A Travellerspoint blog

Rajastan, Jaisalmer

Camels and Arabian Nights.

sunny 32 °C

We arrived into Jaisalmer on the overnight sleeper train with a relatively straight forward journey. We haggled with an auto rickshaw driver to take us to our hotel. Then as if by magic, Jaisalmer appeared like a giant sand castle in the distance. It's a much more sedate place to visit than the intensity of Delhi. The pace is far more relaxed and the people are much more helpful and friendly. However, you still get the cows roaming the streets and the crazy motorbike riders.

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Along with having an arabian feel to it Jaisalmer is also famous for it's overnight camel treks into the Thar desert, just before the border of Pakistan. So as soon as we settled we managed to book ourselves onto a 1 1/2 trek.

We then spent a few hours exploring the palace in the fort. You are transformed back to the time of the Maharaja, with the free audio tour.

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The following day we sent on our camel trek, with and early start beginning with a jeep ride to get into the start of the Thar desert. We were then introduced to our Camels. Mine was Matteus, Mark's Kingfisher was not so friendly and was definitely not a morning person just like his rider.

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After the first time of the camel standing up and sitting down (with you feeling like you are going to fall off) it soon feels much more natural. We set of at a fairly slow pace and had a short ride to a village to get used the motion. We were then bambarded by children with the soon to be familiar calls for "School pen, chocolate, rupees".

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Then it was back on the camel to ride another hour to a shady tree for lunch. The camels were set free to wander, and the guys cooked a very nice lunch. Afterwards everyone relaxed in the shade until the temperature settled a bit. Then were were off again. An hour or so later we then reached the dunes where we camped for the night.

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We watched the sunset, had some more food and then sat around the campfire listening to the guys sing.
The stars were amazing. With no light they were so clear. We lay in our bed in the open watching shooting stars.

Unfortunately that night was when Delhi belly decided to hit me, not too pleasant in the desert. I got through it though and managed to ride the camel back to base the next day.

I was a bit washed out that next day so Mark went out into Jaisalmer on his own. He made friends with a really nice guy in a coffee shop, who made what Mark agreed was the best Masala Chai he'd tried. Make sure you visit
Natraj Restaurant if you are in the area. He's a great guy, and a favourite of the locals.

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When I was a bit better we explored the Jain temples before catching a train to Jodhpur.

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A word of advice, avoid booking tickets at the station there as the queue is a real headache.

Posted by blytonrtw 03:01 Archived in India Comments (0)

Delhi

A total culture shock, overwhelmed senses, extreme poverty and great food

sunny 35 °C

Well Delhi has beena massive culture shock for us both. Nothing can prepare you for the pollution that almost chokes you, the constant whiff of urine in the air and the heat.

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You can never relax here for fear of being run down by car, rickshaw (auto and pedal), motorbike or cow! We even saw an elephant going down a major dual carriageway today carrying goods somewhere.

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It is a crazy place that we will not be really sad to leave behind. It has been an interesting place to visit but we look forward to heading to some slightly calmer places in the west.

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Today we visited the Shiva temple, lotus temple, India Gate, Ghandi museum and Red fort. We hired a taxi for the day to take us around and got his services at a discounted price of just over three pounds in exchange for visiting a few shops so he could get some additional coupons ( for clothes for his children and fuel for his taxi). He was really good and took us everywhere we wanted, and the shops were right near each of the sights. It was no skin off our nose and supplemented his earnings of 2 pounds a day. The poor people are so unbelievably poor, that you can't undestand until you see it with your own eyes. Delhi is not the worst either! God know what it will be like in Mumbai where there is one of the biggest slums in India.

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Tomorrow we take our first train in India, the overnight to Jaisalmer. Hopefully it will be relatively painfree.

Posted by blytonrtw 07:23 Archived in India Comments (0)

Koh Phi Phi, and Phuket Town

Diving and chilling out

sunny 32 °C
View World Trip on blytonrtw's travel map.

We took the easy way out and took a flight to Krabi, just over an hour compared to around 12 overland.
We stayed one night in Krabi itself, long enough to organise a boat the next morning to Phi Phi.

We were picked up at 8 am and got the supposedly 9am boat (actually 9.30) over to the island. We then dropped off our bags at a dive company, recommended to us by some girls in Siem Reap, so we could walk around and find some accommodation. There are no cars/roads on Phi as it's quite small. Your options for getting around are boat or foot.
After a hot and sticky hour or two we finally found a place within our budget and availability, Gypsy Village, and went back to collect our bags.

The rest of our time on Phi Phi was spent in the water diving, chilling on a beach or looking for the best views for classic photos. Phi Phi is a beautiful Island, one of those badly affected by the Tsunami. Although a lot of work has been done to rebuild, you can see the effects in places.

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The people here were not as friendly as the people we met further north. However, we met a couple of crazy girls who worked in a bar who made up for it. All in all it was an enjoyable relaxing time and a taste of Thai island life.

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We took the first boat of the morning after our fourth night on the island, over to phuket island where we had made the decision not to go to the typical beach areas. Instead we have been staying in Phuket town, a place which really grows on you. We have really enjoyed it, the people are friendly and it gives more of a taste of real Thailand than beach areas. Our spell on Phi Phi was enough to keep us going a while.

Our Guesthouse is a gem, with lovely staff and very homely and cheap!
Tomorrow we leave to go to India, via Singapore. We are really sad to be leaving Thailand and the lovely people, it truely is the "Land of Smiles." We will definitely be back at some point!!!!!!

Posted by blytonrtw 01:53 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ankor Wat temples and some of the nicest people we've ever met.

sunny 33 °C
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Well, when Mark first suggested this big diversion from our Thailand itinerary I was not too convinced. However, I'm so glad that he persuaded me. This is probably our favourite bit of the trip right from the start of the journey.

