5 days on Koh Tao (sick in paradise)

A 3 hour flight got us from Delhi to Bangkok. We were headed to the islands as soon as possible. The climate in India was cool (it could be compared to our Canadian fall), and we were ready for the beach!

We exited the airport in Bangkok and hopped in a taxi. We must have been a bit flustered because we accepted a price from the driver before leaving, going against the advice we heard to always ask the taxi to run the meter. We realized about 5 minutes in that he had the meter covered by a towel. Not the end of the world but our 500 baht ride should probably have cost us closer to 300 baht.

Thats right, no more Rupees! Thailand deals in Baht. We quizzed each other on the plane to practice the currency. We figured the easiest way to remember  was that Rupees were kind of double (100 rupees equals 2 dollars), and for Baht we used that method but then doubled it again (100 Baht equals 4 dollars). You following? Well, it worked for us.

The taxi brought us to Khao san Road, the backpacker/tourist hub. The streets are lined with bars and seedy hostels. Its an entertaining place to say the least, but anybody that lives in Bangkok or has travelled the area more then a couple times will probably tell you to avoid it. “It’s not the real Bangkok”, they’ll say. That’s okay with us, and we enjoyed the short time we spent there. We only had about 8 hours to kill before our bus left the Khoasan area. We drank a few pints, bought a SIM card for the phone and sampled the street food. It was an overnight bus to Chumphon, then transferring to a high speed ferry that would take us to Koh Tao. The bus/boat combo took a total of about 14 hours and cost $40 each. We booked through Lomprayah Tours and everything went smoothly.


Walking Khao San Road


Khao San Street Eats



Chumphon Pier. Waiting for ferry around 7:00am.

We arrived at the Koh Tao pier around 10am. We planned to stay in the Sairee Beach area and had to take a 10 minute taxi to get there. We checked into our private room at Khun Ying House, which was nice and clean. We shared a bathroom with the other rooms on the floor and we had access to a kitchen one floor below. When planning our trip we expected to spend some nights in dorm style accommodations, figuring it would be the cheapest, but we haven’t had to do it yet. While the average dorm bed can run you $5-$10 a night per person, it’s not hard to find private rooms for $20-$30. The extra couple bucks we spend is well worth the comfort.

Our first day on a romantic island ended up being Valentines Day. We spent the afternoon swimming in the ocean and lounging on the beach. Jeff got stung by a sea urchin and we ended up having to pull little pieces of the stinger out with tweezers. It wasn’t a bad sting or very painful but it does make you paranoid of swimming in the ocean when this happens 20 minutes into the first dip. We were feeling pretty tired by the time evening rolled around but still made plans to enjoy a Valentines dinner at a beach side restaurant.


Sunset View from Restaurant


and again…


Pizza and Daiquiris for dinner! (side of anchovies for Jeff)

The next morning Britt woke up and went to check out a yoga class around the corner. Jeff stayed in the room, and by noon he knew something wasn’t right. He was sick to his stomach, dizzy and had a fever. This would be the start of almost 3 days spent laying in bed. On top of Jeff being under the weather, Britt was breaking out with huge welts all over that seemed to be from bug bites. We weren’t sure if it was mosquitoes or fleas or bed bugs. Who knows?

At this point we realized travelling isn’t always glamorous. When you expose yourself to changing climates, odd sleep patterns, new bugs, different foods etc… eventually its gonna catch up with you. We agreed that after 2 full days of no improvement that it was time to get to a clinic. Jeff had some blood work done and turns out he had an infection in his stomach. Maybe from the anchovies he had to have with his pizza? Maybe from that jerk of a sea urchin? It was hard to say, but we hoped the antibiotics would work there magic. The doc didn’t have much to say about Britt’s bites so we picked up some hydrocortisone cream, bug spray and citronella candles. Luckily by the end of day 3 Jeff was starting to feel like himself again.

