Change of Plans #1

A lot of our family and friends knew we were supposed to head to Nepal after Hong Kong. The Shuklas and Manish and his mother were supposed to visit Mt. Kailash and Lake Mansarovar in Tibet region. For those who don’t know, the Mountain and Lake are very significant to the Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. We had booked a 13 days onland journey from Kathmandu.

We are almost packed and ready to set on our journey, despite the recent devastating earthquake but about 2 to 3 weeks before our departure, our tour agency informed us that there are some issues. Apparently the Chinese Govt had restrictions providing permits to the region, especially to Indians passport holders. We assume these restrictions were likely to be due to the chaos caused by the recent earthquake.

The tour agency informed us of alternate Helicopter routes for Aussies (Manish and his mother) but those would cost more and the dates interfered with our India tour plans. We decided to postpone the trip for next year, though it is certain that Manish and I wouldn’t be able to visit as we are likely to be in the other part of the world.

The next big question was – what do we do for those 13 days now! The family discussed various options such as:

Visit Nepal nevertheless

Our flight tickets were booked so we could still visit Nepal. We did some research and while there were still places to see, the monsoon is at it’s peak in August so we decided to skip Nepal.

Visit Indonesia (Bali / Lombok)

As I am an Indian Passport holder, we had to look at places that provide Visa On Arrival for Indians or no visas required at all. Though some of the options looked appealing, Manish and I decided to skip Indonesia as Bali is relatively close to Australia and we could visit it anytime later too.

Visit Ladakh in India

When we were planning India and places to visit, we decided to skip Ladakh. As we were supposed to travel to Mt. Kailash, we assumed the mountains and landscape would be similar. Additionally, getting to Ladakh from Delhi isn’t too tough so we could visit it in future with friends. But now as Nepal wasn’t happening, we had the option to go to the mountains in India. We looked at getting to Ladakh and quickly realised that the onland journey would be tough because the northern region has monsoons as well. The roads will be wet and there is always a possibilty of landslide. We then looked at option to fly to highest point we could but that isn’t advised as we could easily get altitude sickness. So, this option was out too!

Scuba Diving

My brother, Suyash, suggested scuba diving instead. This was a great opportunity for Manish and Suyash to get their Open Water Diving License. And, as I already hold Advance Open Water Diving License, I got excited very quickly. We started looking at places we could go for diving in August and Indonesia and eastern Sri Lanka were the best options. After doing some initial research, we collectively agreed to head to Sri Lanka.

So, this post comes to you from Nelavali Beach in east Sri Lanka. The boys are out in the sea, doing their confinded water exercise and I relax under cool shade of low coconut tree on this clear skies day, enjoying the breeze and watching and hearing the waves. Life is good, I must say :)

Nilaveli Beach

Btw, we have to applied to our insurance company, Southern Cross, to claim the costs of our flight tickets to and from Kathmandu. We are hoping they settle the bill. We will keep you posted of the outcome.

4 Days in Hong Kong

This post comes to you from the KLIA2 departures hall. We arrived in Kuala Lumpur after spending 4 days in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong

We arrived in Hong Kong on the 12th August and took a cab from the airport to Shruti’s Uncle’s place who offered us to stay with them during our time in Hong Kong. The Geography of Hong Kong amazed us. It is a series of islands with amazing hills connected by tunnels and bridges.

Geography of Hong Kong

Tip: Look up public transport to get to your location. The city is very well connected with trains, buses, mini buses and ferries. Download the HK Transport app and use the free WiFi spots around the city. Get yourself Octopus Card (initial payment of $150 required, $50 is deposit) which works across all public transport and also in grocery / small eatery stores, such as 7-11, Gong Cha, etc. Remember to return your card at the Airport MTR station to get your deposit and value on card back.

We didn’t know this earlier but we had landed in the rainy season of Hong Kong. There was warm drizzle which occasionally got heavy. During our entire stay, the island had low lying clouds that made the city even more beautiful though the humidity was high.

Day 1

Our first day out in Hong Kong was in the Central area of Hong Kong. Once we got off the bus, we tried to find The Peak Tram so we could get to The Peak. Though we could get there by bus or taxi, the tram is much recommended for the experience!

helpful local in Hong KongWe were kind of lost until a delivery man (in the pic) told us to follow him. We had to communicate with him by pointing to a picture of ‘peak tram’ and he pointed us in the direction of the tram station. He saved us at least a half hour of walking.

Tip: Always ask a local :) They may not be able to communicate well but will definitely try to help. We asked for directions and local food suggestions from locals quite a few times.

Enjoying The Peak at Hong Kong Being a cloudy day, we did not encounter lot of tourists at the Victoria Peak. There was hardly a queue and we got on the first tram. Victoria Peak is Hong Kong’s biggest tourist attraction and though it was misty, we were not disappointed. The temperature was comparably low (~26°C) and so was the humidity. Although only part of the Hong Kong skyline was visible occasionally, it didn’t affect our enthusiasm as we were literally in the cloud! I am sure the the view would be even more beautiful on a sunny day though.

