Adventure-Bound: Banos, Ecuador!

One of the greatest adventures we had during our South American trip was in the tiny city of Banos, Ecuador, where we participated in many adrenaline-pumping activities! For the uninitiated, Banos is a city in Ecuador that is most well-known to be the gateway to the Ecuadorian Amazon. Because of its proximity to the Amazon and the nearby Tungurahua Volcano, it is also a haven for outdoor hikes and adventure sports.

Here are some of the exciting once-in-a-lifetime things we did, and for some, perhaps never again! :p

Day 1: Arrival and dinner

We arrived at Banos from Quito at about 4pm, and went for dinner at Alto Caribe Restaurant, a cosy local joint that served extremely delicious arepas (grilled flatbread with filling). Don’t be deceived by its simple setting – its food is seriously delicious! We had a soup of the day (vegetable with quinoa soup), breaded chicken breast and a reina pepeada arepa (flatbread with avocado and chicken). Everything we ordered tasted divine. The breaded chicken breast was sooo crispy; it was coated with cereal and a special creamy garlic sauce that was oozing out, andthe meat was super tender. YUM!

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The different types of arepas available – I didn’t manage to get a photo of the actual arepa 😦

Alto Caribe Restaurant Bistrot
Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: Oriente, Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador

After dinner, we walked around and visited different tour agencies we had shortlisted in the vicinity. We then booked a canyoning tour with GeoTours for the next day (USD30 per pax).

 

Day 2: Canyoning, Biking and The Diablo Waterfall!

Our exciting day started with canyoning at Rio Blanco with GeoTours. The activity lasted for 3 hours and we had a private session because only both of us signed up! We changed into our wet suits, learnt some basics of canyoning (including safety precautions), hiked up to the top of the waterfall (pant… pant…!), then embarked on the life-changing experience.

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J clearly enjoying himself from the very beginning, exhibiting absolutely no signs of anxiety LOL

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Me trying to look cool but actually quivering and dying inside #notsocool

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Onward! #couplegoals

We continued like this for 5 separate waterfalls (I can’t recall how I survived all that) and at the last one, we actually slid down the waterfall into the plunge pool below! The fall was near vertical and the only thing I can remember is swallowing lots of water. It was such a wild experience, and one I’m not particularly keen to relive again. 😉 It left me paralysed for two days (figuratively).

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Taking the final plunge into the plunge pool LOL 

GeoTours Adventure & Fun

In the afternoon, we rented bikes to cycle along the famous waterfall route, or Ruta de las Cascadas, which allowed us to pass by several waterfalls around Banos before arriving at THE highlight of the day – the Diablo (or Devil’s Cauldron). Some of the waterfalls literally spilled into the middle of our cycling paths and we were like giggling kids being soaked in the spray!

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One of my favourite parts of the trip 🙂 

We parked our bikes and after a short 30m hike, reached the mid-point of the immensely powerful Diablo waterfall.

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The force is seriously scary! Really befitting name.

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Enjoying this actually 🙂

We also took a separate route that went behind the waterfall, which involved a lot of crouching and crawling up wet rocks. We were totally soaked! We absolutely loved it.

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View from behind the falls! 

After an amazing time at the falls, we hopped onto the back of a lorry, which took us (and our bikes) back to the city centre. We were totally bushed, and had dinner at Pappardelle Ristorante, where we ordered some yummy Italian fare – you can never go wrong with Lasagne and Spaghetti Bolognese, the ultimate comfort food! 😊

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J with his spaghetti! 

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Me with my lasagna… carb overload! Totally worth it. 

Pappardelle Ristorante
Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
AddressAv. Rocafuerte Y 16 De DiciembreBanos 180250, Ecuador

 

Day 3: Mercado Central, Ziplining and Casa del Arbol!

On our final day at Banos, we started bright and early at the Mercado Central (Central Market) for breakfast like the locals. The place was crowded but very clean, and thankfully we managed to get seats. I had bolon chicharron (fried potato dough fritter with pork – absolutely addicted to the bolons in Ecuador) and huevo fritos (fries) while the mister had his breakfast set. I also ordered avocado smoothie, which was absolutely delicious! For our feast, we spent a grand total of USD5. Quality – check, quantity – check.

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Mercado Central – where locals dine! 

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She’s cooking the bolons! My favourite!!! ❤ I could eat them all. 

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Breakfast set! Absolutely delicious! 

Mercado Central
Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: 
Eloy Alfaro, Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador

J then went for ziplining (it cost him USD 20 with GeoTours) while I walked about town. There were 9 zipline adventures he did in total, which allowed him to try different ziplining positions – superman, upside down fly etc. His favourite was the superman stunt where he was able to fly between canyon walls like a free bird! However, he mentioned that ziplining was not as fun as canyoning (maybe ‘cos I wasn’t there? LOL 😊) and that it got a little boring after a while.

In the afternoon, we took a local bus to Casa del Arbol, which is famous for its tree swing (for adults!) The bus ride took 40 minutes and cost us just USD1.50 each. The whole place was like a playground for adults to relive our childhood… for the tree swing, you basically swing off the ‘edge’ of the hill and take in the breathtaking view of the valley below.

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The famous La Casa Del Arbol Tree Swing!

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Up, up and away! 🙂

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View of the valley from the swing! 

It’s not as scary as it looks – it’s really fun! There was also a simple zipline and many other swings, plus a café.

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J getting his dose of childhood here 

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Child’s play but strangely satisfying! 

La Casa Del Arbol
Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 (come be a child again!)
AddressRuntun villageBanos 010151, Ecuador

*Do note that bus timings are irregular so it is always best to check with the driver when you hop off the bus on the time that he is expected to be back at Casa del Arbol to return to Banos city centre. Be there early too – they aren’t that punctual and timings can be off as much as twenty minutes. 

 

One for the album… the disastrous manicure(s)

By the time I was at Banos, I missed my routine manicure so much that when I saw a USD2 deal for gel manicure on the first day, I immediately jumped on it! The quality was terrible, and the manicure actually peeled off that very night. Unfazed, I decided to visit another manicurist on the second day. This time, I asked the hostel staff for recommendations and a manicurist actually came by to the hostel to do my nails for me.  I settled on a set of red gradation nails and was so excited for it!

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What I showed the manicurist

Brace yourselves for the final result…

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WHAT I GOT

Halloween nails, anyone? I was so afraid that I would get stopped at the US customs because my nails looked like they were soaked in blood LOL. So on the very last day, while J was out ziplining, I did yet another round of manicure with a local salon for USD2. This time, I went simple – single colour – but the manicurist scraped my nail beds so hard that I started bleeding.

Moral of the story: DON’T BE VAIN. DON’T DO YOUR NAILS IN BANOS. JUST LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH THE ADVENTURES.

LOL anyway, to end off, here is some information you may find useful for your trip to Banos!

Getting to Banos

Getting to Banos from Quito is a breeze. From the Quitumbe Terminal, a bus to Banos costs USD4 per pax and takes about 3.5 to 4 hours. The bus may make stops along the way to pick up passengers, so be sure to keep an eye on your belongings.

Accommodation

For our stay in Banos, we booked with Hostal D’Mathias at USD20 per night, for a double room with private bath. The place was conveniently located and comfortable. We were delighted to find that the hot shower worked very well – we had learnt not to take hot showers for granted when travelling around South America – and there was even an in-house laundry service and tour agency! 😊 There was also a well-fitted common kitchen and communal computers with wifi-connection. The only grouse was that we had to climb four flights of steps to get to our room, which was located right at the top of the hostel, and there were lots of smokers around… Yikes!

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address16 de Diciembre, Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador

 

That’s all, folks! We hope you enjoyed this short post! 🙂

*This is a non-sponsored post.

With love,
cropped-cropped-three-wandering-bears

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Colours of Cuenca, Ecuador

Introducing Cuenca

A city situated in the southern part of Ecuador, Cuenca is well-known for its picturesque scenery and for being the actual birthplace of the Panama Hat. Its colonial architecture – which has largely been preserved till date – is credited for it being the most ‘European’ city in Ecuador. In fact, in Cuenca, you wouldn’t be blamed for mistaking that you were walking along the streets of Spain!

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Spanish/European architecture adorn the streets of Cuenca

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Like many cities in South America, Cuenca’s city centre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the city’s preservation and restoration of its historical buildings. Cuenca has also seen a fast growing expatriate population, largely comprising retirees from the US and parts of Europe.

We were in Cuenca for 5 days, and are thrilled to share the highlights of this beautiful city with you!

Highlights of Cuenca

  • Homero Ortega Hat Museum
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Homero Ortega – the father of Panama Hats

Contrary to popular belief, the famous and widely coveted Panama Hat is actually Ecuadorian in origin. The misnomer comes from the fact that these hats used to be exported to Europe via the Panama Canal, and thus became misrepresented as the Panama Hat.

Homero Ortega, a native of Cuenca, began producing the hats and honing his craftsmanship from his home in Cuenca. Over the 20th century, his name became the hallmark of quality Panama hats. Today, the Homero Ortega Hat Museum is still family-run, and houses a museum, production facility and hat shop. Entry is free and includes a guided tour in Spanish/English, where you can learn about the history of the Panama hat, the company and the production process.

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Freshly woven hats stacked up in the museum

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And then given their colours…

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Before being hot-pressed into shape!

Made from the leaves of a unique coastal plant native to Ecuador, the value of the hat is directly commensurate with the experience of the weaver. At the end of the visit, you can pop by their store to try on the many different hats on display, and possibly get your hands on one!

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Famous people who popularised the Panama Hat… who’s next?

 

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
AddressAvenue Gil Ramírez Dávalos, Cuenca, Ecuador

  • Museo del Sombrero de Paja Toquilla

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If you do not wish to travel too far from the city centre to visit Homero Ortega’s Hat Museum, you can visit an alternative museum that is located in the heart of Cuenca city – simply known as the Panama Hat Museum. The museum briefly showcases the production process of the hat, and has its own shop and café on the second floor, where you can enjoy a cuppa with a wonderful view of the city. The hats cost cheaper too, but are much more limited in variety.

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Rooftop cafe

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Plus points for the wonderful view from the rooftop cafe! 🙂

 

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
AddressCalle Larga, Cuenca, Ecuador

  • New Cathedral of Cuenca

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I really loved this… carvings on the cathedral’s door of the daily lives of the Jesuits


Verdict
:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: Mariscal Sucre, Benigno Malo Cuenca, Ecuador

This place is a monastery for nuns who have decided to live a life of celibacy in seclusion from the rest of the world. They are denied contact with everyone outside the monastery, and to eke a living, they sell products (e.g. flowers and wines) through a rotating window. Devotees can leave notes and prayers in front of the monastery’s statue of the Saint of Justice and Peace.

It is also interesting to try the nuns’ famous home made drink – a healthy herbal concoction made of 20 different herbs, that is said to cure virtually any illness to those who drink it. It costs just USD0.50 per cup and can be bought just outside the monastery.

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Somebody’s feeling energised already! Haha

The nunnery could be a special photo-stop but its interior is otherwise inaccessible to the general public. The church situated next to it, though, is open for worship services.

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address
: y, Padre Aguirre, Cuenca, Ecuador

  • La Plaza de las Flores

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Situated in the square right in front of Carmen de la Asuncion is the city’s famous open air floral market, which was named by National Geographic as the most beautiful open air floral market in the world. Though small, the market has a variety of beautiful fresh flowers and is open all year round, with devotees buying them in bulk as offerings for prayer.

