25 Dec 2013

A Destination Christmas On Langkawi

For the first time ever we spent Christmas at the beach and stayed on Langkawi one of Malaysia's most beautiful islands. To get there we took the ferry from Penang on Christmas Eve, relieved to actually have a ticket - in true backpacker style we booked it the day before. It was a pretty smooth transit and took almost four hours.

Berjaya Resort Beach Langkawi Malaysia
"Le beach, so chic!"

23 Dec 2013

Chasing Street Art In Georgetown Penang

After a couple of weeks in chilly Nepal where the weather was getting colder each day we were very excited to arrive in sunny Malaysia on the charming island of Penang. The main attraction here is Georgetown an old British colonial town (now a UNESCO heritage area) bursting with character and colour. 

despicable me minions street art georgetown penang malaysia

18 Dec 2013

Up Close And Personal With Rhinos In Chitwan

Chitwan literally translates to Heart of the Jungle and is a huge national park in South Nepal. It's just five hours by bus from Pokhara and then another five on to Kathmandu, its most famous resident is the One Horned Rhinoceros and we were looking forward to meeting them. There are also Bengal tigers but sightings are very rare but if you head to Bardia National Park just 15 hours by bus in the other direction you should get to see one. 

rhino in chitwan nepal

12 Dec 2013

Trekking In Nepal - Poon Hill

After a few days lazing in Pokhara it was time to experience some of the best mountain trekking the world can offer in Nepals Annapurna range. There were many routes to choose from at varying lengths and heights, the full Annapurna circuit takes about three weeks which was far too daunting for us beginners so we opted for a four day trek to Poon Hill, which is well known for its excellent close up views of Annapurna's tallest peaks. 

Annpurna mountain range Nepal

8 Dec 2013

Lakeside Lazing In Pokhara

After completing our mission getting from India in to Nepal the day before, we were thrilled to wake up in Pokhara and all set for a new adventure in Nepal. We chose Pokhara as our first stop as it's a popular base for trekking the Annapurna mountain range, has the fourth best paragliding in the world and it's a laid-back, cool kind of place by the beautiful Fewa Lake. Exactly the kind of place we needed after a couple of weeks in the crazy bustle of North India's biggest cities. It was refreshing to walk down wide, rubbish free streets and see women working in the shops and restaurants - when we arrived the weather was mild and sunny, perfect!

pokhara few lake nepal

5 Dec 2013

Border Mission - Getting From India In To Nepal

When we booked our tour of Rajasthan we also booked an overnight train to take us from Agra to Varanasi. Varanasi is one of India's holiest towns on the River Ganges, thousands of pilgrims travel here to bathe themselves or burn corpses in the ghats and it's also a popular stop before making your way to Sunauli to cross the border from India into Nepal. We were pretty unprepared about the finer details of getting to Sunauli but basically its a train to Gorakpur and then a jeep taxi to Sunauli. 

Varanasi India

3 Dec 2013

First Timers In Delhi - A Guide To The Travel Agents

Delhi is the starting point for many group and private tours of India and the number of travel agents and touts around Connaught Place is overwhelming. Finding a reliable and reputable agent is confusing, our search for a dream 12 day tour of Rajasthan took almost two days of enquiries and research - thankfully, it was all worth it.

It sounds cynical but you really do need to be wary of scams and you can't trust everybody you meet - be extra careful before you part with your hard-earned cash. Common scams range from being over charged, to handing over your money and never hearing from your travel agent again. Expect to be befriended by persistent touts on the street, in tuk-tuks and even your hotel - their aim is to get you in their agency for a well rehearsed sales pitch. Once you're inside they don't want to let you go before you pay - they will show you 'certificates' from governing bodies, previous happy customer comments, offer you a complimentary driver for an afternoon of sightseeing and even a takeaway lunch in the office. It's all very tempting and their excellent English makes them even more persuasive. 

2 Dec 2013

Sticky Visits The Taj Mahal

On the final day of our Rajasthan tour we crossed the state border into Uttar Pradesh and made our way to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. Having googled a list of the modern seven wonders of the world we realised we hadn't seen any before so this made us even more excited!

