Krabi, Thailand

Here I am back in Krabi! It was 18 months ago since my last visit & now I’m back in the same hostel, same room, & eating at the same night market. I just miss the Costa Rican friend I made last time. She was a foodie like me & we spent a lot of time talking about food, browsing the street food stalls, trying new things & eating, of course.

I adore Krabi. It has 2 food markets. I really am a greedy little lady…. It is on the coast & has beautiful views & great accessibility to the islands. There are numerous activities for backpackers & tourists such as cookery courses, hikes, island hopping, snorkelling, climbing. The options seem endless!

I’m staying in Pak-Up Hostel. I loved it last time I was here so I’m happy to be back. It is reasonably sociable with a big common area downstairs & seats outside to people watch on the street. It is on the higher price range for hostels & you can find much cheaper accommodation nearby, but I didn’t mind splashing out. It’s clean, the beds are comfortable with adequate storage, power sockets & lights are in each bed. It’s also central (to the food markets).

I’m going to have a busy few days here, I have to catch up on admin, post a package back home & I’m in the middle of applying for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa. I’ve also booked to go on a boat trip, go snorkelling & do a cookery course.  I’m keen to maintain my running regime so I have my alarm set for the morning & my kit set out. I also hope to keep up with the daily Thai massages!

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Kathmandu —> Kuala Lumpur —> Phuket

I am so happy to arrive in Thailand! The flights were a pain in the arse as usual but generally grand. I can’t conceal my pure joy at going to Thailand again. It really is one of my happy places. I land in Phuket with a content familiarity at being here before. I can’t take the smile off my face. I know my way around, I know where to take the local bus & I have a handwritten map with nice hostels marked out. This is quite organised for me & I’m very pleased with myself!

I sit on the bus & take my book out. It’s mainly a prop as I spend the majority of my time taking in the views, talking to people & thinking how lucky I am. By the time I reach Phuket town I have 2 other people in my entourage also looking for somewhere to stay. We call into a hostel & think it’s a bit expensive for what it’s offering. The next place is much nicer & cheaper so we quickly agree to stay. It feels so nice to set my backpack down & have a big spacious area in a room. Even having a non bunk bed feels like a luxury! These beds have their own shelf, light, power socket & a segregating wall around the top part of your bed. They almost feel private!

I am so hot & sweaty after the day of travel & wandering around Phuket so I immediately shower, then get changed, leave a pile of washing at reception & go out for a wander. I’m not hungry yet, my body is confused with crossing timezones & travelling for so long.

I’m going to a fitness retreat here in Thailand, although I don’t have any clothes & my trainers disintegrated a country ago. After months of neglect it’s now necessary to go shopping so I go to take the bus to the shopping centre. A tuk tuk driver calls me over offering me an extortionate rate. I politely decline telling him I’m taking the local bus then he negotiates to take me for the same price as the bus but we’ll stop at a shop for me to have a look in & I don’t have to buy anything (as he gets commission for footfall through the store). This feels like a reasonable deal & the guy seems sound so I happily pop into the tuk tuk. The shop he takes me to is an overpriced western style shop aimed at rich tourists. I do my bit pretending to browse then I actually see a piece of jewellery I like. FML. It costs £7. This is a lot of money to me in Thailand. I think of the cost of jewellery I buy at home & £7 seems like a very good deal. Either way I’m torn. I buy it. I laugh at how I was totally willingly duped – but I love my new necklace so I don’t care! The tuk tuk driver is delighted & has even agreed to collect me from the shopping centre & bring me home in a couple of hours!

The shopping centre is full of western shops & it is exactly what I’m after – h&m to get some basics,  boots for the amazing Urban Happiness aromatherapy products stocked in their Thai branches (you have to try these, they are incredible & I can’t find them anywhere else!), & a sports shop to buy trainers. I spend way too much money on my much needed 2 bags of shopping & go to take my free tuk tuk back. At the hostel my washing is ready & waiting for me at the front desk. It smells heavenly & this makes me a bit emotional after months of damp smelling, washed in dirty water, clothes. I throw out my holey, worn out, clothes & lie down for a couple of hours excited at my evening plans to visit the night market with my new french friends. I reflect again how lucky I am before the hot humid air leads me to sleep.

