Inspiring Travellers – Kevin Cook

Inspiring Travellers

I have been writing a lot about my travels. I would like to tell a little more about other travellers in the world who have made entertaining and useful travel content. Here’s my feature of inspiring travellers. Recently I came across the videos of Kevin Cook. He operates a youtube channel called monkey abroad.

His Concept

Every traveller has a unique style of travelling and his is budget travelling. This is not just another budget travelling but an extreme budget of 20 dollars a day for food, accommodation & local travel in the city. In places like India, Thailand, Cambodia this is more than doable. But, what about places like Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and more? Well, he did it. Sometimes he would have gone a bit overboard his budget and yet times there was some left over money. But he proved it can be done. His love for travel had made him chose a career which would let him travel. Teaching English.

You can find his blog Monkey Abroad here. All in all his local style of travelling, has given us an insight into the little hacks, the places, the foods you can eat for as little as 20$ a day. For those of you who think travelling is expensive, think again. 20$ a day is sometimes a meal in one of the good restaurants or 2-3 drinks on a night out. Save up initially and then find something on the road. Do a workaway, couch surf and live like a true local. Experience the exotic cultures, food and much more in a country that is not home. Here’s a video of him travelling in Shanghai for 20 dollars. Read his blog and his youtube account from the links above. Finally, get inspired and start travelling.

Have other travel bloggers that inspire you to pack your bags? Let me know in the comment section about who they are and how did they inspire you.

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

I love Thailand. It is like a second home to me. I spent ridiculous amount of time travelling this country and I still feel I haven’t covered most of it. If I had to choose my favourite region it would definitely be the northern Thailand. I love the beaches and mad partying the south offers, but my ultimate favourite is the serene north. As a part of my Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand series, I would like to cover my favourite haunts in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai etc. Also, don’t forget to check out Foodie Heaven Bangkok article, to know where the best eats in Bangkok are at

Chiang Mai

My first stop for this blog would be Chiang Mai, Thailand. A location surrounded by beautiful temples on the top of the mountains and filled with friendly people. I absolutely love the architecture, the culture, the temples and the Food. The one-stop eating zone that will fill you up and not lighten your wallet is the nightmarket in Chiang Mai. There are many night markets in Chiang Mai and one of my favourite is the market opposite to Chiang Mai gate. Eat ai ua (Chiang Mai sausage), nam prik ong (chilli tomato pork dip) and kaeng khanun (jackfruit curry) and Khao Soi. As cheap as 30 baht will fill your tummy up.

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

From melt in the mouth pork to sushi, from bite sized icecream to quail egg omelette, you get everything. If you have more than two days, be sure to check out Waorat market, Cooking love, Mr.Kai restaurant. Literally, every street is filled with food. It is a pity that Thailand’s government banned street food stalls recently.

Chiang Rai

This is a gem in Thailand. Quaint little town filled with beautiful temples and a perfect stop to explore nearby mountains and the tribes. Chiang Rai market is again the go to choice for food but there are also many restaurants opposite to this market which serve up delicious food. I had a little adventure here, where I drove almost 100 kms to a place called Doi Mae Salong. On route to this place, we stopped at Choi Fong Tea Factory. What a beautiful place, tea served up right next to the gardens is one of the best experience one can have.

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

Doi Mae Salong is little tibetan community right on the border. The  beauty of the place has to be experienced.

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

Foodie Heaven Northern Thailand

Apart from the rich local cuisine, there are many more things to explore in Northern Thailand. The hippie community of Pai, The border community of Mae Sot, beautiful local tribes and hot water baths. One cannot spend enough time here.

Foodie Heaven Bangkok, Thailand – 1

Traditional Thai Blue rice and curry, Bangkok Food Thailand

Travelling encompasses of many experiences. Whether I choose an adventure, experience a local tradition or eat my heart out, It is always beautiful. The best way to travel is to eat. One can understand a country and its people a whole lot more with their cuisine and eating habits. I am here to speak about one such “eat like the locals” experience. I am speaking about Foodie Heaven Bangkok, Thailand, in this series of oncoming posts.

Thailand is a true delight for the senses. Their culture is unique and the people amicable and the places breathtaking. The one word I would use to describe are that they are pure-pledged businessmen. Owing it to the vast tourism sector, Bangkok or Thailand in general would have the largest number of street food vendors. Bangkok, The Thai capital is a foodie delight which offers world-class gastronomy and diverse cuisines. I would like to divide this series into Food in Bangkok, Food in northern Thailand, food in Southern Thailand. Later on, I will post about my 10 absolute favourite items to eat, when in Thailand.

