A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: thea-min

Thailand

Back in the land of street meat that is actually meat and beer they open for ya at the counter.

sunny

Sooo... by the time we left India I was frazzled and fried. Having narrowly avoided being hit by rickshaws, bicycles, trucks, busses, and a monkey (yes, a monkey), I was feeling pretty disillusioned with life on the road in budget hotels in the subcontinent. And by the way, I WAS hit by a spit loogie, right on the ankle. Ewww! I had convinced myself (for no other reason except that I can tend toward a glass half empty mentality when frazzled and fried) that Thailand and the rest of southeast Asia would be more of the same.

But NO! From the moment we stepped into the modified oven that is Bangkok, things felt more organized, civilized and... cleaner! No spit stains on the sidewalk to skip over, the cars and busses mostly stay within the lines, and people seemed relaxed. Ahhhh... We glommed onto another Western traveller, Erin from Australia, the night we arrived, and we all hung out on the main tourist strip, Khao San Road for a couple days. Caught up on some meat eating, beer drinking, and shopping (my clothes were HIDEOUS and badly needed replacement.) Also, spent a good bit of time inside air conditioned malls and restaurants, just CUZ. Thailand felt like a much needed break.

We sight-saw Bangkok, including the notorious but mostly touristy Patpong area where- yes, folks, all the rumors are true- ping pong fly out of ladies private areas in remarkably straight line trajectories toward dodging and sometimes laughing tourists. I admit, I was doing a bit less laughing and being a LOT more careful about dodging than some of the shady characters around us... it was pretty gross. I never knew they shot them AT you.

There is more to Bangkok than pingpongs and shopping however. There are many sights to see! Ladyboys (very hard to detect by the way) and senior citizen white men parading around with 4 foot 10 Thai 20 year olds, and... well you get my drift. Vegas has nuthin' on this sin city. But really, there are other things. We saw a huge giant reclining Buddha, about 45 meters long. And we taxied around places on the inexpensive, comfortable, and easy to use river ferries. These ferries were the best place to be in the heat of the day, we almost just wanted to sit on one and cruise for a day!

We bussed to a small island called Ko Tao and got scuba certified. It was a cheap, chill and beautiful island to get certified, we stayed 5 nights, and this was one of the highlights of Thailand for me. THEN we packed in like sardines on a night ferry back to the mainland and headed to a national park called Khao Sok. This was the type of place everyone thinks of when they hear "jungle." Good Lord. Rain every day. Sticky heat. Close trees, vines (which big time resemble snakes if you are the least bit jumpy like me), giant flowers 90 cm diameter, mud, wet leaves on the mud, etc. Did I mention the heat? We hiked every day, and during the whole freaking hike we looked like we just got out of a swimming pool. Slimy sweat, too, from the sunscreen. Gross, huh?? But it was beautiful, and the food was quite good as well so of course that made it worth it. (For ex, I had a Thai style fern frond salad with a coconut peanut dressing. See? Good food.)

THEN we went to Rai Leh, which would be beautiful if there weren't so many white people flopped all over the beaches and draped all over the bar stools and restaurants driving up all the prices. Too many tourists for such a small town. It felt like Disneyland, beach style. And we could only afford to stay on the side of the island that would be "in my country, not so nice" (in the words of the great sage Borat). Okay, to be fair, there were some beautiful beaches with towering limestone rocks rising from the ocean, and if you got to the beach early in the AM it would be pretty empty. Possible just bitter b/c the area was too rich for our budget. Or not.

Anyway, THEN we went to Ao Nang, which everyone hated on that we talked to, but we liked it. It wasn't pretentious. And the beach was pretty nice. And (are we noticing a common theme here?) the food was good. We feasted on street meat, hitting up about 4 or 5 different stalls for dinner. Spring rolls, pad thai, panang curry (I don't know what that means either), stir fry, and a chocolate banana pancake (Raminders influence) for a total of like... $6 or something. And the cool thing is, you can buy beer at 7-11 (which are on every corner, yup, the same thank-you-come-again places as in the states) and they open it for you right at the counter!

