Monday, 6 February 2012

Race2 Barcelona

Grumpy face! In the central reservation on the outskirts of Barcelona!
Attempting to get a lift to Vierzon in France. Shortly before our run in with the police..




Outside the Sagrada Familia once we'd arrived!


Thought it'd be easiest to upload a couple of pictures from our hitchike here.. then everyone can see them!


Get in touch if you want to hear more about what we got up to =) :

Lots of love,

Rosie and Billy

xxxx

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

SRA - Delhi

Good Morning!
We left SRA on Saturday, which was rather sad, and are now staying in Delhi in the very nice Grand Godwin.. though we're pretty sure none of the staff understand a word we're saying most of the time!
The trip to Mussourie was good fun - It was nice to get to speak to the older kids properly and it was great for them to get out and be independent. The journey to Mussourie was not so fun, however. Our driver (who looked about the same age as us, though said he had 10 years of experience.. not sure how that one works out..) rather enjoyed swinging into corners, and seeing as we were climbing from just above sea level to 2000m there were plenty. We think it might have been because the bus didn't have enough horsepower to get moving again if it stopped on a slope - he certainly seemed to have trouble getting started again when we stopped in traffic - we thought we were going to have to get out and push! The torrential rain causing the road to look more like a waterfall and the fact that throughout this the windscreen wipers weren't functioning didn't really help to calm our nerves much either. I forgot to mention the 1.5 hour stop we endured, without air con, about 10 miles from the Ashram whilst a young boy changed not one but two tyres whilst the driver and his mate stood around watching. We weren't sure that the tyres were flat in the first place, but we were pretty certain that the completely bald tires should not just get new tubes fitted.. the company were certainly living up to their name - 'Akshit'. (Perhaps they were missing a J).
When we eventually arrived in Mussourie 3 hours later than expected we enjoyed a dash through the torrential rain to our hotel before a rather late but delicious lunch. We ventured out shopping but were rather unsuccessful - they're used to lots of visiting rich Indian tourists.. so the prices were pretty high and they weren't budging. In the end all we bought was some Lynx deodorant for Billy (who'd managed to leave his at the Ashram), which turned out to be fake and smelt disgustingly cheap and alcoholic - though the other boys snapped it up! In the evening we went out for a nice dinner. Billy made the faux pas of ordering chicken (the instructions to order whatever you wanted weren't meant to be taken that far..), which arrived after about 1 hour (we think they may have been trying to catch the poor bird..) and wasn't the tastiest beast Billy had ever consumed (the sour lemon sauce didn't help).
After a very comfortable and cool night we set off on what was to be an equally eventful journey back. After about 12 hours of near continuous rain it had finally stopped. Unfortunately the driver took this to mean he could now drive as fast as he wished. Requests from Om Prakash for him to slow down had the reverse effect. By this stage we were pretty sure of his immaturity. The roadside strop clinched it for us. After a few minutes of cooling down and a few translated placating words from Seema and Om Prakash, whilst we all waited in the bus perched right between two sharp bends, we continued at a more sensible pace. 1 hour later we hit a traffic jam. After 3 hours of edging forwards by 100m at a time with the only entertainment being monkeys throwing logs at the stationary cars below (and the hilariously incompetent drivers in the opposite lane who couldn't change a flat.. even our driver got out to share some expertise..) we were very glad to return to the Ashram and another very late lunch. In the evening we had the end of summer camp celebrations which involved a glow stick lit ceremony and much disappointment at returning to school the following day.
On Friday we went into Haridwar with Soma and enjoyed shopping at Indian prices. We returned to have lunch with the kids after they finished school, and spent the afternoon playing games.
Since we've been In Delhi we've mostly been shopping, which is thrilling. We spent Sunday around Conaught place, mostly in the Levi's store (Billy is thrilled you can get 2 pairs of real levi's for under the price of 1 pair at home). On Monday we took a day trip to Agra which was good. The Taj was suitably majestic, and as we arrived at 9am, not too busy. We took several amusing posed photos which we'll try to share at some point and then went to visit the fort which was also really interesting. After that we spent quite a while wandering around in search of decent shops, without much success, before giving in and going to wait at the station for the next 3 hours (it really was that bad). We attempted to get into the waiting rooms but were denied access on two separate occasions by unenthusiastic employees of Indian Rail- despite the fact the men's waiting room was full and there were already men in the woman's waiting room it was unthinkable to let two harmless looking tourists do the same. We ended up spending most of the 3 hours sitting on the platform whilst Billy taught me to play bridge. During this time my previous impressive record of having visited both India and Thailand without ever having seen an alive rat or mouse (despite Billy sighting many and even kicking one.) was thoroughly broken.
Yesterday we went shopping (again!) in a megamall on the outskirts of town. Billy bought some new converses which he's very pleased with and we stocked up on toothpaste, pencils and deodorant for uni next year (we're fast getting into the student mindset!). We also went to see the new transformers in 3D which was very good, though I personally think the romance aspect of the story was vastly underplayed..! Today the plan is for more present shopping, fingers crossed we'll get it all done so we can be lazy tomorrow!
Lots of love,
See you soon (poor things)
Rosie and Billy
xxx

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

More SRA..

Afternoon All =)
We're getting on well with our volunteering at the Ashram. We've been helping out with the summer camp every morning and spending the afternoon watching the kids practice their plays/dances/talents or playing various games to which the rules are often rather vague. Last night we enjoyed 5 plays that each of the groups put on with spectacular costumes and scenery: they looked great, though health and safety would have been dreadfully concerned by some of the more adventurous set items (at one point we were sure a house constructed out of four boards tied with string was going to collapse and crush its inhabitants). Tonight is the dance competition which we're really looking forward to. It seems that even the littlest people love to dance here: so it should be a very professional show. Tommorow we leave at 8am on a trip to Mussourie with the older kids who've been acting as 'counsellors' at the summer camp. The town is at 2000m and is meant to be rather chilly, so we're understandably excited!
We thought we'd share with you today a few lists which we compiled one afternoon. There are probably many entries we've missed out... but never mind.

