#PetBottleTales

Plastic pollution is real, we see it everywhere yet a lot of us don’t do anything about it. A lot of us then question – what can I do about it? The simple answer to that is – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

While travelling, we realised we were buying bottled water all the time. Moreover, you see these plastic bottles everywhere across several destination carelessly strewn across beaches, mountains, streams and cities. No part of our planet is spared of this plastic menace.

We decided to do something about it, to do our part and be more responsible towards our planet and everything in it, including us humans as a species.

The next time we travelled, we brought along a plastic pet bottle that we had purchased from IKEA Singapore for 90 cents. Till the time we reached the gates at the airport we had consumed the content. Instead of throwing it away, we saved it. During the length of our trip we filled it with tap water and brought it along whenever we stepped out. In fact, we still had the same bottle while flying back home. This first happened on our trip to UK. By following something as simple, we had avoided buying at least 10 new bottles of water and even saved some moolah. Bottled water is pricey in London and if we remember correctly, the price ranged from 4-8 pounds. That’s insane! Why would you spend that when tap water is absolutely safe to drink.

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Bottle feeling one with the snow laden mountains. Hakuba, Japan

On subsequent travels, we followed the same practice and brought along the very same bottle. Overtime we grew attached to that very pet bottle who by now, had become our travel buddy. We named her ‘bottle’ πŸ˜€

Bottle has had amazing adventures and travelled far and wide with us. Along with UK, she has been to New Zealand, South Africa and more recently to Japan. We post about her travels with #PetBottleTales on Instagram.

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Bottle paying her respects at the Fushimi Inari shrine. Kyoto, Japan #PetBottleTales

Bottle plans to join us on many more adventures and do her part in saving planet Earth.

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Bottle enjoying the pretty views at Lake Ashi, getting a glimpse of Mt. Fuji in the distance. Hakone, Japan #PetBottleTales

See this fantastic video by The Story of Stuff Project and you will understand why you need to reduce, reuse and recycle.

First Time in Japan – Travel Itinerary

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Ginza, Tokyo, Japan

There is a lot to do in Japan and planning your very first trip could seem daunting. For our own maiden trip to Japan, our initial thoughts were to cover Tokyo and nearby cities and then fly to Hokkaido and spend a few days there. Later though, we decided that for a 11 days trip it will be a lot of running around so we changed our plans and decided to soak in the places at a slower, more relaxed pace. Here is what we covered overall.

  • Tokyo (Day 1-4) – Explore this sprawling metropolis
  • Hakuba (Day 5-6) – Relax and enjoy some peace, quiet and natural beauty at this little ski village. We took our very first ski lessons ever πŸ™‚
  • Hakone (Day 7-8) – Enjoy the slow pace in this small town and take a day tour to enjoy beautiful landscapes
  • Kyoto (Day 9-11) – Soak in the historic side of Japan in this former capital

Here is some useful information, before you start planning your own trips.

Getting to Japan – Wherever you are in the world, chances are that you will land in Tokyo most likely. There are two airports you can fly into – Narita and Haneda. Haneda is closer to the city and to get to the city you can take buses. Narita is further away and best option is to take the Narita Express that runs every 30 mins

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A boat cruise on Lake Ashi, Hakone, Japan

Getting around in Japan – Public transport is great and very efficient so just get subway passes in places like Tokyo and Kyoto. For intercity travel on the Shinkansen (bullet trains) invest in the Japan Rail Pass. Do note that the JR pass also works on certain lines in the city subways, so check before you plan your day. Make sure to collect your JR passes at the airport. We purchased the passes online and collected the passes at Narita.

To get to Hakuba, we boarded the Shinkansen from Tokyo station to Nagano. And from Nagano took a one hour bus ride to Hakuba. From Nagano to Hakone, we took the Shinkansen again first to Tokyo and from there to Hakone. From Hakone to Kyoto was another Shinkansen ride. And then to fly out, Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo and then from Tokyo station to Narita by Narita Express. It may seem like a lot but the journeys are quite seamless and convenient in Japan

Understanding the Shinkansen? Read this very helpful guide, link here.

