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Indonesia

Boys on the way to the ceremony

Ubud – Bali: My favorite places to spoil yourself

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SLEEP

I found Lady Bamboo Villa through my Stefan Loose Guide book and can highly recommend it. Although it is in the center of Ubud, you will not feel the rush of the city as the villa has a beautiful and quiet garden with a pool. The rooms are very nice, comfortable and individually designed, the food is great and the staff is really sweet. The German owner, Lambert, has been living in Ubud for over 20 years, so he knows many places and can give great recommendations on what to do. I booked various tours at the place, which I felt was very handy.

There are incredible resorts and yoga retreat centers around Ubud. They offer a very different experience and if you have a limitless budget you will have an incredible stay for sure. The downside of these places is, that they are usually a bit remote. So it really depends on what you are looking for.

EAT

There are uncountable lovely places to eat in Ubud, many of them focussing on organic food. However, there was one place I ended up eating every night as it was so delicious – no matter which dish I picked from the menu. It is called Spice and is run by an award winning chef, who combines Indonesian dishes with Western food styling and cooking techniques. Make sure, you try their nutmeg sorbet – the ice cream of my life!

For lunch or late afternoon time there is a beautiful outdoor place just a little walk out of town called Sari Organic Farm. The meals are cooked from the food grown at organic farm. The beauty of the place is it’s tranquility and high quality of food. We were lying on some sofa beds for hours, enjoying amazing food, overlooking the rice fields. The little shop has some great products from jam to soap and tee, which I loved to bring home as souvenirs.

FREE TIME IN UBUD

Ubud is all about Yoga and I had probably the best classes ever at Radiantly Alive Yoga. It is a beautiful open place with amazing teachers. From beginners to privat classes and teacher trainings you will find whatever you are looking for.

Also you may not miss the various massage offers! I cannot tell, the best place and it is hard to know, where the girls are payed respectfully. I had a 4 hour treatment, which was amazing at Sang Spa.

Before planning your trip, try to find out, when they have temple ceremonies in Ubud. There are many opportunities as there are celebrations for many many things and people dress up so nicely, it would be a pity to miss it just by a day or two. It is probably the easiest to ask the place you plan to stay.

FREE TIME OUTSIDE UBUD

Apart from shopping, which you can impossibly avoid during the first days, I highly recommend to get out of town. Ubud is very busy and touristic, so very soon, I felt I needed some nature and a good breeze. E-biking was a perfect thing to discover the surrounding in the heat with getting up and down hill. It was my first time on an E-Bike and I was really hesitant as I considered it for people, who are try to avoid the extra sweat. But – I really loved it. As you are able to move fast, you can discover easily how – just a few kilometers away from Ubud center – people live and work in the rice fields and get an idea, what Ubud felt like years ago. The hotel Lady Bamboo offers various different bike tours for different levels – not only to people staying at the place.

Also, as touristic as it is, I highly recommend to climb the Batur Volcano. It is tough for people, who do not like touristic things, but I promise, you will have a true morning workout in the dark as you start hiking at 4am and you will be rewarded with an amazing sunrise at the top. Make sure you do not stop at the first sunrise level, but keep on going. We saw the sunrise at the first  platform and I felt, I had seen it and could probably go down again. But we decided as a group to keep going and as always – that was the true experience. We climbed along the crater on tiny paths and had an outstanding view and hike. It is a tour for experienced hikers! It can be booked through many tourist offices or your hotel.

Yoga at the pool, Tunisia

Inspiring Workout: Yoga classes around the world

By | Costa Rica, Indonesia, USA | No Comments
Yoga at the pool, Tunisia

UBUD - BALI

Radiantly Alive

Radiantly Alive: This is the only Yoga studio I attended classes at in Yoga Mekka Ubud. I was told it was the best in town and all I can say is, that I had the best classes ever in this place. I was sweating like I had hardly ever sweat before and felt amazing afterwards. It is an open classroom facing the jungle with showers in the basement. The level of the classes are pretty high and many people get their yoga teacher license here. They offer a wide range of class passes form single class to week pass to privat classes.

Before or after make sure you drop by the famous Bali Buda Cafe, where I had the best cinnamon role of my life. It is a tranquil place to hang out, eat great food and meet tourists, long time travelers and dropouts.

