It’s 4.45am and I am excitedly getting the last of my little backpack ready for the next 23 days!
Today my Sister & I fly to Kathmandhu in Nepal. We’re staying at a place called Thamel in the heart of Kathmandhu for a couple of days as we explore the local area and tomorrow head up in a small plane to experience Everest up close!
On Monday we fly down into Delhi in India, where we jump on a train on Tues morning to head to Agra to see the Taj Mahal in all it’s glory.
Back to Delhi on Weds for a couple of days before heading off for a 4 hour train ride down to Jaipur.
2 days here followed by a day and a half exploring the Ghats on the Ganges at Varanasi – apparently an incredible cultural experience.
Last Indian stop is Madurai to see the Meenakshi Amman temple before we jet off to Sri Lanka for a couple of days.
Then we end the trip with 3 days on a paradise Island in the Maldives!
Phew! Some trip!
Will be updating as we go and sharing photos where possible, (no idea of internet quality yet), particularly over on Instagram.
If you have any tips on any of the above places I’d love to hear them!
In the meantime I need to finish packing! :)
I’m not going to lie, I felt a bit nervous flying into Nepal Tribhuvan Airport yesterday.
Mainly because a good friend of mine had mentioned how accident proned the airport had been over the years, but also when we flew over, it was so mountainous before reaching the valley, I found myself clutching my arm rest hoping we had an experienced pilot! ✈️
I needn’t have worried it was a beautifully smooth landing and our Kathmandu adventure began!
Almost as soon as we exited customs, very friendly men began asking what our plans were & whether they could sell us tours etc, but we politely declined, grabbed a couple of SIM cards & jumped in a clapped out old banger to head to our hotel.
A couple of cows, lots of mopeds, rickshaws & people later we arrived at the Oasis Kathmandu Thamel in the heart of the city. 🐂
The hotel manager told us this was our home for the next 2 days and we were all family here! (He meant it, they are so incredibly friendly).
We searched for the top recommended restaurant on Trip Advisor and just as the heavens opened made our way onto the streets of Thamel.
Even though it was bucketing down, there was something magical about the place.
The people are so friendly, the atmosphere is welcoming and as two women travelling alone (albeit older women) we instantly felt at ease.
We ducked into a shop to buy a dusty old umbrella the guy fished out from the back of a cupboard charging us a round number of 500 Nepalese Rupees (about $5). ☔️
But minutes later we were invited onto the back of a rickshaw and as it was monsooning at the time we hurriedly jumped on.
The restaurant was only a 7 minute walk away & we probably could have walked faster than he was cycling but at least we were under cover (of sorts).
Because we were rushing we didn’t negotiate the price first – always a mistake – and so he wanted $10. Neither my sister nor I are petite women so I decided he must have charged by the kilo!!! 😂😂😂
Dinner at the White House Kitchen certainly backed up the positive reviews on Trip Advisor & was made even more magical by a huge power cut which took out the entire street we were on.
A 10 minute walk through the cobbled streets, past all the little tat shops, restaurants & bars took us back to our home for the night.
Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings! 😁
Wow wow wow! What an amazing experience!
We had booked to do the ‘Everest Experience’ with Buddha Air on the Saturday morning, but unfortunately after sitting in the plane for 30 mins we were informed there was cloud over Everest & the flight was cancelled.
They automatically allowed us to swap our flights to the following morning & refunded those people who were unable to reschedule.
This morning we awoke to cloudy & hazy skies thinking our luck was out, but headed to the airport anyway with fingers tightly crossed! 🤞
Meeting up with a couple of other ‘second timers’ we waited with anticipation in the departure lounge.
We needn’t have worried because an hour later we were breaking through the clouds in our little propeller plane and there they were….
…The Himalayas in all their glory, spreading for miles and miles, surrounded by clear blue skies!
We travelled along past the Holy Mountain (worshipped by Nepalis as God), past various peaks & ranges up to the magnificent Mount Everest & then turned and travelled back so both sides of the plane got spectacular views.
We were also invited up to the cockpit to see the views from the front & to take photos.
As we flew the flight attendant pointed out the various mountains, taking pictures for us and being super helpful.
We all chatted excitedly & moved freely about the cabin taking photos wherever we couple get a great view which was pretty much from every window.
All in all an amazing experience & highly recommended!
I feel so blessed to have seen The Himalayas in this way and experienced the great Mount Everest! 😁🙏
As their t-shirts & posters say. I have not climbed Mount Everest but I have touched it with my heart. ❤️
2 days ago on Easter Sunday a number of suicide bombers blew up churches & hotels in Sri Lanka killing upwards of 300 people including Sri Lankan Nationals, Brits, Australians, Americans, Indians and many other nationalities.
