My Top 5 Uniquely Asian Activities

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of my Top 5 posts and as I sit here in a wintery Colorado, my mind is currently being transported back to wonderful Asia.

As you know, It is impossible to choose just five but here it goes, in no particular order, These are my top five uniquely Asian experiences.

Doing a temple stayIMG_9198

This was such an amazing experience that I will treasure for a long time to come. Asia is the best place to find a temple stay that will teach you about Buddhism and meditation. It’s a great way to strip away any stress that you may have and also learn a bit about the country that you are in.

Hiking in the Himalayasimg_4378

They are an amazing mountain range with the highest peaks in the world. There is nothing more magical than knowing that you are standing on the roof of the world and seeing beauty around every corner.

Seeing the Taj MahalIMG_5171

Few famous buildings live up to their hype but the Taj Mahal definitely isn’t one of them. I remember just being in complete awe when first setting eyes on it. It is amazingly beautiful and will leave you breathless.

tip: Go first thing in the morning to beat the crowds.

Seeing Orangutans in Borneocb61f-malaysia058

Okay, Asia has some wonderful wildlife and you can just as easily replace the word orangutans with turtles, whale sharks, tigers or rhinos. But for me, when I got to see orangutans up close and personal without barriers at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, it was astounding. It was something that I had dreamed about for years and when it finally happened I was left in awestruck.

Karaoke38255_1428887613677_7902928_n

Yes, I know that karaoke exists everywhere in the world, but to enjoy a karaoke session somewhere in Asia, it’s a completely different experience. Most singing rooms are small and fit a private group of people. While in the room, you snack on food, drink alcohol and sing songs while playing the tambourine. Also, most of these places are open 24 hours so you can enjoy it after a night of partying. I have had way too much fun in singing rooms over the years, especially the ones that have costumes!

 

Okay, so that’s my list…how about you? is there anything that you’d add, or remove from this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Teaching English…Let’s Talk Money

Well, today is my 5 year anniversary of living in Korea. I can’t believe I have been here that long. Some days it seems like only yesterday that I arrived here, scared out of my mind of what the future would hold. Other days, I forget the way we say things back in Ireland and it seems like forever since I lived there.

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One of my first weeks in Korea

 

But something that Korea has afforded me to do is to live a comfortable life never having to worry about money.

I was recently chatting to Jason feeling a bit panicked that we mightn’t have as much savings leaving here as I had hoped. Luckily we sat down and wrote down our finances and worked out that we may be only $1,000 short of what we had hoped for.

One of the questions that I usually get asked when people are considering moving to Korea is about money. Because let’s face it…it’s what draws most people to teach English here in Korea.

So let me break down what 5 years in Korea has afforded me to do…

Myself and Jason got to pay off over $15,000 worth of debt in about 3 months (we had both payed off about $8,000 in our first few years in Korea.)

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The night that we became debt free we bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

We got married and had an amazing honeymoon in Bali.grainnefb-56

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I got to visit Ireland and my family 4 times in 5 years.486737_496040363747367_1584591532_n

 

I got to visit Jason’s family in America once for a month.396203_372672622750809_1854014088_n

We got to do a 4 month Asian adventure together travelling to Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal and India.Agra and the Taj Mahal.

We have also gotten to travel to China, Japan (twice), Amsterdam, Malaysia and Borneo. Jason also went to the Philippines.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

cb61f-malaysia058We were able to get our dog, Willy, 2 complicated operations on his legs which cost us just under $2,000 (a bargain for what was involved!). In America, each leg would have cost about $10,000!imagewilly

We have travelled throughout Korea together.206423_208115522539854_6647442_n

229550_1841185080856_1820334_nWe have never lived pay check to pay check.

and we are hoping to leave Korea with just under $30,000

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Not bad for 5 years!

You can probably now understand why we stayed here for as long as we did. We know life in America will be incredibly different but we are definitely excited for that next challenge!

So if you are considering moving to Korea to teach English, please do! It’s a great way to have fun while saving money or paying back your student loans (I have one friend who has paid back over $40,000 in student loans over 3 years!)

If you have any questions about moving to Korea or about teaching English, just let me know.

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Delhi!

