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Cardiff Bay Hotels

Business and leisure travellers have similarities and differences in their priorities for hotel accommodations. When visiting Cardiff Bay on holiday, visitors often want hotels near Wales Millennium Centre and other tourist attractions, while business travellers are less concerned with proximity to attractions. Both want comfortable accommodations with good amenities at a great price.

Accommodations in Cardiff Bay
Regardless of whether you will be attending business meetings or touring the local sites, you want the best accommodations in your price range. There are a few things you should look for, including the location, comfortable guest rooms, amenities, and affordable guest rates. When you are searching for Cardiff Bay hotels, Holiday Inn Express Cardiff Bay caters to business and leisure guests.

Convenient Location
When planning your holiday, hotels near Millennium Stadium and other attractions make sightseeing easily accessible during your visit. Some of the most popular attractions include Millennium Stadium, Millennium Centre, Cardiff Castle, St. Fagans Museum of Welsh Life, Castle Coch, and Cardiff Museum. The area also boasts unique entertainment venues, such as the Doctor Who Experience, shopping and leisure at Mermaid Quay, and outdoor activities, such as white water rafting and paintball.

Comfortable Guest Rooms
Whether you are traveling for business or spending the day sightseeing, your day will be more enjoyable when you have a restful sleep in a clean and comfortable bed. Look for a hotel with spacious guest rooms that will fit your requirements. Some hotels offer added touches with luxurious bedding and a choice of pillows.

Amenities
The specific amenities offered by hotels in Wales can vary widely, although there are some standard amenities that are found in most places. When comparing hotels, you should make a list of the most important amenities for you. You may want to consider Wi-Fi internet access, en-suite bathrooms, Freeview TV, individual air conditioning controls, and tea and coffee making facilities. Another advantage is a hotel that offers free breakfast for guests in the morning.

Affordability
The cost of the hotel accommodations is always a factor when you are traveling and hotels can range from very cheap budget hotels to extravagant luxury hotels offering the finest accommodations. It is a good idea to set a budget with a range that you want to spend on your hotel, so you can compare hotels that are in your price range to find the best accommodations for your stay in Cardiff Bay.

By: Danny

 
 
Explore Ealing While Holidaying In London

Ealing is a major suburban district of West London and a thriving metropolitan area that is also the administrative centre of the London Borough of Ealing. Located just 12 miles from the city of London, Ealing was historically a rural village that shaped into a suburban area after the shift in the economy due to the opening of the railway station in 1838. Since then, there are various bodies that monitor the management, political structure and development of a corporate and community plan to ensure the steady progress of this third largest borough, located in the heart of West London. According to the Ealing Council, there have been similar efforts undertaken to help the community with affordable and accessible transportation. Moreover, Ealing Community Transport has provided the Plus Bus service that is convenient and has minimal charges, making travelling in London easy on the pocket.

Staying at Ealing For tourists, staying at one of the hotels in Ealing is a good option while holidaying in London. With plenty of budget and cheap hotels in Acton (also part of the London Borough of Ealing), you are sure to find comfortable and conveniently located hotels. A good idea is to say at hotels in Ealing such as Holiday Inn London West, which offers easy access to Central London, Westfield Shopping Centre and even Wembley Stadium.

Year Round Festivals
This district plays host to several annual festivals, each of which is more distinctive than the last. The first festival of the year is the Jazz Festival, held at Walpole Park. The annual Beer Festival, organised by the Campaign for Real Ale, is also held in the park and draws massive crowds. It was previously held at Ealing Town Hall but due to its rising popularity, it outgrew the available space there and was moved to this open air venue. Other popular festivals that you can catch year round at Ealing include the Comedy, Blues and Global festivals and also Opera in the Park. In the movie, Bridget Jones's Diary, Hugh Grant recites a limerick about the wonders of Ealing. This district has also been described as “the nation's hotspot for Polish speaking.”

Music Legends
This bustling suburban area also has a rich legacy of famous musicians due to the area’s keen bent towards good music. It is also been said that members of The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, famously first met Brian Jones in 1962 at the Ealing Jazz Club, opposite Ealing Broadway station. This jazz club has since then been renamed The Red Room and regularly sees blues and jazz artists entertain the crowds. An article in the Huffington Post, published in August 2013, went on to claim that this suburban district plays a catalytic role for young British musicians due to the presence of the Ealing Club and may soon turn into the home of rock music in London. Be sure to check the tour plan of the band you like, since they may just be stopping by for an event in West London.

By: Danny
 
 
City Centre Hotels in Swindon

Swindon is a large town located in southwest England, approximately midway between Reading and Bristol and 70 miles east of London. The town is frequently described as the area where the Cotswolds meet the West Country. Swindon is a naturally beautiful area with many amenities and attractions that lure visitors to the area.

