We had planned to visit Philippines, Borneo and Vietnam, but when The Europe Train Challenge became a reality, we had to postpone those plans for another time and focus on the challenge ahead of us.
Leaving South East Asia, there are some things that I know I’ll really miss:
Cheap Living in Asia
Not even the cheapest soup kitchen in Europe can compare with the 1 dollar meals and 20 cent drinks you find in South East Asia.
Luxury suites and resorts for the same price as a 10 bed dorm in Europe just doesn’t make any sense.
I know that I will question leaving a continent where we lived on a combined budget on 25 dollars a day, to a continent where 20 dollars will barely get you food for the day.
I didn’t realize how much I would miss the food until I arrived back in Europe.
Already the next day I longed for Asian food, spices and variety.
Plus, in South East Asia we never cooked our own food – what a luxurious life!
The Never Ending Surprises
A day in South East Asia will never let you down on surprises.
Quirky details are part of the every day life for a traveler here.
Funny interactions, signs, things that happen – you’re always surprised.
Asia’s Religion and Strong Beliefs
The culture and traditions here really blow life into the world.
While I’m not religious, I truly appreciate the dedication they have in South East Asia and their strong bond with their traditions, implementing it in every part of their daily lives.
I will really miss this colorful way of life, with prayers and traditional clothing.
The Misunderstandings and Culture Shocks
Misunderstandings and culture shocks are things that I both hate and love at the same time.
Travel would be more boring without them, and you get some funny memories afterwards.
I learned how to love it and appreciate it, because it taught me something about myself as well as others.
And – What I Won’t Miss
Pollution so thick you could almost touch it, the never ending beeping horns in Kuala Lumpur and the ignorance for pedestrians are some things I really won’t miss.
Knowing that you’re putting yourself in danger every time you buy a bus ticket in Laos just isn’t very comforting.
The Customer Service
Some people really get it, and those who do make it an incredible experience.
But then there are those who really don’t get it, who are afraid of confrontations, and instead of fixing it and apologizing, they pretend it never existed.
After a while you get used to not getting a straight answer if your cockroach infested room is cleaned and OK, but I would be happier if they could sometimes swallow pride and deal with it.
Perhaps they handle embarrassing mistakes differently from us, or just don’t see the problem.
The last week we were there it rained more than it had in decades.
You couldn’t even go outside – so what’s the point then? :p
I’m happy to be in Europe for the dryer summer months, and will let Asia dry up before I consider returning.
What are some things you loved and/or hated about Asia?
Asian Escapes to Sample
The largest continent in the world boasts of limitless number of wonderful travel destinations.
It is almost impossible for a single individual to sample all the amazing travel experiences that the continent of Asia has in store.
So, you have to make choices and try the most popular ones first.
If you are interested to explore Asia, try the following top 6 Asian escapes to sample.
Sri Lanka is a destination with balmy rain forests, colorful reefs, palm-fringed beaches, local legends, religious relics, ancient ruins, flavorful food, famous tea, fun trains, rolling surf, oodles of elephants and welcoming people.
To ensure you don’t miss out on anything that this country has to offer, you should book with a Sri Lanka holiday specialist.
You can expect to have plenty of unique experiences in this island country in the Indian Ocean.
China is a different world within the world.
The Chinese cuisine, its unique culture and wonderful attractions like the Great Wall, the Forbidden Kingdom and Terracotta Army make it one of the must visit travel destinations in Asia.
Vanuatu is a place with many extremities – we were there during the monsoon season, and while most days were sunny, the weather was so humid that I sweated more there than I ever have in my whole entire life.
The dry season is a lot cooler, but the scenery is just as lush and beautiful at any time of the year.
The people in Vanuatu are among the friendliest I’ve met, and we were amazed by how we could snorkel with huge tropical fish only meters away from the beach.
Best Places To Visit In Bali – Despite being such a small island, Bali is packed with so many beautiful areas and awesome experiences. It’s one of my favorite places to visit in the world.
What I love the most about Bali is how much cultural heritage they have, their colorful traditions and celebrations that seem to happen pretty much every day.
Almost every day we learned there was a religious celebration going on in some part of the island that we should go and see.
If you haven’t visit Indonesia yet, get a plane ticket and book a hotel.
Enjoy all this amazing destination offers.
Best Places to Visit in Bali Indonesia
Best Places To Visit In Bali Indonesia
After the movie ”Eat Pray Love” it’s probably quite busy in this little town in the middle of the island, but even before that movie, Ubud was popular for a very good reason: it’s the artistic hub of Bali.
Surrounded by rice paddies (which for the record you have to see – they’re beautiful!), this town was originally important as a source of medicinal herbs and plants, which is perhaps the reason why there are so many detox- and spa centers there.
If you have a few days to spare I’d really recommend trying a detox program, it totally goes with the spirit and vibe of Bali, and it’s so much cheaper than in the West.
In fact it might be cheaper even when including the cost of cheap flights to Bali, than a detox would at home.
Today Ubud is also known for the abundance of art and crafts sold there, and it’s a great place to base yourself when doing day trips to the nearby villages.
Amed is perhaps one of the trickiest places in Bali to reach.
This can also be seen as a good thing, as there are pretty much NO tourists there, yet it’s the perfect place to go snorkeling or diving, find empty beaches and, for those who want to feel like they’re in the middle of nowhere – Amed is prefect.
A short moped ride away from Candidasa, you’ll find Tenganan Village, one of the ancient villages where the native Balinese people live.
Here houses and customs are the same as they always have been.
Apart from showing a few tourists around the village, inside their homes, and sharing their rare craft and art – things go on as normal.
temples in Bali
There are way too many temples in Bali to count, but if you can only visit one temple, make sure it’s Tanah Lot.
This temple is unique because it’s located in such a beautiful location.
It’s a temple on a rock, surrounded by water and when the tide is high it’s actually inaccessible, even by boat because of the rocks.
The best time to visit is when there is an event or celebration going on.
It is definitely a highlight to check out the Balinese celebrations, where the locals dress up in beautiful traditional costumes, sing, dance, and carry large plates of food on their heads to sacrifice to the gods.
A good time to visit is May, as there are no school holidays in Australia, it’s not a high season for tourists and we’ve found some really cheap international flights to Bali around that time.
Things To Do In Bali, Indonesia
Bali is a small but compact island in Indonesia – with so much to see and do there, and such a strong local culture, it almost seems like a country in itself.
To see and do everything you need at least one month, but today we’ll show you some highlights for a short trip to Bali.
The Artist Villages, Ubud
The Artist Villages, Ubud
Ubud is known as the artist center, it’s the hub where people from nearby villages come to sell their art.
Many of the local artists live in the outskirts of Ubud, and every village has their special art specialty.
Painters live in one village, wooden craft people in another, and jewelry makers in a third etc.
Visiting these places one by one is a great experience, as you get to meet the whole family of artists (the art form is normally inherited from father to son) and see them work.
Also make sure you check out the nearby monkey forest!
Tenganan is an ancient village in the middle of nowhere, 5 km off the road from Candidasa.
It’s the oldest village in Bali, where the people have also kept their old pre-Hindu customs.
This village is a Bali Aga village (from the people who were there before the Hindu Javanese came to Bali).
It’s a really charming place to visit for a day.
You can walk around the village, visit a local’s home, let them weave you something using their traditional technique, or paint you something (like a traditional Aga story).
They normally just ask you for a small donation on entry – which goes toward keeping the village running.
Close to Tenganan, you can find a little village called Jasri where you can have a true local experience with the villagers and have an amazing rice field walk in Bali.
Relax in Amed
This is a place MOST people don’t even know about – we didn’t meet a single tourist while there for 7 days.
It’s easy to understand why celebrities choose this place as a drug-rehab location for a few months – no one will be able to find you!
If you want to relax in a place in the middle of nowhere, snorkel and enjoy some solitude, then Amed is the place to go.
There is not much to do here, but just relaxing and enjoying the green nature and good swimming.
WARNING: there are no shops, ATM machines or anything there, so make sure you bring enough cash before you leave Kuta – we made this mistake! :p
Shop and Surf in Kuta
If you’re into surfing and shopping – then you’ll love Kuta.
The shopping here is cheap, and all the main surf brands have set up huge stores full of surf clothes- plus the beach is nice and the surfing can be awesome!
You can easily hire a surfboard on the beach and go play in the water – Kuta is also the center for partying in Bali.
Green Bali Rice Fields
Bali is the greenest place I’ve ever seen. Nowhere else have I seen so many different shades of green, in such a beautiful scenery.
The best way to enjoy the nature is to visit a rice field and walk through the middle of this green heaven.
There are some beautiful photo moments to get there.
Bali Rice Fields
When I think about Bali, the first thing which comes to mind is GREEN – everything there is such an incredible shade of green.
To really experience this green-ness, make sure you head out to the Bali rice fields.
A Balinese Dance Show
A show full of colors, amazing dresses, dances and humor – the story is the same but they always change their approach depending on the audience.
If you for example watch when the audience is full of teenage school classes, they will put in more childish humor and sex jokes, while for an older audience they stress other things.
Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot Temple is a temple built on a rock by the sea, in the most beautiful setting.
Coming here during a celebration or ceremony is a great experience.
When we went there – there was a huge party where locals had traveled from long distances (many of them had walked the whole way), bringing food and other sacrifices, dressed in their special outfits.
Balinese music was playing, they were singing and there was golden decorations and dragons everywhere.
Top 5 Attractions In Bali Indonesia
From spectacular beaches to majestic temples and unique cultural displays, Top 5 Attractions In Bali Indonesia is a favored destination for travelers in search of something exotic.
This Indonesian province encompasses the isle of Bali as well as a few neighboring islands, and is home to most of the country’s Hindu minority.
Bali is treasured for its rich culture, with music and arts that date back several centuries.
Whether you’re staying at a hotel or renting one of the many available villas in Bali, make sure you plan to visit some of these memorable Top 5 Attractions In Bali Indonesia attractions.
Besakih Temple Bali Indonesia
Perched 1,000 meters up on Mount Agung, Besakih is known as Bali’s “Mother Temple”.
It is the largest and holiest temple on the island, with a breathtaking view of rice paddies and nearby hills and streams.
It is said that the first revelation from Balinese Hindu God Hyang Rsi Markendya was received here.
The main structure consists of three temples, dedicated to the Hindu trinity.
Also, Besakih is the only temple open to devotees from any caste group.
Mount Batur Bali Indonesia
Also known as Kintamani, this active volcano is renowned for majestic views of its surrounding valley.
The beautiful Lake Batur fills a large part of its caldera, and down below are three ancient villages set among hot springs and fertile lava fields.
With its mineral-rich soil, this area is a noted producer of high quality fruits and vegetables.
Hiking up Mount Batur usually takes at least three hours, and official guides are recommended.
Tegallalang Rice Terraces/Ubud
Ubud is famed for beautiful rice paddies that employ subak, a traditional cooperative irrigation system originally brought by a revered holy man from India in the 8th century.
Tegallalang is a perfect spot from which to view this dramatic scenery.
Its high roadside location is a favorite among painters and photographers, as it looks down across a green terraced valley of rice paddies.
The nearby village of Pakudui is full of woodworking artisans, making it an ideal place to shop for authentic Balinese sculpture and other wooden crafts.
Tanah Lot Temple
Along with Besakih, this is one of Bali’s most important temples.
It sits on an offshore rock, which has been shaped by years of ocean tides.
Tanah Lot is revered for a mystic beauty that includes gorgeous sunset backdrops.
According to legend, a high priest from East Java traveled here in the 15th century to spread Hinduism and established the site to honor the sea god Baruna.
Bali Indonesia Safari And Marine Park
Covering 40 hectares in the Gianyar regency, this park is home to over 60 species of animals that roam free in large enclosures designed to mimic their natural habitats.
There are animals from Indonesia, India and Africa, including sharks, baboons, Himalayan bears, and the famous Indian white tiger.
Camel and elephant rides are available, and there are fascinating exhibits such as a replica of the ancient Indian fort where white tigers roam free.
There’s also a guided safari tour that offers the chance to see and photograph exotic wildlife in the open range.
Balinese Day Of Silence (The Bali New Year)
Last year we had the fortune – or misfortune – to celebrate the Balinese New Year.
In the western world you open the new year by painfully trying to figure out what the hell happened the night before.
In Bali you open the new year very different- by softly reflecting on your life.
The Balinese New Year is a day of 100% silence – and by the time we had woken up it was already silent, deafeningly silent.
The only thing making any noise were the ocean waves.
Even the birds kept quiet! Sounds like a dream, right?
It was HELL!
Sunset In Bali On The Day Of Silence
Sunset In Bali On The Day Of Silence
You know that pleasant soothing sound of waves breaking by the shore?
It’s nice as a background sound, but being the only thing making a noise was slowly driving me crazy – I felt like I couldn’t even hear my own thoughts!
On the Day of Silence everything is closed – even the AIRPORT in Bali is closed down for 24 hours.
Nobody is allowed to go outside their houses, and you’re not allowed to play music or watch movies.
We stayed in a pretty little hotel right by the sea with an amazing view over the water and beach (see the picture above) – but we weren’t allowed to go swimming in the ocean – so it was over 30 degrees and this hotel had no pool, no TV, and no internet.
They had hung up big heavy curtains on the hotel to shut off the street, which was empty.
And as if that wasn’t enough, for some reason I still can’t understand, Nathan convinced me to do a food fast for the whole day.
Fast! No food?!
And I agreed?!
When there is nothing to do, you EAT!
You really make some strange decisions in strange situations…
Bali Bombing Memorial
Bali Bombing Memorial
This was such a sad event, and it was really moving to be walking through the middle of Kuta and see this memorial.
So many young people lost their lives there, and it really makes you appreciate the moments we have in this life.
I had a funny feeling that fate had something to do with it all, and I was certain of it when I soon realized that the only book I had to read in my room was called.
‘The Science of Self- Realization’
I felt as if Life was laughing at me playing its little tricks.
But it’s well thought through, this day of silence – it really does the job, and serves its purpose.
Because when there is nothing to do and it’s completely quiet, there is nothing to distract me, stimulate me and blind me from my ego and my thoughts.
So I found myself for the first time in a long while, sitting silent and alone in my room, hearing my thoughts – and for once, actually listening to them.
Transformation takes place, leaving you feeling so peaceful and happy!
Well these are some of the best things to do next time you are in Bali – also a great way to see many of these in 1 day is to hire a taxi and tour guide for the day (it’s really cheap!) – we got one guy and he took us for an 8 hr tour around Bali, which turned into 14 hrs for the same price – amazing and really great to have a local tell you about everything.
The live music scene in India has been sprouting, and since then I have added a lot of artists to my favorite lists of music festivals of Bangalore.
Indian Festivals You Don’t Want To Miss! – Holi
I LOVE traditional Indian Festivals – they are some of the best and most fun ways to experience a new country and get an insight into its culture and traditions.
In India, countless festivals are held throughout the year, and during these events the country becomes even brighter and more vibrant than ever.
