Follow Penning Silly Thoughts on WordPress.com

My travel stories and some everyday experiences

Blog

Jaipur – Exploring the pinks of the city!

Jaipur – Exploring the pinks of the city!

Jaipur is a beautiful city and even with all the modernization happening, the pink city remains traditional at its core.
In this post, I share tips on how to reach Jaipur, where to stay, and places to see, eat, and shop at.

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 Tok Tok
Ignoring the bunch, I continue to walk!

I felt a brush, or was it in my mind?
I straightened my spine, I looked up
It was that bunch, just mixed in the crowd!
I increased my pace, to walk out of it,
But it was a bunch, a never-ending bunch!
Music in my ears, I divert my attention, and
Tik Tok Tik Tok Tok Tok Tok
I continue to walk!

The bunch looks lecherously at my legs,
As if that is the only important thing in its life!
Old and Young!
Married, Unmarried!
Rich and Poor!
All beliefs alike, form the bunch, a never-ending bunch!
Hey You! You! and You!
It's my skin, it's not your meat!
I shout in my head, but
Tik Tok Tik Tok Tok Tok Tok
I keep my calm, and I continue to walk!

What is your education?
What is your qualification?
Now seem baseless questions!
Why? You ask me!
Because what defines you, is what you are at the core!

But Hey Hey!
There are people, a very few people,
Not part of that never-ending bunch!
That do not make me uncomfortable!
That do not tell me, how I should dress,
That do not scare me, if I walk alone in the streets at night!
That let me be me!

Because that's just me, a part of me,
I am the girl in the shorts!

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 […]

Pillars on which the world leans on – Happy Women’s Day

Pillars on which the world leans on – Happy Women’s Day

Civilizations have withstood the vicissitudes of time and so have its member species. Owing to the contemporary debates, we have realized the struggles of each of the genders of our species have been starkly disproportionate and paradoxical. The ​50:50 playground has been one of the […]

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 of the lesser explored hill stations of Uttrakhand. It serves as a base camp for treks to Tunganath Temple and Chandrashila peak, and Deoria Tal. And that's not the end of it, a few days in Chopta is an entirely new and different experience. Life in Chopta is like a stand-still, with very little access to the digital world and basic necessities of life, like electricity and warm water.

How to reach Chopta?

Depending on where you are coming from, you can either take a direct cab to the village or break it down in different chunks of travel.

Use this link to book your self-driving car

You can take a flight to Dehradun which is around 225 km from Chopta. From there you can either take a taxi or a bus to Chopta.

Another option is to take a train to Rishikesh or Haridwar and then again from there take a taxi or bus to Chopta.

Where to stay in Chopta?

We had decided to camp at "Moksha" a little ahead of the Chopta city center. But due to heavy snowfall in the area, the roads beyond the city center were blocked with a series of vehicles stuck in the snow.

There was no way we could get any further, so we decided to get down in the market and looked for accommodation nearby.

Vehicles stuck in snow after a snow fall in Chopta, Uttrakhand
Vehicles stuck in snow

Pro Tip: There are many guest houses in the city center if you are not very particular about where you want to stay.

We stayed at Baba Holiday Home which was a very minimalistic guest house.

Baba Holiday Home in Chopta, Uttrakhand
On the top left - the white and blue building is Baba Holiday Home

The best part about staying in Chopta

The is no electricity in the entire village, and everything works using the solar energy consumed during the day. So we literally spent the night in the dark with dead phones and freezing cold water flowing in bathrooms.

It was an amazingly crazy experience living a life away from our comfort zones and without any unnecessary luxuries.

PS: We paid Rs 60 for a single bucket of warm water every night for bathing.

Things to do in Chopta

Day 1

Tunganath Trek

This trek to the highest Garhwal Shiva temple gives the most spectacular views of the Himalayan peaks. While one will admire the gorgeous view of snow reflecting the sun rays in the morning, but the setting sun looks all the more stunning with a tinted orange sky. It is a must-do trek for solace seekers, nature lovers, and adventurers alike.

My Experience

The 3 km hike to Tunganath temple from Chopta, otherwise easy, gets a little trickier in snowy winters. We kept a constant steady pace climbing up, and it took us almost 4 hours to reach the top.

It was just so amazing seeing an infinite sheet of white snow reflecting the sharp sun rays.

As we reached the top, we were joined by the oh so furry mountain dogs, and they looked the cutest with their bright shiny eyes.

And once we were there, entering the temple, it was one of the most beautiful feelings. Everything that we had just passed by seemed so tiny in front of the panoramic Himalayan range.

Each step that we took to reach the top seemed worth for!

Climbing up was definitely tiring and exhausting, but getting down was even more difficult. The sun was bright and sharp the whole day because of which the snow had started melting. We had to be more careful now about not stepping on the ice.

After reaching down, we quickly freshened up and went to the closest Dhabba for dinner. Warming ourselves with the flames of the burning stove was one of the coziest feelings at the point. Our hands and feet were cold and soar, and a little warmth seemed heaven.

Day 2

Deoria Tal

While you are in Chopta, you cannot miss this magical piece of land. Just a 45-minute drive from the town and a convenient 2-hour hike from the Sari Village is Deoria Tal. Surrounded by snow-clad mountains, protected by green meadows and forests, lies this beautiful lake reflecting the colors of the sky and the trees.