Thai Milk Iced Tea

My favourite routine when in Bangkok is to get a chanom in the morning. Chanom or Thai Milk iced tea is a delicious concoction of condensed milk, Thai Tea and ice. One cannot not love this beauty.  Bangkok Cafe at the Suvarnabhumi airport is my absolute favourite but this can be found at the numerous street cart vendors.

Bangkok Food Thailand Bangkok Food Thailand

Another one of their delicacies is the salted fried fish. This yummy melt in your mouth deliciousness from the sea is an easy find. Go to any of the numerous markets, be it Chatuchak market or the patong market or even pratunam, you will street vendors grilling away to glory.

Boat Noodle Alley, Victory Monument

Bangkok Food Thailand, Boat Noodle Alley

Slurp, thats the word for one of Bangkok’s iconic boat noodles. After going to the victory monument, it is right under the sky train station. The boats noodles are as cheap as 8 baht per bowl. Here, you can see locals competing on who will build highest boat noodle cup tower.

Traditional Thai Blue rice and curry, Bangkok Food Thailand

If you haven’t tried thai blue rice with thai curry, you are missing out. Traditionally thai, the food in the above picture will tickle your palate. All in all, here are the things you should definitely not give a miss when in Bangkok. Go to asiatique water front, and try out their food court. From Peking Duck to the most amazing sushi, this place is a Foodie haven. Try out the food courts at the malls in Bangkok. Definitely sip on burned coconut, chrysanthemum tea, eat the amazing pork belly at the chatuchak market on the weekends. Try massaman curry, Som Tam, Pad Thai, Khao Pat and more.

Pad Thai, Bangkok Food Thailand Som Tam, Bangkok Food Thailand

Finally, try out sukhumvit Soi 38 for the night snacks and korean plaza, arabic lane, India lane for diverse cuisines.

Foodie Heaven Bangkok, Thailand

Do you have a favourite place or food to eat in Bangkok? Drop me a comment with what it is and I will definitely try out the next time I am in town.

Songkran Festival Thailand – Where to go!

Thailand has been a traveller’s paradise for over 30 years now. Years of tourism has left its toll on this beautiful country. The beaches, once pristine are riddled with plastic and paper from the tourists. The humongous forests have become thinner by the year. However, this country has the charm to attract over half a million tourists for their annual water festival combined with Thai new year. Yes, I am speaking about Songkran Festival Thailand.

For those who don’t know about Songkran, here is a small excerpt. Songkran is celebrated during the traditional Thai new year. It is important to know where to go during this festival so you can enjoy it to the maximum. Below are some of the places this beloved water festival is celebrated in all its glory.

Chiang Mai

I think Songkran in Chiang Mai is definitely the best and the wettest in Thailand. Tens and thousands of men, women and children flood the streets with their squirt guns. I wish I was here every year as a child. The buckets of ice cold water from them is a welcome respite to the summer heat in April. The never ending flow of water on each and everyone, endless party on the streets, loud blaring music and street dance makes Chiang Mai one of the best places to enjoy this festival.

Phuket

Songkran in Phuket is an ultimate street dance party with tons of ice cold water and what more, the beach is right next to it. Patong beach is already well known for its night life and raucous scene. It doesn’t take a back seat when it comes to one of Thailand’s favourite festivals. Well, If you want to try and have a look at one of the beauty pageants in Thailand, head to patong beach. Experience their miss songkran beauty pageant along with a beautiful water parade and crazy party scenes.

Ayutthaya

Thailand’s previous capital has its own royal style to celebrate this traditional festival. You can experience the traditional alms giving ceremony to 999 monks at the Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit to water splashing with none other than the mighty elephants. Finally, Thailand’s culture is truly experienced in this old heritage city.

Koh Samui

If you are heading to the south, other than Phuket you can also visit Koh Samui during the festival. The people here are quite serious about their water fights. With a mix of natives and tourists, this place is all in all fun to be.

Bangkok

Of course, the current Thailand capital is not going to take a backseat when it comes to their national festival. It has street parades to water fights to crazy parties all day and all night long.

Hello world!

