Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Serene Santorini

I am struggling for words as I don't know what should I write and how should I write to do justice to this magical place. They say if you experience something 'magnificent' it stays with you forever. Visiting Santorini was one such experience. 

We keep reading about how beautiful Santorini is, about it's multicolored cliffs & beaches, about it's blue and white cycladic houses, about it's glorious sunsets but when you actually visit and witness all this with your own eyes it leaves you feeling enigmatic. It is so pretty, so beautiful that you find yourself comprehending whether it's real or a dream. 

Different walkways,  Oia 
We spent four nights in Oia at a B&B called Maria's Place. Maria's place offers a great sunset view and the rooms are tiny but comfortable. Like most of the properties here, this one is also family run. It's owned by a lady called Maria (obviously) but run by Anna who is Maria's husband's sister. Anna's husband acts as a cabbie and handles airport pick up and drop offs.

Little Kittens sleeping at Maria's Place
Oia is known for it's beautiful sunsets. 'Oia Town' is 10-15 minutes walk from Maria's place. During our first evening we spotted cave houses with colorful roofs and cobbled streets leading to churches where street performers were singing merrily. 
Beautiful views from every corner
Oia Town over flows with tourists during sunset time. The main 'sunset point' is usually incredibly crammed up. We did not even try to get there and enjoyed golden-orange sky from one of the cobbled walkways. 
One corner of the cobbled street
Almost every restaurant here offers a stunning sunset view. So picking a restaurant is easy. But a few of them are insanely expensive, go through the menu and prices before picking a restaurant. 

We also explored Fira which is known to be Santorini's nightlife hub. There is a bus station close to Maria's Place & Anna is there to help you with the bus numbers.
Restaurant lane 
Tip - Do not hire cars here. The best of this place can be experienced on foot, by a bus or ATVs. 

Fira has it's own charm. Walking down the narrow streets with peculiar shops and cafes on each side was! You can find some amazing stuff here to take away with you. We bought original Greek olive oil infused with Garlic (YUM).

In Fira we also booked a sailing tour for the next day. We had to be at the port at a certain time and we were told that it is damn easy to go down the steps to reach the port. Guess what? It wasn't! There are around 200 slippery steps covered with donkey poo. Imagine what slipping here will do to you. Our hands were smelling of the poo for a long time :D
1. On the ship 2.Having lunch at a fisherman's village
We wanted to experience the real essence of Santorini and decided to book an old sailing boat instead of the air conditioned speed boat. Unfortunately, it was extremely hot & sunny that day and there was NO shade at all. It took a while for us to adjust.
Smiles came after a while
There is one more thing that you can't miss in Santorini and that is the wine tasting. We went to Santo Wines vineyard and ordered their set menu which consists of 6 wines, 3 whites and 3 reds. 

Apart from the wines, this vineyard offers a great site for watching the sunset. 

Us, Wines and a drunkard 

Pro tip - Go to Santorini before Mykonos because Mykonos is ten steps ahead of the former and maybe.. just maybe you won't appreciate Santorini as much.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Review - Samkhaya Villas Ubud, Bali

We were recently in Ubud in our attempt to get away from insane Hong Kong heat. Usually people live somehwere else and do day trips to Ubud but we decided to stay there for three days. Samkhya Villas is situated in middle of a rice paddy about 10 mins from Ubud Centre. When you walk into your villa you are drowned with a  feeling of calmness. If you listen carefully, you can hear a river babbling somewhere in a distant. 
Outside area
This property will give you a magical experience if you are looking for a relaxing stay. Party people this is not your place. 

For three days we were 'in the lap of nature' as the villa opens up to a paddy field and all you see is greenery. You can laze around in the pool or read a book on the day bed or do yoga breathing in the fresh air. Pure bliss. 
Plunging in the pool
The villa over all is comfortable. Bedroom is spacious & cozy with a great view. Washroom is big and clean but I feel the toilet is a little far from the plunge pool.. But it's manageable.
Food, my friends, is phenomenal. This one time we saw the chef plucking fresh coriander from the garden for us. Needless to mention that the ingredients are super fresh. Must haves - Balinese Porridge, Sate and Chicken Curry with Roti and Nasi Goreng. 
Chicken Curry & Roti, Nasi Goreng, Sate

Staff is extremely lovable. Their smiles are genuine and most of them adore Bollywood. This guy was singing 'bole chudiya' one night. It was hilarious.

The Spa is okayish. I thoroughly enjoyed the massage but my husband did not. He had tiny blisters on his legs for a week after the masage. Our guess is maybe they rubbed his hairy legs too hard causing the hair to pull from the roots. We get massages quite often and something like this happened for the first time. He had to apply Neosporin cream for a week.  

