a curious glance

(little bit of what I see)

Tag: Travel

Pushkar and Its Vibrant Shades

My last trip was in November, and if you have been reading my blogs, you would know how itchy my feet would have gotten without a trip for a little over 3 months. Well, you would also know about my soul sister and that she has been my most dependable travel partner (well only a handful of our friends are unmarried now and free to roam around!!). There was a long weekend approaching, and we could not just sit at home and let it go to the dumps.

Thus, began the contemplation for a place to go, and the idea was not just to explore a new town but to meet fellow travelers to share the experiences. Both of us have done solo tripping in the past and literally seen the transformation in us. Like, I can now easily initiate a conversation with any globetrotter; I used to be so damn shy earlier. It makes you more open towards the world. Now, Rajasthan is one state that attracts tourists in abundance, especially the foreigners who wish to absorb the true culture of India. In addition, I have already covered all major tourist places in Rajasthan. Pushkar was the only city left unexplored and the various travel sites are full of praises for the holy city. Trust me, there is much more to the city than the sheer holiness and that is the reason that the youth swarms the city.

Now, another friend of mine who went to Pushkar a year ago had mentioned about Zostel (India’s first backpackers hostel) and after a quick check on my best travel guide, Tripadvisor, we made a reservation for Zostel. Oh, and this reminds me that the same friend had introduced me to Tripadvisor years ago. Thanks mate, the site makes travel life very easy! I will let my verse and the pictures describe Pushkar. However, it’s worth a mention that Zostel is a cool place to stay and it made our trip successful because we befriended people with the same interest as ours- TRAVELLING. Nevertheless, a word of caution, if you volunteer for any of the treks organised by Zostel, please ensure you wear trekking shoes, even when they say that sports shoes and the kind are not required. The trek would actually turn out to be climbing a steep-barren-thorny mountain and you will continuously curse the guide en-route to the sunset point. However, once you reach the top, the view, the sunset and the breeze will literally cool you off.

The terrain of the trek for sunset

Pious, warm and much more

Its youthful radiance to allure

Sit by the lake for immense quietude

Or feel the thrill at an hilly altitude

The hues of dawn, incredibly aesthetic

Rays dazzling the lake, most artistic

Do not be confined in the holy charm

Mingling with people does no harm

Climb that hill for a picturesque sunset

Believe me; it serves as perfect day-end

Move to the much acclaimed roof top joint

Overlooking the city, chat away the night

And the endless list of rules to spoil the fun

That humankind always finds to overcome….

 

Waiting for the sunrise

Hues of sunrise

A prayer to the sun God

When lake acts as a prism

Savitri temple at hill top

The beginning of the trek

End of the trek to reach to the sunset


When I say do not limit yourself to the holy world of Pushkar, I intend to say that there is fun part to the city as well. You could either chose to relax or instead take the treks, go cycling to the outskirts of Pushkar, and more importantly, you could visit at the time of camel fair, and experience the true colours of Pushkar.

How did we reach Pushkar- We took a Shatabdi from Delhi to Ajmer. Pushkar is hardly 30 mins away from the city of Ajmer-e-sharif Dargah. You could take a bus or a private taxi, depending upon your budget. We even hired a Scooty to travel in and around Pushkar, it was as cheap as 200 bucks for a day. So, a stay in Zostel, train tickets, taxi, and food (Rajasthani food never disappoints you) would have not costed us more than 5k per person (we have not done the math yet, so can only give you an approximate figure :D)

We took a short stop over at Ajmer to pay our visit to the Dargah and capture the Ana Sagar Lake:

Also, follow the pictures below to know the legends about the city of Pushkar:

These pictures are from the walls in Zostel…


Goa, A Gang Of Girls And Pictures Galore

Remember, I mentioned in my very first post of this site, that I have been pestering my friends for a trip to GOA?? Let me quote from that post, “Trip, trip, trip, my soul sister had been chiming continuously since the beginning of year. Well, I very well knew the hidden meaning – Goa, Goa, Goa…. I have pestered my other friends for a year now, taken desperate planning initiatives, but could not land in Goa. Work, Marriage, Budget Constraints, are a few reasons out of the many, that Goa seems a farfetched idea for us. The timing is just never right. Well, we will make it happen together is the pact.”

I decided to quit my job to explore other career options, and my last days would coincide with my soul sister’s 30th birthday.. How could we have not taken this opportunity to reinstate our Goa plans…. Perfect timing it was! I could no longer wait to land in Goa with all my friends together.. Anyway, one of my friends already broke the pact earlier this year! We would someday go together, but in between, whoever gets to go, shall go. I guess this is the new unsaid pact….

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Anjuna

We were a group of five girls:

  • Soul sister’s sister from the same mother
  • Her best friend, who is ever ready for a trip and wanted to celebrate her best friend’s 30th Birthday
  • The first person I befriended in my Ex-organisation. You will understand our friendship when I say, she flew from Mumbai for a weekend to be part of my happiness
  • Soul sister
  • I

Gang of girls and Goa was fun and safe. What is the most important aspect when it involves a group of girls and a trip? Safety, right? We rented a car and drove around Goa and thus we were not dependent on anyone. Thanks to Google maps, we could reach any of the destinations with ease.

