travel

20 PICTURES THAT WILL INSPIRE YOU TO VISIT MOROCCO

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN MOROCCO
Moroccan man walking in the Medina Marrakech
Majorelle garden Morocco
Morocco Animals
Marrakech
Spice Market
Pottery
Marrakech sunset
Moroccan Musician
Blue City
Rugs
Shoe shop in Morocco
hammam
Moroccan Mint Tea
Moroccan Food
Waterfall Morocco
Sahara desert

Morocco was one of the first few countries we traveled to when we started backpacking in 2016, and for sure it was the most exotic destination for us. We spent about a month total in Morocco traveling from the big cites, through the mountains to more off the beaten path places. We truly enjoyed our time in Morocco and we can’t wait to go back one day. We hope that these 20 photos will inspire you to visit Morocco. 

Why visit Morocco?

Morocco is a country with a deep culture, a mix of African, Middle Eastern and some European influence. Although Morocco is located only 13km from Europe, it’s culture and environment is totally different.  It’s unique in its ways and has withstood invaders throughout history. To some extent being in Morocco feels like stepping back in time, especially when visiting the old cities like Marrakesh or Fez, where the same buildings have been there for centuries.

Many tourists travel to Morocco because they want to experience the “authentic” culture, and perhaps a bit of mystery, and that is exactly why we decided to travel there too.

Morocco offers many unique experiences that you won’t find anywhere else. During the day you can walk through the markets tasting exotic spices and food, shopping for hand woven rugs, and at night you will sleep in a beautiful riad. A riad is a house with a garden and or central courtyard inside. These homes are often very quiet inside unlike the street just outside the wall. The temperatures are also much cooler than outside on the street. No A/C needed, riads are engineered for hot climates. You can find riads to stay in throughout Morocco, and they are usually chique and trendy. If you are visiting Morocco in the summer, make sure the riad you are staying in has a pool!

 

Morocco cuisine is absolutely delicious. Tajine, a stew cooked with meat or vegetables, is a staple dish at every Moroccan house, and restaurant. If you get tired of Tajine you can also try some French food, which is very popular in Morocco. Another common food item is the mint tea, which locals call “Moroccan Whiskey”. This tea is often served sweetened with lots of sugar, but you can ask for no sugar, and its tasty and refreshing especially on hot days. The mint tea is offered as a welcome drink at hotels, and even street vendors will invite you for a cup of tea before they conduct any business with you. You never refuse the tea., even if  you have already drank several cups that day.

 

You should also try visiting a hammam, while you are in Morocco. Hammam’s are pubic bathhouses, separate for women and men, where you can relax and get a body scrub. Many local homes don’t have showers or baths, so instead people go to the hamman to bathe. It’s a popular place for the local women to socialize, since they don’t socialize in public cafes or restaurants like men do.

 

You can easily relax spending your time in large cities like Marrakesh or if you like adventure, you can hike in the mountains like the Atlas Mountains or Rif. Of course, the biggest reason why tourists come to Morocco is to visit the Sahara desert. Riding on a dromedary and sleeping under the stars on the desert will make you feel like you are in some kind of fairytale movie. There is nothing more romantic than watching the sun set on the Sahara.

 Need help packing for Morocco?

Women’s Packing Essentials for Morocco

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Amazing places in Morocco
MOROCCO
The most beautiful places to see in Morocco
BEAUTIFUL MOROCCO

RHYTHMS OF PERU

From the heart of Lima to deep into the Sacred Valley, 'Rhythms of Peru' takes you not only to Peru's most iconic, but far beyond to experience Peruvian life off the tourist path. Filmed over the course of a month, and in collaboration with several local organizations, my wife and I were able to meet some really amazing people and participate in some really fun events. Although we visited some really amazing places, this is by no means an all encompassing portrait of the country. We did not make it to the north or the amazon this trip. I would love to go back and film a part 2 at some point. I'd like to give a special thanks to Kuoda Travel whom without their help, this film would have not been possible. 

RIDING OUT MEXICO'S BIGGEST EARTHQUAKE IN A CENTURY

Doctors recommended dose: take 2oz. per shake.

Doctors recommended dose: take 2oz. per shake.

It was probably 20 minutes after checking into our 10th floor Airbnb in Mexico City when Marta asked her obligatory, "can this natural disaster happen here?" question. This time it was earthquakes. Previous choices have been tsunamis, hurricanes, landslides and of course, volcanoes. 

"Yes, I believe Mexico does have earthquakes" I replied, but I couldn't say for sure. A quick google search by Marta and our question was answered as she stared in horror at photos of the devastation from the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. The death toll from that quake varies wildly from 5,000 - 45,000. Regardless of the actual number, it was catastrophic. 

Marta then expressed concerns about us staying on the 10th floor of a building whose design she questioned. Naturally I brushed her off and said everything was fine. 

A few days later we were exploring the city with our local friend Rodrigo and the '85 earthquake came up. He reassured Marta that most buildings since then were either built or retrofitted to withstand a powerful earthquake. I'm not exactly sure how much this reassured her, but throughout the next few days she kept talking about her feeling that there would be an earthquake. I of course thought she was crazy. 

Then on the evening of September 6th we heard a loud siren blare and a message in Spanish blasted over a speaker. It reminded me of the tsunami and hurricane sirens I heard growing up on Kauai. We had no idea what it actually meant so I began searching for "Mexico City sirens" and discovered that it's a sophisticated earthquake warning system that can give you up to 60 seconds to evacuate before the quake hits. At this point it was too late to leave but luckily nothing happened. I then read further that these sirens go off all the time as false alarms and residents of Mexico City now suffer from "alarm fatigue" and so basically everyone just ignores them. None of this reassured Marta any more while we lay in bed of our 10th floor apartment.

Moving on to the night of September 7th... it was probably about midnight and I had sipped a bit of delicious tequila that evening so I was just heading off into a mariachi slumber when.....

"RRRRREEEEEEEERRRRRRR...... Atención! Something, something in Spansish...."

I looked over at Marta and told her it was going to be another false alarm and that it happens all the time so she had no need to worry. Again, she was not convinced. So I rolled back over and closed my eyes and just as I did I heard her say, "the building is moving". I opened my eyes and I definitely felt something.... but was it the building, or the tequila? 

