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Adventures on $200 Places

Day Tour Through The Blue Mountains, Australia

October 3, 2015

For the month of August our Adventure on $200 was a tour through the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney Australia.


Here are the highlights:

Cost: $240 AUD = $169 USD for two

Length of Time: 8am-6pm (10 hours)

Activities Conquered: Feeding kangaroos, koalas, goats, baby dingoes, witnessing the majestic Blue Mountains, rode the steepest railway in the world, walked through Sydney Olympic Park and took a ferry ride through Sydney’s Parramatta river and Sydney harbour.


Before coming to Australia I knew we were going to have a great time but I had no idea how much fun.   We planned on spending 2 weeks in Cairns Australia but when the volcano in Bali erupted and our flight back was cancelled we hopped down to Sydney.  I am so glad we did!  I knew I liked Sydney but after this week vacation it currently holds my #1 city in the world spot.

We don’t normally visit anywhere for less than a few weeks now so when we booked Sydney for a mere 7 days I knew I had to do some tour booking asap.  One of our favorites was this tour by Dingo Travel in Sydney taking us to the Blue Mountains west of the city by about an hour.  The Blue Mountains are known for dramatic scenery, steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests, waterfalls and villages dotted with guesthouses, galleries and gardens.  Echo Point gives you amazing views of the storied Three Sisters sandstone rock formation.

The day started with a great trip to Featherdale Wildlife Park.  We were there early which was awesome because we got in before all the Chinese buses of hundreds of tourists came in.  This meant awesome interaction with koalas and kangaroos as well as seeing awesome other animals.  The wombat has become one of my favorite animals after seeing them here!

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We packed up and made our way Echo Point after the wildlife park to see the famous sandstone formation, The Three Sisters.  Quite a bit cooler up there I was happy I brought my rain coat which acts as an awesome wind breaker.  There is also an informative Aboriginal dance/info session that we attended.  Afterwards we even got our picture with an ‘Aborigine’ but he is super white so I’m unconvinced he has ancestors from anyone besides the Europeans who settled Australia.  Then we went to Scenic world and rode a cable car that gave you amazing views of the steep cliffs, Three Sisters and those beautiful Blue Mountains.  They get their blue color from the eucalyptus vegetation and how it reacts with the air and its more magical in person than through the lens of an iphone 6.

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At the bottom of the ride you walk through the beautiful forests and see the mines that were used to get coal back in the 19th century.  They still have the mines that you can walk in as well as see the mines that have been closed up by large boulders. It was really interesting to see how small miners had to be and how dark their workdays would have been.  It was a hard job and I have much respect for anyone who used to or still does mine.

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The railway took us back up the mountain at a scary 52 degrees.  That makes it the steepest in the world and I wanted to document it but I was too busy holding on making sure I did not fall forward on top of the guys below me.  I did get this photo though before we started moving.  The photo above is the original one used for the miners and the below is the railway today.

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We then grabbed lunch in a cute little mountain village complete with meat pies, soup and flat whites.  The Australians know how to make some incredible coffee and the flat white has become my favorite caffeinated beverage, by FAR.  Next up was a bushwalk through The Blue Mountains National Park to see Bridal Veil Falls (I wonder how many waterfalls are named this, it is quite common). Incredible steep cliffs and small walkways made for a great way to walk off our lunch calories.

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Lastly we walked through Sydney’s Olympic Village and caught a ferry ride back into the city through Parramatta River and Sydney Harbour.  Catching great views of the bridge and Opera house from the water was an unexpected treat!

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The tour ended at 6pm we grabbed some dinner and headed back to our quaint little airbnb in Paddington.

Such a wonderful day and so fun to relive it now while I write the post.  I miss Sydney and cannot wait to go back.

Have Fun Do Everything,

Liz

 

Places The Travel Ten

What You Should Know Before A Visit To Bali

September 30, 2015

Everyone going to a new place always wants to understand a bit about it before they arrive.  This is a great practice to be in because if you understand a place before you arrive you cannot fault it for not being what you expected.  While Bali is amazing it is no different and you should understand a bit about it before arrival.  Here are a few tips on understanding daily life in Bali and what it is all about :)

Dogs: There are tons of local dogs that roam around.  Don’t worry they eat well and I’m convinced don’t want to be domesticated and live with humans in a house.  They enjoy roaming and eating the offerings.  Also to be noted, while the dogs may look friendly don’t pet them, they are not used to it and will probably bite you, I speak from experience.

Offerings: There are small palm leaf offerings all over the ground so watch your step.  The Balinese typically put out 2 offerings one in the morning and one in the afternoon filled with flowers, some sort of food (either a cracker or rice typically) and an incense.  You will see them on the ground for the bad spirits and those in the offering tower looking statues and those are for the good gods.  You might step on the ones on the ground or run over them with your motorbike.  While you should try to avoid them the Balinese are forgiving so don’t let it ruin your day if you step on one. I love this practice of the offerings and think it makes Bali beautiful and always smelling nice.

