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Asia – Passport Therapy https://passporttherapy.com A Travel Blog by Tara & Michael Thu, 06 Dec 2018 03:36:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 https://passporttherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/cropped-PT_logo_alt-blue-e1499713657443-1-150x150.png Asia – Passport Therapy https://passporttherapy.com 32 32 128707636 Brunei: A Tiny Nation with Plenty to Offer https://passporttherapy.com/brunei-tiny-nation-plenty-offer/ https://passporttherapy.com/brunei-tiny-nation-plenty-offer/#comments Sun, 04 Mar 2018 22:49:18 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=3437 In case you did not already know, I am a part-time fitness instructor.  And as part of our travels, I had the unique experience of helping open an indoor cycling studio in Brunei.  Now you might be asking yourself “Brunei? Huh? Where’s that?!” and you are definitely not alone.  It is one of the world’s smallest countries (about the size of Delaware!), …

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In case you did not already know, I am a part-time fitness instructor.  And as part of our travels, I had the unique experience of helping open an indoor cycling studio in Brunei.  Now you might be asking yourself “Brunei? Huh? Where’s that?!” and you are definitely not alone.  It is one of the world’s smallest countries (about the size of Delaware!), located on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo.  Despite its size, it does not lack in wealth.  Brunei is an Islamic country where the residents do not pay tax, the gold adorning the mosques and palaces is the real deal and there is a large, lush rainforest.

While you may not be planning your next vacation in Brunei, there might be a chance you have a stopover there on your way to other spots in Southeast Asia.  If that is the case, below are a list of activities you should take into consideration while you are there.

Visit the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

This mosque is absolutely stunning and its gold dome can be seen from many areas of the capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan.  But if you ask me, it is still worth a closer look.  However, be mindful that it is only open to visitors when not being used for prayers.  Additionally, you will need to take off your shoes and put on a robe before entering (don’t worry – they have robes you can borrow!)

Visit the Jame’ Asri Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque

Why visit one mosque when you could visit two?!  This mosque is a bit outside the center of Bandar Seri Begawan but well worth the short 20-minute drive.  Built to commemorate the current reigning Sultan, it is the largest mosque in Brunei.  In addition to an opulent interior, 29 golden domes (in honor of the 29th Sultan) adorn the outside.

Explore the Water Village

The water village or “Kampong Ayer” is a collection of buildings built on stilts over the Brunei River.  You can access the village via footbridges near Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque or by taking a water taxi from the waterfront. The Kampung Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery explains the history and centuries-old lifestyle of the people who live here, and the friendly residents often open their homes to visitors.

Enjoy a Day Trip to Ulu Temburong National Park

Admittedly, I did not get the chance to visit Temburong while I was in Brunei and I really regret it.  As an adventure traveler, I like to get outdoors as much as I can.  Plus, given that about 80% of Brunei is virgin rainforest, it begs for exploration!  If you do get to go, you will need to book your tour in advance with a guide.  Much of the rainforest is off limits so this is not the type of trip you want to do alone.  You should expect to pay about $125-180.  One of the main attractions of your tour is the canopy walk.  But be forewarned that it is not for the faint of heart as it is about 200 feet high!

Get Your Grub on at the Night Market

Food of BruneiFruit of Southeast AsiaStreet Food of Southeast AsiaStreet Market of Brunei

Brunei is a dry country, so if you’re hoping to spend your evenings pounding back beers at a local bar, you’ll be sadly disappointed.  That said, you can bring alcohol into the country as a non-Muslim, so long as you declare it.  But if you decide to stay healthy and abstain while there, you can still find a bit of nightlife at the local night market.  Wander through the stalls and taste a few dishes.  And if you’re feeling adventurous, give durian a try!

Take a Fitness Class!

This is a shameless plug, but since the reason I came to this country was to help open a studio, I had to throw this on here!  Plus, if you feel like you need to get some exercise between your long-haul flights, then this is the perfect answer!  Check out Elev8 studio and you can take indoor-cycling or resistance training classes from some amazing instructors.

 

Want to read about another unknown travel location?  Check out our post on Cafayate, Argentina here!

 

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El Nido: A Booming Tropical Paradise https://passporttherapy.com/el-nido-tropical-paradise/ https://passporttherapy.com/el-nido-tropical-paradise/#respond Tue, 06 Feb 2018 03:22:30 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=3395 With El Nido topping most must-visit travel lists, we decided to catch the next flight to the Philippines. A remote town located on the island of Palawan, El Nido is a major tourist destination. It is renowned for its island hopping on the Bacuit Archipelago and beautiful beaches. The only direct flight offered to El Nido is through AirSwift, a …

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With El Nido topping most must-visit travel lists, we decided to catch the next flight to the Philippines. A remote town located on the island of Palawan, El Nido is a major tourist destination. It is renowned for its island hopping on the Bacuit Archipelago and beautiful beaches.

