Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Apr 24, 2014

Review A to Z – Revisiting Uttar Pradesh

It is Thursday. It is the day for Travel tales on Thursday and it is 21st day of A to Z and the letter today is U.
I sat with an Atlas thinking of a place to review, but in the end could think of nothing better than reviewing my own birth place.
If Madhya Pradesh is “Hindustan ka dil” Uttar Pradesh is the eyesight of the country. They say eyes are mirror to your soul. So is Uttar Pradesh.
Although I have often wondered why, but the two great Indian epics are set in UP. Krishna and Rama were born here; Budha chose to breathe his last. The divine ghats of Varanasi are here, the three holy rivers meet here. The legendary beauty of Taj Mahal is also here.
Fourth largest state in India, it is the biggest constituency in Lok Sabha. It is a highly populated state with quite a diverse culture. A mix of two most dominant religions in India, it also has the highest number of immigrants because of the borders with Nepal.
Having travelled across the state, I believe that the power of tourism in this state is really understated. People seeking love (Taj), salvation and meaning of Hinduism (Varanasi and Allahabad) tracing Buddhism (Kushinagar) culture and heritage (Lucknow) mythological history (Mathura, Ayodhya) or expedition (en route to Nepal) travel to Uttar Pradesh every year.
It is fairly easy to travel across the state. The roads are not bad and there are several trains that connect the state with Delhi. Also, there are airports at all major cities. One can always find a decent hotel to stay at. However, the road transport services and government services aren’t great.
The best time to visit – Sep – Nov, Feb – Apr. It gets too hot or too cold in summer and winter seasons. Since the power cuts are huge, one might want to consider visiting in these times.
Some part of Uttar Pradesh is highly popular tourist destination, some aren’t. But all in all it is a good place for a trip that could leave you with a bag full of memories.

Apr 18, 2014

Review A to Z – Paranthe Wali Gali

As I write today’s post, my mind tells me I am hungry (actually I have had food just about half an hour ago) and I think hard to think of something spicy, tangy, tasty to eat.

But in fact what I crave for is the paranthas from Paranthe wali Gali.
If you are in Delhi and you haven’t been to this lane in old Delhi which is famous for Paranthas, please make a resolution to go there this weekend.

Even I had not been to Paranthe wali gali for a long time during my stay in Delhi. Then while ticking my to-do list from LP (read my experience with Lonely Planet here) I realized I had HAD to go to this place.

A walking distance from Chandni Chowk metro station, Paranthe wali Gali is a crowded lane adjacent to the famous kinari bazaar.

The lane has several small restaurants selling deep fried paranthas. Yes you heard read my correct! The paranthas are deep fried. Take a deep breath my friends. It is not as bad as it sounds. Although, deep friend, these paranthas are not as oily as you imagine. There is another surprise waiting for you here. Forget about conventional potato and onion filling, this letting sets out to leave a memory with their unconventional fillings of jaggery, sugar or chili.

The whole experience of eating in this small lane could be overwhelming and the chaos in queues and heat around you could leave you in perspiration. But don’t worry, drown it with a glass of Lassi and enjoy the frenzied excitement of the lane.

Linking it to UBC and A to Z challenge.

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Apr 15, 2014

Review A to Z – Murugan Idli Shop

Well! It is no secret that I am a marwadi. Also, it is not even close to a secret that my food habits are of typical north Indian. I have grown up eating Chapati and potato. I have learned to eat in thalis and serve all gravies in bowls. I rarely eat rice.

Now put me in a place where all my meals contain rice (or its varieties), are served on leaves or foils and contain sambhar/rasam instead of Daal (which is not a usual practice as per my Tamil colleague). You would think I would hate it. Yes you are right, I had difficulty in most places except when I reached Murugan Idli in Chennai.

After an eight day trip to interiors of Tamil Nadu, my first evening in Chennai I avoided all sights of any south Indian cuisine. But by next evening my colleague was craving for some good South Indian (yes! Even he couldn’t relish what we ate for last one week) and Murugan Idli came with high recommendation.

As we walked down the Besant Nagar Church, we spotted the place that we were looking for.

