5 Activities for a Rainy Day in Ubud, Bali

Bali is well known for its glorious warm weather that attracts lots of visitors from all over the world throughout the year. But, just like similar destinations such as Thailand and the Philippines, it is also prone to tropical thunder storms and heavy downpour, which can come and go quickly, but often they like to stick around for a little while.

On our previous trip to Ubud, Bali, we found ourselves in this very situation. While we had initial excitement experiencing the thunderstorm from our balcony at Ubud View Bungalow, we hadn’t really thought of any activities that didn’t involve being out in the lovely sunshine such as exploring temples, wandering the markets, or simply lazing by the pool.

As the thunderstorm continued overnight and into the morning, we found ourselves pondering on what to do with our days not knowing how many we would have to fill with ‘rainy day’ activities.

After some serious thought and a little research, we managed to compile a list of several fun things we could do while the thunderstorm continued outside.

We quickly figured out that if a thunderstorm calls for anything, its a bit of self-care such as a spa day or yoga class and a bit of indulgence such as enjoying delicious food and drinks.

As the rain continues to pour down here in the UK, this seems like a fitting time to reflect and share our fun rainy day activities with you guys. While the list below is focused on our recommendations in Ubud, you can easily enjoy these or similar rainy day activities in other locations.

1. Take a Yoga Class

Ubud is well known as the ideal retreat for rejuvenation so it comes as no surprise that Yoga is thriving here. There are abundant Yoga retreats and classes available so you won’t be short of a place to practice.

In Ubud, you will be surrounded by lush greenery including jungles and rice paddies, which provides the perfect backdrop and tranquility to relax and unwind.

The Yoga Barn is one of the largest retreat centres in South East Asia and a popular location that provides classes and workshops year-round from early morning to late evening. The Yoga Barn is an artistically crafted studio and retreat centre that captures the true essence of Ubud and the island of Bali.

2. Lunch at The Alchemy

Take advantage of the rainy day weather by filling your tummy with delicious food, which you won’t go short of in Bali!

Our favourite spot here is The Alchemy for sure, which is the first 100% raw vegan cafe in Bali. It provides freshly prepared dishes that are free from refined sugar, flour, dairy, wheat and chemical additives. They offer a wholesome raw and vegan salad bar that serves the best buddha bowls in the area. You will find everything from zucchini pasta and coconut noodles, to raw burgers and curried vegetables.

The real treat here is the juice menu that is full of organic, energising juices, as well as the dessert bar serving mouthwatering raw chocolates, truffles, brownies and more. Situated in-store is the Alchemy’s own health store stocking superfoods, organic produce, and cosmetics for you to take home.

3. Take a Cooking Class with the Locals

Taking a cooking class will allow you to discover exotic Balinese fruits, herbs and spices and their medicinal properties too. Many are hosted by local families who provide private traditional Balinese cooking experiences where you can learn to cook local dishes such as Pepes Ikan and Bregedel.

You can sit back and enjoy the delicious dishes you helped to prepare from the family’s home while learning about life in Bali from people who have grew up there.

Many of these private experiences include extras such as a guided tour around Ubud and even pick-up and drop-off to and from your hotel.

The best part? You’ll be helping to support the local people and economy. TripAdvisor is a great place to find traditional Balinese cooking experiences and its always good to hear stories from others who have experienced it previously.

4. Cook Traditional Balinese Food with Local Produce

Depending on where you are staying you could even take advantage of cooking your own food using local ingredients.

Seek out fresh produce that you might not get back home such as Mongosteen and Durian (fyi, Durian tends to be touch and go due to the strong smell and taste and is often banned from hotels so perhaps only useful if you are in private accommodation).

You could always try your hand at recreating traditional dishes such as Nasi Goreng (rice with vegetables and egg). Brit and The Blonde have compiled a pretty good list of 10 Indonesian Dishes for Vegetarians that we highly recommend checking out.