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And what do you want to do in GOA??? Party, hit the casino and laze around in the shacks on the beaches… Some may want to do adventure sports, it was not on our list..

Let me begin with partying, we went to Club Cabana, and were so amazed by the ambiance and the feel of the club. It is a Must go place! Open air, on a hill, so close to the stars, economical entry for girls, stags not allowed and unlimited drinks is the short description of the place. Dance if you want or just sit at the poolside, talk and stare at the stars. This was our first night, and we would not happen to see crowd better than this in any of the upcoming days in Goa.

We hit Anjuna beach the next afternoon and spent time at Curley’s, the ever famous shack.. They had a slow service as it was crowded, however their chocolate muffins are to die for (not many would try them when in Goa 😉 ) We wanted to go to Casino, but all of us were contemplating a minimum expenditure of 4k on a casino. 4k was the minimum entry fee at Deltin Royale, there are other low-priced casinos as well. We checked a few out, and settled on Deltin Jaqk, as the entry was 1K cheaper. Moreover, it was the only one that looked decent apart from Royale. We spent 15k on Roulette. All of us played roulette. We did win in between, in fact I had recovered my entry fee but then the greed and fun got better of us and we finally came out with only 500 bucks! Actually, 15k included unlimited drinks and food, but we did not like their service and the food was average. Casino turned out to be good for experience sake and we got to use probability after ages. At least some Math taught in school turned out to be usable 😀 The friend from Mumbai (she prefers to call herself a Mumbaikar now, huh!?) has been to Royale earlier and says it is way better.

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We spent the next afternoon in a shack on Candolim beach. There is only one licensed to operate on this beach currently, otherwise adventure sports stole the show on this beach. We ate lunch at Inferno; their Chicken Chettinad and fish curry was scrumptious. The day before we ate lunch at Fisherman’s cove, their food was tasteful too. Mumbaikar had a flight to catch in early evening and we thought we would drop her and cover some part of South Goa as well. We were staying at an apartment in Candolim, North Goa, booked through Airbnb. But damn it, Goa is vast and the roads in North Goa are so small that once you are stuck in traffic because someone parked a car or even worse, a bus on that one lane road, the only option is to take a u-turn (thank god for no dividers) and follow some other route.. We had to do so thrice during our stay. After we dropped her, we could cover only one beach of South Goa. The sunset was mesmerising and peaceful.

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Candolim

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Colva, South Goa

In the evening, after lazing in our apartment for a little while, we went to Baga beach. The shacks are open until late in the night and there are tables with candle light, spread on the sand, only a few steps away from the water… The entire aura was pleasant and untroubled. I would have stayed there forever staring at the moon with the harmonious sound of waves in my ears, if Mr. Special or shall I say, “Future Husband” had accompanied me. However, with the group of friends, we chatted, played dumb charades and then called it a night…

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Baga

More Pictures-

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Ranthambore: An Encounter With The Tiger Or Not….

My feet were itchy, my last trip was in June and it was September now. It was an indication that they would have to soon land in an unknown territory. I was initially planning a trip to Pondicherry with my parents, but we cancelled on it, as we have to save for something else. While Pondicherry remains on the list of places to visit, I had to think of a place nearby that would not burn a hole in our pocket.

I have never been on a wild life safari. Whenever I have considered national parks earlier, it was time of the year when they are closed. A quick internet search revealed that Ranthambore opens in the 1st week of October. Moreover, between Corbett and Ranthambore (both near to Delhi), the latter is more famous for Tiger sightings. Now, one could easily drive to Ranthambore, but we chose to travel by train. There are few options of trains from Delhi to Sawai Madhopur and travel time is 5-6 hours. Unlike Corbett, Ranthambore does not have hotels/resorts within the park. However, I wanted to have a jungle experience, and Tripadvisor came to the rescue once again. In fact, there is a list of hotels on www.ranthamborenationalpark.com, I picked hotels from this site and read reviews on Tripadvisor to finalize.

I booked train tickets, hotels and then safari. I actually delayed booking the safari. I was busy with some other developments in my professional life, so I did not search much about the safari. It is only when I reached our destination, I realized that how important it is to book a safari as early as possible. Ranthambore National Park is huge and is thus divided into 10 zones for people to visit. It is a common belief that probability of sighting a Tiger is higher in zones 1 to 5. And, earlier you book, better chances of you landing up in these zones. One could book either a jeep (shared by 5 people) or a canter (14-17 people). If you book through an agent, jeep costs 1500 per person while canter costs 900 per person. The other option is to reach Ranthambore and stand in queues for current safari booking. This is cheaper but people usually prefer booking beforehand. I did book ahead of our trip but not early enough to land in one of the prime zones.

Before I begin my day-by-day travelogue, an important question for you all: Do you guys travel with your parents? Do you ensure that they get a break from their monotonous life too? I am lucky that my parents like to travel, so it does not require much of convincing. Maybe, I got my travel genes from them and I have taken that interest to another level. When we were kids, my parents tried that my brother and I get to travel (either through school trips or as a family trip) and now I ensure that the tradition prevails. We, of course had an advantage as our mum is a school teacher.