Ubud town is 10 mins drive from here without traffic. Do go there to visit the famous Monkey Temple, eat delicious pork meal from Ibu Oka, and buy some local artefacts. I bought few beautiful dream catchers. 

Important tip - Shop from the outlets which are near the monkey temple as they are a little cheap from other shops in the vicinity. 

Verdict - We will go to Ubud again, very soon and might stay in Samkhya again. When you are planning your Bali holiday do stay in Ubud for atleast two days. If you do a day trip you will end up spending 1 and a half hours from Nisa Dua around an hour from Seminiyak in your car one way which to me is a huge disappointment. Let me know if you have any questions about Ubud in comments :) 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Exploring Koh Samui in One Day

We are in Samui since Monday. We moved from one hotel to another today, from Amari to Le Meridian. Our cab drivers, a friendly couple, took us around before dropping us to our destination. The man drove while the lady, Paula, was acting as a translator. Today we had fun because these two people made sure we do. 

The lady suggested we should visit all the attractions before we retire to the room of our new hotel. She made a list and declared confidently while sharing it with us 'You never visited Samui if you did not see these attractions.. you must see all of them'.

They took us to four spots and offered to click pictures everywhere.. she took some great snaps, have a look - 

          First stop Wat Plai Laem

Or The Lake Temple as it is surrounded by a lake. It'sa very famous temple among the locals and Chinese tourists  who come here daily to pay homage. 
It is a cluster of three different temples, Buddha, Laughing Buddha and Guanyin with beautiful lake on all sides. Paula handed us a tray full of boiled chickpea and excitedly said 'go feed the fishes, it's fun!'. We happily obeyed and threw a handful in the calm water. All of a sudden the water wasn't calm anymore as big fishes with big teeth stared leaping out. They stared at us like almost saying 'next dose fool'.. I am not kidding..totally left us amazed! :)
Laughing Buddha
Buddha Temple 
Guanyin - Goddess of Mercy & Compassion
It is open to all the vistors all day I think and the entry is free. Also, It is close to The Big Buddha so it won't take an extra effort for you to visit here.

Second stop Lat Ko View point

Tourists in Samui have one thing on their to-do list for sure and that is watching the sun going down. Watching sunsets is quite popular here and you can find various points which can offer you that. We went to Lat Ko View point since it was on our way to the Big Buddha Temple. It was tranquil and the views are spectacular. 

When we visited there weren't many people around allowing us to experience what this place has to offer. The calmness, the views, the breeze, the sleepy vibe.. everything was perfect! 

We were lucky as it was a clear day

As you can see it's a narrow walkway. I don't know how it's like when too many people are crammed up during high tourist season. But I totally love it!

Also, to our surprise the water is very clear. From a high above we could see how clear the water is. We have not polluted this one yet. Let's hope it remains the same. 

          Third stop The Big Buddha

This is the MOST famous attraction in Samui. If you are wearing a vest or a deep cut top you have to cover yourself with a scarf which is available there for free. I know this because as soon as we got off Paula sprinted to the scarf stall and covered my bare shoulders herself. 'to respect the Buddha' she mumbled. I smiled and covered the spaghetti straps.

We did not climb the stairs since it was too sunny and hot. Also, we are currently living in Hong Kong which is known for it's renowned attraction called 'Big Buddha'. So, we thought let's enjoy the majestic Buddha from down below.

Also, I was sure Buddha will not discriminate between us & the climbers and will grant my wishes from where ever I am. :D

  Fourth stop Hin Ta & Hin Yai Rocks

Famously known as 'Grandpa & Grandma rocks'. This place is very old and beautiful with a folklore attached to it. You can read it one of the signboards. 

''Once upon a time an old couple went out to look for a suitable daughter in law but died in the sea before they could reach the girls house. They converted into rocks to showcase their sincerity to the bride's parents.''

While the story and the main attractions (phallus and the lady part) are ordinary, the views are bloody spectacular! The day we visited, the powder blue sky was covered with clouds looking like white cotton floating in the air. And whenever sun got a chance it splintered the light on the green sea making it sparkle. 

Yes, it was my attempt to describe what the experience was like while being a little poetic. The gist is it was breathtakingly gorgeous and I will definitely go there again to see the sunset.

What a great day it was! Paula and her husband genuinely wanted that we have a great time while exploring Samui. The experience wouldn't have been this satisfying if not for them. (Take their number from me if you are going to Samui. They can also help you with the tickets of full moon party.)

Now we are relaxing in our new room. 

