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Escape from Blighty

a travel blog by Michael Russell

Credit crunch (check)
Crap weather all year round (check)
Friends scattered across the globe (check)
Age 24 and still living at home (check)

Remind me why I haven't decided to leave earlier? Ahh yes money! Well I have saved up for the last 18 months so I can now afford to offski on my trip abroad

The order of travel is: 10 weeks in Southern India followed by Thailand and then vague plans of Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and then who knows. Length of escape? Unknown, whenever the money runs out

Aims of this blog: Document my travels and activities. Keep my mum from worrying that I am eating well and staying out of trouble. Goad my friends who are sat behind a desk at work

This blog will be supplemented by pics from my flickr pages:
flickr.com/photos/mjfrusell and flickr.com/photos/mjfrusell1

(N.B - HTMLs aren't allowed so you'll have to add the www.)


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Warlingham, United Kingdom

Just a quick test entry before my departure on 12th Jan.

permalink written by  Michael Russell on December 28, 2008 from Warlingham, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Escape from Blighty
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Mumbai - Gateway to India

Mumbai, India

Hi All,

So Mumbai, Gateway to India - Kate and I arrived midday in Mumbai airport, roughly 33C and the merking/jokers started from the off..overcharged for the cab, the driver going off to 'wash his face' to encourage us to go and purchase a bottle of water from the shop we had pulled up at, this was before we had enter left the airport car park!!

The journey from the airport to our hostel, the superbly named Hotel Volga II (surely the name of the hotel on the Starship Enterprise), was eventual to say the least... Indian drivers are best described as bad, no signaling and incessant honking. The journey also included slums on both sides of the street with adults/children squatting doing both sets of business on the side of the road.. add to this people sleeping on the side of the street and also on the central reservation. You can imagine the smell no doubt....

When we arrived at the hostel the cab driver tried to shoe us into another hostel, we casually strolled away from him and found our booked hostel, time for a nice relaxing nap we thought... the chap on the door apparently had no record of our booking and told us it was full up... then changed his mind and told us wait 30mins I will have a room. We were finally taken to the box (sorry room) and took whatever we were given really.

So Mumbai as a city, the Taj Mahal hotel is stunning, the Gateway to India lovely and the train station is a beautiful Victorian piece of architecture. Other than this Mumbai is rather charm less, I imagine Victorian London wouldn’t have been too dissimilar; hawkers and beggars and the personal hygiene of the cities inhabitants quite awful, spitting seems to be mandatory for both men and women in India!

Yesterday early morning we boarded the Konkan Railway to Goa and this was 12 hours of fun on an Indian sleeper train, it was pretty dirty but the views simply stunning.. I am currently in Arpora but looking to venture out to the old hippy beach in Northern Goa, Arambol.

I am having a slight technical hitch in uploading pics so I will try again in a couple of days.

All the Best, Get In! Game On!!

permalink written by  Michael Russell on January 15, 2009 from Mumbai, India
from the travel blog: Escape from Blighty
tagged Mumbai

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Arambol - Goa

Arambol, India


My trip from the hills of Arpora to the 1960s hippy beach of Arambol involved catching 2, yes 2!, local buses... it is quite delightful to be giggled at by local schoolgirls and have them rather stand than sit next to me on the bus on the basis of my skin colour.

My 2 buses, total cost 18 INR (roughly 30p), took roughly 90mins to get to Arambol, I rocked up to the beach at Midday in full backpackers gear and sweating like a bad boy. The beach was pretty much exactly what I was looking for, you know the idealic sandy beaches, the beach shacks serving ice cold lager and huts just off the beach to stay in.

I managed to barter my way into a beach hut just at the north end of the beach away from most of the bars, 400 INR which isnt too bad! The room is as basic you would think, a box hut with a shared toilet/shower facility. I went for a climb on the hills/cliff that overlook the beach and took some wonderful shots of the beach.

Arambol is a fairly quiet sort of stop, the vibe seems to be lots of Russians, old hippys and lots of people doing Yoga... not quite the Brit party scene that I was hoping to maybe encounter along the way. There is a lovely night market that meanders up the main street but its actually quite tricky to shop on your Jack Jones as you just get hassled by every single shop keep.. I have taken to listening to my i-pod whilst strolling through the market, which I'm sure isn't in keeping with the spirit of things.

The plan is to leave Arambol on Monday and make my way to Vagator beach which I am reliabily informed is a bit more Brit pack, there is also the famous Flee Market in Anjuna on Wednesday pm, so I shall look forward to the opportunity to be flogged lots of bracelets and tat that I really could do without, but they say you haven't travelled until you return with some iffy looking bracelets, necklaces... looking at Dad + Mun specificially :)

I will rendevous with you all soon!


permalink written by  Michael Russell on January 17, 2009 from Arambol, India
from the travel blog: Escape from Blighty
tagged Goa and Arambol

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Little Vagator - Goa

Anjuna, India


I'm currently holed up in a quiet town just south of my previous abode in Arambol, its travelling population is made up primarily of Israelis and Russians ... so well chosen by me. Luckily the customary jokers and merkers are still here so it still feels like an authentic Goan experience.

