How to travel light for two weeks in a carry-on [Packing tips and Cabin Zero backpack review]

How to travel light for two weeks in a carry-on [Packing tips and Cabin Zero backpack review]

I hate wandering through beautiful European streets, Asia’s packed markets or the concrete jungles of America while dragging around overloaded suitcases.

So on a recent trip to Japan we attempted to go for two weeks in just a carry-on with what we now believe is the BEST travel backpack. And it WORKED.

Magical sunsets Raja Ampat

How to pack for a trip (and how most people actually do)

When space is limited and comfort is at a premium, a strategy is a must. No emotion here, just cold hard prioritisation. This is what I found helpful.

Break down what you need into categories:

      • Underwear and socks
      • Daily outfits (preferably using jeans/pants/skirt as a base with rotating shirts, etc)
      • Sleeping gear (where possible save space, sleep in the nude, though not recommended for hostel dorm stays)
      • Swimming gear
      • Coats and cold-weather gear (wear these on the plane where possible)
      • Toiletries
      • Shoes (as few as you need for the activities you need to do)

Rule number 1 – Folding is out, rolling is in.

Rolling your clothes reduces the overall footprint of the stack of clothes and when every millimetre counts, this can really pay dividends. This works particularly well for t-shirts, shorts, dresses but not so much for thick denim jeans, continue to lay these ones flat.

Rule number 2 –   Using all available space

You would probably be surprised by how much extra you can fit inside you’re the little nooks and crannies when packing a bag. A tip we always use is to stuff socks, belts, etc into shoes within your bag. Also look to use the space in between your rolls – there will generally be decent space both above and below where the rolls will meet for you to stuff smaller items.

Rule number 3 – Bundle like items together

Taking shirts for example, they are all generally the same size, mostly the same shape, etc. So it makes sense to lay them out together, roll them up and pack them as one rather than rolling a mixture of jeans, skirts, shirts, and jackets. This will also make it easier when you need to get straight to something as you will know exactly where in which roll to find them.

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Paradise in Raja Ampat
Arborek Village, Raja Ampat

Choosing the right backpack for travel

How do you choose the best backpack for travel? Here are a few thoughts on the issue:

    • Durability – If you’re going half way around the world, then you’ll want to make sure that the bag you trust with your belongings is tough enough to take the hits on the road. Ideally, I look for large zippers, strong handles and straps (look at the stitching for this), and materials that won’t mark too easily.
    • Style – Because we are the millennial generation, ok?
    • Space – Must be able to fit enough stuff but still be able to get through most airline carry-on size checks (more on this below)
    • Wearability – Personally, I prefer to carry my bags on my back as it leaves my hand free and I hate, HATE carrying suitcases up or down staircases. Padded, adjustable shoulder straps are a must and I like travel backpacks that allow for some air to get to the small of your back as well.

When we got our hands on two of Cabin Zero’s most stylish travel bags, we decided to put them to test. We compared the Urban 42L and the Classic 44L styles during two weeks, 5 hotels, 4 flights, numerous trains and a bus trip through Japan. 

THESE BAGS ARE THE BEST TRAVEL BACKPACKS THAT WE HAVE FOUND!

I used the Urban and Kim-Ling took the Classic for our trip. First up, they are beautiful but in very different ways.

See our quick-look comparison between the Urban and Classic below!

The Urban 42L

For me, the Urban was the perfect mix of stylish, harwearing, waterproof (it was absolutely fine in the rain) and really easy to carry around with both a small side handle, slign shoulder strap AND traditional back straps. I was able to fit all of my clothers for 2 weeks in Japan in the Urban, AS WELL AS my laptop bag with laptop and GoPros x 2. I can’t rate it highly enough and you wouldn’t look out of place strolling down the coolest avenues of the world, including Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Broadway in New York or Shinjuku in Tokyo.