Ceremonies: The Balinese have ceremonies ALL THE TIME and for EVERYTHING.  Someone dies? Ceremony.  Someone is born? Ceremony.  Baby turns 3 months? Ceremony.  New business? Ceremony. Random holiday on the calendar you can’t read? Ceremony.  I really love this about the Balinese, I think they have their life priorities and work life balance on point.  They are never afraid of a good ceremony and always dress the part.  It’s so much fun to see them happening all the time.

Temples:  There are temples everywhere in Bali.  Each community has a temple and communities here are like small neighborhoods or streets, read: there are tons.  Now only the big ones are available for westerners to go into and you will know if its big or not because the big ones have sarongs and sashes for you to borrow as you walk through because you must dress the part.  Boys and girls, everyone wears a sarong (read: skirt) and a sash, unless you are in pants then you just wear a sash.

Massage, Taxi?  You will get asked this so many times.  Get ready.  Now I don’t even say anything back, I just keep walking.  May sound rude but its exhausting telling 25 people no thank you in 50 ft, just as I’m sure they are tired of asking but they are trying to make a dollar.

Honking:  The drivers honk if they are passing you, if they are coming around a corner, to ask if you want a taxi ride, to tell you to move, really it’s used for so many things.  Just be ready to hear lots of honking while you are here but don’t be alarmed nobody is mad.

Motorbikes: Main mode of transportation here in Bali.  Some of the beaches have some good bluebird taxis roaming around but the majority of vehicles on the road are motorbikes.  Also they rule the road and can really do whatever they want, like drive on sidewalks so watch out.  Driving one is fun and exhilarating but can be dangerous.  You can also get a taxi ride on a motorbike if you are solo and this is a great cheap option to the taxis that sometimes scam you.

Taxis: Bluebird is the best one and be sure to either ask for a meter or to negotiate a price BEFORE you get in the car or start your journey.  Once they have taken you a place its hard to tell them you are not going to pay their price.

Ants:  Bali has an ant problem and you should get used to the fact that they are everywhere.  Ants are the worst but really since most everything is open to the outdoors a lot of the day there are tons of insects and lizards everywhere.  Don’t be alarmed its just the way of life here.

Small but big island: You can probably get around the island in 10 hours and take day trips to any part of the island so in this case its small but there are so many things to do and see if can feel like a big island.  So many little sectors of the island with different atmospheres make it feel like a big island.  Don’t be sad if you can’t see everything in your visit, just plan to come back for the rest I promise you will want to!

I hope you are ready to visit Bali now, just give me a bit of notice and I will meet you there!

HFDE,

Liz

Places

Day Trips In Bali

September 20, 2015

So you are in Bali.  You want to do all the amazing things Bali has to offer but don’t know where to start.  From being here for almost 3 months we have done a few amazing trips and I wanted to share them with you.  It depends on where you are stationed but let’s assume you are stationed at the beach, Seminyak to be specific and you want some day trips.  Here are a few great options:

Day Trip to Northern Bali:  Bali’s north is full of some awesome waterfalls and a completely different vibe than the westernized southern beaches.  A great day out would to see Git Git, Sekumpul, and any others the tour guides tell you about up there.  They know of some other awesome ones so just chat with them.  You can also throw a temple or two in there since they are everywhere in Bali.  Coffee farms are also a dime a dozen and you can try some luwak coffee, aka the most expensive coffee in the world.

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Day Trip To Ubud: Rice terraces, Tenungan waterfall, Tirta Empul, Monkey Forest, Kintamani overlook and a coffee farm are awesome things to see and you can get them all checked off in a day.  If you want a long day ask to see the dances either Kecek or Legong in the evening.  Kecek is a series of fire dancing and chanting which is fun Legong is more of the makeup and Balinese women in traditional outfits you have seen on brochures.  Both are a bit long in my opinion you could leave halfway and not miss anything.

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Day Trip To Uluwatu: Uluwatu Temple, Padang Padang beach/Bingin Beach/Dreamland beach, Single Fin for Nalu bowls, maybe even sunset dinner at El Kabron or drinks at Rock Bar.  You can easily make a day out of exploring the beaches in Uluwatu and combo it with the temple and some awesome food and drinks.  Uluwatu temple also does a very cool Kecek dance at sunset so if you have not seen this in Ubud it would be worth checking out at this temple if you are into dances.

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Day Trip to Kuta: Take a day and just see what Kuta is all about, shopping at the beachwalk is good, TONS of cheap shops on the street, good food all around, and WATERBOM Bali’s waterpark home to some of the best waterslides in Asia.