People were welcoming the morning, praying, eating breakfast, on holiday, going about their business. 😢
As part of our travel plans we are due to go to Sri Lanka in 12 days and were potentially planning to stay in one of the affected hotels.
It continues to astound & sadden me that so many innocent people have to die because one group of people don’t agree with another group of people’s beliefs!
I mean, what is wrong with these people??
I desperately hope that as the world opens up & connectivity & travel increases, our future generations begin to display far more tolerance & understanding of cultural & religious differences.
As for visiting Sri Lanka, we’re really unsure at the moment and will make a decision in a few days.
Right now my thoughts are with the families affected by this terrible and senseless act. 😢
Yesterday we arrived in Agra on the Gattiman Express from Delhi.
That’s an experience all in its own! The Hazrat Nizamuddin train station in Delhi is both busy & chaotic, but with big signs everywhere we were able to find our platform fairly easily.
They say grab a porter to show you where to go which you can do if that makes you feel a bit more comfortable but it’s not rocket science. 😁
Anyway nice comfy train, and lots of food so don’t have breakfast before you go!
Once in Agra we jumped in a tuk tuk to our hotel with a friendly chap called Ali. In no time at all he’d sold us his services for the day and after a quick check in we were on route to the Baby Taj!
We spent a few hours visiting the Baby Taj (Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah), the park opposite the Taj Mahal (Mehtab Bagh) with amazing views of the Taj, the Agra Fort & an amazing Indian restaurant for a Kingfisher & a snack.
All in all a great afternoon which cost us 2000 rupees for tuk tuk & driver with tip (about $25).
We stayed at the Grand Mansion hotel a lovely hotel with a rooftop pool with views of the Taj Mahal. Also huge benefit, only a 10 min walk from the Taj! 😁
So this morning we set our alarm for 4.30am and by 5.45am were walking through the gates of the Taj Mahal.
It was magnificent!
It’s as beautiful as you imagine it to be and I was so happy to get there so early as were able to get pics with no people.
Quick tip, a guide for the Agra Fort is well worth the money (about 1000 rupees), a guide for the Taj Mahal is not necessary.
Before you go just look up Wikipedia and you’ll learn everything you need to know about this magnificent tomb!
I feel so blessed and lucky to be experiencing these amazing wonders of the world!
I also have to remind myself I’ve worked my backside off for this and created a business that gives me the opportunity to travel the world and see all these amazing things. 🗺✈️
If you’d told me back in 2010 this was possible I’m not sure I would have believed you. So if you’re at the start of building your lifestyle business, keep going.
You can have the life you want if you’re prepared to put in the work! 😁
So now for us back to Delhi to see what awaits us there! 🚈
Well! What can I say.
I was told lots of stories about Delhi before we arrived and I was expecting a super busy, traffic filled, polluted, chaotic, dirty city full of scammers & pick pockets!
What we found was quite different.
New Delhi built by the British when they decided to move the capital from Kolkata to Delhi back in 1931, is an expanse of parks, wide roads, parliamentary buildings, embassies, hotels & monuments etc.
It’s pretty clean, spacious and altogether an attractive & pleasant place to explore.
India Gate, a memorial to Indian soldiers lost in the First World War, is gorgeous and a very popular place with western & Indian tourists alike.
We stayed in a hotel just off Connaught Place, the main shopping & financial district.
The highlight though was a rickshaw ride around Old Delhi.
Old Delhi is like another world altogether and very similar to Kathmandu.
Narrow streets full of colourful shops & dodgy wiring.
Rickshaws, tuk tuks, people with huge loads on their heads, & cars abound with horns blaring at every turn.
Dirtier, yes. Smoggier, definitely. Did we need to be more diligent? Absolutely.
But we loved it! ❤️
Sari shops, jewellery stores, fabrics, bags, wedding decorations!
Then we turned a corner into the Spice Market. The smells & huge bags of spices & chillis were amazing. It was all you could do to stop yourself from sneezing.
Our rickshaw guy Salim was fab & even let me have a go on the rickshaw! 😁
All in all a great experience including eating the most glorious Indian dishes!
The food here is ah-ma-zing.
Just a quick word of warning. The tuk tuk drivers do not listen. They want to take you sight seeing & shopping & anywhere that extends the trip and increases the price.
We had to be very firm and very specific with the drivers & only pay what we had agreed before the journey.
There is definitely an air of take the piss out of the tourist here.
But other than that, fan-bloody-tastic! 😁
OMG! Thank god for the internet!
This morning we arrived at New Delhi train station for our early morn train to Jaipur.
As we approached the baggage check area a chap checking tickets (supposedly) told us that the train was cancelled.
