img_0122

colombo, sri lanka

I must admit that Sri Lanka wasn’t on my ‘must see list’, but it should’ve been, and I only visited Colombo and an estate in Bentota, and only for a weekend!

You can either get your visa online, or on arrival, depending on your nationality of course!
I always make sure I download the Triposo guide of the country I am visiting, the app is amazing, and you will have all possible information there, including maps, gps, sightseeing, restaurants, hotels,.. and all totally offline.

If you get a local SIM card, there’s an app like Uber in Sri Lanka, called PickMe, you have different types/sizes of cars, and it will tell you the rate etc, it’s super convenient if you prefer to use a car rather than public transportation.

There was an amazing architect in Sri Lanka, called Geoffrey Bawa, he designed some of the most amazing buildings, and is a reference for Architects and Interior Designers when we visit Sri Lanka.

We actually stayed at Bawa’s old house, Residence no 11, in Colombo. They only allow 1 group to stay there at a time, in the upper floor there are two rooms, one bathroom, and a big living study area, where everything is exactly where it was before.
In the ground floor, there are several small spaces, rooms, areas, all linked and all with its own identity. The whole house as an amazing link between the interior and exterior, which is a key to Bawa’s architecture.


The staff is super friendly, and prepared our breakfast in the dining area, and was super helpful to organize our trip to visit Bawa’s Summer Estate in Bentota.

The Lunuganga Estate, in Bentota is about 2 hours drive from Colombo, you need to book to be able to visit, and you can also stay there in one of the few Rooms they have available. The estate is gorgeous, near a big lake, it was Bawa’s attempt to recreate a bit of Italy’s Lake Como for himself, as he never managed to buy a house there as he wanted.
Every single building, water feature and tree, was meticulously planned and designed, nothing was by chance, and everything has its own meaning.


In Colombo, there is also Bawa’s old office, that is now a great café/restaurant called Gallery House, the space is again amazing, and has the most FANTASTIC shop, with the best things for your home, or as gifts, not the touristic type, but the actual good things from Sri Lanka. As an Interior Designer I have to say that this place is both my death and paradise!

Last but not least, from Bawa, if you have time, spend one night at the Heritance Kandalama it’s 4hours drive from Colombo, but is supposed to be absolutely amazing.

A few other must see places in Colombo, are the Seema Malakaya Temple and the Parliament both also by Bawa. The Red Mosque, and the National Museum are other two must see.


We had lunch at the Tintagel Hotel, with a very cool colonial design and quite good food.
And of course — sunset at the Galle Face, in the outdoor bar, which has a beautiful view over the sea. We ended up eating from the Hotel’s buffet — I know, I know, buffet (!!?) I am not a fan of it myself, but this was surprisingly very good, and we tried all sorts of local food.


The people of Sri Lanka were absolutely amazing, and welcoming, I was stopped by the police when I was leaving the airport – because I was going the wrong way, and instead of telling me that I was going to a dead end, these officers started asking me a few questions, about where I was from (we talked about Cristiano Ronaldo of course), what I was planning to visit – very happy I knew Bawa (!), if I had ever been to Sri Lanka,.. and then with a huge smile, told me that the entrance to their country was on the opposite direction!

img_0072

siem reap, cambodia

In 9 months i visited Siem Reap 3 times, so that should be enough to say: MUST VISIT!
Although Angkor is no longer the off the beaten track paradise it used to be, its still absolutely amazing and mesmerizing.

Cambodia’s history is nothing but simple. The country was influenced by several different cultures, such as India and other Southeast Asian civilizations that we now know as Thailand and Laos.
Its history is so complex that i don’t dare to try to explain, as i might mess up big time.

Instead i will just state a few historic facts about Angkor:

* The Khmer Empire was Southeast Asia’s largest empire during the 12th century.
* The center of power was in Angkor, which was the largest pre-industrial city in the world.
* The Ayutthaya Kingdom (also known as Siam) conquered several kingdoms and city-states, as well as Angkor, this affected the country’s economy, culture and older religions/faiths were eventually supplanted by Theravada Buddhism.
* France ‘adopted’ Cambodia as a protectorate in 1863
* A treaty between the French and Cambodia, helped starting the restoration of Angkor Wat in 1908.
* Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953 and has controlled Angkor Wat ever since.
* The works were interrupted by the civil war and Khmer Rouge control of the country during the 1970s ad 1980s.

(This info was gathered from some books and Wikipedia, unfortunately most writings are bias, so if got anything wrong, please do let me know.)

