The Complete guide of our epic American Hiking Trip

7,205 miles or 11,595 kms. That’s how long we’ve driven in our North American journey. The distance is comparable with a flight from Manila to New York, yes it’s that far. There were some days that we drove for 10 hours, with occasional stops of junk-food drive ins and quick hike. The feeling of freedom was unbeatable, it was just me and Bandi and the road, so many stories, so many inside jokes of road-trip games (water tank!), so many out-of-tune singalong to the radio, so many windshields clean up I was actually becoming so good at it, so many cups of coffee, it was indeed the time of our life.

In some point in our life, we shared this amazing invincible feeling together.

There are 2 main purposes on this trip: (1) To hike and (2) to drive the Route 66. The first one happened because of our love to the nature, the second one was because of our adventurous old soul. I will create another post about Route 66 so let’s focus on the hiking part for now.

I am not a good hiker, let’s get that straight. But not good at it doesn’t mean you can’t love it. I usually try to hike the most popular trail in the park, but will limit to 5 miles distance, and if I had extra time and energy, I’d do a couple of short trails with different angle or view of the park. Both in Canada and US, the national parks are well organized so you can plan well for your hikes. My favourite app/web would be Alltrails where you can read other people’s review on the trails and understand whether it’s suitable for you or not. All of the hiking trails I mention in this post will be linked to its details from Alltrails web.

I will write all of the 9 National Park we visited during the trip and some highlights about it. I know usually I wrote details for my travel, but since this is a huge trip, I don’t think it would be comparable to what I usually wrote, I will only write the highlights. If you’re interested in one of the parks and have some questions, don’t hesitate to contact me, I love to share!

Here are the National Parks we’ve visited:

Banff National Park, Alberta (Canada)

This is probably my most favourite place on earth. I’ve decided that I want to retire in Banff. Words can’t describe how beautiful it is… Snowy Rocky Mountains, lush hills to hike on, beautiful wildlife, serene turquoise lakes, this place is out of this world. Please take note that their summer window is quite short compared to the other National Park. I visited on May and some of the lakes were still frozen. So if you want to do water sports, make sure to go on July and August.

Banff Town

Hiking Tunnel Mountain

This beautiful and enjoyable trail is pretty easy to do, there were some steep steps along the way, but nothing extreme. I’ve got to meet so many cute dogs on the trails which was a huge bonus. We arrived at the summit around noon and sat down for 30 minutes to enjoy the sun and ate banana bread.

Taking Cable Car to Sulphur Mountain

We spent almost a day on the top of Sulphur Mountain, learning about the history of how Banff became a famous destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. The surrounding Mountains were magnet for curious trekkers and it has such a rich history. The summit has museum which is worth a visit and also the historic Cosmic Ray Station. If you do not want to pay the cable car to go to the Sulphur mountain summit, you can hike up; while taking the cable car down is free. The hike is 7 miles long though. Good luck!

The view from the Cosmic Ray Station is AMAZING. I couldn’t believe I actually lived to see this. It was one of the best view I’ve ever seen in my life. I could literally live there. It was a clear day with blue sky and we saw all the mountains surrounding us. I was falling in love… again and again… with mountains.

Driving the Icefield Parkway

The road from Banff to Jasper via Lake Louise is called The Icefield Parkway and this road turns to be a magical winter wonderland when it’s not summer. When you drive on this road, you wouldn’t believe the view you see. This gotta be the most beautiful road trip one could ever have.

The oh-so-many beautiful lakes

Banff has so many beautiful lakes, I can name a few; Morraine Lake, Emerald Lake, Lake Louise, Two Jake Lake, just follow the map and when you see lakes, stop over and enjoy it.

Staying in Emerald Lodge with no outside contact

So… we didn’t know what we signed up for, really. We booked 2 nights at the Emerald Lake Lodge without knowing that it means we won’t have internet connection or any connection at all. We even had to burn fire wood to keep us warm in the lodge. The lodge was last refurbished in the 1980’s and is tuck away from the outside world. We even had to park our car about 2 miles away and took the lodge shuttle to the Lake. I enjoyed it, but Bandi was a bit frustrated because he doesn’t have his TV and Internet. After hours of doing nothing, he decided to light up some fire and watch the woods burned. It was a nice moment for us. :)

Yosemite National Park, California

For a huge and majestic place like Yosemite, my 2 days visit couldn’t do any justice. But Yosemite is expensive, and this girl has a long way to go, thus… decision, decision! We maxed out our Yosemite trip by staying in the Yosemite Lodge and saw the Yosemite Falls by going through the lower Fall trail. Unfortunately my foot was hurting the whole time I was in Yosemite, thus I didn’t get to do a lot of hiking. :( And probably we were still jet-lagging too.

Yosemite has million years of rock formation stories and you can learn about it in the visitor centre. The rock formation makes Yosemite so special, thus the beautiful waterfalls too.

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Acadia National Park, Maine

From west, we flew all the way to the very east of USA, Maine. Known for its Seafood and setting for Stephen King’s horror novel, we come to Maine for the nature. It did not disappoint.

If you’re wondering whether the cold should hinder you to visit Maine, then the answer is NO. Yes it is cold, but Maine is such a beautiful place, Acadia National Park to be exact, with Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Bass Harbor as their host towns. Don’t forget about the New England food of Clam Chowder and Lobster Roll, oh the visit will be perfection.

I love Maine, and if I need to single out one highlight from Acadia National Park, it’s the Beehive Trail. It is the most famous trail of Acadia and it’s famous for a reason.

Bar Harbor, a wonderful little town

We drove all the way from Boston to Bar Harbor because it’s the perfect town to stay to explore Acadia National Park. If you ever plan to visit Acadia, I recommend to stay at Bar Harbor Motel, it was the cutest, most comfortable Motel we’ve stayed throughout our US trip. The staffs were super friendly too! Bar Harbor is a charming little town, one which you secretly wish to live in.

Beehive Trail, a must do in Acadia

This wonderful and fun trail is not very long, but… it is difficult. There were times where I had to climed vertically, with no harness, just railing to grab on. It was horrifying, but exciting, and the view from the top was rewarding. If you plan to go, please read the reviews from Alltrails so you get to understand more of the trails before you actually decide to take it. Once you reach certain height, it’s not advisable to go down. Going up is still safer than going down. This trail is a loop, so once you reach the summit, you need to continue going down in the longer route to the beginning of the trail.

Another great thing about this trail is that you can combine it with so many other trails. We continued to The Bowl from the intersection and it became a very fruitful hike! A bowl of Shrimp Chowder waited for me as a reward. :)

The food!

We didn’t expect the food in Maine to be this good, we enjoyed every meal we had in Maine! Lobster Roll and clam chowders are available in almost every diner and we’ve had them in every meal. Our cholesterol level definitely hiked up! We crowned Maine as the Best State for the food.

