Tag Archives: photography

Havelock- In a Tropic Love

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Every one inherently has a “happy place”. It can be the place you mentally transport to from your desk at office, a state of mind that can instantly calm you down and encompass you with a sense of serenity no other place can provide. Physicality begins to matter less when it comes to places like these.. and over time one starts to develop a real sense of belonging to this one place, this one point in time, this one feeling that dimension brings and this one sensation that is unique to anything one may ever feel in the crossroads of time spanning across our lifetimes. In simpler words, its the place you find yourself in when you’re sitting in counselling sessions with your shrink ūüėČ

My happy place can be described in one word- Havelock.

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Imagine palm tress swaying in he mellow summer breeze while you lay in the sand, just staring up at the emeralds in the sky. It is a sense of freedom that comes to stay deep in the depths of ones dark soul, lighting up the shadows and letting the gentle crashing of waves carry away the weights from our hearts and mind. This is what Havelock is to me.

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My tryst with Havelock has been a story of a lifetime..virgin, untouched lands growing in the middle of the ocean. I would like to think I’am meant for the island life, but something tells me anyone that has been to Havelock will probably feel the same way. the ferocity with which the locals protect the islands is something to watch and imbibe. It is incredible and almost surreal to be in a place so isolated from the usual driving forces in the world, ambition, success, greed, desire. Havelock just is. It simply exists, transcending time and everything that it brings along with it.

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Beach number 1 / Beach 2

Goving Nagar beach, welcome to kayaking through swamps to the mouth of the open sea and descending into the depths of ice blue coral reefs  for Scuba! Barefoot at Andaman is located on this beach, and my day with them was spent exploring the shallow depths of the crystal waters with team Barefoot.

DSCN1920We watched the sunrise at this beach and then headed through dense swamps standing glorious and proud here since ages, to the open water. The walk itself was mesmerizing. Everything you pass will tell you a story, you have got to listen, you absolutely must. For adventurous souls seeking thrills across the world this walk is a remnant of the stories we read as kids, stories of untold stories, unsolved mysteries, characters and creatures deep in hiding, layers under layers of ancient heritage, open skies watching over all that you will probably never know of.

DSCN1919Once you cross the mangrove swamps spread out over white crystals of sand, you magically come across the dark rocky patches in stark differentiation from the scene you just encountered and you know its time to get acquainted with the most diverse range of creatures just beyond the surface of the water patiently waiting to show off and stun the life out of visitors.

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The Day I forgot to breathe.

The dive was absolutely enchanting. we graduated from the shallow waters into the the world of corals, rainbow fishes, sea anemones and creatures I never thought even existed until now. I remember my first thought when I finally immersed myself completely. Ive always been an emergency quad, you know the kind of person that always has a back-up. a plan B always exists in my mind and I was ready to end my game if needed. With this thought in mind, I went ahead but the moment I looked down it took me 15 seconds just to take in the massive hills of corals that lay waiting for me. There was no looking back. Its like when you fall in love, once it happens.. there is no other way. no matter how you roll the dice, its got to be. from then on, I remember feeling I could live there. There was a point in tine down under when I actually forgot to breathe, it just seemed very trivial compared to what was around me.

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Finding Nemo!

Large boulders of corals in surreal colours, shapes and massive sizes. Stunning. I have always had a very vivid imagination, but here it seemed like my imagination was coming alive in HD! the corals were breathing! That is exactly what it looked like and I do not exaggerate. the pored in the corals were lined with clams, opening and closing rhythmically with time- like a flower opening and closing in all its delicacy and discipline. Wherever I went, they were alive. They were all around me and the life in them took my breath away! That is when I came across the clown fish.. Neon, chrome, interactive. The clown fish lives in a web of tentacles that it uses as a defense mechanism against predators. the tentacles are meant to sting the hunters while having no effect on the clown-fish itself. I love animated films for the simple reason they are closest to the imaginative filter I was earlier talking about. The moment I say the clown fish I looked at my “buddy” and gestured- I’ve found Nemo! He gave me sometime with Nemo almost as condolence to the death of humor and sanity and then the inevitable happened! I spotted the fish that was NOT supposed to be there, that everyone wanted to see but no one was expecting the superstar to show up during that time. But he did, despite the high tide, despite the irregular water flow, despite the odd time of travel for it- it appeared in all its glory and size- the Hump-head parrot fish!!!!! Every second under water was accounted for, increasing its worth and value continuously with the appearance of the seven colored Parrot fish, scallops, blood cockles and soft, hard corals, brain corals, Black Corals!!!!

Beach number 4- Kala Patthar

Dont let the name fool you. The beach may have massive black rocks lining its shore for most of its coastline which gives it its name, but kala patthar beach is predominantly an array of whites and the brilliant blues. Broken pieces of corals make most of this beach almost impossible to walk on, and yet the entire stretch of what remains is visually stunning. The Kala Patthar beach is one of the best beaches to swim into the sea and crash into incoming waves.I remember the afternoon spent swimming into the open waters and feeling the sand softly, silently slipping beneath my feet.

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IMG_7385Beach Number 7- Radhanagar beach

Saving the best for last. The Radhanagar beach, also one of the most beautiful beaches of Asia is unbeatable. When I say Havelock is my Happy place, I mean beach number 7. Flawless. Radhanagar beach is the treasure of Havelock which is protected ferociously, and with reason. The sun rays play with the ocean here like nowhere else. The waves change hues in a spectacular array like never seen before. The sand here is pure white and a swim in the sea is like a dip in the divinity of untouched nature embracing you like you’ll never know again.¬†Elephant beach is a ferry ride away, but here’s a secret you need to know… if you must go there, walk into the rarely treaded mud trail leading through the forests of Havelock.

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The Radhanagar beach is spectacularly clean allowing no use of plastic or any other consumables, and all that is found for miles is heaps of fruits, coral accessories and wildlife. We were lucky to be staying in cottages by the Radhanagar beach and the walk down to the beach and back in stark darkness only guided by the stars and almost visible milky way (clearly visible from Neil Island) was one of the highlights of the stay.

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Havelock is one of those places you may go to but never really come back from. Not sure if it is the irresistible calling of the Island life, the golden opportunities to star gaze, the peace and serenity that transcends into the soul from everything around it, or the sense of unity one has with nature….. or maybe all of it. Once in Havelock, I was in a tropic love, and to be honest I never really fell out of it. So yes, everyone has a happy place. so far and up until Andaman Islands, it was a sense of “fernweh” I related to, but after falling in love with Havelock I knew I had found my happy place. Finally, I was home.
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Andaman Islands : Port Blair

Fernweh… the first time I came across the term I immediately fell in love with it. The power of words is often underestimated, a commodity used less, not enough or maybe more than required. Every word carries a certain amount of accountability with it.. and consecutively each word holds within itself a magnitude of power. I believe its crucial each person finds their “word”, I believe mine is “fernweh”. The longing and painful desire to be some place I don’t know yet, to experience some thing I never have before.. and there are very few places that ignite the core of this storm¬†within me. One such please was¬†Andaman Islands, a magical land furiously challenging the Indian ocean everyday and sustaining in the only way it knows how- through persistence. And then, one day.. I was there.

