Part time travelers with tips and reviews to help you make the most of your limited vacation time
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It may take 10 hours to get from Cusco to Puno on the big green bus of Turismo Mer but is it worth doing or just a waste of a day? The post The big green bus from Cusco to Puno appeared first on La Vida Global Travel.
If you are a fan of nothing more than ticking the boxes when it comes to visiting the world’s most overexposed tourist Meccas, and monuments per minute is how you decide on the success of a trip, then you will will be excited to know you can move from Cusco to Puno in a little under a single airborne hour.
Which means you could literally check off Machu Picchu and the floating Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca in a single, manic weekend. For others who love to travel it also means you will have missed so many less prestigious, but equally as culturally significant places along the way.
We didn’t really expect to be using “public” transport on our Peregrine Amazon and Inca Adventure but there we were just after breakfast being shuffled on to an ostentatiously green bus for the ten hour trundle across Peru. I expected this would feel like an eternity.
At the unvacationlike hour of 7 am we pulled out of the bus terminal and waved a weary goodbye to the somehow slow paced and yet buzzing collection of streets, buildings and people known as Cusco. It had only been a few days but Cusco felt as comfortable as a heated snuggie and a place of which I have vowed to return.
Once onboard it we had quickly become aware that this was no “chicken bus”. Comfortable seats, snacks available, commentary along the way and the glorious knowledge that we would be stopping a number of times along the way. Not just to give our bodies the chance to try a different position to that available on the bus but to explore and learn about some very significant places in Peru’s history.
Oh, and a buffet lunch to sweeten the deal. Everything you are about to experience this day costs less than 60 USD per person.
What a surprise, we are stopping to see a church. Whether it be Europe or Latin America you will get to the stage where you feel visiting one more church will see you curled up under the alter mumbling “don’t they know how to build anything else?”.
And so in just a blink of an eye (as long as your blinks last for approximately one full hour) we arrive at the quaint but not jaw dropping Andahuaylillas Church. From the outside it looks like the same stereotypical Spanish influenced church that seems to pop up in every small town around here.
But walk through the door and you will find something that sets this Church apart from its many lookalikes. The interior is a spectacular work of art, an incredible mix of the traditional Incan religious beliefs and the newly arrived Catholicism being force fed to the locals.
I have to give props to whichever Spanish leader came up with this plan as it is quite genius. The invaders were having mixed results in trying to convert the locals to believe in their one “true” God, and killing all those who held out was starting to seem a little short sighted. The answer was to “bend” the Catholic beliefs a little for future gain and to show how God was also the boss of the Incan Gods.
The frescoes in this church incorporate a number of the Incan beliefs into more traditional Catholic inspired Bible stories. Links to Pacha Mama, the Incan version of Mother Earth, and the sun god Inti take important, but obviously secondary roles, in many of the paintings.
The idea was that God would be easier for the locals to accept if the two religions could be shown working together. It was a success and certainly made it much easier over time for the Spanish to convince the locals that one god was better than many.
As well as artwork as captivating as anything in Europe there is also a staggering amount of gold in this place which also sets it apart from most other local churches around the Americas.
Another pleasant surprise was that the bus trip also includes a knowledgeable guide to give you the low down on the places we visit for the day. Informative and hard to believe what great value this trip is becoming.
Souvenir shop perused, eyes well and truly filled with stunning visions, photos snapped, that must mean it’s time to hit the road again. Not a bad first place to break up the trip and already more fun than flying.
OK so one and a half blinks of an eye on the bus this time, or 90 minutes for those of us with more average eye control, and the next stop is a little known but hugely significant site for the Inca.
The Temple of Wiracocha stands tall on this impressive site. Considered by many to be one of the most important trading hubs of the Inca empire, Raqchi ruins not only contain the remains of the Temple but also a dozen attached residential buildings and about 150 storehouses. One could say it was the Singapore pre-Hispanic South America.
Traders from across the continent would converge here to buy, sell and swap. Grains, trinkets, tools could all be found here. To see the storehouses stretching out in the distance again makes you wonder how this empire may have developed if not for those pesky and murderous Spanish.
Speaking of murderous Spanish, we have them to thank for the destruction of much of this important site. The Temple must have been quite a sight in its day, almost 100 metres long and 25 metres wide it was the largest single roofed building in the empire. It also featured a zigzagging corridor inside which represented the relationship between Wiracocha and the Incan cosmos.
So, the Spanish laid waste to this massively significant historical site but at least they left a new church in its place. As we know, they did know how to build churches that look exactly the same and were hardly ever used!
After getting your fill of the reminders of mindless destruction you can visit some local craftsmen, descendants of the original inhabitants, creating wonderful products as they have for generations.
We visited a husband and wife painstakingly painting some beautiful ceramics and couldn’t stop ourselves from splashing a tiny amount of cash on some adorable little Toritos, ceramic baby bulls that look way more expensive than they were.
Now that our spiritual and historical hunger had be sated our actual bodily hunger decided to force itself upon us. Back on the bus and after a mere 30 or so more loops of the big hand we were shuffled off and herded into a decent little restaurant called La Pascana.
While the Michelin star wielding food critics are unlikely to be excited by the buffet on offer it is more than adequate, clean, and best of all included in the price of a bus ticket. Grab an included dessert and water or soft drink and if you still feel like complaining then you will find the llama in the yard next door will be the only one that might listen
Bellies full of better than questionable food it was a case of everybody out of the pool as the next busload of hungry travellers lined up outside the door. Now it was time to get high.
Seriously… the next stop is the highest point on this trip, the air is thinner than a supermodel and breathing is a challenge. On the bright side the views are quite spectacular and it’s a great place for a llama selfie or to buy a warm hat from the small group of locals who have created a mini tourist market.
Why a warm hat? Well it’s pretty cold at 4350 metres above the ocean and those funky Peruvian beanies are awkwardly cool, in my awkwardly cool opinion.
Not only is the La Raya Pass a stunning piece of countryside, a wide open plain in the style of the old Hollywood Westerns, flocks of llamas grazing which is much less than in the style of old Hollywood Westerns but doubly amazing in that it is on the top of a fairly substantial mountain range.
Oh, and if that’s not enough to make you start Googling images and telling yourself it is a place you need to see for yourself, it has the widely accepted title of being the starting point of the mighty Amazon River. The distant Chimboya Glacier is where it all begins.
Almost at Puno now where we get to have one of the highlight activities of my life, to experience the strange and awesome floating Uros Islands of lake Titicaca. But there is one stop left and it is another interesting sidenote to this long and interesting day.
The little town of Pukará was the home of a major pre-Hispanic civilisation which ruled the roost in these parts for around 2000 years from 1600BC, give or take a year or two. There is a museum here that hosts a pretty impressive collection of artifacts including a largish statue of Hatunñaqac, which roughly translates to the executioner.
So after seeing this nasty dude holding a severed head it should come as little surprise that the description appears quite accurate.
The other fun fact about Pukará is they seem to love there bulls, especially the little ones known as Toritos. I did ask our native Peruvian guide as this stage what I considered a reasonable question.
If toritos are little toros, are Doritos little Doros? And if so what is a Doro?
She considered this for a moment before turning away. I am not sure if she did not know the answer and was embarrassed or she thought me an idiot undeserving of her time. To this day I am sure it is the former.
In truth these little bulls seem to adorn almost every roof in the town and symbolise good luck. The locals associate the bulls with the growth of their small community since cattle was introduced by the Spanish.
They are the major tourist trinket in the surrounding areas with almost every craftsman fashioning their own versions of these little guys. I bought a cute little pair, they are pretty cool souvenirs and I helped support the community, sounds like a win-win to me.
And no I’m not talking about Puno but rather the lake upon which it hugs. Lake Titicaca, which our local guide advised us is made up of two words of the local Quechuan language, titi which means Puma and caca which means mount. It is a reminder to them of the felines that roamed the area in the past.
He also advised us the correct pronunciation pushes the two c’s deeper from the throat rather than the usual k sound in English. In other words, he said, titicaca is mount puma while titikaka (how gringos say it) means puma pooh!
The lake is pretty spectacular and it is hard to believe a body of water this big exists this high above sea level, but that’s another story for another day.
