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Monkey Bar – Review

Monkeying around in Monkey Bar – Kolkata

On a lazy Sunday afternoon me and my friend were walking around Camac street when we happened to see a board for Monkey Bar near the Fort Knox building. I instantly knew Monkey Bar is finally in Kolkata. I had been a great fan of Monkey Bar during my days in Delhi and couldn’t wait to get in there.

The restaurant is located on the 9th Floor of the Fort Knox building, The building has a very tiny lift that took me to the 9th floor and a big entry door to the Bar awaited us there. The moment I entered it was such a relief to see high ceilings and a huge sitting area unlike the tiny lift that took us up to the building.

The Space: The place is divided into 3 sections as such, one with high tables with a stunning view of the Victoria Memorial on a clear day. The other side is the normal table of 4s and 2s. And the more beautiful section is the outdoor seating section, it ought to be the best place to sit on a lovely winter afternoon. I loved how high the ceiling and the space is and how airy the entire place felt so high above.

Food and Drinks: Now coming to the main part the food and drinks, I was pretty impressed by the Kolkata touch in the menu, drinks like ‘Toast to Kolkata’ & the very hilariously named ‘Trump card’ really got me amused. Although I tried Mama’s Girl and Curry Martini,  I must say both were equally refreshing with the right amount of alcohol. They of course have the usual beer, rum, whisky as well but I was too tempted to try the new cocktails.

A lot of RED! Mama’s Girl along with other things red, pun intended!
A refreshing watermelon and cucumber cocktail!
Martini along with – Love what is says – Lime is the new Mustard
The must have – Med Platter

About the food now, just like the drinks, the food menu is very tempting too. I was so happy to see the variety of cuisines like Mediterranean, continental, of course Indian served with their own take added to it. I opted for the Med platter, a lip-smacking wholesome meal, their signature Futterfly, mushroom bruschetta and liver on toast. Does not just the sound of it water your mouth!

Watch-out for: I know that I have already said a lot of good things about the place (which they deserve), although a couple of things that did not please me much were, as the evening grew and more and more people started dropping by, the music decibel started going higher and higher, to the point where I was almost screaming to be able to chat with my friend. I should add though that when requested the staff did turn down the volume a tad bit, so that helps.

Pocket Pinch: I have to admit the hit on the pocket is on an expensive side. A meal for a couple with drinks would cost something around Rs 2000 plus.

All in all I think this place is one of those that the city had been waiting for a long time. And what more could we want than a lovely evening over looking the Victoria with amazing drinks and delicious food.

Email: wheelsinpink@gmail.com for collab!

What not to expect from the French colony of India – Pondicherry

India has a touch of so many worlds, it has got a place for all cultures, people and religion and it is always a visual treat to witness such an amalgamation. One such place is Pondicherry, after years of wanting to visit this place, last month (February 2017) I finally found myself in this tiny French colony of Pondicherry.
How to Reach: Best way to reach is to travel to Pondicherry from Chennai. Chennai is at a distance of approx 170 kms. By bus or car its takes 3-4 hours. Best and cheapest option is to travel by bus, bus tickets range from Rs 100 – 400 depending on the type of bus. For a more comfortable journey you can hire a car for an expensive fare of Rs 3000 one way.
What not to expect in Pondicherry: 
Well, to be honest when we hear about Pondicherry we picture pastel colored French buildings and architecture, lovely bakeries and a hip culture. Upon visiting this place I realized that this is only partially true.
This is not GOA: Sometimes Pondy is compared to Goa due to its beautiful beaches and influx of foreign tourists. But unlike Goa, Pondy doesnot have shacks like Goa, nor a late night pub or club culture. The beach side cafes and restaurants close at 10:00 PM dot. The ones not beach facing have a buffer of 1 hour and close at 11:00 PM exact.
‘Tiny’ French colony: The most popular part of Pondy is indeed very very small with a capital S. The rest of Pondy except Heritage town in pretty much like a typical, regular south indian city,  so do not expect an extensive French town full of beautiful buildings.
Early nights: Pondy is not the best for the lazy souls. The beach side restaurants shut down at 10:00 pm dot or else expect to be almost thrown out. If you wish to push your nights a bit longer past 10 pm, best bet would be to dine and wine at one of the not so beach side cafes\restaurants to be able to chill till 11 pm. But! Do expect an annoying waiter to be over your shoulder every 10 mins reminding you its time to leave once it is past 11  pm
Language problem: In case you are not  able to find a hotel or accommodation in Heritage town, be ready to struggle a bit, well lets make it quite a bit owing to the prominent language problem. Hindi and English are not commonly spoken except for specific areas in Pondy. I being an Indian had a tough time moving around in the city, imagine what it might have been for someone not from the country.
A teeny weeny bit less hospitable: Okay this is only my personal opinion and no one needs to agree with it, also maybe these opinions are due to specific experiences I had, but nevertheless somehow I had instances in restaurants and hotels where I faced some reluctance or lack of warmth while addressing lets say an issue I was facing. Maybe its the influx of foreign tourists and dollars that has attributed to this or something else I am not too sure about.
I would like to add that hope this post does not discourage anyone from travelling to Pondy, rather it should help you from getting disappointed by setting the right expectations about this tiny lazy extremely pretty French city of Pondicherry.

