Open post
Vuurtoreneiland, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Lighthouse island- middle of nowhere near Amsterdam

There aren’t many places around Amsterdam that make me feel like I’m at the end of the world. Holland is well designed, everything has its place and sometimes nature seems to be literally engineered. That and the fast pace of the booming city can be tiring which has brought us to a perfect afternoon escape on…

Vuurtoreneiland – Lighthouse island

As you might realize by its name it’s a tiny, tiny island with not much more than a lighthouse. It’s close enough to Amsterdam to reach it by boat in less than an hour but it’s also far enough to forget that there even is a city nearby.

The secret of its beauty is simple… there is just not much there. In such a densely populated country with almost all the areas carefully planned it’s an achievement to find gems like this.

Except for omnipresent sheep, there is just one house, fort leftovers and a stunning glass house that serves as a restaurant. That brings us to the essence of our journey there.

Why go there?

Vuurtoreneiland offers a unique dinning experience. It all starts with a boat journey that shows you Amsterdam and the surroundings from a completely different perspective. First, we got to see a bit of the modern parts of the city spread along Zeeburg and IJburg and then a bit more the rural parts. Already at departure we got a basket with some snacks for the way and some aperitif. Honestly, it’s not much so joining the experience on a completely empty stomach might be a bad idea.


After arriving on the island we had some time to walk around, sit by the water or go straight to the restaurant. Luckily the boat carries maybe around 30 people so it really doesn’t feel crowded in any of the spots.

Since we managed to visit the island in the summer season we could eat in a beautiful modern, glass building. From every side we had a view on the surrounding water or the lighthouse. It was just beyond beautiful especially during sunset. Since the kitchen is open and in the middle of the restaurant we could not only see how all the meals are prepared there but also estimate when was the right moment for a walk in between the courses.

In final end it’s a dining experience and so the main highlight is the food. It’s all freshly prepared on the spot. It’s cut, smoked, cooked and fried using the best local produce with lots of greens and love. We especially enjoyed the smoked turbot and sautéed chanterelle. But don’t get your hopes up on those since the menu changes all the time and you never know what you’re going to get until you’re there. The only thing you can be sure of is that with every dish there will be a delicious glass of wine 🙂


How to get there?

You can only get there with one company that organizes dinners, lunches etc. For summer season you really need to book immediately when they open a certain date (especially during weekend) which is 2 months in advance. For winter arrangements it’s less crazy but then you eat in the underground bunker. It's not a cheap entertainment but its uniqueness is well worth the price.


How much does it cost to travel in Malaysia? Our budget and tips

Malaysia is quite a cheap country. For our 69 euros a day for the two of us (34,5 euro p.p) we spent a beautiful 15 days in Malaysia treating ourselves with very nice accommodations and even quite some visits to local cafes. We could have stayed in Malaysia on a significantly lower budget but for those few extra euros we got quite a lot more.


Where did we travel?

We didn’t travel very extensively. Malaysia was really like a long stopover for us and we mainly focused on recharging in there. We stayed in Georgetown, Kuala Lumpur and Cameron Highlands.

How did we travel?

We mostly used public transport so buses and in KL the metro. A bus from Georgetown to Cameron Highlands cost us 80 MYR for both of us (around 17 euro).

Sometimes we spent few riggits on uber. Usually it was never more than 9 MYR (2 euro) but in Cameron Highlands where there was no other way to travel around than taxi or a tour we had to pay even 25 ringgit (around 5 euro) for quite a short ride. Generally there the taxi drivers charge per hour and in high season when you don’t want to rent them for several hours or a whole day, they won’t take you at all. Fortunately we were there in a bit of a dead season so the driver gave us the honor.

In total we spent 46 euros on transportation.

Where did we stay?

In all of the three locations we stayed in very nice places. First in Georgetown we stayed in a very nice, huge room in one of those stunning, Peranakan houses. We rented it for 36 euros per night on Airbnb and although we knew we could get a more or less decent room for half of it… we never regretted it.

In Kuala Lumpur we stayed in an Airbnb studio with access to a spectacular view on the city with an infinity pool. More about that here.

Only in Cameron Highlands we couldn’t find anything interesting on Airbnb so we decided to stay in a little, charming guesthouse. There we paid 158 MYR per night (31 euro). More about this one and tea region in general here.

Overal we spent 489 euros on accommodation.

What did we eat?

