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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 […]

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.

Before even returning to India, I had made plans with my friends back home for a short trip from Delhi. I reached Delhi from Budapest on the morning of 9th September'18, and we still hadn't decided a place yet.

By night, we had already done thorough research of all the places we could visit and explore in the given 2-day time frame. And just when it started to seem that there won't be any plan, two of my friends took the initiative and finalized Gwalior and made the required bookings.
Phewww!! Finally, we were going to take this trip!!

Road trip from Delhi to Gwalior
Leaving for Gwalior. Yayyy!!!
Oyorooms [CPS] IN

We had to leave for Gwalior the next day early morning, so I had almost one day to rest and rejuvenate before going for the next trip.

How to reach Gwalior from Delhi?

One of my friends had his car in the city, so we decided to self-drive from Delhi to Gwalior. Gwalior is around 330 km from Delhi, and if you take the Yamuna Expressway, it will take you about 6 hours to reach Gwalior. I would advise you to leave early morning to avoid city crowds.

Take a car for road trip from delhi to gwalior
Our Transport

Other options that you can consider are:

Book your first Zoomcar and get a discount of 15% using the code, NDY3NjAz
  • You can take a bus from Delhi. It will take you around the same time.
    Make your booking through Redbus
  • Or book a train from Delhi to Gwalior using the official IRCTC website

It took us almost 3 hours to reach Agra from Delhi where we made a quick stop for breakfast at a funky hostel. And from Agra, it took us another 3 hours to reach Gwalior.

PS: We had decided to stop in Agra on our way back. You can do the other way too!

Exploring Gwalior

Gwalior Fort

We reached Gwalior around 2:00 pm. After a quick nap and freshening up, we left for Gwalior Fort. Since it was almost evening, instead of hiking up the fort, we decided to take our car to the top to save some time. But I'm pretty sure that hiking must be a great experience - enjoying every part of the fort as you walk up.

TIP 1: If you are planning to take your vehicle up to the fort, navigate to Urvai gate where you'll find a dedicated parking spot. Do not get swayed by the people at the main Gwalior gate who might offer you to show the right direction and get paid for almost nothing.
Trust your google maps 🙂

The fort has two main parts - Man Mandir Palace and Gujari Mahal. Enter the fort through Hathi Pol and be welcomed by glazed blue and brown tiled ochre walls.

Continue to the lower level rooms, and you'll see the dark dungeons where people were held captive and tortured.

As you step out of the prison rooms, walk to the Johar Kund, where the Rajputani ladies used to perform mass Sati if their king lost a battle.

Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to explore Gujari Mahal as it was already the closing time.

View of Gujari Mahal from top in Gwalior Fort, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
View of Gujari Mahal from top

Gurudwara Data Bandi Chhorh

After touring the fort, we went to the nearby Gurudwara Sri Data Bandi Chorh which also has strong historical links.

History of the Gurudwara

Once, when the Mughal ruler, Jahangir, fell sick, he was suggested that a religious person, specifically Shri Guru Hargobind Singh Ji, needs to pray for his wellness in the Gwalior Fort. Jahangir asked Guru Ji to stay in the fort and pray for him. Given his good relations with the emperor, Guru Ji agreed to it. During his stay in the fort, Guru Ji met 52 Rajput rulers who were captured by Jahangir and tortured in the fort.
Days passed, and Jahangir got unwell again. This time his wife was told that the emperor is holding a holy man as captive, and they need to release him for the well-being of the whole empire. Jahangir ordered for Guru Ji's release, and that's when Guru Ji put a condition that he will leave the fort only if the emperor agrees to release the 52 arrested kings along with him.
Jahangir agreed to Guru Ji's condition stating that only the rulers who'd be able to hold Guru Ji's veil would get released. So, all the 52 Rajas held Guru Ji's veil as he walked out of the fort. And that's how the name came to be - Bandi (Prisoner) Chhorh (Release).

We stayed in Gurudwara for some time - paid our respects and ate Langar, before heading back to the hotel.

Gurudwara Data Bandi Chhorh in Gwalior Fort, Madhya Pradesh

The next day, we ate Gwalior street food for breakfast before starting our journey back to Delhi. On our way back, we made a stop in Agra to see Taj Mahal, the unbeatable beauty of India.

Exploring Agra

The Taj Mahal

It has been in my list for quite some time now, that I had to visit one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal.

We got a little late in leaving from Gwalior, and it was almost 4 pm when we reached Agra. By this time the weather had cooled down a bit, and it wasn't as hot which made exploring the place easier for us - so getting late was, in fact, a blessing in disguise.

We took the West side entrance and parked our car there. It was around a-20 minute walk from the parking lot to the main entrance gate.

TIP 2: Try to park your vehicle in the dedicated parking spot of the Taj Mahal premises. It is cheaper and more reliable.

TIP 3: It is generally suggested to take the East side entrance because it is less crowded. But depending on the day of the week and time of the day, you can also take the West gate. For us, we didn't have to wait in a long queue primarily because it was a Tuesday evening.

As you enter from the West Gate, you will see a red sandstone building, known as the Fatehpur Begum. It serves as the main entrance, and as you walk through it, you'll have your first look of the Taj Mahal.

Walk around and click lots of pictures.

Head to the sacred tomb after that. Wear the throw-away shoe covers that you must have received at the ticket counter before joining the queue that leads you inside the hall. Keep in mind that photography is restricted there, so try to take in every moment as you walk through it.

TIP 4: As you walk towards the Taj Mahal from the parking area, you'll see many vendors trying to sell you the shoe cover for a price a little higher than what you'll get inside, so keep that in mind, just in case you get inclined towards buying it from them.
It costs 5 INR for a shoe cover at the counter.

Throw away covers for entering Taj Mahal in Agra. Places to see in India

Be greeted by views of the river Yamuna as you walk out of the hall.

Spend some time appreciating the architecture, and gardens of the Mahal before heading back.

Agra Street Food

After Taj Mahal, we made a stop at Sadar Bazar Agra, for the much-known street food of the city. We tried food from many stalls and ate to our heart's contentment.
Do get yourself the famous Petha (an Indian sweet) packed from Panchi Petha before you leave.


Almost 8 pm by now, we had a 3-hour journey ahead of us before we reached back home. We just had to be a little careful of not dozing away after all the food that we had at Sadar Bazar.

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 a new place, I always make a lot of plans related to my daily schedule, lifestyle, and so many other things out of which most of them remain unaccomplished. So in Nov'18 before I moved to the US, I had big plans in my head of leading a healthier lifestyle, involving myself more in the art and creative stuff, meeting people from different nationalities and making new friends, and traveling more - definitely a few more that I don't remember now.

So I went to the US around the time when everyone starts planning for the holidays. While some reunite with their families back home, the rest plan for a vacation with their families, friends, a group of strangers, or even alone.

Initiation of the plan

Within a few days in the country, I had already started exploring MeetUp groups that interested me. There was this one travel group that had a plan to visit New York during New Year's. I was aroused by the idea of going to New York and watch one of the Broadway shows. I found the idea of traveling with a group better than traveling alone because of the reasons like - a planned itinerary, no effort needed to meet new people as I'd have lots of them as part of the travel group. The only downside to all of this was some initial payment to be a part of the group and this really blew me off.

