5 days in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was an experience to remember. My trip was a quick one but very fulfilling. I loved experiencing a new culture, a different people and just a completely different vibe than what I’m used to when I travel. I usually travel to tropical destinations, and stay on a nice resort, and sip my drink while sleeping on the beach or reading a book. Don’t get me wrong, I love relaxing and napping, but this time I wanted a more immersed and cultural experience. I wanted to really learn about the region and meet the locals. If you are looking to travel to Sri Lanka, I highly recommend the places I’m about to tell you about. There is so much to see so I definitely want to go back and explore more of this amazing island country.

Things to do

I went on a hike in Sigiriya to the Lion’s Paws of Sri Lanka and we went all the way to the top. It was the most breathtaking and amazing experience I have had in a long time. It is an ancient fortress where a King’s palace later occupied. After the King died, the fortress was turned into a Buddhist temple until the 14th century. I couldn’t believe that something that old still exists. And the views and how high you were made you feel like you could touch the clouds. Another day I toured the Geragama Tea Factory. It was on the side of a mountain, and honestly I thought to myself ‘there is no way a tea factory is in this small space’; but when we went all the way to the top, there were tons of tea plants and lots of equipment to do the entire tea making process. You start the tour from the top and then work your way down through the different rooms of equipment, each with a specific purpose in the team making process.  We saw where the leaves are humidified, where they are processed, and every step from start to finish. I never knew that there was a such thing as silver and gold tipped tea. And that English breakfast tea is called BOP. I bought the BOP tea = English Breakfast and a few packs of Green Tea. I since have used them several times a week and they smell and taste incredible. It started raining on the way to hike Sigiriya and we decided to turn around and go to Dambulla temple which has the largest buddha statue in the world. There is where I had the opportunity to see my first Monks! I know that’s weird to say, but I’ve only seen them on TV or in the movies. You have to take your shoes off when you get to the top of the mountain before entering the temple area. The stone on the ground is so old and worn that it wasn’t uncomfortable on my feet.

We also went to the center of Sri Lanka. It was like an ancient house or temple made of rocks with etching in the side of people and lions. I learned that the lake next to it was where the temple was originally located, but back in the 90’s they uplifted all the rock to just a little ways over so that the temple would not be submerged in water and they wouldn’t lose that piece of ancient history. They had to mark every single piece of rock so that it would be put back exactly the way it was before. I can’t imagine having to do that in the heat and humidity.

Our last day I did a spa day after a hike. The spa at Jetwing lake was probably my favorite part of the trip because I got a massage. Simple as that. My massage was 90 minutes and I swear the massage therapist had magic hands. The pressure of the Swedish massage was perfect! I also really liked that there is a shower in-room so you can take a quick shower afterwards if you prefer not to keep the oil on you, or before if you are coming from a sweaty hike. I was so relaxed that I asked the therapist if I could stay for another 15 minutes to finish my nap.

Then we told our taxi driver we wanted to go to a spice garden. He found one for us and it wasn’t what I thought. I had my heart set on going to a spice garden where you can learn about and buy different spices to cook with. But he took us to a spice garden where they make things out of plants for medicinal purposes. You can also cook with it, but this location specialized in research and development of healing spices. We did a tour and as we went along I learned more and more about everything in nature that can help you health-wise. I was amazed at how many benefits these things had, and all along I relyed on Advil or Tylenol to help with headaches, but I could have been using natural products to ease the pain. They even had stuff to help with hair growth and thickening.

How I got around

We hired a taxi when we got to the airport, and the price to have a driver with the car for the whole time you are there is the same price you would pay for a rental car. Beware of renting a car as the driving is extremely dangerous in Sri Lanka if you’ve never done it before. I highly advise to go the driver route so that you are with an experienced driver and they know how to navigate the roads. Our driver’s name was Sunil and he was very sweet. His English was good enough that he understood what we wanted. Sometimes things got lost in translation, but if you are patient with each other, you will get the message across. Also, he has experience with tourists so he generally knows what you want without having to fully explain it. Just say Sirigirya, and he knows you most likely want to hike the Lion’s feet or Pidrangula as an example.

