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Santorini: The Greek Island Of Dreams

 

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

Santorini has been on my bucket list for years. When deciding where to stop first in Europe after Egypt, Greece was high on the list. The tickets were the right price and the flight was short so off I went after my 10 days in Egypt.

Santorini lived up to every expectation I had. The pictures I was able to capture rival those that you find on-line. Honestly, it’s hard to take a bad picture in Santorini. From the beautiful beaches to the hillside homes, Santorini is every bit picturesque and mesmerizing.

SANTORINI’S FAMOUS OIA

I stayed in the slow beach town of Perissa to get away from the crowds of Fira and Oia. That is the one downfall of Santorini. It is one of the most popular islands, which means big crowds from cruise ships and tourists alike. I rented an ATV and went to Oia in the morning. By 11am the cruise ships had docked and the streets were lined with people. There are many great places to take pictures of the hillside, but the best by far is at the Byzantine Castle Ruins. I went during the day to get the best shots. I decided to not come back for sunset, because the area was so small and with all the tourists, I’d be fighting for space to get the epic sunset shot. Not my cup of tea.

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

PYRGOS VILLAGE

I did get my sunset picture though. I spent an evening over at Pyrgos. This smaller village is not by the water but is less crowded and is every bit as beautiful.

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

I spent 8 days in Santorini and was everything I imagined it to be. I’d love to come back in low season when the streets of Fira and Oia aren’t so crowded, but was worth it none the less and can’t wait to come back again someday.

 

Santorini - Greek Islands - Robyn Around the World

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Egypt: Giza Pyramids & Cairo Museum

 

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

On my way back west I decided to stop in Cairo, Egypt to break up the flight, visit friends and see the Pyramids of Giza. They’re just as magnificent in person as the pictures you see online.

Tourism is really hurting there from the bombings (There was another attack while I was there). Russia was their primary tourism, but since the attacks, Russian cut most of its flights to Egypt. There were only a handful of people at the pyramids when I was there.

GIZA PYRAMIDS

My transportation around the pyramids was via horse and buggy, but they took me by camel and horseback ride in some of the areas inside. Because I was escorted by the pyramid staff (a special tour arranged by friends), I was allowed in areas, not authorized by the public. So amazing to see a piece of history up close.

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

CAIRO MUSEUM

In the same day, I went to the Cairo museum, which holds all the artifacts of the tombs. Three levels of hundreds of thousands of stuff! It was like walking into Indiana Jones! I spent 3 hours there and still didn’t see it all. I was so overwhelmed with all that history in front of me.

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

Egypt Cairo Museum - Robyn Around the World

IS EGYPT SAFE?

People asked me if Egypt was safe. I never felt unsafe while I was there. It was nice to have the pyramids to myself, but sad to see the economy hurting due to the lack of tourists going to Egypt. My friends who are from there escorted me, but the city never felt unsafe. Eat Sleep Breathe Travel wrote a great post on ‘The Most Dangerous Places for Female Travellers.’ I think her post sums it up best. Every place can be dangerous, even in my home country the United States. Looking back, even if I didn’t have an escort, I would have done Egypt on my own.

 

Egypt Giza Pyramids - Robyn Around the World

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Indian Cooking Class: Tastesutra, Delhi

 

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

One of the things I knew I wanted to do when I went to India was to take a Indian cooking class. I found Anchal through TripAdvisor and reached out to her a couple of months before I came. Her class was the one thing I was looking forward to after my whirlwind tour of the Golden Triangle. I took an auto rickshaw to her studio and walked up the stairs into her beautiful kitchen.

Her studio is painted with bright colors of blue and is welcoming soon as you set foot in the door decorated with things she personally upcycled. She made a beautiful mirror frame out of rolled up paper, and you will also find puzzles and needlework framed and on display on the walls. Anchal started the classes 22 months ago leaving her career in marketing to follow her passion for teaching others Indian cooking how to make traditional cuisine.

