koh samui
It took me longer than acceptable to choose a place to stay in Koh Samui. In one sense, I didn’t want the hotel to cost an arm and a leg. In another, the notion of spending days in huts or tourist towns made me nauseous. I found my perfect middle ground in Centra Coconut Beach.

The hotel is nowhere near as wanky as the name, I swear.

Nestled in the far southwest corner of Taling Ngam, Centra is delightfully secluded. It shares one very long beach with the Conrad, but you won’t bump into a single guest for at least 15 minutes. There’s not much of anything around the hotel, actually. Besides their own restaurant, bar, spa and gym, the nearest amenity is a 15-minute walk to a Family Mart.

We braved that walk once, stocked up on bizarre Asian snack foods and water, and never returned.

We weren’t in Koh Saui to rave. We were there to recharge.

That’s the kind of ethos of Centra. Arriving a good six hours before check-in, the staff made special effort to prepare our room and let us get settled in. Happily, the rooms were even nicer than they seemed online. They were clean and spacious with an enormous bed, bath and balcony (all with a view). Best of all? The wi-fi was strong and hotel-wide.

Along with the daily refresh of bottled water and coffee (with ‘minibar’ resources available from the front desk), it was all you could hope for from an insanely underpriced holiday destination.

We spent a lot of our time jumping from beach to restaurant and back again. I can’t endorse this kind of behaviour for the sake of your waistline, but it’s a miracle worker on the brainline. Authentic Thai food makes me happier than any other food imaginable and (thankfully!) Centra’s chefs were old pros. Old pros smart enough to offer Thai alongside a few Western dishes*. The restaurant isn’t dirt cheap (£3-£5 per meal rather than the £1-£2 meals you will find eating street food), but a fair price for the geographical usurp they have on food options.

The spicy herbal salad changed my life. As did Happy Hour. We only chose to partake two or three times (neither of us are massive drinkers) but found it to be excellent value with a funny and infectiously happy bartender, to boot.

After The Manfriend burnt his eyelids to shreds, the bartender was the only person to get a smile out of him.

The only slight negative? Feeling like your regular Bear Grylls’, we decided to go further afoot and take the hotel’s recommendation for a day trip to Lamai.

What I didn’t know then that I feel obligated to tell you now is that Lamai is a tourist town. The worst kind. The shouty, gift-shoppy, drinky, everything written in English kind. The kind littered with hungover Eastern European teenagers in head-to-toe neon orange. There was even a McDonalds (obviously, we went in to play the International Menu Differences Game).

We made the most of it, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Apart from that poor suggestion, Centra was a real winner. We ate, played and sunbathed like our bodies were invincible (eventually taking time out from relaxing for a bone-crunching Thai massage in their Cense spa).

If you want to see bits and bobs in action, be sure to watch the Koh Samui vlog at the bottom of this post!

*Chicken satay burger for the unapologetic win.

koh samui
koh samui
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I have trouble being a ‘typical holidaygoer’. I find it very hard to ‘chill out’, as they say. While many people will rip through hazy romance novels in sun liungers, I read a book while jogging around the shallow end of a pool (I have the wet books to prove it). While even more people can casually wander in and out of the ocean between naps, I have to frolic in the sand with a camera in hand (I’ve done the blogs to prove it).

That is my issue. I cannot wholly ‘relax’ without something to keep my brain and body active.

Knowing the impossible would be expected of me on a remote beach holiday, I balanced the unfamiliar chil out by booking The Manfriend and I an adventure tour on our final day.

If there was one thing I was excited to bring my Canon* along for, this was it.

The Adventure Tour

Starting at the crack of dawn, we were welcomed into the day with a bit of an elephant mingle (where my poor Manfriend was volunteered by someone – ahem – to receive a sexy elephant massage). We then carried on to marvel at the insane intelligence of a few friendly weightlifting acrobat monkeys before heading a short walk away to watch a Thai boxing match.

For a break, our guide – Bo – took us to his outdoor kitchen to teach us how to make traditional som tam (papaya salad); praise the foodie heavens. It might be the best Thai dish there is (can anyone else smell a recipe blog?).

Before heading out of the area, we went for a short elephant ride with our lady elephant’s carer – a very sweet older man who made us jewellery from bamboo leaves and helped us feed the little (‘little’) lady from our bag of bananas.

