Author: Ajita

The Right Kind of Education and How To Impart That!

The Right Kind of Education and How To Impart That!

We can produce the best-ever next-generation if each one of us takes responsibility to teach the right things to our kids.
If we don’t teach our kids how to respect fellow beings, then I think we are failing as a society!
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Read more on what is the right way of educating our future generations for a better world.

Why 9 To 5 Doesn’t Suck?

Why 9 To 5 Doesn’t Suck?

We are accustomed to reading articles and watching videos where people discuss their struggles of working at a 9-5 job, and not being their boss, not being able to follow their passion, and just being a slave. It is very uncommon to see articles written by people who are happy and contented with their jobs and do not feel any of the things that I have mentioned above.
This article represents people who love their job and don’t feel stuck in a 9-5 cycle. They are happy and satisfied with whatever they are doing. This article is for people like me, who don’t have work satisfaction but also do not hate their work environment as much!

My First Cataloge Shoot – Experience as a Model

My First Cataloge Shoot – Experience as a Model

This year in January, I modeled for a women apparel brand, Vinnhi - my first ever catalog shoot.

I'll admit, the idea of dressing up and posing in front of the camera had been quite fascinating - All the lights and all the eyes on you! But let me remind you, not everything is as fancy as it seems ūüôā

posing with an umbrella and sunglasses

I received a message from a friend in December, where he informed me about a probable opportunity of modeling for a friend of hers, Vineetha. At the time, I was (or better I still am) in an experimental phase of my life, and I was trying almost everything that I had ever fascinated. So considering it an opportunity with a no-gain no-loss situation, I said yes. And that's when the process began!

The First Call With The Designer

Have you ever heard of "friends on the first call"? That is what happened with Vineetha(founder of Vinnhi) and I. We gelled instantaneously and were comfortable talking about the work, requirements, and expectations more freely.
We were in different cities at the time, so we had to coordinate and get minimal things ready for the shoot beforehand. We had a few initial conversations on the phone, where Vineetha told me about her work, her vision for the brand Vinnhi, and her plans for the shoot. Both of us were new to this domain, so we tried to discuss as many details of the process as we knew.

Vineetha and I laughing casually post-shoot
Vineetha and I laughing casually post-shoot

A Day Before the Shoot

I reached Pune from Bangalore a day before the shoot had to start. I met Vineetha and the photographer, wherein we discussed each look in brief, that included hairstyle and make-up, and location of the shoot for each saree. We also looked at a few sample pictures of other models for motivation. Vineetha also showed me the beautiful sarees that she had designed before I left.

PS: If it is your first catalog shoot, make yourself comfortable with the designer, and any other person who is involved in the process- photographer, make-up artist, business manager, etc. It reduces the pressure of posing in front of strangers at the time of the shoot.

discussing something during the shoot
During the shoot - while discussing something!

First Day of the Shoot

Nervous and Excited- just like on the day of a school exam!
A day of trying out something completely new, but appealing. I was looking forward to the day because I didn't know what to expect.

We planned to start the shoot by 10 am, so I reached Vineetha's place an hour before that to be able to get ready (dressing-up, make-up, and hair-do) in time.

The weird thing at the time for me was putting a lovely piece of saree and getting adorned with jewelry and make-up (however light they were) early in the morning.

Posing in a red saree
All dressed up early in the morning

And so it began..
I felt a little self-conscious as I walked out all dressed-up in front of the photographer and his team. But since I was now friends with Vineetha and her husband, their presence comforted me a bit.
After a few minutes of testing light, focus, and angle, the photographer started clicking pictures. The discomfort was clearly showing on my face - with the photographer pushing me to get rid of my tensed expressions.

Lost and worried axpressions
I was completely lost at the moment!

The first photo session was a pretty uncomfortable experience, with the photographer instructing me to smile, but smile less, not look directly at the camera, but look somewhere, act thoughtful, but be natural, choose better expressions, pose this way, and again change, and change, and again and smile again!

series of multiple poses
Quick change of poses!

It was all so overwhelming for me in the beginning that it was hard to focus on the shoot and not be stressed.

I was so tensed and worried about not being good enough. I wanted to stop right there and call the whole thing off. But Vineetha, who was blindly relying on me, I did not want to leave her hanging in the air and not fulfill what I promised. I am so glad, Vineetha and her husband were cheering me and just being kind, that I could overcome this feeling.

