Rewind 2016

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There’s a sweet noise on the small crowded streets surrounded by flats in all colors of the rainbow and there’s a smell of pizza and oven baked goods coming from all around and all you can hear is Italian words and the face of Gianni, that Italian elderly owner of a traditional pizzeria makes you feel strangely at home. We celebrated the coming of 2017 in Naples, Capri and Procida and as we look forward with curiosity and anxiousness to the year to come we look back with wonder and we are grateful for an incredible 2016

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with leprechauns, Irish pubs and songs, Guinness beer and trips to the Titanic in Dublin and Belfast

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Scandinavian snow, perfect muffins, athletic people going out to ski by metro in Oslo

12744163_818590741602818_1679290715306204204_ntraditions, family time, colorful clothes, days of joy and celebrations at our best friend’s wedding in Jaipur, meeting up with old friends for precious stolen moments of happiness

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Milan Duomo, pizza and pasta with a heavenly taste, espresso, chilling in parks, polenta, discovery of the Navigli area

img_20160520_152111img_20160520_191659wandering the shores of Como Lake and enjoying breathtaking views of Brunate in Comoimg_20160521_095903unexpected trips to Sighisoara and Brasov

img_20160507_211445_edit_edit1beer gardens, charming coffee shops, Berlin wall, relaxing parks, strolls amongst restaurants and pubs of all nationalities just to charm any food lover in Berlin

img_20160815_180024_hdrbeach days and live music at the Black Sea

img_20160730_163533_editday trip to Negotin, Serbia just to have one Serbian beer

img_20160722_142418pagodas, Shan food, night markets and organized street quarters in Yangon

img_0518img_20160918_122523_editboat trips, traditional rowing fishermen, floating markets and lifetime friends in Inle Lake

img_20160920_084311img_0533sunset, sunrise, pagodas, temples and history in Bagan

img_0869img_0884gold leafs, temples, the best Shan food, monks, longest wooden bridge in Mandalay

img_20160924_141903img_20160924_172918the Grand Palace, new friends, live music, sweet memories, Same Same t-shirts and the best foot massage in Bangkok

img_20160926_135550_edit_editdays of shared thoughts, incredible views, swims, beach strolls, Rum Cola in the charming solitary Duli Beach resort in Philippines, El Nido

img_1254img_1294days of chilling and relaxing in Jaipur and Delhi making plans for future adventures

img_20161114_231850_editRoyal Palaces, Christmas trees, pierogi, beetroot soup, large café latte, Christmas markets in Warsaw

15349820_1019346348193922_3613498593471740022_nChristmas market madness in Bucharest with the view of the Parliament House, hot spiced wine and the best atmosphere to wish for

15380714_1020952261366664_6606025568305505877_n15492319_1025481797580377_6451251349531931751_nChristmas parties with memories of childhood and priceless friends

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family and friends time colored in green, flowery, sunny, snowy surroundings to adapt to the seasons but at all times packed with an overload of joy and happiness to last for a lifetime

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Past year has thought us that we are never alone as we carry with us all the family and friends, present or past, imprinted on our skin and it takes nothing more than closing our eyes for one second to feel them all around us. We’ve lost good friends and gained new friends and family just to remind us one more time of how precious every day we receive is and that it’s up to us to not let it waste and fully live every single second of it. We hope in a happy and peaceful 2017, a year of expressing less and feeling more, of being true to ourselves and the others, of taking leaps of faith without a net, of putting dreams into reality today rather than tomorrow, of carefully using the chance given at each and every new day, of still wondering at everything around, new or old, beautiful or less beautiful, of searching for more balance in life, of still believing.

Addicted to happiness, a story about Crete

I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.” is what Nikos Kazantzakis was saying in Zorba the Greek. And if you read the words below from our friend Cristina Mihalachioiu we can’t promise you won’t fall in love with Crete and go searching for happiness…in the small details.

“First time I was in Grece, I went to Crete. I stayed in a tidy hotel with a sea view, located on the bar street of what I think to be the liveliest city in Crete: Hersonissos. I could smell the sea from the balcony and stare at the mountains from the window.

