Best Beaches in the world

When you think of Africa you probably won’t think of crystal clear seas and white sandy beaches, right? Same here. I also never expected that Africa has some of the best beaches in the world until I came to live in Kenya. I was positively surprised! It is even one of the best combinations for your holiday: do a safari and relax at one of the best beaches in the world.

Most people look for the powder white sand and crystal clear waters in Asia or the Caribbean. Africa has maybe even nicer beaches plus they are less crowded too. So if next time you are looking for a tropical paradise to relax, sip a coconut at a palm fringed beach then have a look at the below best beaches I have selected.

Diani Beach, Kenya

Diani Beach is a long stretched beach with the whitest sand I have seen for a long time. I think only some beaches in the Philippines can meet this standard (although I haven’t been to the Caribbean). It is just a short one-hour flight from Kenya’s capital Nairobi. The best time to visit is between December until March and between July and September.

Diani beach kenyaPhotocredit Michal Vogt

If you are looking for some nice accommodation then have a look at Kenyaways. It is a cozy guesthouse right on the beach that feels more like a family home than a hotel. I really love their relaxed and cozy style. It is also a great spot for kite surfing.

Kenyaways Diani BeachPhotocredit Kenyawayskenyways-4

Photocredit Kenyaways

The rooms are bright and spacious.

Diani BeachPhotocredit Kenyaways

Praia de Pangane, Cabo Delgado, Mozambique

Praia de Pangano, MozambiquePhotocredit Danieleb80

Pangane is located on Mozambique’s northern coast in Cabo Delgado province. Here you can still find deserted beaches and experience local life at its best. On the tropical islands of Parque Nacional das Quirimbas you can find lodges that belong to the best of the world. Also sailing on a traditional Dhow boat belongs to the must do’s when you are here.

A basic, but nice place to stay is the home of Ana and Pedro in Pemba.

The best time to visit Mozambique is between May and November, when rainfall and temperatures are at its lowest. December to April is the wet summer season although it generally rains in brief.

Watamu, Kenya

turtle-bay-beach Watamu KenyaTurtle Bay beach. Photocredit Treehouse

Watamu has one of the best beaches in Kenya. It is a very laid back village that has kept its tranquility. It is nestled between pristine beaches and tropical green. A wonderful place to stay is the Treehouse located on Turtle Bay Beach.

treehouse watamuThe Treehouse Watamu. Photocredit Max Melesi – Treehouse

One of the rooms in TReehouse WatamuThe Treehouse Watamu. Photocredit Treehouse

Anse Source d’Argent & Anse Lazio, Seychelles

Anse dource d'argentPhotocredit Didier Baertschiger

Anse source d’argent is located on the third largest island of the Seychelles, La Digue. It is a long stretch of dazzling white sand dotted with huge granite blocks, lush green tropical forest and azure blue water. Its beauty didn’t stay unnoticed.  It is very rare you see it as empty as on the picture unfortunately. Nevertheless there are many other stunning beaches on the Seychelles like Anse Lazio for example.

The best time to visit the Seychelles is April, May, October and November. The hottest months are December to April and the wettest are January and February.

Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Nungwi, ZanzibarPhotocredit David Berkowitz

Nungwi is a fishing village in the northern part of Zanzibar. Together with Kendwa it has one of the best beaches for swimming. Kendwa is the quieter one of the two. Another nice beach is Paje. It is great for water sports, especially kite surfing. After Nungwi it is the liveliest village on the island with, but still laid-back with sufficient bars, restaurants and accommodation options. Travel and food blogger Mark Wiens has written a great and extensive blog post of Zanzibar full of useful tips ‘The Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide For Food Lovers‘.

Zanzibar is best to visit between June to October or November and March. Better to avoid the two raining seasons.

Skeleton coast, Namibia

Skeleton coast Namibia Photocredit Wallpapers

The Skeleton Coast is part of the Namib Desert and it is not an ordinary stretch of beach. It is one of a kind. It is the place where one of the oldest deserts meets the Atlantic Ocean. Its desert coastline covers 1579 kilometers and it is a place where thousands of ships ran aground. This place has something mysterious, wild and untamed. It is the place to be for intrepid travelers, photographers, history fans, and wreck enthusiasts.