The only direct flight offered to El Nido is through AirSwift, a small operator with 3 to 4 flights daily. The tickets are pricey, but it is by far the quickest way to get to El Nido. The most popular way to reach El Nido is by flying to Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s main city. From there, you need to book a van ride to El Nido, which takes between 41/2 to 6 hours. We opted to fly and paid the equivalent of $500 USD for two round-trip tickets.

El Nido, meaning “nest”, comes from the region’s historical practice of harvesting edible-nest swiftlets. This was one of the main sources of income for locals before the boom of tourism reached their shores. With crowded streets and construction all around, the town’s namesake might take on new meaning. Don’t let the initial shock temper your expectations, as the paradise you seek is only a short ride away.

Island Hopping

Paradise in the PhilippinesLunch in El NidoIsland Hopping in the PhilippinesIsland hopping in Palawan

Island Hopping is by far the most popular activity in El Nido. There are four tours to choose from:

  • Tour A – Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island and 7 Commando Beach
  • Tour B – Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Beach, Cudugnon Cave and Snorkeling
  • Tour C – Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach, and Hidden Beach
  • Tour D – Ipil Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Natnat Beach and Bukal Beach

Since all tours are regulated by the government, prices are locked in and locations are set. You can shop around and see if certain providers are willing to throw in kayaks or have better quality gear, but in terms of pricing, they are non-negotiable. At the very least, you should be getting a mask with snorkel, a large lunch (consisting of seafood, meat, veggies, and fruit) as well as drinking water.

Tour A and C are the most popular, but I’d recommend taking a look at your entire time in El Nido and consider what other activities you will be doing. If you are going to scuba dive with one of the many dive centers, I’d recommend focusing on a tour that is less geared towards snorkeling. The outrigger boats, called a paraw, do not feature an area for sunbathing, so if that is important to you, consider Tour C or D, which feature multiple stops at beaches.

It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you wear water shoes. Some of the stops require you to climb over dead coral as waves hammer you. It can get a little scary. We saw many people stumble and cut themselves wading into shore in flip-flops (or no shoes at all). Some of the pickup locations also have sea urchins between the beach and the boat which can cause major discomfort if stepped on.

Alternative Tour Option

A few operators in town offer “party boat” tours for those looking to go wild while Island Hopping. Mellow Yellow’s “Tour Z” and Kraken El Nido’s “Tour K” are two popular choices. Pricing varies, as these tours are not regulated by the government, and each offers different services. For Mellow Yellow, all guests get access to stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and free onboard messages. For an additional fee, you can purchase a package for unlimited alcoholic drinks. Boat beer pong, anyone?!

Scuba Diving

Snorkeling during our Island Hopping in El NidoIsland Hopping TourIsland Adventures in the PhilippinesRelaxing on our boat in El Nido

There are a dozen dive shops within El Nido proper and the nearby Corong-Corong beach. Most of the shops had somewhat similar prices, but it will definitely be worth your time to walk to a few while you are in town to look at the equipment and speak with the staff. Most of the shops we spoke with used a paraw tricked out for diving, but a few used speedboats for diving in more remote locations.

We went to Aquanauts Dive Center located in downtown El Nido, a few blocks from the main party strip. We found the staff friendly, informative, and the equipment well-maintained. If you’ve never dove in a tropical location before, you will really enjoy the colorful wildlife found in the area. For experienced divers who have visited other locations in Southeast Asia, you should expect a solid, albeit unspectacular day of diving.

Interested in another Island getaway? Check out our guide to Sri Lanka here

Beaches

Coastal paradise in PalawanTropical ParadiseIsland Hopping and Coconut SippingPalawan Paradise

By far my favorite way to enjoy the beauty of El Nido was by plopping down at a beach and soaking in the beautiful views of the many nearby islands. The main beaches on our itinerary, excluding those we visited on Tour C, were Nacpan and Las Cabañas.

The main mode of transportation in El Nido is the tricycle, and from what we could decipher, the price is not determined by distance, but the destination. Heading to Las Cabañas from downtown or nearby Carong-Carong costs the same, which is about 150 pesos. The ride is short, and you can easily make a half day trip to Las Cabañas. The tricycle will drop you off on the side of the road with a short but fairly steep flight of stairs that leads down to the beach. There are drivers parked here before sunup, so don’t worry about arranging for a roundtrip ride, as they are never in short supply.

