Monday, 27 June 2016

video summary

The title is pretty self explanatory but I summarized my 4 months into a little over 4 months. The song is Happiest Man on Earth by Broken Back

Laura x

Sunday, 26 June 2016

the end

The final day has arrived and I am very sad. A lot of people seem to be ready to go home by the time their travel ends but faced with the prospect of full time work I'm not at all excited. I woke up and packed my stuff, showered and then went to get some breakfast. I had a pancake and then wandered round the island, trying (unsuccessfully) to find the beautiful beach everyone photographs which has swings in the sea. I must have got very lost as I ended up in a field of cows and palm trees with no sign of a beach for miles.

I headed back to pick up my bag from the hostel mid afternoon, said bye to the staff then headed off to get the ferry. On my way I saw the family I'd met the day before and they walked down to the harbour with me (interrupting their lunch plans) and it was very helpful having them there as I got a bit lost and they were able to get me the right directions.

Around 3 I got onto my ferry back to the mainland. It was a strangely luxurious one playing films and was very empty, though nothing can drastically improve a bumpy ferry crossing. I arrived and was transferred to a mini bus with some other people from the boat. The journey took an hour or so and I fell asleep for part of it which was good. I was the last to be dropped off and was going to the airport. My flight was at 12.05am and I arrived at the airport at 7.30pm so wasn't even allowed to check in until 9. I sat in a cafe and had some food and used the wifi and then repeated the process once I'd checked in. Fortunately we boarded at like 11 and it was a very nice flight (well as nice as an economy night flight can be). I slept quite a bit though woke for the classic 1am and 5am meals.

 I had a 3 hour stopover in Dubai then boarded my final flight to Gatwick. I did what I had feared for my final weeks and ended up crying on the plane as I was so sad to be returning. A coach journey later I was home. I definitely don't live in the worst place in the world but after everything I've seen england just seems a little average.

And so that is an end to my travels, if anyone has stuck reading this then thank you it's nice to think people are interested! These 4 months have been the best of my life thus far and I can't wait to travel again.

Laura x

Thursday, 23 June 2016

penultimate day

It's all coming to an end far too quickly! I had hoped to say goodbye to Joyce in the morning but by the me I left to go snorkelling she wasn't awake which was a shame. The short term friendships you make when travelling are quite bizarre. I got a big breakfast (the drinks the night before were too strong) and then met my snorkelling group. We went to three different places to snorkel and it was amazing seeing all the different fish and turtles up really close!! I loved it.

We stopped on one of the other islands, Gili Air, for lunch. I sat on my own looking at the menu when a girl came over and asked if I would like to join her and her family. I sat down and learned that they were from Indonesia but on holiday here. We chatted and ate lunch and they even tried to pay for me but i insisted! We returned to the boat and went for our final snorkel together before heading back. I spoke to an English couple and guy on the boat and then agreed to go for a drink with them when we got back to gili t, with plans to meet the Indonesian family for dinner. Popular times! I spent the afternoon chatting to the girl, Devon, and it's so nice talking to people who have been to the same places as you and felt the same way!

I headed back around 5.30 to shower before the sunset but ended up getting completely lost and kissing it which was a shame, but hey, I've seen plenty while travelling so can't complain! Then I honestly had one of the best nights of travelling/my life. I wandered around, booked my airport transfer and then headed to where I'd arranged to meet the Indonesian family. We got dinner at the night market and they helped me choose the food (so useful knowing what you're eating) and I had a bowl of vegetables, rice and noodles and a delicious barbecued tuna kebab. The tables are communal and were very crowded so the parents moved onto a table nearby, while me, Gabbie and Gabriel sat on a table with some Australians and a couple of guys from new Zealand. They were all very loud but fun and sociable and we spent the next few hours discussing travel, different cultures and all kinds of stuff. Gabbie told us a lot about Indonesia and I didn't realise how unaware I was! Everyone was like minded and it was just so nice to have real meaningful conversation. I started to get very tired so at 10.30 ish I said good night, everyone was waving as I walked away it was so sweet. I







went to say goodbye to the parents and tried to pay for dinner but they refused and both hugged me goodbye. People are so selfless and lovely it's honestly changed my perspective of the world!! I walked back to my room feeling happy and tired, packed up by stuff and went to bed.

