Saturday, 26 February 2011

Koh Chang

We got up very early, around 6 and went to the Eastern Bus station. We had to take a taxi which cost us about 200 bhats and bought a bus ticket to the Pier to cross over to Koh Chang. The bus ticket cost was 250bhats which together with the taxi was the same price that what they were asking in Kaosan rd but we had been told that some of these mini buses weren't 100% reliable. Some of the dangers include being given food & drink on board that has been drugged so when you fall asleep they rob you.

We left Bangkok at 7.45 and took us 1 hr to arrive as far as the airport (due to heavy traffic leaving the city, it was Saturday morning...) We arrived to the pier around 1.30pm, crossed over (120 bhats return). The ferry journey was not very long, since the island is quite close to the continent. When we arrived took a share taxi to Bang Bao, which cost us another 120 baths each. Arrived to the Cliffhouse Cottage around 15.30pm, checked in and had some late lunch. Price 350 Bhats per day for a hut.

We loved the place (not that much at the beginning, the huts were basic and the little cove was rocky, not sandy) but the place is so relaxed and so quiet... the free wi-fi was a plus too. After being chilling out for while went to the village and had dinner in a Seafood restaurant (a mixed seafood platter with scallops, king prawns, crab, squid and a lovely fish, enough for 2 people @350 bhats). After dinner we were going back to our hotel when we found out that the village festival was going on, a sort of “feria” with a band and the election of the beauty queen and other categories (Kids, dancing...etc). They had a stall with local delicacies, grasshopers, maggots, coakroaches.

The show was so funny, as it was the main night of the festival they were crowning the queen of the festival. They had the usual heats and in the end the winner was decided on who received the most garlands. Of course the winner was the richest largest family.

Later we got a couple of beers from 7/11 and drank them at the porch in our hut overlooking the cove.

On our 2nd day in Koh Chang we had breakfast in the hotel and headed to the beach at the other side of the bay. We loved there and spend all day at the beach. It was relatively quiet, not too many beach bars and the scenery was lovely (palm trees right down to the beach). We left the beach around 4 and went back to the Hotel and had dinner in a local restaurant and went to the village festival. This time it was the turn of the children, they were each doing a dance. 4 girls did a traditional dance and one chubby boy decided that the funky chicken was the best option. The winner was (again) the richest family, last place didn’t get anything all of the others got a trophy except the winner. She got an electric fan, the look on her face was priceless!

We got up early and went to the pier and bought a ticket for a full day boat trip (500bhats each, which was cheaper compared to the 800/900 that other companies were asking for the same trip) we left after 9 and went  as far to the southern point of the trip, where we had our first stop in one of the small islands (more an islet than an island) we were snorkeling there for about 1hr (including Column who is only learning to swin!). It was great! loads of colored fishes and corals. After that they served lunch. The second stop was another island not far from there with a lovely beach where we stopped for a while, the sand was white originated from white coral. After that we headed to another islet for snorkeling and had more food (fresh fruit, pineapple, watermelon, corn and prawn skewer). Last but not least we went to koh Wai (the most famous of the island) and stopped there for about 30mins. On our way back to Koh Chang we discovered that one the local pass times from these boat trips is to feed the monkeys with the rest of food from the boat. The staff on the boat were great, very nice, helpful and entertaining, one of the guys was a real comedian (he even did wardrobe changes).

Our idea for going to Cambodia was to head to the south of the country (their only beach resort) and then to head up to Siam Reap. When we went back to the hotel we asked the owner (an English guy who supports Man U) about crossing the border in Hat leak. He recommended that we take a mini bus from the island to Siam Reap as the way we were thinking would take about 3 days versus 8 hours, the price was 800 bhats and we thought that that was a good alternative to enter into Cambodia. We went into town and it turned out that the travel agent was the same man that had sold us the boat trip tickets that morning. We traded our return ticket for the ferry for 50bhats off the price of the journey. We had a lovely dinner in a restaurant at the pier called Budhaview. The place was lovely, a little bit more upmarket than the rest of the places around but the food was lovely and not too expensive. After dinner went back to the Cliffhouse, paid our bill and went to bed.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


For our visit to Thailand we broke it into two sections, Bangkok and the East followed by the South & the Islands. After the first section we headed to Cambodia & Laos before flying back into Phuket for the Southern section of the trip where amongst other things we met up with Raquel (a Spanish friend from home).
One of 3 million we saw..