NEW YORK - USA

Pure Yoga

Pure Yoga: This studio really has an unbeatable yoga schedule. Never ever had I to decide between two tempting classes at the same time! This luxurious studios offers everything from amazing teachers, to great facilities and even assistants, who help lesser experienced people to find their pose. Not only did I enjoy my own Ashtanga workout, but my heart jumped up and down, when I glanced over to some far more experienced people getting gently in crazy poses. Such a treat. You do not have to bring anything but your yoga clothes. Matt, Towls, Shampoo… everything is provided.

Rooftop Yoga NYC
Pure Yoga New York

SAN FRANCISCO - USA

Yoga Tree Hays Valley: I went to a couple of classes in this place, which were all great. It is a small and simple studio without showers. I tried my first hot Yoga class in this place. Yoga Tree has several studios across town.

Yoga to the People: All classes are donation based (10 USD is recommended) and therefore the courses are pretty crowded, which I did not mind. Big class room, no showers. Also great experience with any class I attended. They also have studios in New York and Berkeley.

Holis Spa

MANUEL ANTONIO - COSTA RICA

Holis Spa: A small place on the Manuel Antonio hill area with ventilators only, giving a great and absolutely bearable sweat in the costa rica heat. They offer a wide range of classes from Ariel to Ashtanga and Belly Dance, some classes are donation based. Before or after the class make sure you stop around the corner at Emilio’s Cafe. A dream place with the best coffee in the area.

Robinson Crusoe feeling

Raja Ampat: Staying with locals, diving the world’s richest waters

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If you are a keen diver with hundreds of dives, I am sure you have heard about Raja Ampat. If you are a rather unexperienced diver, like me, with way less than 30 dives, I might tell you a secret travel advice…

Raja Ampat, The Four Kings, is an area of 1500 islands northwest of the Bird’s Head Peninsula on New Guinea Island. It is one of the best diving spots on the globe as it has the world’s richest biodiversity. But not only will you find species under water, which you cannot find anywhere else in the world, even the world above the surface is stunning and unique. Robinson Crusoe islands with palm beaches touching turquoise water … miles away from civilization.

For sure, this place has been discovered by the diving industry and thus, you can stay in very expensive and supposedly beautiful resorts starting from 1800 USD per week including 2+ dives per day or even on liveaboards. But for a real Crusoe experience, you can stay in one of many homestays across the islands. Some families have started to offer rooms for travelers and some of them even have their own jetty and diving facilities.

I stayed in a place called Koranu Fyak on the Island Kri in a bamboo hut directly at the beach. It is a very basic stay without a possibility to lock your hut, shared bathrooms with other tourists and simple food with whatever the catch of the day is with some vegetables. The diving gear was in ok shape (not great) and the boats usually left late for diving since either the engine had difficulties starting or there wasn’t enough gas. You get great free lessons in living in the moment as well as patience.

To me this was the best way to truly calm down for a couple of days surrounded by pure nature (which for sure this included the dogs of the place, some big spiders and mosquitos…). I was staying at the place during full moon and it was incredible to walk at night in the bright white illuminated sand. The reef was just in front of the place and from the neighbors’ jetty, I had sharks strolling below me in the water when I did my early morning yoga session.

If you are an unexperienced diver, be aware, that there can be strong currents, meaning, we had to hold on to corals with both hands and the BCD was shaking in my mouth. So tell the diving instructors about your experience level and ask them to take care of you as well as to avoid strong currents.

The locals a great people and they are so used to diving, that they cannot understand, how it can be challenging to tourists. So they will not take care of you the way you are probably used to by a dive instructor. They usually never asked about the air or made sure we had hooks for the currents. But they have the best eyes to spot the tiniest things, like the rice corn sized sea horse, which only exists in Raja.

If you are interested staying at a homestay check out this very helpful website: www.stayrajaampat.com.

If you want to dive Raja Ampat from your couch at no cost, I recommend this great documentary below (in German).

Giant Manta Rays in Raja Ampat

Frangipani

Bali-Lesson: “Sweet present of the present”

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The first thing I experienced, when I landed in Bali, was the beautiful smell of fresh decorated flowers in the ladies’ bathroom at the airport – the last place where I expected to feel comfortable. It was just the start of a trip to floral beauty I had never imagined and experienced before.

Never ever have I seen and smelt such an abundance, variety and intensity of Frangipani, Hibiscus, Bougainvilleas and other tropical flowers. However, what touched me most, was the dedication of the Balinese decorating everything from doorsteps to buddhas and even motorbikes with offerings to the Gods or little bowls with the flowers’ petals.

The offerings, called “canang sari”, are little hand made baskets with flowers, candy, sticky rice and sometimes even some eggs – prepared freshly up to three times a day. Not to because people are afraid of the Gods anger, but because they want to give back, what has been given to them. A sharing, based on the gratitude for the richness of life.

