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Photo Essay – India’s Golden Triangle

 

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

 

I spent ten days in India’s Golden Triangle where I walked the crazy streets of Delhi. I visited a community kitchen that feeds anyone who’s hungry four times a day with a hot meal. I then made my way over to Agra to visit one of the Seven Wonders, Taj Mahal. I thought it was a religious site, but it is actually a token of an emperor’s love to his wife after she died 19 years into their marriage. After Agra, I went on to the final city in the Golden Triangle, Jaipur which has many historic forts. Here is my ten days in a series of photographs.

 

AGRA, INDIA

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

One can not fly to Delhi without visiting the Taj Mahal. It is one of the 7 Wonders of the World and is stunning to witness.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Another tomb in Agra is the lesser known, Baby Taj.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

The details of Baby Taj are intricate.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

All made of marble.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Kids and families play down below Baby Taj, along the river.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

An older man at Fatephur Skiri.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A family of 8 piles into an auto rickshaw.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A family on the streets of Agra.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Women selling fruits and vegetables.

 

RAJASTHAN, INDIA

 

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Abhaneri Stepwells. Pre-Escher, maybe this is where he got his inspiration from?

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Amber Fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A stray dog walks down the rails of Amber Fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

The gardens inside Amber Fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

View of the city below Amber Fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

There are many monkeys that live around the fort.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Elephants take tourists up a steep hill in 100F+ weather. Only females are used and they can be seen resisting being forced to go up the hill. Please do your research before riding one, elephants are not meant to be ridden.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Her sad eyes tell a story of being worked hard in the strong heat.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Water Palace is out in the middle of the lake, but soon to be made into a café.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Camels are used for work in India, you can see them in most cities/villages.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A man talks on his phone and rides his horse in the middle of street traffic.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Jaipur market where you can find fruits, vegetables, clothes, and other textiles.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A woman sells pottery at the market in Jaipur.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A woman shows bangles to a girl.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Woman buying vegetable from a vendor.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Fresh dried tamarind ready to be ground into powder.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Jaipur Market.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

More Jaipur market vendors.

A woman sells her vegetables on the streets of Jaipur.

 

NEW DELHI, INDIA

 

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Men washing themselves at Jama Masjid.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Locals seeking relief from the hot sun inside the walls of the mosque.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Worshipers praying at Sikh Temple.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Volunteers peeling vegetables at the community kitchen.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A happy volunteer stirs a vat of dal to be served at lunch.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A women makes roti for the community kitchen.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Cows can be seen walking down the streets of Delhi.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

An auto rickshaw.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A man carries goods down a busy street in Old Delhi.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Tiles of religious figures are mounted to the walls of alleys to discourage men from peeing on the wall.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Laundry is done with an iron heated by coal.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Many stray dogs live on the streets of India, surprisingly there were only a few cats.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

A man sweeps out in front of his shop.

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

Old lady walking the streets of Old Delhi.

 

I’m so glad I made the time to stop in India, even though it was only for ten days. To do it right, you’d really need at least a month or two to be able to explore all the India has to offer. But this little taste has changed my perception of India, as I felt safe and well taken care of while I was there. I know many have had bad experiences, but I opened my heart and decided when I landed that I would not let other people’s experiences dictate mine, and it was an incredible time with beautiful, colorful people.

 

India Golden Triangle - Photo Essay - Robyn Around The World

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Savedra Beach And Community Cleanup In Moalboal, Philippines

 

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

What I love about traveling is when I get to be involved in the community where I visit. I had the chance to join a beach cleanup while I was diving in Moalboal. Savedra Dive Center was organizing the cleanup with the local kids and invited me to take pictures and join in on the fun!

Moalboal Diving Town

Moalboal is a small peninsula located on the southwest coast of Cebu Island. This little diving town brings people from all over the world to swim their famous sardine run. The sardines are just 100 meters (328 feet) off the Panagsama house reef. You can see the sardines year round, which makes Moalboal a great place to visit any time of year. I dove with the sardines three times and snorkeled with them once. I went out early morning, just me and my snorkel gear, which was my favorite time swimming with them.

