Hello Melbourne ! Vol 1

That is a city I never thought I would like; but I actually loved it!

Melbourne is extremely impressive; beautiful modern skyscrapers next to perfectly preserved old buildings, clean and peaceful parks and of course the beautiful Yarra River that crosses the city gracefully.

Starting from getting an easy tourist visa process your only concern should be not to carry any food in your bags, as its definitely not allowed ! We took a direct 11 hour flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka with Sri Lankan airways and we landed safely in Melbourne. The airport is also great, very modern and the finding our way out was a very fast route.

We rented an apartment in the CBD area very close to the Victoria Library and the City Hall. That area is also famous for the Universities and its possibly the most lively area together with the Yarra River. I adore organised and clean cities and Melbourne is one of them! Our apartment was on the 54th floor so we had a pretty good view as well.

Melbourne is a city where you can walk safely but it also has excellent public transport. People are friendly and nice and they seem to enjoy their city. There is a huge variety of restaurants and bars with cuisine from all over the world in addition to quiet parks small cafes.

Tip: Walk and explore the city and when tired rent a bike and see the parks 

 The National Gallery

 

I loved spending time at the National Gallery. It hosted amazing exhibitions including the latest exhibition of Yayoi Kusama.

“Inside Yayoi Kusama’s Flower obsession 2017. The proliferation of flowers gradually covers all surfaces transforming the domestic space into a spectacular environment”

Yayoi Kusama

Few metres from the Narional Gallery is the famous Yarra River. This area will remind you of Dubai Marina in Dubai. It is a beautiful walk with malls, restaurants and bars. It is a famous spot for locals and tourists and the home for many street artists. First time I saw a man giving “Free Prayers” next to the river!

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Yarra River  & the South Bank

Tip for the Tourist: Visit the Tourist Centre although the Tram around CBD is Free!

Eureka Tower
Eureka Tower towers over Melbourne and is the tallest building in Melbourne and second tallest building in Australia. Built in 2006, the height of this building is 297.3 meters. Until the 2010, when the Burj Khalifa was finished, it was the tallest building in earth. Take some time and visit this its observatory where you can see the time from above. We took the chance to be at the Edge .. and we survived it too!

The Eureka Tower

The Eureka Tower

The Victoria Library

Do not forget to visit the Victoria Library as it is a beautiful building inside out.

 

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The Best Brunch in Colombo, Sri Lanka

I must admit I am a serial brunch lover and since I avoid drinking during the day, I choose places which are special and which will satisfy your taste to the max. Talking about taste, I found the best all day breakfast place in Colombo, the One Up!

Two Australian surfers founded this boutique restaurant in the capital of Sri Lanka. The place is really small and that is because all dishes are cooked by one of the owners! The variety is not big but all portions are large and very delicious. If you are visiting Colombo, I would recommend you to try the Eggs Benedict with Crab and the Poached Eggs with Avocado and Feta cheese!

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You will be served by the owners and you will have one of the best experience guarantee.

Bon Appetit !

Tip: There are no service taxes applied in the bill so do not forget to tip them well!

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Hidden Spot: The Edge of The World, Saudi Arabia

I am usually not a fun of the adventures, but this adventure I would recommend it !

Hidden deep in Saudi Arabia, The Edge of the World is the place of unique beauty. The scenery is wild and scary but also peaceful and quiet.

Located only 2 hours away from the capital, the city of Riyadh. In order to reach The Edge of the World you need a proper 4×4 SUV car. The locals recommend you to always go with two cars because it is very common the cars to stuck in the sand.

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Remember that women are not allowed to drive in Saudi so the ladies need a male driver!

The off road driving is dangerous in some parts, so make sure that you have a good driver with you.

The Edge of the World is the favorite spot for pick-nicks. However, make sure you will leave on the day light as when its dark is very difficult to find the way back.

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A Maldivian Retreat

The Maldives is one of the most advertised place on earth. I am sure everyone is secretly wishing to be there at least once in their lifetime. Hence, it is not the easiest trip to do since Male is a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it is a long trip from most of the countries and the hotels are very expensive.

However everyone will admit that the Maldives is a very special on earth. The clear waters, the white sands, the tiny islands spread on the water give the traveler a great experience.

