Amazing Bandung, Indonesia

The world is full of incredible places. Destinations that are so diverse, it’s impossible to say that one place or another is the ‘best’. Yet, sometimes when travelling the globe, you come across a magical destination. A place that speaks to your soul and rejuvenates your spirit.

‘Place’ can mean multiple things. It’s not just about the physical beauty and location, but also the culture, the climate, the food, and the people. There are times in life where you find a charming destination that has the perfect balance of all of these elements. A place where the universe just seems in sync and it creates a truly unique and memorable travel experience. One such place is Bandung, Indonesia.

A lot of great regions in Asia have highlands not far from major cities. A high and lush oasis where culture blends with vivid green plantations on volcanic mountain tops. A place to escape the relentless humidity of Asia. These towns are always special places. In Mumbai, it’s Lonavala, In Manila it’s Tagaytay, and from Jakarta it’s Bandung. Bandung is the capital city of the West Java province and Indonesia’s fourth largest city. It’s a high-altitude haven from the sweaty, intense bustling streets of Jakarta.

It’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in nature as you watch the sunset as it falls behind rolling green tropical hills and tea plantations. We all have times where we need to rejuvenate the soul and connect back with nature. This is especially felt when travelling through South East Asia as tourists tend to spend most of their time in the loud, vibrant cities. We walk dusty streets in fisherman pants, backpacks and flip-flops as traffic buzzes by street-side food stalls and night markets. Whilst this is also a great experience, there comes a point where you want to connect with the land and appreciate the natural beauty and provincial culture of the region you’re in.


Sure, you can do day tours and even camping and hiking trips out of the city. However, Bandung is the perfect destination that blends luxury with nature. There are many luxury hotels where you can stay in complete comfort whilst experiencing sunrises and tropical storms that roll in over volcanic mountains. Once such place is Hotel Trans Studio Bandung. Sites such as offer more local information and can show you multiple accommodation options for blending luxury and comfort with nature and culture.

So, I said that Bandung is the ‘perfect’ balance of elements. I’ve mentioned natural beauty however, culture is also important. Getting lost in the markets in Pasar Baru is a wonderfully intense experience that will immerse you in local culture as well as expose you to a huge variety of local products. Like all Asian markets, it’s crowded and busy. A collective consciousness of colourful vendors, exotic produce and customers. However, if you embrace it and go with the flow, you’ll find it’s incredible.

Market DayCulture also includes food and the food in Bandung is cheap and amazing! You can eat street side in an authentic market stall or ascend the bright green mountains and have a sophisticated meal looking out and one of the best views in the world as the cooler breezes meander through the valleys and caress you while you indulge in incredible charcoal infused BBQ meats and sip a cold wine.


If you want to get more adventurous, there’s plenty of options just outside Bandung. One of the most popular places is the surreal Kawah Putih.


Kawah Putih is a white crater lake about 50km (approx 2 hrs) south of Bandung. The bright coloured earth creates an almost fake-looking vivid blue lake.  The scenery is dramatic as the sulphuric water seems to glow beneath the surrounding volcanic mountains. You can’t swim and you may find the air hard to breathe because of the sulphur. However, like most incredible places, it requires effort but it’s totally worth it.

Bandung is a unique and charming place full of culture, dramatic landscapes, incredible food and great accommodation. Definitely add it to your list if you’re travelling through the region!

Safe Travels!


How to get there:

Fly to Jakarta then take a train, shuttle or bus to Bandung.

Getting around

Get around by angkot (van public transportation), taxi or bus.

Where to Stay

Hotel Trans Studio Bandung

50 Essential Wilderness Backpacking Tips: Infographic

Being alone in the wilderness is a humbling experience. Standing alone on a mountain ridge, the silence is deafening. The breeze sings through the forest trees as the sun sets and the sounds of strange creatures come out of the dark from beyond the warm glow of a flickering fire that hisses and pops, sending smoke and sparks up into the Milky Way above.

Sometimes we just need to disconnect. To un-tether ourselves from touchscreens and the collective consciousness of social media. I remember when I went deep into the Australian outback, I realised how vast the earth is. I felt so small as I gazed out across flat, empty plains to where a crisp and distant horizon met the sky.