You can either get an eVisa at http://www.evisa.gov.kh, or a Visa on arrival, but make sure you take USD and a passport size photo.
You can also use USD for almost everything, as the locals accept them willingly.

It really helps to have a good tuk-tuk driver, I found mine through a friend that visited Siem Reap before me. His name is ‘Ra’, and i really couldn’t have asked for a better guide in Siem Reap. He’s a young man, very hard working, very gentle spoken, and super friendly.
Otherwise, you can always get a motorbike, or a bicycle, just check the size of Angkor and how many days you have in Siem Reap before deciding.

Most of the times i went to Siem Reap, i would land in the early morning, stop somewhere for a quick breakfast, and then head straight to Angkor. Right at the entrance of the compound your driver will stop at the ticket counter, so you buy your pass, there are different passes – 1 day, 3 day, .., make sure you get the best for what you are planning on doing, and don’t forget that if in your last day you only do the sunrise, it still counts as 1 day.
Make sure you don’t loose your pass, as it’s quite ‘expensive’.


There’s no perfect order of visiting the temples, but there are some that have a special moment of the day when it’s most amazing. There will always be tourists around, so don’t expect to ever be alone in the major temples.

For sunrises, Angkor Wat is an absolutely amazing experience, i usually advise people to watch it from one of the Libraries, it has a great view, and when the sunlight starts coming through the Library its stunning. After the sunrise it’s still definitely the best time to visit the whole temple, it won’t be too hot, and it is quite a huge temple to walk around. If you go during lunch, there is a great restaurant before the entering the temple, where you can have the best chicken curry with potatoes and carrots inside a coconut, just THE best I have ever had.


For sunsets your guides will tell you to go to Bakheng, unfortunately the trees out grew the view to the temples, so now you can hardly see them, still beautiful and worth it, but not as stunning as it must have been. Nevertheless, you can still go to Angkor Wat for the sunset!


Ta Phrom, the temple featured in Tomb Rider, is still my absolute favorite, and every time I go there I feel like I still find new corners, and new spaces. Most of the temples where designed in a design that basically mirrors itself, which means there is a repetition of spaces, and you have 4 corners that are the same. Although Ta Phrom is no exception to that, the trees grew so much into the temple (or the temple over the trees), that nothing looks repeated, and you have completely different spaces. Make sure you take your time here!

A few other favorites of mine, are Bayon, Preah Kahn and Banteay Kdei. In the complex of Angkor Thom, Bayon’s smiley carved faces will make you take dozens of photos of every possible angle, with one, two, three, four faces, and repeat! Preah Kahn is for me one of the most amazing “”off the beaten track”” temples, Ra took us there the second time I was in Siem Reap, and it has a lot of the same characteristics of some of the main temples – some of Angkor Wat’s architecture details and Ta Phrom’s trees for example. It is much quieter than the other temples, and has a gorgeous ‘terrace’ where you have a great view of the whole temple.

Banteay Kdei was the first temple i visited in my first trip to Cambodia, I was solo traveling that day and it just blew me away, much smaller than all of the other temples I just mentioned, but it has a lot of charm.


And of course, depending on how much time you have in Siem Reap, there are so many other temples worth visiting.
In Siem Reap itself, you have the night market that is worth a visit, great street food, you can try the slimy delicacies – I tried snake for the first time in Siem Reap (!), and there are some amazing restaurants worth spending a few bucks. Such as Le Malraux and Amok Restaurant, just amazing local food, and the places are beautiful.
For drinks and clubbing you have Club Street, with lots of bars and cafes that you can pick from according to what you want.


I think after Bagan (Burma/Myanmar), Angkor is my favorite place ever, even though i had seen so many photos of the temples, every time I am there it’s still breathtaking.

postcards from the world

 This collection started in a very-accidental-non-collection-way, when i travelled to Greece circa ’93, for an amazing Athens-Cyclades-Islands-Kusadasi (Turkey) trip.

Years gone by, i found myself always buying postards in every one of my trips.. 

But it was only in 2009, when i was living in Milan, Italy, and started using Postcrossing, that I finally realized i was actually collecting postcards.

In no time i became more and more addicted to getting special postcards, particularly old written ones, that you can buy in antique shops.. I started a list, and apparently its a quite ‘ok’ list.

