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Travel: Beach Series

Health & Wellbeing, Mexico, Travel: Beach Series

The Tulum Blog

March 14, 2016

The fourth beach in my beach series is the beautiful Tulum, Mexico, where the water is the bluest in the land. The Ginger Hunk was telling me before we went that all  the photos were photo shopped! I am pleased to say that they were not! The water IS ACTUALLY THAT FREAKING BLUE!

Here is the low down on Tulum.

The Beach – In The Shawshank Redemption, when Andy and Red escape to the Caribbean… well I think that they escape to Tulum. That is what Tulum Beach is like in real life in the feature image above. White thin sand, crystal clear water, palm fronds hugging the coastline. It is so nice. I have sat on many beaches, and this is the best beach in the world, or in my world, until I find another one. Unlike other beaches in Asia, Tulum beach feels chilled. Although there are bungalows, ritzy boutique resorts, and beach bars, they are stretched out and no part of the beach is ‘busy’, or at least it wasn’t back in 2012. They have also made it illegal to build over three stories. So you will not get the skyscrapers or the hideous resorts of Cancun in the north. The beach is also public, so you needn’t feel that you have to pay a price tag to sit on it.

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One of the many open Cenotes around Tulum

Getting there and away – We flew into Cancun from Los Angeles with Aeromexico. In my opinion, you want to get to Cancun and then GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. It probably used to be a very beautiful place, but is not now. Your best friend travelling down the coast is going to be the ADO buses. They go all the way from Tulum, is safe, air conditioned and cheap. Tulum will take around two hours to reach from Cancun airport. One there, buses, colectivos (mini vans) or taxis can take you around. A colectivo is like a little combi van that you get in and out of wherever you like, just flag one down and hit the buzzer when you want to get out.

Accommodation – You have a tough decision when you arrive in Tulum. The beach or the town? There are bonuses of both. If you want to wake up, dip your toes in the sand, and have that beach experience without moving, then go to the beach. But you will pay top price for that. Also the beach stretch is looong, so don’t fantasise about walking to different places to eat. You need to take a car, wherever you stay. We split our time between the beach and the town, and found the town great for doing day tours from, and walking in the evening. Initially we stayed at Maison Tulum, a guesthouse within walking distance to the centre of town. The rooms all face down to a cute little paved courtyard where you can eat or have a drink. Rooms here will put you back $100 a night and are large and spacious.

Maison Tulum, courtesy of TripAdvisor

Maison Tulum, courtesy of TripAdvisor

We loved Tulum so much that we ended up cancelling our trip to Vegas to chill out and chose Las Palmas Maya. This little place is across the road from the beach, a fraction of the price of  the beach front and has small bungalows going onto a courtyard.

The Ginger Hunk and his new beer - pacifico!

The Ginger Hunk and his new beer – pacifico!

Food & Bars – I could write more about this. But I have two words to say. FISH TACOS. This trip started our obsession with fish tacos. There are so many good places to eat and drink in Tulum, decent seafood, and fishbowl cocktails. For a special evening, head to  Casa Banana on the beach for the Lobster.  On Sunday nights, head to Zebra for SALSA DANCING. When we were there they turned off all the lights and I will never forget dancing with The Ginger Hunk under those stars. If you’re ever sick of mexican head to Mezzanine for thai and cocktails, and of course the view.

Dos Ojos Cenote

Dos Ojos Cenote

Activities – There is so much to do here. The best part of Tulum, in my opinion is the cenotes.  Parallel to the coast is an underground river system, resulting from the collapse of limestone exposing the water underneath, making for an amazing, swimming, diving, or freediving experience. Some are huge like Dos Ojos and Gran Cenote, and here you will pay a fee and battle with crowds. And some like the one below, will just be you. If you’re going to do the popular cenotes my advice is to go early in the morning before the buses arrive. We took an Extreme Tulum Expedition with Riviera Adventours, which included Mayan Ruins, ziplining over a cenote, kayaking, lunch and snorkelling with the sea turtles. It was awesome and well worth the $100, not to worry about transport. We then picked our cenotes we wanted to visit and organised the other parts of Tulum ourselves.