Namibia can be visited throughout the year. The climate is dry and pleasant. If you want to see some wildlife the best time is to visit in the Dry period from June to October.

Praia de Santa Maria, Cape Verde

santa-maria-cape-verdeCape Verde consists of 10 islands dotted in front of the northwest coast of Africa. Sal and Boa Vista are the most popular islands of which Boa Vista is more authentic and Sal more developed with dormant volcanoes, blissful beaches and perfect for water sports.

Praia de Santa Maria on Sal has one of the finest beaches that stretch over 5 kilometers. Wander craft stalls, try the traditional food and enjoy some of its nightlife.

Fishermen

Cape Verde is perfect to visit year-round with tropical temperatures between 26 and 30 degrees and low humidity.

The Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

The Bazaruto Archipelago is a group of six islands in Mozambique. Tiny islands, long beaches, sparkling warm seas and plenty of marine wildlife is what you can find here; from Dolphins,  Dugongs, sea horses, Manta rays to Whale sharks. The Archipelago is one of the most beautiful destinations on the African continent.

Azura Benguerra IslandPhotocredit Azura

A real treat to stay is Azura, a place founded by Christopher and Stella. The hotel is is built on Benguerra island with the goal to protect the environment, positively change the life of the local community and take people to an undiscovered place of beauty.

As mentioned earlier in the article the best time to visit Mozambique is between May and November.

Did I Convince You To Visit Africa One Day?

 

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shuishalien-by-mark-khao

The rising independency of women is contributing to the growing number of solo female travelers around the globe. Yes! We are everywhere! Solo traveling is actually a great way to rediscover yourself and enrich your life experience at the same time. Safety may be a concern if you are a solo female traveler, but you don’t have to be put off if you know the right place to go. 😉

There are quite a couple of popular solo female travel destinations in Southeast Asia.  In our previous blog post ‘’6 Best Destinations in Asia For a Solo Female Traveler’’, we introduced you to some of the top choices, including Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Nepal, Singapore and Hong Kong.

In this blog post, I will introduce you to my own country, Taiwan. It is an island that has long been underrated but is slowly becoming a new hotspot for solo female travelers. The country looks like a miniature of a sweet-potato on the map. It’s a beautiful island, Formosa as the Portuguese called it, with rich nature, friendly people, finger-licking gourmets, distinctive culture and more. Here are my 6 reasons why Taiwan should be your next solo travel destination!

hualien-by-mark-khao

Hualien – photo credit Mark Khao

Safety

According to a Skift Report, Taiwan ranked 3rd place among ’The 10 safest Asian countries for female travelers’’. It has a low crime rate, and 75% citizens feel safe walking home at night. There are waiting zones and carriages designed specifically for female passengers traveling by train or MRT (Massive Rapid Transit) at night. The MRT stations are clean and well-maintained. Also, you are not allowed to consume any food or drinks in the carriages. MRT starts operating from 6:00 am until 24:00. There is always someone at the customer service center during opening hours so don’t be shy and always ask for help if you are uncertain about where to go. Speaking from my personal experience, I have traveled several times at night using public transportation service without any trouble. The stations are always bright with lights and monitored by security cameras. Generally speaking, as long as you keep those basic safety rules in mind, you’ll be just fine.

Hospitality

Taiwanese hospitalityA lovely encounter with local people is always part of a memorable travel experience. Taiwanese people are constantly being praised for their generosity and hospitality towards foreigners. I’m sure we’ve all been in this situation before: You stand on the sidewalk with a map in your hand, turning your head uneasily and wondering whether to go left or right. And it might seem scarier when you are a solo female traveler. But don’t worry, the island people are more than happy to come to your rescue (dramatic but true!).

Most Taiwanese do speak English, especially when you are traveling in bigger cities like Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung. Even with the language barriers, the locals will try their best to make themselves understood, including taking you to your destination themselves!

Traditional Chinese culture values greatly the importance of showing kindness and hospitality to our guests. Typically speaking, the further south you travel, the more passionate and lovely people you will find. Wherever you travel, one thing that you will remember from a trip to Taiwan is the hearty smile and jovial help you received from the locals. Some may even turn out to be your lifelong friends.

