If my last couple of posts have just been far too long for your tastes, then fear not. This one will be nice and short*. Unfortunately for fellow coeliac and/or wheat and gluten intolerant folk, that means that no, I didn’t find much gluten free food in Bangkok. I really tried, but unfortunately it’s not a city that understands gluten free.

Here are the few places I did find, in order of recommendation.

*so I’ve just finished writing and turns out I wrote quite a lot again. soz.

Theera Gluten Free Bakery

This was my oasis in a city of things I can’t eat, and of course I only found it on my last day. It’s a slight ways out of the main tourist areas but it’s 100% worth the trip if you can’t eat gluten. They do a great breakfast and lunch, and they have some cakes, bread and energy ball type things to take away to tide you over until you find your next safe food venue. I ate all mine on my cheapo-air flight to Jakarta where no other food was provided. Woop!

Anyway, back to Theera. That day I had a fried breakfast with waffles, because waffles.

The waffles were good, but honestly I wish I’d had something else because it came up a bit short of a Traditional English. Which was only to be expected seeing as I was in Thailand.

S had a duck curry with rice. I tried a bit and it tasted just as good as it looked.

They also had exciting drinks on offer which were just right in the heat.

I soon moved on to the cake course, which was absolutely delicious. They gave me two forks, oh how naive.

No dry and crumbly cardboard here – this vanilla cake was rich and delicious. I don’t know what the icing was but it was light and airy. And, even though it was served with maple syrup drizzled over it, not too sickly.

The interior was comfortable, air conditioned (!), peaceful and clean. The staff were very friendly.

I highly recommend Theera and I’d go out of my way to visit it next time.

Kyochon Chicken

This Korean chicken joint is located at the back of Siam Square One, adjacent to Siam BTS station. It’s super convenient if you’ll be in the area doing some shopping. They have good value Korean fried chicken and rice which makes for an ideal lunch.

Just watch out for the following:

> Not all their dishes are gluten free and the ones that are aren’t marked. As far as I know, the Sal Sal chicken is the only gluten free chicken on the menu: they couldn’t vouch for the other types. Please re-check every time you go in case the recipe has changed and if in doubt… don’t eat it.

> They don’t have a website so I have no idea when they’re open. It’s a cafe so I’d suggest daytime rather than evening.

> There are no loos in the restaurant itself, you have to go into the main shopping centre where there are semi-western style toilets (western actual loos but BYO loo roll/take it from the one dispenser on the wall as you walk in).

> Try the strawberry salad dressing. It’s an experience.

La Tavola & Wine Bar

(inside Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel)

I don’t know whether anyone else gets this, but after about a week surviving on boiled rice and plain stir fries I was desperate for some good ol’ western carbs. So I did a google and I found possibly the only Italian restaurant in Bangkok that serves gluten free food. It’s inside the Renaissance hotel, which is right next to the Chit Lom BTS stop. It was also walking distance to our hotel which was most convenient. So off we went.

We were the only people in the restaurant! It was nice though.

Imagine my rapture when they brought out real, live gluten free bread. Look. At. It. Boiled rice, in your face.

Again, the gluten free options weren’t noted on the menu but were offered by the staff on enquiry. They had gluten free pasta available (no pizza, sadly) and could do either penne or spaghetti with almost any of the sauces listed on the main menu.

I went for trad ragu, and it was delicious. There’s not too much more I can say than that, really.

Yes, it was a bit of a pricey restaurant. But seeing as we’d been eating in food courts up until that point we justified the splurge. And sometimes you just need a slice of bread, y’know?

Vistacafe

This place was right next door to our hotel, and it provided me with a chocolate cake in a time of need for which I will be forever grateful.

It’s a health food shop so you’ve got to watch out for the ‘low gluten’ type spelt things, but they do have a small selection of actual gluten free things. Mostly cake to be honest, I don’t think you could get an actual gluten free meal here from what I saw.

General tips

Unfortunately it’s just not that easy to get hold of gluten free food in Bangkok. You would think it would be, but soy sauce is so ever-present it’s a real nightmare to avoid. Sometimes they even put it in curries – you just never know. So, never assume.