Raja Ampat sunsets

The Classic 44L

For Kim-ling, she LOVED the Classic. Not only because it was super lightweight, but because it came in a range of bright colours, including her favourite – purple. We wore it all around Tokyo, on and off trains, etc and it worked perfectly. Easy to wear, nicely distributing the weight across the shoulders and with a really useful front pocket to store some of the essentials. The beauty of the Classic is that it is has many useful pockets and the interior compartment setup is a little better suited to travel in our opinion.

I choose happiness

If you want to check out more of Japan, be sure to check out things to do before your trip to Japan or how to fight a sumo.

The key question that we had when they first arrived was: Will the CabinZero fit in carry on? My first impression was no, it just looked like a pretty big backpack and I have to admit, I had my doubts.

But the answer is yes, yes it will! We’ve done some digging, and from our own experience and that of other bloggers and travellers, the Classic 44L will fit into carry on with even the most obnoxious of airlines (you know who I’m talking about). We personally used it on ANA, Qantas and Jetstar without any problems whatsoever.

What is it like to travel for two weeks in a carry on?

To be honest, I loved it. I had just what I needed and literally nothing more. It made getting around Tokyo subway stations that much easier and quicker, particularly when running for trains (this happened often) or getting lost for an hour (only once).

It’s also great to have the peace of mind that IF you happen to misplace your Cabin Zero bag, they all have their unique Okoban identifier code that makes it easier to track down (provided you create an account and register your bag).

Conclusion

For us and our style of travel, these bags just worked so well and allowed us to travel through Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa for two weeks living out of just a carry on bag. The Urban is now my go to travel bag for anything longer than a few days, while Kim-Ling has used the Classic for everything from weekend trips to longer holidays.

If you’re looking for a versatile, roomy and stylish travel bag, we highly recommend the CabinZero Urban or Classic. Enjoy!

What are your best travel packing tips? Could you travel for up to two weeks with just a carry on?

Please leave a comment below!

A huge thanks to the guys at Cabin Zero for providing us with the Urban and Classic bags for our review. All views remain our own, of course. 

This post contains some affiliate links. Booking via these links won’t cost you any extra, but will help us continue to bring you the best in travel content, so thank you in advance!

Tokyo: The day I fought a Sumo

Tokyo: The day I fought a Sumo

I’ve been fascinated by sumo for years now.

Their strength, flexibility, the many traditions that go along with it. And how gents that large can move so fast, I will never quite understand.

So when I had the chance to wrestle a real sumo while visiting Tokyo, Japan, it’s safe to say that I was excited. REALLY excited. This is the story of how it went down.

Pre-fight preparation

In prep for our Japan vacation, I was pretty keen to try and do some quintessentially Japanese experiences, like dress up as Mario characters and drive go-karts through the streets of Tokyo, go to a cooking school, or soak in a traditional onsen (hot bath house).

So it was with some glee that we stumbled across the Asakusa Sumo Experience which offers just such a cool experience – the opportunity to wrestle a sumo and find out all about their training and lifestyles. This was just too good to pass up and I had to do it!

The event is held in Tokyo’s Asakusa neighbourhood, one of the nicest areas that we had the pleasure of exploring. Right across the road from the train station you will find the restaurant where the sumo experience is held on the second floor, where you will meet the other participants and Japanese hosts. No equipment or training necessary, they provide everything you need.

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Sumo training tours in Tokyo

Fight day

 

Training for sumo wrestling

Once we had entered and swapped our shoes for slippers, we managed to score front row seats to a carpeted wrestling area and a long table full of other guests stretched out behind us. Our host discussed many interesting details of sumo training and life while we awaited the arrival of the sumos, such as:

  1. The first formal sumo tournament was conducted 400 years ago, but sumo matches have occurred for well over 1000 years
  2. Sumo generally start serious training from the age of 15
  3. Sumo will normally train for 5 hours per day
  4. Sumo tournaments are held in every odd-numbered month, but the main ones in Tokyo are in January, May and September
  5. A grand champion, or Yokozuna, can earn up to US$5 million per year!