Laura x
To Gili T! I checked out of my hostel and got picked up to go to gili t at 11 armed with loads of snacks. It was a one hour bus journey to the port where we had to wait for like an hour and a half for the ferry which was annoying and was then another hour and a half. I finally arrived and hadn't planned where to stay so started to wander round but it's mainly bungalows to rent.  Fortunately I spotted the name of a hostel I'd looked at online and so went to check in. The girl sharing my room was asleep ill so after showering I sat in the communal area in the garden. Pretty soon a girl appeared and we started to talk and she asked if I had plans for dinner. I didn't so we went together to the night market which has a buffet style restaurant (brought back terrible memories of food poisoning in luang prabang) but lured in by the cheap prices I filled a bowl. We sat and chatted and a couple next to us (I think they were German) also joined in. It was fun to swap travel stories and she was in a similar situation me having decided to stay out after her friends left and go to Bali alone.

We got some ice cream then headed back to our hostel where a lot of people were now in the communal area. We chatted to a girl from Colorado and decided to go out together that night and also spoke to some of the guys who worked there. At 9ish we went to a bar they'd been to before butbthe live music wasn't good so after a drink went elsewhere. Here the music was amazing and me and the first girl I met, Joyce from Holland, stayed all evening.

Laura x



Tuesday, 21 June 2016

one of my favourite days

Had such a good day! Woke up at 10 ish and had a banana pancake (the free breakfast here) which was delicious. I decided to go to the monkey forest and im still so scared of being attacked by them despite seeing them so many times! It was so funny watching them climb onto people and steal their stuff though.

Afterwards I got some lunch at a cafe, I had a really nice pepper soup and a vegetable juice made mainly of beetroots (not pleasant, had to make myself down it). Then headed to a yoga class. It was held in a large barn and it was so fun doing yoga for an hour and a half especially as it's world yoga day, I felt so relaxed by the end.







I went to get a massage afterwards which was quite odd as it was done by a man and I wasn't wearing much!! Fortunately he wasn't weird. Afterwards I got a manicure (also done by a man). It's nice that they aren't conforming to gender stereotypes!

Next I went back to the cafe of the yoga barn for some dinner. They had a large vegan menu, a lot of it raw, and i had some wild rice and boiled vegetables with a mustard dressing and some vegan ice cream which was delicious!

Afterwards i headed back to the hostel for an evening of browsing the internet and reading, talking briefly with a couple staying in my dorm.

Laura x

Bali!

I started to worry about my time in Bali as it got closer, purely because solo travelling makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. I'm not scared or initimidated, u just find eating alone and even walking alone a little uncomfortable. There's a stigma around people spending time by themselves and I'm actually very glad to be here and challenging that, because it's so freeing! I can spend the next few days exactly how I want to and it's a great way to end the trio before going back to full time work for the summer.

We landed in kuala lumpur at 7am local time and I resisted the temptation of McDonald's and had a traditional Malaysian breakfast like the ones I'd enjoyed in penang, which was a great way to start the day aside from my lack of understanding of the salt shaker resulting in a dangerous amount of seasoning covering my breakfast. But hey, it was still good.

I was very sleepy and didn't do a lot during my three hour stopover but there was a shower at the airport! Such a blessing as although I'd just been in air conditioned metros, airports and the plane I just wanted a shower so much. And I had my towel in my hand luggage so it was a win win situation!

I boarded my flight just after 10 and took my seat next to 2 Chinese women. I spent the first hour or so sleeping with my towel as a blanket. It was wet so definitely not the most comforting thing!! I then listened to music and consumed a lot of biscuits. Soon we'd landed and I collected my bag and headed to the exit where I was bombarded by taxis. The hostel I booked said that there was a shuttle bus from the airport, I enquired and was told there wasn't one. This was an airport employee but I'm pretty sure he just wanted me to use the airport taxi company!!

Faced with no other confused looking backpackers I didn't want to get a taxi alone for the long journey to ubud so I ordered an uber. This was a dangerous move as the local taxi drivers hate uber drivers and fight them if they see them so getting this uber entailed two phone calls to find a secret meeting place. I thought I should keep my wits about me in the car with a stranger, so obviously I fell asleep. Lol. Fortunately he was not a murderer and I  arrived safely at the my hostel.

