As a total self-confessed foodie, doing street food tours in local areas of places I travel to is one of my favourite things to do. It's especially a great idea for when you've just arrived in a new place, to be shown and get great insight to the local food as well as the lay of the land, as most food tours tend to be walking.
Thai food is one of my top favourite cuisines in the world and sadly I haven't been able to have much of it since my last trip four and a half years ago, as compared to what you get in Thailand, it's always just been so disappointing to me!
Excited to be back in Bangkok, I immediately did some research and found the highly rated Bangkok Food Tours. They offer a range of different tours, including a Historic Bangrak Food Tour, Offbeat Floating Markets Food Tour, Midnight Food Tour by Tuk Tuk, a Yaowarat Street Food Tour and many more. I decided to go for the latter, as I had never been to the Chinatown area before and I had heard it was a most excellent place for street food.
Read on to hear all about the Yaowarat Street Food Tour with each dish we tried, what I thought of them and why you should do this tour too if you're coming to Bangkok!
Our group and guide all met outside Bangkok Centre Hotel next to the Hua Lamphong MRT station, where we first introduced ourselves before walking to nearby Yaowarat (Chinatown). Our first dish from the cart pictured above was called Yen Ta Fo, a beloved pink noodle dish with some interesting ingredients in there! We were told this particular cart ranked in the top five for this dish in the whole of Bangkok.
It was really delicious and so full of flavour. Thai food prides itself on being sweet, sour, spicy and salty all at the same time and this was no exception. We also had an incredible view, sitting right in front of Wat Trimit which holds the famous Golden Buddha.
We continued into the heart of Chinatown, passing a big Paifang (Chinese arch) and went into a restaurant called The Canton House.
Here we tried two different dishes, first a big spicy crispy duck salad that we all shared. Every mouthful was so fresh and zingy!
The next dish was steamed dim sum which came with a spicy Thai 'killer' sauce (it wasn't that spicy for me!). They were absolutely delicious, I devoured them.
We walked further down the bustling street, all lit up and colourful at night towards a cart that was serving my all-time favourite Thai food. Can you guess what it is?
Mango sticky rice! I am so addicted to this delicious sweet dessert. We each got our own portion of it and it was so good some of the boys went back for seconds (I wish I could have fit more in but there were still many more dishes to try!).
We passed by a durian cart and as most of us had never tried it before, we asked if we could. Durian is known to be the 'King of fruit' in Thailand and it is one of the fruits that you either absolutely love or hate with a passion.
I was very interested to try this smelly fruit, that most hotels ban and have a hefty fine for bringing in. And... I did not like it! Which is surprising because I do like most things. I found the texture just so odd, wrongly odd and the taste was not pleasant at all. But I was glad to have tried it finally!
Our next stop was at a busy local road-side restaurant sitting on little rickety stools at a popup table.
We had a super spicy stir-fry prawn dish with rice and a sauce and Morning Glory, a popular green vegetable dish stir-fried with oyster sauce.
The flavour combinations of everything were so delicious, I absolutely loved it. I was starting to get quite full by now though! It was so great sitting outside among the locals, really getting the feel of the lively neighbourhood.
Our final stop was at a very popular street cart, famous for this particular best noodles found only in Chinatown, Bangkok. We had a spicy noodle soup with crispy pork belly - which was heavenly! I'm not normally a fan of pork belly, but I enjoyed this so much I ate every last morsel. The flavours of the broth and crispiness of the pork were absolute food goals! There was nowhere to sit, we just ate it standing up along with everyone else, the place was packed with people.
Finally, for dessert we squeezed in one more tasting, which actually I think was my favourite of the night! It was called Sala Bao, a steamed bun and it was lava custard! You bit into it and the warm custard oozed out, it was so yum! It was the absolute perfect way to finish an epic night of street food tasting.
This tour was one of the highlights of my time in Bangkok, I really enjoyed trying such a variety of dishes from popular local spots. The food was high quality, fresh and delicious, I have no doubt we were taken to try the very best the city has to offer. I honestly loved every single thing we tried except for the durian! Our guide was so lovely and informative, we all learnt a lot about the history of each dish and where it came from. Yaowarat is a famous area in Bangkok for street food and I've heard it's where the locals tend to go when they want to treat themselves.
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I highly recommend this tour and any of their others if you are coming to Bangkok yourself, it was a fantastic foodie experience and a cultural one as well. One of the couples on my tour said they had done Bangkok Food Tour's Midnight Food Tour by Tuk Tuk the last time they were in Bangkok and they absolutely loved it, so decided to do another of theirs this time. I can tell you, I will absolutely be doing more of their tours when I am next in Bangkok again too!
Bangkok was my very first proper foreign city I travelled to four and a half years ago (I had only been to Australia before) and it absolutely blew my mind. That whole Thailand trip was such an amazing experience, it completely changed my life and is responsible for sparking my incessant wanderlust desire! As you can imagine, I was incredibly excited to return back to Thailand, my first love. I was interested to see if my mindset has changed, would I still love it as much now that I've been to over twenty countries? (Spoiler alert: I do!). Here is what I got up to in a fun-filled week in the vibrant capital city, my first stop in my month-long travels through Thailand.
Day One. 2.06.17
My flight from Jakarta arrived in Bangkok in the late afternoon. The airport process went smooth enough and I hopped into a taxi to my Airbnb which was in the local area Sathorn. The taxi ride was 40 minutes long and it only cost 250 THB (Thai Baht) which is around $10 AUD.
I met with my host who gave me the keys and showed me around. I had my own self-contained apartment with air conditioning and wifi for only $30 a night. Before she left she kindly took me out for some street Pad Thai - exactly what I wanted to do when I first arrived! It was so incredible and only cost $1.50!
The pool at the apartment complex I was staying in
After dinner I was planning on having one refreshing beer (it was a Friday after all) before heading back to the apartment to chill/unpack/work but... I sat down in the bar that was right across from where I was staying for less than 20 seconds before the table next to me invited me to join them... 8 hours later! They were such an incredible bunch of people from all around the world that are currently living in Bangkok, some of them for over 12 years. They were from Scotland, America, Turkey, France and Australia and we all got along so well that the hours just slipped away and suddenly it was 2 am! I love meeting new like-minded people and it was such a great night.