Day 1:

We take a 7 am train and reach Sawai Madhopur by 1 in the noon. Our resort, Tiger Moon, is around 12 kms away. There is an option to take a taxi or auto. Auto charges 250-300 bucks and taxi charges 500 bucks. Tiger Moon, with variety of flora has a forest feel to it. Sometimes in the night, a leopard might give you a visit in the resort. Machli, the famous tigress, which died recently, has even swum in the pool of Tiger Moon.

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Bamboos

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Mangu, the owner’s dog

We had no plans for sightseeing on our 1st day. Our resort was pretty good and all we wanted was to relax and laze around. Tiger moon goes a step ahead to ensure that one feels close to nature, it does not provide wifi or TV. Yes, you read it right, no TV. My mum was disappointed; she would miss the season finale of 24! However, the hotel gives you a plethora of indoor games as options. We spent the evening playing carom, ludo, snakes and ladders and antaskshari. I played these games with my Mum-Dad after ages. It was an evening full of nostalgia. Now, let me tell you my dad loves to cheat in games and he is a smart cheater. So, rather than concentrating on our moves in the game, my mum and I direct our attention to his moves. Moreover, like a kid, if he were losing, he would make sure to spoil the game. So, if a snake bites him, I am talking about the game not the real ones. Apparently, there were a few found in our resort the previous night. So, if a snake bites him, he would discontinue and scatter all the pieces on the board. We fought and laughed a lot. It was a good family time far away from the social and artificial world.

Another good thing about hotel packages in Ranthambore is that they are inclusive of all meals. Even morning and evening tea/coffee are included. Rajasthan is famous for its food, and the hotel made sure to offer the taste of Rajasthan but in a bit bland way to cater to foreigners as well.

Day 2:

We had an early morning safari. Canter had come to pick us up at 6:30 am, and we were all set and eager to sight a Tiger. As I mentioned earlier, we were not lucky enough to get into zones 1-5. Our morning safari led us to Zone 6. It was farther off from the main zones. As we moved deep into the zone, it started sinking in that it was more of a hill than a dense jungle. I had a completely different picture in mind. We did spot Deers in abundance but no luck with Tiger or any other wild animal. Even the guide in our safari did not seem interested to talk about the history of the park. All of us in our safari were disappointed, and to add to our misery a co passenger said that they saw a Tiger yesterday in zone 8. Everyone bombarded them with questions, “When?”, “Morning or Evening?”, “But zone 8, really?”, “Can you show us pictures?” and etc etc. This became the only interesting thing about our safari.

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I had not given up on sighting the Tiger, I made up my might to book another safari the next day. A lot of people do sight Tigers, so will we. I went to my resort manger and following is our conversation:

“Could we get a jeep safari for tomorrow evening? “
He was sure about his reply:
“No, ma’am, you are too late to get a jeep”.
“Okay, what about a canter”
“Yes , I can try”
“I do not want to go the same zone again.” (I had earlier thought I would request for Zone 1-5 but since I was told about a sighting in Zone 8, I did not mind that either.)
“Ma’am, I cannot guarantee that, we get to know about zones at the last moment”
“No, please, not the same zone”
He did not speak, after seeing his not so positive reaction, I continued:
“Please, please, any other zone”
“Ma’am okay, I can guarantee you a visit to one of the zones from 1 to 5, but you will have you pay extra”
“Sorry, what, why?”
“These are the primes zones”
“Oh, okay, I get it, how much extra”
“1200 per person”

The desire to sight a Tiger in its natural habitat led me to pay the extra amount. I am not sure, why did he wait so long to ask for the extra money.

Convinced, we will see the Tiger the next day; we set our foot in the Ranthambore Fort that evening. The fort lies within the National Park region and sometimes one can see Tiger crossing the road from one zone to another on the way. I had my eyes open, so was our driver’s, he was a good man and narrated many stories about the area and tigers. The Machli and the pool story came from him. He has even patted Machli, he claimed. Now a jeep to fort and back costs 1000 bucks. He made us spot a crocodile on our way. He was much better than the actual guide in the safari earlier that day.

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Within the fort, lies the famous Trinetra Ganesh Temple (Three eyed Ganesha Temple). Locals believe one’s wish would most certainly fulfil with the visit to the temple. It is at a certain elevation and is not much of a comfortable walk. It has around 250-300 ancient style stairs, but with the trust in God, people make sure to climb them. Fort is scenic, has a lake and one would spot a few peacock/hen and a lot of Langurs.

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When we were on our way to the temple and my parents took a halt to rest, a group of students joined us. They were full of excitement, as they had spotted a Tiger on their way to the fort. I asked them what time exactly. And voila, 10 minutes after we had crossed that path! Some could spot the Tiger at no cost, we paid extra, we better do the next day.

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Spot the Bird!

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Our resort had organised a cultural night with Rajasthan’s folk music and dance programme. It was fun, the kid who was part of the group was talented and more. With the musical beats in our ears, we called it a night.

