Travelogue: Rooftop ride in Thailand

Travelogue: Rooftop ride in Thailand

It’s day 4, and I’m reporting on our outings for day 3. Can’t really believe it’s been that many days already but, we are making the most of it. It’s funny that I think the two of us make for terrible tourists. Sure, we have a huge camera that hangs around his neck, and I have my bag full of ‘items’ we may need, like sunscreen, hand sanitizer, moist towelettes, lip balm, and sunnies, and my iPhone handy so I can take quick snaps of the surrounds for my ‘blog’ as I tell him. But other than this, we are the quiet travelers, not getting involved in party scene and funky bars. As much as I’d like to go sit in a pub with a nice ambience and have my one cocktail and pub food while he drinks coke (since he doesn’t do alcohol), we don’t. Like I said, the quiet tourists who would much rather look at the surrounds and enjoy the breeze than try and get it all in the lens, which sometimes means you’ve missed everything cause you were too busy looking through the lens.   

Alas, what did we do yesterday in the island we are calling home for the week, Koh Samui. It’s beautiful, it’s tropical, it has beaches dotted with resorts spilling onto them at every cove and bay, but it’s only so small and we have booked ourselves into most of the tours the travel lady could think up for the ‘quiet tourists’. We went on a safari on the island, visiting landmarks that are the main sights and must see places.

 
Our day started up with a cruise around the islands edges as our guide and driver drove us to the first stop on our list, Grandma and Grandpa rocks, that were miracles of nature and carved by wind and water. Don’t let the name fool you ladies and gentlemen, there was not much grandpa and grandma about them. As naive as I was, I was expecting a rock that looked like little old man and woman, but instead what we saw was a little on the graphic side. Funny thing is, I was so mesmerized by the coincidence of both rock formation being in around each other that I forgot to take photos for you. Instead, I took photo of the info board as we whisked away to our next location, Elephant safari. 
  
When we agreed to go see the elephants we had no idea that it included a ride on the elephants. I still feel terribly about that, but the beautiful, 15-year-old Namphoon who gave us a kind ride on her back eagerly took the bunch of bananas we gave her. My husband and I couldn’t help but give a generous tip to the Hatt of who said ‘you don’t have to but it helps us look after them’. Even if we hadn’t been told this, we would have given anyway for the gorgeous animal. 

   

    
 I’ve seen elephants before, in Nepal we also have some in the wild, and when you go to Sauraha almost every resort has one. After that we were taken to an Elephant and a Monkey Show. I really enjoyed the three baby elephants who showed us how clever they are. There was a 4 year old who was absolutely adorable. She stole the whole bunch of bananas I had for her and the others, as she wasn’t having none of the one-banana-at-a-time nonsense. M said ‘good on her’. 
What I didn’t enjoy nor liked was the Monkey Show. The poor thing was on a lease the whole time. And again, coming from Nepal, we know how clever monkeys are, so the tricks people were getting thrills out of were what they do in life. 

  

Next stop, we were taken to a waterfall, and lining the street to the waterfall were all these little eateries and souvenir shops. Really reminded me of how strips prior to going to temples in Nepal are all lined up with veneration materials and souvenir shops. When we had read the brochure for the tour it had said bring a towel, so here we were, the only two ‘newbie’ tourists who had trudged along with us a complimentary straw bag from our hotel with two towels. There was no need for that as we later found out. A 20-minute stop wasn’t going to be enough for us to take photos and then go for a swim. So instead we made use of our heavy basket and gathered few souvenirs. 
Lunch was a drive through to the top of some mountain at a mountain restaurant, with its bamboo hits and tables set on side of the cliff. Beautiful. The food was delicious as well, though I doubt our companions on the ride enjoyed it as much. They barely touched it and had almost dry rice alone. Perhaps they found it spicy as the green chicken curry did have quiet a punch to it, which we both enjoyed. Lucky for M I’ve slowly trained him over the years to tolerating a bit of chilly in his food. Nowadays he eats more Asian food than I do while at work, but that’s another story. 
Oh, we went to a truly magical place after that, called the Magic Garden. One thing I’m going to say about the trip was, though it was beautiful in many ways, it was incomplete because our guide didn’t truly give us the stories behind each place and its significance. Anyway, I’m diverting. The Magic Garden. I won’t be able to say much about it other than the fact that it was whimsical, it was a fairytale, and it had a sense of lost in time about it. 

