THE AMMAN GUIDE 2020 | JORDAN

“Welcome to Jordan”, is a phrase you will hear time and time again in this majestic land from the locals who are delighted to have visitors in their country.

From the moment you step off your flight and arrive in Jordan’s capital Amman, you’ll be impressed with the best of the Middle East this 2020.

Where to stay in Amman

There’s only one place to head to as soon as you arrive in frantic Amman and that’s the city’s 4th tallest building, otherwise known as the W Hotel. At a striking 150m high, it is a towering spectacle within Amman’s skyline. When you enter you are immediately blown away at the interior. It features a canyon – designed in homage to the country’s most famous archaeological site, Petra. The W Hotel is somewhere you want to wake up again and again. The 240 rooms are contemporary in look and feel, yet bring local characteristics through colours and textures.

W Hotel Entrance, Amman
Entrance of W Hotel Amman

Hotel bedroom Amman

Take time to explore the hotel in full: you’ll have a luxury spa to visit (we recommend the reflexology and full body massages). Aswell as a gym and not to mention the picturesque roof top poor which delivers quite a luxe experience. The rest of the hotel offers a Living Room area for guests to chill and read many of their impressive coffee table books while enjoying a cocktail. After dark the area becomes one of the best bars in the city with a who’s who of Amman flocking to be seen alongside an international array of guests. Book your stay here.

W Hotel Rooftop Pool

Jordan is one of the most progressive and modern countries in the Middle East and it’s also one of the safest. Woman have equal rights to men and the royal family have a huge influence on their people by championing education.

What to do in Amman

If you can tear yourself away from the W Hotel to marvel at the sights of Amman there’s plenty to do! (Though don’t get us wrong – the best of Jordan lies outside of the capital). Amman was built on seven hills so be sure to wear your most comfortable walking shoes as they’ll be putting in the hard work. The hustle and bustle of the capital city is sure to inspire and delight..

City of Amman, Jordan

Plan a morning exploring the Citadel which sits on the highest mountain in the city so provides the best point for getting your bearings. Built during the Bronze Age, the site was destroyed by an earthquake in 749AD and never rebuilt yet it’ll leave you with a sense of a time gone by. The scale of the columns still standing provide insight into how magnificent the site once was. From here you’ll be able to see the Roman Theatre which provides a 7,000 seater stadium. You can buy tickets to music and theatre performances.

Amman Citadel
The city’s Citadel

Theatre Amman, Jordan

Rainbow Street acts as a central hub of restaurants, bars and coffee shops which cater for tourists and locals alike. If you want to eat like a king you’re best to set off for Hashems which has hosted royalty here since it opened in 1953. This legendary eatery is famed for its falafel and hummus! You can order a classic lunch meal for around 3JD and be sure to sip their mint tea too. 

Amman City, Jordan

Culture

After you’ve refuelled with falafel, the Jordan Museum is not to be missed. Built in 2014, this is a modern building in the centre of the city. Its home to some of the most incredible ancient treasure in the land. The experience here is entertaining, informative and like no other. You’ll first be guided around the Jordan exhibition which tells the rich history of this nation. Illustrating the countries impact and evolution within the surrounding Middle East. The space also holds the oldest-known human statues. But it’s what lies at the very end which is why this stop is firmly on our must-do list: the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed here. These biblical manuscripts are one of the most important discoveries of the 20th century! When in 1946 a Shepard stubbed across them in a cave near to the Dead Sea. They give great historical, religious significance from the era when they were written from around 300BC.

Roman Theatre, Amman

The last cultural stop on your Amman to-see list should be the vast King Abdullah Mosque. This blue-domed landmark is open to worshipers as well as non-Muslin visitors. (But only during certain hours and if you’re a female you’ll be asked to wear a abayas. Standing as a some-what timeless looking building, over 7,000 people come on a daily basis to pay their respects. It’s a peaceful and reflective experience – while the outside is covered in decorative mosaic tiles.

King Abdullah Mosque, Amman

Where to Eat in Amman:

  • Wild Jordan Cafe (good for a a healthy lunch)
  • Shams el Balad (an outdoor hipster hangout with the most delicious beetroot hummus)
  • Levant (great for dinner – order everything on the menu, nothing will disappoint)
  • Primal (for anyone following a Paleo diet)
  • Sufra (a Rainbow Street must-visit)

Good to know ahead of visiting Jordan:

  • Buy the Jordan Pass for £75. This includes your tourist visa as well as entry fees for the likes of the Citadel in Amman as well as Petra and the Dead Sea.
  • There are 9 million people who live in the country, while only 8 years ago there were 6 million. The sudden rise of inhabitants is due to the influx of refugees coming in from their neighbouring countries. 4.5 million people live in the capital city Amman.
  • Weekends in Jordan fall on a Friday and Saturday, so it’s likely that shops, some attractions and restaurants may be shut on a Saturday.
  • Smoking is allowed indoors, so don’t be surprised when people light up in hotels, restaurants and shops.
  • All hotels have their own airport-like security in the entrance meaning that your suitcase and day bag will need to go through the x-ray scanners every time you enter the building.
  • Uber is currently available in Jordan, however they can’t pick up from the airport. If you’ve not arranged airport transfers via your hotel, you’re best to use a licensed cab when you land and be sure to tip the porter.

In short, before you head into the rest of Jordan, Amman is a worthy stop for a few days!

Love,

Stephanie

AN AQUARIUM RESTAURANT JUST OPENED ON BALI!

For years, Bali has been innovative when it comes to trendy restaurants that attracts travellers from all over the world. But no one has ever opened this kind of restaurant.

The Apurva Kempinski Hotel on Bali is one of the most luxurious hotels on the island and has recently opened their restaurant Koral, set next and under an aquarium. 

Girl in aquarium restaurant
Aquarium Restaurant done well. Photo by Heydi Paramitha, via Tripvanvas

As a result, dining has never been the same!

