Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bridge over River Kwai, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

There are places that have historic stories in their wraps and its takes a filmmaker to unravel them and present it to the world. I saw this phenomenon in Schindler’s museum in Poland and now in Kanchanaburi province of Thailand. Film Bridge over River Kwai brought the world focus on to this small bridge – a part of a historic rail link built during World War II. Though the film was shot in Sri Lanka, the place got its due with the blockbuster film.

A dark metal bridge, about 70 years old with two rectangular panels between the arched one standing on the quite River Kwai may not attract any special attention but for the fact that the tourism in this region is so linked with the Railway line that this bridge is an integral part of. The prisoners of war mainly belonging to allied forces built this rail link that was built to link to Burma to ultimately reach India. The pathetic conditions that they worked under and the speed at which the rail link was built is well documented in the hellfire pass museum that I would write about in a bit.

You can walk on this bridge. Small metallic platforms jetting out of the bridge let you look at the river from a vantage point. The riverside restaurants make a beautiful site on one side of the river while a giant statue of Buddha looks over from the other bank. Bang in the middle of the bridge on a platform a young man was playing flute, adding music to the ambience. Narrow colorful boats provided color to the monotony of the river and made an excellent shot from the top. I visited the bridge twice – first time at dusk and then at dawn and it was charming both the times. In the morning as I was walking towards it, I saw a train passing over it and that made me feel as if the visit to the bridge is complete. I also felt it is not just a monument but also a living heritage – something that I have started championing lately.

Some literature on the Internet tells me that the original bridge that stood next to a wooden bridge was destroyed in the world war bombing. The one that exists now is the restored version of the original and the remains of the original bridge are kept in the war museum. Hmm…so did I walk on the original bridge or an imitation of it?

A well-maintained cemetery in the town pays homage to about 7000 Prisoners of War who lost lives during WW II. These are not the real graves for they are too close to each and too small for human adults but more like memorials arranged by nationality. To right of entrance are British and to the left Dutch and Australians. Many visitors come looking for the graves of their ancestors. It looks beautiful and evokes an emotion of homage. I liked the local cemetery right next to this one that had memorial stones in pistachio green and some messages written in Thai.

There are many resorts and hotels on the river Kwai. I stayed at the Felix River Kwai Resort in room that overlooked the river through the leaves of coconut tree.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Go Goa XIX: Walking with Birds in Maina, Curtorim

One fine morning while Goa was still waiting for the rains we walked through the narrow streets of quaint Maina village close to better know Raia and Curtorim. It is a typical Goan village with narrow roads passing through the paddy fields. While the fields look like a green carpet on earth, the blue sky provides the contrast and the clouds here and there move around to provide the eternal change. Hills Stand on the horizon as if guarding the fields. Coconut trees loom on here and there. Water forms natural ponds and attracts many birds.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thailand’s New Latitude Wines

East is exotic for various reasons, but wine is not a part of those reasons. So when we were told we are driving out of Hua Hin to do some wine tasting, my curiosity went up by a few notches. The road leading to Hua Hin Hills Vineyard was deserted and passed through many fields, hillocks that eventually gave way to rolling hills forming layers of peaks and valleys.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Go Goa XVIII: Budbudi Tal aka The Bubble Lake, Netravali, Goa

Clap and the lake bubbles, is the famous legend associated with this tiny lake that actually looks like a small temple pond with a structure standing in the middle of it.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Tiger Temple, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

I have never been this up close and personal with tigers, getting within a few centimeters of them. Some of my fellow travelers even patted them and played with them, I did not have the courage, but after a while I was comfortably moving around with many tigers tied to various trees in an open dusty ground. Standing there I realized the difference between reading and hearing about some experiences and actually being a part of them. I was scared and excited at the same time. Some instinct gave me the courage to stand there with ease and click pictures and videos, may be it was the chains around the necks of these big cats or was it the volunteers in shining pink color or the monk who was treating them like children and playing with them. I did go a bit white every time they opened their mouth and showed those long sharp teeth sometimes to yawn and sometimes to make a bit of noise. At the same time, when I saw their movements being restricted by the chains around their neck, it felt sad. I felt an empathy for them with an impulse to open their chains.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Thailand - Almost First Impressions