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

THE INDIAN KITCHEN

Although I was the only one who booked her class for the day, she agreed to do the class for me privately. I looked at our menu for the class and was excited to learn we’d be making eight dishes and sides! Salted Lassi (Chaas), Pakoras with chutney, Chicken Curry, Dal Tadka, Paneer Labadar, Roti, Rice, and Phirni. Anchal first went over all the spices. She mentioned every Indian family would have a spice box of 7-9 spices in their house. They keep small tins in a larger tin, instead of individual jars. They do this so the spices are readily available to use since most of them are used in all dishes they create. She went over medicinal properties of some of the spices and how they are used in each dish (Asafetida helps with stomach gas in lentil dishes!). She also said she grinds all her spices fresh from the whole spice then just puts them in a spice grinder to create her own spices. I’m going to try this instead of buying McCormick’s which will be a fresher way to make my own spices and probably cheaper?

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

INDIAN DISHES

We then started making the dishes. Because Indians make all their meals fresh (they don’t have leftovers that they put in the refrigerator) they use pressure cookers to speed up the process. The Paneer and Curry dish were made with the same ingredients of tomato and onion but cooked differently. The Paneer cooks the vegetables first then blends them, where the curry makes the vegetables into a puree first then cooks them. Two completely different flavors just by changing the way they’re cooked.

All the dishes were simple to make, just a lot of spices. But with the spice box readily available with everything you need in them, it makes for an easy task. After cooking all our dishes, we sat down to eat, and she showed me how to eat with my fingers. She told me the Indians eat with their finger for two reasons. First is because you are feeding with and to your heart. Second, it helps with portion control. You tend not to over eat and take smaller bites when you use your fingers. I love the story behind this, but in America, there are not many dishes that we could really do this with (Burgers anyone?).  But, I do love the history behind it none the less and ate my lunch sans fork and spoon.

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

MARKET TOUR

After our meal, Anchal took me on a market tour. Most of the market was closed because it was a Monday. It was nice to see it not full of people as I’ve seen all week long in the other parts of Delhi. It was such a great morning and so glad she made the exception to teach me. I’m looking forward to cooking her dishes at the next place I land that has a kitchen.

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Cooking Class Details

Tastesutra

anchalbhalla@tastesutra.com

www.tastesutra.com

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

Check out the other cooking classes I’ve taken around the world:

International Cooking Classes

Indian Cooking Class -Tastesutra -Delhi, India -Robyn Around the World

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Photo Essay: India’s Golden Triangle

 

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

 

I spent ten days in India’s Golden Triangle where I walked the crazy streets of Delhi. I visited a community kitchen that feeds anyone who’s hungry four times a day with a hot meal. I then made my way over to Agra to visit one of the Seven Wonders, Taj Mahal. I thought it was a religious site, but it is actually a token of an emperor’s love to his wife after she died 19 years into their marriage. After Agra, I went on to the final city in the Golden Triangle, Jaipur which has many historic forts. Here is my ten days in a series of photographs.

 

AGRA, INDIA

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

One can not fly to Delhi without visiting the Taj Mahal. It is one of the 7 Wonders of the World and is stunning to witness.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Another tomb in Agra is the lesser known, Baby Taj.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

The details of Baby Taj are intricate.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

All made of marble.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Kids and families play down below Baby Taj, along the river.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

An older man at Fatephur Skiri.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A family of 8 piles into an auto rickshaw.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A family on the streets of Agra.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Women selling fruits and vegetables.

 

RAJASTHAN, INDIA

 

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Abhaneri Stepwells. Pre-Escher, maybe this is where he got his inspiration from?

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Amber Fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A stray dog walks down the rails of Amber Fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

The gardens inside Amber Fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

View of the city below Amber Fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

There are many monkeys that live around the fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Elephants take tourists up a steep hill in 100F+ weather. Only females are used and they can be seen resisting being forced to go up the hill. Please do your research before riding one, elephants are not meant to be ridden.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Her sad eyes tell a story of being worked hard in the strong heat.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Water Palace is out in the middle of the lake, but soon to be made into a café.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Camels are used for work in India, you can see them in most cities/villages.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A man talks on his phone and rides his horse in the middle of street traffic.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Jaipur market where you can find fruits, vegetables, clothes, and other textiles.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A woman sells pottery at the market in Jaipur.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A woman shows bangles to a girl.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Woman buying vegetable from a vendor.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Fresh dried tamarind ready to be ground into powder.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Jaipur Market.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

More Jaipur market vendors.

A woman sells her vegetables on the streets of Jaipur.