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: 
Miguel Vélez, Cuenca, Ecuador

Out of the rivers that run through Cuenca, we found this the most scenic and beautiful of the lot. Its banks have been artfully landscaped, making it a perfect place for strolls, picnics and the like. This river divides the old historic town from the new modern district, and decorations adorn it during festivals like Christmas. We absolutely loved it!

Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

  • El Cajas National Park

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No visit to Cuenca is complete without a trip to Parque Nacional Cajas! Situated just 30km from Cuenca city, the park boasts 2.75 lakes per square km, giving it one of the highest lake concentrations in the world. These lakes were formed by melting glaciers which also carved out its deep gorges. On a typical day, the mountains in the park are shrouded in low-hanging clouds that makes it absolutely dreamy. This is where it gets its name from – which in Quechua means “gateway to heaven”.

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The Park is home to a variety of flora and fauna, including more than 150 bird species, more than 40 mammal species and almost 600 plant species, some of which are endemic to the park. The activities you can do here include hiking, bird watching, sport fishing and camping with a permit (costs USD4). Entry is free but you have to register at the visitor information centre, where the park ranger will recommend the most suitable hiking route for you based on your experience and time available. After that, you can treat yourself to some snacks at the café with a view!

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We quickly scrambled to the cafe once it threatened to pour 🙂 Great decision!

Verdict:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Opening hours: 8am to 430pm
Address: Azuay, Ecuador

(*Tip: Take a public bus from Terminal Terrestre (usually buses to Guayaquil). Don’t eat too much as the roads are very bumpy and winding – we ended up with experiences of children puking and having diarrhea on the bus!)

 

  • La Escalinata

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What looks like an ordinary flight of steps is actually a piece of history you are walking on! This is the oldest flight of stairs in Cuenca (yes, so much so that it has a name of its own), which was initially constructed to connect homes to the city centre. It is interesting to check out the ever-changing street peddlers lining the stairs selling handmade craft and jewellery, and even offering services like tarot card reading!

  • Parque Calderon

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I actually found this place pretty interesting ‘cos its name sounded like Park Cauldron. Haha anyway jokes aside, this plaza is a central gathering spot for many people just stopping to take a break or meet up with friends etc. Trees provide shade and street peddlers sell food and random items on the go. In the centre of the park is the statue of Garaicoa Abdon Calderon, who died in the important Battle of Pichincha at age 18. This battle was instrumental in helping Ecuador gain independence later on. During Christmas, the Park is decorated with lights and other Christmas decorations, making it a romantic spot for couples as well!

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Soooo pretty!

 

  • Museo Cidap

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Cuenca is full of museums that depict its rich history, but one interesting museum we recommend visiting is Museo Cidap, which is located along the Rio Tomebamba. It displays traditions of handicraft and art work from all over South America and is the place to learn about all things Andean, Ecuadorian and artsy! Entrance fee is a mere USD3, and there is a café where you can relax too!

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: Pa. 3 de Noviembre, Cuenca 010101, Ecuador

  • Fly fishing

One of the popular activities to try out in Cuenca is fly fishing. We booked a private lesson for two for half a day, at USD 100, with James from Fly Fishing Ecuador. We were picked up from our accommodation and driven to Cajar National Park, where we had our fly fishing lesson at a private lake. The lake was full of trout and we caught 25 in 3 hours (we eventually released them back into the lake). We then went for a sumptuous locally cooked trout lunch at a restaurant down the road – the food and ambience were amazing and cost us just USD10. The most memorable event? Fishing in the cold and running to the indoor fireplace every 20 minutes to warm ourselves. Haha.

 

Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Click here to contact Fly Fishing Ecuador

 

Great Eats, Tried & Tested: The Bears recommend!

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Supremely crowded even on a weekday…

This brunch place is popular with expatriates, and serves a pretty decent Western-style brunch. The café was extremely crowded when we visited, and throughout our meal more people kept streaming in! We had minced beef and omelette, pancakes, and two cups of hot chocolate. The portions were HUGE and the food was tasty! Service was great too and our hearty meal cost us just USD11.50.

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Pancakes – just the right amount of fluffiness! 

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Omelette looks ordinary from the outside but….

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Ta-da! O M G


Verdict
:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: Calle Larga 9-38, Cuenca, Ecuador

Though it looks unassuming from the entrance, you will be quite pleasantly surprised to find that it is actually quite a large local restaurant with ample seating and cosy décor. The waiter also speaks good English and some Mandarin – perfect for us with limited knowledge of the Spanish language! We had the Menestra con pollo, which was essentially chicken with beans and rice, as well as an encebollado mariner, a popular Ecuadorian seafood stew. Both tasted very local and this is a good haunt if you want Ecuadorian food that tastes good and is decently priced. This meal cost us USD 12.50.

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Menestra con pollo

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Encebollado mariner (seafood stew)

Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: Simón Bolívar, Cuenca 010101, Ecuador

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Situated in a residential neighbourhood

We know we are overgeneralising when we categorise Asian food into one simple category… but we didn’t really manage to see many other Asian restaurants in Cuenca and this one was good! Anyway, as Asians, there are certain staples we occasionally crave for when overseas, such as rice and noodles. We try to dine at at least one Asian eatery at every city we visit. We found Chopsticks Taiwanese Restaurant, which serves authentic Chinese food and is run by a Taiwanese who moved to Cuenca over 10 years ago. We tried Taiwanese favourites such as Lu Rou Fan, dumplings and Bubble Tea (super love!) The friendly owner struck a conversation with us and gave us very useful travel tips. This place is popular with locals as well.

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Lu rou fan – a little deviation from the traditional Taiwanese version but it did its job 🙂

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A little ‘instant’ tasting but this was as close to chinese dumplings as we could get 🙂

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This was SO GOOD

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Location here

  • Best fast food: La Europea

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Every single day we were in Cuenca, we would walk past a really packed La Europea, filled with locals buying hot dog buns no matter the time of the day. These buns looked seriously ordinary. I mean, they are just hot dog buns, right? Wrong. One day, our curiosity finally got the better of us and we decided to taste it for ourselves to find out what all the hype was about. For our first visit, we had the grande (bun with large chicken franks) for just USD1.60, complete with a soft drink. It was SO GOOD that we came back subsequently to try every single thing on the menu! LOL. Our favourite was the ranchero (bun with spicy beef sausage).

We can’t believe we almost missed this gem because we thought it was “just a hot dog bun”.

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Two La Europea hot dog buns a day make us a happy couple! 😀

Verdict:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: General Torres, Cuenca, Ecuador

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Cuenca is especially famous for its traditionally baked bread. The Todos Santos bakery has been around for over 20 years. It bakes its bread the traditional way – using a large furnace, sans preservatives. The bread is baked daily and there are 14 varieties of bread sold. We tried the much raved sugar coated cheese bread, which was extremely simple yet tasty – and cost us only USD0.20!

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Too yummy to resist

Verdict:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: Mariano Cueva, Cuenca, Ecuador

For French cuisine with a South American touch, Le Petit Jardin is a must-visit! It is run by head chef (and owner) Giovanni and his lovely wife. From the very moment we stepped into the restaurant, service was impeccable. Giovanni was such a humble and sincere guy! The place is only opened on weekends, as Giovanni is actually a designer by profession. In fact, everything in the restaurant – including the actual building itself – was designed and constructed by Giovanni from scratch! Talk about being multi-talented. The menu changes every week so prior reservation is required. We had grilled eggplant and salmon mousse for starters, trout and veal for mains, and the Le Jardin trio and crème brulee for dessert. We paired our meal with a bottle of red wine. The entire dining experience cost us just USD 50. It was absolutely heavenly, and Giovanni made the experience even more out-of-this-world with his kind hospitality (and lots of complimentary dishes too) because we were his first Singaporean customers! 😊

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Starter – Salmon mousse

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Starter – Grilled eggplant

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Main – Trout

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Main – Veal

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Dessert – Le Petit Jardin Trio

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Dessert – Creme Brulee

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A little dark but that’s us with Chef Giovanni! Thank you Le Petit Jardin!

 

Verdict:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address:  San Miguel de PutushiCuenca 010150, Ecuador 
Contact (For Reservations): +593 96 819 1518

(*Tip: The only way to get here is by taxi/car but it is well worth it – the drive from Cuenca city centre takes about 15 minutes). 

 

Accommodation: Casa de Lidice Bed & Breakfast

For the entire duration of our stay at Cuenca, we managed to snag a great deal at Casa de Lidice Bed and Breakfast, at just USD 27 a night. It included a double-bed private room with private bath (and seriously good hot shower!) and breakfast every morning. The rooms were tidied every day and security was great. The accommodation was also clean and modern and its location was very central. The only gripe we had was that the receptionist was not very friendly – but what do we expect from a USD27 deal, right?

Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: General Torres 11-69 y, Mariscal Lamar, Cuenca 010150, Ecuador
Book here via booking.com

 

Concluding thoughts… 

Cuenca was a beautiful city, and very unlike its South American counterparts. We found it interesting in its own special way, and really enjoyed our stay there. We were particularly fascinated by the jacaranda trees that lined the streets – they were adorned with crowns of purple! How very lovely.

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Compared to other Ecuadorian cities like Quito and Guayaquil, we also found Cuenca to be much more slow-paced and relaxing… to top it off, we decided to reward ourselves with the award-winning Pacari chocolate bars, which we happened to find off the shelves at a random supermarket! Ecuador is world-famous for its chocolate, and these make pretty good gifts too!

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Oh chocolate, how I love thee ❤

 

*This is a non-sponsored post.

With love,
cropped-cropped-three-wandering-bears

Wanderlust in Bali: The perfect #babymoon destination!

It’s been a good 6 months since we last travelled… we were initially planning for another epic holiday at the end of the year (to the safaris of South Africa or Sri Lanka, maybe?) but God gave us a little miracle and we will soon really be known as the Three Wandering Bears! 😊 (Yes, we welcome our little boy this September!)

So… in preparation for the big arrival – and to enjoy ourselves one last time before baby J arrives – we decided to go on a short #babymoon somewhere nearby. With our doctor’s approval, we settled on a 5D4N trip to Bali 😊

Due to my pregnancy, the itinerary for this trip was quite different. We swapped the adrenaline-pumping activities for more relaxing ones (think relaxing by the pool, café hopping and doing some shopping), which allowed for plenty of downtime so that I could take lots of breaks to soothe my aching back and feet. I still did quite a bit of walking though, which is something I usually enjoy a lot. J took up surfing classes and that left me with some me-time to read and blog in cafes. I also signed up for painting classes in Ubud! 😊 This time around, we only visited Legian and Ubud (psst… this is our 3rd trip to Bali so we’d visited all the tourist attractions during our previous trips. If you’d like more information on these, you can email us or leave a comment below).

Getting to Bali: Changi Airport Terminal 4 and the epic flight delay

From Singapore, we booked an Air Asia flight that was initially scheduled for 1215pm. A round trip cost us SGD 200 per pax. We arrived at the airport at 8am because we wanted to explore Terminal 4 which was highly raved about on social media and by our friends! We had breakfast at the food emporium (decent food, quite affordably priced) and then checked in, before spending a good 3 hours exploring the place and resting at the Blossoms lounge (think buffet… sofa seats… free wifi…).