 Savedra Community Cleanup

Savedra Dive Center organized the cleanup to bring awareness and education to the local children and teach them about litter and how it hurts sea life and the environment they live in. Saverdra’s instructors went to Basdiot Elementary School to give a talk about litter and see how many kids would be interested in participating in the cleanup. By the end of the talk, there were more kids that wanted to do the cleanup than there were teachers to supervise! The kids were really excited about the prizes, which included scuba courses and snorkeling equipment to the kids who collected the most trash.

Volunteers were made up of ninety-five students from grade five, along with twelve teachers and fifteen members of Savedra staff. Both the faculty and Savedra staff pitched in to make the day a success. We started at 8:00 am, the teachers organized the students into ten groups, and each student was given a large rice bag to collect trash. Each group was designated to head to one of four beach and community locations. After getting their trash bags, and bags of snacks to take with them, the kids were off to collect trash! And I was off on the back of a motorbike, I had a personal driver for the day!

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

The Final Tally!

The kids really got into it by picking up everything from glass to paper to metal in order to clean up the streets and beach areas. By 2:00 pm the kids were back at the school with their bags filled to the brim. In total, the kids collected 917 Kilograms (2000+ Pounds!) of trash!

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Savedra also does regular reef cleanups with their divers. But, for this small town, the community cleanup is an excellent way to bring locals and expats together. It’s something that benefits everyone in the community. The kids enjoyed it, and I loved being a part of it!

Savedra Community and Beach Cleanup in Moalboal, Philippines - Robyn Around The World




Scuba Diving In Cebu, Philippines

 

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World.

I had two things on my agenda when I went to Cebu Island in the Philippines. Moalboal to dive the Sardine Run and Malapascua to swim with Thresher sharks! I loved the laidback town of Moalboal. I absolutely fell in love with the little diving town and the locals. I really felt a connection there. Malapascua has some incredible diving and is away from the hustle of Cebu Island. It was fun to hang out on bean bag chairs while watching the sunset on the beach. I dove at both places and neither disappointed!

Moalboal

I spent most of my time here. I was only planning eight days and winded up staying 13! I couldn’t get enough of the diving and fell in love with the locals. If my heart wasn’t set on seeing the thresher sharks, I would have stayed here the whole month I was in Cebu. While here, I dove ten times. While all the dive sites are good, there are two that you must do when you’re there.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

House Reef – Sardine Run (3-65m – 100 m from beach)

My favorite dive out of all of them, even over the thresher sharks! This reef is right off the shore so you can take your snorkel gear and go anytime you’d like. I went early (6:30 am) one more and had them all to myself. It was the most magical time! Of course having a tank on your back lets you stay down a lot longer than a single breath, but there was something mystical about being out there with them by myself in that early morning.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Pescador Island (55m+ –  15 minutes)

Pescador is another site that divers come for. The island is a short ride out and has a beautiful, healthy reef that’s full of color. If you’re a frogfish fan, you’re going to love this dive site. We spotted easily 4-5 on each dive.
Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Malapascua

Malapasuca is just a 35 minute boat ride from the top of Cebu Island. The island doesn’t have ATM’s or cars and you can walk the island in a couple hours. The island isn’t just for divers, it’s tailored to all tourists with its beaches lined with bars, dive shops and restaurants.  There are two popular dive sites here, Monad Shoal and Gato Island. Don’t miss diving at these two amazing sites!

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines -  Robyn Around The World..

Monad Shoal (26m+ – 20 mins)

Thresher Sharks!!! This is one of the only places in the world where they can be seen almost every morning. They are best seen at sunrise, so prepare to be up at 4:00 am to jump in the boat to get out there. The sharks are at about 24m so make sure you’re nitrox certified so you can get the longest bottom time with them. This is a show you don’t want to miss!

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Gato Island (24m – 40 mins)

Gato Island is another famous dive site on the island. It’s a marine and sea snake sanctuary. I saw a few banded sea snakes on each of my dives. You can also see cuttlefish, scorpion fish, coral banded shrimp, nudibranchs, and plenty of reef sharks. I even saw my first big seahorse! I mean pigmys are cute and all, but I had a great time following a male around while he jumped from coral to coral.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World.

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World

Scuba Diving in Cebu, Philippines - Robyn Around The World.