Although not traditionally known as a party hotspot, India has a proud tradition of offering tourists and locals alike a calendar full of festivals to appeal to every age group.
Here are the ones you should check out.
Here are some odd, beautiful and funny Indian Festivals to check out next time you visit India …How to Travel Green through India
Of all festivals around the world, the one I long to experience the most is Holi.
The most colorful festival on the planet.
The festival is held for 2 days in March every year.
Unlike the Songkran festival in Thailand where everyone throws water on each other, you throw colored powder (and colored water) on each other instead!
The photos from this festival are just gorgeous, so colorful – it really is a photographer’s dream!
If you’ve ever seen footage on television of Indians painted in vibrant colors, running around under water sprinklers, you’ve probably seen Holi.
Holi is the Festival of Color celebrating the beginning of Spring and commemorating a good harvest from the fertile land.
The Holi bonfire, called Holika, is lit at the major crossroads of cities and used to burn the Effigy of Holika, a wooden depiction of a demon.
Join in the festivities and witness the joy of the Indian people at this vibrant event.
The date of Holi also changes every year but is usually held around February/March.
The only reason I experienced the Diwali festival when I was in India was because the taxi driver told us to change our plans and go to a nearby town instead to celebrate “Diwali”.
We had never heard of it before and had no idea what we were expecting, but it sounded like a fun idea – and today I’m so glad we went.
Diwali is actually one of India’s most popular festivals, celebrated all across the country between mid-October and mid-November.
This man barely had any time to stack the flowers on the thread because so many people came by to buy from him.
Then again it was Diwali, one of the biggest celebrations of the year, and the Marigold flower is an important detail to the festival.
The 5 day long festival is celebrated to mark the triumph of good over evil, and is also known as the festival of light, bringing attention to our “inner light”.
While I was in a small town, one of the best places to experience it is in Bangalore.
The festival is even wilder and bigger in Bangalore, so next time I have the opportunity to see it again that’s definitely where I will go.
Many others are probably thinking the same thing though, so hotels in Bangalore can book up quickly.
It’s better to book in advance so you can be sure you get some place to stay.
Diwali is the most famous festival in India
It is the most important event of the year.
Known as the Festival of Light, Diwali (also known as Dipawali) is a celebration of both the harvest and the first day of the financial year.
Locals place clay lamps known as deepa outside their homes as protection from dark spirits and celebrate the festival by spending time with family and worshipping Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
Diwali goes for five days so make sure you get to see as least some of it on your travels.
The date of Diwali changes every year but is usually held in October/November.
Krishna Janmashtami Indian Festivals
Krishna Janmashtami is a festival in celebration of the Krishna god, it’s full of events and performances; children dress up as Lord Krishna, and people perform dances depicting the different events in Krishna’s life.
The highlight of the festival however, is Dahi Handi, a competition which involves young men forming a human pyramid and climbing on top of each other to reach a pot of curd.
The pyramids can be as tall as 40 feet, with as many as eight layers – and yes, many competitors often get injured.
The festival runs for two days in August or September every year.
Celebrating the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the Ganesh Chaturthi.
Also known as the Great Ganesha Festival, is celebrated by Hindus around the world.
The best place to celebrate this festival is in the state of Maharashtra.
Where the festivities last for 10 days between August and September.
Prior to the festival, skilled artisans prepare clay models of Lord Ganesh.
Houses are cleaned as devotees prepare to bring the Lord Ganesh into their homes and install the deity.
Throughout the festival, special prayers, devotional chanting and singing are performed – along with delicious sweets (apparently Ganesh liked them!).
On the 11th day, the Ganesh statue is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing and fanfare to be immersed in a river or the sea.
Karni Mata Festival
Not the biggest festival in India, but surely one of the oddest.
The Karni Mata Festival is held twice a year (March-April and September-October) to worship Goddess Durga.
The place to be during this festival is at the Karni Mata temple, a 600 year old temple which is home to thousands of rats.
The rats are believed to be sacred as the soul of Karni Mata is said to reside in the rats.
At 4am the doors to the temple open for worship and blessings, and food is offered to the god.
Eating what the sacred rats have salivated over is considered to bring good fortune, and the same goes for letting them scurry over your feet..!
If none of those are options you’re up for, then look out for a white rat, because seeing this rarity is also supposed to bring good luck.
Elephant And Mahout, India:
Elephant together with its Mahout – trainer. Elephants are very loyal to their mahouts and they are often associated with supernatural powers because they control such a big animal.
Ideally, this relationship will not end until either the elephant is sold or the mahout dies.
Many mahouts will spend up to 26 days out of the month with their elephant and the remainder with his family.
Pushkar Camel Fair
Ever wanted to see 50,000 camels in one place?
If so, head to the Pushkar Camel Fair where camels and their owners arrive at Pushkar in November to trade, parade and race their camels.
The event is a traditional style Indian festival that is mainly a carnival, although pilgrims also come to bathe in the lake to be absolved of their sins.
Watch performances from magicians, acrobats and snake charmers or go on one of the many rides available while you wait for the camel beauty contest to start.
Celebrated in Kerala, the Onam festival lasts for ten days during August and September.
The festival kicks off with elephant processions and the laying of the Pookalam, the floral carpet, in front of every house.
New layers are added each day to the carpet and there are different events and rituals for every day of Onam, ranging from spring-cleaning to the giving of gifts.
The final day has the most events, including ox racing, food eating competitions and feasts.
With spiritualism being such an important part of Indian culture, attending the myriad of festivals throughout the year is a great way to get to know the country and its people.
India tours such as those offered by My Adventure Store often place you near or in these festival areas so it’s worth checking them out while you’re in town.
You’ll be painting yourself with vibrant colors and voting for the prettiest camel in the pageant in no time.
Bangalore – The Garden City of India
Bangalore is a beautiful city alternatively referred to as “The Garden City of India” .
The city will surprise its visitors with the greenery, well maintained gardens and parks with a huge variety of trees and flowering plants.
Bangalore Garden City of India
Bangalore is a major attraction for music lovers who have an interest in authentic Indian Classical Music.
Other features of the city include its swanky restaurants, clubs, cinemas, pubs, shopping malls, carnivals and exhibitions.
While business travelers are lured to the city very often due to its status of being an IT hub of India.
Bangalore is the fastest emerging Cosmopolitan City of Asia, and the temperature remains moderate throughout the year, with beautiful ancient temples that display rich architecture are an amazing sight that makes it one of the most sought out destinations in the country.
Despite the advancement of technology and it acquiring the name of “Silicon City of India” it has managed to retain the traditional way of life and is a visual treat during festive seasons.
Best attractions in Bangalore
Lalbagh Botanical Garden
The garden was built by its famous ruler Hyder Ali as his private garden in 1760, and spreads over 40 acres of land with rare species of plants and trees.
The Glass House, a replica of Crystal Palace of London, is the highlight of the park.
With over 1000 species of flora and fauna, pools and flower beds, it is a great place to relax.
The palace is mainly built using Teak wood and is adorned with beautifully decorated pillars and balconies.
The ground floor serves as a museum showcasing artifacts and achievements made by Tipu Sultan.
Also known as Tashk-e-Jannat, which means envy of heaven, this palace will take you down the memory lane with its royal ambiance.
With an impressive array of fauna and flora, the Park is a landmark spread over 300 acres of land.
The landscape is designed in grand style with rocks, tress, bamboo groves, lush green grass and colorful flower beds.
This is actually more of a Science Center than a museum.
Each floor has a chosen discipline with a different theme.
The Engine Hall features machinery, engines and automobiles, whereas the Electro Technic Gallery has exhibitions on electronics and communication equipment.
Be prepared to spend more than three hours in the museum to cover the huge collections, such as the Space Gallery or the Gallery of Science for Children.
This boy was playing his flute with an undying passion, and, of course, trying to get some extra cash on the side…
Constructed in a Neo-Dravidian Style this is considered to be one of India’s most glorious buildings.
It houses the Government’s Legislative Assembly and offers a mesmerizing view to its visitors when lit at night during holidays.
5 New Delhi Parks and Gardens
India’s capital city, New Delhi, contains a number of gardens and green spaces.
When you begin to feel overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of this metropolis, retire to one of these five lovely gardens for some fresh air and outdoor fun.
Titillate your senses, relax with a quiet stroll or enjoy some of the attractions found in these five New Delhi parks and gardens.
Garden of Five Senses
Located on more than eight hectares in Saidul Ajaib village, the Garden of Five Senses was inaugurated in February 2003.
This garden, which was designed to incorporate features that stimulate all five of the senses, is home to several unique attractions.
Here, you can enjoy 200 different species of plants, including many fragrant, colorful flowers meant to excite both the eyes and the nose.
Other special features of the Garden of Five senses include its many art sculptures, its food and shopping court, its waterfalls and wind chimes, and its solar energy park.
Children can ride in solar-powered miniature cars. You can also rent solar-powered bicycles.
As its name suggests, Deer Park is home to numerous deer.
This park in South Delhi is a popular spot for jogging, walking and picnicking.
The park’s deer, which include the native spotted deer or chital, live in a special enclosure where visitors can observe them.
Other animals living in the park include rabbits, guinea pigs, peacocks and other native birds, most of which congregate around the park’s pond.
Visitors to Deer Park can also see historical tombs dating back to the Mughal Era.
The majority of the park is well-manicured, with plenty of shade trees, picnic areas, and a play area for the little ones.
The 36.4-hectare Lodi Gardens in New Delhi are among India’s most historically valued; the gardens are under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India because they contain a number of ancient tombs and structures dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
The oldest tomb in the Lodi Gardens, the tomb of Sayyid dynasty ruler Mohammed Shah, was built in 1444.
Other important structures in the gardens include the tomb of Sikander Lodi, built in 1517, the Bara Gumbad and its attached three-domed mosque, the Sheesh Gumbad and the Athpula Bridge.
Few structures from this period of Indian history remain standing today, making the Lodi Gardens one of the nation’s most valuable heritage centers.
See this website to get great deals on New Delhi hotels convenient to the Lodi Gardens.
The Mughal Gardens can be found to the rear of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the home of the president of India.
They’re open to the public during February only, but make a popular destination for outings during this time.
The Mughal Gardens feature both British and Mughal landscaping styles, and are home to an impressive number of flower species.
Four channels – two flowing north to south and two flowing east to west.
Divide the garden into a grid. Six fountains in the shape of lotus flowers mark the intersections of these channels, and trays of bird seed are placed on special wooden platforms to feed the gardens’ avian visitors.
On the west side of the central gardens, visitors will find the Purdha Garden consisting mostly of roses, but also other fragrant flowers like jasmine.
At either end of the main garden, terrace gardens grow on a slightly elevated level; each terrace garden has a sentry post and a gazebo.
The Mughal Gardens are also home to an extensive bonsai collection.
Named for India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, this park occupies more than 32 hectares of land near the centre of New Delhi.
Concerts are held here every Sunday morning, as is the city’s yearly Bhakti Festival.
Nehru Park is home to a swimming pool, a snack bar, and a life-sized statue of Vladimir Lenin, installed in November 1987.
Members of the Communist Party of India gather here each year to celebrate Lenin’s birthday.
The best time to visit Nehru Park is in the spring, when its many beautiful flowers are blooming.
Look out for the small rocks inscribed with quotes from Nehru himself.
Take advantage of the free morning yoga classes offered here.
If you’re planning a holiday to New Delhi, you must consider visiting some of the city’s beautiful and historic parks and gardens.
Go for a stroll, enjoy a yoga class and take in some of India’s historical architecture in one of New Delhi’s many green spaces.
How to Travel Green through India
Travel Green through India – Planning any trip is hard, but it becomes even more difficult when you’re trying to visit a very large country where you don’t know how to identify the most sustainable options.
You want to see everything there is to see, while helping to preserve their natural resources.
Here are just a few ways that you can make your trip to India as green travel as possible.
If you’re looking into traditional lodgings for your India vacation, you have a few options.
First is the Indian luxury hotel chain, ITC Hotels.
Their website totes a focus on renewable energy, recycling, and maintaining green hotels with a concept they like to call “Responsible Luxury.”
Additionally, they have an agricultural business that works with farmers to outsource their products, and provides technological resources.
Their hotels are located in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, and more, so you have plenty of options to choose from as you travel.
If you’re feeling adventurous, there are alternative lodging options available.
Home Stays are a great way to go for a number of reasons:
They’re generally cheaper than hotels, create an experience that is less tourism and more native exploration, and, because you are functioning within the rules of someone else’s home, are overall much greener than hotels.
Other options include lodging camps, eco-lodges, eco resorts, and more.
Take into account what kind of experience you want to have, how many people you’re traveling with, and the distance from the place you’re staying to the attractions you want.
Sometimes, these attractions are a part of your accommodations.
For example, at Kanha National Park in Manji Tola, there is a “safari lodge” where visitors can stay.
What to Do in India
Those who want to visit eco-friendly outdoor attractions are in luck, as India’s beautiful landscape offers a plethora of options.
From wildlife excursions to national parks in Gujarat India to tribal tours, there is always a sustainable way to spend your day.
Eco tours are a great way to experience the nature of India without harming the environment, and they provide a unique look at the culture of the country.
For the thrill-seeker, there are even more exciting ways to see India.
Eco adventures will get your heart racing while you take in the sights with activities like kayaking and biking.
Of course, there is something for every age and physical ability, so if amusement parks and festivals are more your kind of adventure, you’ll have plenty of options as well.
There are so many places to explore and so much culture to absorb, chances are you’ll have a hard time narrowing it down.
The cows are holy in India and are allowed to be anywhere.
This one is hanging out with the sunbathers at the beach.
How to Get Around in India
Planning out what you want to see and do ahead of time is important, so that you can cut down on travel that is harmful to the environment.
While it is probably necessary to fly into India internationally, with enough time and resources, you will find there are many options to get around within the country in a green fashion.
There are a number of creative ways to get from place to place in a big city, so if you’re up for it, look into trying those out first.
Bike tours and travel are fairly popular, although there are a number of safety concerns to take into account, especially in big cities.
If you’re not an experienced biker, you may want to consider short trips with a group lead by a professional.
Options for bike tours can be expensive, but it’s a unique and very sustainable way to see as much of India as possible.
The jungle was full of greedy monkeys choking down as many bananas as they could fill their mouths with.
The sad thing is that during the rain season when tourists stop coming, the monkeys haven’t learned how to get their own food, and many starve.
When considering how to travel long distances or just get from place to place within a city, you’ll want to look into the metro and railroad systems.
The larger cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai have urban railway systems, and there are trains that run between cities and across the country as well.
Taking a train is a great way to see the country while seated comfortably, as well as the cheapest (and greenest) way to travel overnight.
There are many ways that you can leave India as beautiful as it was when you arrived.
Use these suggestions as a starting point, and be flexible when it comes to planning your vacation.
Go out and experience this vast country for yourself.
Guide To The Golden Triangle, India
One of the most memorable trips I’ve done in India was the Golden Triangle, a triangular route between Delhi, Agra and Jaipur – some of the most interesting cities in Northern India.