Aberdeen Street, Hong KongAfter this, we walked from the tram station across the suburbs of Shuen Wan with its antique shops, Lan Kwai Fong (LKF) with its bars and Causeway Bay with its high-end shopping. We walked up the very steep hill of Hong Kong, along the Aberdeen Street. We visited a local temple called Man Mo Temple as well.

Day 2

On day 2 we visited the Lantau Island, home to the Po Lin monastery and Big Buddha. We took a train from Central to Tung Chung for the cable car to Lantau Island. As it happened, there was a thunderstorm warning and we had to take a bus to the Island. It took us around 40 minutes on the bus and we were mesmerised by the beauty along the way.

Once there, we first saw the Ngong Ping village which was a mock Chinese village with souvenir shops and restaurants from all over the world. It was very touristy but enjoyable nonetheless. As the clouds were constantly drifting, wWisdom Path, Lantau Island, Hong Konge decided to do a little walk along the Wisdom Path and visit the monastery later. The path itself was beautiful with mist through the greenery and deserted houses and shops. Although the visibility was low, we got a couple of good shots.

We then headed to the monastery which also serves strict vegetarian food. The interiors of the monastery were beautiful and the food was very tasty and cheap! We did overeat a bit ;)

Big Bhudha, Lantau Island, Hong KongBy this stage, the Big Buddha was visible clearly and we decided to walk up the stairs. It was an atrocious task to do after heavy lunch! We somehow managed it and the view of the Buddha, the valley below and the bay ahead was gorgeous despite the weather.

Following this, we took the cable car (must try, even if just one way) down the hill and caught a bus to the Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei. The area is famous for its markets, namely the Ladies market and Temple St market. These markets basically sell everything under the sun! The weather turned bad at this stage and we walked undercover through the markets and took a train to Tsim Sha Sui area for the Hong Kong skyline. Hong Kong SkylineWe happened to get there just in time for the light and sound show which takes place between 2000 to 2200 on Fridays and weekends (if I am not wrong). Hong Skyline itself was beautiful but the show was quite touristy and boring. We later did a quick walk along Avenue of Stars and took a photo of Bruce Lee :)  We rushed home to meet Uncle, Aunty and their 3 boys who had returned from a long flight from the other side of the world. We stayed up with them till late just chatting away.

Day 3

StanleyOn day 3 our plan was to go to Lamma Island and do some trekking but there were thunderstorm warning and it would be impossible in the pouring rain. Therefore, we took a bus down to Stanley area and chilled there till late. Stanley was a quiet fishing village until it was taken over by expats in Hong Kong. Now, it is a mix of the local fishing community, expats and tourists. The bus from the South of the Island dropped us to Aberdeen and we decided to walk to Uncle’s home.

Day 4

Our final day in Hong Kong, We again went to the Central area. We had left a few ‘Hong Kong’ things the first day and we decided to finish them off. We rode the mid level escalator from top to bottom of the hill which was a unique experience.

Tip: The escalators function in one direction only. They usually run downwards from 0600 to 1000 and then upwards for remaining day.

Next, we went to Yum Cha and quickly googled Cantonese numbers so we would know when our table number was called out. The food was amazing, and relatively cheap, though Shruti has trouble getting vegetarian food. A quick Star Ferry across the Victoria Harbour and we visited the Hong Kong Museum of History. The museum provided us with an insight of the story of Hong Kong, its past as fishing villages of Guangzhou province to being ceded to the British in the Opium Wars and finally becoming a huge financial centre and merging with China.


Finally, we took a bus home, packed and said our goodbyes to Uncle, Aunty and the boys. On the way to the airport, we decided to change buses instead of taking the Airport Express train. And, we did keep our fingers crossed for our baggage weight as we were flying with a budget airline.

We had dinner with Shruti’s family friend and later boarded our flight to KL. That was it for our first destination – 4 days in Hong Kong!

In Summary

Highlights – Victoria Peak, Central and Causeway area, LKF for bars and night out, Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Sui and Lantau Island.
If you are keen to shop, I’ll recommend you to carry an empty suitcase and filling it up there. Also, brush up your bargaining skills ;)

Transportation – Hong Kong has a immaculate transportation system. Buses / mini buses are available to most places and trains are also fast and cheap.

Weather – August may not be the best month as it is monsoon season. However, it wasn’t so much of an issue for most people here. In our 4 days here, it only rained heavily once.

Cost – HKD 100 would be enough for a decent breakfast and lunch from local eatery while for dinner you would probably spend around HKD 300. Alcohol is available in convenient stores and most dinner places are BYO – you just need to carry the receipt for the alcohol. Otherwise, you would be paying around HKD 50 – 70 for a drink as average.
For transport, we spent about HKD 175 for 4 days, so that should give you a bit of a gauge.

