Nothing says winter quite like a proper snowfall, so make it your mission to experience it properly. Instead of a mild winter with plenty of grey skies and rain showers, you could be having fun in the snow, making memories and trying something new. That’s what Andermatt in Switzerland has to offer you; it truly is an alpine playground!

So how do you actually get to Andermatt, and what is there to do when you arrive? Here are a few hints and tips to start your planning process...

Travel Information

The closest airport to Andermatt is in Zurich/a>, 125 kilometres away; by car it should take you around 90 minutes, but if you prefer to get the train you can relax on your 2.5 hour journey. Then again, if it is easier for you to fly into Milan (MXP) the drive is still only a reasonable two hours. When you consider how much you’ll be able to do on your trip, the drive becomes a lot more appealing! Also, it’s a great time to look at the scenery as you make your way to the resort.

    Logistics
  • There are around 20 airlines that fly into Zurich airport, so you should easily be able to find a plane to get you into Switzerland.
  • You will need to change trains to get from the airport to Andermatt so be sure to write down the times you need before you depart.
  • If you don’t want to hire a car or get the train, organise a transfer to take you from the airport straight to your hotel.

Accommodation

When you get to Andermatt, you’ll want somewhere to put your bags and rest your head. There are some excellent places popping up, but The Chedi Andermatt looks especially nice...a perfect way to enjoy a little slice of Swiss luxury. Places like this stay true to the alpine playground description; it has a ski-in living room and a spa and wellness centre with hydrothermal facilities, that can help to get rid of those aches and pains from the piste!

Activities

Once you’ve arrived and had a chance to recover from your journey, it’s time to explore the good stuff. There is guaranteed snowfall in Andermatt, so skiing and snowboarding is the order of the day. You can go almost 3,000 metres high up Gemsstock Mountain in cables cars before you come down again with gravity! Beginners might prefer the Gurschenalp and Nätschen Mountain...

It’s worth keeping in mind that the temperatures in Andermatt are between -5ºC and -10ºC in the winter months; it’s a very good idea to bring your winter woolies with you. The cold can often deceive skiers who believe they’re getting hot; your skin will be exposed to the chill if you take off your layers so avoid doing this to protect yourself against frostbite!

If you're flying from Glasgow Airport, there's no time like the present to start looking for the most competitive deals and the best value for money on Glasgow Airport parking.

A good way to kick off the process is to search online, and use airport parking websites to find quotes on parking solutions that best suit your needs. However, make sure you only use reputable airport parking suppliers and be sure to satisfy yourself with the quality of your chosen parking provider. After all, you're leaving your car with them while you jet off to sunnier climes, so it makes sense to find a trusted supplier that offers a good service and a high level of security.

One such trusted name is Thomas Cook, and as well as offering a support network and secure parking premises, they also promise great value for money. Check out their Glasgow Airport parking page.

As you'll see, you can choose from numerous parking solutions including low-cost off-site parking, and on-site parking with valet services. Naturally, the off-site version is usually the cheapest, and offers a shuttle bus to take you to and from the terminal. These often run regularly and are surprisingly efficient, with the minimum of fuss. Or, if you prefer to park within the airport grounds, you could go for the valet parking option which includes a parking and retrieval service - perfect to help you save time at the airport. Simply hand over your keys and head straight for check-in!

For complete peace of mind, Thomas Cook also promise excellent security features at Glasgow such as automated entry and exit barriers, 24-hour CCTV and camera surveillance, patrols, floodlighting and high perimeter fencing. So, rest assured your ride home (or your pride and joy!) will be kept in a safe environment, while you get on with enjoying your holiday to the full.

What are mud volcanoes?

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Mud volcano. Image: wikipedia commons

Mud volcanoes are channels for releasing pressurized gas and mineral water from great depths of the earth (even 812km) and depositing them on the surface where they form cones that can reach up to 700m in height, although usually they are about 1m high. The width, on the other hand,  can range from a few centimeters to a few kilometers. They are also close cousins to magmatic volcanoes. Both types of volcanoes can erupt powerfully and throw flames to great heights, both can spew out millions of cubic meters of clay from the bowels of the earth, and both can create islands if they erupt from the floor of the sea (Source: Azerbaijan International). However, unlike magmatic volcanoes, mud volcanoes are at ambient temperature and may even be cool. Another distinctive feature of mud volcanoes is that  they are one of the visible signs of the presence of gas and oil deep beneath the surface of land or sea.

Mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan and its Caspian coastline are home to nearly half of all mud volcanoes on earth – there are between 200 and 300 of them in the country, located mainly in the eastern part fo Azerbaijan. The two largest mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan are Kinezadagh (397m high) and Turaghay (400m high). When the first one erupted on the 10th of  October 2001 it sent flames shooting out 300m into the air, the highest recorded flame height from a mud volcano eruption. 

mud vulcanoes locations

Locations of mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan. Source: Azerbaijan International

Are they dangerous?

Mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan occur in uninhabited areas thus they usually don’t have any disastrous impact on the population. However, there were episodes when they caused serious damage and loss of life. For instance, according to local residents, an eruption of a volcano, which took place northeast of Shamakhi, resulted in the deaths of six shepherds who were camping in its crater. About 2,000 sheep in their flock were killed as well. There is also a legend about destruction of an entire settlement known as ‘Old Gilady’ during an eruption that took place sometime in the 15th century. Fortunately, such events are extremely rare.

explosion

Explosion of Kinezadagh, 2001. Source: BBC News

Where to find them?

