Short escape to paradise

School holiday has arrived and that meant traveling for me. Although just for a short 5 days, but I packed my bags and headed to the airport , excited to discover a new country, which is just 3 h away from Sydney.

Lucky with a window seat, I watched amazed the turquoise blue water of the sea and was ready for a few days of warm weather and beach.

Arriving to New Caledonia

The view looked quite good already from the plane.

As soon as I arrived I went to the shuttle and shortly I was headed to the capital of New Caledonia: Noumea, my home for the next 5 days.

I was between the last people on the bus to be dropped off, so the journey to Noumea lasted much longer than I expected, almost two hours.

By the time I reached the city I was starving, so my first stop was a restaurant.

Parfums d’Olive has every week food from different countries and I was there for Croatia’s turn. I paired my delicious meal with a glass of Chardonnay and I was totally enjoying my holiday.

My dinner at Parfums d’Olive

The weather was pleasant and the atmosphere nice, people very friendly and even open to speak English.

New Caledonia is a French island, therefore the official language is French, but assuming because they get lots of Australian and New Zealander tourists, thanks to the location, people are very open to speak English and it made things much easier for me. 

My first night was relaxed, after dinner I went to my accommodation and had an early bed time because the following day I had a tour booked.

Little did I know that my next day will turn out to be completely different from what I planned.

I got up early, at 6:45 to be at the meeting point for 7:40, as agreed with the tour company. I waited and waited and at some point I decided to ask for help because there was no tour bus coming to pick me up. My Australian phone number didn’t work, so I went into a hotel and asked the receptionist to call the tour company and ask why aren’t they coming to pick me up. He was very kind and helped me and soon I found out that the pick up point was actually in another place, so I missed my tour. I thanked the receptionist for his kindness and started wandering around, at first quite upset. I went to Baie des Citrons and walked around, then decided to go for a coffee, connect to the wifi and research what can I do in the area.

Relaxing at Baie des Citrons

The day was looking to be beautiful, warm and sunny. 

I found out that I was near a very nice lookout , so I decided to walk there. Along the way I met a friendly French lady, who spoke a bit of English and we ended up walking together and taking pictures of each other with the beautiful views. I especially liked the beautiful blue colors of the sea.

Ouen Toro, the name of the hill, from where you can see the city, is an aprox 30 min walk from Baie des Citrons and it’s a popular location for people who wish to start the day with sport. I saw many people walking or biking or jogging.

View from Ouen Toro

After completing the walk we said our goodbyes with my new French friend and we parted ways. I decided that my next stop will be Place de Cocotiers but I wasn’t sure of which way I need to go so I asked directions from a lady who was on the side of the street with a few more people, they were Jehovas witnesses. The lady that I asked for directions kindly offered me to take me there by car .

So I got a ride all the way to Place de Cocotiers, where there was some sort of musical event happening.

Cathedral Saint Joseph, near Place de Cocotiers

I hang out around there for a while , walked around, discovered The Best Cafe, where I ate a delicious crepe filled with fruits and cream and soon after that I went back to my accommodation which was very near.

The crepe I ate at The best cafe

The following day I decided to take a daytrip. Amedee island, where I was supposed to go with the tour, didn’t seem to be working out, the boat was fully booked, so I went to Ilot Maitre instead. Ilot Maitre is a 20 min boat ride from Port Moselle and it’s a small island, where there are overwater bungalows and the color of water is absolutely stunning.

Ilot Maitre
Beautiful Ilot Maitre

I spent a good few hours just sunbathing and enjoying the 27 degrees. When I went back to Port Moselle I met up with two of my new Latino friends, we had dinner at Le Bout du Monde and then we headed to another little island, called Ile aud Canards, which was just a 5 min taxi boat ride.

We went there to watch the sunset and it was spectacular. Probably the best place to watch the sunset while in Noumea.

Sunset at Ile aud Canards
New Caledonia sunsets

On day 3 I met up with a lovely lady from Tahiti and her local friend and we went for breakfast to Ilot Maitre. So during this trip I ended up going twice to Ilot Maitre and to be honest I’d happily go again. It’s a nice place, breakfast was amazing and the color of the sea very beautiful.

