25 Things to do in Yogyakarta

    25 Things to do in Yogyakarta

    I have a confession to make.

    I had never heard of, let alone considered visiting, Yogyakarta prior to being invited there by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. However, from the moment I arrived and realised all of the many things to do in Yogyakarta, there was something that drew me to the place and I was surprised that it hadn’t been on my radar until that point. 

    Yogyakarta (pronounced ‘Jogjakarta’, and affectionately known as Jogja) is a city located on the Indonesian island of Java. While it’s not as famous as its other Indonesian counterparts such as Bali, it is a place that deserves to be explored. Culture, heritage and art run prevalent here, with a funky vibe flowing through its core. I must warn you though, once you’ve been drawn in, you’ll never be able to forget it. In fact, there’s so many unforgettable things to do in Yogyakarta, you will find it hard to walk away without having done them all!

    Here’s 25 things you must do in Yogyakarta (in no particular order):

    1. Get your adrenaline rush with a Jeep tour

    Merapi Lava Tour by Pratik from Sadak_Chap

    If you are somewhat of an adrenaline junkie, like myself, then you will love the thrill of speeding through rivers and the mountainside. Make sure you have waterproof gear though, as the jeeps were known to leak! You also visit both Merapi Volcano and Sisa Hartaku (see below) on the Lava Tour, so you can cross a few things off the list in one hit!

    25 Things to do in Yogyakarta - Jeep tour

    Badass Jeep by Bressiona

    25 Things to do in Yogyakarta Indonesia

    The adrenaline junkies post-joyride

    2. Visit Borobudur temple

    Borobudur, Indonesia

    Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Built in the 9th century, it is nine levels high and covers 2,500m2. There are three zones, each covered with stone carvings depicting different teachings of Buddha.

    The carvings of Borobudur, Yogyakarta

    The 72 bell-shaped stupas are the most eye-catching, with each one containing a statue of the Buddah, and representing eternity. If you are into the details, it’s easy to pass the time studying the many carvings, searching for each of the 504 Buddha statues or simply enjoying the majestic views of the green valley below. It’s quite spectacular, and if you are lucky enough to capture it at sunrise, you may leave a better person than when you entered.

    The entrance to Borobodur, Yogyakarta
    Borobudur things to do in Yogyakarta

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    3. Strip back to nature – rice paddy processing

    Rice Paddy processing in Pentingsari, Yogyakarta

    Pentingsari Village is a remote village, surrounded by luscious tropical forest and rice paddies. Here, you can have a go at cultivating the ground on the back of a buffalo and even have a go at planting the rice. It was actually harder than I thought! If you love the feeling of mud between your toes, you are in for a treat. If mud isn’t your thing, you can wander between the buildings and trees, and forget about the world you left behind.

    Connect to nature at Pentingsari Village, Yogyakarta
    Planting rice in Pentingsari, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

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    25 things to do in Yogyakarta
    Exploring Borobudur, Indonesia

    4. Visit the House of Memory in Sisa Hartaku

    The House of Memory in Sisa Hartaku, Yogyakarta

    It may have been due to the storm that hit when we were there, but this place is an eerie reminder that nature can sometimes be a force to be reckoned with. An open-aired museum, the House of Memory has a collection of items destroyed by the 2010 volcanic eruption of Merapi Volcano. Sadly, 353 people lost their lives in that event as they had stayed in their homes instead of evacuating. Melted glass, twisted metal bikes and even a clock that stopped at the time of the eruption sit silently in mourning for the lives lost in the devastating event. 

    The devastating remains of the 2010 Mt Merapi eruption
    The eruption frozen in time
    Mt Merapi volcano melted glass and twisted metal
    House of Memory Yogyakarta Indonesia

    5. See a volcano

    Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in Indonesia, with its last eruption occurring in 2014. It is also quite the tourist attraction, offering sweeping views of the landscape. Visiting Mt Merapi is easy enough with a Lava Tour from Yoes Adventure Kaliurang or by hiring a driver. Unfortunately for us, it was storming when we went there, however if you are blessed by the weather gods, you may get a shot like this.

    Volcano at sunrise by Larissa Dening

    6. Wander through Kotagede

    Kotagede is the cultural epicentre of Yogyakarta

    Kotagede is a maze of traditional Indonesian houses, painted in eye-catching colours such as green, pink and aqua (my favourite was the aqua!). Wandering through the narrow streets, you will come across friendly neighbours, happy to stop you for a chat and a photo and fall in love with the fine details of the doors, local art, windows and alleys. Oh, and it’s the perfect place for a spontaneous photo opp.

    Kotagede and its pretty facades Yogyakarta

    Kotagede and its pretty facades – and a couple of travel bloggers!

    Colourful doors in Kotagede Yogyakarta

    Ling in Kotagede by Trishita from Overrated_Outcast

    Colourful doors in Kotagede Yogyakarta

    7. Visit Legi Market

    Things to do in Yogyakarta - visit Legi Market

    Legi Market, hands down, would have to be the best local market I’ve visited. There was a really cool atmosphere here, and better yet, stunning light for any budding photographers. The aisles are closely packed and filled with a range of items, including Batik fabric, cooking utensils, local produce and the largest variety of prawn crackers I’ve ever come across. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a ‘grazer’ when it comes to markets, so sampling the food here was a tasty experience.