> I got my hotel front desk to write out ‘no soy sauce, no oyster sauce’ in Thai on a piece of paper for me which I would brandish wherever we went. Sometimes it worked, sometimes I got blank looks, I adjusted my course as a consequence.

> We ate a lot in food courts, because there was usually something there I could eat, and no judgement if I ate something strange or ‘not a meal’ like a plate of plain boiled rice.

> Our hotel had no clue about gluten free, so if you can stay somewhere that does that would be an excellent start.

> There isn’t really any packaged gluten free food in the supermarkets, so find what you can that’s naturally gluten free and stock up on it. We found a place near us that had some prepackaged fruit and yoghurts so we ate those a lot.

> Look for the fresh fruit street vendors which are fairly common. They sometimes do juices and smoothies as well.

> This is a slightly left field suggestion, but go on a cooking course! The one we went on not only made sure I could eat all the food I cooked, but gave me a good understanding of how some common Thai dishes are made and what bits I would need to avoid. Plus, it was great fun.

And that’s it. Have you been to Bangkok? Anything to add to my rather paltry list?

-Rachel

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As a self professed and independently validated clumsy person, you might wonder why I would choose to spend the day exploring a city like Bangkok on something that can only be described as an oversized canoe.

Let me explain.

I like history. S likes boats. I had heard that the best way to see the older parts of Bangkok was via boat, because the city was originally built around a canal system. We had already seen quite enough of shopping malls, so we figured, why not?

We carefully selected a tour (not an affiliate or sponsored or anything) out of seemingly infinite options; do we want to go to a floating market? But they don’t run on the day we want to go. Do we go another day then? Or go to an orchid farm instead? How many temples should we visit? And so on.

After a very un-holidayish early start, we arrived at a remote BTS platform. Most of the other passengers on the train had already disembarked some time ago – where were we?!

It may have only been 8:30 am but it was already hot and sticky. We wound our way through residential streets, through one of the numerous temple forecourts, and there was an unassuming jetty with a boat and boat driver (pilot? captain?) waiting for us.

Now.

Did I mention I’m clumsy?

Embarking was a feat of gymnastics and between my husband, the guide and the boat director we all made it without capsizing. I’ll spare you the details.

So, safely ensconced in the boat, here are the stops we made.

Wat Paknam

This is a new Buddhist temple. It was very large and had the air of affluence around it. There were some people milling around the forecourt, and the faint sound of chanting wafted around the corner from a funeral service in progress.

We saw plenty of statues of Buddha, some of which were shrink wrapped. I’m still not sure why. This one wasn’t, and was sat directly opposite the entrance to the temple.

The grounds were small but well kept, with some lovely flower beds and some benches to sit in in the shade.

There was also a traditional library, built over water to stop the rats getting in and destroying the books. Some turtles had taken up residence in the pond. I think they had been released there by temple-goers to generate good karma.

There were beautifully embroidered fans mounted on the ceiling beams around the main temple. Apparently these are used by monks to hold in front of their faces whilst they’re performing ceremonies so they don’t get distracted. You can tell how important a monk is by the kind of fan they have. These fans are for regular, entry level monks and are provided by members of the community.

Next we moved into the giant stupa-shaped temple next door. This housed a big ceremonial room on the ground floor, complete with scary demons on the door to keep out ill-doers.

On the next two floors were museum items, with a further collection of fans. You can tell by the shape and quality of embroidery that these are for higher-up monks to use.

There were collections of all sorts of things, from what you might expect (statues of Buddhas, sacred texts) to those you might not (pocket watches donated by past visitors, giant gold statues of past abbots). It was quite interesting, but it was very hot in there.

Finally, we reached the top floor. I was definitely not expecting what greeted us there.

Yes, this is real. That’s a stupa made out of jade glass, specially lit with spotlights. The paintings on the domed ceiling were incredible. Up close, you could see the detail on the stupa – there was a small army of nagas and lit up lotus flowers at the base.

I just couldn’t get over the sheer scale of it. Honestly, I’m still not sure what to make of it. It doesn’t even look real.

Mind thoroughly blown, we stepped outside for a welcome breath of fresh air and admired the view over the rooftops. The district we were in is known as the temple district, and it’s easy to see why.