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My trip to Andaman Islands was full of surprises, and experiences that have still not evacuated that space of longing in my head. It has been a month since a got back to¬†my beloved busy city of Traffic and speed, lights and WiFi , and yet A see myself seeking the stars that i seemingly left behind in the Andamans. The islands have the tendency to land you in an existential crisis, coherently making the concept of keeping up with Time a challenge. Vacuum drives philosophy, and since I’am already one to philosophize more than necessary, in Andaman my imagination caught FIRE!
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A number of people asked me why I was heading to Andaman for 6 full days. I usually forget to sleep or shop and almost never turn to the usual touristy activities when I’m out to explore a new place..For me its all about seeing all that the place possibly has to offer and attaining a level pf peace within myself where I can confidently and without any excuses convince myself that I didn’t visit, i existed..¬†like I belonged there.

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6 days on the island convinced me that no amount of time will ever be enough to watch the infinite stars, dive into the open ocean, trek through mushy forests and indulge into emerald blues at the end of every route, no matter where it leads. Andaman Islands is a lone ranger, standing tall and proud in the middle of a vast, angry ocean.

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My trip included visits to Port Blair- the capital, Ross Island, Neil Island and Havelock! Lying at the North- Western edge of the Island, Port Blair comes with its fair share of tourism-centric day to day activities. a small almost unreal toy town, the city is predominantly inclusive of the navy base with their holdings and base camps occupying a major part of the town. Port Blair is a small town mainly centered around the water sports complex where most of the tourist activities take place. This is where the main jetty is from where one can embark on a ferry to jet off to one one of the neighboring islands- Ross Island or North Bay Island and more. A number of things that one must not miss when in Port Blair include the following.

A visit to the Cellular Jail

Port Blair is home to the stoic Kala Pani jail, famous for unspeakable horrors and ironically standing  in the midst of the most beautiful expanse of golden blue one would ever have the luxury of laying eyes on.

“Hello Prisoner. Welcome to the cellular jail. We tame lions here. ¬† Do you see these walls? Do you know why they are so low? Because no one can ever escape from here. ¬†And Now, Look at me. Over here, I Am God.- David Barry (Jailer)

34-001 Almost spearheading this topic is the Cellular jail. The prison that has stood testimony to a monstrous past has endured its own set challenges to sustain and exist. Subjected to massive destruction when bombed by retreating Japanese forces and consecutively hit by major natural disasters which reduced the once towering structure from 7 to 3 wings as of 2016.

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The jail was famous for its status of an exile prison where notorious criminals and gradually relevant freedom fighters were sent in order to live out their last days.

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Walking past the cells of Vir Vinayak Savarkar,¬†Ganesh Damodar Savarkar, Nani Gopal Mukherjee, Nand Kumar, Putin Das and more and hearing of the atrocities they endured all in the name of freedom for their country was a moving experience. How many of us in today’s times would be able to commit to a cause like they did, How many would actually be as selfless as them in this time where everyone is driven by greed, ambition and money. A change in perspective is sometimes necessary, and a trip down memory lane in a place which speaks volumes can do wonders. the top tower offers spectacular views of the open sea and neighboring smaller islands while the government has sent up a huge hospital in place of the fallen wings of the jail, destroyed during the Japanese war bombings and in honor of the comrades who lost their lives there.

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However, what was supposed to stand as a structure of unspeakable torture instead became a beacon of silent resilience and ultimate courage as the batch of “revolutionary freedom fighters” came, saw and conquered.

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The trials and tribulations endured by the inmates, the lives sacrificed, the brutalities endured under Jailer David Barry are all on display and in the winds that echo from one cell to another. If visiting the jail, make sure you complement the visit with the light and sound show which takes place every evening at 6 Pm and 7 Pm respectively.

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A visit to Corbyn’s Cove
Away from the hustle bustle of the small town of Port Blair, on the non-tourist end lies a serene, small beach called Corbyn’s cove. A relatively peaceful evening would include a gorgeous view of the sky, sea and “snake island”- smallest island of Andaman in the distance. The beach is usually dominated by locals playing football and families enjoying a stroll along the clear waters. The beaches in Andaman are lush with stalls selling coconut water, fruits and instantly cooked foods in returnable containers. The beach is gorgeous and good for a few hours of respite but it is the drive to the cove that truly steals the show. The drive is immensely stunning and all the way by the sea. The road is a thin route sandwiched between the mountain and the sea and provides spectacular views of the coastline until one reached the beach.

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The Water Sports Complex
The sports complex is located right by the jetty and is home to all water sports activities possible in Port Blair. The Sports activities take place in the neighboring North Bay Island and include Snorkeling, Scuba Diving and Sea Walking. When driving past the highs and lows of the city, don’t forget to watch out for the massive swimming pool located on top of a bridge at the water sports complex, visible to the naked eye against the sharp backdrop of the open sea itself.

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Open sea dives and Coral Hunting

I would highly recommend sea-walking at the Water sports complex in Port Blair, which would take place at the North Bay Coral island. However, I would advise Scuba diving to be done only in Havelock. Its pristine gorgeous reefs remain unmatched and truly divine.

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Enroute Ross Island

Ross Island
A day’s trip from Port Blair, Ross Island is probably my number 1 rated destination in and around Port Blair. Ross Island has a solitary history, one could even call it dark and tumultuous.

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I may not be necessarily talking about the war bombing or the earthquake that devastated any hint of infrastructure or potential life on the small Island. The British sepoys loved this little Island and used it to build clubs and halls and even the Viceroy’s bungalow which stood at the very top of it providing spectacular views of the open Indian ocean.

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However, they underestimated the proximity of the little mass of land to the open ocean and this became more prominent than ever when the Ross Island was directly hit by the Tsunami, holding off the force and bearing the brunt of the impact thus saving the entire city of Port Blair which lies directly behind it. The Ross Island was devastated and what remains today are creepy and dark hollows where once life thrived.

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The area is completely desolated except the navy camps which is mainly uninhabited. the Island is home to hoards of deer, peacocks and other wildlife. It is however, prohibited to stay here after 5 PM. The island has the remains of a cathedral in the center, a cemetary with the graves of women and children who died of Malaria when the island was hit by an epidemic and the famous grave of 22 year old Lawrence.

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Rumor and folklore has it that the cries of the women and children can still be heard at night. I may not be a believer but the thrills that chill down my spine when visiting a place that may have some multi dimensional planes are hard to ignore. The front face of the island is evidence of remarkable town planning by the Britishers and its sole satisfying to see the deathly remains of a once upon a time swimming pool lying by the open sea, the water loading house and the hospital all standing in despair and in remembrance of their prime glory.

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The entire time in Andaman, we stayed with the TSG group of hotels and consecutively landed in the TSG emerald and TSG grand resorts of Port Blair. The service was immaculate and the locations absolutely strategic. The first day in Port Blair we were caught in a torrential rain storm and what happened as a result of that goes down in memory as one of the best travel experiences I have had.. We walked through the entire land of Ross Island in the rain, crusading through the wind and not letting the pouring torrents dampen our spirits of adventure in any way possible! Thus we walked through the alleys and dungeons of Ross and came out absolute champions. The icing on the cake being a stunning rewarding view of the Indian ocean from the Navy High point.

