adventure, camera, country profiles, photography, travel

A Photo Tour of Bali

As my time in Bali comes to a close, I thought I’d share some of my favorite shots from the trip and a brief story or information with each one. Enjoy!

Sunset overlooking the resort pool
While our villa wasn’t exactly in the resort, we got to use Sayan Terrace Resorts pool and spent several evenings enjoying stunning sunsets overlooking the Ayung River (which we later rafted down) and some beautiful rice terraces. The pool was always empty and a great spot to relax and enjoy a Bintang (local beer).
Top down view of our resort
The Aerial view of our resort was quite beautiful as well. The pool is pictured in the middle surrounded by thatch roofed villas of all shapes and sizes. Little pathways made their way between villas, pools, and a restaurant. My drone had its first crash landing here but despite a chipped propeller kept working without issue.
Trekking Ubud
Just outside of Ubud is a beautiful trek called the Campuhan Ridge Walk. This seemed a popular spot for early morning runners and people hoping to catch the sunrise. It wasn’t too crowded and gave us some of the best moody morning views of the trip.
Tegallalang Rice Terrace
Tegallalang Rice Terrace is perhaps Bali’s most famous rice terrace. It was near harvest, so the rice looked much less green than we expected but during sunset the color contrast was quite beautiful. Like most things in Bali, this place is overrun with tourists and the tourist industry. Taxi drivers yelling and honking, shop owners calling for you to buy, drones flying everywhere, and rice field owners asking for donations. Its understandable to was money for tourists to walk through your fields, but a simple ticket entry fee would be simpler and preferable to all parties in my opinion. There are plenty of less crowded rice fields for sure, but I guess it takes knowing a local or living here to find the really good ones.
Walking through the fields
Eventually as sun sets, the crowds begin to thin and the pressure decreases. Here in the background you can just make out of the many tree swings which tourists in Bali seem to love (and thus appear everywhere). The amount of labor and thought that has been going into these rice terraces for centuries is incredible to observe.
Kroya Waterfall
Through the dense foliage you can see the beautiful blue waters of Kroya Waterfall (often mislabeled Aling-Aling Waterfall on Instagram we found out). This beautiful waterfall can serve as a fun rock slide. According to the gate attendants at the park you must have a guide to do this or they will fine you. Entry to the park is 10,000 IDR, with a guide it goes up to 125,000 IDR. The water looked inviting but we didn’t risk the fine.
Aling Aling
This is the actual Aling Aling falls according to what we were told. This super tall waterfall is not one you can jump from. It is however quite a lovely site. Above it and on up the river is the Blue Lagoon and Secret Gardens which we didn’t have time to explore.
Tukad Cepung Waterfall
Tukad Cepung Waterfall has been labeled the hidden waterfall. In my Bali research, I read articles as recent as 2017, saying this was “off the beaten path” and “barely discovered by tourists”. This is apparently no longer true, as we found the waterfall packed with people. There is a 10,000 IDR entrance fee and then a long but pretty walk down many stairs and through a hidden green canyon up to the falls. Its hard to get a photo like this as the crowds are packed in front of the falls all trying to do the same thing. But with some patients we managed to snap a few.
Near Echo Beach
Canggu was one of the first places in Bali that has felt peaceful and relaxed. Despite reading online that both Ubud and Canggu were good places for ex-pats and escaping the crowds, we found the Ubud was nearly just as bad as the Kuta area. Walking these beautiful Canggu beaches was a perfect was to spend the evening.
Echo beach from above
The much emptier beaches of Canggu gave me some much needed drone flying practice and I successful made 3 flights here. The overhead clouds helped with lighting and and dark sand makes a nice contrast with the white froth of the ocean.
sunset
After watching the sunset over Canggu, we decided to leave the beaches lined with fun looking beach clubs and bars and find some street food. We ended up getting a fusion burrito at a little food truck which was delicious. Food in Canggu is hard to beat in my opinion. There seemed to be plenty of cheap local options but there are also many excellent healthy more western options as well. While many restaurants serving Avocado toast and smoothie bowls tend to be a bit more expensive, the relaxed atmosphere and clean environments make it worth paying a bit more here. Overall Canggu was the nicest place I visited in Bali and the only one I’d come back to for a longer visit. It seems set up for relaxed, ex-pat, beach life with healthy food options, yoga, surfing everywhere, and a lack of the general business that overshadows much of Bali.
aerial shot
One of my favorite aerial shots of the Canggu area near Echo Beach, The water and air both seem so much crisper and cleaner up here than further down the coast. These rocks in the ocean were quite stunning when viewed from above.
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adventure, city reviews, country profiles, lodging, travel

Singapore in one day

First let me just say Singapore Airlines is the best economy class experience flying I have yet to experience (of probably 20 or so airlines I’ve flown on by now). Large seats (even in the back), lots of storage room for luggage, free food and drinks (including selection of alcohol), vegetarian options (the best in my opinion, although not a vegetarian myself), and great free entertainment. No wonder they were rated number one economy option worldwide this year!