The best place to see mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan is probably the Gobustan National Park. Make sure you go with a driver who knows where to find them because there are no indications in the park. Also, keep in mind that some taxi drivers will want to take you only to the petroglyphs and will refuse to go further as the road is unpaved and rather difficult for a regular car. Ask us and we will be happy to advise.

Qobustan AZerbaijan

Gobustan mud volcano. Image by notebooklovespen

Another good place to find them is the Shirvan National Park. There you will find some indications leading to the volcanoes although the park’s guide discourages from going there mainly due to the long road of a poor quality.

shirvan mud vulcano

Mud volcano in Shirvan National Park. Image by Kuba Bak

Things to keep in mind

Mud volcanoes are a good fun but – especially when traveling with kids – remember to bring a few extra bottles of water to wash off the mud, and some clean clothes to change!

This is not a joke. I was playing a little I Spy with one of my classes and this is how they manage to play it not feeling any discomfort or awkwardness.

It actually describes just how people are in this country. Really, really blunt and direct (when it comes to others), not thinking about emotional consequences. Although at the same time, half of the time it doesn't make any sense when they say something. Because A. their English is average, B. they just are totally not direct at all. This is a world with al lot of contradictions. Once I think I'm starting to understand them, they just sweep away the sense of it all from under my feet.

As I told before, they see me here as a white skinny girl with yellow hair. Still not sure why yellow, but if they see it as yellow, well who am I to argue. Although, as my white-ness changes here with this insane hot and sunny weather outside, so does their opinion about my appearance. I went on a trip with a local girl from work (more about that later, probably in another post). When we returned to work one of the first things I heard from my Chinese colleagues was: "You are so black! Didn't you bring an umbrella?" Apparently I was the one who was thinking wrongly, cause for them it's more like: DUH, you bring an umbrella with you everywhere. For me it was more like: I went walking in the mountains for two days, what do you think? Off course I didn't bring an umbrella. Then they look disappointed and shake their heads.

I'm also totally confused about some the things they say sometimes. (Literally, this is the most contradicting country and culture ever.) But on the other hand, they cannot understand why I (or other white ‘western’ people) act like I (we) do.

For example, and remember this for any future trip to China: don't touch the food! Just don't, really, never! I have had some awkward moments unfortunately, being a curious creature and all. The other day a girl came with this big, bamboo looking, stick and was biting on it and eating it like a cave man, and well I just wanted to know what it is. So she was kind enough to ask me if I wanted to try it...curious and adventuresous as I am:) I tasted it, but as I'm not a cave man the biting and tearing didn't went smoothly. And I just wanted to look (and touch, with clean hands though but still: OOPS for that thought!) the texture inside. As a response I got an angry "Don't touch it, I have to eat it, it's dirty when you do that. (I didn't even touch it, it was more like a little tap) But really, THAT'S dirty?? Kidding me?!

Another example I heard from a friend, he went eating at McDonald's with some Asian people. He took his hamburger from the paper and started eating it. People where staring at him like he was from another planet. After some awkward eye contact they asked him, "Why you touch your food? That is so dirty." Apparently they don't take the burger out of the wrapper. Fingers and food should not touch, under no circumstances, EVER! BUT NOW. They (up to 10 people, sometimes people you don't even know) eat from the same plate, not changing their chopsticks. Dirty? If you ask me, Yes kind of! Spitting on the street, dirty? YUP, DEFINITELY!! Kids shitting on the street, dirty? I'm seriously not even going there. Letting food fall from your mouth on the table, dirty? Well, YEAH! Spitting on the street? Disgusting!! And slurping the last little pieces of food from your bowl? Well only thing I can think of is: Ugh, and blegh. But actually,' they slurp that last part from their bowls because they don't want to touch the food. Because, you know, it's dirty! I just don't know how that makes sense, it's all just so confusing sometimes!

So as a Western brought up girl with European table manners, if you ask me? Who is being dirty?

Another interesting thing: I'm the most interesting thing on the street ever, at all times, always! But then I see people walking with plastic foil wrapped around their legs -- no joke, really happened! (No pictures unfortunately.) I guess, to protect themselves from the sun. But I'm the funny interesting and awkward thing to check out? REALLY?

Or when one girl was insanely interested in The Netherlands and Europe, asking me questions like: how is this or this and this... Until it even got annoying. So once in a while I tried to say things before she could ask. Until the moment she responded me with "Well you're not in your country now so you should do it like we do." (........) was pretty much my response.

How adorable is this??How adorable is this??
And how beautifull is this picture? sorry for putting it just in between, but come on!And how beautifull is this picture? sorry for putting it just in between, but come on!

