Being Australian and an avid cricket fan, when I think about Galle I immediately think, of the international cricket ground. I can picture, Australia versus Sri Lanka trying to beat each other in a hotly contested cricket test match. What I wasn’t expecting was the classic European architecture and history that can be found along the tight streets of Galle Fort.
Galle Fort is the tourist heart of this city, with a variety of bars, restaurants, hotels, shops and cafes aligning the streets and laneways. After a day of solid exploring, we duck into Coconut Sambol restaurant for a quick, cheap meal.
Coconut Sambol is a small restaurant with seating for 10 people that offers an all you can eat buffet style dinners. The banquet consists of 6 traditional Sri Lankan curry dishes and steamed rice. Each dish is refreshed during the dinner service providing plenty food for its patrons. Table rotation is fairly quick, so hopefully you won’t have to wait long to get your fill.
The restaurant is thin, about 2 metres wide, so it can get a bit crowded in there if everyone is trying to get food at the same time. Yet, it feels cosy and intimate. Being small it holds in a lot of heat and there are some oscillating fans above to cool you down. If this doesn’t help, cool refreshments are available from the menu. The cost for the all you can eat buffet is 800 LKR (AUD$6.60 )per person and the range of curries is decent.
Some of the curries available are a Dal, curried chicken, curried banana, and curried mango served with plenty of steamed rice.
Coconut Sambol serves traditional Sri Lankan food daily, which is flavoursome and delicious. The store opens from 1000hrs and offer food until 2200hrs. The food is served on authentic woven reed plates covered with baking paper. We had no trouble getting a table and there was enough food to feed an army. The staff are friendly and quick to assist in this strictly no smoking restaurant.
Overall the Coconut Sambol was a good restaurant, which provides quality food. Having a small shop front means it is easy to walk past. Although, the restaurant decor doesn’t look that inviting, don’t be fooled and give them a try. Importantly, the food is abundant and delicious, and at that price, a real bargain. So, if you are in Galle for business or pleasure, head to the Coconut Sambol restaurant and tell them, Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
If you are going to spend some time in the south of India, you may have heard that it is quite popular to spend a day or two on a houseboat. After a busy two weeks travelling around India we decided to spend three nights cruising the backwaters of Kerala from Alappuzha near Alleppey, Southern India with Cosy Houseboats.
After days or research, trying to select an affordable houseboat operator was becoming a painful task. To alleviate this we logged onto booking.com to check out what houseboats were available. This made the task a lot easier and in the end we choose to book a Cosy Houseboat cruise for three nights, departing from Alappuzha.
Prior to our cruise we stayed in Alleppey for a night in a little backpackers called Artpackers.life which turned out to be a godsend. They were so helpful that as Cosy Houseboats weren’t replying to any of our previous emails, the receptionist found the correct number (wrong on booking.com) for their offices and found out our check in time and meeting point.
Thank god, we decided to spend a night in Alleppey before boarding our cruise, otherwise we would have had enormous issues trying to contact the operators. Once everything was settled and we left the backpackers it was a quick auto rickshaw ride (INR100) to the Cosy Regency Hotel, the meeting point for the houseboat cruise.
After check in, it was explained that although we booked for a shared three night cruise we would be following the same itinerary for the three days. This meant we had to check out off the boat each day and head back to the meeting point before boarding the next boat at check in time. This important information should have been communicated to us after booking and was a little frustrating to say the least. Whilst at the office they did try to encourage us to pay extra for a private houseboat. Once price negotiations broke down, as we weren’t going to pay their optimum price, they advised that they didn’t have a boat available and we ended up staying on the shared boat.
Our next issue was that we were unable to pay using a credit card as their EFTPOS machine was faulty. Cosy houseboat management then insisted we withdrawal the daily limit for international cards (INR10000) to make a down payment. Then they would try an EFTPOS payment the next day. The manager ended up transporting us to 6 ATM machines that all had no cash available. In the end they allowed us to board and try paying the next day.
With the wedding season fully underway in India, we spent our first shared night with three other couples. Two couples were newly weds and the third couple were on their one year anniversary. All were nice and we ended up chatting away with a couple from the North of India for most of the cruise.
The four berth houseboat was a little rundown and in need of a little maintenance. The room was small but thankfully the bed was comfortable. Being a wooden vessel, it does get extremely hot in the cabins during the day. There is a ceiling fan to circulate air, but the air conditioning only comes on between 7pm and 7am. My advice is to stay out of the cabins until evening when the air conditioning kicks in.