The Taj Mahal

29 Nov 2013

Touring Rajasthan From Jodhpur To Jaipur

On day five of our tour we headed to Jodhpur 'The Blue City' and our home for the evening was the Mandore Guest House, we had a spacious, modern style hut in their twinkly fairy-lit garden. After an early breakfast we headed to the huge Jodhpur Fort which towers over the city below - this place is massive, and once inside it offered an amazing view over old blue part of the city. The rumour is that the Brahmins (India's top caste below royalty ie. priests) painted their houses blue to signify their dominance and deter robbers - of course, once the rest of the town learnt what was happening they also painted their houses blue!

Jodhpur India's Blue City
Jodhpur - The Blue City

26 Nov 2013

Jaisalmer - A Golden City

Rajasthan is India's most colourful state and our plan was to visit each key colourful city - Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Jaipur. First up, Jaisalmer 'The Gold City' in Western Rajasthan's Thar Desert. We instantly fell for the charm of this enchanting fortified city built entirely from golden sandstone - it's like stepping back in time or on to the set of some kind of Arabian nights film. The fort is huge at 70m tall and it's around 850 years old. Today approximately 4,000 people live within its walls and 99 bastions. 

Jaisalmer Rajasthan

25 Nov 2013

A Royal Encounter In Bikaner

After a reasonably short drive from Mandawa (five hours) our first stop just outside of Bikaner was a bit of an odd one. The Rat Temple, home to an estimated 20,000 black rats believed to be the reincarnated ancestors of the local people. As with all temples in India you have to enter barefoot! So, we removed our shoes and had the 'honour' of walking about in rat droppings whilst the holy critters ran about their business and fed on the seeds thrown by their descendants. It was a very weird and slightly gross experience! If you are really lucky you will see one of the very few white rats and it's also said to be a high honour to eat food which has been nibbled on by these rodents. We didn't stay long and headed outside to one of the many food stalls for a tasty samosa, yep, we checked it carefully for teeth marks! 

niwas laxmi palace bikaner
Not too shabby!

23 Nov 2013

The Road To Rajasthan - First Stop Mandawa

After a few weeks lazing in South India we flew north to India's notoriously crazy capital, Delhi. Our mission for the first two days was to book a tour of Rajasthan 'Land Of The Maharajas' - it was exhausting - but finally we booked a 12 day tour with a driver aka chauffeur and luxury accommodation. Exciting!

Mandawa Haveli
Sack the Stylist!

19 Nov 2013

Life's A Beach In Palolem

We couldn't resist the opportunity to chill for a few days on one of Goa's gorgeous beaches - Palolem. Vicky visited a few years ago with Diver and was looking forward to sharing this traveller favourite with Steve. 

palolem beach in goa

8 Nov 2013

Elephant Spotting In Wayanad

Our journey to Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary a remote jungle in north Kerala where you're almost guaranteed to see wild elephants took a little longer than expected. First we needed a train from Alleppey to Kozhikode, as always the timetable was prone to changes and we were in for a two hour wait at the station. The eclectic mix of young and old crossing platforms via the tracks rather than the footbridge kept us 'entertained' and showed us health and safety at its best.

calicut to wayanad

5 Nov 2013

Alleppey - The Venice Of East

We decided to head south from Kochi to enjoy a much raved about Keralan Houseboat in Alleppey 'The Venice Of The East'. The journey there was amusing, a 2.5 hour taxi ride with an eclectic soundtrack: 90 minutes of Aqua on repeat (remember THIS?), 30 minutes of Backstreet Boys and Blue, followed by some Bob Marley reggae vibes for the home straight. At the halfway point we thought it was going to be Aqua all the way - no matter how many times we heard it, we just didn't want to party with Barbie, or hanky panky with Ken!

Houseboats in Alleppey
Locals canoeing through the tourist houseboats in Alleppey.

2 Nov 2013

Our Arrival In India: Fort Cochin & Cherai Beach

Two flights, a taxi ride and 13 hours later we arrived safely at Cherai Beach Resort, on Vypeen Island. It's a very narrow island, to the front of our resort is a golden sandy beach and the back sits right on the river aka backwaters.  Our home for three days was a traditional Keralan style fisherman's hut set amongst tropical landscaped gardens and lagoons. A relaxing, picturesque setting to begin our Indian adventure…

Not bad for our first stop.