Athens in Real Life

Before I get started on this post, I need to give you all a little bit of background information. As a young girl, I had dreams of traveling the world. I loved studying the ancient history of the world and concluded at age 11 that I wanted to travel to see the Colosseum in Rome, Great Wall of China, and the Acropolis in Athens. When I was 14 years old, I took my first trip to China and stepped foot on the Great Wall. At age 17, while attending college, I worked as a waitress on the weekend to save up enough money for a two week trip to Europe where I was able to see the colosseum, walk down ancient streets, etc. The last thing on my childhood bucket list was Athens. Athens, oh Athens… I had read about this great city in my history books, and gazed at the magnificent Acropolis in travel magazines for hours. For 13 years I had dreamed of going to Athens, and as we were leaving the island of Santorini, this dream was finally going to come true. But to be honest, we left Santorini with variety of emotions… we had fallen in love with that little island, and if time had permitted it, I think we would have stayed for several more weeks. Oh well, the theme of our trip had been “we can’t do everything.” We put it on our mental list of places we’d love to visit again and boarded our evening ferry to Athens. Santorini Ferry to Athens We arrived in Athens late at night and barely caught the last subway ride to our hotel. The next day we set out to explore the city. Exploring the city of Athens Exploring the city of Athens Exploring the city of Athens We slowly made our way to the Acropolis… passing ancient ruins tucked away in the bustling city. Exploring the Acropolis Ancient ruins in Athens Exploring the Acropolis Exploring the Acropolis  Exploring the Acropolis We eventually made it to the Acropolis… Apparently around the same time everyone in the city decided to visit it. Exploring the Acropolis And then we saw it the beloved Parthenon Temple… Acropolis Wait, no, that’s what I imagined I would see… this is the scene that greeted us: Acropolis with scaffolding “What happened to the beautiful postcard-perfect Parthenon Temple from all of the travel magazines?” I was so disappointed… Ugh, stupid scaffolding! Well it goes to say that we tried really hard to get photos without a million medal bars cluttering up the pictures…Parthanon Exploring the Acropolis Exploring the Acropolis We discovered that the backside of the Parthenon was nearly scaffolding-free (nearly!). Exploring the Acropolis in Athens Exploring the Acropolis Exploring the Acropolis Exploring the Acropolis Exploring the Acropolis Exploring the Acropolis Exploring the Acropolis  Exploring the Acropolis Exploring the Acropolis Exploring the Acropolis Exploring the Acropolis Greek yogurt does taste better in Greece, just trust me on that! Greek yogurt in Greece! Athens is a mixture of the old and the new. While we enjoyed our time there, it didn’t meet our expectations (which goes to say that it is far better to throw your expectations out the window before traveling… if you do, you’ll never be disappointed). Actually, I should say that Athens didn’t meet my expectations. Jared didn’t come to the city with expectations and ended up enjoying it more than I did. Athens, GreeceShopping in Athens The city had some really nice areas, but also some rough parts… We didn’t get any pictures of those areas though; I guess we were just too concerned for our lives to even think about photos! Oh, and trying an authentic Greek salad is a must! Mmmm… Delicious! Greek salad in Greece Well, after I got over being disappointed in my not-so-perfect Acropolis experience, I was really happy that we had made the trip to Athens and that I could complete my childhood bucket list. Exploring the Acropolis Next up is our road trip through the United Kingdom!


A Layover on Kos

Well, the time came for us to leave Turkey and head to Greece! After a nice breakfast in Bodrum, we jumped on a local bus and headed back to town to catch our ferry. Bodrum Ferry Going through customs was a breeze… We were on our boat and heading to Greece in no time!Bodrum FerryFerry to Kos Ferry to Santorini KosOur first stop was Kos, Greece. We spent the day there and we were both very impressed with how much we liked that little island. Our ferry to Santorini didn’t leave until evening, so we had the whole day to explore Kos. We found a local hotel that would store our luggage and let us use their wifi and lobby for 5 euros. After dropping our bags, we went to check out the local restaurants. Greece, Kos Greece, Kos We knew it was coming… we were finally in Europe and things weren’t cheap anymore. We ended up at a small super market and found some ham, cheese, mayo and bread–all for under 5 euros and it was enough both lunch and dinner!Greece, KosSince Kos was just a layover for us, and Santorini was the “real” destination, we didn’t do any research about the island prior to our arrival. We were quite surprised at all of the sites we got to see. To start off the day, we went to see the old ruins of Asclepieion.Greece Island Kos Greece Island Kos Greece Island Kos We also went to check out the Castle of the Knights of Saint John. Greece Island KosGreece Island Kos Greece Island Kos Greece Island KosGreece Island Kos We learned a lot about Kos and it’s history as well. For an example, we had no idea that Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, was from Kos (yes, I do feel I should have known this with my background in health, but what can I say, I learn new things everyday!).Greece Island KosGreece Island Kos  Just a few hours after being in Greece and we were already in love!Greece Island KosAnd not to mention the food… fresh Gyros… amazing!wpid-IMG_5374.jpgGreece Island KosAs we boarded the ferry, we felt like we were boarding a cruise ship. It was huge and luxurious. Such a nice form of travel.Ferry to SantoriniFerry to Santorini 

A Seaside Getaway in Bodrum Turkey

We had read that the town of Bodrum Turkey was a quaint seaside town. While the outskirts of Bodrum were quiet and nice, the central part of the city was bustling. Hotel in Bodrum After a bit of wondering around we managed to find a local bus going in the direction of our hotel. Our little hotel was quaint and the beach was just down the street. Bodrum Hotel Hotel in Bodrum Hotel in Bodrum Exploring Bodrum's Coast Hotel in Bodrum We spent the rest of the day relaxing and exploring the coast.Bodrum Turkey Exploring Bodrum's Coast Exploring Bodrum's Coast Bodrum Turkey Exploring Bodrum's Coast Exploring Bodrum's Coast This little kitten decided to join us for lunch.Exploring Bodrum's Coast Our stay in Bodrum was short and sweet. We headed out the next day and caught a ferry to one of the most beautiful islands in Greece–Santorini!Bodrum Ferry Bodrum Ferry Bodrum Ferry Bodrum Ferry Bodrum Ferry Bodrum Ferry