Convenient and Cheap Public Transportation

taipei-mrt-station

Taiwan MRT

Taiwan offers various types of transportation that can take you to most cities, towns, and touristic attractions. If you plan to spend most of your days in the capital Taipei, MRT, buses, and You-Bikes are probably the best way to get around. MRT covers roughly the whole Taipei City, New Taipei City and even the outskirts like Beitou. Some metro stations are also integrated with major train stations (Eg. Taipei, Songshan) so you actually have a variety of transport options to choose from, depending on your preference, time, and budget.

You-Bikes are public bicycles that you can rent and return at any bike points outside the metro stations. What’s very convenient is that you can travel on all three transportations using just one card ’Easy Card’’. Literally, it allows you to travel easily without any hassle and ticketing problem. You may even top-up your credit anytime and use them for your purchase in shops and departments stores. How convenient is that!

If you plan to travel to Eastern Taiwan, cities like Ilan, Hualien, and Taitung are great places to embrace the nature. Outdoor activities such as rafting, river-tracing, and hiking are among my most favorite activities in this region. To go there, train and bus (coaches) tickets can be bought online or on the spot. There are two coach companies to consider when traveling from Taipei to YiLan: Capital Star & Kamalan. If you are boarding at Taipei Main Station, your final destination is usually Luodong, Jiaoxi, or YiLan. However, if you would like to board at a different station, it’s better to look up the route in advance to avoid the hassle. Alternatively, if you are into cycling, you may rent a bike and cycle along the coast, taking in all the fantastic views. Annual Taiwan Cycling Festival is held every year on the east coast. Take a look at this year’s activity and start planning yours!

 

Hualien Taiwan by Mark Khao

Hualien by Mark Khao

Sensational Street Food Culture

local-food-by-bryanTaipei street food by Bryan….

If you’re an adventurous foodie, you will fall in love with Taiwan’s distinctive street food culture. The island is praised as the ‘’Home to the Best Street Food Market in the World’’ by The Guardians. Your trip to Taiwan won’t be complete without a visit to a ‘’Night Market’’. Night markets are generally street markets that operate from 5 or 6pm till midnight. It’s a perfect place to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere and enjoy cheep eating and buying. There are more than 15 night markets in Taipei (See The 5 Best Night Markets for Midnight Snacking in Taipei). Other larger scale night markets can also be found outside the capital, like Taichung Fengjia Night Market, Tainan Garden Night Market, Kaohsiung Liuhe Night Market, Yilan Luodong Night market. Additionally, Kaohsiung Ruifeng Night Market is where most locals go for snacking and it’s also much bigger than Liuhe. Overall, you will definitely find something satisfying for your tastes buds in these vigorous and varied food stalls.

taiwanese-food-by-m-louis

Taiwanese food by m-louis

I have to be honest that it is quite difficult for me to pick my top favorite night markets in Taiwan because of these two reasons: First, I haven’t been to all the night markets yet. Second, each night market is distinctive with mixture of foods and goods. Nevertheless, here are my Top 3 favorite night market and local street foods:

YiLan LuoDong Night Market: Ice cream & peanut roll (Taiwanese-style burrito with ice cream, crushed peanut candy, and coriander), Scallion rolls (Swirl-shaped dough mixed with chopped scallion with spattered black pepper on top), Red bean in Tapioca (Chewy and sweet dessert that is usually served with crushed ice or flavoured puddings)tapioca

Bade Xinren Garden Night Market (the largest in Northern Taiwan): Egg pancakes (pancakes that come with different animals/cartoon character shapes), Braised snacks (A great variety of ingredients boiled and seasoned with spiced soy sauce), BBQ/Deep-fried king squid (Squid the size of your face barbecued/fried and served with different sauces/spices)

 

Taipei Raohe Night Market: Black pepper buns (juicy meat buns seasoned with black pepper and then baked in big charcoal pots), Guabao (Taiwanese-style burger with pork belly slice, pickles, crushed peanuts, and sometimes cilantros as fillings), Oyster omelet (Oyster pancake made from sweet potato starch, oysters, eggs and lettuce, best served with sweet red chili sauce)guabaoGuabao

 

Taipei street food

Photo credit Toomore Chiang

Check out more: 40 Taiwanese Food We Can’t Live Without featured by BBC

Cultural and Historic Spots Perfect for Solo Traveling

Who says traveling alone has to be tedious? Getting to know more about yourself is one of the exciting benefits of traveling solo. And what’s better than embarking on an educational and inspirational trip to Taiwan? Below are some great spots for solo female travelers in Taiwan:

Taipei Xia Hai City God Temple, Da-Dao Cheng: Da-Dao Cheng used to be a port city and had prospered outrageously from importing & exporting business during the 18th The city god along with other deities are said to help protect the people and bring fortune to the people. Now people come here to pray for happy love life and careers.

