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Aer Lingus think the Dublin travel alternative is so awesome they want a passionate blogger who will write about it from the perspective of a real traveller, with honest and authentic opinions, to come on board and get the message out to as many people as possible. This will become the official Aer Lingus New York travel guide covering food, drink, nightlife, shopping and more..... Hmmm this sounds like just the job for OE TRAVEL BLOGS!
The Competition
To find the winning blogger Aer Lingus come up with a unique and fun selection process and the winner will win 2 tickets to NYC + £1000 spending money, where they’ll be able to experience and write about all NYC has to offer to be featured on our Blog. As a bonus one lucky voter will also win 2 tickets to NYC + £1000 spending money – so by helping OE Travel Blogs win you also get a chance to win a fun trip away to NYC! All votes are cast via a Twitter Handle. Each Twitter handle is allowed 1 vote per day.

Why should our audience vote for us? Well, you get a chance to win too!

Voters participating in the campaign also have a chance to win 2 tickets to NYC + £1000 spending money. What’s more, since they can vote once a day for 14 days and every vote counts as a unique entry, they can vote for you multiple times (but a maximum of 14). So by helping you win they also help themselves!


One Important detail - when voting be sure to choose Dublin as the preferred travel destination otherwise votes will not be counted - oh and to help us get ahead of others feel free to vote for others in the campaign but choose another airport other then Dublin :-).
 
 
Country/Town Visited: Hawaii, USA
Date of stay: Late Jan 2015
Where you stayed: Hotels and B&Bs
Travelled with: As a couple
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

Itinerary: Hawaii in 2 weeks.
A Saturday flight overnight from Brisbane with Hawaiian Airways (approx. 10hrs). 2 hours later we were on a flight to Kona, The Big Island.

On the Big Island, we spent 3 nights at Kona, then drove around to the other side of the island via the Hawaii Volcano Park. We stayed in Hilo for 2 nights before flying back to Oahu from Hilo. Once in Honolulu we picked up a car to head to the North Shore of Oahu (2 nights), before spending the last 7 nights in Waikiki.

The Big Island
Kona

Things to do:
Swim with the Manta Rays: Undoubtedly one of the best experiences! We went with Splashers the first night, however with big swell the Manta’s didn’t show. We stayed on an extra night and as Splashers (USD$105) were full booked they organised for us to go out with Wicked Wahine. The Mantas came out in force that evening, dancing and somersaulting through the water, the 8ft beasts came within inches of us! The boys organising the trip, especially Super Dave were amazing and the hot soup and pineapple on the journey back topped off the experience.

Coffee Plantation: Hawai’i is the only place in the US that grows and produces coffee. We visited Thunder Mountain, they run free tours of their small operations. Their choc covered coffee beans are divine. Unfortunately, the American idea of good coffee is brewed/filtered, espresso beans…coffee snobs beware!

Eating and Drinking in Kona:
There are plenty of bars and restaurants down near the Kona Harbour. Check out the Kona Brewing Company for good pizzas and great beer. Also try out some local cuisine including Poke (fresh raw fish served with rice) at Umeke’s Poke Bowls and Local Lunch Plates.

Where to Stay:
We stayed at the Holiday Inn. Great location, walking distance to restaurants. Ample parking if you hire a car. We booked through their website so check that out for current prices.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
A must do. Make your first stop the Kilauea Visitor Centre and pick up a map. There are bush walks all through the area but for an easy walk try the Thurston lava tube caves (<30mins). Check out Volcano House, a hotel right on the Caldera. There are cane chairs in the café with awesome views over the smoking volcano, sit down with a beverage and take it all in.

We took a 4 hour Ranger led tour from the Kilauea Visitors Centre which took us down into the bowels of the still active Kilauea caldera.  We went out beyond the ‘Do not enter’ signs onto the 1974 lava flows with hot steaming vents. Check with the Rangers if this tour is running as its dependant on the wind direction of volcanic gases and volcano activity. The Ranger was quite funny (previously a magician) and very informative. 

Hilo
We spent 2 nights at Hilo Bay Hale Bed and Breakfast. Great location, big breakfasts with fresh baked goodies, fresh fruit and bacon. Check out the Markets for local gifts and souvenirs. While it doesn’t look like much from the outside, try out Lucy’s Tacqueria for nachos, tacos and a big as burrito! Support local business by buying some chocolate treats or stop in for breakfast or lunch at the Hawaiian Crown Plantation and Chocolate Factory. They do the best tasting hot chocolate I have ever had and also offer a range of healthy alternatives!

Things to do
Paradise Helicopters: We took a helicopter ride out over the new lava flows threatening the town of Pahoe and also went over an active crater. Doors off, Volcano and Waterfalls Extreme (45min, USD$282).