With the introductions complete, out walked the two sumo who would be our guides for the experience. They. Were. Huge. That shouldn’t really come as a surprise, being sumo wrestlers and all, but up close and personal these boys are absolute man-mountains.

Japanese sumo wrestlers

Over the next half hour, our two sumo guides explained to us some of the traditions and rituals of sumo tournaments, some of the basic techniques that sumo are taught, and what not to do (my game plan went out the window here). They also showed us a mini sumo match, pitting themselves against each other in what was a pretty even match. When they hit each other it was like two planets colliding and the sound up close was something to remember.

Finally, it was out turn. Our hosts called for volunteers (both male and females are encouraged to give it a go) and I strategically waited for a few other challengers to come forward before putting my hand up. All the better for me to test my game strategy, I told myself.

Loving Japan? If you want more, read the things to do before your trip and what to eat in Japan.

Wrestling a sumo in Tokyo, Japan

When my time came, I suited up in a mock sumo costume and faced off with a real sumo. We completed the initial rituals, I threw in some cocky smack talk to calm my nerves (it didn’t work) and we were off.

Now I should say here, I’m not a small person. I mean, I lift a few weights, like to think that I am reasonably strong and could at least make some kind of an impact, right? Wrong. I didn’t hold back in the opening hit…. and it didn’t matter at all. He didn’t budge. Not even a shudder. This was going to be a long match.

Wrestling a sumo in Tokyo, Japan

We tussled for a little bit and I made some embarrassing noises as I tried to lift his belt up to see if I could unbalance him at all. He obviously didn’t move one bit, and at one point, my feet lifted off of the floor and my sumo opponent, in complete control by this stage, twirled me around like I was a ballerina.

Having thoroughly ruined any chance of me thinking that I could out-compete a sumo, he casually gave me an opening and allowed me to push him out of the ring. Which, mind you, still took a bit of effort!

Wrestling a sumo in Asakusa Tokyo

Post-Fight

 

Chankonabe in Tokyo, Japan

After our mini-tournaments, all participants got served a generous bento box with tonkatsu, rice, etc and we also got to try the sumo meal of choice – chanko-nabe. It’s a delicious, thick soupy dish of vegetables, tofu and balls of chicken and pork, which is very filling.

Chankonabe in Tokyo, Japan

We also got to interact with the sumos, taking pictures with them, asking questions about their careers and learning more about the training regimes of sumos and they were happy to oblige us as many questions as we wanted on any topics.

Conclusion

This was one of most fun experiences that we had in Tokyo. It’s not often that you get the chance, as an Australian, to wrestle a sumo, have lunch with them and find out about this fascinating aspect of Japanese society. Although sadly my dreams of world sumo domination now appear shaky, I’m super glad that I took the opportunity to do this, as it really is a one of a kind experience.

Would you get in the ring with a Japanese sumo? Or would you rather check them out in a tournament? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks to Beauty of Japan for providing us with this experience. If you want to test your strength, skill and, let’s be honest, pride, you can book your Sumo Experience through them here.

Things to do Before Your Trip to Japan

Things to do Before Your Trip to Japan

Are you heading to Japan soon? Maybe you picked up some cheap flights to TokyoYay! Get ready to eat all the yummy food, see amazing temples and lose yourself in exciting cities. But before you jump on the plane, there’s a few other things you should get ready to ensure a fantastic trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. We’ve written up things that should be done BEFORE getting on the plane. We’ve even created a checklist, so scroll down for more info!

