Travel

Thailand

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After an absurd amount of procrastination, my post from my tour of Thailand is here!

Thailand has been in my bucket list for ages now. Plans have been made but have fallen through multiple times. This time we didn’t take too much time. In a month’s time tickets were booked, itinerary made and we set out. Did a lot of reading so I could cover most of it. But as it often happens with well made plans.. this went awry quite fast. So we had to make a lot of changes in plans on the go. We landed early in the morning and the hotels weren’t okay with early check-ins so I booked a trip to the Floating market and the train market.

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It was so hot there, the little puppy was sitting inside the fridge

The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – The pioneer of all floating markets, Damnoen Saduak continues to offer an authentic experience despite its increasingly touristy atmosphere. Imagine dozens of wooden row boats floating by, each laden to the brim with farm-fresh fruits, vegetables or flowers. Food vendors fill their vessels with cauldrons and charcoal grills, ready to whip up a bowl of ‘boat noodle’ or seafood skewers upon request

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Maeklong Railway Market – This was an interesting experience. I have seen videos online but it was quite pleasant to have experienced it first-hand. Took a much needed nap in the afternoon and then set out to explore the malls. Finished the day with a foot massage.

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Pratunam Night Market

We came back from Phuket in the afternoon so set out to experience the Pratunam Market. Most of the shops were closed by 4 PM. So though we didn’t see much, the sheer size of it was quite mind boggling.

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Kept the last day to see the palace and the Emerald Buddha. However, it turned out to be a Buddhist holiday so the temple was closed for tourists. We just got to see the palace. Having been inside the palaces in India & Europe, I was expecting the same here. But we just got to see the exteriors so was quite disappointed with that. The heat also really got to me so explored it really fast and made a quick exit.

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Had heard a lot about the Chatuchak weekend market so was excited to see it. It was huge! Chatuchak Weekend Market has reached a landmark status as a must-visit place for tourists. Its sheer size and diverse collections of merchandise will bring any seasoned shoppers to their knees – this is where you can literally shop ‘till you drop’. Would need all day to explore it. They mostly had touristy knick knacks. So didn’t really catch my fancy. Given a choice I’d spend more time at Pratunam.

How to Get to Chatuchak Hop on the skytrain (BTS) to Mo Chit station, take exit no. 1 and follow the crowd until you see rows of canvas stalls selling clothes. Turn right while continuing to follow the crowd and you will see a small entrance that leads into the market (clothing section). Another option is to take the subway (MRT) to Chatuchak Park station (exit no.1), then follow the crowd until you arrive at the small entrance that leads into the market (clothing section). For the plant and flower section, get off at Kampheng Phet MRT station (exit no. 1).

The highlight for me in Bangkok was the amazing food and the daily foot massages

  • Where we stayed at Bangkok

The Key Sukhmvit – Was pretty decent. We got upgraded to a bigger room on the first leg of the journey. Got to experience the actual size of the tiny room in the 2nd leg of our journey.

  • Where we ate – Since we stayed in Sukhumvit, we mostly ate around this area itself. There was quite a selection of cuisines.
  1. Baan Khanitha Thai Cuisine – My very first experience with Thai cuisine. I know, I know
  2. Green Garden – One of the best food experiences. The crab curry was to die for!
  3. Izakaya Hanako – Japanese Cuisine. Again first venture into Japanese cuisine. The salmon was very good. Loved the Kobe beef and garlic rice too!
  4. Banjoo Korean BBQ – Korean food. This was a barbeque at the table. Loved the accompaniments more than the actual barbeque!

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Yellow Crab curry at Green Garden – My favourite meal there

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Kobe beef at Izakaya Hanako

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Banjoo Korean Barbeque

Krabi

After researching a lot, settled on staying on Railey Beach and it was a great decision. Booked a sunset cruise from one of the locals. It was a bad idea. They broadcast it saying 7 islands sunset cruise but took us to only 3-4. The reason I booked the cruise was coz I wanted to see the bioluminisent Plankton but I didn’t get to see it. They said too much light and what not. So, that was disappointing. Thought we’d do the Phi Phi islands tour from Phuket.

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Chicken Island

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Morning Glory – I don’t usually like greens. But I loved this dish. Ate it almost everyday

  • Where we stayed

Booked ourselves in Railay Bay Resort & Spa and it was an amazing experience. The restaurant was right on the beach and it really had a breakfast with a view.