It was a lonely, boring and painful way to spend the first part of our island adventure. It is this type of discomfort that brings on the home sickness as well. It sucks, but it’s an almost guaranteed part of long term travel. Hopefully we got that experience behind us.

Koh Tao is a divers paradise. You can become a certified diver in a few days for as little as a couple hundred bucks. It also has some of the best snorkelling. Of course we did neither of these things, haha. For the last couple days we were in good health we decided to rent scooters and explore the whole island. We drove to almost every little beach cove there was, taking in the views and trying out different places to eat and drink.



Stopping to take in the view


Scooter Cruisin’

We moved accommodations to a private bungalow on the beach for the last 2 nights and temporarily adopted a cat Britt named Mr. Chang. We had talked about staying in a beach bungalow since we started planning our trip and our little shack at Bewitched Bungalows was as cool as we imagined.


Bewitch Bungalows


Short walk to the beach


Mr. Chang and Britt doing some hammock swingin’


Beach views

Our last day on the island we rented stand up paddle boards for a couple hours around sunset. It was an amazing time paddling around on the water once we got the hang of it. It was also the closest we got to exploring things under the water, the turquoise waters were nearly crystal clear and from our boards we could see the fish and coral below.

We met a couple Canadians who opened a little restaurant called “The Moose Knuckle”, we were happy to discover we wouldn’t have to wait to get home to feast on some poutine.


Da’ Moose Knuckle Poutine

Our time on Ko Tao quickly came to an end. Jeff was feeling alive again and Britt’s welts were slowly fading. We boarded the boat, destined for Koh Phangan feeling good but also knowing we missed out on a lot of what Koh Tao had to offer.


Two Days (Back) in Delhi

It was 4:30am, cold and still very dark when we walked to the taxi stand and said goodbye to Rishikesh for the final time.


The ride to the Haridwar train station took about 40 minutes. We had planned to arrive early to make sure all was good boarding our train to Delhi. We booked in chair class 2, definitely not the worst, but it’s no Via Rail!


Chair Class 2 Hardiwar to Delhi


The facilities on the train.

When the train pulled up we hopped inside the first car we thought might be ours. Turns out we were only off by about five. That’s a lot of isles to push through but we finally made it to our seats after asking a few questions. Four and a half hours later the train stopped at the New Delhi Rail Station.
If you read How to Get Scammed in Delhi, you will know our first attempt at exploring this city was a bust to say the least. We actually set out to make it to the same hostel, the same way we failed at last time…call us stubborn! We were armed with a screen shot of the walking directions and arrived at The Smyle Inn as planned. In the short treck to the hostel we encountered about 20 more scam attempts. Random people trying to make you think you are going the wrong way, or are in the wrong place, you name it. Basically getting you confused so they can overcharge you for a ride, take you to a fake tourist office, or their buddy’s hotel\shop. You are a huge target when you are walking through Delhi with your luggage and\or looking like a tourist. Know where you are going and ignore help from friendly strangers.

It was mid afternoon when we unloaded our bags into the room, and we set out to explore the Main Bazaar. It was right at our doorstep. Shops galore and typical Delhi sounds, sights, and smells overloading your senses.



It was so much more enjoyable walking around without the burden of our packs. Not long into our walk we were both looking at each other and smiling. It is a crazy feeling being in such a foreign place. We checked out a few shops before stopping to eat. We couldn’t ignore our hunger any longer,  and the small bag of chips we had on the train ride wasn’t cutting it. Jeff had read about My Bar & Restaurant on Trip Advisor so we decided to check it out. That’s where we enjoyed our first alcoholic beverage after about 5 weeks of being dry in Rishikesh. It was everything we thought it would be.


Connaught Place was just a few blocks away and a local (the rickshaw driver who had scammed us our first time to the city, actually) had described it as Delhi Central Park. Its a large green space circled by city streets lined with luxury brand shopping and high end dining spots. There is also an amazing underground market below the park, it’s full off knock off clothing and gadgets sure to break the minute you try them. Bartering skills are a must, and expect to pay a quarter or less of the original price. We spent a couple hours walking around the area while our appreciation for Delhi continued to grow. The city really does have both ends of the spectrum, from the amazingly rich to the horribly poor.