Order a Japan Rail Pass

A Rail Pass is a necessity in Japan, as rail is the best way to get around. The Japan Rail Pass saves a lot of money on rail travel and can even be used on the shinkansen (bullet train). The only catch is, you have to purchase it outside Japan and be a temporary visitor. You will need to provide your passport details, travel dates and select how many days of rail travel you would use (7, 14 or 21 days). I would order it 1-2 weeks prior to departure to ensure it is delivered to you on time. Upon arriving in Japan, you validate the pass at the various venues. For more details: http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/index.html

Planning a trip to Japan

Check out discounted fares from ANA and JAL

JAL and ANA offer cheap, flat-rate flights between domestic cities in Japan for people residing outside of Japan and who hold an international return flight (similar to the JR Rail Pass). ANA’s Experience Japan fare and JAL’s Explorer Pass are cheaper than the same fares offered through other booking systems. We saved 40% on our domestic flights by booking these.

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Things to do before travelling to Japan

Travel Insurance

We never travel without it, and neither should you. Medical treatment in Japan is not cheap, and the right cover of travel insurance can cover you for emergency evacuations, disasters, stolen luggage, and more. Knowing that you are covered while you are travelling far outweighs the cost of insurance.

Like checklists? Pin and print our checklist below!

Japan Checklist

Passports & Visas

It might sound silly for the seasoned travellers, but for those who are travelling for the first time, make sure you check if you need a visa to enter Japan (based on your country of residence). You also need 6 months of validity on your passport BEYOND your travel return date (so if you are travelling in June, your passport needs to be valid at least until December). I’ve been told this is to cover you in case an emergency occurs, and you are stuck overseas for longer than expected.

Want to know what to eat in Japan? Read our post, More than Sushi.

International Driver’s Licence

The idea of driving in somewhere like Tokyo makes me anxious, however driving in the quieter parts of Japan would be lovely. If you are visiting more remote areas, or the islands, driving is the best way to get around, so you will need an International Driver’s Licence to hire a car. For our Australian readers, you can get them from NRMA.

What you need for Japan

Get Cashed Up

Despite Japan being ahead in the technology stakes, cash is still the preferred method of payment. A lot of shops and restaurants do not accept international cards and even those that accept cards may not work when you try to use it in the machine. Change as much money as you can to Japanese Yen before you go, or get an international travel card that you can top up in local currency (however, note that a lot of ATMs don’t accept foreign cards). If you are worried about walking around with a load of cash on you though, rest assured general crime and pick pockets are not a huge concern here.

You need cash for Japan

Wi-Fi

Again, it may come as a surprise, but for the metropolis, high-speed futuristic country Japan may seem, wi-fi is a bit of a hit and miss. There is free wi-fi available in many cities, but the signal is not always that reliable. It might not seem like that big of an issue at first (I mean, we can always post to Instagram later, right?), but when you are lost and trying to find your way around a city that doesn’t have clear street signs or a metro system that only an engineer might be able to read, you’ll be wishing you had reliable wi-fi and Google Maps ready to save the day. Thankfully, you can order internet dongles in advance and pick them up from the airport or have them delivered to your hotel.

Learn some Japanese phrases

Japanese people appreciate the effort taken to learn some phrases, and in some places English isn’t widely spoken, so here are some phrases that may come in handy:

Hello                                       Konichiwa
My name is _________         Watashi wa ______
Please                                    Onegai shimasu
Thank you                              Arigatou gozaimasu
Excuse me                             Sumimasen
Yes                                         Hai
No                                          Iie
Sorry                                      Gomen’nasai
Do you speak English?          Eigo o hanashimasu ka?
I don’t understand                  Wakarimasen
Where is the subway?            Chikatetsu wa doko desu ka?
How much does that cost?     Kore wa ikura desu ka?
Where is the bathroom?         Ofuro wa doko desu ka?

Book Accommodation

Personally, I am a bit OTT when it comes to our travel planning, and create multiple spreadsheets, notes and detailed itineraries with accommodation, transport and activities long before we’ve arrived at our destination! So with that in mind, I like to know where we are staying before we arrive, so I can work out how to get there from the airport/train station. If you are at the other end of the traveller’s spectrum though, we’d still recommend booking at least your first night’s accommodation, so you aren’t wandering around a foreign city, searching for a place to sleep.