I checked a lot of other Travel MeetUp groups that I could join, but there weren't any that would fit in my budget at the last moment. That's when I decided that even if I don't find a group to join, I'm definitely going to celebrate New Year's in a new city.

I finally did it

I stumbled upon a few places, starting from the nearest cities- Portland, Salem, Eugene (in Oregon) to farther ones like Orlando, Salt Lake City, San Francisco. After around three days of pretty good research, I finalized San Francisco. I booked my tickets immediately after deciding the place to avoid any second thoughts affecting the whole plan.

Tips for your first solo travel

It was final - I'll be celebrating New Years in a new city with a group of people I'd be meeting the first time. Since it was my first solo trip, I did a lot of research and here are a few things that you can keep in mind so that you are also prepared well for your first solo trip.

Start small

Go for a movie, dinner, or shopping alone and see if you are comfortable being just on your own

Is it safe?

Read about the city and experiences of other travel bloggers. Keep in mind any precautions that you need to take care of when you are in the city.

Book a hostel

Hostels are a great place to meet new people and make plans with. You can stay in a hotel towards the end of your trip to relax or once when you get used to traveling alone.

My Hostel in Austin
My Hostel in Denver - Hostel Fish
My Hostel in Denver
Pre-book any tours

You can join a city-tour group for your initial few trips. Viator is one such site, there are many more that you can check and book a tour from. It is another way of meeting new people and exploring a new place with.

Posing infront of my tour bus in San Francisco
With my tour guides
With my city art tour guide in Austin
Keep it relaxed

Don't fall into the trap of hurrying around to visit every point of interest. Take a little time off to relax, and just absorb in the energy of a new city and it's culture and lifestyle.

Just soak in the sun
Breathe in the fresh air
Join a MeetUp group

Yet another way to meet locals and other travelers. I went out with a group of 100 random people on the New Year's Eve and all through a MeetUp group. Undoubtedly I met quite a lot of interesting people.

Made friends with these two in San Francisco
New Year's Eve MeetUp group

Benefits of traveling alone

Traveling alone can be very liberating sometimes. It changes you gradually and your outlook towards life. Here is how traveling impacts you.

Teaches you to rely on yourself

It pushes you out of your comfort zone, and you learn so many things about yourself that you never thought even existed.
I remember missing my tour bus back to the city from Muir woods on the very first day of my first solo trip. There was no scope of crying and being sad about the situation. I had to work something out really fast, given that there was no phone connectivity in that area and the sun had almost set.
That's when I got out of my comfort zone of not asking strangers for help and did my first hitch-hiking with a family back to the city.

The flexibility of planning out

With only one person to take care of, that is of your own self, the whole hassle of planning out the itinerary becomes easy. You can plan your trip according to your interests, take rest-stops whenever you want, eat whatever you prefer and maybe not eat at all, whatever suits your schedule without worrying about affecting someone else's plans.

Meet new people

It is highly unlikely that if you are traveling with someone, that you'll stop by to have a conversation with a total stranger. If you are alone, you'll probably make an effort to initiate a conversation with someone from your hostel, tour group, random person you meet at a cafe, and so on. This, in turn, helps you to open up and make friends with strangers and learn about a new culture, lifestyle, and so much more.

Pay more attention to your surroundings

This has happened with me quite often that when I'm with a group, I'm like a non-stop talking birdie and I keep walking without looking around. But when I am traveling alone, I am more aware of my surroundings and pay attention to smaller details around me.

Traveling alone has helped me get over my fears and discomforts, and I have made a lot of great friends along the way.

A promise of beautiful views and touristy city center – The Underrated City of Villach

A promise of beautiful views and touristy city center – The Underrated City of Villach

I would have never known about Villach if I didn't choose a cheaper bus option from Salzburg to Bled. With 5 hours in hand before my bus to Bled, I decided to explore the city rather than waiting at the bus station.

The beautiful city of Villach in Austria

A tip before that: You can drop your luggage in lockers at bus stops and train stations in European cities while you explore the place during long halts.

I was a little tired because of the early morning bus but yet I chose to walk around the city unaware of how beautiful the experience could be.

Main priority after getting down the bus was to find a restroom. The restroom at the bus station was a paid one, so I decided to find a good coffee place where I can pee as well. (Too much information I guess!)

Anyhow, the moment I walked outside the station, I was stun bound and amazed at the beauty of the city. I was glad to get a bonus stop before my next bus.

Just a walking distance from the stop was the main city center, adorned with colorful buildings and flags. The city center was a little touristy, but as you walked through the narrow alleys across the main street, you'll see many local people just sitting and chilling in tiny cafes.

After having my coffee, I decided to explore a little bit since I still had time. And that's when I found those hidden streets and pathways that I mentioned above - quiet and undisturbed.

After walking a little further into the city, I traced back my steps to the bridge that led to the city center from the station. It also got sunny by this time, so I decided to walk by Drau river and enjoy the stillness of waters, soak myself in the sun and immerse in nature.

I still remember that feeling - It seemed like a never-ending trail with gorgeous views stretched as far as the eyes could go. With every step I took, it just felt like I was walking into a different world altogether- a world of peace and tranquility. I think that's what the beauty of nature does to you.

I decided to walk a little further up till a bridge before returning. Had I not had a bus in the next few hours, I am sure I would have kept walking till there was a dead-end.

The views were just so captivating!!

On my way back, I decided to walk through the city and not by the river to get a little more close to its soul.

I had to try very hard to resist my temptation to continue walking straight and not turn back - No words or pictures can do justice to the beauty of the place.

Villach you beauty of Austria

And just like that, it was time for my bus, but I was so glad that I had this mini stop in between.

I was just so refreshed and full of life now.

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 […]

How to manage to travel while working full time? Tips from my own experience – 7 new cities in 7 months

How to manage to travel while working full time? Tips from my own experience – 7 new cities in 7 months

."I wish I could travel as much as I wanted."
"You are not working full-time, so it's easy for you to travel so often."
"I don't have time to travel. There's just so much work that I need to finish."

These are a few common statements that I hear from so many people I know who wish to travel but don't because of some or the other reasons.

While it's completely okay not traveling frequently, but it is not okay wishing for something, but giving reasons for not being able to do it.
The best part about traveling is, it is not rocket science that a selected few can only do it. It is easy and solely depends on the traveler how they want to create their travel experience.

Before we get into the details, let me remind you, there are a few days that are meant for doing what you love and taking a little break from your routine lives.

I have always been an avid traveler. But my frequent travels started early this year only when I was still working as a full-time software engineer. I too had to complete projects, and meet deadlines. But then instead of working on piled up tasks on weekends, I started investing my time either in traveling to new places or planning for them.

Traveling is like an addiction, the more you do it, the harder it gets to control it!

Traveling happily in Leavenworth, USA

So the simple answer to, "Is it possible to travel frequently while still continuing to work full-time?" is "yes, it is possible.". But the answer to how you can do that can sometimes be overwhelming.

With this post, I'll try and help break some myths about travel and share a few tips from my personal experience on how you can manage to travel more often without leaving your jobs.

Take A break from work
Take a little break!

Although I travel quite often now, there used to be times when I waited for the right time or the right place, or the right people to go on a vacation.
And I am sure a lot of you would have similar thoughts before you start making any travel plans. But let me explain to you how you can resolve these unnecessary doubts of your mind.

