Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Z for Zurich

What a wonderful journey through the challenge and a fitting last post - Zurich - one place that's most definitely on my wish list and because I've been promised that Lausanne will happen, am sure Zurich will too. I also want to do Zanzibar; perhaps later?

Zurich is commercial and residential and has nothing much to offer in terms of a nature lover's paradise; yet there's something about this city that's always captured my attention.

So, with that I end this year's challenge. The reflections post will be up later next week. Cheers to all those who pursued and completed the challenge.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Y for Yorkshire

We are nearing completion and I am exhausted from all the travel, although mighty excited because I now have a good bucket list :)

And now, we travel to the historic county and perhaps the biggest of them all in the North of England. Home to some beautiful national parks and cliffs and beaches, it's no wonder this place is nicknamed God's own county. Yorkshire also has plenty breweries and some have been active as early as the 12th century and in its hay days used to produce at least 60 barrels every 10 days. Beer anyone? :)

Monday, 28 April 2014

X for Xinjiapo

Xinjiapo it's nothing but Singapore (in Mandarin :) )A country that's so near yet so far for me. Having heard a lot about this country from my friends and colleagues, I just hope I can plan a trip next year at least. I will write more after I travel because I am very sure I will. Travel, that is.

Any tips, pointers, off beat places in Singapore, suggestions - most welcome. Cheers

W for West Indies

It's been a mad mad week and all I want to do now is chill out. Take a break. Take a vacation. Counting days to my first long vacation in perhaps 10 years? Thanks to this challenge, I am at least virtually traveling.

Today it's West Indies (that includes the Lucayan Archipelago). For someone who prefers mountains, the last few posts have all been beaches that also have some amazing mountains :) I am not complaining at all.

The food is very similar to Indian / Arabian cuisine and derives a lot from local fresh produce, rice, coconut, beans and meat.

Not to mention that some of my favorite cricket players hail from the West Indies. :) :)

Pics courtesy Wiki

Friday, 25 April 2014

V for Vanautu

As I googled for more places to add to my wishlist, I chanced upon Vanautu - a lovely little archipelago near Australia, in the South Pacific. I am not sure if I will ever visit this place, but by the looks of it, it has a lovely history and some great local fresh food. French and English are the official languages along with Bislama which is the national language.

What intrigued me most is the national dish - Lap Lap - a recipe made with taro paste and coconut milk and steamed in banana leaves. It's said that most food here is steamed and there's very little fried food. As I wondered if I can ever get to Vanautu by air as I am not too fond of traveling by sea, I did note that they have a cute little airport and is well-connected to Auckland, Australia, Japan and USA. There is hope after all.

Pics courtesy Wiki

U for Uluru

The world's most beautiful natural sandstone formation in Central Australia is in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This particular rock known as Ayers Rock is also a sacred entity for the aborigines and has a huge cultural significance. If I ever visit Australia (yes it's on the wishlist), I'd definitely want to visit Uluru.

T for Thailand

A country with a beautiful history and a very close neighbor to mine - Thailand. On my wishlist for a very long time now. Ruins and history on one side and some very modern buildings on the other side, mountains on one side and amazing beaches on the other, Thailand will make a picture perfect holiday destination.

(Psst: Someone, please take note)

Pics courtesy Wiki

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

S for Sikkim

When I started this challenge, I couldn't wait for the day when I'd be able to write this post. My best holiday till date - purely because of one thing - my love for mountains. From Chennai to Calcutta by train, from Calcutta to New Jalpaiguri, from there to Siliguri and from thereon a 5 hour curvy-winding-narrow-up-on-the-mountain-lane bus drive is how I reached Gangtok, the state capital.

The huge majestic snow capped mountains, sub zero temperatures, mild snowfall and just a few yards away - natural hot water springs is what I call nature's creativity. The gushing Teesta river to the north of Sikkim causes sheer excitement and goosebumps. As I go up the Nathula Pass and stand with the soldiers of the Indian army on the Indian border, what I see beyond is pure white - layers and layers of snow. The mountains beyond cast a beautiful image in contrast to the white snow and specks of miniature trees. I was misty eyed, not because of the cold, but because what I saw in front of me is an experience I shall never ever forget.

Some of the soldiers and I built a snowman and while we did that, they narrated a story.

There was a soldier by name Harbajhan Singh who once vanished in the glaciers. He appeared in the dreams of a fellow soldier and requested that they build a temple for him in the mountains as he was lost and he'll be able to find his way back. The Indian government acceded to this request and a Baba Mandir was built a few minutes trek down the snow capped mountains. The soldier had provided the Indian government with information on some infiltration before he missed his way in the mountains. It's believed that a prayer here keeps the soldiers safe during trying times. (And I can't forget the hot sheera that was served here as prashad; I thought I died and went to heaven - snow capped mountains, mild chill and hot food - that's heaven for me)

I stand up and salute these guys that stand there braving such fickle weather and loneliness and protect this country. They deserve all the love and respect that we can give them.