Then I saw the suspended light start to swing. Okay... it wasn't the tequila. No worries, it will just be a small tremor. Again, I was wrong. Then the building REALLY began to sway and you could hear the walls creaking and cracking. Marta ran into the living room to find our roommate there. She asked him if he had ever experienced something like this in Mexico and he said, "never". 

I threw on a towel and joined them in the living room. As the building continued to creak and sway, we lay on the floor next to the wall. Finally, as things began to ease up, we all decided to vacate. 

So down ten flights of stairs we flew and out onto the street were we were greeted by many other frightened people. As it finally became clear that the tremors were over, I got a few giggles and laughs from those passing by as I realized I was still in just my towel. Safety before clothing right? 

After returning to our apartment and finding paint chips from the wall everywhere, we saw the damage was minimal. Looks like Rodrigo was right! Our building held up well. 

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As we lay sleeplessly in bed watching the news unfold online, we would learn that Mexico City did quite well. But unfortunately the states south of us were not so lucky. Oaxaca and Chiapas received heavy damage as they were closer to the epicenter of the 8.2 earthquake. This was the largest earthquake to hit Mexico in a century!

I must say, I am now absolutely terrified of my wife and her confirmed ability to see disasters coming. Now if she ever questions a flight we take, or a place we go, I'm going to be left shaking in my boots. 

We have since sadly watched the death toll rise from a few to almost a hundred over the last few days and now seen the pictures of the catastrophic damage to the region. Unlike Mexico City, the construction in the south is not as sophisticated and I don't think they have the early warning system either. Many people were fast asleep when the quake hit. 

But what was most surprising to use was the chance to witness this warning system they have in place in Mexico City. Coming from Los Angeles we have heard the debates of trying to build a similar system for years, yet nothing has been done. And here we are in a FAR more impoverished country than America and yet they are LIGHT YEARS ahead of LA or even San Francisco when it comes to preparedness for this type of event. 

Seeing the potential it has for saving lives I cannot fathom how this hasn't been budgeted and implemented YEARS ago. And the only answer I can come up with is yet again, politics have trumped social wellbeing. And that of course, makes me sad. So I bid you adios until next time, as I I take another sip of Cazadores and go back to playing, "Is it Tequila, or is it Tectonic?"

 
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A STROLL THROUGH GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

Even the smoke from the largest active wildfire in the U.S. (at the time) couldn't completely hide the vies of Glacier National Park. We had a lot of fun exploring this awesome place (aside from almost getting eaten by a bear and her cub!)

The Best of Laos

Before coming to Laos we didn't know where to go or what to do and we certainly didn't plan to stay as long as we did. In fact, we almost skipped Laos entirely because despite the many blog posts we researched in advance, we couldn't get a clear sense of why we should visit or what makes it so different from Cambodia or Vietnam.

Thank god we didn't skip it because it turned out to be our favorite country so far in South East Asia. Thailand is beautiful but it's extremely developed, westernized and crowded. Cambodia is also wonderful but is also growing quickly in western influence and development. 

Laos is like the gentler, softer sister of the other SE Asia countries. It is quiet, empty, tranquil and absolutely stunning. Upon arrival you instantly notice the hospitality of the local people, who constantly greet you in their local language saying with a smile, "Sabaidee!" Laos is full of natural beauty such as waterfalls, natural swimming pools, mountains and rice patties surrounded by small villages.

Although Laos is technically a communist country, people are allowed to own private businesses and practice religion. It seems as if life is moving at a slower pace here and that is what we loved the most about Laos. And did we mention the food?! Our favorite in SE Asia so far. 

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is a UNESCO world heritage site. It's a joy walking around and admiring the well preserved architecture and religious sites. Even though Luang Prabang is a famous tourist destination, it hasn't lost its charm. The streets are dotted with young monks walking around in their orange robes, bathing in the river and chanting in the many temples throughout the city. The monks are highly respected by the locals and every morning at sunrise the locals gather on a street for Alms, a giving ceremony. Alms is an offering of food for the monks, typically rice and fruit. You can participate in the ceremony as long as you a respectful, which unfortunately many tourist are not. If you want to take a photo please do it quietly, from a distance and without flash!

Daily life in the village seems to be very laid back.  It's a place where you can truly enjoy being a visitor because you don't have to worry about being harassed by vendors trying to sell you anything. The city is on a curfew to respect the early rise of the monks, and after midnight, night life is non-existent.

This quaint village is situated by the mighty Mekong and the smaller Nam Khan river. The rivers and the surrounding mountains make this village absolutely stunning. On any day you will see the locals and tourists swimming in the river or watching the sunset.

Laos cuisine is amazing! They are especially famous for their love of sticky rice. Our favorite were the noodle soups, which come with plenty of fresh herbs, lettuce and other veggies. It sounds weird to put lettuce in a bowl of hot soup, but trust us, there is nothing better!

Besides the traditional food, you can also find tasty western dishes here. Laos was a French colony and the baguettes and pastries in Luang Prabang taste just like in France.

Another joy of the French influence are the Bahn Mi-like Laos sandwiches, which are everywhere and absolutely worth trying!

The night market in Luang Prabang is a fun place to visit and try some local cuisine. There are plenty of meats on sticks, grilled fish, sandwiches and noodle dishes. In our opinion the food at the night market wasn't the freshest. We saw the vendors packing all the meats after hours of sitting on a table, and placing in plastic bags to be sold the next day. We were actually shocked that we didn't get sick.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: Want the freshest street food? Look outside the night markets and you will find they are cooking smaller, fresher portions, rather than creating mountains of food (which they could never sell in one night) to impress tourists. 

If you want to get out of town you can hire a tuk tuk, taxi or rent scooters and drive 30km outside to see the incredible Kuang Si Falls. This place is no secret, and if you want to enjoy swimming in the fresh pools of water you should be there as soon as it opens. We got there about 9 am and there were few other people around, but by noon it was full of tourists and locals.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: We highly recommend you go by scooter as you can create your own schedule when visiting Kuang Si Falls. It only costs a little more but the freedom is totally worth it. We read a lot of blogs saying the road and ride out to the falls was dangerous but we found that to be completely untrue.

There are multiple waterfalls and the higher you are willing to hike up the stream, the less people you will see. The water is cool, and it's very hard not to jump into the turquoise water. But don't worry, you can!

