SURFING IN SOUTH AFRICA: WAX UP AND HIT THE WATER!

South Africa
Since our first surfing experience last summer, we are constantly looking for every opportunity to jump on the board. You have probably heard about awesome waves of California, but there’s one destination which is more unique, unexplored and…well, cooler.

Everyone, welcome to South Africa – a place you SHOULD visit for your next surf season!

saints 1 Surfing In South Africa: Wax Up And Hit The Water!

Image courtesy of surftripsouthafrica.co.za

The best place to surf in South Africa is the Eastern coast (the Indian Ocean).  High season for surfing in South Africa is from April till August. Even though winter surfing sounds cold, it’s not – both air and water are quite warm (around 20° C).

A perfect match of geography and climate makes South African coastline a dreamland for any surfer.

WHERE TO SURF?

There is a number of great surfing spots and here’s a shortlist of where we would go:

It’s a great spot with a number of shore and point breaks, the most famous of which is ‘Seals’ (nearby the lighthouse), known for an easy jump into the line-up. Great for long-boarders!

Video cortesy of: Trapsixfilms

Admired for its supertubes, it’s a great spot for professionals and surf photographers. Since supertubes are usually busy on the good days, this place is also known for local surf xenophobia. Surf Trips South Africa offers a good solution to this problem: a surfing ‘Point’ a few hundred meters down, which is good as well and easier to ride for the beginners (namely Illia and Nastia).

7680671154 f90d506003 b Surfing In South Africa: Wax Up And Hit The Water!

Since there are only 600 locals here, this spot seems to be a perfect place to avoid crowds and spend your time surfing instead of arguing with other dudes on whose wave it was. It’s just 90km away from Nelson Mandela’s homestead, so you’ll have something to do in addition to surfing.

coffee bay Surfing In South Africa: Wax Up And Hit The Water!

Suitable only for kamikaze-style surfing. 5-10m swell breaks over a shallow reef on the sea-side of Hout Bay during winter months, and can be accessed only by water craft. Surprisingly, bodysurfing exists here as well, so definitely go there just to watch this deadly show.dungeons South Africa surf 1 Surfing In South Africa: Wax Up And Hit The Water!

 

HOW TO GET THERE?

As almost everywhere in Africa the best option is to book a tour which will include transportation, accommodation, surfing lessons and so on. A quick Internet search shows that you can book 12 Days surf trip just for $1440 (as offered by Surf Trips South Africa) which seems to be a very reasonable price in comparison to Asia and especially Europe.

Otherwise, you can travel on your own, which seems to be a little bit more complicated. Depending on where you want to start your journey, you can travel either from Cape Town (closer to Dungeons and Jeffrey’s Bay) or from Durban (closer to Coffee Bay). Then you can either hire a car (which doesn’t seem to be a budget option) or take a bus (we didn’t manage to find information about all spots, but it looks like it’s totally possible to reach such popular destinations as Jeffrey’s Bay by regular bus).

Anyway, it’s always better to make your own calculations prior to any trip, but we think a booked surf trip seems to be the best option.

WHERE TO STAY?

There is a variety of accommodation options in this part of the world: hotels, beach cottages, flats, lodges, chalets, etc. We managed to find the cheapest for just $10 per night, so it shouldn’t be a big problem.

But again, the easiest way is to book a hotel through a surf tour.

HOW TO ENTERTAIN YOURSELF?

Even though it’s obvious that surfing will be a highlight of your trip, there is also a number of other things you could do:

–       try bungee jumping

–       visit Nelson Mandela’s homestead

–       see Xhosa people

xhosa women on path between coffee bay and hole in the wall Surfing In South Africa: Wax Up And Hit The Water!

And, of course, enjoy long beach walks and sightseeing in Cape Town!

Is South Africa your kind of destination? Have you already tried surfing there? Share your experiences / expectations with us!

ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS (INDIA)

So far the Andaman Islands have been the most remote place we’ve ever been too. They were the true embodiment of famous “palm’n’beach” Google pictures with bright blue waters and hammocks hanging here and there. Apparently it’s not that hard to get to these unbelievably beautiful spots of land in the Indian Ocean and we’re going to tell you how.

