10 Awesome Things to Do in Budapest

10 Awesome Things to Do in Budapest

This is a guest post by Eva Green

Budapest will simply leave you spellbound, especially if it’s your first visit. Even if you are going to the favorite city on the European continent for the nth time, you will always come across a new adventure and new things to see and do in Budapest. The famous place offers one the choice and freedom of enjoying their vacation the way they want. There are island parks, funky shops to explore or dig at the delicious local cuisine as well as countless other ways to spend some memorable time. You can hang out with the local Hungarians in the afternoon sipping coffee to save your energy for the nightlife. What do your fancy? Well, if you are still confused, here are some of the top and awesome things to do while in Budapest.

 

01 | Cruise on the Danube River

Budapest simply looks stunning by night as you stand on the banks of the Danube and watch the city lights reflect on the dark waters. Do not miss the chance to take a sightseeing cruise at night. Enjoy the long ride made even more special with the buffet-style dinner. There are one hour sightseeing cruises available for just the evening and those are highly recommended. As you cruise along the river, you come across lush vineyards and ancient castles. Embark on fascinating journeys through sleepy river towns and cities. Look for convenience, comfort and exquisite cuisine on your cruise.

 

02 | Thermal bath

Budapest has made a reputation of sorts as the “City of Spas” and for some good reasons. Get the quintessential Budapest experience at those baths, which are known as “fürdok” and are warmed by natural springs. Ask for the steam rooms and massage services. Different baths around the city supply to different preferences and one can look forward to complete relaxation or look for cures for illness. Széchenyi Baths in City Park and Gellért Baths are amongst the most popular baths. Most of the thermal baths remain open at night during the weekend but there are fewer baths for male- and female-only days. The temperatures can range from warm to hot and carry steam rooms and saunas as well as and rooms for massage.

 

03 | Dohány Street Synagogue

This is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. Referred to as Dohány Street Synagogue, the synagogue opened in 1859 and carries historical significance. The place of worship features Moorish Revival architecture and has a connection to the Holocaust. A pro-Nazi party between 1944 and 1945 bombed it. Do not forget to visit the connecting Hungarian Jewish Museum to learn more about the Hungarian Judaism as well as pay your respects at the Holocaust Memorial Temple in the courtyard.

 

04 | Wine Tasting in Hungary

Tourists and travelers never get tired of exploring the 22 wine regions of Hungary. Just beneath Buda Castle is the Faust Wine Cellar, which is part of the extensive labyrinth system. The cellar supplies only the very best wines in the region. Moreover, the very romantic setting of the cellar will leave you relaxed, and this is the right way to understand and sour the rich Hungarian wine.

 

05 | Hungarian State Opera House

Miklós Ybl designed the Location of Hungarian State Opera House in 1884, and this historic building is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest. Decorated with statues of muses and adorned with opera greats such as Mozart, Liszt, Puccini and Verdi, the interiors will leave you dazzled with marble columns, chandeliers, and gilded vaulted ceilings. The near-perfect acoustics make for an astounding performance and make you keep coming back for more.

 

06 | Fisherman’s Bastion

Located on the Castle Hill, the Fisherman’s Bastion offers a panoramic views of the city. You are sure to get blown away by those views as you explore the fairytale-like structure and the seven ornate turrets. The seven turrents represent the tents of the seven Magyar tribe leaders and their settlement on the Carpathian Basin, which ultimately led to the development of modern-day Hungary.

 

07 | Parliament Building

Hungarian Parliament Building was completed in 1904, and it remains one of the most famous landmarks in Budapest. The building’s architecture reminds one of the Gothic Revival styles and carries a national significance. Travelers come mainly to have a look at the beautiful statues and paintings. This is a prominent symbol of independence and democracy of the nation.

 

08 | Shopping at the Central Market Hall

The Central Market Hall is the biggest indoor market in Budapest. It was constructed in the 19th century and its focus is chiefly on Hungarian products. You will find the popular Hungarian sausages and Hungarian paprika selling on the first floor along with fresh vegetables and fruits. If you are looking forward to enjoy some inexpensive and traditional Hungarian lunch, than you are sure to find it here at Central Market Hall. Look for traditional Hungarian embroidery and souvenirs on the second floor.

 

09 | Matthias Church

Matthias Church has been around for centuries and portrays the Romanesque-style architecture. The Church was built in the 13th century and is the first parish church. However, during the 1541 occupation by the Turkish rulers, it was changed into a mosque and remained an Islamic place of worship for the following 150 years, until Turkish expulsion. Tourists admire its imposing architecture and marvel at the historical symbolism as well as the impressive artwork.

 

10 | Caving under Budapest

The rushing and soothing thermal waters of the famous baths of Budapest have created a huge cave system that is believed to be more than100 kilometers long. Get ready to go under and dirty and don on your overalls, helmets, and headlamps to worm your way through tight crevices as you cross some of the longest cave of Hungary. Mátyás-hegyi cave tour can easily last for about three hours. Do enjoy the adventurous activity through natural parts of the cave.

The above-listed sites and locations are a must-see for any visitor’s first trip to Budapest. Have you visited Budapest already and have some of your own tips to share? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

Time Traveling to Goa’s Past at Goa Tribal Festival

Time Traveling to Goa’s Past at Goa Tribal Festival

Ever heard of Goa Tribal Festival? No, it’s not a psytrance party but a festival that involves REAL tribes of Goa. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you must be aware that San and I were volunteering in Goa and living here for a few months. In fact, I often call Goa my second home because I have visited it more than 20 times, but I never got an opportunity to meet Goa’s tribes.

Anyway, so talking about Goa Tribal Festival, are you must be wondering what it is all about, so here’s the basic info you need to know before I tell you what I did here:

What is Goa Tribal Festival?

A food stall at Goa Tribal Festival

A food stall at Goa Tribal Festival

Goa Tribal Festival is an initiative by the local villagers to spread the awareness about Goa’s unique culture, heritage and core. To be specific, the community that took the initiative to organize this two day festival is the Adivasi Sangatna of Quepem village. The idea is to preserve and celebrate Goa’s age old traditions, which are not just limited to food or but also craftsmanship, games, folklores and more!