Oahu

North Shore Oahu

Things to do:
Watch a big surf comp: We came to Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset specifically to watch the big waves. 20ft+ while we were there. Try and time it so you get to see some of the pro’s out on the water with a surf comp.

Where to Stay and Eat
On the North Shore of Oahu we stayed at Ke Iki Beach Bungalows. Ask for an Ocean front unit and the big waves will be breaking just at your door! Walking distance to the legendary Waimea Bay and Banzai Pipeline surf breaks. The units were self-contained so we got supplies from Foodland (walking distance). There are also a number of food caravans nearby. The Waimea Beachside Galley has the best sourdough toasted sandwiches with mozzarella, pesto and Kailua (smoked Hawaiian style pig). Don’t go past their short rib beef sandwiches either!

Waikiki
Things to do
Diamond Head National Park: Get the heart pumping with a climb up to the top of Diamond Head. Steep walk, try get there early to beat the crowds. Amazing views across Honolulu.

Get some sun on Waikiki: Take your towel down to the beach and swim. There are surf boards and SUPs for hire if you feel like something more strenuous.  

Hanaumu Bay: Great nature reserve for snorkelling and quite an important place in Hawaiian native history. You can hire all snorkelling equipment there.  Reef was quite bleached when we went. If you are a confident swimmer head further out through the channel, beyond the main reef. There are a lot less tourists, more fish and we even spotted a sea turtle out there. Just be wary of the currents.

Pearl Harbour war memorial:  Sobering experience, we did the USS Arizona trip where you can see and smell the oil still leaking from the hull as well as the USS Bowfin submarine.

Shopping:  Buyers beware that shopping in the Waikiki area is not as cheap as you would like.  We did most of our shopping in the Waikele Outlet mall which was significantly cheaper than Ala Moana Center.  For example Levi jeans were USD$40 at the outlet mall and the same pair was USD$118 at the Ala Moana Center.

Where to Stay and Eat
We stayed at the Waikiki Hilton on Hilton points, if it wasn’t for the points I probably would have stayed at another island or the North Shore.   The best thing about the Hilton village was the ABC store where you could buy beer from USD$12 a 12-pack (Steinlager Pure).

Try Shorebirds for happy hour cocktails and amazing views of Diamond Head. They also do a huge steak special and all you can eat salad bar for USD$20. Only drawback is you cook it yourself on one of the huge hot plates they have. There are plenty of eating options around, Waikiki is a busy place.

By: Kirk & Kim
 
 
Elephant Sands Botswana
Country/Town Visited: Botswana, Africa
Date of stay: 2012
Where you stayed: Elephant Sands
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

CAMPING WITH ELEPHANTS

If you want to see elephants you should go to Elephant Sands.

Advice from a driver/guide of an overland safari truck should be heeded.  We met him in a campground in Maun, Botswana.  His group were off on a three day camping trip to the Okavango Delta.  He said we would have to pay close attention to directions or we would likely miss it.

Elephant Sands is located 53 kms. north of Nata, on the Nata-Kasane road A33.  The sign is small,  but it is the only sign for miles.  Once you leave the highway it is a 2 km. sand trail into a bush camp with an office, café/bar, campground, several small chalets and a swimming pool.  The campground has no fences, assigned spaces, or services, so you simply park.  The showers and toilets are unisex and open air.  Water for the showers is heated by” hot water donkeys”, a wood fire under a big water tank.

We were travelling in our VW Kombi and needed to keep the food in our fridge cool, so the office gave us some ice.  The minimal electricity is provided by generators run at specific times. Once settled, we walked to the café for a cold drink.  There is a watering hole in front of the café, and to our delight three elephants were having a drink and a bath.  It was fascinating to be able to watch them at such close range.  Soon more arrived and we spent the entire day watching the never ending action.

Late in the afternoon several young bulls were drinking and play fighting.  They walked toward the café and to our amazement walked up to the pool and started to drink.  Ben, the owner, explained the water in the waterhole has a high salt content, so they like the pool water better.  At this point we are sitting no more than fifteen feet away from four very large, wild, elephants.  Elephants look big at any distance, but they look really big when they are so close.

One of the projects at Elephant Sands is providing drinkable water for the animals of the area.

Size matters if you are an elephant.  The bigger you are, the more you can push others around.  We always felt so sorry for the babies – everyone pushed them around!  Mothers would push them out into the waterhole, then push them over for a bath.  Fat little legs, trunks and ears everywhere as they struggled to get back on their feet.

We spent the next couple of days watching non stop elephant action. It was common to have up to 35 elephants at the watering hole at one time.  One evening we witnessed elephant sex up close.  A female knelt down, a bull mounted her, and it was all over in a matter of seconds.  Talk about “Kiss and Tell”, that bull trumpeted for the next two hours!