Solo Traveller – Plus one

I am a seasoned solo traveller & I adore the flexibility this offers me. I am happy to travel with fellow backpackers & I meet so many people in hostels & in the streets that I rarely feel lonely. I have ended up travelling with my Brazilian friend for over 2 weeks now. Two. Long. Testing. Weeks.

I’m not adjusting well to the constant, relentless, suffocating company.

I am not used to waiting 5 plus minutes every time I leave the hostel or a restaurant. I am exceptionally impatient & expressive so it is obvious when I am unimpressed waiting for someone for the tenth time that morning. She is sucking the life out of me! 

When I met her in India I presumed she was capable & independent as a backpacker considering she was travelling alone in India. Then it became apparent she came to India on an organised group trip. She went from a company managing her bookings & itinerary to me. She has been tagging on to my plans, leaving me to do everything & only contributing to complain. I find her ungrateful, greedy nature tiresome & frustrating.

We have a laugh & get along well but I feel like I am her guide & it is hard work! To spend my days & nights intertwined with someone who I find to be so much hard work is suffocating. Even to have someone asking me about my every move is trapping when I am used to so much freedom. I miss my easy going Australian friend I stayed with in McLeod Ganj. We were the perfect travel companions, laid back, independent & happy to do things on our own. We were very low maintenance & easy going.

The language barrier is a big struggle also. My Portuguese is non existent & her english isn’t great, add my accent into the mix & it makes for drawn out conversations about nothing interesting. There are only so many times you can explain a witty comment before you lose the urge to say anything remotely funny. I am losing the will to be sarcastic & humourus. These are the foundations of my very being!

I don’t know how long I can continue like this for. I don’t want to abandon her & make her feel unsafe, insecure & out of her depth in a new country. I couldn’t do that to someone. I would just adore some alone time, a bit of appreciation for ALL of the organising & a bit of consideration. But yes, I’m hoping we part ways soon. Rant over.

How are your travel relationships? Do you travel alone or with people? Do your crave your own space? I’m curious to see if I’m alone on this as none of my friends would consider solo travel.

Rishikesh, India

On my arrival to Rishikesh I didn’t even have a chance to sigh in relief at being in more serene conditions due to the suffocating volume of monkeys roadside. I wound my taxi window up frantically & looked terrified much to my Swiss taxi companion’s amusement. I was a fool to think escaping Hampi would equate to escaping monkeys. It was a 20 minute taxi ride to Rishikesh passing many monkeys who had ventured to the outskirts of the jungle. There were many signs for drivers to beware of elephants crossing – similar to those we have for cattle & deer back in Ireland. Unfortunately we didn’t see any elephants but maybe that was a good thing because I heard 8 people per month are killed in Rishikesh by ‘angry elephants’. I’m not sure why the elephants are so angry or how they murder their victims…. In my head they are a peaceful & placid creature.

I spent the entire taxi ride trying to keep my shit together & fretting about what side of the bridge the driver would drop me off. Surely enough he ditched me on the opposite side of the bridge to my hostel. I wandered towards the shops looking for a bridge & quickly found it, along with picking up a Dutch backpacker. This poor guy was my rock for the next ten minutes!

As we approached the bridge I immediately told him about my paralysing fear of monkeys & unburdened all my angst about crossing the monkey bridge. His face was a mix of empathy & vague dismay at stumbling upon such a vulnerable & somewhat ungrounded fellow backpacker. As we descended the steps to the bridge my internal organs strangled at the sight of several monkeys jumping & grabbing at people from the bridge railings. I looked desperately for another way across the river. I was out of luck. This was the only way to my hostel. My Dutch companion watched as I lost all my composure & stepped reluctantly towards the busy bustling bridge of fear.

