8 Ways to Have a Creative Retreat in Bali

8 Ways to Have a Creative Retreat in Bali

You know the crowded beaches of Kuta and the bustling restaurants of Seminyk, but Bali is supposed to be all “Eat. Pray. Love.” right? Well, it is – if you know where to look.

The idyllic paradise of Bali has become one of the world’s fastest tourist-transformed destinations, and has endured the years to remain a hot spot. And while this might have changed the vibe, be assured that a retreat can still be within reach.

If you’re trying to find refuge and a mind spa on the island, here are some ways to fall in love with the original contemplative spirit of Bali.

1. Be Healed

Begin your sojourn with a spiritual refreshment. Since the aforementioned movie, traditional Balinese healers known as Balians have been sought out to provide physical and spiritual therapy to the mind and spirit. While Ketut Liyer has passed on, Wayan Nuriasih who also appears in the movie is still very much active in Ubud.

For the curious and believers, Balinese traditional healing is a rejuvenating session with a different perspective. For the skeptic, it can be taken as a cultural exchange that may yet surprise you with the degree of rejuvenation that follows.

2. Get Grounded

It can be a good idea to stay connected with the earth. Even planes do that once in a while.

If you’re the sort who loves their aviation, Bali has collected some abandoned planes that are free to be explored. Rumours are that these shells were purchased to be turned into tourist attractions but were neglected, and so have organically turned into one themselves!

There’s one you can spot from Benoa Square in southern Kuta, or respectfully shoot the one near Pandawa Beach in Bukit Peninsula. If you really love the forgotten, go to the one atop the closed Gate 88 Mall. Seeing these may be a good reminder of how time treats all things fairly, and help you sort your priorities right.

3. Fire up the Energy

Giving a nod to the active volcanic island, we now pay homage to the element of fire with a Kecak show.

Choosing the right one can be tricky as they are popular with tourists, but the best one we reckon is at Uluwatu Temple.

The rich display of culture and theatrics is especially stunning when set against the scenic backdrop, and the natural amphitheatre is framed by brilliant sunsets and the roaring ocean. It’s a vivid performance and one that will briefly teleport you out of your heritage and into another world full of power and energy.

4. Dive Deep into Prayer

Well, sort of. Over at Nusa Lembongan, there’s an underwater temple garden with submerged Buddha statues!

Pick up a snorkel set and weave among the stone pieces, many of which have become home to a lively habitat of coral and fish. Floating among the waters is calming in itself, but seeing these meditative images below the water adds to the amazing serenity.

Then face off with another aspect of the element, as you witness the spectacular blow hole of Nusa Dua. 30 minutes from the popular beach, you will find a natural water feature (especially during high tide) when strong waves will push water out from a blow hole.

5. Feel Your Mortality

Something a little macabre, but sobering and profound, is to visit the mountainous village of Trunyan. Why? Because they don’t bury their dead.

You’ll find bodies placed in open bamboo cages and left to the elements below a Banyan tree. Once clean of flesh, the skulls are cleaned and placed together with others to make a shrine. Partly curious sight, but more an unabashed look at death, a visit will surely have you understanding your own place in the universe as you stand in contemplation by the eastern shores of Mt. Batur.

6. Then Laugh it All Away

It’s not making it trivial, it’s about understanding what matters. 

There are many spiritual workshops and classes but the airiest has to be the Laughing Yoga at Ambar Ashram in Ubud.

It may seem silly to the onlooker but if you release your judgement and go with the flow, both physically and mentally, you’ll find that a chortle and giggle really has an immense impact on your psyche.

Couple that with some stretching and body movements and you’ll soon be flowing with the universe once again.

7. Get Your Hands Dirty 

There’s just something about nurturing your own nourishment that is incredibly rewarding. Knowing where our food comes connects us deeply to the land and urban farming is a reflection of that desire.

Over at The Organic Farm, you will have an opportunity to really cultivate produce. While others are snapping pictures of padi fields, you will be wading through the muddy rice terraces to actually plant or harvest some.

The experience will leave you appreciating that the process is not just labour, but a skillful tradition that will give you a greater appreciation of the value of sustenance.

8. Sail Into the Sunset

There’s plenty of water-based activities in Bali but they most often cater to the adventurous. We don’t think water-skiing or surfing, as fun as they are, are built to relax the mind or bond with others.

Luckily there’s options like dinner cruises that sets the pace to a nice stroll on the waters. Bali Hai II is a luxury catamaran with state-of-the-art amenities to sail you into the sunset with style. There are three decks of enjoyment, catering to all types of groups.

