5 days in Nepal with Pomalo

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About 4 years ago, I caught the travel bug and boy did I catch it bad. As I planned my honeymoon to the Greek islands, with little to no experience booking a trip, I pleaded for help on a Facebook page. Random strangers came to my aid and quite a few of them recommended I reach out to the lovely ladies of Pomalo Travel – the designers of custom-made travel itineraries specifically based on your preferences.

Fast forward 4 years, the best honeymoon anyone could ever ask for, and 20 countries later, I found out that I was actually their first client to make a booking through their website. And because life is funny like that, they wanted me to also be with them on their first ever female-only hosted trip to one of my favorite countries on the face of this planet, Nepal.

Having been there once before and having absolutely fallen in love with the beautiful nature (think views of rolling mountains, spectacular sunsets, and out-of-this-world sunrises), warm people, interesting history, and food that you won’t mind packing on some kilos for. I was super curious to see how Rana and Mona would be able to transform the beautiful, yet humble Nepal I had come to know, with an action-packed, yet luxe trip that I had come to expect from Pomalo Travel.

Although this was a hosted trip, I am by no means coaxed, or paid to give a good account of the experience. This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Ready?

 

Day 1.

The kind folks at FlyDubai and Lawrence Travel PR hooked me up with some Business class tickets straight to Kathmandu. So a good nap, movie, and 3-course breakfast later and we were getting to know our guide Mr. Mahish and heading straight to our first hotel.

 

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That morning view though!

 

A short drive later and we were rolling right into our very own piece of heaven in the bustling streets of Kathmandu.

The staff at Dwarika’s Hotel greeted us with some sindoor powder said to give us good luck and happiness and to welcome us into their home and their country.

 

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Mona and Rana with sindoor powder

 

We were welcomed by our gracious hosts at Dwarika’s Hotel, shown around the estate, and promptly taken to our room to recharge and get ready to hit the streets of Kathmandu.

I was taken up to my suite and was instantly gob-smacked. I could already tell this was going to be a totally new experience of Nepal. The suite was so luxurious, I could’ve spent the entire holiday just lounging in the sandalwood-smelling sheets, taking in the skies of Nepal from my window.

 

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A room with a view (Dwarika’s Hotel – Kathmandu)

 

But then again, how could I rest when there was so much to see, explore and, most importantly, EAT. Equipped with my camera, rain gear, and curiosity,  I was ready to explore Kathmandu Durbar Square with Mona, Rana and our group.

 

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Monkey’s roaming the temples of Durbar Sq. and the Crematorium

 

Having visited Kathmandu Durbar Sq. in late 2014, I was almost moved to tears to see just how much of the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site was destroyed by the infamous earthquakes of 2015.

Built in the 10th century, the medieval ruins of the palaces (Durbar means palace in Nepalese), leave you in awe as you see the past unfold right before your eyes. I was stepping into the unknown with sights of palace ruins, live goddesses, and people flocking for prayers and religious rituals.

 

 

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Kathmandu Durbar Square

 

After Durbar Sq. we made our way to the crematorium area, where we were able to witness a funeral and cremation procession taking place. A truly unique and very intimate look into the local culture. From afar (as tourists aren’t allowed on the other side of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu Valley), we tried to discreetly and respectfully feed our curiosity.

 

 

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Cremation near Pashupatinath Temple

 

Then we made our way throughout the temple grounds while Mr. Mahish explained the historical and religious significance of the place. We even got to meet a few Sadhus that offered us their blessings in exchange for alms.

 

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Blessings from Sadhus

 

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Mona from Pomalo receiving blessings from Sadhus

 

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Day 2. Kathmandu

Next morning, it was time for an early wake-up call and a delicious Nepalese/international breakfast Dwarika style before we began our first adventure.

Pomalo Travel had planned a morning plane ride above the Himalayan mountain range and I was giddy with excitement at the prospect of maybe seeing Mt. Everest in all her grandeur.

 

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En route to see the Himalayas

 

A sight so beautiful it’ll almost bring you to tears. The cotton-like clouds, the snow-capped mountain range, the giggles throughout the plane as someone sees the peak of Mt. Everest — truly a sight that should be on the top of your bucket list.

Unfortunately, the weather was a bit too cloudy to capture the magnificent mountain range or even Mt. Everest on camera, but I’ve got a few mental images that won’t be leaving me during this lifetime, I assure you.

