Category Archives: INDIA

Caves and waterfalls in and around Cherrapunjee

Sleep in!! After a few early mornings and busy itineraries, we were given a luxurious departure time of 9.30am. Though we struggled to sleep past 8am, the rest was welcomed. We didn’t really know what today had in store – generic sightseeing of waterfalls, caves and viewpoints was the description from our tour guide before he departed, so we’ll see!

We’ve been going to bed so early here, it’s been awesome catching up on the sleep. But when you wake, you’re famished and eagerly awaiting the breakfast buffet at Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort!

Off in the car again. Poor Matt. He’s been such a trooper with all this driving around for someone who gets really quite motion sick. Today would be shorter stints in the car so that should help. I did ask the driver to stop on the way past this beautiful little town. It was actually the place we started our walk to the Living Bridges but from high above on the cliffs it looks like a little toy town and it makes me smile.

 

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First stop was the Mawsmai Cave. As often happens in India, we went to look at a tourist attraction and became one. I knew people would LOVE Matt’s hair and they sincerely do. He always gets asked for photos first and as I stand back and giggle they say “Maam, Maam you please” and I’m also included in the picture.

We managed to get a break from the big group and had the narrow caves to explore all to ourselves. Unfortunately, this cave was really rather… well… dead! It has been touched, poked and walked on so much that it’s no longer living and growing. It still looked interesting but Matt explained it should be a lovely white colour and that, it certainly was not. It was wonderful having a science buff with me to explain a lot of what was going on.

We did find one other small cave which still had living parts and was a lot whiter and more vibrant. It’s nice to share these sights with people but it’s hard to ensure they are adequately respected and cared for.

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Our next stop was the Eco Park. The name baffled Matt as strewn all around the place, including down waterfalls, was rubbish. It’s a big problem all over India and although the messaging from communities and local Governments is “Care for the environment”, it’s not really practiced or enforced.

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Sohra, near to Cherapunjee and where many of the sights we were visiting, is one of the wettest places on earth. We just happened to be there in Winter aka the dry season. We were also informed that due to environmental changes they are not receiving anywhere near the amount of water they used to and hence some of the sights look quite different to what is advertised.

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One such site was Seven Sister Falls. This is all that there is of the waterfall at this time. We weren’t too disappointed as we had been forewarned not to expect much. It’s definitely inspired me to come one time in September, soon after the monsoon to see it in its true glory.

We walked all around the park. There were some amazing views of the valley and we could see where the waterfalls and rivers would usually flow. It was kinda cool walking across what would usually be a gushing waterfall and is currently a trickling stream. There were lots of locals nearby washing their clothes in the river. Always a fascinating sight to me.

We continued on to the next attraction, another cave. Arwah Cave. Each attraction had a bit of a walk which was good to stretch the legs (though we are still in so much pain from our epic trek to the living bridges). It was a beautiful winding walk around the valley under a thick canopy of jungle greenery. We spotted another waterfall as we walked and some lovely water features along the way.

It was definitely the big cave. We climbed down into this cave which was lit in parts along the way. Matt said this cave was definitely still alive and active. There was water running through the bottom and some of the features were clearly growing. We climbed up stairs and crawled along passages. We walked quite deep into the cave and at one point I did feel a little short of breath, we were inside the hill after all. Although bigger, I liked the intricacies and shapes of the Mawsmai caves better. But interesting to visit all the same.

Our final stop for sightseeing on this day was the Nohkalikai falls. I’ll share another blog on the interesting history of the naming of these falls and some more about this area. In short, Noh Ka Likai means “Leap of Likai” after the woman by the name of Likai leapt off the falls. Grim but interesting tale. We wandered around the grounds and I did actually LOL when I saw this sign. The irony!!!

 

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This was probably the most active of all the falls we had seen and we could only imagine how impressive it would be in the height of monsoon season. A beautiful turquoise pool of water formed at the bottom that was ever so enticing – apart from the epic hike down to the bottom. We found a small lookout which offered a better view of the falls. It also had some stairs, which we assumed led to another and better viewing platform. So we walked. And walked and walked. Instantly regretting our decision on this never-ending quest for better views.

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Matt was in pain from the trek and his muscles ached so he decided running down like a lunatic would help that pain… ok.

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We gave up after a while and settled for q pretty incredible view. Not too shabby. Then we walked up, and up, and up… again!!

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Our sightseeing day ended at the famous Orange Roots restaurant. It’s the partner restaurant to our lovely hotel, Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort. They appear to be the most esteemed tourist venues in this area. We opted for a thali as you get a little bit of everything and we were rewarded with a tasty meal and excellent service.

They even have a bell so you can tell them just how good you thought it was. “Ring if you liked it”. So I rang it!

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That brought a close to our lovely day of sightseeing. I think in all honesty we could have crammed the one extra day into the others and had two days of travel and two days of sightseeing. However, it’s also nice sometimes to have down time – something my itineraries often don’t allow.

One last sunset. One last delicious buffet meal with our gorgeous Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort staff. I just had to have a photo with these gorgeous women. Again, Athiti Devo Bava.

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If you would like to follow our journey on Instagram, please check out @Lovellyem and search the #tag #EmmaMattyIndiaSing2017.