    Legi Market in Yogyakarta
    Legi Market in Yogyakarta

    8. Learn Bahasa

    Bahasa is an interesting, melodic language and doing a class at Desa Bahasa is a fun way to get down the basics. Not only will you be entertained by the zestful enthusiasm of your teacher (I want whatever he’s on…), but if you can master a few phrases the locals will love you. They also offer homestays here, for a truly authentic local experience.

    9. Make your own pottery

    Pottery in Klipoh Village Indonesia

    Whilst Patrick Swayze’s character was not around to help my fingers glide through the soft, wet clay, making my own bowl on a turner was a lot of fun and very therapeutic. You can have a go at making a clay keepsake at Klipoh Village. If getting your hands dirty isn’t your thing, you can admire the local pottery and watch how they make them from start to finish.

    Clay pottery in Yogyakarta Indonesia
    Klipoh village pottery making in Yogyakarta Indonesia

    10. Check out waterfalls

    Yogyakarta boasts some stunning waterfalls worthy of an Instagram snap. The best way to visit them is to hire a driver to take you, and you should consider visiting Air Terjun Perawan (also known as the Virgin Falls), Sidoharjo and Sri Gethuk. Be prepared for an easy, picturesque trek through a little nature along the way.

    Air Terjun Perawan by Larissa Dening

    11. Eat!

    Eating the local food at Legi Market in Yogyakarta

    Our introduction to Yogyakarta started with a whole heap of food, and it never ended! The art of cooking and eating is taken seriously here, with an array of different exotic flavours in the mix. Sadly, for me, I’m not a huge fan of spicy food or seafood, so I often had to settle for rice and crackers. Thankfully, prawn crackers seem to be in their own food category, and are served in an abundance of amounts and flavours at each meal. 

    Delicious food in Yogyakarta Indonesia
    Food in Yogyakarta Indonesia

    They also like sweet food here, which is something I can relate to. In saying that, some dishes just DID NOT work, including a dessert dish called Es Teler that could only be described as a nasty combination of random textures such as avocado, coconut and jackfruit, and tasting like the fermented juice you find at the bottom of a food scrap pile (check out my reaction in the video!). However, if that’s your kind of thing, enjoy! 

    12. Try jamu

    Local lady making jamu in Yogyakarta

    Jamu is a traditional herbal medicine, often with turmeric as its base ingredient. There’s different types of jamu each with its own medicinal properties. Made from a mixture of herbs, spices, honey and even eggs, these drinks offer different benefits such as curing a cold, assisting fertility, enhancing libido and even tightening your ‘lady parts’ (just in case they were feeling a little loose). Spoiler alert: it was not delicious!

    My reaction to beras kencur jamu

    13. Make and admire Batik

    Freshly-printed Batik by Michael from Time Travel Turtle

    Yogyakarta is famous for its Batik. Batik is fabric with intricate designs made from wax drawings on a cloth prior to dying it. When the cloth is dyed and the wax is removed, the dyed fabric is left with the complex designs drawn in the wax. Wander through the streets of Kota Gede and you’ll see locals wearing the printed fabric with a casual sense of style. You can even have a go at making batik yourself, however it looks easier than it actually is!

    Locals in batik by Jonathon from Easternsuns

    14. Check out the street art

    Street art in Yogyakarta Indonesia

    I was pleasantly surprised at the random street art I stumbled upon in Yogyakarta. If you are a fan, keep your eyes peeled for colourful works, often depicting historical or social messages.

    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Street art
    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Street art
    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Street art
    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Vibrant murals

    15. Visit a royal cemetery

    As macabre as sounds, the royal cemetery of the Mataram Kingdom is worth a visit. Within the bowels of Kota Gede is a beautiful stone wall, which encloses the graveyard of important historical figures, such as Sultan Hadiwijaya and Panembahan Senopati. Unfortunately for us, the graveyard was closed (public opening hours are: Monday 10:00am – 12:00pm & Friday 1:30pm – 4:00pm), but you can still wander through the grounds and admire the Hindu architecture and ruins. You might be lucky and spot kingdom guards guarding the graveyard, wearing the traditional Javanese dress. Yogyakarta’s oldest mosque, the Kotagede Mosque, is also found here.

    The traditional entrance to the royal graveyard complex in Yogyakarta Indonesia

    16. Take a becak ride through the streets

    A becak (also known as a bike taxi or trishaw) is a popular form of transport for tourists, a fun way to explore Yogya and the one of the many interesting things to do in Yogyakarta. Sit back and enjoy coasting through the narrow streets while someone else does the hard work. You will either feel like royalty, or incredibly fat and lazy (especially when the driver has to push the becak up a hill).