THEN we went North to Khao Lak, which was hard hit by the tsunami but you'd never know to look at it. This is the jumping off point for the Similan islands, one of the top 10 diving sites in the world. So, being newly PADI certified, a short boat ride away from the awesome scuba sites, what did we do of course? Went... snorkelling. Diving is flippin expensive, man, and we've got to save up for this supposedly awesome place in Indonesia. The snorkelling was fun as well tho (even that set us back $150), and was money well spent. The islands are beautiful, the water is crystal clear, and it would be cool to go back there.

Now we are back in Bangkok. Catching up on stuff, chores, laundry, etc. Making plans to head out to Cambodia ASAP. (Once you've done Bangkok once, that is enuf.) So there we are! Look for the next blog entry in about 6 months, ha ha, although that would be typical for how often we seem to update this puppy.

Posted by thea-min 20:27 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

India

crowds chaos but all in a good India kind of way

sunny 32 °F
View Our Trip on thea-min's travel map.

Too much time away from the blog so summing our 7 weeks in India without a lot of details (India requires a lot of details). Started the new year in Mumbai from the first cab ride to the train ride out Mumbai was a whirl wind of people,cars, traffic, and lots of good spicy food. People are all about themselves they will push, elbow and spit their way through you. At first you get irritated then you push and fight back and finally you surrender and go with the flow. When an 80 year old grandma climbs on your backpack when your trying to board a train you know your in trouble. After adjusting to the new pace we took in some of the sites and sampled the food. We met a nice Chillean gentlemen named Felipe and spent the new years with him having a good time even though security was super tight due to the terrorist bombings.Highlights of Mumbai included the Taj hotel , Elephanta caves ,India gate,Ghandi house and all the people.

Next stop relaxation time in Goa. Some say that Goa is over rated and played out I disagree. There are plenty of different beaches you can go to and get what ever type of vacation you want plus a buck a beer sitting on the beach is always a plus in my book. The capital of Goa Panaji is a great little town with good food and a old world charm. The highlights of Goa included wonderful beaches food in Panaji and walking the streets of Panaji.

A short train trip away is the old Hindu town of Hampi. The highlight is the unbelievable amount of temples scattered around a wonderland of boulders and small mountains. If you want your fill of temples this is the place to go.

From Goa we did a little trekking in the wonderful hill town of Madikeri. We hired a guide along with food and lodging at a local families farm home all for 20 U.S. a day. Nice guide and a fellow traveler from Vietnam named Lee. The mountain hike was a killer but the views were worth it along with experencing a tranquil side of India.

Next we went south to Kerala to experience a backwater cruise. We were able to get our own personal houseboat along with a captain and personal chef for 40 U.S. a night. Talk about feeling like royalty. Also while in Kerala we saw an amazing performance of Theyyam. Elaborate costumes along with music, fire and 5 hours of non stop showmanship definitely the highlight of Kerala. In most of southern India people were coming up to both me and Thea like we were rockstars I guess in certain parts were we walked they dont see too many tourists.

From Kerala we flew to Delhi and spent the next 5 days with my wonderful aunt and uncle. After being force fed everyday the traditonal Indian way, especially after uncle noticed that I had reduced, we took in all the major sites of Delhi. A non guide book highlight everyone should experience is a taxi ride. If you survive you will never complain about traffic in your home country again. As my cousin says if you can drive in Delhi you can drive anywhere.

Next stop the family in the good old pind of Dosanjh. Talk about slow pace of life this was a breath of fresh air after the hectic pace of Delhi. But poor Thea was lost in translation no one could speak english so I tried my best to translate. I still think she felt a little overwelmed with the whole village visiting and having no idea what was being said about her. Its was nice to hang out and spend a few days with the family and were my dad grew up. My dad and uncle look soo much more alike as they get older along with the same mannerisms. We also had a chance to visit my moms village and spend some time with my aunt and cousin. Finally we ended our trip to Punjab with a visit to the Golden Temple.

The amazing Taj Mahal was next and it always lives up to the hype it has to be seen in person to fully be appericiated. From ther we did a little stop over in Jaipur and Jodphur by now we are running out of gas and need a break from all the crowds and noise so we book our flight to Darjeeling to get a peek of the Himalayas. We decided to splurge on our accomidations and get the master suite at the Viceroy hotel. Our own fireplace with warm water bottles, evening service a luxurious bed, and amazing views of the Himalayas(2 out of 4 days) all for 60 U.S. a day. After a few days of winding down we went to Sikkim to get a closer view of the mountains and once again splurged on our accomidations 4 star guesthouse for only 40 a day. Besides the mountains we also saw some real cool Gompas with monks chanting out there prayers. A completly different side of India with the people looking more "Asian" and a whole different landscape it was like another country with different customs and even a different language.