Many of us have visited Goa many times and spent most of our time on beaches and parties, but how many of us ever got a taste of Goa’s old culture? I hardly ever did! And no, Goa’s old culture is not just limited to Old Goa’s churches and Portuguese influences, but is so much more. It’s got a lot to do with Goa’s oldest communities, which I got to meet at Goa Tribal Festival.

Where is Goa Tribal Festival Celebrated?

The 2017 edition of this festival, where I went was held at Village Panchayat Ground, Xeldem. Xeldem is in Quepem, which is in South Goa. Yes, Quepem is where the famous Goa Carnival is also celebrated. If you get a chance, do visit it because it is on the banks of Kushawati river and is scenic.

When is Goa Tribal Festival Celebrated?

It is usually celebrated in the beginning of the year. I went for the sixth edition, which was on January 7th – 8th 2017.

My day at Goa Tribal Festival

Ok, enough about the facts but I’m dying to tell you about my day here. After an amazing breakfast at Miramar Residency, we started our journey to Xeldem for the festival. I’m not a fan of Miramar and it’s my least favorite beach in North Goa, but the area around it is very crowded. However, the drive from here to Quepem is really beautiful. For many kilometers we could only see lush rice paddies. Everything around us was very green.

First Impressions

An hour later, we were in Xeldom. It was time to enter the festival! Let me be honest, I was expecting an overly crowded area like a Diwali mela or something like a Goan flea market but as I stepped out of the car, I felt I had gone back in time. I saw a spacious ground with a lot of room to move around. An elevated area was set up, with many chairs around it – like an old fashioned stage.

The Stalls

Villagers crafting new things at Goa Tribal Festival

Villagers crafting new things at Goa Tribal Festival

Around the stage were a few stalls and behind the stalls which were made with bamboo and coconut leaves – very old school and charming! Yes, this is the first area that caught my interest. Believe it or not, I must have taken 20-30 rounds of this area to sink as much details as I could. Most of these stalls were being handled by local women from various tribes. Some of these stalls were food related and the others were the ones where the tribes were crafting new things such as mats, brooms, flower tiaras, etc. I got to witness how they meticulously crafted these items with palm leafs and paddy grass.

The People

A beautiful tribal woman at Goa Tribal Festival

A beautiful tribal woman at Goa Tribal Festival

The women behind the stalls wore beautiful red sarees with puffed sleeves blouses, which were draped a tad higher when compared to the rest of India.  They all had flowers in their hair and smiles on their faces – the real hippies!

Beautiful Young Women at Goa Tribal Festiva

Beautiful Young Women at Goa Tribal Festiva

I also saw groups of younger women and children that were moving from stalls to stalls – all traditionally attired.

Beautiful Children at Goa Tribal Festival

Beautiful Children at Goa Tribal Festival

The Age Old Apparatuses

Using old instruments at Goa Tribal Festival
A few tribal women using traditional methods for grinding at Goa Tribal Festival
A traditional appratus for making food

As I moved from stalls to stall, I noticed their traditional methods of food preparation. Some of the apparatuses that they were using looked like they were right out of a museum. (To be honest, we did see some of these apparatuses in Big Foot museum and Chitra museum – both in Goa. It was interesting to see that these instruments were still in use.

The Food

Ever heard of ambil? Well, I had not and I got to try it here. It is a kind of porridge which is sweetened by jaggery sugar. I also got to try other things like san’na, soji, pez, chirke manda, shevyo, and pita gulio. Most of these things were just priced at INR 10 or INR 5. Unbelievable!

Fried Fish and Salad at Goa Tribal Festival

Fried Fish and Salad at Goa Tribal Festival

At lunch time, we had a buffet style meal which had rice, salad, fish and one of the most delicious Goan prawn curries that I ever got to taste. The curry was mildly flavored with coconut and was comforting. Yum! Yes, I took a second helping.

The Activities & Performances

Local Children Drawing at Goa Tribal Festival

Local Children Drawing at Goa Tribal Festival

There were many little competitions and games for children and adolescents such as drawing, guli danda, saree draping and more. There were dance and song performances as well where children dressed up in traditional clothes and won our hearts!

Amazing dance performances at Goa Tribal Festival

Amazing dance performances at Goa Tribal Festival

Do you love Goa as much as I do? Then let’s revive its oldest traditions by spreading awareness about them. Share this post with your friends and family, so that they can also visit Goa Tribal festival and time travel to Goa’s past.

Disclaimer: I was invited to Goa for the 6th annual Goa Tribal Festival by Goa Tourism on a press trip, but like always, all thoughts are my own.

Exploring the other side of Goa at Dudhsagar Plantation

Exploring the other side of Goa at Dudhsagar Plantation

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Goa? I bet it’s the beaches or palm trees. Same with me, because in my many visits to Goa and even living here, I usually stuck to the coastline.

If you look at the map of Goa, you will notice there is a lot more to Goa than just the coastline. No doubt the coastline is spectacular but after many visits, San and I decided to visit the Eastern part of Goa… or you may call it “the other side of Goa”.

Goa is massive, so in order to explore the other side, we decided to stay at a place from where we could easily access the places that we wanted to see. We didn’t have a specific plan, but had a general idea that we wanted to see a few waterfalls, visit a spice plantation and Goa’s forest area. Just for this purpose, we decided to stay at a centrally located place called Dudhsagar Plantation.

With hardly any research about the place or the surrounding area, San and I hopped on to our scooter and drove to Dudhsagar Plantation in Anjuna. In just about two hours, Google Maps announced that we had reached our destination, which felt like middle of nowhere.

Inside Dudhsagar Plantation

We saw a little board that confirmed that we were at the right spot. As we entered, we saw a little cow shed on our right and a few chickens walking around on our left. As we followed the path, we saw palm trees, banana plantation and many other tall trees. We were inside a tropical garden!