The flight from India was okay, went very quickly and it was comfortable. Of course there was a lot of Indian’s on the flight and you would swear that they thought they were on the metro in New Delhi. We had 3 Indian guys (late 20’s) sitting in front of us and for the entire flight they played musical chairs. When we approached Bangkok for landing, the air hostess had done their final “we are in our final approach to Bangkok airport, please make your final check to make sure your seat is in the upright position…etc” when one of the guys decided he wanted to walk down the aisle to stretch his legs. I have never seen an air hostess move so quickly or someone so tiny pick up a grown man and slam him into his seat. All I can say is that from the 2 Air Asia flights we have taken this seems to be a standard training practice for them.

We arrived in Bangkok on time (5am local time) after 5 minutes sleep on the flight and we prepared ourselves for the visa lines and customs. We were through all of this in less time than I had to sleep on the plane. It was just so easy, I am sure if we arrived later in the day the lines would be longer, but they have the system down to a fine art. You fill out the border arrival & departure forms on the plane/bus, you hand them in, they look at you with a squint and off you go.

One thing I will point out at this stage, not once have we been asked for our yellow card (your vaccination listings) or a declaration of funds. Of course you need to have your vaccinations (well at the very least your yellow fever one the rest, well if you want to save money…). Of course one of the largest expenses for vaccinations is your Malaria tablets (we had Malarone®) what you are not told is there are 2 ways to take this.

We all know Option 1 – take it prior to entering, while you are there and for a period of time after you leave (details in on the box). Option 2 is not so well know. This option for your health is probably the best one – don’t take the medication. Okay it is not as silly as just this. The thought is that Malaria is not only a possible infection in one area, you can get it anywhere (even in Europe). The idea is prevention is better. You apply the mosquito repellant, the ones we found to work the best is a DEET based one we bought in the adventure store on Chatham Street in Dublin (DEET is the worst thing you can put on your skin, a bit like acid, but it works), a sun screen from boots with the repellant built in and an a spray can we bought in Asia. What didn’t work was a long lasting own brand one from Boots, it attracted more mosquitos than it repelled. You then keep the tablets to use if you get Malaria. Remember, mosquitos do not care about borders or where a malaria zone is and worse still none of the malaria tablets will prevent you from getting dengue fever, but they do use the same tablets to fight both sicknesses. The reason I will suggest option 2 is that you cannot find Malarone® anywhere in Asia. So if you don’t have enough when you are leaving home.. well you know the rest. We did a mix of both and so far we are okay.

But I went off on a tangent, I blame Stephen Fry. I have been reading his novel/autobiography and he kept doing this (I will try not to do this too much).

Whilst waiting for our backpacks, I got talking to an English guy who had been in Bangkok a few times before, and of course asked millions of questions. He gave us a few recommendations and we all got a taxi together into the Kohsan Road (KSR for short) area.. aka backpacker central. We ended up bumping into him a few times more, just to prove that the world is a small place. The taxi’s look like something out of ‘The fast & the furious’ all bright & glossy paint jobs, under lit and fitted with a nitro booster. As we arrived so early the motorway was clear, it was like you had arrived into heaven coming from the chaos of Delhi. It was as if they had just taken the wrapper off the city. We arrived into KSR and the taxi dropped us at the top, we got something to eat and then went in search of a place to stay. We found the cheapest accommodation in the area on our third try and they had availability as someone was just checking out. The location was ideal, just far enough away from the fun, but not too far so you could enjoy it. The guesthouse was called ‘My Guesthouse’, functional but nothing pretty to look at. When people told us about KSR they all said how crazy it is and its party non-stop. Have none of these people been to Ireland? It was a little boisterous and you can get booze 24 hours a day, but it was mild to what we had expected. The road itself is overpriced, so just go a few streets over and you’re getting drink for a fraction of the price.

Once checked in we went off to explore the city. We were trying to figure out our location on a map, when this lovely guy approached us and asked if he could help (we were looking for the white palace). He then proceeded to tell us that the palace was closed for the morning as it was the celebration of the king’s birthday and it would reopen in the afternoon. This was the start of their scam. It continues, there is the largest standing golden Buddha just a short distance from here, it should cost you no more than 30 Bhatt after this you should go to the TAT (government booking agency) as there is a 10% discount that ends today because it’s the Kings birthday celebration. Then he calls a Tuk Tuk over that unknown to you has been sitting waiting for you. The guy haggles for you and off you go. The scam is bizarre because you actually get to see something nice (for free) and you just don’t bother booking anything with TAT as its way to expensive. If someone comes up to you in Bangkok, no matter how well dressed they are, businessman, student or monk, just ignore them and keep going. They will follow you and keep talking to you, so just turn on the speaking in tongues and they will give up.

