Getting pulse of Bali’s buzz!

Well, Mercure Legian Bali hotel is located in the area, where heart of Bali beats. When we were in Nusa Dua area, we were in a sort of exclusive zone with all sort of luxury and privacy. But this hotel lies in an area, where as soon as you step out of the hotel, you find yourself in the hustle & bustle of a busy tourist destination like Bali. Hotel is just a five minutes walk from the beach. Hotel is close to Legian, Seminyak and Kuta areas. Mercure has two hotels in the area. There another property Mercure Kuta Bali is located right on the Kuta beach and is slightly away from the, what few people may call as, chaos of Legian area.

Hotel is located on a busy intersection on Legian street. Running parallel to a long coastline this street is just a five minutes walk from famous Legian and Kuta beaches. This street is quite close to Bali’s international airport. With hotels suiting all sizes of pockets in close vicinity, this place is famous among tourists who prefer being close to beach. That makes it one of the busiest places in Bali.

You will find constant stream of tourists from all around the world, flowing up and down the street. You will find here everything- from massage parlours to money changers and from souvenir shops to 24 hour departmental stores. Street is lined up with number of restaurants offering all types of cuisine to take you to a rich gastronomical experience. Being one of the best places for shopping, you need to bargain hard to get best prices.

Also remain aware of the strangers offering services of escorts and ‘more’. Its a busy tourist place so all the pros and cons of such places are to be taken care of. There are many shops selling tour, tattoos, clothes and spas. A lot of people will try to stop you for a sale. Need to be careful about, whom to cater and whom not. Since Legian is more famous for some street shopping, therefore more serious shoppers might like to go to Kuta or Seminyak markets nearby.

The way to beach passes through the busiest tourist market of the Kuta area. So staying at Mercure Legian is like enjoying everything day out and night and then relaxing in comfortable environs of your room.

This hotel might not be so spacious like hotels in Nusa Dua area or Ubud region of Bali but it still provides enough luxury to enjoy stay in romantic destination like Bali. Rooms are descent and service is excellent. Highlight is the rooftop pool and the nearby bar. Either go for a poolside room or a room high up with a balcony to get best of views. There is another bar near restaurant at lobby level. We didn’t had the opportunity to dine here, but had breakfast in two mornings and they were quite relishing. Overall, we had a thoroughly enjoyable experience of stay at Mercure Bali Legian.  We didn’t dine here, as we tried some Indian food at Queens.

Well, it might quite be OK if you are a non-Indian and searching for an Indian restaurant in Bali and land at Queen’s. But if you are an Indian and love your taste, than you will feel a bit disappointed here, especially for the taste of Indian foods you love. Ambience is good but lot more needs to be done for the food items and also in terms of service. The staff needs to know about Indian food, when they are serving in an Indian restaurant.

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Get closer to the movie with King Arthur Trail

Imagine some supernatural caves, mighty boulders, crumbly castles, sorcery courses and stone circles.

Fit for a king and with the option to leave no stone unturned, a new trail across South West Wales aims to bring to life the mystery that surrounds the story of Britain’s best and bravest knight, the legendary Arthur. Perfectly timed the new Arthur Trail launches just ahead of Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword release (12 May), so the question of whether Arthur was a real Excalibur-wielding man, make-believe, or a bit of both is more pertinent than ever. The new trail showcases the mighty Arthur with Arthurian legend related experiences across the counties of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Swansea Bay and Neath Port Talbot.

Visitors inspired by Charlie Hunnam’s rugged sword wielding Arthur portrayal in the big-screen version of the tale can head off on a quest to see wizard and warrior related sights and sounds (listen for Merlin’s groans on Merlin Hill) using the new trail.

The trail aims to help visitors decide who they think Arthur really was while enjoying the stunning coast and hills of South West Wales. From the boulder he is said to have tossed 11 miles from Llanelli to Gower to his burial place in the Preseli Hills and the supernatural caves near Neath, the trail guides visitors through everything from a day out in one region, to a five night break spread over all four, hunting for clues to Arthur’s existence. For those who just want to indulge in the playful side of Arthur’s tale there are fun attractions – from owl experiences to wizard themed afternoon teas – throughout the four counties.

The trail has been designed so that visitors can cherry-pick sites that interest them most or take in the whole lot on a road trip over a mini-break or longer. There are accommodation suggestions as well as alternatives to Arthur attractions should you get distracted by beautiful scenery, picturesque villages and welcoming pubs and cafes on route.

