Monday, 24 June 2013

Catching up with my Travel Blogging

As I recently traveled the world, exploring new things and finding myself in a typically 'gap yah' way, I did indeed continue our travel blog. However, we created a whole new blog for this union of story telling and ultimately I forgot to copy and paste our stories back over here. Oops. 
So now it is time to update you. Of course you can just check out the travel blog (named Step By Step In Asia), but I want to copy and paste for my own satisfaction so you might as well just stay here. There are so many posts, so I have decided to transfer only mine and leave Amy's where they started (sorry Amy). 

Maybe prepare yourself with a cup of tea; this might take a while! [Photos to come another day]

Wednesday 20th March 20:23 by Mamie

So we are currently enjoying refreshingly yummy mocktails with banana shami kebab and dahi ke sholey after a dip in the pool (opened especially for us) and a hot shower with white clean towels. Oh and complimentary tea, coffee and chocolate. Really hardcore backpacking basically.

Truthfully, we got a little nervous last night; the first scam has made us weary and perhaps over-paranoid but after being offered another 'package tour deal' by the Love Guru's friend and some other shady business we felt fed up, overwhelmed and unsure.

Back to the 'gap yah' experience, I may have called my Mother... "Mummyyy... Any chance you'd like to pay for us to stay in a pricey hotel tonight while we sort ourselves out and get comfortable?".

Oops.

Anyway now we are finally rolling on with our journey. Our train tickets are booked (by ourselves thank you very much all you India travel agents) and we have a good plan. Exciting times ahead and we will post soon! 


Monday 25th March 10:04 by Mamie

J(ai)B(pur)

We have just travelled from Jaipur to Udaipur and have decided to name the former as 'J(ai)B(pur)'. For those who don't know me very well, the 'JB' is short for Justin Bieber. While Amy looked forward to three months without my Justin Bieber obsession (we made a pact), I couldn't guarantee that our 19 year old tuk tuk driver, named Sharouk, wouldn't share my passion. I also couldn't predict that his tuk tuk would be pimped out with speakers that were so loud, we couldn't hear ourselves talk. I think it's safe to say that I loved Jaipur. 

I also decided in Jaipur to attempt two projects. One, an album of Amy sleeping. Two, an album of selfies with animals. So far both a cow and a monkey have agreed to participate, but who knows what next? 

This is supposed to be Amy's post, so I will now pass it over to her. Swaggy.


Saturday 30th March, 16:22, Jodhpur by Mamie

Udaipur has become "NuWuPudaipur". "Nu" because we have tried new things; we played Holi, drank special lassis and did something which I can't mention yet. Oops. "Wu" because it was one big party of colour and we made a great new group of friends ( most of whom met each other in Korea), and "Pu"- well, I'll leave Amy to explain that one. 

Now however, having just explored the beautiful Mehrangarh Fort with an audio guide that made us feel intellectual, we are sitting in a restaurant in Jodhpur, about to try a pudding called the 'Jodhpur Special Mawa Kachori'. In our attempt to try new things, I ordered the 'Makhania lassi' (biscuit lassi) but after both that and the lemon lassi in udaipur, I'm pretty sure that we're going to draw the line on lassi flavours. Mango lassi- tick. Lemon lassi? Get it away from me!

The pudding has arrived so I will finish this post now. Wish us luck. 

Tuesday 2nd April 08:58 by Mamie

In the last few hours of our eighteen hour train journey from Jaisalmer to Delhi, I finally hear the long- awaited calling of 'Chai chai chai chai' down the aisle of our carriage. Desperate not to miss our morning tea (the chai seller practically runs down the train and Amy and I haven't quite grasped how to catch his attention), I leap from the upper bunk, fall on the Indians below me and shake Amy awake for money. There. After possibly the noisiest, most uncomfortable and coldest journey of my life, I finally have my Chai Masala Tea. 

Amy tells me off for waking her up, although I know she's been after some chai as much as I have, so while she goes back to sleep I thought I'd play a little CandyCrush and post a little update. 