The contrast between old and new is quite strong, with the temple spires and traditional houses in the foreground (the ‘old’ way of living) and skyscrapers in the rear (the ‘new’ way of living). Our guide lamented how the youth of today now want to live near a BTS station, not a temple.

Back on the water, we began to see some traditional dwellings, built over the water. I love the fact that this one looks like it’s on the verge of collapsing into the water, but still has a satellite dish mounted on the roof.

The plant collections were often quite spectacular.

Houses were crammed in anywhere they could find space.

After some time with the wind in our hair (and trying not to inhale too much canal water), we arrived at our next stop.

Wat Pa Chaeng Lane

This was described to us as the ‘jungle temple’. The entrance to it was certainly more low-key than the first temple, and the whole experience felt more authentic. We were the only tourists there, and the monks and locals were all very friendly. We had a nice chat to some monks who wanted to know where we were from, what was our story, etc.

Oh and I now want a hanging wall of plants please.

The place was quiet, shady, and peaceful. Animals wandered across the boardwalks, and the whole place was raised above water. It was lovely.

Floating market

Now, we had unwittingly booked our excursion on a public holiday, so despite the fact it was a week day we were on a weekend tour schedule, and we were told the floating food market would probably be closed. In the end, a few stalls were open and there was plenty to eat. It probably turned out to be a slightly more chilled out experience, to be honest, as there was plenty to see even with just a few stalls open.

Our guide explained all of the dishes to us, and said that whatever we would like he would get for us. We really were too hot to eat a great deal, but we tried a few different dishes and enjoyed the view out over the canals while we ate.

The place wasn’t too touristy either, which was nice. If you just want the floating market foodie experience (you could spend a whole day here alone I expect, it was huge), you can get a water taxi here directly. There were some waiting on the jetties as we left.

The orchid nursery

Next stop: pretty flowers! I have no idea where we were because all the signs were in Thai. It was pretty far away though.

There’s not much to say about the orchid nursery other than how pretty it was. We were the only visitors at the time and the owner of the nursery was very patient in answering my nerdy questions (as translated by our guide). He also gave us a tour of the other interesting plants on his property and overall it was a plant enthusiasts’ playground.

Of course it was even hotter and more humid than everywhere else we’d been, on account of the fact they were growing in a greenhouse which was full of standing water. It was worth it though.

Artist’s House

I was really looking forward to this stop, as it was billed as a local community movement aiming to promote the local arts. Apparently it’s a series of old, traditional houses that were saved from demolition by artists moving in and setting up various shops selling their creations. There’s also a traditional puppet show. Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, we only found one shop selling anything vaguely handicraft-y, and to my (untrained it has to be said) eyes it didn’t look like anything you couldn’t get in markets elsewhere. Perhaps most shops were closed due to the public holiday, I don’t know. There were a couple of shops selling food which you could feed to the giant catfish that live in the canal. You can see the huge bags of it hanging up in the photo above. It was fun watching kids feed the fish but that wasn’t really what we came for.

So we made our way to the traditional puppet show and bagged a super uncomfortable seat while we waited for the show to begin. The place was packed and we assumed we were in for a treat, however two unfortunate things happened. One, I remembered I hate puppets. Like, I really am a bit freaked out by them. So as soon as the show started I just wanted to leave. The puppets were intricately made, yes, but I just wasn’t on for them being moved about. And what’s with the freaky black masks?!

Secondly, we realised the show was a thinly disguised shakedown for tourists. Now, I hate shows where they single someone out from the audience to embarrass them, but this was even worse. The premise was they’d not only embarrass people but pretend to hold their (expensive!) belongings to ransom or not leave them alone until they donated. Then they went around the audience doing this to everyone. We were sat near the back and after some time had passed and it became obvious they weren’t going to stop until they’d been around every single person in the audience, we decided to scarper. I would have donated before, even though it freaked me out, but I certainly wasn’t after that performance. I’m assuming it isn’t traditional for puppet shows to extort tourists but hey, what do I know.