When to visit – We visited in late winter as it’s the non-peak season. It was a welcome change for us and we enjoyed the winter days. Cherry Blossom is obviously the peak tourist season but that also means loads of crowds, high prices and advance bookings for everything. The other popular season to visit is autumn. With the changing hues, the landscapes look beautiful

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Beautiful day in Hakuba, Japan

Where to stay – We stayed in AirbnbsΒ in Tokyo and Kyoto which were cozy, clean and pocket friendly. In Hakuba and Hakone, we stayed in hostels. K’s House in Hakone was a great hostel stay where we slept on tatamis. And almost everywhere, you get the heated toilet seats which were so awesome in the winters! πŸ˜€

Get SGD $45 off (approx. USD $35) on your very first Airbnb stay using this link, click here.

Other things to note – As taxis are quite pricey you will be hauling your luggage quite a bit. So try to travel light. Other thing would be to download a translation app as english doesn’t take you too far. Labels in supermarkets and shops are often in Japanese

For things to do in each of these places, jump to our travel vlogs. Subscribe to Travel Keede on YouTube if you enjoyed them πŸ™‚

  1. Things to do in Tokyovlog link
  2. Winter Wonderland in Hakubavlog link
  3. One day in Hakonevlog link
  4. Things to do in Kyotovlog link
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Fushimi Inari Shirine, Kyoto, Japan

The Year That Was – 2017

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Sunset over Agra, first time ever witnessing such a beautiful sunset in our own backyard

We’re at work, winding things down and even though it’s the end of the year, things still feel a bit crazy. Last working day before the holidays is finally over and we start feeling just a tinge of excitement. Back home, last minute packing and cleaning up the house has been accomplished. Next day early morning at 5:00am,Β  we are off in a Grab taxi to Changi airport. After the usual drill of checking in, immigration and security, we warm up at the sight of a beautiful sunrise while waiting at the gate. We take off and a couple of movies and a hot indian breakfast later, the plane has landed.

Every year for the last 5 years we have celebrated new year in India. It has become a custom of sorts. Every year we look forward to experiencing north indian winters and welcoming the next 365 days surrounded by family. The days between Christmas and New Year are spent meeting friends and family, gorging over home made meals, sipping endless cups of adrak chai, mom’s tomato soup and shelling peas.

2017 was no different. While, it takes a couple of days to get used to India and its ways, by the end of the trip we know we’ll be homesick.

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Mustard fields in bloom, a common sight during North Indian winters

What made this trip special? Well it was a lot of things, as it usually is. In the 10 days we were there, we managed :

  • 1 road trip – from Delhi – Agra – Delhi via the Yamuna Expressway
  • 5 family get togethers – 1 breakfast, 2 dinners, 1 evening tea and 1 BBQ on NYE. And oh the home made food was just so comforting. And there is just something special about BBQ-ing in winters that you’ll never experience in tropical weather
  • 2 friends get togethers – both on roop top terrace cafes. Winters and open air cafes? Add to the list of winter experiences we look forward to
  • 1 indian wedding – where we dressed up, clicked more than necessary amount of photographs, enjoyed the indian wedding scenes and needless to say – the food
  • 1 excursion to Wildlife SOS elephant sanctuary – an NGO which runs centers for rescued animals which you can visit, volunteer at and also make donations to. Check out their website here
  • Ate out on several occasions – from breaking the fast with Agra’s favourite breakfast, Bedhai Jalebi to enjoying South Indian food at Dasaprakash. From relishing north indian dhaba food to the popular indian street food … it was all a gastronomical adventure
  • Getting important stuff done – adult stuff like managing our finances and investment πŸ˜€
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Foggy morning in Agra, -8 degrees centigrade

We’ve come to realise how fortunate we have been – for friends, family and their love in our lives. Every time we leave from our house in India, we feel overwhelmed by how loving and selfless so many people around us are especially, our parents. Beyond that, we have travelled. As much as our working lives allowed us to. And it has been great!

Here is a recap of the Year That Was – 2017. Thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoyed the video

Happy Twenty Eighteen folks. Here’s wishing you the best of everything πŸ™‚

Here is the Year That Was – 2016, just in case.

