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Wat Pho is one of the largest and oldest temples in Bangkok and home to the city’s beloved Reclining Buddha. The expansive grounds of the temple complex – with thousands of Buddhas on display, a working monastery and one of Thailand’s best massage schools – is well worth a visit. Of course, the main draw here is the massive and awe inspiring Reclining Buddha.
Covered from head to toe in gold leaf, Wat Pho’s Buddha statue is 50 feet high and 140 feet long …
Melt that special someone’s heart this Valentine’s Day with a personalised Hans Sloane Valentine’s Hamper, featuring two exclusive Rich Dark Drinking Chocolate Hearts, inscribed with your initials … just don’t tell ‘em you won it for free via tikichris; it can be our little secret
The hamper has everything you need for a cosy night in – two mugs and two Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate Cocoa Pods. Each of the hamper’s big hearts contains a double serving of Hans Sloane’s unique chocolate beads. To enjoy the beads simply pour hot water or milk over the heart, watch it melt and then give it a gentle whisk. Ahh!
Fancy getting one of these hampers for free and just in time for Valentine’s Day? I’ve got one to share with a lucky reader. And even if you don’t win, with a retail price of just £25 (plus £2 for personalization), the hamper is exceptional value and offers couples a lovely way to spend a quiet and delicious moment together.
To be in with a chance to win the personalised Valentine’s hamper from Hans Sloane, simply tweet the following:
RT to win a personalised Valentine’s hamper from @sloanechocolate, courtesy of @tikichris: http://bit.ly/1CG8MGZ #DrinkingChocolate
Please take a moment to read the terms and conditions before tweeting!
I’ll pick one winner at random on Friday 6 February at 11.30am BST. The winner will receive one hamper form Hans Sloane containing two mugs and two personalized Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate Cocoa Pods. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK where the prize can be posted. Good luck.
About Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate
Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate is the only hot chocolate product to be made from pure chocolate beads. Their mission is to bring the taste of chocolate back to drinking chocolate and their beads melt perfectly in hot milk or water to create a richer chocolate drink. Named after the man who pioneered drinking chocolate in Europe in the seventeenth century, Hans Sloane continues to innovate the hot chocolate market.
Also available in 270g packs, Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate flavour varieties include the Great Taste Award-winning Smooth Milk, Rich Dark, Madagascar 67% and Ecuador 70%, as well as their unique Natural Honey. Available in Tesco and Waitrose, as well as a range of independent stores and delis.
Find out more and shop online at sirhanssloane.com.
January 26th is Australia Day the official national day of Australia. The day commemorates the anniversary of Britain’s First Fleet arriving at Port Jackson (which includes Sydney Harbour) in 1788. This year, the holiday falls on a Monday adding up to an awesome long weekend of summertime fun in the sun down under!
Celebrations take place across Australia as well as in Australian expat communities across the globe.
Worried that your weekend in London is heading towards Tourist Central, calling at all stations via Boring Break? In that case we strongly suggest you change onto our Secret Seven line and alight at any of these intriguing stops.
Welcome to the very first post in what will be a new regular feature on Urban Travel Blog… a list of “Secret Sevens” in the hippest cities around the world. The concept? To make sure your wild weekend away isn’t spent queuing up for overrated and overpriced touristic attractions but given a totally unique direction by some original and inspired choices of cool – often hidden or unknown – things to do. We are asking our local experts in each city to come up with a list of seven little known or underrated attractions, tours, and venues that will make your visit that much more memorable, and we hope provide one or more top highlights of your trip. Who better to turn to first than regular contributor and London blogger Chris Osburn, who reveals some of his favourite spots and activities in the city he calls home …
While I’m away from my desk for a few days, I’ve got seasoned travel writer and cultural essayist Maddie Salters filling in to cover Fem Graff, a newly opened exhibition at Lollipop Gallery.
Fem Graff at Commercial Street’s Lollipop Gallery, has one mission: to bring the best of London’s female street artists indoors for a transformative experience. The collection of work sits right on the cutting edge, with stimulating, colourful imagery that contests traditional ideas of art and pushes boundaries, all the while bringing the best of East London’s graffiti culture indoors.