Sunrise Trek to Mt. Batur: This is awesome and I highly recommend this.  It’s an early start, the earlier the further from Ubud you get.  Think 2am ish a bit of a drive to the volcano and then trekking in the dark for sunrise at the top.  It’s absolutely incredible.  You can ask to go to the healing springs afterwards for a lovely swim and soak then grab lunch overlooking the lake in the volcano before heading home to most likely nap.  The early wakeup call is so worth it.  We have done this now 2x and very different experiences.  You should avoid Sundays as this is the most crowded day and spring for the more expensive tour.  Some offer it around 300k but those only get you to the crater, not the top, you climb with hundreds of others (not very cool), and your breakfast is a sandwich.  Now if you spring for the more expensive you get a different route away from the crowds, your guide brings breakfast of eggs and bananas to steam on the side of the volcano, coffee at the top, a scenic route back down the volcano and just overall a better experience.  I can’t say you will get this with all the expensive options but you will if you ask questions about the hike you should get a good idea of how involved they will be.

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Safari and Marine Park: Want to see tons of exotic animals in an environment that they are not native to?  This is for you.  Not my thing simply because they brought all these animals in for tourist attractions but if you are only in SEA once and you want to see everything you can I do hear this place gets good reviews.

Cycling Trip Around Ubud: This gets you out and in the countryside of Bali to show you the amazing rice terraces and fields as well as a Balinese family compound to show you how the locals live in their villages.  Lovely day with exercise and culture.

White Water Rafting: More a half day than a full day, you end around 1:30 or 2:00.  The rivers actually give good rafting tours even in the dry season, wet season it is too intense.  Fun times for sure.

A great temple near Seminyak is Tanah Lot and if you catch it at sunset and low tide its pretty incredible.  You can’t go in the temple but you can get blessed by the holy water, see a holy snake (no thanks), and witness an incredible sunset.  Don’t worry about eating dinner at the temple to watch the sun go down the restaurants are not that great.  Just head back to Seminyak for dinner.

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While in Seminyak you should definitely go shopping, lay at the beach, see the great beach clubs Ku De Ta and Potato Head, drink some incredible coffee at Revolver Espresso, check out Sisterfields for a great brunch and work off all those calories by getting a surf lesson by any of the vendors on the beach or my favorite surf instructor Desu.

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Those should keep you busy for your time but make sure to just chill out and enjoy the amazing island.

Have Fun Do Everything,

Liz

Places

How To Choose A City in Bali

September 15, 2015

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I thought deciding on Bali instead of another Indonesian Island was the hard part.  But come to find out Bali is a big island with lots to offer and difficult decisions to make, what part to stay in for a month when you want reasonable internet connection, coffee shops, beaches close by and not too heavily traveled by those coming and going for a week at a time.

My favorite to live in so far has to be Seminyak.  However I will point out some insights on the biggies and my opinions.

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Kuta is super close to the airport and a beach town.  If you have done any research on Kuta you know it has lots of mixed reviews, I have to side with the negative ones.  Kuta is crowded, has tons of ugly cheap shops and is loaded with scams in my opinion.  The vibe I got while we visited here was the Balinese are only there to make a buck and don’t really care about the visitors.  Which is sad because so much of the rest of the island the Balinese are incredibly friendly and happy to see you.  I do really enjoy the beachwalk Kuta has and when we need clothes or western goods this is where we go.  Kuta also has some good surfing, but can get crowded so be sure to hangout where there are less people whether or not you are a beginner because TONS of those out there are beginners.

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Seminyak like I said is my favorite and it is a bit north of Kuta.  It can get meshed in with Legian and Pettinget simply because for the most part all 3 of these have very similar vibes.  Tons of restaurants, great coffee (revolver is the best), beachside, more upmarket vibe and I like it the best because of the consistently amazing food, shopping and reliable internet.  By far the best coffee and wifi scene in Bali.

Nusa Dua is on the southern side and the 5 star area.   Worth checking out if you’re feeling flush. There’s quite a few nice beaches and restaurants. Pretty pricey to stay compared to the rest of Bali, but in the grand scheme of things, still cheap compared to Maldives, Caribbean etc, so could be worth looking online for whats available for a few days. The beach here’s cool anyway and easy to get to.

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Uluwatu.  Those pictures you see of the killer cliffsides and temples looking over the ocean are found in Uluwatu.  The biggest and most famous wave in Indonesia is also here.  Bingin Beach is a great spot with easy access to 3 great surf breaks.  The impossibles (named because of the 1.5 K paddle you have to do to get to the breaks, aka its impossible to get there), Dreamland and Bingin.  Bingin has a ton of cool spots built into the cliffside and some cheap warungs as well.  You can get fresh seafood cooked beachfront any day of the week for dinner which is pretty amazing.  There are surf competitions all over Uluwatu so if you are in the area check out the calendar, you might just overlap with a big one!  Besides surfing the best sunset restaurants are in this area pretty epic to be sipping your cocktail on a cliff watching the sun go down, it doesn’t get any better.  The only downside to this area is the lack of reliable internet and the fact that there are not many places to walk to.  You should rent a motorbike to get around.