Time to sit at your round table and plan your trip to Arthur Country. Here are a few highlights to whet your appetite.

Carmarthenshire

Start at the very beginning in the town of Carmarthen, birthplace of Arthur’s wizard Merlin. Carmarthenshire is a great place to lose yourself in legends and even be a sorcerer’s apprentice! Sign up for a magic course inspired by Merlin himself where your teacher will join you in your holiday cottage or hotel for a night of magic. Or take The Creepy Carmarthen Tour for a blast of local history and magic, combining real events from the town’s past with magical experiments in mind-reading and extra sensory perception. Then spend a ‘night’ under the stars at the magical Faerie Thyme Hill campsite with its own mysterious stone circle and giant dream catchers.

 Pembrokeshire

Here the Arthur trail takes in wild headlands, medieval strongholds and hilltop stones. Arthur’s Quoit, on St David’s Head, was said to have been hurled from nearby Carn Llidi by the king and it marks the remains of a single-chambered Neolithic burial chamber that’s up to 6,000 years old. The capstone is about 20ft long and supported by one upright stone and the site can be reached only on foot. Bedd Arthur (or Arthur’s Grave), high on the Preseli ridge on the rocky outcrop of Cerrig Marchogion (the Rocks of the Knights) is also said to mark the spot where the mythical boar Twrch Trwyth slew several of Arthur’s knights and turned them into stone. Base yourself in St David’s and there’s the small Penrhiw Hotel, a short walk from St David’s Cathedral. St Non, mother of St David, patron saint of Wales, was the niece of King Arthur. For accommodation worthy of a king, try the luxurious Roch Castle Hotel, near Haverfordwest.

Port Talbot Neath

Not far from Neath is Craig y Ddinas and legend has it that Arthur and a thousand of his warriors are fast asleep in a hidden cave there! While Margam Country Park, the 850-acre estate, used extensively as a filming location for the Merlin TV series, is steeped in history and natural beauty. There’s a haunted castle here and a whole range of medieval events taking place throughout the year, from archery to knights displays as well as a cute 3 bedroom stone cottage to stay in, with its own secret door into the park.

Swansea Bay

Swansea Bay brings together castles, pubs and hotels all with an Arthurian link. Sitting in the hills of the Gower Peninsula, within handy walking distance of the King Arthur country pub with rooms in Reynoldston, Arthur’s Stone is said to be another pebble that bothered the royal warrior. The disgruntled monarch angrily hurled it all the way from Carmarthenshire to the top of Cefn Bryn, and it magically grew in size on the way! And for something a bit out of the ordinary and in the absence of Merlin to teach us survival skills, join Dryad Bushcraft for an introduction to bushcraft course where you’ll learn how to think like a survivor, set traps, forage wild food and shelter build all in the wilds of Gower!

Fit for a King Accommodation – How to book it!

Those embarking on a full tour can opt to spend 2 nights in Port Talbot Neath and 2nights Pembrokeshire or straddle a stay over Swansea Bay and Carmarthenshire. Two miles from Port Talbot down a country lane enjoy a quiet cottage base within the grounds of Margam Park at Ivy Cottage (2 nights from £535, sleeps up to 5 –www.holidaycottages.co.uk/wales/south-wales/ivy-cottage-at-margam-country-park), then head west to Pembrokeshire and stay in a luxury castle for two final nights (doubles from £200 a night with breakfast – www.rochcastle.com). This recommended luxury five day trip with two nights at each property would be priced from £467 per person based on two sharing.

Alternatively, live like a legend on Gower for two nights at The King Arthur Hotel (doubles from £80 a night with breakfast – www.kingarthurhotel.co.uk), then head inland to Llety Cynin (doubles from £86 a night with breakfast – www.lletycynin.co.uk), an eight-room converted coach house on a working dairy and sheep farm in St Clears, Carmarthenshire. This recommended luxury five day trip with two nights at each property would be priced from £332 per person based on two sharing.

 

Brussels will get ‘electric’ on this Iris

This coming 6-7 May, the Brussels-Capital Region will celebrate its 28th anniversary. This great festival brings together all the people of Brussels in the heart of their region and invites visitors to come and spend a weekend partying together. From free concerts to a variety of street activities, the Iris Festival draws a big audience, earning its place among the flagship events of the cultural and festival year in Brussels. Between Electro Night and Iris Nights dance floor enthusiasts will not have a moment’s rest.