Verdict - All these attractions can be covered in one day. If you have little time on you, skip The Viewing point instead go to Grand Papa & Mumma. Skip The Big Buddha instead go to The Lake Temple. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

To Dear World.....With Love YouTube

I spend a lot of time on YouTube. Over the years, I have discovered brilliant artists who started their journey on YouTube or one of the social media platforms. I understand the power social media possesses. If not for YouTube some talented artists might have taken long to achieve success or worst might have never achieved it.

So, when people say that these social media platforms are good-for-nothing (yes such idiots exist) I really want to give them a Hi5....on their face. 

Anyway, I am writing this post to share with you my favorite artists and and their incredible art you cannot afford to miss. All these people tasted success with the help of YouTube.

Here we go!

The Piano Guys

With 4,668,812 subscribers on YouTube and 898,838,865 total views they are one of the biggest online sensation and have captured vast online audience.

This American musical group was founded when two artists started jamming together just for fun.  

They started by releasing music online and now their music is released WORLDWIDE because Sony signed them in 2012.

The song above is my absolute favorite. Alex Boye's voice gives me goosebumps and transports me to a calm serene place.

Lindsey Sterling

Lindsey owes her success to YouTube. She launched her channel in 2007 but the main popularity came after her collaboration with famous cinematographer for 'Spontaneous me' in 2011.

This tiny girl with Violin in her hand dancing all around will blow your mind. She jumps, twirls, dances while playing kick ass violin.

At present she has 8,199,068 subscribers on her channel and over a billion views which is growing in number as we speak. She is YouTube's top earning musician.

Bart Baker

This 30 year old singer & song writer is the KING of Parody. Yeah I am not exaggerating.Many famous artists enjoy his parodies and ask him to work on their songs as well.

Among many things one thing I admire the most is that he and his team are on point when it comes to production. There sets are exact same as the original song, the actors look exactly like the characters they are playing and the parody is funny as hell. Bart is gifted and can make anyone laugh. 

He joined YouTube in 2006 and is followed by 8,202,449 people! Incredible. Go follow him if you do not already.

Kanan Gill & Biswa

Who doesn't know Kanan Gill and Biswa? If you don't, either you are my mom's age or highly ignorant. These two are taking the Indian comedy scene by a storm. They started posting movie reviews called 'Pretentious Movie Reviews' and made sure that you crack up every 5 seconds.
Picking up one video is really tough so I am posting this one which I have seen like a 100 times and it still makes me laugh hard. 

They upload these videos on Kanan's channel which is having 3,90,818 followers at present. Biswa also has a channel of his own which showcases his stand up acts. 

YouTube is a boon for the creative people as well as the consumers. Thank goodness, most of us understand the value of this platform but those who don't and refuse to understand one word for you 'idiots'.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Review - Cathy Pacific In Flight shop 'Butterfly Twist Ballerina'

Cathy Pacific is a fantastic airlines. Especially because the food is YUM and the in-flight shop is grand and delightful. It is the best I have ever seen and I think most of you will agree with me.

On my recent trip, I was going through their catalog and fell in love with the 'ButterflyTwist' black ballerinas. They looked soft, light and comfortable in the picture so after a lot of thinking I bought them. 

Also I love the packing 
I was looking for a black pair like this since long and this one was exactly what I wanted. Also they need very little space which allows you to carry them anywhere. I am carrying them everywhere with me and quickly change when my heels starts acting up. 

Moment of the truth - When I wore it for the first time i was very happy with my buy. The insides are soft, it is light and it looks chic. But i had to walk a lot that day and after half an hour the back of the left ballerina started huring me. The right one was perfectly fine while the left one was almost piercing my skin. It was hurting alot and I could not do anything about it so I had to change my footwear and carried on with the night. 


Later I got a cobbler to hammer the protruding part at the back of the bellie ro make it smooth. We now folks, it absolutely fine!!! 

I can walk, run or dance in them for hours.

Verdict - 10/10 on the looks, softness , ease of carrying. But 6/10 on comfort before I got the cobbler to fix it. But I think it was only my piece which happened to be like that.... 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Unforgettable Three Days in Ubud, Bali

After three days of pure bliss in Ubud, Bali, we left for the city center called Nusa Dua. Nusa Dua is beautiful but I found myself missing the serene & calm Ubud every single second. City’s hustle bustle is infectious but I prefer quieter and tranquil places over loud and active cities. Or maybe I am simply I am missing Ubud and the experience Samkhya Villas gave me. I want to share with you why it left a mark on me.