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The beaches are not the widest, to say the least, but the sun is welcoming and the waves are hugging you into a cameleonic embrace. There were many days, during my other visits in Crete, when the sea literally changed color from green to turquoise, from blue to black. It’s especially magic during the spring, as it is quiet and controlling. It has a life of its own this sea and it is simply surprising.

Now that I told you about my big love, the Aegean Sea, I’ll tell you also about my other love, eggplant burekakia. It’s an amazing dish – I don’t know if it’s Cretan or Greek, never cared – based on eggplants and feta cheese (I know the entire recipe, but I’m keeping it for myself 😊). This I discovered in a magnificent restaurant called Argo. I think it was there were I fell in love with Crete – they say: “there are people coming to holiday in Crete and there are people coming for holiday in Argo”. I’ve met a lot of the latter and became myself one of them.

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But this piece is about Crete and how amazing Crete is. You see, we’ve come to such a strong bond, that Crete has slowly became a part of me.

The sea is not what Crete or Hersonissos is all about; while the port side is better known for its tavernas, but especially for the bars and clubs along the sea, there is also Hersonissos village, up towards the mountains. It’s pretty traditional, there are special nights and tours organized for tourists. But what I recommend is for you to rent a motorbike and ride it up the mountains. And then stop. Stop to gaze at the sea from above. And now you’re addicted to happiness…

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Coming back to another type of happiness – nightlife in Hersonissos, I think even Greeks find it the best. You have to see it for yourself and not forget to stay responsible. You’ll see you’ll find it extremely difficult with all the joie de vivre around yourselves, but you have to. Otherwise, you risk staying on a bench in front of the hotel for three hours because your friend has the room key, she doesn’t answer her phone and the reception desk opens at 7:30 a.m. :p

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And if you get to Crete you must not miss Matala and Chania and for history lovers Knossos.

Matala is in Southern Crete and has this amazing silver beach, with weird pierced rocks around and used to be a place where the hippies would gather back in the days. You travel there through sloppy roads in the mountains, through olive trees plantations and red lands and it’s worth it every minute of the journey.

Chania is the second largest city in Crete (after Heraklion, the capital) and has this amazing old harbor area very well preserved which deserves at least one afternoon of doing nothing and just enjoing the food in the tavernas around.

Knossos is very well preserved and recommended to ancient ruins lovers only. Otherwise, it’s very hot in the summer and if are not a fan of the type, you would be annoyed.

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Bottom line – the sea, the sun, the food, the Cretans, just amazing and you can only see by yourselves.”

(Story and pictures: Cristina Mihalachioiu)

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Puglia region and the love for the South

There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life”. As you hear these words of Federico Fellini in your mind your feet are carrying you on cobblestone streets and you enter this labyrinth of creamy houses, flowers, stairs…clothes and bed sheets hang from windows or in front of the doors right there on the street…it smells like freshly baked bread from that focaccia in that small shop on a street corner…voices accompanied by hand gestures cut the air around in the port area and the fish smell doesn’t bother you at all…pointy rooftops of trulli houses surround you…a well-practiced movement of hands piles up those Italian pastas you just heard about… orecchiette…someone is talking to you in Italian comfy and relaxed like you naturally understand every word and the thought of sharing a coffee on top of the streets of Matera with that nice old lady that would tell you the most amazing stories makes you feel sad you have not learned Italian yet…

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Where are you might you ask? Well, you are just cruising around Puglia region in South Italy. The Adriatic Sea is right there in front of your eyes and the heel of Italy’s “boot” will unveil in front of you small cities filed with stories, history and the Italian passion of life. Oh yes…of course…and loads of focaccia and seafood to shift your appetite and make you crave for something so simple as bread and tomatoes.