The restaurant is simple and clean. Maybe it was the time of the day, it was hardly crowded. We took our table and waited for menu. A simple small menu was presented to us and we ordered some idli, vada and my favorite masala vada along with fresh juice. The food arrived in minutes of ordering. Although, I wasn’t really hungry, a few bites told me that I hadn’t had an Idli this good ever in my life. By the time we finished the food we had ordered, I was full but I still craved for more. After eating another plate of Idli and a filter coffee, I insisted on getting a plate of Idli packed for next meal.

The surprising part was as I saw the bill. For all that eating (read hogging) I paid just about Rs. 200.

I later got to know that Murugan Idli Shop is a famous chain restaurant in Chennai and they have branches in Singapore too.

My first experience with Murugan Idli was a fantastic and I insist on visiting there for a meal whenever I am in Chennai.

All my friends who have been to Chennai, have you tried this place ever?

Apr 14, 2014

Reviews A to Z – revisiting my town with Lonely Planet

All you wonderful travelers out there, I know lonely planet needs no introduction. One of the World’s biggest travel guide book publishers, are spread all over the world. Whatever might be your destination, Lonely Planet provides us all the relevant information like how to reach, where to stay, sights to see, things to do, places to eat and tips on travel.

On the risk of deviating from the topic, I would ask a question to all readers “Have you ever planned a trip to a destination and not found a lonely planet book, chapter or article dedicated to it?”

Okay! This post is not about reviewing the world’s biggest travel guide, it is about reviewing the usefulness of world’s biggest travel guide to explore your own city.

This was the time when I had first discovered the magic of I had returned from a recent trip and realized that by relying on LP to explore a city, I hadn’t made a mistake after all. On a particular day, I sat in office with a little free time and began to browse lonely planet Delhi guide.

Having lived in Delhi for little less than nine years, I consider myself with a good knowledge of the city. I know most ways, all popular tourist destinations, people and their nature and can give an advice to even a Delhi-ite.

But as I began to browse LP, I started to note places that I had either heard of or not, but never visited. With some reluctance, I made a list of places to visit and restaurants where to eat.

Some of these places from this list were –

Khari Baoli – A spice market in Chandani Chowk
Tibet House – A museum on Lodhi road
Agrasen ki Baoli – A step well near Connaught Place
Shankar’s Internation Dolls museum – Doll museum near Feroz Shah Kotla

Alkauser – A kabab vendor in several parts of Delhi
Gunpowder – A south indian food joint in Hauz Khas
Metropolis restaurant – A restro-bar near Jhandewalan
Sita Ram Diwan Chand – A chole bature vendor in Chandni Chowk

Over next year, one by one I tried most of the places from the list and each time I came back with a response “God! How come I didn’t know about this place yet?” I shared my experience with other enthusiasts and the response I received was quite same.

LP website has its advantages –

1. It is free.
2. The reviews are brief and exact.
3. The location and the other details are more or less accurate.
4. It is exhaustive.

My journe of exploring my city with Lonely planet has been completely fantastic. Have you tried lonely planet for your city yet?

Apr 10, 2014

Reviews A to Z -Isle of Man – Ellan Vannin

Here we are! Yet another Thursday with a travel tale and do you know what's special? Well! I can't wait to happily announce that this travel review (a merger between A to Z and travel tales) is a guest post by none other than Sid Balachandran. He writes at  I write Those, I took those and Foodness me. I first got to know him through his on-going project Project 365 and have been really inspired by his writing. A few weeks ago, while planning for the A to Z challenge, I requested him to write a guest post and he agreed to write a post for "I". Here he has written a wonderful review cum travelogue of Isle of Man for my little blog. So without wasting much of your time with my blabber, I pass on to Sid's words. 

Before we go ahead, I’d like to do a group activity. So stretch your right hand out. And now your left hand. Now, rotate your hands so that your palms face each other. Now spread them apart a bit more. A little bit more. Aww….here’s a hug back for you. Welcome to my first ever travel post. And I’m pleased to have the lovely Sugandha host it on her gorgeous blog.

