Just 30 minutes off the coast of Bali, Nusa Lembongan provides a much more rustic and tranquil experience for those looking to escape the crowds. [Read more…] about Exploring Nusa Lembongan
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Just 30 minutes off the coast of Bali, Nusa Lembongan provides a much more rustic and tranquil experience for those looking to escape the crowds. [Read more…] about Exploring Nusa Lembongan
For foreigners traveling to Indonesia, there’s likely just one reason you’d be landing in Sorong;
Raja Ampat has been a diving destination I’ve been wanting to visit since first learning of it and is known as one of the best diving spots on Earth. The closest city is Sorong, which is located in West Papua. Although there’s likely tons of things to do in West Papua for the avid adventurer, Sorong itself is usually just a landing point for people joining a live-aboard or a resort on one of the nearby islands.
However, if you’re like us and you want your short stay to be relaxing, check out the Belagri Hotel and Convention Sorong. Our dive guide recommended the hotel via email and although it’s not the cheapest hotel in the city (rates start around $50 USD), it’s certainly a new and beautiful hotel to spend a night or two at.
We mainly wanted cleanliness, comfort, hot showers, an on-site restaurant and a nice flat-screen TV. We just wanted to lie around and rest before spending a week on a boat and since there’s not a lot to do in Sorong, we were hoping to watch some movies.
The Belagri fit the bill perfectly.
Our rooms were tastefully designed and comfortable. We had a big flatscreen TV with a couple of English movie channels, which provided some entertainment during the evenings. We had fast free WiFi, which was great for planning the rest of our trip. We had a nice hot shower, which felt great after a full day of travel. And last but not least, there was a rooftop restaurant, which not only had a very delicious Mie Goreng but also the best view in all of Sorong. Plus, the staff were so friendly and helpful.
There aren’t a lot choices in Sorong but if you’re looking to kick back and relax before or after an amazing dive trip, check out the the Belagri Hotel and Convention Sorong.
A big thank you to the Belagri for hosting us for one night. We paid for an additional two nights.
With only 24 hours in Singapore before we departed for Indonesia, we decided to live it up at the St.Regis hotel. I had never stayed at a 5-star city hotel before (only on an African safari) and the St.Regis Singapore fit the bill perfectly.
From the moment we walked in, we could feel the caring attention of the staff and the exquisite detail given to all the furnishings and decorations in the hotel. Since we really needed to freshen up (long flight), the staff quickly checked us in, took our bags, and then gave us a quick tour of our insanely beautiful room.
Magnificent. It really felt first class. Even the thick wooden room door felt bulletproof. As we walked in, we were greeted by wall-to-wall windows, a handsome gold-trimmed writing desk, a chandelier, a heavenly king-sized bed, hand-painted chinoiserie silk wallpaper and a 47-inch flatscreen TV. Then came the bathroom. A massive French marble bathroom with a free-standing bathtub and another TV to watch while having a soak. We also had his-and-her sinks and a separate jet massage shower, which really added to the experience. Basically, the room was exquisite. It’s how I’d imagine the first class suites on the Titanic to look like.
It was difficult to leave the room but the hotel also hosts daily one-hour tours of their acquired artwork. We decided to join and it was really interesting to learn about the various pieces, including numerous paintings and sculptures. I really liked the giant candy wrapper, which was created by an artist whose mother wouldn’t let her eat candy as a child. There was also a delightful sculpture by Fernando Botero by the pool and many other pieces by international masters ranging from Pablo Picasso to Marc Chagall as well as Asian artists such as Georgette Chen and Cheong Soo Pieng. If you’re into art, this is the hotel you want to be staying at.
Afterwards, we headed to the Astor Bar for their signature Bloody Mary cocktail, which comes in both the original version as well as a spicy version. The drink has been a part of the St.Regis history since it’s debut in 1934. The newer spicy version is quite good if you can handle it, with chilli padi, Chinese old ginger and lemon grass replacing the traditional Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce. We enjoyed both of these tasty drinks while listening to the soft keys of a jazz musician playing the piano.
