South Africa and Swaziland

Since I’m not “live-blogging” my South Africa and Swaziland trip I thought I might as well not go into day to day detail but rather give an over all post about the two and a half week adventure. Also, a lot of the days were fairly similar except in different locations so I believe it would be quite repetitive.

My journey from Maldives to Johannesburg was another long one encompassing three flights from Male to Bangalore to Mumbai to Johannesburg. These airports were all quite beautiful and felt more like shopping malls than airports, a welcome change from the Chennai and Colombo airports.

After the 10 hour flight from Mumbai to Johannesburg, I get picked up by a car service arranged by G Adventures which to my surprise, given the fact I was doing a budget tour, involved a BMW. I landed in the morning so I had the day to explore. We arrived at the Airport Game Lodge, a cute lodge surrounded by animals, and I meet me roommate. Although I was quite exhausted, I needed to make the most of my one day, so my roommate and I chose to do a day tour of Soweto. On this tour we get to see a few different sites just outside of Johannesburg including a township tour, the Mandela house, a museum, and a few other sites.

That night we meet up with our tour and in the morning head off for our next location. The following two weeks involved camping (yes that means tents and sleeping bags), sun, sight seeing, safaris, breathtaking landscapes, and a lot of drinking. We made our way from Johannesburg over and along the coast all the way to Cape Town. Cape Town ranks extremely high on my list of favorite places and I wish I could have spent more time there.

Overall I would say the highlights of this trip include our two nights in Swaziland, going to the beach in Durban, bungee jumping off Bloukrans Bridge, and Cape Town.

This tour was a great way to see the country. Although we spent a lot of time in the bus driving from one place to another, this was a pretty great way to see the amazing landscapes of South Africa which may have been missed if we had used another way to travel. I also have to say that I wouldn’t have had such an amazing time without the great people on the tour and our tour guides.

Hopefully I’ll get to return to stunning South Africa in the not too far future.

Maldives

Leaving India for the Maldives was bittersweet. India is definitely one of my favorite countries but I was off to the beautiful Maldivian islands to see the love of my life. Things could be worse…

I had originally wanted to go to the Maldives since it’s the flattest and lowest country in the world with a high risk of disappearing as sea levels continue to rise. I thought it would be nice to see it before it’s gone.

Although it took three flights through some less than enjoyable airports in India and Sri Lanka, I made it safe and sound to Male, the capital of Maldives.

The weather is hot and the water is stunningly electric blue and clear. After spending our first day walking around the entire island, we realize that approx zero tourists stay on Male. There’s no site seeing and there is only one beach which is artificial and women cannot swim there. This is because it’s a strict Muslim country. Because of this I had to be pretty covered most of the time.

This is definitely not what most people think of when they come to the Maldives so we decided to take a day trip to another resort island where we could lie on beautiful beaches (and I could actually wear a bikini), and go snorkeling.

After this amazing day of relaxation and beach living, we decided to leave Male for a couple nights to get a true Maldivian experience. We booked two nights on Bandos Island in a beach villa which was literally unreal.

Our two story beach villa was steps away from a white sand beach and clear blue water. We spent the days reading on the beach, sleeping, eating, relaxing. It was a truly magical week.

Goa

Now that I’m back home and have constant access to internet, I’ll finish up telling you about my travels. Sorry for being MIA.

Goa is a touristy beach town unlike anywhere we went in India. It felt more like Thailand than India with everyone trying to sell you cheap stuff and the streets filled with restaurants with cheap alcohol and food and therefore drunk tourists.

The beaches themselves were beautiful. I still can’t get over the amazing sunsets we saw in India, and the sunset on the beach in Goa is no exception.

Mumbai

March 12, 2014

Another early day today for a bus ride to Mumbai! After a quick rest upon arrival at our hotel, we head off for a tour of the Dharavi slum. This is the biggest of the 2000 slums in Mumbai and is known as the “expensive” slum with higher rents, factories, and markets. Since we were walking around people’s homes, we didn’t take any pictures except for the welcome sign as you enter.