The Indian “Great Wall of China” – Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, India

Things you need to know before visiting the Kumbhalgarh Fort:

  • The place usually gets very crowded during peak season (September – March), so make sure to reach early to be able to have a not-so-rushed visit
  • The stairs inside the Fort are pretty steep and narrow, so be careful, not very convenient for people who have problem with small spaces (claustrophobia)
  • Take a guide who can help you around the Fort to not get lost. Do bargain
  • The walk up to the Fort is pretty steep, so be well equipped with proper walking shoes and a water bottle since it could be exhausting
  • Being at the Fort during sunset is one of the best things to do, since it is a captivating view
  • You might consider watching the Light and Sound show in the evening, although it is too much of talk and less about the Fort, watch at own risk (it is in Hindi language though!)
  • Eat properly before going up there, since to walk around the Fort properly is pretty time consuming
  • Mornings and Evenings are best time to visit

 

What you need to know about the’GREAT WALL OF INDIA’:

For the longest time we only knew about The Great Wall of China and its history, but we have a close counterpart in India as well which happens to be the Second Longest Wall in the world after The Great Wall of China. Unknown to the outside world for a very long time, this place is now gaining popularity, Kumbhalgarh Fort in Rajasthan, India also referred t now as the GREAT WALL OF INDIA.

Built in the early 15th century by the Great Maharana Kumbha and further extended in the 19th century, this fort is also where The Great King & warrior of Mewar, Maharana Pratap was born. History has it that this is the invincible Fort which could not be conquered even by the mighty Mughals alone, only together with the armies of Delhi, Amber and Marwar they were able to break through the Fort. This Fort is a standing icon of the bold and unbreakable Rajput glory and spirit.

The Fort is a safely protected by the massive snake like meandering Fort Wall which is 15 kms long and 1150 m to 1200 m in height, the wall is as thick as 12-25 feet and broad enough to allow an army of eight horses to ride abreast. It runs through the mountain cliffs and valleys of the Aravalli ranges sometimes going uphill or taking a descent structured with long walk ways, stairs and seven huge gates. Also within the Wall it guards 360 temples. Along with the Fort the Wall encompasses around some of the forest ranges of the Kumbhalgarh National Park which helps in the safe keeping of a few Indian endangered species, it is home to the famous panthers & leopards of India and also a variety of other wildlife. The Wall is an standing proof of the brilliant architecture from the Rajput era, built with such brilliance that even after 700 years of its being it still stands tall unmoved. It is this wall that is known as the second longest continuous wall on the planet after the ‘Great Wall of China’.

 

 

Must Visit Places in Singapore – Part I

Must Visit Places in Singapore – Part I

  1. Marina Bay

Singapore has a place for everyone and for the ones interested to indulge in a bit of luxury, Marina Bay Sands is the perfect destination. It is a one of its kind integrated resort which rules the Singapore city skyline. It consists of three 55-storey towers of luxury hotel rooms and exquisite suites. It also houses the Sands Sky Park which forms the crown of the three marvelous towers. The Sands Sky Park provides breathtaking 360 views of the city from the observation deck. If you splurge enough to be a guest at the Hotel, you can experience the unique feeling of swimming in the infinity swimming pool overlooking the horizon at a height of 200 metres. One of the luxury must try experiences in Singapore is taking a dip in the pool while the watching the sun go down across the horizon. Indulge in shopping at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, which has the largest collection of coveted designer show rooms and boutiques in Asia. Immerse your taste buds in exotic fine dining options, which includes restaurants by celebrity chefs, fine dining or casual eateries.

Stunning Laser show at Marina Bay Sands at night

For those interested in Science and Arts head to the Lotus inspired building, ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, it is well known for the highly accoladed exhibition FUTURE WORLD: Where Art Meets Science. The museum is host to many blockbuster touring exhibitions that explores creative processes at the heart of art, science, technology and culture such as Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal, Collider and more. Ground attractions include the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands, featuring stunning performances for world-class entertainment. 

  1. Clarke Quay
Dazzling Clarke Quay at night

Nightlife in Singapore is always buzzing with action. Clarke Quay is one of such places and indeed one of the best places to be in after sunset. It is the nightlife and party hub of Singapore. Sparkling with dazzling lights, partying people and jazzy nightclubs, Clarke Quay is one place you don’t want to go home from. It is booming with a host of unique bars, concept restaurants and pubs along the Singapore River. Originally a centre of commerce along the Singapore River, Clarke Quay is nowadays a hub of restaurants, concept bars, retail stores and entertainment outlets. Go for a drink at the Bamboo Bar at The Forbidden City or Lunar Asian Fusion Bar which has got great shows, or Bar Opiume at the Empress Place by the riverside and for a late night out dancing and drinking drop in at the Attica or Canvas. 

