Hey guys, as a continuation of my previous Dubai travel guide which can be found here -> Dubai travel guide I have a compilation video of a few of the activities I shared with you all in the post. I hope you enjoy and don’t forget to subscribe to my channel here -> Love Marcella
Sri Lanka was an experience to remember. 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 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 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. At the end there is a shop where you could buy the teas produced there, and I bought the BOP tea = English Breakfast and a few packs of Green Tea. I have to say it is probably the best and freshest tea I’ve ever had.
After the tea factory, 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 relied on Advil or Tylenol to help with headaches, but I could have been using natural products. They even had stuff to help with hair growth and thickening. Needless to say I bought a bunch of their products and I cannot wait to try them to see if they work. I’ll keep you posted on the natural beauty products I bought and liked.
We then headed out the next day leaving Kandy to head to Dambulla, and stopped off at the center of Sri Lanka. It was like an ancient house or temple made of rocks with etchings 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.
The forecast said it would rain every day, 100% of the time, but we got lucky and it only rained at night, with the exception of one day which we ended up going to Dambulla temple rather than our planned hike for the day. Before you enter the temple, you have to remove your shoes. I was a little hesitant because the ground is straight up cobble stone, but luckily the stone is so old and worn that it wasn’t uncomfortable on my feet. The temple was very beautiful and there were very old paintings on the walls of Buddhist figures. There were lots of people there to give flower offerings to the Buddha. Afterwards, was a great photo opp because you end up being at the top of a big hill essentially and you can see the lush green land for as far as you can see.
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.
Our last day I did a spa day after the Sigiriya hike. The spa at Jetwing lake was probably my favorite part of the trip after being sore and my feet hurt from all the hiking. 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.
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
I stayed at Ozo hotel in Kandy the first 2 nights and it was a decent hotel. It was quite simple and had a small balcony where you can enjoy the sunrise in the mornings. I had a peaceful sleep and the bed was super comfortable. I didn’t like their shampoo and body wash that was included. It just seemed of very cheap quality. I also didn’t like the hair dryer that came in-room. Luckily I brought my own, so I just ended up using that. These are minor grievances, and I overall liked the hotel. The restaurant was actually really great for dinner and they had good wine selections. And I also loved the breakfast buffet. I was happy with the fact that they had great customer service. We accidentally booked Ozo in a different city, and they switched the booking for us with no penalty. Win!
We 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.
There is so much to cover on this amazing place, so I will be doing 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!
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?
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
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.
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!
-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
It truly seems like the time is flying by! I feels like just yesterday I moved to the Middle East and now, suddenly I’m about 5 months in to living here and I’ve found my groove! My time here involves many busy days of work, housework, cooking, spending time with friends and finding time in all of that for self-growth, meditation, saving money, working out, being great, etc. It’s exhausting! So I decided it was time for a much-needed break and I wasn’t going to take anything other than the sounds of the ocean and a nice cold cocktail with the warm sun feeding my soul and my skin. So that’s exactly what I got, but the place I stayed was more amazing than I expected.
Shangri-La is a franchise of hotels that has several locations around the world and they are known for their five-star service and accommodations. They have locations in the Hong Kong, France, and Japan just to name a few. First of all, the room was pretty awesome. It’s like staying at your relative’s house who is well off and super clean. It feels like a safe haven. Away from all of the chaos and racket of city life. Of all the activities I did, I especially appreciated the room for my one night of “stay-in-bed-and-watch-a-movie” night. I loved that there were good channels to choose from and there are different languages also (french, spanish, arabic, english, etc.), and they even had a good movie channel in English. The mornings were heavenly because the drapes were black out and I was able to sleep in for as long as I wanted.
Breakfast is included in your stay and it’s a full buffet of deliciousness. You can omelettes made-to-order any way you like. There were meat options (chicken or beef), and you had your pickings of fresh breads. My favorite was the chocolate croissants. I almost always have as salad for breakfast when I travel. So in sticking with tradition, I enjoyed a large salad at breakfast every morning and their salad bar had everything you could want, even smoked salmon! You can also order any sort of coffee you want like a cappuccino, americano, latte, etc.
What to Do:
I really liked the water sports area at Shangri-La. I did the donut ride which is a speed boat that is connect to a floating circle by a long rope. Then the boat takes off really fast and then is pulls you along for a super fun ride on the waves it creates. I had the wind blowing, water splashing in my face, lifting from my seat from the wave cutting. It was a blast! I think the total cost was 20 Omani Riyal for this ride which wasn’t too bad for 2 people. Then we did kayaking which is the only free watersport. I liked that you didn’t have to pay to use the life vests with the kayaks. Kayaking was such peaceful ride along the cove. You can see the entire property and the natural rock formations on your ride. Once I circles back around to shore, we decided to go snorkeling and borrowed some snorkeling gear from water sports area. I saw so many fish! And the waters are crystal clear. I couldn’t believe how far down you could see in what I considered a pretty deep area of the water. It was just stunning.
I really liked Al Tanoor restaurant. It’s buffet style but you get gourmet items. I usually don’t like buffets because they seem to have lower quality food or food that has less effort put in to it because they just worry about making it in bulk, not necessarily the food itself. But this buffet was so opposite of that. I loved that you can get made to order options like the skewer of prawns that you can order and have made fresh for you and they bring them to the table for you when they’re done. Or the beef tenderloin is made fresh that day. There are also so many healthy options too. I didn’t do any other restaurant option because the buffet was enough. One day I just did the buffet breakfast and the buffet dinner. I brought in my own snacks from a local store before hand and had that snack during the day while spending time at the beach because I was pretty full from the breakfast buffet and didn’t really need a full meal for lunch.
There is a rooftop bar on-site that plays house music. The vibe is really nice and the setup reminds of a Miami outdoor bar area with the wicker furniture and white cushions. The bartender was ok. They weren’t very good at making a classic margarita, however their drink list has really good options. They had one drink that had cucumber and red peppers. I love spicy, but I was a little nervous it’d be too spicy but it wasn’t. Actually it could have used more pica (means spicy in spanish) in my opinion.
I can’t wait to share more of my travel and life adventures with you all! Please subscribe to my Youtube Channel Love, Marcella. xo