Day Two. 3.06.17
Well, needless to say, I was a tad hungover today! At lunchtime, I ventured out for a walk along the main roads in search of food. I was out for about an hour and then spent the rest of the afternoon working on my Jakarta travel vlog. I popped out again later for dinner where I had a spicy green curry and Chang. That night there was an epic electrical storm that I enjoyed watching from my room (it's rainy season here).
View from the walkover bridge
Day Three. 4.06.17
Today's mission was to get a Thai sim card to have data on my phone and to go to the Chatuchak weekend market. I took an MRT (underground train) and the BTS (sky train) to get to Siam, an area with many big shopping malls. I got a traveller's sim card with AIS (phone network) for a pretty good price and had a delicious Pad Thai for lunch.
I then made my way to Mo Chit via the BTS where I walked through the Chatuchak Park before exploring the largest market in Thailand. My first purchase was a fresh coconut from a funny yelling Thai man who was chopping the coconuts open with a pirate sword like knife!
I enjoyed walking around, although it was a super hot day. I had my first (of many) mango sticky rice - my ultimate favourite Thai food. I just bought two things, a Chang beer singlet (to add to my collection) and an 'Adidas' t-shirt that had a cool print. I got both tops for $10 AUD, pretty sweet shopping trip if you ask me. I had another green curry for dinner (I'm obsessed) and that was the jist of my day.
Day Four. 5.06.17
Today I had a full day temple and city tour with Oriental Escape. You can read all about it in my review post here: The BEST day in Bangkok: Incredible Temple & City Tour. As you can probably tell by the title, I had such a fantastic day and absolutely loved the tour, it was the highlight of my whole week. I visited four amazing temples, had a delicious local lunch, Thai coffee and sweets and had a driving city tour as well. It was such a hot day so I was very exhausted when I got back (but very happy). That evening I worked on and finished my Bali travel diary post.
Today was a pretty chill day. There was a nice looking massage place only two minutes walk from me so I popped in there before lunch. A traditional Thai full hour massage only cost $10 and it was absolutely brutal! It's basically an hour of wondering why you paid someone to torture you. Thai massage works deep into your muscles and pressure points and it hurts so much but you do feel really good afterwards. You just have to get through it!
I then treated myself to a delicious lunch from a Guesthouse restaurant down the road. I ordered a spicy papaya salad and mango sticky rice. I was very full afterwards but it was so fresh and delightful! I just love Thai food (if you couldn't tell).
I didn't feel like going out so I spent the afternoon editing and uploading my first Bangkok vlog which you can view here if you like!
Day Six. 7.06.17
For the best part of the day, I cracked on with more work. I had a hotel review to complete and I also spent a couple of hours editing some work for my husband (I'm such a good wife). I had a delicious local noodle lunch which only cost $1.50 including a bottle of Pepsi. Later on, I took a taxi to the Red Sky Bar, which I had heard was one of the best sky bars in Bangkok. I was hoping to catch the sunset and see the amazing skyline all lit up at night. I arrived and was so amazed by the views, it really is incredible up there.
I ordered a very fancy albeit expensive cocktail (although still cheaper than New Zealand) and basically took one sip before the rains came! Everyone had to be moved inside unfortunately. Expectations versus reality! Oh well.
I had dinner in the Grand Central Mall where the bar is located and then taxied back to Sathorn. It was one of the new friends I had met the other night's birthday so she was having celebratory drinks at the same local bar. I said I was only going to have one beer as it took me more than two days to recover from the last hangover... another 8 hours later... honestly I couldn't believe it! I looked at my watch and it was 3:30 am this time. I don't know what it was about this group but the time just disappears around them. I knew if I lived in Bangkok we would be such great friends.
Day Seven. 8.06.17
Well, I was hungover again for my final day woops (no regrets). I nursed it until my evening plan which was a Chinatown street food tour with Bangkok Food Tours. I spent the day doing some blog stuff and started packing and cleaning as I had an early flight the next morning. The food tour was excellent, everything we tried was so delicious, except for the durian! What an odd taste and texture... I especially loved the final dessert type dumpling with oozy warm custard in the middle, my god that was heavenly. I'll be writing up a Bangkok food post next with more information on the tour and my favourite/the best things to eat in Bangkok.
I got a tuk-tuk back to my apartment which was bumpy but fun. It was a nice way to finish up my time in Bangkok. I feel like I could have easily spent another week there, there is so much to do, it's incredibly cheap and such an exciting city. I'll be back sometime soon for sure.
The next day I took a taxi to the airport where I next flew to Krabi. Koh Lanta and Phi Phi Island posts coming very soon! Here is the second Bangkok travel vlog for YouTube:
I did want to do more in Bangkok, such as seeing Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and going to Lumphini Park (I was staying only a twenty-minute walk away!). But I think I did a reasonable amount of activities and sightseeing whilst juggling work.
It's hard to find a good balance and certainly, I am so behind in keeping up with everything (hence why this Bangkok post is two weeks late!). I'm doing my best and I'm going to try to push out as many blog posts and videos as possible over the next week before I next head to Vietnam!
I spent a fun week in Bangkok recently (travel diary post coming next) and my absolute highlight was the day I did a full-day city and temple tour with the wonderful Oriental Escape.
I have never done a private tour before and it made the world of difference getting one on one information, being able to explore at your own pace and ask all the questions you like. I truly felt like I got an authentic Bangkok travel experience, my guide was so knowledgeable and easy-going and it was an exceptional day, rich in culture, art and history.
Read on if you want to hear all about one of the best tours I have ever done and what made this tour so outstanding.
I was picked up bright and early (for me) from my accommodation at 8 am by my lovely guide Ms. Jen who also introduced me to the driver Mr. Wittaya. The modern Toyota Altis was comfortable, clean and air-conditioned and a cold bottle of water and snack were provided.