No picture, no words can do justice to the magic of this place. The kind of beauty that leaves you spellbound and that wants you to keep staring at it, but you still can't get enough of it, that is what Deoria Tal did to me.

The hike is pretty simple especially since there was no snow and it was a gradual steep. We spent good 4 hours relaxing at the Tal before we finally half-heartedly decided to descend back.


Trekking through snow to Tunganath temple was one of a kind experience.

Excited and scary, cold and warm at the same time.

Constantly slipping on icy rocks, helping one another to reach the bottom before it gets dark or before you lose hope of returning in one piece!


All that nauseatic feeling driving through mountains is worth for when you have the fascinating views like the one from Tunganath Temple and of Deoria Tal.

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 […]

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 in Vienna walking around and exploring the free gems of the city. Here is a day-wise itinerary of things that you can also do for free in Vienna.

Day 1

Relax in Burggarten

Close to city center but away from the touristy crowd

Located inside the Ringstrasse, is this greener belt surrounded by many historic buildings, including Hofburg and Albertina. The park is full of architectural statues and sculptures. But the main highlight though is the discrete statue of Mozart located right in the center of the park. If you need some time to chill and absorb in the Viennese beauty, Burrgarten is a perfect place for you.

Walk around the old city

Hofburg

Take a walk along the magnificent Hofburg - an Imperial Palace and its museums, including, Sisi Museum, Imperial apartments, and Imperial Silver collection). If you want to check all of these from inside, make sure to buy a city pass (or card, whichever fits more to your plans) - it's a great deal if you have enough time and if you want to visit many tourist attractions.

Albertina

Climb up the painted stairs to Albertina Gallery onto the terrace that looks down at the city with a backdrop of the State Opera House.

Free entry to the museum with a Vienna Pass.

Judenplatz

Right in the center of Judenplatz standing above a medieval synagogue, is a memorial dedicated to the Austrian Jews that lost their lives during the Holocaust. It bears the names of the concentration camps, where the Austrian Jews were killed.

The entry to the Jewish Museum & Museum Judenplatz is free with a Vienna Pass.

Day 2

Admire the grand Schonnbrunn Gardens

Schonnbrunn Palace and Gardens boast of magnificent Baroque architecture. The entry fee to the palace is €17,50 but it is free with a Vienna pass. You can, however, roam in the gardens for no cost at all. The gardens are huge, and you can relish its different parts, including, Great Parterre, Neptune Fountain, Gloriette, and much more.

Visit the very interesting Naschmarkt

An outdoor market with around 100 stalls of food and a few stalls that sell clothes and antiques. Take your time walking across the market, tasting food samples, buying some fresh fruits, and looking through the souvenirs.

Get Amazed by the magnificence of St. Stephen's Cathedral

Conveniently located in the city center, in Stephansplatz, is this giant gothic beauty. It takes you back in the time, and you can easily spend 30-40 minutes inside the church praising its grand architecture.
The entrance to the church is for €1 in the name of donation, and if you want to do an underground catacomb tour, or climb the 343 steps of the south tower, you'll need to pay €5 - €6 for each.

Watch Sunset over Danube river

Take a 30 minute U-Bahn ride from Stephansplatz to Neue Donau, the closest station to Brigittenauer Bridge. Walk over to the bridge, and you can see the sun go down on the other side. You can also sit by the lake in Donau Park just under the bridge for a relaxed evening.

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 3 days in Munich, one of the expensive cities, I was a little reluctant to spend more immediately and wanted to keep my budget in check.

So, when I was drafting out a rough itinerary, I decided between places or experiences that I really wanted to have and the ones that I was okay to miss and spend less.

Travel experience is all about the choices you make!!

Stay at YoHo Hostel

Just a 10-minute walk from the train station, YoHo International was a good budget hostel with clean and comfortable rooms. It had a complimentary bread, butter and jam breakfast with an option to upgrade to a full-fledged breakfast buffet. The staff was also very accommodating and readily gave amazing travel tips for touring the city.

PS: You get a free welcome shot of Apfelstrudel!

Apfelstrudel shot in YoHo Hostel, Salzburg, Austria
Apfelstrudel shot

Day 1

Visit an Alpine Salt Mine

Interestingly Salzburg means, Salt Fortress, and it has been the center of salt extraction for thousands of years. You can visit the salt mine at any of these three places surrounding the city - Hallein, Hallstatt, and Alatausee. The experience will be very similar in all of these places as the tours are organized by a single company.

I went to the mine at Hallein - it was a pretty fun experience, learning about the history of the salt mining business in the city.

Before the tour started, we were given overalls to wear to avoid soiling our own clothes. After that, we rode on a mine train that took us across the Austria-Germany border under the Alps. This was followed by a slide down deeper, under the ground. The tour ended with a boat ride across the briny water lake.

In addition to all these rides, you can also be more experimental, and actually taste the water inside the caves. And if you are lucky enough, you can also get a salt crystal from the mine to take home as a personalized memento.

Depending on the mine you chose to visit, you can plan to accommodate touring the nearby areas as well. At Hallein, you can also visit the Celtic village located right next to the salt mine and get an experience of the old Celtic times.