Even more, they serve delicious seafood and grilled specialities with local ingredients and Bali flavours, in an unforgettable setting. 

So, when are you booking a table

Are you curious about this hotel? Check our stay in Kempinski Doha!

Love,

Wander-Lust

3 X TOP PLACES IN LAOS

Located cozily in between Thailand, Cambodia, China, Myanmar and Vietnam, Laos is often one of the South East Asian countries that’s left un-visited when traveling this to part of the world. And that’s a shame, because Laos is a true gem and one of the cheapest countries to travel in.

 If you are a first time visitor to Laos, these are definitely my top three places for visiting!

Been there, Don Det

Don Det is a small island located in the south of Laos, close to the Cambodian border. The island is well-known for its beautiful scenery and relaxed hippy vibe. Staying in one of the bungalows on the island means going back 2 basic with cold showers and toilets that can only be flushed with a bucket. Straightaway, you will feel the relaxed vibe on this island which is very contagious. Soon you’ll be unwinding in a hammock with a fruit shake in your hand. For those who find it hard to sit still cheap bikes can be rented all over the island to go for a ride and explore the breathtaking waterfalls.

Don Det Waterfalls

Don Det, Laos
Don Det

Soaring through the jungle in Laos with the Gibbon Experience

If you’re up for a little more action after being completely rejuvenated at Don Det travel all the way north to go on The Gibbon Experience. Sleeping in the worlds highest tree houses, flying through the jungle of Laos on a zipper-line. Furthermore, you can hike through beautiful woods while contributing to preserving everything that surrounds you. That’s the Gibbon Experience. Of all my travels this is by far one of the most amazing things I’ve done. Make sure you make a booking in advance as the Gibbon Experience is often fully booked.

Gibbon, Laos

Oui oui, Luang Prabang

From Luang Prabang you can get on the night bus to the Gibbon Experience. It goes without saying that Luang Prabang is a town where French influences decorate this charming town everywhere. You can walk through Luang Prabangs enchanting streets or visit one of the many temples. About 40 minutes from Luang Prabang you will stumble upon the Kuang Si Waterfalls which are so greenish blue that you have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. Take a swim in these (cold!!) waterfalls or simply walk around and enjoy the surroundings. When you get back to Luang Prabang pay a visit to the market where delicious baguettes and fresh fruit shakes are sold for just under €1,50.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Laos

Next to these three highlights Laos has so much more to offer like visiting the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng or strolling around its capital Vientiane.

Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng, Laos

Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane, Laos

Ultimately, I hope you’ll have a wonderful time in this partly undiscovered little piece of Southeast Asian heaven 🙂

Love,

Evelien

How to avoid the crowds at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is undoubtedly Cambodia’s biggest tourist attraction. And this is no surprise since the lost city is the biggest religious monument in the world which dates back to the early twelfth century.

These days almost 5 million tourists yearly make their way over to Cambodia to wander around the temples of Angkor Wat themselves, making it a very popular but very busy place to visit. You better think again if you ever dream of having these Asian temples all to yourself, but there are a few tricks to avoid the big crowds and wander around in peace…

1. Watch the sunrise and leave a little early

Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat is a definite must-do when you’re visiting these temples. Not only is it a truly magical experience when a new day presents itself by rising up against the temples, but it is also a great way to arrive at the temples early. If you want to have a good spot without hundreds of iPad and Selfiestick waving Chinese tourists in front of you, walk right instead of going straight ahead at the famous ‘sunrise temple spot’. You won’t be right in front of the temples, but you will share the view with just a dozen of other tourists. When the sun is up and you captured enough Instagram-worthy shots, head back to your Tuk Tuk driver before everybody else does. Doing this you’ll arrive at the other temples as one of the first, having the temples (almost) all to yourself 🙂

Beat the crowd at Ankor Wat
The most impressive temple of Cambodia, but very busy

2. The further away, the better!

Firstly, ask your Tuk Tuk driver to bring you to the popular temples that are further away first. Many Tuk Tuk’s and tour buses follow a certain route, creating the perfect opportunity for you to do the exact opposite thing 🙂 Also, if you see tons of big tour buses standing outside of a temple, ask your Tuk Tuk driver to take you to another temple which appears to be less crowded first. Clever thinking!

no crowds at ankor-wat

3. Go back at the end of the day

Wandering around the temples of Angkor is extremely beautiful, but also extremely tiring and HOT! If you decided to watch the sunrise you will probably feel very tired around 12pm, making you want to go home and take a nap during the hottest hours of the day. If you buy a one-day-pass this pass is valid for a whole day, so you can come back to the temples in the late afternoon, when most of the crowds already have disappeared. Make sure you don’t go too late as Angkor Wat closes at 6pm.

Ankor Wat Cambodia

I hope the three tips above will help you explore the ancient Ankor Wat in peace and quiet. Enjoy 🙂

Love,

Evelien

Did you know Cambodia is one of the world’s cheapest countries to live in? Check which countries made it to the top 5!

WX191DV28C

Visiting Bali for the first time? Here is all you need to know

Oh hello sunshine, nature, palmtrees and fresh coconuts! Are you planning (like most people we know) to visit the island of the gods, Bali? Here are some tips if you’re heading there for the first time. 

Before you leave home

Visa and passport: in addition to a valid passport (which must be valid for at least 6 months) you also need a visa. You will receive this visa free of charge on arrival at the following international airports; Jakarta, Bali, Medan and Surabaya. You can stay in Bali for up to 30 days. Please note: arrival and departure days are counted and this free visa can not be extended. So if you want to stay longer than 30 days (and believe us, this happens), then you must arrange the visa before departure and make sure you have a return ticket, because that is mandatory.

Money: the currency on Bali is the Rupiah. Since banks are not everywhere and the exchange rate can fluctuate heavily, it is useful to exchange your money at the airport. Make sure you have enough money with you when traveling to a remote area.