It was a unforgettable experience, and while it’s definitely possible to do the trip on your own, I enjoyed the tour and managed to see so much more in a short period of time than I normally would.
Tours to the Golden Triangle in India, so if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands I recommend taking a tour instead.
From colorful cities, royal palaces and vibrant markets and bazaars, the Golden Triangle in India really gives travelers a good dosage of culture, tradition, history and beauty…
Delhi, City Of Seven Capitals
Said to be one of the oldest cities in the world, Delhi is a melting pot of the past and present, chaos and order, wealth and poverty.
Exploring the city is an overwhelming but incredible experience.
There have been at least seven major capital cities around the present-day Delhi (the first dating back at least 3,000 years!), giving the city its nickname as the “city of seven capitals”.
The most popular attraction in Delhi is the Red Fort, a beautiful sandstone fort with several unique buildings, all with their own stories to tell.
Delhi has many beautiful buildings, monuments and museums to visit, but one of my favorites was the Gurudwara Sis Ganj, an important Sikh place of worship.
It’s an oasis of peace and calm away from the chaotic streets of Old Delhi, and the complex is very beautiful.
Finally, another must-see is Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque, and known as one of the 7 wonders of India.
Wandering the streets of Delhi and exploring the differences of the New vs Old part of the city is a great way to soak up the culture and way of life of the people living there.
If your Newmarket Holidays tour allows you some spare time in the evening, I highly recommend a shopping spree at one of the shopping malls in Delhi!
Agra, City of The Taj Mahal
Agra’s main attraction may very well be the most famous and recognizable attraction in the whole of India: Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal is unique and beautiful in every way, from its romantic and touching story to the changing colors that are said to signify the changing moods of a woman; like a jewel, the Taj Mahal changes from pinkish in the morning, milky white in the evening and golden by moonlight.
Built by the Muslim Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1631 and 1654 as a mausoleum for his favorite wife, it’s an amazing piece of Mughal architecture.
Another beautiful place to visit in Agra is Agra Fort, a red sandstone fort where Emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb, from which he had a view of the building erected for his deceased wife.
Shah Jahan is said to have died in the Musamman Burj, a tower with a beautiful marble balcony.
There is a secret room called the “mirror chamber” which most people aren’t really supposed to see, but if you get the chance I highly recommend you bribe the guard 😉 to let you in so you can see the incredibly beautiful bathroom, decorated by thousands of tiny mosaic mirrors, that sparkle from the light of the candles the guard holds when circling the room.
Finish the afternoon at one of the many rooftop restaurants with views overlooking the city and the milky white Taj Mahal.
Jaipur, The Pink City
Walking through Jaipur’s markets and bazaars is a chaotic but fantastic experience, with stalls selling everything from spices and teas to colorful saris, bags and jewelry, and the odd ox cart passing by next to you.
Jaipur is nicknamed the pink city because of its colorful pink buildings, which were originally painted this color to imitate the red sandstone architecture of Mughal cities.
The present earthy red color originates from repainting of the buildings undertaken for a visit by the Prince of Wales in 1876.
Pink is traditionally a color associated with hospitality, so it was the perfect color to welcome the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) to the city.
The tradition has been maintained and today all residents in the old city are compelled by law to preserve the pink color.
In Jaipur, make sure to visit Janta Mantar, a UNESCO world heritage site and an observatory built in the 18th century with devices to measure time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars etc.
You’ll also find a collection of 12 zodiac sign instruments.
Depending upon the current zodiac sign the relevant instrument can be used.
Another really fascinating place to visit is the Hawa Mahal, a part of the City Palace where the royal ladies could observe the everyday life of the streets on the outside from its 950 windows without being seen.
The cooling breeze that passes through the windows gave the building its nickname “Palace of Winds”.
There are many in India who need help – dogs often seem to be forgotten when it comes to this.
Fortunately, there are rescue center who dedicate all their time to help street dogs.
This one has just been picked up and taken to the Animal Rescue Center in Goa.
Exploring The Colors And Flavors Of Rajasthan
India is a country full of life, delicious food and colorful places – some, however, are more colorful than others.
The Rajasthan state of India is especially colorful, with several cities nicknamed for its bright painted buildings, as well as others known for its delicious sweets and romantic atmosphere…
Jodhpur – The Blue City
Looking out over the city from the ramparts of Mehrangarh fort it’s easy to see why Jodhpur is known as the Blue City:
most houses are painted in different shades of blue – especially in the north side of the town called Brahmpuri.
This is something the locals are very proud of, but if you were to ask them why the houses are blue, they usually respond by saying it keeps the buildings cool during summer (the city is also famous for its sunny days, giving it a second nickname: the Sun City).
The real reason, however, is said to be that the area is infested with termites, and the insects damaged and destroyed the traditional building techniques where the exteriors were coated with lime wash.
They realized that by adding copper salt into the lime washes, the insects stayed away.
Under certain conditions, copper solutions produce blue compounds, hence the blue buildings.
The Brahmin class could afford this copper solution, which is why some believe that they painted the buildings blue to emphasize their royal connection, as blue is associated with wealth and royalty – who knows, maybe it’s a bit of both?
Bikaner – City of Sweets
If you have a sweet tooth, like me, you would love Bikaner.
Famous for its Indian sweets, this is a city where you can truly indulge in sweets and snacks all day long.
Make sure you try the Kesar Kulfi, Gujiya and Bhujia while you’re there.
Other reasons to visit Bikaner is its old havelis (Indian mansions) and to go on camel safaris in the desert.
The camel safaris here are less touristy than in Jaisalmer, and the city is known for the best riding camels in the world.
They even hold a camel festival each January with camel performances, races and of course special sweets made from camel’s’ milk.
The festival begins with a procession from the Junagarh fort, where the camels are decorated in typical Rajasthani attires and colorful saddles.
Jaipur has been nicknamed the “pink city” because of its distinctly colored sandstone buildings, and of course there is also a story behind why they’re all pink.
In 1876, Maharaja Ram Sing decided to paint the entire city in pink, the traditional color for hospitality, as a gesture to welcome the Prince of Wales to the city.
The tradition continued, and today all residents in the old town are obliged by law to preserve the pink color.
There are plenty of hotels in Jaipur, and if you’re planning to stay overnight you will have the opportunity to see the city in the sunset when the colors are even more intense.
Udaipur – City of Lakes
Nicknamed Venice of the East (like many other cities in the east), Udaipur is commonly considered to be the most romantic city of India.
The charming old & new town has three interconnected lakes; the Fateh Sagar Lake, Lake Pichola and Swaroop Sagar Lake.
Add forts, palaces, lush gardens, the Aravalli Mountains and temples and you can understand why people think it’s so romantic.
Jaisalmer – The Golden City
Finally, you have Jaisalmer, or The Colden City, as it’s often called, referring to the yellow sandstone buildings the city is made up of that take on a distinct golden glow in the afternoon sunlight.
The Rajmahal Fort and temples of Jain and Laxminath are the main attractions in Jaisalmer, along with the nearby desert and its camel safaris.
The interior of the Fort is amazing, but when the sun sets the best way to see it is from the outside, as the walls turn into honey-gold by the sun rays, adding to the desert fairy tale ambiance of the city.
Getting Wet in the wettest place on Earth: Cherrapunjee
Being soaked alone is cold.
Being soaked with your best friend is an adventure.
As another weekend of travel with Nids and Dris came to an end, I am reminded of these very lines from Emily Wing Smith.
Three days of trekking around the gorgeous hills and valleys of this village, drenched in the fury of the Cherrapunjee rain is an apt reminder to why this land is known as the wettest place on earth.
And had it not been for the good company my best friend, I would have not been able to experience the panoramic beauty of the deep gorges and roaring yet amazing waterfalls of Cherrapunjee.
Cherrapunjee facts first
To reach Cherrapunjee or Sohra as it is locally known, you need to first take a flight to Shillong, the capital of Meghalya, situated in the north-east part of India.
90 minute drive after than through the scenic roads of Shillong is all you need to reach this part of world.
For tourists, the best time to visit for all the outdoor and adventure activities would be in the winter season between the month of November and February.
Standing 486,9 ft above sea level, it receives rains for eight months between March and October with 50% of it pouring in June and July. November to February it is completely dry.
In Between 1973-2012 (40 years), the average rainfall at Cherrapunjee stood at 11,859.4mm or 39.90 feet or 466.90 inches.
That’s close to 4 story tall building
Fun part of Cherrapunjee
Our heart was set to travel in the month of June to witness and experience the rain gods at their best.
However, detractors advised us against it and wanted us to travel during the winters like everyone else.
For anyone like them, we have only a few words to say.
“What fun is to visit the wettest place on earth in the driest month of the year?
Come and experience nature’s beauty by getting soaked in the glorious rain of Cherrapunjee”
So off we went packed with our raincoats and precautionary meds just in case of an emergency.
Words cannot justify my experience of the Nhkalikai falls.
On the first day of our visit a naughty set of clouds decided to not let us witness one of the longest drops in world (1100 ft height).
Luckily on the second day we laid our eyes on one of the most spectacular falls in this region.
Do not forget to ask the locals for the story attached to Nokhalikai Falls
The seven sister waterfalls as it’s fondly called, is about 20 kms from Sohra.
Stay a night here and be mesmerized by the rains playing with the clouds at your feet and feel the calmness of the falls standing right under it to transport your soul to a heavenly abode.
A great place to visit especially during the monsoon, there is a legendary story attached to it.
Find the story yourself and explore the nature’s love for all things on this planet
When it’s about caves, it’s always fun. In Mawsmai caves control your excitement, mind your head and wear your shoes to navigate through the low passages of the cave.
Discover the various contours of the cave and feel every bit of it’s narrow lanes.
There are dozens of other things to do and see in Cherrapunjee which I will leave up-to you to discover and experience it just like we did.
However I have saved the best for the last, the unique and one of a kind Living Root Bridge of Cherrapunjee.
Living Root Bridges
The one thing you should not miss here is the living root bridges grown over 10-15 years from the roots of rubber trees.
Generations after Generations have passed on to their children the knowledge of creating these bridges by guiding the tree’s roots to grow across the river or ravine.
With some as old as 500 years, each of these bridges can hold up to 50 people at the same time and can grow up to 30 meters long.
You should also visit the Double-Decker Root Bridge in Umshiang which is
What to buy
Cane and Bamboo handicrafts are a must buy from Cherrapunjee.
During the orange season, you will not only find the sweetest oranges you have ever had in your life but you can also pack in bottles of the famed orange honey.
Another must buy is the famed Meghalaya tea
Spices like cinnamon, pepper are also available in plenty if you find you’re calling in food as well.
What to Eat
The local cuisine of any place on this planet should be experienced.
So devour down the pork and rice along with famed Sohra Pulao (vegetable rice).
What you must do
TREK!! TREK!! TREK!! And Trek away!!
So don’t wait and visit Cherrapunjee this tiny hamlet for that heavenly walk with the clouds and to get WET like you should!
Sweets You Must Try While Visiting Kolkata
I am not a sweet speaking chap but at times, I can be deceptive.
There is a reason behind it, Kolkata boys are naturally so sweet that when they cry, instead of tears, chasni (the sweet syrup of Rosogolla) flows.
This is not to my credit; this is the kamaal (miracle) of the sweets we eat here in Kolkata.
Whenever I am travelling to another city, another country, or another continent, the highest number of requests comes for Kolkata sweets.
Let’s not brag, we are simply the king of sweets, period.
In Kolkata, the Indian state of West Bengal, you will always find Haldiram.
They are a major manufacturer of Indian sweets and snacks.
There are other big names from North India also, each trying to gain a foothold.
We do taste them out, only when we want a change of taste.
Otherwise, why would a Bengali, the inventor of Rosogolla, Sandesh and Mishti Doi even want to eat anything else?
Let me be at my sweetest best and educate you on which sweets you should try out and where exactly to eat them.
While the former is available on a few Yatra blogs and travel guides, the latter is from me, exclusively!
Those white, floating, spongy delights which Adam brought with him from heaven and handed the recipe over to a Bengali called KC Das.
Since then, this is the most popular sweet of Bengal and it is as omnipresent as God himself, probably.
Every sweet seller in Kolkata would demonstrate his collection at the front because that is what a Bengali would ask for, before anything else.
You would know a good Rosogolla immediately.
It should be floating on the syrup, not sitting at the bottom.
KC Das is still available, rather his descendants are, and they have outlets all over Kolkata.
If you are staying at any of the hotels in park street Kolkata, ask the manager, and he can guide you to the nearest one.
Eat it anytime, anywhere and watch the Bengalis eating it to learn how not to spill the syrup on yourself.
This is probably what Eve smuggled out of heaven, during her expulsion.
Another Bengali sweet seller, Bhim Nag, invented it and since then, it competes with Rosogolla for the first place on a Bengali’s eating list.
This white, somewhat dry and delicious sweet comes in multiple variations, something which Rosogolla lacks.
You can find these — listed below. Nowadays, there are new flavors also coming out.
If you want sandesh at its purest best, go for either norompak sandesh or makha sandesh.
Unlike Rosogolla which is best eaten warm, Sandesh should be cold or, at least, room temperature.
Bhim Nag (his descendants) has multiple outlets all over the city and you will find one near your hotel in Kolkata surely.
Sweet curd… only we Bengalis know how to make curd.
It’s naturally sour and sweet; we have perfected this art over the years.
Sweet curd, from a good seller, will simply melt in your mouth.
Just put the spoon in your mouth and feel the bliss.
Sweet curd comes in some variations, Payodhi being one of the popular ones.
However, if payodhi tastes too sweet for you, stick to the pure and unadulterated Mishti Doi.
While you can eat it anytime and anywhere, it is the best when it’s cooled in a freezer and served after a hearty lunch.
Not only it tastes good, but it is also a good digestive.
However, avoid Doi after dinner because it might make you cough.
There are several sellers all over the city but I visit Jadab Das at Jhamapukur.
This shop is not mentioned in the Kolkata tour guides of MakeMyTrip or Goibibo or the likes but it is listed on Google.
Ask me not how the Lord came in the name for I shall have no answer!
However, this sweet is somewhat a culmination of two pieces of art, Rosogolla and Mishti Doi.
These finger shaped sweets have a base which is much like Rosogolla but much, much softer and porous.
Then there is a thick layer of lassi or concentrated milk all around the sweet.
This layer carries multiple favoring spices and you would enjoy this sweet and thank me for telling you of this.
Tour guides of Kolkata on Yatra or similar sites often forget to mention this.
Sitabhog – Mihidana
This is a special mention because this is not exactly a Kolkata sweet but it originated in Burdwan.
However, several Kolkata sweet shops sell the excellent quality of Sitabhog and Mihidana.
Made from the flour of a special variety of rice, Sitabhog is white and often looks like the broken ends of your favorite Maggie.
Mihidana is a micro-copy of Bundi (you know what that is, right?) and saffron in color.
While sold separately, mix them and eat them. You will forget all your worries.