Second visit to Ilot Maitre

Unfortunately my trip was too short to explore more of New Caledonia, but at least I had enough time in Noumea.

Other things that I enjoyed while in Noumea were:

Port Moselle market

Market at Port Moselle

Port Moselle sunset

Sunset at Port Moselle

Sunset at Anse Vata

On day 5 my flight was at 10 am back to Sydney, again I was lucky to have a window seat and could watch for the last time the beautiful colors of the sea and wave goodbye to New Caledonia. Would be great to go back sometime…

‘Til next time, New Caledonia 🇳🇨
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My favorite hikes around Rio

Already before going to Rio I knew that it’s an amazing city for outdoor lovers. Plenty of hiking opportunities and I was ready to do a few of them. Four days out of the two weeks I spent in the city I went hiking and I really enjoyed. 

Pedra da Gavea

In my opinion the best hike that you can do around Rio. It’s also the hardest one, which involved proper rock climbing with ropes , which was a first for me. It’s definitely a challenging hike but at the same time very rewarding too. And the views!! The views are amazing both along the hike, but especially at the top.

Hiking up to Pedra da Gavea
The most beautiful view from the top of Pedra da Gavea

The whole hike, including the rock climbing took aprox 4 hours, luckily along the way there were people who were willing to help me because sometimes it seemed impossible to complete the hike. All sweaty and with my body shaking, I felt so proud of myself that I reached the top. 

Pedra do Telegrafo 

A much easier hike than Pedra da Gavea, Telegrafo is as popular. The hike itself is not too long, maybe around 1 h, but the line for the photos is at least an other hour usually. Actually that was the hardest part to deal with because it was very hot and you’re basically in the burning sun waiting to take the perfect picture. There’s a professional photographer at the spot, who I luckily hired because my hiking partner took horrible pictures.

Pedra do Telegrafo

Pedra Bonita

Translated as “Beautiful Rock”, this hike is one of the easiest ones that I did but still with very rewarding views. From the top you can see Pedra da Gavea and the beautiful coastline of Rio.

Pedra Bonita hike

Two Brothers

Out of the four hikes that I did, this was the easiest, less than one hour hike, but in the heat it wasn’t the most pleasant, however the views were worth it. We took an Uber and then a motortaxi took us through the favela, all the way to where the trail starts. From then it’s quite straight forward.

Two Brother hike

I listed the hikes in the order of preferance for me. There’s plenty more hikes around Rio, which I’d be happy to do if I ever go again. As much as I loved Pedra da Gavea hike, I’m not sure if I’d be willing to do it ever again. I was sore for the following 3 days… In any case hiking in Rio has been one of my favorite activities. Highly recommended.

Four days in São Paulo

I’ve been warned about São Paulo as being dangerous and especially intimidating city considering it’s size, however to me it didn’t seem so intimidating. Dangerous, yes, in some places I didn’t feel exactly safe, but quickly ubered myself out of such places. Actually there was only one sketchy place where I felt a bit out of place.

Day 1 

My friends and I went to the rooftop of Unique hotel, Skye bar for amazing cocktails and beautiful views of the city. Very enjoyable place that if I ever go again to Sao Paolo I’ll revisit.

We arrived just in time for the sunset, which was not necessarily impressive but the views were still quite spectacular.

With friends at Skye Bar

After a bit of warm up at Skye bar, my friend Vanessa and me headed to a bar, can’t recall the name, where we ended up singing karaoke after a couple of cocktails. It was a fun night, we met a very nice local couple, they even ended up giving me a lift to my accommodation.

Day 2

The day started with meeting up with Vanessa, who’s a professional photographer that came with her camera ready to capture some nice shots of me exploring her city. We went to Beco do Batman, which was just a few minutes walk from my accommodation in Vila Madalena. The murals we found were beautiful and the atmosphere very laid back. Vila Madalena neighborhood was the perfect base for me, being full of nice little restaurants and cafes, I checked out a few.

Beco do Batman alley

After Beco do Batman we went to the famous Avenida Paulista, walked around and had nice conversations along the way.

Avenida Paulista

On Avenida Paulista it’s a must to go up to the Sesc Building for amazing views.

