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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5 Days in Southern Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka has been on my Bucket List for a while now, and I’m so happy that I finally had the chance to visit.

Although our trip was shorter than I would’ve liked, I think we got a pretty decent taste of the Southern cities of Sri Lanka. Our trip was – all in all – 5 days, but it was absolute perfection from start to finish and I can’t wait to share our itinerary with you!

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Day 1

We set off from sunny Abu Dhabi and a short 4 episodes of Family Guy and 4 New Girl episodes later, arrived in Colombo.

We hired a taxi to drive us to Midigama from Colombo. The entire ride I was told should be about 3 hours long, but we got lost along the way so it ended up taking double the time. Just make sure the taxi takes you through the highway! The taxi ride cost us about 7000 Rupees which is about 175 AED + tolls.

Our first order of business was to visit Ebb and Flow Jungalows in Midigama. About a year ago, one of the only fashion bloggers I’ll ever follow, StyleDrifter, featured these lovely Jungalows on her blog and ever since I’ve been lusting over them, in the hopes that one day I’ll get to check out the place. And I did. And it was glorious.

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We pulled into the driveway a good four hours later than anticipated, only to find the wonderful Chef Indika had been waiting for us all along with a full-fledged dinner of incredible Sri Lankan curries galore!

 

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Chef Indika’s Amazing Curries
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View from the kitchen and dining area

Each Jungalow comes with its own special Jungalow Manual. A manual with all the information you’ll ever need. How to order food, where to get the best surf classes, the best-priced massages in the area, how much taxis should be charging you–I mean, this little booklet was a testimony on how much love end energy Verity and Garrath put into the jungalows. No detail is spared. They even give you a mobile phone along with their numbers so you can contact them whenever needed.

 

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Fresh Fruit and the Jungalow Manual

 

Day 2

After getting the good night’s sleep we so desperately needed. We woke up nice and early for a very eventful day planned out meticulously. First, we were going to have breakfast with Chef Indika then we were going to get our swimwear and head for our first lesson in surfing…ever

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Prepping our surfboards

I won’t lie and say that I was a natural, but I did thoroughly enjoy it even if I wasn’t ever able to get off my stomach! Garreth (owner of the Jungalows along with his wife, Verity) set up our class with a local instructor and I’m glad he did. This guy was an excellent teacher–very safe and very cautious while still giving you plenty of room to play:)

After our surf class we headed back to Ebb and Flow Jungalows and found that chef Indika had prepared a lunch fit for kings. So every morning after breakfast, you choose what you want for lunch and chef Indika scouts the local markets for fresh produce,

Here’s how the halfboard option of the Jungalows go. Every morning after breakfast, you choose what you want for lunch and chef Indika scouts the local markets for fresh produce, fish and poultry, comes back to the junglaows and prepares lunch/dinner. I don’t think I’ve ever been as spoilt  as I was on my last trip to Sri Lanka.

 

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Lunch was Singapore Crabs with a fresh avocado and tomato salad

 

After lunch, we finally got to meet half of the brains behind these wonderful Jungalows. Verity stopped by and told us everything we needed to know about the area. She asked what we enjoyed doing and we hoped to gain from our stay in Sri Lanka.

Before my tour with Verity, Mohanned and I decided to chill in the private pool in our villa and enjoy the lovely weather.

 

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Private Villa Pool

 

Her and I later decided to go on a famous Tipple Tuk Tuk Tour. You can find information on the tours on this link. So the cool thing about a Tipple TukTuk tour is that Verity and the wonderful Talak have you hop on their tutktuk and take you to all the coolest spots for drinks, snack, sunset views and dinner. You can hook up your phone or ipod to Talak’s tuktuk and enjoy your favorite tunes on the road.

The beauty of this tour is that Verity takes you to cool hangouts that you probably wouldn’t have found without her. She takes you off the beaten path, to enjoy wonderful experiences like catching fireflies by the beach.

