Lakshmi Sharath | A Travel Blog Of An Indian Backpacker
Lakshmi Sharath is a travel writer, blogger, travel photographer and her articles have been published in several leading publications. She was a media professional and she quit 15 years of corporate life to travel and write.
Here is a confession. I love flying . I love dreaming about the destination that am heading to , getting pampered, binging on food, sipping drinks and most important – watching movies . If it’s a long flight I catch up on at least three films , do some reading and walk in the corridor, chat with the air hostess about her travels and binge on the snacks that she offers . And that is exactly what I did recently on a Bangalore to Hong Kong flight.
But the most exciting part of flying is dreaming . If am flying in the day I watch the clouds drift past me and wonder where they are taking me . If it is the night I am usually lost in my dreams. For someone who is constantly on the move, running around airports and exploring different destinations, flying is like a bit of pause in my schedule. It is when I switch off from work. I empty my thoughts and let my mind wander. I sometimes do a mental journal of my travels but I usually I just allow myself to vegetate and float around like the clouds.
And that is what I experienced on my Cathay Dragon flights, which is the premium full serviced regional airline from Cathay Pacific . I was flying on a Bangalore to Hong Kong flight. The Hong Kong Cathay Dragon flight was short and sweet and it was so comfortable that I barely even realized that I was in Hong Kong . Sometimes a flight to Delhi from Bangalore would feel longer . But I just reached Hong Kong in a jiffy. And that is probably why Cathay Pacific is one of the best airlines to fly you to Hong Kong and even better to the rest of the world.
I have flown Cathay Dragon a couple of times to Hong Kong and Cathay Pacific Airlines to USA . And yet I have always been pampered on the flight , even though they were personal experiences .This time however I was on a work trip to Hong Kong on invitation from the airline . I was heading to Japan on a holiday and it was such a seamless experience flying from Hong Kong to Tokyo (Narita) and from Osaka to Hong Kong.
I often wonder how people spend their time on flights , especially if it is around four to five hours. On my Bangalore to Hong Kong flight, I was privileged to board early even though I was only travelling economy. This service is however only available to wheelchair bound passengers or for parents with toddlers. Sipping on a glass of white wine I was so wired that I decided to watch a movie – The Shape of Water , a love story between a mortal and a (perceived)monster and one that questions if humans are monsters sometimes . A little morbid for a quick late night flight but I managed to have a tasty vegetarian meal before getting some shut eye . If you are interested in planning which movie to watch, you can even check before you start travelling as the entire inflight entertainment menu is available online here. I was however keen on watching this film which won the Oscars this year. I only woke up to a cup of tea and a light breakfast as the hazy lights of Hong Kong’s skyline appeared from my window . Before I knew it , I was already in Hong Kong airport after a pleasant immigration taking the Airport Express to Kowloon .
Pic Courtesy – Cathay Pacific Airways
The Cathay Pacific flights are your magic carpet to Hong Kong. With several connections from India, it flies from different cities and the timing is just perfect. In fact both Cathay Pacific Airways and Cathay Dragon operate 48 flights a week from India to Hong Kong and there are daily flights from Bangalore to Hong Kong as well. You are in Hong Kong in the morning, ready to explore the city. Perfect way to kickstart the day after a short, relaxing flight.
Three days later I was back at the Hong Kong airport waiting to board the flight to Tokyo . This time I took an airport shuttle bus from my hotel in downtown Kowloon and landed within minutes at the airport . The sun was glowing as I took the morning flight to the land of the rising sun . Tokyo was my destination . Tokyo is barely five hours from Hong Kong and it’s a perfect connection if you are looking at travelling to Japan from India. I took a comfortable morning flight from Hong Kong which is ideal if you are transiting too. You are in Tokyo by evening . You could either connect to Narita in Tokyo or Kansai in Osaka, from where I returned to India.
As the Hong Kong skyline faded out of sight and the blues of the ocean merged with the blues of the sky , I spent my time dreaming about Japan while I was pampered by the staff . Drinks flowed in followed by a simple vegetarian lunch but this time I did not watch movies . I chatted with the air hostesses from Thailand and Hong Kong on their travel schedules and read a bit about Tokyo and planned my itinerary. Within five hours I had landed in Narita which is a city by itself and takes an hour to head to downtown . But airport trains were so super fast that I was already in down town Shinjuku, a bustling suburb of Tokyo in just an hour and was all set to explore the city . However it was wet and cold when we landed late evening as we walked around literally soaking in the flavors of the city.
A week later I was back in the airport this time in Osaka as we hurriedly took an airport shuttle bus from downtown to the airport. It was such a smooth and continuous experience – perfect timing and a transit with enough time to explore and shop in Hong Kong airport before heading back to catch my return flight to Bangalore.
The Japan flights were very convenient – perfect time to enter and exit the cities and the duration was also just about five hours and it does not tire you at all . The thumb rule is that all Cathay flights from India land in Hong Kong by 940 am and the transit is not too much of a wait either. I was also surprised to get hot Indian vegetarian food in some of the sectors and it was, unlike more airline food not insipid or overcooked.
I could even use electronic devices on board. The flights also gave me sufficient time to just relax and unwind and recall some of the best moments of the trip. A perfect way to end a perfect trip. The very ethos and the essence of Cathay Pacific Airways is the travel experience as they believe travelling well is part of living well and they strive to ensure that every passenger takes home more than just an album of memories. And the first step begins with a comfortable, pleasant flight.
How do you spend your time in a flight ?
This post is written in collaboration with Cathay Pacific Airways who hosted me on the Bangalore-Hong Kong-Tokyo-Osaka-Hong Kong -Bangalore sectors. There are several offers available and you can avail them here.
Travel and sports are an amazing combination. There are several destinations worldwide which are becoming favourite arenas for sporting activities. The Olympics is what comes to everyone’s minds as destination vie to hold the prestigious event. But then, every sport draws crowds to various cities, be it cricket, tennis, football, From Barcelona to Melbourne, I have done tours of football and cricket stadiums as well. One of my dreams is to watch Wimbledon in Wimbledon. There are Formula one destinations that beckon those who love races. But right now it is football fever that has seized all of Europe as the UEFA (Union of European Football Association) Champions League Semi finals are around the corner. The cities that will be playing host to the matches include Madrid in Spain, Munich in Germany, Rome in Italy and Liverpool in the UK. The grand finale will be in Kyiv, Ukraine, a city that is on my bucket list.
It’s a great time to hit to these cities to catch some sporting action and also to lose yourself in the tourist attractions. You could even catch a flamenco dance in Madrid and head to a beer garden in Munich in between the games. So book your tickets right now to the cities of your choice and get ready for the adrenalin rush. If you cannot make up my mind where you would like to head to, here is a list of the top attractions of cities that are going to hold the UEFA champions league.
Pic Courtesy – By Viacheslav Lopatin, Shutterstock
Think Rome and you think of gladiators. The Colosseum which is one of the earliest sporting arenas, where public spectacles were held is an iconic symbol of Rome. Built over 2000 years ago, this is where brave gladiators fought each other while animal hunts, mock sea battles were held to entertain over 65,000 people. But there is also a connection to Good Friday where the Pope leads a massive procession in this massive amphitheatre. While it has withstood the onslaught of several battles over the years, it has however been affected by earthquakes over a period of time. Nevertheless it still echoes with cries and screams as triumph and failures have resulted in life and death here.
There are so many archaeological tours in Rome that take you to museums and monuments where you can see the ruins of the erstwhile great empire that had conquered the world at one time. I would also recommend that you spend an extra day and head to the Vatican City and explore the museums besides heading to the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. The second leg of the first semi-final takes place in Rome between Liverpool FC and AS Roma on 3 rd May.
