Let me start this article by asking you a couple of questions! Do you consider yourself relatively healthy? Do you like to travel to exotic places? And, have you ever thought about doing a bike tour?
Since 2014 the operator and his excellent team have been offering some of the best bike tours available in stunning Sri Lanka. From 1-day sample rides to 12 day Sri Lanka package tours, you can experience the beauty and see the fabulous culture, country and wildlife from the saddle of a bicycle. Alternatively, if you and your friends would like to customise a tour just for you, the operator can make that happen also. So, what’s stopping you?
We stopped off in Galle, where the operator organised a perfect 2 hour sampler ride along the paddy fields and countryside around Galle.
Our day starts at 08:00 a.m as we make our way to our designated meeting point to meet our tour guides for the day. We stayed within a few minutes from the city centre and Galle Fort, and the tuk tuk ride to get to our meeting point was a quick 15 minute ride.
Our meet up point is an off ramp just outside of Galle and we are greeted by our tour guide for the ride, Nuwan, his bike mechanic helper Kavindu and our support vehicle. Nuwan provides us Specialized mountain bikes, which Kavindu adjusts to make sure they are at the right height for us.
Once everything is sorted, we commence what can only be called a fantastic ride. Nuwan takes us along country laneways through a rubber plantation and multiple rice fields.
The ride isn’t difficult, although there are a couple of gradual inclines that have you working a little harder. But the scenery and wildlife are spectacular. During our ride we came across an enormous water monitor walking through a family’s rice field and some beautiful birds like the colourful Kingfisher.
The ride isn’t just single file riding. Nuwan would stop and point out local facts and things of cultural significance, to ensure we had a well-balanced tour.
The whole riding tour took approximately 1.5 – 2 hours and was a nice casual workout. Cycling is a wonderful way to see the countryside and keep fit. srilankacyclingtour.com offers excellent bike tours throughout Sri Lanka and we’re sure you can find a bike tour to suit your needs.
For those of you booking in the future, Sri Lanka Cycling Tour are in the process of updating their bikes, so you will have even better bikes than the ones we tried.
So, contact Sri Lanka Cycling Tour now and book your fantastic bike tour today, to see Sri Lanka like you’ve never seen it before and tell them, Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
If you are going to spend some time in the south of India, you may have heard that it is quite popular to spend a day or two on a houseboat. After a busy two weeks travelling around India we decided to spend three nights cruising the backwaters of Kerala from Alappuzha near Alleppey, Southern India with Cosy Houseboats.
After days or research, trying to select an affordable houseboat operator was becoming a painful task. To alleviate this we logged onto booking.com to check out what houseboats were available. This made the task a lot easier and in the end we choose to book a Cosy Houseboat cruise for three nights, departing from Alappuzha.
Prior to our cruise we stayed in Alleppey for a night in a little backpackers called Artpackers.life which turned out to be a godsend. They were so helpful that as Cosy Houseboats weren’t replying to any of our previous emails, the receptionist found the correct number (wrong on booking.com) for their offices and found out our check in time and meeting point.
Thank god, we decided to spend a night in Alleppey before boarding our cruise, otherwise we would have had enormous issues trying to contact the operators. Once everything was settled and we left the backpackers it was a quick auto rickshaw ride (INR100) to the Cosy Regency Hotel, the meeting point for the houseboat cruise.
After check in, it was explained that although we booked for a shared three night cruise we would be following the same itinerary for the three days. This meant we had to check out off the boat each day and head back to the meeting point before boarding the next boat at check in time. This important information should have been communicated to us after booking and was a little frustrating to say the least. Whilst at the office they did try to encourage us to pay extra for a private houseboat. Once price negotiations broke down, as we weren’t going to pay their optimum price, they advised that they didn’t have a boat available and we ended up staying on the shared boat.
Our next issue was that we were unable to pay using a credit card as their EFTPOS machine was faulty. Cosy houseboat management then insisted we withdrawal the daily limit for international cards (INR10000) to make a down payment. Then they would try an EFTPOS payment the next day. The manager ended up transporting us to 6 ATM machines that all had no cash available. In the end they allowed us to board and try paying the next day.