Exploring the other side of Goa with Dudhsagar Plantation

Exploring the other side of Goa with Dudhsagar Plantation

A man who introduced himself as Ashok greeted us and took us to a gazebo. We sat here with him and found out that Dudhsagar Plantation is aa family run place, which was started by Ashok’s parents Doris and Ajit Malkarnekar. Inside the gazebo, I saw many other people sitting who appeared to be from different nationalities. We couldn’t help but wonder if they were all one family. We got our answer within the next few minutes

Beautiful Family

Adorable Family at Dudhsagar Plantation Farmstay

Adorable Family at Dudhsagar Plantation Farmstay

Ashok’s father is a Goan and his mother is from Germany. Ashok himself lived in Goa, Germany and Indonesia, and his wife is from Indonesia. Ashok’s sister lives in Mandrem and is married to a Goan. Ashok’s brother, who looks a lot like Ashok is married to a girl from Russia. Quite an international family, no?

Free Spice Plantation Tour

Free spice plantation tour at Dudhsagar Plantation Goa

Free spice plantation tour at Dudhsagar Plantation Goa

After the introduction, we put our luggage in our large airy room and were ready for a tour. As we walked further, I realized how massive this place was! Ashok informed us that there were more than 150 kinds of different plants and trees in this plantation. The first thing we saw was pepper, which was easy to recognize. We saw yellow turmeric, white turmeric, cardamom, bimla, cashew, gooseberry, cinnamon, lemongrass, mace, chilies and many more things. Of course I don’t remember everything but I do remember that cinnamon leaves were very sweet to chew and the taste kind of reminded me of Christmas.

Pepper at Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Pepper at Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

The most interesting thing for me was the lipstick flower. It is a natural coloring agent, which is used in food and cosmetics. The tour of the spice plantation must have lasted 45 – 60 minites, during which Ashok educated us about the fauna and entertained us with his jokes.

Fenni and Urak Distillery

Fenni Shots with Bimla after the spice plantation tour at Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Fenni Shots after the spice plantation tour at Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

At the end of the tour, Ashok informed us that they even have a Fenni distillery in the farm. Fenni is a local alcoholic brew of Goa, which is made with cashews. He took us to the distillery and told us about the process. Honestly, I have had really bad experiences with Fenni before so I wasn’t so interested, but Ashok made us try a shot with Bimla (citrus fruit) and I had to change my mind. He also made us try “Jungle Juice” which is made from Urak. Urak is the first distil of cashews before Fenni. I fell in love with Jungle Juice and drank a lot of it. You’ll be surprised to know that I had no hangover the next day and woke up clearheaded, despite multiple late night Fenni shots. If you also hate Fenni like I did, you need to try a glass here and you’re gonna change your mind.

Water Well

This may make you laugh but I have never drawn water from a well and I got very excited when I saw one here. I played around with it for a long time but finally managed to draw just a liter of it.

Variety of Animals

Guess what – on our little exploration walk with Ashok, we saw a deer inside his farm! A little while later, I saw a bison at a distance. When I thought things coulnd’t get more interesting, I saw a wild hedgehog here. No, these are not Ashok’s pet animals but the farmhouse is near Bhagwan Mahavir Forest Sanctuary so some of them come here for a little stroll.

Farm animals at Dudhsagar plantation, Goa

Farm animals at Dudhsagar plantation, Goa

Too bad the deer was so fast and shy that I couldn’t make a picture. By the time the other animals were there, I didn’t have any camera battery.

Natural Swimming Pool

Organic Natural Pool at Dudhsagar Plantation Goa

Organic Natural Pool at Dudhsagar Plantation Goa

If things couldn’t get better, Dudhsagar Plantation also has a natural swimming pool inside the farm. No chemicals or bleach is used here to clean the water but a few plans are grown in the corners to purify the water.

Organic Farm Food -Yummy

Delicious Organic food - Dudhsagar plantation, Goa

Delicious Organic food – Dudhsagar plantation, Goa

Did I mention that everything that grows in Dudhsagar Plantation is organic? Moreover, there are no pesticides used, so everything can be handpicked and eaten directly from the trees. During our time here, we got to eat freshly made home food from organic farm produce. I love Goan seafood and I don’t remember ever eating vegetarian food in Goa. However here, I couldn’t help but taking three helpings of every meal because it was so darn good! Chapatis, rice, Konkani daal, two kinds of veggies, buttermilk, salad and dessert – the food here was perhaps the best food I have had in Goa. It felt healthy; it was not oily and was light. Seriously, I can eat this food my whole life without getting bored.

 

Self-Sustainable Fuel and Biogas

I have seen this at music festivals, but I was very happy to see that almost everything gets recycled here. At Dudhsagar Plantation, they care for the environment and recycle everything.

 

Swimming in a Clean River

Amazing river swim outside Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Amazing river swim outside Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Right behind the farmhouse is a little river, which comes from Dudhsagar waterfall. If follow our blog, I’m sure you know by now how much we love jumping inside rivers, waterfalls and natural swimming holes. It was a good way to end our day here and cool off inside this river’s cold water.

Little river behind Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Little river behind Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Our Exploration Outside Dudhsagar Plantation

Honestly, we had so much fun inside Dudhsagar Plantation that we forgot we wanted to explore the nearby areas. Ashosk literally had to kick us out so that we wouldn’t miss out what’s outside

 

Dudhsagar Waterfall

San and I enjoying our cold dip at Dudhsagar Waterfall

San and I enjoying our cold dip at Dudhsagar Waterfall

Visiting the famous Dudhsagar Waterfal was the most obvious choice, because it is very close to where we were. This is India’s tallest waterfall and I had only seen it from the train while crossing Goa. To avoid the crowds, we arrived here at 9 am on our scooter. Since the waterfall is inside Bhagwan Mahavir Forest Reserve, we were not allowed to take our scooters inside, so had to buy jeep tickets. A single jeep holds 6 people and costs around INR 300 per person, including the life west. And no, you can’t enter without a life vest. Even though the waterfall attracted quite a lot of tourists, we found our personal swimming area and had a lot of fun swimming in the cold water here.

