Browsing Tag

explore

Travel

Bali Part II

IMG_6944

INDONESIA SERIES | Bali Part II

THE HANGING GARDENS RESORT UBUD

Arrival 

We arrive at the Hanging Gardens after darkness has fallen. The resort is located at Banjar Susut, Desa Buahan, Payangan, Kec. Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia. The service is flawless, everyone here seems to be smiling regardless of any worries they might have left at the door. I am a huge fan of hotels featuring the most areas in open air and this is just one of them.

Once arrived at one of the Panoramic Villas I notice the traditional asian elegant design in a contemporary living space, all built in natural wood and surrounded by nature – it seems to be the perfect balance between traditional and new. As we step into the room I am once again speechless. The room includes a super king bed, two large bathtubs – one indoor and one located on the side terrace. An additional queen size bed is placed on the very corner of the terrace, next to…well a private infinity pool, just above the rainforest, allowing countless hours of stargazing. I start loosing any track of time once again, the numbers and hands miraculously disappear from my watch.

I drop everything on the floor and jump into the water enjoying the silence which soon converts into a beautiful soulful song. All my thoughts disappear in a nanosecond.

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – there is a tropical, warm and humid season all year around, however the best time to visit Bali is during the dry season, from April until September.

Currency – Indonesian Rupiah. You can use your credit cards in most places, although it is always beneficial to carry some cash with you in the local currency. Easiest to exchange at the local airport.

How to get there – there are no direct flights if you are travelling from Europe. Best connecting flights are via Doha, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Dubai.

Highlights – private dinner by the pool at the Hanging Gardens Resort.

Top Fact – The Hanging Gardens of Ubud resort was built by 700 local craftsmen using traditional materials two years, from 2003 to 2005.

Dress code – Very relaxing, light-weighted clothes. A pair of heels is more than enough, make sure you also pack a pair of trainers for hiking.

IMG_67672

Resort & Surroundings 

The sun comes up and just when I thought it can’t get any better I wake up to an outrageously beautiful landscape, as the bed faces a panoramic view through a glass wall. The only thing that might potentially dampen my mood right now is one of the numerous torrential rains we have had so far. But the sky couldn’t be clearer nor bluer.

I wonder around the resort whose architecture is defined based on existing natural contours and lush vegetation. The design is built on a 45 degree angle with Feng Shui principles, expressing a world of infinity and stability of energy. Highly important for me is the idea of a boutique hotel. Rather than choosing landmark hotels in exotic destinations, I prefer the resorts with a maximum of 50 rooms / villas. The Hanging Gardens features a perfect no. of 45 villas set on two levels.

IMG_6848

Dinning Options

I discover a luxurious restaurant called The Garden overlooking the lush rainforest, Ayung River and the ancient Dalem Segara temple. Encompassing global flavours combined with traditional organic recipes, the garden restaurant creates the perfect nourishment for your taste buds. Just below the main restaurant there’s a breathtaking lounge area – The Garden Bar, partially open-aired featuring picturesque views of the infinity pool.

Whilst my mouth drops open at the beauty set on the very edge of the rain forests’ valley, a friendly member of staff informs me that the resort also provides private dinning by the pool and the unforgettable experience of dinning at the temple. Be sure to book any of these on the day of your arrival as they prior notice to be able to organise.

The Rainforest

After a couple of blissful hours spent at what has been fairly claimed no. 1 best pool in the world and a delicious & beautifully presented tuna steak I can’t help but wonder what’s on the other side of the infinity pool’s line?

I gather my thoughts, grab my Havaianas and walk down the stairs all the way down to the rainforest. I am immediately introduced to alluring landscapes, waterfalls that shimmer into the warm glow, several surreal bridges all throughout the forest overpassing the Ayung river and an array of colourful butterflies. What surprises me most is that I can’t see anyone else wondering around here although it’s extremely easy to reach.

IMG_7205_2
IMG_6910

TEGALALANG RICE TERRACE

As incurable nature lovers, we decide to visit one spot that has been on our Bucket List for a long time, the Rice Terraces located at Jalan Raya Tegalalang, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia.

We pick up the car and adventure into the unknown, a 30 minutes road trip through the narrowed & curved streets of Ubud. A slight insecurity filters through as our car is slowly letting us down but once we’ve made up our minds there’s no way back. NOTE: Make sure you input your destination on your GPS well in advance as the internet connection might drop out when less expected.

Once closer to the terraces, bear in mind that there’s no parking within the actual grounds, however there’s a parking available on the left hand side, approximately 50 meters away from the main entrance.