However, what I realised even more, was how prepared you have to be! Being alone in the wilderness can be frightening if anything goes wrong. We’ve all seen news stories across our TV screens at night about missing hikers and tales of wilderness survival (or not). So, if you’re heading into the wilderness, check out the below extensive guide for essentials you NEED to pack! This infographic from Expedia’s Viewfinder travel blog is the ultimate guide to roughing it with a backpack.

Take the Road Less Travelled, head into the wilderness and experience everything nature has to offer but, be prepared and stay safe!


Infographic from: 

Ocean Dusk: Gallery

The Northern Beaches in Sydney is my favourite place on this earth. The smell of sea air as ocean mist wafts up from the beach is unique. It blends with warm summer breeze as it dances in salty air to the soundtrack of pounding waves on yellow sand.

The Australian seaside is a beautiful place however, there’s one time… A magical moment in a day where the beach takes on a warm, benevolent light. A peaceful time to walk along the fizzing shoreline as whitewash sinks into the damp sand beneath your toes. Dusk and dawn are when these moments manifest, creating incredible colours as the ocean blends into the sky.

Below is a mini gallery of images taken at beaches along Australia’s South East coast. Photos that I feel, capture the essence of a beach dusk… That moment when you can just sit, watching the deep green waves roll in as the sun sets, leaving only the sound of crashing waves against the darkness.

The mystical fantasy island that actually exists: Coron

The vibrational hum of the propeller engines shifts from a constant high buzz to a low drone as our plane dips into a descent. As we pass through the haze, I look out the window and see perfect island after perfect island. Like giant turtles, these islands breach the ocean surface, bursting with fluffy, bright green vegetation. Their circumference is a thin line of bright white sand that cuts into the emerald-green water, before changing to azure then dark blue as it becomes the deep ocean. I’m excited about island hopping throughout this incredible archipelago.


Our plane banks sharply and we’re now surrounded by rippled volcanic mountains, their peaks so steep as if thrust up with immense volcanic force. They’re so tall that our plane now drifts below their peaks and I have to crouch in my seat and look up to see where they end. The pilot pulls the plane out of a bank moments before we hit the runway with a huge bang and jolt. The propellers buzz and thrust in reverse to stop our plane on the small runway. I’m not sure if it’s the landscape or the pilot that makes the landing so abrupt but, I make a mental note to have a few beers in the airport terminal before we leave and take off in 4 days.

Crossing the tarmac at Coron Busuanga Aiport.
Crossing the tarmac at Coron Busuanga Aiport.

We cross the tarmac to the terminal and wait at the baggage ‘carousel’. It’s not a carousel, actually, it’s just a wooden bench where the staff place your bags. The terminal is tiny but there’s a buzz of excitement. The newly appointed President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duturte’s daughter has come off the same flight. She’s surrounded by a group of police and officials who smile and stand straight. A few people ask for a photo so we do the same.

Jen & Lilly with the daughter of President Duturte.
Jen & Lilly with the daughter of President Duterte.

We find our way to our airport transfer van and begin the 30-minute commute from Busuanga Airport to Coron township. Like most places, the distance isn’t far, however, the condition of the road (and cattle grids) make it a slower trip.

Our van slows and the traffic from the buzzing trikes weaves around us as we pull into the Coron township. Suddenly we take a sharp right turn and end up by the water at the beginning of a long wooden pier. We’re staying at Discovery Island Resort which, as the name suggests, is in fact on an island that’s a 5 to 10-minute boat ride from Coron town. We’re greeted by the small, smiling boat-man who lifts my large Samsonite suitcase onto his back with the ease of someone who’s clearly done this a hundred times.


As we tread the bouncy wooden pier we get closer to Coron Island in the distance. It’s sheer limestone cliffs are so dramatic it’s as if they’ve been dropped by someone in the middle of the ocean. There’s no gradual sweeping plains that subtlety guide the eye up to a rounded mountain peak. It’s a giant wall of vertical rock bursting with trees. The top is jagged and abrupt suggesting some ancient and violent volcanic activity.

The dramatic limestone cliff face of Coron Island.
The dramatic limestone cliff face of Coron Island.

