10 Unique Accommodations You Can Rent on Airbnb

I’m counting down less than a month till I fly off for my month long break – ‘Hurray!. (One of) the best things about travel planning is the search for interesting accommodations around the world. While researching on what Croatia has to offer me, I got distracted and went on browsing other accommodations on Airbnb. What I really like about Airbnb is the huge selection of accommodations for rent by people like you and I. And when I say accommodations, I don’t just mean apartments, or resorts, but also TREE HOUSES, CAVE HOUSES and even IGLOOS?! I think it’s time I give the awesomess a shout-out (Prices are quoted in USD)

1. The Boot
You can totally be part of a fairytale.

Where: Aporo Rd, Tasman, Tasman 7173, New Zealand
Price: From $269 per night (2 pax, no surcharge for extra people)

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Read more!

The Perfect Romantic Destination

Apologies for the hiatus! I’m finally back with a proper article to present to all of you. This post is a collaboration with popular online dating site Love Out Loud Asia. When I was asked to do a guest post on romantic destinations, I was super psyched! (Almost) Everyone is in love with the idea of love and so very often, we fantasize about that perfect romantic destination with the lover, whether it’s for a honeymoon or a spontaneous getaway.

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photo credit: MFer Photography via photopin cc

“We travel for romance, we travel for architecture, and we travel to be lost.” – These are the inspiring words from writer Ray Bradbury.

Nothing else ignites that warm fuzzy feeling inside more than a romantic escapade with the love of your life. Imagine a nice picnic with a glass of wine in front of the Eiffel Tower, or a dip in the calming blue sea off the coast of Maldivesor not. (Sorry to burst your bubble there) We’ve all heard of such cliché romantic destinations but given the fact that every couple has a unique bond – the notion of romance should also be subjective to each pair. When I think of a romantic destination, I think of the different types of couples out there and the sort of memories they would want to create together.

New York City, USA – For the Metropolitans

New York City is the perfect getaway for the Metropolitans. The city has so much to offer; spend your evening catching Broadway shows or visit a world-renown museum like MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). If splurging is an option, book a romantic candlelight dinner at one of the many Michelin Restaurants in New York City. Come nightfall, pick a spot on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building and watch the city come to life. I’d like to think that this is the sort of twilight (no pun intended) that a city-loving couple would appreciate.

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Santorini, Greece – For the Laid-backs

There is no better destination than this beautiful slow paced Greek Island for the laid-back couple. Imagine lying by the infinity pool with a background canvassed with white and blue cave houses. Indulge in an evening wine tasting session as your eyes fixate on the grandeur of an unforgettable sunset. Snuggle up in the arms of your lover and as you watch the fireball descend beyond the horizon of the Aegean Sea. Santorini is truly an undisturbed paradise for a romantic escapade.

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Prague, Czech Republic – For the Dreamers

Walking along the cobbled streets of Prague, there is a somewhat magical atmosphere in the air. This medieval town offers a fairytale experience as you chance upon a Dancing Building or spend the day getting lost in the largest Castle in the world. With several other icons like the quirky Astronomical Clock and the gothic Charles Bridge, this charming city breathes romance. Complete the dreamy itinerary with a movie date at Prague’s oldest cinema, where the interior resonate a quintessential European Cabaret Theatre.

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South Africa – For the Adventurous

Unlike others (I’m not referring to you, laid-backs), some couples love living on the edge. Embark on a road trip in South Africa and be surprised by the picturesque landscapes at every turn. Escape into the wild and spend a cosy night in a luxury tent at the Safari, under a night sky blanketed with millions of stars. The adrenalin junkies have the option of jumping off the highest commercial bungee jump bridge or diving alongside the Great White Sharks. Trust me – the adventurous couple will notget bored exploring the marvellous South Africa.

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Sri Lanka – For the Culture Loving

Sri Lanka would not typically come to mind as a romantic destination but for the culture loving couple, it has the potential of being the trip of a lifetime. Follow the footsteps of the king as you hike up Sigiriya – the top offers a vantage view of its beautiful surroundings. Go Café hopping around Galle Fort, a colourful and vibrant town fortified by the Dutch or listen to the love tales of the royals as the both of you take a stroll hand-in-hand, through what was once the Ancient Kingdom of Polonnaruwa. Sri Lanka is sprawling with historical and cultural sites, many which are still hidden and waiting to be uncovered by the culture loving enthusiasts.

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The world is huge and this list is certainly non-exhaustive. Treat the map like a playground and feel free to go on a wanderlust spree with your partner. The joy of venturing into a new space with the lover is enough to brew a romantic experience – for me at least. No matter where your next flight departs to, I hope you find that perfect, romantic, destination.