Bustling cities in Japan

Have you been to Japan? Are there any other things you should do before the trip? Let us know below!

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!

Glass Igloos of Finland

Glass Igloos of Finland

If these photos don’t make you want to stay in a glass igloo… nothing will…

Glass igloos are nothing short of magical in a winter wonderland

You had me at glass igloo

When I first saw a photo of the glass igloos of Kakslauttanen in Finland, I was entranced, and immediately dreamt about staying there. So when I did the Auxiliares Program in Spain, I figured it was the best time to tick that dream off the list. I mean, who can resist falling asleep with nothing but stars and, if you are lucky, the northern lights visibly over your head?

But hey, rather than waffle on about our stay there, we figured our photos are much more enticing…

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Glass igloos in Finland
Winter wonderland, Lapland Finland

#BedroomGoals

Bedroom goals in Kakslauttanen

There’s nothing like waking up to sunlight softly streaming through snow-capped pine trees…

Rooms with a view, Finland
Glass Igloo, Kakslauttanen Finland
Lapland Finland

Whilst it looks cold on the outside, the inside is heated and toasty-warm…

Where to stay in Finland

Glass Igloos at night

Mesmerising by day, the glass igloos look magical at night, lit up amongst the snow and the stars…

Glass igloos by night
Staying in a glass igloo, Finland
Unique accommodation in the world

For those a little shy for the glass igloos, you can stay in rooms completely made out of snow!

Alternative accommodation in Finland

If you want the ultimate white wedding, why not in a glass chapel, surrounded by a white, winter wonderland?

Glass chapel, Finland

Husky Safari through Lapland

You can also arrange fun activities at the hotel. The Husky Safari is an absolute must! Not only is it a chance to get the adrenaline racing, it’s also one of the best ways to see the undeniable beauty of Finnish Lapland.

The magical scenery of Finland
Husky Safaris Finland
Happy Huskies

Want to read more about our Finland adventure? Check out our post!

Winter Wonderland

We are normally beach people and prefer the warmer weather, but seeing the sun rise through the snow-covered trees was absolutely magical and swayed me to embrace the cold and the forest. It really felt like we were in a fairytale.

Winter wonderland in Finnish Lapland

The Finnish Sauna – Getting in touch with nature… literally 

Did you know that the word Sauna is the only Finnish word that has been internationally accepted in other languages? It seems appropriate, as it is quite the pastime. If you want the true Lappish experience, you should sit in the heated room, naked, until it becomes unbearable. Then, and only then, you should run outside and roll in the snow. It’s said to have wonderful health properties, such as improving blood circulation, but I’m pretty sure we all do it just for the rush.

Igloo Sauna, Kakslauttanen
Igloo Village, Kakslauttanen Finland

Guy and I are not ones to miss out on experiencing the local culture, so off we went, to our respective saunas (they are segregated for each gender), and into the snow we jumped. I was more concerned about slipping on the ice and knocking myself out, naked, than how cold the snow would be, but I did it, and kinda loved it! It’s a very invigorating experience, and I ended up making naked snow angels, giggling at the oddity of it all… twice (sorrynotsorry for the visuals!)!

Saunas in Finland
Kakslauttanen, Finland

Snow fun!

For those who are still very in touch with their inner-child, you’ve got plenty of opportunities to make snow angels and have snowball fights in fresh, soft powder…

Winter fun in the snow

Food, glorious food!

There are no cooking facilities in the glass igloos, however, the onsite restaurant makes up for that with delicious meals. They aren’t cheap, but the taste of a delicious, warm meal on a cold evening is priceless… Depending where your accommodation is located, you can enjoy a drink in the glass igloo bar.