Our Kombi had a small water tank, with a place to fill it on the outside of the camper.  One morning we found the plastic flap cover gone.  Ben said one of the elephants would have smelled the water in the tank and tried to get  it.  We were sleeping inside and my husband’s head was not a foot from the cover.  We never heard a thing.   It is amazing how something so big can be so quiet.  We found elephant footprints all around our camper every morning,  we never once heard them walking past.  They walked between the tents and never tripped on the cords or tent pegs.   We did hear the lions roar at night, and were quite happy to not see their footprints around the campsite.

It was not unusual for the staff to begin their morning repairing water lines.   The lines are plastic PVC  pipe running underground.  The elephants can smell the water in the lines and dig them up on a regular basis.

Our last morning we sat drinking our coffee watching four bulls come from the watering hole to drink from the pool.  A safari group was arriving later in the day, and the pool was intended for guest use.  Ben told the boys to get the truck and fill the pool.  Elephants can drink a lot of water, and the pool was not very big.  Once it was filled he reminded them to add chlorine.  He explained they have found the least amount of chlorine needed to make the water safe for swimmers, and still keep it safe for the elephants to drink.  They had just finished when a large old bull walked across the campground and straight to the pool.  He planted his big feet, bent over, and got a huge trunk full of water.  He then looked directly at Ben, and proceeded to spray that water all over the café.  Obviously, he did not like chlorine in his water.

As we turned onto the road heading for Kasane, I turned for one last look at the sign that said it all  “Elephant Sands – Where Elephants Rule”.

If you missed the sign, or just want some more information you can go to www.elephantsands.com

By: Gloria
 
 
Country/Town Visited: Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Date of stay: November 2014 
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

There are so many ways you can create the perfect holiday to the Whitsunday Islands.  If you are planning a trip for at least a week or longer, then island hopping is a must.  On their own you can easily entertain yourself on one single island resort, however you will not capture the full extent of beauty the Whitsundays has to offer until you explore all the island resorts on offer.  You can start at two different destinations when flying from inside Australia:

1-      Airlie Beach (38.1km drive from Proserpine Airport)
2-      Hamilton Island (Hamilton Airport on the island)

These two resorts act as transport hubs to the rest of the islands. Each resort has a harbour which caters to all of the major resorts on offer at Whitsundays. The best ferry transfers to book are through Cruise Whitsundays. They offer ferry to and from each island resort as well as day cruises to the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach. 

We started on Airlie Beach, staying at the Coral Sea Resort, which was located at the tip of Airlie Beach, with panoramic views of the bay and harbour. The staff at the hotel were fantastic and the food menu was very reasonably priced.  I would recommend you pay the extra money book an ‘ocean view room’ and ask for the upper levels.  The views on the balcony are beautiful and can be immediately seen as you walk through the hotel door. 

Cruise Whitsundays Scuba Diving
From Airlie Beach we planned our first day trip to the Great Barrier Reef.  The team at Cruise Whitsundays were so helpful and made the hour sea journey very entertaining, with tea coffee and biscuits provided on the way there and back, and lunch was also provided during the stay at the reef.  If the weather holds, there are several activities that are on offer.  These include scuba diving, snorkelling, under water boat cruises and also sunbathing on top of the Reefworld pontoon.  My fiancée is petrified of swimming so this trip was mainly to benefit me.  However one of the team members from Cruise Whitsundays was adamant he could persuade my fiancée to scuba dive.   After several long minutes or arguing and negotiating he persuaded her to suit up for the dive and he took his time to train her through the beginner steps to scuba diving.  To my amazement he had taken a beginner who was petrified of having her head under water, to swimming with fishes bigger than her.  The Reefworld pontoon provides great shelter for beginners to practice scuba diving, before each diver would be escorted hand in hand by their own experienced diver down to the reef.  The experience of swimming beside the reef is simply not to be missed.

Sky Diving Airlie Beach
Our next highly recommended adventure was a Sky Dive at Airlie Beach.  There is no better way to get a panoramic view of the Whitsundays than from the air.  Coming from a man who is scared of heights, there is no greater rush than a free fall from 14,000ft while looking at crystal clear blue waters over the islands.  Make sure to get the video package as the memories are worth keeping.

From Airlie Beach we took our first island hop to Long Island Beach Resort.  This resort is the main hotel on the island, with its own secluded beach that makes a perfect location for some beach activities such as paddle boarding.  There are hiking tracks that go for a few kilometres along the long stretch of the island; however we didn’t have the stamina to venture too far.


