Category: Travel

Interview with travel blogger Gamintraveler

Friends, I feel honoured to interview my travel blogger friends, Ruben and Rachel at Gamin Traveler.

Ruben Arribas is a Spanish traveler who has traveled more than 70+ countries around the world. He believes in travel without money. Recently, he finished a bicycle trip, 9500 km, from Madrid to North Cape. He and Rachel blog at Gamin Traveler. Here is an interview with them.

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Me:  When did you start blogging? What made you start a blog?

Rachel/Ruben: We started blogging 4 months ago. We decided to work together in something. I have been traveling a lot, so I can share my experiences and tips about traveling. Rachel works with social media and digital marketing online, so we can pair up and work together. So that´s it! The blog is a mix of our strengths.

Me:   What are your favourite destinations?

Ruben: South America, I spent a few months traveling around the continent.  And the experience was amazing. I met interesting people. I made many friends and visited amazing places. Speaking the same language is very helpful. You can communicate 100% with everybody.

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Me:  If you had to choose one of your favourite destinations, which would that be?

Ruben:    Colombia is one of my favorite destinations. I spent two months there. Colombia has   amazing beaches, mountains and cities. People are very friendly. I felt great visiting  the country and I had amazing experiences.

Me:   Name three hardest things/setbacks that you experienced through your blog?

  • I would say the most challenging thing is the time in handling the blog. We want the blog to grow super fast, and we want to accomplish so many things at the same time, but really you accomplish more when you focus and simplify, so you really have to prioritize, and pick which of your goals should have attention first.
  • It took us time and a lot of effort to put a lot of social media channels in a good engagement level. Again, we had to prioritize and start with one, and we are lucky to have a good start with Facebook, which was able to support a lot of social media outreach in the beginning. We now spread our efforts with a lot of channels, however, we each have our focus. Since we are a team of two, we do our best with what we can, and try not to be too crazy and perfectionist with the others that we cannot really handle 100%.
  • The tech side of things consume a lot of time and effort too. Rachel had to focus a lot of her time in design work in the beginning so we can launch the blog properly, and that takes her time away from the content. We also have to control our efforts with much more technical things like SEO and site optimization. All our content are optimized, but not to the level that we obsess about it, since SEO is a challenging field, and really very few in the world are real specialists. We follow the best guidelines and we focus our attention in engaging with the readers.

Me:   How did you overcome obstacles?

Rachel/Ruben:  The good thing about the blog is that we really like it. At least for me, I am so into travel, that when I write the guides, it’s about me recollecting all my experiences and that is always fun. The thing is passion is not enough to fuel a blog growth, especially if you want to turn it into a business. That is where Rachel and I’s work personalities enter. We are very different. Rachel is more of the creative type and kind of big sponge who can digest so many new things. She can handle all the tech side of the blog, and builds the personality. I handle the time, the discipline and the scheduling behind all the work, plus all the content.

Me:  Any tools you can suggest that bloggers could use in their first year?

Rachel/Ruben: We laid out all the tools we used for our blog in our 2nd monthly report which you can find here. We suggest to stay lean, not just because of money, but also because obsessing with a lot of details and work will hamper you from really launching something. And things will definitely evolve and change at one point, so we suggest launching early and minimally. The report is detailed, but here are some tools we mentioned:

– Using WordPress, powered by Genesis and Siteground — Freaking excellent customer service and tech support. Really. They have been our saviour a lot of times. We have a small team, and Siteground has helped us do a lot of the site maintenance, which is to be honest, pretty rad of them.

– Using Mailchimp and Appsumo for lead generation

– Using Canva for design – Rachel does Magic with Canva (she wrote that. ha!)

– Buffer – To manage our social media accounts better

Lean operation. 😉

Me:  Well, this is for Rachel, what is your experience like travelling solo as a woman?