What the hell are Andaman and Nicobar Islands?

Andaman 1

That’s a group of islands situated in the Andaman Sea (the Eastern Indian Ocean), which are technically the part of India, but in fact are much closer to Myanmar and Thailand.

After India became independent, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands became the part of it. Thus, nowadays all Andaman Islands are inhabited by Indians (who got free houses and land after the resettlement, btw), whereas the Nicobar Islands are populated by various tribes who managed to survive all troubles the history had brought them. Visits to the latter are strictly prohibited, so don’t even dream that you’ll be able to see half-naked African women swimming in the sea one day…

Where to go and how to get there?

Ferry

A ferry to Havelock…cheap…plenty of Indians…:)

There is a variety of flights from different cities (we came from Chennai) in India, more in-depth info can be found here. There a The airport is situated in Port Blair, which is far from best beach spots. Thus, it’s worth taking an auto-rickshaw to the jetty point (approximately 70 Rs.=$1.2) and then choose your destination. Since it’s hard to decide where to go (there are dozens of islands), here is our shortlist:

Havelock. We think, it is the best. It has internet and telephone connection, elephants, coral reefs, the best beach in Asia (according to various international rankings), Radhanagar and some very neat accommodation.

Havelock

It takes 2 hours to get here by ferry (around 385 Rs. for government boat). We recommend to go directly from here to Beach #7 (also known as Radhanagar Beach), since it is the most beautiful one, is deep enough to swim (all other beaches are good, but the water is too shallow to swim), offers the best accommodation and restaurants, surrounded by coral reefs with tropical fishes, as well as grants you with an opportunity to meet elephants every day.

Little Andaman. It’s the most remote one (you’ll need to take an 8-hour overnight ferry from Port Blair). There is only one tuk-tuk here, no Internet and only one telephone provider. It’s very peaceful and ideal for relaxation. In addition it’s possible to surf here!

Neil Island. It is situated close to Havelock (2 hours by ferry for 285 Rs.) and doesn’t differ much.

Neil Island

Coral reefs were ruined by El Niño in 2004, so it’s bad for snorkeling. However, you can enjoy lots of fruit trees here and such a rare thing as natural bridges along the rocky shore. Accommodation is much cheaper here than anywhere.

Where to stay?

Huts

There are several types of accommodation on the islands.

  • Real hotels. …very expensive ones. They claim to be five-star, but in fact they’re just brick huts with an air con (not even a Wi-Fi),  which cost around 8000 Rs. per night.
  • Rooms in brick houses. Our choice! It is not the cheapest thing (700-1000 Rs. per night), but they have a fan and  a bathroom attached. Also, you can spend plenty of time reading a book / playing the guitar / chatting to neighbours on a porch.
  • Coconut huts…the most common option. Coconut huts can have a bathroom or the owner will offer you to use the shared one. They usually have fans, chairs, bad, hammock and a mosquito net. All this costs 500-800 Rs. per night.
  • Chicken huts. Honestly, they are suitable only for very thin and low people. Although they were very cheap (300-400 Rs. per night), we passed, since they were twice as low as we are. There is only a mattress inside and this option can be considered as acceptable only if you are using the hut just to sleep and lock your belongings there.
  • A hammock. Buy a hammock, hang it on the nearest palm and talk to the resort owner about using his bathroom (usually they agree for 50-70 Rs. per night). If you are lucky enough, you’ll also be able to find some nice guys to lock you stuff in their room. Be careful: coconuts and leaves might fall on you when you’re sleeping, so look up. Take into consideration that “hammocking” is strictly prohibited on Havelock Island, so you might meet some “friendly” cops one day.

Where to eat?

Welcome Cafe

There are three major types of restaurants here:

  • Small cafes for locals is the best option. Food is cheap and tasty, and if you are lucky enough you can find a restaurant with a European menu. We loved the Welcome Café on Central Market on Havelock Island.
  • Resort restaurants. Typical small restaurants attached to huts’ reception. Food is usually average and overpriced. We do not recommend them.
  • Restaurants in expensive hotels. Surprisingly, they are cheap. Not extremely cheap, but you can have a meal for two (with drinks and everything) just for 600 Rs. Just walk in any 5-star hotel and ask for a restaurant.