 

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Mountain range views

 

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Rana from Pomalo in awe of the view

 

We were even lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the view from the captain’s cockpit. A beautiful panoramic vista, that kind of leaves you feeling a tinge of jealousy that the staff from Buddha Air get to see these views all the time.

 

 

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Cockpit view

 

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Sunrise views of the Himalayas  (Sarangkot)

 

After the sensational views, we were off to a local house to learn how to cook Nepalese food. We got to learn the rituals and eating habits with the chef, his wife and their teenage son — a truly wonderful experience. Spicy potatoes and buffalo meat for starters, a Nepalese Thali dish, and sweet momos for dessert were all on the menu and I was on Cloud 9 the entire time.

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Day 3. Pokhara

On the morning of the third day, we jumped on an hour-long flight to beautiful Pokhara – personally, my favorite city in Nepal.

After arriving at the airport, we took a jeep and drove upwards for about 45 minutes till we reached the summit of Tiger Mountain and were greeted with a view that will leave you at loss for words. The highlight of my trip was staying at Tiger Mountain Lodge – Pokhara.

 

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View of the mountain range in Pokhara – Tiger Mountain Lodge

 

An all-inclusive, secluded estate with the best views all day long and the best Nepali food I think I’ll ever have (I’m salivating just thinking about it now).

 

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Pathway from restaurant to lodges

 

 

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Beautiful Nepali ‘high-tea’ platter at Tiger Mountain Lodge

 

After settling in, we then headed to a local school for the Pack for a Purpose initiative that Tiger Mountain Lodge is part of. We packed school supplies, books and other essentials in Dubai and brought them to a local school. We got to meet the students, talk to the teachers and enjoy the walk through the village from Tiger Mountain Lodge to Sri Shiva Shakti School.

 

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Sacred tree on our way to the school

 

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Taking photos of a water buffalo we found on the way to the school

 

 

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Rana and Mona from Pomalo and me:)

 

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The amazing students of Sri Shiva Shakti Primary School

 

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Mona from Pomalo and the students of Sri Shiva School
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One of my favorite photos of this little guy giving me a full smile

 

Then we headed back to the lodge for a Nepali dinner with views fit for queens.

 

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Nepalese Thali spread for lunch

 

 

Day 4. Pokhara

 

The next morning we woke up just before sunrise to a cup of ginger tea and a sunrise view of the Himalayas. Groggy, still in my pajamas and with a warm blanket wrapped around me like a burrito to protect me from the crisp dawn mountain breeze, I was blown away by the view.

 

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Sunrise view from Tiger Mountain Lodge

 

Then we headed to Pokhara town to take a look at the famous Fewa Lake and Peace Pagoda and to take part in a meditation session with our guide and guru.

We took a row boat to the steps of the mountain with a meditation guru and trekked to the top of the mountain to partake in a private meditation session in one of the rooms of the pagoda.

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Fewa Lake
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Row boats of Fewa Lake
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Rana in front of Fewa Lake taking in the view

After an adventurous trek to the top, we took our yoga mats and headed to the meditation rooms near the pagoda to learn about our chakras and how to meditate.

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Buddha’s watchful eyes on top of the pagoda

 

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Mahish praying in front of another pagoda in Pokhara

Unfortunately, cameras aren’t allowed near the prayer rooms, but I left feeling 10 times lighter than when I arrived.

 

After our meditation session, we headed to Sarangkot summit for a paragliding experience, soaring above Pokhara Valley and taking in the views from the top that only paragliding could offer.

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Getting ready to paraglide above Fewa Lake
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Me discovering that I may have a fear of heights

 

After our paraglide, we hit the streets of Pokhara for some well-deserved plates of momos and went to explore the fairtrade market filled with pashminas, meditation singing bowls, and handmade ayurvedic beauty products.

 

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Delicious vegetarian and chicken momos

 

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Mona learning all about Tibetan meditation singing bowls

 

Day 5. Dhulikhel

A short hour flight back to Kathmandu and we were on our way to Dwarika’s Resort in Dhulikhel. A holistic retreat perched on the beautiful mountain tops of Dhulikhel. Perfect for chakra balancing, yoga, meditation and spa treatments.