    Ride a becak through the streets of Jogja

    17. Ride a neon flashing beetle

    If you are a ‘Belieber’ or a Hello Kitty fanatic, then you may just go giddy over the neon beetles in Southern City Square. Imagine a street lined with beetles adorned with bright, flashing neon lights, often in the shape of the aforementioned Biebs and Hello Kitty, blasting music and carnival sounds. I’m not sure I’d call it a ‘tough lap’, but you can take a ride in one of these crazy jukeboxes on wheels. If only I had my light-up sneakers on me!

    The neon beetles in Yogyakarta are hard to miss

    18. Take an Andong ride

    Forget the horse & carriage ride in Central Park, ride an Andong through the picturesque green villages whilst waving to the locals and you will be left speechless.

    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Take a leisurely andong ride through the villages

    19. Connect with the locals

    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Locals
    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Meeting the locals

    The locals of Jogja are incredibly warm and friendly, and are more than happy to chat and have their photo taken. In fact, at times I felt they were just waiting for a tourist with a camera to walk past and to have their moment in the spotlight (not unlike myself!). You’d be surprised what you can learn from talking to the locals, like when we learnt that bone marrow was the perfect aphrodisiac for making babies!

    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Meeting with the locals
    Things to do in Yogyakarta - Meeting with the locals

    20. Visit a Hindu temple at Prambanan

    UNESCO World Heritage Site, Prambanan, is Indonesia’s largest Hindu temple, also dating back to the 9th century. With the central temple rising 47 metres to the sky and surrounded by other smaller temples, intricate stone reliefs and luscious gardens, the whole complex is a stunning site that will please a history buff and temple addict.

    Prambanan by Michael from Time Travel Turtle

    21. Learn history through puppets

    Paper Moon Puppet Theatre originally began as a fine art studio and presented entertaining puppet performances for children. It has since evolved, and now uses puppetry to often teach about the dark history of Indonesia. The performances have proven to be a great success, and the company have since been featured in festivals and even toured America. The puppets themselves are intriguingly adorable and it’s often easy to forget that they aren’t real people. You can even participate in workshops and make (or at least attempt to make) your very own puppet to take home.

    The adorable puppets from Paper Moon Puppet theatre

    The adorable puppets from Paper Moon Puppet theatre

    Making puppets at Paper Moon Puppet theatre

    Making my puppet by Noah from Zeebachi

    22. Get a massage

    It would be a tragedy to visit Indonesia and not indulge in a massage treatment. For a portion of the price we pay back home, you can have your stresses and tensions kneaded away from $5-$40 (dirt cheap). The massages are so relaxing and you will feel like a new person when you finish.

    23. Stay somewhere ‘green’

    Stay at Green Host Hotel, Yogyakarta

    The eco movement is becoming more and more popular in tourism and the Green Host boutique hotel is at the forefront representing eco-friendly accommodation in Yogyakarta. Not only that, but it has a very funky design and ambience about it. There’s a few boutique eco-friendly hotels in Yogyakarta, so there’s some nice choices for the greenie.

    Where to stay in Yogyakarta
    Green Host Hotel, Yogyakarta
    Arty interiors at Green Host Hotel

    24. Order a Go-Jek

    Love Uber? You might just go crazy over Go-Jek. Go-Jek is an Indonesian start-up where you can order a ride via a scooter (don’t worry, all the drivers are registered and provide helmets!). Not only that, but since starting in 2010, they’ve expanded their services to provide food delivery, ticket purchasing, on-call massages and beauty treatments and more! Indonesians love it, and if you try it, you will too!

    25. Explore Jomblang Cave

    Ok, so technically we haven’t made it to this amazing natural wonder yet, because they only release something like 25 tickets per day to visit it. But, it is something I would be SO keen to get back to Jogja to do next time! Formed by a sinkhole thousands of years ago, the cave houses some incredible vegetation, some 50+ metres below the earth. If you happen to be lucky enough to visit when the sun is overhead (between 10am – 2pm) the sunrays create a heavenly stream of light into the cavern below. If you want to get that awe-inspiring Insta shot, make sure you book a driver and a ticket well in advance.

    Jomblang Cave, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

    Jomblang Cave by César González Palomo via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    If you manage to get through all of these and still have time and energy (well first, let me applaud you!), you can get more ideas here. In fact, this list has a whole bunch of adventurous stuff I would be keen to go back and do!

    Getting to Yogyakarta

    Getting to Yogyakarta is easy with domestic flights from Indonesia’s main airports such as Jakarta and Bali. AirAsia also fly there from Sydney via Kuala Lumpur. If you want to take the ‘scenic route’ you can take a train from Jakarta, with 11 trains running each day (it’s an 8 hour ride though!).

    25 things to do in Yogyakarta Indonesia
    25 things to do in Yogyakarta

    Have you been to Yogyakarta? Can you think of other must-do activities? Share them all below!

    This trip was part of the #TripofWonders by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. I’m super flattered to have been part of this trip, but all opinions are still my own.

    This post contains some affiliate links. Booking via these links won’t cost you any extra, but will help me get closer to my dream career, so thank you in advance!