With each costume taking at least an hour, by the time we finished the first half of the shoot, it was 2:00 pm. It had been almost 4 hours since we were changing, posing, ideating, and clicking. The whole process was very exhausting, but I was now more comfortable in front of the camera and the people around me.

Jumping and smiling pose
Thanks to Vineetha, I was able to jump more freely after multiple attempts!
A candid capture when I was managing my saree
A candid capture when I was managing my saree

If your dress is comfortable, you'll feel more at ease during the shoot. I myself was able to pose freely and express better in the sarees and blouses I was more comfortable wearing.

The second part of the shoot after the lunch-break went more smoothly, although it was a little challenging to get in flow after the meal since I felt more sleepy and tired then.

Sleepy pose
Sleepy head after lunch

By the end of the shoot, we were happy about the success of the first day but too exhausted to have a full-fledged retrospective discussion. So, we relaxed for a bit and then separated.
The day was mentally tiring, although I did not use much of brains apart from listening to everyone and focussing on being confident and posing better. It was physically tiring too because we were standing for the most part of the shoot - quickly rushing and changing.

There were 5 dress changes in a matter of 7 hours! 

Last pose of the day
Last pose of the last saree on the day!

Second Day of the Shoot

Because of the experience that we gained on the day before, we were more light-minded and were able to start the second day a little earlier than the last one. But the challenge that day was modeling in public places.

Posing in a public park
Awkward poses in a public park!

I remember the first video I shot in a park in Bangalore. I was recording the introduction and the conclusion for this video. Even shooting this very basic video in public was a challenge for me. And now here I was, all dressed-up, posing in a public park at 10 in the morning, with a giant camera setup following me.
PS: It was one of the most awkward moments for me!

Posing in a Public Park

Again I gradually got more comfortable with shooting outside and was able to care less about the people passing by. The best part throughout these uncomfortable moments was the support from Vineetha, her husband, and our mutual friend.
The sarees were also more comfortable than the last day, and I could easily dance and jump around these(in short, just be me).

Posing on the footpath by a busy road
Posing on the footpath by a busy road!

Be confident!
Your confidence will reflect in the pictures.

We had planned to shoot pictures in the next saree outdoors as well, and it was funny how we rushed to a mall to quickly change.

Everyone, especially Vineetha, pampered me throughout the shoot - I was assisted for the most basic chores as well, that included carrying items like a phone, or a handbag!

Vineetha, her husband, our common friend, and me in one pictures
From left - Vineetha, her husband, our common friend, and me!

I am not used to people helping me around, and it was difficult for me to fit in a character where even when a Pallu (the loose end of a saree) falls, I'll have someone rushing towards me to correct it.

But mind you, it was not all pampering. It was also following commands and instructions, especially when you are in front of the camera (at least when you are a beginner and a novice).

Laughing and Posing
Vineetha trying to make me laugh and feel lighter!
Phased out pose
Phased out during the shoot- helped me pose better

As the shoot was nearing its end, I was happy to have stayed strong despite many uncomfortable moments. I was glad that I could deliver what I promised.

Last saree of the day!
Last saree of the day!

The pictures came out nice, and Vineetha is doing well in her business.

Now at least I know what it feels like to be a model. It was an unexplored fantasy, and I am glad I gave modeling a try but ultimately decided to not pursue it.

How could you make your first modeling experience better?

Here are a few concluding points that I can share from my personal experience to prepare you for your first assignment.

  • Know what to expect.
  • Be open to suggestions.
  • Get comfortable with the photography team, because they'll be the ones to guide you throughout, about the poses, angles, expressions, etc.
  • Share/exchange your ideas with the team early on, so that you spend less time experimenting and trying, and more time on getting the work done.
  • Stay happy and engage in whatever cheers you up because that will reflect on your face when you are getting clicked.
  • And remember the more comfortable and stress-free you are, the better the whole presentation will be.
Smiling as the sun sets
Kochi in One Day – Top things to do in the Port City

Kochi in One Day – Top things to do in the Port City

Kochi was not a part of my original South India travel itinerary. It was instead an impromptu plan that the volunteers made with the director of Poornodaya Vidyanikethan, Anish, on a Friday evening.

