Category: FOOD

PARATY: SEA

PARATY: SEA

Two days exploring the picturesque colonial town of Paraty, situated on the Costa Verde of Brazil was perfect. So it was onwards to part two of our stay, beach time! During some random Googling of Paraty, I had discovered a place set on a secluded speck of Brazil’s coast called Happy Hammock with gushing reviews, so I thought we’d better give it a try.

After schlepping 1.5 kilometers to the dock with our respective 20 kilograms of luggage, (the wrong dock, whoops) after discovering the is approximately one Uber in Paraty, we were met by the Happy Hammock boat.

After a brief 20-minute boat ride, we arrived to this:

A picturesque little inlet, situated on the Costa Verde of Bahia de Ilha Grande, lapped by warm emerald waters in shades I had never seen before. The sand was a rich golden colour which offset the green tones magically. Happy Hammock was set on its very own dock, inviting you to sit, relax, and when that got too much, dive off into the cooling waters.

Happy Hammock has a unique philosophy of no wifi and a communal experience for guests. I know it sounds cliched but it was so nice to disconnect from the outside world. Even when traveling, it’s so easy to waste time using social media and other online distractions which don’t really add much to your experience. I hope that we can get to another location in this trip that does not have wifi because it was totally relaxing!

On the food side of things, each morning and night the guests staying there eat breakfast and dinner together. This was painstakingly prepared by a lovely Spanish couple who were running the guesthouse. The meals were incredible, plus as an added bonus, vegetarian! Despite having to adjust to the Spanish dinner time (we were always starving by 6:30!) the wait was always worth it. We feasted on lasagne, freshly made bread, wonderful salads and washed it all down with freshly made caipirinhas. Dreamy.

During our few days we generally headed across to the beautiful Praia Vermelha, which was just a 30-minute hike or kayak trip away. Getting there early in the morning the beach was deserted and absolutely stunning. Usually, towards lunchtime, boatloads of Brazilian tourists (the majority of tourists in Brazil are Brazilian – they love to explore their country!) started rolling in, which did not a peaceful experience make! Lots of partying, loud music, dancing and shouting with friends and family ensued which was very entertaining to observe, but also our cue to head back for a more low-key swim off the dock.

Praia Vermelha – sorry for the waterlogged Go Pro photo!

Relaxing here was one of our highlights of Brazil so far, I highly recommend staying here if you have an open mind, are craving some home-cooked food and are an eco-conscious traveler!


Have you been to Happy Hammock or any other locations on the Costa Verde? Let us know what we missed!

I’m Stephanie and this year I’m taking a break from life in Australia. I’m traveling South, Central and North America, learning Spanish, eating tacos and seeking out amazing swimming spots. When I’m taking time out from that hectic schedule I like to write, read and relax – and pat cute street animals that I really shouldn’t. I probably wrote most of what you’re reading from my hammock and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

LANGKAWI – A TROPICAL HOLIDAY GEM

LANGKAWI – A TROPICAL HOLIDAY GEM

I have finally made it back to one of my all time favourite countries – Malaysia! A year and a half after I first visited, I am so happy to be back. This time I am mainly hitting beach spots, and my first stop is the beautiful tropical island of Langkawi.

Langkawi has been on my mind for some time,  and when I realised I could slip in a sneaky solo holiday before heading off for a year I booked my ticket without a second thought.

Being my first solo holiday I was a touch nervous, but suddenly realised that on all my holidays – I am the crazy planner – so travelling alone has been a breeze.

Langkawi has typically been pegged as a resort island, however the tide is changing, with many different levels of accommodation popping up all over. These range right from basic guesthouses up to mid-range hotels perfect for travellers in search of a little more comfort.

I have listed my favourite locations, things to do and more importantly – eat – to kick off a trip to Langkawi! Happy holidaying.

Where to Go
Cenang Beach

This is the area that has the main tourist concentration in Langkawi. A huge slice of fine white sand and jade green water, this is a very nice beach. Don’t expect crystal clear waters because this is not that – however it is a huge pretty beach, so unlike many places in Thailand, it never feels crowded (and I was there in the high season!). This beach is not really suitable for snorkelling – try Koh Lipe for that.

Before going I had read about ‘water sports madness’ and I was pretty concerned about noisy tourists (aka d***heads on jet skis, as I like to call them) however it all seemed pretty tame to me. In fact I can safely say that the jetski use in Australia is much worse and far more obnoxious! I was able to relax under a sun lounger happily and wasn’t bothered by the water sports at all.