Our first stop of the day was Wat Trimit, a fairly new temple in Yaowarat (Chinatown), home to the famous Golden Buddha. It is the world's largest solid gold seated Buddha, at three metres high and weighing five and a half tonnes. There were many locals inside paying their respects.
The Golden Buddha was originally covered with plaster to conceal it from the invading Burmese and was only rediscovered accidentally about 40 years ago. In 2010, Wat Trimit's new building was officially opened to the public and the statue was moved there.
After learning all about the temple and exploring the beautiful area we hopped back into the cool car (it was already sweltering hot) and passed through Chinatown and the colourful flower market on the way to our next destination.
I had previously visited Wat Pho 4.5 years ago, but I was so excited to return. It is my favourite temple in Bangkok and I'm pretty sure I was even more wowed by it the second time. The architecture is simply amazing and I must have taken a thousand photos of the beautiful pagodas (tiered towers) which are artfully decorated in colourful tiles and ceramics.
Founded in the 16th Century, Wat Pho is Bangkok's largest and oldest temple. It was also the first open university of Thailand, where courses in traditional medicine and the first school of massage were born.
Wat Pho is most famed for the Statue of the Reclining Buddha. Made of gold leaf, this grand lying down Buddha is the largest in Thailand; an enormous 46 metres long and 15 metres high.
We spent a good amount of time exploring the large grounds (which is 8 hectares) and I even got to go inside one temple while a monk praying ceremony was being held. It was a wonderful experience.
The next stop was the mighty Grand Palace, which I had also visited on my previous trip, but not with a guide. Built in 1782, the Grand Palace is undoubtedly the city's most famous landmark. It is known as the heart of Bangkok and is the official residence of the Kings of Siam.
The intricate detail and beautiful Thai architecture are incredibly dazzling. Within the palace complex are many impressive buildings and sacred sites including Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which contains a small but very famous Emerald Buddha that dates back to the 14th century (we weren't allowed to take photos).
My guide took me through each significant place and I learned so much about the history, something I had missed on my first visit. She also knew all the best spots for picture taking and was a wonderful photographer for me!
It was now lunch time and as I had told Jen that I loved the local food, she took me to her own favourite spot for lunch. She said most people prefer to go to a restaurant where there is a large buffet with many options. I was thrilled to be taken to this local hole-in-the-wall place and she ordered two different dishes for me to try. Both were so fresh, full of flavour and absolutely delicious (don't worry, I didn't eat all of both of them!).
We then went next door to try traditional Thai coffee, I ordered an iced one as it was so hot and it was perfectly refreshing. She also popped out and surprised me with traditional Thai sweets which are interestingly only made from egg yolk and sugar. This was the icing on the cake and I absolutely loved them (much to her surprise, as she thinks they are far too sweet!).
Our final temple of the day was Wat Benchamabopit, commonly known as Marble Temple, which is one of the most modern works of Thai religious architecture. It is classified as a first class Royal temple and is one of significant importance.
It is most famous for its main chapel built in white Carrara Italian marble which houses a replica of Thailand’s most beautiful Buddha image, Phra Phutthachinarat. The entrance is marked by four impressive marble pillars, and even the large courtyard is made of shiny white marble. It was a most tranquil and impressive temple.
It is also an active temple with resident monks, their private living quarters are across the canal separated from the temple area.
Hopping back in the car all throughout the day I was presented with refreshing towels and cold bottled water, which I was always grateful for. While driving, as well as pointing things out and chatting to me, Jen also talked and laughed with the driver. She had a wonderful friendly personality that really shone through.
Lastly, on the way back to my accommodation we did a driving city-sightseeing tour. We passed through the well-known backpacker's area Khao San Road before heading to Ratchadumnoen Road (The Royal’s Way). En route I got to see more significant temples and architectural buildings, including the City Pillar Shrine, National Museum, Thai Boxing Stadium, Anantasamakhom Palace, Parliament House, Dusit Zoo and Chitlada Palace King’s Residence. I arrived back at around 2 pm, very happy (albeit hot and sweaty) after such an amazing day.
Price: Depends on the number of people. For example for my tour if you are a couple it costs $96 USD each, or if you are a group of 3-4 it costs $79 USD each, which is a fantastic price for what you get. (The prices keep going down the more people you have).
I learned so much about the culture of Bangkok and its fascinating history all throughout the day. My tour with Oriental Escape truly enriched my time in Thailand's capital city and I 100% recommend this tour and company to others.
If you are visiting yourself and wish to see the best sites Bangkok has to offer on a flexible and personal tour with excellent customer service, then look no further. Their experienced and passionate team of guides have the best knowledge and inside information for each attraction.
They offer a large number of day and night tours to cater for many temples and city highlights you may wish to see. As well as Bangkok, they also have a number of tours all throughout Thailand and Indochina and even offer Airport transfer services.
You can easily choose which category of car you would prefer and there are choices for high-end service. All admission fees are included in your tour and there are no hidden extra costs or forced shopping and tourist traps that are sadly so commonly found on tours around Bangkok and Thailand.
It's an excellent option for families, friends and groups travelling together, couples and even solo travellers like me.
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If you wish to see a bit more of my day trip and the temples and city highlights I saw, it is featured in the second half of my Bangkok travel vlog for YouTube (start at 5:43):
Coming soon as well as my travel diary will be plenty of Bangkok and Thailand travel tips, top recommended things to do and of course best food to eat!
Disclaimer: My tour excluding entrance fees was complimentary in exhange for an honest review. All opinions are as always my own.
Visiting Jakarta was a very different experience for me. While I initially regretting going at first, and almost bought an early plane ticket out of there, I decided to give it a shot and in the end, I'm glad I did.
I wanted to visit Jakarta as it was my third time to Indonesia, and I thought it would be rude not to visit the capital city of a country I liked so much.
Going to a city with a metropolitan area that exceeds 30 million people - the largest city in Southeast Asia, I was rather excited by that fact rather than hindered. (I'm crazy).