 

  1. Gardens by the Bay

Step into the future at Gardens by the Bay, it is a pompous, mammoth colourful futuristic park encompassing 250 acres of land on the waterfront of Singapore. Famous for what is called the Supertree, these structures form an extravagant skywalk over the gardens, 9 to 16-storey-tall vertical gardens that collect rainwater, generate solar power and act as venting ducts for the park’s conservatories.

View from below of the magical Gardens by the Bay

Huge seashell-shaped greenhouses create temperature dipping hilly climates and there are innumerable trees and plants of various species to be discovered, cool-dry climate of regions like California and South Africa, and boasts more than 32,000 plants comprising some 160 species, cultivars and varieties, is also  world’s largest columnless greenhouse. Besides ultra-modern design, the conservatories also use cutting-edge technologies for better energy efficiency. Not to be missed is the cool, misty Cloud Forest Dome, with its 35-metre-tall “Cloud Mountain”, covered in orchids, ferns and bromeliads and containing the world’s largest indoor waterfall. If you dare, take the OCBC Skyway, a suspended 128-metre-long walkway between two Supertrees, for a bird’s eye view of the park. This destination is a perfect fun place for both kids and adults alike. The most spectacular view of the Gardens is visible from the top of the Marina Bay which happens to be directly opposite the park, it’s hard to miss the sprawling 101-hectare lot right by the water in Marina Bay. . This dazzling light and sound show takes place nightly amid the Supertrees. Then dine at romantic Pollen in the Flower Dome, glamorous Indochine at the top of the Supertrees or Satay by the Bay for hearty local food. Getting here is easy, either via walkways from the hotel, giving you an elevated view of the gardens, or taking the slightly longer riverside promenade to enter the park near the two domes. The park entry is free of cost except for the climate controlled greenhouses or for a walk amongst the Supertrees, for which there is a charge. The main park area is open from 9:00 to 21:00.

  1. Raffles Hotel

One of the most iconic places and old buildings that contribute to the heritage of Singapore is the luxurious Raffles Hotel. It is a colonial-styled and has a long standing history dating back to 1887 due to which is has become one of the most significant Singapore landmarks. It has an interesting list of celebrity guests that have graced the hotel consisting of the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Queen Elizabeth II and the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Iconic Raffles Hotel

The Raffles Hotel has 103 suites and 18 distinctive restaurants and bars. It also has a brilliant arcade with over 40 international designer stores like Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, etc. Having a Singapore Sling at the Bar in Raffles is a heritage experience that one could indulge in. It is here that ‘The Singapore Sling’ also regarded as the national drink of the country, was first created in 1915 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon.

The World famous ‘Singapore Sling’

Primarily a gin-based cocktail, the Singapore Sling also contains pineapple juice as the main ingredient, along with grenadine, lime juice and Dom Benedictine. Giving it the pretty pink hue are cherry brandy and Cointreau. 

  1. Merlion Park

Hailed as Singapore’s national icon, the mythical Merlion with the head of a lion and the body of a fish is an unevitable statue that cannot be missed, seven in total placed around the city. The Merlion is a reminder of the beginnings of Singapore as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, meaning ‘sea town’. Its head represents Singapore’s original name, Singapura, or ‘lion city’ in Malay. Visit the Merlion Park to get a closer look at the legend of Merlion. Spouting water from its mouth, the Merlion statue stands tall at 8.6 metres. This icon is a ‘must-see’ for tourists visiting Singapore, similar to other significant landmarks around the world. Built by local craftsman Lim Nang Seng, it was unveiled on 15 September 1972 by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the mouth of the Singapore River, to welcome all visitors to Singapore.

The most famous picture that depicts Singapore

But with the completion of Esplanade Bridge in 1997, the statue could no longer be viewed clearly from the waterfront. So in 2002, the Merlion was relocated 120 metres away from the original position to where it stands in Merlion Park today, in front of Fullerton Hotel and overlooking Marina Bay. The park also houses a smaller Merlion statue. Known as the ‘Merlion cub’, it stands at 2 metres tall and weighs three tonnes. The original sculpture and its cub are the most well-known among the seven approved Merlion statues in Singapore. 

  1. Singapore Flyer

If you are in the mood to fly in the sky and take a spin in the air you must go to the Singapore flyer. Standing out in the Singapore skyline, the Singapore Flyer is not just another orb. Asia’s largest giant observation wheel provides some of the most magnificent views of the city. Located at the heart of downtown Marina Bay a complete spin takes one as high as 42 storeys. Step into this thrilling ride which consists of one of the 28 fully air-conditioned glass capsules, and be raised for a 30-minute spin overlooking stunning day and night scenes. Grasp the enchanting views of the city and the iconic and historical landmarks such as the Marina Bay, Singapore River, Raffles Place, Merlion Park, Empress Place and the Padang are visible.