  
Something that truly captured both our imagination, seeing how we are both storytellers in our own ways. I looked at the place from a writer-director point of view, thinking how wonderful a place to shoot a film. And M was thinking of it from his 3D- artist point of view, how he could build a place like this in his 3D format for animations. It simply was, captivating. 

     

After this, despite the sun high in the sky, our guide gave us an opportunity to ride on top of the jeep as we flew down the mountain through 15 kilometers of jungle. Though most of the road was paved, there were parts that were truly bumpy, and being on top of the jeep, we had to grip the side bars and duck down every now and then so we do not get thrashed by tree branches that brushed past us. 

  
 
Thank god for the seat belt. We stopped at the top to look at the bay and swapped with another couple who had ridden up there prior to us. We had enjoyed it so much but M and I thought it wouldn’t be fair for us to sit up there all the way. So here we thought, yay, though the scene isn’t the same we were feeling all the bumps, our guide stopped us once more and we swapped seat. There was another couple with us but because they had kids, they declined. So here we were, once more on top of the jeep, flying through the air. It was both exhilarating and exciting. If my mum had been there, she Wouk have had a panic attack. But it was fun, and something we may never do again. 

   
   
Next two stops from here were two temples, the Big Buddha and the Lady Monk. By the time we got to her, I ran out of space in my iPhone to snap any photos for you. I’ll show you these when we get back to Sydney. 

  
By the time we got back, we were tired and sweaty and to my delight a little tanned, which is hard for my legs to achieve. We fought and discussed where we should go for dinner and being tired opted for a not so lazy option of walking 200 meters up the hill to a highly recommended (by a eating guide), a bar and grill called Dr Frogs. We had our first none Thai food since our arrival. The ambience was great, the lighting perfect, the live music invigorating and the breeze welcomed. We enjoyed our meal, and I enjoyed my first ever Singapore Sling, all the way here in Thailand. We closed the day off having purchased the CD of the musician, Oliver Jones, who also happened to be Aussie. 
We came back to our hotel and while M watched magic show on TV, I fell blissfully asleep. Not a bad day at all if I say so myself. 

And again, I couldn’t help but take a shot of these cables on the main road through the town. I thought Nepal was bad. This just made M very nervous. 

  
Well, that’s a such adventure we could handle. 

The End.

 
And on the next day, rumor has it I went for a shopping spree and bought goddies. Holiday is such a hard thing! 
P.s. You will not be live how long it took me to write this post and upload all the photos I wanted to show. Alas, 8 hours later, here it is. Hope you enjoy it.

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Travelogue: Thailand

Travelogue: Thailand

I guess that’s what this is. I’m not an amateur traveller by any means, but mostly, all my travels overseas has mainly been to visit family in Nepal. The variety of locations on the way there has been to say the least, very limited. When my husband and I decided to take our first overseas travel, it’s not surprising I loved the idea. 

Here’s the thing, I love traveling. I always have. What little irrational fears about traveling, such as location, flights, food that might spell a trip to the hospital, have all paled in comparison with the whole idea of seeing new things, sights that are normally not available to me. Despite my love of travel, or rather extensive daydreaming of jet setting around the world, I do hate one thing – being tormented by ear aches and sinus pains. But, we get over hurdles don’t we? 

  
So here we are, after months of planning and waiting, we flew out to a little island in Thailand. First time for both of us here. We’re here for a fleetingly short stay. The drive from the airport to our hotel was so disorienting for me to the say the least. My tired sleep deprived mind kept searching for landmarks I recognize, and that sounds crazy doesn’t it, the fact that I’ve never been in Thailand before, yet it looked so familiar, the roads, the shops lining the narrow street, the ads of various kinds, the shopkeepers and the people around. The familiarity was so huge that I kept thinking we’ve somehow landed in an alternate version of Nepal. Yeah, sure the language is different, and the landscape lacks snow-dipped peaks that soar into the high skies, but everything else ‘feels’ like Nepal, just a more quiet version of it. I couldn’t help but take photos of things that looked familiar just so I could show my family and say ‘hey, look at this’. 