But before reaching Dhulikhel, we stopped on the way at Bhaktapur City (the city of devotees) a UNESCO World Heritage site. A city well-known for pottery, the grand Malla dynasty remnants and the Dhulikhel Durbar Sq.

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Lady selling local pottery goods
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Local fruit vendor with fruit baskets

Little did I know that the ladies from Pomalo Travel had yet another experience in store. They had arranged a pottery class with one of the local pottery masters — an experience I’ve honestly always wanted to try ever since the movie Ghost (Don’t pretend you don’t get the reference, you totally do).We rolled up our sleeves and took a shot at a pottery class.

With Unchained Melody in my heart, it was time to roll up my sleeves (figuratively) and get those wheels spinning (literally).

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After the oddly soothing pottery class, we had a few hours to have lunch (more momos, yes!) and purchase some local goods, roam the ancient streets, strike up conversations with locals and just take in the beautiful durbar square.

 

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Local woman selling pottery

 

 

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Some buildings being rebuilt after the devastation of the 2015 earthquake

 

 

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Beautiful textiles and cashmere

 

 

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Every intersection has a shaded area where people of all ages come to socialize

 

There is no greater testament to the patience, resilience, and pride the Nepalese people have for their country. All around the country, 2 years later, and the people are still working together to revive their heritage. A medley of beautiful memories of what once was, and the possibility and strength the future holds for the people of Nepal.

 

 

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Recovering from the devastation of the earthquake 2 years later

 

After exploring, we headed back to Dhulikhel to unwind.

Dwarika’s Resort is a wellness retreat that has different activities included in the price (and others paid separately).

There’s an organic farm on the estate and you can take a cooking class with the in-house chefs — starting from picking the fresh produce and ending in enjoying a delicious meal.

There’s a meditation area with 7 rooms, each signifying one chakra. You start at the first room, meditating into the first chakra and slowly make your way up to the 7th with the meditation guru.

There’s a Himalayan sea salt room filled from top to bottom with salt, buddhist chants, drinking water and dim lighting — all perfectly set up to ease your breathing, and help you meditate and unwind.

A fully-equipped spa is available on the estate with professionally-trained ayurvedic messeuses.

And if you’re lucky, you could even catch a glimpse of the some of the wildlife surrounding the resort.

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Breakfast with a surprise guest

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Dwarika’s Resort pool views

 

The perfect season for Nepal is right around the corner this October, and I wouldn’t have any one else help plan the trip.

The ladies from Pomalo have gone from being the driving force behind making my honeymoon the most wonderful experience of my life, to becoming friends I hope I can keep in touch with for years to come.

They are thorough, thoughtful and leave no detail to chance — always resulting in a trip that is nothing less than perfection.

In Croation/Dalmatian, the word Pomalo means to ‘go with the flow’ or ‘not to worry’, and there is no name better for these two — they do all the worrying for you, so that you’re always able to ‘go with the flow’.

Rana, Mona, Fly Dubai, and Lawrence Travel PR, thank you for making my trip to Nepal a truly unforgettable one.

The light in me sees the light in you. Namaste.

 

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Straight-up Bananas and Tajawal #TajawalTheWorld

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This trip, I partnered up with tajawal for their #tajawalTheWorld campaign ! I’m super excited to have had the opportunity to team up with them for my trip to Puerto Rico and California.

tajawal is the first completely catered to the region travel app. In both English and Arabic, prepare yourself to #tajawalTheWorld with exclusive travel discounts and deals!

To kick off our partnership, I’ll be dedicating two posts to cover my travel itinerary. All my recommendations and tips will be included in detail and some super cool vouchers are in the pipeline, you’ll just need to stay tuned!

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It’s that time again. The travel-withdrawal time. People keep rolling their eyes at me, seeing as I just got back from a 3-week trip–but that just means the blues is hitting me harder than ever! Give me a break!

This particular trip was like no other. Well, first of all, it’s easily the longest vacation of my adult life ever. Second of all, it was so multi-layered that at times, the anticipation made me super anxious. That and the fact that my family were finally going to get to meet my husband after almost three years of marriage.

We started in Chicago for a week, then took a flight to Puerto Rico for a week, then boarded another plane to California and drove from Los Angeles to Carmel Valley and finally San Fransisco–sheesh, I’m tired just thinking of it again.