Travelling is something that is very dear to me. Probably as much as both writing and photography are. So, when Sugandha told me that she’d like me to do a travel post for her, on a place starting with the letter “I” (so it blended in with her A-to-Z challenge), I pondered over it for a few minutes. My mind had gone blank. And then I looked up, and glanced at my laptop’s wallpaper. There it was, literally screaming “Me, me… about me!”. I smiled, and typed a “yes” to Sugandha and connected my hard drive up to get the photos that I required. It was time to let the world know about one of the lesser known places in Europe - the beautiful and dynamic, Isle of Man. 

Now, unless you follow car racing, it is quite unlikely that you’d know about this nature-lover’s delight, nestled secretly between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, right in the middle of gorgeous blue-green Irish Sea. My wife, Janaki and I have always ended up on offbeat and adventurous holidays. It wasn’t always by choice. Sometimes, it was just bound by monetary and time constraints. And the IOM was one such amazing discovery. 

Geographically, the island is tiny. At 33 miles in length and 13 miles in width, I personally am surprised that it is such a hub of bustling activity all through the year. Now, if you’ve ever been to Britain, you’ll know that everything revolves around the unpredictable nature of weather. But IOM is slightly different. Since it’s in a very central position right between the British Isles and the Irish Sea, it has reasonably temperate climate, making it a perfect all year round destination. And here’s the most amazing fact - though it’s so small, it has a coastline that stretches for about 100 miles and even a mountain. Wonders of nature eh?

Culturally, the IOM is extremely diverse. It has not just Irish and English influences, but also Viking, Celtic and of course their very own Manx culture too. And it is this cultural variety that sets the IOM apart from some of the other isles and islands around the coast of Britain. It’s a place where people can still wow you with tales of sea-monsters, giants, fierce battles, brownies and even fairies. Why, it’s even got a “Fairy Bridge”, where there is still this whimsically cute belief of wishing the fairies a “Good Morning” or even a “Good Day”. So much so, that a lot of racers who take part in the IOM TT and annual Manx Grand Prix, often visit the Fairy bridge before setting up for the practices for the races. Though we personally hoped we’d be able to see a fairy or two, we had to make do with a few amazing statuettes that an old Manx mason had created, thousands of years ago.

Politically, the island is a self-governing British Crown dependency. Which means though they’re not legally part of the UK, the British government is responsible for its external and defence affairs. The IOM has the oldest continuous parliament in the world, Tynwald, which dates back over 1000 years. Even today, you can tour the Tynwald building and visit Tynwald hill, where the parliament meets in open air, once a year.

The IOM has 9 major towns and villages, all of them unique in their own right. Douglas, the island's capital, is a vibrant and busy town, and a shopper's delight. Amazing restaurants (particularly Indian...yep, we are everywhere), comfortable hotels and B&Bs and almost every popular UK retail outlet, make this the best town to stay in, if you want to be closer to all the action. Ramsey, the island's second largest town boasts of a working harbor and open expanses of sand and shingle beach throughout. But the true hero of Ramsey is the 40 acre Mooragh park, a truly have-it- all leisure facility with tennis courts, bowling greens, beautifully manicured gardens, a large boating lake and children's activity center. With quaint, narrow streets and a magnificent harbor lined with rows after rows of fishing boats, Peel reminds you of a unique setting that you would often read about in those English classics.  Peel also boasts of the ruins of the magnificent castle, which dates back to the 11th century. If I had to describe Port Erin in one phrase, it would be "imposing and majestic". Located within a beautiful bay with a soft, golden sandy beach, the northern most point is dominated by the towering Bradda Head. The Bradda Head boasts of being the location of the winning prize for the Kodak World photography contest in 2005. The only way to get to Bradda head is via a nature trail, which truth be told, has spectacular and at times, mind numbing views.  If you are an avid bibliophile like me, be sure you pack a book or two, as nothing can give you more pleasure than lying down on the spectacular hill side and enjoying a good book while the sea side breeze gently caresses your hair (or your head, for the follically challenged).

