To Cochin (Kerala, India)

I bought a bus ticket from Pondicherry to Cochin from a travel agency. It was a sleeper night bus. It left at 10pm and I slept almost all the way since I was very tired from all the traveling. I woke up around 6AM and saw churches every few minutes. Well, I must admit that I don’t usually read about the place before I went. I did not know that Christianity is big in this area. All churches I saw were beautifuly built just like this one I captured on the way.



As expected, it got busier when we arrived Cochin. The travel time was at least 10 hours. The bus doesn’t go to Fort Kochi where my booked guesthouse is so I had to take a rickshaw. The driver initially wanted 300 INR because it’s more than 10km but I was able to negotiate it to 220 INR. It took us 30 minutes exactly. He was nice so I got a photo with him which he liked. 🙂



I arrived Rampart Homestay around 9AM. The staff was helpful and very accommodating. I got to check in right away. The place was clean and had a very homey vibe. I was in a 6-bed dorm and it was spacious enough. 

After I freshend up, I walked around and I’d say Fort Kochi is one of the laid back places I’ve been.







Pondicherry (Tamil Nadu, India)

Before I left my friend’s house, his mom and dad packed lunch for me which was so sweet.



I took a 3-hour bus ride from Chennai to Pondicherry.



From Pondicherry bus station, I walked approximately 1.5km to get to my hotel Pleasant Inn where I had a not so pleasant stay. 

The next morning, I took the full day city tour by Puducherry Tourism Development Corporation. It only costs 300 IRs per person. 

Below is the itinerary. 



Most of the places we went, taking pictures was not allowed. I did like the house boat though and the main reason I did the tour…to see the outer view of Matrimandir in Auroville. 





We also stopped in a Christian Church which was beautiful. 





The next day, I just spent time along the bay since my bus to Kerala was not until 10pm.











Pondicherry is beautiful and definitely worth a visit for a day or two.  

Yelagiri Hills (Tamil Nadu, India)

My friend Krishna is part of the Book Lovers Program for Schools. It just happened that he had some work to do in Ebenezer School on Yelagiri Hills so I went with him along with his colleague, Sudarsan. 



It took us about 5 hours to get to Yelagiri Hills. The road going up the hill was very narrow. I was amazed how the houses, schools and hotels were built. 

I was going to get a hostel since I am not part of this program but luckily the people from the school allowed me to stay inside the school. I stayed in the girl’s dorm while my buddies stayed in the boy’s dormitory. 
Our meals were provided. All the students get together in the dining hall and get served. 


As they do their job the next day, I kept myself busy chatting with the students and taking pictures with them in a sneaky way because they said the teachers will scold them if they get caught. 





I learned that the teachers here can easily hit students as a way to discipline them. I’ve seen it and it was not very nice scene at all. 

Anyhow, I enjoyed this trip. As we were heading back to Chennai, there was this beautiful sunset. 🙂



I finally made it to India! :-)

I’ve been wanting to visit India since 2012. I made a list of top 3 countries to visit this 2015 and India is on the top. Why? Because I love Indian food, I have few Indian friends and I think India is one of the most diverse country in this world which I’ve been wanting to see. A lot of people told me that India is a dangerous country specially for a woman like me but hey, danger is everywhere! Let’s not judge a country or its countrymen because of media or just because of one or two bad stories you heard. 😉

As a Filipino citizen, we are only eligible for visa on arrival in Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Trivandrum, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Kochi airports. I was backpacking Thailand and the cheapest flight I found from Bangkok is to Chennai. A one way ticket costs around US $120 through AirAsia of course. I did not book an outward ticket because I plan to cross the border to Nepal by bus. On the 2nd of February, I applied for my visa online https://indianvisaonline.gov.in. I just had to fill out information and paid US $60 fee. It says wait for 72 hours to process but the next day I got a confirmation that I’ve been granted a visa which made me very happy.

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My flight was last night, February 16th. I was so anxious and excited about this trip. The flight did not arrive Chennai until after 10PM. The immigration guy asked for my outward ticket which I did not have but he let me through anyway and just told me to have an outward ticket next time I come to India. So yes, I finally got a stamp on my passport from India! 🙂

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I booked a room at Royal Green Accommodation for $20 per night. They offer free airport pick up. This place definitely exceeded my expectation. The staff was polite and very attentive. The room was clean and spacious. It has TV with English channels.

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They also offer free traditional South Indian breakfast so I had Idli for my first breakfast in India.

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Krishna, is a theater actor from Chennai. He contacted me through Couchsurfing then we met in the Philippines in November 2014 when he was there for a dance festival. I contacted him the day before I flew to Chennai so we met on my first day in India. He came to pick me up in my hotel which is about 12km from his home.

On our way, I saw how many cows are on the road which is weird to me but seem pretty normal here.