 

Bhagwan Mahavir Forest Reserve

Even though we had entered the forest reserve when we visited the waterfall, we were not really allowed to explore on our own because of the jeep restriction. Just for this, we decided to enter this forest reserve from Surla. We couldn’t; help but stop after every few minutes to make a few photos because everything was very beautiful and green inside. We also met a lot of monkeys here.

 

Tambdi Surla Temple and Waterfall

Tambdi Surla Temple, Goa

Tambdi Surla Temple, Goa

If you enter the forest reserve from Surla, you can also visit an ancient Hindu temple that’s inside. What’s unique about this temple is that it is made with black stone where as most of the temples are usually white or multi colored. There is a nice garden outside, which looked a little too well kept for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, but the forest and the temple had a very wild look, so the excessively well kept garden looked out of place. Oh and there is a hike to Tamdu Sural waterfall from here, which you should seriously consider if you’re wearing comfortable shoes.

 

Walking Route and Village Exploration

Village Exploration outside Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Village Exploration outside Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

If you like walking, you are going to love a little map that Ashok has made. This map depicts a route that he has made which you can follow to visit the nearby village and see some interesting sights. It is total 8 KMs, so do this only in the morning when the weather is cooler.

Anyway, if you’re heading to Goa, I urge you to try something different and explore the other side of Goa. Stay in Dudhsagar Plantation Homestay and experience the simple life. Cleanse your system by eating organic food here and chill in the natural pool. If you’re really adventurous, then don’t miss the forest area that only a few people visit. Oh and you can book Dudhsagar Plantation on AirBnB. Use this link to book and get a $15 discount.

Visiting Goa soon and need more info? Feel free to ask me anything! Post your questions as comments below and I’ll answer as soon as I can.

Raja Ampat Travel Guide – Paradise Found

Raja Ampat Travel Guide – Paradise Found

Raja Ampat Travel Guide has been written in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia. A big thanks to them for inviting Drifter Planet for a press trip to their beautiful country.

A group of islands that are far away from the mainland with pristine beaches, spectacular viewpoints and the richest marine biodiversity on earth – this is Raja Ampat.

Two months back I died and I went to heaven. Heaven looks like something like this…

Pasir Timbul, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Pasir Timbul, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Yes, it’s true that there are countless destinations around the world that are famous for beaches and marine biodiversity, but there is nothing like Raja Ampat. Why? Because Raja Ampat doesn’t get many visitors and it is easy to enjoy the beauty without the crowds. Moreover, it is a part of the famous “Coral Triangle” that every marine enthusiast and scuba diver knows of. The coral triangle is also called the “Amazon of the seas” because it covers only 1.6% of earth’s oceanic area but has more than 76% of all known coral species in the world.

I spent a few days in Raja Ampat and I got to see some of the most beautiful beaches, colorful marine life, remote villages, and spectacular sunsets and met many wonderful people. Wouldn’t you wanna know more about this slice of paradise?

Where is Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat is in Indonesia. If you look at the map, you will notice that Indonesia is highly spread out. Raja Ampat is the east most part of Indonesia and is a part of the island group of New Guinea. These set of 1500 islands that collectively form Raja Ampat are in Indonesia’s West Papua province.

How to Get to Raja Ampat

Here’s the thing, good things in life are never easy. That’s the case with Raja Ampat because getting there can require a bit of patience and determination. It took me more than a day to reach Raja Ampat from Yogyakarta with a night stay in Makassar.

To get to Raja Ampat, you need to reach Sorong. Flights to Sorong can be taken from Jakarta or Bali or Yogyakarta or even Singapore (Silk air). These flights will most likely stop in either Manado or Makassar. Once you reach Sorong, you will need to get to the main harbor of Sorong for your ferry to Waisai, which is on the island of Waigeo and is the capital of the Raja Ampat. You can take an express ferry or a slow boat, and both leave in the mornings at 9 am or 11 am, depending on the day. The express ferry takes around 2 hours and the slow boat takes around 5 hours. The white and orange Bahari Express ferries are the fast boats and Fajar Mulia is the name of the slow boat. To reach your final destination, you will need to have your hotel (or homestay) send a boat to Waisai to pick you up.

To recap, refer to the below table:

Flight to Sorong -> Taxi to Sorong Harbor -> Bahari Express ferry OR Fajar Mulia ferry to Waisai -> Boat Transfer to be arranged by your Hotel / Homestay

Where to Stay in Raja Ampat

Massive Chessboard on the beach at Raja Ampat Dive Lodge

Massive Chessboard on the beach at Raja Ampat Dive Lodge

I stayed at Raja Ampat Dive Lodge, which is on Mansuar Island. Raja Ampat Dive Lodge has a long stretch of private beach right. This white sand beach is right outside this resort’s cute wooden bungalows. If you like to snorkel, you can rent one here and snorkel around the bungalows. The water is crystal clear and I saw a lot of nemos and one lionfish here.

Entry Pier at Raja Ampat Die Lodge - Raja Ampat Travel Guide

Entry Pier at Raja Ampat Die Lodge – Raja Ampat Travel Guide

While I was here, I woke up every morning with a smile because I could here birds singing. As soon as I would open my door, the sight of a spectacular beach would greet me. Perhaps it sounds really cliché, but I had to pinch myself to believe if it was real. It was amazing having my own space and my own private white sand beach right outside the door. Pretty often, I would see a cute little family of ducks out for a morning walk on the beach outside my cottage.

My Private Beach at Raja Ampat Dive Lodge - Raja Ampat Travel Guide

A duck family on my Private Beach at Raja Ampat Dive Lodge – Raja Ampat Travel Guide

My bungalow at Raja Ampat Dive Lodge was very big and airy. It had a sitting area outside where I spent a few mornings. I was happy to see a hair dryer in the bathroom because I never carry one. The room also had a little backyard, which I used pretty often to dry my clothes.