Onchan, though one of the smaller villages on the IOM, has a number of unique attractions of its own, ranging from the Onchan Leisure Park and Stadium offering a number of activities from Stock car Racing to bowling. It is a delightful old-style village, where you could relax idly over some amazing food. Port St. Mary is a picturesque coastal village, where you can often find plenty of yachts and is one of the starting points of the excellent organized coastal walks available. If you find Douglas a tad bit too crowded and touristy for your liking, Port St. Mary serves as an excellent alternate accommodation location. Now, Douglas wasn’t always the island’s capital. It used to be another castle-dominated town called, no surprise here, Castletown. Castle Rushen, though no longer functioning as one, is still magnificently preserved and open to visitors. Definitely worth a visit, and if you aren’t claustrophobic, do try climbing up the steep and narrow winding staircase to the top. St. Johns, thought not a town per se, is said to be a village that comes alive during the Manx national day on July 5th, and is said to be a sight to behold. Sadly, we had visited a few days prior to the national day, and hence didn’t get a chance to view this glorious spectacle. Probably the most spectacular town of the lot is Laxey, which is set in a beautiful, deep valley which boasts of magnificence Dhoons (picturesque valleys) and the famous Laxey wheel and the mines.

What I loved the most about the IOM is that there are a host of activities that we can indulge in. For the adventure seekers, there are activities such as stock car racing, angling, flying, mountain biking, kayaking, horse riding and yachting, just to name of a few. Being an island, it’s no surprise that IOM boasts of some of the best beaches that I’ve ever seen. Miles after miles, of pristine, golden sandy beaches, inviting you to lie down and bask in the magical warmth of the sun. And for nature lovers like me, you have those long nature trails, some of them through amazing deep valleys (known as Glens). If you like a bit of adventure with your nature trail, make sure you check out the DHOON Glen, which is the deepest glen on the island, and the path is paved with steep inclines, and wooden steps which are often found to be missing, and if present, they are very slippery and difficult to navigate. There is a sign in Manx, displayed above the hidden entrance, which translates to “ Welcome to the Dhoon Glen. She will make you work hard to see her beauty. “ And it’s true. Because it’s a 198 steps back to the top, if you can find the steps that is. At the bottom of the glen, you get to behold the main waterfall, known as the "Inneen Vooar" or "Big Girl”. We'd read an interesting story that said that name of the waterfall was because a young girl had drowned in the pool below the waterfall and it is said that her ghost haunts the glen to this day. And for that reason, it wasn’t recommended that anyone stay back past sunset. Though, the scientific side of me argued out the reason for the curfew was that there were no lights to guide you back, just hearing the wind whistle through the trees and the sound of the waterfall kind of spooked us out. Needless to say, we literally ran back up the 198 steps. 

Getting around the IOM is delightfully easy. Buses are frequent and you always have the option of horse driven trams, an age-old electric railway and of course, the steam railway which dates back to 1874. And if you’re there, you need to definitely check out the Snaefell mountain railway (refer back to my earlier point about the “only mountain” on the island). Since I cannot do enough justice in words, I’ll let a couple of photographs do the talking :)


Don't let the fact that IOM is in the middle of a sea deter you from travelling to this gem of a place. It is well connected both by air and sea, from most major British and Irish cities. We took the ferry from Liverpool, and it was a delightful four-hour ride, and we managed to spot a couple of basking sharks (They are huge!) and some bottle nosed dolphins.

As far my research stated, when we visited, which was in 2011, if you had a UK Visa, you could travel to the Isle of Man. So the next time you’re in the UK, make sure you reserve 3-4 days to explore this beautiful island and enjoy the hospitality that it has to offer. And believe me, when it’s time to go back, you will do so only with a very heavy, yet joyous heart, filled with lovely memories, a waistline that is bound to have increased a few inches and a camera loaded with stunning photos. But it’s not just its extensive coastline, stunning landscapes, unspoilt beaches and deep valleys that made the isle so special to us. It’s also because, that’s where we discovered that we “two” were about to become “three” :)

 And before I wrap this post up, I’d like to leave you with panoramic photographs of two gorgeous Isle of Man towns. Take a peek, and let me know if you think it’s worth visiting or not J

Mar 28, 2014

Does the Camera See What The Soul Sees?