En route to Bali, Singapore Airlines offered the free options of having an extended layover in Singapore so we took it obviously. My only regret was not taking two days instead of one, as there just isn’t enough time to recover from flying 20 hours to fully enjoy even a quick city exploration day.

We flew out of SFO at 1:15 am which was perfect as it gave me the chance to sleep for about 6 hours on the flight to Hong Kong. One helpful hint, you must disembark in Hong Kong and go through security again to re-board and continue to Singapore. This is fairly well organized and expedited but was unexpected. Another helpful hint: economy boards from back to front. Get a seat near the back and get in line early if you are flying with only carry on luggage as we did. It was hard to fit our bags the first time because we got in line late but after that we found that by getting in line first we had plenty of room to store both a carry on and a personal item above.

Singapore’s Changi airport has consistently been rated the best airport in the world. I can certainly see why.  It is clean, modern, efficient, English language signs, and full of gardens and good food. the only slightly inefficient part is immigration, which like many US airports involves long waits in line. But luckily the agents are more friendly and being a US citizen, no visa required. Checking back in is a breeze. They fingerprint you into the country and leaving you can use automated check in with their fingerprint recognition! No need to talk to anyone!

To get to Singapore from the airport we opted for the inexpensive option of the MRT (metro or subway system). To buy tickets you must use cash, so visit the exchange counter or ATM first. Our ticket down the East/west line only cost 2.20 SGD (Singapore dollar is equal to $0.75 USD as of 5/18). There was one transfer (from the Airport spur to the main East/west line). The MRT is very modern, clean, not too crowded, easy to follow, and like everything in Singapore, has plenty of English. In fact, English seems to be the preferred language for most public writing!

We stayed in a Hotel 81 (seems to be a popular 2-star chain in the area). I used booking.com (click my link to save $20 off your travels, helps me travel too!) and we spend SGD $75 (55 USD). The hotel room was small, but clean and comfortable and about a 10 minute walk from the Kallang station of the East/West line (25 min ride from the airport).

View From Hotel
The view from our hotel window. Not the newest neighborhood in the city but seemed safe and was convenient

Singapore is a very walk-able city. Between short (two stop) rides on the MRT and walking, we saw a good amount of it in just one afternoon. We primarily visited 4 areas. The first was Haji Lane and more generally the area around it between Beach Road and Kallang Road. There was a fundraiser market going on with all sorts of delicious looking food for a local Mosque. Haji Lane itself was full of tourists visiting quaint shops and taking photos. I can see the appeal of the architecture for sure but it did seem a bit touristy.

From here we walked north to Little India. This is a much larger area full of too many shops and restaurants to count. Some of the food is very cheap (SGD $4 for a meal) and many of the markets were quite crowded. There were many tourists here too but it didn’t have the same touristy feel as Haji Lane. Walking through the entire area took about a 2 hours but we could have spent way more time.

We then headed south-west to the Bugis Markets. Here we tried delicious food, drank amazing fruit juices and explore the vast array of food, clothing and other shopping options. This are was full of tourists but still had a very vibrant local feel to it. The architecture was beginning to get more modern as we approached the downtown core. Once we tired of the shops, we began the long two mile walk to downtown, Marina Sands, and the famous Gardens by the Bay.

Marina Sands
View of Marina Sands Hotel across the harbor

Marina Sands is everything its advertised. A spectacularly beautiful hotel with three impressive towers holding up what appears to be a ship straddling across them hundreds of feet in the air. Its a beautiful site to behold. We did not attempt to reach the pool, but I’ve heard of tourists sneaking in successfully to enjoy the rooftop views. We walked around it to the Gardens by the Bay. Surprisingly these are free for all but the cloud forest and the tree top walkway. We opted not to pay for either, as much of the gardens is open to all and the tree top walkway didn’t look that special. The cloud forest did look nice but I’ve done a lot of these indoor gardens in the past. I believe it was SGD $28 to do both indoor domes and the tree top walkway. The metal tree structures famous in these gardens were not as beautiful as often pictured. In fact the garden in general wasn’t quite up to my expectations. Its beautiful and green but just doesn’t seem as natural or colorful as many photos make it appear.