On Saturday, 6 May dancers will also join in the party thanks to Electro Night which will close out the first day of the Iris Festival on a high note at Place des Palais starting at 7 PM. On Saturday, “The iris Festival in the communes” will offer the chance to explore a secret and unexpected side of Brussels by touring sites and institutions usually off limits to the public. Saturday night will feature electro music with a series of concerts that will turn Place des Palais into a giant dance floor.

Photo: (c) E. Danhier

During the day on Sunday, the Brussels Park will be transformed by a lot of activities. The cultural, athletic, and traditional associations of Brussels will present their activities in fun and interactive ways. Artistic troupes from Belgium and abroad will perform short, poetic shows, offering a magical moment to young and old alike! As the afternoon draws to a close, the Place des Palais stage will light up to welcome the project “We are Belgium” that will end this festival weekend on a high note!

Photo: (c) E. Danhier

Among the hundreds of free activities on offer during the festival weekend, Place des Palais concerts and Electro Night have been the most highly anticipated for years. It’s a wonderful time to come together and enjoy a fun festival atmosphere.

The must-see moment of the Iris Festival, Electro Night brings out fans of great music every year. Experts and novices alike will find something to love. The concerts, which will take place at Place des Palais right in the heart of Brussels, will once again showcase Belgian and international headliners.

Brussels boasts exuberant nightlife and the Iris Festival will be the ideal opportunity to spotlight its teeming array of clubs and parties. Throughout the weekend, Iris Nights invites partygoers to immerse in Brussels’ nightlife with different parties scattered around the Region.

Here’s a glimpse at a few of the many parties arranged for the occasion:

• Parad!gm Session: Codex Empire, Minimum Syndicat, Icon Template Place: Recyclart

• Parties@Centredufestivalcentrum Place: Dynastie Building

• We’re Beyond Place: Fuse

• Antitapas Rave-Einstein Night Place: Ravenstein Gallery

This Earth Day a unique effort from Uniworld for Just A Drop!

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, as a member of The Travel Corporation (TTC) family of brands and an affiliate member of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, is supporting the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017, a year-long initiative dedicated to mobilising global awareness and action around the value of tourism to create positive change.

In the spirit of this important initiative, and to observe Earth Day on 22 April, Uniworld will donate US$5 to Just a Drop, an international water aid charity for every booking made with Uniworld so more communities and beneficiaries can receive safe water and improved sanitation.

Just a Drop’s mission is to reduce child mortality by delivering accessible, clean, safe water where it is needed most. The organisation’s projects support communities through the construction of wells, boreholes, pipelines, hand pumps, and latrines and establish health and sanitation programs for some of the poorest and most remote regions in the world.

This year the global UN system, and global community at large, will promote tourism’s role in the following five key areas:

(1)        Inclusive and sustainable economic growth

(2)        Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction

(3)        Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change

(4)        Cultural values, diversity and heritage

(5)        Mutual understanding, peace and security.

“2017 is a unique opportunity for us to promote the contribution of tourism to achieving the future we want – and also to determine, together, the exact role we will have tourism play in the sustainable development agenda, to and beyond 2030,” says Dr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) . “Promotion, however, must be mirrored by action. Central, therefore, to the success of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is providing inspiring examples in leadership of tourism businesses across the globe.”

“Earth Day 2017 is a perfect opportunity for Uniworld to actualize Dr. Rifai’s stirring call to action,” explains Ellen Bettridge, President & CEO, Uniworld. “Our sustainability project partners at Just a Drop personify the belief that collectively we can make a huge difference. The fact that they’ve delivered more than 170 projects in 31 countries, helping an estimated 1.5 million children and their families, is resounding proof that this approach is highly effective. Uniworld takes pride in being able to continue supporting their invaluable efforts with our Earth Day campaign.”

Uniworld operates a fleet of 21 river cruising ships. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection—the world’s most luxurious all-inclusive river cruise line – features luxurious ships with an average capacity of 130 guests, exclusive excursions, gourmet cuisine, and one of the highest staff-to-guest ratio in the river cruise industry. Based in Los Angeles, California, Uniworld offers truly all-inclusive itineraries in Europe, as well as voyages in Russia, China, Vietnam and Cambodia, India, and Egypt—a total of 23 rivers in 24 countries worldwide. Uniworld is a member of CLIA and is highly regarded by discerning travelers, media, and cruise industry experts, having most recently been named the #1 River Cruise Line in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2016 readers’ survey. Uniworld guests automatically become esteemed members of the River Heritage Club upon completing their first voyage, eligible for a number of member-only savings and onboard benefits. For guests who book select itineraries by April 30, 2017, the river cruise line is currently offering complimentary stateroom upgrades.