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I’ve never been this fascinated on my backpacking days! Seeing a lot of Indian people wearing traditional outfit is just compelling.

I wanted to have Indian food on banana leaf which I had as my first lunch in India.

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He took me to his work place (The Little Theater) and had a glimpse of what he’s doing. I got to meet his co-workers, not to mention their director, Krishnakumar Balasubramanian.

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We then went to see Kapaleeshwarar Temple.

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Then we watched sunset at Elliot’s Beach.

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I invited myself (LOL!) for a dinner at his house because I always want to experience the local life. Thankfully, he agreed and so did his parents.

I had chapati for my first dinner in India. Nothing tastes better than a home cooked food!

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Krishna has a lovely family. I, of course got along with his parents and sister. Oh, yeah I bought Kurta near the temple. I wanted to have Indian outfit and thought this family dinner is the best time to wear it for the first time. 😉

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It has been an exciting, fun first day in Chennai. I am definitely looking forward to see other parts of India. 🙂

Visited a beach for the first time…

Since I started backpacking Southeast Asia, I always skip beaches or where the main attraction is water. My reason was always the fact that I’ve seen enough beautiful beaches where I came from; The Philippines.

My Thai friend, Nitty wanted me to see Ko Samet in Rayong so I came here after I visited Khao Yai. I took a bus from Pak Chong to Bangkok for 3 hours then another 3 hours van to Rayong. The pier is 20km from Rayong Bus Terminal so I took a songthaew. The boat ride to the island was 45 minutes. There were a lot of hotels right after I got out of the pier but they are not near the beach. I was surprised how expensive hotels/guesthouses are. I kept walking until I saw Tok’s Little Hut, a nice beach front bungalow costs 1500 baht and that doesn’t include breakfast. I just had to stay here!

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I woke up at 5:40AM to see the sunrise but it was still dark. I was alone in the shore. I got to watch the moon and the stars while listening to the ocean waves.

The sun did not show up until after 7AM. Sunrise is beautiful as usual.

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I walked around and sat on the huge stones. A Chinese girl asked me to take a picture of her then she took mine. 🙂

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I got a henna tattoo. 🙂

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I spent the rest of my morning at Tok’s Bar and Restaurant in front of the beach enjoying the feel of the breeze all over my body.

I haven’t been in the beach in a while and this is certainly a very nice little vacation from my backpacking life.

Khao Yai Garden Lodge (Thailand)

I called Khao Yai Garden Lodge in the last minute. Literally before me and my friend got on the bus from Korat. Fortunately, they have available room. They offer free pick up from Pak Chong. I called them again when we arrived Pak Chong and just after 20 minutes wait, their truck arrived.

I did not expect their location to be along the main road and beside a gas station where there is 7 Eleven. I always prefer a place with a nearby convenience store so this is a plus for me.

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I immediately liked this place right when we got off the truck. We were welcomed with drinks and smiling staff.

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We got the backpacker’s room for 350 baht per night. Simple and small but they provide toiletries, towels and water. We have a shared bathroom which was not bad. It is spacious and clean.

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They have a relaxing swimming pool and the garden is just beautiful.

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The restaurant in the hotel offers variety of food. We ate here during our stay. Almost all the staff is friendly and can speak and understand english.

We availed their tours and it was pretty awesome. You can read here: https://iamryshel.com/2015/02/12/khao-yai-national-park-tour-thailand/

Below are their room rates and contact information.

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They also offer free transportation back to Pak Chong at 9:30AM and 1PM. We left in the morning and the staff bid us good bye.

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I highly recommend this place to people visiting Khao Yai National Park.

Khao Yai National Park Tour (Thailand)

I availed the half day bat cave tour and the full day jungle tour for 1600 baht through Khao Yai Garden Lodge.

I did the bat cave tour on my first day in Khao Yai. The lodge’s truck was full. We had Tuk as our tour guide. We left at 3PM and just after 10mins drive we arrived in our first stop, the natural spring water. We were only given 30mins. Just enough to change clothes, get wet and take picture.

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We then saw two buddhist temples. One inside a cave where we saw some bats.

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The second was on a hill.

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We then headed to the highlight of our bat cave tour, to see the bats swarm just before dark. They said there are millions but there is no way to prove that. There was definitely a lot of bats though.

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Seeing them come out of this hill which is their cave was just nice.

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And of course, there was this beautiful sunset.

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The next morning, we left at 8AM for the full day jungle tour. Bonsai was our tour guide here. Our first stop was this view point.

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We then headed to the visitor’s center for toilet and to buy some drinks or snacks. We saw couple of deers here.

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Now, it’s time for the 3 hour trek in the jungle.

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I’m sure everyone was hoping to see some interesting creatures here. We only saw hornbill and gibbons swinging in the trees though. And of course, monkeys along the way.

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We went up to the watch tower on our way back to the truck. The view was just beautiful after that 3 hours trek.

