Interesting facts about Montenegro: Tara Canyon

19 interesting facts about Montenegro

At Atlas & Boots, we try to spend at least two weeks in any given country. Sadly, my recent horse riding trip in Montenegro was limited to just seven days. Given that I spent most of my time in the saddle, I had little interaction with the locals. Any chance I had was usually spent refusing second (and third) helpings of rakija, a colourless brandy of 40% alcohol!

I was keen to learn more about the country and thus set out to gather some interesting facts about Montenegro. Here’s the best of what I found. Continue reading

Saddle up: horse riding tips for your first tour

Essential horse riding tips for your first tour, gathered from a challenging week in the mountains of Montenegro.

Some may say that I’m poorly qualified to write this piece. After all, in the few years since I first mounted a horse, I’ve been trodden on, kicked in the shin while riding, kicked in the back while not riding and, more recently, fallen off a horse and got pinned beneath it with my foot stuck in the stirrup.

I’d argue that as a relative novice I’m actually well placed to offer horse riding tips for your first tour. I understand the threats, challenges, and surprises of riding as a newbie and can help others navigate around them (a reason perhaps why my novice’s guide on how to pass the PADI Open Water Diver course has been used by over 45,000 people). Continue reading

horse riding in Montenegro

Lone ranger: horse riding in Montenegro

While Peter went climbing in Russia, I opted for something far more amenable: horse riding in Montenegro.

I was alone in more ways than one.

I was travelling without Peter for the first time this year; I was the only non-French speaker on our seven-night tour; I was the only vegetarian in the group; and I was the least experienced rider by far.

‘No matter,’ I thought on Day 1. I could spend the week improving my riding and my French all at the same time.

Continue reading

It’s sexist to assume I’m not adventurous

Despite what some may think, I don’t do adventurous things just because my boyfriend likes them.

Last week, Peter and I were talking to an acquaintance (let’s call him Jack) about our possible trip to Australia next year. Over a shared pizza, Peter mentioned that he would love to dive with sharks in Perth.

Jack threw me a look and laughed. “Ha, I don’t suppose you’ll be joining him for that.”
I nodded. “Yes, as long as the sharks are treated responsibly.”
“‘Responsibly?'” He nudged Peter. “It sounds like she’s trying to get out of it, mate.” Continue reading

Announcing Remote Jobs at Atlas & Boots

Do work that matters from a place you love.

We are super excited to announce Remote Jobs at Atlas & Boots, a new section that matches skilled digital nomads and expats to companies genuinely committed to remote working.

We wanted to take a moment to tell our readers about the new section and to explain why it’s an important addition to our site.

As most of you know, Peter and I spend our time travelling and working on the road. In between our trips abroad, we are based in a tiny French village called Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes. It’s a good life; exactly the sort of life you would imagine of a tiny French village. Continue reading

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Hiking Le Morne Brabant in Mauritius: a guide

A guide to hiking Le Morne Brabant in Mauritius including a map to the trail entrance and our hard-earned tips and caveats.

I wasn’t worried about hiking Le Morne Brabant in Mauritius. After climbing Nevis Peak in St Kitts & Nevis and navigating sections of sheer rock on Spencer Trail in the US, I thought hiking Le Morne Brabant would be easy. I certainly wasn’t expecting to quit a few metres from the top… Continue reading

Elephants in Sri Lanka

Idiots abroad: should you speak out?

What’s the appropriate reaction to tourists behaving badly?

I’ve always been sceptical of the introvert vs. extrovert dichotomy. A common interpretation of this theory suggests that people’s personalities belong in one category or the other. In reality, however, most of us likely lie somewhere on a spectrum between the two.

I’m generally a confident person, I’m comfortable with public speaking and I enjoy meeting new people, but I also have a healthy dose of British reserve. I’d rather avoid confrontation if possible and am more likely to silently seethe about manspreading or queue jumping than speak out and create a scene. Continue reading

Turtles seen while diving at Trou aux Biches

Diving at Trou aux Biches, Mauritius

Diving at Trou aux Biches after a year’s break reminds us why we fell in love with scuba in the first place.  

We’ve arrived. In Mauritius. To hike and dive. For a month! What an absurd set of sentences for an ex-teacher and jobbing writer.

We’ve tooled together our month-long stay through a local contact and so here we are on the extraordinary island of Mauritius amid soaring volcanic mountains, yawning valleys and of course some of the best beaches in the world.

We waste no time in finding an idyllic stretch of coast at our first stop of Trou aux Biches. Continue reading

Mont Saint-Michel: 10 dos and don’ts

Essential tips for visiting the most fantastical building in France.

When it comes to French architecture, there are myriad contenders for the throne. The most notable is the Eiffel Tower, a world-famous symbol of Gallic ingenuity.

Then there’s the Louvre, possibly the most famous museum in the world. After that we have the Notre Dame and, in any chosen order, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, Palace de Versailles and the Pantheon.

Less famous but more impressive is Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy’s abbey on a rock in a bay. Continue reading

Are you an outdoors snob?

With complex hierarchies, obscure heroes and indecipherable lingo, the outdoors community is more daunting than it should be.

Many years ago, before the prospect of camping became a real and constant threat in my life, I was a city girl through and through. I had never slept beneath the stars, never bathed in a lake and never answered nature’s call in, er, nature.

During this time of high heels and pricey meals, I had a conversation with an outdoorsy friend of mine ahead of his Three Peaks Challenge. Mike (let’s call him) was searching for a driver and remarked that “most climbers rely on their girlfriends for transport”.

He rolled his eyes. “We call them ‘crag girlfriends’,” he said with an arrogant smile. Continue reading

World’s most stunning big wall climbs

It was five years ago that I first came across a big wall climber. A tiny speck on the side of a gigantic granite wall, the climber was bivvying in Yosemite National Park, the Holy Land of big wall climbing.