View from the Sesc Building

Day 3

This is the part where I felt a little bit strange… I went to Mercado Municipal to try the famous mortadella sandwich, which was delicious, however the area is full of homeless people and it’s just not the place where you’d like to hang out. Straight from the Uber I walked into the market, where it’s completely fine, but outside it’s just a weird vibe. The market itself is quite impressive, the vendors give you many types of exotic fruits to try with the hope that you buy some of their produce. I ended up trying at least 6 fruits that all tasted delicious.

All the fruits at Mercado Municipa

I enjoyed hanging out at the market, but the highlight was definitely the mortadella sandwich, which basically is a giant sandwich with at least 10 layers of ham. We were three people and we shared one and all of us was full after eating a portion.

After such a treat we headed to Ibirapuera Park, a big park where people go for their work out, to ride a bike, like we did, or just to chill on the grass.

Chilling in Ibirapuera Park

Day 4 

On my last day in São Paulo I checked out the Japanese neighborhood of Liberdade. It’s a beautiful neighborhood where there are lots of cafes and restaurants. I ate a delicious crepe at Hachi Crepe&academy.

Hanging out in Liberdade neighborhood

Although people say that São Paulo it’s like a jungle, to me it didn’t seem that chaotic at all. It’s busy and vibrant, so after four days I was ready to leave it and search for the sun and the beach, but it wasn’t overwhelming for me.

The real Rio: favela – go or not to go?


The first thing Brazilian people told me when I started my amazing journey around Brazil, was, I quote: “Under no circumstances go anywhere near a favela.” And what do I do on my second day in Rio? Hell, yeah, I’m totally going to a favela!

It’s no joke though, that place can be not just intimidating, but real dangerous and to be honest I was skeptical at first, it certainly wasn’t on my to do list, but everything changed when I met Sally, the super adventurous and fearless American lady, who together with her son are involved in a project helping people living in the favela. She told me so passionately about the project and gained my trust and interest when she mentioned Diogo, who grew up and lives in the favela. Diogo, was going to be our guide around the favela. I decided, yes, I’m gonna go and see how is it.

So yesterday at 5 pm we met, took an Uber and was headed to experience my very unique Brazilian favela visit. Worth to mention the fact that most Uber drivers refuse to drive to the favela because of the crime and danger they may encounter there. So we were driven basically until a certain point in the favela, where Diogo met us and we continued walking around. It was unreal to think that I’m there and can see how people live their life, which is a whole different reality from mine or yours. We walked around a bit, saw the houses built next to each other, saw some people , who were harmless and they minded their own business, greeting Diogo and us as well. I felt safe the whole time, but I’m not writing this to encourage visiting favelas. I think some organized tours might be a good option, but I wasn’t going to take any of those. To me it felt safe because I knew Diogo is part of that community, a respected member, who they know won’t bring people there unless it’s for a good cause.

Fogueteiro favela
Me checking out the favela vistas

And speaking of good causes, I’d like to spread the word about the project Diogo is involved with. He is a 33 years old luta livre instructor, which is a kind of self defense sport, that he and another instructor are teaching to the kids in Fogueteiro and some other favelas around Rio. It started small, just a few kids and now had grown to almost a hundred kids from the ghetto, aka favela. The illegal housing in the hills of Rio is the place of lots of illegalities and bad examples for the kids, so the aim of this project is to show kids a way of possibly breaking out from there, teaching them the meaning of community and discipline, basically giving them the hope of opportunity. I’ve seen those kids and their innocence, there love for life and joy was incredible. I received so many hugs and even some spoke a few words in English and were curious to know a bit about me. It was honestly very touching and so sad to realize that unfortunately some of them may turn out gang members,drug addicts or delicvents just because the place where they belong to turns them into that. On the other hand, I witnessed so much potential and desire to succeed. We watched them having one of these self defense classes and they were so determined to do well. Even the youngest one had lots of energy to compete maybe with a more experienced member.

The kids at the self defense training

Some parents joined us to watch the self defense course and they were super nice, although they spoke no English. From what I heard there are lots of hard working people that have been stuck in the favela and navigate through the tough life that they have been given, every day facing possible danger.

Me chatting with the local kids

To get to know more about the project helping these kids, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/d5eg9f-favela-fighters?utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer and if you can donate a bit , please go ahead , every little means a lot for a child growing up less fortunate than you.

