Our Home Community

We’re about to embark on our 4th visit to Our Home after spending a wonderful few months there earlier in the year. Those of you that know us will know just how passionate we are about the children and we’re planning to return on Boxing Day to deliver them Christmas presents and see in the New Year together, the excitement is real!

Whilst living at Our Home for the first part of 2017 we blogged about our unforgettable journey – you can read about our incredible experiences below:

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Where can we start with Our Home Community? There is so much to say about this incredible place that we really are stuck for words. Firstly, Chacko, Avi and all of the volunteers that make this place a home are now our family. There is something so magical about Our Home, and straight away we had a completely different feeling about being here in comparison to our other volunteering activities. Not that we haven’t loved and thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them, but from the moment we stepped foot here, we felt this was where we belonged.

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During our three months in India during 2015 we actually visited Our Home twice, we originally found them when searching online to volunteer in India and came across their website. Being completely honest we were both a bit sceptical about volunteering in an orphanage in India, as we have heard horror stories about what goes on in some of them… Truly heart-breaking. So before arriving we both agreed that we would only stay for a couple of days at first, just to suss it out. From the moment we arrived we were, to our relief, completely put at ease. Chacko, who runs Our Home along with his wife Avi, is the most down to earth, forward thinking, beautifully souled, Indian man we came across throughout the whole of our travels. He instantly made us feel so welcome, and once we had met him we were so excited to get stuck in and help.

Our first introduction with the children was in the evening, so we couldn’t really see the land where they are based. We did however, get to visit the girl’s and boy’s homes, which are both fantastic and a lot more developed than we expected them to be. Clean, good toilets and beds for everyone. Yes, it was VERY basic, but these children were being provided with a roof over their head, and the facilities to sleep and live comfortably, unlike so many in India. After exploring the bedrooms, we went to the dining hall to be greeted with a completely fresh, delicious, healthy supper. It was amazing and we must admit, the food we had here was some of the best we have had in India. With what little ingredients they have and can afford, the women in the kitchen cook up some real tasty stuff! We met the children who range from two years to twenty-two years. The older ones do a variety of different things, some are studying, some help with the day to day duties and others no longer live there and have jobs in other towns in India which helps to support Our Home. The first thing we noticed about all of the children was how polite, well-educated and talented they all truly are. Their fantastic skills range from extraordinary artists, chess players, football players, readers, and their passion to study and do well is mind blowing. If they are given the right opportunity, we have no doubt that every single one of those children can make a good life for themselves, despite the awful start to their lives.

The children have lost their parents and been through traumatic life events very early on, witnessing things no child should have to. Some of them have life threatening illnesses including HIV, and if it wasn’t for Chacko and Avi, these kids would be on the streets with nothing.

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The next day we got to see the land that Our Home is on, and it is nothing short of beautiful. They have space to study, play, exercise, eat… whatever they need to do! They are in the middle of a beautiful little town, Vypaddi, which is not far from Kalpetta. Palm trees and mountain views, to us this was stunning; to them it was just their home.

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On site of Our Home they have a small school called the Good Shepherd Public School. It is for ages ranged from two to fourteen years, after that if the children are going onto further education they take a school bus to where they are studying.  The teachers at the Good Shepherd school do a superb job educating the children, who come from surrounding villages, and the funds received go towards the running of Our Home, it is a wonderful concept.

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Over the next couple of weeks we spent our time getting to know all of the children. We became completely relaxed and really felt like we were spending time with family.  We taught English classes, played football, helped with homework, went on walks, visited the local rivers, played games, and genuinely enjoyed every single minute we spent with the children. We grew to love each and every one of them, and as time went on we learnt about how they came to Our Home, it just made us feel so much more passionate about the incredible work Chacko and Avi are doing. The thing that made this place magical was that despite what these kids had gone through; they were all happy, smiling, and safe. The most important thing a child should feel is love and safety, and they have this here. We also became particularly close with a blind volunteer who lived and worked there, Reddy. He himself has had a hard life, and is the gentlest, kindest soul. We quickly learnt how intelligent he was and loved listening to his stories and teaching methods, it was a real joy spending time with Reddy, and we have made a friend for life in him.

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During our time with them we got to know their daily routines and how they dealt with day to day life, and once again it really, truly reiterated to us how lucky we are in the UK and what we take for granted. The boys washed their clothes in a dirty river; they all shared a bar of soap between them. They barely had any personal possessions, very few items of clothing and bits and pieces to their little names. No bed sheets or covers… All of the little luxuries we have here, we just felt we wanted to give to them. Simple things kids enjoy like watching films on a sofa with a hot chocolate on a Saturday night? Do these kids even know that Disneyland exists? No of course they don’t, and perhaps that’s why we loved them so much, they were so happy with the simple things in life, they didn’t moan about having to wash their clothes in the river, they took at is an opportunity to have fun!

