Archives for March 2014

Nepal Budget

nepal budgetNepal was easily one of those countries that you instantly fall in love with when you exit the plane (after the two hour wait to get your entrance visa of course). We splurged more on this trip especially on the Everest flight because well…we got to see Everest. It was one of those times where a splurge was completely justifiable in our book. Another thing that we spent more on than usual was food, even though you could hardly tell from the average $20 a day we spent. We were overly cautious about what and where we ate while we were in both Nepal and India and therefore picked nicer, more established restaurants rather than eating street food like we usually do while we travel. Although the best food can be found on the street, it’s just a whole lot more risky. We learned this the hard way by getting deathly ill after both Thailand and Cambodia. In hind site, we should have been more careful but I have no regrets about how we’ve traveled.

But this trip was an exception since we were going to be seeing family for the first time and announcing that we had moved back by surprise and I just didn’t want to take the chance of getting sick for that. As careful as we were, it still didn’t quite work out for me and I still got sick. I should add though that I don’t think it was from the food but instead from the fact that I kept forgetting to brush my teeth with the bottled water we bought and ended up drinking some of the water. Jeremy was better about it and wasn’t affected at all. It was only me that surprised our family members immediately followed by ‘where’s the nearest bathroom?’ Not quite the entrance I was expecting but after just under a week I was finally able to enjoy all the American food we missed so much.

The Nepal budget below is for 7 nights and 8 days and reflects the price for both my husband and I.

nepal budget

Tips for Visiting the Taj Mahal

taj mahalJust like you can’t visit China without visiting the Great Wall or Nepal without seeing the Himalayas, you just simply can’t visit India and pass up seeing the infamous Taj Mahal, meaning ‘crown of plalaces’. It is beyond breathtaking with its intricate details and sprawling garden grounds. Take note Jeremy, this is how you pay tribute to your wife! Granted it was just one of emperor Shah Jahan’s many wives (no thank you) and it was after she passed away while giving birth to their 14th child (ouch). Same same right? The gorgeous sites are enough to book a plane ticket on their own but what about the pictures? Here are some helpful tips for visiting the Taj Mahal and capturing photos that guarantee a hassle free visit plus are sure to get you drool worthy photos to guarantee friends and family back home a small dose of wanderlust.

Morning Fog. If you go during dry season, beware! If you’re not, you can skip to the next tip. During dry season there tends to be much more fog and clouds which doesn’t exactly condone the best views and pictures of the Taj Mahal. We decided to get up before dawn and get to the Taj Mahal around 6:30 in the morning. It was a little foggy but only grew worse as the morning went on. At one point we were standing literally right beside it and couldn’t see a thing because the fog was so thick. Thankfully the nice guards at the entrance let us re-enter later that day when the fog had lifted. Below you can see what a difference just a few hours can make. Even though there were far more crowds in the afternoon, the better views were well worth the trip back. Plan your timing according to the weather and check with the front desk for their opinion on what time you should go. early morning vs early afternoon picturestaj mahaltaj mahal grounds

Dress Appropriately. Thankfully we didn’t have any problem with this since it was fairly cold when we were there (not what I expected when visiting India!) But remember that you are in a very conservative country and should try to cover up as much as possible while visiting national and religious monuments. Granted, there is no enforced dress code at the Taj Mahal but out of respect I would recommend trying to cover your knees and cleavage if possible. Maxi skirts, long dresses and the popular loose thin trousers found in India are great choices. I also try to carry a scarf with me just in case I need to be even more covered up. If you want more ideas of what to wear in India check out this blog post.

Crowds. On the reverse, if there’s no fog (the fog usually goes away by the end of January) make sure to go early! By the afternoon, I’ve heard horror stories of the thousands of people in the complex. Not shocking seeing as how over 3 million people visit per year and about 15,000 people visit per day. Even by the time we left around 1pm we could see the warms starting to file in.

photo tips for the taj mahal

No Tripods. Yup, it’s true. There are no tripods allowed in the Taj Mahal or most public monuments in India. I’m not really sure of the reasoning behind it but it’s better to just leave it in the hotel room rather than have to go through the hassle of renting a locker for a few hours, even though that is a good option if you forget to leave it behind. But don’t worry, see all those friendly people with the really nice cameras? Wait till they’re done taking their photos and I’m sure they’d be more than happy to oblige in taking your photo for you.

Check Pinterest. Not exactly the traditional advice huh? Before a big trip I always like to check Pinterest and look for photos of a certain attraction we are going to. Often times you will find areas not well marked on a map, different angles to try out or inspire a completely different idea for really unique photos. Simply take a screen shot of the pictures you like so you can pull them up on your phone without wifi when you are there. And to go along with that, try playing around with different shadows, angles and areas. Even though the fog was a real bummer early in the morning I actually really like how some of them turned out because it added a whole other aspect to the building that I hadn’t seen before. You might be surprised what aspects you thought would be a negative actually make for a great photo.

photo tips for the taj mahal couple photos at the taj mahalMahtab Bagh. This is a place you can’t miss. Take a tuk tuk across the river from the Taj Mahal and to the Mahtab Bagh garden. Here you have one of two options. In front of the gate (not entering the garden) take a right and go all the way to the end of the street until you reach the river. This provides a great view of the Taj Mahal from the back side but you can’t get directly in front of it. If you want a better view, pay the $1.50 admission fee and enter the gardens and go directly to the back for a truly amazing view. We went at sunset and I would highly recommend the same time frame to snatch some pictures that are sure to be your favorites. photo tips for the taj mahal

