Destinations Sri Lanka

The incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa

26. September 2016

The incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka// Contains affiliate links

From the 11th century up until 1310, kings ruled the island of Sri Lanka from Polonnaruwa. The medieval capital grew to be a thriving commercial and religious centre, replacing the previous Kingdom of Anuradhapura. After holding the power for almost three centuries, the seat of government was moved yet again and Polonnaruwa was abandoned for good.

In 1982 the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa was declared a World Heritage Site.

As mentioned in the last post, we drove up here while staying in Kandy, which worked out great for us. Because of the extremely hot weather we only ended up spending abut three hours inside the actual city, so we had more than enough time to do the three-hour drive each way. We left Kandy at 7 in the morning and were back at the hotel around 17, just in time for dinner. You also have the option to stay in a hotel right outside the city, if you want better time and to explore the area.

A great choice would be to stay at the super cheap Seyara Holiday Resort, for only about $17 a night. The ancient city is only a short, 2km, tuk-tuk ride away. I’ve heard great things about their staff, the breakfast and the large pool.

Another cheap option is Tishan Holiday Resort, which actually has got even better reviews. People rave about their pool area, the food and the very friendly staff. At $24 a night and also only 2km away, they offer great value for money.

I had been looking forward to renting bicycles to be able to explore the city at our own pace. But when we arrived it was clear that biking would be more of a challenge than I first thought. It was so hot out! After a lot of discussing back and forth, our driver convinced us to go by car. I’m so glad he did, it turned out he had so much knowledge about the place. And of course, in addition to that we got to cool off in the air-conditioned car between each stop. We drove past quite a few bikers almost passed out at the side of the road from the unbearable heat. So please take the weather into consideration when deciding on your mode of transportation.

Before entering the actual city you have to go to the museum to purchase the tickets. All together with the driver, this was the most expensive attraction we visited in our three weeks in Sri Lanka. The tickets were 3550 Rs / $25 and as mentioned in the Kandy post the driver charged 12000 Rs / $80.

You should really take your time in the museum and read up on everything, I think you’ll get more out of your visit that way. I wish we spent more time there, looking at what the ruins might have looked like once upon a time. But I was so stressed about beating the crowds to the site, so we just skimmed through.

Anyways, I’m not going to bore you guys with all the details about each structure. I get that not everyone finds it too interesting, so I’ll let the photos do most of the talking this time.

The incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - The Royal PalaceThe royal palace complex of King Parakaramabahu is the first stop after you enter the city. His majestic palace is said to have been seven stories tall and the whole complex supposedly consisted of 1000 chambers. Be sure to look at the miniature model in the museum to get an impression of what it might have looked like 800 years ago.The incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - The royal Palace

King Parakaramabahu’s Council Chamber, was the meeting place of all his ministers. The structure is 23m long and 10m wide and the walls are decorated with lions and elephants. It was fun to stand up there thinking of all the ideas and plans that might have been discussed within those pillar walls.The incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - The Audience Hall

The Royal Bath, also known as the pond of the Prince. The incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - The King's Swimming Pool

The Sacred Quadrangle is the most concentrated collection of structures in all of Polonnaruwa. In the middle you’ll find the Vatadage, a circular relic house with four entrances and four Buddhas. It is thought to have been built to hold the relic of Buddha’s tooth or the alms bowl used by Buddha.The incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - The Sacred QuadrangleThe incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - The Sacred QuadrangleThe incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - The Sacred Quadrangle

Rankot Vihara is a huge dagoba in excellent condition, one of the most impressive structures in the city. At 55m tall, it’s the largest dagoba in Polonnaruwa and the fourth largest in Sri Lanka. This is a photo from the side, as there were quite a lot of selfie-stick action going on at the front entrance.The incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - Rankot Vihara

The construction of the incredible Kiri Vehera, meaning milk-white, is thought to have been initiated by King Parakramabahus Queen. At 24m tall, it’s the second largest dagoba in Polonnaruwa after Rankot Vihara. It was so white it almost looked liked an optical illusion in the bright sunlight, like it was moving from side to side. Remember to remove your shoes when going inside the small brick fence, I got yelled at.The incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - Dagoba Kiri Vihara

Lankatilaka is a cathedral like Buddhist shrine with impressive 17m high and 4m thick walls. Even though the roof is long gone, the structure is still a majestic sight. It’s not allowed to take pictures of someone with their back facing the Buddha statue, and remember to remove your shoes. Be careful though, the sand was so hot I got blisters under my feet.The incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - Lankatilaka Buddha StatueThe incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - Lankatilaka Buddha StatueThe incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - Lankatilaka Buddha Statue