Living in Malaysia makes it easier to get postcards around the region, so the collection has been growing.. Hopefully i’ll be able to reach my goal/bucket list wish:

“collect a postcard from each country in the world”

  
(on-going list)

AFRICA (14/54)

Algeria
Angola
Benin
Botswana
Burkina Faso
Burundi
Cameroon
Cabo Verde
Central African Republic
Chad
Comoros
Congo
Congo, Democratic Republic of
Djibouti
Egypt
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Ethiopia
Gabon
Gambia
Ghana
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Ivory Coast
Kenya
Lesotho
Liberia
Libya
Madagascar
Malawi
Mali
Mauritania
Mauritius
Morocco
Mozambique
Namibia
Niger
Nigeria
Rwanda
Sao Tome and Principe
Senegal
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Somalia
South Africa
South Sudan
Sudan
Swaziland
Tanzania
Togo
Tunisia
Uganda
Zambia
Zimbabwe

AMERICA (15/35)

Antigua and Barbuda
Argentina
Bahamas
Barbados
Belize
Bolivia
Brazil
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Cuba
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
El Salvador
Grenada
Guatemala
Guyana
Haiti
Honduras
Jamaica
Mexico
Nicaragua
Panama
Paraguay
Peru
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Suriname
Trinidad and Tobago
United States of America
Uruguay
Venezuela

ANTARTICA (1/1)

Antartica

ASIA (29/45)

Afghanistan
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Bhutan
Brunei
Myanmar
Cambodia
China
East Timor
India
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Israel
Japan
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Korea, North
Korea, South
Kuwait
Kyrgyzstan
Laos
Lebanon
Malaysia
Maldives
Mongolia
Nepal
Oman
Pakistan
Philippines
Qatar
Russian Federation
Saudi Arabia
Singapore
Sri Lanka
Syria
Taiwan
Tajikistan
Thailand
Turkey
Turkmenistan
United Arab Emirates
Uzbekistan
Vietnam
Yemen

EUROPE (37/50)

Albania
Andora
Armenia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Belarus
Belgium
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
England
Estonia
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Italy
Kosovo
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macedonia
Malta
Moldova
Monaco
Montenegro
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Romania
San Marino
Scotland
Serbia
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Ukraine
Vatican City
Wales

OCEANIA (3/14)

Australia
Fiji
Kiribati
Marshall Islands
Micronesia
Nauru
New Zealand
Palau
Papua New Guinea
Samoa
Solomon Islands
Tonga
Tuvalu
Vanuatu

* if you are interested in helping me out to complete this list, leave a message in the bottom of the page

IMG_1271.JPG

paris, france

Back in the days when planes wouldn’t reach their final destination without stopping either in London or Paris, i lost count of how many times i made a pit-spot in these two cities without ever walking out the “arrivals gate”.
Well, 2014 was finally the year that i passed through the arrivals gate and ventured through the streets of the City of Love.

On a surprise visit to Portugal, that only my father and one of my best friends knew about, i decided to make two long stops on the way and back from Lisbon: Paris and Amsterdam (–post coming soon).
I missed the old cities of Europe, and nothing better than having KLM and Air France working together to manage to visit two more cities of the old continent, and get my feet for the first time in The Netherlands.

I went through a lot of blogs, guidebooks and maps before i landed in Paris, as i only had 10 hours between flights.

I did what i thought best, so i commuted between the city and the airport by train, and to contradict the quotation of “Parisians are rude” a french man “escorted” me all the way to the train, before going to his office somewhere in the airport.

It was a cool sunny early morning, with a clear blue sky, the perfect setting to start the day.
As a freak control i am, i wanted to make sure i wouldn’t waste any time, and that i would be able to see as much as i could, so I got off the train right in the Les Champs Elysees, where i had decided to start my tour.

IMG_1239.JPG
At the top of Les Champs Elysees lies the most famous arch in the world, L’Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, Arch of Triumph of the Star. It was commissioned in 1806 after Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, and completed between 1833 and 1836.
Engraved in the Arch are the names of major French Victories in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, a list of 660 names (mostly of Generals that served the First French Empire between 1804-1814, and additional names from the French Revolution from 1789 to 1799.
Another important feature is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, over it is an eternal flame, that burns in memory of the dead that were never identified from both world wars.

IMG_1227.JPG
I strolled through Avenue D’Iena on my way to La Tour Eiffel. The buildings are stunning in this avenue, and just beautifully maintained streets and gardens, a perfect work by the great Baron Haussman!

