High in the Atacama desert of Chile, there is a place... where you can have your very own llama... and take it for a romantic sunset walk.
Every tourist knows about Lima, Arequipa, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley, but not nearly as many people make the trek to Northern Peru. Although you won't see as many iconic sites we found it absolutely worth the trip. From Amazonian lush jungles to the misty highland mountains that touch the sky, all the way down to the coastal deserts. We spent countless hours driving between destinations but the view was always spectacular. Here is some B-Roll we shot for the tour company, Kuoda Travel.
If you aren't, in brief, these are companies built entirely around filtered self-submitted content, combined with soliciting and asking travel bloggers, filmmakers, and photographers to provide them for free, with travel inspirational content that they can then re-edit if they wish, re-label, and share as their own for profit, and in trade, the content provider will receive credit in the comments (or if they're lucky, the post description) and in theory, drive traffic to the content creator.
These digital media platforms have millions of travel-hungry followers who eat up the material these "regurgitators" provide. According to Cityam.com, "Between June 2014 and March 2015, UNILAD recorded a turnover of £377,727". Forbes during an interview with founders Liam Harrington and Sam Bentley in 2016, learned that UNILAD can charge advertisers up to £40k for an original branded video.
We couldn't find any financials for Must Do Travels but it is a for-profit business and its follower base is a million and a half more than UNILAD Adventure at the time of this articles writing.
Needless to say, these kids have built fantastic little empires for themselves, by doing what? By sharing content they paid nothing for. Quite brilliant if you ask us.
So is this good or bad for content creators? Let's take a look!
In December of last year, both companies reached out to us, asking to share an excerpt from our trending film Rhythms of Peru. Excited about the possible of the publicity and potential follower growth to our blog, we agreed. A few days later, their mutilated and rebranded molestation of our precious film material was released, and we can now confidently say the pay off was... less than lackluster. "Well, your content must have sucked!" you'll say. "Maybe it just wasn't popular enough!" you'll shout.
We'll let these screenshots speak for themselves:
A huge success!!! A job well done, The Tipsy Gypsies! So after 1.1 million combined views, our Facebook must have caught fire right?
Let's take a look!
From December 11th, the date of the first publication, to December 18th a week later and well past the life cycle of this type of content, we had gained 512 followers. A descent growth you might say for one week's work! "Tragically", we had also received a Vimeo Staff Pick for Rhythms of Peru that same week, and every time we get a Vimeo Staff Pick.... up go the followers. Unfortunately, there's no way for us to collect the data on the source of each new follower but it can easily be assumed that these new followers came from multiple sources. Later on we also gained over 1000 followers just by uploading and sharing Rhythms of Peru on Facebook ourselves and letting it get a virus... we mean go viral!! Way more than UNILAD Adventure and Must Do Travels gave us combined.
On top of that, when Must Do Travels first shared our video, they didn't even credit us as promised and it wasn't until hours later when we noticed, and the video had been liked and shared thousands of times before they corrected it. I spoke with the founder of Must Do Travels after the incident and to his credit, he seemed extremely apologetic and promised if we shared more with them, it would be done correctly. Which in our eyes is basically the equivalent of saying, "We were going to pay you $1000 for this job, but we forgot half the money at home so here's $500. But on next job, we promise we'll pay you the full $1000!". If your only method of payment is a credit, you have to get that right every single time and we talked to multiple people where this was botched. Once the cats out of the bag, there are no re-does.
And this shows why the credit-as-payment system doesn't work. The fact is, 99.9% of viewers will watch the video, like the video, and share the video, but only .1% are going to see your name, click your name, visit your page or wall and then if you're lucky, like or follow it. This leaves UNILAD Adventure and Must Do Travel receiving 99.9% of the benefits of your content, FOR FREE!
Must Do Travels claims they care deeply about their content providers. Yet one filmmaker reached out to me, sharing that his film had been featured on Must Do Travels without his consent. It turns out some unknown person had submitted it as their own and Must Do Travels accepted this submission without question or proof. Their response to the filmmaker after plagiarizing, reaping the benefits of 190k views, and not even crediting the actual creator was,
"I assure you that we do not rip off filmmakers, as we are filmmakers ourselves and actually only share other people’s footage who have quality work and willingly ask us to share that on their behalf to help them grow awareness of their own fan pages or professional services."
Were there any repercussions to Must Do Travels or compensation for the hard-working filmmaker? Of course not. Because these companies are completely unregulated or held accountable. They did eventually agree to take the film down.
So what's a model that could work? Well, we can tell you that there are other sites just like these two with the same travel focus, same style of videos, same millions of followers, and they pay their content creators. Is it a lot? No. About the price of 1 1/2 clips from our stock footage business, for a polished one minute video. But it's something. It's a gesture.
