Instagram-Worthy Swimming Pools You Should Check Out

With the rising temperature, I’m sure everyone’s itching for a summer getaway. And if you’re like me who loves lounging by the pool, then here’s my personal list of Instagram-worthy swimming pools you should check out.

Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens & Spa

You’ve probably seen it on TV a lot lately, and I totally get why it’s often featured.

This infinity pool within Loreland Resort boasts of sweeping views of Laguna de Bay and Metro Manila

Bring your girl friends or your partner and avail of their spa services for the ultimate R&R.

Luljetta's Hanging Garden & Spa Infinity Pool

Hacienda Isabella

Another one that’s also just a couple of hours away from Manila is Hacienda Isabella.

It’s secluded so you’ll definitely get the downtime you deserve.

With its rustic flair and beach-like grounds, this swimming pool is Instagram-worthy in my book.

Bluewater Panglao

This lagoon-shaped pool will greet you upon your arrival at Bluewater Panglao!

By the way, I love that they didn’t use tiles for the pool’s flooring. It’s totally non-slip.

Who says you can’t get a tan while in the pool? Snap a photo here and you’ll surely get double-taps.

Be sure to check it out at night, too!

The Bellevue Resort Bohol

50 shades of blue!

View of the pool from our 1-Bedroom Deluxe Room at The Bellevue Resort Bohol 

The pool’s depth ranges from 2 feet to up to 12 feet (dive pool)!

The best time to take photo ops? Early in the morning while everyone’s having their breakfast. ūüėČ

Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort & Spa, Indonesia

While the color of the water might not look as inviting, I’m including Sheraton Mustika’s Taman Sari Water Castle-inspired pool because of its uniqueness.

They used natural green stones from Lombok for this pool, hence, the color.They also have an indoor pool at the spa.

Bird’s eye view of the pool

Alaya Resort Ubud, Bali

Probably my favorite on this list is Alaya Ubud’s pool because of its tropical vibe. ūüôā

alaya resort pool 1

bamboo bridge alaya ubud

The bamboo bridge

alaya ubud pool 2

They say the pool’s curves mirror the sloping contours of the surrounding landscape.

Courtyard by Marriott Bali Seminyak

Courtyard by Marriott Seminyak’s main feature is their three-tiered pool.

courtyard seminyak pool barPool barcourtyard marriott seminyak pool1View of the pool from my room.courtyard marriott seminyak wading poolWading pool with daybeds

Atlantis the Palm, Dubai

It’s only fitting that a hotel as massive as Atlantis the Palm in Dubai have an equally massive pool exclusive for hotel guests, so it doesn’t get crowded. For the adrenaline junkies, there’s also Aquaventure Water Park within the compound.

The Royal Pool fronts the Royal Towers and looks out onto The Palm Jumeirah.
When the heat becomes unbearable, staff also hand out cold towels.

Do you know any Instagram-worthy swimming pools we should check out? Please leave a comment below.

Review: Swiss-Belhotel Rainforest Kuta

Swiss-Belhotel Rainforest Kuta is located along Bali’s Sunset Road. It has a very unassuming facade, and looks small from the outside. But¬†I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the lobby as it has a very tropical vibe – a very stark contrast to its commercial-looking exteriors. They didn’t name it ‘Rainforest’ for nothing.

Love that palm leaf-like ceiling fan!
This is how the lobby looks from Oak Restaurant

5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Sourtheast Asian Adventure

Ever since I got back from my month-long Southeast Asian trip last August 2014, some friends have expressed their interest of doing the same, but don’t know exactly where to start. ¬†

The thing is, when people ask me for my itinerary, I’m a bit hesitant to just give them what I used because it is customized according to MY traveling style.¬†
I found that it has changed over the years. I no longer feel the need to pack as many attractions as I can in day, and would prefer to pay more for convenience rather than sacrifice comfort for the sake of sticking to my budget. 

I also traveled solo, so my expenses were inevitably bigger than usual. And the only tickets I had pre-booked on sale were my Manila to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and Bali to Manila flights. The rest of the flights, I booked when I was already on the road.

