{X} Xenodocheinology: For the love of hotels

Have you ever experienced Xenodocheinology?

Part of the travel experience, for me, is choosing the hotel. Our travel philosophy is to utilize the maximum resources on sightseeing and shopping, and keeping a very limited budget for our hotel stay.

If you thought limited budget = seedy little hotel/backpacker’s hostels/soulless hotels, think again. A little research is all it takes to find charming places to lay your head down at the end of a day of hard sightseeing.

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{T} Travel Postcard #7: Tibetan Prayer Wheels

Tibetan-prayer-wheel

Traditionally, the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is written in Sanskrit on the outside of the wheel. Also sometimes depicted are Dakinis, Protectors and very often the 8 auspicious symbols Ashtamangala. According to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition based on the lineage texts regarding prayer wheels, spinning such a wheel will have much the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers. – Wikipedia.com

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{J} Travel Postcard #4: Joie de vivre

Tango_Class_Central_Park_New_York

There’s something in the air of New York. A certain joi de verve – a love for life. In the many parks and squares that dot the city, you’ll find people sitting around, reading, having a cup of coffee…a group of people skateboarding while the rest of the people watch and applaud…and in Central Park, you come across different sights – a fashion shoot, free tango dancing, rollerblading, musicians, a group of drummers with random strangers stopping and dancing. It’s exhilarating. Vibrant. Alive. Joyful.

And it’s something I sorely miss back home in India. That spirit that lets people dare to be different. To march to their own drum beat.

Which city do you associate with joie de vivre?

{I} Travel Postcard #3: Installation Art – New York

Madison_Square_Park_installation_art

It was a bright, sunny day. I was walking through Madison Square Park, when a 40-foot tall sculpture stopped me in my tracks. Something about the tranquility and other-worldliness on that face compelled me to stop, stare, and reflect. At that point, and every time I look at this picture, actually, I fell a sense of peace wash over me.

The name of the sculpture was Echo, and it was created by renowned Spanish sculpture Jaume Plensa.

From the plaque accompanying the sculpture:
“Inspired by the myth of the Greek nymph Echo, the sculpture depicts the artist’s 9-year old neighbor in Barcelona, lost in a state of thoughts and dreams. Both monumental in size and inviting in subject, the peaceful visage of Echo creates a tranquil and introspective atmosphere amid the cacophony of central Manhattan.”

Peace out!

Delhi Lens: Monuments: Nawaab ka Masjid, Chawdi Bazaar, Old Delhi

Tiny matchbox shops line both sides of a congested road. A mêlée of pedestrians, cycle rickshaws, two-wheelers and a few tempos are a cause for constant traffic jams. A lot of the buildings are crumbling and dilapidated. There’s a mess of electrical wires overhead. Everywhere you look there is chaos.

 Chawdi Bazaar, Old Delhi, India

And then suddenly, while looking up at that jumble of old buildings, you spot a delightful color combination – terracotta and blue. You pause, raise your camera to your eyes, zoom in, and see a beautiful carved wall. You click a picture, but keep staring at that building as a sea of humanity passes you by, gazing upwards, awestruck, spellbound.Continue reading

Mumbai Diaries: Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2013

I heard about the Kala Ghoda Art Festival, which is held from the first Saturday in February till the next Sunday since the last 15 years, only last year! At the time, I decided that I would visit Mumbai for the next event, and sure enough, I made my way to the city for the 2013 edition of the festival.

I have to say that it was an interesting experience. There were some lovely public art installations, and of course others that left me cold.

Some of the installations were quintessentially Mumbai. Like this one:

Dhanda, Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2013

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Bharatpur: Birders delight

Small birds, Bharatpur Bird SanctuaryWe left our annual vacation planning too late last year. As November rolled around with no destination in mind, I knew that it would be next to impossible to put together a proper itinerary and get reservations at decent hotels. So we decided to reduce our vacation dates – since no time to plan means you can’t visit multiple cities – and go back to Rajasthan. This time, we chose to visit Bharatpur. Famous for its bird sanctuary, it’s one of the few cities in Rajasthan that we haven’t been to yet.

Most of the hotels were, as I had feared, booked or way out of our budget, so we settled on the Falcon Guesthouse. It had got some rave reviews on TripAdvisor, and even though there were no pictures of the place online, I hoped that at least some of those reviews were genuine.Continue reading

My top three travel memories

The Competition is organized and conducted by www.lowcostholidays.com. From July 30th, team Captains of the participating blogger groups will start their leg of the Blogger Relay race by sharing the top three memories of their favourite travel destinations and ranking them 1st, 2nd and 3rd, before passing the Travel Baton on to a fellow blogger, who will then also list their top 3 travel memories. They too will then pass the baton. The Team in the longest chain by the end of the competition all win the Blogger Relay! (And, more importantly, a prize!)

As I take hold of the #TeamPurple #BloggerRelay baton from Sudhagee, I am immersed in my past. I’ve traveled a lot, and not much. I’ve been to most parts of the world, though a lot of those travels are dim memories from my childhood.

Having a father in the merchant navy meant that we traveled a lot – almost every summer vacation was spent on the ship, traveling to numerous destinations both near and far. That exposure to the huge world out there gave me a serious travel bug, but alas, that bug can only be indulged properly about once a year.

