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Reviews – Passport Therapy https://passporttherapy.com A Travel Blog by Tara & Michael Thu, 06 Dec 2018 01:39:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 https://passporttherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/cropped-PT_logo_alt-blue-e1499713657443-1-150x150.png Reviews – Passport Therapy https://passporttherapy.com 32 32 128707636 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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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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Peru Hop Review: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly https://passporttherapy.com/peru-hop-review-good-bad-ugly/ https://passporttherapy.com/peru-hop-review-good-bad-ugly/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 16:29:38 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=2264 As the name entails, Peru Hop is a hop-on, hop-off bus service operating within Peru and Bolivia.  It starts in Lima and ends in La Paz (or vice-versa) and they offer a variety of pass combinations to hit cities in between.  The service is geared towards travelers and backpackers looking to follow the notorious “Gringo Trail” while promising safety, flexibility, …

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As the name entails, Peru Hop is a hop-on, hop-off bus service operating within Peru and Bolivia.  It starts in Lima and ends in La Paz (or vice-versa) and they offer a variety of pass combinations to hit cities in between.  The service is geared towards travelers and backpackers looking to follow the notorious “Gringo Trail” while promising safety, flexibility, and a good time along the way. 

 

The Good:

  • Safety.  The most common horror stories we heard about buses in South America were around theft and crazy drivers.  With Peru Hop, we never had to worry about either.  Not only are they professional about keeping the doors locked up, the buses are also equipped with 24 hour GPS monitoring, which informs their HQ if there were any unplanned stops. Overnight bus rides have two drivers on board to prevent exhaustion. Not once during our trip did we feel unsafe, or worry about our driver’s performance
  • Flexibility. You can change your bus times whenever you like and your tickets are good for up to one year.  So after choosing your start and end locations, you have a full 365 days to get from one spot to the other.  This is super convenient for travelers who aren’t sticking to a strict time table and want the option to stay longer in certain cities.
  • Local Guides.  These guys are tasked with a variety of jobs from booking hostels to making tour arrangements and even providing giving local history during the trip. They provide all explanations in both English and Spanish and to top it off, they’re all super approachable and fun.  We even shared a bonfire with a few guides in Huacachina!
  • Freebies.  They organize free stops along the route that include (but aren’t limited to) viewing of the Nazca lines, a Pisco distillery, and historical slavery tunnels.
  • Punctual.  The buses have door-to-door service and do everything they can to leave on-time.  This is quite rare across South America, where many don’t leave the bus terminal until 20-30 minutes after schedule.
  • Border crossing. We were pretty nervous about this since Bolivia has A LOT of stipulations for Americans coming into their country.  The Bolivia Hop guides were super helpful, though, and made sure that all of our paperwork was organized and complete.
  • Fun.  Peru Hop is essentially a hostel on wheels, so you will meet loads of other travelers and since the itinerary is usually similar for everyone, you have a built in network of people to explore the cities with.

The Bad:

  • Price.  While we believe that you get what you pay for, you will be spending more on Peru Hop than you will if you just navigate via local buses.
  • Hostel Pickup not available in Cusco.  Though this is not a huge deal, it can be a bit of a pain to get to the Peru Hop terminal in Cusco as it is not the main bus terminal (it has a specific office) so just make sure your taxi driver knows this!
  • Promoted Offers.  We loved that Peru Hop offered discounts on local hostels and tours.  At first, we used these exclusively until we did a bit of our own research.  We consistently found cheaper options and really wished that these had also been promoted by the company so that we didn’t feel pigeonholed into the ones they offered.
  • No Wi-fi.  Almost all buses actually lack wi-fi (so you really have no alternative) but we thought this should be noted anyway.

Heading to Machu Picchu? Check out our review of Alpaca Expeditions, a top operator in Cusco!

The Ugly

  • Overnight buses.  While the seats do recline, it’s just not enough to expect a decent night’s sleep. We know, we know, it’s a bus so it’s obviously not the same comfort level as a hotel but having the option to pay more for a fully reclining seat would be worth it.  Many bus companies in South America offer “cama suite” seats at a more premium price.  These seats fully recline and (in our opinion) it’s worth the extra money.
  • Toilets.  We won’t dwell on this one too long but it should be noted that the buses do have toilets.  So why is this a negative?  The guides will tell you over and over again that the toilets are only to be used for “number one”.  Unfortunately, you may still encounter someone that proceeds to use it for other reasons, and then the entire bus suffers.  Best of luck on this one.
  • Wristbands. While not as garish as the cheap paper wristbands most hostels provide, the reliance of wristbands was a bit annoying. Nothing says tourist like matching red and blue wristbands featuring the hipster llama on them.

Bottom Line

Recommend!  We would happily use these guys again.  Though they might be a bit pricier than the average bus company, having everything under one roof saved both time and headaches, especially at the beginning of our trip. Seasoned travelers and those on tight budgets should look elsewhere. 

 

Learn the history of Peru’s national spirit, and a recipe to make a Pisco Sour at home!