There is no right time for going out and refreshing yourself!

Like any other important work, traveling needs to be a priority in your life if you enjoy it. It doesn't mean going out on an extravagant or a lavish holiday. Just a day out from your regular work and home life is sufficient to explore a new place.
You do not even need a whole day for that. A few hours exploring your own city or neighborhood will freshen your mind. Not only that, it'll add a lot to your experience and you'll be all set to take the challenges of life.

Traveling is like meditation - it brings peace and makes you calmer!

Fly high freedom
Planned at 3pm, left at 4pm same day!

You can choose any place to explore and indulge in

It can be as small as your neighborhood or as big as a new country or a continent, doesn't really matter as long as you are liking it.
Starting small is always helpful because it slowly makes you more comfortable with the change. You start to learn little things about yourself which adds to your travel experience and personality as a whole.

Travel to woods
Travel to woods

What's better than being in your own company!

While a good company is always an added positive for a great travel experience, but no company or an average company should not stop you from exploring places. Soak yourself in the destination, and you'll find solace in just being by yourself.

Travel alone is a bliss

What I usually did and follow now as well

I decide a time in mind, do not do a lot of calculations, decide a place, do not do a lot of research and book my tickets. Once that is done, if I am not too much inclined on going on a solo trip, I ask my friends if they want to accompany me. If they agree, voila! I have a great company and if not, what's better than your own company.
I love traveling alone because it helps me focus on myself and my thoughts without any kind of outside disturbances. It does not mean I don't like going out with my friends. Those kind of trips are full of laughter, and I come back more rejuvenated than I imagine of.

Traveling with friends
Traveling with crazies!

When I first started traveling frequently, I was in the US working as a Software Engineer. I used to combine the weekend with an additional Friday or Monday if possible and traveled to a new place every month.

I was able to explore places, including San Francisco, Portland, Austin, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Victoria (in Canada), Denver, Vancouver (in Canada) in a span of 7 months along with other small day trips.

Solo trip to San Francisco
My first ever self-motivated solo trip

Benefits of traveling often

Before ending the post, I'll discuss a few benefits of traveling that I believe in and have experienced myself.
Traveling is a break from the hustle bustle of daily life, boredom at home, weekend shopping, and dining. I come back home fresh and full of new energy. My thoughts become more clear and creative. My outlook on life has improved so much. I meet people from all around the world, and I understand more about the cultures and lives of people in other parts of the world than I did before.

Traveling is not merely seeing new places, it's more of a learning experience!

Leave your footprints

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 […]

My First Solo Hike in an Unknown Country – Two Hikes In a Single Day

My First Solo Hike in an Unknown Country – Two Hikes In a Single Day

I am the kind of girl who jumps on every opportunity to travel to a new place. As much as I'd be excited about the trip I'll be apprehensive about the challenges that I might face - be it from a very basic one like getting up on time to a little more complex like walking drenched in rain or in an extremely cold weather.

As I started traveling more, I became more comfortable with the discomforts that accompany it. I won't say I can now survive in any condition because I still need to overcome a lot of my inhibitions.
The major highlight of all these progressive changes in me was my trip to Bled in Slovenia.

Hiking In Bled, Slovenia
Hiking In Bled

A travel story of the past

Before I start talking about Bled, I'll tell about another trip to a place in India. I went out with a friend and her colleagues for a trek to Tadiandamol in Karnataka. The weather conditions and the trekking trail were totally out of my comfort zone. It was everything that I dread before a trip.

I get cold very easily and I don't like to get soaked in rains when I am traveling. I hate when my feet dip in the mud. I hate walking through the forest and touching mosses for support from trees. I am scared of heights and I am scared of falling down a cliff. - these are the things that make me the most nervous whenever I listen to "Let's go for a trek".

I sure still get a little apprehensive about all these things that I have mentioned above, but with every such experience, I am becoming more prepared both mentally and physically to take the challenge.

A Travel Story in Bled

Why Bled and Why the Hikes?

Bled was a random google search result to must-visit places in central Europe. A friend of mine from European Summer School convinced me to visit the place and without a lot of research, I blindly followed my friend's and the internet's suggestion.

I knew this much for sure that Bled was famous for the beautiful views of the Lake Bled and the Bled Castle on a clear sunny day.

Bled Castle, Bled, Slovenia, Europe trip

But as luck would have it, rains were predicted for the duration I was going to be in the town. I didn't want to miss out on a place and just sit back in the hostel or a cozy cafe waiting for the rain to stop. I wanted to get out and see the much-praised postcard views of Bled.
My hostel's host suggested two viewpoints that I must visit to get the panoramic views of the lake. And as unplanned and under-prepared I am, I didn't do any research and just asked him the difficulty level of both the hikes. I needed this information to gauge my capability of completing these hikes by myself and also the motivation to actually go for them.

The first hike according to him was easier and the second one a little advanced. With this, he also explicitly mentioned that the views from the second hike were unmatched.

Anyhow, it was raining the morning I had to go out for the hike, so I postponed my plan until the rain stopped. Around 10:00 am it finally stopped raining, and that's when I hurried out of my room with my impatient feet eagerly pushing me.

Excited for the hike in Bled Slovenia

First Hike - Straza

The starting point of the hike to Straza was very near my hostel, so I decided to begin with it and follow the trail to the next hike at Ojstrica.
There were two trails that I am aware of to reach the top, one amidst the forest and the other one through the meadows. While climbing up, I took the easy one which was through the meadows. It was more like a relaxed uphill walk.

Incidentally, there was not a single person around the area, both while coming up and going down and I had the whole place to myself.

On my way back, I didn't want to re-iterate the path I had already taken, so I decided to go down the forested trail.

While I casually climbed the hill, it was a lot trickier hiking down. You may know by now that I am scared of heights, forested, and mudded trails and a little more worried about who'll inform my family if something happens to me. Lame as it may sound, it becomes huge when you are in that position and over-thinking and exaggerating your fears. With constant pouring of the rain and leaves brushing against me, I somehow managed to come out of my tiny scared self and reached down in one piece. It was a joyous little moment for me overcoming my inner fears!

Completing Straza Hike, Straza, Bled, Slovenia

Oh! I completely forgot about the views - It was clouded so I couldn't see the Bled castle as clearly, but the clouded greens were so picturesque that I could have stayed there longer had it not started raining again.


By the time I got down, I was already drenched in water and in dire need of a restroom and some hot coffee. So I stopped at a restaurant for a snack and from there decided to go back to the hostel to get some rest. I thought to myself that it's ok if I am not able to make it to the second hike - it was anyways a little difficult.
After reaching the hostel, I told my host about the Straza hike that I just completed and was feeling super proud of.
And just when I thought I have accomplished something, he said, the second hike, though not very safe and a little difficult during rains has amazing views 💁🏽‍♀️


The words that stuck in my mind and kept repeating in a loop were, "but it has the most amazing view". At that very moment, I decided to go to Ojstrica and check these views for myself.
I dried myself and quickly changed. I could not wear my shoes again as they got wet in the rain, therefore I wore flip flops instead assuming it'll be fine and the hiking in them won't be too difficult.

Given that it had rained all afternoon, wearing flip-flops was not a very good choice it seems.