Did you miss the Travel tale on Thursday yesterday? On 13th we were discussing travel tips that went wrong for me, and to my relief I am not alone. This Thursday (oh well, Friday!) brings to us a guest blogger who has graciously decided to do one of her many brilliant travel posts for my blog. Divya Rai of A borrowed backpack is a traveler with a love of writing and photography. Also, of what I know her, she is a designer, an enthusiast, she is always trying out new things, experimenting, following her dreams and is pretty much good at what she does. Her blog has been featured in Hindustan times Blog of the week.

So now, without wasting much of your time, I pass on to Divya who shares with us, her thoughts on camera vs naked eye.


Camera, as we know, is a fabulous device that captures the moment beautifully, freezing the foot-prints of time for us. The joy it brings to the photographer and the subject, cannot be questioned. Or the smile it brings on to our face when we look back at those pictures re-living the moment, cannot be ignored. But the question is: how will you ever re-live when you haven’t lived it in the first place? If you can’t relive the moment looking at an image, isn’t it just a digital certification of the moment?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to undermine technology here. Or the happiness one experiences while clicking oneself, and their loved ones. Or, for the matter, the basic instinct of desiring acceptance from one’s peers and the society.  What, in fact I really wish to pin-point is our addiction to it. Essentially, the point from where one should draw the line between whether to let the moment flow, or freeze it.  
Ever noticed how you feel a “sense of deprivation” when the smart phone refuses to upload your perfectly clicked selfie, along with a ‘check-in’ that could have guaranteed a respectable number of ‘likes and comments’ on your favorite social media?  Make a very careful note of that feeling. It is a resultant of unhealthy mix of social and competitive edge to a skill called photography. It makes it all the more of an intruder in the emotional pattern of the occasion.

What happened to the old school way of living an experience? Of cherishing it with five senses, instead of trying to click the perfect photograph? When did we, on the way, gain the baggage of capturing the happiness instead of living it, thereby giving way to a complicated digital dilemma? In short, when did the camera become more important than the human eye and the experience it brings in return?
When I say ‘experience a moment’ what I really mean is the subtle intangibles of the occasion. An event is a series of moments that are woven with great intricacy. In between the consecutive moments, are the crevasses that a photographer forever struggles to minimize. And during this struggle, is the moment lost to a mix of the digital advancement and human behavioral-peculiarity.  How will the camera capture the languid tranquility of the breeze in a small town? Or the silent promises that the eyes make? Or the moment you fall in love? For me, life is in these moments that the camera’s sensor cannot capture, rest everything is a stain on the fabric of time. Trust me on that.

When was the last time you got over your ‘itch’ to freeze a juncture in time, instead of simply experiencing it? 
Ok. To get a better grip on the matter, let us do this little exercise:
 Take out your favourite photograph. Try and describe the moment in a way that I get to live it through your words, WITHOUT any help of the photograph. Tell me if you are able to convey the intangibles. If you are, then I must congratulate you for experiencing the moment too. Other than that, as I say, it is just a digital certification of the moment. 

I’ll state a real life example here. I know a fair number of people who went to experience the ‘Holi’ celebration at Vrindavan, in Uttar Pradesh recently. I too was one of the lucky souls who could attend both the events. What was highly blasphemous to the event was the aggression with which photographers were running around here and there, chasing the mirage called the ‘perfect shot’. I doubt if they could lose themselves to the jubilant festivity around them. I am sure they managed to click gorgeous images and love flipping though the album, but can they still smell the ‘gulaal’ in the air?
 It is all about that. 
Being able to smell the ‘gulaal’, long after it is all gone J

Mar 13, 2014

Travel tips - No, Thank you

It’s the time of the month when my Travel tale is due again. For the last travel tale of Thursday, Sakshi Nanda of Between Right and Wrong graced my blog with her post and that received a wonderful response. Read her post here.

I don’t have a travel story this week. What I have is a summary of how most popular travel tips have gone wrong in my case. Why does that happen, I don’t know. But from packing to booking, every time I have tried to follow the rule, I have ended up in a mess.

Now my dearies sit back and relax, while I present to you my classiest travel disasters.