Written on Day 9 of our 24 Day trip in India with stopover in Singapore.


A day trip to Lake Dawki and the border of Bangladesh

Our wonderful India trip has been organised by Take me to India, a tour agency in India. While preparing for this trip, I’ve been checking out the Facebook Page of Take me to India regularly. I spotted the below post and noticed it was also in the Meghalaya region where we were travelling. I sent it to our contact, he kindly added it in and arranged all of our plans so we could add this incredible lake to our itinerary.

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I got onto Take me to India after chatting to my friend who also loves India and partners with the company. I showed her the “brief” itinerary I was thinking of, she put me in touch with the local company. In one day I had back the most beautifully laid out itinerary with everything I wished for and some added bonuses. I booked it in right away!

The day started with a three-hour drive. It was a necessary evil to enjoy the beauty of the lake. Poor Matt struggles in the car so he tried to rest most the way. I took in all the incredible vistas and views the curving mountain path had to offer.

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We made a stop at an incredible valley viewpoint. The way the land here ebbs and flows is spectacular. It’s so nice to simply stand and admire all that is around us.

 

 

As you approach Lake Dawki, the traffic builds. It’s clear this is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. We soon saw the stunning blue of the water and the sun shimmering across it. We then noticed the 100’s, or possibly 1000’s, of people are splashing at the edges of the lake and walking across the sand banks. There are wooden boats paddling along with happy passengers and people selling their goods on the border of India and Bangladesh.

We hopped out at the Dawki Boating area and walked down to the water’s edge. We were instantly surrounded by boat paddlers wanting us to choose them as our oarsmen. Our driver was there to assist us and guided us in the right direction, before we knew it we were in a boat and heading out across the lake. It’s a beautiful spot filled with laughter as people splash in the water. The odd holler from the armed guards at the border alerts someone to the fact that they’ve crossed over into Bangladesh without an entry permit – woops!

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The waters are crystal clear. Deep aquamarine hews float across the surface but as you look down below the boat, you can see clearly to the bottom. The water fades from aqua, to green, to a loyal turquoise blue. It’s reasonably quiet out on the water and you can enjoy the peace as you float through high walled cliffs covers in lush green jungle at the top.

The boat floats towards a pebbled beach like area and the driver offers us a chance to walk around or go to one of the little pop up cafes. We take the opportunity to put our feet in the welcoming water, it looked so refreshing and cool. But no. It was bloody freezing. Icy, blood stopping, cold! Fresh is definitely one word. We soon left the water and decided to enjoy a juice in the little bungalow of a café. Not before being stopped by passing Indian tourists who wanted a picture with sir and madam.

The café owner was a hoot! I said one word in Kashi to him and he spent the rest of our time telling me about the area in Kashi language. He eventually clicked on that I wasn’t really keeping up so switched to broken English. He pointed to two little camping tents propped up on the pebble areas. “Home stay. One night. 2000 rupees. Small one. 1200 rupees.” Ohhh we said trying to seem excited and not shocked at the extortionate price to sleep on pebbles. He was very lovely and insisted we come back and tell our friends. He then wanted us to have a photo with him, but not on his camera, on ours. Matt sensed it was a marketing ploy and that we were meant to go out and share the photos of his business to the world. So, here they are! Call Nowell’s next time you’re in Dawki and stay by the lake.

We blissfully floated back with the sun on our faces and the calm waters around us. The hustle bustle grew as we approached the shores and it was back to the busy reality of India. We had a quick look at the offerings of the market – some sort of fermented cherries and Indian snacks, we passed.

Our driver then took us briefly to the border of Bangladesh and India. It was heavily guarded and I wasn’t quite sure what we were meant to do there or if we were allowed to take photos. I held my phone up and the guards didn’t seem to do much so we posed for a few pictures, looked over at Bangladesh and off we went again.

A little stop on the way home at a small home-style restaurant. We watched the cricket and some hilarious television show which would equate to “Indian Kids Got Talent” – super cute. So many restaurants here serve a mix of Indian and Chinese food. Today we mixed it up with fried rice and mushroom chow Mein. We’ve opted to stick to vegetarian only while in these more rural parts. The food has been super delicious and there’s so much variety, we barely noticed the lack of meat.

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Long drive home and I was surprised how much the day had taken out of us. We arrived just after sunset and we collapsed onto the bed. We’ve enjoyed our afternoons of rest and catching up on reading without the distraction of internet and TV. Another successful day of exploring beautiful Meghalaya.

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If you would like to follow our journey on Instagram, please check out @Lovellyem and search the #tag #EmmaMattyIndiaSing2017.

 

Written on Day 8 of our 24 Day trip in India with stopover in Singapore.


You must add the living bridges of Meghalaya to your bucket list!

The day we had long been waiting for had finally arrived! We would trek to see the living bridges of Meghalaya. While watching BBC’s Human Planet, River People episode, Matt saw this place and turned to me, “We’re going to India!”. I had always wanted to take him and he said one day, but this was the push he needed and now, we are here!

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We had been well warned it was a big day ahead. More than 2000 steps down into the valley and approximately a seven-hour round trip. We didn’t mind, we just wanted to see these amazing natural creations. A hearty breakfast was needed and then we set off!

From Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort it was a short drive to the beginning of the walk. It was beautiful seeing the area in the early morning light. The sky was a perfect blue and the greens o the mountain and the yellow hues of the rock really stood out. People were starting their day in the nearby village and I felt peaceful and at ease.

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Off we went. Down, down and a bit more down. The stairs started as platforms and quickly became narrow steps spiralling down the hills. I noticed after about 20 minutes of walking that my legs were shaky. I thought surely I can’t be this unfit. But when I mentioned it out loud, both Matt and our guide (who has done this many times) said they felt the same. I think it’s to do with the amount of stairs and also a slight case of vertigo, eek!

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We arrived to the first village which was surrounded by leafy ferns, tall skinny palms and lush tropical plants. You can see that the copious amounts of rain this area receives pays off in a beautiful thick jungle. Dogs rushed over to me as I was carrying a bagful of snacks, woops. We then were met and greeted by small children who requested we join them for soccer but we had to keep on trekking.

Down, down and down again. Matt turned to me and said “You do realise that the further down we go, the more uphill climb we have at the end?” I replied “remember whose idea this was!” Case closed. It was so worth every step to be in this incredible jewel of life. We spotted big spiders and beautiful butterflies as we continues.

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We came across the first of many bridges. This one however was a suspension bridge. I’ve crossed many of these when trekking in Nepal. This one however, was a little in need of repair. Six main large cables provided the base, with three large cables to either side which led back to the cement platform at either end. A number of medium sized cables as well as small pieces of wire provided the structure. We then walked over a river and very very large rocks. I’m pretty brave, but this tested me. Especially as a large group of teens were on it just before us bouncing and jumping around – yeah, nah!

There was another suspension bridge, so much clear blue water flowing in the rivers and streams, and countless steps before we reached the first of the living bridges. We literally stumbled across it. As it’s a bridge made of roots of a tree, you could miss it if you’re not looking. It can look like any other tree with winding roots. But as you walk closer you see that the path is actually made up of the tree. Over hundreds of years the people in surrounding villages have trained the roots to climb across the river to form bridges. This is the only way in which they can cross the raging rivers in monsoon season. I certainly wouldn’t trust a suspension bridge at that time! These bridges continue to grow and strengthen over the years.

It was exciting to see the first one but the true treasure of this region is the double decker living bridge. It’s the only one of its kind in the world and it’s what attracts 1000’s of tourists every year and International documentary film makers. You must walk through a little village before reaching it. They actually have homestays here and I said if we ever come back I would 100% spend the night here – what an amazing experience!

 

And then… it was there!

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Magnificent. Enchanting. Breathtaking.

 

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I love this place and I’ve only just arrived. It’s amazing to see how man can live in and amongst nature harmoniously. These people love and care for these trees and in return, these trees give them access to their beautiful jungle home.

We walked on, over and around the tree bridges just marvelling at the natural construction. We walked under and through to the other side which offered another incredible view. We sat by the pool of water that’s formed from the running waterfalls and just took it all in. The sun beating down on our head and backs, the cool water at our feet and the beauty of nature in front of us. I rested my head on Matt’s shoulder and I have no idea how long we were there. I could’ve stayed there all day.

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Our lovely guide came to meet us and we enjoyed some snacks by the water together. He had gathered from some locals that there was another bridge about 15 minutes walk or so away. We decided to chill a little longer and then take a look at the other bridge.

The walk was pleasant again and revealed more of the beauty of this forest with tropical flowers and plants dotting the side of the path. Unfortunately, another dodgy suspension bridge needed to be crossed in order to get to the last of the tree bridges. Over large boulders and piercing blue water, we dangled on the most treacherous of all the bridges. It was great to see another of the living bridges and actually this was a very young one and seemed to be still in growth stages.

Matt wanted to keep exploring but we politely reminded him that however far we went, we had to go back the equal distance – all those stairs. We went back across the bridges and once again marvelled at the double decker living bridge. I could spend all day just walking across it and sitting by the waterfall. It’s such a natural wonderland. If only it wasn’t so cold, it would have been amazing to bathe in the waterfalls and pools.

 

 

We stopped for lunch at the first living bridge and enjoyed a simple but tasty meal of rotis and subji (vegetable curry). We were in need of energy for the long trek uphill but we also wanted to keep it light.

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Again we crossed the suspension bridges and admired the sparkling turquoise waters below. Tempted to swim but also remembering the ice cold temperatures when we had dipped our hands in early. We slowly trekked up through the lush jungle. I’m not going to bore you with all the puffing and panting, but man that was a heavy walk! We made it, exhausted, but happy.

Arriving back to the hotel at 3pm, we were pleasantly informed that the rest of the day was at our leisure. Meaning naps and reading and a whole lot of not much. I got my local lady on and hand washed our under garments – felt rather chuffed with myself. But mostly it was a necessity as the hotel will not wash “under garments”.

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Walking back past the villages and up the many many stairs.

Dinner was delicious again, though we were hanging out for the 7.30pm Buffet meal time. We ate quickly, thanked our hosts and were passed out by 8.15pm. What a day!

If you would like to follow our journey on Instagram, please check out @Lovellyem and search the #tag #EmmaMattyIndiaSing2017.