If you haven’t found that person to go on that romantic destination, why not give Love Out Loud Asia a go. Love Out Loud Asia (LOLA) is a SIMPLE, FUN & PRIVATE dating app that helps singles spend less time online and more time actually dating! How is LOLA different from other dating apps? LOLA focus on date ideas and only send you one match a day at noon.. here’s a short 30sec video to better illustrate how-it-works. The app is available on both iPhone & Android! For more info, simply visit: http://loveoutloud.asia.

Bonus for all you SINGLE LADIES:

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Start picking your date HERE!

Don’t MISS out! It’s 100% private & free
Registration closes 17th Apr 2014 11:59pm.

To all the love birds, stay in love. For all you singles, I hope you find that special someone. Good luck! 🙂

Peace & Love,

Eileen x

Accommodation Guide in Sri Lanka

I visited Sri Lanka last December, and due to popular demand from my accommodation guide, I’ve written one for Sri Lanka as well (check out what I wrote about South Africa here).

Sri Lanka was quite a challenge as I had started my research late and the ones that I was interested in were fully booked out! Most of the places were either too expensive or slightly dingy. I’m not particularly picky with my accommodations but I do appreciate good lodging that are also value for money. Nonetheless, I was pretty satisfied with the finds given the little time I had. Hope whoever reading this will find this useful.

Oh by the way, most of the prices quoted in this list is inclusive of breakfast, some even dinner.

The same disclaimer applies: the prices I quote in SGD are what I paid for during my trip, per person, per night. Prices for accommodation are seasonal (and there might be promotions to take into account as well) and hence you should not rely entirely on my quotation. Please check with the respective hosts for their most current rates if you are planning a stay with them.

Anuradhapura

London Palace

Anuradhapura is a good place to begin if you want to visit the UNESCO sites in Sri Lanka but there isn’t much lodging options available. My travel buddy stumbled upon London Palace, showed me the price and pictures and I was sold. Indeed the place was as good as it had looked on picture. After a long drive from Colombo to the accommodation, I was ready to plop on the comfy bed they prepped for us with blankets and cloth twirled into creative shapes. The place  is tucked away in a secluded corner of Anuradhapura. They serve pretty decent Sri Lanka dinner and they were very generous with the sides.

How much I paid: SGD 21

(Rs 4500/$34 per room)

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photo credits: London Palace

Dambulla

Sundaras Resort

One great thing about Sundaras Resort is the location. It’s literally walking distance from the Golden Rock Temple. Plus, they are known to serve really good food. Out of the 3 nights, we had our dinner there twice. The room we stayed in was really big. we EACH had a double bed. The owner of the Resort, Damien, is a pretty cool dude too. Have a chat with him when you’re there!

How much I paid: SGD 34

(Rs 7,000/$54 per room)

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photo credits: Sundaras Resort and Tripadvisor

Kandy

Elegant Hotel

It is the consensus of both my travel buddy and I that Elegant Hotel was our favourite accom in Sri Lanka in terms of budget, room, service, view and food. YOU WAKE UP AND HAVE BREAKFAST WITH THE MOUNTAINOUS VIEW. It is slightly out of the way but well worth the extra distance from Kandy Town. The hotel staff will be more than happy to call a tuk tuk for you anyway if you need one. Read my guide for tuk tuks here.

How much I paid: SGD 25

(Rs 5,300/$40 per room)

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photo credits: Tripadvisor

Nuwara Eliya

Unique Cottages

We paid slightly more for this place because it was a treat for my birthday. The staff were very warm, I even had a cake delivered to my room! For the price we paid, they have rooms with a nice balcony, and some others with a jacuzzi – obviously I picked the latter.

How much I paid: SGD 78

(Rs 16,300/$125 per room)

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photo credits: Unique Cottages and my camera

Adam’s Peak

Punsisi Rest

We did not realise we had to climb up to our accommodation even before we climbed Adam’s Peak. However, we did have a preview of the landscape when we managed our way up before the actual climb. The staff were really friendly and they even lent me their walking stick for the actual climb. Other than the stairs that were uncalled for, it is a good chill place to just relax before or after the climb.

How much I paid: SGD 33 including DINNER AND BREAKFAST.

(Rs 6,800/$52 per room)

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photo credits: Tripadvisor

Mirissa

Palm Villa

There are accommodations stretching along the Mirissa Beach but Palm Villa was hands down our best pick. Hidden away from the crowd, Palm Villa offers you the privacy and the serene beach life you desire. After our climb at Adam’s Peak, it was the perfect place for us to unwind. The food’s also really good and we have a sumptuous seafood bbq on our first night. The only setback was that we didn’t stay longer!