1. Pack light – Isn’t this a mantra that we all are supposed to follow? Well! Every time I pile up clothes and open the suitcase to start packing, the mantra rings in my ears. So I go ahead and remove that extra dress/extra shoes/heels/accessories/file etc. and I end up needing it during the trip. For instance if I have taken out a party dress thinking that it’s just one day trip and I have no one to meet in evening, I get a call and a invite for party from a friend/colleague/ family member as soon as I land in the city. If I decide to leave shorts behind for my trip home, I end up asking my bhabhi for those.

2. Book in advance – That goes for all train and flight travel. Isn’t it nice to be able to get cheap tickets on flight or confirm ticket on train? Or better still, being able to redeem your miles? Yes, it sounds nice and exciting. But for me, jinxed by some unknown factor, I have to cancel every trip that I have planned much ahead of time. I now sit with a confirm ticket to my hometown for Holi and a cancelled plan.

3. Carry a book – By now you must be wondering that what can go wrong with packing a book. I’ll tell you my major issues with books. Every time I have carried them, they are either a drag (thus, I end up carrying that extra 500gm in my backpack of something I don’t read), or end too quickly (i.e. if to be on safer side, I carry a book that I am half way through), or don’t get time to read, or worst end up losing it. I know you would say that carry more than one book, but haven’t we spoken about packing light?

4. Eat local – Have you read this post? Well, read it and you will know how ordering local food and not relying on subway/McDonalds hasn’t worked great for me.

5. Plan – Nothing should be wrong with planning. I agree, except that every time I plan, Mr. Murphy plans to step in. For example – I planned a trip to Kutch to see the white desert in full moon, only to find out that there are elections in nearby areas, resulting in cancellations. If I plan to visit a particular monument or a museum, flight gets modified/delayed, car breaks down, etc. which makes me cancel my plan.

6. Expect the unexpected – Lastly, most travel advisers tell us to be prepared for contingencies. Yes, I am. Probably more than I should be. Result – Paranoia. I end up eyeing every moment, stare at every person who walks behind me for as much as 50 mtrs, keep my back so straight and attentive that it hurts by the end of the day, double check-triple check about each way, each place, each person, in short – stay edgy all day long. End result – I end my trip more worrying than enjoying.

However, with so much going wrong every now and then, all tips failing each time I implement it, Murphy’s law out there to lower my enthusiasm, I still love to travel. I travel for work, leisure and life. I remember defining what travel is for me, when I read a post by Richa
Here is what it is - I travel because it is close to attaining a new life. I travel to feel alive, to breathe in a new air, to learn and to de-learn. I travel to gain and to lose some things. I travel to walk in boots in hills, and stand barefoot on a beach. I travel to light candles in a church and offer flowers in a temple. I travel to bite in the authentic Italian and drink like a real French. I travel to escape and to come back to home nostalgic.

Part of Travel tale on Thursday on my blog. Would you like to contribute to Travel tales? Please write to me.

All photos are courtesy Google.

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Feb 27, 2014

Once, when travel meant something else

So, Travel Tale on Thursday is here again. And guess what? We have a guest for this Thursday, writing an offbeat post of her Travel tale. Sakshi Nanda, of Between Write and Wrong does shubh aarambh of her travel tales at my humble abode.