I carefully tread down the small wooden steps to the boat, carrying our 2-year-old daughter, Lilly. The small boatman gracefully boards the boat with my suitcase and navigates the wooden outriggers to his captain’s chair with ease. I feel overweight and embarrassed as I step onto the small boat and feel it suddenly dip beneath my fat, western feet. As if it’s me versus buoyancy, I try to tread lightly before awkwardly falling in my wooden seat.

Lilly and I on the small boat to Discover Island.
Lilly and I on the small boat to Discover Island.

The boat-man takes out a log bamboo pole and pushes against the shallow rocky bottom. Like a Venetian gondolier, he guides the small boat of out the Coron bay and toward our temporary island home.

Me taking in the view from our balcony… So serene!

The next morning, we head back to the Coron town pier early for our first tour. We tread the hot, dusty Coron streets with other tourists in bright shorts, sarongs and sun cream clad skin carrying snorkel gear, Go Pros and water-proof shoes. We board a bigger version of our small wooden island boat and join about 12 others with the same goal of immersing ourselves in the emerald-green water and experiencing the marine life that lives beneath the bright, vivid surface.

Our tour boat heading out of Coron Harbour.
Our tour boat heading out of Coron Harbour.

Our boat pushes out from the pier and we begin to ride gentle deep blue waves as we head towards the giant limestone cliffs of Coron island. Our first destination is Kayangan Lake and it’s not long before we slip in between the dark grooved rocks of a headland. The engine’s cut and we glide silently into a bay of vivid emerald. It’s like a hidden lagoon in a place you only dream about. A place you thought couldn’t exist anymore in this over-populated commercial world. Well, it does and it’s Coron Island.

To get to Kayangan lake you need to make your way up and over the mountain on a steep rocky and muddy trail. We’re carrying our 2-year-old, Lilly, which makes the climb difficult. Flip-flops on mossy rocks with a baby and camera gear make the trip interesting.

At the halfway point, you reach the crest of the mountain. It’s worth stopping here to get a photo from the top, looking back down at the bay before continuing down to the lake itself. The view is postcard perfect as the small boats cut white trails in the emerald water, rounding the headland before docking at the beach.

Looking down at the entrance bay to Kayangan Lake from the vantage point on the trail.
Looking down at the entrance bay to Kayangan Lake from the vantage point on the trail.
Finally, we descend down to the lake. The muddy path is on such an incline that I’m sure I’m getting the best thigh workout in years. BUT, it’s all worth it. Finally, Kayangan lake presents itself in its emerald-blue glory as it cuts between limestone cliffs bursting with trees. The water’s so clear that it’s like diving into glass. It’s cool, refreshing and magical.

It starts to rain but it’s not an issue. Instead, it adds to the mystic feel of the place as monsoon drops fall from tropical skies, bouncing off the bright blue lake surface creating a refreshing mist and the tranquil soundtrack of falling rain.

There’s a wooden boardwalk around the lake with steps into the water making it easy for those who’d prefer to ease themselves in. However, the lake is deep. You can get your footing on some large underwater rocks, but generally, you need to tread water or bob around in your life jacket.

After what felt like a never-ending trek back over the mountain, we’re now headed for the ‘Smith Coral Garden’. Now, I thought I’d seen a lot of coral in my life… I thought well, whilst it’s beautiful, surely it’s all the same across South East Asia… I was wrong.

The Coral Garden in Coron is simply breathtaking. It’s an underground multicoloured forest of weaving and twisting living organisms. You float in awe above the forest as giant clams lie on the seabed, mouths gaping, like something from a cartoon that isn’t real. It’s an alien planet. Somewhere so unique, so foreign, so precious that it’s truly an experience to lie flat in the bobbing waves, gazing down at this surreal wonderland.

Our guide tells us that the coral was ‘severely damaged’ by super Typhoon Haiyan… But it’s still incredible… I can only imagine what it would’ve been like before the superstorm smashed Palawan in 2013.

We’re on the boat again and this time heading for Banol Beach for lunch. It’s a quintessential white sand beach with lapping blue water. The sand interrupts the shear, rocky cliffs creating a truly isolated feeling. As in all tours in Palawan, we’re served BBQ seafood and meat for lunch. It’s still raining but I play with Lilly in the shallows teaching her what a “shell” is as Jen sits with the locals speaking Filipino and ensuring every last piece of food was devoured.