At about 11am, we received a text that our flight was delayed by an hour. No matter, except that after that, it was delayed by another hour… and another… and another… till we eventually departed at 4pm! :O By the time we arrived at Bali Denpasar Airport, it was 7pm and we were famished. Plus, the day was totally wasted! ☹ We took a taxi (we booked an official airport taxi for SGD20) to Legian where our hotel was located, checked in and went for dinner. (Note: There are more cost-effective options – you can flag a taxi along the main road outside the airport or arrange for airport transfers by your hotel, which may be free of charge or cost you slightly less. For us, comfort was the priority this time and I didn’t want to risk standing around for too long – I was already feeling quite grouchy at this point.)

Where we stayed: Legian Sidoi Hotel & Ubud Rembulan Inn and Spa

  • Legian: Sidoi Hotel

The hotel we stayed at for the first two nights of our trip was Sidoi Hotel (not to be confused with Sidoi Inn) located in the Legian region. It was conveniently situated in the main tourist district of Legian, and just a 7-minute walk to Legian Beach.

Facilities-wise, there was an extremely tiny lap pool which was great for taking an afternoon dip in when the weather was hot. I actually wouldn’t call it a pool… maybe a water feature? LOL. Since it didn’t allow for much swimming, we just hung around and made friends with a couple of Australians we met lounging by the ‘pool’. There was also a café/bar located next door. The food was pretty decent and it was a great place for lounging ‘cos there weren’t many patrons.

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Rooftop lounge area

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The garden area with a small ‘water feature’ haha

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Greenery everywhere! ❤

The hotel room came with basic facilities, air conditioning, a safe, attached bath with hot water, television and a fridge. It was relatively clean, but not luxurious – good enough for a decent night’s rest.

Cost: SGD30 per night for an en-suite room with a king-sized bed via booking.com

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690  (Totally value for money!)
Address: Jalan Legian No.363, Legian, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361

 

  • Ubud: Rembulan Inn and Spa

Our accommodation for the next two nights in Ubud was at Rembulan Inn and Spa, conveniently located along the main artery of Jalan Hanoman. Rembulan Spa is pretty famous for its excellent massages and manicure/pedicure services, and they just started a homestay not too long ago. In fact, they are rated 9.4 on booking.com!

When we stepped into the room, we were absolutely floored. We couldn’t believe we were paying just SGD35 for what looked almost like a 5-star resort room (almost ok, almost…).

The room comes fully equipped with virtually everything you need for a comfortable stay, plus the air conditioning is mighty powerful – an absolute necessity for the hot and humid Bali weather. There is speedy wi-fi and a rainshower as well. Basically, you won’t be lacking anything during your stay, and you’ll be grinning in your sleep for this amazing deal you snagged. 😊

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The best I can do with my miserable iPhone 6…

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Before we messed up the room :p

 

Cost: SGD 35 per night for an en-suite room with a king-sized bed via booking.com

Verdict:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 (This is luxury living at commoner’s price hahaha utterly pleased with J for this I LOVE YOU!!!)

Address: Jl. Hanoman Padang Tegal, Ubud-Bali, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571

(Note: As Rembulan Homestay is pretty new, there are only 2 rooms available for booking and these are located on the 3rd level of the inn. There is no elevator to take you to the rooms.)

 

What we ate… and ate… and ate…

Most of our time (and money) on this trip was spent staking out yummy eating places to feed the growing human in my belly (OK I’m just kidding… I was just being greedy). For the record, ‘Warung’ means ‘shop’ in Bahasa Indonesia (just in case you were wondering). Anyway, here’s a list of what we tried, recommend and regret. 😉

  • Legian

    • Warung Padmasari (must try!)

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      The unassuming shop front belies an unforgettable dining experience 🙂

      This popular eatery is located in the heart of the Legian tourist district, yet it manages to retain its authentic Balinese flavour. We had our first meal (dinner on the day we arrived) here, and the food was an absolute delight for our hungry stomachs. We ordered the restaurant’s specialties – Green Curry Jamur and Ayam Goreng Lalapan, and had Hot Ginger Tea and Iced White Coffee, before topping it off with Pisang Goreng with Vanilla Ice Cream. We were absolutely stuffed. THE FOOD WAS HEAVENLY. What was even better was that this entire meal only cost us SGD 14.30 (whaaaat?)

      The interior of the restaurant is very simple and its décor very Balinese. We loved every part of it.

      For its delectable cuisine and affordable price, Warung Padmasari gets…

      Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
      Address: Jalan Padma No.14, Legian, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361

    • Si Doi Restaurant

      We had breakfast here on two occasions simply because it was included in our room package. We were given 5 breakfast sets to choose from, and on both occasions we had the Si Doi special, which was really an American styled breakfast set (think toast, bacon, egg…) complete with coffee, juice and seasonal fruits. The food was average, and the place made for a good rest area complete with relatively good wi-fi connection.

       

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      Quiet and breezy – perfect to start the day!

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      Nicely done interior – cafe vibes #gamestrong

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      Si Doi Breakfast! :p

      Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
      Address: Next to Si Doi Hotel (see above)

       

    • Zanzibar Beach Front Restaurant

      The Legian area is well-known for its sandy beaches, so it definitely makes sense to try out one of its many restaurants lining the beach front. Located along Legian Beach, Zanzibar is one of the more popular eateries that serves western fare along with local Balinese food. You can’t go wrong with their beef burger, fish and chips or selection of pizzas, accompanied with Bintang beer or a fresh coconut… It is a perfect choice for lunch on a hot sunny afternoon, right before (or after) you hit the beach. It’s pretty affordable too at about SGD 12 per pax for a full meal with a beer/drink, though it is slightly pricey for Balinese standards.

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      Lunch with a view! 

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      Somebody’s very satisfied with his Bintang Radler :p

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      My first time having a coconut that’s bigger than my face. LOL

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      Attackkkk!

       

       Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
      Address: Jalan Arjuna, Pantai Legian, Seminyak, Legian, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361

       

    • Gourmet Sate House (must try!)

      Just a short 10-15 minute walk from Legian is Kuta, a backpacker haven that’s full of popular eateries. One such eatery is the Gourmet Sate House, which is popular with both locals and tourists for its mouth-watering sate (or satay) dishes. We tried the ayam (chicken) sate and lilit ikan (minced fish) sate, ayam mie goreng (chicken noodles), and for drinks we ordered iced teh tarik and orange lychee juice, before ending our meal on a sweet note with tapioca (sago) pearls with fresh mango and ice cream. The portions were just nice and the sates arrived piping hot, literally melting in our mouths. I particularly loved the orange lychee juice, which tasted mediocre at first but started growing on me with every additional sip I took. J was a bigger fan of the iced teh tarik. This meal cost us just under SGD20 (yum!) and was so satiating!

 

Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: Jl. Dewi Sri No.101, Legian, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361

 

  • Ubud

    • Warung Biah Biah

      We chanced upon this restaurant on the first night we arrived at Ubud. Many restaurants were closed because of the Kuningan Festival (a major Balinese Hindu religious festival) and this was one of the few that was still open. There was a long queue forming outside the restaurant, and the menu looked good – plus the food was unbelievably cheap! We got a seat within 30 minutes and ordered the nasi campur (rice with a variety of dishes), mie goreng ayam (chicken stir-fry noodle), bregedel kentang (Indonesian potato croquette), sate tempe (fermented soy bean satay), an iced beer and iced coffee.

      Service was prompt and the food was quite tasty, and not to mention unbelievably cheap – the entire meal cost us just SGD 12. Our favourite was the kentang, which smelt delicious and tasted even better – it literally melted in our mouths with every bite. Don’t expect stellar service here though – staff are hostile and chase you out the moment you finish your food. Our mie goreng was also forgotten and arrived a good 30 minutes after we finished the rest of our food, despite us ‘reminding’ the waitress 3 times.

      Verdict:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 (If you want convenience and affordability, this is the place to go!)
      Address: Jl. Goutama No. 13, Padangtegal Kaja, Ubud, GIanyar, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571

    • Tukies – The Coconut Shop (must try!)

      Just a few shops down the road is a small ice cream shop selling coconut ice cream, that is to die for. The ice cream is refreshing, milky, rich and topped with roasted coconut flakes, flesh and nuts! A single scoop cost us SGD2.50. It was so, so good, we kept returning for more.

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      Calories never seemed so insignificant~~~

       

      Verdict:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
      Address: 14, Jl. Raya Ubud, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571

    • Kue Bakery and Café

      Kue is a two-storey establishment that sells freshly baked produce such as whole and slice cakes, as well as bread and muffins. Above its bakery is a café where you can have breakfast or indulge in some sweets. We had breakfast here on a rainy morning because we happened to pass by and recalled some good reviews on Trip Advisor. We ordered the scrambled egg, bacon and cheddar cheese sandwich, plus scrambled eggs and cheddar platter with avocado, before ending our meal with an organic strawberry cheesecake and iced latte. This was one of the few places that sold avocado (it’s a seasonal fruit in Bali) and I was so excited to finally have my dose of avocado!

      Though we were highly anticipating some good food, we were, sad to say, disappointed by the quality and portion (Maybe Asians have different tastebuds from angmohs? I just couldn’t believe that this place was rated as having “excellent food” on Trip Advisor). MacDonald’s egg mcmuffin tastes better, and the cheesecake seriously needed another round of decent beating – it was all crumbly and left a ‘sandy’ aftertaste in my mouth. ☹ Perhaps we picked the wrong option from the list, but we seriously think there are other better eateries out there to spend limited time and money on (Our meal cost us SGD 18 – comparable to other eateries in terms of pricing but obviously not standard). To add to that, the place was rather dusty and the noise from the road was quite distracting, with vehicles zooming past every few seconds. The waiter was also constantly on his phone… the entire package was just lacklustre, in our humble opinion. The only saving grace was, perhaps, the iced latte, which tasted pretty decent 😊

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      This is the best view of the entire cafe

      Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 (But you can give it a try if you trust Trip Advisor’s stellar reviews of this cafe)
      Address: Jln. Raya Bunutan, Ubud 80571, Indonesia

    • Juice Ja Cafe (must try!)

      A popular breakfast cum brunch haunt located along the main thoroughfare of Jalan Dewisita, Juice Ja Café prides itself for offering well-being food that is sourced from local farmers, including its very own organic farm near Ubud. The interior of the café is full of greenery, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were eating in the middle of a rainforest 😊 We were there at 8am and were the only customers (we like to start our day bright and early!)

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      Feels as though I’m entering the ‘Rainforest of Ubud’

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      Mega in love with the interior of this place. SO GREEN!

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      The whole cafe practically belonged to us. Heh 🙂

      There is a separate breakfast menu for orders before 11am, and though it is somewhat limited, the food is seriously good. We ordered a Juice Ja Bowl (Fresh fruits with yogurt and granola) and a Tortilla Set. The food was tasty and filling; portions were just right and reasonably priced. I especially loved the sauce that came with the tortilla wraps – it tasted like belachan with a mild tangy and sweet aftertaste. YUM!

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      I’m seriously a sucker for bright and colourful food – this looks so tasty already!

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      SERIOUSLY GOOD STUFF. And see that simple looking sauce on the left? That is THE BOMB. 