While there is no doubt this day is very long the time simply slipped away. There is a perfect mix of travel and stops with more than enough to do at those stops to keep your mind of the driving part.
Well congratulations Mr and Mrs box ticker for getting here hours before us on your flight and beating us to see the floating islands, now you can move on to glimpse the next thing on your list. Meanwhile I have learned more about the impressive people of old Peru, learned to hate the Conquistadors even more, and have two little bulls as reminders. Not to mention that I did it at a much lower price.
I think I will continue doing things the slow way. You might see more things, but I get more experiences.
We would love to hear your thoughts if you have done this trip or tell us about a time you took the slow way and had a great surprise.
In a country globally known for it's Inca and pre-Hispanic civilisations, floating islands and mysterious ancient lines on the ground, it is easy to overlook the natural beauty available in Peru. The post Why should I go to the Peruvian Amazon appeared first on La Vida Global...
In a country globally known for it’s Inca and pre-Hispanic civilisations, floating islands and mysterious ancient lines on the ground, it is easy to overlook the natural beauty available in Peru. We are not usually fans of waking up wild but at least this didn’t look like your run of the mill campground.
To be honest the main goal of our South America trip was to spend some time gazing in awe at Machu Picchu and bouncing on the floating Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca. But it was interesting that out tour itinerary also included a few days in an eco-lodge in the Peruvian Amazon, which sounded a little bit special as well.
It’s a nice way to start a trip, going to a place you really know nothing about and have little idea what to expect. It’s like a version of living on the edge for safety conscious people. And Amazon eco-lodges sound very exotic!
Now before the geography Police come crashing through my front door to read me my right to consult an atlas, I will clarify that there is no part of the enormous winding waterway known as the Amazon River that barges across the border into Peru. We are in fact taking the liberty of including all parts of the catchment area which shall be referred to as the Amazon Basin. Crisis averted!
We hopped a short flight from the bustling Lima Airport to the grandly named but substantially less busy Padre Aldamiz International Airport in Puerto Maldonado which is one of the main entry points to the Peruvian Amazon Basin. Next stage, a quick and bumpy minibus ride to the tour office to leave our main luggage and grab our pack down bags.
I don’t know whether it was the small children running through the house and trying to sneakily check out our group of interlopers or the many chickens ignoring us to go about their daily chicken business, it could even have been grandma doing the washing in a big tub beside us but whatever it was it was not something you would expect to see in a tourist company office.
Bags packed and tossed onto the roof of the minibus it was time for another 10 minutes of offroad style driving down the streets of the town as we headed our embarkation point on the banks of the Tambopata River.
As you pull up at the main office / giftshop / restaurant you start to realise that things are a bit more primitive in this part of the world. And I mean that in a good way. In many parts of the world when you first arrive and the tour company has a fancy office, fancy uniforms and fancy beverages you may start to wonder how authentic an experience they may actually be providing. But here you get a feeling that this is more about showing you the local heritage and less about becoming a global tourism brand.
Hat and cold drink purchased to combat the blazing sun it was time for the next mode of transportation, and while maybe not exactly the dugout canoe I alluded to in the heading, it was only a step or two above that.
After navigating the “rustic” staircase and jetty we were settled into the longboat. There had been quite a bit of recent rain which had made the river look more like gravy than the pristine blue water you may expect in a rainforest. Seeing this in other parts of the world may make question the cleanliness and have you rethinking your travel plans but here it just seemed to add to the adventure.
For 45 minutes we swept down the river, pausing occasionally to witness some local wildlife or watching the indigenous locals at work. There was also a welcomed local snack of rice and veggies cooked in banana leaves which was pretty tasty. And finally we came upon the front door of what would be our home for the next three days, the Nape Lodge.
You may now be wondering how things might deteriorate so much to have me jumping to that heading, and the truth is it was an amazing place in every respect.
What I mean is that the local tribe are the Infierno people, a name which translates to their land literally being Hell. Now i’m not religious but if this is Hell then I don’t know what all the fuss is about.
The first building that comes into view is the communal dining, lounge and bar area where you will take all your meals, meet before heading off on your daily adventures and settle in for a refreshing beverage each evening. From there a path branches off to the individual accommodations.
The first thing I noticed after entering our room was that there appeared to be an entire wall missing. I wasn’t sure if this was due to cost saving measures, poor design or if they were just waiting on a window shipment to arrive. Whatever the reason we would be sleeping under a roof, protected by what I hoped was an industrial strength mosquito net, but otherwise completely open to all of the bushwhacking animals that inhabit this jungle.
After a bit of an evening orientation walk where we had the chance to experience some more of the native fauna, including an impressive firefly display and a more disturbing tarantula display, it was time to settle in for our first night.
The sun had now set and the noise of conversing with our new travel companions ended. As we turned off the light and lay under our protective netting the jungle came alive. It seemed every creature within miles was now welcoming us to their home. Not just crickets and the other usual suspects but nerve wracking noises from God knows what. And above everything came the tremendous boom of the Howler Monkeys reminding us who was in charge around here.
Should be a good day today, waking up to the most incredible natural alarm clock I can imagine, a bit of a river cruise, some fishing on the lake, a leisurely walk through the bush. Sounds so peaceful, kinda like a wellness retreat!
The day turned out to be an incredible opportunity to spot the local birds, fish and animals. Now seeing animals in a zoo is cool sometimes if they are looked after well and you may not have seen them before, but seeing animals in the wild going about their daily routine is far more impressive.
During the boat ride along the river there are times when you just don’t know where to look. The scenery is untouched and beautiful, the brown river, lush green vegetation and clear blue sky so stunning that no Photoshopping could ever improve it. And it seems there is wildlife to see around every bend in the river.
We witness the unusual sight of dozens of Parrots eating the clay of the riverbank, obviously not very tasty but better than dying from the toxins in other parts of their diet. Apparently the clay absorbs the toxins present in some of the seeds they eat allowing them to pass harmlessly through the bird’s system.
A few hundred metres later we notice another similar but birdless section of muddy riverbank which looks someone has emptied a big bag of green leaves, that is until the leaves start shimmering and flying off as if caught in a nonexistent breeze. It takes a while to realise it is actually hundreds of butterflies and is another unexpected moment of magic.
After spotting a few distant Howler Monkeys purveying their kingdoms from the treetops we came upon what I now consider to be my Peruvian spirit animal, the Capybara. We are both pretty chilled out, have less than flattering body shapes, a unique vocal repertoire and can sleep anywhere! They are more social than me though and eat their own dung, so maybe not exactly the animal I should brag about being like.
After about an hour we docked further down the river and it was time for a bit of a short jungle hike. Now sometimes you can just enjoy the sounds of nature and other times you have to answer the call of nature, so luckily we found a toilet in the middle of the jungle. It does see a bit out of place but location was not the unusual thing, the inclusion of a machete beside the door made this feel like the most adrenaline fueled ablution I had ever experienced, wondering what man eater I may need to defend against.
A quick stop at a local native camp for some freshly picked bananas and another 15 minutes of hiking found us at the edge of a tranquil and beautiful lake. Now there are some places you go and think you have found peace and quiet but this place, in the middle of a rainforest, is on a whole other level. We were here to do some fishing.
I love having the chance to learn about the history of a place or to experience the traditions ways of the locals and here was getting better and better. We learned the way the natives fished this area for generations, letting your baited hook gently hit the surface of the water, which to a fish is like some potentially tasty morsel falling from the trees above.
After getting lots of nibbles our guide eventually caught the fish of the day, an terrifying Piranha! (Pause for dramatic effect) Well, not really terrifying as it was a slightly smaller than my hand, but after watching a demonstration of this little guys biting power I wasn’t going to be making fun of his size.
Our guide held the fish and put a leaf up to its mouth, an audible snap of jaws and there was a perfectly cut piece of leaf missing. Next time you are using a hole punch at your office it should give you a good idea of how a Piranha operates.
Fishing adventure over we cruised around the lake for another hour or so, an incredibly relaxing experience for everyone except our tour director Vanessa who was desperately trying to get cell service to confirm something on the next stage of our trip. We were woken from our meditation by some noise in the water about 20 metres from our boat.
