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Bali Dive Guide Featuring My Photos!

Bali DIVEmApps logo

Are you a scuba diver? Are you planning to dive in Bali? You need the Bali Dive Guide from DIVEmApps!

DIVEmApps recently released the Bali Dive Guide featuring photos from my travels in Bali! (Yay!)

The guide is built by divers for divers and gives you access to information about the most popular dive destinations and dive sites around Bali, Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan. Use the app to search dive sites, common fish and coral libraries. 

“The Bali Dive Guide by DIVEmApps is an indispensable tool for divers. It is an essential Dive Guide for anyone interested in diving Bali’s best sites. “
– Robert Scales, DIVEmApps’ Publisher

Plan your dives, explore new sites, check out the fish and coral sections, local emergency action plans, view detailed hand-crafted dive site maps created by experienced local guides and instructors, read the Mola and Manta codes of conduct, and learn about local conservation initiatives, review relevant fish signs and hand signals, and much more.

Bali Dive Guide Features:

  • Relevant information about Bali’s history, culture and point of interests
  • Pre dive information: Briefing, buddy check, hand signals, conservation, and code of conduct
  • Emergency Action Plan with local contacts
  • Searchable dives sites, fish and coral libraries
  • User friendly universal App (optimized for iOS 7, iPad Retina and iPhone 5)

My images are featured in the ‘About Bali’ section of the app:

In-App Purchase:

(Unlock all content on this DIVEmApps with a one-time payment $3.99) 

  • 30+ dive site descriptions with occasional tips, depth, and suggested experience level.
  • 30+ quality hand-drawn maps of some of the most popular dive sites around Bali, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Penida, Indonesia
  • 50+ common fish, coral, and invertebrates images and descriptions

The Bali Dive Guide is a great interactive tool for divers.

The Bali Dive Guide is available for FREE in the App Store.
* The Android version is expected to be released in June 2014.

Be sure to follow Bali Dive Guide on Facebook and Twitter for updates and other useful diving information.

For more photos from my travels in Bali, please visit my Flickr page

Have you used the Bali Dive Guide? What did you think?

Take a Scenic Tour with Harbour Air

Harbour Air held business card draw at Social Media Camp‘s networking bash this past weekend where winners would win a scenic tour with Harbour Air around Victoria for themselves and a guest. Although I didn’t win the draw, I was invited by two of the winners to join them for this wonderful lunch-hour adventure! Having never been on a float plan before, I was very excited! Led by Turbo the Sea Otter, the winning group traipsed from the Victoria Conference Centre, through the Fairmont Empress Hotel and down to the Harbour Air flight docks in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Turbo made a few new friends along the way. Harbour Air Scenic Flights Harbour Air Scenic Flights Harbour Air Scenic Flights Harbour Air Scenic Flights After some quick photos with Turbo (I kind of have a thing for mascots – I love them!), the pilot led us down to the plane for priority boarding. After watching the safety video for the flight, we were off! Woohoo! Harbour Air Scenic Flights Harbour Air Scenic Flights Harbour Air Scenic Flights Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight The flight was incredible! Victoria looked very different from the sky than I imagined it in my mind from driving around the city. We toured the Victoria area for about 30 minutes and enjoyed so many beautiful views, before returning to the Inner Harbour. Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight Harbour Air Scenic Flight After taking a closer look at their website, I’ve concluded that Harbour Air is a very convenient way to travel around the West Coast of British Columbia. They fly from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria, to BC’s Gulf Islands and even to up Comox and Whistler. If you’re not interested in the long travel times of ferries and stresses of the road, this is the way to go. With docks at YVR, the Vancouver Harbour and Victoria’s Inner Harbour, it’s the most convenient island hopper I’ve seen, especially for business commuters.

Harbour Air also provides private charters and parcel service. Other scenic tours include flights around Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler, Nanaimo and Seachelt. Learn more at the Harbour Air website.

Sending a huge thank you to @HarbourAirLtd for the lunch-hour adventure, and to @Vancouverscape and @Bars_Bartending for inviting me to join them! It was an awesome way to take my first ever seaplane flight! I highly recommend Harbour Air’s scenic tours to anyone wanting a bird’s eye view of this beautiful place we live in. Yay!

