Vietnam

95% of tourists don’t return and I am one of them.

Is that statistic accurate? I don’t know and quite frankly, I don’t care. I spent a good few minutes trying to find the actual up to date number and found different reports ranging from abysmal to slightly less abysmal. You get the drift, most people don’t return.

Tomorrow I will be crossing the border into Cambodia and am currently trying to decide whether or not to pay the 5$ bribe I’m supposed to give to the driver to ensure the bus won’t leave without me – or my luggage – when crossing. 

Yes, you read that correctly. I’m currently swayed towards paying the bribe because I’ve just read a few reviews stating that even if you refuse to pay your driver and handle the visa yourself, the immigration officers will give you hell instead. Reports of officials holding foreigners for up to four hours whilst busses drive off with their luggage are boldly imprinted in my brain.
This is just another fucking thing in a long list of shit things that have happened to me – to us – here in Vietnam.

I wanted to like this country, I really did. It was after all the country that Dane and I had chosen to live in for up to a year while we worked as English teachers. And we were off to a good start when our hostel host was super friendly and even offered us a job! I mean, the taxi driver at the bus stop quoted us 100000 dong, twice the price the metered taxi turned out to be and we didn’t even let this ruin our spirit!

But things turned sour pretty quickly. Our first encounter with being overcharged was on an official government run bus. As always, I read up on the area and the scams before we set off for a week to Hoi An where we wanted to get tailored suits made. Wikitravel quoted the price to be around 20 to 25000 dong, whilst warning foreigners that you’ll be asked to pay 50k. If not, they’ll threaten to throw you off the bus. And they did, and we refused and eventually agreed to pay 25k.

Guess what the actual price is? 16k. So we gave the exact change on our way back and boy, did the driver kick up a fuss (as much as Vietnamese kick up a fuss; they generally display nothing else but resentment or indifference.) Again they threatened to kick us off only to drive off 15 minutes later without saying anything else.

I can tell you about fifty more stories along these lines and by God, I’m considering writing it all down just for the sake of drilling it into your head how much the citizens of this country will fuck with you.

Dane was initially putting up a good fight for the Vietnamese, claiming that these things happen all over Asia and India. Granted, I didn’t stay very long in Thailand or Laos but I couldn’t help but disagree. There was something about this country and the way they treated people that really got under my skin. And it took a while for me to really, truly grasp what it was.

How I feel towards the Vietnamese is my own opinion, but it is shared by many people. The following is a list of my personal reasons of why I dislike Vietnam.

  • Everyone and their grandmother will rip you off, doesn’t matter if it’s the hostel owner, a street vendor or an official government person
  • Everything is more money for you, even water or a toilet visit
  • Did I mention immigration will refuse to serve you if you don’t give them a bribe? Or detain you for hours?
  • Being overcharged is common all over Asia but there’s a difference between asking a dollar more and unabashedly charge octuple the price
  • They will laugh in your face and joke about ripping you off to the Vietnamese around them (I wish I was joking but I’m not)
  • They would rather not have your money at all than accept the correct amount for whatever you’re buying 
  • Attempts to speak Vietnamese isn’t appreciated but they won’t speak English to you

    My main complaint is how I was treated in Vietnam, like a walking ATM. Walking away here doesn’t work, they don’t want your money unless they’re ripping you off. 

    They think Westerners are literal millionaires and feel they have every right to squeeze as much money out of as possible and won’t feel guilty for doing so. Even if you give a tip, it will never be enough. Why not give a 100$ dollars madam, you are rich, no??

    If you haggle, which is the way of life here, they won’t be friendly afterwards (like in India.) They will treat you like dirt, greedy greedy dirt. 

    Spend money or fuck off. No, spend more money and some more and then fuck off. 

    I felt unwelcome, disrespected, ignored, mistreated. 

    I don’t get people who blog about how backpackers need to chill out about overcharging. They have less money than us, they have a lot harder lives than us, what’s 5 dollars for you?

    Excuse you, I had to work hard for that money. I worked six days a week for years. I worked jobs I hated, I cleaned toilets and puke and worked for fucking sexist assholes who literally told me to lose weight and put make up on. I worked as a postie in the winter and cried my eyes out in the car because my hands were so frozen that when they eventually defrosted, it felt like they were being sliced, cut up, butchered.