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I have to mention, that a family in our resort saw two Tigers in a single safari in Zone 4 that evening. We were all the more passionate for our encounter with the Tiger tomorrow.

Day 3:

We lazed around in the morning, did some local shopping and after lunch went for our evening safari. Mum, “we will see the Tiger, I kept saying”. Well they say, only if you think positive, would positive things happen. Canter came to pick us up around 2:30, and I am sure you can guess my first question, “Which zone are we heading towards?” Zone 5 was the answer, to my relief.

Thankfully, the guide this time was well informed, and talked about history of the wildlife in the park. We again spotted a lot of Deers and their different breeds. Another point of comfort was that Zone 5 was like a real jungle, with vast greens of trees, langurs, birds and large lakes. We saw a wild boar as well. The guide and the driver stopped the canter and the noise of the engine to concentrate on other noises and hints for the tiger. We went real deep into the forest, this safari lasted much longer than the earlier one. Did we spot a Tiger? No, we did not. However, the zone gave us many scenic views, so we were not disappointed largely.

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We were shown a documentary on Tigers that night in the hotel, Sher Vilas. Yes, we changed hotels this morning, as Tiger moon was not available for three nights. Sher vilas was quite opposite of Tiger Moon, as it had open spaces, garden and offered outdoor games like Volley Ball.

We took a train back home the next morning. Over all, Ranthambore is a great weekend away. You could easily cover it in two days. The weather is pleasant in this time of the year, it even rained one of the evenings. The safari was a good experience, even if we did not see any Tiger in its natural habitat, we did see a few other animals in wild and not caged. The way, they should be!

Pricing of hotels:
Tiger moon: 6800 for three people, including all meals
Sher Vilas: 5000 for three people, including all meals
I booked the hotels through Tour My India


For The Love Of Travel, Food And Wine.. (contd.)

Continued from last week (http://acuriousglance.com/for-the-love-of-travel-food-and-wine/)

Sydney is scenic, it is crowded in the main city, it is serene in the countryside, it is the food hub and Sydney is pretty cold in winters..

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After my last week’s post, you would believe me, when I say Sydney is scenic.. Talking about its winters, well let me sum it up as, I could not stay at Circular Quay for more than 10 minutes. Why? The chilly winds would have blown me over to the ocean. I barely managed a few clicks of the Harbour and the Opera House and rushed back. The city is windier because of the harbours (Sydney and Darling.)

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Let me get back to the countryside, breathtaking is the word that comes to my mind to describe the drive along the ponds, stables, orchards, and farmlands.. Along with blues and greens that are strikingly appealing, browns are also mesmerizing…

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And, now to the part which I thoroughly enjoyed and all you food lovers would get jealous about 😉

I had been following a diet plan for a few months before my trip, so when I was in Australia, I pounced onto the food, anything and everything worth a try was on my plate (in the amounts I could manage, I do not have a ravenous diet).. I relished different cuisines, of course, my brother and sister in-law took me to already tested and tried places, so everything I ate was heavenly..

When I say Sydney is the food hub, I mean it has restaurants and cafes that serve all kinds of food, and a lot of them are inviting… From pasta, to nasi lemak (National dish of Malaysia), dumplings, to Thai noodles, to seafood to desi Indian food and kebabs, Sydney offers all of them in platters to appease your taste buds..

Here, I give you the list of yumilicious food that you must try:

If you want to try to Malaysian food, Papa Rich is the place to be. It serves delicious Nasi lemak (rice with chicken), deserts and drinks (non alcoholic). (The picture here is of biryani with red chicken and prawns, but nasi lemak was far better)

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This mango drink with litchis/lychees on top is to die for!

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Dumplings, many places do dumplings, but the pork and prawn dumplings at Chef’s Gallery are out of the world. Rice and noodles here are worth a try too.

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For Kebabs and Lebanese food, a visit to Auburn is a must.. It is full of restaurants that serve delectable kebabs and Biryani. Jasmin and Sophera would be my favourite picks!

I satisfied my craving for Italian at Lusso. The Risotto was toothsome, and I tried a bit of Spaghetti Bolognese (I hope I won’t be declared an anti-nationalist because of this). I could not go to Jamie’s Italian, but it is on my list, next time maybe…

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Also, I tasted Oysters for the first time as well. They felt different yet nice in my mouth…

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Max Brenner Chocolate Bar is a MUST go place.. You cannot return from Sydney w/o crunching on the waffles and sipping coffee here.. Just cannot. All the adjectives I have used so far are understatements to describe these waffles..

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If you love Burgers, go to Grill’d, you will be spoilt for choice. They also claim to make healthy burgers (Now, is that an oxymoron?)

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For breakfast, try different types of Eggs, from scrambled to omelette to eggs in gravy.. Your taste buds will not be dissapointed.. The last picture here is from cafe called Zest at Blue Mountains. It was pouring heavily, and the vision was so low that I could not see the blue of the mountains but I am glad we visited this cafe…

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While wandering in the foreign land if you crave for Indian food, Haveli and Chatkas are the hot spots..