Gal Vihara is a group of four Buddha statues, carved from one large granite rock face. According to our driver, this is the most special place in all of Polonnaruwa. And because of the pristine condition of the statues, it’s also the most visited.The incredible ancient city of Polonnaruwa - A must visit while in Sri Lanka - Gal Vihara Buddha StatueThere’s not a lot of food options in the city. My number one tip would be to have a big breakfast before you go, especially if you’re driving up from Kandy. Once inside the city, we had an ice cream at the King’s swimming pool and then at the parking lot in front of Gal Vihara there were finally some food stalls. Pretty hungry at this point we filled up on vegetable roti and freshly squeezed lime juice. Yum! And we actually managed to track down one diet Coke! For some reason, light sodas are not common on the island. Just in case you were curious about that!

Have you ever visited Polonnaruwa? What was your experience like?

Some of the links above are affiliate links and I will earn a small percentage of the sale if you purchase through them, at no extra cost to you. This helps me cover the costs of running my site – so thank you in advance ! I only ever link to products and services I use and love myself!

Destinations Sri Lanka

What to do in Kandy – A quick guide

19. September 2016

A quick guide to what to do in Kandy - Tea Factory Museum// Contains affiliate links

About 3 hours inland from Colombo at 465 meters above sea level, you’ll find Kandy, the last royal capital of Sri Lanka. The island’s second largest city is surrounded by a lush mountain chain, rugged peaks, manicured tea plantations and Sri Lanka’s largest river, the Mahaweli Ganga. Because of this dramatic location, Kandy enjoys a tropical salubrious climate, with temperatures ranging between 19-28C all year around. A cool and comforting contrast to the sizzling hot coastal lowlands.

As we didn’t get much sunny weather in Norway this summer, we wanted this trip to be centered around beaches and the ocean. Because of that we only sat aside two nights for Kandy, and the one full day we were planning to spend in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. I’m kind of a history nerd, so that was something I’d been looking forward to for quite some time. I’ll tell you more about it in the next post! That meant we had to cram a whole lot of sights into one, short day.

After what felt like forever on steep, windy roads coming from Pinnawala (but in reality was probably more like one hour), we arrived at Sevana City Hotel. A fairly new establishment on the west side of town, squeezed between a pharmacy and a “little bit of everything” shop. Don’t get discouraged by the modest entrance, it opens up into clean and modern facilities. We paid about $50 for the two nights, which got us a fan room with breakfast and wifi included. I wish we’d paid up for an ac room though, as it got pretty hot and humid at night. But other than that I feel like Sevana City Hotel offered great value for money. They even organized a driver to take us to Polonnaruwa for only 12000 Rs, much less than we got quoted other places.

What to do in Kandy

Royal Botanical Gardens PeradeniyaA quick guide to what to do in Kandy - Botanical GardenA quick guide to what to do in Kandy - Botanical GardenAfter a quick stop at the hotel, we hit the town to soak up as much of Kandy as we could in the little time that we had. I was quite surprised by how busy it was, not at all the calm green oasis I’d made it out to be in my head. People yelling, construction going on, crazy traffic, yes just like any other large Asian city. So we hailed a tuk-tuk and headed for the Royal Botanical Garden. By the way, a tuk-tuk is the main mode of transportation over here. It’s a small moped cart thingy with three wheels(first picture), super cute and handy for shorter distances. Keep in mind that you should always agree on a price up front, to eliminate any surprises.

A quick guide to what to do in Kandy - Royal Botanical Gardens Apparently, there was something very interesting happening up in the treetops.

At one time the entire 60 hectares of gorgeous gardens were only available to Kandyan royalty. Today however, everyone is welcome into what are the largest and most impressive botanical gardens in all of Sri Lanka. Located about 5.5km to the west of central Kandy, it’s easily reached by tuk-tuk. We agreed on a price of 500 Rs, which included the driver waiting for us outside. You might think the entrance fee of 1500 Rs is a little steep, but I say it’s worth it. Wandering around the calm and beautiful gardens was a welcoming change from the noisy city center.

Altogether the gardens include more than 4000 species of plants and attracts around 2 million visitors annually. It’s renowned for its huge collection of orchids but the highlight for me was definitely the royal avenue of palms. As the palm tree enthusiast that I am, this was something I had been looking forward to for a while. And it didn’t disappoint! Another fun thing to see is the giant Javan fig tree on the great lawn. Covering 2500 sq meters, it’s a majestic sight.

I would set aside at least two hours here to really get to explore and enjoy the sights without having to rush.

Entrance Fee: Non-resident adult 1500 Rs / Child (younger than 12 years old)  750 Rs / Student 1000 Rs

A quick guide to what to do in Kandy - Botanical Garden MonkeyI wonder what he uses in his hair to get it so shiny!