IMG_1240.JPG
In the end of the avenue you can see the Palais de Chaillot, where the old Trocadero Palace lies, built for the 1878 World Fair, our modern age EXPO. And right in front of it, the one of the most recognizable buildings in the world:
The Eiffel Tower.
It was also built for a World Fair, but this time in 1889, and to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution. It was the tallest man-made structure for 41 years, with 324 meters heigh.
It was named Eiffel tower, because it was Eiffel’s company – Companhie des Etablissements Eiffel, that designed and built the tower. You would think the tower was designed by Gustave Eiffel himself, as you are led to believe, but it was designed by the Structural Engineers Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, and the Architect Stephen Sauvestre.

To see this building for the first time was a truly unique moment. I believe i thought about it so many times before that i could hardly believe i was there. And the feeling of being inside a postcard went on for the whole day…

IMG_1278.JPG
Unfortunately the Park du Champs de Mars was very busy as the Bastille Day parade was the day before, so i didn’t manage to see the view atop the park to the tower… But well… we should always leave something to see the next time!

It was still super early, so the Tower ticket booths were still closed, therefore i decided not to wait for it. Instead i walked next to the Seine, all the way till the bridge between the Hotel des Invalides, and the Petit Palais & Grand Palais – the Pont Alexandre II.

The Hotel des Invalides – The National Residence of the Invalids, is a complex that contains not only a hospital/retirement home for the war veterans, but also museums and monuments, that relate to the military history of France. It is also the burial site of Napoleon Bonaparte.

IMG_1281.JPG
Le Petit Palais and Grand Palais were (again) built for an exhibition – the 1900 Exposition Universal.
The Petit Palais now houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts, whereas the Grand Palai, that was dedicated to the glory of french art, still holds museums and exhibitions that relate to the fine arts, and the annual Chanel events! The Palais de la Decouverte (Palace of Discovery), right next to the Grand Palais, focuses on science and natural history.

All these Palaces are stunning! I wish i could’ve opened the front door and wonder around….

IMG_1282.JPG
A little bit more walking, now through Les Champs Elysees until i reached the busy Place de la Concorde.This square changed names 5 times, within 78 years. From Place Louis XV, to Place de la Revolution, to Place de la Concorde, again to Place Louis XV, then finally back to Place de la Concorde… a whole lot of history behind this “little Place”!

Just has its name, it was not easy to cross the square…
Traffic lights, bicycles, vespas, cars, buses,.. and very little time to cross till the traffic lights were green for chaos again! Either way, i made my way to the entrance of the Jardin des Tuileries (the Tuileries Garden).

This is one of the most well know gardens in central Paris, it was created by a Lady – Queen Catherine de Medicis, from the House of Medici of Florence. Her family – the Medici, was one of the biggest sponsors of art and architecture in the Renaissance era. The garden belonged to the Tuileries Palace, that was set on fire in 1871, the fire lasted 48hours, and the ruins of the palace remained untouched for 11 years. These ruins were eventually demolished and sold, bits of the marble and stone where used to build a Castle in Corsica. There is a plan to rebuild the Tuileries Palace, but there are still no private funds for it.
The Tuileries is also the gateway to —- THE LOUVRE!

Once you cross the garden, you are overwhelmed with the stunning architecture that surrounds it. The rich facades, the perfectly balanced windows, you can just feel the history around you, its like your “back in the past” when Louis XIV was still ruling the country.

In the inexistent limit between the Tuileries and the Louvre you pass through another Arc de Triomphe – du Carrousel, that will lead you to the entrance of the Louvre Museum, where the Louvre Pyramid is. The Pyramid that was commissioned in 1984 by President Francois Mitterrand, to handle the enormous number of visitors. The structure was constructed mostly in rhombus-shaped glass segments, and although it was very criticized in its early years, its yet another iconic building in Paris.

IMG_1285.JPG
The Louvre on the other hand, was a royal residence for the French monarchy. Few know that the whole complex of the Louvre actually as a fortress, to protect the city agains potential invaders in 1202, throughout the centuries it extended, until the Tuileries Garden.

I personally love to see old historic buildings in stone mixed with super modern steel and glass structures, the contrast just makes it better. Its like your publicly assuming that you are in a new century, and without reaping the importance of the historical building next to it.

IMG_1286.JPG
I had to register the moment with a nice full body photo, and as i really wanted it t be a good photo, i decided to ask ‘Paul’ to take the shot. ‘Paul” is my monopod, as all monopods – mine was bought in Asia, and made its debut in style in Paris!
So being watched by very curious and entertained european tourists, i set up ‘Paul’ against an outdoor light, and stabilized by my backpack. Prepared the angle, programmed the 10 seconds timer and 5 shots, and ran to the center of the shot!

5
4
3
2
1
.
.

IMG_1271-0.JPG
Tcharam! There you go, a perfect shot!

