Overnight layovers in London – Sleep easy at YOTELAIRKollecting Koordinates - overnight layover in London 1

This was our third time with an overnight layover in London; making it our third sleep at YOTELAIR. We usually avoid lengthy layovers like a plague but we don’t mind them in London thanks to this innovative airport hotel! With two locations, one inside Terminal 4 at Heathrow and another inside the South terminal at Gatwick, YOTELAIR has become our new best friend in London.

Read more: Walking guide – How to see London in 24 hrs

Overnight layover in London at YOTELAIR

Just imagine rolling out of bed, pressing the UP button on the elevator, and scanning your boarding pass for security clearance for an early morning flight within minutes. Or getting off the plane after an exhausting flight, and being able to hop into a comfy bed right away.

Similar to the capsule hotels in Japan, YOTELAIR is where innovation meets comfort. The space is smartly designed so that you’ll find everything you need in a cabin that’s no larger than 110sqft. Every inch of space is used for something, like luggage storage underneath beds.

Our Premium Cabin came with complimentary WiFi, a foldout desk, flat screen TV, and en-suite bathroom with monsoon shower. With a touch of a button, the convertible SmartBed glides to any position to work, lounge, or sleep.

Note: Standard cabins are also available for solo travelers.

YOTELAIR is not only convenient for those with an overnight layover in London, but also travelers with connection times of awkward lengths. Booking is available by the hour, with a minimum stay of 4 hours.

Read more: Viewing London from 800ft above the ground

Having stayed at both locations, we prefer Gatwick just a tad more simply because of the gentlemen at the Mission Control (YOTEL talk for reception desk). This is where you can order complimentary hot drinks and bottled water 24/7. What’s impressive is that we found their service to be on par with hotels that are 4-star or higher- perhaps even better than some!

Other Tips and Info

  • Rates start at £49.00+ for a minimum stay of 4 hours, and £95.00+ for stays longer than 12 hours.
  • Bottled water, espresso coffee, tea and hot chocolate are free all day!
  • Food can be ordered at Mission Control- staff will bring your meal to your cabin when it’s ready.
  • For more information and current promos, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

Disclaimer: We were invited guests at YOTELAIR Gatwick. However, all opinions and experiences are honest and our own. We wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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The best home base to explore Northern Montenegro: Hotel SOA

Ever since we visited Croatia we’ve been itching for more Balkan countries. Jaw-dropping national parks, canyons, and lakes were waiting to be checked off our Montenegro list. We were wondering where to stay in Montenegro on our road trip- where to make our home base to explore the northern region of perhaps the most picturesque country we’ve ever been. The answer was simple- Hotel SOA in Zabljak! We’re big fans of boutique hotels and family-run properties for their intimacy, and this one was no exception.

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Read more: 9 Must-Do’s in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Where to stay in Montenegro – Hotel SOA in Zabljak

Location, Space, and Staff

In the heart of Durmitor National Park lies Zabljak, a small town that turns into a ski resort in the winter. Hotel SOA is conveniently situated in the center of Zabljak, only steps away from the famous Black Lake, restaurants, and local markets. It’s minutes to the entrance to Durmitor National Park, 30 minutes away from the Tara Bridge, 1.5hr from the Piva Canyon, and 1.5hr from Biogradska Gora National Park.

Note: If you’re ending (or starting) your Montenegro journey in Kotor like we did, it’s just under 3 hours on a very scenic drive.

The property was originally planned as a family home but the owners turned it into an 18-unit hotel, inviting guests from all over the world to explore their beautiful country. Some are double suites, others are apartments large enough to accommodate groups of up to 5 guests. A contemporary approach is used in the hotel design along with elements of Mount Durmitor’s traditional architecture.

Because it is a small boutique hotel, you’ll come to know everyone who works there. Matija, the owner, works day shifts at the reception and always has a huge smile on his face. We did have an unpleasant encounter with the other front desk staff but that was quickly resolved by Matija. Count on the dining room manager, Novica, to ensure your culinary experience is nothing short of the best. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet the family’s big friendly dog!

We were pleased with our clean and spacious Junior Suite, which came with a separate sitting area along with a modern bathroom. If you did a quick search for hotels in Montenegro you’ll find that these traits aren’t easy to come by!

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Amenities, Facilities, and Dining

Guests can enjoy the wellness center (all to themselves!) for up to 1hr every day. The wellness center includes a Turkish bath and sauna, available for private use by reservation.

Tip: Reserve your time slot as soon as you check in! The hotel was so busy that we didn’t get a chance to use the wellness center.

