Sending A Box Home

Sending A Box Home

After living in China for 5 years, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of things! We are leaving many things here after we leave, as there will be 3 teachers still working at the University, so I’m sure they will make use of them, such as cutlery, glasses and what not. We wanted to send our clothes, shoes and some other personal things back to Ireland though. My Mum has sent about 3 boxes to me; full of sweets, crisps and even some presents! It was such a treat to open to open the boxes.

But we’ve never sent anything from China! Due to the fact that we don’t speak Chinese very well, we would have no idea where to start, and also because exporting things from China is such a hassle, we decided to just leave it. But we had quite a few things that we didn’t want to leave, so we searched around the we found we could send a box with a company called ‘SendMyBag‘.

Everything sounded pretty legit with it, so we decided to try and send our box with them. And from China, the box MADE IT TO IRELAND! Such a relief! But….. we had some hurdles along the way!

First, we met the man who would collect the box. All was good until he asked us what were ‘magnets’ that was on the list. We explained that they go on the fridge.

“Not allowed” he told us in Chinese. We looked at each other… We didn’t know what we could do. So he told us we could take them out of the box. Phew! At least we can take them out, that was ok. (We wrapped about 1 roll of cellotape around the box though, so all that hard work gone because we had to open it again)

Then he asked for my passport…. What? The website didn’t say we needed a passport. So I quickly ran back to the apartment and got it for him.

Unfortunately we didn’t realise he meant A COPY of the passport. (The communication barrier is so annoying sometimes), so my fiancé runs back to find a copy…… and comes out empty handed.

So, I run down the road and quickly get a copy of it from a shop, coming back to the van hot, sticky and out of breath, while he opens the box and finds the magnets.

But eventually the man got going in his van, box with him. Time to relax now!

So later that night while we are watching a film, we get a message ‘Due to makeup in the box we cannot send it to Ireland’.

WHAT????!!!! Oh my god!! What are we going to do! I was really about to start crying. All I put in it was some makeup brushes and some powder makeup, they are allowed. I’m thinking like crazy why they couldn’t send it!

Oh….. now I remember, I forgot there were 2 eye pencils in the bag….. 2 measly eye pencils are the reason why we’re going to get the box back and lose our money we spent!! I couldn’t believe it.

But then, another message ‘I can take the prohibited items out of the box, is that ok?’.

YES, YES!! TAKE IT, I DON’T CARE! I really didn’t want to see that box again until I’m in Ireland!

So they did that, and I was just so grateful to them. So FINALLY the box was on it’s way.

We sent it on Friday morning and it actually got to Ireland on Monday! It was really fast! Also I was able to track it on the website which was also good too.

So I found out that it made it to Dublin! Great I thought! It’s nearly home!

I was keeping my Mum up to date on the whereabouts of it so she would know when it would arrive.

So on Monday night I was getting ready for bed and my Mum texts me saying that she got a phonecall from the courier and that she had to pay €89 for something.

Oh god, not more money. We had already spent €189 to send it, why did we need to pay more??!! Maybe it was for customs? But that is ridiculously high for second hand things. There’s not much value in the box at all!

So there I am trying to contact the courier AND SendMyBag about this extra money that I have no idea what it’s for, while looking at the time as it gets later and later.  Thankfully both companies contact me and say they will investigate what the money is for.

I’m in bed trying to sleep but also stressing about this money when my phone goes off and it’s a message from SendMyBag. They said it was a fee for something (which I still don’t understand, something about a double entry) and they will cover the cost of it.

PHEW! I contact my Mum and tell her they are going to cover the cost. I can finally sleep!

It was our first time sending anything out of China, and as you have read, wasn’t plain sailing. But in the end it made it, that’s the most important thing.

So, would I recommend SendMyBag to send stuff home. Yes I would! We didn’t have to prepare too many things for it, everything is stated on the website, they are very prompt at replying if you have a question, and even with the money my Mum had to pay, they were extremely quick at sorting it out. That was great.

My only criticism would be that they didn’t tell us magnets weren’t allowed in the box and we needed a copy of my passport for the driver. Although I’m thinking that every country is different and maybe only China won’t allow magnets to be send out and they needed a passport copy.