Kochi is most famous for Fort Kochi, the fortification that was built around the city a long time back. You do not see the fort anymore now, but most of the points of interest lie within its plausible boundaries.

You can see most of the city in one day on foot! Amazing right?
So if you are on a tight schedule, this is how you can plan your time to explore Kochi. Read the complete post to know more!

Coimbatore Travel Guide – Top things to do in the city

Coimbatore Travel Guide – Top things to do in the city

The 5th stop of my South India travels was Coimbatore, one of the major cities of Tamil Nadu state. I made a stop here to take a break from a continuous two weeks of travel across tiny villages.
Coimbatore is a big city, and I did not expect a lot from it. But it surprised me with beautiful, majestic views when I drove a little over 10 km from the city center.
Here is a detailed Coimbatore Travel Guide to help you spend your time in the city pleasantly, without worrying about the "big city" noise and pollution.

How to reach Coimbatore?

I took a direct Tamil Nadu state bus from Ooty to Coimbatore that cost me Rs110 for the ticket and 3.5 hours of the bus journey.
If you are not coming from very far, you can take a train or the state/private bus to Coimbatore. You can also take a flight to Coimbatore from any major city.

On my way to Coimbatore

Where to stay in Coimbatore?

I am not a huge fan of hotels, so I decided to stay in a Bed "n" breakfast property.

The place is owned by Mr. Suresh, who found his calling in the hospitality industry. His love for his work was clearly visible from how the property was maintained.
The moment I entered the room allotted to me, I felt at home. The room was well-lit and extremely neat. The bedsheet was covered with another sheet to prevent dust from soiling it. The bathroom had all the essential toiletries.
My room did not come with a kitchen, but there were basic utensils, tea and coffee sachets, and filtered water to get the day started.

If you are also in Coimbatore for a few days and are looking for a homely stay, this place is just perfect.

PS: Mr. Suresh was really helpful in guiding me about Coimbatore's places to visit and food to try.

A clean comfortable double-bed
The rooms comes with a table to work at
View from room

Things to do in Coimbatore

Eat Tamilian food at Annapurna Restaurant

When in Tamil Nadu, try Tamilian!

If you are a food enthusiast and love spicy food, Annapoorna Restaurant's thaali is a must-have. It is one of the oldest restaurants in Coimbatore, serving South Indian meals for more than 50 years.

Enjoy an authentic Tamilian lunch meal at Annapoorna for just Rs 110.

PS: The service is not the most polite, but the place promises good food.

Tamilian meal

Pray at Maruthamalai Hill Temple and enjoy scenic views

Maruthamalai temple is situated on a hillock, around 10 km from Coimbatore city. Lord Murugan of Hindu mythology has the temple dedicated to him.
The temple is supposedly very crowded during peak hours of prayers. Luckily, when I visited the temple, there weren't many people. I had enough time to look around and appreciate the intricate architecture of the temple. The panoramic views of the city and the hills around are another reason to visit the temple.

PS: The temple was not the cleanest, but if it is for the faith that you are visiting it, this should not matter much.

On the way to the temple
Nestled between the hills, is the Maruthamalai temple

Visit the magnificent Adiyogi statue at the Isha Yoga Center

With a backdrop of the hills, the Adiyogi Shiva statue looks so mesmerizing that it is so difficult to take your eyes off it. It is the world's largest bust sculpture, and will surely leave you spellbound.

In addition to the Adiyogi statue, you can also pay a visit to the other parts of the Isha Yoga center, including the Dhyanalinga and Theerthakunds.

PS: You can rent a vehicle or take a bus to the Isha Yoga Center. It is only 30 km from Coimbatore city.

There are many more places that you can explore if you are in the city for a longer time. Ooty is just a 3-hour drive from Coimbatore. You can visit Kovai Kutralam waterfalls on your way to the Isha Yoga Center if you have sufficient time.

Indulge into the greens of Kerala – Wayanad in 2 Days

Indulge into the greens of Kerala – Wayanad in 2 Days

If you are from India or a tourist in India, a place that you would never want to miss apart from the chilly mountains, is the God's Own Land, Kerala. And so like many others, Kerala had been in my "must-visits" since a very long time. After a few years of failed plans, I was finally visiting this beautiful green land of India.
The first city I visited in Kerala was Wayanad, and I instantly fell in love with its endless greens.
Here is a detailed itinerary to help you plan your trip and cover the beautiful places of Wayanad in 2 days.

