My Highlights of India

 

I went to India from the 14th February to the 1st March on a tour with G Adventures. My tour started in Delhi and I arrived the night before my tour started, however my bag was left in Singapore which was annoying! Only flown with Singapore Airlines twice and both times my bag has been left where my layover was!

Unsurprisingly my biggest highlight was seeing the Taj Mahal. This was an amazing evening watching the sun go down! It definitely became obvious to why its one of the Seven Wonders of the World! Also, the fact it was made by the Emperor for his wife when she died during child birth made it even more special. It was a very surreal few hours spending it sat in front of or walking around the Taj Mahal!! 

Another highlight was just walking around all the markets. The colours and smells of spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits was amazing! Walking through the streets with camels, monkeys, elephants and cows all around you is very surreal! 

I absolutely loved the following cities; Jaipur, Pushkar and Udaipur. 

Jaipur was beautiful, its also known as ‘the Pink City’ and going from Delhi and Mumbai to there was like a breath of fresh air. It was still busy but seemed more like organised chaos, rather than just chaos! Whilst in Jaipur we visited a beautiful print shop and were able to see how they make the clothes. 

Pushkar was a really interesting city. Its also known as the ‘Holy City’. Theres no alcohol or meat allowed anywhere in the city, and very much has a ‘eat, pray, love’ feel. It was quite hippy and whilst there I did a sunrise walk which was fun! Whilst in Pushkar I went on a camel ride and had one of my most memorable nights on the trip. The camel ride through the desert was rather scary but was a once in a lifetime experience. After the camel ride we had an Indian night in the desert, with traditional clothing, dinner, dancers, fire breathers and magicians. 

Udaipur reminded me a little of Venice, particularly when I was down by the lake. Udaipur was really peaceful and the buildings were beautiful. Whilst there I did an art class, which was so relaxing and enjoyable. I also did sunset yoga on the rooftop of the art gallery. I also did a cooking class at a local families house. It was lovely to be in a local home with a family and the food was delicious and inspired me to maybe cook some of the dishes when I am home! 

Tordi was a highlight. We went on a jeep safari ride, and even though it was a strange place to go, the group and I had so much fun. Where we were staying was like a villa and we had it all to ourselves! I felt like I was in Mamma Mia! We danced and drank the night away together. 

The people on my tour were a big highlight! We had so much fun together in Mumbai on the night out, where we could make requests for songs and got everyone in the Irish Bar dancing to ‘Come on Eileen’ and ‘I will walk 500 Miles’. Also in Goa where we were dancing to Indian music after a day of sunbathing at the beach! 

India was fantastic and I couldn’t believe I was there at times! The country was amazing but also incredibly poor. Whilst in Mumbai we went to one of the richest man in India’s house, he spent around 60 million dollars on it! And then literally less than 10 minutes away, theres a slum where a million people live. It’s crazy to see so clearly how corrupt the country is. 

However, the people are so friendly and kind. They just want to please you and even though I would never get use to the staring (its so intense), they just want to smile at you and for you to smile back. Finally, the most surreal thing of all was how many people wanted to take photos with us! I can kind of understand those who are blonde with blue eyes, however they were memorised by those who are brunette with brown eyes as well! 

I can’t wait to go back to India and to explore more parts of the amazing country! Thank you to everyone who made India so amazing for me! I would definitely recommend G Adventures’ tour ‘Uncover India: Delhi to Goa’ if anyone wants to visit India! Its not a country I would want to travel round by myself, but with a group and a tour guide, I felt safe and could enjoy it! 

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My Highlights of Cambodia

I went to Cambodia from the 3rd to the 12th of February on a G Adventures tour. The tour started in Bangkok and we had to cross the Thai border into Cambodia via bus and by walking. Once we left the Thailand border office we had to walk for 15 minutes to get to Cambodias border. This was a surreal experience because that part is basically ‘no mans land’, it’s owned by no country. It was shocking to see the people who were living there and felt like quite a dangerous place.

Once we crossed the border we headed to Siem Reap. Whilst in Siem Reap we visited the first place on my ‘highlights of Cambodia’ – Angkor Wat. We went to see the sunrise however we didn’t get a great sunrise, but it was still amazing to see and I can see why it’s one of the ‘7 Wonders of the World’!

Whilst in Siem Reap, I opted to go quad biking through the local villages. It was so much fun, especially when my quad bike broke down as it meant I was able to go so fast to catch up with the rest of the group. We stopped to watch the sunset and to have a beer.

I also went to the circus in Siem Reap. The performers were amazing and the company are there to help young people beat poverty. I would definitely recommend this!

Before we left Siem Reap, we visited ‘Pub Street’ where we went to a few bars and a nightclub. ‘Pub Street’ was so lively, there was music blasting from every bar and flashing lights everywhere. It was a lot of fun!

