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    Camelling Around in Bikaner, India

    After taking part in the #TravelBookChat last Tuesday, which focused on the novel ‘Tracks’ by Robyn Davidson – a story about a woman who trekked across the Australian desert on top a camel (definitely worth a read), it got me thinking about the short but sweet experiences I’ve ever had with these fascinating creatures…

    Whilst volunteering in India, my friends and I decided to take a weekend trip to Bikaner to experience desert life on a camel.

    After wrapping ourselves in protective clothing, scarves and hats, we were introduced to our new friends for the next couple of days. Sitting lazily on the sand awaiting their masters commands, each camel was decorated in vibrant, Indian fabrics and had a traditional, rustic beaded necklace draped around their neck.

    Camel Safari in Bikaner, India - Safari - My Culture Craving

    Once we’d mounted our camels, (which is a lot harder and wobbly than it looks), we set off into the depths of the Thar desert.

    Camel Safari in Bikaner, India - Camel - My Culture Craving

    I’d never ridden a camel before therefore, it took me a little while to get used to the bum wobble dance, which comes with riding these placid creatures. However, once I’d mastered this art, I finally looked up and admired the tranquil, rippling desert, which encompassed us.

    I was so high up, I felt like no one could disturb my desert zen.

    We trekked for a couple of hours through the windswept desert and local villages before taking a well-earned pit-stop for a spot of lunch.

    As our guides prepared our mouth-watering, traditional lunch of fragrant chickpea curry, chapati and dal, we lulled in the shade, absorbing the idyllic scenery, reading and playing games… seclusion at its finest.

    Camel Safari in Bikaner, India - Food Prep - My Culture Craving

    Camel Safari in Bikaner, India - Cute Camels - My Culture Craving

    Once we’d devoured our delicious curry and quizzed our guides on desert life, we hopped back onto our camels and waddled off on the last leg of our journey.

    Camel Safari in Bikaner, India - Camel Shadow - My Culture Craving

    When we arrived at camp, we laid out our blankets and mirrored the camels, as they all collapsed into a mound atop the sand.

    As the warm sun dissolved behind the dusty sand dunes, we tucked into our second scrumptious, ‘desert-made’ curry of the day, glugged down a few refreshing Kingfisher beers and chatted away about our day in the desert, before ‘hitting the hay sand’ under the gleaming stars.

    Camel Safari in Bikaner, India - Dinner - My Culture Craving

    Camel Safari in Bikaner, India - Chapati - My Culture Craving

    We awoke to the sweet smell of chai and chapatti, which roused us from our sand-covered blankets (apparently we’d slept through a sand storm…) and watched as the sun slowly broke its way through the dream-like mirage of dust and heat, which enveloped the desert.

    After relishing a wholesome breakfast, slurping on a mug of aromatic chai tea made with camel’s milk (straight from the camel!) and having our hands and feet beautifully decorated with henna by our lovely guide, we got onto our camels for the last time, and made our way back towards the manic roads of India.

    Camel Safari in Bikaner, India - Sunrise - My Culture Craving

    Camel Safari in Bikaner, India - Henna - My Culture Craving

    Although Bikaner desert is not as scenic as the silky sand dunes of Jaisalmer, it’s a great place to get the ‘camel-safari experience’ without having to trek so far west.

    Similarly to most other camel safari excursions in India, our trip included two days trekking through the Thar desert, an overnight stay sleeping under the stars, traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner, unlimited water and a guide… all for the remarkable price of approx £20 per person.

    We went through a company called Vino Desert Safari, which I would highly recommend.

    Happy Camelling peeps!!

    GALS ON TOUR! Holidaying in Europe…

    Since jetting off on my first group holiday to the notorious party island of Malia in Crete, Europe I’ve been hooked on these girly getaways.

    Sunbathing, drinking, meeting new people, bobbing around the swimming pool, laughing uncontrollably, chilling on the balcony, dancing the night away and inhaling a copious amount of greasy food –  these group holidays are the perfect way to spend some quality time with your gal pals and make some unforgettable (yet, hazy) memories.

    So, if you’re thinking of booking a drunken escape with the girls (which I think you should!), here is my guide to some of the best party destinations in Europe:

    Gals on Tour, Europe - Malia - My Culture Craving

    Malia, Crete

    Malia was my first taste of a girly holiday abroad… and I couldn’t get enough.