Tour Hohensalzburg Fortress and the surrounding gardens

I am a sunset lover and what better way to watch the sun go down - magnificent city views and the picturesque Alps in the background.
You can either hike up or take a funicular to reach the fortress. I preferred walking, and I swear the views kept getting better as I climbed up.

If you continue to walk straight towards Mönchsberg and not turn towards the fortress, you'll reach the gardens.

Now there are two reasons to go to gardens first and watch the sunset from there, one, it is far less crowded than the fortress, and the views are definitely unbeatable, second, you get a free entry inside the fortress after 7:00 pm(so if you want to save on some money!!).

Enjoy open-air Opera performance on a big screen

I was lucky enough to be in the city during the Siemens fest. The fest runs for 5 weeks (from July-August), during which the selected concerts and opera productions are shown on a big screen in Kapitelplatz. So just reach before the screening starts and grab a seat for yourself.

opera screening in Salzburg Austria

Day 2

Walk around Old Town Salzburg

Take the Love Lock bridge to go across the Salzach river and to the city center. Spend some time roaming around the streets, and see places including, Mozart's birthplace, old market square, Salzburg Cathedral, and Kapitelplatz (with a giant chess board placed on the road).

Visit Mirabell Palace and it's gardens - FREE Tour

Fun fact - A few clips of the "Do, Re, Mi" song from the movie Sound of Music are shot in the Mirabell Gardens.

I was not able to roam around the Mirabell gardens because it was raining outside, but I have read great things about it - the statues, fountains, and the landscaping that is done.

In your urge to relax in the gardens, do not forget to tour the Mirabell Palace. A grand palace with baroque architecture and angel statues adorning the 3-level staircase. You can also take a look inside the Marble Hall which is now used for weddings.

As you continue to explore the city

  • Dine in cozy cafes of Salzburg!!
  • Visit the weekly local market held every Thursday right opposite Mirabell Palace
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 […]

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 city to keep it a little light-hearted. Not only that, with the start-up culture growing so much, many cafes are opening up to solve the purpose of a freelancer's working space.
I worked in Gurgaon for a year and a half and for sure I needed a break on weekends to go out, sit and relax in a cozy cafe, or to a new restaurant that has just opened up or to try out different cuisine.
Below are my five personal favorites that solve the purpose of good food and cozy ambiance.

Fat Lulu's Cafe & Bar - Cross Point Mall, DLF Phase 4

The first thing you'll notice about this cafe is its smart utilization of area. The way they have arranged the tables with bar and kitchen on one side leaves a lot of convenient walking space. The cafe has a very pleasing ambiance with good music.
It is also work-friendly with good wifi and comfortable seats.
The food is here is really great and reasonable too!!

Cheese Nachos in Gurgaon
Cheese Nachos
Toffee Caramel Waffle Sweet in Gurgaon
Toffee Caramel Waffle

Yum Yum Cha - Cyber Hub

I am really in love with this place. The restaurant has a lot of vegetarian and non-vegetarian Asian food options, including dim sum, pho, sushi, noodles, and so on. The service is overall quick and polite with the staff open to recommending options according to your taste, just in case you get overwhelmed looking at menu items.

vegetarian pho yum yum cha gurgaon
Vegetarian Pho
Basil Noodles yum yum cha gurgaon
Basil Noodles
Spicy Jade dimsums Yum Yum Cha Gurgaon
Spicy Jade dimsums
veg sushi yum yum cha gurgaon
Vegetarian Sushi

Delhicacy - Galleria, DLF Phase 4

Crazy about street food but fear getting sick? Then this restaurant is a must go for you. Located in one of the central areas of Gurgaon, this restaurant is every chaat lover's favorite. Large portions, amazing taste, and a large variety of North Indian food options, I am a big fan of Delhicacy.

bhelpuri in delhicacy gurgaon
chaat in delhicacy gurgaon
food in delhicacy gurgaon

Ciclo Cafe - Sector 29

The first thing that impressed me apart from the beautiful decor is the cordiality of the staff.

The whole experience becomes better if the service is good.

With so many bicycles on display, the cafe is promoting the bicycle trend and a healthy lifestyle. Apart from the traditional items on the menu, the cafe also has a variety of healthy and gluten-free meals. It is one of the quieter restaurants in the noisy hub of sector 29.

Mango, Melon, and Quinoa Salad in Ciclo Cafe Gurgaon
Mango, Melon, and Quinoa Salad
Mushroom Salad in Ciclo Cafe in Gurgaon
Mushroom Salad
Nachos in Ciclo Cafe in Gurgaon
Nachos
Fresh Carrot Juice in Ciclo Cafe, Gurgaon
Fresh Carrot Juice

Burma Burma - Cyber hub

If you love trying different cuisines, then Burma Burma is a place for you.
I just love their Khao Suey and bubble tea and always tend to over-eat whenever I am here. Burma Burma offers pure vegetarian food and is generally for a wholesome dining experience.

Oh No Khao Suey Burma Burma Gurgaon
Oh No Khao Suey
Nutella Bubble Tea Khao Suey Gurgaon
Nutella Bubble Tea
Oh No Khao Suey Burma Burma Gurgaon
Khao Suey Toppings
Onion and Garlic Steam Buns Burma Burma Gurgaon
Steam Buns

A few restaurants that do not make it to the top 5 list but are a good choice for any day!