Best Cities In Asia For Shopping – While I have seriously cut down on all kinds of shopping since I started traveling so much, I have found it very difficult to resist spending all of my money on clothes and shoes while in Asia – the shopping malls and prices in Europe simply can’t compare to those in Asia.
The only thing that has stopped me from filling my backpack with shoes and dresses is that I hate the extra weight.
Best Cities In Asia For Shopping
I’ve dealt with my shopping-cravings by saying that one day I will go back with at least one large empty suitcase to fill up with all the shopping I want before I leave again.
When I do this, these are the places I will visit – which are known to have some of the best shopping in Asia.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The first time I went on Malaysia holidays and visited Kuala Lumpur I was completely shocked by the sheer size of the shopping malls.
Just like in Bangkok you can walk from one shopping mall to another without ever even going outside.
Berjaya Times Square mall is enormous, and you will find that a lot of tourists inside are carrying maps of the mall as it’s so easy to get lost.
For more luxurious shopping Kuala Lumpur CC mall underneath the famous Petronas Towers is the place to go, a place where I found myself surrounded by cat walk models on a shopping spree – this mall is worth a visit just to see the towers themselves.
The most famous malls are Bukit Bintang Plaza, Low Yatm Sungeu Wang Plaza and Starhill Plaza.
There are also a lot of interesting night markets around town where you can do some more budget retail shopping, like Petaling Street in China town.
Bangkok is a shoppers haven, offering everything on earth for some amazing prices, even compared to other cities in Thailand.
From Thai silk and handicrafts, budget rip-offs to high end fashion, local designers to international brands, everything is right here in Bangkok, and often under the same roof.
We experienced some amazing service from the shops, one which actually sent a microphone we bought via express flight up to Chiang Mai half an hour after we bought it online, and we received it the same evening.
Top places to shop are Central World Plaza (biggest mall in Bangkok), Chatuchak Market, Paptong Night Market, MBK Mall, Siam Discovery, Pantip Plaza, Siam Paragon among others.
Best Places to Shop in Hong Kong
Shopping in Hong Kong China is more than just a social activity, it is treated more like a serious sport, and it’s an important part of their history, culture and way of life.
Hong Kong is smaller than Bangkok which makes it a lot easier getting around, something which is crucial when you are out to simply shop.
The best time to go for Hong Kong holidays is either in July to September or late December to February when the city has some truly amazing sales.
The most popular places to shop are Festival Walk, SOHO, Causeway Bay and Kowloon.
Whether you’re lucky enough to get a layover on international Hong Kong flights or are planning a holiday to Hong Kong, you must take time to experience some of the greatest shopping in the world.
Like many other Asian countries, Hong Kong has a reputation for covering all aspects of the shopping spectrum; you’ll be able to find everything from one of a kind jewelry pieces to the latest and greatest in gadgets.
Don’t worry if you don’t have the cash to splash, as you can usually stick for your budget in Hong Kong and still find exactly what you’re looking for.
From street markets to upscale department stores, Hong Kong has it all.
If this has already got you searching the internet for a flight to Hong Kong, don’t delay – experience the magic of this vibrant city and start your shopping adventure today!
Temple Street Night Market
If you’re looking for a bargain, you can’t go past the Temple Street Night Market in Kowloon.
The markets are open daily, from 4pm to midnight, providing you with plenty of time to find just what you need!
You’ll find something for everyone at these markets, with a variety of clothing, gadgets, watches, electronics, luggage and various food stalls.
If you want to buy some souvenirs for the unlucky non-travelers back home, the Temple Street Night Market is the perfect place.
As far as shopping malls are concerned, this is the crème de le crème of Hong Kong.
The Plaza Hollywood Shopping Mall is one of the largest in the East of Hong Kong, located among the infamous Kowloon Shopping District.
There are more than 220 stores and restaurants, an enormous exhibition center and a cinema located within Plaza Hollywood.
DFS Galleria Hong Kong
If you’re looking to spend a little money on some world famous brands, DFS Galleria is the perfect shopping destination for you.
Stocking only the finest international brands globetrotters, from all across the world, travel to Hong Kong to experience the luxurious shopping experience of a lifetime.
Also known as the Tung Choi Street Markets, the Ladies’ Markets offer everything a girl could need.
While men’s and children’s clothing are on sale, as well as various toys, there is an abundance of women’s clothing, bags and accessories.
Most of the clothing found at the markets is quite affordable, making this a popular shopping destination with tourists.
Also located in the market district of Kowloon, the Ladies’ market is open every evening from noon until 11.30 pm.
This is the place where shopping meets art.
Designed to incorporate the wonders of art and nature, this isn’t just shopping; it’s an entire experience.
The first of its kind in the world, K11 blends the beauty of the world to create an unforgettable atmosphere, enhanced by intricate architectural detailing.
15 Most Awesome Destinations in Asia You Cannot Ignore
Out of all the things in Asia, the thing I loved the most was to visit the bustling morning markets..!
Floating markets, golden palaces and porcelain-laid spires all seem to transport you to a different era and place.
Consisting of 50 districts, you can head up to Siam or Pratunam Square for premium shopping or go visit Khao San Road, offering a line of food stalls, clothing stores or opt for spa and Thai massage. Streets you should visit in Bangkok
Sukhothai has more Buddha statues than you can count.
They are all so beautifully carved, and I find the contrasting colors to be amazing.
A unique mix of tradition and pop culture.
Start your morning on a refreshing note with a walk along the Sumida River’s cherry blossom trees.
Take a quick glance at history with the Edo-Tokyo museum or go spend some time in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace.
Siem Riep, Cambodia
The overgrown temples and ruins of Angkor Wat, bathed in morning sunlight, truly mesmerize you.
The royal city of Angkor Thom is one of the main attractions of Siem Rieo, along with Cambodian Cultural Village and Angkor Night market.
The parents of this curious little runner had come up with a genius idea to keep track of where she was all the time – squeaky shoes!
The city’s shrines are a testament to its ancient past.
From the 6th century Shimogamo Shrine to the life-sized Thousand Armed Kannon statues of Sanjūsangen-dō, Kyoto offers you a unique walk down its past.
Let the iconic island sweep you off your feet with its tranquil beaches and exotic, food and drinks.
Experience the underwater world while scuba diving.
One of the top spa destinations in Asia, try the famous Balinese massage in the village cluster of Ubud.
Reflexology, aromatherapy and acupressure are some of the massage treatments.
Also, have a look at the tomb cloisters at Gunung Kawi.
This beautiful bunch of flowers are often used as vegetables in South East Asia.
They put them in salads, soups and often baguettes.
The city is dotted with restaurants offering you cheap but delicious Taiwanese specialties.
The cuisines on offer are regional cuisines from China, India, Japan and even Italy.
New Delhi, India
The mystic city of New Delhi fascinates tourists with its 17th century Red Fort, the Chandni Chowk bazaar, Jantar Mantar and the India Gate.
Hoi An, Vietnam
The city offers you glimpses into its history as a Southeast Asian trading port, from the 15th-19th centuries. Some attractions are the Quan Cong Temple and the Japanese Covered Bridge.
Nicknamed ‘The Pink City’, Jaipur’s streets are lined with glorious stucco buildings. Places to visit include Hawa Mahal, City Palace and Amber and Jaigarh forts.
This is totally normal here an an India Beach
Famous for its sandy coast, Old Goa houses the beautiful Basilica of Bom Jesus, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sometimes it happens, that amazing unforgettable sun set in Goa, the one that you wish lasted forever…
In India, you never know where you will end up by the end of the day, and plans can change within a heart beat – after talking about the many poor street dogs with a waiter at a restaurant, he ended up giving us a lift to the International Animal Rescue Center in Goa …
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Rent a junk boat or kayak and explore rock formations, limestone islands and caves sprawled across the Halong Bay.
This lady was very careful with her shopping, and looked well and long for the best vegetables in the pile.
Ancient temples, archaeological ruins and floating gardens are just the beginning of what you will find in Burma (Myanmar) – a beautiful and enigmatic destination in Southeast Asia.
From the modern capital of Yangon to the idyllic waterfront villages on Lake Inle, Burma is rich in cultural diversity and timeless traditions.
If you are planning a trip to Burma (why not have a look at Bales Worldwide), then make sure you visit these 5 must-see highlights…
Markets of Yangon
The markets of Yangon’s old Chinese and colonial quarters are legendary – you can spend the morning haggling and bartering for just about anything.
This is the place to find the perfect souvenir to bring back home – just don’t get lost in the old quarter’s warren-like maze of streets.
Sule Pagoda and Shwedagon Pagoda
Burma is world famous for it ancient temples and pagodas. In fact, it is said to have the best temple architecture in all of Asia.
Spend an afternoon exploring the Sule Pagoda and the Shwedagon Pagoda.
The Sule Pagoda is said to date back over 2,000 years, and the Shwedagon is believed to contain more gold than the banks of England, but you will have to find out whether this is fact or fiction..!
The Ancient Cities of Amarapura and Inwa
In Amarapura, one of the ancient cities of Burma, you can take a scenic stroll across the 1.2 km long U Bein Bridge (the longest teak bridge in the world!), and visit traditional silk and cotton weaving workshops.
You can also visit the huge Mahaghandayon Monastery (with over 2000 monks) which is one of the most important monasteries in the country.
Inwa is another of Burma’s important ancient cities, with a long history of successive Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries.
The city was sacked and rebuilt several times, until it was finally abandoned in 1839 after a series of earthquakes.
To get to Inwa you take a short boat trip across the river where you’ll be met by a number of horse carts ready to take you on a tour of the area.
Perhaps the most pleasurable way to see Myanmar, feel its pulse and understand its history, is to take a cruise on the Irrawaddy River with Bales.
While slowly floating down the river, you will have a chance to see a more traditional and idyllic side of Burma, passing rustic villages and lush landscapes which make you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time.
Bagan is Burma’s archeological paradise and is said to have over 2,000 pagodas – from the well-preserved Ananda Temple to the masterful brickwork of the Dhammayan-gyi, this is a magical and fascinating place to visit.
Bagan is also known for its handicrafts and traditional lacquer ware, so no trip to Bagan is complete without a stopping at the Nyaung U market to pick up some more exotic souvenirs before heading home.
If so, the Bamboo Forest Japan is a must stop. It may be that you have not planned your trip yet, but you can definitely bring your travel experience to a new dimension (climbing Mount Fuji) if you plan for it wisely.
So, when you see that the clouds in Kyoto have finally parted, it means that it is the right time to explore the destination many tourists love to choose:
The Bamboo Forest of Japan
You can see the bamboo forest situated in Arashiyama’s small town.
This indicates that it is just twenty-five minutes away from the downtown Kyoto.
So, if you plan to visit Tokyo, all you need to do is to catch a high-speed train, and take a short ride to Kyoto.
In two hours or so, you will see yourself in the enchanting Bamboo forest Japan.
Once you are there, your journey begins!
Here is the essential information you should have while traveling around the Bamboo forest Japan.
The Weather at Bamboo Forest of Japan
Though the scenery of bamboos planted all around the forest is amazing, there still is something you should consider seriously, i.e. the weather.
Just because the weather of Kyoto is quite unpredictable, you should be well aware that it can rain anytime.
However, the good thing is that you do not have to see a crowd of tourists while you enjoy traveling.
Now that you have learned about the weather, you are required to pack smartly.
Guides mostly suggest tourists to get hold of waterproof boots, scarf, rain jacket, as well as one of the compact umbrellas so that you can carry it in your bag. Communing with Nature In a Kimono
The Bamboo Forest Japan Experience
If you are visiting Bamboo Forest Japan for the first time, then you will surely be amazed to see how tall those bamboos are!
In simple words, the site seems peaceful and majestic.
Walking through the paths is another way to enjoy the tremendous sight of bamboos planted all around you. And yes, these paths have been paved.
Finding A Restaurant While Traveling Around
When it comes to searching for a good place to eat and relax, there are two options:
Find a place which is crowded with locals
Avoid places that have a hostess or promoter trying to get tourists into a trap
One of the best places to visit is Seisyuuan.
Along with offering the beautiful view of a river, you can explore where the oldest bridge of the town is.
Try The Boiled Tofu!
While you roam around Arashiyama, do not forget to eat boiled tofu.
As one of the specialties of this place, you can try it with a combination of meal.
Usually, something worth noticing is the boiling water pot filled with delicious tofu brought on your dining table.
Though this is considered the simplest meal you can have after enjoying the sights of Bamboo Forest Japan, many tourists find it equally delicious.
The Foot Bath At The Arashiyama Station
The best way to end your day is to look for a warm foot bath.
So, when you have walked a lot on the paths of Bamboo Forest Japan this foot bath will help you say good-bye to the foot pain, fatigue, and stress.
Epic Japan Bike Adventure Some Assembly Required
I’ve always liked bicycles.
You can find them all over the world, and though there might be a few differences, the riding them is familiar in a comfortable, second-nature way.
Plus, they’re a great way to see places a bit faster than walking, and they offer a good compromise between speed and green sustainability.
So when my friend Andrew sent me a message from Japan inviting me on an epic, South to North bike tour of the 4 main islands, I really wanted to say yes, and then work out the money and timing after.
Epic Japan Bike Adventure
So I did.
Fast-forward five months, after a bit of work getting funds and time together, I am in Japan with Andrew, and we’re about to set out.
We managed to lure another brave soul with the promise of adventure and Japanese sake, Scott, so it will be the three of us with our bikes and our panniers, taking on Japan.
The first and biggest challenge we faced, when we all committed to the trip, was coordination.
This trip has been planned, almost completely, with the three of us living in different countries.
Andrew has been in Japan for the last 2 years, teaching English, Scott lives in Boston, and I was in Montreal.
This meant our trip was planned mostly through a hodgepodge of email and Skype and even an attempt at a Google Wave.
Another kink came up in time zones. Andrew was 13 hours ahead of Scott and I, making his 5pm our 4am.
To make matters worse, I was working nights and Scott was working days.
This meant that, whenever the three of us were chatting or talking in real-time, one or more of us was only half-conscious.
Somehow, we all managed to get to Japan safe and sound, although not without some trouble (and some more trouble and as I write this, we are about 6 hours away from setting out on our pre-trip, 3-day hike on a little island near our start point, called Yakushima.
As for the route we’ll take, much of it will be decided on the road, but the two fixed points are the southernmost and northernmost points of Japan’s main four islands, Cape Sata in the south and Cape Soya in the far north.
However, recent events in Japan have made us reconsider some of the bits in the middle.
So far, our plan is to keep abreast of the latest news, and make final decisions as we approach them, perhaps taking a train or ferry to avoid any danger.
Recent events also made us reconsider our own motivations for taking the trip, and what bike-touring Japan right now would mean.
We decided that, while we didn’t want to just cancel the trip and ignore the devastation, we could not simply go on as if nothing had happened.
Instead, we decided to turn our trip into something to benefit Japan’s needy, in whatever small way we could.
To that end, we have begun a donation campaign for Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse, using our trip as a motivation for others to give.
Our goal is to raise $1 per kilometer per person, and since we should each be riding at least 3400km, we have set the bar at $10,000.