It was also the first predominantly Muslim place I had ever been to, a whole new experience for me, and because I am apparently very ignorant - I had no idea that I was coming right at the beginning of Ramadan.
The day before I was due to fly there from Bali, I woke to the news that there had been twin suicide bombing attacks in Jakarta. This, to be honest, freaked me out as I am travelling alone and I just didn't know if it was a safe place for me to go to.
I messaged my Airbnb host and he quickly reassured me that it was fine, there were still tourists walking around and that we shouldn't let the terrorists win, which I agreed with.
A bad start. Day One. 26.05.17.
As I was staying for a full week at my Airbnb, an airport transfer was included which I was very grateful for. Without traffic, it should have taken around thirty minutes, but it took an hour and a half as it was around 2 pm, and as I had been warned - the traffic in Jakarta is terrible! But Reza, my host was wonderful to talk to. He had even studied in New Zealand at an Auckland high school and university and also owned a property in Bali.
He gave me some frank advice, which I highly appreciated: "It is the beginning of Ramadan here, so it is better that you keep your head down. The women, they demand respect, so cover your shoulders and knees and don't look them in the eye."
He also warned me not to walk alone by myself at night, as it is not even safe for Muslim women. Their public buses here have even had to employ security guards on every single one, and there are also separate women's only buses, to try to stop sexual abuse.
Passing the National Monument on the way
Reza's place, my apartment for the week was located in Thamrin, a local area. And I mean local, as in I was definitely the only European in the near vicinity and everywhere I went I had eyes on me.
The apartment was on the 39th level so it had great city views and the room had everything I could need - including a washing machine (which I'm sure every traveller would be grateful for!).
The view from my balcony
I zoomed right in to see the famous monument and mosque behind it
After taking me to the apartment, Reza kindly offered to show me to the supermarket which was located on the ground level, where there was an enormous local mall called Thamrin City. We zigzagged left, right, straight, up an escalator, left, right, through rows and rows of stalls. We eventually came to the supermarket - and he left me there. So I went about and did a little shop, stocking up on supplies, and then... I couldn't find my way back. What a surprise! I was stuck in this nightmare of going round and round and I just could not find my way. There were no signs in English (not that I knew what I was looking for) and I asked several shopkeepers (who ignored me) and a total of three security guards if they spoke English, and they did not.
I am normally a tough person, but after an hour and a half, I was on the verge of tears. I asked one more guard desperately if they spoke English and he actually got up and found me someone who did, who was my saviour. I was on the wrong level and he pointed me in the right direction...
I eventually made it back to my room feeling f***ing relieved, only to then try to connect to the wifi - which did not work! Reza said he would message me the password through the Airbnb email, which he did - however, I needed the internet to access it... the text that I got on my phone only showed the first two lines of the message and not the password.
I was so upset I literally screamed! I had to go back into that god damn mall (sorry, just venting my feelings here), and I had to try to find an Indonesian sim card to buy data. Two unsuccessful attempts and another hour later, I had a sim card and data on my phone.
It was now around 7 pm and I managed to capture a glimpse of the burning red sun going down, before tucking into my 20 cent pot of instant noodles for dinner, as I sure as hell was not going out again. The way everyone stared at me, the lack of help and being thrown wildly out of my comfort zone (which I normally embrace) really shook me.
The final damning point in my day was that after all of that stress, all I wanted was a beer, which as I very sadly found out, is not sold in supermarkets and local stores. (Cue violin strings). I settled with an alcohol-free Bintang radler, which okay, wasn't that bad, and went to bed wondering what I was doing in Jakarta.
Lit up at night
Day Two. 27.05.17.
I was woken up at 4:45 am to the loud cries/prayers of a nearby mosque. The sound certainly rose high and that was my first introduction to Ramadan. As I later found out, Muslims have to pray at scheduled times five times a day, the first before the beginning of the fast.
Today was a Saturday and to be honest I was not interested in going out and exploring.
I skyped with my husband Gareth and used the time to catch up on the pile of work I had accumulated in Bali. I did pop out around lunch time as I had heard there were cafes and food available in the mall but after a lof of searching I discovered they were of course all closed during the day for Ramadan. There was a 7/11 type convenience store on the ground level so I stocked up on more noodles, packets of chips, chocolate cereal, milk and bananas.
That was literally my day. The way the men stared at me wherever I walked, even with my skin covered and my head down made me feel very uncomfortable and to be honest I did not feel safe. I seriously considered buying an early ticket to Thailand, but I knew I had not even given this place a chance and that's what stopped me.
The view from the opposite side of the building I was staying in
Day Three. 28.05.17.
Being a Sunday, Reza had told me that it was a car-free morning along the main streets from 6 - 11 am. At 9:30 I thought I should pop out to see what the city was like. It was a 40-minute walk to the main icon of the city, the National Monument, or Monas, as the locals call it. It was actually a very pleasant walk and there were many locals out and about for a jog or cycle along the empty roads. I only passed one other European, and we both side-eyed each other as we walked past with the expression of "what is this person doing in Jakarta?" It was a funny moment.
Down my street a bit
Jakartan Tuk Tuks
I took my time, so as I approached Monas I took a few snaps and had to basically turn around to make it back in time before the cars came. I made a very quick stop at a Starbucks first, where I ordered a refreshing coffee frappuccino (it was very hot walking around in jeans at 35° C) and a ham and egg quiche which I wolfed down, my first proper meal in a while.
I was glad to have gone out and I walked passed and discovered Grand Indonesia, a big Western shopping mall, which was only a 15-minute walk from where I was staying. I noted to visit there the next day.
Day Four. 29.05.17.
Today, as predicted, I walked back to Grand Indonesia. This became a haven I frequented often. The shops didn't so much appeal to me, as I wasn't interested in buying anything, but there were many local food courts (that were open!) and it was a safe place, you even had to put your bags through a scanner to enter inside. I explored the mall and found an excellent Japanese sushi restaurant, which you ordered on an iPad, and it came flying out on train-like rails. And they sold beer! Glorious beer. I was very happy and over-ordered, but extremely pleased with my discovery.