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The view that made the climb up Ross island absolutely worth it

Next we moved on to Havelock. Sweet Havelock where dreams come true, where magic resides and where my I left my heart. But before that, a few snippets from my explorations in Port Blair..

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At the cellular Jail, used by prisoners to grind oil and produce mass produce within impossible hours. failure to produce the required amount of oil lead to shaming, flogging and beatings on a day to day basis
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The gallows. The horror.
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View of the Indian Ocean from ROss ISland
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At the angelic church, or what remains of it: Ross ISland
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The advent of time and the cries for help that fell on deaf ears.

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Next: Havelock

Spectacular Lucknow- Nawabon ka Shaher!

I was in Lucknow on a business trip and wanted to make the most of my time so I could pacify my itchy feet to travel! I was determined to make time to see the city i had heard so much about in the limited time that I had.

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I ended up going alone one free morning around the city. From the first step I took into the Bada Imambara, I was amazed. the bada Imambara constitutes of a grand mosque, a Bowli or water tanker with a deep dark history and a huge Maqbara surrounded by deep, twisting tunnels and secret passageways called the Bhul Bhulaiya!

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Nawabon ka shaher- A day in the tomb of & with the martyr. From the Persian Hall, Bada Imambara surrounded by the Bhul-bhalaiya, a maze with innumerable tunnels twisting through the dark, the walls speak here, you can here a sound of a matchstick lighting from across the hall, whispers travel through time, and once lost in the dark tunnels hidden in the surrounding walls There is no way out. And there in the middle of all this magnificence, lies the man that made it all.

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A day in his tomb will shake up the darkest hollows of your soul.The Bowli is a cold dark place, place that has seen more death, more fear, more torture than most others. A mighty salute to Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah, once Nawab of Awadh who lost love, life, family in the name of truth, honour and duty and landed up on display with his head on top of a spear outside this very place. Also listed in the 35 most haunted places of India, the walls and the dungeons of the the Bara Imambara speak in silence, so loud that it is impossible to ignore.

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I stayed at Gemini continental which is strategically located in Hazrath Ganj Lucknow, close to the prime shopping and food properties yet away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The staff is very cooperative and I say this with full confidence as they supported me majorly during the set up and execution of a very high tech conference for my company last month.

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The rooms are great and the service is highly commendable. I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone looking for great quality¬†accommodation, However there are several heritage hotels here closer to the hotspot of cultural attractions like the Teela wala Masjid or the Rumi Darwaza. These hertage sites are a part of and blend beautifully withhtyh. The roads and infrastructure is impressive and so is the variety in food and eateries across the city, especially Tundey’s Kebabs!

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One of the most graceful cities I have been to, I stand truly mesmerized by Lucknow !

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Feature Photography

 Featured in the Asia Europe Foundation Photo Gallery 2015

Featured in the Asia Europe Foundation Photo Gallery 2015

Featured in the CGAP 2015 Photo contest

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Featured in the Eneloop Campaign Gallery for the Eneloop Asia Photography contest in India, Powered by Better Photography Magazine 2015

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Featured in the Eneloop Campaign Gallery for the Eneloop Asia Photography contest in India, Powered by Better Photography Magazine 2015

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Featured in the Eneloop Campaign Gallery for the Eneloop Asia Photography contest in India, Powered by Better Photography Magazine 2015

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Picture Monologues- Bhutan !

A few of my Photographs from Bhutan recently featured in the Eneloop campaign gallery, and are currently in the running for the Eneloop Asia Contest in India powered by Shutterlock and Better Photography Magazine (https://eneloop.shuttlerock.com/content/2nd-photo-contest-in-india)

These photographs are symbolic of the peace and tranquility that I experienced when I was travelling through the Last Shangri-la, as they call it. Expression without words is probably the most effective way to convey to you what I felt on my trip to this country. Some of my favorite shots, compiled into this post..


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7 most exotic experiences Bangkok has to offer!

One of the cities with¬†Visa on Arrival, my first step out of Suvarna-bhumi airport at 2 AM in the night, and I thought I was back in my beloved Mumbai. ¬†That was my first impression of Thailand. It looked very urban, with flyovers and well lined streets, it took us about 25 minutes to exit the widely spread airport district. The roads looked familiar, even the street signs listed district names which sounded very “Indian”. “How is this place any different?” I thought, and BOOM- our first “Thailand experience” came our way.

On the way to our hotel, past 2 AM at night, all cars including ours were suddenly redirected to the fringe of the highway. While we thought it must be a drill common in Bangkok when government officials are passing by, this turned out to be a much bigger affair.

Several cars were asked to line up along the borders emptying the highway. We were asked by government officials to switch off our headlights while they strangely turned their backs to the highway facing us! While this sounds very strange right now, when I explain why this happened you will probably understand the drift of how things work in Thailand. Within 10 minutes, a rally of about a dozen cars and motorbikes sped by us, with members of the Royal family.. the guards wouldn’t face the highway as a mark of respect, similar reasons why cars were not allowed to shine headlights in the presence of the royal troop.

I am not from Thailand, I had never been to Bangkok before.. but the thrill I felt at the mere passage of the royal troop in the middle of the night gave me goosebumps and for some reason, I felt one with the locals in that moment of time.

Bangkok, the city of the Royal seat
Bangkok, the city of the Royal seat

Bangkok, or simply Krueng Thep is fondly referred to as the seat of the king, the city of palaces, the city of angels or the great city of Immortals. For me, Bangkok is simply the city of exotic experiences, my favorite cuisine and unbelievable dimensions.

7 reasons¬†why Bangkok is one of the most “exotic” destinations in my opinion

1. Exotic Tuktuks!

Some of the most fun experiences you will have in Bangkok is probably traveling by the very adorable, and massivke infamous tuktuks! These are like Indian rikshaws, only with horizontal leg spaces and with much more color and character.

TukTuk-ing around town, Bangkok
TukTuk-ing around town, Bangkok

The tuktuk drivers are carefree, very tourist friendly and charge as per their will. They can charge anything between 100-400 baht for a short one way journey and I recommend you travel about with a local incase you’re in the mood for some tuktuk time!

Tuktuks!
Tuktuks!

Luckily for us, we were visiting my dear dear friend from university who lives in Bangkok, and seeing her bargain with the tuktuk drivers probably gave me the highest sense of satisfaction I’ve felt in ages!

2. Tail boats- The backwater experience!

A large and conspicuous part of Bangkok is the Chao Phraya river, which runs along most of the tourist attraction sites of the city.

dingy ports along the river, Bangkok
dingy ports along the river, Bangkok

Water transport is a very relevant part of the daily business and there are several boat cruises which can provide several splendid views of the city from the river.

Bangkok river cruise
Bangkok river cruise

However, once you have cruised along the beautiful river lines on a tourist boat, I strongly suggest you take the tail boat cruise, for the real Bangkok experience!

