Last week, I visited Texel island (the Dutch Ibiza of the North), to get a preview of the Beach Food Festival. I arrived in style by a Bruuzer Texel, which is a speedboat that flies across the water with speeds up to 80km per hour! And if this was only a teaser, they have something in store for you, when the the actual event is happening this summer!
Beach Food Festival last year
On Friday the 20th until Sunday the 22nd of July, the Wadden Haven on Texel will be transformed into a foodie’s festival dream. The 3 day festival focusses on sustainability, local food and local trade. It’s the 3rd edition for the Beach Food Festival that saw 12.000 visitors last year.
The Bruuzer Texel certainly woke me up!
Local Food Because Texel is an island, local produce is very important to the community, and food has different variation in flavours than on the Dutch mainland. All the restaurants and food stands that are participating at the festival, are local or offer something unique. During my time on Texel, I got the chance to taste some of the food that will be served at the festival. Here some of the highlights;
Novalishoeve This organic farm is doing everything right when it comes to local produce. Their cows, sheep, pigs and chickens produce dairy, eggs and meat that they sell in their own shop, located at the farm. From the milk, they create the most delicious ice-cream, without any additives. Besides dairy and meat, they also sell herbal tea, cakes, home-made granola and their home baked bread, that is sold in many restaurants on the island. Novalishoeve will serve their special ice-cream at the event this year. www.novalishoeve.nl
Ice-Cream at Novalishoeve
All participants must serve at least one vegetarian dish on their menu
Kook Atelier This popular restaurant, serves beautiful creative, local food. Sea food caught at the Waddensea is their speciality, and last year they created a Texelse Pizza, that people are still talking about. www.kook-atelier.nl
Eilandkeuken The name says it all. The kitchen created on the island. This restaurant uses everything Texel has to offer. They will serve speciality meats at the Beach Food Festival, but each food truck needs to also offer at least one vegetarian dish. Eilandkeuken is serving a no-waste-veggie-menu and I had a little sneak preview so I can tell you that it’s worth stopping by! www.vincenteilandkeuken.nl
Testing the pretty seafood from Kook Aterlier
StrandPaveljoen Twaalf Beach bar twelve is normally located right on the large beach of Texel, but for the festival they will set up a mini beach bar with delicious BBQ flavors like roasted pumpkin and vegan burgers. Last week I tried their vegan BBQ, which was amazing! StrandpaviljoenTwaalf
Texelse Branding Time for local coffee! Founder Evert used to live in Amsterdam, where good coffee is widely available. When he moved to Texel, he couldn’t find good quality coffee.. So he decided to experiment and roast his own! With great success, because his Texselse Branding is sold at several restaurants on the island. www.koffiebranderijtexel.nl
Sustainable Sustainability is very important at the festival. Besides that all ingredients must be local or organic, all the plates and cutlery are bio-degradable. Electricity is minimised by the foodtrucks and the festival ends in the evening, so no extra lights need to be in use. Because Texel is an island, many people use their bicycle to get to the festival and visitors from outside the island come by bus or foot. As previously mentioned above, all participants must serve at least one vegetarian dish on their menu and vegetarian food is highly encouraged.
Sleeping on Texel There are many options! To find your favorite spot, check this website for availability www.texel.net
So take a pen and write down the dates, this July, we might see you at Beach Food Festival!
Beach Food Festival 20th – 22nd of July 2018 Waddenstrand Oudeschild, Texel Website / Facebook
Last week KLM flew it’s first ever flight to Växjö, Sweden. I was one of the lucky media reporters who flew with them to explore Växjö, and the region of Småland.
Växjö is one of the greenest cities in Europe. I’m talking about sustainability here. They’ve cut down CO2 emissions big time since 1993 and are an example for other cities in the world. And if you know me, you also know I’m a girl who loves anything green, so I was exited to experience this for myself. Växjö is surrounded by lakes and beautiful forests, and the perfect destination for a digital detox. (but i didn’t have one, cause I needed to take photo’s, bummer. ;-))
How To Get There Until last week, it wasn’t possible to fly directlyfrom Amsterdam, so with Växjö added to their destination list, it’s now easily done in just 1,5 hours. From the small airport, you can drive pretty much anywhere. Get yourself a rental car, unless you know someone in the region. This way you can do anything you want. Try to enjoy the scenery, because as soon as you leave the airport, you are surrounded by trees and flowers, plus you might spot a Swedish Moose!