Me in an open cenote

 

Inside

Budget – You could do Tulum on the cheap, although it would be hard. You can eat and have delicious cocktails and seafood for a fraction of Australian prices. Accommodation can be hit and miss and isn’t always such good value. Basic rooms will set you back around $100, and the more ritzy places on the beach will be $2-300.  Simply don’t scrimp on the sightseeing though, it is what you SHOULD be spending your money on in Tulum, and like I said, the beach, the best thing of all is free!

Love beach holidays and great travel? 

Check out the rest of our Travel Beach Series.

beach-series

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boracay Blog

The Koh Tao Blog

Four Reasons to go East in Bali

Happy Travels! 

Ashleigh XXX

Bali, Travel & Wanderlust, Travel: Beach Series

Why to go East in Bali – Amed & Candidasa

January 26, 2016

The third place we will explore in my travel beach series, is the eastern side of Bali, Amed and Candidasa. My love of freediving took me here twice in 2015. I absolutely fell in love, and was so happy to discover that not everywhere in Bali has been overdeveloped, like I had heard. We love it so much so, that we are thinking about returning for longer this year. If you are a little confused as by what I mean ‘east” , I’m talking about heading north of Denpasar, to Candidasa and Amed.

Here are four reasons to go east in Bali.

Pristine waters

I’ve heard of places in Bali where there is so much rubbish in the water that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. So sad. But not unfamiliar. Like many asian countries, particularly small islands, they haven’t caught up with the fact that you actually need to protect the environment so tourists want to return. I really hope that the Balinese cotton on, before it is too late. Fortunately, the north-east side of Bali is slow to catch up to tourism. Amed, around three hours north of Denpasar is a series of protected bays sitting against the backdrop of Mt Agung. The waters are absolutely clear with a drop of 40 meters 10 meters from the shore, perfect for freediving and scuba diving. Here you won’t find rubbish, plastic bags, or anything really, except for maybe turtles and a shipwreck! This is how clear the waters were on our swim out to Tulamben.

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Clear water in Amed

Accommodation for all – at great prices 

For absolutely a fraction of the price of areas like Seminyak and Uluwatu you can stay in relative comfort, or luxury if you like.  In Candidasa, there is a little village with great places to eat and drink. You want to be within walking distance of here (in my opinion). The northern beaches are quieter with some awesome snorkelling right in front of the hotels. Fair enough my accommodation choices here might have been determined by close proximity to a paragliding site, but we have stayed at Hotel Genggong twice. Their air-conditioned deluxe rooms on the top-level are awesome value for around $100 a night. You’ll also see one of the best sunsets in Bali.

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At Hotel Genggong, nothing interrupts your view to the beach

Villa Bukit Segara, (that’s me, in the feature photo of this post, chilling out in their amazing pool) an hour north of Candidasa in Amed, can be rented out as a villa or per room. The private property has beach access with great snorkelling out the front, large comfortable rooms, a restaurant and an infinity pool. The airy, lofty rooms have a day bed for reading and unique furnishings with marble open air bathrooms. The property is beautifully maintained with amazing gardens, you almost don’t want to leave for sightseeing. At around $150 per night, this is amazing value for what you get.

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Best view while you’re eating at Villa Bukit Segara

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Our beautiful room at Villa Bukit Segara

If your on a budget, there is also a range of guesthouses available. Bubu Racok has clean beachfront, air-conditioned rooms in the main part of Amed.

The quiet

You’re not going to be surrounded by people on the beach, or at your hotel pool here in eastern Bali. If you like quiet, then this is the area for you. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of places to have great food and drink, or a Bintang, but it’s not a party place. Most people travelling to will be taking the opportunity to do the plenty of activities the area has to offer, and if you take these up (as you should) then your head will hit the pillow most nights, before you can even think about a big night out!

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So many activities – so little time

Amed kind of reminds me of Ubud by the sea. You have stunning mountains, rice fields and greenery, then you descend down the hill, to black sand beaches and blue waters. Trek Mt Agung, take a rice field tour to walk to some quiet villages, motorbike through the countryside, snorkel, freedive, paraglide, or just laze around by the beach.  Villa Bukit Segara even has a sailing school, if this tickles your fancy. There is a number of important cultural sights as well, the most notable Tirta Gangga and Ujung Water Palace, stunning water palaces and gardens built for the king of Karangasem to relax from his busy schedule. Tough hey?

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Those that freedive together, are friends forever

My final piece of advice, go there now before the rest of the world does!

Ashleigh XXX 

We always fly AirAsia to get to our holiday destinations! 