      Verdict
      : 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
      Address: Jl. Dewisita, Ubud, Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571

    • Warung Pondok Madu (must try!)

      Sink your teeth into the best spare ribs in town at Warung Pondok Madu!!! This lesser-known gem is tucked away in the corner of Jalan Jatayu. Because it is not located in the traditional crowded tourist area, it gets a steady stream of customers (who have done their research or who have read our blog 😉) but it isn’t overwhelmingly crowded like some other convenient and overrated eating establishments.

      We ordered the chicken curry, grilled local pork ribs with BBQ sauce (small), Nasi Bira (Balinese yellow rice with side dishes), strawberry banana smoothie, Bintang radler and mango sticky rice for dessert. This entire meal cost us just SGD22. The food was AMAZING. We absolutely digged the curry and the ribs!!! Plus the service was superb – a waitress noticed that our table was a little shaky and attended to it promptly without us even asking! We just love gems like these. Must try please!

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      BEST RIBS IN TOWN.

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      Chicken curry – thick, flavourful, just really yummy.

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      Nasi campur – average but very colourful, I like! Haha

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      Mango sticky rice dessert – the best way to end the satisfying meal on a high note!

      Seriously the food is so good that each dish deserves an individual photo with  a caption of its own.

      Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
      Address: Jalan Jatayu, Tebesaya, Ubud, Peliatan, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571

    • Roots Korean Restaurant (must try!)

      Whenever we travel, I make it a point to shortlist at least one Korean restaurant to dine at, if time allows, because after some days of travelling, my Korean genes get the better of me and I start craving for Korean food. J did some research and came across Roots Restaurant, which is the first and only Korean Restaurant in the Ubud region.

      Roots Korean Restaurant serves Korean food with a twist – it has vegan and organic options and infuses some local ingredients into its cuisine. Still, the taste is authentic and the lady boss, who is a native Korean, can really cook up a storm! We had such an amazing dining experience here. The only down side may be that it is located a little far away from the tourist area – it took us about 40 minutes to walk from Jalan Monkey Forest in the rain (but I’m pregnant too so I’m extra cautious and walk really slowly so if J were alone he’d probably reach in, say, 10 to 15 minutes?)

      Anyway, enter the restaurant and you will be greeted by friendly faces who will direct you to a staircase, where you will climb about 2 storeys to the seating area above. The place is very well decorated with bamboo and has a zen feel to it. It is spacious, not too cluttered, breezy and has a very laid-back ambience. Perfecto.

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      Main dining area high above the rest – balmy and the perfect setting for a nice meal 🙂

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      Super love the entire concept of this place

      There are also villas for rent behind the restaurant, so if you wish to stay somewhere further away from the noisy and touristy city centre, this is a place you may wish to consider.

      We ordered the gimbap (rice rolls), sweet and sour tempeh with chicken, and gimchi chiggae (kimchi soup) with multi grained rice. The portions were filling and the food was excellent and refreshing. We especially loved the kimchi soup which was so rich and flavourful and perfect for a rainy day! The gimbap was lovely as well; vegetables were fresh and the vinegar brought out the taste really well. It was a great infusion of traditional Korean food and Balinese flavour. The waitresses are very friendly and obliging, and banchan (side dishes) are refillable upon request.

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      Refillable banchan

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      The colours stole my heart and then the actual taste of the rolls stole it again ❤

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      Excellent taste and consistency – Stamp of approval from the bears! 

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      Tempeh (with chicken) with sweet and sour sauce

      A complete meal like this cost us just about SGD18.50! This meal was worth every painstaking step I took to get there. Baby J couldn’t stop kicking when I had this meal… I guess he loved it too! 🙂

      Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
      Address: Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Sayan, Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar,, Samping Badra Fine Art Gallery, Sayan, Ubud, Bali 80571

    • The Daily Baguette Cafe

      On our last day at Ubud, it rained non-stop so we had to seek shelter in various cafes. That’s when we chanced upon The Daily Baguette Cafe, which we had also happened to read about on TripAdvisor. If you are considering a quiet and less crowded place (save the occasional noise from vehicular traffic, that is characteristic of almost every Balinese restaurant anyway) to lounge at in the afternoon, we strongly recommend this place!

      The Daily Baguette is a full bakery serving a variety of bread, cakes and cookies. They also make some really good coffee. You can place your order at the bakery on the first level before proceeding upstairs to get a seat. There are  comfy sofa seats and the place is well-ventilated with cosy lighting and good wi-fi as well.

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      Sorry no picture of comfy sofa seats cos yours truly was sitting on one 😛

      We ordered a rainbow cheesecake and a café latte. The latter came with some cute little chocolate chip brownies that tasted so good! This satisfying break cost us just SGD5 and we were pleased with the quality and taste 😊

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      IMG_1259

      This rainbow cheesecake initially caught my attention ‘cos of its colours but I’m so happy I chose it ‘cos it tasted awesome too!!! 

      Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
      Address: Jl. Raya Ubud No.27, Sayan, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571

    • Nekopopo Café

This cute themed café serves some casual western fare with a Japanese twist. We loved the cosy décor and artsy murals – the whole set up won us over (Come on in, Y… it beckoned ever so persistently to me).

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However, when the food arrived, it was a little disappointing. We each had a beef burger set, a cup of iced coffee and a strawberry milkshake. The presentation was cute, but the portions were meagre and the food tasted meh. The milkshake was not bad, though. The entire meal was quite pricey for its portion and standard, and cost us SGD18.50.

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Score! For presentation (Sorry photo does not do it enough justice)

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What really irked us was that there was no separate seating for smokers so we were practically gagging in the café the whole time ‘cos some inconsiderate travellers were puffing away at their cigars continuously for 35 minutes. (They arrived shortly after we did). Plus, there was no toilet, which was a big boo-boo for me (When you are preggie you need the loo every 45 minutes, or even more frequently when cute little bubs decides to step on your bladder, just for fun 😊).

Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 (Worth a visit for those who like taking cute photos in cafes)
Address: Jl. Goutama Sel., Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571

Things we did! 

  • Surfing in Legian

If you are the adventurous sort, you might want to try out surfing with one of the many surf schools in Bali. J signed up for his first surfing  experience with Up2U surf school, where he spent two mornings (about 3.5 hours each) on Legian Beach catching the waves and learning the basics. Surfboards and rashguards are provided. The instructors were patient and experienced, and the lesson cost SGD30 per session, excluding an SGD20 deposit. Surfing is an extremely popular tourist sport so be sure to book your places early. If you are a greenhorn, you may find the sport really tiring the first few tries. But fret not, you’re sure to enjoy it once you get the hang of it! Surfing in Bali is also pretty safe, as long as you stay within the red markers – outside of these markers rips are common and sharks can sometimes be spotted, so beware!

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For surfing classes with Up2U Surf School, we rate it…

Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: Jl. Pantai Kuta, Legian, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

  • Shopping (Legian and Ubud)
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Ubud Market – gathering place for pushy sellers and tourists looking for good deals (but ultimately finding none)

Finally, this is for all the pregnant mums to be out there: We all know how difficult it is to find pretty clothes that fit, right? I went from shop to shop and kept telling J that if I weren’t pregnant, I would buy so many things! I loved the clothes… to which he’d answer, “don’t worry, you will go back to your original size after giving birth and we’ll come back next time, OK?” Well it was sweet but it was hardly any source of consolation for me, because WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR FOR THE NEXT 4 MONTHS!? Nobody understands, seriously! J was being super accommodating and proactive in helping me find clothes along the way… so imagine my delight when I stumbled across this awesome shop, Puspita, that actually carried pretty dresses that fit me!!! The dresses there are just the right cut for pregnant mums – empire underneath the bust and flare to the knee! Plus, there are buttons down the front so their dresses are great for nursing too! You can also wear them after you give birth 😊 The prints and fabric are super pretty and each dress costs about SGD 30 – 35. Happy shopping! (You can thank me later)

*Pupsita has two boutiques in Ubud (there are some in Seminyak too), and can be found along Jalan Hanoman and Jalan Monkey Forest! Prices are fixed (you may want to bargain if you get more pieces but honestly I was just so glad to find something that fit me, so I just paid full price) 

  • Painting (Ubud)

This was the highlight of our trip! We signed up for traditional Balinese painting classes at Pondok Pekak Library and Learning Centre, a local library that’s situated next to an open field along Jalan Monkey Forest. The entrance is pretty obscure and it is easy to miss it if you aren’t actively looking for it 😊

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Entrance at a back alley

Our instructor, Dekta, was a talented painter and he taught us basic techniques using water-based acrylic paint. Dekta works at Denpasar but travels to Ubud often as this is his hometown. The session cost us SGD30 per pax, and lasted for slightly over 3 hours. We got to bring home our own painting and lunch was provided too!

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J learning the basics of painting from Dekta after his sketching

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Us with our finished pieces! We both decided to paint padi fields using the traditional Balinese painting style 🙂 

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One with Dekta – that’s his artwork at the background. Impressive, huh? 

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Loved the entire process! 

The library itself is also an area for exploration. It houses lots of books, a temple, a swimming pool, and provides other classes like silver jewellery making, cooking, fruit carving, traditional Balinese dance etc. You can drop by to make a reservation. The staff are super friendly and helpful!

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Lovely place – you can walk in and out freely to explore it or use its facilities (drinking water, toilet, etc) 

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Part of the proceeds from classes goes towards funding the public library

If you would like to contact Dekta directly for painting classes, leave us a comment or drop us an email! (Classes can be conducted at Denpasar as well)

Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
Address: Jl. Monkey Forest, sebelah Timur Lapangan Ubud, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571

 

  • Massage at Rembulan Spa

One of the top things to do in Bali is to get a relaxing massage. After all, that’s one of the things that Bali is famous for, right? Well, if you are pregnant like me, there are lots of things on the list that are a no-go… You can choose to skip the massages and indulge in facials or milk baths instead, or if you really need to soothe your aching feet, opt for a gentler option! I did a one hour foot and lower leg massage at Rembulan Spa. My masseuse did a gentle rub for me and avoided using herbal oils. She also did not do the full works for the foot massage, as some points on our feet can trigger labour or cause contractions. The bottom line is, make sure your masseuse is trained and be sure to let her know that you are expecting. They usually know what to do. 😊 Rembulan Spa was excellent! A one hour foot and lower leg massage cost me just SGD 10 and was super effective!

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Verdict: 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 (I walked for 7 hours straight after this relaxing massage)
Address:  Jl. Hanoman Padang Tegal, Ubud-Bali, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571

 

  • Walking

Both Legian and Ubud are nice places to just walk around and soak in the atmosphere, but we particularly liked Ubud as it was more cultural and less ‘wild’. You don’t really see drunk or rowdy tourists hanging out around the Ubud area, which we found a refreshing change from those we happened to come across at Legian.

Owing to the Kuningan Festival, the streets were very lively and there were street processions and dances (and not to mention traffic jams)! Ubud has changed quite a bit since the last time we set foot here – the vast padi fields that the region was once so well-known for are slowly disappearing to give way to souvenir shops, hotels and cafes… Quite sad, in our opinion.

