Category: Travel

Truly a Winter Wonderland: 6 days in Niseko.

There’s nothing in the world that brings out your inner child like dry, powdery, perfect snow, floating down to create literal mountains of endless fun. Speak to anyone in the snow-sports scene and they will tell you the best snow in the world can be found in Hokkaido, Japan.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to snowboard, and I did give it a red-hot crack once for a single winter day a few years ago. I enjoyed it, but it was difficult. The snow in Australia was more like ice and I fell A LOT. After that I subconsciously gave up the idea, but maintained an optimistic front and kept it on the bucket list.

Fast forward to three years later and I’m planning my endless travels, including a three-week leg in Japan in March. Trawling through the bucket list (which is how I plan most of my travels), ‘learn to snowboard’ catches my eye once more, so I booked a part of my trip as a snow holiday in Hokkaido, where I was lucky enough to stumble upon a deal that took me to a small village named Hirafu, located in the Niseko area.

View.

I found myself in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Hirafu Village sits at the base of Mt Niseko-Annapuri, and is the central spot for snow activities all over the mountain and at its base. The main road points directly up the mountain, creating one of the most spectacular winter views I have ever seen, especially at night when lights are projected against the towering slopes and the roads are dotted with gold.

The main street of Hirafu Village.

Pictures don’t do it justice. It was truly enchanting. A walk or a bus ride around the local area revealed other incredible sights, but the night view of the village was the one that took my breath away.

Snowboarding.

My attention was quickly stolen by the number of snow activities packed into this small area. There’s snowboarding, skiing, tobogganing, sledding, tubing, trekking, snow rafting and many more outdoor goings-on; none of which will break the bank! One of the other marvelous things about this part of the world is that compared to places like Verbier, Switzerland or Perisher, Australia, Japan gives much more value for money. As I had set out to learn to snowboard I had booked five days of lessons with Niseko Base Snowsports, who gave me a great package deal. The first few days were shaky but I went from spending 90% of the time on my behind, to about 30% by the end of the five days. I would call that a success!

In the beginning.

By the end.

Eat. Drink.

At the end of each day, when I was all worn out from the excitement of the snow, Hirafu Village’s offering of restaurants and bars were a welcome reprieve. My favourite places to eat were Tozanken Ramen, Niseko Pizza and Izakaya Restaurant. For drinks after dinner I would head to Bar Gyu (aka The Fridge Door Bar), or for something a little lower down the price scale there was always Tamashii or Monty’s. I was also recommended a place called Amaru however didn’t get time to go.

Entrance to Bar Gyu via the “Fridge Door”.

Relax.

It is difficult for me to select a favourite thing about this holiday, but if I had to, it would be learning of the existence of Onsens. An Onsen is a Japanese hot spring with very specific rules and traditions. The main one is that you can’t wear anything…at all. You’re completely nude as per the regulations.

The wonderful thing about it though, is that no one cares! The baths are separated into male and female, and being nude around other women doesn’t carry the same stigma as in western culture. There’s no one judging you or comparing – everyone is just there to relax.

And you will relax. The baths vary in temperature but generally sit between 38-42 degrees Celsius. Many have both indoor and outdoor pools, and let me tell you, an outdoor 40 degree hot spring in the middle of winter is an experience in itself. Obviously I have no pictures that I took myself, but here is a stock picture of one of the Onsens I got to visit.

Hilton Niseko Onsen

In my eyes no trip to Japan is complete without having a ‘zenned’ out experience in an Onsen. I had about ten! The best ones were Hilton Niseko Onsen and Hakone Yuryo Onsen (near Tokyo). Regardless of whether this is your “thing” or not, if you’re thinking about making a winter trip to Japan, Niseko is a must-see/must-do. There’s something there for everyone.

|||

If you like reading about my adventures please subscribe using the form on the right hand side of the screen. Happy travels!

That time thieves pushed me off my bike in Bali.

I feel that it is necessary to share this story, because it could happen to anyone, and I would like to pass on an important lesson that I learned. I will say as a disclaimer that this is no reflection on Sanur as a holiday destination – this could have happened anywhere.

