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.

Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

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.

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

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. 

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

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.

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

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!

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

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!

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler - Basalt

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.

Kollecting Koordinates - Crystal Lodge Whistler

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.

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

“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.

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

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.

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

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

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

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.

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

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.

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel

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.

Kollecting Koordinates - OPUS Hotel
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.

Kollecting Koordinates - Miyajima

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.

Kollecting Koordinates - Miyajima

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!

Kollecting Koordinates - Miyajima

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.

Kollecting Koordinates - Miyajima

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!

Kollecting Koordinates - Miyajima Ryokan

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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Kollecting Koordinates - Ryokan

 

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!

Kollecting Koordinates - Shangri-la Mactan

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!

Kollecting Koordinates - Shangri-la Mactan

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

Home away from home: Puri Gangga Resort UbudKollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

Puri Gangga Resort Ubud was our last home in Bali- we call it home because it really did feel like home, even if it was just for a brief 2 nights. This luxury boutique resort is not really in Ubud- it’s actually in a lovely village called Sebatu (about a 20-30min drive away from Ubud Centre), further up from Tegalallang rice fields. It’s one of those places where it may look unassuming online, but it’ll take your breath away when you’re actually there.

Kollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

Nestled up on a hill in the forest, it’s away from the hustle and bustle of Ubud but still has easy access to many attractions. It’s just a 5-10min walk from Gunung Kawi temple, and only a 30min drive to see the Mount Batur sunrise from Kintamani! The location is hard to beat, especially when they offer daily complimentary shuttle services to Ubud Centre that run every 3 hours.

After a warm welcome and swift check-in we were taken to our room. The grounds are beautifully kept with endless greens and bamboo paths. With only 20 rooms, we felt like we had the whole resort to ourselves. Other than at the pool and restaurant, we never saw other guests!

We were in the Deluxe Room for 2 nights. Even at the most basic tier, our room came with a private balcony overlooking a small pond and garden. Imagine what the other rooms are like! Ours had all the essential amenities, with a mosquito net that came in handy (we lost count of how many bites we got in Bali). The washroom utilizes an open concept with a rainfall shower and humongous bathtub. Unfortunately, the blinds by the tub were broken in our room. It would’ve been awesome to take a bubble or flower bath with a view of the lush garden.

Puri Gangga prides itself in being “A Home in Living Culture”- and rightfully so. There are paid activities you can take part in, such as the Holy Water Spring purification, candlelit dinners, spa treatments, and Balinese cooking classes. If you don’t want to pay extra, there are TONS of other free activities you can take advantage of. These include guided morning walks, yoga classes, free bike rental, Balinese music during dinner, 15min foot massage, temple visit to Gunung Kawi, and handicraft lessons! They’ll teach you how to wrap coconut leaves and make Canang Sari- the daily offerings in little baskets that you see everywhere in Bali.

Complimentary afternoon tea (Balinese treats!) can be enjoyed daily from 3-5pm at Kailasha Restaurant. We also had lunch and dinner here a few times; AS loved the Rendang Curry. The tables by the railing have such an amazing view!

We had breakfast (complimentary for resort guests) served on our balcony. The staff were super punctual- we asked for a 7:30am breakfast and we got a knock on our door at 7:29am. (Yes, I kept track because because I’m obsessed with breakfasts- I want it when I ask for it!) We had 4-5 selections to choose from (American, Balinese, Continental, etc.) with freshly squeezed juice. I loved their pain au chocolat!

Kollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

The BEST part of Puri Gangga is their infinity pool. It can get pretty packed with all the day beds occupied in the afternoon but the view is absolutely gorgeous. I don’t think pictures do it justice! The best time to take a dip is at dawn and dusk- it’s less busy (or empty in the morning), and the colours in the sky against the still pool water will make you speechless.

Kollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

Kollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

Something special about this resort is how close we were to wildlife and animals. I got a little addicted to the sound of the Tokay gecko during our stay. They come out at night and they make the funniest little sounds! I had a giggle fit every time and got quite good at imitating them. There were also little frogs bouncing around throughout the resort as well as a cow right next door (fenced off). We even saw chickens running around in our garden one morning!

It was difficult leaving Puri Gangga- it made the end of our Bali trip so bittersweet. What I miss the most about this place is one of the front desk agents: Nara! She was so sweet, courteous, and helpful- nothing seemed too much to ask of her. She helped us book a driver, super last minute, when ours failed to respond on time. Thank you Nara, Mr. Adita, Mr. Mudatra, and all the staff for making our stay so enjoyable. We can’t wait to return!

tips:

  • Early bird specials start at 150CAD a night (before taxes). They always have a bunch of promos and special packages you can take advantage of.
  • It’s a 90min drive from the airport, which costs about 400K IDR (~$40).
  • Stay longer! Our 2-night stay was way too short.
  • For more information, check out their official website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

Kollecting Koordinates - Puri Gangga Resort

Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Puri Gangga Resort. 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 - Puri Gangga

 

Review: IZE SeminyakKollecting Koordinates - IZE Seminyak

If you do a quick search for accommodation in Seminyak, you’ll find that most decent hotels will cost you an arm and a leg in this part of Bali. We planned on spending most of our nights in Ubud, but we didn’t want to miss out on the amazing restaurants Seminyak has to offer, nor did we want to throw down too much just for a night’s sleep… so we found the perfect solution: IZE Seminyak. IZE is one of 6 properties owned by lifestyleretreats, each catering to a unique crowd.

Situated right in the center of the action in Bali’s most luxurious and high-end area, IZE Seminyak is only a 5-minute walk away from Seminyak Square, and within walking distance to plenty of shops, bars, and restaurants. We had so many to choose from it was a struggle finding a place to eat! You’d think a hotel in such a great location would be ridiculously expensive or filthy (think Vegas)- but it is neither. The building stands out on the strip with its sleek and modern design. The entire hotel is cloaked in neutral tones and soft blue hues, inside and out. We loved the colours and found them calming (serenity is a little hard to come by in this area).

Kollecting Koordinates - IZE Seminyak

We sipped on yummy welcome drinks in the lobby while the front desk checked us in. Many sitting areas can be found throughout the hotel. These are perfect for both families and big groups.

Our Deluxe Room on the second floor was squeaky clean and massive- even the washroom was huge. An added bonus was the fresh fruits and complimentary drinks in the mini bar that came with the room.

One thing we loved about the washroom at IZE is the rainfall shower head, and that there is a mirror in the shower! It just makes so much sense to have a mirror in there. I’m all about being efficient- I could brush my teeth, remove my makeup, and wash my face while I condition my hair. Who doesn’t like to save time?!DSC03797

The rooms on the first floor have access to a shared private pool right from their balcony:

The public pool is located on the 7th floor along with a pool bar. Instead of going to the beach for the sunset, we caught the last glimpse of it from the rooftop pool. The same soft yet sleek design is reflected in their beautiful pool bar. The colour contrast and lines at this pool bar made the OCD part of me very happy, heh. IZE also has a gym for those that want to stay fit even on holidays.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to enjoy the complimentary breakfast buffet because we had to check out before 7am to go to Sanur for our PADI course. The staff didn’t send us off hungry, though. They packed us each with a breakfast box to-go, with some pastries, fresh fruits and juice.

I don’t think you can find another hotel in the area with so much to offer for less than $100. We did find our room on the second floor a little lacking in privacy and voiced our concern. Management quickly responded and mentioned they’re working on a new design to improve the privacy of certain rooms. If you’re looking for a secluded romantic getaway, you’re not going to find that at IZE because the area gets pretty bumpin’ at night. But if you’re looking for a convenient, comfortable stay with great amenities and easy access to lots of action, this is it!

 

Disclaimer: We received our IZE Seminyak stay at a discounted rate. As always, all opinions are our own!