How to reach Wayanad?

If you have read my preceding posts about my trip to Mysore, and Coorg, you would know that I was in Coorg before I visited Wayanad.

From Coorg/Mysore:

There is no direct bus that goes from Coorg to Wayanad. So, I planned to go to Mysore first, spend a night there, and then take a bus from Mysore to Wayanad.
Regular KSRTC buses leave from Mysore to Wayanad. It takes around 4 hours by road to reach Wayanad from Mysore, and the general KSRTC bus ticket costs just Rs 140.

From Bangalore:

Many KSRTC and private buses go from Bangalore to Wayanad that take around 7 hours to reach.

From anywhere else:

If you are coming from far away, you can either take a flight to Bangalore and Mysore and choose the options mentioned above.

And finally, you can always rent a two-wheeler or self-drive car, or hire a cab to reach Wayanad.

Where to stay in Wayanad?

Wayanad is full of hotels, retreat centers, resorts, hostels, and homestays. I chose a homestay for myself, Kudajadri Drizzle, in Kanyambetta, a village near to the main town of Kalpetta of Wayanad district.
It was the first time I was staying in a homestay, and I could not ask for a better experience.
Kudajadri Drizzle is amidst the greens, and it was great waking up to the chirping of the birds every morning. My room had an attached bathroom, and it gave a feeling of rural lifestyle combined with the comforts of the urban world. The daily home-cooked Kerala food and endless conversations with the family made the overall stay a very comfortable one.

Places to see in Wayanad

You can hire a private taxi, or rent a scooter, or a self-drive car, or take local buses to tour around the city. Most of the viewpoints are within the range of 30 km from the city center, so it is better to either rent a two or a four-wheeler or take a private taxi. This way you can save some time commuting to the viewpoints.

And it goes without saying, the roads are beautiful and some times more intriguing than the actual destination.

Sit by the serene Karlad Lake

Famous amongst the adventure seekers, Karlad Lake was opened to the public some time in the starting of 2016. Apart from the many adventurous activities that the place offer, you can boat in the calm and serene waters of the lake or just sit by its quiet surroundings.
There are a few paid parking spots just outside the lake entrance, and also a few restaurants by them.

Visit Asia's second-largest dam, Banasura Dam

Apart from being Asia's second-largest dam, Banasura dam also had India's largest floating solar power plant. Located around 3 km from Karlad lake, you can visit both of the places in one day.
With magnificent views of the water, Banasura Dam is a perfect place to adore the vast greens and blues of Kerala.
It was raining when I visited the dam, so the views though beautiful, were quite misty.

Enjoy the magical greens of Kerala from Phantom Rock viewpoint

This was a completely unplanned stop that I made on my way to Eddakal caves (another commonly visited tourist point).
As I mentioned before that the roads and the scenic views on the way to your destination might grab your attention, and you could have one of the best experiences of your trip. My stop at Phantom rock viewpoint was one such example.
I was driving by when I saw a beautiful turquoise color water body that was so enchanting that I couldn't resist stopping by. While I was enjoying the view when the owner of a restaurant opposite to where I had parked, signaled me to go further and climb up a few rocks, to maybe get a better view. I followed his instructions, and I was welcomed by the most mesmerizing views I had seen so far during my whole trip.
There was not a single person on the trail and at the viewpoint, and I had the whole place to myself.

PS: It was on my way down, that I realized it was the Phantom rock viewpoint.

Walk back into the pre-historic times at Edakkal caves

I skipped Eddakal caves, because at the time I had not researched the place thoroughly, and didn't know what it was famous for. Assuming that it will also have a similar valley view as was from the Phantom Rock viewpoint, I decided to skip my visit to Edakkal caves altogether.
But when I saw pictures of the caves later, I regretted not visiting it. Edakkal caves have ancient scriptures and carvings of the pre-historic time, which make them all the more interesting apart from the scenic views.