Also the Chinese way of being direct while they are totally indirect is just confusing the shit out of me. Chinese people can say to you without blushing or blinking you are fat, you should loose weight, you are ugly, who is more pretty, and so on. I’m used people talk around these kind of subjects, lie or just mumble something to avoid these answers. You know, we European tend to not (always) be to harsh to the other person. Honest, but in a nice and subtle way. Chinese love their honesty, though. But when it comes to what they want you will never, let me repeat that, NEVER , understand them. One day I walked home with a colleague who lives in my area. She wanted to pass by the market to buy some fresh corn: no problem. When she found corn that was good enough (they are SO picky if it comes to fruit and vegetables, they can search for 15 minutes in a big pile until they find the ones that are good enough) she asked me whether I liked corn. Yeah sure, I like corn. So she continued here search for the prefect corn and bought 4 corn sticks. That got me confused, I now she won’t eat 4, did she buy more for herself, or for me. Or did she choose four so I could buy 2 and she could buy 2. As she didn’t say anything and I was totally confused by my own questions, even questioning if I wasn’t questioning it to much, and she paid for all 4 we continued our trip home. Almost home I started thinking again: did this mean she wanted to eat together? What did she mean by that question?? Well as we just said our goodbyes, I thought I was just analysing it too much and should let it go. 20 minutes later I got a text: the corns were ready and if I wanted to try them out? Because 4 is to many’ (…) uhm, sure ok, I guess. So I told here maybe here place would be better as I didn’t have a lot of plates and stuff. Got a text back with a lot of ‘hahaha’ no silly I’ll just drop it off’. (…..) uh, ok. She came, after pushing a bit she came inside for 5 minutes and left. Until today I still don’t know: did she wanted to eat together, but was afraid to ask me? Did she pick those other 2 for me to buy? And you might think: why didn’t I just ask here? It doesn’t’ matter whether you ask them or not. You get a weird answer ending with: ‘that’s ok’. Always ‘that’s ok’, starts to piss me off these days. WHAT IS OK? Well the gesture was nice though, so didn’t make any big fuss about this situation, but still.
Actually asking doesn’t help, it just makes it more confusing..

To make this clear let me continue with some other awkward moments:

When someone tells me some new information, as a naïve interested obnoxious and curious European girl, I always ask questions. For example, when a co teacher told me  August 21th was Ghost Festival, I started asking questions: ‘What is it?’, ‘What do you do?’, ‘What happens?’ etcetera etcetera. Then they start to explain it in a typical chinese way: ‘People stay at home, because they are afraid of the ghost to enter their houses and they give money to the ghost (still haven’t figured out how though). But well, for me this is not enough, as I still don’t know the real reason for having this festival. So I ask more questions, but this ends in a typical way: they try with maybe 3 more sentences, then they get stuck, ask another chinese person for the meaning of a word they don’t know in English and they end up talking to each other in chinese, leaving me with my questions and a new question: ‘Did they forget they were talking to me and explaining stuff?’ But as any educated western person would do, I ask dear old friend wikipedia for an explanation of Ghost Festival, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_Festival
Or, when I went eating with a bunch of local teachers and I, off course, wanted to know what one ingredient was, I got this reaction (after no one knew the translation in English and their googletranslate didn’t give any suggestions): Uh, uh, do you like it? Me: ‘Yes’, He: ‘Well then that’s enough, you don’t need to know what it is’. I just kept quiet after that.

SO for now enough about the unexplainable world of Chinese contradictions. Let’s talk about my future as a super model. Huh, wait what? Yup, I have a serious possibility to become a model in this country. Of course only online. Because, first of all, everyone buys everything online in this country. It’s way cheaper (the answer to the question: ‘where did you buy this?’ is always: ‘night market’: cheap or ‘taoboa’ THE chinese internet site to buy everything, yet again: cheap!). And second of all, apparently something is cooler, prettier or better when it’s worn by a white girl with blue eyes and yellow hair and people will buy it more easily. I kindly passed when I was asked to do this, in a bar, after a couple of drinks at 2 am (it’s such a business city, doing business is possible wherever, whenever). But I have been asked a second time last week, this time in normal circumstances. It pays good money, maybe I have to think about it.. ;)

Actually I’m getting a bit uncomfortable with al those comments on my appearance. How do you respond to questions such as: ‘why are you so beautiful? (Uhm, good DNA or something? I don’t know, why do you have a small nose?) And ‘One day I will just be staring at you ok? You have so charming eyes.’ (Uhm, I’m not sure if that is ok, it’s a little bit creepy actually) I don’t think I’m that interesting but for them here I’m a seriously interesting topic. Yesterday someone wanted to touch my nose: ‘because it looks so sharp’. Trust me after a couple of weeks of these insane, funny and totally inappropriate questions you kind of just let it go and just say ‘yeah, sure touch my nose, why not’.

Now let me tell you about the moment my school started using me as a marketing stunt. Yup, exactly like that. First they just wanted to take pictures of me and some other teachers for marketing purposes. They haven’t explained me in details, whether it was just for inside the school of maybe also for the entire city. But yet again, after getting used to their way of explaining, I was just kind of: ‘yeah sure touch my nose’ aka: let’s just make the pictures and do whatever you want. But then well it really started, let’s just say: now the story begins..