Don’t miss the sky high ride for a complete bird’s eye view of Singapore

On clear days many of you might also be able to spot landmarks far away like Changi Airport, Sentosa Island and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia as well. Imagine dining amongst the clouds, this is something the Singapore Flyer offers, you can have high tea, enjoy fine-dining or sip on cocktails and Champagne on the Singapore Flyer’s special in-flight packages. Also an interesting mix of entertaining experiences such as a flight simulator and a fish spa are also available. Once you land, done miss visiting the Singapore Food Trail, a unique 1960s themed food street offering famous local fare such as ‘bak kut teh’ and Hainanese chicken rice. 

  1. Resorts World Sentosa

Want to go wild and crazy with no dearth of things to do? Resorts World Sentosa is the place you should be headed to. It is an integrated resort experience designed to keep the whole family enthralled. The key attractions includes the Universal Studios theme park, Adventure Cove Water Park, and S.E.A. Aquarium, which includes the world’s largest Oceanarium. It also has several dining options with various themes when you are hungry. This is not just it, the resort also has a casino. Try your luck the Bond’s way.  One is sure to get drained out after all the activities, to rejuvenate yourself take a break and pamper yourself at a spa or better book a stay at one of the hotels in the resort itself which has couple of jazzy hotels. Some of the not-to-miss places you have to indulge in are:

  1. Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore is Southeast Asia’s first Hollywood movie theme park. It is a spectacular assembly of extravagant adventure rides and huge selection of attractions and entertainment for both families and adventure seekers. Majority of the rides here are specially designed for the Singapore Park. The theme park is home to seven block-buster movie-themed zones, and each one of them is designed with a lot of detail and very close to movie avatars. It also has a fantastic Hollywood Walk of Fame at the Hollywood zone, you would feel as if you have ventured into New York, the landscape transforms into impressive city skylines, including a replicas of subway entrances. Feel the power and adrenaline rush of being in a real movie like set up and feel the action and thrill and the powerful special effects produced by Steven Spielberg.

Breathtaking rides: Sci-Fi City features the blockbuster ride TRANSFORMERS The Ride: The Ultimate 3D Battle ride where you get to fight evil forces in heart-pounding 3D combat. Next step into the Ancient Egyptian world and come face to face with mummies and beetles in an indoor roller coaster in total darkness – ignite your senses here. Looking for your favorite animated movie character, meet them at Madagascar and prepare to be drenched in a wet river boat ride.

Thrills and spills: Performances here are equally spectacular. Kids will fall in love with the Shrek 4-D Adventure at Far Far Away. This cinematic experience lets you feel the action of the movie. Fond of Spielberg’s dinosaurs from the Jurassic Park series, walk into The Lost World and witness death-defying stunts and explosions in the live performance in the Water World. I am sure these thrilling rides will leave you exhausted, rejuvenate your energy between the attractions and step in to the many themed restaurants across the parks. 

  1. The Adventure Cove Waterpark

Is a water lover’s paradise; it has an extremely well maintained world class Marine life. This includes the S.E.A Aquarium that is abode to over 100,000 marine animals. The Adventure Cove Waterpark is a dream place with thrilling wet and wild rides. The very cute Dolphin Island, where you can interact with the friendliest mammals. History lovers can visit the Maritime Experiential Museum to learn about Asia’s rich maritime history and Singapore’s past as a trading port. At night immerse yourself in the mesmerizing display of water, fire and light at the Lake of Dreams and the Crane Dance, where mechanical cranes transform into birds through a journey of love.

Continued in Part II….

 

Singapore – Getting There

At a Glance

 

Marina_Bay_Sands,_Singapore_(8351775641)

Singapore is a stunning and beautiful island strategically located in the heart of South East Asia which also happens to be world’s only island city-state. This breath taking island is one of the most popular and busy travel destinations in South East Asia. It is not only of great commercial interest but also a booming tourist destination as it sees travelers dropping in from all around the Globe.

Singapore boosts of an interesting mix of uber modern architectural marvels as well as age old temples and traditions. Not to be fooled by the size of this tiny island, it has a lot to offer with innumerable options to choose from. It is like a parallel universe residing together all in this small city.

On one side the city skyline is clouded with tall skyscrapers and modern state of the art structures such as Marina Bay Sands, a three-towered skyscraper that is a vital part of Singapore’s horizon, Resorts World Sentosa which is home to the very famous Universal Studios theme park, and the majestic Gardens by the Bay and many more such iconic places. On the other hand there are the humble century old buildings like the elegant Raffles Hotel still standing tall more than a century after being built. This island state was a former British trading post and colony and even after independence and the blend of cultures is ingrained in all aspects of life in Singapore.