 

NEW DELHI, INDIA

 

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Men washing themselves at Jama Masjid.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Locals seeking relief from the hot sun inside the walls of the mosque.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Worshipers praying at Sikh Temple.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Volunteers peeling vegetables at the community kitchen.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A happy volunteer stirs a vat of dal to be served at lunch.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A women makes roti for the community kitchen.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Cows can be seen walking down the streets of Delhi.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

An auto rickshaw.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A man carries goods down a busy street in Old Delhi.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Tiles of religious figures are mounted to the walls of alleys to discourage men from peeing on the wall.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Laundry is done with an iron heated by coal.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Many stray dogs live on the streets of India, surprisingly there were only a few cats.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A man sweeps out in front of his shop.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Old lady walking the streets of Old Delhi.

 

I’m so glad I made the time to stop in India, even though it was only for ten days. To do it right, you’d really need at least a month or two to be able to explore all the India has to offer. But this little taste has changed my perception of India, as I felt safe and well taken care of while I was there. I know many have had bad experiences, but I opened my heart and decided when I landed that I would not let other people’s experiences dictate mine, and it was an incredible time with beautiful, colorful people.

 

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

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Savedra Beach And Community Cleanup In Moalboal, Philippines

 

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

What I love about traveling is when I get to be involved in the community where I visit. I had the chance to join a beach cleanup while I was diving in Moalboal. Savedra Dive Center was organizing the cleanup with the local kids and invited me to take pictures and join in on the fun!

Moalboal Diving Town

Moalboal is a small peninsula located on the southwest coast of Cebu Island. This little diving town brings people from all over the world to swim their famous sardine run. The sardines are just 100 meters (328 feet) off the Panagsama house reef. You can see the sardines year round, which makes Moalboal a great place to visit any time of year. I dove with the sardines three times and snorkeled with them once. I went out early morning, just me and my snorkel gear, which was my favorite time swimming with them.

 Savedra Community Cleanup

Savedra Dive Center organized the cleanup to bring awareness and education to the local children and teach them about litter and how it hurts sea life and the environment they live in. Saverdra’s instructors went to Basdiot Elementary School to give a talk about litter and see how many kids would be interested in participating in the cleanup. By the end of the talk, there were more kids that wanted to do the cleanup than there were teachers to supervise! The kids were really excited about the prizes, which included scuba courses and snorkeling equipment to the kids who collected the most trash.

Volunteers were made up of ninety-five students from grade five, along with twelve teachers and fifteen members of Savedra staff. Both the faculty and Savedra staff pitched in to make the day a success. We started at 8:00 am, the teachers organized the students into ten groups, and each student was given a large rice bag to collect trash. Each group was designated to head to one of four beach and community locations. After getting their trash bags, and bags of snacks to take with them, the kids were off to collect trash! And I was off on the back of a motorbike, I had a personal driver for the day!

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

The Final Tally!

The kids really got into it by picking up everything from glass to paper to metal in order to clean up the streets and beach areas. By 2:00 pm the kids were back at the school with their bags filled to the brim. In total, the kids collected 917 Kilograms (2000+ Pounds!) of trash!

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra also does regular reef cleanups with their divers. But, for this small town, the community cleanup is an excellent way to bring locals and expats together. It’s something that benefits everyone in the community. The kids enjoyed it, and I loved being a part of it!

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World




Should You Swim With The Whale Sharks In Oslob?

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World.

Swimming with whale sharks, a divers dream, but there is a lot of controversy about swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob. Many divers refuse to swim with them in Oslob because they feel the conditions are unfair. I originally wasn’t going to go. I didn’t want to condone the behavior. I changed my mind after talking to some local and expat dive shops and hearing their take. I decided to check it out and experience it myself and try to keep an open mind while I was there.

Shark Finning In The Philippines

Before this tiny town became a popular area to swim with the whale sharks, they were being harvested and their fins sold for income. Shark finning is illegal in the Philippines now, but it wasn’t for some time, and the whale shark populations were dwindling. The act of shark finning is when a fisherman catches a shark then slices of its fins and drops the rest of the body, alive, into the water to die. The sharks aren’t used for their full body meat, just the fins. Shark Fin Soup is very popular in Asia and the fins fetch a high dollar ticket when exported out. Many chefs, like Gordon Ramsey, have promoted not putting fins in shark fin soup. The fins don’t have a taste and have just become this commodity that has drove demand over the years.

