Archive | November 2014

A Homestay Experience in Madikeri, India

Madikeri, is a beautiful hill station in India’s Karnataka State. It was here, in Southern India, we decided to do a homestay. As travelers, we really enjoy talking and learning from the locals. So, when the opportunity to spend two days and a night with a local Indian family arose, we were thrilled.

DSC07825

The area surrounding Madikeri is a trekker’s paradise. We spend two days with our host, trekking through these beautiful landscapes. Along the way, our host shared insightful information about the various plants and species inhabiting the lands. This was some of the best trekking we had ever done. Aside from the views, what made the trekking very special and memorable was the connection we had built with our host.

DSC07852

DSC07832

DSC07826

DSC07828

DSC07833

DSC07853

Living and spending time with the locals was a lot of fun. We ate all our meals together with the family and shared stories. We even had some time to hang out and play with the kids. They showed us their schools and village. It was interesting to observe how the locals lived. It gave us a better sense of what life was really like in a village. When I needed to take a shower, for example, I was given a huge pot of hot water. This was way people bathed in this village, there were no showers.

DSC07834

Our host family was extremely kind and welcoming to us. This experience left us with great memories and the desire for wanting to do more homestays in our future travels.

Video: Just having some fun while trekking!

Dolphin Watching at Lovina Beach in Indonesia

I am not an early bird, I like sleeping. If I have to get up before sunrise, there definitely better be a good reason. Getting up before sunrise to watch dolphins swim in the sea, that definitely makes the list.

DSC00175

Lovina beach, which is located in the northern part of Bali, Indonesia, is an excellent place for dolphin watching. When we went on the tour, we managed to see at least 10 to 20 dolphins. I have seen a few dolphins in aquariums and at Marineland in Canada. I have always felt uncomfortable seeing these animals confined to such small place spaces, when their natural habitat should be the vast oceans. Thus, it was a delight to see schools of dolphins swimming and jumping together with great freedom in the sea.

DSC00158

The number of dolphins a tourist might encounter while doing a dolphin watching tour, will obviously vary depending on the day and your luck. We were fortunate enough to spot several dolphins and thus felt extremely lucky. Watch this video and see the dolphins for yourself too!

The Beauty of Fall in South Korea

If I had to choose my favorite season, it would definitely be fall. It is a sumptuous time to relish in a plethora of rich and vibrant colors. It is a time to soak-up the very essence of nature.  As I stroll down the cacophonous city streets, I am drawn to the silent, cryptic-looking trees. Their long branches radiate, bursting with lusciously colorful leaves. For me, these attractively hued trees hold a delightful treasure called happiness. The beauty of fall captivates my senses like a lover enraptured by his beloved’s kiss. I happily become lost in the world of reflection and tranquility. Helpless as a newborn, my senses are heightened for my connection with nature becomes irresistibly deep. The mere sight of the brilliant red, orange and yellow leaves instantly arouse memories of my playful childhood.

I begin reminiscing about the days, when I used to absent-mindedly collect the fragile leaves of every color and shape within my reach. Time would stop. Only the rustling sound of falling leaves would bring me back. I would take a deep breath and sigh. Smiling, I would I continue gathering my precious leaves. Sometimes, I would assemble an enormous pile of leaves, and then carelessly leap into it. This simple yet joyous act would leave me feeling refreshed and exhilarated.

Now, bundled in my warm jacket and scarf, my boots make a crunching sound upon touching the withering leaves. I leave the hubbub of the city and briskly head for the pristine mountainside. Hiking among the trails flourishing with ubiquitous trees, is time well spent. Like a breath-taking sunset, the autumn views are strikingly gorgeous. Along the way, I become particularly mesmerized by the gentle multicolored leaves that haphazardly drift with the current in the stream. As the crisp breeze rushes by, I eagerly try to take a snapshot in my mind of all the marvelous beauty this season unveils.

IMG_1537

IMG_1644 2

IMG_4805

IMG_1569 2

IMG_4812 2

smaller 1568

IMG_4818 2

IMG_1661 2

DSC00731

A Day in Pamukkale, Turkey

We woke up early and headed to Pamukkale, a small city located in southwestern Turkey. This city has become a popular tourist destination for its incredible hot springs and travertines.