He told us we’d have to go to an office near the old Delhi station (30 mins away) get a refund & book new tickets for another train at 7.15.
We were clearly not convinced so he took us to another chap who was apparently the ‘tourist’ guy who proceeded to explain to us in very good English & very convincingly this was indeed the case and explained very clearly where we needed to go & what we needed to do.
He even negotiated a low taxi fare for us.
But clearly something didn’t sit right.
We got in the taxi & started to head off & Natalie searched up train cancellations from Delhi & the word SCAM filled our screen!!!
With less than 8 minutes to go we shouted at the taxi driver to turn around & drive us back asap!
He was awesome & managed to skip past all the traffic even running alongside us pointing the platform entrance (he was clearly not part of the scam).
We had to run to get on the train & my poor sister couldn’t catch her breath!
Thankfully we made it & as I write this I’ve just had a nice cup of tea on the train to Jaipur. ☕️
Beware any westerners catching trains from New Delhi. On reading further, they’re organised crime groups who have been running for years!
So many tourists have been stung for hundreds after being told the train is cancelled then full then having to book a car to get where they want to go! 😮
I have to admit I am feeling a little gullible right now as we did fall for it stupidly without checking the station boards (mainly because he was telling us how urgent it was or we’d miss the next train) but thankfully this wonderful internet world allows people to share similar experiences!!!
Plus I’ve done my exercise for the day! 😁😁😁
Funnily enough I’m quite glad it happened as it adds to the whole experience, but I may be thinking quite differently had I missed the train!
No-one said that travel is always easy, but it’s always fun!!! 😂😂
So I always knew I would love Indian food in India. 🥘
As a lover of spicy foods & Indian restaurants around the world I couldn’t wait to taste the real thing.
I have not been disappointed!
The food here has been nothing short of a taste explosion in your mouth.
Every meal has been has been an experience and I certainly won’t be shifting any kilos while here! 😛
Today I had the immense pleasure of attending a cooking class in Jaipur with the fabulous Chef Lokesh.
First he showed us how to make the most beautiful Masala Chai Tea ☕️
The spices, the ginger, the hot milk…. 😋
This was simply the beginning of what was to be a fabulous morning cooking & eating followed by an unexpected ‘build a lifestyle business’ training session! 😁
(Potato cakes filled with peas & nuts with tamarind chutney)
Paneer Butter Masala
(Homemade Indian cottage cheese cooked in butter tomato gravy)
(Potato and Cauliflower cooked with onions & cumin)
(Assorted seasonal vegetables cooked with basmati rice)
Garlic & Peshwari Naan
(Homemade bread covered in garlic / filled with banana, raisin & nut mix)
Saffron Rice Kheer
(Rice pudding with nuts)
After the cooking had ended we were invited upstairs to be served what we had just cooked for lunch.
It was lovely & also gave us an opportunity to chat with Geetika, Chef Lokeshs wife.
Not long into lunch we were talking about their business & Geetikas desire to learn more about taking the business online & having more time & location freedom.
We were there another hour discussing all the ways they could build an audience, sell products, courses etc and the conversation lit a fire in my belly I haven’t felt for a while!
I promised Geetika I would record some new updates videos walking her step by step through the processes we discussed and I look forward to sharing these for free with her & my community.
In the meantime I’ve learned to cook an amazing Indian meal.
Can’t wait to share that with my family! 😁
We arrived in one of the oldest & holiest places in the world today – Varanasi.
On first impressions it looks and feels pretty special. 🙏
After a taxi ride from the airport to the city, we boarded a boat to travel along the river Gangs to our hotel.
Evening was approaching & the river was like a millpond.
The air felt magical somehow and the Ghats (steps along the river) we sailed past were strangely beautiful.
It’s difficult to describe the feeling, bit spiritual probably captures it best.
When we arrived at our hotel on the river bank, it was getting late & I fancied sitting on the terrace with a nice cool one & a snack.
Unfortunately beer is not allowed on the terraces by the banks, but the restaurant manager thought swiftly and offered to deliver it to me in a large tea cup!
20 minutes later I was sat on the terrace enjoying a ‘special tea’ watching the world go by. 🍮
I love that kind of thinking. Yes there are rules but as long as we’re not hurting anyone rules can be bent to meet the situation at hand.
Tomorrow we are up at sunrise through to sunset exploring city & the culture. I can’t wait! 🕌
In the meantime always remember, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, make your own rules! 😁
The day began at 4.45am with a boat ride from our hotel to Assi Ghat to witness the morning Aarty Ceremony.
Here hundreds gather to watch the trainee priests say Good Morning to ‘Mother’ – the Ganga river, then do an open yoga session which included laughing, lion breathing & chanting.
