Tirta Empul, the temple of purification _ Bali

Tirta Empul is a temple complex and a holy mountain spring, located in the village of Manukaya in central Bali. It’s perfect to visit as a day out from Ubud. The village is a 30-minute drive from Ubud (approximately 15 Km~9 miles).

The temple was founded around a naturally occurring spring (Tirta Empul meaning Holy Spring) and is over a thousand years old. This temple is dedicated to Vishnu, who is the Hindu god of water.

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Tirta Empul was discovered in AD 962 and believed to have magical powers, the holy springs here bubble up into a large, crystal-clear pool. The spring feeds various purification baths, pools and fish ponds, which all flow to the Tukad Pakerisan River.

 

Hindu worshippers stand in the pools waiting to dip their heads under the water spouts in a purification ritual known as ‘melukat’. The water in the pools is believed to have magical powers and local Balinese come here to purify themselves.

 

Visitors are welcome to take part in this self-cleaning process. Just bring a towel and a change of clothes if you want to take part in the purification ceremony.

Behind the purification pools, is the ‘inner courtyard’ the place where people go to pray.

 

How to get there: the best way is the rent a scooter (~Rp.60,000 $4 day) the journey is very pleasant and beautiful through lush green rice fields and coconut trees.

Entrance Fee: Rp15,000/ adult ($1) and Rp.2,000 ($0.13) to park your scooter

Dress Code: Sarong is required to enter the temple as parts of the site are considered holy. Sarongs are available at the temple’s entrance to be and can be rented for a small donation.

Other information: 

There are lockers and a changing area available, and women should wear a shirt, preferably one that covers the shoulders.

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🏍 find out more easy day trips from Ubud 🚌

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Gunung kawi Temple _ Bali

Pura Gunung Kawi is a beautiful archeological site, and a sacred place for Hindus located in the island of Bali, in the heart of the village of Tampak Siring, roughly 15KM from Ubud.

Is a gorgeous place full of art history, stunning views, and the environment in Gunung Kawi still is very natural and untouched, this temple is also known as the ‘Valley of The Kings’.

The temple is built into a steep valley overlooking the Pakserian River, a river that also snakes its way past the sacred Pura Tirta Empul.

It’s best to visit the temple early in the morning if you want to have a relaxing and peaceful experience, although you will not miss all the vendors.

There are more than 100 stairs to the temple, with great views over rice fields, the river and, jungle. Once you reach the temple you will find 10 candi (shrines) that are memorials cut out of the rock face in imitation of actual statues and alters dating back to the 11th century. The shrines are carved into some eight-meter high sheer cliff faces.

This temple is quite a unique archaeological sites in Bali due to its impressive carved rock structures.

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How to get there: the best way is the rent a scooter (~Rp.60,000 $4 day) the journey is very pleasant and beautiful through lush green rice fields and coconut trees.

Entrance Fee: Rp15,000/ adult ($1) and Rp.2,000 ($0.13) to park your scooter

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

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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The Central Mountains _ Gunung Batur area _ Bali

Bali it’s not only beaches and temples it’s also mountains and volcanoes. The Gunung Batur area is located in the center of the island of Bali, and since 2012 was added to the Unesco list of geologic wonders. Central Bali is the most mountainous area of Bali, and also the more isolated and thus more traditional.

Mount Batur has a height of 1717m above sea level the higher elevation also means that the temperatures are much cooler than in other parts of Bali. This region is perfect for trekkers and nature lovers.

Mount Batur is an active volcano, that has erupted several times over the time and has produced ‘black lava‘ which you can still see today. The most recent was eruption was in 2000. 

The crater has stunning views and there are a couple of villages around to explore. Kintamani is the main one.

Kintamani has a network of traditional mountain villages resting along the rim of the Mount Batur caldera. Kintamani is also home to Pura Ulun Danu Batur, one of the holiest of the nine directional temples of Bali.

To the west of Kintamani lies Bedugul, situated at the shores of mountain lake Beratan.

To get the best views, get up before the sun rises to climb Mount Batur, its a relatively easy 2-hour trek. The hike is mostly off-road trails and rocky terrain.

