Travel Tales from India and Abroad - Striving to be India's Best Travel Blog
Mridula Dwivedi started blogging on 'Travel Tales from India' in June 2005. She renamed it Travel Tales from India & Abroad in 2016. Within a few months of the launch, her travel blog found a mention on both the BBC and The Guardian. She shares her travelling experience and photographs on her blog.
My sister Alka and I visited Budapest in November 2017. I am glad I was able to drag her on a vacation along with me. It was her first trip abroad and our first together as adults! One of the first places we explored there was the Margaret Island, Budapest
I am a big fan of local transport. One of our first purchases in Budapest was a 3 day travel card. We used it to buy a local sim card. Armed with a travel card and Google Maps we were ready to explore the city!
We stayed at the Novotel Budapest Danube Hotel and we could see the grand Hungarian Parliament Building from our room. So, we went to that area the very next morning. While coming back we got off the tram at the Margaret Bridge. The place looked interesting, so we walked ahead a little and that is how we tumbled upon the Margaret Island.
One of the first things we noticed was the Centennial Monument by Istvan Kiss which came up in 1973. It celebrates the 100 years of unification of cities of Buda and Pest 1873. We went to the park twice but I have to admit we didn’t explore much. If you need a comprehensive guide, do refer to this excellent resource written by Budapest by Locals!
As the island is 2.5 kilometers long, it would take some time to explore it on foot. Bicycles, buggies and electric scooters are available for hire. We somehow did not ventured into hiring something!
We were so smitten by the fall colors that we would keep getting stuck at every colorful heap of fallen leaves! As I witness no fall in my own city, I am partial to it when I get to witness it in another part of the world!
The park is 500 meters wide. If you walk towards the Danube River on the Margaret Bridge side, you get to see beautiful views of the city, along with the Parliament Building.
As it was winter, the sun would set early. I love watching the evening sky. I actually love gazing at the morning sky too, but getting up early is another story!
As the sun was setting and it was our first day in a new city, we decided to head back to our hotel. We went back to the Margaret Island on our last day of the trip too, but we still need another date with it.
My sister and I have had so much fun together that I am already planning our next November getaway!
The summer vacation is over, Chhavi has just gone back to school. This was the most fun summer vacation we ever had. We both played tennis, we did the quick trip to Thailand and of course we ended up studying as well. My child will never know the joy of playing non stop for two months, like we did, back in the days when there was no holiday homework! But such is life. Traveling with my daughter is so much fun though!
While Chhavi played tennis and I would wait for my turn, I often ended up discussing summer vacation plans with other moms. I have never understood the logic- if we do not take our kids abroad what will they go back and tell in the school?
I have been travelling abroad since 2014 with Vasudha and Chhavi also known as double trouble. That was the year when Chhavi got her passport but I don’t think she has any inclination to go back and brag in her school. That has never been our motivation for travelling.
This year I heard a new variation of the theme- my children refuse to go anywhere which is not exclusively meant for kids. The first time Chhavi, Vasudha and I traveled abroad it was to Hongkong and primarily Disneyland. But since then the kids have been to Prague with me.
And this year Chhavi and I went to Thailand, we visited Koh Samui. A a lot of people told me that Samui is a quiet place and the kid would not like it. I am happy to say that Chhavi can entertain herself for hours on a beach and in the swimming pool.
I had plans of taking her on a speed boat ride but I was a little hesitant. Those trips are long and the sun is hot. She took the matter out of our hands. She refused to go anywhere.
She was happy to stay at the resort. After breakfast we would go look for water. She would jump in the pool, then get out and go jump in the sea only to be back and jump in the pool again. This is what she more or less did for the entire vacation. She also enjoyed the Jacuzzi in our room at the Royal Muang Samui Villas.
She refused to go out anywhere other than to the street outside to have a few of our meals. There were open air massage shacks which we both enjoyed. She went on a jet ski ride too. All this was available right by our beach, the beautiful Choeng Mon Beach.
I firmly believe that kids can enjoy any destination as long as we are a little creative, listen to them and give them the freedom to voice their opinions. For example when we were in Prague, I realized that the kids like to go to open parks once in the day. They would race me to the top a Castle, visit a church, sit down quietly for a meal in the afternoon but by the evening they would nudge me towards either Kampa or Lanta Park where they could run around, walk or just make a silly games and play.