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The time quickly passed and before we knew it we had to leave for Mumbai. It was the hardest goodbye we have both ever had to do, leaving these children we had both grown to love like our own family. Being completely honest it was harder than leaving our own families in London to travel the world, because we didn’t know if and when we would get to see these children again.

Over our next few weeks travelling around India we could not get Chacko, Avi and everyone from Our Home out of our heads. We eventually came to the decision that we just HAD to return. There was no other option. At this point we were in Shimla… North India, so we had to fly back to Kerala to make this happen. We wanted to spend our last week of our fantastic year with our family, at Our Home.

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Having told our friends and family in England this was what we wanted to do, before we knew it we were fundraising money so that we could surprise the children and give them an early Christmas treat! We didn’t tell them we were returning, and over a couple of weeks we made each of the 43 children of our home a packaged present and card, containing all sorts! From toys, card games, footballs, clothes, shoes, drawing materials, make up, jewellery and more, we put our heart and souls into giving these children a Christmas they deserved. As soon as we arrived back at Our Home, we instantly knew we had made the right decision. Seeing their faces when we turned up was absolutely priceless. They were SO happy to see us and the feeling was more than mutual.

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We told them we had a surprise for them after school, and with that they were beside themselves all day with excitement. Finally 3:30 came and we were able to give them all their presents. This was probably the most memorable moment of our lives. Watching them all open their cards and read them so intently, and the delight with the gifts they had been given. It was the best Christmas present we could have ever asked for in seeing them so happy. We were so content being reunited with the children, Chacko, Avi and Reddy we felt as though we would never want to leave.

The week flew by and we couldn’t think of a more amazing time to end our 2015 than with our new family. We’ve made a promise to the children and ourselves that we will visit them as much as we can, and do what we can to fundraise and financially support Our Home. These children are beyond incredible and deserve a real chance at life and we want to make that happen. If you’d like to be actively involved in making a difference you can visit their website here or for more information email us directly at khtravels15@outlook.com.

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Classic backpacking errors

We’ve all been a rookie traveller at some point in our lives. Whether it’s trying to get the best deal on your upcoming snorkelling trip or mistaking that your flight is in 1 hour instead of 12 …. We had a few nightmare moments on our first big adventure backpacking and whilst we can look back and laugh now, it wasn’t so funny at the time! Hopefully giving you the heads up will mean you don’t make the same mistakes we did!

  1. That guy at the station 🚂

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Travelling abroad, especially in Asia, can cost you peanuts compared to the overpriced tickets to sit on the delayed, overcrowded central line. However, as with most things when out of your comfort zone, it’s not simple.

You get to the train station and there is a ‘line’ longer than when queuing for your favourite ride at Alton Towers. No one speaks any English and you begin wondering why you ever left the tried and trusted underground.

Out of nowhere, a smiling face approaches you and offers you assistance in accented English. You feel you have found your saviour as he directs you to the “foreign tourist office” just outside the station.

Never be fooled by the tourist desk outside the station, it does not exist and is only a sure way of paying a premium to reach your desired destination or never reaching it at all!

Top tip: Always lookout for the English sign posts. There is quite often is a designated tourist ticket office within the station but will never be outside the station’s grounds.

  1. Don’t assume 💭🚫

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When you’re away from home you can’t help but compare how things are back where you’re from. Whether it’s the mannerisms of the people you meet or simply the colour of the road signs but everything isn’t always as it first seems. As they say; don’t judge a book by its cover.

On H’s first trip to India she was surprised to see so many of the men holding hands along the street. H said she never realised there was such a large gay community in India… she quickly discovered they weren’t gay and that’s just how things are in India! Men often link hands or cuddle each other along the street with friends and family.

When you’re in a new country and they do things a bit differently, it’s always good to wait for a second glance before assuming!

  1. Mixing currencies at the airport 💵💴💶

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Ever mixed up your pound coin for a euro when at home? Tried getting rid of it by unlocking a shopping trolley or hoping the shopkeeper doesn’t spot it? We went one further when trying to get shot of our final few Filipino coins … at a Thailand airport! It was all for a good cause though, we scraped together enough change to get one last Krispy Kreme just before our flight!

Using a mixture of pesos and Baht we managed to scrounge together enough money across two different countries in an international airport. Unfortunately after we had finished the doughnut our tactic was discovered and we were sought out by the Krispy Kreme crew…  luckily we apologised and got away with paying for the doughnuts by card (probably should have done this in the first place!) lesson learnt here? Don’t get tight in an airport!

