Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Thailand packing

Emily and I are flying out to Bangkok today, for eight exciting weeks in Thailand. We're hugely looking forward to it and we're busy planning our route and activities for this adventure. We've also been packing up our snowboarding and winter gear, after ten excellent weeks in the Alps and have bought some new summer and travelling gear. 

We spent ages wondering around various outdoor shops, before I finally chose this Lowe Alpine rucksack. It's a 65 litre + 10 litre rucksack, which has loads of space and pockets, along with a rain cover, in case we get caught in any showers. I also want to use this rucksack for the many festivals I go to each year and think this is ideal. Importantly, it's super comfortable for me too. Check out the Blacks website for loads of great rucksack options. I'd definitely recommend buying from the high street so you can try the rucksack on. Blacks were the best retailer for different options and brands, from all the various shops we tried.

We've looked on various websites and forums to decide whether or not we need a mosquito net. The general consensus seems to be that most hostels and hotels have them available, but that considering how small they pack up and how light they are, it's a good idea to carry one. We've opted for one large one between us, which we could use either sharing a single or double bed, or by pushing two single beds together. We'll also be taking string and gaffa tape, to help attach the net to the ceiling if the accommodation doesn't have hooks. The double mosquito net we chose was £22 from Amazon, available here.

There's nothing worse than packing a damp towel back into your luggage on holiday, so we've opted for micro-fibre towels. They dry very quickly and fold up incredibly small; about the size of a coffee mug! Our micro-fibre towels were £6.99 each from Amazon, available here

We've been advised to take sleeping bag liners / sleeping sacks with us. This is because the beds and bedding in hotels and hostels isn't always all that clean, plus it gives you something light to sleep in if we end up sleeping on the beach. The sleeping sacks we chose were £10.33 each, available here from Amazon. We'll also be taking a couple of pillow cases too.

We've bought this Lonely Planet guide book, which we've been flicking through to help get ideas of where we want to go and what we want to do while in Thailand. We bought it from good old Amazon for £12.33, available here. It also has a pull out map of Bangkok, which I'm sure will come in super handy when we're trying to navigate the busy labyrinth of the Thai capital.


I'm going to be packing super light, so that my rucksack doesn't weigh too much and so that I can buy souvenirs along the way. Including what I'm wearing for the flights, I'll only be taking two pairs of shorts, a pair of swimming shorts, four t-shirts, a few pairs of socks and underwear and basic toiletries. I'll also take a think hoodie and a very think packaway rain jacket, in case I get caught in any showers.

I bought the two pairs of shorts from River Island. You can see the Tan Chino Shorts below in the photo, available here and I also bought the same pair on grey, available here. I hate high street shopping, so was delighted to get all my shorts in one quick trip to the changing rooms, also buying the purple swim shorts you can see below, also available here from River Island.

We're flying out later on this evening. I've never been further than Europe and Morocco before, so I'm very excited about the long flight and hopefully some good films onboard too! I'll be posting a few blog posts about our Thai experiences when I get back at the end of April.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Lego Movie

the lego movie logo

As a huge Lego enthusiast, I was delighted when I saw the trailers for The Lego Movie a few months ago. I've collected Lego Minifigures for a few years and was delighted to see that the little plastic pieces of fun I can't help but buy were being made into a feature length movie! Check out the official trailer for The Lego Movie below...

The Lego Movie is about construction worker Emmet, an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared.

I won't give the game away, but there are only two real life humans who feature in this animated movie and one of them is a very famous Hollywood actor, who is perfectly suited to the movie. There are tons of cameo voiceovers in the movie, including Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum to name a few. The voice of C3PO from Star Wars is also voiced by the original C3PO, which is pretty cool!

the lego movie poster

The Lego Movie has a very catchy theme song, called 'Everything Is Awesome' by Tegan and Sara featuring The Lonely Island. Once you hear it, it gets stuck in your head for days! Tegan and Sara are playing at Boston Calling Music Festival in May, which I'm heading to. I really hope they play the song there! Check it out below, if you dare...

I can't wait for The Lego Movie to come out on DVD and no doubt will be watching it many times! There are lots of little adult jokes hidden in it and loads of cool stuff going on, on the screen, so I'm looking forward to watching it all again to take it all in. 

Monday, 24 February 2014

Third anniversary afternoon tea

This weekend just gone, my lovely girlfriend Emily and I celebrated our third anniversary of being together. We decided to go for a posh afternoon tea at The Catwalk Cafe in Knowle. The Catwalk Cafe is a vintage style tea room, which we had heard great things about. We were greeted on entry by a lady in a 1940s style maids outfit and were shown to a nicely decorated table, which we had reserved online. 

We booked an afternoon tea for two, which consisted of unlimited tea, and a fantastic cake stand full of lots of lovely food. There was a layer of sandwiches, a layer of scones, cream and jam and a layer of puddings. The whole afternoon tea cost £25 in total, which we thought was great value.