I got a question whether I wanted to go to an event at a western restaurant the next day with a co worker. We just had to show up as foreign people, say something about the restaurant and then we had free drinks and food. Well as I didn’t have any plans, I thought why not. The next day our manager gave us the text we had to say on the event: a 1 A4 page filled with English grammar mistakes and chinese words. I kindly passed this on to my co-worker and said I would support her. As it (apparently) was a beer festival we were told we could go in our working clothes and to not stress. Well, as I have learned something in this country so far it is to stop expecting anything (explained, sorted out, ask to you, told you, just don’t expect) because it always turns out differently. So no stress at all. We got to the car and the Central Manager of our school was there asking us if we had something more formal to wear, as we were supposed to pass as managers. Our reactions were sort of like this: (…), with an awkward, ‘What the hell is he talking about’ look at each other. So after some chinese words between the driver and the CM, (and an encouraging: don’t stress Joanna, it will all be fine. Should have figured there was more to this entire thing right on that moment) we got in the car. In the car the woman who was driving us (apparently owner of the restaurant) was really focusing on me, what kind of got me worried. Once at the restaurant, it appeared that there was a big ass stage, between 100 to 200 people, a fashion show to come, and a beerfestival going on. I think we’d better not tell the Germans how Chinese party at a beerfestival, they would be laughed at, and bullied until well forever. This wasn’t a beer festival, it was yet again a ‘Chinese happening’. Chinese people would literally die if they knew what a beer festival really is. Anyway, as soon as we got there I got a black skirt and blouse pushed in my hands and was pushed into a place where I could change. Wait, uh what about my co worker? We were supposed to do this together.. they could find clothes in here size, so it was now up to me. (OH, BOY, That sounds like fun) After squizing into this tiny size skirt, putting on some shoes of the owner (while she had to wear my converse, hihi). They finally explained to us that, the manager of the restaurant is going to speech first and I was supposed to act as the foreign manager and tell the same thing in english afterwards. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? We were supposed to come, show our faces say a couple of words and eat and drink. Now I have to go on stage, with more than 200 eyes staring at me, read a text filled with chinese words I’m not capable to pronounce in a stupid chinese ‘managers’ outfit. This was not in my contract!! And as soon as the CM from my school came I told him this. They didn’t ask me ANYTHING, they just pushed me into this awkward situation and I was stupid enough to do it. (maybe I should start to expect things again, and keep on questioning everything!!) So I went on stage, did the thing with some serious mistakes in chinese pronunciation, went off stage, directly switched into my own shoes and clothes and thankfully some people I knew where there so ended the evening drinking and eating and trying not to think about how the hell I ended up in that situation.

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Note to myself: LEARN TO STAND UP FOR YOURSELF, OR THE CHINESE WILL KEEP ON USING YOU AND TRICK YOU INTO ANYTHING.

Or start to ask for more money for these kind of things. I actually told the cm that he is going to pay me more for this, but haven’t seen anything yet. Must check!

 

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HELLO Jungle, see something pink somewhere in the green?

HELLO Jungle, see something pink somewhere in the green?

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I wasn't kidding about the umbrella's and walking/hiking in the mountains

I wasn’t kidding about the umbrella’s and walking/hiking in the mountains

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It's not easy to keep the kids entertained on a family trip, especially when the grownups would like to see things that interest them as well as pleasing the little ones with fun activities. The trick is to find a good balance of activities – match a sightseeing trip with a fun-filled one that the children will relish in. Wherever you choose to visit with our brood, the same method can be applied; just make sure the kids know that after being dragged around ancient ruins or a cultural museum, they will have something fun for them too!

If you're heading for the Irish city of Limerick for a few days, you can guarantee that this balance of activities will be entirely possible. Book your family into one of the affordable hotels in Limerick that has a family room and settle in for the duration of your stay. Whether you choose to stay within the city limits or you're planning to venture a little further afield, having somewhere snug and comfortable to come back to is always a pleasant prospect.

{jumi [*2][b]}

While the grownups may love visiting the Hunt Museum or joining an Angela's Ashes Walking Tour, make sure you consider the young ones too – don't expect them to walk for miles every day because before long, you'll see a change in temperament and they won't be very agreeable at all. Instead, incorporate some child-friendly activities so that they can keep their spirits up too.

Luckily, Limerick is full of things that the kids will love to partake in. Whether it's pretending to be knights in the grounds of the 13th century King John's Castle or any of the following ideas, if your kids are happy, you will be too.

Other ideas include:

  • An afternoon at the People's Park playground – let them run off some steam!
  • Buttercup Farm in Croom, which has a wide selection of farm animals to see, feed and touch.
  • Catching a film at the Limerick Omniplex.
  • A visit to Craggaunowen, an award winning archaeological site, 30km from the city in County Clare.

However you choose to pass your time, Limerick and beyond are great places for quality family time.

{jumi [*2][r]}

Caucasus ? Where is that place, asked my 10 years old son.

Well this is somewhere between Russia, Turkey and Iran...After a few sec, he said: so there is war there .... I said: well, we are lucky, at this moment, there is no war :)

Then my wife came and asked why do you want to go Georgia and Armenia, why not just stay in more time in Turkey instead ? Well if I tell you: silk road, Prometheus, Noah's Ark, great wine and cognac, it should give you an idea why I want to visit those two post Soviet countries !

She said: well very valid points ! But is it safe for the kids (we are travelling with a 8 month old baby and a 10 years old son) ? I told her I had no idea but based on the info I collected, it should be fine !

So we flew to Istanbul and spent a few days in this the Turkish metropolis before to hit the road by bus until Ankara where the Dogu Express was waiting for us.

The Dogu Express, one of the oldest train in Turkey, that brought us to the East of Turkey in the city of Erzurum through an overnight journey. It takes around 15 hours ride between Ankara to Erzurum. The ride was comfortable enough for our little family and we could enjoy the fantastic scenery of the Anatolian region. Tickets in a  4 berth compartment coupe were about 75 euro for the four of us. Super cheap !