Cadillac Mountain

I want to remember the moment when Bandi and I went to Cadillac Mountain. I want to remember the feeling… We loved it so much and the sky was clear so we decided to come back again at night to stargaze. It was crazy cold, we stayed in the car and watch the stars. It was one of the moment in your life that you just know… that it will stay forever. It’s impossible not to question life, when the stars seem so near, the things that are so out of reach suddenly touch our life. If there are lives in the earth, there might be lives in other planets too… Our milky way is just one of millions galaxies out there… What is life? Where do we go after we die? It was the same question when Hubble discovered another galaxy hundred years ago, and it is still the question now.

Bandi and I didn’t get to find the answer that night (of course), but we bonded over our curiosity and our humbleness to this huge universe. We are nothing compare to the stars… We are merely a dot.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Fast forward to Colorado!!! (Between Maine and Colorado we spent so much time in the cities, either visiting museums, friends or driving on the route 66).

We didn’t plan to come here, we didn’t even know that Colorado has sand dunes; we were driving from Albuquerque to Denver when we stumbled upon the sand dunes in the map and decided to give it a visit.

It was pretty okay, I don’t really fancy sand dunes, I guess it will be more beautiful to view it from the air or from afar; hiking on the sand dunes is pretty painful actually, there were sands on my eyes, hair, socks, panties (didn’t know how it got there).

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We only hiked for about an hour and went back to the car when we saw sheriff arresting somebody. (If only we came back a little earlier to witness some American Drama!)

Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado

This is crowned as my most favourite National Park in USA. I can tell you hundred of reasons why, but due to limited time and space, let me just say… the mountains are so maginifcent, it will blow you away.

Trail Ridge Road

I love mountains, so that one reason only has eaten up the quotas of making reasons. The park is so huge, 3 days were definitely not enough. There are 2 towns that can host you while exploring the park: Estes Park and Grand Lake. The first one is bigger and more touristy than the later. These two towns are connected by Trail Ridge Road, the highest elevated road in North America; but this road is not always open because of the unpredicted snowstorm.

We decided to stay in both Estes Park and Grand Lake; if the Trail Ridge Road wasn’t open, we had to detour for 4 hours (while the Trail Ridge will only takes 1 hour and 45 mins, and it was the drive of our life!!!) Even though you don’t need to go to Grand Lake, I would still suggest for you to drive to the Trail Ridge Road, it was so crazy beautiful up there! It is a must-do scenic drive in your lifetime!

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The wildlife

We hiked to the Bear Trail and even though at the end of the trail we got hit by snowstrom, we had fun and met some wildlife, fox and bears. Yes, we met bears, and they were cute and actually were afraid of humans. It was still pretty cold when we visited (end of May) and some of the hiking trails were still covered by snow, some were 1 meter high! We went for picnic on one of the days and it was just calming and I felt very happy and peaceful. Here, we also picked up a new hobby, putt putt golf! Oh, I hope we have more putt putt golf in Asia!

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If I had to choose 1 place of all the places we went during our American road trip, Rocky mountains is the one. It’s that special for me. I know, I know, I said that for Banff too, well, let’s just say I can’t choose which rocky mountain I love more, all of them are special.

Arches National Park, Utah

We spent the whole day in Arches and had so much fun. Arches is the one national park where I didn’t have so much expectation but ended up blowing me away. The size of the park wasn’t as big as the other parks we visited, so we practically drove all the available paved roads. Since we only had a day there, we visited the highlights of the park: The Delicate Arch (take a hike there), Balanced Rock (very short hike), fiery furnace (require a permit to hike inside – hoping we’ll do it next time). The other famous trail in Arches is called Devil’s garden, however you’ll need a day to finish the whole round, so probably good to have 2 days 1 night camp in Arches, but the camping ground is limited and fully booked fast during summer, so better plan ahead.

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We hiked to the Delicate Arch during a very dry and hot day and kind of underestimated it by not bringing enough water. We ended up feeling so thirsty, it could be dangerous, I think. So please bring enough water when you hike in the desert during summer.

Zion National Park, Utah

We went to Zion during summer and it was CROWDED. Fortunately the NPS has got it under control. Summer time is the time where everyone hits the park, so no private car is allowed further than the visitor centre areas. We drove there and park our car in the visitor centre, and then take the shuttle bus to different bus stops along the parks. You should come very early to make sure getting a parking spot. We didn’t come early, and it was impossible to find parking spot. However, for the hundredth time, I was helped by my luck, thus we got a spot. :)

We had to queue to ride the park shuttle bus, though the queue was very long, we had no choice but to wait under the sun, 40 minutes later, we were on the bus. We rode the park shuttle bus to the very last stop , which is the entrance for The Narrow. There are 2 most famous hiking trails in Zion: Angel’s Landing and The Narrow. Angel’s Landing is shorter but steeper, the trail ends in quite high elevation and stories said it’s an amazing view. We chose The Narrow, which is a very long and wet trails, most of the trails are in the river, so it’s more like wading than walking.

We were well prepared for The Narrow, wearing a lightweight pants and bringing extra shirt. After 2 hours of wading, there was nowhere near the end, we asked some people who walked back if they saw the end, they didn’t, we learned afterwards that the river runs through Colorado River, so I guess you can go as far as you can. But the further you go, the less crowded it is, and the deeper too!

Bandi and I had fun the The Narrow, it was a refreshing hike in the water during a super hot and dry summer day, and very much different from our normal hike.

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Wet shoes go on the top of the car. LOL

Guess what we did after the tiring day in The Narrow? Binging on Pizza!!! :D

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

I am guilty. My crime is not spending more time in Grand Canyon. We pratically just ‘passed by’ Grand Canyon, we didn’t spend the night there. Even though we spent almost the whole day in Grand Canyon, it felt like touch and go because of the size of Grand Canyon, it’s HUUUGE! We visited from the North Rim entrance which is the less crowded and less touristy.

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Once we passed by the entrance, we were greeted by loads of American Bisons! Aren’t they cute? We then just kept driving up to the vantage point, where we were stunned by how grand the grand canyon is, thus the name of grand canyon. :p

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Obviously this won’t be our last time here. There’s a challenge to hike Grand Canyon from North Rim to South Rim, that’ll take 2 days 1 night, but it would be an experience of a lifetime, worth to think about. :)

Bonus: Antelope Canyon, Arizona

This magnificent nature’s creation is famous for a reason, its beauty that will leave you speechless. I was contemplating whether I wanted to give Antelope Canyon a visit because I was afraid it would be overrated and it was so expensive; thankfully I chose to take a leap of faith and went!

The operator that we went with is called Ken’s tour and it’s from the Lower Antelope canyon. You may find them in Tripadvisor or their website and book via email. It costs US$50 per person, yes it’s expensive, but the other tours cost about the same.

Side trip to Horseshoe Bend!

Once you’re done with Antelope Canyon, don’t forget to give Horseshoe Bend a visit, it’s just 10 mins drive away, you may park your car in the car park and hike up about 15 mins.

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The magical Colorado River flows through.