Comfortable sun loungers are available to rent for around 20 Malaysian ringgit per day ($5 USD/$6.50 AUD) which is a steal, considering there is not really any natural shade on the beach (super important for a redhead such as myself!)

There are bars and restaurants located on the beach, so food and drinks are never too far away if you are a stay-all-day type of beachgoer like me. I recommend locating yourself either in front of the Yellow Cafe (Southern end) or near the Meritus Pelangi Resort (Northern end).

I do wish I got to see the ‘old’ Cenang Beach as there was lots of construction sites blighting the beach while I was there. Speaking to locals they are also sad at what is happening development-wise which is a shame. Still I recommend a visit for sure.

Note: Please note, depending on wind and weather conditions, there can be jellyfish in the water in Langkawi. Take precautions by wearing a stinger suit (or lycra suit covering the body), or at the least having a generous amount of vinegar on hand especially if you have children. Jellyfish stings often occur in shallow water. Box jellyfish have been reported in the waters around South East Asia so make sure that you are prepared. Of course the actual chance of being stung is very low – but it’s best to be educated!

Things to Do

Okay I’ll be honest – I didn’t do a lot while I was in Langkawi. It’s a place where you can do as little or as much as you like – there are heaps of activities that you can participate in, those that I actually did I will go into a bit more detail about.

Rainforest Evening Walk, Junglewalla Tours

I am travelling by myself, so while I’d normally have a crack at doing some kind of nature walk with Jack, I thought that this time it might be best to join a group rather than getting lost in the jungle. Solo.  So I decided to go with Junglewalla tours, a company that I saw recommended as an alternative to other cheaper ‘cattle’ tour type companies. I was really concerned with the company I chose taking an environmental approach, so I chose Junglewalla on that premise.

It was quite an odd start to the Rainforest After Dark tour, with the guides getting in the van without a word and then only introducing themselves after about 10 minutes. Quite weird and awkward! Or maybe that’s just me. After that they warmed a little and our main guide had a lot of excellent information about the flora and fauna of Langkawi. We saw a few different types of monkeys, lots of birdlife, including Giant Hornbills, and even the weird looking flying Lemurs later on.

The tour was good and I was thrilled to see so much wildlife, but on reflection I think I chose the wrong tour – I was under the impression we would be hiking through rugged jungle terrain, however  in reality we stayed in a van for most of the time, hopping out to catch a closer look at the monkeys and birds. In retrospect I would take the Jungle Trekking tour instead, which involves more hiking.

Night Market (Various Locations) 

Langkawi plays host to a kind of travelling night market every night of the week – foodie heaven. I visited the Temonyong Night Market which pops us just near the main road of the beach area on Thursday nights. It’s located near the Northern end of Cenang Beach, just behind the main strip. On other nights the market pops up in various locations – for more info on those check here

Rush hour at the Langkawi night market!

The night market was crazy busy! I was not expecting so many people, especially considering it is such a tiny market. There was roughly about 30-40 small stalls, most selling amazing interesting foods but also some with cheap clothes and trinkets. Think $2 shop stuff – I wouldn’t really plan on doing your shopping here.

   

The food is the main drawcard at the market – and oh, the food! Everything is between 0.50-3 ringgit (0.13 USD/0.15 AUD – 0.75 USD/1 AUD) which means it is an amazing opportunity to sample lots of different types of traditional food, and drinks too.

I tried Satay Ayam (chicken), Char Kway Teow (hawker noodle dish), Chicken curry puffs and Creme Caramel Pandan cake. Altogether that was a grand total of 10 ringgit (2.50 USD/3.15 AUD). Insane. I couldn’t even finish everything! Stand outs were the curry puffs and the delicious cake – definitely try these if you make it there!

   

I used a Grab driver to get there and back, which I HIGHLY recommend . In fact I got a little addicted to them and ended up taking them ridiculously short distances! Woops. For a 1-2km journey you’re looking at around 2-4 ringgit (0.50 USD/0.65 AUD) which is just too good to pass up. There is more info about Grab below.

Skycar/Skybridge

Photo: Highest Bridges

One regret I had was not having enough time to do this! Although I’m sure it would have been crowded and touristy (not my style) the location looked stunning. Check out more info here.

Where to Eat

Beware the tourist traps that Langkawi holds – many of the restaurants are geared towards Western-tastes and claim to serve ‘traditional food’ that is actually awful flavourless crap. Such a shame because Malaysian food is wonderful, and a really good quality traditional restaurant could do good business here! Anyway, I will share a few of the places that I ate at that were decent.