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Alpaca Expeditions: The Good, The Bad And the Ugly https://passporttherapy.com/alpaca-expeditions-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/ https://passporttherapy.com/alpaca-expeditions-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 16:39:19 +0000 https://passporttherapy.com/?p=2328 So, you want to hike to Machu Picchu? Good choice. Taking a train or hiring a car is for bums, and you’re more interested in working out your bum instead. Hiking to Machu Picchu is the only way to truly appreciate the degree of difficulty in both building and reaching this city in the sky, and how crazy sophisticated the …

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So, you want to hike to Machu Picchu? Good choice. Taking a train or hiring a car is for bums, and you’re more interested in working out your bum instead. Hiking to Machu Picchu is the only way to truly appreciate the degree of difficulty in both building and reaching this city in the sky, and how crazy sophisticated the Incas were to pull it off. When deciding which route is right for you, there are a few details you must consider:

  • Is hiking directly into Machu Picchu via Inti Punku (Sun Gate) a must? If so, the Inca Trail is the only hike that does this. All alternative routes end up using a train or tram to reach the base entrance with all the normies who took the train the whole way.
  • How much are you willing to spend? The Inca Trail hike is capped at 500 permits per day, which includes guides and porters. With demand for this hike at an all-time high, and the supply capped, you are going to spend anywhere from 2x-3x the price of the alternative routes.
  • How soon are you traveling to Peru? We booked our trek on January 23rd, 2017 for July 2nd of the same year. When we spoke with our tour guides, they were already accepting bookings for 2018. It was our understanding that the longer you wait to book your hike, the worse your campsite you will be. Since the tour operator needs the permits before booking, those selling last minute permits to the trail tend to camp at sub-optimal sites for trail navigation and arrival to Machu Picchu.

Depending on your answers above, you will know if the Inca Trail is right for you. We knew from the get go that we wanted to do the Classic Inca Trail, so our review is solely focused on the 4D/3N Classic Inca Trail Trek. However, we have had friends do the Salkantay and Lares and absolutely loved it. On the Lares, you get a llama to carry your gear.  So depending on your love of cute, cuddly, furry animals, that might be a huge plus.

After researching from a handful of highly-rated companies, we booked our trek with Alpaca Expeditions, a 100% Peruvian and locally-owned operator based in Cusco. 

 

The Good

  • Professional guides fluent in English. No joke, these guys were using words I only ever recall from my college lit courses. Our two guides, Villejio and Ronaldo, were hilarious and provided interesting history lessons throughout the four days. 
  • Great food and a lot of it. I’ve never eaten so much food in four days. Every meal has, at a minimum, three courses. This also includes vegetarian or gluten free options depending on your group’s dietary needs. Plus, a popcorn and hot cocoa happy hour every night!
  • High-Quality Equipment. From the sleeping bags to the tents, everything was in fantastic condition. We opted to rent the hiking poles, sleeping bags and inflatable air mattresses for an additional cost and it was well worth the price.
  • Locally owned and ethical. Alpaca Expeditions makes a big deal about this, and rightfully so in my opinion. Porters and guides have a long history of being exploited by tour operators in Cusco. It isn’t uncommon for some to wait months before being paid for their work, and even then they may only get a portion of what is owed. Alpaca Expeditions provides porters with new uniforms, high-quality hiking boots, and timely payment. 
  • Campsite location and time management. This is probably the most important aspect of actually doing the Classic Inca Trail. Since treks with Alpaca Expeditions fill up quickly, they book the campsites much farther in advance than some of the cheaper, lesser known operators. This means getting out in front of the crowds and making it to the Asunagate first to witness the sun crest over the mountain top and bathe Machu Picchu in its rays.

The Bad

  • Tip collection and breakout. My only issue with this tour operator was how gratuity was handled, or rather, how it wasn’t handled. It was left to us to figure out how to collect and divide the tips among the porters and cooks.  After which, we were asked to present to the entire group their individual take. Due to language barriers, the cultural difference with tipping and the slapdash way the tips were pooled together, everyone went to bed annoyed and flustered. Not a deal breaker, but something that needs to be fixed. 

The Ugly

  • Let’s talk about poop 💩. This is definitely the lowlight of life on the Inca Trail. Squat toilets that look like something out of Saw. You need to collect your own toilet paper and store it for proper disposal, which half the hikers seem to ignore. Instead, it piles up in the stall adding new layers of detail to an already dour decor. Add in the fact that, at night, you will be in frigid temperatures with only a headlamp to light your way and you have yourself a recipe for a wonderful toilet experience. That is if you are lucky enough to even go to the bathroom. Probably half of our group was experiencing some form of constipation, which coupled with the copious amounts of food at each meal, led to some fellow hikers being physically hindered during the last day on the trail. 

Bottom Line

The Journey is the Destination is the Alpaca Expeditions slogan, and their Classic Inca Trail trek reflects that. They have put together a high quality, well thought-out trek that made it the highlight of our South America adventure. We highly recommend them.

 

Want to learn how to travel across Peru easily? Read our review of Peru Hop

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