End Notes

The most important things to plan a hiking trip is to understand the size of the park you’re visiting and allocate enough time. We spent five days in Banff and spent only 1 day in Zion. Hunestly both are not enough, but you get the point, lol. Anyway I think it’s just my problem, nothing is long enough for me to explore the park. But normally 3 days would be fine, of course if the park is huge like Rocky mountains, you can stay there for a week and won’t get bored, but for a much smaller park like Arches, you can spend the 2 days and explored 90% of it. If you’re planning to visit one of the parks I mentioned, don’t hesitate to contact me, I love planning and I love talking about traveling, so it’s win-win. Ha!

Entrance Park Fees VS buying annual pass

Since entrance price to the park could be quite expensive, and we planned to visit lots of them, we bought the annual pass which costed us US$85, applicable for one car with maximum of 4 persons, that’s a steal!

Top 3 hikes

To summarize, here are our top 3 favourite hikes:

  1. The Beehive, Acadia.
  2. The Narrows, Zion.
  3. Delicate Arch, Arches.

Came back smarter and wiser

I always say traveling is an investment for yourself, I usually looked back on what I’ve learned from my travels in the past but this time, I’ll write them down so I won’t forget. Here are some points of my enhanced self after this trip:

  • I am now fluent in Miles, Feet and Fahrenheit, making me bilingual in metrics system, haha!
  • I am now a -much- better driver than I’d ever been
  • I love and appreciate nature more (will it ever be less? No way)
  • I know where to retire
  • I am more motivated to save up for my pension coz I can’t wait to retire, thus making me a better worker.
  • I learned more about Art
  • I learned more about International Space Station
  • I am now able to locate Ursa Major and Cassiopeia in the night sky thanks to stargazing and planetarium sessions.
  • I learned to be more chilled and easy-going like Americans.

We are planning for our 2021 North American Road Trip again with these parks in our mind: Great Smoky Mountain in Tennessee, Grand Teton and Yellowstone in Wyoming and probably some side trip to South Carolina and North Carolina. So if you happen to have the same passion like us, let’s go hit the road together, it will be fun! :)

Travel Green

And since we are in nature topic, I just want to remind about the importance to be educated about environment and wildlife. Leave no trace, if you really need to pee in the wild, bring back your tissues, do not step anywhere else beside the trails, it could be restoration area, don’t do so just for the sake of instagram pictures, do not leave any marks, no graffiti shits, nobody wants to see your stupid art, do not feed any wildlife, do not pet them no matter how cute they are (I struggled the most). If you’re not sure with anything, google it! Don’t be ignorant. It’s okay not to know everything, but try to learn more each time. I don’t know anything either, but I’m trying to be more eco-friendly each day, not to leave more carbon footprint.

Travel green is hard. That is for sure. Being eco-friendly is already hard in routine, it’s even harder during travel. From this long trip, I’ve learned a couple of new tricks for being more eco-friendly while travelling, that reminds me to write another post about this. (Oh darn, I owe so many posts.)

I hope this inspires you to travel to the Northwest! Hit me up anytime if you need advice on your travel, you know that’s always been my favourite subject! :)

Cheers,

May, missing Colorado.

The Roads of Colorado

We rolled down the window, feeling the gusty morning and the sun on our skin. We couldn’t believe our eyes, the towering rockies in front of us, so magnificently standing against all. The small towns we passed by, each has their own stories to tell, but this busy schedule didn’t give them a chance. A long winding road ahead of us, by the beautiful Colorado River that never stop flowing, a home for thousands of species whose lives depending on. Songs were playing on the radio, competing with the winds. Gas pedal was roaring, the old car tried to keep up with the elevated roads of Colorado.
The snowy rockies were behind us, the red canyons are greeting us, the Colorado River is still devoted by our side. In each turns, we awed. We felt so small, so fragile. We were nothing compared to what was in front of us, a vast view of what could be a small fraction of the world. The roads of Colorado left us speechless.
A cheerful tune came in the radio, I slowed down a little bit while I sang along with you. I turned to the right, looking at you for a split second, you were looking at me, smiling. What a good life we had, at that very moment, how grateful we felt, how amazing we felt, on the road of Colorado.
Some places were more magical than others, some places were meant to be special. At the road of Colorado, you and me, at some point, we were invincible.

May, 30-05-2019

Plan your trip to Banff, NOW!

I don’t know what to say anymore, words can’t describe how I feel about Banff. No matter what I say, it will not do any justice of what Banff actually is. One must go there and experience to really understand. I know I say good things about all of my travel destination, but Banff is REALLY SPECIAL, I’m not kidding you. If I could recommend a place for you to go, it’s Banff. (And Norway – still).

But seriously, Banff is up there with Norway. I now have 2 favorite place on earth: Norway and Banff.

Two Jack Lake overlooking the Mighty Mt. Rundle.

The Natural Bridge at Emerald Lake creates this beautiful falls effect.

There are some practical things I want to share from my trip to Banff though, that could help you since you’re planning one. Oh yes, you’re planning your trip to Banff. Yes YOU ARE, NOW.

Yaiy! Let’s do it!

1. Calgary is your port to enter Canada where it’s the nearest and easiest to Banff. Start researching a ticket to Calgary (YYC) now.

2. The lakes in the Lake Louise Region are frozen most of the times. It’s starting to thaw at the end of May til August. That’s the only time you can see the lakes as lakes, not as skating rinks. But bear in mind, summer will be so crowded. If you’re like me, love the beautiful view of snow, come anytime except summer, the view is amazing.

Aww, some PDA here, but I love this shot. <3

3. Icefield Parkway is an amazing road trip route during winter; everything around it turns into a snow wonderland. I visited at the beginning of May and the snow was still 1 metre thick in some places.

4. Banff has some public transports, but it won’t be that many unless it’s summer time, even the bus from Calgary to Banff only operates during summer, so the only way to visit Banff is by car if you’re planning a non-summer visit. Prepare your international’s driving license!

5. There’s only daily entrance to Banff National Park (including Lake Louise and Jasper) and it’s CAD 9.8 per person; while annual pass cost $136 for 4 people in 1 car. So if you’re planning to visit Banff for more than 6 days (at least 2 persons), it’s better to buy the annual pass. Plan accordingly.

6. Gear up! Even though it seems like it’s already spring, Banff is surrounded by snowy rocky mountains, even the lakes are frozen, so you go figure.

7. I highly recommend to go to the peak of Sulphur mountain. It’s free if you hike up, but it’s a really strenuous hike and an icy one, so better to pay CAD 62, I know this sounds expensive but the view and the museum are worth it. Read all the story and information about this amazing Sulphur Mountain while at the top; you can also see the 360 degrees view of mountains of Banff, and learn their names too. Now that you’ve known them in first name basis, you’ll love them even more! My favourite is Mt. Rundle!

8. Hiking trails are open all year round, however depending on the avalanche season, some of the trails may be closed. Visit the information centre to have trails recommendation. We went on: Tunnel Mountain Trail, Fernland Trail, Bow lakes (which is open 365 days and so easy and fun to do), Bow Summit (overlooking Peyto Lake – even though the trail was covered by snow), and Lake Louise Trail (also icy)

Bow Lake

On the way up to Tunnel Mountain Summit.