Orkid Ria

Orkid Ria is perhaps one of the busiest restaurants on the Cenang Beach strip. The seafood is fresh and plentiful and comes served cooked to your liking. It’s not the cheapest seafood I’ve had but it’s certainly not expensive either. This restaurant gets very crowded from about 5pm onwards so be prepared for a little wait. Overall it’s a very efficient and organised system though, and you’ll be seated in order without having to elbow another tourist out of the way.

Big, tasty prawns. Yum!
Sorry guys, you’re cute but I’m hungry.
Fresh fish, cooked to your liking. With beer. Enough said?
Tomato Nasi Kandar

This little spot was conveniently located next to Fave Hotel which was fortuitous given that I was generally too lazy to walk back to the main strip after returning from the beach for the day! I sampled some of their Nasi Kandar dishes. Nasi Kandar is a type of lunchtime buffet that is popular in Malaysia and Tomato Nasi Kandar offers a range of dishes that are very inexpensive to try. The chicken rendang was good, and I was able to order a naan to go along with it. The roti canai paired with a sweet milky teh tarik what a perfect no-fuss breakfast.

Yellow Cafe 

I didn’t actually eat anything here, but I generally settled in from of this little cafe when hanging out on the beach so I could easily trot back and forth between my sun lounger and the bar. The cocktails here are great and the beer is reasonably priced for a beach front location. It’s the perfect place to chill and watch the sun go down, a must in Langkawi! The food I did spy when I was there looked yummy, although a little pricey. The staff are very friendly too.

Where to Stay
Fave Hotel, Cenang Beach
Pool area – clean and relaxing.

I stayed at Fave Hotel, part of a chain of mid-range hotels, which I rather liked. If you come not expecting luxury but rather simple comfort, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I chose Fave Hotel because it had a pool, which was in a lovely setting backed by lush green hills. These also featured cows and roosters – cute. The rooms were functional and spacious, and the bed was actually heaven (especially compared to the rock I slept on in my next destination of Koh Lipe). It was also walking distance to Cenang Beach and the main street – although I often took a Grab car home – don’t judge me!

View from the pool. Peaceful.
Getting There and Around

Langkawi is super well serviced both internationally and domestically by Air Asia and other budget airlines. Check Skyscanner to find a great deal. I flew from Singapore to Langkawi for around $30 USD/$40 AUD in peak season.

To get around the island you have a few options. I would recommend on landing at the airport purchasing a Malaysian Simcard which you can then use to sign up to Grab or Uber (don’t forget to ask for your Malaysian phone number). I used a Grab car to get to my accommodation for 13 ringgit, a total bargain, plus as a female travelling alone, I felt safe in the fact I could screenshot the driver’s details and send them to Jack. Not once did I feel unsafe in a Grab though!

In Langkawi there is also the option to hire a scooter/motorbike or car. You need an international license for this. The rates are really very cheap, however I can’t give much more info on that as I Grab-bed everywhere!

From Langkawi you can do onward travel to Thailand via ferry which is what I did next. Check out Koh Lipe for more info on that.

 

I’m Stephanie and this year I’m taking a break from life in Australia. I’m traveling South, Central and North America, learning Spanish, eating tacos and seeking out amazing swimming spots. When I’m taking time out from that hectic schedule I like to write, read and relax – and pat cute street animals that I really shouldn’t. I probably wrote most of what you’re reading from my hammock and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

malaysia: the best kept secret in asia

malaysia: the best kept secret in asia

I used to have a love affair with Thailand – the sparkling jade beaches, mouth-watering food and smiling, genuine people were all pretty hard to beat in my mind. But I have a new country in my life. Like many other travellers, on my first few trips exploring South-East Asia I skipped Malaysia, not sure that I would find much to enjoy there. Singapore is not my favourite place to visit, so in my mind I had Malaysia pegged as some sort of less-fun, less-beautiful version of Thailand. It probably didn’t help that my first experience of Kuala Lumpur involved wandering the streets solo looking for my accomodation for an hour with a 20 kilogram backpack, sweating profusely!

Well, I am so glad that I tried again. Malaysia has become my new favourite place. Read on to learn about some of the stunning destinations that explain why my favourite experiences in South East Asia so far have been in Malaysia.

Perhentian Islands, East Coast Malaysia

I was honestly very conscious of keeping my expectations in check before arriving here. Having heard the old ‘paradise lost’ adage cried by others, I’m happy to say that it was for no reason, as I was immediately blown away. Think of the most beautiful island that you have seen and triple that beauty. The crystal aqua water, abundance of marine life and the general chilled vibe of this place (there are no roads on the island!) was incredible.