The tail boats
The tail boats of Bangkok, Thailand

Tail boats are used for transport and tourism along the back waters of the city of Bangkok. This tour provides some amazing visuals and insights into the city’s local life.

The Tail boat experience along the dingy backwaters of Bangkok
The Tail boat experience along the dingy backwaters of Bangkok

 

One can see the low lying boat houses, wood homes suspended less than a feet above water, porches crowded with the most interesting chimes you will ever see.

Local houses one can see only along the backwaters
Local houses one can see only along the backwaters

I may be looking too deep, but I remember seeing low lying houses with uncanny paintings inside, intense graffitis, floating Art houses with real life statues, floating markets and Iguanas basking in the sun casually while children play in the water a few feet away from them! You have to see it to believe it!

Usual sights along the river banks
Usual sights along the river banks

The tail boats are low lying and very close to the water, and the thrill of this experience is unparalleled.

The floating markets
The floating markets

3. The City of Temples

Bangkok is rightly called the seat of palaces and temples. The temples of Bangkok are intricately designed, conventionally run and spiritually inclined. Old Bangkok has most of the temples, and a stark difference is portrayed between the two sects of the city.

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

The three main temples are Wat Arun, Wat Phra Kaew and What Pho! A must visit on the itenary of everyone visiting the city of Bangkok.

The Shrine located in Wat Arun-The temple of Dwan
The Shrine located in Wat Arun-The temple of Dawn

Wat Arun is the temple located directly on the river bank and you can reach this temple using the short ferry service which runs continuously.

Wat Pho, Bangkok
Wat Pho, Bangkok

This Buddhist temple is built in levels and not for the weak heart-ed. Climbing up the first level is easy, the second level is difficult but the climb up to the third level is so steel that one cannot climb up without using the rope railings as the climb is almost vertical. If you do make it up to the third shrine, the climb down is heart stopping and probably one of the most challenging experiences of my life.

The leveled temple of Dawn
The leveled temple of Dawn

The temple is intricately carved, with great attention to detail. The dress code is strict and they assert that all body parts be covered before entering the temple.

Wat Pho, Bangkok
Wat Pho, Bangkok

Each temple has its share of markets and tourist engagement counters but one visit to the stunning temple towering 79 feet above the river is enough to highlight your Bangkok experience.

Temple of Dawn
Temple of Dawn

Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace

One of the most stunning temples in the world, the Wat Phra Kaew is located within the grand palace grounds and is a visual treat.

Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra
Wat Phra

The temple is breathtaking at first sight and seat of the Emerald Buddha as well.

At the Wat Phra Kaew
At the Wat Phra Kaew

It is colorful, photogenic and majestic and even has meditation houses where one can commonly sit and meditate with the monks.

Stunning temples of Bangkok
Stunning temples of Bangkok

Walking around the three main structures can take a while and the sheer aura of this temple provides spectacular photo opportunities.

Tourist delights and Photography
Tourist delights and Photography

The Grand palace is the royal seat of Bangkok and common sights are those of the traditional guards, chinese temples and stupas, iconic statues and museums.

An iconic statue of Ravana at the gate of Grand palace
An iconic statue of Ravana at the gate of Grand palace

Wat Pho

The Wat Pho is another stunning temple of Bangkok which is the seat of the “Sleeping Buddha” or the Golden reclining Buddha!

The sleeping Buddha, Bangkok
The sleeping Buddha, Bangkok

The temple house housing this statue is elongated and huge but it is the magnificence of the sleeping statue which has one awe struck from the second you lay eyes on it.

The beautiful peaceful statue of the Buddha
The beautiful peaceful statue of the Buddha

Serene, calm the sleeping ¬†Buddha statue seems to be in a blissfully meditative trance. A must visit if you’re in Thailand!

Stupas around the Wat Pho
Stupas around the Wat Pho

Each of the temple has several of its own cultural rituals, like the shaking of numbered sticks till one falls, following which one must pick the prophesy with the corresponding number to know their fate! Thailand is a land of faith and that is what makes it very very endearing.

4. Thai Food

Thai is my favorite cuisine and I am often found scavenging around town for the best Thai places to eat at! So imagine our delight when we landed in the country from where this food comes! As we were staying in the Sukhumvit area, we got to check out some great eateries and delis along Soi 11, the most dynamic street lined with clubs, pubs, lounges and cafes catering to tourists. Some must tries are:-

Khao Man Kai
Khao Man Kai
Phat khi mao- Stir fried nnoodles with chicken and vegetables
Phat khi mao- Stir fried nnoodles with Crab and vegetables
Phat kaphrao- Chicken, pork, prawns or beef stir fried with Thai holy basils
Phat kaphrao- Chicken, pork, prawns or beef stir fried with Thai holy basils
Kaeng khiao wan - called "green curry" in English, it is a coconut curry made with fresh green chillies and flavoured with Thai basil, and chicken or fish meatballs
Kaeng khiao wan – called “green curry” in English, it is a coconut curry made with fresh green chillies and flavoured with Thai basil, and chicken or fish meatballs

The food around Bangkok, whether at a restaurant, cafe or along the road shops is rich and delicious. If nothing else, visit Thailand for the food. It is worth it. ūüôā

5. Thai traditional coffee

The concept of traditional coffee really intrigues me. I have had the Vietnamese coffee made from beans grown in elephant dung in London, and that had bestowed upon me a sense of accomplishment. However, I was in for a delightful surprise when I came across the local stall of traditional Thai coffee and tea, which is serves with Milk and Ice and tastes divine.

Thai traditional milk coffee
Thai traditional milk coffee

The best coffee tasted so far, the flavors almost burst in your mouth as you gulp down this strong intense coffee! Definitely makes it to my “exotic Thailand” list.

6. The night market- An unconventional shopping experience

Shopping in Thailand is a pleasure during the day! At night however,there is a more carefree, forbidden feel to the market which happens to be open through out in some places.

Bangkok markets- A shopper's delight
Bangkok markets- A shopper’s delight

While malls like MBK and Palladium are amazing shopping retreats, it is the roadside window shopping which must be indulged in! The streets are lined with several low priced clothes, shoes, accesories, home equipment, sunglasses, tourist gifts and what not!

The floating market- another variation
The floating market- another variation

The interesting bit however, is the Night market which literally sells anything and everything. Adult tourism in Bangkok is very tourist friendly but avoided to a large extent by the locals and the government. Along the night market on open roads one can buy adult equipment, accessories, drugs¬†and films. These shops are more aligned with the interests of foreigners and tourists and the sex tourism industry is probably one of the most lucrative industries of the state. Massage parlors are present after almost every two shops but what is the most incredible thing in my opinion is how easy going and “relaxed” the locals are about this. “It is what it is” is the mantra they have lived by and it seems to be working wonders for them. Also, I definitely recommend Bangkok for Bachelor parties.

7. Our sweet Ladyboy friend- Boi

This brings me to the another reason why I feel Bangkok is exotic and immensely gratifying as a travel experience.