DSC05097

These picturesque terraces are made of travertine, a sedimentary rock deposited by water from the hot springs.

DSC05017

In Pamukkale, there are 17 hot water springs with temperatures ranging from 35 °C to 100 °C.

DSC05050

Before visiting the terraces, we toured around the ancient Byzantine city of Hierapolis, which is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

DSC05035

DSC05023

We made another detour at a Turkish market. In this photograph, the vendor is bagging Turkish delights. We thought the Turkish delights were quite yummy!

DSC05101

The pools of Pamukkale. We were able to walk around and inside the terraces!

DSC05082

A huge limestone wall.

DSC05076

DSC05056

After spending a few hours, walking around and enjoying this beautiful and unique site, we made our last stop at the Hierapolis Sacred Pool.

DSC05049

At this hot spring, we were able to swim among the ancient ruins.

DSC05048

What a relaxing way to end a wonderful day in Pamukkale!

Quaint German Towns in the Harz Mountains

Some of the most picturesque towns I have seen were in central Germany. Wernigerode and Quedlinburg are two small but quaint towns located in the Harz Mountains. These two towns were particularly memorable for their unique and cozy looking timber buildings and beautifully paved walkways.

DSC04231

After spending a night in a cozy half-timbered house, we woke up early to some wonderful German hospitality and breakfast. It was not long before we were strolling leisurely around Wernigerode.

DSC04232

The atmosphere in the streets was very peaceful and pleasant. There were plenty of unique cafes and patios everywhere in this small town.

DSC04220

This is Wernigerode’s Town Hall.

DSC04219

This is a market area located next to the Town Hall.

DSC04248

This is Wernigerode Castle, which is located above the town. It is interesting to note that this castle and the Neuschwanstein Castle have similar architectural styles.

Wandering around the Wernigerode Castle and its gardens as well as viewing the town from high above was a wonderful experience.

DSC04280

The next day, we visited Quedlinburg. Just like Wernigerode, this town was also very pleasant and picturesque with all its splendid looking buildings.

DSC04285

This is a half-timbered house, which I thought was very unique and cozy.

DSC04278

This is Quedlinburg’s market square.

DSC04274

A view of the rooftops in Quedlinburg.

If you are interested in visiting small and quaint towns and a few castles, I would recommend a short trip to the Harz Mountains. A walk through Wernigerode and Quedlinburg, has left me with everlasting beautiful memories of these picturesque towns.

Bungee Jumping is Scary!

I would have thought that skydiving from 14 000 ft, scuba diving with sharks, or surfing with large waves, might have been one of my scariest adventures. However, it was bungee jumping that I have found the scariest.

100_0606

In Inje, South Korea, we decided to do our first ever bungee jump! The jump was only about 60 meters. I am not afraid of heights, so at the time I was just super excited to try this new adventure. I was told to walk off the ledge and just drop on the count of 3. Below me I could see nothing but water. It seemed like a fairly long way down. I told myself not to think about it too much and just do it! And that is exactly, what I did.

100_0607

That’s me, doing my first bungee jump!

100_0617

Jason keeps spinning upside down, after his first bungee jump!

100_0620

We did it!

Now, when I recall my experience, I keep thinking I cannot believe that I actually jumped. The scariest part is voluntarily stepping over the ledge and losing all control. Interestingly, bungee jumping, has been the scariest yet most thrilling adventure for me!

Bungee jumping is really awesome fun and everyone should try it at least once. But now that I have experienced it, it is the one activity that I would honestly hesitate to do again. Why? The thought of jumping over a ledge and ending up upside down in the air is quite terrifying!

Elephant Bathing in Laos!

Riding an elephant is fun. But, what’s better is riding an elephant into a river! This adventure was one of my highlights in Laos. It was just incredibly fun! At first, it was a huge physical challenge for me to get on the elephant. Watch the video below and you will see. Then, to ride an elephant without really holding on to anything secure was also another challenge. But, it was an exciting challenge! Eventually, I managed to sit on the elephant. My guide taught me an instruction to yell at the elephant so he would move forward. Of course, the elephant never listened to me no matter how loud I yelled. It was funny. Without hesitation however, the elephant moved forward upon my guide’s instructions.

