How to get from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Sanloem

I spent a lot of time figuring out which island of Cambodia to choose for our February vacation and after deciding to go for Koh Rong Sanloem (which is supposed to be quieter and less crowded) I was totally confused about how to get to the island. A lot of blogs, forums and official information from ferry services can be found on this subject, however to manage all the logistics seemed quite a challenge. First of all, you need to decide which ferry service to pick, second you need to know your timings (flight arrivals, departures, time to get to the airport and back etc…) and at last but not the least, you need to book your boat ticket online… or maybe not? In the end I decided to buy the ferry tickets in Sihanoukville just one hour before the departure and I was lucky. So let me make it easier for you and explain everything you need to know about how to get from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Sanloem (or Koh Rong, which is actually similar procedure).

First, choose and island and your accommodation

No matter which island you choose, I suggest you search for your accommodation first, because you need to know where to get off. Both islands have a few piers and you can save yourself a lot of trouble if you get off at the right one (for example Koh Rong Sanloem has 3 pier pick up – drop off points). Cambodia’s climate is hot and humid and dragging your luggage for a mile or two on the sand (there are no roads!) is not something you want to do unless you plan to stop at every bar on the way. And, because of the jungle, it is impossible to reach other places if you get off on the wrong side of the island. If your accommodation is not near those piers, contact them to find out how to get there – most of “isolated” resorts offer boat transports and this was one of the reasons I chose to stay in Pearl resort. Their staff is amazing; they offer free pickup and drop off rides, plus 3 additional free rides per day from the resort to Saracen Bay.

Carefully check your flight schedule

You will probably arrive to Sihanoukville by air, which means you need to consider your arrival and departure time. Here is the tricky part: a lot of flights get cancelled or delayed, so you need to be very lucky to get by smoothly. I know this is painful but I recommend you to take at least one hour of space for such inconveniences. This is your estimated time schedule:

  • If you are on a local flight you don’t need to go to immigration, and since the airport is rather small you should have your luggage with you in around 15 – 20 minutes. For international arrivals add around 10 minutes more for visa and passport inspection. Buy visa online, to make it easier and faster for you!
  • At the exit you will find “Taxi service” booth where you get your ticket (there is a fixed 20 USD taxi rate from Sihanoukville airport to the city) and the taxis are usually available immediately.
  • The ride from the airport to the Sihanoukville port takes around 40 minutes (depending on traffic jams).
  • If everything goes well you can board on your boat within 1,5 hours from your arrival at Sihanoukville airport.

Do I buy a ticket online or on the spot?

The big question is which ferry service to choose and whether to buy ferry ticket online or at the spot. There are 4 main “fast ferry” services between Sihanoukville and Koh Rong Sanloem, each taking approximately 40 to 50 minutes to get to the island (depends on which pier you get off). All ferries leave from the Serendipity pier in Sihanoukville and the rates are all 22 USD. This means that you are more or less flexible about which one to choose, depending only on their departure times. It is logical that the companies promote online sales “to make sure you get your seat” and I was hesitating to the last minute whether to go for this option, but then I thought what if the flight is delayed or something goes wrong… So I decided to take my chance and buy the ferry ticket on the spot. The taxi driver was kind enough to suggest stopping on our way in a sales booth (there are also booths at the pier of course), where everything was done smoothly, no queues, and we knew exactly how much time we had before the departure. Honestly, I would do it again – if by any chance the ferry you choose is full, you go for another one 30 minutes later (by another company).

Note: all tickets from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Sanloem are sold as “open return”, which means that you can return anytime you want; you just need to report the return date 24 hours before departure. Ask your hotel to help you with this confirmation; they do it all the time. And don’t lose your tickets of course!

Saving tip: there are also a couple of slow boat services to Koh Rong Sanloem that take 2 – 3 hours. For example the “supply boat” for the islands also heads to Saracen Bay. It costs $5 each way. It leaves from Sihanoukville Pier 52. For the return trip the boat leaves Saracen Bay at 2 p.m. to head back to Sihanoukville. Tickets can be purchased from the Koh Rong Dive Center office on Serendipity Beach Road. 

 

Ferry schedules

We took Speed Ferry Cambodia and everything was fine and more or less on time. The other 3 services are Island Speed Ferry, Buva Sea and GTVC Speedboat. Keep in mind that all services have only a few departures per day and the last one is usually around 4 pm, so don’t plan to get to Koh Rong Sanloem in the evening! Also, check the schedules of your ferry departures, depending on your flight time. A lot of logistic questions, I know…

Where to sit on the boat

When booking online you need to choose your seat – I am not sure if anyone even checks this, but if you do wonder which seat to book, I suggest you go for the middle ones. First of all, the windows are blinded so you cannot see much through them unless you open them. Second, if you open them, you have a great chance of splashes in your ace, as the sea can get rough even during a fine sunny day. If you want to watch your arrival to the island you can always stand up and go outside in the last minutes when the boat slows down. And by the way, if you have a sickness issue, it is better to sit in the front because the ferry is wider and more stable there.