Where to Stay There are several hotels, bed & breakfast and lodges in the area, but there are two accommodations that I would like to highlight. First up is the PM & Vänner Hotel. This modern and stylish hotel, used to be a national bank. The rooms are spacious and bright. Making use of the building, the hotel turned the bank safe into an incredible wine celar, that has even won them some prestigious prizes. When it’s nice weather, you should walk up to the rooftop, where there is a long stretched swimming pool and jacuzzi. Deck chairs are waiting for you to rest your head, and obviously the wine list is excellent. Try the PM & Vänner Bröd & Sovel bakery that is located next to the hotel, it’s a-ma-zing! The restaurant is not bad either.. it’s so good in fact, that they’ve earned a Michelin Star! And boy oh boy was it good. From locally produced nettle soup, to seasonal veggies, accompanied by the best wines. There are 22 rooms in this boutique hotel, but they are anything but standard. The bathrooms are large and all rooms give you access to free wifi, a Nespresso machine, safe ad mini bar.
My spacious bedroom at PM & Vänner
Carl von Linneus, the Swedish scientist that has named all plants and flowers in the world and is a living legend in the area.
The next sleepover I enjoyed at Växjö was at Möckelsnäs Herrgård, a massive landhouse, situated by the Möckel lake. It was build in the 1300’s and owned by several interesting people. The current owners are Dutch and have renovated the place back in 2012. The classical style remains, but the bathrooms have been modernised, which gives every room a lot of space. It’s the perfect place for couples, but there are also separate family houses build on the property. In total, the landhouse has 48 rooms. Marina, the owner, showed me around the beautiful garden area, where they grow the vegetables and herbs. Even the flowers are eatable! She tells me the story of Carl von Linneus, the Swedish scientist that has named all plants and flowers in the world and is a living legend from the area. You can find several statues that represents Mr. Linneus, and one of them is located in the garden of Möckelsnäs Herrgård.
Dinner at Möckelsnäs Herrgård
Oh, and the food here is exquisite! I enjoyed a dinner with fresh pea soup, and a seafood broth accompanied by their homemade bread. To top it off, I tasted the rather unusual basil ice-cream, which was super nice and refreshing! I slept as a baby, and woke up with a stunning view over the lake, so yes, you could say this place is a winner.
Ice cream baby!
Explore People that visit the Småland region, come here for the nature. Because of the lakes, it’s the perfect spot for camping out with friends and family, take boat rides, or cycle one of the many routes. There is even something for the thrill seekers. Here are my favourite activities in and around Växjö:
Ziplining. It’s the first thing I did, when I arrived at Växjö. About 40 minutes drive from the airport, you will find the longest zipline in Northern Europe. It has 14 stations, all thrilling and exiting. Some are fast, others go though the forest, and have magnificent views. The highest station is 52 meters, so don’t look down! It’s the perfect thing to do with a group of friends, and there are also opportunities to camp or sleep in a special dorm hut. For more info visit www.swedenzipline.com
Getting ready to zip
Cycling. If you have the time, I always recommend you to hire a bicycle. It’s one of the best ways to explore, especially when you are surrounded by nature.
Visit Åsnen National Park & Lake Åsnen. The park will officially open on the 25th of May. Åsnen National Park brings the list to 30 national parks in total. Right located in the heart of Växjö, it’s great for hiking. The lake is huge and roughly 150 km² in size, perfect for hiring a boat with a few friends. You can also opt for a canoe and drift in between the many small islands. For more info visit. www.nationalparkasnen.se
Cycling around the lake
Bird spotting at Åsnen Lake
Swedish Glass Museum. It may sounds a bit dull to you, but glass is HOT in Växjö. They even call Småland The Kingdom of Crystal. Needless to say that most restaurants and bars get their glass locally. Very sustainable, yet again. All sorts and sizes, to drink from or just to look at. 40.000 pieces are on display at the museum and you also get a chance to see the craftsmen at work. More info here.