Happier Than A Billionaire – A Must Read For Costa Rica First Timers!

Happier Than A Billionaire by Nadine Hays Pisani

During my first visit to Costa Rica last fall, the friend I was visiting handed me Happier Than A Billionaire: Quitting My Job, Moving to Costa Rica, and Living the Zero Hour Work Week, by Nadine Hays Pisani. He said that it was a great introduction to anyone visiting Costa Rica for the first time. He was right! I had already been in the country for a week, so it was a lot of fun reading about many of the things that I had encountered during my introduction to Costa Rican life.

The book is a hilarious true account of an American couple (Nadine and Rob), who had had enough of their rat race cookie-cutter American life. They were not happy or inspired by their day to day lives anymore, so they sold everything and moved to Costa Rica! I laughed out loud at some of the hilarious experiences Nadine talks about in the book, from encounters with bats, to suicide showers.

What I loved most about this is that I saw so much of myself in their story. Just before my trip to Costa Rica I had done the same thing. One day I simply decided that I had had enough. The next day I gave notice to my landlord and over the month that followed, I sold all of my furniture, donated a bunch of stuff I never used to the thrift shop, and boxed the rest up and put it into storage before hopping on a plane to Central America.

So now, here I was, reading about this couple’s crazy adventures doing exactly the same thing! Nadine and Rob had more of a plan than I did at the time, but after aching to do this for the past five years, I was so excited and happy that I finally got the ball rolling!

Sunset at Playa Ostional, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Sunset at Playa Ostional, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Now I follow the Pisanis’ journey online from Canada, as I continue to set my life up to live a location independently myself. Soon I will be off to Central America again. Costa Rica is the first place I have traveled where I have felt truly and comfortably at home. It’s such a beautiful country! There’s so much life, nature at every turn, beautiful sunsets, the people are wonderful and the food is delicious! Not to mention that I LOVE the language! I have always wanted to be fluent in Spanish, but taking classes in Canada is nothing compared to learning where it is the mother tongue.

I keep Happier Than A Billionaire at my bedside and read a passage from it when I need a little escape from the cold rainy days of a Canadian spring (which is often). Between the book and looking back at the thousands of photos I took of sunsets, jungles, volcanoes and beaches during my visit, I get my fix. But it’s never quite the same as breathing that tropical air, feeling the hot sun on my face, or hearing the waves crashing on the beach… Costa Rica, I will be seeing you again soon!

So if you’re going to Costa Rica, and you’re not quite sure what to expect, or if you want a fun book to read on the plane or on the beach when you get there, pick up Happier Than A Billionaire: Quitting My Job, Moving to Costa Rica, and Living the Zero Hour Work Week! It’s a light and funny read and who knows, it just might inspire you to create a tropical dream life of your own!

The book is available on Amazon. You can also follow Nadine Hays Pisani’s journey online on Facebook, where she shares beautiful images of her daily Costa Rican life.

Have you read Happier Than A Billionaire? What did you think?

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali – Your Paradise in Paradise

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali is the most beautiful villa I have ever stayed at. I visited Bali for the first time in the spring of 2010 to photograph this gorgeous paradise. The home is built on an old mango orchard, on a mountain with a 180 degree view over Lovina and the ocean. It is more of an estate than a villa really; there is the Main House, the Guest House, and the Sunset House.

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Main entrance

Welcome to Villa Kembang Kertas – Bali

The Garden

There is a rice paddy on the grounds which they harvest throughout the year, as well as a full garden boasting fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables year round. They grow their own peanuts, mangos, lemongrass, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, lettuce, corn on the cob, citrus fruits to name a few. The kitchen staff serves fresh home grown ingredients whenever they are available. It’s so wonderful to know that you are eating fresh, local, organically grown produce while staying here!

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Grounds and Garden

The Main House

The Main House is a 2-story home plus a basement with laundry and storage facilities. It has three bedrooms (2 upstairs and one downstairs), which each sleep two people. Two rooms with king-sized beds and one room with twin single beds and each room has its own private ensuite with toilet and shower and the two king bedrooms have giant stone bathtubs.