    Being overcharged on a bus is the same as a housekeeper taking some dollars out of your wallet while cleaning your room. It is stealing.

    Not giving me the correct change, which happened everywhere, even at gas stations EVERY SINGLE TIME, is stealing.

    Government officials charging you extra for passport stamps and incorrectly filling out your visa/entry stamps is ILLEGAL.

    The whole debacle that I’m currently in trying to decide to pay a BRIBE makes me beyond furious. This country is beautiful but Jesus Christ, I don’t understand people who support of this blatant illegal activity.

    Vietnam is not a poor country. The person ripping you off is not living on the street, unable to even afford one meal. If you’ve been to Vietnam .. Look, I’m not saying there aren’t poor people in Vietnam. They’re just not the ones that are rudely and greedily asking you quadruple the price of something.

    Did this mean we didn’t encounter a single nice person in Vietnam? Of course, we did. But every step forward to loving this country was countered by meeting five assholes. Aside from being ripped off at every turn, the service at restaurants/bars was incredibly bad. Vietnamese would literally ignore us.

    All of this was nicely topped off by a shit treatment to me personally by Vietnamese schools. Dane and I applied for the same schools together, some by email, some in person. 

    Dane, while wonderfully artistic, funny, philosophically brilliant and oh, the love of my life, is not really your typical teacher material. He’s been scaffolding for the last, I don’t know exactly, but let’s say ten years. The only experience in teaching he has comes from giving guitar lessons.

    Then there’s me. I didn’t finish college but I did go to college to become .. DUN DUN DUN .. a teacher! I have prepared and made lesson plans and taught children between the ages of six and twelve. Aside from that, I worked my way up to being a supervisor/manager. Wow, look a that resume. Even if I say so myself!

    Dane literally just received another phone call from a school in Da Nang, one of maybe five. Plus another few emails from other schools still sit in his inbox.

    Guess how many I got? I got a response for an interview, the exact same response given to Dane. We showed up at the interview at the same time which shocked the woman .. didn’t even bother putting us in different time slots. We did the interview together and were both offered a demo lesson. 

    That’s it. That’s all I got. P.s. my last name is Spanish ¯\_(ツ)_/ ¯ HAHA THANKS GUYS!

    I’m just gonna finish it here. I mean, I loved the scenery. Phong Nha was super impressive. Cat Ba Island was amazing. I could probably write a whole blog post just  about how lovely the scenery here is, but instead, the first blog post I’ve written in six whole months is this one. So yeah. 

    P.s. Vietnamese food is really fucking bland. I don’t understand people’s fascination with it at all. It’s really nothing special.
    I wanted to include a list of other blog posts I’ve found on the topics I’ve discussed but I’m just done, man. I’m gonna pay the five bucks and get the fuck outta here. Google “tourists don’t come back to Vietnam, Vietnam overcharging, why I’ll never go back to Vietnam, etc” and you will find a long list of people who hated this fucking country as much as I do. 

    Good riddance.

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    Udaipur

    Udaipur, also known as the city of lakes or the White City, proved to be an unexpected treat as our first destination in Rajasthan.

    I was a bit nervous what our room was going to be like at Jagat Villa Guesthouse as it was only 400 rs a night, but I needn’t have. Located in the traveler ghetto of Udaipur called “Lal Ghat,” it was the perfect location to go out and explore things; and the room was just as if not nicer than our 2000 rs room in Anjuna.
    A little annoyed yet understanding of Dane’s request to “cover up,” I spent our first day walking out the Observatory and Shilpgram, sweating my ass off underneath that stupid shawl. Despite being covered up, I still had a teenager yell at me if I wanted to fuck. 

    The Solar Observatory is located on the lake and we assumed there would be a boat somewhere but there was no booth or boat around the area so we headed back towards town, and made a stop at Shilpgram.

    Shilpgram is a “village” of sorts where you can learn about different Indian tribes of Rajasthan, Goa and other surrounding states. As you enter, you’re encouraged the watch the short videos before exploring the area.

    The videos explain a little about the tribes, their traditions, their clothes and such and later that day, you can watch a show (that repeats every hour) that showcases the music, dances, rituals, etc. While the video was playing, I was approached by an Indian woman who wanted a selfie with me. I’ll never understand this, but as long as it’s women and not creepy men, I still find it amusing (and pretend I’m a celebrity.)