We are heading back into Dreaded Delhi. With our wits at the ready and my Mother's genetics, I am preparing for the bombardment of locals attempting to scam and trick us. Tuk tuk driver, you take me DIRECTLY to my hostel, understand? No, it has not closed down. No, it has not been bombed. No, I am no longer foolishly naive. 

During our trip to Delhi we will attempt to get our money back but I also hope that we can refresh our opinions of the city. I think that my hatred of Delhi is much stronger than Amy's, but perhaps with a day to actually explore the key sites and museums, we might be able to enjoy ourselves. 

After Delhi we head out of India and to Nepal for two weeks. Bungee jumping is on the cards, but we'll have to see; I don't quite see myself jumping- are they allowed to push you off?

Thursday 4th April 07:22 by Mamie

Another train, another overnight journey, although this time we have been upgraded (not sure why or how) to first class and have the luxury of curtains, space, quiet and bed sheets. Until 6am when some random Indians came rushing into our space and turned on the lights to talk to the man below me, I had a good nights sleep. Unable to fall back into my slumber I guess now I'll just have to wait for that lovely call of 'chai chai chai' down the aisle. 

This train however, is a rather exciting one. We are headed for Gorakhpur. From Gorakhpur, we move into Nepal. Goodbye (until two weeks) India and your crazy crazy country. 

Since we arrived, we have managed to appear on Indian television (celebrating Holi in Udaipur), slept in the middle of the desert under the most incredible night sky I have ever experienced, been given a lift in a Rajasthan school bus full of girls and sung 'I'm a Barbie Girl' for them, done something which I have mentioned before but still cannot name quite yet (eek) [I can now confirm that this is a nose piercing; I didn't want to shock my poor Mother], and been driven round Delhi in a police car. Don't worry, we weren't in trouble; we approached the police regarding our scam situation and have managed to get an amazing 3/4 of our money back (which took us two days and hours of arguing- where I made use of my mother's genetic)

Onwards towards our next destination. While Amy sleeps, I'll listen out for my morning tea.

Saturday 27th April, 08:22 by Mamie

We haven't posted in a while because East India offered us little in the way of wi-fi. However, I'm currently on the best train yet and though I haven't had much sleep, we actually get free chai and breakfast so I've decided to write a post. 

We're approaching Kolkata, our final destination before Thailand. We have four days so we plan to explore the Sunderbans and, crossed fingers, we hope to see a Tiger. Third time lucky!

Let me talk about our white water rafting trip down the Karnali briefly. To sum up this ten day expedition, we made some amazing friends who I think we'll still be reminiscing about for months. Amy has already discussed these guys with you but I love them so much I want to mention them too. First we have Santosh. I will never forget the mental storm we experienced and the slightly drunk Santosh holding down our tent in the extreme wind while we sat inside the tent needing to pee like there's no tomorrow. "Lona santosh!!! Are you okay? Come inside!!" "It's okay, I'm dancing!" (Please read that with a Nepali accent). Next we have Sagar, the 'Bludman', nicknamed so for being the hunter that caught and prepared our next meaty meal and just for being so damn cool ('blud', get it?). Prashant Next. The 'la' man. 'La' is a Nepali term with no exact English definition. It vaguely means, 'your go/ okay/ let's move on/ cool/ finished' and everyday you could hear Prashant, always calm and content, la-ing as he went about the campsite. He tried to teach me to Eskimo roll in a kayak but I think he was helping me more than I realised. They were essentially the three boys; our guides on the trip but ultimately our good friends who we miss so much. We loved everybody on the trip however, and I think that we were really lucky to land such great people for a long ten days. 

Moving on with India.

We have now officially been to India three times. The first on the 16th March, the second on the 22nd April and the third, ten minutes after that because we forgot to get a departure stamp at the Nepal border and had to return. We headed straight to Varanasi after stopping in Gorakpur only briefly to visit the local temple before our train journey. It was a sweet temple, interesting to explore, but Amy and I became a source of entertainment on the pedal boats which were available to hire. They didn't understand that we'd been white water rafting for ten days and were perfectly capable of peddling a boat round a tiny lake! 