Things we'll never understand
  1. Old people carrying money in their ears (Singapore/Thailand)
  2. Wearing your jacket back to front whilst riding a moped (Thailand/Malaysia)
  3. The inability to admit to not knowing/stocking something (widespread)
  4. Tuk tuk drivers and their scams (unfortunately also widespread)
  5. Taxi drivers constantly stopping for you as you wait at a bus stop (Singapore/Bangkok)
  6. Childrens' love of eating unripe fruit (SRA)
  7. The love of cows, but not to eat. (India)
  8. How everyone knows of Justin Bieber, but looks very blank when we suggest the Beatles or Bob Marley.
  9. How every con artist seems to be exhibiting something at the Birmingham NEC in the near future (perhaps a special 'cons of the world' gathering?)
  10. Ladyboys (Thailand... though they could have just been hairy butch women....)

Things we'll miss
  1. Funny head wobbling movement used to indicate practically everything (India)
  2. Tropical fruit being ripe, fresh and more common than apples. (Thailand/Malaysia/India)
  3. Everyone's tenuous links to England. (India)
  4. Chai (India)
  5. Being treated like celebrities wherever we decided to go, with accompanying paparazzi (Tourist attractions throughout India)
  6. Cheap everything (Thailand/India)
  7. Eating out
  8. Being called Sir/Madam (Thailand/India)
Things we're looking forward to (in no particular order)
  1. Eating a meal where everyone uses cutlery.
  2. Not having to worry that it might be a squat toilet
  3. Being cold
  4. Meat (Billy at least)
  5. Strawberries
  6. Water you can swim in, and wear swimwear to do so
  7. Bare legs and shoulders (Billys particularly looking forwards to donning some short shorts)
  8. Showers at the desired temperature
  9. Being able to be understood
  10. Visiting the leather shop in the city of Kent (one of the encountered tenuous links to England... )
  11. Reasonably priced second hand book shops.
  12. Our own beds.

Any suggestions that you might have for additions to the lists will be considered provided they are fit for public viewing.

Lots of love,
See you soon!
Rosie and Billy
xxxx

Friday, 24 June 2011

Sri Ram Ashram...=)

Afternoon All,
We've been at the Ashram for quite a while now and have settled in to the schedule here, which i thought I'd write about today.
The kids wake up around 5.45 for chores etc before hockey or yoga practice. The older boys do crossfit at 6.15 ish - which is an American fitness program involving lots of weights (Billy is hopeless). Then the younger kids go to breakfast at around 7.30 - a rather messy affair if the amount of rice scattered on the floor is anything to go by. I'm usually awake enough to eat breakfast with the hockey players at around 8.30. Billy has been awake for ages but comes to eat then too. Summer camp starts at 9.30, before which we're usually on swing pushing/ unripe mango picking /cow visiting duty. Billy and I run an activity each: I seem to always be left trying to encourage boys to concentrate on various craft activities, while Billy gets to play games or decorate windows or something equally absorbing. After each group has had 30minutes on each activity we begin the task of tidying up the large amount of paper that is ,without fail, shredded into every corner of the room. Thankfully we usually get help with this bit :) After lunch its siesta time, officially, though there's usually a game being played or dancing to get involved with somewhere. At about 4 we regroup for an activity of some kind: today we're taking a shopping trip into town (to give the kids a chance to get something they've chosen themselves rather than been allocated), one day they filled up the pool and swam and usually they get to play with some of the new toys Hema brought from America. In the evenings, after they perform their Arti (sp?) worship, we have a packed schedule of ceremonies, events and performances. Wednesday was movie and popcorn night, yesterday we had the talent contest and tonight is a graduation party. It's all done American summer camp style, and the kids love it!
Afraid we cant upload pictures here - they get charged for upload/downloads so we're not allowed. Never mind, we'll get some up when we get to Delhi so you're all up to date.
See you soon!
Lots of love,
Rosie and Billy
xxx

Monday, 20 June 2011

Delhi - SRA

Good Afternoon,
Once again (seems to be a reoccurring theme!) sorry for taking so long to write. The Internet has been down here so we haven't been able to get online, and we've been pretty busy too!
In our last few days in Delhi we visited the Lotus Temple which was very beautiful: though the stone steps were so hot! The temple is open to people of all faiths to worship, which is pretty cool. In the afternoon we watched Hangover 2 which we'd been resisting because we thought it would be censored beyond recognition. The lure of aircon became too much to resist however, and we were pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of rudeness that was allowed through the net. We planned to go present shopping the next day, as Delhi is meant to be good for shopping, at least according to Lonely Planet. Instead we spent the day mostly riding the metro system (which is very swish and nice) to the various shopping destinations suggested only to draw complete blanks and to grow more and more tired and frustrated. In the end all we had to show for our days work was a towel for Billy (he lost his, goodness knows how), some shampoo and a few packets of toffees for the kids.
We took the overnight train and woke up at 5.30 for our stop which was meant to be at 5.50. Considering we'd been on the train for over 7 hours for a journey that takes 4hrs normally we expected to be on time. However, true to form we rolled in 2 hours late... 7.50 am.. We took a TukTuk to Sri Ram Ashram and spent the day meeting and greeting the 50+ kids that live here. Billy enjoyed a game of cricket and a spot of hockey (the national game of India, we were surprised to hear ours was Cricket) while I bonded with the little girls who were thrilled to have someone tall enough to pick mangoes (usually well before being ripe) for them. As its the summer holidays at the moment everyone has been in 'Summer Camp' which involves singing, dancing, acting and crafts (which involves liberal spreading of glitter on every surface - we are constantly shimmering.) On the 23rd there's going to be a show and all of the kids have been split into groups led by a few older kids. Each group has to put on a play and perform at least one dance piece and the rehearsals are great fun to watch. Billy has been known to attempt a spot of Bollywood dancing, though I'm still struggling to be able to 'screw the light bulb' with both hands at the same time.. think i may be beyond hope.
We'll try to update more frequently now the Internet is back up and running. Once again we think our memory card has a virus (Internet cafes don't seem to know about the existence of antivirus software here..) but we've bought another so we'll upload some soon.
Off to watch some dancing!
See you soon,
Lots of love,
Rosie and Billy

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Jaipur - Ranthambore - Jaipur - Delhi

Good Morning!
Hope everything is good at home. Its rather warm here, but i guess we have to get used to it - on Thursday we start at the children's home and they don't have AC at all.. should be fun!

