Month Fifty Seven of Digital Nomad Life was my last month of travel for a while, and I made the most of it.
I spent the first three weeks of the month in India, and they were incredible, exhausting, enlightening weeks. Very India.
The month began in Varanasi, where we spent half a day waiting for the fog to clear so we could fly to Delhi. We were finally able to fly, then once we landed we took an Uber to Agra because we had missed our train.
Unfortunately we timed our two nights in Agra to coincide with Trump’s visit to the city – we travel half way around the world and we still can’t get away from the guy. Luckily we were still able to visit all the sites we wanted to, but it meant getting up at 5am to go to the Taj because it was closed from 10.30am for Trump’s visit.
I didn’t much like Agra but I loved the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and the Baby Taj. I felt much the same way about our next stop Jaipur – I really enjoyed Amer Palace, Jaigarh Fort, Nahargarh Fort and the Hawa Mahal, but I didn’t love the increased amount of hassles we got there.
From Jaipur we traveled to Pushkar, and we loved our time in this relaxed lakeside hippie hamlet. Our time there was about recovery and relaxation, and we felt recharged after our four days there.
We had another chilled spot on our itinerary next: Udaipur. Over our five days in the White City we visited the City Palace, took a boat trip, visited an animal sanctuary, and did a day trip to Chittorgarh Fort.
Rather than take a train or bus to Jodhpur, our next stop, we hired a private car and driver so we could stop at Kumbalgarh Fort and the Ranakpur Jain Temple – which were both very impressive.
We had three nights in Jodhpur which coincided with Holi, and what a place to celebrate! Our short time there was wonderful. I loved exploring the history of the grand Mehrangah Fort too.
Our last stop in India before flying back to Delhi was in Jaisalmer, home to a hilltop fort where people still live within its walls. I loved the winding alleyways of the golden sandstone fort, and the friendly people that live there.
It was our last day in Jaisalmer that shit really started hitting the fan in regards to the coronavirus, and we found out that Nepal had closed its borders, just two days before we were due to fly there. I decided to go to New Zealand for a month or so at the spur of the moment, and Toby booked a flight back to Colorado.
My flight to New Zealand had me spending 15 hours in Hong Kong so I decided that if I had to spend 15 hours there then I might as well spend a few days longer, as I would have to quarantine for two weeks once I got back to New Zealand anyway.
I ended up spending seven nights in Hong Kong, as once I got there, I felt very safe and was able to do some exploring and dumpling eating as they weren’t in lockdown. Everyone was wearing masks and it was quieter in the streets than it usually would be but otherwise it was business as usual at that point.
Even though it was surreal to be in Hong Kong during the time of coronavirus, and it rained almost every day I was there, I still really enjoyed my time in Hong Kong.
I was able to try lots of different dumpling and egg waffle places, explore different districts, take the Peak Tram and do some hiking up there, catch the Star Ferry, visit temples, watch the nightly light show, and walk along the waterfront in different parts of the city. I can’t wait to go back once things are back to normal to see and experience more – especially the hiking.
My last night of the month saw me on a flight to New Zealand, where I arrived on the first day of month fifty eight.
Now onto the stats.
Countries Visited: India, China (Hong Kong)
- India: Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur, Pushkar, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Ranakpur, Kumbalgarh, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer
- China: Hong Kong
National Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Agra Fort and Taj Mahal in Agra, Jaipur – UNESCO World Heritage city, Hill Forts of Rajasthan (Chittorgarh, Kumbalgarh, Amer, Jaisalmer)
Islands Visited: Jagmandir Island in Udaipur; Hong Kong Island, Tsing Yi Island and Lantau Island in Hong Kong.
Best Meals: Falafal kebab from Ganga Falafal Wallah in Pushkar; Porridge from Heaven from Honey and Spice in Pushkar; Chicken stuffed with paneer and cashews on carrot rice from Savage Garden in Udaipur; Margherita pizza from 1st Gate in Jaisalmer; Chicken Xiao Long Bao from Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong; Chocolate chip egg waffle from Mammy’s Pancake in Hong Kong; Lava pizza with burrata, olives and cherry tomatoes from Pizza Express in Hong Kong; Egg tarts and sugar puffs from Tai Cheong Bakery in Hong Kong; Steamed prawn dumplings with chives from Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong.
Worst Meals: KFC Zinger burger – really bad quality chicken; Maharaja Chicken Mac from McDonalds – also crap chicken and I think it gave me mild food poisoning; Kachori, probably the only Indian street food that I really didn’t like. That’ll teach me to eat fast food.
Best Craft Beer: The Plum Ale I had at Little Creatures Brewery in Hong Kong. SO nice to have craft beer again!
- Victoria Peak Loop in Hong Kong 3.5km/2.2 miles
Not a lot of hiking this month but I spent hours walking around cities, all over forts, palaces, and along waterfronts.
