Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Beijing Traveller's Tips

I first went to Beijing 17 years ago when I was 11. I don't remember a lot, only that it was one of the most humid places I had ever been to and that everyone spoke a weird language that I didn't understand. Now while I’m half Chinese, I actually don't speak a word of it and this means most of the places I’ve visited on my own are western hotspots such as Shanghai and Hong Kong. Other places I’ve visited for business such as Shenzhen, Guangzhou, hangzhou and Fuzhou have all been with supervision. To be honest I probably could have gone to these place alone as it’s fairly easy to travel around China if you have a bit of common sense and accessible data but I’ve been really lazy about it all.

Last week I went to Beijing with my brother to see family and while most of the trip was planned with tourist activities, we did manage to get a couple of days to explore the city ourselves. As I ended up taking a lot of pictures and picking up plenty of tips I decided to compile them all into a couple of posts for those of you wanting to visit the Chinese capital. I think China itself is one of the most underrated travel destinations in the far east. A lot of people opt for other places such as Vietnam and Thailand because of their tropical climates but China also has tropical regions as well as cities lined with skyscrapers, mountainous regions, countryside and lots of islands dotted around its coastline. Don’t forget that China borders so many other countries such as Russia, India, Korea, Mongolia, Nepal and Vietnam which has created numerous cultures and ethnic minorities across the border.
If you’re considering travelling to Beijing in the near future then here’s a few essential tips that you might find very handy.

If you don’t already know, many of the apps and social networks we use on a daily basis are actually banned in China. These include facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat and search engines such as google. This is because the Chinese government likes to monitor international influence and news.  In response to the growing use of social media, China has its own social media platforms such as Wechat and Weibo. For those who can’t resist being away from their social media channels you can download a VPN app which breaks through the firewall. Many chinese people are starting to use VPN connections for things such as internet shopping on international websites and because they want to have their own social media accounts unregulated by the Chinese government. Now before you use a VPN to browse banned websites you do need a good internet connection. The best way to do this is to buy a chinese sim card if you don’t want to spend a small fortune using your UK data.  Alternatively just log onto FREE wifi connections which are in abundance all over the city.
*I recommend downloading the betternet app as its the best connection I’ve found.

Public Transport
I’ve found the best way to get around the city is to use the Beijing Subway. The subway has 22 metro lines which are simply named and coloured as Line 1, Line 2... etc. The names of the stations are written in English characters as well as chinese and all of the tube announcements are in both languages. There are many transfer stations where you can transfer from line to line and all carriages are air conditioned. The Beijing Subway is owed and heavily subsidised by the Chinese Government. This means that travel only costs 3 Yuan (35p) per journey.  This really gives the poorer people in Beijing a chance to travel to work without the heavy costs. A far cry from the London Underground which costs commuters thousands a year! Make sure you buy a travel card so you can top up to get the cheapest price. These cards can also be used on the buses.

The second best way to travel is to grab a Beijing Licensed taxi. The fares are flat rates depending on your destination and most of the places we went to cost around 13 Yuan (£1.50) which is a bargain. The only downside is that the taxi drivers rarely speak English so ask your hotel receptionist or a concierge to write down the names of the places you want to go in Chinese which you can hand to the taxi drivers. There are also private taxis all around Beijing with drivers who do speak English but they will charge you about 4 times the amount if you look like foreigner.