There is also a small bear sanctuary on the way to the waterfalls. Most of these bears have been rescued from poachers, who either planned to illegally sell them as pets or kill them. One of the bears was missing a paw, but it was still very playful. The bears played together, cooled off in the pools of water and it was very entertaining to watch them.

Also make sure to stop at the small UXO Museum, which you can read more about here (COMING SOON). There are several of these museums in Laos so if you don't go to this one make sure you stop at one of the others as it's really eye opening and important to learn about the brutal history these people have survived and the problems they still deal with today.

 

Nong Khiaw

Nong Khiaw is a tiny village a few hours north from Luang Prabang. This place used to be a real off the beaten track place, but it is getting more popular every day. You can start to see the foot print tourism is leaving on this town with numerous restaurants and guest houses popping up.  

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: We scored an awesome river view bungalow for $9 by staying a 10 minute walk outside the main town. There is a small dirt road near the school and down by the river are a handful of awesome cheap bungalows. 

There is a nice but strenuous hike you can do to see a spectacular view of the valley and the town below but please, don't go in the middle of the day like we did! It was so hot we barely made it to the top. The trailhead starts about 50 meters past Temple of Ban Sop Houn.

Once you reach the top you are rewarded with a nice viewing hut that offers some shade and even a hammock!

Vang Vieng

We are only going to mention this town briefly as it's the one place in Laos we really didn't like. And why? Because it was one the town most ruined and destroyed by western influence. Viang Vieng was famous for many years as an insane, year round, Spring Break experience for young backpackers. Eventually it got so bad that backpackers were dying, doing stupid things that stupid backpackers do. So the government eventually shut everything down and now there are only a few bars left. We read the town has since changed and maybe it has, but to us it still reeked of its previous heyday and although there are some nice day trips you can do, we think the town is completely worth skipping.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: If you MUST go to Vang Vieng, you might as well score some free drinks. We got pretty hammered completely for FREE thanks to the extremely competitive happy hours, (which is basically free drinks from 6-8) that the few bars in town offer to try and lure you in. 

 

Thakhek and the Thakhek Loop

This town is located between Vientiane and 4000 Islands. The town itself doesn't have much to offer but it is a must stop for the awesome Thakhek Loop which you can read in detail about here

4000 Islands

Don Det is located at 4000 Islands and just getting there was an adventure. We first took an overnight bus that dropped us in the middle of nowhere at 3am where we had to wait until sunrise, and then we traveled for another hour by a small boat to get there. The island itself is lovely. You can do some kayaking, biking, river tubing and read a book in hammocks overlooking the river.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: Internet in Don Det sucks but if you seek out the restaurant/café with the fewest customers, you're much more likely to get a faster connection. 

We visited Don Det in the middle of March, which was good and bad. March is the hottest month in Laos and the heat was hard to deal with, but on a positive note, the island was empty and rooms were cheap. 

Laos Travel Guide
Laos Travel Guide

 

If you've never been to South East Asia, it's easy to assume that all these neighboring countries are going to be very much alike. But as we continue to make our way through the region, we are quickly learning and loving how different they all are. And just because we said earlier, that Thailand and Cambodia are more developed, it doesn't meant they aren't worth visiting as well. But again, what set Laos apart, and what made us fall in love, was the lack of urgency. In a world that is dominated by the aggressive pursuit of profits and status, the people of Laos, in the city AND the villages, seemed untroubled by these pursuits. It's truly the land of "it's nap time", when and where ever you want! Restaurants and stores almost always had an employee or two dozing in a corner somewhere.

And although we fell in love with the simplicity and slowness of Laos, we are also well aware of the countries tragic past, and the struggles it deals with today regarding it's extremely corrupt government and massive levels of poverty. 

Despite these hurdles, we saw nothing but smiles as we drove through village after village in the countryside. And although we hope for a more honest government and more access to education, healthcare and vital services for it's people, we hope they never forget that it's always the right time to sit back, relax, and take a nap. 

GET TIPSY ON: LAODI RHUM

Ever since the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean" was released rum has become our favorite alcohol. Ok, we don't discriminate on any alcohol (except for you Mr. Wine Cooler!), but rum is really freaking good. We have always associated rum with tropical islands and what we didn't know is that you can find an exceptional rum in Laos. Rum is made from sugar cane, and Laos is covered with sugar cane fields, which makes this country a perfect environment for rum production. On our recent trip to Luang Prabang, the UNESCO heritage village, we tried LAODI, a rum made in Laos by a Japanese man.

According to their website, what makes LAODI rum special is the fresh water from the Mekong river, which irrigates the land where their sugar cane grows. Only 3% of rum production comes from pure sugar cane, which makes LAODI a very small distillery with a unique taste. They also claim that because unlike other commercial rum, which is made with molasses, their rum won't give you a nasty hangover, which we have, um... thoroughly tested and can confirm is true. 

We first learned of LAODI rum at the Luang Prabang night market, where you can have a free tasting. The sales lady kept pouring generous shots of every rum and we left buying two of their classic bottles of rum: BROWN and WHITE. Our favorite, however was their COCONUT flavored rum. It is tasty just to sip on and you can imagine that it would the best liquor to add to any "beach/summer" inspired cocktail with pineapple or milk. Other flavors of infused rum include: passionfruit, sugarcane, coffee and plum.

Although Laos is a very beautiful, laid back country with a unique culture and some of the best foods we have tasted, if that doesn't get you excited, just know that LAODI rum is reason enough to visit.

Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to go to the distillery, but we have heard that the tour is great. If you are in the area here, is the address:

 

Lao Agro Organic Industries Limited

47kms of the National Road No. 13

Naxone Village, Pak Ngum District, Vientiane Capital, Laos

Tel: +856 20 2829 8789 / +856 20 5233 9920

Mail: info@rhumlaodi.com

GPS: 18°04’28.8″N 102°58’01.0″E

www.facebook.com/rhumlaodi

Three Days of Khmer New Years in Siem Reap

The day was finally upon us. Day one of three days of Khmer New Years celebrations. We had been pampered and prepped for the occasion, which you can read about here, but nothing could truly prepare us for the festivities ahead. 