Without wasting much of the time, I now pass on the baton to her -

Steeped in nostalgia I write this.
Of life and times when school was special even in its sameness of routine and evening play among kids for the newness, for who knew who the ‘denner’ would be that day? Of times when Sundays meant meals on a chatai in the garden, all 12 members of this joint-family together and festivals nothing short of spectacular. And of a life when travel did not mean packing large suit cases and leaving the house home-alone but something else entirely …
Say, going to Paltan Bazaar the day before Diwali. A kilometer’s walk, which at 7 years of age seemed like visiting another city. Dressed in my fineries, mirror work on a suit especially altered to fit me, walking with a skip in my step matching in energy the silver buntings lining the road, dancing in the festive wind. There, we crossed our ‘Chitra Kutir’ already, where all 6 children of the family went to learn to draw birds and setting Suns. Crossing roads that seemed a mile wide, no traffic lights though. And then it would loom large, the red 6-sided clock tower – one of its kind. They say once the clocks worked just fine. The gongs could be heard till our house, clearest at mid-night. ‘Clock tower! We have reached the clock-tower’, the younger two would chime. I would join in too, holding the elder sisters’ hands so tight. Rejoice! Like a pilgrim’s progress complete. Beyond the big banyan tree by the tower’s side lay Paltan Bazaar. Decorated like a bride, herself welcoming us with a broad smile and open arms. And then we would enter and shop – for puja and patakhas, diyas and sweets. A kilometer away from our protected space, but happy as if it was another world. A different world we had travelled to that day.
But we needed to charge our Fiat Padmini too.
Sunday evenings were reserved for a trip up Rajpur road, beyond Jakhan and to the pakora shop there. 6 kilometers and 45 minutes of travel, done at the speed of a very lazy Sunday light, by my uncle. 6 kids variously seated within. Sardarji key Pakorey, right where the nearly-flat road would end to climb up to the Everest, as if. The fiat windows rolled down would show us green hills and houses so distant from each other. Big, but standing so alone. Not lonely though, for thick trees lined the roads and stood as sentinels to the mansions too. And soon enough, we would smell the mixed pakoras rising crisp from the hot oil. Spot the long hungry queue too. In no time, the oily paper bag would stare at us with its empty mouth. On a stomach full to the brim, we would walk around a monastery a few steps away. Tibetan was not a word we knew. We were blissfully ignorant of who the people in this neighborhood were, or the pain behind their coming here. We were 6 kilometers away from our home. At the foot of the hills which held Mussoorie up. That is all that mattered. For so much we had travelled!  
Mussoorie was special.
Three Bajaj Chetaks, a complete family on each and off we would go, to map all 30 kilometers. The farthest that I remember, as a girl sitting between her father and her mother. With a kid brother standing between my father and the handle, with enough room near his feet for rajma-chawal packed in a casserole. To be had at a bench in Company Bag, destination Mussoorie. This was flying, on wheels. Wind in the hair, truly. I remember how silent we would be. Shh, don’t disturb papa while he’s riding in the hills. Or maybe because, we did not feel the need to talk. Just travel higher and higher, taking in the valley with our silence. Being one with what home meant spread below in the vale, even when whirring so many meters above it. Rolling back down in the evening then, all three scooters side-by-side. Sunset time, and the birds would return to their nests. They have to. All travels must come to an end.
To our child minds, travel meant being a certain distance away from home. No Samsonite brimming over with clothes, or tickets to fancy places. There were so many people in the house, so many cousins to keep you company, and so many new places to visit “far” and “near”. Experiences to gather, impressions to form and memories to cherish.
All, steeped in nostalgia.
Like I am now, thinking about what travel meant when I did not know what all it could mean.  

Feb 14, 2014

24 hours in a city

Yesterday I was scheduled for second travel tale on Thursday, but with internet acting up; it comes in a day late. My first Travel tale was on my birthday weekend in Mcloedgunj. If you haven’t read it already, check it out here.


Have you ever done twenty four hours in a city tour? Ever since my childhood, I had read glossy articles on twenty four hours in a city in travel magazine on board a flight or coffee tables. As much as they fascinated me, I never could imagine travelling through a city in twenty four hours and seeing enough.

I arrived in Copenhagen on a Saturday morning (11.40 am), after a hectic work week in another city of Denmark. With a little more than twenty-four hours in the city, I was out on street within minutes of checking into the hotel pre-booked by a friend.

(12.15 pm) With a map, a small list of must-see and public Wi-Fi subscription for next 24 hours, I walked past the City Hall to enter the famous Walking Street.

(12.30 pm) Walking Street (Strøget) is the longest pedestrian shopping area in Europe. From local brands to designers of France, from roadside café and stalls to classy restaurants and night clubs, band performers and street vendors, souvenir shops, exhibition and much more is available on this street. As most of the market is shut on Sunday, Saturday is the busiest day on this street.