With the wedding season fully underway in India, we spent our first shared night with three other couples. Two couples were newly weds and the third couple were on their one year anniversary. All were nice and we ended up chatting away with a couple from the North of India for most of the cruise.
The four berth houseboat was a little rundown and in need of a little maintenance. The room was small but thankfully the bed was comfortable. Being a wooden vessel, it does get extremely hot in the cabins during the day. There is a ceiling fan to circulate air, but the air conditioning only comes on between 7pm and 7am. My advice is to stay out of the cabins until evening when the air conditioning kicks in.
The bathroom was……”fit for use”, nothing special, a bit dirty with a shower that sprayed everywhere but on you and no hot water. If you are looking for hotel quality, than this is not the place for you.
The rest of the boat is “well used”. Our boat has a dining table, eight single seated lounge chairs and a small television mounted to the wall.
The boat has three crew members aboard, the helmsman, a cook and a waiter, who keep to themselves so you can enjoy the slow cruise through the river system. All meals, water, and tea and coffee are included in the price and are quite good. The cruise itself is casual, calm and relaxing as we traverse along the waterways.
We stop for lunch, moored to a riverbank and are encouraged to leave the boat to visit some shops or massage parlours. Then it’s back onboard for a final cruise around before we moor up for the night alongside the Cosy Lake Villa. Although the advertising states free wi-fi for your time on the houseboat, you actually only get limited poor wi-fi access when you berth in the evening.
It is here we have a candlelit evening meal, before heading to our cabins for an early night. The operators do allow you to have a shower in one of the villas hotels rooms, which is a little more pleasant. Unfortunately, yet again it is without hot water.
The boat starts up again at 8:00am and heads back into Alleppey for a 9:00am check out. Once berthed you are picked up by car or auto rickshaw and taken back to the Cosy Regency Hotel. We then have until 12:00pm before we are required to board our next vessel. Since, the Cosy Regency Hotel has average wi-fi coverage we decide to stay to book ongoing travel arrangements. Then I do the whole payment thing again, this time the Internet connection is working and I’m able to pay the total amount.
Our second boat, ends up being the boat we remain on for the next two days. It’s a smaller two cabin boat, whom we share with two more newly weds on the different days. This boat has an upstairs viewing deck but again is in serious need of maintenance. Once again the cabin is small but the bed is comfortable. It has its ceiling fan and air conditioner, which again only comes on at 7:00pm.
The bathroom is awful, and in serious need of renovating. Plus we are lucky enough to have two large cockroaches, who I meet in the middle of the night and a small lizard living in the air conditioner. Additionally, the power point in the room doesn’t work so we end up charging phones etc. on the upstairs deck.
Although, initially we were told we would follow the same route on each day, we ended up being around the same area but each day we went down different canals. Once again the actual cruising was relaxing, the company was nice and the food was very good.
Overall, Cosy Houseboats offers a cheaper affordable cruise to experience the houseboats of Kerala. Is there better boats? Yes! Are they more expensive? Yes. So depending on your budget and if you don’t mind roughing it a little, than this could be the houseboat company for you.
Cosy Houseboats has a lot of work to do to improve their product. The boats are in need of a good overhaul. The bathrooms are awful, but the silver lining is they allow you to use the Cosy Lakeview Hotel if you’d like a better shower. Communication is a huge issue. We sent two or three emails to them and received no reply and if it wasn’t for the help of Artpackers.life hostel, we would have struggled to find out any information. The staff at the hotels and on board the boats are friendly but they do try to push you to write a good review on TripAdvisor. And although it is stated you have access to wi-fi, it is very limited and rarely works.
The cruise itself is peaceful, relaxing and nice. Travelling up and down the canals is pleasant with beautiful scenery for good photos. The waterways are at times full of houseboats, so you can see how popular these cruises are.