Anyways, there was a whole lot of adventure before I even reached the starting point of the hike!


 

Second Hike - Ojstrica

I started following the walking trail as shown on google maps, and it led me to two apparent dead ends. I retraced back my steps only to end up in an open meadow with no visible ins and outs.

In all this confusion and hopelessness, I saw a dog coming towards me. I actually felt a little relieved on seeing another soul in the middle of nowhere. Soon after, the dog's owner followed it and I was literally smiling with joy when I saw her. I asked the lady for the directions to Ojstrica and followed the path she showed. The route she directed was quite easy as it was through a jogging trail and there were more people than I had seen the entire day.

After walking for around 20-25 minutes, I was finally able to see the starting point of Ojstrica hike.
I started hiking without giving much thought to the difficulty level. It was a minute after walking on the muddy trail, I asked someone who was already descending, the difficulty level of the hike.

I was actually suggested to not go further because I was wearing flip-flops and the rocks were very slippery.

I would say that it did not affect my determination because, one, I had already walked a lot after I left my hostel to do that hike, second, I wanted to see the view that was so talked about. So undeterred, I kept climbing unaffected by the people who crossed me wondering how I am going to make it. I kept my pace slow and steady without trying to hurry up.

As I started nearing the top of the hill, the muddy path became rockier. I took extra care to not slip on a wet rock. Towards the end, I used my hands to get an extra support and when I finally reached the top.....

View from Ojstrica, Bled, Slovenia
See the view behind me!!!

It was a perfect spot to view the sunset from, but I did not stay back because I wanted to get down before it got dark.
On my way down, I tried to take a shortcut, and that was the only time, I fell down, my hands and butt soaked in mud. Thank goodness, there were other hikers who were climbing up that pulled me and helped me get on the right trail.

Lesson learned - unverified shortcuts make you fall!!

At the end of the day, here I was, after having experienced, the rain, the mud, the forest, and the height. I was super happy and though I caught fever a day after, it was one of the proudest moments for me as I got over my fears and discomforts.

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 […]

My Experience with European Summer School – Where Learning meets Fun!

My Experience with European Summer School – Where Learning meets Fun!

If you have read my post on my experience with VP Bali, you would know, I love to add more to just plain traveling. Initially, I wanted to join a summer school in Malaysia, but it did not work out because of timelines. So, I started looking for summer schools in other parts of the world. That is when I stumbled upon the website for summer schools in Europe. It's an excellent site, to find out schools based on different criteria, like, course type, distance or in-school learning, start date and the number of days, the fee structure, certificate, and university credits.

European Summer School was perfect for me because of the following reasons:

  1. Application submission was still open
  2. Had multiple terms running from July to August (I was looking for options in August)
  3. Each term was of 2 weeks (I didn't want to commit more than that)
  4. Had courses of my interest (including Marketing, and Advertising)
  5. Wasn't as expensive as I thought, given that it was in Europe

I did a quick research, going through their website, and facebook page to confirm that the school was not a scam before I submitted my application and fees.

Application Process

The application process was pretty straight-forward. You just need to fill in an online form with personal details and information about your education, profession (if any) and the course you are interested in. After you have submitted your application form, you'll get a confirmation email from the school. And soon after that, you'll get a follow-up email with application fees and invoice details.

The school gives an option to make the payment in two parts - 50% each. The final payment, however, has to be made before the school starts. It also provides scholarship to exceptional students. For that, you'd require to submit your resume and cover letter along with your application.

After you have paid the fees, you'll get application approval and accommodation confirmation.

You can use these confirmations as supporting documents for your visa application

Course Options and Dates

The program runs in 3 terms from July to August with different courses in each term. The school offers a variety of courses to suit your interest, ranging from Business Management to Marketing, to Human Resources, Arts, and Personal Development. If you want to attend the course of your choice, check their website ahead of time, so that you are able to apply before the seats finish and you don't miss the application deadlines.

Quick Tip: If the seats are full, and you are really interested in one particular course, then drop an email to the school. They'll try their level best to accommodate you in the class of your choice.

Fee Structure

The total fee of the course is 750€. It includes the application fee and the necessary study materials. For accommodation, there is an additional payment of 150€. You can, however, choose to stay in any other accommodation of your choice.

You can also apply for a merit-based scholarship if you have financial constraints. And if the school finds your application particularly good, they might just offer you one.

I actually applied for a scholarship and based on my motivation to join the course and previous experience I was offered a scholarship of 40%. It was a great news for me since I just had to pay 450€ now instead of 750€.

What does the total experience include

The 10 days of school just fly by and before you even realize the term is over. All these days are packed with classes in the morning and fun activities in the evening.

The classes start with an introduction to the course and gradually progress to understanding the depths. The best part of the course structure is that even in such a short time, you get an opportunity to actually work on the things that you learn in the class.

As for the activities, Linda and Lucie (activity coordinators) make sure that every day the students experience something new and different and local to Prague. These activities include a walking tour to the city's points of interest, dining in different restaurants, going for open-theatre movie night, playing beer pong, picnicking/barbecuing in a park, and so much more. The best part, the activities are not just restricted to the ones mentioned above, since the organizers are always open to suggestions and ready to change plans according to everybody's interest.

But again, you don't need to attend all the activities, you can choose the ones that you are really interested in. I'll, however, recommend that you do participate in if not all, most of these activities, because it helps you see the hidden parts and experiences of the city from a local's point of view, and also make friends with the rest of the group.

My experience in the class

I applied for the course, "Fundamentals of Marketing" but unfortunately, it got canceled a few days before the start day. I was a little disappointed, but it was too late now to cancel my plans since I had already booked my flight tickets and applied for the visa by then. That would be a heck lot of money wasted.

Other courses that were available were Business Management, Human Resources, Personal and Professional Development, and Online Marketing Challenge out of which Online Marketing was already full. I then decided to continue with Personal and Professional Development. During orientation, I requested Hank and Lucas (the program coordinators) to transfer me from Personal and Professional Development to Online Marketing Challenge. My roommate was also looking for swapping her course, Online Marketing Challenge with Business Management. Therefore, luckily, I could get her seat in the Online Marketing class.

On the first day of school, I was super-excited about re-living the college experience and studying in a classroom of mixed nationalities. The class started with everyone's introduction followed by the course introduction and structure. We were provided with some snacks to keep us active throughout the class on the first day 😉

The course was very detailed even though it was just for 10 days. We learned in depth about marketing and the need for it, different techniques to market depending on the product type, understanding the statistics and how to improve them. We had a few guest lectures where we deep dived into the technical aspects of setting up a website.

Throughout the course, we worked on two projects - one individual and second a group project. For the individual project, we had to set up our own personal blog and incorporate the technicalities that we had learned during the class. For the second project, the class was divided into groups, in which each group had to set up their website for the product/idea that they had. In addition to that, we had to market our product/idea using different marketing techniques.

Q&A was encouraged in the class and everybody participated in giving genuine feedback as each of us progressed through our projects. The instructors were always there to guide and direct in the right direction for both, our personal blog and our team project.

The best part of the class was being able to apply the theory that we learned into our project and that too within a time span of 10 days.

Working on a project with students from other countries was a great learning experience in terms of understanding the differences and similarities between the cultures and perspectives that are observed in different parts of the world.

