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What to pack for a long backpacking trip

If there is one thing which you should not ignore when you are planning to backpack for a long time, it is packing.

Efficient packing makes life on the road easier!
Efficient packing makes life on the road easier!

There is tons and loads of advice on what to pack and how to pack depending on where you are going and how long you are going. Here is what we packed for our trip and nearly after four months on the road, this is what we think about it –  we should have packed lighter.

Some ground rules:

  • Pack light. We cannot stress enough, you need to pack light. Believe us, running around to catch a tuk-tuk in Bangkok’s scorching hot & humid weather with your large bag is not fun.
Hitchhiking in Turkey!
Hitchhiking in Turkey!
  • Choose the right backpack. The right fit is one that offers:
    • A size appropriate for your torso length (not your overall height).
    • A comfortably snug grip on your hips.
  • Let go. Think about all the things you need, put them in front of you and discard half of them 🙂 Our home was filled with so much stuff and how could we possibly fit all of that into our bags? Here is the answer – you don’t have to.
  • Choose the right products. We bought most of our stuff in Decathlon, the French sporting goods chain store with stores located in all major cities all over the world. We got ours from Decathlon stores in Whitefield, Bangalore. It is one of our favorite places in Bangalore with a feast to the eyes for travelers and sports enthusiasts. The products here are of good quality and are affordable. In case you are wondering, no, Decathlon doesn’t pay us anything for writing about them here.
Our home is emptied into these backpacks!
Our home is emptied into these backpacks!

Most important documents  –

  • Passport with at least six months validity. Some photocopies of the same.
  • Flight tickets
  • Hotel confirmation vouchers, if booked in advance
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Forex cards/credit cards/debit cards
  • Passport size photographs(at least 10)

We carried two backpacks each.

  • We got a 60 liter backpack and think it is too big now. A 40 liter backpack seems ideal. We got a Forclaz 60 from Decathlon and are quite happy with its utility and quality. We also got a rain cover/poncho like this. Another advantage of this backpack is that it opens from the side instead of the conventional top-loading. This makes it easier to pull out things from it.
Opening from the side adds to the utility of the backpack.
Opening from the side adds to the utility of the backpack.
  • Another day pack for taking out with us when we go out. For this purpose we bought bags by Wildcraft, a Bangalore based company producing quality products. Check here.
  • Always use the backpack at least once before starting on the trip to know if it fits you well.

Vijay’s packing list:

Is this really all that we need for six months??!
Is this really all that we need for six months??!
  • 4 T-shirts (We got these dri-fit T-shirts from Decathlon which are fine after 5 months of continuous usage! Check here)
  • 1 Cotton kurta (It was torn in Mardin, Turkey. Not usable anymore)
  • 1 Pair of jeans
  • 1 Linen pants
  • 3 Shorts
  • 3 Pairs of socks (These blister-free ones are just great! Even after 6-7 km of walking on a daily basis we did not get even one blister! Check here)
  • 6 Under-wear
  • 1 Micro fiber towel (Very useful! Compact, highly absorbent, dries quickly. Check here)
  • 1 Woollen cap (3 weeks into the trip and I lost it in Istanbul,Turkey. Left in a dolmus a.k.a minibus )
  • 1 Foldable hat (lost it after 2.25 months in Plitvice national park, Croatia. It just flew off my head and fell into the valley below me)
  • 1 Regular cap (lost it after 2.5 months in Dubrovnik, Croatia. I simply forgot it somewhere!)
  • 1 Fleece (Gift from a friend)
  • Swimming gear (1 swimming shorts, 1 swimming goggles)
  • Shoes (We would recommend getting good waterproof ones for all weather conditions. Check here)
  • Sandals (A pair of good hiking sandals would be good. Check here) (Lost them on a bus from Ahvaz to Tabriz in Iran, had tied them too loosely to the bag 🙁 )
  • 1 Pair of flip flops
  • 1 Rayban Aviator sunglasses
  • 1 Swiss knife (A very versatile and useful tool. Check here. We kept it in the check-in baggage without any problems)
  • 1 Padlock (with passcode)
  • 1 Rain coat (Lost it in a bus in Vienna!Check here. Later bought a rain poncho in Ljubljana)
  • 1 Multi-purpose neck gaiter (We had bought this in Ladakh earlier. Looks like this)
  • 1 Woolen muffler
  • 1 Bed sheet
  • 1 Belt pouch (Check here. For keeping passport, money and cards. More about it below.)
  • 1 Electronic trimmer
  • 1 Dynamo torch (Check here)
  • 1 Day bag / laptop bag