Another big highlight was learning about the Killing Fields, in Phnom Penh – which is a strange thing to say because it overwhelming and very sad, but it’s important for people to learn and know about it! We had a guided tour around the Killing Field and the S21 Prison. It was shocking to hear how the government tricked people who had an education and qualifications into thinking they had jobs for them, but instead took them to Prison and Killing Fields – and no one knew what was happening! The extreme lengths that the government went to, to keep in a secret was also unthinkable. Whilst at the prison, we met one of the only survivors of the Killing Fields, who told us about his time there. Amazingly, he said he doesn’t blame the soldiers anymore because he saw how they were treated and how they were forced to behave. He said he isn’t sure if he would have had the strength to resist if it was his life on the line.

I think if you ever go to Cambodia then learning about the Killing Fields is an absolute must! The survivor said that he tells people about his past so that we can learn from it, prevent it happening again and to remember those who died during that time.

I also went to the Royal Palace whilst in Phnom Penh. This was beautiful to see, there is so much detail on the buildings and the colours are amazing!

We went to Koh Rong Island where we stayed in bungalows on an amazing beach. It was beautiful and so underdeveloped which made it a very relaxing place. Whilst there we went snorkelling and drank a lot of cocktails and beach and just relaxed. I definitely made some of my best memories on that beach.

The trip ended in Ho Chi Minh City, so we had to cross into the Vietnam border on foot as well, this wasn’t as bad as the Cambodia border. However, we did have to put $1 into our passport for the security guards when leaving Cambodia and then $1 in our passports for the security guards in Vietnam, this was a surreal experience and they didn’t bat an eyelid.

On our final night in Ho Chi Minh we went to a street market which was actually really nice! It had pretty lights and a nice upstairs seating area, plus the food stalls looked relatively clean! That night we went out drinking and found a really cool club where we danced the night away together before closing time!

My final highlight was a little boy we met at a restaurant in Phnom Penh. He came in when he saw our big table of foreigns to sell bracelets. At first none of us paid a lot of attention until he started talking to Danny, one of the guys on our trip. He was such a little salesman that I ended up buying one from him. He then turned to another of the boys on the trip and said to him ‘your mind says no, but your heart says yes’. I couldn’t believe how good his English was and he was only 9. Obviously that one line melted everyone’s heart and he sold a lot of bracelets that afternoon!

Cambodia was an amazing country to visit with so much history and culture. I found it shocking how poor the country and the people are, but it’s clear they are still recovering from the Killing Fields period. I also found it shocking how little I knew about Cambodian history before going there, especially since it wasn’t that long ago!

Once again, I was so lucky with the people I had on my trip. They were so much fun, and we all had such a laugh and they made the long bus journeys bearable!

My Highlights of Vietnam

I was in Vietnam from the 20th January to the 3rd February on a G Adventures tour. This tour started in Hanoi and went to Sapa Valley, Hue, Hoi An, Mekong River, Halong Bay and Ho Chi Minh City.

I loved Vietnam, I was told by so many people to go there who said how amazing it is and they weren’t lying! The country has so much history and each place I visited varied massively. The main cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, were busy, chaotic and had a crazy amount of motorbikes- there’s 92 million people and 42 million motorbikes! But the countryside was so peaceful with so much nature to look at. The food was amazing, I ate so many spring rolls that I think they have ruined them for me at home – they just aren’t going to be the same!

I loved the whole trip but my highlights are:

Halong Bay – this was amazing. I felt like I was sailing through Jurassic Park. Even though I didn’t experience it in the best weather, it was still incredible and the weather made it look eery and kind of spooky! Plus staying on a boat for the night in Halong Bay was an amazing experience and I can’t recommend it enough!

Sapa Valley – this trip made me realise I love the countryside and experiencing the life of the locals. We got to meet some of the minority groups in Vietnam. The population is 76% Vietnamese and 24% other minority groups – there’s a total of 54 different minority groups!

Hoi An – oh my goodness, that place has a big piece of my heart! It’s such a special place. The lanterns at night time are amazing to see, such a basic thing, but the sheer amount of them is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s like a city but not half as busy as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Whilst there, we went to Oodles of Noodles which is an organisation funded by G Adventures and helps under privileged kids to gain qualifications either in hospitality or catering! I’d definitely recommend visiting the restaurant there. We had a bike tour of Hoi An so that we could see more of the countryside. We were able to see where the farmers grow their vegetables, herbs and flowers! It was so lovely to cycle through the local villages.

Overnight trains – having experienced an overnight train in Thailand, I was expecting something similar. However the trains were much nicer! We had our own cabins which were shared between 4 people, we had our own door and could lock it on the inside, which made me feel a lot safer!

