A lover of crashing waves, fluttering bats and the great British weather, our Travel Specialist Hazel has journeyed around the globe from a tender age. From Jurassic Park jungles to drifting along the backwaters of Kerala, Hazel spills the beans on tales of her past travels and the plans for her upcoming South East Asia adventure…
Mountain/desert/ocean/jungle – which one do you prefer and why?
Ocean – I’m a real water baby and love the feeling of bobbing around on the water, being free from city walls, hearing the waves crash when I’m staying in a beach hut, magnificent thunderstorms and generally just being able to keep cool as I’m a very hot person!
What was your first great travel experience?
I did a round the world trip aged 19 when I travelled to Thailand, Bali, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and LA. I hadn’t researched anywhere, just picked places I liked the sound of and off I went (after booking it through Haydn at Travel Nation!). I loved not having any ties, just doing whatever I felt like each day, seeing some amazing places and meeting people I would have never met in Brighton. Weirdly though, I bumped into a guy I went to school with in a hostel in Sydney!
What has been your favourite journey?
I don’t have a very good memory but the last one that stands out is the sleeper train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai as the views were incredible, it was like entering Jurassic Park! I also loved the sleeper train journey between Cochin and Goa in India, we shared a berth with an Indian family and chatted the whole way, passed amazing scenery and even had a curry for breakfast!
What are your top 3 places in the world?
Fiji –as the people are so friendly and the music makes my heart fuzzy. I spent a month there and could have stayed forever! Longboat beach on Phi Phi Island – I went there for a few days in 2003 and it was literally paradise. It only had a few little rustic beach huts and a reggae bar, with views of Maya Bay. Kaikoura in New Zealand, because it’s so peaceful, a bit of a wildlife fest and I stayed in a gorgeous family run hostel with free cake everyday! I felt right at home.
What place/thing exceeded your expectations?
Bangkok. I’m not a city person, but my Bangkok tour was incredible and I wish I’d spent more than a day there. We stayed near the Chao Praya River, which was pretty quiet but just minutes away from markets, bars restaurants, temples, the Grand Palace and Khao San Road. I’d love to go back!
Where is the next place you are visiting/planning on visiting?
I’m going to Laos and Vietnam in March. I’m doing most of the main touristy spots as I’ve never been to either country, but hopefully I’ll love them so much that I can go off the beaten track a bit more next time. I’m most excited about kayaking in Vang Vieng to a couple of caves (one for swing jumping and the other filled with bats!), wandering around the UNESCO heritage site of Luang Prabang, cycling past rice paddies and mountains in Ninh Binh and floating around Halong Bay on a junk boat.
Where/what would you really like to visit?
Where is the best place food-wise you have visited?
I was in my element during my India travels as I am a massive curry fan and could eat it all day every day! My two favourite meals were Keralan fish curry with steaming chapatis in a restaurant in Kovalam and also the breakfast I got on the overnight sleeper train between Cochin and Goa as it came in tiny little compartments like plane food!
Where is the first place you ever visited?
My first memory of going aboard was to Dalyan in Turkey with my family for my 10th birthday. We turned up with backpacks, found a family run hotel and had an amazing week visiting mud baths and temples, taking little fishing boats to the nearby beach, shopping in markets and I even got a Jurassic Park watch for my birthday!
Who would be your ideal travel companion?
My husband Dave for adventurous holidays as he has boundless energy, excitement and general positivity when things don’t always go to plan! For beach holidays it would have to be my friend Alice as she’s a sun goddess and we can make the most of whatever random nightlife is thrown at us!
If you had just 24 hours in a big city which one would it be?
I’d love to go back to San Francisco, walk up and down the hills sightseeing, stroll along the harbour while the sun is setting with views of eerie Alcatraz, eat clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl, drink beer and spend all night in a karaoke bar.
What is the best beach you have been to and why?
Longboat beach on Phi Phi Island. It was the beautiful beach I’ve ever seen in my life; we travelled by longtail boat there, stayed in beach huts right on the sand, had views of the famous Maya Bay and drunk buckets all night in a tiny little reggae bar with some amazing Canadian people that we met. There were hardly any people there and it was real paradise!
Where is the most expensive/inexpensive place you have visited?
The most expensive place I’ve ever visited is Vegas on my honeymoon, where a small glass of wine cost $18. We tried to get free food & drinks by sitting by the $1 dollar slot machines, but it didn’t work!!
What do you miss most from home whilst you are away?
Being able to snuggle in a duvet. And the English weather. I get so excited about seeing the grey clouds hovering over the English countryside when a plane is descending into London!