Checking the effects of a vegan diet on my health

If you follow a plant-based diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, tubers, legumes nuts and seeds, your chances of having any deficiency are extremely small. I would even say that you are more than likely getting far more vitamins and minerals than you were on an animal-based diet.

You will most probably feel great and be functioning at optimum, but because is better safe than sorry, despite the clear benefits of having a plant-based diet I still think that getting a blood test done its a good idea and that is why I’ve done mine.

When I lived in Portugal, as normal practice the doctors requested blood tests once a year, since a moved to another country, that’s not true anymore. GP’s are not really keen to give blood tests, so I decided to try one of Thriva‘s kits, that are an at-home blood test that are done with a simple finger-prick blood test. (use the code CTB50 to get 50% off on your first baseline or advanced kit)

Advanced subscription provides a checkup for signs of heart disease, liver disease and diabetes. Plus a look at four key nutrients required for optimal health, Vitamin D, Iron Profile, B12 (Total) and Folate.

After my order, I received my kit in the post pretty quickly. Inside the small box, there was everything I needed to do my test, including instructions 🙂 what was not inside the box was courage .. despite having no problems with needles, it was really hard for me to pierce my own finger 😅

thriva test

If you don’t have cold feet like I had the process can be done very quickly. Once I finished collecting the blood, I just went to the post office that is literary next door to my house and had it post it.

After just 1 day I received my results back and a personalised report, and I couldn’t be happier to find out that everything is fine, from the liver function, cholesterol, vitamin D, B12, iron, B9, Proteins and HbA1c.

The report was presented in a really smart and visual way, it was easy to read and understand, plus it was full of important tips and information. They also added some specific recommendations knowing that I have a vegan diet.

Overall I loved the experience and the fact that you can check your blood frequently without any fuss. It’s also useful to do it a few months before embarking in any long travel trip, making sure you have robust health. If you think you would benefit from having your blood tested you can use the code CTB50 to get 50% off on your first baseline or advanced kit.

Without wanting to get political the only thing that I didn’t really like was the company slogan “Take control of your health” for me that has scary resemblances with the Brexit campaign slogan ‘Take Back Control’. This doesn’t make the product bad just shows some lack of taste from the marketing team 🙂

*although I’m talking about a specific product I’m not being paid to write this article neither will get any compensation if you make a purchase*

Lombok, not the paradise you expect

I’ve traveled to Lombok from Bali, using the old slow ferry, and took a taxi to Kuta from the pier (Rp. 200.000 ~$13). While Bali’s dominant religion is Hindu, Lombok is almost entirely Muslim. And that makes a massive difference between the islands. That is why you can see and especially hear mosques everywhere. When booking accommodation always check how close you are to a mosque, because it can become very noisy.

Because of the earthquakes I didn’t have time to visit the all Island of Lombok just the south.

I stayed and used Kuta as a base, because has plenty of accommodation and food options. Although Kuta itself is a soulless place, quite dirty and unkept, where you are constantly harassed.

Lombok 1
Kuta beach with with lots of trash and more touts than people sunbathing

I arrived in Kuta, Lombok with low expectations after being in Bali, despite expecting better beaches I didn’t expect an unspoiled paradise and true to be said I didn’t got surprised.

Even though I still stuck around for a few days to explore the surrounding areas with a scooter. The roads west and east of Kuta have great views of the sea, but be prepared to pay a fee to go to all of them (fee Rp. 10.000 ~$0.70 ). One of my favourite parts about Lombok was actually just driving around.

On the mainland, there is a deserted feeling when you drive between towns the landscape is quite arid.


The Pantai Mawon beach was quite disappointing, very dirty and packed with children selling stuff, and groups of men staring. At one point a man got fire to a beautiful health palm tree on the beach just for fun. It wasn’t pleasant so we left.

Tampah beach has a slogan at the entrance saying ‘no Harassment beach’. When I saw the sign I tough, ok I can try and see if its true.

This beach is a peaceful, quiet and clean place with no vendors, we were not harassed there for once unlike on any other beach.

The fishing village east of Kuta is nothing special, but there is a nice beach called Tanjung Aan just before the village. For me the most beautiful stretch of beach in south Lombok.

What to do around Lombok

Despite the beach, Lombok also has many waterfalls, the Rinjani volcano, rice fields, markets and the option of going on a trip to one of the Gilis.

Rinjani volcano is for me probably the highlight of the island, the trek is picturesque, with impressive views of Bali, the Gilis, and beyond on a clear day.