While we were flying back from Koh Samui I read an article in the in the Silkwinds, the magazine of Silk Air which precisely voice my opinions but in a better way. The authors in their story, Have Kids Will Travel, mention that they took their 2 year old to Angkor Wat. And the kid loved visiting Mr Buddha’s house! You can read the article and the may issue here.
As a parent I feel we already protect our kids too much. I do not want to make their vacations a complete bubble wrap. Until I read the article I always felt unsure when people said their kids refuse to travel if they are not taken to a theme park or a water park or something similar. But when I read that article at 32 thousand feet I exactly understood what I felt.
So if a two year old can enjoy visiting Mr. Buddha’s House, what is wrong in enjoying a beach or a swimming pool? One can just explore a new place and realize that the world is a beautiful place and in the end as they in Thailand, we in the end are same same but different!
Drawing and painting don’t come naturally to me. In school, my teachers would not fail me in drawing because I was good at other subjects! Even today I can hardly draw a straight line with a scale. However, on my trips, I often end up in experiential crafts set up. Truth be told, such events used to terrify me in the past, but not anymore. Gradually I lost my fear of messing up. This was no school and I was not giving an exam. So, when I visited the Benjarong Village at Ban Don Kai Dee in Thailand, I actually had fun!
I was traveling with a group of Indian media and travel agents and we were assigned two separate tables, one for media and one for travel agents. Our task was to paint a design on porcelain object.
The history of Benjarong is fascinating spanning two countries China and Thailand and involves marriage! I quote from Wikipedia–
“The earliest trace of Benjarong ever recorded is back to the Ming dynasty in China (1368–1644 A.D.). In the reign of Xuande Emperor (1425-1435 A.D.) Benjarong was invented at Zhejiang province. Although Benjarong was invented in Xuande Emperor, it started to be popular in the reign of Chenghua Emperor (1464-1487 A.D.). In China, Benjarong will have three or more colors but in Thailand, Benjarong usually has five or more colors … About 600 years ago, a princess from China was married into the Siam dynasty (now Thailand) and she brought Benjarong with her. At that time, it is understood that Benjarong porcelain was made only for the Emperor of China’s use. However, Benjarong was then supplied from China to the king of Siam for several generations (i.e. King Prasat Thong reigned 1629-1656). Siam started to produce porcelain after they discovered Kaolin which is one of the main materials of Benjarong. ( History of Benjarong, 2014) After discovering the Kaolin, the King of Siam decided to bring some of the artists from China and established workshops in Siam Kingdom. The first Benjarong that was made in Thailand was in the reign of King Rama V. King Rama V also permitted Benjarong to be used by his aristocracy and by certain wealthy and influential merchants. Nowadays, Benjarong is available to all who have the means to purchase it because of King Rama IX’s permission.”
Moving back to the present day, I was given an elephant shaped pencil holder to paint. The drawing was already there, all I needed was to fill in the colors. I had good fun doing so.
The workshop space also holds a large collection of Benjarongs done by experts. One can buy the artwork but the prices are still fit for the kings!
We took a walk around the village. At the other end there are small shops that sell Benjarongs at more affordable price.
If you have been to Thailand many times like me you might be on a lookout for new things to do! Benjarong Village is a fun filled activity that lets you engage with the authentic craft of the land.
Visiting Cyprus was an adventure for me. I actually took a flight from Bangkok, reached Delhi, got out of immigration, went to departures and took another flight to Larnaca via Bahrain! It was a first, when Delhi became a transit point for me. As I took a long route to reach Cyprus, I did arrive totally tired.
St. Nicolas Church, Paphos
Our first stop was Paphos and I totally loved the place. It was full of flowers in March, and it immediately lifted my spirits. I went around for a walk near my hotel and found this gem of a monument, St. Nicolas Church.
The Light House at Paphos
I visited Paphos, Nicosia, Kakopetria and Aiya Napa but Paphos remains my favorite. It has beautiful waters and much more. The Archaeological Park at Paphos contains mosaics from medieval times. I wish we had more time to explore it. I saw the light house from the park too! You can see once again that the landscape is dotted with flowers!
The Basilica of Panagia Limeniotissa, Paphos, Cypurs
We walked from the park to see the Basilica of Panagia Limeniotissa in Paphos. It is an impressive place with a main church where prayers are still held.