Inside I was screaming as I took the first few steps towards the monkeys. The bridge was overcrowded with people walking slowly, taking pictures of the Ganges & taking pictures with the monkeys. Motorbikes were haphazardly speeding through the crowd & the bridge was narrow enough to touch both sides with my arms stretched out. After passing the first set of monkeys I felt my confidence & carefree adventure crumble. I was now trapped on all sides by monkeys & my only viable escape would be to throw myself off the bridge & tumble into the Ganges. This option was looking more appealing by the second.

I tightened my backpack & clutched my rucksack tightly, put my head down & powered through the slow messy slew of people. Monkeys jumped on the ground in front of me & dashed along the railings carrying their babies. A man popped out at me with one on his shoulder asking if I wanted a picture with it. I recoiled & prayed for this nightmare to end. I was halfway across the bridge pausing reluctantly for motorbikes to pass & shouting ‘excuse me’ to the lackadaisical tourists enjoying the scenery. My heart was beating out of my chest & my palms were sweaty. I was never so happy in my life to see the end of a bridge!

6 monkeys were gathered at the end of the bridge & I could see others on the roofs & power lines on the other side. I knew my monkey ordeal would not be over once I made it to land again. I wallowed in horror as the incessant screaming in my head fizzled out & I forced my legs to complete their task. I passed the last pack of monkeys without incident & scurried away from the bridge as fast as my backpack carrying body could go. Luckily my hostel, Bunk Stay, was easy to find & I was quickly at the bottom of the set of steep stairs to reach it. The crowd on the other side of the bridge was a blur as I was recovering from my traumatic ordeal & still on edge of fear of more monkeys. My Dutch friend reassured me & I felt my anxiety not subside, but not escalate further in his company.

At the top of the steps, breathless & emotionally exhausted we checked into the hostel & I went for a much needed lie down. How am I going to cope in Rishikesh??? My anxiety is palpable.

About Rishikesh, India

Rishikesh is located 230KM North of Delhi, resting at the foothills of the Himalayas. The more scenic & popular tourist destination is about 2km upstream from actual Rishikesh city. This area is split by the beautiful turquoise River Ganges which rushes below Lakshman Jhula, 450ft of steel bridge connecting either side. This bridge is barely 6 feet wide & is crammed with tourists, locals, monkeys, vendors, cows & motorbikes whizzing by. It is not for the faint hearted! For me this bridge embodied the very essence of India! All it needed was some delicious food….

This area is full of backpackers & tourists & all the things that draw them there – ashrams, cafes, restaurants, massage & other therapies, yoga classes/courses, activities, shops, street food, an array of accommodation. The small town has a great buzz about it.

Rishikesh is known for being the birthplace of yoga & is referred to as the yogic capital of the world. There are numerous yoga schools offering intensive courses & daily classes. If you enjoy yoga you will be surrounded by many like minded people. The streets are full of people carrying yoga mats & glowing from their spiritual journey & self healing.

If you intend to take a dip in the Ganges, Rishikesh is one of the less polluted points to do so. The 2252KM long river flows from the Shivlak mountains, in Uttarakhand, the residing state of Rishiskesh & hasn’t accumulated as much pollution by Rishikesh’s river banks. The River Ganges is deemed to be one of the most sacred rivers in India, flowing through numerous holy cities & worshipped by Hindus. It is also extremely polluted due to the dumping of untreated sewage, industrial waste, religious offerings & dead bodies (cremated & non-cremated/decomposing). Despite this pilgrims still travel from around the world to take a ‘holy dip’ & cleanse in the waters. After my recent bout of sickness I opted out of this opportunity.

Rishikesh is a very spiritual area & has been meat & alcohol free to coincide with the holy city status it carries & to align with the religious beliefs of the communities it harbours. It is an absolute haven of tasty options for the vegetarians out there (& non vegetarians!), as is most of India!

