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My travel stories and some everyday experiences

Author: Ajita

Two days in Coorg – The Scotland of India

Two days in Coorg – The Scotland of India

I am currently touring across South India, and Coorg (or Kodagu) was the second stop I made after Mysore. Also known as the Scotland of India, Coorg is a perfect stop for nature lovers. It is a hilly district of the Karnataka state, which is why the temperature here is a little more cooler.

I met my friend from college, Ankita here and we spent two days exploring this beautiful town. Read the post to know how our experience was and also get tips to plan your trip to Coorg.

Mysore in One Day – South India Travel Guide

Mysore in One Day – South India Travel Guide

I have got accustomed to making plans at a whim and arranging accommodations and commute options at the last moment.

Having stayed in Bangalore for some time, I had heard a lot about the city of palaces from friends. Mysore had been in my "must-visit" list for a long time, but somehow I never made a deliberate plan to visit it.

I was in Hyderabad when at an impulse, I decided to do a South India tour before I returned home. I planned Mysore to be the first city that I'll visit as part of the "official" tour.

I spent two days in Mysore but toured the city for effectively one day. So, here's a complete personalized guide to help you plan your trip to the "City of Palaces", Mysore.

PS: Visit the Mysore city during Dussehra(Dasera) festival - the whole city is lit up and there are many ceremonies and festivities that happen during this time.

How to reach Mysore?

I took an overnight bus from Hyderabad to Mysore, and it took around 13 hours to reach the city.

From Bangalore, it takes 3 hours to reach Mysore, so you need not solely rely on the overnight bus. There are several buses which commute between the two cities throughout the day as well. Check RedBus, or official KSRTC websites for more information.

If you are coming from a more distant city, or another country, you can take a flight to Mysore. You can also fly till Bangalore, and then take a bus from Bangalore to Mysore.

Where to stay in Mysore?

There are many accommodation options in Mysore, including hostels, hotels, BnBs, and homestays.
I had plans to stay in a hostel in Mysore, but unfortunately, it got changed at the last moment. Luckily, I got in touch with Mr. Manu from Skyway Tours, and he helped me arrange accommodation at Kings Kourt hotel.

The hotel was conveniently located near the city center and major tourist sites.

The room that I got was quite spacious and faced the main road. Although the property seemed a little old, given the dismal lobby and restaurant, I was quite impressed by my brightly lit room. It was clean and nicely kept that I didn't really mind the shabby lobby.

As for the food, I ate basic meals like Dal with Rice and/or Chapati, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I'd recommend the hotel if you are looking for a comfortable stay near the city center and a very cordial and assisting staff.

PS: I forgot my WiFi dongle in my room, that they kept safely until I returned to pick it up.

Places to See in Mysore

Shuka Vana

Shuka Vana is home to around 465 different varieties of parrots. Here the injured parrots are tended to and taken care of. The place is for a good cause, and if you enjoy learning about different species of birds, it's the right place for you.
One thing that bothered me though was, the birds were caged. Reasons simply being, keeping them secure, but this is one thing that bothered me, and which is why I was not able to enjoy the place as much.

Just beside the Shuka Vana, is the Bonsai Garden, and a temple that you can visit on your way back.

Mysore Palace

Mysore Palace or the Amber Vilas Palace is the main highlight of the Mysore city. The royal families of Mysore ruled from this palace, and it still is their official residence.

The palace has morning and evening hours. In the morning, you are allowed inside the palace and the residential quarters. And in the evening, the entrance is restricted to the palace grounds only, from where you can see the light and sound show.

There are separate tickets for the palace entry(INR 70 for Indians), and residential quarters tour(INR 50 for Indians) in the morning, and for the light and sound show in the evening (INR 90 for Indians).

The palace architecture is royal and magnificent, and once you enter it, you'll be impressed by the little detailing done on every corner it.

The light and sound show was very average, and I would not recommend it. Although, when the palace lights up after the show, the visual is worth it.

The light and sound show runs in Kannada from Monday to Wednesday, and in English from Thursday to Saturday. On Sunday nights, however, all of the palace is lit up, and you are allowed to enter for free.

Karanji Lake

Situated just next to Mysore Zoo, Karanji Lake is a good spot for a leisure walk. The lake was a little dried up when I visited, but the surrounding greens were home to a large number of varieties of birds. There is also an aviary, with many peacocks inside the park premises.

Although the walk around the lake was pleasant, I'd only visit it if I extra time in the city.

Chamundi Hill - Chamundeshwari Temple and Viewpoint

Known for the Chamundeshwari Temple that sits atop the hill, Chamundi hills also gives the most splendid views of the Mysore city. You can either drive up the hill or take a 1000 step staircase. On your way, you can also stop at the Nandi temple.

The myth goes like, goddess Chamundeshwari killed the asura Mahishasura and freed the city of Mysore. The entry queue for the temple was long, so I didn't go inside, although there is a concept of priority entry for an additional fee.

As for the viewpoint, the Chamundi Hill viewpoint is quite famous amongst tourists. To skip the crowds, take the trail that goes beside the viewpoint, and enjoy the panoramic view of the city in quiet from here.

Sand Museum

Ideated by MN Gowri, the Sand Museum is a real piece of marvel. The museum displays sculptures made in sand and water and based on different themes. Look closely, and you'll realize the art that had gone into creating the intricacies in each of these sculptures.

The sculptures are created based on different themes, which makes them all the more interesting.