At the moment, my life consists of running my start-up and running my blog full time. The two together is enough to turn my hair gray–now add a trip that needs to be carefully planned to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a good old-fashioned heart attack at the wee age of 26! I needed all the help I could possibly get! I mean, we’re on a budget and there’s 4 flights to book, 3 cars to rent and 5 hotels to book. Voila. Instant cardiac arrest.

Lucky for me, I was able to book all the flights I needed, at the times I needed, at the airports I needed and within budget using the tawajal app.

So if you’re interested in how I was able to pull off this crazy trip, go on and scroll right on down, partner!

Chicago

Day 1 – Day 7

Aah…the windy city. There’s not really much to tell here as my primary goal was to hang out with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I was born in Chicago and have kind of gotten over the touristy stuff. It’s a beautiful city, with a lot to offer, but my main focus was hanging out with la familia. However, if Chicago is part of your States’ itinerary, I’d really recommend using websites such as ChicagoGreeter where you can get a local to give you a tour based on your interests, free of charge!

Another useful website would be Groupon Chicago–you can get cheap tickets to different shows and activities. ChooseChicago is also another excellent tool to use when traveling to Chicago. It compiles all the best sights to see, free museum days and full itineraries for any kind of traveler! Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have enough time to explore all the art galleries, foodie events or museums I would have liked to,  but Chicago really is a budget raveler’s heaven and I will be back soon, I promise!

Day 7

Then it was wake up, grab a brush and put a little makeup, head on down to the airport again and off to Puerto Rico!

For those of you who don’t know. I am proudly Palestinian and Puerto Rican–strange mix, I know, and I absolutely love it!

We landed in the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan first and decided to spend the night there and do a little Viejo San Juan exploring. Puerto Rico used to be a colony of Spain and a lot of their influence and ruins can still be found in San Juan. With cobble-stoned roads and old fortresses, parks and cemeteries, colorfully painted houses and city overlooking the ocean you could really feel the beauty of this Carribean island.

If you find yourself in Old San Juan, exploring El Morro, Paseo De La Princesa and Bosque De Las Palomas (the Pigeon Park) are absolute musts! Maybe get yourself a helping of seafood mofongo and a pina colada to combat the sometimes sweltering afternoon sun.

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We spent our first night in San Juan at a quaint Carribean-themed inn called Tres Palmas overlooking Punta Las Marias beach. It was reasonably priced, cute and clean but a little far off from the Old Town–about 15-minutes by bus or car, but overall a lovely stay!

Day 8

And so we set off for our journey to Adjuntas. Sadly, Puerto Rico lacks good means of public transportation and so renting a car is absolutely essential to get around. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting your entire budget on taxis–and to be honest, I don’t even know that taxis will take you from one city to the next. We used Enterprise car rentals in Condado Plaza (15 minutes from Tres Palmas Inn) and the staff were so ridiculously helpful, I couldn’t recommend them more! The drive to Adjuntas is absolutely beautiful. It’ll be over before you even realize it began!

My grandparents also hadn’t met Muhannad (the hubster) and it was just one big family reunion! There were tears, hugs and lots and lots of laughter–mainly because abuelo is a massive jokster and listening to the way him and my grandmother poke fun at each other and push each other’s buttons after 50 years of marriage is hilarious.

On the left is a picture of grandpa and I on the rooftop of his house, admiring the view of the beautiful rainforests of Adjuntas and on the right is a picture of my grandparent’s porch with the sunshine peeking through the coconut and banana trees–absolute heaven!

Every day was a feast, with my beautiful grandmother cooking up a storm every chance that she got. She’d wake up early in the morning to pick fresh papaya, coconuts, bananas and oranges from her backyard garden and make us fresh juices and milkshakes.

Day 9

Family meetings over, it was time to show Mohanned why my  Carribean island is beautiful–it was time to knock his socks off!

We got into our rental and drove towards Toro Verde–home of the highest and longest zipline in the world! If you squint closely, you can see the zipline rope that descends right from the lush green mountains into the national rainforest of Orocovis.

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This zipline is a little different than anything I’ve ever seen. You’re strapped into the harness laying down on your stomach and are thrown down–SuperMan style. It’s enough to make your stomach clench, but what a view!  Although a tad pricey, the views make it worthwhile.