The third island we stayed on and highly recommend is Daydream Island.  It has only one resort, and each guest is greeted in spectacular fashion, with free shell necklace and mocktail provided on arrival.  Daydream Island Resort has so many features to offer, most notably is the man made coral reef that engulfs half of the exterior to the hotel.  Here the staff regularly put on shows for the guests where you can feed stingrays and sharks that inhabit the coral reef. The pools are both luxurious and relaxing, with the main pool having its own pool bar.  The island is popular for those looking an exclusive wedding resort, consisting of its own church to the east side of the island. The sunset is best viewed on Daydream Island, with a beach specially laid out for guests with tables and chairs and optional champagne.

The best location we stayed on Whitsunday Islands was arguably Hamilton Island.  With cars being banned on the island, the only mode of transport used on the island are buses and golf carts.  The golf carts can be hired for a number of days, and they can be parked outside each hotel on the island.  Hamilton Island is not large, and can easily be crossed in the golf cart in 15 minutes.  I had planned a special event on Hamilton Island and I acquired the help of the staff at Reef View Hotel to assist me in planning my proposal.  When I asked for assistance at the reception a few weeks in advance they immediately put me through to the manager and he kindly upgraded us to the King Suite on the top floors to make our stay more comfortable. The views from the King Suite rooms were simply breathtaking.  I cannot thank the staff enough for their kind efforts in making our stay on the island magical.  The hotel pool was crystal clear, and the bar staff wait on guests hand and foot as they lounge by the pool.  There are a few spots on Hamilton Island that must be visited, including the One Tree lookout and the Yacht Club
.

Our final day trip while staying in Whitsundays took us to Whitehaven Beach.  Whitehaven Beach is a definite 'must see' in the Whitsundays.  The crystal clear waters and pristine white silica sand of Whitehaven stretch for over seven km's along Whitsunday Island, the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsunday Islands National Park.

This tour is again best experienced through Cruise Whitsundays.  They again provide morning and evening tea, as well as a packed lunch.  When you arrive at Whitehaven beach you are split up into groups and each gets to go on smaller tour groups to the key points of the area. 

This trip will allow you to indulge in the ultimate experience of Whitehaven Beach; from the northern end exploring spectacular Hill Inlet, to the southern, where you can swim, sunbathe and soak up the sun.  You will be able to enjoy a leisurely cruise on the Whitehaven-based vessel, along the full length of Whitehaven, across Hill Inlet to a landing point. From here a guided walk following the path and history of the Whitsunday traditional owners, the Ngaro people, will lead you to the lookout and that picture postcard view! The hill inlet has a very spiritual feel to it, and the tour guide at Cruise Whitsundays shared with us his 20+ years’ experience while travelling to the island.  If sea conditions permit, you are taken to nearby Esk Island, a delightfully scenic island that is rarely visited. If the tide is right, there is a small reef area to snorkel.

By: Mark



 
 
Country/Town Visited: Bali, Indonesia
Date of stay: December 2014 - January 2015
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned with friends

Last year 2014, I began my adventure throughout Southeast Asia for 1 month with a group of friends. My first stop was Bali and I arrived at the Bali Airport located in Denpasar. My trip to Bali was amazing with friendly people and heaps of places to visit.

We spent 10 days in Bali in December 2014 and had a lovely stay at the Tune Hotel of Legian, my friend found this hotel (www.tunehotels.com). At first, we had planned to stay in a hostel, but given that my friend found this offer, the Tune Hotel seemed the best option as we ended up paying AUD 95 for 10 days. The hotel was pretty nice and their facilities included comfortable beds, good toilets, AirCon etc. It's also conveniently located just 10 minutes-walk to the heart of Kuta, this location allows easy access to convenience stores, nightlife venues, exclusive shopping, tourist attractions and sightseeing. Moreover, there was also a beach nearby to the hotel, so we went there a couple of times to enjoy the sun and beach, even though it wasn’t the best beach  

The next day we got in touch with a driver called Nikko, whose contact we got through a friend. He drove us to different places of Bali, particularly temples. We took a 3 day trip with him and it cost AUD 10 per person for each day. This does not include the cost for entry tickets. Each day we had to wake up pretty early so we can finish visiting all the places that were scheduled. On average, each trip was from 8 am until 6 pm. Nikko, our tour guide was very friendly, kind and knowledgeable, and taught us everything about the Balinese culture and what it means.

This 3 day itinerary could be a good guide to follow for others visiting Bali.