We spent rather a long time in Jaipur in the end as we couldn't get tickets to Ranthambore until the 12th. We spent a few days meandering in the Bazaars, attempting to avoid the touts and find somewhere where they didn't charge 'tourist prices'. In the end we were quite happy with our purchases and found several really nice places. We met up with Geraldine who we met in Mumbai in our hotels' rooftop restaurant on one of the nights and we caught up with each others adventures and heard about her volunteering placement, which was pretty cool.

We eventually made it to Ranthambore on the 12th following a very expensive train ride (15 quid for 2 hours.. almost England prices!) and checked into our tiger themed hotel - I swear they had paintings of tigers from every angle in every scenery type. The following morning we enjoyed a wondrous 4.45am alarm to go to collect our tickets, and then were on our tour bus at 5.45 (as stated on the ticket). In typical style the other people on our trip decided that they were outside the terms and deserved a lie in, so we ended up hanging around until 6.30 when the last few trickled out seemingly unaware of how annoyed we were. This utter disregard for others (and wildlife) became a theme of the tour. When we luckily came across a tiger it was immediately surrounded by around 10 jeep/truck loads of people and followed for at least 45 minutes whilst most continued talking loudly and small children were allowed to scream and shout seemingly to their hearts content. The tiger was suitably magnificent but we felt very sorry for it as it attempted to escape the crowds to little avail. Now we understand what our Kiwi tour guide said about over-viewing. Once the crowds had eventually tired of the tiger the rest of the tour was very enjoyable (loud children excepted). We saw lots of different types of deer/antelope, a black winged stilt (which excited Billy a lot), lots of painted stalks, wild boar, a kingfisher (which took me about 10 minutes to spot!) and a paradise fly-catcher. We arrived back to our hotel at about 9 and spent most of the day napping and reading. Our hotel had a pool, but we forgot our swimming costumes =(
We returned to Jaipur that evening and checked back in to the ever friendly Pearl Palace for the night before we caught the poshest bus we've seen in India across to Delhi (we got free water and everything!). We checked into a vaguely OK hotel (our room is relatively clean but thats about all that can be said for it..) and went out to the cinema where we saw 'West is West' the sequel to 'East is East' which we'd definitely would recommend.
Today we plan on heading over to look at the Lotus temple which sounds pretty cool..
Photos are being silly again, we'll keep trying! (the tiger and camel ones are really good!)
Lots of love,
See you soon,
Rosie and Billy
xxx

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Udaipur - Jodhpur - Thar Desert - Jaisalmer - Jaipur

Evening All =)
Sorry for not updating for so long.. for the IT centre of the world its surprisingly hard to find an Internet connection (at least one which doesn't leave you banging your head against a wall in frustration after 10 minutes of page loading)
We've been pretty busy since Udaipur. We spent a couple of days in Jodhpur which was rather warm but very pretty. The bus journey there wasn't so much fun - the advertised 5 hours soon turned into a baking 6.5 accompanied by the frequent sounding of the less than hilarious squeaky arpeggio horn. We made it to our nice little hotel following a severe ambushing by TukTuk drivers - all trying to take us 'anywhere we wanted for 10 rupee'.. yeh right.
The next day we visited the Mehrangarh fort which was very cool and gave us a great view of the 'blue city' below. In the afternoon we sought refuge in a nice cool internet cafe and then wandered around the bazaars nearby when it cooled down. We purchased some very fetching turbans from a shop which took pity on us and made them up into the right shape - in preparation for the camel ride we were planning the following day.
On Sunday we were picked up at 12 (ish.. turned out to be Indian time) by our guide who then took us out into the desert in a rather packed jeep - as he'd decided to invite his uncle/brother (he seemed as confused as we were about which) along for unknown reasons. We'd hoped the jeep would have aircon, but no such luck - though we did get 'free' mineral water! We stopped at a temple in the small desert town of Osiyan where our guide explained the procedure Hindus go through when they visit and we enjoyed a dash around the beautifully carved exterior (the marble floor was boiling!). At around 6 we arrived at his hut complex in the desert, met his lovely family and had a very tasty and rather large afternoon tea. Our camel herders arrived shortly afterwards and took us off on a circuit around the nearby hamlet and up a dune to watch the sunset..behind a cloud. Our turbans caused much hilarity in hamlet and were declared incorrectly tied by the herders who then proceeded to compete as to who could make them the best. When we got back we had yet another huge meal and then settled down for the night in basic cots under the stars.
We woke to the sound of peacocks at around 6am and rushed to get ready as our guide had told us we needed to leave at 7 to arrive with enough time to visit Jaisalmer. Unfortunately this turned out to be Indian time, again, and he emerged at around 8 am still unwashed and in pajamas to take his goat into the hamlet to be sold. We were not amused. After another crowded and hot jeep ride (this time both his wife and son decided to join us too.. making it 7 people, 2 backpacks, 1 suitcase and assorted small bags) we arrived in Jaisalmer rather short tempered only to find the luggage counter at the train station would only look after our backpacks for the couple of hours we had left if they were locked. We explained the impossibility of locking a drawstring, but our appeals fell on deaf ears (seemingly literally) and we left even more wound up than when we'd arrived. In the end we managed to leave our bags with a small boy who was looking after a mobile phone stall and made a quick dash up to the Jaisalmer fort - which was really amazing - we wish we'd had more time! It looks like a giant sandcastle as its made from local sandstone and unlike the other forts we've visited its still inhabited, which is cool.
We took the night train to Jaipur at 4.30, spending most of the trip worrying about the strange men in the bunks below us and the mysterious packages and visitors that kept turning up. We arrived in Jaipur at a glorious 5 am, hung out amongst the beggars, touts and dirty old men in the station before venturing to our hotel of choice - Pearl Palace- which turned out to be very nice - thank goodness!
I spent most of the day dozing and feeling feverish - the 47 degree plus temperatures didn't help much. Billy enjoyed a day of reading and eating with various other lonely backpackers in the rooftop bar. In the evening we ventured out to a shopping mall nearby where we enjoyed a McIndia...
Yesterday we went to the City Palace, which we renamed following a particularly unexciting audio tour - the majority of the content seemed to be a sales pitch for one or other of the shops there - and the attendants who were rather rude and often wanting to add to their 'collection of foreign coins'... There were a few pretty buildings and Billy enjoyed the armoury a lot, but overall we were unimpressed! In the afternoon I took the plunge and got myself a haircut... she lopped off quite a bit but its not so scary. We'd booked tickets to the raj mandir cinema earlier for the Bollywood film 'Ready', which turned out to be entertaining despite us not understanding a single word. According to the Indian guys we met in McDonalds (I know, i know) just before it had a very famous actor as the male lead who even has temples dedicated to him here. Judging by the enthusiastic response of the 1500 strong audience (and not just the women) we are not surprised.
Today we've been to the Amber Fort. We decided against taking an elephant ride as the treatment of them is meant to be not so great and enjoyed the brisk stroll up the hill. The fort was rather spectacular - we took an audio tour which thankfully refrained from advertising and Billy found very amusing. The fort isn't very well signposted or organised, which actually turned out to be an advantage as we got to wander around wherever we wanted, getting lost several times in the process! This afternoon we've mainly been getting hot and bothered while searching for an internet cafe. I think next on the agenda is a trip to the train station again (joy of joys) to try to buy tickets to go to Ranthambore national park tomorrow (they have tigers , hopefully!) .