Where I stayed

We stayed at Ozo hotel in Kandy the first 2 nights. The first day we didn’t have breakfast included and went to a restaurant that has the best authentic Sri Lankan breakfast. It was definitely different than the eggs and toast I’m used to, as we pretty much had what I would consider lunch-type food with fish, soups, noodles, etc. Nonetheless it was still a fantastic meal and good to experience the authentic breakfast at least once while you are in Sri Lanka. I honestly didn’t care too much for the coffee there though, but still tried it anyway. They use powdered milk, which is definitely not my thing, but I took a few sips just to try it and also to be polite.

We then switched to Jetwing Lake in Dambulla, which is only 15 minutes away from Sigiriya. The hotel was so unique. It’s a brand-new build, only 9 months old and the concept is super cool. It’s all about modern minimalism mixed with woodey furniture and a little grit. The lobby was fully open-air concept as well as the hallways. When I say open air, there are no walls. You walk up to a platform and there is the lobby desk. I absolutely loved our room. I love simple and chic. The shower was open concept, you just walk in and turn on the water. I loved that there was a separate tub that you could take a bubble bath in. I didn’t use it, but I should have. The towels were plush and soft. The hair dryer came in handy when I needed to wash my hair that evening from all the sweat build up. The bar was stocked with soda and snacks and the room comes with 2 complementary bottles of water.

 

 

That was pretty much our trip. I’ll do another update on where we ate, nightlife in Sri Lanka and where I shopped. I had an overall amazing experience and like I said before, I will be going back!

Beauty around the world

 

As I find myself traveling around the world more and more, I have decided to share beauty finds from each place I visit. I recently went to Sri Lanka and I went to a spice garden. I thought a spice garden had spices for cooking. But the main focus of the one I went to was for medicinal purposes. I didn’t know this prior to going, but I was so glad I went.

I learned about all sorts of different plants and trees that have many different benefits for your body. I was amazed that it was all found in nature. I couldn’t believe how many natural remedies are made from the different combinations of plants, tree saps, roots, etc. One in particular that sparked my interest is the Sandalwood tree. At the spice garden, they made a cream made of sandalwood that can help with the worst acne. It helps with acne from small pimples to cystic acne. Over time it’ll clear it up, but it’s not for sure it’ll rid it for good. I have struggled so much with adult acne these past few years and I am willing to try anything, apart from internal medicine, to clear it up. So I’ll let you know how that goes. I can’t wait to share what other beauty products I found in Sri Lanka. I also am going to share a skin update after I try the Sandalwood a few times. Lately my skin has been fluctuating and I’m nervous it’ll break out but I won’t know until I try!

What are some of your favorite beauty products you’ve found while traveling?

 

How to Cut Curly Hair at Home

Hey y’all, so about a week ago I did something craaaazy! I cut my own hair at home! I didn’t even own a pair of hair cutting scissors. I had to make a special trip to the store for a pair of scissors just so I can attempt this madness. Let me explain, just hear me out. I am extremely particular about who cuts my hair and how they cut my hair. Cutting and shaping curly hair is not easy. There’s strategy and planning behind it. Since moving overseas, I just have not seen anyone with hair like mine and when I finally did step foot in a salon, I asked what is their process for cutting curly hair and the first thing they said was flat iron. Uh, nope! That’s pretty much a recipe for a bad hair cut. Feeling super discouraged and frustrated I decided to take matters into my own hands, literally. So here is a video of me cutting my own hair, LIVE! I show you step by step so you can cut your own hair at home also. Please note that you will do this method if you’re looking to achieve a similar look (rounded & full hair). Subscribe to my channel here –> Love Marcella for more curly hair, beauty and lifestyle videos.

xo, Marcella

Buying a Chanel bag in Paris

I have always bought fashion magazines as a little girl and teenager and I remember being mesmerized by the different styles the designers made every season and how different stylists put their own spin on the collection. I remember being able to see people on the street or on tv and in movies and knowing exactly what designer they were wearing and the season it came out in and their inspirations behind that collection. I was a true student of fashion and it brought me so much joy. It was a lovely obsession. It was my escape.

