Monday, February 13, 2012

Scintillating Singapore

'Wow' is just a small word to describe this 'Little Red Dot' on the world map, yet 'Wow' would surely be your first reaction once you are out of the airport towards the city. Spectacular in its landscape, organized in its approach towards development and remarkable in maintaining its splendor, this little country surely attracts tourists, year after year like no other! Don't gauge it by its size. It has a remarkable presence, significant history, rich culture and tremendous tourism potential to make a strong impression. It is now the most preferred and favorite tourist destination in South East Asia.

There are innumerable ways to begin your itinerary in Singapore. For people who like to begin with the history of a country or place, Singapore surely has immense information to offer. You can visit the National Museum for its rich historical background. Apart from that there are more than fifteen museums and heritage institutions that can drench you with their impressive collection of information and priceless artifacts and objects of the past.

Food is surely the 'THE' thing on our minds when we travel to a new place. And Singapore definitely knows how to cater to your taste buds. Due to its multicultural background, there has been a significant past of its food too. You can find world cuisines here but do not hesitae sampling its local food - typically the Chilly crab or the Malay Nasi Goreng, Nasi Lemak or Fried Carrot Cake or simply some curry (licious) Indian food. Check out the various food courts like Kopitiam, Food Republic, Koufu etc. The best part of eating out in Singapore is that you can be more than hundred percent sure about its freshness & quality...Its always clean, fresh & safe!

Sightseeing options are again as vibrant and vivid as its food, culture and history. And again, every place has its distinctive cultural reflections. Like Chinatown offers you a pure taste of China in terms of the traditional Chinese paintings, globe art and the renowned Chinese brush strokes used to create your name or a beautiful message on traditional papers. Or the beautiful Chinese attires in silk or simply their peculiar food which is so inviting despite being so unconventional in its preparation and presentation.

The Arab street in Bugis is yet another such culturally rich place to visit. The numerous lanes surrounding this area bustle with little shops of food(Turkish, Malay, Iranian etc), artifacts and clothes that establish the affluent and extravagant images of the Arab and Malay cultures.

Apart from these there is Little India (for a glimpse of Indian food, shopping etc), Sentosa, Chinese Japanese Gardens, The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, the high end Orchard road buzzing with high end malls and the most symbolic and extravagant Marina Bay. The Singapore Flyer offers the most splendid view you'd ever get... just being at the flyer is so special, you'd want to spend all your days and evenings in and around the flyer!!!

Shopping is Singapore is a delight in every way. Whether you are a high end & a brand conscious shopper or one who loves going street treasure hunting, there is no dearth of options. With its ultra glamorous malls showcasing the best brands of the world you are sure to loosen out your purse strings. Apart from that shop for some local souvenirs or simply some fancy items from places like Bugis, Chinatown, Little India etc. If you thought that Singapore is yet another concrete jungle, think again. It has an impressive and astonishing green imprint with many Nature Reserves, Zoo, Bird Park & Butterfly Park. You will love the beautiful harmony that exists between the tropical green patches & the buzzing life in the city...

It's tropical climate is favorable round the year with no interruption (in sightseeing) from the rain spells or the humid hot days. All in all, you can be sure of a fully blocked itinerary and unlimited options to explore when in Singapore. There is certainly something for everyone over here! Need there be a reason more to visit this little scintillating red dot called Singapore?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Splendid Sikkim - Glorious Gangtok

Our journey to Gangtok began with treading down the slopes of Darjeeling. The scenic beauty was even more splendid as the landscape totally changed. The road was really smooth and well maintained. Hence the journey seemed relaxing and fulfilling. On our way we had some of the most splendid views and it was hard to believe that people actually live in such heavenly abodes.

River Teesta begins to join you on your way to Sikkim. Its a full river with swelling waters and a strong current. As you make you way up the curves of various mountains, its a different sight every time. Not a great place for people who catch a nap at the drop of a hat! ; )

We reached a two way point, one leading to Kalimpong and the other to Sikkim. We decided to first visit Kalimpong. Its truly an adventurer's abode. Great trekking, river rafting are some of the adventures you can go for. The river Teesta provides opportunity for an amazing river rafting. There is a monastery here too and its nice too. The Cactus nursery is a visual treat, for all of us who have seen only thorns on a Cactus, can see a brighter, better and flowering side of these plants!

We later headed for Gangtok, again following the Teesta along the way. Sikkim is a very organized, disciplined and clean place. There are clearly defined parking spaces for Tourist and other vehicles. You just can't park at your own leisure and desire. This save a lot of chaos, which ultimately also affects the tourism there. Thank God you don't face any silly traffic jams (that too if on hills!) here in Sikkim, because of this well organized and implemented traffic / parking space. The credit obviously goes to the Police and ultimately to the Government.

