Wonder La

Wonderla-Amusement-Park-Kerala

After researching the local area, I discovered that there is an amusement park called ‘Wonder La’ in Kerala. I hadn’t seen much in the way of swimming pools or beaches so far on the trip, and thought it would be nice to check out some of the water-rides, and then spend the afternoon relaxing pool side.

The drive was long and hot, but fortunately after 20 minutes or so, the driver put on the stereo, and we listened to ‘Radio Mango‘ for about an hour, listening to some lively Hindi tunes.

I was in two minds whether to buy the normal ticket, or a Fastrack entry, which was double the price at 1160 Rupees (£12). When we arrived, the place was already heaving with coach loads of school children, so we decided on the Fastrack option.

At first, it seemed that we were the oldest people there, and we were for the most part, but eventually some older guests arrived, and of course parents were also in tow.

It wasn’t like the sort of water-park you’d get back in Europe. There was no area for sunbeds, and everyone was wearing clothes to go into the water, and the children were going into the pools wearing their school uniforms.

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We headed for some of the water-slides. It was still quite early and the queues weren’t too long. Over the course of the day we had a go on around 10 rides in total. We had lunch at one of the food courts, but not a cup of coffee, or a freshly cooked donut in sight – something I always enjoy at water-parks in Europe.

The Fastrack ticket in the end was a godsend. Very few people had them, and we jumped straight to the front of the queue, which in some places was a 30 minute wait. I felt a little guilty, jumping straight to the front, and the huge crowds of people waiting for their turn would cheer and taunt us every step of the way, as we waited to get down the chute. I had a go on the rubber rings, and right at the start I toppled over, much to the amusement of onlookers. As I went over I heard the crowd roar, and then I got stuck at the top of the slide – which was a little embarrassing.

So without an opportunity to sit and dry out in the sun, and nowhere really to relax, all that was left to do was head for the wave pool. By now the place was pretty busy, and looked a little intimidating with approximately 400 people in the water, I’m guessing. Throughout the whole day people would approach us and say hello and shake our hands, and the wave pool was no exception. It was men only and the woman had their own wave pool across the way.

Once we’d managed our way through the crowds of people, splashing and having a thoroughly good time, we made it to the deep end, which was still pretty full of people. Once the waves started coming, everyone went crazy, shouting and hollering, it was total carnage – I imagined, this is what it’s like Sunday morning on the Ganges.

Throughout the day we only briefly saw another couple of European’s, the rest of the time, it was just the two of us. I suppose it’s about as close to celebrity I’ll ever get, with people wanting to say hello and shake hands.

It was a fun and tiring day, and probably the most exciting experience I’ll ever have with my clothes on.

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Exploring Fort Cochin

fort-kochi-nhh-map

From day one, I was keen to go and explore the local area on foot. I decided to keep it easy and follow the main curvature north of the Island. I checked my map, and the Indo-Portuguese museum was just around the corner, so I thought I’d see if there was anything of interest.

On my search, I strolled down a small back-alley heading towards what looked like a few interesting shops. There was a music store selling all kinds of instruments. I told the guy I wasn’t going to be buying anything but he said “OK come in, its free to look”. It was a small place that reminded me of the shop in New Delhi where The Beatles visited, and bought their sitars in the 1966.

This place wasn’t nearly as grand, but it was an interesting little music market. The guy really wanted me to buy something, and continued to showcase me lots of instruments/toys, as I was trying to head for the door. To be honest, I was tempted to buy one of them. It was a one string instrument called an Ektara, but I already had my Ukulele with me, and I’d hardly played that since I left the UK. He also showed me a Tumbi which was pretty cool.

Further on, in my quest for some culture, I saw a small clothes store that seemed to sell predominately female clothing. I asked the ladies outside if they “only sell garments for woman?” They said no, and beckoned me inside. I spoke to a young guy and told him I was looking for something similar to what I was wearing, which was a typical white Middle Eastern shirt.