    When the cultural shows were going on, I remember thinking “this is so much better than sitting on a beach in Goa.” Mind you, I still enjoyed Goa but as a fairly active person, it was sort of difficult to sit on my ass every day doing nothing.

    Udaipur is famous for its lakes but it also has plenty of other sights to see so we were happy to be walking places every day. The coffees were a bit pricier than they were in other places but none the less, we picked a different cafe each morning to start our day enjoying the views. As usual, we were approached several times for selfies, but one time, two younger men just randomly started taking pictures of us separately (also felt like it was aimed at my chest?) and I up and walked straight back inside. Indian men .. why so creepy??

    On our second day, we decided to go out and explore the Ahar Cenotaphs, a cremation ground that could be entered for free. Several signs depicted that we couldn’t take pictures but two men rapidly approached us and said “This is India, you can do anything” and instructed us to give some money to what we assumed was the guard keeper after leaving the premises. 

    This is something that’s popped up several times in the last five weeks, India has many rules but they are made to be broken, everything has a price and anyone can and will be bribed. Strange, but convenient for travelers, I suppose?

    Deciding not to pay for the Ahar museum (I can’t recall the price but it wasn’t the 10 rs it said online ..), we headed in the other direction towards the “ropeway,” which is a gondola that goes up a hill nearby the city center.

    At the top of the hill, it was apparent that Udaipur was much larger than we thought it was, and apparent why they called it the White City. The views were breathtaking and well worth the money.

    We shared our cabin with two couples from Bangalore, the women wearing tight jeans and vests. Having seen (mostly younger) women dressed like this in the previous few days (and getting increasingly agitated that I was still covering up), I asked them if this was alright in Rajasthan. They told me it was fine to expose your shoulders and whatnot, you’ll just get a lot of stares. One of the couples asked for a few selfies as well (this must’ve been like the third or fourth time in the space of two days.)

    Having walked + 15 km every day for the last few days, we decided to chill out for our final two days. We booked a cooking class at a rooftop restaurant we dined at two days earlier and were ready to go by 11 am.

    The class was held in the restaurants’ kitchen (while it was open) with no one there but us and the chef. He was very clear about everything and taught us how to make the basic sauce used in virtually all Indian dishes, a “dry dish,” a sweet dish and finally, delicious naan.

    The class only took about an hour and a half but the food was so worth it, albeit a bit spicy. Except .. After a few bites, I felt really full .. And uncomfortable .. And at a certain point actually sick.

    After that meal, we went for a walk in the area but as time went on, I felt worse and worse. By the time I got back to the guesthouse, I was sure I had food poisoning. Chills, hot flashes, painful stomach .. luckily I didn’t puke or have any diarrhea. 

    I have no idea if it was a mild form of food poisoning or if it was the water I drank the night before (the lid wasn’t secured on, we couldn’t remember if one of us had already opened the bottle.) I felt a bit better after I took a tablet but couldn’t stomach the food of eating food. 

    The worst passed that night, but in the following days, I’d get pains in my stomach and a general feeling of bloatiness that would last hours after eating a meal. The spicy meals were the ones that would set it off at first, so I figured I probably couldn’t tolerate spicy food but even after continental dishes, my stomach would protest. 

    It’s been a few days and I still felt a bit uncomfortable after my meal last night in Jaisalmer, but got over it quickly. Dane however has taken a turn for the worst about two days after I first displayed symptoms. He seems really unwell, going through the regular symptoms of food poisoning or a really bad flu.

    We are currently in Jaisalmer, having breezed through Jodhpur in two days. Jodhpur was way too busy for us so we are glad to be here. Will update on our time in Jodhpur soon.

    Udaipur

    Udaipur, also known as the city of lakes or the White City, proved to be an unexpected treat as our first destination in Rajasthan. 

    I was a bit nervous what our room was going to be like at Jagat Villa Guesthouse as it was only 400 rs a night, but I need’nd have. Located in the traveler ghetto of Udaipur called “Lal Ghat,” it was the perfect location to go out and explore things; and the room was just as if not nicer than our 2000 rs room in Anjuna.

    A little annoyed yet understanding of Dane’s request to “cover up,” I spent our first day walking out the Observatory and Shilpgram, sweating my ass off underneath that stupid shawl. Despite being covered up, I still had a teenager yell at me if I wanted to fuck. 