That left a bit of a bad taste in our mouth and I think our guide was a bit surprised to see us leaving so soon. We were just glad to get back on the boat and get out in the water. It was honestly so much fun seeing into the neighbourhoods from the boat.

We spotted some local wildlife, too. We even saw a giant monitor lizard sunning himself on someone’s back garden wall.

Overall, whilst there were some good bits and some strange bits and some totally out-there bits, I’m really glad we took the boat ride. Being on the water was just so much fun and I loved seeing a different side to the shiny modern bits of Bangkok we’d seen until that point. Would I recommend to a friend? Maybe, depending on the friend. I would offer the following tips though.

Tips

> Wear boat suitable clothing. I would not recommend a dress. Also make sure you have knees and shoulders covered to look around the temples.

> Wear plenty of sunscreen (and reapply). Also bring DEET or similar – we got quite bitten on the water.

> Bear in mind you’ll be outdoors all day and nowhere you visit will have AC. So, prepare to be very hot for 7+ hours! Make sure your tour will provide plenty of water (ours did) and bring your own just in case. I thought we were drinking enough but once we got back to the hotel we were basically useless for the rest of the day, so perhaps we didn’t do as good of a job as we thought.

> Read up on the various permutations of tour, and pick the itinerary that suits you. Some tour companies will even create a bespoke one for you. I particularly enjoyed the jungle temple and orchid farm, the floating market was fun and it was good to have a guide to talk us through all the food on offer, I frankly didn’t know what to make of the bling mountain, and was not impressed by the artisan’s house. Your opinion may differ, that’s just mine.

> Take small notes to tip your guide and driver

> There won’t be room for you to sit alongside each other – it is a narrow boat. That’s fine but don’t expect to be able to hold a conversation with each other while the boat is moving, over the sound of the motor and the wind you’ll be hard pressed to.

> Following on from that, don’t expect commentary from your guide as you’re actually moving along. You won’t be able to hear a word they’re saying. Of course, they’ll guide you around the stops – just not en route.

So I have to ask. Would you have given money to the puppet show?

-Rachel

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In between starting our crazy well thought through expat adventure, S and I took a break to do a spot of travelling (and resting). We chose a varied itinerary, and picked hotels along the way largely driven by where we could stay for free or cheap using points. Possibly not the way the pros do it but it did make the holiday much more affordable. Anyway, come and have a snoop around where we stayed in Thailand and Indonesia, and just what I thought of it…

Bangkok: Hotel Indigo Wireless Road

First up on our itinerary was Bangkok. We’ve visited Bangkok once before (and I reviewed the hotels we stayed in) but chose not to return to any of the previous properties, because I had enough IHG points to stay in the Hotel Indigo for just over a week for absolutely nothing. I am a big fan of Hotel Indigo properties, as they cater well for the millennial traveller (yeah I’m owning it) with things we appreciate like decent wifi, rooftop infinity pools, and interesting decor.

So here is the giant double bed that was just the right side of extremely fluffy:

The buzzing skyscraperscape (is that a word? It is now) as viewed from our balcony:

The handy work desk which my husband spent quite a lot of time in, owing to the mini freelancing gig he scored just before we left:

The extremely glamorous bathroom, which had a walk in shower so huge you practically needed a map to find your way around it:

Some very cool artwork in the lobby:

And about that rooftop pool.

 

Yes, it was as good as I was hoping. There were those big circular bed things you could lie in, sunloungers, a pop up bar, you could have food served there, there was plenty of shade to lie in and all the towels you could ever want. It was a struggle to leave the pool deck let me tell you.

Good things ¦¦ The styling and facilities in general were impeccable. The staff were some of the most friendly I’ve ever encountered – they knew my name and always greeted me with a friendly smile regardless. It was quiet; the internet worked well (important for my working husband); the whole place smelled amazing; the room was just the right size and I liked the seating area; there was a fridge to keep drinks and snacks cool… It had just been done very thoughtfully and honestly felt like a brand new hotel.

Not so good things ¦¦ The food options didn’t suit me particularly; the menu was quite broad but there was never anything I actually fancied on it. Also, they didn’t cater for gluten free at all even though I pre-warned them. Location wise it was a 5-10 minute walk to the nearest Skytrain station, and the nearest food, which isn’t far except when it’s eleventy jillion degrees and 100% humidity and then it feels quite far. Especially if you have to carry your bags. However once at the Skytrain, it was only a couple of stops to all the major sights so I can’t complain on that front.