Vaccinations: against Hepatitis A and DTP are recommended when you go to Indonesia on vacation. Fortunately, you do not have to take malaria pills in many areas; Bali and East and West Java are mostly malaria free. Check the map of malaria areas. And then you still have those annoying mosquitos. You do not hear them, but you do feel them! So it is handy to bring an anti-mosquito that contains DEET.

Kids
Bali is a great place for those traveling with kids. Find out what you can do and what kids activities there are with young children.

Bali with Kids

Suitcase or Backpack?
Do you travel around for a long time and do you travel from place to place? Then we advise you to bring a backpack. There is often heavy-handed handling of your stuff and we have already experienced a few cases that go wrong. The disadvantage is of course that you can take less, but on the other hand you often take too much clothing, which is not necessary on Bali. Will it be a beach holiday and will you stay in a resort? Then a backpack is not necessary and a suitcase is very nice.

Packing tips
In Bali you enjoy a tropical climate and the humidity can be high in some places. Some handy packing tips:
1. Pack as many light and cotton clothing as possible.
2. Bring along a long skirt and Sarong for when you visit one of the many temples.
3. Bring that hat! The sun is lovely, but nobody wants a sunstroke.
4. A one-suit is useful if you want to surf, it keeps your belly from getting scraped on the board.
5. If you are planning to go to Bali from December, then a thin rain jacket is useful.

Bali surfbabe
Ready to surf? 

Go check out
» Dreamland Beach – the name says it all
» Ubud – Rice Terraces, Healthy hotspots like Sari Organic and the Ubud Hanging Gardens resort (must see)
» Canggu – Crate Café, Canggu-Desa Seni Yoga, The Chillhouse
» Uluwatu – Rock Bar & Single Fin
» Tanah Lot (just to take that one beautiful picture)
» Nusa Lembongan, 30 min by boat – top for surfing

Dreamland beach bali
Dreamland Beach Source

Bali best hangouts 2019

Better to avoid
» Water from the tap. Buy your water in bottles and check if the cap is unopened. Drinking water safely? Then this thing is a godsend. Be careful with salads and peel the fruit well. Otherwise you might be more in the toilet than on the beach.
» Petting dogs, especially when Although they look cute, their have been reports of rabies and Sarah got bitten last year and needed several injections.
» Kuta. If you do not like mass tourism, avoid busy Kuta. Prices are higher, the food is not very tasty and the beach is a bit disappointing, mostly covered in plastic. However, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but we know that there are better places on Bali than Kuta.

shopping in Bali
Make a good deal whilst shopping for goodies

In Bali it’s normal to..
» Have your own ‘driver‘. This is a tip that you can certainly save money if you want to see the whole island. Learn a few words Balinese and make a clear arrangement with your taxi driver. If you do it right, he will drive you around for a fixed price. Use your good old intuition, but pay attention that he does not take you to all kinds of shops or tourist places where they might receive commission from.
» Make some deals. It is a game between tourist and salesman, especially in the market you can play with the price.
» Give tips. The friendly people in Bali are not very broad. Do they wear your suitcase or are you well helped? Give a nice tip.
» Rent a scooter and explore the island. Make sure you always wear a helmet!

Bali on a scooter

Ready? So pack your bags and fly to paradise!

Wander-Lust

Sri Lanka Guide 2019 | The 2,5 week Travel Itinerary

If you are you looking for diversity, Sri Lanka is the place to be: stunning nature, wildlife, culture, pristine beaches, incredible photography spots and let’s not forget the amazing food. Sri Lanka has been voted the number 1 destination for 2019 and it’s more popular than ever. We’ve created a 2.5-week Sri Lanka Guide to show you the hidden gems and unique insider tips.

Sri Lanka map
Our 2,5 travel map

Sri Lanka has something for everyone; for the adventurous and those that want to relax

Good to know before you visit Sri Lanka

  • Climate
    The northeast monsoon is from December to March and the southwest monsoon is from June to October.
  • Costs for accommodation
    Compared to other Asian countries the accommodations in Sri Lanka are more expensive. The price for a normal guesthouse is around 20 euro per night. For a more modern stay you pay around 80 euro per night.
  • Getting around
    Transport is super cheap in Sri Lanka! One of the most famous and best option is the three-wheeled moped vehicle that is called Tuk Tuk.
  • Food
    You will find tasty and very affordable Sri Lankan dishes. Rice and curry is the Sri Lankan staple. My favorite is for sure the dhal curry. Also try their delicious roti, flatbreads, egg hoppers with fresh fish!
  • The War
    The 23 year civil war started in 1983 and ended in 2009, so it’s still fresh
  • Tea is a thing
    Sri Lanka is famous for its tea production, the tea production is one of the main sources. Sri Lanka yearly produces 300,000 tonnes of tea!

Start in Kandy (day 1)
We decided to skip the capital city Colombo, and spent the first day in Kandy instead. Kandy is more pleasant, less busy and the famous gateway to Ella. To be very honest, Kandy is not the most lively city. There’s not much to do, except for visiting the famous tooth Temple, a walk along the Kandy river, take a stroll through the Botanical Gardens and visit the commercial and shopping complex in the centre of town. Tip: Check out the Slightly Chill Rooftop Bar which is great for sunset watching with a great view.

View Kandy Sri Lanka
The view from Slightly Chill Rooftop Bar

Where to stay
SWP Eco Lodge with exotic animals such as monkeys jumping around your balcony. Book it here for about €65 per night.


Experience the most beautiful train ride in the world (day 2)
We took the most famous train trip from Kandy to Ella. It is supposed to be one of the most scenic and beautiful journeys in the world and we can tell you it is! This train ride takes about seven hours long, and is an affordable way to see the country with stunning green landscapes of lush tea plantations and breathtaking mountain views. No reservation is needed. A second-class ticket will only cost you 1,50 euro per person! Tip: This is a very busy route so make sure to arrive early as tickets can sell out quickly. Departure from Kandy is at 08:47AM and arrives in Ella around 3:30PM. If you are lucky you will get a seat, but don’t count on it! After a few stops you might get a seat when people go out. The most fun part is that you will easily connect with the locals. They are keen to start a conversation!