Ceylon Tea MuseumA quick guide to what to do in Kandy - Tea Factory MuseumThe next stop on our Kandy adventure was an old tea factory from 1872, now turned museum. The drive up the steep hill was an interesting experience in itself. About halfway up I started doubting that we would make it to the factory at all. The squeaky sound coming from the engine and a couple of close calls on the edge of the road didn’t seem too promising. But I have to give those tuk-tuk drivers some credit, they know what they’re doing. Anyways, we made it to the top and was greeted by some incredible views of the lush green hill country.

We learned that coffee actually was the island’s main crop up until the 1860s, when a fungus killed most of the coffee plants. So the farmers had to diversify in order to survive. James Taylor, a Scottish man recently arrived from India, was put in charge of the new tea experiment. By 1872 he had his own fully equipped factory and in 1873, his first teas were sold at a London auction. Taylor is today regarded as the reason Ceylon(now Sri Lanka) tea industry was a success so early on. He’s got his very own museum inside the factory.

The tour of the factory was short but quite interesting. I had no idea that many different processes went into making tea. It thought it was merely a case of pluck and dry, but then again I’m not a tea drinker. At the end of the visit, you’ll get a complimentary cup of tea (no surprise there) and be encouraged to visit the different tea shops.

Entrance fee: Non-resident adult 750 Rs / children 400 RsA quick guide to what to do in Kandy - Tea Factory MuseumView from the tea factory

Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue
A quick guide to what to do in Kandy - Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue

After about one hour of tea history and tasting, our driver convinced us that we should finish the day with sunset at the huge Buddha statue overlooking central Kandy. I’m so glad he did! The panoramic view from the top is just incredible. Keep in mind that you ladies will have to cover your knees and shoulders, the entrance fee includes a sarong if you need it.

It’s a great little physical workout to climb to the top of the hill. I have to say I felt a little lazy when we whizzed by all the hikers in our tuk-tuk. But then again we got to enjoy the views sweat free, as it still was quite hot out even at sunset. Once inside you’ll be encouraged by an older man to make a donation. By encouraged I mean he’ll yell “miss, miss” until you give in, while smiling of course. Don’t worry, a small amount will do just fine.

One of the coolest things about this spot is that you can actually climb the stairs going up the back of the statue for an even better view of the city.

This was probably my favorite part of the day or… no, my second favorite after the palm trees. It was also the cheapest of all the attractions we visited, which doesn’t hurt. So this is definitely a must while in Kandy.

Entrance fee: 200 Rs per person.Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue View

Temple of the Sacred Tooth RelicA quick guide to what to do in Kandy - The temple of the sacred tooth relicThe tuk-tuk driver dropped us off by the lake in town, a man-made lake dating back to 1807. Next to it is the Temple of the Tooth or Sri Dalada Maligawa, famous for being the home of one of Buddha’s teeth. The temple is housed within the royal palace complex along with numerous other museums and temples.

Unfortunately, the temple was closed to the public due to some kind of ceremony, so we didn’t get to look inside. Apparently, it gets super crowded in there, and you’ll need some serious moves to actually get to see the casket. Yes, that’s right you won’t be able to see the actual tooth. It’s kept in a gold casket shaped like a dagoba (stupa), which contains a series of six dagoba caskets of diminishing size.

The tooth relic plays an important role in local politics, because it is believed that whoever holds the relic will rule the country. It brings millions of Buddhist pilgrims every year from all over the world, as it is regarded as the most sacred place in the Buddhist faith. Much thanks to the temple, Kandy was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

Entrance fee: 1000 Rs / additional 300 Rs if you bring a camera

Have you ever been to Kandy? What was your favorite part of the city?

Destinations Sri Lanka

My experience with the elephants of Pinnawala

3. September 2016

The Pinnawala Elephant Experience, Sri Lanka - Elephants bathing in the riverThe Pinnawala elephant experience – An animal haven or just another tourist attraction?

Pinnawala village is located 90 km northeast of the capital, Colombo, in Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka. Over the years the name Pinnawala has become synonymous with elephants. Mostly because of the orphanage that was established in 1975, to provide much-needed care and sanctuary to orphaned baby elephants that were found in the wild. There are also several other places in town, where you can go for rides and interact with the animals.

After deciding on Sri Lanka as our next travel destination, we quickly put Pinnawala on top of the list of places we wanted to visit. I had seen so many dreamy pictures on social media of elephants playing and cooling off in the Maha Oya river, so I couldn’t wait to experience these gorgeous creatures up close myself.