Sorry about the lack of photos - we'll try to get some up asap

See you later,
Lots of love,
Rosie and Billy
xxx

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Udaipur

Bats Galore!
On the Jagmandir island
Billy with his fig and honey milkshake (without the fig)
In the Jagmandir gardens
The elephants guarding Jagmandir island
At the bathing and washing ghat
The cute baby tortoise at our hotel (we've been out buying tomatoes to feed them today!)
The entrance to the waterfront (no idea why its gone all sidewards)
Inside the palace
Views over Udaipur
Enjoying our audio guide
Doing some construction work at the palace
Floating Palace
Billy leaning out of the door..
Tired Billy on the train


Hello!
We're in Udaipur now. We managed to catch the train up here without too much trouble - thankfully only Billy noticed the mouse that was running around my feet at one stage of the trip. Our AC2 overnight train was pretty comfy, not the cleanest but not so scary, and we were sharing with a nice Physics lecturer which was good. We arrived into Udaipur at 8am rather weary and after much confusion over our pick up made it to our hotel, which is in a really pretty old house on the quieter side of the river. As its the off season everywhere is pretty quiet - according to the people we met today there's only 20 guests at the posh lake palace hotel which has 80 rooms. They seem to be doing quite a bit of decorating work at our hotel which is being carried out in typical Indian style - liberal application of plaster and white paint to both the room and the decorators - its surprising that the rooms look so neat after the process! After a well deserved cold shower we headed out to the City Palace. We got a rather amusing audio tour and spent several hours wandering around and taking hundreds of photos of the amazing interiors and views. We gave up on finding anywhere clean to have lunch (everywhere seemed to be either dirty, dodgy or closed) so returned to eat the rest of the pack up Nicki had made us the day before and to have a nap (we thought we better get into the habit :P). In the evening we managed to find a yummy local restaurant on recommendation of our hotel. We walked down to the nearby bathing and washing ghats for some interesting photo opportunities. Even Billy found the thought of swimming in the rather green river unappealing, though the colour didn't seem to put off the local boys at all.
Today we took a boat tour of the lake which was good fun. We talked to some nice Australians on the way and enjoyed the gardens as well as a yummy milkshake and lychee juice in the posh restaurant on Jagmandir Island. On the way back we stopped at the supposedly fixed price Government Emporium - it turned out to be rather a rip off and not fixed price at all, though we managed to escape with just a couple of miniature paintings. We ate lunch and drank chai (which I like, surprisingly - that's how little it tastes like tea!) by the riverfront. Now we're back at the hotel for a rest before we head out to the Jagdish Temple and the Monsoon Palace, which had a starring role in 'Octopussy', for sunset. Should be good!
I'll upload some more pictures of Billy looking far too neat to be true (only real scruff bags wear t-shirts and shorts here so Billy has been forced to smarten up!) and some of the things we've seen so far.
Off to have a nap now!
Lots of love,
Rosie and Billy
xxx

