Dambulla & Sigiriya

The first stop of my trip to Sri Lanka is in the North of Kandy, an area called The Cultural Triangle, famous for its ruined palaces, temples and caves. Here I've visited Dambulla's cave temples and Sigiriya's Lion Rock! A great start that foretaste the wonderful nature and sceneries of this simply amazing country.

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Dambulla is famous for its five cave temples decorated with amazing murals. They're open from 7.30am to 7pm and it will take you around 45mins / 1 hour to visit them all. The best murals are in cave 3, cave 2 is the biggest and most spectacular and cave 1 hosts a 14-meter long sleeping Buddha. At the bottom of the steps up to the cave temples stands a Golden Temple of Buddha that claims to be the biggest in Asia but actually is not even the biggest in Sri Lanka :)

15km from Dambulla there is Sigiriya, famous for the Lion Rock! I highly recommend you to but the ticket (around 30USD) and climb it till the top! It will take you around 1.5/2 hours to visit the area, climb the Rock and enjoy the breathtaking view! The best times to visit the Rock is either early morning or late afternoon, less tourists and better light! I've done it around 5pm and was perfect. On the summit there once was the Royal Palace, but now only remain the foundations, a square brick platforms overlooking the green hills.

ELLA-HATTON: Wonderful Train Experience

Guys, A DREAM CAME TRUE!! This train was on my travel bucket list and I still can't believe I finally took it! :) 

Ella is one of my favorite villages in Sri Lanka and I highly recommend you to spend at least one night there! A few options of simple hotels but with an amazing view are the followings: Golden view guesthouse, Nine Arch view and Mountain Miracle cottage. The last two are located on a hill facing the famous Nine Arch bridge where you can go to see the old trains passing and take nice photos among a super green nature. 

Once in Ella, try to wake up early to see one of the best sunrise you could have. I'd love it and the view there gave me a sense of peace and calm that filled my heart fully.

Then, after a yummy breakfast overlooking the mountains you can stop at the Nine Arch bridge before heading to the station to take the train. I took the one from Ella to Hatton.

4.30 hours that went really fast, I was completely absorbed by the landscape and everything that was happening at every stop! This experience is a Must-Do... Tickets should be booked in advance because the trains are usually quite full. The "first class" ticket costs 1000 rupiahs that is around 10 USD. 

xxx

Giulia

TOP 15 Things To Do in Sri Lanka

I've recently come back from an AMAZING trip to Sri Lanka! I'm still speechless if I think about all the wonderful things that this country has to offer. In a certain sense it reminded me of Kerala and overall it was a unique experience!
Below you'll find a list of the main things you should do while visiting Sri Lanka and I'm already writing specific posts to go deeper in details and share with you my experience :) 
By the way, the only point listed below that I didn't do is "whale watching"... it's quite common over there but I was afraid it would have been a waste of time and I preferred to do other activities since the time I had was quite limited!
In case you do it, let me know!! :) 

  1. Take the famous train to/from Ella!!!
  2. Do a safari (Uda Walawe or Yala, the first one is less crowded and touristic)
  3. Eat rice and curry
  4. Climb Adam's Peak (NOT during weekends)
  5. Visit the Cultural Triangle
  6. Visit a tea plantation in Kandy or Nuwara Eliya area 
  7. Climb Lion's Rock in Sigiriya
  8. Go in one of the Bawa hotels 
  9. Visit Galle, beautiful old Dutch colony
  10. Enjoy the nature and look for wildlife
  11. Do an Ayurvedic massage 
  12. Surf and relax by the beach on the South of the island (Arugam Bay, Tangalla or Mirissa)
  13. Attend a Kandyan dancing show
  14. Visit the 5 cave temples in Dambulla
  15. Go whale watching

Now you can start planning your next trip! ;)
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xxx

Giulia

How-To: Side Plank Pose

Side Plank Pose, VasisthasanaSide Plank Pose, Vasisthasana, is a powerful arm balance yoga pose. 
In this post I'll give you detailed instructions on how to perform it correctly, the common mistakes to avoid and a few variations you can experiment!

Side-plank-pose

I usually incorporate this pose to my practice because it’s great to strengthen your shoulders, arms and oblique muscles. It's known as one of the best core-strengthening pose and if you have ever come to one of my power or core classes you know that's true 🙂

Among its benefits... 

  • It strengthens the arms, abs and legs 
  • It stretches and strengthens the wrists 
  • t stretches the backs of the legs  
  • It improves the sense of balance 

Dos and don'ts:  

  • Keep your hips lifted and don’t sink them towards the mat! 
  • Keep your top arm long and straight, fingers spread and activated  
  • Stack your feet together
  • Keep your shoulders far from the ears
  • Align your entire body into one long diagonal line from the heels to the crown and don't look down 

A couple of variations... 