I had read earlier that a family of sea otters are sometimes spotted on these tours and it was our lucky day. Just the two adults at first as they summed up our threat level but after disappearing for about five minutes they reappeared with kids in tow. It really brings out the child in you to watch an animal family playing together in the wild and this was like nature’s answer to Disneyland.
After they left it was time for us to do the same. Reverse hike, reverse boat ride and back to the lodge for a late afternoon rest before dinner. Oh, and speaking of dinner, turns out the guide kept the Piranha and had the chef prepare it for us. Now a hand sized fish between nine people means a pretty small serve but I can now add Piranha to the list of obscure things I have eaten, and before you ask, it doesn’t taste like chicken.
And let’s not forget the bonus late night boat ride where we went spotlighting the local Caiman. It’s a bit scary seeing the glowing eyes on the bank and then hearing the gentle splash in the dark, you know that means there is now at least one more of the nasty looking guys in the river with you now.
Needless to say, none of us felt any urge to put our hands outside the boat and check the water temperature.
A new day once again opened up with nature’s unforgettable combination of a glorious sunrise over the jungle and the sounds of the animals and birds getting ready to do it all again. Today was about the traditions of the Infierno people and i was looking forward to finding out more.
Part of the area surrounding the camp has become a garden of sorts, now hosting a wide selection of the plants local natives have been using for generations as part of their bush medicine.
Until recently tribesmen would have to search long and hard to find some of these much needed and highly valued plants, but due to modern medicine now finding so many of the properties of these plants incredibly useful, the locals have been given grants to collect and grow some of these traditional varieties.
We were led along a path with snaked through jungle, many of the plant species were labelled and the guide explained the uses of each even getting us to try some of them like a mouth numbing leaf which has been used by the natives as an anesthetic for centuries.
One of the plants on offer had no volunteers after we were told it was the local’s version of Viagra and all the men were concerned about any potentially embarrassing occurrences. Not sure if any quietly asked the guide for some to take back to camp or sneaked back later that day but I wouldn’t have been surprised!
The afternoon was learning about traditional hunting, what they hunted and the weapons and tools they used to get the job done. There was even the chance to try your hand and using the native long bow which proved one thing to all of us, if we were left to hunt for our own food we would all have died from laughter or starvation. It is way harder than it looks but at least I (barely) hit the target unlike many others.
It was hard to say goodbye to this place as the final morning dawned, a bittersweet moment for me. I had loved every minute of this experience as it had pushed me out of my comfort zone and usual travel style but I also felt I had seen it all and it was time to go. I am just not the kind of sit around and relax type of guy.
Not enough people get to experience the amazing privilege of spending time in an unspoiled part of nature, which is sad for them but good for nature. It is something that I can not recommend enough. Learn about the locals, help support their communities and enjoy the Amazon Rainforest before “civilisation” cuts it all down.
There was one special surprise Mother Nature had in stall for us before we jumped back on the boat to Puerto Maldonado. An hour before departure four of us decided to have one last walk through some of the tracks around the camp and what a reward we got for our efforts.
A group of about 60 Black Spider Monkeys came from nowhere and started swing through the trees above our heads. We kept quiet and just took in this unbelievable experience, almost forgetting to reach for the camera at all. I took a few snaps that turned out blurry but I don’t care at all. Sometimes it’s much better to be there in the moment rather than look back and your amazing photos and I can assure you the images in my memory are crystal clear.
We had the opportunity to do this as part of an Amazon and Inca Adventure with Peregrine Adventures, we were not sponsored in any way and had never really considered organised group tours, but I can think of no better way to experience Peru than with a small group of like-minded travellers and and excellent local guides.
Speaking of our guide, if you are looking and doing anything in Peru and would be interested in a personal guide then Vanessa and Marek from Adventurous Travel Guide are the people you need to get in touch with. Vanessa was our Tour Director on this trip and nothing was too much trouble for her, they are both highly qualified and experienced and based in Lima.
Where was the place you have been that got you closest with nature?
They say that travel can help cure a midlife crisis, but what can you do when you are having a midlife travel crisis? The post How to Survive a Midlife (Travel) Crisis appeared first on La Vida Global Travel.
Just about everyone has heard about people having a midlife crisis, buying inappropriate sports cars, looking for inappropriate replacement companions or throwing away a perfectly good life and taking off on some ill-founded journey.
Which creates a timely segue into my next finding in my search to discover how to cope with my current state of mind. A quick search for “midlife travel crisis” reveals over two million results with a heavy focus on explaining how travel can be the perfect remedy for the classic midlife crisis.
That should help, right? Wrong!
What if you have a midlife travel crisis? You have found yourself in a place where you don’t really know how you should travel, where you should travel, you worry about getting the most from the remaining active years you have, you worry about the other commitments you have in life????
Sorry, I think I need a bit of a lie down.
We travelled as a family for almost 20 years. An amazing period where we visited over 20 countries, ate weird stuff, met great people and did some really cool things you can only really do when you have a child in the party (without looking like a couple of creepy old people).
There was a rule when we planned our trips, everyone gets to pick a couple of places we would all have to go to, whether we thought we would like it or not. To be honest some of the things junior chose during the planning stages had me regretting the “one in all in” policy. But some of these places ended up being the most fun parts of our trips.
But now we are in transition, life as I have grown comfortable with has been shaken like the proverbial Polaroid picture and I have been left a broken man. A shell of my former world travelling, upbeat and fun seeking self.
Well Doc, I think it all started when junior took her first trip without us. I was excited for her as it was the beginning of her move into the world of travel writing as a solo act. How amazing to think that we had raised a daughter so confident and determined that at just 18 she was working hard to build a business and off to explore more of the world.
But once we had watched her head through the big doors at Sydney Airport without us the slow fall to crisis began. And as I went through the rollercoaster ride of wishing I was there when she sent amazing photos, to having to talk her down during an anxiety attack she had at LAX. (the least she could have done was to have her breakdown at a more convenient time than 2am my time)
I was envious that she was living her dream while Pauline and I continued to work, pay bills, and be stuck at home looking after our family dog.
Or so I kept telling myself. I was starting to feel that I was kidding myself thinking things would ever be the same again. It was finally dawning on me that from now on we were less likely to be family travellers and more likely to be empty nesters, a travel couple.
How do you do that? From my time as a travel agent the only empty nesters I seemed to discuss travel with were doing river cruises or coach tours. Old people watching the world go by through a window is how I saw them and I wasn’t ready for that, or was that just the way things go after the transition?
Junior, or the Wandering Donut as her tens of thousands of followers and friends know her, just kept getting offer upon offer to travel while mum and dad stayed home and watched her incredible adventures unfold.
Had my travel life fallen to the level of travel agent to the stars, destined to live vicariously from afar but never actually get back in the saddle? Sorry about the mixed metaphors.
I was a late bloomer when it came to travel with little or no experience until into my twenties. It wasn’t until my late twenties, after Pauline and I got together, that I really started to become an international man of mystery. Well maybe not so much of a mystery but it sounded much better than international man of mediocrity.
We worked hard and travelled often. Even when junior burst onto the scene a few years later the hits kept coming on the travel charts. Our goal was to have a short trip one year and a much longer trip the next, a plan than worked out very well for quite some time.
So in 2016 when junior hit the road alone, Pauline and I did still manage an amazing trip of our own but I think this was due to us having a big reason for it.
We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary at Machu Picchu so it wasn’t really a difficult proposition to enjoy our first real couples trip. But I knew something was still wrong due to the number of times one of us would mention how much Dana would love to be with us here, or how she would have been all over some crazy food item we found. Or that before we started heading home we were already discussing a plan to come back as a family in the future.
2017 was the year that finally broke the time camel’s back and plunged me into crisis. The first year in almost 30 that I did not travel at all. Dana had her adventures and Pauline even joined her for a week or two in Bali at one stage but dog and I stayed home for 365 very long, adventureless days.
OK so that year is finally done and dusted, 2018 will be so much better. Is what I mistakenly believed. I interviewed for a new job in February which meant any travel for the following 12 months would be very unlikely.
With that in mind I decided there had to be some travel and so I found the cheapest option which also happened to be Bali. I had no real interest in Bali ever, but my girls convinced me to give it a go.