I actually traveled for 32 days

Continue reading “5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Sourtheast Asian Adventure”

Review: Courtyard by Marriott Bali Seminyak

It was the last two days of my month-long Southeast Asia trip, and I’ve had the privilege of spending it at the newly-opened Courtyard by Marriott Seminyak.
I traveled from Ubud, and despite being new, my taxi driver didn’t have a hard time finding the hotel. It’s located just a few minutes away from Seminyak Beach and high-end beach clubs, and a stone’s throw away from restaurants, shops, ATMs, and foreign exchange.
As if going through airport security, security officers and a K9 inspected the taxi thoroughly. Guests were also required to pass through a metal detector, and the bags, through the scanner. I noticed this is a standard in Marriott properties as guests’ safety and security is of utmost importance.
Lobby
The cheerful staff welcomed me, and offered a welcome drink and cold towel. Check-in was quite a breeze too.
By the way, if you’re a Marriott Rewards member staying at selected Marriott properties, you can skip the queue by checking-in/out through the Marriott Mobile App. How cool is that?
Pool Bar
Didn’t mind waiting because I had this view
 
I arrived earlier than the official check-in time, and had to wait a bit for the room to be ready. While waiting, Melinda, one of the front desk associates, chatted with me and shared some info about the hotel. We also talked briefly about my trip.
Immediately noticeable from the lobby is the Pool Bar.
If you think the pool is small, well, think again. It’s actually a three-tiered pool with a lagoon-shaped main pool in the middle, and a more shallow, almost wading pool-like part towards the end, which is perfect for kids.
 
I arrived on a very sunny day, and the pool was glistening. The bright blues looked so inviting it made me want to jump in.
Wading pool with daybeds
I was given a room on the ‘upper ground floor’. Like most rooms, it has a private balcony overlooking the pools. Not satisfied with just a view of the pool? You may also book rooms with pool access.
The room may be modest in size, but the amenities are complete.
I love the clean lines and the freshness that the room exudes. It’s simple, but tastefully decorated.
 
The closet, though small, has ample space for your things. Bathrobes, slippers, and electronic safe are also found inside the closet.
The writing desk has a number of universal power outlets, and was easily my favorite spot. I spent most of my time here catching up with work. I just wish there was more space between the desk and the closest as it could be a nuisance sometimes.
The complimentary WiFi was fast, and didn’t require the usual annoying alphanumeric password. You just need to enter your room number, your last name, and voila!
Natural fibers were incorporated in some of the furnishings to somehow give the room a tropical vibe.

Of course there’s the usual coffee and tea making facility, mini bar, and complimentary bottled water that were replenished daily.

The bathroom was spotless and very spacious – almost half the size of the room, actually.
It has a separate toilet and bath, and the bath is fitted with a rainshower head, which is always a plus point in my book.
Toiletries, grooming kit, and towels were aplenty, and were replenished/replaced daily.
Buffet breakfast is served at Seminyak Kitchen which has a casual and cafe-like feel.
They serve fresh salads, cold cuts, cereals, eggs, noodles, and Indonesian and Western fare among others. My favorites are the freshly baked pastries, fresh fruit juices, and ice cream. And, get this, they serve breakfast all day!
Seminyak Kitchen
Since I have an early morning flight back to Manila, I decided to pre-arrange the airport service with the hotel. And when the front desk staff found out that I need to check out by 5:00 am and wouldn’t make it to the buffet breakfast, they made sure I’ll have a breakfast box ready when I check out. They filled it with Danish pastries and bottles of fruit pastries. It was a really sweet and thoughtful gesture that I have never experienced anywhere else. ūüôā
Courtyard by Marriott Seminyak successfully blends the comfort and security of a hotel, the playful yet relaxed ambience of a resort, and the personalized service of a bed and breakfast.
What it lacks in Balinese design, it makes up for in Balinese hospitality.
It was definitely a sweet ending to my trip.

 

K

 
 
Jalan Camplung Tanduk No 103 SP,
Dhyana Pura, Seminyak, Bali, 80361 Indonesia
Tel: +62 361 8499 600
Website: www.marriott.com

Review: Alaya Resort Ubud

Staying at Alaya Resort Ubud was like stepping into a dream.
It has all the components of MY ideal Balinese holiday: a tropical-themed room overlooking paddy fields, frangipani and coconut tree-lined grounds, soothing massage, and warm hospitality.
I was really looking forward to my stay at Alaya ever since I saw pictures of it online, and it did not disappoint.

The minute my cab pulled in front of the open-style lobby, I was immediately greeted by a staff wearing a traditional-style uniform, but with a modern flair.
 
Check in process was a breeze, and within a few minutes, they handed my room keycard together with a map of Ubud.

As the staff walked me to my room, I couldn’t help but notice the use of natural materials throughout the hotel which gave it a rustic feel. This, combined with modern fittings, will surely please all kinds of travelers.

I was given the spacious and beautifully furnished Alaya Room (Room 311) which had a terrace overlooking the paddies.