    Sunshine, cocktails and independence confirmed my love for travel and allowed me to spend some much-needed, quality time with my bezzies!

    Gals on Tour, Europe - Ayia Napa - My Culture Craving

    Ayia Napa, Cyprus

    Home to sensational weather, divine beaches and  a square of lively bars and clubs, Ayia Napa is a party animal’s paradise. From scandalous beach parties and booze cruises to hilarious silent discos and pool parties, Ayia Napa offers everything you need to feed your inner wild child.

    However, if you’re also looking to get a good ol’ culture fix whilst you’re away, rent a moped or quad bike and get exploring the incredible scenery, which surrounds Ayia Napa’s tourist fueled strip.

    Gals on Tour, Europe - My Culture Craving

    Sunny Beach, Bulgaria

    Offering satin soft sandy beaches, a litre of local beer for £1 and an up-and-coming nightlife, Sunny Beach is a great party destination for any budget conscious travellers.

    However, with the mafia presence still being prominent, you must be extra cautious not to get yourself into any sticky situations when on a night out – something, which is not ideal when you want to drink your inhibitions away.

    If you do decide to take a trip to Sunny Beach, ensure you read up about any potential scams and places to avoid before you set off.

    Hvar, Croatia - My Culture Craving

    Hvar, Croatia

    Hvar’s perfect marriage of luxurious living, breathtaking beauty and vibrant nightlife, makes this glorious slice of the Dalmatian coast a ‘gals on tour’ haven.

    With its glamorous harbour, lined with extravagant, luxury yachts, crystal clear waters, imposing rocky alcoves, fabulous sandstone buildings and quaint, pebble beaches, Hvar is the ultimate party destination with a huge splash of culture and charm.

    Favourite Moments of Travel - Ibiza - My Culture Craving

    Ibiza, Spain

    Ibiza is the party capital of the world. However, due to its painful prices, this party paradise tends to attract an older crowd than places such as, Malia and Ayia Napa. With club entry costing anything from €15 to €100 and drink prices soaring as high as €30 for a vodka mixer in the super clubs (*insert shocked emoji here*), partying here comes at an eye-watering price.

    Nonetheless, once you’ve scraped together enough ‘dollar’ to make the trip, you will be welcomed by some of the best nightclubs in the world, stunning beaches, first-class cuisine and the chance to see some of the best artists in the music industry perform live.

    Trust me, it’s worth the wait!!

    Check out this website to find out the line up of events and performers at each club  as well as to buy any tickets you wish to book before you leave.

    I love backpacking and experiencing culture in other countries however, there’s no shame in trading in your backpack for a wheelie suitcase every once in a while and enjoying a week of well-earned relaxation with your best friends.

    Anyway, sampling the local beer counts as being cultured… doesn’t it?

    Have you ever been on a girly holiday? If you have, where has been your favourite party destination? Please comment, Tweet or Facebook me to let me know :)! 

    Also, please don’t forget to pop over and give my Bloglovin’ page a like :).

    Why Do I Love India?

    I first visited India during my gap year and instantly fell in love. After volunteering and travelling on my own through this remarkable country,  I decided that I had to return ASAP.

    By December 2013, I was on a flight back to Delhi. Packing my Mum, a Rough Guide to India and a lot of essay notes (I had to write my dissertation whilst overlooking the Himalayas and the river Ganges… I couldn’t complain), we set off on a 3 week backpacking adventure across Rishikesh, Rajasthan and Kerala.

    I am now in the midst of planning my next trip – the big ol’ gap life, and guess what country is on the top of my list (drum roll pleaseeeee)… you got it, India!!

    Therefore, I thought I would share with you some of the reasons why I love India so much and why I jump at any chance to go back:

    ***Please note, this list is not extensive***

    Why I Love India - Holi - My Culture Craving

    The Colours

    Everywhere you go in India, there is an abundance of beautiful, vibrant colours.

    From the exquisite, intricately embroidered saris, iridescent, sparkling bangles and radiant coloured turbans to the mounds of traditional, scarlet vermilion powder, bowls of multicoloured, fragrant spices and wacky, psychedelic tuk tuks, there is not a single corner of India, which is without a splash of colour.