My experience during the activities

European Summer School was not just about studies, it was more of a wholesome experience. Linda and Lucie our activities' coordinators had planned 10 days of ultimate fun. The very first day after orientation we went for dinner together where all the students got a chance to interact with and know each other.

These fun activities were not just limited to dining and partying together, but also touring the city on foot and bikes, picnicking in parks, going for day-trips and much more. For me, it was a perfect blend of a local and a tourist experience.

It is during these activities that you interact the most with other students, especially those who are not part of the same class as yours. So make sure you try to be part of as many activities as possible!

PS: The admissions are starting soon. So hurry up and apply early to get a course of your choice. Also, don't forget to mention my name as a referrer.

From being skeptical about the program to falling in love with all the kids – My Experience With VP Bali

From being skeptical about the program to falling in love with all the kids – My Experience With VP Bali

Why did I decide to join VP Bali?

I had recently left my job and was in Mumbai for acting classes. I’d be free for the next 6 months and I wanted to travel and experiment with different things as I decide what I want to pursue as my career. While I was in Seattle, I proposed to my friends to visit Bali, and they rejected it telling that it's a honeymoon island. While that is true in many cases, you’ll definitely find a lot of solo travelers. So, I had this island in my mind since then and just did a google search for "volunteer programs in Bali" while I was in Mumbai, and luckily VP Bali was top in the list. They did a good job in marketing 😁

I had wanted to volunteer for a long time and while I was in Mumbai, I had applied to a local volunteer organization but couldn’t do a lot with them because of the shorter stay duration in the city.

A will to travel, volunteer and a simple google search led me to VP Bali.

 

Welcome Letter

 

There were several questions that I had in my mind while I was applying. I'll answer a few of them and hopefully, it helps you while deciding you want to join VP Bali or not 🙂

Is the program real or a scam?

For any program that you apply for, a summer school, a volunteering program, internships, etc, this is the first thing that comes to mind- the authenticity of the program.
The first thing that you should do, is to go through the program website in details and judge how genuine it is. Nowadays, digital marketing has taken an upturn, so look for the program's Facebook group or page, Instagram page, and any other social media. Most of the times these programs should have pictures of and testimonials from past participants. That is how you will know the program is real.
You can contact any person from the group if you need to learn more about their experiences. You can also email the organization for additional details that might help you decide.
In VP Bali’s case, Kim (Kimberley, founder of VP Bali) and the rest of the staff had done a great job of maintaining Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest pages. And in one of her emails, she also suggested adding her as a friend on Facebook. And I don’t think this gets more real than that 🙂

The application process

The application process was pretty straightforward. You need to fill an application form with personal details and work, volunteer and travel experience. If lucky, you’ll get an email from VP Bali, confirming the acceptance within a day. You have to submit the volunteer program fees as a combination of registration fees and the program fees, which includes, accommodation and transportation from Ngurah Rai Airport to the homestay.
You will need to pay registration fees to confirm your participation and voila, you are now ready to be a VP Bali volunteer.

How long do I volunteer?

I really loved the flexibility of time that VP Bali offered. I couldn’t volunteer in Mumbai because of less time, but with VP Bali it perfectly fit with the time I wanted to spend in a place.
The minimum time that you can volunteer for is 2 weeks and the maximum is 3 months, and if you like it, you can extend it beyond 3 months as well.
Therefore, as per your comfort and feasibility, you can decide the time you want to stay. Most of the times the first week goes into ramping up and getting used to a new place, school, students, and the teaching techniques and ideas.

What do I do as a volunteer?

The program is really simple. You need to teach English to the kids and come up with innovative ideas to keep the class interesting. No need to stress out on that, because Kim shares tips and tricks from past volunteers as part of the Volunteer Preparation Kit. There are 9 rooms and each room has two classes. First class has younger kids and the second one generally has teenagers, so you can adjust your teaching style accordingly.

Do I need a work visa?

No, you can enter Bali as a tourist and work as a volunteer, and since you are not going to earn during your stay, you do not need a work visa.
Citizens of many countries get a free entry in Bali for 30 days and can get it extended for an additional 30 days for 35 USD. For extending it beyond 60 days, the process is a little more complex, I would advise you to discuss your plans with Kim, she'll be the best person to guide you.

My experience in the homestay

During your time with VP Bali, you are provided an accommodation with the local family. You share a room with another volunteer. This way you get to experience the local Balinese family culture first hand and interact with volunteers from different nationalities.

From my room

This is where I used to sit and work

On a full moon night

Super Healthy Daily Breakfast - Fried Egg with Toast

Fruit Salad for Breakfast

My experience in school

We had an orientation meeting in our homestay before the school with Kim and Tutik, in which we were given an overview of what happens in the class and different ways in which we can try to teach our children. There were two of us who had joined that week.
Despite the orientation and other helping material, we were still not sure what to expect and felt kind of unprepared. Don't worry, this is totally normal as a person who had never had a teaching experience and that too in another country. There are always other volunteers and the members of the VP team to help and guide you.
We were given Room 1 and class one had almost 50 students. I was a little scared and nervous. Questions like, What if these kids get bored? What if they don’t understand me? How do I start? Would they outsmart me? Will they play tricks? It was a whole lot of emotions and expectations.
We were 5 volunteers in the first class and we decided to split it into 5 groups. My very first feelings were - Whatttt??? Am I going to take of 10 students on my own? Where do I start from?
So everything on my first day was impromptu picking up ideas from what Kim and other volunteers told us about kids. I started with revising the Alphabets because I felt that is the first thing the kid should know as part of English language and it also helped me gauge the level of the class. I was getting even more conscious and worried about not boring my kids, so I came up with an idea for them to draw and color for every alphabet, eg: A - Apple, B - Banana, and so on.
By the end of the class, I casually wrote good on one of the kids’ copy and all of them rushed towards me asking for a good job. That's when I recalled the time when I was a kid, craving for a Good or Excellent from my teacher. The class ended on a good note despite all the apprehensions and now the kids knew my name 🙂
The second class had teenagers who were quieter. This time we didn’t split the class, and I spent most of the time observing what other volunteers were doing.

VP Bali is not only about teaching the kids, but it's also a cultural learning and involvement for volunteers. From attending ceremonies to learning more about Balinese culture every Wednesday to kids performing Balinese dance for farewells, working with VP Bali is a wholesome experience.

Check out this video to get more insight into the cultural experience with VP Bali.


I love the objective of this program, to bring all kids to a level and not just focus on only the strongest or weakest ones. Engaging them to learn, teaching them new games and laugh along with them.
These kids will solely be your responsibility when in class, they learn what you say and do, I would really suggest to brush up your language and actions a bit before you come here, because we don’t want to teach our kids anything offensive or abusive.

You fall in love with the kids with every passing day. Its a pity I stayed only for two weeks, By the time I knew what is the right technique for me to teach them, it was time to go. Ohhh!! I love them soo much. I wish I could remember their names.😩
Now I know, that its one of the best feelings when your teacher remembers your name and gives you attention 🙂

As I left the school, I had tears in my eyes and smile on my face - a beautiful experience and an endless love that I got.

PS: It makes me miss my kids as I write this post and I feel terrible ☹️

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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 I interned with Amazon for 6 months in Bangalore.