That aside we headed back to the white palace, my god the compound is huge, very shiny with lots of gold and colored glass. The only grievance I have with the site is that it does not show its age at all. Until you go to the museum (a lot of visitors don’t) and you see the work they have put into it over the last number of decades. Almost the entire compound has been replaced.

The next day we went to Wat Pho, it is famous for housing the largest reclining Buddha (It’s so big I lost Mariano going around it..). The compound here is equally as nice (& as large) as the white palace, but there is still restoration working going on so you get to see some original sections. On the way to the Wat (temple) we were accosted by a group of women giving you popcorn to throw to the pigeons. Those of you that know Mariano will understand how funny this is. It is supposed to give you good luck and of course give the women some money! We declined, so the proceeded to pour some into our hands, hide packets in the straps of our backpacks, down our shirts and so on. In the end to get rid of them I through the popcorn they had placed in my hands up in the air, the pigeons went crazy and off we ran down the street.

Later that morning we took to the river ferries and visited a few of the temples along by the river banks and went for a walk in Chinatown where we stopped to have lunch. Chinatown here, as you can imagine is very busy with lots of stalls and gold chain shops (no idea why, but in Asia the Chinatowns have huge shops selling gold chains). After lunch we went to the Golden Mount, to get to the top of this very large hill you have to climb the steps that wrap around the outside of the hill. The views from the top are amazing, whilst we were there a thunder & lighting storm hit parts of the city giving us a birds eye view as it hit some of the sky scrapers.

That night we headed to the new section of the city where all the sky scrapers, metro & sky train are. We still do not understand why one of these does not connect with the main tourist area! Our main reason for going here is to visit one of the sky bars. We went to The Long Table in Column Tower, part of Column Hotel.. of course. The views were amazing, as was the price of 2 beers. Just remember in Thailand you have 1 friend that you can always count on… 7/11, thankfully they are everywhere and never be ashamed to buy your drink from there as it is ½ the price of a bar and in Thailand you can drink anywhere (except the temples).

The next day we took it a bit easy, we went for a walk (6 hours later we sat down) and visited a temple. After this went booked accommodation in Koh Chang (Elephant Island) and had dinner in our usual restaurant (the stall at the side of the street) and had a few beers from our friend at 7/11. The next morning it was up at 5.30am to head to the bus station.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

New Delhi

It is no wonder that they named having the runs after New Delhi. The smell as you enter the city would turn your stomach. You do get used to this though and yes it does have some 'nice' parts. We arrived post commonwealth games and you can only imagine the state of the place on the run up to them.
Better than Wash Me!!

We arrived into Dehli arround 11am and took the Metro from the Old Dehli station to the New Dehli train st (lots of security and unusual token system). Crossed to the other side of the Station and a guy told us that after the blast in Varanassi the police had arrested 2 Pakistani terrorists  in the main bazaar and it was not safe, we kind of believed it cos someone working in the security of the station directed us to take a tuk tuk to Connaught place to book somewhere else from the state information center. It was a total scam because from there they only make booking for mid-range upwards... Took a tuk tuk back to main bazaar and found a place  more or less decent, the Hare Chrisna Hotel, for 500rp (after walking around and looking at places for an hour – this involved shouting and telling people where to stick things!) it did the trick.

We went back to Connaght Place, visited the gardens and went from there to the India Gate. We met a few locals that gave us tips, of course we were on edge thinking where is the scam.  One young guy who asked us where we were going and we explained, to us we were crazy that it would take an hour. We sad we didn't mind (thinking he was trying to sell us a tuk tuk ride – but true to his word it was an hour). However, we were glad that we made the walk as there was a big celebration taking place and the entire compound was lit up. From there walked to the Central Secretariat metro station (beside the parliament & presidents residence)  and went back to Main Bazar where we had a beer and snack, back to the hotel to rest but we fell sleep in the end until the next day.