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Intrigued? Take a sip of espresso, heat that oven and throw in a pizza and while is baking read away…

Bari

Bari is an amalgamation of modern and old greeting you with streets for shopping and relaxing while tasting cakes and coffees or just wandering around for window shopping while in the same time teasing you to wander the old city with small streets, churches in unexpected corners, twists and turns, old city walls and small restaurants catching your eye with those traditional Italian plates the most famous of which are Patate, riso e cozze (potatoes with rice and mussels) and all sorts of orecchiette.

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The port area in the morning light with the calm Adriatic Sea, the fish all laid down on tables and those mid-age Italian men having their coffee, drinks and playing games or just gossiping with lots of hand gestures it’s a must.

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And if you are really lucky you can also see in the morning old Italian ladies preparing the homemade orecchiette and knowing this lovely Southern people one might actually invite you in to take a sit and learn some of Italy’s traditions.

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Matera

Matera is home of the Sassi a charming historical centre dating back over 7000 years with dwellings carved in stone, cobblestone streets inviting you to get lost and sometimes running on top of other houses just to make the wandering even more spectacular, churches, archways, stairs running up and down, terraces and corners to stop for incredible views.

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Once you exit the Sassi a new city lies ahead with souvenir shops, small terraces where Italian ladies enjoy a quick espresso perfectly going with a smoke and some gossip, focaccia from the street shop eaten with your hands with a better taste than anything else, a guy signing his guitar to make some extra money or who knows maybe to get noticed…Matera is, no wonder, a favourite spot for filmmakers and soon to be European Capital of Culture.

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Alberobello

Beautiful Tree” (if you guys want to translate it) is a small town with just about 11,000 inhabitants famous for its trulli. What’s a trullo? Well it’s a small house with a conical roof made out of stones piled up one on top of the other. The origins of the design seem to be linked with the high taxation on property people of Puglia used to pay and this dry wall constructions where created to allow dismantling when the inspectors were in the area. Some of these elf size houses have particular symbols painted on the cones including a series of Christian symbols.

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And if you get in the area of Trullo Sovrano there’s this cool trullo house home of a shop of Italian food products where this nice gentleman will tell you a few words about the trullo home and its rooms and invite you to taste all types of Italian liquors you are in the mood to try on…we promise the taste is so precious that you will be tempted to ditch the clothes you carried in your backpack and fill it up with liquor bottles, packs of orecchiette and biscuits.

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Locorotondo

The “Round Place” has a circular historic centre.  The village is considered amongst the most beautiful places to visit in Italy with a labyrinth of white alleys, white houses with the most beautifully decorated numbers graciously showing details of the street where the house is located.

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No cone roof tops in the historic centre (you can gaze at them from the viewing point looking towards Locorotondo countryside) but you will find here the special pitched roofs called “cummerse”. And if this doesn’t convince you know also that Locorotondo produces some good white wines still or sparkling.

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Martina Franca and Trani

Martina Franca has a historic centre surrounded by stone walls with remainders of Baroque and Rococo styles to be fund in the gates, the piazzas and the churches. The streets are small and picturesque and the place is also renowned for white wine.

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For a different view of Puglia you can try Trani a fishing port, historic buildings and boats in the harbour playing around with the sunset light to give you enough time and space to breathe and dream.

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You can reach Puglia region by plane to Bari and from Bari you can easily take a train (under 2 hours) for all the above destinations.

For more pictures from Puglia check out our Facebook page here.

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Romantic City of Lakes or the Venice of the East

Do you want to hear a story about that small island?” my friend asks as we cross over Pichola Lake in Udaipur. The small island with a courtyard is the keeper of a story about a tightrope walker (natani). It is said that Maharana Jawan Singh of Udaipur promised a natani half of his kingdom if she succeed in walking over the lake on a rope that was suspended above the water. When it was apparent that she was about to succeed one of the Maharana’s ministers cut the rope and the girl fell in the water and drowned. Before drowning she cast a spell on the Maharana’s family that of not having any direct descendants or heirs. Spell or no spell six out of seven of the Maharana’s descendants were adopted sons.