Once you arrive on Male, you will have to get either a speedboat or a sea plane to go to your hotel. There are hotels very close to Male but there are  islands close to two hours away from  Male. When budgeting for your trip in the Maldives, do not forget to calculate this cost.

There are many hotels in the Maldives; from luxurious 5 star hotels to smaller 3 star hotels. You can choose the one which fits your budget. I would say that some of the hotels might be overpriced. At the end of the day, the Maldives is all about the view! You can enjoy the view from any hotel!

Do not forget to snorkeling in the reefs and swim with the baby sharks!

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The Yoga Retreat in Bali

Bali is famous for its beautiful beaches and the outstanding natural forests. Bali has been a top destination for honeymooners and backpackers as it combines everything; Luxurious hotels, affordable condos, great nightlife, gourmet restaurants, great historic places and organised museums and of course the best yoga !

I have always been a fan of yoga but I am not practicing it on a regular basis. Hence, once I found myself in Bali I was sure I had to visit a yoga place. I checked online, of course and I found the best place in Ubud!

In the heart of Ubud there is a beautiful Yoga studio, the Taksu Yoga. It feels like you are entering a garden with a petit lake in the middle and the forest build around it.

Since I would call myself a beginner, I signed up for the basic course. I was informed that people in Bali are usually much advanced and they do not usually practice this course. I was so lucky I was the only person that particular day so I had the full attention of the teacher ! As a beginner I really enjoyed the attention as in most classes the yoga teacher has a big class so she or he cannot correct everyone.

The studio is made of wood inside the forest with open air windows. The only sound you hear are the sounds of the forest, which helps enormously to concentrate on breathing and the exercise. Even the basic yoga level was intense and I could really feel the exercise on every inch of my body. The teacher was extremely kind, patient and helpful.

After one hour of class enjoy a fresh juice in the bar to relax and boost your energy.

Visit: http://www.taksuyoga.com/

 

 

Anantara Peace Heaven Tangalle Resort

Looking through the window of the airplane as you are about to land in Sri Lanka you see a beautiful tropical jungle ! Sri Lanka is a unique place ! Is a beautiful island just below India and very close to the Maldives.

After landing you take a car and you travel about 4 hours to reach the ultimate heaven! The Anantara Peace Heaven Tangale Resort is a brand new resort and the first of the Anantara group in Sri Lanka.

I cant really describe how amazing my experience at this resort was.

Although we arrived very late at night, the check in was a fantastic experience. Our driver got complementary accommodation in the resort for as long as we were staying there.

The fist night we checked in to a beautiful garden villa but the next day we asked to be upgraded and got the most amazing ocean view pool Villa you will ever see! All villas are really spacious and the bathrooms are massive with luxurious amenities.

Extra Luxury : Each villa has a Butler service

The management of the this hotel really thought of everything !! Inside the villa you can find flip-flops (in case you didn’t bring with you), a bag for the swimming pool, 3 kind of pillows, even a anti-mosquito gel.

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My Ocean View Villa

The breakfast was huge as well! They are offering wonderful selection of every kind of breakfast you can think of: from international, to Arabic and Chinese. All the fruits were really tasty and fresh. Do not forget to try the amazing coconuts!

Beautiful to See: The resort has a local person who climbs the coconut trees and cuts the fruits to be served to the guests!

Although the infinity pool is beautiful we fell in love with the beach. The sun beds were really comfortable, the staff very nice and very considerate.

Extra Pampering: Once you were siting in the pool or in the beach, the staff would bring you the towels and a basket with: two bottles of water, a pair of flip flops, 2 fresh oranges and a sun block!

Everyone in the hotel is really friendly and polite. They were extremely helpful. The Resort also offers 3 restaurants and 3 spots for private dining.

I would definitely recommend the Private Dining as the set menu is really massive and delicious.

Once in Sri Lanka you have to try the sea food and especially the crabs, the lobster and the shrimps. Do not miss the curries ! Although most of them are really spicy, the taste is rewarding!

Enjoy !

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The Italian Restaurant

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Sri Lanka Map

Check the Map 🙂

Book here : http://tangalle.anantara.com/

 

Six months in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

For the western world Saudi Arabia is definitely not a destination anyone would think its great to live or travel. In fact the county has no tourists apart for the religious purposes. So if you are not an Muslim, such as myself, it is highly unlikely you will ever be able to get a tourist visa and enter the Kingdom.