The Catwalk Cafe is beautifully decorated in 1940s style, with a lot of attention paid to detail with the decor and decorations. They also run vintage fashion shows and cabaret performances. I did feel a bit outnumbered, being the only chap in the room, along with around thirty women! We had a really lovely time and would definitely return again in the future.

anniversary lunch

afternoon tea puddings

cream tea and jam 
vintage teacups

Thursday, 20 February 2014

We're going to Thailand! Visas and vaccinations...

My lovely girlfriend Emily and I are going to Thailand for eight weeks, from the end of February until the end of April this year. We're really excited to get away and experience such a different culture for a while, not to mention enjoying the hot weather whilst it is raining so much in the UK! We've booked flights via STA Travel, which we found to be slightly cheaper than even buying the same flight through the flight operators website directly. It also worked out a bit cheaper as we got 'youth' tickets for being under 26 years old. We're flying into Bangkok, where we have booked our first two nights accommodation on Khaosan Road, which is 'backpacker central' in Bangkok. Following advice from friends, here we plan to visit a local travel agent who will help us plan our onward travels for the eight week adventure.

As we are planning to go to Thailand for 56 days, we need an extended tourist visa which allows us to stay in Thailand for up to 60 days. There are different rules and lengths of time you are allowed to stay in the country, based on whether you cross the border to places such as Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. We opted to get the 60 day visa in case we want to stay the whole 56 days in Thailand. It's super important to research which visa/s you need for different countries as you really don't want to fall foul of law enforcement in another country, never-mind your own!

We read on the Thai Embassy website that you need to apply for the visa in person at the London Embassy. You need to drop in your passport on a midweek day and collect the following midweek day. We stupidly didn't read all of the information properly and discovered after booking our coach tickets that you can actually apply by post, and that there is also a Birmingham office we could have gone to - just a short distance from where we are staying with family while in the UK. It wasn't a wasted trip though, as we caught up with lots of friends while in London and also visited the awesome Science Museum and Natural History Museum while in the area.

Researching travel vaccinations has been very confusing to say the least, as there is so much conflicting information between even the most legitimate websites. I'll write about our experiences below, but please don't take this as fact or advice if you are reading this as part of your own research. 

We booked appointments with the nurse for three consecutive Mondays. We had a very limited amount of time in the UK between getting back from the Alps and our outbound flight to Bangkok, and based on what a lot of websites said, we thought this would be enough time for the full course of vaccines we need.

After chatting for a long time to the very helpful nurse, we decided that we definitely needed the Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccination, which was free on the NHS. We also opted for the Hepatitis B vaccine which everyone we spoke to and every website unanimously say we should get. This cost £90 for a course of three vaccines. We also opted to get the Rabies vaccine, which costs rather a lot more, costing £174 for three vaccines. It turns out that our dates were wrong, as we needed our third boosters three weeks after the first vaccine, so over the space of a month, rather than three weeks. The nurse said that having two doses is a whole lot better than having none and suggested we have the final booster when returning from Thailand. We are planning to do more travelling after the summer, so it's still worthwhile completing the whole course.

We were given three options for Malaria tablets. For all options, you need to plan ahead where you will be at what times, as you need to take the medication a couple of days before entering an area where you are likely to contract Malaria, one each day while you are there and for varying amounts of time afterwards. It is not advised to take the tablets for the whole duration of your trip, so you really do need to plan this out carefully. The cheapest option often give people psychotic dreams, which we thought sounded rather unpleasant! There is another option that is an antibiotic, but we decided against that one also. That was because it makes you more prone to sunburn, you have to take it for a whole month after you leave the Malaria danger zone, along with other side effects. The option we opted for was Malarone, which has minimal side effects, but comes with a bigger price tag. Malarone as a branded medicine is now unpatented, so the nurse was able to prescribe this as Proguanil and Atovaquone, so it cost a lot less than Malarone itself. This cost £64.75 for 37 tablets on a private prescription.

Other than getting our tetanus boosters as they were a little out of date, our final medication choice was Cholera vaccines. This was available as an NHS prescription, consisting of two doses of drinks, taken one week apart. It tasted surprisingly good! After both sets of jabs we had quite achey arms and felt pretty rubbish for a couple of days. Thankfully these side effects don't last long and we didn't experience anything horrible other than tiredness and feeling like we had a bit of a cold.

Now that we've got all of this sorted, we need to get our packing sorted. We haven't even got round to sorting all of our winter sports gear out properly yet, and we need to buy summer clothes, rucksacks and other travelling gear. Blog post about that coming soon.

Left: Me being a wuss while having jabs! 
Right: Drinking Cholera meds in style in Starbucks

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Headphone Disco at Thorpe Park

In April and August 2013 I spent several days DJing in the queue lines for rides at Thorpe Park in Chertsey, UK. Guests were given Headphone Disco headphones at the entrance of the queue line, to listen to one of two DJs performing over two wireless channels. Check out the photos below of guests enjoying our tunes in the sunshine! The show was part of Summer Scream, in association with Dr Pepper.

