Posts Tagged ‘ vacation ’

MALTA – SEPT. 2012

Having decided there would be no other holiday this year following a month travelling Nepal and India, the rain drenching Scotland all summer soon changed our minds!

Malta was put on the table and so long as it was hot, I didn’t mind where we went!

A comfortable 30+ degrees Celsius was the prefect temperature for swimming and snorkelling along Malta’s beautiful coast and a number of boat trips around Malta, Comino and Gozo.  The Azure window earns and derives it’s name from the bluest and most turquoise sea you will ever see.    One issue though, beware of trips to the blue lagoon!  It was covered in litter and full of very loud Italian tourists – much like Maya bay in Thailand – a beautiful place which without the high volume of people would be heaven.  Unfortunately the noisy Italian tourists are somewhat a recurring theme on the Maltese Islands and you are hard pushed to find an escape from them!

Valetta is the capital city and was designed and built to keep its citizens well protected and safe from attack.  Malta has unfortunately suffered a number of heavy sieges in the past due to its geographic location and huge strategic port.  It is characterised by its many ancient forts that all carry tales of old and have withstood attacks from the Turks, Ottoman’s and the Nazi’s in World War 2.  Malta’s history is well documented and there are plenty of sights of historical importance to visit.   ‘The Malta Experience’ next to St Elmo’s Fort in Valetta is an Audio Visual documentary of Malta’s history and worth watching prior to visits to all the sites.  Another worthwhile activity is a tour of the three harbours.  There are a number of boat tours leaving from Silema on a daily basis and the views from the boat are much better than being up close.

Valetta is well worth spending the time just walking through its narrow streets and appreciating the original and worn facades of the buildings and venturing in and out of the many small boutique’s around the city.  Inside, they are just as interesting and we had the pleasure to be shown around an old hotel which at some point was a brothel used by the many sailors visiting the city.  There is a trend to renovate these old buildings, but to maintain their character and charm and all over Malta and Gozo you can see a number of development projects where they are restoring the facades and building behind them to create fabulous buildings.

We stayed in Silema – a more modern area where they are building large luxury complexes and where there are lots of hotels and apartments to rent.  This area has a good choice of restaurants and bars and is close enough to St.Julians Bay and Pacheville – the tacky nightlife spot on Malta and only worth going to for the Shisha outside Plush – that is unless you’re in your late teens or in your early twenties – then its a hedonists dream.

The highlight though, was Gozo, the smaller and much less populated island.  Gozo offers a much slower pace, better beaches and great boat trips around the island and Comino.  It is also home to the Azure Window and the Inland sea, perfect for swimming and scuba diving.  Also the best region for wine in Malta, try the fish and wine at El Kartel in Marsalforn, a beautiful bay with stunning views and restaurants.

Although just a short trip, Malta offered the perfect balance between relaxation, good food and wine and abundant historical places of interest and is well recommended for a simple Mediteranean getaway.

India – Gets an unexpected grip on you!

Back to Edinburgh and back to the daily grind!  A week on and I have found the time to reflect on my trip to India now that it has fully taken grip.

If I’m being completely honest, I couldn’t wait to get back to Scotland and all my home comforts and luxuries, such as being understood and getting the things I ask for!  India, while you’re there, is a challenge and although, yes, they do speak English, we don’t understand each other.  In addition, I was slightly under the weather the whole time I was there and this in part was due to the pollution, so imagine my feeling the minute I stepped off the plane into the crisp, fresh Scottish air.  One of the most noticeable luxuries being home is the amount of open space and calmness in the streets.

India is crazy busy and you are constantly surrounded by noise.  I dont think we slept our first week in Kolkata due to our room facing the street and noise keeping us awake all night and into the morning.  The truth of this matter is that India, no matter where we went, was over populated!  I won’t even mention the mosque’s next to our hotels and the call to prayers at unGodly hours!  In keeping with this is the fact that as a tourist, you are unable to walk down a street without being hassled in one way or another, furthermore, being a foreign women, this hassle is times a hundred!  In India, there is a concerning phenomenon called ‘clicking’ which is the art of taking random photos of women on your mobile.  I am yet to discover the real purpose of this, but I can certainly pass judgement and say it is creepy, very weird and extremely rude!  In addition, I read one day in the India Times that India was the 4th most dangerous country for women, lagging only behind Afghanistan, The Congo and Pakistan.

Next is the amount of garbage on the streets of India, in particular the bigger cities and poorer areas.  It is shocking to go see the Taj Mahal in all it’s glory, only to step out into Agra and garbage up to your armpits:  you’d think they’d make more of an effort to impress the millions of tourists passing through year after year.  this is apparent across all of India and I can only imagine this is the result of overpopulation and lack of government spending on proper sanitation and waste disposal.  That said, Nepal was much cleaner, yet poorer and i have been to a number of other poorer countries and never experienced filth like this, so I am inclined to believe this is somewhat of a cultural disfunction.

India is also strangled by unnecessary bureaucracy that makes no sense and is sure to send even the calmest of us over the edge, I think in one hotel I had to fill in about 5 forms just to stay for one night!… And don’t get me started on buying a train ticket again…

Leaving India, I wasn’t sure if I’d go back, but on reflection having returned to the comfortable west, I can honestly say that I will definitely go back, because in spite of all its issues and idiosyncrasies, India is in fact an incredible place!  The people there for the most part are fun and friendly and its sad that the odd few bring them down.  They have a vast culture changing from region to region and many parts are incredibly beautiful.  Ican only say that when I do go back, I will hopefully use the knowledge gained from this trip and do things a bit differently next time round.