Interested in tropical destinations and travel?

Check out the rest of our Travel Beach Series.

beach-series

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tulum Blog

The Boracay Blog 

AirAsia Business Review 

The Koh Tao Blog 

Images by James Mills 

Disclosure My recent trip to Bali was courtesy of AirAsia and Villa Bukit Segara.

 

Thailand, Travel: Beach Series

The Koh Tao Blog

November 26, 2015

I am asked for advice often on the island of Koh Tao, so I have decided to create a little travel series for you all, starting with one of my favorite places in the world.

Here is my low down on the little island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand.

The beach – When you pull in off the ferry from Koh Samui or Surat Thani look to the left and you will see a long stretch of white sand with long tail fishing boats. This 7km stretch of sand is Sairee Beach, the main beach in Koh Tao. It is where you want to stay to be within walking distance from all the nightlife and places to eat. Find a shady spot under a palm to waste the hours away, or chill out in one of the beach bars. The beauty of Koh Tao is there are so many hidden beaches and rocky bays on the other side. (I’ll get to these later.)

Ao Leuk baby reef sharks

Ao Leuk baby reef sharks

Getting there and away – I find after ten years or so travel to this region, the cheapest way to get there is to go from your home town to Kuala Lumpur (KL). From KL you can take an AirAsia flight to Surat Thani, or a Firefly flight to Samui then a boat. No matter which way you go, you will take the Lomprayah high speed ferry. Tickets can be bought at the pier or online via the Lomprayah website. From Surat Thani, you need to allow around one and half hours from the airport to the pier if you are going direct, but this is all organised through your ferry ticket. If you have the time, a stay in a guesthouse in Surat Thani overnight and a visit to the night market is worth it. The food is amazing!

Accommodation – There is everything here from total luxury to a room on the beach. I have stayed in it all. If you want to escape from the bustle of the beach, and have somewhere quiet to sleep at night (away from the noise of the bars), I have stayed at Monkey Flower Villa at north sairee. The pool is amazing. On the other side of the island, is Kantaraya Villa. It is a little out of the way, but if you want privacy, then this is it. There is also a great swimming spot down the road from Kantaraya at Moondance Magic View Bungalows. To be in the action on Sairee, my pick would be Ban’s or The Goodtime beach hotel (with the best sunset view right from your room). From here you can walk to all the nightlife.

The amazing view from my room at The Goodtime Beach Hotel.

The amazing view from my room at The Goodtime Beach Hotel.

Food and bars – so much food, so little time! If you’re on a budget, you can grab a delicious 50 baht Pad Thai near Mae Haad Pier, or you can splurge on dinner and cocktails at Fizz Beach Lounge at North Sairee. (Get there and nab a table before sunset!) Barracuda is the best seafood in town, and for traditional thai Krua near the 711 can’t be beaten. Moov bar at the top of a hill near Mae Haad is a great place for some drinks in a funky garden. They also have events. I’ve tried a lot of Mango Sticky Rice and the one’s on the street are amazing.

More beaches and activities – most people come here to dive, but there is so much more you can do! For diving, climbing, freediving, check out Goodtime Adventures. They also do hikes across the island. My tip is to get your own long tail boat and head to the other side of the island, Mango Bay, Ao Leuk and Hin Wong bay are beautiful snorkeling spots. If you can’t ride a bike get a long tail boat to take you and pick you up. At the southern tip near Shark Bay, you can also spot a reef shark, but I have been to Ao Leuk when they have all been about! Nang Yuan Island is a must, but go there first thing in the morning before the tour boats arrive and you will have the place to yourself. I always do yoga at Shambhala at north sairee and love it. Great teachers. Leafy studio.

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Shambhala Yoga at north sairee

Budget – Sadly the days of a twenty dollar bungalow are behind us in Thailand but it can still be done on the cheap if you look. On average I would say excluding activities you could live for around $70 a day with budget accommodation. For me, I go there to live it up for a fraction of the price in Sydney. Drinking will add on to your budget, as will activities such as diving. Still these are a fraction of the price in Australia, and are the best way to see more remote parts of the island, which is where the magic happens.

Ashleigh XXX

Ashleigh XXX 

We always fly AirAsia to get to our holiday destinations! 

Love finding out of the way beaches and great travel? 