If you are looking for something more challenging the Mount Agung is the right one for you located in the east side of Bali. You can do a trekking to watch a breathtaking sunrise at Mount Agung, the highest mountain in Bali. This climbing is rather a challenge and requires physical fitness, so for serious mountain climbers

Central Mountains Highlights

Munduk area (mountain and waterfall)

Besakih Temple (the largest and holiest Hindu in Bali)

Pura Luhur Batukua (Temple)

Ulun Danu Bratan (Temple in Bedugul)

Danau Tamblingan (volcanic lake) 

Gunung Batur (active volcano)

villages around Danau Batur (scenic views up the surrounding peaks)

Antosari Road (rural drives through rice terraces)

Jatiluwih (Unesco recognized rice terraces)

Botanical gardens (close to Candi Kuning)

🏍 find out more easy day trips from Ubud 🚌

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Vegan-Friendly Places to Eat in Cambridge

2013-05-14 00.24.53.jpegIf you are vegan or vegetarian you know that sometimes can be difficult to find a place to eat, but you don’t need to worry, Cambridge has plenty of options. As a vegan living in Cambridge for 4 years, I will give you an insight of the best places to eat while you are visiting this extraordinary city.

Stem + Glory, Chesterton Road or Kings street –  it’s a strict vegan place more suitable for breakfast, lunch or brunch.

Stir, Chesterton Road – Delicious coffees and cakes plus veggie brunches and lunches.

Rainbow Vegetarian Café, King’s Parade – this is a well-known multi-award winning veggie cafe and restaurant specializing in vegan and gluten-free food.

Arjuna Wholefoods, Mill Roadit’s a worker’s cooperative, and great to grab a snack or a vegan lunch.

Fudge KitchenKings Parade – they make artisan fudge and offer dairy-free fudge made with soy cream.

Curry King, Jordans Yard Bridge Street – it’s an Indian restaurant and almost all the menu can be served with vegetables instead of meat.

Espresso Library, East Road – This cafe has plenty of vegan options for breakfast and lunch.

Market HillMarket Square (10am-4pm) – this is the local market, not all vendors show up every day, so you never know exactly what you’ll find, but for sure you have a couple of options to choose from, like falafel, smoothies, breads, cakes, churros, noodles, cookies, muffins, flapjacks and, dumplings.

DopplegangerTrinity Street, delicious vegan burgers.

Cham Cafe, Mill Road, small place that serves vegan turkish food like meze platters, vegan Gózleme, vegan börek, soups and cakes.

Always check if there is a vegan market or the  Cambridge Vegan Fair happening while you are visiting the city. It’s an immense sea of stalls, serving a bit of literary everything.

If you are with friends that are not vegan, all restaurants (one better than others) will have options for you, even the pubs. If you don’t want to waste time and money, you can always grab a packed meal at one of the many small street shops.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

🚌  Tips of what to visit in Cambridge 🚌

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Cambridge, where to go?

You have many reasons to visit this extraordinary university town. Cambridge has a unique vibe and will amaze you with its history, architecture, and natural beauty.

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When visiting Cambridge you can’t miss the colleges and it’s gardens, the riverside, all the green meadows surrounding the city and the Backs (gardens and parks line up beside the river behind the colleges).

Walking and cycling are the best ways to visit the city.

The town is full of cyclists, students and tourists, but still has a nice vibe and it’s far from being a big chaotic city.

The Colleges are truly amazing even if you only contemplate them from the outside.

Before your arrival, you should check on the internet if the King’s College Chapel or the Trinity College are hosting a concert during your visit. This is excellent way to visit both of this emblematic places (sometimes for free).

Most of the museums are free in Cambridge, if you have time you should visit them all, if not I recommend the fabulous Fitzwilliam Museum, the Kettle’s Yard and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

If you are a fan of Sir Isaac Newton, stop at Trinity College to see the famed apple tree where it was said to be the inspiration for his theory of gravity after being bopped on the head by one of the fallen fruits. 2015-01-09 23.58.30.jpg

If the weather invites for a picnic the Botanic Gardens are a must or a punting session through the river Cam.

