A Travellerspoint blog

The Real Bali


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The past eight days that we spent on Bali have been full of so many different feelings and sensations. Our experience was not your typical Balinese beach tour... as backpackers on a budget, we took the road less traveled, so we knew we would get more of an adventure. And with adventure, you get both the good and the bad...

We started our adventure in the south part of Bali, where we stayed a couple nights in Seminyak. The town itself is not very nice at all, but the big sandy beaches are, despite the large amount of tourists. Our favorite part about Seminyak, though, was the KuDeTa restaurant where we had food and drinks while watching the waves crash on the beach. We explored the southern most tip of the island where there is a temple on the cliff called Pura Luhur Uluwatu, and on our way back up north, we stopped for lunch in Jimbaran, where they are known for their freshly-caught fish... our red snapper did not disappoint! Watching the sunset at Pura Tanah Lot was also really great and worth the drive... this temple is actually IN the water and can only be reached by foot when the tide is low.

Sunset in Seminyak Beach

Sunset in Seminyak Beach


Seminyak Beach

Seminyak Beach


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Pura Luhur Uluwatu

Pura Luhur Uluwatu


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Lunch in Jimbaran

Lunch in Jimbaran


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Pura Tanah Lot

Pura Tanah Lot


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We liked central Bali more than the south because it offered so much more in terms of culture and scenic views. We really loved driving up the mountains, since the weather was cooler and more mild up there... it was a sweet escape from the super humid weather down at sea-level. We visited two temples, first the Pura Taman Ayun and then the Pura Luhur Batukaru, which is hidden in Mount Batukaru. We toured the Subak Museum, where they explained to us everything about rice production and the 1,000 year old Subak irrigation system, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site in Bali. And then we actually came across the most beautiful rice terraces... gorgeous views of the green rice plants with the palm trees and mountains in the background. This is one of the Balinese paradises! We stayed in Ubud and really loved this cute little town the minute we arrived! The main strip has so many shops and restaurants and art galleries... Ubud is supposedly the cultural center of Bali. Our favorite part of Ubud was a trek through the rice fields... we were the only ones on the path and it was so peaceful and pretty. Along the way, we met a guy who works in the rice fields (apparently he is known as the Coconut Man) and his wife, who were the most genuinely nice Indonesians we had met! It was so cool watching him climb the palm tree in front of us and chop down a young coconut... his wife quickly cut open the top and we chatted with both of them while we enjoyed the sweet water. You can't get any fresher than that!

Pura Taman Ayun

Pura Taman Ayun


Pura Taman Ayun

Pura Taman Ayun


Pura Luhur Batukaru

Pura Luhur Batukaru

Pura Luhur Batukaru

Pura Luhur Batukaru


Beautiful rice terraces

Beautiful rice terraces

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shopping in Ubud

shopping in Ubud


temple in Ubud

temple in Ubud


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Our trek through the rice fields

Our trek through the rice fields

Yummy coconut!

Yummy coconut!

Beautiful scenic views

Beautiful scenic views

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On our drive to the north coast, we stopped at a large fruit market in Candikunding , where we got so many fresh tropical fruits (YUM!). We also visited the famous water temple, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and the waterfall near Munduk Village before arriving at Lovina Beach. This town was apparently really hip in the 70's, but now it's pretty run down. We did find this great restaurant called Global Village Kafe... it's a social project where the proceed go towards the poor Balinese people. The food was really yummy, and they also had a display about supporting the freedom of Palestine, so we were only too happy to give them business! We ended our Balinese adventure in Amed, which we found to be another paradise... we would snorkel in the morning and then swim in our infinity pool in the afternoon! This was the most relaxing part of this week for sure.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan


Munduk Waterfall

Munduk Waterfall


Our infinity pool with a view

Our infinity pool with a view


The bay in Amed where we snorkelled

The bay in Amed where we snorkelled


So many pretty fish

So many pretty fish

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A word of advice when driving in Bali... DON'T DO IT! We had an idea of how crazy the drivers are here on that first day when our taxi driver drove us from the airport to the hotel, but no one can ever be prepared for the experience of actually being behind the wheel yourself. We rented a Suzuki Jimny (a 4x4 jeep) for the week, and in hind sight, we are happy we did because we got to see more of the island on our our own schedule, but all I can say is that my knuckles are still white from the perma death grip I had on the dashboard bar! I need to give a major shoutout and props to Jens for being the best driver ever!!! Despite so many close-call accidents, he kept his cool and never lost his patience, which I cannot say the same for myself. There are scooters EVERYWHERE, passing you on both sides, and they really do not care how close they get to your car. Apparently, its legal for 10 year olds to operate motorized scooters and that helmets are optional. It's bad enough that half of the adults do not wear helmets, but the super small children (i.e., babies!) that are sitting in front and in back them also do not wear any safety gear. The lanes are super congested with everyone passing each other, ignoring the fact there are 2-way lanes. Sometimes these scooters decide to drive on the other side into oncoming traffic. At night, you're lucky if most of them even have on their lights. Besides the scooters, cars, trucks and pedestrians also cut you off... you would think they are all on a suicidal mission! They just swerve in and out trying to be the fastest one and not caring about whether or not they run you off the road. And keep in mind, this is all happening while driving on the opposite side of the road! The funny thing is that there are never any accidents... all this madness somehow works! Despite the intensity of our driving experience, it was actually sort of exhilarating , at times, especially when off-roading! ;-)

Our Jimny

Our Jimny


Don't let my smile fool you... it was very intense!

Don't let my smile fool you... it was very intense!

Everything is very intense here in Bali... the overpopulated towns, the impoverished people always trying to sell you something, the smells of burning incense, fires, garbage, cloves, engine exhaust, flowers, and food, the super loud sounds from the incessant honking, the roosters cockadoodle dooing, and Hindu chanting blasting from temples... it's seriously sensory overload! There are some glimpses of that tropical paradise that one imagines Bali to be, but unless you pay the over-priced tourist fares, this, my friends, is the real Bali!!

Posted by NicoleandJens 18:40 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Magical Emirates


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Words really cannot describe the AMAZING experience we had in the United Arab Emirates!! We will keep our writing short and let the pictures do the talking, but here is a brief description of our 4 days in the UAE...

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

Since we flew into Abu Dhabi, we spent the afternoon there touring the Sheikh Zaeyed Mosque and the Emirates Palace before driving to Dubai. Compared to the old mosques in Istanbul, for example, this mosque is very new and modern and is the largest in the UAE. The Emirates Palace Hotel is very impressive and is a major landmark in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zaeyed Mosque

Sheikh Zaeyed Mosque

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view of Abu Dhabi downtown

view of Abu Dhabi downtown


Emirates Palace

Emirates Palace

That afternoon, we drove to Dubai where we stayed with family. My cousins, Samia and Nader, were the most generous and hospitable hosts you could ever dream of... we cannot thank them enough for making our Dubai experience so exceptional and memorable!!! In our first day, we saw most of the main sites: Dubai Museum, all the different Souks (textile, spice and gold), an Abra cruise on the Dubai Creek, a walk through the Dubai Mall, up to the top of the Burj Khalifa, and fountain show in front of the Burj Khalifa. We ended that day with the most delicious Lebanese food at Karam Beyrut.

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa


driving through Dubai downtown

driving through Dubai downtown


Dubai Museum

Dubai Museum


DSCN1106.jpgDubai Creek

Dubai Creek


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Spice Souk

Spice Souk


At the top of the Burj Khalifa

At the top of the Burj Khalifa


Burj Khalifa in all its glory!

Burj Khalifa in all its glory!


dinner at Karam Beyrut with the indoor skiing in the background

dinner at Karam Beyrut with the indoor skiing in the background

Next day, we toured around Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) area and then went on a sand dune safari at Al Habab region. After driving through the roller coast of sand dunes, we had a dinner outside in the desert with a belly dancing show. This was one of the coolest experiences ever!

Souk

Souk


In case you are running out of gold...

In case you are running out of gold...


Our dear Samia

Our dear Samia


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Out in the desert

Out in the desert


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Our final day was such a highlight... Samia and Nader surprised us with a trip to the famous Burj al Arab... quite the luxurious experience!!! And then we drove around the crescents of the Palm Jumeirah Island admiring the views and all the stunning hotels.

Burj al Arab

Burj al Arab


Inside the Burj

Inside the Burj


Signature cappuccino with the Burj's logo

Signature cappuccino with the Burj's logo


Rolls Royces everywhere

Rolls Royces everywhere


both Burjes in one shot

both Burjes in one shot


Atlantis Hotel

Atlantis Hotel


Dubai JBR area

Dubai JBR area

We are so happy we came to Dubai to see Samia and Nader... we are so grateful for them giving us this unique experience!!

Posted by NicoleandJens 20:53 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Montenegro & Belgrade


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For those of you who have not heard of Kotor... first off, it is NOT Qatar, but a cute little old town in the country of Montenegro tucked in the corner of a beautiful bay surrounded by mountains!