I spend four days there alone, which somehow did not even manage to live up to my extremely low expectations, before Pauline joined me for another week. This extra week was much better but I still kept feeling it would have hit a higher level as a family trip.
Back home, got the job, no more travel for me in 2018. Meanwhile Dana spent two weeks leading a tour in New Zealand that I designed and booked for her, plus an additional three months in Europe, which I also had the “pleasure” of putting together for her.
So 2019 will have to be the year I get my travel mojo back surely.
That’s right, I was talking about a midlife travel crisis. Dr Google does not seem to have any pages dedicated to this phenomenon but I am sure (or at least I choose to believe) that I am not the only person to suffer from this condition.
I have been through some of the causes :
Here are some of the symptoms :
Here are the remedies :
There may not be anything a doctor can prescribe that can ease you through this midlife travel crisis, and excessive alcohol may help a little in the short term but is just going to reduce your available travel funds when you finally break through to the other side. I am beginning to think that maybe I am just overthinking this and all I really need is a holiday.
But on a somewhat serious note, which is about the best I can offer, it really is getting me down and putting me into a state where the longer I have to wait for my next trip the more difficult I find it to decide where to go.
The only thing I can say for sure is that if I decide that my next vacation should be with other old people watching the world through a bus window then I am on a slippery slope. The only thing left after that would be buying a caravan and towing it around Australia. And if I get to that stage all hope is lost.
Have you been through the pain and frustration of a midlife travel crisis, or are you now concerned that it is approaching you too fast? We would love to hear your stories and thoughts and hope you will share in the comments.
Brisbane is a great place for visitors and families alike and with on average of 283 days of sunshine a year, it has earned its place as the capital of the glorious Sunshine State of Queensland. “Special Guest contributor Janine from Your Local Families Magazine is the authority on Southeast Queensland, so when she suggests […] The post Short Breaks – Brisbane, Australia appeared first on La Vida Global...
Brisbane is a great place for visitors and families alike and with on average of 283 days of sunshine a year, it has earned its place as the capital of the glorious Sunshine State of Queensland.
“Special Guest contributor Janine from Your Local Families Magazine is the authority on Southeast Queensland, so when she suggests that Brisbane is a fantastic but often overlooked place for a short stay we listened. And you should too.”
Brisbane is often overlooked by travellers as it doesn’t have the ‘big ticket’ items like the ‘Sydney Opera House’ or the golden beaches of the Gold Coast, or the reef off the coast of Cairns. And just north of Brisbane is the equally impressive Sunshine Coast… so why stop in Brisbane?
The answer is simply for the opportunity to engage in some genuine Aussie lifestyle that is both slower paced and authentic in its connection to community. From the Cultural Precinct on the South Bank to the skyline views from Mt Coot-tha to the seaside suburbs that boast family picnic areas and playgrounds, Brisbane has been named the ‘liveable city’ for a reason.
If you are travelling as a family with children, you can easily spend a week in Brisbane and not see everything there is to see. If you are independent travellers or travelling with friends or partners, I would suggest that you should add at least 3 full days in Brisbane to see the best this city has to offer. If you have more time, and you like to revel in the slower pace of life, I would suggest more time in Brisbane.
When spending a minimum of three days in Brisbane you can break that down into two days for the Cultural Precinct and South Bank and one day for your choice of one of the many animal parks or wildlife centres.
(Hint: Steve Irwin’s world-famous Australia Zoo is a 1 hour drive north of Brisbane!)
Most people arrive in Brisbane on their way to somewhere else. As such, there are many roads that lead to Brisbane. You can catch the long distance coach from Sydney in the South, or indeed from Cairns in far north Queensland, and this is the most popular way for the multitude of backpackers that pass through.
Equally you can catch a domestic or international flight into the modern airport.
Brisbane also boasts its own luxury cruise terminal at Portside, Hamilton welcoming ships from P&O and Royal Caribbean (amongst others). There are many ways for visitors to arrive into Brisbane!
Once in Brisbane remember to take a ride on a council ‘CityCat’ – the public transportation along the river, for just a few dollars or the ‘City Hopper’ which run between northern suburb of New Farm and South Bank and is always 100% free!
The highlights will vary depending on whether you are here with family or friends. Our tips are:
Here you will find the Queensland Museum, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), the Queensland State Library, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and the Sciencentre. The first three are free to enter and beautifully air-conditioned (you’ll know why that is important if you are in Brisbane in summer!) There will be surcharges at times for specific exhibits.
Across the road from the Cultural Precinct are the South Bank Parklands. The Parklands have been fully developed into a visitor’s mecca of activities including swimming, sun-bathing, strolling along the boardwalk, listening to music/bands and of course taking a spin on the Brisbane Wheel. There are pubs, restaurants and markets all suitable for visitors and locals alike. You’ll get a great appreciation for the true Brisbane lifestyle in anyone of these venues.
You may think ‘seen one botanic garden, seen them all’…. But these gardens are magical at night! The Brisbane City Council has installed fairy lights on the trees and other fauna across the city and the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens are worth the short walk across the Goodwill Bridge from South Bank Parklands. If you are stopping in Brisbane for even one night, add this installation to your list!
Brisbane has a tonne of larger and smaller zoos and wildlife parks either in the city’s suburbs or just a short drive away.
Larger zoos include:
Smaller wildlife parks include:
The other awesome thing about Brisbane’s outdoor lifestyle is our outdoor eating opportunities.
The most iconic place to eat in Brisbane is the Breakfast Creek Hotel in the northern suburb of Hamilton. It is situated on the beautiful Brisbane river so after your meal you can go for a stroll around the boardwalks and head over to roam the grounds of Newstead House. You’ll probably need to ‘walk it off’ after the meal you are served at this hotel!
If you prefer to stay closer to the city try the Eagle Street Pier that is quickly becoming a premium foodie destination. Burgers, pizzas and cuisines from all over the world come together in a mish-mash of tastebud heaven. From super pricey extravagance to budget burgers, you’ll have something to suit your budget.
If you really want to get into some foodie culture in Brisbane, then do check out the Eat Street Markets. The sheer variety of cuisines on offer is staggering. They’re open every weekend and they’re an absolute hive of food, drinks, entertainment and goods from cultures all over the world. It’s truly impossible to accurately describe the ‘Eat Street’ vibe unless you’ve been there – it’s fun, it’s loud, it’s chaotic and it’s amazing.
From backpacker’s hostels for a few dollars a night to extravagant hotels costing hundreds of dollars a night, like most places, Brisbane is spoilt for choice in terms of accommodation.
If you are not staying with friends who live locally, then we suggest that you stay in the CBD or close to it. This is where most of the action is, so it makes sense.
We love Royal on the Park Hotel & Suites for their iconic, true Brisbane vibe and their location close to the Botanic Gardens in the city centre. Their pricing is reasonable, and they have an awesome pool (with a poolside bar) as well as a great breakfast buffet.
Alternatives to the city centre would be South Bank hotels, Airbnb’s and hostels. You can’t really go wrong with the location of the city or South Bank in Brisbane.
Brisbane is very walkable. The city centre and South Bank are completely flat, and the footpaths well maintained. Being a modern city, there are not cobblestone streets. There are also trails for the blind to follow in the city centre. Out in the suburbs the walkability will vary. Some areas are very hilly and steep, others are flat. The seaside suburbs are mostly flat with lovely walking routes along the beaches.
Brisbane is a gorgeous city to visit and to live in. Despite not having the large tourist attractions of other areas in Australia, it is worth pulling up here for a few days and taking time to envelope yourself in its lifestyle. Whether it is the city, the bush, the ocean or the views, Brisbane has it all and if you miss this city from your itinerary, you will miss out on truly knowing a significant part of Australia!
There beaches of Bali offer so much more than just cheap beer while lounging under an umbrella. Here is a hand picked selection of some of the great options as we show you where to find the best beaches of Bali. The post The best beaches in Bali appeared first on La Vida Global...
Whenever someone mentions anything about a beach in Bali you could be forgiven if you immediately thought of nothing more than a crowded Kuta or Legian, chairs and umbrellas filled with obnoxious Aussies drinking cheap beer and getting their hair braided.
