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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

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. Here’s a complete personalized guide to help you plan your trip to the “City of Palaces”, Mysore.
The top places to see in Mysore.

Death Valley – Why you should not miss this adventure?

Death Valley – Why you should not miss this adventure?

I don't remember when and why the name of the place popped up in my mind, but since that time, it was under my to-visit radar. I reject 2-3 travel plans - my own and a few with friends because I wasn't going anywhere else until I see what this valley of death has in store for me.

At the time, I was in Seattle and, I along with 2 of my friends in the city, my sister who'd be coming from Irvine, California, and one of her friends, who'd join her in Irvine, planned a 4-day trip to Death Valley and Las Vegas (best combination ever - nature, adventure, and fun).

More about Las Vegas in another post. In this post, I'll share with you a 2-day itinerary to tour Death Valley National Park, and also any other handy tips that I have.

How to reach Death Valley?

Depending on which corner of the United States, or the world, you are coming from, the mode of transportation might change.

If you are coming from a little far within the States, you can take a flight to Las Vegas or Los Angeles, whichever is more convenient for you. From there, you can rent a car, and drive to Death Valley National Park.
You can also book one day trip around Death Valley from Las Vegas, in case you do not intend on driving.

A few things to keep in mind, before you hit the road to Death Valley.

  • Fill your car's fuel from the city, reasons being, you'll not find many gas stations, as you enter the desert region, and second, the fuel price is notably high at those gas stations
  • Download an offline map of the place, because there is no network

Where to stay?

There are 4 hotels located inside the national park, including, Stovepipe Wells Village, The Oasis At Death Valley, The Ranch At Death Valley, and Panamint Springs Resort. These hotels provide rooms, as well as camping, and RV accommodations. Other than these, there are a few options outside the park, which are at least 25-30 miles from the park.
We, however, stayed at Longstreet Inn & Casino in Amargosa Valley, which is around 25 miles from the Death Valley National Park.
The hotel rooms were decently clean with an outdoor pool and view of the mountains. There are not many restaurants around the area, so the only place to eat was at the hotel restaurant. The food was average for vegetarians, though it had better options for non-vegetarians.

Once you have sorted your commute and stay, this is how you can plan your travel itinerary in Death Valley.

Day 1

Our flight had landed in Las Vegas, and we reached Amargosa Valley by noon. The day was cloudy, so we didn't plan a lot of places on our first day, just one, Badwater Basin. And since we took a longer route, we had to drive almost 90 miles (actual distance from our hotel is 50 miles) to reach the Badwater Basin.

Badwater Basin

The lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin is a vast dried up land with hexagonal salt formations created as the water from the scarce rains evaporated. The point is almost 86 m below sea level. You can see a spot marked "Sea Level" on the mountains facing the basin.

Apart from the Badwater Basin, we got down at several points in between to appreciate the magnificent dry landscapes. I am not very sure of the exact locations, but you'll find many such spots on your way too.

Day 2

The second day was much more clearer than the first day with clear blue skies and scattered clouds throwing their shadows on the mountains below.

Zabriskie Point

Formed due to water washing off the rocks and forming gullies giving it a landscape that exists now. You can also take a walk around these badlands - it is around a 2.5 hike that takes you to Gower Gulch and back to the Zabriskie.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

A vast stretch of dunes, one of the fewer places in Death Valley that had sand gathered from rock erosion and winds. The dunes are not too high, and you have to walk further into the stretch to experience slightly higher dunes. Stovepipe Wells resort is nearby, and you can make a quick stop here for snacks.

Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater is one of the younger craters, and possibly still active that was formed due to magma eruption. The groundwater that had come out as steam exploded the rocks above, and thus created the crater cavity. You can also walk around the crater, it is approximately 1.5 miles. You can also climb to the top to get a better view of the crater bottom.

Wait for the starry night in the desert before you head back to Las Vegas.

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!

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 and places to see, you can spend an entire weekend visiting these and be taken aback by the breathtaking views of the surrounding hills.

The best time to visit Mahabaleshwar is after the monsoon, for a greener scenery. But I visited the city in March when the weather was mildly hot, and the hill ranges were not so green.

How to reach?