I am happy to say that we are almost pennies away from halfway, and considering we haven’t even started yet, that is amazing.
I am even more excited about the idea that we could exceed that goal. If you have thought about giving to relief in Japan, we encourage you to take the plunge and give.
Especially in autumn, Komyozenji Temple in Dazaifu, Japan is the epitome of refined, quiet beauty.
Sitting in the calm environment of the zen garden behind the temple always invites introspection.
In the same spirit as the Springtime cherry blossom viewings that are popular in Japan, people flock to temples, shrines, parks, and gardens such as Komyozenji to enjoy the changing and falling leaves of Autumn.
Photographs taken by travel photographer Andrew Marston who currently lives in Japan and runs a daily travel photography blog where other photographs from this trip will also be posted over the course of the coming weeks.
Winter in the Japanese Alps
Winter in the Japanese Alps
The inviting subtropical climate of Kyushu Island was driving me crazy!
With hot summers and mild winters, I needed to escape this “paradise”.
I grew up in frosty Maine, USA! We’re talking a place where November to April freezes your bones and makes even the toughest woodsman don an extra layer of flannel.
After some research, the Japanese Alps in the heart of winter sounded just the snowy get-away I pined for.
After one of the most enchanting train trips I’ve ever taken, I arrived in Takayama.
From there, it was a short bus ride through the switch backs of the Hida Mountains to Shirakawa Village.
Well deserving of its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this village prides itself on being a time warp back to Edo period traditional Japan, complete with farm houses built with thatching.
It also happens to be one of the snowiest places in Japan (measured in annual snowfall) and certainly lived up to the title.
Lori, my fiance, and I spent about 4 hours walking around snapping photos and soaking up the handsome historical vibes before it was time to take the bus back.
If ever you visit Shirakwa Village, I highly recommend walking up the path behind Wada house to Shiroyama Viewpoint (the last picture shown was taken from there).
Don’t forget your hand warmers and camera either.
For more of my escape to Winter in Traditional Japan, the trip starts here.
Andrew Marston is a Japan based travel photographer.
He likes slow train rides through rural areas, cameras with lots of buttons, and sharing his adventures with others.
Checkout Andrew’s Climbing of Mt Fuji
Things You Might Not Know About Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro is probably one of the most famous mountains in the world – it’s the highest walk-able peak anywhere on the planet and thousands of people head here each year to climb it.
That’s all well and good, but if you’ll be climbing Kilimanjaro as part of your gap year, you should know a bit more than that – to get you started, here are a few things you might not know about the Tanzanian mountain.
Mount Kilimanjaro – The First Successful Ascent
While climbing Kilimanjaro may still be an impressive feat, it’s nothing compared to what the first mountaineers went through to tackle the summit.
In October 1889, Hans Meyer, Ludwig Purtscheller and Yoanas Kinyala Lauwo became the first people to officially reach the rim of the Kibo crater and were the first ones to ascend Uhuru Peak – the highest point – on Purtscheller’s 40th birthday.
This was actually Meyer’s third attempt at scaling the mountain and the expedition party – which also included nine porters, a guide, a cook and two local headmen – set out from Mombasa on foot – imagine walking nearly 300 km before you even started your climb!
It’s Not A Mountain …
Despite being called Mount Kilimanjaro; it is, in fact, a stratavolcano, which is comprised of three volcanic cones, the highest of which is the Kibo crater where you’ll find Uhuru Peak.
Kibo is a dormant volcano, while the other two craters – Mawenzi and Shira – are extinct.
It’s been 200 years since any volcanic activity was recorded here, though, with the last major eruption occurring 360,000 years ago.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
You’ll no doubt know there are six official routes to the summit, but are you aware that only one of these follows the same path down?
Well, the Marangu route is one to avoid if you want to have a bit more variety on your trek, as you’ll go back down the way you came up if you choose this trail!
It’s also one of the busiest paths, so look elsewhere if you want a bit of solitude on your climb. Four of the other tracks – Machame, Shira, Lemosho and Umbwe – all share the same descent, known as the Mweka route.
It’s only ever used for going down, so you’ll never meet travelers on their way up on the final days of your trek.
Record Your Memories
While you will undoubtedly come home with numerous shots of you at the summit, taking photos isn’t the only way to record your ascent.
There’s a wooden box stored at the top of Uhuru Peak where almost every traveler to have made the climb has written down their feelings about the trek.
I think it’s a lovely idea, so make sure you keep up the tradition and jot a few lines in the book for others to look back on.
Speedy Ascent: It Can Be Done!
Your climb up Kilimanjaro will probably take at least five days and, if you have time, it’s worth choosing a route that lasts for seven or eight days to give you the opportunity to fully appreciate the variety of landscapes you’ll pass on your ascent.
That said, it can be done far quicker, as Gerard Bavato proved in 2007 when he reached the Uhuru Summit in just five hours, 26 minutes and 40 seconds.
While that might be the quickest climb, Gerard didn’t manage to win the accolade of fastest round trip too – that honour goes to Kilian Jornet, a Spanish trail runner who in October 2011 set the record of the fastest run to the summit and back, in 7 hours and 14 minutes, beating the previous record holder Simon Mtuy who did the ascent and descent in 8 hours and 27 minutes.
Have you climbed Mt Kilimanjaro?
How was your experience?
Unconventional Climbing Mount Fuji Japan
Most people climb Mount Fuji from the “5th Station” which is located about 2300 meters in altitude.
However, every year a very small percentage of the 300,000 annual Fuji hikers decide that they must hike all of the mountain and start from 0m in elevation at the ocean.
I had never heard of this route, nor have most Japanese people, but as soon as I learned it was an option, I knew I had to try.
Climbing Mount Fuji Japan
When my ultra-fitness friend Andy came to visit Japan, it was the perfect chance.
And so, at 11PM on Friday night, Andy and I, together with our friend Axel, went to Tagonoura Beach with no idea what we had gotten ourselves into.
Our plan was to hike the entire day. We reached the summit of Fuji to see the sunrise.
Our plan after that was to somehow walk down the other side to a bus that would take us to a hotel.
Per tradition when climbing Mount Fuji sea to summit, we filled our water bottles with sea water before heading out so we could dump them out at the top.
In the process, Axel managed to completely soak both of his sneakers meaning every step of his hike would be slightly less comfortable.
This wasn’t a good omen for the beginning of our trek.
We followed a route map created by another sea to summit hiker from which started us out walking on town roads.
At 2 AM, we reached our final opportunity to stock up on supplies until reaching the 5th station, 7-11.
Past this convenience store we would be dipping into the woods for another 10 hours.
Needless to say, we bought all the chocolate bars our packs could hold.
Mizugazuka Park – the halfway mark
At noon, we came out of the forest into a big parking lot.
We had arrived at Mizugazuka Park.
This marked the halfway point of our journey.
Thirteen hours down, and only halfway… we were a bit behind schedule.
Hopefully we wouldn’t be too late to catch the sunrise.
There were picnic tables under an awning and a gift shop.
While we sat there munching happily on our chocolate bars, we heard a distinct and far-off sound that caught our attention.
Somewhere off in the distance thunder boomed ominously.
Ten minutes later we were in the middle of a heavy downpour.
Thankfully, under the protection of the snack shop’s awning, we ended up waiting an hour before the rain let up.
Hopefully it hadn’t made trails too muddy or slick.
Fujinomiya Trail – typical starting place
The afternoon turned to dusk as we hiked through the enchanted forest trails of Gotenniwa Nature Park.
Finally, we left the tree line behind and arrived at the 5th Station of the Fujinomiya Trail.
This is where most people start their Fuji hike, but we had already been walking for about 20 hours.
With spirits low and motivation waning, we bought more chocolate bars at the 5th Station Lodge and ate a very welcome instant noodle dinner.
By this point it was now dark, and at this altitude the temperature had dropped to around 12 degrees Celsius.
After changing into our cold weather gear and saying several desperate prayers for strength, we set out to climb Mt. Fuji like everyone else.
Ours was a typical Fuji night hike experience, if not slightly slower.
We would step uphill in the dark for about an hour until we reached one of the many mountain huts where we would take a break and eat more chocolate.
However, things got really difficult around 3000 meters in elevation.
It was midnight and Andy was complaining of a headache, nausea, and dizziness, all classic signs of altitude sickness.
All our energy levels were dangerously low having not slept since the morning of the previous day.
Despite our winter jackets, the now 4 degree (Celsius) temperature meant that if we stopped walking for long we would start shaking involuntarily.
Most of the final push for the summit is a blur, but I know somehow we made it up the final stretch to the peak.
After 27 hours of hiking over 50 kilometers up 3776 meters in elevation, we had done it.
Dumping out my water bottle full of undrinkable sea water at the peak, I felt a slight sense of accomplishment mixed with an overwhelming desire to go to bed.
After appropriate tired celebrations, we ambled back down, around the crater, and witnessed the most beautiful sunrise ever before hobbling down the Yoshida Trail to the bus that would take us to our beds. Communing with Nature In a Kimono
I can easily say it was the most physically demanding 27 hours of my life.
I would definitely recommend others considering climbing Mount Fuji to train beforehand, hike with friends, and bring a backpack full of chocolate bars and warm clothes.
Hoi An Vietnam ~ If you’ve been travelling through Vietnam for a while, arriving in Hoi An is like a breath of fresh air – this little city located smack dab in the middle of the country is the kind of place that feels like a town frozen in time.
Much of Hoi An’s charm lies in its colorful colonial streets and historic buildings that date hundreds of years back to a time when the port city was still known as Faifo.
History oozes from the city’s walls and it’s easy to spend hours wandering around as you soak it all in.
Here are a few reasons to love Hoi An:
Hoi An Vietnam Ancient temples and historic buildings
One of the more unique buildings found in Hoi An is the Japanese Covered Bridge located in the historic town center.
The Japanese bridge was built by the Japanese community in the early 1600’s and it still stands today.
When you cross this bridge you’ll notice that one side of the entrance is guarded by two monkey statues while the other is guarded by two dogs.
It is believed that this is because construction began in the year of the monkey and finished in the year of the dog, but the truth is that it happened so long ago that no one can say for sure.
If you are interested in doing a lot of sightseeing in Hoi An, a good option might be to purchase special tourist ticket from the local information office in the center of town.
For $6 you’ll have access to any 5 museums, temples, assembly halls, traditional performances and workshops.
Biking around Hoi An Vietnam
The best way to explore the city center is to rent a bicycle for the length of your stay – get lost in the back alleys, cycle the length of the riverfront, and then cross over to An Hoi Island which hosts a fun night market in the evenings.
Another nice aspect about renting a bicycle is that you can take a few side trips to places like Tra Que (an organic herb village about 2 kilometers north of the city), or if you are craving some time at the beach, you can take your pick from An Bang beach or Cua Dai beach which are also a short bike ride away.
Vietnam Silk Lanterns
The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive in Hoi An are the beautiful silk lanterns adorning the buildings across town.
Their bright colors and patterns brighten up the streets while helping preserve some of the old world charm.
For those interested in taking some silk lanterns back home as souvenirs, there is the option of attending a lantern-making workshop in town, or if you’re not too crafty, you can purchase them from any of the gift shops.
Hoi An Vietnam Market life
Hoi An’s markets get going early in the day.
If you arrive at the Central Market shortly after sunrise, you’ll find vendors setting up along the waterfront by the Thu Bon River.
The market is a blur of fresh fruits and vegetables, live chickens and ducks, nuts and spices, and so much more.
The Central Market can get really busy by mid-morning, so expect to compete for walking space with motorbikes, bicycles, shoppers, and vendors swinging yokes full of produce.
Hoi An is a city for shopping.
If you want to have clothes custom made for a fraction of the price you would pay back at home, then this is the place for you.
These elaborate resting places date from the late 19th or early 20th centuries and one of the most ornate both inside and out is the 1925 tomb of Khai Dinh.
It’s no surprise that pretty Hoi An is one of Vietnam’s most popular destinations.
It’s got a little bit of everything – fascinating history, great food, unparalleled shopping, top notch hotels and a beautiful beach to boot.
Make it here for the Full Moon and you’ll see the locals celebrate by switching off all its electrical lighting and making the town look beautiful by the light of thousands of lanterns.
If it’s relaxation you’re seeking, then check out the Zen Spa where you will receive traditional Vietnamese therapies.
Many of the hotels and resorts in Hoi An town, by the beach have some fantastic facilities.
The five star Fusion Maia, located between Hoi An and Da Nang is Asia’s first all-inclusive spa hotel, with the biggest spa complex in the region – definitely the best place to indulge yourself.
To get out and about, a lot of visitors hire bicycles or motorbikes in town and then cycle around the center and the surrounding area to really get down with the locals.
Exploring Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
From the beach, take a boat out to Cham Island for amazing snorkeling and diving opportunities, wandering through traditional rice paddies and explore archaeological sites.
Halfway between Hoi An and Da Nang are the romantically-named Marble Mountains.
A day trip into this area will reveal hidden cave entrances, numerous tunnels, and several Buddhist sanctuaries.
Those with energy to burn can climb up one of the peaks for a stunning panorama.
Da Nang and the coastline of the South China Sea have some of Vietnam’s most idyllic beaches.
In the town itself, visitors can discover the world’s finest collection of Cham sculpture at the Cham Museum and families can keep the kids happy the wet and wild Da Nang Water Park.
Bewitchingly beautiful and exotic, Vietnam’s Halong Bay lying in the Gulf of Tonkin offers a breathtaking variety of natural attractions, historical sites, scenic beaches and nearly 2000 islets and limestone karsts (landscapes recognizable by caves, sinkholes and drainage systems existing under the ground).
Caves and Grottoes
One of the more popular UNESCO World Heritage sites, Halong Bay is visited by travelers from all over the world each year who come to view enchanting grottoes sculpted by waves and winds, explore illuminated caves and hike in Cat Ba National Park.
From Europe you can easily fly to Vietnam from Heathrow Airport or Gatwick Airport; both of UK’s largest airports.
If you’re driving to Gatwick Airport make sure you explore official Gatwick Parking options for a great deal.
Bay of the Descending Dragon
ha long bay of the Descending Dragon
The name “Halong” literally means “Bay of the Descending Dragon” and originates from a legend that attributes the creation of Halong Bay to a great dragon that inhabited the mountains and dug out the crevasses, caves and valleys forming the bay with its enormous tail.
When the dragon finally died and fell into the sea, his body was so heavy that water rapidly immersed the area and left only island pinnacles visible.
Archaeological evidence indicates that prehistoric humans lived in Halong Bay approximately 20,000 years ago.
Currently, 1600 people reside in several separate fishing villages spread over this luscious northern Vietnam area.
Inhabiting unique floating houses, the people of Ha Long Bay sustain themselves by fishing and harvesting various marine animals (primarily molluscs) that live in the waters surrounding their villages.
When to Visit
The UNESCO World Heritage site’s climate is the most appealing in March, April, May and June, with warm, tropical winds, dazzling sunsets and calm weather conditions dominating the bay during these months.