  
(A temple/shrine dotting the street; so similar to Nepal)

Today, we went to the town in the island we are staying, and it’s small. We walked down the whole strip, and I felt odd that I couldn’t read the writings nor speak the language. It really felt like I should know all this. The stalls that sold salads reminded me of ‘bhaja’ stalls or panipuri stalls in Nepal. The shops with their wares spilling out onto the narrow pedestrian walkway reminded me of Asan and Thamel, just missing people, lots of people. For those who have travelled Nepal, you will know what I mean. Like I said, disorienting to say the least. 

Tomorrow, we go for a tour around the island, sightsee its landmarks. We have our camera ready, and I’m sure tomorrow, I’ll have a harder day of telling my mind it’s not home. How bizarre. It made me wonder how many other Nepali have travelled to Thailand and felt this familiarity, this strange otherworldly déjà vu with the country. 

  
(Apparently I was quite a happy shopper according to him. Lol. Was definitely tired to say the least by dinner time.)

…to be continued…

Oh no, I left a book on the train. On purpose, of course. 

I’ve done something silly today. There I was, coming back home on the train, having had a copy of my first book on hand. And while I sat there in the jam packed carriage, top floor, by the window and crammed in, I thought why not leave the book for someone to pick up and take home. Of course, why would I do that right? I actually got to thinking how many hands a book can change. It’s like currency, isn’t it? So I kind of wanted to see if anyone who came upon the book would participate. So, I left the book, with a message on the inside for whom ever comes across it. 

I even set up a Twitter account (@solobooktravel) they can tag if anyone participates in tracing the journey of an unknown book by an unknown author. The small fish in a rather large ocean. See if it can even cause a tiny bit of wave. 

I don’t know what will come of this if any, but I’ve got nothing to loose and a weird curiosity that could be somehow satisfied. Let’s see what happens now. Lol. What can I say, I was bored on the train. 
www.twitter.com/solobooktravel

Photo travel: Nepal & India

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m finally in that state of mind to share with you some of my travel photos from my Nepal-to-India-to-Nepal trip that I took late into 2013.

Mum and I landed in Kathmandu around midday on the 16th of October, and it was a festival day, quickly dashed to my aunt’s place to dump the luggage and refresh, after which, we spent the entire day running around: to my uncle’s first on Dad’s side, where a huddle of relatives were gathered to see/greet/and celebrate with us, then ran back to an aunt’s place on my Mum’s side, then back, finally to the aunt’s where we were staying to repack our bags. Yes, I said repack. Less  than 8 hours in Kathmandu, and we were shifting through our luggage to pack a bag for a 5day trip around Nepal and a peekaboo into India to visit a temple near a border town. By the time we finally called it quits for the night, I think it might have been around midnight…only to wake up by 5AM and rush around before the 4WD picked us up.

We were heading to Simara, another city where my mum’s parents live, about 5 hours through a dangerously narrow mountain road. You can imagine my awe at the sights, but frankly, my mum probably didn’t see much of it. She clamped her hand around the handle above her head, closed her eyes and prayed that the torture would soon be over. LOL…last time we went around Nepal like this couple of years ago, she nearly bruised my uncle’s arm cause she was holding on so tight out of fear the vehicle falling off the road.

At the highest point of the road we were on, I’m not joking, I saw clouds kissing the mountain peaks just before us…

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I took this photo a couple of hours into our journey to Simara. We were already on the winding mountain pass that’s used as a two-way, but in all honesty, it should have been classed as a one-way with ‘extra gravel to the side’. No wonder mum, up ahead next to the driver refused to turn around and break her concentration at ignoring the sights.

Behind the camera, the story was worse. We were more cramped than my aunties, uncle and cousin on the seat before us. Why? Well, the genius of a driver neglected our request for a vehicle with a rack on the roof so we could tie our luggage up there. He arrived, 6 am in the morning to Kathmandu from another town, Janakpur, without our requested rack! So, me and two of my cousins, we were packed like sardines, and almost unrecognisable from the bags that engulfed us all the way to our grandparents place. Though at intervals, we were glad we had the bags to cushion some of the really hard turns and brakes the driver was making. Why?

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I don’t know if you can see the necklace of vehicles brought to a stop. Yep. We were stuck in a traffic jam of the worst kind. ON A MOUNTAIN! A narrow mountain. Why? All because a bus driver thought he’d try his luck, taking the short cut to Kathmandu through the pass that was only designed for small or personal vehicles.