 

Written on Day 7 of our 24 Day trip in India with stopover in Singapore.


My first adventure to the North East of India

One of the hardest things about travel is the broken routine and ungodly hours for trains, planes and buses. We had a 4.30am wake up to call to get to Mumbai airport and take our flight to Guwuhati. There would then be a six-hour car ride ahead of us before we would finally arrive at Cherrapunjee, home to the living bridges.

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Our Uber again had trouble finding us. Each day has been a battle with Uber. I’m not sure if it’s my app or the internet on my phone, or If the drivers just truly can’t work out where we are located. I realised quickly it’s best to call the driver … then the game of miming and broken Hinglish (Hindi and English) begins. Luckily we allowed plenty of time and the drive was quick with no traffic at stupid o’clock.

 

Mumbai airport has improved dramatically over the time I’ve been coming to India and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I no longer needed my print out of my ticket to enter the airport – just our e-tickets on the phone. Check in was all fine and security relatively swift. We enjoyed a way over priced coffee from Café Coffee Day and awaited our departure.

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Flying Indigo airlines was great. A low cost carrier with a cheeky sense of humour. Their inflight magazine is called “Hello 6e”. Get it! I slept for half the flight and the three hours passed quickly.

Arriving to Guwuhati, I was in foreign territory. This was my first time to the North East of India and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Hindi is the national language, of which I can speak a little. English tends to be more scarce in regional parts, though tour guides and drivers are generally fairly fluent. We were met by a lovely porter who ushered us out with our bags quickly to meet our driver, Bablu, and Tour Guide, Bhuban, arranged by our tour company Take Me To India.

As we drove, we learnt from Bhuban about the area and that in fact we were in the capital city of the state of Assam. The people speak Assamese here. We would then drive into Meghalaya, of which Shillong is the capital. Ohhhhhhhhhhh. I have worked on a campaign about India for four months of 2016 and all along I thought Meghalaya was a place and Shillong a separate place. All along I’ve been saying “We’re going to Meghalaya to see the living bridges.” Not realise I was talking about the state as opposed to the place! We are actually staying in Cherrapunjee, which is the home of the living bridges. Look, geography isn’t my strong point.

 

I mentioned to Bhuban that it was Matt’s desire to pat a cow in India. Half joking, I said “Can you arrange that during our time?”. Next thing I know, we’ve stopped the car to meet a woman with two calves and Matt is patting them.

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Our drive was filled with sleeping, snacks, chatting about the local areas and about travel in India. We stopped for a wonderful meal at Jiva Veg along the way. Beautiful restaurant with such sweet décor and a lovely view of the surrounding hills. We enjoyed two dahl dishes and naan – So so tasty. Matt has been most impressed with all my food choices so far.

 

Quick stop at Luke Umiam, also known as Borapaani- basically meaning Big Water. It was stunning and such a pleasant break from the drive. There are so many natural gems around India.

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The views around Guwuhati reminded me of other rural parts of India I had seen before. As we climbed towards Shillong, it changed dramatically and the geography was like nothing I’d seen before. Hilltop villages, tea plantations and towering terrace houses.

 

We drove on and it completely flattened out to dry arid land on the top. Then it opened up completely into gaping valleys. Completely flat on the top with steep ridges then diving down into deep valleys. It looked a bit like the side of a table with able cloths flowing down the way the hills rolled and creased. It was breathtaking.

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The drive was a tad sketchy as we rolled around these hilly roads. As we got closer to Cherrapunjee, we saw more betel nut trees and palms popping up, it was changing into rainforest like foliage. So lush and green. Sadly there would be few waterfalls as we are quite a way out of monsoon season now, but the weather in the Winter/ dry season is great for travelling around.

We reached the Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort, resting on top of a hill with valleys dipping down all around, it was just perfect. Modest interior with sweet décor in our rooms. The staff were lovely and welcoming and before we knew it we had tea and biscuits as we watched the sun go down.

There isn’t much to do in this area except appreciate the nature. It was just the getaway we needed! We got there just in time for sunset and it was absolute perfection.

 

At night, we were treated to a musical program put on by the local Kashi people. They sang adaptions of English songs as well as local Kashi folk songs. They also had a dancer who was popping and locking all over the place. Quite the show. And as always with India, we all had to get up and dance in the end. Our cheeks were hurting from smiling.

We started chatting to the other two ladies who were staying, and of course, one was Aussie! No matter where you go in the world, you’ll find an Aussie. Even the remote hilltop resorts of Cherrapunjee. We enjoyed sharing stories about India over a lovely buffet meal. By 8.30pm, we were full and tired and it was time to snuggle up on this cool winter evening and catch some z’s.

 

If you would like to follow our journey on Instagram, please check out @Lovellyem and search the #tag #EmmaMattyIndiaSing2017.

Written on Day 6 of our 24 Day trip in India with stopover in Singapore.


More wonderful moments from Magnificent Mumbai

So, my attempts to keep these daily summaries short is failing epically. Bear with me. I just love India so much that I want to share with you every nook and cranny. I do hope that within my ramblings you pick up some good tips for travelling in India and perhaps you fall a little in love with it too. I’ll also try to do some Top 5 articles and summaries which are much easier to digest for travel tips. Ok, so on with Day 3 in India.