St. Philomena's Church

Known to be Asia's second tallest Church, St. Philomena's church is a piece of architectural excellence. Apart from the prayer room, there is also a basement, where you can see the names of all the people who contributed to the making of the church inscribed on the walls.

PS: Photography is not allowed inside the church.

St Philomena's Church in Mysore

Apart from all the touristy spots, you can spend time walking around the city and explore the local hidden spots and food corners.

Amritsar – A Detailed Tour Guide

Amritsar – A Detailed Tour Guide

I have lived in Amritsar for almost 18 years, and the city has changed so much over time. But the things that remained constant are the Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh, Wagah/Attari Border retreat ceremony, and of course the crazy food of the city.

In this post, I show you around Amritsar, and give some insider local tips, that you might not find anywhere else!

Jaipur – Exploring the pinks of the city!

Jaipur – Exploring the pinks of the city!

I have a very strong affinity towards Rajasthan - it's culture, people, and its music. Having been to different parts of Rajasthan, with every city I visit, I fall more in love with this state.

The first time I visited Rajasthan was in 2007. It was a part of a school trip, and I believe, the memories of that time have kept me crazy about the place till now.

I went to Jaipur many times after that school trip in the later years, to tour the city and to meet friends.
But this time it was different. This time, I was planning (at least tried to plan) the whole trip. I was going to show around to my mom, and also capture lots and lots of pictures and take videos.

In this post, I share tips on how to reach Jaipur, where to stay, and top places to see, eat and shop at.

How to reach Jaipur?

I took a direct flight from Amritsar to Jaipur of about 1 hour and 30 minutes and the tickets cost us around 6000 INR per person for a round trip that we booked two weeks before the travel date.

You can also take a train from Amritsar to Jaipur. There are three trains that run between these two cities daily and take around 13-17 hours to reach Jaipur from Amritsar.

Check the official IRCTC page for train bookings.

If you are coming from the capital city of India, New Delhi, you can select from the following options:

Air

Take a flight from New Delhi and reach Jaipur in under 1 hour. The flights are way cheaper if you book ahead of time.

Road

Drive your way into the city. It takes around 4-5 hours of driving to reach Jaipur from New Delhi.
These are a few services you can use if you wish to take a car:
Zoom Car - Rent a self-drive car
Bla Bla Car - Share your ride with someone who is already heading to the same city
Ola Outstation - Rent a car, with a chauffeur at your service

There are also many buses that run between Delhi and Jaipur throughout the day. Check Redbus for best suitable options.

Rail

There are many trains as well that go between the two cities that take between 4-6 hours of travel time.
Check the official IRCTC website for the most suitable option.

Where to stay?

Jaipur is visited by tourists from around the world, which is why the city will not disappoint you in terms of hospitality.
There are many hostels and hotels for both budget travelers, as well as travelers that seek luxury.

I stayed with the Lords Plaza Hotel, located very close to the old city, which has most of the Jaipur attractions. It was a pretty decent hotel with spacious room and a clean washroom. City view at night from the room was one thing that I enjoyed the most apart from the tasty breakfast buffet.

Places to see

Jaipur is culturally and historically rich that you'll never feel a lack of places to visit and explore. Walk through the city bazaars(markets), visit the historical monuments, eat authentic Rajasthani food, watch Rajasthani performances, or sit in cozy cafes to work on your things, the city has everything.

Here is how we spent three days in the royal city of Jaipur.

Day 1

Hawa Mahal

Also known as the Palace of Winds, Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 as an addition to the existing City Palace. Located in the heart of the city, the palace has a structure similar to a beehive in the front. It is 5-storeyed and has 953 small windows (or jharokhas) that helped the cool breeze to flow in and also allowed the royal Rajputana ladies, to look out at the streets below, without being seen, in respect of the Purdah system that prevailed during that time.

Jantar Mantar

Located on the back side of Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar is only a 10-minute walk from there. Built as a means to measure time and space, Jantar Mantar has around 19 astronomical architectural devices that astrologers used to measure position and distances of heavenly bodies to predict the time, and other celestial movements.

City Palace

City Palace is where the Maharaja of Jaipur used to rule from and currently there is a private section of the palace, that serves as a residence of the royal family.
It is a perfect example of Rajasthani grandeur, with extensive gardens and many courtyards that take you back in time when the palace premises was the complex from where the rulers ruled their kingdom.

Birla Mandir

A perfect example of beauty and peace, built with pure white marble, Birla Mandir is one heck of an architectural marvel. With intricate carvings on domes and walls of the temple, it is so much more than just a religious site. Though crowded during the evening, for me it is the best time to visit the temple - when the evening prayers begin, and the sun slowly starts setting down with the cool evening breeze flowing. It gets so quaint even amidst all the noise and crowd.

Day 2

Baapu Bazaar and Johari Bazaar

When you are in Jaipur, you cannot miss the colorful streets of the city, especially Baapu Bazar, and Johari Bazar located right in the heart of the older city.
You can buy anything from traditional wear, handicrafts, textiles, and jewels from both of these markets.

Chokhi Dhani

Chokhi Dhani, an artificially created village that provides a glimpse of Rajasthani culture and a taste of Rajasthani food.
While I enjoyed my time here, maybe because I wanted to, but honestly, the experience was not worth the ticket price of 700 INR per adult. It surely is a place to watch Rajasthani folk performances, but the lack of energy and enthusiasm in the performers, make you worry about them rather than enjoy their art.
The food, however, was good, but again I am sure you will find something very similar in the city itself, where you can get an authentic Rajasthani meal experience.