All units have a mini bar, satellite TV, and complimentary WiFi. There’s a restaurant (undoubtedly the best you’ll find in the area) on the first floor, where guests can enjoy meals with a view of the majestic Durmitor massif.

Our favourite part of the stay is the complimentary breakfast buffet! The breakfast spread at Hotel SOA is no joke- its vast selection left us stuffed every morning. All the ingredients are fresh, featuring local dairy products and cured meats.

Tip: Don’t miss the homemade yogurt and pear pie!

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Other tips and info

  • Rates range from 75CAD+ for single rooms, to 140CAD+ for junior suites, to 220CAD+ for luxury apartments.
  • Tap water is safe to drink.
  • Parking is plentiful and free.
  • The hotel restaurant is the only non-smoking restaurant in the area.
  • For more information and current promotions, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

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Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Hotel SOA. However, all opinions and experiences are honest and our own, and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Feel, breathe, heal, and release – Nectar Yoga B&B on Bowen Island (GIVEAWAY)Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

AS and I just returned from a weekend of zen on Bowen Island, which is just a short 20-minute ride from Vancouver via BC Ferries. We’ve been wanting to attend a yoga retreat for the longest time but never had the opportunity… until we found Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island, that is!

We love our experience here so much that we want to keep it a secret. But alas, sharing is caring. Keep reading for your chance to win a yoga package giveaway!

Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

“Nature and namaste” is perhaps the best way to describe this place. Tired of the materialistic, corporate life, Andrea and her partner set off on a spiritual adventure around the world. Through their travels they found themselves. They envisioned a new life and turned their dream into reality upon returning home. Thus, Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island was born!

Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

Oreo showing us how downward dog is properly done

The space, location, and its surroundings

Tucked away in the woods on Bowen Island, Nectar Yoga B&B is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city life. It’s hard to believe this eco-friendly sanctuary is only half an hour away from downtown Vancouver. Easily accessible, yet remote enough to disconnect.

There are three units on this 1.2 acre lot, complete with a Finnish sauna and geodesic yoga dome. The entire space, including the main house, can be rented out for large group retreats. House pups Oreo and Rascal (cuties!) can be seen roaming around when the sun’s out. You might even spot a deer or two!

Guests can explore a beautiful lake, a nature reserve, two parks, and dozens of hiking trails in their down time. To get around on the island, just walk onto the main road and stick your thumb out! Hitchhiking is the norm here.

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inside the beautiful geodesic yoga dome

Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

Our cottage – The Nectar Loft

The Nectar Loft is the perfect marriage between cabin life and loft living. Using natural wood and aqua tones, the Scandinavian design makes guests feel right at home. The cottage comes with a fully equipped kitchen and small fireplace. Its living room boasts three large windows overlooking the garden, letting in tons of light.

All soaps, shampoo, and cleaning products are locally made and natural, in order to reduce environmental impact. If you don’t feel like going out, the cottage is stocked with books, movies, and board games. At the end of your day, let the comfy queen-sized bed lull you to sleep in the cozy loft.

Food and dining

Homemade breakfast is served daily in our cottage. Using only local and organic ingredients, Andrea ensures her guests are fully charged with yummy vegetarian meals every morning. Vegan options are also available upon request.

You can cook your own meals or dine out for lunch and dinner. Enjoy wood-fired pizzas at Tuscany, French bistro fare at Artisan Eats, or tapas at Barcelona- Bowen Island’s newest addition.

Feel, breathe, heal, and release

Daily yoga and meditation session take place in the geodesic dome. Andrea’s a fantastic instructor; her classes are challenging yet rejuvenating. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say this was the highlight of our stay ! We left feeling recharged, more aware, and inspired.

Andrea does an excellent job in guiding us through each pose and flow, beyond not only the physical aspects but also the spiritual mind. We especially loved the talks post-practice where she delves into yoga and meditation on a deeper level.

For more information on Nectar Yoga B&B, please visit their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and InstagramFollow along for upcoming workshops, events, and retreats!

Giveaway Time! Win a 2-Night Yoga Retreat

I’ve partnered up with Andrea to give one lucky follower (+ guest) a Nectar Yoga B&B weekday retreat! Enter for your chance to win a Yoga Package for 2 guests in the new Garden Suite

How to enter – you can enter as many times as you like!

The 2-night stay is valid from Monday – Thursday between October 15th – November 30th, 2017. Contest closes on April 21st at 9pm PST; the winner will be announced on Sunday, April 23rd. Good luck!


Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island. However, these honest opinions are our own and we would never recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! Special thanks to BC Ferries for providing us with complimentary fares to the island.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

Crystal Lodge & Suites – The Perfect Place to Stay in WhistlerKollecting Koordinates - Whistler

Named ‘The Best Ski Resort in the World’ for many years, Whistler is only a 2-hour drive from home. Although there are slopes closer to Vancouver for us, AS and I make an effort to drive up to Whistler every ski and snowboard season. And this year is no different! We usually do it in a day trip but we decided to stay overnight this time at Crystal Lodge Whistler, or Crystal Lodge & Suites.

Read more: The perfect winter getaway at the No.1 ski resort – Whistler

Crystal Lodge Whistler Location

Situated on the corner where the two main paths meet in the Whistler village, Crystal Lodge and Suites is really at the center of it all. We were literally a stone’s throw away from everything: tons of shops and restaurants, the liquor store, a market, and most importantly- the gondolas and lifts.

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We’ve stayed at other locations in the past but it was always a hassle getting to the gondolas. We either had to walk a few blocks in our ski and snowboard boots (which is super uncomfortable even just for 10 minutes!) if we rented a cabin, or wait for complimentary shuttles if we stayed at a hotel. It was amazing being able to hop on the gondola as soon as we stepped outside Crystal Lodge Whistler! 

Rooms at Crystal Lodge Whistler

With 158 guestrooms and 16 room types, it doesn’t matter if you’re traveling solo, as a couple, family, or a large group of friends. The largest are the Three Bedroom Suites; you can also link the traditional Crystal Rooms together if you’re traveling as a group. Since it’s just the two of us, we stayed in one of the 85 newly renovated Crystal Rooms in the South Wing. 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

These rooms have been redesigned with contemporary decor using blue and grey hues. Each features bright lighting, plush bedding, flat-screen TVs, and huge soaker bathtubs. Ours also had a large balcony that would be perfect for sunbathing in the summer.

Amenities at Crystal Lodge Whistler

Traveling with your fur baby? The lodge is pet-friendly and your four-legged family member can stay at no extra charge!

There’s complimentary ski/snowboard valet in the winter and bike valet in the summer. If you don’t participate in alpine sports, you can spend your day relaxing at the outdoor heated pool and hot tub, working out at the 24-hr fitness center, or browsing and eating your way through 20 on-site retail shops and restaurants. There’s even a sauna and a games room!

If you need to be online at all times while traveling (bloggers and IGers, I’m looking at you!) you’d understand the struggle in staying connected. Well, you don’t have to worry about that here. The folks at Crystal Lodge aren’t lying about their complimentary high speed Wi-Fi!

Guests also receive the Crystal Advantage Card, which offers discounts on many dining, retail, and salon establishments in the Whistler village. This includes complimentary yoga on Sunday mornings at Lululemon, which is just downstairs.

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Service at Crystal Lodge Whistler

What really makes Crystal Lodge & Suites stand out is its commitment to guests. The staff go out of their way to make guest experiences warm and welcoming, with huge smiles on their faces. We had very pleasant encounters with all their staff, especially the front desk and ski valet.

If you take a quick look on Tripadvisor you’ll see that the General Manager takes time to respond to each review. The redesign of the South Wing was completely based on guests’ reviews and feedback that they’ve received over the years. Now that’s dedication!

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Dining at Crystal Lodge Whistler

There are six on-site restaurants and bars, including a Starbucks for those that need daily caffeine fixes! Guests can receive discounts on their meals with the Crystal Advantage Card.

WILD WOOD BISTRO & BAR

Using Pacific Northwest ingredients, Wild Wood offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus in a cozy bistro setting. We ordered the ‘Eggs Rockefeller’ and ‘Wild Breakfast Bowl’ for breakfast- the portions are huge! It was enough fuel for an entire day on the slopes. Check out their website for the full menu.

BASALT WINE & SALUMERIA

This is a new restaurant within the Crystal Lodge building, which can also be accessed from Village Stroll. The patio is the perfect place to chill with some vino and fondue, both in the summer and winter (it comes with a fire pit!), and the interior is super trendy. Featuring European-style cured meats and cheeses and international cuisine and wines, you can enjoy a 3-course meal for just $25 CAD!

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We had a characuterie board to share, followed by 3 courses which were all delicious and beautifully presented. Our favourite of the night was the ‘Thyme Basted Cornish Game Hen Breast’. Chicken breast is usually dry but this was so tender and juicy!