    The Solar Observatory is located on the lake and we assumed there would be a boat somewhere but there was no booth or boat around the area so we headed back towards town, and made a stop at Shilpgram.

    Shilpgram is a “village” of sorts where you can learn about different Indian tribes of Rajasthan, Goa and other surrounding states. As you enter, you’re encouraged the watch the short videos before exploring the area.

    The videos explain a little about the tribes, their traditions, their clothes and such and later that day, you can watch a show (that repeats every hour) that showcases the music, dances, rituals, etc. While the video was playing, I was approached by an Indian woman who wanted a selfie with me. I’ll never understand this, but as long as it’s women and not creepy men, I still find it amusing (and pretend I’m a celebrity.)

    When the cultural shows were going on, I remember thinking “this is so much better than sitting on a beach in Goa.” Mind you, I still enjoyed Goa but as a fairly active person, it was sort of difficult to sit on my ass every day doing nothing.

    Udaipur is famous for its lakes but it also has plenty of other sights to see so we were happy to be walking places every day. The coffees were a bit pricier than they were in other places but none the less, we picked a different cafe each morning to start our day enjoying the views. As usual, we were approached several times for selfies, but one time, two younger men just randomly started taking pictures of us separately (also felt like it was aimed at my chest?) and I up and walked straight back inside. Indian men .. why so creepy??

    On our second day, we decided to go out and explore the Ahar Cenotaphs, a cremation ground that could be entered for free. Several signs depicted that we couldn’t take pictures but two men rapidly approached us and said “This is India, you can do anything” and instructed us to give some money to what we assumed was the guard keeper after leaving the premises. 

    This is something that’s popped up several times in the last five weeks, India has many rules but they are made to be broken, everything has a price and anyone can and will be bribed. Strange, but convenient for travelers, I suppose?

    Deciding not to pay for the Ahar museum (I can’t recall the price but it wasn’t the 10 rs it said online ..), we headed in the other direction towards the “ropeway,” which is a gondola that goes up a hill nearby the city center.

    At the top of the hill, it was apparent that Udaipur was much larger than we thought it was, and apparent why they called it the White City. The views were breathtaking and well worth the money.

    We shared our cabin with two couples from Bangalore, the women wearing tight jeans and vests. Having seen (mostly younger) women dressed like this in the previous few days (and getting increasingly agitated that I was still covering up), I asked them if this was alright in Rajasthan. They told me it was fine to expose your shoulders and whatnot, you’ll just get a lot of stares. One of the couples asked for a few selfies as well (this must’ve been like the third or fourth time in the space of two days.)

    Having walked + 15 km every day for the last few days, we decided to chill out for our final two days. We booked a cooking class at a rooftop restaurant we dined at two days earlier and were ready to go by 11 am.

    The class was held in the restaurants’ kitchen (while it was open) with no one there but us and the chef. He was very clear about everything and taught us how to make the basic sauce used in virtually all Indian dishes, a “dry dish,” a sweet dish and finally, delicious naan.

    The class only took about an hour and a half but the food was so worth it, albeit a bit spicy. Except .. After a few bites, I felt really full .. And uncomfortable .. And at a certain point actually sick.

    After that meal, we went for a walk in the area but as time went on, I felt worse and worse. By the time I got back to the guesthouse, I was sure I had food poisoning. Chills, hot flashes, painful stomach .. luckily I didn’t puke or have any diarrhea. 

    I have no idea if it was a mild form of food poisoning or if it was the water I drank the night before (the lid wasn’t secured on, we couldn’t remember if one of us had already opened the bottle.) I felt a bit better after I took a tablet but couldn’t stomach the food of eating food. 

    The worst passed that night, but in the following days, I’d get pains in my stomach and a general feeling of bloatiness that would last hours after eating a meal. The spicy meals were the ones that would set it off at first, so I figured I probably couldn’t tolerate spicy food but even after continental dishes, my stomach would protest. 

    It’s been a few days and I still felt a bit uncomfortable after my meal last night in Jaisalmer, but got over it quickly. Dane however has taken a turn for the worst about two days after I first displayed symptoms. He seems really unwell, going through the regular symptoms of food poisoning or a really bad flu.