As we were staying at the Ibis hotel in Sukhumvit, we unknowingly walked into the Nana plaza, which is the largest adult playground in Thailand, located three blocks away from us. Walking around in and out of bars and clubs we ran into one of the sweetest travel friends I have made over time- Boi. Boi works and performs in one of the largest ladyboy clubs of Bangkok, and while we sat there talking to her, the conversation flowed from one dimension of her life to the next as she discussed her problems, relationships, work and daily struggles! Boi wanted me to remember her and meet her the next time I visit Bangkok… This is for Boi ūüôā

With Boi, Bangkok
Learning the story and personal struggles of Boi, Nana plaza, Bangkok

Bangkok has an amazingly relaxed aura. Its a land of stark disparities and an equal amount of unity. Grey, monotonous buildings infiltrated with eccentric colorful monuments, adult tourism to cultural delights, river banks ranging from dingy dirty ports to fabulous ones with floating markets, shocking backwaters to gorgeous riverscapes, skytrains to tuktuks..

Bangkok with friends is probably the best way to see the city
Bangkok with friends is probably the best way to see the city

My visit to Bangkok has been incredible and I hope you make it there at some point, hopefully with friends, with an open mind, with a lot of shed inhibitions and well…lots of heart!

Sah wat dee Bangkok!
Sah wat dee Bangkok!

1 Day: 3 Countries!

I chose Vienna-The capital of Austria and Europe’s darling, as the destination for my 22nd birthday¬†celebration. For a traveler there is no such thing as mediocrity ¬†and keeping this in mind, my friends and I decided to do something different on this trip.. Let me introduce you to our “milestone plan”- an ambitious goal¬†to¬†travel across three different countries in one day, with the objective of having breakfast in Hungary, lunch in Austria and dinner in Slovakia. This may seem like an impossible feat to many, but I’am proud to say that despite several hiccups along the way, we ended up as Supernovas.¬†Here goes how..

Vienna, Austria
Vienna, Austria

For starters, we landed in Bratislava, Slovakia amidst a snow storm. Unable to see much around we immediately took the express bus to Vienna. You can imagine our relief when Vienna came to us with sunshine and colors!

 

Ring boulevard, Vienna
Ring boulevard, Vienna

Vienna at first glance is an incredibly beautiful city. Austria as a country is immensely scenic. For the purpose of recreation, imagine “the sound of music” shot across Salzberg, another city in Austria. Vienna looks like a city that is culturally rooted and yet competitively urban.

city center, Vienna
city center, Vienna

 

The largest city in Austria, Vienna is buzzing with activity throughout the year. Picture well planned streets, colorful markets, eccentric jazz clubs, gorgeous public buildings- especially the public library and historic monuments spread generously across the city.

Gorgeous walks along Vienna
Gorgeous walks along Vienna

The city offers several photo opportunities through day and night, and has especially quaint and  well designed traditional cafes and age old pubs.

Vienna is well connected by its trams which also add to its aesthetic value
Vienna is well connected by its trams which also add to its aesthetic value

The roads of Wein are always  brimming with tourists, students, artists and performers. It is one of the few cities where you can clearly demarcate between large groups of people who are typical office goers and another group which makes its living through art! Walking around the city is easy, although there may be a language barrier for those not fluent with German. An impressive monument expressing the culture of this country is the  Hoffgurg imperial palace.

The majestic Hoffberg
The majestic Hoffberg

The architecture of the palace is intricate and traditional, and today the palace is home to the National library, war museum as well as the Spanish horse riding school.

Outside the National museum of Wein
Outside the National museum of Wein

What intrigued me the most about the Hoffberg was the museum of Ethnography, which accounted the day to day lives of kings and queens that have resided in the palace over time.

National museum of Vienna houses the war museum as well
National museum of Vienna houses the war museum as well

The ring boulevard is another beautiful spot in Vienna which offers great pictures. The Austrian parliament, an imposing building can also be seen from here. The boulevard is scenic, historically rich and home to the Natural museum and the museum of Fine Arts, majorly inspired by the Italian renaissance.

Museum of fine arts
Museum of fine arts

In the heart of the city is the gorgeous St. Stephen cathedral, a magnificent church with an extremely large roof and high tower. The church square is the main part of the city center and is extremely tourist friendly.

St. Stephen cathedral
St. Stephen cathedral

We made lots of local friends here, and even struck upon a lucrative deal with a local vendor selling Opera passes. We were later upgraded to the VIP section of the show leading to a night dipped in the glory of ancient Wein and sparkling champagne.

The Opera
The Opera

We walked past Kalskirche, the building opposite the  cathedral and then down the Blutgassen district road to the ever colorful Naschmarket! The Blutgassen district has intricate, winding roads and many hidden alley ways if you know where to look.

Blutgassen district leading to the Naschmarket
Blutgassen district leading to the Naschmarket

A foodie’s¬†delight, the Naschmarket is like an Indian bazaar- dynamic and full of variety. We bought home a variety of spices and chocolates although a large part of the market caters to fresh meat and pork sausage stalls.

Naschmarket
Naschmarket

The anchor clock hangs proud at the city center, representing the Austrian spirit and culture. For those who love to shop, the street behind St.Stephen cathedral is a shopper’s absolute delight. Mainly a high street you will find everything ranging from¬†Tiffany’s, Mcqueen, Prada to Ferragamo and Ferretti!

Usual sights along the roads of Wien
Usual sights along the roads of Wien

However, moving on to the traditional treasures of Vienna, the Belvedere palace and the peripherally located Schonbrunn palace are tourist delights. The Schonbrunn palace is immensely beautiful and is spread across giant acres of land. The palace provides front and back views of landscapes spread out till as far as the eye can see. We spent hours running across and exploring the snow spread grounds of the palace. The immensity of the property is awe inspiring and I recommend an entire day for this tourist spot if you really want to see every nook and corner of the schonbrunn.

Schonnbrunn palace, Austria
Schonnbrunn palace, Austria

Visiting the Schonbrunn gave us the opportunity to check out the train service in Austria as well, which was a delight owing to the scenic views of the country one gets through the journey.

The view from Schonbrunn palace
The view from Schonbrunn palace

Coming back to my personal ambition, I spent my birthday night at a high profile club of Vienna, Le Babenberger Passage- thanks to my absolutely amazing friends. This club is located under the ground and definitely not easy to find unless you know where to look.

Cosmopolitran night at the Babenberger Passage
Cosmopolitran night at the Babenberger Passage

The Passage hosts great crowds, international music circuits and interesting drink profiles, Absinthe cocktails being one of their specialties. Having spent a large part of our power trip in Vienna, we spent the rest of the trip traveling across Hungary and Slovakia! and this brings me to the goal story:

One day- Three countries

On the last day of our trip, we set out from Budapest in Hungary. We started the day early and left Hungary after a heavy breakfast from the International bus station of Budapest. Yellow buses available from here ride to Prague, Austria and other neighboring countries at hourly intervals.

