Sri Lanka, you have my heart. My soul. And my money because I spent it all on peanut butter smoothie bowls. No regrets, living on less than $10 a day is a good challenge. If you’re thinking about Sri Lanka, stop ya bloody thinking and just do it. As we were travelling in July, the east coast (represent) is where it was at for us – Nillaveli Beach, Trincomalee and Arugam Bay. Nillaveli beach was an awesome way to kick off our coastal journey, with it being very secluded we were able to warm up our pasty bodies with a little sun before we showed them to the world – there’s not a lot in terms of restaurants/other human beings here but it was perfect for our first stop. Trincomalee is much the same in terms of quietness but definitely more options when it comes to restaurants and shops. Hot tip, in this area of Sri Lanka they don’t serve rice at night so highly recommend daily carb loading. Or, if you are as lucky as we were, your hotel owner may just cook you up a Sri Lankan feast that you will tell everybody about for the foreseeable future. You will also eat so much the other people at the hotel will congratulate you, with undertones of judgement. Moving on. Our next stop quickly went from staying five nights to ten because we were just having too much dang fun – Arugam Bay. However, the fun started AFTER the six hour bus trip it took to get there and walking around in our togs at 9pm trying to find accomodation because we unknowingly booked a hell hole of a hostel. This turned into finding an incredible hotel for not that much more $$$ – if you’re travelling on a budget like we are, we’ve realised that being less of a cheapskate when it comes to accomodation is worth it, nothing beats coming back to a nice bed and air conditioning after a sweaty day. And all days are sweaty in Asia. On our second day in A-Bay (what us locals call it) we met some pretty incredible New Zealanders who we would end up playing cards, eating food and laughing with everyday. I’ll also add food poisoning to that list that we all got from a bloody donut. Who would have thought that such a delicious food would betray us like that. Obviously I’ll still be eating donuts, it’s just going to take some time. Nevertheless, super grateful for our NZ’ers. Day 10 meant onward and inland to Ella, which we splurged and got a taxi to in the event that I vomit on other bus passengers. The first day I was bed ridden but pure jealousy of my friend sight seeing brought me out of my funk and we set out to the Lipton Tea fields with our friends and hiked a hike I’m sure I wasn’t ready for but somehow made without passing out in a bed of tea leaves. Not a bad way to go. Day three meant hiking Little Adams Peak at Sunrise (must do) and day four meant hiking Ella Rock which was absolutely stunning, and I absolutely was not mentally or physically prepared for it. However, old ladies and children were doing it so maybe this says more about my physical health than it actually being very taxing. For food, deffo check out Guru Cafe, Chill Cafe and one we didn’t get to but heard great things about called Matey Hut. Heaps of different options but it’s hard to go past the classic Sri Lankan rice and curry. Next stop, Vietnam baby! And it only took a nine hour train ride to Colombo, two hour train to the airport, four hour plane to Kuala Lumpur, seven hour lay over and another four hour plane trip! Simples! Touched down in Hanoi and we already love it here. Check ya later!