The timing of Chokhi Dhani is 5:30 pm to 11:00 pm, but most of the people reach around 7:00 pm after the sun has set and the village is lit up.
We reached Chokhi Dhani around 4:30 pm, therefore we could see the place in daylight as well.

Day 3

Nahargarh Fort

Located around 30 km from the old city center, and lying in the Aravalli Hill Range, Nahargarh Fort gives a spectacular view of the Jaipur city. The fort also has multiple separate chambers for the queens of the then ruler, Maharaj Sawai Madho Singh.

There is a Wax Museum, and a Sheesh Mahal at the entrance of the fort, entry to both of which is 350 INR per person.

Jaigarh Fort

Built by Sawan Jai Singh, Jaigarh Fort is just a 15-minute drive or an hour walk from Nahargarh Fort. We easily got Uber from Nahargarh Fort, but you can also take auto-rickshaws or tuk-tuk to Jaigarh Fort.

The views from the fort are astounding, with a backdrop of Aravallis surrounding lake Maota.
The fort is also home to once the world's largest manual cannon, Jaivana and also has an armory chamber that displays old swords, shields, and guns.

Amer Fort/Palace

Amer fort, originally a palace built by Raja Man Singh in the Amer city, from where the Rajput Maharajas ruled the state. If you are coming from Jaigarh fort, you can walk to Amer fort, through a tunnel that connects the two. It is around a 10-minute walk from Jaigarh Fort to the tunnel and a 15-minute walk further to the Amer Fort. You can also use a Golf cart to reach the tunnel, for a nominal price.
The different sections of Amer Fort, include, Diwan-i-Aam, the Diwan-i-Khas, Sheesh Mahal and Sukh Niwas.
There is also a residential section in the fort for the royal family.

You can take a full-day car rental with or without a chauffeur that takes you to all the three forts, Nahargarh Fort, Jaigarh Fort, and Amer Fort and also gets back you to the town.
You can book separate Uber/Ola cab to the forts and on your way back.
PS: You will get a cab to return back or transfer between the forts easily, if you are visiting the forts in the morning.

Places to eat at

Pandit Ji Ki Kulfi

One of the many places that people suggested me was Pandit Ji Ki Kulfi. Situated right in the heart of Johari Bazar, it easy to locate, and with a long queue of people outside the shop, you simply cannot miss it.

It is one of the older shops in the town, and they serve old-styled Kulfi, frozen in steel containers. The consistency of the ice-cream is really good and it is very filling too.

Tapri Tea House

We had breakfast in our hotel, Lords Plaza on all days during our stay in Jaipur. But we spent our afternoons, and evenings at Tapri Tea House. I really love the combination of simplicity and fanciness of the cafe. The food is good, and the ambiance is very cozy.

Local Shopping

If you are in search of local cloth - dresses, or bedding, traditional designs, cutlery and much more, Baapu Bazar and Johari Bazar are your best bet. You'll definitely find something of your taste in these markets.
Apart from the Bapu Bazar and Johari Bazar, we found this amazingly interesting government funded store, Rajasthali. It offers a variety of local Rajasthani handicrafts, including textile, furniture, pottery, paintings, jewelry, and more.

The beauty of the city and its people never fails to disappoint you. Even with all the modernization happening, Jaipur remains traditional at its core.

Exploring Mahabaleshwar – Places to see in one day!

Exploring Mahabaleshwar – Places to see in one day!

Mahabaleshwar is one of the most visited hill stations in the western ghats, especially by the people from Mumbai, Pune, and few places in Gujarat.Also known as the strawberry city, Mahabaleshwar is full of strawberry fields all around, and even one of the most famous sharbat/squash brands, Mapro, started here. With so many viewpoints, you can spend an entire weekend visiting these and be taken aback by the breathtaking views of the surrounding hills.

The Girl In The Shorts

The Girl In The Shorts

Tik Tok Tik Tok Tok Tok Tok Past the houses, the shops, the rickshaws, the autos I walk! There’s a bunch, a never-ending bunch, That looks at me, turns its head, then smiles, and flees! But what do I do? Tik Tok Tik Tok Tok […]

Amritsar – A Foodie’s Paradise!

Amritsar – A Foodie’s Paradise!

Amritsar is no doubt a beautiful, and a culturally rich city, a city that takes you back into time, as you walk through its old narrow streets. In addition to all of this, one thing that sets the city apart is its delicious food loaded with desi-ghee.
It doesn't matter how long you are in the city for, because there will always be so much left to taste and explore.

In this post, I will share with you the foods and the restaurants that you must try when you are in the city.

Kesar ka Dhabba

Started in 1916 in Pakistan, Kesar ka Dhabba has stood the test of time. It was shifted to Amritsar post-partition and has been able to maintain the quality of food since then.
Order a thali when you are here. It includes Dal, Channa, Raita, and two plain parathas. You'll be so full after this one thali that you'd hardly be able to move. But keep the place for some dessert - Firni or rice pudding, a very different dessert not very commonly found in all parts of India.

Kanha Sweets

Breakfast at Kanha Sweets is just unbeatable. Start your day with puri, chhole(chickpeas) and potato curry. Everything here, starting from assigning tables, to serving plates, and finally serving food is a very streamlined process.
The best part is that you pay per the number of puris you have (2 minimum), but you can have an unlimited amount of potato curry, chhole, and pickle.