 Other Tips and Info

  • Check-in is at 4pm; check-out is at 11am. The front desk will call you if your room is ready early.
  • Rooms with an odd number have a view of the Village Stroll.
  • Self park is $22CAD + tax in a heated underground lot; valet parking is $26CAD + tax. Hybrid vehicles receive free parking.
  • Dining at Whistler can get pricey; the $25CAD 3-course menu at Basalt is an absolute steal.
  • Whistler is expensive in general, so make use of your Crystal Advantage Card.
  • The lodge donates $5 per day to the AWARE program when housekeeping is not required- stay green, folks!
  • For more information and current promos, check out their official websiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages.

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Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Crystal Lodge & Suites. However, all opinions are our own and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

Opus Hotel: The most WOOF-derful staycation in VancouverKollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

AS and I both work full-time (he studies too, actually, that monster) and we still have a month to go before our next adventure. So we thought- hey, why don’t we do a staycation right here in Vancouver? Better yet, why don’t we bring Navi with us? We found the perfect place that catered to our needs: Opus Hotel.

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“Hi! Welcome to Opus Hotel. Would you like some prosecco and bottled water while we check you in?”

Why, we’d be rude had we refused! With a spacious lobby and staff with huge smiles on their faces, we couldn’t have felt more welcomed. Excited, we grabbed our room keys and made our way to this gorgeous suite.

Location

Situated in Vancouver’s trendiest neighbourhood, Opus is an award-winning luxury boutique hotel with a location difficult to beat. Yaletown is home to many of Vancouver’s best restaurants, all within walkable distance from Opus Hotel. Cafes, grocery stores, drug marts (forgot your toiletries?), and nightlife are also within a few blocks’ radius.

Want to go shopping? No problem- Pacific Centre and Robson Street are only 1 skytrain station away. The skytrain station is literally across the street! You can go anywhere you want to go in the lower mainland.

Two gorgeous parks by the sea, David Lam Park and Coopers’ Park, are both under 10 minutes away on foot. Granville Island, one of Vancouver’s top attractions, can easily be accessed by hopping on a ferry at the dock.

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Amenities

Opus Hotel has everything that comes with a luxury hotel- plus moreLuxury car service is available to take you anywhere in Downtown Vancouver via a Jaguar. You can also take their full-suspension mountain bikes out for a spin if you want to stay active. The gym on the second floor is also open 24-7.

Each room comes with an iPad that can be used on and off property. Need to dial a long-distance number? Don’t worry, Opus has you covered for the first 30 minutes to any number world-wide.

And last but not least… the hotel is pet-friendly!

Pet-friendly

I think most can agree that our fur babies are family. Why should they be left out on a stay as amazing as this? As soon as we entered our suite, we saw a dog bowl with treats and a squeaky toy for Navi. How cute is this?! She and her sushi have been inseparable ever since.

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We love how pets are treated like royalty here. Look at Queen Navi high on her throne!

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Suite

All of the 96 rooms are tastefully decorated, each with a personality and style of their own in vibrant colours and contemporary furniture. With 9 different room types and 5 styles to choose from, you’ll find something that’s just right for you.

We stayed in the OPUS Signature Suite, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and balcony that wrapped around our entire suite. Using dark, bold tones, the interior is glamorous and chic. A two-sided fireplace separates the living room and bedroom with a comfy king-sized bed- it kept us cozy and toasty on a cold day.

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AS was really impressed with the high-fidelity sound system in our living room. A cool CD player mounted on the wall has 6 discs ready to be played, or you can connect your own playlist via Bluetooth.

My favourite part? This gorgeous bathroom with a separate walk-in shower and a massive jacuzzi tub. Even the floor is heated! If this isn’t luxury I don’t know what is.

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Other useful info

  • Complimentary Wi-Fi during your stay.
  • Secure underground valet parking is available at $39CAD a night.
  • Rooms on the 7th floor are slightly smaller, but come with a terrace.
  • La Pentola, the restaurant on site, serves Italian fare using only fresh ingredients.
  • There are TONS of services available: dog-walking, babysitting, dry cleaning, shoeshining, massages, physio, spa treatments… just ask! Their staff will be more than happy to help.
  • For more information and current promos, check out their official websiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages.

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Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Opus Hotel. However, all opinions are our own and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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 Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

Our First Ryokan Experience in JapanKollecting Koordinates - Miyajima Ryokan

Kollecting Koordinates - Miyajima

Mount Misen was cloaked in white as our ferry approached the pier at Miyajima Island. We could see the bright red torii (a traditional Japanese gate at the entrance of a Shinto shrine), ever so faintly amidst the fog. After docking, we asked the nice gentleman at the visitor booth to make a call. Within 10 minutes, Watanabe-san appeared to greet us (with the most sincere bow ever!) and loaded our bags into his van. AS, my mum, and I were all giddy on the short ride through the ancient alleys of Miyajima. Not only was this her first time traveling with us, it was also our first time staying at a traditional Japanese inn- a ryokan.

