Tag Archives: tropical

Bali | My bumper guide to getting a bit #EatPrayLove in Ubud

IMG_2178It’s taken a while to get to my final Bali post but here we are, and what better to write about than my time spent in the incredible jungle haven where Julia Roberts famously found love again in Eat Pray Love? Ubud is the spiritual centre of Bali and if you’ve visited the island without setting foot in this jungle paradise, you honestly haven’t seen Bali. It was so different to every other place I visited while there and it was easy to see why so many expats had now chosen to call it home. Easily my favourite place on the island, Ubud is the perfect place to relax and really look after yourself for a while, especially if you’ve just come from partying in Seminyak or Kuta. I won’t lie, I had been indulging a lot and partying pretty hard over there and on Gili T for a few weeks so I was more than ready for a rest and a chance to try out the alternative, yogi, health-food lifestyle for a while.IMG_2188

Planning your day trip

Earlier in my stay on Bali I had taken a day trip with a friend to Ubud where our taxi driver took us to visit the Monkey Forest, the Tegalalang Rice Paddies and Tegenungen Waterfall – as you’ll see from some of the pictures in this post, they are all worth a visit! Ubud is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and while it takes you away from the sandy beaches the island is famous for, it offers something even more beautiful instead. The best way by far to explore the island is by motorbike which you can hire for almost nothing, but we found as there was a few of us it worked out pretty cheap to do a taxi as we managed to strike a deal for around 250,000RP for the day – the average day taxi costs around 3-350,000RP. Our driver was great and told us a lot about the different places we visited, plus it meant we could have a nap in the back of the car instead of driving all day. We visit from Kuta, if you do this make sure you set off extra early to beat the traffic as it gets pretty hectic mid-morning onwards.IMG_2182These three attractions are the most popular and well known for Ubud, plus they are great to combine even if you are just visiting for the day as they are the perfect distance from each other so you don’t have to rush. I absolutely loved the rice paddies – you do have to pay to get in but it is worth it if you go early and pretty much have the place to yourself. We spent a few hours doing the sweatiest hike I have ever done across the fields which stretch as far as the eye can see. We joined a farmer for a cool refreshing coconut and played his musical instruments with him as we chatted with some Swedish guys we met. After, we headed to the Monkey Forest for a wander around an amazing temple that reminded me of King Louis’ in The Jungle Book, monkeys scamper around the forest climbing on tourists and stealing food. It was pretty cool, but oh my gosh I still haven’t got over my fear of monkeys so I was squealing a bit – especially when one stop a water bottle from my friend and started to stare him down!IMG_2183Finally a refreshing dip in Tegenungen Waterfall was a perfect end to the day – it was absolutely beautiful and a perfect place to be for sunset. Despite being quite busy, there was still plenty of space to swim/get photos/relax, and it is well worth paying a little bit to get up to the top! We drove back to Kuta in rush hour traffic which took ages but it was a great day, well planned and we had spent about six hours on the road and visiting the sights. We probably spent around 500,000RP altogether for the taxi, entry to the sights and meals for the day which is equivalent to around £30 – you could probably do it for a lot less if you went by motorbike.IMG_2179

Where to stay?

At the end of my trip, I couldn’t resist joining some friends for a few days in Ubud. It’s a bit cheesy but I really fancied a Julia Roberts experience – some yoga, some healing, some jungle life and some time to figure my next move out. Our friends had booked into the brand new Ons Hostel which they raved about, so I booked in to join them. On arrival with two other friends, myself and one of them were checked into a 14 bed dorm with no-one else in it! The place was so new they were just building up custom but it meant we had the whole place to ourselves. Imagine whitewashed walls, clean fresh dorms with the comfiest beds, luxury bathrooms with rain showers, a swimming pool with an area to sit and eat the freshly made pancakes and omelettes made to order for breakfast. It was like staying in a hotel – absolute luxury. I can’t recommend staying there enough. It is positioned the other side of the Monkey Forest which although separate from the centre of Ubud, it gives you a lovely walk into the centre and a chance to see a different side to the area. Check out this HotelsCombined blog on the 7 Best Value Hotels to Relax in Bali to complete your Bali experience.IMG_2280

Where to eat?

I would really recommend dining at Laka Leke restaurant one evening – our hostel was just down the road so we gathered all 20 of our friends and booked in for the night’s entertainment. The food was incredible, I had a traditional Indonesian curry which was mouth-wateringly good, and as we ate we watched a live performance of the Kecak and fire dance. It was a very interesting performance and there are several others they perform on different nights if you fancy something different. I believe the restaurant will also do pick-ups from your hotel/hostel if you are staying further away. Other favourites of mine included the amazing selection of vegetarian restaurants – I can’t name them all here but there are so many that offer really high quality food. Also, the tiny Warungs – my favourites were the really small, local family run ones who would treat you like a daughter and cook you the best meal from scratch.IMG_2269IMG_2268

Where to yoga?

Everyone talks about Yoga Barn when it comes to Ubud, but after reading up, it sounded like there were a lot of people complaining about having to join huge classes of 60 people. As a bit of a beginner, I wasn’t sure that was for me. But I did spot that Ubud Yoga Centre was just down the road so I signed up for a Bikram Yoga Class at the centre instead. It was cheap and the centre was really lovely, all brand new and very high quality. The class was hard and the heat was a lot to take, but I gave it my best shot and really enjoyed the class, it was lovely to have a good stretch out. Afterwards I was exhausted and spent the day sunbathing.IMG_2277

What to do?

You may have already seen the main sights, but there’s lots more to do around Ubud. Your best bet is to hire a motorbike as we did and go off exploring local temples, rice paddies and villages for the day. We had a great day visiting local craftsmen, getting lost in the rice paddies barefoot in the pouring rain as we tried to find waterfalls and being blessed at the temples. We asked at our hostel who gave us a booklet of all the best places to visit and we worked out way through as many as we could cram into a day. Some to add to your list would include the Elephant Cave, Puri Saren Royal Palace and the Blanco Renaissance Museum. Also, if you get time, the Campuhan Ridge Walk is totally free and looks really beautiful – sadly I didn’t get time.IMG_2276If you fancy sticking closer to the centre of Ubud, don’t forget to check out Ubud Market for some of the best shopping I found in Bali. And head to one of the many salons for some cut price beauty treatments – my friend and I each had a massage, manicure/pedicure and facial for 200,000RP – just £12! And if you’re a bit of a bookworm like me, make sure you take advantage of the many beautiful, relaxing places to snuggle up with a book and a fresh juice – either at a bar or your hostel. If you’re planning a trip to Ubud and need help – let me know by leaving a comment below!IMG_2275

And if you’re heading off on your first backpacking trip – don’t forget to enter my competition to win a backpack to store all your precious possessions!

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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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