Novica – A Global Platform for Artisans – Review and Giveaway

June 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Giveaways, Guest post, India, Misc, Shopping, Thailand

Novica is a source of jewellery, clothing, gifts and objects for your home, created by artizans around the world; bringing all the interesting things you might find on your travels into one website where you can buy and find out more about the person who makes them. Read on for our guest review by Nancy Judevine, of the Novica service and our giveaway of a Novica gift certificate worth $75

When I was a child we did a little bit of traveling as a family. We took typical American vacations – Florida, Wisconsin, Washington DC. And, because we had relatives in Canada we visited there also. Of course, kids always like souvenirs, and my sisters and I were no different. But instead of the usual trinkets and postcards, we three girls clamored for charms for our charm bracelets. As little girls, mom started each of us with a bracelet of silver links, and by the time we were teenagers my sisters and I had filled them chock full of charms.

Novica screenshot 1

As an adult I still like to have remembrances of my travels and I’ve realized that I’m still attracted to jewelry and accessories. When in Ecuador I purchased a chunky Tagua nut bracelet and from Lanai, Hawaii I brought home a hand-woven scarf. Unfortunately nowadays I don’t get a chance to travel as much as I’d like, so I was delighted to learn about Novica, a website that, in association with National Geographic, offers a selection of hand-crafted merchandise from artisans around the globe.

Novica screenshot 2

Browsing beautiful hand-crafted items

It was so interesting to browse through the many lovely items. Novica had at that time designated Thailand as their featured country and I easily found a selection of beautiful Thai jewelry. I decided to narrow the merchandise using qualifiers such price range, style and material, although as each item had a couple attractive photos and a detailed description, I was still having a hard time making a choice. Then, as I hovered over each photo I noticed the Novica curation service, which was a convenient way to designate favorites to add to my own personal bulletin-board style collection.

Nancy's wish list, using the Novica Curation feature

Nancy’s wish list, using the Novica Curation feature

Since I am also fond of fashion scarves I turned my attention to India. There were so many to choose from, but when I read about Kamini, an artisan from Punjab, who as a child cut up a curtain to make a shirt for herself, my decision was made. I added couple of her batik print designs to my curated wish list.

Novica and cotton scarf 'Autumn Mystique' made in India Product ID 181766 $34.95

Novica Silk and cotton scarf ‘Autumn Mystique’ made in India Product ID 181766 $34.95

Then it was time to make my final selections. I reluctantly pared down my curated gallery to a labradorite and quartz bead bracelet from Thailand and a maroon and gray batik scarf from India.

Novica Labradorite and Quartz wrap 'Fresh Lily' bracelet made in Thailand Product ID 186020 $57.95

Novica Labradorite and Quartz wrap ‘Fresh Lily’ bracelet made in Thailand Product ID 186020 $57.95

Purchase with confidence

The checkout process could not have been easier. Novica accepts major credit cards as well as PayPal and Amazon. After I placed my order I immediately received a confirmation email with the details of my order and a link that allowed me to check my order status. Novica kept me updated on the progress of my order with emails containing tracking numbers and delivery dates.

The items were delivered to my door within two weeks of purchase, very timely considering the distance they traveled, and each was well packaged. I opened the box from Thailand to find the bracelet was exactly as pictured on the website, and encased in a lovely drawstring bag. I was delighted to see a note from the artisan thanking me for my purchase, written in both English and Thai. The scarf arrived folded into a beautiful bag with gold tassel, and also included a handwritten card.

Novica items, beautifully packaged with a hand-written card

Novica items, beautifully packaged with a hand-written card

My experience with Novica was completely positive and I was entirely pleased with both items. I would not hesitate to present either as a gift, but that will have to wait for another time. For now I’ll enjoy my accessories and dream of future visits to Thailand and India.

For more information visit the Novica website. Novica generously provided me with a code good for $75 toward my purchases, but all opinions are strictly my own.

Nancy chose a Labradorite and Quartz wrap ‘Fresh Lily’ bracelet made in Thailand by artizan Siriporn Product ID 186020 $57.95 and a Silk and cotton scarf ‘Autumn Mystique’ made in India by artizan Kamini Product ID 181766 $34.95. Shipping is an additional charge which can be calculated on the item page, but bear in mind that shipping charges are cheapest for the US and may be quite a bit higher for UK and Europe.

