Barcelona and Santorini- The month of Percival

I’ll be honest, my attempt to return to the UK failed MASSIVELY! Within about a week, I was out of the UK again in Barcelona, and a week later, off to Spain! All of this was fully planned in advance so we could be involved in the wedding of the Century (well, September at least).

I was honored to be asked to be Best man for Gary. Alongside Oli) the other best man), who was also traveling around Asia the past year, had the pleasure of organising the stag from across 3 different continents at one point. Somehow, we pulled this off. Gary and Kakie actually planned their wedding to work around our trip away! I will never be able to thank them enough for this.

Barcelona

So, a week after returning to the UK, I was back on a plane, this time to Barca! Somehow, we managed to keep this entirely secret from the groom, including who was actually coming along. In the end, there were 9 of us for the weekend, mostly from Uni, with Oli, Glen and Sam from other pastures joining too.IMG_8423
Obviously, what happens on a stag stays on a stag, so I can’t report all that much (although nothign was particularly cliche stag activity), but I will say this was like no other stag i’ve been on, and obviously, it was the best (as I played a part in organised it, I would say that).

The weekend consisted of Gary Flyboarding, a bubble football tournament, an absolutely quality craft beer tour, probably the best meal i’ve eaten since this past year, a night out at a Techno club, and plenty of exploring this stunning city.

IMG_8418IMG_7814IMG_8424

There’s too much to mention here about Barca; it’s absolutely stunning and full of beautiful architecture, people, and food. I will 100% be coming back here to do some more exploring.

Santorini

The next step was the wedding! Gary and Katie decided they didn’t want a UK wedding, so went for the obvious next choice, Santorini. I mean, they really didn’t do things by halves here! Santorini is world famous for one of the most beautiful wedding venues in the world: I can definitely see why! This island, once a bloody great active volcano that effectively blew itself up (romantic eh?) is world famous for it’s blue and white buildings off the edge of the steep cliff edges. But there’s so much more so Santorini than just wedding vibes though. The island has some beautiful hikes, like the one we did from Thira  Oia. You literally can’t get away from absolutely breathtaking views everywhere you look here, it’s actually ridiculous!

The wedding party was a small one, only super close family and friends. The Percival clan consisted of Gary’s brother, wife and 2 small kids, his mum, and her best mate, whilst the Ainsworths consisted of parents, sister, and brother in law. Mine and Oli’s respective other halves, Kelly and Fo, made up the final part of the Santorini crew, all sharing a flat together in amongst a villa overlooking the beautiful coast line,

So before the wedding itself, we had the best part of a week here to explore. Our days consisted of a fairly routine approach; wake up, go for a swim in the pool, do something awesome, go eat somewhere beautiful, have a few drinks on the balcony, and repeat: not going to turn my nose up at that! During that week, we undertook a monster hike half way across the caldera, a boat tour around the island, went to explore the ancient ruins, got to experience the local winery and craft brewers, and, oh yeah, witness one hell of a wedding!

IMG_8014IMG_8015IMG_8025fullsizeoutput_14fullsizeoutput_12

The ceremony itself was absolutely breathtaking. This location is just stunning, the views continued to blow us all away, and the celebrations into the evening kept us all dancing all night long. Basically, it was all bloody awesome!

After a final week in the sun, it was time to ACTUALLY return home. This time, for the first time in a year, with no plans to fly anywhere else anytime soon. It’s a very weird feeling, knowing the life we’ve lived the past year is actually over. In a weeks time, i’ll be returning to work, and back to reality in a big way… Watch this space to see how I get on with that!

IMG_6027IMG_6037IMG_6033IMG_6122IMG_6258

Advertisements

Bangkok and Dubai- The long road home

It was such an odd experience leaving the Philippines. We ended up spending our last day barely leaving our Hotel. Splashing out on a nicer place to crash didn’t quite go the way we planned; our hotel was decidedly average, and our aspirations for gourmet grub ended with a Jollibee (the local Filipino equivalent of Maccas basically). But never mind, you can’t win em all! The sad reality though, was this was the end of our trip, bar a couple of stops en route back to the UK. Our first, being Bangkok!IMG_7459

A great tip for those booking flights home. Fly back from an international hub, but look for layovers. By booking a flight with a long layover in Abu Dhabi, we actually managed to get flights from Thailand to the UK for about £380 each; almost unheard of, especially considering I regularly get flights to the UAE from the UK for about the same price. Planning this ahead, we felt we should probably have a few more days in Thailand as we bloody loved it so much last time around.