The main deck offers air-conditioned comfort with a buffet and bar ideal for catching up and great conversations. Afterwards, move to the open promenade for panoramic views as the sun paints the skies with golds and pinks. Finally, party the night away on the bridgedeck with live music and cabaret, to celebrate under the stars with cocktails in hand.

Getting Around

You’ll find plenty of transport touts in Bali and it can get quite overwhelming to the point that you can’t think straight. And sadly, ride apps like Grab are frowned upon by the taxi operators so it may not be the best option at popular spots.

We recommend using the Bluebird taxi app to get trusty metered service when you’re getting around or going with recommendations from where you’re staying. It’s also easy to make friends in Bali – Indonesians are among the friendliest people on the planet! – so ask around to get help.

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Fusing Art and Food Experiences in Taipei

Fusing Art and Food Experiences in Taipei

Singaporeans have such a love affair with the irresistible street food of Taipei, our favourite food spots are already pinned on Google Maps long before we land in the city. Exiting Taoyuan Airport, we make a beeline for the famous beef soup noodles, bubble tea, and then the night markets. But what if we told you, it is also possible to satisfy your insatiable affection for its street food at “hipster” spaces in the city that provide a creative and visually-arresting backdrop for your Instagram stories?

Taipei is fast establishing itself as the cultural capital of Asia. Its development has been homegrown and organic, driven by young artists seeking an avenue to assert their Taiwanese identity. The result is a thriving art scene that is forward-thinking, while proudly retaining its cultural traditions.

We have drawn up a neat little list of museums, galleries and artsy districts for you to add to your next visit to Taipei, so couple it with your food pilgrimage and it might just surprise you. 

1. Songshan Cultural and Creative Park

Formerly a tobacco factory, this space reopened as a creative park in 2011, and now houses the Taiwan Design Museum, bookshops, boutique stores and workshops for artisan crafts.

The Japanese Early Modernism architectural style is distinct here – the emphasis on horizontal lines and symmetry is apparent as you wander through its history in the boiler room, nursery room and the tobacco factory. Exhibitions and shops are concentrated in the tobacco factory, with a Baroque Garden at the heart of it, allowing ample light to flow through its industrial grey facade. 

After immersing yourself in the arts, enjoy lunch at the TMSK Xiao Shan Tang Restaurant, which is interestingly housed in the old repair plant. 

Address

No.133 Guangfu South Road, Taipei, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110

Opening Hours

Daily from 9 AM to 6 PM

2. Huashan 1914 Creative Park

For those looking to escape the busy streets of Taipei, then Huashan 1914 Creative Park will reward visitors with its large space, which tastefully fuses industrial with organic style. Once the premises of a sake-producing wine factory, the space fell into disuse and was earmarked for demolition, before local artists fought for it to be repurposed as a creative centre.

The same energy that brought Huashan 1914 Creative Park to life is evident in the community of young aspiring Taiwanese artists who created the third wave coffee shops, bars, indie brands, specialty stores and art exhibits here today. Kids will especially enjoy the colourful upside-down house with all its quirks and will inspire some imaginative and fun shots for sure.

Address

No. 1, Section 1, Bade Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100

Opening Hours

Daily from 9:30 AM to 9 PM

3. Dadaocheng

If there’s one neighbourhood to rival the hipster cred of Tiong Bahru in Singapore, it’s Dadaocheng. Highly recommended by our Taiwanese friends (some arguing it’s worth spending a full day here), Dadaocheng embodies the very essence of Taipei.

There is an intoxicating mix of traditional and modern— shops selling dried goods and traditional Chinese medicines are lined up against hipster east-meets-west cafes and art galleries, all equally important parts of Taiwan’s unique identity.

Centred on Dihua Street, the main artery of Dadaocheng boosts an impressive host of Baroque style buildings, Hokkien shophouses and redbrick Western bungalows. The best part of it? Dadaocheng packs everything into a compact area, making it a great destination for a day trip. The famous Ningxia Night Market is right next door— migrate over for a well-deserved treat once you’ve fed your camera with Instagram-worthy shots.

Address

Datong District, Taipei 103, Taiwan

Opening Hours

Daily 24hours

4. Four Four South Village

Shopping around Taipei 101? Why not step into the Four Four South Village, conveniently located right at the foot of the imposing Taipei 101? There is a real collision of new and old as you step into the village, built as the first military residence in Taipei.

A section of the village has been carefully restored while retaining its faded grey facades, with the main hall occasionally hosting photography exhibitions. If you’re looking to grab a quick bite and rest those tired feet, the art centre-café-lifestyle store Good Cho’s has the reputation of having Taipei’s best bagels. Come on the second and fourth Saturday of every month, where the village comes alive with the arrival of its flea market, packed with food stalls and local artisans selling DIY handicrafts.