Rachel: Traveling solo for a woman was not an issue for me, although I don’t really travel extensively the way Ruben does. If I go out-of-town alone, it’s really great because I meet a lot of new people and as a big social person, that pumps me up. I’m more into people than travel. Which means, I don’t usually care if a place is not majestically amazing, if I am with new people or people I want to spend time with, I will have the time of my life.

Things have changed now since having a son. (I have a cute, little toddler) I would say I am less daring in going to crazy travels and Ruben has been helping me manage those fears.

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Me: Would you like to say something to women out there about travelling solo or hitchhiking?

Rachel: It’s amazing, and you have to try it, at least once. It will build up your character, and discover things about yourself. You will also love meeting new people (sometimes you meet amazing people on the streets who will help you like truck drivers), and sometimes it could be a little sad that they will not be your permanent friends, but there’s a magic knowing there are other amazing people in the world out there ready to help someone in need, and a stranger at that. I have experienced running to tell trucks I need a ride, and them helping me and even buying me food, so that was really a nice experience!

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Me: What would you like to say about budget travel?

Ruben: Traveling on a budget is really a change in perspective. I had seen people in Africa with lesser things, and that changed how I look at travel and life, drastically. If you want luxurious things, I guess you can balance. Budget and slash things you don’t necessarily need so you can spend on the things you want later. If you are on a super tight budget which I have done, there’s a lot left for you to enjoy — company of new and amazing people (can’t stress this enough), the new territories you’re visiting, which is let’s be honest, beautiful already, and spending time appreciating your life and these new things.


Me:  Finally, do you have something to say about my blog ‘Best Places of Interest’?

Rachel/ Ruben: We love the variety of your love, but especially like the areas where you talk about food and travel. We are so happy to meet you (e-meet, but still :)) and that it fuels our passion more, seeing more bloggers like you who are ready to talk about their passions and interests online and put up the work so other people can get inspired to follow their passions too. We hope to meet you Kash one day, and we hope you continue writing a lot! x

Me: I am keeping my fingers crossed, we shall meet someday, somewhere. 🙂

6 Events to check out in Malaysia 2016

If you enjoyed the earlier post on Fascinating Malaysia, then the following events happening in Malaysia are not worth missing out.

Events happening in Malaysia during March and April 2016

  1.  8Th Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2016

11 March 2016 -13 March 2016

The Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta will return from March 11-13. Pic courtesy of MyBalloonFiesta, February 20, 2016.
The Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta will return from March 11-13.
Pic courtesy of MyBalloonFiesta, February 20, 2016.

Millennium Monument, Precinct 2, Putrajaya

View colourful hot air balloons from around the world. The fiesta features balloons in various shapes and sizes resembling a teardrop, clown, elephant and even Darth Vader.

               2. Raptor Watch Week 2016

12 March 2016 

Raptor watch week Image courtesy- Malaysia travel
Raptor watch week
Image courtesy Malaysia travel

Tanjung Tuan, Malacca


Birdwatchers converge in Port Dickson to watch the annual migration of these birds of prey, on their journey back to the northern hemisphere.

             3.     Thai Water Festival Songkran

13 April 2016-15 April 2016

Thai New Year celebration Image courtesy-
Thai New Year celebration
Image courtesy


The Songkran festival  is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year’s Day from 13 to 15 April. The word “Songkran” comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti literally “astrological passage”, meaning transformation or change. The Songkran Festival is also known as the Thai New year or Thailand Water Festival, originally celebrated as a way for the Thai people to sprinkle water on their family members and elders for good fortune and pay their respects to images of the beloved Buddha.

             4. Regatta Lepa

22 April 2016 – 24 April 2016

Semporna Sabah Regatta Lepa
Semporna Sabah Regatta Lepa

Semporna, Sabah

A colourful festival that pays homepage to the lepa, a traditional single-mast sailing boat of the Bajaus of Semporna. Witness the crowning of the most beautiful lepa, the Lepa Beauty Pageant, cultural performances, fireworks display and much more.

