Year: 2017

I Spent One Night in an Overwater Bungalow That Cost More Than My Mortgage (PHOTOS)

I’m going to take the most wastefully indulgent shower; the kind of shower you’d be scolded for back home.  I’ve only got 90 minutes left on the clock before check-out, and I’m going to squeeze’em because this isn’t just any room. It’s the most lavish lodging I’ve ever spent the night in. … Did you ever think you could get sunburnt in the shower? I let a luscious cascade of water stream over me while seated in a sunbeam. If I stand, I can see the ocean over a teak privacy wall. I coax Hermes shower gel into a foamy lather and wash away all traces of the flashpacker traveller I was just yesterday. In this bungalow, in this shower, on this stool, in a sunbeam, I am seated in the lap of luxury. And I’m a total fraud. In the real world, staying in this villa would cost me more than my mortgage payment. For one night. I’m here by pure happenstance; an apology of sorts from my trip host. Long story short, my work laptop will …

How Much Does It Cost to Travel Rajasthan, India? (Budget Breakdown)

India had been on my radar for a while, so when a YVRDeals alert popped up that was too good to resist, we jumped on it. How much does it cost to fly from Vancouver to India? Our fare was $1,516.48 for two round-trip tickets from Vancouver to New Delhi. With some processing fees the final total was $1,671.71 CAD*. We would travel China Southern with a layover in Guangzhou. Total flight time each way: 20 hours there and 16 hours back. Days spent in India, excluding international travel days: two weeks. China Southern’s rates seem to be holding consistent at the $800 price point. Flying the larger carriers, like Air Canada or Air India, will push your fare upwards of $1,200. *All prices in this budget breakdown are in Canadian dollars. Tour or independently travel Rajasthan, India? Tickets in hand, so to speak, Greg and I had every intention of booking a guided trip. (That’s tourism speak for “tour”.) We had always assumed we’d opt for a tour because I was a) intimidated by planning the …

Hiking Al’s Habrich Trail in Squamish, British Columbia (PHOTOS)

Location: Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish Distance: 4.2 km one-way; 8.4 round-trip Trail type: Out-and-back Difficulty: Moderate Elevation gain: 354 m If this summer had a theme, it’d be “Sea to Sky”. Greg and I have spent a few weekends now, tracing the trails through the Pemberton Valley and Coast Mountains. Al’s Habrich Trail has been on my radar for a while. I had attempted it with a friend last September, though we arrived atop the gondola a little late in the day. Unsure, and apprehensive about the 5-hour duration and “challenging” designation, we opted to stick to the trails skirting Summit Lodge. What a disappointment. You could push a shopping cart along these tourist-laden pathways. Chatting with the lift attendant on the way down, he admitted that the conservative signage is warranted because the site is promoted as a cruise ship excursion. Damn. Al’s Habrich Trail This half-day excursion begins with a scenic 10-12 minute gondola ride. Exiting the lodge, hikers walk past the “dog parking area”, down a hill, past some mechanical equipment and a …

I Really Wanted to Love the Hippie Outpost of Pushkar, But This…

From everything I had read, Pushkar sounded like my kind of place. A placid lake in a small desert outpost? Yes please. It was just the relief one needed from the mania of New Delhi and the traffic-choked streets of Jaipur. But what had me seriously travel-stoked on Pushkar was that it supposedly enjoyed some seriously boho vibes. My guidebook wrote: “Pushkar’s spiritual energy also attracted the hippy overlanders of the 1960s, and the budget hotels and cafes set up to cater for them have kept it firmly on the backpacker trail.” Complicit in this description was this travel blogger’s swoon-worthy review: 6 Reasons to Put Pushkar on Your Bucket List Perfect! I thought. Just my brand of gypset travel.   Except that it wasn’t, which I realized when my expectations confronted reality. You see, I had anticipated more of this…   but found more of this:   Err…that is not my brand of boho. Allow me to recount our visit. We arrived in Pushkar just before the golden hour, some 90 minutes before sunset. Sadly, our …

Are Photo Shoots Becoming Our New Travel Souvenir?

I’ll be the first to admit, photo shoots aren’t commonplace among travelling flashpackers. So how in the hell did I end up dressed in a lengha, spinning in the courtyard of the Fairmont Jaipur? It all started pretty innocently… Have you ever heard of Flytographer? Basically it’s the Airbnb of photographers. Most people are using the service to capture marriage proposals in Paris or European holiday candids. Since Greg and I loved the wedding photos we had taken in Havana, we figured, why not do the same in India? A month before we left, I did a quick search to see if there were any Flytographers listed in Rajasthan. Search result: zero. Long story short, I linked up with Navin Varma, a Mumbai-based photographer who was up for a collaboration; one that meant he’d need to catch two planes (each way, no less) to get to Jaipur. Through my work contacts, I managed to connect with Fairmont Jaipur, which kindly let us shoot on their jaw-dropping property. (And then fed us breakfast!) Now, I will say that my original vision …