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Ubud.  This is not a beach town and is north of Denpasar and the airport.  It was made famous by Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’ book which is what put Bali on the map for us Americans.  This is where all the traditional Balinese wood carving is done, stone sculptures, handicrafts etc and is considered the cultural centre of Bali.  This area is also known for yoga and the spiritual hotbed of Bali.  Rice fields, jungle, and nature is what you will find here, not beaches.  If you stay in town you can walk most everywhere and there is a coworking space as well called Hubud that has good wifi.  We stayed outside town and rented motor bikes which was a fun time.

Amed.  This town is on the east coast – a nice, old school fishing village that has started to attract quite a few chilled people of late – it’s a big freediving and normal diving place. You can get to the big Liberty ship that everyone talks about diving in Bali from here.

Jimbaran Bay is a beach in between Kuta and the Bukit peninsula (South of the island) which has loads of restaurants serving fresh fish. Definitely worth checking out for an evening meal and there are some very nice hotels that you can stay at as well.

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So, like I said Bali is bigger than I initially thought and there are loads of cool places.  If you are in town for a bit and want to check out some close areas Gili Islands are worth a look and Lombok Island.

The Gili Islands are beautiful, there are 3, Gili Air, Meno and Trewangan, off the coast of Lombok. Trewangan (Gili T) is the party island out of the 3. Really tropical, no cars on the island, just loads of shacks for bars and restaurants. Takes about an hour to walk round. Can just rock up and find somewhere to stay – they have horse and cart to take you round the island, or can prebook.  Gili Air has gotten loads of great press too for diving and just chilling out in a serene beautiful setting.  You get the boat over to the Gili’s from Padang Bai – can just sort in Seminyak and they will give you a lift there / sort the boat.

Lombok is pretty great and about 20 years less developed than Bali so you get a taste of how Bali used to be. Can either fly over or get the ferry.  If you hike Mt. Batur you can see this island from the top on a clear day.

Overall in our situation Seminyak is our best bet simply because of the beach scene which we both love, coffee access which again is important for us, amazing food because well a girls gotta eat and reliable internet.  Honestly if Seminyak had nothing but a beach and reliable internet it would still be our choice.  But a few days in each location are still a cool thing to see.  If you have only a week  I would recommend staying in Seminyak and day trips to Ubud and temples and a few sunset dinners in Uluwatu (Rock Bar, El Kabron, Temple Lounge).  Or if you want total bliss and chilled out vibes with little interaction spend all your time in Uluwatu, my choice would be Bingin.  You really can find it all in Bali from backpacker to established adult to blowing cash you can do it all.

Hope this guide helped you and didn’t overwhelm although I know Bali can feel overwhelming!  It is my favorite island in southeast Asia and I hope you get to enjoy and love it the way I have!

Have Fun Do Everything,

Liz

Places

Unique Restaurants in Bali

September 10, 2015

Because Bali has been a travel destinations for Aussies for quite some time now they have adapted to please the Aussie tastes.  This means lots of shops and restaurants full of stuff us westerners like, with an Asian flare.  The Balinese are just now coming around to understanding that they have some incredible things here naturally.  So what happens when all of that collides?  There are some incredibly great restaurants combining western tastes with natural products found here in Bali and in the cut throat industry of restaurants they have to stand out.  Here are a few of my favorites!

Seminyak:

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OTTO Food Ball– Unique concept of wonderful food formed into a ball and served the way you want it

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Potato Head– All day dining in a cabana by the pool or swanky dining at a table long enough for 50

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Vin+Seminyak– Amazing wine options inside of a giant bamboo hut

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Double Six Rooftop– Nestle in your circular booth surrounded by water, on a rooftop, overlooking the famous double six beach

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Gardin Bistro– Dining in an amazing glass house, unbelievable at night and day

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Sarong– One of the most sought after dining options in Bali because of the amazing chef and stunning decor

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La Plancha– Dinner in the sand with sunset views and bean bags

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Shelter– Home of the Nalu bowls, smoothie in a bowl.  Lovely staff, great relaxed atmosphere for breakfast and lunch, great playlists and wifi is quick.