Quality Accommodations
The location, price, and quality of the accommodations are the most important factors for most travellers when selecting a hotel. You can find comfortable and affordable hotel accommodations near the city centre for your visit. If you are looking for city centre hotels in Swindon, Holiday Inn Express Swindon City Centre offers conveniently situated and comfortable accommodations at affordable rates.

Stay near the Attractions
Selecting a hotel near the attractions and venues that you plan to visit will save travel time and expenses during your stay in Swindon. There are plenty of attractions in the local area to delight every member of your family. When searching for hotels in Swindon, pay attention to the location and select hotels near the city centre to be close to the best attractions, shopping, and dining.

Fun and Educational Attractions
Swindon offers many opportunities for fun and learning. The town is well known for the Steam Museum and Great Western Railway. Other nearby attractions include an adventure park for kids, Longleat House, Safari Park of BBC’s Animal Park, Bowood House and other Heritage sites. If you want to visit Bath, Oxford, or any of the other surrounding towns, the train service is within walking distance of the city centre.

Make time to Relax
Do you want to enjoy some time in a spa? Bath is an historic city that is well known for its natural mineral rich waters, spas and Roman baths. If you want to spend time relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, there are many opportunities for outdoor fun in the local area. Swindon is known for Victorian parks and gardens where you can enjoy lakes, parks, and waterfalls.

Shopping and Dining
Swindon offers a designer outlet centre for your shopping pleasure. The outlet features many of the best known brands in the fashion industry. There are shops for women’s fashion, men’s clothing, children’s boutiques, shops with items for the home, gifts, accessories, and much more. In addition, the town offers several restaurants, cafes, and bars for everything from casual dining to an exciting night out on the town.

By: Danny
 
 
Consider the Best Hotels near Burton upon Trent

Anytime you are planning any type of trip, whether it is for business purposes or strictly for leisure and relaxation for you and your family, the first thing you want to think about is the type of accommodations that you are going to look for. In today’s world of tighter budgets, not everyone can afford to stay at a luxury hotel. You really just want a nice, friendly, clean place to stay for your trip that is affordable and near where you need to go and want to visit. In order to find places like this, particularly if you are considering the best hotels near Burton Upon Trent, you may want to make use of Premier Inn to find the quality hotel rooms you can afford the most.

When you look at Premier Inn Burton Upon Trent you will have access to all of the local hotels in the region that are budget conscious but also filled with all of the amenities that you expect and deserve. You will be able to consider the top hotels near Burton, including the Holiday Inn Express Burton. The Holiday Inn Express in Burton was the first Express hotel found in all of England and has everything that you want in a hotel room with clean and comfortable rooms with your choice of pillows for your stay and each room features comfort cooling, tea and coffee making, workspaces and wireless Internet to go along with a 24 hour lounge at the hotel and all kinds of business amenities should you need to do work at the hotel.

You will also find at the Holiday Inn Express that the location is a great spot that has easy access to all kinds of great attractions, sites and cities. The areas of Derby and Birmingham are both nearby with transportation available into both cities. You will also find that there are great attractions nearby, such as St. George’s Park, Alton Towers, the National Memorial Arboretum, the Westfield Shopping Centre and more. This allows you to access all kinds of dining and shopping opportunities, cultural and sporting venues, museums, theaters and much more. The hotel also has its own restaurant on site that offers free complimentary hot buffet breakfast each day and is available for dining for dinner and late night snacks.


Finding budget hotels in today’s market is important for business travelers and families alike and when you make use of Premier Inn Burton Upon Trent you will find that the Holiday Inn Express Burton Upon Trent has the best to offer of the hotels near Burton. Take the time to consider the Holiday Inn Express for your next trip and see what the rooms are like and just how reasonable the rates can be for your trip and you will know just where you are going to stay the next time you visit the region.

By: Danny


 
 
The Global Highlights of Scotland

Over the course of history, Scotland has gained a unique identity across the world for its diverse culture, ancient traditions, medieval architecture and monster fables. There are several things that people instantly relate with Scotland. According to the official Scotland website, the country has even bred some of the finest Hollywood actors, including Robert Carlyle from Trainspotting, the legendary Sir Thomas Sean Connery, Gerard Butler, Tilda Swinton (better known as the ‘White Witch of Narnia’), Ewan Gordon McGregor from the Star Wars series, Robbie Coltrane or Rebus Hagrid from the Harry Potter series and more. There also are various events, cultural highlights and fables that are instantly identifiable with Scotland. If you are planning a holiday to this part of the UK, make sure you book yourself into one of the best boutique hotels in Edinburgh, near Edinburgh Castle, for easy access to all the major tourist attractions.