Last stop Kolkata Even tough its the second biggest city in India it seemed to be a lot more organized and not as hectic as Mumbai and Delhi. We saw a few of the sites and after that it was off to Thailand.

Synopsis of India:
A wild ride of people, cars animals, some amazing sites, great food and a truly unique experience that you cant get anywhere else.

Posted by thea-min 19:43 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

four countries one crazy month

sand dunes, victoria falls, okavonga delta, tropical beaches

sunny 100 °F
View Our Trip on thea-min's travel map.

Since our last entry we have been covering a lot of ground and seeing a different side of Africa. We started out by travelling to Namibia with the main highlight being the amazing sand dunes of Soussevlei. Some of these dunes are over 500 meters high and thousands of years old. We were allowed to climb only one dune with an approximate height of 150 meters. The colors and feel of the sand was amazing and we would definitely rank it as one of the highlights of our trip so far.

Desert pic
3146197745_9f137396d8_m.jpg

Next stop was the Caprivi strip and the Okvonga Delta. The main highlights were the hippos and A mokkoro trip. After staying along the Caprivi river,in a campsite with the most interesting toilets in the world we crossed over from Namibia into Botswana. This portion of our trip involved some serious hitchhiking. It started off easy enough but soon we ended up waiting 5 hours for a ride. Lucky for us the Botswana military was kind enough to let us hop on there supped up hummer for a luxurious ride along the delta. We felt like we were ambassadors from the U.S. with our own personal convoy. After a couple of hours cruising along we happened to run into the one white person along the whole strip in the middle of the bush. Fortunately we met a very nice peace corps volunteer named Jen and set up tent outside her hut. Talking about commitment we thought we were roughing it but she is living in the middle of nowhere with spotty electricity and intermittent running water. We had a nice chat before leaving the next morning for our mokoro boat trip in the delta. Unfortunately the water levels were very low but our guide still managed to navigate us through some tight spots. Being canoed around by someone else is definitely a luxury we felt like some movie stars from the 50's era. We were also fortunate to see some hippos close up, talk about intimidating they could of flipped our mokkoro and had us for lunch and I think they thought about it before leaving us alone.

Our saviour, Jenny
3147085054_df2af0e112_m.jpg

Mokoro trip
3147035786_e376d66d48_m.jpg

Staying at Ngepi in Namibia
3147032646_f9c46e5ecb_m.jpg

After the delta it was off to Chobe national park in Botswana. Once again we hitched but luckily it went fairly smoothly we had to cross back into Namibia then back into Botswana. Chobe National park had a good share of elephants crocs and hippos. We also saw wild boar roaming the streets of the local town as if they were stray dogs, except with massive tusks that could inflict some serious damage. After our share of wildlife it was off to Zambia and the impressive Victoria Falls.

Chobe elephant "I think I can I think I can"
3147038864_d1a80e1b74_m.jpg

Watch your fingers!
3147094210_427193fe3b_m.jpg

The town of Livingstone was our base for the falls. The town itself was nothing impressive but the people were friendly and the falls were stunning. Luckliy we had quite a bit of rain for two consecutive days which allowed the water to start flowing. Unfortunately it was pouring the whole time we were viewing the falls. Next we decided to splurge on a flight back to South Africa rather then endure a 30 hour bus ride assuming everything went smoothly.

Vic Falls
3146209719_0512923f4c_m.jpg

After a night in Pretoria and getting our visas it was off to Mozambique for a little bit of beach time.

Okay, cool, that was Raminder talking above, now it is Thea, and I 'm going to try to make it quick. Mozambique was very nice, an actual vacation as opposed to "travelling." We were lucky enuf to meet some pretty awesome people early on in our trip, and we ended up hanging out for almost a week. A few random adventures excepted, (Raminder getting shredded on the reef and almost drowning before being rescued by a boat, familiar themes???) everything went very smoothly. We bought fresh veggies, fruit (mmm... mangoes..), and fish almost every day, and everybody pitched in to cook. Christmas eve we had rum drinks in coconuts instead of eggnog (but we could have made eggnog if we wanted to, right???) and an awesome fish braii. We had BEAUTIFUL weather in Moz right until the last day. On Xmas eve the rain started, and we all left to go our seperate directions in a bloody monsoon on Christmas day.

