Photo Of The Day: Standing On The Cliffs

Look out! It’s a long way down in today’s photo, brought to us by Flickr user Buck Forester. Similar to the shot Alex selected this past Friday, today’s photo was also taken along the gorgeous beaches of Kauai in Hawaii, just from an entirely different perspective. Instead of walking along this rugged island’s eye-popping shoreline, Buck takes us to another view high above the waves below, providing this colorful, vertigo-inducing look at the view from the top.

Taken any great Hawaii photos of your own recently? Or perhaps at a beach near you? Add them to our Gadling group on Flickr. We might just pick one of your shots as our Photo of the Day.

Dreaming of Bali – In search of paradise

What is paradise? Is it a place we can visit? Somewhere with palm tree-lined beaches, frosty cocktails and simmering volcanoes? Or is it an idea? A vision in dreams that never quite materializes when we wake up? Bali, an intriguingly exotic island tucked into the Indonesian Archipelago in Southeast Asia, is just such a paradise. This elusive island is everything you’ve ever dreamed – a land of otherworldly temples, postcard-worthy sand and exotic colorful wildlife. But just when you start easing into the charms of this idyll, Bali shocks you back to life with its increasing modernity and ever-evolving culture. Dreams take unexpected turns, don’t they?

Everyone in Bali, it seems, is looking for their slice of paradise. The island last year welcomed a record 2.3 Million visitors and it shows. In Bali’s tourist capital of Kuta the signs are everywhere, manifesting themselves as gaudy Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurants and mushrooming surf shops on every corner. But that doesn’t mean this paradise is lost. Simply drift your way towards the island’s serene interior, a place dotted with terraced rice paddies and gently humming frogs. Or find yourself lost inside a labyrinth of street food vendors in the city of Denpasar, your nose perfumed with scents of spice, and smoke, and kerosene heat.

Paradise isn’t just a place. It’s a way of seeing the world, particularly when you’re dreaming of Bali. Keep reading below to learn how to begin your Bali exploration.Getting There
Getting to paradise isn’t supposed to be easy, is it? This is particularly true for Bali, an island that’s hidden itself way down “in the corner” of Southeast Asia. While there are no direct flights from the United States, airlines like Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong), Korean Air (via Seoul), China Airlines (via Taipei) and Singapore Air all fly via connections to Denpasar (DPS), Bali’s main airport. Typical prices as of February 2011 start at about $1300 from the East Coast. It might be a long journey to get to Bali, but trust us, it’s well worth it!

The vast majority of Bali’s tourism (and visitors) end up in the island’s South, centered around the coastal city of Kuta. While not all of Kuta is bad, most of the city is a mass of schlocky souvenir stands, gaudy restaurants and package tourists. Avoid it if you can. North of Kuta is its swanky cousin Seminyak, home to many of the island’s expats, upscale eateries and shopping.

Beyond Kuta and Seminyak is Ubud, a loose collection of villages, rice paddies and greenery centered on the oddly named Monkey Forest Road. Even further north the island is dominated by the massive Gunung Agung volcano, the geographical and spiritual heart of Balinese life. Beyond that is Bali’s largely undiscovered interior, full of interesting spots like Munduk and of course, Bali’s infinite stretches of coastline, populated by towns like Lovina. In the far Northwest is the wilderness of West Bali National Park.

Where to Stay
Accommodations in Bali range from the insanely luxurious (picture that last Travel + Leisure photo shoot) to modest surf shacks. Most visitors find themselves staying in the island’s south, simply because it has the biggest selection of high-quality accommodations.

The best option for those not rolling in dough but still looking to enjoy some of Bali’s legendary retreats is one the fantastic, plentiful and reasonably priced private villa options on sites like VRBO or Homeaway. For less than you think, you’ll be living it up in your own beautifully manicured tropical estate (here’s where we stayed) or condo.

Beyond the villa scene, there’s a huge range of accomodations on offer in Bali. In Ubud in the island’s relaxed interior, try the Alam Indah. Travelers near Kuta swear by the All Seasons Legian. Jimbaran tends to be the island’s most luxurious (and expensive) area, hosting upscale properties like the Four Seasons and Puri Bali.

What to Do
Whether you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure or a nice beach where you can eat Lotus Blossoms, Bali has an activity for you. In addition to our tips below, check out these 10 suggestions for your Bali visit.

  • See the Kecak at Ulu WatuKecak, a form of Balinese musical theater retelling the myths of the Hindu religion, is re-enacted at sunset at the island’s Pura Luhur temple, perched dramatically on towering cliffs above the ocean. A truly awesome and interesting spectacle to see.
  • Learn to surf – Due to favorable ocean currents and a uniquely suitable coastline, Bali has emerged as one of the world’s great surfing meccas. Try a class at the surfing mecca of Kuta beach, or head to points further South for some legendary “breaks” at spots like Ulu Watu.
  • Head to the spa – tired and sore from that surfing lesson? Why not hit the spa? Bali is increasingly known as one of the world’s “spa capitals,” whether you’re looking for an insanely luxurious spa treatment or simple inexpensive massage on the beach, Bali has it all.
  • Inland adventures – Bali isn’t just about great beaches and spas. Travelers who venture into the island’s interior will find a wealth of challenging activities and beautiful views ranging from laid-back bike rides among the rice paddies in Ubud, to hikes up volcanoes at Gunung Agung to whitewater rafting.