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Walking around South Bombay

I had originally planned that we would go to Elephanta Island on this day. Matt loves water and you get to travel there by Ferry, providing a wonderful view back to the island of Mumbai. I realised that we actually only had a few days in Mumbai and perhaps it was best to see some more of the main things then spend half the day travelling to the island and back. Matt then googled it and said “Looks great, now I’ve seen it, so what’s next?” ha! I explained it wasn’t quite the same as going there but happy he’s adapting to the change.

We ended up going shopping. It’s one of my favourite things to do in Bombay. At home, I don’t shop unless I have to. Food, clothes and otherwise. I enjoy markets and the interactions of shopping, the experience. Mall shopping is not for me. As I was on the lookout for an outfit for a wedding, I knew India was the place to look. Also there are apparently 40-60% off sales at the moment, so yes, I am definitely going to get amongst that.

Our shopping adventures were predominantly in Kala Ghoda, a beautiful area of the city prominent for its art galleries and the wonderful British architecture. My trip was not fruitful but we got Matt some awesome cotton pants and I almost convinced him to get one of the cotton India style shirts. We also did some more market shopping.

From there, we had no plans until lunch with a friend at 1.30. So we just kept walking. Past statues, Government buildings, busy intersections and parks. My friend enquired as to where we were and with the sending of a Google maps screenshot, he was able to guide us to a meeting point. Gotta love technology. So we strolled through Churchgate, another charming part of the city where I once stayed. Good movie theatres and great local restaurants. We walked through to Marine Drive and walked along the water looking towards Malabar Hill. We arrived parched at Pizza by the Bay, the perfect spot to refresh with my favourite drink, cold coffee.

My friends Hetal and Jigna picked us up and took us off for lunch. We met in Sri Lanka at a wedding and have stayed in touch ever since. As their family heritage is from Gujurat, they offered to take us for thali at a popular place. This was a great choice as you get a sample of many dishes. So we went to Status Restaurant. Extremely busy as it’s a popular place for workers in the area. But they said actually it’s always busy. We quickly saw why. Delicious food and efficient service. The service was a little too good with them constantly trying to top up our multiple bowls of food. You can eat til you can no longer move.

After lunch it was time for a drive around Mumbai. It’s lovely learning about the city from locals. I was asking about the city like area we could see across the bay from Marine Drive, so we went there. Passing Chowpatty beach, we climbed up the road to Malabar Hill.

Once we rounded the curve of Marine Drive and reached the hill, I knew exactly where we were and we ended up driving past the Jain temple which I had planned to take Matt to that afternoon. We went to the front but as there was a Pooja going on, we weren’t allowed to enter – Totally understandable and always happy to respect the religions of others.

We then went to the look out at the hanging gardens. I’ve often stayed very near to Malabar Hill in another friends home and so I’m very familiar with the area. It was lovely to share it with Matt and my new friends. They had not been to this park for 20 years so they were happy to be tourists with us.

 

Matt was falling asleep in the car so it was time to end our tour and take a nap before our next engagement. Indian hospitality truly is the best in the world and we were so fortunate to be welcomed by so many of my friends here.

Our final stop for the day was dinner in the home of my lovely friends on Nepean Sea Road. IT was funny that we ended up sightseeing on Malabar Hill in the afternoon, as this is the home I always stayed in. The family is Parsi and so we got to enjoy some typical home made Parsi cuisine – you just can’t get that in a restaurant. It was lovely to chat about the developments of Mumbai and for Matt to learn more about the growth of Bombay. I won’t go into detail in this blog, but for a wonderful summary of the complex nature of real estate in Mumbai, read “Maximum City” by Suketu Mehta.

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One of the busiest cities in the World, and you know, cows in the street.

With full bellies and warm hearts, we headed back to the hotel to rest before a VERY early morning flight.

If you would like to follow our journey on Instagram, please check out @Lovellyem and search the #tag #EmmaMattyIndiaSing2017.

Written on Day 5 of our 24 Day trip in India with stopover in Singapore.


From Navi Mumbai to South Bombay

One of the best things about being on holidays is you can do what you want. You’re on free time! However, I have a tendency to cram as much in as possible. So today, awaking in the comfort of a friend’s home, we took the liberty to relax and start the day slow.

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Home-made breakfast and chats with our host Priyo was a great way to ease into the day. Also enjoying the incredible views out from New Bombay over the marshes at low tide. Such a different side to Mumbai and a shame that some of the dense masses of people don’t move out here and enjoy more space.

We really did just chill for half the day. It’s half of what I do when I’m in Mumbai. Chill with friends and enjoy the Indian lifestyle. The other half is playing tourist or partying. IT was great that Matt got to experience the real side. We also got to eat more home cooking when Priyo’s mum sent over lunch. Food in the home is always best.

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Arriving to Colaba, first sight of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

We eventually left and took the long Uber ride back to the island. I had booked for us to stay in Colaba. Originally we wanted to stay with Priyo the whole time but the traffic makes travel so lengthy. It would take us 1.5 hours each way and it was going to take away from our sightseeing time.