    Unique Australian Romantic Getaways – Part 1

    Unique Australian Romantic Getaways – Part 1

    We might be biased, but Australia is the land of plenty. There are a variety of gorgeous landscapes from red deserts, pristine beaches, luscious rainforests and bustling urban centres. So we thought we would put together our romantic getaway wishlist of the most unique and exciting accommodation around Australia.

    We feel very spoilt to live here and try to take mini romantic getaways when we can, particularly looking for something unique and a little different. If there’s a quirky room, an option for glamping or a unique experience to have, we are there!

    I’m always trawling the internet to find something a little special and different for our romantic escapes, so we thought, why not share some of our picks with you! To kick the series off, we’ve picked one from each state! Some of these places we’ve had the pleasure of staying in and the others are on our wish list!

    Photo courtesy of Thorngrove Manor

    Photo courtesy of Jamala Wildlife Lodge

    Nestled in luxurious rainforest in northern New South Wales, Mt Warning Rainforest Retreat offer three types of accommodation; each one individually unique. The ‘Air’ option is a handbuilt yurt nestled in the side of a secluded hill, the ‘Water’ cabin is Asian/Balinese themed and overlooks a serene pond with numerous wildlife, and the ‘Earth’ cabin is a secluded cave built into the side of a hill.  

    We opted for the Air cabin and absolutely loved it. In fact, Guy went away convinced that we need to move to the rainforest and build our very own yurt. Fully self-contained, with the wonderful aromas of polished timber and slow-burning logs on the fire, fused with the fresh crisp air of the surrounding rainforest, this cabin was the perfect haven to unwind and relax. The outdoor spa bath and hammock on the deck were also a nice touch, and if you are a little adventurous, you can even take an outdoor shower amongst nature.

    Rating: Highly recommended. $$$

     Imagine glamping in trendy Melbourne with a view like this!

    Like the idea of a glamorous safari tent, but can’t quite get over the fear of creepy crawlies in the night? Then, St Jeromes is the answer. Set in the heart of Melbourne, St Jeromes have rooftop glamping, complete with a breakfast hamper and freshly brewed coffee from an onsite barista. Inside your safari tent, you can feel a world away from everything, but if you still want the connection to wi-fi and a bustling city, then all you need to do is step outside. This is glamping for the millennial digital nomad.

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    Longitude 131 by Roderick Eime via Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Uluru is one of Australia’s greatest icons. So it should come as no surprise that we had to include Longitude 131, set right at its base, as a must-stay for a romantic escape. You can’t go wrong between the Dune Pavillion (think upmarket desert glamping) or the Luxury Tent (which is more of a cabin) and the location is superb. If you can drag yourself away from the room, there are plenty of activities such as camel riding, tours of local cultural sites and visits to the nearby gorges.

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    Photo courtesy of Sal Salis

    If Australia is famous for one thing, it would have to be the perfect beaches. We’ve been blessed to grow up on the east coast and explore the beaches that stretch along Queensland and New South Wales during many a family getaway. The east coast gets a pretty good wrap for its beaches, but don’t let that fool you; the west coast also has some of the greatest beaches and scenery Australia has to offer. Sal Salis offers luxurious glamping in safari tents set right on a beautifully pristine beach. When you feel like it, simply walk out of the tent onto the beach and explore the superb snorkelling in Ningaloo Reef right from the shore – no boats required!

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    Photo courtesy of Jamala Wildlife Lodge

    Canberra is widely known as the place of politicians, and sadly, not much more. In fact, when we were travelling overseas, 90% of the people we met didn’t even realise Canberra was the capital of Australia. But, as our (current) hometown, we believe it deserves a bit more credit.

    Canberra is not the sad, boring place you probably remember it to be. I mean, where else can you feed giraffes from the balcony of your accommodation?Or have you ever dreamed of waking up next to lions? Believe it or not, you don’t have to travel all the way to South Africa for that unique experience, as Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra offers some incredible accommodation options where you do all the above and more!

    You’ve got three options for accommodation: the giraffe treehouses, a jungle bungalow (where only a pane of glass will separate you from bears, lions, or cheetahs!) and a seven room lodge with a variety of ‘get-close-to-wildlife’ opportunities. Our pick is the treehouse or the jungle bungalow.

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    When I hear the word ‘Glamping’, my ears instantly prick up and I’m at full attention. Glamping, or Glamorous camping for the uninitiated, is the perfect balance of luxury and nature. I love the idea of escaping everyday life and getting in touch with nature, but the idea of putting up my own tent to sleep on a slowly-deflating airbed on uneven ground is not my idea of a good time.

    So when you get the benefits of beautiful secluded surroundings AND your own shower and comfy bed in an already-erected safari tent, well where do I sign? We are big followers of the Glamping movement, and plan to explore different glamping options all around the world! But why go overseas, when there are plenty of glamping options in the best settings of Australia?