If you’ve read my last post on Bali then you would know that I participated in an amazing jewellery making course in Sanur, Bali. On the last day of this course I was riding my bicycle back to where I was staying when two men on a motorbike attempted to rob me.

It was 4:30pm on a main road – one that I had ridden up and down almost every day without issue. All of a sudden a motorbike slowed down right next to me. There were two men on the bike. Without looking, the man on the back reached out to grab my bag which was sitting in the basket of my bike.

I always clip my bag to the basket just in case something like this happens, so the man couldn’t get a grip on it. Potentially in anger, and maybe also to make sure I couldn’t follow them, he grabbed the basket and twisted my handlebars towards the gutter.

The wheel went sideways and I went straight into the concrete shoulder first. My left side was unscathed but on my right side I had done some serious damage to my shoulder, arm, hand, knee and foot – concrete and gravel are very unforgiving… Thankfully nothing appeared to be broken, torn or dislocated.

This is where the story starts to get better, as this experience actually gave me insight into the kindness of people. There will always be those who are so desperate that they choose to do something that physically or emotionally harms another person – but in contrast there are many more people who will reach out and help someone who is physically or emotionally harmed.

I had fallen right outside a small Balinese warung. The locals who worked in the kitchen instantly came over to help me, and once I told them what had happened, one of them even jumped on a motorbike to see if they could get a glimpse of the perpetrators. They were long gone, but the lovely people at the restaurant got out their first aid kit and helped wrap me up well enough to get back to my guesthouse – all without a word of English.

I offered to pay them for the supplies I had used but they categorically refused to take my money. It completely baffled me because I wasn’t offering to pay them for kindness; I was offering to pay for things they had given me. All the same, they wouldn’t take it.

The next few days were painful – that same evening I had to go down to the local chemist and get antiseptic cream as well as something to bandage myself up. Using alcohol swabs to clean the wounds was excruciating, and I felt like I had no one to help me. If only I had asked!

On the third day the family at my guesthouse realised that I wasn’t really leaving my room. When I finally showed my face they instantly went in, cleaned up my room, changed the sheets, and brought me some fruit. I had been ordering McDonald’s delivery because I couldn’t find any other food that I could get delivered, and the family wouldn’t have a bar of it!

They brought me breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the next few days while I healed up. I told them what kind of food I preferred and they had it all delivered. For the first time, I actually cried about what had happened, because I felt like it was ok to have a weak moment now that I wasn’t on my own. When it first happened I went into shock, and then into survival mode – I didn’t actually give myself time to process the event. I think I was relieved too.

The amazing thing is that this didn’t discourage me from continuing my journey. I made the decision early on that I was going to take the good with the bad and I meant it. And I felt lucky because it could have been so much worse. I could have lost all my belongings, or I could have been seriously injured.

That’s the message I want to pass onto any fellow travellers. You will be tested while you pursue your dreams, but don’t let fear stop you because fear is the real enemy, not your negative experiences.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more about my travels, please subscribe in the panel to your right. Happy Reading!

Bali, Indonesia: focus on Sanur.

There were a number of reasons that I decided to leave all of my worldly possessions behind and go traveling indefinitely. I was that person that always talked about all the things I wanted to do in my lifetime.

Here are just some of my big ideas:

  • Learn to dance the Bachata
  • Read one book a week
  • Abstain from alcohol – 99% of the time
  • Road-trip a country, preferably a big one
  • Learn to make jewellery

The last one is actually what drove me to finally make the decision to leave because it seemed realistic. I already knew how to make jewellery without soldering, so why couldn’t I learn to solder and smith metal as well? And so, the Bali trip started to take shape.

Without further ado, this is a list of things I did in Sanur, Bali and whether I would recommend them.

|||

The DIY Cycling Tour

The first thing I did when I got to Sanur was to hire a bicycle. She was nothing fancy, but she was reliable and she had a basket.

I rode the length of Sanur Beach – approx. 4.5kms along the coast from Jalan Pantai Sindu to Jalan Cemara, and then back up the main strip (also called Jalan Cemara but becomes Jalan Danau Tamblingan) which runs almost parallel to the coast.

