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Friday 9 March 2012

Sun, Sand, Sea and Pimms O'clock

We spend the vast majority of the year here in Hong Kong complaining about the heat and humidity.  I step out of my front door in August my make-up slides off my face, my hair frizzes into an enormous afro and I generally arrive at wherever I’m going looking like a sweaty, dishevelled mess.  At times like this, I long for the cooler weather.  It feels as though there’ll never again be a time when I’m able to straighten my hair with lasting results.  As the rest of the world go A/W crazy in September I stare longingly at the furs,jumpers, coats and boots knowing I’ll be wearing my bikinis and sundresses for a few months still.  It’s a hard life.

But as soon as the cold weather rolls in and the novelty of wearing Uggs and a leather jacket has passed (which takes approximately a week) I immediately start looking forward to the sun and warmth again.  I guess the grass is always greener and all that.

So having been in full winter dress for just over three whole months now, I’ve been dreaming of my favourite beaches.  Which got me to compiling my top five beaches list.  Here's my run down...

Where: South East coast of Barbados

How to get there:  You’ll need to take a car here (taxi or hire car).  Its approximately ten minutes from Barbados’ main airport, Grantley Adams International Airport.  Getting down to the beach from the road or car park is via stepping stones and requires a bit of agilty, be careful not to lose a Havaiana on the way.   

Why: often featuring in 'top ten beaches in the world' lists, Crane is absolutely picture postcard perfect.  Palest pink tinged, powdery sand with white crested turquoise waves; it’s truly the stuff of Caribbean fable.  Being on the East coast of the island, the surf is fierce (unlike the much calmer Western coast)  even paddling is highly likely to end in being knocked over.  Bad Mice experience leads me to recommend wearing a swimming costume rather than a bikini and removing sunglasses before approaching the water… you have been warned!

Bad Mice Beach Bar Spots: The Crane Resort pretty much has a monopoly here (although you can buy cold Banks beers from the guys on the beach who rent out beach beds and boogie boards).  The Crane Resort is perched up on the Cliffside right next to the beach and has two restaurants, Zen for sushi and L’Azure for seafood and their famous Sunday Gospel Brunch.  The Bad Mice recommend L’Azure for killer bajan shrimp dumplings and the photo op of your trip (bag a table out on the terrace).  The Bad Mice also like to pack a cool box of Pimms, lemonade and pre-chopped fruit and cucumber for smugly producing while reclining on the beach when Pimms O’clock strikes.

Where: New Territories, Hong Kong

How to get there: the lazy route is via speedboat from Saikung – if you head to Saikung harbour you can hire a speedboat taxi which depending on how choppy the water is, should be able to take you directly to the beach in around 30 minutes.  If the water’s too rough the boats won’t go (and having been on a moderately rough journey, I really wouldn’t recommend it).  The more energetic route is to take a taxi to Saikung Country Park and hike in.  The hike takes around an hour and a half and is hilly.  The beach awaiting you at the end is well worth the effort though and the views on the way in are very pretty too.  For the high rollers, there are helipads on the beaches and there are always a couple of sunseekers moored just off the beach.

Why: If you ask the majority of people what Hong Kong’s like you’ll generally be told that its full of giant skyscrapers and that it's turbo-paced, noisy, crowded and truly 24/7.  While this isn’t at all inaccurate, its not the full story – a short hop outside of the city centre and you have green country parks, breathtakingly beautiful walking trails and really very pretty beaches.  While a lot of Hong Kong’s beaches are also pretty bustling and can be a bit dirty, Tai Long Wan is a real slice of paradise.  Its not the easiest place to get to which means that it's often really quiet, verging on deserted, the sand is fine and buttery yellow, the water’s clear and clean, you could easily mistake it for a beach on one of the calmer Thai islands.  Heading out for a day trip is entirely possible but for a real getaway, you can rent camping equipment for a very a reasonable price from the beach bars down there which means that you can camp right on the sand.  There’s nothing nicer than ending a day of sunbathing and swimming with a few Tsing Taos around the campfire under a starry sky and then waking up the next day with the waves lapping a stone’s throw from your tent. 

Bad Mice Beach Bar Spots: Not much choice and to be honest there’s not much to choose between the basic beach bars/restaurants but that’s half the charm.  The bars down here serve up cold beers to wash down noodles, fried rice and basic seafood (don't expect lobster and scallops).  If you're not feeling that sort of scene, the Mice recommend bringing a picnic.

Where: Seminyak, South West coast of Bali

How to get there: Seminyak is located just West of Denpasar airport.  Traffic in Bali can be a bit of a killer so depending on what time of day you're trying to get to Seminyak and from where, travel time's going to vary.  We'd recommend (a) staying in Seminyak and (b) hiring a little moped.  Most of the accommodation in Seminyak is within a fairly small area but zipping around on a moped cuts out hot and bothered wandering around and means you're less likely to get distracted by the gorgeous boutiques (our fav is Magali Pascal).   