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

More Mumbai

At Crawford Market
On top of the Intercontinental
Along the seafront
Dharavi

Morning All =)
Sorry for not updating for so long. We've been having a lovely time with the Elliots exploring the delights of Mumbai.
On Thursday we attempted to send our parcel of birthday presents home, which turned out to be a rather difficult task. Despite taking the lovely Annand along for translation purposes we were unable to decipher exactly what the man at the post office wanted us to do. We think that the process involves first getting the parcel contents checked and signed off at the post office (difficult when you've already wrapped them!), then taking them to a tailor to buy material to cover them. Finally you have to get a special person to sew them up and seal them with wax before returning to the post office to send them on their 2-3 month journey (that was the quickest they did). In the end we decided it would be safer to just DHL them from Grants office.. just too much of a nightmare!
In the evening we went to join Geraldine at the rooftop bar on the top of the Intercontinental hotel which she was reviewing. The views of the sunset were amazing and we could definitely get used to free cocktails and nibbles!
On Friday we all met up at Crawford Market which seemed to be full of dirt, straw and hundreds upon hundreds of mangoes. We crossed into the only slightly less frantic fabric market which was pretty mind blowing - far too much choice! Afterwards we went to lunch in Nicki's favourite cafe which was very nice indeed. We took a stroll around the beautiful Taj Hotel stopping at a jewelers who got the most amazing pile of cut gems out for us to look at - Billy managed to drop one but thankfully it was recovered unharmed!
Saturday was spent on Fashion street admiring the almost identical stalls of shorts and tshirts complete with almost identically enthusiastic owners. We took in a Indian McDonalds for lunch (who says we don't do culture?!), Billy enjoying a Maharajah Deluxe while I savoured a McVeggie burger. In the afternoon we went to look at a friends very shiny Royal Enfield bike to see if Grant wanted to buy one. Billy posed for a photo on it, but thankfully no one was brave enough to let him go for a spin.
We caught up with the latest Dr Who on Sunday, which was very exciting, and then went to see Pirates of the Caribbean (again!) with Grant and Felicity. The cinema was an interesting experience - no one seemed to understand the concept of keeping quiet, everyone stood while they played the national anthem at the beginning and in the interval (!!) you could order a variety of food which a torch totting attendant then brought to you during the next half.
Yesterday we went to Felicity's school to talk to students about the human rights project they'd been working on. It was rather like a science fair off the Simpsons - you could tell it was an American school! Afterwards we went back to the Mumbai Mobile Creche school where Nicki and a friend put on a very amusing version of Jack and the Beanstalk and we enjoyed teaching the kids the 'Hokey Cokey' -which unsurprisingly went down very well! I also purchased a very wonderful India Barbie from a local shopping mall - she's got a Sari and everything!
Better go, we're leaving in 15 minutes to catch the train to Udaipur. Rather sad to be leaving, but I'm sure we'll have a great few weeks!
See you soon,
Lots of love,
Rosie and Billy
xxx

Friday, 27 May 2011

DIY Cooking Lesson Part 1 - Samosas




Folding instructions!

Good Morning =)

I thought i'd upload the instructions i made following our cooking masterclass with the lovely Hilda. We were rather pleased with the results and no one got food poisoning - yet!

Anyway, we'd be very impressed if anyone attempts them at home - send us a photo if you do!


Samosas

Makes around 8

Ingredients

200g Paneer

100g Spinach

1 Onion – thoroughly diced

Mushroom 50g (if you want) Add 1 clove of garlic if you choose to.

Filo pastry – though spring roll pastry is better

½ tsp curry powder

Salt

Method

1. Fry onion in 1 tbsp of oil

2. Crush up paneer into small pieces in the pan

3. Once onion is slightly browned add diced spinach

4. Add ½ tsp curry powder and ¼ tsp salt (as paneer is already quite salty)

5. Fry the mixture in the pan, stirring around until the mix is of malleable texture (not too wet), then take off the heat and cool.

6. Cut filo roll into 2 inch wide strip

7. Using a 2 sheets thick strip add a 1 tsp dollop of mix and then fold as shown below

8. Seal the ends using flour and water glue

9. Fry in a wok full of hot oil, deep enough to cover them. The oil is hot enough when it bubbles around the samosa.

10. Drop each samosa gently into the wok and stir them around until they’re nicely browned

11. Remove from oil and dry on kitchen roll.


DIY Cooking Lesson Part 2 - Chapatti


Chapatti


Makes a smallish ball – around 3 chapatti

Ingredients

1 cup strong white flour (we think thats the english translation!)

1 tsp oil

Pinch of salt

Method

1) Mix oil, salt and flour in bowl

2) Add 1 tbsp water and then keep adding more water slowly until dough can be made into a smooth ball (but not too sticky)

3) Leave dough to rest for at least 30 mins to soften

4) Take golf ball sized lump, roll into a ball, squish the ball and then use a rolling pin to roll the mixture into a 1.5mm thick circle. Use flour to stop it sticking

5) Fry in a very lightly oiled hot pan (wipe most of the oil off) until lightly browned. Press down whilst frying to make sure its cooked through

DIY Cooking Lesson Part 3 - Spinach Daal


Spinach Daal


For 4-6 people

Ingredients

½ Cup lentils (we used yellow)

½ Onion

2 Tomatoes

100g Spinach

1 tbsp oil

Small piece of ginger (or use paste)

1 garlic clove (or can use paste also) peeled and crushed

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

¼ tsp turmeric

1/3 tsp chili

Fresh coriander

Salt

Method

1) Wash lentils then boil in around 2 cups of water for 15 minutes in a saucepan. They should be very mushy and runny by the end of this.

2) Fry chopped onion in a pan

3) Grate the tomato (or can blend), leaving the skins

4) Add tomato, ginger and garlic to the pan

5) Chop the spinach finely and add 1/2 to pan

6) Add all of the rest of the spices

7) Add 3 curry leaves if you have them

8) Add the rest of the spinach after a while (can also add mushrooms if you like)

9) Add 1 tsp of salt and stir

10 When the oil rises to the top of the bubbling mixture add the saucepan of lentils.

11) Add lots of chopped fresh coriander at the last minute

DIY Cooking Lesson Part 4 - Chicken / Paneer Masala

Chicken / Paneer Masala

Instructions in blue are to make Chicken Masala only, those in red are for Paneer Masala only.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

1 Onion

200g Chicken in 1 inch cubes

200g Paneer in 1 inch cubes

Pinch chili powder

¼ tsp cumin powder

¼ tsp coriander powder

Pinch turmeric powder

1 green cardamom seed

2 black peppercorns

1 dried bay leaf

1 clove

Small section of cinnamon stick (around 1.5cm)

1 tomato

Small amount dried tamarind

50g dried coconut

100g coconut milk powder

4 curry leaves

Few stalks of fresh coriander

1 clove of garlic

A little grated ginger (less than ¼ tsp)

Salt

Vegetable oil

Method

1. Fry sliced onion in 1 tbsp oil

2. Add cardamom, peppercorns, bay leaf, cinnamon and clove to pan

3. Add curry leaves, if you have them, to the pan

4. Add 50g dried coconut

5. Slice and dice tomato and add to pan

6. Add all of the other spices, garlic and ginger

7. Put the contents of the pan into a blender, add around ½ cup of water and blend until very smooth and relatively thin.