IKEA Museum. Did the word Smäland sounded familiar to you? Yes, IKEA started right here. The first store opened in Smäland back in 1958. Mr. Ingvar Kamprad, who sadly passed away earlier this year, made sure he left his legacy. The store turned into a museum, where you can learn about the birth of the IKEA empire and get the chance to get involved. There are a few exhibitions running, some permanent, others temporary. If you dreamed of being on the cover of a magazine, now is your chance! www.ikeamuseum.com
In Sweden they enjoy a Fika, which is a coffee break, that goes hand in hand with a tasty (and sweet) pastry.
Eat & typical regional foods. Always try the food of the place you’re at, is my motto. Lucky for me, a typical Swedish delight is a cinnamon roll! In Sweden they enjoy a Fika, which is a coffee break, that goes hand in hand with a tasty (and sweet) pastry.
A Swedish Kanelbullar
Växjö has proved to me that it’s indeed green, full of nature, has lovely people and it has a great gastronomy. I could enjoy a few Fika’s here in my lifetime. Flights are now available with KLM from around €99,-.
Hello hello newbie, warm welcome to Roootin. For weeks or maybe even months they were renovating their place…and the result doesn’t lie. Don’t expect the usual hotspot with eggs Benedict’s, croque madams and juicy burgers, nops. Time for something new, let’s introduce you to the Middle Eastern cuisine! I think I never had something Iranian or Kurdish before, so let’s zoom in on what they’ve in store for you!
Interior Roootin Amsterdam
The story behind Roootin Amsterdam Roootin is an idea of one Iranian brother, his two sis and their mom. How cool a family have teamed up. During reading the intro you might have thought: Roootin with 3x ‘o’? Yes, and I tell you why. Roootin is a combi of roots and origin. It doesn’t only has to do with their Iranian roots, but also with their interest in the essence of humans, nature, healing power of products…let’s say the roots of things. Mix that with origin and Roootin is born, a place where you can meet the healthy Middle Eastern food.
Amsterdam meets Middle Eastern food When it’s bedtime I can become such a happy kid by thinking of how my next morning will start: yaaasss breakfast is callin’! Recently my day started even better with a brunch at Roootin. I had no idea what to expect from a Middle Eastern inspired kitchen, I couldn’t mention one typical Iranian, Kurdish or Lebanese dish. A totally new food world opened for this girl with dishes like orange blossom pancakes, labneh, avocado toast the Iranian way and a Kurdish dish called Sawar. Choosing didn’t last long, pancakes for me. Defenitely one of the best I’ve had in Amsterdam, and I can know as probably one of the biggest pancake lovers in town (wink wink). Dropping by at Roootin means experiencing lots of new flavours, unknown homemade dishes and…a bright colour overload! Even when sometimes the sun is hard to find, you can find her here on your plate. Oh and I don’t discuss their complete menu in detail, because it has so much more charm to discover it by yourself.
Pancakes Iranian style, love them!
Vegan avo toast, worth tryin’
Roootin, place to charge yourself Besides I really liked the pancakes and juices, for me the whole atmosphere stood out. No hustle or bustle, just relaxed vibes, laidback music in a modern and above all warm place. East has some places where it is ‘see and be seen’, luckily they’re not that kind of a food spot. In terms of hospitality, they also score super high. In case you’ve a food allergy, nothing is too much to ask. They’re really supportive and focus on specific solutions for every vegan, lactose-intolerant or other special wish.
One last thing: Roootin hopes to further deepen the concept by initiating all kinds of projects that are in line with their philosophy. Think about workshops and yoga classes, you name it. I’ll try more of their brunch food and healthy guilty pleasures as soon as possible, and book a yoga class. Who wants join this beginner yogi?
Roootin Linnaeusstraat 16, Amsterdam Opening hours: Tuesday till Sunday 09:00 till 17:00, Mondays closed No reservations Facebook Instagram
More foodie spots from Sharmaine? Check out Tasty Hotspots section!
A few weeks ago I found my first grey hair. I panicked just a little. Being in my thirties, I’m confronted with the fact that I’m getting older, and it’s literally the first time that I started to look for ways to slow down the process. Not that there is anything wrong with getting older, but I would like to do it gracefully and the time has come to give that little extra attention to..well, me! In collaboration with Treatwell, I’m going to spend the next few months testing different treatments that are suppose to make me feel and look better on the in and outside. Last month I reviewed a Microdermabrasiontreatment and this month I tried a Lypossage, a touch massage that smoothes out your skin and reduces cellulite.