 

Best Road Trips – New Zealand, Scotland, India

In the more recent years of our adulthood, we have done quite a few road trips. But if we were to choose the most epic ones so far, there are three that come to mind. What’s amazing to realize is that the three were in three different parts of the world and completely different from one another! Here they are …

1. Road Tripping across New Zealand, South Island

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Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

New Zealand felt like Scotland on steroids mainly because of the sunny weather. It’s the most picturesque place on earth we’ve been to, ever! It’s true when people say you really have to concentrate to stay focused on the road because the landscapes are so breathtaking.

We covered multiple destinations, stayed in all types of accommodation ranging from hostels, airbnbs to a camping site in the middle of nowhere, cooked our own meals, gorged at restaurants and ate at food carts.

See our NZ road trip itinerary – click hereΒ and you can watch our vlog here.

2. Road trip from Leeds to the Scottish Highlands (Fort William, Isle of Skye)

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Somewhere in the Scottish Highlands

The highlands felt like a dream, the clouds and mist around adding to the surrealism. The English countryside along the way, sheep farms, lochs and snow covered peaks so close to the beautiful road was a first for us.

The best part was staying in a camping pod at this campsite called Bunroy park at Fort William. Sleeping snug and warm in sleeping bags, trudging to the common bathroom in the cold and making breakfast at the camp turned out to be an amazing adventure. Whisky Distillery tour at Dalwhinnie, stop over at the Iain Burnett Highland Chocolatier for the most amazing mug of hot chocolate and stop over at the lookout at Laggan Dam were other highlights.

Read our post on the road trip, click hereΒ and see time-lapses captured from our action cam here.

3. Road trip from Mumbai to Agra via Udaipur & Ranthambore National Park, India

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Jeep Safari at Ranthambore National Park

There was so much diversity to our experiences on this one. We started from Mumbai and first stop was Udaipur, a lovely lake city in the state of Rajasthan. Next was open jeep safaris chasing Bengal tigers at Ranthambore and final stop was Agra, a historic town and the world renowned Taj Mahal.

Read more about this trip at these posts – Part 1 and Part 2.

5 simple ways of sustainable travelling

Such a beautiful view. Picture taken at AJ Hackett Bungy center near Queenstown, New Zealand

We know the planet is drowning in plastic! Case in point, this video. And global warming is a known fact.

I’m a firm believer that every little counts. Meaning that if we all do our part, we can save the planet.

Here are 5 simple things that we do on all our travels so that in our own small way, we are not generating unnecessary waste.

  • Carry our own water bottle – even if it’s a plastic one atleast we are not buying and disposing new ones. At airports, we carry in an empty bottle and fill-in from drinking water kiosks. At destinations where tap water is drinkable, we fill-in whenever we are stepping out. Imagine how much plastic will be reduced if everyone did this?

 

  • Carry our own handbags and avoid plastic bags  – most often we will be carrying a handbag or a back-pack when roaming around on any trip. While, shopping, we often just take the bill and stuff the purchase into our bags esp. if it’s small sized items. Makes us feel a lot better esp. while street shopping as low quality plastic bags are handed out in tonnes to shoppers/tourists every day!

 

  • Turn off aircon and other electronics when not in use or when not necessary – so we tolerate a few mins of heat and sweat. But it’s a small price to pay given how much electricity and wastage can be avoided.

 

  • Do not wash towels/linens everyday – well think about this, when you are home, do you wash your towels or change your bedsheets everyday? Why should it be any different in a hotel/motel/guest house/airbnb? Helps save gallons of water and reduces the amount detergents that get washed away into rivers and oceans.

 

  • Never buy products/souvenirs made by killing animals – we NEVER buy such stuff. It could be the best crocodile leather wallet or a purse made using kangaroo skin, the thought of how it was made sickens us.

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop” – Mother Teresa

Happy Green Travelling folks! Let’s do our bit πŸ™‚

 

Vegetarian in Vietnam

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Vegetarian street food, Hanoi, Vietnam

Check out this post by ‘Mouthfuls from Jhakal’ for Vegetarian options in Hanoi!

Mouthfuls from Jhakal

Being vegetarian did not stop us from trying out the local flavours in my recent trip to Vietnam earlier this May. I think if you research enough, you’ll always find good veggie options anywhere in the world.

Here are some of the veg. friendly places I tried in Hanoi.

1.Banh Mi 25

Hanoi (70) Banh Mi 25, Hanoi

Had amazing baguette sandwiches here. Baguette sandwiches seem to be the legacy of the French rule here and the Vietnamese seem to have localized it. Yet they have done this successfully with the bread kept fresh and soft with great flavours in the fillings.