5. Enjoy a Traditional Balinese Spa Treatment

In Ubud (and throughout Bali for that matter), you won’t go short of a spot to enjoy a spa treatment or two. They are on every corner (literally) and won’t break the bank either. Of course, the price is dependent on where you go for a treatment and which treatment you select, but there really will be something to suit all budgets.

For example, you will likely stumble upon more affordable masseurs as you are walking down the street and will pay a bit more in hotels and high-end spas but still affordable nonetheless.

We always opt for a full body massage and I tie in a facial too (its all about that self-care, right?). But, if the rain continues, why not get nails, hair, and a body scrub too!

After all, you have probably been travelling for some time, you deserve it…

If there is one thing we can guarantee, its that you won’t regret this expenditure as you will be fully relaxed and refreshed.

See, there really is no need to be disappointed when the rain hits in destinations such as Ubud. There are still plenty of activities to do while hiding out from the rain.  Plus, nothing beats the excitement of a tropical thunderstorm.

Our favourite thing is to sit back on the balcony at night (under shelter) with lots of snacks and watch the storm pound down. What are you favourite rainy day activities while travelling?

The Best Historical Sights in Vienna, Austria’s Cultural Capital

Vienna is a city full of culture and intriguing historical structures to explore. The baroque streetscapes are laced with beautiful architecture and imperial palaces are plentiful. With our short guide, we show you how to see the best of the city’s culture, which can be achieved in one long weekend.   

The majority of historical sights, grand architecture, art galleries and museums are located in the Museum Quarter, Museumsplatz, which is one of the largest cultural quarters in the world. Here, you will find abundant museums such as the Natural History Museum, the Leopold Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and not forgetting the stunning Hofburg Palace.

Below, is our short guide on how to soak up the best of the Viennese culture. You can easily explore the top cultural sights within one long weekend while also having time to indulge in the delicious cuisine. We recommend visiting during the Spring for beautiful weather so you can leisurely stroll around this beautiful city.

City Hall

IMG_1392The City Hall is located in the heart of Vienna in the Rathausplatz in the Innere Stadt district. Originally, the building was designed and built by former architect of the Cathedral of Cologne, Friedrich von Schmidt, and was considered the most important secular building in the neo-gothic style in the city between 1872 and 1883. To date, it is arguably one of the most stunning City Halls in Europe.

The Natural History Museum

IMG_1393The Museum of Natural History covers some square footage and comprises an extensive collection of world-famous and unique objects such as enormous dinosaur skeletons and both land and underwater creatures. It even has its own Digital Planetarium that shows full dome films and you can check out latest screenings here. A tour inside to explore the 39 exhibit halls will take you on a journey through the ages.

IMG_4647The National History Museum offers a great way to spend a long afternoon and we recommend allocating around 2-3 hours to cover the entire museum at leisure. Plus, you can take a short break at the café, which serves traditional Viennese coffee specialities, pastries and traditional snacks as well as main dishes during lunch hours.

Hofburg Palace

Stunning Hofburg, The Imperial Palace, was the residence and seat of government of the Habsburg emperors until 1918. Today, it is home to numerous museums with outstanding collections such as the Spanish Riding School, a congress centre, the seat of the Austrian Federal President as well as the historic Heldenplatz.

The Austrian National Library

The Austrian National Library is the countries largest library and central memory institution. As you can see from the photos, the interior is absolutely stunning and you will be amazed by the historical collections of unique artefacts, manuscripts, photographs, maps and globes.

IMG_4686The library is home to over 3.9 million books and besides attracting lots of international visitors, it is a great meeting place for researchers and students.

St Stephen’s Cathedral

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St Stephens Cathedral is a must for every visitor to Vienna. For more than 700 years, the cathedral has been the symbol of Vienna and today, it remains one of the most important and iconic Gothic structures in Austria. Inside, you can climb the 343 steps up the tower and enjoy breathtaking views of the city.