    We are currently in Jaisalmer, having breezed through Jodhpur in two days. Jodhpur was way too busy for us so we are glad to be here. Will update on our time in Jodhpur soon.

    Anjuna to Mumbai to Udaipur

    Last time I checked in, I was in a funny mood and eager to leave Anjuna. Well as it turns out, once we stopped worrying about ‘doing something’ during the day and just relaxed at the hostel, our stay became 70% nicer (including developing a routine, yup.) We’d planned on going to one more party before leaving, but ended up chilling at the hostel with a few people we’d gotten to know in the last few days. 

    And as the last morning came to an end, I found myself not wanting to leave .. again. Part of the reason would be the hassle of packing, but it’s also hard to leave a place once you develop a sense of comfort in it. All in all though, my experience in Agonda was still nicer so I wasn’t too gutted when I did leave.

    And oh, what a departure it was. Initially planning on taking two busses, after standing around for about 20 minutes, we were approached by two Indians from Mumbai to share a taxi with them. Price tag? 300 each to Thivim (400 to Mapusa devided by four + 400 extra to Thivim devided between Dane and I.) Much costlier than the 50 rs the busses would’ve cost. We told ourselves we wouldn’t go for the comfortable options anymore .. but I guess the train ride made up for that good and decent.

    We’d booked a 1AC ticket each (the most expensive class) about three months ago, but hadn’t noticed that we’d been “waitlisted.” 

    What this means in India is that the train is fully booked at the time of booking. Now you must know that the cancellations in India are really high so as your day of travel approaches and people start cancelling their tickets, you’ll be moved to RAC which secures you a seat on the train but not the desired class you booked unless enough people cancel for you to make it to the top of the list.

    Our waitlist numbers were one and two, and we later found out that 1AC doesn’t have an RAC option so the likelihood of us getting the seats were really high … if only it hadn’t been a long weekend in Mumbai and literally everyone was going back home that night.

    We were told by security to bribe the tte (conductor) and this was confirmed through trying to find a solution on the internet. While waiting for the train, we met a wonderful couple from Mumbai who was in the same boat (waitlisted 2AC.) They pretty much took us under their wing , we trailed after them in the train and followed their instructions. 

    It was clear something wasn’t right as the husband struggled to make a bribe, and this was because there literally was no spare seat on the train. We’d picked a really bad day to travel as conductors usually could be bribed, it was just an unfortunate coincidence. 

    After a few uncertain hours sitting on a bench in 2AC, the husband went outside the carriage and came back with a ticket for four people that would allow us all the stay on the train (but no seat.) We’d literally only met these people two hours before and they bought us a ticket worth 175 rs each and wanted no money from us. We ended up giving them 200 rs (before we knew the value of the ticket) for all their help. They ended up buying a ticket from a fellow Indian and we went separate ways. 

    We stayed in that seat for another hour or so until the people who bought the seat showed up. We moved from corridor to corridor, sitting in the hallways until we got shoed away by the conductor, moving again and again. Eventually, the conductor made us move to sleeper class, which was impossibly full so we sat our bags next to the sleeper class toilets, and the smell was so bad it made me gag several times. The kitchen, filled with people sleeping on cooking tables and on cardboard boxes all over the floor which I had to climb over several times, offered no reprieve.

    We sat there the remaining six hours .. impossibly long six hours. I didn’t catch any z’s and was bored out of my mind and sat uncomfortable most of the time. Dane, bless this beautiful boyfriend of mine, refused to take my more comfortable seat no matter how many times I offered and repeatedly put his warm hands on me to keep me warm (without having to ask.) He’s such a generous and kind boyfriend, I’m so lucky to have him on this trip with me, to enjoy our time together but also to take care of me.

    When we finally arrived in Mumbai, we tried taking another train to the airport but after we’d boarded the wrong train, we just got out and took a taxi (only 200rs this time!)

    After a well deserved buffet breakfast, we were both literally nodding off standing up .. We took power naps here and there in the airport but we were both still dizzy on our feet when we boarded the plane. I tried to sleep inside, but excitement over flying kept me awake and so I enjoyed the views.

