life on pine

Mini Guide

exploring cusco, the capital of the incan empire

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a rough guide on how to tackle cusco


if you are traveling to the sacred valley or machu picchu, you will inevitably spend a few nights in cusco. and the good thing is, we really liked this town – yes, it's full of tourists. but there is a powerful energy of excitement and you can feel it as you walk through the cozy cobble stoned streets. we ate delicious food, tried many pisco sours, explored the markets and back streets [which almost made it feel semi-european], and loved our cozy little airbnb.

we had 5 days here, and i think any less would be rushing it. of course more time is always better, but 5 days did feel like enough to really experience the region. if we'd had more time i would have loved to see rainbow mountain  – this excursion requires waking up around 3am, though, so you'll want to have another buffer day.

DAY 1: land in cusco [from lima] in the afternoon – check into your lodging and spend the evening exploring
DAY 2: explore the sacred valley [day trip] read more about this HERE
DAY 3: explore cusco
DAY 4: leave for macchu picchu [overnight, sleep in aguas calientes
DAY 5: travel back to cusco for the night



where to eat and drink in cusco, peru 


cusco is actually full of really delicious restaurants and bars for any price range. because of the amount of people in the city though, it is best to make reservations [at least for dinner] to avoid having to wait for a table. here are some of our favorites:

BARRIO CEVICHE [thanks for the rec, michelle!]: recommended for lunch – arrive when they open to get your pick of tables. some of the tastiest fish and rosé you can get, and right on the square. 
MORENA owned by the same people as barrio ceviche, this peruvian restaurant was our favorite place we had dinner. great decor, amazing food, a pisco sour cart!, excellent service. this is a must. 
CICCIOLINA you'll 100% need a reservation here, they get crazy packed [and for good reason, their food is delicious – we ate here twice]. the squid ink pasta was a highlight for me. 
LA BODEGA 138 after a long day exploring the sacred valley, we wanted a casual and easy dinner. this spot has great salads, good beer and amazing pizzas [which also made tasty left overs]. 
NUEVO MUNDO BAR craft beer in peru is surprisingly awesome – this is a cool bar on the square to grab a drink
 





 

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mini guide: where to eat and drink in lima

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SO, LIMA IS A FOOD-IE CITY


if you read my post from hisa franko in slovenia, you know that we're big fans of the show chef's table. not only because we love to learn about food and the interesting chefs behind it, but also because it has a special way of getting you excited about specific regions around the world. the episode from slovenia single handedly made sure we saw that part of the country and it ended up being one of our most memorable legs of the trip. when we decided to travel to peru, we watched the CENTRAL episode, and immediately were online frantically trying to make reservations. sadly it didn't work out for us as the recently awarded 4th best restaurant in the world was on a lot of other people's minds too. 

this was just the start of us learning more about lima as a complete food mecca. with the pacific ocean, andes mountains and amazonian rainforest spread across this crazy diverse country, each climate produces a unique inspiration for the chefs around peru's capital. add in peruvian's skill for flavor blending, experimentation, and their influence from the many japanese and chinese immigrants – it's no wonder this city is full of endless dining options, fit for any palette. 

AND YOU NEED TO EAT A LOT OF CEVICHE


it is hard to go two blocks without finding a cevicheria in lima – from the small vending trucks pushed along the streets to the fanciest of fine dining establishments in the most affluent areas – there is always fresh ceviche to be had. 

more than 2,000 years ago peru had an abundance of highly acidic oranges that were used to marinate the fish and started this "movement" – these have since been replaced with small bright green lemons that "cook" the fish in a different way than our lemons back in the states can. expect to see a boiled sweet potato [camote] and a two-inch piece of heavy corn on the cob [choclo] on the side of each dish – and of course a few small red hot limo peppers mixed into the raw fish. served in small portions with a variety of fish and shellfish,  based on what's available and in season, it's the perfect way to share a meal with friends and family.
  