Varanasi was lovely, although it's surprising to find myself using that term to describe the city where bodies come from all over the world to burn and rest in the dirtiest river there is. But it was very interesting. I learnt a lot, particularly from a friendly Japanese man whom we befriended named Kuni. Varanasi was also a hub of food. With four days left now we are intent on eating, eating, and then when we have finished that, eating a little more. I love Indian food. I love Indian sweets, Indian pudding, Indian chai, Indian thali, Indian curries, Indian chapati and everything else Indian. Thai has always been my favourite food cuisine but I think that the transition in four days will be a difficult one. 

One of my favourite places was Rajgir. I feel like I need to return there one day and I feel like I actually will. It's strange, but although we spent only half a day there, I felt a real pull to the place. I loved it. I loved the area, the surrounding mountains, spontaneous temples and shrines, various dotting monuments and ruins and I particularly loved the Japanese Santi Stupa and the caves where Buddha used to meditate. Don't laugh, but I can see myself coming back to Rajgir for maybe a month and meditating by the stupa or in those very caves. It was peaceful, beautiful, and yes, you heard right; I have started trying meditation. My first meditation was in Nepal and I loved it. It's difficult to explain but I felt, in a super cheesy and clich├ęd way, more spiritual and full of potential. I'll see how difficult this is to continue in the hustle and bustle of my house or university halls (I've accepted Leeds by the way!), but I hope to continue. I even bought some Japa mala beads. These are traditional beads used in meditation to count in time with the mantra. Each set has 108 beads: an ideal number because of its ties with the perfect number 3- a number associated with balance.

Before Rajgir we visited the oldest Buddhist university in Nalanda (Nalam means lotus flower, a symbol of knowledge, and Da means to give) and afterwards we headed to Gaya and Bodh Gaya. Gaya was pretty simple but Bodh Gaya offered dozens of Buddhist temples built by nations around the world and it was here that I had my first encounter with a monk. We actually laughed together. As in, a monk, laughed with me. We shared a moment and I laughed with a monk. I feel like my soul is spiritually blessed just from this moment and okay, you can laugh at my meditation but do not piss on my Monk experience okay? Amy later had her own encounter with two in a phone shop, although that was more like 'what are you doing here? Lona! You're monks why do you need a phone! This is so wrong!' (in her head of course). Anyway, I'm getting drawn closer and closer to the idea of Buddhism. I love the values, the teachings, the concept of Buddha and not a figurative deity, and I feel that Bodh Gaya has intensified my interest even more. We made friends with two locals who proceeded to show us around everywhere and take us to the wonderful non- touristic sites. We tried sky juice, met another in a long line of crazy but great old men, drank chai after chai, and climbed an impressive tree. Interestingly, Naranjan was a Buddhist who converted from Hinduism which I thought was cool.

Saturday 4th May 13:34
I write this final paragraph in retrospect, a week later. So... the mass eating of Indian food didn't really happen as Kolkata hit me with a horrible illness that has continued for several days. I'm now in hospital, waiting for my strength to return so that we can continue our amazing travels. 

PS. We're in Bangkok now.

Friday 10th May 10:23am, Kanchanaburi by Mamie

I don't have much to say today, but I feel that this needs to be posted. 

Amy fell out of bed this morning.

I found my eyes opening to the sight of Amy lurching off the edge of her bed. I can't forget her face of bewilderment, panic and surprise before she climbed back into bed and dozed back to sleep. Maybe it was more of a moment thing, but it was hilarious and has to be shared.

In more cultural news, we've finally begun exploring Thailand and its beauty. We've explored the town of Kanchanaburi where I have finally begun to enjoy the local food and appreciate my love of Pad Thai. Yesterday we headed out to the Erawan Waterfalls which involved a rocky but fun trek up to the seventh tier. We swam in this seventh tier which was small but beautiful, and we also decided to bathe in the fifth level for the sole reason that it had a natural slide. Later we experienced the Death Railway and the bridge over the River Kwai, famous from some film that Amy and I have yet to watch. The railway was cool but I particularly loved the small little jewellery market which I found hidden round the back. Just behind the market was a beautiful and colourful Chinese building. I think it was a temple or chapel but I wasn't sure and didn't have much time. I have found that one of the best bits when travelling is spontaneously finding these random, hidden and non-touristic areas.