Khmer New Years is a mix of spiritual enlightenment and good old fashioned party fun. The blazing hot days in the city are quiet as Khmer locals visit temples to pray and tourists go about their normal routines. But as the sun starts to set, everything changes.

Slowly you begin to hear music pumping from giant speakers on every street corner and buckets are filled with water as the city prepares for the oncoming war... a water war that is! 

By nightfall the city has turned in to a giant water gun fight as people walk the street and attempt drive by shootings with oversized super soakers. But it's not just water, there are the clouds of baby powder. We have not found a clear answer as to why, but everyone has a container of baby powder and either dumps it on your head, or smears your cheeks with the soft soothing powder. 

This might sound like an activity that gets out of hand and causes fights and riots on the street but it did nothing of the sort. It was one of the most peaceful and fun events we've ever attended. From the hours of 6pm to 3am you get to be a kid again. 

These festivities go on repeat for three days. Quiet daylight hours, insane water fights and partying at night. The epicenter of this in Siem Reap of course, is Pub Street. Every bar is bursting with water drenched, powder chalked patrons, who are singing, dancing and laughing. Drinks are flowing and music is blasting so there is nothing but fun to be had. 

Apparently there are similar New Years events that go on throughout SE Asia which we can't comment on but all we can tell you is that Cambodians really know how to throw a New Years celebration.

Due to the insanity and wetness of this event, we were hesitant to take our cameras out so we only have a few pictures. All we can say is if you're looking for something amazing to do for new years, forget Times Square and January 1st.                                                                                  Mid April in Cambodia is where it's at!

Khmer New Years at the Victoria Angkor

When we arrived in Siem Reap after 12 hours of travel from Laos, we were tired, hot and sweaty. Luckily for us, we were about to enter the garden of eden. 

We had come to Siem Reap to celebrate and witness the Khmer New Year so we needed to get refreshed and ready to party! After a month on the road in Laos, we decided to pamper ourselves with a pre New Years rest at the Victoria Angkor, located in the heart of Siem Reap. The hotel is conveniently located near the famous Pub street, but far enough from it to escape the traffic and bustling streets of the city.

When we arrived, we were greeted with their delicious welcome drink, made with sugar cane juice and served in a bamboo cup with a bamboo straw. We later learned the hotel management makes a conscious effort to minimize the waste they produce so they replaced plastic straws, which are terrible for the environment, with a natural bamboo straw. The drink was delicious and refreshing and we liked it so much, that we requested it a few more times. We also recieved chilled towels soaked in jasmine water to cool ourselves off as we checked in. That was a welcome well done and right away we fell in love with this hotel.

Although only about a decade old, the hotel has been designed in a 1930's french colonial style and the esthetic perfectly reflects the nostalgia and romantic vibe of that era.

For the next few days we had the fortune of staying in one of their beautiful Maharaja suites. We laughed when we walked into the room because we had just spent almost 6 months in India and the suite was decorated accordingly with Indian flavors and in some ways, felt like home. Of course the hotel management didn't know that when they put us in this suite, but somehow we just can't escape India.

The suite was huge: living room, master bedroom, dressing den and a specious bathroom.  The large living room was full of light with it's windows facing the Royal Park, and it was our favorite spot to read the daily news while sipping on coffee or one of their delicious cocktails. Our favorite design detail from the living room was the french windows with louvers looking into the garden.

The bedroom was clearly built for royalty. Whether you've had a long flight or have been on the road for while, nothing feels better than falling on a king size bed full of soft pillows and letting all the stress melt away.

Every day, after we came back to our room our bedsheets were perfectly dressed down with the blankets folded back, the slippers and robes were laid out and they even left delicious chocolate treats for extra sweet dreams. We loved their attention to details and we definitely felt spoiled.

The hotel has the most amazing international breakfast buffet we've ever had. The buffet was huge, and it filled two rooms! You can choose between asian food or a western breakfast (or both!) with fresh pastries and breads from their bakery. Having been away from home so long, we couldn't pass on the french cheese, eggs, cured meats and fresh smoothies. To make the mornings even more jolly they also served bottomless mimosas with your choice of fresh fruit. Ahh Europeans know how to live!

In the morning, before this huge breakfast we actually joined a free yoga class in the park across the street. The yoga instructor was a young Cambodian girl, and she was great at correcting your posture. It was fantastic! If you don't like yoga or it is too hot for you, they also have a small AC gym near the pool, which was empty most of the time.

Of course, our favorite was the bar or more precisely the drinks they serve at the Victoria Angkor. The menu constantly changes but all the drinks are delicious and they are continually making new cocktails you can't get anywhere else.

Here are our two favorites: Passion Fruit Daiquiri and Mango Caviar Fizz.

The Khmer new Year is the biggest holiday in Cambodia. Before we hit the street scene, we and other guests were invited to join and participate in the local games in the hotel's courtyard. Although most of us were shy at first to dance to the most popular Cambodian hits of the years, after a few minutes of watching the fun from a distance, we joined the party. Oh and did we mention the water and baby powder? Yeah the cheeky Cambodians first spray you with water and then they throw baby powder on you. It was so much fun and gave us a great taste of what to expect later on the streets, which you can read about here.

What really made the Victoria Angkor great, wasn't just their attention to detail in creating a truly luxurious yet at the same time, unpretentious experience, but the way they made you feel a part of the family, and at home. And no, it wasn't just because we were there to review them. We saw every guest being treated with the same sense of local hospitality; and that leaves you with an experience you'll always remember.

 

Specials thanks to Cedric & Patric and their wonderful staff for hosting our stay at the Victoria Angkor. Our opinions regarding our stay are completely our own. 

Cheers! 

The Rickshaw Diaries: A Road Trip Across India

The Tipsy Gypsies Cruisin'.   Illustrated and animated by  Felix Roos .

The Tipsy Gypsies Cruisin'. Illustrated and animated by Felix Roos.

It was nearly Christmas Eve and we were four months into our journey through India. We had arrived in southern India in the state of Kerala, famous for its backwaters and we had reached the point in our trip where we felt like we'd seen enough temples, tombs and forts for a lifetime. We had run out of the "Top 10" same (bullshit) things to do and we needed some serious balance of sightseeing and real adventure. So after much discussion, we decided to ask Santa for a rickshaw. This is the story of how we managed to explore nearly half the length of India in a rickshaw and not kill ourselves while doing it. 