WHERE TO EAT IN LIMA


  • EL PAN DE LA CHOLA this bakery rivals any spot we've been to in SF, and is one of the best breakfasts i've ever had. 
  • LA BODEGA VERDE a fun, healthy, cozy patio spot for breakfast or lunch, and a great area to walk around in afterwards. 
  • JERONIMO great lunch spot – take recommendations from the waiter and make sure to get a reservation if you want a table. their bar seating is pretty fun though, too.
  • EL MERCADO make a reservation 2 weeks in advance, or arrive 15-20 minutes before they open to get in line for the bar. this spot fills up FAST but is worth it if you can snag a seat. lunch only!
  • LA MAR one of the fancier and more established cevicherias – arrive before 1 if you want to get a table. each fish served here can be traced back not only to the place where it was caught, but the fisherman who caught it.
  • LA PICANTERÎA focuses on the food of the north coast, but the lunch-only version is more casual, with picnic table seating and family-style portions. our favorite was the turquoise bar area off to the side.
  • RAFAEL a must for one of your dinners in lima – high quality dining at a reasonable price.
  • CENTRAL this spot requires at least over a month in advance reservation booking. we weren't able to eat here, but based on the episode of chef's table it seems like it would be quite the experience. 
  • CHIFA CHUNG YION chifa is the chinese - peruvian cuisine that you will see all over the country. it's more of a fun experience with decent food than a food-ie experience. this chifa is a lima landmark, packed with locals and great vibes. 

WHERE TO DRINK IN LIMA


  • ROSA DEL NAUTICA a seaside lima staple! we came here multiple times for drinks in their cozy bar area. if you're going for food, try to get a reservation or arrive early to get a window seat and watch the surfers. cala is another great seaside spot for drinks and a meal.
  • AYAHUASCA BAR LIMA housed in a former mansion, this is THE bar to experience on a weekend night. there are many floors/bars/patios to hang in and plenty of shaman-inspired art paying homage to the famous amazonian brew of the same name.
  • VICTORIA BAR set in a vintage victorian mansion, this is another trendy and fun bar in the popular barranco nightlife scene.
  • ANTIGUA TABERNA QUEIROLO since 1880, this old school bodega has been the gathering spot for locals to sip pisco, hang with friends and snack on small bites.
  • CRAFT BEER OF PERU the craft scene was one of the biggest surprises of the trip, there are a ton of small breweries popping up that are making really great beer and our month spent in peru might have converted me. a couple fave breweries & tasting rooms: nuevo mundo cerveceria | barbarian miraflores | cañas y tapas

 

 

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hip & bohemian canggu: a mini guide

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CANGGU: A MINI TRAVEL GUIDE


after spending time in the sleepy coastal village of bingin and the lush forests of ubud, we were excited to explore more of bali's emerging culinary scene, design obsession and constantly evolving community. with the neighboring towns of seminyak & kuta seeming overrun with night clubs and trite western concepts, all signs led us to the bohemian surf town of canggu. where balinese locals live alongside a stable population of ex-pats - loaded with trendy cafes, yoga studios, a good surf break, ancient hindu temples and gleaming rice fields. there is no shortage of new developments here, but the overall vibe is consistently focused on health, relaxation and interacting with other like minded folk. 

THE FOOD SCENE IS ON ANOTHER LEVEL


we had a lot of really, really good food in bali but in regards to density and variety of options, canggu stood out exceptional. i am still daydreaming about that  damn soft shell crab sandwich [pic below]. from starting your day off with a brekkie bowl or smoothie to a hearty, healthy lunch and fresh seafood dinner, eating well and fueling your activities isn't hard around here. some of our favorites were:

  • THE SLOW boutique hotel, art gallery and restaurant. the food presentation was an exhibit in itself and everything we ate was deliciously [repeat: crab sandwich pic]. the cool design vibes here are authentic and inspiring.
  • SHADY SHACK vegetarian cafe and all day hangout. with their covered terrace, large porch and open air layout – rain or shine, this is a great spot for a drink or bite. 
  • SPICY COCONUT & QUINCE – two casual cafes perfect for a breakfast bowl and coffee 
  • CRATE CAFE canggu staple and the hot spot for breakfast, cold brew coffee or meeting up with friends
  • CAFE VEDA organic cafe and juicery serving meals all day long. we loved their fish tacos 
  • ECHO BEACH CLUB fresh fish BBQ on sunday, pick your seafood of choice and they will throw it on the grill while you enjoy drinks looking out over the waves.
  • ITHAKA WARUNG for good indonesian
  • NOOK technically in seminyak, this cafe has a massive patio overlooking the rice fields serving fresh, local cuisine. absolutely worth a visit, but bring a book and be prepared to end up staying for a few hours.

 

THE BEACH VIBES ARE LAID BACK & THE RICE FIELDS ARE STUNNING


ubud isn't the only place where you can see the gorgeous and lush rice fields of bali – canggu is covered in them, alongside beaches that definitely have more of a... vibe. more people [locals and tourists], more music, more happy hours. i can imagine during the busy season this might get overwhelming, but when we were there it was a welcomed energy. two favorite spots of ours to grab afternoon drinks were:

  • DEUS EX MACHINA has a temple here which is awesome and ridiculous at the same time. it's worth going for drinks or food or anything really. we happened to stop by on an evening where they were playing a surf documentary outside with free food & drinks. everyone was propped up on bean bags under the stars and it was a really cool event.
  • OLD MAN'S is nothing fancy, but it kinda goes off here as the local scene gathers for sun downers always with greats view of the water. they'll often have live tunes and the earlier the better to find a comfortable place to hang.











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9 things to see when you're in ubud, bali

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9 THINGS TO SEE WHEN YOU VISIT UBUD, BALI


ubud is a place i have heard about and seen photos of over the last few years, and have been intrigued ever since. from its iconic rice paddies, incredibly loving locals, temples, arts and culture – you can really feel the history breathing through the walls of this small jungle village. it is rich with color, a vibrant community and only a few hours from the coast, making this stop in your bali trip a more spiritual experience than other parts of the island. we spent most of our time exploring the rice paddies [on scooter and on foot], temples, doing yoga, trying local food, getting incredible yet inexpensive massages, and enjoying the peaceful rainy moments amongst the lush greenery.

here are 9 things you shouldn't miss when experiencing ubud:
 


1. RENT A MOTOR BIKE AND DRIVE TO THE RICE FIELDS
 



2. GRAB BREAKFAST AT KAFE, THE CACAO SMOOTHIE WAS OUR FAVORITE



3. HAVE A BINTANG AND AFTERNOON SNACKS ON THE PATIO AT SARI ORGANIC



4. TAKE AT LEAST ONE CLASS AT YOGA BARN [IT'S AN EXPERIENCE]

5. VISIT THE GREEN SCHOOL A  SUSTAINABLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL THAT IS DOING GREAT THINGS

6. STOP BY TUKIES, THE BEST COCONUT SHOP I'VE EVER SEEN



7. GRAB LUNCH OR DINNER AT MOKSA, A SPOT THAT WILL MAKE YOU CONSIDER GOING VEGAN
 




8. CHECK OUT BAMBU INDAH, EVEN IF IT'S JUST FOR A DRINK



9: GO FOR A SWIM AT JUNGLE FISH [AFTER 5PM IT'S FREE ENTRY FOR NON-GUESTS]



10. TOUR AND EXPLORE THE MANY LOCAL TEMPLES












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what you need to know before visiting kathmandu

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IN MY HEAD, I HAD A VERY DIFFERENT PICTURE OF WHAT NEPAL LOOKED LIKE
i knew kathmandu was the capital to fly into before heading out for a trek, temple or safari – and i suppose naively the buddhism, yoga, mountains, prayer flags and overall zen vibes lead me to believe that the entire country would be a himalayan paradise. kathmandu is actually completely crazy. it feels like what i picture india to look like and kp confirmed, the only thing comparable he has ever seen was in new delhi.