The icy way up to see Peyto Lake

9. Banff Town is actually a real town with so many restaurants, markets, even movie theatre and a yoga studio. Of course it’s not like in the city where your theatre is in a huge building, it’s still a pretty small movie theatre, but Banff is a pretty complete town, Bandi-approved. Coz Bandi loves to see nature but still wants his well-cooked food and strong internet connection. However, we went to lake Louise Town on the 3rd and 4th Night and it’s a totally different story. So if you’re like Bandi, better stay at Banff Town.

I hope I’ve said all the important and useful information, well at least those are all I remember now. I am still currently on the road trip. I’ve left Canada 3 days ago and had fun in Maine afterwards (another post I believe because Acadia national park is so awesome!) and now I am currently in Salem, Massachusetts to sleep for the night so tomorrow morning we can catch the bus to New York! Hope to talk to you guys again soon, meanwhile hit me up in the comment if you have questions about Banff.

And don’t forget to follow our adventures on instagram @baytravels !

Cheers,

May, carrying laptop and backpack and yoga mat.

Big Plans Take Time

Yesterday, I walked home from work and I passed by an advertising by DBS about retirement. It was so coincidental because I was just talking about planning my retirement with my colleagues.

The ads said: “BIG PLANS TAKE TIME”

That’s right. I’ve spent my whole life planning stuffs, I just love planning and making goals. I had a new goal that day, I want to retire when I turn 55. I already started plotting my retirement plans in my head, but this post is not about my retirement plan (we can talk about it next time), it is about big plan. Specifically, the biggest, most epic trip I’ll ever have (so far). This is the biggest thing we’ve (Bandi and I) ever planned in our life, it’s even bigger than our wedding! We planned our wedding for a year. This… we’ve been planning since 2016! And after 22 months planning, the most epic road trip of our life is finally happening!

The beginning

By now you should’ve known how much I love road trip. Our Pacific Coast road trip in NSW, Australia back in 2015 was the beginning of our love affair with road trip. I also love hiking, but sometimes I found it too troublesome to bring hiking gear, unless… you’re driving a car. Bingo! Road trip and hiking are match made in heaven, just like me and Bandi. Lol.

We narrowed down countries which would be great to be explored by car: Australia (of course), New Zealand (in our future plan, of course), Scotland, US and Canada. Bandi has always wanted to show me US so in August 2016 we started creating a plan for our epic American Road trip. I still remember we were sitting in Starbucks and we agreed to quit both of our jobs and spend at least 3 months in the US, in a van to be exact. (this photo of my soc-med timeline marks the beginning of the plan!) Circumstances then started to happen, I moved to Facebook, it got delayed again and then we planned it after the facebook life but then I got even a better gig. So then we realized, we should compromise. We then shortened the trip to a month plus and not both of us should quit the job.

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That screenshot from a socmed post 2 years ago.

In one fateful day, in the middle of reality, we bought a ticket to San Francisco. We decided to figure things out one step at a time. But the ticket was bought. So we’re going!

The route

The route planning was crazy! It took months for us to do a lot of reading and go through hundreds of arguments before we finalized it! It was so difficult to prioritize and create a perfect map for our North American Trip. I call it North America because it’ll involve both US and Canada! Yes! It’s been a dream of mine to visit Banff, and since we’ll be in the US, of course we should spare time enrouting to Banff!

There are so many national parks I want to see but so little time we have, and the longer we’re there, the more expensive it is. Our goal is to find the most efficient route, with the most National Parks covered, with the cheapest accommodation possible.

At first we wanted to cut short some of the road trips and save money on the drop-off fee. For those who are not familiar, drop off fee is a fee payable to the car rental when you pick up and drop off the car from and to different states. But at the end, after calculating and recalculating, we’d save more money by doing full East coast to West coast road trip. One drop off fee and that’s it. It costed US$550 for the drop fee only and I could faint just to think about the money, but well, we’re doing it.

The biggest chunk of the trip will be on the road of course, but we did take some flights to and from Canada. We’re going in to Calgary, Canada from SF and fly further to Boston to start our US road trip which eventually will end back to the west coast, in LA.

So to summarize, Our route is to start in West Coast, move up to Alberta, Canada, then fly to East coast, so east we’ll start from Maine! We took bus from Boston to New York and to DC, then car all the way to Los Angeles, enrouting to Texas in the middle. Crazy, huh?

The budget

This is by far the most expensive trip we’ve ever had (and I guess we’ll ever have). First of all, US is far from Singapore; the flight itself is expensive. Thankfully we get a good deal (as always). Second of all, the length of the trip is crazy, so the cost multiplies so much. Third of all, we want to visit Banff, so another whopping budget for flights, Canadian Visa and expensive Banff Accommodation.

Just like I mentioned, we’ve been planning for this trip since 2016, so we have some savings for the trip specifically and thankfully the spending were staggered in months (almost a year) from the time we purchased our flight, applying US visa, booking airbnb, booking cars, buying national park pass, to the other tiny details like purchasing a good angle-wide lens or renewing International Driving License. Overall, the budget turns out to be more expensive than our wedding. I’m serious. But our wedding was a simple one anyway, so not a very good comparison. My point is… this is huge. This is the biggest thing we’ve ever invested in in our life. If you happen to plan similar trip like ours, we’d love to share out itinerary! :)

The execution

They said good things happen to those who wait. Well, we’ve been waiting (and plotting) for 22 months, and here it comes. It’s finally happening. We’re only bringing one 35L backpack each consist only essentials. On moments like this, I always be reminded how stuffs are overrated, and how we should never be attached to stuffs. Because really, at the end of the day, I won’t be needing 95% of the stuffs I own. All I want in life is making memories, connections, achievements, and none of them can be tangibly measured.

People are questioning, what do you bring for a month trip?

I answer the same whether it’s for 1 month, 2 months, 2 weeks or 1 week… I pack 5 days’ worth of clothes. I always do, unless I go for weekend trip, then pack for 2 days’ worth of clothes, duh.

My 5 days’ worth of clothes consist:

3 shirts, 2 shorts, 2 dresses, panties + bras + socks, 2 sets of yoga gear.

And because we’re going hiking, I added: 2 sets of hiking gears, 1 pair of hiking shoes, sweater and waterproof jacket.

For toiletries, I bring only tiny bottles of essentials. And if shampoos or soaps are running out, we can always buy there. No sweat.

It seems very light now, isn’t it?

One important thing to prepare is driver’s license. Both Bandi and I will be driving so both of us need to have our international Driver’s license ready. Making international driver’s license is a breeze, nothing to worry about! I made mine in Jakarta, Indonesia and Bandi made it in Singapore (coz he has Singapore Driver’s license).

The Day

We’re leaving in 2 days! I hope I’ll some time to blog during my trip, coz otherwise it’ll take forever to tell all the stories when I’m back. But at least I’ll keep my instagram posted! I still remember sharing my excitement and happiness with all of you during our epic Europetrip, so now I’m doing the same, hoping to always inspire and ignite incredible adventures. Follow this epic trip on @baytravels ! Leave a comment below to send some love! :)

IMG_8876.jpgCheers,

May, excited would be an understatement.