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Railay Bay Resort and Spa

  • Where we ate
  1. Railay Bay Restaurant – Though I ate prawns at many places, this place had the best.
  2. Treehouse bar – Amazing live music. The vocalist was very good. Had a great time and we were among the last to leave.
  3. Lucky Restaurant & Last Bar – Caught a fight unexpectedly.
  4. Skunk Bar – A cute little bar on walking street where we had our last cocktails before leaving Krabi.

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Treehouse Bar

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Skunk Bar

Phuket

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Ferry ride from Krabi to Phuket. An amazing thing to note here is that we had mobile network throughout the journey and on all the islands that we toured.

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Patong Beach

We took a ferry from Krabi to Phuket and reached quite late in the evening so couldn’t do much on day 1. The ferry was supposed to start at 2:00 PM but came only at 3:30 PM and we reached Phuket around 6:00 PM. It was raining on and off so canceled the Phi Phi island tour. Will leave it for the next visit. The constant travelling and heat finally got to us. So we just explored the Patong area a bit. Tried out Parasailing for the first time. It was exhilarating. We paid 2K Baht for 3 kms. Forgot to take pics in the rush. Lazed on the last day and set out to the airport. Back to Bangkok.

Where we stayed – Bandara beach villa – we had booked ourselves in the resort but took one look at the villas with the private pool and upgraded to it. Best decision ever!! The video of the room is above.

Where we ate – Since Panwa beach is quite off the beaten path, we had dinner on both days at the in house restaurant and it didn’t disappoint. Had Lobster on the first night and it was awesome!!

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Leaving you with this lovely view from our room at Bandara Villas.

Do let me know what you think in the comments!

Life · Travel

Dubai

I learnt something about myself during this trip. I’ve always been someone who couldn’t do anything by myself. I couldn’t even eat alone. There have been times when I’ve stayed hungry rather than eat alone. Yep, I was that bad. Therefore, when I decided to do this solo trip, I wasn’t sure that I could go through with it. I just booked my tickets on an impulse. I didn’t spend all the days alone, but the ones that I did I was fine. I didn’t mind doing things on my own. In fact, I loved it. I had no itinerary planned. Just did things on the fly. Which is a very rare thing for me to do. This was the perfect place for me to try doing the solo thing as well, as it is very safe. Even all alone, late at night, in a crowded metro, I felt safe. I think what made it easy was the fact that though this was not my country, it still didn’t feel too strange, like I was in a foreign country, as everywhere I went I saw a lot of Indians and heard Hindi being spoken. Another thing was that the people there were very helpful, right from the metro staff, cops, shopkeepers or any random stranger on the street!

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Model of a Dhow at Dubai Museum

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Juxtaposition of the old and new – The moderns Sky scrappers against the Dhows of the olden days.

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I decided to do the touristy thing and try out the hop on hop off on the first day. Picked Big Bus tours. I bought the 1-day classic ticket priced at $70 online. It also included a Dhow cruise. Frankly, the cruise was a bit of a bore. However, it was a nice way to get a feel of the city. I thought I’d check the city out and come back on another day if anything caught my fancy. The tour had three lines. Red line – city tour. It takes you to the Dubai Museum and the various souks (Old, gold & spice). Green Line – beach tour. Covers the Jumeira beach, Burj Al Arab and Souk Madinat. Blue – Marina Tour. This was my favourite. It was a tour of the marina area along the walk, beach, and promenade. It also covered the Palm Jumeira. Loved the marina area. Thought I’d go back but couldn’t.

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Jumeira Beach – spend a lazy evening unwinding at Jumeirah Beach. The beach is extremely crowded throughout the day. If you’re lucky, you might have a stretch of the beach all to yourself – stick around till sunset, it is spectacular.

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Dhow Cruise

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The Marina

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The Burj Khalifa is a skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. With a total height of 2,722 ft and a roof height (excluding antenna) of 2,717 ft, the Burj Khalifa has been the tallest structure and building in the world since 2008.

There is an outdoor observation deck, named At the Top, n the 124th floor. At 1,483 ft, it was the highest outdoor observation deck in the world when it opened.  The Burj Khalifa Tower has the longest single running elevator, which is 140 floors. The elevators go 10 meters per second and are among the fastest in the world. It took us approximately only one minute to reach the observation deck on the 124th floor. What a sight it was! You could see most of the city from there. I could literally sit there for hours, crowds or not, and listen to the clatter of so many different languages being spoken while enjoying the view.