Now, years passed by and I still love designer items. Especially designer accessories. I have always been fascinated not only by the craftsmanship but also the story behind the brand and the person who created it. What was their motivation to start their fashion house? Who were they as a person? What obstacles did they overcome to get to the point that they are at now? I feel connected to them because I myself feel like I’ve had a lot of obstacles to overcome to get to where I am today and I know there’s a lot more I’ll need to overcome to get to where I want to be.

As far as craftsmanship goes, I know what it takes to create something. It takes people who “get it” to understand the value of  what has been created. I truly appreciate the hands that work to make an item, the hours it takes to make it, the attention to detail, sourcing the materials, etc. I think about the whole process and economics behind it and I appreciate what the team behind a brand created, the process they went through to create it, their inspiration and how it was able to get into stores.

There are certain brands and items that I would consider investment pieces. In my opinion I believe the top ones are Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes. I’ve seen those brands have certain items that are produced over many seasons and have either held their value or increased in value. On this list of top investment pieces are the Chanel classic flap bags, Louis Vuitton classic prints and the Hermes Birkin bags.

My first luxury/investment piece is going to be the Chanel Classic Flap medium size in black with calfskin leather and gold hardware from the Paris boutique. I went to the Chanel store in Dubai mall and I tried it on to be sure it’s exactly what I wanted. It is e-ver-y-thing and MORE! It is so elegant, classic and I can literally wear it with anything, every day. I prefer the calfskin leather because it’s more durable. The lambskin looks and feels more smooth and even more elegant, but it’s not suitable for everyday wear because it can get damaged very easily due to the delicate nature of the lambskin leather. I don’t plan on beating up my bag, lol, but I want the extra assurance that it won’t scuff so easily with daily use. So I’m choosing the calfskin so I can wear it to work, out on the town, with ath-leisure wear, casual days or on date nights.  I am so in love with the Chanel Classic Flap and I cannot wait to own it soon!

I hope that you take this post not only for information/educational purposes, but also as inspiration if you want to own a luxury item/s. I am using it as a way to put my desires out there in the universe. I’m using this post as a source of accountability for what I want to achieve. It won’t happen without a lot of hard work and discipline. This has been a goal of mine for a long time and I will achieve it. I’ll write an update post when I buy the Chanel Classic Flap medium in black with gold hardware in Paris!

In the meantime, do you own or want to own a luxury bag? What are your favorite investment pieces and why?

xo, Love Marcella

Exotic Beauty Treatment Of The Moment

photo credit Taste of Life

My experience with Turkish baths, or Hamams, was an interesting one to stay the least. I’ve experienced an Arabic bath when I was in Spain. I figured this would be pretty much the same, but I was so wrong. In a good way. I went to the Ayasofoya Hamam which was originally constructed in 1556. Here’s a little background:

“The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam in Istanbul was designed and built by Mimar Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect. It was built at the request of Hurrem Sultan (Roxelana), the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century (1556-1557 AD). It was built where the ancient public baths of Zeuxippus (100-200 AD) used to stand, between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. The area is also particularly significant as the site where the Temple of Zeus once stood.”

The men and women entrances are completely separate and on opposite ends of the building. I started the experience by entering the Hamam on the far end closest to the Blue Mosque.

I went in and was greeted by the manager. She led me in to the very quiet and dim room with relaxing, soft Turkish music playing and I filled out the standard “do you have any injuries” paperwork. Once I was done with that, I went to the changing area where you remove everything. When I say everything, I mean EV-ER-Y-THING. They do provide you with disposable underwear that feel more like a loose peace of cotton than underwear. And I got a purple peshtamal (turkish hand woven towel) to wrap around myself. I then met the attendant who would be performing the bath on me. She took my hand, and while holding hands, she led me to the next room. That was different for me. Usually they say something like “come with me” and you follow behind them. But she took my hand, and led me to the next destination. It’s subtle, but was very noticeable for me. I thought it was nice and immediately indicated to me that this would be a very different experience. We went into the all-white marble room and she instructed me to sit next to the fountain with the gold spout. I sat down, she ran the water and made sure it was a nice temperature. She handed me a gold bowl and told me to sit back against the wall and relax. I sat against the wall, to attention, and she said, “no relax”. I still didn’t understand what she meant, so she sat next to me and sat down against the wall and completely let herself relax. Every single muscle, down to her posture was almost limp. Then I had the “oooooh” moment, and understood what I needed to do. The whole point is to completely let go, and cleanse your body and mind. So I did just that, and used the gold bowl to pour water over myself as I waited for her to return.