And while many people find enough to like about these beaches that they return time after time, Bali has so much diversity to offer when it comes to coastal attractions. We asked some of our friends that take travel seriously to tell us about their favourite Bali beach and why you should make the effort to visit too.
We have also included a few special places on the nearby islands as well since they are easily accessible as day trips and still considered by any to be Bali.
Legian beach is sandwiched between its more famous neighbours Seminyak and Kuta but should not be overlooked by visitors to the Island of The Gods. Legian truly has something for everyone and is the focal point for many celebrations such as the Malasti Festival.
Drag yourself out of bed early, slip on your runners and enjoy a brisk walk close to the water’s edge as the sun rises. A dip in the cooling waters when your exercise is done is all the reward you need for starting the day right. Water sports abound and visitors can enjoy a surfing lesson, parasailing or jet skiing to name a few.
While away the day on the sand catching the sun’s rays and watch the little ones play in the gentle waves of the shallows. Pop back at sunset and grab a beanbag at one of the many beach bars for a front row seat to a spectacular sunset. Make sure you order the local brew (Bintang) and ask for it icy cold. When the sun has slipped below the horizon grab dinner at one of Legian’s fabulous restaurants, many of which line the beach path.
While there are several beaches in the Kuta / Seminyak area of Bali that offer a similar experience, I think that Seminyak Beach is by far the best! In my experience, it tends to be less crowded, and has a much more relaxed yet upscale vibe.
There are dozens of amazing beach bars and restaurants, and watching the sunset here every night is an absolute must! My favorite place to hang-out in the evening is La Plancha Beach bar, mainly because they’ve got an amazing collection of colorful umbrellas, bean bag chairs, delicious drinks, and a DJ spinning fun music.
It’s one of my favorite things to recommend visitors to Bali to check-out! There’s some really popular day-clubs in the area as well, that are tons of fun! The most popular of these would be “Potato Head”, and while it may be one of the more expensive options in the area – it’s an awesome place to spend a day!
Canggu – affectionately known as The Gu, is a little further north along the beach from its much busier neighbour Seminyak and has a much more laid back vibe. Home to all the cool young hipsters, baristas and surfers its Bali’s Byron Bay and changing rapidly.
A few years ago it was mostly known for its inexpensive seafood BBQs at Echo Beach ( a much cheaper alterative to Jimbaran), budget villas and mid-year waves but now there are many luxury villas, boutique resorts and more vegan/gluten free/paleo places than you will ever need.
Add to that the fairly recent addition of a couple of fantastic beach clubs with Finns and LaBrisa and some of the best sunsets on the island and its no wonder I end up there every time I visit the Island of the Gods.
Jimbaran Beach is well known for its seafood restaurants. You select your fresh seafood then the chef’s cook it up for you while you enjoy the sunset with your feet in the sand. This is not all to love about Jimbaran Beach.
Walking along the beach in the morning when the sun is just rising and the planes are descending into Bali airport just a short distance from the beach, is one of my favourite times of day. The locals are fishing and if you have a strong stomach, a visit to the seafood
market is a sight of the real Bali that you will never forget.
If you have 5 star tastes you are well looked after on Jimbaran Beach. The Sundara Beach Club at the Four Seasons Resort, comes with its very own infinity pool and you can pay to enjoy their facilities. If you like the simpler things in life, wander down to the beach late afternoon and order yourself a delicious corn cob and Bintang from one of the vendors. Then sit back and relax while you experience another gorgeous Bali sunset.
Many years ago I travelled to Bali for my very first time with my daughter, where we stayed in Seminyak for a blissful week. However I must confess I wasn’t that impressed with the nearby beaches around Seminyak, Legian or Kuta. I feel being an Australian living on the Gold Coast it is pretty hard to beat our gorgeous beaches.
A few days into our holiday we hired a driver for the day who took us out to Uluwatu on the Bukit Peninsula to the beautiful Padang-Padang Beach. This magical little beach is accessed down a hundred or so stairs through a cave. The beach itself is only around 100m long, but the aquamarine water and the limestone rock formations make it spectacular.
It is one of Bali’s finest surfing beaches with a steady set of barrels attracting wave riders from all around the world. This is evidenced in the fact that there are a couple of surfboard rental huts right on the beach.
During our visit the surf was pumping out the back and we watched surfer after surfer take off on massive waves. We enjoyed a lovely swim in the clear aqua water – very refreshing!
With striking volcanic black sand beaches Lovina isn’t what you would first expect from Bali. And herein lies the appeal!
Located about 3 hours drive North of Denpasar Lovina is less touristy than many spots in Southern Bali. The beaches themselves are dramatic and different due the black sand, and many of the bays surrounding Lovina are filled with typical fishing boats. This feels like it might be more like typical Balinese beach life!
The locals are welcoming and things seemed pretty cheap. Lovina is most famous as a spot to take early morning boats to see the Dolphins, but also a great base for other attractions. While based in Lovina we spent a couple days exploring historical Singaraja and also the green, hilly areas around Munduk and Bedugul which are abundant in cultural attractions and waterfalls.
Double Six (66) beach is located in the bustling heart of Seminyak – an area of Bali, that is filled with bars, restaurants and shops. It’s one of my favourite beaches since it offers relaxation, party and good surf.
Come here for a day filled with massages from the ladies working here on the beach, a nice surf session for anyone from beginner to top professional and an ice cold Bintang beer with one of the beach boys that sit here day by day and rent out sunchairs and surfboards. Could you ask for more?
Oh, yes. It has an amazingly picturesque sunset, believe me! If you are more of an active person, you can also go for a nice walk as Double Six has an endless stretch of sand that will get you up until the old airport. Have fun!
Sanur is located on the west coast of Bali only 16km from the Bali International Airport. It first became popular as a tourist destination in the 1960-70’s. In the 1980’s people turned their attention to east and southern coasts.
Fortunately Sanur has kept its initial charm from those days. There are no boom boxes blaring rock music and the local Balinese accept a polite no thank you as they tout their wares. The vibe in Sanur is chilled and relaxed – this is why I love Sanur.
Does Sanur sound like your kind of place? Find the best accommodations deals now.
Walking along the shaded boardwalk the white sandy beaches stretch as far as you can see. Bikes are available for hire at a minimal cost so you can explore further up and down the coast. Take the time to stop in at the local shops then treat yourself at one of the many beachside Sanur restaurants looking out over the turquoise Bali Sea.
When you’re ready to explore further afield many of the Bali tourist attractions and major shopping complexes are only 30-45 minutes away. Sanur is the perfect place to base yourself for a chilled out vacation yet be close enough to explore all that Bali has to offer.
The black volcanic sand of Jemeluk’s beach in Amed might not be to everyone’s taste. But, under the watchful shadow of Bali’s sacred volcano, Gunung Agung, it boasts one of the most stunning backdrops on the island.
And beyond the clean, coarse sand and the rows of fishing boats that line the shore, there’s a truly stunning underwater world that’s accessible right off the beach.
Protected by the bay, the water is calm and clear, the variety of fish is impressive and the coral is in good shape. In fact, locals and conservation teams have installed an underwater gallery of statues which serve as a nursery for fish in an effort to regenerate the underwater eco system.
And then, of course, there’s the sight of Gunung Agung bathed in the warm glow of another famous Bali sunset to cap off a perfect day. It might not be a sunbather’s paradise, but Jemeluk Beach remains right up there as one of our absolute favourites.
Down around Uluwatu there are a number of small, secluded beaches made for great surfing and relaxing on golden sand by turquoise waters, and Dreamland is probably the biggest and the best.
It may be off the beaten track but Dreamland has everything you could want for a great day at the beach. Trendy beach club, cheap restaurants, lounging chairs under bright umbrellas, and warm water. Did I miss anything?
Having been born and raised just a stone’s throw from one of Australia’s many beautiful surf beaches I understand and respect the power of the ocean. I know how and when to go over, under or through a wave. Many tourists do not have that same level of understanding and the results, while somewhat scary to some of them, can also be quite hilarious to others.
