#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’ 😀

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.

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. And the best part, their toilet seats warm up which was great because in Feb when we visited it was still winters 😀

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

Ha Long Bay with Orchid Cruise

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Orchid Cruise, Ha Long Bay

When we made our plan to visit Vietnam earlier this May, Ha Long Bay had to be in the itinerary. After watching some vlogs and talking to friends who had been there, we decided that a cruise was the best way to enjoy this natural wonder.

We shortlisted Orchid Cruise for 3D2N Ha Long Bay Cruise. Though the prices are on the higher side, everything is included when you choose this option. And by this we mean the stay, all meals and even the activities.

The stay on it was superb and the hospitality from the crew simply amazing. The rooms were quite spacious with a comfortable bed, a private balcony and even a bathtub. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was included and a couple of dinners were quite impressive 5 course meals.

In terms of activities, here is what was included:

  1. Kayaking and swimming on two days
  2. Cycling and village tour at Cat ba island
  3. Cave tour on bamboo boats
  4. Tai chi every morning
  5. Spring roll making on two evenings
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Local selling drinks and snacks to cruises

Below is what you can additionally purchase:

  1. Drinks and snacks. Happy hour every evening!
  2. Massages. There is a spa!

Another advantage of taking this cruise was that the drive from Hanoi to the port was only 1.5 hours as they have a special permit. For all other cruises the drive is 4 hours from Hanoi.

We really enjoyed the tour with amazing views from the windows and the sun deck, even from the dining room. It was surreal to wake up to views in the bay and goto bed with the moonlight shining in the middle of nowhere. Even though a short one, it was one of our best luxurious relaxed vacay.

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Goodnight from Ha Long Bay

Here is our vlog from Ha Long Bay. Enjoy the views! 😀

One thing really saddened us though. While most of the bay was clean, we did see junk floating about at places. Especially in areas where cruises anchored. We never saw anyone litter at least from our cruise but here’s a shout out to everyone. Let’s be responsible and not litter. If we see anyone litter we must stop them. Let’s do our bit and keep the bay clean and beautiful for everyone to enjoy.

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Littering in Ha Long Bay 😦

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 😀

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 🙂

We hope this helped. So jet set go! The world is waiting 😀

Travel Keede in New Zealand

Give Agra 2 days, at least

If you are travelling all the way to Agra, you should give the town at least 2 days. Visiting The Taj Mahal could be the top of your agenda and understandably so, but there are more things you can do which are so worth it.

Here is our suggested itinerary.

Day 1: The Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Mohabbat the Taj show

The Taj Mahal on a december afternoon

The best time to visit the Taj is early morning as there are less crowds. It’s open from sunrise to sunset and there is no limit to the time you want to spend there once inside. See more info here

A lot has been said about this monument of love so we won’t elaborate but it is a beautiful structure so do queue up, go up-to the main platform and visit the tombs inside.

The Taj Mahal, up close

Once you’ve visited the taj, have your breakfast/lunch depending on the time you visit. Then head to Agra Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This fort was built by Mughal ruler Akbar in red sandstone. It served as the royal residence as well as a military strategic base. The fort is well maintained so you will be able to admire the structure. You also get views of the taj from the fort. More info here

Inside Agra Fort

In the evening, catch a song and dance show called Mohabbat The Taj at Kalakriti Cultural and Convention Center. A retelling of the story of emperor Shah Jahan and the love for his queen Mumtaz Mahal leading up to the construction of the Taj Mahal.

Kalakriti Cultural and Convention Center

Day 2: Fatehpur Sikri and Mehtab Bagh

Head to Fatehpur Sikri, the first planned city built by the Mughals and a UNESCO World Heritage site as well. It was also built by emperor Akbar and served as the Mughal capital for 10 years. It houses different buidings within the compounds so give the place at least 2 hours. It’s an hour drive away from Agra so plan accordingly. More info here

One of the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri

If you are yearning to get another unobstructed view of the Taj without the hassle of queuing up and getting inside the main compound, head to Mehtab Bagh where you get clear views of the monument. Best time to go would be the sunset which also gives a great photo opportunity.

Taj Mahal in the backdrop from Mehtab Bagh

If you have an appetite for more architectural marvels, here are our suggestions:

Sikandra – the mausoleum of Akbar

Itmad-ut-Daula – a beautiful mausoleum made entirely of marble

A few other things to note:

  • When to visit: Best time to visit the town is in the months of Nov – Feb while Oct and Mar are passable. Besides, do not to visit on a Friday as most monuments are closed for public viewing
  • Getting around: Public transport is not great, best is to hire your own car rental with a driver. Trust us when we tell you, you don’t want to drive yourself in Agra if you are a foreigner.
  • Accommodation: Agra offers all types of accommodation – from 5-star hotels, airbnbs to budget stays. Look for a stay around Fatehabad Road as it’s closer to the monuments
  • Food is great in Agra, especially the north indian mughlai food. Think tikkas, kebabs and garlic naan.

And lastly, this city has been long neglected by the authorities even though it is rich in history and culture. So go with an open mindset, ignore some inconveniences and admire it for what it does offer.

Have a happy journey! 🙂

Taj Mahal compounds

 

Sydney! FTW \m/

Ugh! Our luck! The day we flew out of Melbourne, it turned out to be bright and sunny. While we were waiting at the airport, we could see the bright blue day outside. That day should have been the day we drove up to the Great Ocean Road or the Yarra Valley.