The first leg of the second semi-final between the biggies – Bayern Munich and Real Madrid takes place here on 25 th April! Munich has so much to offer for every tourist from sporting arenas to old towns to palaces, cathedrals, beer gardens and breweries. The passion for football runs in the veins of the Bavarians as you meet ardent fans of team FC Bayern. Get to the Allianz Arena and get a stadium tour and enter the locker rooms and listen to the stories. There is another legendary stadium – which housed the Olympics in 1972 and now the Olympic Park is a destination by itself.
However for me Bavaria is all about the old world charm and walking around Marienplatz and Odeonplatz is an experience by itself. The stories come alive in monuments as even puppets perform in monuments. Head to the Neues Rathas or the New Hall in Marienplatz at noon and stand in front of Rathaus Glockenspeil . 43 bells will begin to chime as 32 life sized puppets start to dance and perform for you.
The Spanish capital is full of vibrancy and energy. From flamenco dancers to matadors fighting bulls, there is so much of action and passion here. And you cannot miss the Real Madrid Bernabéu Stadium tour. Madrid hosts second leg of the second semi final between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich on 2nd May!
Pic Courtesu yangyuen, shutterstock
However Madrid is also a city of art and museums, history and palaces. If you want to lose yourself in the old world charm then head to the old squares – Plaza Mayor where red brick buildings greet you. The oldest square is the Plaza de la Villa where you can soak in the atmosphere. Stop by any of the pavement cafes or the tapas bars as you continue walking around Plaza de la Paja.
Pic Courtesy – Gordon Bell, Shutterstock
The land of the Beatles, Liverpool is bustling with football fever as well with fans of Liverpool FC rooting for them. Anfield is the football stadium here that can house 45000 spectators. The city hosts the first leg of the semi-final between Liverpool FC and AS Romaon 24th April. The ancient port town however has several attractions making it a UNESCO World Heritage Maritime Mercantile City. But first, immerse yourself in The Beatles Story, an exhibition dedicated to the life of the Fab Four and head to The Cavern Club. Walk around and lose yourself in the lively and vibrant atmosphere of Albert’s Dock where the old dockyard and warehouses still remain. The Maritime Mercantile City includes the Pier Head as well. Some of the other cultural attractions include the Gothic styled Liverpool Cathedral while there are several museums and concert halls.
Kiev or Kyiv
Pic Courtesy – Olgysha, Shutterstock
The finals of the adrenalin pumping UEFA Championships will be held in Kyiv, in Ukraine on the 27th of May, one of the most historic, cultural and sporting destinations, It has been on my bucketlist for a while and I hope to explore some of the iconic sights in the town. Museums and markets fill the city along with theatres, cathedrals, an opera house and a concert hall. Do not miss the Besarabsky Market located right in the heart of the city where the local seasonal produce is sold. Parks and gardens are found everywhere giving it a lush cover. But there are a lot of sacred sites including the Kiev Perchersk Lavra or the Monastery of Caves and Saint Sophia Cathedral, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
As you plan your travels this summer, ensure that you are in one or all these cities for the sporting event. If I had to pick a choice, it would be Kyiv. International travels are today are made possible today with forex cards where you can travel anywhere with one card. It’s safer, less cumbersome and you can access any currency you want anywhere. One of the biggest advantages is that you can manage your card safely than cash, especially when you are travelling in crowded events like the UEFA Championships.
Pic Courtesy – SPF, Shutterstock
If you are planning to head to Europe then your ticket to UEFA Champions League Final is the Axis Bank Forex Card. Axis Bank has tied up with Mastercard and there is an exciting offer for travel and sports enthusiasts. If you are an Axis Bank Forex Card customer, then you stand a chance to be at Kyiv for the finals courtesy Mastercard. There is an all expenses paid trip for a couple to watch the UEFA Champions League Final and you also get an Axis Bank ForexCard with $250 loaded in it for you to spend. You will also get of 300 UEFA Champions League Merchandise with your Axix Bank Forex Card and do not miss this opportunity.
This post is written in collaboration with Axis Bank Forex Card and Mastercard.
I woke up in the 30th floor of a five star property in Singapore. I could see the sea from my window. As I gazed at it with awe, I was summoned to the lobby immediately as we had to rush to the airport to catch the flight to Australia.It was my first time abroad but it had not yet sunk in. It was also the first time I had flown in an aircraft and I was on transit. I had landed in Singapore in the wee hours of the morning and had just fallen asleep. When I woke up, I was lost in the blues of the ocean . Mesmerised, it took me a while to realize that I was on the 30 the floor. For a 21 year old, who had never been to Mumbai or Delhi, whose travels had only been limited to the Southern States, whose idea of a big city was Chennai and a tourist destination was Ooty – seeing the vast open expanse of oceans from the 30th floor of a luxury hotel in an international destination which I had only heard about, was more than just an experience. I wanted to call my parents and explain to them how I felt. I wanted to speak to my eight year old brother. I wanted to just jump in joy and share my excitement and describe my travel experience. But I had to wait a month for the same.
We talk about travel all the time and so let us do some time travel. We are not travelling to the Middle Ages, but just rewinding the clock a bit to an era, where one actually feels that you are in the medieval times.I am just on a nostalgia trail, recollecting my first ever international jaunt and my travel experience to a slew of countries – Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia for about 28 days
Back in Singapore, I was a wide eyed, naive and raw traveller. I wanted to log every moment of the trip. But I did not have a camera to record my memories. I did not have a mobile either. No facebook or instagram to announce my presence or whatsapp to speak to my family and friends. There was no google to give me any information or show me photographs. Wait. There was no internet, no wifi, no network – no one knew what those words meant. To me, this was my first tryst with a unknown destination and I was alone with myself and my thoughts.
Sometimes i wonder if this was the real journey. The mind is open to new cultures and people, to novel experiences without any preconceived notions. Every conversation, every encounter is special. There is a childlike innocence when you travel. A fresh perspective, an open mindedness, and a natural sense of awe that one experiences. It is an uninterrupted special bond between you and the destination. After twenty countries and several jaunts, I wonder if I could head to a country today without reading about it or even seeing any images about it and without any cameras or phones. Technology has taken travellers to different realms and yet I wonder if it is just a crutch. Has it taken away the fresh flush of travel, the naive excitement, the raw flavour and killed the eurekha moment ?
I did two trips with my late grandfather, who was a renowned coffee planter and they were both study tours on coffee. While the first was to Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia, the second was even more exotic – to Brazil, San Salvador and Costa Rica. They were not solo trips and yet it felt like one as I was always on my own. In New Zealand I went boating alone in a little lake near Auckland. In Malaysia I took off on a water scooter with a stranger for about 30 minutes. Every moment of my travel experience was much more pronounced than before and I lived in that moment. And every experience seemed much more real and was novel as I had not seen or read about it before. Feeding a kangaroo in a national park near Adelaide and cuddling a koala, sipping wine at a chateau in Barossa Valley, yelling at the Whispering Wall to see if someone could hear me on the other side, touring the Melbourne Cricket Club, watching in awe at sky trains, losing myself in the many lanes. I remember being in tears when the fireworks swept the sky on Australia Day as I wondered why we did not celebrate our own Republic Day with such elan. And every bit of my travel experience felt real, something that you feel deep within you.
How different would these experiences be today ? Perhaps not very different and yet there is something special about a first time. Nothing prepares you for it. You probably have an itinerary on paper and you let your imagination take over. Today, you however have media in every form being bombarded in front of you. When I saw the statue of Jesus with his arms spread out near Rio, I felt an inexplicable sense of awe. I was glad in retrospect that I had not met the internet then.