Tossin Pizza - for their over the top dips on the pizza. Large portions and really tasty.

Tossin Pizza Gurgaon

Pier 38 - one of the many bars in CyberHub, with great food and impressive presentation.

Pier 38 Gurgaon

IHOP - a breakfast kind of cafe with a variety of egg meals.

Ihop Gurgaon

The Classroom - love them for their creamy soft Kejriwal eggs and many indoor games options.

Kejriwal Eggs in The Classroom Gurgaon
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 […]

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 investment. My favorites are Camlin Oil Color box, Daler-Rowney brushes, and Camlin Linseed oil from Amazon. Visit these links to get your own oil-painting kits 😄

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 […]

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 days.
I had enrolled in a 10-day European Summer school, so it helped me experience Prague both as a local as well as a tourist. In this post, I will share the top things that you should do while your stay in Prague and some tips to keep in mind as you explore the city.

First things first - Where to get your money exchanged?

The best solution to get local currency is by using your international debit or credit card to withdraw money from the ATM, given that bank charges are not too high.
If that doesn't work for you or you have carried enough cash from home, you can exchange your Euros/Dollars that you have from trusted exchange offices. One of the biggest scams in the city is money exchange, so you need to be wary of where you get your money exchanged. There are so many exchange offices that will claim to offer you the best conversion rate but do not fall for them. Most of these places will take a commission that will leave you with much less amount after exchange than what you'd normally get.
Most accepted currency in Prague is Czech Crowns (CZK). We exchanged our money at Praha Exchange located right in the city center on Jindřišská street. It offers one of the best rates and zero commission.

PS: Many places don't accept credit/debit card for payment, so do ask before you purchase anything.

Buy a SIM card?

I decided to not buy a SIM card during my stay in Europe and it worked perfectly fine for me. You can read more details on how I managed to survive without a SIM card for 30 days here.

Buy a Public Transport Ticket

Prague is well connected by public transport, that includes trams and buses throughout the city. You can get the tickets from the vending machines or ticket offices at the metro stations, newsstands, or tourist information offices. If you are in the city for more than one day, I would suggest that you buy a pass instead. There are several options for the passes, ranging from one day to annual. Check their official site for the latest ticket prices.

Grocery Shopping

If you are a budget traveler who likes to buy and cook their own food, I am sure grocery shopping must top your list of ToDos on reaching a new city. There were many small supermarkets near my hostel, Botič Student House
on the main Vršovická Street where you could get all kinds of basic items. But a few things to be careful of are, one, if you are tight on cash and need to use the card, make sure to ask before you start selecting items. Second, I bought some food without checking and it was expired. So make sure you check the dates before you buy anything - you don't want to waste all that you bought.
Also, you can buy the same item at different prices in different places. Although, I don't exactly remember the rate difference.

If you want to go to a proper supermarket, I would suggest Tesco Express or Lidl for more trustworthy purchases 🙂

Breakfast Items from Tesco, Prague

Visit Pubs and Party in the Best Dance Clubs

Prague is famous for its beer and is often referred beer capital of the world. With frequent hopping to different pubs and clubs in Prague, I'll list down a few of my favorites.

The Pub - It had a fun concept of pouring your own beer at the table and also monitor the amount of beer you have had and the price for the same. You can also compete with other tables, with score directly proportional to the amount of beer consumed at a table. With average food and rude staff, this place is best only if you want to have good beer and hang out with friends 🙂

Hangar Bar - My personal favorite because of good music and ample space to dance. With a non-stop music, we were dancing pretty much the whole time we were in the club.

Hangar Bar in Prague

Golden Tree - Crowded yet fun, mainly because of a good choice of songs they were playing. Despite the creeps that were trying to enter our group and broken glass and beer on the floor, we didn't get bored here 🙂

Karaoke Night in Jampa Dampa - We visited Jampa Dampa on a Karaoke night on Thursday. Hidden between streets in the basement, is this small fun club. We were a group of multiple nationalities and the person on the computer was kind enough to find our countries' songs and play for us. Check out the video:

Eat Drink Repeat!

Prague is full of cafes and restaurants that offer a variety of cuisines. From coffee to pizza to Indian food, the city will not disappoint you. Check out this link for tried and tested food options in Prague.

Have a Barbecue in Stromovka Park

Take some time out of visiting the touristy spots and spend an evening with your friends barbecuing in the park. There are some parks in Prague where grilling is illegal, therefore find a park that allows it and if the weather permits, then you are all set for your picnic time 🙂
We had BBQ near the Vltava Canal in Stromovka Park. In maps, you can see it as Stromovka - Grill Bod 5. Enjoy your grilled cheese and burgers with chilled beer. Go for a swim or paddleboarding in the small stream that flows nearby.

Grilled Cheese with Burger in Stromovka Park

Paddleboarding

Just a few steps from our BBQ spot was a small stream flowing. After having lunch, some of us went for paddleboarding there. You can find rental shops in the park where you can rent a paddle board from.
It was my first ever experience standing on a paddle board and river waters were quite calm for the first-time paddleboarders 😊.