BEST IDEA EVER. I learned a lot about my surroundings very quickly and set the foundations for my discovery of Sanur. For those of you who want to skip the bike ride and self discovery – here is a quick guide according to me.

FOOD. For super healthy food, check out Genius Cafe (gluten free, dairy free gods live here), Soul in a Bowl (not as good but still good), Grocer & Grind (good coffee) and Ryoshi (Japanese deliciousness). For local delights check out (on the main strip) Mona Lisa Cafe, Casablanca, Warung Beach Breeze and (along the beachfront) Jack Fish or Lilla Pantai.

Genius Cafe breakfast bowl.

BEACH. For a cheap beach chair go to the strip running between Jalan Kusuma Sari and Jalan Cemara. You shouldn’t be paying more than 30k Rupiah here. The food isn’t half bad either – just watch out for the ice in the drinks, you don’t want any! Trust me! For the best service and views head north to the beachfront near Lilla Pantai restaurant. You’ll pay 50k Rupiah here but if you want to be closer to the luxury venues then this is your spot.

Locals day at the beach.

SPA. Anyone who has been to Bali before knows that every second shopfront is a beauty spa so here is my advice. If you want to totally zen yourself to death then go to Aroma Spa Retreat or The Nest Beachside Spa (they do waxing here too!). For a cheap massage you can always try your luck on the beach, but the places I’ve found to be the best are Sanda Spa on Jalan Cemara, and this tiny place on the Jalan By Pass Ngurah Rai on the diagonally opposite corner to McDonald’s. It’s called Salon diGaya – the location isn’t fancy, but go inside, ask for a healer, and you’ll get the best healing massage of your life.

The Jewellery Course

Finding Sanur Jewellery Studio was what started my travel planning in the first place. This was why I ended up choosing Sanur as my base. Run by Ness and Nini (who also have their own jewellery brand) this is the place to go if you really want to learn the art of working with silver.

When I emailed initially, I was nervous because I was asking for custom lessons – essentially I wanted to do a crash course in as many different facets of silver jewellery making as possible in just one week! I can’t even explain how accommodating these ladies were. They let me choose everything – how many days I wanted to do, whether I wanted the lessons spread out or compressed into full time days, everything! And they offered to feed me, which, you know…

If I listed everything I learned in my jewellery course then this post wouldn’t end, but in summary the course is very hands on and I learned everything from how to source silver and gems, to creating whatever shape/style/effect you want out of either silver sheet or silver wire. E.g. a silver ring made from silver wire which I had to design, cut, anneal, shape, flatten, hammer and solder. Using these skills (and with a guiding hand from Nini of course) I made the things below.

Silver Ring with Moonstone

Silver and Brass Earrings

Hand-made Silver Bracelet with Initial Pendant

ME. I MADE THESE THINGS.

A big thanks to Ness and Nini for everything they taught me. If you are a creative person, or you want to become one, then I highly recommend checking out Sanur Jewellery Studio.

The Yoga Classes

OK, so since I was about 16 I’ve always wanted to be one of those people that aced a yoga class. I have been doing casual yoga classes for over 10 years and I’m still not one of those people. Regardless of this, I still make an effort to attend because, strangely, I still enjoy it!

I’m sure if I went a couple of times a week instead of once a month, I would improve. So with this is mind I started going to Power of Now Oasis which is actually the most zen place I’ve ever been. The studio is on the second storey of a beautiful open bamboo tree-house looking structure. I would describe it as a building, but it’s not.

Power of Now Oasis bamboo…structure?

The instructors are definitely the best I’ve ever encountered. They are patient, detailed and obviously love their art. My favourite thing about yoga instructors is when they walk around the class making small adjustments to the postures of their students. Every single instructor here does exactly that.

At RP100,000 a class (and multi-buy discounts), I can highly recommend any yogis or wanna-be yogis to check this place out.

|||

In summary, Sanur is that place you can go to truly ‘zen’ out, and get your creative side going. If you want to get away from the packed areas of Bali then this is your spot.

Subscribe for further updates on my travels, personal life and anything else that pops into my head. Happy travelling!

© 2017 She Travels

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