Then came our incredible dinner at La Brezza. We decided to sit on the patio next to the pool, which looked quite elegant at night when all the lights come on. Chef Luca Moioli prepared so much delicious food for us that I could barely move from the table. I just couldn’t turn away any of the dishes.
First we had Insalata Di Mare, which consisted of Prawns, Octopus, Scallops, Mussels, Clams and Calamari salad. Next came Zuppa Di Porcini E Pollo, which consisted of Porcini Mushrooms, Slow Roasted Chicken Breast, Mushrooms Espuma, and Hazelnut Powder. By now I was already feeling the bulge and still had four more dishes to go. Luckily I persevered because the next dish was a delicious Ravioli Del Plin. These delicious pockets of pasta came with traditional Piemontese Agnolotti filled with Chicken, Pork and tender Veal, and a natural braising sauce. After a couple more outstanding dishes such as over-stewed cod fish with Braised Onions and Milk Reduction as well as breaded veal chop, the exciting moment of having Tiramisu placed in front of me arrived. I love all types of food but I especially love sweets. I was already fuller than full but somehow I stretched my belly and finished off all the dessert. How could I not? Rich Mascarpone Mousse, Homemade Ladyfinger biscuits, coffee liqueur and cocoa powder; I can’t turn that down.
It was difficult to sleep when we got back to the room. Our bodies were focused on digesting all the food so we decided to enjoy the free-standing bathtub. The next morning when we managed to peel ourselves out of the heavenly bed, we made sure to visit the spectacular breakfast buffet before making use of our late checkout to enjoy the room and the refreshing pool.
Before leaving to go back to the airport, we decided to try lunch at Yan Ting, which prepares fine Cantonese cuisine. Not surprisingly, we were still full from last nights dinner and the big buffet breakfast. However, I’m glad we stopped because we had one of our favourite dishes of all time; Deep-fried Sea Perch fillet with spicy mango sauce. Imagine the texture of fish n’ chips but with a sweet and spicy flavour. Exquisite.
And then came the sad moment when we finally had to say goodbye. Our 24 hours were up and it was time to fly to Indonesia and begin our week-long live-aboard diving trip in Raja Ampat. If you’re looking for a very luxurious hotel in Singapore with an emphasis on art and fine dining, look no further than the St.Regis Singapore.
Oh and did I mention that they offer airport transportation in Bentley’s? How cool is that?!
All pictures (except for the Ravioli dish) are taken by myself, Matthew G. Bailey. You can find me on Instagram as well at Instagram.com/MatthewGBailey. The Ravioli photo was provided by St.Regis hotel.
A big thank you to the St.Regis hotel for inviting us for one night in one of their Grand Deluxe Rooms.
Since the moment I began researching a trip to Rajasthan, India, a camel safari into the desert around Jaisalmer had topped my list of things to do. Finally, that moment came and although it wasn’t exactly what I had imagined, it was a worthy and memorable experience.
It all started at 1 PM when our guide Fatan (who runs The Real Deal Rajasthan Camel Safari) picked us up at our hotel. We jumped into the jeep with a couple from China and proceeded out to the small village where we would board our camels. Along the way, we stopped at some historic sites as well as some Jain temples and an abandoned village. It was a great addition to the trip that we weren’t expecting. [Read more…] about A Camel Safari in Jaisalmer, India
When travellers land in Hong Kong, they likely think of exploring the concrete jungle of skyscrapers that dot the skyline like a game of a Tetris. What many travellers don’t know however is that Hong Kong has an off-the-beaten-path natural side as well, which is only an hour or two away from the hustle and bustle of downtown.
If you’re looking to camp on a white-sand beach, hike through lush green forests, or visit unique villages – all without sacrificing the comfort of your Hong Kong hotel – you’ve come to the right place. Below are five popular hikes in Hong Kong.