That's pretty much it for today. We're now heading to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital, and then soon after that we go down South for the beaches. Exciting!

Thursday 16th May, 11:33am, Phuket, by Mamie

We've been in Phuket, a hub of trashy tourism and revolting ping pong shows, but we've had a really brilliant time here. Our first night led us to some street performers breakdancing. Putting that aside for now, we then began roaming Bangla; the road of nightclubs, bars and the part of Thailand which Amy and I really hate; the culture for Thai girls to be strippers and performers and literally sell themselves for cheap, all for the shitty tourists who encouraged this business. Anyway thats a whole chapter to itself and not something I'm going to go into. Instead, we made some friends and went clubbing at 'Seduction' which became our go-to every night following. It was here that I recognised the dancers, and perhaps a little alcohol fuelled (sorry parents!), said hello and told them about how I used to breakdance. Of course, standard, the next day we end up in a breakdancing lesson with Rain and Mikey. As embarrassing as that was, we remained friends. 

That night we watched their dance show in Seduction like groupies from the side and later were shown a cool local club. The third day was one of our favourites on this trip. They took us wake boarding and we got to properly meet the entire crew. These are their nicknames by the way, their real names are much more difficult: King, Mikey and Hsk (brothers), Rain, Porn, Extra and Twister. To put it simply, they're just really really cool. They're also through to the next round of Thailand's version of Britain's Got Talent. They're all really close and it's so cute it's almost as if it's from a movie. That night at the club there was some fierce competition. A weird (maybe French?) man attempted to impress us with some weird body rippling and locking stuff while some other men were also trying some odd moves. Our boys looked on for a while but eventually it got too much and they decided to shut them up. One second Amy and I are laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation and the next minute we're cheering on Rain who's spinning in the middle of the dance floor with some really impressive breakdancing. Boom. We felt like groupies at first but that night, went home feeling proud of 'our boys'. 

What's kind of interesting is that we can parallel the group to the Nepali boys; Sagar, Santosh, Prashant and Smiley. The Rapidrunners team is a large group of boys who have worked together for years and formed a strong bond. While we only met a couple of them, we still felt the impression of that bond and now we can compare it to that of the Thai boys. It's been really fun here, and though they invited us to watch them in the big competition in Bangkok, unfortunately we have to stay down South. We're going to miss them but good luck for their competition and maybe we'll come back to Thailand one day. 

As for the wake boarding, Amy struggled to stand up while I managed that part but got really pissed off at the corner of the cable ski. Fuck you corner. It was definitely something I'd like to try again but my body is now whacked after both that and the breakdancing. I might go find Amy now and beg for yet another massage...

Today we planned to get up at 7:30 on only a couple hours of sleep. Of course, it's now 11:30 and we're still lying in bed. We're now heading to the Ko Phi Phi island today for more beautiful beaches and sun. Wooo!

Friday 17th May, 13:18, Khao Lak by Mamie

Where are we, what are we doing?

We're in Khao Lak because a nice lady told us this is where we stay if we want to kayak in the Phang Nga Bay. Turns out we passed that 65km back and now it's raining heavily so we're stuck in this little, and expensive, town. Lets go to the beach! we said last night...

Urgh. Missing our Power Storm Crew back in Phuket. 

In more positive news, we actually spent five pounds EACH last night on a meal. It was the most amazing luxurious meal and we felt like royalty.

Tuesday 28th May, 15:39, Don Det, Laos, by Mamie

Thailand has offered little in the way of blogging and it is only now, as we begin our travels through Laos, do I think to post something. Whether this is due to an unsatisfactory lack of culture- the last temple we visited was in Ayutthaya- or a silly amount of partying and lack of sleep thereof.

