27

C – CREEK – The Heart of Dubai

Creek – The Heart of Dubai #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

Human history has been marked with pieces of evidence that suggest that early civilizations and settlements flourished usually around a natural water body. The great Nile River was the backbone of the Egyptian civilization and Indus valley civilization made River Indus its lifeline.

In this case – Dubai Creek is the ‘Heart of Dubai’. Also known as ‘Khor Dubai’ it is currently a saltwater creek, an inlet from the Persian Gulf, which has been modified continuously during the course of the past century.

History

In the early 19th century a section of the Bani Yas tribe first settled around the creek and established the ‘Al Maktoum’ dynasty. In that era, the creek divided the city into two major regions Bur Dubai and Deira. Long before oil was discovered in the region, the pearling industry along with fishing formed the major part of the economy, because of its warm and shallow water, which is conducive for a variety of marine life.

Due to shallowness only small wooden boats – dhows could navigate in the region and that lead to the development of the modern creek in 1955, which involved dredging shallow areas, the building of breakwaters, and developing its beach to become a quay suitable for loading and unloading of cargo. It has been undergoing constant modernization since then.

Being an entry point to this part of the world and a major hub of trade and commerce in that era – it still holds on to that old rustic charm of Arabian origin. Dubai Creek has stark contrast during the day and night. The day seems to highlight the ancient glory while the night reflects the transformation. It is the perfect representation of what real Dubai is – a simple Bedouin way of life.

Fun things to do at the Creek:

On both sides of the Creek, there are heritage buildings, narrow-lane markets, and important museums. The Dubai Museum is the old clay fort of the then ruler which is now transformed into a museum – gives a picturesque account of what hardships life threw at them in the beginning. It was built in 1787 and it is believed to be the oldest existing building in Dubai.

When mom agreed to pose for me 🙂

If you are an admirer of historical locations than you can also visit the Al Bastakiya District and Heritage Village along with the Dubai Museum.

The old-style markets of Bur Dubai and Deira are perfect for shopping perfumes, gold jewelry, spices, and leather goods. Experience the aroma of spices and perfumes in the sea breeze while enjoying the sunset in the evening.

Take an Abra, a small wooden boat and cross from one side of the creek to another side paying only AED 1. (Yeah you read it right).

For Indians, during festivals like Diwali, one can enjoy the fireworks at the Creek. There is also a small temple and a gurudwara on the Bur Dubai side. If you are a ‘Chat’ lover then don’t miss ‘Puranmal sweets’ in Meena Bazaar in Bur Dubai.

The Dhow Cruise

One can also go for a more immersive experience of a Dhow Cruise – traditional wooden large boats that have been used in the Middle East for centuries. They will take you on a tour of the creek, which would last about 2 hours at a nominal cost starting from AED 79. You’ll pass the Clock Tower, the Al Maktoum Bridge, the Deira Twin Towers, the Grand Mosque Souq, and many other landmarks. Enjoy the traditional Tanura shows and horse shows on board while having an international buffet on your Dubai Creek Dhow Cruise.

Al Seef Dubai

Part of the transformation is silver lined by ‘Al Seef Dubai’. It is a perfect marriage of Dubai’s cultural heart and its contemporary opulence. It is making a mark in the heritage district by covering 1.8 km of Creek’s shoreline. It has two segments – one highlighting the heritage area and the other one with the architecture of modern design. Expensive restaurants, renowned brands, topline retail outlets, lounges, and modern wooden decks make up a major part of Al Seef. It is a perfect tribute celebrating the legacy and inheritance and the vision for the future.

How to Reach

It has awesome connectivity to every part of Dubai using every mode of transport possible. It is a five-minute walk from the Al-Fahidi and Burjuman metro stations. A taxi is only a ‘hawk’ away and Abras plying to-and-fro from Bur Dubai and Deira.

The Dubai Creek is a mystical place where you witness the pastoral past while standing in a dream-like future truly making it the ‘Heart of Dubai’.

For all those who have been to the creek,

For all those who love the Abras,

For all those who enjoy the dhow cruises,

And

For all those who are in love with the Creek…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the Third post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Travel Category is ‘Dubai – the City of Gold’, where I would be covering everything about the city in the course of 26 posts.