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Then she took me to meet her friends at Bedspace Hotel for an amazing dinner experience. Malcolm, the owner and chef, is also an expat living in Sri Lanka. The food, conversation and music just make for a perfect night out.Verity is also a life coach and I could honestly say I had very heartfelt, one-on-one

 

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Grilled Chicken and Spanish Rice — Absolutely Delicious!

 

Verity is also a life coach and I could honestly say I had very heartfelt, one-on-one conversations with her without ever feeling awkward or judged in any way. It truly is an experience not to be missed. I mean, it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to roam a city with a local, right?

 

Day 3

Sadly, our third day in Sri Lanka was our last in Ebb and Flow Jungalows and it was time to set sail to our next destination in the Southern region of Sri Lanka, Koggala Lake.

We really enjoyed hanging out with everyone after dinner and I feel like we made friends in Midigama that I’ll never forget.

Sweet Tallak (he is the sweetest person on the face of this planet and the best hugger ever) was waiting to take us to Koggala by tuktuk and a short and very scenic 25 minutes later we were pulling up to the drive way of Tri.

On the way, Tallak stopped and showed us some wild sea turtles splashing about in the ocean and we got fresh coconuts. I mean that right there is my idea of heaven.

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Tallak and I looking for sea turtles

I’d really recommend reaching out to Tri before arrival as the hotel is a bit off the beaten path and it will make your life a lot easier if the hotel staff talks directly to the taxi or tuktuk driver–it’s a little far out and could be tricky to find, but once you get there your life will never be the same, I promise.

This. Place. Is. Unreal.

It’s like something straight out of a dream.

Minimilist. Beautiful. Inspiring.

 

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The first thing you see, the infinity pool
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Library and Yoga studio

We were greeted by the lovely Imesha and a nice cold papaya smoothie and I knew I was in love. I still hadn’t seen where we’d be staying, but at that point, I didn’t care if I stayed on the grass and slept the night. This place is unbelievably beautiful. I cannot even explain.

After check in, Imesha guided us to where we’d be staying, the Water Tower room.

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The outside of the water tower
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View of the pond, library and yoga studio from the water tower

 

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The bed and view

And as if I weren’t gob smacked before, I was informed by Imesha that multiple-course breakfast and dinner were included with the cost along with free yoga classes with the owner of the estate.

I can’t even call this place a hotel. It’s much, much more. Every inch of this place is so well thought out. I mean, the water in the pool is chlorine free, it’s ionised water.

The positioning of the water tower rooms follow the Golden Ratio which is said to promote harmony and internal balance.

I know most of you may be skeptical, but there’s something about this place that just has you at ease.

You will not want to leave. I promise you.

Please do not miss the spectacular sunset view over the lake on the terrace upstairs.

 

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The sunset over lake Koggala at Tri

 

Day 4

The soothing sounds of dawn prayer at the monestary nearby along with the lake breeze will wake you up with a smile on your face.

Then it’s time to head to breakfast.

Everything they serve at Tri is locally sourced and organic. And each dish is a work of art.

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After breakfast we sat at the infinity pool and soaked in some sun.

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Pool Area

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Then we contacted Imesha for help booking a boat trip to the nearby Cinnamon Island and a couple’s massage for our 3rd year wedding anniversary.

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On our way to Cinnamon Island

The boat ride is equipped with a cooler full of cold beverages and fresh coconuts for the ride.

The island itself is a tour on how cinnamon is grown, harvested and prepared along with some other local spices and herbs.

My only piece of advice would be not to take on the tour guide’s challenge on eating chilis. I thought I was okay with the heat, but my stomach didn’t agree. At all. Don’t do it.

When we came back to the hotel, Imesha had put together a very romantic dinner for Mohanned and I in celebration of our anniversary. Along with a custom made anniversary cake.

The estate is breathtakingly beautiful, but the staff are amazing. They will literally bend backwards to make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible.

Day 5

I was heartbroken to leave, but it was time to thank the Universe for giving me the wonderful opportunity to visit Sri Lanka. We headed back to Colombo airport and right back to overly sunny Abu Dhabi.