The Bedrooms

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Bedroom Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Bedroom Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Ensuite Villa Kembang Kertas Bali Ensuite Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Master bedroom with ensuite bathroom including giant tub and shower. Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Master bedroomVilla Kembang Kertas Bali - Twin Bedroom Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Twin Bedroom Ensuite

Both levels of the house have a gorgeous deck with an incredible ocean view and sunsets that are out of this world. On the main floor is a kitchen that a chef’s dreams are made of. The main indoor area is open concept with a living space, dining area and a lounging area. All of this opens up to giant sliding glass doors onto a beautiful deck. Outside is an outdoor living room and dining room, which (when I wasn’t in the pool) is where I spent most of my time at the villa when I wasn’t photographing it. In front of the house, below the deck, there is a big mango-shaped infinity pool, with lounge chairs and a gazebo in case guests want to get out of the sun.

The Living Spaces

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Main house, upper deck Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Upper deck Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Main floor deck and lounge areas. Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Main floor deck and lounge areas. Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Main floor deck and lounge areas.Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Swimming Pool

The Guest House

The Guest House is much smaller than the Main House, but is a lovely cozy place to call home. It is a single level house and sleeps two. The house consists of a bedroom/living space with king-sized bed, a fully equipped kitchen and a bathroom with an enclosed outdoor shower. The main living space is on the deck with a view similar similar to that of the Main House.

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Guest house Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Guest house Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Guest house Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Guest house

The Sunset House

The Sunset House was closed when I visited, but it is equally beautiful. I was only able to photograph it from the outside while they were renovating.

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Sunset House Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Sunset House

More Information

For more information about the villa or to reserve your own stay at this private paradise, please visit the website at VillaKembangKertas.com.

To see more photos of the house and the grounds, please visit the set on Flickr.

Villa Kembang Kertas Bali - Sunset View from upper deck View from upper deck.

A Tamarindo Sunset

My favourite colour and favourite time of day is sunset.

This one is in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, where I have watched some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Like this photo? Visit my INK361 Shop for prints and other cool photo products. This iPhone case could be yours!

iPhone photo case

 

13 Ways To Use A Sarong – An Essential Travel Item

When It comes to packing for a trip, multi-functional items are key to keeping your luggage small and compact for convenient travel. With this in mind, a sarong is an essential item to pack for any trip. It doesn’t matter where I’m going, warm climate or cold, I always pack at least one sarong and it is always well used.

What is a Sarong?

A sarong is a rectangular piece of fabric longer than it is wide, usually found in a variety of colourful prints. Its versatility is what makes it so essential for any trip as well as for day to day use.

Depending where you are in the world, sarongs have many different names. The name “sarong” comes from Indonesia. In Hawaii, they’re called pareos; in Fiji and Tahiti they’re known as lava-lava or sulu; in parts of Africa they’re called kente or kikoy; in Brazil they’re known as canga, and  they have many other names, depending where in the world you are.

Multi-Functional Uses For a Sarong

I’ve used sarongs for many different purposes while traveling, some that I would have never thought of when I first started using them in the 1990’s.

  1. Wear It
    The most common use is to wear it as clothing. There are countless different ways to wear a sarong, from a skirt or dress to a shirt or shorts or even a belt.