This is not all. Am all praises for a state, that thrives on tourism and yet has maintained its sanity. The taxi drivers are regularly given a training (during off season) on behaviour with Tourists. There are surprise checks by Police to Tourists on how much they are being charged by the Taxi driver. In case he is charging more than defined by law, he is immediately fined.

Even a taxi on Army / Govt duty is checked for its genuineness. Am surprised and extremely proud of this state that has its law in complete order... rather than just having law and order.

This is not all, education is emphasised strongly and Govt has made provision for education of kids. The educated unemployed are helped by the Govt to either study further and get a job. Its mandatory for industries setting up shop in Sikkim to provide employment to only the locals.

At every 1.5 Km, there is a policeman. You just can't go wrong with this state! There are well defined points from which you can take a Taxi. You just can't show your hand and stop one in the middle of the road. The taxi drivers, being law abiding, will not stop either. You have to go to the taxi stop (which are at walkable distances).

I think this is one State we all should take example from. Simplicity / Innocence / Purity and Discipline is what defines Sikkim.

The day we reached Gangtok, it was already late evening. Hence it was time for some dinner and a good night's sleep. The next day we were to scale the Nathula Pass. It took 3-4 hours to reach a height of 14000 Ft above sea level! Peaks come with a price, no matter what peak it is! : )

Its getting almost cliche for me to say that the view was splendid throughout. But then I really have to admit that I had seen such a vast, majestic and beautiful landscape only on TV! Snow clad mountains far away seemed mysterious and marvellous. There were small streams and fountains at almost every curve of the mountains. We also saw Jho (I don't know if I spelled it right), which is like Yak. But Jho is a mixed breed of Bull and Yak, I guess so. They look so cute and out of this world kind of creatures. I really felt like taking one home!

There is a natural lake called Tsomgo lake. This is a true natural miracle, all that I can say. Its beauty beyond words and description. Mountains all around, a lake in between and clouds above, Tsomgo lake at an odd 12000Ft is simply a breathtaking view!

Nathula Pass is on a height of 14000Ft. This is one place that makes every Indian proud. The soldiers brave off all odds to vigil our borders - inclement weather, loneliness, long months of stay at such heights & a constant vigilance in their minds. This is our Indo China border. Standing there you can see beginning of China's land.

The temple of Baba, an Indian Soldier (while coming down from Nathula Pass) is very famous and has a very fascinating story of bravery behind it. Such are their stories of valour, that you'd feel utmost gratitude for the freedom you enjoy without the slightest fear. Hats off to my country's soldiers and their bravery.

While coming down from Nathula Pass, one can shop for some Chinese goods. The Indo-Sino trade which opened up recently, has allowed the two countries to trade small stuffs. Apart from this, do visit the Monastery. We shopped around for souvenirs at MG Road. And some trolley tour would be fun, though this view is nothing as compared to what I have already described above.

Though we could visit only the East Sikkim, North Sikkim is supposed to be even more splendid than this. I wonder if anyone can imbibe so much beauty, for its hard to believe. These places have surely descended from Heaven! : )

The locals are beautiful people and are very peaceful. The local people of Sikkim are of 3 communities: The Nepalis, The Bhutia & The Lepcha. Languages spoken here are Nepali, Hindi, English & other like Lepcha, Limbu, Tamang etc. The art work here is amazing. One ought to visit the Handicraft center for some beautiful souvenirs.

It was really difficult to leave Sikkim and go to our next destination, as one would like to stay in Heaven forever. But such is story of us mortals... we have to descend back. : )

At the end of this travelogue, I would only like to say that we Indians should be proud of such natural wealth that we possess. Its completely our endeavour to maintain the serenity, beauty, and purity of such places. Please don't throw / leave rubbish & waste stuff like plastics, bottles, paper cups etc at any such place. Disposing it into a dustbin takes no effort. Please maintain & save such pristine places from spoiling - specially one that can be totally avoided...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Divine Darjeeling

Our trip to North East India began with Kolkata. One can reach Darjeeling through Bagdogra (Road) or Siliguri or New Jalpiguri (Train). Enjoy the picturesque scenery through a joy ride in Toy Train from these stations. Or just fly to Bagdogra from Kolkata and take a taxi ride through the mountains leading to Darjeeling.

On route to Darjeeling, we stopped over at a nice mini hill station called Mirik. We had our breakfast here. Stopped over for some serene early morning moments across the river & mountains. Clicked some snaps against this scenic background, then again boarded our taxi for a 2-3 hour long journey to Darjeeling.

From Mirik to Darjeeling, the route is too beautiful to be missed. So do not sleep at all. We came across numerous Tea Gardens, lush green and very refreshingly laid across vast stretches of these mountains. You also get to see very cute kids, walking through these curvy roads, enjoying their walk to school.