This post sums up my trip to Australia.. I had a time of my life and it was a perfect mix of solo tripping and vacationing with family (you know what I mean, if you have read/seen all my posts on Australia)…

Some random clicks while strolling in the streets of Sydney-

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Parramatta river

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Tallest Structure in Sydney, Behind the Tree

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Church in Parramatta

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Coogee Beach

And once again,

Travel because it is fun

Travel to chase the sun

Travel for an adventure

Travel solo or with him/her

Travel to unleash your spirits

Travel with family or friends

Travel for calm & serenity

Travel and break that rigidity

Travel to a hamlet or big cities

Travel so as to reveal those stories…..


For The Love Of Travel, Food and Wine…

Travel because it is fun

Travel to chase the sun

Travel for an adventure

Travel solo or with him/her

Travel to unleash your spirits

Travel with family or friends

Travel for calm & serenity

Travel and break that rigidity

Travel to a hamlet or big cities

Travel so as to reveal those stories…..

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I am sure, by now, all of you would be aware about my love for travel. Trust me, travel does make you more enlightened….

Now, let me get back to my recent trip to Australia.. As mentioned earlier, Sydney was my major hood, and in this post I will talk about places to visit in and around Sydney, the food to relish and the experience of wine tasting..

Sydney is well known for the Sydney Harbour, Opera House, and Bondi (and the street art at Bondi).. So, I will not dwell much about these renowned places (will share the pictures of course), and rather talk more about the Kiama blowhole and Hunter Valley..

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(Do you people know a bit about Australia’s history? In the 17th century, British government began to send British convicts to the isolated land of Australia. Government considered this land, discovered by James Cook in 1770, ideal for a penal colony and the first fleet of ship arrived at, what we know as “Sydney”. Yup, that is the brief history of roots of Australians.)

A two hour drive from Sydney will take you to Kiama to encounter a natural phenomenon, called “Blowhole”. Now what is a blowhole? A blowhole forms when the sea caves get weak by the waves of the ocean. The rocks of sea caves erode, and huge pressure of water builds up that forces water out of the rock cliff vertically, see pictures to understand better. It was a beautiful sight, not just the blowhole but the entire sight around the blowhole is splendid.

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On your way to Kiama, you can also visit a picturesque monastery uphill. We took a sudden detour for the monastery as the top of the structure from the road below looked magnificent and appealing. What adds to the beauty of monastery are the cute little statues of laughing Buddha all over the grounds..

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Are you a wine lover? If yes, you must take a drive to Hunter Valley wine region from Sydney. It takes around 3 hours to cover the distance. It was winters in Sydney, so there were no flourishing vineyards, the best time to encounter the fullness of the greens will be in spring/summer. Nevertheless, the wine companies are into full business and offer wine tasting sessions. Big wine companies offer free wine tasting, small ones may charge like $5 or so. Go on board to taste wines, hear/read how the wines are made, in the right season walk through the vineyards and bring back home the wine(s) you love. The drive near the Hunter Valley region is beatific, and you will get ample spots to click your picture perfect. I spotted some Kangaroos too, yay, so my trip to the valley was an invaluable one.

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Sydney is scenic, it is crowded in the main city, it is serene in the countryside,  it is the food hub and Sydney is pretty cold in winters.. But more about the food and the countryside next week…

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To be continued….

 


Solo Tripping To Perth, Australia

There is an unknown connection between Australia and me. I am talking about the times when my brother had not yet moved to the Aussie land.. When I was a kid, maybe 7-8 years old, I used to pester my Mumma, “I want to go to Australia…” My mother used to tell everyone, that maybe her child was an Aussie in her last birth. We are not sure whether I read about it somewhere or perhaps someone talked me into it. It is a mystery unsolved. And voila, 10 years later my brother moves to the country of my dreams. And the alliance is fabricated forever..

I have been to Australia before, when my brother used to stay in Melbourne. He moved to Sydney 3 years ago, and my visit to him and my sister-in-law was long due. I got onto the phone with him, planned my trip, with Sydney as my base station while deciding to wander off to a couple of cities on my own. Air Asia offers decent fares from Delhi to Perth, and my Bhai convinced me to extend my stay in Perth and then land in Sydney. I am glad and more that I accepted his suggestion. Perth is calm, has beautiful waterfronts and at the same time is one of the most expensive cities of Australia.

I stayed at Parmelia Hilton as Expedia had a super saver deal for this five-star hotel. I paid INR 8K for a night while prices for all other decent non-five star hotels ranged INR 5.5-6K. Therefore, I guess paying 2.5K more for a five star was not a bad deal. The hotel lies in CBD (Central Business District), which is quite close to the Swan riverside and the King’s Park. After hardly a 5-minute walk, I was walking along the river. Now, Perth shuts down at 6 pm, so I made a mistake the first day, leaving my hotel premises after 5:30 pm. The streets, all deserted by 6 pm along with the chilly winds forced me to head back for an early dinner. I did manage a couple of pictures of the Business District and Bell Tower before calling it night for the day.