Picturesque Santorini

After our layover on Kos, we boarded our ferry in the evening and finally arrived in Santorini around 1am. As promised, someone from our hotel was waiting to at the port to give us a ride to the southern tip of the island. To our surprise, the lady who owned the hotel stayed up until we arrived and warmly greeted us and gave us a bottle of wine from her husband’s winery.Bed and Breakfast Villa SantoriniBed and Breakfast Villa SantoriniI don’t think I can come up with the words to express our stay in Santorini. Neither Jared or I were expecting to fall in love with that little island… but it stole our hearts away. Bed and Breakfast Villa SantoriniThe breakfast provided by our sweet host was something we started looking forward to every morning.Bed and Breakfast Villa Santorini Beautiful Greece… beautiful Santorini!Greek Villa Greek VillaGreek VillaThe volcanic island of Santorini is known for many things, one of which is it’s unique black sand beaches.Santorini Black Sand BeachSantorini Black Sand BeachSantorini Black Sand BeachSantorini Black Sand BeachBeaches in GreeceBeaches in GreeceWe were able to save money by shopping at the little local market, and eating Gyros the rest of the time!Santorini Grocery StoreGreek IslandFor only 15 euros a day, we could rent one of these bad boys!Renting a moped in GreeceDriving in GreeceDriving in GreeceWe had so much fun exploring the island on our little motorbike. Driving in GreeceDriving in SantoriniBeautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceFolks, welcome to Santorini!Postcard Perfect GreeceBeautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceBeautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceBeautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceBeautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceCan you imagine living here? We felt like we were walking through a postcard.Beautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceBeautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceBeautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceBeautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceBeautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceBeautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceBeautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceBeautiful Postcard Perfect GreeceOf course, stopping by the local gyro shops was always a must!Street Food in GreeceStreet food in GreeceWe had originally only planned to stay in Santorini for two days… but two days turned into three, which ended up turning into a whole week!

In between  laying on the beach, we tried to see and explore as much as we could of this little island we didn’t want to leave.Ancient ThiraWe hiked up the mountain to explore Ancient Thira…Ancient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraOf course, every actiAncient Thira Ancient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient Thira Ancient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient ThiraAncient Thira We also learned that the ancient ruins of Akrotiri were on the island. Supposedly Akrotiri is the ancient city Plato had in mind when writing his tales of Atlantis. Ancient Atlantis  It was only in the late 1960’s that ancient Akrotiri was discovered… and archeologists estimate that they’ve only uncovered about one third of the city. Ancient Atlantis  The entire site is covered and indoors to help preserve this ancient site.Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis We filled the rest of our time on exploring the island, watching sunsets, and relaxing on the beach.Ancient Atlantis Ancient Atlantis Santorini Sunset Greek Sunset Finally the sad day came for us to leave… and mixed feelings we boarded our ferry and headed to mainland Greece!Greek Island Ferry

Ancient Ephesus

After another delicious Turkish breakfast, we boarded the bus that took us to Selcuk, the town located nearest to the ancient Ephesus ruins. Turkish BreakfastBus to SelcukThree hours later we arrived in Selcuk. Our hotel was nice, and they had a great deal on an Ephesus tour. When we calculated the cost of seeing all the sites on our own, we found that the tour was actually going to save us a lot of money.

After a decent breakfast provided by our hotel, we headed out on our tour. Our first stop was at the House of Virgin Mary. The House of Virgin MaryThe House of Virgin Mary The House of Virgin Mary The House of Virgin Mary It was a very busy site. We actually had to wait in line for about 30 minutes before we were briefly escorted through the small, two room home (no photos were allowed in the house). The House of Virgin Mary The House of Virgin Mary The House of Virgin Mary The House of Virgin Mary The House of Virgin Mary It was neat that we got to visit what is believed to be the last home of Jesus’ mother. The House of Virgin Mary wpid-IMG_4827.jpg After Mary’s house, we went to see the remains of Ephesus. wpid-IMG_4837.jpg Unfortunately, Ephesus happened to be extremely crowded as well.Ancient Ephesus Ancient Ephesus Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Below is a picture of an ancient public men’s restroom. Running water under the stone toilet bench would keep the room smelling good while musicians would play live music in the center of the room. Talk about royalty! Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ancient Ephesus Ancient Ephesus Ancient Ephesus Ruins in Turkey Ancient Ephesus Ancient Ephesus Ancient Ephesus Ancient Ephesus Ancient Ephesus Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ancient Ephesus Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey Ephesus wpid-DSC_4285.jpg Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey The theater where Paul would speak to the Ephesians The theater where Paul would speak to the Ephesians Ruins in Turkey Ruins in Turkey On our way out of Ephesus, we stopped to see the remains of the Church of Virgin Mary.The theater where Paul would speak to the Ephesians wpid-DSC_4313.jpg Ruins in TurkeyRuins in Turkey The Church of Virgin Mary The last stop on our tour was the site of the temple of Artemis… one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the Ancient World. This was especially significant to me because I have been fascinated with the wonders of the ancient world since I was a small girl. The only ancient wonder that remains standing to this day is the Great Pyramid of Giza. The rest of the ancient wonders are all but history.

Below is an illustration of what the temple looked like at it’s prime. Temple of ArtemisFor what used to be a magnificent structure, there really wasn’t much to see. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed walking over the grounds of this piece of history. wpid-DSC_4323.jpg Temple of Artemis Temple of ArtemisOn the way back to our hotel, we stopped by a local shop where the store keeper was trying to sell us some jewelry. He was particularly keen on selling us a silver ring with a precious color-changing stone set in the middle that he claimed came from a special mine in Turkey. The color of the stone changed beautifully depending on the light if reflected. Inside is was a mossy green, and outside is was an enchanting plum. I instantly fell in love with the ring, but wanting to find more options and do a bit of research, we said no and moved on.

