Planning the perfect honeymoon in Bali Part 1: Ubud

I know right now we aren’t allowed to travel for anything that doesn’t classify as essential, but if you are anything like me you are dreaming of your next vacation. As a travel enthusiast, not knowing when we will be able to travel again has definitely been hard, but I figured now was the perfect time to revisit my most recent vacation, so hopefully you can have some inspiration when life (and travel) does get back to normal.

Back in February (which seems like a decade ago) my hubby and I left on a two week vacation. The first stop was his pick, skiing in Japan, the second week was the more tropical destination that I chose, Bali. I will have more on Japan as well as how to plan a double honeymoon on a budget coming to the blog soon, but right now I wanted to share the highlights, must sees, and some tips for exploring beautiful Bali.

Why Bali

 

First, I must say Bali wasn’t my first choice. I was fortunate enough to go to Thailand a few years ago and figured the two would be similar – I couldn’t of been more wrong! We ended up choosing Bali because of the close proximity to Japan, but Bali itself is so unique and beautiful it should be on top of everyone’s list. From stunning jungle views, to incredibly colourful culture, to serine beaches, Bali was paradise.  I am sad we only had a week to explore, but we were able to see and do so much during that time.

Because there was so much to see and do I am going to break the blog into two parts. This one will focus on the first half of the trip, Ubud.

Where to stay

When we started researching Bali, it was pretty hard to plan the trip. We only had a week to explore and I quickly realized Bali is very diverse. If you are into beaches and surfing you will want to spend most of your time in Seminyak or Canguu, if you want to see black volcanic sand beaches head to Lovina. I was most interested in the culture and adventure, and so Ubud was the obvious choice.

While this was my first time in Bali, and so I can’t compare different hotels and location, I must say the hotel we stayed at was gorgeous and I highly recommend this spot, especially if it is for a romantic getaway, like a honeymoon.

Ubud Village Resort and Spa: Since Bali was the more romantic part of our honeymoon, we decided to splurge a little more on accommodation here. We decided to stay in a villa at the Ubud Village Resort and Spa, which was voted one of the most romantic spots in Bali and I must say they lived up to the expectations. It was honestly hard to leave the hotel because it was so beautiful. We had our own outdoor pool and lounge area. The on site restaurant was delicious, and the pool was so calming (with views of the on premises rice field). I also loved that it was a little out of town so it was a bit quieter, but offered a free shuttle into town. Also if it is a special occasion make sure to let them know, they will have a little surprise waiting for you!

 

What to do

Now that I have shared where to stay, let’s get into the fun stuff – What to do? There is so much to see, do, and experience in Bali. From delicious food to exhilarating adventures, to amazing cultural experiences. Since there is so much I am going to break up my Bali honeymoon blog into two parts. This one will focus on everything to experience in Ubud.

 

Sunrise Hike up Mt. Batur

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy waking up at 2am for this hike, but it was definitely worth it. In fact this might of been my favourite moment of the entire trip. A driver will pick you up from your hotel and take you out to Mt. Batur where you will then meet with your guide. You start your two hour trek up the mountain in pitch black ( so make sure to bring headlamps or a flashlight). There are a few rest points along the way. When you get to the top there is a glimmer of light appearing behind Mt. Agung. Our guide ran off to make us hard boiled eggs in the steam from the volcano! We ate our breakfast as the sun rose for one of the most gorgeous sunrises I have ever experienced. After the sun was up we got to see the crater, steam, and even some monkeys.

Pro tip: If you can, book a private tour. The hike is really busy but if you book a private tour you will get to hike up the less crowded side of the mountain. We booked with Mount Batur Sunrise Trekking and I cannot recommend them enough.

Campuhan Ridge Walk

I will warn you ahead of time, wear clothes you are ok to sweat in and try and go either early in the morning or later in the day because this walk is in the open and it will be hot but beautiful. on either side of the paved path is endless hilltop views. The walk will eventually take you through a quaint village where there are some coffee shops and restaurants
Pro tip: The path will take you right to the most gorgeous spa called Karsa. Book your appointment ahead of time though because it is a pretty popular spot. We had an amazing couples massage

Tirta Empul Temple

One of the incredible things about Bali is the culture. It is the only part of Indonesia thats religion is Hindu and so there are lots of of beautiful statues and temples dedicated to their Gods. It is impossible to visit all of them, but one that needs to be on your list is the Tirta Empul Temple, or the water temple. The temple is famous for its holy water and basically you get into a pool of water and you dunk your head under a fountains to be purified. Here you are supposed to make an offering and in return you can pray for health and wellness for your loved ones. It was a super neat experience, especially because at the end of our tour we got to see where the holy water comes from, and it is from a source right inside the temple.
Pro tip: Just like any other place of worship it is important to dress appropriately at the temple. Woman make sure you cover your shoulders and knees. You will also be given a sarong for inside the temple and another for in the water. Also be warned, there are large koi fish in the pools with you!