The bathroom was……”fit for use”, nothing special, a bit dirty with a shower that sprayed everywhere but on you and no hot water. If you are looking for hotel quality, than this is not the place for you.
The rest of the boat is “well used”. Our boat has a dining table, eight single seated lounge chairs and a small television mounted to the wall.
The boat has three crew members aboard, the helmsman, a cook and a waiter, who keep to themselves so you can enjoy the slow cruise through the river system. All meals, water, and tea and coffee are included in the price and are quite good. The cruise itself is casual, calm and relaxing as we traverse along the waterways.
We stop for lunch, moored to a riverbank and are encouraged to leave the boat to visit some shops or massage parlours. Then it’s back onboard for a final cruise around before we moor up for the night alongside the Cosy Lake Villa. Although the advertising states free wi-fi for your time on the houseboat, you actually only get limited poor wi-fi access when you berth in the evening.
It is here we have a candlelit evening meal, before heading to our cabins for an early night. The operators do allow you to have a shower in one of the villas hotels rooms, which is a little more pleasant. Unfortunately, yet again it is without hot water.
The boat starts up again at 8:00am and heads back into Alleppey for a 9:00am check out. Once berthed you are picked up by car or auto rickshaw and taken back to the Cosy Regency Hotel. We then have until 12:00pm before we are required to board our next vessel. Since, the Cosy Regency Hotel has average wi-fi coverage we decide to stay to book ongoing travel arrangements. Then I do the whole payment thing again, this time the Internet connection is working and I’m able to pay the total amount.
Our second boat, ends up being the boat we remain on for the next two days. It’s a smaller two cabin boat, whom we share with two more newly weds on the different days. This boat has an upstairs viewing deck but again is in serious need of maintenance. Once again the cabin is small but the bed is comfortable. It has its ceiling fan and air conditioner, which again only comes on at 7:00pm.
The bathroom is awful, and in serious need of renovating. Plus we are lucky enough to have two large cockroaches, who I meet in the middle of the night and a small lizard living in the air conditioner. Additionally, the power point in the room doesn’t work so we end up charging phones etc. on the upstairs deck.
Although, initially we were told we would follow the same route on each day, we ended up being around the same area but each day we went down different canals. Once again the actual cruising was relaxing, the company was nice and the food was very good.
Overall, Cosy Houseboats offers a cheaper affordable cruise to experience the houseboats of Kerala. Is there better boats? Yes! Are they more expensive? Yes. So depending on your budget and if you don’t mind roughing it a little, than this could be the houseboat company for you.
Cosy Houseboats has a lot of work to do to improve their product. The boats are in need of a good overhaul. The bathrooms are awful, but the silver lining is they allow you to use the Cosy Lakeview Hotel if you’d like a better shower. Communication is a huge issue. We sent two or three emails to them and received no reply and if it wasn’t for the help of Artpackers.life hostel, we would have struggled to find out any information. The staff at the hotels and on board the boats are friendly but they do try to push you to write a good review on TripAdvisor. And although it is stated you have access to wi-fi, it is very limited and rarely works.
The cruise itself is peaceful, relaxing and nice. Travelling up and down the canals is pleasant with beautiful scenery for good photos. The waterways are at times full of houseboats, so you can see how popular these cruises are.
Look, I must admit, although the houseboat was a little rundown, I really enjoyed cruising along the Kerala waterways. And although Cosy Houseboats was a little disorganised, they ended up providing what we paid for, a fully catered, three-day cruise around Kerala. So, if you don’t mind roughing it, and can put up with a few minor disappointments and a couple of creepy crawlies, than Cosy Houseboats may have the cruise for you. If not, then book somewhere else, although I can’t guarantee it will be any better.
Additional Information for Cosy Houseboats
Cosy Regency, Finishing Point, Alappuzha, Kerala 688013, India
Ph: +91 477 225 5555
During our time in India, we decided to spend five days indulging in the Goan lifestyle, by relaxing on Patnem Beach in Southern Goa. With a population of over a billion people in India, we expected Patnem Beach to be hectic and packed with people. Yet, to our surprise it was peacefully relaxing and a perfect place to slowly immerse ourselves in the Indian culture and cuisine. It was during this time that we discovered a lovely little restaurant on the beach called Shivas Place.
Our accommodation for this part of our journey was at the Fun-Tastic Beach Huts. Although the bed in the hut was comfortable, the remainder of the hut was a little worse for wear. Basically, you are roughing it for five days. No real shower, no hot water, no toilet paper and a toilet that doesn’t flush properly, without pouring water from a bucket into the bowl. Yet, it is not the worst place we’ve stayed in.