Look, I must admit, although the houseboat was a little rundown, I really enjoyed cruising along the Kerala waterways. And although Cosy Houseboats was a little disorganised, they ended up providing what we paid for, a fully catered, three-day cruise around Kerala. So, if you don’t mind roughing it, and can put up with a few minor disappointments and a couple of creepy crawlies, than Cosy Houseboats may have the cruise for you. If not, then book somewhere else, although I can’t guarantee it will be any better.
Additional Information for Cosy Houseboats
Cosy Regency, Finishing Point, Alappuzha, Kerala 688013, India
Ph: +91 477 225 5555
Once again Istanbul has been a great place to stay. The culture the atmosphere and the people have been kind and gracious. If you are considering a trip to Turkey, then I would say without any hesitation, “do it!”
As Australian’s, we’ve been to Turkey for the last couple of years. Last year, we experienced the pilgrimage to the Gallipoli peninsula, which is considered a rite of passage for many Australian’s. Here we paid our respect to the fallen heroes of WWI.
Then we visited Istanbul and had an incredible meal at Mehmet Gürs marvellous Mikla. Both times have come away with the same impression of Turkey. “What a remarkably friendly place!” Although the tensions of the regions have affected Turkey we have found it to be a safe place to go. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed in the amazing history, culture, markets and food.
Therefore, why not dip your toes into Turkey? And if you only decide to visit Istanbul, there is a remarkable little place that showcases all of the major attractions within Turkey called Miniaturk.
Miniaturk, is park consisting of miniature models of the sights of Turkey. It’s located alongside a stretch of the Golden Horn and is a nice place for families and backpackers to discover what Turkey has to offer. If you haven’t finalised your itinerary whilst backpacking in Turkey, stop by at Miniaturk and discover which cities contain some of Turkey exquisite architectural history.
See places like the Galata Tower, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Green Tomb of Bursa, Cappadocia or the white terraces of Pamukkale all in the one park.
The models contained are a remarkable re-creation of these attractions and you can’t help but marvel at all the places to available to see. During our visit, we constantly commented about going to see certain attractions.
Spend some time walking up and down the walkways, it takes a good one and a half hours to traverse the entire site.
There is also plenty of things to entertain you and your family. Miniaturk also has a large playground, games arcade and a small train that the kids can ride on. For the older kids and adults, you can also try the helicopter flight simulator. Who’s the best pilot in your family?
Additionally, Miniaturk has multiple food stalls scattered around the park and a nice restaurant if you prefer something more substantial.
To finish the day, stop into the souvenir store and take home a memento of your time in Turkey.
Overall Miniaturk is a fun and amazing place to visit. Get some inspiration of other attractions around Turkey. At an inexpensive cost, Miniaturk is an ideal place for a young family to experience some of Turkey’s attractions without actually having to visit them. Of course, it is always better to see them up close and personal. But if you don’t have the time, this is the next best thing. So, if you are in Istanbul visit Miniaturk and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
In all our travels, Sarajevo would be one of the top 10 cities that has intrigued me the most in the Balkans. A city still rebuilding. Trying to ensure their past mistakes don’t erupt again. When speaking to its residence you can see their frustration from their “scars and smiles”. Yet, those frustrations aren’t directed towards the different ethnic groups, they are directed towards their over-governed parliament. With unemployment rising, Sarajevo is becoming more reliant on tourists visiting and understanding the beauty, culture and pain of this remarkable city.
During our stay here, we base ourselves at two completely different accommodation options. For the first part of our visit, we stay outside of the city centre at the four-starred Hotel Emiran. Then for the remainder of our stay we head into the old town and experience what hostel living is like at Hostel Franz Ferdinand. It is here that we organise the Scars and Smiles, Urban Adventures tour online. Urban Adventures offer two quality tours, the Story of Sarajevo and Scars and Smiles.