Which leads to our final point. Whether it be small pay or no pay, it's our choice as content creators right? Whether to share or not to share. None of these sites are breaking the law (aside maybe from when they share content without proper permission... but hey, that’s just a mistake right?) So the final question we want to ask the travel community is...
just because it's legal, does it make it right?
Just because someone who spends thousands of their own dollars/yen/pesos... on travel and equipment agrees to create content for these companies, for free in hopes of a few new followers... does that make it okay? Travel content creation is already a hard enough business to make a living at, so do we really need some of the most popular travel influencers in the world encouraging the idea that our material isn't worth anything?
Ultimately this is bad for everyone. If content creators can't find sources of revenue, they're ultimately going to stop creating content. Although we would never encourage anyone to try and make a full time living producing content for these types of sites, they can potentially provide some additional income.
An example you say?? Why sure! We recently had some extra footage, some free time while resting in Quito, made a little video for the travel platform TasteMade Travel, and guess what? Not only were we credited...
we were paid!
Another media platform doing it right, would be Passion Passport, who makes it their main goal to focus on and feature content creators when sharing.
Not only do they feature the content creator prominently, they typically don't re-edit the original material, providing it as the content creator intended.
We were not paid for sharing our film with them but still found it completely worth the trade.
Therefore, there are business models that work. Models that are mutually beneficial, but when platforms like UNILAD Adventure and Must Do Travels continue as they do, encouraging their type of "business" model, they are setting a terrible industry standard for what our material is worth...
After reaching out to Must Do Travels and UNILAD Adventure for comment (UNILAD has not responded to our requests), we began an email discussion with Steven Kenniff, the founder of Must Do Travels. Although our opinion still stands about the previous and immediate state of these companies, we were really impressed with Steven's engagement with us and what felt like genuine concern and an interest in improving his company to be more beneficial to his content providers. He claims they are already implementing some of our suggestions and are currently working on several ideas for this year that could include a form of payment for at least select content creators. Therefore, we feel optimistic about Must Do Travels future but we can't comment more on UNILAD Adventure as they won't speak with us. Despite the many issues discussed in this article, we are actually rooting for these companies and want to see these platforms reach their full potential: continued success as a business, but also a respectable and profitable place for professional content creators to contribute.
Having said that, this is, in the end an op-ed, and just one blog and two bloggers opinion.
If anything in this article resonates with you, offends you, or you find it a worthwhile discussion, please consider sharing your opinions or experiences in the comments below and also consider sharing this article with friends and colleagues so together as a travel community, we can keep this conversation going and maybe, just maybe... get them to see the light.
CREATOR COMMENTS & COMPANY RESPONSES
We reached out to content creators who have shared with either UNILAD Adventure and or Must Do Travels. The only criteria was having more than 500k views for videos or 30k likes on photos.
Below are their opinions as well as An official response from Must Do Travels. UNILAD Adventure did not respond to our multiple requests for comment:
(To protect the privacy of the content creators, no names have been provided)
“It’s like expecting to get followers for your broccoli farm because a popular restaurant uses your produce in their salad.”
"Before editing and sharing this video, they asked me my permission. I gave them but I wanted to have a link to my youtube channel. I thought they were going put it in the description of the post. What a bad surprise when I saw that the link was only in comments... Indeed, this post didn't increase my views on my original video. But it was an honor for me to be published by this page."
"Honestly, I don't think people really look to see where the pictures or videos came from, so no, I don't think it made a difference at all in traffic on any of my sites."
Bloggers / Travel Filmmakers
"We think that submitting your work or letting platforms with millions of followers use your content for free definitely has some benefits, however there are a few issues with the whole idea of claiming others work as their own. If they do choose to share a piece work then it can definitely receive many views, comments and/or shares that it otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. One of the annoying issues though is crediting - to be honest, most platforms suck at it! We really had to fight with one platform to make sure that our credit was given in the description of the film and not buried in the 3rd or 4th comment that no one was ever going to find, let alone read... After being shared on large platforms it brought us a minor boost in followers - nothing to write home about though. But, it does give us creditability when we are discussing a project with a client and we can say that our content has received over a million views across different travel platforms. We liked the way Matador Network went about sharing our work. They offer some money for a license of parts of your film, and although it is not a huge amount of cash, it shows that they understand that people work hard to create the content and deserve at lest some sort of renumeration."