Lunch in Vienna
Breakfast in Hungary

Next, we landed in Vienna, Austria at around 2:30 pm and absolutely famished, made our way to our favourite street along the city center to Akakiko, an amazing restaurant serving fresh Maki rolls and heavenly sushi! You can find the link to the restaurant in case you’re curious-¬†http://www.akakiko.at/ ¬†ūüôā

Lunch in Vienna
Lunch in Vienna

Post an¬†afternoon lavishly in Vienna, we once again made our way by road- to Bratislava! I must take ¬†a minute here to talk about Slovakia. I had a great experience in Slovakia, especially¬†with the incredibly hospitable hotel staff. The city center of Bratislava is gorgeous! Lit up with fairy lights and theme restaurants, this square is absolutely delightful. Aiming to end the night well with a cuisine we had not tried before, we decided to check out this fabulous Spanish restaurant called Rio.. A must try in case you’re there.

Dinner in Slovakia!
Dinner in Slovakia!

 

Bratislava is often preferred for Bachelor and Bachelor-ette parties and is commonly called the party hub of Central Europe with a wide range of clubs and services to pick from.

The gorgeous city center of Bratislava
The gorgeous city center of Bratislava

Alternatively, Central Europe is a must visit for anyone who might be intrigued by the idea of contemporary influence of art on vanishing cultures. It is especially a delight for people who may love art, music and philosophy.

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This trip made me richer by experience and ensured the birthday of a lifetime. Funny moments are always an integral part of any travel journey, and we had loads of these as well, with “Mom”¬†fits in hotel rooms, best friend-ing locals at dingy clubs and especially this one incident where my friend Hrishi thought he was going to “die” because a taxi driver tried to zoom off before Hrishi was safely seated “inside” the taxi. ¬†Of course, this might have been because Hrishi was infact too slow to get in and the clueless¬†taxi driver miscalculated his entry into the taxi. Irrespective, ¬†threw a raging tantrum only to be instantly pacified with a chocolate from the¬†extremely apologetic¬†taxi driver. This indeed is the story…of how hrishi and “that taxi driver Dave” became best friends.

"No matter what girls, you must never mess with a man's pocket scarf!"- wise words of the funniest guy alive
“No matter what girls, you must never mess with a man’s pocket scarf!”- wise words of the funniest guy alive

So, if you want to visit three countries in a day, or set a similar milestone for yourself- try road tripping through Europe. Having done it myself, I must admit that it will definitely be one hell of an adventure. ūüôā

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Budapest- The conquest of Paradise!

 

Budapest for me is a reminder of the changing dimensions of time. While the city monuments stand proud boasting of heritage and pedigree there are parts of this city which still appear broken and in shambles from a war that at one time almost killed the spirit of this country. My journey through the depths of the city’s ghettos and caves led me to discover the melting hot pot of ethnicities that Budapest actually is. It is a testimony of time that shows how beautifully it has accepted its scars and rebuilt itself to the paradise that it was always meant to be.

We choose to travel to a certain destination for several reasons. It may be because we watch a movie which was filmed there, or because a friend promises us we wont’t be disappointed visiting a country as incredible as the one they went to. Usually, most countries do not need a familiarity tag. People tend to know something or the other about most places around the world, considering how small the world has become in today’s day and age. In such a scenario, what helps me¬†decide what country I want to see next is how little I know about it.

I can tell you now. I want to go to Paris because pretty much everyone has been there. I want to see Rome because it is, after all the city of love. I want to see Switzerland because I have grown up watching Bollywood films shot in its exotic landscapes. However, my friends and I decided to bag pack to Budapest we had no clue what we were getting ourselves into- quite literally. I traveled through Central Europe with three of my closest friends, and this is probably one of the main reasons why this trip turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life!

Exotic Budapest
Exotic Budapest

Having watched the movie “Hostel” several times, I was honestly very apprehensive about travelling to Slovakia. However, having booked extremely economical return tickets from Bratislava we did not seem to have much of an option. For those flying around Europe on budget, I highly recommend RyanAir… It is a low budget airline, which I used extensively for my travels around the continent and once we obtained the¬†Schengen visa common for 28 countries across Europe, we were set to go!

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We reached Budapest late evening and were booked into a quaint little guesthouse called the Abel Pension in the town of Buda. Having reached Budapest late at night after a tiring bus journey from Bratislava, we were exhausted but this seemed irrelevant on seeing Budapest in its full glory so late in the night. The river Danube is a dominant force in the capital of Hungary and the city is divided into Buda and Pest with more than 80% of the city’s infrastructure and architecture designed along the banks of the river. As we watched the city unravel from the damp and frost cab windows, I was amazed to see the absolute beauty of this city full of lights, magnificent bridges and a vibrant night life despite the sub-zero temperatures it was used to.

We reached the Able Pension guest house around 11 pm and in all honestly, it looked like a dark abandoned homestay from the outside and just as we were discussing if changing to a standard hotel would be a good idea the doors to the guesthouse opened and out came the couple that owned the former family home. With its woody, cozy interiors and hospitable atmosphere, we instantly felt at home. We were the only guests staying over that weekend and the blessed couple made sure we were comfortable and well looked after through-out. One of the main reasons it was imperative to stay at a family home stay was that I was keen to experience the culture that backed this city and this country I knew nothing about, except its long tryst with war and pain.

Atop Gellert hill
Atop Gellert hill

I woke up to the smell of musty ancient wood and sun streaming through sloping ceilings of my room in the Abel Pension. Budapest- I was in love! Central Europe gets extremely cold in winters and although I visited Budapest in late February when the snow was melting and the city was decorated with delicate icicles. As we walked along the wet streets of Budapest, it became increasingly impossible to ignore the magnificence of the details in architecture, as each building looked more impressive than the other. Public tram transport in Budapest is convenient, while roads are lined with vendors selling hot mulled wine and pretzels. Heaven.

One of the primary attractions in Budapest, Gellert Hill In Buda is one of the highest points of the city which is an excruciating yet rewarding climb to the top mounted monuments crowning the city hill. Personally, walking up the snow covered hill was a hilarious experience, as we slowly (but not quite steadily) made our way up battling the slippery terrain and back breaking climb.

The walk up to Gellert hill-top!
The walk up to Gellert hill-top!

We walked for about an hour and along the climb came across astonishing views of the city divided by the Danube, glorious from afar- the attention to detail hard to miss. As I looked down from the top of the world there I remember making a mental note of the points of interest I would be visiting soon after I climbed down. The bird’s eye view changes ones perspective of the city as for anyone who might have forgotten how beautiful Budapest is, this vision is the ultimate reminder. On top of the hill is the gorgeous Citadella, and this spot offers breath taking views of Buda and Pest on both sides of the river Danube.

Incredible Budapest
Incredible Budapest

The amazing thing about Budapest is that it genuinely has a lot to offer in terms of places to see and experience. The Gellert hill Cave is one such example, deep seated under the geller hill, this cave church holds way too many secrets and stories than can be touched on the surface. The hidden church tells the tales over time of peace and prayars in a time of war, historical milestones of Budapest and and the dark history of Gellert Hill itself, which was named thus after Saint Gellert who was thrown down from the top of the hill hundreds of years ago. Shaken but not broken, we walked further to the the Budapest castle- a monumental wonder! One has the option of traveling up to the castle via cable cars, which also provide incredible views of the city.