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Weekend In Melaka

 

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Just 2 hours south of Kuala Lumpur is Melaka, designated UNESCO World Heritage in 2008 along with Penang. It was once a trading port that was once run by the Portuguese. The town is small and walk friendly as most of its attractions are within a 1km radius. Being a huge fan of Penang, I was excited to hear about Melaka having the same cultural feel and couldn’t wait to check it out.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Getting There

It’s easy to get to Melaka by Bus from Kuala Lumpur via Terminal Bersepadu Selatan. The VIP luxury buses are only 14.40 MYR ($3.25) each way, the seats are roomy, and the ride is smooth, unlike other buses I’ve taken in Southeast Asia! If you are only making a day out of Melaka and plan to take the bus back on the same day, make sure you buy your return to guarantee your spot back. You can buy tickets at the station or for ease of mind you can pay an extra $0.25 to book them online. Once you get to the bus station in Melaka, you can quickly grab an Uber for ~7 MYR (~$2) to take you to Dutch Square, which is the heart of Melaka.

Dutch Square

Dutch Square is a photographer’s dream! All the buildings are painted red and make for stunning pictures. Dutch Square has four main buildings: the Stadthuys, Christ Church, Queen Victoria’s Fountain, and Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower. Here you will also see elaborate decorative trishaws lined up looking to take tourists on a ride around the city. There’s also a food stall across the street, selling chendol and fresh watermelon juice. This is a great place to start. The museum in Stadthuys is worth the visit and gives the history of Melaka.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Chicken and Rice Balls

Melaka is known for chicken and rice balls and the place to get it is Chung Wah. This shop is right at the entrance to Jonker Street and has been there since the 1960’s. Locals and tourists start lining up right before they open at 8:30 am to have a plate of their family recipe. Only two things are on the menu, Hainanese chicken, and rice balls. You have your option of half-chicken, whole chicken or two chickens served along with rice balls and an amazing chili sauce. I’m a huge fan of chili and dumped easily ½ a cup on my chicken! The flavor is amazing! You can find chicken rice everywhere in Melaka, but this is the best place to get it. The chicken was super fresh and probably the juiciest I’ve tasted. They’re only open for breakfast and lunch so make sure you head over there before they close at 3 pm

Price: 25 MYR ($5.75) for half a chicken and rice balls

Hours: 8:30 am – 3 pm

Location: 18, Jalan Hang Jebat

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Baba Charlie Nyonya Cake

I heard about this place from a friend in Penang; she said I must go there to get some Nyonya treats. I took an Uber to go check them out as they’re ~2.5 Km from town. Located down a narrow alley is a residential house that sells about a few dozen different kinds of desserts called kuih. When I walked in the first thing I noticed was a bunch of ladies hard at work making the treats. I asked if I could take pictures of them, which they happily smiled for.   Walking into another room is where all the magic was. So many colorful kuih! They give you baskets to load up, and I decided on three to take away and try. At ~$0.50-1.00 a dessert, it’s easy to add one of each to your basket! I refrained and picked three traditional items to taste. I liked all of them, but really loved the blue rice with palm sugar coconut.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Street Art

I hadn’t heard about the street art here, but one thing that keeps bringing me back to Penang (besides the fantastic food!) is the street art. It was an awesome surprise to see that Melaka also has their fair share of art on the street. Most of it is concentrated along the river, so I highly recommend walking the river and checking out all the wall murals out.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Jonker 88 – Chendol

I’m not going to lie; I haven’t tried chendol until now. I know I’ve been to Malaysia at least eight times over the past year, and I haven’t tried chendol?? Honestly, there’s just so much going on with it that it intimidated me. Upon arriving in Melaka everyone, of course, says get the chendol! I hadn’t planned on getting it, but then I saw Melaka Chendol wasn’t like Penang’s. It’s like a stripped down version of it and not so scary. Melaka’s chedol is basic, served with red bean, green chendol and shaved ice then topped with a healthy portion of Gula Melaka (palm sugar sauce) and coconut milk. I figured I’d give it a go and was told Jonker88 was the place to get it. WOW! So good! I got mine without beans (don’t like them), and just the simpleness of the other four ingredients was a milkshake in my mouth. Jonker88 makes a few different types from plain to durian. Maybe next time I’ll try the durian version.