A 20-something year old engineer-entrepreneur whose love for travel surpassed every other comfort and happiness money could buy. I haven’t been born with the travel gene or on an airplane. My parents never traveled to the far off lands nor did they educate me on the benefits of seeing the world. What I have is a passion to see the world. To experience the difference between various countries, regions and people before it all amalgamates into one single boring place. Now you are probably thinking there is no way this would happen, right?

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Well, think about this, few decades ago, the only way you can travel to some countries are by road or water. Few years ago, there is no onslaught of fast food on Asian countries. Coffee is traditionally made and tastes different at every place. Countries have their own traditions, clothing styles, food choices and drinking traditions which made them unique and interesting. The world we know now is not the world our parents knew. Change is always better but when I travel to a different country, I don’t want to feel at home. I want to live the local culture. I want to taste something for the first time overcoming my mental block and experience their festivals. It could be different for someone else but I am not someone else and my views are my own.

What can you expect from this blog?

I want to experience living like a local in territories that I am unfamiliar with. Join me in this beautiful journey as I walk through every street, take the local transport, eat the most delicious or well not-so-delicious local food, drink through the most amazing local drinks, experience the most touristy and not so touristy regions. Get off the beaten track from time to time and travel to a place you probably wouldn’t think of going to when in that country.

Finally,

the world is not just a unified place but is a mixture of little beautiful experiences in exotic lands with different languages and people.

A Solo Woman Travelers’ World

FC Barcelona Match in the stadium

Women are still fearful of travelling alone. There are missing out on an adventure. On this International Women’s Day, Here’s my Solo Woman Travelers’ World.

In between the hustle bustle of Barcelona, there was one solo traveler from India. She was turning 24 and never travelled alone until now. But this trip was important to her. You must be thinking its her birthday why does she want to travel alone? Is she not mentally stable? oh god! there goes another loner and a myriad of other things we often think when we are itching to judge someone.

What you don’t know and probably wouldn’t have experienced if you haven’t travelled alone is what she seeks!

Well, that her was me and that was the first time I have travelled alone. Until then, I celebrated 23 birthdays with family and friends. Every year it’s the same routine. I wanted something different that year. I wanted an experience I wouldn’t forget for a lifetime. So, I landed in Barcelona which is prepping for its famous “Festa de la merce”. I checked into my hostel right near Gaudi’s casa batllo and I had a dorm room filled with 7 strangers. I didn’t say Hi, uh-huh, that’s not how you do it, you do not say hi to strangers. The next day, I went around the city all by myself and came back to the hostel early cos I was a bit apprehensive to venture out late at night.

The day after, I woke up to a warm hello by a woman who is probably my mother’s age and a request for breakfast together. I thought “why not”, well that’s it. That “why not” is the chance I took. The chance that led me to enjoy the company of at least 10 strangers who celebrated my birthday as if they have known me for years. That “why not” led me to one of the most amazing buffets in Barcelona, on a cycle tour with two Brazilians, a concert, dinner and dance with a group of French/British/Armenian folks, A free beer cos hey that’s how one welcomes their birthday in Australia, an awesome trip to the mercato, a FC Barca vs bettys match and an impromptu dance in the festival of merce.

Why should I go out of my comfort zone to have fun with strangers you ask? Well for starters, my friends will always be there when I get back home. But these strangers gave me a life learning and a birthday that is so different from others which will make an amazing story for my future grand kids. They taught me to trust while using caution, they taught me their customs, shared their stories and I even got to see belle and sebastian perform live, “I honestly didn’t who they were, even when I was head banging like a maniac”.

This is what I am looking for! An experience. A chance to be able to trust, to be able to look after myself even at the worst circumstances, a chance to meet people who live across the world, a chance to be carefree and at the same time have the longing in my heart for my loved ones who couldn’t be there on my birthday. To return from your travel as a changed person doesn’t mean something bad. It means you now know how much your loved ones mean to you. So women of my country, travel, make friends, share your stories all while being safe and happy. Here’s to a Solo Woman Travelers’ World.

P.S. My friend is going to be super mad after seeing the featured image of the post.. Sorry Its not Real Madrid 😀

Finding your soul.. Easier said than done #travel

Find Soul Travel! Taken at the beach in Nice, France

When someone asks me why do you travel, I always point the reason to be soul searching or finding myself or some words that I have no understanding about. I am not very spiritual or worldly and I am not even sure I have an awareness of some supreme being etc. So why do I travel?