  1. Mistaking times for tickets 🎟

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It’s midnight and we’ve had one too many Bintangs on our last night in Bali. We decided to treat ourselves with a bit of luxury on our final night with a nice hotel. We’re safe in the knowledge that we have a bit of a lay in tomorrow as our flight isn’t until 13:00 tomorrow… 1.00pm … 1.00 …. 01.00 … 1am!!!

This wasn’t the first or the last time we almost missed our flight and if there is anywhere you don’t want to be overstaying your visa it’s Bali. Our top tip for any and all travelers would be to double, triple and quadruple check your flight times, no matter how organised you think you are, it’s a very easy mistake to make!

  1. Researching the country you’re in 📝

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When you’re visiting a new country you’re likely to have done some research especially if it’s a one off holiday. After a few months of backpacking and making a new home every few nights the easy mistake to make is feeling too comfortable with your surroundings.

When we first arrived in the Philippines we did a bit of research on Google images and thought we knew it all and that the whole of the Philippines was going to be a mixture of Palawan and Manila!

Unfortunately for us things took a turn for the worst almost immediately. When leaving the airport we jumped in a cab and directed the driver to San Jose, he responded by asking why we were going there? This wasn’t curiosity in his tone this was confusion and when we arrived we knew why! It was a very intimidating environment with nothing of relevance anywhere near us. We soon moved on but this wasn’t the end of our naivety.

When on the outskirts in Manila we knew that this was one of Australasia’s largest cities. We could see the skyscrapers far into the distance so we again hailed a cab but this time we felt sure we knew where we were going. To the city we said! The driver gave us that same confused look and asked where exactly we wanted to go.

We literally responded by pointing to the skyscrapers asking to be taken to the city centre – not even knowing the district we needed to get to was Makati! We got in the cab and 45 minutes later were dropped off at a mall. Not quite what we wanted but looking back what did we expect was going to happen? Always research your dream adventure before it turns into a nightmarish reality!

6) Wet washing – not a good look … or smell! 👕👖

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Being a backpacker, having your clothes washed is probably one of the most important yet annoying things to do as it takes a bit of planning! In most countries we’ve come across our hostel / hotel could arrange a laundry service for you, which we strongly advise you to use! Washing in the bathroom sink and hanging your underwear all around the room is pure agg! However, a word of warning is you’re likely to need 2 / 3 days before your washing is returned, so don’t leave yourself too short on clothes and give yourselves plenty of time!

We once had to catch a bus before our washing was ready and asked them to return it as it wa… half finished. That resulted in a screwed up damp pile of clothes in a carrier bag which we couldn’t pack and took AGES to finally dry. When they did they had to be rewashed because they stunk!

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We could go on and on about more of the silly mistakes we’ve made whilst travelling, it’s always going to happen! We just hope pointing out a few of the more obvious ones may help you out even a little bit when you’re visiting a new country for the first time!

 

9 Backpacking essentials not to forget!

So, you’re planning your big trip backpacking 🎒, super exciting right? Well yes, but we also know how stressful the preparation can be; how will all of your clothes fit in your bag? Sorting visas, travel insurance and trying to remember absolutely everything you will need! Well, we’ve seen plenty of lists with what not to forget; camera, passport, wet wipes … but having experienced a few incredible backpacking trips, we found that there was something we always forgot that wasn’t on those lists, so we’ve put together nine crucial, unusual things to remember when you’re packing your bags!

1) ☕️ A ceramic mug ☕ Okay, a weird one you may think … but if you’re travelling in India you will learn that there are no mugs, anywhere! Your hot drink will be served in an even hotter metal cup, which is impossible to hold! This was more for when we were volunteering so we weren’t travelling around with the mug, but we’re sure if you wrap it in a pair of socks it will survive!

 

2) 💁🏽 One for the girls ; Tampons! 💁🏼 If you haven’t been to Asia before you won’t even think of this but buying tampons is not an option – in most countries we couldn’t find them anywhere … seriously. It was such a pain as it meant at certain times of the month H couldn’t swim etc, not ideal when you’re in paradise!

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3) 👂 Ear plugs 👂🏽 This may seem like an obvious one, but apparently we forgot! For all of those crazy nights in hostels when you just want a bit of shut eye, we could have really done with a pair of these!

4) 🎧 Headphone splitters 🎧 Saving space meant we only packed one iPad and for those long sleeper journeys we had to take it in turns to watch downloaded movies. For our second trip we invested in a headphone splitter so we could both watch on the go, and it was a million times better!

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5) 🏥 First Aid Kit ⛑ Again this might seem a little bit obvious but we were getting seriously annoyed with the amount of people asking for something from our first aid box that K’s brother and sister in-law very kindly put together for us before our big trip. We had everything, from antiseptic wipes to diarrhoea tablets, trust us, at some point you will need everything!