Only in Kuala Lumpur we had our own kitchen so we cooked a bit there. In other places we were forced to eat out. At first we thought it would be rewarding but very soon we realized that the Malaysian cuisine we knew from Holland had nothing to do with the one in the country. It was fatty, bloody and we were far from being impressed. So to be honest few times we chose for a meal from a supermarket rather than for a restaurant.

In total we spent 162 euros on eating out and that includes 110 MYR (around 23 euros) we paid for high tea for the two of us in Cameron Highlands and various lunches in quite nice cafes. In a normal, local restaurant we would pay around 20-30 ringgit (4-6 euros) for a meal for both of us. That without even choosing the cheapest of the cheapest.

In 206 euros under “food” we included our supermarket groceries, ice creams we bought in convenient stores and many, many, fresh, cold coconuts bravely opened by teenage boys all over Malaysia.

How expensive are museums, tours etc?

In 39 euros under “tourism” we only included our whole day tour with a jeep in Cameron Highlands. For the rest, what we saw was free.

Where did the rest of our money go?

Postcards, laundry, small souvenirs and my dream rattan bag turned out to be 88 euros.  

Money- saving tips and tricks

Malaysia is a pretty cheap country. Transportation, food and even handcrafts are very affordable but…

    1. Bargain! It’s one of those countries where people get those few extra euros off you if you don’t know how much something should cost. Ask for a price up front, bargain or just search for places where the prices are already written.
    2. Choose your accommodation wisely. Decide if you want to go for the cheapest of the cheapest or a bit more luxurious. If the first one it’s best to walk around once you get here and ask around for the best deal. We met people who were literally staying for 2 euros per night, per bed in hostels that were not even mentioned online. If you want to go somewhere clean and really nice, we would recommend Airbnb. It’s definitely cheaper than hotels and often the service and conditions you get are way better.
    3. Eat locally! Food at local food courts and restaurants is really affordable, not to mention the coffee. You get a bag (yep a plastic bag) that would wake up a cow for 50 euro cents. It's surprisingly good, just make sure you take a very basic one without any sugar, butter or the typical Malaysian one that tastes like it was poured from nescafe powder.
    4. Try to volunteer! Always a great idea to save money on food and accommodation and get to know local culture and customs.
    5. Enjoy the free attractions. Street art, nature, animals. You can see all that for free.

     Exchange rate used: 1 Euro = 4.98 MYR

The colors of Shiraz

Shiraz ended up being our favorite city in Iran and definitely a city we would recommend for anyone. Even if it was the only city to visit in Iran. Shiraz has it all.


Bargaining skills and patience is the limit :). There are many charming, traditional houses around the city center and some of them are open for bargaining. We came to Shiraz in the evening, tired and dirty so our patience was a bit low. We visited 3 places and after in the last the staff asked “if the price was really that important”, we thought that the next place just had to be a score. Thankfully it was. Golshan Traditional hostel was all we were looking for. Beautiful courtyard, neat room, friendly staff and an owner who knows how to bargain. From there our journey in and out of Shiraz started.

The Pink Mosque

It’s the mosque we saw in every guide book, on every web page and every list. We knew skipping it would be not seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The color patterns created on the floor by rays of sun creeping through stained glass windows made it the number one attraction in Iran.

Before our staff even woke up, before most tourist would even think to wake up, we were already there. To our surprise we were not the only ones and the hall was actually much smaller than we thought. I guess wide angle lenses did a good job on all these pictures we have seen. For Iran it was really rather crowded in there. All the people were posing to replicate all the shots they have already seen so many times. Selfie sticks were flying everywhere and tripods were just on every corner. Disappointed we went outside and discovered that the courtyard was actually way nicer. Empty, underappreciated, it was all for us. In the pond the reflection of the whole facade was just stunning, not to mention the play of colors. Pink, purple and a bit of blue, the colors we have seen so much all over the place. But only inside… The country of boring outsides and mosaic, playful insides.

The Vakil Mosque

The most “different” of them all, Vakil mosque except for the traditional courtyard and facades has a massive hall with 48 pillars. Although build in 18th century, it was given the finesse of floral tiles by Qajar dynasty in the 19th century. Actually the most spectacular sites we saw were either built or given this extra touch in the same period.

The Persian Empire

Iranians don’t speak Arabic and they definitely don’t identify themselves as Arabs. If mistaken they are probably as offended as a Dutch taken for a German. To see the magnitude and the power of the Empire we went to Persepolis and Necropolis. It was probably the only sight that we knew about when we previously thought about Iran and we were rather surprised that it didn’t attract the crowds that much. We could wonder around for hours to discover every corner of what once used to be a ceremonial capital without big groups unloaded from buses.