The Beatles visited Maharishi Mahesh Ashram in Rishikesh in the late 60s boosting it’s fame in the West & assisting to shape it into the popular destination it is today. Their stint here learning meditation was creatively inspiring for them. Their endorsement opened the west to meditation, changing attitudes worldwide & sparking international interest in Indian spirituality. The ashram has since been abandoned & jungle & monkeys are taking over the ruins. It is well worth a visit for Beatles fans. I have heard several reports of paying an entrance fee or hopping a wall to get in. Obviously due to the monkeys I couldn’t go.

Rishikesh is emerging as the adventure capital of India, offering white water rafting on the River Ganges, bungee jumping, trekking, canyoning, mountain biking… It truly has so much to offer!

If none of this tickles your fancy & you are keen to pick up a new instrument while in India, Rishikesh seems like a popular place to learn the Indian Sitar. A friend who was learning it said it would take him years to become competent in it although he was very enthusiastic about learning.

As with most popular backpacker destination, Rishikesh has ample various ranged accommodation available. I stayed at the newly open Bunk Stay Hostel & I was happy with my experience. There are also a lot of cafe’s restaurants & the apparently popular German bakery – who knew this was a thing in India? There is a nice selection of restaurants, the ones I visited were reasonably priced & I didn’t get sick during my time here! Bonus!

If you need to buy souvenirs, clothes, jewellery, ayurvedic medicine, yoga mats, spiritual books etc, you can get pretty much everything here. There are also a few places offering a packaging & delivery service if you want to send a parcel back home. They cater really well to their backpacker market here! Rishikesh seems to have it all!

The Goan Corner, Hampi, India

 

The Goan Corner is on the ‘other side’ of Hampi, if that makes any sense. One side of the Tungabhadra River through Hampi has the temples hotels & restaurants. If you cross the river to the ‘other side’, Virupapur Gaddi, you get more cafes & restaurants & some guest houses. I don’t think there’s much else really – Rice paddy fields & the most awesome place to watch the sunset!

One thing to note is the night buses can drop you at either side of the river. My friends arrived much later than me because they were dropped off in hospet & had to take a tuktuk to Hampi then wait on the boat service to start. It isn’t a big hassle, but nice to know beforehand.

The entrance to the hostel

This hostel is really laid back & caters fantastically to backpackers needs. They were quite casual when we tried to make a booking & told us just to arrive & they’ll sort us out. We are a small easygoing, optimistic, group of 3 so we were happy with this arrangement. Maybe during busy high season people would prefer confirmation. There seems to be a lot of decent (read ‘backpacker decent’) accommodation in the area, I wouldn’t have worried if they couldn’t fit us in as there are many other options.

We got a little hut with a double bed & they put an extra mattress on the floor for us. Altogether it cost about 500 rupees per night. The toilets & showers were dotted around in separate blocks, they were average clean & a mix of traditional & western toilet style. The huts were dotted around & gave a real community feel. We quickly became friends with our neighbours & chilled out on their hammocks. The electricity cut out during the day which was a killer when you were relying on the fans to keep your temperature at non fatal levels, however I have come to expect the power failures. The internet was ok but it was cut off all night so no late night facetimes….

The Goan Corner has a big outdoor restaurant area which is really sociable. I found that if you rock up at a table of strangers they happily welcome you & chat easily to you. Equally when anyone approached a table I was at we, of course, quickly invited them to join us. I know this is down to individual attitudes, but this spirit is actively promoted by the staff as though we are unconsciously influenced to adopt the demeanour of the hostel.

The staff are really nice & attentive. I told them my name once & they remembered it for my entire stay. They make a tab & all your food, drinks, laundry, bus ticket, & accommodation goes on it until you depart. The main lady Shamila is lovely & welcoming (at home she would be described as ‘dead on’ or ‘sound’. For 3 nights accommodation, meals, lots of water & laundry & a bus ticket to Bangalore I paid a grand total of £11.

The food is really good!