~ You’ll be into this if: reading To Kill a Mockingbird in school secretly changed your life ~
I say this because, this is the only other book I’ve read that tackles small town racism in that same relatable/make-you-wanna-do-better kinda way. To Kill a Mockingbird taught me to question the system, and Jasper Jones reiterated this for me. This book is an Aussie classic that took me way too long (I’m talking years) to actually pick up, but I’m a firm believer that books come to you when you’re ready for them and I’m so glad this one did. It’s a murder mystery set in a town full of gossip and prejudice, it’s eye opening and funny and beautiful and the brilliance of the way it’s written makes me feel smarter just reading it. This book will stand the test of time in the same way that Atticus Finch will always be my one true love (right?). I can’t recommend Jasper Jones highly enough, hop to it
Boy oh boy time flies when you… forget to blog about the last four places you’ve visited. Let me catch you up. TAJ MAHAL, yep it’s totally a winner. Really, it’s some kind of surreal magic getting the first glimpse of that big beautiful dome and it’s even better if you FaceTime your parents so you get to experience it together. I can’t/won’t let myself imagine what it would be like during peak season however – already you could barely move without wondering whether someone just groped you or it’s simply just very packed. However, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a celebrity, the Taj is the perfect place to visit – I can only imagine the hundreds of photos of me there are with strangers on Facebook, and one where I am holding somebody’s baby. I highly recommend going at either sunrise or sunset – less hot, less crowded, less paparazzi. One train, one bus and about fifty tuk tuk’s later we had arrived in our much anticipated destination of Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world and about 5 degrees cooler than Rajasthan (you’d be surprised how massive this felt to us). It’s hard to explain Rishikesh without sounding like a total douche bag and saying that it just has a ‘vibe’. I can’t help but think it’s because the majority of people that visit/inhabit this place hold a similar purpose and intention for being there. All I can say for sure is that it felt different, and special (and not in the way you describe your younger sibling). Our days in Rishikesh were spent with early morning yoga followed by cafe hopping and big walks to waterfalls where being in the water had never felt so good. To be even more of a d-bag, I got a massage just ’cause I felt like it. Up until this point we had been pretty braggy about the fact our time in India was nearly over and we hadn’t got the infamous ‘Delhi Belly’ yet. So of course, we got it three days out from leaving and it hit us hard. Turns out brushing your teeth with the tap water is ALWAYS a bad idea and that your stomach doesn’t ‘climatise’ no matter how long you’ve been in the country for. Huh, good to know. Let’s just say we felt very lucky that there was no one else in our hostel room/using our bathroom (too much? I thought it might have been). Rishikesh was the perfect way to end our trip in India. We left full of experiences we couldn’t have ever imagined and the feeling that we had only just grazed the surface of this extremely vast and contrasting country. And very ready for some sand, sun and salt water goodness – whaddup Sri Lanka!
We touched down in Colombo late at night, trusted a tuk tuk driver that in hindsight we shouldn’t have, spent a night in a hotel and were straight to Kandy the next day. By straight, I mean after standing for four hours on a completely full train where every stop was a little bit of false hope that somebody would get off. No one did. At the train station we were met by Raju the tuk tuk driver who we for some reason agreed to him taking us around the next day to see the sights – Kandy is inland and renowned for its tea plantations and incredible botanical gardens. Raju was right on time the next day, 9am sharp and we honestly had such a great day. So much so that we asked Raju to come pick us up the next day to take us to the bus station. Turns out implicitly trusting a tuk tuk driver to get you to your bus on time isn’t always a good idea – or ever. We were left waiting by the side of the road, in the pouring rain while Raju was with someone he had gotten a better deal from, laughing at the silly Australian girls. If anyone ever meets Raju, please tell him we’d like to retract the reviews we gave in his book and no longer think he’s ‘such a nice guy!!!’. An hour in after hopping on a bus we merely assumed was going to our destination, my buddy decided that she really, really had to pee and we were to get off this bus immediately. I’m not talking waiting until the bus stops like civilised individuals, I’m talking we jumped out of a bus that was only partially stopped in traffic. When you gotta go you gotta go, I guess. Somehow, we ended up safely arriving in Sigiriya, famous for the ‘Lion Rock’ which has an incredible history dating back many years – I don’t know what the history is, so I suggest googling. Climbing it was bloody cool though! From the summit, you could see for miles uninhabited land with so many shades of green I didn’t even know existed. If you’re scared of heights, this one’s a doozy.
I think that’s about all you need to know for now. We’ve just arrived at our first beach and I’m about to go jump in the ocean. Baiiiii.
