Crazy cows, manhunts, and the Taj Mahal: 10 days in India 

Having completed a 10 day tour of Delhi, Rajasthan and Agra, I can safely conclude that India is not an easy country to travel in. From being headbutted by a cow to shouted at by ‘holy men’ the trip was far from uneventful. At the same time, it was filled with extraordinary experiences that I never expected when planning our trip. The following are the highlights of our tour: 

Delhi 


Delhi is blooming crazy and hot and hectic and I can’t imagine anywhere like it. Our first day was spent frantically holding each other trying to cross roads while avoiding random men who constantly tried to talk to us as we desperately searched for an ATM. We were not impressed. However returning to Delhi after a over a week of touring was a peculiar homecoming, like returning to a parental home after having moved far away. It felt like a right of passage to once again locate an ATM in the midst of Delhi’s main bazaar, but this time strolling confidently as we had begun to understand the flow of Indian life.

A Camel Safari in Pushkar


Pushkar is everything Delhi is not – serene, sacred and bountiful. While there we had the chance to ride camels into the desert and our guides cooked an Indian dinner over an open fire. We slept under the stars with nothing above our heads and felt so so lucky. It was also an eventful experience. In the morning one of our group went for a walk and failed to return for several hours. I can only describe what commenced as a full on manhunt across the desert as we ran around calling his name. Don’t worry, he soon turned up but it was quite a morning.

Rajasthan national park 


‘Some people go on five or six safaris and never see tigers’ – this is what we were constantly told. So, having only one night in Rajasthan and only enough money for a single safari trip, we did not rate our chances very highly. Nonetheless, we optimistically found ourselves onboard an open bus entering the Indian jungle. It was only ten minutes later that we heard an exclaimed ‘yes’ from our driver and saw a mother tiger and her two cubs. Once again, we felt so so lucky. Seeing tigers in the wild is something I never thought I would have the chance to do. 

Other memorable moments from our India trip:

1. Being headbutted by a cow

No joke. I was walking down the street, minding my own business, when a cow going the other direction trotted over and bucked me under the arm. Safe to say, I screamed and ran. My fondness for cows quickly decreased after that.

2. Holding Indian children

We had been warned that many people were interested in foreigners and we soon became used to people constantly taking pictures of us. It seemed a different level altogether though when a small infant was suddenly thrust into my arms while the terrified child’s parent whipped out their camera. I don’t know who was more scared – me or the child. 

3. The Taj Mahal

A trip to India wouldn’t be complete without seeing this particular wonder, so visiting the mausoleum on our last day rounded off our trip nicely. It was huge and beautiful and altogether extraordinary. The cherry on the icing was our tour guide who was what I can only describe as very extra when it came to photo taking, making us hold a variety of strange poses at various points throughout the tour. Thanks to him, we have plenty of pictures to remember our visit. 

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Delhi: A city of contradictions?

The city of Delhi is preceded by its often notorious reputation. There is certainly something very unique about this place that is not easily forgotten. Even calling it a city seems wrong, when it is so populous, so heaving, and so distinct from anywhere else that it seems perhaps more like a nation of its own. 


In my experience, Delhi is a place of extreme contradictions, meaning it cannot be tied down to a few choice stereotypes. While it is teeming with people and vehicles and noise and smells, as soon as I set foot in the Lodi gardens or one of the many temples across the city, I struggled to associate the serenity of these grounds with the hectic streets just a few hundred metres away. This same calm could be found in the quieter restaurants and a similar beauty in the market stalls selling exquisite fabrics and sensuous food. 

As a female I had faced many warnings coming to India and these put me somewhat on edge, as I am sure female travellers often experience across many destinations. However I often witnessed a deep respect for women. From the taxis adorned with bumper stickers supporting female campaigns to the Indria Ghandi memorial, women were not treated as irrelevantly as I had perhaps assumed. 

Delhi’s reputation also precedes itself in terms of the treatment of tourists and again there seemed to be a dichotomy. On the one hand, Delhi is full of tourists and the city is ready to take advantage of this by selling its goods and drawing visitors into its attractions. When taken to extremes, this has led to a reputation of scamming which can again make one wary of Delhi. On the other hand, I experienced a city ready to help me. At the same time, these people were often profiting from me which immediately put me on my guard. There is a not simple separation between genuine help and taking advantage of tourists, but a wide scale in which the two overlap. Not only does it come down to ones own outlook on life and the ever changing decision to trust or remain cynical, but also the simple fact that a genuine nature and a mind for business are not mutually exclusive. 

I think it is problematic to simplify Delhi to the stereotypes it is so often associated with. In my experience, these characteristics are easily identified, but so are the complete opposite experiences and another side to the city. If I did try to pin down Delhi to a few choice buzzwords, they would be complex, dichotomous, and contradictory. 