Nacpan is about an hour to 90 minutes on a tricycle, and you will have a little more leeway in negotiating price. Most drivers start at a roundtrip fare of 1,500 pesos, but it is possible to negotiate your way down to 1,000 pesos. Some drivers might even include the nearby waterfalls as part of a full day package to Nacpan. This is the crown jewel of El Nido beaches, the one you’ve seen all the amazing drone shots of. It’s a long, uninterrupted stretch of sandy beach that maintains its allure despite its popularity due to the distance needed to reach it. The road is underdeveloped so expect for a bumpy ride.

Many tourists opt to rent motorbikes, and you can get full day rentals for under 700 pesos. However, you might want to think twice before learning in El Nido. The nearest hospital is over 40 minutes away. Just saying.

Alternative route to Nacpan

For the more adventurous travelers looking for a fun alternative route to Nacpan, consider El Nido ATV Adventures. They offer a full day jungle trail, waterfalls and Nacpan beach trip that includes lunch for 2,799 pesos. They also offer a Surf & Turf option where you ATV to the beach and learn to surf.

Rainbow in El Nido

The hype surrounding El Nido made anything but perfection a disappointment. The town is clearly looking to capitalize on the tourism boom, which means mixed results for travelers. The restaurant and luxury hotel scene charges top dollar but delivers substandard results. However, if you approach your visit understanding that El Nido is a town in transition, you can leave feeling like you really did get to visit paradise. 

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Hotels We Love: The Theva Residency – Sri Lanka https://passporttherapy.com/hotels-love-theva-residency-sri-lanka/ https://passporttherapy.com/hotels-love-theva-residency-sri-lanka/#respond Tue, 02 Jan 2018 23:51:22 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=3350 When we arrived in Kandy, we were a bit overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle.  Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second largest city and is alive with shopkeepers, restaurants, and tuk-tuks winding through the streets.  We were thankful to find our hotel, The Theva Residency, located on the hillside just 2 kilometers outside of the city.  It is the perfect spot …

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When we arrived in Kandy, we were a bit overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle.  Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second largest city and is alive with shopkeepers, restaurants, and tuk-tuks winding through the streets.  We were thankful to find our hotel, The Theva Residency, located on the hillside just 2 kilometers outside of the city.  It is the perfect spot for travelers wanting to explore the city and still get some relaxation.

Rooms

The Theva Residency is made up of 15 rooms: 1 Penthouse, 3 Suites, 7 Superior Rooms, and 4 Standard Deluxe Rooms.  We stayed in one of the suites that comes complete with a jacuzzi tub overlooking the Sri Lanka hills. The tall windows slide open, giving you unobstructed views.  And let me tell you, “room with a view” is an understatement for this place.

Each room is complete with standard amenities including TV, cable, wi-fi, mini-bar, safe, hairdryer and toiletries.  Theva adds a nice touch by using local Ayurveda products from Spa Ceylon.  We may or may not have taken a couple shower gel bottles home with us.

The Theva Residency added another nice touch of different teas included in the room.  Ceylon tea is a large part of the Sri Lankan culture and we have come to love our daily intake.

Restaurant

Attached to the hotel is Theva Cuisine, the hotel’s restaurant. Many people come here to eat, even if they are not staying at the hotel because the food is delicious. 

We actually ended up eating here for most of our meals not only out of sheer convenience, but we wanted to try other items on the menu!  We recommend the vegetarian rainbow salad and the rice and curry.

Lastly, we were delighted that our included breakfast was not a buffet, but made-to-order (a nice change from many places we have stayed at).  We recommend the breakfast burrito and the Sri Lankan breakfast (but note that this needs to be ordered ahead the night before).

Facilities

The property comes equipped with a steam room, sauna, game room, and a gorgeous infinity pool.

With views just as breathtaking as the guest rooms, the pool might just be the crown jewel of this hotel.  I won’t lie to you, it ended up raining most of the time we were in Kandy so we could not take advantage of the pool as much as we would have wanted.  But that did not stop us from snapping a few epic photos whenever there was a break from the downpour.  I can only imagine that a sunny day by this pool (complete with a refreshing cocktail, of course) would result in heaven on earth.

To read more about Kandy and the rest of our Sri Lankan adventure, check out our two-week guide here.

Theva Residency invited us to stay as guests.  All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only.  All opinions are our own.