The Fun-Tastic Beach Huts don’t offer breakfast or any food options, so you must discover the various restaurants, cafes and bars along the short stretch of beach. With cows, dogs and few tourists wandering along the beach it’s not hard to relax. Additionally, you are not pestered by people trying to sell their knick knacks, souvenirs and services. Once you say no they move on, no questions asked and no harassment or begging.
It wasn’t too hard to select Shivas Place as our preferred option for our meals. The food is good, the prices are cheap, and we suffered no ill effects from consuming their delicious food.
Honestly, there is nothing fancy about Shivas Place. It is a beach hut restaurant. It’s not elegantly decorated, with stylish furniture. It is basically a place to relax with old wooden tables, with bamboo chairs.
Shivas Place is run by a young family and a group of dedicated employees who spend their days talking to their customers and allowing guests to use their day beds free of charge. We spent many days relaxing in the sun, drinking cocktails and watching the sun go down.
In the evening like many other restaurants along the beach Shivas Place sets up a fresh fish stand, where you can select your fish to be cooked the way you like it. Our first meal was a tandoori spiced Sea Bass, which was wonderful. This was great value at INR600 (AUD$12.00). The evening meal offers an extended happy hour with two for one cocktails, which turns out to be a good night.
For our first morning we tried their breakfast menu which comes with fresh fruit juice and a cup of coffee or tea. I selected the traditional English breakfast with poached eggs, which went down a treat.
Over the next few days we swam, walked up and down the beach, sun bathed and ate to our hearts content. We had the privilege of trying many of Shivas’ Indian menu options, which included Chicken Tikka Masala, Dal Makhani and Rogan Josh to name a few. All were delicious, but I couldn’t go past the flavour of the Chicken Tikka Masala. Absolutely superb!
On our final night we decided to splurge a little and paid INR600(AUD$30) for a seafood platter for two. The platter consisted of a whole Sea Bass, Calamari and Various Prawns served with salad and hot chips. The platter had a touch of Tandoori flavouring which was fantastic and well worth the money. Shivas Place can make up a platter just for you depending on how much you’d like to spend.
Patnem Beach was a pleasant surprise. Quieter than most Indian tourist beaches, it was a good relaxing stay. Shivas Place made us feel welcome and at home over the five days we stayed there. The food was excellent and with an extended two for one cocktail happy hour we had some good evenings. So, if you are heading to Patnem Beach in Southern Goa, than stop in at Shivas Place for a good meal and tell them, Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Jordan has proven to be a remarkable country. With an abundance of ancient history and natural wonder, it is a county full of surprises. There are some beautifully preserved nature reserves to be found in Jordan and during our stay we were able to visit two. After an inspiring stay at a Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum, then a couple of days relaxing in Aqaba, we make the journey to the Dana Nature Reserve for a chance to sample some of Jordan’s Ecotourism at the Feynan Ecolodge.
Now getting there was interesting activity. After searching online for information, we knew we had to get on bus at Aqaba Bus Station going to the Feynan Reception centre. The Ecolodge was helpful, giving us some information on how to get there from Aqaba. We knew the bus would be at the station at 9:00 a.m, so we made sure we were there on time. What we didn’t know was that finding the right bus could be an ordeal. Luckily, a helpful passenger who understood English on the first bus we were told to get on told us we were on the wrong bus.
After a little bit of a debate with the driver and the helpful passenger, the bus driver called over a non uniformed attendant from the bus station and he directed us to the right bus. The second bus driver advised that he would drop us off at the reception but we would need to pay for 3 seats. This was because our luggage would take up a seat, stopping another passenger from being able to board. In the end, we found this to be only fair and at 5 JOD per seat it was definitely not a bank breaker.
The bus itself is only a 20 seat mini bus and the driver waits at the station until he has a full bus. So, make sure you’re not in a rush as you can wait a few hours before the bus leaves. We found it a good time to catch up on a good book. Our bus finally left a 1:00 p.m and we headed off to Feynan.
The full journey took about 2.5 to 3 hours, and was quite enjoyable. The bus was full of local townsfolk. They constantly offered us drinks and food along the journey. There were also a few children onboard testing out their English skills, so we helped them with a few Aussie phrases, to their delight.
Although arriving a little later than expected to the Feynan reception office a staff member was available to transport us to the Ecolodge by 4WD about thirty minutes away. Driving into the nature reserve we pass Bedouin tents and families herding sheep and goats until we reach the hotel.
The sandstone coloured hotel is located between two hills alongside an empty river bed. We are guided by our driver into the main hotel reception area where we are kindly greeted and given refreshing towels and a drink so ease our travels.