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The gardens were not fully lit up on this particular day

Overall Singapore is super clean, easy to navigate, and very modern. Supposedly it has great nightlife (number two rated EDM club in the world), but we were too tired for that. Apparently chewing gum and spitting are quite illegal but I saw many people doing both. I really wish we had planned two nights here, however, unless you are in to the modern city life and culture, I don’t think you need much more time in Singapore. Its a beautiful clean city, but still just a city. Perhaps knowing someone who lives there and could help us explore the cities secrets would have made it worth spending more time.

Approximate total cash cost (in USD): $75 (lodging, food, transit, activities).

Discounts received, reward money earned, points used etc: $30 back through Booking.com using affiliate link.

 

World Adventure Score (out of 10 stars)

Cost (overall, i.e. Norway is 1, US is 3, Nicaragua is 9): 4

Food (quality, cost and variety): 7

Culture (diversity, friendliness, etc): 7

Transportation (ease of use, public options): 10

Nature (places to hike, beautiful scenes, green cities): 5

Photography options (from a landscape and nature perspective): 4

Adventure factor (lots of adventurous activities): 3

Safety (ok to walk at night, lack of unsafe neighborhoods): 9

Overall: 6.1

 

Enjoy my adventures?

(Disclaimer: some links in here are affiliate links which may give me some compensation and help with my continued travels)

country profiles, Norway

A Quick Guide To Norway

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Norway is one of the most beautiful, clean, advanced countries in the world. The natural landscape is second to none. The cities are advanced and so is the economy. However, it is also one of the most expensive countries in the world, certainly that I have ever been to.

What I hope to provide you in this post is bit of advice on how to do Norway in an economical fashion without missing out on the beauty of the country.

How to get there:

From the US you can fly to two main cities: Bergen and Oslo; or perhaps a slightly smaller one Stavanger. Oslo is the largest and most common but I would personally recommend Bergen as it is closer to most outdoor activities. One economical way to get to Norway which I used in 2015 is to fly to Reykjavik with Wow Air and then from there to Norway with Norwegian.

From Europe, Norwegian is a budget airline that goes to most cities in Norway and from most cities in Europe. Once again I’d recommend Bergen over Oslo.

Where to stay:

There is so much to see in Norway, and unlike some other European countries, you really can’t see it all from one base point. If you just have a few days, stay in Bergen and take day trips (this is what I did in 2016 on a 4 day trip.

If you have more than 4 days (I’d recommend 2 weeks if you can afford it), I’d start in Bergen and than loop around the country, perhaps heading south to Stavanger or even further to Egersund where I stayed in 2015. Then make your way back up north to Oslo before cutting back to Bergen. For a longer loop, continue from Oslo all the way north to Trondheim, before heading back down through the fjords to Bergen.

Lodging:

While there are of course many hotels and a few hostels in Norway, Airbnb is by far the most economical. In 2015, my two friends and I booked a private Airbnb apartment for 3 people with a kitchen for about $70 total.

In 2016 I rented a private room for two in an apartment for 4 nights for about $170 total. The owner was hardly ever home, super hospitable, and allowed full use of her kitchen for us to cook.

Oslo is extremely expensive, hence I don’t recommend staying there unless absolutely necessary.

Transportation:

There isn’t really any public transportation in Norway. You can get around the cities by buses and a friend of mine took a bus from a major city to a popular hiking area, but if you want to see more than just the top tourist attractions and the city centers, you need to rent a car.

That being said: renting a car is extremely expensive. The car rental itself is fairly reasonable ($50/day or so but varies). Make sure you get a diesel (its cheaper) and something with good gas mileage. Unless you are there in the dead of winter you don’t need a 4X4.

Getting Around, the roads and fuel:

Gas is approximately $8/gallon or 1.74 EUR/liter. Tolls are outrageous. If you can plan your trips to include minimal back tracking (so you don’t pay the same toll twice) and try to avoid toll roads (Google Maps isn’t quite up to speed on which roads in Norway have tolls and which don’t), you may save a bit.

However, you cannot fully avoid them. Most car rentals charge by plate or by chip on the windshield and you get the bill a few weeks after your vacation. I spent $100 in tolls in 4 days on my last trip. If they have an option for a fixed daily rate to go through unlimited tolls, take it! I did that in 2015 and it probably cut my toll costs in half.