After going back to our hotel room, I couldn’t get that beautiful jewel out of my head. I wanted one. We did some research and found that there is indeed a color-changing stone called Zultanite which is only found in one mine in the world–located in Turkey. Zultanite changes color from kiwi to champagne, as shown below.ZultaniteHowever, we found that there is another imitation gem that Turkish jewelers like to pawn off as the real thing (they look similar, but the imitation gem isn’t nearly as valuable). It is known as Zandrite, which after doing some research and color comparisons, we realized Zandrite was the jewel that was in the ring I fell in love with, as shown below.ZandriteKnowing this information, we were able go back to the jeweler, tell him we knew it was an imitation gem, and walk away with a great deal (we researched the price of buying a silver ring with a Zandrite gem, and got it for a fraction of the price it’d cost back home). And to say the least, I couldn’t be more happy with my beautiful Turkish souvenir! A huge thanks to my amazing husband for all his research and landing me with a beautiful gift. Stirling Silver Ring with a Zandrite Gem

The Hot Springs of Pamukkale

The English Travelers at the Hot Springs in Turkey After a long (but decent) eleven-hour overnight bus ride, we arrived in Denizli and easily found a mini bus to take us the remaining 20 kilometers to Pamukkale. Our hotel was really nice. The breakfast was fantastic and just a stones-throw away from the hot springs. Hotel in PamukkaleTurkish BreakfastTurkish BreakfastAfter breakfast, we rested for a bit before heading out to explore the hot springs.PamukkalePamukkale means cotton castle in Turkish, and it’s easy to see where the name comes from while approaching the ever famous hot springs.PamukkaleIn order to help protect the site, no shoes were allowed awhile walking through the springs. Yes, after trekking to the Mt. Everest Base Camp in Nepal, we sent our hiking boots home which left us with one pair of shoes for the remainder of our trip–our chacos! Which, for those of you who don’t know, leave a “Z” tan line on your feet. Pamukkale Hot SpringsThe hot springs are just amazing. Pamukkale has been on our bucket list for so long… It was very neat to walk through the hot springs and experience this natural wonder for ourselves. Pamukkale Hot SpringsBefore visiting the hot springs, I always wondered, can you swim in this natural wonder? The answer is yes, and no. Tourists are no longer allowed to swim in the natural hot springs. This change was made to preserve this beautiful place. However, off to the side of the real hot springs are man-made terraces where the natural water flows through. These are the springs that tourists are still allowed to enjoy.Hot Springs in Turkey Hot Springs in Turkey Pamukkale Hot Springs in TurkeyHot Springs in TurkeyThe English Travelers at the Hot Springs in TurkeyHot Springs in Turkey The view of the town from on top of the hill was gorgeous.View of Pamukkale After wandering around the hot springs, we decided to check out the ruins located on top of the hill — the ancient city of Hierapolis. Hierapolis A storm started to roll in while we were exploring the ruins, and while it scared most people away, we waited it out and just about had the place to ourself! HierapolisHierapolisHierapolis Hierapolis Hierapolis Hierapolis  Hierapolis  Jared and I didn’t expect much from the “ancient ruins above the hot springs,” but we were surprised at how vast the ruins were and we enjoyed our time there just as much as exploring the hot springs. Hierapolis  Hierapolis is also the city where St. Phillip was martyred and buried… below is a picture of his tomb. Hierapolis Hierapolis Hierapolis This is believed to be the site of St. Phillip’s death. The ruins on the site are what remains of a church that was built after his death. Hierapolis Hierapolis Hierapolis Hierapolis Hierapolis Hierapolis Hierapolis The ancient city of Hierapolis The ancient city of Hierapolis The ancient city of Hierapolis The ancient city of Hierapolis The ancient city of Hierapolis The ancient city of Hierapolis The ancient city of HierapolisThe ancient city of Hierapolis The ancient city of Hierapolis The ancient city of Hierapolis

Discovering Istanbul

wpid-DSC_3833.jpgWow, Istanbul is an incredible city! Neither of us had been to Turkey before, and we really didn’t know what to expect. I think what surprised us the most was how “western” it felt. We had been in Asia 1.5 years and it just felt amazing. Istanbul AirportOur flight arrived on time, and we easily made our way to a bus that would take us into the city. Unfortunately, we ended up getting ripped off by our taxi driver who claimed we had given him a “five” bill instead of a “fifty.” He did this by showing us the “five” bill we had paid him and insisted that we were wrong. We fought with him for awhile before giving up (it was in the middle of the night, and we were exhausted). Sadly, we were too tired to realize that we never had a “five” bill in the first place (we had withdrawn only 50’s from the ATM just minutes before) and by the time we realized we had been cheated, he was already zooming down the road. This was the first time we had been ripped off on our trip, and it made our blood boil. Especially since we had felt like we were back in a “trusting” western country. We learned the hard way to never put our guards down. After a good night’s rest we awoke refreshed and excited about exploring a new country. We immediately fell in love with Istanbul. Winding stone streets lined with cafes and boutique shops really set the mood for a relaxing honeymoon-like getaway. Streets of IstanbulAs we headed west in our travels (leaving Asia behind), prices of everything steadily climbed higher. Lodging in Istanbul was expensive, and we just weren’t ready to pay the price tag attached with private room lodging, so we opted for dorm lodging… 30 bunk dorm lodging. And to our surprise, it was very pleasant. We’ve had so many great experiences at hostels during our travels, and our stay at the Orient Hostel in Istanbul did not let us down.Orient HostelBreakfast was included and it was basic, but nice. The espresso machine was a great. It felt so nice to have hot coffee and french toast while gazing out over the city. We had met some people the night before while we were trying to find our hostel. They joined us for breakfast, and then we joined them for sightseeing later on that day.Orient Hostel Breakfast Orient Hostel ViewWe went to see the Blue Mosque, which was just a few blocks down from our hostel. It was a sight to behold. I’ve seen the Blue Mosque is so many pictures, it was really neat to be there in person.The Blue MosqueThe Blue Mosque Blue MosqueThe Blue MosqueThe Blue MosqueThe Blue MosqueThe Blue MosqueThe Blue Mosque wpid-DSC_3846.jpg After our trip to the mosque, we wandered around and did some more sight-seeing.wpid-IMG_4519.jpg D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S.!!!wpid-IMG_4520.jpgWe eventually made our way to the Grand Bazaar… shopping galore!wpid-IMG_4512.jpg Over the next few days, Jared and I spent quite a bit of time at the Grand Bazaar. I was looking for the perfect Turkish coffee set to take home, and Jared was looking for an authentic Hookah. Grand Bazaar Grand Bazaar Grand Bazaar Grand Bazaar Istanbul Market Fresh Juice Turkish Cherries  We came across a cute café and stopped for some coffee. Turkish coffee takes some getting used to, but it is definitely worth the experience. It’s very thick and the bottom half can be scooped with a spoon. Turkish Coffee Turkish CoffeeWe we came back through town, the sun was setting and the sky was beautiful. Blue MosqueIstanbulAfter a great stay in Istanbul, we were ready to see some more of Turkey. Our next stop was Pamukkale!The Blue Mosque