           5.    Pesta Air Labuan

29 April 2016 – 01 May 2016

Labuan International Sea Sport Complex image courtesy-
Labuan International Sea Sport Complex
image courtesy

Labuan International Sea Sport Complex, Labuan

 This is the biggest annual event in Labuan. Major competitions include the Labuan International Deep Sea Fishing Tournament, Cross Channel Swimming Challenge and Round Island Kayak Challenge.

             6.    Nasi Ambeng Carnival

15 April 2016- 17 April 2016

Nasi ambang/ambeng is a Javanese rice dish made up of spiced/fried/gravy chicken, chilli paste, serunding (Malaysian meat floss), vermicelli, tempe (Indonesian fermented soybean cake) and salted fish. It is really popular in Johor but not common in KL Image courtesy- Nasi ambang @ Pasar Ramadhan Kelana Jaya
Nasi ambang/ambeng is a Javanese rice dish made up of spiced/fried/gravy chicken, chilli paste, serunding (Malaysian meat floss), vermicelli, tempe (Indonesian fermented soybean cake) and salted fish. It is really popular in Johor but not common in KL
Image courtesy Nasi ambang @ Pasar Ramadhan Kelana Jaya

Homestay Banghuris, Sepang Selangor

The aroma of ‘Ambeng Rice Festival’ is guaranteed to beckon visitors, both local and international to enjoy the uniqueness of this dish.

So, mark your calendars and head to Malaysia, truly Asia.


References: Songkran 2016 Festival 

Be a responsible tourist this season

Responsible tourist this season, sustainable tourism

Every year during this season (Christmas and New Year) you come across travel magazines predicting the top travel destinations for the coming year. So, I thought I shall share a travel wish list based on dreams, analytical data in regards to responsible, sustainable tourism opportunities that each place offers.

[bctt tweet=”What is #sustainable tourism?”]

Sustainable tourism involves a balance interaction between appropriate use of natural resources and culture, the improvement of the quality of life within local communities, the economic success of the tourist industry which results in overall national development.

Image source -Royal India Holidays Pvt. Ltd.
Image source Royal India Holidays Pvt. Ltd.

Responsible tourism is interchangeably referred to as Ecotourism or Sustainable Tourism.

Costa Rica– As a travel destination, Costa Rica has attracted eco-tourist with its sustainability practices in the form of eco-lodges and reserves throughout the country. You could enjoy breath-taking pristine beaches and sleep under nature’s canopy in remote locations accessible by plane or boat. You can get home cooked food, candlelit meals and spend the day hiking trails that go through volcanoes, waterfalls and spectacular cliffs overlooking the ocean.  There are many activities like horse riding, hiking mountainous paths in the cloud forests and guided bird-watching tours.

Fran Devinney -
Canopy bridge in Costa Rica

 In the Canopy Tours, you can explore the rain forest canopy’s high-altitude ecosystems.  If you want a panoramic view of the tropical forest, you could board an aerial tram which passes through the treetops of a tropical forest. An incredible diversity of small plants and tree frogs, vine snakes and many other bird species can be spotted in this tour.

Costa Rica Tourism Institute aims at achieving the goal of sustainable tourism via the CST (Certificate of Sustainable Tourism) label on a lodging establishment or a tour operator if they meet the criteria. It is a program that categorises and certifies tourism business, with the goal of demonstrating sustainability with their operations.

Wayanad in Kerala– Wayanad, a green paradise is located at a distance of 76kms. from the sea shore of Kozhikode. This hill station full of plantations, forests and wildlife shares a common border with Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu and Bandipur in Karnataka, India. The nearest railway station is Calicut at 62km.

Meenmutty falls
Meenmutty falls

Wayanad Tourism Organization takes the lead in implementing a culture of ‘responsible and sustainable tourism’ in Wayanad through four trails. Out of these trails, the ‘Outdoor Trail’ covers the following locations- Chembra Peak, Neelimala, Meenmutty waterfalls, Chethalayam, Pakshipathalam and Banasura Sagar Dam. While enjoying these captivating sights, sounds and fragrance here, you could shop for spices, coffee, tea, bamboo products, honey and herbal plants.