After the Louvre it was time to go South. I made sure i crossed the Pont des Arts on the way to the islands of Paris.
This bridge is one of the three ‘Love Locks’ Bridges in Paris. Since 2008, tourists have been filling the railings and gates with padlocks – love locks, with their first names engraved or written on them, then trowing the key to the Seine. Which of course is creating a big controversy, as the padlocks are ruining the railings, and the keys are polluting the river, not to mention that the Pont des Arts is an historical bridge in Paris, and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

IMG_1287.JPG
There are 2 islands in the Siene, the Ile Saint-Louis and the Ile de la Cite, the latter holds two of the most amazing religious buildings in Paris: Sainte-Chapelle and the Notre Dame.

I started of in the Sainte-Chapelle chapel, it was built in my favorite architecture styles – gothic, the construction began in some time after 1239, it holds one of the most extensive in-situ collections of the XIII century stained glass in the world.
There is a strong sense of weightlessness and vertical emphasis, the way the arches were designed, allow the structure to be super elegant and slim, and the 15 windows to be tall and delicate.
The Lower Chapel is another stunning space in the Sainte-Chapelle, the walls are covered by paintings, and its most peculiar feature is the breathtaking dark blue ceiling with golden Fleur de Lys, and the red walls with golden Castilian castles, symbolizing Saint Louis and his Castilian mother – Blanche de Castile.

IMG_1316.JPG
The walk to the Notre Dame is full of gorgeous buildings and beautiful alleys that take you to a different time. You keep remembering all those amazing movies that were filmed in Paris, as i had watched a few months ago Midnight in Paris from the peculiar Woody Allen, i kept going back to that movie and thinking about how enchanting life must have been in Paris in the 1920’s..

The Notre Dame Cathedral is also located in the Ile de la Cite, it is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic Architecture, and again — is one of the most famous buildings in the world.
After deciding that Saint-Etienne Cathedral was not worthy of the rote of “Parisian church of the kings of Europe”, Bishop de Sully had it demolished, and according to the Legend followed a vision and sketched the future Notre Dame on the ground outside the original church. The construction began in 1163 and it is believed to have been completed around the mid-1240’s.
Few know that the cathedral was originally painted with vivid colors, as well as the gargoyles and chimeras, the well known crafted statues, made even more famous with the Disney Classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The cathedral has 10 bells, the largest weights over 13 tons and was named Emmanuel.
Fun fact about this bell, on the night of 24 August 1944, an advance column of French and Allied troops took the Ile de la Cite, and by tolling Emmanuel, announced to the city that the liberation of Paris was under way.

IMG_1317.JPG
To finalize the tour, i marched trough l’Avenue de L’Opera towards the Palais Garnier, or Opera Garnier. As an avid fan of The Phantom of the Opera, i’ve always been fascinated by this building, so i had to take a closer look before i left.
The construction of the new Opera de Paris took more than 40 years to start, between revolutions, new prefects, an architectural design competition, and various people involved in the process, finally the construction started in 1862, with the project by Charles Garnier.
One more war installing one more republic, got the Opera’s construction on hold, but eventually restarted as the “acting” opera de paris – Salle Le Peletier, was destroyed by a fire (coincidence?.. humm…). So finally in 1874 the Opera was completed, and inaugurated on 5 January 1875.
One of the reasons the Opera is so well know, is due to Gaston Leroux’s book – Le Fantome de ‘Opera. According to Leroux he was inspired to write the story after visiting the Opera Garnier, when he learned about the mysterious subterranean lake and the chandelier accident in 1896, when one of the chandelier’s counterweights fell over the audience.

IMG_1320.JPG
I ended up skipping Montmartre, cos i only had 1 more hour before i had to head back to the airport, so i decided end the 6hours express tour by going back to the Tuileries Garden.
The garden is just beautiful, and an amazing place to chill in the weekend, specially on a sunny summer day as i was lucky enough to enjoy! And i’m not sure if its normal, but when i was there this July, there were green metal chairs all over the garden, people would just move them around, sit, talk, do picnics, play cards,… or like me: grab a “to-go-cappuccino” and sit overlooking the Louvre!

IMG_1321-0.JPG

IMG_1220-0.JPG

bali & gilis, indonesia

I’ve been to Bali 3 times now, and it took me 3 times to fall love with this “small” island. Like we say in Portugal – a terceira e de vez (“””it happens at the third time”””).

And exactly because of that, i thought it was about time to re-write properly my Bali post.