PaddleBoarding in Stromovka Park, Prague

Other Points of Interest

Petrin Hill & Prague Castle

Surrounded by nature, Petrin Hill is one of the best places to see the sunset and the city from. You can reach the top either by a tram or walk up the stairs. But the best way was to climb up the hidden paths through the gardens. Once there, you can also go to Lookout Tower to get even better city views. I did not do that because the views from the hill were pretty good as well.

You can also visit Prague Castle since it is just around the corner a few minutes walk from the hill.

Charles Bridge & Lennon Wall

Flooded with tourists throughout the day, visit Charles Bridge for its history, statues, and live music. But the best way to get a good view of Charles Bridge is from Alšovo nábřeží. It is a walkway between Charles Bridge and Mánes Bridge right by the river.

PS: Alšovo nábřeží was suggested by a friend and we happened to see a beautiful sunset from this place and it wasn't as crowded as well 😁

As you cross the Charles Bridge, get down a few stairs on the left and make a stop at Lennon Wall. With tons of artwork done on it, it's a must visit to reminisce about the history behind the wall, when people used this wall to express their emotions.

Lennon Wall, Prague

Museum Of Communism

I wouldn't say it was the best museum, but it worked quite well for me since I did not have a lot of information about European History. It was like a physical Wikipedia and the reading walls made it a bit boring.

Vyšehrad Hill

Get past the gardens after getting down at Výtoň station to St. Peter and St. Paul Church and then to amazing views of Vltava river and the city from Vyšehrad Hill.

Wenceslas Square and Old Town

Stroll around Wenceslas Square, Old Town, and Jewish quarters admiring the beautiful European architecture and get a hint of the city culture and history.

Day trip to Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov is a beautiful city just 3-hour drive from Prague. It is famous for it's State Castle, that is surrounded by Vltava river in the south and Polecnice stream in the north. After touring the castle, you can sit in a river-side bar and enjoy your beer.
End your trip with a rafting in the surrounding river.

PS: Thanks to European Summer School Organisers for all the trips and excursions we had together

Diving into nature’s lap from 13,000ft above Pacific Ocean

Diving into nature’s lap from 13,000ft above Pacific Ocean

There is a funny story behind how I landed up here. I was in the US in Nov'16 on an official trip when I took some personal time off as well. I went to see my sister who was in Irvine, California at that time.

Two days before the activity, I was casually talking to a friend who said that she might be going for sky-diving. My adventurous self said to me, I should do that too. This is the normal me - always excited about trying but step back in the end either because I am too scared or I am too lazy.

In a moment of excitement, I told my sister about my unplanned plans to go for sky-diving. She got even more excited than me and started looking for options. I, on the other hand, had changed my mind by now. When I told her this, she persuaded me and bought tickets - so there was no going back since I had the tickets now.

The next day, I took a train from Irvine to Oceanside, then a bus to the nearest bus stop from GoJump Oceanside, and finally walked to the location. All this time, I was scared, worried, shy, excited, nervous, so many emotions at the same time.

But here I was, and there was just one option for me now, to go jump!!

Places to Eat in Prague

Places to Eat in Prague

Vineyard Viniční altán Our first dinner in Prague was at a Vineyard, Viniční altán. We went there late at night, around 10, but this restaurant is on a small hill in the center of Havlickovy Sady Park and is a great spot for providing city […]

One Month in Mumbai – from learning how to act to living in the most expensive city

One Month in Mumbai – from learning how to act to living in the most expensive city

Going to the city I hated the most!
But it was a city of dreams in real essence!!

My immediate plan after coming from the US to India was to join Anupam Kher’s Acting classes in Mumbai. This is one thing that I wanted to try from quite some time and now since I didn’t have any commitments, it was the right time for me to try it out.

I had been to Mumbai twice before to meet my friends, and I hated it so much that I decided to never come back to the city. It was sad to see everyone struggle for a one bedroom apartment in a clumsy locality.

Flats in Mumbai
A posh society in Mumbai surrounded by dirty water drains

But my visit to Mumbai in July’18 was going to change that perspective to some extent. I had booked a hostel, The Social Space near my classes so that it was convenient to walk to the class and I could save some time and money on the commute. I didn’t have many hopes from the hostel or the locality since Mumbai is an expensive city. But I was really excited about my classes and the people I was going to meet.
Just like Kota (a city in Rajasthan) streets that are full of IIT coaching Institutes, Mumbai West Andheri, where my hostel was located was full of Acting Institutes. I, on the other hand, believed there are just a handful of acting schools in the city 🤦🏽‍♀️

How did I spend my time in Mumbai?

I started my life in Mumbai by recording every expense I made. Since I was on a budget and didn’t want to spend so much on fancy food and entertainment but focus on what I was there for. It didn’t continue after the first week though 👩🏽
I had my classes in the evening, so to keep myself busy, during the mornings, I spent time working on my blog and also figuring out a plan for the coming month. I even posted my first camera facing YouTube video during that time.
Starbucks was my day-time home and internet provider for first two weeks 😁.
Through this blog post, I also want to thank Starbucks for providing working-space to so many people everywhere. I don’t think you get thanked enough, so kudos to you 🙌🏾.