    You only have to admire the awe-inspiring Holi Festival, which dances its way through the streets of India like a Catherine wheel of colour every year, to understand the importance and allure of colour in this kaleidoscopic country.

    5 Unmissable Sights in Udaipur - My Culture Craving

    The Music

    I LOVE Bollywood music. If I’m ever feeling a bit down in the dumps and need a good pick me up song, I don’t wack on the most recent Taylor Swift tune, I pop on a Bollywood soundtrack and pretend I’m sexy (I’m not) and can dance like the Bollywood stars in the videos (I can’t)… but hey, it always works…

    In India, whether you find yourself in a shop, a rickshaw, a side street, a slum, a tuk tuk or a temple, everywhere is alive with the joyous sound of body bopping, shoulder bouncing, hand jumping, Indian music.

    Don’t let being in public stop you from busting your moves!

    Here is a link to one of my favourite Bollywood film soundtracks (if you don’t mind subtitles, the film is also definitely worth a watch!)

    Why I Love India - Spirituality - My Culture Craving

    The Spirituality

    Whether you are looking to become a full time yogi, a pro at meditation or, you simply want to find your ‘inner self’,  India has a spiritual aura, which will help elevate you to become a more calm, peaceful and focused person.

    Enroll yourself into a yoga and meditation retreat or an ashram and see how India can awaken your inner spiritualist.

    Why I Love India - Locals - My Culture Craving

    The People

    People in India are some of the happiest, kindest, most thoughtful, smiley, grateful and polite people I have ever met (especially the children). Yes, some Indians will try and scam you and others may curiously stare however,  this doesn’t mean that everyone else is the same.

    Spark up a conversation with a tuk tuk driver, hotel receptionist, shop owner or a local on a train and you’ll soon discover how good-natured and warm-hearted the people of India are.

    Why I Love India - Scenery - My Culture Craving

    The Scenery

    From the towering, snow-capped Himalayas and serene, secluded desert to the picturesque, tranquil backwaters and scenic green tea plantations, India has every possible breathtaking scenery you could ever imagine, all under one tropical roof.

    Why I Love India - Food - My Culture Craving

    The Food

    Whether you’re enjoying an extravagant thali of delicious and flavoursome curries, rice and bread or, delving into a crisp, spiced street samosa, food is always a prominent highlight whilst travelling through India.

    Don’t be afraid to try food from the street vendors and to sample strange, new delicacies. It’s all a part of the experience (and ridiculously cheap)!!

    I could go on and on about everything I love about India… If you have ever been, what would you add to this list? Please comment, Tweet or Facebook me to let me know :)! 

    Also, please don’t forget to pop over and give my Bloglovin’ page a like :).

    It’s All About the Islands – Thailand

    Recently, a lot of my nearest and dearest have been picking my brains on where to go in the backpacker haven of Thailand.

    Although this country is only a small slice of Asia, it is jam-packed with exciting things to see and do. From culture, wildlife, tribes and temples in the North to tans, parties, buckets and beaches in the South, it’s no surprise that choosing where to spend most of your time is a tricky task… especially when you don’t have much time to spare.

    Therefore, to get you started, here is my guide to some (they’re all amazing!) of the best islands in Thailand:

    Favourite Moments of Travel - Full Moon Party - My Culture Craving

    Koh Phangan

    Situated on the East coast of Thailand, Koh Phangan is notorious for its infamous Full Moon Parties. Brimming with booze, backpackers and bonanza, by night, Koh Phangan lights up with the buzz of travellers in search of the bright nightlife at Haad Rin beach. Fluorescent neon paint, thrill-seeking fire dancers, crazy pool parties, blaring music… Koh Phangan is complete and utter carnage!

    However, if the partying scene isn’t up your street, don’t overlook this island straight away. Offering some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, Koh Phangan’s exuberant nature and scenery are definitely still worth a visit.

    My highlights:

    – Going to a pool party at Coral Bungalows

    – The Full Moon Party

    – Unfortunately, it rained most of the time I was on Koh Phangan therefore, I didn’t get a chance to explore it as much as I’d hoped.

