This is it!! We decided on this just over two months ago. We've been packed and ready to go for weeks and now the time has come. We are en route to Stansted airport..train from Oxford to London, tube to Baker Street station, shuttle to Stansted (with a cheeky pub stop along the way for some celebratory Strongbow cider).. Hopefully this journey of " hop on, hop off, drink cider, repeat" prior to even boarding the plane will exhaust us enough to make us pass out and get some rest so that we can be ready for a day of exploring Istanbul tomorrow. And with our packed itinerary (thanks to my obsessive planning) there will be no stopping!
;-). I am also using this trip as a way to lose the weight I have put on recently so I am motivated to be on the go go go...in fact, instead of taking the tube to Baker Street from Paddington, we decided to walk it, backpacks and all...and just our luck it decided to hail down (like PAINFULLY hail) and be really windy,( windy enough to blow metal cafe chairs down the street!!). We stood undercover with a bunch of businessmen because the hail was actually really hurting as it hit our faces and these chairs just blew along Wizard of Oz style...We were in hysterics! It is part of the adventure after all! We also stumbled upon a Beatles shop with some amazing merchandise and 22 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes' residence, so although we haven't even departed yet, it feels like we are already traveling. But I guess London always feels like that as there is so much to do here!
So the only uneasy feeling I have at the moment is to do with my visa for UAE. After a ton of conflicting information from a variety of sources, I have gone ahead and applied for a visa through a third party- a travel agency that was recommended by a member of Couchsurfing. I applied, transferred the excessive amount of AED and now I cross my fingers and wait. It's out of my hands now. I was told that it will be ready before we arrive in Dubai on Monday but I do have my doubts. I'm not going to let it worry me. I have to just be positive, enjoy Istanbul, and take each day as it comes. If I get the visa, then great, if not then I can think of a lot worse places to spend 3 nights than the Dubai airport! But all I have to say is Dubai, you have already broken the bank and we haven't even touched foot on UAE soil yet! You better be worth it!!! Well, the weather looks promising anyways so here's hoping that the visa comes through!
I spent about half an hour at a currency exchange counter before getting on the train. One thing that is NOT easy when traveling to ten different countries (which means ten different currencies) is trying to predict how much to bring in each currency, how much to bring in travelers checks (if any) and how much to leave in a bank account. The annoying thing about the bank is they only allow a very minimal amount to be withdrawn daily while abroad and they get you with the fees and poor exchange rates so we opted into getting travelers checks in order to avoid paying hundreds of £'s in transaction fees. I have never used travelers checks before but after some research, they seemed like a good option. This way they are insured as well so if the checks get lost or stolen then we can get them replaced. Also, some countries we are visiting, such as Laos and India, do not (legally) allow their currencies out of or into the country so this just complicated things even more but it will all be part of the adventure that is just beginning!
Istanbul, we are coming for you! Oh, and this will definitely be an experience as we are being hosted by a couple that just so happen to be naturists! Gotta love Couchsurfing and the interesting yet amazing people you meet because of it! Looking forward to it. And to escaping the miserable cold weather in the UK!
But for now, I leave you with something very appropriate (click here and enjoy the song as much as we are enjoying our Strongbow at the moment!)
Honeymoon adventure part 1, bring it on!
Perry and I are currently planning our 2 month and 3 week (so nearly 3 month) delayed honeymoon. We got married in July 2012 and never went on a honeymoon as we decided we wanted to visit with family and friends instead that had come all the way to Greece for our wedding, some of which we hadn't seen in three years. We were originally planning on going to South America but that proved to be quite expensive. We were looking at flights on Skyscanner (FYI: THE BEST search engine for flights) and found that flights to Asia were very reasonable. We discussed that this is an area we should travel to now as we will not be able to get there as easily when we have children (mainly because it is not the best of places to take young ones and by the time we are able to go could be another 10-15 years). Quite spontaneously, we ended up booking them and next thing you know we were planning to see 10 countries in 2 months and 3 weeks. We start in Istanbul, then Dubai, both of which were not in our plans but it was cheaper to fly through these places so we decided to allow a few days in each...why not?! We then go to Nepal, India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and finally, Singapore. We booked 5 flights which in the end cost us £550 each (FOR FIVE FLIGHTS!). There was no way we could pass that up!!
So we basically booked these flights at the end of November with a departure set for February 6th, leaving us just over two months to prepare for this trip. No problem right? This is my first trip to somewhere exotic. Sure, I've traveled tons through North America and Europe but I needed something new and exciting as I was getting bored of Europe. I can only go to so many cathedrals and museums before I don't have any care to see another piece of jewelry or a toenail or tooth that belonged to some person in 2000 BC. Sure that all fascinated me when I first started going to museums but now it doesn't (except for the mummies at the British museum..they always fascinate me).
Now I want something NEW. I want a culture shock. I want new architecture. New food (maybe without so much Delhi Belly...but I've already packed 4 packs of diarrhea tablets and an additional prescribed antibiotic in case it gets really bad so bring it on India!). New music and entertainment. New cultures. New modes of transportation (woohoo camels!). Just things that will make me go WOW (in both good and bad ways).