With all that said, let me wrap it up for you: to get from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Sanloem is pretty easy, the only challenge is the time and possible transfer delays. I suggest you buy the ferry tickets on the spot, to communicate the departure time with your accommodation provider and to prepare yourself to lose half a day in one direction because of the logistics. We were very lucky with everything and a huge thanks goes to the manager of Pearl resort, Mr Ruz!

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Resort review: Pearl resort (Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia)

This February we chose Cambodia for our short escape from European winter. After spending 3 days in busy Siem Reap, exploring the majestic Angkor temples, we decided to relax on a beautiful island of Koh Rong Sanloem. While checking carefully all rooms in Saracen Bay (the main beach and port on the island) I got the impression that we would be squeezed between hundreds of hostels and bungalows – and that is definitely not my cup of tea. Suddenly this isolated brand-new resort caught my eye so I dropped a few lines to the management. I wanted to know if we would be able to visit the Saracen Bay and go places we wanted to (the island has no roads and you need to travel by boat almost everywhere). The manager of Pearl Resort in Koh Rong Sanloem responded immediately and left a very good impression by explaining everything in details, including how to arrive to the island. So, I decided to give Pearl resort a chance, even though they had just one review on Tripadvisor at that time.

Location

I have explained how to get to Koh Rong Sanloem in this post, but from the micro location point of view Pearl resort is situated in the eastern part of the island, facing west; which means that guests are spoiled with some pretty amazing sunsets. It takes around 10 minutes to reach the resort by a boat from the main pier at Saracen Bay; and the ride is provided free of charge. Apart from pick up and drop off on the day of your visit and departure, the resort also provides 3 boat rides per day which is more than enough to get your shit done. At first, I was afraid that we would get bored (the resort is really isolated and you practically cannot walk anywhere because of the rough area) but the days went by so fast I didn’t even get the chance to finish reading my book!

Accommodation – the bungalows

Pearl resort comprises of 15 really cute bungalows, which offer a small terrace (some even include small massage pools outside), a large bedroom with TV and coffee machine (water, tea and coffee is complimentary in limited supply daily), beach towels and bathrobes. Bathrooms are fancy and quite spacious, providing all the necessities you need for stress-free vacation. Wi-Fi is available in bungalows and throughout the entire resort area and the signal was surprisingly strong (my first impression of Koh Rong Sanloem was that there are hardly any Wi-Fi spots on the island – obviously this has changed a lot in the last few years).

Restaurant

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in an “open air” restaurant (partly covered by roof) with direct view of the beach (and that sunset I mentioned before). Food choice is of course limited, but still enough variety to get by even if you don’t leave the island for the whole week. I especially loved the morning fruit plates – Cambodian mango is absolutely fantastic. Prices are a little bit higher compared to the ones in Saracen Bay, but this is normal since the fresh food has to be delivered by boat each day. We are talking about 1 or 2 dollars more, so no drama there.

Beach and pool

Looking at the photos of Pearl resort beach on the internet I must admit I was a little skeptical, since I am a white-sand-turquoise-sea fanatic. But in reality it was not bad at all – even though the colors are not as fantastic as in Saracen Bay, I actually enjoyed it. The sand is soft, the ocean is clear and that is pretty much what you need for a good swim. Oh, by the way – the Saracen Bay is so shallow that you need to walk a lot before you can swim for real. So Pearl resort beach is actually a winner in swimming quality category. If you suffer from oceanophobia (I just made this word up and it sounds pretty cool to me), you can swim in a large pool or enjoy a water massage, drinking your favorite cocktail. Sunbeds are provided for each guest, so no need to wake up with sunrise and run down like crazy to reserve your spot.

 

 

Things to do during the day

The management has really done a lot of effort to keep the guests of Pearl resort busy and happy. Besides really enjoyable swim, the bay is perfect for SUP-ing or kayaking (2 SUPS and 2 kayaks are available for the guests). You can also hike a short trail up the hill (just a couple of minutes) to reach a beach on the other side of the island – to watch the sunrise or just enjoy the serenity of the ocean. There is also a beach volley playground available but I’d say this one is a challenge – with only 15 bungalows I can’t imagine how you can gather a team of at least 6 people who can keep the ball in the air for a while 😉 If you run out of options, you can always hitch a boat ride to Saracen Bay where you will find bars, restaurants and a lot of cute little dogs. And you will probably thank yourself that you are staying in Pearl resort because Saracen Bay is very much alive in the evening (and I read that due to many hostels the nights can be loud as well). By the way, the resort owns a cute little cat, which will probably stay cute even when she grows up – you can check her out in my instagram “Cambodia” stories.