The cultural blends are strongly visible in the food scenario most prominently. Cuisines from all around the world are available. Alongside world class fine dining restaurants offering international cuisines, the street food available here is also finger licking good. Due to its vicinity with other South East Asian countries the food culture in Singapore is an amazing confluence of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences. One can escape the hustle and bustle of modernity in Singapore by visiting the very exotic Chinatown and Little India to get a flavor of the neighboring Asian countries.

How to get there

 Cg2_Changi_Airport_Terminal_2_entrance.jpg

Visa & customs:  For information on visa requirements and the Visa Free Transit Facility, you can visit and check with the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority or the Singapore Overseas Mission in your city or country. The visa application form is available for free at all Singapore overseas missions. For detailed information and requirements for entry to Singapore you can visit the Official website for Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore

By Air: Changi Airport in Singapore is one of the most busy and well connected airports in the world. It sees over 100 airlines flying to more than 250 cities around the world. Most of the well-known international airlines have their operations in Singapore. Few local airlines operate from Singapore such as the renowned Singapore Airlines and budget airlines Tiger. The airport itself is very well maintained and conferred with many awards, it boosts of modern amenities and activities for tourists and travelers making it a world-class attraction in its own way.

By Sea: Singapore is an important port of commercial interest due to its strategic location in the heart of Asia; it is one of the world’s busiest cruise centers. Several cruise operators of various kinds like luxury, premium, and contemporary types operate from here. The newest is the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Singapore which can accommodate the largest range of cruise liners.

By Road: Singapore is also very well connected by roads; it can be easily reached from West Malaysia through a scenic ride. Two checkpoints need to be crossed before entering Singapore; one is at Tuas in the west and Woodlands in the north. They both operate 24/7 facilitating ease of reach to Singapore via road.

Getting around Singapore:  Singapore has one of the best public transport systems in South East Asia, it is fast, efficient and world class and is well connected;  enough to make reaching the various places in Singapore easy and comfortable without much hassle.

By train: MRT (mass rapid transit) system in Singapore is definitely the most efficient and fastest way to commute around the city. The Rail network is extensive and connects almost all the key attractions in the city. Tickets can be bought for single trips, for a mix of both rail and bus network one can buy the Singapore Tourist Pass, a value card which will allow unlimited travel for one day (S$10), two days (S$16) or three days (S$20). Cards are available for purchase at the Transit Link Ticket Office at the following MRT stations: City Hall, Raffles Place, Ang Mo Kio, HarbourFront, Bugis, Changi Airport, Orchard, Chinatown, Lavender and Bayfront. The MRT stations and trains are well equipped with facilities to make travel smooth for wheel chair users, visually impaired, as well as families with strollers.

By taxi: Taxis are also frequently used and a common mode of transport especially for the places not accessible by buses or trains. Cabs run on meters, although it is advisable to check with the driver because a lot of them charge based on time, location and destination of travel and might also add surcharges depending of the company the cab belongs to. Make sure to ask for a receipt at the end of the trip. Taxis can be boarded from the roadside at most places, or by queuing for any of the taxi stands found at shopping malls, hotels and tourist attractions. Cabs can also be booked by calling at a common taxi booking number, 6-DIAL CAB (6342-5222), which than routes the call to any available taxi company’s call centre.

By bus: The most economically viable mode of transport in Singapore is the bus system which is extensively connected covering all routes to places in the city. It is also a great and comfortable way to explore and see the city also because most buses are air conditioned, a very important aspect for traveling in the tropical climate of Singapore. Singapore Tourist Pass is commonly used to pay for the bus travels by using the card reader located next to the driver as your board and exit. Cash payments are also accepted but need to be exact change amount.

Singapore Visitor Centre: Three Singapore Visitor Centres in ION Orchard, Orchard or Chinatown are available in case you need help. Information on tips and recommendations to plan your itinerary, purchase tickets to attractions and tours are available here, also you can pick up locally designed souvenirs and book accommodation for your stay.

To be continued in next post ‘Must Visit Places in Singapore’

What not to expect from the French city of India – Pondicherry

India has a touch of so many worlds, it has got a place for all cultures, people and religion and it is always a visual treat to witness such an amalgamation. One such place is Pondicherry, after years of wanting to visit this place, last month (February 2017) I finally found myself in this tiny French colony of Pondicherry.

How to Reach: Best way to reach is to travel to Pondicherry from Chennai. Chennai is at a distance of approx 170 kms. By bus or car its takes 3-4 hours. Best and cheapest option is to travel by bus, bus tickets range from Rs 100 – 400 depending on the type of bus. For a more comfortable journey you can hire a car for an expensive fare of Rs 3000 one way.

Matri mandir in Auroville

What not to expect in Pondicherry: 

Well, to be honest when we hear about Pondicherry we picture pastel colored French buildings and architecture, lovely bakeries and a hip culture. Upon visiting this place I realized that this is only partially true.