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We went back to the visitor’s center for lunch. We had fried noodles and fruits.

Next stop is the first waterfall.

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Then the big waterfall which was a few kilometers drive from the first waterfall.

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We were given an hour. It takes at least 20mins to get to the waterfall and there were a little bit challenging stairs.

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On our way out, a tour guide suddenly asked us to hurry up because there was an elephant. I ran! Luckily, I was able to snap a picture of this male elephant just before he stepped inside the forest.

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I’ve seen elephants before. In the zoo or some tourist place for elephant riding. Seeing an elephant walking slowly on the road and getting into the forest was just unique.

That’s the end of the tour. It was tiring. It was fun. 1600 baht was definitely worth it.

Volunteering Makes Traveling More Meaningful

I have been wanting to volunteer as an English teacher since I started backpacking in Southeast Asia. I taught some university students when I was in Vietnam but not in an actual school. Here you can read my experience about that: https://iamryshel.com/2014/07/28/talking-with-the-tourists-group/

Almost all the ads I found online about volunteering requires you to pay certain amount of money which I can’t afford. I met an American girl in Vietnam who went there from her one month volunteering in Cambodia. She told me about helpx.net. Helpx means Help Exchange. Hosts provide either accommodation or food or sometimes both in exchange of you working for free. I paid 20 Euros for two years membership so I can contact hosts.

Nitty’s post first caught my attention so I contacted her. I have been in touch with Nitty since October 2014 but there was a conflict with our schedules so I couldn’t volunteer that time. I continued backpacking and came back to Thailand so I contacted her again. Thankfully, she was able to accommodate me for a week.

She picked me up from Nang Rong bus station on Sunday, February 1st. They have a lovely house in a quiet location. I had this cute room for a week.

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Nitty has a wonderful, lovely family from her mom and dad to her husband and their cat.

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I was lucky to be part of her birthday celebration so we had a not-so-big family dinner at their house. 🙂

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Unfortunately, I could only stay a week because I did not really plan this well. A week maybe short but long enough to be memorable though.

I got to meet all the students in Bantepphattana School. From Kindergarten 1 to Mattayom 3 which are 7 to 15 years old.

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I enjoyed every seconds of my one hour session per class within one week. The participation of the students were amazing. I liked them all but I specially liked the energy and willingness to learn of those in Pratom 3 (9yrsold) and Pratom 2 (8yrsold).

I haven’t taught in an actual school before so yeah this was my first. No practice. No preparation. I just did it and it was incredible.

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My last day in the school was emotional which I did not expect. There will always be one or two people who will touch your heart in a strange land. This is surely an experience I will never forget.

Before I left Nitty’s house, she made sure to make my stay more memorable.

She took me to her uncle’s longan farm.

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She took me to the temple to make merit.

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Nitty and her husband took me to a nice, relaxing seafood dinner.

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And the Asparagus farm of her brother!

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They had to go to The Mall in Korat where I planned to go so I went with them and they made sure I get to my guesthouse safely.

What a wonderful 7 days at Nitty’s place in Buriram Province! This opportunity I was given is definitely a remarkable one.

I wish I was able to stay longer. The end was heartbreaking but at the same time my heart is happy because I know I somehow made a difference to other people’s lives.

Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Thailand

I initially went to Pak Chong from Bangkok but there was almost nothing there. Although, I liked the surrounding because I only saw 4 tourists there. I went passed a market to check the schedule of the van to Korat the next day. The locals in the market were very willing to help me to find the station (a very small station) even though they had a hard time communicating in English.

I went to the station of the van the next day around 8:15AM. The fare was 60 baht. I got dropped off in front of the famous The Mall around 9:30AM. I walked to find my target hostel which is Sansabai House with the help of my awesome CityMaps2Go app. I got a very nice room for 450 baht per night.

After I checked in, I walked back to The Mall just to check it out. They have this beautiful man-made waterfall upfront.

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I then went to Safe One night market as suggested by my Thai friend Nitty.

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The next day, I took a bus to Phimai to check the Phimai Historical Park. The fare was 70 baht and it took about 2 hours. They said and apparently this is a Kmer (Cambodian) Temple.

The entrance fee was 100 baht. All stones but beautiful. Worth checking out when it Korat.

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Ayutthaya, Thailand

I am back in Thailand again. Bryna and I first met in Penang, Malaysia. We are both in Thailand so we decided to share a room together near Khao San Road. We availed Ayutthaya Tour by Olavi Travel Tour Agency for 500 Baht each. It is shared with a whole bunch of people, more or less 20 people.

We were picked up by 7:45am when it should have been 6:55am (Asia time). It took about 1 1/2 hours. We visited 6 temples total. Here are some photos.

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It was too hot. We had to wait for other people all the time. We got back around 4pm.

It was hard for me the appreciate everything after seeing Myanmar (Burma). I was still glad I did it though.