    It's all About the Islands - Thailand - Koh Tao - My Culture Craving

    Koh Tao

    Floating around a 1 1/2 hour boat journey North of Koh Phangan, Koh Tao is the go to island, to recover from the damage done by its rowdy neighbour. Renowned for its cheap PADI diving courses and zen atmosphere, Koh Tao is a peaceful bubble of bliss.

    Kick back on a beach bean bag, listen to the reggae music float from beach bar to bar, as the sea laps against the sand, and count your lucky stars you’re there… you will never want to leave.

    My highlights:

    – Going diving for the first time

    – Relaxing on the beach bean bags

    – Watching the sunset

    It's all About the Islands - Thailand - My Culture Craving

    Koh Lanta

    Situated around a two-hour boat journey from Phi Phi, Koh Lanta is a hub of tranquility.

    Sprinkled with cute, idyllic beach huts and uncrowded beaches, Koh Lanta is the perfect island to spend your days relaxing on the beach with a good book and your evenings sipping on an ice-cold beer whilst delving into a freshly caught fish.

    However, if you’re looking to be more Dora the Explorer than Sid the Sloth, rent a jeep or moped and explore the untouched jungle covered hills and mountains, which run through the island. Just be warned… power steering is a luxury in Thailand…

    My highlights:

    – Eating fresh fish in a beach front restaurant

    – Renting a jeep

    – Watching the sunset at Noon Sunset Viewpoint Restaurant (a must whilst on the island)

    It's all About the Islands - Phi Phi, Thailand - My Culture Craving

    Koh Phi Phi

    This is the island, which I tell every backpacker who is heading to Thailand to go to – it is paradise… and this isn’t just because Phi Phi is where I first set eyes on a turtle in the wild (woooo)…

    With its colourful sea life, clear, turquoise waters, limestone cliffs and lively beach parties, Phi Phi is Koh Phangan’s not so wild, baby sister.

    My highlights:

    – Indulging in a fresh fruit smoothie from one of the street stalls every morning

    – Kayaking to Monkey Beach

    – Going snorkeling (Phi Phi was the best place I snorkeled during my gap year… including The Whitsundays in Oz!)

    – Visiting the Phi Phi viewpoint

    – Drinking buckets and partying at the beach bars/clubs

    If you have ever been to Thailand, which islands were your favourite? Please comment, Facebook or Tweet me to let me know :)! For more information on how to get from one island to another, check out this website

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset

    Dorset is renowned for its impressive scenery. Therefore, what better way to explore its idyllic countryside and coastline than by whacking on your wellies and venturing out into the great outdoors.

    This morning, as soon as my friends and I spotted the clear blue sky and beaming sun, we wrapping up warm and headed towards Dancing Ledge in Purbeck.

    A country bumpkin’s hilly haven of luscious green grass, squelchy muddy puddles, rugged rock alcoves, imprinted with archaic fossils and a breathtaking view out to sea, Dancing Ledge is the perfect place to walk your worries (or hangovers) away!

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset - My Culture Craving

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset - Scenery - My Culture Craving

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset - Coastline - My Culture Craving

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset - Fossil - My Culture Craving

    After doing a spot of rock climbing and defeating the VERY steep and slippery hill, which stood between us and our car, we rewarded ourselves with a cosy pub lunch overlooking Corfe Castle.

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset - View - My Culture Craving

    The perfect end to our adventurous day in the countryside…

    The Great Outdoors in Purbeck, Dorset - Seaweed - My Culture Craving

    If you ever find yourself in Dorset, make sure you put aside some time to unearth this beautiful corner of the county.

    Hot Spots for the Perfect Winter Sun [Guest Post]

    Now that the festive period has come to an end and Santa has rewarded us with a post-Christmas present of sub-zero temperatures and rain (well, in England he most definitely has), it is that time of year again, when travellers around the globe begin to fantasize about what their next year of travel plans may bring.

    How else are we expected to survive the struggle of the working world?

    Unfortunately, this year is going to be a quiet one for me. But all for good reason… I will be embarking on the big Gap Year take two in December (check out my ‘What’s Next?’ page for more details), so need to save every single penny I can scrape together until then.

    However, for all of you fortunate travellers who are on the look out for a dose of culture, fun and sunshine, I’ve teamed up with Felicity from Holiday Lettings to suggest some incredible and diverse places you can go, to warm up during this winter chill.