It is always something happening in Cambridge, so make sure you do your research and don’t miss what this city has to offer.

If you visit cambridge be prepared to fall in love with this town.

Cambridge is very accessible by bus or train from London.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha 

🍜 More about vegan food in Cambridge 🍜

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5 amazing places to see animals in the wild

As a vegan traveller, animals are really important to me, and I love to see them happy and thriving in their natural habitats. Wherever you go, there are so many amazing animals to see; some of which are unique to certain parts of the world, and some that might sadly be extinct before too long.

The time to see them is now, but the question is, where to go? It all depends on which animals you want to see specifically. Here are five amazing places to see animals in the wild, to help you narrow down the search.

Botswana

Botswana is one of the best places in Africa to go for a safari, as there are plenty of parks and reserves to explore. For example in the south, at the Central Kalahari you might spot some black-maned lions, wild dogs or cheetahs, or potentially herds of zebras and antelopes. Over at Chobe National Park, you will see elephants and buffalo, but hippo and crocodiles are more likely to be at Okavango Delta. Depending on where in Botswana you head to, you will see a host of different animals.

Canada

There are so many amazing things to see and do in Canada, not least of all the wildlife. Although it might not be the first thing that people think about when planning a trip to Canada, there are over 200 species of mammals as well as 460 bird species, so there are plenty to see!

Keep your eyes peeled for polar bears, as around two-thirds of the world’s polar bears live in Canada. If you time it right and get really lucky, you might even spot them walking with their cubs! You might also see Canada lynx, moose, beluga whales, and beavers while exploring one of the friendliest places in the world.

Great Barrier Reef

This underwater haven is home to the largest coral reef and an incredible amount of animals and creatures, such as fish, coral, turtles and if you’re lucky (or perhaps unlucky) even sharks! Explore this wonder of the world by scuba diving, taking a helicopter tour to see the view from above, or head on a relaxed whale watching tour. Make sure you have your camera on you – preferably a waterproof one if you want to take a dive – to capture this amazing world.

Galapagos Islands

Where better to see rare animals than the very island that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution. You will spot giant tortoises, penguins, and seals, as well as animals that you won’t find anywhere else, including marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, and red-lipped batfish.

This is certainly somewhere you are going to need a camera, as some animals need to be seen to be believed. You’ll likely see species that will never be found anywhere else – what an incredible story to tell friends and family when you get back!

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the best places for animal conservation, with an incredible 27% of the country serving as nature conservation areas. These jungles are home to so many different animals from sloths and monkeys, to crocodiles, lizards, and frogs. Take a trip to Tortuguero between September and October to see the tiny baby turtles hatch and make their way from the sand to the ocean. There’s a reason that Costa Rica is known as one of the happiest countries to live in!

When it comes to deciding where to go, it helps to have a look at which animals you might be able to see, at which times, and how likely you are to see them. For example, an organized tour like a safari might make it more likely for you to spot the most amount of different species as the experts will know the best way to find them.

It’s also important to check out the ethics of where you’re going, too – some attractions treat the animals poorly and aren’t worth giving your money to. Look for somewhere that puts money back into conservation and protecting the animals, so that they can be there to be seen by generations to come.

What animals would you most like to see in real life? Let me know in the comments!

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Street art in Marseille

Street art in Marseille

In the quartier of Cour Julien and the in the quartier of Le Panier walls are extravagantly painted for everyone to decipher and enjoy.

Both are wonderful areas with loads of quirky stores, cafes, restaurants, bars, and colourful street art and graffiti covering most of the facades.

Make sure you have the time to explore it!

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Marseille is a real treat for street art lovers, hope you have enjoyed this small gallery.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

 

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Marseille, the French Port

Marseille is the second largest French city on the Mediterranean and capital of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Unfortunately doesn’t have the best reputation, due to high crime rates and immigration.

From my travels around France, ALL the people I meet said to be very careful in Marseille or even not to go there.

I can’t say that Marseille is very safe, I could have been lucky because fortunately, I didn’t have any problems at all as a solo female traveller.