Udaipur - View from City Palace

Udaipur – View from City Palace

We reached Udaipur (also called Romantic City of Lakes or the Venice of the East) after more than 9 hour drive from Jaipur and landed right in the middle of a Muslim festival. The streets were more crowded than the usual crowd in India – cars, scooters, rickshaws of all sorts, pedestrians, flags, festival arrangements.

Udaipur

Udaipur

While sipping our coffee on the rooftop terrace of our hotel we absorbed the city that was unveiling in front of us. A labyrinth on hills, small streets intersecting even smaller streets, typical Indian houses tall with rooftop terraces put together like domino pieces, painted in light blue and white, Indian ladies appearing from a window or an a terrace here and there carrying about their normal chores and in the middle of it all the Jagdish Temple blissfully located inside the labyrinth like a sweet escape from the madness outside.

Udaipur

Udaipur

We had less than 2 days in Udiapur so our plan included no plan. We left it all to our feet to carry us around and to the city to uncover its mysteries.

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Udaipur

We went wandering the streets amongst houses decorated with wall paintings displaying colourful and elaborated portraits of men, women, elephants and deities…

Udaipur

Udaipur

We mingled amongst the people praying in the Jagdish Temple – an impressive temple built in 1651 well decorated in a way that reminded me of the temples in Khajuraho and with an open air praying area resembling the Balinese Hindu temples..

Jagdish Temple

Jagdish Temple

We got lost in the rooms of the well conserved royal City Palace and admired the panoramic view overlooking the city and the Pichola Lake. Built in 1559, the palace is considered a fusion of Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles. Legend says that the location of the palace was actually pointed out to the Maharana Udai Singh by a hermit that he found meditating while he was hunting in the Udaipur hills…

City Palace Udaipur

City Palace Udaipur

City Palace Udaipur

We chilled in a small coffee shop on the shore of Pichola Lake admiring the impressive Lake Palace. The formal royal summer palace a Taj hotel since 1971, the Lake Palace is both a royal abode and luxury hotel, loved by people like Vivien Leigh, Queen Elizabeth, the Shah of Iran, the King of Nepal or Jacqueline Kennedy and depicted in several movies amongst which the 1983 Octopussy – Bond series…

Lake Palace

Lake Palace

We watched traditional Rajasthani dances…

Udaipur

Udaipur

We took a boat ride to the Jag Mandir Island at the Lake Garden Palace. Currently a hotel and restaurant often used for royal weddings and parties the palace used to be a summer resort and pleasure palace for holding parties by the royal family. The palace served also as a refuge to asylum seekers amongst which the “father” of the Taj Mahal – Emperor Shahjahan when he rebelled against his father…

Jag Mandir

Jag Mandir

We shared memories and dreams, gossips, jokes, laughter, hidden tears on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Pichola Lake with small fires to warm the night and good wine to warm the hearts…

Udaipur - Rooftop

Udaipur – Rooftop

As we listen to the story of the natani our feet carry us through the small streets of Udaipur on a quiet January night. It’s well past midnight and there’s no tuk-tuk to take us to our hotel so we walk. No soul around, no bird, no wind, no move…just the footsteps and voices of three friends talking life. And as we get closer and closer to our hotel and to our imminent goodbyes we know that we are meant to meet again on the streets of Udaipur. Just like the legend says “See Venice and die, but see Udaipur and live to see it again and again”.

City Palace Udaipur

City Palace Udaipur

Click here for our Top 10 Udaipur.

For more pictures check out our Facebook page.

Top 10 Udaipur

  1. Wandering through the small streets between the decorated houses;
  2. City Palace;
  3. Jagdish Temple;
  4. Jag Mandir;
  5. The Lake Palace;
  6. Cruise on the Pichola Lake;
  7. Enjoying a nice dinner in one of the rooftop terraces overlooking the Pichola Lake;
  8. Seeing a show with traditional Rajasthani dances;
  9. Enjoying breakfast in the coffee shop on the shore of the Pichola Lake with butter sandwich and a good coffee;
  10. Panoramic views from the City Palace.