1st day: Barong Dance, Batuan Temple, Monkey Forest Temple, Rice Terrace, Coffee Plantation, Batur Volcano

Barong Dance Show Bali
Barong Dance
We saw the Barong Dance performance as the 1st part of our 1st day tour of Bali. We found it very interesting. The Barong Dance is a show consisting of a story telling dance about a fight between good and evil; however, we found that it was not necessarily to our taste. The costumes were colorful and changed according to the different stages of the play. It was fast-paced despite the pauses, which are typical in these sorts of performances.  The dance started out nice, but then half way through the dance got inappropriate and boring. We found some of the actions obscene including a rather lengthy joke based on a boar’s tail not being his member, so people of a sensitive nature might not find it amusing. It was hard for us to keep track on the story partly due to the language barrier, even though each one had a piece of paper with a translation. The play was quite pricey by Balinese standards.

Tickets: AUD 10
Location: Batu Bulan
Note: If you don’t want to pay, you can enjoy in hotels as they offer these dances with dinner.


Butuan Temple Bali
Batuan Temple

Next, we visited the Puseh Batuan Temple. The good thing about this temple is that all of the carvings are so different on the buildings and within the temples. The temple was nice and ornate. The intricacies of the teak woods that were used are amazing. It is absolutely worth spending time there.

At this temple, sarongs are mandatory to wear for both men and women and are provided by local people who will happily help you tie them on. No need to pay entrance fee, just a voluntary small amount of donation if visitors wish.



Monkey Forest Temple

The Monkey Forest Sanctuary Temple, located in the district of Ubud, is practically a must for anyone visiting Bali, particularly because of the carb eating macaques, amazing and playful monkeys that are spread along the temple. When we got there, the first thing we did was focused on taking pictures of these monkeys and some of my friends were pretty excited to play with them. However, it is not a good idea; these monkeys are pretty fast and might be aggressive if they are annoyed and might bite people and transmit diseases such as Hepatitis B.

People should also be careful with their belongings especially with their bags and purses. Monkeys can steal them. Apart from the monkeys, by walking along the temple, people can find interesting pathways that lead to see The Statue of the Komodo Dragon and The Dalem Agung Padangtegal Temple

Tickets: AUD 3
The Rice Terrace located at Tegalalang

Tegalalang Rice Terrace

After visiting Ubud’s monkey forest, we headed to The Rice Terrace located at Tegalalang in the north of Ubud. Rice Terrace is famous for its beautiful scenes of rice paddies involving the subak (traditional irragition system created in Bali). The scenery offers a sense of calm and serenity atmosphere. It is a good place to take pictures with stunning views of a green scenery which can be seen from the main road from Kintamani to Ubud and even by just sitting in the shops and restaurants located at the top of the terraces. The main feature of this attraction is to walk down the fields and explore the terraces a bit more and if you have the chance, you can usually find most of the villagers working on the rice field and see their cropping systems and how the local farmer works on it to make rice.



Bali Coffee Plantation
Coffee Plantation

Coffee plantation is a good spot to sample local blends. This coffee is the Kopi Luwak or civet coffee, which is a coffee made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet, then pooped out, cleaned, roasted and ground for drinking.  I really enjoyed, we had a guide who was explaining us the whole process and we were able to taste different kinds of coffee with different flavours. In the end, you can buy coffee given that they have a coffee shop. I remember you can buy a bag of coffee for AUD 10 approximately.



Ubud Batur Volcano
Batur Volcano

The last place that we visited was the Batur volcano which was in Ubud. We briefly saw the volcano and it was a great stop to have a beautiful picture of the Mountain. Hopefully, the next time I will be able to do the trek on the next trip, which is one of the main attractions. Our guide told us that the walk is good for beginners and not too challenging, so an average person could walk and climb it easily if walking slowly given that if the person does not often exercise much, he or she may get short of breath. The Batur Volcano Trek usually starts early in the morning depending where you live, so it is important to have a good sleep the day before. For more information visit:
http://www.balitrekkingtour.com/mount-batur-trekking/


2nd day: Taman Ayun temple, Botanical Garden, Ulun Danu, Twin lake and Tanah Lot Temple

Taman Ayun Temple

Our second day trip, we started visiting the Taman Ayun temple, located at Mengwi. Taman Ayun translates as “beautiful garden” and is considered one of the most attractive temples of Bali. It stands on an island in a river. One of the most stunning view of this temple is the fact that it has several pagodas one behind another which it is a perfect opportunity to take a good picture of its best feature according to me. One can view the main temple from outside and climb a tall tower built in the garden for taking some great pictures. This is a beautiful temple with green gardens spread across large areas. In addition, this temple also features a separate arena for cock fight and an inner sanctum which is only accessible for locals. Less crowded temple compared to other temples.