We decided to stay one night so we would have two opportunities to experience the elephants, first in the afternoon and then the next morning. After researching all the hotels in the area, Hotel Elephant Park seemed like the perfect spot, as it’s located right next to where the elephants enter the river. The price is reasonable, I paid $45 / 380 nok, and the rooms of pretty good standard. I also have to point out that the breakfast is among the best we’ve had on the island so far. Juice, eggs, fruit and lots of different pastries, which you can enjoy on the balcony overlooking the river.My experience with the elephants of Pinnawala, Sri Lanka - View from Hotel Elephant ParkI might have been a bit naive while dreaming about this place. When we first arrived at our hotel, there were about six elephants in the river. To our surprise, they were all chained to different rocks. Of course, I understand that they need to have some method to keep the animals in place while herding them through the city, but to see the animals try to free themselves from the chains were quite heartbreaking.

As mentioned most of the elephants come to the water twice a day, at 10am and 2pm, with large groups of visitors from the orphanage following. However, a small group comes down about an hour before. They all wear thick chains, so I guess they are more difficult elephants that have to be separated from the rest. It looked like the chain gang coming down the street, not a very nice sight at all.Pinnawala Elephant Experience - Animals in chainsPinnawala Elephant Experience - Elephants in chainsAfter talking to some other travelers and researching online, we decided not to visit the orphanage. So I haven’t seen the conditions the animals are being held in with my own eyes. The scars from the chains were enough for me. However, we were told about clearly distressed elephants being chained down in small quarters with lots of people being able to freely touch and interact with them. I don’t know if I’m just being super sensitive, but that certainly doesn’t sit right with me.

Pinnawala is probably much better than many other captive elephant facilities in Asia, like Sri Lanka’s Colombo Zoo or the horrible Phuket Zoo with their elephant shows. As it truly seemed like the elephants enjoyed their time in the river, the once without chains that is. However, as a sanctuary I believe that they should have the welfare of the animals as their highest priority, not pleasing the tourists to earn money.

The Pinnawala Elephant Experience, Sri Lanka - Elephants bathing in the riverThe handlers were pushy about getting people to wash, feed and take pictures with the animals. Once they had someone willing, they grabbed the elephant by the ear with a pointy metal spear and dragged it over. And expected a tip afterwards of course. Be sure to pay up or else you’ll have a pretty uncomfortable situation on your hands. I saw more than one handler demand a larger tip, using quite rude hand gestures. So the river ended up feeling more like a tourist attraction than anything else, and from what I gathered the orphanage definitely is.

Also, there were a lot of younger elephants with their mothers, which points to the orphanage breeding for the purpose of keeping the animals as a tourist attraction. I thought the whole point of the orphanage was to be a home only for elephants that wouldn’t survive in the wild.The Pinnawala elephant experience, Sri Lanka - Elephants bathing in the riverAfter our visit, we’re left with quite mixed emotions about the whole experience. Yes, the orphanage takes in hurt and mistreated animals and I get that they have to earn money for the project to survive. But it seems like there should be better ways of going about it. Less close interactions with the public would be a great way to start. Somehow I don’t see those tips make their way back to the orphanage anyway.

That said, I don’t want this to come off too harsh. I’m by no means an animal expert, these are just my thoughts and reflections. The chains might be a necessity to be able to bring the elephants to the river and keep them there, I don’t know. They were quite concerned about people’s safety. And another huge positive is the gorgeous riverside location itself, definitely worth a visit even without the elephants.

Have you ever visited Pinnawala? What’s your take on it all?


Thai chicken pizza recipe + sour cream dressing

24. August 2016

Delicious thai chicken pizza recipe

Thai is one of my favorite cuisines and everyone loves pizza, right? So why not combine the two!

This Thai chicken pizza recipe is quick and easy to make and so delicious! You’ll get hooked, I promise. Everyone in my family loves it! My dad even went as far as saying it was the best pizza he’s ever had. So I definitely recommend trying it out this weekend! It’s also great to serve when you have guests over, a fun twist to a dish most people enjoy!


Pizza: Your favorite pizza dough (I’m lazy so I use a ready made 450g dough) // 1 partially frozen chicken breast // any peanut marinade/sauce you prefer // 300g crème fraîche (1 box) // 4 tbs. sweet chili sauce (more if you like it spicy) // 300g grated cheddar & mozzarella mix // 1/2 red onion sliced // 3 spring onions (scallions) chopped // 100g salted cashews // handfull chopped cilantro // 3 tsp. lime juice

Peanut marinade: I use satay peanut marinade if I have it on hand, just because it’s quick and easy. If not I mix 4 tbs. peanut butter with 1 tbs. of the crème fraîche, 1 small garlic clove minced and 1 tsp. lime juice.

