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

Fishtail Mountain-The Himalaya

fishtail mountainVery few things in life leave me awestruck any more. The only negative side effect that I have ever found with traveling a lot. I hope I am the only one who has ever felt this way but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone. After traveling all across Asia, temples start to blur together and I had a similar feeling with cathedrals while traveling in Europe. That’s not to say each is not special and unique in its own way but after seeing quite a few, it becomes harder and harder to feel in ‘awe’ standing there. If only every time could be like the first time where you wanted to sit for hours, inspecting and memorizing every detail of it. I’ll be honest, I haven’t felt that ‘wow’ factor in quite some time. And I’m not talking about seeing something amazing, I’ve had plenty of that. I’m talking about seeing something so spectacular that it leaves you utterly speechless. The last time I felt that way was when we swam with giant whale sharks in the Philippines. And little did I know that the next time I would feel it would be during my first trip up close to the Himalayas. We arrived into Pokhara, a tiny lakeside town boasting impeccable views of the Himalayas, with excitement. We cheated a bit and opted for a motorbike instead of our hiking shoes to get to the top of Sarangkot and the peace stupa to take in the view of Fishtail Mountain also known as Machupuchare.

fishtail mountain peace stupa in nepalfishtail mountain hanggliders in nepal fishtail mountain fishtail mountainWe rented the motorbike early in the morning for a mere 800 Nepalese Rupees or about $8 USD to take us to two different lookout points. The first being the Peace Stupa lookout. Offering optimum views of both the lake and the towering mountains in the background. Not to mention a massive pearl white Buddhist Stupa conveniently and dramatically set on top of a mountain above the clouds. There was even an option to camp overnight at the top and watch the sunrise over the mountains. Mental notes for next time. We wanted to head over to the other look out at Sarangkot right away as we were told the views from there were even more mesmerizing. We had to wait however for the afternoon and wait until the clouds settled. However, I must say, with all of the clouds it looked as if the mountains started out of nowhere.

During dry season from October to May there are significantly more clouds around the mountains. In the early morning and late afternoon however, the clouds settle down into the valleys providing substantially better views. Around 2:30 in the afternoon we headed back out on the motorbike to once again climb above the clouds in search of the perfect view we had been looking for. And we were not disappointed. I felt as if we had been climbing for ages, along with what seemed like endless caravans of hopeful paragliders in pursuit of adrenaline rushing excitement of jumping off a mountain and swirling among the clouds. We spent the next few hours lazily watching people come and go, paragliders effortlessly swooping down towards the lake and an elderly couple working on their hillside farm. I couldn’t help but wonder if in the eyes of the farmer, the Himalayas were now like the many temples to me. Something that once brought about awe inspiring feelings but now are blended into his everyday life. Or if he wakes up every morning in awe of his irreplaceable view of the Himalayas out of his window every morning.

Things to Do in Kathmandu

 

things to do in kathmanduIt’s funny how you meet people on the road. When we first decided to go to Nepal, I immediately sent an email to Katie, knowing that she had lived there with her husband not long ago. Along with sending me two pages worth of recommendations (which were a serious lifesaver) she also put me in touch with her friend Jenna and husband Jon who were kind enough to play tour guide to Jeremy and I for our weekend in Kathmandu. By the end of it I was convinced they could open their own tour company. Here are just a few of the many things to do in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capitol city.

motorbike in nepal

The first stop was the Saturday Farmer’s Market held at 1905 restaurant in the Thamel area. A must go to spot if you’re in town over the weekend. With vendors selling everything from homemade bread, breakfast foods and pastries to jewelry and body goods. Grab yourself a dollar coffee and homemade pastry and sit up on the porch of the restaurant overlooking the market before perusing the other goods for sale. It’s a great way to spend an hour or two in the morning.

saturday farmers marker

The next stop was possibly one of my favorites from the trip. Jenna and her friend Emily took me to a used sari shop to look through pile upon pile of fabric. Pretty much my dream come true. Jeremy knows me too well because with just one look in the shop he turned to me and said ‘you’re going to be awhile aren’t you?’ Yes, yes I am. These girls were pros at sorting through the overabundance of silky material, finding the perfect candidate for scarves, headbands and pillows. At the end of my pillage, and of only about half of what the guy had in his shop, I settled on four saris all for the damage of about $8 USD. I’d be in real trouble if we lived there.

2nd hand sariis2nd hand sariis

Next up was the Durbar Square. A historical site, yes, but also a popular hang out with the locals. It’s also right next to the Kumari Ghar; a palace in the middle of the city where the Kumari child lives. This was my first time ever hearing about her existence. The Kumari is the tradition of Nepali Hindu’s and Buddhists worshipping young girls pre-puberty as the manifestations of the Hindu divine female energy. It is believed that the goddess, Taleju, occupies the young Kumari child’s body until the day she reaches puberty at which time the goddess vacates her body. If you visit the Kumari Ghar, you can see crowds of people waiting at the entrance in hopes the Kumari will appear at the window inside and they can catch a glimpse of her. One of the many things I love about Kathmandu is the history that’s around every corner.

durbar squaredurbar squaredurbar square

Our last stop in Kathmandu was the Garden of Dreams. A quiet oasis from the hectic city. First built in the early 1920’s it was just recently completed it’s renovation in 2010 with help front he Austrian government after lying dormant for many years. Now it’s a beautiful place to spend relaxing for an afternoon or grabbing a coffee or bite to eat and one of the two cafes on the grounds.

garden of dreams, kathmandu

There’s always something to do and see in Kathmandu and in our three days there I felt like we had only barely scratched the surface. Is there anything else that you would add to the list of things to do in Kathmandu?