This is not GOA: Sometimes Pondy is compared to Goa due to its beautiful beaches and influx of foreign tourists. But unlike Goa, Pondy doesnot have shacks like Goa, nor a late night pub or club culture. The beach side cafes and restaurants close at 10:00 PM dot. The ones not beach facing have a buffer of 1 hour and close at 11:00 PM exact.

‘Tiny’ French colony: The most popular part of Pondy is indeed very very small with a capital S. The rest of Pondy except Heritage town in pretty much like a typical, regular south indian city,  so do not expect an extensive French town full of beautiful buildings.

Early nights: Pondy is not the best for the lazy souls. The beach side restaurants shut down at 10:00 pm dot or else expect to be almost thrown out. If you wish to push your nights a bit longer past 10 pm, best bet would be to dine and wine at one of the not so beach side cafes\restaurants to be able to chill till 11 pm. But! Do expect an annoying waiter to be over your shoulder every 10 mins reminding you its time to leave once it is past 11  pm

Language problem: In case you are not  able to find a hotel or accommodation in Heritage town, be ready to struggle a bit, well lets make it quite a bit owing to the prominent language problem. Hindi and English are not commonly spoken except for specific areas in Pondy. I being an Indian had a tough time moving around in the city, imagine what it might have been for someone not from the country.

A teeny weeny bit less hospitable: Okay this is only my personal opinion and no one needs to agree with it, also maybe these opinions are due to specific experiences I had, but nevertheless somehow I had instances in restaurants and hotels where I faced some reluctance or lack of warmth while addressing lets say an issue I was facing. Maybe its the influx of foreign tourists and dollars that has attributed to this or something else I am not too sure about.

I would like to add that hope this post does not discourage anyone from travelling to Pondy, rather it should help you from getting disappointed by setting the right expectations about this tiny lazy extremely pretty French city of Pondicherry.

 

 

Jodhpur – The spectacular Blue city of India

Who doesn’t like palaces, camels rides, royality and feeling like a prince or a princess in some ancient place. We all love to think of it and maybe visit such a place and indulge in the stories behind it. Rajasthan in India is such a place, full of palaces, deserts, sand dunes, vibrant clothes and lovely music and folk dance. Although Rajasthan is very big and each city is equally different and beautiful, for the last month on 2016 I was lucky to be in Rajasthan and visited Jodhpur.

‘Must do’s’ in Jodhpur:

Camping in the desert: The spectacular Thar Desert is spread across Jodhpur, and one of the best things to do in Jodhpur is to indulge in the Desert experience. There are quite a few Camps and Resorts in the vicinity of Jodhpur city. You could either stay in the Resorts; for a more indulgent experience stay in one of the Deserts camps on the sand dunes. The camps offer various types of stay packages equipped with meals, you can also opt for a Camel safari – a must do; as well as the Jeep safari for a more thrilling feel; best taken in the evening or early morning. http://ourlittletravelbook.com/review-thar-oasis-jodhpur/

Thar Oasis Resort – The resort we stayed in
Swimming pool inside the Resort

Dining in the desert: There can be no experience more etching in the memory as that of dining under the expanse of the starriest skies in the middle of the desert, served along with traditional Rajasthani folk dance and music. The set ups are usually ethereal with sofas lined up around the performance area along with bonfire. The hospitality is usually impeccable with great service of starters and drinks being served during the performance and the dinner is usually served indoors.

Drinks and snacks served before dinner in the desert
Rajasthani Dance performance

Explore Mehrangarh Fort: Without doubt Mehrangarh Fort is the best place in Jodhpur. Perfectly perched on the hill top it is as picturesque as can be. Invincible and one of the more prominent forts in India constructed by Rao Jodha way back in 1459 AD. It is an art and architecture lover’s heaven. Throughout done with extreme detailing, the grandeur of the Fort is extraordinary. The entire Blue City of Jodhpur is visible from the Mehrangarh Fort.

Sunset from Mehrangarh Fort
Mehrangarh Fort
Architecture of Mehrangarh Fort
Huge weapons of all sizes on display inside Mehrangarh Fort

Ivory jewellery on display in a store in Mehrangarh Fort

Admire the Umaid Bhawan Palace: The Palace is placed on the highest point of the city and is comparatively more recent, being constructed in 1929. The palace represents a mix of Indian and European architecture, with 347 rooms, it is one of the largest private residences in the world and is partially also the residence to the former royal family, while the remaining part is a museum and the other owned by Taj Palace Hotel.

Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur

Obsess over a Rajasthani Thali: Being in Rajasthan and not obsessing over Rajasthani food is a crime. The best way to do so is to fill your stomach with the elaborate spread of food served in a Rajasthani thali. Look out for dal baati churma, gattey ki sabzi, makkey ki roti, panchmel ki Subzi, kheench, moong dal halwa all of which are local delicacies. For the most amazing thali go to Gypsy Restaurant in Jodhpur city. Other options for great food are Shandar Sweet home, for great ambience & food are Hanwant Mahal, Indique & On the Rocks.