~ You’ll be into this if: learning about history makes you feel more aware and committed to the present ~
Or at least that’s what I tell myself – instead of the fact that I have a serious addiction to historical fiction and I need help. I just think that we can learn so much from the past by identifying and noticing patterns of what they did right or alternatively, what they did very wrong. This book ticks both categories – through the two teenagers that this story surrounds we are shown morality, sacrifice, courage and love at their very purest. And obvi through war, prejudice and hate we are shown what can happen when the wrong bloody people are in charge. This story is written so beautifully and powerfully through very succinct chapters that it almost feels kinda poetic. I would love to tell you to read this book – but I think that would be enabling an addiction? (Read it)
In classic India style, our bus from Jodhpur to Udaipur went from being a five hour journey to seven hours – remember how I told you about my butt blisters? Yeah, pretty uncomfortable ride. Also in classic Indian style, as soon as we arrived at our destination we were immediately blown away by how completely different it was from the last and how bloody beautiful it is. Udaipur is an incredibly cute town which is situated by the water (which means sea breeze HALLELUJAH) and beautiful mountains, not to mention Ayurvedic massage parlours on every corner, and you better believe we got one. Side note, if a masseuse asks if you want your ‘chest rubbed’ and you flippantly answer ‘yeah sure’ you are about to get full on fondled and as I write this I realise I am an idiot for not knowing this. Moving on. Our first taste of Udaipur came from a little roof top called the Rainbow Restaurant which had not only the most magnificent view I’ve come across in India, but the best damn food too – shout out to the Aloo Ghobi curry, you’ve changed my life. Speaking of curry, we have come to realise that three curries and rice between the two of us is far too much, but we will continue to do it again and again and feel equal amounts of shame and triumph every single time. If you’re up for a bit of shopping, Udaipur has got you covered with some seriously temping clothing, shoes and jewellery – if I didn’t have to sit on my backpack every time I had to close it, I would have shopped up a freaking storm. Sitting next to one of my most precious friends on a sunset boat ride in Udaipur is something I will never forget, as well as how genuinely happy I felt in this little town – there’s just somethin’ about it. As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end (depresso) and after just two days we were onto our next location – Pushkar baby. Let me preface with this, I had read and heard so many amazing things about Pushkar that my expectations were simply way too high – like I know you can be overwhelmed and you can be underwhelmed but can you ever just be whelmed? That’s sorta how Pushkar felt (I’ll try not to include movie quotes in every post, but no promises). However, Pushkar provided one of the most stunning sunrise mountain views I have ever been so lucky to see (even if I did think I might pass out and/or die getting to the top) as well as the most vibrant and colourful markets we’ve seen so far. We’re pretty big foodies so when we arrive at a place we usually have researched two or three spots that we want to eat at – enter the German Bakery which is ‘apparently’ a must in Pushkar. We walked a solid 45 minutes through small, sandy laneways in the search for a delicious pastry, heck we would have settled for a just alright pastry – never has googled betrayed us so much. What we found looked a lot less like a bakery and more like a scene from a horror movie just before the wandering girls get murdered in the middle of nowhere. Safe to say, the men in that tiny hut weren’t no bakers. I think lowering your expectations when it comes to travel isn’t such a bad idea, you’ll be so much more pleasantly surprised when you come upon a place that takes your breath away. We kept this in mind for our next stop, Jaipur, which was already off to a good start with a mere TWO hour bus ride which thus far has been bloody unheard of. We arrive at the Jaipur bus station to the vultures (tuk tuk drivers) surrounding us all, declaring that they are the superior choice and then proceed to try and rip us off – I can only imagine that this is what it feels like to be the bachelorette at a cocktail party, exhausted and sick of men. Our hotel is a good 20 minutes out of town but it’s super quaint and the staff are lovely – highly recommend coming to India in the off season, you don’t have to line up for anything and you’ll most likely be the only ones in the hotel. Plus sweating in 44 degrees has gotta be a good detox, right? Speaking of sweating, I sweated a heck of a lot in the Jaipur Fort which just by the way, is absolutely, beyond stunning. The rest of our time in Jaipur was spent pretty lazily to be honest, we’re freaking exhausted. But if you’re ever in town, stop by the Masala Chowk food markets – you won’t bloody regret it. Signing off now cause I’m headed to the Taj freakin’ Mahal – I’ll letcha know how it goes!