JiuFen: This is one of my favorite spots in Taiwan and it’s perfect for a day trip if you are only spending a few days on this island. This small town was once a blooming gold mining town. Now it’s a popular destination for both locals and foreigners to relive the glamourous past. Featured tea restaurants where you learn to brew tea from scratch, traditional snacks freshly made in front of you, and old wooden structures telling the stories of old times, are just some of the highlights. The town also served as an award-winning moving setting for ‘’A City of Sadness’’, and ‘’Spirited Away’’. You can also hike around the area and take in the Pacific Ocean coastline.jiufen-old-street

Jiufen Old Street – photo credit E.C.

Tamsuitamsui-lovers-bridge

Lover’s Bridge

This is a sea-side district named after Tamsui River. The city is very popular among the locals and is known to be a great location for viewing the sunset. The easiest way to reach Tamsui is to hop on the MRT Red Line and travel all the way to the final destination. The ride takes about 40 minutes from Taipei Main Station. Once arriving there, the best way to explore the city is on foot. You can stroll along the streets packed with local food, souvenir shops, seafood restaurants, and entertainment playgrounds. Make sure to try the famous ‘’Iron Eggs’’, ‘’A-Gei’’, and ‘’Tamsui Fishball Soups’’. Baffling as these names may sound, it’s the authentic experience that counts! Alternatively, you can take the ferry to the Fisherman’s Wharf situated further down of the city. You will find chic cafes, street artists, and food stalls. The most significant landmark there is the ‘’Lover’s Bridge’’, which is illuminated by different colored lights at night and attracts couples, families, and friends.tamsui-fishermans-wharf

Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf

NeiWan

  • If you are planning to learn more about the diversified ethnic culture in Taiwan, NeiWan is the right place to go. Though surrounded by hills and waters, Neiwan is accessible through the NeiWan Train Line that runs every half an hour from Hsinchu City. Large group of Hakka people live here. The Hakkas are Chinese whose ancestors are originally from the Hakka-speaking areas of Southeast China.neiwan-old-street

Nei Wan Old street – photo credit E.C

  • NeiWan Old Street presents traditional wooden architectures and red-bricked houses that were built 20 years ago. It’s one of the places where one can still sense the reminiscent glory of the town. Some must-try gourmets include ginger lily-flavored glutinous rice, Hakka tea, and Hakka rica cakes (Mochi). One of the most popular sites is the Neiwan Theater, which is now transformed into a restaurant where visitors can enjoy a decent Hakka Meal and a movie at the same time. There are also some suspension bridges and hiking trails that you can visit. It’s a great place to just wander about your way and be surprised!

All of these attractions can be reached using public transportations and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The locals are always glad to meet someone who’s interested in learning more about their beautiful country. Being a Taiwanese, I have to admit that there are still a lot of places I haven’t visited and when I do, I am always mesmerized by the beauty of it.

Shoppers’ Paradise

One reason that Taiwan is receiving more foreign tourists is because of the comparatively cheaper budget for all travel activities. That includes SHOPPING!

If your itinerary doesn’t leave you much time to shop, night markets are efficient places to resolute your inner foodie & shopping soul. Taipei ShiDa Night Market is my ideal place to go. This night market is just nearby National ShiDa University and therefore is most popular for young adults. In contrast with other night markets introduced earlier, this one is specifically known for its trendy and inexpensive clothing choices.

Another pilgrimage for fashion lovers is at MRT Zhonxgiao Fuxing Station (MRT blue line). While large department stores like SOGO are hard to miss, it’s the ones hidden in narrow alleys and streets behind the buildings you should be looking out for. The majority of these stores are independent clothing shops that bring you the latest fashion trend from Japan or Korea. Some stores design their own products as well.