Check out the rest of our Travel Beach Series.

beach-series

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boracay Blog 

AirAsia Business Review 

The Tulum Blog

Four Reasons to go East in Bali

Images by James Mills 

 

Daily Life, Philippines, Travel: Beach Series

The Boracay Blog

May 17, 2015

I have been on a lot of beach holidays; Mexico, Thailand and Croatia to name a few. They are my favorite places in the world and even though we live near the beach in Sydney, a holiday is just not a holiday without the beach. I have decided to start a beach series to give you all my tips on these destinations! We were lucky enough to head to Boracay this year for a friend’s wedding and try somewhere new, so this is the first of my beach series posts! Enjoy!

Here is the low down if you are considering a trip to Boracay.

The beach – THE BEACH is white beach. This is the one in all the photos that you see of Boracay. And it is beautiful. Perfect, thin white sandcrystal clear water and enough space that you can find a quiet space to while away your time. White Beach is a long stretch divided into Stations one to four. Station one is quieter, with three and four being quite busy. Station two is the area known as D’Mall, a hideous kind of shopping precinct on the beach. There are other beaches on the island but I will get to them later on.

Getting there and away – Like all beautiful places, Boracay is hard to get to. The best way to get there is to take an  Air Asia flight to Kalibo from Kuala Lumper, then connect to Boracay Island with a bus and a boat. There is a closer airport called Caticlan, which is easier to get to, and as a result, much more congested and hectic! (I always prefer to fly with Air Asia on my travels.)

Airport transfer

Airport transfer

Accommodation – Unlike Thailand, accommodation on Boracay can be a little more pricey, but bargains can still be found. Frendz resort has some of the only remaining bungalows on the beach and hostel rooms at a cheap price for those travelling with a group. At the other end of the scale The District Boracay is a beachfront resort with all the trimmings, a pool,  three different options for food, beach chairs and a roof top bar for sunset drinks and dinner. The pool provided a nice oasis from the beach, and at most of the time we had it all to ourselves. The view from the roof and the sunset cocktails is a must, even if you’re not staying there. You can’t get any closer to the beach – the feature photo at the top is when you walk out of the hotel!

Sunset from The District rooftop bar

Sunset from The District

To get away from the hustle and bustle of white beach for a few days we headed to Argonauta Boracay, a beautiful villa on the hill between Baling Hai and Pukka Beach. A few days here and we felt like we were leaving our friends rather than a place we had paid to stay at. The villa has a stunning garden and here you will have the sunset view all to yourself.

Argonauta Boracay

Argonauta Villa

Food – The first night we ate at Mammitas on the beach, and had some beautiful seafood. While it was nice it was not super cheap, so for the next few days we opted for some cheaper alternatives. Smoke resto in D’Mall had some great stuffed shrimp and curried fish for half the price of the food on the beach. I also had a lazy breakfast after yoga at Lemon in D’ Mall. Boracay is a popular spot for Koreans so you will also find a plethora of Korean food at cheap prices. Star Lounge at The District has fabulous seafood also and we had a lovely meal served on the terrace.

Bars –  Every day is a drinking day (must lose weight on return to Sydney) and every afternoon is happy hour on Boracay.  Bom Bom in Station Two bar has two for one cocktails and some decent chilled out tunes played by a local guitarist, if your not after a crazy night out. Diniwid Beach is north on the island on the way to Pukka and has a couple of awesome places. Wahine bar has bean bags on the sand and reminded me of a few places on Koh Tao. I liked the vibe of this beach and the sunset view of people paddbleboarding and sailing was nice. It was more chilled out than Station 2 and I would probably like to stay at Diniwid  Beach if I returned.

The Ginger Hunk jumping in

The Ginger Hunk jumping in

More beaches and activities – If you can do it in the water you can find it on Boracay. Parasailing, Kitesurfing, Paddleboarding, Sailing, it’s all available. You can dive here too although I hear this can be hit and miss. One of the best days we had was taking a boat trip to snorkel at Crocodile island followed by cliff jumping. Baling Hai beach is a private beach on the north side of the island, where you pay 500 pesos and you can spend it at the bar. I felt like I was a cast away on my own little island, you can swim out to pontoons and enjoy the bay to yourself.

