Author Archive for: Linda

Linda

About Linda

    Balloon Ride over Ancient Bagan, Myanmar

    Balloon Ride over Ancient Bagan, Myanmar

    Did you ever had the feeling to feel completely free?
Let me tell you something about our recent experience, which made us literally define the word freedom new and level it up.
We already told you in our last blogpost about our trip to Myanmar and further to Bagan, the ancient city of Myanmar. In Bagan there are more than 2200 temples and pagodas on a quite small terrain. It’s know for it’s breathtaking sunrises, and sundowns, overlooking the landscape in mystic vibe with all the pagodas and temples showing up. What makes it even more special, and you probably have seen those Pinterest shots, are the balloons hovering the temples in the morning.

    We had the EPIC(!) opportunity to ride with one of those. Oriental Ballooning invited us for a ride with them two weeks ago. I’m gonna tell you a little bit about our day with them.

    04:30 WAKE-UP CALL!

    Ready, set, go! At 04:30 in the morning our alarm rang. Puh, so early. Little did we know, how much worth it was to get up this early.
The little cute bus from Oriental Ballooning picked us up right at our hotel a little after 5AM.
It was still dark outside, and pretty fresh air. We got in the van, with other guests already inside. We drove 10-15minutes to a field, a little outside Bagan. Still dark, no orientation where we actually were.
Getting out of the van, a nice guy led us to a fully set table – next to a few other tables. We were placed by the captain’s name “PIERCE”, which was our’s for the ride. The tables were all lit up with candles, and behind was spotted a little food truck. So welcoming!

    Breakfast was ready. We got some tea, coffee and croissants, before we spotted the first “tests” with the balloons in the field.
We got a security lesson beforehand – how everything will be working, how we have to behave when taking off and landing.

    AND OFF WE GO!

    Okay – the moment we all have been waiting for. We climbed in the basket. We were 10people, plus our pilot Pierce. The sky was already lightening up a little bit – but the sun was still hiding.
Pierce and his crew started the engines and the fires. Please excuse my non-professional vocabulary about balloong flying – but I literally don’t have a clue
    So off we go. Sitting on the ground of the basket for the first few seconds. We felt the balloon rising. We got up. WE FLEW! The crew was waving at the bottoms. We were the first balloon to get up in the air. The others followed right after.
It was amazing. Since I’m actually afraid of heights, but very ambitions to overcome it, I was very curious how it would be. But it never felt unsafe, or I was never afraid for a second. It was like you very standing on a balcony, and everything around you is just moving
    I could just talk for an hour, but I think pictures speak for it self:

    Our ride took us a little over an hour. We flew right over Old Bagan, over the major temples and pagodas, we flew over New Bagan, were the mystic dust was rising, and the landed at the shore of Irrawaddy river.
Pierce, our pilot, told us, we were really lucky with the wind that day. It was like THE day to fly and catch the ideal route over Bagan. WOW! How lucky are we, to experience that?
I’m probably, or hopefully, still telling about this experience with my grand grand children. It’s been one very special day, and a once in a lifetime experience.
    Check out the video we did with Oriental Ballooning during the ride:

    Discover Havana with Urban Adventures

    Discover Havana with Urban Adventures

    Discover Havana with Urban Adventures

    We spent 72 hours in Havana, the capital of Cuba. We walked the streets of Old Havana, rode a vintage car across the El Malecon, explored the monuments of Plaza De La Revolucion, danced salsa all night in Miramar and ate pineapples off a street fruit cart.
    We partnered up with Urban Adventures to maximize our three days, we spent in the city.

    Let's walk & explore Old Havana by foot

    We had the pleasure to spent one whole day with the guides of Urban Adventures, who took us for two amazing tours.

    On our first day Carina and me already walked through the city, through Old Havana, which is called Havana Vieja. We walked past the Capitol, the Museo de le Revolucion and along the famous El Malecon, which is  a broad esplanade and roadway which stretches along the coast in Havana. The local people use to come here at the evenings to chill and chat. And of course, dance salsa.

    We were amazed by all the beautiful pastel coloured buildings, the vintage cars and the vibe of the whole city. Still, even if we passed a lot of the famous buildings and places, we did actually know nothing about it.