China Budget

china travel budgetWith only 72 hours in China, this was one of the easiest travel budgets we’ve had to make yet (thank God!). We spent the three days exploring the city including both historical sites such as the Forbidden City and Great Wall and also trying to find the best local brewery and American food in town. I have to be honest, I’m not a fan of the food in China. Not one bit. I tried I really did; we tried the duck, we tried the dumplings, we tried the soup that the lady behind us insisted that we just can’t possibly leave China without trying. It turned out to have large lumps of fat floating in it. No thanks. Thankfully Slow Boat Brewery came to our rescue New Years Eve with one of the best burgers and pale ale’s I’ve ever tried. But then again, we also thought the same thing about a burger place we took Jeremy’s family while in Tokyo. Jeremy and I were chowing down praising the Lord for this delicious piece of beef and claiming that it was one of the best burgers we’d had. Only to be met by the skeptical glares of our family who broke the news to us that it was in fact, not good. Not good at all. I guess that’s your sign that you’ve lived overseas for too long. You think mediocre American rip offs are the best thing since that time you found peanut butter M&M’s in the local foreign mart.

The China budget below is for 3 nights and 2 days and reflects the price for both my husband and I. china budget

Too Much Information

 

When teaching elementary classes, my first year in Korea I had a class of mostly boys that I loved. We spent most of the class time casually talking, them asking questions about American culture or just plain goofing off (aka teaching them American slang. I had one boy walk in class every day yelling ‘what’s up!’ and telling me that he was a lady’s man. I’m never going to win teacher of the year). It was always the highlight of my day. It was the type of classroom environment that every teacher wishes they could reproduce for every single class and one where the kids felt comfortable confiding in me.

One day that ‘comfort’ went a little further than I thought it would. One of my students came limping into class and when I asked what happened he turned bright red while the rest of the students clamored over who would get to play charades and attempt to tell me what happened. The lucky one chosen held up his finger proudly (as the affected students slumped into his seat even more) and made a cutting motion. He cut his finger? I asked, confused as to why he would be limping. ‘No no no! Teacher!’ all the boys yelled at once. ‘A part very important to a man!’ Cue the bright red face of the teacher.

When they saw my confusion they asked if the same thing happened in the states. I told them that yes, it was very common but it happens to babies. The conversation went on with the students supreme confusion and tinge of jealousy that in America they do the procedure while the boy is still an infant, not at the age of 13 like what is most common in Korea. Because from what I was told, they feel that in Korea it would be cruel to have a baby circumcised but is perfectly ok on a 13 year old boy when he understands why they are doing it. Personally, baby or 13 years old, I don’t think any boy is going to be thrilled about it, let alone ‘understand’ why they are getting it done.

What to do in Delhi

what to do in delhiWhat do we do? It’s the question that we all ask once we book our tickets to a new destination. Or heck, even a destination that we’ve been to umpteen million times. It’s always about what sites to see, where to eat, where to shop and who has the best coffee (let’s keep our priorities straight). So when we landed in Delhi we pulled up our list we made from Tripadvisor, blogs we’d read, and recommendations from friends. There is a ton to do in Delhi that can keep you busy for any amount of time you’re there and since we had a few days to kill between the other two cities we traveled to so we decided to hit the ground running. These were our favorite places that we visited to answer the question of ‘what to do in Delhi?’

Lodi Gardens. A large garden area that spreads over 90 acres. Includes several different tombs, gardens, ponds and the largest crows you’ve ever seen. Seriously though. As beautiful as the grounds were, I somewhat felt as if I were an involuntary extra on the set of The Birds. We spent a few hours one foggy morning wandering around the grounds, watching people go for a run, have engagement photo shoots and taking their dogs for a good romp. The only thing I can compare it to is New York City’s Central Park but with historical archeological tombs scattered throughout it. While it was a beautiful place while we were there that would be perfect for an afternoon picnic, I can only imagine how much more beautiful it is in spring when all the gardens are in bloom. lodi gardens lodi gardens lodi gardens lodi gardensHumayun’s Tomb. Yup, another tomb. There’s a lot of them in Delhi and most of them are worth the trek to go check out. Can you imagine being buried in a place like this!? I think America needs to rethink their whole graveyard system because this would be a whole lot better to go visit loved ones. If it’s too crowded to get the pictures that you want, try one of the other sides of the main tomb since it’s the same all the way around. The first picture is from the front but the second one is on one of the sides.
Humayun's tomb Humayun's tomb Humayun's tombLotus Temple. This one is quite a hike across the main part of the city and I’ll be honest that I have no idea the significance or what’s on the inside. The line was miles long (or seemed that way at least) to get inside so we just took our time wandering around the outside before heading back. If you have some extra time one day I would encourage making the trip out just to see it.
lotus templeHauz Khas. This is one place that we didn’t spend nearly enough time in. It’s a beautiful little village on the banks of a water reservoir filled to the brim with coffee shops, rooftop restaurants, vintage shops and upscale boutiques. We made the mistake of grabbing lunch right before going and instantly felt regret when we walked down the street and saw all of the amazing choices there were to choose from. I highly recommend grabbing a cup of Chai tea and strolling around the water before picking one of the rooftop restaurants that overlooks the water for a late lunch to watch the sunset. Then take your time wandering through the vintage shops in hopes of finding a Bond movie poster. We looked in a few of them in hopes of finding a poster from Octopussy which was filmed in the nearby Udaipur but had no such luck. hauz khas hauz khas