Fateful days – the sequel

Do you remember this post? Bandi and I received a sad news on the first day of new year. Bandi was diagnosed positive on Hepatitis C.

Looking for a good and reputable hospital to do a pre-marital check up, a friend recommended Eka Hospital. We paid a pretty fat cheque for our full check up, just to make sure we are not only a match made in heaven by the Universe, but also a match made in laboratory.

I did my blood test first, followed by Bandi a couple of days later. We were waiting to meet the obgyn when Bandi received a phone call, “Sir, can you please come back to the lab to give another blood sample?”

Bandi asked, “Why?”

“The result for HCV is reactive. Let’s do another test to confirm.”

“What is HCV?”

“It’s Hepatitis C.”

The result from obgyn then didn’t really matter to me anymore because my only goal in life is to live with Bandi til we’re 100 years old. The news obviously troubled my mind.

We then went to meet the GP to discuss about the lab result. The GP wasn’t very informative. “How could someone be infected by Hep C?” I asked the doctor.

“It’s transmitted by blood and sex.”

Bandi was too confused to talk so I kept challenging the doctor, “well, my hubby never had blood transfusion, doesn’t have tattoo and the only sexual partner is me. If he’s having it, I will be having whatever he’s having.”

The doctor implicitly said that when results like these happen, the marriage tends to be shaken. (WTF, she actually thought Bandi was what-fucking girls around?)

I knew it by heart it’s bullshit. Nobody in this world tells me shits like this. I know Bandi and that is final. Nobody knows Bandi like I do.

We have shared everything, you name it, even chewing gum. There’s no way we’re not sharing this virus either.

The doctor told us to wait for the second test. Maybe it was a mistake on the first test. We agreed on that.

Bandi and I flew back to Singapore the next day. We received an email from the doctor, a scanned document of Bandi’s lab result. It was still positive, it wasn’t borderline, it was way off positive, like seriously positive. The doctor advised Bandi not to share nail clipper, shaving razor, or anything personal with me.

Photo 26-3-18, 3 47 38 PM

Bandi took it to the next level. He didn’t let me drink from the same cup with him, eat from the same spoon, we even stopped making out for a while. Don’t even mention about sex. As much as I wanted to be selfish and demand everything to be back to normal,  it couldn’t. I knew he went through so much, he was sad. All I did was hugging him all the time, telling him that we’re gonna kick this shit ass no matter what. His only concern was to pass it to our future baby. I told him not to think about it yet, the only priority is to make sure he’s okay.

During this time, we did a lot of google research and was comforted with the fact that Hepatitis C can be cured. It’s not the end of the world. But we decided to scrape off our Aussie plan and focus on eliminating this virus. I just want to live with Bandi, til 100 years old. I want to travel the world with him, and we will do anything to make sure it’s happening.

Bandi made appointment to see the top hepatologist in Singapore General Hospital (SGH), and only got an appointment 10 weeks later on 8th March.

In 2 months, Bandi went through the phase of sadness, anger, denial and acceptance.

I was in Jakarta for work when he went to his first doctor’s visit. I really wish I could be there with him. Bandi told me to wait til I came back to Singapore which was a day later, to discuss the detail. Doctor referred him to do another blood test, the very detailed one especially to understand how serious the HCV was doing in his body and how much time he had until the virus starting to affect his liver. This costed a whopping $790. (++)

I finally got to see him the next night. He picked me up in Changi Airport and we talked in the uber. He told me that he’s gonna apply for Singapore Citizen. I was shocked, “why?”

“The cost for curing Hepatitis C is 80,000 Singapore Dollars, but government subsidies it to be 12,000 for citizen. We cannot afford $80,000.”

My jaw dropped. Yes, and I cannot afford to lose you either.

I was puzzled. How on earth are we going to find $80,000?

“How much time do we need? When do you need to start the medication?”

“The result will come on 22 March, and I’ll meet the doctor again to understand about the medication plan. But don’t worry, we don’t need to do it ASAP.”

I was sad, and pissed off. Why is this happening to us? Bandi is the kindest, the sweetest, the most thoughtful human being I know. He doesn’t deserve this, he doesn’t deserve anything that can hurt him or make him sad. He only deserves happiness. Universe can hurt me instead. I’ll take bullet for him. I’m bulletproof anyway.

I went for another work trip to Jakarta, again on the same day when we had appointment with his doctor in SGH so he went alone again. I told him to let me know as soon as he had updates. So on Thursday morning, when I was eating breakfast in the hotel, I saw a missed call from Bandi. I called him back rightaway.

“May…”

“Yes?”

“I got nothing.”

“WHAT?”

“Doctor said the result from Singapore Lab says I’m clean.”

“WHAT THE FUCK?!”

“Yeah.”

“There goes 5 years of my life!!!”

“I know, but I’m so relieved.”

“I’m so gonna fucking sue Eka Hospital’s ass.”

“I don’t care. All I care is I’m healthy, and I’m gonna keep living my life with you. That’s the only thing I want.”

Photo 26-3-18, 7 25 17 PM

We continued the conversation with hundred of OMG I’m so relieved  and I love you. I felt like I got even closer to Bandi. I know, I really think it’s impossible to be even closer to Bandi, but I felt like I was given a second chance.

I don’t know if any one of you can relate this. There are two ways of seeing it.

One, Eka Hospital ruined 3 months of our life, not to mention our sex life. I swear I gained wrinkles during this past 3 months. Our life was perfect before the incident and Eka Hospital ruined it for 3 months by giving us false alarm.

Two, We are the lucky ones. To be able to go through such whirlwind rollercoaster, and yet holding hands steady and strong, ready to kick ass. We felt like resetting the playstation button when our game starting to be sucky. We were given second chance.

In the end, of course we’re not suing. What is it for? Money? How much money can bring back the 3 months of our life?  How much money can erase the tearful night that Bandi was having? We can’t get our 3 months back. The craziest, most worried 3 months in our life.

We’re so lucky we can ask for second (if not third) opinion in Singapore. But what if this happens to someone else who doesn’t have the fortune to do it (it costed $1,000 altogether from end to end) or even the stupid lab result could ruin their marriage?

How could Eka Hospital screwed up Bandi’s blood test TWICE, I don’t know, only god knows. But what we know, for sure is…

We’re always blessed, we’re always protected. We never doubt that. It’s us, Universe’s favourite people.

As long as we’re positive (no pun intended), and we’re together, nothing can hurt us. And even though it hurts,  so what? it’s not about avoiding the pain, it’s about surviving it.

I still can’t believe such drama happened in our life. We didn’t tell anyone until today. But I’ve decided to share this story because:

  1. We’re warning you to choose hospital wisely. You wouldn’t want to experience their over-priced incompetence.
  2. If there is any doctor reading this, maybe there’s a scientific explanation behind the two different test results. I don’t speak medicine, so maybe incorrect process or method that caused this confusion? If so, what should the doctor do when facing this kind of situation? Obviously not passive-aggressively inducing ideas about dishonesty.