We finally arrived in to Delhi, and this was also going to be the final stop on our travels. We would be spending about 4 days here and then I would return to Korea to be reunited with our pup Willy and Jason would be going home to America for a month.

Jason on the train in to Delhi.

Arriving in to Delhi was just madness. The train station was so busy and there were hundreds of rickshaws outside just waiting to snatch up a customer. We decided to walk to the backpackers area (Paharganj) which is right by the train station. Once we arrived in the area we checked out a few places to stay and realised that they were all over our budget. Our backpacks were starting to weigh us down and the June heat wasn’t helping either. We tried another place and once again it was too expensive, the owner then told us that he had another guesthouse that was cheaper and right across the road. We took a look and decided to stay there. After dropping our bags in to the room we decided to try and get in to Connaught Avenue, the main shopping area of Delhi.

One of the stops along the way.
The craziness that greets you when you exit the station.
Paharganj
…and again.
…and again.
Jason walking down Paharganj

I was really hot so we decided to hail a rickshaw, unfortunately this guy decided he’d try and scam us and bring us nowhere near where we had wanted to go to and try to make us go to his friends shop. We said no and asked him to bring us to where we wanted to go, and again he brought us to another friends shop. I got so pissed that I just gave him some money, we got out and walked away. We then hailed down another rickshaw and luckily he brought us to where we wanted to go. BUT when paying we didn’t have any small money so he took the note, refused to give change and just drove off! We couldn’t believe that we had only been in the city for an hour and had already gotten scammed twice…I feel sorry for people that begin their travels in Delhi!

We were feeling pretty stressed at this stage when a guy came along and followed us trying to tell us that we weren’t in the shopping area and that of course he would bring us to the right area. After ignoring him for what seemed like forever and ducking into a store to get rid of him he finally disappeared. We were both just exhausted from all of the lying so we did the only thing that we could think to do…duck in to a really expensive cocktail bar and restaurant and have some delicious food and drinks while basking in the air-con. It was like a different world in there and it was nice to get away from the craziness for a little bit.

In our “safe zone”
Yummy margaritas!

The next day we decided to explore Old Delhi. We found a cycle rickshaw that would bring us to a spice market, then to the Jamma Masjid mosque (the largest one in India) and finally to Delhi fort. He seemed nice and it was great wandering through the tiny alleyways of Old Delhi. There was a wonderful vibe there and many of the people living there were muslim. The spice market was a sight to behold and I have to admit that it was hard to breathe with so many spices all around you! We decided to buy some saffron (which we found out later was completely overpriced) and then went to the mosque.

Our cycle rickshaw driver.
So many spices!
At the spice market.
One of the many old streets in Old Delhi.

The mosque was absolutely huge and because we weren’t wearing the right clothes we got given some curtain style robes to wear. We had to take our shoes off to go in but it was absolute torture to walk on the marble as the midday sun had turned it to fire. It was very beautiful though, I have a thing for mosques and could visit them all day if I had a chance. I hope someday that I can visit the middle east and see some there some day.

Jason being a celebrity!
Outside the Jamma Masjid
Me in my lovely curtains!
Mother and daughter praying together.

After our time at the mosque we went to the Red fort and had a very awkward fight with our rickshaw driver who, like everyone else in this city it seemed, tried to rip us off.
After finally just walking away from him we had a nice couple of hours relaxing in the gardens of the Delhi fort. That evening we decided to take no more rickshaws in the city and to also transfer to an expensive hotel for our last couple of nights travelling. We found a nice hotel that was close to the light rail, about 20 minutes away from downtown.

Jason being cheesy at the red fort.
One of the beautiful buildings inside the fort.

The room was so amazing and the bed was one of the biggest we had ever seen! We spent the whole of the next day just enjoying the swimming pool and relaxing in our room…suddenly Delhi didn’t seem all that bad! That evening we found a shopping center near our hotel that had a cinema so decided to do some shopping and then go and see our first Bollywood film. It was fun watching the kids dance in the aisles, the cinema was much nicer than any back home in Ireland too. The first hour of the movie was fun and it was set in Manali, the beautiful town that we had fallen in love with a week before, but it was a pretty long movie, with an interval, so we were a little bored by the end. I didn’t like how the main characters love interest was a disgusting sleeze who would try it on with all of these girls in front of her, then she got a make-over and suddenly he was trying it on with her.