Train from Kandy to Ella

One of the best train rides in the world!

Our (train) tips:
» Try to sit at the entrance doors to experience the train ride at its best! You can sit on the floor and leave your legs out.
» Make sure you buy drinks like bottled water before you enter the train.
» Don’t worry about food, at each stop sellers come in with food like fresh fruit and Sri Lankan’s delicacy.


Spent a few days in Ella (day 2, 3, 4)
After an incredible and memorable train ride we arrived in Ella. Ella in Sri Lanka is a peaceful small village surrounded by the beautiful greens tea plantations, about 1000 meters above sea level. So the nights are cool and at daytime around 26 degrees. Ella is perfect for hiking! One of the best scenery is around Ella in the Hill Country. One of the must hikes is the trail walk from Ella train station (Ella town) to the Nine Arch Bridge and Little Adam’s Peak. It takes around 2 hours in total, but you will probably end up staying longer due to all the beauty.

Train ride Sri Lanka

Nine Arch Bridge Sri Lanka

Nine Arch Bridge
Before you will reach this beautiful architectural bridge surrounded by an amazing green jungle you pass by small villages and green tea fields. The bridge was built during WWI and they used bricks, cement and stones only. On one side you can walk all the way down where you not can make the best pictures of the bridge and look up so you can see the sky through the nine arches. 

TIP: Get a drink at one of the cafes and wait for the trains to pass.


Little Adam’s Peak
Little Adam’s Peak is the brother of Adam’s Peak and got its name due to the similar shape. You don’t need a guide and the hike is free of charge. We couldn’t find any sign at the Nine arch bridge, but there’s a shortcut off the road near a small cafe and the friendly locals there will point it out for you. After a 25-minute walk which takes you through the jungle and a small city you reach 98 Acres hotel. This hotel is super close to Little Adam’s Peak and has some breathtaking views! Just order some drinks and enjoy this view and continue your hike. (the food isn’t that great here) It’s 1141 m high, easy to climb, with a fairly good path all the way up. The view on top of this mountain is fantastic! Especially with sunset. Judge it for yourself.

Adams Peak
What a view!

Where to sleep
» Ella Flower Garden Resort
Next tot he trail of Little Adam’s Peak you will find this hotel with a flower garden and amazing view. A Ella Treehouse & Cabanas great way to finish your hike. www.ellaresort.com 
» Ella
Treehouse & Cabanas
Run by a lovey family who are very helpful with directions and suggestions of places to visit. Ella Treehouse & Cabanas is located 2km down the city center of Ella. The rooms are super clean, our room a balcony with  the perfect mountain view, where monkeys playing in the surrounding trees.
Where to eat

» Cafe Ella curry for just 2,70 euro
In this very little cafe on the Main Street of Ella they serve the best curries, biryanis and other local threats. Usually there is a little wait for a table but it is well worth it. Must order: Chicken curry with naan bread.
» Matey hat
At the end of the Main Street on the roadside you will find this tiny treehouse restaurant with around 40 seats, so normally you need to wait for a table. Delicious pumpkin mango curry for 3,70 euro. Matey-Hut/
» Ella coffee avenue: Here you can get some really nice cappuccino’s and café lattes or join one of their cooking classes! ellacoffeeavenue/


Safari in Yala (day 4, 5, 6)
Tissamaharama is the perfect base for nearby Yala and Bundala National Parks. Yala is the most visited and second largest park in Sri Lanka. We decided to stay around here for 2 nights. We ended up booking a full day tour with Yala Wild Safaris for 60 dollars per person. For all the details, and why Yala might not be the best pick for a national park, check our full article about Safari in Sri Lanka.

Safari in Sri Lanka

Where to eat
» Chef Lady Restaurant: A super friendly couple is running this restaurant. The wife cooks and does it well! You can get super fresh fish from the BBQ with fresh French fries or rice and vegetables for very reasonable prices. chef-lady-restaurant-restaurant
» Hot Spot: In the centre of Tissa you will find this restaurant on the main street. The manager is super friendly and helpful. He even hops on his scooter to get you some beers, he takes care of the mosquitos and gives you all the best tips. hotspot.restaurant
Good to know! it’s not an easy task to buy or order alcohol in Tissa and there are not many bars, if you want an (alcoholic) drink, your best bet is in your hotel or just connect with the locals:)


Marco Polo called Sri Lanka the most beautiful island in the world

Mirissa (day 6, 7, 8)
Mirrissa is the right chill out for a few days. Mirissa Beach is crowded, but the southern end of Mirissa is more quiet. Here you find beautiful beaches, surf waves, turtle spot, nice guest houses, good food, cocktail bars and one of the best Instagram spots of Sri Lanka. From Mirissa you can easily visit places like Unuwatuno, Galle and Tangalle for just 1 day.

Mirissa palmtrees

Turtle Bay | Mirissa
A bit more southern you will find one of the most popular Instagram spots foto hierboven of Sri Lanka, Coconut Tree Hill. A lot of palm trees are lined up with a view of white sand and turquoise water. Most people visit this place for one thing only; line up, take the picture and head back to Mirissa beach. TIP: please don’t! From Mirissa beach it takes around a 25-minute walk to this spot. Along the way you pass by Turtle Bay. You will find this spot at the southern end of Mirissa and is the best spot to swim with sea turtles. You can rent snorkeling gear at the restaurant for only a few euros and jump into the water where you spot turtles immediately! Nearby you will also find restaurant Papa mango here: The best lobster we’ve ever had for only 13 euro incl. french fries and salad. You want to eat here all day long!

Where to sleep
» Sea Goggle Resort You can book this stay at Airbnb for €33 per night.
» Mother’s House for just €21,- per night. You can book via Booking.com.