    Nightfall Wilderness Camp is located in the Lamington National Park of the Gold Coast Hinterland and really puts the Glam in Glamping. You’ve got an opulent safari tent set amongst beautiful rainforest, complete with a heavenly bed, relaxing bathtub and shower, kitchen, fireplace and even fluffy robes. If you really want to splurge, Nightfall also offer delicious organic meals, cooked by the fire and set up by the relaxing sounds of the rippling creek, by the fire tepee or the comforts of your own tent. You will feel so at peace here, you won’t even remember to check your Facebook feed….

    Rating: Highly recommended $$$ – Check out our review of 5 Activities for Adventure and Beauty on the Gold Coast

    Photo courtesy of Thorngrove Manor Hotel

    I love castles, and even after having visited many during our travels in Europe (and even staying in one!), I still am not ‘castled out’. So when I came across Thorngrove Manor Hotel, I couldn’t help but put this place on our romantic escape wish list. Located in South Australia’s oldest wine producing region, Thorngrove Manor looks like something out of a fairytale. This place screams opulence, luxury and romance. And within an easy drive from the centre of Adelaide as well!

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

     Pumphouse Point by Shaun Versey via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Tasmania, in general, has been on our travel wish list for some time now. Luscious scenery paired with delicious food is a winning combination. We’ve actually found a few places we would love to stay when we eventually get down to Tassie, but a luxurious standout would have to be Pumphouse Point. Looming over Lake St Clair is the Pumphouse building. It screams industrial opulence and provides the perfect escape from a hectic life. With large windows boasting views of the lake it sits on, this place really lets the stunning scenery in, without compromising comfort.

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    If you live in Australia, or are planning to visit, we hope you get a chance to try one of these places for a quick romantic getaway. These places are just the start of a list we have been compiling for Australian romantic escapes, with plenty more to talk about in a follow-up. There’s plenty more ‘glamp sites’ and special rooms to mention, so I think this will be an always-evolving series!

    Have you stayed in any of these places? Know of any others to add to our list for Part Two? Comment below!

    Mermaid school in Bali: So you want to be a Mermaid?

    Mermaid school in Bali: So you want to be a Mermaid?

    Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve dreamt of being a mermaid. In fact, after seeing The Little Mermaid, I was convinced that being a mermaid was my life’s destiny. I’d spend hours in the pool, practicing my mermaid swimming technique, until my skin turned wrinkly and the sun would set.

    Flash forward 20+ years and that dream still lives strong. So when I found out that there is a Mermaid School in Bali, I jumped (or should I say swam) at the chance to live out my dream!

     

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    So you want to be a mermaid?
    Mermaid school, Bali
    We took a boat ride to different waters for swimming

    Mermaid school in Bali will take you to some beautiful locations around Bali

    Island Mermaids

    Island Mermaids was created by fellow mermaid, Chelsea, who swapped her life in Jersey for the island life in Bali. And we don’t blame her, as there are some truly gorgeous beaches, fit for a mermaid there. Initially starting out ‘mermaiding’ (that can be a verb, right?) as a fun pastime with friends, Chelsea saw a wonderful opportunity to spread the joy of being a mermaid with others. She started to design and create mermaid tails for herself, before expanding the business into selling the mermaid tails and products worldwide. She even supports the Balinese community by using small local businesses to manufacture her products.

    I was definitely in my element as a mermaid

    One of the amazing tails you could wear at Mermaid School!

    Why be a Mermaid?

    Mermaiding has become a massive thing recently, with many more people dreaming of ‘under the sea’. Mermaid schools are beginning to pop up all over the world and you can even order your own mermaid tails and accessories online. On the back of this worldwide interest, Island Mermaids was created to offer half-day tours where people can venture out into the lovely shores of Bali and Gili Trawangan and swim like a mermaid! You will be picked up from your hotel in Bali and, with Chelsea’s inside knowledge of all of the best spots, get taken on a boat ride to amazing ‘Instaworthy‘ locations. She even offers photo shoot packages, including styling and a professional photographer.

    Chelsea from Mermaid School Bali will make you look amazing in the beautiful tails

    Becoming a mermaid

    Despite how beautiful and glamorous some mermaid photos can be, there is nothing glamorous or graceful about the process of becoming a mermaid. First of all, you need to put the tail on around your feet and slowly wriggle and squeeze your legs, hips and bum into the tail. It was at this point I really regretted eating all of the yummy mi goreng and gelato on the trip so far! Thankfully, the tails are made out of super stretchy material and are forgiving. Once the tail is on, Chelsea helps you secure your feet into the monofin, before stretching the bottom of the tail over it. Then, voilà, I was a mermaid!

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    Mermaid lesson 101

    Chelsea provides expert instruction on heaps of cool underwater tricks like twirls, flips and gliding underwater, mostly utilising your core. Chelsea demonstrates how to swim, dive and do the tricks underwater while you watch (snorkel masks were provided to see better) and then dutifully watches my own attempts. Depending on your confidence and ability, Chelsea offers varied guidance and assistance until you feel like you are free to swim on your own. In my case, not too much was needed, so we had more time to swim and take underwater footage.

