Category Archives: Work

Wales: A “Sheepish” Sh*ty Situation

Sheep Poo Paper

When I first heard about Sheep Poo Paper, I was immediately intrigued. Paper made out of Sheep sh*t? Now that’s got to be interesting. I thought it was a brilliant business idea though. After all, sheep is ubiquitous in Wales (there are some 12 million Sheep, and only 3 million people), so you can imagine the amount of excrement that is produced everyday. What then can one do with all this sh*t? Besides perhaps making fertiliser, there is really no good use of sheep crap, till these guys came along, and decided that one could make paper out of poo, and even earn money from doing so.

We made our way to a small paper mill in the middle of a quarry near Snowdonia to watch the production of Sheep Poo Paper. It turns out that the entire production of the paper is done, almost completely by hand, by Lez, with occasional help from his wife and his daughter, while his business partner, Lawrence, a former lawyer, focuses on the legal matters and marketing. The paper mill produces 50 sheets of paper a day, which is then sent to be pressed and printed on with vegetable dye.

Lez with sterilised sheep poo

The poo is first collected, boiled to disinfect germs, then washed in the washing machine to complete the sterilising process. The produce is then mashed and mixed with recycled paper, and poured into a mould to create the paper. Remember the days of making paper using mashed old newspaper? This paper is made the same old-school way by hand:

Yuko making Sheep Poo Paper

Lez hanging sheep poo paper to dry

Dried Sheep Poo Paper

Sheep Poo Paper can be made into letters, postcards, greeting cards, and the best product, in my opinion, the Sheep Poo Paper air freshener. I simply love the irony.

Sheep Poo Paper Air Freshener, Grass-scented | Photo Credit: Creative Paper Wales

Besides paper, Sheep Poo can also be made into a brick:

Sheep Poo Brick

and a Poo Canoe:

Sheep Poo Canoe

Imagine floating around in sheep poo. Lez’s and Lawrence’s initial intention for making the boat was to raise money for charity.

Making paper out of poo, however, was not an original idea. The idea stemmed from Roo Poo Paper of Australia,  and the techniques were learnt from the producers of elephant poo paper in Thailand. That said, I personally feel that the humour connected to the Sheep Poo Paper brand makes it more memorable than the other two.

Though I did not have the opportunity to attempt some paper-making, the chance to learn the workings behind the business coupled with Lez’s sense of humour (we did not have the chance to meet Lawrence) made the visit worthwhile.

Most unfortunately, regular tourists will not be able to visit the paper mill as the folks at Creative Paper Wales currently do not have a visitor centre and are still working on getting one. But if you’re keen on getting some Sheep Poo Paper of your own, you can purchase them online, and also at their a-few-hundred retailers around the UK.

Now who wants some Sheep Poo Paper?

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I went to Wales to accompany 6 travel bloggers from around Asia as part of The Great Welsh Showdown, a Visit Britain initiative to introduce the beauty of Wales to the blogosphere.

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Wales: Gastronomic Indulgence

I am fairly certain that by the end of the trip, all of us had put on a bit of weight. This trip had been one of pure indulgence for our palates – Loads of rich, delectable food, white wine, red wine, beer, cider, just to name a few.

A typical spread of dinner everyday looked like this:

And we got an opportunity to eat other yummy dishes like this:

Welsh Breakfast: Cockles, Laverbread (Bread with Seaweed), Bacon, Egg

and this:

Prawn Salad

I often chose to try Welsh food to get the full Welsh experience, such as the Welsh rarebit (It does not contain rabbit meat and typically includes Cheese topped on Bread, with mustard and is a vegetarian dish), Cawl (A stew with potatoes, carrots, celery and onions), Lamb Leek Pudding, and Smoked Haddock.

Unlike these bloggers, who probably took photos of every dish they ate, however, I missed out on photos of the above-mentioned dishes.

Dong Gu, Nellie, Aries

We’d often eat so much we’d be unable to even move, but we’d still stuff ourselves plenty. Thou shalt not waste food anyway right? Especially not food that tastes so damn good.

