Browsing Category

Boutique Budget

The Roger
Boutique Budget, Travel

8 Gorgeous Hotels Under a Hundred Bucks a Night

It’s easy to tell yourself you aren’t travelling to spend time in your hotel room, but really… who wants to spend their nights somewhere that isn’t as nice as home? The good news is whilst a decadent splurge is lovely, it’s not essential to ensure you get your shut-eye somewhere worthy of your Instagram account. Here’s my pick of 8 gorgeous hotels around the world that will set you back under $100.00 USD a night (OK, I’ve cheated on one by $19).

Ace Hotel, New York City
From $95.20 USD / night

The Roger, New York City
From $119.00 USD / night

Hotel Mayet, Paris
From €68.00 / night

Hotel Vondel, Amersterdam
From €65.00 / night

Metropolitian by Como, Bangkok
From ฿3,200 / night

The Stiles Hotel (formerly Hotel Nash), Miami
From $92.65 USD / night

Usha Kiran Palace, India
From ₹4,500 / night

This last one is a shoutout to my husband… he’s got a significant birthday this year and, well… Firenze is always a good idea.

Hotel Home, Florence
From €63.20 / night

 

The Bale - Nusa Dua
Boutique Budget, Travel

Stay Bali

It’s true; there are two kinds of Bali. The loud, beer-soaked, sunburnt kind and the seriously luxe, chic version. Fortunately, neither is particularly expensive. I can’t help with the former, but here’s my pick of luxurious places to stay on the island, each of which starts under $300 USD a night.

The Bale - Nusa Dua

The Bale, Nusa Dua – lots of light, lots of space, zero children. Perfect. From $283.00 USD

L Hotel Lifestyle Suite Bedroom

L Hotel, Seminyak – a more metropolitan style than you’d expect in Bali (L Hotel wouldn’t be out of place in downtown New York), this is the place to stay when you plan on spending your trip flitting between the beach and the bar. From $98.00 USD

Alila - Ubud

Alila, Ubud – bliss without a beach in sight – think volcanic mountains brushed with lush jungle. From $218.00 USD

Hu'u Villas - Seminyak

Hu’u Villas, Seminyak – Loft-style living, for when you want to pretend you’re still at home but the weather is mysteriously awesome and everything is much cheaper. From $295.00 USD a night.

The Amala Pool Villa Bedroom
The Amala, Seminyak
 – Secluded? Spacious? Seminyak? It might seem like an impossible trio, but Amala makes it happen. From $153.00 USD a night.

The Menjangan

The Menjangan, Buleleng – Isolated and genuine, The Menjangan and its surrounds offer a version of Bali only a relative few ever see. From $145.00 USD a night.

Uma by Como

Uma by Como, Ubud – Be warned: Uma hotels are the modestly-priced gateway drug to the absolute luxury that is Como. Simple styling amongst traditional details without being fussy. From $202.50 USD a night.

 

Robot Show Dancer
Boutique Budget, Travel

12 Hours In Tokyo

To celebrate Jetstar’s first direct Melbourne to Tokyo flight, we spent 12 intoxicating hours in the world’s most high-impact city. Here’s how it went down. 

Fast paced and bustling in every direction, Tokyo is intimidating at first but it doesn’t take long to fall in love with this true urban jungle. My time in the city was brief, but plenty long enough to sow the seed of what is sure to be a life-long romance.

It would be impossible to experience everything that Tokyo has to offer in a lifetime, let alone a day. By sticking to the same general area, making sure everything was reasonably close by and easy to get to, I was able to fill 12 hours with a series of wonderful and varied Japanese experiences.

Here’s a look at 12hrs in Tokyo from 10am to 10pm, in the Shinjuku-Shibuya district.

The famous Shibuyu crossing in Tokyo, the busiest intersection in the world

Shibuya crossing

A great place to start as it’s conveniently located next to Shibuya Train Station, is the fantastic Shibuya crossing, made famous in the west by Sophia Coppola’s film, Lost in Translation.

Pedestrians wait patiently on the sidewalk, and when that little man turns green everyone enters the intersection at once, from all directions. It’s a minute of organized chaos. Fascinating to watch and an exhilarating, real Tokyo experience.