After settling in I went for a wander around, bought a plug adaptor and got dinner at a restaurant. I headed back to the hostel around 8, and, determined not to be antisocial sat in the communal area. There was no one else there so I eventually gave up and went to bed, but despite the lack of socializing it was a nice day.

Laura x

Monday, 20 June 2016

My time in India has come to an end:( I'm so happy that I was able to visit and that everything went smoothly! I had such a great time here I am already planning my return. I intended to have a lie in after a series of early starts and with the prospect of an over night flight, but one of the maids was cleaning my room early, which was fine as I wasn't tired. I showered and started packing; considering I had no checked in baggage when I arrived it's pretty funny that I've now filled a large bag. Oops! I had some food and then Daniela and I walked down to the market at 11ish. I needed to get some cash out and then we got a juice and looked in some shops. I bought some henna and nail varnish to take back with me (came to a whopping 60p lol) and then we walked back. It was boiling!!

New volunteers arrive today and we met them and had some lunch, then I finished off my packing and the cook and maid helped me put my sari on. They're all so sweet I'll miss them a lot:( At 2.30 ish Daniela and I went over to the orphanage where I spent the afternoon playing with the children and talking. My fav (I love them all but he's particularly cute) made me the sweetest card. I bought some samosas and biscuits for them to have- I wanted to give them something more useful like clothes but couldn't find any. They seemed pretty happy with their samosas though! And then we took a group photo.

I went back to the house about 5 and had a very quick shower as my driver arrived at 5.15! Most people get a taxi to the airport which is about £12 but as my flight isn't until 11pm I decided to get the metro. It didn't take long and wasn't complicated (thank God!). I just kept thinking how sad I was to leave!!

I had a massive problem checking in and had to speak to like 4 different people at opposite sides of the airport but eventually made it in and got through with no problems. It's currently 9.40pm and I won't be able to post this until I have wifi in the morning but I'm waiting for my flight to kuala lumpur then Bali.

Laura x

Taj mahal and a taste of real India

I can't believe we visited the Taj mahal today!! I've wanted to see it for so long and it was a significant reason for me visiting India. the 4.45am wake up wasn't fun but was sooo worth it as by 6am I was already sweating! We got ready (the others elaborately dressed, I wish I'd had my sari!) and then got a tuk tuk the short distance to the Taj mahal. We had to walk quite a bit to get there but it wasn't busy. It was amazing!! The inside is a bit underwhelming as it's a tomb but the outside is stunning! I lost the others and sat outside for a while where i was asked for sooooooo many photos!! It's not a rarity here; we frequently get asked for photos by people on their own or with their children or family but this was crazy!Families kept appearing and at one point like 10 people were surrounding me taking photos! Most of the other volunteers refuse or see it as offensive which i kind of understand but they're not doing it rudely! A lot of them rarely see people who aren't Indian in real life and it's like a strange novelty; they're always complimentary if the comment on our appearence and I just find it funny!




We got a tuk tuk back to the hostel where we had a buffet breakfast which was nice but who really wants spicy curry at 9am?? Then we packed up, checked out and went to a café called Sheroes, owned by victims of acid burn attacks. It was an amazing place; so sad to learn of these women's past but so lovely to know that they'd turned what had happened into something positive. They were beautiful and their stories heartbreaking.

Afterwards we got a tuk tuk to a water park which was pretty far away (I somehow managed to fall asleep despite the awful road surfaces!). We went in and were immediately approached by a member of staff telling us to follow him. He told us we were to be escorted round the park by staff. The others weren't happy with this and said they wanted to go on their own, but i just thought this is obviously happening for a reason and happily obliged. All women wear a waterproof top and trousers so we weren't stared at for being exposed, but honestly everyone acted like we were celebrities. It was so, so bizarre. The men showing us round were nice and friendly but the whole thing was just so funny! There was an open slide with 3 lanes; friends were racing, going down on their fronts or backwards, but when we went we had one of our guards go first to wait at the bottom, then we were allowed single file lying down with our hands behind our heads. It was hilarious, having our own special safety procedures!