The elaborate Rajasthani Thali

Try the Local street food: Personally I have to say, do try the Pani puri or golgappas here. There are like nothing you have ever eaten before. Served with a choice of 5 pani options (watery dip) like sweet, hing, imli and others they are just mind blowing. Also try the super spicy Mirchi Vada to ignite your taste buds.

The famous Mirchi Vada

Shopping: Just like Rajasthani food, the things to shop on offer are equally tempting. Surrounding the Clock Tower is the bustling bazaar, Sardar Market. Everything starting from home décor, jutis(shoes), silver jewellery & Bandhej sarees in vibrant colors can be found here. Personally my opinion is that the most economical and best quality shopping can be done from National Handloom Cooperation on Nai Sarak, it is like a one stop shop for all things in one place for really affordable prices.

How to reach Jodhpur:

By Air – Jodhpur has its own domestic airport located at 5 kms from the city and is well connected with all important metro cities. Flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Udaipur and other important Indian cities serve Jodhpur on a daily basis. Cabs and autos are available outside the airport and can be hired to travel to any part of the city.

By Train: Jodhpur is well connected by train will all major cities.

By Road: Direct buses both luxury such as Volvo & state buses ply from Delhi and Jaipur. The Roads are very well maintained and one can also drive from the nearby cities.

 

Durga Puja in Kolkata: A photo journal

Christmas in New York, the Rio Carnival in Brazil and La Tomatino festival in Spain all put together cannot beat the madness and magnitude of Durga Puja celebrations in Kolkata, India. It is almost impossible to pen down the experience in words, and if I do it would be a never ending post I am sure. To save all the trouble, here is my photo and video journal of my experience of visiting the stunning pandal in Kolkata during Durga Puja 2016 made with immense artistic work and manual intricate labour, it is an art kingdom on its own and would be any art lovers ticket to paradise:

Pandal in the shape of huge Manipuri dancers of India in Bosepukur Talbagan:

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Tribal themed Durga Puja pandal in Tridhara Sammilani Sarbojanin:

The very famous and popularized World’s 1st Durga goddess with 1000 hands in Deshapriya Park:

Bhutan themed Durga idol and pandal in New Alipore Suruchi Sangha:

I do not remember the name of the place but the decor was made out of plastic dusting brushes, pretty unique and colorful:

Amusing figure of Ravana from the sky in Kendua Shanti Sangha club:

The Bengali wedding themed pandal in Bosepukur Sitala Mandir:

Themed on a famous Bengali poem showcasing cartoon figure like village theme in Jodhpur Park:

Mesmerizing serene and calm idol of Durga in  Naktala Udayan Sangha depecting peace within chaos:

The outside pandal decor was that of chaos while the inside was calm

Old Kolkata city themed Durga Puja idol and pandal in 66 Pally Sarbojanin Durga Puja:

A divine pandal with decor of stone pebbles dropping fromt the sky in Badamtala Ashar Sangha Durga Puja pandal:

Intricate work and detailing on the pandal with dry fruit shells, wood shavings and betel nuts in Jatra Suru Sangha Durga Puja Pandal:

So next Durga Puja book your tickets to Kolkata to indulge in art of the most beautiful kind and admire the hard work and labor that goes behind these stunning pandals.

What you need to know about the ‘Crazy markets of Bangkok’!

Seriously, there is just one word to describe the Bangkok markets: Crazy!!!
I had one night in Bangkok! Since I was staying in a hotel in the commercial side of Bangkok, it was the best chance to explore the market scene of the city. After checking into the hotel, and resting a while I set off to explore the markets in the afternoon.
Now what’s so crazy about the Bangkok markets?

Well there are several markets situated at pockets not very far off, but what’s crazy is that they all have different opening timings, few shut off at 2pm, a few at 4pm, another at 6pm and some at 8pm. So if you think of wandering into a market aimlessly it won’t work because you might as well find out that the market is closed or about to close. And that’s exactly what happened to me by the time I reached one market that was closing, I had to rush rush rush to the other one, resulting in waste of time and not being able to shop well.

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So if you are off to Pratunam market make sure you are there well before 8pm because that’s from when the market starts closing down. It’s a famous market for shopping of clothes, more like the fashion district. It stretches into alleys in circles like a puzzle maze and its very easy to get lost and keeping looping around the same alley, so my suggestion is start from one side of the market and proceed ahead if you do not want to get caught in circles. Pratunam stretches from alleys into a shopping center usually selling goods in bulk, more quantity, lower the price. Buy 3 instead of 1, you are sure to get a better price.