Also what we didn’t know was that the price depends on the size of the box. We were initially only going to send a box with a maximum weight of 15kg. We bought a big box though, and when we inputted the dimensions into the website, it came to €189 with a weight of up to 30kg. We were a bit annoyed at this but in the end all our stuff came to the weight of 24kg…. so we definitely overestimated the amount of things we had.

So be aware if wanting to send a box through SendMyBag. The size of the box influences the price.

I also realised another thing…. China is so strict with exporting things!!! We literally were limited to clothes, books and shoes. No pastes, no gels, no food… nothing like that. Not even a watch. (Or makeup as we’ve learned)

So I would certainly recommend using this company, but make sure you know EXACTLY what you can’t send it the box…. or you might be getting a lovely message like we did.

Aisling

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Things I Will Miss From China

With my time coming to an end soon, I’ve made a list of everything that I will miss about China.

Of course the first one is food. If you love spicy food, definitely come to Sichuan. They even eat spicy things for breakfast here! There are loads of different dishes to try, and every province has their own speciality food, so if you’re a foodie, you will love China. My only problem with Sichuan food is it’s rather oily. That is its only downfall!

Independent Lifestyle: If there are people, there are buses and restaurants. That is one thing that’s guaranteed. I’m going to miss being able to go anywhere I want in the city, and not needing a car. I like that I can walk at night time (on my own) and not be afraid. I really will miss the independence that I have here. In Ireland everyone needs a car to go anywhere. If I don’t have a certain thing in China, I can simple walk down the road to a shop and buy it. No car needed!

If I’m hungry, simply walk to the nearest hole in the wall restaurant and order something. It’s great! Most of the time if we are hungry, we simply order online and wait for it to arrive outside our University campus. The driver will ring us when he is there, and we just go and collect it.  We have become so lazy!

Transport: Again, people = buses. The transport system in Chengdu is incredible. With buses going EVERYWHERE, and new metro lines popping up every year, it’s a great place to live if you don’t own a car. To be honest you really don’t need a car in Chengdu. We have transport cards that we can use for busses and metros, and transport is so cheap too.

For buses, at every stop in the city there is a display showing the bus numbers and how many stops there are until they arrive. I’m REALLY going to miss the transport here.

My apartment: I have lived in 5 apartments since coming to Chengdu, but I really really like the one that we are living in now. It’s huge, the shower is fantastic (we don’t need to wait for the water to heat up,  hot water lasts for like 30 minutes, and the pressure is great) our sofa is big and comfortable (3 people could sleep on it), we have carpet (which is rare in China) and it’s literally 15 steps away from the University shop.

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Yes I know it’s messy…

But of course there are some problems with it: theres not really a kitchen, there is a basketball court right outside and it literally drives me mad when they come out to play. BANG BANG BANG is all we hear. Also as you can see theres absolutely nowhere to put our things. No shelves whatsoever. So it would be a bit tidier if we had places to put things. We have two small balconies but we don’t use them as then everyone would look at us lounging.

To get this apartment we had to move way out of the city. But because it’s in the University, we don’t have to pay rent which is good!

Easy money: For this Uni job I’ve literally taught whatever I want, and I get paid quite good money. For teaching English, you will usually get well paid, because they really really need teachers. However now, many private companies are increasing the work hour. When I started a full time job was 20 hours in the private company where I used to work. Now it’s about 35 hours. But you can save a bit of money here, unless you go travelling and spend it all (which we have done…)

It’s also extremely cheap here! Although I do notice that it’s slowly getting more expensive, but generally it’s very cheap for food. For other things such as deodrant and foreign brands, they can be very expensive though. But travelling and eating here is cheap!

I also love that it’s so safe. I’ve never once had a bad experience either when I was cycling or walking on my own here. It’s very safe. Many parents let their older children get the bus to/ from school. For younger children it’s a little more dangerous, as there are MANY cases of child abduction, especially babies. It’s sad but true.

In my hometown I wouldn’t walk around at night time, too many drunk people/ bad people about unfortunately.  So I’ll miss how safe it is here.

But yes, I really will miss living here though. I’ve realised why I’ve been here so long. There are definitely problems with the country for sure, and sometimes all I want to do is complain about China and the people and what not, but it has been good to me too.

With regards to my future however, I just couldn’t see myself living permanently. The government is too restrictive, the education system is too harsh and stressful, and sometimes the attitudes of it’s people are just too different to my own. I don’t believe in their values, such as money is the most important thing in life, blah blah blah. ha plus I’m always going to be fat here.