Ubud:

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Hanging Gardens Cafe where you can get a riverside picnic

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Bambu Indah– Where you can swing and eat

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Cafe Pomegranete– Lunch in a tent in a rice field at the end of a rice field walk from Ubud

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Sari Organik– Dinner with a ricefield view

Bukit Peninsula:

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El Kabron– amazing sunset and gin and tonics

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Finns Beach Club– Smores by bonfire on the beach

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Single Fin– healthy food with a healthy view.  Original home of the Nalu bowls, great chilled out surfer experience and it has a better view than Shelter if you’re deciding between Shelter and Single Fin.  Watch the waves come in, surfers dominate some wabes, grab a beer and have a chat with others.

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Karma Beach– movies on a beanbag after sunset on the beach

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Temple Lounge and Bar– moroccan food at a restaurant built into the side of a cliff

Sanur:

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Man Shed– Dine in a garage themed restaurant complete with lights made out of old helmets and booths made from vespas.  A must for any motorcycle enthusiasts.

Canggu:

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Deus Ex Machina– cool vibe, again for motorcycle enthusiasts and surfers alike.  Tons on display and they make them there as well.  A must see.

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Old Mans Cafe– Chill vibes, beachfront dining with western food and music.  Beer pong on Wednesday nights!  A local expat hangout.

There you have it!  Some awesome and unique restaurants throughout Bali.  We have not had the chance to eat at all of these but as the old saying goes, “I have not been everywhere yet, but its on my list!”

Happy eating and as always HFDE,

Liz

Life Places

Skydiving in Australia

July 30, 2015

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WE WENT SKYDIVING!!!

As a couple who likes to do adventurous things, skydiving is among the list of things we LOVE.  We tried it for the first time about a year and a half ago for our 1 year anniversary and loved it.  The first time we did it we opted for a small company in Florida.  It was a great experience but we did not get pictures or a video, the best photos we had were of small specs in the sky.  So when we decided to do this trip of skydiving in Cairns Australia we went all in.   Video, photos and skydiving over the ocean with views of the Great Barrier Reef, a rainforest, sugar cane fields and the city of Cairns.  This operation was much more for tourists than our first jump and we had a great group.

We had a beautiful day but it was a bit windy so we waited quite a while.  After roughly 6 hours and getting in and out of gear we boarded the plane for our jump.  The scenery was amazing on this jump but what they say about your first jump being the best is 100% correct.  I think the only feeling that might be able to match it will be if  I learn to jump solo and am solely responsible for pulling my own parachute, who knows if that will ever happen.  I was still excited for this jump but that feeling in your stomach of sheer excitement was not as strong.  Only 2 things in my life have given me that feeling of nervous excitement and happiness, competitive swimming standing on the block waiting to launch off into the water and skydiving.  Odd that swimming as a sport gave me the same feeling as skydiving but I guess that goes to show how much I loved both things and how excited I was that first jump.

There were 9 or so of us in our group and we loaded into the plane super cozy.  The plane is not that large and there are 2 large bench seats that everyone sits very close.  The trip to 14,000 ft is about 15-20 minutes of amazing scenery and my instructor gave me some very cool facts of what we were flying over.

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The plane ride went by super quick and the next thing I knew the door was open and the first jumper was out!  Greg was the second out of the plane so that was crazy to watch your husband jump out of a plane when 2 seconds prior he was sitting next to you.

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4 more tandem teams jumped out and it was my turn.  Feet over the edge, hold your chest straps and roll.  Such an exhilarating feeling right as you fall out and from 14,000 ft you get over a minute of free fall time.  In the beginning you are shocked as to how fast you are falling and the amount of wind in your face but then you are able to gain your wits and look around and just enjoy the amazing experience.  The next part is probably my favorite and thats when the parachute is pulled, your body jerks up but then you can relax your straps a bit and just glide enjoying the scenery.  My instructor allowed me to drive the parachute for a while and corkscrewing is my favorite thing to do.  That simply means you pull on the ropes really hard either left or right and corkscrew down.  You can get some speed up if you do it long enough and it is a blast!

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We then landed and immediately wanted to go back up.  I cannot wait until we do it again!

If you are in the Cairns area we highly recommend skydiving with Skydive Cairns :)

Until next time

Have fun do everything

Liz

Places

Dining in the Dark is Awesome

July 26, 2015

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So a little while back Greg and I decided to try a dining in the dark experience at ‘Dine in the Dark‘ in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  We absolutely loved it and I have not been able to stop talking about it.  I heard about the concept before stumbling upon the restaurant on Trip Advisor (an app I use almost as much as instagram or facebook) but when we found a location in Phnom Penh I knew we had to go.  It has been something I have wanted to do and I knew dining in Phnom Penh we would be able to have the incredible experience for a fraction of the price of Bangkok, London, New York, or {insert other huge city with huge price tags here}.  Dark dining started in Switzerland at a restaurant called Blinde Kuh and has since spread like wild-fire throughout the rest of the world.  It is easy to see why this is a unique experience and it brings an entirely new meaning to the term blind date.  The largest sell though is that dining without seeing your food heightens your other senses and allows you to really experience the food in a whole new way.