Budapest castle- Reblog
Budapest castle- Reblog

If you visit, make sure you visit the palace at the right time so you can witness the age old “guard change” routine which is a tremendous display of discipline and grit that has been a tradition in this country for centuries. The palace itself being located at a great height offers beautiful views of the city and the Bastion‚Äôs palace atop another hill a few miles away. The location is grand, and one gets immediately transported to a time away from now when impressions were massive and ways of life were magnificent.

The cable car ride, Budapest castle
The cable car ride, Budapest castle

Budapest for me is a reminder of the changing dimensions of time. While the city monuments stand proud and arrogant boasting of heritage and pedigree, there are parts of this city which still appear broken and in shambles from a war that at one time almost killed the spirit of this country. On crossing the bridge towards Pest, one can easily walk by the majestic Hungarian Parliament building, churches brimming with people and traditions, a lone standing Opera house in the midst of several general buildings and my personal favorite, the St. Stephen basilica. The basilica is centuries old, and to this day stands impressive, grand and stunning. The interiors are peaceful, yet one cannot cease to fathom the scale of the architecture. It is truly grand! Religion has no name, and on one visit one seems taken by the high levels of positive energy in a basilica as ancient as this one.

St. Stephen basilica
St. Stephen basilica

However, one of my personal favorites is definitely the Fisherman’s bastion. Located at a height, this building is spectacular and extremely beautiful.

The Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest
The Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest

A person can view a new place of interest while travelling either through its people, or through the stories that the city itself tells through its buildings, culture and impressions. Hungary was once devastated by war, and one can see how much this pains this country even today. An ode to the innocents who cannot tell their story anymore, a tribute to the fallen who could never raise their voice is raised at the Terror Haza museum. A Holocaust museum, a sanctuary of souls, the walls of this prison saw more pain and brutality than can be fathomed. The events displayed through this building are so horrifying one cannot help but feel the chills and the sting of nerves when inside. Once upon a time a Nazi prison, the museum carefully preserves whatever body parts of Hungary’s children it could find, whatever stories of torture and gore it could express. This is where its demons hide and coming face to face with the darkness that once had its grip over this country is a terrifying and overwhelming experience.

Terror Haza museum- The Holocaust experience
Terror Haza museum- The Holocaust experience

The Heroes square, located down the road from the Terror Haza museum offers great photo opportunities and is a common hangout spot amongst those visiting Budapest.

Heroes square, Budapest
Heroes square, Budapest

As compared to Buda, Pest is livelier and more dynamic, but the real treasure is what lies in the middle of the two cities. The river cruise is a must do and one of the best things that Budapest has to offer. The river cruise gave us an opportunity to enjoy the city views by night, and the most spectacular highlight was the chain bridge, one of the 6 bridges built over the Danube but most definitely the most beautiful of them all.

Hugarian parliament house, Budapest- View from the river

While cruising along the river one gets to see several night spots, the most brilliant of all being Dream island- “- a junction of 6 to 7 dynamic clubs. There are several types of clubs catering to different types of people and from different age groups, but the best club in the area was¬†Studio¬†which¬†is also the largest club in Europe. While at glamourous spots like these one gest to witness a generation which has successfully moved on from the horrors of war, along yet other party streets of Budapest one comes across several multi-cultural joints, pubs and ghettos which show the melting hot pot of cultures that Hungary actually is!

As compared to Buda, Pest is livelier and more dynamic, but the real treasure is what lies in the middle of the two cities. The river cruise is a must do and one of the best things that Budapest has to offer. The river cruise gave us an opportunity to enjoy the city views by night, and the most spectacular highlight was the chain bridge, one of the 6 bridges  built over the Danube but most definitely the most beautiful of them all.

Club Studio, Budapest - Reblog
Club Studio, Budapest – Reblog

Dream Island is the ultimate destination when in Budapest and I remember it for the madness that followed the night that we were there- Dream Island shenanigans 101. They say if you really want to get to know someone better, you must travel with them.  Traveling with friends is one of the greater joys of life..and you know you have done it right if your friends are as crazy and as spontaneous as you!

Steaming Mulled wine and cheese pretzels- A must have
Steaming Mulled wine and cheese pretzels- A must have

With this mad, mad group I ended up exploring Budapest like never before- We found Sheisha enclaves located in dingy exotic ghettos, Mexican cafes selling the best tacos you can possibly get in Europe, eccentric local stalls in the snow selling delicious pretzels with hot mulled wine and cider and refugee tram rides through-out the city. Budapest stands as a testament of time, having survived wars, atrocities and extensive damage over time. Hungary is one of the countries that was completely destroyed and built back from ruins after world war II. The country talks in numerous ways and its beauty is only surpassed by the gorgeous combination of the two cities lining river Danube.

Definitely one of my favorites. ūüôā

Incredible Budapest
Incredible Budapest

Dark, Delicious Scotland!

Scotland is known to many as the land of Bagpipes,  stoic castles and impressive landscapes. It was through my trip to this incredible country that I learnt of the lesser known attributes of Scotland- Its gritty, grimy, bloody history which the city of Edinburgh evokes through the darkest corners, hidden dungeons and mysterious closes!

Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland

My trip to Scotland has been incredible.. real, yet surreal..being in Edinburgh made me feel like I was part of something larger, like being a part of a story which just refuses to succumb to silence. Edinburgh at first glance appears as a gorgeous town- grey and majestic.

When in Edinburgh
When in Edinburgh

 

Cobbled, well lined streets, eccentric colored walls lining the otherwise grey architecture, traditional bagpipers and the little local kilt shops- this is how I remember Edinburgh.

 

Bagpipes and Kilts- Ah Scotland!
Bagpipes and Kilts- Ah Scotland!

Walking along Edinburgh is like wandering in a maze.. the city interwines into itself at several junctions. History claims that the city was rebuilt several times, mostly structured one platform on top of another. As a result of this, several buildings we see are actually ¬†built over once existing settlements, which at that time had colonies of people living inside them!¬†Travel guides¬†often descrive Edinburgh as the¬†“city¬†buried alive”and this arrangement over time has given birth toan even more unique concept- of the closes!

 

Edinburgh
Edinburgh

Not to miss is the little Elephant house cafe, where J.K Rowling is said to have conceptualized the Harry Potter series. Edinburgh is an amazing concoction of  an urban city lined with underground dungeons and graveyards hundreds of years old.

Edinburgh in levels
Edinburgh in levels

National geographic has listed¬†Mary King’s close in Edinburgh is one of the most haunted places in the world. Walking down the flights of stairs into cooped up dark rooms where hundreds of families once lived in hiding was an extremely numbing experience. The tour was so fantastic that one would believe we were back in the war ages, as we walked through torture chambers, rooms of plague victims, medical wards, human body disposal gutters..all under ground!

File photo of Mary King's close
File photo of Mary King’s close

The most interesting experience was walking into the room of the little plague stricken girl who was left behind by parents who never came back for her, and it is said she is still seen there from time to time.

Closes and hidden alleys wait for you around every corner of Edinburgh
Closes and hidden alleys wait for you around every corner of Edinburgh

After the Close tour, we walked down to the Princess Gardens. These gardens stand beautifully fertilized today. However,  a lesser known fact is that this garden once used to be a lake, or a loch as the Scottish call it, which eventually filled up with organic matter from dead bodies disposed off in it over time!