Food & Drinks Copenhagen

Mormors

Our favourite spot in Copenhagen is definitely Mormors cafe which translates to “Grandma”. It’s a cosy little café with tables inside and outside and usual window stalls that you can find in most of Copenhagen cafes. The décor is a special one reminding you of a dream living room of anyone’s grandma, a place where you can find ancient furniture and old time memories, porcelain, old pictures, not matching chairs.

The staff is really nice and welcoming. They serve homemade sandwiches and Danish cookies, smoothies or all sorts, coffee and amazing warm chocolate to take the edge of any day. They even have two memories book where visitors have signed in from 2008 onwards; take time to read through them we promise it will be a fun ride.

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Geist Restaurant

Giest is a very fancy restaurant in Nyhavn area and rather expensive one. It has a simplistic décor, with diffuse light and candles and with everything just in the right place that you instantly fall in love with the atmosphere. The kitchen area is open so you can see the cooks preparing meals. The star and owner of the restaurant is the cook Bo Bech and the menu includes items like baked celeriac with condensed buttermilk, guail with chanterelles and chili, salted and dried young duck breast; the guy won a Michelin star in his fomer restaurant Paustian.

We enjoyed some wine at the window stalls, at candlelight overlooking the Nyhavn area and Geist definitely goes on our list for the next visit when we promise to try some of Bo Bech specialities.

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Spiserestaurant

Located in the Nyhavn area, good restaurant serving also breakfast and brunch for a fixed price (99DKK). The staff is really nice and the food is amazing.

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Café Norden

Located in the centre of Copenhagen on 2 floors it’s the perfect gateway from the city. It was incredibly crowded with locals enjoying dinner and drinks. We tried their Danish beer and their amazing chocolate cake.

Café Dalle Valle

Located near the Round Tower this is a spacious restaurant more than a café like the name indicates. It serves buffet dinner and lunch and it was thus crowded. We had late lunch for half price with pastas and Danish beer and all was very tasty. Prices are also very affordable.

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Café Sommersko

Fancy restaurant that seems to have also some live bands in certain evenings. We loved their steak and fries all together with some Hoegaarden beer.

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Emmerys Cafe

Organic bakery and coffee, light and elegant decor, the usual window stalls and a couple of tables and couches. They serve great coffee, juices and cookies.

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Tips & Tricks Copenhagen

Tips & Tricks for visiting Copenhagen. Feel free to jump in and add any advice to the below:

  • we visited Copenhagen at the beginning of February and believe us it’s not that cold and the day was not that short; we say this is a city to visit irrespective of the season;
  • Nyhavn (the port area) it’s really a good place for enjoying breakfast or brunch; they also have fixed prices;
  • Rosenborg Castle is worth visiting; the interiors are well decorated and the treasury hold an impressive collection of royal jewellery, royal crowns and even the crown of King Christian IV;
  • don’t bother with the Hop-on – Hop-off buses, cruises, metro cards, bus cards, Copenhagen city card; the city is a walking city and you can easily get to the landmarks just by walking; better find accommodation near the port area and just walk the city;
  • the Little Mermaid is not that impressive and it can get crowded around the small bronze statue with all the tourist crazy for touching the statue and clicking pictures; it is the kind of landmark to scratch off the to do list and not more;
  • Christiania it’s not that much of a town but more like an area with a surface of less than 1 km (0.34 km2 to be precise); it is definitely not for everyone but it’s worth seeing as an experience; if you don’t like the hippie look, barracks, the feeling of a deserted place, graffiti work and stalls for selling hash and weed just skip it;
  • if you do decide to see Christiania don’t forget their main rules: “Have fun, Don’t run, No photos”;
  • for a great view of the city don’t miss going on top of the Round Tower.

Water rafting in Bali

Everybody stand up!!!!” Horace is screaming with a happy face while our boat is running down the Ayung River in Bali, Indonesia. Stones and water and an inflatable boat jumping here and there. This would be the right time to feel kind of scared. But we don’t; the adrenaline is rushing through our veins and we stand up with our paddles in the air screaming and laughing. We are wet to our bones, the hot sun is up in the sky, we have no idea where the boat will take us but we don’t care we just go with the flow.