     

     

    Island Mermaids, Bali

    There’s something special about exploring the ocean as a mermaid

    Being a mermaid

    So what was it like being a mermaid? Well, for me it was quite easy. I mean, I had been preparing for this moment my whole life, so I took to it like a fish to water (pun intended). Chelsea was quite surprised, even exclaiming after my first attempt, “wow, you are a natural”. I think it helped that I’m all about that bass and had plenty to work with. If I was to pick any song that could be the perfect analogy of swimming like a mermaid, it’s the chorus from Ice Cube’s “You Can Do It”. Legit.

    You can do it put your back into it...

    You can do it put your back into it…

    I have to admit, at first it was a bit odd not being able to kick your legs individually, but for me it was easy to get used to. Despite making you feel slightly heavier, wearing the monofin really helped with swimming, and it was surprising how much more speed and strength is gained from wearing one. The only trouble I had was holding my breath long enough to do all the tricks and swim the distances I would have liked in one breath. Something to work on for next time!

    Mermaid swimming is a skill
    Live out the mermaid dream

    Mermaid Modelling

    After a good deal of swimming, we headed over to the shore to take some photos. Chelsea loves mermaid styling and was eager to help set up poses and suggest spots. Again, this was a fun experience and way to finish up my day of being a mermaid. Chelsea brings a range of her handmade tails for you to pick from. My favourite had to be the one I wore on land. If you love them as much as I do, you can also purchase tails and accessories from her store (something I’m still convincing Guy I need to do!).

    My mermaid dreams became a reality

    I was totally in my element as a mermaid

    The verdict?

    Swimming like a mermaid is a lot of fun but hard work! If there were a gym class for this, I would hand over all my money. I absolutely had a ball and felt muscles working out that I never knew I had! Sadly, the water clarity wasn’t the best on the day we did it, but it didn’t stop me from having a ball. I would definitely love to do it again at Gili Trawangan, as Chelsea said the water clarity and beaches are far better there.

    If you are headed to Bali and want to live your dream of becoming a mermaid, head to Island Mermaids to get in touch with Chelsea and get prices on the different packages. The packages include transport, use of the various mermaid tails and half a day of being a mermaid. The other thing I loved about this day is that each booking is private; you are not placed in a group with strangers (although, I’m sure that could be arranged), and we could do whatever we liked during the day. That being said, it’s best to book in advance so you don’t miss out. If you aren’t so keen on swimming, but want to look the part, you can do the photo shoot package or purchase her tails online. I must warn you though, mermaiding is addictive!

    Mermaid for life

    Are you a fellow mermaid? Would you go to Mermaid school in Bali? Comment below to let us know.

    Getting the Perfect Photo in Santorini

    Getting the Perfect Photo in Santorini

    “They all come here because it’s so white and clean…”, a fellow traveller said to me as we watched a bridal party, with professional camera crew in tow, pose against the white-washed walls and blue-domed churches. It was the second bridal party we had seen that day, roaming around Oía looking glamorous with flowing gowns, perfect hair and stiletto heels. They certainly made me, with my denim shorts, messy beach hair and €10 espadrilles feel a little underdressed. I had never thought of Santorini in that way before (as a destination just for staged wedding photos), but when my new travel companion said it, it made complete sense. I mean, if you want the perfect wedding or formal photos, Santorini provides the perfect backdrop.

    The clean, crisp colours of Santorini are perfect for photos

    Anyone who trolls through travel photos on Instagram can see a stream of stunning images from Santorini. It would have to be the most photographic place in the Greek Islands. The white buildings provide the perfect contrast against the deep blue of the Caldera sea. As my new friend and I got talking, we agreed that there is a sense of cleanliness and luxury to Santorini that makes it stand out from the other Greek Islands.

    Santorini, the perfect, photogenic backdrop

    When we were deciding which Greek Island to visit, I was drawn to Santorini for those iconic blue-domed churches. I wanted to get my very own picture of said churches and the perfect sunset shot of the sun setting over the Caldera and against the colourful hillside of cave dwellings and resorts.

    The iconic blue-domed churches...

    So without further adieu, here are our tips to get the perfect photo in Santorini…

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    Tips to get the perfect photo in Santorini
    Santorini: a photographer's dream

    Map out your subjects/landmarks

    Despite how small Santorini, specifically Oía, is, it’s quite easy to get lost in the small alleys and winding paths. And surprisingly, those iconic churches, although high in number, are quite hard to find if you don’t know where to look. The easiest way to find them, is to walk down Nik. Nomikou (the main street in Oía) and find Melenio Cafe. Around the corner from the cafe is a small alley that will lead you to the churches. The other spot we recommend going to is the Byzantine Castle ruins. This is where most people flock to for the sunset photos. Here’s a map to help:

    It took a while, but we finally found the famous churches!

    Pick your times

    If you want your subject to be washed with the golden hues of a sunrise or sunset, you need to know what times they occur (and where the sun rises and sets). For example, the blue domed churches aren’t as spectacular at sunset, as the sun descends beyond around the curve of the peninsula. Early in the morning however, you will get the gorgeous, golden colours washing over the buildings (but we aren’t morning people and chose to sleep in instead of get up – priorities, right!?) A quick internet search will give you fairly accurate times of sunrise and sunset, so plan your photos around that.