But yeah, it’s time to move on, and leave all these great things I mentioned above behind. Sniff Sniff…..

Aisling.

Things I Won’t Miss From China

After 5 years of living in China, and with departure only a few weeks away, here is a list of things that I won’t miss from China.

If you happen to be from China and don’t want to get offended then I suggest you don’t read this blog. I have lived here for long enough and I’ve experienced all of the things listed before, so I’m not making these up. These are all my own opinions so this doesn’t represent every expat here in China.

Of course my own country has it’s fair share of problems, I know this… it’s known as having a  ‘compensation culture’, sky high rents and having a homeless epidemic, among many other things! So I can even write my own post about the problems in Ireland!

Maybe this blog will might help foreigners coming to China for the first time and what to expect!

Drivers; I honestly feel most people here have paid their way to be able to drive on Chinese roads, and they actually haven’t done the apparently very difficult driving test.

People don’t indicate… or they indicate right but then they turn left. They don’t use their mirrors, some don’t put their lights on at night.  Some stop at road corners which is incredibly dangerous.  I don’t know… it just feels like they have no regard for anything/ anyone except themselves. Once they find a spot to park their car, regardless of if it will affect other people… it doesn’t matter. They’ll park there.

They parked in the middle of the road to take a phone call and there are 5 cars behind them beeping like crazy for them to move. . . and they will continue to just stay there. They are oblivious (or don’t care) for other people. And I have witnessed this plenty of times.

Lack of common sense: Time and time again I have seen people casually walking across the road and NEVER look left or right! I remember once I was waiting to cross a busy road. There was a lady about my age waiting in front of me. So the green man comes on and out she walks into the road. But I saw there was an e-bike racing towards here. Thankfully he managed to stop in time but he was only 1 foot away from her. Not once did she even glance left to make sure nothing was coming. Because I was maybe 3 feet away from here, I saw the e-bike coming, and I was thinking “Is she not going to look left before she crosses?…..Oh, no she didn’t”

So when the e-bike had stopped, she got a bit of a fright… but carried on. She didn’t once look at the man on the e-bike and apologise, but just continued on walking like nothing happened.

To me, this is pure common sense to be aware of your surroundings. Chengdu has loads of e-bikes, and they won’t stop when the light is red. . . people here are aware of this, but still they don’t look before they step onto the road.

When I used to live in the city and I would cycle to work, and plenty of times people (without warning) would just step onto the road in front of me, and I would have to slam on my brakes to stop a collision. It’s so frustrating.  And of course they don’t look first.

Another time I was cycling around a corner. What a surprise, there was a car parked on the corner of the road, and a man and woman standing right in the middle of the road… TALKING TO PEOPLE ON THE OTHER SIDE. Jesus, why stop in the middle of the road and start talking to people who are on the footpath???

Obviously I didn’t want to cycle on the opposite side, so I had to cycle between the man and the car, and as I did I was ringing my bell on my bike furiously and I shouted “Jesus Christ, will you move out of the way!!” He looked at me with such a dirty look  and was probably thinking “huh, this foreigner telling me what to do.. IN MY OWN COUNTRY”. . . Yeah I will tell you what to do… if you are that stupid to stand in the middle of the road, then someone needs to tell you.

Lack of Queues: When I go to Walmart to go and buy things.. I hate queueing up…. just because no one here apparently knows how to do it. Because someone skipped us in the queue once before, read here: Skipping The Queue = One Angry Irish Girl I’m always constantly aware of the people coming behind me… Oh are they going to skip me?? Oh they moved, where are they now? (quick glance around my shoulder) Make a barrier so they can’t skip ahead.... You really shouldn’t have to be thinking about that kind of thing, but unfortunately here you have to.

Another time my fiancee was waiting to get veg weighed, and of course an old granny comes up and puts hers on first. He didn’t do or say anything because whats the point, he will most likely be ignored by the old lady plus the worker there, so he let her go ahead. The old lady wasn’t even fazed about it. Maybe she was thinking I’m an old women I deserve to go first. 

