Tag Archives: Travel

Isla Mujeres, Cancun

Cancun is an absolute Caribbean paradise that promises romantic evenings watching the sunset, diving or snorkeling among the different shades of blue, discovering the prehispanic history, a great evening by the beach sipping your favorite drink or indulging in culinary wonders. Whatever your travel taste is Cancun will not disappoint you. However, a trip to Cancun is incomplete without a visit to Isla Mujeres.

Isla mujeres, (meaning “Island of Women”) commonly known as Isla is a 20 minutes ferry ride from Cancun and is very well connected by Ultramar. Check their website for ferry timings and prices.
Alternatively, you can also book a guided tour from your hotel.

Ferry operated by UltraMar

This 8 KM island is home to beautiful white sandy beaches, pristine coastline and irresistible seafood. The preferred mode of travel at the island is generally a golf cart or a scooter, which can be easily rented. While you are at the beach, umbrellas and beach chairs are available for rent or simply order a drink at the bar to get it for free.

The town has a network of small streets which can be explored in 2-3 hours and gives a leisured sightseeing experience. Another great thing about isla is that you don’t have to worry about getting lost. All roads on isla eventually lead back to where they began.

Isla has around 20,000 residents, who are genuinely interested in sharing the islands history. Isla also has a legend revolving around a pirate and his incomplete love story. I am sure you will enjoy listening to it as much as I did.

Have fun & Be safe.
Ciao!

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Enchanting Krabi

By now I have discovered that I can’t stay away from Thailand. I am a total Thai-vibe addict. After spending days in Bangkok and Phuket in the past it is time to begin 2018 by exploring Krabi.

Krabi is a bunch of beautiful islands in the southern part of Thailand. Just like Phuket, Krabi is the new ideal vacation spot for people looking for white sandy beaches lined with coconut trees.  It is also a paradise for people who love nature; islands, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, tropical jungles, marine adventures etc – you name it, they have it.

Island Hopping is one of the most popular things to do amongst travelers in this region. It can easily be arranged from the Ao-nang beach via the long tail boat service office. Sea kayaking is the second great thing which can be done to explore the coastline. The pricing is very reasonable at the beach itself so no need to pre book from the hotel. Island tour will cost you 100 Baht one way whereas, a single kayak will cost 150 Baht per hour. A guided kayak tour into the mangroves is something which you would not like to miss!

Krabi is relatively less crowded than any other vacation spot in Thailand which makes it easy to find a nice peaceful accommodation close to the nature. Suggested itinerary will not be more than 4 days as it is enough to explore the islands, caves, temples, beaches, indulge in Thai food, trek in the tropical jungles, dive the Andaman & relax with a Thai massage.

You’re not going to end up spending a lot on your trip as the things are so much cheaper here. A decent hotel/resort starts from 17 USD/night. I stayed in The Jasmine Resort, in the Ao-nang area just 15 minutes away from the beach and was impressed with the hospitality I received, at the price I paid.
Bike/scooter rentals are easily available for about 6-10 USD/day and will be probably the best choice to commute in and around Krabi.

People running The Jasmine Resort.

My favorite topic – Food. Being at a beach means super fresh sea food. The food here in Krabi is the typical Thai stuff you probably know such as pad thai, but there are several other delicious dishes which you should try: basil chicken, Thai style salads, soups & curries. Just like me if you are interested to learn how they do it, enroll yourself for a Thai cooking course. A basic course for 3-4 hours will cost you around 1200 baht and will teach you up to 6 dishes of your choice.

Preparing Tom Kha Kai, a Thai style chicken soup at the cooking class

Soup ready & served
After doing all of this still have some time left?
Head towards the Thung Teao Natural Park  and take a dip in the mineral rich, all natural emerald pool. A short walk away is blue pool, a total worth it sight. There are several tours for the same however if you good at riding a bike it’s easily accessible by road. Entry fee to the nature reserve is 200 baht/pp.

Emerald Pool at the Thung Teao Natural Park
Blue Pool

Whatever you do in this charming place is up to you but don’t forget to quench your thirst with a chilled Chang!

Cheers!

Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Kra-Pao)

This is a very popular Thai dish and one of my favorite. You can see a lot of vendors preparing this dish in the streets. I love it with chicken however; beef, pork and sea food options are also available. This dish is best served with rice and a Thai style crispy fried egg!