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Sri Lanka: Two Weeks in Paradise https://passporttherapy.com/two-week-adventure-sri-lanka/ https://passporttherapy.com/two-week-adventure-sri-lanka/#comments Fri, 29 Dec 2017 03:08:54 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=3233 This mango-shaped island in the Indian Ocean has long been famed for its beauty and valued for its natural resources. Recently, the country ended its 30-year civil war. With peace restored throughout the country, tourism is on the rise. The southern coast features picturesque white sand beaches, while the center of the country has sprawling green tea fields. After only …

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This mango-shaped island in the Indian Ocean has long been famed for its beauty and valued for its natural resources. Recently, the country ended its 30-year civil war. With peace restored throughout the country, tourism is on the rise. The southern coast features picturesque white sand beaches, while the center of the country has sprawling green tea fields. After only two short weeks exploring the magical land of Sri Lanka, it is easy to see why so many travelers fall in love with this island country.

Galle & Unawatuna

Sri Lanka StreetsSri Lanka Dutch Colonial LightousePath to the Galle Lighthouse in Colonial Dutch city

A two-hour car ride south of Colombo, Galle is a former Dutch colonial fort surrounded by a region of beautiful jungle and white sand beaches. It is one of the more popular locations in Sri Lanka’s southern coast. Due to its site, it is a great choice for those looking for a beach vacation, with the flexibility to book day excursions.

Spend the morning enjoying the Dutch Colonial architecture. As you walk the fort at a leisurely pace, make sure to stop and enjoy the amazing panoramic views of the ocean. Against the backdrop of the fort walls, watch scenes of everyday live unfold; a local cricket match played in front of a small (but enthusiastic) crowd, and school-aged children practicing military drills in a field. If the heat is too much to handle, make your way to The Heritage Cafe for some delicious cold brew. Featuring locally roasted Sri Lankan coffee beans from Ceylon, the flavorful coffee is a welcome respite from the instant coffee or dark roasted beans common throughout this region.

Palm Tree Swing Dalawella Beach Sri LankaDalawella Beach SwingDalawella BeachDalawella Beach, Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

Unawatuna Beach is the largest, and most popular beach near Galle. The beach is lined with restaurants, dive shops, and a few lounges lit up at night for those looking to party. We’d recommend staying in Unawatuna, so you can go out at night for dinner and drinks.  That said, choose to spend your days at one of the less populated beaches nearby.

For a picturesque day, grab a tuk-tuk and head to Dalawalla Beach. While prices vary, we paid 300-400 LKR one way. If you jump out near the Dream Cabana, you will find the #instafamous palm tree swing. For 500 LKR (as of November 2017) you can swing to your heart’s content. Not to mention, you can buy an assortment of juices from the locals who built the swing. They are super-friendly, even extending our swing usage an extra day without having to pay.

If you don’t want to leave the confines of Unawatuna, or tuk-tuks aren’t your thing, you can walk 10 minutes from the town center to Jungle Beach. With amazing views of Galle Fort, this spot provides a perfect beach day away from the tourist crowds.

Unawatuna Accommodations

Thaproban Pavilion & Spa

For lodging, we stayed at the Thaproban Pavilion & Spa at the end of Unawatuna. With a pool that looks out to the ocean, this spot is more suited for those looking for some R&R. Thaproban is part of a trio of hotels in Unawatuna.  Each one has a unique offering. If you would prefer to spend time in a wellness center with daily yoga, Thapani is located halfway between Thaproban and the beach.  Lastly, The Beach House, as expected, lies directly on Unawatuna Beach.

Kabalana

Sri Lanka sandy beaches

After a bit of luggage Tetris in the back of a tuk-tuk, we headed off to Kabalana, a popular surf destination for experienced surfers and first-timers alike. The namesake beach is large, filled with fine white sand, and quite enjoyable for swimmers. When we went mid-November, it was almost completely empty, giving us a glimpse of what it would be like to retire to a deserted island.

Kabalana Accommodations

Lime & Co

From what we could see, Kabalana is mostly resorts or surf hotels. If staying ocean side is outside your price range, check out our review of Ceilao Villas’ Lime & Co hotel. Nestled off the main street and next door to its boutique sister hotel, Lime & Co is a fantastic backpacker option for those who want comfort and class but need to live within a budget.

Mirissa

Chilling on the beach in Sri LankaMirissa BeachTuk Tuk ride to Mirissa Beach

Further along the southern coast is Mirissa, a very trendy beach town with a bohemian vibe. We did a day trip from Kablana and spent a memorable day soaking up the sun and body surfing among a fun, lively crowd of people.