Shopping at Shibuya 109

Shopping at Shibuya 109

This enormous and on-trend mall has a dedicated tower for men’s and women’s fashion. They stand opposite each other on either side of Shibuya Crossing. The malls are unlike any shopping experience you will find elsewhere in the world; rather than being spread out these slim towers just go up and up and up. There are levels upon levels of little boutiques, and you’re sure to find something you can’t live without in each one. Be warned though, Japanese sizes run very small compared to the west and some may find it disheartening.

Lunch at Genki Sushi

Lunch at Genki Sushi near Forever 21

I was surprised to discover that sushi is much harder to find in Japan than it is in Australia, but this sushi experience is so much better than boring store-front sushi shops that we’re used to. Diners each get their own booth and select their food from a touchscreen menu, to have it fly at them minutes later on a conveyor belt. You will see yours and other diners’ food shoot around the room, freshly made straight from the kitchen. With low prices in English and the ability to see what you’re ordering, this restaurant is very traveller friendly; and trust me, that’s what you’ll be wanting in this busy and confusing area.

Takeshita Street in Harajuku

Takeshita Street in Harajuku

Experience Takeshita Street in Harajuku

Consider taking cash only for this leg of your trip as here you’ll find yourself wanting one of everything. Takeshita Street is known for its Kawaii style, and is the center for everything Harajuku-style. From burger or hotdog printed socks to kitty backpacks and platform canvas sneakers, you’ll find all the kitsch you could ever want in Takeshita Street. Surprisingly, this is where you’ll discover a lot of vintage clothes and accessories, too. Takeshita Street is also the place to try proper Japanese crepes in Tokyo.

Yoyogi Park

Meiji Jingu Shrine and museum at Yoyogi Park

Just across the road from the entrance to Takeshita Lane you’ll find Yoyogi Park. The park is more like a sizeable and stunning forest, with a few large paths running through it. In the centre of the park is the Meiji Jingu Shrine, a little bit of history in the centre of a modern city. There is also a museum in the park that is worth a visit for only 500 Yen entry.

Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens

Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens

With traditional French, English and Japanese gardens, you won’t become bored with the landscape while walking through these huge gardens. If you’re short on time, the highlight is perhaps the greenhouse, for its intense aromas. about a delightful feature of these gardens is that they change with the seasons; so visiting in the winter will be an entirely different experience to visiting in the spring. I just missed out on the cherry blossoms, but it was still breathtakingly beautiful.

The incredible show from Robot Restaurant, a must see in Tokyo

Dinner and a show at Robot Restaurant

Robot Restaurant simply can’t be missed. If you haven’t heard of it, well, in the immortal words of Molly Meldrum – do yourself a favour and find out. It’s difficult to describe, but expect girls in bikinis, guitar playing robots, unbelievable costumes, lights, music, pole dancing, percussion, giant robots (and lots of them), weird and wonderful props, a huge cow and toys that children and adults could only dream of. This one of a kind performance is unforgettable. If it sounds crazy, it’s because it is. You can dinner eat here or at any of the wonderful little restaurants situated in the same area. Tickets are $60.00 AUD excluding food and drinks, but it’s worth every last cent and more.

Admire the neon city of Shinjuku

By the time the show is finished it should be dark out, which means that Tokyo will have transformed from its daytime façade into the incredible neon city that it is. Uber-urban Shinjuku is absolutely stunning in the day, but ten times so at night. I really can’t emphasize that enough. It’s a great area to just explore and while you wander with the entire world moving around you at super speed, take it all in: Tokyo just being its wonderful self.

 

Mardy travelled to Japan courtesy of Jetstar on their first direct Melbourne to Tokyo flight. Direct routes and fantastic prices? You’ve officially run out of excuses. 

Mister Zimi - Shot at Motel Mexicola
Boutique Budget, Destination Dining, Destination Drinking, Extreme Luxury, Travel

Must Map: Bali, Indonesia

Ah, Bali. If you’re Australian it’s easy to write off this idyllic location as an alcohol-soaked cheap getaway but as we recently discovered, it’s so very much more. To celebrate the first flight of their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, we joined Jetstar in Bali and unearthed more gems than can really fit on one map. When flights are Jetstar-priced, what’s stopping you from trying them all?