Address

No.54, Songqin St, Xinyi Dist, Taipei 110, Taiwan

Opening Hours

Daily from 9 AM to 4 PM

5. Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA)

The Museum of Contemporary Art accords the curious tourist the opportunity to dive deeper into Taiwan’s vibrant art scene. Housed in a Japanese colonial-era redbrick building, the museum features exhibitions from international contemporary artists and emerging talents of Taiwan. This family-friendly museum offers daily guided tours, and regularly hosts workshops which allow children to express themselves artistically, wherever their imagination leads them.

With rotating exhibitions, it makes for repeat visits to appreciate why the museum is so influential in leading Taiwan and the rest of Asia in the discussion of more taboo topics in the region.

Packing your luggage already? It can be difficult finding new places to discover in a city so well-known and familiar to many— and first-timers can find themselves easily overwhelmed with food. We hope this list has motivated you to explore another side of Taipei and give you cultural side dish to balance your trip!

Address

No. 39 Chang-an West RdTaipei 103, Taiwan

Opening Hours

Tuesday to Sunday 10 AM to 6 PM (Closed on Monday)

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How to Enjoy Chiang Mai’s Yee Peng Lantern Festival in 2019

How to Enjoy Chiang Mai’s Yee Peng Lantern Festival in 2019

Mention Chiang Mai and most people will have the impression of lazy afternoons and golden temples. They’re not wrong, but Chiang Mai’s unique location in the north of Thailand also means a culture that is especially different. Think Peranakan but Thai-style!

Chiang Mai was a key area of the Lanna Kingdom, partly due to the presence of the Ping river. The waterway’s influence has had such an impact on trade, transport and lifestyle for the people, that an additional festival known as the Yee Peng or Yi Peng lantern festival now precedes the famous Loy Krathong of Thailand, and is an event worth going to for new and return visitors alike.

What is Yee Peng Lantern Festival?

Happening sometime in November as the mercury falls to a comfortable 15-25 degrees, Yee Peng is celebrated on the full moon of the twelfth Thai lunar month or second Lanna lunar month.

What you can expect, is a city transformed by light, sound and colour on such a scale that the whole place feels like a theme park. From colourful lanterns on trees to glittering candles on the streets, Chiang Mai becomes a glowing beacon to all things good for three special days.

Is Yee Peng Lantern Festival the Same As Loy Krathong ?

Having Brahmanic origins means that light is always a big part of a symbolic celebration. And while Loy Krathong is about showing gratitude to the River Goddess for a bountiful harvest via a crafted floatable decorated with flowers and candles, Yee Peng is more about paying respects to Buddha and releasing your bad luck, grudges, and suffering through rice paper lanterns floating into the sky. So since these two are cosmic siblings, you can expect a double dose of an illuminating experience, not only for the camera but for your soul as well.

Where to Experience Yee Peng Lantern Festival?

The epicentre of all releases are usually held at Mae Jo University, and big, timed events like these are usually ticketed so don’t think you can just stroll right in! We’re talking about thousands of people yes, thousands— gathering for a grand cause so some type of crowd control is needed of course. As part of their efforts to prevent fire hazards, the government has also limited areas where such grand events take place. With tighter limitations, it is always a good idea to book tickets well in advance.

If you’re lucky enough to join in, be prepared early and head to the site well before release time. This will factor in the likely traffic jam that will occur, as well as give you time to find a good spot or grab some free food— yes, free because Chiang Mai is generous that way.

An hour before the release, monks in saffron robes will begin their chanting and ceremony and the place falls into a peaceful hush. Wait for instruction— and don’t worry there will be someone guiding you then release your woes into the sky with thousands of others and enjoy the spectacle.

Pray that your light disappears into the night sky gradually because this means that your bad luck has been completely erased for the year! But also get ready your cameras because this is the real-life Untangled, as the cloud of light billows into the night sky. 

 

Beyond the light show, you’ll also find many colourful activities happening around town. This is something they’ve been doing since the 13th century, so you can expect a rich display of tradition, culture and craft.

There’s the Yee Peng Parade that circles the Old City area, accompanied by live music and handicraft sessions. Food vendors will pop up, some with home-made goodies, and expect firecrackers that will light up the atmosphere with a raucous bang. There are also traditional dance shows that might happen, but all in all, as you walk around, you will not see a relaxed city, but a gathering of culture and celebrations.