Winter brings cooler temperatures, drizzle and heavy fog to Ha Long Bay while June, July and August is filled with stormy, rainy days and occasionally severe weather events.
Cat Ba and Bo Hon Islands
The most visited Ha Long Bay island is called Cat Ba, famous for its pristine national parks, impressive cave systems and for being home to the Golden-headed langur, an endangered primate that can be found sleeping in caves and foraging during the day.
In addition, Cat Ba Island offers swimming, colorful coral reef diving and grottoes.
Bo Hon Island attracts travelers who want to see the Virgin Cave, or “Hang Trinh Nu”, where a fascinating shrine has existed inside the cave for hundreds of years.
According to legend, this shrine is actually the body of a young woman who committed suicide when she was forced into an arranged marriage with a Chinese man.
After taking her own life, her body turned into the stone shrine that is still seen today.
Visitors have access to one of the most resplendent systems of caves that were established during the Pleistocene era between three and 11 thousand years ago.
Most of these caves are beautifully illuminated by iridescent lights which intensifies the grandness of ancient stalactites descending from cave ceilings.
In addition to the natural beauty of Halong Bay, you can also enjoy the cuisine and culture coloring this lush area of north Vietnam.
Gat Gu (steamed rice pancake), sweet-tasting Tien yen chicken and chopped squid grilled to perfection!
Laos As We Travel Video Adventure
Laos was a crazy few weeks – we explored some amazing ethnic villages up in Luang Nam Tha.
Held on for dear life during over 30 hours of crazy bus trips up and down the steep mountains in northern Laos.
BUT worst of all was the fact that we lost over 400 gig and 2 months worth of film.
This was really hard to deal with, so we didn’t film for about a week while in Laos.
Once we arrived down south in Pakse we started filming again, and this episode is about our adventures down in Southern Laos.
Hope you enjoy! 🙂
Laos Explained Amazing Place to Visit
Many of the children in Laos were shy but very curious about tourists.
And we couldn’t get our eyes off them either, they are just so cute!
We spent about a month in Laos, traveling from the northern most part of the country in Luang Nam Tha all the way down to the 4000 islands in the south.
Just like the roads in Laos, our trip was an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs, but even though we have had a lot of unfortunate situations, Laos as a country was an amazing place to visit.
Here is what we think sums up Laos and what we will remember the most:
The Laos People…Laos people are genuine.
The kids are the cutest we have ever seen and the adults are very friendly.
The small conversations or smiles exchanged are the most precious things we will take away with us from this place.
The children were so curious, you couldn’t walk ten meters without someone saying hello, child or adult, especially in the smaller more remote villages.
Even though we stayed in shabby guesthouses we left loving the place because of its owners.
It’s not the land of smiles, but the people are SO real, they don’t put up an act for tourists at all but were genuine.
… are not meant to fit tall people.
After every bus ride it felt like we had shrunken a foot by just trying to squeeze our legs into the tiny gaps between the seats, and the beds in the night buses were half our length!
Of course we can understand this as there are no Lao people our height, but it was always a mission trying to survive those bumpy crazy bus rides.
The view from the bus window is strikingly beautiful and you’ll pass tribe villages along the way, but remember to drop your jaw behind a closed window!
For some reason the bus drivers seemed to prefer having all the windows open (even in air con vans), so bring a scarf to cover your mouth with because the roads are very dusty and you can get really sick from getting too much dust in your lungs (Sofia did…).
… is something that we have mixed experiences about, but mainly it was all very good.
We had the best Indian curries ever in this country, and unlike Thailand – the Indian food here is really cheap, but the Lao food didn’t impress us too much, perhaps because we are vegetarian.
However, the French-inspired cuisine was really good.
It was a nice combination between French and Lao style food;
the baguettes and burgers were filled with typical Lao vegetables and Lao style omelette’s (you have to try the pumpkin burgers!).
In Vientiane, the capital city, there are a lot of western bakeries selling some of the best pastries and cakes we tried while in South East Asia, for a great price as well.
… Lao coffee was the best coffee We have ever had, anywhere.
Even without the condensed milk (how will we be able to live without it?) it was still sweet enough for a non-coffee drinker like us to finish in minutes.
The best coffee was found in the southern Laos, close to the coffee plantations.
Oh, and if you’re looking for the best banana fruit shake in SEA you will find it in the restaurant next to the Reggae bar on Don Det, it’s simply the best!
…is a struggle to find.
To be brief and blunt, we’d go as far as saying that there is no such thing as comfort here.
This is something you have to expect and accept when in Laos.
Laos is not Malaysia or Thailand, Laos is Laos and the roads are full of crater like holes, the Wi-Fi is still non existent and the tourism is still pretty new.
This is part of the charm of Laos …
Laos Nature is spectacular
Never ending steep hills, winding dark red dirt roads, flowing rivers and rice fields.
The absolute best scenery we found was in the northern regions around Luang Namtha.
Vang Vieng had some incredible nature, with the steep limestone cliffs dipping its feet in the flowing river.
The 4000 islands was also a lushious place, one of those where you just lie in a hammock taking the views in for hours on end, watching the Mekond water change color throughout the day.
… is for us quite fascinating.
In Laos, the concept of “same same” is more obvious than anywhere else.
Reclined seat and air con, or plastic chair in the aisle and open windows?
Cold water hose 50 meters away from the room or hot shower in attached bathroom?
“Same same!”, they say.
We loved it in a way, it shows how things don’t have to be complicated.
A seat is a seat, the point is that you get there, right? 😉
This boy in a tribe village in Laos was collecting rocks in his t-shirt.
Photo was taken in a rural village in Laos where I was amazed to find five year old children smoking huge tobacco pipes, and half finished coffins under every house.
Apparently, when the people in the village turn 50, they all start carving their own coffins to prepare for when they die…
Things I’ve Learned About Lao People While in Laos
This sweet girl was helping her mother selling snacks at the morning market.
I found the Lao people to be the most fascinating part of traveling through Laos.
I was happily surprised to see how rich their culture was and how so many people were still living according to their old traditions.
Laos is NOT known as the land of smiles, but the people here are still so special, and very genuine in their own way.
Below are 5 things that sum up my experience with the Lao people – and just to make sure, these are not facts but my own perception and experience from spending 3 weeks there.
Laos Men Are Very Homely
Something I found very refreshing was how much time the men spent at home and with their children.
It was a very common sight to see men of all ages carrying around babies on their backs and in their arms, feeding them, hushing them to sleep and just general baby sitting – without the mother in sight.
They really took time with their kids and gave them attention, playing with them.
They also seemed very interested in other people’s kids, always toddling with the babies when sharing a songtheaw (bus á la tuk tuk style) ride.
The Kids Are The Most Adorable I’ve Ever Met
These little people are just the sweetest!
Their doll faces and curious eyes are simply irresistible.
I’ve never met so many kids in a country who shyly whisper or loudly yell ‘hello’ to you from the street, river, moped or home.
They were so curious, and those who were brave enough – smiled, laughed and said hello to you over and over again until you were out of sight.
I actually found the village people much more welcoming in the southern parts in ethnic and remote villages than in the north (but that is my own opinion).
This woman was doing great business at the morning market, selling the bright yellow flowers, Choy Sum, also known as Chinese Broccoli. They’re used in many meals in South East Asia, especially in Lao baguettes.
The Bolaven Plateau is really worth checking out, and now afterwards I wish I would have taken even more time to see it.
There are some great waterfall, and some really nice quiet villages along the Mekong river, as well as many fascinating minority villages where the people live a very different lifestyle and traditions which will blow your mind.
We visited a village known for smoking these gigantic bamboo water pipes (even the kids).
The men have up to 4 wives, and when you’re getting close to 50 years old you start carving your own coffin…
So before continuing down to 4000 islands, stop over in Pakse and do some day tours around the area.
It’s really worth it!
Another way to see the Bolaven Plateau is to hire a scooter for a day (or more, you might just want to stay the night in one of the villages – there are many guest houses around), so you can go at your own pace.
Pakse in Bloaven Plateau
If you’re keen to see Bolaven Plateau, a great way to do it is to simply base yourself in Pakse and make day trips around the Plateau.
If you decide to do it this way, here are some tips…
To me there was something sad about this picture and the man’s facial expression.
Perhaps he’s waiting for someone…
Where To Sleep in Pakse
Sabaidy 2 is the most popular place, so in high season don’t expect there to be any rooms available (it’s always worth a look though).
Rooms cost between 40 000 and 80 000 kip (5 and 10 dollars), and is one of the few guesthouses with WiFi.
Don’t panic if they are full, because there is a great guest house just around the corner from there called Phonesavanh Guesthouse (not the Hotel!), where the rooms and bathrooms are clean and nice.
Rooms cost between 40 000 and 55 000 kip.
Whenever we walked past our neighbors on Don Det, Laos – this pig of theirs was always – always, eating.
But you have to admit, it is kind of cute anyway, isn’t it… :p
Where To Find WiFi
At Phonesavanh Guesthouse there is no WiFi unfortunately (not many hotels and guesthouses seemed to have WiFi), but there is a cafe only 3 minutes away that has high speed Wifi and an internet cafe a minute away.
It’s called Katuad Cafe and is situated in the NE corner of Rt13 and 24th street.
The food isn’t very impressive, neither is the service (the girls were acting as though they were tipsy!), but they don’t complain if you just order a drink and sit there for the next 3-4 hours using the free wi-fi.
Where To Eat in Paske Laos
There is a great local eatery on the corner of Thanon 21 and 24, which is cheaper than the similar ones on the main road and serve better food.
For Indian/Malay food Nazim restaurant served amazing Indian food (cooked by an Indian chef).
Jasmine restaurant is on the first glance very similar, with same dishes at similar prices.
But they didn’t taste no way near as good in my opinion, and don’t visit their toilet before eating or you risk losing your appetite.
For Lao food, visit the Lankham Noodle House below the Lankham Hotel, it’s cheap and they serve traditional Lao food – it’s very popular both with locals and backpackers.
The basic baguettes are sold down the main street, but personally I would buy a baguette at a restaurant and ask for a take away – they give you more topping choices 😉
Chewing on bits of cut sugar cane is like a healthy chewing gum – as long as you spit it out once the juice is gone!
Where To Book Laos Tours
You can book a tour privately with a mini van driver, but chances are it will turn out more expensive as you then need to pay for for the entrance fees, and won’t get a guide on the tour.
You can also book tours via your guesthouse, but there are also a few travel agencies around town.
One is Pakse Travel & Air Service Office, which are a reliable agency with good drivers and guides.
So take your time, experience the real Laos, before moving on either up north to the capital of Laos – Vientiane or down to the chill on Don Det in the 4000 islands.
Two girls in a small village in Laos. These tough girls in Laos were bored and cocky – and underneath it all, pretty charming.. 🙂
Things To Do In Vientiane Laos – A Mini Guide
Despite being the capital of Laos, Vientiane doesn’t have much to brag about
most people try not to get stuck here, but for different reasons, many people pass through and stay for a night or two.
Fortunately, it’s quite a nice place to find yourself in.
So whether you come by to wait for a visa to process, or just to rest your bum from bumpy bus rides before heading out on the road again, here is a short guide on how to spend that day and things to do in Vientiane.
Pha Tat Luang
The golden temple is Laos most important national symbol, both for Lao authority and Buddhism.
It’s a beautiful temple to visit, especially in the afternoon when the sun makes it even more golden.
It’s 4km out of the city (northeast), so you can either walk (!), bike or take a share tuk tuk to get there.
Once it has cooled down outside, head over to the new fancy park “Chao Anouvong Park” by the riverside and hang out under the shade reading a book or playing cards.
The park is brand new and really nice, they’re just finishing up the final touches.
It’s a very attractive place to chill for a bit, there are some street stalls along the path and ice cream shops on the other side of the street.
If you come in the morning or in the evening when the weather is a little cooler, you can have a try at the work out machines they provide in the park for free.
It’s pretty popular with the locals so on weekends you won’t have the place to yourself, but it’s a great place for people watching 😉
It was one of our favorite things to do in Vientiane when we traveled by.
This looked just like “Sweeny Todd’s” own Barber shop in Vang Vieng.
Maybe drunk young tourists are easier to fool…
Shopping in Laos
A way to escape the midday heat is to do some shopping in the Talat Sao shopping mall.
It’s not the biggest, or the cheapest, but good enough for a bit of shopping and a stroll around the place – besides, if you’ve been out all day it’s a good place to cool down.
Everything in South East Asia is similar to the west, just a little more…graphic.
I like it, it makes you see what you actually buy.
Places To Eat in Laos
Grab some dinner at Taj Mahal restaurant, they have the best Indian in town and at some really good prices. Definitely worth the walk.
You’ll find it at Namphu area, right behind the cultural hall.
Nazim is another Indian restaurant located by the river, they make nice meals, nothing like Taj Mahal but still a nice place if you want to sit close to the river.
Full Moon Cafe and The Shade are two other restaurants at Francois Nginn Rd for those who want something closer to the central areas.
Another place I just have to mention is the Scandinavian Bakery.
Scandinavian pastries and cookies are some of the tastiest things ever, and this place make as good ones as any place in Scandinavia.
In general there are a lot of bakeries around Vientiane, both Lao style and Western style.
Drinking & WiFi
In the evening, hang out at one of the few bars along the riverside, or have a fruit shake or ice coffee at the awesome Aroma Café.
It has some great coffee and shakes, and is one of the few places that offer free high speed WiFi, if you feel a need to get connected.
You’ll find it on Francois Nginn Rd, it’s the cafe of the hotel Lotus.
If you’re as crazy about fruit shakes as us, head over to rue Samsenthai and visit House of Fruit Shakes; the drinks are blended to perfection and only cost 6000 kip (0.7$)!
There aren’t a huge amount of choices if you want to stay close to the riverside, but there are definitely a few worth checking out.
Francois Nginn Rd has quite a few guest houses.
I can recommend Youth Inn 2 (further down the street from the original one), which has clean rooms, private bathroom for an ok price (60 000 kip/7$).
It’s one of the very few places that has free WiFi, although it’s a slow one.
Hopefully this will help you enjoy all the things to do in Vientiane.
If you plan to stay longer, I suggest you do a little cafe run and check out all of the amazing bakeries and coffee shops in the city!
After the sadness and pain of what we witnessed at Toul Sleng in Phnom Penh, we were excited to head up to Siem Reap and explore one of the biggest and amazing temple areas in the world – the famous Angkor Wat.
Nothing apart from visiting Angkor Wat can really give it justice – the crowds, all the temples, the amazing sunset which we experienced alone … it was a really amazing, and tiring day.
famous Angkor Wat sunrise
I “Heart” Siem Reap, Graffiti Art In Cambodia
5 Things I’ve Learnt About Cambodian People While In Cambodia
Our visit to Cambodia was an interesting experience.
I never really managed to get a grip of the country, I was confused, to say the least.
Sometimes I didn’t like it at all, other times I felt like I could easily settle down there for a longer time.
Cambodia was to me a country full of contradictions, and although I was happy to leave I would like to return again some time to see more. In the end, these are the travel experiences that I treasure the most.