[ I’ve just noticed – 10 seconds ago, that i fall in love with places a LOT more often than with men… hummm… ]

My first visit was with my now-ex-boyfriend, my second was on a girls-only-trip, and the third with my auntie and my sis – two Asia lovers. So three distinct kind of trips, that gave me three completely different experiences of the island.

I’m also pretty sure that the reason why my third trip was epic was because i learned a lot from the previous two. And of course – because i had full control of the trip, since my auntie and my sis had never been in Bali before, they asked me to just decide everything.
And so did i!

(by the way — i am not a control freak, but my way is just better! lol)

If you want to become a millionaire on an instant, exchange your money into Indonesian Rupiahs! 1.000.000 IDR = 274 RM = 66€ = 83$US. Its quite a challenge to actually know how much everything costs, so make sure you download some app that works offline, and can do the maths for you. I have XE currency, as i find it to be the easiest and most accurate of all.

20131019-145732.jpg

It’s also important to know the size of Bali.
It’s not a tiny little place.
Bali is pretty big.
And because of its kinda “inverted number 8” shape, the volcano in the North, North to South rivers in the Center, and slim connection between the two sides of the island, the road system is not ideal, and usually you only have one possible way to go from point A to B.
The amount of motorbikes on the road is just insane! So i’m pretty sure the reason why the jam is a mess, is cos everyone is trying to stay alive and not kill anyone…
Although i have to say, this chaotic motorbike island makes us take the best photos ever!

IMG_1128.JPG

IMG_1127.JPG

IMG_1126.JPG

IMG_1124.JPG

IMG_1130.JPG

IMG_1131.JPG

IMG_1129.JPG

In order to spare time, we went straight from the airport to Ubud. I thought it would be a perfect start to our 10 days trip, deep inside the rural part of the island.
I booked two nights in Ubud, but in two different hotels. The first night was in Mandy Private Pool, a beautiful place, super quiet, in the middle of the rice fields…

IMG_1134.JPG

IMG_1132.JPG

As we woke up for an early start of Day 1, we had breakfast in our own balcony,… just a perfect start of day!

IMG_1133.JPG

We went straight to the Monkey Temple, right in the middle of the centre of Ubud. This temple is filled, filled with monkeys, so if you are afraid of these super cute pre-human-creatures, skip the Monkey Temple. They will jump on you, steal your plastic bags, and literally will eat on top of your head if you give them bananas!
But thats not all you have there, the jungle surrounds the ancient temple, bridges, animal statues, pathways, and huge Komodo dragon statues. If you manage to go there when there aren’t that many tourists, it will be one of the most stunning places you will ever visit, i promise.

IMG_1135.JPG

IMG_1137.JPG

IMG_1138.JPG

IMG_1136.JPG

IMG_1139.JPG

IMG_1142.JPG

IMG_1141.JPG

IMG_1140.JPG

After Monkey Temple, we went deep in Ubud town trying to find a driver for the rest of the day and the next. And we found the best, most amazing and sweet driver ever — Made ,spelled Madii (+62 (0) 817 4758734). The main goal of the day was Lake Bratan, and he gave us some more ideas where to stop, and it was just perfect.

We stopped by a Balinese Coffee Farm, were had a tasting of different kind of teas and coffees, and tried for the first time the Kopi Luwak!
Yeah yeah, thats the one that comes from poop!

IMG_1143.JPG

IMG_1144.JPG

IMG_1145.JPG

IMG_1146.JPG

We drove through small roads, passing by beautiful typical villas with their own rice field, just breathtaking landscapes, that i can’t find any more adjectives to define them.

IMG_1147.JPG

Finally we reached the Pura Ulun Danu Temple, in the middle of Lake Bratan, in Bedugul… Stunning temple, in a gorgeous setting. The only problem with this temple is the amount of tourists. I would love to be able to be a lone tourist there, and experience its original state, in absolute silence. So try to check with your hotel, tour guide or local acquaintances when its the best time to visit.

IMG_1148.JPG

IMG_1149.JPG

That night we spent at Y Resort Ubud, another beautiful yet more modern hotel in Ubud. Too bad we didn’t have time to enjoy the garden and the pool…. next time!!

IMG_1153.JPG

IMG_1150.JPG

IMG_1152.JPG

IMG_1151.JPG

Early morning of Day 2 Made was waiting to pick us up, to take us to the centre of Ubud to get our tickets for Gili Islands, and for another day of road-tripping!
On the way to the tickets, we walked through this brilliant concrete street, that had been paid by the residents. And to remind us of this beautiful gesture, and their love for Ubud, each of them left behind a piece of them. Through words, drawings, hand or foot imprints, all on the concrete street they helped built.