Price: 4-5 MYR ($1.00-1.25)

Hours: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm

Location: 88, Jonker Street

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Jonker Street – Night Market

I had heard about Jonker Street Night Market and decided to come to Melaka during the weekend so that I could check it out. The night market is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 6:00 pm – 12:00 am. I love markets! Jonker Street shuts down car traffic to make it a walking street after 6:00 pm. The road is narrow, so I would suggest going early as you’ll be walking through like sardines after 8:00 pm. At the end of the street, I noticed a big stage, huge screen, and a microphone. Karaoke!!!! There are even seats set up in front of the stage so your friends, family, and strangers can cheer you on!

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Flora De La Mar Museum

You can’t miss the restored Flora De La Mar Portuguese ship that has now been converted into a museum. There are many museums in Melaka, and this is one I highly recommend. Your ticket not only gets you into the Flora De La Mar but also the Royal Navy Museum and Maritime Museum. I rented the walking tour headsets to learn about the history. Was surreal to learn Macallum had a fingerprint in Melaka after just hearing about him in Cebu, Philippines. I love that all my travels and history are intertwining together.

Cost: 10 MYR ($2.25) Admission; 3 MYR ($0.75) headphone tour

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

River Cruise

While I didn’t actually take a river cruise, it looked awesome! I winded up walking down the riverside instead. I was told the best time to ride is at night, unfortunately, I was already set to leave that day. Next time I go, I will take the sunset or night tour. For only $3.50 for a 40-minute boat ride, it’s worth it!

Cost: 15 MYR ($3.50) for 40 minutes

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Menara Taming Sari Tower Ride

While checking out the maritime museum, I noticed tower across the way and walked over to check it out. It was the Menara Taming Sari Tower that rotates in the sky giving a 360-degree view of Melaka. The ride itself is only about 7-8 minutes long, but it’s worth the price. I couldn’t stop smiling or taking pictures the whole time I was up there. I rode up during the day, but I bet a sunset or night ride would be spectacular.

Cost: 23 MYR ($5.25) and includes a free water bottle

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Trishaw Ride

I’ve taken trishaw rides in Penang, but these take trishaw to a whole another level! These trishaws are elaborately decorated with loud music booming. You can find them lined up at Dutch Square with menus of attractions they can take you to. This is an excellent way to see the city on a hot day if you don’t feel like walking around.

Cost: 40 MYR ($9.25) for 60 minutes

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Walk Along The River

My favorite part of Melaka! I love the river running through the center of town. I would pick cafes to hang out at just to view the river. My hotel was right on the river too, so I walked the river every morning. There is a lot to see on the river walk as that’s’ where most of the street art is. Highly recommend walking in the morning or early evening.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Watermelon Juice

This is the first time I’ve seen this! They take a small watermelon, make a hole in the top, take a hand mixer and mix up the inside, then use a funnel to add ice, then serve. Mind blown!

Locations: Dutch Square & Jonker Night Market

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

All prices correct as of April 2017

 

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

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Weekend In Koh Mak

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

Koh Mak is a small island off Southeast Thailand, a 35-minute speedboat ride from Trat. Koh Mak has a unique history in that five families own the island. These families inhabit 80% of the land. Mainland locals and foreigners run the other 20%. Koh Mak wasn’t open to tourism until 1974 but really started targeting tourists in the late 1980’s. Unlike other islands like Phuket, the families have agreed not to allow tourism to grow too big. There are only 25 resorts on the island, allowing only 600 people, which keeps the tourist numbers low. The family’s primary goal is to keep work, life balance while also sharing their beautiful island to others.

Koh Mak is a green island, which they brand as low-carbon. Starting the movement in 2007, all the streetlights are run by solar power along with many of the resorts and restaurants. You will see many bikes for rent on the street as the island is only 16 square kilometers (6 square miles) and is best seen by bicycle with its accessible roads.

Surrounded by 27 Km (16 miles) of beautiful coastal beaches, you’ll have your pick of a private oasis to hang out and swim. The island also has a coconut and rubber tree plantation. Drinking coconut water is a daily staple of the locals and tourists alike. There’s nothing like sipping a coconut, cut fresh from the tree.

While I was there, I took a tour with Royal Silk Holiday and got a feel for how the locals live and how they stay green.