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Next up is Pantip Plaza, I wouldn’t say I was very impressed by the rates here, being an Indian and having shopped in India, Nehru Place market in Delhi, India seemed to be by far much better an electronic market than this one. Also what I noticed was that the shop keepers were a little impolite and moody, suppose they din’t want to sell their stuff to you, they would quote an absurd price, naturally leading you away. Nevertheless, its worth a visit, the market is vast and totally full of electronic goods. The plaza starts closing down at 8:00ish pm.

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After dark shopping head to Khao San market, it is one market that opens in the evening as stays up till midnight. I found Khao San market lively and friendly at the same time. The shopkeepers are polite, friendly and warm. Shop for souvenirs, gifts to your heart’s content. It also has several restaurants, and it’s a delight to see the variety of cuisines it has to offer.

Bangkok will never be the same without its thoroughly crazy markets!

Kashmir: At the time of Curfew

I have seen Kashmir in Bollywood movies and always wondered when I would get that chance to go there. It seemed like a piece of Europe in my own country India, enormous mountains, tall pine trees, rivers running in between the valleys, blue skies, shikara rides, gorgeous looking people and so much more beauty all in one place.

So I booked my flight and hotel tickets way back in the month of May to travel to Kashmir in September. September being a busy season in Kashmir and when I had booked my tickets in May the hotels were almost getting sold out. But as my luck would have it, curfew struck Kashmir in July. All the news channels and newspapers were flooded with news about the curfew. So I waited for a few months until August to check back on the situation, unfortunately not much had changed. Came September and a few days left for me to travel to Kashmir and by then the curfew had been on more that 50 days. With uncertainty and my wish to visit Kashmir, not knowing when next I would get a chance to travel to this beautiful place I decided to go ahead with my plans. I definitely did receive a lot of ‘are you crazy to go there now?’ type statements from various people I know. And so I did go..

As a result during my time is curfew stricken Kashmir I did end up busting a few myths about how Kashmir really is during curfew..Here is a detailed account of my days in Kashmir during curfew.

Day 1:

With an anxious heart and partially worried head I finally arrived at the Srinagar airport. I was greeted with the impact of curfew the moment I landed in the Srinagar Airport. While I was waiting for my luggage to arrive I happened to get acquainted with a local woman from there living in Delhi, we started chatting and boom came the question ‘What brings you to Srinagar?’, when she heard I was there travelling for leisure, she was totally livid! How could I plan to travel to Kashmir during the curfew, my reply as usual was that my tickets were booked way in advance and I wanted to take the chance. This was just one of those many discouraging conversations that followed later during my days in Kashmir.

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view from the flight

My houseboat owner arranged for my travel to the houseboat from the airport. On my way to the houseboat I noticed that all roads were totally barren and all the shops were closed. Except for the army personals there were no other people on the roads and not even one shop was open.  I reached my house boat and was greeted by the keeper with a warm smile. After taking some rest I discussed with the hotel people on what are the places I could visit.

The Mughal Gardens:

So for my first day I visited the Mughal Gardens. There are 4 gardens which make it up to the Mughal gardens. I would say a few of the gardens were beautiful with lovely blossoms of various kinds, although don’t expect too much, I must admit I was a little disappointed by a few too. None the less all of them are well maintained and have a heritage value so these are more than just gardens and rather monuments, lets put it that way.

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At the Mughal Garden
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All the lovely flowers in the Mughal gardens

Sankaracharya temple:

Next I went to the Sankaracharya temple, it’s a beautiful climb up the hills, it’s a 800 year old temple, clean and very well maintained, due to the curfew it was ONLY me who was there at that time, there were no tourists at all. And I loved the experience to be able to take in all the beauty all by myself. I realized I had not been in so much silence in a long time. The view from the top is breathtaking, the entire Dal lake and Srinagar could be seen from above, the peace and serenity of the place is contagious, I wish they would have let me click a picture of the view, I could not click any since it is a high security zone and cameras and phones are not allowed.

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Adoring the beautiful view from the view point on the way to Shankaracharya Temple

Sunset at Dal Lake:

On my way down, I spent some time at the Dal lake. The sun was setting and it was a mesmerizing view to behold, as the sun was setting the shikaras formed a silhouette and a perfect vision to take away with me for life.

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Mesmerizing sunset at Dal Lake

Shopping:

I planned to shop a little and since most of the shops were closed, our taxi driver took me to an underground store belonging to the co-operative, I must say the place was a steal, huge collection and very reasonably priced.  I almost bought everything in the shop! It should be a must visit place for anyone who plans to go shopping. I retired to the houseboat after this, on my way back I could see a few shops were open since the curfew would usually last from 6am – 6pm. Few shops were open and for a change I could see some locals on the streets which was welcoming to see. Although my plan to dine somewhere outside failed since all the eating places were shut down. So I settled in for a homely dinner at the house boat. I did enjoy my first day in curfew stricken Kashmir.

Details:

Airport to Houseboat transfer: Rs 500

Day tour of Srinagar: Rs 1500

Continued in Part II…Coming soon!