Hanoi (68) Baguette Sandwiches at Banh Mi 25, Hanoi

2.Aubergine Cafe

Hanoi (41) Aubergine Cafe, Hanoi

I had wanted to try Pho since I landed in Vietnam and this cafe seemed to be a good place to try. Pho is the traditional noodle soup and this place did not disappoint, especially after adding the…

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How to scoot around the world despite full time jobs

Travel Keede above the clouds

Looking at our travel updates, several people have quizzed us on how we manage it. Some of their questions/comments go as follows:

How do you get so many leaves? What about your budget? Are you not saving anything? Isn’t it expensive? I’m so jealous! You are so lucky πŸ˜€

Sounds familiar? Well let us put you out of your misery and tell you how it’s done!

If you have enough time and money to travel, this post is not for you. But if you are like most of us with full time jobs, family obligations, limited days of leave and limited means, read on. If we can do it, so can you.

1.Make that resolve

Do you really want to travel often? Think about it. It’s okay to not want to travel and instead relax at home or pursue your hobby on your off days. No one is judging you if you don’t post updates on social media from your recent mind blowing vacay. Travel for the love for travel, not for the airs.

But if you do want to, right there you’ve made your decision. Do not just dream about travelling, resolve to make it happen. So that life just doesn’t pass by and you are left wallowing in regret.

2.Lifestyle changes

Once you’ve made the decision, you can start fine tuning your lifestyle so you are not spending unnecessarily. Think before you eat at that that pricey restaurant, buy that new shirt or party every weekend. Instead choose to cook at home more often, opt for house parties, shop less.

Reduce commuting costs by taking public transport as much as possible. Also be on the lookout for deals on taxi services (the likes of Uber, Ola, Grab) and you’ll be surprised to know you can cut down taxi fare by 40-50%.

One of the biggest expense for urbanites is the house rent. This needs to be managed to make a significant reduction in your monthly expenses. For example, we stay in an area which has close access to two metro stations and 4 bus stops greatly helping in reducing commute costs. However, we have compromised on the house in exchange for lower rent. We chose functionality over luxury.

Think about if you really need that gym membership. Why not jog in the park and exercise at the office gym?

3. Plan your leaves

Now that you are saving more moolah, it’s time start thinking about when you want to go for that vacation. We generally do two 10-11-day holidays and three 2-4-day holidays in a year. We plan based on public holidays and optimize it by including the weekends. So for a 10 day break with one public holiday in between, you need 5-6 days of leave. Leave on Thur eve/night, come back on Sun night/Mon morning.

Similarly for a shorter break, you can manage by taking 1-2 days off.

It does get tiring with the long flights and reporting back for work the very next day, but we are willing to make this sacrifice.

4.Budget your travel

You can be smart about your travel so you don’t over spend. For flights try options in incognito mode on the browser and see what works out best. We have often taken a flight with a layover as that works out cheaper.

Our stays are mostly with Airbnb which are comparatively cheaper and give us the option of preparing our own light meals which again saves us from spending too much on food. Besides, Airbnbs are a lot more personal and give you the experience of living in a place rather than just visiting.

In big cities like Paris, Barcelona, London you can easily get around using public transport saving quite a few bucks. Also, walk as often as you can.

5. Choose your destinations

Finally, time to pack your bags! It’s alright if you are a not able to go to your dream destination right away. Starting small might just work in your favor to get you accustomed to planning and budgeting trips. If you are in a big country such as Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, travel domestic as there is loads to do. Do road trips, take train rides, whatever works.

Travel Keede ready for a train journey in Venice

If you are based in Europe or South East Asia, travelling to nearby countries which are only a couple of hours away, is what you can try first.

Gradually, plan for destinations further away and slowly yet steadily you will land in places you’ve always wanted to be at and places where you never imagined you would one day visit. The possibilities are endless.

We travelled within India earlier when we were based in Bangalore. After moving to Singapore we first covered some south east asian destinations before venturing further to Australia, NZ and Europe.

That’s it, 5 simple steps πŸ™‚

We hope this helped. So jet set go! The world is waiting πŸ˜€

Travel Keede in New Zealand