Gayathri’s packing list :

Living with less! Possible?
Living with less! Possible?
  • 4 T-shirts (Similar dri-fit ones from Decathlon)
  • 1 Micro fiber towel (Same as above)
  • 1 Pair of jeans
  • 2 Cotton pants (These are the harem pants which are baggy, long pants tapered at the ankle. I found them very comfortable which made me buy 2 more during the trip. Check here just to see what I mean)
  • 3 Pairs of socks (Same as above)
  • 6 Pairs of under garments and some sanitary napkins
  • 1 Rain coat (Same as above)
  • 1 Fleece (Check here)
  • 1 Woolen pull-over
  • Swimming gear (1 short, 1 top, 1 swimming goggles)
  • Shoes (I got these from Decathlon which I substituted for both shoes and sandals. I did have problems while walking in water and during rains. Getting water-proof shoes seems ideal)
  • 1 Bed sheet
  • 1 Flip flops
  • 1 Woolen cap
  • 1 Pair of sunglasses
  • 1 Padlock (with pass code)
  • 1 Dynamo torch (Same as above)
  • 1 Day bag

Toiletries – one set for each

  • 1 Tooth paste
  • 1 Tooth  brush
  • 1 Face wash
  • 1 Bottle of shampoo(100 ml)
  • 1 Bottle of body wash
  • 1 Tube of sunscreen lotion
  • 1 Lip balm
  • 10 Soap paper sachets
  • 1 Wet tissue pack
  • 10 Small packs of washing powder
  • 1 Deodorant.
  • 1 Toilet paper roll
  • 1 Nail clipper
  • Ear buds

To geek out:

  • 2 HDDs 500 GB each
  • 1 Battery pack – Anker, 13000 mAh
  • 1 USB drive – Sandisk 16 GB
  • 2 Smart phones – Nokia Lumia 920 with 32 GB internal memory
  • HTC one X+ with 64 GB internal memory and their chargers
  • 1 Kindle – 6″, Wi-Fi, E-ink display
  • iPad mini
  • 1 DSLR – Canon 1000D with 18-55 mm zoom lens and a 50 mm prime lens, battery charger
  • 1 Acer netbook with its charger
  • 2 Travel adapters
  • 1 Wireless mouse
  • 1 Running earphones
  • 1 Bose headphones

Some zip-lock covers can be useful for various purposes too.

Medical kit : A separate post on this awaits.

There are a few indispensable things which made our packing and traveling very easy.

Packing cubes – These are just wonderful! They are travel organizers which can fit all our belongings in an organized and efficient way.

They maximize the space and simplify packing beyond measure. They are available commercially like these. But we used some indigenous ones like below.

We packed our T-shirts and tops in one, pants and shorts in one and undergarments in one.

They made our life so easy! 🙂

Packing cubes - They make packing seem easy!
Packing cubes – They make packing seem easy!

Small sling/belt bag – one each.This is another boon! We keep our passport, money, credit/travel cards, ID cards in this and have this bag around all the time. As long as this bag remains attached to us, we don’t need to worry at all. Of course, don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

The small sling bag - my constant companion
The small sling bag – my constant companion
The most important bag! Can be worn as a belt pouch too!
The most important bag! Can be worn as a belt pouch too!

Swiss Army knife – A very versatile tool that is useful in wide variety of situations

The versatile and sometimes life-saving tool!
The versatile and sometimes life-saving tool!

Micro fiber towels and blister-free socks as mentioned above were very helpful too.

It’s best to have a checklist when you are travelling so that you don’t forget anything. Here’s a downloadable form of the same list.



Hope you find this article useful Let us know what you think!

 

Our Favorite Eat-outs in Bangalore!

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”                                                                    – George Bernard Shaw

Bangalore is a foodie’s paradise, no doubt. In the last one and a half years in Bangalore, I have been able to get a decent taste of this paradise! I’m a foodie. And I feel lucky to be in a country that keeps my taste buds titillatingly happy.

The belly rules the mind :)  -Spanish Proverb
The belly rules the mind 🙂
-Spanish Proverb

I’m a big fan of street food. One of my favorite things to do in a new country or city is to visit the local street food vendors. Indian Street food is a perfect way to sample India’s vast cuisine and culture. You get to stand around a food cart and watch the magic of vendors slinging ingredients together to make their local delicacies. You get to see the love and attention that goes into food and food consumption.  

Well, each area in Bangalore is a city in itself. It has its own popular eating joints too.

