Tag Archives: paradise

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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Travel | Head to Mauritius for a taste of paradise in 2016

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Photo by Natasha Ramasamy

I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world from the moment I was born thanks to my parents, I think travel must be in our blood because at just 18-years-old my father decided to leave his home country of Mauritius and board a plane to England. Since then he hasn’t stopped travelling with my family and is always planning his next holiday whether it’s to America or somewhere in Europe. We’ve travelled to Mauritius just twice in my lifetime, and I think we’re long overdue for a visit, but each time I’ve discovered yet more tropical beauty that lies on its shores. Mauritius is the ultimate honeymoon destination – it’s gorgeous, white sandy beaches are perfect for sipping cocktails and watching the sun go down. But the fun doesn’t stop there, why do honeymooners have to have all the fun? Mauritius is actually a great destination for all travellers, packed with culture, incredible food, music, dancing, colour and history. And the beauty of it being so tiny is that you don’t actually need very long to explore the whole island. My last visit to the country was when I was 16-years-old, and I was eager to return to visit my family who live in the capital, Port Louis, many of them I hadn’t seen for almost a decade! It was a great opportunity to catch up with my gran and cousins, plus I had ready made tour guides who knew all the best places to eat and shop!

PORT LOUIS

While in the capital city you simply have to make a visit to the Central Market – the perfect place to stock up on fruits and vegetables while seeing the market sellers in full swing. It’s a great glimpse into the culture and how better to enjoy it than by sampling some of the local delicacies – my favourites are a snack of Dholl Puri (street food) washed down with a refreshing milky drink of Alooda. A short walk to the harbour is worth it in the heat, and be sure to take a look at the colonial-inspired buildings along the way. Don’t forget to check out the replica of the dodo, the country’s now extinct bird at the Mauritian Museum, and finish up in the Chinese Quarter for a look at the impressive food displays and dinner.

PAMPLEMOUSSES

Just outside the city you can easily escape the hustle and bustle by heading to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden for the day. Here you can see all kinds of tropical plants including the famous giant lily pads, visit giant tortoises up to 200-years-old – so amazing! Plus deer and fruit bats. The Labourdonnais castle in the grounds is worth a visit and don’t miss out on a rum tasting session at the distillery. Then pristine sandy beaches await, and where better to try your hand at fishing, which is popular with the locals. Sugar plantations line the roads and back in the botanical garden you will find the remains of the first Mauritian sugar factory.

GO SOUTH

You simply can’t miss a visit to Chamarel, where the unique coloured earths sparkle in the sunlight – a phenomenon on it’s own. I can’t help but marvel every time I see it. Follow this with a peek at the country’s religious background as you visit the sacred lake of Grand Bassin, where Hindus gather every year to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratree. Monkeys roam wild around the grounds – but be careful, my cousin and I were chased last time! Just a couple of miles away are the tea plantations and factories where you can sample the different varieties, before heading to Black River Gorges National Park where the Mauritian kestrel can be spotted. See where the mountain meets the sea at Le Morne Brabant, an area that has been declared a world heritage sight by the United Nations. And be sure to visit one of the many waterfalls.

ISLAND HOPPING

Being a tiny island itself, you forget that there are several other small islands surrounding Mauritius, each of these can make great day trips – Trou aux Cerfs and Ile aux Aigrettes in particular. One of my favourite memories from our last trip to Mauritius was a boat trip to Trou aux Cerfs where on arrival I promptly fell out of the boat and soaked myself and everything I owned. The trip improved when I helped the fisherman catch a fresh lunch of fish and shrimps to be barbecued on the beach. It was the perfect tropical island and so untouched.

Photo by Ludovic Lubeigt

Photo by Ludovic Lubeigt

One of the things I really love about Mauritius is that is has such a cosmopolitan culture and that so many different groups meld together so well. You’ll find locals speaking a mixture of English, French and Creole, which makes it easier to understand if you don’t particularly speak one. All across the island you see a mix of religious denominations from Punjabi and Hindi to Tamil and Chinese, my family are Tamil but when I visited I had a chance to experience all aspects of the culture which was great. Music plays a huge part in the culture so be sure to enjoy a performance of the national dance, Sega! It goes well with seafood and a few rums in my experience – the lively dance will have even the most shy on their feet. I remember when we spent Christmas Day in Mauritius and ended up in a busy restaurant filled with music and dancing, plus some amazing lobster! Be sure to enjoy the food in all its flavours – they vary a lot from the traditional Indian and African food, instead offering a blend of all of these flavours that put the street food in a league of its own! It’s a perfect place to travel whether you fancy a romantic break with your other half, a backpacking culture tour or a family trip. Wow, after writing this I’m about ready to book a flight – how about you? If you do fancy a trip, why not contact The Flight Centre.