There was a little surprise to throw into the mix too. Tim and Steph were joining us for Kelly’s birthday! Somehow, we managed to keep this plan (that myself and the guys had planned months earlier) secret from Kel for months, so needless to say, she was rather shocked. For our final blast, we HAD to crash at Mad Monkey, meaning we’d stayed in all of their hostels over Asia. This old converted hotel had all the great vibes you’d expect from a Mad Monkey, with a cracking location to boot; just down the road from the legendary Khao San Road (but far enough away that you can actually sleep). Obviously, this meant our first night together ended up there, consuming god knows what out of buckets and having a little boogie on the streets.

The next few days consisted of doing the things we couldn’t do last time in BKK (New Years, just after the king died, when most things were simply closed).  Tim and Steph took us to some of the ‘local markets they explored last time they were here: these quickly jumped to the top of the list as some of the most awesome markets in all of Asia! When you avoid the traditional backpacker spots, you really can find some superb little gems; this being one of them!

IMG_7497

The great thing about Bangkok, is there’s just so much going on! This boheamoth of a city literally has something new and awesome on every corner. We all spent a day just wandering around, exploring the wonders of the city around Khao San road, and stumbled across a number of hidden gems (mainly MuayThai related)

fullsizeoutput_22

IMG_7482

The next awesome thing about Bangkok is the food! Man, there’s just so much good food all around this wonderful country. After the Philippines, we were desperate for fruit, freshly cooked veggies and in general, the beautiful thai food. Seriously, we ate our way through our Bangkok explorations, and I don’t feel one bit guilty.

IMG_7485IMG_7486

One thing  we were really gutted to not do was the floating market on our last trip here. As mentioned earlier, a huge amount of stuff just wasn’t running out of respect for the king. This time, we took full advantage. Hiring a private longtail, we took our time exploring the canals and the floating market. Whilst this is renowned as a bit of a tourist trap, it was still great to see this market in full swing.

Obviously, it was super sad to say goodbye to these guys, especially knowing this ACTUALLY was the last time we’d see them in Asia (we’ve said that before, about 5 times now I think), but with plans afoot to see them again in a year or so back in the UK, it’s certainly not goodbye, but see you soon.

IMG_7589

Dubai, UAE

The next leg of our journey home took us to the adult playground, Dubai! Now you’d think this would be a terrible place to stop at the end of a year away, it’s world-renowned for being bloody expensive, full of opulence and glamour, and basically, not very backpacker friendly. However, my family has been living in the UAE for the past 4-5 years, with my dad recently moving to Dubai, so we got to spend a few days in their company, for the first time in a year!

fullsizeoutput_21

I don’t think my family was quite prepared for what they witnessed when we came through arrivals; both Kelly and I fully traveled up in our Alibaba pants and singlets, with me fully rocking the hobo hair. Oh well, gotta live up to the stereotype I guess!

After an afternoon sorting our lives out, washing EVERYTHING we owned, visiting my Dad at his new office, having our first family meal together for about 15months, the real fun and games started. Unbeknownst to us, but my family had planned a few bits and pieces for Kelly’s Birthday (she’s genuinely having the LONGEST birthday known now). The following evening, we all ventured to the world’s biggest inform theme park (I mean, of course, it’s the worlds biggest, we are in the UAE after all). IMG world of adventure is quite simply, outrageous! It really is a monster, filled with rides to suit all ages, with a number vermin on vomit inducing for those with a more sensitive disposition (namely, my mum). The absolute treat for me was the Marvel section, filled with rides from all their major comics. T’was certainly a giggle!

IMG_7621IMG_7622IMG_7626

The following day, we all hit the slopes. Mum and Dad booked Kelly skiing lessons at Ski Dubai, the (again) worlds largest indoor ski slope. Now, if you think about this, it is utterly ridiculous; skiing in a mall, in a desert, when it’s punching above 45c outside. Oh well, we are in Dubai! What was truly ridiculous though was this is Kelly’s first experience on skis on snow!

IMG_6698IMG_6690IMG_6685IMG_7653

Whilst Kel was having her lesson, my family and I hit the slopes for the first time together. I haven’t been skiing with them for well over 18 years and the last time we went my sister wasn’t even born! Somehow, I seemed to remember how to actually do it, with the fear of taking on the top slope dwindling after a few runs on the lower slaloms.

Sadly, all good things come to an end at some point. Our return to the UK was finally upon us. This really is it, the end of our trip across Asia. I’ll be writing another blog about our re-entry soon, but just to wet the appetite, this is what our first experience of the UK looked like… Definitely, something to get used to again I think!

IMG_7697