First thing on Sunday morning we got up and went for breakfast, on the way they were cleaning out the underground drains and making piles around the manholes. We thought that someone else would come along and remove the waste, but no it was sort of there when we arrived back that evening (the piles were smaller from the traffic of the day). We went to visit the Lotus Temple (I discovered that the temple belongs to the Bahai faith and they tried to convert us – love using the gay card to get these people to back down), visited a Hindu temple nearby and headed to the temple across the Yamuna river, but it the queues were too long (it was sunday!) so we opted to go and see the light&sound show at the Red Fort. We didn't like it, it was only a recorded voice telling you about the history of the fort and Dehli and they were illuminating the buildings as they the narrator was talking (about 20 people left before the show had finished). The good thing was that we only had to pay 80rp to get into the Fort and realize that it wasn't really worthy to go at day time and paying another 250rp.

As the next day was Monday and many monuments were closed, we took a metro the the Central Secretariat and saw The Parliament and the government buildings, sorrounded the President's Residence, looking for the entrance to the park behind it but it turned to be a little fiasco since it was all walled and we only could visit a garden at the end of the oposite side. After visiting these gardens (not really worthy) took the metro and went to Qutar Minar, it is a long way walking from the metro st. More than 1km, saw the tower only from the outside as they were charging 250 rp to visit the complex, but apart from the tower the rest are ruins. Head back into town and had some dinner in the Main Bazar area.

Now the metro in New Delhi is something to behold. It is very new & shiny with escalators. Now this may not be a huge deal to us who have grown up not having to walk up stairs, but in India it is HUGE. This is the only part of India that has escalators and they love it, they haven't a clue about escalator etiquette and they are a little afraid of what it will do if they get trapped on it, but they love it none the less. On one trip up a old man wrapped his arms around Mariano's leg in fear that he would fall off.

To anyone who has ever been on a metro/tube/underground during rush hour imagine it 100 times worse and with everyone crowded around the doors (in fear that they will not get out) and everyone on the platform gathered 40 people deep where the doors open in fear that they will not get in. We reckon that the Irish rugby should do their training here for the World cup. You have 2 options on the metro: 1. Be polite and not push (you will stay on the metro fr the day) or 2. Be rude and push, shove, barge, shout (basically behave like a local).

After a full day on the metro we needed a lie in so we woke up latish and went to visit the temple across the Yamuna river. This time wasn't too packed but we still had to queue to leave the phone and the camera, USB stick, CD's for security checks...etc the temple is free and it is very beautiful, it is a big complex, pools, gardens (lotus shaped) the temple outside is all red sandstone carved and inside it was all marble. the only draw back is that it all looks to new, but this is minor.

From there headed back to the city center and visited the big Mosque across the red fort. Here we encountered the most unique security system in the world. Like so many tourist sites they want you to buy their postcards, so they don't allow you to bring in cameras (most charge a fee) but of course you lie and say 'no camera'. Well at this Mosque they have a deaf & dumb guy standing their and as you come close he starts screaming at the top of his voice waving his arms. We asked 'Whats his problem?' and they said 'you have cameras'. Of course we reply ' no we don't' to which he replies 'you have a camera phone & he has a camera, you can leave them here or pay the fee'. We did neither! We went to another gate that they had a lesser deaf/dumb security guy and walked in here..

We had a couple of bites in Old Dehli area and headed back to the backpacker area to pick our bags have some dinner and take a taxi to the airport (found out last minute that the metro from the New Dehli train st to the airport was not functioning yet - although they have it marked on the map!!) We only had to pay 220 rp, but of course they put a French guy on our taxi and they still charge him the same price!!
Arrived to IGI T3 (Indira Gandi International) and it was all new. Check in was awful, zero organization, a mess, just like the rest in India. Had a couple of coffees to spend the rest of our rupees and headed to the gate minus the cigarette lighter they took off Mariano even though they have smoking rooms after security checks.

At this stage we just wanted to get out of India, it wasn't that we disliked the country or that we had a bad time. On the contrary, India is an amazing experience. You will not get this experience anywhere else. They don't sugar coat anything, you can like it or lump it. The country really hardens you as a traveler and this is a good thing, if you can survive India you will get through anything. (unlike the story we heard from the two English guys in Jodhpur about an 19 year old girl traveling for her first time on her own and arrived into New Delhi and was staying at the same hostel as them and she spent 5 days locked in her room crying).