The country made me love it and hate it at the same time.
These feelings are hard to write down or to explain to others, and often I can’t quite point out exactly what made me feel so great or bad about a place.
But here are some impressions that for me sum up a bit about the Cambodian people:
Women Wear Pajamas All Day Long
Really, it’s not a pajama-looking outfit, they actually are real pajamas with teddy bears and everything.
They wear it as casual outfits, and not just at home but sometimes even at work on the street.
When they dress up, they wear the most amazing outfits.
There was a wedding in a village we stayed, and for some reason most of the men seemed to stay at home or at the shop while their wifes went to the wedding – they looked absolutely stunning.
They Eat Anything!
Thick, juicy fried spiders in broth?
How about some cockroaches?
This is no joke, no tourism stall for eager people to try disgusting things – this is real.
Deep fried tarantulas is a common snack all over Cambodia on the streets in small villages and markets in Phnom Pehn.
I’m not just talking about yucky things when I say they eat anything, it’s things like empty, plain baguettes:
I’ve never seen plain baguettes without any topping being so commonly consumed and enjoyed as much as here.
They Speak English Very Well
I was surprised to see how many people spoke English so well, some even spoke with an Australian or American accent!
Kids, tuk tuk drivers and random people, they all spoke English really well in the cities.
Their Humor Is So Innocent And Free
Nathan was wearing broken glasses (better than nothing when it’s that sunny) on a bus from Laos to Cambodia, and no-one noticed until we crossed over into Cambodia, then a few 20-something guys on the bus noticed and thought it was SO funny – they couldn’t stop looking, and laughed for like 15 mins!
This was one of many situations in which we found Cambodians laughing at things we in the West wouldn’t at all consider funny – it was as though they had the same humor as an 8 year old – which I think was so great to see.
That freedom to just let go, be curious and laugh at anything was one of the best things about the Cambodian people, and it’s something which I think is lacking in the West.
Cambodia Has Not Recovered But The People Move On
I didn’t realize how little I knew about Cambodia until I got here.
I thought I knew more than I did, and seeing how the country has far from recovered from the horrific recent history was difficult to deal with.
The people have been betrayed from so many different sides, both from their own people as well as others.
The impact from the land mines was sad to witness, and so was Tuol Sleng.
But despite the fact that the criminals behind the Khmer Rouge still haven’t faced any consequences for their actions, and despite the fact that 45 people died from old land mines in 2010 – the people seem to want to leave it all behind – and forget…
Despite all the terrible things done to these people, they still put up such a bright face.
They smile and laugh often, but the ways they dealt with confrontation made me wonder.
Are they suppressing it?
While we were there the Thailand/Cambodia border started shooting at each other and people were killed on both sides.
Our tuk tuk driver told us the same night, in a very strange way.
He laughed about it, nervously, so we had to ask him if he was telling us the truth – he was serious for a moment, but then he smiled and laughed again.
I wanted to ask more, but it was obvious that he didn’t want to talk about it.
Why wouldn’t you want to go help out in a country that will welcome you with a glass of ruou ran (rice wine with a pickled snake inside) and where potbelly pigs are considered pets?
There’s also a god dedicated to the kitchen and a lot of motorbikes to hop onto, if that first couple of facts didn’t grab your attention.
On top of the above (and a lot of cashews and coffee beans), there’s plenty of chances to experience this slice of Asian paradise as you make a positive difference.
From education to infrastructure, Vietnam is a prime candidate for hard work and easy relaxation.
We’re not sure if the “S” shape of Vietnam stands for Super, Spellbinding, or Sensational, but any pick is a good guess.
Social development is a particularly active field, with the disabled needing most of your attention.
The aftermath of Agent Orange’s mental and physical destruction are still seen daily, and there are plenty of options to get involved.
The country’s rapid social growth and increase of Street Kids also leads to a need of volunteers in orphanages and classrooms, where a friend is even better than a teacher.
With low wages and without a free education system, your participation in a community school project will offer a future to children that otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to leave the house with a backpack every morning.
The chanting spread like a fire among the climbers who all joined in, singing the same lyrics over and over.
I have no idea what they said, but it was beautiful and it reminded me of everyone else who were with me going through the same struggles, and looking around me realizing what a crazy thing I was doing made me enjoy the process.
I will try my best to apply this to other aspects of my life, and whenever things get tough, look around and see the beauty of it and remember that things aren’t so bad after all.
We All Do What We Do For A Reason
We all had a different purpose for climbing that mountain, and for me it became about completing something, about not giving in, and showing myself that I could do it.
When we finally reached the top, I was wet, cold, exhausted – and happy – the view was nice, but it was the feeling of accomplishment that really meant something more.
Next time I’m in doubt, I will think of how great it felt to be proud over exceeding my own expectations.
The Only Thing Stopping You Is Your Mind
While I’m not a hiker at all, I can tell you that Adam’s Peak is not an easy climb.
I would have thought it impossible for a one-legged person to climb it, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.
In the end, it all comes down to your mind.
If your mind is strong enough, you can accomplish things well beyond what others would say is impossible.
The mind will give up before the body does.
We’re Stronger Together
If I would have been alone climbing for 4 hours at night in the worst possible rainstorm, I would have given up before I even began.
But being surrounded by thousands of people, from 4 year old children to 90 year old women and men with bent backs climbing the mountain in their bare feet, gave me the strength and inspiration to carry on.
If you do it together, you can bring each other up.
You Must Finish What You Begin
On the way down from the mountain, our legs were shaking from the stress endured during the climb.
The pain was almost unbearable, but you had to get down and there was only one way to go.
“Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory” – Ed Viesturs.
It’s the same thing with life, we often reach points where we simply have no choice to just stop but have to finish what we started.
Places To Visit In Sri Lanka – Exploring The Hill Country
Exploring the hill country of Sri Lanka is a must when visiting the country, and here are some of the best places to start with.
Kandy – Gateway To The Hill-Country
Kandy is the cultural and spiritual capital of Sri Lanka, with some of the country’s most important temples like the Temple of the Tooth, a nice lake, and a bustling local market.
There are lots of restaurants and bakeries in Kandy that are worth exploring, and some great hotels (many of them are perched on top of hills with incredible views), making this city a good base for excursions to the cultural triangle.
The only thing we didn’t like about Kandy was how many people try to hustle you to visit their shops, all with identical routines – so be on your guard!
Ella – Walking Among Nature
Ella is a tiny little village in a large, stunning area which is easy to explore on your own.
Go for a morning walk up to what is locally nicknamed as “Little Adam’s Peak” for the beautiful views, then check out the tea plantation which you walk through on the way back down, visit a waterfall or take a longer hike up to Ella Rock.
Ella is all about the views and being close to nature.
Everywhere you go in the hill country of Sri Lanka, you’ll see jungles, hills, and tea plantations.
While in Malaysia you have to seek them out, here you simply stumble upon these beautiful velvet-looking fields.
When you’re back in the little village again, make sure you try the buffalo curd with treacle at the Curd Shop.
Favorite snack in the hill-country region.
Nuwara Eliya – Little England
Nuwara Eliya is a strange place, there is no other way to describe it.
With typical British climate and British architecture to top it off, you feel like either you or the town is out of place.
The city center is a boring concrete block, but the outskirts have houses and buildings that are almost more British than Britain itself.
The buildings all give the impression of a glamorous past, one which has faded.
And while time has passed and the world has changed, life in and around these buildings are still stuck in the 1920’s England.
Embrace it, have your tea on the porch or in the garden, and then explore the tea plantations surrounding the area.
Pedro’s Tea Estate is close and cheap to get to (800 rupee/6 dollars both ways and the driver will wait for as long a you need).
You can pay for a tour around the Sri Lanka tea factory if you like, but walking among the cordial-looking hills of tea plants is definitely the highlight.
The plantation has some beautiful views overlooking the lake, and you can watch the workers skillfully picking tea leaves from the bush.
Dalhousie (Adams Peak) – Pilgrimage
There is only one reason to visit the small village hidden deep into the hills and mountains of the hill-country:
To climb Adam’s Peak, the most famous pilgrimage site in Sri Lanka.
The 9 kilometers long climb up the steps to the top of the hill is not easy, especially not in heavy rain.
Which we had to climb in, or at 3 am in the morning.
So make sure you bring good shoes, energy, and clothes to fit the weather (it’s freezing at the top)!
Many people are intrigued to climb the peak to see the amazing sunrise and views from the top, but what is really the most incredible and mind blowing part of the journey is the climb, together with thousands of pilgrims of all ages, struggling to the top.
It’s a sacred site for Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Hindus, which makes it a very special place.
The area surrounding Dalhousie is very beautiful, with at least a dozen of powerful waterfalls, lush tea plantations and an old stone church on the road from Hatton which is worth checking out.
Budget Friendly Travel Hacks For Visiting Sri Lanka is a beautiful place to visit with its lush hill districts, fascinating temples and delicious food.
But compared to other nearby countries like India, Sri Lanka can seem quite expensive.
However, there are ways to stay on a budget and still enjoy the country…Budget Friendly Travel Tips For Visiting Sri Lanka
Here are 5 budget friendly travel Hacks for visiting Sri Lanka
Eat Where The Locals Sri Lanka Eat
where to eat in Sri Lanka
The one thing you will be sure to find dirt cheap in Sri Lanka is food.
But you have to go to the right places.
When you see a hole in the wall restaurant with dirty walls and long tables packed with locals, it’s often a great place to get cheap but tasty food and favorite Sri Lanka drinks.
We found street markets and small restaurants (who didn’t have menus) to give gigantic servings, so a good advice is to order one plate to share.
Another thing worth noting is that when ordering curry meals, you will also get free rice refills.
Vegetarian meals are the cheapest options, fish and seafood is slightly more expensive and chicken costs a bit more.
Take The Sri Lanka Train Whenever Possible
Sri Lanka Train
The transport will either end up being the most expensive or the cheapest part of your trip.
For us, it turned out to be the most expensive – trains are dirt cheap (because they’re government run), but on holidays you need to have booked your tickets weeks in advance, or it will be completely booked up or a ride from hell.
Buses are also cheap but are the most uncomfortable ways of travel – chances are you will have to stand up for 8 hours bumping into someone else’s armpit, as drivers cram the buses full of people and then hurtle around at ferocious speeds, slamming on the brakes.
Trust us, we’ve been there…
So whenever possible, book train tickets in advance and travel outside of holidays, because they are very busy in Sri Lanka.
The train rides are beautiful, so taking the Observation car is definitely recommended.
Manage Without WiFi
Budget Friendly Travel Hacks For Visiting Sri Lanka
Prices for guest house rooms will be higher closer to tourist beaches, but generally you should be able to stay in a double room for less than £20, or you can grab a bed in a dorm for £3-10 a night.
If you don’t need A/C or wifi, you can get by pretty cheap. Package deals to Sri Lanka have become more popular and often work out cheaper than arranging a do-it-yourself holiday.
You can get luxury rooms for reasonable prices, especially if you book last minute or in the wet season.
If you’re looking to really save your budget, couchsurfing could allow you to stay in the country for free.
Take Their Number
cab in sri lanka
Traveling by car is by far the most comfortable way of travel, and one way to get a great deal is to hire a driver for a week.
We didn’t know this before, and ended up hiring new drivers for every journey, which turned out to cost a lot more than if we would have stuck with the first driver (who btw turned out to be the most honest).
If you find a driver in the beginning of your trip, it’s definitely worth getting an international call plan in advance so that you can book him for the whole trip and stay in touch on pick-up and drop-off times.
Some even arrange the driver before they arrive in Sri Lanka.
This is a good idea if you don’t want to have to worry about tracking down phone-cards, the Vonage UK website offers ways to make cheap calls to Sri Lanka, and to keep in touch without receiving an excessive phone bill.
Avoid The Main Tourist Sites
Lipton Tea Plantation in Sri Lanka
Another massive drain on your budget will be the touristy temples and national parks.
The majority of Sri Lanka’s most impressive sights charge hefty admission fees.
Save money by avoiding the crowds and trying out some of the wonderful free things the country has to offer.
One of the things Sri Lanka is most famous for is its tea production.
Many of the plantations in the hill district will offer free tours.
One of the most famous plantations is Lipton Tea, which is also near another free landmark:
Lipton’s Seat – the seat is one of the highest lookout points in Sri Lanka, allowing you stunning views over the hill country.
To experience religious culture without paying exorbitant prices, check out some of the free temples in Kandy.
Just across the lake from the pricey Temple of the Tooth Relic is a sprawling monastery with an interesting museum.
The monks are happy to give you a free tour and to explain the origins of all the artefacts.
There’s also a vibrant Hindu temple in the centre of town which visitors are welcome to enter.
Inside are colourful wall murals and charming images of Hindu Gods.
There are many free temples and sites to explore on a budget.
One crazy cultural experience is to climb Adam’s Peak at 2am in the morning.
Theva Residency – A Haven In Kandy! Overview
As the bright red three-wheeler slowly made its way up the steep hill, we left the noisy, bustling city of Kandy behind to stay at Theva Residency
A boutique hotel catering for people looking for pure relaxation and an amazing view.
We were exhausted after climbing Adam’s Peak the day before, so Theva Residency was exactly what we needed.
A place to relax and rejuvenate, leaving all our troubles behind and just enjoy.
Theva Residency – Perfection In Kandy Sri Lanka
The hotel clings to the hillside, blending in with the surrounding nature, almost as though it was part of it.
When stepping through the door to our suite on the top floor, we were in awe:
the view from the spacious windows was spectacular.
The city, the nature, the surrounding hill tops and a temple with a huge white sitting buddha on top of a hill, could all be seen from our bedroom.
It was the kind of view that makes you feel like you own the world.
Kandy Sri Lanka
The food served in the restaurant was superb, with an interesting choice of dishes.
Having a big sweet tooth, the desserts on the menu seemed too good to resist, so I decided for a selection of home made ice creams to have as a pre-course.
The breakfast was delicious and very filling, with a range of cakes and pastries, home made jams, a variety of egg dishes, and a scrumptious fruit salad.
The perfect way to start the next day.
The hotel is situated on Hantana mountain, and while it feels like you’re a world away from Kandy, it’s only about 2 km to the city center, making it a wonderful place to be based.
There are 10 rooms in Theva Residency, and we stayed in the Suite on the top floor.
Our room was spacious and bright, with large panoramic windows, and its very own jacuzzi hot tub.
All the rooms at Theva have high-speed WiFi, TV and DVD player (with loads of movies to watch) and are designed using natural materials like wood, stone, pure cotton and linen.
After some time in the hotel’s sauna or sunbathing on the deck, you can cool off in the infinity pool with the most amazing views.
We would definitely recommend this place for your next stay in Kandy – the unbeatable views, and the wonderful hospitality of the staff made for a memorable visit to Kandy.
Places To Visit In Sri Lanka – Exploring The Coast
Sri Lanka’s coast line is among some of the most beautiful we’ve seen, and we really wish we could have stayed there much longer.