IMG_1154.JPG

IMG_1153-0.JPG

IMG_1155.JPG

IMG_1156.JPG

We also found a beautiful temple right next to Starbucks Cafe, that its a MUST see in Ubud. The coolest thing about it, is that you actually are not expecting to find it in that place. You literally have a small entrance to the building that holds Starbucks, and as walk in you can see a glimpse of a reflection in what seams like a “small” water pond. When you approach that small “pond” you will find a temple entrance, with two water features, and a slim passage between the two of them, leading you into a staircase, that will bring you closer to the Temple entrance.

IMG_1160.JPG

On this Day 2 we drove once more through Bali’s countryside, this time to go through the well known Telangalang Rice Fields. Again, we fell in love with the small villas, and the small rice fields, and by this time we were already planning with Made our strategy to buy a typical villa started and again: STUNNING. We stopped in a place by the road, had tea, and enjoyed the view!

IMG_1157.JPG

IMG_1158.JPG

IMG_1159.JPG

IMG_1163.JPG

IMG_1164.JPG

IMG_1161.JPG

IMG_1162.JPG

Next was the Tirta Empul Temple (Holy Spring Water Temple) in Gianyar, that Made told us we should visit…. And we will forever thank him for the suggestion.
This was most possibly the most impressive temple i’ve ever visited.
You immediately understand how important this temple is, because instead of being packed with tourists, its filled with locals. There are different levels in this temple, and you must follow some rituals to be allowed into the next areas of the temple.
The first level, has a series of stone carved water sprouts, each of them with its own purpose and meaning. But i don’t want to ruin your own experience, so i won’t tell you more than this: MUST VISIT.
I advise you to get a guide from the temple, i usually prefer to go by myself, but our guide made the whole experience unique. Putu, his name, not only guided us through the different stages of the temple, but also allowed us to go into the prayer area, where only the locals are usually allowed inside.
This single temple made our day, but we still had a long way to go.

IMG_1167.JPG

IMG_1168.JPG

IMG_1166.JPG

IMG_1165.JPG

IMG_1172.JPG

IMG_1169.JPG

IMG_1171.JPG

Our next stop was the outskirts of Bali’s active volcano – Gunung Batur (Mount Batur) and Danau Batur (Lake Batur), where we had lunch overlooking their stunning beauty.
There’s something incredible about being that close to an active volcano. As if you secretly wished that somehow you could see some actual “activeness” exploding from within that pre-historical peek.

IMG_1170.JPG

We continued through the hills and rice fields, but with a more southern destination this time: Padang Galak Beach. A black sanded beach, that is used for the local hindu rituals and offerings. We didn’t find any tourists here, so it was quite a peaceful place. The sand is strangely very heavy, as one of its components is metal. Its the what you would call a beautiful beach, but you can feel how meaningful it is for the local community, and that alone makes it beautiful.

IMG_1173.JPG

IMG_1174.JPG

Next was Seminyak, off to our next hotel – Tony’s Villa, strategically located near Potato Head Beach Club.
We dropped our luggage, and off we went to watch the sunset at Seminyak beach. So far it was by far the best sunset i’ve ever seen in my life. The low tide at the time created this mirror effect, and duplicated the purple colored sky.

IMG_1177.JPG

IMG_1178.JPG

And as the best things in life must be shared… we made a facetime video call to our dad and brother that were in the other side of the World playing a round of golf!
SELFIE TIME!!

IMG_1175.JPG

We finished the night with a super chilled dinner at the Colonial House, where we had most possible the best steak of our lives…

IMG_1176.JPG

Day three was chilling (yes, its still day three!) first by the pool of our AMAZING hotel! Tony’s Villa is just beautiful, calm and with the mood you always hope for in an hotel in Bali.

IMG_1181.JPG

IMG_1180.JPG

IMG_1182.JPG

IMG_1179.JPG

IMG_1185.JPG

IMG_1186.JPG

IMG_1183.JPG

Then by Seminyak beach, which by-the-way, was a bit of a disappointment, maybe cos it was April, but not it was not all type of beach you are used to see in Southeast Asia. Either way, it was a lovely day, and after lunch we just went over to Potato Head for afternoon cocktails and sunbathing by the grass, at the sound of great music. Followed by sunset and dinner.
This Beach-Club-Bar-Restaurant-with-great-design-and-mood-kinda-place has a kind of Beverly Hills meets Miami meets Gold Coast vibe.
Design wise is gorgeous, really tasteful and carefully maintained, staff is quite friendly, and well… the view is stunning! Make sure you go there for the sunset as we did (again), cos its worth it.
Seminyak and Kuta are pretty good areas for fancy shopping, beautiful and mid-to-high end restaurants and bars, and full of expats and tourists.