I do not have too many photographs but every memory is captured in my mind’s eye. That is when I realized how travel can open your minds to other cultures, in its raw and naked form. Many memories stay in my mind. I did keep a journal but this journey kick started in me a new habit. I sent a post card to my parents from every destination. In New Zealand I also discovered a Madras Street and went ballistic and sent a postcard to my parents.To me these postcards are my souvenirs of memories, snippets from my journal and precious fossils of an era before internet.I try and send a post card to myself from every destination even today.
As a world traveller travel I have always believed is about conversations than just sights and sounds. People make places for me. In New Zealand I met a Maori in a train and we shared stories. In Brazil I chatted with samba performers and tried the Caipirinha. I did not have a Facebook to keep in touch with them but the conversations made the journeys priceless. Travel to me is all about serendipity and in my old jaunts, every moment was serendipitous. And I had several of these moments as I continued travelling down the ages. Cab drivers, guides, waiters, co passengers in a train – every one had a story to share. And even as I knocked off more countries as a traveller, I wondered if i have evolved as a traveller ?
Today I see a destination through a lens, my mind is more familiar with the experiences, my phone has replaced me as my favourite travel companion, my facebook and instagram has more pictures of me than people and places and I have already beefed up my brain with lots of information about the destinations. But imagine the era before internet, before technology invaded our lives – we were more mindful, we observed and listened more, we made more friends, we learnt more from conversations, we saw, touched and felt more than just with our fingertips. Our minds were more vulnerable even as the child in us was always awake, waiting to lap every experience and absorb every moment !
I think we were true travellers in the sense of the word. Would you love to time travel with me to such an era ?
It almost felt like a holiday . I had not been to Delhi in over a decade and I had always been there only on transit. And so when I got an opportunity to visit Delhi on work and was hosted by the Accor Hotels at Aerocity, I jumped at the opportunity. There are over a score of hotels in Aerocity which is spread over 40,000 square feet. While these are not not just airport hotels, the entire area is becoming one of the hot spots in Delhi with bustling events and shows. I was on a hotel hopping spree, spending a couple of nights at IBIS New Delhi Aerocity and then at Novotel New Delhi Aerocity and finally at Pullman New Delhi Aerocity. Accor Hotels apparently has the largest inventory of rooms in Aerocity alone, with 445 rooms in Ibis and a combined lot of 670 keys in Pullman and Novotel.
IBIS New Delhi Aerocity
We were picked up by the IBIS staff and in barely ten minutes I was inside IBIS. Despite the close proximity of the airport, the hotel was an oasis of silence as I sipped ginger tea, in the gazebo and basked in the sunshine for a while. The highlight of my stay in IBIS was my room – English Vintage which was designed by Neha, an employee of the hotel. It had a Victorian flavour about it – from the colours to the decor. Delicate touches like an antique mirror, an old clock, a kettle and a poster of the vintage car on the walls added to the charm. Painted in hues of blue, lavender and purple, I loved the lace that decorated the walls.
The My Room Concept is one of the most unique experiences – it not only bonds the employees of a hotel with the guests, but it also brings their dreams true. I met Neha over coffee and we discussed her dreams and desires and how she would like to visit UK sometime. There are many more rooms designed under My Rooms, one even themed on Bollywood.
While I was exploring Delhi on the two days, I enjoyed meeting my friends who visited me and we chilled at Spice IT, the restaurant at IBIS . Be it chatpatta Indian fare or delicious continental, buffets or A la Carte meals, there is something in it for everyone. Speaking to the chef, he explained the challenge of catering to different audiences each day as most of them were here on transit between flights. However what I liked about the restaurant is the atmosphere. Bright and cheerful, vibrant and casual, it is open and has a live kitchen as well. No wonder it is always full of life. I walked around Aerocity in the evenings and I found the area bustling and much safer compared to rest of Delhi.
Novotel New Delhi Aerocity
It was almost late night when I checked in to my room at Novotel. My luggage was already brought in the morning while I had stepped out to explore Delhi and when I walked into my room, the soft light and the lilting music greeted me. For a moment I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. I was not in Delhi, any more but in Chateau Lille. The room was designed by a sommelier and little wonder that I was in high spirits. Chateau Lille was also a part of the My Rooms concept initiated by the hotel.
I particularly enjoyed the bright and chirpy atmosphere of Food Exchange the signature restaurant where I would have a leisurely breakfast that almost ended in brunch. It was an elaborate affair by itself with different cuisines that you would probably have to skip lunch after a sumptuous meal. The flavours are distinctly organic Asian and it offered an elegant dining experience. The Pizzas here are highly recommended as they are hand rolled wood fired pizza. The Rotisserie is a destination for meat lovers as the chef explained that there is a different menu everyday and you can even purchase the meat by weight. Being a vegetarian however I settled for some Indian fare with their signature dishes, Panner Tikka, Pumpkin and Corn with mango chutney with rice and roti. If you are looking for a quiet bar to sip some cocktails and wines then head to Quoin.
Pullman New Delhi Aerocity
But if you are looking for an exclusive F&B destination in Aerocity, then head to Pullman NewDelhi Aerocity. I had the most luxurious suite in the hotel, but if you ask me which is my favourite place, it has to be the Herbs Garden. Sitting in the open, along the warm sunshine, sipping a Watermelon and Basil cooler, I watched gardeners at work .
After a while, I went on a tour as we saw the herbs and vegetables being plucked. It looked like a small garden but the in house farm is over 5000 sq feet in space and the chefs plucked the ingredients right from here.Serving both European and Indian flavours, the menu is based on the seasonal vegetables that is grown here and it is all about farm to table. Some of the signature dishes that I tried included the signature Golgappa and Caviar and the Sweet Potato with Feta and Pomegranate just added to the flavour.
I love the names here. Besides Pluck you have Plink and Honk. The latter is a bistro style restaurant serving contemporary Asian menu and I had my dinner here. Their motto is apparently serving Street Smart Food. I had a set menu which included a mic of Chinese and Japanese, Indonesian, Thai and Singaporean cuisines. The menu has been created keeping in mind the travellers who stay here. While it is a foodie haven for meat and sea food, there are good vegetarian options as well. I loved the Crispy Lotus Stem Asparagus, which is one of the Raw and Nibbles which is served with caramalised onions. There are vegetarian dumplings as well besides Stir Fried Spinach with Ginger Oil
But it was the ambience with the soft and dim lighting that made it an experience. Even the decor told a story. At the entrance you could see banana trees and lamps which symbolically denoted Pinjor, a festive celebration in South East Asia.
Plink is where i ended up my culinary tryst with Pullman.Wine tasting with Kriti S, the award winning sommelier was an experience in itself . And while we tasted different reds and whites from different parts of the world , the fun began when Kriti started doing a personality analysis based on our favourite wine of the day. And she told me that I am restless and love to travel. Just kidding, I am not going to share what she told me, although I must say that it was rather true.
Three days in Aerocity just whizzed past and it was a honour to end my tryst with the 100th property of Pullman in the world.
This post was written in collaboration with Accor Hotels and they hosted me for four nights in Ibis New Delhi Aerocity, Novotel New Delhi Aerocity and Pullman New Delhi Aerocity.
Pictures courtesy Accor Hotels
All these can be savoured with Sides of Baby Spinach, Grilled Vegetables, Sautéed Garlic Broccoli, Corn, Parmesan Cream & Garlic or Seasonal mushrooms.Natural Potato at Pluck can be savoured three ways: plain old Baked Potato, the same can be savoured in a Smoked Chipotle flavour or Bacon and Crispy Garlic flavour.