The Roam Amphitheater at Kato Paphos
The Paphos Amphitheater is a sight to behold. I enjoyed it for the view of the sea as well.
The Aphrodite’s Rock
On our way to the Amphitheater, we stopped at the Aphrodite’s Rock, supposed to be the birthplace of Goddess Aphrodite. The mythology surrounding the place is fascinating. You can dig more here and here.
From Paphos we shifted our base to Nicosia the capital of Cyprus. We went on to explore the beautiful town of Kakopetria in the hills. The weather was cool, the sights beautiful and the pace leisurely. Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis Church at Kakopetria is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The interiors are covered in rich paintings from 11th to 17th century. Photography inside the church is prohibited though.
Making Flouna at Khirokitia
On the last day, our group of travel agents and media visited Khirokitia and Aiya Napa. By now fatigue was catching up with me. My right knee was giving me a lot of trouble and I was barely able to walk! Luckily it was the last day of the trip and later in the evening we were catching the flight back home!
I would have enjoyed the traditional activities of making the Easter Bread, Flouna, more if I was in a better frame of mind.
Ayia Napa, the Party Town of Cyprus
Because of my knee pain, I would stay in the vehicle while others would run to explore a nearby place. That is when I realized how much running around we do on a blogging trip!
Ayia Thekla Chapel, Cyprus
Our last two minute photo stop was at the Ayia Thekla Chapel. We were headed to the airport after that! I would surely like to go to Cyprus on a holiday and explore it at a leisurely pace! You can see a bit more of Cyprus in another post of mine.
I loved the tour of Cyprus which was organized by the Cyprus Convention Bureau. I was lucky to be invited as a travel blogger for the trip!
Recently Chhavi and I took a short break in Koh Samui, Thailand. We stayed at the Royal Muang Samui Villas. We are really thankful to TAT New Delhi and the property for hosting us.
This was my 11th visit to Thailand and the first for Chhavi. Chhavi has now been to Hong Kong, USA, Prague and Koh Samui, not bad for a ten year old! On all the previous trips, there was no demand to go back, for Thailand she is quite vocal, she told me “mama we have to go there two times! We loved our stay at Koh Samui.
We flew in via Singapore this time, so we took the visa on arrival at Koh Samui, it was a breeze! However, we were tired after a long lay off at Changi when we arrived at resort. Norbert, the guest relations manager greeted us and took us around the property. We stayed in the Villa 217 which is right next to the pool!
Our room was beautiful. We had a lot of space both in the bed room and the bathroom. Chhavi’s favorite place was the bath tub with the Jacuzzi. We had a good sleep on all nights.
In the mornings I could hear birds twittering away right from my room. But during my entire stay I didn’t get up even once early in the morning.
A quirky thing I noticed on the roof was a painting of a lizard, which looked a bit realistic but somehow infinitely cute.
We were at the Royal Muang Samui Villas on May 15th and it was my birthday. The hotel staff surprised me with a welcome decoration and a yummy chocolate cake! I totally loved it. A big thank you to them from my side for making my day special!
We loved the unhurried breakfast we used to have at the resort. We loved the fruits, particularly the dragon fruit. There was plenty to choose from in the buffet. I particularly loved their fresh goat cheese!
My child is a fussy eater. But she enjoyed looking at everything and she even tried out a few new things like grilled fish!
We had two dinners at the Spice Zone Beach Restaurant. Our last dinner was with live music which Chhavi enjoyed a lot! I ate pasta, phad thai and rice while Chhavi would share my dish and eat french fries!
We loved sitting by the beach as the sky turned dark and enjoy our meal in leisure!
The Pool and The Beach
However our hot favorite were the pool and the beach. The kid enjoyed it so much that she was not interested in going anywhere else! As she can swim she could enjoy the deep pool too.
There are too waterfalls around the pool and they were her magnets! There was a cascade near the waterfall and we both would park ourselves there!
Then we would run to the beach. If you like peace and quiet you would prefer Coeng Mon beach more than Chewang. The sea is like a giant pond out there. It is safe and immense fun for kids!
I too love being near water and I did not protest when Chhavi refused to venture beyond the hotel!
The Green Effort
I was truly happy to see glass bottles in our room for water! I hate using small plastic bottles on my travels and I was happy that my stay was not generating any plastic bottles which eventually go in a dump.