6) 💩 Toilet roll 💩 Another Asian thing but tell us something more essential than toilet roll and we’ll tell you you’re lying. Most toilets do not have any toilet roll, you may be able to master the squatting but the bum gun requires an element of skill not everyone possesses! ALWAYS have toilet roll on you and pick up as much as you can, when you can … you’ll thank us later!

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7) 🍵 Nescafe Cappuccino sachets 🍵 Whilst backpacking we found that some countries served up delicious coffee, however others were completely slacking, too sweet, too strong, no milk, we so often just couldn’t find coffee that we enjoyed. When we went back to India to volunteer we packed plenty of little sachets and they were life savers, most hostels/hotels will provide a kettle, and then you’re good to go!

8) 🔊 Bluetooth speaker 🎼 We didn’t take a speaker for the first year we spent travelling, however we did on our second trip and we can’t believe we ever lived without one! We had it on constantly and added a bit of soul to those evening’s when you’re kicking back with a cool Kingfisher (or alternative international beer🍺)

9) 🙋🏾‍♂️One for the lads; a sarong 🙋🏼‍♂️ This is probably something most girls will pack anyway, but boys … we bet you’ve never considered packing a sarong! In Asia you will visit more temples than you can count and most of them require you to cover your legs. This means no shorts and it’s always far too hot for jeans! Save a bit of money and pack a sarong, they’re often overpriced outside the temples.

So there you have it! Happy Travels guys! ✌🏽

9 Top Tips on Volunteering

We’ve volunteered in five different countries and have a huge passion for travel, charity work and most importantly; change. We’ve therefore combined some top tips and experiences from our fellow travellers and volunteers to help you when planning your volunteering trip. Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start, who to trust and where to go so hopefully this will answer some of your questions.

1) Rox Oquendo; Former Director of Hands on Manila

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“You don’t always have to donate money to make a difference in small communities, your time can be much more beneficial. Contact NGO’s in the Philippines to find out how you can get involved with their ongoing programmes. If you have any special skills you think may be of benefit, for example if you’re a medical practitioner then make the NGO you are volunteering with aware, you may be able to help with specialist missions. By volunteering you’re exposed to the real Philippines and get to explore places off the beaten track.”

Our first volunteering experience abroad was with Hands on Manila and we can’t recommend them enough!

2) Skye Sandhu-Nelson; Community Champion

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“Each person has their own reasons to give or volunteer and you’ve got to have an affinity to the cause your supporting which will be unique to each individual. This needs to be taken into consideration before deciding on where is right for you to volunteer.”

Skye is an incredibly experienced volunteer and as has supported the YMCA, Salvation Army, The Citizens Advice Bureau, local schools and play groups, Womankind Worldwide and many more.

3) Emily Hudson; Explorer

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“All I would say is get stuck in as any little job goes a long way, get to know the locals, learn their ways and work with them to help your cause. Don’t forget to keep in touch even after your time volunteering has come to an end. It’s such a buzz to get updates and see how things are progressing when you’re back home. Also, do some research on how you can continue to support your project from home through online tasks and spreading the word.”

Emily volunteered at The African Impact, Marine Conservation Project in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

4) Sam Rees-Davies; Backpacking Biker

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We met Sam in February 2017 on our first day returning to Our Home Community. Unfortunately it was their last night volunteering there but although we had very little time together we instantly knew we shared the same passion about Our Home.

“Our first and most important tip when volunteering is always plan your route before you set off on your journey. Initially getting to Our Home seemed impossible as we were travelling by bike from Ooty with nothing but road signs! When we finally arrived we were mobbed by so many excitable children. One of the most refreshing things when you speak to anyone at Our Home is that they never refer to it as an orphanage, it is quite literally their home. The sense of community and family is breathtaking. Never have I seen so many children with such a zest for life, and if you need inspiration to volunteer, this is it!

We spent our days playing football, painting, cooking and also took the children on a trip to the local dam. Reflecting on my time at Our Home my biggest advice is get involved as much as you can and think of something new to introduce, cooking macaroni cheese was certainly a first time experience for these Indian kids and it was great I could give them that.”

5) Chloe Leach; Backpacker

“If I was to give any suggestions to someone wanting to volunteer abroad I’d say first and foremost – do your research. There are a lot of ‘volunteer projects’ that are scams, especially in SE Asia. They take your money and it doesn’t go to benefiting the cause they ‘stand for’. Please ensure you look for ethical projects.

I’d also say, GET STUCK IN. You’ll probably be given some tasks that aren’t as enjoyable as others. However, it is what you make it and at the end of the day you’re there volunteering to benefit the lives of others and not yourself.”