These dapper young men wanted their picture taken with our camera.

We sat on our bed at the end of the day on the laptop and reading our Lonely Planet Guide book trying to figure out what we can squeeze into tomorrow. Suddenly we realized there was so much to do and we don’t have enough time. We decided to explore The Red Fort and the spice market, and walk around Old Delhi. We took the metro line to Old Delhi in the morning and walked to the Fort, meeting some friendly folks along the way who were from Germany, South Africa, and the States but were all living in Delhi.





We then continued walking aimlessly through Old Delhi until our feet ached. It is truly a place that cannot be described in words.








Delhi was a real treat, especially after getting off on the wrong foot. We are lucky to have been able to give it a second shot. India deserves the time it takes to really get to understand and appreciate it. It’s a world away from what we are accustomed to. During our visit we had to get use to a few, what you might call “cultural differences”.

1) Local men in general won’t show affection towards their wife in public but will walk down the street, holding hands (interlocked fingers I might add) with their male friends. We even seen some bros out borderline cuddling. It’s all good of course but why no love for the ladies?

2) Another one that foreigners might initially take offence to is the shameless staring. The local people will look you up and down and stare into your soul while time stands still. You can stare back, flash them a uncomfortable smile, but they just don’t stop looking. We learned to laugh it off, they don’t mean any offence for the most part.

3) Lastly is the picture requests. Not only do Indians seem to love having you take pictures of them with your camera, lots will want a picture with you. We felt like celebrities walking through town, often being stopped for pictures. The less shy folk will want different poses and even throw their babies and young children at you to hold for the camera. We just learned to have fun with this as well. One afternoon in Ram Jhula we did have to leave an area pretty quickly, a crowd started to form and we thought we might get swarmed (seriously!).



India, you’ve been interesting to say the least!

Britt & Jeff.


My Experience With Yoga Teacher Training: Expectation Vs. Reality

On January 9th, 2016, I started my journey into becoming a yogi with the 200-Hour Registered Yoga Teacher training at Vinyasa Yoga School in Rishikesh, India. The course started off with a hawan on the Saturday night (read more about that here) to get us acquainted with our teachers, fellow classmates, and some Indian culture. We received our class schedules and were told we were starting the next day (Sunday, our scheduled day off) because we had only a short time to fit everything into the month.

Our daily schedule was as follows:

5:30-6:00am Tea and fruit time
6:00-8:30am Vinyasa class
45 minute break
9:15-10:15am – Pranayama (breathing techniques)
10:15am-11:30 Breakfast
11:30-12:30pm Yoga Philosophy
15 minute break
12:45pm-1:45pm Physiology and Anatomy
1:45-5:00pm Lunch break
5:00pm-7:00pm Hatha class
30 minute tea break
7:30-8:30pm Meditation
8:30pm Dinner

(Thursday’s we only had Vinyasa and Hatha classes, and Sunday’s we had off completely.)

The next morning when my alarm went off at 5am, I thought someone was playing a cruel joke. As a rule I’m a morning person but getting up at 5am when you are fighting jet lag isn’t my idea of a good time. I dragged myself upstairs to make it on time for tea, made small talk with my classmates, and laid my mat out in the yogashala in preparation for my very first class. I breezed through my first yoga class with ease, marvelling at how flexible and strong I already was.

Just kidding. I thought I was going to die. I was shocked at how weak and out of shape I was. I try to make exercise a priority at home, but during the last month (okay, maybe two months) I had majorly fallen off the bandwagon of running and yoga, all the while fully indulging in the delicious drinks and eats that come along with the holiday season. During the class I was constantly comparing myself to the others, thinking “all these people are so much better than I am, I’m the fattest one here,  I’m so bad at this”, and all the other things our ego puts in our heads to tell us we aren’t good enough. I left the class feeling defeated and negative. Not a great way to start a month long course.