 

Raja Ampat Dive Lodge - Raja Ampat Travel Guide
Raja Ampat Dive Lodge - Raja Ampat Travel Guide
Raja Ampat Dive Lodge - Raja Ampat Travel Guide

Raja Ampat Dive Lodge has a dive shop inside, which is one of the most reputed one here. Not just dive tours, they can also organize island-hopping tours for you. The restaurant serves very good food, which isn’t as spicy as the rest of Indonesia. My best meal here was an amazing seafood barbecue with massive prawns. Yum!

BBQ Seafod, Prawn Crackers and cheesy potato soup at Raja Ampat Dice Lodge

BBQ Seafod, Prawn Crackers and cheesy potato soup at Raja Ampat Dive Lodge

Honestly, this resort is so pretty that I did not want to leave. They have limited number of cottages, so I highly recommend you book it well in advance before it gets sold out. While we were there, it was sold out and some of us had to share rooms. If you’re visiting Raja Ampat, please do yourself a favor and stay in Raja Ampat Dive Lodge. Click here to book.

 

Things to do in Raja Ampat

01 | Scuba Dive / Snorkel

Raja Ampat's marine life - Raja Ampat Travel Guide

Raja Ampat’s marine life – Raja Ampat Travel Guide

The first point is pretty much obvious. The marine life in Raja Ampat looked like it was right out of a documentary. I saw many different kinds of fish, in a lot of and colors and sizes. If you are not a diver, then please at least spend a few hours snorkeling to because here, it is the BEST in the world.

Right outside Raja Ampat Dive Lodge, I got to see clownfish, angelfish, parrotfish, and lionfish. Obviously I saw many more but I’m not so good with fish names. When we went to our first dive site, I was amazed at the density of marine life. Orange, purple, green, blue – I was surrounded by different colors as I snorkeled around. Sadly, I couldn’t scuba dive here because it was necessary to have finished 20 dives but I had just done just two (Yes, it sucks)! Even then, the snorkeling experience was extraordinary because of the density.

Finding Nemo - Clownfish in Raja Ampat

Finding Nemo – Clownfish in Raja Ampat

As I mentioned before, Raja Ampat is a part of Coral Triangle, which has the most diverse marine life on the planet. It has obviously been mentioned as one of the top scuba diving locations in the world by a lot of travel guides. Oh and btw, we also spotted a walking shark (epaulette) in the mangroves near the pier of our hotel. (Don’t worry, they are harmless)

02 | Visit Pasir Timbul and Witness Nature’s Magic

Pair Timbal, Raja Ampat - the most beautiful beach I've seen

Pair Timbal, Raja Ampat – the most beautiful beach I’ve seen

If someone asked me to describe paradise, I’d narrate a picture of Pasir Timbul. Any words that I say won’t do any justice to the beauty but I’ll try my best. It is the most beautiful beach that I have ever seen in my life. Too bad, my GoPro lens was foggy and I wasn’t able to get the best shots.

Pasir Timbul is an area in the ocean where the sand emerges out for a few hours a day to form small sand patches. This happens when the tide is low and gradually disappears as the tide moves high. Our boat anchored at a distance of around 500 meters from here because the ocean bed is shallow here.

As the boat stopped, the view made me jump with joy. I’m not exaggerating, so here’s a picture that you can see and judge for yourself.

First View - Pasir Timbul from the boat

First View – Pasir Timbul from the boat

After this point, we had to walk (or swim) in order to reach the beaches. And yes, there was more than one beach because the sand had emerged to form mini islands. There were sandbars that connected these islands and it was fun to walk on them. I will stop describing now because you should read my travel guide for Pasir Timbul if you want to know more. 😉

Read: Palawan – the most beautiful island group as per Conde Nast Traveller Magazine

03 | Climb up to the famous Pianemo Viewpoint of Raja Ampat

Pianemo Viewpoint - Raja Ampat Travel Guide by Drifter Planet

Pianemo Viewpoint – Raja Ampat Travel Guide by Drifter Planet

Pianemo Viewpoint is the most famous viewpoint of Raja Ampat and is usually the cover image of most of the travel guides and magazines about this destination. I’m sure you would have seen a picture of this at some point somewhere. Yes, it is as beautiful as those pictures.

Reaching here took us around 30 minutes on a boat from the hotel. My hangover disappeared as we anchored our boat outside the entry point where the steps began, because it was so goddamn beautiful! Everywhere around us the water was clear greenish-blue.

The steps were many but I was in a hurry to get there so I literally ran up. When I reached up, it was empty and I got some amazing pictures without anyone in them. This kind of reminded me of the amazing viewpoints in Palawaan that I a little less than a year back. Click here if you want to decide which one you like more?

After the viewpoint, we walked back down and jumped into the water for a swim. To be honest, the water was not clear here so we couldn’t see any marine life.

 

04 | Meet the beautiful locals of Arborek Village Island

Beautiful children of Arborek village - Raja Ampat Travel Guide

Beautiful children of Arborek village – Raja Ampat Travel Guide

Honestly, I knew nothing of Arborek Village and neither was I expecting too much. But I was so happy when I reached here because it was an experience to remember.

There were easily 100 village people waiting for us as our boat reached Arborek Village. Which was surprising because that’s literally half the population of the island. Several smiling children stood outside and were dressed in their traditional attire. We were informed that they had prepared a welcome performance for us.

As we stepped on the pier, those children came forward and started singing and dancing for us. It was the sweetest and the most beautiful welcome that I have ever received in my life and I had to hide a tiny tear at the end of their performance.

We were told not to click any pictures or to make any videos during their performance. For whatever reasons it may be, it was a good thing because everyone saw them through their eyes, instead of the camera screens.

After the welcome, the kids held out hands and led us inside their village. Everyone else followed us, and walked behind us singing. Many of us danced while walking so it felt like we were a part of a parade.

As we walked, we saw a continuous strip of beach on our right. On our left were a few colorful huts and I wish that one was mine. Considering the welcome that we received, I would have still liked this place if it wasn’t pretty but just like everything in Raja Ampat, this was magical. The beach here was actually very beautiful because it was wide, long and shady. As you can see the the picture, the sand was sugary white and the water was very blue. Due to the abundance of trees on the beach, it was possible to find many shady spots.