After a short night spent in Erzurum, we took a taxi to The Turkish and Georgian Border at Sarp. It took us 1 hour to cross the border. Minarets were replaced by churches, burqas and niqab also disappeared and were replaced by tiny bikini.

For our first stop in Georgia, we decided to stop along the Black Sea in Batumi (capital of the Adjara region). The city was  and is still a very popular destination  for the Russian. During Soviet time Batumi was referred as part of the Russian Riviera but also one of the biggest harbor in the black sea region. Very popular and strategic !

The city reflects in his architecture modernism and all the history the city went through (Russian, Soviet, Turkish, Asian with a touch of French and Italian). Dostovieski and Ella maillart mentioned Batumi in their literature, and I have to say their description are relatively acurate !

Batumi Georgia

 

The beach is covered by stones, no sand here. But don't worry, it's not bad, it's just different of the usual sandy beaches we used to see. All along the beach and the strip, you have a large amount of trendy terraces where you can enjoy some drinks and get some unexceptional finger foods served by Georgian or Lebanon waiter. During Summer, a lot of DJ are coming from all over the world to animate parties. Is Batumi becoming the next Ibiza, well I hope not !

During our stay, we visited intensively the old city mostly by walk. It’s just convenient. Lot of tiny shops selling artcraft are scattered around the old city. If you get tired, You can stop anytime at a coffee terrace, these are legions and pretty cheap. Summer time is also the season of water melon and melon, we ate those every day, super tasty ! Lot of sellers in the streets and ridiculously cheap.

The city is really relaxing. Batumi has certainly lost its flamboyance of the old days but I will not be surprised to hear that Batumi is becoming trendy again in the future.

Finally, we found the local people very friendly and really enthusiast especially if they see you are traveling with children. In Georgia, children are very important, they are cherished at the highest level by Georgian. The fact we travelled with our 2 sons really helped us at many occasion to break the ice (even if we had difficulties to talk in georgian and Russian). So many times, we were invited by locals for a drink (Chacha) or share their meal.  Yes Georgian hospitality is among the best we witnessed so far.

Batumi Beach Georgia

Goa is as amazing as it can be. I have been thrice to Goa in the last two years but my love for it never dies. I always enjoy the cool sea breeze, the culture, the food, the music, the people, the freedom of mobility and the most amazing vibrant atmosphere there.

It was in 2002 when I first visited Goa, which was a college tour and some how it started on a very bad note. We missed our train, travelled through bus and the trip was reduced to one day and night. All tired and some of us were down with fever but still we were able to hold few good memories of laugh, share, love, emotion and entertainment. It was a memorable trip though it had some soar notes. Goa never touched our hearts on this trip. It was in 2011 that I needed a vacation due to the high pressure of work and few suggested for Goa. Since my hubby was with me on last Goa trip (college) last time we thought that it will be good to recall those old days and we backpacked and took the flight to Panjim, the capital of Goa and its lifeline city.

Goa Beach in India

Since we were travelling with the winds (in other words without any reservations) we first though to get ourself a rest and then turn for the beach and the lovely place. We looked for the room and then took a rented bike from the corner shop. I was really very happy driving a vehicle around the roads of Goa. The bike and four wheelers (self-driven) are easily available on rent in Goa and it increases your mobility too. A great reason why I love Goa the most...it provides you freedom to move at your will.

Typical beach in Goa, India
Long and peaceful beach in Goa

The beaches of Goa are great, very long and quiet except for the north Goa beaches like Bagga and Anjuna, which are usually crowded with domestic tourists. We stayed near Candolim Beach and frequently visited it during our stay. There were a fewinternational tourist relaxing and taking a sun bath, but not too many. Several were getting body massages done on the beach by the locals.

Candolim Beach in Goa, India
Long and peaceful beach in Goa

The beaches not only provide relaxing area but also prove to be good playground for kids of all ages -- 0 to 99. There are various adventure and sports activities going at various beaches but you can find them more prominent at Anjuna Beach. There you can go water skiing, parasailing, banana boat rides, speed boat rentals, etc. Lots of fun and adventurous activities in Goa is another reason why it's a favorite of some many travelers.

Building sandcastles on the beach in Goa, India
Building sandcastles...the favorite pastime of every kid!

Locals in Goa are jolly and are willing to help. We almost took various inroads and never found ourself lost, even late at night. Though at night it can look spooky, we got help when we wanted so it became the another reason why Goa touched my heart.

The lush greenery of Goa, India

Even the lush green fields and road side greenery adds to the beautiful atmosphere. The sunset was my another favourite thing I loved to watch sitting on the beach side sipping my drink and cherishing the sounds of sea waves.

Sunset over the beach in Goa, India

Goa is a fabulous place for eateries and wines in India as you not only find good quality seafood but also other eateries serving continental and Indian food. The Goan cuisine is also fascinating and its a blend of Indian and continental cuisine. Plus with so many fine eateries just around the corner in Goa you need not ever worry for food, even around midnight -- Goa has a very active nightlife culture. As far as the drinks are concerned, you can find various brands being served here. Goa is heaven for alcohol lovers as the drinks are cheap here. Fenni, a local alcoholic drink made from cashew nuts, is very popular among the locals and tourists. It is very strong. Yes, Goa is truly a must visit for all the alcoholics out there ;)

Sunset over the beach in Goa, India

The next best part of Goa that helps make it my favourite was its nightlife. You walk down the street at midnight and you see people moving, shop twinkling with their colourful lights, casinos working...it is the only place in India to have legal casinos and people sipping their drinks at various bars.