Well this tricky question has a simple answer. I travel to run away. Makes me sound cowardly isn’t it. But that’s the truth. Once the school was done, I ran away to escape the “what next” question. Because I was not sure I acquired the worldly knowledge and I don’t know what my degree exactly taught me. When I was too vexed with my work, I ran away to de-stress. I ran away to find the inspiration to go back to work, to the non-monotonous routine that will fill my already dry creative well. When things got too much at home, I ran away, so I didn’t lose my cool and unnecessarily say a word I cannot take back. I ran away to avoid the confrontation that will lead to heartbreak and give some distance that will make me realise what exactly the problem is.

There are many reasons to why I travel and it primarily boils down to one. TO COME BACK HOME.

Did you ever feel this way? Like I did. Like I can get lost in the world where no one knows me. Nurse my battle wounds and come back a winner? Did you ever soak up the sunset and realise you have an amazing life with people who love you?

I don’t travel to get away. I travel to come back home!

Sometimes road chooses the traveller

Sometimes Road Chooses Traveller, A picture from a random ride to Choi Fong Tea Factory in Chiang Rai, Thailand

In the typical human fashion, I believed that most things are controlled by me. Are they? Are we really the person who’s making the choice?

Sometimes I have this crazy thought that there is a world out there in which there are living beings who play a virtual game. They created this world called earth and each of them has an avatar/ game personality which transcends to being humans. So they play this game and all the decisions we make, incidents that happen to us, situations that were created. Am I thinking too much? Definitely but then the question remains the same.. Are we really the ones who are choosing the road..

Didn’t you ever just make an itinerary for one destination but totally changed it in the last minute because you cannot just, not take the other way? I did many a times, be it scuba diving in hua Hin instead of ko Tao, spending time in kep and kampot over sihanoukville, going to cinque terre   Or Seville or Strasbourg or Barcelona during August? It’s not planned but randomly happened and a choice made over other destinations because I cannot just not go! Have you experienced this as well? If so let’s have a chat..

Sri Lanka – Exploring the drop in the Ocean

Sri Lanka and the magical adam's peak

My trip to Sri Lanka and how it all started. When you get early to office on a Monday morning and there is no one in the floor and you are not geared up to answer the 1001 emails that are waiting for you and a 3 day holiday coming right up. What do you do.

Well, I did what I usually do. I opened up skyscanner.net and checked for tickets from Chennai to anywhere in the world in those dates and “Ting” comes Colombo with 9,000 INR as round trip on the screen. As usual, my mind goes on automation, picks up the card details and feeds in. Yup, that’s how it started. Sri Lanka has a lot to offer whether it is wildlife, mountain adventures, romantic getaways or beach bumming.

I have decided some exercise would be good to my otherwise growing waistline. So, off I go to Colombo which takes only 1 and half hours from Chennai. Actually, I landed in Sri Lanka in half the time it takes me to get to Delhi. I wonder why we pay visa fee when it is right around the corner. Then again, a different country and another stamp on your passport makes it necessary I guess. How I dream of getting a global citizenship one day where I can travel to any country without the visa hassle.

Finally getting through the immigration, I boarded a local bus that will take me to the railway station. Bus No. 187 costed me 110 LKR and is the cheapest option that sat well with my backpackers budget. Once after getting to the train station, I took the first train to Hatton and then another bus to get to Adam’s Peak or Sri Pada. Yes, you guessed it right. I was going to climb Adam’s peak in this trip. After a long journey, I reached Adam’s peak in the afternoon. 12718198_10153497584181074_3317448926248552857_n

Clouded Grand Adam’s Peak from the start of the Trek

Sri Lanka is lush with greenery all over the place, growing wild and beautiful. The people are friendly and they seem to love Indians and Indian movies. The food sort of similar in taste to what we get in India and is a bit on the spicy side. The view from the train is so mesmerising that I forgot the long hours it took me to get to my destination. In few words. “I WILL VISIT AGAIN”.

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View From the Train & the Guest House 

After checking into a beautiful guest room nestled in between tea gardens which is located 500 m from the entrance of the Adam’s peak, I explored the place, got some early dinner and went to bed early as it is a night trek. I woke up at 1 am and start my way to the starting point of the Adam’s peak.