As we finished watching the self defense training and the heavy rain calmed down a bit, we continued our way around the favela, still got soaking wet within minutes, seeing a lot up Rio from a different angle.

Me being soaking wet
The streets in the favela transformed into rivers within minutes

At some point, at the site of the Main Street we saw a guy with a massive guy just casually hanging out. Not an everyday vista, but we were safe with Diogo. As we reached a reasonably safe place, we called an Uber and left the favela. I was so emotional and touched and in the same time humbled and grateful, it was a good reminder to don’t take things for granted and enjoy the little things just like the kids enjoyed the rain. They got wet and they didn’t care, they just laughed and run around. This memory of seeing powerful on another level but still combined with joy, happiness and so much potential, will stay with me for a long while. Having had the opportunity to see this side of Rio is really a unique chance that the regular traveler doesn’t get.

Grenada – the place that transformed me entirely

Grenada was my first contact with the Carribean and although I had some ideas about it before, the culture shock has been inevitable. I knew I’ll love it before going there because in general the island lifestyle is cool everywhere, but here it’s in particular special.

I suppose I need more time in general to adjust than I thought. I was getting slightly annoyed about many things that function differently than in other countries. Such as when the taxi driver showed up whenever he could and everything was happening in slow motion a bit for my rhythm. With all these, there’s something special about this place and it’s people.

I got there just a day after Independence Day , but luckily I still managed to participate at some local news events.

My stay was initially supposed to be just one week, but sadly due to health issues I ended up being stuck for a month… Looking back at it I’m grateful for the experience because it put me face to face with myself and made me realise how ignorant I’ve been and taught me numerous life lessons.

What impressed me the most was how strong the community is over there. It felt like I’m visiting a little village, where everyone is connected and the mutual support is the main characteristic. I received so much love and support in the most unpleasant of circumstances that it was overwhelming and even suspicious at the time and I was unable to appreciate it right then, looking back at it I certainly do appreciate.

I didn’t do so much as I’d normally do, but there’s a few places I visited and liked, such as:

1. Esther’s bar and Grand Anse Beach

Grand Anse Beach has been named the best beach in the world for a good reason, it’s really beautiful. Along the beach there are several hotels and my favourite bar, where I spent a lot of time with a fellow traveler. For delicious, but strong cocktails I highly recommend.

2. Grand Etang National Park

Grand Etang National Park is great for hiking, meeting monkeys and admiring Grand Etang Lake. The lush green scenery is very calming and comforting.

3. Welcome Rock

In my opinion the best viewing point on the island. The hike is easy and the view is absolutely incredible.


4. Horse riding

At Bonanza Stables apart from the horses you get to see also a donkey, some cats and dogs and duck. It’s like a mini animal shelter, the cutest being the Rottweiler puppies.

5. Belmont Estate

To learn about chocolate making and taste the best ever chocolate, this place stays in my memories. It’s a shame to say that I’ve been living for years in Switzerland and never visited a chocolate factory, just to find out that even Switzerland is getting the coco from Grenada.

Oh, and apart from learning about the chocolate making process, which involves much more work than I imagined, you get the chance of meeting some cute animals too and if I recall correctly, Rainbow, the talking parrot.

6. Saint George’s

The capital city of St George’s is colourful and small, easy to get around just by walking. Fort George and The Carenage area are worth for a visit.

6. BBC beach

Much smaller than Grand Anse, BBC beach is way less crowded than other beaches, a good opportunity to hang out where mainly locals hang out.

7. La Sagesse beach

Another nice beach, especially great at sunset.

8. Waterfalls

Every Grenadian I met recommended me to check out some waterfalls. They are really nice and the hikes there will get you muddy, so a splash in the water will be quite refreshing .