I found a suitable blue top but it was long sleeve. He told me that it was “No problem, we can fix it in 10 minutes”. After a rudimentary measure of my existing top, I said OK. I’d been looking for a comfortable pair of trousers, but I don’t like the hippy-look that a lot of travellers adopt – on their journey to find themselves – such as ‘Castaway‘ beards etc. But they did look comfy, so I asked if he’d do me a discount for the pair – he only knocked off 50p but I didn’t mind, and paid £9 for both items.

When it comes to haggling in India or Thailand, I really don’t bother too much on clothing, when it only costs £4-5, but I do try and get a discount for multiple items. When I’m looking to buy clothing that is £20 or more, then I’ll try and haggle a little, and try to get at least 30% off. Someone recently told me that if in doubt; always start by halving the initial price offered, especially for taxis and Tuk Tuks, which is not a bad way to go.

I discovered a little book shop and had a quick browse. I bought a couple of books on India and Fort Cochin. A woman came in and spoke to the lady behind the counter. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but from her reaction, and how I read the situation (no pun intended), she cracked a joke and said something like, “Still ripping off the tourists I see, Geeta?” I could see some of the books were second-hand, but she was selling them for the price they had on the back, though they may just have been dirty – but then everything is dusty in India.

Feeling hungry, I wandered over to a large hotel and restaurant. I suppose they cater for a more Western pallet in hotels, but I always found the food to be much better quality and taste much nicer. I ordered one of my favourites, a Half Tandoori Chicken, two Naan breads and a bowl of Cucumber Raita. It was absolutely fantastic, and washed down with a couple of decent cups of black coffee – I was absolutely stuffed, which made a nice change from my usual small curry and a chapatti.

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My expedition took me down a road less travelled, and soon, I stopped being harassed by Tuk Tuk drivers and other tourism vendors, which lead me to believe I was leaving the tourist zone. I carried on for a while looking around when I found a 300 year old Mosque. I saw a garden area with what looked like graves. I asked a man that was standing next to me what the place was, and it was indeed a cemetery. I asked him if he knew somebody buried there and he replied yes. Not wishing to pry further, I didn’t ask him for anymore details. As we stood by the side of the road, it was a rather solemn 2 minutes, staring at the final resting place of a hundred or so lives that have since past.

Muslim graveyard

I reached a bridge, and then a main road to the right. I figured this was my best bet at finding my way back, but I decided to carry on into the abyss. I walked for another 25 minutes, talking to people in shops and taking photos. I was harassed by a couple of school kids, asking for money, but nothing too untoward.

I finally found another right turn and figured it was time to change direction. I had pretty good bearings and a tourist map in my pocket, so I was fairly confident I was heading the right way. Sure enough, after 20 minutes or so, I found a restaurant that I recognised and knew my way from there.

I had been out exploring the town for about 5 hours, and it was the first time I got the chance to do what I normally do, when travelling alone, which is to explore the local area, single handed and without compromise – going wherever the wind took me.

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In the nick of time

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer

4 Visa’s in the bag and we’re ready to go. Phew, I was beginning to wonder whether I was ever gonna get it all sorted in time!

I recently acquired some ‘Lonely Planet’ books for India, Beijing, Japan and Vietnam. Boy, am I glad I did – it just goes to show no matter how experienced you think you are, there’s always a chance for error.

For instance, though I’ve driven cars in Thailand before, I only just learnt that in order to hire a car in Asia, I need an International Driving Permit (IDP) – unbeknown to me, I have driven many times in the past, sometimes from Northern Thailand to the South, without ever getting an IDP – oh well, no harm done, you live and learn.

To be honest, Vietnam seemed such a distant possibility, it never occurred to me to arrange a Visa before I left, seeing as the standard time to apply for Visa’s in the UK is 3 months prior to your journey. This limitation has left me struggling to get some of my paperwork in order.