A Layover in Dubai

We arrived in Dubai around 3:30am and found a corner in the airport to snooze for a few hours before heading out to explore the city.Dubai Metro Station We left the airport around 7am and somehow managed to find the metro station (which isn’t easily accessible from terminal 2). By 8:30am, we had made it to the Mall of the Emirates, also home the largest indoor ski area. The slopes didn’t open until 10am, so we decided to grab some breakfast.Emirates Mall Emirates MallWe fully intended on sticking to a strict budget, that was, until we rounded the corner and saw an IHOP! No, this wasn’t a knock-off version, this was the real deal! We hadn’t seen an IHOP since we left home almoner 1.5 years ago. The thought of an all-American breakfast with bottomless hot coffee and steaming buttermilk pancakes was too much to resist! It was the perfect pre-snowboarding meal. IHop in Dubai IHop in Dubai IHop in DubaiAfter we filled our bellies, our meal came to $35.00 including a 20% tip. It doesn’t seem too bad looking back, but at the time that was more than we would typically spend over the course of a full day in India!

We then headed downstairs to hit the slopes! Yes, this meant we were going snowboarding inside a mall when it was a scorching 110F (43C) degrees outside. Emrites Mall Indoor SnowboardingThe total for our clothing, locker, and gear rentals plus our lift tickets came to $50/person! (Tip: We received a 20% discount for paying with a Mastercard!) Emrites Mall Indoor Snowboarding Emrites Mall Indoor Snowboarding Emrites Mall Indoor SnowboardingIt was a lot of fun to go boarding at an indoor mall. More for the novelty of it than anything else. There were multiple slopes ranging from green to blue, but to us, it felt more like several bunny hills. It was fun, but not enough to keep us entertained all day (which was a good thing, because we were on such a tight schedule).Emrites Mall Indoor Snowboarding Emrites Mall Indoor Snowboarding Emrites Mall Indoor Snowboarding Emrites Mall Indoor SnowboardingAfter a few hours of playing in the snow, we headed out to our next destination: Burj Khalifa–the world’s tallest tower. Burj_KhalifaWhile it’s awesome to say we’ve been in the world’s tallest building, we both felt like the tickets were over-priced at $35/each. However, we did enjoy the On The Top tour.On the Top TourOn the Top Tour Dubai TowerIt was a bit windy that day which meant the view from the top wasn’t grand due to the sand limiting our visibility.  Dubai City View Dubai City View Dubai City ViewOn the Top Tour Dubai TowerOn the Top Tour Dubai TowerOn the Top Tour Dubai TowerOn the Top Tour Dubai TowerOn the Top Tour Dubai TowerOn the Top Tour Dubai TowerOn the Top Tour Dubai Tower On the Top Tour Dubai TowerBurj Khalifa is located in the Dubai Mall, and after we were done with our tour, we did a little window shopping and exploring.wpid-IMG_4469.jpg Dubai Mall Dubai Mall Rules Dubai Mall Dubai DubaiAfter a full day of sight-seeing, we were exhausted and headed back to the airport to catch our overnight flight to Istanbul!Dubai FlightPrior to our flight, I couldn’t help but sneak out my phone to snap a photo for the “safety” video. It was one of the most creative and interesting pre-flight safety videos I’ve seen!

India Budget

Below we’ve included our budget for India. We hope this is helpful to all who plan on traveling or backpacking through India. We managed to average less than $50/day while in India. Some days it was significantly less than that, and some days it was higher. We did a lot of sight seeing, souvenir shopping, and traveled all over northern India. wpid-DSC_3629.jpg

Bus from Kathmandu, Nepal to Sonuli (boarder town): USD $23.20
Bus + Taxi to Boarder: USD $1.37


Day 1
Bus to Gorakhpur INR 184
Dinner INR 140
Lodging INR 500
Total INR 824 ($14.05 USD)

Train Tickets to Varanasi from Gorakhpur INR 150
Lodging 2 Nights w a/c INR 1,000
Total INR 1,150 ($19.61)

Day 2
Chai Tea x4 INR 40
Lunch 60
Snacks 60
Water x3: 100
Boat Tour 300
India Rough Guide: 900 ($15.35)
India Map 100
Soda 50
Dinner 120
Beer 210
Total INR 1,940 ($33.08)

Day 3
Breakfast 100
Water x3: 75
Samosas 36
Dinner (Tali) 200
Total INR 411 ($7.00)

Day 4
Chai Tea 10
Breakfast 48
Water x4: 85
Ice Tea 65
Affogato 90
Club Sandwich & Chips 210
Samosa x8 w/ sweet 38
Dinner 78
Auto Rickshaw to Bus Station 80
Chai Tea 8
Total INR 709 ($12.07)