Presenting our Must Map for Bali… edition one!

The Lifestyle Department - Must Map - Bali

MUST TASTE
There are many local delights to be sampled when you’re in Bali, but if you’re used to enjoying an assortment of different cuisines, there’s no need to stop when you’re here.

Finn's Beach Club

Finn’s Beach Club – Uluwatu

BABA’s at Hu’s Bar (Seminyak)
South-east Asian cuisine, sumptuous cocktails and plenty of people watching in this enchanted garden. Don’t miss the laksa. 

Motel Mexicola (Seminyak)
For some good old-fashioned Mexican in er, Bali. Sit on the street, soak up the heat and knock back a taco and tequila or two.

Sea Circus (Seminyak)
If you’re thinking performing sea monkeys, you’re going to be disappointed. Neither a circus nor on the sea, Sea Circus is great for sipping, supping, brunching and lunching. Get to it.

Cafe Zucchini (Seminyak)
Cute little cafe sporting the sort of menu that wouldn’t be out of place in Melbourne or San Francisco. Easy choice when you’re up to your eyeballs on local cuisine.

Revolver Espresso (Seminyak)
Where is the good coffee in Bali? Here. Here it is. Down an alley, of course. 

Chandi Restaurant
Oh Chandi, your satay, your ginger sorbet, your jugs of cocktails, your private dining room and soothing air conditioning. Can we take you home?

Finn’s Beach Club (Uluwatu)
Imagine you could walk into one of those idyllic restaurants in magazines – built on the beach, surrounded by baby-blue warm waters and serving sumptuous food. You can, it’s Finn’s.

Ibu Oka (Ubud)
Do you love pork? Really, truly, love it? Then this is the place for you. It’s not fancy, but it is packed with enthusiastic locals gorging on pig.

Bebek Bengil AKA Dirty Duck Diner (Ubud)
Where do locals go for duck? Bebek Bengil, that’s where. Take a seat in your own private hut, share some dishes and take in the view of the rice paddy (and one curious, lonesome Bottle Brush tree).

 

MUST DO
Not one for kite surfing? No problem. No one in Bali will think any less of you for doing… well, nothing. 

Sundara Bali - Jimbaran Bay

Sundara Bali – Jimbaran Bay

Potato Head (Seminyak)
Everybody goes here. You should probably go once. People will ask if you went. There’s a pool and a bar and you can see the beach.

Sundara (Jimbaran Bay)
Happy Hour by a lotus flower just metres from the beach? Yes please. Sundara is part of the well-appointed (and charmingly gated) Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay.

 

MUST HAVE
There are now a plethora of gorgeous boutiques to choose from in Bali selling everything from clothing to homewares and art. Seminyak and Ubud are particular hotspots. Try these three on for starters.

Mister Zimi - Shot at Motel Mexicola

Australian / Indonesian label Mister Zimi – shot at Motel Mexicola

Mister Zimi (Seminyak)
A glorious accident if ever there was one (the name Mister Zimi is a mashup of husband-and-wife team Zoe and Jimi), Mister Zimi concocts the sort of pieces you’ll love to wear in Bali, and then keep on high rotation when you get home.

Enfant Paradis (Seminyak)
The Enfant Paradis store is a welcome relief from what can be sweaty, same-y shopping in Seminyak. Pick your way through the stepping stones and open the door to a mercifully air-conditioned, beautifully designed mecca of good smells.

Milo’s (Seminyak)
If you’re after a special something for your wardrobe to remember Bali by, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better quality than Milo’s. With Italian design, Italian fabric and Balinese production, it’s a match made in heaven.

MUST STAY
From budget to extreme luxury and everything in between, Bali has a player on every base.

Semara Uluwatu

Semara Luxury Villa Resort – Uluwatu

Hu’u Villas (Seminyak)
Ah, the perfect balance of island luxury (your own private pool), party time (your courtyard can be joined to next doors’ for happy hour) and details (the linen store is air conditioned to keep everything fresh as a daisy). When can we move in? Rooms from $295.00 USD per night. 

One Eleven (Seminyak)
Chic, minimalist and luxurious… if you get sick of all that serenity though, the hustle and bustle of Seminyak is but a moment away. Only 9 rooms and they start at around $580.00 USD per night.