Since I got married 10 years ago, the husband and I have traveled to a lot of places around India. There’s so much to be explored in our country, so many cities I had not visited as I spent most of my childhood traveling to countries far and wide. And while I do remember a lot from my various trips abroad as a child, my top three memories are from holidays that I took as an adult.

Nawalgarh

#3: Nawalgarh, Rajasthan

On the third spot with the Bronze medal I’d rate my trip to Nawalgarh in Rajasthan. Still off the beaten track, it was a pleasure to explore the city. Located in the Shekhawati region, it is known as Rajastahan’s outdoor art gallery. The old havelis (large houses) in this region have got some fantastic murals, both outside on the walls and within the houses. Some of the havelis are very well maintained, others are sadly ignored, but the paintings are lovely. Wandering through one of the havelis will take you through Indian history, from the first railway station to the courts of the king; through European cities; and Indian mythology. The sheer novelty and laid back pace of that vacation makes it one of my cherished travel memories.

Read more about Nawalgarh – Rajasthan’s open air art gallery

Disneyland, Orlando

#2: Disneyland, Orlando

In second position, claiming the Silver medal, is my trip to Disneyland, Orlando, with my parents last year. What can I say about Disneyland? It’s absolutely fantastic, something that everyone must do at least once in their lives. Plus, you’re really never too old to be swept off your feet by the magic of Disney! The attention to detail, the passion of the people working there, the vibrancy in the air, getting my photo clicked with some of my favorite Disney characters (yes, really!) are memories to be treasured. The five days I spent there were truly magical. They made me feel like a kid once again! Some awesome rides, lovely stage shows, the Disney parade, the fireworks, and the exhilaration I felt there with my parents are etched into my memory forever.

New York

#1: New York City

The winner by far, claiming the Gold medal, is my visit to New York City. The vibrancy, the shopping, the people, the museums…just the thought of it brings a smile to my lips. The major highlight of the trip has to be my visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s a place that has been on my must-visit list since I was a teen. I was unprepared for it’s vastness…but the experience was mind-blowing! Actually seeing masterpieces by some of my favorite artists was surreal. Taking in the gorgeous sculptures, the Temple of Dendur, the fine Japanese artwork, the pottery…and ending the evening on the steps of the Met as I processed the entire experience was a dream come true.

You can read more about my New York visit here.

As I emerge from these daydreams of trips past, I pass the #TeamPurple baton on to Becki

Neil Barnes of Backpacks and Bunkbeds, is the captain of #TeamPurple and you can read the posts of the other team members here.

Now it’s your turn. What is your top travel memory?

Mumbai Diaries: Exploring Colaba and Fort

When you think of Mumbai, you think of traffic jams and teeming slums, of roads chock-a-block with people, of sultry humidity and general chaos. You think of Bollywood and industrial tycoons, of the super rich living alongside the poor, of a city that never sleeps. But if you thought that this is all there is to Mumbai, you’d be wrong.

Old_Church_Mumbai_India

A graceful arched window of a Church in Colaba, Mumbai, India

There’s a softer, gentler side to the city as well – tree-lined roads, mansions and apartment buildings that speak of old money, and a blend of Gothic, Victorian, Art Deco and Indo-Saracenic (a blend of Islamic and Hindu architectural styles) architecture. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Fort and Colaba area in South Mumbai.

Gateway of India, Mumbai, India

Gateway of India, Mumbai, India

We started our exploration of this area from the Gateway of India and the Taj Hotel after a hearty brunch at Le Pain Quotiden. Built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary, the Gateway of India is a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. Many elements of the arch and the design of the windows are derived from Islamic architecture, while the pillars are reminiscent of Hindu temple design. We were lucky to find the area relatively less crowded, which gave us a lot of time to take pictures and generally explore the place.

Taj_Colaba_Mumbai

The iconic Taj Hotel at Mumbai, adjacent to the Gateway of India

From there, we started walking along the lane behind the Taj, with our necks craned upwards looking for interesting window and architectural details. The road is tree-lined and quiet, the buildings are old and regal, and for a while, you can almost forget that you’re in Mumbai – it could be any old European city.

Old_window

An old, elegant window perched above a busy, bustling street in Mumbai

We traversed a path through Colaba, Colaba Causeway and Fort that day, with no real fixed agenda. We were just a couple of walkers, roaming around the area and exclaiming over the architecture. Why we were in architecture overdrive is still a bit of a mystery to me, but that day all we had eyes for were windows and doorways and turrets and spires. Maybe it was the juxtaposition of those old, elegant buildings with the bustling metropolis that had grown around it – but the memories I took away were of an older, more genteel Mumbai than I remembered from my stay there 10 years ago.

Colonial_architecture_modern_life

An old colonial building that now houses a cool junk jewelery store – Aquamarine. Mumbai, India

Of course, being girls, our trip couldn’t be complete without some shopping now, could it? There’s no better place to pick up cheap nick-knacks than at Colaba Causeway (in that area, at least). You’ll find some excellent junk jewellery, footwear and leather goods at prices that will delight your pocket. If you are on the look out for something more exclusive, make your way to Aquamarine at Colaba, which stocks some really cool (though pricey) junk jewellery.