I was in Thailand exactly after 15 years. While standing in the Visa on Arrival queue I was flipping through pages of my passport and realized in 1999 I had traveled to Thailand exactly on the same dates 21-27th July – weird co-incidence. That was when I still working in the corporate world for a flamboyant American company that took us around the city and on cruises over a weekend. This time I was on a trip on the Invitation of Tourism Authority of Thailand. Kanchanaburi, Tiger Temple, Bridge of River Kwai, Hua Hin and some classic Bangkok were on the itinerary this time. So here are some near first impressions from the trip:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Go Goa XVII: Pre-historic Rock Art, Pansoimol, Goa

I came to know about these rock art carvings at the Goa State Museum and had put it on my to be visited list, but it was an article in the newspaper with pictures of this rock art that made me get up and drive down to this rock by the river Sharawati and admire them first hand. It is a long drive from Panaji  - good 70+ kms in the southeast direction. We were thankfully staying at Arco Iris and the drive was about 30 kms from there, but since we were searching for this it took us almost an hour to reach the place. Till the village of Rivona and Colomb, we could follow a straight road when a small hand painted board on the right directed us to take a right turn. After this we were on a road that was not kuchha but it was not pucca either. After following some fallen ASI boards we reached a dead end and all we could see was a small rivulet and a thatched hut there. We got down and a man in tomato red T-shirt stepped out wearing a welcome smile almost like the one you expect from a cast away when he gets to see a human being after a long time. He was the ASI guard for the site and we crossed his office cum hut to reach the huge rock, where his own cloths were spread out to dry.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review – Arco Iris, Curtorim, Goa

Curtorim is a small village off the main city of Margao in South Goa, almost touching the backwaters of Zuari River. Unlike villages of North Goa, South Goa villages still remain with the native population more or less. So, you see big houses from bygone era in different states of conservation. Some have been well maintained, some constructed afresh and some make you feel you have walked into the 19th CE. As we were driving towards Curtorim, I wondered how it would be have a house restored to experience the erstwhile living and Arco Iris turned out to be the perfect reply – a majestic house in lime yellow color with wide pillared corridor running all around it and a patio to sit and admire the sheer nature in front of it. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Padmanabhapuram Palace, Fort & Town

This huge wooden palace – in fact the biggest wooden structure in Asia is an erstwhile palace of the kings of Travancore who ruled from here between 1552 -1790 CE that includes the rule of its famous king Martand Varma of the dynasty. Today it technically falls in the state of Tamil Nadu and can be seen on the way if you are visiting Kanyakumari from Trivandrum. It is still managed by the Kerala circle of ASI as historically and heritage wise it belongs to Tranvancore state that is now a part of Kerala.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Go Goa XVI: Reis Magos Fort

If I could swim and cross the Mandovi river, just off my home in Goa, Reis Magos lies on the other bank of it, but it took me good 6 months to drive to this quite fort on the edge of North Goa overlooking Panjim and the commerce on Mandovi. 

A bow tie shaped fort has had quite a journey since it was first erected towards the end of 15th CE. Standing on a steep hillock it overlooks the vast expanse of Arabian Sea. A perfect location to keep an eye on the incoming vessels and that was the purpose that this hill was fortifies. Today though it provides a beautiful vantage point to get a top view of the sea that lets you feel its vastness while the roaring sound of waves hitting the walls below remind you the power it holds within itself. From the tiny bastions that are now aesthetically protected by thick glass sheets you can feel the sea like nature’s light and sound show. Height is such that even the birds fly below your eye level – a treat for bird watchers I guess.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Go Goa XV: Celebrating Monsoons with Sao Jao

Come third week of June and the Goans are ready to jump in the well – literally. No, they are doing it for any wrong reasons, but to fish out the gifts hidden there on the occasion of Sao Jao – the festival that celebrates the feast of St John the Baptist. The wells are full of water around this time of the year and people enjoy jumping in the wells, in rivers or just dancing in the pouring rains. It could well be the rain festival of Goa. It happens in almost all villages in Goa around their wells, rivers, canals or ponds. In the more urban areas, swimming pools or artificially created ponds suffice for the purpose. Village of Siolim is famous for its Sao Jao celebrations as it hosts a boat festival as well, and this is where I went to see the festival.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Go Goa XIV: Goa Chakra - A tribute to the Wheel

Intricately Carved Wooden Wheel
Goa Chakra is a part Goa Chitra Museum with a huge hall dedicated to carriages from various eras and from various states of India. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram

This temple dominated the public memory across the country for the astonishing amount of gold that was found in its age-old vaults. The images created of the vaults jostled in my mind as I walked to this temple from the main road along with the story of the kings of Travancore who consider themselves the servant of the Lord Padmanabhaswamy here. The dark wood palace stands right next to the temple.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Is it worth that Picture?