Five round the world trip planning heroes

To book or not to book? This seems to be the decision that divides backpackers, with most having a strong opinion either way. While I’m sure both have their benefits, we have a packed itinerary and are relatively newbie travellers, so we decided to book much of our trip in advance. And in doing so we discovered some companies and websites who have made the experience a whole lot easier.

Disclaimer: I’m writing this before setting off, so have not actually tested these companies – I am instead relying purely on blind faith. Hopefully writing this won’t jinx our luck!

  1. 12go.asia

This booking website allows you to buy plane, train, ferry and bus tickets across Asia and has made coordinating our transport across South East Asia much easier. In particular, knowing we can definitely catch sleeper trains has helped us route plan and subsequently book our hostels. The company also gets extra brownie points with sprinkles on top for changing our ticket dates with no hassle when we (very stupidly) booked a whole bunch of journeys for November instead of December. We definitely deserved to lose our money and bookings but they happily swapped our tickets for free.

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  1. Round the world flights

It seems suspiciously easy to book round the world flights with a company called roundtheworldflights.com. However, that’s exactly what we did. We designed our own route and it was still much cheaper than most other companies. We can also move our dates free of charge, which gives us much more flexibility.

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  1. Cleartrip

I’d been told about the difficulties of the Indian rail system, but I didn’t quite understand the horrors until I tried it for myself. After going through the hassle of sending my passport to the IRCTC and chasing it up several times, I had no success. The system then changed and I tried registering my UK mobile and paying a, albeit small, registration fee. Still no luck! Fortunately, my travel partner managed to validate her username. However the website still would not let us book tickets. It was at this point we tried Cleartrip and finally managed to book some Indian trains! Although you do still need to register with IRCTC to use Cleartrip, the whole site is a lot easier to use and navigate.

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  1. Hostelworld

This one is pretty self obvious but I couldn’t leave it off the list. Choosing hostels has been our guilty pleasure while travel planning. It’s great to have them all in one place and be able to compare photos and reviews side by side. (Confession: at one point we did get so fed up of planning we simply booked the first hostel on the list in each location – here’s hoping hostelworld’s rating system works!).

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  1. Momondo

This website is so useful for giving an overview of flights. Not only does it compare prices, it gives an insight into the best times to fly and lets you adjust accordingly. If you’re flexible like us, it’s great for finding affordable routes.

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It’s reassuring that we’ve managed to find so many heroes amongst a few serious villains (cough cough, Indian rail system) – hopefully they will live up to this review! Our first flight is in four days time, so not long until I find out for myself…

My eight-month travel plan

After years of saving, months of planning, and a ridiculous amount of time spent googling advice, I’ll be setting off on my round the world adventure in just over a week. Although everything will probably change as we go along, we’ve planned a rough itinerary and have been thinking about some of the things we’d love to do in each place.

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  1. India

We’re flying into Delhi and spending three weeks touring the ‘golden triangle’, heading to Agra and then Jaipur. I’ve heard both amazing things and horror stories about India so am quite nervous about this part of the trip – I’m sure it will definitely be a culture shock! I’m very excited to see the Taj Mahal, the markets in Delhi, and also experience Diwali which falls during our visit.

  1. Bali

From India we head to Bali, which I’m expecting to be a lot calmer than India. However we are staying in a party hostel so I’m sure we’ll be letting our hair down a bit. We’re heading from Kuta to Ubud, which will probably give us a chance to recover from our hangovers and meet some monkeys.

  1. Thailand

We’re spending a month in Thailand, first island hopping and then heading up to the North. As we arrive at the start of November we are planning on rushing down to Koh Phangan so we don’t miss the full moon party. We’ve also booked a diving course in Koh Tao, which is apparently one of the most beautiful places in the world to learn to drive.

  1. Cambodia and Vietnam

We’re cramming a whirlwind tour of these two countries into just over two weeks. Heading from Bangkok to Siem Reap and ending in Hanoi, we’re basically going to be spending a lot of time on buses. I’m looking forward to visiting the Cambodian temples at Angkor Wat and – being a massive history nerd – the tunnels built during the Vietnam war.

  1. Australia

Christmas 2017 is guaranteed to be amazing as we’re spending it in Sydney. At the start of January we’re planning on renting a campervan and heading up the East Coast – Byron Bay here we come! Everyone seems to rave about Oz so I’m ridiculously excited to visit for myself.

  1. New Zealand

We couldn’t visit Australasia without spending some time in New Zealand. We’ve bought a bus pass to tour both the islands. While I might give the Lord of the Rings tour a miss, I can’t wait to experience the natural beauty of the country.

  1. Canada, USA, and Central America onwards

After New Zealand our plans get a bit vague. We have a flight booked to Vancouver and we’re also flying home from LA. What we do in between is still to be decided! We have plans to visit both Costa Rica and Las Vegas, but who knows where we might end up.