Ingredients:

1C. Chicken Breast (bite size pieces)
¼ C. Shallot (fine sliced)
5 Garlic Cloves (minced/fine chopped)
4 Thai Chilies (fine sliced/chopped)
1T. Oyster Sauce
1T. Dark Soy Sauce
½ T. Light Soy Sauce
½ T. Fish Sauce (optional)
½ T. Sugar
½ C. Holy Basil Leaves
Cooking Oil

Recipe:

Start with the stir fry sauce. Combine Dark soy sauce, Oyster sauce, Light soy sauce, Fish sauce (if using) & sugar in a bowl. Stir well and keep aside.

Heat oil in a wok; add shallot, garlic and chilies – stir fry for 30 seconds. Once fragrant, toss in the chicken pieces and continue frying.  (For the bite size chicken pieces it generally takes 2-3 minutes to cook)

Add the earlier prepared sauce and keep stir frying for 30 more seconds.

Throw in the holy basil, combine it well and turn off the heat.

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At this stage you would be probably drooling!
So serve and enjoy!

Hiking Trails of Bavaria

Traveling being a major part of my life, I constantly try to absorb the vivid colors of nature as much as I can. Blue skies, green meadows, tranquil waterfalls, rapid rivers and majestic mountains are always a big yes for me. Recently, I found all of these together on my hike through Partnachklamm in Germany.

Partnachklamm also known as Partnach Gorge is located in Garmisch – Partenkirchen and is one hour away from the city of Munich by rail. This mountainous region is a part of massive Bavarian Alps and is a year round holiday destination. You can easily spend a day hiking at Partnachklamm, exploring the caves and the waterfalls or enjoying the breathtaking views of river Partnach. The scenic view spilling the shades of magical greens, blue and black is totally worth the effort and will help you escape the hustle of the busy city life.

 

The Partnach Gorge is a starting point for many hiking routes and costs 5 Euros as an entry charge per person. If you have a larger appetite for hiking you can chose from many more hiking trails available in different levels of difficulty to suit everyone. Although walking and hiking is probably the focus for you, renting a bike or using a romantic horse drawn carriage is also a good idea to reach the beginning of Partnach Gorge.
Hiking can make you hungry and tired. To keep you going, there are several eating and resting options available on the way. However, if you like you can carry a snack and have it on the banks of the Partnach River. (Please do not litter)
On the way back definitely make a stop at the famous cliff side beer garden and toast with some new friends.
Summer or winter, Gorge’s beauty is worthy of a visit. Don’t forget to carry a light jacket, a good pair of walking/hiking shoes and a bottle of drinking water.

Happy Hiking!

P.C – Albert Bangula

Princeton – a trip through time

I recently decided to spare some time for a visit to Princeton, a town which came into existence before the revolutionary war and today is known for hosting a prestigious Ivy League college.

Princeton University which was established in 1746 is the 4th oldest university in the States and has a perfect blend of past & the present. The university is spread in a massive 500 acre and has a lot of architectural marvel to absorb. The buildings here have an influence from colonial, collegiate gothic’s and modern styles and attract a lot of visitors and prospective students who like to venture across campus for various tours. One of the many is the famous art tour at the Princeton University Art Museum. It is free and exhibits a lot of unique pieces.

Besides setting the historical – educative scene, Princeton offers shopping and fine dining opportunities too. Nassau Street and Palmers Square features high-end retail outlets and interesting small boutique shops. Also you will find here are many small eateries and restaurants with upscale and highly rated cuisine. Hoagie Haven is one of the oldest eateries famous among the students. Several other places like Jules & PJ’s are impressive too. Princetonians are very passionate about their ice cream, and out of the many, Bent Spoon & Thomas Sweet are the most famous. (Expect a queue type of famous!)

Princeton being a cultural community loves to preserve its heritage. You can visit the Albert Einstein house in Princeton at Mercer street, take a tour of Drumthwacket or discover master pieces in Morven Museum and Garden. Whatever you decide to do, Princeton will keep you and your family entertained for an entire day. Visit the Princeton’s official website to enroll for a campus tour or book it with Princeton Tour Company.

Have fun & take it easy!