How Swimming With Whale Wharks In Oslob Started

Local fishermen use shrimp as bait to catch fish, and the whale sharks were drawn to the shrimp and stuck around the boats. A local dive shop owner encouraged the fishermen not to fin them. He said to bring them into the bay by feeding them krill where they could share them with the community and tourists alike. The small town of Oslob went from not being able to send their children to school and living in shacks with no bathrooms to now where children have education, and families live in homes with plumbing and electric. If it weren’t for the sharks, this small town would still be struggling.

A foreign dive shop owner, from the UK, talked to me about not supporting them for years, in an effort to do their part in helping to put an end to it. He realized that divers were just going to other shops when his shop refused to go. His shop now offers dive trips to Oslob again, but his staff gives a thorough briefing along with educating his guests about the whale sharks and Oslob’s history with them.

My Experience Snorkeling With Whale Sharks In Oslob

My first impression upon arriving was that it wasn’t so bad, organization wise. Once there you are ushered to get your ticket (snorkeling is 1000 pesos and diving is 1500 Pesos). You then head off to another area to listen to a briefing on the do’s and don’ts of swimming with the whale sharks. I like that they have a briefing, but not everyone attends nor does everyone listen to what they are saying. The briefer did hit all the major points: stay at least 6m away from the whale sharks, don’t use sunscreen, and no swimming off from the boat to chase after them.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Once the briefing was over, I waited for my number to be called then headed out to the boats. The boats are regulated, and there weren’t more than 20 boats out at a time when I went. The boats were also all daisy chained up in a line, so there was some organized fashion with the boats, they’re not just a free for all in the Bay. Once chained up to your neighboring boat, you’re allowed to get in the water, staying next to the boat to wait for the whale sharks to pass you.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Here’s where the mixed emotion comes in. There are a few smaller boats in the water with a single fisherman on each, and he is hand-feeding the whale sharks buckets of krill. There tends to be one whale shark per boat, and they just follow the boat up and down the path of the tourists, eating the krill. In my eyes, this is not really an authentic experience. The whale sharks aren’t concerned about anything other than getting fed by the fishermen. They’re basically pets without leashes following their owner.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Why Feeding The Whale Sharks In Oslob Is Hurting Them

What I first noticed is none of the boats have propellers which are great, the whales won’t get chewed up by coming in contact with them, but what I witnessed is the whale sharks still had scrapes and cuts on them. The theory is because these sharks are used to being fed, they are going up to any boat once they are outside the bay thinking they’re going to be fed and are getting hit with the boat propellers.

Feeding the whale sharks is also breaking their migratory patterns. A local dive shop said that it’s the smaller whale sharks that stay in the bay and only for a few years then head off, but there’s not much data proving this.

Final Thoughts

I was surprised to see there were more local tourists here than foreign tourists. Since the whale shark tourism isn’t going away anytime soon, I feel it’s a great way for the local tourists to see what’s in their waters and learn how to protect them and why they’re so important. They are also supporting the locals, giving them a better life. For the foreigners, I felt like I was at Disneyland. Many were screaming like they were on a wild ride. You’re not offered fins unless you bring them. I was the only one on my boat with fins, which helped in getting underneath the manic tourists. Most of the people in the boat, once in the water, were kicking and screaming when the whale sharks got close, and some even kicked them. Not really my cup of tea.

I honestly only spent about 10 minutes in the water with them. Absorbing what was going on around me, I took a bunch of pictures, yelled at a few tourists on my boat who were getting too close and generally just freaking out, and then got out. I honestly don’t know if paying the extra money to dive with them would have been any different.

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World

As a dive professional, I believe, this is not the way to see these beautiful creatures. When you see one of these beauties in the wild, it’s like you are given a gift. Going to a place like Oslob where you know you’re guaranteed to see them, it takes the thunder away from seeing them in their natural environment. This was my first time seeing them and now more than ever, I want to see them when it’s not a guarantee, but when one randomly shows up on one of my dives. That will be an experience of a lifetime and one to remember and cherish.

 

Should you swim with the whale sharks in Oslob? - Robyn Around the World.

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Scuba Diving In Cebu, Philippines

 

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World.