Lypossage sounds like a treatment you’re having done at a plastic surgery clinic
What is Lypossage? Lypossage sounds like a treatment you’re having done at a plastic surgery clinic, but don’t worry, it’s nothing like that. It’s in fact a massage that is gaining popularity amongst many women, especially when bikini season is starting. It’s a deep and touch massage that loosens up these touch and stuck area’s so it can then start to break down and leave your body. Lypossage also detoxifies the body of stalled lymphatic fluid (Lymphoedema) that can create the lumps and bulges we know as cellulite. Besides that, it also tones the muscles, lifting and firming sagging tissue. It’s part of a healthy lifestyle and even though it’s not the most relaxing massage you’ll ever have, it’s something that (especially) women stand in line for.
I had my first Lypossage treatment at Vitalíté Amsterdam. This salon, located on the canals of Amsterdam, is run by a wonderful “local” lady named Nancy. She first got into this treatment back in 2005, when the US founder Charles W. Wiltsie came to Amsterdam to introduce Lypossage to the European market. Nancy followed an intensive workshop and since then she is offering the treatment in her own salon. Funny enough, Lypossage is recently taking a center stage in the beauty treatment world, because several celebrities have recently posted on social media about it. I was curious and made my appointment.
She is working my body as if she is preparing bread dough!
No Pain No gain There are 3 different zones; zone one is focusing on your legs, bum and tummy. Zone 2 is for the upper body and Zone 3 is for the face. I went for Zone 1, because after my pregnancy, I started to see some small signs of cellulite, something I had never seen before. Time to get into it! After filling out a short questionnaire, it was time to lay down on the treatment table. The massage starts on the legs and works up to the bum and tummy. “It’s all about the fast movement”, she says. And fast she is! She is working my body as if she is preparing bread dough! Besides the heavy massaging of the skin, she also “hits” it short and fast with the outside knuckles of her hands. This sounds painful but it’s actually not. The massage is less enjoyable if I had to compare the two. Especially when she arrives next to my hips, an area where my fat likes to store itself. (hello chips & pizzas). Those kind of problem area’s tend to be more sensitive.
My tummy is the thing that affected me the most. Not at the time, but afterwards. During the treatment she lifts my tummy between her fingers when I exhale, I needed to tense my tummy muscles (I do have them somewhere), and she pulls it. She does this three times after massaging it. I don’t want to get into details, but I had to see Mr. Toilet 3 times that and the next day. My body was literally detoxing and I really felt my body was getting rid of anything that didn’t belong there anymore. It’s important to drink a lot of water or herbal tea after the Lypossage, so that’s what I did.
My Verdict The treatment itself wasn’t so bad as I thought it would be. After a while, you don’t even feel discomfort. Nancy told me, that her customers feel less every time they come in for a treatment because everything starts to “loosen” up. A Lypossage treatment at Vitalíté is 45 minutes long and costs €60,-. You can also buy a package of 10 treatments for €575,- which gives you a discount of 25 euro. Would I do it again? Yes I would. I really felt the effect it had on my body, so something was going on. My legs feel & look firmer and my skin felt smooth, even after a week. I think it’s the perfect treatment to do before a beach holiday. I would suggest getting at least three Lypossage treatments to get the best result. Want to try the same treatment I had? Book yours here!
Panama has it all, for me, it’s the perfect exotic holiday destination! It’s small in size but it offers a big variety which is easy to reach; exotic tropical rainforests, beautiful beaches, more than a 1000 islands, best surf spots, an incredible nightlife, breathtaking views, Spanish colonial architecture, jungle, rafting and kayaking. Panama really surprised me and here are my personal tips!
Downtown of Panama When you enter Panama you will immediately see a very impressive skyline on the right side that is surrounded by tropical rainforest and on the left sight you see the beautiful ocean where people are surfing. In Panama city you will find the business district on one side, with lots of hotels and restaurants with the best shopping opportunities, and on the other side you will find Casco Viejo district, historical center built in the 17th century. There’s a lot to discover and activities like jungle trips, a visit to Panama canal are just a few hours away from the city.
Panama still struggles with crime and poverty. In some areas you’re not allowed to enter, which you will know when the police will tell when you try to enter a street. Panama is definitely tourist friendly, you feel save during the day and night, but people recommend you to take a taxi in the evening.
