Time To Write Again

So I have been pretty busy lazy over the last few months and haven’t been writing very much at all but thought it was perfect timing to get back at it again considering I am about to embark on a two month solo trip around parts of Asia and Australia, so should hopefully have a lot to write about!

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean I’m going off to “find myself”, ending up with the mandatory travelling dreadlocks and a new “outlook” on life.

Soon I will be changing jobs, which has meant I’ve decided to take full advantage of the time I can have off between them and planned to travel to some places I couldn’t on a normal two week holiday.

My planned trip is going to take me through South East Asia including Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam then over to Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan. Then I’ll make my way to down to Australia and New Zealand for the final five or so weeks.

Australia and Japan have been top of my list of places to visit for years so being able to do both places in one trip really is amazing for me.

Hopefully I won’t be too busy lazy over the next two or three months and actually get back to writing about my plans, travel and some of the experience I’m going to have, only time will tell I guess.

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Kathmandu in Two

Having only two days in Kathmandu, it meant we had to carefully plan what we wanted to see and do before arriving.

After seeing the monkey temple in Jaipur, one thing that was high on our list was seeing the one in Katmandu as well, which I personally found even more impressive than the one in Jaipur.

Located at the top of a hill in the middle of Kathmandu, meant the monkey temple not only gave us the chance to observe the local monkeys but also offered amazing views all over the city and the Himalayas.

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At the top there were a number of Buddhist related monuments as well as some really interesting little shops and side streets, which made for some great photos!

One of my favourite things about Nepal has to be just how colourful everywhere is, colour everywhere!

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Despite how incredible the monkey temple was; what I will remember most is my friend buying an ice cream and after about 2 licks a monkey stealing it and eating it just out of reach; as if he was teasing my friend!

Sadly, unlike in Jaipur we didn’t have our “Monkey Man” protector to prevent this from happening.

Thankfully, the other monkeys were a lot less badass and left us alone.

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The highlight for all of us in Kathmandu though, was the Chandragiri cable cars.

Getting to the cable cars did take quite a while as they are a little out of the city and was slow going in the heavy traffic.

It also didn’t help having to drive on some of the worst roads I have ever seen!

Although my back wasn’t in the best of conditions after the round trip on what felt like driving on the surface of the Moon, it was definitely worth the time and effort getting there.

The views from the cable cars were incredible and on a clear day it’s possible to make out the whole of Kathmandu as well as Mount Everest and the Himalayas in the distance.

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Unfortunately the day we were there, it was quite cloudy meaning we couldn’t quite make out Everest, something we all wanted to see.

Even with the clouds though, the views were incredible and is something I will never forget. If I was made to pick three of my favourite things I did whilst in India and Nepal then this would certainly be included.

An added bonus to the trip was being able to visit the “highest bar in Kathmandu”; and of course we had to make use of this opportunity which only added to the spectacular views, something I didn’t think was possible.

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I can honestly say that this is the best view I have ever had whilst enjoying a beer.

Although we were only in Kathmandu for 48 hours it is definitely one of my favourite places I’ve had the pleasure to visit and would love to go back for a longer visit someday.

I don’t miss the roads though…

 

My ‘Bhang’ Experience

Before arriving in India we’d been told about something called “Bhang”; Bhang is used to make a “special” sort of drink which holds cultural significance in India especially for Hindus, plus the fact it gets you super high.

Bhang is made from the leaves of the female cannabis plant and is legal in certain Indian states, being sold in government approved shops.

At first the Bhang didn’t look too inviting, resembling large balls of what appeared to be sheep shit. To make consumption somewhat bearable we decided to have it mixed into orange juice, resulting in a taste sensation somewhere between rotten eggs and sour oranges.

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The Bhang took about 45 minutes to kick in, just as we began eating at a restaurant; at first the high was quite mild but slowly grew to the point where four of us were unable to control our laughter, sat in the middle of a restaurant giggling to ourselves over nothing.

It’s fair to say we got some odd looks, although the staff seemed to find it funny; maybe they knew.

The effect of the Bhang started to increase significantly just as we were finishing our food and time was really starting to slow down at this point plus I wasn’t able to make much sense of what my friends were saying.

I kind of just wanted to be back in the car at this point and in a “safe place”; although I did begin to question whether or not I would be able to walk the short distance to the car without collapsing into a heap on the floor.

Fortunately two of my friends are pretty seasoned pros when it comes to the effects of “Bhang”, so the rock solid plan I had in my head was to grab on to one of them in the event I wouldn’t make it.

I made it.

That was just the beginning though and the drive took Bhang to a whole new level. At this point I was snapping in and out of reality with some vivid hallucinations and at times couldn’t feel my legs; but in a good way… if that makes sense?

It also made me smile and laugh at almost every single thing I was witnessing out the window, and in India, there is a LOT to look at!

My two “seasoned” friends thought it would be a good idea to stop for photos , me and my other friend did not! There was zero chance that either of us would be able to get out of that car, let alone cross a busy Indian street and pose for photos!