Its great to explore the city on foot, but I also recommend you to buy a bus card because the city is quite big.

Vieux-Port (Old Port)

The Old Port is located in the heart of the city and is a very popular place. The bay is packed with boats and yacht surrounded by cafes, restaurants, bars and hotels.

It is quite busy but still picturesque, with a mish-mash of styles and influences.

Notre-Dame de La Garde “La Bonne Mère”

The Notre-Dame de La Garde sits on the highest point in the city. The best part is to walk up the hill and the 360 panoramic views.

The basilica is ornamented with coloured marble, byzantine-style mosaics, and murals.

Chateau D’If Frioul

Is an incredible landmark because of The Count of Monte Cristo from Alexander Dumas. If the weather is good, you can go by boat to the island, from the Vieux Port (old port).

The fort is nice but to be honest not much to see, although the views are great.

La Major, Marseille Cathedral

It is a beautiful and at the same time  unusual roman catholic cathedral built in the nineteenth century in Romano-Byzantine style.

The Cathedral of Marseille stands on the western edge of the old town above the Quai de la Joliette.

MUCEM Museum (Museum of Civilization in Europe and the Mediterranean)

The MUCEM, is an iconic museum mostly because of the structure of the building. It’s really a magnificent place and a fantastic playground if you like photography! I strongly recommend a visit even if is just to contemplate the remarkable building.

You can access, to both the courtyard of J4 and the ramparts of the fort, for free. To visit the permanent and temporary exhibitions is 9,50€.

Vieille Charité

The Virile Charité, located in the heart of Marseille’s Le Panier quarter was built as an almshouse, although the beauty of the building doesn’t really give that impression with its neoclassical central chapel and elegant arcaded courtyard.

Today is home to a number of cultural institutions and museums.

Fort Saint-Jean

The Fort Saint-Jean, is for me one of the best places in Marseille. The fort lies at the northern mouth of Vieux Port and was recently restored.

Its perfect for scenic strolls through its gardens, and to enjoy the views of the Mediterranean coastline.

If you go to the top of the gardens near the footbridge to MuCEM, you can see Marseille’s Cathedral, and admired the amazing views of Marseille and of the Mediterranean.

Natural History Museum of Marseille

The museum is inside the astonishing Palais Longchamp, which is worth a visit just to contemplate the architecture and the gardens. Not really worth to visit inside.

 Les Docks Village

If you are into shopping Les Docks are a mid-19th century complex of shipping warehouses, that has been redeveloped and now includes shops, boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants.

The buildings are connected by creative courtyards. This alone can be good a reason to visit.

Street Art

The quartier of Cour Julien walls are extravagantly painted for everyone to decipher and enjoy. A wonderful area with loads of quirky stores, cafes, restaurants nice bars, and colourful street art and graffiti covering most of the facades. Make sure you have the time to explore it!

Farmers’ Market

A great place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.IMG_7699

David’s Statue

For some reason, Marseille also has a copy of the famous David from Michelangelo, placed in the middle of a roundabout near the Prado beaches.

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photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Have you ever been to Marseille? What other places would you include here?

 

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Carcassonne, medieval France

Carcassonne is located in the southwest of France. Is a well known fortified Medieval town part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The walled city is very old, founded by the Romans, and is the largest citadel in Europe. The walls of the city are 1.9 miles (3 km) long and have 52 massive towers.

This medieval town is a picturesque place, that attracts plenty of tourists, unfortunately, too many in my opinion.

Carcassonne was fortified by the Romans and strategically located between Toulouse and the Mediterranean sea.

I’ve visited Carcassonne 12 years ago and really loved it, this time I felt a bit disappointed. The walled city felt more like a theme park than a real town where normal life takes place.

I arrived early in the morning, and the entrance was already packed with buses and excursions.

Within the walled city all the buildings, squares, and alleyways have retained their medieval character.

La Ville Base

This time I have enjoyed more to walk around Carcassonne Town (La Ville Base) than the citadel. I found it quite charming and I really had a great time strolling through its streets.

From Toulouse, Carcassonne is an easy day trip and Bla Bla car works really well.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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