We just needed to get to civilization, away from the craziness, the noise (we lived in Temple bar, so we know noise). Plus the other side is that we needed to the beaches in Thailand. For this we were traveling on


As the train was so late we arrived to Jodhpur around 9ish and took a tuk tuk to the Clock Tower, started walking. This is more difficult than it sounds, trying to get away from tuk tu drivers and their accommodation commission is almost impossible. Not knowing where we were going exactly we were approached by a guy dressed head to foot in white (turns out he was from a hostel)  and he“fished” us from the street. It turned out to be a nice place with a terrace with amazing views to the fort. Checked in for 2 nights (cost 400 rp p night, but room was comfy and very clean). Had dinner at their restaurant, big portions, quite reasonable and fresh (every time someone ordered a dish the guy had to run to the market to get the veg – it was funny as the restaurant was on the roof you would see the ingredients arrive up the side of the building in a bucket) , browse the internet for a while (free!) and went to bed around 11 (blankets were so warm!)
The Blue City

Bright & early the next morning we went up to the Fort, price was 300 but included audio guide, which was a good value, they also were showing a lot of objects and rooms. Beautiful views of the Blue City from there. From here you really see why it is called the Blue City as most of the buildings are painted in a bright sky blue colour. Also the amount of Eagles & Vultures you see from up here is astonishing, they fly down through the city as well. On our way back down we happened upon a head shaving ceremony for young Hare Krishna monks, it was just taking place on the side of the street.

Later in the afternoon we headed down to the city center and saw the clock tower market (had a lovely saffron lassi there) and the lake and a few temples. Whilst walking through this city you really feel like you are in India, it is one of the few under developed tourist cities left.  For dinner we ventured to the hotel next door and had some dinner there and a couple of beers chatting with a mix of Europeans in the roof garden, good fun was had by all (along with a lot of beer).

After breakfast the next morning we got a tuk tuk and went to the Palace were the Maharaja still lives (the other part is a luxury hotel with 250rooms). The building was built around the late 20's and the interior are Art Deco, the architect was British. The images are brilliant and of you are an Art Deco fan have a look, but don't go to see it unless you are staying in the hotel part as you only see the 3 rooms of the museum on the tour and none of these rooms are impressive.

From there went back into the city and walked to the Fort and from there to the Mausoleum across the fort. The building was beautiful and in general very peaceful. While we were here there was a bride being escorted blind folded by her husband around the tombs as part of their wedding celebrations. This was only one of hundreds of weddings over the days we were there, the most impressive was the daughter of the Maharaja (we saw the fireworks the night we arrived and they lit up the entire city).

We decided to buy blankets for the train journey when we returned into the city and as it was as cold as expected and we didn't regret having bought them. We met this nice guy selling spices there, he offered us a tea and wasn't pushy towards us buying something from him. We sat with him for about 30 minutes while he told us the story of his shop and about saffron. They blend a tea with saffron to fight against the cold of the night (it is lovely, not as nice as the saffron Lassi though).

If you go to Jodhpur you will be told the story about Jermery Irons who apparently bought the city clean when he came to visit, pinch of salt please!

Saturday, 22 January 2011


Oh what a train journey! 

We knew that we had booked seated class, well there was only 1 class on this train. It felt like something that was used during WW2 in Poland. When we got on board the lights were not working so we got our manual torches and looked for our seat. We found them and we were not sitting near each other, luckily we had the torches because we saw the state of the seats before we sat on them. Wipes out and we cleaned the place down (Aggie would be proud of us). 
Next was the barricading of the windows so no light, but ore important no wind could come in (it didn't work). Once we had finished we the lights came on and then arrived the Chai sellers (warmth). The train departed on time and we were looking forward to getting to the Pink City (well out of the cold train at least). A really nice guy sitting next to me gave me part of his newspaper to wedge in the window to stop the wind, and so to sleep. I think i dreamt about a curry or something, When all of a sudden bang.... 
No the curry was fine, but we had just ran over a cow. Everyone got off the train to inspect the damage and all you could see were the insides all over the bottom of the train (thank god we were not on the toilet at the time).

Even with the cow killing, we arrived on time at 10ish and a tuk tuk driver drove us to this hotel (nice in the outside, with mughol paintings and little mirrors, but our room it wasn't nice at all, but it was very cheap (300 Rp p n). Had breakfast in there roof garden and went to visit the city.