Loch Ness
The moment someone says Loch Ness, the picture of Scotland and the infamous sea monster immediately pop up into one’s mind. There has been much discussion about this place for centuries now and the excitement over catching a glimpse of the fabled sea creature has not dampened. Loch Ness is essential a 1,000-feet-deep lake with inky black water. The entire area fosters an eerie and other-worldly atmosphere, given its rich legends and stories. This 26 mile lake is the longest in the country and its massive length gives the sea monster ample places to hide (if you believe there is one). The entire lake is dotted with small castles, ancient abbeys and small, quaint villages. The north road of the lake is the famous area where the monster had been first spotted in the 7th century and several “sightings” continue till today. Tourists can stay at some of the most comfortable hotels in Edinburgh Scotland, such as Hotel Indigo Edinburg, and take a moonlight drive to the north road of the Loch Ness gate and figure out the mystery for themselves.

Scotland and Whiskey
It is said that whisky has been around since there have been Scottish people. Drinking fermented beverages in this country is so popular that, at this point, it can even be considered a fine art. Throughout the country, you will find bars, distilleries and small shops that serve you the most exquisite alcoholic beverages. Order a few snacks and do not forget to visit one of the many distilleries to knock back a few great whiskey drinks.

Edinburg Castle
Sky lining the capital for over 800 years, this is probably the most visited tourist spot in the country. Its immense popularity has turned it into a Scottish icon with the name of “Stronghold of Eidyn.” This castle is a symbol of identity for the country folk, since it has played many roles, including being a prison, a royal palace, house of parliament and more. Do not forget to visit this major Scottish attraction on your holiday with accommodation at a hotel near Edinburg Castle.

By: Danny


 
 
Country/Town Visited: Hawaii, USA
Date of stay: Late Jan 2015
Where you stayed: Hotels and B&Bs
Travelled with: As a couple
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

Itinerary: Hawaii in 2 weeks.
A Saturday flight overnight from Brisbane with Hawaiian Airways (approx. 10hrs). 2 hours later we were on a flight to Kona, The Big Island.

On the Big Island, we spent 3 nights at Kona, then drove around to the other side of the island via the Hawaii Volcano Park. We stayed in Hilo for 2 nights before flying back to Oahu from Hilo. Once in Honolulu we picked up a car to head to the North Shore of Oahu (2 nights), before spending the last 7 nights in Waikiki.

The Big Island
Kona

Things to do:
Swim with the Manta Rays: Undoubtedly one of the best experiences! We went with Splashers the first night, however with big swell the Manta’s didn’t show. We stayed on an extra night and as Splashers (USD$105) were full booked they organised for us to go out with Wicked Wahine. The Mantas came out in force that evening, dancing and somersaulting through the water, the 8ft beasts came within inches of us! The boys organising the trip, especially Super Dave were amazing and the hot soup and pineapple on the journey back topped off the experience.

Coffee Plantation: Hawai’i is the only place in the US that grows and produces coffee. We visited Thunder Mountain, they run free tours of their small operations. Their choc covered coffee beans are divine. Unfortunately, the American idea of good coffee is brewed/filtered, espresso beans…coffee snobs beware!

Eating and Drinking in Kona:
There are plenty of bars and restaurants down near the Kona Harbour. Check out the Kona Brewing Company for good pizzas and great beer. Also try out some local cuisine including Poke (fresh raw fish served with rice) at Umeke’s Poke Bowls and Local Lunch Plates.

Where to Stay:
We stayed at the Holiday Inn. Great location, walking distance to restaurants. Ample parking if you hire a car. We booked through their website so check that out for current prices.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
A must do. Make your first stop the Kilauea Visitor Centre and pick up a map. There are bush walks all through the area but for an easy walk try the Thurston lava tube caves (<30mins). Check out Volcano House, a hotel right on the Caldera. There are cane chairs in the café with awesome views over the smoking volcano, sit down with a beverage and take it all in.

We took a 4 hour Ranger led tour from the Kilauea Visitors Centre which took us down into the bowels of the still active Kilauea caldera.  We went out beyond the ‘Do not enter’ signs onto the 1974 lava flows with hot steaming vents. Check with the Rangers if this tour is running as its dependant on the wind direction of volcanic gases and volcano activity. The Ranger was quite funny (previously a magician) and very informative. 

Hilo
We spent 2 nights at Hilo Bay Hale Bed and Breakfast. Great location, big breakfasts with fresh baked goodies, fresh fruit and bacon. Check out the Markets for local gifts and souvenirs. While it doesn’t look like much from the outside, try out Lucy’s Tacqueria for nachos, tacos and a big as burrito! Support local business by buying some chocolate treats or stop in for breakfast or lunch at the Hawaiian Crown Plantation and Chocolate Factory. They do the best tasting hot chocolate I have ever had and also offer a range of healthy alternatives!