Here I list some of our(me and VJ) favourite places (in no particular order) – both street food and restaurants. I’ll keep adding to the list as and when we discover more places 🙂

1. Mavalli Tiffin Room(MTR):

Possibly the most popular South Indian restaurant in Bangalore, MTR has acquired cult status for its unique taste and purity, with people queuing up even early in the morning to get in.Earlier it was a single location restaurant(near Lalbagh gardens) but recently new outlets are being opened, notably in Indiranagar and Forum Value mall, Whitefield.

The restaurant with a cult status!
The restaurant with a cult status!

While I do feel it’s overrated at times, it has an authentic taste.

I love the bisi bele bath, khara bath and filter coffee here!  

Taste: 7/10

Service: 7/10

Value for money: 6/10

Location : Here

2. Halli mane:

Yet another cult restaurant in the beautiful Malleswaram area, I was impressed with the ambience of the place. It’s quite spacious too.

halli_mane_mallesw_galleryfull
All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. 🙂 -John Gunther

One of our good friends introduced us to this place after a long 30 km cycle ride. The restaurant is a visual treat too with its village style atmosphere.

Dosa and coffee after some heavy cycling! :)
Dosa and coffee after some serious cycling! 🙂

My favourites here are Mangalore buns, crispy dosas and the filter coffee!

Taste: 7/10

Service: 7/10

Value for money: 7/10

Location : Here

3. South thindies:

A darshini type restaurant in Basavanagudi, it’s one of my all time favourites! How much does ambience and service really matter? For me good food is all that matters. If you are like me then you shouldn’t give this restaurant a miss at any cost.

South thindies in Basavangudi
South thindies in Basavangudi

I have had some of the best idli sambar, vada, dosas  and Mangalore buns here!

The pesarattu which is usually a Andhra delicacy is served here with different texture which is good.

“After a good meal one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
“After a good meal one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

And there’s the awesome filter coffee to wash it all down the throat!

 Taste: 9/10

Service: Self

Value for money: 9/10

Location : Here

4. Veena stores:

If you a great fan of the great Indian dough-nut shaped delicacy called the vada, then this is the place you should visit! They have some of the crispiest vadas in Bangalore!

The crispiest vada in Bangalore :)
The crispiest vada in Bangalore 🙂

It’s a small roadside shop in Margosa road, Malleswaram and one simply needs to walk up to the shop order the food – get the token after paying the bill and collect your food and eat while enjoying the surroundings. I think for decades they have been serving the same food with the same quality.

Veena stores in Malleswaram
Veena stores in Malleswaram

My favourites here are the vada, pongal and khara bath.

Taste: 8/10 (10/10 for vadas 😉

Service: Self

Value for money: 8/10 

Location : Here

5. Brahmin’s coffee bar:

This is one of the old joints which is still famous and running. Located in the Shankarapuram area in Basavanagudi, they serve some of the softest idlis in town. With a limited menu and quality food it’s a must visit for those who love south Indian tiffin. There is a dedicated person sitting outside for serving chutney!

Limited menu but great taste!
Limited menu but great taste!

My favourites here are idli and khara bath.

Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements. -Marcel Boulestin
Hot and soft idlis!!Anyone?

Taste: 7/10

Service: Self

Value for money: 8/10

Location : Here

6. Bobby da dhaba: 

Do you want to have the best parathas in Bangalore? Then this is the place to go to! I just love the hot and spicy parathas with that dollop of white butter on top of them. Perfectly sinful, I know!

Earlier it was located right next to the Ulsoor gurudwara, now the place is shifted to St. John’s road and is quite spacious now but with basic ambience. Cleanliness needs some improvement.

Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements. -Marcel Boulestin
Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements. -Marcel Boulestin

All the varieties of parathas are a must-try. So are Baingan da bartha, kadi pakoda and kheer. A glass of buttermilk to accompany these is a must!

Taste: 8/10

Service: 6/10

Value for money: 8/10

Location : Here

7. Eat street aka thindi beedi aka chat street:

Just a 400m stretch of road flanked on either sides by old buildings, Bangalore’s famous VV Puram eat street is a paradise for street food lovers! It only opens up after sunset when the vendors start rolling up their shutters and pushing out their carts. It has the perfect street food ambience.

Eat street!!!
Eat street!!!

You can start at one end of the road with the more common idli, vada, dosa.

Don’t miss out the paddu, mosaru kodbele, akki rotti, ragi rotti and thatte idli! If you like eating spicy food, don’t miss the mirchi bajji and other bondas.

The congress bun at VB bakery has etched an important place here. Butter gulkand fruit salad icecream can serve as a perfect dessert! You can wash all these down with a glass of masala soda!