Universal Studios, Hollywood

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Inside every adult there’s still a child and I think that’s one of the many reasons that the amusement parks are a popular form of entertainment, globally.
Every year millions of people visit different amusement parks to celebrate the fond memories of their childhood.

Universal Studios, Hollywood is one such place. The overall atmosphere and ambiance can make anyone forget the regular monotonous life for at least few hours. People of all age find something or the other to entertain themselves. Movie fans will definitely not regret visiting, as the most amazing studio tour begins here and gives all an equal opportunity to learn about movie making. The Signature Studio Tour is a 45 minutes ride through live shoots, and well preserved – functional movie sets. The star attraction is the King Kong 360 3D experience.

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Universal Studios – Studio Tour from tram

This theme park also has a lot of rides based on popular movies including

Transformers: The Ride – 3D,

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem,

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,

Revenge of the Mummy,

The Simpsons Ride &

Jurassic Park: The Ride.

May be you haven’t seen the movies but you will still love the rides. I went on each and every ride; some of them even thrice and I enjoyed all of them.
For all the techies out there, the Special Effect Show can be an interesting event. Go behind the scenes to learn about CGI, stop motion and 3-D technology and there use in the latest few Hollywood releases.

Universal Studio is one of the top most tourist attractions in Hollywood. If you are not on schedule then you are for sure missing a part of it. Situated not very far from the Union Station, it has good connectivity by metro. Driving is always considered the best option in Los Angeles. It could be very crowded sometimes and you might have to queue up for up to an hour. Plan it well and you will be sorted. Buying tickets is easy. Simply do it online and skip the queue at the main gate. I strongly recommend a minimum of “Front of Line” passes during a busy weekend. Trust me, you will thank me later!

Inside the park you have free WiFi, lots of kid’s friendly attractions, reasonable dining outlets and a variety of shopping options. Just remember to check the weather before and dress accordingly. Wearing a comfortable pair of shoes might help here. Start early, and prepare to ride the exciting world of movies and get amazed with the magnificent experience.

 

1…2…3…Absorb!

For more information visit http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/

The Capital City – Zagreb

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The best feeling lies in discovering places which you have heard or read about and thought that you will see for yourself some time. I was amazed to experience one such city. A city originated in the middle ages and holds many memories of the Danube monarchy, today known as the political and cultural heart of Croatia!

Zagreb has something interesting to offer whenever you visit. But the best time to enjoy Zagreb is in spring and early summer. October to December is equally good, especially around the Christmas time when you can find a lot of stalls and activities happening in many of the city center’s squares.

You can experience the history of this city without much walking. Thanks to the brilliant network of trams. First encounter with my surprise was when I was not able to find tram tickets; but it was easy to locate. Newsstands around is the place to buy them or you can buy it straight from the tram driver. I also noticed that this city has lot of ‘men on horse’ statues. One located at the central square. Zagreb cathedral is the tallest building in Croatia and is visible from mostly all the parts of this square. It is a beautifully done architectural marvel. Another interesting place right next to the square is the Dolac Market or the best farmers market. It contains colorful range of products from flowers, fruits, souvenirs, cheese, meat & local wine. It is truly an experience for all the senses.

Closely situated to the Dolac is the popular Tkalčićeva Street, an old lane famous for garden facing cafes and several bars. This street has a wide variety of food and drinks to try from but if you would like to try a traditional štrukli then head to La Štruk located in the adjoining Skalinska Street. Don’t forget to order few shots of Rakija!

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Run up the stairs from Tkalčićeva Street towards the stone gate which connects the upper town to the lower town and houses a painting of holy Mary and baby Jesus. This painting is significant because it survived a great fire in 1731. Everything was destroyed except this painting. Since then people believe that it holds some magical powers and it became a popular spot for offering prayers and lighting candles. Not very far from here is another gothic landmark, St. Marks Church. One of the most photographed tourist attraction known for its beautiful roof.

Another interesting place to stop by is the Museum of Broken Relationships. This museum is stacked with random items & placards telling the true stories about the failed relationship and what that item meant. The museum was started by two Zagreb artists who broke up and it picked up fast. People from all over the world started donating their items with a brief of their unsuccessful relationship. It’s a new concept but at the same time was funny and depressing.