The beachs in Goa, India

Goa has many facets. It's not just the beaches and bars but beyond that it has a vast diversity to offer. The famous waterfall of Doodhsagar, the calm beaches of south Goa, the elephant village, the backwaters of Goa and tons more. Even with three trips down, I am planning another vacation to Goa soon to explore it further.

Panoramic shot of Goa Beach in India

Indonesia is an amazingly vast and impressive country. When I first arrived here I thought one month would be enough. HA! How wrong I was. Six months later and I am still exploring this diverse country. Doing almost all of it by motorcycle, as well.

Many Westerns are scared or worried about navigating the wild and unpredictable streets of Indonesia -- or any nation in Southeast Asia for that matter. Audrey of That Backpacker wrote a post about it several months back that further reinforced peoples' fears. However I'm here to tell you it's not as bad as you might think.

For starters there are many upsides to renting a motorcycle while abroad. It is really inexpensive. Ridiculously cheap, in fact. Throughout most of Indonesia prices are $5/day, $20-25/week, or $60-100/month. That's an absolute bargain. Fuel costs even less than that.

For example, I traveled 400km from Jogja to Surabaya in 7hrs using less than $5 worth of fuel. By contrast a train ticket would have cost me $20 and taken only a mere two hours less -- but then I wouldn't have met any cool locals along the way.

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Karanganya
Karanganya, home to several temples that foreigners never visit.

Beyond the financial issue there is also the added bonus of being able to set your own schedule and go where you want, when you want. Renting a motorcycle allows you to avoid a multitude of things such as tour groups, waiting on buses/trains, and being stuck with crowds of foreign tourists. This is especially beneficial when your hotel or hostel tries to get you to join a group to see those stereotypical tourist attractions, like Borobudur or Mount Ijen. "Tidak perlu, saya punya motor." ("No need, I have a motorcycle.") But hey, if you want to travel halfway around the world just to hang out with foreigners, that's your choice. However I must at least try and encourage you to interact with locals more, to live the local way of life. It's much more educational and rewarding. Plus when (or if) you ever return home then you will have a lot more to be thankful for.

  Accident Liability
In Indonesia the larger vehicle is always responsible and must pay damages (e.g. if a car hits a motorcyclist, its the car's fault; if a motorcyclist hits a pedestrian, it is the motorcyclist's fault). As such, you'll find that vehicles on the road here usually tend to be very careful to avoid hitting anyone on two wheels. I've done dangerous and some might even argue stupid stuff on the roads here but because of this I always scrap through unscathed.

That having been said, there are a few downsides to traveling by motorcycle in Indonesia. First there is obviously the traffic in the big cities and of course the condition of some of the roads, which are not quite the smooth and orderly roads we find in North America and Europe. Potholes, sinkholes and unexpected bumps in the pavement do occur, especially in places like Sumatra where the roads are notoriously dangerous for those very reasons.

Traffic In Jakarta
Jakarta one evening. Please pardon the rough quality of the photo. It was taken by phone while driving my motorcycle one-handed through -- yes, you guessed it -- traffic!

There is also a general state of madness on the roads in southeast Asia, at least from a Western standpoint. As one of my local Indonesian friends put it: "I thought roads here are normal. But after two years at university in UK, wow, can see why bule [caucasians] are shocked." However they are not as bad as other countries like the Philippines where: "Here everyone drives crazy. So you just have to drive crazier!"

From cars suddenly stopping in the middle of highways to people crossing the street to motorcycles zigging and zagging around seemingly everywhere at once, the roads in this corner of the world are far from what Westerns would call "organized." There is however an organized chaos to it all and if you go into it with an open mind -- and a few heads-up pointers -- then you'll see that you really have nothing to be afraid of. Well, almost nothing. Here are a few pointers to help reduce your learning curve:

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Just a normal road in Jogja
Just an ordinary day on the road in Jogja

International Drivers License is NOT required

This may be a bad piece of advice to start with but its the truth. Anyone can rent a bike in Indonesia, even those who have never driven one before. Of course this is both a good thing and a bad thing. One of the things I mentioned frequently on the road was "I'm not afraid of the locals -- I'm afraid of the tourist who just learned how to drive five minutes ago in the parking lot."

What about the police, you may ask. Not a problem. During my first extended two month road-trip I hit everywhere in Java, circled Bali, and circled Lombok. Not once was I ever pulled over or questioned by the police. However, when taking a motorcycle onto a ferry you do have to show your proof of insurance, which comes with all rental bikes. In Padangbai, a city in east Bali, the police officer at the port also asked to see my International Drivers License. "Oops, I forgot it." The officer rolled his eyes at me, stuck out his hand and said "Limapuluh ribu," which means 50,000 IDR. That's less than $5USD. And simple as that I was on the ferry.