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Murals on the walls near the Naval Docks

We arrived to a quaint little hotel, Treebo Garden Hotel, Colaba. Nothing to write home about but it was clean, nice service and the room was as it looked in the pictures. Always a risk when booking online through aggregating websites, but I find Expedia to be pretty reliable.

It was then time for Matt to see some of the places I love most in Mumbai. I’d made sure out hotel was a short walk from the Gateway of India and Taj Mahal hotel, two of the most iconic landmarks in Mumbai. The weather was pleasant and we could see reasonably well out over the harbour. This area is always busy with an eclectic crowd of both local and international tourists.

We took a little tour of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is ne of the most unique and finest hotels in Mumbai. Each room is different and the décor is oexquisite. High end shops, fine dining and an ambience of luxury. We tried to go to the Sea Lounge for tea., it’s a beautiful room with a view over the harbour and gateway to India. Unfortunately, all that was on offer was a rather decadent buffet for 1950 rupees/ $40AUD per head. We weren’t hungry enough to make the most of it so we just had a look.

Before we could leave, the piano man in the Sea Lounge took a liking to Matt and his t-shirt. It’s a bear with a moustache just like his (I bought it so of course it’s excellent.) The man enquired where we were from and when we said “Australia” he insisted on playing us a song, the one Australian song he knew. Waltzing Matilda. He even got Matt to sing along! I was mighty impressed!

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Off next to stroll the streets of Colaba, enjoying the British architecture that is synonyms with this part of Bombay. Rich in Heritage, it’s like stepping back in time when you look up. At street level, you will find modern stores, busy traffic and a bustling market along Colaba Causeway. I step right into my haggling ole and start to bargain with the shopkeepers- it’s a game really. I’ve got an upper hand as I’ve been here many times and know the prices I can get – I quickly settle on a pair of sunglasses and area.  Agreeing on a price that I want.

 

Of course we had to go to Leopold Café, one of the most famous cafes in the area. A popular hangout for tourists and locals as it serves a wide range of cuisines and is open long into the night. Unfortunately, some of its fame stems from the 2010 terrorist attack in Mumbai. The bullet holes have been left without repair as a reminder of that tragic event. We enjoyed a cake and coffee and took in some of the nostalgia of the café.

After a quick rest at the hotel, we were off to dinner with some more of my lovely Bombayite friends. A business colleague of my fathers, his wife and their daughter. He was originally a colleague but after meeting in Mumbai many times over the years and even attending their son’s wedding, I now just call them friends. We went to the Willingdon Club, members only sports and recreation club. It was lovely to sit on tables in the grassed area on a very mild night. We enjoyed a light meal of excellent Indian snacks and reminisced about times before. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with my local friends and so wonderful to see places that only they can take you as residents.

 

A quick stop on the way home to the Koyla Rooftop Hookah lounge was a must. My friend recommended it and it was literally around the corner from our hotel. A relaxing setting and a relaxing past time.

It’s safe to say, we were pretty wrecked after our big day in the city.

 

If you would like to follow our journey on Instagram, please check out @Lovellyem and search the #tag #EmmaMattyIndiaSing2017.

Written on Day 4 of our 24 Day trip in India with stopover in Singapore.

 


How to squeeze ALL the tourist things in Singapore into a day.

With just two nights and one day in a city, let alone a country, you have a lot to pack in. Our day two was an attempt to enjoy as much of what Singapore had to offer as possible. This is a short summary –  well as brief as Emma Lovell writing can be.

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The charming heritage buildings showing the more traditional times of Singapore.

Our first stop was a newish café just around the corner from our friend’s house, Kith Café. They had said that the food was nice, a lot like brunch items at home in Oz, but the service was crazy slow! We were pleasantly surprised when all our food and coffees were out in just 8 minutes. Also the Kopi Coffee (drip coffee with condensed milk) was incredible.

Next stop, Sentosa. We had the cheeriest Uber driver I’ve ever met. He gave us a huge welcome and joyfully drove us over to the island resort. We were going to do the metro but it was super quick and very affordable to go by Uber. Our primary reason for the trip to Sentosa was to go on the Megazip. Congrats to The Bachelorette Season 2 for doing an excellent job of marketing and selling Singapore in their finale. That’s where I first learned of the Megazip Adventure Park.

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The staff were super fun and it was a great little activity park. We opted to do the Para Jump – comprising of stepping off a ledge four floors up and held only by a harness, then falling down. It was highly entertaining. Then we had to climb the stairs again, eight flights, to reach the Megazip platform. Eek! 75m up and then travelling down a giant zip line over jungle and beach to reach the end point. AMAZING!!!! Thrilling and awesome views. But not terrifying – a good mix of laughter and heart racing adrenaline.

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We pottered around Siloso beach for a while. I’d never been to that side of the island. There is so much to do on Sentosa we didn’t know quite where to start. Cable car, Universal studios, eat more! Ultimately we decided that we wanted to add to our Aquarium list together, and so it was SEA Aquarium in the end that won us over.

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It was awesome! Great layout, educational and so many beautiful marine animals. I must admit, it foes help having a marine biologist as a boyfriend to guide you through the many tanks of sea creatures. I did also suggest perhaps a career change again… Singapore life?

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Stretch Mr Octopus!