Things to do
Paradise Helicopters: We took a helicopter ride out over the new lava flows threatening the town of Pahoe and also went over an active crater. Doors off, Volcano and Waterfalls Extreme (45min, USD$282).

Oahu

North Shore Oahu

Things to do:
Watch a big surf comp: We came to Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset specifically to watch the big waves. 20ft+ while we were there. Try and time it so you get to see some of the pro’s out on the water with a surf comp.

Where to Stay and Eat
On the North Shore of Oahu we stayed at Ke Iki Beach Bungalows. Ask for an Ocean front unit and the big waves will be breaking just at your door! Walking distance to the legendary Waimea Bay and Banzai Pipeline surf breaks. The units were self-contained so we got supplies from Foodland (walking distance). There are also a number of food caravans nearby. The Waimea Beachside Galley has the best sourdough toasted sandwiches with mozzarella, pesto and Kailua (smoked Hawaiian style pig). Don’t go past their short rib beef sandwiches either!

Waikiki
Things to do
Diamond Head National Park: Get the heart pumping with a climb up to the top of Diamond Head. Steep walk, try get there early to beat the crowds. Amazing views across Honolulu.

Get some sun on Waikiki: Take your towel down to the beach and swim. There are surf boards and SUPs for hire if you feel like something more strenuous.  

Hanaumu Bay: Great nature reserve for snorkelling and quite an important place in Hawaiian native history. You can hire all snorkelling equipment there.  Reef was quite bleached when we went. If you are a confident swimmer head further out through the channel, beyond the main reef. There are a lot less tourists, more fish and we even spotted a sea turtle out there. Just be wary of the currents.

Pearl Harbour war memorial:  Sobering experience, we did the USS Arizona trip where you can see and smell the oil still leaking from the hull as well as the USS Bowfin submarine.

Shopping:  Buyers beware that shopping in the Waikiki area is not as cheap as you would like.  We did most of our shopping in the Waikele Outlet mall which was significantly cheaper than Ala Moana Center.  For example Levi jeans were USD$40 at the outlet mall and the same pair was USD$118 at the Ala Moana Center.

Where to Stay and Eat
We stayed at the Waikiki Hilton on Hilton points, if it wasn’t for the points I probably would have stayed at another island or the North Shore.   The best thing about the Hilton village was the ABC store where you could buy beer from USD$12 a 12-pack (Steinlager Pure).

Try Shorebirds for happy hour cocktails and amazing views of Diamond Head. They also do a huge steak special and all you can eat salad bar for USD$20. Only drawback is you cook it yourself on one of the huge hot plates they have. There are plenty of eating options around, Waikiki is a busy place.

By: Kirk & Kim
 
 
Elephant Sands Botswana
Country/Town Visited: Botswana, Africa
Date of stay: 2012
Where you stayed: Elephant Sands
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

CAMPING WITH ELEPHANTS

If you want to see elephants you should go to Elephant Sands.

Advice from a driver/guide of an overland safari truck should be heeded.  We met him in a campground in Maun, Botswana.  His group were off on a three day camping trip to the Okavango Delta.  He said we would have to pay close attention to directions or we would likely miss it.

Elephant Sands is located 53 kms. north of Nata, on the Nata-Kasane road A33.  The sign is small,  but it is the only sign for miles.  Once you leave the highway it is a 2 km. sand trail into a bush camp with an office, café/bar, campground, several small chalets and a swimming pool.  The campground has no fences, assigned spaces, or services, so you simply park.  The showers and toilets are unisex and open air.  Water for the showers is heated by” hot water donkeys”, a wood fire under a big water tank.

We were travelling in our VW Kombi and needed to keep the food in our fridge cool, so the office gave us some ice.  The minimal electricity is provided by generators run at specific times. Once settled, we walked to the café for a cold drink.  There is a watering hole in front of the café, and to our delight three elephants were having a drink and a bath.  It was fascinating to be able to watch them at such close range.  Soon more arrived and we spent the entire day watching the never ending action.

Late in the afternoon several young bulls were drinking and play fighting.  They walked toward the café and to our amazement walked up to the pool and started to drink.  Ben, the owner, explained the water in the waterhole has a high salt content, so they like the pool water better.  At this point we are sitting no more than fifteen feet away from four very large, wild, elephants.  Elephants look big at any distance, but they look really big when they are so close.

One of the projects at Elephant Sands is providing drinkable water for the animals of the area.

Size matters if you are an elephant.  The bigger you are, the more you can push others around.  We always felt so sorry for the babies – everyone pushed them around!  Mothers would push them out into the waterhole, then push them over for a bath.  Fat little legs, trunks and ears everywhere as they struggled to get back on their feet.

