I awoke to a rooster’s call. It was 6:00 a.m. and muggy, but the air was cool. I had been sleeping on a mat on the floor under mosquito netting. I had one of those “Where am I?” moments.
Then I remembered, we had stayed with a family the night before on a rubber tree farm in Southern Thailand. Yesterday, the father walked us around the neighborhood and showed us the rubber trees. Then, the mother cooked us an amazing dinner with curry, sweet and sour chicken, vegetables in oyster sauce and tom yum soup. The youngest son did what children in any culture seem to do: he showed us his toys and assessed our potential as characters in his imaginary world.
What a fantastic experience. As I awoke to the sound of the rooster, I remembered the family was Muslim, and out of respect, I put a shaw around my shoulders before starting my quest for a morning cup of coffee.
Well, it hasn’t done much but rain during our two night stay in the jungle, so all I’ve been doing is reading and eating pad thai – which is kind of nice, but I’ll be good and ready for a serious kayaking session if the rain ever stops!
During dinner, the power went out and we were told it probably wouldn’t come back on tonight. Fortunately, wifi came back on with the generator and I was able to download a book and a flashlight app (why doesn’t this come standard on the iPhone?) before heading back to my bungalow.
So, I have to say, walking to my bungalow – alone, in the dark, in the rain, through water to my shins, with the sounds of the jungle all around me – was kind of creepy! Thank goodness the hotel staff assured me if my room needed to be evacuated during the night, they would wake me up.
As I entered my bungalow bathroom to hose off my feet, and saw a cockroach scurry across the title floor, I just said, “eh, you’re the least of my worries” and promptly found my way under the mosquito netting to try and sleep a bit.
The Thai Islands provided a great beach break in the middle of globe trekking. I spend my days kayaking and snorkeling through beautiful waters. I pet a tiger, rode and elephant, and saw a famously Thailand lady boy show! It was amazing!
G Adventures has basic, standard, and comfort level tours. This was a standard tour.
I really enjoyed this trip, but it was hard travel during the India portion – 118F/45C degrees, dirty and chaotic cities, Delhi belly, and the bumpiest, craziest van and tuk-tuk rides of my life (even though I’ve traveled extensively through Asia). Yet, there was something really great and memorable about each city: the temples and Red Fort in Old Delhi, the markets and amber palace in Jaipur, the Taj Mahal in Agra, a hindu blessing in Orchha, and the ceremonies on the Ganges in Varanasi. I’m glad I experienced all of that even though I do not have a desire to return.
On the other hand, I absolutely loved Nepal! It was still hot and more humid than India, but it was bearable. Chitwan National Park and Pokhara were beautiful and full of really wonderful outdoors activities: jeep safari, jungle walk, canoe, boat, hike, etc. I would definitely go back to Nepal.
Tour manager: our tour manager was good. He was especially funny when teaching us how to bollywood dance! My only complaint is that in the beginning, he did not set the expectation that we would go long periods with out an opportunity for food. It was common to go 8-9 hours without a proper meal. I am not the type to fill up on cookies and chips (ok, I do love the Pringles), so this was difficult. I would strongly recommend to G Adventures to break for lunch in between the Amber Palace and City Palace in Jaipur. 5-6 hours in the oven like outdoors without a break is too much. I didn’t get to enjoy the second palace at all.
After a few days, I started buying bananas for the long trips and I also had a box of Larabars (all natural fruit and nut bars) that I wouldn’t have survived comfortably without! So bring some substantial trail mix type food!
Length of stay: If you can arrive a day early to explore Delhi and leave a day later to explore Kathmandu, I would highly recommend it. We hired a private city guide in Old Delhi upon arrival and it was well worth it! The private guide was helpful and enjoyable because it would have been difficult to navigate Delhi on our own, and we got a good history of the places we visited without the inconvenience of a large tour group. Also, If I had stayed an extra day (or left in the evening) at the end in Kathmandu, I would have been able to take a plane ride around Mount Everest.
Accommodations: the hotels were basic, but perfectly adequate. Delhi and Kathmandu were a bit dingy but clean – and the rest were really good with comfortable beds (a few roaches and spiders, but that’s to be expected).
Remember, this is a budget tour that’s relatively inexpensive for 14 nights of accommodations. Each place had a restaurant with a decent selection. The staff was incredibly friendly at most places. This is the only tour I’ve ever taken where breakfast was not included, so keep that in mind. Still, the hotels had breakfast for no more than 4-5 USD/person.
Packing advice: bring antibiotics, pepto/Imodium, and electrolytes for the Delhi belly – I’d say 80-90% chance you will need it. Also, visit a travel clinic before departure to get malaria pills and vaccinations. Bring sunscreen, deet, and Lysol for your shoes and make sure you have a bag to separate your shoes from your clothes in your luggage. you sort of have to embrace the germs – you can’t avoid them! Also, bring a universal adapter – different settings worked at different hotels – it wasn’t consistent.
A carry-on size roller bag is ok, but a backpack is better. I only had a few times when it was awkward to have a roller bag – getting on and off the overnight train and getting to the hotel in Kathmandu – but not a big deal – I did have to have someone carry my bag up the stairs at the train station in Varanasi.
Tour demographics: This trip of 15 travelers was a very mixed group with an age range of early 20’s to early 60’s. It was mostly female, which is typical for tours, but there were three males. Countries represented: England, America, and Denmark. Everyone was friendly and got along well. We all had a really good time together!
Overall: We had a wonderful, although exhausting, experience. What I really like about G Adventures is that you have the convenience of a tour with a guide, accommodations, safety and companionship in the group, and mishaps taken care of for you, but it doesn’t have a typical touristy feel to it – no tourist traps or hokey “authentic experiences” forced on you!
I would not recommend this as a first trip to Asia – try Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam first! But if you are an adventure seeker and interested in culture, customs, and world religions – and don’t mind sacrificing some comfort to have an immersed experience on a budget – then this trip is for you!
We had another amazing day in Nepal when we arrived in Pokhara. We woke up early to watch the sunrise over the Himalayas. Next, we paddled a boat across the lake and hiked to a Buddhist stupa (shrine) at the top of a steep foothill (the little dot on the hill above the lake, pictured here).
The hike was a bit challenging, but the gorgeous stupa and breathtaking views made it well worth the climb. It also felt great to get some exercise and to get out on the water for a paddle. Perhaps I’ll find a career as a ferry-woman!