Chloe has volunteered at SchoolsWorldwide, a charity that runs volunteer trips through schools in Namibia, and Elephant Nature Park in Thailand where we also had a fantastic experience.

6) Sofia Candy; Backpacker

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Sofia volunteered with the Soi Dog Foundation, Thailand in 2015 and has incredibly now adopted Sansa, a dog they fell in love with during their time there. Sansa has been living in the U.K. for almost a year and is loving her new family life.

“If you wish to volunteer at Soi Dog make sure you contact them in advance to arrange your dates as they get booked up quickly during busy seasons. Take some dog treats with you in a bum bag for when you walk the dogs, they love a treat! Wear comfy shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and smelly … Hanging out with the dogs and cats all day can get messy but it’s an amazing experience and you’ll hear lots of stories about how these animals were saved from torture and cruelty. It’s a fab life experience you will never forget.”

7) Thuy An; Community Outreach Coordinator; YMCA Vietnam

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“Vietnam is a great place to volunteer and have a life changing experience. To make sure you have the most enjoyable time possible and not too much of a culture shock, this is what I would recommend:

  • First and foremost make sure you participate in a voluntary experience that will excite you. This way you will be able to put 100% into everything you too.
  • When planning to volunteer make sure you obtain necessary visas and documents required before you arrive to avoid any problems.
  • Be prepared to eat all kinds of food in Vietnam … the infamous durian and fish sauce is typical for daily meals, if you’re a picky eater or dislike smelly food Vietnam might not be the place for you!
  • Most Vietnamese people are nice and friendly but always be aware of scams and rip-offs when shopping in local or tourist markets.
  • Don’t get run over by a car! The traffic is crazy. When crossing the streets be alert, confident and steady.
  • Lastly, equip yourself with some local knowledge about wherever you go. The Vietnamese people will love that you’ve taken the time to get to know their culture.

Thuy An organised our brilliant voluntary trip with YMCA Vietnam in 2015.

8) Swostik Pandey; Student and Entrepreneur

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“Whilst volunteering in Vietnam I often found myself being so thankful for the opportunity to give back. My main advice for volunteering abroad is to be as passionate as possible. Most people only volunteer once or twice in their lifetime so give it all you have and make sure you don’t forget to embrace the culture. Not only does this teach you about the local people, food and lifestyle of where you are volunteering but it also makes you appreciate everything you have in life. My second tip would be to be outgoing. Being able to create memories is great but always remember the people around you are the ones who help form those memories. Whether it is sharing a smile or attempting to speak an unknown language, every little thing will go a very long way!”

We volunteered with Swostik in 2015 as part of the YMCA Vietnam Overseas Community Project.

9) KHTravels; Blogging & Volunteering Couple 

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Our ultimate tip would be to prepare yourself for the hardships that go alongside the incredible experience you will have whilst volunteering. Volunteering isn’t easy and can be a very emotional journey.

Your accommodation will be very basic with no luxuries; uncomfortable beds, no fans, mosquito bites, squat toilets, hand washing clothes, no TV and no wifi! Culture shock can also be daunting and you’re often in remote communities that may not have seen foreigners before so expect a mixture of responses. These are the first things to come to terms with and the rest will fall into place. We of course do not want to deter your from volunteering but you need to be aware of what you’re letting yourself in for and if this doesn’t put you off, then you’re ready to go!

So there you have it, from some of our most trusted friends from around the world, we hope you’ll find their suggestions and advice helpful. If you still have any unanswered questions then please get in touch.

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Features

We love writing about our travels, whether that’s engaging our readers with tales of our adventures or helping out with travel advice from past experiences. Getting involved with other blog sites is something we’re hugely passionate about. Please see below a few blogs we have featured with:

If you’d like us to write a blog or article for you, please get in touch here!

 

 

Yo Bitch, let’s cook!

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Being huge fans of Breaking Bad, when we heard about ABQ London we just had to go. It’s a bar inside a replica RV that Mr. White and Jessie cooked in, set in east London. With the theme tune playing on arrival all bitches are greeted with your first cocktail; a trademark Heisenberg blue mojito in a laboratory flask!

The bar features an array of things you will recognise from the hit TV series, although we won’t go into too much detail and ruin it for you! You’re given yellow suits to put on and get into character then seated at small tables with all sorts of cool equipment. With a menu of 6 cocktails to choose from including Walt Junior’s breakfast, you are shown how to make the cocktails briefly and then left to your own devices to play around. The cocktails we made were all delicious as well as being fun to construct, think along the lines of bars like The Alchemist but even better!

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The cost for this awesome event is £30 per person and this includes the welcome cocktail and two which you cook yourself! If you think the average price for a cocktail in London is normally more than £10 then you’re bagging yourself a bargain whilst experiencing something so unique! You can book your tickets here. Unfortunately, “all bad things must come to an end!” but this is certainly a date night to remember!