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I ate Chicken Parmigiana, commonly known as Chicken Parma for dinner, and I was so proud of my choice. The food turned out to be delicious, and later I got to know that it is a special Australian dish, though it does not originate from here. In my brother’s words later that night, “Like brother like sister, it is my favourite dish, and I am so glad you ordered it”

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I had an entire next day to explore the city, and here is a list of things one cannot afford to miss while traversing through Perth:

  • Walk across the Poised Swan River with CBD in the Backdrop– You need to get that camera out and click the skyscrapers of the buildings with the grounded river across the road.

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  • Bells Chiming in the Bell Tower– The melodious ringing of the bells will certainly grab your attention while you are strolling across the river

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  • Cross the Bridge over Swan– To get the best views of both sides of the city, you must go to the center of bridge and let you camera do the talking. Also, the winds will not let you be on the top of the bridge for long, so be quick with those clicks.

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  • Seagulls– Whether you are in city or along the shore, you will notice these birds everywhere

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  • Fremantle Prison Tour– I would highly recommend this tour. The prison used to be a home to the convicts, but closed due to not so humane conditions. I took a Great Escape Tour, wherein the guide takes you around the prison and details about the popular escape attempts of the prisoners. The stories are funny, insane and shocking. Well, what do you expect out of convicts if you place them in a tailor shop in the jail? To sew those black official uniforms, wear them on and run away… The tour brought back memories of the Prison Break and Orange Is The New Black..

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  • Boat Park and Ship Junction– It was quite a sight to watch boats and cars parked side by side. When you are in Fremantle, ship junction is another sight you just cannot miss..

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  • Street Art– Whichever street you step your foot in, these art forms will definitely be appealing to your eyes

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  • Angelic sunset– Just sit by the park across the beach in Freemantle and let the sun spread it’s colour across the prism, clouds in this case…

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  • Conversation with the Locale– Make sure when you are in a cafe/bus/ taxi, you strike conversation with the locals of the area. You get to share experiences and be culturally involved..

Let me quote parts of my conversation with Catherine:

Me: “Catherine, are you from Perth?

Catherine: “Yeah, always lived here, I now stay with my 7-year-old son. Where in India are you from?”

“Delhi”

“Oh Mumbai right”

“No, Delhi, like New Delhi, capital of India”

“Oh yeah, Mumbai is Bombay”

“Right, have you been to India?”

“Naah, too afraid, friends of mine who have been to India, always get a stomach bug, too scared to visit India”

“Oh no, just do not eat the street food, you anyways have the currency advantage, so buy everything from fruits to snacks from proper stores”

“Where in India should I go?”

“You could go to south of India, maybe Kerala or to Kashmir; it basically depends on what you like”

“Oh I like historically rich places”

“Oh then you should go to Rajasthan”

I convinced Catherine to visit Rajasthan based on my recent trip to Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. I hope she does… In return, she suggested me a few eateries in Perth.

Now, that was my short but a self enriching trip to Perth. My next destination is Sydney; I will update you next week of my whereabouts in Sydney…. For at least a month now, my blog would be about my travel to Australia.. Catch up with you all next week….


Kuldhara Village: Haunted Or Not?

Ghost, does the word and stories around it cause twitch in your body? Do you fear ghosts or are you the unflinching one? When I was a kid, I was always frightened of paranormal stories. I was never a fan of Zee horror show or Aahat. Sometimes, when I watched an episode because of my brother’s interest, I would then sleep in my parents’ room. I considered them as my heroes who would act as shields against any kind of ghosts. I remember my father used to tease me, “What if it comes through the widow of our room?” I used to say innocently, “You would deal with it first and make it run away.” I never openly admitted to my friends that I am not fond of ghost stories. You see, they would talk about it even more, and try to have fun at my expense. That is what friends are for, right?

Am I still scared of such stories? Yes and No. Well, I do not anymore sleep with my parents if I have had discussions on ghosts or watched any such movie. I now have the courage to watch spine-chilling movies (No, I do not mean the best of horror flicks, no way!) or listen to “Ek Kahani Aisi Bhi” on radio. Well, the latter is most of the times not that scary. It is a part of growing up, I guess. However, I do continuously chant Hanuman Chalisa on such nights before I fall asleep…..

I recently went on a trip to Jaisalmer. While I was booking my safari to the desert, the itinerary mentioned a visit to the abandoned village of Kuldhara, which has paranormal activities linked with it. The word paranormal caught my eye and a simple Google search revealed the history of the cursed village. As per legends, the King of the state had intentions to marry the daughter of the Chief of the village forcefully. He threatened the villagers of dire consequences if they do not agree to the marriage. The villagers did not wish to surrender to the King, and therefore one night abandoned the village and vanished. The belief says that before leaving, they put a curse on the village, that no one would be able to inhabit it ever. Post the incident, anyone trying to stay in the village has hurtled out experiencing strange phenomena.

I would have considered all this hearsay had I not come across an article mentioning that the Delhi Paranormal Society acknowledges the presence of supernatural powers in the village. Umm, this made me nervous about my trip to the village. They say that no one can survive the night. However, this team did see the light of the day. (Ever wondered, why all such stories are related to darkness and night!?) Moreover, I would have my shields, my heroes with me in the trip, and we would go in the daytime, so it was a mixed feeling of nervousness and excitement.