    So on our second day we met Diana, our first guide, who took us for a walking tour through Old Havana. Actually we passed a whole lot of places and areas we already did the day before. BUT Diana told us craazy a lot of cultural, historical, political history about everything we passed. We were completely speechless about all the information we got – in a positive way. It was incredibly interesting to get to know so much about this country and this city by a local. And we would never have been able to get to this information, by just walking around and see those buildings.
    Diana not only took us to touristy places, she also took us into old hotels, who former were monasteries, or cafés, where Ernest Hemingsway, wrote his first book.

    The tour took us about 3-4 hours, including a little lunch break at a very cute little restaurant. The price of the meal and – of course – mojitos, is included in the tour price.

    Get to see some images of our walk here:

    Café de Paris, where Ernest Hemingway used to go a lot

    La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana at Plaza de la Catedral

    Vintage Car Tour

    Part two of our experience with Urban Adventures was a guided tour with a vintage car. Since we were two girls, they suprised us with a pastel pink car, in front of the meeting point. In the car, our driver, and our guide in the front seat. We took place in the back seat of the cabrio.
    Since we saw already major parts of the central districts of Havana, the guys took us for a ride along the Malecon and other districts of the city.
    We were not only enjoying the ride with the crazy cool vehicle, but our guide again told us whatever he know about everything we passed. We went through outer districts, paved with huge white mansions. We passed a lot of embassies from all over the world. We passed the huge chinese cemetary. Yes, there is a chinese cemetary. We also were pretty suprised. But there is quite a population of chinese people in Havana, since they immigrated during World Ward I. Ever since there is also a Chinatown in central Havana.

    Plaza de San Francisco de Asis

    Famous bar La Floridita

    Our ride also took us to the Park Almadares, where the river of the same name,    flowing between the Havana suburbs of Miramar and Vedado to the Straits of Florida. Even if it’s in the middle of this jungle of old houses and dirty streets, suddenly we stood in a forest full of brightest greens. Our guide told us about the importance of this place for Cuban people. He told us about Santeria. For Cuban believing in Santeria it is necessary to bring sacrifices. We came across a small family – father, mother, a teen boy and a very small little girl – who slaughtered a chicken down at the river. Santería can be translated as “rule of the saints”. It is a ritual, to contact spirits, in the pursuit of making your wishes come true.

    We also made a stop at the famous Plaza de la Revolucion. This is where Fidel Castro adressed the population of Cuba, and millions of people still come to this place whenever important political rallies take place. Around the square you can find the José Marti Memorial tower, the national library and many government ministries.

    Our tour ended at the famous Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where we had couple of drinks (aka mojitos) at their bar whilst watching the sunset over the Malecon.

    When visiting Havana or Cuba, consider booking a tour with Urban Adventures.
    We are more than happy we had the opportunity to get as much information about this country in every way possible, as we did. We connected to local, who gave us an insight in a Cubans’ life, as well as very much historical and political background.

    Also don’t forget to swap over to our Havana city guide!

    What You Need to Know Before Visiting Havana, Cuba

    What You Need to Know Before Visiting Havana, Cuba

    Havana, Cuba

    Planning a trip can be quite a task. But planning a trip to Cuba requires even more work, research, and preparation. Since we limited our Cuba trip only to the city of Havana, it may have been a little easier. But still, there are a lot of points to think about in advance.

    Visa / Tourist Card

    Travelers from 19 countries (click for the list) can travel to Cuba without a visa. Everyone else needs a tourist card. You need to get it before checking into your flight. We travelled from Munich, Germany with Condor, and got it at the Condor counter at the airport hall. You definitely need to check in advance where to get it. Some travel agencies make them out. In Europe also the embassies issue them. You can just go to your embassy with your passport and get it, or you can get it online, by sending them your passport. It takes some time – be aware of it! It costs about 20-35€, depending where you get it.
    For issueing your tourist card, you can’t have a one-way flight. Be sure you already booked your departure flight. You also need a valid international travel insurance. Be sure to get an evidence of insurance cover to show.