However there are many foreigners living and working in Saudi Arabia. From example there is a very large community of American citizens working in the country but generally you will find people from all over the world. That is how I arrived in Saudi to work for six months!

The capital of Saudi Arabia is Riyadh and the second largest city is Jeddah.

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Riyadh city

Saudi Arabia is not an easy place to live. There are many rules you have to follow and certain social etiquette you have to follow. For example, every restaurant has two entrances – one for the single men and one entrance for families. Men and women are not supposed to dine together or drink coffee in public unless they are related.

Until recently you could have ended up in jail if you were drinking coffee with a colleague in public if the Religious Police, or as they called, the Mutawa would see you. Hence, few months ago the Saudi King decided that the religious police should not be authorized to arrest anyone! That is a progress!

Women are those who have many of the restrictions .. for example, women are not allowed to drive, so every woman needs to have a car and a driver. Also, all women are obligated to wear the Abaya even the foreigners. Abaya is a long rope, mostly back that covers your body reaching to the toes. As a foreigner I was always wearing the abaya once I was out of my compound but I never covered my hair or face. This is something actually acceptable. People here understands that you are not western lady and even not a muslim person. They really respect that and they never create a problem. That is because most of the saudi businessmen travel a lot and they are fully exposed to the western cultures.

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Me in Abaya

People thought I was not going to be safe in Saudi because people are extremely religious. That is a misconception! People in Saudi are perfectly normal. I always felt perfectly safe being around Saudis, I felt respected and welcome. Saudis are really hospitable people and they would never try to “force their religion to you”. That is another myth as well.

Saudis are genuine peaceful and unlike most people think they are against the terrorism. 

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The Kempinski, Burj Rafal

If you respect their culture and follow their rules, you have nothing to worry about. The reason is that the government is open to the foreigners. They understand that they need to exchange knowledge and grow the economy of the country. That is why they have made sure that foreigners will feel as comfortable as possible. The capital has almost 80 western compounds. The security measures are really tight and the compounds are protected 24/7 from the national army!

Inside the compounds the rules are entirely western; No police or religious police is ever allowed to enter the compounds and disturb the foreigners. The compounds have all the facilities including, restaurants, schools & nurseries, sport activities, pool areas and entertainment such as cinemas, bowling clubs etc.

The Diplomatic Quarter is another place where the expats can feel as Home ! Most of the Embassies are located inside the Diplomatic Quarter. This is also, an area protected by the national army and the special forces. Of course each embassy have its own security as well. Some of the Embassies are really active hosting concerts, movie nights, formal or casual dinners, events etc. Again the Saudi government and the Saudi people are ok with this. They understand and respect us the way we understand and respect them.

Needless to say that Saudi is a “dry country” – meaning, there is no Alcohol sold in the entire country

Riyadh is not a the most beautiful city in world because there are many constructions going on at the moment, as the new Metro; a mega project which will be amazing to see once its done. However, the city has many beautiful landmark building such as the Kingdom Tower, the Al Faisaliah tower and the Burj Rafal Tower where the Kempinski Hotel is located. Another mega project that should be finished soon is the King Abdullah Financial District; a complex of beautiful towers that soon will be the heart of the business life in Saudi!

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King Abdullah Financial District

Saudis love dining out! That’s why the capital is full of restaurants ! Here you will find all the international food chains, etc McDonalds, Burger King, TGIF, Five Guys, but you will also find boutique burger places and all kinds of the international cuisine.

 

Quick Guide:

When in Riyadh

Stay at the Kempinski Burj Rafal – because is really beautiful and modern

Rent a car from Europcar  they really have the best fleet and the best customer service

Order from Maestro Pizza – the most delicious pizza place, 100% Saudi made

Try the Biscuits of Anoosh – simply delicious & 100% Saudi

Visit – The Edge of the World  – is breathtaking

Dine at the famous turkish restaurant Tugra, at the The Globe and at the Spazio 77 –  fine dining restaurants with amazing panoramic view of Riyadh

Buy a perfume from O100

Explore the various malls where you will find all the international fashion brands