The bed was just gorgeous! It’s huge and fluffy with lots of pillows.
The frangipanis on the bed and towels were also a nice touch. ūüôā

Kimonos, slippers, an eco bag guests can borrow (can be bought from the front desk), electronic safe, and plenty of fluffy towels are kept inside the spacious cabinets.

The usual coffee and tea making facilities, and mini bar are also available.

Aside from the air conditioning unit, there’s also a ceiling fan both in the room and in the terrace.

The decorative wall was a nice backdrop. It extends from the room onto the terrace.
My favorite part of the room? Easily the ‘open’ bath area with a huge stone bathtub.
There’s a generous supply of top-notch organic toiletries such as Lime Lemongrass shampoo, Cinnamon Frangipani conditioner, Vanilla Rosemary shower gel, Lavender Eucalyptus body lotion, and Spearmint Patchouli hand soap. If not for the big bottles, I would’ve taken them home!
Even if you opt not to have a spa treatment, you can still treat yourself to a decadent bubble bath. The Rose Coconut bath foam smells divine!
Dolce far niente!
When I managed to drag myself out of the room, I walked around the resort to enjoy the landscaped garden and lush surroundings.
Some of the guests were just lounging by the lagoon-shaped pool, and I really can’t blame them. The atmosphere is just very relaxing.
***
And what’s a Balinese vacation without having a spa treatment, right?
 
I was so thrilled they gave me a complimentary 2-hour treatment at DaLa Spa.
 
European glamour meets Balinese aesthetics
DaLa Spa’s design is so charming. I’m loving the chic porter’s chairs!

 

I arrived 15 minutes earlier than the appointment schedule, and while waiting, I was immediately served cold lemon grass and pineapple juice, and a cold towel.

The staff then explained to me the scope of the 2-hour Manis Klepon treatment. 

I was then asked to fill out a personal information/preference checklist where I need to indicate if I have any allergies or medical conditions, any specific body parts I want my therapist to focus on etc. I even get to choose the room temperature, pressure, and the kind of music I want to listen to while having the treatment.

After handing the form to the staff, she walked me to a table where my therapist, Putu, was preparing the ‘ingredients’ that will be used for my treatment. She grated some coconuts which she then mixed with palm sugar. This was for my body scrub.

We then went down to one of the luxe treatment rooms.
She handed me a robe to change into. Slippers were provided as well. She also taught me how to assign a PIN code for the electronic safe where I can store my valuables.
After changing, Putu started with the foot bath, which was then followed by the coconut and palm sugar body scrub to exfoliate dead skin cells. Next was the pandanus and suji leaves body mask, which started out warm then gradually gave off a cooling sensation.
She then showed me a basket of flowers, and explained what each one was while gradually dropping them into the tub filled with warm water. This is for the Seven Flowers Bath, which was very relaxing, and washed away the remains of the mask.
She gave me 15 minutes to enjoy the bath while she prepared the new robe and disposable underwear. She also left me a cup of tea by the vanity desk before she left the room.
Finally, it was time for the one-hour Balinese massage.
Putu was very careful with the strokes, and was continuously checking if the pressure and room temperature was just right for me. It was really relaxing that I nearly dozed off.
The treatment ended with a chamomile facial spritz which woke up my senses. haha
After the treatment, she brought me back to the main hall of DaLa Spa where I was then served hot ginger tea with Balinese dumpling stuffed with palm sugar, and served with grated coconut named…Manis Klepon!
 
I highly, highly recommend their spa treatments! You will definitely feel like royalty.
 
Pardon the grainy pictures. These were taken using my phone’s camera.
 
***
Guests get to choose from Petani Restaurant’s set breakfast menu.
Don’t be disappointed if it’s not buffet style because I assure you, the breakfast set is as good as brunch.
I had the American breakfast set which consists of a bread basket (toast, croissant, Danish pastry) served with butter and jams; fresh fruit platter served with fresh homemade yogurt; omelette, bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, potato, broccoli, and cauliflower; freshly-squeezed orange juice, and latte.
Petani Restaurant
 

Alaya Resort Ubud is located along Jalan Hanoman so it’s close to a supermarket, a number of ATMs, restaurants, souvenir shops, and is just a 5-minute walk to the Sacred Monkey Forest.

***
 

I still regret not staying long enough in Ubud, and in Alaya. The laid back vibe, culture, and the lovely people easily made it one of my favorite destinations to date.