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We received a warm welcome from Watanabe-san‘s wife and snacked on momiji manju while we waited. These are maple leaf shaped cakes loaded with azuki paste; they’re also Hiroshima’s most popular souvenir!

Read more: Planning your visit to the sacred island of Miyajima, Japan

After being shown to our rooms, we washed up and changed into yukata.

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The Location

Watanabe-Inn is a short drive from the pier. Watanabe-san picked us up and dropped us off in his van (the signature white van in many Japanese anime series I grew up watching- so nostalgic) so we didn’t have to haul our luggage. The famous torii and Itsukushima Shrine are about 10 minutes away on foot, and the stairs to Daishō-in‘s main entrance is right outside the inn!

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Our Rooms

There are only 4 rooms at Watanabe-Inn (for maximum service!) and each comes with a Japanese cypress tub. These are Japanese style rooms with tatami mats, meaning you sleep on a super comfortable futon that’s laid out for you on the floor.

AS and I stayed in Momiji which was awesome, while my mom stayed in the peasant room (kidding, hers was dope too because it came with a loft!). We liked ours just a tad more because it came with an attached sitting area for tea that overlooks a beautiful garden and pond.

Remember that cypress tub I was talking about? Not only does it smell refreshing, it fills by itself and stops once it reaches a certain level. And it keeps the water at the temperature you set!

Read more: How to see Kyoto in 2 days

Food

Food. The best part. This is the main reason why we wanted to stay at a ryokan– to experience Kaiseki-ryori, which is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal originally served at tea ceremonies.

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These guys use only fresh seafood caught from the Seto Inland Sea and present every dish beautifully. Seriously, just leave it to the Japanese when it comes to immaculate culinary details with a homey touch. Needless to say, our taste buds were very happy and thanked us (and the chef) for the delicious meal.

The traditional Japanese breakfast was exactly what we expected. Rice, miso soup, some proteins, and pickled vegetables as side dishes. It was so yummy- I don’t normally eat rice (even though I’m Asian- weird, I know) but I finished the whole thing!

Service

I think it goes without saying that the Japanese are one of, if not the most polite and well-mannered people in the world. Watanabe-san and his wife are perfect examples of what hospitality should be. They lent us umbrellas and rainboots, and did everything they could to ensure our stay was on point.

Have you ever stayed at a ryokan? Tell me about your experience below!

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tips

  • If you’re looking for an authentic ryokan experience, pick somewhere that’s not in the big cities (i.e. Kyoto or Osaka). We were so glad we did this on Miyajima Island- the remoteness and serenity made our stay extra special. Our friend stayed at a ryokan in Arashiyama and he loved it.
  • A night’s stay isn’t cheap, but it’s totally worth it! Rates range from $230-280CAD per night per person.
  • Pick the Momiji room if you do end up choosing Watanabe-Inn.
  • Stay longer! We regret spending only 1 night.

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Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & SpaKollecting Koordinates - Shangri-la Mactan

Ah, Shangri-La Mactan. This gorgeous resort in Cebu served as my sanctuary on our last night in the Philippines. We knew we were in good hands from the moment our airport shuttle pulled up to the security check. Our time in the Philippines was going to end on a good note after all.

A nasty flu slapped me in the face towards the end of our Philippines journey. When I finally saw my GP after week 3 of nonstop coughing, he said I would’ve gotten pneumonia if I didn’t recover from laryngitis by week 4 (yikes!). Anyway, after suffering from high fevers for 3 days straight in El Nido, I was relieved when we landed in Cebu. We were to stay here for one night before flying back to Taiwan.

First Impressions

Similar to other Shangri-La properties, this one is grand; it was like walking into a palace. We were welcomed by staff in gorgeous uniforms (that’s right, even their outfits are spot on!) and sipped on yummy welcome drinks while checking in. A bell boy, full of smiles, then walked us to our room. We don’t know his name, but he picked us out from the crowd the next morning to say bye to us!

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Room

Perched on the 9th floor, our massive room offered a beautiful view of the coastline. The king-sized bed is the most comfortable bed we slept on this entire Asia trip.

The staff even surprised us with fresh fruits, wine, chocolates, and a cake to celebrate both our birthdays! We had reservations at Cowrie Cove, one of Shangri-La’s onsite restaurants, but had to cancel because I was just too weak. When we ordered room service later in the evening, they surprised us with 2 more cakes! That was such a sweet gesture. The service and attention to detail here is just impeccable!

