Monday, 20 August 2018

48 hours in Singapore!

Streets of the dominant ethnic groups of the Chinese, Indians and the Malays that make a large portion of the population of the country, the Singapore river, the quay that took me back to history and the top notch brands and high end restaurants and shopping this Lion City has so much to offer a tourist like me. With 48 hours available to me I explored all these places and tried to make the best of this beautiful place. First up, big recommendation is China Town, originally it was the place where Chinese inhabitants would settle down today as the Chinese are one of the three most popular ethnic communities in Singapore this side of town is heavily popular with various temples and museums that are heritage sites and very well maintained. A good option to binge into various Chinese cuisines and I can definitely say it is a shoppers delight. Easily accessible by MRT from any part of Singapore a good afternoon can be spent walking around China town and enjoying some cocktails on various rooftop restaurants or street restaurants in this part of the City.

Just like China town, Singapore is also heavily dominated by Indians and they are another large ethnic group here. Little India, a place in Singapore where Indian inhabitants would settle when Singapore was just a fishing village is now dominated by them and brings out the feel of India. Hustling and bustling roads, Indian brands all over, hawkers and street vendors all around this place, spending an evening here would just be like being in India. Little India also has Indian hotel groups of MTR and Anand Bhavan serving some of the finest Indian cuisines.

An evening can also be spent on Clarke Quay, where one could opt for the river cruise that take you all around the iconic spots of Singapore such as the Merlion, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Flyer, Raffles Place etc. The cruise is a good option if you want to finish all these places in a single evening. Clarke Quay is otherwise a very exciting place with its various river side restaurants and the vibe here is very energetic with karaoke and people dancing by the river, good music with delicious food of various continental cuisines and again the perfect place to enjoy good cocktails. To get around all the iconic places mentioned above I would recommend you to walk around if you don't take the cruise, which i opted for the next morning after brunch. Its time consuming but the world history lover in me was very excited to walk around these ancient spots of boat quay which was where the fishermen would live and the iconic luxurious Fullerton along with the Read Bridge. In my opinion a 40 minute boat ride would not do justice to such history. Spending good time here leading up to the evening where I witnessed the jaw dropping awesome fireworks at Marina Bay Sands. Marina Bay Sands, one of the most iconic places in Singapore home to a luxury resort, high end brands, restaurants and one massive casino. Spending the night here is ideal and is what I recommend on one of the evenings in Singapore. Marina Bay Sands is absolutely an architectural marvel. Also the Gardens by the Bay which is a 101 hectares nature park surely has to be on a travellers itinerary of Singapore. It is ridiculously beautiful and was made with the intention  to transform Singapore into 'city in a garden' from being known as 'garden city' in 2005. It is one of Singapore's national icon.  When it comes to shopping, Orchard road and Bugis are significant places where a shopper can go nuts.In Singapore, the GST which you pay while shopping is refundable so keep those invoice copies safe! Also, if time permits you can also opt for the Sentosa Island tour, a resort island in Singapore which has many attractions such as 2 km long sheltered beach, golf courses, Fort Siloso and it also features the famous Universal Studios. I was short on time and hence could not visit Sentosa Islands. However, I recon an entire day to be ideal to explore Sentosa Islands. The MRT in Singapore is well made and can be opted as the mode of transport to get around all these places. 

Straight Outta Bali - Singapore, The Lion City!

It's like entering a star wars movie set. A country with rapid developments, skyscrapers everywhere, maintenance of brilliant cleanliness around and with the countries regulatory policies being managed so effortlessly, I was sold on to visit this place and hence is my second destination for my solo trip across south east Asia. With the many people who have talked to me about Singapore, have always praised this country for all the good reasons and it was offering me just that. Again the perfect destination for a solo trip as it came with a lot of making decisions on the go and to live in a country with a rapid lifestyle was what interested me the most. The country is filled with places to visit such as malls, film studios, islands and amazing shopping with widespread availability of several delicious cuisines that filled my touristy belly. With all positives associated to this country in terms of business, trade, tourism and culture there are all chances that this country is where the future will be.  I was headed to this destination for three days completing my solo adventure of a week across south east Asia. Straight out of Bali, I was flying with Air Asia Indonesia and it surely is a very good option to opt for between Bali and Singapore as the duration of the flight is not too troublesome, along with comfortable seats and of course a good budget option. Changi Airport, one of the world's finest airports is well accessible by various modes of public transports. Since I was a solo traveller I opted for the MRT which took me approximately 45 minutes to reach my destination, it approximately cost me 3.50 SGD. You can also get taxi's easily from any of the terminals, 'Grab' taxis are very popular in this part of South East Asia and you can get Grabs depending on your requirement, share or individual without any issue. Taxis to the central part of the city which is 25-30 minutes away can be a more pricier option, I would only recommend it if you have a lot of luggage, as even a share cab can cost you a minimum of 7 SGD which is easily double the price of  the MRT. I had set myself up at Balestier Road, again simply because close proximity to MRT and there was a bus stop right outside my hotel. For accommodation I would recommend Balestier Road, Moulmein Road, Serangoon Road and close by areas as these places offer all types of accommodation depending upon your need budget or fancy  and the big plus point is getting to the spots of interests is absolutely hassle free. From Balestier road it was a 10 minute walk to the Farrer Park MRT from where I could get a rail to China town, Little India, Clarke Quay and Marina Bay Sands. Always opt for MRT over any other mode of transport in Singapore, simply because it is Cheap, efficient and saves a lot of your time. From budget hostels to business hotels to high end hotels these area have it all and living in the heart of the city is always a good decision.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Cafe Hopping In Bali!