Where to eat
» The Shady lane: This spot is definitely everyone’s favourite. Order avo on toast with various toppings and the açaí bowls! shadylanemirissa
» Allowa Coffee Gallery: It’s in the same price range as The Shady Line, a bit more modern with also nice food. But I definitely prefer the menu of The Shady Lane. Try out sourdough toast with smashed avo or the cream bowl. aloha_coffee_gallery
» Papa Mango for the best seafood such as chilly crab and lobster, very affordable! PAPAMANGOMIRISSASL

Yoga
Across Mother’s House you can practice Vinyasa flow at 9AM for 75 minutes. What a great class! Felicia, the teacher, gave everyone a massage during relaxation. She told me that she will open a hostel in Mirissa soon, Satori Beach Hostel, where you can also practice yoga, keep an eye out!


Weligama (Day 8, 9, 10, 11)
We took a tuk tuk to Weligama and booked our stay via booking.com a few hours before and we arrived at night at Aknara Rest Hotel. Kind owner Sunny welcomed us and arranged some beers. When we opened the doors of our guesthouse in the morning we stepped outside to a beautiful large green lush garden with monkeys everywhere! A beautiful quiet place only 7 min away (walking) from the beach. Weligama has a 2km-long beach break lined in palm trees and surfboard stands. You can rent a surfboard everywhere and in return you get a free sun bed. Hop in for a surf, the best spot for beginners is located at the beginning of Weligama beach.

Surfing Sri Lanka
Weligama is perfect for first time surfers

Where to stay
There are many places to stay but we recommend these two. Both relatively quiet and close to the beach.

» Hotel Aknara Rest www.aknara-rest-weligama
» Elephant Stables Weligama Bay www.elephantstablesweligamabay.com

Sri Lanka
The green lush garden of Sunny, Aknara Rest

Where to eat
Weligama is a bustling little town with lots of local eateries. On a personal I’m not a big fan of kottu – roti mixed with vegetables, egg and/or meat, and spices – but I’m a big fan of their curry and samosa’s!

» Nomads café: for healthy food and good vibes. Take the raw bawls with dates and nuts. Instagram.com/nomadsrilanka

Nomads Café Sri Lanka

» Ceylon sliders: This is beyond good! Iced coffee’s, avo on toast. www.instagram.com/ceylonsliders
» The kip: An all-day brunch spot, offering a simple and ethical menu supporting health and sustainability. Morning feats up here! Homemade peanut butter (vegan friendly) and raw lime cheesecake! Instagram.com/thekipsrilanka
» Soul café: An intimate space on the second floor close at the beach which serves smoothies, juices and a variety of wraps and bowls. Order the tuna tartare. Instagram.com/soulcafeweligama
» For drinks you should visit Hungry birds: For the most fun evenings with the owners! They love electronic music and drinks.

» Take a break and look for the big blue vegan ice-cream truck right on Weligama beach where you can buy delicious ice-creams. They encourage all customers to place any unwanted coconut shells in their “reduce, reuse, recycle” box, so we can contribute to keep our environment clean!

Sri lanka breakfast
Breakfast at Nomads Café


Koggola Lake (day 12 & 13)
We stayed at the amazing Hotel Tri Lanka – heaven on earth! Tri Hotel is situated right next to and overlooking the stunning Koggala lake. This area is well known for its diverse and rich wildlife, especially the variety of birds living here. Because the hotel surroundings are so stunning, we stayed here for 2 days before heading on to our final destination in Sri Lanka. Read more about Tri Lanka Design Hotel.

Tri Lanka lake

Tri Lanka room view


Unawatuna (day 14, 15, 16)
The town itself is small, most people like to spend their time at the beach, but a big part of the beach is occupied. Tip! Visit the city, that offers great shopping spots, nice guesthouses and many local and trendy restaurants. Check out the Palm Swing on Delawella Beach is another great Instagram spot! The palm swing is owned by the locals and they charge 500 rupees for a swing. You will have fun swinging over the ocean waves.

Mirissa Sri Lanka
And even more beautiful with sunset ♥

Where to stay
We spent our last days at this jewel “Hotel Owl & the Pussycat“, opened in 2015 and located in Thalpe, near Anawatuna and Galle and just a two hour drive south of Colombo. It’s the ideal place for who wants to relax and be looked after by the amazing team of OTP. The hotel has various colourful buildings with spacious rooms. Don’t be surprised if you spot some cute furry toys in the hotel. OTP sells them and donates the proceeds to a local children’s charity. LIKE! 

owl and the pussycat hotel
Owl & Pussycat Hotel

With complementary bites in the afternoon and delicious cocktails in the evening it’s just perfect when the sun goes down and the outside area changes into a romantic magical space.There’s a small gate to the beach, but you can’t swim because is too dangerous. But, just around the corner, when you turn right, you will find this beautiful quite beach. www.otphotel.com

Wander-Lust at Unawatuna

What to eat
» Jamu Surf Lodge (Yoga, local food, great coffee, surf) jamusurflodge/
» The HideOut (Mexican Fusio: Homemade Corn Taco, Burrito, Bowls, Smoothie Bowls) thehideoutunawatuna/
» Bedspace (the menu changes everyday. Breakfast & Dinner. Mixing international & local classics) bedspaceuna/
» SkinnyTom’s Deli (best breakfast) skinnytoms/
» King Fisher (Fresh Fish right at the beach) Kingfisher-Unawatuna


Colombo (day 16)
Our final stop before heading back to Amsterdam and we only had some time to eat. Both Tri Lanka and OTP recommended us to end our trip at restaurant Ministry of Crab. And we are happy they did. Through Ministry of Crab they bring the iconic Sri Lankan Crab and the exceptional King Prawns to a global audience, ranging from 500g ‘Small’ crabs to 2KG ‘Crabzillas’ plated! Reservation is needed! Find menu and prices here

Ministry of Crab
Source

And there you have it, a full 2,5 week travel itinerary for Sri Lanka with its spectacular palm tree heaven coastline and sun-kissed sandy stretches. With amazing waves, charming boutique hotels and trendy cafés with healthy options.