IMG_1184.JPG

IMG_1188.JPG

IMG_1187.JPG

Day four came really early, as we drove off to Padang Bay to get a boat to our final destination: Gili Islands.

It took me some convincing to add this destination to the trip, mostly because i was worried about the length of the boat trip, but also because i wasn’t comfortable with the fact that we didn’t had the tickets in advance. Which by the way, you can buy them before, but it costs wayyyyyy more than if you buy in Bali. As i said, Made took us to a travel agency, so we paid 500.000 IDR, with pick-up and drop off, so far i believe its the cheapest fee you can get.

IMG_1192.JPG

And there we were.. Padang Bay. In the midst of loads of backpackers, young couples, elder couples, families, friends,…. All looking forward to go to one of the three super small islands between Bali and Lombok.

As we started approaching the Gili Islands, you could already sense that they were pretty unique. Very small, no cars, no roads, no motorbikes, no pollution, and then clear light turquoise water. Perfect for a get-away.

Out of the three, I picked Gili Trawangan, the biggest and more happening of them all. Either way, you can always stay one night in each, as you just need a fast boat to go from island to island. Although Gili Trawangan is the biggest, its still a 2-per-3-kilometers sized island.

Arriving to our stop, we had to jump out of the boat into the sand, then wait till our bags were placed on the beach, and look for our “tuk-tuk-on-an-horse” transport to take us to the hotel. This means of transport has its twerks, so just make sure you follow the driver’s instructions clearly, and keep the tuk-tuk balanced.

In the roads you will find: tuk-tuks, bicycles and barefoot people. Period.
The whole vibe turns you automatically into a chilled-backpacker/hippie/hipster/nomad, it just makes you want to stay in that little bubble for a lot longer than you planned.

The hotel i booked was going to be the best of the 4, i tried to book all the hotels so that the next was better than the previous, and this was just the absolute best!
Its right in the middle of the island, away from everything (at least as much as you can in a 2×3 island). As the tuk-tuk reached Villas Otalia, it was already surpassing all expectations. The reception is this opened porch, in the middle of a perfectly curated garden, with dozens of city-like-bicycles free for the guests.
And by the time we arrived in our room, correction: bungalow, the ladies were WOWed! As images are worth a million words…

IMG_1191.JPG

IMG_1189.JPG

IMG_1190.JPG

IMG_1193.JPG

IMG_1194.JPG

The next days were spent in the main beach, overlooking the next Gili, as there are less corals in the beach (so you can walk into the water, instead of cutting your feet in the millions of bits and pieces of broken corals.

IMG_1196.JPG

IMG_1199.JPG

IMG_1204.JPG

IMG_1195.JPG

IMG_1209.JPG

IMG_1211.JPG

IMG_1210.JPG

IMG_1219.JPG

In the same side of the island, its a pretty cool area to snorkel, i wouldn’t say the best, as we didn’t do any snorkeling tour, and this area is pretty busy.
Our main goal tough was to swim with Sea Turtles. And we did it! It was an absolutely amazing experience to be swimming around these beautiful creatures, and one of my most treasured moments of my life so far.

IMG_1214.JPG

IMG_1213.JPG

There isn’t much to do in the island, but you can always “bike-around”. In one of those tours, we saw a local in the sea, playing around with his horse… Just magical to say the least.

IMG_1200.JPG

IMG_1198.JPG

IMG_1201.JPG

IMG_1205.JPG

IMG_1203.JPG

IMG_1202.JPG

Our “life in the island” would shift to the West coast at around 4/5pm. We would cycle to the other side of the island, and pick a bar to watch the sunset.
Sunsets in the Gilis are almost a law, i would say around 80% of the two-legged creatures in the island, gathers around to watch the sun ending an perfect day.

IMG_1207.JPG

IMG_1206.JPG

IMG_1212.JPG

The rest of the days were spent in absolute chillness, in the same “”””boring”””” routine.
The weather was perfect every single day, and the clouds simply did not come to the Gilis once. They would hover over Lombok’s volcano instead, making the whole scenery even more stunning.

To finish these absolutely perfect trip, we were accompanied by dolphins on our way back to Bali…
Just perfect.

IMG_1217.JPG

Perfect.

IMG_1218.JPG