Guides at DID

The experience is incredible.   We started off by arriving at a dimly lit lobby area, greeted by a very friendly staff, amazing cold towels {this might be my favorite perk of traveling in SEA} and were shown a set menu.  Since you cannot see at your table your ordering happens before you are led upstairs to your dining experience.  I chose the vegetarian set menu, Greg chose the international menu and we ordered a bottle of wine.  We then gave up all light emitting devices and they were locked in a box for us to retrieve when our dinner was over.  Next we were led out of the lobby area and up stairs by our visually impaired waiter.  We passed through 3 blackout curtains and into what felt like a decently sized room but with no other diners on a Tuesday evening we had the entire place to ourselves and our 2 waiters.  We are shown our chairs, sat down and shown where our fork, knife and spoon are as well as our wine glasses. I immediately suspected  I would spill wine on myself somewhere at some point and regretted the decision for red over white.  The start of the experience is a very cool and fun to turn the tables a bit and have a sighted person be guided by a visually impaired person.  It really shows you what dining is like if you lost your sight.

Guide DID

Our wine was poured and we were left alone in a large dark room with just each other but can hear our waiters off in the distance.  As we fumbled through the table holding hands, knocking into a fork here and there we can smell our food arriving.  It really is true other senses are heightened when you cannot see.  I loved that we each got 2 different menus because we had fun guessing what the dishes were and what foods we were eating.  We fumbled around and decided that we wouldn’t even attempt eating with a fork and knife.  So there we were, like 2 kids eating out for the first time chatting about how the food tasted, what we suspected it was and, I have no doubt, making a huge mess of the beautifully prepared and plated meal.

Food

Now you might have the same question we did but how do you tell someone you are finished with your meal without them being able to see your plate empty as well as making eye contact and smiling?   I felt rude asking for our waiter and telling him we were done but it’s actually not rude just the way life is if you are visually impaired.  We finished our appetizers and asked for another glass of wine.  I think the wine pouring might have been the most impressive to me.  Our waiter could tell how full our glasses were and knew how much he had in the bottle because both glasses were the same weight and he finished the bottle in exactly 4 equal glasses.  It really was amazing!

Next up was the main course and we practiced our sense of smell pretty heavily on this one to see how close we could get.  We quizzed each other and even started eating like real humans, with fork and knife.  Then my favorite course of all came and it was dessert, I have to say I nailed my raspberry cheesecake thanks to thousands of cheesecakes over the years but Greg’s flan was a bit harder to figure out.  Texture like flan but sweetness like creme brûlée, it was amazing but much harder to get correct.

After we finish our meals we are again led out of the darkness and into what I thought was a dimly lit lobby but now felt like an incredibly bright sunny day.  Just for measure it was a room with only purple lights.  We were shown what our meals looked like and told what each ingredient was.  Some we were correct on but quite a few we got wrong.  For example I do not like egg yolk, runny or hard, and I loved my appetizer of poached eggs and cleared my plate, eating up every bit of that runny yolk I hate in my everyday life.  I guess I need to open my palette a bit more and not be as hard on egg yolk, turns out I love it, but only when I can’t see it.  I was also very pleased with myself I managed to get out of the restaurant without any spilled wine on my white dress!

Not only was the food fantastic but the experience was second to none.  Our conversation flowed effortlessly due to no distractions like cell phones or other people and eating food with your hands really brings out the kid in you.  You can’t help but have a great time.  Added bonus, you don’t have to worry about that spinach between your teeth because no one can see it!

I would do this dining in the dark 100 more times and highly recommend the experience to anyone.  Especially if you are in Phnom Penh ‘Dining in the Dark‘ or ‘DID’ is a wonderful choice, staff are friendly and welcoming, they truly want you to have a great time and experience a whole new way of eating.  They also have a branch in Bangkok which I am sure is wonderful as well.

We still cannot stop talking about the food, conversation, really the entire evening.  If you have the opportunity definitely take it!  We want to go back and bring a big group next time!

As always get out there and experience new things!

Have fun do everything,

Liz

Adventures on $200 Places

Hong Island Tour, Krabi Thailand

July 6, 2015

For the month of May our adventure on $200 is the amazing Hong Island Tour in Krabi Province, Thailand.


Here are the highlights:

Cost: $140

Length of time: All day adventure

Activities Conquered: Long tail boat cruising, seeing all of Hong Island, swimming, snorkeling, frisbee, swinging, relaxing in a cave, and touching a sea urchin


The day started off with a pick up at our hotel where we were shuttled to a beach to meet our guide Sven and our 2 Thai boat drivers.  Immediately we went to Hong Island which translates to ‘big room’ island and drove our boat throughout the ‘room’.  Now we have been on a similar tour where we drove our boat into an epic cavern but then our boat stopped and Sven told us we were able to swim in this area!  This was an amazing surprise because we were able to get in the water and wave at all the boats filled with tourists as they drove by in jealousy while we swam.