Visit the ancient Sultan Bathery Jain Temple

Sultan Bathery Jain temple dates back to 13th century. It served both as a religious site as well as a place where Tipu Sultan kept his armory (or battery) when he invaded Kerala. And this is where the town got its name from, Sultan's Battery (Sultan Bathery). The temple is now a protected site under the Archaeological Survey of India, but you can still visit it inside and see the old temple ruins and statues of Jain Tirthankaras.

Hike to the highest peak of Wayanad district, Chembra Peak

Famous for the heart-shaped lake that you see on your way up to the peak, the climb up to the Chembra Peak is very scenic, surrounded by lush green tea plantations.
You need prior permission from the forest department for this trek. During monsoon, the hike to the top of the peak is forbidden, so do a little bit of research before you make your plans.
And as for the heart-shaped lake, I saw one on my way to Banasura dam. So if you are most excited about just that lake, you can skip hiking to Chembra peak.
I could not visit the peak because of lack of time and the required permissions, but I am sure the hike and the views from the top are gorgeous.

Crazy greens, cozy homestay, lovely hosts, and scenic views - my experience in Wayanad was full of it.

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…

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 ūüėÖ
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…

2 Days in Chopta – Explore the Unspoiled Land of Uttrakhand

2 Days in Chopta – Explore the Unspoiled Land of Uttrakhand

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

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

How to reach Chopta?

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

Use this link to book your self-driving car

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

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

Where to stay in Chopta?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best part about staying in Chopta

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

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

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

Things to do in Chopta

Day 1

Tunganath Trek

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

My Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 2

Deoria Tal

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The intricate architecture of Vienna is so intoxicating that you can spend hours just staring at the artistic marvels in the city. But that's not it, Vienna also boasts of baroque styled gardens and parks visited by tourists and locals alike.
I spent two days in Vienna walking around and exploring the free gems of the city. Here is a day-wise itinerary of things that you can also do for free in Vienna.

Day 1

Relax in Burggarten

Close to city center but away from the touristy crowd

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

Walk around the old city

Hofburg

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

Albertina

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

Free entry to the museum with a Vienna Pass.

Judenplatz

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

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

Day 2

Admire the grand Schonnbrunn Gardens

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

Visit the very interesting Naschmarkt

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

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

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

Watch Sunset over Danube river

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

Traveling to Salzburg – Free things to do in the city

Traveling to Salzburg – Free things to do in the city

Salzburg - a heaven on earth.

Salzburg is famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and for the filming of the movie, Sound of Music, but there's so much more than that, that you can see and do for free in the city.
Having spent 3 days in Munich, one of the expensive cities, I was a little reluctant to spend more immediately and wanted to keep my budget in check.

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

Travel experience is all about the choices you make!!

Stay at YoHo Hostel

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

PS: You get a free welcome shot of Apfelstrudel!

Apfelstrudel shot in YoHo Hostel, Salzburg, Austria
Apfelstrudel shot

Day 1

Visit an Alpine Salt Mine

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Hohensalzburg Fortress and the surrounding gardens

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

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

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

Enjoy open-air Opera performance on a big screen

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

opera screening in Salzburg Austria

Day 2

Walk around Old Town Salzburg

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

Visit Mirabell Palace and it's gardens - FREE Tour

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

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

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

As you continue to explore the city

  • Dine in cozy cafes of Salzburg!!
  • Visit the weekly local market held every Thursday right opposite Mirabell Palace
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My Favorite 5 Restaurants in Gurgaon

My Favorite 5 Restaurants in Gurgaon

In the last few years, Gurgaon has become a big technical hub employing lakhs of people each year. With most of the jobs demanding a lot of work and time, it is very natural for so many restaurants and cafes to open up in the city to keep it a little light-hearted. Not only that, with the start-up culture growing so much, many cafes are opening up to solve the purpose of a freelancer's working space.
I worked in Gurgaon for a year and a half and for sure I needed a break on weekends to go out, sit and relax in a cozy cafe, or to a new restaurant that has just opened up or to try out different cuisine.
Below are my five personal favorites that solve the purpose of good food and cozy ambiance.

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

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

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

Yum Yum Cha - Cyber Hub

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

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

Delhicacy - Galleria, DLF Phase 4

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

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

Ciclo Cafe - Sector 29

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

The whole experience becomes better if the service is good.

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