On the Beach in Moz
3147044602_209d653694_m.jpg

Mom and kid at the market (taking this picture got us a better deal on limes, incidentally)
3147101612_607958e994_m.jpg

Chillin' at the pool
3146265063_013315cff9_m.jpg

Christmas monsoon picture
3147049414_c56a31ab6c_m.jpg

So now we are back in Pretoria, getting ready to head off to India tonite. I'm a bit sad to leave the Africa part of our trip behind...

Posted by thea-min 00:00 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Cape Town area- Living in the lap of luxury

good wine, excellent food, and a real bed that is not a tent- ooh! and sunny weather too!

sunny
View Our Trip on thea-min's travel map.

Since our last posting, things have improved. The weather changed from mostly rainy to mostly sunny, and due to circumstances beyond our control (like staying in big cities) we have been enjoying private rooms with double bed as opposed to our tent. For the most part at least. We are currently in Cape Town, which is just beautiful. And there is so much to do! Starting from the beginning, with pictures...

We spent a couple days in a small town called Mossel Bay, which is on the famous South Africa Garden Route (which, in keeping with a common theme, reminded us a lot of California coast). This is just a nice shot we took of the ocean in Mossel Bay:

3064601771_a3da13d4dc_m.jpg

Then we were off to a college town called Stellenbosch, about 30 km outside Cape Town, which is also very well known for it's wine. So we went on a wine tour! The wine tour was a blast, it is a revelation to go wine tasting when someone else is driving (even tho he may have had a glass or two himself, hmmmm). The area was beautiful. Picture Napa meets Tahoe. That is Stellenbosch. And the wine was excellent, on par with anything we have had in California (and we have been enjoying this wine our whole trip actually, as it costs equivalent $3 US for a nice bottle !!!) Here is our wine trip, documented from beginning (nice in focus pics) to end (holding camera up and taking blurry picture of selves)

Tasting outside-stylie
3065453748_82d626e4b6_m.jpg

Raminder blowing our budget on yummies (cheese and chutneys and bread... mmmm...)
3064609801_20ddd7a70f_m.jpg

AFTER we have our 26 non-poured-back tastings (BTW, why would you pour your wine out??? But people DID!)
3064618831_205d2044b1_m.jpg

(Has anyone else noticed Raminder gets this half lidded about to fall asleep look when he drinks??)

Cool. So that was the wine tour, and we were DONE drinking wine for AWHILE. Until the next day! We rented bikes, and biked to this great nature reserve where we had an amazing picnic (the food R blew our budget on the day before was very very worth it), and then we peddled over to two more wineries on the way back to our hostel. The pictures follow...

"Pimp"nicking in the Park
3065461306_a7223910d4_m.jpg

Biking under the 'Rocky Mountains" Cape Town style
3065467144_e80e79ec22_m.jpg

Napa would be envious... (but we still love CA best!!)
3064638129_925232814c_m.jpg

Raminder the wine conniseur... obviously
3065481302_f80cf9e4ef_m.jpg

So... then we moved on to Cape Town. We both really love this city. The Indian (warmer) ocean meets the Atlantic (very cold but Raminder still got in to surf for 20 minutes, giving a new definition to the term "shrinkage" I think) ocean. The city has what seems like a really fun night life, the restaurants are good, the vibe is laid back, and the weather has been sunny. While we were here, we caught up on boring stuff like visas for our next countries, but we also went and checked out the boat harbor to see about hopping on a sailboat for either a short or or long ride. We were super lucky and were invited to join the club on their racing night, and were placed on a 54 foot yacht as "crew". This crew placement was based on all of our ocean yacht experience (ahem, or maybe just a sunfish on Lake Ontario). But the people were very nice, and allowed for our incompetence, and we had a wonderful time. The other cool thing about Cape Town: there are penguins! We saw our first penguins when we were sailing, then made a trip down to Boulder Beach in Simon's Town where there were loads of them. Photo exhibit follows:

Some of my new South African friends (should I invite them to Facebook?)
3065487826_091c9a54b6_m.jpg

"You talkin' to ME?"
3064651631_039749d8f3_m.jpg

The boys hangout
3064655893_2f81df94e9_m.jpg

Another "pimpnick" (is this Tahoe by the sea???)
3064659727_46598cc6d7_m.jpg

Who's the hunk??
3065503446_fe459430a6_m.jpg

Okay, that is just about it. We are leaving for Namibia tomorrow, but have very much loved our trip to South Africa. Even though they need to have special flags to tell you who your swimming companions are...