    Check sunrise/sunset times before heading out

    Stake out your spot… early!

    On our first night, we made the mistake of underestimating how many other people also wanted that perfect sunset shot. We spent the afternoon wandering through the alleys and didn’t start looking for our spot until it was too late. The best spots were filled with huge crowds all with the same idea. That evening, we missed the perfect pic as we just couldn’t get past all of the people crowded in every corner of an alley with a view. The next evening, we got to the castle really early and claimed an ideal perch. If you want that coveted spot, be prepared to arrive a couple of hours prior to sunset, as the areas fill up quickly, especially in summer. Make sure you have fluids and stuff to eat while you hang out, as every other ‘photographer’ won’t hesitate to take your spot if you leave it unattended.

    If you want a good spot for sunset pics, you need to stake it out early

    Have the right gear and settings on your camera ready

    If you’ve got a DSLR or mirrorless camera, play with your settings in advance to work out what is right for you. As a general rule, keep the ISO low (around the 100 mark). Still being somewhat of an amateur, I still default to the P (Program) mode, which adapts the Shutter Speed and Aperture automatically. But if you are quite confident, and have a tripod, then switch to Aperture or Manual mode and play with around with the settings. To avoid a washed out look, try reducing exposure settings slightly and trial different white balances to change the tones of the photo. If you are a phoneographer, then work with what you have. If you want to be really professional (and avoid any blurry pics), have a tripod set up and ready for the event. The tip is to review the pics as you go and make the appropriate changes to the settings (as quickly as you can, so you don’t miss the main event!).

    Enjoying this post and want to read more about Santorini? Check out our post, Santorini – The Place for Love

    Watch your lines and the horizon

    The perfectionist in me cannot handle photos that aren’t straight. Unless you are intentionally trying to be somewhat artistic and have the image skewed, try to take the photo straight. Use the gridlines on your device if that helps. A crooked horizon line often ruins so many potentially perfect photos. If you have taken a crooked photo, not all is lost, as editing programs can fix it (so you have NO excuse to post a crooked photo on Instagram!).

    Don't ruin an amazing shot with a crooked horizon

    Frame your picture & experiment with angles

    Often, the best pictures are those that are slightly different to the rest. Play around with angles and focal points. Try shooting from different angles – get to the ground and shoot up, or find a higher vantage point and shoot down (although beware of the slippery surfaces and angry nonnas in Santorini – one came out swinging a broom at a brave tourist who was trying to take a photo from the roof of one of her neighbour’s houses. She then proceeded to yell at us demanding money for taking photos of her views!).

    Try different angles and focal points
    Personally, I love sun rays and flares, that I'll shoot at an angle to get them

    Make friends with other travellers and/or photographers

    Whether you are waiting for the sun to set, or politely waiting your turn to take a picture of the churches, you may as well make friends while you are there. Get chatting to others around you and offer to take photos of each other. A good full-frame photo trumps a selfie any day. Just make sure you are clear on what you are after and check your pics before you move on, so you hopefully have one you are happy with. There’s also safety in numbers from the before-mentioned crazy, cranky nonnas.

    Inspired by these photos? Check out our photo essay of another gorgeous Greek Island, Paros.

    Find the ‘quirky’

    The perfect photo doesn’t always capture the essence of a place. Sure, get the iconic shot that you can proudly display to family and friends, but keep your eyes peeled for other potential pictures to shoot. Whether it’s some colourful flowers, or freshly-caught octopus hanging out to dry, take the time to explore your surroundings and appreciate all the details around you.

    Take your time to find the quaint and memorable
    Look for the quirky and unique...

    Despite following all of this advice, you may luck out and get less than ideal conditions. Sadly for us, the sunset we had staked out had a lot of cloud cover, so we didn’t get that bright, fiery sky of oranges, pinks and purples that I was hoping for. Nevertheless, part of the process is not just to capture the perfect photo, but collect the memories along the way. We got to meet other travellers, get lost through the streets of Oía and fall in love with this picturesque island, something that sometimes even the most perfect photo can’t create.

    Santorini offers plenty of pretty photo opportunities

    Santorini – The Place For Love

    Santorini – The Place For Love

    Our introduction to Santorini was a rocky one. Actually, rocky is an understatement. Let me just say, I may or may not have filmed an angry ‘selfie’ video whilst hiking for 20 minutes, wearing multiple backpacks in the heat of the day, because of a miscommunication and stuff-up between Guy and I.

    I’m normally not the fiery, fighting type, but after being frustrated that we missed our stop and had driven past our hotel, only finding that we had to walk back (in 30° heat, mind you!), and then missing the turn to walk past the hotel in the other direction, well, let’s just say, Guy was wise to keep his distance from me.

