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?

7 Tips on Travelling as a Couple

Travelling as a couple can be a wonderful thing. You can create so many amazing memories together by exploring new places, taking on new challenges, trying new activities, gaining new skills and meeting new people. It can really make your relationship but it also has the potential to break it if you let it.

Just think, you will be  spending every day together meaning that you will essentially be living out of each others pockets. But fear not, we have been travelling together as a couple for almost seven years now and have got the perfect tips that are guaranteed to make every adventure together as a travelling couple a great one.

The secrets are to have patience and a flexible mindset, try new things and don’t forget to laugh along the way, make decisions as a team and learn how to compromise, beware of tiredness, and make special time for yourselves, for each other and also to make new friends.

1. Have patience and a flexible mindset

While on the road, you will likely find yourselves in many challenging situations, both mentally and physically. People deal with such situations differently and it’s important to know yourself and your partner well enough to understand how you and he/she will react and deal with these situations. By doing so, you will then be able to respond accordingly and allow patience to kick in. Try not to blame your partner for a situation that cannot be changed and remember that things don’t always go to plan and everything always happens for a reason.

For example, Brett and I have missed many a flight over the years. This particular time, we where travelling from Bali to Kuala Lumpur (KL) hours before his 21st birthday when our flight was cancelled for the foreseeable future due to volcanic ash. Naturally, Brett was upset thinking we would have to spend his 21st birthday in Bail airport. Rather than reacting the same or becoming angry at our cancelled flight (after all, volcanic ash is completely out of either our control), I quickly booked an equally luxurious hotel in Bali and arranged our transport so we could settle in ahead of his birthday.

Within an hour we where in our hotel robes ordering room service with big smiles on our faces. Looking back, it is clear that it must of happened for a reason. We obviously weren’t supposed to be on that flight or spend his birthday in KL. By remaining calm, having a flexible mindset and making the most of a bad situation, we were able to have a great time with our alternative plans.

2. Try new things and don’t forget to laugh and have fun along the way 

Travelling is all about new adventures and it’s also a great way to step out of your comfort zone with your partner and have a good laugh together. You could try various water sports or unusual foods, just keep in mind that the main point is you both remaining lighthearted and having fun. Who care’s if you can’t do a particular activity? The joy comes form trying and not taking life too seriously.

For example, when we were in Dubai, Brett and I tried fly boarding for the first time together (FYI, it’s as difficult as it looks!). Neither of us had any skills and could barely get out of the water for the first 15 minutes, but we had so much fun and were crying with laughter at one another while trying. The joy came from not mastering a new skill, but from trying something new and challenging together and creating shared memories that we can look back and laugh about for the rest of our lives. 

3. Make team decisions and learn how to compromise  

When travelling together, you will not only have someone to do new and exciting things with, you will also have someone to share the big decisions. Taking one another’s ideas and opinions into consideration and coming to a mutual decision is one of the great things about travelling as a couple. However, you both won’t always want to do everything the same, which means will have to learn to compromise and come to a mutual decision that suits you both. 

For example, an activity on my bucket list was to learn how to dive, however, Brett had never really considered it. Knowing how much it meant to me, we headed to the Gili islands in Indonesia in July 2018 for our first diving experience. At first, he wasn’t really enjoying it but after day two when he proved to himself what he could do he was so happy. On day three, we were both awarded our PADI Open Water certificate. Now, he can’t wait to get back into the water and continue our diving journey.  

You just never know if you will love or hate an experience until you’ve tried it. So try to be open minded with your partner’s suggestions and compromise where necessary.  Your partner will love you for giving a little bit and trying something for them.   

4. Don’t let tiredness ruin your day 

It’s easy to become over tired when you are travelling. Early morning flights and late nights combined with sleeping in various beds that aren’t your own leads to irregular sleeping patterns. Add to this long days exploring new destinations plus warmer or cooler weather than you are used to back home means you can and will get very tired very quickly while on the road. 