Other Places in Chiang Mai to Witness the Enchanting Sight

If you’re the sort who fancies a smaller crowd, there are alternative places where informal groups release their lanterns. Try asking about the Cowboy Army Riding Club or Nawarat Bridge from locals and join them they are particularly welcoming during this period!

Alternatively, if you would like to just bear witness, you can pick out some choice rooftop bars and hotels to see the occasional light-up that floats up during the three-day festival. Sleepwalker Hotel and The Bridge Luxotel is located right beside Nawarat, or hang out by the river at eateries like The Good View and Deck 1.

 

If you wish to gain some lead time on the others, Le Jardin De Maejo is a quiet little establishment that is much closer to the University for those joining in. And if you’re looking to enjoy some quiet time away from the main city, Horizon Village Resort is located 20 minutes away and has their own botanic garden and waterways for you to unwind after your day in Chiang Mai. Who knows, maybe they might even let you float your private blessings in their compound!

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5 Best Boutique Hotels in Hong Kong Under $200

5 Best Boutique Hotels in Hong Kong Under $200

Hong Kong is famous for being one of Asia’s densest cities. Built within a landscape of dramatic mountains and hills, the economic workhorse has had to eke out every living space from between the elevations. In fact, this might even have contributed to their success if you believe in Feng Shui. 

So it comes as no surprise that with land being at a premium, accommodation in Hong Kong is also notoriously small. Compared to some of the world’s top cities, you’ll find that rates are relatively expensive, and give you less value for your buck, with often smaller rooms as well. 

Aware of this, developers and owners have begun to use space more cleverly and create themes to make their space more inviting.

Here are some of the city’s best boutique hotels, all for under S$200 a night.

Ovolo Southside

Honouring the boutique essence, the family-run Ovolo brand has rooms that look significantly different depending on where you stay. In this case, the Southside branch comes in the form of Hong Kong’s first warehouse-converted hotel. Industrial-chic is achieved with cement screed walls, exposed ducts and architectural beams, wonderfully coloured to celebrate their form and textures.

Supporting the lifestyle of the gig economy crowd, there are co-working spaces for you to keep connected, and the sweeping views all round and even in your rooms will relief you at the end of the day. Bonus points goes to the ultra-hip rooftop bar where instagram moments are aplenty.

The location may not be the most convenient, but it is still located right next to the Wong Chuk Hang MTR station on Hong Kong Island. But for those who cherish their views and proximity to southern attractions like Ocean Park and Lamma Island, Ovolo Southside is tops in our books.

Mojo Nomad Central

Woohoo, lucky us! Managed by the same owners as Ovolo, Mojo Nomad’s concept is one of the micro-hotels catered to today’s urban road warrior. Which really means— cheaper, smaller, but with the same punchy character and designer flair.

Even as you browse through their website, you’ll get plenty of cheek and personality that represents the candid nature of the digital nomad or gutsy solo traveller, and passing by the front of the hotel, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s some trendy restaurant because it is!

Te Quiero Mucho is their in-house Mexican eatery, and the vibrant decor only continues into the hotel. Focused on creating a co-living environment, the set-up is indeed comprehensive, with laundry, gym, co-working and lounge facilities available 24/7.

We love the private rooms designed with a quieter palette but livened up with textural prints, and being located in exciting Sheung Wan means plenty of hip finds around the neighbourhood whenever you wish to walk and explore.

King’s Hotel

Great location and value hardly come together in Hong Kong. Even rarer is, when a place is well-designed and comfortable as well. King’s Place is one such unique hotel.

Located near Yau Ma Tei MTR, it’s a short 5-minute walk to the main bustling streets where plenty of food and shopping await. Hong Kong’s famous street markets, like the one at Temple Street, are at your doorstep, but whenever it gets too much, King’s Hotel is ready to welcome you back.

It’s gold, gold and more gold, and even though that sounds incredibly ostentatious, King’s Hotel makes it more old-world glam than camp. Some rooms have wall panellings, while others have wall art picturing vintage beauty ads that scream instagram. The tiled floors are also superb for flatlays and that chic feet-fie. And while many hotels at this price range feature dingy bare-bone bathrooms, the ones here are sparkling and stylish.

Hotel Stage

If you’re the culture vulture, then Hotel Stage is… erm, your stage! This contemporary hotel places the spotlight squarely on the area’s character, and even invites in local artists through the hotel’s in-house art initiative. There’s even a gallery space reserved for local works should you fancy a curated perspective.

But even if you can’t appreciate art, you can certainly value the minimalist rooms. Like something out of a Muji showroom, grey tones are paired with airy white sheets, warm wooden furniture and plenty of natural sunlight. You guessed it— the perfect palette for that elegant dreamy instagram shot.