We had to get a 6am train in Bangkok to the Thai border, a 6 hour journey. This sounded like a nightmare. However, we met two lovely Thai ladies on the train who entertained us all the way. They couldn't speak English, and we can only say hello and thank you in Thai, but somehow we managed to communicate. They kept patting our knees, and offering us Thai sweets. It was lovely. They clearly didn't want to leave us, but had to get off two stations before us.

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After leaving the train we avoided the rip off touts, and got a Tuk Tuk to the border, to be bombarded by more touts. They told us if we didn't accept their help we would never get back over. What a load of rubbish. We had thankfully been warned not to take any notice of them and just go over.

The guesthouse in Siem Reap had arranged a Taxi for us to take us there, with a guy to help us through the Visa process in Cambodia. At one point were neither in Thailand or Cambodia for about 150 meters. There is a bit of bureaucracy there. Then we got a taxi, along a road that we had been warned was really bad, and it was like a three hour ride at Alton Towers. Along the road they sell Gasoline in Pepsi bottles (with no shelter from the heat of the sun), for the cars to fill up on. Health and Safety doesn't mean anything here!

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Along the road there are mopeds with chickens, pigs and various cargo. There was also a big delivery truck which had tipped up! No one seemed to react, as if it was a usual sight. We really felt like we were travelling at this point.

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Thankfully we got there in one piece, and without me being travel sick, thanks to a great Aussie remedy I discovered on the Great Barrier Reef.

We settled into our guesthouse and arranged a Tuk Tuk to pick us up at 05:20 the next day to get the sunrise at Ankor Wat. We hadn't seen this time of day in a while.

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It was well worth it though, it was stunning.

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In fact all the temples were lovely, Bayon, Ankor Thom

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and Ta Phrom (known from the Tomb raider film).

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Our driver Chad wanted to take us to more but we were so hot and a bit fed up of the Korean groups (everyone taking photos with "the peace sign') that we retreated to the Air con at the guesthouse. We then went back out for the sunset, which wasn't as good as the sunrise.

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The Cambodian people are just the nicest people that we came have come across. Squeezing as many people onto the back of a moped is an art. Parents taking the kids to school seemed like one of the latest white knuckle rides, but was probably quite fun for the kids. They have had such a hard time, and have so little. Yet they are always friendly, have a big smile for you and are really thankful for your tourism in their country. We wanted to do so much more for them. Maybe we can later on.

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We had a day to look around the town, and returned to Bangkok the next day, reversing the journey we took to get there. We are now ready for almost anything!
However, for now the next stop are the beautiful islands in the South of Thailand. Ko Phi Phi here we come.

Posted by blytonrtw 21:41 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Chiang Mai

Cooking, elephant rides and Monk Chat

sunny 31 °C
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We arrived into Chiang Mai after a really good overnight train. We had a sleeper ticket which was so cheap, about 10 pounds each for 12 hours of journey. I'd really recommend this to people on a tight budget.

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Our guesthouse was really nice, MD in the old town. A good location!
We headed off and had some food and looked around some of the temples and treated ourselves to some pampering. I had a Thai masssage (amazing how a 7 stone Thai woman can beat you to a pulp with relative ease) while Diane had some reflexology for 1 hour cost about 3 pounds. Bargain.
That evening we hit the Night Bazaar and got some real bargains. The goods were cheaper (with bartering) and better quality than we found in Bangkok.

On the second day we went to more of the temples. They were really stunning, but our favourite was Wat Pra Singh was our favourite as it was really old, and had an area called Monk chat.

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Here you were encouraged and welcome to sit and talk to one of the monks and ask pretty much what you wanted. The monk we sat with was called Udone and was really funny, we learnt a lot about the life of a buddist monk from this. They are such friendly guys, and are not expected to be a monk for ever, they can leave at any time they want to. Really different to the religions we are used to. Its quite a tough day though. Up at 04:30 for chanting then and hours meditation. At around 06:30 they try to get food from the generosity of people. As monks don't do paid work and their robes are certainly not Levi's, money is not really top of the agenda. Eventually their day finishes around 21:00 to enjoy a much needed sleep.

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On our second full day we went on a day trek, visited a Orchid farm, a model village settlement, went on an elephant ride and finished with a bamboo raft ride. It was a really fun day. The elephant ride was hillarious, when you weren't worried that you were going to tip off the seat. The Mahood's are really mischievous (sneakily fireing catapults at us when we wern't looking) and jumped off the head and let us off on our own (of course they only had to talk and they did exactly what they wanted). We treated our elephant to a bunch of banana's at the end as a thank you. It was a real laugh. As soon as the elephant caught sight and smell of bananas controlling them became quite a task.

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We hit the market again for some last minute bargains that evening. Too much good stuff.

On our last day, before flying back to Bangkok, we did a Thai cookery course. This run by a family and was a really good day. The company is called "A lot of Thai" and we would recommend it to everyone.
We cooked about 5 dishes (Stir fry chicken with veg, Pad Thai, Thai green curry, Tom Yam hot & sour soup and Non greasy spring rolls) during the day and they tasted great. We ate our creations as we went along, and were so stuffed. The Green Curry with Chicken was divine.

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Yui, the teacher was lovely and a genius, a real people person. She also took us all for a tour of her local food market where we came across the thai equivalent of KFC. Deep fried chicken heads!
We can't wait to get back to cook for you, you'll be impressed. Although the chicken heads will definately not be on the menu.

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We really had to tear ourselves away from Chiang Mai. We really enjoyed our stay. However, our time in Thailand is short and we had to move on.

Posted by blytonrtw 21:19 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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