That being said, we are foolishly traveling to 10 countries in 2 months and 3 weeks. One of my friends traveled Southeast Asia in 6 months...our Southeast Asia portion is 6 weeks...and covering the same countries he did in 6 months! So it will not necessarily be a relaxing trip but we will be too excited to care that we are not getting much sleep!
I have had a lot of friends ask me why I am planning so meticulously and being so organized in regards to this trip. Besides the obvious of wanting to be sure we pack the right things and get the right vaccinations, the necessary visas, and so on, there are quite a few other reasons. We spent two years meticulously planning our big fat Greenglish wedding, so I think I am suffering from some sort of planning withdrawal and I don't know any better :-)
Here are some of my other reasons: Because we have such a limited time and want to see so much, I feel that it is very important to plan it. I don't want us to spend half a day in a city with our noses in a guide book or tourist information office planning what to do and where to go when we only have 2 days there. I want to research the sights before we go and note down the ones we want to see and cross off the ones we don't care to see.
Some sights we want to see fill up in advance or cost more if we don't book them in advance. For example, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (the world's tallest building) costs 100 AED (about £17) to take an elevator ride up to the observation deck. Now that is only if we book it in advance. If we turn up on the day of and want to go up...BAM! 400 AED (about £68)..so if I didn't research this, there would be no way that we would be paying £68 to get to the observation deck of the world's tallest building.
Another reason I like to plan: those damn trains in India sure do fill up fast! I wouldn't have known this had I not researched. You'd think it would be like Europe. Get to the station, pick a train, get on? Not quite. We went onto India's train booking system yesterday to look at the trains and some of the trains we wanted (at the end of February and early March - nearly 2 months away) are already full and have waitlists of 12-15 people! So we had to re-arrange our itinerary slightly in order to be certain we had confirmed tickets otherwise we could be waiting days for a seat or two to open up while we are there. I read a comment on a couchsurfing group that a girl was stuck in Gorakhpur for 3 days because she couldn't get a train to Delhi....from our research, Gorakhpur doesn't sound like a place we would like to spend more than 2 hours in so we'd rather be sure we can be in the places we want to be in and not waste time in places like Gorakhpur. We also can't afford to be waiting around for days for trains as we only have just over 2 weeks in India and want to take in as much as we can and visit some specific sights and cities so planning this was crucial. BUT...if something happens (knock on wood it doesn't) and it means we miss our camel safari in Jaisalmer or our zip-line in Jodhpur, or our stroll along the ghats of Varanasi, so be it..that is all part of the travel experience and as much as I have planned, I have come to accept that things may happen and plans may change. As long as we make our flight to Thailand from Kolkata then I will be a happy camper.
Another thing I have learned from all the planning is that when we get to Southeast Asia, there is more room for flexibility and it will (should) be more relaxing as there is so much competition and we do not need to book things in advance as we will have people flying at us to try and get us to book things (which will also happen in India but we will be prepared!). So this leg of the trip, we will leave quite open. We have planned a specific itinerary (where we are on which days, which train we take and at what time to get to the next city/town, what activities we would like to do etc) but if we stay a day extra in one city and a day less in another, that is alright...just as long as we make our flight back to London from Singapore on April 27th, then all is good (although if our flight is delayed by many days, that is also fine with us as well :) )
If you have been to any of the countries we are visiting and want to share any of your experiences, please contact us. We would love any recommendations on sights to see, sights to avoid, places to stay, places to not stay, foods to try, foods to avoid, places to capture a good heel click etc. Here is a list of places we are going to (although the Southeast Asia bit, we can add or remove cities but the first four countries are pretty set):
-United Arab Emirates (Dubai and maybe Abu Dhabi if time allows)
-Nepal (Kathmandu, Pokhara and surroundings, Lumbini)
-India (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Allahabad, Varanasi, Kolkata/Calcutta)
-Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Ko Samui, Ko Phi Phi)
- Laos (Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng)
- Vietnam (Hanoi, Halong Bay, Vinh, Hue, Danang/Hoi An, Nha Trang, Saigon/Hoi Chi Minh City)
- Cambodia (Siem Ream, maybe Phnom Penh)
- Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, maybe Penang, maybe somewhere else..suggestions??)
28 more sleeps :-)
My husband Perry and I are off on a nearly 3 month honeymoon journey to Asia (India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and a stop in Istanbul and Dubai) and my previous camera was basically destroyed so we spoiled ourselves and upgraded...Hopefully this camera will produce many amazing heel clicks and I have reason to believe it will as the burst mode sounds really good (I haven't tested it out yet). As you can probably see in some of the photos on this website, the heels are not always clicking as previous cameras I had did not have a) burst mode or b) a good burst mode so it was always very difficult to capture a photo RIGHT on the click...BUT that should not be a problem anymore! Can't wait to start clicking in Asia...but first, to figure out how this camera works