The Must have Mumbai Local Experience

I had applied to work with an NGO while I was in Mumbai. On a random day, 10 days before I had to leave, I got an email from the NGO inviting to attend an orientation meeting. I knew I might not be able to work with the NGO because of the limited time I was in Mumbai, but still, I was super-eager to do something useful for the society and hence I decided to go to a faraway place in Mumbai. I was living on a budget and didn't want to spend a 1000Rs on my commute, so I decided to take the Mumbai Local train.
Oh, it was such a funny experience, I actually didn't have to put in a lot of effort to climb up and get down the train because there were soooo many people to help you do that. Imagine yourself as a part of a group that moves together and stops together, something like this ↴

Moving Together

My Experience in The Social Space Hostel

Like any other new place, I was skeptical about the hostel and the people I was going to meet. After taking my own time, I started making friends with other hostelers. TSS is a very cool place, and by the time I left, it was more of a small family than a group of strangers. Every night in the TSS was like a night in college hostel where we spent time discussing how our day was, playing games and general gossiping.
There were people from different parts of the world, including Egypt, Bahrain, Ghana, Russia, and of course India, and a few others. Most of these people were working with NGOs, so they were there for a longer duration. The rest of us included solo travelers, fashion designer, makeup artist, actors, directors, traders, experienced chefs, musicians, and so on. Oh, it was a group of people from all over the place and it was so amazing to talk to each one of them and learn something new every day.

My Experience with Actor Prepares

The very first day of the class was like starting a school and thinking you might be the worst. It was amazing to see students with ages varying from 14yrs to 65yrs and with varied experiences, all gathered in one room to learn sincerely. The group had a mix of people who were already into acting schools, others who were experienced professionals, then a few fresh out of college and of course 2 kids who were still in school. Many of us were in Mumbai just for the classes for a month, some with the support of their families and some on their own giving some excuse back home.
The classes started with awkward “Hi's" and "Hello's" but by the end, most of us had formed close bonds.

I had signed up for both dance and acting classes as part of the part-time course. In dance class, we learned choreography on 4 Bollywood songs and the group worked together and helped others who needed extra help and guidance.
The acting class will be a little more detailed. The first week included group activities so that everyone gets to know each other and gets comfortable on the stage. It was more of a ramping up week for the activities in the coming weeks. The first exercise was creating a still picture with static body action and facial expressions. It progressed to acting without words and conveying the meaning through gestures (also called, Mime ). This was followed by coming up with a situation and acting it out in a group. The classes progressed through, imagination development, practicing Navarasa, and speaking and breathing exercises. These were accompanied by regular improvised performances where we used the techniques learned in the previous classes. The final week was more focused on our monologues for the final performance.

The final performance

On the last day of the class, we had to showcase, whatever we had learned in the last 26 days. We were allowed to invite our friends and families for the performance. Rest of the audience was our faculty, the acting and dance teachers.
The dance performance went by too quickly and before we even realized it was over 😭. It was followed by monologue acts in the order that was pre-decided. I was the 26th person to go on stage. I was a little nervous but funny enough "you don't have many options once you are there on stage" 😉
I performed my act and while I was doing that, I tried to include my teachers' feedback and did a little better than the practice sessions I guess.
You can check my video here.
The realization of the one month of hard work and scoldings and praises has come to an end was such a bad feeling. Most of us went for an after-party after the ceremony and the night ended with hugs and kisses and promises of meeting again 😇.

What I Learned as a Person in The Class

These classes were a real help not only as an actor but as a person as well. My fear of stage had reduced to a great extent. I was able to explore the emotions in me that I didn't think I even had. And I am really really thankful to our teacher Mr. Alok Arora for all the effort he had put in and the genuine feedback he constantly gave. And thumbs up to our dance teachers, Mr. Shivam Sahal and Ms. Urmila for teaching in the most basic way possible so that everyone could easily pick up. And of course to all the people in the class for supporting and giving regular feedback to each other for a continuous improvement as a group.

My first introduction audition

My friend from class had told me about an audition that was going to happen that day for Fulcrum Films. Nervous, excited and clueless about what it is like, I went to the shared address. It was then that I realized the places where auditions are done are not generally fancy looking offices. The place I was going to was hidden behind a few shops and though I felt a little skeptical, I got all calmed down when I saw a hugeeee queue of people (all guys) waiting for their audition. As I climbed up the stairs I was told, girls could enter the room and have a seat. I felt glad but a little sad for all those guys who must have been there already before me. I sat on a couch and watched all the introductions go on waiting for them to call me for my turn. It was after some time that I realized, once in the room, you have to get up and go yourself whenever you feel ready. While I was preparing for my intro, it started raining heavily outside and most of the guys who were waiting outside were told to come the next day — “yes this is the story of how most auditions and introductions go”. I was lucky enough to be in that room and finally complete my introduction and leave.

The Star Encounter Experience

The only star-encounter experience I had was of Gul Panag. It was when I was working in Starbucks that she entered with her family and sat on the table just next to me. Trying really hard to be patient, I did not directly look at her and by the time I calmed down, she moved to a table with space for more people. But before leaving I smiled and waved at her and left without imposing myself too much on her. - Just a happy moment 😊

And finally, I never thought I will fall in love with Mumbai, but I was already missing it when I was about to leave it 🙁

Final Goodbyes

Why did I quit my job?

Why did I quit my job?