Drive with your lights on 24/hrs a day and ALWAYS use your turn signals

Often times at night you'll see locals driving around without their lights. I've done the same thing myself several times after having a few beers. The easiest way to avoid this is -- no, not to skip the beer with dinner -- is rather to turn your headlights on when you first get the bike and never turn them off. They shut off automatically when the motorcycle is off so don't worry about draining the battery.

Always remember to use your turn signals as well. When bikes are weaving in and out of each other and people are driving every which way, that turn signal is the only way people around you know what you are thinking and where you plan on going. Proper driving etiquette here in SEA is to pay attention to everyone around you. The locals will assume that you are also doing the same to them.

Don't be afraid to use your horn

In other parts of the world honking your horn at another driver is disrespectful. Not here in Indonesia. It is actually quite the opposite. It's considered courteous and respective to do so, especially if you think the other driver might not see you. Use it when passing cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, becaks, even people walking alongside the road. Just as a warning, so they know you are coming. You also want to do it when approaching any free-for-all intersections or running red lights. That brings me to my next item...

Drive as the locals do

This includes running red lights, driving down sidewalks or the wrong way down a one-way street, even making illegal u-turns. All of this is standard driving practice in Indonesia and will make it look like you have been in the country a lot longer than you have. With the exception of the southern part of Bali (Kuta, Sanur, Uluwatu) the police do not care the slightest about any of these tactics. In Indonesia it is first come, first serve. Even at convenience stores, where locals frequently skip the queue and just cut in front of others, especially foreigners.

Indonesia by motorcycle. Get used to traffic.
Just an ordinary day on two wheels in Indonesia

Also, if you start to notice that many other motorcyclists around you have their raincovers on already despite the fact that it has yet to start raining, you might want to pull over and put yours on real fast. Chances are that the rain is only a few minutes away.

Slow down before bridges and railroad crossings

Most of these are bumpy, especially the railroad tracks. Large gaps several centimeters across in between the pavement and the rail are commonplace. Combine that with the lumps in the pavement and it's easy to go flying. One time I hit a railroad crossing at 100km/h and I literally flew out of my seat, completely lifted up into the air. Luckily my front tire was pointed straight forward and I had a tight grip on the handlebars.

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Lots of railroad crossings on the island of Java
This railroad crossing isn't bad but some of the others are more holes than pavement

Bridges are not as bad. Some of these are quite smooth actually. But many have a rough bump and the beginning and ending, where the bridge meets the roadway. Just to be on the safe side you want to slow down for these as well, especially if you see the other drivers around you doing the same thing.

Be aware of potholes, sinkholes, and gaps in the pavement

These occasionally occur in the big cities but are more frequent on the long stretches of road in between cities. For the most part Java is not that bad. Other islands like Sumatra are a completely different story. Just keep your eyes focused ahead and you'll be fine. If you're really worried then just drive a little bit slower.

Be observant when others flash their brights at you

This occurs both during the daytime and the nighttime. At night fast-moving cars will often flash their brights as they are coming up from behind to inform you that they are about to pass. However as cars frequently drive on the wrong side of the road when passing slow-moving trucks or buses, you will also see oncoming cars do this as well. In this case you want to move as far to the left as possible, to give them room to pass.

During the daytime it's a little different. If you see an oncoming car flashing their brights at you it usually means "you'd better get out of the way because I cannot!" In this situation it is wise to slow down as well as scoot as far to the left shoulder as possible.

There are no official speed limits in Indonesia, only "suggested" speed limits

Being pulled over for going to fast or too slow in this corner of the world is a fear you do not need have. I regularly hit triple digits in quiet neighborhoods and places where the signs say 30 or 40 but the police don't even bat an eye at me. However, if you are going to drive really fast, be sure to keep an eye out for people trying to cross the street and cars or motorcycles entering the roadway.

  In Indonesia the idea of stopping when you reach an intersection and looking before you turn just doesn't exist. People just pull out and hug the shoulder, rather than swinging out into the center of the lane, but they never look. They count on the ones already driving down the road to be on the lookout for them. Remember that. This is also one reason I advocate driving on the right side of the road, nearer to the center lane -- except when traffic is trying to pass, of course.

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Another traffic jam
Why are there no official speed limits in Indonesia? Because of traffic.

Learn basic directions in bahasa

These will become priceless whether driving in city or through the countryside. After all GPS in SEA is not quite as reliable -- or up to date -- as it is in the Western world. Knowing a few words like kiri (left), kanan (right), and terus (straight / keep going) will become invaluable. Other good words to know are dimana (where) and bensin (gasoline). "Dimana bensin?"

Indonesia By Motorcycle: No Helmet Needed!
Took and tweeted this selfie
while driving at 80km/hr

Get a helmet with a tinted visor

These are very helpful when driving into the rising or setting sun as even closing your eyes for a few seconds can be disastrous. They also help keep you from being blinded by oncoming lights when driving at night. Some of the vehicles here in Indonesia have crazy bright lights. In additional many of the trucks and buses have colored lights hanging on the edges, so that others drivers (particularly motorcyclists) can avoid them...often by mere centimeters.

Helmets are only necessary in the big cities

If you are like me and have been riding motorcycles for years then you know there is nothing more enjoyable then feeling the breeze through your hair. But if the police see anyone without a helmet in the big cities, even locals, they will pull them over and issue them a ticket. This is very true for tourists, especially in Bali. However once you get outside of the city and are driving through countryside and small villages feel free to take your helmet off and enjoy the wind.