Its still true that the island Lombok receives far fewer visitors than Bali but its far for being an untouched unspoiled place.

Have you been to Lombok? leave your thoughts..

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha


Raw vegan energy balls with cocoa, nuts & seeds (bolas energéticas de cacao, nozes & sementes)

Raw vegan energy balls with cocoa, nuts & seeds

Raw vegan energy balls are pretty much the perfect snack, they offer a satiating combination of protein, carbs, and fats and they are “real food” that is quick and easy to prepare.

Raw vegan energy balls with cocoa, nuts & seeds

  • 1 cup oats
  • 3 tbs desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup dates, (soaked in 1 cup water if needed)
  • 5 tbsp water (use the water your dates were soaked in)
  • 2 tbsp organic cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp flaxseeds
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 3 tbsp almonds + hazelnuts + walnuts (or other nuts)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. If the mixture is not sticky enough add more water or a couple of extra dates. Roll the dough into balls. Stores in the fridge.

PT: bolas energéticas de cacao, nozes & sementes
  • 1 caneca de aveia
  • 3 colheres de sopa de coco ralado
  • 1 caneca de tâmaras, (demolhadas em 1 caneca de água se necessário)
  • 5 colheres de sopa de água (usar a água das tâmaras)
  • 2 c. sopa cacau em pó orgânico
  • 1 c. sopa  de sementes de linhaça
  • 1 c. sopa  de sementes de girasol
  • 3 c. sopa amêndoas, avelas, e nozes  (ou outros frutos secos)

Misturar todos os ingredientes num processador de alimentos. Se a mistura não ficar pegajosa o suficiente adicionar mais água ou tâmaras. Moldar em  pequenas bolas. Conserva no frigorífico.

Indonesia Earthquakes, my earth-shattering experience

Lombok and the Gili were part of my plans when I visited Indonesia, what wasn’t on the plans were earthquakes or tsunamis…
During the summer of 2018, Indonesia was hit by several earthquakes, and I was there.

first earthquake

A deadly 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck off Lombok, on 29 July 2018, followed by nearly 100 aftershocks.
At this time I was in Bali, I felt a strong long shaking, that woke me up. It took me a while to understand what was happening because this was my first earthquake experience, to be fair one of those experiences you wish not to have.

The epicenter was below Mount Rinjani, Lombok, and I was in the island of Bali approximately 200km away, so there was no destruction on the island of Bali.

During the following days I followed the news to know what was happening in Lombok.
And I read a lot about earthquakes, tsunamis, and the Ring of Fire (an area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. The Indonesian islands are located right in the middle of the Ring of Fire).

You probably know the felling of “I wish I didn’t read about it” sometimes the more you know more you are afraid of, and that is what happened to me. I was ready to finish my trip and fly to another country somewhere else, just to have peace of mind and be able to relax.
My partner, on the other hand, didn’t share my worries or concerns, and I ended up convincing myself that was very unlikely that Indonesia was going to be hit by another earthquake soon. So I relaxed as much as I could and tried to put the worries away.
When things seemed to get calmer and safer we took a ferry to Lombok.

Second  earthquake

It goes without saying that during our first night in Lombok on 5 August 2018, a destructive and shallow earthquake of magnitude 7 struck the island again.
I was in the room when everything started shaking and the earth roaring, I run outside on my underwear, locals were running, shouting, and crying and there was a deep feeling of panic on the street.

The quake lasted for what seemed like a minute building into a crescendo of panic and destruction. The lights flickered and then suddenly, darkness swallowed us.

I’m not going to lie. I was petrified. Fumbling my way in the darkness, the shaking intensified and fear consumed my entire body. They were the longest seconds of my life.
I sat on the street, in a relatively safe place, rolled up in a blanket and stayed there for the rest of the night. I didn’t dare to go inside the room again.

During that night I felt several aftershocks beneath me, but with no falling bricks, roof tiles and coconuts near me, I sort of felt safe. If you can feel safe when all you see around are locals crying and praying.
The family from the house in front of me killed a chicken in a sacrifice and all the families got together and slept in the street .

With a second earthquake in the same island there was no way I would stay longer, but like me, hundreds of tourists were trying to leave, so I only managed to get a flight 2 days later.

During those two days I was ok and relatively calm during the day, but really scared during the night and I wasn’t able to sleep.

Third  earthquake

After two weeks I still jumped when I heard a loud noise and I was constantly feeling the earth shaking even when was not.

While Lombok was still recovering, another 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck on the northeast corner of Lombok and northwest Sumbawa on 19 August, two weeks after the quake that killed more than 460 people.