    So, whilst you guys are enjoying the sunshine, think of poor me, at my desk, daydreaming of sipping on margaritas and sunning myself on a beach… in Mexico… whilst being fanned by hunky men… and stuffing my face with fajitas… oh how the mind wonders…

    Christine McIntosh (license) via flickr.com

    Gran Canaria, Spain

    A continent in miniature, Gran Canaria offers verdant rolling hills, stark desert terrain and a dramatic coastline. Neon seaside resorts mingle effortlessly with quaint white-washed houses and cobbled alleyways in inland hamlets. The only thing more dazzling than the island’s sunshine is its variety.

    You can jump on a camel at La Baranda Safari Park and ride through verdant groves of citrus trees, avocados and palms. Saunter through the historic streets of Las Palmas and visit the house Christopher Columbus reputedly lodged in on his 1492 Atlantic voyage. Immerse yourself in scuba diving or treat yourself to a luxurious seawater treatment at the Thalassotherapy Centre.

    Anupam_ts (license) via flickr.com

    Key West, USA

    Colourful Caribbean-style streets, divine sunsets and delectable key lime pie: this is a gorgeous tropical island. It mixes up mansions with ornate woodwork and pretty cigar-makers’ cottages, many covered in rambling moonflowers that only blossom by night.

    Tread softly among the luxuriant palms and delicate orchids at local artist Nancy Forrester’s nearby Secret Garden and hear the chatter of her rescued macaws and parrots. Tour Ernest Hemingway’s beautiful Spanish colonial villa, see the typewriter he composed masterpieces on and meet the descendants of his six-toed cat. Or pay a visit to spooky Robert the Doll at Fort East Martello Museum, the ‘haunted’ 19th-century toy who inspired Chucky from the Child’s Play films.

    Hot Spots for the Perfect Winter Sun - Cancun - My Culture Craving

    Ko Samui, Thailand

    This is the island idyll that makes Instagram images look shabby. There are crystal beaches brightened by azure waters and shaded by gently swaying coconut groves. The island blooms with lush tropical gardens, serves up steaming snacks from street food stalls and hides elaborate Buddhist temples up unexpected narrow alleyways. It’s just a pleasure to explore.

    Why not take a boat round the Ang Thong National Marine Park and absorb the scenery that inspired The Beach? Or head to the Nam Tok Na Muang fall, watch the water tumble over heather-coloured rocks and dive into the pool at the bottom. Venture to Wat Phra Yai, a 15m-tall Buddha statue set on a little rugged outcrop and powerfully silhouetted against the tropical sea and sky.

    Mispahn (license) via flickr.com

    Dubai, UAE

    Dubai is all about excess – it’s home to the richest horse race, the biggest man-made islands, the largest shopping festival and the biggest mall. Yes, it’s a stunning spot for sun, sand and shopping. But it’s also fascinating to take in this futuristic cityscape in the making, bordered by glittering ocean waves and infinite desert dunes. This is a city without limits.

    Reach for the sky from the observation deck at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Shop till you drop at over 1,200 stores in Dubai Mall and find out more about the area’s history and traditions at the Dubai Museum. Then get lost in the maze of charming streets in the traditional Bastakiya district or drift down the vibrant alley dubbed Hindi Lane.

    Irving Huertas (license) via Wikimedia Commons

    Cancun, Mexico

    Soak up the sun alongside the iguanas and admire the exotic flowers as they add a dash of orange-red colour to the city’s vibrant plazas. Cool down with a refreshing margarita at a chilled beach-side bar as another sultry night falls; you can see the moon illuminate the white sand and reflect in the calm surface of the water.

    Make the most of this special environment. You can roam the archaeological site of San Miguelito and admire Mayan structures, from imposing palaces to the 8m-tall Gran Piramide (Grand Pyramid) dating from 1250. Go for a dip at Playa Langosta beach where the sand is coral-coloured and the waters are perfect for snorkelling. Or explore the nearby Crococun Zoo, a former crocodile farm turned conservation centre, and pet the spider monkeys.

    *Please note that this is not a sponsored post and the article was personally chosen and endorsed by myself*.

    Have you got any winter getaways planned? Comment, Facebook or Tweet me to let me know!!