Dreaming of your own visit to Bali? Read more about Gadling’s “visit to paradise” HERE.

Daily Pampering: Spend Valentine’s Day at Turtle Island in Fiji

There’s only one way to go to Fiji: Turtle Island. The Valentine’s Day deal from this luxury resort is nothing short of incredible. Book five nights in paradise, and you’ll get two more nights free … in beachfront accommodations in a two-room “bure.” And, all meals are covered, including any romantic lunches you want to enjoy on the beach — they’ll be packed to order! The other activities are covered, as well, including sport fishing and SCUBA diving, and once you’re finished exerting yourself, you can relax with two one-hour lomi-lomi (that’s four-handed) massages.

The Turtle Island resort has 14 private beaches, five-star gourmet dining … and those lomi-lomi massages, along with other spa treatments. Personal “bure mamas” will attend to all your needs as you sip top-shelf liquors and champagnes. Only 14 couples are allowed in Turtle Island at a time … one for each private beach!

Here’s where it gets really interesting: if you book by March 31, 2010, you can travel any time by Valentine’s Day in 2011.

Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

The Pearl of Moorea Part 3: Food & Fun

For whatever reason, doing absolutely nothing on the other side of the word is always more enjoyable than doing absolutely nothing at home.

But of course, I exaggerate when I say that my girlfriend and I did absolutely nothing on the French Polynesian island of Moorea during our recent vacation. It was actually quite the opposite. We kept our days very busy eating, sleeping, and swimming. There was hardly any time to do anything else.

Dining in Moorea
Food in the South Pacific always seems to be a challenge–as we first discovered in the Cook Islands two years ago. The biggest complaint is that everything is always so horrifically expensive. We spent $100 for pizza and beer one afternoon, which was pretty much the average for every meal we ate on Moorea. Ouch!

What’s wonderful about the restaurant scene on Moorea, however, is that most restaurants will pick guests up from their resort for free–a very welcome surprise that helped to keep the already expensive cost of meals slightly lower by not having to pay for a taxi.

Ironically, our favorite restaurant that we frequented the most often was also the closest. Le Sud was just a five-minute walk from our resort. This quaint little eatery wraps around the outside porch of a small house where geckos scampered about on the walls in search of insects while we dined.

Le Sud serves tasty thin crust pizzas, a smattering of fish and meat dishes, and has a great wait staff that is serious about pairing the right wine with your food. My girlfriend usually ordered the pizzas while I opted for the tasty Mahi Mahi breaded in coconut shavings. We both finished off our meals with some outstanding home-made strawberry ice cream.

The food at the Moorea Pearl Resort and Spa, on the other hand, was strictly average. I blew through their lunch menu of club sandwiches, hamburgers, and panini, and was not too impressed. Dinner was slightly better with some decent chicken curry, cheese plates, and a surprising dish that turned out to be my favorite on the island: poisson cru. The kitchen prepared this Moorean raw fish specialty in three distinct styles served at the same time. It’s basically sushi salad with a medley of flavors and man, was it good!

The resort also served up some chocolate mousse that was very tasty–depending upon the day I ordered it. My first serving was delicious, served in a crisp cookie shell. The second time, however, the shell was mushy as though it had sat in the fridge for too long. The third and final time, there was no shell at all and the taste of the mousse seemed a little off.

Leisure Time
When we weren’t eating, sleeping, or reading, my girlfriend and I split off and did the things we each do best when vacationing: shop and snorkel.

The resort’s over-water bungalows sit on the edge of a nice little reef where I spent much of my time snorkeling with fish and coral and otherwise enjoying the perfect temperature of the water. The reef wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen, and the cloudy skies diminished the bright colors, but it was still very cool and entertaining. And, of course, it was conveniently located just off our balcony.

As for shopping, my girlfriend was determined to buy our resort’s namesake: a black pearl. I’ve never been a big fan of pearls, but black pearls, I learned, are beautifully mesmerizing. I discovered this at Eva Perles, a jewelry shop just down the street from the resort. It’s owned by a very nice French woman named Eva (naturally), who spent quite a bit of time showing my girlfriend a variety of pearl rings, necklaces, and earrings while I buried my nose in a fascinating book that described how black pearls are harvested in the South Pacific. I didn’t end up buying the book, but my girlfriend walked out with a pearl ring, necklace, and pair of earrings.

A Happy Ending
So, that’s about it. We shopped, snorkeled, ate, slept and read for seven days. Frankly, I’d love to tell you more about the island of Moorea but I haven’t anything else to report since the goal of this vacation was to do nothing at all. And, we did this quite well.

Yesterday: The Resort

You Tube Becomes New (Zealand) Tube

When you’re a tiny country of just 4 million people at the bottom of the world, you need to be innovative in your marketing activities. We’ve already reported on Air New Zealand’s innovative gay-themed flight and high-altitude fashion show.

Now Tourism New Zealand have set up the world’s first You Tube channel dedicated to a single country. It’s a follow on from the deal earlier this week when the team behind the Pure NZ marketing campaign took over all the home page advertising on You Tube for the entire day of September 18.

Check out the channel for loads of NZ-themed content about the country I’m proud (and very lucky) to call home.

The pic is of dusk under the Kaikoura Ranges in New Zealand’s South Island.