The Dragon’s Back
This award-winning urban hike might be close to the high-rises of the city but you’d never know it. Nestled in Hong Kong’s wild south side, the Dragon’s Back winds you through Shek O Country Park and gives you beautiful views over Clearwater Bay and several islands sitting in the South China Sea.
Lion Rock Hike
For those looking for a strenuous but rewarding hike, look no further than Lion Rock. Leave the comforts of the city behind and get a little dirty on this heart-pounding hike that crosses the New Territories from east to west. You’ll definitely work up a sweat as you climb up the mountain but you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the New Territories as well as Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.
Lamma Island Family Hike Trail
Meander through the green interior of Lantau by taking the Family Trail hike, which goes between the two main villages of Yung Shu Wan and Sok Kwu Wan. Famous for its laidback hippy-like vibe, Lantau provides an easy yet fantastic hike to get some fresh air. With no cars to be found, you’ll truly get the break from the city that you’ve been looking for. You’ll also find numerous al fresco bars, seafood restaurants, and golden beaches along the way.
Sai Kung East Country Park
Also known as the “deserted beaches hike”, Sai Kung East Country Park feels like a remote island despite being just 20 kilometers from busy Kowloon. This beautiful area is home to breathtaking mountain and coastal sea views, along with insight into a past culture that has now moved to the big city.
Plover Cove Country Park Hike
Another popular option is the Plover Cove Country Park Hike, which takes you through some of the most pristine parts of Hong Kong. You’ll see stunning views of Mainland China as well as the Yan Chau Tong Marine Park and the opportunity to witness one of the oldest surviving feng shui woods in Hong Kong. You’ll also get to see abandoned rice fields and terraces cultivated by villagers before returning back along the coastline.
As you can see, Hong Kong isn’t just concrete buildings and neon lights. There are plenty of options for getting away from the city and exploring the beautiful nature that surrounds the big city. From gorgeous mountain peaks to dreamy golden sand beaches, Hong Kong has a little bit of everything.
This article was written as part of the Hipmunk CityLove Project. As a paid writer for Hipmunk, I’ve written a number of articles on world-class cities such as Hong Kong, Vancouver, and New York.
Quite possibly the most famous city in the world, New York has been captivating visitors since it was founded. Whether you’re looking to try the world-class food, look up at the thousands of skyscrapers, or get your picture taken with the statue of liberty, New York has something for everyone. Whether you’re in the city for business or for pleasure, no first trip to New York would be complete without experiencing these must-do activities below.
You can’t leave New York city without getting a birds eye view of all the high rises that create the concrete jungle. There are plenty of viewing platforms including the world-famous Empire State Building, which is one of most iconic buildings in New York, and the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, which is known for having the best views of the city. Either option will give you a view you won’t forget.
The statue of liberty is a defining symbol not only of New York but also of America. Don’t miss out on this world icon. Hop on a ferry and visit the island where the statue dominates the skyline and get your picture beneath it.
Manhattan might be a concrete jungle but Central Park will make you feel as if you’ve left the city. Thanks to movies and TV shows, Central Park is the most famous urban park in the world and a visit to New York just wouldn’t be complete without a stroll through this massive 843-acre urban oasis.
While getting a view from above is certainly a must-do, getting a glimpse of the city skyline from the ground is equally impressive and memorable. There are plenty of ways to do so but it’s hard to beat the view from a ferry. Simply take a trip out to the Statue of Liberty or Staten Island and you’ll get beautiful views both ways.
Another famous icon of the big apple is Time Square, which is basically a smorgasbord of neon lights and entertainment. Whether you plan to do some activities or not, walking through time square just once is a must-do activity. You can always expect crowds considering it’s one of the worlds top tourist attractions become but the bright lights and yellow cabs will truly make you feel like you’ve arrived in New York.