Anda’s rate: 9 from 10

Bottom line: First of all, DO visit Cambodia, it is a fantastic destination. Second, if you are a beach lover, DO go for Koh Rong Sanloem (Koh Rong is also an option, but busier with tourists). At last, but not the least, DO pick your accommodation carefully. If you prefer a good night sleep, more privacy and a touch of luxury for a very reasonable price, I can highly recommend staying in Pearl resort. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t take an extra day or two to enjoy the island.

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Hotel review: Grand Elysee La Residence (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

When I travel to Asia I always search for 5 star hotels first. I don’t want to offend anyone but the hygiene standard is a bit different in Asia compared to Europe (plus I am allergic to all kinds of shit), and usually 5 star hotels are quite affordable. Luckily this was also the case in Siem Reap, where you can get high quality hotels for less than 60 USD per night (2 persons, breakfast and airport transfer included). Grand Elsyee La Residence was the most reasonable and cheapest choice (by the way if you want to save 15€ with your next booking, make a reservation through this link), the reviews were fantastic and the location seemed ok as well. Once again it proved that I have chosen wisely 😉

Location

Grand Elysee La Residence is around 20 minutes’ taxi drive away from Siem Reap airport and less than 10 minutes’ tuk tuk ride to the popular Pub Street and Old market. Angkor temples, which is probably the reason you will visit Siem Reap in the first place, is about 20 minutes away with tuk tuk – so I can say the location is pretty convenient. If you are up to it you can also walk to some places, but for us it was too hot and we were tired after seeing the temples. Tuk tuk ride to Pub street only costs 2 USD so it’s not worth the trouble. The hotel provides one way airport transfer for free, and the ride back will cost you 15 USD by taxi or 10 USD by tuk tuk.

Rooms

We stayed in room 508 with pool view, and it was really nice. The rooms are spacious, with lots of light and very modern design. The bed and the pillows are comfortable, you are provided with bathrobes, complimentary tea and coffee, 2 bottles of water per day and of course all the necessary toiletries. We found the bathroom especially sexy, the design is simple and fantastic. The only thing I resent the architect is the separate toilet with no sink (you have to go to the bathroom to wash hands).

 

Breakfast and dining area

I also loved the dining area; it is located in the lobby with pool view, so you almost get to eat outside but under the roof. Again, very pleasant ambient and stylish design. The breakfast choice was very good, except for the bread, but this is the case in most Asian countries – they simply don’t eat bread so they also don’t offer a variety of wholegrain and all this healthy kind of shit. On the other hand you get lots of fresh tropical fruit, hot and cold choices and eggs any style. If you chose to eat lunch or dinner in the hotel, prepare yourself for rather high prices (beer 5 USD, while you can drink one for less than 1 dollar in town), but food is great as well – I especially loved the different choices of soups.

Pool and spa

The pool is decently large and there are lots of sunbeds provided for all guests. The rooms in the ground floor even offer direct access to the pool, which I haven’t decided whether it is romantic or a bit weird because people in the pool can see your room. Well, to each its own I say. Grand Elysee la Residence also offers a spa where you can get your massage, but again you can get much cheaper service downtown (we paid 6 USD for 60 minutes back massage in Old market).

Anda’s rate: 9 from 10

Bottom line: If it wasn’t for expensive beer and that toilet issue I would have given Grand Elysee La Residence a 10. It is a very nice hotel, the staff is extremely nice and I can highly recommend it to anyone who wants high standard and quality service for a very reasonable price.

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Intervju s pilotom: kaj vse gre v zraku lahko narobe?

Vas je strah letenja? Niste edini, po statistiki sodeč se s to fobijo sooča vsak deseti. In, verjeli ali ne, zadnje čase se je to dogaja tudi meni. Prvič sem težavo resneje zaznala lani na poti v Hanoi, ko smo imeli v zraku približno 2 uri zmerne turbulence. Ves čas sem se tresla kot šiba na vodi in samo predstavljate si lahko, kakšni scenariji so se mi pletli po glavi. Verjetno je k temu pripomoglo tudi dejstvo, da sem bila na poti sama in takrat bi človek dal vse na svetu, samo da še enkrat vidi svoje najbližje. Ker se mi strah pred letenjem dogaja vse pogosteje (očitno leta naredijo svoje), sem se odločila, da se malce bolj poglobim v jedro samega problema. Znanje je najboljše orožje, pravijo. In kdo ima o letenju več znanja kot pilot? Če vas zanima, ali je turbulenca nevarna, zakaj in kako pogosto se dogajajo okvare, kakšne so možnosti za preživetje letalske nesreče in podobne reči, potem preberite intervju, ki sem ga pred kratkim opravila s pilotom komercialne letalske družbe. Ali pa preskočite vsaj na konec tega zapisa, kjer vam bom postregla z nekaj izjemno zanimivimi številkami. Moram priznati, da so mene precej pomirile 😉

Pogovarjala sem se s pilotom, ki je prvih 11 let svoje kariere preživel razpet med Čilom, Kolumbijo in Perujem, zadnja 3 leta pa je zaposlen v eni največjih letalskih družb na Srednjem Vzhodu. Kljub temu, da je najin pogovor obsegal tudi njegovo strast do letenja in ostale hobije, vas verjetno bolj zanimajo dejstva o letenju, zato bom kar preskočila na bistvo.