The weather is super cool and you can completely feel the beauty seeping into you through each breath that you take. If you have only dreamt of Heaven, now you can see and feel it too! : )
Step down into one of Tea Gardens on the way and feel it fresh and dewy!

Finally, we reached Darjeeling, after a series of breath-taking views at each centimeter! And I must say that being in India and not visiting Darjeeling - is just not done. Mount Kanchendzonga - the third highest in the Himalayan Range, was covered with Clouds and not visible (when we reached in the afternoon), though, the next day, early morning when I woke up, it was right there - outside in the view of my room's window!

One should visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the Zoo over here. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's tales of braving the hurdles to reach the Everest can be elaborately heard and felt at the Institute. At the Zoo, you can come face to face with Red Panda, Siberian Tiger, Clouded Leopard, Cheetah and many more lovely animals. This is one Zoo that provides a natural habitat to the animals and for once at least you wouldn't feel they are poorly caged!

After a nice walk through the Zoo and HMI, we headed for a cultural program by a local group at a garden. This is well known to all the guides and drivers, so one can easily reach here. The dance ofcourse, was a treat as you don't get to see it anywhere and everywhere.

The later part of evening was spent at the Mall Road Market, where you would find many shops for souvenirs. Beautiful Buddha statues, Khukuri (Nepali Knife like stuff) & many more Indo Chinese kind of things can be shopped for. There are several nice restaurants too in this market, so head for one of them for a nice hot cup of tea - or simply lunch / dinner!

The next day was an important one. We had to get up at 3.00 am, to go to Tiger Hill to watch Sunrise. This is one splendid, heavenly view, which is I guess only once in a lifetime occurrence. You have to scale a height of some 1200 Mtrs (Tiger Hill) to watch the first streaks of Sunlight emerge out of the Blue skies. The clouds below give an impression as if you are flying across the Heaven. The first golden yellow rays of Sun fall on the Kanchendzonga. The Ice clad Mountain, in its majestic glory slowly turns orangish-blue-white. This is one phenomenon that no one would like to miss. And Thank God for a clear day that morning.

Slowly the mist and clouds fade away and a huge, king size majestic Kanchendzonga comes into full view, as you start scaling down - back from Tiger Hill to Darjeeling. On the way is the Ghoom Monastery. As every other Monastery, this one is beautiful, colourful and peaceful (though the tourist crowd doesn't let it be that way!!!)

As we headed for Gangtok that day, on our way we also visited the Japanese Monastery and the Stupa. They were a true abode of peace and purity as the monk chanted their holy prayers.
Leaving Darjeeling was like leaving behind a small heaven on Earth and am really happy that this little heaven belongs to my Country - India.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Religious Rishikesh & Historic Haridwar


This is a deviation form previous posts on some adventure or leisure trips to Chandigarh or Andamans. However, during our trips to Haridwar & Rishikesh, we did start feeling the hidden adventure.

Its a 4 hours drive from Delhi. With an in-between short stop over at Roorkee, you can really enjoy a glass of lip smackingly good Lassi! Once we reached Haridwar, it was hotels galore that dot the town in every nook and corner. We chose to stay in the town, nearer to the Ganges. An evening Aarti (Prayer) & lots of mandir darshan is what will keep one occupied through the evening here. The Aarti is specially a one to witness with the entire crowd hoarding small diyas (oil lit lamps) & chanting the melodious prayer. Not to forget in the least, the gushing waters of river Ganga gives our hearts an eternal peace and a sacred serenity.

Once done, we visited a restaurant amidst the hustle bustle and settled down for some relishing food. Well, its a small walk from here to our hotel. Way back we also sip in some hot tea!
Early morning its time to head for a temple atop a mountain - Mansa Devi. A thrilling trolley ride makes this one a memorable trip. Once done with our prayers, we head down, to be back to the hotel.

Our next destination being Rishikesh. A breathtaking view of river Ganga gushing through the sloped place in all its splendour. River rafting is usually carried out here, but we couldn't venture into it. After our visit to several small temples, we had a great sense of history of this place and how the temples came into being.

Thronged by foreigners, the place has quite a few small shops shelling out many precious gems stones, books, clothes, antiques etc. A Govt owned shop is a trusted one for gems and precious stones shopping.

The Laxman Jhula is what I eagerly awaited. If the weather is cold, windy and wild, its a complete thrill to be crossing the Laxman Jhula, for under such a situation you keep worrying about the bridge swinging constantly and river Ganga flowing in its full throttle!!! : )

Well....then we had a small knee length dip into the icy waters, to feel the sacredness of Ganges (and of course to wash off our sins!!!) : )

Ideal way to gain some spiritual peace and a divine connect with God and his glory!