For now, I’m just happy and content with the fact that I can continue my plan, to live with Bandi til we’re 100 years old. :)

And don’t forget to say I love you to your loved ones. Why? Because why not? Life is short.

Cheers,

May (and Bandi), the lucky ones.

Coffeed Series: In Motion

I’ve been wanting to runaway since I knew how to read. Thanks to Enid Blyton’s adventurous stories, I dreamt of going away and creating trouble. Books were my best friends, library was my sanctuary. When you had dream, you started to create plan, when you’ve created the plan, you had goals to tick. I’m so goal oriented, driven and just don’t quit. I remember drenched, riding my motorbike in Jakarta and I thought, just a couple of $$ more til I’ve had enough saving to move to Singapore.
I love every adventures I’ve had, I’m used to moving around and not having a place called home. I questioned what home meant for so long until I knew home was not necessarily a place. It can be feeling or people. Even when I travel somewhere far, I can feel homie, even it’s just a stopover I can feel comfortable.
To sit on the train, looking out the window, passing by meadows or farms, the chugging sound of a moving train is so calming ironically. Taking on a bus ride, or driving on a road trip, fly on a plane somewhere, all of them are amazing feelings. No matter where you go, whether you go to a foreign land, or you go home onto your Mom’s arms. Sometimes when you’re lucky, your mind will wander and imagination comes by.
It turns out… I just love to be in motion. I love going somewhere, whether it’s a new place or the same familiar environment, I love the feeling of leaving things behind, I love the feeling of running away. I know this could be psycho-analysed by some shrink, judging me to have some shitty past or whatever, but you know what? There’s nothing wrong on admitting something weird that you love. And for so long, I thought it was weird, until… I shared this feeling with someone, Bandi.
How lucky I am to be able to share my life with someone who feels as weird as I do, who likes the same things, who makes me feel less lonely, less of an outcast?
I’m getting old and no matter how self-assured I am, I do wonder sometimes, should I slow down a little bit? Settle down? Have you ever wondered why it’s called “settle down” but not “settle up”? Because it’s basically a downgrade from an exciting motion! LOL.
I think it’s not about age per se, it’s just when you’re older, you’ve learned more things in life, you enjoy things differently.
Like the other day, Bandi and I went out on a Friday Night date. We had a couple of drinks, fun conversation and after dinner, we walked around Clarke Quay to check out the street acrobat. It was 10 pm and we both yawned, “shall we go home?” I would’ve thought it’s lame to go home early, but god I so badly wanted to go home early, take a shower and rest.
It’s the same thing with our travel. We no longer travel like energizer bunny who sleeps at 1 am and wake up at 7 am. We take things slower, we actually love having our breakfast slow sometimes. Life is so short, I don’t wanna rush it anymore. I wanna make sure every moments count.
The phrase “settle down” scares me. it seems like stopping forever. I don’t wanna stop, I love to be in motion. But if the high speed is nauseating, let’s be in a slower motion. But let’s not stop.
You can’t change yourself to be who you are not, that won’t be sustainable, that’s gonna break. But you can compromise, be more flexible.
For me, as long as we do not stop. :) What’s the weird thing you enjoy the most?

 

Cheers,
May, literally waiting for a plane in Airport.

Coffeed, Prologue: My relationship with coffee.

This is the first of the many of my coffeed-brain rambling about stuffs.

If I could metaphorically explain my relationship with coffee, it would be Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. It started in a very young age, on and off, we make up we break up, and some of the break ups are not pretty. But however, just like Selena and Justin, we are currently getting back together.

To be fair, whenever I break up with coffee, it’s never its fault, it’s always me. Indeed, for my case, “it’s not you, it’s me” excuse is genuine.Image result for it's not you it's me gif

Coffee only does good thing to me, in fact I really think coffee is the only reason why I could be such an interesting person, pretty shameless to call yourself interesting but well… Because I started drinking coffee from a very young age, I didn’t remember how I was before coffee invasion, maybe I was boring and dull, I don’t know.

It was because I needed to watch football at 2-3 am in the morning and went to school at 7 am in the morning, I had to drink coffee, it is known to wake you up. But after so many years living with coffee, I don’t think coffee wakes you up physically, it only wakes your brain, but not your body, thus some people experience coffee crash, where they feel so tired, but can’t sleep.

Everytime I drink coffee, I become interesting, I can tell stories very well, I am animated and I become super smart. I’m serious. I think I am pretty smart in general, but when I drink coffee, my brain turns into baby brain, that can absorb things so quickly, I could maybe even fly a plane! The last one is a joke, but I hope you get what I mean.

So I abused coffee, whenever I wanted to write stories, I drank coffee; whenever I wanted to create something, I drank coffee; painted, drank coffee, hung out with friend, drank coffee; watched football, drank coffee; had arguments with Bandi, drank coffee. I drank coffee pretty much the whole life until… my gastric acid said to stop. Or I just got old, I don’t know. I then spent some time away from coffee and went through a gastric medication for a while. Whenever I felt better, I started to go back to coffee again, just like an addict. Then my stomach hurt again and I suffered the whole night and then I quit again. There was even one point when coffee gave me allergy, because it heat up my body and I’m allergic to heat. The relationship was unhealthy at that point of time; on and off and on and off, and I was tired.

Image result for together gif

I know, it was not the coffee that gave me a super power to be smart, it was the caffeine. So, I came to look for a healthier option to be caffeinated. I was in South Korea when I fell in love with green tea, so I started to forget about coffee and drank tea daily to fill in the void of my soul. Tea doesn’t have as much caffeine as coffee (come on, even the name caffeine is pretty much taken from caffe, which means coffee – not sure about this, let’s google later) so I had to drink so much tea in order to keep the brain cells jumping. Some days I even drank more tea than water in a day, I’m serious. But the good thing is, tea doesn’t give me gastric.

So, I was coffee-free for about 5 months, and I thought I could finally sing Taylor Swift’s song “we are never ever ever getting back together!”

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But then I started my new job 3 weeks ago, and this job requires more brain cells than I could ever afford with only tea! I knew it that I had to take my super power in order not to only survive, but to over-achieve. Yeah you guess it right, I crawled my ass back to coffee’s warm and fuzzy love. Baby, let’s have a one night stand, I thought.

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I promised myself, only for the first week, because I needed to absorb all the knowledge, then I would switch back to tea again.

Now, it’s my fourth week in, and guess what? I’m writing this under coffee influence.

Coffee is just so good, it makes me feel invincible, it makes me so smart, so interesting, so fun! When I scroll back to my blog posts, I could literally tell which was written under coffee influence, which was not; and if you meet me in person, you could tell whether I had coffee for the day or not.

One day, I was in the airport alone, waiting for my flight while sipping iced latte and I thought, this brain works like maniac whenever I have coffee, I wish I could document what it thinks of, what it wants to say! I boarded my plane and during take-off, le brain kept talking non-stop to me, and I reminisced my teenage days when I drank coffee and started to day-dream like a crack head. I imagined the unthinkable, I dreamt the highest and I created so many scenarios in my head of how my life would turn out. Coffee helped me to where I am today, a place where I feel content, happy and safe.