Ho Chi Minh City – whilst this was the busiest city, we were able to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels from the Vietnam War. These were amazing to see, the Vietnamese were so clever. I got to go into one of the tunnels (one of the bigger ones – which is crazy to think because it was so small and tight!) The tunnels varied from 3ft – 9ft deep and over the 20 years the Vietnamese built 250km of underground tunnel!
I think a great way to see Ho Chi Minh is via a cyclo tour! A cyclo is basically a bike with a buggy type thing attached to the front of it. You sit in the buggy part and are cycled around by a tour guide. The city is so busy and very hot, that it just makes thing so much easier! We stopped at the War Museum and whilst it was really sad, it was a great way to learn about the effects of the war and how the Vietnamese were treated.

Overall I loved Vietnam and would 100% recommend it to anyone who wants to go to Asia. A massive thanks to H my tour guide and to everyone on that tour, you guys all made it so fun, especially Laura, best roommate I could have asked for!

Bonjour Paris!

Just before Christmas, my boyfriend kindly took me to Paris for a few days, as an early Christmas present and graduation present. Neither of us had been to Paris before but we did some research on museums and sights which were worth visiting! We were staying in the Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel which was beautiful and we even had a view of the Eiffel Tour.

We decided to walk to most of the sights, however I do wish we had researched more about the underground train as that would have meant a little less walking! My favourite sights were; the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Monteparsse Tower (this is a great place to see the Eiffel Tower from up high) and the Jardins Du Trocadero which was a fabulous place for taking photographs in front of the Eiffel Tour!

We booked in advance to visit the Eiffel Tour and bought the ticket which took us all the way to the top. I think it was worth it because whilst we still had to queue, there were separate elevators for those who purchased tickets in advance and for those who didn’t, this sped up the process quite a lot I think!

Also, for the Louvre the exhibits are free for those under 26, so make sure you take your ID with you!

For food we had been given recommendations and asked the hotel for traditional local restaurants. On our second night there we went to a very old traditional French restaurant, where I ate French onion soup and where we both tried garlic snails – neither of us could see the appeal of them! On our third night we tried to go to Pink Mamma, which was recommended to us, but the wait time was so long and you can’t pre book! However, we found this really cute bar opposite Pink Mamma, which served tapas food and had a great atmosphere (can’t remember the name of it though!). We also ate a lot of cheese (well I did!), as well as eating quite a few macaroons and crepes – and obviously we drank a lot of wine! Finally, on our last day, we went to a burger joint called King Marcel, I know not very traditional, but that burger was one of the best I’d eaten in a while!

Overall, we both loved Paris and loved exploring its culture and history. Christmas was a lovely time to go, but I would also really like to go back in the Summer time to see it then!

P.s thanks Lev for the fabulous trip – I love you.

Highlights of my Nepal Adventure

Where to begin! It’s all been fabulous and I would highly recommend everything I did!

Our first day in Kathmandu was spent walking around, getting to know the area, getting to know each other and exploring local temples.

We left Kathmandu and headed for the mountains. We had an 8 hour bus journey to Pokhara, which is the second largest city in Nepal. It’s like a smaller version of Kathmandu, with a lot less people and traffic! I quickly fell in love.

The trekking was tough but was an amazing experience and definitely worth the pain!

During my first tour, we also went to SASNA which is a charity run to help women who have been trafficked. We made momos and had lunch there, as well as learning about what the charity does and how it helps women. Momos are dumplings with either vegetables, meat or chocolate inside. Momo means MORE, and you’ll definitely want more as they are so delicious!

After the trek, we headed back to Pokhara where I decided to go paragliding! The views were amazing and I had an eagle flying right next to me at one point! When I get home I will be able to look at the footage taken whilst I was gliding!

After paragliding we took a 6 hour bus to Chitwan. There’s a National Park there which was founded in 1943. When we arrived, we were welcomed with a special traditional evening. We were blessed and provided with a necklace with flowers around it. We also received Dal Bhat for dinner and they performed traditional village dances to us, before encouraging us to join in!

In Chitwan we stayed in a village with the locals and went on a bike ride round the village and then on a safari. Chitwan has over 500 species of bird and over 600 Indian black one horned rhinos! We were very lucky and got to see lots of rhinos, 2 mothers and babies and one rhino cooling off in the water! Was a very special day.

I had a few days left before starting my next tour so I had time to do some shopping! I could spend a fortune in Kathmandu, the items for sale are very different to what’s sold in Thailand and Bali. I even managed to start my Christmas shopping! I also headed to the Monkey Temple. There was a crazy amount of monkeys and they were very feisty with each other!

Nepal is such a special place, the people are so friendly and everyone seems to be really proud of their country and their culture. I can’t wait to continue exploring during my next tour!