Baling Hai Beach

Baling Hai Beach

Budget – you can do it on the cheap, but we spent about $100 AUD for both of us, including massage, some activities and food and drink. You can do it cheaper but activities will cost you more than they would in Thailand, and you can always bargain down the price. A stand up paddleboard was half the price the hotel offered when I went to book it myself.

Ashleigh XXX 

We always fly AirAsia to get to our holiday destinations! 

Love beach holidays and great travel? 

Check out the rest of our Travel Beach Series.

beach-series

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Koh Tao Blog 

AirAsia Business Review 

Four Reasons to go East in Bali

The Tulum Blog

Ciao for now, as we are off to El Nido for the second leg of our adventure!

Ashleigh XXX

 

Daily Life, Meow Reviews, Travel & Wanderlust, Travel Tips, Travel: Beach Series

Meow review: AirAsia Business

May 11, 2015
This is a sponsored post for AirAsia

AirAsia is our go to airline when visiting South East Asia. We are fans. They are always on time. I find their aircraft clean and the customer service great. (Let’s face it the price is awesome.) We have never had a bad experience and have been flying with them for about six years. (Unlike another nameless low-cost carrier who left me stranded on the tarmac in Phuket for four hours.)

I am usually pretty happy with the exit row but this time the lovely humans at AirAsia upgraded me to Business!

So, here is the low down if you are considering AirAsia for your next trip.

The flight: Sydney to Kuala Lumper

The plane: A330 300 Airbus

Check in: There was no line on arrival at the business check in and went straight through. (First fist pump.) We had a seamless experience at Sydney airport, whizzing through immigration line and the security check. I usually find this part of the trip quite stressful and anxiety provoking, so it was wonderful to get this over with and get into holiday mode. Con: AirAsia does not have a lounge at Sydney Airport. This would have been nice as we arrived quite early.

The seat: With just twelve seats in the business section, I was so excited to step on the plane and chill out from the start. The seat is a super comfortable reclining chair (with a foot rest) that flattens into a bed. YES THAT IS RIGHT: A TOTALLY FLAT BED.

Image courtesy of AirAsia

Image courtesy of AirAsia

(Second fist pump.) I tried and tried and tried for research’s sake and I could not touch the chair in front of me, even pointing my toes. It was like spending the day in an armchair in front of the TV at home. Although the flight was during the day, we both found ourselves so relaxed that we went into the land of nod for a few hours, until the kid next to us started to lose his mind. (There was nothing AirAsia could do about this, nor could the kids parents, it seemed.)

Isn't he cute?

Isn’t he cute?

My Ginger Hunk is not a man who sleeps on flights, so check him out above.

They also give you a snuggly doona and a comfortable cushion. (Third fist pump.)

In the land of nod. So happy.

In the land of nod. So happy.

Entertainment: You can rent a little ipad dooby wacker from AirAsia if you like, and you get the best deal if you book this with your ticket. Because I married a gadget man, we prefer to deck out our ipad with our own movies and tv shows. Personally, I like to spend our long haul flights trapping the Ginger Hunk to talk about the future, and he tries to ignore me. The kid next to us had said ipad, and while he was not screaming, it seemed to work pretty well from where I was watching.

Food: This part of the journey was a bit of a let down. We were given guava juice on arrival on the aircraft, which was a nice touch, and unlimited water throughout the flight. The rest you had to purchase unless you pre booked a meal. We had booked one main meal each. My vegetable birayani was a bit on the small side, with three pieces of cauliflower and a small serving of rice. We ordered some more food later on which was the standard fare.

Verdict: We arrived at Kuala Lumper feeling happy, rested and a lot less frazzled than we would from our usual economy class journey. It’s also nice to get off the plane first. (Fourth first pump.) And we also got our bags first. (Fifth fist pump.) While the AirAsia business class can’t be compared to an airline offering a full service with all the food and trimmings, I would recommend it for the amazing space and comfort that the flat bed brings.

Booking tip: AirAsia also offers a service called Option Town when you book a flight with them. They will email this to you a couple of weeks before you leave. You pay an amount on your credit card, and if there are spare seats on the flight, they will upgrade you to a flatbed or book out the seat in the middle of you.  If the flight is full, they refund your money!

We always fly AirAsia to get to tropical destinations.  

Check out how in our Travel Beach Series 

beach-series

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boracay Blog 

The Koh Tao Blog

Four Reasons to go east in Bali 

Happy travels!

Ashleigh XXXX