Delicious meals at Kakslauttanen
Eating in Finland
Reindeer, cooked to perfection
Delicious desserts with local produce
Cute winter cabins

The Northern Lights

If you are very lucky, you might even catch the fascinating and awe-inspiring aurora borealis (northern lights). The aurora is a fickle thing though, and only appears when the skies are clear and electrically charged particles from the sun collide with gases in the earth’s atmosphere. Luckily for us, we got a glimpse…

The Northern Lights Finland
Aurora Borealis

Unfortunately for us, it was still quite a cloudy night, so the glimpse we got was so fleeting and quick, I didn’t have time to properly set up my camera, so the photos didn’t turn out as great as I’d hoped (we happened to just be walking back to our igloo from the restaurant when we saw them). We also briefly saw it from our igloo in bed (a moment I’ll never forget!), but the clouds quickly covered it up.

Northern lights at Kakslauttanen
Glass igloos Kakslauttanen Finland

Are you convinced? Is staying in a Glass Igloo at Kakslauttanen on your bucket list? If so, you should definitely start saving and start booking! These igloos are pretty popular and I booked our accommodation close to 10 months in advance (and got the last one!). When you are there, don’t forget to take the obligatory selfie! 🙂

Selfies and glass igloos

Bali Without The Bogans

Bali Without The Bogans

“Ling, I’ve been told to call you a Bogan”, my friend Ara said to me at Denpasar airport, eagerly waiting for my reaction. “What!?” I yelled, as the others around us began to giggle. After the laughter passed, Ara turned back to me and sheepishly asked, “What’s a Bogan?”

What is a ‘bogan’?

For our international readers, a ‘bogan’ is used to describe someone considered loud, unsophisticated and of bad taste (similar to a hillbilly, redneck or a chav). They are typical to Australian culture, often depicted in white singlets, mullets and ‘pluggas’ (aka thongs or flip flops); southern cross tattoos are optional. They also happen to frequent Bali.

Bingin Beach, Uluwatu - no bogans here

To Australians, Bali is known as Bogan territory. If you’ve been to Bali, you would have seen them, Bingtang singlets, cornrow hairstyles, alcoholic beverages and boisterous voices in tow. This was one of the main reasons I had been hesitant to visit Bali. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing particularly wrong with bogans, but they are normally not my crowd. But I’m here to tell you that there is so much more to Bali than just the bogans. I’m talking about awesome beaches, historic temples, dreamy sunsets, friendly locals and cheap, tasty food.

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Bali without the bogans
Penglipuran Village, Bali

My friends were surprised to hear how much I loved Bali. Especially since I was, to be frank, a travel snob and had previously voiced my disdain for Bali and all the bogans that would frequent there. But here I am, unequivocally apologetic and eating my words, as it turns out Bali is amazing and I love it there!

The coasts of Bali are spectacular

 

Where to go

If you are like us, and want to avoid the ‘bogans’, our first general advice is to stay away from Kuta. Even Seminyak is looking more commercial and overrun with Bintang singlet, and Southern Cross tattoos these days. If that’s your crowd, by all means, enjoy! However, if you prefer the quieter, less touristy areas, then we say head north or south.

Rainbow sunsets of Uluwatu, Bali

 

For Breathtaking Beaches: Uluwatu

Uluwatu is approximately 1 hour south of Seminyak. There is a very cool surfer-hippie vibe here and Bingin Beach is really laid back. It’s where the ‘beautiful people’ go. The beaches are pristine, offering a decent swell for the surfers and the warungs (small family-run cafés/restaurants) offer delicious food-with-views, including smoothie bowls and nasi gorengs, for reasonable prices.

Bingin Beach, Uluwatu, Bali
Smoothie Bowls in Bali
Bingin Beach is a must visit in Bali

Think Bali has the best beaches in Indonesia? Check out our post on Raja Ampat to see true paradise.

For Temples & Tradition: Penglipuran Traditional Village

Imagine paths lined with bamboo archways, Balinese temples and traditional houses, barely touched by time. Penglipuran village is a highland village, located approximately 2 hours north-east of Seminyak (although this time can vary substantially on traffic). The locals are friendly and will often invite you into their home to look around, but be warned that they will try to sell you souvenirs at the same time.