How much I paid: SGD 47

(Rs 9,900/$75 per room)

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If you draw that curtain in the morning, you will see the ocean. Who doesn’t want to wake up to that view?!
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photo credits: Palm Villa and my camera and myself as the model

Galle Fort

Seagreen Guesthouse

There were plenty of boutique accommodation to choose from in Galle Fort and we settled for Seagreen accommodation. Not only were we not disappointed, we were also pleasantly surprised. The best was comfy, the room was clean and Seagreen Guesthouse came with a really nice roof terrace where you get a clear view of the sunset. 

How much I paid: SGD 29

(Rs 6000/$46 per room)

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photo credit: Seagreen and my camera

Hikkaduwa

Tandem Guesthouse

It was only when we got to Hikkaduwa that we realised the number of BnBs and guesthouses available (It didn’t seem that much when we researched online). Nonetheless, we were happy with Tandem Guesthouse. It was the right location for the places we wanted to go to (in between Hug Inn where they dish up really awesome food, and International Dive Centre, the main purpose for visit Hikkaduwa). The rooms were clean as well and the staff were really helpful.

How much I paid: SGD 32

(Rs 6,540/$50 per room)

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photo credit: Tandem Guesthouse and my camera

Colombo

Airbnb Host: Div

Colombo is sprawling with luxurious hotels and with the name they carry, it’s not doubt that they are out of my budget. Because we were going to stay in Colombo for 4 days, we decided to rent an apartment instead. I used my all time favourite accommodation hosting site Airbnb, and found Div who rented us his lovely apartment. We even have the chance to chat over lunch. There is a roof terrace that comes with the apartment where you get a perfect view of the city and the Indian Ocean. Would definitely recommend his place as an alternative to travellers on a smaller budget.

How much I paid: SGD 43

(Rs 8,970/$69 per apartment)

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photo credits: my camera and Airbnb

The accommodations for this post may not be as “wow” as those I found in South Africa, but the staff and people I met were kind and friendly and they made my stay very enjoyable. Most of the options are pocket-friendly for travellers who seek decent accommodation on a smaller budget. If you’re visiting Sri Lanka, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If you aren’t, consider visiting won’t you? The people will welcome you with open arms.

Peace & Love,

Eileen x

101 Survival Guide on Climbing Adam’s Peak

Before Adam’s Peak, I’ve never properly hiked up a mountain before. The closest experience was Bukit Timah Hill or Mt Faber in Singapore. I’m not very fit so I found the journey up Adam’s peak very exhausting. However, I was told that even seasoned hikers find it challenging because of the endless steps – plenty are too steep and slippery. For the benefit of other adventurous amateurs, here’s how I survived climbing Adam’s Peak.

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1. Start by believing you’ll make it to the top

Like I mentioned before, positive attitude always helps. See yourself at the top with arms spread out to the side. Picture yourself walking up like a champion, and keep telling yourself, you will make it for sunrise.

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2. Keep your eyes busy 

It’s dark and you can’t really see much but you’ll definitely see buddhas, temples and shrines on your way up. Pray for strength if you need to. A little faith helps.

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3. Consider using a walking stick.
It helps, a lot

Especially for hikers with weak joints, a walking stick will ease the pressure and make the hike a lot better. Towards the end of the climb, we were practically relying on our walking sticks to drag us to the top.

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4. Make friends with fellow hikers and laugh at your misery together

Just like Michael Jackson sings, “you are not alone…“. Everyone is going through the same shit together. You’ll make friends, like we did, with some Russians, Portuguese, English, Germans etc… Hear each other swear in different languages. It actually sounds rather comforting.

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5. And even make furry friends

This little one followed us all the way up and was encouraging all the hikers along the way. (thumbs up buddy)!

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6. Drink up because you’re going to sweat plenty

We packed 3 litres of water for our journey and we finished it by the time we got to the bottom. Yes it will be heavy, but it’s necessary.

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7. Do not ask how much longer you have to climb before you reach the top

I made this crucial mistake. The first time I asked how much further the journey will be, I was told 1 km. The next kilometre I asked the same question, and the answer was  yet again, 1 km. Every time I hear it’s 1 km further, I push myself so hard only to realise it’s another “1 km” – it’s demoralising. Arghhhh! Don’t ever ask. Just climb on.

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8. Instead, stop for a cup of tea

There were several pit stops and even a small cup of warm tea can help fuel up.

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9. Keep reminding yourself that it’s going to be worth it

When you’re finally at the top, it will take you a moment to realise you’re actually at the top. I can remember someone shouting to us “12 more steps”. Those words felt like gold.

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10. Be sure to bask in the glory of the beautiful sunrise

This was the moment everyone was waiting for. It’s really nice watching the sunrise up there with everyone, because you know for a fact every single person left and right went through the same experience. (Awwwww…)

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11. And while you’re up there, remember to wrap up warm because the wind gets strong

I underestimated how cold it would be and had to buy a windbreaker before I started the climb. It only cost me 400 Rupees  and it did the job (I don’t care how ugly it looksAnything goes to keep warm.)