Vaša letalska družba ima lepo število zaposlenih pilotov, ali to pomeni, da imate veliko prostih dni? Kako je sploh s temi zadevami, imate kakšne omejitve, koliko ur lahko letite?

Dnevno lahko letimo največ 12 ur in pri daljših poletih smo na letalu vedno trije ali štirje piloti, da se lahko zamenjamo in odpočijemo, kar je zelo pomembno. Če je let krajši, imamo naslednji dan prosto 24 ur, če je daljši, pa 48 ur, kar pomeni, da imamo čas za turistične aktivnosti. Letno smo zakonsko omejeni na 900 ur letenja, vsak mesec pa imamo minimalno 8 prostih dni.

Ali lahko izbirate destinacije in posadko, s katero boste leteli?

Posadka se nenehno spreminja in na to skoraj nimamo vpliva. Spored letov pa načrtujemo za 1 mesec vnaprej in dvakrat letno lahko izberemo, kam želimo tisti mesec leteti.

Kaj je najhuje, kar se lahko zgodi v zraku?

Najhujša nevarnost so ljudje in njihove odločitve.

Torej turbulenca ni nevarna? Kaj pa nevihte in strele?

Turbulenca je nekaj povsem normalnega in dokler ljudje v kabini ne začnejo leteti po zraku, ni nevarna. Podobno je z nevihtami, saj so letala opremljena z najmodernejšo tehnologijo za vse vrste vremenskih razmer. Strela v letalo ne more udariti oziroma ne more povzročiti škode. Vsekakor pa se skušamo nevihtam izogniti – 2 uri pred poletom imamo namreč briefing, kjer se seznanimo z razmerami v zraku, preverimo alternativne poti… praktično za vsako miljo vemo že vnaprej, kaj nas čaka.

Najnevarnejši del je vzlet, kajne?

Tako je, takrat je največ možnosti za napake. Letalo mora za vzlet doseči zelo visoko hitrost in če bi moral zaradi kakršnegakoli vzroka nenadno zabremzati, lahko pride do vžiga. Večje letalo ob vzletu s polnim tankom goriva tehta okoli 500 ton in predstavljaj si, da moraš vse to ustaviti v nekaj metrih. Kritičnih je tudi prvih nekaj minut po vzletu; takrat moramo biti povsem zbrani in se tudi med seboj ne pogovarjamo. Ko dosežemo višino 3.000 metrov (za to potrebujemo približno 3 minute), se lahko sprostimo.

Kaj pa ptice? Ali ni zaradi tega zasilno pristalo letalo na reki Hudson v New Yorku?

Res je, ptice so tudi problem pri vzletanju in pristajanju. Vendar mi letimo s 4 motorji in tudi, če se poškodujeta dva ali celo trije, še vedno lahko normalno letimo. Meni se je ptica enkrat zaletela v sprednje okno, nastala je manjša razpoka, ampak ni bilo kritično, saj smo pristajali. Če bi bilo to ob vzletu, bi seveda poiskal prvo možnost za pristanek.

Sama raje letim nad »zemljo«, saj se mi zdi, da imam tam več možnosti preživetja, oziroma, če ne drugega, me bodo vsaj našli 🙂 Je dejansko varneje leteti nad oceanom ali kopnim?

Letenje je približno enako zahtevno, večji problem je možnost zasilnega pristanka, če se zgodi karkoli nepredvidenega. Medtem ko na oceanu teoretično lahko pristaneš in čakaš na pomoč (omenila si že primer reke Hudson), je v goratih predelih to precej težje. Predstavljaj si, da moraš pristati nekje v Himalaji 🙂 Tudi sicer so visoke gore problematične, če pritisk v kabini nenadno pade in moraš letalo na hitro spraviti na višino, kjer ne rabiš dodatnega kisika. Če je spodaj gora, je to precej težje.

To sem si vedno želela vprašati: zakaj nam težite, da moramo ugasniti telefone?

Najprej zato, ker lahko s tem motite našo komunikacijo, ki je med vzletom in pristankom zelo pomembna. Drugič pa zato, ker telefoni motijo vašo koncentracijo – če gre ob vzletu kaj narobe, boste morali tudi potniki reagirati hitro. In vsi dobro vemo, kako te lahko družbena omrežja “hipnotizirajo” 😉

Kaj se zgodi, če potnik v letalu nenadno hudo zboli, ali pa če se kdo vede zelo nasilno?

Naša letala so opremljena z najsodobnejšo medicinsko opremo in če bi bil na letalu kirurg, bi lahko praktično izvedel tudi operacijo. Prav tako je naše kabinsko osebje visoko usposobljeno za nujne primere in ob telefonski povezavi z zdravniki na kopnem večino primerov stabilizirajo do te mere, da nam ni treba pristati. Tudi z nasilneži znamo ravnati; alternativni pristanek izberemo le, če potnik kaže znake, da bi lahko resno ogrožal varnost potnikov.