    All of this applies to European citizens. If you are American, please do your research about visa, flights, entrance,.. it is a bit more complicated for you 😉

    Debit & Credit Cards

    Not all debit or credit cards work in Cuba. Especially Americans probably do not work at all. You will not be able to pay with credit or debit card in stores, or restaurants. Cash machines are extremely rarely. Be aware to bring cash and exchange it, or to catch a cash machine once, to get money.
    Be also sure to tell your credit card company that you are travelling to Cuba.

    Money / Currency

    This is a bit confusing first. There are two currencies in Cuba. The National Peso (CUP), and the Convertible Peso (CUC). CUC is valued 1 to 1 with U.S. Dollar, while the National Peso stands at about 25 pesos per dollar. As a tourist you will probably only get and need CUC, since it’s the currency used for almost everything economical and the currency among tourists. CUP is the currency among locals, used for public buses (which you are not allowed to use anyway), and buying fruits on the streets, and daily life neccessarities.
    So just don’t worry about CUP!
    You have the best exchange rates from Euros to CUC. If you are bringing U.S. Dollars, better change it into Euros first, and then exchange it.

    Print your documents in advance

    Technology, and especially internet (see the point below) is not easily found in Cuba. The only option is to go the one of the few big hotels around the El Capitollo and get your stuff printed. It can get expensive, since one hour of internet costs about 8-10CUC plus 1CUC per printed page. Aaaand, the internet is the slowest you will ever experience.
    Print and take any travel documents, reservations, insurance, or other information you need before leaving.

    Time to go there

    Ok, let’s be honest. We went to Cuba during Hurricane season. We had a great time, no rain, no storms – but still-  be aware. Hurricane season is between June and October. Hurricanes are most likely to happen in June and September. In July and August (when we went), there is a liklehood of 5-10%  for a hurricane or stormy weather to occur.  Still it was super, super humid and hot during our stay. But we hardly ever saw tourists 🙂

    November – March is the coolest, driest but also busiest season. Cubans highlights, such as tobacco harvesting and Carnival happen in May and June.

    Travel insurance

    It is required to have valid travel insurance to enter Cuba. They may ask you for a proof at the airport when arriving. They may already ask you for the proof when buying your tourist card before leaving.
    Not all  worldwide insurances cover Cuba. So be sure to check. I have worldwide travel insurance coming with my credit card, but I still got another one for a period of 1 month for about 19€, to cover everyyyyything.  If you need any advice concerning this, drop me a mail!

    Where to stay

    The most common form of accommodation is known as Casa Particular.
    These are rooms or even small apartments rented by locals. It’s like AirBnB, but the Cuban way. You can get apartments for your own, or a room in a family’s house – like we did. A lot of families rent a few rooms to make a better living. We totally recommend staying in a Casa Particular to experience the Cuban way of life, and to help the local Cuban families. The price for a room is really inexpensive. You pay 10-25CUC per night and room.
    Of course, there are also a few hotels in Havana – even expensive ones, and crazy beautiful architectural ones, like Hotel Nacional or Saratoga Hotel

    Transportation

    Havana is totally walkable. No need to get confused by bus routes or the system of local and tourist buses. We never used one. And we really recommend walking, just to get notice of all the beauty around you. But prepare to get sweaty. Like  I want a shower every 2 minutes-sweaty.
    But if you want, the city is quite well connected and bus rides are super inexpensive (about 5 Cent CUC).
    You can also take taxis, which aren’t too expensive. Just be aware you get a legal taxi, with a sticker on the wind screen. They drive around everywhere, and you can just catch them by waving. Also a lot of vintage taxis are waiting at the place in front of the Capitol and in front of major hotels. Just be aware, taxi driver may not know the route either. Two out of three of our drivers had to ask their way through to our place.

    Don't drink the water

    This may be self explaining. You know why. Better buy bottled water. The local may stomach it. You probably won’t. There are not a lot, but there are super markets, and you can get bottled water there.

    Signal / Roaming

    Don’t expect to have signal there, or if you have, don’t expect to get into roaming service. We had signal, no roaming, with Austrian and German serviced smartphones. But I totally wouldn’t recommend you to call or text! It is crazy expensive!