The National Theatre

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The Austrian National Theatre, also known as Burgtheater, is one of Europes largest theatres. Located opposite the City Hall, the venue attracts over 400,000 theatre-goers to over 800 performers each year. The stunning white building with marble features is adorned with statues of famous writers such as Goethe and Schiller. Inside, the theatre provides a great atmosphere for cultural events such as Austrian playwrights. It has a world-wide reputation for dramatic art and is proudly one of the first German-speaking theatres in Europe.

Other beautiful buildings around Vienna

IMG_4601It’s not just the wonderful historical buildings that are now home to museums and art galleries that have the most beautiful architecture, the city is laced with it. Almost every corner you turn will present you with a stunning sight, that’s why we recommend visiting in the spring or summer months so you can enjoy a stroll around the inner streets at leisure.

 

Have you visited Vienna before? We’d love to hear about your trips to one of our favourite European cities!

Southern Thailand Culture in Photos: From Phuket to the Phi Phi Islands

Located in the southern province of Thailand, Phuket is home to many of the world’s finest beaches and is beaming with culture. It is a gateway to the nearby tropical islands including the famous Phi Phi islands and is a must-visit destination in Southern Thailand. 

Phuket is home to the famous Big Buddha statue. Built in 2004, the statue’s whole body is constructed with reinforced concrete and layered with beautiful Burmese white jade marble, which glistens under the hot sun.
The Big Buddha is located on the highest point in Phuket and is a great spot to to enjoy views over Phuket Town, Chalong Bay, Rawai and Andaman Archipelago. The surrounding atmosphere is peaceful and the views are breathtaking.
Nearby, you will find a smaller Buddha statue and although it is gold in colour, it is actually made of brass.
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A great way to explore Phuket’s coastline is by Quad Biking adventure tour with prices starting from 700THB including a 1-2 hour tour and pick-up and drop-off at your hotel.

 

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The tour allows you to ride your own quad bike to various view points, stopping off as you go to take photos and admire the scenery.
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Phuket’s south coast features over 30 stunning beaches including some of the most popular beaches in Thailand such as Patong Bay, Kata, Karon and Kamala.
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The quad bike tours often include a short 20-minute ride through the jungle, which is not for the faint hearted. Don’t forget your sun cream and ensure you have had your vaccinations prior to travel if this is something you would like to do.

 

 

From Phuket, you can easily hop over to the idyllic islands of Koh Phi Phi. The six islands are approximately 46km from Phuket and Krabi and  offer the perfect island retreat to relax and unwind. 

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To reach the Phi Phi islands from Phuket you can take either a ferry or speedboat. The ferry is the cheapest option and takes around 90 minutes from the main departure and arrival port, Rassada Pier, which is located in Phuket Town.
You can buy tickets at Rassada Pier to Tonsai Pier (featured) for around 800THB. Find the ferry schedule here.
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The Phi Phi Islands are famous for its limestone cliffs, emerald green waters, and white powdery beaches. The culture comprises the various recreational activities such as diving in the forested hills, rock climbing, scuba diving and swimming, and dancing around the campfires at night.
Just like any other island escape, the Phi Phi islands offer a wide range of accommodation from local budget stays to more high-end luxury resorts that mostly grace the coastline. Phi Phi Don is the main island and you can find affordable accommodation such as PP Princess Resort, which offers a range of accommodation to suit many budgets.
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Located right on the beach front, this hotel serves a delicious breakfast and a pool with sea view.
There are many spots to grab a bite to eat with sea view such as Charlie Bar located on the beach front ahead of PP Princess Resort.
It’s easy to keep fit and healthy on the island as smoothies and healthy dishes made with local produce are abundant.