Interaction was encouraged by asking guests on the microphone to tweet us their requests or make requests as they passed the stage. The stage was on an island in the middle of the queue line. Even though I've performed in front of much larger crowds, even into the thousands, this stage is quite daunting as people are staring at you from all angles! 

The queue line party got a bit cheesy at times, with guests dancing along to songs including the Macarena and Y.M.C.A. We also got lots of Mexican Waves on the go, along with other silly games to encourage interaction. 

Left: Me and DiskoNik / Right: Me and Peachy

Friday, 14 February 2014

Above & Beyond Acoustic Album

The Above & Beyond Acoustic album is an absolute masterpiece. My favourite tracks are On A Good Day and Thing Called Love, which you can check out on the videos below. All songs on the album are already existing sensational upbeat tracks that have been beautifully crafted into acoustic works of art.

I've seen Above & Beyond live at Creamfields a couple of times and they put on a very impressive and visually awesome show, with inspirational quotes lighting up the LED stage screens [see image below]. Above & Beyond have announced that they will be hosting their biggest show yet in London this summer, so I really hope I can fit this in to my already very hectic festival and event schedule when they announce the date! 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Disco Josh at the One Direction World Movie Premiere in Leicester Square

On Tuesday 20th August 2013, I performed as a DJ at the One Direction World Movie Premiere in Leicester Square, London. It was an incredible day, with tens of thousands of fans piling in to the area to try and catch a glimpse of the band. The whole event was incredibly well organised, with barriers sectioning off different parts of the area. As fans arrived, they were given wristbands corresponding to different areas. The earlier fans arrived, the closer they were able to get to the red carpet. There were also large screens in several places to view the action.

The area I was performing in was towards the back of the square. This area was a Yahoo! marketing area, with the music I was playing [One Direction songs only, of course!] being played to fans through Headphone Disco headsets. There was also plenty of freebies and other activities in this area, along with a chance to meet [a cardboard version of] the band. 

The whole experience was very exciting and we enjoyed celeb spotting too, with dozens of celebrities including Simon Cowell attending the event. The toughest part of the day was driving our van back into a very packed Leicester Square in the evening to load out the kit!

Production crew setting up

Hanging with my [cardboard] homies

AAA crew pass

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Freshers UK Tour 2013 and Bed Diving

As a touring DJ with Headphone Disco, I have performed at dozens of venues across the UK, including numerous Students' Union venues. One of the busiest times of year for our two deejay super-show is Freshers, throughout September and October of each year. 

During September and October of 2013, I embarked on a four week tour, covering all areas of the country, including performing in Scotland for the first time, in Glasgow and Dundee. As two DJs perform at the same time during the show and a headphone distributor is required, it was great to mostly be travelling and working with two colleagues, which makes the whole experience fun, including the epic mileage! I estimate that over the course of the tour I covered around 4,000 miles.

As pioneered by my colleague vito from Headphone Disco USA, this is my best 'bed diving' photo. All it involves is snapping yourself diving onto hotel beds when you arrive, but it's great fun! 

Check out some of my favourite photos from the tour below. 

 Leeds Met Students' Union

 Leeds University Union

 Keele University

University of Creative Arts

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The World's Biggest Headphone Disco at Creamfields 2013

In August 2013, I managed the World's biggest Headphone Disco at Creamfields Festival in Daresbury, UK. This involved managing the distribution of headsets to 25,000 festivalgoers, with well over 100 staff. The Headphone Disco took place over several large arenas, with DJs including Riva Starr and Duke Dumont broadcasting through the headphones. This was the third time I have managed this and the fourth year in a row that I have been to Creamfields, going as a punter in 2010.  

This video shows the scale of the Headphone Disco and includes shots of setting up during the day.

The crew worked super hard and helped make it run completely smoothly. 
Check out the group photo below of everyone in snazzy hi vis vests! 

Creamfields in an incredible festival, showcasing the World's biggest names in Dance music. After working an incredibly long and rewarding day on the Friday, myself and the crew enjoyed all the entertainment that the festival had to offer on the Saturday and Sunday. 

My personal highlights of this years' Creamfields include The Prodigy, Above & Beyond and Monki. I've seen The Prodigy a couple of times before; they always play a very high energy and exciting set. They have so many excellent songs, some of which don't spring to mind when you think of the band, but have you dancing as soon as they come on! Above & Beyond are one of my favourite acts and play simply beautiful vocal trance. I was lucky enough to meet them backstage, which was a real privilege. I hadn't heard of Monki before catching her afternoon set on the Annie Mac Presents stage. She played an exciting set and had a great stage presence, looking like she was really enjoying herself. I've since discovered that she has an early hours of the morning show on Radio 1, which I've listened to on the long drive back from a couple of festivals over the summer.

Creamfields have recently posted online that their line up for this year will be bigger and better than ever, being announced on 26th February. Looking forward to it already, it's definitely one of my highlights of every festival season.