We walked around the old walled town, which was a giant bazaar (fantastic experience, very little hastle and the colours are what you imagine of India). This market area is divided into   different crafts, so you just find the one that you like. Later we visited the Palace of the Winds (great from the outside, but the inside is not worth the price) and the City Palace (which was not that great, they had lovely photos at the ticket stall of the private residence but you could not see these).The ticket cost 300 rp with a combined entry for Jaigahrt Fort. The most impressive thing about the palace was the 2 large silver urns (the worlds largest according to the Guinness Book of records). We watched the city walls for sunset because this is when you see why its called the Pink city. The wash used on the walls glows pink at sunset, thats if you can see the walls/gates for all the traders. Yes you could see it turning a darker shade of pink, but nothing to write home about! Maybe a few years ago before the neon lights and tuk tuks took over it was beautiful. Now days you are more likely to be impressed by the jewelers, they are everywhere and its like walking into a Tiffany's only bigger.

We had been walking all day and realized that hadn't had any food at all. I was feeling very tired and didn't feel like having any food from streets vendors, had dinner on a restaurant on the MI rd, which turned out to be a little bit posh for our budget, the waiter tried to force us to tip him, but after paying F&B tax and vats we declined his suggestion. The evils he gave us...

The next morning we got up and left the hotel and had breakfast in a cafe (a nice coffee for a change). Were asking after Jaipur tours but we didn't do any in the end.  Took a tuk tuk to go to Jaigarhrt Fort. He drove us up to the Fort and we enjoyed it very much. Great views from there (Amber Fort, defensive walls, Jaipur city...)
On our way back we stopped at Hal Mahal (palace in the middle of a man made lake) and visited Elephant owners place, where we were petting elephants and having pictures taking with them. As it was wedding season in Jaipur the Elephants were all painted up, they looked beautiful but so sad. Then our tuk tuk driver tried to bring us into a warehouse to buy some crap but we refused (that was the catch of the 350rp ride).
After giving us abuse in Hindi he dropped us close to the zoo area and went to see the Albert Hall museum building, after that went to Yo China for some different food (our stomachs were refusing curries by now). Walked back to the hotel and went to a cyber cafe to book tickets for Jodhpur, we wanted to take a train at 2am, but we couldn't book it on the internet so we went to the Station, it was hard to find the reservation office, as indian train station workers tend to be total knobs and don't direct you properly. For that train it was not possible a booking anymore as it had been taken from the system, and ticktets only could be purchased 1hr in advance. No need to say we passed. Book a ticket for next day and a night train to Dehli for the Friday.
Went back to the hotel and had a beer in the roof garden (a big rip off 150 rp for a beer).
At our return to the room tried to have a shower ignoring all the dirt in the bathroom, but the head of the shower fell off and took 5 men and more than 1hr to fix it.

We had a light dinner – as it was almost 11pm (stomach issues!) and went to bed early.

Left the hotel around 10ish and started heading to the Station (got imodium on our way). We bumped into the Canadian guys and they were telling us about their 'tour' with a tuk tuk driver who brought them to a party in a penthouse and then the next day to this celebration with elephants, one of the guys was getting his photo taken behind the elephant and when the flash went off it disorientated the animal so it sat down – on top of him. Luckily it only caught his foot which was very bruised (lesson to be learnt here!). Our train was delayed by more than 3hrs, should have arrived at 11.40 and arrived after 14.30. While waiting for the train we met an English guy that was teaching in Darjeeling and a French couple who had just come from Nepal (turns out they were sitting next to us). Finally the train arrived and off we set for Jodhpur – the Blue city.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


After a 2 day train journey from Goa to New Delhi, a stop over in New Delhi, we got a morning train to Agra.

Agra's main attraction is the Taj Mahal, but we decided to spend a few days here and see more of the city. Lucky we did, as we arrived on a Friday and the Taj is closed for cleaning each Friday. Our room in New Delhi! When we got to the station there was the usual onslaught of Tuk-tuks looking to get your business, we got in a pre-paid one and he drove us to our Hotel Saii (with roof terrace with TM views). The Tuk-tuk was not very expensive, but tried to book us for a tour of Agra next day and we had to spend the next 30 minutes brushing him off.. After this we went for a walk in the neighbourhood, to get a real India experience.