When I saw people preparing the offerings, it did not seem to be a stupid duty they had to do. They did it with the fullest love and care and a gentle inner smile on their face. It was a perfect example to me for gratitude and appreciation of the current moment.  Even if the flowers will turn old within a couple of hours in the heat, putting them there NOW made this moment extremely beautiful.

A couple of days later, I saw a carving in the streets, which seemed to be a headline to this experience and it was eye opening to me. It said: “Sweet present of the present”. I have never been aware, that in English, the words “gift” and “now” are united in the word “present”.

The present is a present in the sense, that it is the only thing, we can influence directly – moment after moment.

Trekking Papua

Trekking Papua: Finding a guide for a remote & wild experience

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It’s been a long dream to go trekking in Papua to meet the local tribes. When I had finally decided to travel Papua and to go trekking in the Baliem Valley, I did not find much on the internet to get a feeling about the safety in Wamena or how to find a trustworthy guide. Also, it was really hard to figure out what a reasonable price for a trekking tour including over night stays in the villages is. After some exciting days in the beautiful Baliem Valley, I want to share my experience and encourage experienced travelers & trekkers to go and see this remote place.

Baliem Valley is famous for its ancient tribes like the Dani People, where the elderly men are not wearing anything but a „koteka“ covering their penis and the women wear nothing but grass skirts. Wamena is the only city in Baliem Valley, which you can easily fly to from Jayapura several times a day. From there you can do all kind of trekking tours reaching from one day to several weeks to meet the Yali , Lani and Korowai tribes, which live several days walking away. These longer trekking tours are much more of an adventure and you should be experienced in both trekking and jungle tours plus you really need a trustworthy guide for such a long trek.

Getting there

When flying to Wamena, make sure you buy your return ticket upfront, as I was told locals sometimes buy all tickets to resell then at crazy prices at the airport (booking tickets via www.tiket.com worked well for me allover Indonesia. When booking directly at some local airlines, non Indonesian credit cards are sometimes not accepted). Wamena is basic and it took me some hours to feel safe, as it is very different from the rest of Indonesia. When arriving at the tiny airport, all sorts of betle nut chewing men stared at me and I felt relieved my guide picked me up. However, after a couple of days in Wamena and the Baliem Valley, I felt really safe and saw the beauty in the people.

Where to stay

There is a resort „The Baliem Valley Resort“, which is placed beautifully in the highlands. To me, the prices where really high and when communicating via email with the owners, I did not experience the hospitality I would have expected from a premium place. The cheepest alternative are homestays, which you can look up on Tripadvisor. I decided to stay at the Hotel Baliem Pilamo and found it a great choice. It is a „3 star“ hotel, not perfectly clean, but safe and a good place to recover after some days of trekking including a good launry service.

Trekking

Around Wamena you will be walking in the highlands, which makes it an easy trek compared to jungle tours. However, since it is a mountainous area, trekking up and down is still challenging and depending on the distances you plan to walk per day, you should be in shape and feel ok with some scary and steep paths. Staying in the village was also rather comfy and easy, as I slept in a tent in a separate Hut for myself. Some guides do not bring tents, but you can also just sleep in your own hut on a mattress and your own sleeping bag.

How to find a guide and what to expect to pay

If you are an experienced traveler and trekker, I would highly recommend to NOT book a guide upfront through a travel agency. These are usually really expensive ranging, from what I found 200 € to 300 € per day including car, porter, cook, food and village fee. I would recommend to go to Wamena without any plans, check in the Baliem Hotel Pilamo and then use the first day to find your guide. You can get good recommendation from either „Mr. Fuji“ the Japanese owner of the Papua.com Internet Café or ask at the Hotel Baliem Pilamo. Do not ask one of the guys waiting for you at the airport when you arrive. Or you can contact Itung Weya my guide, which I was happy with (itungweya@gmail.com, +62-812-48222599). I ended up paying 135 EUR for a day trip (including car, guide, porter, lunch to see the Mummie and to do a 3 hour trek to a salt lake). After feeling safe with the guide and porter I booked a 2 day one night trekking tour from Wamena to Kilisie (lunch break), Wamarek (overnight stay) and back at 135 EUR a day including everything (car, guide, porter, cook, food, village fee). Although Wamena is much more expensive, then most places in Indonesia, the price still seemed too high to me, but I could not negotiate any better as I was probably too lazy to search for another guide to compare to.