I had two things on my agenda when I went to Cebu Island in the Philippines. Moalboal to dive the Sardine Run and Malapascua to swim with Thresher sharks! I loved the laidback town of Moalboal. I absolutely fell in love with the little diving town and the locals. I really felt a connection there. Malapascua has some incredible diving and is away from the hustle of Cebu Island. It was fun to hang out on bean bag chairs while watching the sunset on the beach. I dove at both places and neither disappointed!

Moalboal

I spent most of my time here. I was only planning eight days and winded up staying 13! I couldn’t get enough of the diving and fell in love with the locals. If my heart wasn’t set on seeing the thresher sharks, I would have stayed here the whole month I was in Cebu. While here, I dove ten times. While all the dive sites are good, there are two that you must do when you’re there.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

House Reef – Sardine Run (3-65m – 100 m from beach)

My favorite dive out of all of them, even over the thresher sharks! This reef is right off the shore so you can take your snorkel gear and go anytime you’d like. I went early (6:30 am) one more and had them all to myself. It was the most magical time! Of course having a tank on your back lets you stay down a lot longer than a single breath, but there was something mystical about being out there with them by myself in that early morning.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Pescador Island (55m+ –  15 minutes)

Pescador is another site that divers come for. The island is a short ride out and has a beautiful, healthy reef that’s full of color. If you’re a frogfish fan, you’re going to love this dive site. We spotted easily 4-5 on each dive.
Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Malapascua

Malapasuca is just a 35 minute boat ride from the top of Cebu Island. The island doesn’t have ATM’s or cars and you can walk the island in a couple hours. The island isn’t just for divers, it’s tailored to all tourists with its beaches lined with bars, dive shops and restaurants.  There are two popular dive sites here, Monad Shoal and Gato Island. Don’t miss diving at these two amazing sites!

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines -  Robyn Around The World..

Monad Shoal (26m+ – 20 mins)

Thresher Sharks!!! This is one of the only places in the world where they can be seen almost every morning. They are best seen at sunrise, so prepare to be up at 4:00 am to jump in the boat to get out there. The sharks are at about 24m so make sure you’re nitrox certified so you can get the longest bottom time with them. This is a show you don’t want to miss!

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Gato Island (24m – 40 mins)

Gato Island is another famous dive site on the island. It’s a marine and sea snake sanctuary. I saw a few banded sea snakes on each of my dives. You can also see cuttlefish, scorpion fish, coral banded shrimp, nudibranchs, and plenty of reef sharks. I even saw my first big seahorse! I mean pigmys are cute and all, but I had a great time following a male around while he jumped from coral to coral.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World.

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Weekend In Melaka

 

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Just 2 hours south of Kuala Lumpur is Melaka, designated UNESCO World Heritage in 2008 along with Penang. It was once a trading port that was once run by the Portuguese. The town is small and walk friendly as most of its attractions are within a 1km radius. Being a huge fan of Penang, I was excited to hear about Melaka having the same cultural feel and couldn’t wait to check it out.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Getting There

It’s easy to get to Melaka by Bus from Kuala Lumpur via Terminal Bersepadu Selatan. The VIP luxury buses are only 14.40 MYR ($3.25) each way, the seats are roomy, and the ride is smooth, unlike other buses I’ve taken in Southeast Asia! If you are only making a day out of Melaka and plan to take the bus back on the same day, make sure you buy your return to guarantee your spot back. You can buy tickets at the station or for ease of mind you can pay an extra $0.25 to book them online. Once you get to the bus station in Melaka, you can quickly grab an Uber for ~7 MYR (~$2) to take you to Dutch Square, which is the heart of Melaka.

Dutch Square

Dutch Square is a photographer’s dream! All the buildings are painted red and make for stunning pictures. Dutch Square has four main buildings: the Stadthuys, Christ Church, Queen Victoria’s Fountain, and Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower. Here you will also see elaborate decorative trishaws lined up looking to take tourists on a ride around the city. There’s also a food stall across the street, selling chendol and fresh watermelon juice. This is a great place to start. The museum in Stadthuys is worth the visit and gives the history of Melaka.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Chicken and Rice Balls