Heading into the gallery at the ground floor, the simple, and unpretentious white walls and strip-planked oak floors place the focus directly on the art, where the smell of spray paint is as fresh as the work itself. Graffiti, usually impermanent, is enshrined here in rare form. While the nebula-faced women tagged by Amara por Dios across the downward stairwell will be painted over one day, the mixed-media pieces on display; inks, oils, charcoal, and the more typical tools of the trade, spray paint and markers; are set up on canvasses and thick art paper around the gallery, framed and set.
The show, which also includes works by bold headliner ZABOU, the technicolor dreamscapes of Amanda Marie, the hectic city vibe of Ashes 57, the ultra-provocative SAKI&Bitches, the candy-coated works of Vinie Grafiti, and the quick-witted juxtapositions of Victoriano, knocks it out of the park. Outside of its natural habitat, the graffiti still commands the space, encroaching on privileged ground with playful accord.
I really enjoyed the exhibition’s vernissage. Records were spinning on a DJ turn table, and women with Fine Art degrees were sipping cranberry-vodkas out of plastic cups and calling the work sexy. I have to agree. Two pieces stood out to me in particular. My jaw dropped in front of SAKI&Bitches “True Love”, depicting a woman in typical pinup position, with nautical imagery reminiscent of a strong-man’s tattoo, the words ‘TRUE LOVE’ emblazoned in Japanese Kanji across the base, her naked limbs bound up in bondage rope.
This type of art challenges the viewer and exposes itself in a messy mix of cultural symbols and traditions. The effect is deliciously irreverent, as in Victoriano’s Atelier. A Victorian-era oil painting that was repurposed by the artist depicts a well-dressed lady in a painter’s lounge. It may take a moment for you to notice her designer handbag and shopping haul, which includes a Dior and other goodies from right off of Oxford Street. Times change, but a la mode is forever.
Ending the night on the wild basement floor, where the mixed-media of the streets provides a playground of paint on the walls, the columns, the pipes, the tiles, and the concrete, I felt I had more questions than answers, and left feeling energised and contemplative.
You can get your dose of modern philosophy at Fem Graff, running from January 24th-February 26th at the Lollipop Gallery, 58 Commercial Street, E1 6LT. The show is free to view. Learn more at lollipopgallery.com.
Written by Maddie Salters, a native New Yorker who has lived abroad for half of her life – from cities spanning Montreal to Osaka. While there’s still a lot on her “to trek” list, she has currently landed with both feet firmly in London. As a seasoned travel writer and cultural essayist, you can find her work on TripAdvisor, and in print in Wanderlust Magazine and other international publications.
In the run up to Burns Night, Chris takes a tour of one of the country’s oldest producers of smoked salmon. Who’d have guessed it was a stone’s throw from the Olympic Park in London’s East End?
Most folks familiar with Fish Island probably know the area for its couple of canal-side hipster cafes, plethora of street art, views of the Olympic Stadium, and proximity to the Olympic Park and Westfield Stratford City. It’s as dynamic an East End destination as anywhere, and just a short stroll from Hackney Wick Overground Station (and not too terribly far from Stratford Station as well).
As much as or more than all that, Fish Island is home to the H Forman & Son Smokehouse. A 110 ten year old venture that’s been smoking Scottish salmon in the same way as it always has, Forman supplies some of the nation’s top restaurants with its smokehouse delicacies. Over the past decade, this family run business has …
Sundance Film Festival is on again, bringing Hollywood glamour to an otherwise quiet mountain town in Utah.
Whether you’re an indie film insider attending this famous festival or a movie buff eager to find out what this year’s breakout must-see movies coming out of Sundance will be, see what you think about this list travel oriented flicks playing at this year’s event …
What’s better than slurping your way through a giant bowl of warming ramen on a cold January afternoon? Going at such a substantial and satisfying serving of comfort inducing yum in the company of a good friend. And even better than that is having your soupy companion offer to write about the experience for your blog! I had a fantastic lunch recently at Kanada-Ya (Yet more awesome Japanese food in London? Yes!). And as much as I loved getting down to business with my noodle soup in its super slow cooked broth, I equally enjoyed the catch up with fellow blogger Leila Dukes, who kindly volunteered to share her excellently written review of our Kanada-Ya lunch here on my blog. Kanpai!