Other things to do in Kathmandu:
+Monkey Temple-more on that next week…
+Pashupati Temple-one of the most significant Hindu temples, also where you can see many Sadhu or holy men
+Thamel Area shopping-seriously…bring an extra suitcase because you will want to fill it full with beads, scarves, blankets and more!
+Bhaktapur-a traditional town just 15 minutes outside of Kathmandu lets you look back in time, admire their pottery and enjoy their delicious yogurt that they are renowned for!

Mutianyu Area of the Great Wall of China

great wall of china, mutianyu

You simply can’t even think about visiting Beijing without making the trek out to the Great Wall. Now, there’s several different areas of the Great Wall that you can visit from Beijing. The most well known spots are Badaling (most well known and most grand; also the most busy), Huanghuacheng (on the water), Mutianyu (mountain scenery, less crowded), Jiankou (known for dangerousness and steepness), Gubeikou (most places are deserted and unrestored), Jinshanling (very primitive and majestic; only recommended to experienced hikers), and Simatai (very well intact but very difficult hike; known for Wanjing Tower and Stairway to Heaven). If you are planning on going, I would look at each, check the distance from Beijing and choose accordingly since each area offers something uniquely different from the next. The first, Badaling, is by far the most popular, the most grand and therefore the most crowded. The next choice on our list was the Mutianyu area of the Great Wall which was highly recommended by both guides and friends who had been there previously. It’s not as large but the Mutianyu area of the Great Wall is the less crowded and slightly more destitute area of the wall we were looking for.

great wall of chinaoutside great wall of chinamutianyu portion of great wall of china mutianyu great wall of china in winter couple photos great wall of china mountains at great wall of china great wall of china mutianyu

I’m not sure if it was the time of year, the early 5am wake up call (which put us out the door by 6 and at the wall at 8:30 am; a two hour trip by bus, subway and taxi) or the Mutianyu area that we picked but we could only see about a dozen people on the entire wall when we arrived. By the time we left however, around 10:30, the wall was a bit more busy with maybe 100 people or so. Regardless, we felt as if we had the entire wall to ourselves, not ever having to push through crowds, wait in line or worry about swarms of people in our photos. We were able to take our time, strolling along large portions of the wall, mesmerized by the vast size of it, sprawling as far as the eye could see. I’ll be honest though. While it was an amazing site, it was one of those that you show up and think ‘yup, it’s exactly how I thought it would be’. That doesn’t mean it was any less fantastic, just one of those sites that is more or less how you pictured it to be. Regardless, there are certain things that you just simply can’t go your lifetime without seeing and the Great Wall is one of them.

 

72 Hour China Visa Nightmare

The day had come. We were heading to the airport to start our three week vacation and leaving Korea for good. I was almost giddy with excitement and nerves by the time we reached the airport. We had arrived hours before our flight partially due to excitement and partially due to the fact that we simply had nothing left to do in Seoul. We had finished our to do lists of accounts to close, bucket items to cross off and favorite foods to have one last time. We were ready to go. That is until we got to the ticket desk and were told that they could not let us board our flight because we would be violating the 72 hour China visa regulations.

Hong Kong Skyline

Those who know me know that I do not handle last minute drastic changes very well to say the least (does anyone out there?) We were planning on taking advantage of the 72 hour layover visa option available like we had during our visit to Shanghai. If you have a flight leaving China within 72 hours of arrival and continues into a third country (aka not the one you just came from) immigration will let you into the country for no more than 72 hours without a visa (which costs a whopping $200 per person for Americans). Well we had a flight from Seoul to Beijing. Then another one two days later from Beijing to Kathmandu, Nepal. No problem, right? Wrong, oh so wrong. Here’s where it got sticky. The flight from Beijing to Kathmandu had a layover in another Chinese city. According to our airline, this voided the opportunity for the 72 hour layover since we touched down in China again, even though we were not going to leave the airport for the two hour layover. We would have to change our flight so it directly left China.

This was a huge upsets that was only magnified by the fact that we had only 40 minutes before our flight was boarding and most of the ticketing counters were closed seeing as how it was already past ten o’clock at night. You could see the sympathy in the ticketing agents eyes as we went to the only open ticketing counter and looked at their flights which only offered flights with layovers back in Seoul, also not allowed for us. Thank goodness for airport wifi because with only ten minutes to spare, we booked new flights on Kayak.com and were able to sprint (literally, unabashedly, flailing of the limbs type of sprint that is only seen in airport terminals) to our gate which would take us to Beijing. Moral of the story is to check, double check, even triple check visa regulations before booking that flight.

But alls well that ends well. And we booked new tickets that took us from Beijing to Hong Kong instead and were able to see one of the most infamous skylines in the world as our consolation prize for hours (ok, it was about an hour, but the longest hour of my life) of stress and struggle with the airline companies. Since our layover in Hong Kong was short, but thankfully we didn’t need a visa, we decided to head straight for the Star Ferry and across the harbor in order to see the skyline.
Hong Kong Skyline