Why: Seminyak beach is a long, wide, silver sand beach (ok, its grey, but silver sounds better...) with ok surf.  While its pretty, its not the most beautiful of the Bali beaches.  The beaches towards the Southern tip of Bali are of the white sand, crashing turquoise wave variety, our top picks for beauty are Balangan Beach and Padang Padang (if you head to the latter we suggest walking a bit further round from the main beach just past the rocks for a stretch of perfect beach away from the crowds).  But if Balangan and Padang Padang are the beauties of the family, Seminyak's their cooler, wild, party-girl younger sister.  Packed full of restaurants, bars and boutiques, Seminyak is the more chic, hedonistic corner of Bali (as opposed to Kuta which offers more of a Magaluf brand of hedonism).  Here the days are spent lounging on the beach in large, dark Gucci shades and Melissa Odabash Kaftans recovering from the champagne-fuelled night before.   

Bad Mice Beach Bar Spots: There's so much choice on Seminyak beach with everything from the super cool, Ibiza-esque Ku de Ta and Potato Head where the beautiful people recline on day beds and sip passion fruit Caipirinhas to shacks on the beach serving up cold beers and nasi goreng on the sand.  Our top tip for sundowners is a bar just in front of Chez Gado Gado which as the sun begins to sink, lays out big bean bags surounded by little Balinese parasols illuminated by fairylights.  We guarantee that a couple of Bintangs down, nestled in your beanbag watching the world go by, you'll feel just as zen as all the yogis up in Eat, Pray, Love central, Ubud. 

Where: South West Coast of Sri Lanka nr. Galle

How to get there: Wijaya is about a ten minute drive south of Galle.  The friendly tuk tuk drivers are our fav way to hop from beach to beach around here.
Why: The stretch of coast just South of Galle is home to the most beautiful, golden beaches which are generally long and uncrowded.  If its seclusion you want, you can definitely find it here, but for a bit more buzz and atmosphere, head to Wijaya.  By no means a party beach, this is the place for a laid-back, snoozy afternoon accompanied by a couple of Lion beers.  The surf can get choppy and currents can be dangerous along this coast but Wijaya is protected by a reef so it's basically a natural swimming pool.    

Bad Mice Beach Bar Spots: Tumbling onto the sand is the Wijaya Beach Bar, a relaxed but buzzy bar/restaurant.  Serving up the best wood-fired pizzas and mango mojitos to die for, by day it has a loungy, boho vibe which kicks up a notch at night (but only marginally so).  Attracting a mixed crowd of mainly expats and tourists, this bunting clad wooden beach bar has a great terrace for chilling-out to laid-back tunes while sunset gazing.     

Where: South coast of Mykonos (Mykonos is a Greek island South-East of the mainland lying between Tinos, Syros, Paros and Naxos). 

How to get there: you can get to the beach by car/taxi or if you're on a budget, there's a bus that runs here.  You can also take the watery route and catch a boat-taxi from Plati Yialos (boat taxis run regularly throughout the day serving all the main Southern beaches).

Why: Mykonos is one of our favourite places in the Mediterranean.  It looks just as Greece is supposed to look.  Cliffsides adorned with sugar cube houses and whitewashed windmills swoop down into sapphire seas, crescents of golden sand are peppered with tavernas serving up souvlaki and ouzo and the towns are mazes of whitewashed alleys full of stylish bars and chic boutiques.  It's touristy but not in a Faliraki way.  The crowd here are a mix of island-hoppers and monied Europeans. The beaches range from sleepy coves to packed, party sands.  Paradise is definitely in the latter category.  It's a beautiful beach with crystal clear, calm waters but its less snoozy, more insomniac.  By day, grab a sunlounger and catch up on some sleep, because you probably won't be leaving until the sun is back up again.

Bad Mice Beach Bar Spots: It has to be Club Tropicana.  Set right on the beach, this place looks like any other beach bar but as the day wears on the music gets louder and people start to flock away from their sunloungers towards the killer cocktails served up by the Tropicana bar staff.  Pretty soon you're likely to get a sighting of the "elephant man".  No, we're not talking a severely deformed man here, don't worry, this is Tropicana legend, Sasa who parades around the bar with just a microphone and his tiny, silver elephant thong... Let's just say that every night is a guaranteed party night full of strong drinks, skinny dipping and dancing on the bar in your bikini.  Pack dark glasses and aspirin in your beach bag for the boat ride back in the morning...   

1 comment

  1. Done 3 out of the 5, my next one will definitely be the Barbados option! Do miss Wijaya though, cocktails and pizza, my 2 favourite things!!!

    Laura xx