I had taken an overnight bus from Bangalore to Mahabaleshwar. But there are many other ways to reach the city, depending on your choice of transportation mode.

Air

If like me, you are coming from a distant city, you can book a flight to Pune or Mumbai, and then take a bus from there to Mahabaleshwar. You can even hire a local taxi or drive yourself to the city, especially if you are coming from Pune because the Pune-Mahabaleshwar distance is not too much.

Road

If you are also coming from Bangalore like me, you can take an overnight bus till Satara and then from there take a local taxi to the Mahabaleshwar. Other options are to take a bus till Wai or Nipani, depending on whichever place is closer to your hotel.

Rail

The nearest railway station to Mahabaleshwar is in Pune and from Pune, you can take bus, taxi, or bike to the hill station.

PS: It is very hard, maybe not even possible to rent bikes in Mahabaleshwar because of a strong taxi union that wouldn't allow this. So taxis are your answer when you need a conveyance to tour the city and do have one of your own.

Where to stay?

There are many beautiful resorts, hotels, and homestays in Mahabaleshwar. You can check the list of accommodations here.

I stayed with Hotel Mahabaleshwar Fragrance and while the building was fairly new, the rooms were very neat and spacious too. The highlight though was the location of the building and the view of the hills from the room.

There is an adjacent strawberry farm, a free tour of which is included as a part of your reservation.

The staff was also really polite and quickly accessible.

With our hotel manager, Mr. Sushant

The two things that you would need to consider though, one there is no elevator in the building, but the staff will help you shift your luggage, and second not all the rooms have best views, so make sure to check with the management before you make your booking.

Places to see

I had my friends from Pune also visit the city at the same time. We effectively had only one day in Mahabaleshwar, so we tried to fit in as much as we could on that day.

Mapro Gardens

We started off the day by visiting Mapro Gardens. Located in the neighboring town of Panchgani, it is a massive garden, with a restaurant, and a retail outlet for Mapro products.

We had our breakfast here and also the Strawberry Cream Ice Cream - Fresh cream, strawberries, and ice cream all layered up in a glass.
It is a great place to sit and relax with your friends amidst scenic views of the hills and strawberry fields, and good food 😅
You can also buy Jams, Syrups, Chocolates, and Juices from their outlet.

Triveni View Point

My hotel’s manager had suggested us to visit Triveni point, hike to which started right opposite to the Mapro Gardens. So that is where we went next with our tummies full till throats.

Not many tourists know about this place - apparently, it is not shown or suggested as part of the tour packages that some people take. But it is a perfect location for both sunrise and sunset.

A small trek through jungles and you are welcomed by the crazy 360 degree views of the surrounding peaks.

Tapola Dam

Also known as the mini Kashmir of the west, Tapola Dam would definitely be a treat to the eyes during monsoon. I could not see the mini Kashmir as it'd be, but it was still quite impressive. A vast stretch of clear blue water, sparkling with yellow colors of the sun.

The ride from Mahabaleshwar to Tapola is even more incredible - passing through jungles and crossing tiny villages. We made multiple photo-stops in between just because each view looked prettier than the other.

We stayed at the dam for a little time and had tea from nearby stalls before we headed back to the city.

Sunset Point or Bombay Point

It is a typical touristy point, I would say. We reached the point way ahead of time and much to our surprise, it was full of people - I have never seen a viewpoint so much crowded.
While the sunset view was good enough, I'd suggest you to explore other viewpoints for the sunset.

As we rode back to the city, the sky got darker and the stars brighter. We made a "not so quick" photo-stop to capture the starlit night. It was one of the best moments ever, standing by the road and looking above to an absolutely silent star bed.

Starry night

I so wish I had a few more days in the city. There's just so much more to see!

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 […]

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 most pertinent utopia that we have been chasing. Nations & organizations have actively sought & fought to take measures, and many of those bore fruit, not in full measure though, but definitely substantially.

So it raises the question upon us that, have we understood the question well enough?

Have we really understood???