I was on the island of Sumbawa waiting for the bus to go to Maluk when I felt the ground shaking over me, everybody ran to the middle of the street. It was a small earthquake compared to the previous two. What I didn’t know, is that this quake was a “warning” of what would come later.
I was in the bedroom with my partner later that day and we started to feel a stronggg shake.

We looked at one another, and we knew what this was, we had felt it before.

Again a massive earthquake, and the longest 30 seconds of my life, everything was rocking side to side with such intensity, that I swear I could see the road pavement rippling beneath me.
We were just a few meters from the beach, so I started to say to my partner that we should go to higher ground far away from the sea, while he was trying the calm me down scared people began running shouting tsunami, tsunami and my fears became a reality. All you could hear in the darkness was the sound of hysterical people screaming to “head for the hill” and “the tsunami is coming”.
Everyone was petrified. With no helicopter to take us all magically from there, we grabbed our motorbikes and drove as fast as we could through the deep night, without really knowing where we were going.
We passed collapsed walls, cracked roads, smashed windows, locals were shaking with fear, huddled together praying frantically.
We got as high and far as we could and stopped the motorbike.
Two families where at the same place we stopped our motorbike, and one of them asked us to join them, they made a fire and we tried to communicate using google translator. The night was cold and they invited us to sleep in their car.

The groud kept moving and shaking countless times during the night. The women was constantly checking the reports on her phone, sending messages and calling to friends and family.
When the aftershocks started to get weaker and more spaced people started to get back home.
It was a terrifying night and I didn’t want to stay another night sleeping near the beach, so we grabbed our bags and looked for a place on the top of a hill.

I finished my holidays at the beginning of September and through out my stay I felt countless shakes that made sleeping impossible. I really got traumatized by the all experience and sometimes a feel the bed shaking for no reason.

Fourth earthquake

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province on September 28 and triggering a tsunami and landslides that caused widespread destruction and loss of life. I feel really sorry for all the Indonesian people that leave in fear and lost everything. So many catastrophes in such a short period of time.
Unfortunately, seems like natural disasters are more frequent and more severe nowadays than a few years ago..

Some Tips:
  • Have emergency supplies such as food, water, first aid, torch, battery charger, passport, insurance papers, money ready to grab.
  • Make an escape plan
  • Keep yourself safe from falling or moving objects during a quake.
  • Drop down to your knees, so the earthquake cannot knock you over, and protect your head and neck.
  • download the app earthquake.
  • Doorways, windows, bookcases, tall furniture and light fixtures.
    Elevators, power lines, coastline, and entering damaged buildings.

Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia has seen more than its share of natural disasters. In the last 10 years, it has experienced many volcanic eruptions, floods, and earthquakes.

When you travel, there’s always room for adventures and misadventures and this time we just weren’t lucky. Although, in a way we were lucky to go through this experience without getting hurt.

I hope Mother Nature stays calm and allows Indonesia to heal and rebuild 🙏

Vegan Roasted butternut squash Pizza (Pizza vegana de abóbora)

Delicious homemade Vegan Pizza with Roasted butternut squash
  • 1pound/500g pizza dough (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1cup vegan mozzarella cheese or cream cheese 
  • 2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
  • 2tbsp olive oil + 1
  • 1 red onion sliced 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 rosemary sprigs

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Toss the butternut squash and the onion in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast it until tender about 25 minutes.

Prepare the dough into any shape and size you want.

The dough should be fairly thin. Rub a bit of olive oil and garlic over the pizza dough add a thin layer of tomato sauce, then the cheese followed by the roasted butternut squash, onions and the mushrooms.

Bake until the crust is light golden brown 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkled on top some rosemary sprigs.

PT: Pizza vegana de abóbora
  • 500g de massa de pizza (caseira ou comprada )
  • 1caneca de molho de tomate (caseira ou comprada)
  • 1 caneca de queijo mozzarella vegano ou queijo cremoso
  • 2 canecas de abóbora descascada e cortada aos cubinhos
  • 2colheres de sopa de azeite + 1
  • 1 cebola roxa fatiada
  • Sal e pimenta a gosto
  • 2 dentes de alho picados
  • 1 caneca de cogumelos brancos, fatiados
  • 2 raminhos de alecrim

Pré-aquecer o forno a 200°C.

Envolver a abóbora e a cebola em 2 colheres de sopa de azeite e colocar  numa assadeira. Temperar com sal e pimenta. Assar por cerca de 25 minutos.