Now for the scariest part of all! As the elephant was moving forward into the water, I had no idea about the depth of the water. I wasn’t even sure what the elephant was going to do. Would it try to throw me off its back and into the water? It was definitely acting unpredictable. With every step the elephant took into the water, I was beginning to slide forward due to the decline. And my adrenaline was definitely pumping!

Once the elephant was more than half immersed into the water, I thought the scary part was over. As I began to relax, I realized what an amazing feeling it was to be sitting on an such a large animal while being in a lake. I felt tiny and vulnerable, but happy. However moments later, due to my guide’s commands, the elephant began dipping its head forward with the intention of trying to throw me into the water. But, I was too quick and held onto the elephant. The joke ended up being on the guide himself because it was him who fell into the water later!

DSC02633

DSC02637

Jason joins us for an elephant ride!

DSC02642

Jason is trying to steady himself on the elephant’s back.

DSC02636

Oh no, both Jason and our guide fell into the water because the elephant pushed them off his back!

As for the bathing part, well let’s us say we didn’t really do much except wash the elephant with some water. It was really more about having fun with the elephant in the water. Indeed, a wonderful experience!

The Enchanting Castles near Fussen, Germany

We had decided to stay in Fussen for a few days while we explored the Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle. These two castles are some of the most popular and beautiful castles in all of Germany.

DSC04315

Fussen is a small town located in Bavaria, Germany. While in Fussen we walked aimlessly through the open fields, simply enjoying the beautiful landscape.

DSC04364

In the evening, Fussen is just as beautiful with its glowing sunset spreading across the sky and high above the mountains.

DSC04324

We could have rode a horse up the hill to Neuschwanstein Castle, but instead opted to walk up the steep hill. Upon approaching the castle, I was instantly awed by its beauty. To me it really looked like a fariytale castle. Growing up, from books and movies, I had constructed an image of an ideal castle. In my mind it looked similar to the Neuschwanstein Castle. To finally see and explore a fairytale castle in such a scenic setting was absolutely amazing!

DSC04329

This photograph was taken from Hohenschwangau Castle. The Neuschwanstein Castle can be seen in the background. We were able to visit both castles during the same day, since they were not located far from each other.

DSC04332

DSC04338

I thought the yellowed coloured walls of the Hohenschwangau Castle was a very unique touch.

DSC04359

DSC04355

Although, both castles were lovely, I have to admit I liked the style and architecture of the Neuschwanstein Castle a bit more. In my opinion, the Neuschwanstein Castle should be named one of the Wonders of the World!

Horseback Riding in Udiapur, India

100_2017

Our first trip to India was only for 2 weeks. During this trip we managed to make our way to Udiapur. This city, which has become a very popular tourist destination, is located in the state of Rajasthan in western India. Although Lake Pichola, the artificial fresh water lake, and the Lake Palace were beautiful, our most memorable experience was doing horseback riding for the first time ever in Udiapur’s countryside.

100_2011

We were given a quick lesson on how to guide our horses. Once were we seated on our horses, we rode through some villages. The villagers were so happy to see us riding the horses and were waving at us with such joy.

We rode the our horses for a few hours. I didn’t want the journey to end. I particularly liked the horseback riding because it was a very relaxing way of viewing the beautiful and peaceful countryside. It was also nice to escape from India’s hectic and crowded city life for a bit. Lastly, the villagers left a real impression on me. I was awed by villagers’ happiness and good spirits despite their state of poverty.

Unique Architecture in Singapore

One of our favorite things to do while traveling is simply to walk around a city and become lost in it. Exploring by foot is a very fun and rewarding way of traveling. It allows you to immerse into the local culture and discover things that may not necessarily be found in a travel guide.

While in Singapore, we leisurely walked around all day simply admiring the beautiful city. We noticed there were a lot of unique and colorful buildings everywhere. It was definitely a nice touch to the city.

DSC00117

DSC00121

DSC00128

DSC00133