    Internet & Wifi

    Don’t expect to be connected during your stay. It is quite complicated to get Wifi, if you are not staying in one of the expensive hotels.
    You can get Wifi cards, which the local telecommunication service sells, at some local phone shops, which then only work at some public places. You can get them hourly and they cost around 2,5-10CUC depending where you buy them. They often run out of cards quickly due to the demand, because there is only a certain amount available every day.
    We got told, the queue in front of those shop can be 2 hours. And the wifi is still so slow, you may not get your instagram shot uploaded.

    Security

    To make it short: We are two girls travelling and we felt very secure, all the time, in Havana. It is not very common, that two caucasian girls walk through the streets of Havana on their own. To be honest, a lot of men were hitting on us, by saying hello or telling us we look beautiful. But not in an inapproriate way or a way that made us feel incomfortable. It just gets a little annoying through the days.
    But still, Cuba, considering its economical and political situation, was the safest  I’ve ever felt. A lot of people tried to get into a conversation with us while walking on the streets, or waiting for a green signal – everyone was super interested in our origin and story, and they didn’t hesitate to tell us theirs. Even at night we felt really secure on the streets, since a lot of people and children are still dancing and playing.
    Just be aware of scams. Don’t be fooled by offers for cigars or rum!

    Don't Snapchat / Don't bring your drone

    You know, Cuba is a communist country. Certain things, which are totally common for us to use, are prohibited there.
    For example Snapchat is prohibited. It may not even work or be available over there.
    Also drones are still prohibited. Don’t ever dare to fly them in Cuba. Read about my experience here!

    When my drone got confiscated in Cuba

    When my drone got confiscated in Cuba

    When my drone got confiscated in Cuba

    This is for all my fellow photographers and filmers out there:

    I did a lot of research in advance concerning this topic. When we visited Cuba, we where on a major trip (followed by the Bahamas, California, Stockholm..), so I reaally wanted to bring my drone for the rest of the trip. During my research I read a lot of articles about drones getting confiscated at the airport and never got back to their owner. I also read about a guy getting into jail. But ok, he flew his drone over major military buildings in the center of Havana.
    But still, I was super worried about bringing it. So I contacted to embassy of Austria in Havana and the customs office of Cuba, if there is a possibility to leave my drone at the airport during my stay and definitely get it back when departuring, because I had absolutely no intuition of flying it in Cuba. It took me 3 weeks, to get answers, and to finaly get a written proof that it’s possible.

    So when arriving, they confiscated it. It was scary. Ten officers of customs didn’t know what to do. Nobody spoke English. I signed about 5 documents in Spanish, before my drone got into a jute sack with a little tag on it. They took a little note in a notebook, probably saying that there is a drone confiscated.
    That’s it. One sheet of proof, handwritten, which I should take with me when departuring. They told me to come 2 hours earlier.

    When departuring I knew why. Again, nobody knew what to do or how to handle the situation. I had to go through three security controls, provide them my passport, before they took me to an office somewhere back in the airport. I again had to sign some documents in Spanish. And after some questions, why I brought my drone, they finally gave it back to me 🙂

    If you found my post because you where researching the same topic, as I did before bringing it, don’t hesitate to drop me a line, about more details.

    Read here, what else you need to know before visiting Cuba!

    Summerglamping in the Californian Coast with Glamping Hub

    Summerglamping in the Californian Coast with Glamping Hub

    Summer glamping with Glamping Hub

    Raise your hand if you really enjoy the outdoors but you are put off by the thought of raising a tent, sleeping on the floor, cooking on a camping stove…
    Because let’s be honest, a short getaway should be all about relaxing!
    Luckily for us, we partnered with Glamping Hub to go on our first ever glamping experience in America.

    Fueled with wanderlust, we wanted to experience as much as possible on our road trip through California. Since we like the unusual and out of the ordinary type of accommodations, we decided no to stay in motels or even hotels like everyone does in their roadtrips. We looked for unique places to stay in.
    Lucky for us, we found a real hidden gem on Glamping Hub, perfectly situatated on our route down the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

    location

    For this night we traded hotel rooms for a gypsy tent, in the middle of a private national park on the Californian coast, located near Hearst Castle. Driving down the famous highway #1, about an hour after passing Big Sur, you arrive at San Simeon, where the reserve is located.
The tent is based right in the middle of the reserve, surrounded by purest nature, hills, forests, and of course wildlife. 
Even zebras are living on the 800ha territory. Zebras in California? This question did also come to our mind when the manager of the location told us about. Unluckily, we could not find them on our hike through the park – but I still have to share the story with you.