On the left side of the museum are Lotrščak Tower and the Grič cannon. This spot offers panoramic view of the city and the canon fires every day at noon making it a thrilling experience for all. At the same place is the funicular, a cable run trolley to transport people from upper town to the lower town. Lower town has a wide variety of branded stores and number of historic buildings each having a story of its own. Amongst the many eating outlets in the area is also a famous ice cream & cake outlet, Vincek. Trying a few scoops is a must!

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Zagreb is a special city which has witnessed 1000 years and has something to explore in every street. My favorite thing to do in Zagreb is to walk around and absorb the culture and tradition as much as I can. If you have been to Zagreb and know any interesting place let me know. I will be happy to give it a visit!

The Great Wall of China

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He who has not climbed the great wall is not a true man
– Mao Zedong

The moment I landed in China, I was excited to tick another attraction on my list. The Great Wall, one of the greatest wonders of the world. Listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO and having a historical significance for over 2000 years this wall is stretching approximately 21000 kilometers from east to west of China and indeed is an architectural marvel.

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Stairs leading to the watch tower
Stairs leading to the watch tower

The Great Wall of China is not one long wall but a system of many walls built over years by different dynasties coming in to power in China with a purpose of protecting their kingdom & people. The wall has a lot of beacon and watch towers which were built to garrison troops. The labor forces used to construct the wall were mainly soldiers and convicts. Many of them who died during the construction were buried within the wall itself. During the war times this wall played a vital role for communication. Messages were relayed by smoke and fire signals.

View of the wall with watch towers
View of the wall with watch towers

Today due to natural erosion & visitor induced damage a big part of the wall is missing but there are many sections which are restored and are open for tourism. Several well-preserved stretches of the Wall are near Beijing and are just a short drive away. The most touristic, crowded and restored of them being Badaling section of the great wall. Mutianyu section is a little far and less touristic. The third section which is Jinshanling is far from the city but is in the original state without any restoration.

To get to Mutianyu from Beijing, one can catch a bus, take a day tour or use a private car rental. The best alternative is to use a car rental. An excellent 4 seater car would cost something between 500 – 700 RMB (all inclusive) for a round trip and 4 – 5 hours of waiting time at the wall.

To enjoy the great wall it’s important to start early as the most of the crowd reaches by midday. I planned to visit the Mutianyu section and left early in the morning. It was a good decision as there was no traffic on the way and I was at the wall by Seven O’clock. Mutianyu is at an incredibly scenic location; the Wall looks like a giant stone snake built over ridges of mountains. You could get spectacular view while you are climbing up. If you don’t like climbing stairs to reach the wall then the easy way up is a cable car.

After getting up to the wall you can stroll between any of the twenty two watch towers and enjoy the beautiful forest scenery or impressive rolling hills. The wall has lot of steep climbs and descends so a good pair of walking shoes is a must along with lot of energy and enthusiasm as the climb is quite a challenge.

Scenic forest view from the wall
Scenic forest view from the wall

During your stay up at the wall if you feel like having a refreshment break then just next to tower 10 you a have kiosk selling cold and hot beverages. Feel free to have a can of Sing Tao (Chinese beer). There is also a graffiti wall available at tower 14 where you can mark your presence.

Graffiti wall available at tower 14
Graffiti wall available at tower 14

Planning to go back proceed to tower 6 where you can take a toboggan ride down the great wall in style. The individual carts are self controlled and fun, provided you don’t have someone slow in front of you to spoil the thrill. After all you don’t get a chance to slide down The Great Wall of China every day.

The entry ticket cost 60 RMB
Cable car/toboggan rides available at an additional cost.

To book a trip to the great wall visit:
http://www.wildgreatwall.com

Vibrant Istanbul

Photo 01-03-017..Another city discovered. One more story added to many of mine.
A city designed multiple times, a city where the east meets the west.
A city with which you might fall in love – Istanbul!

The most important thing to do when planning a trip to Istanbul is to allow enough time to explore the city. Begin by choosing a hotel close to a district where you would like to spend your evenings. I began my Istanbul tour from Taksim, a landmark in itself; this area has everything a tourist might need. From shopping to nightlife, history to trade & street food to a variety of upscale restaurants. It is indeed a very interesting place to spend few hours as it spreads till the Istiklal Caddesi, one of the most touristy and busy street. While wandering on these streets, if you don’t feel like walking anymore then try the famous historic red trams. The experience will turn out to be a beautiful memory.