Since Kanada-Ya opened last autumn in St Giles, the restaurant has attracted steady queues of people waiting patiently for a fix of authentic tonkotsu ramen. The good news for those shivering outside is, Kanada-Ya is not the kind of place you linger for ages. The menu is ultra streamlined, offering just three choices of piggy goodness (vegetarians, look away now). Sure enough, a couple of spots at a window bench became available fairly quickly.
The original, most straightforward option is the Original: 18 hour pork bone broth and hand pulled noodles, topped with pork belly slices, nori seaweed, and dinky piles of julienned wood ear fungus and spring onion. I opted for the Moyashi ramen, which introduces blanched beansprouts into the mix. I also couldn’t resist an extra topping of Hanjuku egg, a cured Burford Brown which arrived with a rich, technicolour, wobbly yolk.
Kanada-Ya’s signature 18 hour pork broth has a glorious clarity of taste and a distinctly gelatinous, sticky texture – the restaurant credits their chefs’ meticulous simmering and regular skimming for the end result.
It’s not all about the broth though; the noodles are prepared with equal care, made on site with a specially imported bit of kit from Japan to produce a bouncy, firm noodle capable of standing up to the rich broth. It’s possible to request how you like your noodles cooked when ordering; the staff recommends “hard” because the noodles continue to soften in the steaming broth while you slurp away at your bowl.
Next time I will have to try the Chashu‐men ramen, which replaces the standard chashu pork belly with large slices of the meatier chashu pork collar.
We also tried Onigiri, seasoned rice balls wrapped in nori seaweed with various stuffings. The one with Japanese sour, salty pickled plums in the middle was a fantastic bar snack to accompany a refreshing bottle of Asahi.
Kanada-Ya serves food worth waiting for – and with the new heaters promising to keep patrons toasty warm as they inch closer to a fantastic dining experience, I’m sure there will be queues for a long time to come.
Kanada-Ya is located at 64 St Giles High Street, WC2H 8LE. Find out more at kanada-ya.com.
Written by Leila Dukes. For Leila, “food is always connected to history, influenced by previous generations, different countries and customs, friends & family … it’s about learning, teaching, sharing, and celebrating. This review also appears on her blog, Swallower of Lives.
Addison Lee, has announced a £1 million fare giveaway – its biggest ever price drop – offering London commuters £10 off up to 100,000 journeys from 20 January until 16 February 2015.
To celebrate the new year, “Europe’s largest minicab company” is treating Londoners to £10 off their next five journeys on a first come first serve basis until the 16th of February or the million pounds runs out – whichever happens first.
The promotional code for accessing the savings of the Addison Lee #MillionPoundGiveaway is SAVE10. The code can only be used when booking by cash or card via the Addison Lee app (which I really like – a lot) or online at addisonlee.com.
The Addison Lee app is free to download on Android and iOS devices and available from Google Play and iTunes. It’s a handy one to have whether you intend to use it as a luxury, a reliable means of on-the-ground business-related travel, or a just-in-case resource so you’re never stuck in town without a ride.
Find out more at addisonlee.com/apps.
Still resolved to stick with your new year hopes for a healthier lifestyle even as 2015 gets well settled in? Good for you! Positively Good For You actually. To help you maintain your momentum and enjoy the taste and the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, here’s an opportunity to win a selection of Positively Good For You olive oils from southern Italy.
Positively Good For You produces a gorgeous range of single estate, extra virgin olive oils from Calabria, Italy, specially selected for their fabulous taste and health benefits. The brand’s complete range includes six naturally flavoured, oils presented in beautiful 250ml, square glass bottles comprising of the following:
• Garlic, black pepper and balsamic vinegar,
• Rosemary, and
• 750ml plain, Single Estate, Extra Virgin Olive Oil presented in a square, dark green glass bottle.
This is the second time I’ve run a comp for PGFY olive oils. Yeah, I’m a fan and reckon you will be too.
To be in with a chance to win a full set of Positively Good For You olive oils simply tweet the following:
Please take a moment to read the terms and conditions before tweeting!
I’ll pick one winner at random on Friday 30 January at 11.30am BST. The winner will receive a range of olive oils from Positively Good For You. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK where the prize can be posted. Good luck.
Find out more about Positively Good For You at positivelygoodforyou.com.