Ob pogovoru s tabo mi je skoraj nerodno, da me je strah letenja. Ampak nesreče SE dogajajo in letala tudi strmoglavijo. Zakaj?

Kot sem že povedal, večinoma se to zgodi zaradi človeških napak. Letala so tako varna, da gre težko kaj narobe. Gre pa lahko za slabšo presojo, neracionalne odločitve, psihološke težave…

Torej sem lahko spet nazaj zaskrbljena??

Poglej, možnosti, da umreš v letalski nesreči so 1 proti 11 milijonom. Pri nas imamo najvišje standarde tako tehnologije kot usposabljanja celotne posadke, tako da so te možnosti bližje ničli kot enki. Mimogrede, peljati se z mano v avtomobilu te pa ni strah? 😉

To vprašanje bom preslišala, ker pol poti tako in tako stojiva v gneči 🙂 Kaj pa v primeru, ko se nesreče vseeno zgodijo … se o njih pogovarjate med sabo?

Vsekakor, novice do nas pridejo zelo hitro in takrat se verjetno vsak vpraša: »Kaj, če bi bil sam na tistem letalu?« Vse nesreče preučimo in poskušamo razumeti, kaj se je zgodilo, da bi se jim v podobnem primeru izognili. Pa tudi sicer imamo vsakih 6 mesecev treninge s simulacijami nesreč, da se ne »polenimo« preveč.

Črne skrinjice snemajo čisto vsak pogovor?

Vsak polet, vsak tehnični podatek in vsaka sekunda pogovora v pilotski kabini je zabeležena. Ampak se na to ne oziramo preveč in pogovor teče normalno. Koga bi le zanimale naše avanture? No, razen mojega dekleta, morda 🙂

Za konec, tvoj nasvet za ljudi, ki želijo potovati, a se bojijo leteti?

Internet je poln informacij in nasvetov, poskusite izvedeti čim več in se seznaniti s tem, kaj se dogaja v zraku. Ob rezervaciji prosite za sedež v ospredju; podobno kot pri avtobusu, ko se usedete spredaj, če vam je slabo. Zadaj se namreč turbulenca najbolj občuti.

Po tem pogovoru, ki me je kar precej pomiril, sem si vzela še nekaj časa in pobrskala po statistiki. Številke so zelo zanimive:

  • 48% smrtnih nesreč se zgodi ob pristanku (predvidevam, da tudi zato, ker takrat malce pade koncentracija, tako kot pri vožnji z avtomobilom – ko se bližaš domu, si manj pozoren).
  • Na drugem mestu so vzleti, ki prestavljajo 13% nesreč s smrtnim izidom.
  • Dejansko se samo 11% usodnih nesreč zgodi medtem, ko je letalo v zraku.
  • Statistično verjetno boste prej umrli od zastrupitve s hrano (1 proti 3 milijonom), padca z lestve (1 proti 2 milijonom) ali padca s postelje (1 proti 2 milijonom), medtem ko je verjetnost, da umrete v avtomobilski nesreči kar 1 proti 5.000!
  • In, nenazadnje, tudi če boste udeleženi v letalski nesreči, je velika možnost, da jo dobro odnesete. Po podatkih ameriškega odbora za prometno varnost (US National Transportation Safety Board), ki je sicer malce zastarelo, ampak predvidevam, da se številke s časom le še izboljšujejo, je kar 95% možnost, da boste nesrečo komercialnega poleta preživeli.

Ali z drugimi besedami: globoko vdihnite, spakirajte kovčke in se spravite, jebemti, že na tisto letalo! 😉 V mojem facebook albumu pa si lahko ogledate, kako čudoviti so lahko pogledi med samim poletom.

 

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Hotel review: Gevora hotel (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

Another visit to Dubai calls for another opportunity to try something new, starting by choosing a new hotel. This time I decided to stay close to Dubai World Trade Center because I was attending Arab Health exhibition and had some meetings there in three consecutive days. Hotel rates usually skyrocket during special events and exhibitions (paying almost 300$ a night for Ibis hotel, seriously guys?), but I somehow got lucky: Gevora hotel showed a special rate during my search on booking.com (by the way, you can get 15€ off your next booking by using this link) and I didn’t hesitate even for a second. I booked a room and asked for “a nice view”. And what a view that was!

Location

Gevora hotel’s official address is “Sheikh Zayed Road, Trade Centre area, next to Al Attar Tower”, which means that you cannot miss it if you follow the main Dubai highway (well, at least all Taxi drivers can’t). It will take you around 20 minutes to reach it from Dubai International Airport (during the night; during the day add at least 20 more, depending on the traffic) and you will pay around 50 AED for Taxi ride. The hotel is conveniently located close to a metro station, which helps a lot if you are visiting Dubai either as a tourist or on business. But honestly, the micro location itself is not very olympic; you cannot reach any interesting sites or shopping malls on foot.