After a few days of frantically trying to buy a rickshaw and an additional 5 days of finalizing the paperwork, fixing major mechanical issues and pimping our rickshaw, we were finally ready to leave Kochi on new years and start our wild road trip. We had no plan of how far to drive or where, so we just picked a direction and started driving north. These are our favorite places that we visited in our rickshaw.

Alleppey, Kerala

This is the famous backwaters country of South India. You can rent a houseboat for few hours and cruise around or sleep on the boat, which is what we did and highly recommend it. If you show up last minute during the middle of the week or off season, you can negotiate a pretty decent price for an overnight stay.

These traditional wooden houseboats with thatched roofs, were traditionally used to transport various materials and people. It was also the fastest way of transportation between the 5 lakes connected by canals. Nowadays the house boats are a big hit and a big tourist attraction. Staying overnight on a houseboat can get quite pricey, especially during the high season. Because we booked same day, we paid about 7,000 rupees for the whole boat, which is extremely cheap since it was around the holidays. Typically these boats cost anywhere from 15,000 to 50,000 per night.

We left the main harbor around 3pm to cruise and watch the sunset on the backwater. The boat was very comfortable and the crew was extremely nice and cooked us amazing Kerala style food. At night the boat parked on a quiet bank of the backwaters, far from the other boats we watched the stars and drank beers until the stars got blurry. 

In the morning we enjoyed a few more hours watching the sunrise, drinking hot chai and eating spicy Kerala style breakfast with eggs, appam (coconut pancakes), sambar (vegetable and lentil stew) and fruit.

 

Munnar, Kerala

Munnar is absolutely breathtaking and its hills are covered with vibrant tea plants. Many of the tea plantations in Munnar were started by the British, who loved this region for it's cool climate and natural beauty.

A lot of the Indian tea is still produced here. Every time we drove through the hills we could hear the clipping sound of the fresh tea being cut. It also smells incredible! 

Munnar is situated in the Western Ghants mountain range with an altitude of 1,600 meters (5,200 ft), so getting there in the rickshaw was not easy, but it was absolutely worth it. We spent 2 days driving around the tea plantations and visiting the hill stations. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any plantations that offered tea tastings, which was odd, but if you want to taste the regional tea you can visit the Munnar Tea Museum.

Karnataka

Not many people know that the state of Karnataka has some of the most beautiful beaches in India. We were shocked how pristine and remote the beaches were here. This is also probably the only place in India where the beaches have white sand. This coastline is not developed and you can only see small local huts near the beach and there are not many places to stay near the beach We found one hotel with a beach view near Mattu village, but the security guard turned us away. We returned to the hotel the next day and insisted on speaking to the manager. Eventually the manager told us the same thing, that they were booked and they didn't have any future available dates. It was a very strange response. Perhaps we weren't welcome because of our unusual form of transportation and we didn't meet their typical guest profile. We will never know. Honestely it was for the best because we would never stay in a place that is so snobbish.

When we asked the locals on the road about some simple guest houses they mentioned one but we couldn't find it. The nearby town Udupai (about 15km away), has plenty of accommodations though. We slept there and we hung out on the beach for few hours the next morning before we left

One day we would love to come back to Karnataka with a tent and sleep on the beach near Mattu.

 

Our favorite area was the stretch from Kapu till the end of the peninsula. The beaches on the peninsula are absolutely amazing and unlike anywhere else you will see in India!

Goa

Goa was probably the easiest place for us to drive our rickshaw. This state is one of the busiest tourist destinations in India and at the same time is very laid back. Most of people who live or work here are in the tourist industry, therefore, are accustomed to western habits like the love of strong coffee, eating pizza, women in bikinis or women driving a rickshaw for that matter. Just kidding about the women driving rickshaw, that still totally freaked everybody out.

 We drove through many towns in Goa and here some of the places that we liked the most.

Palolem: A Hippy's Paradise

Palolem seems to attract mostly young hippy types and for some reason lots of Israelis. Tourists come here for yoga and spiritual trainings, to master fire dancing and hula-hoop skills. Palolem is one of the most westernized small towns in India that we have visited. You can actually eat an authentic pizza here at Magic Italy restaurant, drink perfectly brewed coffee, that has not been diluted and sweetened with 10 spoons of sugar, from Mika Mocha. The beach in Palolem is very popular during the day with people trying to sell you boat rides and at night the atmosphere is quite charming with candle lit tables on the sand and fresh seafood being grilled. With no shortage of places to eat on the beach, we always tried to time our dinner around sunset so we could take in the amazing view. 

 

Agonda: the Holly Cow beach

Agonda is the smaller and more quiet sister of Palolem. There are a few decent restaurants on the main road and the guest houses seem to be the cheapest here. We rented a bungalow, on the beach for 800 rupees/12 USD. The beaches although less crowded and relaxing are full of cow shit, so be careful where you walk, especially at night. If you want something even more remote, visit the nearby Cola beach, which is gorgeous.

Morjim: a Russian Paradise

We actually like Morjim a lot mostly because the wide and well kept beaches and the sunsets are incredible!

Although this area used to be known as a heavy party town, it seems like things have changed these days. We had a relaxing stay at Xaviers with their restaurant and great food situated right on the beach (the service is a bit slow, but the food was worth the wait). At Xavier's, they also screen movies every night, but in Russian. Morjim is a popular tourist destination for many Russians and almost everything has been translated into Russian including menus in the restaurants and movies, which have a Russian voice over. We heard some rumors from the locals that a while ago this town was owned by the Russian mafia. It has since changed and nowadays you will come across many Indian and western tourists who don't know how to order from a Russian menu.

Malvan, Maharastra

Malvan has a really special place in our hearts. We first came to this town before we started the rickshaw road trip and we fell in love with it's people and atmosphere. We've made some very good friends, ate some amazing food and so we had to come back for more.

Unlike touristy Goa, the beaches in Malvan are almost empty. You wont find any obnoxious, loud bars on the beach here, but you are welcome to chill with a cold brew. 