We must have walked for just 500 meters when the beach became wider. We decided to sit here to enjoy the beach for most of our time in Arborek.

Singing with the locals on the beach at Arborek Village - Raja Ampat Travel Guide

Singing with the locals on the beach at Arborek Village – Raja Ampat Travel Guide

The island is very small so it is easy see pretty much everything by walking. We saw a church, a school and a few homestays. After exploring and swimming around, we saw under a tree and listened to the villages sing songs while playing their handmade instruments. After while, it was time to enjoy a delicious lunch that the locals had cooked for us. Obviously there was a lot of fish.

05 | Visit the School Kids at Taman Bacaan Pelangi

Adorable school kids at School Kids at Taman Bacaan Pelangi

Adorable school kids at School Kids at Taman Bacaan Pelangi

Taman Bacaan Pelangi or Rainbow Reading Gardens is a non-profit group that builds libraries for children in remote villages of Indonesia. We visited this place as soon as arrived in Raja Ampat and met 100s of school children.

These children were very excited to meet us and just like the ones in Arborek, they welcomed us by performing. Right after that, we sat with them and read some of their books with them and answered their army of questions.

I knew Bollywood was big in other countries, but I never realized the magnitude till the time I reached Indonesia. I was presently surprised when I saw how the children at Taman Bacaan Pelangi School sang songs from Hindi movies.

I met Nila, the girl whose passion led her to start Taman Bacaan Pelangi. Not just Raja Ampat, but her organization has made 38 more children libraries in remote parts of Indonesia. Aren’t these kids cute? You can help Nila build more such libraries and provide resources for many other children in Indonesia by donating.

Read: 55 of the Best Islands in the World

06 | Visit Sawinggrai Village (or Sawing Ray Village)

Sawinggrai Village - Raja Ampat Travel Guide

Sawinggrai Village – Raja Ampat Travel Guide

Sawing Ray or Sawinggrai Village is a tiny fisherman village in Raja Ampat. It is a typical authentic Papuan village with slow life. There is a lot to see above and below water here. I visited this village twice when I was in Raja Ampat and was surprised to see how the color of the water looks different on both sides of the jetty as the sun moves. Exactly for this, this village’s main pier is an excellent spot for both, sunrise and sunset.

Sawinggrai Village - Raja Ampat Travel Guide

Sawinggrai Village – Raja Ampat Travel Guide

In Sawinggrai Village, there are many colorful huts above the water and small walking paths. Below the water I saw some amazing corals and many colorful fish. I carried some bread with me to feed the fishes near the pier and I was amazed at the density. I don’t know the name if this black and white stripped fish but I saw it all over Palawan too! Do you know the name?

 

Sawinggrai Village Raja Ampat
Sawinggrai Village - Raja Ampat Travel Guide
Homestay in Sawinggrai Village - Raja Ampat Travel Guide

The best time to come here is late evening to catch the sunset or early morning to see the sunrise or for birdwatching. Yes, birdwatching, which brings me to my next point.

07 | Go for Bird watching to see the Birds of Paradise

Red Bird of Paradise Raja Ampat - Photo by Time Travel Turtle

Red Bird of Paradise Raja Ampat – Photo by Time Travel Turtle

If you’re a fan of Planet Earth series like I am, chances are you have seen the dance of Birds of Paradise. Red bird of Paradise and Cendrawasih (a kind of Bird of Paradise) can be sometimes spotted in Sawinggrai Village. So how do you find these pretty creatures? Pretty much every hotel or homestay can arrange to take you on an early morning tour to the spots inside the forest where these birds perform their famous mating dance.

Read: Did Yogyakarta in Indonesia changed me as a traveler?

08 | Visit Kabui Bay

My Indonesian Travel Buddies at Kabui Bay - Raja Ampat Travel Guide

My Indonesian Travel Buddies at Kabui Bay – Raja Ampat Travel Guide

While Pianemo Viewpoint is the more famous one, Kabui Bay viewpoint is also quite pretty. You can visit here along with Pasir Timbul, one after another on the same day. Unlike Pianemo Viewpoint, you don’t have to climb really high for the view. There is a little standing platform on one of the limestone rocks that can easily fit 20 people.

Personally, I prefer the view from Pianemo Viewpoint over Kabui Bay because we got a bird eye view. I highly recommend you check the weather forecast beforehand because it doesn’t look very nice when it rains.

When to visit Raja Ampat

Since it is a tropical destination, Raja Ampat can be visited throughout the year. However, the best time to visit Raja Ampat is from the months of October to April. If you’re visiting just to scuba dive, then you need to know that many dive shops don’t operate from July and September due to heavy rains.

Travel Tips for Raja Ampat

I want to share a few travel tips for Raja Ampat based on my experience there. I’m not mentioning the obvious ones like carrying a sunscreen or a waterproof bag, etc., because I assume you know that already.

01 | Travel Expenses and Budgeting

I will be honest – Raja Ampat is not a cheap destination, but is a luxury destination. Not only is the cost of getting there is high but so is the internal boat transport. I wouldn’t have been able to afford visiting a destination like this on my own if the Indonesian government didn’t sponsor me.

Although staying in Raja Ampat can be cheap if you book village homestays, it is the cost of getting there is what makes Raja Ampat an expensive travel destination. I went two months back (November 2016) and it took us two flights, two boats and one bus to reach here. Obviously if you total up all the costs, it’s not cheap.

If you can afford the cost of getting there, that’s amazing because you can find a homestay to make the rest of your holiday affordable. You can reduce your costs further if your homestay is centrally located so that you don’t have to spend a lot on internal boat transfers. Pick one in Arborek Village or Sawinggrai Village so that you’re closer to the places which I have written about.

Normally I don’t like planning things before my trips but Raja Ampat is one such destination where planning is essential if you want to save money. Make sure you speak to your hotel / homestay about boat transfers while booking.