The view from Princess gardens
The view from Princess gardens

The history of this town is dark, and it is what makes Edinburgh absolutely irresistible! The walk to Edinburgh castle is beautiful and very informative. The castle stands tall and strong atop the famous Castle Rock hill and hosts the most breathtaking views of the city.

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Edinburgh castle can be seen from all parts of Edinburgh and is one of the most celebrated tourist spots in Scotland. It is a stoic stone structure resembling a mighty fortress and home to war museums relaying age old Scottish tales of bravery and victory.

Edinburgh castle atop Castle Rock hill, Scotland
Edinburgh castle atop Castle Rock hill, Scotland
Bird eye view of the city from atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh
Bird eye view of the city from atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh

The iconic Grass market, Greyfreir Bobby’s grave, the city council chambers, war museum, occasional Scottish ale breweries, Whiskey distilleries are a few tourist spots that I highly recommend.¬†The¬†traditional pubs and “beer cafes” of Edinburgh are divine as well.

The Whiskey distillery, Scotland
The Whiskey distillery, Scotland

Edinburgh is a classy town offering a wide range of activities. When in Scotland you must try the Scottish delicacy Haggis- primarily containing sheep meat.  The people of Scotland are extremely nice and genuine, and love tourists.  The best way to see Edinburgh is by walking around the city, through the shifting levels of the streets and dark tunnels leading to underground closes. Walking around the city is a marvelous experience and I highly recommend it.

The streets of Edinburgh
The streets of Edinburgh
The Royal Mile street, Edinburgh
The Royal Mile street, Edinburgh

It is commonly believed that the night life of a country is probably the best way to understand its culture. The most interesting spot¬†was pub¬†Frankenstein, which boasted of a dark¬†yet extremely exciting¬†atmosphere! Edinburgh is primarily a student town and one has many options to hang out, giving rise a popular culture amongst travelers called “club hopping”. ¬†Clubs, lounges, pubs and¬†streets scaled with party hoppers-Edinburgh is an absolute delight!

The dynamic and super friendly city at night
The dynamic and super friendly city at night

I look forward to visiting the highlands at some point, and maybe I’ll go look for¬†Nessie- The Loch Ness monster next time I’m there. Until then, if you’re visiting Edinburgh don’t forget to walk around as much as possible, as the real beauty of Scotland lies in imbibing not what it shows, but the stories it has to tell.

Until my next post, Guid cheerio the nou! ūüôā

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Kadinche, Bhutan :)

Bhutan, better known as the last Shagri-La- Bhutan is a divine country.

Incredible Bhutan!
Incredible Bhutan!

It wont be wrong if i said that Bhutan is magic! I remember feeling very unsure about what to expect when “the explorers” first broke it to us that we would be visiting Bhutan next ! The thing was, I knew nothing about Bhutan, quite literally. This is the reason why what happened in the next ten days blew my mind.

Gateway to Bhutan
Gateway to Bhutan

We flew to Sealdah, Kolkata and then travelled by road to Jaigaon, a little town in Bengal that shares the border with Bhutan. One look at the Majestic gate of the Royal republic of Bhutan mermerised us. we had our permits checked and moved into the town of Pheuntsholing.. and might I say, it was incredible. Colourful, grand and absolutely majestic. It was hard to believe that we had moved into another drastically country just in a span of 2-3 minutes.

First look of Bhutan
First look of Bhutan

If you are traveling to Bhutan, do not come back without trying every variety of momos they have. The food in Bhutan comprises alot of red rice and curries, but the momos are absolutely incredible. Definitely a must try.

Bhutan- Paradise on earth!
Bhutan- Paradise on earth!

The locals in Bhutan are very like-able. They love smiling at foreigners, making them happy, and before you know it, you get into the habit of smiling a lot too.

Colours of Bhutan
Colours of Bhutan

We left after lunch for Timphu, the capital of Bhutan. As you leave Pheuntsholing, one can see the tiny lane snaking up the hills to Thimphu.

The hills snaking towards the city of Paro
The hills snaking towards the city of Paro and Thimphu

Bhutan is a land of stories, beliefs and faith. One instance which led me to believe in this was the presence of hundreds of little pots along the mountains of Bhutan, which as per Bhutanese culture bore the remains of its ancestors.

Bhutanese people offer great photo opportunities :)
Bhutanese people offer great photo opportunities ūüôā

The people of Bhutan believe that these “tshakas”¬†protect the country and its people from the evil forces. The “land of the thunder dragon” or Druk yul as referred to by the people is a monarchy and is represented by the Dragon.

Tsakhas- the ancestral remains that are believed to protect the country
Tsakhas- the ancestral remains that are believed to protect the country

The gorgeous town of Thimphu was quite, peaceful and a hub of the political buildings of the country, one of the most important being the Tasiccho-dzong or the parlimentary house.

The Parliamentary building
The Parliamentary building

We visited the beautiful nunnery called the Drubthob Goemba, followed by the Tango Monestery and  Chery Monestery. The lower markets turned out to be a delight as we shopped for natural creams, powders and what-nots.

Tatsang monastery, Bhutan
Takhtsheng monastery, Bhutan

Our next stop was the serene town of Paro, and it was here that we started our trek to the Taktsheng monestery- better known as the Tiger’s nest! The climb up to the monestery is steep and extremely dangerous. Alot of people climb the monestery half way and then turn around. It is believed that the Monestery holds so much divine power that even if a person starts the climb with the genuine intention of reaching to the top, he is blessed. What comes after the “half was climb” and what we noticed to our horror was the “valley of death”! Literally known as the Valley of death, The climb was followed by a tricky and very slippery descent into a valley with no barriers and safety nets! ¬†I still feel the thrill of the experience, even today. A good 3.5 hours later, we finally made it to the top of the Monestery, and the feeling was non comparable to anything I have experienced before. I don’t know whether it was the satisfaction of having done something that will make me proud for life, or whether it was the sheer divinity of this sanctuary where little girls and boys were training, studying to be monks.

On the trek up to the Tiger's nest
On the trek up to the Tiger’s nest

A life of sacrifice and selflessness, so high above everything else in the world.. You have to experience it once to know what that feels like. We did end up catching the take off routine of one of the only three flights which would fly from Paro airport (The only airport in Bhutan) from the Bird’s eye view.. but nothing after could top the Taktshang Monestery and what it had left me with.

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Little local at the Drubthob Goemba

Today, when I remember Bhutan, I smile..What comes to my mind if the happy faces of children, the lovable demeanor of the locals..even the animals there seemed affectionate, kind of polite. ūüôā

Inside a local house in Bhutan
Inside a local house in Bhutan

 

If you do happen to visit the last Shangri-La at some point in your life, remember to carry a very good camera.

Beautiful people
Beautiful people

The country may be geographically isolated but its got some of the most beautiful sceneries I have seen in the world, and whats incredible is that, even though you will try to capture every bit of the beauty there, you will most probably come back with a camera filled with happy, shiny faces of the people. They love to smile, and even the little children love being on camera. All the best ūüôā

Happy Bhutan :)
Happy Bhutan ūüôā