Sour cream garlic dressing: 2 dl (1 cup) low-fat sour cream // 1 tsp. lime juice // 1 garlic clove minced // about one tbs. finely chopped fresh basil // pinch of salt and pepper

Delicious thai chicken pizza recipe - Perfect for a weekend dinner

  1. Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and let it sit in the fridge for at least one hour to let the flavors develop.
  2. Cut the chicken when it’s still partially frozen, so it’s easier to get some super thin slices. Mix the chicken with the peanut marinade in a plastic bag and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 225C / 425F, and place the dough on a baking sheet.
  4. Add the sweet chili sauce to the box of crème fraîche and mix together. Spread the mixture evenly over the entire crust. Top with the cheese first, then the chicken, spring onion, red onion and cashews.
  5. Bake until the cheese melts and the crust is golden brown, about 15-25 minutes, depending on your oven and how thick of a crust you use. Let it rest for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle with chopped cilantro and the lime juice.
  6. Serve with the dressing on the side. (I forgot to include it in the pictures, typical me) Enjoy!

Delicious thai chicken pizza recipe - Perfect for a weekend dinner

Let me know if you end up making this pizza and what you think about it!


11 gift ideas perfect for travel girls

17. August 2016
11 gift ideas perfect for travel girls
Are you struggling to find the perfect gift? Don’t worry, here are 11 gifts most travel girls will love!

// Contains affiliate links

So I decided to do a different kind of post today. I made this gift guide with the traveling girl in mind, but I see now that most of these gifts can be great for any stylish woman. So don’t expect any survival gear or freeze dried 1-minute meals here. That I’ll save for another time, or probably never! Anyways…

My birthday is fast approaching and I’m constantly hearing from friends and family “you’re so hard to buy for”. I always respond that a gift doesn’t have to cost a lot, just use your imagination. I would rather get a $10 item with a lot thought behind it, than some expensive earrings you picked up on your way home from work the day of my birthday.

I love buying gifts for others. Sometimes I plan ahead for months, researching and comparing different products and experiences. The best part is the look on the recipients face when he or she opens it. To make it more special I always try to find gifts with a deeper meaning, like a bracelet with special coordinates, a personalized camera strap or gifts that give back. So here are 11 gift ideas, that at least I would be super happy to receive (hint hint boyfriend).

Wanderer backpack (discount code below)10 gift ideas for travel girls - Wanderer backpack Pura WidaI’ve come to love using backpacks instead of regular bags. I can’t believe I didn’t realize sooner how much more handy they are, it could have saved me a lot of bruised and sore shoulders. Especially when traveling in southeast Asia, where scooters are the main mode of transportation. This super cool backpack is perfect for a day at the beach or as a way to spice up your outfit. Get it fast as this is a limited edition, so it’ll probably fly off the shelves! You’ll get a free Pura Vida bracelet with your purchase, read more about those further down.

Get 10% off your entire Pura Vida purchase by using code PVSAVE10


Gold personalized wanderlust bracelet10 gift ideas for travel girls - Gold wanderlust braceletOne of the most precious gifts I’ve ever received, is this gold bracelet I got from my sister for my last birthday. It says “wanderlust” on a hammered gold filled plate, but you can get the text personalized. What really set this gift apart was the awesome gift wrapping, like you see above. It came in a tiny glass bottle with gold foil, like a super fun message in a bottle. I love it! The seller also offers a lot of other gorgeous items like this gold cowrie shell necklace. All the jewelry is handmade in Hawaii!


Leather passport wallet10 gift ideas for travel girls - Ethiopian leather passport walletOne thing I always bring with me on my travels is my passport wallet. It holds everything from documents, different currencies, credit cards and of course my passport, so I guard it with my life. FASHIONABLE works globally with women coming from many diverse backgrounds, all looking for opportunity. They seek to “give” an opportunity to those living in poverty by purchasing goods from them, and helping those businesses grow and employ more. This gorgeous passport wallet is handcrafted in Ethiopia using 100% Ethiopian leather. Dimensions are  4″ x 6″ when closed. It’s available in 7 colors: Cognac, Chocolate Brown, Black, Navy, Merlot, Pewter, and Moss. For only $8 you can personalize it with a short name or initials.


Personalized hemp & leather camera strap10 gift ideas for travel girls - Hemp personalized camera strapIf there’s one thing I love, it’s one of a kind items. Or at least, a few of a kind. These vintage inspired hemp camera straps are just that. They’re made to order using organic hemp, full grain leather, metal hardware and antiqued nickel details. I always have my camera around my neck when traveling, so it’s nice to have a strap that’s not only comfortable but also an accessory in itself. Personalize the strap by adding a custom leather piece, hand-stamped with the initials of the lucky recipient!