The next day we wanted to go and see some more sights in Delhi, this time taking the subway to where we wanted to go. We had a wonderful day this time, partly because we didn’t have to worry about being scammed and partly because the sights that we were seeing were some of the most beautiful of our entire trip (I think our comfy sleep probably helped as well!)

We started the day off looking for Humayuns tomb. Jason had read about it so we decided to pay it a visit. We got off at the right station but couldn’t seem to find it. We ended up in an area that had hundreds of homeless people sleeping on the streets. It was very sad to see. We also came across a beautiful abandoned  temple that was now home to many homeless people. After walking for a while we finally came across Humayuns tomb.

A sign in the subway station…this sign really is needed because people spit EVERYWHERE!
A beautiful roundabout.
The beautiful building that now housed many homeless people.

Humayuns tomb is absolutely beautiful and it is the building that apparently the Taj Mahal was based upon. What we loved the most about the tomb was the smaller tombs in the gardens. The whole area was extremely peaceful and like everywhere else in India at that time was practically devoid of tourists, a massive win for us, since we had to put up with the unbearable summer heat.

The outside of Humayuns tomb.
One of the smaller tombs.
This was one of my favorite buildings.
Humayuns tomb.
Enjoying one of our last sightseeing days of ouir travels.
The beautiful Humayuns tomb.

After spending a couple of hours relaxing in the grounds of the tomb we decided to go and visit the Ghandi museum. It is housed in the final house he had stayed in before he was killed. It was a really interesting experience. I learned so much more about him and we got to read so many of his wonderful quotes. We also got to see the room that he stayed in before he died and it was preserved since then. It showed just how simple a man he was.

Both the Humayuns tomb and the Ghandi museum were in New Delhi and it was such a beautiful area, tree lined streets and very quiet. I would recommend to anyone visiting Delhi to go and visit these sights first before going in to Old Delhi.

We began our time in Delhi on such an awful note, we hated the place and just wanted to leave. But we ended up loving the place by the end of our time there. There are some beautiful sights to be seen and really good food to taste. Just watch who you trust while you are there…

The next day was our final day together for a while so we spent the day relaxing (trying to get the last bit of a tan in) and just enjoying our time together. I couldn’t believe that the travels that I had spent so long planning for were over just like that. And boy did we have the time of our lives!!

Our last night 🙂

Getting there:

We caught a train there from Chandigarh, but since it’s a massive city you can get to and from most places in Northern India here (the train station is huge!) and of course fly from all over the world.

Where we stayed:

Our first night we spent on the main Pahar-ganj bckpacker area. There are guesthouses everywhere there. The reason that we found it difficult to get something in our price range was because we needed air-con, which doubles the price of most rooms. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of our guesthouse.

After a night here and a lot of stress from staying in central Delhi we moved to a classy hotel in the outskirts of Delhi. The Park Plaza Delhi in Shahdara. It was an amazing experience! We got a good rate for the room from Agoda.com.

Hotel website here
Trip-advisor reviews here 

Chandigarh

Chandigarh isn’t on many peoples itineraries when travelling India and it wasn’t on ours either. We just happened to go there because it would break up the trip from Manali to Delhi quite nicely.

What we found though was a very interesting and friendly city. One of the most unfortunate things about the city is the lack of places to stay. Because not many travelers visit there the guest houses are very old and way more expensive than you’d pay anywhere else. We found a place on Agoda before arriving and decided to book it.

Chandigarh is broken up into different sectors and it’s one of the few planned cities in India. It is also one of the few cities where most roads are beautifully paved, there aren’t many cows on the road and not much litter either. Also something quite interesting about the city is that the different areas are called sectors, so for example the shopping area is in sector 22 and The lake is in sector 1. I felt like I was in The Hunger Games for a little while.

After arriving in to the city after sunset we found our guesthouse and got settled in for the night, we ordered some room service and enjoyed our curries while catching up on a tv show or two.

