Europe Ministory Series: Germany – Then and Now (By Sarit Sethi) #ministory2

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Stasi Records Agency that preserves and protects the archives and investigates the past actions of the former Stasi, which served as the secret police and foreign intelligence organization of the communist German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

Our Indian readers must have seen the Lufthansa tele ad where a grandfather and his grandson are travelling to New York on a Lufthansa flight. The grandfather goes on to prepare his grandson about ‘the German airline’ by telling him how Germans are not like Indians in their hospitality and their food. Once in the flight the child is so pleased with the homely treatment that he almost thinks they’ve boarded a wrong flight.

Continue reading “Europe Ministory Series: Germany – Then and Now (By Sarit Sethi) #ministory2”

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Guide to Bali

A friend once told me that if you had the choice of visiting one place in South-east Asia, let that place be Bali. Through 5-days spent in the region, we were convinced that Bali is worth its hype and more.

Last year, still recovering from the damages incurred through our 10 day trip to East Coast USA, we began tossing ideas for a relatively cheaper vacation. We browsed through itineraries and pictures of Srilanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia. However, one friend who has extensively travelled through these regions made the choice simple by stating that “if you had a choice to visit only one place in South-East Asia, let that place be Bali.” Thus, plans were made, deals hunted on several OTAs , flights finalized and before we knew it, we were in line with an entire town of tourists getting our visas stamped on arrival at the  Ngurah Rai airport.

After spending only a day in Bali, partner and I agreed on only one thing unanimously – that 5 days would not be enough to savor everything that Bali had to offer and that we had to come back for more. It is most difficult to write “quick” guides of places that you love so much, because pages aren’t enough. But here is an attempt to help you get started for your vacation to Bali :

  1. Flights: There are no direct flights to Bali. Depending on the airline you choose, you would be stopping over in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore and would land at the Ngurah Rai, near Densapar.
  2. Money: It is unlikely that you will find the Indonesian currency in your home country before you fly. Carry US Dollars with you and exchange a small amount (say100 USD) at the counters at the airport exit. After that make sure you exchange your money only at the authorized money changers. Indonesian currency can be overwhelming to handle owing to its high denominations, thus exchanging small amounts is a good strategy.
  3. Accommodation: Bali has many interesting regions and plenty of great accommodations to fit everyone’s taste and budget. If you look for deals, you can get some of the most beautiful accommodations for great prices. We were able to get a private villa with a pool at a property in  in Semniyak for 100 USD a night. The hospitality and love showered on us was free!
  • Kuta: The commercial heart of Bali – the malls, the restaurants, bars, night clubs and budget hotels all at a walk able distance from the famous Kuta beach. Naturally, also the place with the hordes of tourists.
  • Semniyak: To the North of Kuta, the quieter, artsy region with boutique accommodations.  Semniyak square has some great restaurants and beach clubs, and a ton of local boutiques to window shop. If you don’t care about partying, this is a great place to drink till the wee hours, people watch and socialize with the expats who have made Bali their home. The square also has a flea market with appetizing street food stalls!

Our Recommendation: We stayed at Astana Kunti in Semniyak and LOVED it.

  • Ubud:  Surrounded by rainforest, terraced rice paddies and a plethora of Hindu temples, Ubud lies 1.5 hours away from Semniyak. Instead of making a day trip, we recommend you consider staying longer in Ubud, because the region has a unique charm distinct from the other regions in Bali. It is for a very good reason that Ubud was the inspiration for the LOVE portion of Elizabeth Gilbert’s – ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ . While in Ubud, visit the HUBUD – Bali’s first co-working space, which is always buzzing with digital nomads sharing business ideas over interesting salads.
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HUBUD is a great place for young entrepreneurs to participate in a workshop, or just get inspired from the various start-ups that are run remotely from here.
  • Nusa Dua: This is a gated community of all the five-star properties in the region, which was reason enough for me to dislike it. Though we made a day trip to the highly curated grounds, it seems a place more appropriate for the business traveler.
  • Canggu: If you are visiting in a large group consider renting a villa at Canggu. Bali has some insanely gorgeous private properties which can work out to be a cheap option for a larger group.

4. Getting Around: Till January this year the petrol subsidy in Indonesia made hiring taxis in Bali a very cheap affair. That said, hiring a full day taxi to see all the famous sites still might be your best bet (around 30 USD for an 8-hour taxi back in October).  After that you can either hail the bluebird taxi (the only one with a reputation for being honest) when you require or if you know how to ride, ask your hotel to arrange for a scooter for the whole day (5 USD per day).

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We found getting around in a scooty fairly easy, cheap and flexible. We rode all the way to Ubud in this, with a GPS and plenty of sunscreen!

Our Recommendation:  For full day taxi we used The Bali Agung twice and highly recommend their services. They let you customize the tour to fit your interests and can make pertinent recommendations.

5.  Must See: While all of Bali is a visual treat – with its landscape, its charming temples, and artifacts lining its many streets, here are a few sights to visit.