Kuldhara is about 15 kms away from Jaisalmer and falls on the way to the desert dunes. We shared our jeep ride with a couple from Australia and to stimulate the excitement, I narrated the story of the village we were about to visit. The woman was too thrilled to hear the history and was all set to hit the haunted village. As we entered the premises, only after paying the entry fee (for the jeep as well), what we saw was a dilapidated village. The place will definitely give you an eerie feeling, it was all deserted and in complete ruins. Paranormal or not, anyone would be psychologically frightened to spend a night in such a place.

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As we went deep into the village, our driver cum guide told us something that stole my thunder away! Yeah, he said all these stories about supernatural powers are nonsense. The villagers abandoned the place due to scarcity of water. As the river nearby dried up, it affected the trade and cultivation and villagers decided to settle somewhere else. I was like, but I read it, they conducted experiments with scientific techniques and all, to which he replied, “Your wish, what do you want to believe, false stories or reality.” We got out of the car (a bit dejected) to explore the place. As you wander in the village, you would definitely wonder about the sudden end of inhabitancy. The shattered houses and the missing idols from the temple would increase your curiosity even more.

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It is said that the temple stands at its place intact

 Idols missing in the temple but notice the engravings on the wall

There were a few locales of the state sitting around and observing the tourists. My inquisitive mind led to the following conversation with one of them-

“Bhaiya yaha bhooth aate hai?” (Do ghosts exist here?)

“Hamare poorvarj rehte thei yaha, aajatak toh nahi suna ya dekha.” (My ancestors lived here; never heard or seen such a thing).

“Toh sab jhooth bolte hai” (Do people lie then?)

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I did not attempt to go down further for obvious reasons

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After I finished the tour of the village, he asked me-

“Dikhe aapko bhooth, aapko lagta hai yaha kuch aisa hoga” (Did you see the ghosts, do you think such incidents occur here?)

I smiled to this and his next words had a powerful meaning

“Asli bhooth toh insaan hi hota hai” (Real ghosts are humans themselves)

What he told me thereafter was another story about the sudden disappearance of the villagers. After the discovery of a lot of gold in the area, the governing body forced the villagers to leave the place. The governors wanted all the treasure for themselves and thus the place now stands in ruins. Are you as a reader, disappointed with the not so haunted outcome of my journey? Think of me, who visited the place with all the anxiousness. Me, who unnecessarily built up all the excitement for the Australians too. It is up to you to believe or not in supernaturalism; it is up to you to believe in any of the above legends about the village. We continued with our journey and the picturesque sunset in the heart of the desert made us forget about all the spookiness.

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Brugge: Canals And Beyond….

Brugge (Bruges), the little city in Belgium that touched my heart. It offers warmth and comfort in abundance. I spent only a few hours in the city but as a souvenir, got memories for a lifetime. I would some other time talk about the different cities I visited in Europe. Today, let me present to you the place that left an everlasting impact on me…

We (my brother, his wife and I) reached Brugge from Brussels via train. It is about an hour and a fifteen minutes ride from Brussels. The air of Brugge is unalike; we experienced pleasantness with the very first step into the city.  The best way to explore the city is to walk, cycle or take boat rides in the canals. Having already cycled (well I could not cycle is another story, funny for others and sad/embarrassing for me) and cruised canals in Amsterdam, we decided to tour Brugge on foot.

The towering church, Church of Our Lady, became visible on the other side of the road, a little further down the station. We followed the path that leads to the church. My brother and sister-in-law are good with maps. Well, they had to be, they spent more than a month in Europe. Thanks to their tour, I could spend a few days in Europe too. (I do not like to read maps, I would prefer someone else do it for me.) Let me talk more about the church, at a height of about 122 meters, it is the tallest building in Brugge and considered one of the tallest brick tower in the world. It dates back to the 13th century and it took at least 200 years for its construction to complete.

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From the church, we decided to move on to the Centre of Brugge, which houses another ancient building, Belfry of Bruges (clock tower). The Markt (Market Square) also lies in the heart of the city and serves variety of European food with Italian as a specialty. The pizza we ordered was delicious but the pasta was a little bland for my Indian taste buds. The city centre also gives you an opportunity to talk to the fellow travellers and share your experiences.

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Some say, Brugge is the Venice of North Western Europe. As one walks along the city, the alluring canals wind their way to greet you. I could not get my eyes off the beautiful sights in my vicinity. Probably, these canals had the power to hypnotize me and make me fall in love with the city. I did not take many pictures of the canals, I was too overwhelmed with the entire feel and wanted to absorb the peace completely.

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Towards the south of the city is another hidden wonder of Brugge, Minnewater Lake. While we were eating our meal at the Central, a friendly old man from England suggested that, we must visit the lake. We followed his advice. It is full of greens to the extent that the water appears of the same colour too. It is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the landscape. The lake also known as the “Lake of Love” is considered one of the romantic getaways in the city.

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I can spend hours and hours at the lakeside with coffee and a novel on my side. The sky changed its colour too often from the brightness of blues to the dullness until it rained. We did not have much time in our hand, we had to return to Brussels and then catch an early morning fight to Barcelona. It was time to bid adieu to the magical land. Also, as you stroll through the city, do not miss to observe the quaint houses and shops.