Have you been to Mauritius? What was your favourite part? What other tropical paradises do you have on your travel list for 2016? 

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My own little slice of paradise – Koh Lanta

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After a day on the road, in the air and on the open sea, I finally arrived in Koh Lanta where I was to meet up with some friends for a few days of birthday celebrations. The ferry over gave spectacular views of the island and neighbouring ones, and I couldn’t wait to hit the shores. Koh Lanta is stunning – when you think of paradise, golden sands, clear blue waters, beautiful shells littering the beach and lots of little shacks with hammocks – that’s basically Koh Lanta. The beaches are beyond beautiful and absolutely deserted. Although this place is paradise – many travellers don’t make it this far and so the lucky ones who do find empty beaches and an amazing, chilled out atmosphere helped along by the fabulous bars along the beach. It’s a diverse crowd who make it here, so far I’ve seen quite a few families with young children, honeymooning couples and holidaymakers – but there are also a fair few backpackers.

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My first night on the island, I was hoping to stay at Bee Bee Bungalows but found they were full on arriving, but it turned out to be a blessing because I then found a lovely little hut on the beach instead. It was less than 10 metres from the beach and the sea, so I could hear the waves crashing on the beach at night – perfection. I love the bungalows, they give such a fabulous experience I can’t imagine you get in a hotel – although the cockroach in the toilet was a rather funny experience, thank god for a flush! I spent my first night eating and drinking at the Reggae Bar just down the beach – this is my favourite place on the island. The music is amazing, the people there are fantastic – I made a great new group of mates that night and partied together, I even moved closer to the girls so we could spend the week together. That night we went to an awesome party we found in the woods with the guys who run the Reggae Bar – it was amazing.

imageimageAfter just one night, I woke up early and walked miles to the next few beaches to see what else was along there – lots of yoga, massages and food. Then I spent the morning swimming in the sea spotting fish and sunbathing until my friends arrived so I could join them at their villa which was pretty lush and had its own pool and jacuzzi! The guys had been living in some pretty awful hostels for the last three weeks so they were really excited to have a bit of luxury for my friend’s birthday. The next few days were spent sunbathing on the beach, exploring the island, having pool parties and something very special for her birthday. We booked to go visit elephants and to feed them before going on a jungle trek to a bat cave and then on to a waterfall where we sat on rocks and pretended to be mermaids. It was an amazing way to celebrate and we were all so excited to see the elephants – they were so beautiful and gentle. It got me really excited for when I spend a week volunteering at the elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai in March.imageimage

After one more night together celebrating Stav’s birthday with a BBQ, beers and a fire show, and letting off some fire lanterns – we parted ways the next morning and I returned to the beach. I definitely missed sleeping on the beach – it was strange to have air con and to not hear the sea each night but I had so much fun with the guys. Now, after meeting up with my Austrian mates from the first night, I have moved into the bungalow next to them at the Reggae Bar and plan to stay a few more days before moving on to Koh Phi Phi for some shopping. We’re having a great time and spent a day on this beautiful tiny beach – the best one on the island is Noi Beach – where we swam and watched the sun set after lunch at a viewpoint restaurant high on the cliff. It was amazing to finally see a sunset, I kept missing them all week! That night, we meta group of French travellers, an American girl and two guys from Switzerland and Holland – it’s a diverse crowd who are attracted to the island. We had a great night laughing around a huge fire on the beach and dancing salsa in the waves.imageimage

The next few days were a blur of yoga, food, sunbathing and swimming. After hearing the water at Koh Phi Phi is full of sewage – one girl even ended up with a lump of poo in her hands, nice! I will get my fill of the ocean before I head over just in case I have to refrain from swimming there and will save myself for Krabi and Koh Tao where I hope to do diving. It’s going to be so hard to leave this place, I seriously love it here and could happily stay here forever. I’ve lost all track of time and don’t want to find it again. But I will force myself to move on in a few days, safe in the knowledge that I plan to return before I leave Thailand. Highlights from the week had be all the friends for life I made, the scooters and exploring, finding our own private beach and playing mermaids. If you go to Koh Lanta, stay av gone Blue Wave Beach Bar, dance to reggae, watch the sunset from the viewpoint over dinner, go trekking through the jungle to waterfalls and chill out.

Have you been to Koh Lanta? What was your favourite part? 

Ab Lucy sign off