Semara Luxury Villa Resort (Uluwatu)
Since you’ve saved all that cash on your flight with Jetstar, you may as well go all out on the accommodation. Snaffle yourself one of these villas. Options include massage / private chef / cable car rides to Finn’s. Stunning clifftop view of ocean mandatory. Suites start from $1,188.00 USD per night.

Uma by Como (Ubud)
For the side of Bali that isn’t about the beach, you can’t go past Uma by Como. Just 5 minutes’ drive from the centre of Ubud yet somehow in the middle of the forested volcanic mountains. Rooms start at approximately $216.00 USD a night.

Download a large high-quality version of the map to print here – Must Map – Bali.

Special thanks again to Jetstar for inviting us to join their celebration. Anytime you want to christen a new plane, you just let us know and we’ll be there with passport in hand. We’re selfless like that.

Indian woman in traditional jewellery and scarf
Boutique Budget, Travel

Travel With A Conscience

Indian woman in traditional jewellery and scarf

Chances are that somewhere on your computer, in a long lost journal or in the back of your mind, there’s a list of places you still want to explore. Maybe you’ve listed Paris, Amsterdam or New York, New York; but have you considered going off the beaten track, saving money and making a difference by taking your next trip as an eco-tourist?

Eco-tourism (in case you’re new to the concept) is about travelling to developing countries in order to help strengthen that country’s economy. The money spent travelling creates jobs and helps communities to grow, while intrepid adventurers (OK, tourists) get a great holiday in return.

I spent my earliest years of study saving frantically to spend a few months travelling around Europe. When I finally had the money, I decided that I didn’t want to spend it all on one holiday. Instead I spent four life-changing months in India without depleting my precious savings account.

In India the landscape and people are so diverse, that you feel as if you may as well be touring different countries. I remember riding my rented bicycle down the ancient, cobbled lanes of Varanasi and thinking that it reminded me of pictures of Paris that I’d fallen in love with. I spent a night in the desert under more stars than I could fathom and I went paragliding in the mountains of Darjeeling where I could see the Himalayas clear and enormous on the horizon.

And though I had the best time of my life so far, the trip wasn’t all about me.

Ganjes - India

When you travel to a country with a weak economy, every cent that you spend goes toward developing the communities that you visit. And if the good karma isn’t enough for you, the money that you spend travelling will go a lot further in poorer countries than in wealthier ones.

My favourite memory from a trip to Timor Leste in 2011, was dining with friends on the sands of a stunning beach at twilight, eating the most delicious, freshest fish that I have ever had the absolute pleasure of tasting. For the twelve of us this cost less than $30.00 AUD, including a generous tip. Timor Leste is less than a four-hour flight from Darwin!

Of course though, these savings don’t come without some drawbacks.

If you choose to travel somewhere that struggles with poverty, chances are you will eventually be confronted with the awful realities of those living in need. It can be painful, especially when our lives are beyond comfortable in comparison to other’s’, but it also reminds you how lucky we really are.

Indian man in desert

It’s also likely you’ll have to deal with some lower standards of luxury. Particularly in India, I had to be flexible and adapt to a way of life that is so unlike ours in Australia. Everything works differently. While at home it might be unacceptable if the power cuts out and Wi-Fi isn’t working, it’s commonplace in India and they won’t understand why you’re so upset about it. The same goes for hot water being ice cold, chaotic traffic and the occasional disparity between food received and food ordered.

If those are the sorts of things that are going to ruin your holiday, perhaps consider staying a resort for the majority of your trip. A resort in Timor Leste however, is still going to be cheaper than a resort in Hawaii, and still has a good dose of that feel-good eco-tourism factor.

If you choose not to spend your days relaxing on the beach though, and venture out into the magnificent and unknown world, your efforts won’t go unrewarded.

While on my trip in Timor Leste I met incredible people and was witness to extraordinary sights. The beaches are truly stunning and as it isn’t yet a world famous tourist destination, I had those beaches almost to myself.

Not only was I enjoying the culture, the scenery and the adventure, I felt fantastic knowing that the money I spent was going somewhere positive. I’m still saving for that trip around Europe, but before then I’ll be heading back to India and Timor, and I also have plans to travel Africa and Nepal.

Continue Reading