The tallest hotel in the world

I wasn’t aware of the fact that Gevora hotel is actually the highest hotel in the world (they received official title from the Guinness World Records on February 9th 2018) and this came as a very pleasant surprise to me. The building itself is 356 meters tall and it features 76 floors with 528 deluxe rooms and suites. A very big minus here is the lack of elevators: only 3 elevators are reserved for floors above 41th which means you can easily wait for 5 minutes for the “open sesame” salvation. What were the architects thinking?

I stayed in 55th floor and you can imagine my view was really breathtaking. Unfortunately the windows couldn’t be opened so my photos were all taken behind the dirty glass window – and still results are quite awesome, don’t you agree?

The rooms

I stayed in a suite with large king bed and a small kitchen, which had everything you would expect and need for a short stay in Dubai. The bed was quite comfortable and more importantly it offered 2 types of pillows – hard and soft. What bothered me a lot were a small bathroom (practically no space to put away your toiletries) and very disturbing lights from switches that were shining even during night. There was also a very strong green “emergency” light on the ceiling, which I asked to be turned off by technician. I really don’t know what they were thinking… or perhaps a better question would be how do other guests put up with this? Maybe it is just me who doesn’t like sleeping under a light show?

Hotel facilities

Gevora hotel features a pool, a wellness club, Jacuzzi, sauna and gyms (separated for men and women) which are accessible through the 12th floor. The view from the pool is not as awesome as it was from my room, but it is still better than most of hotels I stayed in while in Dubai. And it is quite big, so you can actually have a decent swim!

Dining

Another small minus here – not so much for the food as for the ambient. I am talking about breakfast, which is served in mezzanine floor, and there was always a small struggle to get a table. The restaurant itself is not so small and they could have done a much better job there. The choice of food is decent, I did however miss wholegrain bread (sorry guys, but white bread with some oats on top of it is NOT wholegrain bread) and different choice of teas. By the way, tea and coffee is served by staff and if you are lucky, you will get it in the first shot.

 

I do have to compliment the waiter in the lobby bar – you probably know by now that I am very meticulous when it gets to cappuccino, and he really made a perfect one.

Anda’s rate: 8 from 10

Bottom line: While Gevora hotel is still a very decent 4-star hotel, shining in gold from the outside, it does have some points to improve – and it really wouldn’t take much to do so. For the price I paid I really cannot complain and I would easily recommend it to anyone. In fact, I would stay there again, if I needed a place close to Trade Center.

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Weekend trip to Opatija riviera: visit Opatija, Lovan and Rijeka

You know that thing about neighbors’ jealousy, because the grass is always greener on the other side? Well, I am pretty sure Slovenia has the greenest grass you have ever seen, but Croatia can definitely take all the credits for owning one of the best coastlines in the world. While Slovenia only has about 40 km of coastline, Croatia boasts with 1,800 km of diverse beaches, including thousands of islands and some really charming old towns like Dubrovnik (we all watched Game of Thrones, right?), Split and Opatija. Luckily, Opatija riviera is really close to Slovene border and it has become one of my favorite spots to relax on weekends. If you visit Slovenia and want to make a quick trip to Croatia (vice versa would be nice as well), Opatija is a nice choice for catching some vitamin D and pampering your senses with spas, health beneficial aerosols and excellent food. In this post you will find out how to get to Opatija from Slovenia, top things to do in Opatija riviera and surroundings, where to stay and when is the best time to visit.

How to get to Opatija from Slovenia

Opatija is located around 80 km south from Ljubljana and the easiest way to get there is to own or rent a car (you will probably want to visit some other towns around it, so it is good to be flexible). The other option is also by bus – Flixbus drives daily from Ljubljana to Opatija and it costs less than 10 €. As a tourist you probably don’t need this advice, but it is still worth a reminder: you will need to show your valid passport or ID card when entering Croatia from Slovenia (due to the so-called Schengen area); and also prepare some change for the toll fee (8 HRK or a bit over 1 € if you pay in Euro currency).

 

When is the best time to visit Opatija riviera

I would never visit Croatia during summer, for 2 reasons: it is too close to Slovenia, so there is a high chance I would run into people I know (besides, I have traveled Croatia back and forth), and it gets crowded as hell. If you still want to pick Opatija for your summer vacation, I suggest you consider towns like Lovran, Mosceniska Draga or Icici instead – they are all close to Opatija but a bit less busy and without so many daily visitors. But if you don’t want to be sandwiched between tourists, I suggest you visit Opatija riviera in spring (April – June) or autumn (September – November). If you are lucky, you will still be able to swim in the Adriatic Sea, especially in June, September or October.