Would I return? ¦¦ You know… it was a beautiful hotel, but the inability to cater for my diet suitably (even for breakfast) was a huge let down. Having stayed completely for free, I can’t complain, but I think if I was spending real money next time I might rather choose the Eastin Grand Sathorn. Although the location of that wasn’t amazing, so I think I might still be on the hunt for my perfect Bangkok hotel. Despite the amazing sunset views from the pool.

 

Jogjakarta: The Phoenix Hotel

We picked The Phoenix hotel because I could use some of my Le Club Accor Hotels points which made our stay here another bargain. Annoyingly, you can only redeem Le Club Accor points in batches, so we did have to pay a bit to get us over the line. I think it came in at under £200 for 5 nights including breakfast which is excellent value if you ask me.

The hotel is centrally located, although I would not recommend walking many places because it’s hot, the pavements are inconsistent to put it politely, and you will get harassed whilst walking along. Luckily our hotel always had a couple of taxis on hand which we could use to go wherever we wanted to.

We did spent a fair bit of time in the hotel though, because it was beautiful.

I loved the colourful decorations in our room:

With matching slippers!

The thoughtful welcome amenities

as well as the little jar of jelly sweets they kept topped up every day. Excellent for someone with a sweet tooth like mine. We had a lovely marble bathroom:

With really quite scary amenity holders:

And a very chic balcony:

Perfect for enjoying views of the pool below:

I loved the cosy nooks throughout the grounds:

And the thoughtful phoenix touches around the building:

And the grounds in general were beautiful and immaculately kept.

We had our breakfast next to this koi pond every morning, which made for a very relaxing start. The restaurant was semi-open air which could get a bit steamy at times but I preferred that to an overly air conditioned fridge.

There was also a lovely colonial style sitting room where you’re served a mini afternoon tea on arrival, consisting of a few traditional Indonesian sweets and a cup of tea. It was a lovely touch.

Good things ¦¦ The ambience of the hotel was lovely. It’s a gorgeous heritage building and they’ve maintained as many traditional touches as possible. In general it felt like a peaceful haven amongst the hustle and bustle (and heat) of the city. The staff were wonderfully helpful, nothing was too much trouble, and the pool was just gorgeous.

Something about this hotel reminded both S and I of one our favourite hotels we’ve ever stayed in, the Victoria Angkor in Siem Reap. I think it was the atmosphere and general focus on quality of service.

They had gluten free bread for breakfast which was actually pretty good, and they tried very hard to accommodate my dietary needs at other times. Sometimes I had to work to find someone who understood, but there was always someone.

There is also a travel agent within the hotel who will arrange all the tours you could ever want. We found them well priced, considering they’re part of a high end hotel, and the staff there were extremely helpful. It made arranging tours super easy, you could just pop in at your convenience and arrange something for the next day – and ask all the stupid questions that Google can’t help you with (like what do I wear on a sunrise temple tour?!).

Not so good things ¦¦ There weren’t a heap of restaurants that you could walk to in the locale. However the in house restaurant was very good, and not stupidly priced (by Western standards, anyway). The pool area got a bit busy sometimes… I guess? Honestly there weren’t too many down sides to this hotel. It’s a lovely place.

Would I return? ¦¦ I’m not sure I’d want to return to Jogjakarta itself, as I found the place a bit challenging. More on that another time. However I thought the hotel was brilliant and if we ever did make it back to Jogja, I’d definitely stay at the Phoenix.

Lombok: Qunci Villas

For the Relaxing portion of our trip, we ventured to the island of Lombok and stayed in a proper resorty resort in Senggigi. This place was the real deal and is probably one of the fanciest places I’ve ever stayed. We had no points on this one, but as it was the only hotel we paid any significant money for, we were happy to go for a bit of a splurge. We stayed here for 5 nights in total.