Stepping in to lend a much appreciated hand with a slightly unwieldy (if utterly delicious) editorial load is seasoned travel writer and cultural essayist Maddie Salters. After her recent visit to newly opened Den Udon, Maddie reckons 2015 may turn out to be the “year of the noodle – at least at King’s Cross.” Is it time for Japanese food lovers in London to rejoice? Have a read of her review and see what you think.
Den Udon’s hip new venue just opened its doors to business, with a clean layout and alternating menus that convert it from a casual luncheon spot to a cosy place for conversation over dinner and drinks. The trendy, minimalist vibe and welcoming staff make you feel right at home, and hearty menu options offer an array of traditional Japanese food with a bit of a twist. Fair portion sizes, a long list of sharable appetisers, and communal tables make Den and especially appealing alternative if you’re dining with a large group.
I enjoyed my initiation to Den Udon. Wait staff was attentive, cheerful, and knowledgeable. A small selection of appetisers set the tone for the meal and included some of its highlights. The crispy fried chicken kara-age (£5) was especially tender, and the red wine stewed pork belly (£6) delighted in a rich sauce, for a melt-in-your-mouth experience. Both paired off well with cold, fresh seasonal vegetables in a sesame rub (£4.50). Of particular note was the crunchy Udon pretzel in a mirin dip, available on the shared platter (£11), a creative tag-team invention by the Japanese and Italian staff.
Also a product of the fusion kitchen – which serves mainly traditional fare, from udon in salty Tokyo-style black broth, to don buri with mounds of fermented soy bean natto for those with a brave tongue – comes the Udon Carbonara (£11). Fresh egg and cod keep the dish wonderfully light and flavourful, with a rub of Parmesan that makes it tangy and filling. Also excellent was the house special, Duck Tempura (£12). I opted to have it with cold soba noodles in a spring onion and ginger-infused soy dip, but would be curious to try it over a hot bowl of rice on my next trip. As the menu is heavy on salt, dishes pair well with their Asahi Super Dry beer (£3.50), or a palette-cleansing carafe of Shochikubai Gokai hot sake (£5.50) between courses.
While Den Udon offers no dessert option, a hot green tea (Den’s mixture of brawny sencha leaves and bright matcha powder, £2) served up in posh contemporary glassware completes the meal,
Den Udon is located at 2 Acton Street, WC1X 9NA. Sure to become a hit, visit for the thoroughly modern ambiance and amenities (heated toilet seats, anyone?) and come with an appetite, expecting to combine menu options and flavours. The self-described “Udon Evangelists” make everything in-house, so you can be sure you’re getting both quality and quantity. Learn more at den-udon.uk.com.
Written by Maddie Salters, a native New Yorker who has lived abroad for half of her life – from cities spanning Montreal to Osaka. While there’s still a lot on her “to trek” list, she has currently landed with both feet firmly in London. As a seasoned travel writer and cultural essayist, you can find her work on TripAdvisor.com, and in print in Wanderlust Magazine and other international publications.
Moment of Impact at Lazarides Rathbone is (to the best of my knowledge) the first solo show in London by DC-based artist Mark Jenkins in a quite a few years. Although his trademark life-sized sculptures and three-dimensional canvases actually lose a bit of their impact in a gallery setting as opposed to on the street for the unsuspecting public to encounter, the show is nonetheless a winner and well worth checking out.
I had a lot of fun viewing Jenkins’ exhibition at the private view last night. I really appreciated his confrontational sense of humour. Works like The Screamer, a blow up sex doll with an mask of Edvard Munch’s The Scream over the face, really did it for me. His more menacing stuff ticked a number of boxes for me too. Indeed, his boy-sized and super lifelike balaclava clad statues had a presence that beguiled, amused and creeped out in equal measure.
The show opens to the public today but only has a three week run. It’s free to view.
Moment of Impact runs from 16 January to 7 February at Lazarides Rathbone, 11 Rathbone Place, W1T 1HR. Find out more at lazinc.com.
Recently opened Italian-Japanese fusion eatery, Beiriso, brings a tasty assortment of lunchtime and on-the-hoof dining options to the hectic streets of Holborn that’s bound to woo passers-by with affordable prices and a mostly health-conscious selection of food and drink.