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Charming Chandigarh


Yet another "Once upon a time"... we visited the city of Chandigarh in October 2007... I guess C is associated with this city, as after visiting it you'd want to call the Charming, Calm & Cleanest City : )

Of course, its not a tourist destination per se... however the well organised & calm roads (unlike the other cities with a completely havoc wrecking traffic) provide for pleasure drive. Evenings can be spent at the lake which is quite well visited by locals and visitors alike.

Rock Garden is a must see, created out of unwanted and waste stuff like broken switches, cups, saucers, bangles, pebbles etc. A good attempt at rather carving out an amusement out of nothing rather than let the waste glorify yet another garbage dump!.... You ought to see it..... A pic is uploaded right here....

Well, if you happen to be in Chandigarh, do not afford to miss the best (I wanted to say Super Best) hill resort - Timber Trail. A complete heaven. The good thing about this mini hill station resort is that you don't have top whirl round and round trailing one of those huge mountains, by the end of which most people are in a giddy feeling.... You just have to take one or two small whirls..and there you the entrance to the resort. Then take a trolley up to the actual place....and have a time of your life reaching there : )

The resort is a splendid place to spend a day with family and friends. Peaceful, cool, serene, clean are just few words to describe the feeling. The resort is a lavish one and has quite a few sports to keep you occupied....

Down below through the mist and fog is the vast view of Chandigarh city. Just relax in the arms of serene mountains and bask in glory of that dim yet snuggling warm sun.

Well, as for the details of the place, all i can say is that it takes one to one and a half hour drive from city. Climate is cool.Add to Technorati Favorites

Amazing Andaman & Nicobar Islands


Once upon a time in November of 2007, there was a Prince and his wife who travelled across the sea to reach a beautiful Island called Andaman & Nicobar Islands.... The rest is not history but a splendid Geography!

Our Tale: Well, it is an eternally beautiful, peaceful and enchanting place, almost a dreamland (actually a dream island!). If you have seen Goa, Chennai beaches & may be some more Indian beaches across East or West Coastline of India, you haven't yet sen anything! Andaman & Nicobar is turquoise (ly), navy-blue (ly) & greenly coloured by way of its flora fauna(in this case the sea life!)....

We had been here for our honeymoon...a delayed one...but it seems for good reasons! The breathtaking backdrops served the perfect view for our mushy hearts... : ) Adventure voyages (albeit short - 4hrs max), Warm people, crystal clear waters & some good food...built up to a great honeymooning : )

Snorkeling will definitely bind you to this place forever, for the unimaginable and unseen sea life accessed through this activity is something you will never forget.... Fishes, sea Anemones, Coral Reefs, Sea Cucumbers, Clams.....the list is endless and colours are something you just can't imagine.

And of course another incident that will always scare me through my life is when I started swimming all by my self (post snorkeling) ... and left the life saver tube behind with my hubby and the guide..... although I was nearing the shore...but somehow i started getting scared seeing nothing below and started drowning....Had it not been my guide (Mr. S Kumar)... I don't know what would have happened....He saved my life! :) .... And there onwards, I dread doing such antics myself! : )

But yes, barring this one experience....It was a trip to Heaven and back.... Literally!
And so after a mushy and romantic trip tale... just wanted to give some other details...
Go on...plan this place for sure....

About it: A&N islands are a group of around 360 smaller islands, in the Bay of Bengal
Getting there: Flights / Ship from Kolkata and Chennai
Climate: Tropical 

Staying: We stayed at the Eco Palm Grove Resort (But that proved bit far and travel inconvenient from main city of Port Blair). Better option is to take up hotels around Aberdeen Bazar, optimum one being the Light House Residency

Food: Veg food easily available, Heaven for Sea-food foodies, Anything that you desire to eat is available (Yes getting a hot cup of tea made from fresh milk is quite a problem, so either opt for regular skimmed milk or go without it : ( ...... )

Stock up on: Sun Blocks, Shorts, Slippers, Goggles, Small handy bag, Cap & Lots of Enthusiasm (Surely you'd hoard it seeing the place!)

Must see Places: Corbyn's Cove Beach, Havelock Island (has the world's 7th best beach Radhanagar beach & Elephant beach for snorkelling), North Bay, Ross Island, Viper Islands, Wandoor Beach. Also see the sound and light show of Cellular Jail, the fisheries museum: Samudrika, the Chatam Saw mill.

High Point:Very warm & honest people, Clean and unspoilt Turquoise beaches, small wonder island : )

The guide we had for snorkeling at North Bay was excellent! Provided us with every small detail of the place and the activity! Don't miss on this.

Need more reasons? .......................... Then just go there!

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