Chapter 14: Statistically speaking

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss

So with bags to unpack, friends and family to see (and us being more keen on one of those activities than the other!) we’ve found ourselves with time to reflect on the last six months. Originally we’d planed to head off somewhere else for a few days before work beckoned, but it turned out we felt there was ‘no place like home’ to help settle us into every day life.

Part of these ponderings have led us to numbers… Along the way we tried to keep track of a few statistics. Some were easy as they printed them on tickets (I.e mileages) some harder. For example we were going great guns with keeping a tally of the number of religious establishments we’d been in… Until we got to Myanmar and we hit hundreds of temples (almost) a day so this one is a bit of a guesstimate!! But here we go with the more random account of our time away:

Total time away:  133 Days, 5 hours, 30 minutes and 15 seconds

Total time smiling:  133 Days, 5 hours…… the rest of the time was spent re-planning when our second train was part cancelled!

Number of Countries visited / passed through on this trip (look out for the ‘how to celebrate 100 countries blog in the future!):  16 – UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Nepal, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Australia, Philippines

Hottest Temperature:  38 degree Myanmar

Coldest Temperature:  -28 degrees Mongolia

Total mileage by train (excluding Metro / Underground systems): 19, 585km or 12, 170 miles

Total time on trains:  315 hours, 24 minutes or 13 days, 3 hours and 24 minutes

Total mileage by plane:  37, 192 km or 23, 110 miles

Total time in planes:  52 hours, 13 minutes (including flight with my Father-in-law)

Total mileage by bus / coach:  2768km or 1720 miles

Total time on coaches / buses: 63 hours and 45 minutes or 2 Days, 15 hours and 45 minutes

Total mileage driving through Mongolia and on The Friendship Highway in Tibet:  1245km or 774 miles

Total time on boats:  10 Hours Diving + 36 hours Yangtze Cruise + 1 hour on a rowing boat in Nepal

Cheapest Subway / Underground ticket:  7p – Delhi Metro

Cheapest Train Ticket:  75 Rupees (74p) – Gorakpour to Varanassi Junction (9 hour slow train!!!!!)

Cancelled Transport:  1 Plane,  1 train

Total time under water:  13 hours, 48 minutes (828 minutes)

Number of modes of transport:  14:  Car, Taxi, Train, Tuk-tuk, Bus, Coach, Hot Air Balloon, Paraglide, ATV (Quad Bike), Aeroplane, Metro / Underground, Boat, Horse and Camel

Number of temples visited:  122

Number of Churches visited:  21

Number of Monasteries visited:  33

Number of tigers spotted:  Zero!

Number of hours spent looking for tigers:  20 hours!

Number of falls on snow and ice: Dean 3, Natalie 1

Number of Delhi Belly attacks: Dean 2, Natalie 5

Number of parcels sent home:  Three

Number of Lonely Planets used:  Seven – Trans Siberian, Mongolia, China, Nepal, India, Myanmar, Philippines (yes very heavy!)

Number of currencies:  10 – Euro, Russian Ruble, Mongolian Tugrik, Chinese Yuan, Nepalese Rupee, Indian Rupee, Malaysian Ringt, Myanmar Kyat, Australian Dollar, Philippine Peso

Most expensive public loo:  ‘GUM’ Centre, Red Square Moscow – £2

Cheapest public loo:  Monkey Temple, Kathmandu – 3p

Great Train challenge UNO winner:  Natalie 56 : Dean 50

Weight of my rucksack:  13kg to start, 21kg at the end!

Best glass of champagne:  Moet and Chandon!

Number of photos taken: Don’t ask! (Dean was somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000)

Highlight of trip:  Mongolia, Tibet, Myanmar, our 2nd Wedding and diving in the Philippines… ok thats more than one!

I think it is fair to say that whilst these stats look fairly impressive here, anyone who has ever been on a long trip will tell you they all really merge into one over-arching thought when you get home.  It’s something I call the ‘Heathrow effect’.  This means that as soon as you touch down and walk through through arrivals doors, your whole trip dissolves into one big dream.  But what a mighty good dream it was….