There is an entourage of dogs & cats who are really cute & friendly. Some of my friends grew very attached to their newfound live in pets! I was less lovestruck when the pug kept using my leg as a leaning post to attain the perfect leverage to stick his nose up his asshole…

The Goan Corner offers exceptionally cheap rooftop dormitory accommodation at 150 rupees per night. I wouldn’t even consider this option due to the manic morning monkeys who like to run around this rooftop in the morning grabbing what they can & making mischief. I would have a heart attack if I woke face to face with a monkey!!!

My friends on top of the boulders, I’m watching from the comfort of the hostel & my chai!

You can definitely put in plenty of lazy days at the Goan corner & I can see how people get stuck there for a while. Personally Hampi is getting far to hot for me. I cannot function well above 30 degrees so all productivity ceases & I go into survival mode at 40 degrees. I have to flee somewhere cooler!

You can find their contact number HERE on their Facebook page.

Operation slimline backpack

My backpack is 20 kilos. I have no idea how it is so heavy?? I gave a bag of belongings to a charity shop & left a box of things in New Zealand… How on earth is my backpack so heavy & more mind boggling is despite this, I still have nothing suitable to wear. I am going to have to seriously work out my priorities in Australia & ditch some things. I also had big plans to shop in Australia & pick up some gadgets & clothes….. *Hangs head in shame*

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I’m going to research travel blogs for advice on packing light – please link any below that you think will be helpful.
I need to conquer my nemises.
Thanks one & all! Wish me luck!

Nelson!

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Nelson was my destination of choice. I flew here this morning, less than 12 hours after booking my flight. I flew via Sounds Air on a tiny 13 seater aircraft. The flight time was around 30 mins & the views were beautiful.

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Now I’m in Nelson I just have to figure out what I’m going to do. I am swaying towards a Stray bus around the South Island. Here goes the next leg of my Great New Zealand Adventure!

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We’re on a break

We had our fun.

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We met on a blustery evening almost 3 months ago. The rain licked my face & my hair hung wildly. We liked each other instantly. Even in the dark cold night I could see all the potential you possessed; your beauty, the fun & friendships you could open me to, the great nightlife & entertainment on offer. You were what I craved at that time. You saw me as the bright eyed inquisitive backpacker I was, ready to explore & enjoy all you had to offer. We bonded effortlessly over the first few days & quickly fell into an easy going, loving relationship. I built a life around you & you invited me into your world with open arms. I am so grateful to you for making me feel so welcome.

Life with you in it has been undoubtedly fun. You have ticked all the boxes I was seeking. We have had our bad days when I felt like you were treating me awfully. You made my life difficult & I wondered why I was wasting so much time with you. Then you would uplift me with a ray of sunshine & a beautiful moment. I feel like I fit somewhere & I am content….Mostly. Yet I question do I want more?? Am I overthinking? Is there more out there?

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That is why, Wellington, we are going on a break. In January I am going to the South Island for a few weeks. You will still hold a special place in my heart & I will be back to reconcile our relationship & see if we can salvage what we have. I am so happy we met & I fully appreciate everything you offered & we shared during my time here. You are a wonderful wee city. I am sorry for betraying you in a bid to discover somewhere better.

Proposal of Intention made

I have a plan! Well, not so much a plan as a proposal of intention.

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I’m going to the South Island at the start of January to discover & explore for a few weeks. At the end of January I’m flying from Christchurch to Wellington in time for the Rugby 7s. Perfect!

By this time I hope to have a clearer idea of where I want to settle & work – & whether New Zealand is the place for me right now.

I have handed my notice in at work & will finish on New Years Eve. This will be my first New years eve in 3 years where I’m not working at midnight & I am elated! I made a promise to myself last year that I would be off work & celebrate like a regular person. I’m going on a new years eve road trip around the north island for a few days. I couldn’t ask for a better start to 2016!

I feel so much better to have an idea of what the next month holds for me rather than winging it in Wellington for another while. My next question is the cheapest & funnest way to get around the South Island – Stray bus? Hitchhiking? Driving?