And of course, in the presence of such glorious food, what best to accompany it but drinks?

Here, Aparna‘s taking it all the way by drinking from the bottle:

Aparna drinking out of the wine bottle

The night we were at Cardiff, we went to a bar, not knowing that it was a gay bar, until we went in and saw a drag queen show, which was pretty interesting and Anthony even interviewed the two drag queens. Of course, another awesome fact is that a pint of beer only costs £1.70.

Nellie, a guy whose name I never got, Anthony, Colin, and Lorraine -At a gay bar in Cardiff

As I was nursing a cough and was still on medication, I barely drank the entire trip, unlike everyone else who was downing wine and beer at every other given opportunity.

Does this not sound like an absolutely decadent lifestyle? Once in a while, just once in a while, I would not mind such a life..

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I went to Wales to accompany 6 travel bloggers from around Asia as part of The Great Welsh Showdown, a Visit Britain initiative to introduce the beauty of Wales to the blogosphere.

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Wales: Coasteering = rock climbing + swimming + jumping


Navigating the Coast

Imagine wearing a wetsuit and navigating along the gorgeous Welsh coastline, with the sounds of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean splashing against the rocks in the background. Sometimes you have to perform a commando crawl under boulders, other times you are perched precariously on rocks that are home to thousands of barnacles, grabbing on to them for dear life and donating a lot of skin to these sea creatures in the process. And the most exhilarating part of it is when you’re standing at the top of a cliff, with the raging waters churning below you, and you take the giant leap of faith (most literally) and plunge right into the blue deep. This is coasteering and this is what we had to do today.

Us posing in wetsuits

Commado Crawl

I’m not a fan of the waters to be honest. I’m much more of a land person, so the trek down to the waters and the process of bouldering was not too difficult for me. And another thing I’m not a fan of? The feeling of falling.

Preparing to take the leap

I knew I was asking for it when I planned for the bloggers to be videoed jumping off a cliff. I had done some jumping from a jetty in Pulau Tioman in the past, and it was higher than what I did today. But yet, when I was standing at the top of the cliff getting ready for the leap during 1 of the 3 jumps I did today, I hesitated, and ended up landing belly first. Boy was that was one painful belly flop.

All in all, coasteering was just a hell lot of great fun. Another awesome part of the activity was swimming in a cave and being tossed around by the waves like “clothes in a washing machine” (quoting what some of the bloggers said). A huge wave would rush in and crash into the rocks at the end of the cave, and before the backwash can leave the cave, another big wave would come in, hitting us from both sides, giving that tumbling feeling. We all held hands and spun around in circles, screaming and laughing at the same time.

In the "washing machine" cave

If you love the idea of rock climbing freehand, bobbing in the water, caving, and jumping of cliffs, you’ll most definitely enjoy coasteering. And even if you don’t, the picturesque view of the coast and the ocean, the opportunity to see the seals (we saw one), dolphins and even killer whales, if you’re lucky (we weren’t so lucky), is worth it all. I loved it, and would certainly want to come to Wales to coasteer again.

Dong Gu and Yuko posing with seaweed

Special thanks to Sophie, Libby and Jon of Preseli Venture.  I sure had a lot of fun and would love to stay at your place the next time I’m back in Wales.

Photo credit: Thanks to Lorraine and Libby

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I went to Wales to accompany 6 travel bloggers from around Asia as part of The Great Welsh Showdown, a Visit Britain initiative to introduce the beauty of Wales to the blogosphere.

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The Great Welsh Showdown: Day 0 – London Baby!

From L to R (Clockwise): Aparna (Backpacking Ninja, India), me, Anthony (Travel Tart, Aust), Aries (HK), Nellie (Wildjunket, Singapore), Yuko (Japan) Lorraine (Visit Britain), Dong Gu (Korea)

So after many weeks of preparation, all of us have finally gathered here at the Umi Hotel in London.