Where to stay

Once a popular winter retreat for rich European aristocrats, Opatija is today an elegant resort town for couples and a perfect getaway for a romantic weekend break. Many of Opatija hotels feature spa & wellness centers, some even have interior swimming pool with sea water for maximum health benefits. However, these things don’t come cheap, especially in peak season. Most of hotels also don’t offer free parking, so if you are on a budget, you might want to consider renting a room or apartment via Airbnb or booking.com (scroll to the bottom of this post for prices and discounts). Or, as I mentioned before, stay in one of the nearby towns instead. My first choice is always Lovran – a small charming town around 5 km from Opatija with lots of bars, restaurants and parks to enjoy the view of Adriatic Sea. For couples or pet owners I highly recommend staying in Boutique hotel Acacia which is a new property with private beach, fantastic sea-view rooms, great food and very nice staff.

Best things to do in Opatija Riviera and surroundings

I usually visit Opatija (well, Lovran to be more exact) off season, during weekends, for two things: one is to get rid of my boyfriend (if he read this he would say vice versa, but he never reads my posts) for a couple of hours because he is a cycling freak; and the roads around Opatija are fantastic for cycling, especially if you love mountain biking (you can find some great routes to Mount Učka here). The other thing that keeps bringing me back to Lovran is waking up with sea view and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere of the whole Opatija riviera.

Of course, if you visit Opatija for the first time, you can always choose between many other activities and things to see:

1/ Hiking to Mount Učka: Put on some comfortable shoes and choose a path that suits you most. You can either start right on the beach (in this case the hiking will take you around 3,5 hours in one direction), or leave your car in Poklon parking area and head up to Mount Učka. Either way, be ready to sweat – even if it is called “modest hiking” it IS still quite a hike! In the top of Vojak hill (the highest point is Istria; 1401 meters above the sea) you will be rewarded with fantastic views of Istria and Adriatic Sea with the islands of Cres and Lošinj.

2/ Beach hopping: Opatija’s shores are more or less pebbly, however the sea is crystal clear and you can find some fantastic places to stretch your biceps and triceps. While Opatija boasts with diverse public beaches, Mosceniska Draga (located a bit further from Lovran) has mostly sandy beaches – public and nudist ones. Just keep in mind we are not talking Caribbean sand here; the beaches are mostly covered with gravel.

3/ Lungomare walk with wonderful green parks: One of the nicest beach walks in Kvarner area is Opatija’s 12 km long seaside promenade called Lungomare. The promenade starts northeast of Opatija in a fishing village of Volosko, and goes all the way to Lovran, southwest of Opatija. It is a flat and really easy walk that goes by the sea on the other side and along many cafes, bars, restaurants and green parks on the other. The parks, especially Angiolina Park, St. Jacob Park and Margarita Park feature over hundred different varieties of plants originating from all over the world. And don’t take a picture with the iconic Maiden with the Seagull Statue. Everyone does that. Be different 😉

4/ Enjoy the beautiful architecture: Built in late 19th and early 20th century Opatija is often called “Vienna by the sea” due to its history and rich architecture. While the center of Opatija boasts with aristocratic buildings in typical neoclassicism style with some random art-nouveau examples, the towns and villages of Lovran, Volosko and Moscenice with narrow streets and squares offer more medieval spirit.

5/ Take a tour of Rijeka old town and Trsat castle: Just a short 15 km drive from Opatija lies Rijeka – a very important seaport and the third largest city in Croatia. The heart of Rijeka is called “Korzo” and it is the main city promenade with numerous cafes and opportunities to observe locals and tourists. Like Opatija, Rijeka is also famous for some nice architectural remainings of late 19th century; with the iconic Clock Tower as the city’s symbol. Above Rijeka on a 138-meter high hill you will find a lovely 13th-century fortress which is also the best viewpoint in Rijeka. Once a very important observatory and defense system Trsat Castle is now one of the most visited cultural and tourist sites in Gorski Kotar County. The entrance fee off season is free (in season around 10 HRK).

6/ Visit Moščenice: The medieval town, nestled on a hill above Moščenicka Draga, has many sights, including centuries-old churches and Chapel of the Cross on Mount Calvary. From the medieval wall on the top of the old town you can enjoy a really nice view of the beaches and Adriatic Sea with neighboring islands.

7/ Dolce far niente: At last, but not the least, Opatija riviera is famous for its cafes and top-notch restaurants. Many people come here from Slovenia or Zagreb (Croatia’s capital) just for a day to have a coffee, cake or ice cream at one of the sea-side bars. My favorite coffee spots are Angiolina and Bevanda with cozy sofas and direct sea-view (to be honest, coffee could be better but vitamin sea makes up for that), while my dinner winner is Knezgrad restaurant in Lovran (located near Sloboda cinema).