8 best things to do in Ubud – Bali

Ubud is the most touristy place in Bali ( of course I skipped the popular beach destinations such as Kuta, Seminyak and Uluwatu ) that I enjoyed and where the crowd was there but didn’t feel disturbing. As the matter of fact Ubud and the surrounding attractions offered me a few of my most memorable Bali trip moments. Ubud itself is small but packed with plenty of restaurants and cafes, however if you are after a different sort of experience head to :

1. Greenkubu Cafe

It’s just a short drive from Ubud and it seems to be still unknown for the tourists  or I was just lucky when I went there, but it wasn’t busy at all. It’s perfect for a delicious lunch in a scenic setting, where food comes at reasonable prices and it’s served by friendly waiters, that are generous enough to give you also a passion fruit right from the hanging vines that are all over the venue. It’s easy to spend a few hours here because it’s not only the great food, drinks and desserts that may keep you staying , it’s also the typical Balinese swing that you can hop on for a modest 25K IDR, whereas at other places for the same fun they charge four times more. 

2. Tegenungan Waterfall

With so many waterfalls on this island, there’s a few nearby Ubud too and you won’t escape the huge crowds at them. If you’re in the zone it does worth talking a look at Tegenungan, but swimming there is a no,no,no, as the water is dirty and lots of rubbish all over. 

3. Tegallalang rice terraces

The magnificent rice terraces for sure offer an outstanding view from any angle you’d look at them. The most popular and visited rice terraces in Bali, usually teeming with tourists, around 4 pm on a weekday I surprisingly bumped into just few people. 

4. Mount Batur sunrise trekking

My ultimate best Bali moment and my very first night trekking that rewarded me with a gorgeous sunrise at 1717 m . It’s a must-do if you’re a nature lover with a fairly good fitness level. On the main street in Ubud there are numerous companies selling their tours and the prices start from as low as 280K and can reach double. The driver picked me up at 2 am at my accomodation in Ubud and after picking up a few more people, we were driven to have breakfast – at 2:30 am for God’s sake! – followed by an aprox 1 hour drive to the base of Mount Batur, where we met the local guide that handed us a torch and off we went up the mountain… For like 2 hours. It was steep and not always easy but we made it just in time for the sunrise. At 6 am sharp we all looked in the same direction and were lost for words when the sun popped out from behind Mount Agung and started coloring the sky in a harmonious variation of pink, orange and purple. Even the monkeys started to gather around us for the show, we thought, but in reality they were just after our food. 

5. Campuhan Ridge walk

A much easier walk than Mt Batur, which is free and starts right in the center of Ubud, the Campuhan Ridge walk is a great way of escaping for a moment the noise of the village and just enjoying the surrounding nature. It takes aprox half an hour to reach the end of it and the best time is to go early morning or late afternoon because it can get quite hot and there’s no shade at all along the whole walk.

Instead of shade, there is another of my favorite places though:

6. Karsa Spa

Following the Campuhan Ridge walk, almost at the very end of it you’ll spot Karsa Cafe and the spa with the same name. I’ve booked my treatment aprox two weeks in advance because I read it’s a very popular place and gets booked out  quickly, so I wanted to make sure I’ll not miss out on my two hours of pampering. The one hour traditional Balinese massage was followed by half an hour scrub and another half an hour flowerbath. My therapist had been a real sweetheart and did her best to make my experience a special one, even hopping up on a chair to take the perfect photo. 

7. Kajeng rice field walk

One of the reasons I fancy Ubud is that there’s a few walk routes that you can do in nature. The starting point is in the center of Ubud and the walk takes you through the village of Kajeng, which is authentic and it has a local charm to it. The whole loop takes around one hour.

8. Ubud Market

I’ve spotted a few boutiques where shopping was tempting, however if you’re after the local vibe and you’ve got the bargaining skills, it’s Ubud Market where you should head to. From clothing to handmade purses and perverted bottle openers, everything is available “at a good price” as the vendors say.

Good to know: the first “ good price” they offer is always the highest, in most cases they drop it to less than half when you’re ready to walk away without buying their product.