The Ecolodge has all the comforts of a 4 star hotel except it relies on solar power to generate its electricity. The rest of the hotel is lit at night by romantic candlelight. During our check in we are advised that the only power available in the room is the bathroom. They ask us to ensure that the bathroom light is switched off when not required as the Ecolodge has limited battery life. The only other available power is in the reception which they allow guests to recharge their phones, cameras and laptops. Recharging points are limited, so you will need to be patient to obtain a free space.
We are escorted into our room and it has two comfortable beds a desk, a cold filtered water jug with safe drinking water and a separate bathroom. Unfortunately, this room had an issue with its hot water supply so we were moved so they worked out the problem.
Our second room was a lot like the first except it was little larger with and extra vanity setting. The rooms have candles strategically placed around the room to give ambient lighting at night.
Feynan Ecolodge offers is guests a variety of hikes and cultural experiences throughout the day. Their program list is set, so depending on the day you arrive dictates what events are available. Subsequently, if you decided that you’d rather hike on your own, Feynan’s staff will point you in the right direction and give you advice on where to go. Make sure you fill up your water bottles from the water tanks available in the hotel or from your filtered jug in your room.
As we arrived pretty late on the first day, we missed the first evenings sunset hike. We then made sure we scheduled it in for the next day because it is one not to miss.
The stay package includes all meals and drinks at set times during the day. The selection of food was excellent, and they ensured that any guests with food allergies are catered for. All meals are vegetarian as they don’t have sufficient cold rooms to keep any meat products.
After the main dinner break the staff provides a brief presentation about the Ecolodge. The presentation highlights what the lodge are trying to do and what activities are available the next day. Once the presentation is complete we are taken onto the roof leisure area and are shown the stars through an impressive telescope.
If you’d prefer to stay in, Feynan has a lounge area with board games and a range of books in various languages. I found that most people would of course congregate around the reception room as it is the only area that has access to Wi-fi and power.
The next day it’s an early rise, with breakfast in the dining area then a guided sampler hike in the nature reserve. Our local guide for the day is Suleiman who ensures we experience the Bedouin lifestyle. He speaks excellent English and speaks about life in the nature reserve. As he walks, he talks about various plants and their benefits to the local Bedouin people. After a good hike we have sage tea and sit chatting about our travels.
We return back to Feynan in time for lunch followed by a visit to a Bedouin tent for local coffee. Once again Suleiman is our guide for this experience. He introduces us to a local family who invite us in for some home-brewed coffee. Suleiman explains the significance of coffee, to the Bedouin culture. Coffee is only prepared when important matters need to be discussed between families or to welcome new people into the Bedouin village. It was fascinating to watch the head of the household grind the coffee beans in a metal mortar which chimed out to neighbours that coffee was being made. It isn’t long before a neighbour pops his head in to see the newcomers (us) and indulge in a cup of coffee.
When we return to Feynan, it isn’t long before the start of the sunset hike. We all chat during our walk and when it came time to watch the sun go down, we were amazed by its pure beauty. Our guide makes the group sage tea and we drink whilst enjoying the surrounding view.
Once the sun disappears its back to the Ecolodge for another incredible dinner, with visits from local goats, camels, sheep, and donkeys. It is quite fun having your meals with a local animals wandering freely around.
After a busy day we are exhausted and retire early. The next day we are convinced to take the longer canyon hike by ourselves. A local driver transports us to the canyon entrance and organises our pick-up time. Then we hike down the river bed taking in the freshness of the air and the constant flow of a small stream. We see frogs and lizards and a couple of Bedouin woman herding their family goats. The area is beautiful and after a few hours we head back to meet up with our driver to return to Feynan.
Feynan Ecolodge is a perfect place to visit when in Jordan. There is no pressure for you to do anything. If you want you could just relax the days away reading a good book. I recommend doing the activities available to you. Take some hikes, meet the local Bedouin people or learn to cook Middle Eastern cuisine. The staff are friendly and helpful, and speak many different languages, so communication shouldn’t be to much of a problem.
Therefore, visit the Dana Nature Reserve and the Feynan Ecolodge soon, Say hello to Suleiman for me and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you.
After a long day touring Jordan, we finally get back to Amman and it’s starting to get late. Our base for our stay in Amman is the Amman Pasha Hotel. All the information provided by the hotel is to ensure that if you do go out to eat, make sure that is listed on other review sites, and has a good rating. Why, you may ask? Our hotel tells us that it is common for travellers to get a tummy bug! Which I can tell you from experience, isn’t nice! One restaurant that they do recommend is Hashem Restaurant. This is reinforced a couple of times during our stay from other Amman locals, and not just the hotel.