  • Visit the Tanah Lot Temple for its beautiful location

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  • Watch a Kecak Dance  performance at sunset at the Uluwatu temple
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A tale from Ramayana
  • Monkey Forest, Ubud

 

  • The Pandawa Beach

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  • Hike to Mount Batur ( The volcano is not active anymore and people start the hike as early as 4 a.m. Though the view of the sunrise was breath-taking, the hike was anything but easy and can only be done with the help of a guide)
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Taking in the view at Mount Batur
  • Visit a Luwak Coffee Plantation

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6. Food:

  • Eat Local: Stop at a Warung (the local dhaba) to taste an authentic Indonesian meal. If you don’t care for the famous Babi Guling, try one of these as recommended by our friends from uncornered markets.

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  • Restaurants: Dining out is serious business in Bali and the most coveted places get booked weeks in advance for they offer the finest dining experiences. Take a look at some of the best ones here.

    Our recommendation is chef Will Meyrick’s  Sarong in Semniyak for its dreamy interiors and  memorable Asian Flavors.

7. Watering Holes: Drown a cocktail or a Bintang (local beer) at the Rock Bar Bali at the Ayana Resorts and Spa. People start to queue up  at least 2 hours before sunset to find a decent spot. (make sure you have transportation arranged as the property is in a remote area) Also highly recommended is the Potato Head Beach club and Ku De Ta any time of the day.

 8. Indulge: Finally, there is no way you can leave Bali without being pampered at a spa. Balinese do spas like no one else in the world and at unbelievable prices. We spent half a day being at quaint little place called Zen Bali Spa.

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Our Quaint Little spa

Write to us for any other tips you need, and we will be happy to help. Have you been to Bali yet? What are some of your favorite things to do in Bali.

Diet Travel: 5 tips for packing light!

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There is only one thing I love more than travelling- It is travelling cheaply. While I don’t mind spending on experiences and have also warmed up to the idea of spending a little extra on accommodations, I would still do anything to save money on flights.  Thus, over the last few years, as a result of this practice, I have signed up for some dangerously tight connections (which exposes you to multiple contingencies) and have sometimes been denied the luxury of a free checked-in bag.

Like on our last trip to Bali where we flew airasia, I was faced with the conundrum of choosing between looking stylish in my holiday pictures and travelling light! Not the one to make compromises, I took this as an opportunity to teach myself to pack lighter while keeping my sartorial choices intact.  Here are some tips you may find useful when travelling for a duration of 5-7 days:

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Air Asia is great in every way except their policy for paid checked-in bags

Continue reading “Diet Travel: 5 tips for packing light!”

Quick Guide to Krabi

Instead of splurging on diamonds or an expensive handbag, I decided to gift mom a Holiday for her big 50 – A girl trip to Krabi, the most gorgeous areas in Thailand.

Instead of splurging on diamonds or an expensive handbag, I decided to gift mom a Holiday for her big 50 – A girl trip to Krabi, one of the most gorgeous areas in Thailand. (Earlier, I have written about why I love travelling with my mother in this post here)

Birthday Welcome
Birthday Welcome

Continue reading “Quick Guide to Krabi”

2000 kms in Rajasthan: Between a music festival and a big fat Indian wedding!

15 days, 2000 kms, two souls driving through innumerable towns and cities in the most enchanting state in our country. Rajasthan is everything travel magazines claim it is and then some. Find out more about our journey and recommendations through this Holidify post.

Also check out our Photoblog Here:

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Give Thanks!

It is way past the thanksgiving weekend, and yet I don’t think I would be done giving thanks for the wonderful experiences this year has ended with for a long time to come. What makes these experiences even sweeter is the fact that they came at a time in my life when I had for the first time stopped believing in myself, believing in the good in the world that far surpasses its ugliness, at a time that I had almost stopped seeing and dancing in this wonderful gift called life.

I had very little expectations from my trip to revisit the US  when I boarded the flight more than a month ago and as I write this note on my flight back from a trip to Dallas, teary-eyed after a heart-to-heart with my boss and one of the most wonderful women I have ever known, I don’t know if I would change anything about the last 40 days of my life.

But Thank you notes are tough, especially when there is no one person that can be thanked for bringing you to see your own true reflection in the mirror. Even more so when Thank you falls a million words too short to capture the gratitude you feel towards the universe and its workings.  But some words need to be spelt out, even though most people I thank would probably never get to read this note, but then like love, gratitude needs expression sometimes in words and sometimes in action. You know you are truly blessed when you find a great travel companion,  find a mentor for life, meet a dozen old friends and make a ton new ones in a span of a couple of weeks.

I am thankful for strangers, who became friends and left me speechless in their magnanimity. I am thankful for the friends who re-surfaced from the fuzzy place in my past, driving down to see me, reminding me once again of how blessed I truly am. Thankful for the familiar and thankful for the new and strange. For chance encounters and the ones fashioned by destiny.

Hence once again, from Rihanna’s song that once used to be my motto for life, this is for the one up there looking out for me, ‘Please don’t stop the music’.