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After we got our fill of swimming in an amazing lagoon we packed it back in and went to the beach part of Hong Island, which is actually where the film The Beach was shot.  This area was absolutely breathtaking shades of blue and green with a stark contrast of the white fine sand.  We hung out here played a bit of frisbee, watched another movie get filmed, and caught some rays.

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Next up was lunch on the boat that consisted of curry and rice along with fruit for dessert.  So good!  We took a bit of a cat nap on a nearby island that had a pretty amazing cave on it so we could get some shade.  The best part of this island pit stop was the fact that as we were arriving the other 2 boats were departing so we had the entire island to ourselves!

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Lastly we stopped at another island nearby on the way back into shore and again we were awestruck by the beauty of water and land Thailand has to offer.  There were tons of swings so you know we had to try them out!  This island a few years back was actually inhabited by some locals but unfortunately the government had kicked them out.  However their homes were still intact and able for us to check out.  I can’t imagine how beautiful it would be to wake up on the island and see this beauty every day.  No wonder Thais are so happy all the time!

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This was an absolute joy to island hop and we were able to share it with some amazing friends who flew all the way out to Thailand to visit us and we wouldn’t have had it any other way!

Have Fun Do Everything,

Liz

Adventures on $200 Places

Garden Tour, Aquarium and Night Safari In Singapore

July 2, 2015

For the adventure on $200 in the month of April we decided to be super touristy in Singapore.


 Here are the highlights:

Cost: $196.19

Length of time: Multiple day adventure

Activities Conquered: Multiple gardens in Singapore, canopy tree walk, cable car ride, hiking, visiting an aquarium, and a night safari.


This adventure was a blast and at first we didn’t want to do these things because we were feeling a bit touristy but then we realized we are going to be tourists for the next 12 months!  We better make the most out of every opportunity we have :) This one is 3 part; garden tours, the aquarium and the night safari.

Singapore has some amazing things about it one of which is how beautiful it is.  Every city has its own beautiful spot that everyone talks about, but here in Singapore it’s the ENTIRE city.  At any given moment there are like 100 gardeners tending to the shrubs that separate the lanes on the highway or trimming back the trees that line the sidewalks, it’s a city that takes pride in its landscape and it shows.  The botanical gardens are no exception. We toured the eco manmade trees at the Gardens By The Bay, which are the iconic gardens right in front of the mega Marina Bay Sands. These gardens have the super trees which are the man-made ones that light up at night, the flower dome and the cloud forest all of which are beautiful and are home to some of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen.

The Supertree Grove allows you to climb up in the trees and see all the vegetation that has been planted in the manmade trees to give environmental benefits to Singaporeans.  There is even a canopy walkway that is 22 meters above the ground and you can walk from tree to tree.

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The Flower Dome amazed us with nature by showing us thousands of flowers in a climate controlled spring environment.

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The Cloud Forest showed us different vegetation at different heights and even had an indoor waterfall!

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The next day we did the Botanic Gardens which has the world-renowned orchid gardens within it.  I spent an entire day in here getting lost among the trees and vegetation to make me forget I was in a huge metropolitan city.  The orchids are to die for, I could come wander these gardens every day if I lived here.  Bonus: the trails throughout the gardens are absolutely perfect for running I wish I would have known this I would have brought my trainers instead of my computer and book!

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A monitor lizard in the pond where I was working

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Following my garden days we decided to do the S.E.A aquarium.  The S.E.A. aquarium is over on the island of Sentosa that’s like the Orlando of Singapore, with tons of resorts and kid friendly parks.  There is a cable car that you can ride over to the island, it leaves from a hill in mainland Singapore with a cool hike up the hill.  You can also drive to the cable car but we wanted to hike it and I was glad we did, the cable car and hike both give you beautiful views!  We both are water lovers and love everything about the underwater world so absolutely any aquarium fascinates me but this one was special.  It is the worlds LARGEST aquarium which is a right in and of it’s own and my favorite part of the aquarium is the huge glass wall that shows you animals ranging from manta rays, goliath groupers, napoleon wrasse and so many other animals in the same massive tank.  We picked up a seat on the floor right next to the 5-year-olds and sat in awe for over an hour as the goliath groupers that we have only seen hiding underneath ships in the ocean swam right along with the manta rays.  I could have sat there for longer but we were getting hungry for lunch and well, a girls gotta eat.  The aquarium has tons to do for the kids with interactive games, shows and huge replicas of boats, fun for all ages.