Goa … The perfect ending.

After an incredible journey starting on 4th February 2015 from London Heathrow we had reached the final destination of our yearlong travelling adventure. It’s impossible to sum up a million memories into a few words but Goa was perhaps the perfect way to complete our voyage of discovery.

The beach

goa-2Arriving in Goa we stayed at Veeniola Holiday Home, an idyllic setting offering exactly what you want as a backpacker. The rooms were clean and well furnished, the staff were great, especially the manager Charlie who helpfully answered all of our questions, and most importantly the wifi worked! We kept extending our stay at Veeniola which totalled around two weeks and although it wasn’t the fanciest of places or the most lavish, it gave you everything you needed and made us feel at home.

Most of our time in Goa was spent reflecting and relaxing as we prepared ourselves for the big return to the UK. We were a 10-minute walk from a dreamy white sand, clear blue sea beach and spent our days kicking back with beers, diving through the waves and walking for miles through the sands under a perfect cloud free sky.

We have been to many destinations where there are so many things to do that you never have enough time to do them all but Goa was exactly what we needed at exactly the right time. Cavelossim beach had the perfect balance of beach hut restaurants and natural beauty. Alex’s Beach Shack is a must if you’re in town but you won’t be disappointed in any of the shacks along the beach, each with something different to offer, from fresh fish nights to Karaoke parties.

FC Goa

goa-9Being without football for most of the year, K was desperate to see a live game so we bought tickets for FC Goa vs Northeast United. The Indian super league was in its second season and included some global stars including Roberto Carlos and Robert Pires. On show in our game was World Cup winner and Brazil legend Lucio as well as former Portugal international Simao Sabrosa.

In terms of footballing quality, the game was lacking although it was scattered with some elements of class, including Reinaldo’s equaliser, but the most incredible part were the fans. As with anything in India, people want to be entertained and everyone was in party mood. The football was like the music at a house party, you know it’s there and without it you wouldn’t have a party but you don’t really pay attention to it. The infamous vuvuzelas from the 2010 World Cup were handed out before the game as well as FC Goa flags and everyone was in high spirits. The match ended 1-1 but we doubt the majority of the fans knew or even cared about the score. Fireworks were set off and the stadium was over-crowded but like everything in India, it was so wrong it worked just right.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2898.Without a doubt Goa was our most relaxing stint in India despite the craziness of the Indian Super League! Our next biggest trip was going to the cinema to watch Spectre, as we’ve mentioned before we adored the cinemas in India, superb quality, cheap tickets and fab range of drinks and snacks, the ultimate movie experience!

Goa was complete and utter paradise, the longer we stayed the more we loved it. We’re intending on heading back in 2017 and perhaps this time we will see more of what this beautiful state has to offer. It might not be as traditional as the rest of India but sometimes we can all have a bit too much Indian, and to end a year of craziness, sleepless nights, long journeys and living out of a backpack, to do absolutely nothing was bliss!

 

Diwali, Moo & Chai!

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Our next destination was Punjab and H had been waiting for this all year, it’s where K’s family live so she couldn’t wait to meet them and see where he spent his childhood holidays. It was also going to be Diwali during our time with them making it extra special.

We spent our time between K’s Uncle and Aunties, the days were filled chatting, eating and of course drinking lots of chai. They live on a farm so we were in our element, spending time with the baby animals, learning how to milk cows, and even driving tractors. We made a special friend on the farm, Moo. A little stray puppy that had wandered in and befriended the baby cows. It was one of the cutest things we have ever seen, and we made a really special bond with him, feeding him and playing. Our only regret is that we couldn’t bring him home with us!

A trip to Punjab wouldn’t be complete without visiting the famous Golden Temple. On our travels we have seen some absolutely perfect things in our world but have also experienced heart breaking moments, and unfortunately at the Golden Temple we witnessed one of the worst. H was expecting marvellous things after the many stories she had heard from K and other travellers but was beyond disappointed.

When we arrived, through the hustle and bustle of busy passing people we noticed a small child, no older than three curled up in a little ball, no adults in sight with hundreds of flies buzzing around. We approached the child and as we got closer noticed she was a little girl and smelt awful. K gently nudged her, asked if she was okay but she didn’t move, continuing to nudge her our hearts sank as we actually thought this girl might be dead on the floor as people were just passing by. One well dressed, religious man stopped and said to us she is fine, he shook her as if she was a toy. Clearly she was not fine. K felt her skin and she was still warm and scooped her into his arms. This was when she opened her eyes and we have never felt more relieved.

punjab-7She did not speak and looked terrified. She had filthy, mouldy old clothes on, and faeces coming out from her trousers. We took her to a quieter area and tried to talk, she said nothing and wouldn’t drink any water that we offered. We got a towel and stripped the clothes from her, washing her with wipes, antibacterial hand gel and water. She was absolutely covered in defecation which was days old and needed scrubbing off. We were extra careful to cover her modesty as passers-by had begun to stare, some just looking, some smiling admirably and some confused. K was annoyed by this and questioned why they were looking, what did they want to see? They were quite happy to walk past this dying girl five minutes ago. We started to get the feeling they were looking at H as if she was a rich foreign woman doing a fantastic thing for this poor child, as they were smiling?