There is no need to purchase any tickets outside, I simply donate money to the workers inside which I find on my way in and all throughout the terraces. I step inside and remain speechless, this is truly quite like nothing I have ever seen before, layers and layers of lush green vegetation loaded with countless palm trees. The idea of hiking the unstable wet grounds for at least an hour until reaching the final point is slightly scary yet fascinating. NOTE: Important to grab a pair of trainers or rain boots and comfortable light weighted clothing. You might find a few ants tribals eager to climb up on your legs, although if you’re geared up appropriately you’ll be fine.

IMG_6936

In the unusual case of arriving in flip flops (as I did), it is best to walk around barefoot as all of the workers here, especially on a rainy day. I sit on the wet ground and absorb it all in one more time. The light has already dimmed outside and so starting to look for the exit around here can become a trickier situation than what it initially seemed. Out of nowhere, a worker comes our way and simply says: ‘Follow me’.

IMG_6895

He is showing us the way out, but we stop on the way at his cabana built within the Rice Terraces. We didn’t carry any water and were beyond dehydrated, so he offers us coconut water whilst caring our worries away with his handmade musical instrument. My eyes are in tears and I am stood humble in front of this men that has just made our evening with the very little that he had.

I leave filled with joy and happiness after not only exploring some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world but also by having discovered the kindness, wonderful souls and spirituality in each person I met along the entire journey.

Up next from the Indonesia Series: Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Lombok

Travel Venice

Venice

13217155_10154138569274362_1574990002778813129_o

A Venetian Affair

Always in movement. Always on the go. Always exploring. Similar to a book, life has its chapters. It is in our hands whether we choose to write a black and white chapter or create a book full of multicoloured, multicultural and multi-experiential pages.

After a busy week, the weekend brings a last minute decision to pack and fly to Venice. Have been there twice before, never had a chance to explore the city properly though. Seems to be fully booked everywhere and due to not having spent the night in Venice before, I don’t have any knowledge as to what hotel to book, nor what plans I should make during the weekend. Exciting, I love this kind of challenges!

HOTEL

I finally find a room available in the Gritti Palace (http://www.thegrittipalace.com), a magical hotel on the Grand Canal that perfectly combines culture, history, endless elegant Venetian design with exceptional art. Worth mentioning the hotel’s terrace with alluring views of the Grand Canal, facing the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.

AT A GLANCE

Best time to visit – spring to June, summer time brings a very hot air which makes it unbearable to walk around.

Currency – Euros

How to get there – if you are travelling from the UK British Airways is the best option, for any other flight options visit www.skyscanner.com. The Marco Polo airport is much closer to the centre.

Highlights – Giudecca, the other side of Venice and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Top Fact – Venice is built on 117 small islands connected by 409 bridges (read more here).

Special treat – dinner at Oro Restaurant in Belmond Hotel Cipriani.

FullSizeRender-18

ARRIVAL

As I arrive at the Marco Polo airport I am looking for the signage that leads me to the water taxis, however I must say that it can get quite confusing. Let’s make this easy: walk out of the airport through the exit on the right towards the parking. Follow the path on the left side, cross the zebra, keep walking for another 5 minutes and at the end you will find both shared transport and water taxis. Worth getting a cab, the journey itself is a welcoming adventure not to be missed.

DAY 1

I wake up early to enjoy the breakfast on the terrace which is a sublime experience. Staff is very friendly, the ingredients are fresh and the food range is wide enough to cover all tastes. Although difficult to leave, I get a map from the concierge to establish the must sees and commence getting lost around the city.

It can be difficult to imagine Venice as a lush area, but for explorers visiting in spring you will be pleasantly surprised to discover numerous corners of nature, terraces packed with colourful roses and blossoming branches overhanging all around the city. The bold coloured buildings, the preserved sophisticated facades, the relaxed rhythms – il dolce di fare niente, the narrow hidden paths in between buildings and the water movement transport me into a different dimension, away from any worries or thoughts I might have in the real world.

13131087_10154135878629362_5607426277405269352_o

PALAZZO DUCALE

I stop by Palazzo Ducale which is 5-10 minutes walk distance from the hotel in Piazza San Marco (San Marco, 1, 30124 Venezia, Italy) where I am once again blown away by the detailed interior and opulent painting parade showcasing on all walls and ceilings. The palace was built in the Venetian Gothic style with Byzantine-Venetian influences. Initial works started in 810 and was restructured countless times due to three huge fires, structural failures, new organisational requirements or complete overhaulings of the ornamental trappings.

