#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

Japan first impressions

Blossoms in Tokyo, Japan

There is the rest of the world and then there is Japan. More than the man-made structures and nature’s beauty, we were struck by the culture in this unique nation.

People are considerate and polite even during the mad rush. The entire country (not just one city) is squeaky clean even though there are hardly any dustbins in public spaces. There are designated areas for smoking and people actually go there for a smoke instead of indiscriminately lighting up anywhere in a public zone. It’s so safe, children are encouraged to commute to school all by themselves. The houses are neat despite the space crunch.

Ginza, Tokyo, Japan

Their Shinkansen (bullet trains) never run late, ever. They play bird chirping sounds at train stations, just before the escalators to forewarn those who cannot see. You hear ‘Arigatou gozaimashita’ (thank you so much) about 1000 times a day.Β And the best part, their toilet seats warm up which was great because in Feb when we visited it was still winters πŸ˜€

Shinkansen, Tokyo station, Japan

Only if they could maintain better work-life balance, people will not die of over-work!

Other than that, their architecture and buildings suggest a minimalistic way of life. The architecture did not ‘wow’ us but then isn’t minimalism better than over the top, jewel studded structures which costed a fortune. Only to be plundered and looted by power hungry men? I guess there is a reason why you can equate optimisation and efficiency to this country.

More on our Japan trip soon. To keep you busy till then, watch our Japan Vlogs at the YouTube link below:

Travel Keede’s Japan Travel Vlogs

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.

 

Day trips from Cape Town

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Beautiful day in Stellenbosch, South Africa

In the previous post, we shared things to do in Cape Town. While researching for our own trip, we realized there are quite a few things you could do around the city as well.

Here are some of the things we chose to do.

1.Wine Tour in Stellenbosch – this region has scores of vineyards from large commercial ones to family owned boutique ones. We booked a tour with Wine Flies tours and it turned out to be a really enjoyable experience. The tour guide will pick you up in the morning, then drive you up to the wine region. You will visit five vineyards, see bottling in progress, walk around wine casks, stop at a lovely farm for lunch and end the tour at an organic farm where you can buy eggs πŸ™‚ And you get to cuddle dogs!

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Wine casks from one stop over with Wine Flies

2. Cape Point – we took the Cape Explorer tour with CitySightseeing. Cape Point is supposed to offer amazing ocean views however, the day we visited was overcast. You can also hike to the Cape of Good Hope with your guide, which we did despite the rain and although it wasn’t the best day the weather turned the hike into a bit of an adventure

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Hike to the Cape of Good Hope aka Cape of Storms

3. African Penguin Colony at Boulders Beach – Cape Explorer will also stop at Boulders Beach where you can get up close and see penguins in their natural habitat. Over the years the penguin colonies in South Africa have deteriorated but efforts are being made to restore the habitats. We really enjoyed it and the penguins are so cute!

 

Watch our vlog below on our day trips from Cape Town. Hope this was useful and thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

10 things to do in Cape Town

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Citysightseeing, Cape Town

South Africa was splendid! We didn’t expect our vacay to be so superlative but it just was.

Cape Town is a city you can easily fall in love with. It’s the right size, not too large and not too small. It has everything you can hope for, with mountain peaks you can trek to, to beautiful beaches you can relax at.

Here are 10 things to note when planning your vacay in Cape Town, South Africa:

1. Hop-on-hop-off bus tour – Really good tours here which provide an excellent overview of the city and the audio commentary is informative and fun. We went with Citysightseeing on a 24 hours pass

2. Table Mountain – If a trek is not for you, then take a cable car up there. For the more adventurous, you can also trek to Lion’s Head

3. V&A Food Market – Plenty of food vendors with several vegetarian options. Coffee, juices, desserts, organic nuts, snack bars … you name it

4. V&A Waterfront – Hang out at the waterfront, soak in capetonian vibes, grab a drink or a bite, visit the shopping mall and take a picture at the giant yellow photo frame πŸ˜€

5. The Watershed – for great local souvenirs, this is the place to go to

6. Boat ride at V&A Waterfront – Extend your hop-on-hop-off experience by taking a boat ride, soak in the views, ships at the harbor, hear the gulls and spot some sea lions if you are lucky

7. Free Walking Tours – Experience Cape Town, up close and personal on one or more walking tours with a local guide. Tours start at Green Market Square. The square is also good to shop for local souvenirs (be ready to bargain here)

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Chasing squirrels at The Company’s Garden, Cape Town

8. Company’s Garden – Yes the garden built by the Dutch East India Company back in the 1650s and is now a heritage site. Take a walk amongst numerous pigeons and squirrels with Table Mountain in the backdrop. Also meet the city’s oldest citizen here. Breakfast at the restaurant here or stop by at the museums

9. The Neighbourgoods Market at The Old Biscuit Mill – Happens every Saturday. You need to go and discover it for yourself

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Chasing the sunset at Camps Bay, Cape Town

10. Sunsets at Camps Bay – The best way to spend your evenings. Choose a sea facing cafe/restaurant/bar, order in the drinks and tapas and you are set for a few hours of bliss. All the while, you have the Twelve Apostles watching over you

Our Vlog below, brings everything above to life

Bonus to-dos:

Robben Island – We heard it gets really crowded. So choose the time wisely or take a private tour

Stop by for a color riot at Bo-Kaap (worthy instagrammable photo opportunity here) πŸ˜€

Getting around? Just Uber

Kruger National Park – Self-drive vs. Open jeep safari

African elephant, Kruger Park

Whether to drive on your own or book a safari is perhaps the biggest question people ask when going on their very first african safari.

We actually did not hesitate in booking a safari on our recent, first visit ever to Kruger National Park in South Africa. We booked with Africa Spears and it turned out to be a great choice. Here are 10 reasons why we think a guided open jeep safari is a good idea:

  1. We landed in Johannesburg and from there, Kruger Park is a good 400 km. As we needed to get to Kruger the same day we were glad they had arranged a pick-up for us
  2. We did not have to make bookings inside the park rest camp ourselves. It was all done by them
  3. The guide knew his way around in the jungle for things like where to stop for breakfast/lunch or a loo break
  4. We were in an open jeep at a slight elevation rather than inside a low closed vehicle. An open jeep is far more exciting than a regular car and it’s easier to spot animals
  5. It’s not easy to spot animals in the park, esp when it’s your first time. Our guide was very good in spotting animals otherwise easily missed by the untrained eye
  6. The guide also shares information on animal behavior, bird and plant species and so on. It’s quite educational this way
  7. The guide knows what to do in case of an animal attack (at least you would hope so ;-))
  8. They will also drop you off at the airport
  9. Often you won’t find a network inside the park while your guide will have his radio
  10. There is someone to take your pictures πŸ˜€

White Rhino, Kruger Park

Quick tip: After exiting Kruger, we took a flight out to Cape Town from Nelspruit in place of Johannesburg. And it saved us from an unnecessary long drive and a good few hours. Do note that there are no daily flights from Nelspruit though, so plan accordingly.

Our experience in Kruger you ask? Watching our vlogs below might just inspire you to book that ticket to Africa! Tell us what you you spot at 3:50 mins in part 1.

For more videos, you can hop-on to YouTube here.

Happy spotting the Big 5 folks!!! Waka waka! πŸ™‚