Our Novica Giveaway

We are giving away a Novica gift voucher worth $75 to one of our readers, to spend on whatever you like from the Novica website. The giveaway is open to anyone, wherever you live, however please bear in mind that shipping charges may be higher for the UK and Europe than they are for the US – so check when you make your selection. The giveaway will run for 2 weeks and will end at 12am on Monday 17 June 2013

To enter this giveaway please use the Rafflecopter widget below with 4 chances to win;

1. Please visit the Novica website and then let us know in the comments at the bottom of this article which item you would love to purchase with your $75 gift voucher and why.

To gain additional chances to win you can;

2. Tweet about this giveaway mentioning @Heathercowper and @Novica in your tweet, for example;

I’d love to choose an artizan gift with the $75 voucher #giveaway @Heathercowper from @Novica

3. Like the Heather on her travels Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Heatheronhertravels

4. Like the Novica Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/novica

Other T & C; The winner will be chosen at random once the giveaway has ended. The winner will be notified by e-mail but if they do not accept the prize within 1 week it will be offered to another entrant.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nancy thumbAbout the author: Nancy Judevine is an American suburbanite who loves to travel vicariously by reading the blogs of some of her favorite travel writers.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home. We’ve mentioned this giveaway on ThePrizeFinder – UK Competitions , Doubleprizes.com , Blog Giveaway Directory

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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Spending a day with the elephants at Chiang Mai Thailand

In this Guest Post Matthew Barby shares his day with the elephants at the Dante Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai, riding the elephants and playing with them in the river as well as enjoying the company of Do-do the baby elephant.

I spent some time, along with my partner, in the wonderful city of Chiang Mai in Thailand. Between us we had a long list of things that we wanted to do and places that we wanted to see, with seeing elephants being the prime focus of our excitement.

We had spent a lot of time researching into the best places to go in order to spend time with elephants as well as finding out information on how the elephants are treated in the camps. We decided to visit the Dante Elephant Camp which was around an hour drive away from our hotel, Lanna Mantra, and cost us 2,500 Baht ($85) per person. This cost included the journey to and from the camp, a really good lunch, water throughout the day and a full day (9am-5pm) with the elephants.

Elephant ride in Chaing Mai Photo: MeltedStories.com

Elephant ride in Chaing Mai

There are a lot of elephant camps across Chiang Mai and Thailand in general that really don’t treat the animals well. They are often trained to perform for the tourists, underfed and the mahouts (the elephant trainers) can be overly aggressive. The Dante Elephant Camp couldn’t be farther from this. They have a small amount of elephants on-site, around 15-20 in total, that have been taken in after the use of elephants for logging was made illegal 25 years ago (quite rightly so!).

It was clear to see that all of the mahouts on the camp had a very close, intimate bond with the elephants and would treat them with the utmost respect and care. What was also clear to see was that the elephants were all in really high spirits and were allowed to freely roam around the camp without the restrictions of chains. This was particularly good to see.

The journey to the elephant camp

We were picked up from our hotel at around 8am by one of the camp mahouts, and our bumpy journey up through the scenic jungle areas of Chiang Mai lasted for around an hour. In retrospect, the car journey to the camp was probably more treacherous than balancing on top of the elephants through the day!

Once we arrived at the camp we were told to put on some pretty jazzy clothes that essentially consisted of a top that looked like an old rug stitched together and some extremely baggy trousers. Needless to say, we looked pretty funky! It turned out to be quite fortunate that we were wearing these clothes instead of our own as the elephants seemed to have an unrelenting urge to squirt muddy water at us through their trunks. A charming welcome, I thought.

Playing with elephants in Chaing Mai Photo: MeltedStories.com

Playing with elephants in Chaing Mai

The first couple of hours were spent with a couple of the mahouts who educated us in the ways of the elephants, spoke to us a bit about the history of the camp and also told us some short commands that the elephants can understand. This was nice to hear because it really assured us and, not least, made us feel comfortable that the mahouts genuinely cared about the welfare of the animals and didn’t just treat them like a tourist commodity. Having said that, the harsh reality is that if they don’t bring in money from tourism then it’s highly unlikely that they will be able to sustain the camp.

Meeting the elephant family

Laura and I were the only ones on the trip so we literally had a free roam of the place without anyone else – which was awesome. I was given the daunting task of being the first to try and get on top of the big bull (oh, and when I say big I mean 3.5m tall big!). The mahouts were pretty good in showing me how ‘easy’ it is to do so, to avoid the risk of being emasculated, I marched up to the big guy, jumped onto his giant leg and, using his ear as a handle, threw myself over his back.