When she returned, she also changed into just the towel and some flip flops so she doesn’t get her clothes wet while she baths me. She took the special exfoliating mit and scrubbed my whole body from my face down to my feet. She did everything. My butt, my legs, my boobs, feet, everything. I remember thinking “this must be what it feels like to a baby when they get a bath”! Once she was done exfoliating, she walked me over the the center of the room and then unwrapped my peshtamal and laid it on top of the heated marble. I laid down on top of it, face up, wondering “what the heck is she about to do?!”. She then took a bucket and dipped a cloth inside, flipped it around and then rung it out. When she rung it out, a huge blanket of foam soap covered my body. She did this 3 times and my whole body was covered in the soapy foam. Then she washed and massaged my whole body, I turned over and she did the same. Then we went back to the fountain and she rinsed my body and she washed my hair for me. It was literally the most relaxing thing ever. I thought we were done, and apparently we weren’t! We went up 2 flights of stairs and in to a small room with a massage bed. She then gave me a nice medium-pressure massage for about 30 minutes.

When I was done I went back downstairs, put on a robe and relaxed with my choice of Turkish coffee or Turkish tea. The experience was seriously unforgettable. I have never had anything like this happen to me before and it’s something I would love to do again. I felt like Royalty!

You guys, this is a must-do activity when traveling to Istanbul. Why is this the best-kept beauty secret? Because it is a full body exfoliation and moisturizing event! For days my skin felt incredibly soft and glowing. Have you ever been to a Turkish Hamam? Have you ever been to Turkey? xoxo

Love,

Marcella

Dubai Travel Guide

One of the things that I love about living in the GCC area is that there is always something to do and see. I’ve lived here for several months and haven’t taken the time to sightsee so I decided to take a weekend and do just that. Dubai is especially fun because there is so much to do.

I started the weekend off by heading over to Miracle Garden. It was hot as balls outside, so I only lasted about 30 minutes. Literally. It was blazing hot that day, and they give you a small umbrella at the entrance to try and cover yourself from the sun, but it doesn’t help at all. Other than the excruciating heat, the garden is so amazing. All the colors, the different sculptures made out of flowers, the different types of flowers. And it’s massive! I heard the garden is more lively in the winter time (i.e. December to February). Around that time of year it’s about 75 F or 24 C and it’s the perfect weather for outdoor living.
The Dubai Mall is a great place to spend time if you come anytime from late March to the end of October because it’s air conditioned. It’s so big that you can spend several days just exploring Dubai Mall. There is almost any and every major brand you can think of here. From high end retailers like Chanel, Burberry, Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton to high street like Top Shop, River Island, etc.
Just outside of the Dubai Mall there are water shows every 15 minutes and it’s synchronized to different songs. One time they did the 007 movie theme. Another time they did what sounded like a traditional turkish song. It’s a really lovely experience something nice to do with a snack or ice cream to take a quick break from shopping.

Food:
My favorite restaurants are of course the ones where I can get items that remind me of home like Texas Roadhouse and Cheesecake Factory. But if you’re looking for a little more culture in your food options I LOVED Abdel Wahab! The food there is absolutely delicious!

Helpful hints:
-When getting a taxi, don’t use the concierge. They use the more expensive black cars. Ask where to find a “regular taxi”. Do the same in the airport. There will be people asking you “taxi? taxi? you need a taxi?” and my first time here I said yes and was put in a black car. I thought “wow this is so cool. Dubai’s taxis are all town cars”. Really? Who am I kidding lol. I later found out those are people who are trying to get rides out of tourist who don’t know any better i.e. myself. So don’t make the mistake I made. Unless you prefer a town car, then more power to you. But for me, I just want to get from point A to point B.

-I highly suggest if you are visiting the GCC area, do it between the months of November and early March. Any other time, it’s just too hot! Especially to do anything outdoors.

Let me know if you want to see more travel guides. I’ll have part 2 of Dubai for you soon! xo

Love,

Marcella