The People You’ll Meet

We had a few travel days, which are always busy, but a fun way to see things and meet people.

So I wanted to tell you about some of the people you will meet if you travel.

You will meet fellow travellers (FT). These are some of my favourite people. There is an instant connection when you start to talk to fellow travellers about the places they’ve been and the experiences they’ve had.  Sharing funny stories, and finding out that you aren’t the only one to feel a certain way about something in another country brings a certain camaraderie about. Even simple things like talking about food.   Funny story: I was telling my brother and sister in law the other day how much I miss cheese since we’ve left Europe. (I get food homesickness every once in a while, and this one just happened to be cheese). No joke, we were sitting in the train station yesterday waiting for our train to Malaysia, and the FT couple we were talking to asked what food we had enjoyed the most since leaving home. He then said that he missed cheese……instant bond right there 😉

I have found that you have to have to have a certain kind of humour to get through long term travel, and we have discovered that to be true with pretty much every other long term FT we’ve met. These last couple days we met a group of Americans at the train station (at 2 in the morning btw), who asked if we were waiting for the bus to get to the ferry. We told them no, we were waiting for our train that had been delayed an hour and was now coming in at 3am. No point in getting worked up about it, we both just laughed and made jokes about the situation, and how sleep is overrated anyways. Two other FT’s (two separate people) had been in a scooter crash earlier that day. Luckily they were okay, but they had both had to pay hefty fees to get their passports back from the rental companies. I’m sure at the time they were upset, but when we met them, it was a good travel story, and they both reminisced about it and chalked it up to experience.  On one of our cruises, an FT got taken by a tuk tuk driver to the driver’s home.  The driver called his kids out, and told the passenger he needed more money to support his family.  Another chalk it up to experience story that was shared over a cup of coffee.  These are the nitty gritty stories of real world travelling, that usually only FT’s will understand.  (Also, please don’t think I’m making light of these situations, as I know they could have gone horribly wrong, and sometimes do; I know that you have to go into travel with your wits about you, and keep your smarts about you too.  But there is also with a certain sense of humour/attitude that when you’ve travelled for so long, you learn to kind of just roll with the moment and whatever comes your way.  It’s an adventure.  Always be on guard, but know that you’re gonna have an amazing time, and some awesome stories to share.)

You will meet local people (LP), who are so proud of their hometown and country, and will go out of their way to make you feel at home. We have met a lot of these people through Airbnb, a home rental site for short term or long term rentals. It takes a special person to host travellers, and make them comfortable in a new and foreign place. We have also met a lot of these people just walking around and taking local transit. I shared our Italy bus story with you, and it is still one of my favourite memories. A local person saw us standing at the exit to the train station, while Nathan was trying to get the internet working on his phone. The gentleman asked us what we were looking for, and when we said “taxi,” he said, “don’t take the taxi, use this app instead….much cheaper and faster.” You will meet local people who offer their cell phones for you to make a local call. This happened twice that I can remember, when we didn’t have a cell plan…once in UAE when Nathan asked a janitor in the mall where a pay phone was. The janitor just pulled out his phone and offered it to Nathan. And our “Grab” driver (like Uber), offered us his phone to call the host of the Airbnb once he dropped us off outside the apartment here in Malaysia. We also had a taxi driver in Bangkok pull over and ask where we were going. When we told him we needed two taxis, he got another taxi driver, and then we said we weren’t sure what time the place we were going to was open until. He asked the other driver, they used their cell phones to look it up, and when we found out it was only open for another 40 minutes, he said we probably wouldn’t get there in time. It may not seem like a big deal, but he could have taken us for a ride and made money if he wasn’t such a nice guy. I seriously could go on and on about local people and how awesome they are.

That being said, you will also meet local people who aren’t that friendly, and will ignore you, or walk away when you ask them something, or yell at you about something. (One lady was pretty ticked at us in Greece that we didn’t speak Greece….and I totally get it 😉 ) It has been our experience that these LP are few and far between, and the nice LP outnumber the grumpy ones by miles.