Tickets: AUD 2


Bedugul Botanical Gardens
Botanical Garden

Then, we visited the Bali Botanical Garden. Good spot for those who like the nature and enjoy forest. In this place, a vast expansion of green lawns surrounded by different varieties of plants, cactus, shrubs and trees. If want to get more adventurous, you can do canopy, which is according to us one of the main highlights of this trip. See more at: http://www.balitreetop.com/?goto=home&lang=en

Tickets: AUD 5 (Botanical Garden Entrance Fee)

Location: Bedugul



Ulun Danu Temple
Ulun Danu Temple

Ulun Danu is one of the most beautiful temples in Bali situated in the middle of the lake and has become a favorite tourist spot in Bali. Built in 1926, this temple is one of the most famous Balinese temple, it is usually called as Bali Temple on the water given that it looks like it is floating on the water as the water level in the lake rises.

In this temple, one of the main attractive things was the fact that this temple consist of 4 temples: Lingga Petak Temple, Dalem Purwa Temple, Terate Bang Temple and Penaratan Pucak Mangu Temple. These temples are pretty beautiful to take pictures with the background of the lake.

During our visit, unfortunately we couldn’t stay for long; it was raining and had to leave after 30 minutes.

Tickets: AUD 3

Location: Bedugul



Twin Lake

After, we visited TheTwin Lake. In this area,  Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan, separated by a rainforest-covered  hill, are known as the Twin Lakes. This place has a good view of the volcanic heart of Bali. Volcanoes have created and shaped this island. To be honest, we underestimate to do more activities there. Our guide tour told us that we could do some nice hikes around the lakes, offering some unique viewpoints and also have the chance to see a colony of monkeys. However, we were pretty tired by them and as we saw monkeys before in Monkey forest, we decided to continue our trip to our last stop.


Tanah Temple
Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot was our last destination and it is probably the most famous temple in Bali. This temple stands just off the coast on a rock and it is quite spectacular. Most people go for the sunset, which makes a good connection with the temple to take good pictures.

Tickets: AUD 3


Location: South Kuta


3rd day: Nusa Dua, Padang Padang Beach and Uluwatu Temple

Nusa Dua
To be honest, we weren’t that delighted that much with the offers of Nusa Dua. Most of this trip, included passing plenty of all-inclusive resorts to go to the beaches. What is more, not the clearest water, dirty sand and barely palm trees. The only good thing about this part of this trip was visiting The Water Blow, which is a rock formation where waves colliding onto the rock wall create a giant splash like the water is blowing, however, as we were disappointed, we never even took pictures.

Padang Padang Beach
Padang Padang beach is located 30 kms south of Kutu, not far from the Uluwatu Temple in Bali’s northwest side. It is supposed to be the place where Julia Roberts made a film and also a surfing beach, however to be honest we felt very disappointed because the beach was filled of rubbish.

Uluwatu Temple
Finally, Our next halt was at the famous Uluwatu temple surrounded by the Indian ocean. The encapsulating ocean view, cliff hanging temple and the golden sun rays beaming from the clear blue sky made us go wow - we were overwhelmed by the beauty of nature.  In addition to these one can also see the Uluwatu cave and the kecak dance performance at an additional cost.


Useful Information in Bali:

·  The visa process is simple. 52 countries are eligible for Visa on Arrival when visiting Indonesia. When departing from Bali, you are subject to the airport departure tax which is paid in Indonesian Rupiah only, so save some bills for the trip out. The tax is AUD 20 (IDR 200,000). For local flight is AUD 7 (IDR 70,000)

· When exchanging money, let’s say just exchange AUD 20 in Australia for the taxi ride and some food. In Bali, there are numerous money changers all over. I suggest asked some staff in the hotel or tour guide where the best option to change is. Never change in these small stalls operated by street vendors, even though they offer an attractive rate, they will try to scam you when counting the money, they are super-fast and you won’t notice whether they give the correct amount of money.

· When traveling in Asia, especially in countries like Indonesia and Thailand, try to use cash instead of credit or debit cards. In fact, do not use the Travel Money Card of the Commonwealth Bank. It pays very low, offers unattractive exchanges rates and charges AUD 4 of withdrawal fee. It might be useful for some emergencies; however, I recommend using Citibank.

· Although commuting is easy, the local transportation system in Bali is not one of the best. Taking taxis are the best option but always bargain for a good price. Do not attempt to rent motorbikes given that you can be pulled over by a police officer and be fined.

· When dining out, try the local food. Nasi Goreng, Gado Gado Salad and Pepe’s Tuna were my favorite meals; however, sometimes they can be spicy. Always tell the waiter to serve without spicy sauces. They are a pretty good deal, I would say AUD 3 per dish.