Lovely Champ and Aaloo Kulcha (Potato stuffed Naan Bread)

This is my personal favorite, reasons being - the place is closer to my home and second, I am completely mad about champ. Champ is generally made by baking marinated soya in a tandoor.

At the same place, you also get aaloo kulcha till noon. Crisp, stuffed aaloo kulchas are every Punjabi's all-time favorite and will be soon yours too when you try it. And I think, nowhere in the world you get aaloo kulchas as delicious as in Amritsar 🙂

Brijwasi Chaat Bhandar

Talk about Chaat, and Brijwasi is the first place that pops in your mind. It serves one of the best chaats and the crispy bun tikki(fried potato cake) in the city. You will love the two chutneys they serve with it ☺️

Chana Dal and Mung Dal Laddoo (Fritters)

Generally served in the older part of the city, you'll find many vendors with small carts selling these salted laddoos. These are not the healthiest items or the cleanest food that you will eat, but they are just so delicious. The laddoos are served hot with some pickle and chutney for that extra tangy flavor.

2 Days in Chopta – Explore the Unspoiled Land of Uttrakhand

2 Days in Chopta – Explore the Unspoiled Land of Uttrakhand

Welcomed by a Himalayan background, serene lakes, and lush green forests, Uttrakhand is unmistakably nature’s paradise. Visited by tourists all the year round, there are still some unexplored parts of this divine land that you can visit for a truly enthralling experience. Chopta is one […]

Weekend Getaway from Delhi – The Delhi – Gwalior – Agra Road Trip

Weekend Getaway from Delhi – The Delhi – Gwalior – Agra Road Trip

I had spent almost a month of solo backpacking in Europe, exploring its mountains, fairy-tales villages, cobblestone streets, colorful houses, historic palaces, and much more. Click here to read more about my Europe adventures Before even returning to India, I had made plans with my […]

2 days in Budapest – Watch the gorgeous sunsets, Take a dip in Turkish baths and much more!

2 days in Budapest – Watch the gorgeous sunsets, Take a dip in Turkish baths and much more!

Budapest was the last stop of my Euro trip, and though it had been almost a month of traveling, I was all fresh reaching this quieter yet one of the most happening places in Europe. Budapest is the largest city of Hungary and is flooded with tourists all the year round, especially in the summer months. With so much to offer, Budapest is an ideal place for a budget traveler who wants to get an essence of European life.

Here is how I spent two days in the city, exploring its historic places, watching the gorgeous sunsets and, taking a dip in the old Turkish baths.

Where to stay?

Accommodation in Budapest is quite budgeted - in fact, the cheapest accommodation I stayed in during my whole trip.

I stayed at GoodMo House hostel - conveniently located close to a tram stop and a walking distance from the city center. The main highlights of the hostel are, its colorful common room and local tips ranging from places to visit, to foods to try compiled by the staff in a booklet.

Though the rooms are very standard and there is no elevator in the hostel, but the hostel is overall very nicely maintained. Its clean premises stood out for me other than its price.

Pro Tip: Take the hostel provided Airport Shuttle. It costs around 7-8€, but is a better option than taking the City Airport Shuttle which costs around 3€. Less wait time and you get a comfortable seat to sit!

You can use this link to make a booking with the hostel!

Day-wise itinerary

Day 1

Stroll through the city's Jewish Quarters

Walk to the largest Synagogue in Europe (in fact the second largest in the world) crossing the narrow streets and old buildings that were once occupied by the city's Jews. Treat yourself with bits and pieces of history as you stroll through the area.

If hungry, grab a bite at the funky Sock's Cafe right opposite to the Dohany Street Synagogue.

Make a quick stop at St Stephens Basilica

Come back for an open-air screening, if any

As you continue to walk around the city, make a stop at this incredibly beautiful church, located in the downtown Pest. With a small donation fee of 1€, you can see the church from inside. Spend some time praising its architectural marvel.

There was an open-air movie screening later that day, so I came back in the evening for the same.

You'll generally find people setting the space if there is a screening or a concert in the evening.

Stop for Lunch at Govinda Vegetarian Restaurant

I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone. The overall vibe of the restaurant is so peaceful that it takes you on a short trip to the holy cities of India. The food is simple but per serving size is ample. I remember, leaving so fresh after my lunch here.

Veg Restaurant - Govinda in Budapest, Hungary

Walk across the Chain Bridge spanning the Danube between Western and Eastern Budapest (originally, Buda and Pest)

As you walk from the Pest side of the city, walk over the Chain Bridge (the first permanent stone bridge connecting the two side, Buda and Pest) and enjoy the majestic views of the Danube, and the city on either side.

Visit the Fairytale towers of Fisherman's Bastion

With towers straight out from a fairytale story, Fisherman's Bastion is a perfect treat to the eyes. And once you finish adoring its beautiful architecture, you can look across to panoramic views of the city and the grand Hungarian Parliament.

Watch the sunset from Elisabeth bridge as the bridge's shadow shift across the buildings

Head back to the town following the Elisabeth bridge, running parallel to Chain Bridge over the Danube. Take your time, and enjoy the beautiful sunset, as the bridge casts its shadow over the buildings in front as they turn golden.

Day 2

Bathe in the Traditional Thermal Baths

As my long 26-day trip was coming to an end, though mentally still fresh, I was a little tired physically - daily commuting on foot, hiking to unknown places, missing buses, and then running to catch them, it was now time to treat myself to some pampering.

Thermal baths are believed to be medicinal that can cure just about any illness.