Sydney

Sydney

Anyhow, Sydney pretty much made up for it! 😀 And it felt great to be back!

The day we landed was bright and warm and we didn’t need any jackets and mufflers. It was so mood uplifting and liberating, really. It was one of the very few times, I’ve experienced how much of an affect weather can have on your mood.

This time we were staying at an Airbnb very close to the city center and that made things easy. The house itself was awesssome :). After an amazing lunch in the neighborhood, we ventured out on foot. We headed to Circular Quay, for the Opera House guided tour we had booked in advance. This was my second time in Sydney – I loved it then and and I loved it now!

Circular Quay was lovely as always, with the hive of activity and the views of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. If you cannot catch a show at the opera house, I would really recommend the guided tour. You need to see how grand the main theater is and I can only imagine how spectacular the performances there would be. Goose bump raising kinds!

Once the tour was done, we hung around and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. In that moment I was counting my lucky stars, taking in mental pictures and living my dopamine releasing future memories 😀

Sunset at Circular Quay

Sunset at Circular Quay

Sunset and the Opera House, Sydney

Sunset and the Opera House, Sydney

Harbour Bridge, Sydney

Harbour Bridge, Sydney

On our way back, we stopped for some delicious butter and jam croissants and coffee and this cafe called Portobello which overlooks the harbour. Just what we needed in that weather!

Next day started with a visit to Queen Victoria Mall aka QVB. It’s the prettiest shopping mall I’ve ever been to! You have to go there even if just for a stroll. I can assure you, you will feel like you’re living in the 18th century. Of course no one is stopping you from enjoying a leisurely meal at one of the many casual dining options or picking up some chocolates from Haigh’s.

Inside QVB, Sydney

Inside QVB, Sydney

From there we headed to Bondi by bus. Since, it was still chilly we didn’t plan any beach activities. Instead we enjoyed a really great lunch at one of the alfresco cafes and then headed to burn all that up on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. I had enjoyed it so much before that I wanted my friends to do this. I for one did not mind revisiting for one simple reason – breathtaking views ❤

Bondi to Coogee, Syndey

Bondi to Coogee, Syndey

Bondi to Coogee, Sydney

Bondi to Coogee, Sydney

Sydney had been great so far and we had so much planned for the next couple of days!

Ending this post with the thought below and I’ll be back tomorrow peeps 😉

“Don’t worry about the world ending today,

It’s already tomorrow in Australia” – Charles M. Schulz

London from a Different Lens

Change of Guard ceremony

Change of Guard ceremony

Hello fellow bloggers, I’m back to share the last post from my trip to UK earlier this year.

After Central England, Scottish Highlands and Edinburgh, London was our final stop! Our trip to UK would have been incomplete if we didn’t visit this city. We just had to spend a few days here and we squeezed in a few things “off the beaten track”.

London, for sure needs no introduction and has its world famous landmarks that we did visit – The Buckingham Palace (and the change of guard ceremony), The Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden and Hyde Park.

However, instead of spending too much time at the above, we explored the not so touristy side. These are still touristy I guess but less so. This list includes – Street Art in East London, Old Spitalfields Market, Borough Market and Camden Lock.

Let me tell you a bit about each of these to give you a better idea.

Street Art in East Londonthe east end of London is quite the hipster area with plenty of artwork to explore. Artwork is mainly in the form of murals and graffiti and best way to understand more about it is to go for a free walking tour. We took one and the guide walked us around pointing out different styles and naming some of the popular and upcoming street artists. There is more to street art than meets the eye. I would recommend a guided tour for a more well directed tour. You can of course explore on your own, on foot or bicycles. The neighborhoods covered include Whitechapel, Shoreditch and Brick Lane. A stop at the Nomadic Communities in Shoreditch was a nice touch.

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London Street Art

Mural

Mural

Reptile made from old tyres at Nomadic Communities garden

Reptile made from old tyres at Nomadic Communities garden

Old Spitalfields Market was a chance find for us. We came across it just as we finished the street art tour. Its in this huge Victorian market hall that was constructed in 1876. Its great for purchasing antique odds and ends. I’m talking about everything from cutlery from the 60s to old photographs, candle stands and vinyl records. It was intriguing just to look at the stuff and if you are a collector, this place is for you! Remember to bargain 😉

Old Spitalfields

Old Spitalfields

Old Spitalfields

Old Spitalfields

Borough Market – this place is great for food lovers! Its a huge market built under a railway station and has food stalls of all kinds. Cheeses, breads, fruits and vegetables, meat, tea, spices and so on. There are live food stalls as well and you can easily have a great lunch here sampling things from the numerous vendors. If you do plan to visit, check the timings and events roster.

Borough Market

Borough Market

Fresh olives at Borough Market

Fresh olives at Borough Market

Camden Lock – there are two sides to Camden – a market selling stuff like souvenirs, t-shirts, caps, postcards and the like. And the other side that we absolutely loved was the street food market! This place is heaven for foodies with a mind boggling array of food and drink choices. Be sure to include this in the itinerary if you are a food lover. Explore all the stalls before you decide to dig into something. We were too hasty in ordering stuff and regreted later. As always make sure to check the opening hours when you plan.

Camden Lock Food Market

Camden Lock Food Market

Camden Lock Food Market

Camden Lock Food Market

Camden Lock Food Market

Camden Lock Food Market

So this was our slightly off-beat approach to exploring London. Hopefully, it gives you a few ideas on what you can plan!

Cheers and bon voyage people!