    The former home of publisher William Hearst – Hearst Castle is a massive property in the hills at the Californian coast, with over 120 acres of gardens, pools, and terraces. At the peak of Hearst’s career, he opened his home to many Hollywood celebrities, hosting legendary weekend parties. He also decided to get a private zoo. The world’s largest private zoo. Filled with dozens of species, including lions, tigers, bears, jaguars, monkeys, and even an elephant – and yes, zebras.

    When Hearst died in the 1950s, they didn’t know what to do with the animals. A lot of them were sold to zoos around the world, but the rest were just set free. This is why a wild herd of zebras is now living on the former property of Hearst castle, which is partly now part of the territory we stayed on.

    The night was clear, and we got lucky, we got to experience a full moon night. Having tea at the bon fire, watching the moon rise behind the hills, with nothing but fresh air and a warm summer breeze surrounding us.

    why settle for a five-star hotel, when you can sleep under a thousand-star sky

    We are so happy we found this hidden gem and unique place to spend our night!

    Our tent was provided with a queen size bed, a lot of cushions and blankets – so we did not get cold at all – a bed side table, a flashlight, a solar power bank, candles,..
A few steps down the hill was a little hut, which included a shower and a toilet. Towels, lotions, soaps,.. everything was provided. It was quite an experience to shower, with an open view all over the hills and forests.
    Since this is still kind of camping, just remember that you still need to bring the very basic essentials, like bug spray, a lighter, a power bank, warm clothes etc.

    Do you ever feel the need to get away and get out of your element? Go somewhere new and unfamiliar?
    Don’t be fooled by thinking glamping is only.. tents. If you head over to Glamping Hub you will find hundreds of really cool accommodations for your next adventures. You can find, of course tents, yurts, but also amazing treehouses, converted buses and trucks, vintage airstreams, gypsy huts, modern A-frame cabins and a whole lot more. Pretty much all of them offer all the comfort you need,.. or even amazing extras such as hot tubs or outdoor saunas. 

If you are planning a short getaway or a roadtrip, such as we did, we totally recommend visiting Glamping Hub and get inspired for your next adventure..

    wanderlust playlist // august

    wanderlust playlist // august

    I thought a lot about what to share first of my journey through Cuba, Bahamas and my roadtrip through California. With which of my thousand amazing memories and experiences should I begin? There’s a lot in my head, which needs to get written down and wants to be shared with you.
    But there is something else catched in my head. It’s this playlist. Because we were listening to it up and down, whilst sitting on the beach and watching the sun set, whilst driving through the Californian country and sing along loudly, or whilst sitting in the plane trying to process all the beautiful things we experienced.

    Travel diary: Dubrovnik

    Back in 2015, we were travelling to Dubrovnik, Croatia. It has been on top of Maja’s bucket list for quite a while. Myself has to admit – I’ve never seen an episode of Game of Thrones before – despite Maja, who is a big fan of the TV series. So I didn’t quite know anything about the city.
    Nonetheless, I was excited to go. And never got disappointed.
    Arriving in Dubrovnik you have two options: to wander around the city itself or do what pretty much everyone else is there to do, see the Old Town.
    To see the city from above and enjoy an amazing view, we would recommend to do a walk on top of the walls. It costs a little fee, but it’s definitely worth going. Especially in the evening.

    Here’s a list of our top things to do when visiting Dubrovnik:

    1. Walk the perimeter walls
    2. Take a boat trip to Lokrum for the day
    3. Ride the cable car to the top of Mount Srd and eat at the restaurant.
    4. Explore a lot!
    5. Get a sea view table at restaurant Nautika, and watch the castle and the walls at sunset
    6. Swim in the Dead Sea on Lokrum
    7. Sip some drinks in a cave beside the sea, at Cave Bar Dubrovnik
    8. Visit the churches, not just from the outside. It’s also a nice cooldown on hot days 😉
    9. Go to Banje Beach and sip some cocktails on their white beach beds