Image result for acceptance gif

Maybe our relationship could evolve from the chaotic dependency, to be matured and respectful. It will always be there when I need but I can learn to love myself more even without it. So I hope this is how Justin and Selena turn out to be as well.

Cheers,

May, caffeinated.

PS: This series is inspired by Domics, my current favourite youtuber, but unlike him, I can’t make animated video, thus, only the story. :)

Drifted to Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan

I spent my first weekend of 2018 in Taiwan with my mom. Since it was our very first girls trip, I didn’t plan a lot of things so we could chill and relax and not to rush on to anything, but I still wanted to make it special so after seeking advice from my local Taiwanese friend, he recommended to go to Sun-Moon Lake as a side trip. Out of 5 days in Taipei, it won’t hurt to get away from the city for a day.

And it turned out to be the highlight of our Taiwan trip, at least for me. I’ve always loved nature and Sun Moon lake didn’t disappoint.

There are a lot of tour agency that offer day trip package from Taichung, it involves transportation from and to Taichung HSR station, biking, getting into cable car and boat riding in the Sun Moon Lake; and lunch! We paid S$80 per person for this one day tour and our tour guide was so fun! This price is excluded return high speed train from Taipei.

The rock that caused people to quarrel because they wanted to take photos in front of it.

But if you want to arrange a DIY trip, it’s very doable. Of course the first step is to take a train from Taipei to Taichung and then take public bus from Taichung Station to Sun Moon Lake visitor centre. From the visitor centre, there are a lot of options; you can rent a bike, walk around or rent a motorbike!

Me and my mom cycling around the lake

My first of many lakes in 2018 -I wish!

There are also a lot of hotels and inns around the lake; after all it’s one of Taiwan’s beloved nature attraction; there were so many tourists from all around the world, and all around Taiwan.

I enjoyed our time biking around the lake in the morning, it was BEAUTIFUL! Oh I really wish I could go back without the tour so I could just hang around in the lake, watching seabirds and cranes! Both Sun Lake and Moon Lake form a huge lake, probably need 3-4 hours to totally bike around it; which I hope to do one day with Bandi. :)

Unfortunately the rain started to pour after lunch, so we hopped on to the boat when it was raining. We didn’t see much from the boat. It was also very foggy when we took the cable car.

So, if you’re bored hanging around in Taipei and look for an easy day trip, go for Sun Moon Lake, it’s worth the trip!

Cheers,

May, so excited about 2018

Fateful days

The year has come to an end and it’s inevitable not to look back to 2017 and start reminiscing all the good things happened in my life, praising myself for the things I’ve done right and accepting the mistakes I’ve made, each I could learn something from.

I made new friends, gone to new places, worked at Facebook, fell in love with tea (yes I’m serious), learned how to drive a car, and accepting flaws of life.

About giving second chance

First impression is important, I agree on that; however, you could miss out on something incredible if you never give second chances. I’ve been to Viet Nam four times; the first time I came was on 2012 (if I’m not wrong), I tried Bun Cha and I hated it. Since then, whenever I went to Viet Nam, I’ve never had Bun Cha. On the Christmas week, Bandi and I went to Hanoi for our friend’s wedding, we had 2 days extra to just chill in Hanoi. Hanoi during winter is the best! That’s what I call a perfect weather.

I gave Bun Cha a second chance and boy did I not regret it! This was not the Bun Cha I remembered. I figured that maybe the first time I ate Bun Cha, I ate it wrong.

This made me realize that giving a second chance is indeed not a bad idea. :)

About Coco and why humans cry

If you haven’t watched Coco, please do, and if you don’t like spoilers, skip this part. I cried in the theatre during… um, I think almost the entire movie when I watched Coco for the first time. I was so drawn into the movie, I got so emotional the whole movie. The second time I watched, though, I cried twice (yes I watched Coco twice in the movie theatre because Bandi wanted to); first, the scene when Miguel closed his eyes, played his guitar while watching De La Cruz on the TV in his hideaway. That scene touched me so much, I cried. Second, of course the famous  Miguel and Mama Coco scene at the end where they sang ‘Remember Me’ together.

I then had an epiphany of why humans cry. We cry not because we’re sad, crying indeed is an action of love. Miguel loves music so much, it too touches me and I cried. I realised I cry watching movies about passion for something, when you love to do something so much, you become so passionate about it, you’d cry!

We cry because we love someone too much. When you lose someone you love, you cry non stop. But you cry not because of the death, you cry because you love that person but you can’t tell them, because you no longer can hug and kiss that person physically.

Obviously we cry because we get emotional, I know sometimes we cry because we’re angry. But, nobody could make you angry unless you let them, and I personally will only be angry to people I love. I wouldn’t be angry to a stranger, that’s a waste of time.

So, why should we be embarrassed when we cry? Crying is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of love. Sometimes when I’m alone, I think about Bandi, and everything he’s done for me, and I’d cry, just because I get emotional, and it soothes me, because I know I love someone this much. Loving is indeed the greatest action in our life.

About acceptance

On our second day of 2018, Bandi and I received a bad news that’s affecting our life very seriously (I won’t tell what it is coz it’s very personal for us-so please don’t ask); so to be honest, we started this year with tears.

It’s not easy to accept something we resent, and we would question the universe and why bad things happen to us. But, instead of being angry, we chose to accept it. We’ve been through a lot together; and we’re gonna get through this too, just like we always did.

No matter what happens, as long as we both have each other, we’ll be fine.

And someday… maybe, we live long enough to understand the reason why this happened. :)

Cheers,

May, having faith.

Exploring Himachal Pradesh: Our toughest trip yet.

It was about 4 years ago when I saw an ads at the back of some airline’s seats, it was a picture of a dreamy winter wonderland, called Himachal Pradesh, situated in the north India, just at the foot of the Himalayan mountains.

You know sometimes we see a beautiful place in a picture and decided to put in in out list? This is one of those moments.

Bandi and I spared 2 weeks to explore Himachal Pradesh, the longest trip we have this year! We initially planned to fly in to New Delhi, but the price was just ridiculous; so thankfully we have our beloved Scoot, which offers flights to Amritsar for only $300 return! Off we went!

Himachal Pradesh is unquestionably beautiful, with snowy mountains surrounding you, everything was magical there. But, this trip is exhausting, it will drain you like no other trip! Oxygen level was thinner, roads are tough (I’m talking about car sick, like serious car sick), and if you go during winter, weather can be harsh. Bandi and I crown this trip as our toughest trip yet. It’s not about the temperature degree per se, we’ve been to sub-zero places before but this gotta be the harshest because most of Indian houses were not built for winter, it was cold in and out of the house.