Total cost: 1000 Euro per person (excluding the flight). Mind you, we had a collaboration with Tri Lanka and the Owl & Pussycat Hotel. We didn’t hold back however. We ate what we wanted to eat, booked what we felt was comfortable. You can make it as expensive as you want, but remember that accommodations in Sri Lanka are a bit more expensive than Thailand for example.

Enjoy your trip through Sri Lanka and be sure to tell us about it if you followed our itinerary!

Love,

Sarah

Safari in Sri Lanka | All you need to know

Yala National Park, the most visited and second largest park in Sri Lanka which is filled with wildlife. Is it a must visit if you come to Sri Lanka or should you pick a different park?

Here’s all you need to know about picking the right safari in Sri Lanka.

Safari in Sri Lanka

Which park to pick?

Locals told us that 10% of Sri Lanka is national park. Yala is the most popular and largest park, but not always the best choice. In the North West you will find a higher number of leopards for example. Udawalawe is smaller than Yala but most people say it’s the better one. For one, you can get very close to animals, particularly the elephants. Smaller national parks like Gal Oya and Kumana are great because you won’t run into other jeeps and it feels much more private. We booked our tour with Wild Yala Safaris for 60 dollar per person. If we knew everything prior our booking, we may have picked another park.

Get up early

Wild Yala Safaris, and most other safari’s for that matter, will pick you up at 4AM at your hotel so get an early night in! Our hotel was located in Tissa and it takes about 1 hour by jeep to get to the entrance of Yala National Park. Keep your eyes open because we spotted our first massive Elephant when it was still dark outside! When you enter the park you need to wait for about 20 min with the other jeeps before you can enter (a good opportunity to take a quick nap?)

The park itself is beautiful: You won’t find any plastic or other trash

Safari Sri Lanka

Safari in Sri Lanka is an experience we will never forget

The Big Five Sri Lanka Style

In one day we managed to spot 2 leopards, countless elephants, wild boars, several birds, crocodiles, water, monkeys, buffalos etc. We saw most wildlife after lunch which is arranged by the driver and it’s delicious and super fresh. Expect some rice, vegetables, chicken in curry sauce, dahl and fruit. Good to know: the price is almost the same at every other agency, so the experience is what counts. Drivers even help each other when they see unique animals in the park. They call each other and drive as maniacs to the spot.

Safari in Sri Lanka

Wander-Lust Safari in Sri Lanka
Snap Snap

Monkey in Sri Lanka
Monkeys everywhere!

Our tips before going on safari in Sri Lanka:

» Bring some breakfast, toilet paper, sweater or wind jacket, sunscreen and sunglasses
» If you have some, bring some binoculars
» Check out other national parks in Sri Lanka! Yala National Park was on the way and with only 2,5 weeks to go, this seemed like the best option.
» Don’t be too disappointed if you don’t spot a leopard, it’s rare and most of the time they are hidden or far away. 
» 
You can book group or private tours so pick wisely

Check out our full Sri Lanka Guide | a 2,5 week travel itinerary

Love,

Sarah

WHY VISITING ISTANBUL IS A GOOD IDEA

I have visited a lot of cities in my life but there was always one on top of my city-bucket-list; Istanbul. Why? It’s the perfect mix between Asia and Europe and has so much to offer, even in winter!

Yes, Istanbul is in fact separated by the Bosporus river into European and Asian portions. One of my best friends even told me it’s his favourite city in Europe. Time to check it out. Instead of visiting Istanbul during spring or summer, I booked my ticket for the end of February, full on winter! Needless to say that I was hoping the weather would be good so far out on the east side of Europe. But one day before I was about to fly, the news reported that Istanbul was coping with the worst snowstorms in 15 years! 

Istanbul birds

Getting Around & Good To Know

Arriving in Istanbul it was a little confusing because I wasn’t aware that you need a tourist visa so… that’s my first tip! A tourist visa will cost you 25 euro’s and you can buy this online here. Always check with your local whether is safe enough to travel due to political issues in the country. Traveling to Istanbul is declared save again since of July 2018. You can also buy the visa on arrival like I did, but then you need to wait in line and it can take a long time getting through customs so my advice is to buy it beforehand. 

During the winter period, it’s less crowded, cheaper but still beautiful

Getting to my hotel was pretty easy. There are big comfy busses going into town and cost 14 Lira, which is about 5 euro’s. They leave every half hour and take you into the city centre in about 1 hour. The nearest busstop from my hotel was Taksim Square. This is a famous square which collides with the endless Istiklal street where you can go shopping or visit a nice Starbucks. You can take the Tünel, this is a cute small tram which runs straight through the shopping street.

Tram Istanbul
The Tünel in Istiklal Street

Where to Stay in Istanbul

I booked my hotel via Booking.com and because of the low season, I got a very good rate: 120 euro’s for 3 nights! The rate included breakfast and the manager was very friendly and even gave his own Travel Card for me to use. (this is a card you can use for public transport) My only warning, if you are staying near a Mosque (and chances are you will), you will hear the people sing though the loudspeakers, also known as ezan, around 5 times a day. If you are not a morning person, double check your location.

Luxury: Raffles Istanbul (nice view, spa, swimming pool, great service)
Mid Range: Bankerhan Hotel or Sub Karakoy (trendy area!)
Budget: Empress Zoe Hotel (Lush garden, great breakfast. Rooms go from €40,-)

I stayed near the Galata tower and picked this area because it’s authentic and you can really taste the Turkish culture here. The tower itself is worth a visit if you want to check out the nice view and take some good pictures. It will cost you 20 lire to get in and there is a restaurant on the top.