House Sauces are the best condiments on the table with a choice of 3 Mustard Sauce, Bearnaise, Blue Cheese, Peppercorn or BBQ; these add a punch to every meal.
Desserts get special attention at Pluck with a wide choice ranging from delectable Hot Caramelized Pear with Valrhona Chocolate, Biscuit Breton, and Hot Toffee Sauce & Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream to a sublime Yuzu Flan: Caramelized Banana, White Chocolate Mousse, Champagne Pearls & Maple Ice Cream. An extraordinary treat in the form of Greek Custard, Rasmalai Parfait with Strawberry Sorbet and Candied Beetroot awaits you. The Greek custard is made from salty feta cheese and stuffed with a sweet rasmalai parfait. It is accompanied by a very pleasing strawberry sorbet and candied beetroot and finished with cocoa boondi, a rather novel take.
Quench your Thirst with Grape Year which is bursts with the flavours of Apricot jam and Prunes muddled with lemon juice; these are combined with grape juice and finished with prunes as garnish. The Sunrise Kick is a spicy drink made up jalapenos, orange chunks, apple juice, crushed ice and finished with a slice of jalapneo as garnish; one for the adventurous palate. From cocktails, Cucumber Basil Refresher is a great way to start your meal, prepared with freshly plucked basil and cucumber. Amalia, our orange flavoured cocktail is an rare cocktail that you will only find at Pluck.
Signature dishes at Pluck include:
Golgappa Caviar with Tzatziki Dip and Dried Ginger Gastrique
Parmesan Burnt Garlic with Oat Meal Streusel roll over Melba
Quinoa Broccoli Cake
Roasted Cod Candied Orange with Lentil Stew, Madeira jus and burnt butter
Deconstructed Mulligatawny with Coconut Gel and Puffed Rice & Lentil Broth
Tandoor Roasted Amritsari Salmon Pomelo & Mint Salad with Sweet Lemon Rind
Bhavnagri Chilli & Candied Onion Paneer Tart with Texture of Onion
Pulled Tandoori Chicken Cannelloni with Crispy Skin, Roasted Cumin and Cheese Sauce
Five Lentils Crusted Fish with Idli Sponge, Beetroot Murabba Puree with Malabari Sauce
Greek Custard, Rasmalai Parfait with Strawberry Sorbet and Candied Beetroot
About Chef Ajay Anand
Chef Ajay Anand, Director of Culinary at Pullman and Novotel, Aerocity, New Delhi is a passionate professional who loves serving what he relishes. He swears by the motto ‘Imagination Unlimited’ whilst at work. Ajay’s cooking style has evolved from the techniques and flavors from cultures around the world, but is rooted in classic French traditions. He endeavors to balance European traditionalism with Asian minimalism and American ingenuity.
About Chef Ashish Dhar
Chef Ashish Dhar, is associated with Pullman and Novotel as Chief Culinary Designer. He brings along 15 years of rich and varied experience in Food & Beverage operations, Client Servicing and Team Management in the Hotel industry in US, UK and India. He specializes in European cuisine and wants to take farm-to-table food concept to newer heights at Pluck.
Seating capacity: 110 guests
Meal for two: Rs 3000 + taxes (without alcohol)
Lunch timings: 12pm-3pm
Dinner timings: 7 pm -11.30pm
Asset No 2, Aerocity Hospitality District,
IGI Airport New Delhi – 37, India. T: +91 11 4608 0808
Situated at the lobby level of Pullman New Delhi Aerocity, Pling is the elegant, sensuous and tranquil lounge-bar. The very name is inspired by the sound of ice dropping in a glass of liquid and connotes good times and shared laughter. Pling offers a high-end lounge bar experience with live music, exclusive club style services and showcases the signature ‘Vinoteca by Pullman’ which offers an international wine selection by the glass or bottle. The elegantly designed aesthetics of the bar, accompanied by the sumptuous selection of hors d’oeuvres and tapas, makes it a perfect place to meet friends and associates alike. Pling transforms from an active luxury light-dining space to a vibrant lux-lounge featuring both national and international bands.
Vinoteca by Pullman
The Vinoteca is a concept that is synonymous with Pullman across the world. The introduction of Vinoteca by Pullman is a good example of how Pullman Hotels & Resorts aims to meet the needs of the modern traveller. At Vinoteca by Pullman, a minimum selection of ten wines are served by the glass and a minimum of two Champagnes served by the glass. The selection changes regularly to vary the offering as Pullman encourages guests to try as many wines as possible. Appropriate wine preservation systems to store and serve wines by the glass effectively are in place. At Pullman, wine is an ice-breaker, a conversation starter. After work, after a meeting, before going back to the room, at cocktail time or after dinner, wine brings people together.
We at Pling thrive to surprise our guests with food elements prepared & presented in a way which compliments local tastes and aspirational dining desires. Menu at Pling has been curated by Chef Ajay Anand, Director of Culinary. Menu will be presented to the guest by Chef Ashish Dhar, Chief Culinary Designer and Chef IN charge at Pling. The food menu at Pling is divided in to four sections – Small Plates, Sliders, Between the Breads and Charcoal Smoked. Guests can choose from simple Parmesan Podi Popcorns or succulent Lamb Sliders, to start with or pick from an array of lip – smacking charcoal smoked dishes like Amritsari Lamb Pepper Tart, Nagori Methi Chicken Tikka with Pineapple Relish or Kashmiri Chilli Smothered Paneer with Mint Chutney. The menu is made to suit the alcohol menu at Pling. A selection of Desserts cater to those who like to spend late evenings in a bar, have a glass of wine and enjoy sweet something’s. On the menu are desserts like the indulgent Dark Milk Chocolate with Milk chocolate Mousse, dark caramel, candied macadamia and warm malted caramel. Hazelnut Praline with a Flourless hazelnut cake, gianduja mousse, orange curd and praline ice cream is for those who look for desserts sans chocolate.
Cocktails and Mocktails
At Pling, the Cocktails and Mocktails are made up using fresh, homemade infusions. Pullman Signature, inspired from the legacies of French collection of spirits and liqueurs is made using Cognac, cointreau, espresso, chocolate. The Twist, our mixologist’s concoction is made using Kentucky straight whisky with a twist of ginger in the sweetness of maple. Some amazing creations like The Marriage which is a perfect blend of Gin, egg white, homemade peach syrup and vermouth or The Debut which is amalgamation of Bacardi, kaffir lime and homemade chilly syrup.
Grape Year, a non-alcoholic legacy drink, made from breakfast compotes & preserves creates an outstanding character by itself. Cucumber Cooler, another non-alcohlic gem is a a perfect balance between cucumber and flowers plucked from our in-house herb garden.
Celebrate success. Celebrate you.
Seating capacity: 60 guests
Operating hours – 0700hrs – 0100hrs
Alcohol service – 1100hrs – 0100hrs
Pluck, our modern day eatery at Lobby Level serves Modern European and Contemporary Indian flavours. Pluck is committed to offer the freshest, safest ingredients in a seasonal menu that is locally focused and globally artistic, cultivating a healthy relationship on our tables. The menu at Pluck is decided by seasonal availability of produce. With an in house farm of 5000 sqft, our chefs pluck the freshest ingredients for your meal and the result can be felt in every bite that you take.