Any questions please post a comment to this blog. Thanks

By: Pedro

 
 
Country/Town Visited: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Date of stay: January 2015
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

Koh Phi Phi is to my knowledge the most popular islands in Thailand. The famous Maya Beach (made famous in The Beach starring Leonardo Di Caprio). Destroyed by the tsunami in 2004, the island has been rebuilt and developed to an even greater extent than before. Though I’ve had a lot fun here, I personally don’t like Ko Phi Phi. I find it too built up and touristy. It’s very overdeveloped and ruined, but thousands of people visit each year and love it. Visit for yourself and decide.
Phi Phi Island viewpoint
Phi Phi Viewpoint
Phi Phi Beach
Things to do in Phi Phi

Nightlife– It is crazy. Fireshows and Thai boxing matches are regular at the beach bars. Massive beach parties. Partying is not cheap here and is one of the reasons people spend too much money here!

Shark Feeding – One of the most popular trips out of Koh Phi Phi is an early morning excursion to feed sharks. A six-hour trip will start at about $15 USD and will have you feeding black tip and leopard sharks. Most tours also include visits to coral gardens for snorkeling.

Snorkel in Maya Bay – Made famous for its starring role in the Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Beach, Maya Bay is on Koh Phi Leh and is usually included with all the island/snorkeling trips you see advertised. For those who want to see the place without lots of boats and people, you can spend a night on the island. It’s a far better way to experience the seclusion of this place.

Hike to Phi Phi Viewpoint – The twenty minute walk up to the Viewpoint will be rewarded by an amazing panoramic view of Phi Phi Le and Phi Phi Don. The Viewpoint is over 600 feet high, so you’ll need to be reasonably fit to get here, but your camera will thank you! The best time to go is at sunset or sunrise.

Useful information in Thailand:

Be aware of the drugs in your alcoholic drinks, some local bartenders might put methanol in your drinks. As there are heaps of beach parties, you might be able to get in with alcohol bought at 7 eleven.

Try to keep emotional intelligence when dealing with street vendors. In Thailand, they can be rude if they think that you are trying to cheat when bargaining.

If you arrived at the Surat Thani Airport, bring some Bahts (Thai Currency) with you. I couldn’t find an exchange office in the airport so I had to withdraw money and therefore some fees were applied.

You can usually find expats working there so they can give you useful information about where to buy stuff or hire tours.

By: Pedro
 


 
 
Country/Town Visited: Koh Phangan, Thailand
Date of stay: January 2015
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

Koh Phangan is in the Gulf of Thailand and is one of the most known places for backpacking in Southeast Asia, particularly because of the world famous Full Moon Party, so be prepared for a lot of partying here. We spent one day there and it was enough according to us. You can also escape from the madness and head to the eastern or northern beaches on the island such as Haat Rin.

To be honest, the only purpose of going there was because of the Full Moon Party. At this party, each bar has its own sound system, so you’ll hear different music every few feet. The beach is lined with people selling alcohol and fire dancers putting on shows. Little booths are also set up, which sell glow-in-the-dark face paint as kids run up and down the beach hawking trinkets and glowsticks. It happens during the full moon every month.. If you miss it, there’s always the half moon party, quarter moon party, and black moon party. Really, every day is a party here... lol

Useful information in Thailand:

Be aware of the drugs in your alcoholic drinks, some local bartenders might put methanol in your drinks. As there are heaps of beach parties, you might be able to get in with alcohol bought at 7 eleven.

Try to keep emotional intelligence when dealing with street vendors. In Thailand, they can be rude if they think that you are trying to cheat when bargaining.

If you arrived at the Surat Thani Airport, bring some Bahts (Thai Currency) with you. I couldn’t find an exchange office in the airport so I had to withdraw money and therefore some fees were applied.

You can usually find expats working there so they can give you useful information about where to buy stuff or hire tours.   

By: Pedro



 
 
Country/Town Visited: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Date of stay: January 2015
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

Kuala Lumpur was just an amazing city and our group spent 3 days there. We arrived at the KL Airport and managed to find a friendly taxi driver just outside of the airport who drove us to our accommodation. He charged us 20 dollars for a group of 4. We stayed at the Guest Inn house hotel, located in the golden triangle of Kuala Lumpur. The hotel was alright, I would give it a 5/10, I'd recommend you to look for other options in Kuala Lumpur.

The hotel location was pretty good and was within close walking distance to important places in KL. In this area is China Town (10 mins), street food market at Jalan Alor (10 mins), the best bar street at Changkat (10 mins), shopping centres and the famous Petronas Towers (30 mins).  Our opinions differ from each other, the staff were pretty good, they gave us useful tips to get the best out of the trip.

KL is an interesting city, but given that we spent little time there (3 days), we could have easily spent 5 to 7 days exploring. I can highlight things about Petronas Towers and Batu Caves which were worth visiting. The best places in KL for us at least. We also traveled by metro to Batu Caves as we were located in a good location we walked to different places.