A gigantic support for India’s elephants from Treadright

The TreadRight Foundation, created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands has announced that it will support TreadRight Heritage Initiative partner Wildlife SOS – India this coming Earth Day. For every booking made on Saturday, April 22, 2017 with TTC’s family of award winning brands around the world including Contiki, Insight Vacations and Trafalgar, The TreadRight Foundation will donate US$1 to Wildlife SOS – India to help save elephants in abusive or harmful situations.

Each dollar donated by TreadRight to Wildlife SOS as part of the Earth Day campaign will go directly towards supporting the organization’s land fund for the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, India with the goal of expanding the existing rescue centre in order to provide space to house 50 more elephants that are in need of rescue.

“Working with Wildlife SOS in India as one of our TreadRight Wildlife Initiative partners, we’ve had the tremendous opportunity to fully appreciate the remarkable effort and care their entire organization commits to saving elephants,” says Brett Tollman, Chief Executive, TTC and Founder, TreadRight Foundation. “That is why our travel brands across the planet are participating in this important Earth Day campaign, helping Wildlife SOS secure the land required to care for elephants still desperately in need of rescuing from harmful situations.”

Asian elephants in India suffer from a lack of elephant welfare awareness and public awareness, which sadly results in the exploitation of elephants for street begging, circus performances / entertainment and temple processions. Wildlife SOS in India aims to help rescue and rehabilitate elephants in distress, including those being used illegally under deprived conditions.

Wildlife SOS currently offer medical services to elephants in need, and train their handlers on humane treatment and management. They also run two elephant conservation and rehabilitation centres in India.

“Wildlife SOS is dedicated to the protection and conservation of the Asian Elephant in India, which remains the last stronghold of these magnificent mammals in the wild,” said Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-Founder and CEO, Wildlife SOS – India. “Awareness and training workshops for law enforcement, elephant owners and caretakers are vital to changing age old mindsets and policies that have allowed elephants to continue to be harvested from the wild and held in cruel captivity. We are grateful to The TreadRight Foundation for extending their support to Wildlife SOS to help save the Asian Elephant.”

In addition, TTC, TreadRight, and Wildlife SOS will publish “A Guide to Ethical Elephant Experiences” featuring important tips to help responsible travellers know what to avoid, to ensure their elephant experiences are rewarding for people and elephants alike.

A slice of Balinese paradise

Outside the hotel, Melia Bali

Bali itself is a dream destination and staying in Melia Bali adds zing to this dream! Its an ultimate Balinese hospitality and captures all the aura & beauty that can be associated with this beautiful island. It is a big beach resort and actually staying here is itself a complete holiday with there being a private beach and all sort of activities.

Also read: Bali is the top destination in the world

Nusa Dua area is distinctively calm and serene

Hotel is in Nusa Dua area, which itself is a calm and secluded area reserved for top class hotels, quite far from tourist frenzy at Kuta or what is like in Ubud. That might not be of liking to all, but certainly favourite for those who love to be in calm and serene place.

Also read: Bali from the sky – few captures

Once you enter the hotel, you will feel how it is like to be in a high end hotel in Bali. You will be welcomed traditionally with flowers and coconut.

Traditional welcome!

Hotel has a beautiful lobby, befitting the mood of the place. It is such a big property that you won’t find too many people (guests) around at any place, else than the beach area.

Hotel is not a high rise. It is often said about Bali that there as a rule you can’t have a building higher than a coconut tree. Hence only the main section of hotel has three floors. Rest all villas and apartments are spread in sprawling coastal greens. Overall, there are 494 accommodations in ten different categories.

Also read: White water rafting in Bali

Main section of the hotel

Hotel has every other facility, one can think of, including spa (YHI), yoga and treatments. Service is very good, staff is hospitable and food quite good. Rooms are clean, spacious and aesthetically designed.

There are also some suites with there own pool alongside there bedrooms. A pool is shared by few rooms. These are some of the best rooms in the property. Resort also has 56 premium lagoon access rooms. Lagoon access suites feature a private patio, which gives direct access to the resort’s new lagoon just steps away.

Also read: Sea on fire – Sunset at Bali beach

Suites with pool

There are also some garden villas (precisely ten), which form the top notch of accommodation in the property. All villas are in secluded compound which includes a walled tropical garden, a private plunge pool, outdoor dining area, a sunken bathtub as well as outdoor shower. Every villa has a true Balinese architecture with high class service.  It gives a totally different perspective of paradise.