Water rafting

One of the attractions of Bali is water sports and one of the water sports we decided to try for the first time while in Bali was water rafting. Packed in a car we are driven to the meeting point somewhere in a village near Ubud. Hidden by all these vegetation there’s a small reception where we pay for the ride, we get equipped with lifejackets, helmets and paddles and we are ready.

IMG-20140916-04665_collageThe water rafting experience starts with a series of stairs going down to the shore of Ayung River. Our guide/boat leader is named Horace. A bit shorter than us, with one of those smiles where one shows all his/her teeth, talkative and in a joking mood we know from the start this will be a fun ride.

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The training takes less than 5 minutes during which Horace explains the forward and backward paddling, “bum bum” and how to take a person out of the water and back in the boat (if need arises, of course). Now I am sure you guys want to know what’s a “bum bum” right? As Horace said when we hear the words we should stop paddling, keep our paddles vertical and lean in front. Easy right? Now, if one of us is to fall over the others should pull the poor bastard back in the boat not by taking the person by the hand, hair, neck or [you feel in the blanks :p] but by the lifejacket.

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Once the training is done we push the boat in the water, jump in and off we go. The ride is smooth at the beginning and starts to get bumpier on some sectors with the boat twisting and turning and hitting rocks on the way. On both sides there’s an impressive view with trees, rocks, vegetation, luxurious hotels.

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Horace is making jokes, laughing and in the same time directing us. We can hear a combination of backward, forward, backward, backward, bum-bum, forward, bum-bum, everybody stand up and we paddle and stand up and paddle and paddle and stand up. At some point we even teach Horace how to say forward in Romanian “înainte” so the screaming gains a new word familiar to us “înainte”.

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As we move forward on the river we are getting better and better at paddling and the boat slides through the rocks. When we get stuck Horace instructs us to slide on our seats but Phillipe (the Belgian guy with us on the boat) jumps instead of sliding and brings more laughter in the boat.

DCIM100GOPROMidway into the boat ride we stop on a small shore together with other boats for beer and for the most courageous jumping from a cliff. Of course my courageous Gabi is jumping into the water while I enjoy my beer and click pictures.

DCIM100GOPROThe ride starts again and we paddle as we sing a Romanian song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WhrWZ1jeD8) and Phillipe sings a Belgium song. Once we reach a waterfall we are meeting up with another boat with some other tourists. We all jump in the water and enjoy a bath under the waterfall with lifejackets and helmets and clothes on.

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And we are back in the boat and we paddle and gossip and paddle and laugh and paddle some more. After about 1:30 – 2 hours we reach the end point of our boat ride. We feel like we want more. As we walk up and more up on the stairs we are surrounded by impressive views and we can still feel the rush of adrenaline in our veins and the words of Horace “Everybody stand up!”.

For Tips & Tricks on water rafting in Bali click here Tips&Tricks water rafting Bali.

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Tips&Tricks water rafting Bali

Below are some tips from our own experience water rafting on Ayung River.  Feel free to jump in and add any advice to the below :p:

  • we paid around 35 USD per person for the ride (possible to find even lower prices); this price included a person picking us up from the hotel and back, the boat ride and something to eat after the boat ride; beer is available for buying during the boat ride at a stop on the way and at the end of the boat ride;
  • you can take a shower at the end of the boat ride; they give you a towel or you can bring your own;
  • wear a bathing suit and some comfortable clothes like short pants and a t-shirt; you will get wet, very wet;
  • flip flops are a good choice; in the boat you will be barefoot and your shoes (or flip flops :p) will go into the bag of the boat leader;
  • phones, cameras, money – take as less as possible; whatever you carry will go into the waterproof bag of the boat leader; you can’t keep it with you in the boat since you will get wet – yeah we said that before :);
  • we took pictures and filmed with a GoPro camera;
  • listen carefully to the instructions of the boat leader/guide and do as he says during your trip if you want to have a safe ride;
  • go with the flow, be carried away, enjoy the ride!