This breezy set-up is hard to leave behind, but when you do, you’ll find Tin Hau Temple, Jade Market, and the diverse neighbourhood community of Jordan waiting for you.

Hotel Madara

For those who love their Trick Eye Museum visits, then this place will certainly scratch that itch. Hotel Madara actually created an art gallery filled with murals and props to plunge you straight into vintage Hong Kong era. Pull a rickshaw, be a glammed up singer, or trade kicks with a superstar— all is possible at the space.

When your camera feed is full (heaven forbid), it’s time to fill your tummy as well. You’ll find their casual cafe decked out in colourful colonial decor, while the rooftop bar is a chic spot for some tipple and views. Don’t forget to visit the lounge and games room which carries on the daring palette the hotel is famous for. This vibrant venue will certainly brighten up your next visit to Hong Kong.

Finding the right place to stay can be a chore, but we hope that this narrows it down for you. To find these hotels and other exciting options in Hong Kong, check out changihotels.com.

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Top Sights in Jaipur You Have to See In Your Lifetime

Top Sights in Jaipur You Have to See In Your Lifetime

Jaipur is a visually-arresting destination for anyone travelling to India, given its title as the ‘Pink City” of India. The ornate architecture in the old city painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria in 1876 makes the city a gorgeous oddity in the desert, where a bygone era meets modern-day instagrammable.

As the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is filled with palaces, forts and temples that are storybook gorgeous. If you have limited time but have the FOMO, here’s the must-hit list that is just as awe-inspiring in person as they are in pictures.

Amber Fort

Also known as Amer Fort because of its location in Amer, this majestic compound that is 11 km away from Jaipur was built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh I, who cleverly situated this by the picturesque Maota lake.

It’s forbidding on the outside but hides regal elegance within. The red sandstone and white marble carbuncle are decorated with luxurious fittings, such as sandalwood doors inlaid with ivory, wall paintings with precious jewels, and even a hall (Sheesh Mahal) that is adorned with mirror tiles in such a way that even a single ray of light will illuminate the entire space!

It’s a true testament to the genius collaboration of Hindu and Mughal styles and to witness the process and history, we recommend staying behind for the evening sound and light show.

Hawa Mahal, Palace of the Winds

The pink sandstone facade of this building has become of the faces of Jaipur, thanks to its strikingly intricate front. While the five storeys of balconies and windows allow for excellent airflow thus the name there’s also a more repressive reason for this structure’s design.

Built in 1799, the honeycombed windows were built so that the women of the City Palace could watch street processions while keeping to strict rules of purdah  a social and religious practice of female seclusion.

Luckily, all that remains these days are the same beautiful trellised niches. Come in the evening when the shadows make the designs dance and pop. Or opt for the morning if you’re interested in seeing it from within, when the slanting rays lights up the space through stained glass.

Jantar Mantar Observatory

There’s something incredibly romantic about old-world science, and the Jantar Mantar Observatory has the feels in spades. Built by Maharaja Jai Singh II between 1727 and 1734, it is the world’s most astronomical observatory, and it still functions today with remarkable accuracy!

This 18th-century compound holds 14 different structures, of which the largest the Samrat Yantra sundial tells time. Watch how time really flies as the shadow cast from this tall 27-metre structure moves about the width of a hand every minute. The striking feature along with its siblings have even earned themselves a spot in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Literally meaning ‘calculation instrument’, these bold forms that can easily be geometric art sculptures, helped the ruler who was one of the best theorists in ancient India— and Hindu astronomers and astrologers to chart out cosmic events such as eclipses and star movement. It remains a stellar spot today, even for tourists.

Nahargarh Fort

For some of the best sweeping views of Jaipur, look no further than Nahargarh Fort. Also known as ‘Tiger Fort’, the defence structure is perched on the rugged Aravali Ranges which accords one panoramic view all around as you weave through the battlement.

Built in 1734 to defend the city, it is now a hot picnic spot for locals with additional attractions to lure, such as a sculpture park, wax museum and eateries. Maze-nuts will love the various stairways and hidden passages here, and the fun is in discovering beautiful muralled room one after another as you wind through the corridors. And when you reach the roof terraces, take in the unobstructed views. When the sun falls, and the city lights up, you will be yet rewarded once again with a sparkling scene.

Another great thing, is en-route to Nahargarh, is Jaigarh Fort. This 3km long defence used to house weapon and artillery and is home to the world’s biggest cannon, the Jaivana.

With its illustrious power and unbridled beauty, has Jaipur won your heart?

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