3064644923_1745e2342c_m.jpg

Posted by thea-min 08:40 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

South Africa: Down and dirty

Mud, rain, (and some awesome beach time in between)

all seasons in one day
View Our Trip on thea-min's travel map.

So, yes, we are still in South Africa. When we arrived here, originally, we had planned on breezing through and then overlanding up to Kenya. But it is so beautiful here, and there is so much to see, that we have decided to take it slow, instead, and really get to know and fully enjoy this country.

We are currently in Hogsback, a small mountain town that is known for inspiring JRR Tolkein with the Lord of the Ring series (he grew up nearby). We are hiking and soaking up the gorgeous scenery out of a hostel called "Away with the Fairies" (Raminder had qualms about the name, but has been reassured as there are lots of manly men here and "Fairies" apparently really does mean the mythical flying creatures not, well...) Anywho, we are camping here, as we have been doing for about half the time so far in S. Africa. The hostels actually have campsites set up, and this costs about 1/2 the price of a room. So we are happy!

We finished a mega hike about 3 days ago. There is an area of South Africa called the Wild Coast known for rural villages, beautiful coastline, and not a lot of infrastructure. We heard about a 5 day hike you can do through coastal indigenous villages, and we signed up! We wanted to hike sans-guide b/c we are generally pretty antisocial and a bit cheap, too. But as it turned out, a guide was only $17 a day, and was recommended by everyone we spoke to due to the fact that language would have been a barrier, and we would have gotten really lost. And honestly, without our guide, we would probably still be there, lost and confused.

The hike was as amazing as we hoped. We were constantly going either up or down hill, which was hell on our legs, but helped me fit into a pair of pants that I couldn't before. We got a true taste of African village life, as well. We slept on mattresses on the hard packed dirt floors of huts, and had simple dinners of rice, cabbage, and small pieces of chicken (meat b/c we were paying guests...). And good Lord, whoever said roosters only crow at dawn was dead wrong. Because they cock-a-doodle-doo all night, and the sheep answer, and the dogs bark, and... By the third day, the hundredth rooster, the hundredth and first goat call, Raminder and I were thinking wistfully about warm baths, hotel rooms, and how maybe we need a new definition of "roughing it". I can own this: I am more high maintenance than I thought.

The hike was meant to last 5 days, but on the 3rd night of village life, a thunderstorm came, and the rain stayed. The rivers would have been too high to cross, even with the men who ferry you across in rowboats, so we called the rest of the hike off. This meant taking public transport back to our homebase. Which consists of a pickup truck with a shell that is never full. At ten people including ourselves, our bags, and a random jug of stinky kerosene some dude had, Raminder and I said there is no way anyone else can fit in here. And then we picked up 3 more people. We could not move one centimeter for 2 hours on a potholed filled dirt road in a truck meant for 5 that was holding 13! So we made it, and have enjoyed being in a town with a grocery store for the last 3 days.

We plan to be in S. Africa for another 3 weeks or so. Then, who knows? Rest assured that we are eating and drinking well, sleeping pretty well, and enjoying ourselves immensely. And we will be eating a Thanksgiving feast even if we have to cook it ourselves! So happy Turkey day, and we will try to keep in touch. BTW, the photo thing is difficult, it takes a LONG time to download them (if we are even allowed to at the computer we are at) and this adds us to beaucoup bucks. And too much time on the computer. So we'll do our best and try to upload what we can once we have things figured out.

You can see photos (I hope) at this link:

http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=us2pkt2.9uyij3su&x=0&y=iditdq&localeid=en_US

Cheers!

Posted by thea-min 08:15 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 10) Page [1] 2 »