After we were done, it was time to embark on the 3 hour drive back to Adjuntas (It’s only 40 minutes away if you’re coming from San Juan). And of course, no Puerto Rican roadtrip would be complete without a stop at one of the many pincho stands on the road. What’s pinchos, you ask? Well, it’s your typical barbecued chicken, a la Puerto Rico. It’s served on a stick slathered in sauce and topped with some fresh bread from one the many local panaderías (bakeries). It may sound like something you’ve had a million times any where in the world, but it’s fresh, local and delicious, SO YOU TRY SOME CHICKEN PINCHOS, KAAAYY!!

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Day 10

The next day, we set off to beautiful La Parguera for my first snorkeling experience in the Caribbean and to check out the bioluminescent bay of Lajas. What a day! We set out to Lajas to meet up with our group. I’d highly recommend getting a tour with Paradise Scuba and Snorkeling. They were just all-around fun folks to hang out with. When you’re stuck at sea for 8 hours, you need people you wouldn’t mind hanging out with, right?

We arrived at the dock, got all the safety instructions that were needed and headed out to the vast Caribbean. The boat was parked, we strapped on our gear and jumped into the ocean for four hours of ocean wildlife discovery. Although absolutely magical, for some strange reason, I did freak out just a bit–not sure why, I’m an avid swimmer and I love the sea, but halfway through, I realized I’d never been that far out into the water before, and something about being in shark territory and seeing quite a few sting rays floating beneath me, kind of scared me. I’d love to give snorkeling another go–maybe next time I’ll mentally prepare myself better!

At nightfall, we prepared ourselves to go out even further into the ocean to see the bioluminescent bay. On a clear night with little to no moon or lighting of any kind, you’re bound to see the sparkling ocean as you swim around. Unfortunately for me, it’s almost impossible to capture the magic on camera unless you’ve got some NatGeo style camera work going on for you. But, I want you to fully understand what I mean when I say the ocean sparkles so I found this here photo of La Parguera by Lissa Paddock on Pinterest.

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Day 11

At this point, we’d been driving around Puerto Rico like madmen. So we decided to discover areas closer to Adjuntas. First, we started out in Bosque Guilarte (click here for the coordinates). The local rainforest park. Wonderful for a hike up to the third tallest mountain in Puerto Rico and then a nice chill in one of the wooden tree-houses along the way!

Rainforests equal loads of rain…in case the name wasn’t straight forward enough for ya. So that means, it does rain, at random especially in Adjuntas. But it’s never the rain that’ll ruin your day (unless it’s hurricane/earthquake season, then that’s a whole different story). It’s just the kind of rain, that’ll have clouds floating at your feet when you’re so high up on a mountaintop–a divine experience. God, I love this place.

After our hike, it was time to hop in the car with grandma and grandpa and check out their old house. I’ve got so many beautiful childhood memories in this place, I can’t even tell you. I remember spending summers here as a kid and spending the day playing in the creek right at the foot of their home, trying to catch baby crabs. Or hiking up the hill to pick fresh berries, bananas, papaya, guava, coconuts to drink–you name it. This place really was/is my favorite place on earth!

The entire hilltop is owned by my grandpa’s family and it’s even got the home that grandpa was born and raised in…and so was his mother before him. Sadly, abandoned now and ruined by various earthquakes and hurricanes, the 100-year old wooden house has been reclaimed by Mother Nature. The spectacle is both awe-inspiring and threatening, but beautiful nonetheless.

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Grandpa checking out his childhood home.
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If you look closely, there are still school books inside.
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Abuelo showed us exactly where his bedroom was.

Day 12

Although pooped from the hike the day before, it was time to wake up at the crack of dawn to head out to the crystal-clear waters of the beautiful small island of Guanica (otherwise known as Gilligan’s Island). Reachable only by hourly ferries, the experience was breathtaking. Just make sure you go early as the mangrove island is part of a national park and only a certain amount of visitors are allowed to be on it at a time.

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You can swim around in the warm shallow part, or venture by kayak (or not) to the mangrove areas and quite literally go with the flow as the current will push you to its heart content. A beautiful day at the beach with family!