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12. Find inner peace at the peak and give yourself a pat on the back for the effort you’ve put in

Locals actually climb Adam’s Peak for religious purpose, so while they’re praying, respect their space or have your own zen moment. It’s good to prepare yourself mentally for what’s to come… the journey back down.

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13. Slowly brace yourself for the journey back down.

One step at a time. It’s harder than going up because you might just slip and slide and…

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14. At least the view will make it more bearable.

Know that the sunrise isn’t the only reward you’ll get. Feels like you’re in heaven.

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15. Stop to take pictures (with proper lighting, finally)

You HAVE to take pictures of the awesome moments, especially with the best companion you can ever have.

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16. On top of that, you’ll get to (properly) see what you’ve walked pass in the middle of the night

Take it easy, there’s no hurry. When you go, ooo and wahhhh as you walk, it takes your mind off the painful stairs.

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17. And slow down again, to take even more pictures

All for memory sake.

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18. Pack some breakfast and enjoy it in front of a priceless view

You will get hungry

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19. And keep on taking pictures. After all, when you’re almost at the bottom, you’ll be happier that you’ve come so far, rather than worry about how sweaty and tired you’ll look

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20. Turn around and look at it again, congratulations, you’ve just conquered Adam’s Peak

The exhaustion was absolutely worth it

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Peace & Love,

Eileen x

Guide to Tuk-tuks in Sri Lanka

The Tuk-tuk is my favourite form of transportation in Sri Lanka, and the easiest. Nothing beats cruising in between traffic and getting a good view with wind (and smog) in your face. Despite the pros, riding the tuk-tuk is also the easiest way to get conned – pun intended. After traveling around Sri Lanka, I noticed some trends that could come in handy when avoiding your chances of getting ripped off.

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(In the tuk-tuk from Galle Fort to Hikkaduwa)

1. KNOW THE MARKET RATE

Sadly, only tuk-tuks in Colombo offer metered rates. If you’re traveling about in other parts of Sri Lanka, you just have to bargain for a good price. It is good to ask the locals what the market rate is going from one place to another before negotiating with the tuk-tuk driver. Take advantage of the fact that tuk-tuks are everywhere and ask them as you walk along (even if you don’t intend to go on them).

2. CHECK THE METER

If you are lucky and get a ride with a metered tuk-tuk, check the meter. The standard rate (December 2013) in Colombo starts off at 50 Rupees for the first kilometre. Subsequently, it should increase 1.50 Rupees per minute waiting time and/or 30 Rupees for the next kilometre. So if you see the meter running unusually fast, that should be a warning sign to get off and flag another!

3. FLAG IT DOWN

There is usually a bunch tuk-tuks waiting outside malls or famous tourist attractions. 80% of my experience involved a dodgy driver. I much prefer flagging down random tuk-tuks as it avoids the situation of being hoarded by a pack of tuk-tuk drivers aiming to pick up the tourists. Most of them will approach you and give you their “best rate” and believe me, they are very persuasive. Again, always insist on using the meter (but check that it’s working and not tampered with!)

4. MAKE SURE THEY KNOW THE WAY

On so many occasions, I got into a tuk-tuk where the driver told me they know  where they are going but they actually don’t. It is very frustrating as they will drive around, ask other drivers the way, take you in circles while the meter keeps on jumping. I’ve seen drivers asking the other locals for directions and getting a different answer each time. If you happen to be as unlucky as me, get off, pay the driver a minimal sum and get someone else.

Bonus tip: Have a map on you so that you have a rough idea where the driver is taking you. Some take longer routes in order to bump up the fares so beware!

5. USE THE SAME GOOD DRIVER

If you find a good and honest driver within the city/town you’re at, take down his number! Most of the time, they will be more than happy to offer their services again. Some might ask you for a small tip, but I much prefer paying slightly more knowing I’m in good hands.

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(My friend and our reliable tuk-tuk driver who drove us from Mirissa to Galle)

I certainly hope these tips are helpful. I had so many dodgy experiences. Apart from being driven around town by a clueless driver, I had some who tried to charge extra halfway through the journey saying “it’s further than expected” and another telling us his meter worked but stopped working the minute we got in.

At the end of the day, I still enjoy riding the tuk-tuk. If you’re up for an adventure, you also have the option of renting your own tuk-tuk and exploring the country with it! I was reading about Marc and Carina’s experience here and I wish I had given it a shot! In the interview they even mentioned that they gave some school children free rides. Such kind hearted people!

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photo credits via srilanka.for91days.com

Maybe you can give it a thought as well and tell me how it goes!

Peace & Love,

Eileen x