Tip: Go in the morning if you want to skip the queues. From the hotel I could walk right across the street to catch the tram which takes you over the bridge and into the westside of Istanbul. Taking the tram over the Bosporus is only a short ride which takes no longer than 10 min from the Galata area.

istanbul

paint Istanbul
Istanbul is full of spices and colors

Must Sees in Istanbul

On this side there are a few big tourist attractions that are just too good to skip:

» The blue Mosque (make sure you bring a scarf to cover your hair. Same thing applies for the Hagia Sofia)
» Hagia Sofia
» The Grand Bazaar (Great for Turkish shopping like handbags, Scarf, Lamps
» The Spice Market (Get ready for some crazy scents and flavors!)

Istanbul
Inside the blue Mosque

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I loved the Spice Market the most because of all the colours and different tea’s.

Walking through the grand Bazaar Istanbul

Where to Eat & Drink

After a day of walking around, you should definitely take a coffee break or try traditional Salep. My new Turkish addiction. This is a hot milky drink topped off with cinnamon. You can pretty much get it in every Turkish Café. For the best Meze you should try Ciya and At night Istanbul really comes to live. Restaurants stay open late, and it’s rooftop galore with many restaurants and bars that you wouldn’t expect to be hidden away all the way up there.

Here a few of my rooftop favorites:

» 5Kat is a traditional restaurant/bar that has been there forever. You can eat in or outside on the roof terrace. The entrance looks a bit shabby but once you go up, you are rewarded with a wonderful view of the Bosporus.

» 360 is a great place. For food, drinks and even dancing. Killing view. Reservations are required and leave your sneakers at home. 

» Vogue is upscale and also serves sushi for those that are in for a lavish night out. The music isn’t for dancing but for catching up and drinking cocktails.

Vogue Istanbul
Vogue Istanbul

» LTERA is a rooftoop restaurant which opens up in the summer. Looking over the river, it has a beautiful view and the food is tasty!

» Mikla is posh but well worth it if you love to get dressed up one evening and go for that amazing wine & dine experience. It was once voted in the top 50 best restaurants in the world. This a-claimed restaurant also has a rooftop but during the winter it may be closed. 

Also check out Limonlu Bahçe Beyoglu, this hipster garden is great for amazing coffee, drinks and western style dishes.

drinks Istanbul
Source  Drinks at Limonlu

A little further along side the Bosporus river you have amazing chique clubs like the Supperclub and Reina. I didn’t manage to go there because of the chilly nights but I will be back to try those out!

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Fishermen trying to get their catch of the day

The Asian District

Most tourists only visit the European part of the city but you should definitely take the time for the Asian part! There is the lively Kadikoy where you have markets on different days of the week. Small shops and nice lunch spots make this a super fun day trip. To get there, you take the boat across the bosporus which takes about 30 min. When you are departing Istanbul from Sabiha Cökçen airport, you can also take the bus from there which makes it a shorter ride and you can combine this with a visit to this vibrant part of the city.

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Fresh fish at Kadiköy, the Asian part of Istanbul

Be sure to visit Istanbul when it’s a little warmer but even so, it was magical and my friend was right. It’s great!

Love,

Elke

The Koh Lipe Island Guide 2020

Walk on white sandy beaches with a fresh coconut in your hand. You will arrive at a picture-perfect tropical island where you want to stay forever! An unbelievable exotic destination that has everything you need to have the perfect holiday. This is Koh Lipe, Thailand.

Koh Lipe is a paradise island in the southern of Thailand’s Satun Province near the Thailand/Malaysia border. The three main beaches of Koh Lipe are Sunset Beach (west), Sunrise Beach (east), and Pattaya Beach (south), all beautiful and perfect for a break in 2020. The island is famous for it’s white sandy beaches, turquoise blue waters, coconut trees, snorkeling and scuba diving and its relaxed atmosphere!

koh-lipe-map
Map of Koh Lipe: Source: http://www.thailand-guide.com/koh-lipe

How to get there

There are several options, but we arrived from Langkawi by boat which takes around 1.5 hours. Tip: bring something warm to wear, because sometimes the air-condition is turn up high which makes it freezing. Also, bring some travel sickness tablets, you may need it when the sea is rough. Book your boat ticket in advance, there is no need to print the ticket, as long as you have your QR code on your phone. You need to register before entering the boat and you should do this at the departure gate at least 1,5 hours before departure from Langkawi. Upon arrival, you need to pay 200 bath per person as an island fee, this is normal and you need to pay in cash. It’s a bit of a hassle to get there, but once you have arrived, it will be worth your time.


Where to Stay

Koh Lipe has become very popular over the years, so therefore we advise you to book your accommodation in advance to avoid disappointment, especially during the high season (nov – feb). Unfortunately, prices are quite expensive compared to other destinations in Thailand. A hut on the beach for €20,- a night? Forget it. During Christmas we paid at least 100 euro per night. But we don’t want to discourage you, Koh Lipe offers a variety in accommodations, with  not many big resorts, yet. Here are some of our recommendations:

  • Cast Away Beach Resort (sunrise beach, mid range)
  • Andaman Resort (sunrise beach, midrange)
  • Serendipity Resort (sunrise beach, high end)
  • Bundahya Beach Resort (pattaya beach, mid range)
  • The Box Resort (walking street, mid range)

Tip: Also check on Airbnb, a lot of guesthouses and hotels also sell their rooms on there.

Koh Lipe resort
Bundahya Beach Resort

Koh Lipe Island Thailand
Sea la Vie beach bar at Sunrise Beach

Things to do

Koh lipe is famous for snorkeling and diving! The incredibly clear water and excellent visibility makes snorkeling very famous on this island. There are many shops on the island that offer snorkeling trips and a full range of PADI and SSI courses.Koh Lipe is surrounded by over 30 islands and hundreds of reefs. You will find a lot of small colorful fish at Koh Lipe, but keep in mind that the coral isn’t what it used to be. Most of the coral is dead because of global warming and the suncreams people use. Ingredients like oxybenzone can harm the oceans. Tip: We use Dermalogica or Badger Sunscreens.