    Once landed and thoroughly wrecked, we were more than happy to share another taxi with a French couple. Such a bad habit …

    So now we’re in Udaipur and it’s the evening of our second day here. We’ve been in India for about a month now so I’d quite like to make a “first impressions” blog post talking about the Indians we’ve met, the food we’ve been eating, price and culture comparisons and the scams we’ve encountered so far (already a good handful!) I’ll be writing about that in the next few days and once we leave Udaipur in three days, I’ll make the obligatory Udaipur experience post 🙂

    Budget wise, we are under budget ! I was really surprised to see that we are well below budget this month as we’d spent so goddamn much money in Anjuna .. Which is good news, considering our hostel here in Udaipur is a whopping 1600 rs cheaper than the last one.

    Reflecting on Agonda and last few days in Anjuna

    So the last two times I’ve blogged, I did it after our experience in the particular town. However, this time I’m still in Anjuna and will be for another few days.
    Anjuna is a relatively small area with a beach and not much else surrounding it, in that aspect it’s very similar to Agonda. Apart from that though, it’s like being in two different worlds. 

    While there wasn’t much to do in Agonda, I didn’t feel bored or frustrated or as if I was wasting away my days by just sitting in the lounge all day. In Anjuna, we’ve still got a fair few days ahead of us here and I find myself wishing we’d stayed a bit longer in Agonda and shortened our stay here.

    Our hostel in Anjuna is called Red Door Hostel and is costing us a whopping 2000 rs a night. It’s close to the beach, but not a stone’s throw away like our hut in Agonda, which makes leaving the hostel ‘a thing’ if you catch my drift. We’ve been here for about a week now and have not even once put on our swim gear and chilled by the ocean. 

    The first four days in Anjuna, we went out every night to party (which is what we came for) and by the fifth night, we were spent. While it was an amazing few nights, I sometimes found myself wishing for a quiet drink at a bar somewhere. Must be the age, I guess? 

    So after we got fed up with partying, we started looking for things to do to fill up our days. Well, there’s not much going on around here except partying.

    We walked to Baga and back (about 11km, keeping up the fitness!) Baga is bigger and younger and busier than Anjuna but the vibe overall is the same. I’m glad we ended up in Anjuna instead of Baga because it would’ve been too much for me after Agonda, as Anjuna is still relatively quiet and relaxed.

    Yesterday, we walked to Arambol (20km) in under four hours. The walk itself was busy (no back roads or trail to follow) and uninspired, we had no desire to walk back even though we initially planned on it.

    Arambol is a very hippie and relaxed place. The feel of it is worlds apart from Baga and Anjuna. And still, we only stayed an hour or so before we hopped on a bus to Mapusa (30 rs) and on a second bus back to Anjuna (20 rs.) 

    Having walked around quite a bit, I feel more at ease in Anjuna than when I first got here but I still don’t feel “comfortable.” It’s not a very nice feeling and I didn’t realise I could feel like this because in all of my years traveling (heading towards five!), I’ve not really felt like this before.

    Traveling can be unsettling at times and sometimes it’s hard to adjust to a place, but after a few days (or hours), you inevitably end up in some sort of comforting routine. 

    In Agonda, we would have a morning pot of coffee, then we would either walk down to Saxony, where Dane’s mom was staying, or laze around at our place. The 2 km road was a familiar sight after only a few hours, and we got to know the people behind the stalls, the best places to grab a coconut for a refreshing drink and felt at ease with how we spent our time there.

    I guess I feel very out of place in Anjuna and we haven’t really fell into some sort of routine here (not that I think that’s essential to traveling. If anything, you travel to break routine. I’ve just observed how having some sort of routine to my day while traveling has made the experience nicer for me.)

    Most days we wake up and don’t really know what to do. I can’t speak for Dane but I think we’re both looking forward to leaving this very westernized part of India and travel up north to meet up with an Indian friend we made while in New Zealand (the very same who shared a room with us when we first met.)

    I’ve tried very hard to give this place a chance and to not let my negative thoughts cloud my vision. I’ve had fun here and I’m sure we’ll go to one or two more parties before we leave, but I won’t be sad to go. 

    Agonda was a slice of heaven I could’ve stayed in a long time. (Dane feels different about this, he reckons he would’ve gotten bored. I’m sure I would’ve eased into the slow lifestyle and caught up with my writing and drawing.) Anjuna is a “weeks tops party town” I’m eager to leave.

    Do I regret coming here? Nah, not at all. It’s still a nice place and it gave me some memorable times I won’t forget.