It seems crazy that we’re departing so soon after so many months of planning. I’ll be updating this blog along the way to document my experiences and adventures.

My Week at Hideout Festival 2017

Having had the most incredible week at Hideout in 2016, I had my doubts about returning this year. What if it wasn’t as good as I remembered? Would it be boring to repeat the same festival? Should I be trying something new? Thank God I did not listen to my cynical side. Hideout 2017 incorporated all the amazing aspects of 2016, and so much more. I can honestly say it was one of the best weeks of my life and I could not recommend the Croatian festival more. This is a round up of my week at Hideout and some tips if you are thinking about attending next year (tip one: do it!).

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Monday

While many others arrived at the Island of Pag the weekend before the festival began in order to settle in and attend the pre-parties, we sacrificed this in favour of staying a few days after the festival. This meant that we flew in on Monday afternoon as the festival was already kicking off. It also meant we didn’t begin our week with raging hangovers! Monday was pretty much a case of checking into our apartment, covering ourselves in glitter and heading to the festival site at Zrce beach. As there were no acts we were desperate to see on Monday, we spent most of the night visiting each club along the strip. The two big ones – Aquarius and Papaya – housed the big acts across the week, while my two favourites – Noa and Calypso – were the go to destinations for daytime pool parties and a chill boogie to end the night. Noa came complete with hammocks, as well as the pools that are standard for Hideout clubs, while Calypso was decorated with everything from giant shoes to inflatable hammers for Elrow’s Rowlympic games.

Tuesday

On Tuesday we had tickets to the Hannah Wants boat party. We were very lucky as the strong Croatian winds meant that most of the boat parties later in the week were cancelled. Despite having had little sleep (the festival winds down around 7am) we were excited to dance while cruising the Adriatic coast. Sonny Fodera was supporting Hannah and, in all honesty, was probably the better act. The atmosphere on the boat was chill, but vibesy, and we watched the sunset at the end of Sonny’s set.

After a quick nap and some dinner, we headed to the strip again. The headline act, Major Lazer, were performing and their set was a religious experience. Complete with stunning dancers and crowd cannons, we were not bored for a single second. Having exhausted ourselves with some intense skanking, we then headed to the beach to chill and did another circuit of the other clubs to see what was on offer.

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Wednesday & Thursday 

On Wednesday and Thursday, we finally made it to the daytime pool parties. The standout acts were MK and, my new fave, Sonny Fodera. The pool parties at Hideout have the best atmosphere as you can be as sober / not sober as you like and still have a great time dancing in the sun. It’s also the perfect time to take a dip in the ocean or even try bungee jumping if you’re brave enough (I was not!).

Thursday evening brought another headline act, Stormzy. Again, an unforgettable experience by a supremely talented man. If his set was a bit short, he made up for it in intensity. We somehow ended the night drenched after being dragged into the ocean – proof that Hideout is definitely not a standard night out.

Friday

 By Friday we were exhausted and up to two naps a day. Luckily we weren’t missing much as it poured with rain for most of the day. However, true to our British selves, we embraced the bad weather, purchased some ponchos and embellished them with glitter and sequins. We headed out for the final night of Hideout determined to fit in as much as possible. My favourite sets of the night were TQD, Wiley, and Shy FX. By 6am the festival began to wind down and Hideout 2017 was officially over for another year.

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I wish I could explain the magic of Hideout in this post, but its hard to comprehend without visiting in person. Between the picturesque location, the solid music choice, and all the small extras that Hideout offers, I don’t think there is another festival quite like it! Thank you Hideout for the experience of a lifetime.

Finally, if you’re lucky enough to have tickets for Hideout 2018 or are considering going, here are my top tips:

  1. Book your flights early – In 2016 we booked our flights in springtime and had to pay almost £200 (which is still cheaper than many flights to Croatia) and stop over in Vienna. This year we booked direct flights when we bought our tickets in November and saved about £100 and a four hour airport wait.
  2. Stay in Novalja centre – Hideout offers accommodation across the island, but the best location is definitely Novalja harbour. This is a hub of activity and is the closest accommodation to the festival site, meaning you don’t have to get a forty minute bus home at 7am.
  3. Do all the activities – It’s easy to sleep away your time at Hideout, but you’ll miss out on everything Croatia has to offer. We packed a lot into our trip that isn’t mentioned in this post, from hiring pedalos to exploring hidden beaches. There’s so much to do, and you’ll have plenty of time to sleep when you get home / for the rest of your life.
  4. Invest in swimwear and a bumbag – This is pretty much the Hideout uniform and you’ll probably live in these things.
  5. Be sociable – The various strangers we met and befriended made our trip what is was. While some people could seem standoffish, the ones chatting and meeting new people were definitely the ones who had the best time!