~ You’ll be into this if: you’ve got time to not be able to put a book down ~
I’m embarrassed, ashamed and more than anything, just really disappointed in myself. Why? It hurts to say but before this book, I was an Australian that had never read a Tim Winton book. I know, I want to punch myself in the face too. I’ve never read a book that was so far from the reality of my life yet felt so incredibly relatable, and I put that down to Mr. Wintons (Sir Winton? It feels like it should be) incredible story telling. This book follows the turbulent life of Jaxie Clackton, a young boy brought up in an abusive environment who wants only one thing, to get away from his father. I guess nobody ever told ol’ Jaxie to be careful what he wished for. This is a story of pure survival, and how a little bit of hope and a lot of love can keep you going in the harshest of times. Learn from my mistakes, and read this bloody Tim Winton.
It’s currently day 10 here in the big ol’ Rajasthan desert.. morale is high and aircon is as low as we can get it. So far, India isn’t like any place I’ve ever been or really, anything that I expected it to be – it’s so much more. If you, like the countless people that have asked me, are wondering why on earth I chose this destination then I’m here to tell ya, something in me just knew I had to see this place. I’ll tell you this too, very little – some would say scarily little – planning and/or research went in to this trip. Before you get the wrong idea, this is less to do with me being spontaneous and a whole lot more to do with me being lazy – it really hit me just how little planning we (my travel buddy and myself) did when we were approached three separate times at the airport with the question “are you two traveling to India alone?” followed by “wow, you’re brave”. We had the sense that we had gotten ourselves into something we weren’t entirely prepared for, but we also knew there was no backing out now. If anything was a good indicator of what our trip was going to be like it was the drive from the airport where our driver was an hour late and couldn’t turn the car back on after stopping to buy himself snacks on the way to our hotel. We quickly learned that turning to laughter instead of frustration is the only way. Our few days in Delhi were spent braving the streets (just walking on them, not living), learning how to cross the roads without getting hit by multiple tuk tuks, our first taste of real Indian curry and getting conned into every situation we possibly could. It was awesome. After saying goodbye to our hotels reception – who proceeded to add my friend on WhatsApp and ask her on a date – we met up with our tour group who we would be traveling Rajasthan with for the next 15 days. Just the 6 of us running around the desert looking for strippers and cocaine. JK, just looking for some culture. So far we’ve done some really cool things together – we’ve obvi eaten some incredible food, we’ve ridden camels in the desert, slept under the stars, had amazing conversations with our local tour guide about the cultural differences when it comes to the freedom and treatment of women and we’ve met some truly kind people along the way. There are so many incredible things about India and I’ll tell ya all about them, but what I also hope to do is share some of the realities of traveling here that aren’t exactly glamorous because I think there’s a lack of this out there amongst travel bloggers. So here ya go: I’ve never sweat so much in my life – I’m talking legs, boobs, armpits constantly wet and I only pee once a day because I sweat everything out – men are constantly staring at us and make us feel pretty uncomfortable, 19 hours on a train is about 18 hours too long and squatting on a toilet isn’t easy while the train is in motion (shoes will be pee’d on), getting your period before spending a night sleeping outside in the desert with no toilets is less than ideal (side note, couldn’t recommend a menstrual cup any higher – saved me), riding camels is cool until your butt cheeks start to blister and stray dogs are cute until they chase after you and bite your leg (if I start foaming at the mouth, we know why). India is a country of complete contrast, the wealthiest of the wealthy and the poorest of the poor live right next to each other. Sometimes this country has been exhausting and others, something that can only be described as magic. India is full of moments. Next stop, Udaipur.