Tag Archives: island

Bali | Finding my island bliss – 10 reasons you HAVE to visit Gili T

img_2244I can’t actually believe how much time has passed since I was in Bali living it up with one of my best friends, with the serious lack of Melbourne sunshine I’m wishing more and more that I was back there! If you’ve read my Bumper Guide to Bali, you’ll already know my highlights and top tips for planning a trip to the island, but now I want to focus on one amazing part that you simply cannot miss out on. Gili T is probably one of the most talked about Asian islands other than the party islands in Thailand. It’s the place of tropical dreams and we’ve all dreamt of sitting on those beautiful sunset swings at one time or another. Just a short boat ride off the coast of Bali, it’s just so close it wouldn’t even make sense to not spend a few days exploring the island when visiting Bali – so here’s my top 20 reasons to visit:img_2243

  1. It’s completely different to Bali – you can escape the noise, the traffic and the commercialisation of the main island for a few days of back to basics island fun.
  2. SEA TURTLES! You can snorkel with countless sea turtles, a dream come true! Gather some friends and hire one of the guys on the beach with a boat for the afternoon – much cheaper and better value than the organised trips with 30 travellers to every one turtle.
  3. Those sunsets – Gili T sunsets are some of the most renowned in Asia and trust me, the pictures don’t even do the real deal justice. Head for the swings for that perfect Instagram pic!
  4. Hostels – there’s a great selection of hostels on the island no matter what type of trip you fancy – some of the best/recommended ones include Gili Castle and La Sister Boheme (where I stayed) in the centre of the island – both have good access to the whole island and come with lots of extras.
  5. With no traffic other than tiny little carriages pulled by donkeys, you’re free to explore the island on foot or by bike and it can be done in just a few hours.
  6. Snorkelling, other than sea turtles there is so much to see – some of the best snorkelling I have done around the world with so many fish and amazing underwater sights.
  7. Food – there was such a fantastic array of restaurants and places to get great food on a budget across the island. Don’t forget the Gili T Night Market for the freshest seafood and Indonesian favourites, and make sure you check out my favourite vegetarian restaurant with some incredible health food options – The Banyan Tree.
  8. Partying on Gili T is a heck of a lot of fun, people always seen to get so much wilder when they’re partying on the beaches in an island paradise. From starting out with beers and bonfires on the beaches with my hostel, to raging at the bars like Sama-Sama Reggae Bar, Rudy’s Pub, Evolution Bar, Sunset Bar and many more. My favourite nights were the ones when I ended up partying with the locals in the streets on my way home.
  9. Reggae bars are scattered across the island filled with locals – I had a few great afternoons sat chilling, singing old songs as someone played the guitar and playing with the baby goats that live all over the island.
  10. Even if you don’t fancy partying your way around the island, Gili T is an amazing place to go and enjoy surfing/yoga/diving, or just relaxing on the beaches, with several hostels and hotels dedicated to this purpose. Do your research when you plan accommodation and make sure you end up a one appropriate for your trip.

img_2207Gili T was an amazing week I won’t forget in a hurry – right now sat here in Melbourne thinking about the 10 hour shift I’m working later, I’d give anything to be back there. If you’re thinking of going on holiday to Bali, make sure you include time on Gili T as it was one of my highlights of the whole month I spent over there. When it comes to booking your trip, I would really recommend booking it on arrival – by booking the boat on the spot and just booking one night’s accommodation ahead of time you can end up saving a lot of money which is just more beers! By booking the hostel (La Sister Boheme) when we arrived, we were given a discount island rate that others who had pre-booked online didn’t get. Obviously if you are going peak season, it’s more important to ensure you have a place to stay and that not everywhere is booked out. If you’re planning a trip and have any questions – leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!14568238_10153865005137617_8772185255114116314_n14721609_10153865005192617_4658519999923787707_n

Have you been to Gili T? Where did you stay/eat? What tips would you give to future travellers?