Munduk and around – Bali travel tips

I’ve never heard of the little village of Munduk before my travel to Bali, but people that have been there described it as peaceful, mountainous and pretty. I thought it does worth a try, so spontaneously hopped on a shuttle bus in Ubud, direction Munduk. The ticket cost me a modest 150K IDR and the journey took three hours. The drive to Munduk is in particular scenic, passing next to rice fields, lake and the mountains. The road is almost the whole way very curvy, I’ve been warned by a fellow traveler that I may get sick, but that didn’t happen, I was just enjoying the panorama.
When the driver suddenly pulled over and claimed we’ve reached central Munduk, I was looking with disbelief though because that didn’t look like a center at all, unless the center consist just of a restaurant on the side of the road. It was just me and another traveler, the rest of the passengers continuing their way further north. We got off and looked around, nodding towards each other that it’s impossible to be right in the center of Munduk and there’s nothing around. Luckily her internet reception was working, cause mine refused loading, this way we figured we’ve got more than 1 km to walk to actually reach the village and our accomodations. With our backpacks on ( cherishing the fact that I travel light ) and a few bad words told, we started rolling ( not literally ) downhill for the next few minutes until eventually reached the actual center of Munduk. According to the locals the shuttle bus normally drops people on the top of the hill, which is still bizarre because it’d really take just some extra minutes drive to the village itself. 
However, the mountainous setting is gorgeous and very peaceful, gives you the feeling that you’ve just traveled back in time. 
In any direction you look there’s the stunning Mother Nature smiling back at you.


Not only nature is beautiful, the locals are in particular nice people. It was enough to walk once from one end of the village to the other and locals were already calling me by my name, but they have never heard of the existence of my country. Once in Munduk don’t forget to:

Indulge in delicious local food 

As small of a village that Munduk is, it still offers numerous restaurants with spectacular views. 
Warung Classic has been my absolute favorite for the amazing food and the best spot to watch sunset and Warung Dong Paloh for the super delicious breakfast and the signature Balinese black rice porridge .

Take a dip in the gorgeous waterfalls 

I could rave about the great food, but it’s not just food that I’ve been so enthusiastic about, it’s also waterfalls. Yes, the Munduk area is probably the best in Bali when it comes to ticking off the list the most spectacular waterfalls. Walkable distance from the village center, there are three of them: The middle falls, Melanting and Red Coral. Each of them require a visiting fee of 10 -20 K IDR. I made it only to Red Coral waterfall and I was more than delighted with the scene, but I’ll let the picture speak for itself.


A short drive from Munduk, followed by a little steep but enjoyable hike, nestled in the lush forest, it’s the spectacular Banyumala Falls or simply Twin Waterfalls if the Indonesian name sounds too complicated. An absolute must visit, Banyumala is gorgeous and so refreshing. The best time to go is early morning, before the crowds invade it. I got there around 8:30 amand no other soul was there, except my two travel buddies for the day, but one hour later, when we were leaving there were already people coming. The entry fee is 30K IDR and it includes a small bottle of water, which comes handy considering the hike. Regardless, carry plenty of water with you wherever you go, it’s hot and humid at any time of the day and night in Bali. 

Visit temples and lakes

Lake Bratan, with its famous Beratan Lake Temple is located near the town of Begudul, less than an hour drive from Munduk. It’s the second largest lake in Bali and rated by Huffington Post as one of the 20 most beautiful lakes in the world. Tourists from all over the world visit this place, the temple being the icon of Indonesia. It’s certainly beautiful, but since it’s so extremely touristy it doesn’t represent anymore such a strong cultural and religious meaning.

If most people visit the popular Beratan Lake Temple, the hidden gems hunters go trekking through the jungle and canoe over the lake to find the less famous version of it.
Lake Tambligan Temple is situated beside Buyan Lake and although you can drive there from one side, it’s way more interesting, challenging and satisfying to sign up for a two hours jungle trekking adventure.
The cost of the trekking with an English speaking local guide is 275K IDR and it does worth every penny. First things first, our guide, Gudi ( I’m pretty sure that’s the wrong spelling ) handed each of us a bamboo trekking stick and we started venturing into the rain forest, following carefully his passionate explanation about the trees that we were seeing.

Along the way, in the middle of the jungle we stopped at a little temple, which he educated us about, mentioning that locals trek there on a daily basis to do the traditional offerings ritual. Quite an effort of them to do that daily?!


Gudi told us also about the previous years floodings and many more interesting information that kept us interested while following the trail. Time passed quickly and we weren’t even tired when we reached the lake and have been invited on the canoe, where we didn’t even have to paddle. Crossing the lake in the canoe has been relaxing and filled with beautiful mountain views. The temple is quite unique and the whole trekking and canoeing experience just adds to it.

