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

Where to explore B.C… Later

Right now we are all staying home to save lives, but eventually life will get back to normal, economies will get back on track, and communities will be unlocking their doors. Eventually we will be able to travel yet again, but after seeing how small, local shops and businesses have struggled through this crises, I have a feeling my post COVID 19 vacations will be here in B.C. in hopes of rebuilding our local economy and businesses.

Beautiful B.C. in my opinion is an understatement. From the mystic mountains, to the calm waves of the ocean, the landscapes that sweep across this province are truly breathtaking and I have been very lucky to visit some of these magical spots. I wanted to share some of my favourite spots that hopefully we can all explore later.

Tofino

I have written a few blogs on my various trips to Tofino, and I am not lying when I saw this is probably my favourite place in the whole wide world.  I the quaint, small town that is surrounded by old growth forest on one side and the salt smells of the ocean on the other. With such natural beauty you can only imagine that there are adventures around every corner. There are some amazing hikes for all levels, including a walk to a hidden airplane. The endless ocean is the perfect playground, and surf lessons are a must. If you just want to relax, might I suggest a trip out to the hot springs (where you may spot a whale along the way).

Tofino also has an amazing culinary seen, and while you won’t find any chain restaurants here, some of Canada’s top chefs call this little island town home. At Tofino Marina Resort you can find the foods of Top Chef Canada’s Paul Moran. Shelter and Wolf in the Fog offer perfect date night spots. The Pointe is the perfect brunch spot, not only is the food amazing, but you will have an oceanfront seat. Alas, no trip to Tofino is complete without a trip to the original food truck, Tacofino (but there is also a new truck in town called Pai that is amazing).

No matter where you stay in Tofino you can expert a relaxing escape. We have stayed at both Long Beach Lodge and the Wickaninnish Inn, both of these spots are amazing offering ocean views. I love opening up the windows and smelling the fresh salt air, and watching the sun set over the rocks.

Kelowna

Wine? Check. Sparking lake views? Check. Mountains? Check! Kelowna really has it al for the perfect vacation getaway. There are more than 30 beaches in Kelowna that offer a perfect spot to relax and enjoy some sunshine. Feeling more on the adventurous side? Why not rent a paddle board, kayak, or canoe and explore the lake?

Of course no trip to Kelowna is complete without a winery tour, and you will find some of the best wineries in the world right in your backyard. Quails Gate, Summerhill, and my personal favourite Grey Monk are all must visits. Now if for some reason wine isn’t your thing, there is also the craft beer ale tour available.

Penticton

Another beautiful spot in the Okanagan is Penticton. I had a chance to visit this spot for the first time last summer for work and instantly fell in love with it. One of the things that makes Penticton so famous is its peaches, in fact every summer there is a a giant Peach Festival with vendors, live music, and lots of peach inspired food.

Aside from the delicious fresh fruit, this beautiful spot is once again located on the lake surrounded by mountains offering the perfect escape for outdoor adventure. However I think my favourite experience in Penticton was a little more on the relaxing side, a float down a lazy river. You can literally rent a tube and float down the Penticton River Channel, the perfect way to cool down on a hot day.

This was another place that took me on an amazing culinary experience. Theo’s offers some delicious authentic greek cuisine Salty’s Beach House is located right on the lake and offers some delicious seafood options, and for those looking for more casual dinning, Bad Tattoo Brewing specializes in pizza and beer. You can’t beat that!

The Sunshine Coast

The first time I visited the Sunshine Coast I told my husband I wanted to retire here, it just has this amazing ability to make you feel right at home. We stayed in Gibsons, and while there aren’t a lot of hotels in the area, a lot of the airbnbs are situated right on the ocean, with beach accesses.

I loved just walking around the town and seeing all the adorable shops. We really fell in love with a little olive oil shop called Sunshine Coast Olive Oil Co. where you can sample and taste different types of oil. Also, no matter where you shop or eat, you are just steps away from the water and so you can see the sailboats docking. I loved sitting at the patio at Lunitas eating tacos and keeping my eyes peeled for whales.

The Sunshine Coast has a bunch of local breweries and so we brought some bikes with us and did a little brewery tour. I fell in love with Persephone. The craft brewery is located on farm where they grow their own grains, but thats not all you will find, there are also apple orchards and veggie gardens.

If adventure is more what you are looking for, there are some beautiful hikes in the area. I really loved the views from Smuggler Cove ( pack a picnic and stay for a while) or check out some of the waves at Skookumchuck Narrows.