C – CREEK – The Heart of Dubai

Read the Previous post here:

A – Arrival in Dubai

B – Burj Khalifa

Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with letter ‘C’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’. If you are keen on following key issues pertaining to the upcoming General Elections head over to the Politics Theme and share your feedback.

Advertisements
10

B – Burj Khalifa

B – Burj Khalifa #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

The moment you land in the ‘Vegas of the Middle East’ you are surely going to be left spellbound by the spectacle known as ‘Burj Khalifa’. Dubai is known as the ‘City of gold’ for many reasons and one of them is their opulence. There isn’t a superior example of this extravagance in the entire world than the ‘Tallest building in the world – Burj Khalifa.’

About the building:

It is 829.8 m high with more than 160 stories. Built at a whopping $1.5bn its construction started in January 2004 and was officially opened in January 2010. Adrian Smith, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, whose firm designed the Willis Tower and One World Trade Center, designed Burj Khalifa. The design of the building, if viewed from the top, resembles a ‘Hymenocallis or Spider Lily’ flower – a regional desert flower.

The observatory deck of the building is located at a height of 1483 feet or 452.1 meters. Burj Khalifa boasts 2957 parking spaces, 304 hotels, and 900 apartments.

The story around its naming:

There is a very interesting story around the naming of Burj Khalifa. It was either going to be named ‘Al Burj’ or ‘Burj Dubai’ when the construction started. In 2004 when the construction began the real estate market was at its boom but unfortunately for Dubai, the markets crashed followed by a global slowdown during 2008-09. Dubai fast vent into severe debts. It was their sister emirate of Abu Dhabi that extended their support and pledged to bail Dubai out of this. As a mark of respect (as they say), it was named after the head of UAE and the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan and hence the name ‘Burj Khalifa.’

How to reach:

The main building is in an area known as Dubai Downtown, which is built around the Burj, keeping it at its center. For one to reach the base of the building they need to go to the Dubai Mall and then follow directions to reach the building. If you just want to catch a glimpse of the building then the place where the fountain is there in Dubai Mall, that is the best place to view its might and it is free too.

You can also have a panoramic view of the city from their observatory deck, which is on the 124th floor. You need to pay a price to go up there. It is around 140 AED if you book online in advance, otherwise, you can always walk up to the counters and pay a nominal price of around 400 AED to get the highest view in the world.

If you want to spend some more you can choose the ‘At the Top – Burj Khalifa Sky’ package where you can enjoy the hospitalities of the Sky lounge at level 148.

If you can make the arrangements and if and only if you manage to get inside the Dubai Mall, there is no better way to celebrate your New Year’s Eve than witnessing the fireworks at Burj Khalifa.

World Records:

  • Tallest building in the world.
  • Tallest free-standing structure in the world.
  • Highest number of stories in the world.
  • Highest occupied floor in the world.
  • Highest outdoor observation deck in the world.
  • Elevator with the longest travel distance in the world.
  • Tallest service elevator in the world.

Some astounding facts:

It’s three times as tall as the Eiffel Tower and nearly twice as tall as the Empire State Building.

The tip of the tower is visible from as far as 80 km that means wherever you are in Dubai – the Khalifa is never out of your sight.

It is heavy…really heavy – the weight of the concrete is equivalent to 100,000 elephants.

The Burj Khalifa elevator speed is 10 meters per second and it hardly takes a minute to reach the observatory deck on the 124th floor.

At the peak of construction, 12,000 workers worked on the building per day.

If you thought that this is splurging at its best, wait till the tower in Saudi Arabia is completed. It is tipped to surpass Burj Khalifa and claim the number one spot in the tallest building of the world.

If you are still not shocked with that, Emaar properties have already announced and even showcased the prototype that they will come with an even taller tower. They are just waiting for Saudi to complete its tower and declare its final height.

Whatever the critics might say, it is a modern marvel of the world and placed Dubai right at the top of the world. It is definitely a worthy experience irrespective of what it costs. Don’t miss it.

For all those who love tall buildings,

For all those who enjoy the luxury,

For all those who like the wonders of the world,

And

For all those who love Burj Khalifa…

It’s not a goodbye

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the second post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Travel Category is ‘Dubai – the City of Gold’, where I would be covering everything about the city in the course of 26 posts.