Pura Vida Bracelets10 gift ideas for travel girls - Pura Vida braceletsPura Vida bracelets are wax-coated so they’re 100% waterproof. That’s perfect for a traveler, a simple but cute accessory that you never have to take off. I especially love the new collection of beaded bracelets, this one with turquoise beads and a gold palm tree charm in particular. Best of all is that the company is all about giving back. Every bracelet is carefully handcrafted by artisans in Costa Rica, where they now employ 100+ people that were living in poverty. I addition they have partnered with over 190 charities over the years and are a member of 1% for the Planet. So buy these bracelets in good continence. Now you can also give away a membership to the Pura Vida monthly club, where the recipient receive 3 bracelets a month, for as long as you want to pay for it!


Travel journal10 gift ideas for travel girls - Travel journalI always bring a notebook with me on my travels, incase I suddenly get a bright idea or feel like scribbling something down. This is a journal for all the goals, dreams, accomplishments and life moments you want to remember forever! Every journal is special, because the maps included are all cut from different world atlases. So it’s the perfect inspiration to think outside of one’s comfort zone and explore parts of the world you hadn’t even thought of before. Or maybe this mermaid journal could be the thing, if your loved one is a lover of the ocean.


Stainless steel water bottle10 gift ideas for travel girls - Pura Vida stainless steel water bottleThis is really a unisex water bottle, I included it because I want to encourrage more people to use reusable non-plastic bottles. It’s so sad to see how much plastic is floating around in our oceans and everywhere else really. The first time I came to Indonesia over six year ago, I didn’t see or think about it at all. The last time I went I had to remove little bits of plastic off myself after swimming at my favorite beach. And in some places you have to make way through the plastic trash to get to where you’re going. Now more and more restaurants and cafés, at least in Indonesia, are offering free water refills when using non-plastic containers. So avid travelers, please try to eliminate your plastic waste! And secondly the bottle is damn cute and you get a free bracelet with your purchase, so it’s a win win for everyone!



World scratch map10 gift ideas for travel girls - High quality world scratch mapThis high quality scratch off world map is a great way to remember all your adventures, but it can also act as a reminder of how much of the world you have yet to see! With over 10,000 different cities and places to mark, this poster size map will look awesome hanging on any wall, so friends and family can get a glimpse of all your travels. Dimensions – 88 x 63 cm (34.6 x 25.2 inches).


Leather Luggage Tags10 gift ideas for travel girls - Ethiopian leather luggage tagsAt the moment I’m using a old paper luggage tag I got from an airline once. I’t so worn that you can barely make out my name, so I would be super happy with one of these! This sleek leather luggage tag keeps your information safe while adding a distinguishing look to your luggage. Add a personalization for just $8, it would look super cute with the initials of the recipient. It’s hand crafted in Ethiopia using 100% Ethiopian leather. Dimensions are 4″ x 2 3/4″, it holds a 3.5″ x 2″ business card.


Pura Vida Lunar Paradise beach towel10 gift ideas for travel girls - Pura Vida Lunar Paradise beach towelI love large beach towels, especially those with gorgeous designs that looks great in photos! This super soft round towel features a hand-drawn mandala design, white tassels around the edge. It’s large enough to share with friends, perfect for a day at the beach or maybe a picnic in the park! You also get a free bracelet with your purchase, so that’s two gifts in one.


Gold world map necklace10 gift ideas for travel girls - Gold world map necklaceI’m a bit lazy, so I love simple gold necklaces that I can wear with everything and never have to take off. This stunning charm pictures the Western Hemisphere and its surrounding ocean, on a 14k gold filled chain. You can even customize it by adding more charms. Maybe a little plate with the recipients initials would look cute?

I hope you can put these 11 gift ideas to good use! And let me know, what’s the best gift you’ve ever given or received?

Sunshine Seeker Travel Blog

Some of the links above are affiliate links and I will earn a small percentage of the sale if you purchase through them, at no extra cost to you. This helps me cover the costs of running my site – so thank you in advance ! I only ever link to products and services I use and love myself!


Destinations Indonesia Lombok

The cheapest destination I’ve visited so far!

7. August 2016

How to experience the incredible south coast of Lombok on a budget - Tanjung Aan Beach// Contains affiliate links

The cheapest destination I’ve visited so far… And why you need to go there now!

Have you guessed it already? The cheapest destination I’ve visited so far is without a doubt Indonesia. So it’s a great coincidence that Indonesia is also my favorite part of the world. But as prices in Bali is on a rise, just like the number of visitors, I’ve had to look elsewhere for the $20 hotels, $3 meals and secret beaches. That’s where Lombok comes in. Ahh.. Incredible Lombok. Keep reading to see why you should visit this awesome island, now!