If you decided to go, let’s talk about some planning. I chose to talk about technical part of the trip because I reaaaaally think it’s the most important part for this one. Well, not so many people know Himachal Pradesh and want to go there. Even when I was planning for it, I couldn’t find a decent amount of blog posts about it, most of the tourists are local tourists so very limited source of ideas from a foreigner perspective.

i) Plan your route and budget

Your first priority should be your route, so you can book hotels/airbnb and then look for driver. Since I planned to spend time in New Delhi and Agra the first 2 days in India, my route is from New Delhi and back to Amritsar. So here’s my route:

New Delhi to Kalka – by Train (2,380 rupees / 4 hours)

Kalka to Shimla – by heritage Train, The Himalayan Queen (520 rupees / 5 hours)

Shimla to Manali – by car (we started to hire driver at our last day in Shimla) (7 hours)

Manali to Dharamsala – by car (7 hours)

Dharamsala to Dalhousie – by car (4 hours)

Dalhousie to Amrtisar – by car (4 hours) (Total cost for 9 days booking a driver and car is 16,000 rupees)

Once you have your route fixed, book your driver (I book it from here, they’re very helpful and the service is good. Email address is: himachaltaxitours@gmail.com) and book your accommodation.

I did a lot of research on our drivers, compared quotation prices and asked my Indian friend to call them asking about the company; and I didn’t regret my decision making. Another point to highlight is to get a local Himachal drivers who knows their way to drive in Himachal (t’s a different world out there) and this company is based in Shimla.

ii) Hire a driver

Himachal Pradesh is hilly region, and the only way you can explore from one town to the other is by car. But remember this, no matter how good your driving skill is, DO NOT SELF DRIVE. Just book a driver + car, it’s not worth the risk and the energy; the region is a totally different world for a driver, even if you’re used to driving in mountainous area, in India, people drive like they’re inside Fast and Furious movie all the time. Indian drivers are crazy awesome, man!

Bandi and I love to do road trips, we mostly drive anywhere we go if possible, and this time we skip it because of advices from locals. Now that we have gone there, we are giving the same advice.

iii) Apply a visa

One of the annoying about holding third-world passport is getting visa to go almost everywhere, including India. To give you contacts, Indonesian used to have a visa-on-arrival scheme, but not anymore. :(

Please be patience with the visa website because it will crash a couple of times, and after talking with friends who went to India with visa as well, this happened to them too. And oh boy, did they ask you soooo many questions, including your grandpa’s name. I hope you do remember your granpa and give him a call today! :D

You can click here to apply for India visa.

iv) Pre-purchase Indian Sim Card in your home country

I don’t know if this option is available in all countries, but I know this is available in Singapore. At first we didn’t understand why Changi airport offered this, why don’t we just but it in India? It’s gonna be cheaper, isn’t it?

It turns out, you can’t just buy a sim card in India. We got rejected so many times because they needed local guarantor to sign up for a sim card. Of all the countries we have travelled to, this is the first time we couldn’t get a sim card. In India, everything is based on relationship, this is indeed true.

The other option is to buy it in Airport, however again, we couldn’t get the sim card because the seller told us it’s sold out. Really?

v) Understanding India

If this is your first time going to India, I suggest to read up some cultural information about India so you won’t do something funny there. Cows are sacred, don’t ask for a beef burger in their McDonalds, that would be ridiculous. Minimize PDA (public display affection), tipping anybody that serves you; these are some of the key points that I remember. Just be as mindful and respectful as possible. Bandi told me India is the one country where he felt the most un-describeable energy. You’ll understand when you’re there. India is indeed magical.

If you still have some questions about your planning, you may leave a comment below of message me via facebook. I hope I can help. :)

And now, here are some interesting points from our trip that hopefully can give you ideas:

  • India is now joining Bandi and May’s list of “Country where we never had bad food at”; following Thailand and Japan. We love spices and India didn’t fail us on spicing up our palette, we were looking forward for every meal, whether it’s street food or buffet in the hotel, every meal is delicious! We had the best home cooked meal during our airbnb stay in Dalhousie and Bandi couldn’t help but finishing everything!
  • Indian people put Masala on all food and drinks; seriously you name it. They put Masala on hash brown, sausage, french fries, Lays, tea, coffee, candy, everything! So if you don’t like spices, probably a bad idea to visit India.
  • People are generally nice. I know there are a lot of bad media about traveling to India, but we’ve met a lot of good people and people asked to take pictures with us just because we look different; which I found innocently funny at first (but more irritated with the stares.) Keep your scepticism whenever you travel, but be open with kindness. We’ve troubled a lot of people during our runaway to Banikhet and we were so grateful to meet good people.
  • Animals are even nicer! This is the thing I love the most about India!!! I looooovveeee animals, and in India, you find them EVERYWHERE. Dogs, monkeys, cows, horses, donkeys, yaks, sheeps, they’re roaming around the street; and the best we’ve ever encountered is… wait for it… ELEPHANT! Yes, a f***ing elephant walking in the busy road of New Delhi. I’m serious. People will just nonchalantly avoiding the animals but everyone and everything are living together in harmony.
  • I’m disappointed that the real romance in India doesn’t involve dancing and singing in the rain. Growing up watching dancing scene of Sharukh Khan, I thought people in India literally dance on the road when they’re in love. But not even once we witness this in our 2 weeks life in India, not even one flashmob.
  • The only negative part: India is filthy and messy; and this is coming from an Indonesian. And it’s not “organized messy” like in Hanoi, it’s chaotic messy! It’s messy and filthy. You won’t know the real filth til you see slums in India. We passed by slums in the outskirt of Agra and they have tough life, seriously. Rubbish are everywhere; even in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, you still see piles of rubbish. I had to google about waste management problem in India because it really bothered me, and can you believe most of big cities in India had up to 2000% of waste increase in the last 15 years and the infrastructure couldn’t catch up with that. The good thing is: we never receive plastic bag in India. Starting this year it has been banned (at least in the north?) and we only received either paper bags or cloth bags.
  • I need to highlight Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal is REMARKABLE. I seriously thought it’s gonna be overrated, but holy cow… it’s one magnificent well-thought building full of details!!!IMG_8860
  • Shimla has one of the best sunset view in the world. Hands down.IMG_7363
  • Dharamshala is a must visit, learn about Dalai Lama’s flee from Tibet, it’s very intriguing! #freetibet
  • Amritsar is just 45 minutes away from Lahore, Pakistan. If you intended to visit Amritsar, might as well as apply for Pakistani visa and visit Lahore. We regret we didn’t plan it well and have visa beforehand, otherwise it would be another amazing experience. You’re welcome.
  • And since you’re in Amritsar, you would want to visit the Golden Temple, it’s the pilgrimage place for Sikhsm. To be honest, I didn’t even know about Sikhsm at all until I came to visit and it was very interesting. They are welcoming people to understand their religion, you can see how people travel so far to visit he holy tree and to bathe in the holy water.IMG_7703

Like always, I hope my travel post can inspire you to… GO. :)

I know traveling is not always fun, sometimes we suffer during our trip, but everything is part of the experiences, part of learning, part of growing up to be a better and wiser person.

Cheers,

May, coming back stronger.