 

From here we take taxis to “the Gateway of India,” a large monument by a port.

 

Ahmedabad

March 11, 2014

Today we leave Udaipur for an 8 hour train ride to Ahmedabad. We only have a short period of time here so we spend the early evening at the Gandhi ashram which is on property where Gandhi lived with his wife for eight years. He was such an incredible person and did so much for so many people.

Udaipur

March 9, 2014

As usual, we start off with an orientation walk of Udaipur. Udaipur is know as the “Venice of India,” a romantic city with water views. We view a palace where one of the kings live and we explore the markets and restaurants in the heart of the city.

 

This evening we all attend a traditional entertainment show featuring dancers and a puppeteer. Before heading to the event, we stop by a famous German bakery just down the street. While waiting for our coffees and cakes, we spot the couple from Slumdog Millionaire sitting at the café. Apparently they are in town to film the second “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

 

March 10, 2014

Started the morning off right with an aurvetic massage. Although it was a good massage, the masseuse kept talking to me so it wasn’t as relaxing as I would have hoped.

 For lunch today we head off to Spice Box cooking school where we spend a couple hours learning a few Indian cooking techniques and recipes!

 

After our lesson we shop a bit more in the markets before heading back to the palace for high tea. Definitely not what I expected as the sandwiches and cookies high tea came as a grilled cheese and veggie sandwich with French fries and a few cookies on the side. Don’t think the queen would be impressed but it was still delicious!

Pushkar

March 7, 2014

A wee bit of a sleep in today which was so nice. After breakfast today we wander around the markets of the city surrounding the sacred lake, just exploring and shopping.

Then in the evening, we go on a camel ride for about an hour into the middle of no where. They had set up a traditional dinner for us where we dressed up and got entertained by magicians, musicians, and dancers. It was pretty epic.

 

March 8, 2014

After relaxing by the pool in the morning, we head into town for one last lunch in Pushkar. A nice way to start the day before a 6 hour local train ride to Udaipur.

The trains in India definitely aren’t the best I’ve been on, but we survive and arrive late in Udaipur.

Tordi

March 5, 2014

We leave Jaipur today and take jeeps to Tordi, a more rural town. We relax for a bit and some women from the village come and do henna for us. In the afternoon we go out in jeeps again and see a farm and also a near by village with a population of only 150 people. It’s pretty funny going to these towns because the children just come and follow you around and ask you to take pictures of them.

After this we head up to some sand dunes to watch the sunset. It was so beautiful and you could see the sunbeams streaming pass the clouds. I think it is the closest thing I’ve seen to something that looks like heaven.

 

March 6, 2014

We start today with a short walking tour around Tordi. The caste system still seems to be quite prominent in India and you can see the differences in the areas depending on which caste lives there.

After our walk we go to a local home for lunch, which we learn is the home of someone in the untouchables caste, which is the lowest caste. The plates and bowls were actually made from leaves; it was quite impressive.

We are now on our way now to Pushkar, a much bigger city. Our drive to Pushkar involves making a stop at a school/orphanage where we deliver some notebooks and other stationary which we bought to donate.

Once in Pushkar we head out for another walking tour of the city. So far our walking tours have been the best parts. You can really get a feel from the place and our guide is great at explaining things and telling us about the city.

Jaipur

March 3, 2014

An even earlier morning today, leaving the hotel at 4:15am. Today we take a local aka extremely busy train to Jaipur. After about 3.5 hours we arrive and head to our hotel which is really cute. After a bit of relaxing our guide takes us on a walking tour of the city.

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March 4, 2014

One of the women on my tour had spent the past month doing yoga training in Rishikesh so this morning she leads us in a class on the roof of our hotel.

Our group then heads out together for a tour of the Jaipur City Palace.

This afternoon we do some shopping at a fabrics shopand play dress up with saris.

Tonight we go to the famous movie theatre in Jaipur to see a Bollywood film. It was quite entertaining and was easy enough to understand even without being in English with no subtitles. 

Travel and style blog by a little Vancouverite living in New York City. Enjoy!

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