Seminyak is one of the fast and crowded areas of Bali, definitely not as crowded as Kuta and Legion but nor as chill as Canggu. However, one of the most recommended places to stay if you are travelling alone or even in a group and want to hang out in cool cafes and beach bars. Of course the number of travel influencers that set base in this area is super high and I met so many people who've just been travelling and making money on the road, living their passion which was so cool! During my stay at Seminyak, I hung out at various cafes and beach bars. First up is Nalu Bowls, a small cute cafe located in a small lane at Seminyak. They serve one of the most delicious smoothie bowls.  A very good option for breakfast, very healthy and delicious. The bowls are decently priced and filling. I had their smoothie bowl known as 'uluwatu' it was delicious. There is also another breakfast hotspot by the name Shelter right about Nalu Bowls which is a good breakfast option. You can also opt for the smoothie bowl from Nalu bowls to be served at Shelter. Next up is Coffee Cartel, one of the days  returning back from sunset at Seminyak I stopped over for a coffee at this cafe, only for the reason that their sit out was awesome right on the street of Seminyak, fabulous location.

Seminyak has many options and one of the famous cafes is Kynd Community, again located on the crowded streets of Seminyak this cafe serves delicious food which is decently priced. This cafe is very popular for its pink walls. Kynd is one of the crowded cafes where you will need to wait in order to get a good seat. Here, I was for brunch and I tasted their dish called 'high rollin' and one of their coolers called 'squashed' It was amazing, please check out this cafe and make sure to get place at their outdoor seating area. Honestly, this is the kind of place which is absolutely flawless, from friendly staff to tasty food to perfect location. Another option for brunch/lunch could be this restaurant in Seminyak called 'Sea Circus'. On the first day I passed a colourful wall but could not realise there was a restaurant behind it. At Sea Circus I had one of the most delicious coconut flavoured ice creams. Pretty decently priced and is crowded during the peak hours. Surely one of my favourite restaurants in Seminyak as I ended up returning to the cafe for dinner on my last day. The staff here is very friendly. Coffee Cartel, Nalu Bowls and Kynd are open only till 6:30 in the evening so if you plan on going make sure you head there for breakfast, brunch or Lunch. Sea Circus is open till late just like the one of the beach bar i visited in Seminyak called 'Potato Head'.

A very fancy beach bar right on the beach at Seminyak, it's got a pool as well. A recommendation for fine dining. Prices here are slightly on the higher side. Another beach bar I visited was Finns, located in Canggu. Finns again is a fancy beach bar also with a pool right on the beach. Here also the prices are more on the higher side, they serve some delicious smoothies though. In Canggu, the place to be is 'The Lawn' it's beautiful and is another beach bar which I can call flawless, as i have written in my earlier blog. If you are in Bali and hanging out in Seminyak and Canggu as per my experiences these are the places to not miss apart from the many other super cafes located in these places. I surely have feasted on the smoothies at these places for which i am not guilty one bit. Another mention would be 'La Favela', walking on the streets of Seminyak and talking to a few locals I learnt about this place which has many floors. Each floor caters to a different genre. From one floor dedicated to partying and another to dining. A very colourful place, with lush green and antique decor. Food here is absolutely delicious and the cocktails are also spot on. La Favela is best to visit after sunset as it comes to life then and is open till late. 