I managed to drag Mathew into the lolly shop and got my way. What’s being a tourist without some sweet treats. We ended our time on the island with a monorail ride and then the metro back to the mainland.

After much deliberation, we decided to take a rest. I do think I’m the energiser bunny but with a night out ahead, we needed a break It was also nice to just hang I the air con for a bit – Singapore is steamy!

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Walking on Sentosa can take it out of you – it’s hot!

Out again for pre drinks with our friend. He took us for a walk around the bay and we ended up at the Craft Beer Bar – I thoroughly enjoyed my green beer which had spirulina in it.

 

Off then to a rooftop bar, a must for any Singapore trip. Our bar of choice was Empire and they also had a happy hour so winning! Gorgeous view of Marina Bay Sands and surrounding areas. Perfect spot for a cheesy couple photo. Naww!

 

Our highlight for the evening was certainly going to be the trip to No Signboard restaurant for Singapore’s famous dish, Chilli Crab. This was where the locals go and you know it’s good when you’re the only tourists in there. The prices are much more reasonable than Clark Quay for the specialities such as chilli crab.  Fried rice, whole cooked fish and the crab, all washed down with Tiger Beer. The meal was spectacular. The only complaint, the electronic crackers for Chinese New Year going off every 20 mins – ARGH! But it’s all part of the fun and didn’t distract from the wonderful service and amazing food!

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Our very full day would not be complete without a trip to the “fake trees”. Matt had been chattering about them so much before our trip and it was his one request for Singapore. The actual name we came to discover is “Gardens by the Bay”. The trees are made of metal and then have plants growing on them. In years to come, they will just look like trees from a distance, when up close it’s a collage of flora items. At night, they are also spectacularly lit up. It was beautiful and if you have only one time to go – go at night! I’m sure it’s lovely in the day, but night time is out of this world – think Avatar in real life!

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What a day! Singapore, you’ve buttered me up and I am definitely falling more and more in love with your dynamic culture every time I visit. Thank you also to our amazing hosts. With a lot more travel planned, we can certainly squeeze in another Singapore stopover on route.

 

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View from Marina Bay Sands back towards Gardens by the Bay

If you would like to follow our journey on Instagram, please check out @Lovellyem and search the #tag #EmmaMattyIndiaSing2017.

 

Written on Day 2 of our 24 Day trip in India with stopover in Singapore.


Arriving in Mumbai feels like coming home

Arriving at 10am, we looked out the windows of the plane and I could see the familiar smog and the dense cluster of buildings poking through. Mumbai, I’m home.

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This is my 9th visit to the incredible land of India. It really does feel like I’m returning to somewhere I came from. Perhaps as the Hindus suggest, I did have another life before this one. Or many. And at least one of them was in India. I’m hedging my bets I was a princess, or for now we’ll go with that… it may offset some of my demands ;).

 

For my partner Matt, it will be his first time to the exotic sub-continent. I sat him down in the airport at Singapore before our early morning flight and gave him a bit of a briefing. I advised on some of the things to be prepared for and be conscious of. I also told him that although I would love to share this amazing country with him, I will not force it upon him and will leave him to draw his own conclusions. However, I did add a word of warning that although things are different, doesn’t mean they are wrong and to note that I truly LOVE India and it will hurt my feelings if he criticises the way the country operates. Which let’s be honest is majority of the time chaotic and mad!

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A little too excited for Dosa

Our experience in the newly renovated Mumbai airport was great. We were through customs and baggage quickly with our easy to access e-visa. We then hit a roadblock when we got to the money side of things. I shall write another post on the madness of the currency change in India that has led to widespread chaos with shortages of money for all classes of society. For now, read this article in Forbes and watch this video on demonetisation by the talented comedy group, All India Bakchod. 

 

A quick scan revealed no ATM’s. After asking, we were directed to one ATM was literally unplugged! We then found another which once we got to the withdrawal staged it reported “No cash in this ATM”. So we then had to go to money exchange who would only give us max 4000 rupees and charged us a fee of 400 rupees for the service. We also were only given two 2000 rupees notes. The highest currency notes in India. When meals are available for 100 rupees, taxis will be 500 rupees and 1L of water is just 30 rupees – I knew breaking it would be a struggle.

 

We found a snack stand in the airport where I convinced the lovely till manager to sell me the food and break our 2000 note.

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The 2000 rupee note is a challenge to get change for. The 500 rupee has been restricted and is hard to get your hands on from the ATM’s

Off to get an Uber. I was using my wifi so thought it would be wonderful – not so much at the airport. The airport is so densely packed with traffic that the Uber has trouble getting into the carpark and locating guests. I was quite worried but ended up finding the Uber Concierge helpers who contacted our driver and we were off!!

 

I was preparing Matt for some shock on arrival. But no. The boy was asleep in 5 mins and slept the whole way to my friend’s house. I’m impressed with his comfort in foreign lands.

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Navi Mumbai is a very different side to the well known parts of Bombay

Arriving to my friend’s home in Navi Mumbai (New Mumbai) really did feel like home. It was more than two years since my last visit but as I stepped into the house, it felt as though I was only here last week. My wonderful friend and host Priyo was so welcoming and it was the best way for Matt to ease into India.