I feel sad to leave the south of Thailand however. My family has always visited Europe and America so Thailand was my first taste of luxurious white beaches and beautiful little islands surrounded by clear, turquoise sea. Amy said I wouldn't tan, but I'm excitedly happy to say that I no longer appear Irish. Not quite French or Swedish, but I'm getting there. 

After we left Phuket (here I should mention that we went back and stayed a week with the Power Storm Crew, every night spent dancing away at their favorite club, 'Seduction'), we headed for the relaxing island of Koh Phi Phi. This 'recovery island' turned out to be party central. Day one and I'm winning the fire limbo and cartwheeling through fire rings; day two and I'm being carried by a local fire dancer under a 60cm fire limbo... At one point, we were told the quietest and best beach was a lovely forty minute walk away and so we began the journey, hoping that a walk and some good views would bring us back to a cultural balance. The forty minute walk was actually a sixty minute trek through the jungle where any hesitation resulted in a number of mosquito bites. Amy reached the beach with maybe eighty or more bites and in exasperation and despair having lost me at the very beginning. But let's console ourselves on how lovely the beach was.

The real recovery island was Koh Lanta where we splashed out on a resort bungalow, downed Fanta in an effort to increase our glucose and therefore energy levels, and indulged in amazing food and puddings.

The final stop in the South was the infamous Full Moon Party in Koh Phangnan. We arrived with doubt, thinking we would hate the party but come just for the experience. By eight o'clock the first evening however, we were feeling the buzz and the atmosphere and regretted our decision to scuba dive the next day because it meant an early night. The scuba diving was incredible though, and I've decided to get certified at my next opportunity. 

A nice touch to Koh Phangnan were the people we met there, both old friends and new. We bumped into Todd from our tavels in India, Eli from Nepal, Michael who was Amy's friend from London, Joe and Sarah whom we met in Ayuthaya, Max and his friends who we met and saw a lot of in Phuket and two London guys who we did a boat tour in Koh Phi Phi with. We then met three Indians and three Malaysians while diving who we got on really well with and partied with later, Leighton from New Zealand who became our roommate, and of course in true Mamie-faghag-style, I made a new gay best friend called Adam. This was just to name a few of the people we met and spent time with, but it was amazing to have such a mix of backgrounds and friends all in this one big party vibe. 

I'm going to mention now that the Full Moon Party was not as bad as the rumours say. Yes most people were very, very drunk and in typical Thailand- tourist style it was pretty crazy, but it wasn't too bad and we escaped unscathed and unscarred. Initially we were worried about our hotel room after we were told it was often broken into because it was positioned right on the main beach, but everything was okay in the end. Anyway, the burglar alarm which I constructed from Amy's rape alarm was foolproof, right? 

Now, after two days of travelling (an unbelievably hungover Amy, a very packed boat which almost sank, an overnight bus trip back to the old Khao San road and our first Thai train towards the Laos border) we are almost at San Pha Don: the four thousand islands. We have twenty one days left, and a lot to pack in. Maybe no more partying?

Wednesday 5th June 12:46, Mekong River, by Mamie

Firstly I'd like to wish my (ancient) sister a happy birthday; I hope you had a great day and I love you lots! 
Secondly, I'd like to comment on the sandwiches in Laos. We have travelled for over two months and it is clear that asia (and let's put an emphasis on India here) is unable to grasp the concept of a good sandwich. Okay maybe Thailand offers a little potential but we were so fixed on our noodle obsession plus we prefer to eat local delicacies. Laos, however, perhaps because it was part of French Indochina, is laden with baguettes and yummy fillings. I tend to opt for the traditional Laos sandwich of tofu, funny dried pork (not quite sure what to name it or how to explain it but it's yummy), egg, and various vegetables and sauces. In fact I have one ready and waiting now for lunch. 

I don't really have much else to say since Amy has covered our recent events. I'm writing this post because I'm bored only a few hours in to our two day slow-boat trip down the Mekong Delta towards Houayxai. The scenery is beautiful but I'm hanging between exhausted (two hours sleep last night because Amy wanted to go bowling; no we have not lost our culture balance) but I'm not in a sleepy mood. So here's this little post for you.