I took the above picture at Isle of Wight in Scotland way back in 2003. I had just bought my first digital camera and this was my first trip after I got that toy in my hand. I was looking at the cliffs and such clear blue waters for the first time in my life. I was excited to say the least. To take this picture I lied down on my stomach on a slanting rock. One small slip and I would have been history. The reason that lived to tell the tale can only be attributed to my good luck and some divine forces of nature that did not give me that slight push.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Go Goa XIII - Caranzalem beach, Just past Sunset

River Mandovi flows through the capital city of Goa -Panjim or Panaji and merges into the Arabian sea near Miramar beach. The U shaped land here extends from Aquada Fort area on northern tip to the Raj Bhavan, Dona Paula beach at the southern tip and is perfect place to witness the placid Mandovi joining the calm Arabian seas at the base. A few yards south from Miramar beach is Caranzalem beach area visited largely by the locals living in the area, like myself. Snippets of this peaceful beach for you:

Just past the sunset, all the sea birds have already left for nests, skies are clear and the beach is serene. Few ships form the background of the seas and the tip of landmass on either side just visible.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

5 reasons to chose ITC’s Raviz Ayurvedic Resort & Spa at Kollam

On our trip to Kerala we stayed at ITC’s Raviz Ayurvedic Resort & Spa at Kollam – a beautiful property located on the southern edge of Ashtmudi Lake – a lake that is still virgin in the overtly touristy Kerala. Now as an ITC property you expect impeccable service and sustainable luxury and you get it. You get all that you expect in a resort that is like a destination in itself like various sporting facilities and evening performances. The location in the middle of backwaters is like an icing on the cake. Being in Kerala, it also presents the local flavor in every possible way like a boat filled with spices in the lobby, the temple wall murals in the rooms, Kathakali dolls at the entrance. So let me tell you what stands out over and above these expectations:

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Ponmudi – Southern end of Western Ghats

Ponmudi or literally the golden hill is a hill station at the fag end of Western Ghats, not too far from the city of Thiruvananthpuram. Honestly when I read about it, I expected it to just another hill station near a big city. I could not have been more wrong. It turned out to be nature’s extravaganza – with rolling hills, roaming clouds and narrow winding roads.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Tamil Nadu Tales XII: Kanyakumari – The land’s end

In Kanyakumari, no matter what your focus may be, you cannot miss the giant statue of Thiruvallur – the ancient poet and philosopher of Tamil Nadu, who is said to have lived in Kanyakumari. This statue was installed at the dawn of 21st century on Jan 1st 2000 that makes it a modern Indian marvel. Literature on this statue says that it stands on 38 feet platform to mark the 38 chapters of virtue in his work Thirukurral. The stone statue is 133 feet high with face alone some 20 feet high. It seems it has been handcrafted under the supervision of stapathi and on the principles of vaastu shastra. Pity is that there is no in situ documentation or guide service that explains this when you are there. Should his literature not be available at the same place? The ferry does not stop at this island and you just pass by it, but you can see it from the Vivekananda Rock Memorial quite clearly.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tamil Nadu Tales XI: Vivekananda Rock Memorial, KanyaKumari