With a city as vibrant and big as New York City, there are so many things to see and do. Whether you’re planning to watch a show on Broadway, watch the Rangers play hockey at Madison Square Gardens, or simply live it up in some of the world-class hotels in New York, don’t miss out on these iconic one-of-a-kind activities mentioned above.
This article was written as part of the Hipmunk CityLove project. As a paid write for Hipmunk, I occasionally write about world-class cities such as New York, Vancouver, and Hong Kong.
You can also read about the best things to do in Canada by visiting MustDoCanada.com.
Spending an hour with Silverback Gorillas has been one of the most wild and thrilling animal encounters I have ever had. It ranks right up there with my up-close-and-personal moment with Borneo pygmy elephants, standing next to a baby moose while hiking in Newfoundland, having monkeys climbing all over me in Bolivia, and listening to a lion scratch his back on our car in Tanzania. Still, this was different.
I had never imagined myself seeing gorillas in the wild. It certainly wasn’t a plan on this trip but then again, most of my trips are somewhat spontaneous. I was already on a safari in Tanzania taking pictures of Zebras, lions, and rhinos but knowing that Uganda (just one country over) is one of the only places in the world to see endangered mountain gorillas, I had to make it work.
Fast forward past a 28-hour bus ride from hell and we were in Kampala, Uganda. Our hotel had a gorgeous view of the city where we got to see the sun rise over the smoggy city. Since a gorilla hiking trip is difficult to plan alone, I emailed Gorilla Tours and they helped us get organized, transport us to the park, find us accommodation and basically make it all happen. After our whirlwind of an experience in Tanzania (post coming soon), we wanted to go with a reputable company and no company in Uganda has a better reputation than Gorilla Tours.
They booked us in for two nights at the Gorilla Valley Lodge, which is nestled right next to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bwindi National Park. Being able to wake up to the sounds of nature and opening up the door to a misty jungle added to the experience. I wish I could have stayed for months.
After a hearty breakfast, we jumped in the 4×4 and made our way to the park entrance. Once there, we were met by our guides who would walk us through the jungle, find the gorillas, and try to keep us safe. These guys have an interesting life. Each day they hike into the jungle to find the families of gorillas. There are almost a dozen different families and they are always moving. Some of the families are completely wild and have never had human contact, some of the families are only for scientific study, and some of them have been “humanized” by guides who keep in contact with the gorillas for two years before bringing visitors along with them. I was now one of those visitors.
The first hour of the hike is alongside small villages. After all, there isn’t much wilderness left in Uganda, considering it’s one of the most densely populated countries in the world. We then trekked past luscious green flora and fauna and stumbled down paths full of angry ants. Karla, my wife, got stung by a black wasp when the wind landed it on her shirt. They sting anything in their path. Next, our guides brought us through the thick jungle. The machete came out and began to cut down the thick bush. It felt like we were in Jurassic Park. This is a primary rainforest after all and it’s so thick, we could barely see the guides in front of us. I always imagined that a gorilla would be easy to spot but that thought was quickly put to rest as I glanced through a neighbouring bush and caught a gorilla off guard. I wasn’t expecting to see a gorilla and the sudden fright pushed adrenaline through my veins.
From that moment on, we had found the biggest family of them all and we’re able to spend an hour with about 16 gorillas. There were three silverbacks walking around, a bunch of teenagers, and even some cute little fluffy babies who stayed in the trees playing with each other. One of the teenagers just sat in the bush, surrounded by flies, staring as if he was in a meditation. Eventually, he was done with us looking at him and walked off. The silverbacks were quite shy, which I found strange for such an enormous animal. They would usually ignore us and turn their back to us while eating the leaves. At one point, we spooked one of them who had been behind us in a bush. Frightened, he quickly ripped down the bush and stormed by us giving us the angry eye and showing us his strength. It was exhilarating but I’m thankful that he didn’t attack. One of the most amusing parts of the trip was watching the gorillas roll down the hills. We would be standing on the side of a hill and suddenly a crackling sound would be going by. I’d glance to my right and see gorillas rolling head over toes down the hill instead of walking. Looks like they were having a great time!