Train Tickets to Agra from Varanasi INR 1,580 ($26.90)
Lodging 2 Nights w a/c 1,400 ($23.83)

Day 5
Chai Tea 20
Breakfast 30
Coke 50
Lunch 350
Dinner 460
Post Cards (10) 60
Cookies 20
Mango Juice 60
Total INR 1,050 ($17.87)

Day 6
Taj Tickets 1,500
Agra Fort Tickets 500
Breakfast 80
Water 15
Soda 50
Medicine 116
Lunch 225
Postage for 16 Postcards 240
Auto Rickshaw to River Taj View 200
Water x2: 30
Cookie 10
Lg. Mango Lassi x2: 120
Dinner 220
Water 15
Total INR 3,321 ($56.53)

Train Tickets from Agra to Jaipur: 760 ($12.94)
Lodge 1 Night: 400 ($6.81)

Day 7
Chai x2: 14
Samosa x4: 30
Samosa x2: 20
Local Bus to City Palace : 20
Lunch: 310
Groceries/Snacks 320
Oreo Frapè 118
Local Bus: 14
Total INR 846 ($14.38)

Ranthambore National Park
Train Tickets from Jaipur to SWM: 800 ($13.60)
A/C Lodge 2 Nights: 1,600 ($27.19)
Extra, late checkout: 500 ($8.42)

Day 8
Samosa: 40
Breakfast: 200
Tea: 40
Water: 29
Dinner: 300
Total INR 609 ($10.36)

Day 9
Tiger Safari: 926 ($15.74)
Guide & Vehicle Fee: 740 ($12.58)
Mango Juice: 80
Water: 40
Snacks/Goodies: 167
Dinner: 190
Water x2: 40
Total INR 2,183 ($37.12)

Day 10
Breakfast: 120
Water: 20
Lunch: 320
Water x3: 60
Soda: 60
Water: 15
Total INR 595 ($10.14)

Train Tickets from SWM to Udaipur: 660 ($11.25)
A/C Lodge 1.5 Nights: 1,000 ($17.04)
Rickshaw to Hotel: 60 ($1.02)

Day 11
Water: 15
Breakfast: 130
Coffee Pot: 100
Mango Juice: 40
Water: 15
Leather Wallet: 200
Lunch US Pizza: 450
Water x3: 45
Total INR 995 ($16.96)

Day 12
Eggs, Toast, Cappuccino x2: 260
City Palace Tickets: 230
Juice: 30
Water: 30
Sandwich & Pancake: 150
Soda: 40
Chips: 10
Watch Battery: 75
Brass Earrings x11: 1,000
Dinner: 250
Water x2: 30
Rickshaw to Bus Station: 60
Snacks: 140
Total INR: 2,305 ($39.12)

Overnight A/C Bus from Udaipur to Jaisalmer: 1,800 ($30.67)
Lodge 1 Night A/C: 500 ($8.50)
Camel Trek 2 Days/1 Night: 3,000 ($51.00)
A/C Lodge for the Day: 250 ($4.25)
Total INR: 5,550 ($94.34)

Day 13
Indian Street Breakfast: 30
Cold coffee x2: 90
Water x2: 30
Snacks: 35
Soda: 50
Slice: 70
Elephant Pillow Case: 100
Water: 20
Dinner: 150
Scarf x2: 180
Snacks: 120
Total INR: 875 ($14.87)

Day 14
Banana Lassi x2: 60
Breakfast: 100
Tea x2: 25
Total INR: 185 ($3.14)

Day 15
Soda: 70
Lunch: 260
Snacks: 155
TukTuk: 20
Room for day: 250
Total INR: 935 ($15.89)

Train Tickets 3AC from Jaisalmer to Delhi: 2,400 ($40.79)
A/C Lodge 2.5 Nights: 1,650 ($27.77)

Day 16
Chai: 20
Breakfast: 70
Metro: 18
Water x3: 45
Soda: 52
Large Frappè: 264
Deluxe Thali x2: 140
Ice Cream: 70
Total INR 679 ($11.43)

Day 16
Street Breakfast 60
Chai: 20
Juice: 35
Water x2: 30
Rickshaw: 40
Starbucks mug: 500
Starbucks drink: 170
McDonalds Snacks: 160
Rickshaw: 40
Rickshaw: 50
Water x2: 30
Total INR 1,135 ($19.11)

Day 17
Mango Juice: 60
Water: 20
Street Breakfast: 90
Chai x2: 20
Tandoori Boneless Chicken: 100
Soda: 30
Water x2: 30
Tuktuk: 30
Post Office 5.2 kg: 3,211
Tandoori B/L Chicken x4: 200
Soda: 30
Bar date night: 556
Taxi to Airport: 350
Christmas Ornaments (4): 400
Mango Juice: 60
Water: 10
Total INR 5,197 ($87.48)

17 Days in India + 2 People = $779.61 ($45.86/Day)
India Budget

A Taste of Delhi

I’m going to share a snippet of a journal entry I wrote prior to arriving in Delhi, India.

Saturday, May 31st, 4:45pm:

We are now boarding the train to Delhi. It is scheduled to depart at 5:15pm, and arrive late tomorrow morning in Old Delhi. It’s hard to believe we are on the last leg of our travels in India. And that this is our last train ride. I hope we do many more trips via train in the future. It is quite an amazing way to travel! I am really going to miss this… the cool air blowing on my face, letting my feet dangle in freedom over the tracks, the chai tea vendors coming through every half hour… A month ago I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve really fallen in love with India… and I already want to come back.