What to eat?

Fruits

All food is typical Indian, but here is our selection:

  • Grilled tiger prawns. On Andaman Islands there are no real tiger prawns, however, the prawns are huge and very tasty. Ask for a slice of lemon with them.
  • Dosa. That is a pancake made of rice powder. Extremely delicious with nutella, honey or coconut.
  • Various rolls. They serve rolls with everything: meat, fish, prawns, vegetables, etc. Interestingly, rolls are very close in taste to doner kebab.
  • Thali. Traditional Indian thali is ideal here: with yoghurt, marinated mango and dal… it makes Indian cuisine lovers thrill.
  • Fruit salads. Fruit stalls near the Havelock Beach offer a huge variety of fruit salads. Try mango and jack fruit.

How to entertain yourself?

Elephants

Snorkelingscuba diving, swimming and every activity that can be held in the transparent waters of coral reefs are at your service (prices range from 3000 to 18000 Rs.). The travel companies even offer swimming with elephants (12000 Rs.)! Andaman Islands are also paradise for fishermen; there are special tours for hunting for “sea monsters”. Every tour requires at least 5 people, so bring your friends or talk someone into joining you.

Company called “Barefoot” leads the entertainment market here, they guarantee quality, but, honestly, it is overpriced. Therefore, we recommend looking for cheaper options from small local companies.

Hiking in the tropical woods and bargaining at the market might also be quite an exotic entertainment :).

For more activities, check this page.

Internet

Internet is a huge problem on Andaman Islands. There is no mobile internet or Wi-Fi in guesthouses, so the only option is to go to the internet cafes, where you have to pay 300 Rs. per hour for a really slow internet connection. Internet is available only in Port Blair and on Havelock, as of March, 2014.

How to arrange your life?

Market

The heart of life on every Andaman island is its central market. Just go there and you’ll be able to find the cheapest places to eat, supermarkets, fruit stalls, souvenir shops and so on.

Pharmacies are also situated nearby the market, but you have to be attentive while searching for them: they are not clean white places you are accustomed to, but ordinary wooden stalls. Hospital is located in Port Blair, however there are so-called Primary Health Centers on other islands, where you can get some basic medical treatment (one girl who was severely bitten by a wild dog on Neil Island, got just a dose of penicillin, so be ready for a century-old medical approach in case something happens).

What about money?

Money exchange points are available in every bank, and in Port Blair and on Havelock there are ATMs (not sure about other islands, but probably not). They work only when Internet is working, so be patient. Make sure that the ATM you are using belongs to the State Bank of India, otherwise you’ll have to pay the service fee of 200 Rs.

Fun and essential advice

Boat

  • On arrival you get an official permit to stay on Andaman Islands, be sure not to lose or damage it (our permits tore apart after “swimming” in the sea waves and were glued together afterwards).
  • Owners of resorts will try to persuade you that they have to keep your passport and permit in their office for the duration of your stay at their place. Nevertheless, according to the law they only need a copy of your passport, don’t give them anything else!
  • Queues in front of the ferry ticket office are separated by gender: for men and for women. Those for ladies are much shorter, so make sure you choose the one for women. Indians adore sneaking without any line, and the best way to deal with this problem is to unite with other foreigners and push them back with your solidarity and elbows. Of course, you’ll feel sorry for your ruddiness and pushing afterwards, but that’s the price you have to pay for your ferry tickets (in addition to money, of course).
  • If you can’t get any ticket you need not be desperate: you can arrange things with the captain of the ferry.
  • While buying fruit salads, make sure they don’t put salt on your bananas and mangos (unless you prefer salty ones, of course).
  • Always agree on prices with drivers before using their service. The normal price on the islands is calculated as follows: 1km = 25 Rs.
  • While bicycling, watch out for dogs, they might bite your leg.
  • Near some beaches (like Beach no.7 on Havelock) you might meet sun flies. They look like ordinary black flies, but it really hurts when the sting. Apply some anti-mosquito repellant.

Did we miss anything? Don’t hesitate to add to our article, write in the comments, write us at crazzzytravel@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter / on Facebook.

Sunset

Why you have nothing to do in Dubai?