If you didn’t know any better, from the outside Hashem Restaurant isn’t the most attractive or inviting place to eat. But it is packed with locals and a scattering of apprehensive tourists. We ask the waiter for a table for two and are guided to the closest available table.
Our waiter approaches and is ready to take our order, we ask for a menu. The menu is simple, there’s no menu. They offer falafel, hummus, baba ganoush, fresh bread and a salad. You dictate how much you want and what you want. We decided to try it all. Other staff occasionally walk by offering sage tea to customers. But we decline as we’ve just had some at the Amman Pasha Hotel.
It isn’t long before the food is brought out to the table. Visually, the food is nothing special, a swirling of hummus and baba ghanoush in shallow bowls, warm fresh bread for dipping and small brown balls of falafel. When I break open the falafel and I’m greeted by a glorious green colour and once I taste it i know it is probably some of the best falafel I’ve ever had. The hummus has a smooth creamy texture and is sensational, and the baba ghanoush is superb. I immediately think, I’m definitely ordering more, but decide to wait until we’re finished before ordering again.
In the end we didn’t end up ordering anymore, because it is quite filling. We go to pay and are astonished the price of all the food with two bottles of water comes to 4.50JOD (which is about AUD$8). For such a sensational meal you can’t go past this remarkable price.
So, when in Amman do yourself a favour and make a visit to Hashem Restaurant. Getting there was easy we just walked from our hotel using Google Maps, but I’m sure nearly everyone is Amman knows of Hashem Restaurant. Everyone we met did! Have a great meal and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for Hashem Restaurant
Address: King Faisal Street, Amman, Jordan Ph: +962 6 463 6440
Jordan has always held a little intrigue as a place to visit. I of course knew about the magnificence of historical Petra, seeing it a few times on travel shows and in blockbuster films. Yet, Jordan is so much more than that. There is some awesome protective reserves and it also boasts the lowest place on Earth. At 450 metres below sea level the Dead Sea is an attraction that in my mind must be visited. During our journey in Jordan, we couldn’t resist the temptation of taking a dip in the Dead Sea whilst staying at the brand-new Hilton Dead Sea Resort.
The brand-new Hilton Dead Sea Resort is approximately 7 months old opening in early 2017. We travelled from Jordan’s capital city Amman via driver transfer for 50JOD (AUD$90). There are probably cheaper ways to travel to the Dead Sea, but we opted for door to door service and sat back and enjoyed the one and a half hour drive. Prices do vary so make sure you are happy paying the price before jumping in the taxi or private driver.
Situated alongside the vast expanse that is the Dead Sea, the Hilton Dead Sea Resort is a well secured facility with guards only allowing listed guests through the checkpoint. Our car is checked we drive down into the hotel and are greeted by the Hilton’s helpful staff. Once you enter the lobby you are again greeted at a security checkpoint for a luggage scan (like at any airport). They take their security seriously at the Hilton!
The main lobby of the Hilton Dead Sea Resort is incredibly large, the reception desk is to the right with a cafe/bar to the left. You can’t help but stop and look at the spectacular view of the Dead Sea straight ahead of you.
We are greeted by the smart-looking staff, checked in and escorted to our room in the Marhaba section. The hotel is divided into sections like Marhaba and Petra, so guests can find their way back to their rooms easier.
The King guest room allocated to us is wonderfully decorated with a stunning view over the hotel pools and Dead Sea.
The room contains a safe, ironing board, television, table and chairs and King bed. After a short time, we were delivered a nice welcoming treat of fruits, nuts, macaroons, and chocolate.
There is a large bathroom area and separate toilet, for your added comfort. The only thing we could pick on was the only power point that the hairdryer could be plugged into near a mirror was next to the front door. Surprisingly, not in the bathroom area.
The hotel oozes luxury with its pools and private white sanded beach leading to the slick salty water. Stylish restaurants, cafes and bars are positioned around the complex to eat, meet and greet other guests. So, you can easily stay within the resort for your entire stay and not be disappointed.
The hotel has multiple pool areas. From the adult area with poolside bar to the family area and kids club. Towels for the pool are supplied by the hotel, with pool attendants available to take your food and drink orders. The family pools have lifeguards to ensure the safety of your family.