Monkey Forest

We actually didn’t go to the Monkey Forest because we had gone to see the snow monkeys in Japan, however we did walk by and you could see how beautiful the actual forest is, you could also see the monkeys that had wondered into the streets. If I ever have a chance to go back I definitely want to make a stop here
Pro tip: While we didn’t go into the forest, I have heard from friends and also experienced the monkeys in Thailand, and I would make sure you don’t have any food or valuables on you because the monkeys can be very sneaky. Also don’t wear flowing clothes.

Ubud Art Market

Looking for the perfect souvenir from your trip? Well this is a one stop shop and everything inside the market is made from local artists. Even if you aren’t into shopping just staring at the hand woven baskets and beautiful silk scarves can entertain you for the entire day.
Pro tip: Galungan dayHaggling and bargaining a price is actually encouraged here so have a bit of fun and hopefully you can get something beautiful for a great price.

Rice fields and terraces

Listen, no trip to Bali is complete without seeing the Tegallalang Rice Terrace, probably the most famous of the rice terraces in Bali, but it has definitely been turned into a tourist hot spot, and for a few dollars you can get a picture swinging above the rice (yes I fell for it) but Bali is filled with beautiful rice terraces to explore. In fact my favourite was near the Karsa Spa.

Eat at the Sayan House

We had some amazing meals (including an 18 course at Locavore which was incredible but we sadly had to leave early because of some Bali belly- yes it is a very real thing) however one place not quite as famous as Locavore but is a must experience is the Sayan House. This is the epitome of dinner with a view as the restaurant overlooks the jungle. It is a fusion of Japanese and South American cuisine. The food is delicious and the view is breathtaking.
Pro Tip: Call ahead for a special occasion and ask to have a table with the view of the jungle. Also try and book for sunset, I promise you won’t regret it.

Know before you go

There are a few things to know before traveling to Bali and I wanted to share some of that information with you ahead of time.
1) Currency: Bali uses Indonesian Rupiah and they won’t accept foreign currency so make sure you have local money on you.
2) How to get around: I would highly recommend hiring a driver for anywhere you need to go. They usually have half and full day rates and are very knowledgeable, it is like having a private tour guide for $30 a day. They are much cheaper and more reliable than taxis, safer than the scooters, and they also double as a photographer for you!
3) Check the schedule ahead of time: We didn’t know this ahead of time, but we booked our trip during Galungan, a celebration of good conquering evil. It is a big celebration and therefore a lot of tours aren’t operating on that day and things are closed, however the positive side was that we got to see the beautiful colours and decorations of Galugan and learn a bit more about the tradition. We learned that there are many holidays in Bali that cause the city to shut down to a certain extent.
4) Watch out for Bali belly: Unfortunately my husband  came down with the dreaded Bali belly, and he was out of action for a full day and a half. Make sure you watch what you are eating and do not drink the water. If you do unfortunately catch the stomach flu there are some amazing local doctors who are very experienced in treating this. Just google search it. Also it is pretty cheap, the treatment and medicine cost about $70, so even if you cannot figure out your insurance go and find a doctor!
I hope we will be able to travel again soon and I hope that Bali will be on your list of places to go because it is the perfect combination of culture, beautiful beaches, delicious food, and adventure.
I cannot wait to share the second half of the trip with you soon but in the meantime happy future travels my friends,
xo
Mia

15 Photos that will inspire you to hike Bryce Canyon

When I found out that one of my husband’s recent work trips was going to take him to Salt Lake City, Utah I was ecstatic. I have always dreamed of hiking more of the U.S. National Parks as they are all so unique and stunning, and Bryce Canyon had long been on number one on my to do list. 

Bryce Canyon was one place I have always wanted to go because of the stunning hoodoos. Here you will find the largest concentration of hoodoos in the world. 

Since we were going to Salt Lake City for my husband’s work, we flew into that airport and rented a care ( we could only add a weekend onto the trip) and while two days was definitely not enough (since we decided to explore both Bryce Canyon and Zion) it at least allowed us an opportunity to capture the beauty. 

From Salt Lake, you will have to rent a car and it is about a six hour drive. Once you get out of the city it is quite a beautiful drive with plenty of mountain views along the way. 

Since we had such a short time at Bryce Canyon, we did a ton of research to figure out which hike would provide us the most view points (especially of the hoodoos).