Preparar a massa da pizza na forma e tamanho desejado.

A massa deve ser bastante fina. Esfregar um pouco de azeite e alho sobre a massa da pizza, adicionar uma camada fina de molho de tomate, depois o queijo seguido da abóbora assada, cebola e cogumelos.

Levar ao forno até que a crosta esteja dourada, ~ 8 a 10 minutos. Retirar do forno e adicionar uns raminhos de alecrim.

How to get to Lombok from Bali _ get ready for a difficult choice

How to get to Lombok from Bali

Before I went to Lombok I head to Padang Bai from Ubud, what took about 1.30h.
The sea had been rough during the previous weeks and there were no speed boats running. Plus Lombok was hit by a massive earthquake the week before.

When things seemed to start getting better and because I had the time, I decided to go and to Padang Bai and wait there.

Padang Bai is a small beach town and the port for public ferries and speedboats. I found the town itself quite ugly, dirty and a bit pushy towards tourists. Even with no boats running there were still people trying to sell tickets trying to convince you that there were boats running 🙂


Everything in town is within walking distance but to explore the surrounding area, you will need a motorbike. And there are many nice places around to visit.

How to get to Lombok

If you do some quick research you will see that not many people have good things to say about the transports between Bali to Lombok or the Gili by sea.

if you keep researching you will be slightly horrified at your options… at least I did…

First off, you should know that there are only three options, and none are great.
Public ferry, speedboats and aeroplane.

They go from not being reliable, have poor safety records, do not follow International safety and operational standards, to be cancelled frequently. Plus the stretch of ocean between the islands is between 2,600 and 3,200 feet deep, so you definitely don’t want to sink here.
If you are thinking on getting a boat, stories and tales of sinking or nearly sinking, water pouring in through the windows, thoughts of jumping into rough seas, crying, screaming, mass panic, no lifejackets, no rescue boats, boats catching fire, and exploding … is all you have.
If you are planning to go by air
some Indonesian airlines are in the top 5 most dangerous airline in the world.. so choose wisely.

If you are going by boat  I strongly advise you to consider weather conditions as a major factor of your journey. Install the APP WINDY – wind & waves forecast to check how the sea is before you go.


If you travel on a budget and you are a slow traveller, public ferries are the best option. I’ve paid RP.46,000 ($3) for a one-way ticket.
Just keep in mind that Padang Bai is full of touts, trying to sell you fake or super expensive tickets. Ignore all the attempts and make your way to the official ticket booth.

They say that the trip normally takes four hours, but it can be, and most of the time is considerably longer. Count with at least 5 to 6 hours, and if the sea is rough can take up to 10.

Ferries leave every hour or so although (24 hours a day) they are typically running on their own schedule and almost always delayed.

Safety is a big issue and the ferries have poor safety records.

fast boats

Fast boats are the most popular option, but boat safety in Indonesia is a joke. You can find an endless supply of horrifying TripAdvisor reviews  that are far away from encouraging.

There are multiple fast boat companies to choose from nowadays, the trick is trying to find the one that is safe and that in essence guarantees you a seat, as some companies overload their boats.


To avoid the choppy waters you can flight to Lombok but not to the Gilis, the flights are a quick 25 minutes.

Flying is the easiest and fastest way to get from Bali to Lombok and tickets are around $10-40.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

🏍 find out easy day trips from Ubud  – Bali  – Indonesia 🚌


Asparagus with Garlic (Espargos com Alho)

2016-06-24 18.51.30.jpgAsparagus are probably one of my favourite vegetables.. I probably could eat them every day 🙂 they are incredibly tasty and easy to prepare.

This recipe takes 5/10 minutes to prepare and combines another flavour that I love – garlic.

  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves fresh garlic, minced (to taste)
  • 500g asparagus, ends trimmed
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with lightly salted water, and bring to a boil.

Prepare the asparagus, cut the bottom part about 1cm and discard. Slice the asparagus at a slight diagonal. Add them to the boiling water and lower the heat slightly to maintain a simmer for 2 minutes.

Drain the hot water and reserve the asparagus.

On a nonstick skillet or a wok, heat the olive oil, add the garlic stirring often for 1 minute, then add the asparagus, salt, and pepper, keep stirring until easily pierced.

Remove from heat and serve immediately.