Trekking in Nepal

On the second day of our trip we headed to Pokhara, which was an 8 hour bus journey. After spending a night in Pokhara, in the Queens Park Hotel, we had an hour and a half bus journey to our starting point of the 3 day trek. We had to ditch our private, air conditioned bus for a mini bus due to the roads being bad, and it was definitely an experience! It’s impressive that there aren’t more car crashes!

On the first day of trekking, we headed to Ghandruk! The trek started off fine, it was a very hot day but it was a flat road. However, after lunch we had to climb 3,600 steps, a crazy amount of steps! We walked in total for about 7 hours on the first day, around 31,000 steps! We also learnt that the saying ‘Jam Jam’ means let’s go! We soon started to dread the moment our tour guides would say ‘Jam Jam’, because it meant breaks over-let’s go! On the first night we stayed in a really cute tea house which was owned by locals and had dinner and some drinks before falling asleep!

The next morning we woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the mountains, it was amazing to see and definitely worth the early wake up call!

One thing about Nepal is that it’s warm during the day, but freezing at night and first thing in the morning, especially the higher up you are, I slept in my thermals!

The second day we walked for about 8 hours, around 35,000 steps and headed towards Landruk. Once again it was a tough hike, I struggled more the second day than the first. I also decided to go to the hot springs during our lunch break, and whilst it was enjoyable, it was another hour of walking in total, and the climb back to the restaurant was probably the hardest part of the hike- so not sure it was worth it!

However, the evening we had in the second tea house was one of the best. A couple of people from the group played volleyball with the porters – they were carrying some of our items during the trek. It was so lovely to get involved with the locals. There was also a little boy who was 8 and he was desperate to be involved, every time the ball would roll down the hill, he’d sprint to get it and would be so proud of himself!

I also had my first game of Uno- yes I’d never played it before! And was taught how to play a game called ‘Yahtzee!’ It was a great evening!

On the final day we headed back to where the bus dropped us off to go back to Pokhara. We walked for about 6 hours and around 30,000 steps. The last hour was tough, I never thought it would end!

The children we met along the way were amazing. They would all wave and shout hello, or would put their hands together and say ‘Namaste’ to us. I also learnt they are taught to only take if they are offered. So when we asked the little boy if he would like some popcorn, he would only take it if we put it in our hands and offered it to him, or poured it into his hand. Then he’d stuff all the pieces of popcorn into his trouser pocket!

During the hike I really saw how hard the locals worked, the men, children and women would all carry baskets full of heavy items, and the strap of the basket would be round their forehead! I saw women carrying bottles of gas, baskets full of branches etc…very impressive!

Whilst the trek was hard, it was an amazing experience and such an accomplishment! The views along the way were unreal and it was great to be in the hillsides of Nepal! I loved stripping back to the basics, it definitely pulled the group closer together, even though we probably all stank by the end! The feeling of having a hot shower once back at the hotel in Pokhara was amazing!

Nepal Adventure

 

I got a flight from Gatwick airport on Saturday 10th at 20.30pm. My first flight was to Doha airport before I flew to Kathmandu. The flights were about 5/6 hours each.

When I got to Kathmandu airport the queue/process to get a visa was LONG, it took about 2 hours to get out of the airport and once I did, it was rush hour in Kathmandu and the traffic, which isn’t great normally, was awful. I had my first group meeting to attend at 6pm at the hotel and I got in at 17.50pm, I only had time to quickly brush my hair and teeth!

Now that the trip is over I can confirm that everyone on the trip was lovely! And my tour guide was fabulous. Jamuna is Nepalese and was one of the first Nepalese women to work as a tour guide for G Adventures! She was so professional and passionate about her job and her country!

The whole trip reinstated my motivation to travel! Most people on the tour were older than me and hearing about their adventures and the trips they had been on was so exciting and my list of where I want to travel to has extended!

On my first Nepal tour there were 4 Canadians, 4 Americans, 2 other British girls, 1 guy from Australia, and a couple from France and Spain.

The locals who I met on this trip were inspiring and so friendly. I’ve learnt that whilst they don’t have a lot, they are so clever with using the things they do have in a useful way. The children who we came across on this trip were so friendly and confident, children are allowed to be children here! There’s no worry about ‘not speaking to strangers’, because everyone knows everyone.

A sad thing about Nepal is the pollution and the rubbish. The locals say that over the years the smog has got worse and worse. When you are in Kathmandu you get home and are covered in dust. The rivers and the sides of the roads are covered in rubbish.

Once you leave Kathmandu, the towns are quieter and the rubbish isn’t as bad, but the smog still covers the mountains a lot more than it use to.

I’ve also found a new love for goats on this trip, there’s lots of them in Nepal and they are so cute. You can be walking down the street and there will be a cow walking in the opposite direction or just sitting on the pavement. It’s so strange to see but to the locals it’s normal!