The next day we decided to go in to Sector 22 and have a look at the shopping area. It was a little bit creepy as it was so clean and quiet there. There was a tourist office and the tourist police quickly came over to check if we needed any help with anything. We both felt that it was so stange being in an area of India that was so unlike any other place we had been to. After some window shopping and getting a bit lost we made our way to a bus stop to get on to the citys hop on hop off bus. (yes they had a tourist bus!!!)

Once the bus came we realised that there were only going to be the both of us and one other girl from New Zealand on it. We quickly became friends with Yael and were on our way to the first stop, a rose garden in the city park. I’m not going to lie I wasn’t too amazing by it. The roses were very beautiful but with the heat of the midday sun we didn’t stay too long to enjoy it. I didn’t even get a photo of them :/

Afterwards it was time for the city’s museum and art gallery. We quite enjoyed our time here. It was quite a small museum and there weren’t many people there so we had time to go around and view all of the beautiful art on display and some of the historic items, including beautiful rugs!

One of the beautiful statues at the museum.
A painting at the museum.

After quite a while here we finally went back to the bus with our driver scolding us for taking too long. Soon we were stopped at our next sight of the day which was a war memorial statue in one of the citys gardens. It was a beautiful staute and the gardens were very peaceful. We were allowed about ten minutes here, which was enough with the heat.

Our next destination was the most anticipated and probably the reason that most people go to Chandigarh in the first place. Nek Chand’s Rock Garden. Hmm, how can I describe this place?

Well, it all started when Chandigarh became the first planned city in India. There were buildings, houses and villages being knocked to make way for it. Nek Chand saw all of the waste and started collecting recyclable clay, glass, tin and other stuff and began working on a peaceful little area in the city where he could design beautiful art from other peoples rubbish.
It was illegal and no one knew that he was secretly creating this beautiful garden. He managed to keep it a secret for 18 years! When it was discovered it had become 12 acres of interlinked courtyards filled with sculptures everywhere. The government wanted to demolish it but luckily it got saved and is constantly being added on to. It now includes beautiful waterfalls and bridges and has so many different areas.

Some of the sculptures at the rock garden.
Beautiful recycled clay pots.
I don’t look too happy here, but I was, I swear!
Some of the poses that we saw were amazing!

We had a great time walking around it, although we ended up spending most of our time getting our photos taken with the Indian tourists…foreigners are a rare spot in this city and the excitement of seeing one was so sweet. We even had a woman invite us to stay with her and her family if we were ever in their area. It was a lot of fun and we ended up spending a couple of hours getting lost in the rock garden.

Some of the kids that wanted photos with us.

When we finally managed to find our way out of the rock garden it was time for the last stop of the day and that was Sukhana lake.
Sukhana lake is a manmade lake in the city where many of the families that live in Chandigarh spend their evenings. It is very cheesy complete with some swan paddle boats! I actually spent most of my time there chatting to a wonderful man that plucked up the courage to talk to me. He told me that he had went for auditions on an Indian singing show and was the oldest person that had entered. He showed me a video of his audition and then right there and then started singing for me. He was such an amazing man and that memory will stick with me for a long long time.

Sukhana lake.
A random camel outside the lake.
one of the many families enjoying their time there.
The wonderful man that sung to me.
Myself and Jason on the hop-on-hop-off bus.
Yael.

After our bus trip we decided to go for dinner near where Yael was staying. We had heard a rumour that there was a Quizno’s there and couldn’t resist a chance to have some! Our dreams came true and we managed to have some Quiznos (although you have to be careful with your choices as most of the meat selections are fake meat…vegetarian or chicken is always best!) We then met up with a local that Yael had been in contact with through Couchsurfing. He was really nice and we had planned on gonig to a club with them but didn’t have the right shoes on so couldn’t get in (We definitely were in a richer India!) So decided to give it a miss and head back to our guesthouse for a rest before our train to Delhi the next day.

Unfortunately the next day we got a rickshaw to the train station and I got groped by the driver, I felt so violated but didn’t say anything, I guess I was too shocked. Now, I wish I had screamed in his face and hit him! I also didn’t tell Jason until afterwards as I didn’t want him doing something he’d regret. Luckily that was the only time that something like that had happened to me in India.