Beatles Ashram grafitti.

But, as things always seem to do, it got better. Once I got used to being exhausted most of the time, and with the support of Jeff, my attitude changed and I started enjoying my time. We both had tried to come to India and into the course with no expectations, which as we all know can be harder then you’d think. The following are the expectations vs. the realities that I encountered during my time at Vinyasa Yoga School.

Expectation: I’m going to be so flexible and skinny when I’m done and I’m going to be able to bend my body into a pretzel and do the splits.

Reality: Hell frickin’ no. I’ve noticed a change in the way I look, but can’t say I’m more flexible. After the first two weeks of the course, I found myself less flexible and poses that I used to be able to do before I came (poses that stretch your hips) were really difficult. Our classes focused more on strength then flexibility, so I did notice my strength improved considerably over the month, and I am able to do some poses that I never could (forearm stand). I wish our course would have focused a little bit more time increasing flexibility, but now I have something to work towards! It will come with practice.


Laxman Jhula street art.

Expectation: I’m going to be so good at teaching after this.

Reality: I feel like I have a lot more self exploration and personal practice and learning to do before I will be ready to teach as a job. That was one of the complaints of the course and a few of us didn’t feel like we had gained enough knowledge of how to actually teach. I can only speak for this course as I don’t know if it is synonymous with teacher training in general, but I know I’ve got some more work to do 😊.

Expectation: Since I’m doing so much yoga and eating vegetarian, I’m going to feel so good all the time and sleep like a baby.

Reality: For the first week I had insomnia. If I was lucky I would get 3 hours of sleep a night, which isn’t near enough for the activities we were doing, and I could only fall asleep during class! That improved and then the second week I got a nasty head cold, and the third week I got the flu. Almost everyone got sick at some point, which is common when you are sharing a small space with so many people. At one point I got a knot in my shoulder blade that was so nasty I couldn’t practice yoga. The course kicks your ass, and during the first couple weeks your body is detoxing and getting used to the four hours of yoga you are putting it through, so getting sick is likely. Homesickness is also inevitable , but luckily Jeff and I had each other and with technology these days keeping in touch with family and friends is easy.

Expectation: I’m going to find my inner peace.

Reality: India isn’t really a peaceful place. With the pollution, poverty, horns and droves of people it can be difficult to focus on anything but. (India is a lot more than those things though!) We’ve realized that inner peace is exactly that. You do not need to fly halfway across the world to find it.

Expectation: I will learn to meditate properly.

Reality: Aside from the fact that during the first couple weeks every time I’d lie down for meditation or for savasana at the end of class, I would fall into a deep sleep, I’ve learned that meditation takes a lot of work and practice, and it isn’t really something can be taught to you. It isn’t a black and white subject and is your own personal journey.


Expectation:  This experience is going to be challenging and life changing.

Reality: Finally I was right. This experience challenged me in ways I didn’t know were possible. It has helped give me the tools to hopefully become a teacher someday, and has helped put me on the path to healing the issues that we all have but sometimes don’t want to deal with. India as a country ripped my heart wide open and I’m so grateful for Jeff being there to support me through it all, and for the beautiful souls that I’ve met during my time at yoga teacher training in the little yogi town on the banks of the Ganga.

The following are some pictures Jeff snapped during our graduation ceremony.



If you have any questions more specific to Vinyasa Yoga School in Rishikesh, email me!

Britt 😊

Time Well Spent in Rishikesh

We’ve spent almost 5 weeks in Rishikesh, mainly the Laxman Jhula area and were able to do almost everything that peaked our interest. We agree that for someone just visiting town and not enrolled in some type of program, one or two weeks is plenty of time to experience most of what this area has to offer.