Norway doesn’t have many traditional 4 lane highways. Many of its roads are single lane roads with turn outs for passing and some of these sketchy passes still charge you for a toll. There are also tons of tunnels which is nice because it helps preserve the external landscape. Just drive with care and watch out for other drivers.

DON’T SPEED. Seriously. They give out tickets in some places for just a couple of km over speed limit. Plus it’s not very safe to speed on the curvy roads of Norway.

What to see in Norway

There is too much to see in this beautiful country. Stay tuned for more coming soon!

Happy Travels!

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

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country profiles, iceland

Epic spots off the beaten path in Iceland

One thing I’d like to say here before I give you guys a few more awesome adventure to behold. All these places in Iceland I’m suggesting are aboslutely free. Just show up and enjoy. That being said: please take care of the environment. Pick up your trash. Stay on the trails (ok mostly, just don’t damage things). And leave the place better than you found it.

 

Dettifoss, Selfoss, Hafragilsfoss, and the Jökulsa Canyon

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Pictured above is me jumping over Europe’s most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss. Ok not exactly jumping over it. But pretty damn close to the edge. This spectacular site can be reached in the north west corner of Iceland about 7 hours from the capital Reykjavik.

Personally I like the less famous but in my opinion more beautiful Selfoss just a short walk upstream from this waterfall. Its the same river with the same volume of water spread out in a horseshoe shape with numerous falls separated by small rock islands.

Further downstream from both is the Jokulsa Canyon and the Hafragilsfoss, both of which I haven’t visited yet. Supposedly the canyon is one of the most beautiful spots in Iceland and I will be sure to update you guys when I go!

Even further down is the Ásbyrgi Canyon which is supposedly amazing too (the pictures appear so!).

Learn more about this are on the official website here

 

Glymur

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Glymur is arguably the tallest waterfall in the country of Iceland. It is also an abdolutely gorgeous canyon with well marked, excellent hiking trails and is not too far from Reykjavik to the north. The photo above shows me looking over the cliffs downstream from Glymur itself. The gorge is filled with greenery and flowers, and up above is a beautiful stream cutting its way through a large meadow surrounded by mountains. The hike is about a two mile loop that involves a river crossing if you want to see both sides and a lot of uphill climbing. Not for the fain hearted but requiring no special skills either.

Jökulsárlón – Glacier Lagoon

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Jökulsárlón is a large lake at the base of Iceland’s largest glacier, Breiðamerkurjökull. The lake then spills into the ocean allowing icebergs of various sizes to float into the oncoming waves. The waves the wash these icebergs onto the beautiful black sand beaches of Jökulsárlón Ice Beach. Its a spectacular site. Off in the distance you can see the tallest mountains of Iceland towering over a mile above the beaches below (see the photo above). \

Happy Travels!

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country profiles, iceland

More Must See Locations in Iceland

I could probably write ten posts or more outlining the most beautiful spots in Iceland. I want to tell you guys about all of them but I may do a few more than move on to another travel destination 🙂

Skógafoss

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Skogafoss is one of Iceland’s most famous and beautiful waterfalls. Supposedly a Viking hid his treasure beneath the falls nearly 1000 years ago and it was nearly recovered by a farm boy within the last century but as he tried to bring it up from under the falls the handles to the chest broke and it was again plunged beneath the water.

Whether this story is true or not, the falls is certainly a treasure in and of itself. That spot where you see the guy sitting is a soft, flimsy tuft of dirt overlooking the falls. Wouldn’t recommend climbing it as you could fall but its an epic shot.

Pro tip: climb the stairs on the right side of the falls and hike up a ways. There is a nice trail that leads to another falls in less than a quarter mile and then if you continue onward you get some incredible mountain views.

 

Black Sand BeachDyrhólaey Arch and Light house, and Kirkjufjara beach

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Iceland has some of the world’s most beautiful beaches outside of the tropics. My favorite so far is the Black Sand Beach area near Vik in southern Iceland. What you see in the photo above is looking west from the Dyrholaey Lighthouse on top of a large cliff between two of the black sand beaches.

There are several attractions here. The long, straight, volcanic beach above is the official Black Sand Beach, although there are plenty of others. Starting from the west this is the first location you come to.