The Scars and Smiles tour starts at 9:00 a.m and our meeting point for the tour is the impressive city hall/ national library building. Our friendly helpful guide for the tour is Almedin, who you cannot miss due to his 205cm height. Almedin is the tallest tour guide we have ever had. No need for an umbrella or a sign, because if you can’t see him, then he’s not there!
Group sizes vary from day-to-day and on our tour, we only had one other guest. Almedin spoke excellent English and was a toddler during the Sarajevo siege, so has an honest family perspective of life during wartime.
During our tour, Almedin speaks passionately about the scars and smiles of the Bosnian people. He talks about why the war occurred, how it ended and specific tragedies that had befallen its residents at the time.
We are taken on a 3 hour journey around the city of Sarajevo and visit important places like the Sarajevska brewery, the only source of fresh water in Sarajevo at the time. Almedin then speaks about the importance of the Sarajevo roses, shows us a memorial for the children and takes us for Bosnian coffee.
An intriguing and at times moving tour, Almedin speaks about life after the conflict and finishes the tour at the Sarajevo National Theatre.
Once the tour is completed, guests can either join Almedin for a drink at a local pub or state their farewells. I suggest having a drink with this kind gentleman and learning more about Bosnian and Herzegovinian hospitality.
Overall for the price, the Scars and Smiles tour is a fantastic way of getting to understand Sarajevo and its tragic history. So, book your Urban Adventure tour today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for Urban Adventures: Scars and Smiles
If you were to tell me before we started this trip that I’d be going to visit a salt mine, I may have laughed. That would be because in Australia when I think about salt mines, I picture a stark salt pan. Therefore, when we were looking for another tour to do in Krakow we wanted something less emotionally draining than the Auschwitz and Birkenau tour we did the day before. The Krakville tour operator suggested for us to go to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. So, after a bit of umming and ahhing we decided why not?
The Wieliczka Salt Mine was listed as a UNESCO heritage site in 1978 and consists of 300kms of tunnels. The mine has been in operation since the 13th Century (that’s an old mine) and is open for visitors daily from 07:30 a.m to 07:30 p.m. The mine can be visited without a tour group, but you may have a long wait depending on the number of visitors and tour groups.
The tour starts mid-morning and our meeting point for the start of the tour is the Krakville office building in the Old Town Krakow. Once again, we are given identification stickers to ensure we aren’t separated from our group. This straight away tells us that the mine is busy. We all climb into mini vans and are driven approximately half an hour to the town of Wieliczka.
It’s not long before we are at the mine and climb the steps to the mines entrance. On arrival it is raining, but that hasn’t stopped the crowds from showing up. There is a large number of tour group already here and a fair contingent of lone travellers negotiating the throng of people. The mine has some additional souvenir shops and a cafe outside if you must wait for a while.
After a short wait, we are guided past the crowds and into the mine. We are given radio receivers so that we can hear the guide as she explains the enormity of the mine. First, we descend down 350 steps to the entry-level of the mine. Like a column staircase you’d find in a hundred-floor building we descend down and down. It is quite a work out and if you make the mistake and go to fast down, you can get quite dizzy.
At the bottom of the stairs the guide checks to make sure we are all alive after the workout and explains the ground rules of the tour. Like don’t wander off, as there are so many tunnels, therefore getting lost is quite easy.
As we walk through the tunnels we encounter open chambers within the mine providing a visual aid about the construction and operation of the mine. In total there are 20 chambers available to be visited. The guide explains that the workers would construct churches, halls, theatres and specific carvings as they were down in the mine for large amounts of time.
We walk through various places of worship and are shown some of the incredible wall fresco’s etched by the workers. Photos are allowed to be taken at a small additional cost and there are photo permit places along the route. The mine also has an underground souvenir store and a large restaurant and cafeteria area.
Overall, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is a worthwhile attraction with the website stating that tourists should allow three hours to visit the site. The temperature of the mine averages 14 degrees Celsius so warm jackets are handy. You will be amazed at the chambers and carvings done by the workers. Photos are a must so my advice is pay for the permit. So, book your tour today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Additional Information for Krakville Wieliczka Salt Mine