A quick look back into the past

I have always had someone to make decisions for me and I found it convenient that way. Being an engineer was a safer option and a good career, so there I was. I worked really hard for my core courses, and even during my internship with Amazon. I actually had a great time learning all the practicalities from my mentor(he was just so cool). You can check his blog here. Working with him made me more interested in and curious about technology and experimenting with it.
When I joined as a full-time engineer, there were days of good work and days of not so good work, probably happens with any big company. The feeling of getting a regular salary, being able to party and go shopping whenever you want without even thinking twice was new and exciting. Although there was not enough work satisfaction, everything seemed okay when I was out with my friends spending money.
One day in a moment of fit, I applied for YIF for the liberal arts program. The program was interesting since it offered multidisciplinary courses, including arts, history, politics, and so on. I got selected and it was a great news for me, but I decided to not join the college. Why? The fees for one year was 5 lakhs then, and I thought to myself that I’ll pay whatever savings I had for the one-year diploma program and won’t be earning during that time. And then there was no guarantee that I’d be able to figure out the next steps or get a good job after that, something that I currently had – so, I stuck with Amazon 🤦🏽‍♀️

Fast Forward – 3 years

There were many ups and downs at work but I hung on to it mainly for two reasons:
One, regular flow of income. If the day would be bad, I would spend money and get all right. And if the day was good, I wouldn’t even think of leaving work.
Two, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So, without a concrete plan, I considered sticking to my work to be more logical.
I won’t deny that I was also influenced by what others said.

During these three years, working in India, I must have planned more than ten times how can I leave the company and figure out what I want to do but I never could.
In 2017, after getting promoted, everyone decided to move to Seattle, US. I on the other hand again applied for YIF, got selected and didn’t join because of the same reasons as before(so I guess nothing really changed in these 3 and a half years). Since I was not joining the college and everyone was leaving for the US, I thought maybe that is the right decision for me as well.

My first day in Seattle office was 20th November 2017. While attending the standup on my first day in office, instead of listening to everyone, I only had one thought constantly running in my mind that why am I even here. At that very instant, I made a decision to leave and then started planning on when I could tell my manager. I didn’t want to immediately do that because my manager had really put in great effort for me to join his team and I didn’t want to be so selfish.
For sure the working style in the US was more comfortable from that in India but despite everything being perfect, there was something missing. I was not able to enjoy my work as much as I wanted to. So sometime in mid-February, I finally told my new manager (there was a recent change) about my plans to leave. Even though they wanted me to stay, they were very supportive of my decision 😊

Now the hidden secret, how I stuck to my decision this time

I didn’t tell a single person about my plans and gathered all the courage to tell it directly to my manager. It didn’t seem as difficult and as huge once I let it out.
26th May was my last day at work and I am really grateful for my experience with Amazon and the amazing people I met during this journey, I was happy to finally have completed the chapter and move on to the next.
Today while I experiment with different things, I am glad I took that decision and offloaded the burden I was carrying. I hope to start working full time soon, but this time it will solely be my decision and I hope to fully enjoy it.

Sunset Landscape in Oils – Time Lapse Painting Tutorial

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

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The Famous Chimney Cake, Prague

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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.

Chimney Cake shop

A friend of mine suggested going to Good Food in the Old Town to try one. It was a tiny bakery with a few chairs to sit. As you enter the bakery, you’ll see the process of chimney baking in an open fire. This places had so many flavors to select from, including chocolate, tiramisu, pistachio, raspberry, strawberry, and more.
Though I was inclined towards Tiramisu, I wanted to try something that I would not normally have. So, I went with a giant Pistachio Chimney with Chocolate Ice Cream.

Chimney

It was one of the best desserts I have ever had. Chimney roll was covered in pistachio crumbs and filled with a decadent chocolate ice cream, it was so rich 😇. It looked exactly like the picture above, so goooooooddd!!!!
As you are just finishing, you’ll get a sweeter surprise in the end, frozen melted chocolate that just added to how perfect it was.☺️

Oh yes, you won’t feel hungry for the next 5 hours after having the Chimney.

Pole Dance and Fitness: Breaking the Stigma

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Seattle Street Photography

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A weekend on the other side of Columbia River: From Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon

A weekend on the other side of Columbia River: From Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon

Jan 20, 2018

Most people in Seattle visit Portland for tax-free shopping, I on the other hand just needed a break from Seattle 🎒

The decision-making process

Its been almost two weeks since my last trip to San Francisco and I was itching to go out and explore some other city. I really wanted to do a ferry ride to a nearby island or city. One of the options was San Juan islands, the closest ones to Seattle, but for obvious reasons, they didn’t have many activities during winters. Another option was visiting Vancouver or Victoria in Canada, but before I could start planning for it, I realized I needed to have a Canadian visa being an Indian Passport holder, which I didn’t have at the moment.
But, since I really wanted to go somewhere, I decided to make it simple and finalized Portland.

What is happening!!!!

How to reach Portland from Seattle

I booked the earliest Amtrak train from Seattle to Portland for the coming Saturday and the train back to Seattle was on the next day (Sunday evening) from Portland. And the best part, the total cost for both trains came out to be just 70$ 🤷🏾‍♀️
For other Amtrak options, you can check their website here.
If you want to travel by road, you can either take your own car or hire one, which most of the people do, but be wary of the traffic that you can find on the interstate highway. But if you still want to travel by road but not worry about driving, you can book a bus from Wanderu. There are so many cheaper options here 😄
And finally, if you don’t like road or rail journeys, I am sure there must be good flight options as well 🙂

The train journey

I didn’t sleep much the night before the travel date, but with the excitement of the trip I woke up early and then slept all through my way till Portland. Sadly, I missed the beautiful waterfront views outside (if any!) 😔

One of the very few views I captured on my way

Where to stay in Portland

Hostel! Hostel! Hostel!
There were not many hostels available 1 week before the trip, so I booked one of the very few remaining, Travelers’ House hostel. It had a good bus connectivity which was a positive because of my zero driving skills.🤫
The only issue with the hostel was that it did not allow booking for just one night, so I sent them a mail requesting for a one night stay and they were kind enough to agree and help me with the process. More about the hostel later.

How to reach the hostel from Union Station

With an excellent bus connectivity in the city, it was really easy to reach the hostel from Union Station.

At Union Station, Portland- I really loved the bricked ground 😍

It was a 7-minute walk to the bus stop from the station, from where I got a direct bus to the hostel. Uber or Lyft are the next best options if you are not much of a public transport person. Or you can also rent a car just in case you are planning to drive on your own.

The hostel- Travelers’ House

I reached the hostel around 12 pm and was allotted the room immediately. It was a small cozy home located in the suburbs of Eastern Portland.

A sneak peek into the hostel

Day 1

I left the hostel soon after freshening up and decided to take a stroll along the Alberta street. The weather was warm with a little drizzle.
Alberta street is one of the most vibrant streets of Portland lined up with small cafes, local boutiques, and galleries. It also has one of most amazing murals that I have seen so far.

A glimpse of Alberta Street and Amazing pieces of Art & Murals

Brunch @PineState and IceCream @Salt&Straw

Pine State Biscuits is famous for its gravy biscuits and biscuit sandwiches. People had warned online of the long queues outside the restaurant and I could see one when I reached the place. Since I was alone, I got my chance a bit early with the seating at the bar. I ordered mushroom gravy with biscuit and iced coffee for breakfast. The food was a little overrated for me but super filling.