(1. 15 pm) Walking through the street, stopping by to pick souvenirs, I stopped in front of the famous The Round Tower. The round tower was originally built as an astronomical observatory. It has an observation deck at the height of 35 mtrs, which is open for public. A 200 mtr spiral way leads to the observation deck. A beautiful bird’s eye view of the Copenhagen can be seen from the deck.

(2.00 pm) Crossing the street, stopping by to click pictures and shop, admire the beautiful architecture of Royal Danish Theater, I reached Nyhavn or so to say New Heaven. Waterfront close to the harbor, Nyhavn is the entertainment district of Copenhagen. Starving and cold, I loved the food that restaurants offered. It was an experience to sit on street side and eat while the temperature was 2 degrees and restaurant offered a blanket while I ate.

(3.00 pm) A pasta and cup of cappuccino later, I walked down to the harbor to see The Little Mermaid. A bronze statue, set on a rock at the harbor, which has been a tourist attraction since 1916. However, 1.5 km walk from Nyhavn, it was a light disappointment.

(3.30 pm) Tired after the long walk, I took a bus back to hotel.

(5.00 pm) People had told me Tivoli is a must see in Copenhagen. Fresh after an hour of rest, I was standing in the queue for the entry to Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli is an amusement park and pleasure garden in heart of Copenhagen. One of the most beautiful theme park, Tivoli lives up to its fame. Rides, restaurants, fairs, shops, and much more is available for entertainment here. Trying on rides, and roaming around amused I didn’t realize where the time passed by.

(9.30 pm) At Tivoli I met a few colleagues and although there are more than enough options to dine in at Tivoli, we decided to dine in outside and then hop discs and lounges of Copenhagen.

(10.30 pm) After a quick soup and pizza dinner at a restaurant, we entered a local bar. Copenhagen is quite lively at night. Men and women hanging out in groups, can be found on street and in front of all bars and restaurants.

(11.30 pm) Our next stop was Ice Lounge. Managed by Absolute, Ice lounge is one of the popular places in the city. At minus 7 degrees, the place was still bustling with people trying various flavors of Absolute in ice glasses.

(12.30 am) Close to Ice Lounge, we found another local discotheque which is popular amongst locals.

(1.15 am) Tired and hungry after club hopping and dancing, we found solace in coffee and croissant at seven eleven.

(1.30 am) It was time to return to hotel and hit the bed. One of the advantages of staying close to city center is that almost everything is walking distance or say a bike ride away.

(7.00 am) Not ready to waste any moment of my time in the city, I was up and about at 7.00 am. After a hearty breakfast provided complimentary by hotel, I rented a bicycle from hotel along with an umbrella and started riding around the city without an aim.

(7.15 am) First stop was at a popular local market for vegetables and groceries. The market is divided in two glass sheds, as salt and sugar which accommodate several beautifully decorated counters.

(8.00 am) By the time I got out of the market, I had bag full of sauces and a small carton of cupcakes to carry back home. I passed the Rosenborg Castle and the garden (old royal palace and now a museum) and rode all the way to Amalienborg, the current royal palace.

(8.30 am) Aimlessly riding around the palace, I stopped by to salute the royal guards and chit chat, (in which they weren’t interested and all I received in my response to the enquiry about the guard change timings was a glare) and returned back to the hotel.

(9.00 am) I checked out of hotel, left my bag in the cloak room and asked receptionist if she could suggest me what I could do with next three hours. She suggested I take a bus to “Visit Carlsberg”, brewery turned into visitor center.

(9.15 am) Thanking receptionist, I was on the 9.10 am bus to the brewery. After a fifteen minute ride, bus dropped me in front of the Jacobson hill.

(9.30 am) Several odd turns later, I found my way to a crowded entry in otherwise scarcely populated hill. From there followed a guided tour of Carlsberg history, from beginning to becoming second largest brewery in the world.

(11.30 am) By the end of the tour, the on and off drizzle had turned into a slow but steady snowfall, and not to mention I was tensed. I hurried back to the bus stop and found a luckily found the bus that took me back to the hotel.

(12.00 pm) I thanked and said good bye to the receptionist for map, guidance, converting my currency and calling a cab, and dumped my bag in the cab. I had a four o clock flight to home.


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