Watching: Gilmore Girls (re-watching from the beginning), Parasite (so good!)
Seeing the Taj Mahal for the First Time
Seeing the Taj Mahal in person for the first time was like when I first saw the Grand Canyon, or Machu Picchu – it felt like I was in a dream. The Taj is crowded, but it doesn’t take away the allure of the place. And I am so pleased that we got to see it at sunrise, because watching the sky change around it was just damn magical.
One of the upsides of Trump’s visit was that there were pots of beautiful flowers everywhere, and they had recently repainted fencings and railings, and washed the outside of parts of the Taj so it was a lot cleaner and neater than it would usually be.
All the Forts in Rajasthan
I was so incredibly impressed by the hill forts of Rajasthan – it is no wonder that they are a UNESCO site! I have never seen so many spellbinding forts before in my life, and I never got bored even after seeing so many.
It would be impossible to say which was my favorite, but I had highlights of each fort that I got to see in Rajasthan. I loved the secret covered walkway and the courtyard full of langurs (a type of monkey) at Jaigarh Fort, the epic views around sunset from Nahargarh Fort, the Tower of Victory and Gaumukh Reservoir at Chittorgarh Fort, walking the wide walls of Kumbalgarh Fort with no one else around, learning about the history of the Maharajas of Mehrangah Fort, and experiencing life in the winding alleyways of Jaisalmer Fort.
Unwinding and Shopping in Chilled out Pushkar
Pushkar was just what I needed after our fast-paced and sickness-tinged time in Jaipur and Agra. This chilled out town is a pilgrimage site for Hindus and Sikhs, and is very popular with hippie types. The whole town is dry (although you can find alcohol if you really want it), and vegetarian, with no eggs to be seen either.
There are lots of great restaurants offering nourishing and healthy food, and we took advantage of them, along with our favorite juice bar where we had incredible fresh juices every day.
I did a traditional Ayurvedic oil treatment – where hot oil is continuously poured onto your forehead, we visited some of the temples, and every evening we walked around the lake, watching the sunset and ceremonies that are performed nightly – we even participated in a Hindu ceremony with a friendly Indian family that we met and it is one of my favorite memories from India.
The shopping in Pushkar is great too, and I bought a couple of pairs of silver gemstone earrings, a beautiful silver gemstone ring, a long skirt, and Toby got his Mum a beautiful pashmina.
And we loved our hostel – we stayed at The Hosteller right in town, and befriended the Manager there. Pushkar was one of our favorite stops in India and we will hopefully return one day.
Exploring City Palace in Udaipur
Udaipur was one of my other favorite towns in India that we visited, and my favorite place in Udaipur was the stunning City Palace. I am generally not as interested in the palaces of India as much as I am in the forts, but the City Palace was an exception. There is still so much beauty there, with intricately carved and painted rooms, beautiful views and interesting collections of art and photos.
Don’t miss it if you go to Udaipur!
Sunset from Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel in Udaipur
Another Udaipur highlight was watching the sunset from the Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel – a luxury hotel right on the lake in Udaipur. The two sunsets that I watched from there, while sipping on some of the only beers I drunk during the whole time I was in India, were the best of my whole time in the country.
If I ever win the lotto, I would love to stay there some time too.
Celebrating Holi in Jodhpur
What to say about Holi? It’s hard to explain it, other than it was like nothing I have ever experienced before, and that it is the best festival I have ever been to. I feel so much gratitude that we were able to experience this before the shit really hit the fan with the coronavirus, and that we experienced it the Blue City of Jodhpur, because the narrow roads of the old town were the perfect setting for it.
On the evening of the 9th March, there were bonfires lit all over the city, and quite a lot of the colored powder that Holi is famous for thrown by revellers in the streets. People chanted, and danced, and spread their colors – the experience was electric.
But the big celebration was the next morning, when the real color spreading began. After doing some dancing and celebrating with the hosts of our guesthouse, we walked all over town, saying happy Holi and having color spread onto our faces by locals everywhere we went, while we did the same in return. It was a day that I will never forget.
I want to write more about my experience soon, so look out for it.
Stepwells in Northern India
Along with the incredible forts in Northern India, I also loved the stepwells we came across in our travels. They are so picturesque! My favorite stepwells this month were the Panna Meena Ka Kund Stepwell in Amer and the Toorji Ka Jhalra Stepwell in Jodhpur.
Food Scene in Hong Kong
I absolutely loved eating out in Hong Kong, it is a true foodie city – even for a fussy, budget foodie who doesn’t eat pork like me (there is a lot of pork in Hong Kong).
My main eating focus was iconic Hong Kong sweets and dumplings during my time there, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m going to write a post about all the amazing food I ate soon.
