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.
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

 

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

adventure, camera, hiking, hot springs, photography, travel

Hot Creek and Gorge

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Hot Creek Geological Site is one of the many diverse geothermal locations near Mammoth Lakes. The land is rich in volcanic history and has so many hot springs most of which you can freely bathe and relax in. This one is unique though. The water in the main springs (pictured below) is quite blue (yes it really is that color). While the water in the creek formed around all these springs is green (I suppose from all the algae growing in it). The gorge itself is much larger than I ever would have thought just from seeing photos. The pools are probably close to 100 feet blow us and the gorge, which has a trail running along much of its base, is quite long. Is the distance loom the might Sierras and all around are geodes and amazing rock formations from ancient volcanic activity. Sadly you can’t get in the pools anymore as they have been closed to protect them. But who’s complaining when we have so much beauty to enjoy and many other pools are still open to all. Have you seen this epic gorge yet?

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hiking, lodging, photography, sierra nevada, travel, travel tips

Free Camping in the Sierras

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One of my favorite things about visiting the Sierra’s on the eastern side is all the free camping. Camping allows you to get out in nature in a much closer more intimate way. Cooking your own food and surviving the elements are so much fun (both of which we did on this trip as a huge storm blew throughout the entire night and the next morning we cooked an entire brunch on our fire!). Much of the land in the Sierra’s is BLM land which is generally free to camp in year round. Many of the campgrounds become free in the off season as well. We like Holiday Campground near Tom’s Place, Glass Creek Campground near Mammoth, and Buckeye dispersed camping near the Buckeye Hot Springs (probably the best in the sierras that I’ve been to). Make sure to get a fire permit (available for free online) and put your fire completely out. We don’t need the forest burning any more than it already has.

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adventure, hiking, photography, sierra nevada, travel

Sharing the Sierra’s Secrets

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I love driving down the 395 (the main highway along the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada Range in California) and finding new and unexplored (by me) roads into the mountains. One such road that I found near Bridgeport was Green Creek Road, a 9 mile winding gravel road that eventually dead ends near a campground. Hiking further up the trail continues deep into the mountains even looping around the Virginia Lakes Resort and appears to be used by pack horses in the summer. This is the first lake you come to and it offers a glimpse at the spectacular craggy peaks awaiting you further up. I can’t wait to come back and here and do some proper hiking! Have any of you hiked in this area before? Any recommendations? Please let me know below!

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hiking, travel

There are TWO Barney Lakes!

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And I visited both last year. The first one I went to is near Bridgeport, CA and starts from the Twin Lakes area at the resort. You can part there for free during the day. The hike is about 8 miles round trip and has only about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Because last winter was so snowy, the trail was a swamp when I did it. I was severely under prepared and got quite soggy. And with all that water came swarms of mosquitoes. The worst I’ve ever seen anywhere. I killed 7 with one swat of my hand on my leg.  So be sure wear plenty of clothes (not shorts) or lots of bug spray or both. Beyond this lake the trail winds its way up into the high sierras but it was much damaged due to numerous avalanches last season and I don’t know if its been repaired yet.

 

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adventure, hiking, travel

Summertime on South Lake in the Aspendells

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The Aspendells are just west of the town of Bishop California. This small town and its associated lakes and trails are known for some of California’s finest fall colors especially among their name sake’s, the aspen trees. During the fall these color range from light green to brilliant yellows, golds, and oranges. Who knew California had such amazing colors! South Lake is one of three lakes easily accessible from the road without hiking. Kayaking and fishing are popular sports here. We found that renting a Kayak is one of the best ways to see all the beauty of the lake and and the mountains around it. The water is so clear and blue! Have you even been to California for the fall colors? Comment below and let me know what you thought!

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