Although more expensive than other parts of Malaysia, KL’s mix of cultures (Indian, Western, Malay and Chinese) creates a unique blend of food, shopping, and nightlife. Despite our short journey, I believe that KL is one exciting place and one of the best cities in the world.

The best things to do in Kuala Lumpur

Go to the Petronas Towers.- These towers definitely dominate the whole skyline of Kuala Lumpur. Tourists can take in the view from the connection of the bridges which joins the towers on levels 41 and 42. To get in the towers, visitors must pay AUD 30 approximately. You’ll need to be early as the tickets get snapped up fast.

Visit Central Market and JL Petaling Market in Chinatown.- These places are great to pick up bargains on food and clothes. They are open day and night.

National History Museum - Definitely a great place to get to know Malaysia’s culture and history. Here you can get to see a 40,000 year old human skull and an eight-sided gold coin dating back to the 15th Century. Entrance is free.

Eat.- Malay, Western, Chinese and Indian are all common in KL. The multicultural social mix in Kuala Lumpur creates an extremely varied blend of local food. Unsurprisingly, Little India and Chinatown serve amazing food at very reasonable prices.

Go up Menara Kuala Lumpur.- From the observation deck the view here is more impressive than the Petronas Towers.

Batu Caves.- KL is not only about skycrappers and tumultuous traffic, it is good to get out to the outskirts and visit nature wonders as Batu Caves. You will be rewarded after climbing 272 steps, when you get to see the huge golden Murugan Statue and the largest of the 3 caves “The Cathedral Cave”. In addition, this place is full of monkeys, so be careful as they might steal your stuff.


Useful information in Kuala Lumpur:

Food in streets is the best way to enjoy local food, it usually costs between AUD 2-4 per meal. If you are planning to sit down in a nice restaurant, a meal with drink will cost around AUD 13. Western food is more expensive, however it is still a bargain compared to Australia. You usually ended up paying no more than AUD 5.

Hostel is one of the most common places where backpackers stay. Shared rooms cost between 7-10 AUD per night. AUD 12 if they are single and AUD 20 if it is double.

The best way to get around KL is by public transportation which is excellent. Underground and monorail cost between 0.50-1,50 AUD and buses 0,50 AUD. Prices are calculated according to the distance. However, if you are staying in the city center or located in Chinatown and Little India, try to explore the city by foot. Most of the emblematic places are closed to each other.

Try to find accommodation in Chinatown, it is one of the cheaper neighborhoods and close to many attractions.

By: Pedro

 
 
Country/Town Visited: Koh Samui, Thailand
Date of stay: January 2015
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

Our first stop in Thailand was Koh Samui, where we arrived after long drive by bus. First, we arrived at the Surat Thani Airport and then we managed to hire a bus just outside of the airport and paid AUD 40 approximately.

MaeNam Beach
MaeNam Beach

At the north coast of Koh Samui, a beach called MaeNam Beach is located. This beach did not impress us. The water was cloudy and seemed dirty. Activities such as snorkeling seemed impossible. Stinging was kind of regular there, We thought that it could have been some jellyfish larvae or fish, but I did not see any. Maybe it was just salt water.

Anyway, back to the beach. It is long with yellow sand, not crowded, only few people there. That is something that I only liked about Koh Samui. There is a sharp descent into the sea, and it is not necessary to walk 100 meters off the shore to swim as it happens in some places.

Big Buddha Beach Thailand
Big Buddha Beach

This beach seemed to Bophut, they are next to each other. It is close to the airport, and obviously closed to the main attraction which is the Big Buddha monument (definitely worth a visit). It is also close to Chaweng Beach if you are looking for some partying. I reckon the Big Buddha Beach is fine, however I wouldn’t book a room in this are if I had the opportunity.






Chaweng Beach
Chaweng Beach

Chaweng Beach is a place for those lovers of the partying scene. In Chaweng, you will find heaps of shops, restaurants and night markets.

The sand is white and the sea water is clear; however, the beach is crowded and therefore you won’t be able to lie down in silence on the sand.

Chaweng is quite noisy at night given that there are lots of drunken tourists, cars and motorbikes. Heaps of ladyboys on the streets – In one word: “Chaos”. I recommend this place only for those party animals.


Useful information in Thailand:
Be aware of the drugs in your alcoholic drinks, some local bartenders might put methanol in your drinks. As there are heaps of beach parties, you might be able to get in with alcohol bought at 7 eleven.

Try to keep emotional intelligence when dealing with street vendors. In Thailand, they can be rude if they think that you are trying to cheat when bargaining.

If you arrived at the Surat Thani Airport, bring some Bahts (Thai Currency) with you. I couldn’t find an exchange office in the airport so I had to withdraw money and therefore some fees were applied.

You can usually find expats working there so they can give you useful information about where to buy stuff or hire tours.

By: Pedro