Abdul’s Beach, Perhentian Besar

I stayed on Perhentian Besar, which is considered ‘the family island’ but that was perfect for me.  Everything was closing up by my preferred bedtime (cough….9pm) which was great. There are multiple stunning beaches scattered around the island, my favourite being the Perhentian Island Resort beach. It is possible to snorkel with turtles here, directly off the beach, which was an absolutely amazing experience. Try staying at one of the cheaper guesthouses near Perhentian Island Resort Beach if you are on a budget, such as Mama’s Chalet or Watercolours which have basic bungalows. This place seems to be somewhat of a hidden paradise – it seemed Besar was half full when we were there in peak season, although this could be due to the limited amount of accommodation on the islands. Make sure you pre-book just to be safe.

Perhentian Island Resort Beach in the distance, Perhentian Besar

Getting to the Perhentian Islands took a few steps but was quite simple. Fly into Kota Bharu airport (try Air Asia for super cheap fares) in the morning and it is possible to get a direct transfer to Kuala Besut – the jetty where the boats to the islands depart from, and make the trip in a day. Alternatively you can stop off in Kota Bharu for the evening and continue to Kuala Besut jetty in the morning.

Best Bit: Perhentian Island Resort Beach

Turtle Beach, Perhentian Besar
Taman Negara National Park

Think stunning primordial rainforest, a deafening cacophony of mysterious sounds from hidden creatures and thrilling wildlife glimpses – that’s Taman Negara. One of the largest (over 4000 square kilometres!) and oldest tracts of rainforest in peninsular Malaysia it is a perfect place to explore the beauty of the jungle in South East Asia. Taman Negara is a spectacular place to do multi-day treks, however as we had limited time, it was more convenient to stay in Kuala Tahan, the town that is the starting point for the national park, rather than do one of these.

View from Bukit Teresek, Taman Negara

While we were here we ‘splurged’ on staying in the Mutiara Resort which is actually on the edge of the national park, rather than across the river in Kuala Tahan town. This meant we were able to avoid the river crossing each morning. If you have the budget to stay here (they have a range of accommodation including dorms) I highly recommend it – being able to stroll directly into the jungle was magical and the surrounds are much more beautiful than Kuala Tahan town. There are a number of day walks possible in Taman Negara – I highly recommend the Lubok Simpon walk for a swimming spot, the Rainforest Canopy Walk and the more challenging Bukit Teresek walk, which has an amazing view. There is also a wildlife hide (a small raised hut) to view residents of the jungle located just behind accommodation – watching here at dawn and dusk we saw native Malay deer, wild pigs and some other mysterious animals.

Lubok Simpon, Taman Negara

Getting to Kuala Tahan is possible by transfer usually through Jerantut from most locations in Malaysia. There is also the option of doing a leg of the trip by river either in or out of the park, we did this on the way out and it was a beautiful (albeit quite long and bum-numbing) departure from the park.

Best Bit: Lubok Simpon Swimming Hole

Sungai Tahan, Taman Negara

Kuala  Lumpur

My first encounter with this steamy city wasn’t pretty but I’m so glad I gave it another try. KL buzzes with new sights, sounds and smells around every corner. If one of your primary concerns when you are travelling is where your next meal is coming from (and you spend hours researching the best place to track down said meal) then KL will surely satisfy. Malaysian food will have your tastebuds dancing and the sheer variety of foods that come from its melting-pot of cultures has something for everyone. Jalan Alor and other night food markets are an excellent way to sample the best of  these local cuisines. KL is also a shopaholic’s dream destination. I think I spent a full 12-hour day just indulging all my capitalist fantasies. From malls to markets, you will find everything you want and much more. Accomodation is plentiful and cheap, try Airbnb for comfortable apartments, many located in buildings with a pool and gym.

Cheesy smile. Amazing noodles. Jalan Alor Night Market, Bukit Bintang.

Getting to KL is simple, as it is the hub of Air Asia which flies many routes covering most of Asia. From Australia it is an easy and cheap 8 hour flight, which is serviced by many budget airlines.

Best Bit: Jalan Alor food night market for gourmet delights.

Have you got any more Malaysian gems to share that you know about? Tell me your secrets below! 

I’m Stephanie and this year I’m taking a break from life in Australia. I’m traveling South, Central and North America, learning Spanish, eating tacos and seeking out amazing swimming spots. When I’m taking time out from that hectic schedule I like to write, read and relax – and pat cute street animals that I really shouldn’t. I probably wrote most of what you’re reading from my hammock and I wouldn’t have it any other way.