I’m here with 6 travels bloggers from around the Asia Pacific region for Visit Britain’s first ever blogger trip done in the form of a competition. Termed The Great Welsh Showdown, the competition comprises 5 challenges done over the course of 4 days in Wales, where these bloggers stand to win another pair of return tickets to their preferred destination anywhere in Britain. Not bad me thinks. How I wish I could actually be a participant in this and stand a chance to come to Britain, again! That aside…

Come tomorrow morning, we will be making our way to Cardiff to begin our first challenge of The Great Welsh Showdown – Wyt ti’n Siarad Cymraeg? (Do you speak Welsh?). The bloggers will sit in a half-day Welsh Language lesson and I think it’ll be quite interesting to see if any of the bloggers will be able pick up at least a bit of the the language. After all, Welsh is infamously difficult so much so many local Welsh, especially those of the younger generation, can no longer speak their own native tongue.

Bushcraft | photo credit: http://www.walkandtravel.com

Day 2 will see us in Swansea, where the bloggers will fight it out in the wilderness. The bloggers will undergo a basic bushcraft course to learn some useful skills on how to survive in the wilderness such as lighting a fire without matches, or setting up a shelter using branches. The 6 bloggers will be split into groups of 3, where they will compete to see which group best survives in the wilderness.

Jumping off the cliff | photo credit: http://www.angleseyadventures.com

We will move on to Pembrokeshire on the third day, where we will be doing some Coasteering. In other words. Wetsuits. Cliffs. Navigate. Take video (or rather, be videoed). Say last words. Jump.

The last day, which I’m personally super excited about, involves sheep! Loads of sheep! And their poo. Why let perfectly-formed sheep excrement go to waste when you can make paper out of it? Even Gordon Ramsey, who rears sheep to eventually cook them, thinks that their sh*t should not go to waste. And the man, makes them into menus. Check this out:

Yes, we’ll be making Sheep Poo Paper as well. After which, we will go pretend to be farmers and learn how to gather sheep. (Hopefully gather the actual sheep and not their poo.) How cool is that. We’ll be in Snowdonia, a famed national park, for this challenge and being such a nature-freak, I’m really looking forward to the picturesque views.

Flip MinoHD | Photo credit: Cisco

The last challenge can be done at any point of the Wales trip. Cisco kindly sponsored us (rather the bloggers) 7 Flip MinoHDs, and they will be taking a video, humourous in nature, of the trip. The best part? One of their readers will also stand to win 7th Flip cam. So, go leave a comment on the videos when they are up and you may just be the lucky winner. The Flip MinoHD is a pretty neat gadget.

Throughout these 4 days, the bloggers will be blogging on their individual sites while we, the organisers, will be doing some mini-updates on the microsite. And I, personally, will try to blog here. I shall take my leave now. Till Cardiff, goodnight.

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I went to Wales to accompany 6 travel bloggers from around Asia as part of The Great Welsh Showdown, a Visit Britain initiative to introduce the beauty of Wales to the blogosphere.

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Revisiting Wales

Wales

Revisiting Wales. Photo Credit: Visit Britain

It was “summer” of 1995 and my parents, brother and I were seated in a London cab en route to Changi Airport in Singapore. Almost a day later we were in another London cab, this time, actually in London. I was all of 8 years old and this was the farthest city I’d ever been to, and this would remain to be the case till some 13 years later, when I embarked on my University student exchange programme to Jönköping, Sweden. Suffice to say, I was, as the English would say, bloody excited (except at 8, I probably would not have said that) –  after all, it was going to be 12 days in the beautiful UK.

To be honest I cannot remember much about this particular trip to London (I did go back in 2008), though I do remember…

that we stayed with my parents’ friend Monica and her balding English husband, Richard (edit: Just found out he has since passed on. RIP).

and…

how my dad brought me around to look at shops that sold ballet accessories.
… and how my 10-year brother sat as still as a mannequin, minus the mouth-moving part as he was chewing on a single piece of gum, for 3 whole hours as my mother did some major retail therapy in a shop at Covent Garden. (It’s funny on retrospect in guessing why my mother didn’t bring me, and why my dad and brother didn’t go do some “guy stuff” together.)

and also…

how my brother and I apparently unknowingly tuned in to some R-rated channel, while my parents were out watching Evita at West End for the millionth time. Wait actually I don’t remember that, but the brother does.

and…

how we watched Starlight Express and Sunset Boulevard at West End and thought that the former was oh-so-cool because the entire cast performed in rollar-skates. I don’t think I really understood the latter, but hey, I watched the brilliant Elaine Paige in the flesh belting out musical “classics” (now that is), such as “As If We Never Said Goodbye”.