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To avoid the daily rush of sightseers, you can purchase tickets in advance for a specific date and time. I bought tickets online but I reached early and was allowed to enter. The ticket price start at 135 AED. The price goes higher as it gets close to the sunset. When the tide is low and visibility is high, people can see the shores of Iran from the top of the skyscraper.

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Sunset from the Burj

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Had to rely on kind strangers to take pics!

The Dubai Fountain, located at the base of the Burj Khalifa, is illuminated by 6,600 lights and 50 coloured projectors. It is 900 ft long and shoots water 500 ft into the air, accompanied by a range of classical to contemporary Arabic and other music. It is the world’s second largest choreographed fountain. I reached it after the descent from the observation deck so couldn’t really get a good spot for pictures. But, the choreography and the music was amazing. Definitely one of the must see things in Dubai.

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The Dubai Dolphinarium is a fully air-conditioned indoor dolphinarium, providing habitat to dolphins and seals, allowing the public to watch and interact with them through live shows and photo sessions. Priced at AED 105 (The 11 AM show is priced at 75 AED, so picked that), the show runs for 45 minutes and is really worth the money spent. Located inside the huge Creek park, it is accessible by Dubai Healthcare city metro station (with a 10 minute walk). Only hiccup here was, although I had bought the tickets online, I had to buy an additional ticket to enter the creek park, which was priced at 25 AED.

It was my first experience seeing a dolphin show. You get to be really up close with the dolphins and the seals. Avoid the first three rows for seating unless you want to get splashed on. The highlight of the show for me, was seeing the Dolphins hold paintbrushes in their mouths and paint some abstract on waterproof paper. Some of the performances presented were excellent especially where the trainers floated in speed on the dolphin’s nose. It was a really good entertaining show and demonstrated the intelligence of the dolphins and seals as well as the dedication of their trainers.

Can’t talk about Dubai and not talk about the Malls. The Dubai mall & Mall of Emirates just defy words. The famous Dubai Mall is located at the base of Burj Khalifa and is one of the biggest malls you will visit. With everything from a food court to hundreds of stores there are few things you’ll miss that they don’t have here! You will need more than a day to go through everything this mall has to offer. It has something for everyone and it is easy to get lost if you aren’t well organized. I did. It was one of the points in my hop on hop off tour. I stepped in to grab a bite and it took forever to get out.

Another thing that you notice about Dubai is the heavy constructions that’s going on. Everything from roads to buildings. They are gearing up for the expo 2020. The hope is that it will contribute to economic opportunities like new business generation and job creation across the region.

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If you’re an adventurer at heart, you must go dune bashing in Dubai. A number of companies conduct tours (we booked a private operator so it was a bit personalized and longer than the usual tours). Once in the desert, the tyres of the vehicle are deflated, and that’s when the real fun begins. Dune bashing is definitely not for the squeamish at heart. I’ve always been afraid of roller coasters, traffic, driving fast on the road so was really apprehensive about trying out the dune bashing. But, Oh my God, what an experience it was. We went on a 35 minute drive and it was exhilarating. I wasn’t afraid. I don’t really know what it was… Confidence in the driver, no traffic or just high on life and just living my best life. The twists & turns, driving on the dunes at a 45 degree angle is quite a dizzying experience but I just loved it.

With this, I ended my trip. This trip was one of the most rewarding, refreshing & inspiring moments in my life so far. It was one of my best trips. I did not want to leave. I think this was the first time after a trip that I had this feeling. I wasn’t even aware of how much I craved my own company. I was alone with my thoughts, was able to take in the sights, sounds in a more real way, and soak up little things that I may not have recognized otherwise. It was empowering to be in my own company and the ability to plan every detail of the trip without someone else’s input was pretty great, too!

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Travel

When in Rome….

Rome

She had always been fond of history, and in Rome was history in the stones of the street and the atoms of sunshine.

-Henry James

This quote describes me to a T. We traveled to Rome from Venice and stayed near Roma Termini railway station. The Trevi fountain & Spanish steps were walking distance from there (Well, about 3-4 kms give or take but, in Europe it’s all relative :)). When in Rome, I was told walking is the best form of transportation and a great way to burn off calories from the delicious Roman cuisine (pasta, pizza, gelatto…and the list goes on). I chose to walk everywhere, even to spots that were clear on the other side of the city. I felt like if I was in Rome, I had to see Rome and do Rome, just as the Romans do. Warning you guys well in advance that this is going to be a photo heavy post!