Bamboo Archway of Penglipuran Village
Penglipuran Village, Bali
What to see in Bali
Local's store in Penglipuran Village
What to do in Bali, Indonesia

If traipsing out to Penglipuran Village is a little far from where you are staying, worry not, as you will find opportunities to see Balinese culture and tradition all over the island. In fact, there are over 6,000 temples spread out all over Bali. The popular ones are Uluwatu Temple, Tanah Lot and Besakih Temple. The Kecak and Fire Dance can be seen at Uluwatu Temple most evenings. With hypnotic chanting, elaborate costumes, enchanting flames and a plot that rivals the Bold and the Beautiful, this ritual is interesting and unlike anything I had seen before.

Kecak Fire Dance, Uluwatu Temple
Balinese tradition and culture

If you do go attend the performance though, please, please don’t be one of those people who leave while the performance is still going. We saw so many groups of people awkwardly try to manoeuvre their way through the crowds whilst the performance was underway, bringing more attention to themselves than the performers. If you are going to watch, stay until the end. It’s just rude (and dare I say, ‘bogan-like’?) to leave beforehand.

Love sunsets in Bali

Love destinations with a mix of culture, adventure and beauty? Check out our 25 Things to do in Yogyakarta post for inspiration!

 

For Luscious Surroundings: Ubud

Ubud is increasingly getting popular for tourists, thanks to Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. Luscious rice field terraces, Hindu temples and craft stores are definitely part of its appeal. The air is also a lot cleaner and cooler up there, making it the perfect setting for yoga and a nature retreat.

Ubud, Bali
Bamboo in Penglipuran
Bali without the bogans

Where to stay

A visit to Bali, no matter where you decide to visit, is incomplete without a stay in your very own private villa. You will truly feel like royalty when you have someone come and deliver your meals to you, away from the hustle and bustle outside the private villa walls. A villa with a pool is an absolute must (swimmers optional)!

Private pool villas, Bali

We stayed at the Kamaya Villas in Sanur and The G Villas in Uluwatu and loved both of them. There is no shortage of villa options throughout Bali, so pick one that suits your wants and budget.

Kamaya Villas, Sanur, Bali
The G Villas, Uluwatu, Bali

If a villa stretches the budget, our tip is to stay somewhere within walking distances to where you want to visit, as traffic jams are all too common here and you will find yourself sitting in traffic for far longer than it may take to walk! During my Trip of Wonders with the Ministry of Tourism, I stayed in the Golden Tulip Devins Seminyak and could walk to the stores, clubs and restaurants nearby. If you do stay here, check out the rooms with Jacuzzis!

Golden Tulip Devins Seminyak, Bali

If your typical hotel isn’t your thing (us neither) and you do want to escape the crowds, you can’t go wrong with the bungalows lining Bingin Beach. We absolutely loved our stay at The Inn Possible. Located at the end of Bingin Beach, the bungalow has stunning views of the beach, where you can enjoy your breakfast from the balcony. Be warned! The only way to get to Bingin Beach and the bungalows is down a massive flight of uneven stairs, so be prepared to test your fitness and pack light!

Smoothie bowls with a view at The Inn Possible
Bingin Beach, Uluwatu, Bali

What to do

Island Mermaids

For something a little different, you can live out your mermaid fantasies and do a half-day tour with Island Mermaids.

Ever dreamed of being a mermaid? You can! Read about Island Mermaids mermaid school in Bali here!

 

Go-Jek scooter to other beaches

You can hire your own scooter quite cheaply in Bali for 80,000 rupiah (approximately $10), but if you aren’t confident in riding, I’d warn against it. So many tourists end up in accidents, and don’t get me started on the lack of concern for helmets! If, like me, you aren’t great at riding a scooter, you can always hire a GoJek. They are essentially like Uber (which is illegal in Bali), but on scooters. You can even order food, massages and other goodies by GoJek, and it’s a cheap and easy way to get around.