Read: Havelock Island of the Andaman Island Group

02 | Diving

If you are a newbie diver (like me) and want to travel to Raja Ampat just to scuba dive, I’d recommend you speak to a few dive shops first. Most of the dives sites in Raja Ampat are for advanced divers with at least 20 dives in their logbook. It is because the currents are very strong and can take to the edge of the reef. But don’t be disappointed if you can’t scuba dive there because the snorkeling experience there is something you will remember for life.

03 | Prepare to be in a Remote Area

Raja Ampat is not like Bali or Palawan where you will find shops that sell basic needs. Most of the areas in Raja Ampat are so remote that you won’t find anything apart from your hotel. Pack strategically and carry everything that you may need for the time you’re there. The closest city like area is in Sorong, which will be a few hours boat ride away from your place of staying.

04 | ATMs

I’m sure you would have realized by now that Raja Ampat is really remote and yes, there are no ATMs here. A few hotels do accept cards but you need to plan and carry more than enough cash because the card machines may not always be working.

05 | Mosquito Repellent

Like most of the tropical island destinations, the mosquitos in Raja Ampat are vicious. Carry an herbal insect repellent with citronella or coconut so that you don’t cause any damage to the marine life when you swim. Using a coconut oil really helps but you need to reapply it often.

Read: Neil Island, the Andaman Island Group

06 | Time Zone

I have never mentioned time zone in any of my travel tips for anywhere, however I think it’s important that you should know. Indonesia has three time zones because it is spread out over many different longitudes. The time zones of Jakarta, Bali and Raja Ampat are all different. Due to low network connectivity, your phone clock may not auto update, so please check with the locals and adjust your clock. It was hilarious how many of us were confused with the time while we were in Raja Ampat because to reach here we had to change three different time zones. If you don’t want to miss your early morning bird watching session or sunrise photography, do keep this point in mind.

Travel Costs for Raja Ampat

To help you get an idea, I have divided the travel costs for Raja Ampat in different sections. You can use this as a ballpark figure to plan your travel expenses. I will try to update these costs on a regular basis but I suggest you do a little bit of your own research as well after reading this article.

  • Flights: Return flights from Jakarta / Bali to Sorong: USD 200 – 250
  • Permit Fee for international visitors: USD 75 (or IDR 1,000,000)
  • Ferry from Sorong to Waisai: USD 10 (or IDR 130,000) for one way.
  • Room: Hotel: USD 150 – 200 per night (usually includes diving) ; Homestay: USD 50 per night
  • Boat Tours: USD 55 – 105 per person (depending on the route)
  • Cost of a beer at Raja Ampat Dive Lodge: USD 5 (or 60,000 IDR)

So are you ready to see some of the most beautiful beaches, corals and marine life that’s on our planet? Plan a trip to Raja Ampat today.

Have you visited Raja Ampat already?

Considering there are 1500 islands in the archipelago of Raja Ampat, I have probably seen just a fraction of this wonderland. If you have been there already then please share your tips and recommendations with me in comments.

You may also like reading about the below destinations:

Yogyakarta, Indonesia – 13 Things I did here that I had never done before

Best Islands of the World

Palawan, the Philippines

Bohol, the Philippines

Havelock Island, the Andaman and Nicobar Island Group

Neil Island, the Andaman and Nicobar Island Group

Goa Flea Markets – 7 Colorful Bazaars That You Shouldn’t Miss

Goa Flea Markets – 7 Colorful Bazaars That You Shouldn’t Miss

This guide is about Goa Flea Markets. To read more travel articles about Goa, visit this page.

Whether you’re a shopaholic or not, Goa flea markets are sure to win your heart. With their vivid colors, spicy aromas, interesting sights, and funny sounds, visiting them is an experience in itself! Some of these markets started years back and have an interesting history of how they came into existence. Many of them start only during the high season, which is November to March, while some are open throughout the year.

As many of you know, I love Goa and am now living here since the last few months. While I am volunteering in Goa, I am visiting some of these markets every week and still I’m not bored of them. Whether you’re visiting Goa for a few days or are living here, a visit to these markets is a must. So, here’s a list of Goa Flea Markets that you should visit while you’re here:

Flea Markets in Goa:

01 | Anjuna Flea Market

Goa Flea Markets - International artisans at Anjuna Flea Market

Goa Flea Markets – International artisans at Anjuna Flea Market

Back in the 1960s and 70s, when the hippies first arrived in Goa, they chose Anjuna as their home. Many of them sold the last of their material possessions from their home countries here to make money. The 70s are over but this market still remains. Every Wednesday, many artisans from not just all over India, but also from all over the world set up stalls here. Anjuna Flea market stretches from the beach shacks area of Anjuna to the other side of main road where there are paddy fields. Here you can check out a massive collection of clothes, jewelry, bed sheets, wall hangings, hammocks, etc. The best time to visit is from 5 pm onwards when the sun is not very strong and some bars and shacks play live music.

Anjuna Flea Market Timings:

This market starts at 9 am and ends at sunset time, i.e., 6 pm on every Wednesday. This market exists only during the main season – November to March.

You may also like: A Detailed Guide to the Beaches of North Goa

02 | Saturday Night Market, Arpora

Considering Goa’s tropical temperature, a night market obviously makes more sense. As the name suggests, this market is set up only on Saturday night during Goa’s main season (November to February). This market is a little “high end” if you compare it to Anjuna flea market. With live music, international food stalls, fire dancers and colorful stops, a trip to Saturday night market is an experience to remember. This market usually goes on till 2 am, after which it continues like an open party while the shop owners pack up their stuff and gradually leave. From Christmas to New Year, which is Goa’s peak season, it is recommended that you arrive here early to avoid the crowds. Alternatively, reach by midnight and stay till 1 or 2 am. While here, eat some food, drink a few beers and watch a few live performances to make the most of it.

Saturday Night Market Timings:

This market starts on every Saturday during the main season at 6 pm and ends at 2 am. Again, the main season is from November to March.