I joined Amazon thinking that I’ll leave after 1 year but I stayed for 3 more years after that. l graduated in 2014 and immediately joined Amazon as a Software Engineer in Hyderabad. I completed my Bachelors in Information Systems with BITS Pilani during which […]

Sunset Landscape in Oils – Time Lapse Painting Tutorial

Sunset Landscape in Oils – Time Lapse Painting Tutorial

This is an oil painting video tutorial suitable for beginners. I have used very basic oil colors perfect for you if you are just starting and not looking for a big investment. My favorites are Camlin Oil Color box, Daler-Rowney brushes, and Camlin Linseed oil […]

Rape is not Consensual and Why we need to Teach this to our Children

Rape is not Consensual and Why we need to Teach this to our Children

The motivation for this post is this VIDEO.

It really made me question the type of upbringing we are doing and the kind of things we are teaching to the future youth of India. And we as a nation, hold responsibility for it.
The elders of the society are responsible for educating their children. If we are passing the wrong knowledge to them, it is very difficult to expect a brighter future for the nation.
We can all start with educating one child each and try to bring the transformation that we aim for!

PS: While the video talks about one cultural group, this post is not intended to target a particular group of people. It is intended to create more awareness among people and direct them towards teaching the right thing to the younger generation.

The Famous Chimney Cake, Prague

The Famous Chimney Cake, Prague

Have you seen big cylindrical rolls of baked dough covered in sugar? If you have walked around the main tourist streets of Prague, you must have them lined up with the Chimney Cake shops. A friend of mine suggested going to Good Food in the […]

Pole Dance and Fitness: Breaking the Stigma

Pole Dance and Fitness: Breaking the Stigma

Do you remember Enrique’s Dirty Dancer that was released in 2011 ?? While this song was pleasing to both eyes and ears for many, I was mostly intrigued by the dance the girls in the video performed. With their extreme flexibility and their work with […]

Seattle Street Photography

Seattle Street Photography

Why did I decide to join a Street Photography course

Apr 28, 2018

I was in the US on an L1-B visa for the last 5 months working as a Software Engineer. When I decided to resign from my job, a few people suggested making the best use of my time left in the US by learning something on the side. So, I started looking for oil-painting classes in Seattle and that is when I stumbled on Seattle Community College website. Sadly, I could not find many painting courses that were ending before my last day in Seattle, but luckily I found the Street Photography course that was ending just 2 days before the last day. I had recently bought a camera, and Street Photography aptly fell in place in terms of both timing and learning.

My experience as a Street Photographer

Street Photography classes were not for learning the camera basics – there is a separate Camera Basics course for the same. Instead, I learned a lot about carefully observing my surroundings and the little actions of the people around me. A very normal action of two persons standing and talking can be related to a situation by simply observing their expressions.

Street photography is not only about taking pictures of unaware people from a distance but sometimes you need to get closer to the subject to capture its true emotions. Being a newbie, I needed a lot of courage and motivation to talk to people, make them comfortable, and take their permission to capture their picture 🙂

In this blog, I’ll be doing less talking and let the pictures speak for themselves. There are a thousand shots, but I have picked the best ones and divided them into categories. Enjoy!

These pictures were captured in Capitol Hill on a walking tour with the class

It was such a teasing session with these guys.🙈

This is how the conversation went:
Me: Can I take your picture please, it is for an assignment
One of them: No, are you going to report us
Me: No it is just for a photography assignment
One of them: Stop trying to disguise, you are working with CBI, what is the assignment?
Me: 😬
One of them: We are just kidding, go ahead 🤣

These were captured in Cal Anderson Park, Capitol Hill, again on a walking tour with the class.

A series of reflections

Places I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed

Street Musicians of Seattle

Smoke from different locations near Pike Place

Who needs pampering when you can pamper yourself

Who needs pampering when you can pamper yourself

July 22, 2016 This morning when I woke up, I scrolled through the messages on my phone. Hurrayy!!, my account has been credited with this month’s salary. I had already become broke because I squandered all of my last month’s salary, the value of which […]

How I got my first ever upgrade with Alaska Airlines

How I got my first ever upgrade with Alaska Airlines

26 May, 2018

A little luck, a little advantage, a little travel, and a little effort

I had been working with Amazon for almost 4 years and had moved to Seattle 6 months back from India. Since then I have traveled many places and a couple of them with Alaska airlines. Click here for more details on each of these places ☺

On a random lucky day, Amazon employees got an email that Alaska and Amazon have tied up to benefit the employees with extra miles for each journey and MVP status after two round-trips. I really wanted to make the best use of this and made a travel plan to Denver to reach the MVP status and avail advantages like free baggage, early boarding, and complimentary upgrades.

Today was my last day in Seattle and I was doing a mini-tour before I reach India. My first stop was in Montreal and I had booked a connecting flight from Seattle to Montreal with a  layover in Boston. The first leg was 5-hour long with Alaska airlines and the second one with Westjet airlines.