B – Burj Khalifa

Read the Previous post here:

A – Arrival in Dubai

Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with letter ‘C’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’. If you are keen on following key issues pertaining to the upcoming General Elections head over to the Politics Theme and share your feedback.

38

A – Arriving in Dubai

A – Arriving in Dubai #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

The first thing I got to hear when I told my relatives that I would be going to Dubai for a year was, “Ohh! You are going to Saudia or Saudi.”

Let me begin with this. It is a general misconception in our part of the world that Dubai is in Saudi Arabia or going to any gulf country is like going to Saudi. The people are a little apprehensive about traveling to the Gulf given the strict nature of their customs and rules.

Well, Dubai is the extreme opposite of that and to be clear it is not a country either. It is an Emirate and a part of the United Arab Emirates. Dubai is most cosmopolitan in nature in the Middle East – about 85-88% of the population is expats. I may be going overboard but Dubai is like the Vegas of the Gulf.

Dubai International Airport

Dubai international airport is the busiest airport in the world for international travel for the past two consecutive years. There are currently three Terminals operational with Terminal 3 being exclusive to the Emirates Airlines. It is also the largest airport terminal in the world. There is an even bigger airport coming up soon known as the Al Maktoum International Airport. You can also choose to fly to Abu Dhabi and Sharjah depending on the flight you select. Each of them is only about 90 mins drive from Dubai.

There is a lot you can do even if you are traveling with a transit visa and only have a few hours to spend at the Dubai International Airport. The airport has a Zen garden, innumerous retail shops, and amazing lounges with spas. There is even a ‘snoozecube’ in terminal 1, where you can take a nap in their soundproof cabins. The airport has a five-star hotel and one can check in without exiting the premises.

Things to keep in mind before arriving in Dubai:

Climate: Apart from its towering skyscrapers Dubai is often associated with hot temperature. Best time to visit is October to March – during summers it can get really hot but it is one of those cities where it is mandatory to keep every place air-conditioned. Even the bus stops on the roads are glass covered and air-conditioned. So if you aren’t an extreme outdoor person – the summers won’t harm you that much.

Medicines: I personally didn’t find much information on this online but telling you from my experience. If you are carrying any medicine please keep a prescription for all the medicines. Not all the medicines are allowed and considered safe which might otherwise be in your country. If you are caught during checking it can cause a lot of trouble.

Respect their culture and views: Dubai being officially an Islamic city has its share of customs and cultures. All I can advice is, please be respectful of that. It is the least conservative of all the places in Gulf. If you traveling during Ramadan, be polite in your habits. Most of the restaurants are either closed or covered during daylight hours. Avoid PDA in public places and don’t take snaps of locals without their permission.

Clothes: Pack according to the weather. It will hardly rain in Dubai but during the winters it can get chilly and windy in the nights. You can swim in bikinis and walk in shorts but do cover up one you are in places where it is clearly mentioned. Dress modestly.

Avoid flouting rules: If a city has to maintain its superlative standards it has to be governed by strict rules. There are strict traffic rules, especially for the expats. You can be severely fined for jaywalking.

Safety: With stern policies and law, comes greater safety. It is among one of the safest places. Even if there is unrest in that part of the world UAE is considered one of the safest countries.

Alcohol and Food: Contrary to the assumption, Dubai is not a dry city. Having said that you need to procure a license if you want to purchase liquor and take home. Though there is no restriction on pubs and bars. The city offers a wide variety of places to dine and drink, offering every possible cuisine in the world, depending on your class and taste.

Travel: The city has a pretty efficient public transport system with metros, taxis, and buses. The metros and buses can be boarded with the same card but taxis are the best way to move around the city. You will find one at any hour of the day. It might seem expensive compared to the other options but it is one of the cheapest if compared globally.

Weekend: Important thing to keep in mind when you are planning your trip to Dubai that the weekend is Friday and Saturday. Sunday to Thursday is their weekdays.

Mecca of Shopping: Dubai is the home to many of the biggest shopping festivals. Do try to visit during any one of them and you surely won’t be disappointed. From January to February it hosts its biggest festival – DSF – Dubai Shopping Festival.