Lastly Rickshaws are a good way to see the city as you travel. One rider tried to charge us 80 yuan to get to a nearby hotel but once my dad spoke to them in Chinese it ended up costing 30 Yuan (£3.50). I would simply avoid these completely for health and safety reasons. One thing you will notice in Beijing is that there is not much difference between the green man and the red man, people drive and stop when they want to!
Paying for Items
Wechat is the most used social network in China. Most chinese users use this app to pay for goods, video chat friends and family and also as a search engine. There are countless QR codes around the city which can give you information about tourist attractions, however most are in Chinese so its not beneficial unless you actually speak the language or have someone in your party that can understand. Most shops now accept wechat Pay as payment for goods. There are lots of vending machines and fridges in malls and hotels that allow you to just take the item and pay by scanning a QR code.These vending machines are actually unlocked or the items are on a shelf without security tags or shop assistants. You would imagine that people would just simply take the items without paying as it’s that easy but I never saw this once. Most of these machines accept ApplePay and alipay so make sure to link your phone and debit card to one of these payment applications because your life will be a whole lot easier as these machines don’t accept cash or non-chinese debit cards.
Obviously all shops accept cash. I actually have a Chinese bank account and debit card so I don’t need to change any currency but I would suggest changing currency in China rather than in your home country as you’re likely to get a better rate.

Street Sellers

One thing that you will see constantly in Beijing is the vast amount of street sellers who are just average people, often very poor people selling goods such as bottled drinks, fruit and gadgets, often for extremely cheap prices. If you need a drink or fancy something to eat please choose to buy from these sellers. There are so many poor people in China and while there is a benefit system, it is in no way as generous as the UK benefit system. Benefits in the city range from around 400 yuan (£45) a month and those living in rural areas can receive about 261 yuan (£30) a month. A good quality of Chinese people is that they do not want handouts and therefore entrepreneurship is encouraged. Street traders are not  prosecuted for illegal trading or told to move, they’re simply trying to make an honest living so that they can support their family. This is why you will never see beggars, begging is shamed upon, instead people will try to offer you their services or products and they won’t hassle you or try to cheat you.

Try something NEW!

There are many international food chains in China, especially Starbucks and Mcdonalds. While these are slightly cheaper than UK prices, it’s much cheaper to eat at Chinese restaurants and Chinese chains! It’s also good to just try something new. The cuisine in Beijing is old and new and innovative. Try street food vendors, old school, no frills canteens and futuristic cafes because a big part of the Beijing experience is the food.

In my next blog post I’ll be introducing you to places I’ve visited and what to eat, drink and do in the Chinese Capital.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Bridesmaid Proposal Ideas

When I got engaged last year it took me a while to start wedding planning as we were originally meant to be eloping abroad. After a while we finally decided that we wanted to plan a wedding day which we could share with our friends and family. As soon as I was given the green light I instantly started thinking of bridesmaid proposals. I knew I wanted to find something personalised and something to do with Winter or Christmas as we’re having our wedding in December. I used to think personalisation was a bit tacky but as I’ve gotten older I love anything with my name on it! After browsing a thousand websites, I reduced my search to Christmas products and soon discovered personalised Christmas crackers by Twenty-Seven on Notonthehighstreet! Without giving it a second thought I typed in all my bridesmaids names, chose a cocktail sweet I thought they would like and replaced the traditional joke with a personal bridesmaid proposal! It was perfect and I couldn’t wait to give them out.
When I arrived home for the Christmas holidays I made a plan to get the crackers to everyone’s Christmas dinner table without them knowing. At first I was worried that people would think that I was trying to make their Christmas dinners about me but I just wanted everyone to open their crackers where they would usually find them. However everyone involved was just as excited about it as I was and I successfully managed to smuggle the crackers to their tables.
While I was searching for my own proposals I came across so many lovely products on Notonthehighstreet. Now this is not a sponsored post, I just simply love the platform; there are so many independent brands that I would never have discovered otherwise.  Below I’ve compiled a little edit of my favourite bridesmaid proposals available on the site.
Engraved 'Will you be my Bridesmaid?' compact mirror by Hope and Willow- £25
What I really love about these personalised mirrors is that they're super simple but something that your bridesmaid can carry around with them everyday or a perfect little keepsake to look back on.
Inflated Personalised Be My Bridesmaid Balloons by Bubblegum Balloons- £45
Who doesn't love balloons? I've been seeing balloons all over instagram recently and people are buying them in bulk. Whether they're just for the gram, rose gold balloons look so special and teamed with a giant diamond ring, this trio of balloons is a lovely gesture for your future bridesmaids. Especially if they're snap happy!
Personalised Will you be my.. wooden gift wedding box by Dust and Things- £34.99
If you're thinking of getting a few little gifts for your bridesmaids then this engraved wooden box would hold them all nicely but also make the perfect keepsake box later on for photos, invitations and memories from the big day.
Will you be my bridesmaid necklace by J&S Jewellery- £26
These beautiful necklaces can also be worn on the big day. Personalise each one with your bridesmaid's initials and choose the perfect charm from a roses to a textured heart. Whatever suits your wedding theme.
Hidden Message Mug by The Letter Loft- £18
Surprise them all on brew night with a hidden message mug. Just make sure they manage to finish the whole drink!


Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Today I have the power to change my story..

Some of you may know that I've been at the helm of Mod Dolly for 5 years now. It's been a massive journey, building something that simply started as a hobby into an international business. A journey that’s been really fulfilling but also extremely stressful at the same time. While I'm grateful for how the business has turned out and how it's grown, it’s never been my intention to run a busy business for the rest of my life. Designing clothes is what makes me come alive but, while running a business, it’s something I actually don't get time to do. Instead I manage people, pack and ship orders, and answer customer queries. While I understand this is part and parcel of running a business, I've come to really dislike the day-to-day activities that my job requires me to do. When you stop liking what you do it really curbs your motivation. That’s not what's best for the brand, or the people who work within it.
Within the last couple of years Mod Dolly has become really busy and as the team has expanded it’s become even more important that sales targets are met to cover all our costs. While that’s obvious for any business, I’m just not a sales person and, while we do have people to manage those things, the responsibility and stress of it hangs over me every single day. It’s honestly like a big black cloud following me around. Running a small business is unpredictable from day to day, so even when we have an amazing week, I’m constantly thinking about the next day and the day after and it’s made me into a really anxious person.
I do consider Mod Dolly as a high-street priced business. It’s not the cheapest, but £50 for a handmade dress, made in London, to me is a pretty good deal. Now it’s not up to me to say how people should shop. I’m also a bargain hunter, and if people can get things for less then they’re obviously a really savvy shopper - so why not? However, I simply don’t want to run a high-street brand, I would love to slow down my daily routine and be able to work on something more meaningful that isn’t dictated by price or sales targets. I want to create something that’s more of a passion project, with my own name and at my own speed. I’m only 28 years old but even if I was 30 years older, I’ve come to learn recently that it’s okay to change your path, at any time in your life. 
Life is extremely precious and very short, and I know I’m lucky to have the chance to change my direction.
SO… I've decided to leave Mod Dolly and design for other brands, alongside working on a 'slow fashion' namesake label and some creative projects of my own. Mod Dolly will eventually be changing ownership and moving abroad. While I can't announce any specific details about the future of the brand, it will officially go on a break when the remaining stock has sold.

While I hope to embrace the change in my life, it still feels very bittersweet! When you put your every bit of being into something that you end up disliking, it's a hard pill to swallow. I admit that I really didn't like my job and I'm definitely a different person today than I was 5 years ago.
Today my story is changing and I’m starting again. It’s a very vulnerable position to be in as the brand has always been such a big part of my identity and what people associate me with. I’m taking over the Instagram account and expect a huge surge of people pressing the un-follow button, but let me assure you that exciting things are to come! 
I’m looking forward to designing garments that I truly love, ones that aren’t limited by cost price. That’s not to say I’ll start pumping out £1000 dresses, but I’m definitely in the process of making plans to release a beautiful line of clothing that I’ll be proud to put my name on.

Thanks for reading my essay! I thought I owed it to everyone who I’ve had the pleasure of working with and for all my loyal customers who have literally supported me for years! I hope you will all follow me on this new journey.
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