When we arrived in Delhi, we had already been traveling through India for quite some time, so I feel like we were more prepared to face this bustling city. Since our train was arriving at the station in Old Delhi, we wanted to sight-see this part of the city first. The train station was just a kilometer away from the Red Fort, so we decided to head there on foot (which of course, lead to disappointing many eager tuktuk drivers).Delhi Train Station Delhi Train Station Exploring India's Capital Exploring India's Capital Red FortAfter admiring the Red Fort, we realized that Jama Masjid (a very large mosque in Old Delhi) was just 1.5 kilometers further down the road. Not wanting to hassle with a tuktuk driver over such a short distance, we set out on foot again. Exploring India's Capital Exploring India's Capital Exploring India's CapitalWhen we arrived at the mosque, we were met with a bit of a surprise. The staff at the entrance almost wouldn’t let us through because we were foreigners and they wanted us to pay. Entering the mosque is free, however, they charge a “camera” fee to all tourists. We said that we were not going to take any pictures, and that we just wanted to take a look around. This caused quite a commotion, but the eventually let us in. So you can have a visual, below is a picture of the Mosque by India Africa ConnectMUSLIMS OFFERING NAMAJ ON THE OCASSION OF EID AT JAMA MASJID IN THE CAPITALWe eventually made it to a hotel recommended by our guidebook in Main Bazaar. We knew finding inexpensive lodging in Delhi was going to be difficult, but after some bargaining, we landed a deal at Hotel Namaskar.Exploring India's Capital Exploring India's Capital It wasn’t the nicest place, but it was air conditioned and inexpensive.Delhi Hotel We did more exploring, sight seeing, and souvenir shopping in Delhi the next day. Exploring India's Capital I added another Starbucks mug to my growing global collection.Starbucks in Delhi Exploring India's CapitalIndia FlagExploring India's CapitalExploring India's CapitalExploring India's Capital  Exploring India's CapitalWe were able to meet up with a missionary family during our visit. Jared had known Pastor Abraham and his family for years. Since he was a young boy, Pastor Abraham had spoke at his church each year when he visited the States. It was amazing to hear about the work God is doing in India.DelhiChicken in DelhiExploring India's CapitalExploring India's Capital Exploring India's Capital Exploring India's Capital Airport We had many mixed feelings as were were leaving India. We had both grown to love the country, and we were sad it was time to move on already. However, we were also very excited about our layover in Dubai. As we boarded the plane, we were already dreaming of returning to this amazing country.Delhi Airport


Camel Trekking in the Thar Desert

After our romantic getaway in Udaipur, we headed to the golden city of Jaisalmer for a different adventure–camel trekking in the dessert! c We took an overnight bus from Udaipur to Jaisalmer, and to our surprise, it was quite nice. We paid the extra money to get an air conditioned bunk, and while we enjoyed laying down, it was freezing in our a/c cubical. We should have unpacked a jacket from our bags before storing them below. Bus ride in IndiaAfter some bargaining, Jared landed us a great deal on an a/c room in a 300 year-old palace hotel. We met some friends along the way, Guillermo and Mariana, and stuck with them for the duration of our stay in Jaisalmer. Jaisalmet HotelJaisalmer is a neat city. All of the buildings are old, and you definately feel close to the desert. The Jaisalmer Fort is also a sight to see. It was built in 1156 AD and is one of the largest fortifications in the world.Jaisalmer FortThat evening we toured the town and made our way inside the fort to explore.Jaisalmer Fort Jaisalmer Fort Jaislamer FortJaisalmer City Fort  Jaisalmer Fort Jaisalmer Fort Jaisalmer Fort The fort is surrounded by lights that illuminate the outer walls of the massive structure.Jaisalmer FortOur tour of Jaisalmer certainly set the mood for our up-coming adventure. On the way back to our hotel room that evening, we stopped by a shop and bought some scarves to keep the desert sand out of our faces. The gentleman at the shop was kind enough to show us how to wear scarves in the desert.Jaisalmer Shope Jaisalmer ShopeThe next morning, we made it to our booking office and set off in a jeep towards the desert to fetch our camels and guides. JaisalmerThar Desert Trekking with CamelsOn the way, we stopped to see Kuldhara, an abandon city about 15km west of Jaisalmer. Back in the 18th century, a powerful man started abusing the women of the village and planned to attack the chef’s daughter next. Everyone was terrified, and as the story goes, the entire village decided to abandon their homes overnight. After everyone left, a holy man cursed the village and it has remained a ghost town since then. It was surreal being in such a large village with finished homes that has remained empty for such a long period of time. Kuldhara Kuldhara Kuldhara Kuldhara Kuldharawpid-IMG_4112.jpgAfter another half an hour drive in the jeep, we pulled off the road and met our camels. And that is when I fell in love with camels! I had only seen them in zoos before, and I had never paid a great amount of attention to them. As I climbed on my camel, I couldn’t believe we were really going to ride these massive animals!Camel Trekking in India Camel Trekking in India Camel Trekking in India Camel Trekking in India The trek was amazing. I was in awe of the way God created camels, and I throughly enjoyed the entire experience. Riding a camel felt similar to riding a horse, but the stride of a camel is much longer. I loved how high they held their heads, and how they always held their nose up as if they were proud.Camel Trekking in IndiaWe rode for about two hours and then stopped for lunch. Our guides prepared a delicious lunch for us. To start with, they built a fire, milked a desert goat, and made us some delicious Indian chai tea. For the main course, they made us chapati, veg curry, and rice. A simple but very tasty Indian meal.Camel Trekking in IndiaCamel Trekking in IndiaCamel Trekking in IndiaCamel Trekking in IndiaWe rested in the shade of a large tree until the heat of the day was diminishing. We trekked for another two hours before we reached our camp.Thar Desert Camel Trekking in India Camel Trekking in IndiaCamel Trekking in IndiaWe had a wonderful night we had sleeping under the beautiful stars of the Thar desert. I was awakened by the light of dawn. Jared and I sat up in bed to watch the sunrise over the desert. It was amazing!Thar Desert It was very neat to wake up and see our camels standing 3 yards away from us. A little later that morning, we packed up camp and headed back across the desert. Glass in the desert Camel trekking in IndiaOverall, we had a fantastic experience, and we highly recommend camel trekking next time you are near a desert!

Stay tuned for our next adventure–exploring India’s capital city!