8. Add the chicken to another pan and fry in a small amount of oil

9. Add 100g of coconut milk powder and a glug more of water into the blender and mix again.

10. Once the chicken is white all over and nearly cooked add the sauce from the blender and continue to simmer for around 10 minutes until the chicken is tender.

11. Shallow fry the cubed paneer in 1 tsp oil until browned lightly then add to the sauce which has already been heated for a while. There is no need for the mixture to simmer in this case.

12. Add more water to the sauce to thin it (around ½ cup) and ½ tsp salt (before simmering) (before heating the sauce)

13. Add a few stalks of fresh coriander, finely chopped, to the pan, cooking them lightly before serving.

--

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Mumbai, India!

Good Morning =)
 
We've been in India now for 2 and a 1/2 days and have been having a great time so far. We are staying with Bonkys friends the Elliotts and are being truly spoilt!
 
On Monday we went to teach english with Nikki which was really interesting. She helps every monday morning at a school set up by a charity which is on a building site in town. Over the weeks they go through the alphabet teaching the kids how to form the letters as well as lots of new vocabulary beginning with that letter. This week was the turn of the letter 'B', so we spent a long time drawing birds, bananas and balls with various levels of skill (Billy's were definitely interesting!), though the children didn't seem to mind! I was with two little boys of about 7 who had limited interest in the letter B - they far preferred holding 5 pairs of scissors on two fingers and then chopping them towards my face, Edward Scissor-hands style. Boys will be boys! Afterwards we went to have lunch and a swim at the Elliotts' health club which was very nice. Unfortunately Billy didn't get to swim in the sea (all sorts of icky things in there..), but their saltwater pool on the seafront was a pretty good alternative.
 
Yesterday we took a tour with Nikki and Geraldine (another friend who's staying with the Elliotts) through Dharavi which was amazing. Its one of the biggest slums in Asia, with over a million people living in 1.6 square kilometres. One toilet is shared between 1500 (they actually didn't smell as bad as we expected!) and despite the less than great living conditions the turnover of the area is 600 million US dollars per year. Our lovely guide took us to see all of the different industries thriving there - virtually all working illegally - from chapatti rolling to melting down tin cans into big blocks to reuse. At some points the smells were not so wonderful and we rather regretted our footwear choices - not the best place for flip flops! As its the school holidays there were lots of children playing and taking great delight in shouting 'Hi!' to us whenever the opportunity arose. We made friends with three little girls who were looking after a baby and took a shine to my fan - they were very cute. At the end of the tour we went to see the community centre the tour company runs along with a school and nursery. Billy and I also got kitted out in matching 'I <3 Dharavi' t-shirts from their office. Unfortunately we weren't able to take photos inside the slum, but they're going to email us some that have been taken before, so we'll put those on here when they arrive. We had lunch in a glitzy aircon shopping mall - a huge contrast - before returning home for a well deserved foot wash. Later on in the afternoon we took a trip to 'FabIndia' which is a chain store selling amazing indian clothes. I have a new salwar suit which is really pretty and Billy has some wonderful new trousers. The cat seems to have taken a liking to my new scarf though - I keep finding him nesting in it whenever i put it down. Strange cat.
 
Today we're having a cooking master class with Nikkis maid - think daal, samosas, chapattis and veg curry is on the menu. Yummy!
 
We'll try to upload some photos, though it isn't letting us log in at the moment so we have to email this entry. Fingers crossed it'll stop being silly soon.
 
Lots of love,
See you soon,
Billy and Rosie xxx

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok!

Our feet when we returned this afternoon. Lovely and muddy =)
Helpful sign found in ladies at the cinema (but not in gents, which is surprising)
Billy.
Tuk-Tuk ride.
Typical town planning in practice - KL
Billy sporting our lovely pink backpack
Outside the national mosque - KL
'The sign was glowing' - Though they're actually quite a bargain over here! KL
Up the Petronas Towers
Evening All =)
We've finally worked out why the blog keeps getting infected with silly links - fingers crossed we'll be viagra free from now on =)
We got the bus up to Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday and took a visit to the Low Yat Mall which was the most mind boggling shopping experience we've ever had. Over 5 floors of electrical items.. and all we knew was that we wanted a camera. In the end we settled on a very shiny silver number (you can tell how technical we both are) which came with a very exciting free tripod (We weren't sucked in at all!) and has screens on both sides which is very swish. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around various malls, most of the time searching for the exit.
On Thursday we overslept our alarm and dashed into the centre of town to join the growing queue for tickets up the Petronas Towers. Thankfully we weren't too late to get some, though we did enjoy over an hour of queueing - at least the air conditioning was good! We spent the rest of the morning at the National Museum which was very well done and high tech. As ever I dragged my feet through the clothes and pottery sections whilst Billy spent about 10 minutes examining each individual sword, but we made it out in the end. We had an Indian lunch in Chinatown and then took the 42 second 42 floor lift up to the viewing deck of the Petronas Towers. Unfortunately someone offered to take a photo of us at the top so we didn't get to use our nifty double screen feature (we couldnt let on how dissapointed we were!) In the evening we went to watch Pirates of the Caribbean in 3D, which Billy was very excited about. We wore our promo pirate bandanas and wonderful yellow goggles with pride despite attracting stares from other audience members.
On Friday we sent back a rather large package of clothes (too indecent for India) for only 10 pounds which we were rather pleased with. We spent the rest of the day uneventfully in a wonderful mixture of airport buses, airport lounges and airplanes.
Today we've been mainly shopping I'm afraid to report. We went back to our favourite Chatuchak Market and spent the majority of the day marvelling at the array of strange items on sale there (and purchasing a few!). Billy now has some very unrealistic (is that a word?) Ralph Lauren shirts and some very fetching baggy trousers while i bought a totally unsuitable, but very pretty, embroidered skirt. We also bought some lovely Thai pillows which we have very much enjoyed trying to fit into our backpacks this evening. They may be sent home very shortly.
Tomorrow we fly to Mumbai at 8.30am (Eek!) - wish us luck!
See you all soon,
Lots of love,
Rosie and Billy
xxx

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Penang - Cameron Highlands - Perhentians - Melaka

So it seems I havent got round to updating for quite a while - sorry!