Taipei Ximending is another shoppers’ paradise. Ximending is most crowded on Fridays and weekends. Plenty of food stalls are a guarantee, as well as movie theaters and shops selling from clothes to phone accessories. (basically everything!)

Here are some recommendations for Taiwanese souvenirs:

  • Mini sky lantern with blessings for different purposes (Eg. Health, career, studies)
  • Pineapple cakes (The most famous savory snack in Taiwan)
  • Cosmetic products, especially face masks (Taiwanese face masks have been one of the favorite souvenirs among female travelers due to low price and high quality)
  • Stone ornaments and wood carvings (jades, emeralds, and wood carvings are very typical Chinese style gifts. Wood carvings comes with various design from your name to furniture)
  • Fine tea leaves (We take our tea seriously, even greater than the British! Alishan is known to produce the finest tea in Taiwan. However, you can easily find a lot of tea shops that also offer quality tea with a wide range of flavors)

For all the adventurous female travelers out there, pack your bags and make Taiwan your next destination. Seneca, a Roman philosopher once said “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” You will discover that the little island has much more to offer than you expected!

For more tips on solo female traveling in Asia have a look at our previous blog ’6 Best Destinations in Asia For a Solo Female Traveler’’.

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yogyakarta Indonesia

As someone who lives in the midst of chaos in Jakarta, I have so many reasons to always go back to Yogyakarta every once in a while. This so-called-sanctuary in West Java is just the perfect size that blends culture, nature, and craftsmanship altogether.

Albeit most foreigners will always put Bali on their bucketlist, now I’m sharing with you why you shouldn’t miss Yogyakarta during your travel in Indonesia. I won’t tell you how majestic the Borobudur Temple in Magelang is, because I’m pretty sure you already planned to visit. I will share with you some other hidden treasures of Yogyakarta waiting to be explored!

Some hidden natural treasures near Yogyakarta

1. Hike to Gunung Api Purba Nglanggeran

gunung api purba Indonesia

It was during my second visit to Yogyakarta when I discovered this beautiful site. For those who enjoy some hiking, walk up to the top of the hill and be blessed with stunning views. It is definitely worth all the effort. During the 1.5 hours hike, we were being fully immersed with lush of greens. Not being fully prepared, wearing flip-flops is highly not recommended. The best time to visit Gunung Api Purba Nglanggeran would be in the morning.

gunung-api-purba1

2. See the mesmerizing light of Goa Jomblang

Around 12 pm you can the sunrays shine through the opening of the cave, illuminating the forest below, which creates a mesmerizing sight.It’s not everyday you can descend 60 meters below sea level. When descending you can start to smell the damp aging trees while being surrounded by rocks.

goa-jomblangBeing a true adventurer at heart, I cherish the journey of being tied on a rope while descending to see Goa Jomblang. It almost feels like you’re in the middle of somewhere else.

3. Watch the sunset at Candi Ratu Boko

Enjoying sunset from a beach might come as a second option when you are in Yogyakarta, but I highly recommend visiting Candi Ratu Boko to spend the rest of your evening watching the night fall.

4. Ride the sand dunes of Gumuk Pasir Parangkusumo

This place is great if you like sand boarding. It is also a perfect place to see the sunset.

gumuk-pasir

5. Kali Suci Cave

The kali Suci cave is perfect for a laid back rafting and swimming session inside a cave surrounded by turquoise water. (Its is located near Goa Jomblang)

kali-suci-cave

See Indonesian craftsmanship at its best

6. Desa Kasongan (Pottery, Stone, Wooden Craft)

kasongan-village-bantul Indonesia

If you’re a fan of pottery, sculpture, and wooden craft in general, you’ll have the best time exploring Kasongan Village since it offers a great range of artifacts that is made by the locals. Located in Bantul, also try to explore the neighborhood and you can also easily take a peek into everyday process of making things in the locals workshop.

pottery-workshop-kasongan-

7. Desa Wisata Manding (Leathercraft)

One cannot just resist the beauty of handmade leather goods that last a life time. For leather enthusiasts, there are more than 40 leather shops in this area that are waiting to be explored.

bike-tour-in-bantul

8. Pasar Beringharjo (Batik)

batik-workshop YogyakartaWhen you visit Yogyakarta, batik-hunting is one thing that you surely don’t want to miss and Pasar Beringharjo is one of the oldest batik markets you need to visit. But I warn you to not freak out because the batik choices there are endless!