For buses, people (especially old people) make a mad rush to get on, it’s like if they don’t get on, then the bus will go without them. Planes are the same. Once the plane touches down, there is a mad dash for their bags. We always joke that they are afraid they’ll get stuck on the plane forever if they aren’t the first 10 people to get their bags. Haha that’s what it looks like though.

Materialistic: Because China has become rich quite fast, this means that a lot of people think about material things. Every Chinese person NEEDS to get the latest iPhone, or they will seem poor.

Every week= new shoes, new clothes…. it’s a never ending battle to look rich and pretty here! I definitely can’t handle it! I can’t wait to go back home and not have to worry about looking like I have money.

Wasteful: Because of this new wealth, unfortunately many Chinese people waste a lot of food. Once I saw a family of 3 (mother, father and a 5/6 year old daughter) come in to a restaurant. Usually when you order food, for 2.5 people you would order maybe 3 dishes and rice. But this family ordered about 6/7 dishes of food! Just for the 3 of them! Usually this is to show ‘we have money, we can order as many dishes as we want’. We left after our meal but I seriously hope they got the rest of that food to take out!

But anyway, here they do waste a huge amount of food. I hope in the future the government will educate China about wasting food, because it’s such a a shame. There are many many poor people… give the leftover food to them instead of throwing it all in a big bucket.

Pollution: I don’t need to elaborate on this.

Being ‘fat’: I’m absolutely fed up of feeling constantly fat in China. At the moment I’m 9.5 stone, but be god thats FAT here. I constantly feel like every Chinese girl is looking at me and thinking “Oh wow look at her skin, it’s so white…. but she’s fat.” I know 100% that that is what they are thinking.

I can’t wear shorts because I just feel so self-conscious. I don’t like like wearing t-shirts because they ‘showcase my fat arms’. To be 45kg (7 stone) is the perfect weight for Chinese girls here. WTF!!??? To me that is just unhealthy, and definitely not attractive looking. So I really do worry about my weight and just feel so self-conscious here. They think that I don’t exercise and I eat crap, and that’s why I’m like this. It’s true. In class sometimes we would talk about health and what not, and the students would say “Don’t eat unhealthy food so you won’t get fat”. Simple as. So they must think I gorge on food and don’t exercise whatsoever.

So yes, I really really won’t miss that aspect.

My god that’s a long list!

I know It sounds like a big rant, but I honestly have enjoyed living in China. And don’t think it was all about getting good money; I’ve been here two years working part time, so I really didn’t earn a lot. If I wasn’t fed up of teaching and had a job related to what I want to do, I think I would have stayed here for longer. So although I have mentioned some things that I won’t miss about here… there are a lot of positives about living in China.

So that will be another post to make, things that I WILL miss from China.

Aisling

One More Month Until We Leave!

“We’ve loads of time, we still have 8 weeks left!”

Well that doesn’t ring true at all now! With just a little over a month left to leave Chengdu, we have realised we really need to get our things sorted before we go.

The weeks have just gone by so fast! Soon we’ll be saying goodbye to the country we have called home for 5 years, but hopefully we’ll call Mexico and Ireland home soon!

We have quite a lot of things to do before that though. We have a big trip coming up when we leave Chengdu. First we fly to Shanghai and we will spend a few days there. Next we head to Japan and will be there 2 weeks (we really can’t wait, my fiancé has been dying to visit it for a while now), then we head to Hong Kong for a week, where we fly direct to Dublin. We chose Hong Kong because it’s direct.

We will relax in Ireland for about 2 months, in during which time my fiancés family will visit, and will (finally) get to meet my own family. (That in itself is making me anxious!) Then from Ireland we will go to Madrid, and then FINALLY we’ll fly to Mexico. We’ll visit Cancun and a few other places of interest, and then from there we will fly to Cuernavaca where my fiancés Mum and Dad live. Then we’ll start our new chapter in our lives!

Phew!! I’m anxious just thinking about it all! But hopefully everything will go fine with our travels. We have been very lucky so far.

But today was a good day as we got our rail pass tickets for Japan. This is so when we go to Japan we can use our passes on a lot of trains. With this tickets we already pre-paid so we don’t need to pay for every single train that we use there. We thought we had to pay online and then wait for the documents to arrive. Then we have to go to the airport in Japan and get that exchanged for the real train pass ticket. But we went to an office in Chengdu and they simply printed the documents out for us. It was so convenient! So we were very happy with that. We just go and exchange them for the passes. Nothing is every straightforward in China. Especially with the language barrier.