The key thing is to stay light-hearted and remember you are both likely feeling the same way. Tiredness can make a person more emotional and more sensitive than perhaps they tend to be day-to-day, so take this on board and try to treat your partner accordingly. Given that you will likely be a long way from home and from your loved ones, it’s important you come together at tough times and remind each other that you are in this together and you are both feeling the same.

Show them a little love and take a day to do nothing but relax together. You could take a spa day or simply lay by the pool. Sometimes it can be hard to slow down when you’ve been on the go for so long, your mind might be in overdrive. But, it’s important to take at least one day every now and then to simply relax and recharge your batteries. It will make a world of difference to the rest of your journey. 

5. Make friends outside the two of you 

When travelling as a couple, it’s very easy to remain just the two of you, to be hesitant to make friends and share the experience with groups of single individuals or even other couples. It’s natural to behave this way and in order to change it, you’ve really got to recognise it and challenge it. Speaking to people and making friends while travelling can make your trip together so much more enjoyable and memorable and can even open up opportunities you might never have dreamed of possible.

People are fascinating and when travelling, you will meet people from all corners of the world, from various lifestyles and upbringing, it seems a shame not to make the most of getting to know these people. They might share travel tips and expose you to destinations, activities or travel hacks you didn’t think of. You might never have these opportunities again and who knows, you might even make friends for life, or even continue your journey as a couple travelling with your new found friends. 

6. Take time to yourself 

Equally important as making new friends is taking time to yourself. In our previous post, we spoke about how travelling as a couple can test your relationship because you will spend every moment with this person. This can either make or break your relationship but if you’re like us and value your alone time, it’s important to make time for this in order to (potentially) save your relationship and any silly arguments deriving from limited alone time. It’s not that spending too much time together is bad, it’s just that being in solitude is equally important to clear your mind and it has even been linked to increased happiness, better life satisfaction, improved stress management, and less depression.

So, even if you don’t want to split up for safety reasons, you can still have your alone time. For example, one could be taking a swim in the pool while the other relaxes with a book on the loungers. One could be having a cocktail by the bar while the other hits the gym. Don’t take offence if your partner wants some times to his/herself, its only human nature. 

7. Take time together by arranging a weekly date night  

So you have made time for yourselves and you’ve taken time to make friends with other travellers and/or locals, which leads us to making time for each other. Essentially, you will be spending a lot of time together so it’s easy to lose track of the importance of creating special ‘date’ nights to really enjoy each others company. It doesn’t have be for a birthday or another special occasion, its simply just to switch off from the demands of life and travelling and enjoy being with one another.

For example, you could dress up and head to sky bar, enjoy a fancy dinner at a restaurant overlooking the ocean at sunset, take a sunset stroll with your feet in the sand, cook a dinner together, have a cosy night in, enjoy a few cocktails or go out for the night. Whatever it is, just make sure it’s just the two of you and you focus on nothing but each other. Making time for a date night each week can make your relationship much stronger and your travels together much more enjoyable. 

Although there are many challenges of travelling as couple, there are also abundant opportunities and benefits as well! What are your best tips for travelling as a couple?

Benefits & Challenges of Travelling on a Budget as a Couple (+ How to Overcome Those Challenges!)

Travelling as a couple has its own benefits and challenges. Unlike travelling alone, you always have someone with you to share the experiences with and together, you can plan and make decisions along the way. However, when travelling on a budget as a couple, there are certain things you might have to give extra thought to compared with travelling solo. For example, you might want some privacy at night, so staying in mixed-dorm hostels is off limits. Given that this is often the most affordable accommodation, it can be a bit more tricky to travel on a budget as a couple. Having done this for almost eight years now, we have gained plenty of experience on how you can enjoy taking on the world with your other half without breaking the bank. 

You can still stay in hostels, just pick them wisely

You can still stay in certain hostels, just make sure you do your research beforehand to check its suitable for couples. In other words, check they have private bedrooms with/without a private bathroom depending on your preferences. Also, you will have to book ahead to make sure you secure these type of rooms as they often sell out first and fast. 