This is the girl that wanted Mariano to adopt her

Does my bum look big in this? All the goats in Agra were wearing sweater!

This was so nice, once we got out of the main tourist area and into the local's market there was people coming up to us just to talk or asking for us to take a picture of them. We couldn't believe there was no scams. All of the kids were lovely, so sweet, one girl asked Mariano to adopt her, more were just looking for pen's for school. We spoke to one kid who worked in an inter cafe each evening after school until 1pm and he earned 1000rps per month. 200 0f this went towards his school and the rest he gave to his mother to pay his way. He was 10 years old. We decided in the afternoon to go to Agra Fort (fantastic) we took a bicycle tuk-tuk and thought the old guy would have a hernia in order to get us there. You only get to see a fraction of the fort (unless you bride a willing officer!) but what you do see is amazing. We walked back into town (30 minutes) and on our way what did we see? We really couldn't believe our eyes, Free Wifi. So we had a coffee and uploaded loads of photos. One of the great things in Agra is the number of restaurants with roof terraces, we tried few all in the name of research. They weren't very expensive the one with the best views (the waiters name is Honey!) has the cheapest beer in Agra. Here we discovered something odd, most of the restaurants hadn't beer on the menu but most announced that they had some for sale (scam we thought) until we asked about it and they said that the drinks licence was 400,000rps per year and they didn't make enough money for it. So they all hid the beer (even while you drink it – napkins around the glass, drinking from a tea pot to ceramic jars).
Agra Fort

One thing to remember about watching the Taj is that they don't have any lights on it at night. so after sunset thats it. Poof! Our second day started very earl 5am, as we wanted to see the sun rise at the Taj Mahal. This is an expensive monument to visit at 700rps for tourists, but it is worth it to get up and watch the sun rise before all the tour groups get there at 9am. Remember this it is important: Get your ticket at the West Gate and not one of the other 2. When you go in head to the east side of the Taj Mahal to get the best light for sunrise. The Taj has to been seen to be believed, but as with so many of these monuments they look even more powerful from afar. After lunch that took a bus to Fatehmar Sikri. Visited monument and palace. Monument was free of charge (mosque inside) palace 260rp. The visit is a calm within the palace in comparrison to the town itself which is mayhem. In all we spent 4 hours in Fatehmar Sikri before making it back to Agra for sunset.

Checked out from Saii and moved to Lucky's. It turned out to be a little bit of a disaster day. Walked as far as Agra Fort and visited the Mosque right behind Agra Fort Station. Crossed the river using the train bridge (just like in the movies) and started walking at the other side of the river, great views of the Fort and saw how they were doing their laundry at the river and drying their clothes. When we arrived to the monument across the river we realized we hadn't taken any money with us and had only 30 rp left. A tuk tuk driver offered us to bring us back to the hotel and pay him there (an offer we could not decline cos we had to walk back at least 11km). Arrived back to the hotel and went for lunch, order noodles chow mein, it took ages and was disgusting (noodles were like fried piece of wood and the sauce was awful) paid and went to the restaurant across the road, where we had a coffee and a lassi. Met two canadian guys and were chatting with them for a while and saw the sunset over the Taj. The room we got at lucky's turned out to be another little disaster on its own too, the window over the door didn't close and the one over the bathroom's door either. Had to ask for an extra blanket. The next morning we were up very early to get the train to Jaipur (running across train tracks, jumping the people asleep on the platform...) when we got on board the Canadian guys were there as well and off we went to the pink city.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011


There is only one reason that people go to Goa and that is for the beaches. They are considered some of the best in India and evoke a time of partying & laid back hippie love that the rest of the world has forgotten about. Unfortunately so has Goa. They seem to have decided that it is time to mix big city/resort life into the offering in Goa.
The locals off for a swim