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Do I want to be a new citizen of Brugge???

Oh yes, oh yes, definitely yes:

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Let me summarize it for you:

Canals gliding through the lanes

Mesmerizing the visitors on promenades

Architecture, medieval yet appealing

Part of UNESCO’s World Heritage listing

Minnewater lake, the true love’s portrayal

Couples cross the bridge, making it eternal

A city with perfect blend of art and nature

        Congeniality suffices Brugge’s character….

(Pictures captured by me and my sister-in-law)

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Almora: Wild and Serene

Trip, trip, trip, my soul sister had been chiming continuously since the beginning of year. Well, I very well knew the hidden meaning – Goa, Goa, Goa…. I have pestered my other friends for a year now, taken desperate planning initiatives, but could not land in Goa. Work, Marriage, Budget Constraints, are a few reasons out of the many, that Goa seems a far fetched idea for us. The timing is just never right. Well, we will make it happen together is the pact.

I have itchy feet, and the holiday list from office showed a long weekend in March that coincided with my birthday. I could not let it pass like a casual weekend. I knew the chiming friend would be game while other friends will find some excuses. The travel bug has not bitten them yet. I had to abide by my pact, so Goa was out of the list.

Party was not on our mind, relaxation was. Escaping the city life was the criteria.

“Where do you want to go?”

“I want a combination of greenery, hills, river, I want to walk in a forest and maybe bird watching”

“When did you become so demanding?”

“Well, it is my birthday”

(A jaunt to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary has been in our minds, so bird watching unfolded from our previous discussion)

Thus, began the research to find such a place. Almora/Binsar met the above criteria and appealed to us. Our priority was simple, book a luxurious property to stay but to cut down on travel expenses. Pack as little as possible to make it easy for the bus rides uphill. We booked our train tickets and hotel a month in advance. And then eagerly waited for the getaway…

A month later:

Shatabdi made us reach Kathgodam by 11:40 in the morning. Discussion on our way:

“Let us take the cab, it will be more convenient”

“We decided we will backpack and try to save money on the commute”

“Yeah, but state transport, are you sure?”

“Yes, I have never done it, and it will be fun and a new experience”

I already knew this discussion will pop up, my friend has never been a believer of economical trips. Not to take away the fact, she has travelled more in buses for her journeys to her hometown.

Bus it was, and it was not bad, just bumpy, speedy and overcrowded. Maybe when I say that 2 days later we booked a cab for our downhill journey, you will understand me better.

Let me present to you Almora and Binsar:

 

Breeze so Fresh and fullness of green

Breathing in the environment unusually serene

The overbridge casts an alluring spell

Pristine views adding to the charm of hotel

 

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                           View of Almora from our resort, Imperial Heights

 

View from the balcony

               View from the balcony

 

Tiny bridge over a tiny pond in our resort

                 Tiny bridge over a tiny pond in our resort

 

Stroll in Binsar with wilderness around

Chirpiness and tweet, a never-ending sound

Trust your ears and get clicks on your side

You’ll need luck to sight animals in the wild

 

In Binsar Sanctuary

             In Binsar Sanctuary

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Spot the Bird

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There lies a jungle resort near the zero point

Fairyland that turns scary in the night?

Losing track in quest to reach the crest

Chilly winds too dampen the interest

 

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As we descend towards Almora

Highlight is the colourful flora

The valley leaves us spellbind

A definite rejuvenation of mind

 

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Scribe your wish on a paper, tie it with a bell

Then be a strong believer, your prayers will fulfil

 

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                       Golu Devta Temple

 

As the sun makes mountain its blanket

The sky gradually blushes in scarlet

The peaceful days culminate, the calm remains

With the glimpse of stream, we approach the plains

 

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Kosi River, lower in the hills

                   Kosi River, lower in the hills

 

Believe me, it was a perfect getaway from city’s hush hush life. Life in these 3 days seemed unperturbed. When the hills are calling, be assured Almora will not disappoint you as a destination.



Hotel and Food Details

The room rent was INR 3900 a day for a valley facing package (without breakfast). The best price was available through cleartrip app.  The views and the entire look of the resort justify the price. It could improve upon its services a bit, like providing barbecue facility even if the occupancy rate is not 100%. The food served in the hotel is more than satisfactory. One could also visit  Kasar Rainbow restaurant for more economical yet delicious meals. You can read books or play chess while savouring the food here.


Costs of Travel

As I mentioned in the beginning, we hired a cab for our return to Kathgodam.  If you book your own taxi, it will cost you INR 1000-1200 bucks (one way).  Be careful, and do not pay for a two-way ride as these taxi drivers make a constant up and down journey with passengers. Do not be misled into paying INR 2500 for your one-way ride. There is also an option of sharing your ride with other travelers. It will cost you around INR 250 per person. The bus rides costs INR 125 per person to Almora. To reach Binsar, you can again share your rides or book your own taxi.  Expenses on train ticket will be INR 700 for one way.

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