    Next up: Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Pushkar and Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan (the desert!) After that, it’s one more month in the Indian Himalayas before we make our way to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. 

    Agonda, Goa

    I’m sat in the shade at a lovely hostel in Anjuna, Goa. I’ve lost all track of time; I don’t know what day it is or how long I’ve been here but I know that I should make use of this bit of time I’m having to blog about the last two weeks I was in Agonda.

    So we flew from Delhi to Dabolim airport, which was a comfortable two hours or so (I honestly can’t remember.) The difference in heat was apparent immediately; whereas Delhi was unexpectedly cold at times, Goa is sweltering hot.

    About an hour to two hours from the airport lays the tiny town of Agonda. I had no idea what to expect since Dane was the main organiser of our time here in Goa. Well, he did a great job!

    Apart from relaxing on the beach, eating delicious food and drinking a bit, there’s not much else to do in Agonda as it literally one straight road next to a beach (about 3km long.)

    It took a few days to get used to, but once you get settled into the slow lifestyle, it was hard to leave. I started drawing a bit more and ideas starting crawling in my head of stories I wanted to write.

    Dane and I walked to Canacona/Chaudi a few times, which is 21km (there and back.) We took a bus once from Chaudi, which was only 10 rupees! A tuk tuk would’ve been at least 200 rupees. We only paid for a tuk tuk once from leopard valley (between Palolem and Agonda, where there’s a market every Wednesday), other than that we walked everywhere.

    Dane’s mam came out to Agonda as she hasn’t seen Dane for over three years, and it was my first time meeting her as well. She’s positively fun to hang out with and I felt immediately comfortable around her. I absolutely loved meeting Julie and look forward to seeing her again (probably in Australia.)

    Dane’s dad and future step mom came out a few days later (this was the second time I met them, the first was a week long road trip on NZ north island.) It was really nice seeing Kevin and Sharon again. All three of them were so generous and kind as always.

    Our hostel/lodge was called Duck N Chill and though the place wasn’t flash, it was amazing. Our hut was very basic but it’s all you need in Agonda. We had our own little porch that could be closed off by curtains and when you leave the hut, you’re walking on beach sand. 

    The lounge area was inviting and cosy (and right in front of the beach), which is where we spent most of our time if we weren’t at Julie’s place or spending time with Dane’s dad.

    The place had been wrecked about two months before and we’d been worried we’d lost our money or if the place wouldn’t be running properly but all was fine at Duck N Chill. There were so many bad reviews on tripadvisor which is curious because it’s honestly one of the best places I’ve ever stayed in my life and the food was gorgeous.  

    Whereas we ate mostly street food in Delhi, Agonda was our first real experience with authentic Indian food. There were a few dishes here and there which weren’t my favorite, but quality wise, I was enjoying all of them. The naan is to die for, and I could eat curries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I tried a few Israeli and Chinese dishes as well and was in a state of absolute bliss. The only dish I didn’t like was the Indian yoghurt called Raitha. Yuk, never eating that again!

    Time flew by so fast while we were in Agonda even though we weren’t doing much. We spent our last night in a bar I can’t remember the name of but they made the most amazing cocktails ever, and even served me another drink for free (leftover in the blender.) We met so many nice people there and it suddenly dawned on us that we had to leave the next day.

    There were so many little things about the place that I loved. Our lodge had a few cats about and there was one kitten that was absolutely adorable and hung around us all the time. Seeing cows walking about everywhere you go is pretty neat. Even dodging traffic and learning how to barter was getting to be fun. We even ran on the beach a few times because we’re trying to stay fit (but goddamn it’s hard to motivate yourself haha.) Apart from the alcohol, at least we’re eating healthily.

    After a bit of going back and forth, we decided against taking the bus-train-bus route to Anjuna (which would’ve been about 100-200 rs) and snagged a taxi for 2000 rs (most were asking 2500.)

    This is really something we should be doing a bit less in the following months though as we need to start looking at our budget a bit more. Our budget in India is about 1600 rs a day, which was easy to stay under in Agonda because we paid for our accommodation before we left New Zealand as well as the fact that Julie and Kevin were often paying for our meals and drinks (thanks guys!)

    Our accommodation here in Anjuna is 1000 rs which leaves us with only 600 rs for food and everything else which is a bit hard considering we came to Anjuna to party … hard. Needless to say, we’ve been blowing our budget every single day and compensating on food (no need for transport and water costs here, we still walk everywhere and the hostel offers free filtered water.) 