Overall we really enjoyed our time in Chandigarh, we loved that it was a spur of the moment decision to go there and that there weren’t many foreigners there so felt like we had gotten off of the tourist trail and it was nice to see how the other half live in India. I’d definitely recommend a stop here on your way too or from the hills.

Getting there and away: Luckily it’s quite a big city so there are many buses and trains that go there from other cities. We got a bus there from Manali and then booked on to a train to Delhi. The train was great, we travelled during the day and even though it was only about 3 hours our train ticket included lunch and beverages.

Where we stayed: Hotel Grand Residency.
We booked this hotel through Agoda and it was the cheapest one available. (guesthouses are very expensive in Chandigarh)
The hotel was okay, it was a bit dirty but the food was good and it was fine for a couple of nights.
Here are the tripadvisor reviews for it.

Magical Manali!

After the looooooong drive from Leh we woke up in a strange guesthouse and were ready to find something better. Once we walked out we realised that the lane-way that was so freaky the night before was absolutely beautiful and full of local houses and barns with cows, yaks, pigs and chickens. We also noticed that there was a really nice guesthouse right in this quaint lane-way. It looked amazing so we didn’t think we’d be able to afford it but it actually ended up being within our budget. The room was so bright and had huge windows with views of the forested mountains and waterfalls nearby.
We also had a huge balcony with beautiful wood furniture where we could relax and enjoy the cool mountain air. It really was the perfect place to stay, it was surrounded by old farm houses with people tending to their farms.

One of the many farm animals near our guesthouse.
Jason walking…I really loved this area!
…and again.
During the day a net would be put up around the farms for the locals to play.
YAK!
Hard at work.
Charlie, the beautiful dog owned by the family that runs the guesthouse.
Charlie chilling.

After settling in we decided to venture out and take a look around Manali. It is a really beautiful town. There are two main areas of Manali, old and new Manali. Old Manali is where most backpackers stay while new Manali is where many Indian tourists stay.

Beautiful old Manali.

We really enjoyed our time in Manali and ended up staying 5 days there, relaxing, listening to some live music, eating delicious food and wandering around. Jason bought a beautiful chess board so we also spent a lot of time on our balcony watching the misty rain cover the mountains while playing chess.

Jason hanging out on our beautiful balcony.

I really can’t say much about Manali because we really did just relax there and ate a ton! It was a lovely mountain town that is situated on a river. There are the friendliest stray dogs everywhere and we also spent some time sitting on the footpaths cuddling with them.

It was love at first sight for these two.
If there was any way possible Jason would have brought this guy home with us!
They were so sweet and friendly.

One day Jason decided to do some paragliding and he had an amazing time. the weather was really nice and he had to ride a horse up to the take off area high above the town. His photos are beautiful, I spent that morning having a long breakfast and enjoying some me time.

Jasons photos from his paragliding trip.
Beautiful views!
My manly man on his horse.
He took this photo while paragliding…I’m a little jealous that I didn’t join!
He then met me for brunch afterwards.
…and again.

Our time in Manali was so wonderful and it gave us the rest and relaxation we needed before heading back in to the hot Indian summer down south. Initially our plan was to travel from here to McLeod Ganj and then down to Delhi but this journey would take some backtracking and a long time on buses and we were quite sick of buses at this point so we decided to go down south towards Delhi. After reading our Lonely Planet I saw that there was an interesting city about halfway between Manali and Delhi so we decided to take a couple of days to explore Chandigarh.

Accommodation:

Tiger Eye Guesthouse: http://www.tigereyeadventure.com/tigereyeguesthouse.html

This was probably one of our favourite guesthouses of our entire trip, the staff, rooms, food and dog were all exceptional!

Our favourite restaurant:

I don’t normally post about restaurants here but I just have to tell you all about this amazing little spot that we practically lived in while in Manali.

Drifters Cafe: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g297618-d2439544-Reviews-Drifters_Cafe-Manali_Himachal_Pradesh.html

It was a beautiful little place that had a ton of games for you to play, they had scones and cakes, wonderful breakfasts and even better lunches and dinners. You usually had to get there early for dinner as it would fill up fast. They also had some live music. A little bit more expensive than other places but well worth it!