I decided to go to Lukács Thermal Baths and, I swear it was 3 hours of complete bliss in just 11€. There are four indoor pools maintained at different temperatures, a steam room, and an ice-cold plunge pool to cool down. Other than that, there are two outdoor pools and a sunbathing terrace that you can use as part of your ticket.

Sit by the Danube river at Margaret Island

Close to the Lukács baths, a walk down the Margaret Bridge is this peaceful island - a great hideaway from the city. The island is famous among locals, and you'll see a lot of joggers sprinting along the track throughout the day.

You can walk along the river, or sit by it quietly enjoying its tranquility. Other than that, you can dine in one of the few cafes on the island, watch the musical fountains, and stroll through its gardens.

Walk by the Kossuth Square - home to Hungarian Parliament and other notable buildings

Walk back from the Margaret island to the Kossuth Square and spend some time appreciating the grand architecture of the surrounding buildings, including the Hungarian Parliament.

Hike to the Citadella for the amazing sunset and city views

Take a short easy hike up the Gellert Hill to be amazed by the glorious city views and an incredibly beautiful sunset. Other than that, take a close look at the Liberty Monument sitting atop the Citadella. The monument signifies liberation from the Nazi rule and is a symbol of progress.

Shop at Central Market Hall

Visit the largest indoor market of Budapest to try and buy local produce, traditional Hungarian foods. Take your time and walk around this 3-floor market as you sample the Hungarian food, wine, and spices.
Top Free Things to do in Vienna – a 2-day itinerary

Top Free Things to do in Vienna – a 2-day itinerary

The intricate architecture of Vienna is so intoxicating that you can spend hours just staring at the artistic marvels in the city. But that’s not it, Vienna also boasts of baroque styled gardens and parks visited by tourists and locals alike. I spent two days […]

What triggered my first solo trip – Tips for a first time​ solo traveler

What triggered my first solo trip – Tips for a first time​ solo traveler

“I had always fancied the idea of going to a random place and exploring it on my own. And when I finally did it, I learned to overcome my own inhibitions that not only concerned travel but so many other things too.” Before moving to […]

My first Surfing Experience – Why I don’t have any pictures on the surfboard!!

My first Surfing Experience – Why I don’t have any pictures on the surfboard!!

Excited and nervous, I ran towards my hostel from where the cab dropped me. I took a cab at 9 am from Ubud to Kuta where my hostel and surfing class was - Pro Surf School and Hostel.

It took almost 3 hours to cover a distance of 1 hour because of heavy traffic.

The surfing class was to begin at 12 and it was already time when I reached my hostel. I literally threw my luggage at the reception and walked towards where rest of the students were standing. I quickly changed and now the whole group was ready for the initial surfing instructions.

After almost an hour class, we took our surfing boards and walked to the beach.

Now a little about me before I proceed - I am scared of the waves

Though from outside, I tried to be very confident, my heart throbbed every time I saw a huge wave coming towards me. And all my faith in me also swept away with the waves. And there I was, off the surfboard and in the water, trying to come up, struggling for a breath!!

But that's not the end of the story, during the instructions, we were told about RIP. No, it is not "Rest in Peace", but it will surely mean Rest in Peace if you don't know the waters that well.

So what actually is RIP? A rip is a current of water that moves away from the shore. The moment you enter the rip, you get pushed away from the shore and no matter how hard you try to find the ground and swim hard, you will just get swayed away unless you swim to the left or the right. And once you are out of the rip, you start swimming towards the shore.

Ocean Rip in Kuta Bali

So, yes I along with a few other was caught in a rip. So the little time I had to overcome my fear of the waves, I was caught in an unwanted region of the sea.

Btw, I was able to catch a few waves successfully, a very few I mean!!

While this is all I have from the pictures clicked during the lesson, I really hope I do better in my next class!

Surfing lesson with Pro Surf Bali Camp
Traveling to Salzburg – Free things to do in the city

Traveling to Salzburg – Free things to do in the city

Salzburg – a heaven on earth. Salzburg is famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and for the filming of the movie, Sound of Music, but there’s so much more than that, that you can see and do for free in the city. Having spent […]

Why is it sometimes easy to open up to strangers than loved ones?

Why is it sometimes easy to open up to strangers than loved ones?

A lot of you must have had the experience of opening up to strangers, be it talking about your problems, your life goals, or sharing your deep dark secrets, or just being more yourself.
I have had this feeling quite often in recent times. One when I was planning to leave my job, the only person who knew about it was a friend I made on my trip to San Francisco. And then, when I was traveling through Europe, I met several people in front of whom it was easier to be just me without any pretense.

Thinking much!!
Thinking much!!

On one of the self-reflection days, I started wondering why it is so easy and why I don't think twice before opening up in front of the person I don't know so intimately and am able to form that inexplicable bond with. Why words and stories come out naturally while talking to a dorm-mate, to an Uber driver, to a fruit vendor, and the list is endless.
As I pondered over the topic, I came up with a few reasons that I could relate to.

Expectation

We expect our loved ones to understand us and our problems, and assume that they will give the best solution or suggestion in such a case. But when this doesn’t happen, we tend to momentarily hate them (Hate is a strong word here!) and avoid having further discussions related to that topic with them.

Talking

But in the case of a stranger, we don’t really expect a perfect response from them, as a matter of fact, there is no or very little expectation that they would even understand us. At the time, we just want to talk out and maybe not expect anything in return, just a mere acknowledgment that they are listening. Just in case, if the person suggests something, we'd know deep down that the other party is not aware of the entire situation and hence it doesn't really matter if they have a positive or a negative or even a neutral response to it.