Recommendations – Qi – House of Sichuan, Tim Ho Wan at IFC Mall Airport Express level, Po Lin Monastery

Final Thoughts

We had an amazing time in Hong Kong. It is a beautiful city with a great culture and character. The geography is straight out of Kung Fu Panda and you don’t have to go very long from concrete jungle to misty trails. The food and alcohol are not the cheapest but transportation, environment and activities make up for it.

Hong Kong Gallery

Bye bye Australia

We were at the airport yesterday to drop mum off and we decided to leave our bags in the Smartecarte lockers at the carpark. It costed us $14 but we didn’t have to worry about making our way to the airport in the morning. Take note, these guys also have outlets at the airport, but the self lockers are cheaper. We jumped on the train and had a pretty relaxed train ride to airport. Overall, economical and stress free.

Dropping off our bags was quick – very quick! We didn’t even get a chance to take a pic! We also changed some cash.

Tip: post immigration there is only Travelex Currency Exchange around. They charge a flat fee of $12 and the rates they offer are sort of reasonable.

Anyway, we are now grabbing a quick small bite before our boarding to Hong Kong.

PS – the international airport is under renovation so the food options are really limited at the moment.

Planning World Trip

For a year we have spent lots of time browsing tons of sites for planning world trip. Sometimes we found what we were looking for, while other times we had wasted our time. There were times when we found found ourselves coming back to some really useful sites and I thought it great to share them with you.

Flight Tickets

Round The World:;

Individual Tickets:


Places & Activities;;;





Choosing the right backpack

Out of all the research for the trip, choosing the right backpack was the hardest. We spent a few months reading blogs, visiting shops and browsing ebay and gumtree for the right backpack.

It may seem a bit of an overkill, but for such a long trip, we had to find a bag that was the right size, comfortable, durable and within our budget. Finding all the criteria in one bag proved as hard as a needle in a haystack. In the end, we found that choosing your backpack for the trip is like buying a house. You have to feel that it is right for you!

First of all, most of the blogs we read advised that a ‘travel’ backpack is distinct to a ‘trekking’ backpack. The first obvious difference between the two is that they open differently. A travel backpack opens from the front while the trekking backpack opens from the top. The latter is not comfortable for travel as you would have to pull everything out of the trekking backpack at every destination. This helped us narrow down our search a little.

As with many people in Australia, our next stop was Kathmandu. Kathmandu has a great range of adventure products including travel and trekking which was perfect for us. However, going to Kathmandu made us even more confused than we were before. Backpacks are designed to be filled by litres in volume. Looking at a 70L bag, we couldn’t possibly imagine putting everything we need for a year.

In addition, the prices ranged between $200 and up to $600 for the big trekking bags. We decided to go back to more research and set a budget. We read blogs about travel bags, flying with bags and walking with backpacks. At the end, we decided on a few things bout the bag:

  • The volume must not be more than 60L
  • Our budget for the bag would be $200
  • The bag must have a separate section for winter gear/shoes
  • We will try to buy a second-hand bag if possible
  • We stick to one of the known brands for backpacks, such as Osprey, Deuter, Caribee etc

Unfortunately, though we searched online, we couldn’t buy from the net as we wanted the bag to ‘feel’ right. With the guidelines above, we visited most camping and trekking stores in the area. On a particular Sunday, we visited the Anaconda store in Lidcombe and decided to try a few bags. Anaconda had Deuter, Caribee, Black Wolf and its own brand, Denali.

The great thing about Anaconda is that it had both weights and cushions for the backpacks. We ended up staying in Anaconda for around 4 hours, trying many bags and getting as much information from the staff as possible. Shruti was able to pick her bag and we decided to search ebay and gumtree for it.

On the other hand, things weren’t so easy for me. I couldn’t decide what the adequate size of the bag would be for me. While I had decided on a couple of bags, I couldn’t get them at the right price or the right size. After much thought, I decided to visit Anaconda again and picked a brand new bag which was 50L, around $200, comfortable and had a separate section for our winter clothes.

Meanwhile, Shruti found her bag on ebay in Melbourne. We bought it and had a friend send it over to us (Thanks Aaron!). A quick wash later, the bag was ready to go. Finally, here are our tips for backpack shopping:

  • Think about the kind of trip you are having and the amount of walking you will be doing
  • Try to put in cushions and weights in the bag to test it out
  • Try to get the bag second-hand as many people buy backpacks for short journeys with little wear and tear
  • Read experiences of people with backpacks around the world

Our bags:


Don’t buy a light colour backpack, it will get all sorts of stains. Especially if you check in your bags, the luggage handlers and conveyor belts will ruin it. Shruti has already washed her light blue bag 3 times in the last 6 months.