Based on how busy Mirissa was at the start of the busy season, I can see this beach being absolutely crazy during December and January.  Due to the hip surfer bars with free daybeds and midday happy hours, the vibe on Mirissa was one of the best of any I’ve been to. The main part of the beach is calm enough for anyone to enjoy, but features big enough waves for boogie boarding and body surfing. By afternoon, you can watch experienced surfers taking on big waves while throwing back Lion Beers at Bay Moon Beach Club.

Furthermore, there are almost no panhandlers, making Mirissa Beach feel more like a fun party than a burgeoning tourist destination.

Mirissa Accommodations

As noted above, we made a day trip from Ceilão Villas’ Lime & Co. It was an easy 30-minute tuk-tuk ride that cost us 800 LKR one way. However, Mirissa is a very popular destination, with a ton of hostel and eco-backpacker accommodations. 

Yala National Park

Sri Lanka SafariSri Lanka SunsetYala National Park Song BirdJeep Safari in Sri LankaTurtle by Kirinda Lodge

Yala National Park is the second largest wildlife reserve in Sri Lanka, and it’s most visited. There are some nice beaches and important historical temples in the surrounding region, but if you are near the park, it means you are most likely looking for a safari experience.

In order to avoid getting burned on price, make sure you understand what it is you are buying. Some operators bundle the jeep and ticket together and inflate the price of entry. Whereas other operators just rent out the time on the jeep. That said, once you arrive at the ticket office, they will offer to go buy your ticket for you. This can lead to a price two to three times more expensive than expected. As with most travel tips, knowledge is your best weapon to prevent this type of scam. So, make sure you go to the Yala National Park site and check the entrance fee. Or, simply insist on going to the ticket office and buying the ticket yourself.

With all that said, the park itself is beautiful and well worth the price. An important reserve for Sri Lanka’s indigenous leopards, elephants, and waterfowl, the park is brimming with wildlife. In spite of the 50 jeeps crowded at the entrance, we came away satisfied. 

We opted for the standard 5-hour excursion. But, half-day and full-day excursions are available for those people who simply can’t get enough of the animal kingdom.

Yala National Park Accommodations

Kirinda Lodge

We stayed at Kirinda Lodge, which borders the edge of Yala and is a short 25-minute ride to the entrance of the national park. For our thoughts about Kirinda Lodge, click through here.

The surrounding area is dotted with a variety of eco-friendly and wildlife-themed accommodations, but for the truly adventurous, you can camp inside the park. Wherever you stay, make sure you are offered room and board, because restaurants and shops are few and far between.

Ella

Hiking the countryside of Sri LankaFollow me to Sri LankaBuddhist Monks walking in Sri LankaDemodara Nine Arch BridgeThe Most Beautiful Train in the World

Nestled high up in the mountains, Ella offers travelers stunning views of the southern plains of Sri Lanka. Surrounded by tea fields and cloud forests, the town is perfect for those who love to explore the outdoors.

Upon arrival, the allure of Ella might not be readily apparent as the town is geared toward selling to tourists. However, once outside the town, you will begin to understand why Ella is such a popular destination.

For the hikers among you, Ella Rock is a challenging half-day hike. It begins along the train tracks but can be a bit tricky, with touts purposefully obscuring the way. Make sure to check out our Ella Rock hike guide for the best route to the top!

An easy alternative to Ella Rock is Little Adam’s Peak. It features a paved path almost all the way to the top. Little Adam’s Peak takes about 90 minutes round trip. Plus, it’s close proximity to Findlay’s Tea Plantation and the Nine Arch Bridge makes for a great one-day itinerary.

Ella’s train station also makes it easy to navigate the surrounding area. Nuwara Eliya and Haputale are both do-able day trips. This is where we started the famed train ride to Kandy, which is a 7-hour ride along lush tea plantations.

Ella Accommodations

Ella Master Point Lodge

This wonderful secluded B&B features breathtaking views of the Ella Gap. However, it’s only a short 5-minute walk to the town center. From your room, monks can be heard chanting from the temple across the valley. A wonderful ambiance when taking your evening tea on the balcony!

Kandy

Buddhist Temple Kandy Sri LankaKandy Sri lankaGiant White Buddha KandySri Lanka Botanical Gardens TreeKandy, Sri Lanka botanical gardens

Of all the places we visited in Sri Lanka, Kandy remains the hardest for me to pin down. It possesses a frenetic energy that is exhilarating and a bit terrifying. But in spite of the constant rain during our time in Kandy, we were determined to get out of our hotel. 

With this in mind, we decided to rent out a tuk-tuk for the day. Most of the drivers we spoke with have some sort of pre-planned guide option but ask, just in case.