    It was difficult for me to adjust to the busier atmosphere here but after a few days, I was alright. I felt so safe and comfortable in Agonda that it was kinda sad to go back to being on guard and careful all the time. It’s India after all … 

    It’s been about three weeks since we left “home,” and I still find it odd to think of Queenstown as home .. I mean, where do you draw the line in calling a place home? Is it time related? Roots? A feeling?

    I haven’t missed it much considering I’ve been enjoying myself and there’s so much adventure ahead of us. But whenever I see a picture of Qtown on Facebook, I think “ah home” with lots of love in my heart. But I don’t regret leaving, because even though I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life, I’ve never traveled in non-western countries and it’s been so great already. It’s such a different experience to traveling in North America and Europe.

    It’s going to be an amazing eight months.

    Agonda : 5/2 – 15/2 

    Delhi

    So it’s finally here. I lived and worked in New Zealand for nearly three years and plans were made and rearranged, cancelled and made again and at this very moment, I’m writing to you all from an incredibly comfy couch at a lounge overlooking the beach at a small village in India called Agonda.

     So what was Delhi like before we got to this magical place? There are honestly no words. I thought I’d be fine dealing with culture shock until an hour into arriving in Delhi and all of my thoughts could be summed up by “Get me the fuck out of here.”

    Delhi is busy. Unimaginably busy. And there’s rubble everywhere, dilapidated buildings where people live .. stray dogs roam the streets, as do cows and goats and cats.

    Our pre paid taxi ticket server tried to rip us off 30 minutes after landing in India. Men stared at me … non stop. No matter if I was wearing long jeans and a shirt, or a long dress and a shawl to cover my shoulder and arms. Everyone is ‘friendly’ but nothing is for free and everyone has an ulterior motive. You can literally not walk down the street without being approached several times and it’s always the same dig “nice tattoo, where are you from, where exactly, what are you doing today,etc” and then they’ll either direct you to a tourist center where you cannot get a free map as promised or they turn out to be a tuk tuk driver.

    I don’t mean to be so negative about Delhi. Once I got used to the place, I learned how to cross busy highways without being hit. I got used to the stares and used to the prices. We got used to being asked to go on pictures with people.  Dane and I have become more aware of how things work around here, and for me, I guess I stopped taking it personally. 

    So we only spent three nights in Delhi but became accustomed enough to forgo the tuk tuks and started taking the metro everywhere. And boy, did it lead us to some amazing places.

    The place we stayed at was Maurya Hotel in the district of Karol Bach. We were originally staying at Guatam Delux but upon arriving were told it was closed for maintenance. Having heard of the many scams in India, we were sure this was going to be one of them but the staff at both hotels were more than helpful, even giving their personal phone numbers. 

    Karol Bagh is a mixture of residences and shopping areas. The market is absolutely massive and we indulged in so much street food of which the names are hard to remember so I can’t recommend anything to you. We ended up having two meals in two different restaurants during our time there (and came to the shocking conclusion that everything is taxed .. whoops!) Everything else we ate was street food, and God, is Indian food lovely!

    I don’t have much to say about Connaught Place as we didn’t stay there for a long time. It’s a few expensive shops in a big circle. The area looks quite interesting but I didn’t even dig out my camera to take a few snaps there.

    The lotus temple and Ghandi memorial/museum left more of an impression on me. Surprisingly, despite being major tourist attractions, it didn’t feel as busy as the rest of Delhi. 

    My favorite part of our few days in Delhi was our visit to the Akshardham Temple. Mobile phones, cameras, etc were not allowed and I couldn’t have been more gutted. It was indescribably beautiful. Walking up the temple … And then going inside .. And walking around the other structures … It is by far the most beautiful man made structure I’ve witnessed in my entire life. The detail, the shapes, the ornaments, .. It was immensely impressive.

    So yeah, there you have it. A short blog entry for our days in Delhi. I’m going to try to keep up blogging about our travels (unlike my three years in New Zealand where I had loads of new experiences but never seemed to blog about it .. I don’t even know why. Possibly because it felt like home to me and nothing “special.” Which it was, obviously but still …)

    No pictures are included in this post, I know .. I have no laptop so I might include them later but until then .. Namaste friends.