The epic drive from Leh to Manali.

This journey is something that I’ve read about many times before doing it. If you ever google the top ten drives in the world this is usually up there. The thing that makes it exciting is that the road between these two places is closed for about 9 months of the year because it’s completely covered in snow. It is only open during the summer months so it suited us perfectly. We knew that it would be tough ride but also one to remember. It’s a crazy road that passes over numerous mountain passes one higher than the next. Luckily for us we choose to drive back to Manali instead of driving to Leh as people can get pretty bad altitude sickness while climbing the high mountains getting to Leh. I think our time in Nepal helped us out a lot too.

Anyway this drive goes through the Himalayas and is truely beautiful. We left our guesthouse at about 10 p.m. to meet what we though was a jeep. Unfortunately the jeep got cancelled and we ended up having to drive in a minibus with a very obnoxious couple in front of us that insisted on pushing their seats fully back which left us with NO space whatsoever. I’m not going to lie, I plotted their deaths a couple of times during the trip. As we began in the dark we didn’t really see much for the first couple of hours, this was when we were driving over the mountain passes. I also didn’t get much sleep that night so I got to witness the sun rise. By the time the sun rose we were driving along vast open areas with a couple of yurts here and there. We stopped at one for breakfast and got to take in the views and then were off again (I was way too tired to take photos unfortunately).

After another while the scenery turned to a very desert landscape with beautiful rock formations and sand cliffs. Unfortunately I couldn’t get many photos from this raod trip so my memories are all that will suffice. After another while we began to go into vast green spaces with fields everywhere. This was where we stopped for dinner and once again were off. As the sun was setting we climbed another mountain and were on the final frontier towards Manali. The other side of this mountain pass is where many Indian tourists go to for a day trip and it’s where many of them get to see snow for the first time. While driving there we got to witness a few familys having snow ball fights. The way down from that mountian pass was astoundingly beautiful. The sun was setting and we were above the clouds so got to see the beautiful mountains lower down completely covered in clouds.

Further down again we were getting closer and closer to Manali and the scenery changed again, this time to beautiful greenery and forests. Soon it got dark and we had been going for about 24 hours we were all exhausted and dying to get to Manali when the unthinkable happened…the bus broke down! We had two options, either wait for god knows how long for someone to come and help or drive with no brakes, we decided on the latter as long as we drove pretty slow (this guy had been driving so fast throughout the entire trip)

Everything worked out in the end and we managed to make it to Manali in one piece, although the traffic coming in was absolutely crazy that we ended up having to sit in it for about an hour…absolutely torture!
Once the bus stopped it was about midnight and we had no place booked, we were absolutely shattered and all we could think about was jumping in to a bed…any bed!

We left in search for a place to stay with a Korean girl that had been on the bus with us. After searching for quite a while we realised that nearly everywhere was fully booked. Our taxi driver said his uncle had a guesthouse that we could stay in, we had mixed feelings about this but didn’t really have a choice so decided to go with him. He parked the tuk-tuk on a road and made us follw him down a really dodgy alley (during the daytime it turned out to be a wonderful alley…but not now!)

We reached his uncles place and his uncle wasn’t the nicest of men and only had one room available, so we decided to share the room with the Korean girl and find another place the next day. Then we finally got to fall into the bed!

The Nubra Valley (Ladakh continued)

We were up bright and early to start the long journey to the Nubra valley. The jeep collected us at our guesthouse and then we were off in a different direction from when we went to Pangong Tso. Today we would be driving over one of the highest drivable mountain passes in the world…altitude tablets at the ready and we were off!

Something I’ve noticed about myself the older I get is that I am much more prone to getting travel sickness now than before. Especially when we are driving at extremely high altitude. As we began to get higher and higher I was feeling quite sick and tried to focus on the incredible scenery outside the window to keep my mind preoccupied. About an hour in to the journey we came across a big traffic jam (which is quite random on the Ladakhi roads) But it was because the only road to the Nubra valley and its surrounds was closed because they were bomb blasting on the mountain. We had to wait about an hour at this random military stop for them to finish which suited me just fine because it gave me time to get over my travel sickness. The main thing on everyone’s mind at that stop was trying to use the toilet and it was also here at this stop that I used the worst toilet (if you could call in that) in my life.