KOH MAK MUSEUM

The first place we stopped was the Koh Mak Museum, which is run by one of the five families. The owner gave a history of Koh Mak and showed us the family tree. He also explained how important it is to him and the other four families to not bring in too much tourism to keep a healthy balance. Koh Mak being champions of the low-carbon movement, are continually looking for ways to make their island green.

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

KOH MAK SEAFOOD

Next to the museum is a seafood restaurant that runs solely on solar power. They get all their seafood from local fisherman and serve only fresh fish that was caught on the day. The fish are kept in nets and containers in the water to stay in their natural environment, instead of tanks.

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

CASTAWAY

The second day we did an activity called ‘Castaway.’ It started off taking a 2-hour solar powered boat ride to the island of Koh Kradad. Here we learned how to open a coconut by hand just using the edge of a tree to open. We then learned how to make a fire using magnesium sticks, then cooked bamboo rice over the fire. This was such a fun activity, and I will totally be showing off my coconut opening skills to friends and family in the future!

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

COOKING COMPETITION

After our day on the island, we went over to the island’s organic farm which produces 70% of the vegetables for the island. Here is where we had a friendly food competition where we made Som Tom (Papaya Salad), a green salad, and spring rolls. After getting a tour of the farm, we went through and picked all the ingredients we needed for our dishes. We then created them to be judged by our three tour guides. In the end, each tour guide chose a separate dish they liked so in the end, we all won!

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

 

KAYAKING

On our last day, we went kayaking to the private island of Koh Rayang Nok. The island was purchased 30 years ago for $50,000 and is now on the market for a mere $6 Million. Any takers?

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

I really enjoyed all the activities on tour. The island is great if you’re looking to get away from the party islands and just want a quiet weekend to enjoy the beach.

 

Koh Mak Island, Thailand - Robyn Around the World

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I’d like to thank Royal Silk Holidays and DASTA for sponsoring me on their low carbon tour of Koh Mak. As always all opinions are my own.




Weekend in Kuala Lumpur

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World

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I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur more than a handful of times over the past two years, yet I hated it when I first stepped into the city. After traveling Bali, Thailand, and Laos, I just expected Malaysia to be the same, little villages with a lot of cultures. I spent time in Penang before I came here which I fell in love with. When I came here, I felt I stepped into New York. I’ve learned to embrace KL and now love having short stays here when I’m passing through. Here’s what how I spent my last weekend here.


SUNSET AT TRADERS HOTEL


Head over to Traders for happy hour and the best view of the towers. Be sure to bring your camera; you’re not going to want to miss this show!

Home of where the film Entrapment was filmed (Sean Connery & Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a huge shopping mall where you can find everything from Gap to Gucci along with other European favorites, Marks and Spenser’s and Harrods’s. Get your shopping fix on at this huge mall and head up to the observation deck to get a view of the towers.

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World


EAT LOCAL AT JALAN ALOR


Not your ordinary hawker center, This is filled with restaurants with everyone wanting your business. A perfect place to head with friends as you can order a bunch of local plates and share.

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World


VISIT BATU CAVES


Don’t be turned off by hearing about the gobs of people that go here. I went in the morning ~10 am, and there weren’t that many people there. There’s even a market below where you can buy trinkets and street treats. The caves are worth a visit and the main cave is free to go in. Only 5 miles from the city it’s just a short ride for ~$1 on the Kommutor. It’s a great cheap day out.

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World


GET EDUCATED ABOUT SHARK FINNING AT KLCC AQUARIA


Usually one against aquariums, I had to go in and support KLCC’s as they have a mission to stop shark finning which is a huge problem in Asia. The focus at the aquarium is educating the public on the harms of shark finning and what it’s doing to the fish population which is something I can get behind.

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World


FIND A GOOD BARGAIN IN CHINATOWN


During the day you can shop for all the knock-off watches and bags you want, in the evening this turns into a proper night market filled with vendors trying to sell their goods. Food vendors make their way to the streets too where you can buy everything from fruit to roasted nuts.

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World


STUFF YOURSELF SILLY AT CENTRAL MARKET


Dubbed the locals market, here you will find clothes, souvenirs, and even a fish spa. Stuff yourself silly at the hawker center on the top floor or some street treats right outside. Don’t miss eating Putu Bamboo which is right outside and is made fresh right in front of you. This pandan, rice flour, palm sugar, coconut treat is one of my favorite sweets.