Cheap oil and numerous budget airlines made the United Arab Emirates (Dubai, in particular) one of the major crossroads for backpackers on their way to Asia. Thus, we’ve been to this country many times and we are deeply persuaded that there is absolutely nothing to do there unless your pockets are full of crispy dollars.

NO BUDGET ACCOMMODATION

The cheapest hostel we could find in Dubai is called “Youth Hostel” and it cost us $30 per night (!). Not what you are looking for when traveling cheap, huh? Most of other options are hotels, which are really expensive.

EXPENSIVE VISA

Visa costs $70-80 depending on how you get it. The price of visa on arrival can grow up to $100.

IMG 4396 Why you have nothing to do in Dubai?

One of the most expensive stamps we’ve ever seen.

NO QUALITY SIGHTSEEING

Of course, you heard about famous dancing fountains and, yes, they are beautiful. But it’s fun for about 15 minutes and what about the rest of your time? No ancient buildings, no adorable downtowns and even the historical museum, frankly speaking, is not very impressive. The tallest building of Dubai, Burj Halifa is also a highlight, but to get to the top, you have to pay $109. And there is no guarantee that there is no smog above the city (which happens to be a lot of the time) and that you’ll see something. Jumeirah mosque is worth visiting as well, moreover, it allows women to experience wearing hijab, but the only time you can enter it is 10 am and it’s really hard to get there if not by taxi.

IMG 9581 Why you have nothing to do in Dubai?

That’s what you should expect to see in the historical museum.

TRANSPORT RESTRICTIONS

Dubai has a quite developed metro system, and we appreciate it. But if you want to go anywhere else and don’t want to wait for 3 hours for a bus, you have to take a taxi, which is cheap, but not really. One day of metro + taxi travel cost us $45.

IMG 9543 Why you have nothing to do in Dubai?

We love walking, but in Dubai it’s impossible.

NOTHING GREEN ON THE PLATE

There are just a few parks in Dubai. All of them have little trees and lots of flowers and if it’s not +45 C you can have a pleasant walk there. We’ve only been to Safa park, all others were closed for Illia, as it was lady’s day and men were just not allowed to enter. Not cool.

IMG 9564 Why you have nothing to do in Dubai?

Safa park

SOMETHING GOOD: SAND AND WAVES

The desert and the Persian Gulf are the main highlights of Dubai and it’s hard to deny that the majority of people come here to go on a desert safari and swim in the transparent waters of the Persian Gulf. Personally we love the latter (even though in summer the water is around +35 C, too hot even for bathing, I guess) and we don’t care much about the former, so it’s the issue of taste.

IMG 9549 Why you have nothing to do in Dubai?

Blue water of artificial lakes in Dubai downtown

Maybe you had different experiences while traveling to Dubai? Don’t hesitate to share them with us!

Read more at http://crazzzytravel.com/

Last June we spent 2 lovely weeks in Thailand. It’s a beautiful country with a lot to offer, but at the same time, for someone who doesn’t know certain things, it may cause some annoyances and even problems.

Here’s a list of 12 things we wish we knew when going to Thailand.

1. Visa

Thai Visa
Our Thai Visa

Most nationalities can get a visa on entry at any border either for free (if you are from the EU or North America) or for 1000 Baht ($30) for the period from 15 to 30 days. Apparently it’s pretty easy and fast (appr. 30 minutes). You may find more detailed info on the official website of the Thai embassy in the UK: http://www.thaiembassyuk.org.uk/?q=node/188

Since we wanted to enter Thailand twice (to visit Cambodia and come back) and didn’t want to pay double price, we applied for a visa in the Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). Our visas were ready the next working day.

Tip: Come to the Embassy as early as possible in order to avoid waiting in a big queue.

2. Accommodation

Since we we’re not into luxury apartments, we always try to choose the cheapest & most comfortable options. While in Thailand, we changed several accommodations and were totally happy with each of them. In one of the next posts, we’ll tell you how to find your perfect place of stay.