Iced Coffee and Biscuit with Mushroom Gravy

Few steps ahead there was another interesting restaurant, Bollywood Theater. I got really curious as to what Bollywood is doing in an American city,🤔 so I decided to go inside and ask for myself.

Bollywood Theatre was started by Troy MacLarty who was inspired after his first visit to India.

I looked above to see the sky and it caught my eye😬

I had saved some space for Salt and Straw’s ice cream, another one of the must-visits. I had Arbequina olive oil ice cream with caramel and the taste was weirdly nice.

Yummm!!

Salt and Straw is now open in Seattle also, so do visit it if you get chance.

Commute within Portland

Portland has an excellent public transportation system. The buses and light rails run at frequent intervals and the well-constructed bike paths also provide an easy quick ride.
For bus/train, you can either buy a day pass or if you have bought 2 tickets in a day, you can travel for free for the rest of the day. I didn’t know this before and spent around 10$ on a one day travel😔

Tax-Free Shopping

I had been planning to buy a camera for some time now, so the rest of my evening was spent in BestBuy Stores of Llyod Center and Cascade Station. Having spent almost 3 hours on camera hunting, I did not finally buy the camera. What I actually bought were 3 t-shirts from H&M sale.

Cascade station is actually on the outskirts of the city, near the airport. It took me around 40 minutes to reach there via light rail, and it was a pity I did not buy anything there 🙈

Dinner @Life of Pie

It was almost 8 now when I reached back to the town and I was starving. I looked for pizza options near me and found this amazing restaurant, Life of Pie. Again, I got a seat at the bar. But the good thing about it was, I got a chance to watch the whole process of making a pizza in a handmade Italian oven. The mushroom pizza that I ordered was pretty average and I regretted not choosing the Margherita Tomato Basil pizza 😭

Wood-fried pizza @LifeOfPie

I decided to take a bus back to the hostel from the pizza joint. There was not a single person at the bus stop other than an old stoned man. The bus was going to take 10 minutes more to arrive, so I walked to the nearest convenience store and booked a cab.

It was really surprising how this part of the Portland was really really silent by 9 pm.

Time to Socialize…

There were a very few people in the hostel during this weekend which made it easy for all of us to hang out together. We sat in the living room discussing topics varying from life, travel, puzzles to studies. We dispersed off and went to sleep after 2 hours of socializing.
I forgot to request the lower bunk bed this time, and the upper bunk that I got was almost touching the ceiling. But since it was just one night, I did not make any fuss about it.

Day 2

I wanted to start early today to be able to cover a few other places in the city before my afternoon tour of the Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls and Multnomah Falls.
I took a bus to a cafe for breakfast in downtown – I don’t remember the name.🙈 They didn’t serve frappucinos, so I went to Starbucks right on the opposite side of the road and got myself a Frappuccino and an everything bagel with cream cheese.

Powell’s Books Store

Powell’s City of Books is apparently the largest independent bookstores in the world and extends to a full city block in Portland. It was simply huge with around 9 color-coded rooms and with sections varying from biology to history to sports so on and so forth. I spent around 2 hours just scanning the books. I was really intrigued by the book title, “My Holiday in North Korea by Wendy Simons”. I didn’t buy it at the moment and borrowed it later from Seattle Central Library once I was back.

A complete block of books

Lan Su Chinese Garden

“Between Lake and Mountain lies true meaning!!”

It had started raining outside, and I thought I’ll enjoy noodle soup in the cold weather so I started walking towards Chinatown, a nearby neighborhood.
Before I could finalize a restaurant, I saw this beautiful garden hidden behind the walls in front of me. I decided to go inside and check it out. With a 10$ admission fee, I got the most serene and quaint views. Inside the garden were the plants native to China and structures signifying Chinese culture. I’ll let the pictures speak the rest.

It was already 1:30 pm and I had my pickup from the hostel for the evening tour at 2:00 pm. But I really wanted to stand and click some pictures on the Steel bridge that connects east and west Portland separated by Willamette River. There was not much time to first walk to the bridge and then head to the hostel, so I stood and clicked the “half of what I wanted pictures” from the Waterfront Park, which was a 5 min walk from the Chinese Garden.

Something like this, but a little better in my head 🤐

10 minutes after reaching the hostel, Sarah, a beautiful lady who was going to be our driver and guide from Hub Travels came to pick me up. I carried my bag along so that I didn’t have to come back to the hostel to get it after the tour.

Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls

We drove through Columbia River Highway towards the Corbett, where our first stop was, the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic point. That was the first closest view of the fluffed-up clouds.

Amazing, isn’t it 🤗

After appreciating the beauty of the view and taking some pictures, we headed to the Crown Point Vista House. This place was the highlight of the tour for me with the most gorgeous views of the gorge.

It couldn’t get any better 😇

The historic Crown Point Vista House – Sandstone walls to withstand time

Our next stop was the Latourell falls. Oh! They were so amazing and with every fall, you can see the mist rising above. The columnar basalt layers formed due to lava solidification in upper rocks more quickly than lower and the bright yellow lichen that has grown along the cliff on the right side of the falls simply added to its mesmerizing beauty.

The misty Latourell Falls

Entry to most of the other falls including the Multnomah falls – our last viewpoint was closed due to the Eagle Creek Fire in September 2017. The Multnomah falls looked magnificent from far away but we couldn’t get even a slightly closer to it.

Multnomah falls is actually the fourth largest waterfall in the United States.

This the maximum that we could get – Road ahead was closed 😞

I got some souvenirs from the gift shop which was located at the base of the falls.

Dinner @Thai Peacock

Our ride back to Portland was much quieter as everyone was tired and taking a small nap in the back seat. I got down in Portland downtown for dinner at Thai Peacock – the food was really good, but a little too spicy for me.

As good as it looks!!

I walked to Union station after the dinner and waited for my train back to Seattle. It’s amazing how in less than two days, I was able to experience so much of Portland and around it. I really wanted to visit Mt. Hood but due to time constraints, I couldn’t – I have heard its really good, so try to visit and let me know how it was 🙂

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 […]

Popular tourist scams in India

Popular tourist scams in India

India is a beautiful country with 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 might ruin your complete vacation. So, before you pack your bags, just be wary of few common nuisances as you tour the country.
Given below are a few things that you need to take care of to have a safe travel 🙂

Rickshaws/Tuk-Tuks

You can travel almost anywhere within the city by rickshaws that can save you from the trouble of walking long distances on a bad weather day. But, it will pose its own problems if you are not able to blend in the local ways. If you act ignorant, rickshaw drivers will easily charge you double or even more than the nominal price. An alternative to rickshaws is the pre-paid ride-hailing services like Uber/Ola. These services are prevalent in big cities and their prices have an upper cap for a ride between two places. This will save you from the trouble of bargaining.
If taking a rickshaw or TukTuk, check the distance before heading out so that you have a fair idea of how much you can be charged. Checking the regular rates with your hostel/hotel attendants for a ride to a particular place can also be helpful.
One additional piece of advice that when you take TukTuks, remember to go by meter whenever there is an option. There is a good chance the driver says, that meter does not work, and give other similar excuses. And this is where you can use the knowledge that you gained in above 3 steps and pay accordingly.