We spent the next couple of days watching non stop elephant action. It was common to have up to 35 elephants at the watering hole at one time.  One evening we witnessed elephant sex up close.  A female knelt down, a bull mounted her, and it was all over in a matter of seconds.  Talk about “Kiss and Tell”, that bull trumpeted for the next two hours!

Our Kombi had a small water tank, with a place to fill it on the outside of the camper.  One morning we found the plastic flap cover gone.  Ben said one of the elephants would have smelled the water in the tank and tried to get  it.  We were sleeping inside and my husband’s head was not a foot from the cover.  We never heard a thing.   It is amazing how something so big can be so quiet.  We found elephant footprints all around our camper every morning,  we never once heard them walking past.  They walked between the tents and never tripped on the cords or tent pegs.   We did hear the lions roar at night, and were quite happy to not see their footprints around the campsite.

It was not unusual for the staff to begin their morning repairing water lines.   The lines are plastic PVC  pipe running underground.  The elephants can smell the water in the lines and dig them up on a regular basis.

Our last morning we sat drinking our coffee watching four bulls come from the watering hole to drink from the pool.  A safari group was arriving later in the day, and the pool was intended for guest use.  Ben told the boys to get the truck and fill the pool.  Elephants can drink a lot of water, and the pool was not very big.  Once it was filled he reminded them to add chlorine.  He explained they have found the least amount of chlorine needed to make the water safe for swimmers, and still keep it safe for the elephants to drink.  They had just finished when a large old bull walked across the campground and straight to the pool.  He planted his big feet, bent over, and got a huge trunk full of water.  He then looked directly at Ben, and proceeded to spray that water all over the café.  Obviously, he did not like chlorine in his water.

As we turned onto the road heading for Kasane, I turned for one last look at the sign that said it all  “Elephant Sands – Where Elephants Rule”.

If you missed the sign, or just want some more information you can go to www.elephantsands.com

By: Gloria
 
 
Country/Town Visited: Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Date of stay: November 2014 
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

There are so many ways you can create the perfect holiday to the Whitsunday Islands.  If you are planning a trip for at least a week or longer, then island hopping is a must.  On their own you can easily entertain yourself on one single island resort, however you will not capture the full extent of beauty the Whitsundays has to offer until you explore all the island resorts on offer.  You can start at two different destinations when flying from inside Australia:

1-      Airlie Beach (38.1km drive from Proserpine Airport)
2-      Hamilton Island (Hamilton Airport on the island)

These two resorts act as transport hubs to the rest of the islands. Each resort has a harbour which caters to all of the major resorts on offer at Whitsundays. The best ferry transfers to book are through Cruise Whitsundays. They offer ferry to and from each island resort as well as day cruises to the Great Barrier Reef and Whitehaven Beach. 

We started on Airlie Beach, staying at the Coral Sea Resort, which was located at the tip of Airlie Beach, with panoramic views of the bay and harbour. The staff at the hotel were fantastic and the food menu was very reasonably priced.  I would recommend you pay the extra money book an ‘ocean view room’ and ask for the upper levels.  The views on the balcony are beautiful and can be immediately seen as you walk through the hotel door. 

Cruise Whitsundays Scuba Diving
From Airlie Beach we planned our first day trip to the Great Barrier Reef.  The team at Cruise Whitsundays were so helpful and made the hour sea journey very entertaining, with tea coffee and biscuits provided on the way there and back, and lunch was also provided during the stay at the reef.  If the weather holds, there are several activities that are on offer.  These include scuba diving, snorkelling, under water boat cruises and also sunbathing on top of the Reefworld pontoon.  My fiancée is petrified of swimming so this trip was mainly to benefit me.  However one of the team members from Cruise Whitsundays was adamant he could persuade my fiancée to scuba dive.   After several long minutes or arguing and negotiating he persuaded her to suit up for the dive and he took his time to train her through the beginner steps to scuba diving.  To my amazement he had taken a beginner who was petrified of having her head under water, to swimming with fishes bigger than her.  The Reefworld pontoon provides great shelter for beginners to practice scuba diving, before each diver would be escorted hand in hand by their own experienced diver down to the reef.  The experience of swimming beside the reef is simply not to be missed.

Sky Diving Airlie Beach
Our next highly recommended adventure was a Sky Dive at Airlie Beach.  There is no better way to get a panoramic view of the Whitsundays than from the air.  Coming from a man who is scared of heights, there is no greater rush than a free fall from 14,000ft while looking at crystal clear blue waters over the islands.  Make sure to get the video package as the memories are worth keeping.