The menu is divided into two sections: Modern European and Contemporary Indian flavours. The Modern European offering at Pluck features old favourites like a hearty Mushrooms and Chestnuts Soup with mushroom carpaccio and truffle mascarpone and the or Parmesan Burnt Garlic Soup with oatmeal strudel, roll over melba. Whether it is the Light Spinach Salad with Crispy Bacon & Mushrooms Blue Cheese Aioli or the Crunchy Smoked Salmon & Tenka, these farm-fresh and scrumptious choices set the tone for the meal.
All soups are presented in a deconstructed form and arranged right on the table. Start with a flavourful and low-calorie Tomato & Coriander consommé served with handpicked greens or The Deconstructed Mulligatawany with Coconut Gel, Puffed Rice and Lentil Broth. Guests can also try an unusual combination of Mushrooms & Chestnuts Soup which are done in a deconstructed form and assembled on the table to make this a novel and interactive experience. The Golgappa & Caviar (made of tangy golgappa water) are served with a tzatziki dip and dried ginger gastrique and topped with mint and spell all things modern – there are traditional flavours with elements of molecular gastronomy. Sweet Potato, Feta & Pomegranate is a stunner on the plate with tamarind pipette and mint soil. For mains, Pulled Tandoori Chicken Cannelloni with crispy skin, roasted cumin and cheese sauce is a must have. The chicken is marinated thrice, cooked in a tandoor, then hand-pulled, rubbed with spices and finally stuffed in homemade cannelloni and is served with crispy beetroot skin, roasted cumin and cheese sauce and garnished with beetroot powder that gives it a distinct colour. Vegetarians can opt for a robust treat in the form of Plantain kofta, Pukhtan style served on a bed of quinoa and spinach pulao. This dish is made up of 75% plantain and 25 % pumpkin. Both the vegetables are boiled and passed through a sieve repeatedly to smoothen their texture, mixed with spices and rolled into croquettes that are served on a bed of quinoa and spinach pulao with Pukhtan style gravy, borrowed from a similar dish from the streets of Pakistan. Roasted Cod with Candied Orange and Lentil Stew is another favourite of our guests; it is eaten with some crunchy puffed rice and very soft mashed potatoes, one cannot miss this. Grilled Chicken: En Sous Vide Morel Jus, Spiced Fries, Sticky Cabbage is a..
Neha grew up with a dream that someday she would visit England. It all began with a small photograph that she had seen as a teenager in a magazine. It was a magazine focussing on interiors and decor and Neha was lost in the design of a room filled with lace and lavender. And that is how she fell in love with the concept of Vintage English. ” I always wanted my room to look like it and I used to tell my sister that we should redesign it, but it never happened,” she said as we sat in the sunny courtyard of Ibis Aero City Delhi sipping a cup of hot ginger tea. But her ideas eventually took shape, as she designed one of the rooms of the hotel, where I stayed.
Ibis New Delhi Aerocity has a concept of My Room where some of the employees get a chance to redesign the room based on a theme . Unleashing their creativity and giving expression to their dreams and fantasies, each room had a unique story and a design. They were given a budget and all they needed was a design and a dream to create a room of their choice. When Neha, who works in the sales department at Ibis New Delhi Aerocity got an opportunity to work on the My Rooms concept, her mind immediately went to the little photograph in the magazine. She immediately recreated the magic in the small but charming rooms of Ibis Aero City Delhi.
It almost seemed like a magic wand had changed the entire atmosphere. Walls were painted in shades of purple and lavender with a tinge of teal while every little element reminded you of the UK. Small curios added to the decor. A pretty floral kettle, flowers and lace, vintage cars took me to a different world. A quaint vintage clock announced the time. Neha added how she went with her colleagues to various flea markets in Delhi, to look for vintage curios that suited the theme. The room was designed in just a few weeks and yet it seemed like a magical transformation. The soft light, the bubbles, the delicate sheets – for a moment I felt that I was in London. And I was touched by the chocolates and a warm handwritten note inviting me to stay in this lovely room.
Neha’s English Vintage Room is just one of the many rooms designed by various employees of Ibis New Delhi Aerocity where they are given a free hand to express their ideas and thoughts in the form of designs, colours, patterns and decors.
I stopped at a beautiful blue room called Aqua which took me into the world of the sea and the sky, birds flying as I floated on waves. There are rooms designed based on themes and personalities like Bollywood, Basketball, Spiderman, Rajasthani among others.
But for me the Victorian themed English Vintage was absolutely special as I stayed here for a night. Every element was so carefully thought of, that for a moment I forgot that I was in Delhi and felt transported to UK. Neha was excited that she got to design the room of her dreams, but she is yet to fly to her dream destination. As for me, I slept peacefully, dreaming of my next trip to the UK.
If I felt transported to the magical and vintage charm of UK in Ibis, then I had a surprise waiting for me in Novotel Aero City. It was nothing short of a heady experience as I woke up feeling like I was in France, in a winery and vineyard. I was in Chateau Lille. Surrounding me were aged red and white wines. There were even barrels and also furniture made out of them. I was in high spirits. It was little wonder that the room was designed by an award winning sommelier, the pretty Kriti Malhotra.
Kriti did not just know her wines but she knew how to design a room like a Chateau. As we sat in a comfortable chair carved out of an oak barrel, designed specifically for this room, Kriti told me that she chose Lille as it was one of the first destinations where Novotel apparently launched its maiden hotel. Sipping a glass of wine, I lost myself in a spirited experience as I slept peacefully.
Like Ibis New Delhi Aero City, Novotel also has the My Room Concept designed by the employees. There are apparently three of them and my dream next time is to stay in the Bohemian Traveller’s Room designed by Kanupriya, a marketing professional who is also a traveller. Every souvenir in the room tells a story of a journey while a world map marks the places visited by the traveller. Perhaps that will be my next destination, where I can put my head to rest on a pillow in a Bohemian Traveller’s Room.After all, that is where I actually belong.
This post was written in collaboration with Accor Hotels. I was hosted by Ibis New Delhi Aerocity and Novotel New Delhi Aerocity and Pullman during my trip to Delhi.
I was born in a haunted colony with a Portuguese connection in Chennai. “Well, it was not haunted when you were born”, corrects my mother as we both walk around the deserted stretches of De Monte Colony. The colony is all of two streets and I can see only old crumbling ruins of bungalows surrounded by dense vegetation. As my mother goes on a nostalgic trail, let me introduce myself. I am Lakshmi Sharath, travel blogger and writer and you are listening to Travel With Lakshmi. In this episode we will journey together to Chennai as I will share with you some stories about my favourite city and we will visit some of the interesting landmarks of the city. And I shall let you in on some of my favourite hangouts and quirky and touristy things to do in the city.
Travel With Lakshmi
You can quit the media industry but you can never let of the media professional in you. I spent one third of my twelve year media career in broadcast media, setting up FM radio stations across the country. I made the transition from content to a business head, learnt about the business of bidding, set up offices, recruited teams across nine markets, strategised the content and marketing plans and even tied up with celebrities as brand ambassadors. While my work as a top management personnel was entirely strategic and focussed on the business of the medium, I barely got a chance to be on air even once. Twelve years after I quit my career in media, I found myself being featured as a travel blogger and writer by several FM radio stations in the country. That is when I dreamt of having my own travel show on air. And the dream has just come true with Storytel, a Swedish based podcast company that has just been launched in India. And the first audio story or podcast on Travel With Lakshmi has to be on my favourite city and home, Madras or Chennai as its called now. You can hear the promo of Travel With Lakshmi here
However coming back to De Monte Colony, I often wondered why it wore a haunted look. The houses are crumbling with overgrown vegetation. It almost seems like a forest. There is something eerie about it. The trees cast long shadows, lending a dark and desolate feel to the area. It is located right in the heart of the city in one of the most posh neighbourhoods and yet there has been no one living here for more than a decade. If you are a first time visitor to Chennai and you are into haunted trails, then you must visit De Monte Colony right at midnight. When I was living in Chennai, De Monte Colony was just a street away. My local auto rick shaw guy who used to park near my flat would refuse to drive down that stretch late at night or early mornings. He claims he has seen ghosts. But the spooky stories are just dismissed as myths even though they were enough to inspire a Tamil movie.