Our first hostel experience as a couple was in Kuala Lumpur (KL) back in 2015. Our Malaysian friend picked us up from the airport and dropped us at Back Home where we stayed for 4 nights. Despite him warning us to ‘be careful roaming this area at night’, we had a great stay. We booked a private room and although the bathroom was shared, they were same sex facilities. The entire hostel was wonderfully designed, clean and offered a delicious breakfast in the open roof terrace. We had a great first-time hostel experience as a couple here and would highly recommend it if you are travelling to KL. There are many hostels around the world just like Back Home and we recommend checking out Hostel World  or Booking.com for the best deals.

Costs can always be halved 

When two become one, often they share or split finances. This can come in handy when booking accommodation because it’s always more affordable for two people than one. Just a quick search on Booking.com will show you that the price for a 1 person room and a 2 person room doesn’t differ all that much. Therefore, you can always split the costs down the middle and benefit from savings over time. 

You don’t have to split the costs on everything though. For example, Brett often spends a lot more on food and drinks than me, therefore, we tend to pay for our own rather than split the bill down the middle. He also likes to spend on souvenirs from the places we visit whereas I save my extra cash for Yoga classes and facials. Therefore, splitting costs in certain areas while remaining with a spare savings pot for yourselves could make the trip more enjoyable because you can still indulge on things separately. After all, just because you are a travelling couple, you are still independent from one another with your own interests and things you want to spend your hard earned cash on. 

Safety in numbers 

One of the great things about travelling as a couple is that you will always have someone by your side. This means you will likely feel safer in general and especially when travelling off the beaten track. There are certain budget locations throughout the world that have a reputation for being dangerous for female solo travellers (e.g. India). So travelling with your partner could really take the edge off and allow you to experience these beautiful locations where your money can be stretched much further. 

Of course, never take your guard down fully. Just because you are with someone else doesn’t mean nothing can happen so always remain aware of this. It’s just more comforting and reassuring to have someone there with you. That being said, travelling as a couple can also test your relationship. You will be spending the majority of every day with this person, so it will likely either make or break your relationship. For this reason, ensure you make time for yourselves. For example, one could be relaxing by the pool while the other is taking a dip in the ocean.   

Stay in an AirBnB and cook

Staying in an AirBnB is a great option for couples because it provides you with all the space and facilities you could need to really make yourselves at home. One of the best things is that you can have a night in and cook your favourite meals. This can be an adventure in itself: finding the local supermarket, experimenting with local produce and figuring out the new apartment. You can even light some candles and make a romantic night in with a movie and wine. 

Plus, dining in will save you lots of money compared with eating out. You can even prepare breakfast before you head out for the day and a lunch to take with you. That way, you can also keep track on what you are eating which helps towards keeping fit and healthy while on the road.

Save costs on travel essentials and suitcase fees 

Often hotels provide basic toiletries so you don’t have to carry much. However, if you prefer to take your own, or even just for those little extras, it’s always great to share them in order to save suitcase space and money while on the road. Also, sharing a suitcase means you only have to pay to check one bag in. This can come in really handy when you are travelling on short-haul flights where the bag check-in fee is often pretty hefty. Plus, you will only have to lug around one big bag between the two of you. It’s a win, win!

Although travelling on a budget as couple has its challenges, don’t let them put you off because the rewards outweigh them by far. There is nothing that cannot be done without a little planning and preparation. Therefore, if you follow the simple tips throughout this guide, you can easily save money together while on the road, which means you can travel further for longer or spend your extra cash in other areas.

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.

 

15 Incredible Photos of Dubai and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Dubai is the most populous and well known city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Located in the heart of the desert, Dubai is unique with its skyline of architectural marvels and some of the most unique and modern attractions in the Middle East and around the world.  