Breaking of expectations hurt, but again most of the expectations are irrelevant!

Fresh Perspective

It is great to know the viewpoints of a person with a lifestyle completely different from ours or a person who has a different take on the whole situation. Sometimes an unbiased opinion given without knowing the complete story can actually turn out be more useful.
I have talked to several people lately about my blog, and long-term ideas, and for sure I have been able to receive many encouraging suggestions on how to continue working towards my goals.

A new persective is always a learning experience!!
A new persective is always a learning experience!!

Lack of context

Sure every conversation has some follow-up questions, but with a stranger, most of the times there are no follow up questions given the comfort zone. At other times, it is easier to dodge questions and change the topic or just say we are not very sure of the answer.
Basically, there is no digging of a situation or any uncomfortable conversations as there would be in case of a friend or a loved one.

Idontunderstand

Judgment

The fear of being judged is one of the most prevalent fears and most of the times, it is difficult to overcome this innate quality of ours.
A stranger's opinion about us does not really matter in the long run, even if it does at the moment. We know deep down that there is a rare chance that we'll meet the person again. It is easy to ignore the judgemental comments if there are any because we have a choice to judge them back based on however illogical assumptions we have about them. We can easily end our conversation with them and be chill about the whole situation.

Iseeyou

I remember talking to someone I met on a flight where I discussed with him my idea of leaving the tech industry and moving to arts. Incidentally, he was just a step away from offering me a job when I blabbered my plans about quitting and trying something new. And when he heard me, he was shocked and made such expressions that I had to stop talking about my big plans. But all of this didn't matter me at that point because I was happy to be able to talk myself out. That person's opinion didn't really matter that much as he didn't know the ins and outs of my life.

It is okay to sometimes listen to your heart and not the people outside!

No obligation to maintain a relationship

As I mentioned above, that sometimes when close ones fail to understand us, we start to avoid talking about the similar situations with them, in fear of judgment or a negative response.
But in the case of a stranger, there doesn't exist a relationship that can be broken. If they don't like our decisions or actions, we'd just not talk any further about the situation with them or not talk at all, without thinking about the impact on our non-existent relationship.
The end of the conversation would be the last thing to bother us.

holding hands with friends

But I'll admit it is great to have a friend who knows everything about you and you are comfortable talking about anything that goes on in your life!!
friend
My Favorite 5 Restaurants in Gurgaon

My Favorite 5 Restaurants in Gurgaon

In the last few years, Gurgaon has become a big technical hub employing lakhs of people each year. With most of the jobs demanding a lot of work and time, it is very natural for so many restaurants and cafes to open up in the […]

Top Things to Do in Munich – 3 day itinerary

Top Things to Do in Munich – 3 day itinerary

Munich is one of the larger cities of Germany with people from everywhere. Being an important part of Germany, it was a central place during the Nazi time and has a lot of history associated with it. The city also boasts of beautiful gardens and old and intricate architecture and buildings.
Often referred to as the beer capital, Munich is famous for its annual beer festival, Oktoberfest where herds of people come from around the world to indulge in the city's beer culture.
Let's get into the details on how you can have the best of time in this city.
Streets of Munich, Germany

Where to stay?

Munich is no doubt an expensive big city so staying within my budget was a task in itself.
I chose to stay at Wombat's City hostel.  It had a good rating and the price per bed was also at par with the other hostel options. When I reached my hostel, I was pleasantly amazed by its central location. With a cordial staff at service and a comfortable room and other common areas, it was just a perfect stay.
PS: Breakfast at Wombats is every penny worth - huge variety and great taste!

Day 1

Walk around Old Munich

Marienplatz, Odeonsplatz

I chose to walk from my hostel to Marienplatz and on my way, I crossed many significant buildings of Munich. I spent a lot of time clicking pictures of the marvelous architecture that adorned these buildings.
Marienplatz is a prime tourist attraction since there are numerous showrooms and historic points of interest in its vicinity.
You can spend time shopping or immerse yourself in the historic richness of the square.
A few blocks from Marienplatz is Odeonsplatz which is another historical location of the city.
If you are in Munich during winters, stop at San Francisco Coffee Company for a quick break from the cold outside.
California coffee, Marienplatz, munich, Germany

Relax in the Gardens of Nymphenburg Palace

Apart from its much-talked museum, Nymphenburg Palace is also adorned by an extensive picturesque garden with numerous lakes flowing through it. There are also beautiful sculptures spread throughout the garden that will take you back into the Roman times.

Gardens of Nymphenburg Palace

Statues in the gardens of Nymphenburg Palace

Watch the sunset from the hills of Olympiapark

Olympiapark is a huge stadium that was built for the summer Olympics of 1972. Many events are held all the year around in the stadium.
Climb to one of the higher hills and enjoy the sunset and city views from there.
You can also go up the Olympia Tower to get even better views of the city - It is paid though.

Day 2

Indulge yourself in the country's art and history

PS: All the museums in the city are closed on Monday

Visit the Jewish Museum

The museum was closed, so I spent some time reading the informational lines (more of a conversation) related to Jews on its all four sides.
An interesting read!
I went to Alte Pinakothek after that. But it was closed as well, so I just took a nap in the surrounding park.
LOCAL PRO TIP: Enjoy a cup of coffee with a good city view at Café im Vorhoelzer Forum, inside the Technical University.