Lucky for us, we saw these guys few vehicles ahead of us…boy, you should have seen how fast they cleared the blockage. The only thing I was left wondering was, why did they wait almost 40min before getting out of their car to go see what the problem was?

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Either way, mum got more and more nervous sitting in the front seat, out her door, basically all she could see was this…

DSCN0250…and decided she could no longer stay idle in the car, so instead she got out and started walking down the road, telling us she’d ‘get on’ once we catch up with her.

On our way to Simara, we stopped by their cousin’s place for lunch, and then vamoosed by the afternoon.

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This little bub was the family’s grandchild, and the whole time we were there, he kept running out the door, they’d bring him in, and then he’d run out the other door. It was very cute. Until the moment he thought my Nikon was a toy  and decided he wanted it. Curse of being a gorgeous red colour. Anyway, he chased me around the room, eventually found me sitting down (in the psychedelic pants), and came over, telling me off in his baby tongue till his dad called him to stop. LOL. My camera survived to take many more pictures!

Once back in the cramped vehicle, we drove for another hour or so, into my mum’s grandparents’ old village, where her uncle still lived in the old family home. I was excited! Why? You’ll see by the photos below.

I had only ever been to Makwanpur as a kid of 6-7 with mum and one of my sisters. Back then, the village was sparsely populated, trees everywhere, dust path where bull carts travelled, vast farmed plains on the foothills of mountains etc. and where the toilets stood separate from the houses in long drops, and at before night fall, everyone were indoors cause of tigers that would roam at night. So, I was really excited to see these rustic pieces of old life, and to take photos to show you a part of Nepal very few get to see. The simple, yet rich lives these fantastic people lead…

The following photos were taken of and around my great uncle’s home. The one I had visited as a kid once…

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The shed where they cows and the goats were herded to/or rested. And the upstairs where extra grains/corn and hay was kept. A large basin of concrete filled with water for them.

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DSCN0297The wonderful house in a wonderful location. What can I say, the lowering sun on the horizon made it look even more mythical, even more magical.DSCN0295

This was the journey of a day, with multiple stops, and magical places, and meaningful people met. Sometimes, in the fast paced life of cities and what we call developed places, we forget how beautiful nature is, how resourceful people can truly be. After visiting this family home, we drove back in the dusk of the falling day to Simara, and finally to my grandparents’ place…to rest and do it all over again the next day.

I’ll leave you with a photo that will have you wondering what I am showing you…

DSCN0308 What is it? you’re wondering.

It is a bowl, made of leaves, held together by small dry stick of tall grasses, and yes, they use it to serve food in, especially in villages on occasions such as festivals, weddings etc. The resourceful ladies make plates and bowls of natural material, that saves them not only hard-earned cash, but is really respectful of the environment. Something I really regret in our modern packaged world.

It’s always been a humble experience for me, going back to Nepal. Refreshing every now and then, where I am truly from, and to take pride in some of it ways.

Till the next episode…Be well, stay well, and dream.

 

This is Life

Come close
I’ll tell you a little secret
about life
the strange and the beautiful
the joys and the pain
that cripples
till you double up
in laughter or in tears
and it takes no mercy
no favors in light
whether you love it or despise
it will move on
move you on
through forest greens
or grass dry and thorny
or the parching deserts that relentlessly stares
you down to the bone
and asks
‘What brings you?’
till the voice fades on its echo
and you no longer know
that life has brought you
full circle
to realise just how far you’ve come.

There, that is it,
simple
uncomplicated
and lackluster.
This is life
singing its beat
from beginning to an end
no rhythm
no words
no street signs
just a beat
your two feet
and the ground beneath.

This is life.

Peanut Man – training in India

Peanut Man – training in India

On our way back to Nepal via the state of Bihar on a sleeper carriage. We had loads of sights to see. Amongst it was a line of vendors boarding the train at a station for 20 minutes whiles awaiting signal, was this man selling two types of peanuts, flavored and plain.

Some other vendor carried fresh pea fried, comic books, boiled eggs, sweets, etc, but alas, none carried any water! We were desperate for water!

Moral of this story, carry plenty of mineral water with you if you choose to travel on these long train rides. We ran out!