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You play drama, you get karma LOL

 

Other important information…

  • Getting to Ubud from Legian

The most cost effective way is possibly catching a shuttle that will take you from your hotel to Mongkey Forest Road in Ubud. This one hour ride cost us SGD15 in total. We booked our shuttle a day in advance at xxx. However, if you take this option, be prepared for delays. We waited 4 hours for our shuttle bus to arrive (the driver went to the wrong hotel).

If you want to travel in maximum comfort without restrictions as to departure timings, you can hire a private car that will cost you about SGD 40 from Legian to Ubud (you’ll be dropped off at your hotel entrance). This can also be arranged by your hotel or by any other tour company in the city centre. Or, you could rent a bike/scooter (I don’t recommend this if you are pregnant haha)

  • Getting from Ubud to Denpasar Airport

On the last day, we booked a private car for SGD30 to take us from our accommodation straight to the airport. The trip took about 1.5 hours but the journey was comfortable. There are many taxi and private car operators along the street so it is easy to book; or you could get you hotel to do it for you.

(Tip: Arrive at the airport at least 2.5 hours in advance of your flight timing, as it can get really crowded at check-in counters. Some flights do not allow online check-in as well, so you will still have to queue even if you only have carry-on baggage.)

  • Budget breakdown

Planning for a child requires lots of saving up.  Still, don’t let that stop you from treating yourself to a short getaway before bubs arrives. We budgeted SGD1000 for 2 pax, and ended up spending the following amount:

Air tickets (round-trip): SGD 200 per pax via Air Asia
Accommodation: SGD 60 for two nights at Sidoi Hotel, Legian and SGD 70 for two nights at Rembulan Inn and Spa at Ubud
Food (we spent bulk of our money here): SGD50 per day (moderate restaurant dining)
Shopping: SGD150
Activities/classes: SGD150
Transport: SGD20 from Denpasar airport to Legian, SGD15 from Legian to Ubud, SGD30 from Ubud to Denpasar Airport

Total: SGD1145 (all in) for 2 pax over 5D4N 😊 DEAL! 😉

 

Tips for pregnant mums-to-be visiting Bali

Here are some tips I found useful – some of them are pretty common sense but I kept reminding myself because I realised I tend to be excited and forget some important things during holidays 😛

  1. Make sure you get a letter from your gynaecologist that certifies that you are fit for travel. Airlines sometimes require this and will not let you board your flight unless you have proof.
  2. When at the airport, do not enter the airport scanner. They have a separate queue for pregnant women. Sometimes, the airport staff may be busy and overlook you, especially if you aren’t showing yet, so it helps to pay more attention yourself. (There isn’t research that specifically states that the machine is harmful but it’s always better to be safe than sorry)
  3. Bring pantyliners and maternity pads/sanitary pads, especially if you are in the middle/nearing the end of your second trimester – that’s when you realise that it is not as easy to control your bladder as you thought! This helps save you the embarrassment of incontinence during sporadic sneezes or on bumpy rides that last for over an hour, or when the cute little bugger in your tummy decides that lying on your bladder is the most comfortable position to be in for the next few hours 😊
  4. Pack light and carry a backpack with good support. This helps a great deal when travelling from place to place (or hubby could lug everything, but I want my husband to enjoy the trip as much as me so I try to carry what I can). I invested in a good Samsonite backpack that has brought me so much convenience and saved me from backache!
  5. Always have a bottle of water with you. Pregnant women get dehydrated easily and you want to have safe, clean water with you wherever you are.
  6. When deciding between the cheaper option and one that is a little more expensive but offers you slightly more comfort, choose the latter. This is a golden rule and one that you should insist on, especially if hubs does not understand.
  7. Don’t pack your itinerary as you would on a normal holiday – leave ample time for rest. Plan little activities throughout the day, and intersperse these with rest time, such as in a café, back in your hotel room… etc. Your legs/feet will most probably swell up after some walking, so go slow. Remember, for now, YOU ARE QUEEN! 🙂
  8. Bring comfortable walking shoes. Fashion is secondary, or rather, absolutely unnecessary.
  9. Research on the nearest medical service/hospital just in case something happens to you. You want to be able to get medical attention straightaway when the need arises. It may also be helpful to bring your own medication on the trip, especially since pregnant women have a lot of restrictions on the types of medication that are allowed. Also, always have your baby’s latest ultrasound appointment card with you (the one with updates on his development) in case of an emergency.
  10. Avoid raw and cold food, and eat at well-established places that are hygienic.
  11. Bring bug spray/ wear mosquito patches. You don’t want to get mosquito-borne diseases like dengue while pregnant… prevention is always better than cure.
  12. Pee at every chance you get. Even if you don’t get the urge just yet, visit the toilet to empty your bladder. I’m serious.
  13. ENJOY! You won’t get another opportunity like this for a long time to come! 😊

 

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Looking at this pic makes me smile and cringe at the same time ‘cos I have put on SO MUCH WEIGHT over my 5 days in Bali. Whatever. (Oh and that’s me in my new Puspita dress! Hehe)

 

*This is a non-sponsored post.

With love,
cropped-cropped-three-wandering-bears

 

 

 

 

4D3N Yosemite National Park for the Nature Lover

If you are a nature lover who’s got the opportunity to visit the United States, you wouldn’t miss a trip to one of its many national parks for the world! We were so excited that we were finally visiting Yosemite National Park and we both agreed that this was the highlight of our week-long stay in San Francisco.

Yosemite (pronounced Yo-seh-muh-tee) National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was first protected in 1864. It is most well-known for its many waterfalls and giant sequoia trees. Unbeknownst to many, the park also has a dark history, owing to its conquest by Euro-Americans and the resultant massacre of local Red Indians – “Yosemite” actually means “the murders”. Today, much of its dark history has been forgotten but you can learn more about it by signing up for a Ranger’s Talk (more on that below).

The Park is an excellent place to visit if you are looking for a respite, a lot of fresh air, or if you are travelling with kids (they have excellent camp sites and kid-friendly activities!) or even on a romantic getaway with your loved one (sign up for the stargazing activity – more on that later)! The park itself is extremely easy to navigate – routes are clearly marked out and the park is extremely well-maintained, with signage and rangers around to help you if you need any assistance. Though it’s possible to take a day trip there, we strongly recommend spending at least 3 days in the park to truly immerse yourself in what nature has to offer!

Getting to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco

There are many ways to get to Yosemite, and most people either rent a car or book a tour shuttle to Yosemite Valley. However, these options may be costly (a one-way bus ticket costs USD92 per pax) and if you want to stretch your dollar, this may not be the best option for you.  (By this point, we were really running out of cash as we were into the last week of our 4 month long holiday) A lesser known option that is more cost effective, relatively comfortable and fool-proof, albeit a little more time consuming, is to take public transport. Here are the steps (you can thank us later! 😊):

  1. From any BART station in San Francisco, take the train to Richmond Station. (The time taken from Powell Street to Richmond is about 40 minutes, and costs USD4.95)
  2. Once you reach Richmond Station, follow the signs to the Amtrak platform, which is adjacent to the BART station. Take a south-bound train. (Tip: Buy your tickets at the Amtrak station or online. Tickets are priced at USD24 per pax from Richmond to Merced. Buying them on board would set you back USD 12 more per pax).
  3. After about 2.5 hours of travel, alight at Merced. (Psst… Amtrak trains are really comfortable – complete with dining tables, charging stations, free wi-fi, clean toilets and reclining seats!)

At Merced, take the YARTS bus (pictured below) from the bus stop behind the Amtrak station. This bus drops you directly at your camp site/accommodation at Yosemite. It is a 3h journey and costs USD 13 per pax for a one-way trip or USD25 per pax for a round trip. (The YARTS bus is also really comfortable – it is heated with cushioned seats that are reclining)

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Hi! I’m the affordable and reliable YARTS bus that’ll take you to the Park safely!

Total time taken: 6h 10 min
Total amount spent per pax: USD42

Note: Do take note of Amtrak train timings by checking them in advance online. YART timings generally coincide with Amtrak train arrival times so there is no need to worry.

To return to San Francisco from Yosemite Valley, do all the above in reverse.

Getting around Yosemite National Park

If you drive, getting around the park is a no brainer – routes are well-marked and signage are well-placed. If you don’t, the park has an internal shuttle service that connects the hotels, lodges and other facilities. The shuttle runs a continuous loop every 30 minutes. It is good to check with your accommodation’s front desk on the operation times as they vary throughout the year, according to seasons.

Our accommodation: Half Dome Village

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Half-Dome Village Reception Area

Our home at Yosemite was Half Dome Village (formerly known as Curry Village). We booked private cabin lodges with shared on-site bathrooms, for USD170 per night. There are other accommodation options too, like apartments, ensuite cabins and tents, but we found the latter too cold an option for winter. Plus, we wanted to be where the bears were and yet be safe from bear attacks! 😊 (We later learnt that the place that we stayed  at was a favourite haunt of black bears)

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Our private cabin for 3 nights!

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Sneak peek of our two huge beds inside the heated cabin – basic furnishing that’s comfortable enough for a good night’s rest!

The place was very peaceful and rooms were heated and comfortable. Receptionists were also helpful. We happened to be there during the Christmas season, and the place was beautifully lit with Christmas lights everywhere!

Half Dome Village itself was an extremely convenient place to stay at – there was a mountaineering store, pizza place and well-stocked supermarket cum souvenir shop within its compounds. It was also just a 30 minute walk/10 minute bus ride to Yosemite village, which had a cosy restaurant and a tourist information centre.

(Tip: Get a village shuttle map from the front desk to help you locate bus stops and travel routes)

Dining options

If you plan to stay in a tent, the most viable and fun option would be to cook your own food over a camp fire or barbeque pit. Dining options in Yosemite are fairly limited, especially during winter, but you may consider some of these for warm food in an equally warm setting 😊

  • The Loft at Degnan’s

We had dinner here the first night, and had a Teriyaki Chicken Bowl and Marinated Beef Bowl. The rice bowls cost us USD12 each, and came with mixed Asian vegetables and lots of ginger. I liked it but J found the ginger taste too overwhelming.

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Anyway, this is a large place with a cosy fireplace and many LED TVs, plus free wifi (though I seriously think you should disconnect when in Yosemite). It also supposedly has the best food available in the park. Plus, we spotted a wild coyote during our walk after dinner!

  • Degnan’s Cafe

A popular stop for breakfast, the café is located on the first level, below The Loft. The sandwiches sold here are limited in variety but they are really, really good and filling. We both had the Sunrise Sandwich (sausage, cheddar cheese, egg) and a cuppa by the fireplace and Christmas tree! The food gave us much needed fuel for our morning hike.

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Before we took our first bite and reached the point of no return

  • Half Village Dome Supermarket

On nights where we felt like eating in the cold, we would run to the supermart to find instant noodles. The well-stocked supermarket even had Singaporean varieties! The food here was definitely much more affordable than dining at restaurants, and it was quite an experience slurping on piping hot broth while seated on wooden benches out in the cold. Funny how when we look back, this is the dining experience we miss the most. LOL

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His teeth were chattering as I forced him to pose for a picture 😀

We tried the miso udon, curry noodles, macaroni salad and stocked up on Kettle Hawaiian Blue chips and some sprite. (Sorry, mum!) This whole meal cost us just USD16.