Day 13

Our Puerto Rican journey was close to an end and what better way to wrap  it up then to visit a local organic coffee plantation and have a good old fresh cup of joe and then hurry off to a visit to Charco El Mango. A little swimming hole located 5 minutes away from my grandfather’s house. It’s quite a walk into the forest to reach the swimming hole, but it’s absolutely worth it when you get there. The Charco El Mango (The Mango Puddle) has been called that on account of the mango trees around the “puddle”–with their vines dangling in front of the pool, people (crazy people) use the vines to go all Tarzan and jump into the natural pool!

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The sign reads “Keep our beautiful island clean”

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We’ve got quite  a few more trips in store this year and stay tuned for our AMAZING California itinerary up on the blog soon.

 

Thailand itinerary–Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Yao Yai

I don’t know why it took us so long to finally visit Thailand, but I’m glad that we did and will take advantage of any opportunity I have to go back–there’s just so much to see, experience and taste!

Here’s a look at our 11-day itinerary to visiting Bangkok, Phuket (Panwa and Patong) and Koh Yao Yai.

Day 1

We arrived in Bangkok late at night and had booked a relatively cheap, but clean hotel. We were heading out to Phuket the next morning and so we just needed a shower and a clean bed to sleep on. At 100 AED a night with breakfast and a 20-minute drive from Don Mueang Airport, D Varee Xpress Makkasan Hotel was a very convenient choice. The location was good for getting a taxi to Don Mueang International Airport early the next morning so that we could go straight to Phuket. So there wasn’t much we got to see in Bangkok then, but we did get to stay a few extra days towards the end of our trip.

Day 2

We woke up at the butt-crack of dawn, had breakfast, checked out and headed towards Don Mueang Airport to catch our flight to Phuket via Air Asia. At the airport, we booked a day full of activities (the Monkey Temple, ATV, ziplining, river rafting, lunch, and take services for our entire stay at Phuket and an elephant ride) for about 180 USD for two. To be totally honest, the convenience of having a taxi driver waiting for you at each hotel and dropping you off the piers and whatnot is worth the investment alone.

We arrived in Patong and checked into our hotel. It was clean, cheap and the location was perfect for exploring the hustle and bustle of Patong–plus it was right underneath the night food market which is a win in its own right in my book any day! The Crib Patong checked all the boxes when it came to cleanliness, budget friendliness and good location. I mean, it’s not secret that food in Thailand is incredible, so the being right next to the night market, that night we had about 13 courses! I kid you not, I tried absolutely everything they had to offer–from grilled crocodile to whole shrimp to fried grasshoppers.

Day 3

Our driver came to pick us up in the morning and to take us to our full day of activities. I’d recommend you do your research well when it comes to these things. Some travel agencies get commission based on your purchases and so will cut your actual activities short to take you to some random snake-fight arena so they can get commission on every ticket bought. When we got back to Patong, we headed out to the night market for some grub then hit the infamous red district for a walk into the unknown.

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Day 3

Breakfast. Beach. Massage. Taxi to paradise.

Up until this point, I really wasn’t too sure how I was feeling about Thailand in general. Once we headed for Panwa Beach, I knew I had fallen in love. I totally different vibe than anything in Patong, Panwa Beach is the quietest area with serene beaches–so serene, it feels like your own personal beach. We stayed at Dream Sea Pool Villa and I couldn’t recommend the estate more. If you’re looking for a pause from life, for a place where everything just stands still and is just so beautiful it leaves you speechless, in Phuket this is where you want to be. We got the room right next to the beach, with our own private pool. It was heaven. Pure, utter heaven. I couldn’t believe that just a 30 minute drive away from all the hustle and bustle of Patong, this serene setting existed.

Day 4

We woke up to the crisp sea breeze, and went straight to breakfast. I spent three days in Panwa and my diet solely consisted of fresh coconut water, seafood and sunshine. I didn’t have to wear shoes for three whole days and never realised how liberating that feeling would be. We spent the day lounging around the pool and the beach. Took a few walks. And steps away from the hotel on the beach side, there are only 2 places in the entire area. Lucy’s massage and the little restaurant right next door. Her deep-fried bananas and lemongrass and ginger stuffed prawns were a killer! After your meal, you can go right next door and enjoy a Thai massage right on the beach. I got 4 in three days and fell asleep on the massage bed all four times.

 

Day 5

Last day in Panwa and we spent it eating, getting more massages, kayaking and lounging around the pool. The hotel even arranged for a scrumptious romantic sunset dinner. Absolute bliss.