Udaipur… The City of Lakes

Udaipur, often called the City of Lakes, is a romantic city filled with stunning views and historic architecture.wpid-IMG_3991.jpgWe took an overnight train from Sawai Madhopur to Udaipur and arrived at 7:30 in the morning. We bought overnight bus tickets (since there wasn’t a decent train route) to our next destination, and then headed into the city to find a hotel.

After some bargaining, Jared found us a very nice and spacious a/c room at a beautiful historic hotel next to Lake Pichola.Udaipur Hotel Udaipur Hotel  After eating breakfast at the café in our hotel, we went for a stroll down at the lake.Breakfast India UdaipurThe Gangaur Ghat was beautiful, and it had a terrific view of the lake.Gangaur Ghat Gangaur Ghat Gangaur Ghat Lake Pichola View Gangaur Ghat Udaipur India Udaipur India Udaipur India  That massive building is Udaipur’s City Palace. Udaipur India And that’s the Taj Lake Palace… and very fancy hotel with suites starting around $6,000/night. Udaipur India By lunch time, Jared was craving pizza. We got online and found a pizza restaurant that was across town. They were running a special, so we decided to give it a try.

We love going places by foot, even if it’s a few miles walk. It allows us to soak up the culture and the surrounding better. On the walk back, we came across a park called Sajjan Niwas Garden. It was gated, but there were no admission fees. As we strolled through the park, we were so glad that we had decided to walk. It wasn’t just a park, it was a beautiful walking park with gardens, ancient buildings, and a miniature zoo.Udaipur Garden Udaipur Garden Udaipur Garden Udaipur Garden Udaipur Garden wpid-IMG_3983.jpg Udaipur GardenAt sunset, we headed to the other side of the lake to catch some different views and to get a better view of the City Palace.  Udaipur Sunset Udaipur SunsetThe next morning, we headed out to tour the City Palace. Unfortunately, the ticket prices were double if you brought a camera with you, so we didn’t take many pictures. Our tickets allowed us to enter the courtyard and Palace Museum. The museum, which was in the actual palace, was very nice. We enjoyed learning more about Udaipur as we strolled through the old corridors of that ancient marble mahal.Udaipur City Palace Udaipur City Palace Udaipur City Palace Udaipur City Palace Udaipur City Palace Udaipur City Palace Udaipur City Palace Udaipur City Palace Udaipur City Palace Udaipur City Palace Udaipur City PalaceWe spent the rest of our day getting some souvenir shopping done. Jared did some great bargaining and landed me some really great deals!

We left that night on an overnight bus to the desert city of Jaisalmer. Stay tuned to hear about our camel trek in the desert!

Catching a Glimpse of a Wild Tiger

Ranthambore National Park was our next destination. After touring the Taj Mahal, spotting a wild tiger was next on our list for India. India is one of the only places in the world where tigers still roam free, but even in India your options are limited. There are several parks and reserves dedicated to protecting wild tigers, and Ranthambore is one of them. The tigers at Ranthambore roam in and out of the park, but due to the amount of water sources and food population inside the national park, many of the tigers stay for years, or even their whole life.

After touring Jaipur, we caught a train to Sawai Madhopur, the town closest to Ranthambore National Park. We were shocked when we got off the train that we weren’t greeted by loads of rickshaw drivers fighting for our business. Actually, there wasn’t a rickshaw driver in sight. We just headed in the direction of the town on foot while hoping a hotel wasn’t too far down the road.RanthamboreWe passed several hotel options until we came across Ranthambore Palace, a hotel recommended by our guidebook. It looked new and modern, and above our price range. However, Jared walked up to the front desk and bargained them down until we were in the high-end of our budget ($13/night). My jaw dropped open when I saw our nice A/C room equipped with wifi and a flatscreen TV. It was clean, tidy, and so peaceful. Actually, we were the only guests in the hotel for our entire stay. Ranthambore PalaceThe bathroom was the best part–white and sparkling with a rain shower. It may not look like much to you, but as backpackers traveling through India, this was luxury.Ranthambore PalaceWe wondered around town later that day and stopped in at a restaurant for some more delicious Indian food…Indian FoodWe got some rest that night and headed out on foot early the next morning to get our safari tickets. When we arrived at the ticket office at 5am, there were several other Indian men getting tickets for clients. We got our tickets, and then headed outside to find our safari canter and guide.Ranthambore Safari Ranthambore Safari Ranthambore CanterRanthambore Safari Our guide met us at the canter, and then headed towards the park. He stopped at various hotels along the way to pick up guests who had pre-booked their safari. Ranthambore National Park The safari started out with an abundance of deer, peacocks, and monkeys. We kept a sharp eye out for a tiger, but didn’t see one.Ranthambore National ParkRanthambore National ParkRanthambore National ParkRanthambore National ParkRanthambore National ParkRanthambore National ParkRanthambore National ParkRanthambore National ParkRanthambore National ParkRanthambore National ParkRanthambore National Park

Ranthambore National ParkWe stopped at the lake towards the end or the tour in hopes we would see a tiger coming out to cool off or get a drink. No such luck. Our tour time was about up, so we piled back into the canter and started heading back to the entrance of the park. wpid-IMG_3908.jpgAnd that’s when we saw her. Our guide told us her name was Machli. She was the most famous tigress in all of India. She had just caught a deer and was mulling it apart. It was amazing to watch a giant cat in the wild. Machli Ranthambore National Park SafariMachli Ranthambore National Park Safari We were very luck to spot a tiger on our first tour. We thought about going out for a second tour, but Jared became ill that afternoon and we took the next day to rest and recuperate. Remember that food from earlier? We are pretty sure it’s what made him sick. But thankfully, that was the first and last time one of us got sick on our trip. Machli Ranthambore National Park Safari


The Pink City of India

Aside from seeing the Taj Mahal, our next priority in India was to see a wild tiger! After some research, we decided to head to Ranthambore National Park where many tourists have caught a glimpse of a wild tiger. Since Jaipur was between the two destinations, we thought we’d to take a day to see the “Pink City.”