Koh Lipe island guide 2019


Where to eat & drink

From Thai green curry, Phad Thai, Tom kha kai (spicy soup) to Som Tam (Papaya salad), it’s all so delicious, healthy and fresh! They always use fresh herbs and lots of greens. There’s something for everyone, it’s doesn’t matter if you are vegetarian or vegan, enough options. There’s s a great variety in food on the island: From tasty Thai street food to fresh fish you will find right at the beach.
Tip! Learn these words to save you from a chilli pepper disaster! Spicy = mai pet, A little bit spicy = pet noi, Very spicy = pet mak

Best Breakfast & Coffee

  • Elephant Koh Lipe
  • Bloom cafe (amazing coffee!)
  • Tropicana (healthy/vegan options)

Elephant cafe Koh Lipe
Great coffee at Elephant Café

Best cocktails

  • Maya Bar (walking street, great music and cocktails!)
  • Sea la Vie beach bar (Sunrise beach, the food is not so good, but at night the music and vibe is amazing)
  • Reggae bar (Pattaya beach)

Street food Koh Lipe
Street food at the Koh Lipe Walking Street

Best Western food

  • The Box (walking street)
  • La Luna Italian Restaurant

Best Thai Food

  • On The Rocks Restaurant at Serendipity Resort (perfect for a romantic dinner!)
  • Cast Away Restaurant (great for lunch!)
  • Elephant Beach Bar (Sunrise beach, great Pad Thai!)

Koh Lipe Beaches

Koh Lipe has three beaches and because the weather doesn’t change much throughout the year, it’s perfect to lay on the beach..but which one is the best?

  • Sunrise Beach
    This is the best beach, hands down. The water is crystal clear, the sand is white and you can find a lot of quiet spots. All parts of this beach are good, but we relaxed in the middle a lot, next to the Elephant Beach Bar. There is some shade from the trees so great if you have small children. If you walk to the left side of Sunrise beach, you will find yourself a zandbank in the water, great for taking those tropical photo’s! And if you walk towards the right end of the beach (towards Ten Moons Resort), you have a small beach cove, that not everybody knows about. Here you can chill in hammocks and drink fresh coconuts.


beach swing Koh Lipe
In front of 10 Moons Resort, Sunrise Beach

  • Sunset Beach
    This beach has the sunset (hence the name) but it’s smaller doesn’t have many beach bars to chill. Because of this, the beach is more quiet and popular with the older crowd. Worth taking a look at!
  • Pattaya Beach
    This is the beach where all the boats arrive and depart to/from, which makes it the busiest and less attractive beach. At night you can find some bars here with loud(er) music, but there are some restaurants at the end that are nice enough to eat.

Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe
At the sand bank Sunrise Beach

Our advise is to stay on Koh Lipe for at least 4 to 6 days in order to enjoy the island to the fullest. Take in account that it rains more from April through September, but that doesn’t mean you should skip this magical island. Apparently the average temperature is always around 26 degrees, so no matter what time you visit Koh Lipe, the weather will typically be the same. Yes, it takes some time to get there, but once you step on the white sand, you will feel right at home.

Love,

Wander-Lust

Koh Adang Island » The Peaceful Getaway

Koh Adang is the bigger island located right across from the more popular Koh Lipe. We stayed there for 2 nights and here’s everything you need to know.

Koh Adang is located on the southern side of the Andaman sea in Thailand, near Malaysia. The only way to get there is by longtail boat, which is an adventure to start with. Islands that are a little harder to reach, must be good right! It often means that tourism hasn’t taken over, and you can find some peace and quiet. This is the main reason why we decided to come to Koh Adang for a few days.

Koh Adang Island
Private beach on Koh Adang

The beach is so amazing with palmtrees and rocks that really makes you feel you are on a private tropical island

getting to Koh Adang Island
Getting to Koh Adang

Adang Island Resort

The only resort on the island is the Adang Island Resort and it’s so nice! It offers guest garden or beach villa’s with nice bathrooms made out of bricks and stone, which gives it a natural feel. All rooms have air-conditioning (trust me, you’ll need it) and patio where you can sit outside. There is one main pool that is overlooking the beach, which you only need to share with your guests. We arrived there on Christmas Eve and the resort was fully booked, but funny enough, it doesn’t feel busy or crowded at all. The beach is so amazing with palmtrees and rocks that really makes you feel you are on a private tropical island.

palmtrees on Koh Adang


Our Deluxe Garden Villa

At the resort you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner and varies from traditional Thai to western style dishes. (try the Spring Rolls, Pad Thai and Papaya Salad omg). Prices are very reasonable and what you would expect of Thailand. On Koh Lipe, prices tend to be more expensive. If you have a coconut addiction like I have, you’ll be pleased to hear that they serve fresh ones at the Adang Island Resort.

food at Adang Island Resort

Pool Adang Island Resort
Chilling by the pool

Things to do

Even though you are on a secluded island, there are a few things you can do besides hanging by the poolside. You can book some of the activities at the resort.

  • Kayaking
  • Scuba diving
  • Snorkling (free gear available at the Adang Resort)
  • Walk to the viewing point (1 hour walk)
  • Walk to the waterfall (30 min walk)
  • Day trip to other small islands or Koh Lipe

Waterfall Koh Adang Island

Kayaking Adang Island Resort
Free kayaking is available at the resort


CocoNuts!

Verdict

Koh Adang is well worth a visit if you are planning to visit Koh Lipe. 2 nights is perfect to get you started. For bookings at the Adang Island Resort, visit www.adangresorts.com. Once you’ve made your reservation, you will get a full explanation on how to get there. (there is a pick-up spot and free shuttle from Koh Lipe that runs until 8pm)

Curious about Koh Lipe and more Thailand? Check our Thailand section below!