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World


TAKE PICTURES OF MASJID JAMEK


Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World

 




Scuba Diving In Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Ah diving in Phu Quoc… When I came to work at a dive shop here, the manager warned me that it wasn’t world class diving. Coming from diving in Komodo National Park for six weeks, I was spoiled with large fish and healthy, colorful reefs. I did some research and found out it would be all shallow diving, and the visibility would be next to nothing, 6 meters on a good day.

To me, any day underwater is a good day, so I decided to take a chance and come to Phu Quoc to dive for four months.

First impressions: The diving wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The reef is nice, but there is bleaching happening here as there is all over the world. The water temperature is 29-30C (84-86F). The reef is shallow, most of the dive will be at 5 meters, but the reef fish are beautiful. You will see everything from small schools of fusilier and sergeant majors, nudibranch, giant hermit crabs, and even cuttlefish.

Unfortunately, there is nothing big in the water. No sharks or turtles to be seen. Phu Quoc is not marine protected, so it is way overfished. The locals only care about their next meal and not the environment. I often see locals spearfishing while I’m diving here and am constantly cutting out marine life from fishing lines and nets.

If you’re looking to get out and get wet for a day, it’s a beautiful day out. But if you’re expecting world class diving you’re going to be sorely disappointed.


PHU QUOC DIVING IN THE NORTH


Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Turtle Island

Turtle Island is by far my favorite place to dive. We usually dive on the north side for our first dive then move the boat to the south side for our second dive. Both are very different dives. The north side has nice baummies that you can swim around. The south side looks like a Smurf village where you can find anemone gardens and whip coral.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Nail Island

Unfortunately, as of November 2016, this dive site is destroyed. Construction commenced to build a private hut on the island and with that builders destroyed the coral in the process. The visibility here has been 1-2 meters at best since with broken coral everywhere.

Nudibranch Garden

This shallow reef goes on for days. Sheltered from the wind, Nudibranch Garden is a great option to dive when Turtle Island has rough surface current.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

 


PHU QUOC DIVING IN THE SOUTH


MPA (Marine Protected Area)

Despite the name of the dive site, the area is not marine protected. It does have some fun boulders to follow along and the topography is different than Turtle Island, but it’s still shallow diving. You may hit 12 meters while you’re here, but the bulk of your diving will be between 6-8 meters.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Pineapple

Another popular site in the south, this L-shaped dive site is easy to navigate and is full of hard and soft coral. Again maximum depth you will get to here is about 12 meters.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

U-Turn

This popular dive site is a sheltered area from the wind where you can have fun navigating through all the hard and soft coral and if you’re lucky to see the occasional cuttlefish.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World


PHU QUOC DIVING: NORTH VERSUS SOUTH


Many people that come here thinking the South diving is the best diving because I believe Lonely Planet did a blurb on diving in Phu Quoc and made the South out to be great diving in Phu Quoc. It’s not; it’s the same as the North.

Personally, having spent three months diving here almost every day, I much prefer the North to the South and here’s why. The visibility has always been much better in the North than the South. I’m talking 2-4 meters in the South versus 6-8 meters in the North.

Yes, it’s true you can get deeper in the South. You can get to 30 meters of seeing all the sand you want. In reality, you will be at 8-12 meters for most of your dive in the South. Unless you’re doing an advanced deep dive course where you have to get to a place deeper than 18.1 meters, but you won’t see anything that deep except for a sandy bottom.

So is 12 meters better than 6 meters? Not in my opinion. The topography is a little different than the North, but neither is better than the other. It just takes longer to get South, 3 hours versus 1.5 hours to get to the North.

Still determined to dive in the South? The best time of year to dive the South is June through October. Want to dive the North? November through May is the best time to dive.




Exploring Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island off the southwest end and lies right on the border of Cambodia. This island is soon to become a cruise port destination, so life on Phu Quoc is changing at this moment.

I’ve been on the island for two months, and there’s already the cruise harbor is in the process of being built, roads are in the process of being redone, and large hotel chains and condos are going up quickly. Right now is a great time to go to see what Phu Quoc island life is like before it turns into a major tourist hub.