Kotor Bay

Kotor Bay

Montenegro definitely surpassed our expectations, immediately starting off with the bus drive along the Bay of Kotor. We were awestruck by its grand scenic views, even in the pouring rain. Unfortunately, it did rain most of our time in Montenegro, but we were granted with three great rain-free experiences... one was when we visited Budva, which we absolutely loved! This is a bigger, more developed city with a nice old town and a big beach. The second was our night out in the old town of Kotor... and to be honest, we prefer Kotor by night because of the illuminated wall and buildings, which create such a lovely ambiance. And the third was when we ventured up Mt. Lovcen National Park... the views are ridiculously breathtaking, and thankfully we were able to reach the summit before the next rain cloud rolled in. We also managed to find the rivers feeding into the Skadar Lake National Park... we were surrounded with so many great views!

Kotor Bay

Kotor Bay

large_DSCN0800.jpgBudva

Budva

large_DSCN0828.jpglarge_DSCN0836.jpglarge_DSCN0841.jpglarge_DSCN0846.jpglarge_DSCN0856.jpgKotor by night

Kotor by night

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town of Perast in Kotor Bay

Skadar Lake

Skadar Lake

Budva Beach

Budva Beach

Kotor Bay

Kotor Bay

large_DSCN0943.jpglarge_DSCN0949.jpgMt. Lovcen National Park

Mt. Lovcen National Park

view from airplane leaving Montenegro

view from airplane leaving Montenegro

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Overall, we felt that Montenegro was very different to Croatia... despite the similar coastline and old towns, it is still much less developed and you feel a bit more disconnected and off the beaten path. Montenegro is super charming and will probably be the next tourist hotspot!

Fun Facts about Montenegro:
1) Montenegro is not part of the EU, yet the official currency is the Euro... not sure how that works?!
2) The locals like to eat their pizza with ketchup and cream... SICK!!
3) It was not hard to notice that this is a quite the popular holiday destinations for the Russians.

We took our first flight of the trip to Belgrade, the capitol of Serbia, largest city and former capital of Yugoslavia.... this was actually an 8-hour layover before our flight to Abu Dhabi. We took a taxi to the big castle along the Danube River called Kalemegdan. It is situated inside a beautiful urban park, and when the sun was setting, you had the most perfect backdrop! As we walked down the main pedestrian street downtown with all shops and restaurants, we could easily tell why this city is known for its nightlife... too bad we had to catch our flight at midnight!

Kalemegdan

Kalemegdan

large_DSCN0975.jpglarge_DSCN0978.jpgPark surrounding Kalemegdan

Park surrounding Kalemegdan

large_DSCN0986.jpglarge_DSCN0991.jpgMain pedestrian street downtown

Main pedestrian street downtown

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Posted by NicoleandJens 13:51 Archived in Montenegro Comments (0)

Dalmatian Coast, Part 2


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As we make our way south down the Dalmatian Coast, each town/city just gets better and better!!

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We definitely packed a lot in this one day... site-seeing first in Trogir and then in Split on our way down to Makarska, where we spent the night. I know you're probably thinking that we were a little too ambitious wanting to get through 3 cities in one day, but it was actually the right amount of time for us. Trogir was cute and small... only needed an hour for that one. Split was really great... we loved that we were there on the day of their massive farmer's market and bought ourselves some local goodies. We got lost in the labyrinth maze of the old town and were amazed by the old architecture. On our way down to Makarska, we actually came across this town called Omis that is nestled at the base of a mountain with a river running through it. It was a nice change from the coastal views we were used to, so we decided to take the inland detour over the mountain pass. As soon as we arrived in Makarska, we wished we would have have had more time there because it offered so much from its picturesque marina, bar-filled promenade and awesome beaches! This little gem of a town is not on many people's radar when visiting Croatia, but it totally should be... we highly recommend it!!!

Trogir

Trogir

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Farmer's Market in Split

Farmer's Market in Split

Split's Old Town

Split's Old Town

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Omis

large_DSCN0552.jpgView from mountain pass

View from mountain pass

Makarska

Makarska

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The funny thing about driving south on the Croatian coast is that you have to cross through the country of Bosnia-Herzegovina at one point. It's only about a 20 km stretch, but you still have to go through two boarder checkpoints and show your passports, since you are exiting and then re-entering the EU. Kind of annoying, but also kind of cool, since you immediately see the differences between the two countries. Shortly after that, we arrived in Ston to try their infamous oysters and mussels, which are farmed right inside its bay. DEFINITELY worth the stop... some of the best mussels we have ever had! On a side note, there were stray cats EVERYWHERE in Ston... some of them were so cute, it was hard not to take the with us. We then drove through the wine country and the mountains of the Peljesac Peninsula before taking a ferry from Orebic to the island of Korcula. We spent the next two days there strolling through the old town of Korcula Town, enjoying coffee in the marina in Vela Luka and hanging out on the beaches of Lumbarda. Our Lumbarda Airbnb was nestled between vineyards and olive trees, so just imagine what a lovely atmosphere this was... such a treat!