 

03 | Mackie’s Night Bazaar, Baga River

Goa Flea Markets - My sister Priyanka Bajad at Mackies Saturday Night Market

Goa Flea Markets – My sister Priyanka Bajad at Mackies Saturday Night Market

Mackie’s Night Bazaar is not to be confused with Arpora Night Market, which is also on Saturdays. Although Arpora’s night market is the more famous one, Mackie’s is the original night market of this area and is closer to the river Baga. This market features many food stalls, live bands and shops. This market ends starts at 6 pm on Saturday nights during the high season and ends at 1 in the morning.

Mackie’s Night Bazaar Timings:

This market starts at 6 pm on Saturdays and ends at 1 am. Mackie’s Night market only exists during the main season, which is from November to March.

You may also like: Goa Travel Tips – 12 Things you need to know before visiting

04 | Arambol Street Market

Arambol's Shopping Street - North Goa

Arambol’s Shopping Street – North Goa

Unlike most of the listings here, this market exists everyday. This market starts a little before Arambol Beach main parking and extends for more than 3 kilometers till the end of Arambol. Arambol is near the North most tip of Goa and has developed into a little hippie village over the decades. The prices here are a bit lower as compared to Anjuna flea market and Saturday night market. This market is as colorful as Anjuna flea market and has a range of things such as spices, hand made soaps, glass pipes, hammocks, bags, clothes, tea, jewelry, bongs and chillums, etc. A lot of people that set up shops in India’s Parvati valley area in the summers set up shops here during the winters, which is Goa’s high season.

Arambol Street Market Timings:

Arambol Street Market is open everyday from 10 am to 9 pm.

05 | Arambol Drum Circle Beach Market

Arambol Drum Circle Beach Market

Arambol Drum Circle Beach Market

Out of all the flea markets in Goa, Arambol drum circle market is my favorite because it is on the beach. This market starts a few hours before before the sunset where travelers from all over the world sell their hand made creations. More than just a market, it is a party on the beach where people bring their drums, handpans, Didgeridoo (didjeridu) and meet here everyday to make music as the sun sets. It is common to see performers at this time with their juggling balls, hula hoops, poi and many other props. With things like handmade clothes, food, jewelry, glass pipes – this market looks like it is right out of a music festival.

Arambol Drum Circle Beach Market Timings:

Arambol Drum Circle flea market starts everyday a little before the sunset. Like many other markets in this list, this market also exists only during high season.

BONUS: Watch this fun video about Arambol Drum Circle

06 | Chapora Fish Market

Goa Flea Markets - Chapora Jetty

Goa Flea Markets – Chapora Jetty

What better place to buy fish than a fishing village? Chapora fishing village near Chapora River is an affordable answer for your seafood craving. Although you can buy fish here pretty much throughout the day, but the best time to visit this market is from 4 am to 6 am. This is the time when many fishermen return from their quest and their wives sell freshly caught fish. You can find things like tiger prawns, king prawns, lobsters, mussels, crabs, kingfish and Pomfrets at a very good price.

Chapora Fish Market Timings:

Chapora Fish Market starts everyday in the morning from 4 am to 6 am and then again in the evening from 4 pm to 6 pm. This market is closed during the rainy season.

You may also like: Hampi Travel Guide

07 | Mapusa Friday Market

If you’re looking to buy local Goan produce and goods, Mapusa Friday Market is the place for you. Just like Chapora fish market, Mapusa market is also a place that locals love to visit. In fact, the main Mapusa market is open everyday, but the special flea market opens on Friday morning. You can find everyday things that you need to run your house as well as a lot of food. This market is famous for things like Goan sausages, organic food, spices, cashews, earthen pots, meat and even clothes. This is a day market and closes as the sun goes down.

Mapusa Friday Market Timings:

Mapusa Friday Market opens early morning on Fridays and ends at around 6 pm.

Have you visited these flea markets of Goa already and have a few tips to share? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Wondering what we’re doing in Goa?

Wondering what we’re doing in Goa?

If you’re following us on Facebook, you must have noticed that we’re in Goa. No, we are not here for a week or two but are here for a few months. We’re not “holiday”ing here but are volunteering in Goa. This is our way of slow travel because we want to make our way to Sri Lanka by January 2017.

So what exactly are we doing in Goa?

A little work in the hostel..

I’m volunteering in Goa ‘s Red Door Hostel in Anjuna. The same hostel also has a restaurant where San is working in the bar and kitchen. We get two meals a day here and get to sleep for free. I don’t get paid because I’m a volunteer but San get a little money because he’s a professionally trained chef. Both of us work for half a day and get a day off per week. Our work is very relaxed and a lot of fun.

A little travel blogging..

2016 was a very crazy year. I traveled to 10 countries and didn’t even get a chance to write about them all. I had to take a forced break from blogging while I was attending back-to-back music festivals and later preparing for my German examination. Sitting behind the hostel help desk for half a day has given me a little stability that I needed. I’m finally getting some writing done.

And a little party..

Goa is the birthplace of Psychedelic Trance genre and a typical old school Goa party has no match. This is where I got my first taste of Psychedelic trance music back in 2004 and I was hooked. So yes, we are partying a LOT here. Again.

Why did we choose Goa?

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, I’m sure you know by now how much I love Goa. A lot of people hate it because it’s getting touristy, but which place isn’t? Honestly, Goa is massive and there are many empty areas. It’s mostly the beach belt that gets crowded and we have our own secret spots. We’re in North Goa, which is busier than South Goa.

The cost of living in Goa is definitely lower than most of the places we know of, so it is easy to survive here with little money. The fact that we’re sleeping and eating for free has made it possible for us to live off the earnings of our travel blog. Goa is a good place for digital nomads.

I visited Goa for the first time in 2004 and have always wanted to live here. After finally finding courage to quit my full time job, I can finally make my dream come true. Better late than never, don’t you think?

Want to meet us?

A lot of my friends and blog readers are in Goa at the moment because it is a popular spot to celebrate New Year’s Eve. If you’re planning on visiting, do check out my post about Goa travel tips and my detailed guide about North Goa Beaches. It has some amazing hotel and hostel reccomendations too. Oh, and send us a message on Facebook or Instagram if you want to meet us in Goa.

 

 

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

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