    Guy keeping his distance on the hike to the accommodation

    The thing with Santorini though, is that it’s quite hard to stay angry for long. I’m not sure if it’s the crisp sea breeze that brushes through the hair, the warm sunshine that kisses the skin or the sight of the deep blue sea beckoning the clean, white buildings on the cliffs, but there is a sense of bliss and tranquility there.

    Once we arrived at our gorgeous accommodation and stepped out onto our private terrace to overlook the Caldera, well, all was forgiven and forgotten. The Santorini Effect had taken over.

    It's hard to stay mad in Santorini
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    Love in Santorini
    Santorini is the place to fall in love

    There is something about Santorini that makes it so easy to fall in love, not just with the one you are with, but with the place itself. If you are loved up, or looking to fall in love, here’s what you should see and do in Santorini.

    Santorini is a feast for the senses

     

    Kiss at Sunset

    Santorini is well known for its unbelievable sunset and you should take advantage of it by sharing a smooch with that special someone. Now if your sort of foreplay is fighting through hundreds of people and battling for the perfect vantage point to see the sunset through the crowds, then you’re in luck!

     

    Admire the Caldera

    The gorgeous Santorini Caldera

    The Caldera is one of those stunning visuals that once you see it, it tends to linger for a while. Although dormant, Santorini is a volcanic island, and the caldera is the visible basin of the submerged volcano. Formed over 3,500 years ago, the caldera of Santorini is admired by tourists and geologists alike. The mix of white washed walls, blue domes and dramatic cliff faces create a unique view that simple pictures cannot capture completely.

    Popular and iconic towns such as Fira and Oía are found here, with beautiful, clean winding streets, cute cafes, hip bars and panoramic views of the Santorini Caldera. At sunset, this cove takes on an almost spiritual hue and is definitely the most romantic place you can visit in Santorini.

    The golden hues of Santorini

     

    Eat up

    If food is your passion, Santorini will not disappoint. Enjoy a succulent lamb kebab overlooking the blue-domed churches at Seagull Restaurant (OIA, Santorini, Santorini 847 02, Greece) and finish the evening with a sweet treat from Patisserie Melenio (Nik. Nomikou, Ia 847 02, Greece). If you like your food served with some upbeat Greek folk music, head to Kyprida Restaurant, where the delicious dessert still plays through my mind.

     

    Go to Church

    The icons of Santorini

    You’ve seen the pictures. The blue-domed churches with the pure, white walls, spread across travel brochures, advertisements and posters promoting the Greek Islands. Seeing them in person, well, it’s hard not to be swept up in the romance and thrill of it all. Sharing a kiss or a selfie with your loved one by these iconic structures is sure to be a cherished moment for all time.

    The obligatory selfie

     

    Get some Vitamin ‘Sea’

    Swimming in Oía

    There is something about the Greek coast that screams romance. Maybe it’s the deep blue Aegean, which conjures up stories of adventure and exploration. Or the small, hard to find beaches which dot the many cliffs of Santorini’s coastline. Perhaps it’s the volcanic rock that stirs up some hot emotions.

    Red Beach by jjmusgrove via Flickr I CC BY 2.0

    Whatever it is, taking a dip with your loved one in the beautiful blue ocean will bring you closer together. Santorini has a variety of beaches, ranging from pebbly to sandy. They aren’t what we’d classify as the ‘perfect, tropical’ beach, but they are spectacular in their own right.

    Perissa Beach

     

    Try ‘alternative’ modes of transport

    Sure, you could hail a taxi in Oía, or catch one of the many bus services that crisscross the island. But have you considered your very own donkey? We walked down the 300 steps to check out Amoudi Bay (which, FYI, has wonderful swimming and snorkelling spots, so don’t forget your swimmers!) and have lunch by the sea.

    Feeling a little adventurous (and dare I say it, lazy), we decided to jump on the back of a donkey to get back up to the top. Whoever conjured up the term, ‘stubborn as a mule’, must have tried to ride one, as there is no sure-fire way to control the donkey, but it certainly was a lot of fun and had us laughing the whole way back up the stairs (which, incidentally, probably took longer on the donkey, as they would often stop and refuse to go further). How is this romantic, you may ask? Well, they say, “couples who laugh together, last together”, and this will surely get you laughing.

    Prepare for laughs on a donkey ride

     

    Get lost in the streets

    The streets of Fira are picture-perfect

    Oía, like many towns in Santorini, is a sprawl of white cobblestone streets and hidden passageways set on the top and side of the Caldera. During the warmer months the white streets are complimented with gorgeous splashes of colourful flowers. Wandering at leisure through the maze of shops and restaurants, hand in hand with your loved one is sure to build the romance.

    Santorini is the place for scenic walks

    It would be pretty hard not to fall in love in Santorini. There’s a reason why it’s a popular destination for weddings, honeymoons and romantic getaways. It didn’t take long for the ‘Santorini effect’ to hit me and make me go from angry to amorous. And if you don’t have that special someone to share these moments with, fear not, as Santorini itself is the perfect subject to fall in love with.

    Have you been to Santorini? Did you love it? Comment below!

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