Visit Dachau - Concentration Camp, or Gardens or both

Dachau is a small city just outside of Munich.  It is famous for the concentration camp where many Jews and political prisoners were held captive during the Nazi rule. You can also visit the Dachau Palace and Gardens, another great place to just sit and relax amid the beautiful nature. It not only boasts about the amazing views of the peaceful city, but you can also look at the Alps on a clear day.

Love Indian Food?

The Royal India Restaurant is a must go. Delicious rich Indian food and that too in good budget ~10-12 euro per person. My German friends loved this restaurant!
Indian Food in Germany

Day 3

Visit any other museum of interest

I went to NS- Dokumentarizm because I was interested in knowing more about the history of the city and the country. A lot of information in one place - perfect for enthusiastic readers of history.
NS-Dokumentarizm Museum, Munich, Germany

Chill at a Beer Garden

A must have experience.

Beer gardens are large outdoor gardens with seating space and beer and food stalls - something like an open restaurant. People often go to the beer gardens to hang out with their friends and families. While it is okay for you to carry your own food, it is considered polite (and generally followed) to buy beer and other drinks from the stalls.
If you are in the city at the time of Oktoberfest - the largest beer festival that happens every year in Munich, make sure to be a part of it!
Mountain in Oils – Painting Tutorial for Beginners

Mountain in Oils – Painting Tutorial for Beginners

This is an oil painting video tutorial suitable for beginners. PS: I have used a brush to paint the mountain instead of a knife. I have used very basic oil colors perfect for you if you are just starting and not looking for a big […]

3 days in Austin, Texas

3 days in Austin, Texas

Seattle was getting colder every single day and there were no hopes of a warm day anytime sooner.  I was getting impatient and bored sitting at home, so I started planning my next travel.

Snowy Seattle - a day before leaving for Austin

I had to decide between Dallas, Austin, and Houston. I did a lot of research and concluded that Houston is a big corporate kind of city, whereas Dallas and Austin, promised more cultural experience. Out of the two, Dallas and Austin, I decided to go to Austin because internet claimed it had better transportation. Apparently, it wasn’t even average.☹️

I wonder what Dallas public transportation had been like 😬

Landing in Austin

I booked the flight tickets for the worst ever time, at a very less price though. My flight from Seattle was at 11:20 pm and it reached Austin at 5:15 am (3:15 am in Seattle).

Sleepy yet ready for a picture

All that was compensated for when I landed in Austin and got out of the airport. Coming to a mild temperature from freezing cold was so relieving. Despite a little drizzle, the weather seemed just ideal!

I am glad the hostel was pretty close to the airport. It took me around 20 minutes to reach my hostel from the airport.

Welcome to Austin

Where to Stay in Austin

If you are a solo backpacker like me, hostels must be your first choice as well. They are in budget and you meet and make friends with people from everywhere.

I stayed in HI hostel (Hosteling International) on the eastern side of Austin along the Ann and Roy Butler Trail by the Lady Bird Lake and not too far from the city center.

Hostelling International is a global chain of hostels and if you are a member, you can get special discounts and deals.

My experience with HI Hostel

The Bad

My very first impression of the hostel was not very good. The lady at the reception was a little too impatient and irritable, maybe because of the lack of sleep. She couldn’t find my correct booking. It took her some time to retrieve partial booking and re-book for the total no. of days I was going to be there. Overall I got very negative vibes after entering the hostel, which no doubt, got better with time.

The Good

The room had a lake view and was kept clean. The beds were also quite comfortable. The free breakfast included bread, butter, and jam, milk, and fruits.

All in all, it was an above average stay - I would recommend this hostel if you want to be away from hustle bustle of the city and in a close proximity to nature.

Day 1

Do a Group City Tour

I had my breakfast in the hostel around 8:00 am and left for the city tour that I had booked through Viator. I wanted to do this tour to get an overview of the city early through the trip so that I am able to plan the rest of it. I walked to Austin's Visitors Center where the tour had to begin. It was 2 miles from my hostel, so I decided to walk and enjoy the scenery around.

I was tired and sleepy due to an overnight flight, but I pushed myself and kept walking till I reached the visitor's center and got a seat in the van. Unfortunately, because of a smooth driving and one person speaking all the time, (that, of course, our tour guide and driver), I fell asleep in no time. I switched on the recording to at least record and later listen to it while deciding places to visit - I later lost it.

So basically I slept for 60 minutes of the 90 minutes of the tour, without gaining a lot of information!

This tour is really helpful if you are a lazy planner, and want to know the city from a local's point of view

Eat at Blenders & Bowls

After the city tour, I walked to this super healthy restaurant, Blenders and Bowls where I had some coffee and an avocado toast. They had a huge variety of smoothies and acai bowls. It's a must go place if you are seeking a healthy yet filling meal.

Visit Olive Industry Orchard in Dripping Springs

Just when I thought of going back to the hostel and taking some rest, I realized I had booked another tour of an olive industry that had cost me 6 USD. The location was 24 miles away from where I was having lunch. Tired and sleepy, I still booked a cab to this place.

While it was too late to realize that I have booked a 40 USD one-way cab for a 6 USD tour, I felt at ease when I started talking to my Uber driver - Mohsen from Iran. We talked non-stop for 45 minutes about similarities between Iranian and Indian culture and our lives in the US. It was like I have met an old relative of mine. As we were going towards the country-side, he got excited about the horses and the cows that we saw on our way. He was simply the sweetest.