I personally had a half-lit idea around the question before I read Lean In. But though it's immature to boast this, I do feel a changed person, more importantly a changed man. The best thing about the narrative in the book was that it totally leant in, living up to its title. It aims to trigger an epiphany among women to realize the roots of their ‘​cultivated’ ​psyche and then offers solutions around them. The solutions offered, I felt were far too diplomatic and called out women to walk a very thin line, for example, ​‘you have to be nice and feminine just enough to not come across as rude, while arguing for what you want without making it seem like you’re selling yourself too hard!​’. But this is quite a convincing middle ground proposed by Sandberg.

Finding the right balance!

The book caused me to slip into a retrospection of my past experiences on the scales of gender parity. My first reaction was to go from appreciating my mother to worshipping her. She has, for almost half-a-century walked that nano-lines Sandberg talked about, with remarkable poise. I can also connect more with her frustrations(​in & around the family!)​, achievements and so-called failures.

Then, there were countless instances where it was convenient to stereotype women without really understanding the short-sightedness. A most vivid instance of this was my aggressive sigh at my sister when she would want to be mediocre and avoid the limelight. I also felt guilty of having applied the similar branding on other women on other accounts.

I formally apologize to you all!

A doctor mom of a friend reiterated a popular notion in my native region that a teaching job is ​‘best suited’ for girls since it allows them to manage family while having a comfortable & fulfilling career. It reflects that even a ‘life saving’ doctor feels that she has not fulfilled her duties towards society. I bow down to this humble and caring trait of women.

Though the book advocated action more to female readers, it also highlighted how contributions from family, friends & mentors helped out.

So, I also want to be part of this ‘next wave’ such that it's the ‘last of all waves’. Apart from acknowledgement of the under-representation of women across careers, the society has a long way to go. I totally agree with the author that we cannot legislate our way out of it. We need to start from being better sons, brothers, boyfriends, husbands and dads. A radical change on individual level would be to share the underrated, yet most important, role of being the ‘family’ guy. Then as a society, we can curate an environment which allows women to study & then work safely, efficiently and without the feeling guilt of her trinity roles of ​‘a daughter, a wife, a mom’​ .

Be the next wave - Support each other!

Women, being women, will surely rise their way to the top. It's for us to take this opportunity and be a part of the solution for once.

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

Before leaving for Prague, I did a quick online search to see if I would need a SIM card in Europe or could I survive without it. Both options seemed feasible, but I decided to not buy a SIM card and avoid the hassle of reading too many details on what company's SIM card and what recharge plan to buy.

Countries that I had planned to visit were, Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary, although I did not stick to the plan.

The two things that I relied on were offline google maps (that is the most important thing), and free WiFi hotspots.

I downloaded Prague's offline map before I reached the city and had taken a screenshot of the directions on how to reach the hostel, i.e, the bus, and the tram options.

A funny story: When I reached my hostel, I spent around 5 minutes standing outside a wrong building and feeling desperate about not having a phone network. Incidents like these might happen a few times, but don't be discouraged because you'll be able to figure out a way 🙂

Google Offline maps were a great help throughout my trip and I made sure to download an offline map of the city that I'd be visiting next.

Directions to my hostel in Vienna

Another thing that I did was, have a rough plan of my next day ready including the restaurants that I wanted to visit that day. I would add all the stops in my maps and select the walking option (because that's what I normally do) and follow that route.

Multi-stop directions saved in Munich

The problem with this was, sometimes I had to change the order of stops or add a new place in my itinerary, then I would either go by the traditional way of asking people for directions or just navigate using the car option and judge if it's okay for walking or not.

Now, if everything above fails, all you have to look for is a free WiFi hotspot or go to a cafe/restaurant as most of them offer WiFi if you dine in. You can now do all the stuff, getting social media updates, talk to your family/friends, share pictures and navigate to your next destination.

I would say, it's not very tough to travel without a SIM card, rather more exciting. It's crazy figuring out a way when you are lost in the most secluded places and coming out alive.

All the best and safe travels!!