Activities and attractions in the Park

Yosemite National Park has a scheduled program which runs daily and can be found in the Yosemite newsletter. You can also check them out here. Some activities, like night prowl and stargazing, require prior registration at the Yosemite Visitor’s Centre, and some require tickets to be purchased beforehand. The Visitor Centre is open from 9am to 5pm daily. Of course, there are also various hikes that you can embark on on your own! These are well-compiled into an info-sheet that can also be obtained from the front desk.

(Tip: Night activities can be exceptionally cold during winter, so dress in warm layers. Also bring a torch as it gets pitch black by 530pm and there are very few lights in the park. Wild animal sightings and encounters (e.g. black bears) are not uncommon so be prepared – information on how to react should you encounter one is available in the newsletter.)

These are some of the activities we did and strongly recommend (all of them are kid-friendly too!):

This historic hotel is the oldest hotel in Yosemite and has a rich history – it is actually built on the very site where the Red Indians were massacred. What it looks like today is nothing like its brutal past, though. During the festive season, pretty lights adorn the façade and inside of the hotel. The building itself is very beautiful and well-maintained; it is like walking into a serendipitous Hollywood holiday movie.

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Our favourite Christmas Tree at the hotel lobby! There were real presents wrapped and placed at the base of the tree… for the staff who work at the hotel!

Rooms here are the priciest in the Park, but if you can afford it, there is no doubt the experience would be very special. Even if you do not stay here, you can enjoy a cuppa at the lawn area or visit the expensive gift shop that sells an array of pretty trinkets and paraphernalia.

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High-end atas gift shop – Nice to browse, too expensive to buy

  • Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

This simple hike (or rather walk) is a flat and short 30 minute walk to the viewpoint, which is at the base of the Lower Yosemite Falls. The amount of water flowing from the falls varies according to the time of the year. There is also a perpetual rainbow over the falls that adds a touch of pristine beauty.

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  • Mirror Lake Trail

This is an easy trail with generally flat to gently sloping terrain. It is also rocky at parts, so good walking shoes are recommended. It takes about an hour to complete. When the water level is high, the reflections of the surrounding mountains and trees is very clear, making the lake appear like a mirror, hence its name.

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The highlight for us, though, was seeing a family of wild deer grazing on leaves along the trail! There was a buck that was very alert and protective of his family though, so we kept a safe distance. It is also worth noting that the lake is located within the mountain lion’s habitat, so caution is advised and lone travelling is discouraged.

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Come any closer and I’ll fart on you

  • Naturalist Stroll

This is a one-hour session that’s held in the afternoon, and provides the opportunity to take a stroll with a certified naturalist of the Park. Our naturalist, Dakota, provided us with a lot of information about Yosemite’s natural and cultural history. We particularly loved his enthusiasm and learning about the Park’s history and geology. We also became experts at identifying the different types of trees in the Park!

  • Starry Night Skies over Yosemite

This was a one-hour session that was really a short walk under the unpolluted Yosemite night sky. The sky was littered with stars and we saw constellations like Orion, Polaris, Geminis, Taurus and the Milky Way, amongst others. We also learnt about the legends behind these constellations – all against the magnificent backdrop of granite outcrops of the Valley. Also, the absence of the moon made the stars shine even brighter. We spotted shooting stars too! We were lucky to be there just 2 days after the Geminids Meteor Shower, which was the largest meteor event of the year. 😊

  • Yosemite chapel

Yosemite is home to about 1200 residents, and therefore has its own schools and chapel. (Fun fact: It is an independent voting area!) The chapel is located against the beautiful backdrop of granite cliffs, and faces a sprawling meadow. You can attend its services on Sunday, or just pop by for a picture.

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The view from across the chapel

  • El Capitan

Scaling El Capitan is no mean feat – it is a towering and near vertical cliff face that is the sheer joy of any rock-climbing enthusiast. While mere mortals like us may not be able to perform such stunts, we can still hike to the foot of el Capitan to enjoy its magnificent beauty.

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  • Ranger Walk

This scheduled walk takes place every day and it is an extremely enjoyable and informative one. We attended the wildlife walk and learnt so much about mule deers and black bears! (We also spotted a mule deer during the walk). Our ranger, Shelton, who has been with the National Park Service for 31 years, was such a great teacher and the children and adults enjoyed the 1.5 hour walk tremendously!

  • The Spirit of Yosemite: Yosemite Valley Theatre

Regular screenings of this film run throughout the day at half-hourly intervals. This is a great way to learn about the Park’s history and the important people (e.g. John Muir, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt etc.) who helped legalise the protection of the Park. The narrations are complete with stunning aerial images of Yosemite.

  • Night Prowl

The night prowl is a night hike that is not to be missed! It was undoubtedly our favourite. Dakota, our trained naturalist, was excellent. In absolute darkness where our sense of sight failed us, we identified plants and animals using different senses. We ended the session with a solo walk, and I was so amazed by what I learnt! Adults and children would definitely enjoy this.

  • Ice-Skating

Winter is the perfect season for ice-skating and the outdoor ice-skating rink at Half Dome Village opened its doors to the public on 16 December 2017. Skates can be rented and tickets bought on-site. We didn’t get a chance to skate, though, cos we left that morning.

More pictures and some ending thoughts… 

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The colours of fall – Yosemite National Park

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The perfect holiday ❤

Our 4D3N stay at Yosemite was perfect. The beauty of the National Park lies not just in its stunning landscapes, but also in how it is so well-protected and well-maintained by Americans who are truly proud and protective of the nature their country has to offer. We were seriously impressed.

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Goodbye, Yosemite! Till we meet again!

 

For our entire Yosemite experience, we rate it…

Verdict:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 (and beyond!)

*This is a non-sponsored post.

With love,
cropped-cropped-three-wandering-bears

 

Exploring the Amazon: Cuyabeno Reserve

One of our favourite places during our entire South American leg was the Cuyabeno Reserve, located in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest. We had the time of our lives there; each experience was unparalleled in every sense of the word. In fact, if we had the chance to do our South American journey again, we would definitely have spent more time there. The beauty of the Amazon is simply indescribable beyond words; no film or documentary could ever do it justice.

This blog entry is specially written for those who are toying with the idea of visiting the Amazon. In it you will find our itinerary and basic logistical details. If this is you, we strongly encourage you to take the leap – it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you will remember for years to come!

The Amazon: A brief introduction

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The Amazon Rainforest is the largest and most diverse rainforest in the world. In fact, one of ten of the world’s known animal and plant species calls the Amazon home. Located in South America and spanning nine countries – Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana – the rainforest and its inhabitants have always been a source of mystery for many, whose only glimpse of it comes from Nat Geo or BBC documentaries. We were two such people, until our dream became a reality when we set foot on the South American continent.

The Cuyabeno Reserve, Ecuador

Since we would be spending quite some time in South America, we had the opportunity to choose the part of the Amazon we wanted to visit. After trawling through forums, travel blogs and websites, we finally settled on Ecuador’s Cuyabeno Reserve for the following reasons:

  • Besides being a part of the Amazon, the reserve is special as it is located at the foothills of the Andes. Its cooler and wetter climate thus give rise to some interesting species and ecosystems that can only be found in this particular reserve.
  • Unlike other more commercialised reserves that promote activities like sport fishing, Cuyabeno Reserve prides itself for its sustainable tourism practices.
  • The travel reviews of the Reserve are excellent.
  • Affordability – the Ecuadorian Amazon is the most affordable among the countries we visited, and provides similar hikes and activities without compromising on the quality of the experience.

Guacamayo Ecolodge – We choose you!

Having decided on the region, the next step was to decide on the lodge where we wanted to stay. After comparing the different lodges available, we realised that most of them were quite similar. We eventually settled on Guacamayo Ecolodge because:

  • As its name suggests, it is an eco-lodge, and it is fitted with eco-friendly facilities like solar energy panels, waste separation systems and huts made of biodegradable materials etc.
  • It is run by locals who maintain a close relationship with native people of the Amazon
  • It is very affordable, at just USD 300 per pax for a 5D4N adventure
  • It was claimed to have some of the best guides, according to reviews (and now we can absolutely vouch for that – it’s true!)

We proceeded to contact the ecolodge and made a booking in Quito by visiting their head office. Details here:

Address:  Reina Victoria N24-151 between José Calama and Mariscal Foch, Building “Torre del Quinde, 5B-502”
Contact: +593 939 062 779 or reservasguacamayo@gmail.com

The start of our Amazonian adventure: a horrible journey to and from the lodge

Perhaps the only thing we absolutely hated about this trip was the journey to and from the ecolodge. The journey from Quito was long and exhausting, bordering on excruciating at times.

With our 50L backpacks in tow, we waited for a private pick up bus at La Mariscal, Quito, at 1030pm the night before. It cost us USD20 per pax for a one way trip.

(Heartwarming story: While waiting for the bus, a very kind street attendant noticed us, and as he was worried for our safety, informed the manager of a hotel nearby, who kindly let us use their waiting area – complete with complimentary drinks and a washroom to use – while we waited for our bus.)

It was a 4 hour ultra bumpy ride. At 3AM, we were awoken abruptly to switch to another bus, to continue the bumpy ride full of twists and turns. (Till today, we thank God we made it there and back alive). 5 hours later, we finally reached Lago Agrio and had breakfast with other adventure-seekers who were waiting for pick up arrangements to their respective lodges. After 2 hours of waiting (and some overpriced but miserly breakfast from the only stall there) we were picked up in a large bus and driven for another 2 hours before we reached Cuyabeno Reserve.

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We then took a 2 hour motorised canoe ride to our lodge. (Note: It was extremely sunny, so we slapped on plenty of sun block and made sure we had our jungle hats on!)

First glimpses of the Amazon

We had finally arrived! With hearts abated, we took in the rich colours of the dense foliage, the refreshing smells of the forest, and the endless chirping of birds and critters amongst the rustling of leaves. The rainforest was beautiful, with sunlight streaming onto glistening waterways. There were partially submerged plants and trees lining the waterway, and butterflies of iridescent colours the size of our palms fluttering everywhere. It was absolutely gorgeous.

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On the way to the lodge, we spotted many animals – 3 species of monkeys, a sloth, lizard, many types of birds endemic to the Amazon, long nose bats and lots of insects. Strangely, seeing these larger-than-life insects in the Amazon did not make me curl in disgust as I normally would – they actually fascinated me. To top it off, the weather was nothing short of perfect.

Arrival at Guacamayo Ecolodge

Upon arrival, we were given a refreshing welcome drink and headed for lunch. The meal was fantastic – we had stuffed cheese pepper for appetisers, fresh Amazonian tilapia and sautéed rice for mains, and the typical chocolate banana for dessert. After lunch, we had our daily siesta routine for 2 hours.

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We also met our group of 12, comprising 6 Italians, 4 Swedes and us! We were initially shocked because they were all much older than us… but they turned out to be surprisingly adventurous, funny and lovely! We had especially animated conversations with the 4 Swedes who became our good companions on the trip.

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The 5D4N Itinerary

Here is a brief overview of our programme for the stay. Highlights of the trip are in the next section!