View of  Istiklal Caddesi during the day
View of Istiklal Caddesi during the day

In order to save yourself from “too much to see and too little time” kind of a situation, plan an old town tour the first thing. My suggestion is to take a Big Bus Tour. The ticket is valid for 48 hours, gives you unlimited rides throughout the city & saves you from the hassles of the taxi drivers.

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For more information, visit – http://eng.bigbustours.com/istanbul/home.html

The Big Bus tour route is very carefully designed and takes you to all the major landmarks and historic sites.  At the same time you are connected to the free wifi and have access to your personal recorded commentary in eight different languages explaining about the history and culture of this city. If the weather is in your favour, you can take a seat in the upper deck of the bus and enjoy the magnificent view of Bosphorus Bridge, the Blue Mosque, Dolmabahce Palace, Galata Tower and much more. I think for solo travelers like me, the Big Bus tour is one of the safest and relaxing ways to discover Istanbul.

Sultan Ahmet Camii or The Blue Mosque
Sultan Ahmet Camii or The Blue Mosque
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Bosphorus bridge
Bosphorus bridge

Once done with the historic tour of Istanbul it’s time to turn towards the culinary side. When visiting the heart of Turkey, there is no need to comprise on taste. Food from all categories exists here and you should try it all! I personally started from the Simits (sesame breads), moved to the Doners (wraps) and continued shuffling between Pide (flatbread with cheese and meat), Kofte (meat balls) & Balik Ekmek (grilled fish in bread). However many other seafood and mezze options are widely available in addition to the famous food chains.

A vendor selling Simits or sesame breads
A vendor selling Simits or sesame breads
Freshly made  Balik Ekmek
Freshly made Balik Ekmek

Before your trip comes to an end be sure to take a Bosphorus cruise, bargain at the bazaars, get scrubbed in a hammam, sip the amazing turkish teas/coffees and sample a few varieties of Baklava or Lokum (Turkish delight).

Bosphorus Cruise Ship
Bosphorus Cruise Ship
A cup of hot turkish tea
A cup of hot turkish tea
The famous Hafiz Mustafa - Baklava shop
The famous Hafiz Mustafa – Baklava shop

Istanbul, with so much of diversity, history and art is definitely a full package vacation deal and I am sure with a bit of research and information you will enjoy it the same way I did.

Say “Bonjour” Fellas!

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While to many, Paris could be about love & romance and to the rest about their cuisine. For me Paris was a dream, I had, while in high school. The French capital not only combines both the things but also presents it to you in such a beautiful way that you just can’t resist trying it all. With all its marvelous architecture and breath taking view this city is for sure the most interesting city in Europe. Whether its summers or the chilly winters you can roam around and discover this city full of art, history, fashion and love.

Paris has a lot of stories. Spare a day or two to transport you back in time with a historic stroll through one of the many museums such as Louvre Museum. If you are not a history person still things to do in Paris are many. You can visit the famous Eiffel Tower, Pont Alexandre III, Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe & many more spectacular sights.

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Eiffel Tower is the most iconic structure in the city and has witnessed a lot of marriage proposals till date. A lot of arm-in-arm couples could be seen walking around, while some enjoy a flute of rosé bubbly in candlelit bars. The opportunities for romance here are endless.

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Not very far from the Eiffel tower is the extravagant Pont Alexandre III. The bridge is a sight to behold & was inaugurated in 1900 for the world fair. This bridge connects Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, and the Invalides.

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If you are an evening stroller and love to see the city coming into action while the sun goes down than Champs Elysees is the place for you. Named after heaven, it’s also known as the most beautiful avenue in the world. Heading a bit left from the main street you would reach Arc de Triomphe, another artfully created structure honoring the people who died during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.

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A day spent in this city will be incomplete if you do not indulge in some of the city’s most delicious cuisine. French food is known for its flavors. From baguettes to cheese and basic to the traditional, there is something here for everyone to tempt the palate. Don’t forget to try my favorite pâtisserie Ladurée for a sweet finale with that loved one of yours.

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