We spent 2 days in Penang, mostly exploring the rest of the island, though we did go into Georgetown for a bit. On Wednesday we hired a bike (sorry dads :P) and took a very slow and safe roadtrip. We took a trail through the national park to a turtle hatching beach. Unfortunately we didnt get to see any mummy turtles (they only come at night), but they had some very cute hatchlings in a tank at the conservation centre. In the afternoon went on a tour of a tropical fruit farm which was interesting, at least the bits we caught through our guides rather strong accent. Afterwards we got to eat as much fruit as we could, the real reason we'd signed up, though we're still not sure what half of them were! After an interesting drive through the georgetown rush hour we made it back in one piece, though Billy says we're not driving in a town ever again.

Thursday involved a wander around Georgetown in the rain : thankfully it still managed to look pretty. We caught a bus to the Cameron Highlands, a wonderful 6 hour journey despite the book maintaining it took 4. We checked into our hostel and went to a local food stall for tea. Billy decided to have a steamboat, a local speciality where you cook various items yourself in a pair of boiling hot sauce pots heated on a stove in front of you. Despite costing only six pounds and it saying 'steamboat for one' on the menu enough food turned up to feed a family of at least 5 (indeed there was such a family enjoying one right next to us!) and for once Billy was defeated.

The next day we took a half day landrover tour around the area. We went to a tea plantation, which was very cool, the mossy forest, a tea factory and a butterfly house. Billy had a go at carrying the basket and shears they use to cut the tea: all he needed was the lampshade hat to complete the look! After the obligatary tea and scones we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering in the town and in the evening went to a night market for some tea.

The following day we enjoyed another interesting bus journey, followed by an equally interesting speedboat ride to the Perhentian islands. Although we only had time for a one night stop we tried to make the most of our time and booked for a fun dive for the following morning. We hoped we might be able to see reef sharks which are supposedly quite common there, but i think they must have heard us coming and hid. We did see a school of massive bump-head parrot fish which was exciting, as well as a moray eel and lots of other pretty ones! We went snorkeling off our beach and saw lots more fish in the afternoon - including a very cute family of Nemo fish (the baby was so tiny!) We had a rather wet speedboat ride back in the evening, before catching the night train down to Melaka. On the way we made friends with two nice Malaysian students who we talked to for a large part of the journey - there wasnt much chance we would sleep!

After our few hours sleep we arrived in Melaka slightly tetchy and decided to go for a spot of sightseeing in the afternoon. Our attempts at culture included Christ Church, the ruins of St Pauls church and the peoples museum (which included a rather gruesome section on beautification acts - I really dont fancy foot binding at all.). We decided we'd done enough culture for one day and spent the evening at the cinema.

Yesterday was boiling, so we took in the air conditioned Independence Museum, the spectacular Maritime Museum located inside this huge pirates ship and another film (it was too hot outside!). We had yummy indian food for tea and ran back to our hostel through yet another storm.

Have to go now - we're meant to be checking out in 5 minutes!
Our camera is now severely broken : the screen is 70% black - we think it must have got squashed on the train journey. We'll try get another asap.
Hope everythings good at home,
lots of love,
Rosie and Billy
xxx

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Railay - Ko Jum - Hat Yai - Penang (Malaysia!)

We left lovely Railay on Saturday and after a wonderful dash in our back packs through the torrential rain managed to catch a boat back to Krabi and then another out to Ko Jum.
We'd hoped Ko Jum would be a nice escape from the tourists, touts and noise that we'd found on Ko Tao and Ko Phi Phi. Unfortunately it turned out we were practically the only people on the island. There was no one else staying at our hotel, the other 5 or so hotels we found nearby were closed up, and at one point we were outnumbered by staff members at our hotel by a 3:1 ratio. Perhaps it was a bit too quiet.. Our room was pretty nice though and we enjoyed the fact you could take a bath and feel that you had actually gained dirt during the experience (the water was a lovely opaque brown colour) After 2 nights of ultimate peace and quiet we headed back to Krabity Krabity Krabbi again (too much peace and quiet truly did this to me) where we hoped we'd manage to catch the VIP bus straight to Penang, so escaping a night in the slightly dubious Hat Yai in southern Thailand.
We arrived with 20 minutes before said bus left and after only a small tiff (for us) made it to the travel agents. They told us we could have the last 2 seats, and a thrilled Billy set off to buy supplies. Unfortunately about 2 minutes later they got another call to say that the seats had been taken. Billy returned with 4 giant bags of crisps, 2 bags of nuts and and a packet of M&Ms (thank goodness he's going catered next year), to last us for the next 7 or 8 hours, and we decided to try to make it anyway using the government bus instead. As you may have guessed by the previous posts the journey to Hat Yai wasn't quite as speedy (or comfortable) as we'd hoped.. so we ended up there yesterday night. After a slightly larger tiff (to be fair i did slap him first..) over the direction of the only decent hotel in town we ended up checked into a wonderful 4 pound room.
This morning we woke up to find it was Billys Birthday. (Yay!) Billy was thrilled with his presents of insect repellent, deodorant, a can of nescafe (he does like those though!) and a couple of donuts (nice, practical presents i thought). Unfortunately ants had got to the donuts in the night, but its the thought that counts hey? After Billy had devoured a burger for breakfast we got the minivan to Penang. Billy was very disappointed that no one sung to him whilst we were passing through border control, which thankfully went without a hitch. We checked in to a very lovely homestay just north of Georgetown before going in search of a birthday cake. We managed to get a delicious looking chocolate cake, which actually didn't taste too bad either! We also got a free cake knife and candles which we thought was pretty good for 4 squid!
After sharing our cake with the rest of the house we set out for a birthday meal, at an amazingly posh (for us travellers) establishment with very yummy food. Billy went for the classic steak which he swears is the best he's ever had! (Thanks M&D!)
Think that's it for now. Pictures are still playing up. Will keep trying. There's a hilarious one of Billy looking.. actually there are many hilarious ones of Billy. Will post some soon =)
Lots of love,
Rosie and Billy
xxx