The skyline of Panama is so impressive!
The Old Town We stayed in the historic district of Panama City, Casco Viejo – which means old quarter in Spanish, and is only 10 min. away from the business district by taxi. Casco Viejo is small, but you can wander around for days, since this cozy neighborhood has a lot to offer: numerous bars, various restaurants where they service top notch food, great nightlife with some very nice bars where you can order delicious local beers and fresh cocktails, street art, castles, museums etc.
We only had two days to explore Casco Viejo, before heading to the islands, which was too short and therefore we came back again on the end of our trip! You feel at home right away; the locals are very friendly and the area is so incredibly beautiful. Take a walk along the beach where you will have the impressive ocean view, wander through the streets and admire the Spanish architecture with beautiful pastel colored buildings, have a coffee at one of the quality coffee shops, stroll at Plaza de La Independencia Market where I bought this handmade Wayuu Mochila bag, check out the Panama Canal, wander and end your evening with a very nice dinner and have some fresh cocktails at the oceanfront art bar.
Catedral Metropolitana & Market at Plaza de La Independencia
Bocas Del Toro
Bocas Town A propeller plane took us from Panama City to Bocas Del Toro. After one hour you see the Caribbean Sea, the archipelago’s nine islands, surrounded by hundreds of tiny uninhabited islets and the mainland, Bocas Town. It takes a 10 min.walk to enter Bocas. Bocas is a hotspot amongst travelers all over the world where most lodging and restaurants are. Water taxi’s depart from this mainland to the different islands. During the day you can wander the streets for shopping, drinks and food and in the night Bocas is known for their famous party’s. Are you looking for a more quit holiday, then you should definitely stay at one of the island like we did. Each island has its own unique vibe and offers travelers diversity.
We skipped the mainland and went directly to Isla Bastimentos by boat, that takes 2 min. We’ve found this tropical romantic Caribbean beach front villa where we relaxed for almost one week. We stayed longer than planned since we really enjoyed the vibe and the surrounded islands with lots of activities. We swam in crystal clear water, enjoyed beautiful sunsets while drinking delicious cocktails and ate fresh fish which the local fisherman caught. We slept in a very nice cabin where you hear the sounds of lapping waves, parrots and monkeys. In the night we took a boat to the mainland for dinner and drinks.
Taxi’s will bring you to different breathtaking islands where you can snorkel, surf, tan and relax.
Red Frog Beach We often took the boat to some other islands. One of them is Red Frog Beach which is 10 min. from the mainland. We found this very cozy place,Palmer Tent lodge, where we met some very nice people, one of them was the owner. Unfortunately it was fully booked, we really wanted to stay for a few days. This Eco-friendly beach front place offers lots of activities like; surfing, hiking, zip line riding, yoga and most important you can really just relax in a hammock. They have a small but yummy affordable menu. I really enjoyed surfing, the teacher was so friendly and patient that I got the change the learn it even better.
Red Frog Beach, chilling and surfing at Palmer Tent lodge
» Bring Sunscreen SPF30, you can get burned very easily in Panama, my favorite isLancaster » Make sure to bring dollars or exchange your money into their local currencybalboa » Book your domestic flights upfront to save money, Air Panama » Try to combine Panama with another country when planning a few weeks, like Costa Rica » Book your stay at Bocas upfront, since it’s a very popular destination and fully booked very easily, checkhere
» Tickets cost around 800 euro » Cabins at the beach start from 35 dollar » We spent around 50 euro a day per person
We didn’t managed to go to the San Blas islands because unfortunately illness struck me for a few days. It’s suppose to be heaven so hopefully we will get the chance to travel there again!
With so many beautiful spots around the world, it’s hard to see everything before we leave this world as we know it. BUT, to narrow your bucket list down, we have listed down these 6 amazing unusual wonders of the world, so you can die peacefully. (ok, that’s a little dramatic, but you get the idea!)
Lake Bumbunga, Australia This lake is used to extract salt from and turns pink during some seasons. It’s located in an area that is lesser known in Australia so you could say that this Instagramable pink lake deserve a spot on our list!
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia Reflections, crystal-white salt, never ending views, ice scraped mountains, wildlife, and this all above 4000 km height. Combine breath taking colourful lagoons with steamy volcanoes, geysers and warm hot-springs. This popular destination is without doubt an unforgettable and magical journey that you will never forget! Experience the world’s largest salt flats: Salar de Uyuni.