Samkhaya Villas We were staying at this beautiful villa which was actually in the lap of nature. One can hear the intriguing noises of different creatures living merrily in your presence. Crickets sing in unison, birds dance happily, bees and dragon flies fly away happily past you. The morning air is so pure, so fresh that it leaves you feeling that you took a long pleasant scented bath. 
I did yoga every morning breathing this fresh air... pure bliss.
Samkhaya Villas

The People - well not just in Ubud but everywhere people are warm. Their genuine smiles will make you smile too and warm greetings will urge you to hug them. They have a cute Jamaican accent. The people are happy, they are not in a rush to go somewhere or do something. On our way to the monkey forest we met a local, Jyoman pronounced as YoMan, who drives a car for a living. He took us around and told us Bali's history, good restaurants, points of interest. Yoman was very helpful and I suggest to use his services when you go to Ubud. I am so impressed by Yoman that I decided to write a post about him.
Look at his smile :)

Culture/ Traditions - Bali is known for its diverse art forms. Their performing arts, wood carvings, paintings, sculptures are all truly amazing. We had a chance to see the traditional Legong Dance in Ubud and were left awestruck by it's beauty. I was impressed that the youth has taken the charge to keep their traditional art form alive as the performers were very young. Do go and see this beautiful art form when you are in Bali.
Legong Dance

Food - The authentic Balinese food is YUM. Fresh ingredients, beautiful flavors, cut of meat.. everything is on point. They have fruits there which I saw and tasted for the first time like Mangosteen. Fascinating! Also, the flavors are little bit similar to Indian flavors which made me fall in love with the food instantly.
Chicken Curry with roti, Nasi Goreng & Pork Sate

Mystical - No matter where ever you go or walk in Ubud, you will see spectacular architecture. Their carvings on both wood and stone have a mystical feeling to it. They are religious people and have temples everywhere. By everywhere I mean you will see one in every 100 meters. The architecture of temples is breath taking. I feel others areas are commercialized and it's Ubud where you will experience the real Bali.
One of the Temples
If you are planning your summer vacation right now I would suggest consider Bali. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hong Kong Guide - Mui Wo Lantau Island

Summers are here.

I have spent eight months in Hong Kong and I know one thing for sure that Hong Kong’s weather is unpredictable and extreme. I have seen people lugging around umbrellas, wearing rain boots and then using the very same umbrellas to save them from scorching sunlight.

If you are coming or planning to come to Hong Kong you should be prepared to experience insane weather. It is so bad that it’s good. Now I actually like it.

Besides there are so many things that you can do in this erratic weather. Like going to a beach when it’s raining and having a glass of beer at a bar when its sunny.

Recently I visited a beautiful rural town in Lantau Island called Mui Wo. It's 40 minutes away by a junk boat. Fun Fact - A Junk is an ancient Chinese sailing ship and you will see number of them in Hong Kong.

Here I am at the Central Pier waiting for the Junk
One of my friend’s company owns a junk and employees can use it once a month with their friends and family as an ‘employee perk’. Isn’t it incredible? I wish I can work for a company like this. Anyway, if you don’t have a friend like mine, you can easily get on to a ferry from Central Pier No 6 to Mui Wo.

Junk ride is superb. If you get sea sick be careful as water can get choppy sometimes, so sit on the upper deck and concentrate on the horizon.
Friends smiling & me laughing like a seal
Serious fact – You get sea sickness when brain receives conflicting signals. So on a rocky junk your body is feeling the motion and your ear liquid is also moving but your eyes cannot see any movement, as a result the brain gets confused. Sitting on upper deck establishes that coordination.
Super fresh sea food
It was almost lunch time when we reached Mui Wo and I was craving for some sea food. There are western bars where you can drink beer and chill for some time and then there are local eaters with super fresh sea food options where you can have your lunch. Having lunch at local eateries gives you a sense of the island. It is a different experience; you must try it. If you don’t like sea food they have yummy vegetarian options as well, obviously!

This place is fun for the kids too. We had two little baby girls who were having a fantastic time blowing bubbles all over the place (they bought bubble toys from there), touching fishes and running around.

It was a perfect day to go to the beach. The water was clear and turquoise blue though it was a little dirty. Kids had a great time splashing water on each other and laughing happily.
Pretty little girls having fun
Gentle waves brought tiny fish on shore and the adults spend their time in saving them. Also drinking delicious wine.
With jeans & top on the beach. When you are ready for the beach but your body is not.

 My Verdict - You should definitely go To Mui Wo. It's in Lantau Island which is known for various attractions. You can take a day trip to Mui Wo, stay in a hotel over night and explore Lantau the next day. Trust me it will be super fun. Not to mention carry a water bottle and umbrella, change of clothes (because no matter how much you control you will end up splashing water), and mosquito repellent just in case.                              

What - Mui Wo Lantau Island

Where - Eastern Cost of Lantau Island
Getting there - Take a ferry from Central Pier No 6
Time - 45 minutes