It was fascinating! 😮
After a delicious Masala Tea, our guide took us back out on the boat to witness the sunrise & tell us lots of ancient Hindu mythological stories about how Varanasi & the Ganga river came to be.
The rest of the morning was spent walking around the Southern end of the city, visiting temples & eating the most beautiful street food!
After an early afternoon rest due to the heat (it’s about 45 degrees Celsius here right now!), we met our sevond guide for the day Sudarshan.
This time we visited the Northern end of the city, saw more temples, heard lots more fabulous stories & ate more street food.
As the evening approached we boarded a boat and headed to the cremation site which is an incredibly moving experience.
Lastly we witnessed the evening Aarty Ceremony where thousands gather to watch the trainee priests say Goodnight to Mother.
My description of the day has been pretty matter if fact but there is nothing matter of fact about Varanasi.
An intensity spiritual city the feelings you experience particularly when sailing along the Ganga & witnessing the rituals & ceremonies are almost indescribable.
I felt deep joy, gratitude, sadness, love & excitement all in one go!
I found myself exploring my emotions, my priorities, my desires & asking myself if I was on the right path, if I was loving enough, if I was giving enough.
I found myself reassessing that which I perceive to be important & searching for that which would add the most value to the world & bring me the greatest fulfilment.
The whole experience has left me with a sense of calm, a feeling of gratitude & a renewed love of life & people (as if I needed that last part).
I know, sounds a bit whacky. But seriously Varanasi will do something to you and that was just in one day!
I will definitely return and spend a few days there to truly reap the spiritual benefits of this magical place.
And now I have family there! Our guide for the afternoon and evening was quite simply a beautiful soul & highly recommended.
He was born & raised in Varanasi but left to study Mechanical Engineering in Chennai. After securing a good job with Renault his father fell ill and he was forced to return to Varanasi.
He now works as a tour guide & engineering teacher & consultant. An intelligent & articulate young man with clearly an extremely kind heart.
Sudarshan from Roobaroowalks.com. Highly recommended! 😁
When I asked if it was safe for me to return alone (it felt super safe by the way but always good to check in case I can’t persuade Rhett to join me), he said of course & you will not be alone, you have family here now. 😁
Dhanyawaad Varanasi. 🙏🙏🙏
Thank you for your heart. ❤️❤️❤️
So we’re supposed to be in Sri Lanka right now but unfortunately after the recent horrific events we felt it best to change our travel plans and extend our stay in India for a couple of days.
So we added a day in Madurai and a day and a half in Kochi.
However, I have to be honest we’re not getting any younger (my sister is 8 years older than me), and our trip to date has been full on, and so after a hot morning visiting various temples in Madurai, we spent the rest of our time there chilling by the pool!
(It had to be done).
But the Meenakshi Temple was well worth the visit as was the Gandhi Museum outlining the history of Indian Independence.
Gosh us Brits have got a lot to answer for in this world. 😞
While chillaxing at the hotel though we were not alone & were privy to some wonderful dance displays from our beautiful friends.
What a great way to relax and let the day go by! 😁
I’m not going to lie, I had a very distinct preconceived idea of what India was going to be like.
Many of my friends & colleagues have travelled through India and almost all gave the impression of a chaotic, dirty, stomach bug inducing place, that you either loved or hated.
The bit they missed out is that it’s an absolutely huge country with very different cities and places throughout.
New Delhi is big, spacious & very British.
Old Delhi is busy, bustling & full of life
Jaipur was beautiful once but us in desperate need of investment
Varanasi is spiritual, magical & chaotic all at the same time
Madurai is rural, far less touristy with the most beautiful temples
And they’re are only the places we have seen. There are many more towns and cities that will have their own vibe.
However it’s no dirtier or more chaotic than Bangkok in Thailand, parts of Vietnam, Myanmar, Borneo or even some parts of London!
In fact for the most part it’s pretty modern & a lot more Western than I expected.
You can’t love or hate it as a whole because there are so many differences across the country,
I wouldn’t go back to Jaipur, nor Madurai, but Delhi & Varanasi are definitely on my return list.
The most important thing though is now when I’m taking to someone from India, whether they be Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Muslim, I have a greater understanding for who they are, what the history of their country is, where they live, how they might have grown up etc.
Any fear I may have had of the cultural differences between us is eradicated through travelling here and seeing it for myself.
The only way to get rid of fear, intolerance & hatred is for people to come face to face with those they do not understand and realise we are all the same.
Different backgrounds, upbringings & beliefs, but essentially all the same.
To travel is to increase understanding, tolerance & love.
Namaste 🙏 ❤️