Entrance Fees without actual entry

A friend of mine was visiting Ranakpur Temple near Udaipur with a few of her foreigner friends. The entrance fees of the temple for foreigners was around Rs 200 and it was only when they entered they realized, they are not allowed in the main temple shrine. So, my biggest suggestion for you to is to just research about the place before you visit it.

No Free Help/Gifts

In many religious cities, like Varanasi, Pushkar you can meet fake pandits who will offer you blessings for good luck and would charge hefty fees at the end of it. So, be sure to either say no or enquire properly about the offer before accepting it.
In other places, you might also meet people who would volunteer to guide you. But, when all this ends, they would ask for heavy tip and if not given, there is a good chance that they get aggressive.

Over-friendly strangers

Sure, it has improved over time, but locals still get excited seeing a foreign tourist in town. In their eagerness, many might approach you and act polite and helpful and in return would ask for a photograph with you. It is fine till these people start disrupting your personal space. So please be aware of your surroundings and be alert at all the times.

Long Bus Rides

Long bus journeys are tough and it even gets tougher when you don’t find clean toilets and good food on the way and have to pay more than what these are worth for. The toilets that the bus will stop at are generally dirty and most of the times there is a Re 1 or 2 charge for use, which doesn’t really make sense if they are not clean. In addition to that remember to carry toilet rolls and hand soap/sanitizer because most of the times you won’t find these here. Moreover, the packaged food items that you’ll purchase will be charged at a higher price than the MRP and there are a very few times when you can argue or do anything about the situation. The best idea would be to keep some snacks in your travel bag for that unexpected hunger pangs 🙂

Having said that, I believe India is a very loving and welcoming country and if you take care of these few things, you’ll definitely have a wonderful time.
Happy & Safe Travels!!

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. Click on each day to know more details. Stay at If you […]

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 about how we landed up in SF and plans for the day. This guy offered to join me for the rest of the day and I agreed.

Order of the day

Golden Gate Park

Botanical Garden

We started with the Botanical garden which is a part of the Golden Gate Park. It was a perfectly clear sunny day for the visit. The garden was huge, with plants from different parts of the world. I specifically liked South Africa’s specimens, their beautiful and bright colors. More in the pictures below.

Japanese Tea Garden

Japanese tea garden was located just opposite to the Botanical Garden and is also a part of the Golden Gate Park. We reached the garden just in time to join an SF city tour volunteer.

This is the link to more walking free tours. These tours are free, but I would suggest to always tip the guide if you like their service.

It was a detailed tour, but since we were getting a little hungry, we skipped the tour and looked around the place ourselves. It was a pleasant and enjoyable walk in the middle of a beautiful scenery.

The garden was cared by a Japanese family for generations until they were ousted during the WWII and taken over by US government.

I don’t remember much of the history of the garden but there were people who actually lived here in the middle of the serenity.

Palace of Fine Arts

We made a quick stop at the Palace of Fine Arts before going for lunch. Palace of Fine Arts is one of the remainders of the many art pieces that were exhibited during the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition from over 21 countries, 48 U.S. states, and 50 California counties. It had one of the most relaxing settings with a surrounding lagoon. On a sunny day, one can see birds flying by and swans floating on the lagoon.

With the beauty of that kind, there is no doubt that many people book it for their wedding ceremony.

Excitedly posing in front of Palace of Fine Arts

Lunch at Japan Center

For lunch, I really wanted to have Japanese, so we headed for the Japan town. We stopped at Japan center – a Japanese shopping center. All the top-rated places were closed, so we went to the only open Japanese restaurant (at least that’s what we thought! ). Also, by this time we were really tired and wanted to sit in any closest restaurant that was open.

The restaurant was below average in terms of both food and ambiance. I have completely forgotten the name of the place now, but I would definitely advise you to walk a little further ahead of the Japanese center to get the best Japanese cuisine experience and not settle for less 😉

Quick stops at

Japan Peace Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf & Lombard street

Anyhow, after finishing our lunch, we went to Japan Peace Tower – a Peace Pagoda gifted in Friendship by the Japanese to the Americans. It was a couple of blocks from the Japan Center. We stayed there for sometime before starting off for the next stop.
Our next stop was at Fisherman’s Wharf. On our way to the Wharf from Japan Town, we crossed Lombard street and I assure you it is much more crooked that you might expect it to be (At least that was the case for me 😱)

Must eat At Crepe Cafe

It was around 5 in the evening now and there were so many performers on the streets, each one displaying different acts. I actually enjoyed the hustle bustle of the area. After spending some time here, we headed for Ghirardelli square. We stopped at Crepe Cafe on our way. I would recommend you to try this place out. It had one of the most amazing crepes I have ever had. It was slightly crowded and that was one of the reasons for a little crappy service. But at the same time, A Must Try!.

Ghirardelli Square

Tired and sleepy by now, we took a quick round of Ghirardelli Square and went back to the hostel.

After reaching the hostel, I booked hostel’s airport drop-off service for the next early morning flight. I packed my bags and before going to bed, I bid goodbye to the friends I made.

Till we meet again!

A wonderful trip came to an end on 2nd January 2018 and gave way to even more amazing experiences in the coming days.

New Years in San Francisco – Day 2

New Years in San Francisco – Day 2

December 31, 2017 Start the day with Alcatraz – The ROCK I had read about Alcatraz Island and that it is so worth a visit. Because San Francisco was a last minute plan, I could not book Alcatraz tour through their official website. Quick Tip: […]

New Years in San Francisco – Day 1

New Years in San Francisco – Day 1

A warm place to spend the winter weekend at I had been planning something special for New Year’s this time, something that I had not done before in my life. I decided for an end to end solo trip, starting right from planning to execution. […]

Desperate Times Desperate Measures

Desperate Times Desperate Measures

So I found this coupon through an app where I was getting salon services for 1/3rd of the actual price. Very excitedly I bought the coupon at once and went to the salon the next day. When I was done and making the payment to the manager, he started telling me about all other deals available. I was pretty curious to know about these deals and continued asking him questions on till when will the deal be on, etc. It is then when he told me about the status of his salon. He told me, “We are not getting enough customers and that is why we are providing so many deals. It would be great if you refer your friends as well”.

At that moment I realized, it was not one of the many regular schemes that the salon owner started to impress and attract customers, it was just something he felt was required at the moment to keep the salon going. Now from the looks of the place, one would never know that it is going into a loss, but it is hard to judge the actual situation from outer appearances I guess.

This person had to provide the services at such a low price because he needed some customers and some money to continue in the race. As they say, nothing comes free of cost and if it does there must be a reason behind it 🙂

A Narrow Escape

A Narrow Escape

Some place in Gurgaon, India Gurgaon being a place where you do not generally get a house without a broker involved, you are almost always accompanied by an agent(broker) for visiting the flats. So there I was traveling with one such broker for house hunting […]

A Weekend Getaway To Leavenworth

A Weekend Getaway To Leavenworth

The Big Plan It’s Holiday Time!! On a random day before Christmas, I was talking to a friend about places near Seattle(one of the biggest company towns of United States of America) to visit during this time of the year. We ended up discussing this […]