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Nowadays, the city of Dubai is associated with luxury, cultural experiences, and futuristic designs. Dubai leads the way in cutting-edge design and the city’s latest innovation is a 3D printed office fully equipped with water, electricity, telecommunications and AC that was printed in just 17 days. The skyline boasts some impressive architecture and is best known for the worlds tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa.
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The best way to admire the skyline is by taking a traditional Dhow Dinner Cruise from the Marina. Here, you can enjoy local cuisine often served buffet-style while the boat sails slowly around the harbour for two hours, allowing you to take in the view.
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There are many malls in Dubai where you can leisurely stroll around designer boutiques and high-end restaurants. For more budget-friendly shopping, head to the traditional souks where you can uncover hidden gems. For example, The Gold Souk is easily reachable by metro and the stores here offer a wide range of jewellery, gold, and precious stones. But its not just jewellery you will find here, there are many other shops selling traditional ornaments, keyrings, scarfs and accessories so its the perfect place to pick up some gifts.
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Dubai Marina is packed with luxury yachts, which are a staple of the high-life here. Take a wander down the Marina where you will find several restaurants. The heat can be slightly overwhelming to say the least, so we recommend taking a taxi boat in the day and enjoy a leisurely walk in the evening when it’s slightly cooler.
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The Yellow Boats Tours are also a great way to tour the marina by day. Catch the best sights from the water including The Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah, and Burj Al Arab while being informed on Dubai’s history and culture from a local tour guide.
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Take a day or overnight trip from the city into the desert via a desert safari and enjoy activities such as dune bashing in a 4×4, camel rides, sand boarding, quad biking and more. There are many tour operators providing a variety of packages such as Rayna Tours, which is the company we booked with during our last trip.

From Dubai you can take a day excursion to Abu Dhabi, the capital and second most populous city of the UAE. On the city tour you will get the chance to visit a selection of popular attractions including the Heritage Village, the Handicrafts Centre, Ferrari World, Emirates Palace, and the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is Abu Dhabi’s most famous attraction. Millions of visitors from all over the world flock here each year and although it can be busy at times, there always remains a wonderful sense of calm around the majestic grounds.
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In 2017, it was ranked the world’s second-favourite landmark according to TripAdvisor and during the same year, a staggering 3.4 million visitors came here.
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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest and most ornate place of worship in the UAE that took 12 years to complete, costing around $545 million.
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At 22,412 square meters, about the same as four football fields, it is now the third-largest mosque in the world and holds more than 40,000 worshippers.
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It also has three Guinness World Records for the largest handwoven carpet, the biggest chandelier, and the largest dome of its kind in the world.
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Traditional dress for women is required and men are reminded to cover tattoos when visiting the mosque. If you book with a tour operator back in Dubai, traditional dress will be included in the price of the tour. The mosque welcomes visitors from around the world each day and remains closed for worship only on Friday mornings.
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The mosque features imposing structure of marble and gold surrounded by manicured gardens and tiled pools. In total, there are 82 domes and 1,000 marble pillars.
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Islamic designs and elements feature on modern architecture throughout the mosque and city of Abu Dhabi.
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Abu Dhabi is one of the most interesting places in the Middle East that is full of culture, laid-back elegance, and cosmopolitan atmosphere and is well worth a visit while visiting the Middle East.

Although both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are known as luxurious destinations, they can also be visited on a budget too. Hotels are not as expensive as you might think and because they are newly built, even cheaper hotels can feel quite luxurious.

There are many affordable places to grab a bite to eat outside of the main areas so make sure you shop around and do your research before heading out there. You could even ask the team at your hotel for recommendations. If you are heading to the more local areas, be sure to dress and behave accordingly to respect the local people and their culture.

Lastly, to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi on a budget, you might find our other articles useful including How to Fly to Asia on the Cheap and Visit More Destinations,  How to Find the Best Hotel Deals Anywhere in the World, and How to Live the High Life while Travelling on a Budget.

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.

A Photo Journey Sailing Through Ha Long Bay by Boat and Kayak

Vietnam is a land of natural beauty that is increasing in popularity among tourists for its intriguing culture and stunning scenery. Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular travel destination in Quang Ninh Province, which is easily reachable from the capital of Hanoi. 