There are many amazing beaches south of Colombo.
With spice gardens and turtle sanctuaries to visit along the way.
There are so many places to visit in Sri Lanka that it would take you months to see everything, despite the small size of the country.
Places To Visit In Sri Lanka – Exploring The Coast
Sri Lanka is famous for being the place where many beach and sunset postcards and ‘desktop screen savers’ are taken – and by visiting the beaches you’ll see why …
The general vibe of the beach towns is very relaxed and laid back, making you feel like there is not a worry in the world.
In other words, a perfect vacation destination.
Here are three great places to visit in Sri Lanka along the coast…
Hikkaduwa is a laid back beach town with a lively main road and a beautiful long beach lined with guesthouses and restaurants.
It was one of our favorite places to visit in Sri Lanka for both good swimming as well as nice restaurants.
During high season it’s a good beach for beginners who would like to try surfing, while in the off season the waves get quite big, making it a popular place for professional surfers.
There are parts of the beaches where you can swim in calm waters and even go snorkeling (and swim with turtles!) in the reef.
We spent our days in Hikkauwa surfing, swimming and getting acquainted with all the different Sri Lankan food – and before we knew it almost a week had gone past!
There is a quiet calm over the streets in Galle Fort.
Locals half sitting, half lying down in chairs under ceiling fans, children playing cricket on the porches.
There is not a sign of stress anywhere to be seen.
We joined the rest of the locals in the little area, and sat for hours in cafes with a pot of tea, talking to our table neighbors and the waiter, feeling no need to leave any time soon.
A light ocean breeze sweeps through the streets every now and then, making it possible to explore the town without fainting from the heat.
Old colonial European-style houses line the streets, painted in bright colors with Hibiscus flowers hanging over the walls and from the balconies of the long and narrow buildings.
In the old days you had to pay tax on the width of your home, which resulted in people building narrow homes and instead extending in length – these houses remain to this day.
Quaint little tea houses and art galleries are scattered around the town, next to gem boutiques and antique shops.
Galle is often included as one of the places to visit in Sri Lanka and is also a good base to explore the nearly beaches by bus or three-wheeler during the day.
Unnawatuna is a more quiet beach town without the hectic main road of Hikkaduwa, where the water is calm and clear, and where your hotel is located quite literally in the water.
This is one of those places to visit in Sri Lanka where you go for pure relaxation, with palm trees hanging over the waterfront providing a nice shade, and three-wheeler drivers waiting to take you on day excursions to turtle sanctuaries and spice gardens.
Having breakfast at the beach with the waves touching your feet is a lovely way to start the day.
How A Tsunami Evacuation Connected Us With The Locals
How A Tsunami Evacuation Connected Us With The Locals. We had just arrived in the sleepy beach town of Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka, and crashed on the bed exhausted after a long day of traveling from Colombo and taking one of the many cheap international flights from Germany.
“Are you shaking the bed?” Nathan suddenly asked me.
I wasn’t, but I could feel the whole ground slightly shaking under me.
As I looked around the room I noticed that the mirrors were shaking too.
Thousands of miles across the ocean, we could feel the vibrations from the massive earthquake which had just struck the coast of Indonesia.
We didn’t think much more of it at the time, until one of the local travel agents asked Nathan if he had heard anything about a tsunami coming.
At first we thought it was some kind of bad joke, but as we checked out Twitter Search, the newsfeed was going crazy.
Nobody really knew what to think, believe or do.
Hikkaduwa had been badly damaged from the tsunami in 2006, so this warning was not something people there took lightly.
We had two options:to risk it and stay, or to evacuate and seek higher ground.
Ten minutes later we had packed a small bag of the most necessary things, and walked out on the street.
The laid back main street had suddenly turned into a ghost town, the shops were closed and the streets empty from people – most of the locals had already left.
Hikkaduwa Taxi Driver
We didn’t want to waste any time, and so we simply looked on a map for a village that seemed far away enough in-land and told the driver to take us there.
At first the driver laughed when we told him where we wanted to go, but then he suddenly got a serious look on his face and agreed to take us there for almost nothing, perhaps he had realized the danger and wanted to get out of there as well.
Shortly after we left, the whole town was forced to evacuate.
Sri Lanka Sunset
Once he had dropped us off we realized why he had laughed.
We found ourselves in the middle of nowhere in a tiny country village which probably no tourists ever visited as there was no reason to go there.
I’ve never been stared at so much in my life!
We walked up and down the main road (the only road there), trying to find somewhere we could wait and follow the news.
But there were no restaurants or hotels to be found anywhere.
We finally found a tiny eatery with a small TV that was hardly working, and sat down to wait, we asked the boy serving us if there was a hotel around, but he shook his head apologetically.
Having no idea what to do next, we started walking again …
Five minutes later the boy from the restaurant caught up with us on his bicycle, and with a low and slightly shy voice said that if we wanted to we could stay the night with him and his family.
It was only our second day in Sri Lanka, and already we were experiencing the kind-ness and hospitality that the Sri Lankan people are so famous for.
The boy’s family took us in with open arms, arranged a bed for us to sleep in and made a huge effort to make us feel at home in their house, serving us a wonderful dinner in their lounge.
In the evening, the tsunami warning was cancelled.
But with the warm hospitality coming from this family we ended up staying the night and spent the rest of the evening hanging out with them.
Talking about everything and nothing, watching movies and getting an amazing insight into the lives of the people of the country.
There is no doubt that uncertain events like these bring people together, and as we parted the next day we had made some great new friends and exchanged email with a promise to visit again next time we traveled to Sri Lanka …Delicious Must-Try Drinks in Sri Lanka
Melaka – We had about a month left in Malaysia before our trip down to Singapore in June and needed to find a place where we could relax and work for a while.
Melaka turned out to be the perfect place for this, and we ended up staying there for the whole month – with it becoming our favorite city in Malaysia!
Time Stands Still in Melaka
The people in Melaka are very relaxed and welcoming, and it didn’t take very long until many of them started recognizing us and treating us like locals.
While the city is pretty close to the cosmopolitan capital Kuala Lumpur, Melaka has an entirely different vibe.
Hurry was not a known word in this place, everybody took their time, and you could sit and do nothing at all, without feeling bad for it.
The hands on the clock tower on the main square had stopped at half past two, but nobody seemed to have bothered to change it (or even noticed?) for a long time, perhaps because time is irrelevant there anyway.
Melaka is True Land Of Smiles
What I noticed about Malaysia in general was even more obvious in Melaka – this is the true land of smiles!
In contrary to many countries, people in Malaysia smile just for the sake of smiling, nothing else.
It is such a freeing feeling to know that the person smiling at you doesn’t want anything in return but a smile from you too.
In many countries the only smiles you get are when someone wants something from you, most often your business.
When they want to sell you something, they smile – if they don’t, they won’t bother.
In Malaysia, people smile a lot, and they do it because they simply want to, especially in Melaka Malaysia.
Because of Melaka’s interesting history, with Dutch, British and Portuguese settlers, there is a fun diversity there.
You’ll find Dutch inspired houses, Portuguese inspired food, and shoes and traditions from the Nyonya people (Chinese-Malay).
Sitting by one of the cafes lining the (Dutch) canal was one of my favorite things to do, although you could get quite tired having to always wave back at every tour boat and fishing boat that passed by on the canal.
Yes, waving to each other was like an unwritten law there..!
Every Day Is A Holiday in Melaka Malaysia
It is sometimes a little difficult to travel in Malaysia without anything pre-planned.
Malaysians themselves love to travel in their own country, and with all the holidays they have hotels are fully booked very often.
I was not surprised to find out that Malaysia has the most holidays in the whole world – it literally felt as though every second day was some sort of holiday!
My experience with Malaysians is that they are very open-minded to other cultures and traditions.
This became especially clear to me when a group of teenage girls came up to me one day in a mall for an interview for their school project.
They immediately started showering me with compliments:
“You look so fashionable today!”, “I love your blonde hair!”, they said while touching my hair and smiling.
This was so funny, because the contrast between us couldn’t have been bigger – they were all wearing Tudong and Baju Kurung (veil and full-covering dresses), and there I was in a short sleeveless dress…
Which is your favorite city in Malaysia?
Kuala Lumpur Malaysia City Guide
Kuala Lumpur, a city where everything is crazy in the most structured way you can imagine.
hard to put a finger on what this city really is simply because it’s such a big mixture of everything.
The city is similar to much of their food style – inspired from all countries in Asia thrown into one pot, so what do you do in Malaysia?
You could probably spend a whole week in Kuala Lumpur never stepping your foot outside the malls.
It often feels like as soon as you step out of the tram you step into another mall.
Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Twin Towers
Start the morning by visiting the Petronas Towers, the second largest building in the world.
It’s a beautiful building even on the outside, as is the shopping mall inside, Suria KLCC.
If you want you can even take a walk on the sky bridge which is the highest bridge between any towers in the world.
Travel to Kuala Lumpur
You can get free tickets if you get there first thing in the morning, the counter opens at 8am so be there then or at least 8.30.
On your ticket it says what time you should be able to come back and allowed to walk on the tower, but you won’t be allowed to go up right after getting the ticket.
There are normally massive crowds there on a daily basis!
Shopping in Kuala Lumpur
The shopping mall in the twin towers was just a preview for what is coming up.
Kuala Lumpur has 66 shopping malls to spend your cash. Some of them are really beautiful inside and there are often happenings going on in the malls, all from fat-loss beauty competitions to the new exclusive watch shows.
In Kuala Lumpur we noticed how many of the women put effort into matching everything they wore:
The shoes with the bag with the dress with the scarf etc.
But these three women sure take the price:
Not only did they match their outfits with each other, they matched it with the shopping mall they were going to!
There is not a chance you will be able to visit all the shopping malls, but take a visit to Lot 10 (beautiful architecture inside), Sungei Wang Plaza, Bukit Bintang Plaza, Star Hill Gallery, KL Plaza, Pavilion and Berjaya times Square (HUGE).
Shopping in the Golden triangle is easy as the shopping malls are so close to each other, you can walk out of a mall and into another in a matter of seconds.
Grab a bite to eat at Jalan Alor
After some shopping you might want to sit down and rest your feet while having a nice lunch.
Food is the most important thing for Malaysians, and thanks to the variety of cultures here, you will find the food choices are many.
Jalan Alor, a street in the middle of the Golden Triangle has countless of food stalls and restaurants where you can choose whatever you like to eat.
Kuala Lumpur Independence Square
Visit the Independence square (Dataran Merdeka) where Malaysia’s independence was declared in 1957.
Right in front of the impressive Sultan Abdul Samad building, and other historical buildings such as the old railway station and the St. Mary Cathedral which is over a hundred years old.
It’s quite nice with the fountain and the flag poles lined up along the square.
Kuala Lumpur Authentic Feel in Kampung Baru
Have an authentic Malay dinner in Kampung Baru.
This area has a very authentic Malay feel to it, and since the area is trying to stand against the modern developments in the city they have preserved the traditional Malay style, and among traditional houses and clothing there is also a lot of typical Malay food to find here.
Here you will get a good insight in the traditional Malay culture.
Bargains in Chinatown
Walk through China Town and bargain some fake copies or try the street food.
Do some shopping along the night market in Jalan Petaling.
Here the shopping is completely different from what you experienced in the fancy shopping mall earlier this morning.
What’s amazing isn’t the stuff they sell, but the contradiction and the sudden changes in the city, which you can also find while walking through Indian Town.
Party hard in Bukit Bintang
Unless your feet are tired from the busy day, you can go and enjoy the busy night life in Jalan Bukit Bintang, a street full of pubs, clubs, open air cafes, street performances etc. Everything you need for a good night out!
For me this photo represents the good and evil – Nature’s gift – and Kit Kat…
Kit Kat, produced by Nestlé, is a company responsible for the diminishing forest and soon to be extinct Orangutans in Borneo, Malaysia.
They destroy the native forest, make it impossible for the native animals and tribe people to survive in the new desert of only Palm Oil trees.
Roomorama In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Admiring the most iconic building in Kuala Lumpur – the Petronas Towers, while at the same time floating on your back in an infinity pool, just doesn’t make any sense – it simply would be too good to be true.
Or, so we thought…
While searching for an apartment in Kuala Lumpur, we managed to find an unbelievable place to stay, right opposite the famous Twin Towers in the middle of the city.
We stayed for 3 nights at Marc Residence, a luxury apartment complex which offered everything you could want:
Two large pools (one literally with a view of the Petronas Towers), a tennis court, fully equipped gym, sauna, reading room with free wifi, mini mart, laundry and a cafe.
Booking online with Roomorama went really smoothly: you find a place you want, send an inquiry to the host, and if it’s available, the host will get back to you and offer you the place.
If it is unavailable, or if you simply want to make it easier for yourself, you can use the “Shout Out” feature.
Where you add the city you’ll be visiting, the dates, number of guests, and write a short message.
This message will be sent off to all the hosts in the city you’ll be visiting, who can then get back to you with their offers.
Sometimes you meet the host before moving in, but often the host arranges everything so that this isn’t necessary.
We picked up the keys from the concierge at the reception, and once we had moved into the studio apartment, we sent the host a “payment code” so that she could collect the money.
It is a very safe system, preventing hosts from taking the money before the guests have checked in and made sure that everything is fine.
Our experience with Roomorama was great as always, and anyone looking for apartments with that extra flair and a great location should look into using Roomorama for their next trip.
The Nest Guesthouse In Kuala Lumpur REVIEW
Centrally located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, you’ll find The Nest Guesthouse, one of the top rated B&B’s in the city.
The reason why people like this place so much, is simple:
Owners have truly understood what it takes to make their guests feel comfortable and enjoy their stay.
“One of the most important things about a good guesthouse, is the vibe” says Lupo, one of the owners.
When you enter the guesthouse you immediately leave the busy, chaotic streets of KL behind and feel right at home.
The lounge has a nice vibe with comfy couches where you can watch movies, read magazines, and meet other travelers.
The bedrooms are bright and spacious, and the common kitchen with free tea/coffee and breakfast, is immaculately clean.
But what made us really appreciate this place was the small things that other guesthouses in Asia, and anywhere for that matter, often tend to miss:
Cleanliness, the modern designs, and the attention to small details – such as the aromatherapy shower gel in the bathrooms and the super fast high-speed wifi throughout the building.
For those who don’t have laptops there are two computers in the lounge you can use for free.
The location is great, tucked away on a smaller street in a neighborhood with heaps of great restaurants, bars, shopping malls and street markets nearby.
It’s a great guesthouse at a good price, in a location close to almost everything, and we would definitely stay at the Nest Guesthouse again next time we visit KL.
Changes In Kuala Lumpur
Meanwhile, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, things didn’t seem to have changed that much.
It had been two years since we were there last time, so after spending some time in Southern Thailand we decided to head down to Malaysia to see what had changed.
We went to the same hostel we had stayed at last time, and everything was still the same.
We went to India street, and found the same restaurants which looked the same as last time.
The only thing that seemed to have changed was the old graffiti tag on a wall, which was now half painted over