Maldives or Republic of Maldives, an island country is situated in the Indian Ocean. It consists of over 1000 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, along the north-south direction. The atolls consist of live coral reefs and sand bars. Maldivian waters have several ecosystems which are known for colourful coral reefs, over 1000 species of fish, sea turtles, whales and dolphins, and echinoderms. Maldives is among the most beautiful places in the world and also the most endangered site in the world.

Bandos House Reef, Maldives
Bandos House Reef, Maldives  (Image source)

Fish are found in an extraordinary range of habitats, from mountain streams to hot springs and at depths below 7,000 meters.

The government of Maldives, people and the tourism industry are jointly helping to protect and prevent it from slipping away as a paradise. In the past decade, the government has implemented the President of Maldives Green Resort Award to recognise the importance of environmental protection to ensure the sustainability of Maldives. This award is given to local resorts who adopt green and sustainable policies in their operations and development. It also motivates the tourist entities to be responsible and engage in eco-tourism.

South Africa or Republic of South Africa is the southernmost country in Africa. As soon you hear about a South African holiday, you imagine a safari into a Big Five wildlife reserve but the country has more to offer from beaches, crossing deserts,  the richest floral kingdom on earth, fine dining and exotic wines to adventure travel and much more.

Some of the attractions here are Kruger Park, Cape Town, Winelands, Drakensberg, Sun City, Serengeti, Okavango, Serengeti, Pilanesberg and Bazaruto.

Thakadu River Camp & Lodge (Image source)
Thakadu River Camp & Lodge
(Image source)

Thakadu River Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve is a lodge built, owned and operated by the local community. The project allows the community to attain a sustainable level of competence and facilitate a genuine understanding of the importance of service delivery.

Dominica has untamed rainforest which allows you to trek to a bubbling lake. It is home to the world’s second-largest hot spring, Boiling Lake. An island country in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, southeast of Guadeloupe and northwest of Martinique. The country has many waterfalls, springs and rivers. It is often referred to as ‘The Nature Island of the Caribbean’ with its breath-taking lush, varied flora and fauna in the protected natural park system. Morne Trois Pitons National Park, UNESCO World Heritage site has many attractions like Boiling Lake, the Freshwater Lake, Boeri Lake and Middleham Falls.

Boiling Lake, Dominica
Boiling Lake, Dominica

People of Dominica value their natural and cultural heritage. Responsible tourism in Dominica is shining beacon among the Caribbean and around the world. They have no international hotels, 3 national parks on this tiny island. Visit the Kalinago Barana Aute Cultural centre, a place to get a sense of human survival on this island, its ancient heritage, cookery or craft, politics or performances, collective farming or fishing.

So, travel to these amazing places this season and be a responsible tourist.


Other related article – Be a responsible tourist



Canopy Tours

Certificate of sustainable tourism



South Africa

Image source- Maldives 

South Africa

6 Places to Visit in Pune

Pune, referred as the cultural capital of Maharashtra, is situated around 560m above sea level on the western margin of Deccan Plateau. A hilly city, with its highest hill, Vetal Hill at around 800m above sea level. It is located at the confluence of Mula and Mutha rivers. It has many pilgrimage centres, heritage towns and leisure destinations. Pune being culturally active, there are programs of classical Indian or Western Music or dance and shows of Marathi Theatre at Bal Gandharva Auditorium.

Pune railway station
Pune railway station (Image source -Wikipedia)

How to reach Pune?

Pune is well-connected by air, rail and road to major cities of India.

By Rail– Pune being a major junction is linked well with major cities of the country. If you are in Mumbai and you wish to board a train, then you have many options to choose. Deccan Queen, Deccan Express, Indrayani, Pragati and Shatabdi are regular trains that run between Pune and Mumbai every day.