After lunch, one of the final highlights is the twin lagoon… An incredible natural phenomenon where a fresh water lagoon meets a salt water lagoon, both competing for the most vivid blue water you’ve ever seen. They’re joined by a small cave-like archway that’s so tight, the only way to comfortably get through is to float through on your back. Our tour guide instructs us to lie on our backs and link feet to hands like a giant caterpillar so we can silently slide under the cave and between both lagoons. It’s magical as the view when floating on your back is breathtaking. You stare up at giant, almost daunting lime stone monoliths bursting with bright green trees and wildlife as you slide through the water and feel the warm and cold currents trying to blend as the ocean meets fresh water.

Lilly & I swimming in the Twin Lagoon
Lilly & I swimming in the Twin Lagoon

The rest of the afternoon is full of stops at white-sand beaches. Beaches that look like they’ve been Photoshopped… It seems that in Coron, the water really is unbelievably blue, the coral mystical and the lakes so emerald clear that you think you’ve spent a day in a fantasy land. The experience is a reinforcement that magic does still exist on isolated islands among this incredible archipelago. Not everything is ruined in this over-run tourist driven society. There are magical, fantastical places that still exist between the shear black, jagged, limestone cliffs of Coron Island, Philippines.

The route of our tour to Coron Island
The route of our tour to Coron Island


How to get there:

Fly from Manila to Busuanga Coron Airport with Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific or Skyjet Airlines.

Where to stay:

We stayed at Discovery Island Resort & Dive Centre. We loved our stay there and would definitely recommend it and stay again. The staff were super friendly and went out of their way to look after Lilly.

The food was also great with a diverse menu of local dishes, Thai, Italian and more.


There are a few tour operators in Coron. You can book directly with your hotel / resort however, we found this option to be far more expensive than some of the providers in Coron Town.

We went with ‘Nice in Paradise’ tours. They were friendly and helpful, however, the tour guides barely spoke any English. It may not have helped that most of the group were local tourists although, I would’ve preferred them to make more of an effort to also explain things in English.

The one day tour mentioned here is the Coron Island Tour (1300 PHP per person) and covers:

  • Kayangan Lake
  • Smith Coral Garden
  • Banol Beach
  • CYC Beach

Coron Town

There’s not really much to do in Coron town itself. We spent most nights back at our resort bar and restaurant. There are a few bars throughout the small town however it’s generally pretty quiet.

55+ Weekend Getaways from Mumbai – Infographic

Mumbai is one of the most eclectic cities in India, perhaps the world. The former Bombay is a traveller’s delight. Aside from the being an enchanting city, it’s also surrounded by some of the most interesting and awe-inspiring places you could visit. This city that never sleeps, has an intriguing number of historical sites, picturesque hill stations, off-beat destinations, along with beautiful beaches and adventure destinations.

It offers everything from visiting various historical forts to taking in a tour of the Ajanta and Ellora caves. Travel to the breathtaking hill stations, go sight-seeing, visit a wildlife sanctuary or indulge in adventure activities. There’s simply no limit of exciting places and wonders that you can see in the surrounds of Mumbai.

The best part is, since most of these neighbouring places are just a short drive away from Mumbai, they make awesome weekend getaways for all travel enthusiasts and adventurers.

Now, if you are planning a trip to Mumbai, but are unsure of which are the best places to visit near the city, then take a look at this impressive infographic that has listed down the top 55+ destinations near Mumbai that are ideal for a quick weekend getaway!

Accompanied with this infographic comes a detailed guide that provides information about each location along with important details such as the best time to visit, places to see, activities you could indulge in and more.

So, make the most out of it and start your adventure now!

55+ Weekend Getaways from Mumbai [Infographic] by the team at


niravAbout the author: Nirav Dave is the co-founder of ZaraHutke, in Mumbai that specializes in all things Offbeat Stays & Weekend Getaways. He is an Avid traveler, A dedicated husband, and father and loves Numismatics.


Travel – Photography – Philosophy – Psychology: Inspiring Words and Images from Around the World

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