Visa, Flights and Stay: Get your visas done in Advances. For an Indian, a regular visit visa for 30 days would be done in 4-5 business days. Be careful about the visa – if you overstay in any manner then there are hefty penalties. Please book the flights in advance if you are traveling during the festival season or around the New Year. Similarly for the Hotels; if you traveling around the New Year’s Eve you will literally have a lot of difficulty in finding a place to stay. Hence plan in advance.

Though Dubai is home to many of the biggest and largest things in the world, the biggest delusion is one need to be super rich to visit Dubai – it isn’t like that. Everyone can find things depending on your budget.

To be honest, if you aren’t disturbing, troubling or interfering with anyone – Dubai is a fantastic cool fun place to be in. It totally depends on what kind of traveler you are and what all you want to visit and focus on. The best part is Dubai will definitely have something of interest for every kind of traveler.

For all those participating in AtoZ,

For all those who love shopping,

For all those who love travel,

And

For all those who love Dubai…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the first post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Travel Category is ‘Dubai – the City of Gold’, where I would be covering everything about the city in the course of 26 posts.

A – Arriving in Dubai

Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with letter ‘B’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme – ‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’. If you are keen on following key issues pertaining to the upcoming General Elections head over to the Politics Theme and share your feedback.

4

#AtoZChallenge 2019 – Theme Reveal #BlogchatterA2Z

#AtoZChallenge 2019 – Theme Reveal #BlogchatterA2Z

The month April gets its name from the Greek Goddess of love, Aphrodite. The Roman calendar also spells it as ‘Aprilis’, which means ‘to open.’ People in Northern Hemisphere usually associate April with spring, which suits it perfectly as it is the season when new flowers and plants bloom. I, being the Joker, associate it with fun since it begins with the April Fool’s Day.

The blogging community for the past decade celebrates it for the A to Z Challenge. This year celebrating its 10th anniversary, it is a global blogging challenge scheduled for the month of April.

About the Challenge

One is supposed to post on each and every day of April, except Sundays i.e. 26 posts for 26 days. Each post should have a title highlighting the alphabets from A to Z. For example post 1 should have ‘A’ as its hero, post 2 should have ‘B’ as its hero and so on. There are no strict rules how you want to use the word in the title – it can be anything, from a name to a place…from a noun to a verb. Everything is fine until the Alphabet compliments the day and is in continuous order.

Blogchatter has soon become the home of all the major blogging campaigns and challenges in India. A to Z Challenge, in India, is also orchestrated primarily by them. These challenges and campaigns are a perfect way to explore, meet and build on your reading fraternity. It, not only, exposes you to the community but helps you build an international audience too. I got associated with them last year during the Blogchatter Ebook carnival and since then have participated in most of their online events.

These carnivals have definitely increased my reader base, along with improving my Alexa rank dramatically. It has egged me on to be more consistent in writing and form newer bonds, which contribute in so many ways.

I want to keep it short and head straight to the Challenge.

So finally, going to reveal my theme. Ohh! I wish I could have some background music.

I guess I am the last person who would be unveiling his theme for the #AtoZChallenge. Nonetheless, would be still giving it my best shot. Do remember this is my first attempt at the A to Z Challenge.

I have decided to go ahead with not one but two themes. Yeah! You read it right. I am going ahead with two themes. Considering this is my first attempt at the A to Z Challenge, I might be overestimating.

I believe the Joker just needed this sort of push to spread its Jokerophilia and create its own CirqueDuJoker.

The THEME

The themes are:- Travel and Politics.

Why these themes:

I was confused till today morning with which one I should go ahead. I even did a small poll with my friends and got blurring replies. Hence, finally decided to go ahead with both of them. (At least will be able to come up with one post 😉 )

For Travel theme: I choose ‘Dubai – the city of Gold’ as the location I would be posting about. It is only place apart from India that I have stayed for a year and have visited it most number of times.

For Politics theme: IPL is on and just like before the 2014 General Elections of India I think it would be appropriate if I will be able to contribute my bit before the 2019 General Elections. For me; IPL carries two meanings – Indian Premier League and Indian Parliamentary League.

Do let me know what you think about my themes?

Now, all I need is support and encouragement from you all so that I can successfully survive the #AtoZchallenge. Keep me in your prayers 🙂

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

 

 

35

The Land of Thunderbolt – Darjeeling

After spending a complete weekend in Kolkata, I still wasn’t satisfied and wanted to explore more of the region. Since childhood, I have been hearing stories of friends visiting the hills of ‘Darjeeling’ during the summer vacations. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to explore it since I was already in West Bengal.