Get your photo taken at Handara Bali Gates

Heading to the Begudul area it’s impossible to miss the famous picturesque gates that are all over social media. It’s actually the entry to a golf course and resort and in no time became so popular, that now they even charge 30K IDR for a 10 minutes photo session in front of them and the receipt you get is called  Selfie ticket. Hahaha!  Been there, done that…

Relax in Bali Botanic Garden

It provides a great escape to enjoy the cool temperatures under a tree and get familiar with the rare tropical plants and wildlife in their natural habitat. Ideal for any age, the gardens offer a vast variety of activities and families, including accomodation or treetop adventure park. 

Wake up for the sunrise 

Munduk is great not only for sunset, but sunrise is spectacular too. The early hours of the day are being announced by the roosters ( which annoyed me most times ),  I didn’t need to set an alarm, but after I dragged myself out of the bed I was in fact grateful to the noisy creatures.  Needless to say that the hardworking locals were not even close being as sleepy as I was, it looked like they were going full power already at not even 6 am. 

I’m sure there’s much more to do in and around Munduk, but I’m afraid my only three days there allowed me to do just the above mentioned ones. It’s been one of my favorite parts of Bali though, lots of memories made, nice people met and beautiful places visited. Sadly, during the hikes I did around there I’ve seen a lot of trash left behind, which seems to be a general issue in Indonesia. On that note, I’d like to add a reminder: while traveling please, please :

Padangbai and it’s hidden gems

Most people use the little coastal town just as a transit from Bali to the Gili Islands or Lombok, without knowing that Padangbai has more than that to offer. 
I spent not just one, but two days there, indulging in finger licking delicious and ridiculously cheap local food and sunbathing on the nicest beach I encountered during my Bali trip. 
Everything is within maximum 15 minutes walking distance, but for those that prefer the two wheels, of course renting a scooter is easy to arrange.
Not a fascinating place at first, but when you reach the white sand beach, you surely have a different opinion.
Bias Tugel or White Beach or Secret Beach, as locals like to call it, is easy to reach, although it requires a light hike, hence advisable to wear sneakers. I wasn’t having the best of the time in my flip-flops, but no major difficulties occurred either.

The way is pretty straightforward, the trail is easy to follow, what’s slightly confusing is that the few signs indicating the beach is 300 m away appear all along the way and the number doesn’t change. It’s like you walk and walk but there’s still 300 m to go?! Anyways…
It’s a small, but serene beach, which happened to be quiet and most importantly clean!

Sadly, most of the beaches I’ve seen in Bali were not left without trash, so I was delighted to have found one where the sand is soft, the water blue and clear and no leftover plastic bottles and such. The few little restaurants by the beach offer not only food and drinks, but also beach beds and relaxing music for the perfect ambiance. 
Locals proudly let me know that it’s not only Bias Tugel that they’ve got, I should check out also Blue Lagoon. With such an inviting name and after such a positive surprise with the white sand beach, of course my next stop later that day was Blue Lagoon. And there dropped my enthusiasm … Basically the exact opposite of the first one, this beach is dirty and I certainly didn’t feel any desire of even stepping into the water because the plastic bottles were floating even there. It’s meant to be a good snorkeling spot, I can just hope that people will stop leaving their rubbish behind. I literally spent 10 minutes at Blue Lagoon and struggled to avoid the trash while snapping a few shots.


There’s a nice looking restaurant overlooking the water though and the walk from the town to the lagoon is enjoyable, but at this time I’d suggest going there with no high expectations.
Other than that, Padangbai is relaxed and friendly, locals are very eager to invite you to try their food at the warungs. My favorite eating place has been Padangbai Billabong, which is on the way to the lagoon. The food is fresh, well prepared and service is great.
I also noticed that fastboat tickets from Padangbai to the Gilis or Lombok are sold at half price than in Amed, although the distance is longer. 
Thumbs down: everything  seems to be moving in a slow rhytm in Padangbai, which is not such an issue in general, but nobody seems to be respecting any sort of schedule when it comes to transportation. I’m literally waiting for a shuttle bus for more than an hour and no sign of it as of yet. 