A very eerie morning (it started pouring soon after)
Inside the mall
I ordered another 4 pieces after this...
Day Five. 30.05.17.
After spending the best part of the day working I ventured back to Grand Indonesia in the afternoon with the plans of visiting the Skye Bar for sunset. I had read it was one of the top things to do in Jakarta and conveniently it happened to be attached to that exact mall. I browsed a few shops before locating the only bar in the mall called Paulaner Brauhaus. Now if anyone here knows me, you'll know I love my German beer, and I was ecstatic to find there was not only a bar (uncommon), but a German bar here. It took me a while to find, but eventually I settled with a delicious half pint of freshly poured Hefeweizen, my favourite. I laughed when I looked around wondering why everyone was staring at me - I was the only female in the bar, and also alone, which I suppose might be strange to some people.
Afterwards, I rocked up to the 56th floor to the Skye Bar and wowed at the incredible skyline. I had two cocktails, a mango vodka and a dragonfruit margarita, both around $15 AUD each, but you pay for the view. I enjoyed watching the sky darken, but as it was super cloudy/smoggy on the western side I couldn't actually see the sun set.
The Skye Bar is at the very top!
Once it was dark, I popped down to the busy local food court and ordered a delicious Indonesian chicken curry. I was the only European amongst a sea of people breaking their fast, but I was not unwelcome. As I was out late after dark, I decided to try my hand at my first Uber motorbike. I already had the app downloaded on my phone from Australia and I didn't need to change anything to use it. It automatically came up with the extra option to choose a motorbike. It arrived quickly, the guy didn't speak English, but he didn't need to. I hopped on and at first, held on for dear life - but it was a breeze! I had a huge dopey grin on my face, weaving in and out of the traffic, and it didn't take long at all. Guess how much that cost me? A grand total of 50 cents AUD. I was flabbergasted.
Day Six. 31.05.17.
I researched quite a bit and although there weren't many tours I found for Jakarta, I happened to find a free walking tour on Trip Advisor that had good reviews, among the central city highlights. They do several tours including a street food tour I was interested in, but as it was Ramadhan, it was temporarily canceled. I booked my new favourite way to get around - Uber motorbike and it was about a fifteen-minute ride to the meeting point at the National Museum.
I was the only person on the tour (I wasn't surprised) so I basically got my own personal tour! We started with Monas before heading to the famous Istiqlal Mosque - the largest in Southeast Asia, passing some interesting streets and buildings along the way.
This was my first time in a mosque so it was a very new experience for me. Even though I was fully clothed I still had to don a robe (which was stifling hot) and you had to take your shoes off to enter. I cursed myself for not bringing socks, but ignored that and got shown around the enormous place. I was taken to a viewing platform where I was allowed to take photos (I didn't want to be rude but I did snap a quick couple). The praying sections are segregated and the right side is for men only and the left for women. The set times for that day's praying were all illuminated on large clocks on the walls. I was shown the ground floors where the big beating drum is that calls the prayers and the large area where a capacity of 200,000 people can meet at one time during big celebrations. There were young boys playing around the drum and they all came over and stood around me while my guide talked about the significance of the drum. They couldn't even say hello but they were very interested in me, this blonde girl that was in their mosque (there were no other tourists about that I saw).
Afterwards, we walked across the road to the Saint Mary's Cathedral. They were built opposite each other as a symbol of tolerance among all religions. Even their national slogan translates to "Unity in diversity." The top spires were destroyed in earthquakes twice before they decided to rebuild in stone, which is why they are white.
We had a peek inside and then the three-hour tour was up, which sure went by quickly. I really enjoyed my day and I learned so much from my guide, even where his top favourite spots in Indonesia were to travel to (which I hastily wrote down). I gave him a decent tip and Uber motorbiked back to Grand Indonesia. By my third ride, I was cruising around on the back of the bike like a pro, not even holding on. Totally fitting in (not really, I stuck out like a sore thumb). That ride was rather interesting, I was proposed to by a guy on the side of the road while stuck in traffic. That sure doesn't happen every day. I had one last Paulaner Hefeweizen (and the bartender impressively remembered my order) before heading back to the food court for a cheap and delicious local dish.
The national symbol and slogan
Day Seven. 1.06.17.
For my final day in Jakarta I was up bright and early for a day trip I had also found through Trip Advisor. I had my own personal driver and guide for the day to see more of the city. I had shaken off my initial apprehension and wished to make the most out of my time there. As I had already seen the central highlights, I was first taken to the Old Town Square which has the first ever building, built in 1707 which served as the Town Hall.
We then drove to East Jakarta to Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, meaning 'Beautiful Indonesian Miniature Park.' This was a large cultural park full of miniature traditional Indonesian houses, museums, a water and fun park, even a reptile park. I started on a gondola ride around the entire 250 acres, which had excellent views (although it was a rather bumpy and nerve-racking ride!).
I then got to go inside one of the traditional West Sumatran houses I saw from above. One part was dressed for a typical ceremonial wedding and there were traditional bridal and groom outfits on display.
I was super excited to visit the reptile park as they had a Komodo dragon and I had never seen one before. It was just a small one, but I heard all about how dangerous they are - basically, they are mini dinosaurs. There were also many different types of Indonesian lizards, crocodiles and humongous snakes, the biggest I had ever seen!
Our final stop there was Museum Indonesia, of which the outside was a Hindu style temple. It reminded me so much of Bali and I loved it! Inside were three levels of historical Indonesian artifacts, displays, sculptures, custom clothing and mini traditional rooms of homes.
I remember learning about Indonesian puppets from Play School! (Kids TV show)
Lastly, I was taken to a famous Gado Gado restaurant where I tried the traditional Indonesian dish. Gado Gado is rice, vegetables, potato crackers and an egg served with a peanut sauce.