Sunday 9th June, 19:25, towards Chiang Mai, by Mamie

Today we experienced yet another pathetic fallacy. As we crossed the Mekong River from Laos into Thailand, a light but dramatic tremble of thunder and the beginning of depressing rain accompanied the beginning to the end of our trip. We're excited to finally see the north of Thailand but we're drawing in our last week and it's difficult to avoid counting the days. I have already pawed over ideas for when I reach home- tropicana orange juice, fish and chips, long-hot-scented-candlelit bath, some good TV catch up and of course some big love and cuddles with my cats and dogs; watch out Pippit- but Amy finds this frustrating and keeps asking me to stop. But, Amy, I could argue that I'm looking forward to our two hour Indian- food-filled stop off in Delhi almost just as much...

Our last three days in Laos were spent trekking, zip-lining and searching for the rare Black Crested Gibbon. We had decided to splash out on the Gibbon Experience near Houayxai, and while it was definitely expensive and overpriced, we loved every minute of it. Well, I claim this in retrospect but I'm forgetting the moments during trekking when I had to use every might of my limited willpower or ultimately crawl on all fours. However it was incredible to wake up high in a treehouse, surrounded by the rainforest, just the two of us, having survived a night of itching (to a whole new level), creepy crawlies, and stormy weather such as thunder and lightening. Zip-lining five hundred metres across a rainforest valley was truly an experience and to top it off, we actually managed to spot a Gibbon; most people we had met were unlucky and had seen none. Perhaps one of the most interesting moments was meditating in the dark, facing the large expansive valley before us. At first we turned off the light, but Amy took one glance behind at the now-dark and terrifying treehouse and decided that it wasn't happening without a little light. I also discovered on those three days that, very very amusingly, Amy cannot growl, and perhaps more disturbingly, 'Friday' by Rebecca Black has reached Laos; sigh. 

We have two hours left to this journey towards Chiang Mai and as I have generously and lovingly lent my iPod to Amy, I have only 11% of my iPhone battery left to play music so I will leave this post here. 

PS. Also very excited to come home to my friends and family...ish.

Monday 17th June, 12:46, Bangkok by Mamie

Today is our final day. As I munched on my noodle soup, feeling the effects of both the alcohol from last night and the idea that we're leaving tomorrow, it started to rain; once again with the pathetic fallacy.

Although I'm so excited to go home- in particular I'm beyond excited to see my cats and dogs- I'm also, unsurprisingly, so gutted to finish this trip. I don't care how many 'gap yah' jokes have been made, but this year has given me a lot to work for and I feel that I have gained so much out of it. At eighteen I have already begun to explore the world. I've learnt, seen and done so many things and I'm anxious not to forget a single second. I don't even want to forget the scamming incident from our first day; Buddhism teaches you to not to dwell on the past. If anything, the scam gave us an experience, an anecdote, and a well needed wake up call.

We met someone recently who attempted to find an activity which we haven't yet done, and I feel incredibly proud and blessed to have covered so much; from bungy jumping to scuba diving to tubing in caves, there's so much on my bucket list. One of the brilliant things I can say about this trip is that I have cut into a hefty part of that list. 

Amy says she regrets not being as proactive in the second half of the trip as we were in the beginning but we've had an amazing time and a surreal experience and that makes me happy. There are no strict rules on travelling, whether you're backpacking or lounging by a resort pool, who cares? It's your own experience and you will reap your own rewards.

I don't want to get over analytic but I most definitely have reaped my rewards. There is no doubt that India was the most rewarding and valuable part of the trip. It was intense but important. To sum up india, I will use the phrase that came up at least once a day; 'This is crazy'. India is truly crazy but while some say, 'I. N.ever D.o I.ndia A.gain', I want to return. I want to see more and cover the rest. Well actually, I want to cover the whole world but I'll get to that later.

As I finish writing this, I'm at home on my sofa, curled up to my beautiful dog. I'd love to continue travelling but I'm also happy to be home. I'm getting lazy with this post, but I hope you enjoyed reading the blog and until next time.