We ended up deciding on the Queens Garden to Nevajo Loop Trail because you got to experience two different viewpoints in the 5km loop. On this hike you really got a little bit of everything, impressive views of the unbelievable hoodoos ( they literally took my breathe away when I saw them) to the stunning rock formations, to some of the greenery. One of my favourite pictures was of Thor’s Hamer below. 

I was astounded at the breathtaking views. It honestly felt like we were on a different planet. The contrast of the colours made the rocks look surreal, the rare green plants nestled between the deep ready made the whole park pop with colour. 

The day that we went, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and so the blue also made the red rocks even more vibrant and bright. 

I loved sneaking through the little tunnels formed by the rocks 

I must warn you though, there were a few steep areas to the hike. We did the hike in November and it was the perfect temperature, but I can imagine the valley would get quite hot in the summer making the steeper parts of the hike quite difficult so I would highly suggest a spring or fall hike. 

 

Fun Fact: Bryce Canyon is not a single canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters or bowls, carved into the edge of a high plateau. If you are not into hiking you can still take in the beautiful views from the four main viewpoints, which are all in the first few miles of the park. 

Fun Fact: The rocks are formed by erosion and the hoodoos are formed by frost wedging 

Every year the park gets over 2.7 million visitors and so I would suggest trying to visit in the off season like we  did. It was so peaceful to be surrounded by the beauty of nature and just the two of us to take it all in. 

Aside from hiking, Bryce Canyon also offers rock climbing and in the winter cross country skiing ( and there is something so magical about the pictures I have seen with the snow capped rocks) 

And at last, picture #15, I just had to add another of the beautiful wide shot of the hoodoos down below 

Bryce Canyon exceeded my expectations and I hope I get a chance to go back and explore even more of the park. Have you experienced Bryce? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Also as I mentioned we also explored Zion National Park, and so I will be putting together a photo journal on that one soon as well!

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

What it is like to see a grizzly up close and personal with Adventure Quest

One of the things I love most about BC is the natural beauty and endless wildlife. From the mountains to the ocean you can find whales, seals, elk, black bears, and grizzlies to name a few. While we have some neighbourhood black bears, I have always been a little afraid of grizzlies and never really wanted to get close to them.

That was until my dad (who happens to be a National Geographic photographer) told me about the Grizzly Bear Adventure with Adventure Quest Canada and Homalco Adventure and Wildlife Tours. He described it as a bucket list experience and so I definitely wanted to find out more.

I found out that not only do you get up close and (safely) personal with the bears, you also get to learn about these amazing animals in their natural habitat and learn about the first nation reserve that they live on, and to say the least it is a bucket list experience that I want to share more with you.

 

Getting here

The tour starts in Campbell River on Vancouver Island. I am not going to lie, it is a bit of a treck to get here from Vancouver. You can either fly or take a BC ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and then drive about two hours. I decided to do the later because I always have a great experience with the ferry. It is a  comfortable journey and I can take my car with me so I don’t have to worry about transportation on the other side. Another bonus is they have great food on board, and you never know what you might see. I have spotted whales several times from the ferry deck.

Where to stay

Campbell River is a small town and I absolutely love exploring some of the local spots when visiting a quaint area. I decided to stay at one of the local spots, Painters Lodge. The beautiful lodge is located right on the ocean and I was lucky enough to have a room overlooking the water. The room had a large balcony so I could sit outside with my morning coffee and keep my eye peeled for orcas in the distance (staff told me it is pretty magical when they swim by). I also loved the downstairs restaurant. The food and drinks were delicious, the staff was so friendly, and there were beautiful ocean views. I loved the lodge because it had a very comfortable vibe.

The tour 

The tour started at Discovery Harbour Marina in Campbell River. The tour starts with a two hour boat ride from the Island to the mainland, Bute Inlet. Along the way we saw two humpbacks eating and another three sleeping. It was pretty neat since I have never seen whales sleeping before. We also spotted some stellar sea lions and seals out for a morning swimming.

 

Once we arrived at Bute Inlet and Hamalco First Nations land we met with our guides Tony and Koji from the Homalco First Nations. They greeted us with a traditional welcome and went over some safety tips. Then we were off on our adventure.

There were several different viewing towers that wrapped around two different rivers. The reason this is such a popular spot for the grizzlies is because of the annual salmon run and a lot of the bears are trying to eat as much salmon as possible before they go into hibernation in November.

It didn’t take long for us to spot our first bear. At the first tower we stopped at we came across a big male relaxing in the distance. I was already in awe of these amazing animals.