Even today the preservation of columns, stone work and massive tombs is just breathtaking. No wonder Iranians are very proud of that period. They had the power, they actually proudly paid to all of their workers and they included all of the conquered nations in sculptures and in the Gate of All Nations. Very smart idea to keep all the people happy and in peace.

The best about this trip was that we met the coolest people that started as our guides and ended up as friends. Ramin and Sadegh were just the friendliest people we met in the whole country and we were actually disappointed and skeptical about Iranians when we met them… Which I didn’t really hold back from them when they asked how we liked their country. We had so much fun that it wasn’t the only time we saw them…

The pink … Maharloo Lake

When I saw that lake during my research about Iran I immediately knew we would have to see it. It was deeply pink because of algae so it was supposed to be seasonal. Ramin and Sadegh didn’t think it was anything spectacular but they were open to do something and I can be very persistent. And so on the next day we planned a picnic. Ramin took the whole house with him… literally, plates, gas pit, a saucepan, bread, eggs. Like if we were going camping for multiple days. We arrived at the lake… and wait, there was no lake. Drought took all the water away and it turned into a salt flat. “Look here it’s pinkish, the lake would have been pink, if there was water…” explained Ramin. Walking further we discovered that there was a thin layer of water creating unbelievable reflections. Just like we saw on pictures of the salt flats in Bolivia, during rainy season. We missed it there and got it by a surprise here. It was our best day in Iran. The posing, the playing with the reflection, the colors of the sun going down. And Ramin trying to always stand a bit different than JD and Sadegh.

In the evening the place turned into a bit of a party spot, where all the locals came from Shiraz to play music, smoke shisha and do all the things they couldn’t do back in the city. Where there is no police, a new side of the country shows up. And boy it’s loud 🙂

Mosaic tombs of the poets…  

When Ramin and Sadegh took us to see our first tomb (Saddi’s tomb) we were just too polite to convince them that it just can’t be special. It would only be a grave …right? Well not here. I don’t know any country where poetry would be as alive as here. There were people reading poems out loud, singing (possibly poems:D) and the atmosphere and crowds were unbelievable. The grave itself reminded me more of Napoleon’s tomb in Paris then just a grave of someone famous at the cemetery. It was a whole complex of rooms surrounded by gardens and fountains. And so was Hafez’s tomb as well. Who would have thought that a place of resting for someone can be a place of joy for someone else?

And the food…

We ate so well in Shiraz that I actually get hungry even thinking about it. Quite far from our hostel we discovered a very chic neighborhood packed with good restaurants and hip cafes. Our top choice was Qavam Café and restaurant that served delicious traditional food. Especially their dizi has stolen our hearts and stomachs. Dizi is a stew that after a long period of cooking in the oven gets separated creating a tomato soup and solids that are later smashed to create kind of a dip. The whole process was a pleasure to watch and eating it was just a whole lot better. To think that we only ended up eating there after we got denied a table at another restaurant that was only accepting locals…

You would think that because of the “café” part Qavam would be good in desserts but that’s not the case. They have a very, very sweet date option but we just didn’t want any more dates at some point. Walking around, craving for something different we came across Café Ferdowsi where we went back to Europe for a bit. The design itself with a bohemian, recycled theme was one thing but the selection of cakes and coffee was just to die for. Literally since getting a portion of caffeine that tastes good is an achievement on its own in the country of absolute tea.


Open post
Astrid and Gaston, Lima, Peru

Fine and not so fine dining in Lima

We knew already before coming to Lima that for us it would be only a food destination. This was made clear again as soon as we came to Lima that it was not for us... Lacking the beautiful colonial architecture or character of Cusco unfortunately what it didn't lack is the performances of the national sport of Peru- honking... Everyone's driving so a ton of people honking for no reason at all. Music for your ears. That I'm not going to mention what a challenge it is to cross the street having the green light, all the cars were not even slowing down just letting you know by honking how determined they are to kill you if you don't run away. City jungle.