– Natalie

Some Like it Hot – Food in India

For Dean, when he arrived in India he thought everything was going to be so hot and spicy that there would be little left of our insides by the time we left…. Whilst this excited him I was a little worried! The mass spice attack hasn’t been the case but we haven’t been left disappointed. The food has been nicely ‘warm’ whilst not blowing our brains out and above all has been amazingly tasty.

I have stuck to vegetarian dishes which have been so good that I wonder if I’ll ever truly turn back to meat (with the exception of my Mum’s Roast pork and Mother-in-law’s steak!).

My favourite, which surprisingly came in a number of different combinations were the Thali dishes. Essentially a big silver tray full of yummy goodness. Most had a kind of lentil Dahl, veggie curry, curd (yoghurt which came in handy for cooling things down!), spicy rice and of course some chapati or roti to scoop everything up with. The elaborate versions even had fruit and some come with meat. It was like a mini buffet on a plate and from Nepal onwards they became my dish of choice!

Thali

Thali

In Jaipur one speciality were tandoori skewers of (mainly) meaty goodness. I passed on this but Dean enjoyed them on a few occasions and seemed to think that you could never have enough!

Our favourite restaurant in Jaipur

Our favourite restaurant in Jaipur

I have mentioned our love of samosa in a previous blog and this continued right until the end. However along the way we discovered other yummy lunchtime options and snacks. One day Dean had a Masala Dosa (wafer thin savoury crepe) which was a top choice whilst I sampled vegetable Pakora – bite size deep fried veggies! some things here are not so healthy, but hey we are on holiday!

Masala Dosa

Masala Dosa

One of the most exciting part of train travel was the food circus that emerged before your eyes both when on the train and at stations when waiting. Sellers with their leaf-made-plates served up a storm to travellers on the train, using playing cards for spoons. You could get anything from samosa to tomato soup, popcorn, nuts and full on dinner platters. Not to mention the constant calls of “chai chai chai” from the sellers offering tea! Once one train pulled out of the station the vendors would load the bowl of their offerings onto their head and climb down onto the tracks to cross the lines to meet the next train. Why use the bridge when you can walk through the yukkiness and amongst the rats! I guess speed is of the essence. On the one journey where we tried the a/c class coach I was disappointed with the lack of vendors. They make the journey exciting. As I write this on our last train calls of “byriani byriani (a type of spicy rice)” have just passed by!

As well as snacks and Thali we have tried many amazing curries. My Dhal Makhani (black lentils with butter) was especially good at a hole in the wall restaurant in Jaipur but we’ve also had some good butter paneer (a kind of cottage cheese) and Dean enjoys a Lababdar…. Key for me is looking out for the word “Aloo”. This means potato and generally speaking means I’m going to love it!

You just got to hope your hands are clean...

You just got to hope your hands are clean…

Not to be outdone, sweet treats and drinks all rein supreme in India. On our second train the family who bought me chai also offered me some Indian sweets. Customary when Indian weddings are involved. This family were on their way back from a wedding and had lots of sweets to share! To be honest I’d stick with a bar of Cadbury chocolate any day but I was grateful for their offering. My favourite sweet treat was Jalebis – deep fried batter dunked in sugar syrup. Right up my street!

For drinks one thing that rules on a hot day is a fruit Lassi. Essentially a milkshake like drink with the key ingredient being yoghurt. They come with ‘seasonal’ fruits (or more to the point whatever is available!) and banana was our favourite! No matter what the temperature Chai is everywhere and must be tried. Its a kind of spiced tea which is milky and sweet and is served in small cups.

One thing that concerns a lot of people about the food here is the World famous Delhi Belly. To say we haven’t suffered at some point would be untrue however we decided we wanted to get out there, eat with the locals and try what we could. If all else fails there are pharmacies everywhere who will sort you out 😉 .

The food here has been amazing. Three weeks on and I’m not bored of curry, in fact I can’t wait to try something new from the menu at India Cottage – our favourite curry house in the UK! The food in Myanmar has a lot to live up to!

Bon appetite!

– Natalie