Sarah at Salar de Uyuni
Chocolate Hills, Philippines Now, don’t get your hopes up, you’re not going to find a valley full of chocolate like in some kind of dream. These hills are covered in green grass that turns brown (like chocolate) during the dry season, hence the name. Legend says that the hills are the dried up tears of a giant… but I leave the preferred story up to you. When I was there, I was impressed by the amount of hills (there are at least 1,260 hills) and their beautiful colors. More about Bohol and the Chocolate hills: wander-lust.nl/the-philippines-cebu-bohol
Spotted Lake (Osoyoos), Canada This unusual lake, located in the eastern similkameen valley of British Columbia, Canada, is a true sight. It was (or is) believed to be sacred due to the many miniral found in the water. The different pools are only seen during summertime, when most of the lake dries up. Every spot has a different shade of color. Have a look at the video!
Tunnel of Love, Ukraine It looks like something out of a fairytale, but it’s real! This train rails was in use for many years but because the trees grew so free and beautiful, they decided to close it and let nature do it’s thing. It’s located in Ukraine and certainly worth visiting during summertime when all the leaves are green.
The Maldives is home to endless coconut trees, white sandy beaches and one ama-zing hotel. Looking at the photo’s, it’s no wonder that Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas has been voted Most Instragrammable Hotel in the World by Luxury Travel Advisor.
Luxury Travel Advisor is the insider’s publication for travel and tourism operatives, detailing what’s happening, in trend and upcoming in the world of hospitality. The inaugural contest saw 121,000 votes cast online, with Anantara Kihavah taking the lead!
Photo by @Mvandersluis
The hotel is Designed by Maldivian architects Group X Design Associates, and offers guests the world’s most stunning backdrop. Even though luxury to the mex, it still feels natural and laid back.
The hotel offers one in a lifetime experiences such as underwater dining, overwater stargazing, and swimming with mantas and turtles and plenty of photo opportunities!
Dinner with the fishies
Situated on the western Baa Atoll in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Anantara Kihavah is a 30-minute seaplane flight from Malé and Velana International Airport. If you want to go and see it for yourself, you need to save up some cash because a villa at the Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas start from £787. (and yes, that includes the devine breakfast)
Some people love it, others rather avoid the busy crowds at Kingsday. If you belong to that second group, then keep on reading, because Koningsrust at Zwier is the place for you!
For some people, Kingsday is their least favourite day of the year. Too much noise, hurdles of tourists and the pressure of going somewhere. If they could, they would stay inside all day, or escape the mayhem. Well, at Zwier it’s possible. Especially for the Kingsday-weekend, they are hosting Koningsrust (translated to Kingsday Rest).
No noise, just the birds and the wind
What about a healthy organic KINGS dinner?
What is ZWIER? Not far from Amsterdam, you can find this wonderful and peaceful location situated at the Vinkeveense Plassen. Nature, surrounded by water, where you wake up from the birds singing and start your day with a yoga session. Accommodations vary from luxury tents, to huts, and there is even an option to stay on a boat. For Koningsrust, they offer a (long) weekend in a luxury tent (which includes a real bed), yoga sessions, breakfast and one organic Kings dinner on Friday evening from just €279,-! You are free to use the canoes and sub materials, and you can also bring your own food to prepare in the community kitchen.
So if you’re looking for some rest during the Kingsday weekend, drive away from the city and come to Zwier!
Sri Lanka might not be the first place you think of when booking a holiday, but it’s a must see this year. Why? After reading this blog, you will understand.
Sri Lanka is one of the most interesting and exciting places I have ever seen. It’s a beautiful, chaotic and a mind-blowing place with a lot of culture, history and beautiful beaches. But when I went there, I really found it hard to know where I should be going. I wanted to find the beautiful places in Sri Lanka to enjoy my trip at its best. I found out by exploring, and these are 5 must sees!