I have always been a bit of a skeptical person…especially after researching and reading about travel scams, and people who have been ripped off by locals and transit drivers. This trip has taught me that there are far more good people out there than there are bad ones. You still have to be on your guard, and travel smart, but it’s nice to know that most people are willing to help if you need it, and all you have to do is ask.

Anyways, those are just a few stories I wanted to share….I could go on and on, but will stop there.  Thanks for reading.  We love you all, and are excited to be on the home stretch of the trip 🙂

 

India and Sri Lanka

Whew, what a month!  I can’t believe it is already February!  After booking flights to Bangkok from Dubai, we ended up finding a last minute opening on a cruise that we had been watching from Abu Dhabi to Singapore, via India and Sri Lanka.  If you read my post on cruising, you can imagine how excited we were to find this opening.  This would also give us a chance to visit India and Sri Lanka without us doing all the planning.  So we cancelled our flight tickets, and booked the cruise. Then went about the crazy (stressful) task of trying to get Indian visas in Dubai within a 10 day window.  So very glad we had a rental car, because I don’t know how we would have done it with public transit. (Well, okay, we would have taken a taxi, but we were running back and forth so much due to the time constraint, that it would have cost a small fortune ;)).  We got our visas and passports back in hand just in time to drive up to Abu Dhabi, where we stayed for the last four nights of our UAE stint.  Got on the ship on January 14, and took off for Mumbai, India.  As it was January, there were a lot of older folks on the ship, but the boys did make a few good friends, and enjoyed kids club and all the activities the ship had to offer.  Nathan enjoyed the trivia and guest lectures (and buffet), and I enjoyed the library, trivia, and meeting fellow travellers.  Having not planned on going to India, we had no expectations, and hadn’t had a chance to even research anything.  So we booked an excursion with the ship for the first port, so that we were with fellow travellers and could get a feel for how to navigate India with a guide.

We decided to do the market excursion in Mumbai, which took us to 3 different markets in the city, and allowed us to walk around a little bit, while still in a group.  Lucky for us, some of Nate’s fellow trivia players were on the tour as well, so we got to hang out and chat with them for the day.  We also met some other folks from Sweden, England, and Scotland.  It was a good group to go with, and the markets were quite interesting to explore.  We were a bit disappointed with the third market, which was just a  bunch of indoor stores, but we sat outside and hung out with our friends and watched the traffic and life in Mumbai go by.  We were only in the city for a day, so our experience was more of a taste of the city…  First of all, we were all amazed/awestruck by the traffic.  There were cars, tuk tuks, scooters, pedestrians, cows, buses, bikes everywhere.  There were no traffic lanes that I could see…just a mishmash of moving things going everywhere.   I honestly have no idea how people know where to go, but everyone was moving, and I guess you just go with the flow.  We walked up one street that had the same types of vehicles, but also had men pulling carts up them…. Stores/stalls/street vendors are everywhere.  We were told we could barter, but we weren’t interested in buying anything, as it was our first day, and we just like to explore and take stuff in to begin with.  Jo commented that Mumbai was louder than NYC, and I think that’s a correct assessment 😉

Our second port was Goa.  We had wavered back and forth about taking our own taxi into the city, but at the last minute, we decided to book a cheap(er) excursion that went into Panjin, India.  We were glad we did, as the taxi drivers ended up being on strike the day we were there, and it was a last minute scramble for people who were planning on taxis.  Anyways, it was a long bus ride up to Panjin from the port, and it was very cool watching the scenery as we drove.  There was lots of lush greenery, temples, huts, fields, and glimpses of the water from the road we were on.  Quite different from the city 🙂  We stopped in Old Goa for some pictures and then continued up to Panjin, where we had a guided walking tour, and then a couple hours to walk around and explore on our own. Quite the history, and we enjoyed learning about the architecture and people.  This is a gorgeous part of the country, and we kind of wished we had a few more days to explore this area.  The locals were very friendly, and we did have a few vendors following us and trying to sell things, but most of them backed off when we told them ‘no.’  And the ones that didn’t weren’t rude, they just kept walking with us and holding their wares out…we just kept walking and eventually they got the idea 😉  Of note: we (along with some of our fellow travellers), were surprised that a lot of the local people (food stalls and coffee shops), did not accept US currency.  They said it was too hard for them to exchange it, and didn’t know the exchange rate.  No biggie, but just a note to others if you are planning on going, to make sure you exchange moula before heading into the towns.