APPROXIMATE COSTS OF VISITING OPATIJA RIVIERA:

  • Toll cost (depends on where you are coming from, but from Slovenia it is around 1 €)
  • Middle-class hotel room for 2 (no parking, breakfast included) off season: 60 – 80 €
  • Room / apartment via Booking.com (no breakfast but usually free parking): 40 – 50 €
  • Saving tip: use this link on Booking.com to get 15€ off your next hotel booking. And via this Airbnb link you will get 30€ voucher with your next Airbnb rental. You’re welcome 😉
  • Parking in the center of Opatija: headache during season. Along the main road you pay per hour, while there are some garages and all-day parking for around 15 €.
  • Cappuccino on the sea-side promenade: around 2 – 2,5 €.
  • Tourist menu: around 10 – 15 €.
  • Dinner with fish and wine for 2: from 50 to 100 €

Have you visited Opatija before? What are your favorite spots? Got any other question? Scroll down and leave me a comment!

 

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My bucket list for next 7 years

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, most of people aim to lose weight, quit smoking, do more exercise … or something else, mostly health-related. Well, I have been a good girl for years now and I am well aware that healthy lifestyle is a journey, not just something you promise to yourself (and usually fail) every year 😉 Instead of making resolutions, I decided to come up with a bucket list of 7 destinations I want to visit and 7 activities I want to do in the next 7 years. As I mentioned in my post about my travel favorites, my goal is not to visit all countries in the world, but it is pretty damn close. And since I am not getting any younger, I need to set my priorities straight – after all, I am limited with resources and time; I have a real job and someone has to pay for my trips. My bucket list will also help me stay motivated, disciplined and focused on my travel goals in the future. And, 7 is a lucky number, right? 😉 So, here it goes:

1. BORA BORA – a group of islands in Tahiti with breathtaking beaches, nature and resorts. Just take a look at the photo above and say nothing else.

What has been keeping me away so far: Well, first of all, it is pretty damn far – it would take me a few days just to travel there and back from Slovenia. Secondly, if I am to travel a few days, I need to spend at least a week there, if not 10 days. I mean, seriously, what would I do there for 10 days? And last but not the least; if I want to enjoy one of the resorts in Bora Bora, I need a sponsor or two. Any collaboration requests, por favor?

2. PHILIPPINES – The country with thousands of islands in the Pacific Ocean. I can’t even begin to describe why… beaches, caves, lakes, whales, mountains… seems like Philippines have it all.

What has been keeping me away so far: Honestly, I don’t know which island to pick – everyone talks about Palawan and Boracay, I was also checking out Cebu and Bohol, and on the other hand I would like to go somewhere “virgin”, with not too many tourists. Got any ideas?

3. TANZANIA – African beauty, known especially for its diverse wildlife. I am crazy about lions and I want to see them in their nature habitat (not only in zoo, like the one above from Singapore).

What has been keeping me away so far: The reason is somehow similar to previous one – I can’t imagine going to safari for more than 5 days, and to travel that far I would need to combine my visit with something else. People usually visit Tanzania together with Zanzibar, but the island somehow doesn’t seem like my cup of tea. Well, I guess I will need to make a compromise… or visit South Africa instead?

 

4. AUSTRALIA – I believe the land down under, doesn’t need any introduction. Australia is full of natural wonders, gorgeous beaches and sharks, which I am obsessed with. Ok, New Zealand would do fine as well.

What has been keeping me away so far: It is very far and 14 days (which is the most I can afford in my current job position) is not nearly enough to see it all. So I guess I need to either wait for my retirement or a miracle. I prefer the latter.

5. COLOMBIA – You watched Narcos, right? So, Medellin, Colombian landscape and Carribean coastline.

What has been keeping me away so far: My boyfriend is affraid to go there, so I need to convince him it is perfectly safe. Keep your fingers crossed 😉 By the way, the same goes for Panama!

6. SCOTLAND – Northern part of the UK with the language no one understands. Or Ireland as an alternative. Why Scotland? Nature and castles. Getting drunk with locals is also not a bad idea.

What has been keeping me away so far: I’ve got only one word for you here and it is weather.

7. BRAZIL – The land of football, rain forest, carnivals and million miles of beaches. I want to see Rio, the gorgeous beaches of Fernando de Noronha and everything in between.  

What has been keeping me away so far: I am kind of saving myself for Brazil until I am ready for it. Which means to have enough time for planning and traveling. Because Brazil is fucking huge.

And when speaking of my bucket list of activities, I will just list them and not bother you with “why and why not” details:

  1. Swimming with sharks in Belize or Cayman islands
  2. Hiking the trail to Havasu falls (photo above from NY Times)
  3. Swimming with pigs in Bahamas
  4. Swimming with whale sharks (lots of places to do that)
  5. Cuddling Komodo dragons
  6. Smelling lavender fields in Provence
  7. See the Great wall of China and Machu Picchu (I cheated here, I know, but it is my blog and I make the rules 😉 )

Well, I think these 7 + 8 will have to do for the next 7 years, especially since I want to visit some of the countries I’ve been to at least once more. Santa, if you are reading this, you know that Maldives, Seychelles and New York are always a good idea, right? 😉

What is on your bucket list? Got some tips for me about my travel goals? Should I skip anything and switch for something else instead? Scroll down and drop me a line in comments.

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