Going to Kanyakumari was a long-standing dream, probably since the time I first heard the term Kashmir to Kanyakumari for India. I lived in Kashmir as a child and Kanyakumari was always very far off for a long time. It was that thrill of visiting the tip of India, to be able to see the sunrise and sunset at the same time, to be able to see sun going down and moon coming up on a full moon night.  It was only when I started living in Bangalore it seemed feasible but for some reason it always remained elusive. I planned a trip many times, but it remained jinxed for many years. This month when we planned a South Kerala trip with a clear intent to do Kanyakumari, it still tried to play hard. A hurricane in the Indian Ocean brought in incessant rains in Trivandrum, where we based ourselves and everyone said we would not be able to visit the Vivekananda Rock Memorial there. I was inclined to believe that jinx was still on and coming so far has not helped, but against popular advise decided to go and see whatever is possible and hope that rain gods will take a break and allow us to visit the famous rock.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ayurveda for Travelers

You cannot go to Kerala and not experience its Ayurveda and it’s a privilege when you can do so surrounded by backwaters. Imagine sitting in the spacious spa room with water and greenery soothing your mind too. When I reached Kollam I was drenched for 3 days in the unexpected rains of Trivandrum and had cold and fever. This is something that we travelers face quite often, At Kollam, we stayed at ITC’s WelcomeHotel Raviz Resort & Ayurveda Spa – a beautiful resort in the Southern edge of vast Ashtmudi Lake and I took this opportunity to ask their doctor how can Ayurveda help us. Here are the tips from Dr Vishnuraj Prakash on How Ayurveda can help travelers:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

South Kerala – First Impressions

Just back after spending a week in South Kerala – Trivandrum, Kollam and a bit of Cochin and here are the first impressions for you.

  1. Kerala is a Jal-Pradhan or water dominant region, you can never be too far from a water body and this is the same water that brings tourists from all over to the state. I do not know if they have yet created a deity to worship the same.
  2. Waterways are marked like highways on the map and used for transportation. There are ferries running between cities – though they take much longer than the road travel, but they are still being used by the local people to travel. During the day waterways belong to tourism and transportation industry and at night to fishermen.
  3. Rail and road network is excellent and you can reach most areas through public transport if you want.
  4. Always carry an umbrella with you in Kerala – you would need it for either sun or rain. My most imposing visual of Trivandrum remains a street full of primarily black umbrellas in pouring rain.
  5. Always carry a white lungi with you if you want to visit temples of the state – if you are a woman not in Sari. For men you must remove your shirt – have bare upper body and wear the same lungi. This can be annoying but you really do not have a choice if you want to see those magnificent temples that are much better preserved than elsewhere.
  6. Autos in Kerala are better than rest of the country, they charge reasonably and do not try to fleece you just because you are a visitor. Since they quote reasonable, you waste no time and energy in negotiations.
  7. Sheer amount of dark wood in old structures here makes you think about the amount of wood they would have had and the sheer longevity of the wood – some of them have been standing strong for many centuries. However I found the dark interiors a bit depressing.
  8. Black or darkest shades of blue and green are the favorite color of women – all around on the roads I could see women either in their traditional white Saris with a small golden or colored border or they were in black – as if other colors were not on the horizon.
  9. Kerala Railway stations still have old wooden Higgin Bothams book shops that if I am not wrong are extinct elsewhere – at least in their wooden avatar.
  10. Appam & Stew that is sold all around India as Kerala dish is hard to find in general eateries. They all have it in their menu but most would not serve it. I could get it only on the last day and that too on request.
  11. Water is always served hot here that I found strange given that it is such a hot and humid place. In some places it was pink colored and I can only guess that it comes from Kokam like fruit.
  12. Finally, I think God has a certain shade of green reserved for Kerala – you see it only here.
Will write about the destination and experiences soon enough.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Germany Gem IX: Sculpting Wine

On a warm afternoon we walked into an idyllic surrounding of a quaint vineyard in Dresden- Pillnitz run by Klaus Zimmerling and his polish artist wife Malgorzata Chodakowska. Vineyards and wine tasting tours are quite common in this part of the world with most big vineyards having a tour brochure that for a fee takes you around the vineyard, let to have a look at the grape vines, show you the unique process of wine production and let you taste the wine that they eventually hope you will purchase. It is an experience that one can definitely explore at least once in a lifetime, even if you do not drink. There is a certain romance associated with vineyards and wines in this region that is so much an essential part of the culture here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Go Goa XII: Butterfly Conservatory, Ponda

Who is not enchanted by the colorful butterflies flying around them. Have we all not tried to catch them as kids? Have we not wondered at these fragile being that carry so many colors. Butterfly Conservatory of Goa is one family's effort to create a haven for butterflies...