HERE ARE TEN IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING: 


  1. THE AIR IS DRY, DUSTY & POLLUTED and there is no government supported trash or recycling program. at first, we thought people were just careless, but the fact is that no one comes around to your house [ever] to pick up trash. this leaves locals with few choices and most end up collecting trash in a pile and burning it. we noticed many of the locals burning their trash on the streets – which adds to the already bad pollution problem. it's heart breaking and opened our eyes to how lucky we are back home to have this completely taken care of. it left us wanting to figure out how to make a change. luckily there are a few organizations that have started the movement. tips? wear a mask or bandana, almost everyone does [even locals] and you will be glad you did. 
     
  2. THE ROAD CONDITIONS ARE PRETTY TERRIBLE ... the second you leave the airport you're immersed in the terrifying driving that is nepal. the roads are for the most part uneven, rocky and made of dirt. they barely fit two cars and buses come within what feels like inches of colliding on the regular. street lights, crosswalks or any traffic laws don't really exist – looking at your phone or not paying attention aren't safe options. 
     
  3. QUIRKY POWER cuts are quite common here, so be prepared for a quick [or not so quick] black out. just looking at the power cords in thamel gave me anxiety. 
     
  4. TRY THE INDIAN FOOD if you plan to trek or visit outside of kathmandu, then you will have plenty of dal bhat and other nepalese fare. you must go to this amazing indian spot recommended by a friend, western tandoori [their naan is spiritual]. we went 3 times in a couple of days... no shame. 
     
  5. YOGA IS EVERYWHERE and a great way to get zen and prep or recover post adventure. we went to a couple classes at pranamaya and loved it. the coffee shop downstairs is perfect to pop into after class. 
     
  6. SLEEP AWAY FROM THE CRAZY thamel is jam packed with tourists, western restaurants, outdoor gear shops and a lot of noise. we did venture to this neighborhood often, but actually stayed in lazimpat at a great guesthouse where it was a short walk to thamel, but quiet-er and very cozy.
     
  7. RELIGION & TEMPLES i was surprised to learn that nepal is 80% hindu, 10% buddhist, and the rest muslim, christian and others. we visited a few different temples and met nepalis of more than 3 different religions which was really interesting. bhaktapur and the surrounding area has a ton of history and the main temple is massive! sadly a lot of it is being rebuilt after the big 2015 earthquake. hire a taxi driver for the day for about $30 US dollars. 
     
  8. NEPAL IS SAFE we never felt uncomfortable or unsafe despite the hectic nature of the city [even walking around at night felt completely fine]. nepalis are known to be really kind and welcoming people. theft and attacks are a very small occurrence, focus your energy on the traffic and pollution exposure instead.
     
  9. BUTCHERS & THE MEAT YOU EAT hide your eyes if you're bothered by any sort of animal butchering. we witnessed a goat's head being chopped off just a few feet from the sidewalk. you will see a lot of exposed meat, not on ice - as a tourist, best to stay away and only eat meat at restaurants or hotels. 
     
  10. THE VISA PROCESS IS WEIRD bring $25 US cash [per person] and a small picture of yourself, otherwise you will have to get out local rupees then exchange them for USD, and wait in about 14 different lines. it's a screwy process and a huge time suck, not to mention that you will lose big on their exchange rates. 
     

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KATHMANDU IS AN EXPERIENCE
it's cool and it is the gateway to nepal, which we absolutely loved. as i mentioned, it's maybe not what you'd expect, but that makes for part of the fun. these details aren't here to deter you from going at all, more so to help mentally prepare you. while it can feel a bit exhausting, it is also really special in its own little way. have you been to kathmandu? i would love to hear your thoughts! 

 

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