By Bus/Cab– Government and private buses regularly ply between Mumbai and Pune. Buses can be taken from Pune junction bus stand or at Shivajinagar station/bus stand.Taxis/cabs can also be hired. Some other cities near Pune are Ahmednagar (115km), Aurangabad (215km), Nashik (210km), and Kolhapur (233km) which are accessible by road.

By Flight– Pune airport is located in Lohagaon area around 10kms. From the heart of the city. You can take a cab or a bus service to reach the city.

Pune airport (Image source- Wikipedia)

Tourist attractions in Pune

Empress Garden– located near Pune Race Course at Wanawadi, near Camp, Pune. History states that in the British era, it was known as ‘Garden of Dr.Don’ under the possession of Sir Charles Napier. Later, this botanical park was named ‘Empress Garden’ in the honour of Queen Victoria after she won the title of ‘Empress of India’. This garden became famous among British soldiers as they came for recreation purpose. In 1892, Empress Garden was bought by the Bombay Government. It was then handed over to Agri-Horticultural society of Western India.

Empress Garden in Pune
Common Indian myna ((Acridotheres tristis) at Empress Garden in Pune
by Amritadikpati- Wikimedia Commons

In contemporary times, it has become a favourite amongst locals and tourists who throng this garden for peace and serenity.  The garden is open from 9.30am-6.30pm.

Bund Garden in Pune
Bund garden in pune (Image source Babloo180- Wikimedia Commons)

The Bund Garden is among the most admired gardens of Pune. It is a strong symbol of Maharashtrian culture and lifestyle. The park is clean and has many flower beds and bushes. The tall coconut trees adjoining the centre of this place make the garden, attractive and stunning. The plants are exquisite and the bushes are well-trimmed.

Osho Ashram

If you are in Pune, do not miss out on a walk through the Ashram garden. It won’t require much time but worth an experience. The ashram is maintained very well, especially the garden. There is also a statue of Osho and artificial waterfalls to add a mystic touch to the place.

Osho Garden- Pune
(WT-shared) Sanyambahga at wts wikivoyage -Wikimedia)

A very peaceful place… long stretches of green… great to walk around… no one to bother… peace and tranquillity!

Aga Khan Palace-This palace has five halls and large verandahs. The architecture is Islamic with hints of Italian art in its arches. It was built by Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan II.

Aga Khan Palace, Pune
AgaKhan Palace in Pune. Kasturbha Gandhi, wife of Mahatma Gandhi, died here (Image source http://www.djoh.netv- wikimedia)

It served as a prison to leaders like Mahatma Gandhi during Quit India Movement in 1942 and is therefore also known as Gandhi National Museum. It serves as a memorial of Mahatma Gandhi’s wife.

National War museum The museum built-in 1997 serves as a memorial for Indian soldiers who were martyrs of the nation. It is situated in Pune Cantonment. The museum has on display arms, uniforms and personal mementos.

Shinde Chhatri, Pune
Shinde Chhatri (Marathi : शिंदे छत्री), located in Wanawadi, a well known place in Pune, India, is a memorial dedicated to the 18th century military leader Mahadji Shinde who served as the commander-in-chief of the Maratha army under the Peshwas from 1760 to 1780. It is one of the most significant landmarks in the city and is reminiscent of the Maratha rule. It is a hall that marks the spot of Mahadji Shinde’s cremation on 12 February 1794. The three storied memorial bestows a daunting look of past splendour, representing the rich heritage of that era beautifully. The regal entrance gate made out of iron shines till date. The exterior is captivating and has intricate and detailed carvings
(Image credit- Bikashrd-Wikimedia Commons)

Shinde Chhatri– The Chhatri or hall has carvings and painting along with a gallery in it. There are paintings and photos of Scindia family. It is a memorial for Maratha leader, Mahadji Shinde.

While in Pune, you could also travel to the heights and hues of Western Ghats to Khandala, Mahabaleshwar and Lonavala.

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Foodies Paradise – Best Places of Interest

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