TIP: Bali is not easy to get around! Between the lack of public transport and traffic jams, hiring a personal driver is one of the better options. If you decide to take a taxi, make sure you go for a Blue Bird taxi and make sure it’s metered or you agree to a price before setting off! Taxi drivers are renowned for ripping off tourists and saying, “the meter’s broken”, to then charge whatever they want.

Cave beach near Suluban, Bali

 

Day clubs

If you want to really treat yourself, purchase a ticket to one of the many day clubs in Bali. The Karma Kandara Beach Club is our favourite, located on a spectacular private beach in the south of Uluwatu. For Rp500,000, you get entrance and use of the facilities and Rp300,000 food and drink credit (so it really only costs Rp200,000 = AU$20). They also offer beachfront massages, spa treatments and water activities, but the exclusive beach is the main attraction.

Karma Kandara Beach Club, Bali
What to do in Bali
Private beach clubs, Bali

If you have a late flight departing Bali, the VIP Boarding Lounge Experience from Sundara in Jimbaran Bay is an absolute must! Show your boarding pass/e-ticket to the concierge and purchase Rp750,000+ (AU$75) of Food and Beverage credit  and you will get full use of the pool, loungers and facilities for the day. For the coveted day beds, it’s first in, best dressed, so get in early to nab yourself the best seat in the house. The food is half decent too, and what better day to finish up a trip to Bali, than to relax by the pool, with a tropical cocktail. With the airport only 15 minutes away (subject to traffic), you can laze the day away, right through to the night.

Relax at Sundara, Bali
Where to drink in Bali
Sundara Bali

 

Night clubs

Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but you are bound to find bogans here (like anywhere, really). But… the night clubs in Bali are pretty amazing. On our last night in Bali, we visited La Favela and I was blown away. The décor was unlike any club I had seen and it was a maze of mirrors, plants, ponds and vintage items. Drinks aren’t cheap, but the free entrance, music and atmosphere make up for it. The other club that looks amazing is Mirror. We only saw it by day, but it’s also popular with the techno crowd at night.

La Favela, Seminyak, Bali
Mirror, Seminyak, Bali
Beaches in Bali

 

Massages!

You can’t come to Bali and not indulge in a massage! You can either take the cheap route and get one off the street (average prices between Rp6,000 to Rp120,000), or spend the extra and really get pampered. Having experienced both the cheap and more expensive (but still far cheaper than what we pay at home) massages, I would advise to cough up the extra as the saying is true: You get what you pay for. The upper end massages are normally in opulent settings, with tea and wet towels provided, and the lower end may end up leaving you with burn marks or in more pain than when you started (but what can you expect from a $6 massage?). The best massage I had in Bali was at Prana Spa in Seminyak. With exotic trimmings, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in an Arabic palace when you are there, and the treatments are heavenly.

Prana Spa Seminyak, Bali
Photo spots in Bali

Having had such wonderful times in Bali on both occasions I visited and posting the ‘Insta-worthy’ photos from my trips, my friends (who also had avoided Bali up until now) have since decided they need to give Bali a go as well…

Insta-worthy Bali

 

If you want to avoid the ‘bogan crowd’ and see the absolutely beautiful surroundings Bali has to offer, basically avoid Kuta and the more touristy areas of Seminyak. Having stayed in Seminyak, Sanur and Uluwatu, our pick is definitely Uluwatu. It’s a bit further away from the hustle and bustle, but if you are seeking a relaxing and tropical getaway, this is the place to be.

Sunsets in Bali

What do you think? Have you been to Bali before? We’d love to know what you thought of your time there! Comment below.

A huge thanks to the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism for inviting me on their #TripofWonders and showing me some of Bali’s beautiful features.

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!

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