From Airlie Beach we took our first island hop to Long Island Beach Resort.  This resort is the main hotel on the island, with its own secluded beach that makes a perfect location for some beach activities such as paddle boarding.  There are hiking tracks that go for a few kilometres along the long stretch of the island; however we didn’t have the stamina to venture too far.


The third island we stayed on and highly recommend is Daydream Island.  It has only one resort, and each guest is greeted in spectacular fashion, with free shell necklace and mocktail provided on arrival.  Daydream Island Resort has so many features to offer, most notably is the man made coral reef that engulfs half of the exterior to the hotel.  Here the staff regularly put on shows for the guests where you can feed stingrays and sharks that inhabit the coral reef. The pools are both luxurious and relaxing, with the main pool having its own pool bar.  The island is popular for those looking an exclusive wedding resort, consisting of its own church to the east side of the island. The sunset is best viewed on Daydream Island, with a beach specially laid out for guests with tables and chairs and optional champagne.

The best location we stayed on Whitsunday Islands was arguably Hamilton Island.  With cars being banned on the island, the only mode of transport used on the island are buses and golf carts.  The golf carts can be hired for a number of days, and they can be parked outside each hotel on the island.  Hamilton Island is not large, and can easily be crossed in the golf cart in 15 minutes.  I had planned a special event on Hamilton Island and I acquired the help of the staff at Reef View Hotel to assist me in planning my proposal.  When I asked for assistance at the reception a few weeks in advance they immediately put me through to the manager and he kindly upgraded us to the King Suite on the top floors to make our stay more comfortable. The views from the King Suite rooms were simply breathtaking.  I cannot thank the staff enough for their kind efforts in making our stay on the island magical.  The hotel pool was crystal clear, and the bar staff wait on guests hand and foot as they lounge by the pool.  There are a few spots on Hamilton Island that must be visited, including the One Tree lookout and the Yacht Club
.

Our final day trip while staying in Whitsundays took us to Whitehaven Beach.  Whitehaven Beach is a definite 'must see' in the Whitsundays.  The crystal clear waters and pristine white silica sand of Whitehaven stretch for over seven km's along Whitsunday Island, the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsunday Islands National Park.

This tour is again best experienced through Cruise Whitsundays.  They again provide morning and evening tea, as well as a packed lunch.  When you arrive at Whitehaven beach you are split up into groups and each gets to go on smaller tour groups to the key points of the area. 

This trip will allow you to indulge in the ultimate experience of Whitehaven Beach; from the northern end exploring spectacular Hill Inlet, to the southern, where you can swim, sunbathe and soak up the sun.  You will be able to enjoy a leisurely cruise on the Whitehaven-based vessel, along the full length of Whitehaven, across Hill Inlet to a landing point. From here a guided walk following the path and history of the Whitsunday traditional owners, the Ngaro people, will lead you to the lookout and that picture postcard view! The hill inlet has a very spiritual feel to it, and the tour guide at Cruise Whitsundays shared with us his 20+ years’ experience while travelling to the island.  If sea conditions permit, you are taken to nearby Esk Island, a delightfully scenic island that is rarely visited. If the tide is right, there is a small reef area to snorkel.

By: Mark



 
 
Country/Town Visited: Bali, Indonesia
Date of stay: December 2014 - January 2015
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned with friends

Last year 2014, I began my adventure throughout Southeast Asia for 1 month with a group of friends. My first stop was Bali and I arrived at the Bali Airport located in Denpasar. My trip to Bali was amazing with friendly people and heaps of places to visit.

We spent 10 days in Bali in December 2014 and had a lovely stay at the Tune Hotel of Legian, my friend found this hotel (www.tunehotels.com). At first, we had planned to stay in a hostel, but given that my friend found this offer, the Tune Hotel seemed the best option as we ended up paying AUD 95 for 10 days. The hotel was pretty nice and their facilities included comfortable beds, good toilets, AirCon etc. It's also conveniently located just 10 minutes-walk to the heart of Kuta, this location allows easy access to convenience stores, nightlife venues, exclusive shopping, tourist attractions and sightseeing. Moreover, there was also a beach nearby to the hotel, so we went there a couple of times to enjoy the sun and beach, even though it wasn’t the best beach  

The next day we got in touch with a driver called Nikko, whose contact we got through a friend. He drove us to different places of Bali, particularly temples. We took a 3 day trip with him and it cost AUD 10 per person for each day. This does not include the cost for entry tickets. Each day we had to wake up pretty early so we can finish visiting all the places that were scheduled. On average, each trip was from 8 am until 6 pm. Nikko, our tour guide was very friendly, kind and knowledgeable, and taught us everything about the Balinese culture and what it means.

This 3 day itinerary could be a good guide to follow for others visiting Bali.