    How to wear a sarong

    image source: harpersbazaar.com

  2. Beach or Bath Towel
    Avoid bringing a heavy towel to the beach and bring a sarong instead. If you need to pack a towel when you travel, a sarong is a much lighter option and is far easier to pack, lighter to carry, doesn’t get heavy when it’s wet and it dries quickly.  It’s also a great way to protect yourself from the sun.
  3. Blanket
    Lay it out on the ground for a picnic or wrap it around your shoulders if you get a little chilly. I also use it as a blanket when traveling on air-conditioned planes and busses.
  4. Scarf / Shawl
    For cooler nights or windy/rainy days, use a sarong as a scarf or shawl to keep you warm or to cover your hair if it rains. It is also an easy way to dress up any outfit when you have a limited travel wardrobe.
  5. Cover up
    When visiting temples or places of worship (in Southeast Asia for example), it is required to cover your legs before entering (for both men and women). I always carry a sarong with me, just in case. I’ve ended up spontaneously visiting a temple more than once, and although most temples will have sarongs available for sale or to borrow for a donation, I prefer to use my own.
    Buddhist Temple in Thailand
  6. Bed sheets
    Although most hostels are generally clean, I have used a sarong in sleeping situations where the cleanliness may have been a bit sketchy. If you have two with you, put one on the bottom and one on top, if you only have one, wrap it around yourself before getting into bed.
  7. Pillow
    If your hotel/hostel pillow isn’t puffy enough, or you simply don’t have one, use your sarong. You can wrap some clothes in it to make it extra puffy. I like to use one as a pillow on planes, busses and trains.
  8. Purse – If you find yourself shopping and you don’t have a bag to carry all your purchases home in, tie the corners together into a purse.
  9. Curtain or Divider
    If you’re staying in hostels with shared rooms, use your sarong to create privacy. I’ve also used it to block the windows on buses, trains or cars while in transit.
  10. Packing Separator
    Use it to separate your clean clothes from your dirty clothes in your backpack or luggage by wrapping your clothes inside it.
  11. Padding
    Wrap your valuables in it while in transit. I’ve used it for my laptop and my camera equipment both to conceal and protect it while moving from one location to the next. It’s also a great way to hide valuables while in public places or hostels.
  1. Emergencies
    No one wants to end up in emergency situations while traveling, but if it happens a sarong can be used as a bandage, sling, tourniquet, or to tie a splint until you can get proper medical attention.
  2. Gifts
    When it’s time to go home, sarongs make great (and inexpensive) gifts to bring back for your friends and family. It is a practical souvenir that will always have a use.

I’ve collected many sarongs over the years and I’m still coming up with new creative uses all the time. I don’t only use them when I travel, but around the house as well. They are not only are they useful for us ladies, but they are equally practical for the men out there too. Don’t be shy boys, wear a sarong!

How do you use your sarong? Please share in the comments below.

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The Western Trillium

The Western Trillium is a protected flower in B.C. It takes up to 15 years to flower and if picked, the growth can be stunted for years. They can be found all over Vancouver Island. It is illegal to pick or dig them up in the wild due to the protection act.

I found this one during my dog walk today on a little country road in the Cowichan Valley.

Thailand’s Songkran Festival

From April 13-15, Thailand celebrates their new year with the Songkran Festival. During these three days, the entire country participates in the biggest water fight in the world.

The throwing of water started as a way to pay respect, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then using this “blessed” water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder. Over time, this tradition has evolved among young people into a full blown water fight including full on dousing of random passers by. Some also carry a bowl of talc powder mixed with water, which they then smear it on people’s faces and bodies as a blessing for the new year.

Songkran1

My Songkran Experience

A few years ago I was in Thailand for this festival and was not prepared for how crazy it would be. We decided to spend it in Chiang Mai, where the most famous Songkran celebrations are held. Chiang Mai is surrounded by a moat with streets that run alongside it, providing a perfect (but dirty) water source for this celebration.

We arrived the day before the festival began so we could prepare. We found our hotel, dropped off our bags and went shopping for water guns. This Minnie Mouse super soaker was my weapon of choice.

Mariska Songkran Weapon

We left the hotel to join the festival the next day and there was a group of kids waiting outside and I immediately got a full bucket of water to the chest! That was how the next three days went from start to finish. For the next three days I would wore the same clothes, still wet from the day before, as there was no point getting my limited supply of clean clothes all soaked.

This went on for three days straight! The Thai people loaded up in trucks with giant barrels of water and drove through the streets spraying water at people. Some got a bit nasty and added ice to their water buckets, which was absolutely shocking when you were doused with it. Most of the Thai people were fairly respectful not to spray water in people’s faces, which was great. It was the Western crowd that tended to take things a bit too far, spraying people in the face or in the ear with a super soaker full of ice water. Not cool.

Overall the festival was an absolute blast! When dusk hit in the evening the water fight would end for the day, and around about nine the next morning it would start up again.

Here is a taste of what those three days were like:

Songkran-4 Songkran-2 Songkran-3 Songkran-5 Songkran-6 Songkran-7 Songkran-8 Songkran-9 Songkran-10 Songkran-11 Songkran-12 Songkran-13 Songkran-14 Songkran-15

 What festivals have you attended while traveling? Share in the comments below.