Most travelers spend their time here bent in a yoga pose, deep in meditation and/or smoking their way to enlightenment in one of the many cafes overlooking the Ganges. Bungee jumping and water rafting is also possible for the thrill seekers (sounds fun but we passed on it). Treks are supposed to be amazing as well.

A lot of our usual shenanigans we already covered here, Rishikesh: First Impressions.

Here is a few different activities we enjoyed.

Unguided Hike and Waterfall Tour

Word on the street is there are two waterfalls within walking distance of Laxman Jhula. It was my day off yoga and we decided to go find them on our own. Guides are available but really cramp our style. Heading north on the main road leaving Laxman Jhula we noticed we were being followed. Turns out we did find a guide, this mother and pup team joined us for the full trek. Here’s a picture of them napping at the waterfall.DSC01589

About 20 minutes out of town we came across a small temple. This is where we were told to start walking up in the jungle to find the first waterfall. The police were setup at the temple and told us the area was closed and we cannot see the waterfall. Not really understanding why, we walked up the road a bit further. Five minutes later there was a small food stall selling chai. Just behind it was a trail leading into the jungle. We decided to explore and felt confident with mama dog guarding us. Our intuition told us it looped back to the waterfall trail the police told us we couldn’t go on. We were right, after a fairly intense 15 minute uphill hike we came to a big cave and the waterfall, which we had all to ourselves.


There is a bigger waterfall close by which we tried to check out the following Sunday but were never able to find it. Mama joined us on this hike as well, minus the pup this time.



Scooter Cruisin’

There is nothing better then wind in your hair, one hundred and ten cubic centimetres of pure Honda goodness beneath your seat and the arms of your lady wrapped around your waist. We spent the day winding around the back roads with Macklemore’s hit song Downtown on repeat in our heads. 350 rupees ($7 CAD) well spent!


We enjoyed the road on the hillside that runs from Laxman Jhula to Rishikesh on the east side of the Ganga. It was away from the in-town crowds but still poses some safety hazards like road side cliffs, blind corners, animal crossings and potholes. Rishikesh isn’t the safest place to rent a scooter, but luckily they aren’t necessary to get around either. Just a fun way to spend the afternoon.



Ganga Aarti Light Ceremony

Every evening at dusk on the banks of the Ganga at Parmarth Niketan ashram, locals and tourists gather for the daily Ganga Aarti ceremony. Aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering to the Goddess Ganga, goddess of the most holy river in India. The ritual takes place facing the river, where lamps are lit and circled around by the pandits (Hindu priests) while songs in praise of Mother Ganga are played. The idea is that the lamps acquire the power of the deity.


The ceremony commences with a Hawan, a fire ceremony in which we burn our ego to reveal purity, allowing us to learn without doubt. During the ceremony, the Hindi word “swaha” is chanted to the fire by all in attendance, which translates in English as “take it” (asking the fire to take our ego). During our time in India, we were able to attend three of these ceremonies, as they seem to take place quite often.


The ceremony is completely free and everyone is welcome. It is a great way to spend the evening and immerse yourself in the culture.

Hair Cut and a Shave

Maybe not the most thrilling experience but getting a haircut and shave is worthy of mention. There are plenty of salons to choose from. We managed to find this highly recommended, yet extremely small shop located underneath a set of stairs in the Tapavon area. This guy is a true master of his trade. Armed with scissors and a straight razor, he does great work and includes a head massage. Cost is “as you wish”, 100-200 rupees is customary ($2-4 CAD).


Final Thoughts

We really enjoyed our time in Laxman Jhula and the surrounding area, but as we said, 1-2 weeks would be enough time if you weren’t enrolled in a course. The town has an almost magical vibe about it, but there is as much darkness as there is magic. The more well-known it gets, the easier it will be for people to exploit the spirituality and the faster that magic will disappear. Until then, it will remain the little yogi town on the banks of the Ganga.

We will leave you with some pictures we snapped from around Laxman Jhula.

Britt and Jeff 🙂