We visited

  • Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue, or the giant white Buddha.
  • Kandy Lake
  • Temple of the Sacred Tooth
  • Commonwealth Cemetery

We loved the Royal Botanical Garden. The grounds are very well-kept, and it provides a pleasant escape from the urban jungle. It also seems to be a popular date spot. We spotted more than a few young couples canoodling under the tree cover watching the rainfall.

Up the hill from the Temple of the Sacred tooth is the Commonwealth Cemetery. Around a hundred permanent residents from the 18th and 19th century call this place home. The cemetery is a reminder of the legacy of colonial occupation in Sri Lanka. Prince Charles even visited in 2013. 

Kandy Accommodations

Theva Residency

We were guests of the Theva Residency during our stay in Kandy. Located on the Hantana Hills, Theva is a boutique hotel with stunning views and an excellent restaurant. A few kilometers from Kandy lake, the hotel is secluded from the chaos below. For our full thoughts on our stay at Theva Residency, check out our review here.

Santani Wellness Resort

Before we left Sri Lanka, we spent some time recharging at Santani Wellness Resort, located 90 minutes outside Kandy. Tucked away, high up in the mountains, Santani was a luxurious sanctuary from the bustling city of Kandy. For our full thoughts on Santani Wellness Resort, check out our review here, as well as our thoughts on why a wellness resort might be just what your body and mind need from a vacation.

Enjoying Ceylon Tea in Sri LankaInside the Yoga Shala in SantaniWalking on the train tracks in Sri LankaSri lanka Countryside

After Kandy, it was time to say goodbye to the tiny island country that stole our hearts. It has so much to offer and we barely scratched the surface.  Needless to say, we cannot wait to return!

Also, if you’re looking for a shorter itinerary of Sri Lanka, check out our friends’ 9-day itinerary here.

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Why You Should Consider a Wellness Retreat https://passporttherapy.com/wellness-retreat-vacation/ https://passporttherapy.com/wellness-retreat-vacation/#respond Fri, 22 Dec 2017 00:29:45 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=3222 As health nuts, it might surprise you that until recently, we had never gone on a wellness retreat.  This is even more surprising given that we hail from San Francisco, where yoga studios are constantly offering up packages all over the world.  But when we have traveled in the past, we preferred to do things on our own schedule and …

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As health nuts, it might surprise you that until recently, we had never gone on a wellness retreat.  This is even more surprising given that we hail from San Francisco, where yoga studios are constantly offering up packages all over the world.  But when we have traveled in the past, we preferred to do things on our own schedule and not be confined to one area.  That was, until, we discovered Santani.

Personalization

Santani Poolside

Like many wellness resorts, Santani offers yoga and spa treatments. What makes them unique is the complete customization of their packages.  No two people are alike. As such, Santani personalizes packages based on body composition, current lifestyle, stress, fitness, emotional state, and future goals.  The Head of Wellness, your personal Wellness Concierge, and an Ayurvedic doctor will use the assessment to customize your bespoke Santani program. Whether you are recovering from an addiction or simply want to de-stress, a wellness retreat may be your answer.

Fitness

Infinity Pool at wellness retreat in Kandy

One of the most challenging parts of traveling, especially long-term, can be staying in shape.  Having the opportunity to practice yoga twice a day gave me that sense of accomplishment that I did not realize I missed so badly.  While we did our best to visit local gyms and fitness studios along our travels, having yoga built directly into our stay was so convenient.

Santani primarily focuses on Hatha Yoga and is available for guests to practice twice daily.  With this built into our schedule, I found myself eagerly anticipating the next class.  And if you are on the fence about yoga, you should know that it has shown to provide long-term benefits not only for body alignment but also to patients of respiratory problems, anxiety, high blood pressure, and arthritis.

Cost

Personalized breakfastInside the Yoga Shala in SantaniRelaxing at the Spa

Many of you might be thinking that a wellness retreat sounds like a great idea but is too pricey.  And while it is true that they can get very expensive, depending on the package it can actually be more economical than a regular vacation. During regular vacations, you make your own spending decisions, which can result in money leakage. We all know how easy it is to go over budget!  However, retreats are pre-planned and include exclusive features, in addition to all the facilities of a simple vacation. Thus, they can actually be more financially reliable. 

So, for your next holiday, pick a retreat that will actually give you the vacation your mind and body needs.

Santani invited us to stay as guests. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. All opinions are our own.

 

Find out why Santani Wellness Resort is one of the hotels we love!