Melaka is known for chicken and rice balls and the place to get it is Chung Wah. This shop is right at the entrance to Jonker Street and has been there since the 1960’s. Locals and tourists start lining up right before they open at 8:30 am to have a plate of their family recipe. Only two things are on the menu, Hainanese chicken, and rice balls. You have your option of half-chicken, whole chicken or two chickens served along with rice balls and an amazing chili sauce. I’m a huge fan of chili and dumped easily ½ a cup on my chicken! The flavor is amazing! You can find chicken rice everywhere in Melaka, but this is the best place to get it. The chicken was super fresh and probably the juiciest I’ve tasted. They’re only open for breakfast and lunch so make sure you head over there before they close at 3 pm

Price: 25 MYR ($5.75) for half a chicken and rice balls

Hours: 8:30 am – 3 pm

Location: 18, Jalan Hang Jebat

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Baba Charlie Nyonya Cake

I heard about this place from a friend in Penang; she said I must go there to get some Nyonya treats. I took an Uber to go check them out as they’re ~2.5 Km from town. Located down a narrow alley is a residential house that sells about a few dozen different kinds of desserts called kuih. When I walked in the first thing I noticed was a bunch of ladies hard at work making the treats. I asked if I could take pictures of them, which they happily smiled for.   Walking into another room is where all the magic was. So many colorful kuih! They give you baskets to load up, and I decided on three to take away and try. At ~$0.50-1.00 a dessert, it’s easy to add one of each to your basket! I refrained and picked three traditional items to taste. I liked all of them, but really loved the blue rice with palm sugar coconut.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Street Art

I hadn’t heard about the street art here, but one thing that keeps bringing me back to Penang (besides the fantastic food!) is the street art. It was an awesome surprise to see that Melaka also has their fair share of art on the street. Most of it is concentrated along the river, so I highly recommend walking the river and checking out all the wall murals out.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Jonker 88 – Chendol

I’m not going to lie; I haven’t tried chendol until now. I know I’ve been to Malaysia at least eight times over the past year, and I haven’t tried chendol?? Honestly, there’s just so much going on with it that it intimidated me. Upon arriving in Melaka everyone, of course, says get the chendol! I hadn’t planned on getting it, but then I saw Melaka Chendol wasn’t like Penang’s. It’s like a stripped down version of it and not so scary. Melaka’s chedol is basic, served with red bean, green chendol and shaved ice then topped with a healthy portion of Gula Melaka (palm sugar sauce) and coconut milk. I figured I’d give it a go and was told Jonker88 was the place to get it. WOW! So good! I got mine without beans (don’t like them), and just the simpleness of the other four ingredients was a milkshake in my mouth. Jonker88 makes a few different types from plain to durian. Maybe next time I’ll try the durian version.

Price: 4-5 MYR ($1.00-1.25)

Hours: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm

Location: 88, Jonker Street

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Jonker Street – Night Market

I had heard about Jonker Street Night Market and decided to come to Melaka during the weekend so that I could check it out. The night market is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 6:00 pm – 12:00 am. I love markets! Jonker Street shuts down car traffic to make it a walking street after 6:00 pm. The road is narrow, so I would suggest going early as you’ll be walking through like sardines after 8:00 pm. At the end of the street, I noticed a big stage, huge screen, and a microphone. Karaoke!!!! There are even seats set up in front of the stage so your friends, family, and strangers can cheer you on!

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Flora De La Mar Museum

You can’t miss the restored Flora De La Mar Portuguese ship that has now been converted into a museum. There are many museums in Melaka, and this is one I highly recommend. Your ticket not only gets you into the Flora De La Mar but also the Royal Navy Museum and Maritime Museum. I rented the walking tour headsets to learn about the history. Was surreal to learn Macallum had a fingerprint in Melaka after just hearing about him in Cebu, Philippines. I love that all my travels and history are intertwining together.

Cost: 10 MYR ($2.25) Admission; 3 MYR ($0.75) headphone tour

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

River Cruise

While I didn’t actually take a river cruise, it looked awesome! I winded up walking down the riverside instead. I was told the best time to ride is at night, unfortunately, I was already set to leave that day. Next time I go, I will take the sunset or night tour. For only $3.50 for a 40-minute boat ride, it’s worth it!

Cost: 15 MYR ($3.50) for 40 minutes

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Menara Taming Sari Tower Ride

While checking out the maritime museum, I noticed tower across the way and walked over to check it out. It was the Menara Taming Sari Tower that rotates in the sky giving a 360-degree view of Melaka. The ride itself is only about 7-8 minutes long, but it’s worth the price. I couldn’t stop smiling or taking pictures the whole time I was up there. I rode up during the day, but I bet a sunset or night ride would be spectacular.