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Food

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Filipino food. I don’t like rice nor do I eat meat, so I didn’t have many options in the Philippines. The food at Shangri-La Mactan, however, is a different story. The vegetarian bibimbap I had for lunch was and the breakfast buffet was the best thing I ate that whole week. The cuisines they offered included Filipino, Western, Japanese, and Korean. There was a fruit bar, salad bar, dessert bar, and even a gluten-free zone! There were also plenty of vegetarian options too- I was in heaven.

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Amenities

With its own private beach and onsite spa facility, Shangri-La Mactan has something for everyone. Fitness training, snorkeling, beach volleyball, jet ski, tennis, yoga… the list goes on and you’ll never run out of things to do. It’s the perfect place not only for couples on a romantic getaway, but also families with small children. They even offer nail art and hair braiding for kids!

Kollecting Koordinates - Shangri-la Mactan

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Thoughts

It’s a shame that we weren’t able to indulge in everything the resort has to offer. We would’ve loved to have a romantic candlelit dinner or try some water sports, but I just wasn’t physically able to do anything. Thanks to Shangri-La Mactan’s luxurious comfort and service, though, I was finally able to rest up and recharge my body.

We’ll be coming back- and next time, we’ll be treating ourselves to a spa treatment after cruising on jet skis!

Kollecting Koordinates - Shangri-la Mactan
Disclaimer: We received a discounted rate for our experience at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa. However, these are our own honest opinions and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Shangri-La Mactan

Social responsibility at its best – Horizon InnKollecting Koordinates - Horizon Inn

I wasn’t going to let AS leave my motherland without taking him to one of the best night markets in Taiwan. Our plan was to stuff our faces at TongHua Night Market, hike up Xiang Shan, and continue to eat at the night market until we drop (Stay away from ShiLin Night Market like a plague! It has become too commercialized in recent years. The quality has declined exponentially while prices increased… but more on this later).

Because my family doesn’t live in Taipei, we needed a place by an MRT station to stay for the night. To my surprise, clean, fairly priced, AND conveniently situated hotels are hard to find in Taipei… until we found Horizon Inn!

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Located in the heart of Taipei, Horizon Inn is within a 10-minute walk to not 1, but 2 MRT stations. Family Mart is just steps away, and Breeze Centre is pretty much right across the street. One of Taiwan’s oldest night markets, Ning Xia, is also within a few blocks’ radius. Because the hotel is right by a main street, we never had to wait more than 2 minutes for an empty cab.

Images courtesy of Horizon Inn

After a warm welcome and fresh fruits, we were given the keys to our Deluxe Room. This is the part where I’m supposed to talk about the rooms and amenities, the friendly staff, the cleanliness, the delicious buffet breakfast, etc., but I’ll save you the boredom. Don’t get me wrong, everything was perfect and breakfast was indeed amazing. We’ve actually never seen a non-five-star property offer so many top-quality options at a buffet. While Tripadvisor reviews are all true, what makes Horizon Inn special is its commitment to social responsibility.

Horizon Inn is by no means a luxury boutique hotel, but its mission and values are more than extraordinary.

We had the honour of meeting Iven, the General Manager- the man who started it all. Iven is a globetrotter.  After spending years abroad, he wanted to build a hotel in his motherland so travelers visiting Taiwan from around the world can also have a place to call home. A map hangs in the lobby for guests to pin their hometowns onto. Travelers can also document their memories in a massive 365-paged guestbook. His love for traveling, combined with his desire to do something for the greater good, resulted in the birth of Horizon Inn.

Horizon Inn provides a platform for the under-privileged and less fortunate. Commodities like food, bedding, and toiletries are often sourced and purchased from non-profit organizations and small businesses. To give back to the society, it collaborates with many groups and offers opportunities for communities in need in Taiwan.

Mentally disabled children

Baked goods served at breakfast are purchased from the Children Are Us Foundation. Its restaurants and bakeries employ kids with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other mental illnesses. These children and teenagers are provided with job skills, opportunities and long-term care.

Poor seniors

You’ll see a fresh, handmade cake at breakfast every morning. Not only is it without any additives and low-fat, but it’s also for a good cause. Horizon Inn buys these cakes from a Nuns Bakery that raises money for the poor elderly people in Taitung.

Aboriginals and rural residents

The Welldoer Volunteer Association raises money for aboriginal tribes and poor rural farmers by promoting their produce and products, and redistributing in the city for better sales. Many of the fruits and vegetables at Horizon Inn’s breakfast buffet are purchased from this organization. Guests can also help out by buying fruits off a display cart in the lobby.