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The night safari was the last on our Singapore adventure on $200 and it was a fantastic way to end the trip!  We arrived to the park at 7pm, as the park opens at 7:30, but the restaurant opens early for you to get a bite to eat.  We grabbed some food and watched the fire breathers performance at the front of the park to welcome us in, what a show! Then we took a ride on the shuttle bus around the park where you see all the animals awake, eating, playing or lounging around.  They have all sorts of animals from wallabies to tigers to lions to deer to all the small reptiles and bats!  So many bats!  Once we did the shuttle tour we went in for the creatures of the night show and the animals work with trainers and saw a huge boa, multiple otters, a spotted hyena and a binturong.   The binturong was my favorite because I had never seen one or even heard of one before!  Once we saw this show we decided to take on the park on foot for a bit deeper look at the trails we saw a snippet of on the shuttle tour.  The coolest part of the tour was that it was at night and it’s not too hot and how close you feel like you are to the animals.  The park does a great job of natural barriers so you don’t feel like you are staring at a tiger through a fence.  You are absolutely safe and at a distance from the animals but you feel like they are closer to their natural habitat than most other zoos I have been to.  We loved this safari, even if the pictures didn’t turn out great.

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Alright, now for prices and how we did all this for $200

Gardens By The Bay: Skyway for the Super Tree Grove is $5 a person and to do both Flower Dome and Cloud Forest is $20 a person. Total of $50

Botanic Gardens: All are free except the Orchid Garden which is $5 total of $5 since I did this one solo.

Aquarium: $38 for 1 person total of $74

Cable Car: $29 for one person total of $58

Night Safari: $37 a person total of $74

Total bill in SGD $261 converted into USD $196.19

I would say that’s big bang for your buck!

Get outside and see your world and as always,

HFDE,

Liz

Places

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

June 30, 2015

Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, originally Hindu but later became Buddhist at the end of the 12th century.  It’s somewhat like a right of passage when you visit Cambodia and if you are thinking about visiting Cambodia you must see Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.  While Angkor Wat is the largest monument there are other temples in the 150 square mile Angkor Archeological Park that were all built between the 9th and 15th centuries. We, like the other hundreds of people visiting Siem Reap in the low season, decided to brave the 4am wake up call to catch Angkor Wat at sunrise.  I had heard about this and knew we would not be alone but I did not expect to see SO many other tourists!  We were all awake and on the roads at 4:30 am with tuk tuk drivers acting as race car drivers for the best spot in line for their passengers to grab their ticket and hustle to the west side of Angkor Wat.  The morning went something like this, 4am wake up call, 4:30 departure time complete with breakfast basket from our hotel, 4:50 arrival at the ticket counter, wait in line for your ticket and photo to be taken, hustle with your driver to get to Angkor Wat, scurry off to catch a good spot on the grounds, take some amazing photos and get inside Angkor Wat before anyone else does to experience the temple as alone as you can.  The beginning part is a bit of a rush but once sunrise hits and you witness the temples illuminated from behind it’s all worth it!  A bit of advice for anyone thinking about visiting, you will not only use your feet for climbing but your hands as well so bring a backpack to hold your waters because there are some seriously steep steps.

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Once you have seen the sunrise, gotten some great photos jump inside before the others do.  You will have hundreds of people with you on the lawn, try to beat them inside.  Once inside you will really be in awe of the massiveness of this temple and the grounds.  It’s amazing to think it was built in the 12th century with stones from 40km away.  While Angkor Wat is impressive it was not my favorite so we did our tour and went to find our tuk tuk driver to take us to Ta Phrom.

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Ta Phrom is the temple with the trees growing on it.  I knew it was going to be packed so I wanted to go there immediately next and after a little hesitation from our driver, he obliged.  I am glad we went there next, there were a total of 3 others there which made it feel way more remote and allowed for more imagination and day dreaming of what this temple was like in its hey day.

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Next up were the Elephant Terraces and they were pretty amazing as well.  So many elephants etched into large and small rocks, very impressive.

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Elephant Terraces led us to Baphuon and we were very hot at this point but decided we couldn’t pass up climbing to the top.  We were glad we went, the view is amazing from up there!

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Lastly we saw our favorite temple, Bayon.  It has 54 faces etched into it to remember the king that had it built, pretty epic way to be remembered.

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We wandered around this temple for a while and then went to go try to find our tuk tuk driver where we thought he would be.  Turns out he was no where to be found and we hired another driver to find our original driver.  By the end of this it was almost 2:00 and we had been at the temples for 9 hours and were ready to get back to the hotel.  Angkor Wat and all the temples around it are absolutely massive and it would take days to see them all but you need to pace yourself because you become a bit templed out.  We grabbed a few awesome pictures of the gates on the way out and went back to our lovely abode, which is still our favorite place in all of the hotels we have stayed in the past 4 months.

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What an amazing day!

HFDE,

Liz