So that’s one thing ticked off anyway. I still have to organise selling my bike, which I REALLY don’t want to do. I really love it, and I’d love to send it back home, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to. Plus here people don’t buy bikes anymore because there are tonnes of public bikes that people pay a small fee and are able to use it. So I think it’ll be a problem to sell it.

I’m really going to miss my apartment though. I will take some photos of it soon and post it here. It’s really quite amazing! And the size is unlike most you’ll find in China! It’s always in a constant mess though. It’s huge, but we’ve absolutely nowhere to put things, no shelves whatsoever. The only thing that is organised are our clothes that are in the wardrobe. Everything else is everywhere!

Our plan is to try and get something done each day! So….what’s next on our list to do??

Aisling

Tam Coc Village

Tam Coc Village

After out time in Halong Bay, our next stop was Tam Coc! Tam Coc is a small village (literally one street long), but the village is certainly not why you come here! Here you will find natural scenery, beautiful mountains and winding rivers!

After our bus trip from Halong to Tam Coc, we arrived in the evening. It was getting dark so we found our hostel and we just had a walk around the village. (Which will take you about 10 minutes it’s that small) The morning after, we ventured over to the river to take a river boat ride. It was about 8:30am, and it was the perfect time to go! It wasn’t hot, nor where there many people on the river. By 10am onwards it gets pretty busy! So I recommend doing the river tours quite early.

The area where you take the boat is literally in the middle of the village, so you definitely won’t miss it. It was a great experience, and it was just so calm and peaceful. The man rowing the boat actually used his feet to row instead of his hands which was cool to see. At one point you are on the river and there were rice fields surrounding us on either sides. It was so pretty!

 

Next we decided to rent two bikes and cycled to our next location which was Bich Dong Pagoda. When we parked our bikes the lady told us to go a different way, so we ended up going the opposite direction an up over a small mountain to the other side. There we saw a small house and a small trail (that actually just led to a dead end). The area was really nice though! Then we back to the pagoda for a look around.

Be warned! We were scammed by the lady who looked after the bikes, so if I were you, make sure you ask how much the bikes are to park! We made sure we did that since that day! It wasn’t an extortionate amount of money but we learned our lesson from then on!

The day after, we cycled to another area where you can go on another boat down the river. This was is much busier with people but it’s much longer! There are 3 routes to take and we took the longest one, which is about 2/3 hours long! And the lady who was rowing had to row all that time, with 4 people on board! She took a few breaks to let us out and explore some areas, but I’m sure it’s tough nonetheless! With this one, we shared a boat with two French people, whereas with the first river boat we took, it was just the two of us.

During this boat tour, we went through about 9 caves, and we had to duck our heads as the ceilings was so low! If you are claustrophobic I think you would struggle going through these caves. It was very exciting though!

Finally we went to visit Hang Mua Temple. Your first sight of the climb up to the top is rather daunting, and of course it was very tough to climb up it because it was super hot, super humid, and no shade at all, but it’s completely worth it. The views are spectacular!

In Tam Coc it is very easy to cycle around as it’s very flat. We just loved the countryside and it’s just as you’d imagine Vietnam to be like. Here are some pictures of it while on busses and while cycle in Vietnam and Tam Coc.

Where we stayed:

Tam Coc Family Hotel

Good: We loved this homestay. It’s run by the whole family and they are just so so nice. They are genuinely lovely people and very welcoming. The hotel/ homestay is beautiful, one of the nicest places we have stayed in. The room was clean and there were no faults whatsoever. This place would be exactly what I would love to have if I had a hostel. It was beautiful and well kept!

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Bad: There was nothing to complain about! The only thing was that for breakfast, it took rather a long time to arrive! But I think it was because the family make the breakfast and maybe they don’t have enough people. So if you are in a hurry to get somewhere, definitely order it well in advance! But apart from that there was absolutely no problems whatsoever!

Would I recommend? 100% YES!

So our trip to Vietnam had ended. After our time in Tam Coc we returned to Hanoi for 2 nights and then headed back home. We absolutely loved Vietnam, and I’d love to go back again and travel to the south. There’s just so much to see! It really exceeded my expectations!