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We went out for the most important first stop – food! To Priyo’s favourite local food place, and what turned out to be mine also. South Indian food. What they often eat for breakfast, is available at all times. Idly, vada, samba, chutney and dosa. I may have to write a blog just for this food and restaurant but honestly, do yourself a favour and get onto this.

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South Indian breakfast is the best!

Next it was off to fulfil Matt’s highest wish for India, to get a cut throat or hot shave! Of course with Priyo as our guide he knew exactly where to go. Again, this deserves a blog of its own. These guys are absolute specialists and their skills are second to none. Matt was truly pampered and he just loved it. Aiming to get at least three of these while we are here. The best part, the price! $28AUD you’ll pay back home. Here…. 50 rupees aka one Australian dollar. $1! I was shocked and delighted.

The evening was spent watching the sunset from the high rise apartment balcony. Sipping on Old Monk Rum and eating Indian Chinese. Such an awesome first night in India and so many more wonderful experiences to come! Indian hospitality is the best in the world – Atithi Devo Bhava.

If you would like to follow our journey on Instagram, please check out @Lovellyem and search the #tag #EmmaMattyIndiaSing2017.

 

Written on Day 3 of our 24 Day trip in India with stopover in Singapore.


Emma Matty India Sing(apore) 2017 trip begins!

It feels like I’ve been talking about this trip forever, and finally it’s here. 24 days. Singapore and India. Friends, sightseeing and adventures await.

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We enjoyed a few days in Sydney before we started our trip. We planned this trip last year before we knew we would move to Queensland. Nice excuse to extend the holiday anyway.

Flying Singapore Airlines, we left at midday. It felt really weird. I’m so used to heading out at crack of dawn or the dead of the night. Even though it wasn’t an early start, I slept terribly. It’s something that always happens when I have a big day of travel planned.

Travelling with my partner Matt is always lovely. He’s my human pillow. So when I did want to rest, he was there to lean on. Also someone to laugh at the movies with. I always look a bit loopy LOL’ing at the back of a chair.

 

Next stop – Singapore! This is my fourth trip to the tropical city/country. I must admit it’s grown on me each time. The first visit was a stopover and I was exhausted. I was alone and had been travelling for 13 months. I was just two days from home but not there yet. I admitted after the stopover that I hadn’t given it the time or attention it deserved. I’ve been rewarded with lovely and more engaging visits each time.

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Satay is a must in Singapore

This was a new experience again. Travelling to Singapore with my boyfriend and also staying with our friends who are currently living and working there. It was such a nice way to arrive and start our big journey. We had lots of advice on what we could do and also exactly how to get where we were going for each activity.

Upon arrival we were met with warm hugs and beers. Yes! Thanks! We caught up on all the goss and freshened up to see Singapore through our expat friends experience.

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We went straight to the Fullerton where we had a great view of Marina Bay and we actually got there just in time to see the spectacular lights show. All the while being filled in on our friends Singapore Year (which has now been 18 months and there’s more to come.) We perched up at Pelican Bar and enjoyed the pretty views of the marina over delicious cocktails.

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Local cuisine was calling and we went to an awesome hawker market. Our friends divided and conquered that place. Before we knew it we were parked at a table with plates of stay skewers, chicken and rice, dumplings and freshly poured beers. Tasty, speedy service and very affordable. This is the Singapore I love to see. The buildings are spectacular and the way they’ve architecture the city is impressive. But the blend of cultures which comes out most prominently in the fusion of foods is what excites me!

We were shattered by 10.30pm, way past our Aussie bed time and it was super easy to just jump in a taxi and head home. Successful day one of our epic trip.

Oh and of course we swung by the Merlion for a classic tourist photo.

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If you would like to follow our journey on Instagram, please check out @Lovellyem and search the #tag #EmmaMattyIndiaSing2017.

 

Written on Day 1 of our 24 Day trip in India with stopover in Singapore.


Monkey see, Monkey do! Naughty Monkeys at Hanuman temple, Hampi

Today we went to Hanuman temple in Hampi. We went to watch the sunrise. It was incredible! The fresh morning and this sacred place. And also Hanuman is the monkey god so it was wonderful to see monkeys everywhere! Hanuman is my favourite of all the hindu gods.

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We were sitting out looking at this incredible view when a monkey came and sat behind me. I asks my friend Maruti what it was doing, just sitting. Then another monkey came along. A bigger one. He was about a metre back. Ok. Just chilling with the monkeys. No biggy. Well then the monkey behind me went over to see big monkey and he JUMPED HER!!! I was like “NO!!!!” The poor little thing….

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After the … activity… she came back over and sat behind me and huddled into my back.

“I’m sorry my little one. I can’t save you!!! Just tell him NO means NO!” She started to play with the back of my skirt. I just wanted to comfort her poor dear after her ordeal. But there’s NO WAY I’m getting in the way of an alpha male monkey at a monkey temple. Then another big monkey jumped next to me and I screamed! That was enough funky monkey action for my morning!

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As we were leaving, I saw another couple of monkeys doing the monkey business on top of the temple stupor! WHAT IS THIS!!!

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Moral of the story. Monkeys have no shame and no respect for their monkey god Hanuman and his temple birth place.

IMG_4474Then I took a shower. “Shudders”


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