I couldn’t comprehend how someone could sleep tacked onto the side of a wall, suspended thousands of feet above the ground, sometimes in treacherous weather conditions. Continue reading

Mountain etiquette: how to treat your guide

There’s a moment in Sherpa, the BAFTA-nominated documentary about Everest’s famous guides, where a western tourist asks “can you not talk to their owners?” in reference to the striking Sherpas.

It may have been an innocuous plea made in a moment of frustration but in the harsh truth of film, the question exposes an unsettling attitude to the guides that risk their lives to lead others to the summit. Continue reading

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Myanmar on the map: exploring southeast Asia’s final frontier

As tourism takes off, can Myanmar keep its time-warp appeal?

You never know how people will react when you tell them you’re visiting Myanmar. Some will gasp in jealousy. A few will ask if it’s safe. Some, like my mother, will give you exceedingly specific instructions like ‘don’t eat fish farmed from the Bay of Bengal’. Others will ask if you should visit at all. The last is a valid question. For 50 years, Myanmar was controlled by an oppressive military junta, most famously opposed by politician Aung San Suu Kyi.

Read the rest of this post on the G Adventures blog.

Tackling London’s empathy gap

As we head to London in the wake of the Grenfell Tower inferno, the class divide is heavy on our minds.

In Greek mythology, Chimera was a fire-breathing creature with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. Today, her name has come to denote anything composed of very different parts: a collection of things that don’t belong together.

It’s a fitting way to describe how I felt after graduating from university. I’ve explained in Checking my privilege and Asian girl, English boy that I had a very simple childhood. My family was poor but so was everyone else’s. My parents were immigrants but so were everyone else’s. There was a uniformity that precluded envy, tension, or confusion about my identity. I was Bangladeshi and I was poor. Hey ho. Continue reading

A break from Buddhism on Inle Lake, Myanmar

The variety of things to do on Inle Lake provides a different look at life in Myanmar.

Burma without Buddhism would be like Rome without religion: a land shorn of identity, bereaved of its most vivid colours. There’s no question that Buddhism with its extraordinary monuments and monasteries makes the country what it is: spiritual, mystical and all those other adjectives western writers apply to eastern exoticism.

Burma, now known as Myanmar, is the East of the brochures: of mists rising on tranquil lakes and berobed monks in echoing chambers. Myanmar does not disappoint. But, much like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, it can wear out all but the most avid temple goers. With this in mind, I was pleased to have a day on Inle Lake with plenty of variety. There were stupas and monasteries (naturally), but also extraordinary locals that provided a tiny slice of life on the lake. Continue reading

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Hiking to Yazakyi Monastery in Myanmar

We hiked to Yazakyi Monastery above the Burmese village of Pindaya and found a picturesque settlement straight from the pages of National Geographic.

On my last visit to London, I asked my niece to grab a tenner from my wallet for the pizza fund. (We have a family of eight siblings and 21 nieces and nephews, so ordering pizza requires a basic level of crowdfunding.)

She rifled through my wallet, first pulling out some US dollars, then my tattered entrance card to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, then the business card of a tourism official in Malawi. She smiled cheekily and said, “Ada marayreh?”.

The Bengali phrase – which loosely translates to ‘flouncing about’ or ‘gallivanting’ – is usually used pejoratively by prim auntie-jis to chide young women for venturing outside and being seen in ‘improper’ situations (e.g. walking with a boy, entering a cinema, going on holiday). Continue reading

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Idyll worship: Mount Popa’s monastery on a volcano

We visit Taung Kalat, the surreal Buddhist monastery on Myanmar’s Mount Popa.

Mount Popa may as well have been Mount Doom. It loomed on our cycle itinerary, taunting me with defeat. As a newbie cyclist (and certainly the weakest in our group), I found the prospect of cycling 83km (52mi) uphill under the baking Burmese sun more than a little daunting.

Thankfully, our support vehicle was always close by, offering both solace (“I’m here if you need me”) and seduction (“you can quit right now if you want”). The latter proved too much and soon I relented, swapping two wheels for four while the group struggled on. Continue reading

5 tips for your first cycle tour

I had never considered seeing the world by cycle. As a Londoner, I equated cycling with traffic-clogged lanes and smoke-choked roundabouts. After a recent ride, however, I came to see that cycling offers a unique view of the world.

First, there’s the freedom. Nearly every environment is accessible by bike, from parched desert and rugged steppe to luscious jungle and cityscape. Cycling allows you to explore remote corners that just can’t be seen by car.

Second, there’s the element of reality. Cycling brings you literally closer to a land and its people, offering authentic sights and smells without a sanitising filter of glass.

Read the rest of this post on the G Adventures blog.

Asian girl, English boy: what we learned from DNA testing

Ahead of our trip to Asia this year, we turned to 23andMe for some home truths about our roots.

I never felt exotic growing up. I was one of eight Bangladeshi children in a street full of Bangladeshi residents in an area full of Bangladeshi immigrants.

In my home borough of Tower Hamlets, Bangladeshis account for almost one third of the population – considerably larger than the proportion across London (3%) or England (<1%). In fact, Tower Hamlets has the largest Bangladeshi population in the whole of England. Continue reading

Bentota river safari in Sri Lanka

A Bentota river safari promises all sorts of creepy things: crocodiles, snakes, bats and lizards. Here’s how we fared on ours.

I was sceptical about our skipper. Small and slight and in his mid teens, he barely uttered a word of welcome. Peter and I boarded the boat and set off on our Bentota river safari with nary an instruction.

We had some information from our hotel about the length and price of the tour (2.5 hours, 1,800 LKR / 12 USD per person), but beyond that, we had little idea of what we might see. Continue reading