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

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!! 

Sydney's Best Brunch Spots

Brunch is a quintessential activity in Sydney. New cafés are continually opening, so choosing where to go can sometimes be a challenge.
Be ready to queue for a table (especially during weekends) and eat some of the most Instagram-able dishes that will make you happy to have left your bed!
The following are some of my favorite spots - all a cut above the rest!

 

Celsius Coffee Co.

   Kirribilli Wharf, 1/2 Holbrook Ave, Kirribilli NSW 2061

Kirribilli Wharf, 1/2 Holbrook Ave, Kirribilli NSW 2061

The compact Celsius café perched on Kirribilli's wharf has a menu that may have you wanting to cross the oceans for (literally, Sydney Harbour). It’s a tiny wooden kiosk on the water, close to the ferry stop. Benedict eggs, coconut chia pudding, avocado toast, waffles, coffee, cold pressed juices…all with a million dollar view.
 

Celsius is open 7 days for breakfast and lunch! Enjoy!

   7A, 2 Huntley St, Alexandria NSW

7A, 2 Huntley St, Alexandria NSW

The Grounds is a brunch destination in Sydney you can’t miss!

Located in an old refurbished pie factory from the 1990s, this massive flagship space looks like a venue straight out of some fairy-tale. It hosts a grand café, a restaurant, a patisserie, a bakery and many lovely outdoor green corners full of flowers.
There’s even a small petting zoo for the kids, featuring chickens, sheep and pigs.
 

Offering a fresh and rustic menu, the Grounds of Alexandria reinvents classics to deliver the perfect combination of flavours. It is the kind of place you come to brunch, chill and hang out for a while. A real pleasure for both the eyes and taste buds!

Enjoy!! :) 

4 Must Do's in Munnar

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1. Trekking Munnar is a real paradise for nature lovers and it's a perfect place to do many trekking tours! I personally fell in love with the bright green tea plantations. I strongly suggest that you explore the area close to Lakshmi Hills. In fact, you can walk nearly 10 km reaching an elevation of 1472m all while enjoying the view of Anamudi's peak, the highest mountain in the South of India. Along the path you'll have the chance to see tea and spices plantations (pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cocoa, nutmeg...) and meet the tea workers.

Augustine (+91 9497678473) is a super nice guy who works as a guide in Munnar area and can organize among other things, amazing trekking tours, overnight camping, and jeep excursions! Feel free to drop my name if you decide to contact him :-)

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2. Waterfalls

There are a couple of scenic waterfalls in the area. My favorite is located at Athirappally, on the way from Kochi to Munnar. In order to reach this specific spot, you’ll have to leave your car in the parking area, pay a small entrance fee, and then walk around 10 minutes.

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3. Tea museum and shopping

Even though I highly recommend you to sleep in one of the hotels/tents/resorts outside Munnar, I think that the main village is certainly worthy of visiting, even for just a few hours. Some of the main attractions include, visiting the tea museum, buying some spices and tea in the adjacent shop, treating yourself to some typical handcrafted chocolate,  purchasing a saree to really plunge into Indian culture. Generally, most shops in this area will sell two types of sarees, the traditional Kerala style that is white with embroideries or the classic pan-indian style (many colors either silk or cotton).

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4. Ayurvedic treatment or Abhyangam massage 

After a long and intense day, pamper yourself with a (deep tissue) massage or Ayurvedic treatment! The Fog Resort has a nice SPA which offers many treatments that suite every kind of need! What I've found super interesting is the Shirodhara, also known as the "brain massage", done pouring hot oil drops on the forehead...you can’t miss it.

ENJOY!! :-)

Chiang Mai - Elephant Tour

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Durante i miei viaggi mi è capitato di avere esperienze contrastanti con i tour organizzati dalle agenzie locali. Alcune volte si sono rivelati troppo turistici (come nel caso del tour su Chiang Rai), altre volte sono state esperienze fantastiche. Di questa seconda categoria fa parte un'escursione che vi consiglio assolutamente! Io amo gli animali e la natura e questa mezza giornata è stata davvero emozionante.Si tratta della visita al Baanchang Elephant Paradise ("baan" vuol dire casa e "chang" elefante), vicino a Pae. Ho comprato il tour su questo sitoe devo dire che è valso tutti i 3200 bath! Per mezza giornata ti prendi cura di un elefante, gli dai da mangiare, fai una passeggiata di un'oretta nella giungla, lo spazzoli e fai il bagno con lui...! ho sempre adorato Dumbo fin da quando ero piccola quindi per me ̬ stato qualcosa di fantastico! :-) So che in internet si trovano altre escursioni con gli elefanti più economiche, ma non ti permettono di cavalcarlo e prevedono "show" di questi poveri animali in stile circo, che tristezza...! Secondo me sono da evitare!

I'm not so fond of the travel agencies in general, sometimes their tours are really too touristy (as in the case of the tour of Chiang Rai), but sometimes they made me experience really beautiful and touching moments! Of the latter category is a trip that I highly recommend! I love animals and nature, and this half-day in the Baanchang Elephant Paradise ( "baan" means house and "chang" elephant), close to Pae, was really awesome. I've bought the tour on this web site and I must say it was worth all the 3200 baht! For half a day you are caring for an elephant, feed him, have a ride in the jungle, brush him and even swim with him ...! I've always loved Dumbo since I was small so for me it was a dream come true! :-) I know that online you can find many other tours that are cheaper, but they're not worth it since you cannot ride them and you have to assist to sad "shows" of these poor animals as if they were at the circus! Just avoid them!