Dripping Springs is not very far from Austin, but I had to take an Uber because of poor connectivity through public transport

Texas Olive Industry was situated in Dripping Springs, far between the farmlands. It was an amazing feeling standing in between rows of never-ending farms.

The tour was very informative. We were introduced to different varieties of olives, and ideal conditions for growing and harvesting them. Then we looked at the olive orchards where we learned more about the planting and the growing process. We could not enter it because of damp soil, but normally you can take a stroll inside the orchard and take a close look at the trees.

After that, we went inside to see the mill that is used to extract and process olive oil. We also learned about the difference between pure, light, virgin and extra-virgin olive oil and how to identify a fake or adulterated olive oil.

In the end, we were offered samples of different olive oils and balsamic vinegar to taste.

I was a little worried about if I’d get an Uber back to Austin. But luckily, the cab I got was already headed my way to drop someone in Dripping Springs. I drowsed off within 5 minutes after sitting in the cab.

I had big plans for attending a live music performance at night. I decided to take a small nap and re-energize myself before leaving again. Unfortunately, my "small" nap lasted for almost 4 hours and I woke up around 10:00 in the night. So, I decided to stay back and postpone my plans for some other day.

Day 2

Take a Free Austin Art Tour

Austin is one of the most colorful cities in the US. You can find such beautiful murals and graffiti around every corner of the city. Make sure to take some time out to see and appreciate the street art - a significant part of this city.

I booked a free East Side Art Tour with Tipster - you don't actually need to pre-book but it's polite to do that.😊 We walked through Eastern Austin and stopped at various points where Natalie, our tour guide, gave us insights into the artworks and their creator.

It is a free tour but a generous tip is recommended if you like it

Visit HOPE Farmers Market

Austin is all about promoting local businesses and that's why you'll find a lot of people in a weekend farmers market.

HOPE Farmers Market operates on every Sunday in East Austin and you can find a variety of things there, including farm-fresh produce, food vendors, live music, yoga groups, and much more.

I treated myself with a Ginger Orange Juice, and I'll admit it was one of the best juices I have ever had!

Eat Texas Tacos

Tacos were in the top of my list of Texan delicacy that I wanted to try. Torchy’s Tacos was a common suggestion in several food blogs for best tacos in Austin. So, I decided to go there. I went to the one closer to the university. That was not the best choice though, as it was super crowded with all the students. I ordered "Independent Taco", one of the vegetarian options they had. I personally found the taste very average. But I would appreciate their quick and organized service despite being so full.

 

Go For A Hike At Mount Bonnell

After my lunch at Torchy's, I booked an Uber to Mount Bonnell. I had to take a cab because the location was a little far from where I was and the buses as I said before did not have a very good connectivity.
The hike was really easy. Once you reach the top, you can sit and enjoy the spectacular views of the lake and the city.

After coming down, I decided to walk to the nearest bus stop and take a bus back to my hostel.

Rich Neighborhood of Mt Bonnell

Visit Texas State Capitol

A perfect example of a royal and antique architecture. After touring the building, you can spend some time strolling in the surrounding garden.


Later that night, I made friends with a Norwegian lady, who was in her 50s and a solo traveler since so many past years. She was super inspiring. We went to dinner together and called it off a night.

Day 3

Eat at Via313

I would like to admit that I look for pizza places anywhere I go. I had a light breakfast in the hostel and decided to have brunch at Via313. There are around 5 locations of the restaurant in Austin, and I decided to go to the one near my hostel. But I was too early for dining there since it opens later in the evening - so check the timings before you decide a location.

Partly disappointed, I took an Uber to the one near Texas University. I was hungry and craving for food that I ordered more than I could have eaten alone. Their pizza and garlic bread were too delicious and their tomato sauce was worth dying for!! 😋
I got the remaining pizza packed and headed off to the next stop, Bullock State Museum (I won't highly recommend it as it wasn't very exciting - only if you are a history buff, then you can visit it).

Visit HOPE Outdoor Gallery

During the Art Tour on Day 2, our guide, Natalie told us about the HOPE Outdoor Gallery and I made sure that I visited it before I left Austin. After touring the museum, I went there and spent some time looking at the art and appreciating the art culture that this city supports.

Bring some paint and spray to leave your mark here!

Watch Mexican bats under the Congress Avenue Bridge

Later in the evening, I went for the Bat Watching and Sunset Tour with Capital Cruises. The perfect time to view a large number of bats is between March till November. I was a little early for that timeline, but I could still witness a few of them emerging from underneath the limestone bridges.

Apparently, it is the largest bat colony that migrates from central Mexico every Spring.

Attend a Live Music Performance

I was in Live Music Capital of the World and I had already missed attending live music in the last two days. Today I had to make sure, I go to one. As soon as the tour got over, I walked to The Continental Club for The Peterson Brothers performance they had that day. The music was great and it was the first time ever, that I danced without company (feeling of a mini accomplishment).

PS: You can check do512 to know about the events' schedule

Watch a piece of the band's performance below.


I did not stay after the performance and walked back to my hostel. Later, I finished packing and was ready for another early morning flight back to Seattle 😬

Traveling To Prague – Things to do and tips to keep in mind

Traveling To Prague – Things to do and tips to keep in mind

Prague is a beautiful-budget city with colorful historic buildings, narrow alleys, intricate architecture, and a river that divides the city. I was in Prague for two weeks in mid-August and the weather during this time was just perfect, with no rain on most of the […]

One Month in Europe without a SIM card

One Month in Europe without a SIM card