The part of the trip that I still vividly remember and that remains deeply etched in my heart and mind, however, would be the road trip to and around Cymru, or otherwise known to most of mankind as Wales.

The strawberries we bought from a road side stall. How my brother and I lay in the makeshift beds (a.k.a the boot) of our rental SUV. The bread and jam we feasted on at quaint little cafes during the tea breaks we took along the way.

Our first stop in Wales was at a B&B on a farm owned by a elderly couple called Colin and Daphne. We were greeted by Colin, who was simply clad in a thin white cotton tee, and I recall how I thought he was so ridiculous to just be wearing so little, when I was under my 5 layers of clothes. We were the first Singaporean family to ever grace their premises, and they were just as excited to have us as their guests and we were to stay there. They treated us with such great hospitality and kindness and this made the stay especially memorable.

I remember the one-hour tour around their farm.  I remember their 2 little black and white dogs, Hannah and Sam, who were ever so playful and loved to cuddle up to us. I remember the electric blankets that kept us warm those cold, erm, Summer nights. I remember the lovely dinners our host, Daphne, cooked for us to satiate our stomachs.

I just simply loved everything about the B&B and I honestly did not want to leave.

We moved on to another B&B. Well I can’t really call it a B&B as it was a huge-ass mansion. My parents got the humongous master bed room, with its walk-in wardrobes and what-not, while my brother and I were stuck with a tiny double room. There was not much to do in the mansion and I recall walking along it’s long hallways flanked by dozens of rooms. I recall walking around the back garden, which was more of a forest really. I recall being bored in our rooms and how we watched Power Rangers on TV. I recall the giant Great Dane and the tiny chihuahua that the owners had and how hilarious it looked when the two dogs sat side by side.

The mansion was quite forgettable. It did not feel as homely as the little farm B&B felt. But it did not matter. There was this particular charm about Wales and its rustic countryside that was so alluring.

I can’t quite explain how it happened but I fell in love with Wales and I promised myself that I was going to be back someday. I even dreamt of one day buying a piece of land and owning my own farm and B&B. But never did I think that I’d be returning to Wales so soon. It may have already been 15 years, so “soon” may not be the appropriate word to use. Still, Wales was in the “Someday I’ll be back” Plan, but not in the short-term plan, and definitely not in the “I’m Leaving for Wales Tonight” Plan.

So yes, I’m actually heading to Wales this very evening. And while I *secretly* wish that this trip is actually part of a grander Europe or UK trip, I’m going there for work, which really is the next best option, so what’s there to complain about?

I’ll be going there as part of a blogger challenge for Visit Britain with the following bloggers – TheTravelTart (Anthony, Australia), Aries (Hong Kong), Backpacking Ninja (Aparna, India), Yuko (Japan), Dong Gu (Korea) and Nellie (Singapore) . No, I’m not taking part in the challenge, but rather just the “escort”. While I probably won’t have much time to be blogging much over the course of the trip, these 6 bloggers will definitely be blogging, so you can follow their progress here (note: microsite to only go ‘live’ tonight at midnight) and here if you’re interested.

And while I’ve already stated a disclaimer that this trip is indeed work-related, and hence this post may look like pure publicity, it is not; this blog post is written for my love of the delightful Wales, the Wales I’ve loved and longed for for the past 15 years, the Wales I can’t wait to revisit in the week to come.

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I went to Wales to accompany 6 travel bloggers from around Asia as part of The Great Welsh Showdown, a Visit Britain initiative to introduce the beauty of Wales to the blogosphere.

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