PT:  Espargos com Alho
  • 3 c. sopa azeite
  • 8 dentes de alho fresco, picada (a gosto)
  • 500g espargos, retirar caules
  • sal e pimenta fresca moída

Encher uma panela com água colocar umas pedras de sal e deixar ferver. Preparar os espargos, cortar a parte inferior cerca de 1cm e descartar. Cortar os espargos em peças mais pequenas. Adicioná-los à água e deixar ferver em lume brando por 2 minutos, vão ficar apenas parcialmente cozinhados.

Escorrer a água e reservar os espargos.

Numa frigideira antiaderente ou wok, aquecer azeite adicionar o alho e ir mexendo. De seguida adicionar os espargos, sal e pimenta, e continuar a mexer até que fiquem suaves. Servir e desfrutar!


Semarapura _ the capital city of the Klungkung Regency _ Bali

Semarapura commonly called by its old name, Klungkung is a regional capital, that impresses for the organization, cleanness and reasonably calm streets. The city was once the center of Bali‘s most important kingdom, and today is full of history.

Semarapura was a pleasant surprise, it’s a great place to stroll and get a feel for modern Balinese life. The markets are truly amazing and the food delicious.


Klungkung Palace is located in the center of the town and is a historic complex and relic of Bali from the time before the Dutch, sometimes called Taman Gili (island garden).

The palace dates from the 17th century but was largely destroyed during the Dutch colonial conquest in 1908. Today, some parts have been restored.

It’s possible to visit the Kertha Gosa Pavilion, the main gate and the Court of Justice. Within the palace, there is the Bale Kembang and a floating pavilion.

The floating pavilion and the ceilings of the Hall of Justice are decorated with incredible paintings done in the Kamasan style.

Expect to see monstrous statues, lily-covered pools of water, mythic creatures, pavilions filled with artwork and panels portraying the various forms of hellish punishment awaiting those who are found guilty in the afterlife.

How to get there: the best way is the rent a scooter (~Rp.60,000 $4 day) Semarapura is about 25 km south-east from Ubud.

Entrance Fee: Rp12,000/ adult ($0.79)

Dress Code: Sarong is required to enter the temple as parts of the site are considered holy.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

🏍 find out more easy day trips from Ubud 🚌

Abi Stevens, a vegan artist that you need to know

Abi Stevens is a friend, a dedicated educator and most of all a brilliant and talented artist based in Cambridge, UK.

She is also a well-minded person that is trying not to leave a dark footprint on our beautiful planet, she cares about the enviroment and the animals.

She decided to be vegetarian many years ago at the age of 11, when not many people were talking about animal rights or a plant-based diet.  Today she is a vegan, and after so many years she never looked back.

Her work doesn’t really touch the subject of animal abuse, exploitation or veganism as it is, but animals are a constant element on her work.

Abi’s work is truly exceptional and covers a wide range of areas but she is particularly interested in book cover illustration.

book cover for The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, by G. W. Dahlquist.png
book cover, The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, by G. W. Dahlquist.

Abi also does travel illustration.  Here is a example of her work inspired by a trip to Kyoto, Japan. The drawing puts together various architectural elements, objects and animals seen in Kyoto, within the shape of a shrine’s lantern.


Abi’s work is colourful and carefully detailed. She finds her inspiration from mythology, fantasy, science, history and her own personal experiences.
Have a look at her portfolio, follow her work through instagram, or twitter and if you think you might work well together, she is available for cover and editorial work, as well as other projects, so don’t hesitate to contact her if you are looking a fellow vegan illustrator to do some exceptional work for you.

Sidemen, the hidden gem of Bali

What about starting by saying that Sidemen was my favorite place in Bali. This picturesque village took my breath away and become my number one place on the island. Despite the overdevelopment elsewhere this unique region in east Bali still has the feeling as if not much has changed.

IMG_9831Just try to picture hills and valleys covered in lush jungle as far as the eye can see, morning mist, blooming flowers, and a place that emanates tranquility and beauty and puts you in close contact with nature at its best, this is Sidemen.

Here you can relax, contemplate the views and do some hiking trails and paths through some delicious green scenery.

In opposition to most of  Bali island, that have too many backpackers, too much traffic and way to much noise and pollution Sidemen is just a piece of heaven. The small villages are surrounded by rice fields and agricultural land, small traditional Hindu temples, and rivers.

Here they grow rice, corn, tapioca, coffee, salak (snake fruit), chilies, and flowers that are used in the canang sari offerings.

Sideman is found about 90 minutes’ drive northeast of Ubud and is a fairly easy ride by motorbike.

Sideman is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of other tourist areas in Bali. The perfect place to relax, hear and feel the sounds of nature.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

🏍 find out more easy day trips from Ubud 🚌