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The history of the Roman Empire started fascinating me after I picked up my first play of Shakespeare, Julius Caesar. My English teacher’s passionate “Et tu, Brute” is still a very vivid memory. If you ignore the hundreds of tourists buzzing around the city, Rome still has an old world charm, which makes it appear as if it is frozen in the times of the kings. The Colosseum – one of the major sites a tourist would have most definitely been to – looks as if it is work in progress, left to be finished another day, another era. The Colosseum is a 1st century AD amphitheater that was used for gladiator games and is surrounded by other historically rich sites like the Roman Forum and Palatine hill.. We spent almost all day looking around in wonder.

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The Trevi Fountain is a fountain in the Trevi district in Rome. It is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. The fountain has appeared in several notable films. We went there twice both in the morning and evening. The experience was unique at both times.

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An obligatory selfie moment captured 🙂

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The Pantheon is a former Roman temple, now a church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs”. The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian column. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the opening and the diameter of the interior circle are the same. It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, in large part because it has been in continuous use throughout its history.

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Of-course had to have pasta & wine in Rome. For some reason this was the only picture that was documented. Tried it at different places but didn’t find anything to write home about. My taste buds are probably ruined by the pastas I’ve had here in India.

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The Scala Santa are a set of 28 white marble steps. The Holy Stairs, which long ago were encased in a protective framework of wooden steps, are in an edifice that incorporates part of the old, Papal Lateran Palace. The Holy Stairs lead to the Church of St. Lawrence, which was the personal chapel of the early Popes. They are currently closed and inaccessible to visitors. Replica stairs flank the original staircase for 5 staircases, and one of these is accessible to pilgrims to climb on their knees.

According to Roman Catholic tradition, the Holy Stairs are the steps leading up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on which Jesus Christ stepped on his way to trial during his Passion. The Stairs reputedly were brought to Rome by St. Helena in the fourth century. For centuries, the Scala Santa has attracted Christian pilgrims who wish to honor the Passion of Jesus Christ.

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The Spanish Steps are a set of steps climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. Unfortunately, they were closed for renovation when we were there.

All in all had a great holiday. To me, burnt foreheads is a sign of a holiday well spent 🙂

Travel

Venice

Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” Truman Capote

Venice has been in my bucket list for as long as I can remember. One of those magical places that you dream about going to but never really thought that you would get to. A place that you made plans with a long lost love!

I was in Venice only for 36 hours & those were the most magical 36 hours of my life. I was tired from the previous 2 weeks of travel. Had a hacking cough that really scared my friend. However, Venice, Venice made me forget it all. Just standing there, absorbing it all, the feeling is indescribable. From the moment I set foot at the San Marco pier, I couldn’t stop smiling, I did what everyone recommends you do in Venice. Just get lost. Take the alleyways that seem to lead nowhere and everywhere at the same time, until you find yourself randomly in the Piazza San Marco with no recollection of how you got there.

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The Piazza San Marco is a trapezoid sitting at the Eastern mouth of the grand canal. Famous for it’s pigeons and geometric hopscotch stone inlays, it is perhaps the most famous piazza in all of Europe, home to some of Venice’s greatest attractions, many dating back thousands of years.

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The piers at Murano

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The famous masks of Venice

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The famous Gondolas of Venice

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The St Mark’s Basilica has Byzantine domes and spires; the Campanile with it’s three hundred foot bell tower; the imposing Gothic Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace.

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The island of Murano

About the top in the last picture – I like wearing clothes that just have a slight hint of sexy. Love the simplicity of this top with cute back peek. Huge bonus is that you can wear a regular bra with it.

It just fits in with the vibe of Venice.

Some facts and tips about Venice

Venice is an archipelago of 117 islands interconnected by bridges. Tourists have the option of commuting using private water taxis (from €30/per head) ,public water buses (€7) (We made our money’s worth with these). But the best way to get around is to walk. Skip the water buses and water taxis (unless you have luggage on you – Venice’s narrow alleys are a nightmare with luggage) and explore this city on foot. I stayed near Maestre as we had a train to catch to Rome. If I ever go there again I will definitely stay near San Marco.