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My bumper guide to Bali – where to stay and what to do?

img_2180From lush tropical jungles to endless white sandy beaches with huge crashing waves, Bali has been described as paradise many a time and after just days on the island it was easy to see why so many expats have made it their home. From snorkelling with sea turtles to visiting temples and perusing the markets, there is no end of amazing sights to explore – it’s just finding the time to cram them all into your trip. Planning a holiday in Bali is no simple task – despite being a small island in Indonesia there is an incredible range of things to do and see – but lucky for you, I’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to! Whether you’re a beach bum, a culture craver, a surfer-type, an adventure seeker, a spa dweller or a nature lover, the perfect trip is waiting for you in Bali. I went to meet a friend I met in Australia for a week of partying and catching up before I headed back to Australia, but that one week turned into nearly a month of fun and exploring this amazing island. So if you’re struggling to plan your trip to Bali, this post will take a look at the best places to stay to get the most from your holiday.img_2190First of all it’s important to think about what you want from the visit – do you want to go all Julia Roberts and find your centre, focus on a health-filled yogi experience, or do you want to party all night and bake on the beaches all day? Do you want to explore monkey-filled jungles or take on the famous Bali surf? For just one island, Bali has a lot to offer and it’s easy to get carried away in exploring more “popular” parts and miss out on a slight different or more unique experience. Plan your trip well and you could have an experience that takes your breath away and stays with you for life. I know that my trip to the island is one that I will remember forever, the best trip ever with one of my best friends doing what we do best – living the craziest, wildest, cheekiest life we can.img_2243

Where to stay?

The beauty of Bali being an island is that everything is fairly close together and it is an easy place to travel around if you fancy a more well-rounded trip. With so many different areas to explore it would almost be a shame to stay in just one place during your stay. Even after spending a month on the island, there was still so much left to see so it’s important to be selective and focus on the trip you really want rather than rushing your experience. After all, island life is all about enjoying the sights, sounds, tastes, and pleasures of life.

Stay to party

Seminyak and Kuta are the partying home of Bali, wild nights out, cage dancing, lethal cocktails and all kinds of crazy fun. For the best music to dance to try La Favela in Seminyak, for crazy drunken fun 18-30 style head for Kuta, and don’t forget the gay clubs in Seminyak if you really want to dance until the sun comes up. Check out my review of Grandma’s Hotels here. Or if you’re after a hostel, you can’t go wrong with M Boutique Hostel – one of the best I’ve stayed in across Asia. You may also check out these 18 Best Value Hotels To Party in Bali  compiled by HotelsCombined for more ‘party and stay’ ideas in Bali.

Stay for surf

Kuta, Caangu and Uluwatu are the key places for surf depending on how experienced you are. Stay in Caangu for the full surfer lifestyle in this chilled out beachy town. There are surf camps, lessons and help available all over for beginners.

Stay for yoga/health

Where else other than Ubud, head to the leafy paradise to find your centre, channel Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love and to eat all kinds of delicious vegan, vegetarian, healthy goodness. You’ll rejuvenate your soul with yoga at The Yoga Barn and Ubud Yoga Centre and come out new woman. Check out brand new hostel – Ons Hostel, with a pool and free breakfast, plus huge, clean dorms and great owners – it’s a perfect place to stay in the shadow of the Monkey Forest.

Stay for island bliss

Head to Gili T and Gili Air if you find Bali too busy and crave peaceful island bliss. Tiny islands just off the coast of Bali, they’re amazing for a visit and well worth a few days. I stayed at Gili La Boheme Sister which was fantastic but I’d also recommend Gili Castle which was just around the corner and hugely popular – both are party hostels and good for meeting people but not the place to stay for a relaxing holiday.img_2207

Here’s my top 15 experiences you don’t want to miss in Bali: 

Uluwatu Temple

One of the best places to witness a spectacular Bali sunset, this Balinese sea temple is bound to take your breath away. Perched on top of steep cliffs that tower 70m above the Indian Ocean, the temple features stunning Balinese architecture and is one of six key temples believed to be Bali’s spiritual pillars. It even overlooks the daily Kecak dance performances which gives visitors a perfect opportunity to experience traditional Balinese culture in a truly magnificent setting.

Tanah Lot

Slightly further along the western coast of the island, Tanah Lot offers the perfect combination of Balinese culture set against Indonesia’s wild landscape. Another sea temple, it feels completely exposed to the elements as huge waves crash on the shore and against the visitors who come to pay their respects at the temple. This temple is the perfect place to watch the sunset and to really understand why so many fall in love with Bali’s raw, natural beauty.