K bought her some clothes and when she was completely clean we dressed her and she started to trust us finally drinking some water, she was so dehydrated. Clinging to H she was obviously upset by so many people staring. We took her to the local police, did they care? No. They laughed in our faces saying you can’t help everyone.

punjab-8We then took her to eat before deciding what to do next. She ate but still did not speak, K went to see if anyone was looking for her or if the police had decided to do anything about this situation and he came across a woman crying, searching with other children. He approached her and discovered she was the child’s mum, informing her she was safe with H and the woman was hysterical with relief, she kissed H’s feet and thanked us. The mum had been begging whilst the little girl was sleeping outside the temple, and explained how the girl had been very unwell and needed to sleep and that she needed money for medicine. She presumed the girl would be safe outside this holy temple. Thank goodness she was.

We’re sure your first reaction will be to judge this mother for leaving her child, it was ours, and we certainly told her she should never do it again. However, before you do judge this woman please think what could have happened to her. Like thousands of homeless Indian women, she could have been raped many times on the street, she herself could have been an orphan growing up as a street kid. For these people there is no opportunity, no benefits, no council housing, no NHS for sick children… nothing. The rich stay rich whilst the poor will always stay poor. We watched so many wealthy, well respected religious people walk past this small child like she did not even exist, and then donate money to a temple made of pure gold? To us we cannot comprehend this at all. Something for sure is that travelling certainly was opening our eyes and experiences like this are the ones that will never be forgotten and truly make you realise how lucky you are.

On a brighter note, Diwali was beautiful. K’s mum took H shopping and treated her to a stunning pink Indian suit, as everyone gets dressed up for the special day. We ate delicious food as all of the family joined together. As the night fell we lit candles around the house and outside, and it looked like a fairy tale come true. Some of the boys lit of fireworks (to our horror with no safety precautions in place!) but looking back it was all great fun. We played with sparklers into the night and it was just as we imagined it would be.

Our time in the north was an emotional one, full of ups and downs, and plenty of different experiences. It was beautiful though and showed us yet another side to India. More memories created whether they were good or bad. Travelling is the best form of learning and we certainly learnt a lot whilst travelling here.

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Marvellous Mountains

3After an eventful time in Delhi next up were the Northern regions of India. A few weeks with cool breezes, mountain views, and peaceful evenings was exactly what we needed.

The plan was to head to Mount Abu, Shimla and finally Punjab to visit K’s family. Mount Abu is a hill station in Rajasthan, and being honest wasn’t actually on our agenda. K’s mum had always wanted to visit, so we decided to stop off for a few nights. We must admit it turned out to be fantastic, and we’re so glad we didn’t skip it! We stayed at the “Babbar Den” home in the hills which offered a great service, friendly staff, and also an awesome cave suite!

Mount Abu wasn’t short of attractions, if you’re looking for something unusual to do we would suggest the Dilwara Jain Temple. Known as one of the finest Jain temples around the world for its extraordinary architecture and marvellous marble stone carvings, this was without a doubt one of the more interesting travelling experiences we’ve had!

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On our first evening we witnessed of the most beautiful sunsets ever, sitting at the top of Aravali Hills with a perfectly clear view and not a cloud in the sky, the welcome chill gave it an enchanting feeling. As we watched the night arrive, sunset point soon filled with tourists, locals and couples, all there for the same thing. We met a young local magician who was entertaining the crowds trying to earn money for his family. We got chatting and ended up taking him for dinner and despite the obvious language barrier he was really grateful and very sweet. We bumped into him again the next day and went on a pedalo ride in the town centre lake, it was great fun and something else we would recommend whilst in Mount Abu. Unlike a most of India, it has a really peaceful feel as the sun shines down onto Nakki lake.

The shopping in Mount Abu was also great, lots of novelty souvenirs, cheap silver and good quality clothes. You also have the opportunity to dress up as a local and have a photo-shoot in the town, which we didn’t do but it did attract a lot of attention! There are plenty of restaurant choices offering traditional Rajasthan dishes or western food, and also lots of great ice cream places! With so much to do whilst you are here we recommend hiring a cheap driver for the day to make sure you don’t miss anything.