Malvan is known for it's unique blend of spices and the seafood is great here. This town has the best Thali restaurant that we have tasted in all of India.  The name of the restaurant is Love kick and it is run by the Kirtane family. We ate there everyday. The Veg Thali came with a fresh green leafy salad mixed with raw coconut, chana with a unique mix of coconut, aloo (potatoes) mixed with cabbage and a sol curry, which is to die for! Sol curry, also known as Solkadi, is a popular Konkani curry made from coconut and kokum fruit. It is a staple of Malvan, eaten with rice or drank after a meal. It's mildly sour flavor and light texture not only tasted delicious but it helps your mouth cool off from the spices and also helps with digestion. So many benefits from one fruit!

If you are polite when you arrive, the owner of the Love Kick restaurant will help you with a secret BYOB section. You might have to sit in the VIP room, aka the back of the house, so nobody sees you drinking. Also please don't embarrass us by asking for a fork. Make sure you eat your Thali like it was meant to be eaten, with your hands!

Besides the food and beaches in Malvan, you can visit the Sindhudurg Fort by a small boat, buy some fresh fish from the market in the early morning, and make sure you try the local drink made from coconuts called Madi.

But most importantly, make sure you make some friends. The Malvan people are some of the best we have ever met! 

If you come to Malvan we INSIST you stay at Vicky's Guest House. We can't recommend this place enough. The whole Fernandez family is so lovely and Vicky who runs the guesthouse, is the best unofficial guide in town. He will give you many tips and will go out of his way to make sure you are a satisfied customer. 

Malvan was our last stop on the rickshaw road trip. We drove about 1,500 km and we covered 4 states in two weeks. We originally planned to drive all the way to Rajasthan but at the end we had to change our travel plans and we left our rickshaw with a friend in Malvan, who helped us sell it to a local who will use it for his business. The small profit was then distributed amongst our friends who helped us along the way.

Final Thoughts

Buying and driving the rickshaw wasn't just fun, it was also educational and eye opening. Traveling at a top speed of 40km/hr on mostly backroads gives you a perspective of India you can't get in any other way. It doesn't matter if you go by train, bus or car, you're moving too fast. And there is no better ice breaker than a crazy looking rickshaw to make new friends in every town you go.

But like many things in India, driving a rickshaw can be quite dangerous. They are slow, unreliable and have questionable balance. So if you ever decide to try this, please make sure you get lots of practice beforehand and do not overestimate your or the rickshaws abilities. Vehicles drive fast and with little regard to the rules of the road so driving defensively will be your best chance of survival.

The legality of what we did is also somewhat questionable but we had no issues, even when we were pulled over by police. 

And finally, the most important take away from this trip was how humbled we were by everyone that we met. It didn't matter what village or city we were in, when we broke down, people went out of their way to help us get back on the road. When we were lost, people gave us directions with a smile. And when we were just stopping for fun, there was always someone with the kindness and sincerity to make us feel truly welcome. 

We wish we could take the rickshaw with us to every country that we visit because the experience was so much greater. But since we can't, we will continue to seek out other adventures that allow for these types of connections. Because to us, that is what travel is really all about. As great as the beaches or mountains are, in the end it's always about the people. So India, we thank you for that. Thank you for welcoming us into your home and and treating us like family and thank you for teaching us what unconditional generosity really means.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

If you have any questions about the trip or want advice on doing something similar, feel free to ask in the comments below.

One Night in Bangkok

Bangkok is a modern city thriving with culture, art, music, food and anything else you could ask for. 

When we landed in Thailand's capital we didn't even know where we were going to stay. The trip happened so spontaneously we hadn't figured out any details. Luckily our good friends and fellow bloggers HandZaround were already there, and they booked us a room in a great little hotel where they were already staying called Eco House. Small but clean and private rooms with shower go for 500 baht or $15 in a great central location. 

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: If you're traveling through SE Asia, Agoda.com is your best source for online bookings. Better deals can always be arranged in person, but unlike India or Europe Agoda beats Booking.com on prices almost every time.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: Public transport is an easy and convenient option but it doesn't always work out to be the cheapest here depending on where you are going and how many you are traveling with. Auto Tuk Tuks are a must try experience in Bangkok with their neon lights and lavish decorations but also know that Uber is available. Sometimes you don't want to haggle or have to explain your final destination so having this option is nice. And unlike many other countries, we tested and found that normal taxis were typically the same price as an Uber so don't be afraid to flag one down either.

Our arrival in Bangkok was unlike many others foreigners experience, as we had just come from nearly 6 months in India. Most people who arrive in Thailand from the west feel overwhelmed with exotic and foreign excitement. We felt like we had just returned to the U.S... and that was a good thing! As our other blogging friends YesKamp once said, Thailand is "Asia Light". 

The city was so clean, organized and people actually followed the rules of the road! We saw our sheets were actually clean when we checked into our budget hotel. We couldn't believe it!

All the stress, that had built up from the awesome insanity of our previous adventures in India melted away instantly. 

Having been on the road so long we skipped many of Bangkok's "must do's". Bangkok has more beautiful temples than you could ever want to visit. And having filled our thirst for temples months ago, we agreed to visit one but that was it.

We visited Wat Pho with two amazing new friends Karol and Agnieszka from Poland we had met at our hotel. The temple is absolutely beautiful. The architecture and the giant statue of sleeping Buddha are breathtaking. It's a huge temple too so if temples get you hot and bothered, there is plenty to explore at Wat Pho. But again, we've already seen so many temples in India, we pretty much dine and dashed.

What made us fall in love with Bangkok was the street food. From Chinatown to Chotochok weekend market (both must do's), to a hundred others we can't remember the name of or didn't have time to visit, there is an endless supply of new and exciting markets and dishes to try. 

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: Spend an evening in Chinatown stuffing your face with as many dishes and beers that you can manage, and then proceed to digest your horrendously gluttonous consumption with an hour long foot massage for 150 baht or about $4.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: People touching your feet not your thing? Then after eating, settle down at Chinatown's Soulbar for a drink at let the sweet jazz melodies serenade you.