Climbing on the elephant Photo: MeltedStories.com

Climbing on the elephant

After some readjusting and a bit of a shaky start, (to say the least) I managed to at least look like I had a clue what I was doing on top of an elephant. At first I was pretty careful where I was putting my hands and how I was sitting, primarily because I didn’t want to hurt the elephant, but once I got into the swing of things I soon realised that my weight was nothing to one of these beasts. Bearing in mind that elephant skin is over 3cm in thickness, you can pretty much grab them anywhere to steady yourself and they will hardly feel it.

After some brief pottering around on the camp, we were ready to go off for a little trek through the forest. Laura was on-board one of the female elephants that was with calf, whilst I was on-board the bull. It was really great going out with the whole elephant family and added to the intimacy of the whole experience. ‘Do-do’ the young calf was like a human toddler; ambling around aimlessly under the close supervision of her mother, she was constantly looking for the next distraction to wander over to. She found particular interest in our shoes at the start of the trip which was really funny – well, it was at least funny for the mahouts as they watched me having to chase after Do-do to get my sodden flip-flop out of her mouth!

Bathing the Elephants in the River

After around 20 minutes of trekking through the forest we stopped by a river so that they elephants could cool off and get a drink. This also gave us the opportunity to grab a bucket and brush in order to give them all a good wash. This was great fun as we got to splash around with the elephants in the water and also get all of the dirt out of their skin.

Bathing an elephant Photo: MeltedStories.com

Bathing an elephant

When we first got to the river, the two adult elephants slowly crept into the water and started to submerge themselves. Once Laura and I had seen that they were in and comfortable we went to get in ourselves. The next thing we know, little Do-do has dived head-first between us and all that could be seen were her four legs up in the air along with her tiny trunk – like I said, just like a little mischievous toddler!

After some splashing around, we let the elephants wander off and share some valuable social time together. It was really amazing to see how maternal the mother is to her calf and you could see that as soon as little Do-do tried to run off and play with some stick that she has just found, Mum was there to reel her in. One thing that I didn’t realise until the mahouts told me was that elephants stay pregnant for around 22 months, so you can see why their bond is so strong.

Mother and baby elephant Photo: MeltedStories.com

Mother and baby elephant

Once the elephants had taken in some final slurps of water, we got back on top of them and rode them back to the camp, which was about 15 minutes away. By this point I felt a lot more comfortable and was riding my luck using no hands. That is until the big man decided he wanted to tear down a huge branch from the tree above me and nearly threw me down with it!

Final Impressions of the elephant camp

By the time we arrived back at the camp, both myself and Laura couldn’t quite believe what we had been spending our day doing. It really was a fantastic experience that not many people will have the opportunity of ever doing so I couldn’t recommend it more.

The Dante Elephant Camp that we went to actually brought down a photographer along with us through the trip and took some amazing shots along the way. We then had the chance to look through the photos at the end and pay a small price to get them put on a CD at the end. One of the mahouts also took along our camera and took a load of photos as we went, so they didn’t try to force you into buying the photos at all and we came back with hundreds of shots in the end.

Throwing water to elephants Photo: MeltedStories.com

Throwing water to elephants

All in all, a perfect trip. Although it may seem quite expensive at first, the Dante Elephant Camp prides itself in the correct treatment of its animals and it was clear to both me and Laura that this was definitely the case. My advice would be that if you do decide on going with a different camp, make sure that you do your research. I’ve heard of many people coming back upset about the state of the animals and the way they were treated at certain camps and that will just ruin your whole experience. On top of this, it is great to know that your money is going to a good and moral cause.

If you’ve spent any time at one of the many elephant camps in Thailand then let me know by leaving a message in the comments box below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the differing experiences that people have had that could also provide good advice to other readers.

bio

Many thanks for this article to Matthew Barby, owner of the Melted Stories travel blog. He’s an avid traveller and loves throwing himself into new experiences. Alongside this he has a passion for music, online marketing and is a complete social media addict. You can follow Matt on Twitter and Google+ to hear all of his latest ramblings.

More tales about elephants

Elephants encounters at Chiang Mai – in Thailand
My daughter’s elephant safari in Chitwan, Nepal
An encounter with the Desert Elephants of Namibia

This guest post is originally published by Heather Cowper at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Subscribe to Heatheronhertravels Don’t miss out – subscribe to Heather on her travels

Why Thailand should be your next holiday destination

In this Guest Post from Agness Walewinder we travel to Thailand to discover the relaxing beaches, delicious Thai cuisine, rich traditions and friendly smiles that keep travellers coming back for more.