Cafe Chill The first place I would like to share with you is ‘Cafe Chill’ located in Ella. This quaint cafe, is the locals and tourists’ favorite spot. They serve both Sri Lankan and Western food and it looks like a hut, which makes it very cute and cosy. If you are hungry, the Sri Lankan and Western food will make your senses travel. Its roof is reminiscent of a hut, which makes of it the most cosy place to chill. There is free wifi if you need to connect with the homefront, but make sure you chill to the max! cafechillnescoffeeshop
Udawalawe National Park I had the chance to visit this super cute baby elephant shelter. Honestly, I had never seen elephants outside of a zoo, so I found this really amazing. The park is very beautiful and they had so many baby elephants. Sri Lanka is home to around 3000 wild elephants, with around 250 in Udawalawe National Park. The park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals and a safe ground for them to breed. Book your safari here!
Beaches This is always one of my favorite spots. The beach. I am always really sad when I find a beach that is not nice, but Sri Lanka has a lot of beautiful ones. I couldn’t pick the one and only beach for you, so I listed my favorites for you. The beaches I liked the most were in Tangalle, Mirissa, Arugam Bay and Negombo.
Fish market I think one of the most famous things in Sri Lanka are the fish markets. You can find them anywhere. During my trip, I saw a lot of them, but it is really nice to see and really nice to get fresh fish everyday. If you are interested in buying fresh fish, I would recommend you to go in the early morning. During the day, the heat is really strong and the merchants don’t have devices to preserve their products. The best fish market I have seen was the main fish market in Negombo.
The Doctors House The last place I want to share with you, is The Doctors House in Matara. This place is a 200-year-old former Dutch and Ayurvedic hospital which has been transformed into a bar. The place is next to the beach Madiha. The good vibes of the place, driven by the fun of the customers will make you want to stay there all day long. www.thedoctorshouse.lk
The Doctors House
So will your next trip be to Sri Lanka?
*Michelle is one of our guest editors who lives in Amsterdam. She is a senior student on her way of becoming a media specialist. She’s got a big interest for design, writing and traveling. After exploring Amsterdam she wanted to discover more of the world. She’s not your typical typical tourist though, which is why she is always searching for the best local bars and restaurants! You can follow her on @michelle.debruin
If you ask anyone about Thailand, they will probably tell you about the long stretched beaches in Ko Samui, Koh Phi Phi or talk about the elephants in Chiang Mai. All lovely, but did you know that Thailand has a lot of hidden gems located in the North Eastern part? I flew over there to find out, and ended up having one of the most amazing press trips of the year. Let me introduce Northeast Thailand, better known as Isan.
North East Thailand
How to get there From Bangkok you can fly to Khon Kaen,one of the four major cities of Isan, Thailand. From there you can travel to all the places I’m going to highlight. Rent a van or hire a chauffeur to drive you around. The roads are good and not too busy, so a great option to the the best parts of North East Thailand. Direct flights are also available and not expensive. Thai Smile airways is your best option.
Khon Kaen The town itself isn’t really what we came here for, but it’s surroundings is what makes this place special. From here on, you will find the real Thailand. And with real, I mean getting the true local experience. In this part of the country you will not see many tourists or backpackers. In fact, I only saw one! Here are some must sees & do’s in the area;
» Mekin Organic Farm This wonderful farm is run by a Thai family that is growing everything from fruits, coffee, Thai whiskey and rice on their farm. They’re not using any chemicals to spray their harvest, so you can imagine the amazing flavours of the food! I was invited to plant fresh rice in the mud. If you visit this farm, you can help too and experience the life of a Thai organic farmer. Lunch on the farm is included and so tasty!
The amazing Mekin Organic Farm
» Wat Chai Sri A tiny Isan village where you can find an ancient temple with beautiful hand painted stories. It was most likely build before 1917 and remains an important temple for the Thai history. If you decide to visit this rather unique temple, make sure you walk around the village to meet some of the locals. This is a chance to experience the real Thai culture. You will be welcomed with open arms, even if they don’t speak a word of English, it’s worth trying to communicate with them. I received a cotton bracelet which was symbolic for good health and luck, and i’m still wearing it!
Meeting the local Isan kids at Wat Chai Sri (throwing up good luck signs)
» Sila Homestay What a colourful place! Here you can learn how to weave cotton wool around a bamboo structure which makes up a “spiders web” which is used for celebrating events. Sila Homestay is a good stop to drink some traditional Thai juice and stretch your legs, while overlooking the river.