5Leaving Mount Abu we travelled to Shimla which is famous for Indian tourists as their holiday destination for the cool breeze. Located in the Himalayas it was actually very nippy, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see any snow. It’s an incredibly scenic part of India, filled with monkeys and all sorts of other wildlife. There are plenty of tourist attractions which are great for families including pony rides, different games and balloons to buy. It almost had a Brighton type feel to it, without the sea, with children running about having fun, parents relaxing and gorgeous views.

6First on our agenda was visiting the ancient Jakhoo Temple and at a height of 2,455m above sea level it offers a panoramic view of the Shivalik Ranges and the town of Sanjauli. It is a moderate climb up a footpath, just ensure you have plenty of water if it is a hot day! There are many cheeky monkeys around looking for opportunities to nab your belongings, so keep them safe, a top tip is to take your sunglasses off your head. H made this mistake and encountered a huge monkey jumping on her for them! The temple is home world’s tallest statue of Lord Hanuman, good luck fitting it all in a single photo!

A little way from  Shimla, we stopped to take a cable car ride through one of the many valleys in the mountains. This was a first for both of us, and certainly something to tick off the bucket list! We would be lying to say we wasn’t a tad scared, but we felt like we were on top of the world. We also took a guided tour of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study also known as Viceregal Lodge, a building made of beautiful architecture, it is located on stunning grounds that you can explore whilst enjoying the view of Shimla. There is a lot of history associated with the building so be prepared to take in a lot of information! The tour guides were great though and catered for whatever language you spoke which is always useful and you will also get some great photos here.

Some of our best times in India were spent in the mountains, including Munnar, taking a step away from the chaotic cities and seeing some of the natural beauty India has to offer. We highly recommend visiting Shimla and Mount Abu if you’re travelling India, and look out for our little magician by the lake!

 

Arafwch – Slow down!

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After spending a year of our lives travelling through exotic locations, eating strange foods and absorbing the world’s different cultures, we almost forgot what made the UK so special. Living on the outskirts of London we overlooked all that this incredible city had to offer but worse, we forgot just how awesome the rest of the United Kingdom could be.

Saving for our next adventure, our UK break was less Angkor Wat and more Aberystwyth, specifically Tregaron. Staying at a wonderful little cottage in a village made up of ‘ones’ was just what the doctor ordered! One pub, one post office, one local shop … you get the picture. There was just enough in this village to make it inhabitable but just enough was perfect. Taking a break from the world we were left without phone signal and without worry as we allowed ourselves to take a break from the social strains of today’s society.

Y Talbot was first up and it was a fantastic mix of tradition and comfort. An ideal beer garden enclosing a beautiful pub which also happens to be a 4.5 star rated hotel on TripAdvisor. The food was gorgeous, succulent beef/fish and fresh vegetables which were locally sourced and a rare example of actually building from within your own community. A little known fact is that the head chef at the Y Talbot Dafydd trained with Marco Pierre White and was a previous Sous Chef at The Ritz! Certainly a claim to fame in this small village!

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But food isn’t what we came to Wales for, it was something far simpler. We wanted to take a break from ourselves. We trekked through the hills, had packed lunch in the mountains and walked along mile after mile of secluded coastline, with plenty of afternoon naps! The most human interaction we had was when buying a bottle of milk from the local store. Small talk doesn’t exist in places like Tregaron, people actually care about what you have to say. A wonderful change from meaninglessly nattering about traffic, the tube or worst of all… the weather!

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When heading into Aberystwyth we did manage to get phone signal and being the summer of 2016 and in a new destination, there was only one thing to do. Pokémon Go! We found so many awesome Pokémon in town from Tangela to Chancey but sadly the place was still crawling with those pesky Rattata!

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Aside from the Pokémon haul, Aberystwyth was a lively seaside town, with plenty to keep you busy. A host of bespoke eateries and coffee shops, castles that outlasted the dark ages and people with smiles on their faces. H visited her childhood favourite shop named “Stars” which is home to lots of little quirky trinkets, incense sticks and jewellery, a lovely little place for a rummage!

Not too far from Aberystwyth you can also find Devil’s Bridge Falls which is a world famous tourist attraction although it will be a test of your fitness so make sure you’re prepared before entering the underworld. If you don’t mind a soggy sandwich then head down to The Hafod with a picnic and eat in a flourishing forest dominated by streams. It’s not the easiest place to find but it’s hidden gems like the Hafod that make for the best memories.

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As we drove through the hills along the country lanes, passing horses, sheep and cows all roaming the lands we felt settled. It was as though we had finally been able to take a real break from everything. Personally, we couldn’t live in a place like this, we can’t function without the hustle and bustle but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and breathe, and Wales certainly allowed us to do just that.