I have to admit my eyes rolled involuntarily when I read the release about the Italian-Japanese concept behind Beiriso. Taking its name from the word for rice from each language (“bei” in Japanese, “riso” in Italian), the moniker could have just as well meant ‘oh brother’ to me. But I was going to be in the area, and the soft launch opening time suited my schedule allowing me an opportunity to catch up with an old friend over a quick lunch and cup of coffee – which in this case was actually a green tea chai latte (and a really yummy one at that).
From my first sip throughout the rest of my meal, I was generally impressed with the flavor, presentation and nutrition of every menu item that came my way.
As it turned out, Beiriso was an ideal setting for a friendly chat. Kind of a Pret/Itsu mash up (and I mean that in the best possible way, really), it was casual, clean, and well lit. Of course, this was Beiriso in soft launch mode. Lots of keenly curious folk were all but pressing their noses to the window to peek in and stepping inside only to be invited back by staff when officially opened to the public. So, even for the hour or so I was there, I could detect loads of interest in this new place to eat or grab a hot beverage that isn’t a Pret or an Itsu or a McDonald’s or a pub or an antiquated caff or a supermarket or a ridiculously expensive upscale restaurant. Now actually open to the public, I can only expect the scene for some time to come at Beiriso to be a more buzzing atmosphere than when I had a bite there.
If you find yourself among the first to flock there, keep in mind Beiriso is running an introductory offer of free coffee with every breakfast item purchased as well as 30% off lunch items after 2pm throughout December and January.
During my visit I got a much better grasp of Beiriso’s more Italian inspired side of the menu than its more Japanese offerings (as those were the only dishes available when I showed up). No complaints … but a good bit of wistful intrigue as I would have loved to have sampled “Med” sushi (aubergine, courgette, and avocado sushi, £3,80 takeaway or £4.62 eat in) or the parma ham nigiri.
Oh well, I’m all for the possibility of a repeat visit as I I very much enjoyed what I tried while there. The minestrone (£2.80 takeaway or £3.36 eat in) proved perfect for a winter day, a nibble or two from the range of savoury calzones (from £2.15), and more than decent pizzas especially pleased my palate as well. A variety of low carb salads (from £3.20), rice bowls (from £4.65), pastries (from £1.50) and more – with plenty of gluten-free, vegan, dairy free items to choose – suggesting wise insight into the food and drink Zone 1 office workers hanker most when dashing to and from work or cramming as much joy as they can into an al-desko lunch break.
Beiriso is located at 2-22 Procter Street, WC1V 6NX. Find out more at beiriso.com.
Know your LFR from your LRA?
Here’s a list of a few terms, phrases and acronyms to assist you navigating the travel industry and get on to actually traveling somewhere.
Good stuff and lots of it! Here’s the low down on some fine things to see, sip or savour – all of which I’ve recently come across and thought were worth sharing with you. Enjoy.
Bart Ingredients’ Panch Phoran
I’ve been enjoying cooking with Bart’s panch phoran. This Bengali five spice mix adds instant oomph to any range of otherwise meh dishes.
Over Christmas and New Years, I was genuinely pleased with the sipping from a bottle of Morrisons Signature Palo Cortado. The dry sherry produced for Morrisons by Lustau was a rich and rather salty treat – and awesome value at just under six quid. I’m looking forward to tasting more of its range of sherries and other wines.
Have you tried a Nutella B-Ready bar yet? It’s full on Nutella yum with a crispy wafer crunch in the form of a handy dandy bar. I’m not sure they’re officially launched in the UK yet, but I got mine at the Covent Garden outlet of Cyber Candy which had a three-for-two offer on B-Ready when I was there about a week ago.
You couldn’t call ‘em health food, but with no artificial colourings or flavourings and at least 30% less fat and 18% less calories than other standard fried vegetable crisps, Scrubbys [the brand does the no apostrophe thing – not me] gluten free, vegetarian, vegan friendly vegetable crisps are certainly a healthier snack that’s just as satisfying and more flavoursome than many an alternative crisp. Scrubbys come in two varieties: a four vegetable mix of Beetroot, Sweet Potato, Parsnip & Carrot crisps with Sea Salt and Parsnip Crisps with Chilli & Lime Zing. I liked both and found the sweet potato crisps especially difficult not to strip mine out of a pack.
Brrrr, it’s freezing! Time to party? Absolutely. Winter means big fun for many. Here’s a look at some of destinations across the northern hemisphere embracing the cold this winter!
Probably the best known of these chilled out celebrations is …