Sooke

I love visiting Vancouver Island. It truly has so many incredible hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Sooke was one of these gems. This is such a charming spot located right on the ocean, and a lot of the places where you will stay are airbnbs that offer a backyard right on the water.

The Sooke Country Market is a great chance to pick up some delicious local food. Hiking through parts of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail will truly take your breathe away as you get lost between the giant trees. A picnic at the Sooke Potholes is a must and the perfect spot to cool off on a hot day. This island town will steal your heart and make you want to come back to unwind and relax again and again.

Cranbrook

I have been fortunate enough to visit Cranbrook for work in both the winter and summer and have been able to take part in some amazing adventures in this mountain town.

Speaking of mountain town, that is one of the biggest draws to visiting Cranbrook. Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies this picturesque town offers endless thrills. Whether you are into mountain biking or hiking you can take in the fresh air of the mountains. If water activities are more your thing there are hundreds of lakes and rivers in the area for stand up paddle boarding or kayaking. No matter where you are enjoying nature though make sure to keep your eyes out for wildlife, we must of seen 20 elk during our visit.

One of the most amazing experiences though, was learning about the culture and history of Cranbrook. I had a chance to stay in an old train at the Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort. Next I had a chance to learn about the history at Old Fort Steele, and the last heritage spot gave me the chance to put up a real teepee at the St. Eugene Resort with the Ktunaxa First Nation.

After adventure I am sure you are going to be hungry, and downtown Cranbrook has some delicious meal options. I loved eating a burger and craft beer inside an old fire station at the Fire Hall, Soulfood offers  mouthwatering farm to table options, and the Heidout has some incredible locally source menu options.

Whistler

 

One of the main reasons we moved out to Squamish was to be in the mountains and closer to Whistler. I have shared a lot of my ski adventures with you  ( I was even a Whistler seasons pass holder this year) but this is so much more than a ski town. From world class mountain biking, to beautiful hikes it has everything for an outdoor adventurer. Very close to Whistler you can hike up to a glacier lake called Garabaldi (this is actually the spot where we got engaged).

During the summer months you can still take the gondola up the mountain to take in some breathtaking views. If you are daring enough, you can try your and walk across the new suspension bridge, which will make you feel on top of the world.

Squamish 

I must say I am pretty lucky to call Squamish home and I hope that when all of this is over, more people will want to come and explore this beautiful town. Squamish is really built on the backbone of local businesses and in town you will find everything from locally coffee shops, delicious bakeries like tall tree and different dining options. Whether you love Sushi (Sushi Sen), a gorgeous water view (Watershed) or feel like dressing up a little (The Salted Vine) there is something for everyone.

There are some incredible hikes around Squamish including the Chief and Sea to Summit, which will take you to the top of the Sea to Sky gondola, and get this, during the summers they offer live music and yoga on top of the mountain.

There are also so many other outdoor activities for the adventure junkie in you. Whether it be mountain biking, wind surfing, or rock climbing, there is something here that is sure to give you an adrenaline rush.

I cannot wait until life is back to normal and we are able to get outside and explore this beautiful place we call home again, but until then let’s just daydream about the perfect local getaway.

Stay safe my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

 

 

8 photos that will inspire you to visit Zion National Park

I am slightly ashamed to admit it, but Zion wasn’t very high on my list. I knew I needed to visit Bryce Canyon, and since we were close I figured we could also check out Zion. The moment we entered the park, I realized I had made a big mistake. This place should of been a MUST see.

What I found very interesting is that Zion is actually Utah’s first national park.

 

Before we even did a hike we took their sightseeing bus tour. It was amazing learning about the history of this place, and how the Virgin River flowing beside us was small yet powerful. In fact, it is because of this River the amazing rock formations were created.

When we made it to the end of the bus tour, we got off at the last stop to do the Riverside Walk. This was a very easy walk along the beautiful river and eventually at the end of the walkway you could actually continue the hike through the water.

Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time in Zion, just enough for one hike and so we decided to do the Observation Point trail.  It is an 8 mile roundtrip with 2,000 feet. Lots of switchbacks through sandstone and along the way you get beautiful panoramic views.

And at the top a beautiful view of the famous Angel’s Landing (my next Utah hike). It really does take your breath away looking out at the endless red rocks. I really loved this hike because it didn’t take too long but with the high elevation you definitely get a great workout

I must say I had the most amazing experience in Utah and a weekend is not enough but if that is all you have I highly suggest doing your research to find the right hikes for you, get out early to beat the crowds ( or go during the off season like we did) and just have fun!

Happy traveling 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