Friday, May 02, 2014

Diving in Malvan

I had visited Malvan and Sindhudurg last year with Deccan Odyssey, when I enjoyed the fort in the sea and the quite Tarkarli beach with a lavish Malvani lunch. What I missed on was in that trip was the adventure activities – Scuba Diving and Snorkeling. Soon after I did get to Snorkel in South China sea in Malaysia, so Scuba Diving still remained on my to-do list. After we shifted to Goa, I had Malvan and Scuba Diving in my mind. This Tuesday we did an impromptu driving trip to Malvan primarily for Diving.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Go Goa XI: Bigfoot Cross Museum

A Goan family goes on a Europe visit and comes back with some 250 different types of crosses collected from 8 different countries. This, 8 years back, was the beginning of their cross collection which then got generous additions from Goan Christian community. As they started exhibiting their collections, more and more people started sending them crosses from their personal collection. Mahendra Alvares the head of the family and founder of the Bigfoot Cross museum today has upwards of 1500 crosses with more being added on a regular basis. I was told that this is one of its kind collections in the world.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Mouse Charmers - Digital Pioneers of India

Pick up your copy from Flipkart or e-book from Amazon

‘The Internet has transformed business and society. Today to very many of us, life without the web is unimaginable. In business a new breed of entrepreneurs have sprung up whose whole life is the web, creating new business models, reaching new markets and becoming the new normal. These stories are inspiring examples of such successes!’
T.V. Mohandas Pai Chairman, Aarin Capital Partners
The Mouse Charmers
Digital Pioneers of India
Anuradha Goyal
Published by Random House India, Rs 299 trade paperback

‘Are Indian companies and start-ups missing something important by ignoring local language viewers and users of digital content? Are women entrepreneurs too shy of boasting about their achievements? What kind of eco-system will make the life of start-ups in digital age smoother and more meaningful are some of the questions this books addresses, rather well. Those who wish to enter and shake up the inertia in digital markets may find this book useful. But those who wish to support them may find it even more useful.’
Prof Anil K. Gupta Professor at IIM Ahmedabad and founder of Honey Bee Network

‘Anuradha Goyal’s The Mouse Charmers is a fascinating account of India’s trailblazing digital entrepreneurs... Well researched and with deep insights into how these businesses work, The Mouse Charmers will inspire others to both study Indian entrepreneurs like Goyal has done or take up the challenge of entrepreneurship like those she writes about have done. Either way this is an important, timely and inspiring book that showcases the opportunities that India offers and the challenges that have to be overcome along the way.’
Jaideep Prabhu Professor at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge and co-author of the bestselling Jugaad Innovation

The advent of Internet has been a significant game-changer for our generation.  Mouse Charmers are a new breed of entrepreneurs in emerging India powered by the Internet and the opportunities that it offers to create new markets and to cater to old markets in new ways. Some of them have already achieved success where they can be called iconic and inspiring while others have powerful ideas that put them on the same path.

Flipkart * MakeMyTrip * Big Basket * CaratLane * Zomato * Games2Win
ImagesBazaar * Chai with Lakshmi * * RangDe * CommonFloor * IndiBlogger

Anuradha Goyal tells the stories of twelve of these digital entrepreneurs in three key areas: commerce, content and connectors.  She examines how they started out, the innovations and technologies involved, their business models, and unique marketing strategies.

Inspiring and insightful, The Mouse Charmers is an essential guide for aspiring digital entrepreneurs.

Pick up your copy from Flipkart or e-book from Amazon

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dandeli: Home of Malabar Pied Hornbill

Spotting the Malabar Pied Hornbill is not difficult if you are in the vicinity of Kali River that flows through the western ghats in Dandeli in Karnataka, India. One of the about 60 odd types of Hornbills, Malabar Pied Hornbill is predominant in Dandeli, in addition to jungles of Madhya Pradesh and Sri Lanka. Our very short trip in March this year to Dandeli Jungle resort was an opportunity to sight this amazing bird to our heart's content.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Go Goa X: An Ode to the Houses of Goa