  • Forearm Side Plank: people with wrist pain often have a hard time doing side plank since it puts a lot of weight on one arm. Take the pressure out of your wrist by placing your forearm on the mat! 
  • Supported Side Plank: great for beginners or if you have trouble stacking the legs. Bend your upper leg and step the foot in front to support you and help you balancing. 

Caution: if you have serious wrist, elbow, or shoulder injuries you should avoid this pose! 
If not...enjoy, resist, have fun and try to hold it for 5 breaths!

Namaste, 
Giulia 

 

    Happy Things

    What makes you happy?
    I've decided to list down a few simple things that sometimes we take for granted or we don't give the proper importance to...and that are actually a real source of daily happiness and make us smile inside!

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    Those are mine...

    The smell of the sea.
    Walking barefoot on the sand. 
    Clean and fresh sheets. 
    Cafes that have all-day breakfast.
    Great ideas that come to you in the middle of the night.
    Old movies, old songs.
    Sunflowers. 
    Cooking for someone you love.
    Feel the sun burning on your skin. 
    Passports and the conversations around "how terrible you look in the photo" and "how many stamps you are collecting".
    Sunsets.
    Sunrises.
    The smell of the rain.
    Baking cookies for Christmas.
    Swimming naked in the ocean (at midnight even better).
    Watching old videos of when you were a kid.
    Finding something that you hid ages ago and forgot about it.
    Running in the nature.
    Listening to my brother's songs.
    Airports.
    Coconuts.
    Playing with the curly hair of my best friend.
    Singing loudly under the shower.
    Girls moment.
    Taking millions of reportage pictures while visiting a new country.
    Sauna.
    Frozen cheeks and nose during the winter. 
    Savasana.
    Getting dirty and muddy while hiking in the jungle.
    The sound of the waves.
    The reflection of the moon on the sea.
    Asia.
    Dark chocolate with salt grains.
    Laughing until you can't breathe anymore.
    Eating fresh fruit straight from the tree. 
    Horse-riding.
    Tight hugs from my loved ones.  

    What are yours?? Does any of the above make you happy too?
    Try to make your list and see what's coming up for you.
    I'm curious to know...comment below!

    xxx
    Giulia

    Penang - Top things to do!

    Penang is a real hidden gem! I loved it!  
    It's the perfect destination for a week end if you live in South East Asia and a great place to add to your itinerary if you're travelling around the area. In Georgetown, Penang's capital, a fresh new cultural dynamic has emerged and you can enjoy street art, hipster cafes, typical Malay food, art galleries, trendy boutiques, fun museums... 
    Here the Top things to do... 

    Street Art & Murals

    Listed as a UNESCO’s world heritage site since 2008, Georgetown is famed for its diverse cultural heritage and has by far the most charming murals in Asia! In my opinion, one of the best ways to enjoy Penang’s capital city is to hunt out all the famous murals and installations. Walk around the streets (Chulia Street and Love Lane are the main ones), get lost among antique colonial buildings, and enjoy taking a lot of pictures! 

    The most famous artist is Ernest Zacharevic and his works have a 3D appearance because he incorporates real objects to his murals, creating unusual, lively, and engaging vibes. I did a sort of treasure hunt to find them all! :) Have a look!

    Hipster cafes & Street food

    The café trend is a worldwide phenomenon with no signs of slowing down and in Georgetown you can definitely find great spots! These trendy cafes have quirky interior design, mix of styles and a nice atmosphere. Find out my favorite cafes and Malay food clicking here

    To give you an idea, one of the best in my opinion is China House (153 Lebuh Pantai)
    You can't miss this amazing multi-concept dining spot! 🙂  

    Museums

    Usually quite crowded but efficiently organized is the famous "Upside-down Museum" that is worth to visit and take some fun pictures! Have a look at my pics below 🙂 
    Other museum in Georgetown are: 3D Museum, Penang State Art Gallery, The Camera Museum and Chocolate & Coffee Museum. There's no time to get bored!! 

    Also check out... 

    • George Town Heritage Hotel 
    • Teddyville Museum, Malaysia's first and largest collection of Teddy Bears in Batu Feringghi
    • National Park: I suggest you to rent a car or scooter you explore the Northern area of the island 
    • Monkey beach and Turtle beach, located in the park mentioned above

    Penang - Hipster Cafes & Street Food

    As mentioned in the "Top Things to do" in Penang, the café trend is a worldwide phenomenon with no signs of slowing down and in Georgetown you can definitely find great spots! These trendy cafes have quirky interior design, mix of styles and a nice atmosphere.  

    Here there's a list I did for you... 