At the end of every year, an Avarebele mela kicks off at the eat-street and is a culinary and visual treat for fans of the humble ‘hithakabele’. Almost 63 varieties of snacks and sweets and made of the humble avarekaalu(field beans).

Can you imagine some 60+ dishes made of these simple field beans??
Can you imagine some 60+ dishes made of these simple field beans??
avare dosa
Akki rotti(rice roti) made of avare kalu

Even if you are not a foodie, the gastro rich vibe at eat street is worth watching!

Taste: 8/10

Service: Self

Value for money: 8/10

Location : Here

8. 99 variety dosas:

This is one hidden gem that we happened to discover in Indiranagar 7th main during a leisurely evening walk. And eventually realised that there were similar joints in various other places too, notably, Koramangala 6th main, BTM layout, Bannerghatta, etc. And hats off to their ingenuity. These guys can actually create 99 varieties of dosas with the most awesome ingredients – Paneer, corn, mushroom, capsicum, potato, cheese and even noodles!

Watch them as they expertly toss in the dosa batter, add dollops of butter and then mix in whichever ingredients you like, to create one hot, melt in your mouth dosa!

99
It’s actually a visual treat to watch them make the dosas!

Hygiene is maintained to a reasonable extent too.

Taste: 8/10

Service: Self

Value for money: 8/10

9. Chakum chukum:

Unarguably one of the best Calcutta rolls in Bangalore, we were introduced to it by one of our expat friends who just loves these rolls and says these are one of the best things about Bangalore!

One of our favorite adda! :)
One of our favorite adda! 🙂

The Kati rolls (kolkatta style) be it Veg/ Non veg come with loads of varieties that every single time you visit, you have something new to try. Our consistent favourite has been paneer egg followed by chicken egg. The rolls are quite filling and always cooked to perfection.

One of the best Kati rolls in Bangalore!
One of the best Kati rolls in Bangalore!

Taste: 8/10

Service: Self

Value for money: 8/10

Location : Here

10. Ali Baba cafe:

Do you love the Middle eastern cuisine? Hummus, babaganoush, etc? Well, VJ just loves it and off late I’ve started liking it too. This tiny, less popular joint in Frazer town was introduced to us by Highway On My Plate(HOMP) in NDTV Good times.

After searching for a good half hour we finally found the place. It’s not so easy to locate the place for first timers who are not familiar with the area. One important landmark which we found out later is Richies Rahhams restaurant on MM road. The entrance to the restaurant on 1st floor is through a narrow, dark stairway and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone says they were skeptical to proceed. However, as you enter that restaurant things look a little better.

A small Persia in Bangalore?
A small Persia in Bangalore?

The decor is interesting, in that it doesn’t look like your typical restaurant. It shows that they have made an effort to do up the interiors. The modified ceiling, antique looking furniture, the curtains, artifacts, give the place a middle eastern look.

They specialize in 3 types of cuisines – Arabian, Persian and Bhatkali. As such, their menu is quite exhaustive, and most of the items were alien to us except for the few Arabian dishes. We had the awesome Persian yogurt or the Doogh. We were completely bowled by the Mezzeh platter that we ordered. It was the best one we have had till now!

One of the best Mezze platter we have had!
One of the best Mezze platter we have had!

And the simple dessert of Shaufa pana pudding completed a happy meal for us!

Taste: 8/10 (For Mezzeh platter-10/10)

Service: 7/10

Value for money: 8/10

Location : Here

 

What do you think of the list? Tell us about your favorite eat outs! We’ll check them out 🙂

15 things we learnt from our one month of travel

So it’s been one month into our backpacking trip. We are loving it so far!

We think traveling is great. It has expanded our minds with new experiences. We have learnt a few lessons on the road and would love to share them with you.

  1. Strangers are nice and helpful. If anyone tells you otherwise, ignore them.

  2. Feeling comfortable about  meeting and speaking to new people is an essential skill.

    A group of cheerful teachers we bumped into in Mardin, Turkey.
    A group of cheerful teachers we bumped into in Mardin, Turkey.
  3. Saying bye to your newly made awesome friends is not easy. We never thought it can be that difficult to part ways with someone you have only met for a couple of hours!

  4. You will slowly learn to deal with the fear of unfamiliar – new place, people, food and language. None of these will bother you after some time.

    Sign board in Bulgaria :)
    Sign board in Bulgaria. Decoding Cyrillic alphabet can be fun! 🙂
  5. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and for help.  Ask the locals, it is their turf. This can save you a lot of time and effort.