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Hotels We Love: Santani Wellness Resort – Sri Lanka https://passporttherapy.com/hotels-we-love-santani-wellness-resort/ https://passporttherapy.com/hotels-we-love-santani-wellness-resort/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 08:16:16 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=3187 An hour outside of Kandy tucked away in the lush, rolling mountains of Sri Lanka, lies the first and only purpose-built wellness resort in the country. Santani, meaning “in harmony with” in Sanskrit, is all about bringing balance to the modern world. Built according to the highest standards of sustainability and designed to leave the smallest footprint possible, Santani’s eco-conscious …

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An hour outside of Kandy tucked away in the lush, rolling mountains of Sri Lanka, lies the first and only purpose-built wellness resort in the country. Santani, meaning “in harmony with” in Sanskrit, is all about bringing balance to the modern world. Built according to the highest standards of sustainability and designed to leave the smallest footprint possible, Santani’s eco-conscious approach to hospitality left these two travelers in a state of bliss.

Rooms

Hills from Santani Bedroom

Each guest at Santani is given a private villa with a balcony overlooking the dramatic landscape of the hills and valley. Paying more than lip service to their eco-conscious mission statement, the villas utilize natural ventilation and light to great effect.

While Santani goes to great lengths to provide guests an opportunity to detox from the digital world, guests can request wi-fi in their room. We found it to be reliable and very fast, especially considering the remote location.

Food

Food is an integral part of the Santani experience. On arrival, you sit down with the chef and his team to discuss dietary preferences. After the discussion, the chef detailed the next days’ meals, which were customized to meet our needs. A classically trained chef who spent most of his career in France, the Santani meals range from local Sri Lanka delicacies to gourmet western fare, depending on the guest’s palate. 

With three meals a day, customized to your program, Santani’s culinary team delivers a top-notch experience. My personal favorite was a mouth-watering Passion Fruit ice cream served over a dark chocolate tart. As you can probably surmise, weight loss was not one of my goals.

Facilities

The quality of any health and wellness resort resides in its spa and yoga offerings. Consequently, Santani goes to great lengths to provide best in class service with both. Daily yoga, taught by a traditional practitioner of Hatha, is provided twice daily. As frequent visitors to yoga studios in San Francisco, we found Santani’s yoga classes challenging and centering. If you want to push the boundaries of your personal practice of yoga, private sessions are available. 

The spa features an extensive list of Ayurvedic treatments as well as traditional western options. Guests have access to the wet rooms with views of the natural surroundings, and a 16m infinity lap pool that overlooks the hillside.

While Santani Wellness Resort comes with a premium price tag, you are receiving a premium experience. The service from the moment you arrive at the resort is top notch, and the food is really spectacular. Despite visiting without a specific recovery goal in mind, we left feeling energized from our short stay.

Santani Wellness Resort is a fantastic option for solo travelers looking to get in touch with themselves or couples looking for a romantic experience focused on mutual internal discovery. Click here to book direct at Santani Wellness Resort for perks like free airport transfer (5+ nights) and 25% off all spa treatments.

We were invited as guests by Santani Wellness Resort. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. All opinions are our own.

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Hotels We Love: Kirinda Lodge by Ceilão Villas https://passporttherapy.com/hotels-love-kirinda-lodge-ceilao-villas/ https://passporttherapy.com/hotels-love-kirinda-lodge-ceilao-villas/#respond Sun, 03 Dec 2017 13:40:07 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=2628 Bordering Yala National Park, Kirinda Lodge is part of the Ceilão Villas family-owned hotel group. The lodge was originally the dream home of their father, a passionate lover of wildlife. He would regale his children with bedtime stories of close encounters with wild animals. Staying at the property, it is easy to see how one could become spellbound by the …

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Bordering Yala National Park, Kirinda Lodge is part of the Ceilão Villas family-owned hotel group. The lodge was originally the dream home of their father, a passionate lover of wildlife. He would regale his children with bedtime stories of close encounters with wild animals. Staying at the property, it is easy to see how one could become spellbound by the surroundings.

As travelers arrive, they are transported back to a time when man lived side by side to the animal kingdom. A monitor lizard basks in the shade of a coconut tree. An ox grazes alongside the well. Travelers take tea on the veranda, soaking it all in.

Rooms

Yala National Park Song Bird

Kirinda has two main lodges on the property; a standard lodge featuring two rooms with ensuite bathrooms and a family lodge with larger rooms. Rooms come stocked with water, shower amenities, and some very helpful shave kits for those of us who come unprepared.

The inner wall of the rooms are unique, made from a frame of mesh to prevent bugs from entering. That said, you are living in the wilderness, so the beds also feature a mosquito net.