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Island Life - Nusa Penida

If there is paradise on earth it is the Nusa Penida islands. The place where me and nature were as one single existence. A 200 sq km island which is situated south of Bali, Nusa Penida has so many views and it was very hard to pick a favourite amongst them.  I got to Nusa Penida by boat from Sanur harbour, it's a 30 minute boat ride which involves tossing around to its prime. At Nusa Penida there are many ways to manoeuvre around like renting a bike or you can always opt for a pre booked day tour which will show you around all the places. Odds are that in Nusa Penida there will be a price hike from Bali as rightly they get all their supplies from the island, no vegetables are grown here and most of their produce comes from Bali, bargain to a happy medium always as everybody wants to make a deal there. My tour was pre booked by Ithaka, a Mumbai based team which helped me sort out the places I should be visiting while I was on my trip. They were my travel assistants and, they were spot on with their recommendations to me during my stay. I owe my Nusa Penida experience to them. However, the roads here are unstable, they are treacherous and dangerous. Getting from one place to another takes double the time and if you are unlucky the road might pop a few tyres. I visited Angels Billabong beach, Broken Beach, Crystal Bay beach and the famous Kelingkling beach.  Turquoise blue water I had never seen before the whole experience was ridiculously speechless. Waves on the beaches of Angels Billabong, Broken Beach and Kelingking beach are not kind, mother nature is absolutely beautiful here but with a bad temper. The waves can pull you back into the ocean with ease, and never to be found again. the beaches here are not for novice swimmers. The natural infinity pool at Angels Billabong was closed for us as the waves were getting massive and more dangerous. The Kelingking beach is a replica of a dinosaur shape, one of the most breath taking views. The hike to go down to the Kelingking beach is not easy, you have to pay a price which is cardio of a high level. Also, dangerous as your feet will be on  unstable ground which is very steep and with a short railing on either side. the safety at this beach for the hike is reliant on bamboo sticks.  Personally i did this hike and of course the view from the beach was surely worth it but i strongly recommend you to consider your physical body before opting for the hike cause you can always enjoy the view from the top. For scuba divers and snorkelers I would recommend the waters of Crystal Bay as here the waves are calmer and suitable for swimmers. At Nusa Penida you will not find any fancy restaurants and cafes like Bali, plenty of warungs(restaurants) are located near the various view points and beaches. Gutted to have limited time on the island but i heard and i read online that Atuh beach and the famous beach bungalow of Rumah Pohon are also beautiful with amazing views. Ideally one should live in Nusa Penida for at least one night and visit all the beaches and viewpoints, However if you are short on time like me the day tours are always fun. It's a date with nature, its special and at some spots you must just stop taking pictures or talking to your group members or guide and just witness the sounds of nature, the waves splashing the hard waves, the sound of the wind, its magical! Very happy to have visited this place and humbled by my many experiences here, Nusa Penida is a definite recommendation if you are in Bali. Also, if you are headed to Bali do get in touch with Ithaka as their team is warm and helpful to all your needs and their tours are decently priced compared to what you might be offered in Bali.

Mother Nature, You Scary! Yet very beautiful - Bali, Indonesia

This south east Asian country known as the land of the Gods, known for its surreal sunsets and speechless sunrises. Its lush green tropical rain forests and waterfalls with breathtaking views. The many hidden beaches and the limestone rocks like islands on the turquoise blue water, a blue that is never seen before by me, which is so ridiculously beautiful. Bali was one of my destinations for my first ever solo bag packing trip through south east Asia. But with astonishing beauty comes tantrums and this island of Indonesia does have a high temper. With the build up to the trip my days were filled with reading the news about volcanic eruptions, a small earthquake and many ocean spills. Also,heard the news that the earthquake has hit Lombok, i feel sorry for the people who have suffered during this natural disaster. I can only say, "mother nature, you scary! yet beautiful" Opting for Bali as my first destination for my solo trip was for the only reason that a lot of spontaneity comes with this Island. Bali caters to all genres of travel and that was what excited me the most. It is the kind of destination which gave me the vibe to do whatever that would please me. It offers most of the adventure sports, volcano hikes, some of the world's most stunning beaches and islands with awesome views, a delight for a foodie as the cafes here are so well set up with so many delicious options, or if I were to party or club hop Bali has some of the best beach bars that throw wild parties. It was like i was just going to sit back and choose what I wanted to do and I could just do that. Precisely, the intention of my solo trip to pamper myself with taking decisions for myself from the accommodation to the food to the money I want to spend and to the make new friends on the road and just flowing with the flow. I was headed to the Island for just 5 days but with the limited time available to me, I want to seize the moment and live it to its best and fullest. Yes, my heart beat is racing and adrenalin is pumping!  I got to Bali via FlyScoot a budget airlines and subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. Convenient timings, cheap and efficient was the flight. In Bali my base was Seminyak, one of the uber chill areas of Bali and close proximity to Canggu and Sanur which were my main hangouts and places of interest. My main purpose was to visit all of the southern parts of this Island. Based myself in an apartment with the Kunti group of suites, villas and apartments, again good budget accommodation with lots of space which was absolutely what I wanted in a place like Bali. Well, i spent my first evening at Canggu, at a beach bar called 'the lawn' , a fantastic place and a must visit I would surely recommend. It's by the beach and has a pool, lots of cute white umbrellas on the lawn of their property where you can just  lie down and relax after a swim and witness one of the most speechless sunsets of Bali. The lawn also has an upper deck sitting area where you can have surreal views of the beach. From all the beach bars, cafes and restaurants I visited 'the lawn' is my favourite. I would just want to go back to Bali and sit all my evenings at this beach bar. Also, they serve one of the most delicious smoothies, prices are marginally higher by its worth it! Canggu is one brilliant place to visit in Bali and can be considered as an option to stay like Seminyak. Crowds are lesser here unlike Kuta and Legion. A solo traveller like me met so many amazing people here a good place to make friends and increase your network. If you are heading to Bali Canggu and Seminyak are the places to stay no matter if you are travelling solo or in a group.