Walk through the streets of 'yet to be dominated by modern construction' parts of Goa and one wonders if people tell their address as that bright pink house next to the bright green one on a road. The houses are as colorful as they can get and churches are pristine white -standing gracefully in the town squares, on the crossroads leading to various parts of the town. I saw this but did not realize there is a connection between these two color schemes till I visited Houses of Goa museum and discovered that people were not allowed to have an All White House as that was a privilege reserved for the churches in the city. Designed like a ship, that to me looked like a bird with two round windows serving as bird-eyes, this is a museum that values design as much as it values the history of Goan architecture. A kind of paradox though - a very contemporary / modern building trying to preserve the heritage of yesteryear - may be that is how it plans to documents itself in the pages of the history.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hyderabad Hues XXXV: Creative patterns at Paigah Tomb, Hyderabad

There are many intricately designed geometric patterns all over the place. These are not just unique, but also a demonstration of excellence in craftsmanship of the artists.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Video of the month: Shigmotsav Ghodi Dance

Shigmotsav 2014 at Panjim, the Ghodi Dance performance in colorful attire with high decibel Har Har Mahadev in the air.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Go Goa IX: Shri Mangeshi Temple, Ponda

It is not very well known that Goa is home to many prominent and ancient temples. Before the Portuguese came, Goa was home to Saraswat Brahmins and the temples of their deities. As Portuguese took over and started pushing religious conversions, some percentage of population converted while the others moved to areas that were yet to come under Portuguese and when the moved they took their deities along with them. This is how most temples today are found in the Ponda district of Goa – that came under Portuguese much later and by then they had become more accepting of the other religions.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Jhabua's Micro Bead Jewelry

I traveled to Jhabua last year for Bhagoria festival and on an evening stroll we went to an artist shop who makes these micro bead jewelry in vibrant colors. Now I have seen this in many modern jewelry shops across India and was surprised to know that it is made in remote villages in tribal belts of India.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hidden inside Dandeli - Syntheri Rock

In the middle of Dandeli forests, stands a lone giant rock like an old saint who has chosen to live in the jungle and has grown sitting or meditating here. River Kaneri, a tributary of Kali River, flows at its base, as if touching the feet of this giant old saint. The size of the rock makes you feel small – somewhere telling you that you are a very small part of the big universe and the way it hides itself in the folds of the forest is bound to make you feel curious.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Go Goa VIII: Shigmo – a little known cultural extravaganza

Shigmo is the Goan version of Holi, a springtime festival that is a farewell to winters that in Goa’s case is also the tourist’s time and get indoors for upcoming summers and monsoons.  Now what makes it special is that it is celebrated on the streets of various villages for good 14 days. Each day a few villages celebrate and the villagers dressed in all their finery come out, play loud music and dance. This year I got to see Shigmo up, close and personal as it happened two streets away from my home in Goa.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dandeli: By the river Kali

Kali is a common name for many rivers that flow across Indian subcontinent right from Nepal to Uttarakhand to MP and Karnataka. Last week I got to spend some time by the Kali River that flows through Uttar Kannada district of Karnataka – not too far from my current home in Goa. First thing that we encountered as we drove towards Dandeli is the tall dam called Supa Dam on the river and the back water that it creates. Towards the end of the day, we saw the sun setting on the backwaters from the ramparts of a wall bridging the area for dam. There were lots of tourists swimming and playing at the edges.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Wish List in Travel Secrets

My travel wish list appeared in Travel Secrets Magazine couple of months ago. Hope the higher forces are listening and re-aligning themselves to make this happen.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Discover Delhi XXXV: TJs - The brand from Tihar Jail

I was in Delhi for some work and for the first time I crossed Tihar Jail.But for the boards announcing its presence, I would have never figured out that this is country's most famous jail. I was still sorting out the dichotomy between reality & perception, Tihar Haat - a swanky looking shop saw me in my face. I passed by it on first day but made a mental note to stop over the next day.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Win an All expenses Paid Trip to Malaysia

Is visiting the beautiful country of Malaysia in your to-do list? We give you multiple chances to strike it off and win an all expense paid trip to Malaysia!  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Andhra Adventures XVI: Mythology Museum, Surendrapuri

Kunda Satyanarayana Kala Dhamam is its name but it is more popularly known as Surendrapuri or Mythological Awareness Center. It  is  a museum that celebrates the Hindu Mythology, its history, its epics, its Gods and Goddesses. Located roughly 40 kms from Hyderabad, it was founded by Sh Kunda Satyanarayana in memory of his son Surendra Babu. Once you have gone through this vast museum you wonder at the effort of one man who had the vision of bringing all the divine places and concepts of Indian Mythology at one place and that led him to build this unique museum. I am not aware of any other similar museum in India or anywhere else at least not at this scale.