Gili Air sunsets and chilled out island life

I reached Gili Air by fastboat departing from the little coastal town of Amed. The journey took roughly 40 minutes, however the boat leaves following a not well defined schedule, ticket sellers claiming it could be 9:30 am or 10, in many cases ending up 10:30 or even 11 am. The average ticket price for one way is 300K IDR, which includes a complimentary glass of water on board. 

Gili Air is the quiet sister of Gili Trawangan, known as the party island, the favorite of young British backpackers. The third of the Gilis, Gili Meno is the smallest of the three and for strong swimmers it’s reachable in a few minutes  by swimming from Gili Air it’s that close.
As I wasn’t looking for the craziness that Gili T has to offer, nor for total isolation on Gili Meno, the most suitable for my taste sounded to be Gili Air and frankly, as soon as I stepped on land I was convinced I took the right decision by choosing it.
The locals greeted me with friendly smiles and kind nods, offering their services in a generous but not insisting manner. At the harbour horse pulled carriages were available to transport you to your accomodation, those being the only transportation method, apart from the regular scooters and bicycles that you can rent at every step for just a few dollars.
As nothing is far away by walk actually, I made my way to my accomodation by strolling the cute, unsealed roads of the island, passing next to the mosque and other important buildings, such as health clinics and warungs ( aka local restaurants ). Speaking of mosque, the Gili Islands are predominantly Muslim, while Bali is hindu, but the rest of Indonesia is also Muslim. Confusing? It was for me as well, hence I asked some locals and the only logical answer I’ve got was that considering Bali islands geographical localization and the resistance to the new religion at the time, together with the Dutch colonies that preferred hindu over Muslim , the predominant religion on the island remained Balinese hinduism, while the rest of the country adopted a strong Muslim influence.
The small island vibe is pleasant and enjoyable, such a joy watching how simple the locals live and keep the positive outlook over life, even though natural disasters brought challenging times on them on several occasions in the past in forms of tsunamis and earthquakes.
The island is still in recovery after last years distructive tsunami, which Made, the chatty warung owner describes as : “ the scariest event that  I ever witnessed.”
Between the activities specific to the region is snorkeling, stand up paddleboarding and other water sports, but a simple walk all around the island will be very rewarding too. It took me in total two hours to walk around and the best time to do it it’s at sunset, the Gili Islands being famous for magical sunset views.
Plenty of restaurants and beach bars to choose from also, Gili Lumbung in particular serves amazing food and has live music every evening, except Friday. But watch out: whether in the hammock, on the swing or next to a cocktail, chilling on Gili Air becomes addictive after a while, my stay ended up being extended with two nights and I wouldn’t mind returning there .

Wesak Day 2018 Kuala Lumpur

I must admit the term Vesakha or Wesak didn’t mean anything to me until a few days ago, when I heard about a parade that was going to be happening near my accommodation in Kuala Lumpur.

I started researching online about it to see if it may represent me any interest to participate at all.

I found out that it’s also called Buddha’s birthday, which started to shed light on the topic. It’s a holiday celebrated by Buddhists and some Hindus and it commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.

Wesak Day is on May’s full moon day and it’s public holiday in Malaysia.

The service started at the Buddhist temple Maha Vihara in Brickfields at 6 pm with meditation.

The streets were decorated as for celebration and lots of people gathered, unfortunately many beggars too.

The first float was carrying a big Buddha statue decorated all around with lots of flowers and in front a little Buddha that was being washed carefully by every single person that lined up for the ritual that represents the purification.

Several other floats followed, each of them carrying a different Buddha in a shiny and flowery set up and most of them having in front the tiny Buddha for the washing procedure .

In the honor of Buddha’s teachings, according to which we shall manifest generosity, volunteers were offering free soup, water and a little package that included a candle, a few flowers and some candies.

Ready to join the parade, we lit up our candles and started walking the streets of KL with a feeling of happiness in hearts and smiles on our faces .

The full moon was shining bright from between the skyscrapers during the whole route that ran approximately 12 km and lasted more or less 4 hours, ending at the same place where it started.

For Buddhists a celebration, for locals a day off, for tourists something new , for me another unique Kuala Lumpur memory.

Happy Wesaka!