Eventually, it began to rain, which is to be expected in a rainforest. Unfortunately, the gorillas don’t like to get wet and they went hiding into their little dens beneath the bushes. We stayed anyways and enjoyed our last 20 minutes before it was time to leave. This is the part I dislike the most about adventures. I never want them to end. If only I could chill with the gorillas for the whole day. Maybe I could become gorilla man and join their family for a few years. I could learn how to pound on my chest and let out roars like Tarzan. Then again, I’m sure they want their privacy and my hairless body just wouldn’t blend in. Being able to experience these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat made it harder to imagine the difficulty they face going forward. There are only around 700 gorillas left in the world, divided between the countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Between war, loss of habitat, and diseases brought from humans, they really have a hard time ahead.
We packed up the cameras, zipped up our rain jackets, and made our way back through the forest and into civilization – only this time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be part of it anymore.
Want to make this trip happen?
The most important part is making your way to Uganda. It’s a very small and friendly country where you can experience unique African culture, raft class-5 rapids on the nile, and experience amazing wildlife. We travel hacked our way to Africa, flying in business class for less $800.
Trekking to see the mountain gorillas is not cheap. In fact, it’s the most expensive activity I have ever done. The permits alone are $600 USD each, which allows you to spend just one hour with them. You’ll then need to factor in transportation and accommodation, which is best booked by using a company like Gorilla Tours.
If trekking to see silverback gorillas is a dream of yours or if you have been, please leave a comment below!
If you’re from Canada, Canadian Free Flyers is the premier travel hacking club that will help make your dream trip a reality.
Costa Rica had never really appealed to me. Yes it has beaches and volcanoes and exotic wildlife but it also has high tourism and high(er) prices, which is something I usually try to avoid. Then I heard about the Peace Retreat near a tranquil surfing beach called Playa Negra. Since my wife and I were already planning a trip to Mexico and had a free stopover to make use of, we decided to book ourselves in at the yoga retreat and try something new.
The Peace Retreat ended up being one of our highlights in Costa Rica. It had a laid-back vibe, morning yoga sessions, a beautiful pool, and close proximity to the beach. My wife and I enjoy yoga but rarely practice it. However, with just one session in the mornings, it was easy to get used to and it forced us to wake up early and enjoy the gorgeous days. No better way to wake up then to have a reaaaaally good stretch, especially when that stretch is in an open-air studio with jungle breezes sweeping through. We would then sit down and eat a healthy breakfast while mingling with the other guests, one of whom had just climbed Mount Everest!
Although the guesthouse was as beautiful and relaxing as it sounds, we wanted to experience as much of the area as we could as well. One of the things we had to explore was the ocean, which was only a 15-minute walk through the Iguana jungle (my name for it because of all the Iguanas wandering about). I’ve seen my share of jaw-dropping beaches (Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico) and Playa Negra is right up there with the best of them. It has just what I want from a beach – Nice sand, decent waves, a turquoise tinge, and no crowds. Due to its remote location and lack of hotels, there’s hardly anyone that makes it here except for surfers who ride the world-class waves. Lucky for us, there’s also an area where the waves are good for beginners and so we rented ourselves a surfboard for $10 and packed in a full day of surfing (read: falling off the board and swallowing seawater). We also spent a day just relaxing in the sun, getting a tan, and then watching one of the most stunning sunsets we’ve ever seen.
We continued on with this tradition during our stay: relaxing on the beach, surfing, and drinking a bottle of beer while watching the sun drop. We’d then go back to Peace Retreat and chill by the blue-lit pool. There’s no TV and no Internet. Just pure relaxation, hence the name Peace Retreat.
It was the perfect way to get away from it all and isn’t that what we all really want from a beachside vacation anyway?
To find out more about the Peace Retreat, visit their website at PeaceRetreat.ca.
For mor incredible beaches, check out our post on the Perhentian Islands!