Cost: 23 MYR ($5.25) and includes a free water bottle

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Trishaw Ride

I’ve taken trishaw rides in Penang, but these take trishaw to a whole another level! These trishaws are elaborately decorated with loud music booming. You can find them lined up at Dutch Square with menus of attractions they can take you to. This is an excellent way to see the city on a hot day if you don’t feel like walking around.

Cost: 40 MYR ($9.25) for 60 minutes

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Walk Along The River

My favorite part of Melaka! I love the river running through the center of town. I would pick cafes to hang out at just to view the river. My hotel was right on the river too, so I walked the river every morning. There is a lot to see on the river walk as that’s’ where most of the street art is. Highly recommend walking in the morning or early evening.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Watermelon Juice

This is the first time I’ve seen this! They take a small watermelon, make a hole in the top, take a hand mixer and mix up the inside, then use a funnel to add ice, then serve. Mind blown!

Locations: Dutch Square & Jonker Night Market

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

All prices correct as of April 2017

 

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

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Weekend In Koh Mak

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

Koh Mak is a small island off Southeast Thailand, a 35-minute speedboat ride from Trat. Koh Mak has a unique history in that five families own the island. These families inhabit 80% of the land. Mainland locals and foreigners run the other 20%. Koh Mak wasn’t open to tourism until 1974 but really started targeting tourists in the late 1980’s. Unlike other islands like Phuket, the families have agreed not to allow tourism to grow too big. There are only 25 resorts on the island, allowing only 600 people, which keeps the tourist numbers low. The family’s primary goal is to keep work, life balance while also sharing their beautiful island to others.

Koh Mak is a green island, which they brand as low-carbon. Starting the movement in 2007, all the streetlights are run by solar power along with many of the resorts and restaurants. You will see many bikes for rent on the street as the island is only 16 square kilometers (6 square miles) and is best seen by bicycle with its accessible roads.

Surrounded by 27 Km (16 miles) of beautiful coastal beaches, you’ll have your pick of a private oasis to hang out and swim. The island also has a coconut and rubber tree plantation. Drinking coconut water is a daily staple of the locals and tourists alike. There’s nothing like sipping a coconut, cut fresh from the tree.

While I was there, I took a tour with Royal Silk Holiday and got a feel for how the locals live and how they stay green.

KOH MAK MUSEUM

The first place we stopped was the Koh Mak Museum, which is run by one of the five families. The owner gave a history of Koh Mak and showed us the family tree. He also explained how important it is to him and the other four families to not bring in too much tourism to keep a healthy balance. Koh Mak being champions of the low-carbon movement, are continually looking for ways to make their island green.

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

KOH MAK SEAFOOD

Next to the museum is a seafood restaurant that runs solely on solar power. They get all their seafood from local fisherman and serve only fresh fish that was caught on the day. The fish are kept in nets and containers in the water to stay in their natural environment, instead of tanks.

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

CASTAWAY

The second day we did an activity called ‘Castaway.’ It started off taking a 2-hour solar powered boat ride to the island of Koh Kradad. Here we learned how to open a coconut by hand just using the edge of a tree to open. We then learned how to make a fire using magnesium sticks, then cooked bamboo rice over the fire. This was such a fun activity, and I will totally be showing off my coconut opening skills to friends and family in the future!

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

COOKING COMPETITION

After our day on the island, we went over to the island’s organic farm which produces 70% of the vegetables for the island. Here is where we had a friendly food competition where we made Som Tom (Papaya Salad), a green salad, and spring rolls. After getting a tour of the farm, we went through and picked all the ingredients we needed for our dishes. We then created them to be judged by our three tour guides. In the end, each tour guide chose a separate dish they liked so in the end, we all won!

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

KAYAKING

On our last day, we went kayaking to the private island of Koh Rayang Nok. The island was purchased 30 years ago for $50,000 and is now on the market for a mere $6 Million. Any takers?

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

I really enjoyed all the activities on tour. The island is great if you’re looking to get away from the party islands and just want a quiet weekend to enjoy the beach.

 

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

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I’d like to thank Royal Silk Holidays and DASTA for sponsoring me on their low carbon tour of Koh Mak. As always all opinions are my own.




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