We loved the aesthetics. The decor fit perfectly with the natural surroundings and added to the immersion of living in the wild, while still feeling upscale and modern.

Service

Turtle by Kirinda LodgeTea Time on the VerandaKirinda Lodge by Ceilão Villas

Featuring a butler and the caretaker team of Premalatha and husband Sunil, Kirinda Lodge caters to your every need. As you are located quite literally in the wild, Kirinda offers full room and board, serving deliciously prepared Sri Lankan cuisine three times a day. Meals are prepared family style and the team is flexible in accommodating any dietary preferences.

Your butler is both guide and concierge. At sunset, he accompanied us to the lake to see the wildlife. Peacocks danced in the distance while a group of wild boar rolled in the mud on the opposite bank. He also arranged our safari in Yala and made recommendations for other local sites, such as the Kirinda Temple.

The Grounds

Poolside at Kirinda LodgeLookout spot in Kirinda Lodge

A beautiful pool situated against the wildlife reserve, it is a welcome respite from the heat. Beautiful birds will fly by as you relax, as well as a wide variety of multi-colored dragonfly.  Have tea on the front veranda, and watch water buffalo bathe in the lake while the sun sinks lower in the sky. Take to higher ground, and climb the watch tower at the front of the property for stunning panoramas of the surrounding lands. 

The grounds really are a highlight of any stay at Kirinda. They are alive with wildlife, and it made our entire stay an extension of our Yala safari experience. From the nesting peacock to a massive monitor lizard roaming the grounds, Kirinda Lodge is not to be missed.

Kirinda Lodge is the perfect option for couples looking for a romantic getaway, or for families looking for a secluded home away from home. Offering beautiful accommodations in a tranquil setting, the property provides a wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

For a full board stay, which features large and delicious meals, the standard room for two is $120 USD per night. Click through here to book your stay at Kirinda Lodge!

We were invited as guests by Ceilão Villas. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. All opinions are our own.

Interested in more hotels we love? Check out Ceilão Villas Backpacker friendly lodging, Lime & Co here

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Hotels We Love: Lime & Co, Sri Lanka https://passporttherapy.com/hotels-love-lime-co-sri-lanka/ https://passporttherapy.com/hotels-love-lime-co-sri-lanka/#respond Mon, 27 Nov 2017 13:00:25 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=2597 If you are visiting Sri Lanka, there is a good chance you will want to stay in a beach town for part of your visit.  While there are a few hotel options to choose from, make sure to add Lime & Co to your list.  The ambiance at Lime & Co can best be described as “boutique on a budget.” Located near Kabalana …

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If you are visiting Sri Lanka, there is a good chance you will want to stay in a beach town for part of your visit.  While there are a few hotel options to choose from, make sure to add Lime & Co to your list.  The ambiance at Lime & Co can best be described as “boutique on a budget.” Located near Kabalana beach, it is the perfect accommodation for backpackers and budget travelers looking to relax and catch some surf.

Rooms

Lime & Co consists of two attached villas. Each villa has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with an open lounge, dining area, and kitchenette. You can choose between a double room with en-suite bathroom ($45/night) or one of the twin rooms with a shared bathroom ($30/night).

Amenities include free parking, toiletries, mosquito net (essential in Sri Lanka!) and a fan (another essential!).

The aesthetic is both minimalist and chic. The sea breeze provides air conditioning and the sun heats the shower, so eco-conscious folks (like us!) will be happy.

Facilities

The hotel comes equipped with hammocks and a plunge pool.  We made good use of both to ensure full relaxation mode.

Next door to the hotel you will find the property’s café, Kanteen.  It offers up breakfast, lunch, and dinner at reasonable prices.  The menu changes daily but focuses on delicious, local Sri Lanka cuisine.  One night, Mike actually ended up ordering a second entrée because the first was so tasty!  Plus, there are not many restaurants within walking distance to Lime & Co, so the café is super convenient if you do not feel like cooking for yourself in the kitchenette.   

Location

Kabalana Beach

Lime & Co is located in Ahangama, a relaxed town in the south of Sri Lanka.  It is most well-known for having some of the best surf in on the island.  But even if you are not a surfer, Kabalana beach is the perfect spot to soak up some sun.  Because the area is still undergoing development, it is not yet overrun by tourists, thus we practically had the beach to ourselves!

On the other hand, if you are looking for a bit more liveliness or just want to explore the area, you can easily access other neighboring towns such as Kogalla, Unuwatuna, and Galle via a short tuk-tuk ride. 

Click here to book your stay at Lime & Co.

We were invited as guests by Lime & Co. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. All opinions are our own.

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