It was an excellent tour and the last couple of days ended my time in Jakarta on a good note. The next morning I packed up and was dropped back to the airport for my next adventure to Thailand. I won't lie, I was very excited to get to Thailand.
I was told to skip Jakarta as there are much nicer places to visit in Indonesia. I definitely believed them but I still wanted to go. I try not to regret anything that I do, as it is all life lessons that you can learn from, and I learned a lot in Jakarta. It was a new cultural experience and opened my eyes to a different part of the world I hadn't seen before. I was impressed by their symbols of religious tolerance, but whether it is actually peacefully tolerated, I cannot be sure. I think if I had of stayed in a comfortable Western hotel and received great service, went about my tours and stuck to Starbucks and the mall, then yes my experience would have been significantly different, but my eyes would have been shielded. Staying in a local area showed me the real side of things, the streets and the real people and I did feel very exposed and uncomfortable at times, being alone and a female. However, all was well, I kept to myself and walked about during the day fine enough and it was an interesting place to visit. Would I return again? Once was enough for me, but I did as always, appreciate my time there.
If you would like to see the highlights video I made from my time in Jakarta for Youtube, here is the link here:
One of my guides told me the locals call Jakarta the 'Big Durian'. This made me laugh, and he said "Smelly on the outside, but sweet on the inside." That, just like the fruit, might just be a matter of opinion! Coming next will be my travels in Bangkok and Krabi, hope to see you there!
My final night in Bali was spent at the luxurious Hotel Vila Lumbung in Seminyak, which was the perfect way to finish my wonderful time here.
This secluded boutique Seminyak resort was like walking into a slice of Ubud. Tucked away from the streets, away from any noise, it instantly felt relaxing. I was warmly greeted in the grand open lobby by the friendly staff and presented with a refreshing welcome drink.
The check in process was smooth and I had my bags taken for me and shown to my room. The lush tropical grounds are beautifully maintained and there is a two-level swimming pool as an impressive central feature which made my eyes pop when I saw it!
I was very excited when I was shown my room. The villas are made in exotic 'Lumbung' style with Balinese wooden roofs. Located on the far right end of the resort, I had the deluxe family room and it was incredible. Outside was a front patio with table and chairs, through the sliding doors was a large and comfortable double bed.
The room was tastefully designed and decorated in exotic Balinese decor. It was fitted with air conditioning, good wifi, a safe, seating areas, a widescreen tv, a fully equipped kitchenette with tea and coffee making facilities, an attached sunroom that could be used for an extra person, wardrobes with gowns and slippers, and probably my favourite feature - an outdoor garden bathroom!
I have never had an outdoor bathroom before and it was absolute goals! The garden was very private, with extra shades to pull down if you wish. There is a large shower and bath and the vanity cabinet was equipped with every toiletry you could possibly want for. It was a surreal experience and one that I thoroughly enjoyed!
The sun room
There are many other types of rooms to choose from to suit a variety of needs, including Superior and Deluxe rooms, perfect for couples, and even grand 3-bedroom villas, perfect for family vacations.
The upstairs master bedroom in the 3-bedroom villa
The downstairs dining and lounge area in the 3-bedroom villa
Beyond the Room
A large beautiful swimming pool surrounded by loungers, umbrellas and lush greenery is my ideal way to relax! Connected by walk-over bridges is the swim-up pool bar with daily drink specials, a waterfall, cave, outdoor chess set and whirlpool.
The resort offers many facilities to make your vacation perfect including a beautiful spa studio with many beauty treatments and a convenient fitness centre.
The couples massage room
There is also laundry and dry cleaning services, a 24-hour on-call doctor, money exchange, a tour desk, meeting room, children's playground, babysitting services, wedding packages, restaurant and bar.
The beautiful grounds would be the perfect location for a destination wedding!
The Lumbung Restaurant offers both Western and international cuisine in a very delightful setting under the big wooden roof alongside the pool. I happened to be there on Barbecue Night where you could pick a selection of fresh fish, sate meat and seafood kebabs to be fan-barbecued directly for you. There was also a large buffet with many choices of sides including soup, rice, bread, vegetables, salads and desserts. A live quartet band was pleasantly playing music and singing which made for a wonderful dinner atmosphere. The food was delicious!
There are even two private dining areas surrounded by lotus ponds if you wish to have a romantic date.
A daily buffet breakfast is also included in the room with a large variety of options to choose from. You can have eggs made to order, fresh pancakes, juices, fruit, cereals, pastries, tea and coffee and further hot and cold food choices. It was an excellent way to start the day!
Location: Jl. Raya Petitenget no. 1000x, Seminyak 80361
Reviews: Certificate of Excellence and 4/5 stars from 1040 reviews on Trip Advisor.
Price: Starts from $100 AUD a night for a Superior room.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here. Being surrounded by the lush tropical environment and away from the busy streets was so tranquil. The generous staff were all very friendly and helpful and looked happy to be there. The resort is in a great location, only a 10-minute walk to the beach and to the popular hotspot Potato Head Beach Club or a 5-minute drive to Seminyak Square, and there are plenty of good cafes and shopping in the area. My room was perfectly comfortable and I could have happily stayed there for weeks! With the gorgeous pool, great restaurant, spa and pool bar, Vila Lumbung is the ideal place for a relaxing vacation and would be an excellent choice for every type of traveller from couples looking for a romantic getaway, to friends and big family groups. I highly recommend this resort and would definitely stay again.
If you would like to see a bit more I show around the resort and my room in the second half of this Bali travel vlog for Youtube:
Disclaimer: My stay was complimentary in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are as always my own.
Stepping away from the busy streets up an escalator is the large modern and elegant reception area. The check in process was quick and smooth and I was shown to my room. The hotel is larger than I thought, with over 300 rooms. The downstairs pool is a central feature, with many guests lounging next to it and enjoying the party music coming from the pool bar.
Upon arrival, I was given a voucher for a welcome drink. I took this to the upstairs bar area with many comfortable seats that look over the street below. I saw there was a happy hour on and decided to take advantage of that. They have 2 for 1 cocktails for 100K IDR ($10 AUD) so I ordered two mojitos and enjoyed them while the sun went down.