So let me tell you the story behind the settlement. 200 years ago, this entire neighbourhood was owned by one man, a Portuguese businessman , named John De Monte who was actually a handkerchief merchant. Sadly locals believe that he brought ill luck to the area. His wife was apparently mentally unstable and his son died early. Even after 200 years, the tragic tale seems to echo from every crumbling ruin . De Monte had donated the land to the church and he had willed that it could never be sold. There was a time when it was leased to a corporate but then it has been deserted for over a decade with legal issues plaguing it. I ask my mother if she has seen ghosts here but she shakes her head. She says that she is haunted only by my memories as I gave her sleepless nights as a baby , all those three months when we were here.
There are more stories and experiences from Chennai on the podcast. The audio story also takes you to Mahabalipuram as we do a virtual tour of this ancient port. Tune into Travel With Lakshmi on Storytel. Download the app on your phone and you get a month free trial as well if you click here. I would appreciate it if you will listen to the podcast and give me your feedback .
Look forward to seeing you all there. Lets travel together.
“You are a tiger in the year of the dog. This year is going to be very good for you,” said Jenny Wong a fortune teller at the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple .It had to be good, I thought to myself as I had just flown in Hong Kong, my first international destination of the year on a comfortable Cathay Dragon flight from Bangalore . I had three days in Hong Kong and I was looking for some Hong Kong travel tips and some unique things to do in Hong Kong. And the visit to the temple had been one of the best Hong Kong experiences so far .
The skies were clearing and the entire atmosphere at the temple echoed with chants as the air was filled with incense. It was the perfect way to start my day in Hong Kong. I had been on a family holiday to Hong Kong but we spent most of the time exploring the typical sights and sounds of the island country besides exploring Macau.
However I wanted to get a glimpse of the old town as I was exploring some unique experiences in Hong Kong. My agenda in the three days in Hong Kong was to visit some of the old temples, soak in the traditions, lose myself in the markets and meet some locals. My tryst with the fortune teller is just one of the many unique experiences that I had on this trip. Travel to me is more about experiences than just sightseeing. If you are looking for some Hong Kong travel tips, then here are ten unique experiences in Hong Kong that I would recommend
Walk around in the Old Town
“We will be taking some of the oldest transport systems which are landmarks of Hong Kong,” says Peter my guide as we board the Star Ferry in Kowloon. Our next stop was the petite tram which took us to the Old town. Exploring Hong Kong on foot is the best way to explore the country. The walking tour was organised by Klook and it was one of the best of Hong Kong experiences that I ever had as Peter took me to the nooks and corners of the country. It was a four hour walking tour and except for the ferry and the tram, we were on foot, even taking the longest outdoor covered escalator in the world, which is a tourist attraction in itself. If you have just three days in Hong Kong then I would recommend this tour.
I discovered the real essence of Hong Kong in Hollywood Street, one of the oldest streets named after the trees that have virtually vanished. But the colonial buildings remain taking you to the 19th century Hong Kong during the British era. Historically this is where the Chinese traders and the British and European merchants met and traded and sold their wares.
Even today Hollywood retains the old market feel and one can see several antique shops in the vicinity. Walking in these markets, I stop at old bakeries and cafes where milk tea and egg tarts and pineapple buns are hot favourites. End your trail at the oldest temple in the country – Man Mo temple dedicated to Gods of literature and martial arts. To me this was one of the best walking tours that I ever had and Klook offers some fascinating and offbeat experiences in the city.
Visit some of the oldest temples in Hong Kong
The colours, the energy, the traditions and the culture – the real Hong Kong comes alive in its old and new temples about the town. Starting with the Man Mo temple in Hollywood, the oldest shrine in the country I went temple hopping and this is one of the best of Hong Kong experiences.
We visited the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple besides the Tin Hau temple in Kowloon and Stanley Island. There are shrines and temples in every nook and corner besides Buddhist monasteries as well. At Lantau, the Big Buddha stands but the monastery is an experience by itself. If you have just three days in Hong Kong, make a list of some of the cultural experiences that you want to do.
Meet a fortune teller
At the Wong Tai Sin temple, I was fascinated to see over fifty fortune tellers who could do face reading, palmistry and even numerology. Some of them spoke in English and that is how I landed at Jenny’s shop. She showed me a box filled with bamboo sticks and each stick had a number marked on them. I was then asked to pick one of them.
Then she asked me if I had any questions and she proceeded to answer them. While she gave me some specific pointers on my health and career, she also gave me an overall perspective on my life. I am a tiger, she explained according to Chinese zodiac and they get along well with dogs. Hence this year she added would be fantastic but do watch out for the next, she added with a note of caution.
Get your pulse checked by a local doctor
I was walking around Hollywood with Peter on the walking tour organised by Klook when I was fascinated by the local pharmacies. Locals still believe in traditional medicine and Peter was explaining some of the roots and herbs that were sold there. The doctor sits in these pharmacies and you can consult him if you are feeling sick.
On an impulse I decided to get my pulse checked by the local Chinese doctor. I was surprised to find the similarity with our own Ayurveda. They believe in balance too especially of yin and yang. The doctor said that he will first study my face, listen to my voice, feel my pulse and then prescribe medicines based on his reading. I was told that I was anaemic, my blood circulation needed to be looked into and that my restless spirit needed some rest. Well, I dont disagree with the latter. I need a month just to sleep. This is one of the most unique experiences in Hong Kong that I had.
Try your hand at Chinese painting
The last time I held a brush in my hand was in high school as am so artistically challenged. However both Klook and Cathay Pacific was very keen that I experience a different tour and they strongly recommended a class at Chinese painting. The three hours that I spent in a small apartment tucked away in the island country was one of the best experiences that I have ever had in Hong Kong. We were four of us and while the rest of the girls were locals, I was the only tourist. I learnt about the different kinds of brushes, the inks, the strokes and the techniques and it was so therapeutic as I lost myself in the entire experience. If you have three days in Hong Kong and you have an artistic bent of mind, i recommend that you try this experience.
Soak in the colours of the local markets
Hong Kong is full of markets – day and night markets, for women and men , markets dedicated to antiques and jade, flea markets to food markets. I spent some time on this trip visiting the Temple Street Night Market, curiously checking out the Ladies Market, looked for precious stones for my mother at the Jade Market. I have also been to Stanley Market in Stanley Island which is one of the most colourful markets according to me. Markets are always part of some of the best Hong Kong experiences and it is highly recommended if you have just three days in Hong Kong.
Get a starry experience at Kowloon
This is where Hollywood meets Hong Kong. Modelled on the Hollywood of Fame , you can meet a slew of celebrities here at Avenue of Stars. Located at the Victoria Harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui, you can meet stars like Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan. Walk around the promenade and lose yourself in the scenery below you – it is a perfect way to get a starry eyed experience in Hong Kong
Lose yourself in the silence of Kowloon Park
Away from the sound and fury, from the noise and clutter is a world in Kowloon nestled in lush greenery. The only sound that you can hear in this sanctuary is the cascading fountain that gushes with excitement. The birds add to the chirping. Walking around the verdant Kowloon park, I spent a few minutes meditating and silently imbibing the spirit of Hong Kong.