K

~~ I was hosted by Alaya Resort Ubud for a night, but all opinions in this review are my own. ~~
 
 
Jalan Hanoman, Ubud
Bali 80571 Indonesia
Tel: +62 (361) 972200
Email: info@alayaubud.com
Twitter: @AlayaUbud
Instagram: @AlayaUbud

Review: The Kana Kuta, Bali

The Kana Kuta is a newcomer in the hotel chain-penetrated hospitality industry of Bali (specifically in Kuta), but is already making a name, and it’s easy to see why.
photo from The Kana Kuta’s website

The entrance is quite a bit tricky to locate because the main building is behind the Star Anise Restaurant along Jalan Setiabudi.

The open layout and spacious lobby will welcome guests upon arrival. You’ll get more of a resort feel than a hotel.
The cheerful staff immediately greeted me, and served a refreshing drink, mini samosas, and cold towels while I was being checked in.
Once the check in process was done, another staff took care of my luggage and assisted me to my room. She was very nice and speaks English well (as with most of the staff), and was very much willing to attend to my needs. She even brought the adaptor to my room when I called the front desk to ask if there’s one that I can borrow.

 
I was given the Executive Room, which was very spacious and spotless. I liked the contemporary design. The deep red and black accents were balanced by the white sheets, cream walls, and light wood furnishings.
 
The cabinets were huge, and there’s plenty of space to stow the bags and/or luggage.
Other amenities include an electronic safe, coffee and tea making facility, writing desk, and a couch that can be turned into a day bed.
I also love that they provided rubber slippers instead of the fluffy ones.


The bathroom was not that spacious, but it doesn’t feel cramped.¬†

They don’t have a tub, but it’s okay as I prefer a shower stall just because it’s easier to take a bath. The water pressure’s a bit too strong, though.¬†


The hotel facilities include a modest swimming pool, gym, meeting rooms, and a play area for the kids.
 
The Kana Kuta is not in the beach area, but they have free scheduled shuttle services daily to Kuta Beach.

Seleriana Restaurant
Buffet breakfast is served at Seleriana Restaurant which faces the pool. 
 
There’s a good selection including live congee, noodle, and egg/omelet stations; breads and pastries; fresh fruits; cereals; and some Japanese, and Western fare.


I would also recommend that you try out the Grand Rijsttafel at the Star Anise Restaurant. It consists of 20 Indonesian dishes, and is perfect for families and/or group of friends. 

Grand Rijsttafel
Soto Ayam (chicken broth, egg, cabbage, glass noodles, fried shallot);
Ikan Asam Manis (grilled fish with sweet & sour sauce), Udang Sambal Goreng (fried prawn with chili sauce), Telur Bumbu Bali (boiled egg with spicy sauce), Ikan Bakar Bumbu (marinated grilled fish with raw Balinese spices), Opor Ayam (chicken with curry sauce), Sate Ikan Bali (minced fish skewers), Ayam Taliwang (Taliwang style grilled chicken), Sate Ayam (traditional chicken skewers in peanut sauce), Otak-Otak (grilled minced fish cake in banana leaf), Gado-Gado (rolled Indonesian vegetables with peanut sauce), Kacang Panjang Bumbu Kalas (long bean with coconut sauce), Terong Kecap (fried crispy eggplant in soy sauce), Tempe Manis (fried bean cake with sweet soy sauce), Perkedel Jagung (sweet corn fritter), Tuhu Telur (omelet with tofu), Rempeyek (Indonesian peanut crackers), Acar Kuning (vegetables with yellow pickle sauce);
Cake Tape (sweet cassava muffin), Es Campur (Indonesian mixed shaved ice dessert);
served with yellow rice and Teh Botol (bottled tea)
Make sure you schedule your dinner at Star Anise on either Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday at 6:30-7:00 pm so you also get to watch the Balinese Dance Performance.
 

As I was out most of the time visiting Bali’s attractions, I didn’t get to spend much time at the hotel. But I was always welcomed back with a smile, and the staff are genuinely interested to know how my day was.¬†

When I checked out, I asked the front desk where I can get a Blue Bird Taxi to Ubud, and before I know it, the taxi was already pulling up at the parking lot.  
 
When in Kuta, stay at The Kana and you won’t be disappointed.

K

~~ I was hosted by The Kana Kuta Bali for 2 nights, but all opinions in this review are my own. ~~
 
Jln Setiabudi No 8, Kuta
Bali 80361 Indonesia
Tel: +62 (361) 8496100
Email: info@thekana.com
Twitter: @TheKanaKuta

5 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Vacation Rental

While planning for our week-long Hong Kong trip earlier this year, I was once again faced with the challenge of looking for lodging options that can accommodate our small group, and more importantly, will fit our budget. 
 