Our next activity is not something you necessarily need to do in Bangkok, but we do feel it's a must at some point during your trip. The Thai cooking class in an awesome experience if you are a fan of Thai food. From going to the markets to learning about the ingredients, to making your own curry paste to finally cooking and eating your freshly made dishes will most definitely inspire your cooking creativity for when you get home. We went, per a friends recommendation, to Sompong Thai Cooking School and they were fantastic. The teachers were really friendly and spoke great English. For a budget traveller it was a little pricey at about $30 per person, but we found it worth the cost. 

with Hanna and Zach from HandZaround travel blog

with Hanna and Zach from HandZaround travel blog

Our last great adventure was again, thanks to our friends HandZaround. They had interviewed a local artist who was also in charge of what are known as Trasher parties. These are events thrown in large venues for Bangkok's LGBT community and they are awesome. Through a special invite we all attended one of their concerts and it was an amazing night. Gay, straight or anything in between, the people and community are amazing and we highly recommend you see if an event is happening when you are there as you'll have the best night partying possible.

After recovering from our Trasher party hangover we said goodbye to our new friends and headed south for amazing island adventures you can read about here. Bangkok is most definitely a city worth exploring as it has a lot to offer before you head to the beautiful Thai countryside.

We look forward to visiting this city again some day and can't wait to discover what else it has to offer. 

 

 

 

 

A Weekend in Kuala Lumpur

KL, short for Kuala Lumpur, is a modern city full of tall skyscrapers, shopping malls and surprisingly, a small population. But between the new modern skyline, there are also some old treasures that allow you to take a look into the past of this fast growing city. Here are our recommendations as well as some things we tried but think you can probably skip.

The Petronas Twin Towers

These towers need no introduction and are an obvious stop to anyone visiting the city, but we had to mention them because they're f*#king amazing. We went to see the Petronas Towers multiple times on our stay in KL. That is how beautiful they are. They are particularly magnificent at night with the lights showcasing the truly stunning architectural design. Also at night, the KLCC park behind the towers, has a colorful fountain show much like Bellagio in Vegas.

The best free view of the towers is from the Grand Hyatt KL located at Grand Hyatt KL, Jalan Pinang, KL. Just take the elevator to the 39th floor and enjoy the beautiful view of the Towers. 

The best free view of the towers is from the Grand Hyatt KL located at Grand Hyatt KL, Jalan Pinang, KL. Just take the elevator to the 39th floor and enjoy the beautiful view of the Towers. 

The towers themselves have an interesting history when you read about the design, construction and some significant obstacles that almost stopped the entire construction because of a poor site selection and a batch of bad concrete at one of the towers. Needless to say, we're happy that all these hurdles were overcome because it was truly a memorable experience.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip:  Public transportation is a great way to get around the city. We used the monorail to get to all the tourist sites and it's quite cheap.  You can also use Uber and another similar app GrabCar, which is more popular in Asia.

Kampung Baru

Kampung Baru is the last village in KL city with low rise, traditional Malay homes. The village is very controversial because of the aggressive construction that is happening in the neighborhood. Unfortunately it won't be much longer before the value of this prime property outweighs the value of the locals lively hood and they will be forced out. The land is said to be worth more than 1 billion dollars. It has been an ongoing and a difficult fight between the owners of the land trying to preserve it and the government having different plans, so despite the protests, it's disappearing fast. 

Visiting the Kampung Baru was the highlight and most fun tourist activity we did in the city. We joined a great free walking tour hosted by the mayors office. The guide was excellent, spoke perfect english and knew everybody in the neighborhood. It was more like walking around a new town with a local friend, who knows all the cool spots and whom you could ask everything. It was partially a cultural, historical and culinary trip. Kampung Baru is also famous for it's night market. We stopped to try many traditional Malay delicacies for free. Sometimes it can be intimidating to order foreign food, but not with a native who will tell you what you are eating.

We definitely recommend you register for this free tour with Jalan- Jalan @ Kampong Bharu. The tours are every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: We actually almost stayed in Kampung Baru village because we've read so many great things about it. There is a nice guest house there called Bagasta that is not quite the cheapest for a budget traveler (about $25/night), but our tour guide confirmed it's worth the stay. They have a roof top patio with an amazing view of the towers and there is tons of great food within walking distance.

China Town

Chinatown in KL is like every other chinatown in the world, except probably for China. Even during a hot day it was crowded with people and many vendors selling the same cheap junk: iphone cases, fake gucci bags etc. However, the most disappointing was the food. It wasn't terrible but definitely not the best and there were few options compared to other food markets. If you are a foodie, there is way better to be found.

If you're staying near Chinatown then you might as well check it out, otherwise we would not recommend going there.

The Tipsy Gypsies Tip: Despite our lack of enthusiasm, Chinatown is great for cheap hotels and in general is a good central location. If you are planning on staying in Chinatown we've read the Lantern Hotel is nice and moderately priced. We walked by it on our visit. It is located in the heart of Chinatown right next to the market, and it looked very hip from the exterior.

 

Bukit Bintang

Bukit Bintang is the new trendy neighborhood where the "cool" kids hang out. It has everything teenagers love: big shopping malls, mini malls, cute cafes and trendy bars. Unaware of all these "great things", we stayed in this neighborhood and we actually loved it. It's conveniently located right next to the most famous night market in KL, Jalan Alor and also has some very convenient metro stops nearby. This night market is a very lively place to get food and people watch. It stretches several blocks and after 7, is bustling with hungry patrons sampling all of KL's specialties. 

Our hotel, the Hotel Paloma Inn was quiet and the staff was extremely friendly.  We're sorry to say though if you want some decent wifi, it sucks at this hotel, so consider yourself warned.  On the other hand, the location was great. We were in close proximity to the metro, Chinatown, the night market and all the trendy western restaurants. We found this really amazing brunch spot with killer food right around the corner from us. If you are craving something fresh from the west, VCR is the place to go. We could talk for hours about how tasty the food was but on top of that, the design was cool and the crowd was hip. This might sound bad if you haven't been away from home long, but it felt like we were eating food somewhere in the arts district in LA and for us, that was awesome. 

 

Brickfields, Little India

If you've never been to India, there's nothing wrong with visiting Little India. But since we'd just come from India, we're sorry to say this was probably our least favorite part of town. We went there around lunch time looking for some good Indian food but when we got to the recommended food market, all we were served were some cold flavorless "leftovers" that tasted nothing like in India.  

After lunch we wandered on the streets of little India. All we could find were the "iconic" arches painted with bright colors, a small flower market and a lot of cheap, low quality Indian clothes. 

We feel it was not worth buying the metro ticket to come here. There is supposed to be a free walking tour of this neighborhood too and we tried contacting them without any luck. If any of you ever do the free walking tour or find something cool to do in Brickfields, definitely let us know. Maybe we were lousy at finding the good stuff. 