I spent the rest of the evening passed out on the hotel bed with eyes like slits, which if I’m honest was great.

It’s safe to say that the munchies definitely kicked in for my friends, who ended up spending almost £30 on room service. which doesn’t sound like a lot, but consider the fact four of us were able to eat out most nights for less than £15…

Despite being semi-conscious for a large chunk of the night, with some mild paranoia thrown in and still being more than slightly high in the morning; I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again.

 

 

India’s “Golden Triangle”

I only found out halfway through my trip that the route we were taking for the first leg of our trip (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur) was known as the “Golden Triangle of India”; it was easy to see why it got this nickname.

Delhi

Left to fend for ourselves in Delhi for the first two days without the presence of our Indian friend (partying it up in Goa); we were a little nervous and had no idea what to expect.

Thankfully our friend had provided us with a driver, who was there to ferry us around to wherever we wanted to go in Delhi. I’ve never felt so fancy but I’m not sure I enjoyed it; maybe I’m not meant to be rich and famous.

This did mean though, that we had a stress free experience when travelling around the city, I wouldn’t want to drive the madness that are the streets of Delhi.

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This meant we were able to visit most of Delhi’s most famous sites, including the Red Fort of Delhi, India Gate, Akshardham and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, without us causing any sort of major collision.

The highlight for me was Akshardham and should be on anyones list when visiting New Delhi; sadly photos aren’t permitted whilst in the complex but it’s somewhere I will never forget…

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib was another experience I don’t think any of us will ever forget; all we knew before arriving was to expect a beautiful temple in beautiful surroundings; but what we didn’t expect was to accidentally be part of a Sikh ceremony ‘lock in’.

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We made the mistake of thinking we were going inside to have a nosey around when it soon dawned on us that we had become locked inside and were now part of the proceedings. I think it’s fair to say that three white guys stood out a little, but what an incredible thing to be a part of and witness.

Agra

We were told before visiting Agra that there wasn’t much to see apart from the Agra Fort and of course the Taj Mahal, so we decided to focus our time on visiting those two places.

The Taj Mahal was definitely one of the highlights of this trip for me.

We decided to visit in the morning just as the sun was rising to beat the crowds of tourists; which our tour guide didn’t seem too happy about as it meant he had to get out of bed a bit earlier than usual.

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The sun rising over Agra and reflecting off the Taj’s white marble is one of the most amazing things I have had to privilege to witness and is something I will never forget.

One thing I would like to forget though is our “tour” of the “Agra Marble Museum” that our guide set up for us. A place where the “ancestors of the builders of the Taj Mahal still use traditional techniques to this day, that have been passed down by each generation” to carve out marble souvenirs and ornaments.

This turned out to be an “exit through the gift shop” type scenario; a room full to the brim with overpriced tourist souvenirs that even came with a for show “ancestor”, who was “meticulously” carving out a piece of marble like his ancestors did. I’m ashamed to say that we fell for this little act, each buying an “authentic” souvenir.

We later found out on our trip that this “museum” and its souvenirs, seem to be located in every single town, village, fort and alleyway in India. This wasn’t our last experience of being hauled into shops by tour guides working for commission.

Jaipur

Jaipur is a city famous for being the “pink city”… because it’s painted pink.

Whilst in Jaipur, we were able to visit some of its most famous tourist spots including both the Amer and Jaigarh Fort, which is home to one of the world’s largest cannons.

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Despite this, the highlight for all of us was the not so well-known Hanuman Temple, better known as “Jaipur Monkey Temple”.

The temple is somewhere that not many tourists are aware exists but should definitely be on your list of places to visit in the area, it’s like something from a movie.

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We were lucky enough to be offered a chance to meet the “Monkey Man” who would show us around the temple and give us the opportunity to meet and also feed some of the local monkeys.

The “Monkey Man” turned out to be a 10-year-old boy with a few bags of chips, but he didn’t disappoint and definitely lived up to his name; managing to protect us from any “planet of the apes” type scenes with his trusty bags of Lays.

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Of course, our visit to Jaipur wouldn’t have been complete without being taken to another “marble museum” although this one was masquerading as an “ancient astrologer’s”. Luckily by this point we were immune to sales pitch, our guide wasn’t best pleased.

India’s “Golden Triangle” was an unbelievable experience and somewhere I will never forget, it was so enjoyable I wouldn’t hesitate in doing it all over again.

 

Achievement Unlocked: India

So…I survived India.

But I didn’t just survive it; I loved it and my experience was two of the most amazing weeks of my life, so as you can imagine I’m pretty depressed right now; sat at home reflecting back on those two weeks.

My trip took me through what’s known as ‘The Golden Triangle of India’ (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur), Bihar in northern India and Kerala in the south, as well as a flying visit to Kathmandu, Nepal along the way.

I was lucky enough to experience incredible India with three of my best friends and was able to experience everything it had to offer, from the amazing food and people to its spectacular history.