Thursday, March 06, 2014


As the Indian winter draws to an end, the right season to be in Delhi, some of the best flower shows one can visit are held at Garden of Five Senses that I wrote about revisiting again, and all over NCR region. Lalbaugh at Bangalore is another must visit flower exhibition destination.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Germany Gems VIII: Spinnerei – From Cotton to Culture

Western Leipzig emerged as cotton spinning area in late 19th CE. Spinning mills were setup and that brought skilled workers to this area and the area became a living community around these spinning mills. Gradually it became a complete eco system with schools and entertainment facilities. However, by the end of 20th CE the mills closed down and the huge buildings with large rooms lied empty. This is when they were converted into a cultural space by offering it to artists to use them as their studios cum residences. Today it is a vibrant cultural space that has many resident artists that includes painters, fashion designers, sculpture artists, lithographers, potters, architects, porcelain manufacturers, filmmakers and goldsmiths.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Travel Stories VII: Lady Tourist Guide

Her name was Premlata. We met her at Orchha when we reached the gates of the palace there. Many guides came to us offering their services. She was also one of them. A frail woman wearing a wine colored Sari properly pinned on her tiny shoulders and a mangalsutra hanging around her neck pronouncing her marital status. She stood apart, as she could not get through the virtual maze other tour guides had created around the tourists. Her eyes had hope and pessimism in equal measures, hope that made her stand there and make eye contact with the tourist and pessisim because not many took her seriously, for when did you see a young woman guiding the tourists. Remember Orchha is a small place and not an urban place where you do find women guides, though there are hardly any in the mass segment that is completely dominated by men.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Go Goa VI: Upstream on Mandovi

Panaji city is on the southern banks of Mandovi, the biggest river of Goa. While in the urban areas the river is bustling with river cruises, if you go upstream a couple of kilometers you get to feel the natural beauty and also experience the ferry services across the Mandovi by the River Navigation Department of Goa.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chandigarh Chimes IV: Sukhna Lake

Sukhna Lake is the only prominent water body in the city of Chandigarh. It is a go to place for both locals and visitors, for the abundant nature that it offers within the city limits. In the mornings and evenings you can see the city people walking along the lake and during the day you can see visitors sitting by the lake and enjoying various activities here. You can do boating, admire the sails, look at the oldest tree now called the heritage tree of the city, do shopping at sovenir shops and enjoy the coffee at its coffee shop.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

5 Places that celebrate Love in India

This is that time of the year when love is in the air. So I thought of writing about a few legendary places that celebrate Love in India.

Vrindavan: You can not grow in India without hearing the eternal love story of Radha & Krishna. The city of Vrindavan celebrates their love. While Krishna is more popular in the Indian conscience, in Vrindavan it is Radha who rules. I was told that while Krishna controls the universe, it is Radha who controls him so she is more powerful than him. People use Radhe-Radhe for just about everything - to say Hello, to say Good Bye, to say Excuse me and to say Oh God!. Holi here is a celebration of their youthful love that has become a ritual where women from Radha's village Barsana beat men from Mathura & Vrindavan. You can feel that in the air of Vrindavan their love is celebrated as a divine blessing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hyderabad Hues XXXIV: On top of Mahindra Hills

Mahindra Hills must have been a hill at some point in time in the true sense of the word – hill. Today it is a highly populated locality that lives on the inclines of the hill. You realize it is a hill only when your lungs or engine of vehicle you are in indicates the incline you have to negotiate.  Once you reach the top of this hill you get a bird’s eye view of Secunderabad. My first thought after the view was, Oh, is the city so dense and crowded. Looked around and discovered two temples on top of the hill one belonging to the Buddhist and the other to Mata Amtritanandmayi.

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