 

From Phi Phi Don, you can explore the nearby islands including Phi Phi Leh, which is home to Maya Bay, famous for its feature in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach”. However, Phi Phi Leh is currently closed while its coral reefs are salvaged as they have been damaged by over tourism.
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Still, you can check out Bamboo Island, Khai, and Yao Yai Islands from Phi Phi Don and there are many local tour operators offering a “Phi Phi Island Tour” inclusive of swimming, sightseeing, and snorkelling around the stunning islands.
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After spending a week or so exploring the Phi Phi Islands, you can easily head to Krabi from here for more stunning beach such as Railay Beach.
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Given that the Phi Phi Islands are now a tourist hotspot in Thailand, you will likely get the chance to meet people from all around the world. The locals are often happy to share their stories and provide you with insights into the history and culture of the island and local life now compared to generations before.

 

5 Fun Activities To Do in Dubai

Now the hot-spot of the UAE and beyond, Dubai is a modern, cosmopolitan city that is packed with something for everyone, from shopping and dining at some of the worlds top restaurants to exploring the desert by 4×4.

The city strives to be the world’s first and best in many things, especially in the area of architecture, and the local people are proud of their country and its development to date. Dubai is home to the world renowned structures including the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. The city has been built to be explored and the tour companies in the UAE have not failed in offering exhilarating ways for tourists to explore the cities wonders.

Dubai is the perfect location for a long weekend break in between travelling to Asian/Australasian destinations such as Thailand, Bali, and Australia. Flights with Emirates often stop here for layover anyway, so you can always extend your stay for a couple of nights before continuing your journey. Incorporating Dubai into your trip will not increase your trip costs by much as flights tend to be around the same price whether you fly straight to Asia/Australasia or you stay a few nights in Dubai on-route.

To help you experience the best of Dubai in a long weekend, we have put together 5 of our favourite fun activities to have a go at while you are here.

1. Desert Safari

A desert safari is an opportunity to see the wonder that makes up a large part of the country. There are many tour operators such as Me and My Tourism and Arabian Adventures that offer this tour for around the same price (approx. AED230/£48 per person), so all you need to do is check them out and select one that suits you. The tour begins with a bumpy ride through the sandy terrain, bashing the dunes as you go in a 4×4 vehicle. Provisions are also made for tourists to stay overnight at ‘desert camp’ while being treated to local cuisine and enjoying henna tattoos and traditional entertainment. As part of the trip you can enjoy barbecued shawarma, shisha, belly dance entertainment, falcon handling, and a camel ride around the dunes, although these come at an extra cost to the trip so make sure you take some cash with you.

2. Yellow Boat Tour

The Yellow Boat Tour Company offers a great tour in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi in their famous yellow inflatable boats. The tour provides tourists with the opportunity to see how magnificent the city really is when viewed from the waters. The tour is unique in that the boats are designed to cut through the waves at high-speed and the skippers are not afraid to ramp up the mph across the water.

The company offers general and exclusive tours to families, couples, corporate groups and single tourists. The Dubai tour begins at the marina before heading out to the open waters to take in the sights of the Palm Jumeirah where you can see the perfect view of Palm Jumeirah villas, owned by the rich and famous, as well as the royal family of Dubai. You might even get to see the royals pet tigers roaming the beach front garden. During this trip, you will also see the magnificent Burj Al Arab, the prominent Atlantis hotel and the ‘Miami of Dubai’ – the spectacular skyline that makes up the Dubai Marina.

As well as this guided tour, the Yellow boat company also offers fishing trips on the Arabian Gulf, as well as a variety of water sports. Prices start from AED158 (approx. £32) for a 1 hour Yellow Boat Tour and AED945 (approx. £196) for a 3 hour fishing tour.

3. Jet Ski Tour

Jet skiing has again become a thing in Dubai after the authorities eased on the restriction they previously put on the sport. Nowadays, there are many operators such as Sea Ride Dubai and Ride in Dubai that are ready to guide you on a tour around the island taking a similar route to the Yellow boat company mentioned above. This tour is an exciting way to experience the water and see the landmarks of Dubai. Just like the yellow boat tour, you get to see the towering structures from the sea while handling your own jet ski for an hour on the waters. Prices start from AED350 (approx. £72) for 30 minutes and AED600 (approx. £125) for 1 hour.