Coming to a new place we always want to taste the local cuisine and that one starts on the streets. And so we started by tasting causas (kind of potato mash normally stapled in two layers and chicken or fish or veg in between) and ceviche (fish in cubes "cooked" in lemon juice). It was not bad and it didn't end up in diarrhea but it didn't blow us away. Far more poisonous was "El Barrio Chino" which is famous in Lima for chifa style of cooking so a fusion of Cantonese and Peruvian. The food we tasted over there was just horrible... Soooo soaked in fat that even KFC would seem healthy next to it and it didn't have any spice in it. As usual almost no veg just because rice and potatoes are vegetables enough... At least we didn't pay much for this food mistake.
Our hopes built up with a visit to Larco cafeteria (yep cafeteria of a museum!!!) which actually sold nice sandwiches and causas (well except for soggy French fries but you can't have it all).

All of that was just a starter for what we were really looking forward to.... Best restaurants in the world:) 3 of the 50 are in Lima so we absolutely couldn't miss that chance. Number 4 was not available unless we made a reservation two months before which we didn't. But fortunately we could visit number 14, Astrid y Gastón. The restaurant is situated in a nice old hacienda and just like usually it's not really well marked so unless you know it's there, you won't find it. We were both blown away by the design, really modern but kind of cosy, home style (And thank God cuz we were both under dressed not to say a bit hobo).

Their service was also spectacular, separate guy from tea, separate guy from water and all of them nice and saying "thank you" and "you're welcome" which is a nice change in the country where those words seem to be out of use. Unfortunately we were not blown away by the starters and mains, not that we didn't like them but they were not as delicious and tasty as we expected from nr 14 in the world. But God the desserts were just smashingly good!!! Firstly I had a Lucuma dessert, a symphony based on a traditional Peruvian fruit of that name which was just spectacular with fresh raspberries and splashes of sauce made with purple corn.

Jandirk went for a white peach dessert which was outstanding as well. Tempted we both decided to try another dessert and so I took the strawberry dessert with vanilla, yogurt and an absolutely yummy wine sauce:) Jandirk took a rich chocolate one with banana and caramel....-) still now thinking about these desserts makes us smile :))))

As Jandirk was not satisfied with only one fine dinning experience we decided to visit restaurant "IK" which was the most spectacular dining experience in our lives and by far. The restaurant looked spectacular, all green and full of plants with windows on the kitchen through which we saw a well oiled machine of working people and a beautiful, traditional mud oven. Even the tables were original with their projections of native ingredients of Peru like coffee, lucuma and Inca berry.

We went crazy with the 12 course tasting menu and o my God it was worth it!!! Everything starting from the service which was really good and fun... For example when I was going to the toilet they would take my napkin to bring a new one with tweezers (never too sterile). But the food, the art, the theater.... Unbelievable and worth every dollar that we spent on it. Every dish had a story, presented native Peruvian ingredient from a different zone either from the Amazon, coast or deep Andes and all of them had a story and taste... They were all one of a kind and absolutely delicious. And so we ate eatable leaves from a branch, spicy (finally!!) Amazonian ceviche, roasted Andean potatoes, Amazonian fish, Amazonian tomato salad, pork belly, corn and we even normally don't like corn, all of the ones we tried at "IK" were unbelievable. In the end we tasted a dessert made entirely from a cocao bean, all if its parts which you normally throw away. And it was an unforgettable, symphony and what food is all about, bitter, sweet, refreshing and simply presented in the bean shell itself.

Afterwards we still got a tree which represented a traditional Peruvian celebration called Yunza. Obviously it had something tiny and delicious like chocolates to eat:) after 4 h of the experience of our lifetime we went to our 6 dollars per bed 14 bed dorm :)) money somewhere saved, elsewhere spent.

How much does it cost to dine in Lima?
The restaurants we have visited and how much they cost

  1. IK restaurant- unbelievable, decadent, truly delicious 12 course menu is 300 soles (83 euro) per person so in total we paid 730 soles (203 euro) for their tasting menu, two drinks, water and a little, delicious bread at the start
  2. Astrid y Gastón- for their not so mind blowing starters and mains and absolutely outstanding 4 desserts we paid 600 soles (166 euro), starters between 48- 79 soles (around 13-22 euro), mains 48- 109 soles (around 22-30 euros), desserts 36-42 soles (around 10- 12 euros), they also have a tasting menu which costs around 110 euro per person
  3. Larco cafeteria- good food in a nice, garden surrounding after a visit to the museum cost us 90 soles (25 euro)
  4. El Barrio Chino- tasteless and almost poisonous meal in the Chinese district cost us 23 soles (6 euro)
  5. Chifa Titi- less poisonous but still pretty tasteless dinner cost us 245 soles (68 euro)