Two months later, and I’ve already booked another trip back. I can’t wait.

 

 

Welcome to Morocco – اهلا بكم في المغرب

Moroccan breakfast

 

Prepare yourself for my most visually invigorating post yet–not because my photography skills have blossomed (they have not), but because Morocco promises beautiful pictures even if you were using a Nokia 3300.

I’ve been putting off writing my Morocco post for longer than I should’ve, only because I wanted to make sure it was as perfect as it could be and that it did the beautiful cities of Marrakesh, Chefchaouen, and Essaouira justice.

As a child, being a mixed kid always confused the heck out of me. I often wondered if I were more Arab than Hispanic, or vice versa. As an adult, I realized that being both was double the awesome–I wish I could’ve explained that to little 7-year-old Ahlam. I wish I could’ve told her that there would be a day you’d get to travel to Morocco and find city, upon city of people as vibrant, as culturally diverse and as authentic as you. With African, Arabic, Moorish, Spanish, Amazigh, Portuguese and French influence, Morocco stole my heart the second I landed in Casa Blanca.

A true feast for the senses–with sights, smells, flavors and various textiles caressing your being as you walk down the colorful alleyways of each city–Morocco needs to be on the top of travel bucket list, my friends.

Moroccan mint tea

Day 1

We landed in Casa Blanca, and hopped onto the airport train and straight to our hotel. We had lunch, slept at an Ibis hotel right next to the train station as we were heading early morning the next day to Chefchaouen. The hotel was clean, beds were rather comfortable and it was less than a 2-minute walk to the train station.

Day 2

The next morning we woke up at dawn to head to the beautiful blue-washed village of Chefchaouen. Located in the midst of the Kif mountains, painted from top to bottom in different blue hues and without a car in sight–it’s most definitely not a sight to be missed. We took a three-hour train ride to Tangier and then hired a petit taxi (a taxi cab) for an hour and a half to take us to Chefchaouen.

Then. We. Arrived.

I could try night and day to explain to you how beautiful this place really is, but I would never be able to do it justice. The people are kind, the breeze is gorgeous, the food and music and leather and..and…the list could go on for days!

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We commenced with the near hike through the steps, upon steps of blue that led us straight to the first hotel we’d be staying at, Dar Zambra. We were greeted warmly and taken to our beautifully decorated room. That photo above was the view from our window. The entire hotel only has 4 rooms, try to get the Green room–the room on the highest floor right next to the breakfast terrace. Put your stuff away so you don’t clutter the serenity of the room with every nook handmade to artisan perfection. Take a shower in the beautiful bathroom and just open the window and allow the golden Moroccan sun to warm you up as you lay in bed and feel the chill of the Kif mountain breeze and the sound of the adhan echoing through the air. It brings tears to my eyes just remembering. It was and is utter perfection.

The manager and his wife could arrange for a Morrocan cooking class in their quaint little kitchen.

Once the afternoon sun has subsided a bit, venture through the souks of leather bags, poufs and hand woven carpets and tapestries. Enjoy a conversation with the group of old men sitting on the ground, painting a masterpiece, conversing with friends and enjoying a drag of cigarette simultaneously.

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Day 3

The next morning, wake up at dawn (trust me, do it) and enjoy the sun rise over the mountains. Enjoy the sun set over the mountains. Enjoy the moon emerge from behind the mountains. Enjoy the mountains.

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Then head on out to the terrace and enjoy one the best breakfasts you’ve ever had.

Moroccan breakfast

We spent the rest of the day enjoying our room and scenery then once again, when the sun’s harsh rays subsided we walked through the alleys again. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch of Lahm wa Barkouk (a lamb tagine with prunes and almonds) at a restaurant called Ali Baba…and then we enjoyed that dish 4 times more before we left 🙂

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Then it was on to shopping for some leather, hand woven carpets and silver Amazighi jewelry.