We stayed in a couple of different room types, including a garden view room, a pool villa and a one bedroom villa. I’m going to do a post on the resort and room types because honestly I just want you all to go there and I want to help you pick the perfect room.

We caught the night flight from Jogjakarta via Bali, and after checking in and dropping our bags in our room we went straight to the restaurant for a late dinner. I think the memory of walking into the restaurant on the beach, with the waves lit up and a firepit burning nearby will never leave me. I thought I’d wandered onto a film set.

In our three different accommodation options we had outdoor bathrooms:

A pool just to ourselves:

Our own lounging zone:

Our own en-suite Buddha – and greenery for dayyysss:

Sunset views to take your breath away – you can see the sun start to dip behind Mount Rinjani in Bali:

And frangipani trees everywhere that kindly dropped their flowers so I could make full use of them:

Good things ¦¦ Where do I start. The place was everything you think of when you think of luxury. Excellent service, friendly staff, three ocean front pools (!), a little beach, private and secluded rooms (I don’t think you could get a bad one), and that ocean view. I mean…

I ate excellently for breakfast every day – I think it was the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever had. It was a la carte but you could order as much as you wanted (and believe me I did). They had great gluten free options and I’ve vowed to try and recreate these Brazilian eggs myself.

Not so good things ¦¦ You were pretty resort bound; there wasn’t really anywhere to walk to for dinner. However, taxis were always waiting at the front of the property and there were plenty of places to eat in Senggigi so that wasn’t really a huge issue. This is a place you come to do serious relaxing, so if that’s not your thing then you might get a bit bored I guess. I don’t really have a bad word to say about the place.

Would I return? ¦¦ Definitely. I don’t think it’s somewhere I’d go regularly, as it’s a bit of a schlep to get there and obviously it’s a bit on the pricey side, but for pure relaxation I’ve never known anything like it.

I think Qunci is maybe my favourite hotel we’ve ever visited. Where’s yours?

-Rachel

Linking up with Van, Marcella, Lauren and Isabel for Wanderful Wednesday and with Mummy Travels and Wander Mum for City Tripping

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Wait, what happened? I’ve been here two months already?!

This month I’ve been delighted to be able to go to Vivid at long last, taking multiple trips to see the lights wherever I could, I’ve been to a couple of films at Sydney Film Festival, and taken out a membership at Costco. It’s been all go. Here’s the nitty gritty…

The Good

We got a flat! ¦¦ It was looking tense for a minute there but I’m very happy to say we found a flat we both like, in an area we both like, and after an afternoon of deliberation we applied for it and found out we’d been approved the next day. I must say the education in Sydney real estate was fast and brutal, but there’s nothing like a steep learning curve to help you feel settled!

In the end we decided to go for a place in a more lively area, and accept that we’d need to stump up a bit more cash for it. If we only end up staying here for 18 months (#visaproblems yo) then I’d like to say we maximised our opportunities and lived somewhere where there’s stuff going on. Plus, the sunset views from our balcony are swoony.

We got stuff for our flat ¦¦ Flats here generally come furnished with nothing (notably no fridge or washing machine, although inexplicably for a hot country they usually have a dryer), and furniture and white goods are exPENsive here, even factory seconds or second hand stuff. We have been so lucky to have generous friends and family who have given us a sofa, shelving, a fridge and a washing machine – the latter two from people at church we’d never met before. How nice is that?!

Our stuff arrived! ¦¦ Yep, all 16 boxes of it. There were some mild shenanigans in the form of lift access fees (surely the presence of a lift is a good thing…?) and the fact our stuff was sat in a warehouse in Sydney for a good fortnight before they could be bothered to get their paperwork done and find a delivery driver, but no matter. What’s a couple of weeks after 2+ months without our things. Unpacking all our stuff really did feel like Christmas, and yes I had completely forgotten what we’d packed.

We already have visitors lined up ¦¦ I had thought that when we moved out here it would be crickets for a while, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. We’ve got my sister coming over from the UK in August and September, a friend of my husband at the end of September, my friend in November, and some more possible bookings next year. At this rate we’ll have to start listing our spare room on AirBnB! I’m really pleased folk have been so keen, I can’t wait to see them all.