We also visited there nursery where they grow their ornamental plants for both their properties. They also grow lemon grass, papaya and fruits and vegetables.
This was forth foreign trip for Chhavi. She has been to Hong Kong and Prague with me and to the USA with her father. Never once she said she wants to go back to a place. To Koh Samui she told me, “we have to do it two times!” It was so much fun for us!
PS. My stay at Royal Muang Samui Villas was sponsored via TAT New Delhi.
I saw it in many countries, I went past it but I never entered a Hard Rock Cafe untill this Wednesday. Hard Rock Cafe is celebrating the World Hamburger Day and I joined in (on invitation) by taking their World Burger Tour at their Cyber Hub outlet in Gurgaon. This was a day of firsts, it was my fist visit to Cyber Hub too!
Chhavi, my daughter, and I went there for lunch. As Cyber Hub is in the office area, I think Chhavi was the only child around. We were seated quickly inside the cafe but the girl wanted to sit on high chairs. They were able to meet her request.
Both of us liked the ambiance, which was cool and vibrant in contrast to the blazing afternoon heat outside. Once we settled down we ordered Double Berry and Wild Berry for our drinks.
Both of us are light eaters and we do’t like wasting food so we requested that they cut the our burger in half. There were four World Tour burgers on the menu in the Cyber Hub outlet- the Quesadilla burger, Chamorro burger, Katsu burger and the Tennessee BBQ Burger.
As we are vegetarians we went for the the quesadilla burger. Our drinks arrived first. Chhavi had a double berry as she likes tangy stuff. My wild berry was on the sweeter side, which was perfect for a hot day.
Then came our burger, with french fries. My daughter went after the french fries. She is a finicky eater and doesn’t like to try out new things as of now. I truly loved my burger. Whenever I have tried Mexican food, I have relished it. I wonder why I don’t go for it more often! My burger had just the right balance of spices. It was flavorful without being hot which is how I like it! We both enjoyed our meal!
The World Hamburger Day is being celebrated on 28 May and the World Hamburger Tour at the Hard Rock Cafe is going to be there for May and June.
Celebrating the World Hamburger Day with great pomp and glory, the iconic live music destination is giving out burgers at a smashing Rs. 99 for the first time ever on 28th May.
All you got to do is register yourself on the link below to ignite the Burger mania in you!
Thailand is my most visited country, I have been there 11 times as I write this. On all my previous trips, my point of entry was Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok. And if you enter from Bangkok, that is where you get your visa on arrival for Thailand. However, on the most recent trip my daughter, Chhavi and I traveled via Singapore for a vacation at Koh Samui. Getting a visa on arrival at Koh Samui on Indian Passport was a breeze!
Koh Samui is a beautiful, small airport, much different from the regular ones we encounter. It looks more like an open air tropical resort than an airport. As you climb down the stairs of the plane, carts with open sides carry you to the main building.
As there are only a few flights landing at Koh Samui, the lines at the passport control are much shorter than Suvarnabhumi Bangkok. I think a lot of nationalities do not need visa to enter Thailand, so when Chhavi and I came in to passport control area, there was hardly any queue at visa on arrival counters.
There were exactly two families on the visa on arrival counter- us and one more! The other family was waiting for something, so I had all the counters to myself! As I have been to Thailand many times, I know they accept only Thai Baht for the fee. It is 2000 per person at the moment.
I paid the fee for both of us, got the receipt and proceeded to the passport control. There was a short queue, which was nothing compared to what I see in Bangkok. I was offered the express counter for additional payment of 200 Baht per person, but I did not use it. In Bangkok I almost always use the express queue as the wait time is anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes.
We stood in the queue for about 10 minutes, got our passports stamped. We ran to the luggage counter to get our bags! Our holiday has started! It was that easy for us to get the visa on arrival at Koh Samui!
I came across Soap for Hope for the first time at Escapers17 in Singapore. That is when I met Stefan Phang, the man behind the project. It was my pleasure to meet him once more but this time in Delhi.
If you have to watch only one thing today, I would say watch this video! It would give you a thorough background about the Soap for Hope project.
Soap For Hope - From trash to treasure | Stefan Phang | TEDxBaDinh - YouTube
It will give you a good idea about the work he does. He has a regular corporate job and this is a part of his work at Diversey.
Stefan is in India for a few days and we connected over email. He asked if I would like to join him for Soap for Hope in Delhi? I immediately said yes.