We only had a few days in KL but we would love to come back and explore some more. There were definitely things that we missed on this trip that sounded very interesting and we would love to try them in the future. Here is our wish list we didn't get to. If you try any of these please let us know how they are!

  • Dialogue in the dark: what started as an art project by an artist, is now a life changing experience, where you walk through a complete pitch black space guided by a blind person. They also do "Dinner in the Dark." It's a project to make the general population aware of diversity and disability. It sounds so interest and we would loved to meet the guides.
  • Go to Publika, the hipster mall, on Monday for a free movie screening.
  • This Kul city discovery walk: for the next 18 months you can participate in another free walking tour of KL focusing on "specific cultural and heritage sites of the city" with guest speakers and more. This just sounds like a great way to discover the city.

Cheers!

 

RICKSHAW ROADTRIP

The Tipsy Gypsies decided to buy, paint, repair and drive an old auto rickshaw over 1200km from Kochi, Kerala to Malvan Maharashtra. Unfortunately we didn't film as much as liked, (we were too busy driving and fixing things!) but here are a few shots from our adventure along the way.

Get Tipsy on: Purple Gin

Although Thailand is known for wild parties with lots of alcohol and drugs, it's mostly tourists who do the drinking. When we asked the locals about some native drinks we were told that the locals prefer drinking rum or beer and the youngsters are the ones starting to take an interest in cocktails culture.

We were trying to find a cocktail that is not too sweet, refreshing and is unique to Thailand. We didn’t want to drink anything that came in a coconut or with unnecessary umbrella decorations. We visited Sarojin resort in Khao Lak and asked them for their recommendation. Per their recommendation, we agreed on a Purple Gin, also known as Disco Sour or Blue Magic.

Purple Gin is purple/bluish in color, hence the name and it’s color is 100% natural which comes from the butterfly pea flower that it is infused with. The Butterfly pea flower is widely used in Asian cuisine and now bartenders are also making trendy blue or purple drinks with it. Apparently this drink became quite popular recently on social media after the actress Margot Robbie drank something similar on her honeymoon.

The main ingredient of this cocktail is gin infused with butterfly pea flower, combined with sprite and a splash of lime that gives it a fresh, fizzy taste. The acid from the lime also helps to turn the blue tint from the flowers into a vibrant purple. Purple Gin is a light and refreshing drink that's perfect to sip on a hot afternoon.

We shared the ingredients of the cocktails here, so you could try to replicate it and taste a bit of Thailand at your home.

Try it at home Manual: You can use a powder or tea leaves of the butterfly pea flowers to make this drink. If you are using the tea leafs just add about 6-8 flowers directly to the gin and let it infuse in the bottle for couple of days.

 

Ingredients

Gin

(infused with butterfly pea flowers)

Sprite

Triple Sec

Sweet and Sour

Fresh kaffir leaves for decoration

1 Lime/lemon ( the acid of this will turn the color from blue to purple)

Ice

 
 

The Fisherman

Over the course of several days while staying at the beach town Malvan in India, we befriended some local fisherman. It was fascinating to watch them work. Therefore I made this little short of their process from launching the boat at sunset, to returning at 5 in the morning to pull their catch in and carry it off to market.

Original score composed and performed by: Shahruz Moshtael

Burnt Out...

It's been 8 months on the road. And I (Nate), am spent. I knew this was going to happen at some point, I just didn't know when. The first question I always asked long term travelers before leaving was, "don't you get tired of it?". 

Well, I can answer now with confidence, yes, you do.

The grass is always greener on the other side right? You're stuck at your desk job and all you do is dream of sandy beaches and adventure. Well I've had plenty of sandy beaches and at this moment, all I crave is routine. Predictability. MY bed, a LIVING ROOM, and OH MY GOD, an American supermarket with all the goodness and variety it has to offer.

I knew it wasn't going to be easy before we left but I didn't know exactly how hard it could get. I'm seriously one click away from an Expedia ticket home right now. My wife Marta is a natural extrovert. Adventure comes to her easily. She is the sole reason we have had so many amazing experiences along this trip and for that I'm grateful. But it also exhausts me! I crave mundane!

But this is part of it right? Pushing your boundaries. Stepping outside your comfort zone. It allows you to discover a side of yourself you never knew existed. Before, when I wasn't comfortable or didn't know what to do I could always go home. I was always a natural home-body, a couch potato. Now, I have no home and it's through this process that I'm forced into new experiences, new opportunities that I would never have sought out otherwise.  

As I sit here writing, with a second browser tab open and exhaustedly DREADING the purchase of our next tickets to _______, it is with those tickets that I also know new inspiration, new stories, new friends and a new me will arrive. And THIS... is the reason why I'm not coming home yet. 

"Coconut Juice" aka "Slow Poison"

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It was a beautiful evening in the coastal town Malvan, and we were sitting at Chivala beach watching the sunset. Early on we had befriended a local fisherman named Bhi and we would see him working every day when we went to the beach. He barely spoke any english and we didn't speak any of his local language but that didn't stop us from having a good time. 

As we watched the sunset and sipped our freshly opened ice cold King Fishers, we heard a motorcycle pull up. It was our friend! He wanted to take us on an adventure but we had just opened our beers so we almost said no. But finally after some convincing, we agreed to go. 

We finished our beers and the two of us hopped on the back of his motorcycle. This might sound crazy outside of India but we've easily seen 4-5 people on one bike so this was actually quite comfortable. 

First he took us to an amazing view point where we finished watching the sunset. A place we never would have found on our own so thanks for that Bhi! But after that he took us somewhere even better. 

His bike pulled over on the side of the road and we had no idea where we were. The only thing we saw was a tiny makeshift shack. We went inside and there was a group of men sitting on the floor clearly having a good time. "Coconut juice!" they said enthusiastically. We decided to take a sip and it was absolutely delicious. It clearly tasted fermented so we asked if there was alcohol in it. "NO!" the men said in unison. But after hearing them later call it "slow poison", and doing a little research we later learned it was definitely alcoholic. They must have meant there was no ADDED alcohol.

The drink is formally called Madi, which you can read more about here, but we definitely prefer "coconut juice" :)