Our first priority in Jaipur was to find a place to stay. We went to a few different places in our guidebook, but none of them would bargain down to our price range so we headed off in search of lodging on our own. The first hotel we came to seemed decent and the manager arranged accommodations that suited our budget ($6.50/night).Jaipur Hotel Jaipur, India The roof-top restaurant seem nice, but we opted to dine at a local place instead.Jaipur, IndiaWe left our bags in our room and headed out to catch a local bus into the city center. While we were walking to the bus stop, an auto-rickshaw driver came up to us and wanted us to hire him to take us around. We refused and told him we were going to take the local bus. “Local bus not for tourist. You must take auto-rickshaw. Local bus very hot and many many people!” We ignored him and kept going. He finally gave up and shouted at us as he drove away. After our chat with him, I was thinking that the bus would probably look more like a pickup truck with twenty people packed in the back of it. But, we were pleasantly surprised when our bus pulled up. It was large, air-conditioned, and spacious. Plus, the bus tickets only cost $0.16/each on the way there, and $0.11 on the way back!Jaipur Local BusSo, why is it called the “Pink City”? I was wondering the same thing until I actually saw the city… The majority of the city has been built using a pinkish-red sandstone.Jaipur, India Jaipur, India Jaipur, India   Hawa Mahal, Palace of the Winds sits in the middle of the city.Jaipur, IndiaJaipur, India The streets lining the city are packed with vendors selling various goods.Jaipur, India Jaipur, India Jaipur, India For dinner, we ordered special thali, an assortment of different Indian curries. Jaipur, India  We finished our sight-seeing, and then headed back to the hotel to get some rest before catching our train the next morning. Jaipur, India Jared made a new friend along the way…Jaipur, India We rested up that night and headed out on a train to Sawai Madhopur the next morning. Stay tuned to hear about our tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park!

The Beautiful Taj Mahal

If you’ve seen the Taj Mahal in Agra India with your own eyes, you’ll understand this post more than anyone else can. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Taj Mahal as being the most beautiful building in the world, but you really don’t grasp that concept until you are there, looking at it with your own eyes. The Taj is one of those bucket-list places that won’t let you down.

We left Varanasi and boarded our overnight train to Agra. The overnight train ride was better than we could have expected, and we fell in love with traveling by train.Train Rides in IndiaWe got our first glimpse of the Taj from our auto rickshaw on the way to our hotel. It was spectacular. We ended up booking two nights at the Shanti Lodge after our Scottish friends recommended it to us. The main draw to this particular lodge was it’s amazing view of the Taj. We were not let down. We were able to order lunch on the roof top restaurant at our hotel with the most amazing view possible in Agra.Hotel Shanti Lodge View of Taj Mahal Hotel Shanti Lodge View of Taj Mahal The food was also very good, although a bit pricy (around $2.00-2.50 a meal). For most of our time in India, we opted to stay away from restaurants marketed towards Westerns, but with the amazing view, we thought it was worth it.Shanti Lodge Agra Menu Shanti Lodge Agra Menu Oh how we miss Indian food!!!Shanti Lodge Agra MenuWe used the free wifi at the roof top restaurant to phone family and friends from back home.Hotel Shanti Lodge View of Taj Mahal Some people think the Taj Mahal is a temple, when in fact it is not. It’s a tomb. An emperor built this immaculate structure for his deceased favorite wife who died after giving birth to her 14th child. He buried his wife’s body in the center of the dome, and after his death, his body was buried next to hers. Hotel Shanti Lodge View of Taj MahalWe wanted to get the best experience of the Taj as we could, so we opted to see it at sunrise the following day. Our alarms rang at 4:30am, and as we started getting ready for the day, we became increasingly excited. This was the day we were going to explore the famous Taj Mahal, and mark off a place that had been on our bucket list for ages.

We headed out on foot to the West Gate, bought our tickets, and were in line at 5:15am (there was only one other person ahead of us in line).Buying tickets for the Taj Mahal We received our tickets along with a bottle of water and a pair of socks. The socks were to wear inside the Taj, where shoes are not allowed. Buying tickets for the Taj MahalWe were nearly the first people to enter the Taj Mahal, and thus got amazing photos without thousands of people behind us! Taj Mahal The Beautiful Taj Taj Mahal I’ll let the pictures escort you through the rest. We did tour the inside of the Taj, but photography was not allowed.Taj Mahal Taj Mahal Taj Mahal Taj Mahal Taj Mahal Taj Mahal Taj Mahal The Yamuna River runs along the backside of the Taj.Taj Mahal Taj Grounds Taj Mahal Taj Gates By the time we were done touring the Taj Mahal, hundreds of tourists had flocked in behind us. Taj GroundsAfter the Taj, we decided to take advantage of the still-cool morning air and headed off to see the Agra Fort. We bypassed the man offering camel rides and headed to the fort on foot.Camel Rides in AgraIt was massive, but for some reason the beauty of the Taj lingered over us and the fort just didn’t come close to comparing with what we had seen earlier that morning. I’m sure we would have enjoyed it more had we gone prior to our Taj visit.The Red Fort of Agra The Red Fort of Agra AgraThe Red Fort of Agra The Red Fort of Agra The Red Fort of Agrawpid-DSC_3337.jpgwpid-DSC_3338.jpg wpid-DSC_3334.jpgThe Red Fort of Agra The Red Fort of Agra This girl shyly walked up to me and asked for a picture. The Red Fort of AgraThe Red Fort of AgraThe Red Fort of Agra  On the way back from the fort, we spotted a small vendor selling breakfast curry. Of course, we couldn’t resist our favorite $0.20 meal!Breakfast in IndiaLater on that day, we decided to head across the Yamuna River to view the Taj from another angle. We didn’t pay to go into the gardens located near the river, we simple walked around them to get the view we had come to see.Taj MahalAll in all, we had a wonderful time in Agra, and with each new stop in India, we became increasingly excited about seeing more of this vast country! Stay tuned to hear about our time in Jaipur, and our time at Ranthambore National Park where we spotted a wild tiger!Taj Mahal view from across the river