Images courtesy of Horizon Inn

Victims of domestic abuse

Horizon Inn works with the government and offers rooms to victims escaping from domestic abuse.

The Homeless and long-term unemployed people

You may have heard of The Big Issue. Published in four continents, this is a street newspaper that gives homeless people an opportunity to earn legitimate income so that they can be reintegrated into the society. On top of being a corporate sponsor for close to 2 years, Horizon Inn donates a portion of their revenue every year to support this cause. Iven’s face lit up as he showed us pictures of last year’s Christmas party, where people in need were invited to join in on the festivities. He’s planning to provide the same warmth and support this holiday season!

Images courtesy of Horizon Inn

Burn victims

The hotel regularly donates to and fund raises for the Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation, which provides rehab and counseling services for burn survivors and those with facial disfiguration. When the Forma Fun Coast explosion happened last summer, Horizon Inn provided free accommodation for victims’ families who needed to be in Taipei to care for their loved ones.

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AS and I are amazed at the way Iven runs this hotel; it made us really think about how we can make a difference. Social responsibility has never been a criterion when we’re planning our travels but it is now. We visited Taipei in search of yummy food, but we left with so much more than just a full belly.

Thank you, Iven, for opening our eyes to a completely different side of hotel operations. The amount of effort and care put in to supporting all these different groups and communities is truly inspirational!!

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tips

  • You can do your laundry for free!!
  • Rooms start at just below $100 CAD a night (breakfast and tax inclusive).
  • Like many hotels in Asia, not all the rooms have windows.
  • Some may find the tub a bit small, but it wasn’t a problem for us since we’re only 5’4″.
  • Take the time to chat with Iven if he’s available. The work that he’s doing is amazing.
  • For more information and current promos, check out their official website and Facebook page.

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Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Horizon Inn. However, all opinions are our own and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Horizon Inn

Unforgettable jungle stay – Bisma Eight UbudKollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

We had the pleasure of indulging in one of Bisma Eight’s 38 suites. This is a fairly new luxury boutique hotel (opened in early 2015) that’s very close to Ubud Centre. Surrounded by a lush jungle and rice fields, it only takes 10-15 minutes to walk to Ubud Market and the Monkey Forest. The location is unbeatable!

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

From the moment our cab pulled up to Bisma Eight we were treated like royalty. Staff with huge smiles rushed over to greet us and carry our bags. Welcome drinks were served promptly and we were each given canang sari to offer to Ganesha, the God of knowledge and wisdom, at a small shrine in the lobby.

Bisma Eight prides itself in being more than just a hotel- it is a community that embraces even the smallest act, ensuring a unique experience for both their guests and staff. We were immersed in a relaxing atmosphere right from the get-go. The property takes on a minimalist, yet classy design. This bamboo path leading from the lobby to our building blends in seamlessly with the gorgeous architecture and grounds.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

We stayed one night at a Forest Suite, located at the west end of the property. All the Forest Suites offer a jungle view from a private balcony (from the bed too, actually!). Because our suite was on the ground floor, we could only see the base of the trees. Don’t get me wrong, it was still lush and beautiful. But I’d imagine the higher floors would offer a better sweeping panoramic view of the jungle from the treetops.

Our suite was MASSIVE; it came with all the essentials plus more. There were more than enough outlets (always a problem when we have so many electronics to charge) and the WiFi signal was very strong (wasn’t always the case in Bali). Not only did we get our own living room with tons of space for luggage storage and a huge bed with a forest view, but also a Japanese inspired soaking tub in our bathroom! I adored the interior design- the minimalist approach with a wooden touch was so chic and luxurious.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

After we settled in, we got a knock on our door with afternoon tea. Each individual treat was a burst of flavour, leaving us wanting more.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

Copper Kitchen & Bar

Bisma Eight’s rooftop restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating. We dined here for both lunch and dinner- it gave off a different vibe in the day vs. night. During the day, you can see the fields of greens and volcanoes in the distance while you enjoy your food. AS devoured his Focaccia Club while I munched on my healthy vegetarian Bisma Eight Bowl. Only fresh, local ingredients are used and they even have their own organic garden where they grow their own produce!