In early September I arranged a short trip to Turkey, and was reluctant to send my passport off for any Visa applications, until I returned, just in case I did not get my passport back in time. This meant I only had 8 weeks (not the usual 12) to get all my applications completed.

Apart from jumping through some initial hoops, my China Visa was fairly straightforward and took just over a week. Since my first trip to mainland China in 2009, the process has changed a little. Now all Visas’ for China have to be completed through a 3rd party organisation, increasing the cost three-fold. My first Visa 5 years ago cost me £30, but now they have risen to £85.

My India Visa was rejected, and was send back. This was because I did not include the proper ‘India Visa Photos’, that are slightly larger than normal passport pictures. This meant I had to resend my application, slowing my progress even further. Again, what was once a £30 Visa from the Indian Embassy is now closer to £90 through 3rd party ‘Visa Centres’. I tell ya, it makes me wish I was going for longer than just a week!

My Thai Visa was also rejected, due to my sending it to the wrong place. As of January 2014, the management at the Thai Embassy in London decided that they are the only people who can issue Visa’s for Thailand, but neglected to point this out on the website…or maybe they didn’t! I simply downloaded the ‘Visa Package’ from the site and followed the instructions. I then sent it off to the Thai Consulate  (not the Embassy), setting me back a couple of extra days. Fortunately with a week to spare, I received my Visa for Thailand, my Passport, and my IDP arrived too.

I don’t know why all countries can’t simply implement the E-Visa system like Australia and Turkey, where Visa’s can be applied for online. As it turns out, my Vietnam Visa was the easiest to complete. I filled out the online form in just a few minutes – which was lucky considering it was just an afterthought, and I would not have had enough time to apply in the conventional manner.

In hindsight the good thing about E-Visas is that you don’t need to apply for them before you leave your home country.

So hopefully that’s it, I have been working tirelessly for weeks now and I can’t think of anything else to do, so with a bit of luck, we are all set to go, 1 week from today. We are all booked up until the New Year, and all travel arrangements have been made, from hotels to airport pick-ups…but I just know something’s gonna go tits-up.

If you would like to follow my blog, you can sign up here to receive emails when I post something new. For more info see my earlier post ‘Buckle up, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride‘.

Buckle up, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!

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Hi, Welcome to my Wingin’ it adventures!

This is my blog about my upcoming travels. Over the coming years, I plan on some major touring of the planet, and hope you will join me on my quest.

I shall be writing about my adventures through my travelogues, and about the things I learn along the way. I hope that some of my traveller tales will encourage you to pack your suitcase and visit some of these places too.

Preparations for my latest journey to South East Asia are under way and I expect to start posting more on this very soon. There are many ways that you can join me on my adventures. The easiest way is to simply visit the homepage of My Wingin’ it Adventures and follow this blog in the sidebar to the right of the screen.

Other ways to follow me include:

The Concept

The basic idea being there is no set plan – I just turn up and see what happens. This is not strictly true for this first trip however as I am reasonably familiar with some of Asia already. There will be a general direction of travel but there won’t be any strict itinerary.

This year I am heading to Pattaya in Thailand to seek out some work opportunities, and as a writer, I am keen on keeping a log of the trip through my travelogue posts.

Travel Videos

 

I will be adding the best photos and short clips to the Raffstravels Instagram page every step of the way, so check it out for an up to the minute account of where I am and how things are panning out.

I love to cook and learn new recipes from around the globe, so I will be keeping a look out for some new tasty treats for the recipes blog on Mr Writer Speaks.

I have recently put together My Travel Bucket List that I fully intend to achieve over the next few years. Some are relatively small things, but entail a fantastic journey to fulfil them. Which, of course, I shall be writing about every step of the way.

So that’s about it for now, but there’s a lot more to come including travel tips and other travel related articles. So I hope you will join me on my upcoming adventures, and I look forward to hearing some of your feedback.

All the best.

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