I’ve searched high and low for family rooms, but guesthouses were either already fully booked, rooms were not available for consecutive nights on our travel dates, hotel rates were waaay beyond our budget or the rooms available were not in accessible locations.¬†

I decided to check any available vacation rental instead and that’s how I discovered¬†travelmob¬†–¬†an online marketplace where you can find and rent unique homes from local hosts across Asia Pacific.

After hours of going through their¬†listings, here’s 5 reasons why I think you should consider booking a vacation rental on your next trip:
 
1.  Perfect for families or groups of friends 

 
Over a year ago, I went to Singapore with 6 other people, 3 senior citizens included. The country is already expensive to begin with so we ended up bunking in a backpackers’ hostel.¬†

It would’ve been okay, but because we were 7 in a 6-bedroom dorm, my mom and I had to share a single bed. While¬†we saved on lodging cost, the setup wasn’t very comfortable. We had to use a communal bathroom, too.


Pictured above are Hong Kong apartments with at least 2 rooms that can comfortably fit 6 or more people. I found several Hong Kong apartments that has a room with at least one bunk bed and with a sleeper sofa/sofa bed in the living room, too. 

 
2.  Has amenities not available in most hotels

 
Most vacation rentals listed are equipped with a WiFi router, kitchen(ette) and/or laundry facilities Рamenities that are either not offered or something that you need to pay for extra when staying in a hotel. 
 
I think it’s very practical if you’re staying for more than a week (or two) because you can cook your own food instead of eating out. You can also travel light and save on baggage fees because you can do the laundry anytime. ūüėČ
3.  More space, privacy & personality

 
In first world, read¬†relatively expensive,¬†Asian countries where space is at a premium, it’s¬†inevitable that you will find yourselves in matchbox-like rooms.¬†I once saw a Hong Kong guesthouse offering a single room that literally looked like a toilet – with tiled walls and exhaust fan – only with a bed instead of a toilet bowl.¬†And don’t get me started on the clinical-looking rooms.

Sure, you’ll be out most of the day and working on a budget, but it wouldn’t hurt to get yourself a decent place to sleep in after a long day.¬†

For the same price as a hotel, booking a vacation rental actually gives you more space, therefore, giving you better value for your money.
 
4.  Discover unique accommodations Рboats, cottages, cabins, even treehouses!

View with a room! 
Treehouse in Bangkok

Bali Eco Villa

 
Whether you’re an intrepid traveler who wants to sleep under the stars while perched 23 feet up in the air in Bangkok or just want to spend some quality time with your significant other away from the tourist crowd of Bali, you can find awesome and unique vacation rentals that’ll make your trip more memorable.¬†
 

5.  Get to know your host and live like a local!

 
Traveling solo? Aside from apartment rentals, you can also book shared or private rooms.
A¬†shared¬†room¬†means¬†you‚Äôll¬†be¬†sharing¬†space¬†with¬†other¬†travelers¬†while¬†a¬†private¬†is¬†a¬†room¬†of¬†your¬†own.¬†In¬†some¬†cases,¬†the¬†host¬†will¬†also¬†be¬†at¬†the¬†location¬†while¬†you’re¬†there.¬†

In travelmob, you can check the property owner’s profile, read previous guests’ reviews and/or references and contact him/her directly if you need more information about their listing. Through a few message exchanges, you can then gauge if he/she will be a good host.
The host can offer invaluable insider tips on where to find the best places to eat, best bargains and off-the-beaten sites. In some cases, hosts also offer more personal service like free use of their bicycle or a local SIM card – things you’ll never be able to experience in a hotel.
 
Remember, there’s really no better way to learn about a new culture and gain a richer travel experience than from living with a local. ¬†
 
***
 
And there you have it. I hope I’ve given you enough reasons to consider booking a vacation rental on your next trip.¬†

iPhone/iPad user? travelmob listings can be right at your fingertips. Click the image below to download their mobile app.

And just for you, my dear readers, for a minimum booking fee of USD150.00, you’ll get a USD35.00 discount by using the promo code below:
Excursionista35
 
Promo is valid until JUNE 15
K
 
For real time travel updates and more photos, please ‘Like’ my¬†Facebook page¬†and follow me on¬†Twitter¬†and/or¬†Instagram. Happy travels!
 
Find this blog post helpful? You can share it by using one of the buttons below.