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Located in northern Vietnam near the Chinese border, Ha Long Bay features surrealistic scenery, which has led to the UNESCO site being featured in endless movies.
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The site is easily reachable by car, minibus or bus from Hanoi, which is only 170km away.
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In Hanoi, you can book on an affordable day excursion, which includes return minibus and a boat trip around the bay with lunch included.
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There are more than 1,600 islets in the bay with limestone worn down by 500 million years of tropical downpours.
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The islets are covered by thick jungle growth, which presents a wonderful green landscape.
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Included in the boat trip is a tour of the majestic caves where you can take a hike to the top of the hill to explore inside the hollow islands.
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Take a moment to enjoy the view from the top, which is much different compared with sailing in and out of the small islands.

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When booking on the day excision, you also have the option to take part in an activity at an extra cost such as Kayaking or rafting.
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Taking to the emerald green waters via kayak is an unforgettable experience and lots of fun.

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You can explore the caves at your own leisure under the hot sun.

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You will also get to see the unique fishing village which dates back to the early nineteenth century. These communities are comprised of 400 households with approximately 1,700 people living on the boats and floating wooden houses.
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The communities main livelihood is fishing and agriculture. Each boat represents a separate household where one whole family lives.
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However, the boats are not only a home for the families, they are a a means of transport and a source of income.
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The traditional villages represent a unique feature of Vietnamese culture.
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Back in the vibrant city of Hanoi, there are many affordable things to do such as exploring the old quarter, sampling the street food, strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake, and indulging in some relaxation at a top hotel. If you plan on seeing more of Vietnam, check out our post on How to See the Best of Vietnam in Less than 10 Days

 

 

 

 

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.

 

15 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit Tokyo

Tokyo has been the capital of Japan since 1869 and is now the worlds most populous metropolis. There is so much to see and do in this vibrant city such as  visiting the famous Shibuya Crossing, exploring Sēnso-Ji, the oldest buddhist temple in Tokyo, and admiring the view of the stunning skyline from the observation deck at Tokyo Skytree.

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Visit Shibuya for the famous Shibuya crossing, which is the busiest intersection in the world.
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In Shibuya, music shops, cheap apparel, restaurants, and arcades are abundant.

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Piss Alley
Omoide Yokocho “Memory Lane” is located just outside Shinjuku Station and comprises several small bars, yakitoro grills and food stalls.
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It’s nickname as “Piss Alley” came from the post Word War 2 days, which tells a story all of its own.
Sensō-ji Temple
Sensō-ji, the oldest temple in Tokyo located in Asakusa, was founded in 645AD. The temple is just a five minute walk from Asakusa Station and is open from 6am-5pm in the summer (Apr-Sep) and 6.30am-5pm in the winter months (Oct-Mar).
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It’s entrance path is lined with hundreds of stalls selling traditional gifts and local foods to thousands of visitors.
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Buddhism is one of the main religions in Japan and Buddhist temples have become an important part of the Tokyo landscape.

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Shinjuku Gyoen
Shinjuku Gyoen is a large park and garden in Shinjuku and Shibuya, which is open to the public as a national park.
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It provides a great resting place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
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The beautiful grounds have several major gardens including English Landscape, French Formal, Japanese Traditional (with teahouse), and the Mother and Child forest.
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In late March and early April, cherry blossoms are in season but only for a short period of time.
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Take a picnic lunch and rest in the grounds surrounded by nature.

 

7 Stunning Photos of the Locals Worship at Balinese Temples

Photographic insights into the locals worship at Balinese Temples Goa Gajah, also known as Elephant Cave Temple, and Pura Tirta Empul Temple, also known as Holy Spring Water Temple.

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Locals after Worship at Pura Tirta Empul Temple
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Exploring the Grounds of Pura Tirta Empul Temple
Goa-Gajah (Elephant Cave) Temple Grounds
Goa-Gajah (Elephant Cave) Temple Grounds
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Local Praying at Pura Tirta Empul Temple
Local Ceremony at Pura Tirta Empul Temple
Local Ceremony at Pura Tirta Empul Temple