Where to stay Your best option is the Pullman Khon Kaen Raja Orchid Hotel in the city center.It’s large and one of the best hotels in the area. The rooms are huge and very comfortable. If you stay longer, you can enjoy the pool, fitness and spa. Book your stay here.
Roi Et Roi et literally means “hundred and one” and is home to one of the tallest Buddha’s in Thailand. With an impressive 60 meters, it’s definitely worth visiting. Order a Skylab to get you around, It’s transportation similar to a TucTuc, but here the seats are turned towards each other. Roi Et worth visiting when the Bun Pha Wet festival is on, which happens once a year.
» Bun Pha Wet Festival Amazing Thailand planned our visit at the right time, because once a year there is a festival named Bun Pha Wet. The yearly parade is one of the highlights and I was so lucky enough to join in the fun! Being the only western group of people, everyone wanted to take pictures of us, (so that’s what celebrities feel like ey?) Participants dress up in the most beautiful creations and dance as they make their way past the watching crowd. It was such an honour to be a part of this tradition! At night you can enjoy a light and sound show and free Thai rice noodle booths all over town. Bun Pha Wet Festival
» Phra Maha Chedi Chai Monkol It’s a name full, and it’s just as impressive as it sounds. I’m talking about the largest Chedi in Thailand. The Chedi is located about 80km away from town. Covered in gold, it stands 101 meters tall, 101 meters wide and was built on a plot measuring 101 Rai, which is about 40 acres. Yes 101 is a lucky number in Roi Et! You can take the elevator all the way up and walk down so you can see the impressive architecture. From the top you can see that the Chedi is located in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees and it feels magical. Entrance is only 20 bath.
Where to stay: There are not many hotels to choose from, because Roi Et is not used to tourists, yet. I stayed at the Rice Hotel which is basic but good enough to rest your head. Tip: order a Thai massage from town for 400 bath and enjoy the comfort of having the massage in your room. (No happy ending included guys!)
Ubon Ratchathani Close to the border of Laos, you will find Ubon Ratchathani. It means Royal Lotus City and is often called Ubon for short. It’s probably the best hidden gem that Thailand has to offer, because here you will find extraordinary national parks, and there is even a canyon.
» Pha Taem National Park If you’re into history, you are going to love this national park. You will find the “mushroom shaped rocks” that was were produced by years of erosion. But the park is also known for numerous prehistoric cave paintings that date back 3000 – 4000 years ago. I was really impressed by the well kept hand prints and drawings these people made so many years ago. The drawings feature people, animals and their use of Buk fishing. The whole area is rather special and when you walk besides the cliff, it’s pretty amazing to imagine how this area must have looked so many years ago. Entrance is 400 bath for adults and 200 bath for kids. There is a small café where you can get amazing ice-coffees and juices, and you’re probably going to need it!
Is it a mushroom? (yes, that’s me in the middle)
» San Phan Bok The Grand Canyon of Thailand and a place you cannot miss while visiting this part of the country! The area consist of thousands of holes (San Phan Bok translate to 3000 holes), some filled with rainwater. I couldn’t believe this was also in Thailand! Get your camera ready, because it’s one of the most photogenic area’s you will see. Walk around to find a Mickey Mouse shaped hole. Tip: Bring an umbrella to protect you from the sun, otherwise you will burn alive! Luckily there are many food stands at the arrival point where you can buy fresh coconuts, ice-cream and water.
Alien-lie San Phan Bok, a true sight. Photo taken by Larissa from BLDV
» Sirindhorn Wararam Phu Prao Temple Right across the border of Laos, this beautiful temple changes completely when the sun sets and it gets dark. Come here around 5.30pm and wait for the magical moment. If you are a professional photographer, you may want to bring your tripod. Say hello to the pigs that walk around at the temple and love to be cuddled.
When the sun goes down, the tree and the floor light up
Where to stay With no question, stay at the Thohsang Khongjiam Resort. This hotel really feels like you’re on holiday. After a day full of exploring, this place is the perfect stopover for a few days. There are villa’s available if you are with a family, but the other rooms are also good. The hotel is located so close Laos, that you can almost touch it. There is a wonderful swimming pool and the massages here are amazing. (yes, I need a massage everyday). Book your stay here.
Yes, Isan is a different kind of Thailand. It’s about the local experience. It’s adventurous and it’s unique. There remains only one question; are you ready to go off the beaten track?