Most people come to the Dead Sea to float around and experience this remarkable phenomenon. The mud contains healing properties so there are mud basins and mirrors available for you to apply the thick rich mud. After fifteen minutes you then hop into the Dead Sea to wash off. Make sure you read the warning boards before you take a dip as the high salt content can be harmful if inhaled or ingested. Additionally, it can be uncomfortable if you have a cut or abrasion.
Breakfast is served in the Spectrum Restaurant and Executive Lounge daily. They provide an extensive range for breakfast from a continental breakfast to individually ordered plates. It’s the ideal way to start a relaxing day.
The Hilton Dead Sea Resort, reminds me a lot like a cruise ship, everything you want to make your stay comfortable is right there. You really don’t have to leave the resort to have an enjoyable stay. Yet, saying that if you did want to adventure away from the resort, the concierge can help you to organise a tour. Subsequently, if you’d rather go it alone, the AVIS car rental booth has vehicles available.
Overall the Hilton Dead Sea Resort is a beautiful place to stay. As active travellers, it was actually nice to rest and lounge by the sea for a day. It was also special to stand outside during the evening and watch the sun setting over the Sea. I do recommend taking a dip in the Dead Sea. The water feels oily and leaves a filmy residue on your skin, but the sense of just floating around is quite appealing. With plenty of food options and a Kids Club it is an ideal place for a family to base their Jordan stay. So, why not head there today and tell them, Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for the Hilton Dead Sea Resort
Address: Dead Sea Road، Sweimeh 11953, Jordan
Ph: +962 5 349 3000 Website: www.hilton.com
Book your stay at the Hilton Dead Sea Resort now with Booking.com
Prices of accommodation per night at the Hilton Dead Sea Resort
Once again Istanbul has been a great place to stay. The culture the atmosphere and the people have been kind and gracious. If you are considering a trip to Turkey, then I would say without any hesitation, “do it!”
As Australian’s, we’ve been to Turkey for the last couple of years. Last year, we experienced the pilgrimage to the Gallipoli peninsula, which is considered a rite of passage for many Australian’s. Here we paid our respect to the fallen heroes of WWI.
Then we visited Istanbul and had an incredible meal at Mehmet Gürs marvellous Mikla. Both times have come away with the same impression of Turkey. “What a remarkably friendly place!” Although the tensions of the regions have affected Turkey we have found it to be a safe place to go. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed in the amazing history, culture, markets and food.
Therefore, why not dip your toes into Turkey? And if you only decide to visit Istanbul, there is a remarkable little place that showcases all of the major attractions within Turkey called Miniaturk.
Miniaturk, is park consisting of miniature models of the sights of Turkey. It’s located alongside a stretch of the Golden Horn and is a nice place for families and backpackers to discover what Turkey has to offer. If you haven’t finalised your itinerary whilst backpacking in Turkey, stop by at Miniaturk and discover which cities contain some of Turkey exquisite architectural history.
See places like the Galata Tower, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Green Tomb of Bursa, Cappadocia or the white terraces of Pamukkale all in the one park.
The models contained are a remarkable re-creation of these attractions and you can’t help but marvel at all the places to available to see. During our visit, we constantly commented about going to see certain attractions.
Spend some time walking up and down the walkways, it takes a good one and a half hours to traverse the entire site.
There is also plenty of things to entertain you and your family. Miniaturk also has a large playground, games arcade and a small train that the kids can ride on. For the older kids and adults, you can also try the helicopter flight simulator. Who’s the best pilot in your family?
Additionally, Miniaturk has multiple food stalls scattered around the park and a nice restaurant if you prefer something more substantial.
To finish the day, stop into the souvenir store and take home a memento of your time in Turkey.
Overall Miniaturk is a fun and amazing place to visit. Get some inspiration of other attractions around Turkey. At an inexpensive cost, Miniaturk is an ideal place for a young family to experience some of Turkey’s attractions without actually having to visit them. Of course, it is always better to see them up close and personal. But if you don’t have the time, this is the next best thing. So, if you are in Istanbul visit Miniaturk and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
In all our travels, Sarajevo would be one of the top 10 cities that has intrigued me the most in the Balkans. A city still rebuilding. Trying to ensure their past mistakes don’t erupt again. When speaking to its residence you can see their frustration from their “scars and smiles”. Yet, those frustrations aren’t directed towards the different ethnic groups, they are directed towards their over-governed parliament. With unemployment rising, Sarajevo is becoming more reliant on tourists visiting and understanding the beauty, culture and pain of this remarkable city.
During our stay here, we base ourselves at two completely different accommodation options. For the first part of our visit, we stay outside of the city centre at the four-starred Hotel Emiran. Then for the remainder of our stay we head into the old town and experience what hostel living is like at Hostel Franz Ferdinand. It is here that we organise the Scars and Smiles, Urban Adventures tour online. Urban Adventures offer two quality tours, the Story of Sarajevo and Scars and Smiles.