As midday crept towards us, we jumped in a 4×4 and headed off for Na Muang waterfall. Avoiding the tourist traps and easier, paid routes, we took to the rocky descent like Mr and Mrs Tomb Raider, trekking to the cool waterfall like islanders. Then realising we were absolutely starving.

Hopping not into the 4×4 but now on top of the 4×4, we were hurdled towards the top of a jungled mountain (Pom Mountain) – stopping only for coconuts and congee – before safely placing our feet back on the ground above the Secret Buddha Garden.

The Garden – also known as Magic Garden – is a private Buddhist shrine and a magical combination of art, faith and nature.

Last stop? Koh Tan. Heading back towards Taling Ngam (where our hotel was situated), we stopped off at a nearby beach to board a long tail boat and zip over the the equally barren and beautiful island for a spot of snorkelling.

Major Ariel vibes. A Disney perfect day, altogether.

Watch it all in its full travel vlog glory, above!

koh samui
koh samui
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bond girl
In the average woman’s mind, beaches coincide with a single fixation: ‘The Bikini Body’. Some idealistic expectation of gym sessions and dieting

I decided not to give a toss this year. I am just over five feet tall and my largest asset is the cultural word association to ‘Kim Kardashian’. I will never have the body of a swimsuit model.

I will, however, have a bikini body. For I have a body that wears bikinis. A body I feed healthy food, a body I exercise, and a body I am thankful for. By all sane conclusions, babes, that’s the most you’ll need to have a bikini body.

Remember, those models you’re sticking on your fridge make up less than one percent of the world’s population. They are winners of a genetic lottery and devote their entire livelihood to holding onto their ticket as long as they possibly can. When your boyfriend coos ‘You look like a Bond Girl!’ as you walk out onto a beautiful beach in Koh Samui, you simply forget to care.

You have a bikini body all your own. Be proud of it.

What I Wore:
Bikini – Heidi Klein
Hat – Reiss

bond girl
bond girl

thailand expat
The Summer of 2011 marked the end of an eight month stint living in Thailand for The Manfriend and I. Our decision to move there stemmed from a frustrating day of flat hunting in Chelsea, and – in retrospect – I couldn’t be happier that I was so…deliriously…frustrated.

I love Thailand. I am itching to leave the familiarity of these London streets behind once again to dive into the wild and charming culture of Bangkok and beyond. I am having a barbaric Asian love affair via memories.

Time for blog therapy! Though I wrote my book and continued to build my business while living in Bangkok, I certainly didn’t take advantage of LelaLondon.com to document my Southeast Asian adventures. Click below for eights months of life highlights in photography. View Post

NIVEA Feeling Closer
There is something to be said for the power of the Internet. While it brings you and I together (whether I’ve been in London, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Penang, Rayong, or Koh Samui), research has also found that the seeming anonymity of online communication makes us feel closer and more confident with ‘real life’ relations.

The result of Facebook, Skype, texts, and similar efforts is faster and deeper-formed friendships than ever before. While I am known to raise both eyebrows at  new research, I simply couldn’t agree more. As a transatlantic stylist/editor/god-knows-my-real-job-title, my social network keeps me grounded and sane. My two best friends – Tiffani and Hannah – live thousands of miles away, yet post Tumblr/Facebook/Skype love notes to me constantly. What takes microseconds to receive now would have taken weeks before. That is invaluable.

On a psychological level, scientists have actually found that the sharing of personal information – ranging from status updates to photo sharing – is as beneficial to our social health as a face-to-face catch up. The interactivity of social networking is also a must-have when it comes to the development of positive regard and mutual understanding, the two core building blocks of intimacy.

Celebrating these findings in e-closeness, NIVEA have just launched a new campaign, “A Million Moments of Closeness“. With 100 prizes worth £100 to give away, they are asking you to upload ‘cosy moments’ – with anyone from your friend to your child – to facebook.com/niveauk. They are also holding road shows, throughout the UK, where picture-perfect pairings can jump into a photo booth and have their picture instantly uploaded. Every day, a “picture of the day” will be selected by psychologist Professor Geoff Beattie, giving you 100 chances to win those prizes!

If you do, however, disagree that technology is bringing us closer than ever, there is a debate going on at their Facebook page, as well!

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