Next is the Dyrholaey lighthouse which you can drive nearly to or hike up the hill along a sheep path (meeting some friendly and some not so friendly, fluffy creatures along the way). Also on this hill is the Dyrholaey Arch, a huge arch with formidable cliffs jutting out between two black sand beaches. I believe there are signs suggesting one shouldn’t walk out there any more, but I’ve seen people doing it nonetheless.

Continuing East you reach Kirkjufjara Beach which is fill of more arches and more black sand. I think this is one of the most picturesque scenes in Iceland. Beyond that is the Hálsanefshellir Cave which is rumored to have contained a troll until its depths were sealed by falling rock.

Gljúfrabúi and Seljalandsfoss

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Seljalandsfoss is another one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. If you are going to Skogafoss and Black Sand Beach, you will inevitably pass this waterfall on your way and must stop (you can see it from the main road, hard to miss!).

The main attraction is Seljalandsfoss. This spectacular waterfall has a trail that you can walk behind the falls for a unique view of the fields beyond. Another trail follows the cliff to the left of the falls heading north. Several small trickles of water create green, lush, cliff side landscapes.

After about a quarter mile you will come to Gljufrabui. This waterfall is easy to miss because it is actually inside of a cave. The waterfall has essentially cut through the roof of the cave and careens into it before cutting its way back outside of the cliff. The only way to see the entire waterfall is to walk through the stream into the cave and look up.

I guarantee you that you will not leave dry but it is an amazing site. Another (more adventurous) option, pictured above, involved scaling the cliff with the help of a few well placed ropes and looking over the edge into the hole beneath where which the water plunges.

Happy Travels!

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Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II

country profiles

A quick guide to visiting Iceland (part 2)

 

Getting around Iceland:

By far the best way to get around Iceland and see all that it has to offer is to rent a car. In the winter I’d recommend a 4 wheel drive or if you desire to go up the mountain into the national park or the glaciers even in the summer. However, from late spring to early fall, you can literally drive around the entire country in the most budget of cars without too much difficulty. How do I know? I’ve done it. In a Chevrolet Spark. Even over some treacherous gravel mountain passes!

Of course, there is public transportation in the main city, and then you can take bus tours of the popular tourist sites for sure. And there are frequest flights from the main city to smaller ones via small aircraft for a fee if you are willing.

But if you really want to get a feel for the beauty of this place, you need to rent a car. These run from about $25/day for an off season economy car with limited milage to over $200/day for an off road capable SUV.

Gas is expesnive in Iceland however. Fule can be up to $8/gallon.

The Famous Blue Lagoon:

The Blue Lagoon is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the country of Iceland. It is formed from the run off  hot spring water used to pwer a geo thermoal electrical plan which is then funneled into a natural looking man made pool with mud baths, massages, and bars surrounding it.

While this place is increddibly touristy and actualyl quite man made, it can be a relaxing place to visit.

Id recommend buying tickets in advance as they usually sell out. bring some snacks and sneak some alcohol in if you can as things are ridiculously expesnive inside. Get the basic package and then go enjoy a good full day in the park. There are steam rooms and saunas to enjoy as well as the beautiful pool with varying temperatures of water. There is plenty of mud to go around for skin cleansing and good facilities to clean up afterward. Tickets range from $40-55.

Food:

Food varies greatly in Iceland depending on iff you are are eating out or shopping at the super market. There are several discount super markets with prices as good or better than food costs in the US including Bonus and Kronan.

Eating out is very expensive. I imagine this is because of labor costs being high. I’m sure there are some more economical choices and from what I hear there are a few delicious restaurants that one must try. However if you are on a tight budget you may wish to forgo this option.

One note about food in Iceland. Some people will tell you that to truly experience Iceland culture you must try whale meat. While the Icelandic people have at times eaten whale, it is primarily a tourist attraction and completely unnecessary for your enjoyment of the Island. Please be humane and refrain from eating these highly intelligent beings and don’t eat at restaurants that serve whale meat.

Money

Iceland uses the Krona which is valued at 110 per US dollar at the time of this writing.

Most places take credit cards but do keep a few thousand in bills just in case.

Cell phone service

T-mobile has 4G service throughout Iceland as good or better than in the US. Your T-mobile plan allows you your normal data allowance and unlimited text in Iceland with no changes or additional charges. Calling is extra.

Other providers may have other plans options

 

Happy Travels!

Keep up with my latest adventures and photos 🙂

Follow JELTOWN on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and now on YouTube!

Save money by traveling like I do

$35 off your first Airbnb booking!

Check out the Equipment I use

Nikon D3300
Nikkor 18-140mm Zoom Lens
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II