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Sunday, 01 January 2017

Iceland by Van

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Five weeks in Iceland – “That's going to be expensive” people said to me. It depends. I woke up and looked behind the curtain, clear blue sky. Yesterday had been cold and grey all day, I find blue sky exciting. I looked at my clock – 08:07, time to get up. The waterfall I'd seen up the road yesterday would look even better in the sun so by 08:20 I was ready to leave (ready to leave = dressed. Everything else is optional) I got to the waterfall and although there were people there it wasn't too busy so I was able to have a good walk around and take some photos. I needed breakfast so I left the tourist car park and stopped a couple of miles up the road to cook myself an omelette - my standard breakfast so far this trip. Since it was sunny, I wanted…
I woke up at 3:45 AM at my budget hotel in Kadiköy, Istanbul’s trendy Asian counterpart, and ran down the block to catch the first HAVATAS shuttle of the day at 4:15 AM to Sabiha Gökçen International Airport. In my attempt to spend as much time in as many cities during my limited time in Turkey (part of a much larger Middle East voyage), and most importantly to do so on a college student’s budget, such daily start times were not uncommon – they were Pegasus Airlines’ cheapest seats. Prior to arrival in Van, one of the largest cities in Turkey’s Kurdish far east, I compiled only a handful of items on my touristy checklist, as most tour guides left this area off their table of contents, so it seemed it would be one of the simplest agendas of my travels. After landing in Van, I boarded a local minibus,…
Saturday, 31 October 2015

Cochin, India

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The two halves of Kochi, India’s tourist draw in Kerala State – God’s Own Country as the street signs remind you – are so violently different, it’s no surprise that it takes not one but two bridges to keep them apart. The modern half, called Ernakulam is tangled, loud, with heavy construction (they’re putting up an elevated train) that manages the near impossible – it makes an Indian traffic jam worse. So worse in fact, that I jumped off the bus before we arrived at the station, deciding that a brisk walk would be more effective (walking on my hands backward would have been more effective). When I reached the station, and the locals directed me to the proper inner-city transit, I pushed my way into the crowded bus and off we went, cramped and unhappy. After crossing the first bridge (called Vanduruthy) and its adjacent military complex, the character…
Monday, 31 August 2015

Returning to Riga, Latvia

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Riga is home of most of the Latvian population, but keeping in mind that's not even two million people it's not really as drastic as you might think. Therein lies the first charm of Riga. It is physically not possible to be stuck in a crowd, and the only way to satisfy your longing for one is to take the rush hour public transport. My only reason for the trip was for the architecture, summer and some cool drinks so there was no real plan as to my exact movements. The main fascination with Riga is that there is not a single street that you can walk through without your head held high. The place that houses the highest collection of Art Deco style buildings has found a way to mix it with in a strange harmony styles that are developing now. The old wooden style homes that seem to…
Wednesday, 01 July 2015

Kolkata: Beyond the Mayhem

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To stand on the streets of Kolkata is to be assaulted by this raw and unapologetic city in eastern India. Vehicles, masses of humanity and the climate press down on you from all sides. Amongst the myriad exotic locations that India has to offer to the intrepid traveler, Kolkata is often at the bottom of the bucket list. But this is a city that has shaped history and shaped a nation. Kolkata, or Calcutta as it was known until recently was the capital of British India. Walking the streets of Kolkata takes you down to ground level where you can experience the faded but still magnificent colonial architecture. It also gives you the opportunity to experience the city’s intellectual heritage which gave birth to socio-cultural reform movements such as the Bengal Renaissance, fermented nationalist awakening and produced Nobel Laureates like Rabindranath Tagore and Amartya Sen. And this is the niche…
Thursday, 30 April 2015

Backpacking in China

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Every year around October, its always the same question on my mind, “Where do I go for the Christmas break?” After a two hour call with my friend, Chand, we had made up our mind. We were going to CHINA!! Soon we started chalking out our plans which especially involved great research on the availability of vegetarian food. By mid November we had the entire itinerary planned out and were well into flight bookings. We had even started the annoying work of applying for a tourist visa which is a big downside to having an Indian passport. Initial hiccups with the visa and normal travel jitters aside, we finally arrived in Beijing on the 13th of December to an amazing airport with cool body temperature sensors. The Chinese do take their health seriously, but to be deported from a country for having a wee bit elevated body temperature is one…
Friday, 31 October 2014

Trekking in Thailand

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My fiancé and I are set to board an overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. Since this would be a new experience for me and Cassie we were excited. We board the train at 7pm and are not set to arrive in Chiang Mai until 9.55am… Trust me, I wish that was a lie! I am a very energetic person and hate to be static for a short amount of time, let alone for nearly 15 HOURS!! Still, this was the cheapest way to do it and Cassie and I aren’t in a rush. Find our seats and try to get comfy. At this point I’m confused as there are no beds, just two seats facing each other. Not seats like on an airplane that recline and have adjustable head rests, These are uncomfortable brown leather seats from the 50’s that would probably…
Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Seychelles on a Budget

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Overlooking Anse Marron: Photograph by Danielle Caldron When most people think of the Seychelles, they immediately conjure up images of honeymoon couples and package luxury holidays. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth! The Seychelles can be an affordable holiday destination for solo travelers with the right planning. Here are some suggestions on how you can do the Seychelles on a budget. Stay on La Digue. All three main islands of Mahe and Praslin and La Digue have several idyllic white beaches fringed with lush greenery. However, Mahe and Praslin are both large enough to make renting a car a necessity. A one week car rental can set you back roughly 285 Euros (as of April, 2014). La Digue offers an alternative. The island is small enough for visitors to get around by bicycle or on foot. Hiring a bicycle for one week is easy. There are several places…
Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Ecotourism in Mindo, Ecuador

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Mindo is a small town north of Quito, Ecuador but it feels like a different world from the hustle and bustle of big city life in Quito. It is laidback and informal, but it hosts nature lovers from all over the world with amazing walks, waterfalls, animals, as well as more adventurous river and climbing activities all located closeby. Mindo is a snapshot into only one of the faces, ecosystems and flavors of rural life in South America, but don’t forget to pack your gumboots and raincoat. We boarded a full bus from Quito to Mindo paying $2.50 for the two hour bus trip. We should have booked in advance as we ended up standing in the aisle most of the way! My first impression was how small, quiet and laidback Mindo was although some parts like our hostel could do with a spruce up. There were dogs wandering the…
Sunday, 01 September 2013

Five Unique Things to Do in Berlin

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Most people who travel to Berlin include the Brandenburg Gate on their list of sights to see; it is, after all, an integral part of the history of the city. Likewise, Berlin’s Reichstag building and museums are fantastic, and they are well worth a visit! But there are other unique and interesting activities in Berlin that many tourists don’t see. Here are five of my favorites: Typography of Terror Located in the center of Berlin, the Topography of Terror does an amazing job of telling the story of National Socialism (Nazis) in Germany. It isn’t a “comfortable” way to spend a couple of hours, but when you are finished you will have a much better understanding of what happened (and why) in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. The museum is a one-floor building near where the secret state police (SS) headquarters were located, and a section of the Berlin…

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