    China House (153 Lebuh Pantai): by far my favorite!! You can't miss this amazing multi-concept dining spot. Combining three heritage houses into one fancy space, the China House includes 14 areas comprising of shops, a cafe, restaurant, galleries, live music stage and a bakery. Each section is decorated differently, each with a distinctive vibe, to enhance one’s experience there. The cafe section is famed for its extensive selection of cakes (up to 30 at any point of time) and is every cake lover’s dream. When night falls, local bands or stand-up comedians entertain the crowd. Give it a go and let me know what you think 🙂  

     

    Bean Sprout (35 Masjid Kapitan Keling Road): have a look at both floors and the hidden area on the right side. I loved the interior design! This café is a good option for a brunch with a menu that includes avocado toast, pancakes, different types of scrambled eggs etc... 

     

     

     

    The Alley (5 Stewart Lane): it hides under the facade of the shop’s former front, an incense shop under the name Kedai Gaharu Keat Seang. Though limited in space, the café makes up for it with its quirky interior. Check it out and try their churros! 

     

     

     

    The Mugshot Café (302 Chulia St): nice café famous also for its freshly made Bagel Muffins as well as their home-made Yogurts. 

     

     

    Penang is also known to have some of the best street food in Asia. Georgetown's streets in particular are renowned as a food paradise mainly due to its diversity in ethnicity and culture. There is no lack of food options here! 
    Those are the typical dishes you should to try...

    1. Penang Assam Laksa: a proud signature dish of Penang, the laksa is a rich and spicy, fish-based noodle soup with tamarind juice, chili paste, lemongrass and topped with prawn paste and mackerel/sardine flakes. I have to admit, it's too spicy for me ahah
    2. Chee Cheong Fun: rice noodle sheets with shrimp paste
    3. Char Kway Teow: flat rice noodles stir-fried over very high heat with soy sauce, chilli, prawns, bean sprouts and chopped Chinese chives
    4. Cendol: iced green rice flour jelly with coconut milk, beans and palm sugar  
    5. Nyonya Kuih: coconut and rice desserts, I LOVE THEM! 
    6. Egg tarts: like a custard tart with a soft-centered egg fill. Try them at Ming Xiang Tai

    Enjoy and let me know if you manage to try any of the above!! 

    Strawberry & Pistachio Crumble

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    Ingredients

    Serves: 4
     

    • 2½ cups chopped strawberries
    • ½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
    • ⅓ cup rolled oats
    • ⅓ cup chopped pistachios
    • ¼ cup almond flour (or you can blend 1 cup of almonds)
    • ¼ cup brown sugar
    • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
    • coconut oil
    • water
    • coconut yogurt (optional)

     

     

    Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease 2 small skillets with coconut oil.

    2. In the food processor, pulse the oats, pistachios, flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt until just combined. Add 1 tbsp of coconut oil and pulse again. Add 1 tbsp of water and pulse again. The mixture should be crumbly.

    3. In a bowl, combine the strawberries with the balsamic vinegar and then divide the strawberries between the skillets and top with the crumble.

    4. Bake for around 15 minutes until the topping is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes. 

    5. I love adding a spoon of coconut yogurt on top!

    Enjoy!! 🙂 

    My kind of Buddha Bowl

    Buddha bowls not only look amazing, they are a fantastic way to eat a variety of foods and get a lot of nutrients into our bodies! 
    I usually change ingredients according to what inspires me at the market or my cravings! This is one of my favourite. You can stick to this or get as crazy as you like adding and removing different ingredients! 🙂 

    Buddha-Bowl

    Ingredients

    Serves: 2

    ½ pumpkin
    120g brown rice
    100g red quinoa
    10/12 Brussels sprouts, halved
    1 large zucchini, sliced
    100g baby salad greens
    1 capsicum, sliced
    10/12 cherry tomatoes, halved
    1 cucumber, chopped
    4 spoons of hummus
    2 beetroots
    Rosemary, origan, black pepper and the spices you like

    I know that many of you like avocado. I don't... but feel free to add it and make your own yummy variation! :) 

     

    Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

    2. Chop the pumpkin into squares and lay them out on the lined baking tray. Add the Brussels sprouts and chopped zucchini with the spices on top. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and roast until golden and soft (about 30 to 40 minutes).

    3. Meanwhile, cook the brown rice and quinoa. I've recently bought a rice cooker, life changing! ahah

    4. To serve, lay the baby salad greens in a bowl. Add the brown rice and quinoa mixture then top with Brussels sprouts, zucchini, roasted pumpkin, capsicum, tomatoes, cucumber and beetroot. Add a spoonful of hummus on top!

    5. Drizzle over fresh lemon juice (or balsamic vinegar or dressing of choice) and finish with salt/pepper to taste!

      Enjoy!! 🙂