You see many tourist vacationers here rather than backpackers. Many people come to relax on the beautiful resort beaches and take in the slow life of the Vietnamese islanders. Despite it being a small island there are quite a few activities to enjoy. Here are five things to see and do in Phu Quoc.


PHU QUOC BEE FARM


Did you know that bee’s pollinate 85% of all plants in the world? One-third of all the food we eat come from a bee-pollinated plant. If the bee’s die, then there will be no pollination. Without bees, there will be no fruits or vegetables. Take that all in. This place is doing a great job educating the locals and tourists alike about the importance of bees.

They have a small café that serves drinks, sweetened with honey, of course. There’s also a banana fritter to munch on served with cinnamon honey which is a tasty combination.

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World


PHU QUOC NIGHT MARKET


No Southeast Asia city would be complete without a market, let alone a night market. Here you have your choice of many restaurants serving seafood, hot pot style. Hot pot is a big bowl of broth where you will cook your fish and vegetables then serve it in small bowls over rice noodles.

The small two-road market sells everything from souvenirs to ice cream. The only thing you won’t find here is a massage, which is very not Southeast Asia. Still, it’s a fun night out on the town and should be experienced while you’re here.

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World


FLOATING RESTAURANTS


This fishing village at the top of the island can be reached best by motorbike. Out at the end of the piers are many floating restaurants where you can have your pick of seafood or chicken barbecued for lunch or dinner.

Next to each restaurant are nets containing all the fish they offer. Watch your fish being ‘caught’ and cooked right in front of you.

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World


VINPEARL LAND & SAFARI


Vinpearl is Vietnam’s version of Disneyland. This park includes a wild safari & zoo, full waterpark, aquarium with mermaid show, and amusement park all wrapped up in one.

Make sure you block out a whole day as you’re going to need it to do everything. I suggest starting with the safari when it opens at 9 am. You’ll be greeted with African dancers welcoming you into the park, then head over to the waterpark after you’re done to keep cool in Vietnam’s heat.

End your day enjoying the rest of the park, which includes fun rides and a magic fountain water show.

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World


PHU QUOC HARBOR


Head down to the harbor to see all the fishing boats and snorkel boats head out for the day. Walk over the bridge to see them parked up in rows. At night watch as the squid, boats go out. They are the ones with the big light bulbs on the top deck that are used to attract the squid at night.

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World




How To Dive And Interact With Manta Rays

Diving with Manta Rays - Robyn Around the World

Swimming with Manta Rays is a unique and magical experience. Manta’s are extremely intelligent and each has it’s own personality. Some are shy but most are curious. Here are some manta facts and how to have an amazing interaction with these beautiful fish.

Diving with Manta Rays - Robyn Around the World


MANTA RAY FACTS


Manta got its name from the Spanish word for “blanket” or “cloak.”

There are two species – The Oceanic Manta (M.birostris) and Reef Manta (M.alfredi)

The Oceanic Mantas are the largest with a wingspan of up to 7 meters where the smaller Reef Mantas are half the size.

They have the biggest brain to body ratio of all the fish in the sea.

They feed on plankton and eat roughly about 12% of their body weight which is about 27KG (60LBS) per week!

Mantas give birth to one pup at a time and have a gestation period of 12-13 months.

They love cleaning stations and will surround these stations to get cleaned for up to 8 hours a day. The fish clean their wounds

Mantas are identified by the markings on their belly which act like a fingerprint. Fun fact if you take a picture of the belly during your dive, you can send it into Manta Matcher, and if the Manta hasn’t been identified, you get to name the Manta!

Diving with Manta Rays - Robyn Around the World


MANTA RAY ETIQUETTE


Do not swim into the path of a manta ray – If they are approaching you, slow down to a stop and they will swim around you.

Deflate all the air out of your BCD and kneel on the sand, or use your reef hook to secure yourself to a rock if you’re in a current.

Do not chase Mantas – This will put them off and scare them away.

Respect their environment – We are just visitors in their home, treat it as such.

Don’t touch the Manta – Their skin has a mucous protection and touching them removes this film and exposes their skin to harmful infections. It is also illegal in marine protected environments, and you will be hit with a fine if reported.

Be patient – They will come to you and will swim over your head watching you with their eyes.

Learn more about Manta Rays and how you can help protect them by visiting Marine Megafauna and Manta Trust.




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