The Paradiso in the Great Council Chamber is the largest canvas painting in the world! Doesn’t sound as surprising considering that the Great Council Chamber is 53 meters long and 25 meters wide, dimensions that define it as one of the largest rooms in Europe.

Image 1

GROM – Il gelato come una volta

After visiting the Palazzo Ducale, I feel the urge to enjoy my first GROM gelato in Venice. The sophistication in texture, the refinement in taste and the natural ingredients make it the best ice cream in the world. GROM is 100% natural, they only use fresh fruit from the best consortium in Italy with no addition of artificial colorings, aromas, preservatives or emulsifiers.

What’s more, the idea came from a newspaper when Guido Martinetti was reading an article on ‘gelato like it used to be made’. He then contacted his friend Federico Grom and decided to buy the best raw ingredients and open up a gelateria. From one ice cream shop opened in 2003 and with no prior industry experience, the business has generated €23 million revenue and has been sold to consumer goods giant Unilever for an undisclosed fee. Talking about entrepreneurship skills!

DELICIOUS LUNCH

I then hop onto a gondola and ask to be taken around the narrow canals rather than the Grand Canal which is always busy. After a very informative gondola ride on the history of Venice my stomach starts screaming at me ‘PASTA!’. I give in and post visiting and having a look at several restaurants I go for Antico Martini located in Campo Teatro Fenice, 2007, Venezia, Italy. Very friendly staff, a pleasant and cosy terrace separated from the crowded public squares and delicious food! I order a Foie Gras selection and Tagliolini with Black Truffle. BLISS!

IMG_1537

TRADITIONAL DINNER

After numerous kilometres of wondering around and an Aperol Spritz later I go back to the hotel to change for dinner. I narrow it down to two choices, both spectacular for dinner: Michelin starred Oro Restaurant with a breathless waterside terrace located in Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Giudecca, 10, Sestiere Castello, Venezia VE, Italy or something more traditional and laid back yet still elegant but less presumptuous.

Despite a late afternoon dish of pasta, I choose the second option, Trattoria do Forni, a lively restaurant with several rustic & Orient Express-style dining rooms. The atmosphere is as expected, chill-out for both the young and not so young. They use impeccable and fresh ingredients treated with simplicity yet resulting in complex tasteful starters and mains. The Scampi on raw artichokes is not to be missed!

DAY 2 – GIUDECCA

A glorious sunny Sunday is perfect to adventure the little known Giudecca, the Other Side of Venice as I like to call it. It is understandable that the mass tourism is always trotting around central Venice, however I think it is safe to say that this thin island will soon become a centre of attraction in Venice for new generations of travellers.

The breathtaking view across the Giudecca Canal to Dorsoduro, Piazza San Marco, and Palazzo Ducale, a landscape that has inspired numerous great italian artists, is the first WOW aspect that already converts Giudecca in my favourite part of Venice. Although I absolutely love the Gritti Palace hotel, the peaceful, relaxed and village vibe here makes it the perfect place to stay whilst in Venice, especially if you prefer a quite accommodation avoiding the loud crowds.

After crossing the canal in less than a minute, I first visit the alluring Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute followed by a walk around the island. It takes up to one hour at most to wonder around the whole island, although the bold colours, surreal bridges, traditional architecture might make you stop and sigh at each corner. The Fondamenta Cà Balà area (30123 Venezia, Italy) leaves me speechless, central Venice has nothing on it. I stop there for 15 minutes and stare without being able to take my finger off the shutter button of my camera.

FullSizeRender-21

ART

I continue with an unforgettable visit of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Dorsoduro, 701-704, 30123 Venezia, Italy) founded by the former wife of long time favourite artist Max Ernst and niece of the mining magnate, Solomon R. Guggenheim. A must-see selection of modern art collected by herself mostly between 1938 and 1946. Amongst the great artist featuring on Palazzo Venier dei Leoni’s walls, which Peggy Guggenheim purchased in 1949 being her home for 30 years, are Braque, Léger Dalí, Miró, Picasso and Kandinsky.

FullSizeRender-9
FullSizeRender-12

LUNCH

With a pocket full of art inspiration I cross back to the central Venice for lunch at the traditional venetian pizzeria Rosa Rossa (Calle Mandola, 3709, 30124 Venezia, Italy). The smell of fresh bread and baked pizza, the wooden design details, informal and enjoyable atmosphere, delicious food and sublime Aperol Spritz highly exceed my expectations. BEST HOMEMADE PIZZA IN TOWN!

FullSizeRender-22

Despite the fact that I arrive at the airport completely soaked after someone decides to show off on the Venice’s canals I leave with the sweetest taste in my mouth, this trip has been much more than expected.