Try local snacks on the streets
Hong Kong is an ideal destination for the foodie. Although I am a vegetarian, I binged on egg tarts , egg waffles, fried chestnuts and pineapple buns, besides heading to the markets to have authentic milk tea. There was also a herb tea that I tried in Ladies Market which was virtually a concoction of over 20.herbs . It was so strong that I was told that the locals gulp it down in one shot after a hard day’s work. For those who are not vegetarians, do not miss grilled fish tentacles, curry fish balls and Cheung fun, which is a rice noodle roll with meat and sea food as recommended by the locals.
Count the number of Hong Kong dollars in this mural
This was one of the most interesting experiences that I had as part of the Klook’s walking tour of Hong Kong. Peter my guide took me to the 2 IFC building, which is the second tallest building in the country. Hong Kong being the financial capital of the world, it is only natural that we head to a museum created by HKMA or Hong Kong Monetary Association where we learn all about the evolution of the Hong Kong dollar. Interestingly there is a mural here filled with dollars and you can guess the number of coins and the overall value of the mural.
Travel to me has always been more about experiences than just attractions and in three days, I explored a different facet of Hong Kong – from temples to markets, parks to museums and got to meet different people, from artists to doctors to fortune tellers. Hong Kong is an ideal getaway from any destination in India and with Cathay Dragon, you can reach in just four hours. The MTR or the Mass Transport Railway is the best way to explore the country and it is so easy to navigate and connects nooks and corners of Hong Kong. Plan your activities and experiences well in advance through Klook as they offer a slew of attractions, experiences, activities and walks. If I had to choose just one, it would be the Chinese painting class. Which one would you like to choose ?
This post is written in collaboration with Cathay Pacific and Klook.
It was almost ten pm in the night and my husband gently nudged me, asking me to wake up. I was a little disoriented for a moment, but then I realized that my Edinburgh-London train had suddenly come to a grinding halt. We were returning from Scotland to London and our train was to reach London Euston around midnight. It was our last night in the UK and we were to head to Heathrow to catch our early morning flight back home. However in that moment, everything seemed like a blur. The train had come to an unscheduled spot and we were at Birmingham. A voice on the speaker system said that there had been a tragedy on the tracks as someone had died and all services from Birmingham to London had come to a standstill. In other words, I realized that we were stranded and with no connectivity, network and communication, we had no idea how we would catch our fight back home.
The railway officials threw their hands up in despair. There were no trains at that hour. Some of my fellow passengers raised their voices and began arguing. We explained that we had to be at Heathrow early morning and the railway officials just shrugged their shoulders. We wandered around Birmingham station looking for alternatives. By then the officials came back with a suggestion. They were able to organise a few cabs but we would have to travel with complete strangers in the thick of the night. Huddled in a cab with a single woman traveller from Spain and another traveller from Germany , we left Birmingham almost close to midnight and drove all the way back to London. In that couple of hours, we had all become friends.
Travel is not always about the bright and the beautiful but yet even at dark and dreary moments, it brings strangers together on a journey. You open your minds and reach out to the passenger next door. Our taxi driver, Ibrahim, during the journey was a Bangaladeshi and he immediately bonded with us with a few Hindi words. After a two hour drive to Euston, he ferried us without even blinking an eyelid all the way to Heathrow.”We have to help our own, ” he said as we gratefully thanked him at Heathrow. It was well past midnight but his beaming smile and loud laughter is all that I remember even today.
And that is why I love the world. Borders blur, barriers break and minds meet during travels. Inhibitions drop as we embrace cultures and open our minds to people. There is a connect that we build with strangers that is inexplicable. Sometimes it lasts for just a few minutes, sometimes an entire night, at other times a whole lifetime. Sometimes its just a simple gesture, at other times its a conversation. When you are in the big and beautiful world, a moment is enough to strike a chord with strangers.The echo of the laughter is all that we remember even after a trip is over. Being open minded brings people together and to me people make places. That is what inspires me to travel. As a story teller, I love to talk to people, listen to their tales, laugh and cry with them.
I was having coffee with my guide Helena in Zagreb and we were discussing Zagreb as the city of love. She was narrating a personal story when her teenage classmate proposed to her in front of St Marks Church. Suddenly she burst into tears, sharing with me that she was feeling lonely and was reminded of her mother who had passed away recently. Travel brings people together even in the most vulnerable lonely moment. When I was on a solo travel in Barcelona, I made friends with a local waiter in the hotel that I was staying and we would sit late in the evening, flirting a bit and discussing our dreams.
As a world traveller, we are constantly looking for something new. And sometimes you find travel inspiration in the house of strangers. In Copenhagen I was invited by Marie Vixo Simth, a lady I have never met at her home for dinner. The Danes have an initiative called Comeat where they try to bridge the gap between travellers and locals by inviting the former to their homes for a meal. The simple home cooked meal was the tastiest meal I had during my Denmark trip. Meanwhile in Paris, a small restauranter opened his kitchen and whipped a delicious vegetarian meal for us in a jiffy when we landed at his doorstep hungry after a long flight. We were so touched by his generosity that we decided to visit him again on our last night in Paris. He spoke about his visit to Pondicherry and even served us champagne on the house. The waitress, Andrea and I had become pen friends for a while and we exchanged a few postcards.
We are very often caught in our own lives, jumping from one destination to another. We rarely pause in our journeys to simply observe life or catch a random conversation with a stranger. And yet, in my recent trip to Japan, I realized what it is like to fall in love – not with a destination or its culture or traditions but with the people. My latest crush is Toshiaki saan, an adorable 65 year old man who was our guide in Kyoto. He was warm and affectionate the moment he arrived at our hotel and was concerned that we would lose our way. The ice broke when I spoke a smattering of Japanese, a language I had been fascinated since my college days when I studied it. He asked me where I would like to begin and I said, ” Naan demo ii desu” – a quintessential Japanese phrase which meant I was ok with anything. And that built a bond that lasted beyond an afternoon in Kyoto.
In the next six hours Toshiaki saan told me about his life , family and travels. He had been working in a finance company all his life until two years ago and had just become a guide. He loved meeting people and hence he enjoyed travelling and being a guide. We completed our Gion Geisha tour but Toshiaki saan was concerned that we would lose our way as we were heading to Fushimi Inari shrine. So, he decided to come with us without charging a single yen for his time and spent another three hours with us. We bonded over laughter as we gulped sakes, munched sandwiches, binged on sweets and discussed spirituality.
Toshiaki saan taught me one important philosophy that the Japanese believe in, a word – Ichi go Ichi e . It literally means “this time only” or possibly “once in a lifetime” or “never a chance again” . It’s a concept that Japanese believe in – treasuring moments and meetings with people . Japanese believe in the power of now and they treat every meeting as if it was the last time they would meet the person. “It is probably the last time that I would be seeing you and hence would like to treasure it in a way that one does not forget ,” he said . And so I learnt not just a new word, but a new way of looking at life and people.
Travel is special because of such special people and treasured memories. If there is one reason I would #Sayyestotheworld, it would be because of these beautiful moments . And that is the very essence of the Lufthansa campaign – opening minds to a new culture, exploring different worlds, seeing the beautiful world with a pair of new eyes . Every world traveller should embrace the concept of being openminded. What I personally love about the new campaign of Lufthansa are the rhetoric questions that embody the very spirit of travel, the zest for life and the love for exploring new worlds. So lets just pause time and #Sayyestotheworld now. Where are you heading next ?