Monkey Forest

Of course it wouldn’t be a tropical holiday without a trip into the jungle and where better to get a taste than in Ubud? In complete contrast to the beaches of Bali, Ubud is full of lush jungle vines and at it’s heart is the incredible Monkey Forest. Like a scene from The Jungle Book, it captures your imagination as monkeys climb and leap from branch to branch. While the ancient temple brings the culture of years gone by to life in front of you.

Tegalalang Rice Terraces

One of the most iconic images of Bali – those incredible rice terraces that stretch on forever with their vibrant beauty. You may have seen the picture a thousand times, but trust us, nothing compares to having that sight in front of your eyes, to the intense humidity, and the sweet, earthy smell. Be sure to try and head there early before the hottest part of the day and you’ll beat the crowds. Don’t let the heat put you off walking around this incredible landscape, you’ll find more beauty awaiting on every corner.img_2181

Swimming with sea turtles

Surrounding Bali and neighbouring Gili T and Gili Air is the most incredible coral reef that is just teeming with life and waiting to be explored. Grab a snorkel and head down the beach or hire some diving gear and go further out for some of the most incredible sights. Swimming with sea turtles is a must while you’re on the islands, hire a boat on Gili T and head off for the day to all the best spots. Make sure to pack an underwater camera!

Island paradise on Gili T and Gili Air

Just a short boat ride away is Gili T and Gili Air – two island paradises that will provide a perfect escape from Bali for a few days. Much quieter and with none of the busy traffic that plagues Bali, they provide a perfect refuge to kick back and relax with your loved ones. Those spectacular pictures of Indonesian sunsets you’ve been setting as your screensaver at work? Head to the beaches and you’ll get a chance to witness them with your own eyes. Truly breathtaking.

Tegenungen Waterfall

It’s not a trip to a jungle paradise without waterfalls and luckily Bali has plenty to choose from but by far the most spectacular is Tegenungen. Just a short distance from Ubud, this one is worth arriving early for to avoid the crowds. Take your swimsuit and dive into the fresh waters, swim into the cave behind and stand underneath the powerful waters as they plunge off the side of the cliff. You can even climb up to the top of the waterfall for a small fee – it’s well worth it for stunning waterfall photos.

Mount Batur

Get into full adventure mode by taking part in the sunrise trek to the summit of this active volcano for an incredible sunrise. Hike up in the cover of darkness to watch the first rays of light stretching across Bali. Towering 1,717m above sea level, climbing the third highest peak in Bali is the highlight of many traveller’s Bali experience. Nearby there are also hot springs to relax in after the climb.img_2209

Surf’s up

Bali is renowned for it’s incredible waves and attracts countless surfers each year who just can’t get enough of the landscape and the lifestyle. Whether you’re just a beginner or have been surfing for years, there is a perfect beach for you. Kuta, and Canggu are popular areas for surf camps aimed at those just starting out but also have some pretty big waves to challenge the more experienced. Uluwatu is a haven for experienced surfers who dare to take on the crashing waves.

Seafood at sunset

Imagine a beautiful island beach wedding at sunset, live music and fresh seafood. Perfect right? Head to Jimbaran for the evening and you’ll experience the romance and luxury of Bali on a budget with great food and free entertainment as the sun slips below the horizon.

Nightlife and a foodie’s heaven

Bali is infamous for it’s nightlife and while the club scene may not be for everyone, there is a huge range of ways to entertain yourself of an evening. From foodie heaven, to raging clubs/bars in Seminyak and Kuta, to beach parties in Canggu or live music and cultural performances in Ubud – you’ll never be at a loss for evening entertainment.

Yoga in Ubud

It wouldn’t be Bali without a reference to Eat Pray Love, but Ubud truly is an amazing place to find your centre. Where better to try out some yoga classes than in a beautiful studio overlooking endless lush, green jungle before heading to one of the local restaurants for a fresh fruit smoothie?img_2211

Exploring the countryside on motorbike

By far the best way to see Bali and to experience the real way the Indonesians live outside of the towns. Witness the true beauty of the local people and countryside as you explore the island at your own pace, you never know what hidden delights will be waiting for you.