I passed my skills assessment ¦¦ This is basically the first hurdle towards my permanent residency application. It was quite a significant hurdle so I’m very happy to have passed it! To celebrate, we went to a restaurant we discovered near us that serves South American food.

I had the most delicious gluten free empanadas and arepas, but I now have some important questions. Marcella and Lauren I’m looking at you here – what is a soursop? Or a lulo??

The cooler cabinet contained some other things I’m dying to try out, like a Colombian soup mix and some premade frozen empanadas. Yummmm.

I met some lovely internet friends ¦¦ So, my husband and I have been getting pretty sick of just hanging out with each other the whole time (the fact that both of us are currently working from home is NOT helping matters at ALL) and new friends are tricky to come by. So you can imagine how delighted I have been to be able to meet up with some readymade internet friends over the past few weeks. It’s been awesome. I’ve tried new food places and tried not to get lost in the crowds of Vivid with Sam, I’ve had Mexican with Erin and Kristen (plus special guest appearance from KC), and there was even a flying visit from a certain Kiwi.

It’s been so good to see friendly faces, and in the case of Erin and Kristen, to meet people I’ve internet-known for actual years yet have never met in person. I have more people besides to meet, and am now shamelessly putting myself out there. I figure at some point you just have to. So if you’re in Sydney (or Melbourne, I’ll be there for work soon), let’s go for a beverage!

The Bad

Some of our stuff got broken in transit ¦¦ Of course it wasn’t the stuff we weren’t bothered about, no. It was the prettiest and most useful of our plates, a serving dish I adored given to me by my grannie, and most of the wine glasses the other granny gave me. I’ve started the process to file a claim on the insurance, but obviously you can’t claim back sentimental value. Still, I tell myself it was a risk we had to take. What else could we do? Leaving it behind wouldn’t have achieved anything other than burden someone else.

Renting sucks ¦¦ Yeah I won’t go on about this much because I know I’m in a very privileged position. All I will say is that I had forgotten just how rubbish some agents can be. Ours is a piece of work – not only ineffectual, but also just makes stuff up to try and fob us off so she doesn’t have to do any work. She doesn’t really make any effort to hide it either.

We haven’t explored much ¦¦ This month we’ve been mainly focused on flat hunting, flat securing, finding and moving aforementioned furniture and appliances, shifting stuff around in general, making multiple trips to Kmart, waiting in for deliveries, etc etc. It’s been necessary but a little dull, if we’re honest.

We’ve tried to squeeze in some fun stuff around errands however, like this incredible view we caught from the top of a Westfield, of all places. Pro tip: Bondi Pizza in Bondi Junction has a balcony where you can enjoy this view with sunshine and pizza. What more could you ask for?!

I’m hoping we’ll get more time to explore next month. As I dropped in above, I’ll be in Melbourne for work in August so I’m hoping to see as much of the city as I can around working hours.

I haven’t blogged much ¦¦ I have been so worn out by the moving process that I just haven’t found the energy to sit down and write about things. I’ve got our whole pre-pat trip to recap, and I’ve got so much I want to write about, but it just hasn’t happened. I’m also struggling to figure out how to go about it – I bounce between wanting to just write a straight recap, to thinking that’s dull, to trying to be more creative and failing miserably. Arg.

The Ugly

In case you’re new to these updates, I’ve decided to share The Ugly side of things via email. That way, I can share a bit more honestly on things like work and personal matters that I don’t want searchable on t’internet. Seeing as you’re all my friends, I’d just feel a bit happier doing it this way.

So if you want to know The Ugly, just put your email address in the box and I’ll add you to the list. You’ll get mail from me 2-3 days after you see this post, just to give everyone a chance to sign up who wants to.

Have you ever met an internet friend IRL? And do you prefer to read about people’s trips in recap style (we did this, then we did this) or about individual activities? Or listicles? Or… not at all?!

-Rachel

Linking up with Kristen and Gretch for What’s New With You and with Van, Marcella, Lauren and Isabel for Wanderful Wednesday. 

Welcome to Part 5 of my ongoing series featuring real life stories and advice from living breathing expats. It’s a thinly disguised way for me to store up wisdom from others which I can use when I have an absolute freakout about what I’m embarking upon. I thought I should do the right thing and share it with the internet at large, just in case it helps anyone else out. Enjoy.