Day 1

  • Arrival at ecolodge
  • Lunch and siesta
  • Laguna Grande for swim and watching sunset
  • Animal spotting from the boat at night

Day 2

  • Animal spotting
  • Visiting Siona tribe
  • Making and tasting Yuca bread
  • Visiting local shaman
  • Making traditional chocolate
  • Laguna Grande for swim and watching sunset
  • Spotting nocturnal animals from the boat

Day 3

  • Rainforest walk
  • Piranha spotting
  • Night walk (insects)

Day 4

  • Traditional canoeing
  • Rainforest hike
  • Anaconda + caiman spotting
  • Laguna Grande swim + watching sunset
  • Star gazing

Day 5

  • Bird watching from tower
  • Animal spotting
  • Departure

Highlights of the trip

  • Spotting a huge variety of mammals, amphibians, plants, birds, reptiles and insects

In a short span of 5 days, we saw more animals than we’d ever seen in our lives. Many of these were endemic to the Amazon. Some interesting animals we saw included the stinky turkey (a prehistoric flightless bird), snake headed comorrant, red and blue headed macaw, weaver bird, boa, caiman, flying monkey, pygmy marmoset (smallest monkey in the world), toucan, sloth, red headed cardinal (extremely rare bird), grey winged trumpeter, paichi fish (can breathe through both gills and lungs!) and much more!

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Our guide, Jairi, was absolutely superb, spotting animals so well-camouflaged with such ease, it was almost legendary. He’s a local Ecuadorian with a degree in ecology and he speaks fluent English – he did such a great job in giving us in depth explanations of the flora and fauna of the Forest! He was also amazing at taking pictures. Not to mention, Jairi has worked with National Geographic and the Discovery Channel a couple of times. He was probably the sole reason we enjoyed our trip so much.

  • Watching the sunset at Laguna Grande

Most nights, we ended our day by watching the sunset at Laguna Grande (or big lagoon). The sunsets were magical. I just can’t find any other word to describe how beautiful they were. On all 3 nights, the sunsets were astoundingly different. We both agreed that the sunsets we experienced here at the Amazon could very well be the most beautiful ones we had ever seen in our lives.

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  • Swimming in the wild

This was my very first experience swimming in a natural lagoon. Laguna Grande was where we would wash away our tiredness at the end of each day. Although we were a little perturbed by the lurking piranhas and caimans, we were assured by our guide that it was safe to swim here. And so we took the plunge! On the first day, we were almost attacked by an aggressive sea snake, but were saved by our boat driver. Some of us took a dip in the river next to the lodge but after spotting a huge black caiman lurking on the banks, we decided not to take the risk after that.

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  • The lodge

There is something about going back to basics and experiencing life away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Have we mentioned how we were so very in love with the lodge? Every morning, we were greeted by sounds of the wild – the chirping of birds and the flapping of winds. Every night, we went to sleep amidst the humming of insects and strumming of cicadas. In the absence of all other noise, the sounds of the forest lulled us into deep slumber. (Don’t worry, there are insect nets to shield you from dropping insects :P)

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  • Stargazing

Every night, the lights at the lodge go off at 10 pm. There is absolutely no other source of light and the surroundings are pitch black in the absence of light pollution. We climbed up the bird tower and watched the stars, identifying the constellations in the night sky (We picked this up during our stay at Cusco!) The sky was practically littered with stars.

  • Rainforest walk

Walking deep into the rainforest with nobody else to depend on but our guide was really a harrowing but surreal experience. Mosquitoes aside (there were loads of them – wear light coloured clothing and fully cover yourself from head to toe), we came face to face with nature, only to be amazed by how the entire rainforest ecosystem worked and how the organisms lived in symbiosis, supporting each other like clockwork.

We learnt how trees and plants were used for medicinal purposes, and saw small but potent animals like the poisonous dart frog and bullet ants (just 10 bullet ants can kill a human being!) I was especially fascinated by the leaf cutter ant and the sharp nose leaf toad, which was such a master of disguise.

We also experienced trudging in quicksand and took a puff off some ‘natural tobacco’, and topped off the entire rainforest experience by indulging in some forest fruits, swallowing many ants in the process (think protein, y’all!)

  • Night walk

The night walk was another entirely different experience, where we saw the keepers of the night come into action. There were huge spiders and insects and all kinds of creepy crawlies… totally not for the faint-hearted!

  • Visiting the Siona Tribe

Indigenous to the Ecuadorian Amazon for over a hundred years, the Siona Tribe was so  warm and welcoming. They taught us how to harvest the roots of the yuca plant to make casave bread. Only two tribes in the Amazon make this bread. They also treated us to some yummy barbequed Amazonian catfish as they had had a party the night before.

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We ate the yuca bread with home made tuna ceviche and aji spread, and it was the most amazing thing we had ever tasted. It was so intriguing how something that looked so seemingly simple could taste so delicious. Till this day, we often find ourselves daydreaming about this divine meal we had at the Amazon.

  • ‘Fishing’ for a piranha

Our guide fished for a piranha to show us its powerful jaws. The jaws of the piranha were so strong that they could be used to cut tree branches! The rest of us were too scared to handle the piranha. (Note: Only the guide caught the piranha, and later released it unscathed back into the river). Our guide even showed us his ‘battle scars’ from piranha attacks.

  • Canoeing

Though we had had plenty of experience canoeing and kayaking during our various trips, doing it in a group of 12 was a completely different experience. Plus, we had one goal in mind, and that was to find the elusive anaconda! (Sadly, we didn’t get to see it). The experience itself was fun, however, with some of us capsizing into the river, perhaps on purpose to escape the afternoon heat :).

  • Visiting the shaman

Though we do not believe in shamanic rituals, it was interesting to learn about the local villagers’ beliefs. We tried a little ayahuarra, which is a hallucinogen that helps the shaman to ‘see’ and ‘heal’ villagers upon drinking large amounts of the mixture. It is claimed that the other dimension is ‘opened’ when the shaman is intoxicated by the drink.

We also tried our hands at the blowpipe, a traditional hunting tool used with poisonous darts to catch wild animals for food. (That’s our guide Jairi in the background)

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  • Making chocolate… from scratch

Ecuadorian chocolate is widely regarded as one of the finest chocolates in the world. From roasting Ecuadorian cocoa beans to manually peeling and grinding them, we tried our hands on the full works of traditional chocolate making. Chocolate never tasted so good.

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Memories for a lifetime

Though our experience was short and we merely grazed the surface of the Amazon, we were so overwhelmed by what it offered us. A 5 day adventure turned out to offer us unforgettable memories for a lifetime.

For the entire Amazonian experience with Guacamayo Ecolodge, we unequivocably rate it…

Verdict:  2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 (and beyond!)

To book a space at the Guacamayo lodge during the peak season, advanced booking of 3 months is required.

*This is a non-sponsored post.

With love,
cropped-cropped-three-wandering-bears

10 Places to Visit in Lima, Peru

Besides its amazing food, Lima is an extremely vibrant city with lots to offer to visitors who hail from all over the world. It doesn’t matter if you are a history buff, a foodie or an avid shopper (or a combination of everything) – there’s bound to be something in Lima that excites you! We spent a total of 9 days in Lima, and felt that we had so much left unexplored. If you are headed to this awesome city, here are some things that we think you should consider adding to your travel itinerary! 🙂

1. A visit to Barranco, Lima’s cultural district 

Barranco is a district with a very unique flavour. Take a walking tour around Barranco and you will see beautiful murals adorning the walls of buildings and houses. What used to be a spillover district from neighbouring Chorillo, Barranco was where artists congregated, lived and started honing their craft. The district then slowly evolved into the artistic centre of Lima, and is now Lima’s most expensive neighbourhood.

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While at Barranco, it is also common to spot many cafes dotting the sidewalks. One of the most popular cafes to visit is La Panetteria, a favourite breakfast haunt of locals. We tried their signature mango maracuya juice and cappucino, and shared a jamon queso sandwich (ham and cheese sandwich) and lomo (meat) empanada. The food was tasty and service was good, but the place was small and very crowded.

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Address: Barranco, Av Grau 369, Cercado de Lima, Peru
Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

A cheap alternative to indulging in the cafe culture of Barranco is to try one of its many local cereal breakfast stands, which serve a hot cup of cereal mix made of a variety of grains and milk. It is cheap, extremely tasty and very nutritious! You can choose the grains you want or ask for ‘especialidad‘, which refers to their specialty. We ordered the latter and absolutely loved it.

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When walking around Barranco, try spotting the famous Bridge of Sighs, which got its name from couples standing on the bridge and sighing at the beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. There is also a lovely Banos boardwalk that takes you along the coast of the Pacific, which makes for an easy and romantic stroll!

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Bridge of Sighs 

Another interesting place to visit is the site of the landing of the last train to the Andes, which has now turned into an eclectic art gallery. The view of the ocean from the train carriage was so beautiful – it bordered on inspirational.

 

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A visit to Barranco easily takes up an entire day, but the district has lots to offer at night too. Pop into one of its endless bazaars, which house shops selling souvenirs, food, and even feature live bands and school choirs that perform for free! Different bazaars are held at various times of the year, but there is almost always at least one that is ongoing all year round.

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2. Take a historic tour around Central Lima (City Hall)

City Hall (or Central Lima) teems with history and is a must-visit if you are interested to learn more about the city. Getting to City Hall is easy – take the Metropolitan (which is a “train” in the form of a bus) to Union Station. Tickets cost just 1.50 soles. We recommend signing up for the Free Walking Tour to get more information on Lima’s historical centre.

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Central Lima’s main activity is concentrated about the Main Square and its surrounding buildings, like the Palace of the Government and the Main Cathedral. The buildings around the main square are decked in yellow owing to Spanish colonial influence. If you visit the square during the weekend, you will miss the office crowd and see areas around the square being cordoned off for various events such as a cycling race or colourful parade. We managed to witness a huge group of cholitas dancing to the beat of traditional Peruvian music to commemorate the Battle of Angamos! The atmosphere was very lively; we had the time of our lives.

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Near the square, there is also a rock-like statue, which is actually the Statue of Tauli, the ‘father’ of the Incan civilisation (photo above, left). It is said that his remains and part of his house were used to create the statue, and the locals believe that if you place your hand on the statue, you can get some of Tauli’s ‘positive energy’.

3. Have Chifa at Chinatown

Lima is a foodie’s paradise, and Chinese food here has also earned a name for itself. In the 1600s, immigrants from Asia, most notably China and Japan, arrived on the shores of Peru and started to eke out a living here. The next wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in the late 1800s, and this is when Chinese cuisine started to flourish in Lima. Today, Lima is well known for its chifa (Peruvian Chinese cuisine), whose name evolved from the Chinese term ‘chifan’ (which means to have a meal). The chaufa (fried rice, which evolved from the Chinese term ‘chaufan’) is an especially popular dish in Peruvian Chinese cuisine. Today, the Peruvians consider chifa as part of their national cuisine, and it is common to find a non-Chinese chef cooking up a mean storm of chifa. 

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The best place to have chifa, in our opinion, is Chinatown, which is full of Chinese eateries selling dim sum, wanton noodles and chaufa. The place is also worth a visit for cheaper priced items if you would like to do some shopping. However, do note that it gets very crowded on weekends.

4. Shop at Centro Comercial Larcomar

This is a shopping centre located in the Miraflores district, and is very popular amongst locals and tourists. It houses a variety of local and international fashion brands and is home to many restaurants, most of which offer a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean. Y especially loved the Prune store, which sold the trendiest leather bags made in South America :p

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Larcomar is especially crowded during sunset, and visitors will spend time at the sky deck watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. The view is exceptionally beautiful and the deck is a perfect place to unwind after a long day.

