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Travel Catch up – Indonesia

Soooo since I’ve failed to post since I got back from my abroad travels, that means I never got to finish up writing about my Southeast Asia travels. Even though its been so long I still want to do this quick post because what else am I gonna do with these pictures?! I want them to be enjoyed by somebody’s eyes other than my own! Also, I’m feeling pretty nostalgic right now and don’t mind reminiscing a little bit…

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As I mentioned in my last travel post, the next step of my Asian adventures was to visit the Pura Lempuyang Temple. Before that we had been staying in/exploring around Ubud which I fell IN LOVE with. Ubud is such a special place. I think it has a really amazing mix of traditional customs and culture, with a modern day twist. There, rustic temples and traditional Balinese cuisine mixed with trendy-healthy cafes and high quality bath and body shops. Anyways I’m getting off track but in my opinion Ubud should be on everyone’s bucket list.

To get to Pura Lempuyang we took the ricketiest, sketchiest metal van across to the Eastern side of Bali. It was actually an incredibly beautiful drive so the type of vehicle we were in didn’t really matter to me. We passed by lush sprawling rice fields and drove through numerous small villages that were usually bustling with life and labor.

We finally arrived at the base of Pura Lempuyang and began our ascent up to the top of the Temple of 1000 Steps. Also when I say 1000 steps its really 1700 steps supposedly, and its ALL directly uphill. Not only that but it is required to wear a sarong and long sleeve shirt while visiting the temple. Needless to say I was drenched in sweat after finally making it to the top but it was well worth it. The “temple” actually consisted of several small open-air temples. The most famous temple is actually the first temple you come across, and is where you can see the beautiful door in this post’s featured image.

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Most tourists shy away from Pura Lempuyand because of the intense physical labour involved, which makes for a more spiritual experience if you ask me. You really feel immersed in nature, and immersed in the culture as you pass by locals carrying baskets of prayer offerings on top of their heads. I’m ashamed to say that even local old women who seemed to be around 70-80 years old were flying by me on the way up. I think that really is proof of the resilience and strength of the Indonesian people, from the time they are extremely young up until the end.

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After Pura Lempuyang we headed straight for Tirta Gangga which is a water palace in the same area. It was extremely beautiful with blooming lotuses and other blossoms, fountains and stepping stones. It even had a pool to swim in (not the cleanest but still beautiful. Just had algae on the bottom).

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Okay so I thought this post was going to be short but its actually not and I still have so much more I want to post about. Mostly about our 2 day hike up and down Mount Rinjani! I’ll just have to make a separate post.

xoxo,

Austa

After a Long Hiatus…

Well hello again! I apologize to anyone who reads my blog for the extremely extended hiatus I’ve had from writing. After I got back from my abroad experience in Australia (and my travels through Indonesia and the Philippines on the way home) I ended up taking a semester off from school. It was a super last minute decision and primarily because of financial issues and family issues in general.

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At first I was pretty devastated when I realized I was going to have to take a break from pursuing my degree. Most of my friends will be graduating a semester ahead of me now, and seeing them take on prestige internships in the city and going out together on weekends was discouraging for me and obviously left me with major FOMO.

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Fortunately though I realized that this semester off has been a blessing in disguise. I’ve been working two jobs, one at a juice bar and one at LUSH Cosmetics. I feel like both have benefitted me, but I’ve especially enjoyed working at LUSH. It is a company I’ve admired for quite a while now – not only for their amazing products but also because of the message the company stands for. They actively oppose animal testing and all the ingredients in their products are fairly traded. Many of the ingredients in their products have beautiful stories behind them, and 100% of the profit on their Charity Pot lotion goes to various grassroots charities and organizations.

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I truly believe, more now than ever, that everything really does happen for a reason. Sometimes it just takes a bit longer to see what that reason may be – but in the end it is always there. Without taking this semester off I wouldn’t have been able to take a step back and have a now clearer vision of the career path I’d like to take. I’ve been able to spend more time with my friends here in LA and my boyfriend. I’m also really happy to say that I’ve been focusing a lot more on healthy eating and fitness since I’ve been home. I plan on starting to put more recipes on the blog alongside fashion, travel, and photography posts. With all that being said I’m still really excited to start back up at American this fall!

IMG_0609I promise to start writing more regularly on this blog, especially with my impending return to school coming up quickly. Also I will be traveling to Costa Rica for a week in August with my boyfriend and his family. I love writing about my travels and can’t wait to document it!

xoxo, Austa

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Monkeys, Temples and Delicious Food: Bali, Indonesia

My first stop on my trip through part of Southeast Asia is Bali, Indonesia! Despite only having been here for just over 24 hours, I feel like I’ve already experienced so much its crazy. I flew here from Brisbane yesterday and was greeted at the airport by a two hour customs line where I met some extremely friendly Aussies to pass the time with. My good friend met me outside of the airport  (she flew here all the way from New York!) and we ventured around looking for a taxi. It definitely wasn’t hard considering the mobs of taxi drivers hawking prices at you “Taxi! Taxi!”