My deluxe room was located on the second level to the right of the pool. Through the door was the comfortable large King sized bed, a desk and chair workstation with tea and coffee making facilities and a small balcony overlooking the pool below.
The One Legian is conveniently located right next door to Starbucks!
The view from my room's balcony
Opposite the bed was a TV set on the wall and to the right was a small wardrobe with bathrobes, slippers and a small fridge. Unfortunately, the fridge didn't seem to be working properly as it was not cold at all, but as I was only staying for one night I didn't feel the need to complain about it.
The room was fitted with a small bathroom with basic amenities, air conditioning, wifi (although extremely patchy and slow at times), large mirrors, a shoe rack and a safe next to the bed. The bright and spacious room had everything you could need for a comfortable stay.
There are many other types of rooms offered to suit different needs including large family suites and deluxe pool access rooms.
Beyond the Room
The hotel offers an impressive range of facilities to enjoy at your leisure. As well as the main ground pool with plenty of loungers, umbrellas and a convenient bar, there is also an open-air sky pool and bar which unfortunately was closed for renovations during my stay. They also host pool parties up there every weekend.
All throughout the hotel, it is beautifully decorated and well-maintained. I was impressed by the number of cozy spaces they have for guests to relax in.
There is a very nice spa offering many treatments and a mini gym with basic equipment to keep up fitness in a nice air conditioned room with drinking water supplied.
The couples massage room
There is also 24-hour reception, a tourist information and transportation corner, basement parking, meeting rooms and their own restaurant and bar facing the street.
The food at The One Legian was the highlight of my stay! I had dinner at their De Basilico Kitchen and Bar restaurant and ordered the sate campur. While I waited I enjoyed a Bintang and the complimentary bread sticks with dipping sauces. The presentation of my meal was really impressive and it tasted fantastic!
Breakfast is included with the room and there was a wide range of choices available. Set in a wide open upstairs area, it was very pleasant to enjoy. You can have eggs to order how you like, pastries, cereals, fresh juices and fruit, tea and coffee and a selection of many hot and cold choices.
I was also kindly invited for a lunch review at their De Basilico restaurant during my stay. I was given a delicious welcome cocktail 'Red Warrior' to enjoy before my first course was presented.
The first course was a Thai beef salad which tasted so light and fresh and had wonderful zesty flavours.
The main course was a pan-seared chicken breast with pesto rice and a creamy basil sauce. The chicken was so tender and the flavours complimented each other so well.
The dessert course was a layered chocolate cake which tasted like it was straight from Vienna or Paris! The layers were sponge, chocolate and cream with a hint of rum and it was so decadent and divine, the perfect way to end such a fabulous meal.
I was extremely impressed by every single course and honestly blown away by the presentation. Each dish was lovingly prepared and it was a treat for all the senses. The freshness and flavour of each plate made every single bite a pleasure. The chef is highly talented and you can see how passionate he is about his food. Even if you are not staying at The One Legian, I highly recommend visiting this restaurant if you are staying around the area in Bali!
Price: Starts from $40 AUD a night for a Superior Room.
I do believe that this is a great hotel for the price. The rooms and facilities offered are excellent value for money and there are even further great deals on their website including free room upgrades if you stay for a certain number of nights. However, I would recommend this hotel for party-lovers and those looking for budget-friendly luxury who do not mind the noise.
For me personally, I like to be able to relax around the pool or even in my room and I couldn't do that from the afternoon to night. The music blasting from the pool vibrated the walls of my room. The walls also happened to be paper-thin and I heard some very disturbing things coming from the rooms on either side of me that did rather taint my experience. But if you are looking for a good time, a place to sleep that has good amenities while looking for a party, you've come to the right place. Just bring earplugs if you plan on sleeping at all.
The staff are very friendly and helpful and as mentioned, the food is great and it's a great price for what you get. Overall, The One Legian is a great choice for young-at-heart travellers, couples and friends, and as the title suggests - it is a party-goer's paradise!
If you would like to see a bit more I show around the hotel and my room in the first half of this video:
Disclaimer: My stay was complimentary in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are as always my own.
My four best friends and two of their partners from New Zealand met me in Bali and we all had the greatest week ever! We were celebrating a milestone birthday for Angela, plus we all wanted to holiday together again as it had been six months since our last trip to Rarotonga! Here are a few favourites of the million photos I took and snippets of what we got up to in a fun-filled week:
Day One. 17.05.17
My friends arrived and we checked into The Breezes Bali Resort & Spa in the late afternoon. I had stayed there once before during my first visit to Bali and I absolutely love this resort. After being shown to our rooms and a small tour we hopped straight into the inviting pool and took advantage of happy hour! We also joined in the pool bingo game that runs daily at 6 pm which is always a fun time.
In the evening we wandered down the road for dinner at a local favourite Mades Warung. Many of us ordered the Babi Guling, which I recommended to try (as it was their first time to Indonesia), which is a traditional Balinese spit roast pork dish. We also got to watch a bit of Indonesian dancing which is on in the evenings at 8 pm.
At the entrance of The Breezes
I shared a comfortable deluxe twin room with my friend Anita
Beautiful welcome flowers and fresh fruit platter
We had our own private balcony in front of the pool!
Today us girls took a taxi to Legian where we first stopped into Bali Tattoo Studio to book in our tattoos for our last day there. I got a tattoo with them the last time I was in Bali and I highly recommend them. (We booked for our last day as you can't swim with fresh tattoos). We then wandered down the road, past the memorial site where the Bali bombings happened in 2002, to Smart Spa and Salon. Two of us wanted a hair cut and I, again had been there before and recommended them. $16 for a good hair cut, not bad at all considering at home it can be upwards of $60 in most places. Also in the area we had a delicious lunch at Kopi Pot. I had sate lilit which is minced fish on lemongrass sticks that comes on a charcoal grill. So delicious! Also, obligatory Bintangs, of course.