We went to the Vridh Ashram (old age home) at Kanjhawala. The agenda was to make some soap, have fun and in the end donate soap for the people at the old age home.
It was my first time at an old age home, and I have such mixed feeling. I feel happy for the people that they have a safe place over their head. But I am sure the pang of being away from the family must there too!
Doctors for You is the NGO partner for Diversey in India. Tina who works for Doctors for You made a few soaps initially. Then they invited the senior citizens to try their hands at it.
People were reluctant to begin with, but a lot of people stood up eventually and tried their hands at making the soap. The lady in the picture could not not, but she amply conveyed her happiness to us about her day!
I had done it at Sofitel Singapore and I did it again at Delhi. And if I can do it, anyone in this world can do it too. Making the soap the Stefan Phang way is that easy.
We were invited to have lunch at the old age home. It was served to us with such affection. We had a hearty meal followed by good tea.
I later visited the workshop where the soaps are made in bulk by the people associated with Doctors for You.
It was a pleasure meeting you again Stefan Phang for Soap for Hope, more so in my own city! More power to you, Doctors for You and the entire team for the stellar work you guys do.
Soap is something we take so much for granted! And yet soap can mean so much to so many, less sick days, more income, and above all, hope. All that because of hotels giving away used soap and your passion to do something worthwhile with it! May your tribe grow.
The capital of India is a bustling metropolis full of must-see landmarks and cultural attractions. New Delhi actually forms a small part of Delhi itself, setting the modern district apart from the traditional areas. This city was designed by a British architect and today, you can see the heavy influence of European style throughout the winding streets. Apart from the interesting architecture and modern buildings, New Delhi is also a vibrant and lively city full of fun family attractions, historical sites and fantastic shopping districts. If you’re in New Delhi on a whirlwind trip, here’s everything you need to see in two days.
The National Museum
Start your two-day trip with a visit to The National Museum. Here, you’ll learn all about New Delhi’s history and the fascinating heritage of India, starting from the pre-historic era all the way through to modern times. The museum holds around 200,000 pieces of artwork, spanning over 5,000 years. Established in 1949, this museum is one of the largest in India and can be found on the corner of Janoath and Maulana Azad Road. It’s open 10am to 5pm every day, except for Mondays, when it’s closed. It’s a great way to begin your trip and immerse yourself in New Delhi’s history.
The National Zoological Park
If you’ve got kids travelling along with you, or if you’re just an animal lover yourself, make sure you visit The National Zoological Park on one of your two days. The park spans over 176 acres and includes a massive range of India’s most beloved animals, from hippos to giraffes and jaguars. The National Zoological Park is more than just a zoo; it’s also making great strides in the field of conservation. The breeding programme is designed to keep wild cats and rare animals from becoming extinct, in particular the royal Bengal tiger, Asiatic lion, Indian rhino and brow antlered deer. The park also features a 16th century citadel and a beautiful green island to explore.
A quick trip to New Delhi wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Red Fort, in the historic district. One of the top attractions in Delhi, the Red Fort is a great example of the power of the Munghal Emperor. The towering red sandstone structure was built in 1638, with massive walls and rooms, including the Drum House, Peal Mosque, Royal Baths, Palace of Colour and the Hall of Private Audiences. Today, you can walk through the rooms, taking in the stunning white marble and red sandstone surfaces. In the evening, the Red Fort comes alive with a dazzling sound and light show.
Visiting the India Gate is definitely a must, when holidaying in New Delhi. You can see all of it in just one morning or afternoon, so it won’t take up a lot of your trip and it’s New Delhi’s largest memorial. The India Gate is dedicated to the 82,000 soldiers who lost their lives serving in the combined British and Indian army in the First World War. The gate itself looks similar to Paris’‘ Arc de Triomphe, with lights that illuminate it when the sun goes down. The memorial holds the names of 13,300 commonwealth servicemen, as well as a shrine built underneath, in 1971, to commemorate the Unknown Solider. It’s a sombre visit, but an essential one for paying your respects to those who died for our freedom.
For an authentic New Delhi shopping experience, head to Chandi Chowk. This vibrant market is always in full swing, with huge crowds and delicious street food on offer via the numerous stalls. If you’re looking for a more chilled out alternative, the Select Citywalk is a modern mall with luxury international brands selling clothing, shoes, electronics and more.