People would follow where we went; we went into a room where water came down like rain and danced to Indian music (which was so fun) but when we left so did everyone! We obtained a couple of families who were obsessed with us and posed for entire aquatic photoshoots. While it was funny it was definitely necessary to have the guides; even with the additional protection a couple of men managed to touch me under the water. The water was murky (cute) so the guards couldn't tell quickly enough but a couple of men would touch my leg as I passed them getting out of a pool. It wasn't a big deal but it was very good that the two men with us stopped anything worse happening, shouting in Hindi when they noticed. We also went into a wave pool, usually divided into male and female but not when the waves were on. A huge crowd of men circled us, seeming harmless but it was just a bit intimidating so our men helped us to leave. The park were clearly trying to keep up their reputation, giving us free drinks and offering food which was very sweet. It was just very strange and I wanted to remind everyone that we're no different to them!!

At 5.15 we got a tuk tuk back to the train station, hung out there for a bit where i bought some food for people who clearly needed it and then at 7 we got our train. It was absolutely mental. I can't even explain it and no photo shows it properly. It was so full that people were hanging oUt of the doors but no one got off so everyone was just shoving into the bursting train. We had reserved seats and someone noticed my ticket and tried to help me to move forward which was completely impossible as I couldn't physically move! We finally managed to get to our seats, separately, shouting down the train to work out where we all were! It was so full that people sat on the luggage racks and a guy was sat on my tray table which would have been fine but he wouldn't stop talking to me in English that just didn't make sense. When he asked if I was married I put my headphones in to ignore him. He wasn't a threat; he was about my age and took the hint at that point but he was just so annoying! Fortunately at one station most people got off, through the window I should add as it was too busy to get to the doors. It was great to not be so close to other people!!!


We arrived at the station about 9.30 and our driver collected us and took us home. It was such a good but busy day! I had a bit of dinner, showered then went to bed.

Laura x

Agra

Today we came to Agra! I slept through my 6am alarm; the fans are so loud that when I did wake up I thought I could just hear some gentle music, not realising it was my alarm and had been ringing for 15 minutes. I quickly got dressed and Daniela and I left to get a tuk tuk, picking up Kerri on the way. The train was not fun; it was boiling hot despite lots of fans and crowded. There were sooo many people walking down the aisle selling stuff and lots of beggars. Obviously the unsubtle colour of our skin makes us a target; people think white=money so it's generally awkward.

We arrived in Agra at 10 and got a tuk tuk to our hotel. We had nothing planned for the day and our driver did tours so we agreed to one. After an hour cooling down in our nice hotel room we went with him. Again it was boiling and every time we stopped somewhere with air con it was a blessing. We visited the mini Taj mahal which was so beautiful, made of marble and just stunning. We saw old Agra, visiting a few temples and buildings which was cool. We got lunch in a restaurant and saw the red fort from the outside. After lunch it started to get a bit suspicious and I'm pretty sure this was some kind of scam but it wasn't disastrous so hey. We were told we were seeing people making art, that it was free etc but we were essentially just going to a few shops. He was 100% getting commission for it and we went to a gem store (a classic). It was nice and the others bought pretty stuff but I was just a bit bitter at the scam. We also went to a place where they carve marble and a place where they make rugs. Both were amazing to see and as I spent no money I feel almost like I beat the scam. I win.











We got back late afternoon and went down to the restaurant for dinner which was very nice. We practised putting on kerri's sari in preparation for the morning and had an only night as our alarms were set for 4.45am (not fun)

Laura x

Friday, 17 June 2016

last day volunteering:(

We're going away on Friday morning so today was my last day volunteering! It has gone waaaay too fast and 2 weeks is definitely not long enough. I had a really good last day though and the women were being so sweet and saying that they would miss me!





Afterwards we went back to our accommodation for lunch and a bit later went info town to get some cash out. It was absolutely booking so we didn't stay long but Daniela bought a beautiful suit from a shop. We went back to the accommodation and then went for full body massages and pedicures. They were amazing, though it was a little odd being almost naked whilst being massaged by two Indian women! It was sooo cheap compared to England it was crazy; £13 for a full body one hour massage and pedicure. It was so nice and relaxing and then we had chai tea and some snacks while the nail varnish dried. Daniela had got something adjusted so we caught a rickshaw to go and collect it and had a lot of difficulty explaining to our rickshaw driver where to go as he spoke no English so we ended up asking some random girls walking past to help!

The others went to the orphanage in the evening but as they were just watching a film I stayed in to pack my stuff for a weekend away and in preparation for sunday's flight! I don't want to leave!