You may find the waves break quite close to the shore here so it is important to time your entry into the water and get out beyond the breaking waves as quickly as possible. Floating over the unbroken waves watching first time beach goers from around the world get bowled over like ten pins can keep you amused for hours!
The most beautiful, clearest beach I have ever swum at are the gorgeous beaches on Gili Nanggu in Lombok, which is one of Bali’s neighbouring islands. Getting to Lombok is easy with fast boat transfer options available.
This place is absolute paradise and the water surrounding Gili Nanggu is so clear you can see your feet even when the water is up to your shoulders. The sand is so soft, the water so warm and the fish are colourful and friendly!! We were absolutely surrounded by fish keen to come and say hi! Seriously it was like swimming in an aquarium.
Gili Nanggu is a small island off the mainland and there is only one place small place to stay on the island (Gili Nanggu Cottages), so you don’t have to worry about it being overcrowded.
During our cycling trip in Bali, we made a detour to visit the magic island of Nusa Penida. The landscape in Nusa Penida is totally different from Bali, the island is very dry and there are few trees around.
Among the few jungle areas in Nusa Penida, Tembeling is a stunning place with a holy significance. From the small parking area, there’s a ten-minutes easy hike through a luxurious jungle, past a small temple, before you get to a fresh natural spring just a few meters away from the ocean.
There are three pools, the top one, hidden in a small cave, is a sacred pool, where bathing is not allowed but for ceremonial purposes, the water there is holy and there’s a small shrine.
The second pool is the big one, about 80 square meters and 5 meters in depth. Supposedly, as the local custom, only males are allowed to swim here. But we when we saw a local couple bathing together we went for it too.
The third pool, small and shallow but still inviting, is for the women. Located down by the beach it features a pretty view and a water drop that makes up for a pleasant natural massage.
The beach itself is majestic, surrounded by tall, vertical cliffs and with a limestone pinnacle standing in the middle.
As soon as you see Dream Beach it’s not hard to figure out how it got its name. With soft white sands and fluorescent blue waters calling your name from the top of the cliff, it feels like a little slice of paradise.
The beach is hugged by little hotels and restaurants all making the most of the pristine view. Although it is not technically in Bali, you will find Dream beach on the little island of Nusa Lembongan a 30 minute ferry ride from Sanur.
The Nusa Islands remain relatively untouched by tourism in comparison to the main land so you are very likely to have, or at least almost have, the beach to yourself. However, you may notice from Instagram alone that the Nusas are becoming increasingly popular.
Be warned that once to twice a day you will get busloads of tourists flock to this one small beach as part of group island tours. This may seem annoying to some but it can be extremely entertaining to watch especially if a giant wave crashes into that very large group of tourist as they all try to get their perfect Insta shot.
It also means that staying for a night or more gives you plenty of time to avoid those tourist crowds, and it’s a beautiful place so that’s a bonus.
We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to discovering amazing parts of the Bali coast and its neighbours. If you would like to know is Bali worth visiting then we have plenty of opinion to help you decide.
If you have a favourite Bali and beyond beach that we have left off this list let us know in the comments. Maybe we will have to make a bigger list next time.
Some come to Bali for a lazy beach break while others search for the perfect wave or to connect with the underwater world, while others seek out culture and spiritual awakening. It is this group that most likely will find themselves drawn to Ubud. Considered one of the cheapest and most easily accessed overseas holiday […] The post What to do with 3 days in Ubud appeared first on La Vida Global...
Some come to Bali for a lazy beach break while others search for the perfect wave or to connect with the underwater world, while others seek out culture and spiritual awakening. It is this group that most likely will find themselves drawn to Ubud.
Considered one of the cheapest and most easily accessed overseas holiday destinations for Australians and an exotic and somewhat mysterious destination for travellers from other parts of the world, Bali is a small island choc full of diversity.
About an hour by car from the craziness that is Kuta and Legian, Ubud is a world away as far as attitude and scenic beauty is concerned and perfect for short getaway. Take a look at what to do with 3 days in Ubud.
Ubud can be found in the central hills region of the famous Indonesian tourist island of Bali, which is approximately half way between the northwest coast of Australia and Singapore.
The first step is to get to the Bali’s Ngura Rai International Airport at Denpasar. A large number of major International Airlines fly into Bali and also many of the low cost carriers in the region.
To continue on to Ubud you will require transport with a travel time from 60 to 90 minutes. It is only about 40km / 25 miles but don’t expect to get anywhere in Bali very quickly. The roads are narrow and quite busy in many places.
The main options are :
We have now used the same driver during Pauline’s visit to see our daughter and again when we both travelled to Ubud. His name is Wayan (as are many Balinese men) and he can be contacted through Facebook Messaging.
His English is excellent and his local knowledge amazing. We used his services for multiple airport trips and a full day of sightseeing which took us to all of the places we requested plus a few others that Wayan thought we may enjoy. Please feel free to mention us if you get in touch with him.
There are many faces of Ubud but it is probably best known as a modern day Hippie hangout, filled with vegan food options, wellness centres and yoga studios. A place where one may go to “find themself” as Elizabeth Gilbert did in what became Eat, Pray, Love.
It is a place which lends itself perfectly to this ideal of inner peace and spirituality. The locals, almost exclusively Hindu, are very religious and you can’t help but be influenced by their calm demeanor, the beauty of the many temples and the tranquility of the surrounding rice fields.
But do not feel that you should avoid Ubud if you do not fit the mold created in the previous paragraphs, we are neither vegan nor spiritual and still rate Ubud as one of the great small towns of Asia.
If you want to explore the history of Bali and Indonesia, experience the traditional food made for locals by locals or just get a sense of Bali life far from the crowds and singlet wearing, Bintang guzzling tourists in Kuta, surrounded by beautiful scenery then Ubud is a place that will definitely make you feel right at home.
It’s a pretty simple choice when you are making this decision, you can stay in the centre of town or on the outskirts of the town. By looking at the map you will quickly realise that the CBD, and it can barely be called that while keeping a straight face, is easily navigated on foot and nothing is far away from any of the central accommodation options.
Even when I suggest the outskirts of town as the second option you will find most of these places are still within comfortable walking distance of the centre, even though you will feel like you are in another world.
For me the central area would be anything inside or around the rectangular area between Jalan Monkey Forest and Jalan Hanoman which are clearly marked on the map above. The lower left of this area is the actual Monkey Forest, the top left the Ubud Palace and the tourist markets cover the area between those two roads.
There are many choices when it comes to Ubud accommodation ranging from the usual Hostels to Homestays, from Guesthouse and Hotels to amazing Villas. What you do not find are the global chain Hotels which is a pleasant surprise. We used Hotels Combined to find the perfect place in Ubud.
For us it was ideal to be staying around the centre of town because we didn’t feel comfortable riding scooters and didn’t want to have to rely on taxis. In the end we chose the Honeymoon Guesthouse and it turned out a great choice for location, facilities and Balinese charm, as you can see on the map.
The package we chose also included a cooking class at the Cooking School operated by the Guesthouse, the Casa Luna Cooking School, which is among the highest rated in Ubud. The rooms were quite large and the grounds and facilities amazing. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.
During Pauline’s previous visit she had spent some time with our daughter in the Kakul Villas outside of town and while she raved about the surrounding countryside and the price of the huge and luxurious private pool Villa, the location was too far out of town to suit our needs.
The roads around Ubud are generally in pretty decent condition, traffic gets busy sometimes but never gridlock busy, and the whole town is pretty compact so getting around is not likely to cause you many problems.
While Ubud is situated in the hills of Bali and more of the local roads have some degree of incline rather than being flat, walking is an easy and cheap way of getting around. You won’t be forced to walk up dizzying slopes and exploring the town on foot should be a comfortable experience for travellers of any fitness level.
The biggest issue with walking around the streets of Ubud comes to light when it is time to cross any of the busier streets. While they do have the occasional pedestrian crossing marked it is more of a suggestion that a rule that drivers will slow or stop for you.
We learned the secret to successfully getting across without risking death like the main character of Frogger and it is to gradually move onto the road holding your hand up in a STOP gesture and continue walking. It takes some time to become confident in your new superpower but it works. Apparently if drivers see you standing on the edge of the road just waiting to cross they think you are waiting for someone else unless you signal your intent.