Our third and final day in India was spent in Cochin.  We got off the ship with some friends, who kindly invited us to travel with them for the day.  After talking to the taxi driver though, he said we would need two vehicles.  So we decided to head out on our own in a tuk tuk.  The driver we had was awesome.  He offered to take us around Fort Cochin for 3-4 hours for $10 US total.  (This was the going rate, although our friends got the deal for $5 US 😉 )  We went to churches, temples, the Chinese fishing nets, a market street, museum, palace.  Loved it!  Saw random goats walking around town 😉  We had a blast, and ended the day bartering at the stalls in our port.  As Canadians I think we always feel bad if we don’t give what the person is asking; but we have come to understand that bartering is a way of life in other parts of the world, and it is not offensive to offer an offensive amount back to the vendors…especially when you are obviously a tourist.  Prices go waaaay up when they see you coming 😉  One guy was asking $20 each for an item that we were interested in.  We bartered back and forth and walked away with them for $5 US each.

Had a few days at sea after India, and then had a day in Colombo, Sri Lanka.  It was HOT!!! We walked into town from the port. We were followed by tuk tuk drivers who called out prices to us, and some even pulled ahead, got out of their vehicles and walked alongside us.  Honestly, for us it wasn’t a big deal; just say no and keep walking.  Part of life here, and part of people knowing you aren’t local 😉  We spent some time watching the tide come in, and then just wandered, as we like to do sometimes.  We had no agenda, just walked and absorbed the city.  Went to the market and got some shorts for Isaac….again, we had to barter, but we are used to it now, and the vendors weren’t pushy at all.  I think because we know we can get it two stalls down, or at the next block, we really aren’t desperate about buying certain items.  The shorts were needed, but not any specific ones.  So Isaac got a couple pair of nice comfy linen shorts after we shopped around a few different stalls.  Met up with some friends from the ship, and then walked back to the boat.  We have been in the sun every day since hitting Dubai, and every day (including today), we have put on sunscreen.  Today was the first day we got burnt.  I guess it makes sense, since we are further south, and closer to the sun, but it was still a surprise to get back on the boat and discover burnt shoulders and cheeks after all these weeks in the sun.  Lesson learned 😉

So to sum it up, we are so incredibly thankful that this opportunity to spend a few days in India and one in Sri Lanka was opened up for us.  India is a beautiful country, and we would have loved to explore more inland, but were amazed at what we got to see in the few days we had.  Yes, the cities can be dirty, overwhelming, and busy, but that is why we love travel….to experience, explore and learn about life around the world.  As the lecturer onboard said: “lower your expectations, you are not in North America.”  We went in with no expectations, and enjoyed exploring and discovering firsthand a tiny little piece of life in India.  The locals we met were friendly, and as I mentioned, the vendors can be aggressive, but that is part of life here, and we just embraced it and carried on.  I think going via cruise was a nice way to do it as well, since we weren’t on our own trying to figure it all out solo, and had the same living quarters for 2 weeks…not having to pack up and move every few days.  It was nice having down days, relaxing sea days, and spending time with (mostly) English, American and Canadian travellers in between exploring days.

So that’s it for today.  Thanks for taking the time to read, and travel with us.  We miss you all (I have especially been missing my hiking/walking friends….you really miss nature and outdoor walks when you are on a boat for a couple weeks…that outdoor track just doesn’t do it 😉 )  We are in Thailand for the next week or two (have already been here a week), so stay tuned for our adventures in this beautiful country 🙂