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

After dark, the restaurant comes to life with romantic lights and candles. The ambience is perfect for a dinner date with beautifully presented fusion dishes. Both our entrees were delicious, but the star of the meal was this dragon fruit tart with milk rocks and meringue. It’s so pretty. And it was as yummy as it looks- tangy with just the right amount of sweetness.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

We chose to have our breakfast served on our private balcony. With 11 options to choose from (western, Balinese, Japanese, and Korean), there’s something for everyone. The pastries were full of buttery goodness and both our mains were cooked to perfection. I love how the fruits were served with a piece of lime- the tiny bit of sourness makes them much sweeter.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

wellness

There are also yoga classes every morning that take place on the roof top. AS tried yoga for the first time and he loved it! Although there is no spa facility at Bisma Eight, there is a stunning infinity pool and a well-equipped gym. We were finally able to burn off some of the fat we’ve gained, hah. Nothing feels better than letting loose and relaxing after a workout. That was exactly what we did- we went back to our suite for a soak.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

It takes around 45 minutes to fill up the tub but trust me, it’s worth the wait!

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

There are both daybeds and cabanas by the infinity pool, along with a rooftop pool bar with an equally gorgeous jungle view. The pool is even heated at night. Daybeds get filled up quickly but we never had an issue with finding a spot. This was the perfect place to unwind and get your tan on.

tips:

  • Rates start at 330CAD a night (before taxes), breakfast inclusive.
  • It’s just a little over an hour from the airport by car, which costs around 300-350K IDR (~$30-35).
  • Stay in a Forest Suite and request a room on the 3rd floor.
  • All the suites are equipped with a Japanese onsen tub, regardless of room type.
  • For more information and current promos, check out their official websiteInstagramFacebook, and Twitter pages.

Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Bisma Eight. However, all opinions are our own and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Bisma Eight

Indulge in luxury and zen at The AmalaKollecting Koordinates - The Amala

Our 10 days in Bali were so packed with activities that we were drained by the end of the trip. Looking back, AS and I agree that the day we liked most was our first day in Bali. With so much Bali has to offer, we’re a little embarrassed to admit that we really enjoyed being cooped up in our villa at The Amala.

Kollecting Koordinates - The Amala

After landing at Denpasar Airport, we were picked up and transported to an adults-only sanctuary tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Seminyak. One of 6 Lifestyle Retreats’ properties in Bali, The Amala is ideal for wellness retreats offering both luxury and zen. Amelie and her team greeted us with huge smiles and welcome drinks upon arrival. A swift check-in ensued, then we were led to our very own Spa Villa through a lush bamboo path.

Kollecting Koordinates - The Amala

There are only 14 guest units at The Amala, giving guests complete intimacy. Each unit utilizes an open-air concept that is absolutely stunning. Our spa villa came with a private plunge pool with jacuzzi jets, daybeds, an outdoor bathtub, and a shower that doubles as a steam room. The steam shower can be scented with either ginger green tea or spiced citrus depending on your mood. Our bed was even decorated with swan towels and bamboo leaves, congratulating our wedding anniversary!

A complimentary shuttle will take you anywhere in Seminyak, given that it is available at the time of request. We weren’t so lucky in getting a ride to our dinner reservation, but it only cost us around $3 to get there by cab so it wasn’t a big deal. Free yoga is also available at 8am every morning- you can also sign up for additional wellness sessions and classes at an extra cost.

Kollecting Koordinates - The Amala

Breakfast was served right by our plunge pool. Not only do they have Western and Indonesian options, but also Japanese!

cooking class

When we were in Bangkok we had a blast at a cooking class so we wanted to sign up for one in Bali. However, we found that most cooking classes in Bali are only offered in big classes where you have to share workstations with others (not our thing). The one offered at The Amala is completely private! We signed up for Menu 1 with Chef Wayan, who was very patient with my husband who doesn’t have any culinary knowledge. The staff also noticed the number of bug bites we had and set up mosquito repellent without us having to ask.

We learned how to make a 3-course Indonesian meal, including a spicy chilli paste from scratch that’s highly addictive. We present to you: lawar salad, tum ikan, and dadar gulung! This was definitely the best lunch we had in Bali.

Kollecting Koordinates - The Amala

spa

After the cooking class came our couples massage at their Spa & Wellness Studio. I booked us a Balinese Exotic Fruit package, which is a 2hr treatment beginning with a foot bath/scrub, followed by a traditional full body massage, a scrub and wrap, and finally a flower bath. The drinks – freshly pressed juice and hot ginger tea- were the cherry on top. Our masseuses, Rassmi and Vidya, were gentle with great technique and power. They were so good that I fell asleep and drooled!

We really loved the peace and tranquillity The Amala. The service was next level- Amelie and her team pride themselves on a personal level of service that is second to none. Because it was our first stay in Bali, it set the bar extremely high. AS still can’t stop talking about our experience here. We wish we had stayed longer!

Kollecting Koordinates - The Amala

Disclaimer: We received a discounted rate for our experience at The Amala. However, all opinions are our own and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - The Amala