Southern Lombok’s majestic coastline consisting of cliffs and bays framed by massive headlands, is still mostly untouched and undeniably beautiful. The water is warm and turquoise with waves rolling in from left and right. The sand powdery white with colorful seashells scattered all over. It just doesn’t get much better. I bet this is what Bali’s Bukit Peninsula looked like some 40 years ago. How to experience the incredible south coast of Lombok on a budget - Spectacular views drivingDespite it’s beauty the region has historically been the island’s poorest, as its parched soil isn’t useful for much other than growing loads and loads of palm trees and tobacco leaves. And that’s just how the Sasak people have survived down here, drinking coconuts, growing tobacco and also seaweed. The area is still sparsely populated, with limited roads and almost non-excitant public transport. And that’s probably why major development haven’t taken off in these part, until now. As more and more people are discovering the area, I fear that dramatic changes are coming in the near future.

How to experience the incredible south coast of Lombok on a budget - Secret beachDon’t mind us, we’re just casually holding hands at the gorgeous beach we had all to ourselves.

So now is definitely the time to visit south Lombok as many of the hotels and homestays are built during the last couple of years, but the demand is still on the low side. So you get fresh hotels in gorgeous locations for a fraction of the price compared to Bali. And if you are like me, prefer to stay away from crowded beaches and places in general, this will be a dream come true.

I’ve talked about Lombok in several posts before, but mostly just about how much I love the south coast and which beaches to explore. So I thought it was about time I gave you some options regarding the kind of important stuff, like where you should sleep and especially what to eat. Most of the hotels on the south coast are scattered around Kuta beach, but that isn’t really the jewel of the area.

Kuta beach is full of hawkers and children selling bracelets, you won’t be left alone for a second. Of course it’s important to support the locals, and I always do, but it’s also nice to have five minutes without being asked to buy something. Don’t worry though as there are plenty of other beaches close by that are much more peaceful.

How to experience the incredible south coast of Lombok on a budget - Kuta BeachThe cheapest destination I've visited so far! The south coast of Lombok, Kuta beachThe cheapest destination I've visited so far! The south coast of Lombok, Kuta beachThe cheapest destination I've visited so far! The south coast of Lombok, Kuta beach

Check out: Top 5 things to do in Lombok

Where to stay

How to experience the incredible south coast of Lombok on a budget - Family House Lombok HotelFamily House Lombok (above) isn’t the cheapest you can get, but I wanted to include it because I really enjoyed my stay there. The rooms are spacious with large beds, ac, tv and a balcony. What made me book it in the first place were the great pool area and all the greenery surrounding the hotel, and it didn’t disappoint. The only thing I would say they should improve is the wifi, which only worked out on the balcony, by the pool and in the restaurant. The cheapest rooms start at just under $40.

Dream Hotel Kuta Lombok is a new bungalow style hotel located right in the center of Kuta. All the 15 rooms have air conditioning, garden/pool view and a patio with seating outside. The budget rooms start at just over $30, that includes wifi and free cancelation.

Banyu Urip Homestay is the most affordable of the bunch! The cheapest fan room is around $15, and that includes breakfast. It’s nothing fancy, but a great location in walking distance to most restaurants and bars. They even have a pool in the middle of the building, which isn’t to common in this price range. A great place for young travelers to meet fellow backpackers.

Get $35 off your first stay with Airbnb here!

Drop in Surf Lodge This isn’t really a budget place at just under $60 a night, but it’s just so gorgeous that I couldn’t help myself. The main building is kind of my dream house. Mint green, surrounded by palm trees, pink flowers and surf boards. They even have a few rescue dogs, ah I want to move in now! My favorite beach, Tanjung Aan as well as the Surf spots Seger and Gerupuk Bay are only a short motorbike ride away. The bungalows are located in the backyard together with a shared swimming pool. You’re also able to use the living area inside the Drop In House. There are no restaurants in the direct neighborhood and they don’t serve dinner, so motorbikes are needed to get to Kuta in the evening.How to experience the incredible south coast of Lombok on a budget - Drop in Bungalows & CafeLa Bangkat Homestay is gorgeously located in the rice fields, a couple of minutes on a motorbike from the hustle and bustle of Kuta. The huge pool area surrounded by greenery, is what makes this hotel so special for the area. And I have to mention the staff as well, they’ll do whatever they can to make your stay a great one. The cheapest fan room will set you back about $25 a night. Don’t worry about it not being right on the beach as you’ll need a motorbike anyways. And secondly, Kuta beach isn’t where you’ll want to spend all your time, trust me!

Family Beach Hotel is also located right on Kuta beach. You get a sea view, air conditioning, balcony, breakfast and free wifi for under $35! That’s a good deal if you ask me. I think this place is fairly new, as the rooms are light, bright and quite clean. Keep reading to see what I mean by that. Definitely one of  my favorites in Lombok.