The Balinese people love their Scooters and you will undoubtedly be tired of being asked if you would like to rent one after just a few days. It seems every second person owns a spare Scooter or two and hires them out as a business.
They are incredibly cheap to hire by the day, usually not much more than a few dollars, and even cheaper if you are looking at longer rental periods. It looks like a lot of fun but there are a few points for you to consider.
It’s a big enough challenge to trust yourself piloting a Scooter on the roads of Bali, weaving through the dozens of others with the same goal and avoiding pedestrians who may simply step out in front of you holding up a hand, making them king of the road and invincible. It is a different challenge to jump on the back of a Scooter with a complete stranger and put your life in their hands.
On the up side you can have an expectation that this person has far more skill and experience riding than you do and understands the traffic flow. It is also a very cheap way to get around and you don’t having to worry about finding a place to park, or finding your Scooter when you come back.
But as mentioned the road rules are pretty loose and you could find yourself rising on the footpath or on the wrong side of the road with traffic heading toward you, but it’s all part of the adventure.
You will also be able to find official taxis driving around the streets of Ubud and also unofficial, or unmetered, taxis. If there is a meter then be sure it is activated when your journey commences, for other taxis be sure to negotiate a price before you get in the car.
Far more common in this area, and a big part of the local economy, are the Private Drivers. I have mentioned these people already and a good Guide can be a very economical and also an entertaining way to get around.
Finding a Driver that you can build a bond with could mean you can agree on a rate for a transport package for your entire stay, everything from airport transfers, getting around while you are in town, guided tours to other parts of the island and even activities. This is a great way to not only help the local economy but also get a more rewarding sense of how the locals live.
You will be surprised how little it costs to have your own driver but remember, do not try to screw them down on price because, while it may feel like a victory to you, the few extra dollars means a lot more to them than it does to you.
Take some time to get your bearings by heading into the town centre and explore. Don’t worry about getting lost or checking your phone for a map to show where you should go next, just walk and take it all in.
I mentioned previously that the main area of Ubud is a rectangular section in the centre, filled with Warungs tempting you in to enjoy their cheap and flavour packed food, market stalls with the usual souvenirs but also some more unique items that are fun to discover and discuss with the vendors, and an assortment of small businesses like tattoo parlours and day spas.
Check out the Ubud Palace at the top of this area or the magnificent Lotus Garden tucked in behind one of the larger restaurants, or grab a coffee and just watch local life happen before your eyes. Ubud is a great place to experience Balinese life at a realistic pace.
Make your way to the Melting Wok Warung on Jalan Gootama for some of the best Balinese curries or Gorengs for lunch. This little restaurant is incredible value for money and the staff are all so nice. It’s the perfect place to recap the morning’s discoveries and plan your afternoon.
You could make your way just a few blocks from lunch to the Monkey Forest, and yes, this is exactly as the name suggests. Officially called the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary this nature reserve is also home to a Hindu Temple complex and the monkeys roam freely throughout the park.
A word of warning though, understand that these are wild animals which makes them unpredictable, although they are quite used to humans do not try to pet them. Also take care of your possessions as the monkeys are great collectors, and are especially fond of hats, sunglasses and phones. And don’t expect to get your gear back if they take it.
We were taking some photos of a mother and baby monkey from a couple of metres away and all was good. The same cannot be said for the young Japanese girl who stepped in front of us to try and capture a face to face selfie only to see her camera / phone heading off up a tree before she knew what had happened. An expensive lesson to learn.
Or maybe you prefer to start your time in Ubud on a more relaxing note and head to one of the many spas. There are many quality establishments offering pampering services around town, most looking very similar to those place inundating local shopping centres back home.
The big difference is the price, and the friendly locals of course. Pauline spent an evening at a spa across the road from our Guesthouse where she thoroughly enjoyed a four hour extravaganza that included mani-pedi with nail painting, a one hour foot massage, stone relaxation massage and more for less than the price most westerners pay just to have their nails done.
As the afternoon draws on maybe it’s time to turn your focus to pre-dinner preparations. You will not have to look very far to find Happy Hour cocktail deals. Now cocktails are relatively cheap anyway but when you get 2 for 1 or three for the price of two then it’s almost cheaper than buying bottled water back home.
Our favourite Happy Hour was spent at OOPS Restaurant and Bar where we had incredible Pineapple Dacquiris and shared a serve of roast duck spring rolls. Four cocktails and an appetiser for under 20 Aussie dollars… yes please.
After dinner take another walk around the Palace area before heading back to your room for an early night (take that to mean whatever you want). Tomorrow will be an active day.
An early start today as you head a few hundred metres from the centre of town for a sunrise walk through the rice fields. There are a couple of options here with the most popular arguably the Campuhan Ridge Walk, although we took a path slightly closer to town which loops back around and takes about 90 minutes at a leisurely pace with plenty of photo stops.
Back in time for a quick freshen up and some brekkie before heading off to your cooking class. We stayed at the beautiful Honeymoon Guesthouse which happens to be the home for one of Ubud’s top ranked classes, the Casa Luna Cooking School.
For less than $40 we had an informative and fun half day learning the ingredients behind some of Bali’s best known dishes before cooking and eating our banquet. Our experience started at 8am at the Casa Luna restaurant in town where we met our group and headed off to the local farmer’s market.
We learned about the ceremonial food offerings you will see everywhere in Bali, about the incredible variety of fresh fruit and vegetables available at rock bottom prices and about the foods and eating habits of the local people. It was a great precursor to our cooking class.
Then it was back to the kitchen / classroom for a couple of hours of meal prep under the guidance of Aussie expat and something of a local celebrity, Janet De Neefe. Janet and her team are entertaining and great sources of knowledge about Balinese food traditions and flavours.
We chopped, ground our own curry pastes, tried exotic salad ingredients and then took control of woks that sizzled away over industrial level flames. It is great fun to be this hands on making local food anywhere in the world but equally as entertaining to watch the experts do it. The Balinese ladies are like machines when it came to grinding the pastes on huge volcanic stones, seemingly never tiring while the rest of us have to rotate in shifts of just a few minutes.
The final spread of dishes smelled every bit as good as they looked, and the taste was even better still. Too often you see cooking classes priced at over $100 and I always wonder how they justify the price, especially when you can have an experience like this for well under half that money.
After the class take a break, maybe hang out around the pool if you have one, and let your energy levels rise because this afternoon you are out and about again. But this time you will strap on a helmet and cycle your way through the rice fields.
If you are concerned that your level of fitness may not be sufficient to be riding around the countryside of Ubud let me put your mind at ease. eBikes Bali have you covered, with the “e” in eBikes standing for electric. That’s right, these bicycles have a small electric motor you can use to replace personal peddle power whenever you need a rest. Perfect not only for those who need the assistance but great for everyone. After all, who wants to be too exhausted to take in the stunning scenery along the way?
These guys will pick you up anywhere in Ubud and take you to the tour starting point. After signing the standard indemnity waivers and applying sunscreen it’s time to hit the road. The tour lasts about three hours and includes a few stops for photos and finishing with dinner at a local Warung. Great value for money and a brilliant way to see where the locals live and work, not to mention the distant volcanoes beyond the rice fields.
For movie buffs this tour takes you riding along the very path that carried Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. So get ready to recreate your favourite moment among the rice paddies. And then they take you back to your hotel for a well deserved rest, unless you want to squeeze in a few last minute Happy Hour cocktails again.
Today is a day to spend with that Private Driver we mentioned earlier which means the possibilities are endless. You can discuss these options with your Guide in advance or see how you feel on the day and go with the flow. However some activities will need advance planning.
If you like the sound of starting your day half way through the night then a hike up the Mt Batur volcano to watch the sunrise is a must. This one will have to be prearranged with both your driver and the company that operate the hikes. Expect to leave your hotel at two or three in the morning.
Dana did this trek and said that the views where amazing when the sun started to throw some light on the situation but she was quite nervous during the hike up in the dark. Loose and uneven surfaces lit only by small flashlights may not be ideal for everyone. That being said you may well end up with some incredible sunrise photos, great memories and a story that your friends will look forward to hearing over and over. (*accuracy of this statement may vary depending on your friends)
The benefit of having your own driver take you to this hike is that you can continue seeing the sights of North Bali as soon as you reach the bottom again, whereas those who use the transfers arranged by the hiking company will be taken all the way back to Ubud, and are you really going to want to head halfway back North after that?