4. Dinner Cruise

A dinner cruise in a traditional Dhow converted to a floating restaurant has become a tradition in Dubai. You can have a quiet lunch or a merry dinner with traditional entertainment as the Dhow cruises along the creek or the marina waters. These floating restaurants do not only offer traditional arabic food and parties, they let you see the city in a whole new light at night. Check out Xclusive Yachts and Dhow Dinner Cruise Dubai. Prices vary depending on the company and level of service you book and can range from AED141/£30 – AED242/£60 per person.

5. Shop Like Never Before

Let’s not forget the real deal in Dubai – shop until you drop! Dubai is a popular shopping destination that is only growing year on year following the development of countless shopping malls, including the Mall of the Emirates and the biggest mall in the world today – Dubai Mall. There is nothing you won’t find here and you can even experience the indoor Aquarium and Underwater Zoo (prices start from AED141/£30 per person) where you can admire the fascinating underwater world. Here, you can even experience cage snorkelling and shark diving. Virtual Reality (VR) ZOO (approx. AED30/£6) lets you take a trip to the jungles of Africa and Asia to find jungle animals you might never have seen face to face. The Burj Khalifa is also accessible from the Dubai Mall, but be sure to grab your tickets online as they are much more expensive when you purchase from the box office within the mall. Online, prices start from AED141  (approx. £30) per adult and AED106 (approx. £22) for children and you will pay slightly more to access the higher levels. Also, make sure you are plan your trip within the opening hours (8.30-14.30 and then 19.00 until closing).

There are so many fun activities to do in Dubai and here we have listed our top five. As always, we recommend searching around for the best service with a competitive price. Booking online can often save you 10% off the entire booking so its always best to compare a few companies and check the online price before booking with your hotel or direct with a travel agent when you are in the city.

Top 5 Cultural Experiences in Ubud, Bali

Ubud is the heart of Balinese culture.

Located in the foothills of the Gianyar regency among rice paddies, waterfalls, temples, ceremonies and traditional costumes and events, this area attracts visitors from all over the world for its rich arts and crafts. There is so much to do and see here and below we have listed our top five cultural experiences in Ubud where you can really immerse yourself in the Balinese culture.

1. Wander the traditional art markets

The Ubud Art Market is located in central Ubud opposite the Puri Saren Royal Ubud Palace. Here, locally crafted goods are plentiful including handmade woven bags, purses and baskets, hand crafted and wood-carved buddhas, bowls, and other ornaments, bright clothing, blankets and pillows, all of which you can bargain your way to a good price. The products tend to be made in the neighbouring villages of Tegallalang, Payangan and Peliatan. Taking a drive to the temples will allow you to see the locals hard at work creating their unique handicrafts and souvenirs with skills that have been passed down for centuries.

2. Enjoy Watching a Traditional Balinese Dance 

Balinese dance is an important part of Balinese culture.  Dances can be classed as sacred (Wali), semi-sacred (Bebali), while others are for entertainment or social events (Balih-Balihan). Dancing is both a religious practice and a performing art and before performing a sacred dance, Balinese dancers take part in religious rituals and receive blessings from temple priests. The ‘Legong Dance’ used to only be performed in front of the royal family within closed palace walls, however, nowadays you can watch the dance performed in various open stages and shows throughout Bali, such as the Puri Saren Royal Palance in Ubud.

3. Explore the temples 

There are abundant historic temples in Bali to explore and in Ubud you won’t go short. You can read more on our top 3 Must-see Temples in Bali here, including a couple of our favourites, Gunung Kawi and Goa-Gajah (Elephant Cave) Temple. Additional temples include Gunung Leah Temple, Pura Samuan Tiga (Temple of the Meeting of the Three), and Pura Taman Saraswati, more commonly known as Water Palace. The latter was designed by one of Ubud’s best loved architects, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad. Located in the heart of Ubud, the temple is easily accessible. The carvings largely honour the goddess of knowledge and art, Saraswati.