I enquired for the tickets and was fortunate enough to procure a confirmed ticket in Shatabdi that runs from Howrah railway station to New Jalpaiguri railway station. To reach Darjeeling via train one needs to travel to the twin cities of Siliguri and Jalpaiguri. New Jalpaiguri is like the gateway to the North Eastern states and is the railway station where the maximum amount of trains passes. I reached around 10:30 pm.

Things to note when you are exploring that part of the country. Their day starts early around 4 am and invariably ends by 8:30 pm.

Climbing the Tenzing Rock

HISTORY

Darjeeling has a turbulent history. It would require a separate post if we completely want to indulge in the history of Darjeeling. All I can see, keeping it brief, that for long Darjeeling was a part of the Sikkim Kingdom. It also became a part of Nepal as well as Bhutan for short periods during the British Era before finally becoming a part of the current state of West Bengal. It has seen its share of violence and war as well which keeps simmering every now and then for various reasons.

ABOUT THE CITY

Darjeeling is known as the ‘Land of Thunderbolt’. It gets its name from the Tibetan words ‘Dorje’, which is the thunderbolt scepter of the Hindu deity Indra, and ling, which means ‘a place’ or ‘land’.

The nearest airport is Bagdogra airport, which is about 15 km from Siliguri. From there one can take a shared taxi to Darjeeling directly or can come down till Darjeeling More, Siliguri and board the same.

Engine of the Heritage Toy Train

To reach Darjeeling one can take the scenic and iconic Unesco world heritage Darjeeling Toy Train, but please make sure that you have got the tickets in advance because of the limited availability. It is also the most expensive option to reach Darjeeling unless you are hiring a private taxi only for yourself.

The best option is to take a shared taxi usually a Tata Sumo from the ‘Darjeeling more’. It will cost you only Rs. 150 (updated May 2018) and will take about three hours to Darjeeling.

It was late in the night by the time I de-boarded the train. I decided to spend the night in Siliguri and then leave for Darjeeling the next morning.

Note: Finding public transport in the night in New Jalpaiguri is pretty difficult. It is best advisable to ask the hotel to arrange a pickup. I wasn’t that lucky, hence I took a shared e-rick, which will charge as much as they want.

The Peace Pagoda

The next morning after breakfast I left for Darjeeling by taking a shared taxi. Just like Kolkata, Darjeeling too greeted me with rain. From the drop off point, I walked in the rain for about 1 km before I finally got a decent option to stay at a reasonable price. It was only 10 mins walking distance from Mall Road as well as the city center.

It was past lunchtime and I inquired at the hotel reception what all places I can cover now. The receptionist informed me that all the shared taxi options had left for the day and it was best that I would either take a personal cab or rent a bike. Given the hilly terrain and the rain, I went with a personal cab.

TOP ATTRACTIONS

The driver was a young boy in his teens and was very friendly. He said if I cover the places without wasting much time he could take me to 3-4 places before the sunset.

I started with the Darjeeling Zoo.

Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park

An impatient Bear at the zoo

The Darjeeling Zoo is a unique zoo. It is also known as Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park named after the daughter of Sarojini Naidu. The zoo is known internationally for its breeding and conservation programs and also includes an off-display breeding center for snow leopards and red pandas.

Must-See: Siberian Tiger, Red pandas, Himalayan bears, clouded leopards, and Tibetan wolves.

Opening hours: 8:30 am to 4 pm

Entry fee: INR 20 for domestic and INR 50 for others

Inside the same complex walking further down, there is the famous HMI.

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is recognized as one of the best mountaineering institutes in the world and one of the oldest in the country established in 1954. Anyone who is interested in learning the craft of mountain climbing this is the best place to be in. It has and had some world-renowned faculties like the great Tenzing Norway. There is also a mountaineering museum inside it which is of primary attraction.

Entry Fee: INR 40 for adults, INR 10 for camera

Timings: 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM & 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM, Closed on Tuesdays.