Finally, I reached the peak after 4 strenuous hours of climbing. Huffing and puffing, wondering how that 60 year old grandma is faster than me, praying to almighty that if I fall down and break something, my mom won’t forgive him, I finally reached my destination. The trek path is well lit and is lined with food stalls and places to sit. The last one hour trek was the scariest I have had. It felt like I am going to get hit by vertigo if I look down and am holding on to the edges so tight so I will not fall down or rather roll down the hill. After reaching the top, we waited for half an hour for the sun rise. An interesting ritual of drums is performed every morning welcoming the sun here. All in all, it is one of the best sunrises I have ever seen.

Trek Trek cos the end result is awesome!

You know that idiomatic expression “legs turned to jelly”, yep I experienced it. When I am climbing down from the hill, I couldn’t stand or walk slowly as my legs are shaking. I had to run for the most part so I will not loose balance. All in all, I climbed 5400 steps, 2345 m height and can’t move by the end but was so totally worth it!

First Rays of Light

I returned to Colombo the next day. Well I am an Indian and though I might not be a Cricket fanatic, how can I miss a chance to visit the famed Cricket Club. So I hired a tuk tuk and went to the Club. The club is probably the place for cricket paraphernalia collected over the years. It hosted the autographed bats, country flags, world cups etc. Well did I mention I am not a fanatic so don’t ask me any more than this.

After that, my amazing tuk tuk driver made a deal with me. He will show me the least touristy yet most beautiful places and drop me in the airport. I had over 4 hours before I have to get to the airport and this deal made sense to me. Actually, that was a good decision as I got to see this amazing sunset over a canal.

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Finally, Sri Lanka, you have given me memories even as I am leaving. Next time when I am here, I want to explore the beaches, history, adventure sports, the culture etc. Then again, you are just a plane-hop away and I will definitely come back in the future.  Until then Istuti for all the amazing memories you left me with.

 

Panchgani – A love story set amidst strawberry fields

Panchgani - you serene beauty

Once upon a time.. Well it had been so long ago that I have to deep dive into my tiny sized brain to search for the details of this impromptu trip with my best pals. With information overload being the flavour of the season, this is a painstakingly long process :(. Still for all you guys out there who think a weekend out of Mumbai is Lonavala, this post is for you! This little mystery town filled with strawberries (I am wondering if I am being transported into my own version of Hansel & Gretel. P.S. just exchange the dessert house with strawberries) is a must! I am talking about Panchgani.

I diligently flew back to Hyderabad after a week of work in Chennai thinking of relaxing, lazing around and may be getting drunk (On life.. sheesh!). The innocent me didn’t know that my crazy set of people decided to kidnap me and drive 570+ km to Panchgani. We set out at 1 am from Hyderabad, sleeping for a bit, playing music, chilling, cracking jokes and reached panchgani by 12 noon. Guess what’s the first sight you see?

strwaberry

You guessed it! Strawberries.. everywhere and anywhere. There are strawberries, strawberries & cream, strawberry jam, squash.. you name it. We soon started driving around to find a place to stay. The problem with an impromptu visit to Panchgani during a three day weekend is.. The hotels are full. We are doomed as there is no room, no home-stay and not even a hammock available. Are we supposed to spend the night in the car? No Way! Finally Tripadvisor to our rescue. There is an eco-lodging named Terra available for rent. At the edge of a hill and with beautiful tents overlooking another hill. Though a bit on the expensive side, this was our only option. Soon after we checked in, we brought our wireless speakers out and played some amazing music as the sun started setting in the hills.

Pic: Terra Cottages and view from Terra.

After sunset, we went for a walk, away from the lights and to stargaze. Though a bit spooky, it is definitely worth it. The sky was illuminated with thousands of stars and 5 of us stood there staring in awe. The next day was spent in Panchgani. Exploring the strawberry fields etc., I won’t get into too many details. But one thing that is worth mentioning is about 500 metres walk from Terra Camp is the edge of a cliff, overlooking a dam. it is so serene and peaceful. We were the only people there. We spent quite a bit of time enjoying nature’s bounty.

Pic: View from the cliff.

Pic: Strawberry fields and ripe strawberries.

All in all, I am thankful to those who decided to kidnap me :). Though I wish we had more time here, we had to get back owing to well MONDAY!
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All in all it’s a love story set in the sweet fragrance of strawberry fields, in the beautiful mountains and the serene grasslands that makes you forget that there is this bustling world out there, an email from your boss and a work order with your name on it.