9. Jewelry making in Kota Gede

A short drive from Yogyakarta is Kota Gede, a little village famous for its silver jewelry. You can watch the jewelry makers make their craft on the spot or you can even join a workshop jewelry making yourself. It is a wonderful place to stroll around.

Where to stay

10. Live with locals at Bamboo Bottle Homestay

The warm hospitality from Josh Handani and their family leave such an unforgettable experience while staying at Bamboo Bottle Homestay in the heart of Bantul. It’s when I fell asleep to the sound of cricket singing lullaby and waking up to some of the best Indonesian breakfast such as nasi uduk, bakwan, and gulai ayam. The lovely host also take me to explore off the beaten path journey of cycling tour in Bantul visiting some of the locals workshop and getting to know more about their crafts.

bamboo homestay

11. Roemah Tembi Budaya

tembi-rumah-budaya

This accommodation offers an overall great experience as you will stay in a traditional house. Have a look at the reviews on Tripadvisor.

12. Pawon Cokelat Guesthouse

This will be the perfect choice if you enjoy warm hospitality from affordable green hostels near Malioboro street. Have a look at their website Pawon cokelat.

Which neighborhoods to visit

13. Explore bookstores and café in Sosrowijayan Street 1

If visiting local bookstores every time you travel to new place is on your list, you surely cannot miss Sosrowijayan 1 street where you can find a few local bookstores filled with secondhand books as well as memorabilia such as postcards from travelers around the world. This hidden street near Malioboro (a great place to walk and shop for Batik) also offers different type of affordable hostels and cafe’s.

14. Food hunting in Prawirotaman Street

I’d like to personally call Prawirotaman Street as the Ubud of Yogyakarta. It’s where you can find the best gelato in town (Tempo Gelato, we actually visited the place 3 times to get our ice cream fix) and some affordable restaurants as well as café’s that offer great Indonesian food.

Visit Ndalem Pakuningratan for an authentic food experience. It is located in the back side of Kraton Yogyakarta near Taman Sari. It’s great to have dinner and snacks at night while enjoying live music here.

15. Take Becak ride from Malioboro street to Alun-Alun Yogyakarta

yogyakarta Indonesia

You surely cannot miss your Becak ride at night in Malioboro street, the most livelihood neighborhood in Yogyakarta if I must say. It is well-known for its craft shopping heaven, street food, and street music performance which makes Yogyakarta feels alive at night. Take a becak ride from there to Alun-Alun Yogyakarta and have the best time trying the street food.

Explore Yogyakarta’s history

16. Get to know our local artists at Museum Affandi

museum-affandi YogyakartaIndonesia’s very own painter who devoted his life into the world of art is very well known for his characteristic portrait paintings. Affandi’s family built a museum and local gallery as a platform for young artists to showcase their work into larger audiences. While you’re there, you’ll be in awe seeing not only his works but as well as memorabilia and documentary film.

Address: Jl. Laksda Adisucipto No.167, Caturtunggal, Sleman, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55281, Indonesia

Opening Hours: 9AM–4PM

17. Delve into Secrets of the Ancient Past

The Ullen Sentalu museum is not an ordinary museum. It is mentioned by National Geographics as a must visit when you are in Yogyakarta. It illustrated the history of one of the most important era’s in Indonesian history. You can see furniture, artworks, pictures and some history of batik. At the end of the tour you will receive a very special cocktail made of seven natural herbs that is believed to bring beauty and health.

Address: Jl. Boyong Km 25, Kaliurang Barat, Kec. Sleman, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta

Opening hours: 8:30 AM – 4 PM (closed on Mondays/ closed at 17:00 on weekends)

Entrance Fee: 25000 IDR

Want to see more off the beaten track places on Java? Check out our previous blog The Best Places To See On Java.

This blog post has been written by Fransisca Angela a photographer and travel blogger who lives in Jakarta, Indonesia.