After an hour in our taxi we ended up at our beautiful little hotel: Kertiyasa Bungalow in Ubud. The staff is amazingly hospitable and helpful. The grounds are covered with beautiful plumeria trees, statues, and a nice little fountained pool. Entering our air conditioned room was sheer relief from the cloying heat outside. They also serve a complimentary breakfast which is always a plus!

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IMG_9448IMG_9444IMG_9449We ended up getting dinner at a quaint Balinese restaurant in the nearby city center and I was so excited to see that many of the restaurants feature seating without chairs, just cushions where you can sit criss cross apple sauce. The extremely cheap prices don’t hurt either! It literally cost about 2 US dollars for a beautiful and healthy meal which is crazy to me.

Today, we walked through the Monkey Forest and both of us almost got our stuff stolen by monkeys. No kidding, they made a grab at Jackie’s iPhone and at papers I was carrying. We walked through the city center and got lost on a long walk through the rice terraces.

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The heat was absolutely blinding and we ended up walking for probably at least 10 miles through rural Bali which was definitely an interesting experience. We also stumbled upon the beautiful Puri Saraswati Temple. It’s right off one of the main city roads and is such a gem to find with beautiful statues and lily pads that fill the water that surrounds the temple. Something else to check out in Ubud is the sprawling street market that runs through the town.

PS. make sure if you decide to enter any of the temples in Bali that you specifically bring a sarong and scarf to wear because they don’t accept pants or a regular maxi skirt! We learned the hard way.

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So far, Bali has been an amazing experience with the friendliest people. I’m so excited for what the next week brings! Tomorrow we venture to Padangbai and then to the famous Pura Lempuyang Temple.

more to come,

xoxo

Chasing Drinks & Dreams: Sydney’s Opera Bar

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Sydney’s Opera Bar (and Opera Kitchen) can be found in possibly the most stunning location in the city. Right on the water of Sydney Harbour, Opera Kitchen is located at the foot of the Sydney Opera house and enjoys unbeatable views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Luna Park.

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Opera Kitchen’s menu features opulent selections like a $75 tasting plate and a variety of cuisines from Japanese, to steak frites. Being poor college students we obviously didn’t fork out $18 for a margarita, but treated ourselves to the cheapest glasses of chardonnay.

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Just the experience of sharing glasses of good white wine (aka not goon) by the Sydney Harbour was definitely a worthwhile experience. Good wine, good views, and great company is, in my opinion, the best recipe for a fantastic evening.

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Exploring Sydney

IMG_9106Last weekend I had the opportunity to take an extra long weekend and travel from Brisbane to Sydney. I only stayed for 4 days and really wish that I had months longer to explore such a beautiful city. Between the iconic harbours, historic architecture, lush parks and gorgeous beaches: Sydney seems to have everything. The lifestyle definitely has more of a city pace than Brisbane and is much more touristy – both of which make the Sydney fun but a bit overwhelming. The night life is fantastic as well, from smaller kitschy bars, to the swanky Opera Bar directly at the foot of the Sydney Opera House, to bustling large clubs.

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The first full day we spent there, we wandered around the city taking in the sights (and eating everything in sight). The morning was spent in a nice little cafe called Macchiato near our hostel in Chinatown. We walked through a large mall located right by town hall that was stuffed with beautiful little patisseries lining the middle of the mall and designer shops on either side. IMG_8978 IMG_8979 IMG_8982

After taking a look at all of the beautiful clothing we couldn’t afford, we meandered around Hyde Park. The park was such a serene spot in the middle of a busy city. With fountains and shady trees, it was the perfect place for a work day lunch or reading a book.

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We then got some dumplings in Chinatown and hopped on the free city bus to the famous Sydney Opera House. Seeing the Opera House in-person after seeing pictures of it all my life was such a surreal experience.

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The next day I got another perspective of the Sydney Opera House – from the ferry! We took a ferry from Sydney Harbour over to Manly Beach. Manly included a great little town of shops, restaurants, cafes, etc. That day there was also a cute little street fair going on featuring stalls of local artisans. The beach itself was vast, with white sand and harsh waves. Any swimming was strictly watched by lifeguards because of intense rips and a certain type of blue jellyfish, which I did see floating around me as I waded into the water.