After driving around for a little longer we came across another fully grown female sleeping by a tree. She was honestly no more than 20 meters from us. She sniffed around (smell is their best sense) and once she realized we were no threat, she continued with her nap. It was amazing to see that the bears weren’t the killers a lot of people make them out to be, and while they are more aggressive than black bears, they will only really attack if they feel threatened.

At the next viewing tower we didn’t come across any bears but we did get to see the bears favourite lunch meal, salmon. Just below our viewing deck were about 10 giant salmon swimming upstream getting ready to spawn. I have honestly never seen such large fish in my life.

Our last stop of the day was the most spectacular. We weren’t in a tower but out in the open and the only thing separating us from the grizzlies was the river. First we saw a female bear eating a salmon. Moments later, she went back into the water and we had a chance to watch her fish for a salmon and take it back to the shore for lunch. You could hear the crunch sounds of the bear chowing down on the fish. It was incredible.

Moments later we noticed another bear heading over, closely followed by an adorable nine month old cub. I couldn’t believe how adorable the fluffy baby was and it was amazing to see how protective the mother was of her cub. She crossed the river to check us out and got really close before going back to her cub and trying to find food for the both of them. I still cannot believe the beauty of the bears and seeing them in their natural habitat was so special.

After two hours with the bears, it was time to head back to the boat and make our way back to Campbell River. Along the way we were lucky enough to be treated to a show from a lone male orca. He breached twice and was doing some flips along the water. I have never seen an orca act like that before.

Alas it was time for the tour to come to an end but I still cannot get over how lucky we were. From spotting humpbacks, to orcas, and then having a chance to get so close to he bears and learning more about them and their habitat was a really amazing and unforgettable experience. You can find out more about the tour and experience here.

I also wanted to share some more pictures with you. All of them were shot on my new Nikon Z.

Happy exploring my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

Visiting the Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino

There is no question about it, Tofino is one of my favourite places in the world. From the delicious cuisine to the endless beachfronts this place is magical and when you just need to escape reality and rejuvenate it is the perfect escape.

I have shared a few blogs now with things to see and do in Tofino and honestly it is a place that I can never get sick of. I have been lucky enough to stay at some beautiful spots in Tofino, all of them offering ocean views and sandy beaches just steps from your room but something was just so special about a recent trip when we had a chance to stay at the Wickaninnish Inn.

Pearched between the ancient old growth rainforests and  the endless sea the Wicks ambiance represents the nature that it surrounds and encourages a spirit of adventure.

Location, location, location

The Wickaninnish Inn is located in the heart of Tofino on Vancouver Island. From Vancouver you can either take a seaplane or you can take a ferry to Nanaimo. From there it is about a three hour drive, but it will have spectacular views and plenty of photo opps. The Inn is 4.8km  before the town of Tofino. Once you pass Chesterman Beach Road on your left, take your next left turn at the Wickaninnish Inn sign onto Lynn Road.

About the Inn

Charles McDiarmid has a long history in Tofino. His dad was the town doctor back in the 1950’s before there was much development in the town. The family wanted to share the beauty of the island with others and that is how the idea of the Inn came to mind. As a kid, Charles would watch the storms roll in and wanted to share the beauty with other people and so the construction begun.

One of the things I love most about The Wickaninnish was that they wanted to keep as much of the natural beauty as possible. The goal was to make sure that no trees were taking down unnecessarily.

The Inn offers so much beauty, from the Pointe restaurant that extends over the ocean so you are eating on top of the water to the spa that opens up to the beach. There is so much beauty here to uncover.

 

Our room

My jaw actually hit the ground when we opened our door. It was two storeys and while the amenities were modern and comfortable, the decoration and ambiance matched the natural beauty. Our living room, bed, and big bath tub all looked out onto the clear blue water. Speaking of the tub, the bathrobes and local candles created a spa atmosphere right in our room. I loved how spacious it was so we could relax with a glass of wine or morning coffee while listening to the waves crash just outside.

Eating at the Inn BIY

While I love exploring the delicious local cuisine around Tofino, the truth is you don’t have to go very far to get a delicious meal. The restaurants at the Inn offer meals from seasonal harvests and local ingredients.

Whether you are staying at the Inn or not, brunch at the Pointe is a must. You get a 240 degree view of the Pacific Ocean. You can watch surfers catching waves and sea birds taking flight. Also the food is delicious. A lot of the food is contemporary dishes with seasonal fare. You absolutely need to try one of the eggs benny. My personal favourite is the smoked salmon and cream cheese one.

Also if you are there for dinner, try and make a trip down to their brand new wine cellar. It is a spectacle in itself.