1st day: Barong Dance, Batuan Temple, Monkey Forest Temple, Rice Terrace, Coffee Plantation, Batur Volcano

Barong Dance Show Bali
Barong Dance
We saw the Barong Dance performance as the 1st part of our 1st day tour of Bali. We found it very interesting. The Barong Dance is a show consisting of a story telling dance about a fight between good and evil; however, we found that it was not necessarily to our taste. The costumes were colorful and changed according to the different stages of the play. It was fast-paced despite the pauses, which are typical in these sorts of performances.  The dance started out nice, but then half way through the dance got inappropriate and boring. We found some of the actions obscene including a rather lengthy joke based on a boar’s tail not being his member, so people of a sensitive nature might not find it amusing. It was hard for us to keep track on the story partly due to the language barrier, even though each one had a piece of paper with a translation. The play was quite pricey by Balinese standards.

Tickets: AUD 10
Location: Batu Bulan
Note: If you don’t want to pay, you can enjoy in hotels as they offer these dances with dinner.


Butuan Temple Bali
Batuan Temple

Next, we visited the Puseh Batuan Temple. The good thing about this temple is that all of the carvings are so different on the buildings and within the temples. The temple was nice and ornate. The intricacies of the teak woods that were used are amazing. It is absolutely worth spending time there.

At this temple, sarongs are mandatory to wear for both men and women and are provided by local people who will happily help you tie them on. No need to pay entrance fee, just a voluntary small amount of donation if visitors wish.



Monkey Forest Temple

The Monkey Forest Sanctuary Temple, located in the district of Ubud, is practically a must for anyone visiting Bali, particularly because of the carb eating macaques, amazing and playful monkeys that are spread along the temple. When we got there, the first thing we did was focused on taking pictures of these monkeys and some of my friends were pretty excited to play with them. However, it is not a good idea; these monkeys are pretty fast and might be aggressive if they are annoyed and might bite people and transmit diseases such as Hepatitis B.

People should also be careful with their belongings especially with their bags and purses. Monkeys can steal them. Apart from the monkeys, by walking along the temple, people can find interesting pathways that lead to see The Statue of the Komodo Dragon and The Dalem Agung Padangtegal Temple

Tickets: AUD 3
The Rice Terrace located at Tegalalang

Tegalalang Rice Terrace

After visiting Ubud’s monkey forest, we headed to The Rice Terrace located at Tegalalang in the north of Ubud. Rice Terrace is famous for its beautiful scenes of rice paddies involving the subak (traditional irragition system created in Bali). The scenery offers a sense of calm and serenity atmosphere. It is a good place to take pictures with stunning views of a green scenery which can be seen from the main road from Kintamani to Ubud and even by just sitting in the shops and restaurants located at the top of the terraces. The main feature of this attraction is to walk down the fields and explore the terraces a bit more and if you have the chance, you can usually find most of the villagers working on the rice field and see their cropping systems and how the local farmer works on it to make rice.



Bali Coffee Plantation
Coffee Plantation

Coffee plantation is a good spot to sample local blends. This coffee is the Kopi Luwak or civet coffee, which is a coffee made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet, then pooped out, cleaned, roasted and ground for drinking.  I really enjoyed, we had a guide who was explaining us the whole process and we were able to taste different kinds of coffee with different flavours. In the end, you can buy coffee given that they have a coffee shop. I remember you can buy a bag of coffee for AUD 10 approximately.



Ubud Batur Volcano
Batur Volcano

The last place that we visited was the Batur volcano which was in Ubud. We briefly saw the volcano and it was a great stop to have a beautiful picture of the Mountain. Hopefully, the next time I will be able to do the trek on the next trip, which is one of the main attractions. Our guide told us that the walk is good for beginners and not too challenging, so an average person could walk and climb it easily if walking slowly given that if the person does not often exercise much, he or she may get short of breath. The Batur Volcano Trek usually starts early in the morning depending where you live, so it is important to have a good sleep the day before. For more information visit:
http://www.balitrekkingtour.com/mount-batur-trekking/


2nd day: Taman Ayun temple, Botanical Garden, Ulun Danu, Twin lake and Tanah Lot Temple

Taman Ayun Temple

Our second day trip, we started visiting the Taman Ayun temple, located at Mengwi. Taman Ayun translates as “beautiful garden” and is considered one of the most attractive temples of Bali. It stands on an island in a river. One of the most stunning view of this temple is the fact that it has several pagodas one behind another which it is a perfect opportunity to take a good picture of its best feature according to me. One can view the main temple from outside and climb a tall tower built in the garden for taking some great pictures. This is a beautiful temple with green gardens spread across large areas. In addition, this temple also features a separate arena for cock fight and an inner sanctum which is only accessible for locals. Less crowded temple compared to other temples.