You cannot resist the Scottish melody. Rising up from the hills, flowing down the fields, ringing across the Lochs , reaching into towns and villages, the bagpiper lures you with his tunes . I stopped in the middle of the journey in Edinburgh just to hear him busking , his song transporting me to a different era . Knights , warriors, poets and ghosts visit you from every lane of Edinburgh. There is so much to do , so much to absorb and just so much to live it up here and there are so many best places in Edinburgh which need to be explored. And as you down a glass of Scotch , you hear stories of ghosts haunting the town. I travel for culture and stories, for fun and relaxation and for food and drink. And Edinburgh promises me all of these experiences. The Medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town charm you for Edinburgh is always celebrating – the Fringe Festival, the International Festival, the International Book Festival among others. However if you are spending just 48 hours in Edinburgh, here are some of the places to see in Edinburgh .From whisky tours to literary tours, there is something for everybody and here are five top things to do in Edinburgh.
The Royal Mile
There is history, legends, monuments ,forts , palaces, restaurants, pubs and shops all along one Scottish mile in the old Edinburgh town. One of the popular places to see in Edinburgh, this is where every tourist lands and explores the linear streets that take you to a medieval world. If you have just 48 hours in Edinburgh, then this is where you should be. Start your walking tour from the Edinburgh Castle and end at Holyrood Abbey .
The alleys or closes as they are called add to the character. You may want to take time off to explore the four main streets – Castle Hill, Lawnmarket, High Street and CanonGate where you get to explore the monuments . The Royal Mile walking tour is one of the top things to do in Edinburgh. My personal favourite is the Holyrood Palace, one of the best places in Edinburgh and which is the official residence of the British king in Scotland. You get a glimpse of the life and betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots here, while you see the ruins of the Holyrood Abbey founded in the 12th century. But then you get to down history here with large glasses of whiskey, so don’t miss out the pubs here. My favourite is the 16th century White Hart Inn , one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh .
The Whisky Tour
Now a trip to Scotland is never complete without getting high and a taste of all the whiskies and single malts. The Scotch Whisky experience is one you must not miss, if you have just 48 hours in Edinburgh. On my way to Glenkinchie distillery, one of the best places in Edinburgh, we discussed the highland and lowland malts and got the entire low down , straight from the horse’s mouth. Discover the various flavours and aromas and get a bit tipsy with every sip of various malts and whiskies. If you have the time, do visit any of the distilleries around Edinburgh where a tour guide will take you through the entire process. There are several whisky tours organised in and around Edinburgh and this is one of the most popular and top things to do in Edinburgh.
The haunted Edinburgh
Some laugh it off, others shriek. But the many haunted tours around Edinburgh is one that will tickle your senses or tingle your nerves. It is even better if you are a bit tipsy with some Scotch inside you as you explore the underground vaults. These vaults are basically dark and dingy chambers that give you a sense of exploring the hidden and spooky world of Edinburgh where they tell you stories of serial murderers and ghosts which still haunt them. It is one of the most fascinating tours if you like ghost stories and an ideal tour to fit your 48 hours in Edinburgh itinerary.
My wanderlust started probably when I got hooked onto Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island as a child. And then of course there is the Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, started by the man who inspired Stevenson to write The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Deacon Brodies Tavern – Edinburgh
Brodie’s story is stranger than fiction itself and that is why Stevenson’s novel is based on him. The literary tour of Edinburgh is one of my favourite and top things to do in Edinburgh. If you are into literature like me, do visit the Writer’s Museum , which is one of the top places to see in Edinburgh, where you can see the works and memorabilia of Sir Walter Scott , Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson among others.
Edinburgh – Scotts Monument
The towering Scott Monument is a landmark of the city. If you however ask me, the best way to explore is to sign up for one of those Literary Pub Walking Tours where you can get high on literature and get drunk as well. If you have 48 hours in Edinburgh, I definitely recommend that you do not miss this tour.
Scotland is always synonymous with knights and if you are into legends like me, then the first thing that comes to your mind is King Arthur of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. Right in the heart of the old town is a group of hills and most hikers scale the peak called Arthur’s Seat, which is one of the top places to see in Edinburgh. It is believed that this rocky outcrop was possibly the Camelot, referred to in legends. Forming most of Holyrood Park, these craggy hilltops were a result of volcanic activity. However legends and myths, religious and literary allusions to this hill make it a tourist attraction. If you are the adventurous , go take a hike, which is one of the top things to do in Edinburgh.
The beautiful landscape of Britain
These are some of the best places in Edinburgh and the top things to do in Edinburgh if you are here for just a couple of days. What else would you suggest for an itinerary if you are spending just 48 hours in Edinburgh ?
I love travelling around UK and if you are like me who #LoveGreatBritain, then there are plenty of destinations in Scotland besides Edinburgh. I visited some of the Lochs and I also went to the Glenkinchie distillery which was a heady experience by itself. Plan your trip to UK this summer with Wego, which is my favourite one stop shop for all deals when it comes to fares for flights and also hotels. It helps you to get a quick bird’s eye of the various fares offered by different sites to the same destination and you can choose the ones that suit you, based on cheap deals. When are you planning your next trip to the UK ?
A few weeks ago, I had to send a story on Denmark very urgently and I whipped up the article in an hour. But then I spend the entire day looking for my photographs. All I needed was a couple of photographs and I could not even find where I had saved them. The trip was over a year old and I realized that they were saved in one of my four hard drives but in multiple folders. When I eventually found the file, I realized that none of the pictures had been saved as the memory card had been corrupt. I had lost the phone that was used on the trip and the photos were not backed up either. As I sat there, frustrated, angry and upset, I realized that I had eventually lost all my memories of the destination.
That is when it struck me that I was not just disorganised but I was a content disaster waiting to happen. As travellers, bloggers, photographers, we are content creators and the most important content that we create is a photograph. Every frame is a memory, a story, an emotion. And when you lose a picture, you lose all of them.
As a traveller and travel photographer, our focus is largely on the creation but there are several challenges after that
To start with, I need to store them. I travel almost once a month and my photographs are in multiple phones, cameras, laptops and hard drives besides many online storage spaces.
And sometimes I shoot them on multiple devices – a DSLR, a mobile camera and sometimes even on Go Pro and I forget all about them. Some of them are stored online on dropbox or cloud, but then that does not always help
I hardly have time for back ups – many times I dump the photos from a memory card or a phone into a portable hard drive and am carrying on to the next trips
My photos are not organised as well. Pictures from the same trip are in different devices and I forget where they are
I review a lot of phones and I take pictures and I forget to back up. A couple of my personal phones have been stolen and I have lost these pictures.
So that is when I realized that I need an one stop solution which can sync all my photographs from different devices and also helps me organise them better. I need one storage space, tucked away at home which can automatically like a robot detect all the content from various devices and keep them safe and secure. And that is how a big white box landed on my doorstep to solve all my content needs.
Let me introduce to WD My Cloud Home, which is doing what I would like a genie to do right now.
So to begin with, I need just two devices to sort my life – my mobile phone and this pretty white box which stands on the corner of my table. Then I need a decent wifi and a mobile app which connects my phone to this device.
The WD Cloud Home is one storage device that picks up content seamlessly from all other devices such as your mobiles, tablets, desktops, USBs and even your social media channels and organises them in neat simple folders
You can control everything from your mobile – be it searching for the photos, playing a video or even sharing them.
All you need is to create an account and let the devices stay connected
The content is all stored in one lovely little white box which is a panacea for all the problems
As I am writing this post, I have just about started organising my content. It is a huge task ahead of me as I have three phones, two laptops, one tablet and four USB hard disks. And the genie has just started his magic .And I am sure that I will never again complain about content disasters.