No much to add on the town except that the beach isn't as nice as Arambol and seems to be slightly more expensive food/drink wise, although there are some lovely bars to watch sunset at... I popped down to the beach on Monday for a quiet day reading the Kite Runner (very highly recommended) but was confronted with a beach full of Indians as it was their national holiday, a few good games of cricket ensued with the Indians taking a no holds barred approach.

Today I went to the famous Anjuna flee market where lots of 'wily' vendors attempt to sell you rugs, t-shirts, jewellery, smoking pipes and all the usual sort gunk that you desperately need. Bizarrely there are lots of Nepalese trying to flog winter clothing in 35C heat.

My future plans are a sleeper bus to Hampi 2mro to visit some ruins of some sort and then onwards to Bangalore and Mysore, this should keep me busy for the next 2 weeks.

And finally... Monsieur - not sure if you can subscribe but you can add the page to your feed on Igoogle.. if you don't have a feed already then I recommend that you start one up!

Hope everyone is well

permalink written by  Michael Russell on January 28, 2009 from Anjuna, India
from the travel blog: Escape from Blighty
tagged Beach, Goa and LittleVagator

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Hampi - Boulders gallore and stuff .....

Hampi, India

Hi All,

My trip out of Goa and the subsequent 3 days in Hampi, can best be described as per the below;

Journey to Hampi - Without doubt the worst 13 hours of my life so far, the journey started OK until I inexplicably decided to part with my mantra of not eating street vendor food... the subsequent 13 hours involved puking out of the side of the bus every 30 mins or so. My bunk was the top 1 at the front of the bus so I managed to spill my guts all over 1 side of the bus. All this and I was meant to be sleeping on the bus.

1st Day - Quite simply a right off, I managed to befriend 2 posh gap-year students from England who helped me stumble my way to a hostel in the quiet area of Hampi where I slept the entire day in between bouts of more puking and general traveller sickness - i think you get the point.

2nd Day - I decided whilst dying in bed the day before that I would take today easy as Hampi is large and a full day of sightseeing would be roughly 6-7km of walking. So I went mental and walked all day in the blistering sun!! Hampi is a 15th Century civilian that got merked by another civilization and burnt to the ground except for a few bits and bobs that survived. My favourite bits of Hampi included some amazing water temples and the famous stone chariot. That is as much of a history lesson as your getting, for more info check wiki or something...

3rd/Final Day - I decided to take it easy and hire a moped with the girls and we zoomed off to a lake for the day and had as relaxing a day as you can have in India, we were of course followed by the usual assortment of jokers trying to sell you stuff and several grown Indian men fascinated by 2 young Western girls in swimming gear!

My train ride to Bangalore was not without event, on the way to the station my rickshaw got a flat tyre so we had to deter to another station that was luckily on the way..phewww... I had a nice sleeper train with a Dutch couple - where I was subjected to a 2 hour lecture on how Ajax and Arsenal are so similar. But I have arrived safe and sound and plan to relax until Friday until I set off to Mysore.


permalink written by  Michael Russell on February 1, 2009 from Hampi, India
from the travel blog: Escape from Blighty
tagged Hampi and Merking

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Bangalore, India

A quick update on Bangalore..... its pony

I have decided that 5 days in Bangalore is 4 days too long.. so I am off to Kerala tonight on a last minute sleeper train.



permalink written by  Michael Russell on February 3, 2009 from Bangalore, India
from the travel blog: Escape from Blighty
tagged Bangalore and CrapTowns

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The Backwaters of Kerala

Alleppey, India


The Keralan backwaters are everything that people had described them as, beautiful, tropical and very photogenic. As with all of India, people do almost everything in the water; whether it be washing themselves, clean dishes or just general milling around.

My backwater trip started in the town of Kollam, Ewen's recommendation of a hotel was sadly fully booked with meant staying overnight into a hotel sandwiched between the 2 mosques of the town. This meant I was awoken by strange religious sounds coming from both mosques at 5am, I'm told that this is the call for Muslims to go and prey. The trip in Kollam was a trip into a backwater village and was wonderful. I was in a canoe with a girl from Newcastle and an old chap from Canada with the hairiest back in history. The highlights of the trip included having a coconut directly from the tree and a visit to a rope making factory (actually that part was turd). Sadly Kollam as a town was a bit of a dive so the lass from Newcastle and I decided to take a bus to Alleppey which is further North up the backwaters.