A beautiful monastery that we passed on the way.
and another view of it…

I know I shouldn’t really be talking about such disgusting things as Indian toilets in this blog, but sorry, I can’t help myself! There were quite a few tourists at this stop and the only toilet available was a shower cubicle, yes a shower cubicle with a tiny drain in the corner which meant that there was just a huge puddle of pee (among other things) in the cubicle. With a scarf covering up my sense of smell I entered and managed not to vomit which was great (Incidentally I did vomit while using a toilet in Cambodia because of the smell)

Anyway, moving on…after waiting about an hour for the bomb blasting to finish we were off again on our way up the mountain to get to the Khardung La mountain pass. I must mention here that this drive was most definitely the most beautiful drive I’ve ever been on! We drove through such a diverse landscape. But right now the landscape was rock and snow, still beautiful. After getting to the top of the pass (having passed a few vehicles that weren’t too luckily and had toppled over the edge of the mountain road in the past). We took a little break and had a chance to climb a bit higher up to get some incredible views and some photos with the many prayer flags that were around the pass before the altitude hit us.

Up on the Khardung La pass.
View from the pass.
So many prayer flags!
Some stupas at the top.

After the break we headed down the other side of the mountain and after another hour or so we were driving through incredible canyons and valleys, very different from the snowy mountain pass we had been on earlier. The scenery was really like something from the Grand Canyon. Very arid and beautiful! It was hard to think that anyone could live out there but every once in a while we would come across some patches of villages that had planted grass and trees in the area.

The views as we got closer to the desert.
You really can’t take a bad photo in Ladakh!
A random mini festival in the middle of nowhere that we drove past.
Beautiful scenery!
It almost looks like a painting.
Taking a break to enjoy the views.
Me overlooking a town in the desert.

As we were getting closer to the Nubra valley we began to notice huge sand dunes and a beautiful waterfall. We then got in another traffic jam as we had to wait for more bomb blasting on another mountain. But we had an otherworldly view so none of us minded. The scenery in this area really felt like we were back in a time when dinosaurs roamed, it was so beautiful. After only about 30 minutes we were on the road again and getting closer to our destination.

The waterfall.
The views while we were waiting for the bomb blasting to finish.
Traffic jam.
The sand dunes.

Once we arrived we decided to go camel riding before going to our guesthouse. Honestly after going through the experience I don’t think I would recommend the camel riding here. I felt bad for the camels as they didn’t get much rest time but I’m hoping that they were treated well. These camels ancestors used to travel through Tibet and on to the Silk road. It was quite strange riding the camels and mine wanted to make a run for it a couple of times but it was a good way to see the sand dunes. One of our camels had a baby so he would just run after his mom no matter where she went and if she was going too fast he’d let out the cutest little wail for her to stop.

More sand dunes.
The area where we would be camel riding.
Camels sitting in wait.
Ilze all set to go.
Me getting ready.
And we are off!
Baby camel.
Sand covered mountains!

Once we were finished with the camel riding (which was hugely popular among the Indian tourists) We were off in to the beautiful country roads that had trees and flowers everywhere (strange considering we were in the middle of a desert) and found our beautiful newly built guesthouse. Ilze decided to take a walk around the area and the rest of us decided to relax in the garden and enjoy the last of the sun while playing some cards. It was so peaceful there! We had a great Indian buffet for dinner and then just relaxed for the rest of the night.

The next morning we were going to take a look at one of the impressive monasteries that are jutting out of the mountains, see a giant gold Buddha statue and then begin the journey back in to Leh. The monastery was so impressive! The monasteries in this area are so beautiful because it’s not just one building but it’s almost like a little village of buildings, the views from almost every part of the it was equally impressive, something I won’t forget for a long time to come. Each building has it’s own purpose and finally at the very top of all of the other buildings is the temple itself. There was a very friendly monk there (let’s face it, what monk isn’t friendly!) The building itself was so beautiful and in a dark back area there were paintings that were thousands of years old. There were also photos all around from when the Dalai Lama went to visit the monastery. Myself and Jason had been wanting to buy some prayer flags and incense for quite a while and decided that this was the perfect to buy them, so we now have some beautiful prayer flags hanging on our balcony here in Korea.