The other side Sikkim is relatively warm and is covered with tea estates and monasteries. In one of the monasteries in Gangtok, a wolf roams about freely and is regarded as a pet animal.

I missed the Gordungmar lake at 18000 ft as the weather became very fickle and I wasn't allowed to go there. Yumesang was picture perfect notwithstanding the fact that my jeep got stuck in the snow and required 2 strong people to move it out, else I wouldn't be here to write this post. :)

The local liquor made of millets steeped in hot water, is fun to drink. The local music and rock bands are simply the best.

And some visuals below (all pics taken using my Sony 6 MP digital camera)

Monday, 21 April 2014

R for Rameswaram

The southern tip of India that connects Sri Lanka, not only has a political significance but a very important historical / mythological significance. It is said that Lord Ram built a bridge from here to Sri Lanka to rescue his wife Sita who was abducted by Ravan. There are evidences to prove that this bridge (Ram Setu) indeed exists. A beautiful temple, lot of history and a brilliant beach - this place is definitely on my list. While Danushkoti was washed away in a cyclone, the temple still stands strong, a testimony to the brilliant architecture of our times.

All pics courtesy Wikipedia

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Q for Queensland

I fell in love with Australia after watching the Masterchef series. While I am really not a fan of beach-y places, Queensland is one such place that has beaches on one side and mountains on the other. The Gold Coast, Great Barrier Reef, Sun Coast, the rain forests are some of the most popular tourist spots.

PS: It's a very short piece today (as the day has been super busy and I hardly had time to breathe). Blog inspired by fellow blogger Vinitha's Queensland pics on twitter.

Pics courtesy Wiki.

Friday, 18 April 2014

P for Pune

I have been associated with this city for over 3 decades now; as they say, home is where the heart is; and my heart will always remain in Pune. A small city about 3 hours drive from Bombay, Pune is rich in culture, tradition and yet has a very modern outlook. I've spent quite some time here and have felt completely at home every time I step foot here.

A small airport where you walk across the runway to board a flight is managed by the Defense forces. The route to the airport is so scenic that you'd just want to walk your way reveling in the beauty of nature. A walk on MG Road, Camp and East Street gives an old world charm. Kayani Bakery makes the best shrewsbury biscuits. Shopping for groceries at Dorabjees, late night ice creams at Naturals, a cup of mint tea and a book at German Bakery, Double cheese omelette, bun maska and cutting chai at Vohuman's cafe, yummy dosas at Shekar's, the amazing bhakarwadis at Chitale, Dagudu seth Ganpati, shopping spree along Tulsi Bhag and Laxmi Road, a quiet visit to Kasba Ganpati, an evening at ABC Farms over a glass of wine, quiet homestays along the Mula river and Mulshi Dam - all this and so much more leaves me wanting to go back.

The T20 World Championships that we watched at a friend's place, a trip to Choki Dhani, a village themed resort, getting drenched in the rain, loitering around late in the night, crashing back at my place watching a funny movie - all these will forever remain fresh in my memory.

Hot summers, cold winters and insane monsoons is how I have experienced this city.

I miss my friends, I miss the city, I even my previous workplace; I can't wait for a change to go to Pune and spend a few days visiting all these places and revel in the memories.

This post is also dedicated to all those people that made my time in Pune so memorable that even after all these years I miss them and miss the place.

Choki Dhani - A Village Themed Resort

Khadakvasla Dam

Nature Walk - Eco Village - Off Mulshi

I miss this rowdy bunch

And I miss my team

East Street Cafe, East Street

A team trip to Ananda Valley
Oh yes, we eat all the time - celebrating Roshan's birthday!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

O for Ooty

One more hill station adding to my list of places traveled. Located in the Nilgiri hills and often known at Udagamandalam, this once pretty hill station is called the queen of hill stations. Ooty was the summer capital of the erstwhile Madras region, during the British Raj. (Even now, the place is beyond crowded during summer vacations)

Extremely well connected by roads and rail, my fondest memories of Ooty were staying in a beautiful little cottage owned by a relative and being bundled in layers of warm clothing as we had never seen such chill cweather, having lived in the hot and humid Chennai. I have some of the best Chocolates, Tea and fresh vegetables from this region. I haven't been here in decades now but I do hope I can go again and relive some old memories and make new ones.

From Ooty, it's easier to cover other places like Conoor, Top Slip, Coimbatore & Pykara Dam. Yes I want to go again. :)

Pics courtesy Wikipedia

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

N for Nepal

One more mountain country for me to visit - Nepal - shares it border with India on one site and China on the other, a bit of Tibet on another side. Home to some of the important peaks including Mt Everest, Nepal has remained on the wishlist for a very long time now. Mountains, fields, valleys, lakes - this little country has it all. Despite being the birth place of Buddha, surprisingly this country practices Hinduism as it's main religion.

Now, I am already dreaming about a vacation to Nepal. Sigh!

Have you been to Nepal? How has your experience been? Must see places? Off beat trails?

Wishlist: Norway, New Zealand, North Pole?