Our journey from Mumbai by train was comfortable, we shared the bunks with a German couple who gave us a few ideas on where to stay and a Japanese guy that did say a word until we were leaving and then it was hugs and kisses! We decided to stay in Calagute as it was the largest beach and better connected with the rest of the region. The hotel we decided on was a 5 minute walk into the town and 10 minutes to the main entrance of the beach. The town of Calagute is now connected with the neighboring of Baga, which has a nicer feeling to it and more beach bars. We had expected beach life in Goa to be beach by day and party by night and we got half of what we wanted. We did head to the beach during the day time, we ended up staying at the section of beach under Baga rule as there seemed to be more life there. The sand was very nice (not hot) and the water was warm (not clear and blue, but warm even at 1am). When you enter a beach in the state of Goa you are accosted by sun lounge sellers, but in fact they don't cost a thing. However as they are all attached to a beach bar you have to eat and drink from there. The beach bars offer everything from water & food to massages, 'full service'. Once you find the one you like (this will take a long time as everyone wants your business you settle in for a nice relaxing day at the beach, WRONG... Every minute someone is coming up to you trying to sell you something... DVD's, Watermelon, banana's (try them mmmmh), t-shirts, jewelry, pineapple, catapults, lazer pens, manicures, peanuts, Bombay mix, rice cakes and so on. they never leave you alone. We spoke to one couple who decided they wanted to get away from this so they asked a tuk tuk driver to bring them to a nice, quite, beautiful beach and he did, they were the only ones on it except for the 20 beach sellers that had nothing else to do but spend their time selling to the only 2 people on the beach. So much so that when the lady started to fall asleep, one of them that was still trying to sell to her started to poke her and tell her she was falling asleep..
What we had for dinner!

We found that there were 3 main tourists types in this area, Indian, English & Russian. Of course most of the people that work in the resorts speak all of these languages. All of the menus are written in these languages and with that of course you have typo's (well at least in English) Snakes (instead of snacks), Sandwitches (well you can guess this one), and the list does go on and on.

So that was the beaches, so now to the night life. Well it was not what we expected, it was still nice but we had wanted to party on at least one night. We tried different parts of town, different parts of the beach and different towns and it seemed to be the same everywhere, subdued, focused around karaoke (now there is nothing wrong with karaoke except for the same drunk English women singing for 3 hours out of tune to the back catalogue of Mariah Carey) and then very loud techno/dance music (again nothing wrong with this normally except when you have 4 bars right beside each other playing different music all mixing into each other). One of the nice things is that all of the beach bars have tables out and they all put on a fireworks 'display' each night, some also dig fire pits and place fireworks in there so they go off at different times. We did see a few go shooting down the beach and exploding beside romantic couples out for a cuddle (nothing more i am sure) by the beach. One of the 'displays' involved them taking box of 250 fireworks and setting fire to the box, so be careful and stand well back. Some of the bars also have fire dancers as well, of course they come around with the tip jar afterwards.
Our favourite

While we are on the subject of night time a strange thing happened, although we were only there for a short while, in the entire time we did not once see the moon. Millions of stars, but no moon. It looked odd.

One of the days we decided that we should do some sightseeing (and book our train tickets) so we took the local bus to Panaji (bought the ticket on the bus), another one to Margao (had to get into a crazy Indian line to buy this one but they go once a bus is full so no real panic), one back to Panaji (same system as previous bus) and then one to old Goa (you pay this on the bus once the ticket guy has climb all over the place, this bus had all seats full (each seat took 2 people and most had 3) and the bus took 11 people standing, last count – because i couldn't see anymore there was 30 standing). Panaji is the capital of Goa and thats really all that can be said for it. Margao had a nice market, main square and a train station that has all of the trains heading north stopping at it (again that is all there is to the town). Old Goa is amazing, we loved, loved, loved here. The only thing to do is sightsee, but they are all free. There are loads of fantastic Churches and the entire site is surrounded by gardens. There was a novena and loads of people had gathered for mass, there was also a “fair” in the city and loads of people around. It was such a lovely afternoon.

We were very sad to leave Goa in the end, we would have loved to have spent more time and gone further south (however we have heard that this is much more expensive as all the big resort hotels have opened up here). But as the journey from Goa to Northern India is a main route not alone for tourism we had to take the next train available and cut out stay by 2 days.

What is Incredible about Goa, Well number 1 is Old Goa & number 2 would have to be how relaxed it was. It wasn't complete tranquility, it was just a slower pace.

The not Incredible part is the constant hassling to buy, the other that did really bother us personally, more disgusted us was some of the mens attitude towards women and the way they stared at the foreign women. We were sitting on one beach and 5 Indian's sat in front of us. To our right was these 2 Russian girls, at one stage 2 of the guys were sitting on Mariano's  sun lounger (while he was asleep) and they were staring at the girls sleeping. Of course this is not just an issue with Goa, but it was most oblivious here. You do have the usual issues, dirt etc, but as we have said before this is India.