  6. Learn to say ‘no’. That $50 meal in an expensive restaurant is not going to enrich your experience any better than a delicious local snack in the same area. (of course, there are exceptions)

  7. Learning some words/phrases in the local language always helps. Showing that you have taken that extra effort to learn their language will let the other person go that extra mile for you.

  8. Swiss knife is amazing. Just buy it! Has helped us in a variety of situations from cutting fruits to removing glass splinters stuck in our hand.

  9. Google translate offline version can really save your day! Imagine booking last minute tickets in a remote place in Iran and having to deal with somebody who knows only Farsi! Google can handle it for you, offline.

    There you go!
    There you go!
  10. It is really not that difficult to live out of a 11 kg  bag.

  11. You don’t have to be rich to travel. We have spent ZERO money on our accommodation until now!

  12. You can be a vegetarian and still have a nice time 🙂 You need to know where to eat and what to eat. Refer to #5.

    Our favourite snack in Turkey - Çiğ Köfte
    Our favourite snack in Turkey – Çiğ Köfte
  13. Indians are expected to know how to dance! 

  14. Walking for 5-6 kms everyday  with a big bag on you is not so tough.

  15. Hitch-hiking can be fun and is good for your wallet. Deciding to do it is a door to amazing experiences.

    We hitch-hiked to Persepolis with this friendly Iranian family :)
    We hitch-hiked to Persepolis with this friendly Iranian family 🙂

30 before 30

I’m sure many of us have watched the movie The Bucket List where two terminally ill men escape from a hospital with a wish list of things-to-do before they die.

Well, making such a list was always on my mind for sometime. No, I’m not terminally ill! That’s why I call my list 30 before 30 which includes all those things I wish to do before I turn 30!

30 before 30

Some of you may argue that there need not be a time limit/constraint on the things you wish to do and that they should be done at your own pace. I do agree! But don’t we have the tendency to procrastinate things out of our habitual laziness? Most of us do!

And more importantly these are the things that I have always wanted to do! And due to my procrastination and lack of opportunity, I have not been able to do them so far. And friends, life is too short to wake up with regrets, right? After all, the days are long but years are short!

The joy that fills up your heart when you strike each thing off the list is simply great! I also feel that when you actually sit and write such a list that you really know what your heart wants.

Before I share my bucket list with all of you, here is something that Mark Twain once said which is also one of the reasons I jumped and wrote my list.

Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail.
Explore.
Dream.
Discover.

I made this list a few months ago and that’s why I have already crossed few things off the list. Believe me it’s fun to do that!

The mystical land and water of Ladakh
The mystical land and water of Ladakh
  1. Start a blog. ( Done Dana Done!!!)
  2. Visit Ladakh by road.
  3. Get a tattoo! (Got it!) More about the tattoo coming soon. Here is the story of my tattoo.
  4. Run a marathon. ( If not full, at least a half marathon. I’ve only done a few 10k runs so far)
  5. Play an active role in an NGO which supports a cause I believe in.
  6. Do a bungee jump. (Just did a 150ft jump! ). Aiming for a greater height. 🙂
  7. Learn to play a musical instrument.
  8. Learn to swim. (Almost there!)
  9. Go scuba diving. (Woooo! What an experience it was! Read about it here)
  10. Get really fit! How to measure this? Maybe shed those extra pounds and reach my ideal weight.
  11. Finish at least 10 century rides on my cycle.
  12. Complete the 100 strangers project.
  13. Cross from one country to another on foot. (From Poland to Czech Republic we did!!)
  14. Gift my parents an overseas trip.
  15. Learn to drive confidently and go on a road trip.
  16. Go backpacking. (That’s what we have been doing since the last few months!! More details here)
  17. Give a talk on India in a foreign land! (Been so lucky to do this. More details here)
  18. Read at least 15 books.
  19. Camp on an island.
  20. Learn a new language. (Just started with Tamil! )
  21. Try couchsurfing. (We just love it!! Check it out here)
  22. Visit at least 15 states in India.
  23. Get a teaching job.
  24. Move into our own home!
  25. Learn to ride a motorcycle. (I mean a geared one)
  26. Go on a solo trip.
  27. Visit Dharamshala and the Golden temple of Amritsar.
  28. Visit at least four of these places- Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, North eastern states of India.
  29. Get featured in the media. (Check it out here)
  30. Celebrate my 30th birthday in style!

I have less than 2 years before I turn 30! There really ain’t no time to waste.

And yeah, one of my favourite travel blogger Neelima’s post on the same topic was an inspiration too! 🙂
How many of you have similar lists? Any suggestions on mine?

Cheers!
Gayathri.