Beach resorts (like Koh Samui or Phuket) offer a huge variety of huts, which are undoubtedly better than hostels in this case, since in addition to bed and private bathroom you get beautiful view and your own balcony (terrace). At Koh Samui we tried several accommodations, including the most popular Chaweng Beach (very crowded and noisy), and found our ideal bungalow on Lamai Beach in a place called Amadeus Bungalow. It included separate shower, free wi-fi, was clean, quiet, was located 2 minutes away from the beach, and cost us only 300 Baht ($9)/night, which was the cheapest we could find.

Amadeus Bungalow in Lamai, Koh Samui, Thailand
Bungalow we stayed at in Lamai, Koh Samui, Thailand

When hiking in mountains you will probably stay in a large bamboo hut without electricity, bathroom, beds, windows, or anything one expects to see in the house. A must try; it’s a great way to experience how locals live. In addition to comfortable bamboo mat you will get a chance to listen to frogs’ chorus and watch flashes of wandering lights – for only 100-200 Baht ($ 3-6) per night!

Thailand hut
A hut we stayed at in Karen village, in the mountains not far from Chiang Mai.

In big cities (like Bangkok) backpackers usually stay in hostels, which are generally clean, have no bedbugs, and offer kitchen access. Double room might cost you 500-1000 Baht ($ 15 – $30). Since Bangkok is quite expensive, we preferred to couchsurf.

Tip: Rooms with windows are more expensive, but they happen to be more noisy and dusty, so don’t rent them.

In small towns (like Ayutthaya or Chiang Rai) budget travellers can even stay in a hotel, which won’t cost more than 700 Baht ($21), rooms are tidy and have big windows with nice views.

Tip: You can negotiate with a hotel manager and try to rent a single room and sleep on one bed – pay less, hug more. We did that in Chiang Mai and we liked it. 🙂

3. Transport

A bus in Ayutthaya
Town of Ayutthaya. Doesn’t look like some random school bus, huh?

For short distances we highly recommend songthaew, which are basically small trucks with hedges in trunks. They are cheaper and sometimes faster than taxis. Intercity traveling is usually conducted on comfortable air con buses with large and colorful portraits of King of Thailand! Calculation of tariffs is pretty simple: 10 Baht per km.

4. Culture and religion

White Temple in Chiang Rai
White Temple in Chiang Rai or how modern architecture mixes with Buddhist traditions.

Thailand is an extremely religious country. That’s a great place to learn more about Buddhism and collect thousands of Buddha pictures.

Note: bananas and flowers, sold around the temples are for Buddha, not for you. Don’t buy them for personal use.

5. Food

Fruit stalls in Chiang Mai
Fruit stalls in Chiang Mai

Food is cheap and tasty everywhere. Personally we recommend Pad Thai and various sausages on sticks. But the best part is fruits! Dinner usually costs no more than 200-300 Baht ($6-9).

6. Shopping

Lovely pillowcases in Chiang Mai!
Lovely pillowcases in Chiang Mai!

The best place for shopping is the North of Thailand (Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai). We loved local pillowcases, clothes, jewelry, shoes and lamps. Prices vary, but are generally low, so your average shopping should cost you no more than 1000 Baht ($30).

Note: don’t forget to bargain!

7. Take off your shoes everywhere

Cute praying kids ^_^
Cute praying kids ^_^

When entering a hostel or a temple, take off your shoes (anyway, you will notice countless signs…). There are no touchable diseases on the floor, so don’t be afraid.

8. Cover your shoulders and knees while in Kings’ palaces

Soldiers of King’s army
Soldiers of King’s army: apparently, they are never cold!

The King of Thailand does not tolerate naked (or half-naked, or half-half-naked…) tourists, so you should dress appropriately: no knees, bellies and shoulders uncovered. Guards even put on gloves (it’s +30 outdoors, you know). In some museums women should also wear long skirts.

9. They have PANDAS!

“Yes, I’m a panda and I’m not moving anywhere!”
“Yes, I’m a panda and I’m not moving anywhere!”

Believe me or not, but the zoo in Chiang Mai (North of Thailand) has pandas (the only zoo in Thailand). In order to get to them you have to pay 100 Baht for general entrance and extra 100 Baht for panda entrance. But pandas are worth it, aren’t they?

10…. and elephants!