Aislng

Halong Bay, Vietnam: Our Excursions

Halong Bay, Vietnam: Our Excursions

So with having booked the 3 days and 2 night tour on the cruise (junk) boat, we were brought to more places than the others who just opted for the 1 night tour. I recommend the 2 night one.

First we were brought to some big caves, where the manager of our junk boat took us into the caves and told us about them. There are 3 caves altogether and the last one is huge!

 

The next day we went with another couple on our day excursion. The man who would be taking us for the day said that for previous day there were 16 people on the day excursion, so we were very lucky that we were accompanied by only another couple! They brought us to a smaller boat for the day, so it was great having the boat to ourselves and the other couple!

He took us to see some monkeys that live up on the mountains. While there we passed a few boats filled to the brim with Chinese tourists, thankful to be on our boat with just 5 people!

 

Then we went to visit the Fishing Villages, and it was really interesting! Unfortunately there is only one village left in Halong Bay, as in 2012 or 2014 (I’m not 100% sure) the government moved the people living there onto the mainland so they could have a better standard of living and their children could go to school. However some older generations weren’t happy as they had lived on the boats their whole lives. So now, the people living on the boats don’t live their permanently as they used to in the past.

 

I remember watching an episode of Top Gear (a show about cars) and they went to Vietnam and to one of these fishing villages, and I remember it was that episode that made me interested in visiting Vietnam.

After that we went to a Pearl Farm, where they farm pearls. I never realised it, but it’s actually a very long process, taking years for a pearl to grow. Then many of the shells won’t have a pearl at all. So a lot of it is all about luck. Also many pearls have small imperfections, so that is why they can be so expensive, as the ones that are 100% perfect are very rare!

 

The day after we were supposed to go to a small beach, but because there was a little drizzle outside, we decided to stay on the boat. We really didn’t mind having to spend longer on it at all! They also included Tai Chi in the mornings, so we went up one morning to the deck and (tried) to do some tai chi. It was a great experience.

Halong Bay wise, it was very enjoyable sailing through the karst islands. There are nearly 2,000 of them! There was a bit of rubbish in the sea when we went to visit the fishing village, so that was a shame. It’s a pity the government won’t enforce the dumping of rubbish, as it’s such a beautiful place. We went in the low season so there may be more rubbish in the sea during high season, but I’m not sure. We loved our experience and we would definitely recommend Indochina Sails if you want to go to Halong Bay. It’s only accessible by cruises, there’s no other way to visit these islands.

 

At night all the cruise boats park near each other in the middle of the islands so it’s lovely seeing the twinkling of all the lights from the boats at night time.

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All the boats at night

To find out about our cruise boat, click here: Cruising Down Halong Bay, Vietnam: Our Cruise Boat

Aisling

Cruising Down Halong Bay, Vietnam: Our Cruise Boat

Cruising Down Halong Bay, Vietnam: Our Cruise Boat

After our few days in Hanoi, we got our private bus for the 4 hour journey to Halong Bay. For this part of our trip, we found on the website Booking.com a cruise company called Indochina Sails Cruise. This was the most expensive part of our whole trip in Vietnam, but we had a bit of extra money at hand, and we decided to treat ourselves with going on this cruise. It was amazing!

We really aren’t used to being treated like royalty, and it was hard to get used to at first, but we now realise how the other richer half live! It was definitely an experience! I could certainly get used to it! Because it was quite expensive, we were the youngest couple on board, but we met two wonderful retired couples while on the cruise. A couple from Ireland (what a surprise that was!) and a couple from America. Both of them have been travelling around Asia for the past few weeks.

So for the cruise, we decided to go for the 3 day 2 night cruise and we really enjoyed it. The rooms on the boat were gorgeous, the food was delicious and the employees on board were very nice too.

For lunch there was a set menu, and it was really nice! Then for dinner there was a buffet, with lots of food on offer! Again for breakfast there was another buffet. We were welcomed after our expeditions with a drink, unlimited tea and coffee on board, and the bed was super comfy! The manager helped us with booking a bus for the next leg of the trip, and it was just a lovely experience having people looking after you all day! The wealthy people in the world are certainly pampered!

The only fault on board was that there was no wifi whatsoever. Now we really didn’t mind this at all, but we were worried in case our families were getting worried about us for not contacting them!

Aisling