Today I’m sharing some wisdom from two of my favourite bloggers, Kelly and Sarah. Added bonus, they’re both gluten free like me so I know I can always ask them for food suggestions when I’m travelling and, chances are, one or other of them will have been to wherever it is I’m going.

Kelly

First up we have Kelly, who is now a genuine IRL friend after she realised we lived just around the corner from each other in Bedford, that we both like gluten free cake, good chats, and visiting National Trust properties. Sometimes we do all three at once. I think this photo sums up our friendship quite well:

Why did you become an expat?

I’d spent 7 months travelling through Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2003; when I got back to New Zealand I felt rather restless. I had changed as person especially after my overland trip through Africa however everything was the same so after two weeks at home, I booked a flight and applied for visa to move to the UK with the promise to my folks that I was only going to be in the UK for two years *coughs 13 years later*. I had met G while on my overland tour so I thought I would say hi when I arrived and my plan was to do more travelling through Europe while earning the pound (travelling on the Kiwi dollar when it was £1 = NZ$3 was the pits!).

What advice would you give to a brand new expat?

Don’t expect to be out of the red financially for a good year after your arrival in your new home; I think this is often overlooked and your savings are never going to be enough…setting up a new life is an expensive business and there will be expenses you weren’t aware of until you arrive…and let’s remember you will potentially need to reapply for another visa and they aren’t cheap!

You will want to explore your new home and take some holidays but remember you always need a savings account with money in it for a rainy day (rainy days happen A LOT when you’re an expat!)…do explore but remember to keep yourself within a budget for your first few months…look out for discount vouchers, make yourself a picnic instead of visiting fancy restaurants and plan adventures well in advance.

Sarah

I’m disappointed I didn’t get to meet Sarah before I left the UK, because when you live in the UK Bedford to Devon seems like such a long way but when you live in Sydney suddenly it doesn’t seem so far any more! I love reading Sarah’s posts about life in the south west and the travels she gets up to. Her writing really is excellent.

Why did you become an expat?

I became an expat for a few reasons…I studied abroad in England when I was in college and fell in love…with the country and a guy. So when I eventually returned to the US to finish college, I knew I wanted to move back to the UK after graduation.

Actually getting back was more difficult… I initially tried to get a job, which I was flown to London to do final round interviews for, but although I got the job, they couldn’t sort out my visa sponsorship. So I ended up deciding on going to grad school in the UK (I had been applying for my Masters at the same time as applying for jobs). Currently I’m on a 28 month student visa, have fallen even more deeply in love with the country and its people but have no idea what I’ll end up doing when this visa expires! So,
I’m not a “permanent” expat but expat life is quite a transitory-feeling experience, regardless of your visa status, I think!

What advice would you give to a brand new expat?

I struggled a bit my second time moving to the UK because I felt so, so lonely. The first time I came here, I had the support of my American University and a bunch of my best friends on the same study abroad program. This time around, I was more familiar with the UK so there wasn’t as much culture shock, but I only knew a few people in the whole country and they were all… British. There’s definitely something to be said about building yourself a support network of people who either share your nationality, or are having a similar experience of expat life. I think that’s honestly why we see so many expat-themed blogs – people crave connection to people going through similar experiences!

I ended up joining an international student society and meeting people from all over the world, which made me feel so much better when all I wanted was to have someone commiserate with me over how dumb milky tea or baked beans with breakfast is 😉. [Note from Rachel: I hate milky tea and baked beans with anything, I so would have commiserated with you!]. 

So my advice would be to either join an expat group in your city, or just force yourself to do a lot of random things that are out of your comfort zone (I signed up for a dog sitting website, started playing squash, said yes to literally every invite to the pub, moved into a 7-person house). If you make yourself say YES to everything (for the first couple months at least) you’ll start to build your support network. It’s not sustainable behavior, but it’s a lot easier to meet new people when you first move somewhere.

Thank you again to Kelly and Sarah for sharing your advice with me. I’m pleased to report have been putting your advice into practice already!

-Rachel