Many apologies

It seems that our blog may have gained a life of its own.. passwords have been changed but in the meantime stay away from the links!!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Rosies Bus Poem

Will update later with something more meaningful.
This is the poem i wrote on the bus:


Sat on a ledge at the back of the bus,
From Krabi to Hat Yai, the road is quite rough,
The way twists and turns and the bumps there are many,
Perhaps thats why everyone's needing a penny,
Next to the toilet on the ledge we do perch,
While the bus all around us does squeek and does lurch,
The girl just in front is turning quite green,
And her lunch then her breakfast reappear on the scene,
We come to a standstill, we pray its our stop,
But its only a break so the ladies can shop,
We go for a wander then come back and wait,
3 have gone missing, succesfull escape?!
The 3 are recaptured and we're back underway,
Stuck on this bus for the rest of the day,
We'll pull into Hat Yai as the sun starts to wane,
And hobble and yawn and say 'that was a pain',
The seats are uncomfy, the place stinks of pee,
Next time we'll definately go VIP!

Rosie and Billy
xxx

Friday, 6 May 2011

Koh Phi Phi - Krabi - Railay

Hello =)
The rest of our time on Koh Phi Phi was spent mostly lazing, and snorkeling... we keep kidding ourselves that we've managed to attain a slight tan but the truth of this statement is dubious. On one of the evenings Billy, a friendly though slightly dodgy Israeli and the resort staff took on a family of sea gypsies in a game of beach football. Billy is unsure as to the score or even whether they won or lost, but he had fun anyway! The mosquitoes on Phi Phi seemed to find us particularly appetising - at the last count Billy had 64 bites and I had 58 (obviously not that tasty). They were building a new restaurant on our beach which was interesting to watch, and we even got to have a go ourselves- though thankfully Billy was not invited onto the roof.

We got the ferry back to Krabi after 4 nights in Phi Phi. We checked into a hotel which was half the price and at least twice as nice (and no mosquitoes!). We ended up going on a second hand book hunt, taking in most of the town on our quest to find Lord of the Rings 3 (or whatever its called!) but returning unsuccessful. In the evening we ate at a night market by the river - Billy enjoying 4 pancakes as well as his main course -no idea where he fits it all in!

On Thursday we took a longtail over to Railay, after breakfast in the Krabi morning market (an experience in itself!), which is on the mainland but cut off by cliffs. It's a climbers haven, though thankfully since billy scraped his knee during the aforementioned hotly contested football match we have been forced to remain on solid ground. Instead today we took a cooking course. We learnt to make Seafood Salad, (The Classic!) Pad Thai, Tom Kha Kai (Thai chicken soup!) , Massaman Curry and Bananas in coconut milk with our lovely teacher, Om. Despite earlier worries about knife wielding I think we managed to disguise the fact our usual menu consists of pasta, pasta and more pasta rather successfully and hopefully we now have a few more dishes to add to our repertoire! This afternoon (after a very necessary siesta) we scrambled up to a viewpoint above the island for some amazing views, and went exploring in the caves on Phranang (sp?!) beach. There's lots of really cute monkeys here, and yesterday we saw a Monitor lizard, though we were unable to spot any Oriental Pied Hornbills despite Billy dragging me from my bed at 7am this morning to go look.
Anyway, I think that's about it =)
Tommorow we're going back to the mainland and on to Ko Jum which is meant to be beautifully jungly and hopefully less developed. We've also booked ourselves into a bamboo hut in a posh resort there (half price as it became off season on the 1st May!) which we're very excited about.
See you soon,
Sorry about the lack of photos - its being silly.
Look forward to a Thai food feast on our return!
Rosie and Billy
xxx

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Ko Tao - Nakhorn Si Thammarat - Ko Phi Phi

Wonderful sign =)

The hammock at the viewpoint


The view from the viewpoint - Phi Phi tourist village



The Temple - Nakhorn


Our 8 quid bed =)


Fire twirlers at Big Blue bar - Ko Tao



Hello =)


We're now staying in Phi Phi in a wonderful hut/shack (depending on whether you're already staying there or whether its being advertised to you) right on the beach. We decided to escape from the main 'tourist village' as soon as we'd arrived so the huts further north, in a small bay called Rantee. The plan at present is to do as little as possible for the next four days, though we may venture out for a spot of snorkeling later: judging by the number of tour boats there this morning its quite good just off our beach!


We left Ko Tao the day after Billy finished his course and travelled to Nakhorn where we checked in to a lovely 8 quid hotel and had a wander about. It made a nice change for people to shout 'Hello' across the street at us because we were a novelty rather than because they wanted us to take their taxi.


The next day we went to look at the holiest temple in Southern Thailand which was very pretty, and saw the thousands of objects that had been left there by worshippers which are now in a museum. We tried to go to the national museum but were too late which was a shame. I also dragged Billy to get a haircut which was a very amusing experience. The boy in the queue ahead of us had a large head of hair completely shaved off which worried Billy immensely, but thankfully his hair escaped a similar fate.


We took the bus to Phuket armed with yet more of our favourite Thai dish so far - Sticky rice and mango! We stayed in a nice hotel in the old town which wasn't as touristy. We ventured out to Karon beach the next day where we hired loungers and spent the majority of the day reading our books and jumping waves. In the evening we ended up in a backpacker bar where Billy (unsurprisingly) beat me at pool before heading to an Internet cafe to 'aww' at Wills & Kates wedding.. very cute indeed.


Yesterday we took the very tardy ferry to Ko Phi Phi, where we are now =) We also stocked up on books from the hugest 2nd hand book store we found in Phuket so we have plenty of reading material for the next few days : I think he was surprised by how many books we had space for!


Hope everything is good at home,

Lots of love

Rosie and Billy

xxxx