Before returning to The Breezes we popped into Spa Bali which is just down the road from the resort. I got a mani-pedi, because when in Bali - treat yo-self! We then hopped back in the pool and rested for the afternoon. That evening we had dinner at the hotel's own restaurant. We ate there at least four times, the food is always delicious and in-house guests get a 20% discount so it's a very good price too. Afterwards, we had a booking at Frankenstein's which is only a 10-minute walk away. It's a fun monster laboratory themed bar with entertaining cabaret shows on every night, awesome themed drinks (like eyeball martini, 'injection' shots and iv bag cocktails) and good music. It was a very fun night!
The memorial site
Lunch time Bintangs at Kopi Pot
Delicious sate lilit
Amazing cocktails at the swim up pool bar
Fun at Frankensteins
Day Three. 19.05.17
Today was our friend Angela's birthday! We had a fun day planned starting with water sports at Nusa Dua. We booked with a highly rated company called Bali Jetpacks & Water Sports which included transfers. We picked from a wide range of activities including parasailing, banana boating and jet skiing. I got a little seasick, so if you're planning on doing water sports take some sea legs with you! It was a really fun time though and also included in the price was a professional photographer so we got a tonne of photos at the end of it which was such a nice surprise!
After a late lunch we got dressed up for the evening and had celebratory champagne before taxi-ing to Potato Head Beach Club, one of my favourite spots for sunset! It was as always very busy, but we eventually got seats and had a nice cocktail to enjoy the sunset and tropical vibes. We had a reservation at Bambu for dinner, a very nice restaurant just a five-minute walk from there. I love the setting over the water and the food is absolutely delicious.
The Breezes surprised Ange with a birthday breakfast treat!
Today we all had a well-deserved lazy pool day, as we had been quite busy up until then. We enjoyed the 2 for 1 cocktail happy hour special that runs at The Breezes from 11 am - 1 pm and then ventured out for lunch back to the local Mades Warung. We got a bit excited when we saw there was a beer tower on the menu so we all pitched in and shared! 3 litres of delicious. Then a stop for ice cream and more relaxing around the pool and that was the gist of our day!
Not a bad way to start the day at all
Cool street art in Seminyak
The sate dish was my absolute favourite from The Breezes own restaurant
Day Five. 21.05.17
Today we had a second lazy pool day which was again, so nice and relaxing. One of our party had a full-day motorcross tour, but the rest again enjoyed happy hour before venturing out for a walk. This time we went to Seminyak Square and had a nice lunch at Naty's Restaurant. I had my fave, Nasi Goreng and a refreshing Bintang radler. We browsed in one of the coolest shops I've ever been in called Skull, where everything from clothes, bags, accessories and memorabilia are skull themed. I wanted to buy so many things! After a shopping fix we walked home via the beach which was nice to see again. Aaand cue more relaxing!
Lunch at Naty's
Coolest shop ever!
A random figure in front of Seminyak markets
Back to the pool bar!
Day Six. 22.05.17
Today four of the seven of us had a tour booked to climb Mount Batur for sunrise. The rest of us three (including me) decided to see Tanah Lot, a famous temple on the coast that is a rock formation with a Hindu shrine perched on top. We were a little scammed by our taxi driver, but that was bound to happen sometime. Tip: Hire a driver for a fixed price and don't take a taxi, he rigged the meter and tried to charge us 7x more than we should have paid. Never mind, I still really enjoyed seeing it and I was even blessed by a holy Balinese Hindu priest which was a special experience.
A typical breakfast for me from the delicious daily buffet
Today all of us did a full day trip to Ubud. We booked a driver easily through The Breezes tour information centre for 8 hours, but we actually went overtime for 10 hours! We had so many things we wished to see and ran out of time. You definitely need at least two days in Ubud to be able to see everything. But we prioritised and had a great day visiting the Tegalalang rice terraces, Bali Pulina for Luwak coffee tasting, Pura Tirta Empul - a holy water temple and my favourite in Bali.
We had a nice lunch before visiting the Sacred Monkey Forest where most of us had a cheeky monkey on our shoulders for a banana. I love seeing them roam around freely, as they should be. Just watch your belongings! Lastly, we visited the Tegenungan waterfall where we went for a brief dip. It was so great to visit Ubud again and get out of the main touristy hub for the day. Next time I will definitely stay the night there.
Today was sadly our final day. The others did some last minute souvenir shopping before checking out at 12 pm. We all jumped into a taxi back to Legian where we stopped first at Warung Padmasari, another of my favourite local places to eat. Next up it was tattoo time at Bali Tattoo Studio. We all got them done one after the other and it was smooth and painless (for me!). Afterwards, we waited outside with a beer for the boys to return who had gone shopping and one of the tattoo artists joined us playing guitar and singing for us. He was so talented and it was such cool vibes! A great ending to our trip. We then had to say our goodbyes as they were leaving back for New Zealand that night and I had to be off for the next part of my adventure.
Sad to say goodbye to the beautiful Breezes
With our tattoo artists
Aaand one last group shot sporting our new friendship tattoos!
I truly love Bali so much and enjoyed it just as much as ever. I honestly wish I could live there! I love walking down the streets and seeing the colourful Hindu offerings, I love the temples and the smell of incense. I love the flowers everywhere and how lush and green it is. I love the food and mostly how warm and inviting the Balinese people are. I cannot wait to return again for the fourth time, no doubt soon enough!
I can guarantee I will be staying again at The Breezes Bali Resort & Spa, who are outstanding. The resort is absolute perfection and the small touches every day in our rooms, including a different towel animal and personal note, the friendly staff, amazing pools and services, restaurant, cocktails, everything about them is top-notch. I have written a hotel review of them previously on my blog, if you would like more information here is the review.
I also made a video for my YouTube channel of all the fun my friends and I got up to during our week together in Bali:
It was a fantastic week and all of us left with some great memories (and polaroids) that we will treasure forever. Next up will be my Jakarta travel diary which was a lot more challenging than Bali! Coming soon.