Long Distance Motorcycle Travel Tips

Pay attention to the green road signs

You don't need GPS or smart phone maps to travel long distances in Indonesia -- I spent my first two months essentially driving blind, only following the green road signs. They will list the upcoming cities and point you left right or straight. Just keep driving straight until you see the next one and have no fear.

Don't be afraid to drive at night

Many locals initially cautioned me against driving at night, warning that I might be stopped and robbed by some unscrupulous individuals. However in six months that has yet to happen. In fact I found night driving to be more enjoyable for a variety of reasons. Not only is there less traffic on the road but also less surprises, such as people crossing the street or unexpectedly slamming on their brakes.

I would suggest however that you not drive over 100km/hr at night. That way you still have enough time to see and avoid any potholes in the road.

Keep your gas tank full

The national gasoline chain in Indonesia is Pertamina. They are located everywhere in the big metropolises and at key locations in between smaller cities. Even in the middle of nowhere there is usually a Pertamina every 75-100/km, at least on Java; However they are less sporadic on Sumatra and Sulawesi. Once your gas tank gets down to 1/4 full I recommend stopping at the next Pertamina you see and topping up.

Not all Pertaminas are open 24 hours a day, especially in the more remote areas. If driving long distances at night then I recommend filling up your tank whenever it gets down to the halfway mark.

Purchasing roadside gasoline

Throughout Indonesia there are small family-owned shops that sell bensin. You will recognize these places because they always have the gasoline stored in glass bottles and displayed near the roadside in wooden shelves. They charge a tiny bit more than Pertamina (7-8,000IDR/liter versus 6,000IDR) but come in handy when your fuel is running low and there is not a Pertamina in sight.

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Roadside gasoline vendors
Pertamina can often have long lines, especially in the evenings. As such sometimes its worth paying 1,000IDR ($0.10USD) extra a litre just for the sheer convenience of roadside gasoline.

In Bali, especially the southern, more touristy parts of the island like Kuta and Sanur, do not trust these vendors. They water down their gasoline so much that you can literally watch your gas gauge dropping as you drive. They also charge 10,000IDR a liter, nearly twice the normal price. Do not purchase gasoline from them unless you have already run out and are pushing your bike.

Follow the person in front of you

When traveling long distances through unfamiliar areas it is a good idea to follow the person in front of you. The locals know where the bumps and dips in the road are and they tend to follow the smoothest path. Follow behind them and you will have an easier ride.

Trust Indomaret, not Alfamart

Indomaret and Alfamart are the two competing convenience store chains in the country. Although most of their prices are the same, anytime they weren't it was always Indomaret that was less expensive. They also will let you use the restroom if you need it. The few times I asked the Alfamart staff to use their bathroom I was always denied.

Well, that about sums it up. These are the most important tips and tricks I've learned from my time on the road here. Hopefully they help make your motorcycle experience in Indonesia a smooth and enjoyable one!

Have Any Questions Or Additional Suggestions?

Or did this information scare you into not wanting to motorcycle while in Indonesia?

  This article was originally published on the HoliDaze blog titled How To Motorcycle Indonesia: What, Where, How, Why + Tips

  The Ultimate Unique & Off The Beaten Path Indonesia Travel Guide     Indonesia Archives

Taj Mahal, the beautiful palace that symbolises love and romance, is one of the monuments that every traveler to India should visit with their special someone. It has withstood the test of time as a magnet of love and when you walk in with your second half that feeling of romance comes alive even stronger. I believe it is Mumtaz and Shahjahan's soul that inculcates the feel of love and romance in this place and attracts thousands of visitors daily...although some do surely come for the grandeous architecture. Otherwise people like me would never ever turn up on what is technically a funeral site.

Breathtaking view the Taj Mahal UNESCO World Heritage Site in Agra, India

But its not just the two lovers who are buried here. The Taj is a great monument in and of itself. The sheer size, architecture, and fine craftsmanship of the marble make it a mandatory bucket list requirement for every traveler. It exudes a feeling that you cannot translate to text...and that is why people flock in such great numbers to visit the Taj Mahal everyday.

  More UNESCO Sites     India Archives

That's the Stockholm Card. I was a little bit apprehensive to get it at first because at 795 Swedish Crowns it's really expensive, but it was really worth it. For our short trip, we wanted to cover as much ground as possible, and at the same time not spend too much time inside museums. Without much advance planning though, we just decided to visit the major sites, while being spontaneous along the way ("oh look, there's the Nobel Museum! let's go in!" and "hey, that's the Sprit Museum, we can get in there for free").

Let's have a look at all the attractions we visited in three days and the figures:

Transportation costs, tours and entrance fees

  • 72 hour public transportation card - SEK 230
  • Historic Canal Tour - SEK 160
  • City Hall Tour - SEK 100
  • Drottningholm Palace - SEK 215 (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • Storkyrkan - SEK 40
  • Nobel Museum - SEK 100
  • Nordic Museum - SEK 100
  • Vasa Museum - SEK 130
  • Spritmuseum - SEK 100
  • Skansen - SEK 150

TOTAL: SEK 1,325
Stockholm Card: SEK 795
Savings with the Stockholm Card: SEK 530
  Verdict: WORTH IT!

  Appeared first on No Stopovers

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