatles songs. For all I know, they may well have been called “the Beatles” = super classic. Opportunities aplenty for shaking one’s tailfeather until the wee hours.

Dear Shanghai: take note, please.

11)   Seoul Aquarium: Got there by showing this pic:

to taxi drivers until an old man saw we were struggling (no!?) and came to translate. Kindly re-visit point 5, please. Is a very creative museum. E.G. Fish in tanks? Pfftt…try fish in a toilet, fish in a washing machine, fish in a phone box. Brillo pads.

12)   Despite sub-zero conditions, v. excited about visit to Banpodaegyo ‘Rainbow Bridge’. At 8.30PM, this happens:

Accordingly, in anticipation this happened. Take note of sharp decline in ‘excite’ post 8.30PM:

Then this:


13)   Leaving Seoul: 1PM departure via high-speed KTX train. Every 20 mins announcements preceeded by snippet of music I SWEAR used to be on Pebble Mill in the 90’s. Otherwise EXACTLY same as National Express, only faster and minus the scrote at the back playing DJ Danny Bond on loudspeaker whilst necking a SKOL… I’m arrivin’ in style.

All-in-all: totally ace. Keep yer peepers peeled for Part Two: Busan.

I ♥  SK. ^_^

Hello world!

So here I am in Ban Phe in Thailand.

Some cultural observations:

  1. Dogs. They are bloody everywhere. They look more like hyenas; snarly and evil. My advice? Give them a very wide berth…walk on the road if necessary.
  2. Walking on roads. Deathwish?
  3. Toilet paper. Not used here! I wish someone would have told me… instead they have what can only be described as a “BUM GUN”. It is NOT a bidet. It’s handheld for a start. It’s basically a supersoaker for your ‘arris. Not pleasant.
  4. Mozzies. My blood must be well tasty because I am being eaten alive. My feet have swollen up in protest. Now, the home-medic in me says “elevate ’em!” …God I’d love to put my feet up on the table. However, apparently one of the rudest things you can do in this country is show the underside of your feet. The only faux pas worse is touching a Thai on the head or speaking ill of the King.

On the plus side though, Thailand has a really cool vibe about it. On Saturday I am going on a speedboat to the local island, called Ko Samet. Apparently this place is ‘party island’; white sandy beaches, postcard-blue sea and beach-hut bars dotted all along the coastline. I will take pictures for y’all to see!

We had a beach party on Sunday on our island and one of the locals told us that if we decided on a whim we wanted to go join the shenanigans on Ko Samet, we just need to call the ‘speedboat taxi’ (W.O.W!) and they’d have us there in 10 minutes for 200 Baht (about a fiver)! This country is coooooool…..

It’s rainy season at the moment but actually the wet has held off for most of the time I’ve been here. It’s raining pretty heavily right now, but I woke two days ago to the sound of tropical storm. The thunder was wild and the lightning orange! See? It’s cooooool here.

Oh – and I went to the nearest big city (Rayong) and they have a Tesco! Glad I brought my Clubcard….

I hope you are all well at home and elsewhere! Leave me a comment below, why dontcha?

Muchos love,