Day 4

We checked out of Dar Zambra and in to Ryad Lina & Spa for a taste of a stay at a true Morrocan Riad and a Moroccan hamam.

The hotel was lovely, a bit more continental than Dar Zambra. The spa was absolutely lovely, but the staff didn’t add the personal touch that the folks at Dar Zambra did. The estate itself was lovely with a large terrace in front of your room where you could order room service.

 

Them it was time to take a taxi to the local bus station and head to Marrakesh. I warn you that you NEED to properly plan your trip. Geography-wise it’s not the best idea to head directly from Chefchaouen to Marrakesh it’s almost a 10 hour ride (and that’s if you ride the correct bus. We did not)

Word of advice, stick to the touristy CTM buses as they’re quick and they hardly make any stops. The bus that we got on, was a regular governmental bus that stopped every ten minutes. It almost took us 16 hours to get to Chefchaouen. Not the highlight of our trip.

Day 5

We arrived at Marrakesh at 3 o’clock in the morning which means we practically missed our first night there and were only left with one more night. Once we arrived at the bus stop in Marrakesh, we had no idea how to get to our hotel. Luckily for us, the riad manager, Desiree was an angel and when we called her in the middle of the night, she got out of bed and came to meet us on the street to take us to the hotel, Riad Farhan.

Day 6

Weary from the journey of the night before, we woke up without the slightest realization of the beauty of the space we were in. This riad is where you MUST stay if you’re in Marrakesh. YOU MUST STAY HERE! It is absolutely, jaw-droppingly beautiful! You won’t want to leave your room, I assure you!

It was like waking up in a dream. In a dream where you keep telling yourself that this could not possibly be real.

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In the afternoon, we ventured beyond the walls of the heavenly Riad Farhan to explore the city, with rows upon rows of souks of spices, leather, lanterns, mirrors and silver. We headed towards the famous Jamea Al Fana, an ancient square or plaza where the wonderful people of Marrakesh gather to perform acrobatic skits, theater, and music. With snake charmers scattered around, performing monkeys and horse-pulled chariots. With steamed snail stands, freshly prepared seafood stands with communal tables and walking vendors with fresh orange juice or fresh Morrocan tea strapped to their back. We realized we were light years away from peaceful Chefchaouen. Marrakesh was a different trip altogether–one not to be missed.

Day 7

Having had our short trip to Marrakesh be made even shorter by getting on the wrong bus, it was time to have one last lunch in Marrakesh and head off for a 2-hour bus ride to the coastal area of Essaouira.

Once invaded by the Portuguese, the dialect and food are totally different in Essaouira. The perfect place from some fresh seafood (especially sardines) and a good old-fashioned tan. We stayed at the lovely Le Medina Essaouira Thalasso and Spa. With a lovely sea view from accross the street and about a 3 minute walk to the city center, it was a good option in Essaouira.

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Day 8 and 9

The rest of our trip was spent roaming the alleyways and fortresses and then enjoying some beautiful sunshine and beach time until we head back to Casa Blanca.

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Day 10

We arrived in Casa Blanca, spent the night at the same ibis hotel and took the train back to the airport and back to Dubai 😦

 

I loved Morocco, I loved every second of it. Marrakesh and Chefchaouen were my absolute favorites. What a beautiful country!

I put together a little video of my stay here.

 

 

 

 

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)

How to make the cutest Thai island dinner ever:

1- stuff a pineapple with fried rice and make a pineapple smoothie with leftover flesh
2- make aromatic coconut milk soup
3- make refreshing but deceptively spicy lemon grass salad
4- stuff the freshest fish on this earth with even fresher ingredient
5- use banana leaves as candle holders
6- serve it all on the beach. During sunset.

#takemeback #thailand #island #yummy #eat #thai #happy #love #sunset #beach #beautiful #dubai #food #foodporn #foodgasm #delicious #hungry #sea #vitaminsea #bestthingever #straightupbananas #travel #wander #wanderlust #worldexplorer (at Dream Sea Pool villas)