Also read: From the Bali album: Royal attires for pre-wedding shoot!

Garden Villas (notice the names)

In order to showcase the traditional Balinese Hindu culture, there are many villas named on Hindu gods and there is even a temple in the complex.

Melia Bali also has a traditional Bali Hindu temple in its complex. Temple is known as Segara Amrta.

Temple inside the complex

As with all beach resorts, private beach is one of the biggest attractions and Melia Bali is no exception. Whole day, you will found guests relaxing here, enjoying water sports and other activities. Beach and pool area are the most beautiful. There are a few restaurants on the beach itself.

Same can be said about the pool area. Since there are host of pools in the whole property, you will never find any pool crowded, Hence you can have your own private moments here.

Pool area

Hotel has a beautiful landscape. Contemporary tropical architecture, bold decor and spacious gardens express the essence of Bali. There is a Sorrento Mediterranean Restaurant, Lotus Asian Garden Restaurant, Sateria Beachside restaurant, Sakura Japanese Restaurant and 24 hour El Patio coffee shop as well as Melia Bali Bars.

Beautiful landscape

Resort enjoys an excellent location just 15 kms from Ngurah Rai International airport. It is walking distance to Bali collections, which is a shopping centre, food and entertainment mall and a museum. It is 850 metres from Bali international convention centre and 750 metres from Nusa Dua Convention centre.

True Balinese vacation

Nusa Dua-ITDC area is recognised for its safety due to the international level of safety standard and security systems practiced by all hotels in the region. But if you need to venture out in the city and be the part of the hustle & bustle, then you need a transport, as the city is bit far, although there is a shopping mall nearby. Our stay in hotel was not quite long, but was quite impressive as far as we were able to experience. Tourists long remember their stay here and leave some wonderful memories like this one below, which even hotel likes to preserve.

Long-lasting memories

A bit of old world charm at Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta on the Indonesian island of Java is often called locally as Jogja or Jogjakarta. It is known for its traditional arts and cultural heritage. Hence it was quite apt for us to have stayed in a hotel known for its heritage itself. The Phoenix was such a hotel.

The original building was built in 1918 as a private residence of a trading company owner. At a time of recession in 1930s this building was auctioned. The new owner rented it out to a Dutchman who converted it into a pensioner’s hotel by the name of “Splendid”. From their the journey of almost a century has brought the hotel to its present day avatar.

This hotel has got a very distinct charm. It is certainly not of those big hotel types, but it has got a unique appeal that takes slightly back into history. It is historical in its appearance but modern in its comfort, hence it combines modernity with tradition. Though I stayed two nights at this hotel on our whirlwind tour to Indonesia but in the end, I felt that I got less time to enjoy the hotel. On to our both nights in the hotel, we had long days- first one being a day-long train journey from Bandung to Yogyakarta and next day, tiring trips to Borobudur and Prambanan temples. The Phoenix provided perfect relaxation to our exhausted souls and bodies.

Also read: Magical Sunset at Prambanan Temple

Despite its colonial appearance, hotel didn’t disappoint in its Indonesian hospitality- from traditional welcome to traditional Indonesian drinks with the buffet breakfast. For us, a mix traditional Indonesian with continental was always a preferred choice and we were delighted to get that. Being a heritage property, this hotel also gives some very unique experiences, whether through its signature cocktails or through its vintage car drives around the city to give you some fantastic experience of the city often called as Indonesia’s soul.

Also read: Amazing Ramayana Ballet of Java

 

Indonesian drinks at the buffet breakfast were simply amazing. This hotel has also been famous for one if its signature drink- “The Gin Sling”. It is a delicious recipe with gin, sweet and sour mix, grenadine syrup and soda on top. It was said to be the only drink available when this hotel was run for pensioners. Originally, the Gin Sling was meant as a woman’s drink, hence the attractive colour. But today, it is definitely enjoyed by all and regulars usually say that without this drink, any visit to The Phoenix Hotel in Yogyakarta is incomplete.

Also read: Borobudur Buddhist Temple – Spectacular & outstanding

Staff was very warm, courteous and responsive. Not too sure about the locals, but for overseas tourists, it is a hotel worth a stay to get a slice of Indonesian heritage, hospitality and luxury.

Traditional Indonesian hospitality
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World through my eyes