Thailand – the “Land of Smiles” is getting more and more popular amongst holiday makers, travellers and tourists and is visited by more than 11 million people every year. Locals often say that once you visit Thailand, you will keep coming back every holiday for the rest of your life. Why? Stunning beaches, delicious seafood, cheap massages, great hospitality and rich Buddhist tradition and history – Thailand has it all and wants to share it with you!

If you are still looking for a dream travel or holiday destination and you are not entirely sure where to go, let me give you five reasons why Thailand should be number one on your list;

Beautiful Koh Phangan Island, Thailand  Photo:  Agness Walewinder

Beautiful Koh Phangan Island, Thailand

Relaxing beaches

Thailand is famous for its Paradise Islands and everyone will find a perfect beach for themselves. Looking for some friends and parties? Head to Koh Phangan where Full Moon parties are held. Dreaming of a nice and quiet place where you can relax? The best choice would be Railey Beach which will surely take your breath away by its blue waters, majestic cliffs and little islands on the horizon. Thai beaches are not only one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but also one of the most relaxing and peaceful. Imagine yourself lying under a palm tree, drinking a coconut juice and reading a book. That’s a picture perfect holiday, isn’t it?

Beautiful Koh Phangan Island, Thailand Photo:  Agness Walewinder

Beautiful Koh Phangan Island, Thailand

 Delicious and healthy Thai cuisine

Thai cuisine is special and unique. Its best spice is “love” as locals cook with such a passion and dedication, which is rarely seen in other South-East Asian countries. Thai food guarantees strong aromatic components and countless new flavours will make your stay unforgettable and finger-licking good. You will discover new combinations of herbs, spiciness, sourness and sweetness. Moreover, the food is very light, always fresh and seasoned with aromatic herbs.You can get some seafood meals, papaya salads or go for a Thai spicy soup. It has its temper and balance: you can either go for “spicy hot” or “spicy not” option. You can also enjoy freshly squeezed juices or cocktails.

Spicy spring rolls in Thailand Photo:  Agness Walewinder

Spicy spring rolls

Low prices

Thailand is a very cheap country and you can notice it right after you arrival. Although some locals will try to rip you off from time to time and quote different prices (most likely higher), but it is still reasonable and much cheaper than Europe or North America. You can get a plate of  Phad Thai (stir-fried rice noodles with chicken, eggs, shrimp or fish with some tamarind juice, red chili pepper garnished with crushed peanuts, garlic, chives, pickled turnip, coriander, lime, spicy chili oil, chili powder, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar) for 30 Baht ($1) or have a Thai full body massage for 199 Baht ($6.66) per one hour. Does it sound cheap to you?

Traditional Thai Pad Thai Photo:  Agness Walewinder

Traditional Thai Pad Thai

Activities

There is such a variety of activities in Thailand that it would be hard to experience them all. Starting with world-wide famous diving spots around Koh Tao, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket or Ko Lanta, you will be able to see underwater world of reefs with a number of shipwrecks and colourful fish. There’s a few great spots for rock climbing near Chiang Mai. For those less adventurous Thai cooking courses are available in major cities, while spas and massages will provide extra comfort for the body and mind.

Papaya salad in Thailand Photo:  Agness Walewinder

Papaya salad

Hospitality

There’s a reason to the saying that “Thailand is a land of smiles” – it’s the hospitality of Thai people – so open and friendly to newcomers. Most of the travellers and holiday-makers who came to Thailand had at least one opportunity to feel just more than welcome. Invitations to family dinners or offers to show the city by a random local, who we stumbled upon by a chance, are more than frequent. Sometimes it’s nice to feel homely atmosphere in a foreign country – and Thailand offers this to you.

Hospitable locals in Thailand, always smiling Photo:  Agness Walewinder

Hospitable locals in Thailand, always smiling

What’s your experience in Thailand? Sharing is caring.

Agness WalewinderAuthor Bio: My thanks for this Guest Post to Agness Walewinder from eTramping.com who, after graduation, left her comfort zone and set off for a journey of her lifetime to China in 2011. She has been constantly travelling the world since then (slowly, but surely as she says), living like a local for less than $25 a day. She became a passionate photographer and adventure blogger sharing her life enthusiasm and travel experience with everyone around. You can follow Agness on Twitter @Agnesstramp and on her Facebook Page.

More tales from Thailand

Exploring the Markets and Night Markets of Thailand
Elephants encounters at Chiang Mai – in Thailand
A culinary trip to Thailand

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Subscribe to Heatheronhertravels Don’t miss out – subscribe to Heather on her travels

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