Pamper at the spas

Asia is well-loved for it’s food, and for the amazing massages. It wouldn’t be a trip to Bali without indulging and the best thing about Bali is it caters for all budgets. Whether you’re a backpacker or a luxury traveller there is a spa for you, treat yourself after a long day of exploring the island.img_2154

What was your favourite Bali experience? Can you recommend any places to stay?

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Indonesia | Explore Yogyakarta, the soul of Java

imageWhen I travelled to Bali last month, I only planned to stay for a week but I fell in love with the Indonesian culture and the incredible landscape. A month later I only left because of my visa but I know for sure I’ll be back in the future to explore more of Indonesia in the years to come. There are thousands of incredible islands waiting to be explored and each come with their own incredible sights, customs and experiences just waiting to be discovered. From the jungles of Borneo to the beauty of the Gili islands and the wildness of Komodo Island – Indonesia truly captivates the soul. One area I would love to visit is Java, and when the team at Hotel Tentrum Yogyakarta asked me to write about my perfect trip there, I couldn’t resist the chance to share it with you guys. Yogyakarta has long been described as the artistic soul of Java and it’s easy to see why when it has combined the traditional Balinese culture with modern living. Now famed for its arts and culture, the city remains protective over its customs combining the new with the old.imageIf you’re planning a trip to the city, be sure to check out some of the incredible natural sights that lie all around, delve into the history of years gone by and indulge in the foodie highlights around the city. Don’t miss these top sights:

  1. Stand in awe of the magnificent Prambanan Temple, the 9th century Hindu temple is part of the Indonesia UNESCO World Heritage Site, being one of the largest Hindu temple architecture in Southeast Asia. Just 18km outside of Yogyakarta, it can easily be reached by bus and is well worth a visit.
  2. Just a short walk from Prambanan, the eerier Sewu Temple will leave you with chills as you walk around and attempt to uncover the mystery of this captivating temple. Be sure to explore every dark corner to discover some incredible carvings.
  3. Even for those who usually don’t hike or climb, the short hike to Mount Merapi is a sight that will leave you humbled as you walk through the leftovers of homes shattered by the 2010 eruption of the volcano.
  4. For a peek behind-the-scenes into the opulent world of a sultan, visit the Taman Sari Water Castle and explore the huge complex that used to be a former royal garden.
  5. Try Gudeg, the most famous dish in Yogyakarta, this unique Indonesian dish is a stew made from young jackfruit (nangka) with palm sugar, coconut milk, meat, garlic, and spices.
  6. Shop at Jalan Malioboro and Pasar Beringharjo for bargains when it comes to silver jewellery, food and almost anything you can think of. Barter with market stall holders for the full Indonesian experience.
  7. In total contrast to the temples and culture of Yogyakarta, head out for a day trip to Jomblang Cave if you fancy an adventure. Visit the ancient forests, try your hand at vertical caving and lots more. An astonishing natural sight, prepare your camera for some amazing shots.
  8. The cable cars at Timang Beach will give you a day off sightseeing as you travel suspended high across the bay and enjoy the beautiful sights.
  9. Fancy dosing up on a bit more local culture? The Ullen Sentalu Museum showcases a lot of old photographs, paintings, fabrics, old letters and statues that show Javanese culture.

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If that’s whet your appetite for a visit, why not take a look at these Yogyakarta hotel deals and start planning your trip? Have you been to Yogyakarta – what was your highlight? Can you recommend any places to visit?

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Half Moon fun, raving until dawn and getting inked in Koh Phanang