While you are slowly making your way back to Ubud have your driver take you to some of the impressive waterfalls, and be sure to have them stop at the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple (or the Temple on the Lake). This Pagoda style Temple is built on one of Bali’s high mountain lakes, about a mile above sea level, and the building and surrounds are peaceful and incredibly scenic.
We also visited some of the local craftsmen, stone and wood carvers, and master painters who produce beautiful artworks in many styles, and sell them for much less than their skill and time deserves. I felt a little guilty admiring their work and not making a purchase but, being an artist myself in a past life, have no more space on the walls at home to hang anything.
Get your Driver to take you somewhere truly local for lunch, the type of place that you may not go if you were just driving by. This is one of the great treats of travelling with someone that knows the area very well.
On the way back to Ubud we were lucky enough to be invited to Wayan’s home (our guide) and meet his family. He comes from a village of wood carvers and we got to see his work and get a feel for how he lives. Like many Balinese he does not have a house as such, but a family compound with a number of buildings filled with members of the extended family.
His village is quite beautiful and home to a huge colony of Heron. Every year up to 150,000 of these birds arrive and nest in the trees that line the road through the village. We visited late in the season and so only a few thousand birds remained, but enough to give us an indication of how dramatic it must be in peak breeding season.
You will definitely be needing a bit of a rest when you get back so either grab a nana nap, have a massage or head out for Happy Hour. It’s your last night so hopefully you have enough energy to get out for your final meal in Ubud. Maybe another visit to that favourite Warung or perhaps something special to bring the trip to a close.
As mentioned before, Ubud is a hub for Vegans but don’t start thinking that you will struggle to find anything else because I assure you the food scene doesn’t stop there.
From local Warungs to the usual tourist trap restaurants, authentic cooking classes to once in a lifetime eating experiences, you will never be short on eating options regardless your price range.
Even if you aren’t a budget backpacker, stopping by a local Warung is a great way to get a taste for the local cuisine and culture for a ridiculously low price. Many of them are little more than basic “hole in the wall” type places so don’t go in expecting a 5 star experience, but don’t let that hold you back.
With most set up like a buffet; you go in, choose what bits and piece you want and the total cost is based on the items you choose. Here you will find most of the Balinese classics including: Nasi (rice) or Mie (Noodle) Goreng, Babi Guling (traditional whole roasted pig) and Bebek Betutu (traditional deep fried crispy duck).
Possibly the most famous place to get the classic Bebek betutu is at Bebek Bengil, better known as the Dirty Duck Diner. The establishment has a really nice story behind it and although it does lean toward being one of those tourist trap restaurants you will still find some amazing food with fantastic views, even if the price is set for tourists.
Duck isn’t for everyone which brings us back to our non meat eating types. My family are definitely not Vegans but were pleasantly surprised by the wide range of truly delicious options available. Possibly the best purely vegan restaurant in Ubud is Kismit. Although a little on the higher side in terms of balinese meal prices, it is certainly worth it for high quality, visually appealing and mouthwatering vegan food. Oh and did I mention cocktails!
If you are after a night of cocktails or looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, you need to add Room4Dessert to your bucketlist right now. Dana took Pauline here as part of her Bali birthday celebrations when she visited and they haven’t stopped raving on about it as one of their best eating experiences to date.
This restaurant offers a 9 course dessert menu which changes each season but not only that, they also offer a 9 course cocktail menu to match. The price may seem high for Bali but is a fraction of the price you would pay in western cities and the quality is every bit as high. In the end what you get it is totally worth it and averages out rather cheap per serve.
The one Ubud food experience Dana continues to rave on about even more than dessert is Melting Wok. So much so that I think she would have disowned us as parents if we didn’t test it out for ourselves on our recent trip and now we know why. This small restaurant packs a big punch with unbeatable prices on a limited but delicious menu of local specialties. And the staff are awesome.
Be sure to try the local Warungs and not limit yourself to the “fancy” looking restaurants. If you do then you are not only paying too much for your food but probably missing out on the best dishes.
If you want to bypass the full rundown on how to spend your time in Ubud then we have provided a quick overview of the best and worst parts of the town.
For those of us that travel to experience authentic local culture, to watch the people go about their daily tasks in the same way their families have done for generations, to eat the same food the locals eat at home every day, Ubud is a place you should get to at least once in your lifetime.
If it is the beauty of a place’s natural surroundings that drives you to explore then Ubud will tick all the boxes. And the same can be said if you are seeking a place to “find yourself”, to have that little piece of Paradise where you can find some serenity.
What did we feel was the best of Ubud? Without a doubt it was the scenic beauty to be found among the rice paddies. Whether it be the small streetside family fields, the vast hilltop areas around the town or the UNESCO listed rice terraces just north of town, it is an amazing experience to explore. And incredibly peaceful.
But it doesn’t end there. So many things in Ubud have contributed to making it our favourite part of Bali. For Pauline the cheap but professional spa treatments are a real winner with all the services you would expect for a tiny fraction of the price you would pay in any western country.
I also loved the fact that everything is so close. From the centre of town you can walk in almost any direction and withing about 15 minutes feel like you are 100 miles from civilisation. Surrounded by nature and not a car in sight, although you will probably still have to dodge the occasional scooter.
Ubud should also be on your radar if you are the type of person always on the lookout for good traditional food. Balinese dishes may look simple but to understand and appreciate the work that goes into the preparation of these dishes you should try one of the highly regarded cooking classes on offer.
There is little not to be liked in Ubud but if I had to find fault with anything it would centre around the tourist markets, but even that is just a victim of tourist demand.
After escaping from the commerce fueled mayhem that is Kuta, with its aggressive stall owners with an annoying habit of putting on exaggerated Aussie accents, I was hoping for a much more laid back attitude in the Ubud markets and a better range of traditional craft rather than a range of different colours for Bintang singlets.
But it seems the growth in tourist numbers has brought in “foreign” Indonesians to Bali and they don’t seem to have the same humble and friendly presence that the locals are famous for. On the bright side, if you have only come to Ubud for the tourist markets then you are probably part of the problem and deserve the treatment you get.
Without a doubt the memory that will stay with us longest and bring smiles to our faces will be our time making our way through the rice fields around town.
Our sunrise walk was incredibly relaxing and we only made contact with a handful of other people during the 90 minutes we were out. Watching the sun come up behind the trees at the far edge of the rice fields was a wonderful experience.
But our bike tour through the rice fields, on the very same path that carried Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love may just top the sunrise experience. Not because of the movie but for the seclusion and the magnificent views all the way to the volcanoes in the distance.
The rice fields are everywhere around Ubud and taking the time to explore some of their locations is a must.
To be honest, as I always try to be, Ubud is not for everyone. But then again the same could be said for every place in the world. It is a little sad to see that tourist numbers are starting to swell and it is very possible that in the not too distant future tourism could damage the charm of this interesting place in the hills.
But it’s definitely not too late to seek tranquility, centre your chakras, or see locals going about their days in the same way their families have done for generations. There is still plenty of authentic Bali to be found here, you just need to scratch through the shallow surface of tourism.
So don’t bother with Ubud if you have come to Bali for beer on the beach and to fill your wardrobe with Bintang singlets and sarongs, stick to Kuta and Legian where that type of lifestyle flourishes. There is nothing here for the surf crowd or those chasing the perfect sun tan ( or sunburn more often)
Leave Ubud to the people who will appreciate the beautiful scenery, those who want to escape a busy world and find a little peace and quiet. Leave it to people who really want to delve into the local culture, understand the people and appreciate their traditions. If Ubud is left to those travellers then it will be able to maintain it’s unique identity for a long time to come.
If you are the type of person that likes to immerse yourself in local culture, slow down the pace and experience a place, and appreciate how the locals live without needing to find parts that remind you of home then you should add Ubud to your next Bali itinerary.
It is a place that will live long in your memory for its friendly locals, breathtaking scenery and mellow way of life. We loved it.
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