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PS. Please follow my new food-stagram @austa_eats_food

xoxo

Snorkeling and SCUBA Diving the Great Barrier Reef

While in Cairns recently I had the opportunity to boat out to the outer reef of the Great Barrier Reef and do some snorkeling and SCUBA diving via Passions of Paradise! I had always dreamed of SCUBA diving and have been wanting to get my license for a while now so I was very unprepared for what actually happened when I dove…

It was me and a bunch of friends hopping on to the boat early in the morning (hungover from partying the previous night) and what happened was not pretty. A few of us got really terribly sea sick and were sitting with brown bags at the front of the boat for the entire 2 hour voyage to the outer reef. I was fortunately not sick at this point and jumped at the chance to snorkel around Michaelmas Cay, a protected island and bird sanctuary. Saying that it is an island is kind of pushing it considering you can probably run around the island in a hot 10 minutes. It is basically a stretch of white sand teeming with birds.

The water was pretty warm and calm, with corals and sponges in view right below you only mere feet from the shore. The reef around the island is popular spot for sea turtles, and we were lucky enough to be graced by one’s presence. I’ll never forget what it felt like to be swimming right along such a beautiful creature! There were also tons of colorful fish of all sizes. A favorite were the rainbow parrot fish we saw nibbling on coral.

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Immediately after snorkeling it was time to dive. At this point I was pretty tired from swimming around and had swallowed a fair amount of sea water so the dehydration was too real. We were warned initially about becoming dehydrated from diving because the oxygen in our tanks was very dry. Having no time to drink water or rest before diving I got super sick as soon as I hit the water again. We dove down to a depth of 6 meters and saw huge sea sponges and little clownfish (Nemos) playing around the anemones. Then it happened: I threw up…all over the Great Barrier Reef. I just couldn’t stop it from coming and ended up feeding the fish for a few minutes while 6 meters deep under the ocean. Needless to say that was the low point for me on the trip, literally.

IMG_4582IMG_4561  IMG_4587 IMG_4594Besides the whole fish feeding mess it was truly an experience that I will never forget, and I hope that it’s not my last time visiting the Great Barrier Reef. It is frightening to think about the rapid rate of decline that our beautiful reef environments are facing worldwide. Thanks to human-related pollution there is no marine environment on this Earth that we can say is, by definition, pristine. We should each try to do our small part in protecting our oceans and that means no littering or flushing anything other than human waste down the toilet, and cutting down on our use of plastics (especially plastic water bottles!)

If you would like to learn more about the Great Barrier Reef and the efforts to protect it you can visit any of these sites:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/06/130608-great-barrier-reef-australia-world-heritage-unesco-environment-science-global-warming/

https://fightforthereef.org.au/

http://www.savethereef.org.au/

xo

The Beautiful Whitsunday Islands

I’m so sorry that its been such a long time since I’ve posted! It’s been so busy over here in Aussie land that I lose track of time! But anyways, this last week and a half has been University of Queensland’s “mid-semester break” AKA the United States’ spring break! I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to rent a beautifully beat up, chartreuse-colored station wagon with a few friends and road trip up the coast. The first day was pretty hellish because we made a straight shot for Cairns which is about 22 hours north of Brisbane!

This post is about our river rafting trip around the beautiful Whitsunday Islands. During the voyage we were able to snorkel around an island reef and lay on the 98% silica, white sand shores of Whitehaven Beach. Whitehaven is constantly being touted as one of, if not the most, beautiful beach in Australia, and I feel extremely honored that I had the opportunity to see it with my own eyes! (and lay on it with my own butt).

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The rafting trip itself was seriously insane. Partially because of our mad Aussie tour guides and partially because of the crazy speed of the rafting boat. Snorkeling was absolutely amazing and we had the chance to see corals, sponges, parrotfish, amongst other things.

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From the lookout point on Whitsunday Island, our tour guide told us that in the inlet we were looking at there were thousands upon thousands of soldier crabs that make their homes there, and during low tide you can see crowds of sting rays in the inlet swimming around trying to eat the crabs.IMG_8342 IMG_8331

The sands of the island were so white they blinded me like snow. But there was an upside: they were so incredibly white that the heat merely reflects off the sand and so the sand never gets hot. There is nothing worse than trekking across blindingly hot sand. The sand is also so uniformly fine that its perfect for exfoliating with! Personally I took the opportunity and exfoliated my entire body.

To wrap things up, the Whitsundays are absolutely worth the visit if you are ever going to be making a trip to the Great Barrier Reef, or Australia’s east coast. Also, if you happen to be a millionaire you can stay at a resort on one of the beautiful islands. Or, if you’re not a millionaire: there is also the opportunity to camp on Whitsunday Island for a mere $8. A water taxi costs about $60 to take you over to the islands, but if you are going in a group its still a great deal!

xo