The beautiful monastery that we visited.
and again…
Jason taking in the surrounding views.
One of the prayer wheels.
The Buddha statue.
Walking within the monastery area.
There were many inscriptions on the stones.
View from the temple.

After our time at the monastery we went to take a look at a huge golden Buddha statue that was close by…again it had an incredible view of the impressive scenery of the area.

Drew and Bec trying to recreate the pose.
Myself and J posing Korean style 😉

Once we had our fill at the Buddha statue, it was time to make the long drive home, we were hoping that there wouldn’t be any bomb blasting or diversions this time around. There wasn’t any bomb blasting but there was a crazy mishap that had us delayed by over an hour.

After about 3 hours driving we were beginning the climb up to the Kardung La mountain pass again. This time around the sun had been shining for the last couple of days which meant that quite a few streams had began to form from melting snow. One stream in particular was pretty bad, when we arrived at it we found that a car had gotten stuck in it. Our driver and some work men managed to free the car from it and then another car went through just fine. Then it was our turn…unfortunately our jeep managed to get stuck in the worst spot possible. We were stuck there for about 30 minutes with crowds beginning to form and do what they typically do in India, just watch. Poor Jason and Drew had to stand in the icy cold stream trying to get the jeep unstuck. At one stage this sweet old Indian man had asked Drew to take some photos of him, while taking the photos the man exclaimed “Watch me dance!” and broke out in to a full on dance. This whole situation just had me laughing so much, finally the army came and after a lot of standing around they managed to help us out and we were off back to Leh.

More bomb blasting on our way back.
One of the local workers that helped to free our jeep.
The dreaded stream!
STUCK!
More and more people gather.
At least we had the beautiful views…
And another one gets stuck!
The wonderful man dancing for Drew.
and again…
and again…
We thought help was here…but they just drove past us.
More of the beautiful landscape!

Once we arrived back at our wonderful guesthouse (for a third time!) we decided to stay a couple of more days in Leh, partly to relax and prepare ourselves for the crazy 26 hour journey that we would be taking out of that region and also because we genuinely didn’t want to say goodbye to this awe inspiring place!
We spent the rest of our days organizing our transport to Manali and eating lots of food (including some good Korean food that we were craving and lots of yummy homemade cake).

It was so sad to say goodbye to this place as we both truly had the time of our lives. Saying goodbye also meant that our wonderful travels were finally coming to an end with just a couple of short weeks left…

Getting there and away:

This is probably the toughest part about Ladakh is getting there. There is only 1 option for 9 months of the year and that is flying which can be quite expensive. During June, July and August the snow is cleared on the mountain passes which makes driving possible. It’s a long journey that took us about 26 hours on our way home. We had heard that many jeeps take 2 days to do the journey which we would have preferred but there was nobody offering this option when we were trying to book our way out of Leh.

We flew up from Delhi and then drove back down.

Travel agent: 

For the life of me I cannot remember the name of the travel agent that we used to book our trips while in Ladakh. He was a really nice man and genuinely seemed interested in keeping costs down for us. His shop was on the main street and right by the delicious bakery/restaurant that everyone frequents while in Leh. (I hope that helps a little) He organized a jeep to and from the Nubra valley and Pangong Tso lake for us.

Where we stayed:

In Leh: Oriental Guesthouse: We moved to here after leaving our ice box of a room at the previous guesthouse. We had seen that this place had excellent reviews on tripadvisor. We definitely weren’t disappointed! For the same price as the other place we had a beautiful room that had the most wonderful views of the mountains. It was about 15 minutes walk away from the main area of Leh, but this walk was down wonderful small streets with beauty all around. I 100% recommend staying in this part of town, it was an amazing experience!
http://www.orientalguesthouse.com/

In the Nubra Valley: Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the guesthouse in the valley. It was quite new and our jeep driver brought us to it. But tripadvisor has some really nice one’s on their website.