The Scars and Smiles tour starts at 9:00 a.m and our meeting point for the tour is the impressive city hall/ national library building. Our friendly helpful guide for the tour is Almedin, who you cannot miss due to his 205cm height. Almedin is the tallest tour guide we have ever had. No need for an umbrella or a sign, because if you can’t see him, then he’s not there!
Group sizes vary from day-to-day and on our tour, we only had one other guest. Almedin spoke excellent English and was a toddler during the Sarajevo siege, so has an honest family perspective of life during wartime.
During our tour, Almedin speaks passionately about the scars and smiles of the Bosnian people. He talks about why the war occurred, how it ended and specific tragedies that had befallen its residents at the time.
We are taken on a 3 hour journey around the city of Sarajevo and visit important places like the Sarajevska brewery, the only source of fresh water in Sarajevo at the time. Almedin then speaks about the importance of the Sarajevo roses, shows us a memorial for the children and takes us for Bosnian coffee.
An intriguing and at times moving tour, Almedin speaks about life after the conflict and finishes the tour at the Sarajevo National Theatre.
Once the tour is completed, guests can either join Almedin for a drink at a local pub or state their farewells. I suggest having a drink with this kind gentleman and learning more about Bosnian and Herzegovinian hospitality.
Overall for the price, the Scars and Smiles tour is a fantastic way of getting to understand Sarajevo and its tragic history. So, book your Urban Adventure tour today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for Urban Adventures: Scars and Smiles
There is so much to like about Sarajevo. It’s a city still rebuilding after a brutal forty-four month siege. A cityscape with constant reminders of the destruction and resilience of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian people can be found everywhere. Apartment buildings are riddled with bullet and mortar holes, and the poignant dedications to the victims in the form of the artistic Sarajevo Rose. Sarajevo’s appearance will open your eyes to the effects of war and the countries hopes for a peaceful future. During our stay in Sarajevo we are based at the four starred Hotel Emiran.
Located outside of the city centre this hotel offers affordable stylish accommodation and facilities for its guests. Positioned within 100m from the Nedžarići tram stop, the Emiran is an excellent base to start your adventures in remarkable Sarajevo.
We arrived into Sarajevo by international bus and found the directions to the Hotel Emiran easy to navigate using our Maps App. Public transport tickets are easy to obtain with kiosks everywhere. Just look for the transport sticker to know if they sell tickets. Tickets are 1.60BAM from a kiosk or 1.80BAM if you decide to buy them from the driver. We also found the people to be very helpful, so if you have any troubles someone will be glad to help.
On arrival at the Hotel Emiran you enter a large lobby area divided up into sections. There is a lounge area with comfortable lounge suites, an enclosed smoking area and an open cafe area for the hotels Juicy cafe. With televisions positioned in various locations , it’s a good place to relax and watch a game. Here you will also find the hotel’s small reception desk for check-in.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is mainly a muslim country, and the hotel has a conservative attitude towards a dress code. Therefore, the knees must be covered throughout the main hotel area. We quickly check-in and make our way up to our standard double room.
The room interior is nicely decorated with a cityscape motif on one of the feature walls. Our room contains a queen sized bed, a long desk with two chairs, a television and empty bar fridge. Unfortunately, there is no in-room coffee and tea facilities, so you will have to go to their cafe to get your coffee fix.
Each room contains a private bathroom with body wash packs supplied. As a tip, you may need to ask the staff for some scissors as they can be difficult to open. The rooms are clean and comfortable and serviced daily. The shower has an adjustable shower head with good water pressure and plenty of instant hot water.
Being on the sixth floor, our room also had a nice view of the local area which we were able to easy see the trams running towards the city centre.
For this stay breakfast was included in the accommodation price and was served from 07:00 a.m in the Emiran Restaurant. They offer a decent breakfast spread with a mixture of hot and cold options for you to choose from.
If you are in the hotel for lunch and dinner, food is available to be ordered from the Emiran Restaurant or try one of the lovely cakes on offer at the Juicy cafe.
The Emiran Restaurant serves a range of traditional Bosnian and Mediterranean cuisine. Although you wouldn’t call the food exceptional, it is okay at an exceptional price. One night we were able to purchase two twelve-inch plain Margherita Pizza’s and two soft drinks for 7BAM (AUD$5.35). They also have a takeaway option in case you wish to eat in your room.