Hiking and City Lights from Victoria Peak
Taking the Peak Tram and exploring around Victoria Peak is one of the most iconic things to do in Hong Kong, and I made my way up there on one of the nicer days I had, with a little bit of sun peeking through the clouds.
After taking the tram, I walked up the winding road to the pretty Victoria Peak Garden, then hiked the short Governor’s trail and the Victoria Peak trail which loops around the peak with great views all the way around.
I had dinner and a gin and tonic at an English style pub then went to see the city lights below once it got dark. It was so beautiful and it was a perfect ending to my time on the Peak.
Visiting the Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden
I absolutely loved the impressive Chi Lin Nunnery and the perfectly manicured Nan Lian Garden in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Even on an overcast day, the beauty and peaceful atmosphere just had me spellbound.
Looking at my photos now, they don’t do these incredible places justice, and I implore anyone visiting Hong Kong to visit these two hidden gems.
Waterside Ramblings in Hong Kong
Other than eating, one of my favorite things to do in Hong Kong was to go for long walks along the waterfront. I wandered Victoria Harbor at night, loving the city lights once it got dark and the harbor light show, I enjoyed the views across the bay from the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade in Kowloon, I spent a morning walking from Central to Kennedy Town along the waterfront, and my favorite – I loved my sunny morning walk along the beautiful Tsing Yi Promenade on Tsing Yi Island.
It was so nice to be by the water again after a month in the desert in India.
Massive Flight Delay from Varanasi to Delhi
We were meant to be on an early morning flight from Varanasi to Delhi, where we would then have six hours until our afternoon train to Agra. We had planned to visit Humayun’s Tomb before catching our train.
What ended up happening is that there was thick fog in Varanasi, causing our early morning flight that we got up at 5am for being delayed by five hours, getting us to Delhi too late to catch our train. As trains book out weeks in advance in India, we didn’t want to chance traveling all the way to the station to get a later train, so we took an Uber the 3.5 hours to Agra, getting there in the evening.
Luckily getting an Uber only cost us about $45, but it was a long and stressful day of travel. And then when we arrived we were told that everything would be shut down from 10.30am the next day due to Trump visiting – even more bad news.
Badly Timed Visit to Agra
We ended up in Agra at one of the worst possible times – our one full day there coincided with Trump’s visit. I hated seeing his smug face plastered on signs all over the place, and because of security measures associated with his visit, we were stuck in our hostel from 10.30am on our only full day there. Luckily the hostel we stayed at has a cinema area and we watched The Darjeeling Limited so it wasn’t all bad.
On the positive side, we visited the Taj Mahal for sunrise and it was magical, and we got to visit the Baby Taj and Agra Fort the next day before our afternoon train.
Mild Food Poisoning
We were lucky we didn’t end up getting really sick in India like so many people do, but even so – mild food poisoning and upset stomachs suck too. When we were in Agra and Jaipur we had it the worst, both of us had diarrhoea and stomach cramps, and we just felt miserable.
Our time in Pushkar eating healthy food and drinking fresh juices every day luckily got us back to full health again and we didn’t have any major issues after that.
Hassles in India
As much as I enjoyed India, by the end of our month there I was so over being constantly hassled to buy something. It really grates on you to be constantly harassed after a while.
One of the things I loved about Sri Lanka was that people would ask where you are from, have a conversation with you, then walk away – they were just being curious and friendly. Only about 30% of the time they were trying to sell you something.
In India it was about 80% of the time that they were trying to sell you something, so I became jaded whenever a local stopped to talk to us – waiting for the other shoe to drop. I hated feeling that way.
Coronavirus Stress and Travel Changes
Well, I am sure this would be on everyone’s list of lowlights for the month. Although the coronavirus was starting to spread around the world, we really didn’t think it would effect us until Nepal closed its borders on the 13th March, two days before we were due to fly there.
I was heartbroken that I wouldn’t get to go to a country that I have been wanting to visit for years, and to hike in the Himalayas, but it will still be there once the pandemic is contained.
I did get to stop-over in Hong Kong on the way back to New Zealand and I feel very lucky that it all worked out and that I am now safe back in New Zealand. But I definitely didn’t fully grasp the reality of the situation when I booked my ticket back, because it’s got so much worse since then. Now I realise that I will be here for a lot longer than planned, away from my husband.
I feel very guilty about that, that he is the country that has been the hardest hit by the virus while I am in one of the safest countries in the world right now. I miss him and I hope I can go back soon, but everything is just up in the air at the moment. And it is just damn scary.
Missing out on the Big Buddha
Because of the bad weather in Hong Kong, I ended up saving my visit to the giant Tian Tan Buddha until my last day in the city – the only fully sunny day I had there in a week.
Unfortunately when I got there, they were only letting people book tickets online, so I had to go and find WiFi to do it, and when I finally found the right page to book, the next ticket was for over an hour later.