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Address: Malecón de la Reserva 610, Miraflores 15074, Peru
Opening hours: 11AM to 10PM

5. Catch a traditional Peruvian Paso Horse and Dance Show 

Peru is well-known for its Paso horses, which have a four-beat gait that make for an extremely comfortable ride. A visit to Peru wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the beauty of these horses! For this, we visited Hacienda Mamacona, which was located a 20 minute drive from the city centre.

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Our visit started off with a performance by the gauchos on their horses, and we were given an extremely delicious welcome drink, complete with some fried fritters. The weather was perfect! The show was translated into English as well, and at the end of the session we had the chance to try riding the horses.

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After the performance, we had a delicious buffet lunch at the dining area! The spread was super extensive and we ate… and ate.

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After lunch, we roamed about the hacienda to take some photos. There were also blankets for us to just lie on the grass and snooze – perfect holiday activity!

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Getting to the hacienda from Miraflores is most convenient by taxi. We should share a very unpleasant experience here, though – we were cheated by a taxi driver who refused to let us disembark when we had agreed on the price beforehand. Luckily, the owner of the hacienda came to our rescue. Anyway, taxi scams are quite common in Lima so it is advisable to get the driver to write out the amount he is charging you and keeping that as proof, in case of any dispute. We learnt to be wiser after the incident :p

AddressAlameda Mamacona s/nLima Lima 37, Peru
Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

6. Eat fresh at the Mercado (Market)

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The mercado is where locals go to for the freshest produce, including fruit, raw meat, vegetables and even flowers. In recent years, it has become a tourist attraction in itself. The market also houses several stalls selling cooked food and drinks for breakfast and lunch. These are extremely popular with the locals as they are affordable and tasty.

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There is also a section dedicated to fresh ceviche! A word of caution, though, it is always good to do some research on recommended stalls as hygiene standards can be a little questionable. We recommend Cevicheria Alex, which is popular amongst locals and tourists for its fresh ceviche (and of course, good hygiene). 😉

Address: Jr. Santa Maria de los Angeles Mz. N1 Lote 07 Urb. San Diego San Martin de porres, Lima 36 Lima, Peru
Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

 

 7. Shop for souvenirs at the Artisan’s Market
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The Artisan’s Market is a group of markets located opposite the mercado. Each building has a name, such as the Cuzco market, and houses a cluster of shops selling a variety of souvenirs and handicrafts. It is good to walk around first to get an idea of what the shops are selling, before actually purchasing them. Most shops sell similar items and bargaining is always a possibility 🙂
8. Hike up Cerro San Cristobal 
Cerro San Cristobal is a 410m hill that gives a panoramic view of Lima city and its shanty towns. We trekked up the hill with our guide, Franco, whose walking tour of central Lima we had joined the day before. Until a few years ago, tour buses were allowed up Cerro San Cristobal, but a fatal bus accident involving tourists resulted in authorities cordoning off the area to vehicles.
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There are 14 crosses from the foot of the hill to its peak, with the largest cross located at the top of the hill. Catholic devotees do a pilgrimage during the Traditional Holy Week in Peru, and this journey is a reflection of Jerusalem, with Cerro San Cristobal representing Calvary.
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9. Take a romantic stroll around Rimac
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The Rimac region is also known as every lover’s paradise, and the place is popular with couples due to the presence of many romantic parks. This area owes its origins to a Spanish King, who had the places designed for his lover. Pieces of Spanish architecture and design, such as street lamps, have been constructed to retain the parks’ original flavour.
10. Have a picnic at Kennedy Park
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The Kennedy Park is an extremely popular park situated in the heart of Miraflores. It is surrounded by restaurants and cafes, and within the park, there are street vendors selling all types of sweet snacks.

The park is a gathering point for locals who take part in the community salsa, and on Saturday mornings, mothers gather at the park to dance with their toddlers!

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Artists also take to the park to display their works and craftsmen sell their handmade jewellery on the pavements.

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The park is an excellent place to have a picnic and people-watch. There are loads of cats here though, so if you are afraid of cats (like Y is), you may want to take special note. :p

We hope this summarises Lima and entices you to make a trip to this beautiful city! Stay tuned for our next post on Ica and Huacachina – sand dune haven. 🙂

*This is a non-sponsored post. 

With love,
cropped-cropped-three-wandering-bears

Lima, the world’s gastronomic capital

If we were to recommend one city in South America we would definitely visit again, it would be Lima, Peru, not least for its mouthwatering cuisine. In fact, Lima is also affectionately known as the world’s gastronomic capital, simply because its food is bound to delight even the pickiest eaters! So, it is only natural that we dedicate a post entirely to Lima’s food scene because we LOVED IT SO MUCH.

Here’s a list of what you MUST eat when you are in Lima – tried, tested and given the bears’ stamp of approval!

1. Best Sandwich & Fries: La Lucha Sangucheria Criolla

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La Lucha is a very popular local fast food chain with a healthy twist – all orders are made on the spot and only the freshest local ingredients are used. Their burgers come with fries on the side, and these fries are made using local huayro potatoes. We tried this on our first night at Lima, where we ordered takeaway to enjoy at the nearby Kennedy Park. We were dead silent throughout dinner because the sandwiches were just TOO GOOD.

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We especially loved the generous servings of meat, avocado and onions in our burgers. Service was also excellent – the waiters provided us with a portion of all the seven types of sauces, ranging from golf sauce to olive mayo! We also ordered a portion of chicha morada, Lima’s most popular local drink made of purple corn and cinnamon, to go with our burgers. We became die-hard fans of La Lucha and kept returning in the days that followed!

AddressDiagonal 308Lima, Peru
Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

 

2. Best traditional Peruvian food: Rincon Chami

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A simple local traditional restaurant located in the quiet neighbourhood of Miraflores, Rincon Chami serves authentic and tasty Peruvian fare. It also has its own dessert shop right next door, where you can pop by for some cakes and coffee after your main meal.

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We tried Aji de gallina (chicken with traditional spicy sauce), Tacu tacu con lomo (minced beef in Peruvian bean sauce), chicha morada and jugos surtido (mixed fruit juice). The portions were generous but a little too salty for our palate, which we later found characteristic of South American food. Still, we adored the home-cooked taste of the meal and the cosy atmosphere of the restaurant!

Address: Calle Esperanza 154, MirafloresLima, Peru
Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 

 

3. Best ceviche: Punto Azul 

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Punto Azul literally means “Blue House”, and this eye-catching building with blue windows is the perfect embodiment of its name. The place is extremely popular with locals and tourists. We arrived at 11am and the place was soon crowded with a long queue forming outside the restaurant by 12pm.

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Punto Azul is best known for its ceviche, which is Peru’s creative take on Japanese sashimi. Ceviche is served only during lunch while the fish and seafood is still fresh from the day’s catch. We ordered the mixed platter ceviche which comprised fish, octopus and shellfish, as well as spaghetti el pesto with breaded fish.

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The ceviche was extremely fresh, and the pasta was thick, creamy and rich. After taking his first mouthful, J actually exclaimed “OH MY GOSH” and we had the rest of our meal in silence (again). We also ordered a pitcher of frozen passionfruit juice to accompany our food – it was so refreshing and delicious!

Address: Av. Primavera 2235 | Calle San Martín 595, MirafloresLima 15555, Peru
Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

 

4. Best atmosphere: Canta Rana

A popular local hangout, Canta Rana is located at Barranco, the artsy and upmarket district of Lima. It is easy to miss this gem as it is obscurely situated at the corner of a relatively run-down building. However, step into the restaurant and you will feel like you’ve travelled back in time and entered an entirely different world!

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The walls are adorned with certificates, letters and old photographs of famous celebrities and sports people who have eaten here. Flags of different countries hang from the ceiling, giving this place an old school vibe.

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Eclectic decor aside, the food here was surprisingly good. We tried the Arroz chaufa (fried rice), which was very fragrant and tasty, and easily the best fried rice we had in South America. We dare say that it would even rival some of the hawker stalls in Singapore!

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AddressGenova 101Lima, Peru
Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

 

5. Best view: Mangos at Larcomar Shopping Centre

Larcomar Shopping Centre is a newly built retail haven that is located along the Pacific coast of Lima in the Miraflores district. There are scores of restaurants that boast lovely ocean views, but we found Mangos to be the most value-for-money. We had a brunch buffet here and the spread and variety of food were just awesome. Service was impeccable and who wouldn’t want breakfast with a view like this?

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Here’s a sneak peek of what the breakfast buffet spread looks like:

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Have we convinced you yet? 😀

Address: Malecon de la Reserva No 610 Tda. 4-02 Miraflores, Larcomar
Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

 

6. Best value and variety: Mercado 1 (Local Market) 

If you want to try really local food at a really local haunt, try visiting the local market for some really affordable and delicious meals. We had breakfast at one of the makeshift kiosks right outside the market – buns filled with fried dough fritters, sausage and fries, and topped with mayo and ketchup, plus a glass of soy milk and bean beverage for just 1 sole! We went back for a second serving immediately after we finished our first.

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The very same day, we had lunch at El Cevichano, a stall serving ceviche in the local market. It is frequented by locals and tourists and has good hygiene standards, which is really important for preparing raw dishes. We ordered the ceviche mixto (mixed platter) and ceviche pescado con chicharron (fish with fried calamari). Portions were big and the seafood was really fresh. Prices were also very affordable compared to those in restaurants.

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If you want to munch on some fresh fruit, the market is also well-known for its colourful variety of sweet and juicy fruits that Peru has come to be famous for.

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Our rule of paw? Follow the local crowd. If they are flocking to one stall, there’s got to be a good reason why. 🙂

AddressAv. Paseo de la RepublicaLima, Peru
Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690

 

7. Best street food: Churros
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Street peddlers are everywhere in Lima, or Peru for that matter. There are lots of local street snacks worth trying, but we were simply blown away by the churros we had. We have tried churros in many different countries around the world, but the churros in Lima – with hot dripping caramel centres and crispy deep fried doughs – are simply THE BOMB. Who knew these deceptively plain looking churros could taste so good?
8. Special mention: Sangucheria el chinito  
We happened to chance upon this place when we were walking around the City Hall area. From a distance, it looked like any other casual dining place, and since it was the only one open at 8pm, we decided to give it a try. After some research, we discovered that this was an extremely popular eating establishment that has been around since 1960!
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Sangucheria el chinito specialises in Chinese-style roasted pork ribs. We tried the chicharron (fried pork) and costillitas de chinito (roasted spare ribs). These were SO SUCCULENT AND TENDER, we almost DIED eating them. The servings were huge though, and after eating the same thing for a while, we got a little sick of the oily fat trimmings around the meat. Still, this place is definitely worth a visit if you have a thing for roasted ribs!
AddressJiron Chancay 894 | Cercado de LimaLima, Perú
Verdict2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690 2bd1ec238e4d5c5864d2a75bf086f07c_cubs-directory-archive-paw-clipart-bobcat-paws_703-690
There are just so many types of food to try in Lima that it would be a gross disservice to limit our recommendations to these few! In general, the standard of food in Lima is high. Eating was definitely an activity that we looked forward to every day (OK, every few hours). 😀

*This is a non-sponsored post. 

With love,
cropped-cropped-three-wandering-bears