Alleppey was far nicer a town and was exactly the sort of picturesque backwater town that I had imagined, I was immediately accosted at the bus station and led back to a nice homestay just by the post office. Apologies Mum&Dad you may received your postcard from Goa in a couple of weeks ... The backwater trip from Alleppey was the typical backwater experience, saw lots of house boats out of the water which can be rented overnight for about 7000R, so just over 100GBP. Sadly this is slightly out of my price range, and in any case is the sort of thing you would want to do with a partner/couple of mates. Instead Becca and I booked a paddle canoe for 4 hours to explore the backwaters on, the views of the water were amazing and we saw lots of paddy fields, plenty of salesmen on water and kids fishing in a little boat. The main highlight however was my new found skill of climbing palm trees, oh yes... and I have pictures to prove this, which I will happily post next week, most probably Thursday/Friday.

However worrying whilst in Alleppey after deciding to wear my new 'gun show' wife beater vests I was taken down a side alley by an Indian man who assured me that the internet was this way, before he proceeded to kiss my arm and hands before I ran off very scared.

Currently I am up in the hills of Kumily and planning an assault on the Periyar Wildlife Park tomorrow, I have an all-day trek booked up and planning to do some Elephant riding later today! Hope everyone is well and not feeling the cold too much.


permalink written by  Michael Russell on February 6, 2009 from Alleppey, India
from the travel blog: Escape from Blighty
tagged Backwaters, Alleppey and Kollam

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Periyar Wildlife Banter

Thekkadi, India

Hi All,

The next stop of my trip was the town of Kumily and the Periyar Wildlife resort, the town is up in hills and as such there was the obligatory white knuckle bus ride up to get there including about 7 near death experiences.

Periyar is the most popular of the Indian wildlife parks and it’s easy to see why, the town Kumily is a relaxing stop with lots of nice restaurant and lots of jewellery stores. It does also have the standard collection of rug salesmen and tat shops. The most refreshing aspect of Kumily however is the temperature at night, or lack of it, as it is up in the hills it is not muggy at night and there are no mosquitoes!!

I had 3 relaxing days in Kumily which included; an elephant ride, standard banter up in these parts; a full day trekking where I saw wild elephants, bison and a couple of snakes. The wild elephants really are amazing and so different to the elephants that they let you ride. I had also been scheduled to go on a sunset trek however this wasn't quite what it said on the tin, I was driven up a steep, bumpy hill in a dodgy old rickshaw and told to walk about for a bit on my own until the sun set.. I wasn't really up for that so instead I found a rooftop bar and sat reading my book with a couple of beers, job done.

As some of you may know Kerala is a communist state, and as such there are hammer & stickle flags, posters, etc everything.. However in Kumily there was a van that drove round everyday covered with communist signs and posters with a loud attached spouting all sorts of communist propaganda, probably the weirdest thing I have ever seen.. photos to come shortly.

N.B. - Thanks Spewen for bring the spelling error to my attention, however your mistake was assuming that it was accidental, I say bring it on... but seriously please don't.


permalink written by  Michael Russell on February 10, 2009 from Thekkadi, India
from the travel blog: Escape from Blighty
tagged Kumily

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Return to Blighty

Warlingham, United Kingdom

Hi All,

Sorry for the tardiness of my blog entries recently, as some of you may know I am back in the UK at the minute preparing to fly out to Singapore for the next leg of my journey.. and yes as people have rightly pointed out it would have been easier to fly from India but I wanted to fully organise the rest of my trip.

So tomorrow I am flying out to Singapore for a trip to Borneo, the plan is to go on a fancy trek in Borneo then make my way through Malaysia and up to Thailand and then onwards to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and eventually China.

For those of you that are interested I thought I would quickly reflect on India and why it worked and didn’t work for me; I had an amazing time in India but I felt that 1 month was plenty for me. India is such a diverse place with so many experiences, you really have to know why you are there, I felt that I didn't have an angle in India and was effectively padding out time there. I will certainly go back to India to do the Golden Triangle,et al.. but I really feel like I lost my travelling vibe towards the end of my time in India.. however the mojo has returned and I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the trip.

N.B. – I have finished uploading my India pics onto facebook so check them out and let me know what you think.

Speak to you all soon


permalink written by  Michael Russell on February 25, 2009 from Warlingham, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Escape from Blighty
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Singapore Slinger

Singapore, Singapore

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick update on my wee trip to Singapore; very clean and no litter - as per what everyone says.

Took a nice trip to the famous Raffles hotel and had a rather expensive Singapore Sling - rather bizzarely they serve you monkey nuts for free and the bar is probably the messiest place in Singapore with crushed monkey nut shells littering the floor. Anyway the Sling is very nice and fruity and an excellent way to start a night out.

I'm feeling slighty worse for wear today as the Sling led to 1 or 2 (cough) more drinks back at the hostel.

I arrived in Borneo earlier today which is slightly more earthy and have 1 night before my 10 day trek featuring orangutans kicks off. The plan is then to fly back to Singa and then make my way via Malaysia up to Saraburi to see brother no1, his fiance and my baby nephew - I can't wait but a quick warning Jon i'm not going to be baby sitting or changing dirty nappies!!!


permalink written by  Michael Russell on February 28, 2009 from Singapore, Singapore
from the travel blog: Escape from Blighty
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