Surf Garden Lombok Villa This gorgeous three star hotel isn’t located in Kuta but in the little surfing village of Gerupuk, about 15 minutes east of Kuta on a motorbike. I had to include it as the location right on the water is just breathtaking. Gerupuk is the perfect place for surfers at every level, the fun part is that you have to charter a boat to get out to the break. You have the choice between a bungalow for two persons, a villa for three or a family room which sleeps four. The bungalow is definitely the best value for money at under $35, just a pity it doesn’t have air conditioning. The two other options is a little on the expensive side.

As awlays the prices I mention are subject to change depending on availability and the time of your stay. I include them so you can get an idea of the pricepoint of each hotel.

The cheapest destination I've visited so far! The south coast of Lombok, GerupukThe cheapest destination I've visited so far! The south coast of Lombok, GerupukOn our way out to the surf breaks of Gerupuk.

Keep in mind that cleanliness won’t be up to western standards, that’s just how it is in this part of the world. I see so many give bad reviews because of this, but it really isn’t hotel specific, just the norm. Even some of the more expensive resorts I’ve stayed at have black stuff in the shower, some missing tiles and dust under the bed. So don’t pay to much attention to this when choosing accommodation. Unless the reviews start mentioning cockroaches, rats or black mold, then I would probably think twice about it.

Where to eat

How to experience the incredible south coast of Lombok on a budgetTo save money on food, eat where the locals do, always. The traditional Sasak and Indonesia food served at roadside stalls and beach warungs, isn’t just cheap but incredibly flavorful and delicious. The picture above is from a lunch at Mawun beach, I think we only paid 40k / $3 for this lemon ice tea and Nasi Goreng. As good as it gets in my mind! Try Warung Turtle over at Tanjung Aan Beach and Nugget’s Corner right in the middle of Kuta. If you want to step it up a notch, here are som of my favorite restaurants in the area that still won’t break the bank.

The Summit Dine and Lounge Restaurant offers some fun dishes you most likely won’t find anywhere else on the island. Like chili poppers and the best fish tacos I’ve had in a long time. In addition they also have a great selection of cakes and cocktails. All accompanied by the most spectacular view, and monkeys playing in the trees below. The restaurant is located in a steep hill, about a 10 minute drive from Kuta beach.

How to experience the incredible south coast of Lombok on a budget - RestaurantsHow to experience the incredible south coast of Lombok on a budget - Restaurant view

El Bazar Cafe & Restaurant is where you can get your Mediterranean fix. I love that they have so many healthy option, like this Mediterranean platter and vegetable juices. If you’re working during your stay, this is a great spot to get a lot done as they offer free wifi to paying customers.How to experience the incredible south coast of Lombok on a budget - Mediterranean Restaurant

Drop in Cafe is open Wednesday to Sunday during the day for breakfast, cakes, salads and sandwiches. Just like their accommodation, prices in the restaurant are a little higher than the other places I mention. The reason for that is the people running it aren’t locals so they have to pay up for the local produce. In addition to that they wanted to offer dishes you won’t find anywhere else on the island, so they have to import many of their ingredients. But the place is so gorgeous so you should forget about your budget for one day to experience it. Now I’ve made it seem super expensive, but really the wrap and pasta salad were 60k and the baguette 65k, so it’s really not that bad.How to experience the incredible south coast of Lombok on a budget - Drop in Cafe

Warung Drifters is a cool warung style restaurant serving up some delicious burgers, wraps, falafel, hand cut fries and homemade ice cream!! The produce they use are mostly local and the staff super friendly. And best of all, their buns are made in house every morning, so you’ll never encounter stale bread in this joint. As you can see we got some juicy burgers, the best one I’ve had so far in Indonesia!How to experience the incredible south coast of Lombok on a budget - Drifters Warung

Cafe’ in is located on Jl. Pariwisata opposite Kuta beach. I don’t know if I remember the name correctly, but you’ll be able to spot it because of all the fun colors and lanterns. The chicken and cashew dish I had was delicious with lots of fresh vegetables. Great value, though I can’t remember the exact price either. On select evenings they have some sort of music/karaoke nights with drinking games etc. We didn’t have time to check it out ourselves, but the waiter had no voice and looked super tired from the night before so it probably was a lot of fun.The cheapest destination I've visited so far! The south coast of Lombok, restaurants

Be sure to pin this or bookmark for later. I’ll keep updating it when I find more great spots I think you guys will like!

What is the cheapest destination you’ve visited? Did you like it?

Some of the links above are affiliate links and I will earn a small percentage of the sale if you purchase through them, at no extra cost to you. This helps me cover the costs of running my site – so thank you in advance ! I only ever link to products and services I use and love myself!