I was very excited to travel with an MVP status and was curious about what all I can use it for. While waiting in queue to check-in the baggage, I saw a counter at some distance for MVP and Gold class members. I quickly got out of the long queue and headed to the counter. I was expecting to pay baggage fees for my flight from Boston to Montreal because of different airlines, but to my surprise, I didn’t have to, not yet sure why.🤔

After the security check, I seated myself comfortably at the boarding gate just when I got an idea to try my luck to get a business class seat using my MVP status. 💡

Immediately, I went to the Alaska customer service counter and asked the lady at the desk if my seat could be upgraded. To be honest, I was a bit nervous about the response. The lady hit some keys on her computer and that’s when my hopes got high. I was trying hard to not smile and had my fingers crossed when she looked up and said that I was able to get an upgrade. Though only for a domestic flight of 4 hours, I was pretty excited about the upgrade, as much as I broadcasted to my friends and my family and social media.

Alaska upgrade
Broadcasting my upgrade ☺️

Inside the plane

Having 28A seat initially which was towards the end of the plane and moving to almost front of the plane with 7A seat was super awesome. I walked towards my open space big seat and got adjusted. Some of the special treatments were a hot towel to freshen up, followed by complimentary entertainment tablet and a blanket. I ordered a drink of my choice and for the food, we were served hummus and pita with salad on the side. The food quantity was less but extremely good. I could repeat my drink any number of times I wanted to I guess. For the rest of my flight, I watched a few series cozied up in the blanket and towards the end of the flight, we were offered a small shot of smoothie before we started preparing for landing.

Cozying up in the blanket :D
Cozying up in the blanket 😀
Free entertainment tablet!
Free entertainment tablet!

I had a little more expectations from business class, but I think that is what you get for short durational flights, so it's pretty awesome.

That was an end of my mini-dream flight and it makes me hopeful for trying for an upgrade for other airlines too.

 

Popular tourist scams in India

Popular tourist scams in India

India is a beautiful country with a rich history and diverse cultures, beliefs, and languages. Not only that, its vastly varying topography, makes India a perfect place to enjoy mountains, beaches or deserts. As much as you’ll enjoy your stay in India, one bad experience […]

In the Classroom

In the Classroom

He speaks and he speaks like a Godly geek I hear his voice and though I hear him speak But am I really listening to what he says? Or I am lost, lost in the good old days!! He acts and acts his best to arouse my interest […]

3 Days in San Francisco

3 Days in San Francisco

Planning to travel to San Francisco??

Here are some quick tips on how you can plan your trip to San Francisco and balance between a good experience, good food, and a good sleep.

This is a personalized guide on top things to do in the city. Click on each day to know more details.

Stay at

If you want to stay within a strict budget, prefer a hostel over fancy hotels, especially if you are in a city for more than one night. I stayed at Green Tortoise hostel which cost me around $150 for 3 nights with a pro-rated transport back to the airport.

More details on how to reach hostel and other pointers can be found here.

Day 1

Places to see

If you are staying in the Green Tortoise hostel, you can visit Coit Tower very easily which is just a 15-minute walk from the hostel. For the rest of the day, you can plan to visit San Francisco neighborhoods, Muir Woods and Sausalito.

Places to eat at

San Francisco is known for its awesome food options. If you are in Union Square, you can try a huge variety of food, though my quick brunch at Cafe La Taza, an American breakfast cafe in Union Square was not very good.

I am personally very fond of Asian food and Day 1 was my Chinese food day. If you are staying somewhere near China town, you definitely have a lot of options to choose from. I had dinner at New Woey Loy Goey in China Town. If you are there, I would also recommend going to Chong Qing Xiao Mian. This is one place I really wanted to go, but couldn’t because of a long waiting queue.

If you get a chance to have a meal Chong Qing Xiao Mian, do comment below on your experience.

Day 2

Places to see

If you are able to book Alcatraz island tour, that would easily take 5 hours of your day.

💡If you are not able to book the Alcatraz Island tour, and are still very interested you can look for tours that take you just around the island so you can still take pictures of the island from outside while enjoying the ferry ride. Details on other options can be found here.

Depending on what time slot you get for the Alcatraz tour, you can plan to stroll on the Golden Gate Bridge and visit the neighboring Fort Point. You can also walk around the much talked Union Square in downtown SF.

Places to eat at

I can recommend just one restaurant for Day 2 since it is the only place I had a proper meal that day. I stopped by Tuk Tuk Thai Cafe for lunch (or an evening meal, whatever). It was a small cozy restaurant with a seating place for about 10-15 people. I had Pad Thai noodles and some Iced coffee which was good enough to keep me full for the rest of the evening.

Day 3

Places to see

I kept my 3rd day in San Francisco a little less rushing. In the first half of the day, I toured Botanical Garden and Japanese Tea Garden, both of which are part of the Golden Gate Park. I stopped by the Palace of Fine Arts for some time after that and spent the rest of the evening walking around the Japan Town and the Fisherman’s Wharf.

Places to eat at

I had lots to eat on my last day in San Francisco (at least as compared to the previous two days). I had a heavy juice and bagel breakfast in the hostel and Japanese rice and curry at lunch. My day ended with a hearty S’mores crepe at Crepe Cafe (in Fisherman’s Wharf).

New Years in San Francisco – Day 3

New Years in San Francisco – Day 3

Jan 1, 2018 Breakfast at Green Tortoise Hostel I woke up at a very comfortable time (around 9:00 am) the next day, got ready and went to have the breakfast downstairs where I was joined by a gentleman. We introduced ourselves and talked a bit […]