There is a MASSIVE Swastika Painted on the Banks of the Ganges River in India

Walking the banks of Varanasi’s Ganga is an exercise in sensory overload. Between open-air cremations, bathing men, errant cows and women doing laundry, you can understand how I almost missed a giant swastika painted on the sloped riverbank. If it weren’t for Greg, I may have sailed right by it, blissfully unaware. “Wow, stop, check this out. There is a massive swastika painted on that ghat.” Taking a few steps back and craning my neck, yep there it was: a fifty-foot plus swastika sitting at the foot of Jain Ghat. It’s so big that you can actually see it on Google Earth: So, what’s with Varanasi’s giant swastika, you ask? In Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions, the swastika is a symbol of good fortune. The word swastika has Sanskrit origins, meaning ‘luck’ and ‘well being’.  And while you’ll garner some cold side-eye for drawing them in the West, swastikas are fairly commonplace in India. They adorn homes and vehicles, feature in the names of stores, and appear in ritual and traditions. You can read more about …

Gypset Digs: Ellerie’s River Cottages, Darrington WA (Review & Photos)

Location: 31420 365th Dr NE, Darrington Telephone: 206-362-9200 TripAdvisor: Click here Until we checked into Ellerie’s River Cottages, I thought cabin couture was flannel and wool socks. I was wrong. A Seattle transplant, interior and landscape designer Ellerie Cain has a knack for sniffing out antiques, which she uses to decorate (curate, really) her haute-rustic cabins. Admittedly, ‘cottage’ is a bit of a misnomer. Ellerie’s lodgings are spacious and elegant; a marriage of European flair and rustic charm. “I love texture, and obviously lamps and chairs. The glass is so old and it’s broken, but you know what? We’re kind of rusty.” In fact, the number of doors and windows Ellerie has salvaged would lead one to believe Seattle’s antiques suffer a major abandonment problem; I suspect it’s her well-trained eye. “That’s why I have a van. You should see how fast I can load up and toss into reverse” she laughs. There are three proper cottages for rent on her tree-lined, riverside property. Each comfortably accommodates five people on two double/queen-sized beds and a single. River …

Weekend Getaway: I Went to Washington for a Cabin Stay and It Was Cozy AF

In late January, five Vancouverites made a city break. But this time they took a road less travelled. Weekend escapes from Vancity often take three forms: east into the Interior (“Oh haaay Wine Country“), over the Georgia Straight to Victoria (home to my favourite restaurant), or down the I-5 to Seattle (“Go Hawks!”). In a departure from the norm, we went south, swung east at Arlington, and made for the Cascade Mountains. Destination: Darrington. If you’re thinking, “Darring-what?” it’s okay. I had never heard of it until we went. How’d we end up there? Us gals were after a woodsy weekend away and the Stillaguamish River Valley came recommended to us by the folks at the tourism office. Up the Stilly, they assured, we’d find mountains, crisp air, wood stoves, tall trees, and plenty of quiet. For a place that doesn’t show up on your mobile map until you’re pretty zoomed in, Darrington is quite a remarkable place. Fun fact, it’s the birthplace of Bob Barker. It sits on the Sauk River, just below the largest hanging …

Is 2 Weeks Enough Time to Travel Northern India’s Rajasthan?

Obviously not! Rajasthan is northern India’s largest state by area and the ‘Land of Kings’ has a hell of a lot to do, see, eat and shop. Annoyingly, every city deserves a visit which makes allocating a short 14 days an exercise in extreme FOMO. Before we left Canada we had elected some priorities: Agra (Taj Mahal), Jaipur and Varanasi. (The latter is actually located in Uttar Pradesh, not Rajasthan.) But where else should we spend the rest of our time? Top choices included Jaipur, Pushkar, Jodphur, and Jaisalmer. Highlights of Rajasthani cities: Delhi – Red Fort, Jama Fasjid*, Humayan’s Tomb`, Chandi Chowk Market, Baha’i Temple` Agra – Taj Mahal*, Agra Fort`, nearby Fatehpur Sikri Ranthambore National Park – jeep-tiger safaris Jaipur – the Pink City*, City Palace`, Amber Fort*, Nahargarh Fort*, Central Museum*, Royal Gaitor*, Galta Monkey Palace` Pushkar – Camel rides*, Pushkar Lake*, hippie vibes & drum circles Jodphur – Meherangarh Fort*, Blue City Udaipur – Lake Pichola*, lake cruises, culture of rooftop dining*, havelis, Monsoon Palace` Jaisalmer` – Jaisalmer Fort, overnight camel safaris …

10 Things I Got Totally and Utterly Wrong About India

How was I supposed to know?? With a forecast of 30°C, I thought I’d be sweaty AF. Not the case. Rajasthan enjoys a dry heat, which means sweat is not a havoc-wreaking, holiday-fashion-killing travel culprit. Well, at least not in March; I can’t speak to monsoon season. Naturally, I thought I’d get sunburned (here’s looking at you Thailand). In fact, I did not get sunburnt, which makes India the only foreign country I haven’t been burnt in. The driving distances between cities are lengthier than they appear. With roadways filled with massive lorries, errant cows and highways that bottleneck at random villages, those kilometres start to feel like miles. This is helpful to know when planning to travel Rajasthan by car versus train. I kind of thought I might die in India. I mean…at least in a car crash. There were several instances when we were speeding toward what was surely an imminent head-on collision. Then, before certain death, we’d pop back into our own lane, hearts pounding away in our throats. For the record, …