For local businesses, the hotel also has a couple of meeting areas to conduct company workshops or management meetings.
Once work is over, why not try the hotel’s Turkish Spa and Finnish Sauna to relax and steam those worries or tired muscles away. Subsequently, if you need to blow off some steam or work off some energy, head to the hotels gym for a workout. But, remember the hotel’s dress code. The Emiran has dressing rooms alongside the gym to change in and out of your gym clothes.
One of the other benefits of staying at the Hotel Emiran is the ability to access the visitors laundry area. The laundry has various washers and dryer available for use at a reasonable price. Additionally, there are irons and ironing boards available the complete your laundry task.
The Hotel Emiran is a little out of the main tourist area, but with easy access to the public transport system, the commute into the old town (Baščaršija) is enjoyable. With clean affordable rooms, the accommodation is comfortable at a decent price. With access to a laundry, fitness centre, health and beauty spa, cafe and restaurant, you can easily spend a day in the hotel, if you decide not to venture out for a day.
Overall the Hotel Emiran is a conservative hotel with friendly staff good facilities. Therefore, when you are staying in Sarajevo next, try the Hotel Emiran and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for Hotel Emiran
Address: Aleja Bosne Srebrene bb, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ph: +387 33 255-755 Website: www.emiran.ba
Nestled between rugged mountains and the Boyana (Buna) River, you will find one of the Vataksi Groups two hotels in Shkoder, Albania. Located at one of the entrances into Shkoder city the newly developed Hotel Vataksi offers limited accommodation with five rooms available at an inexpensive price.
Once an important trading port during the ruling times of the Ottomans and Venetians. Shkoder is a peaceful city in Northern Albania and a gateway to the Adriatic Sea. It is here that many travellers start the popular three-day hike from Valbona to Theth. An intersection of three converging rivers Shkoder’s abundance of beautiful landscapes is excellent for the travelling photographer or fishing enthusiast.
The Hotel Vataksi is a small hotel which offers its customers affordable accommodation with a set breakfast. The hotel originally started as a restaurant but as tourism increased in Shkoder the owners created five comfortable timber panelled rooms. Our room for our short stay has a scenic river view, a queen bed, television, air-conditioner, small desk and wi-fi.
Each room has a small accompanying bathroom, with a toilet, basin and over the floor shower (no separate shower cubicle). The bathroom is clean with sufficient hot water and pressure.
Still under construction the hotel is undergoing various improvements, these works did not affect the outcome of our stay or pose any issues. Travel Vataksi is associated with the hotel with an office in the car park of the hotel. Have a look and see what tours they have on offer. Maybe a riverboat ride along the rivers or a trip to the Adriatic Sea is something you might want to do.
Every morning, the hotel provides a set breakfast plate for its guests. Make sure you advise of any allergies prior so they can cater accordingly. The staff is friendly, with some members having limited English, but communicating wasn’t an issue as they would often summon the English-speaking staff to assist.
In the evening, the hotel comes alive with many locals dining at their popular restaurant. Servings are large and of good quality. The restaurant boasts an Italian trained chef who produces some wonderful food. With modern music playing throughout the dining area, a playground for the children, and an intoxicating view of the river. It is a superb place to watch the evening sun set.
Alternatively, if you’d rather not be too close to the river and prefer a mountain view the Vataksi groups second hotel called Shpija Gjyshit or “Grandfather Hotel” is located approximately 1km uphill from Hotel Vataksi. Also still under construction the rooms are larger than those found at Hotel Vataksi and the views are increasingly spectacular.
In my opinion, Shpija Gjyshit is a slightly more refined product, with swimming pool, larger rooms and better bathrooms. The restaurant looks out across the valley and the whole hotel reminds me of an Austrian chalet on the side of the mountain.
Although, located on the outskirts of Shkoder the Vataksi Group have two comfortable hotels available. It is a good 30 – 45 minute walk into the city centre, but as we like walking it was a good way to start an active day. Alternatively, the hotel can organise a taxi, which are quite cheap into the city. Personally, I would recommend a taxi, or hiring a car to access Shpija Gjyshit as it would be a pretty tiring and steep walk to its position on the side of the mountain.
Overall, both hotels are comfortable and affordable. Honestly, there are better rated hotels in the city centre but of course they are more expensive. Travellers on a budget that are looking for a little more style will appreciate the rooms especially at Shpija Gjyshit. The restaurants and staff are pleasant and it was kind of nice to look out the window at Hotel Vataksi and watch the wildlife along the river. So, book your stay at the Hotel Vataksi or Shpija Gjyshit today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!