4. Visit the Monkey Forest

Located in central Ubud and open until 6pm daily, the Monkey Forest offers a great way to spend an afternoon after visiting the traditional markets. The locals view the forest as an important spiritual, economic, educational, and conservation centre for the village of Ubud. The entrance fee costs a minor 30,000IDR for adults and 15,000IDR for children. The monkeys are real characters (all 700 of them!) and are super fun, just make sure you remove anything shiny such as jewellery (especially earrings) because they love glistening objects and won’t hesitate to steal from you.

5. Swim in the waterfalls

Exploring and swimming in natures waterfalls is a must for any traveller and in and around Ubud there are many for you to choose from. A couple of our favourites are Tegenungan waterfall and Nungnung waterfall (35km drive out of Ubud). If you book on a full or half day excursion, you can simply choose a trip that includes a waterfall visit or you can hire a driver to take you straight there and bring you back when you are ready. Although it is located 66km north of Ubud, we recommend Sekumpul waterfall, which is a collection of seven waterfalls (“Sekumpul” meaning “group” in Indonesian) with the tallest waterfall at a staggering 50-metres high.

12 Beautiful & Cultural Photos of Bali & The Gili Islands

Bali is Indonesia’s most popular island known for its pristine beaches, rice paddies, waterfalls, and forested volcanoes. It provides a haven to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life where you can sit back and relax with relaxing incense, Balinese music and nothing but good vibes.

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Kuta beach is popular among tourists and locals. There are many restaurants to choose from along the coast road including one of our favourites, Rosso Vivo Dine & Lounge, which offers laid-back poolside dining from day to night and some of the best fruit juices and cocktails we’ve ever had.
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You will find locally hand-crafted goods in abundance in the markets on the streets of Kuta and Ubud selling a variety of clothing, bags, accessories, buddhist ornaments, and dreamcatchers, among other things.
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There are many temples to explore in and around both Kuta and Ubud offering an insight into Balinese history and culture. Check out our 7 Stunning Photos of the Locals Worship at Balinese Temples,  3 Must-see Temples in Bali and Top 5 Cultural Experiences in Ubud, Bali for more.
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Both tourists and locals flood the beach each evening to catch the golden sunset. There are many cafés and restaurants offering beach front seating where you can enjoy a dinner by sunset.

The Gili Islands are a trio of idyllic islands located off the Northwestern shore of Lombok. Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three islands and is popular among groups, followed by Gili Air, then Gili Meno, which are both popular for couples and travellers seeking a quiet retreat. 

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Boats run on a daily basis from Padang Bai in Bali to the Gili Islands. A bus trip is required from Kuta/Ubud to Padang Bai and there are many local tour operators providing a package deal of return bus and ferry so make sure you shop around for a good price. Like everything else in Bali, the trip is inexpensive and you are expected to bargain for a lower price. 
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Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant on the island which makes it super easy to stay healthy. Fruit juices and smoothies are a great start to any morning and are ideal to keep energised and hydrated throughout the day. 
The locals throughout Bali and the Gili Islands are some of the most friendly we have come across throughout our travels.
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On the Gili Islands, there is no motorised transport, which is great for the preservation of such natural beauty.
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Instead, there are many horse and carriages around the island, however, we wouldn’t want to support this and recommend hiring a bicycle instead. The islands are small enough with flat roads so you can easily cycle around. Plus, it is more fun and will keep you in good shape so you can enjoy all the delicious local foods.
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The islands are highly popular among divers and you can even become PADI qualified here. We recommend Blue Marlin on Gili Air, which is where we achieved our Open Water Diving Certificate.
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If diving isn’t for you, there are many restaurants along the beach front on all three islands serving local dishes from day to night. You will also find local boutiques on Gili Trawangan and regular Yoga classes on all three islands.
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Bali is one of our favourite places because of the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Both the island of Bali and the Gili Islands are a great place to unwind, relax, and have fun.