Experiences at the Inn

There is truly something for everyone right at your doorstep. Whether you want adventure, culture, or nature you don’t have to go far to find it. Some of my highlights staying at the Wick included;

  • Storm watching: This is what Charles loved to do as a child, and his passion for watching the storms roll in is evident at the inn. Whether you want to lounge with a coffee in the library or head out to safe areas on the beach, this is the perfect place to watch the giant waves on a stormy day.
  • Hit the waves: The Inn is located right on Chesterman Beach, which offers some of the best surfing in the world and the hotel will help set up the adventure for you.
  • Explore the art: The Inn really celebrates the First Nations culture and on the property you can find a ton of handiwork from local artists. One of the aspects of the Inn I truly loved was that there is a carving shed right on the property and the artists will let you watch them work.
  •  Relax in style: Make sure to book a facial or massage at the beautiful Ancient Cedar Spa. The spa really focuses on both mind and body wellness and how can you not feel relaxed when indulging in a yoga class with the ocean as your view.

The Wickaninnish Inn is truly a beautiful hotel located in a beautiful place. It embraces and celebrates the natural allure of Tofino You can real experience the best of this amazing town from the Inn.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

 

My G Adventures experience

The view from Victoria Falls

As many of you might have read by now, I went on my recent (and incredible) Africa adventure with a Canadian tour company called G Adventures. While I have shared a lot about the trip overall, I haven’t really talked about the experience with G Adventures and why I decided to travel with them in the first place.

I have actually done group tours in the past. I travelled to Europe with Contiki, Greece with the Yacht Week, and even some more local Canadian Tours. However, for a place that is so special and close to my heart I wanted to make sure I went with a group that would make sure I a special experience.

How I discovered G Adventures 

Like many of you, I have heard the stats, South Africa isn’t necessarily the safest place in the world to travel. Between the crime rates and the fact that I didn’t want to have to drive through the Kruger and run in to lions on my own, were the main factors I wanted to do a group tour in the first place.

After hours and hours of researching “South African Safari Group Tours” (trust me there are endless options) I landed on G Adventures. I had heard of them before, particularly because they were Canadian. But I didn’t actually know too much about their trips.

Endless options 

The first thing that struck me was the variety that they offered. We knew we wanted to travel to South Africa, we didn’t know we would have so many options. We could chose either just a tour of the Kruger, Kruger and Cape Town, Kruger and Zimbabwe, or all three options. We had discussed going to see Victoria Falls so being able to book our dream trip with one tour company was a huge plus for us.

Discovering local communities

The second thing that stood out for me was the opportunity to explore the local culture. So many of the trips I have done with tour groups in the past have either revolved round amazing parties or visiting tourist attractions. Both are amazing don’t get me wrong, but the thing I love most about travel is getting to learn about the different cultures and having a more local experience.

On the tour we chose, there was an opportunity to have dinner with a homestead in Zimbabwe. Flatter welcomed us in to her home, fed us local homemade cuisine from her garden, and told us stories about life in their small town. It was amazing to hear authentic stories from a local and be able to share a traditional meal. 

The belief in responsible tourism

The third part that I loved about traveling with G Adventures is their commitment to responsible tourism. G Adventures believes that we can save the planet through travel. 

Recently they launched the new Ripple Score. The Ripple Score calculates how much money is spent in each designation of the tour and then calculates what percentage goes back to local businesses or services. The more the money stays local, the better the ripple effect. G Adventures actually averages a 92% meaning that the majority of the money spent stays in local communities and helps them strive. 

They also focus on other areas of responsible tourism by donating to wildlife and child care programs as well as their Planettera Foundation. 

When we were on our tour we had someone from the Wild Cat Foundation coming in and give us a talk about the diminishing number of cheetahs in the wild. We had a chance to learn all about these beautiful animals and find out how they are working with G Adventures to make sure we can continue to see cheetahs in their natural habitat. It was truly inspiring. 

Traveling with a local guide makes a difference

The fourth and final reason I loved traveling with G Adventures was the local aspect. On tours I have done in the past, the guides are extremely knowledgable, but none have actually been from the country I was visiting. When we were in South Africa, our guide was local from the area. When we took the flight to Zimbabwe, we met another guide who was from the town of Victoria Falls. 

I loved traveling with local guides because they really knew the area, made me feel safe, and could answer most of the questions I had. They were also able to share stories of growing up in the country and teach us what life is like in that town. It really made the experience unforgettable. 

Traveling with G Adventures was a truly memorable and amazing experience. I was able to create once in a life time memories, make new friends, and learn about the culture and lifestyle of the places I was visiting from the locals. I cannot wait to book my next adventure with the team. 

In the meantime happy exploring my friends, 

xo 
Mia