Laura x
I was feeling better but still not great so I didn't go to volunteering. I worked on the website which I'm making for the project instead; fun, but requires sooo much patience as the wifi is so slow! In the afternoon after the others got home and eilidh needed to go and pick up train tickets for the weekend in Delhi with some girls from the other accommodation so I went with them.

We got scammed (classic) into going to a toursist office which tried to charge over double the price but luckily the girls had researched it and knew and we eventually managed to track down the tourist desk at the train station. After buying their tickets we walked to find some food. I was planning on eating when we got back but it was already nearly 8 by this point so gave in and had dominos pizza which was amazing so I'm very glad I did! We sat there and also got delicious gelato style ice cream from a cool chain. As much as I love curry it was a welcome change!

Afterwards we went to find India gate. Previously I've relied on the metro but one of the girls was so good at navigating and had a guide book so we walked there. We found it pretty easily and it was very impressive to see, almost like India's answer to the arc de triomphe, and we walked back to the metro station (dodging a mass of people selling souvenirs, photos and even camel rides). We got back into faridabad around 11 and went to bed.

Laura x

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Today the weather was much cooler which was nice, but sadly as I'm ill I couldn't appreciate it! I went to volunteering in the morning but was just absolutely boiling and overwhelmed and ah no it was not fun. We went back at 12.30 ish and I had such an unproductive day as I felt ill and spent most of the afternoon napping. At 4 ish we went to a local market (which turned out to be shops) and had a look around and got a drink which was nice. Afterwards we got a tuk tuk back. We had been planning to go into delhi to go to ladies' night where girls got free drinks all week and I was so excited, but when it came to it I was too ill to go! I was the only one who stayed at our accommodation but I ended up being glad that I did as I was sick at like 9. The host family were sooo nice; they kept coming to check on me and ask if I wanted anything from the market or to visit a doctor which was so sweet! I went to bed really early (again!)

Laura x

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

last week in India :(

We arrived back in Delhi at about 6am, not the best start to a Monday morning. An embarrassingly hippie looking guy who was probably in his 40s slept down the aisle of the bus- he looked a bit like shaggy from scooby doo but appeared to think that he was the next Kurt Cobain. We got off and got a tuk tuk to the metro station and set off back to our acommodation. It was surprisingly busy despite being so early. We got a tuk tuk back and the others had a nap but I powered through and at 9.30 we went to volunteering. It was fun and not too hot which was nice!

In the afternoon we went to a bollywood dancing class for an hour. It was so much fun even though I'm terrible at dancing, and there were 3 tiny girls in the class who were way better than me but hey. We got a tuk tuk back in time for dinner and then had a fairly quiet evening, planning some stuff for the next day at volunteering and for our weekend at the Taj mahal before a very needed early night. It rained and we all went to stand outside which was nice as it was so refreshing. I never would have guessed that I'd miss rain!

Laura x 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Sunday in dharamshala

We woke up early ish, showered and headed to the hotel cafe for some breakfast. I had a Masala omelette and chai which were both delish! We asked about checking out and also trekking and paragliding and were told that for £32.50 each we could trek to a waterfall and go paragliding before getting our bus home. Initially Eilidh and I were hesitant as we'd planned yoga rather  than paragliding! But we agreed to do it.

We checked out and set off. Sadly there was too much traffic for us to make it to the waterfall so we started the 2 hour journey to where the paragliding took place. It was crazy driving up and around mountains. We arrived and as the weather wasn't great were told to wait and that we may not be able to do it, disappointed we got some lunch. We were on a limited time scale so I suggested that we do the 45 minute Jeep ride up the mountain and then wait for the weather there, as if it suddenly got nice when we were at the bottom we would't have time to get up. It was pretty scary as the road was narrow and passing other cars was terrifying!

Paragliding is much more calm than skydiving or anything like that, you go gently and slowly and you're sat down  with an instructor behind you. It took a little run up off the mountain edge but we all got to do it and the views were incredible!!!

Once we'd finished we drove back into town via a monastery which was cool to see. There was a bit of confusion but we boarded the night bus at 7 ish and began our journey home, including a toilet stop at a fancy hotel which turned out to have run out of running water- very unpleasant. But all in all a great day, never would have guessed I would paraglide down the Himalayas!

Laura x