 

Day 6

I was absolutely heartbroken to have to leave Dream Sea Pool Villas, but alas Koh Yao Yai awaited is and so did our driver. He drove us to Bang Rong pier about 20 minutes away from the hotel and we hopped right on to the tiny, but beautiful island of Koh Yao Yai a mere 30 minutes away from Phuket.

And then it happened. The moment I’d been waiting for my entire life, but didn’t know it. A predominantly Muslim village of fishermen this island is as beautiful as it gets. A handful of hotels inhabit and it’s villagers are kind, loving and simple people that welcome you with open arms.Our hotel, however, was exactly what I’d imagine heaven to look like. 5 months later, and my heart still hurts every time I think of Santhiya Koh Yao Yai Resort and Spa. It was like walking into a dream that you never want to end.

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Day 7

Once you’re on the island, the only things you really can do are discover the grounds of the hotel, or walk outside of the hotel and rent a motorbike and discover the small island. Within 30 minutes, you’re able to get from one side of the island to the other. We lounged around in our private hot tub and in the room the first day. Just thinking about Santhiya brings a lump to my throat.

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Day 8

We woke up early, went for yoga, had breakfast and then went to explore the island and have (a much cheaper option) lunch.

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And then just like that, it was time to leave again. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t tear up. And I’m not going to pretend that we didn’t try to come up with ways to stay on the island forever. But Santhiya will always have a special place in our hearts and I’ll be back soon–I have to.

Day 9

It was time to head back to Bangkok so we took Santhiya’s ferry straight to Ao Po Grand Marina where we were taken by shuttle bus to Don Maueng Airport. The whole ride took no more than an hour and a half. And then we were in Bangkok again–just like that, a total different world! We checked into our hotel Thee Bangkok Hotel on Sukumvit 20. The red light district, restaurants, markets–all within walking or tuk-tuk distance. Bangkok really is totally different from the islands and it can get to you at times. The plethora of homeless people, prostitution and children begging for money in the wee hours of the night is truly heartbreaking. It kills me to know that modern tourism has exploited their destitution. We arranged for a tour to the Floating Market the next morning.

Day 10

Woke up again at the crack of dawn to go to the floating market. And boy, was that an experience in itself. I highly recommend it–it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before! Old Thai grammies pulling boats closer with her stick so you can buy her fresh coconuts! AMAZING!

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You’ve got to try everything they serve you. Fresh coconut ice cream, deep fried bananas, sticky rice and mango–do not eat before going, because you have to pig out once you’re there.

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Day 11

We explored Bangkok some more and then checked out of the hotel and grabbed a cab to Suvarnabhumi Airport. Give yourself a good 1 and ten minutes to get there, Bangkok’s traffic is tricky.

And just like that our Thai trip was over. There’s only two other trips that I went through a travel withdrawal after–Thailand and Morocco. I can’t wait to go back to both!

250 claustrophobic steps later, the view proves to have been worth it after all.

Florence will forever hold a place in my corazón❤

#florence #italy #eurotrip #hike #straightupbananas #travel #wander #wanderlust #worldexplorer #worldexplorermag #explorer #travel #vacation #takemeback #love #trip #firenze #beautiful #view #thatview #gopro #fun (at Firenze, Piazza Del Duomo)

How could everything in this place be so beautiful? Morocco took me in 10 months ago and I’ve just wanted to be back ever since.

#chefchaouen #morocco #beautiful #vacation #takemeback #love #trip #straightupbananas #blue #color #boho #spottly #wanderlust #worldexplorer #worldexplorermag #explorer #travel #amazing #love (at شفشاون – Chefchaoun)

In less than 24 hours I’ll be back in Dubai. I don’t think I’m ready yet.

#goodtimes #thailand #amazing #straightupbananas #travel #wander #wanderlust #worldexplorer #worldexplorermag #spottly #trip #go #gopro #fun #beautiful (at Bangkok, Thailand)

Asian babies and grandmamas make my heart swell.

Fresh coconuts from the floating market. Thailand, you will forever hold a place in my heart.

#thailand #floatingmarket #straightupbananas #yum #delicious #hungry #eat #food #foodporn #foodgasm #fat #beautiful #amazing #trip #travel #spottly #wanderlust #worldexplorer #worldexplorermag #explorer (at Floating market, Bangkok)