Tickets: AUD 2


Bedugul Botanical Gardens
Botanical Garden

Then, we visited the Bali Botanical Garden. Good spot for those who like the nature and enjoy forest. In this place, a vast expansion of green lawns surrounded by different varieties of plants, cactus, shrubs and trees. If want to get more adventurous, you can do canopy, which is according to us one of the main highlights of this trip. See more at: http://www.balitreetop.com/?goto=home&lang=en

Tickets: AUD 5 (Botanical Garden Entrance Fee)

Location: Bedugul



Ulun Danu Temple
Ulun Danu Temple

Ulun Danu is one of the most beautiful temples in Bali situated in the middle of the lake and has become a favorite tourist spot in Bali. Built in 1926, this temple is one of the most famous Balinese temple, it is usually called as Bali Temple on the water given that it looks like it is floating on the water as the water level in the lake rises.

In this temple, one of the main attractive things was the fact that this temple consist of 4 temples: Lingga Petak Temple, Dalem Purwa Temple, Terate Bang Temple and Penaratan Pucak Mangu Temple. These temples are pretty beautiful to take pictures with the background of the lake.

During our visit, unfortunately we couldn’t stay for long; it was raining and had to leave after 30 minutes.

Tickets: AUD 3

Location: Bedugul



Twin Lake

After, we visited TheTwin Lake. In this area,  Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan, separated by a rainforest-covered  hill, are known as the Twin Lakes. This place has a good view of the volcanic heart of Bali. Volcanoes have created and shaped this island. To be honest, we underestimate to do more activities there. Our guide tour told us that we could do some nice hikes around the lakes, offering some unique viewpoints and also have the chance to see a colony of monkeys. However, we were pretty tired by them and as we saw monkeys before in Monkey forest, we decided to continue our trip to our last stop.


Tanah Temple
Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot was our last destination and it is probably the most famous temple in Bali. This temple stands just off the coast on a rock and it is quite spectacular. Most people go for the sunset, which makes a good connection with the temple to take good pictures.

Tickets: AUD 3


Location: South Kuta


3rd day: Nusa Dua, Padang Padang Beach and Uluwatu Temple

Nusa Dua
To be honest, we weren’t that delighted that much with the offers of Nusa Dua. Most of this trip, included passing plenty of all-inclusive resorts to go to the beaches. What is more, not the clearest water, dirty sand and barely palm trees. The only good thing about this part of this trip was visiting The Water Blow, which is a rock formation where waves colliding onto the rock wall create a giant splash like the water is blowing, however, as we were disappointed, we never even took pictures.

Padang Padang Beach
Padang Padang beach is located 30 kms south of Kutu, not far from the Uluwatu Temple in Bali’s northwest side. It is supposed to be the place where Julia Roberts made a film and also a surfing beach, however to be honest we felt very disappointed because the beach was filled of rubbish.

Uluwatu Temple
Finally, Our next halt was at the famous Uluwatu temple surrounded by the Indian ocean. The encapsulating ocean view, cliff hanging temple and the golden sun rays beaming from the clear blue sky made us go wow - we were overwhelmed by the beauty of nature.  In addition to these one can also see the Uluwatu cave and the kecak dance performance at an additional cost.


Useful Information in Bali:

·  The visa process is simple. 52 countries are eligible for Visa on Arrival when visiting Indonesia. When departing from Bali, you are subject to the airport departure tax which is paid in Indonesian Rupiah only, so save some bills for the trip out. The tax is AUD 20 (IDR 200,000). For local flight is AUD 7 (IDR 70,000)

· When exchanging money, let’s say just exchange AUD 20 in Australia for the taxi ride and some food. In Bali, there are numerous money changers all over. I suggest asked some staff in the hotel or tour guide where the best option to change is. Never change in these small stalls operated by street vendors, even though they offer an attractive rate, they will try to scam you when counting the money, they are super-fast and you won’t notice whether they give the correct amount of money.

· When traveling in Asia, especially in countries like Indonesia and Thailand, try to use cash instead of credit or debit cards. In fact, do not use the Travel Money Card of the Commonwealth Bank. It pays very low, offers unattractive exchanges rates and charges AUD 4 of withdrawal fee. It might be useful for some emergencies; however, I recommend using Citibank.

· Although commuting is easy, the local transportation system in Bali is not one of the best. Taking taxis are the best option but always bargain for a good price. Do not attempt to rent motorbikes given that you can be pulled over by a police officer and be fined.

· When dining out, try the local food. Nasi Goreng, Gado Gado Salad and Pepe’s Tuna were my favorite meals; however, sometimes they can be spicy. Always tell the waiter to serve without spicy sauces. They are a pretty good deal, I would say AUD 3 per dish.

Any questions please post a comment to this blog. Thanks

By: Pedro