Short drive through Bosnia

Short drive through Bosnia

Ston's medieval wall

Ston's medieval wall

large_DSCN0625.jpgYUMMY!!

YUMMY!!

large_DSCN0628.jpgCats in Ston

Cats in Ston


Korcula Town

Korcula Town

large_DSCN0653.jpglarge_DSCN0662.jpgLumbarda

Lumbarda

Vela Luka

Vela Luka

large_DSCN0677.jpglarge_DSCN0684.jpgLeaving Korcula at dawn

Leaving Korcula at dawn

And then we finally made it to Dubrovnik... our last stop on the Dalmatian Coast! We really saved the best for last, and we didn't even realize it until we walked through the gates of the old town! Despite the insane amount of tourists (wow!), we fully enjoyed our Dubrovnik experience... we walked all through the old town and then walked along the old city wall, which was such a workout! There are so many steps going up and down, up and down... we figured we deserved some ice cream after burning all those calories! ;-) Walking along the wall, though, was definitely the highlight... with every curve you turn, you are treated with the most incredible views of the city and the sea!

Entering Dubrovnik's Wall

Entering Dubrovnik's Wall

large_DSCN0705.jpglarge_90_DSCN0721.jpgClimbing up the wall

Climbing up the wall

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Thank you Croatia for an amazing 5 days! We absolutely LOVED you!! :-)

Posted by NicoleandJens 17:00 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Dalmatian Coast, Part 1


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Yesterday, we were in three countries in one day... always kind of fun when that happens! ;-) We started in Trieste, Italy where we boarded yet another bus, then drove an hour through Slovenia's countryside before arriving in Rijeka, Croatia where we picked up our first rental car of the trip.... and SCORE, we got a free upgrade!! So much nicer having more space, especially since we went grocery shopping and loaded up the car with water and goodies! Our plan for Croatia is to drive all down the Dalmatian Coast from Rijeka to Dubrovnik... and since we will be taking the windy road along the coast, this should be such a great experience!

Slovenia's countryside

Slovenia's countryside

Our upgraded car

Our upgraded car

Starting our drive down the coast

Starting our drive down the coast

After a 3 hour drive from Rijeka, our first stop was Paklenica National Park. When we entered the park, we were greeted by a ton of mountain climbers either at the base or already half way up the mountain wall. This was really cool to watch, even though we quickly decided this is not an activity in which either of us would like partake. We decided to go on a hike, though, since we had been sitting in the car for so long, and it felt really good to stretch our legs. This was such a beautiful and scenic hike that we couldn't help but take a picture after every bend in the path. It was also so peaceful and relaxing too, even though it was fairly strenuous... as tired and sweaty as we were when we finished, we felt totally rejuvenated and excited to continue our road trip.

Paklenica National Park

Paklenica National Park

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We arrived in Biograd na Moru after another hour and a half of driving where we stayed the night. Biograd is a super small town, but it has a cute promenade where we enjoyed our breakfast the next morning. We didn't stay too long, though, because we had two cities to see this day... Sibenik and Primosten. Sibenik is a small, medieval town, which starts at the ocean and you climb (a lot of!) stairs all the way up to the castle on the hill. We walked around for a little bit, then continued onto to Primosten, which was our main highlight of the day. Before going into town, we decided to check into our Airbnb first... and we were SO HAPPY we did! We were warmly received by the parents of our host, who didn't speak a word of English nor German... they were so sweet, though, and welcomed us to their patio (just below our apartment) where we shared some homemade grappa and sherry. Thankfully, their next-door neighbor speaks German, so they hailed him over and we were able to converse a bit. This apartment is literally a few steps away from the water... we got so lucky with this Airbnb for sure! Jens decided he wanted to go snorkeling immediately, and since the water was a bit too cold for me, I admired the view instead!

large_DSCN0353.jpgBiograd

Biograd

Sibenik

Sibenik

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large_DSCN0380.jpglarge_DSCN0385.jpgView from our balcony w/ our host working on his fishing nets

View from our balcony w/ our host working on his fishing nets

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Primosten is the cutest little town and we fell in love the minute we walked through the old gates! Again, similar to Sibenik, it is a small, medieval town, but you don't get lost as easily through the narrow streets. After admiring the cute town, we enjoyed a beer with our delicious seafood dinner in the marina and then became totally enchanted watching the sunset into the Adriatic Sea!

View of Primosten

View of Primosten

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Posted by NicoleandJens 12:56 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

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