Elephant show in the mountains near Chiang Rai
Elephant show in the mountains near Chiang Rai

Thailand is the best place in the world to see domesticated elephants. Can you imagine an elephant can stand on its head? Elephant shows are available almost everywhere: near the beach resorts, in big cities and extended mountain areas.

Note: If you want to see the show for free, just quietly come with other tourists and take your sit: no one will tell the difference between you and those who paid. 😉

11. Tribes

Karen kids
Kids of a Karen tribe don’t go to school. Instead, they are taught to make colorful scarfs for tourists.

The North of Thailand (yes, we enjoyed this part of the country the most) is home to numerous tribes, such as Karen (Long Neck tribes), Lahu, Lisu and many others. They are very hospitable; sell both their own unique goods and some adorable jewelry from Burma. Be sure to buy a beautiful and unique add-on to your wardrobe – and give a helping hand for people who are poorer than you.

12. Beaches

Nastia on the Chaweng Beach!
Nastia on the Chaweng Beach!

South of Thailand has stunning beaches with coconut trees and lovely huts, just like in bounty dreams. But don’t be fooled: water is not crystal clear and sand is not unbelievably white. Every paradise has its limits. Beaches are not extremely clean and the most famous ones (like Chaweng Beach at Koh Samui) are pretty crowded. Our preference is Lamai Beach at Koh Samui: quiet, friendly and developed.

Have you been to Thailand? What was your experience?

Why Go To Sri Lanka

IMG_3534
In summer 2013 we’ve had quite a trip around countries of Asia, having visited the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. The last destination, Sri Lanka (or Ceylon, how the brits used to call it), was an absolute highlight. We were expecting bounty beaches and huts among coconut palm trees, but in fact we got much more.

Here is our list of both surprising and totally expected things we found and recommend you to explore on this magic piece of land in the Indian ocean.

1. Endless beach fish markets

IMG 2912 2 Why Go To Sri Lanka

This is Sri Lanka’s second largest fish market, located in Negombo, near the capital of Colombo. It’s huge, and it smells huge.

2. Rich history

IMG 2991 Why Go To Sri Lanka

These are the 5th century cave drawings in the town of Sigiriya. If you are after naked women, or just history, you gotta see ‘em!

3. Stunning views of mountain lakes

IMG 3420 Why Go To Sri Lanka

This is a cinematic lake in Nuwara Eliya, high-high in the mountains. By the way, the temperature was around +12C, which is a drastic change from Ceylon’s usual +30-30C…

4. Tea plantations

IMG 3456 Why Go To Sri Lanka

Tea plantations high in the mountains is a must. Fresh air, colorful tea gatherers, majestic sceneries…what’s not to love?

5. Surfin’!

IMG 3488 Why Go To Sri Lanka

For surfing, go to Arugam Bay (our favorite), or Hikkaduwa. It’s affordable, beautiful and totally safe.

6. Fishermen’ huts along the beaches

IMG 3494 Why Go To Sri Lanka

Fishermen is part of an old tradition, and it’s amazing to see how they live in the 21st century. You may find them on almost any popular Sri Lankan beach.

7. Enormous portions

IMG 3609 Why Go To Sri Lanka

This is a 3$ sandwich we got in Arugam Bay. Can you imagine?

8. Totally awesome sunrises

IMG 3624 2 Why Go To Sri Lanka

Actually, the sunrises in Sri Lanka are considered one of the most beautiful in the world. And we agree.

9. Wild elephants on the roads

IMG 3691 Why Go To Sri Lanka

…and a taxi driver will stop and encourage you to make photos! Something to show when you got back home!

Did we mention the Sri Lankan people are among the friendliest and nicest in the world? Did we say it’s also very cheap? There are tons of other reasons to go see the island, which we’d rather you explore on your own. Now, just book a soonest flight and GO GO GO!

Royal Rajasthan – A Colorful Paradise For Photographers

Rajasthan,the land of kings is the largest state in India. The magic of this place is its royalty, vibrant colorful art, culture and heritage. From the sun kissed Thar Desert to colorful cities, breathtaking palaces, exquisite handicrafts and magnificent forts delights every traveler. The state falls mostly on the in-habitable Thar desert, with valley’s of sutlej-indus bordering on the left to Pakistan

Read more