 

Epic Canadian Olympic Fans

The Olympic Park was all but deserted on the final day of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games. There were only two events scheduled that day: Men’s Gold Medal Hockey and the Closing Ceremony. Only those with tickets to at least one of these events were permitted to enter the park.

With Canada playing for GOLD there was a large Canadian presence. I went in early in search of epic Canadian Olympic fans and I found my first group at the first open concession cart buying beer (because a Canadian watching hockey without beer is just wrong!).

Day10-2

Olympic Spirit Project Books and Postcards now available!

Learn More!

Free Beer Guy & Other More Fans

Next I made my way to Canada Olympic House to see who had collected there to prep for the game and this guy walked up with a tray full of beers and started handing them out to fellow Canadians. Did I mention how much I love Canadians?

(Thank you, Free Beer Guy!)

Canadian Free Beer Guy

Next, Shauna and I strolled toward the Bolshoy Arena and came across these Russian guys who unexpectedly swept me off my feet, and then we found more Canadians with flags and a crazy collection of signatures.

Russians and Canadians

Signed Canadian Flag

Signed Canadian Flag

Then there was a couple who almost didn’t make it to Sochi due to a leg injury, but they pushed through and made it, wheelchair and all! Well done guys! Talk about dedicated fans! YAY!

Canadian Fans

The Olympic Party Boy

But the hands-down BEST had to be the “Olympic Party Boy!”

I first met this OPB at the London 2012 Olympics where I got my first introduction to Olympic Party Boy awesomeness. Back in Vancouver, he had mentioned that he was having a custom Canada suit designed by Ash Turner of Mechanic Organic for the Sochi 2014, so I was excited to include it in the Olympic Spirit Project!

He showed up for the Gold Medal Game wearing tailored white pants, a white suit jacket with red arms, “Canada” embroidered on the breast pocket and a giant maple leaf sewn on the back. (You did an phenomenal job Ash Turner!) He topped that off with a red t-shirt, red and white Adidas sneakers and a maple leaf pin on the lapel.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone else looked awesome too with their jerseys, face paint, helmets and flags, but what made this so epic was the originality and the fact that this super classy suit is one of a kind. It just doesn’t get cooler than that! Complete AWESOMENESS!

(Thanks for the photoshoot OPB! Yay!)

Olympic Party Boy - Greg Olympic Party Boy - Greg Olympic Party Boy - Greg Olympic Party Boy - Greg

How did you show your Olympic Spirit during the Games?

 

Olympic Spirit Project BOOKS are now available in Print, ePub and PDF! 

BUY NOW!

How To Make a Costa Rican Michelada

Costa Rican Michelada

When traveling to new places, I always make sure that I try the local beers and cocktails. In Russia it was vodka, in Bali it was Arak liquor, in Belize it was 1 Barrell Rum (mmm, tastes like maple syrup), and in Costa Rica it was the Costa Rican michelada!

I was introduced to the Costa Rican Michelada (as opposed to the Mexican michelada) during my stay in Tamarindo. I was a little skeptical at first (seriously, ICE and SALT in BEER???) but WOW was it ever refreshing! It’s a must-try if you’re in Costa Rica.

Ingredients:

Serves: 1

  • Sea salt
  • Ice
  • 1 Fresh Lime (or lime juice from concentrate, but fresh is always better)
  • 1 bottle of Imperial or Imperial Light beer (I prefer Imperial Light)

    Note: If you’re making this at home and you don’t have access to Imperial, you can make a “Mexi-Rican” variation using Corona.

[Tweet “Make yourself this refreshing Costa Rican Michelada tonight! #beer #lime #yum”]

  1. Use a slice of lime and to moisten the edge of the glass with lime juice
  2. Dip the glass in sea salt to rim the edge with salt (same way you would for a caesar)
  3. Fill the glass halfway with ice
  4. Squeeze the entire lime into the glass
  5. Serve with a full bottle of Imperial Light to be poured in at the drinker’s pace
  6. Sit, relax, enjoy and (if you’re not near a beach) watch this:

What cocktails ave you discovered while traveling?

Did you love your Costa Rican Michelada? Then like it and share it with the social buttons below.