imageThis is probably going to be one of the hardest posts I’ve ever had to write, not because of some deep emotional turmoil, but because Koh Phanang holds some of the best travelling memories for me so far. How are you supposed to express that in words? Yes, it’s happened, I’ve become one of those people who left their heart on the island. I went with high hopes but low expectations to the island, with plans to meet up with a few friends I had met previously in Phuket for the Half Moon Party. I arrived two days early and hadn’t booked anywhere to stay, so it was just luck I happened to meet two lovely girls at the pier, Maggie and Steph – we ended up rooming together in a bungalow on the west side of the island and had the best time sunbathing and chilling out. It was really nice to see this side of the island and to realise there was much more to Koh Phanang than most of us realise – this side was more aimed at couples and families on holiday, which meant the beaches were far more untouched and we even managed to find one hidden away in a little cove which was just stunning.imageAfter a couple of nights it was time for us to part ways and after a round of goodbyes, I headed over to the other side of the island for a day of shopping in Hadrin with Steph before she moved to the other side of the island for a yoga retreat. After I checked into my new hostel – Baan Thai Backpacker – we headed into Hadrin for a browse round the shops and a peek at the beach. It was actually really lovely considering how touristy that part is, normally I wouldn’t really like this kind of area, but it had a kind of charm – especially when I saw the beach! It definitely helped that in the heat of the day, many of the tourists were either still in bed or staying out of the intense heat so it was a lot quieter than I expected. Later in the day I returned to the hostel – which was one of the best hostels I have stayed in! I can’t rave about these guys enough, Karen and Tristan are the coolest hostel owners ever and it was great having them join in with the partying and even showing us around. If you’re in need of a place to stay, this is the best place for the Half Moon Party and is surrounded by lots of other cool parties, it is a short drive from Hadrin but would also be perfect for the Full Moon Party.imageimageI was finally reunited with my little gang and what lots of new recruits – everyone staying at the hostel was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever met so many friendly and like-minded people in one place, and it was perfect for anyone travelling alone but looking to make friends. That first night a huge group of us partied all night long at the Maya Jungle Party which remains my favourite party of all of them – the music was the best, I love raving in the jungle and we had a great gang that night. After dancing all night, we headed to the beach for a late night swim – perfect end to the first night. The following day, a group of five of us headed out on scooters to explore the island and some waterfalls – it was a perfect hangover cure and we had a great time. Koh Phanang is a good island for exploring on scooters and it’s nice to get off the touristy part and explore by yourselves – just don’t head down the gravel paths as one of our friends had a bit of a skid.imageimageThat night was the Half Moon Party and we had the best time getting dressed up in our bright colours, getting our faces painted and of course, slathering each other in UV paint. Our hostel hosted a huge pre-drinking party that was actually even more fun than the Half Moon – it was brilliant having the whole hostel together getting painted up and partying. And one of the fun things about meeting people from different countries has to be learning different rules to the drinking games and getting caught out when you forget. We finally headed to the Half Moon Party (1,000 bt including a bucket) and the next few hours are a bit of a blur of crazy excitement, lots of dancing and buckets. Amazingly our group of five managed to stay together despite the queues to get in, and we ended up raving at one of the stages for what felt like hours. Everyone was in the happiest mood and was just going for it – that’s what I love to see, people covered in sweat with UV paint everywhere having the time of their lives. We all had an amazing night and I’m so glad I got to experience Half Moon with these guys.imageThe next day we all felt a teensy bit delicate but after forcing ourselves out for breakfast we decided to head to Hadrin to chill by the beach – it was just what we needed to gather our energies for that night. Before we knew it, a few cocktails by the beach and a bit of browsing the streets suddenly turned into a group tattoo. (Sorry mum and dad, meant to tell you but I forgot!) so now five of us have matching tattoos to remember the week by – don’t worry it wasn’t entirely random. We all wanted to try bamboo tattoos, well a few of us did, and we kind of peer pressured one guy jerk getting his first tattoo. But it was a fun thing to do and I love my tattoo, it was brilliant to see them do bamboo tattoos, which heal pretty much instantly and don’t penetrate the skin as deeply lessening the chance of infection. If I had to have a matching tattoo with anyone, I’m glad it was these guys.imageThat evening we headed to the Ban Tai Afterparty on the beach at around sunset, it was pretty damn beautiful to see the sun setting from the comfort of a hammock with some good music in the background. Each party had a very different atmosphere and different people, this one was much more chilled out with a trancey dance floor inside if you wanted it. We spent the night talking to a lot of randoms, attempting to tightrope walk and dancing our hearts out. It was really nice to party with a change of scenery after two nights in the jungle and we met some real characters at this party including a 74 year old who moved here from Norwich when he retired and goes raving four times a week – what a legend. The next night, after another day on the scooters, we decided to have a night in watching movies and spending some time together as we made plans for Koh Tao – we just couldn’t bare to part ways yet so we planned to island hop the very next day.imageimage

 

Have you been to Koh Phanang? What was your experience like? 

Ab Lucy sign off