My journey around the Golden Triangle meant I was able to experience some of the greatest sites that India has to offer; the Red Fort of Delhi, the Amer Fort of Jaipur and of course the Taj Mahal to name just a few.

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The golden triangle was followed up by a more relaxed affair with India, experiencing my friends hometown in Bihar and the amazing back waters of Kerala.

India however, wasn’t all plain sailing and did throw up some unexpected and unplanned events along the way, some good and some bad.

Over my next few posts I am going to document my journey in more detail, including the Golden Triangle, visiting my friends hometown and of course the beautiful back waters of Kerala…

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Tomorrow: I go to India

Tomorrow: I go to India.

I can honestly say that I’ve never been more excited for a holiday in my life, but at the same time, would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little (very) nervous.

With all my previous travel destinations, I have been able to get a fairly good idea of what I can expect from a country before arriving, but with India; I have absolutely no idea. Luckily I will be going with a few close friends so I won’t be alone in the madness.

I have a number of friends at work who are from India, all of whom have offered up their pearls of wisdom and top tips, which I am obviously more than grateful for; helping to steady the nerves and also create a list so long, we definitely won’t be looking for things to do.

However, a number of horror stories have also been thrown into the mix, which haven’t helped with the nerves and are NOT on my list of things to do; I’m not sure I want to be kidnapped or forced to marry at gunpoint just yet.

Fortunately, one of my best friends is Indian and will be our unofficial “tour guide” of India; there is one downside to this however.

He follows what me and our mutual friends have affectionally named “Indian Schedule”; for the most part he is absolutely useless when it comes to having any concept of time, space or other people’s schedules, but we still love him.

The “Indian schedule” could make or break both us and this trip, but maybe it will be useful in India, who knows?

München Food

Disclaimer: Sausages feature heavily in this post.

Munich is famous for its hearty food and good beer, yet in my previous posts I have only mentioned one restaurant, but more for its history than its menu.

When I first started travelling, I used to feel a little self-conscious about eating alone; as if everyone was staring at me thinking “loser”, or feeling sorry for me as I had no one to eat with, which I guess is kind of true.

After a while though I got used to it, and a bonus in German beer halls is that after a few drinks, you’re always more than likely to start talking to the people around you.

Being in Munich for almost five days, I had to chance to visit a variety of different places and experience some great food, drink and atmospheres. I won’t be able to talk about every place I visited as there were far too many, but will pick out the places that to me were the most memorable.

Ratskeller am Marienplatz

Ratskeller was the first restaurant I ate at in Munich, conveniently located in Munich’s main square (Marienplatz).

Ratskeller isn’t just famous for its great food but also its quirky setting; located in the basement of the city’s new town hall (Neues Rathaus).

The 19th century murals, imposing stone columns and stained glass, created the perfect atmosphere to accompany my meal.

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I decided my first meal had to be as German as possible, so ordered the Grillwürstl Schmankerl. This turned out to be what was essentially a plate filled with a range of Bavarian speciality sausages, mashed potato and sauerkraut, all I can say is; I wasn’t disappointed.

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Ratskeller was a highlight for me and is a must for any food fan visiting Munich.

It was so good, I even went back…

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Hofbräuhaus am Platzl

If you’re only going to visit one beer hall in Munich, then make it this one.

Even though it’s essentially just a beer hall, the Hofbräuhaus is one of Munich’s most popular tourist attractions, and it’s easy to see why.

When I first entered Hofbräuhaus, it came across as a little bit commercialised, but I soon found that wasn’t the case (apart from the gift shop obviously). Thankfully, the hall has kept all of it traditional features, from the Oompah band and communal benches, to the giant pretzels (which are amazing).

I’m not usually a fan of dark beers, but Hofbräuhaus’ home brewed Dunkelbier was one of the best beers I sampled in Munich; in fact all of their home brews were so good I ended up having way too many of each most days.

Müncher Stubn

This was one of the few places that did feel a little less traditional than all the other places I visited but that didn’t take anything away from the food. As in Ratskeller, I again opted for the German sausage plate (surprise!).

I wasn’t feeling too great before ordering if I’m honest, as it had been quite a long day of too much sun and possibly (definitely) too much alcohol. The food here though didn’t let me down and I definitely recommend a visit!

I have to be honest though, the food here didn’t live up to what I experienced at Ratskeller, but definitely makes the list as one of the best meals I had in Munich!

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Schneider Bräuhaus

I visited Schneider Bräuhaus just before leaving Munich on the back of a recommendation from a local tour guide; they claimed this place was where the best wheat beer in Munich could be found.

Schneider Bräuhaus was definitely traditional German dining at its best with no pretence. The restaurant is full of dark wood tables and benches long enough to fit about 10 people.

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Over the previous four days, having eaten sausage with almost every meal , I decided to opt for something different, so went with the roast pork and potato dumplings instead.

The tour guide’s recommendation couldn’t have been more accurate, this place really did serve great wheat beer, and not forgetting the food too!

In my opinion, this place and Ratskeller were definitely my favourite food spots in Munich.

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