Places to Eat in Prague

Places to Eat in Prague

Vineyard

Viniční altán

vinicni-altan

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 views while you dine.

rose wine

Food options were limited though, but if you enjoy wine with good views, this is a must go place 🙂

Ice cream/ Shakes

Ahoy Gelato

The Good

Our hostel was very near the Bohemians station, and if by any chance you are staying there or visiting that area, a must try ice cream place is Ahoy Gelato. It is actually just at the station when you get down. They have one of the best ice creams in Prague with a huge serving size and not expensive at all.aaa

The Bad

On my last day in Prague, I was craving a good frappucino, and I got to this place, I swear I have not had a worse frappucino - it was coffee blended in water. I must have ordered something wrong because there was an option of "with milk". So, if you go to this place, and want to give a try to a Frappe with milk, do tell me how it was 🙂

Amornio - Oh you great good Mother of the best Frappucino ever!!!

If I go to Prague again, I am definitely going to this place. They had the best Frappe ever - 2 scoops of dark coffee ice-cream blended with vanilla - for me, it was a perfect blend of bitter and sweet.

Amorino Ice Cream in Prague
They had amazing Lemon Bread too 😍

My friends tried ice-creams there and I swear they were as crazy about the ice-cream as I was for the coffee.

Amorino Ice Cream in Prague

It is a little more expensive than Ahoy Gelato.😕 So if you are only in for the ice-cream, Ahoj is your place 🙂
Amorino is located just off Charles bridge and on your way to the Prague Castle.

Good Food Trdelnik

Trdelink in Prague

If you are in Prague, this is a must try, one because they are claimed to be traditional Czech pastry (not really true though), two they are extremely good. Have one and you'll be full for rest of the day. More details here.

Pizza

Green Tomato

Margherita Pizza

Europe has been a lot about Pizzas for me, so you might find a lot of options for that 🙂
We went to the place, Green Tomato. While I really loved their Margherita Pizza others liked theirs too, the place does not accept Cards and the staff was a little rude - we actually experienced this in quite a lot places in Prague, so just be calm 🙂

Indian

Bombay Express

If you are an Indian and missing home food or you are simply a fan of Indian food, head out to this restaurant, Bombay Express, near Institut Francais de Prague on Vodičkova Street. My European friends enjoyed their meal, I, on the other hand, would give it an average rating for the taste. But the host was really kind, especially when he knew I am from India. We were also given free dessert and Naan bread out of generosity 😝

Indian food
This is my friend, Carlotta who loved the food here ☺️

Additional Tip:💡 While you are in the country, do try the Grilled cheese with bread. We actually had it in one of our barbeque parties 😬

Grilled Cheese

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 from Amazon. Visit these links to get your own oil-painting kits 😄

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 […]

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 the pole, they were the highlight of the whole music video 😁
I was in college at the time but the memory of the video remained with me as I was growing up.

Then after several years of leading a routine life, I came across the new number, Rockabye by Clean Bandit in 2016 and it was yet another push for my wish to be able to dance with the pole.

Of course, there must be other pole dance music videos in between, but these were the ones that enthralled me.
We went to Thailand in June 2017 and in one of the clubs, there were so many girls around the pole, but there was this one, who was an absolute combination of strength, energy, and beauty. It was sensual but at the same time, it was clear pole dancing is no easy job.

Time passed by and I moved to Seattle for work. I have lived most of my life with complete freedom, but living in the US was so much more freedom with so little judgment. On a random day, when I was bored to death, I started looking at different dance forms taught in the US. This is when I came across Pole dance classes on Groupon. I got super excited and super scared at the same time. Excited because this is one of the things I wanted to try as a young girl and scared because I thought I didn’t have the strength, flexibility, and the discipline that this dance form requires.
Anyhow as impulsive I am, I signed up for Pole Series 1 classes with Enchant Vertical Dance. I can swear by it that it was one of the few best decisions I have taken for myself.
Pole dance is not only sexiness and sensuality but so much more than that. A simple move like pole wrap around requires body discipline and training, the right posture and the right movement.

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Each class was a dose of motivation. Every time I thought I will not be able to do a certain move, I left even more confident and proud of myself after successfully completing the class’s routine. After each class, I was glad to finally be able to get that one move and took pride in my pole kisses (pole injuries and burns). My teacher Sara Sanchez at Enchant was so inspiring that you would want to push yourself further in each class ☺

After spending an amazing time in Enchant’s Series1 and half of Series2 Pole classes, it was now time to