"When I was just starting I was absolutely stoked to be featured anywhere and I let everyone do it no matter who it was. Maybe it helped maybe it didn’t. But nowadays I’m really particular about what pages I post my stuff on. Because on one hand, these “feature pages” are just getting loads of free content. Content that would cost thousands and thousands of dollars to produce on their own. They are using the system to their advantage hardcore. And as much as I don’t agree with that and I’d never do it myself, you have to see the other side. As a creator, when unilad shares your video you are almost guaranteed a half a million views on a video you created. This can be then used to pitch to other brands and leveraged to help you grow your brand. But not all the content creators know how to do that, so the opportunity goes largely unused. I think it would make it a lot better and a lot more incentivized if these huge companies started paying small amounts to the creators. Even throwing someone $20 to some of these smaller creators would go a long way. Seeing as they are making hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars from each video that’s the least they could do. As much as I don’t agree with it I can’t deny I still do it from time to time. You just have to know how to leverage that and come away on the + side of things"
"...my opinion is that we do get something in return even though it’s not money. Exposure. And something to add to our portfolio... Keep in mind I’m very much a hobbyist, people doing this professionally may have a totally different outlook. However, I don’t think posting on these travel websites is a good way of making money because the cost involved with travel is massive and the pay off is small."
Must Do Travels:
"A few of my friends and I started Must Do Travels about 18 months ago with our own footage of various destinations that we had traveled to or lived in, and from there we started to get approached by other content creators to collaborate on their footage and to promote their personal blogs/websites/social profiles, etc. Much like how you had reached out to us in hopes of having us consider your personal footage. Since we saw that relationship as a mutually beneficial one, we developed a standing partnership with many high quality content contributors that enjoy seeing their work published on our page. It gives many videographers a chance to reach a larger audience with their work than they might otherwise be able to reach if they were to just publish it on their own, especially when they may just be starting out.
Our small team still continues to travel on a regular basis to film locations that we enjoy, or that we have always wanted to go to and needed a reason to get out and do it. That’s why we formed up in the first place. Sometimes it feels like we are always on the road, living out of a suitcase or backpack.
I think we are quite a bit different than what many people might have in mind. Unlike some of the other travel sites and pages out there that I am familiar with, we do not take ownership of your content as a part of the submission process. We know the time and work that goes into filming/editing/traveling and all that, and wish to allow all contributors the right to retain all ownership of their hard work. We simply agree to share the ones that we enjoy the most. If you check the terms and conditions of many of the other pages out there who work with other content creators you will see that they often take exclusive ownership of all content submissions (meaning that they own the video or photo from that moment forward, and you no longer own your footage that you submit for consideration to them), whether they choose to use the footage or not, and often only compensate when and if they do publish the footage online.
Many of the contributors that we work with prefer our type of arrangement, as they are able to not only get distribution and promotion of their content at no cost to them, but they also retain the rights to their hard work that might otherwise not be worth giving up for the chance to possibly earn a small portion of money that wouldn’t even cover the cost of producing the footage in most cases.
We do not run ads in tandem with our content, which means that we do not generate an income off of the video views that our own content or other submitted content gets on our page. I think that the general perception out there might be that if you have a lot of views online you must be making a lot of money, but when there are no ads available to show along with the content on Facebook at this time. We also do not have banner ads on our website articles, so we don’t generate income from that web traffic either. Likewise, we do not have a television channel or a print magazine on the shelves of book stores to generate any sort of revenue. If it wasn’t for our love of travel and being videographers and video editors too I don’t know if we would still be doing it. It’s definitely a labor of love!
In addition to what we film on our own and what is submitted to us unsolicited, from time to time we come across really cool videos online when we are looking for personal inspiration on where to travel next, or get recommended a cool video on YouTube after we just watched another similar video. In those cases we may reach out to some of those content creators to let them know that we enjoyed their work, and invite them to submit their content to us if they wish, so that we can edit it and share it and then link back to their profile or wherever it is that they prefer us to link back to from the video post. Some people never respond to us for whatever reason, and some do.
I wish we could guarantee that every time we shared a video on behalf of someone that it was going to generate some specific level of success for either of us, but we are ultimately not in control of how many views, likes, shares, comments, link clicks to their profile, followers, etc. that any given video can generate. We always hope for the best, and position the content in the way that we feel it will have the highest likelihood for a successful outcome."
Lima has an amazing fountain and light show that goes on three times a night, five nights a week. In fact, this park holds the Guinness Book record for the largest fountain complex in the world! At about a $1 for the ticket, this evening activity is a must for any Lima visit!
Music provided by our talented Peruvian friend and musician, Tayta Ed Bird Please check out his SoundCloud page as his music is fantastic! https://soundcloud.com/taytabird
Fresh snow in Poland means it's time to get out and explore... at least it does when you're a dog named Shera...
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.
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.
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?"
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!)
After one year on the road complete, it's time to take a look back on some of the amazing experiences we've had. This video also takes the form of a demo reel for Nate as a director.
We spent 4 days in Hong Kong and although the rainy weather was beautiful in the city, it made shooting a bit difficult so I didn't get as much footage as I hoped. Regardless, we had an amazing time and can't wait to visit again.
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!
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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.