It would have only given me about a half hour at the Buddha, as it took a while in the cable car to get up there, before having to get back to grab my bags and get to the airport so I ended up having to give it a miss. Next time!
Bad Weather in Hong Kong
Visiting Hong Kong in March turned out to not be a good decision weather wise, as it was cloudy or rainy for seven out of the eight days I had there. I had plans to hike the Dragon’s Back, visit the Tian Tan Buddha, and maybe visit Lamma Island but in the end I didn’t do any of these.
I still loved my time there but on my next visit I am looking forward to seeing more of the natural side of Hong Kong, hopefully in the sunshine.
I spent a lot this month, mostly because I treated myself in Hong Kong, staying at a luxury hotel for one of my nights there and spending a lot eating out. We also had a couple of costs for Casper the van come up as Toby got back to the US – a new battery as the old one was dead after not starting the van for five months, and van insurance for three months.
My paid accommodation this month consisted of fourteen nights in private rooms in hostels in Agra, Pushkar, Udaipur and Jaisalmer; three nights in a hotel in Jaipur; three nights in a guesthouse in Jodhpur; one night at a luxury hotel in Hong Kong; six nights at a mini hotel in Hong Kong.
For the rest of the month, I spent two nights on planes – one night between Delhi and Hong Kong, and one night between Hong Kong and Auckland, New Zealand.
Food and Drink $587
A lot higher than last month, and the reason for this is because Hong Kong was pretty expensive and I treated myself a lot during my week there because I knew I was going to be going into lockdown as soon as I flew back to New Zealand.
- Long skirt $4
- White tunic for Holi $5
- Flight from Varanasi to Delhi $43
- Train from Delhi to Agra $12.50
- Taxi to Varanasi Airport $5.50
- Uber from Delhi to Agra $23.50
- Rickshaws in India $18
- Train Agra to Jaipur $14
- Local Uber trips and taxis in India $6
- Train Jaipur to Ajmer (for Pushkar) $11
- Train Ajmer to Udaipur $29.50
- Private car day tour Udaipur to Jodhpur $25.50
- Bus from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer $4
- Flight from Jaisalmer to Delhi $76
- MTR Subway in Hong Kong $50
- Peak Tram in Hong Kong $6.50
I don’t include International Flights in my spending recaps
- Taj Mahal Entrance fee incl Mausoleum $16.50
- Agra Fort Entrance fee $8
- Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah (Baby Taj) Entrance fee $3.50
- Hawa Mahal in Jaipur Entrance fee $2.50
- Nahargarh Fort Entrance fee $2.50
- Amer Palace Entrance fee $6.50
- Jaigarh Fort Entrance fee and transport $4
- Shirodhara Oil Head Treatment $15.50
- City Palace in Udaipur Entrance fee $4
- Bagor Ki Haveli Entrance fee $1.50
- Ayurvedic Full Body Massage $17
- Day Trip to Chittorgarh Fort – Transport and Entrance fee $23.50
- Boat cruise in Udaipur to Jagmandir Island $7
- Ranakpur Jain Temple Entrance fee $4
- Kumbalgarh Fort Entrance fee $4
- Mehrangah Fort Entrance fee $8
- Jain Temples in Jaisalmer $2.50
- Kuldhara Ghost Town Transport and Entrance fee $6.50
- Toiletries $22.50
- Phone $22
- Laundry $4.50
- Travel Medical Insurance $37
- Charity and tips $6
- Hulu $6
- Patreon $5
- Kindle Unlimited $11
- Gifts $75.50
- Silver earrings and ring $16.50
- Colors for Holi $2.50
- Delay taxes $12.50 (my half)
- Hong Kong Lonely Planet PDF Guide $9
- Gemstone bracelet $10.50
- Hong Kong waving cat $4.50
- Cotton Face mask $3
Website Costs $26
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
- One Year of Website Domain Renewal $14
Van Costs $156
- Three months of Van Insurance $72
- New battery $84 (my half)
What’s in Store for Next Month
Well, the next month will be a pretty boring one – I will be on lockdown at my brother’s apartment in Auckland for the whole month.
I was going to have to self-isolate for two weeks as I was returning from overseas, but then the whole country went into lock down only three days after I arrived back, for four weeks minimum.
It’s a crazy time, but I will be doing everything I can to stay positive. We are still allowed out to exercise while maintaining distance from other people so I intend on doing different walking routes around Auckland City, as well as working on this blog, writing content I have been meaning to for a long time, doing client work as luckily I still have clients – for now at least, watching lots of Netflix, reading lots of books, and catching up with friends and family by phone.
I imagine it is going to be a challenging month, but it isn’t forever, and it’s necessary.
To read additional Monthly Round ups, you can find them here