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Enjoy :-)

BFL

Yoga in Bali

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If you're coming to Bali and want to practice yoga, you'll find plenty of studios and yoga schools but not all are worth it! As you know there are many types of yoga so you should choose the studio and the class according to your habits and experience. If you're a beginner my suggestion is to try as much as different classes possible in order to understand what better suites you! :-)

Here follows the list of my top 3 spots where to do yoga in Bali.

THE YOGA BARN - UBUD

The Yoga Barn is definitely my favorite yoga spot in Ubud! It includes a yoga studio, an holistic healing retreat center, a Guest House (I've spent there 3 nights and it's really nice and cozy) and the Garden Kafe (click here for more details) with a fabulous healthy menu stocked by their own organic on-site farm. You can join more than 10 daily yoga classes from Classical Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Power, Pranayama, Restorative, Iyengar, Yin & Anusara and have the possibility to attend specific workshops (my Acroyoga workshop has been really intense and addictive!)

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DESA SENI - CANGGU

Located in Canggu (north Kuta region in southwest Bali) Desa Seni is an amazing structure that offers beautiful wooden homes, an Holistic and Spa center, Yoga classes and much more! The property is surrounded by rice paddies that lend a quiet, serene vibe. The only sounds you will hear is of frogs, crickets, geckos, and a Balinese flute in the evenings. The wide schedule of yoga includes classes from beginners to more advanced level, private lessons and events. Desa Seni is a living art community bolstered by a holistic attention to details.

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SERENITY ECOGUESTHOUSE - CANGGU

A wide schedule for all types of practices and a nice setting in bamboo cottages. Sometimes you will even hear the waves crushing down at the beach next by when doing your Shavasana. The structure includes also a nice guesthouse as well as the Alkaline Restaurant which is a great place to relax after your yoga session with a juice and a raw energy bar. Have a look at the class schedule here. Acroyoga classes available as well!

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THE CASHEW TREE - BINGIN

Amazing spot where you can do yoga every day at 9.30am (except from Friday) and also eat amazing food while chilling in the garden!

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Namaste :-)

Chiang Mai - The City

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Chiang Mai ̬ una cittadina al nord della Thailandia, ottima come base per varie escursioni. Partendo da Bangkok si può raggiungere in bus (circa 10 ore), in treno (circa 13 ore) oppure con un'ora di volo interno e ci sono moltissime compagnie che operano questo volo fra cui Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways e Air Asia. Io ho optato per un volo interno della Bangkok Airways. Il tragitto in treno ̬ sconsigliato per via della pessima manutenzione dei treni e per la durata eterna. Tuttavia, se non avete i giorni contati potete optare per il bus e godervi i paesaggi che si attraversano. Chiang Mai is located in the north of Thailand and it's a perfect destination for those who want to do some tours and excursions in the natural surroundings of the city. Coming from Bangkok you can reach Chiang Mai by bus (about 10 hours), by train (about 13 hours) or by plane (1 hour) and there are many airlines that provide this flight including Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways and Air Asia. I choose Bangkok Airways. The train is not recommended due to the poor maintenance of the trains and length of the journey. However, if you have time, you can take the bus and enjoy the natural scenery on the way.

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Il centro storico di Chiang Mai è circondato da una sorta di muraglia e ci sono 4 porte di accesso. Potete prendere l'hotel sia all'interno che nelle vicinanze di una delle porte e la zona che vi consiglio di più è quella circostante alla porta orientale di Tha Pae Gate. A pochi minuti da Tha Pae si trovano infatti il night bazaar e gli altri mercati di cui vi parlerò in un articolo a parte!

The old town of Chiang Mai is surrounded by an ancient wall with four doors. You can take the hotel either inside or close to one of one of the doors. What I recommend the most is the area around the eastern gate of Tha Pae Gate. A few minutes from Tha Pae there is the night bazaar and other markets which I'll talk in an another article!

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Nel centro storico ci sono vari templi buddisti come il Wat Chedi Luang e il Wat Phra Singh, entrambi situati lungo la via principale Ratchadamnoen Rd, che di domenica diventa sede del famoso "Sunday market". In questa via troverete molti bar e ristoranti, alcuni più turistici altri meno. Per una colazione fantastica o per una pausa pomeridiana lontano dalle vie principali vi consiglio Angels' Secrets, un posticino delizioso non lontano da Tha Pae Gate!

In the old town there are several Buddhist temples such as Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh, both located along the main street Ratchadamnoen Rd, that on Sunday becomes the venue of the famous "Sunday market". In this street you'll find many bars and restaurants, some more touristy than others. For a great breakfast or an afternoon break away from the main roads I highly recommend Angels' Secrets, a delightful little cafè not far from Tha Pae Gate!

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8 A Chiang Mai non manca di certo la vita notturna e avrete l'imbarazzo della scelta per quanto riguarda pub e bar, oppure potrete optare per assistere ad un incontro di muay thai o boxe! Ci sono infatti molte scuole di queste discipline e la sera spesso ci sono allenamenti o gare. Lo stadio migliore in cui vederli è "Thapae Boxing Stadium", in Moonmuang Road, nei pressi di Tha Phae Gate.

In Chiang Mai you'll find also many options regarding the nightlife and you'll be spoiled for choice concerning pubs and bars. You can also see a match of muay thai or boxing! There are in fact many muay thai schools that do training sessions or competitions in the evening. The best place where you see them is "Thapae Boxing Stadium", in Moonmuang Road, near Tha Phae Gate.

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