Happy Valley Tea Estate

At Tea Estate

It would be criminal of anyone if they visit Darjeeling and don’t pay a visit to the Happy Valley Tea Estate. It is the second oldest tea estate in over 80 tea estates in Darjeeling. My driver agreed to take good snaps of me on the promise of me purchasing some fresh Darjeeling tea from his sister’s shop. Being a tea lover I couldn’t resist trying a couple of flavors right there.

There is no better feeling than the aroma of tea in the hills, the chilly wind, Kanchenjunga peak in the background and mesmerizing sight as far as one can see.

Timings: March – November: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Entry Fee: No Entry Fee

Guided Tour: INR 100 per person

It was getting dark and we headed in the opposite direction of the city to visit the Buddhist Temple and Peace Pagoda.

View from Summit at Peace Pagoda

Peace Pagoda and Buddhist Temple

No amount of words can describe the amazing soothing and scenic experience of the Peace Pagoda. The pagoda stands as the symbol of spirituality and peace. Peace Pagoda reflects four avatars of Lord Buddha depicted through four statues of Buddha in gold polish and is located adjacent to Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple.

Don’t miss the panoramic view of Darjeeling, the valley, the mountains and Kanchenjunga in the backdrop from the summit.

Opening hours: 4:30 am to 7 pm

Entry fee: Free

The driver dropped me near mall road where I headed for dinner. I went to bed early, as I had to wake up around 4 am to leave for the tiger hill. The hotel at a nominal charge for around Rs 200 can easily arrange the shared taxi.

Tiger Hill

Kanchenjunga from Tiger hill – Image ref – Pixabay

The moment I woke up, my heart sank after noticing the weather. It was already drizzling with dark clouds covering the sky.

Tiger Hill is most famous for its splendid sights of sunrise from where you can see the peaks of Kanchenjunga illuminate before the sun is seen at lower elevations. On a clear day, the entire Himalayan range can be seen. At sunrise, the peaks of Kanchenjunga are illuminated before the sun is seen anywhere else in the city. Do remember to try the super fresh Darjeeling tea, which the hawkers would be selling there at a meager price of Rs 10 each.

Batasia Loop

Center of Batasia Loop

On the way back to the city the driver will take you to Batasia Loop and Ghoom Monastery.

The Batasia Loop is a lush green toy train pathway that is meant to minimize the elevation of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Right at the center of the garden, a War Memorial was created in honor of the Gorkha soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the many wars post-Indian Independence.

Timings: 5:00 AM to 8:00 PM

Entry Fee: INR 15

 

Ghoom Monastery

Inside of Ghoom Monastery

The Yiga Choeling or old Ghoom Monastery is the oldest Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of Darjeeling. Established in 1850 by Lama Sherab Gyatso, this shrine is part of the Yellow Hat sect known as Gelupka who worship the ‘Coming Buddha’ or ‘Maitreya Buddha’. In front of the Maitreya Buddha statue hang two huge oil lamps which keep burning throughout the year.

Do not forget to taste the awesome breakfast, momo, and thukpa just outside the monastery.

Timings: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM Entry Fee: No Entry Fee,

Still camera: INR 10,

Video shot: INR 50

After spending a decent amount of time in the monastery and a wonderful breakfast we headed back to the city.

The sun was out now and I wanted to use the half-day I still had at hand. I decided to visit one of the best picturesque locations in Darjeeling – the Rock Garden.

Rock Garden

At the Rock Garden

The Rock Garden or the Barbotey Garden as its commonly known is located a little far from the city around ~10 km away. It is a man-made rocky garden enriched with flora, waterfalls, and bridges. The pleasing view from the hills provides you with just the thing you were looking for when you planned your trip to Darjeeling. The tea gardens all over the hills, beautiful flower gardens and beautiful waterfalls make the place a heavenly location.

Timings: All days of the week: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM Entry Fee: INR 10 per person for Indians, INR 50 per person for foreign tourists

FOOD and STAY

A bowl of Thenthuk Soup

Darjeeling being a popular hill station there is no shortage of places to stay. There are options available which cater to every class of tourists and travelers.

The Deveka’s Restaurant: Must try their momos and Thukpa. Awesome Tibetian food options.

Kunga Restaurant: It is very close to Deveka’s. The best way to reach both places is to locate the Hotel Lunar board which is visible from a distance. Both the restaurants are just located beneath the board on Gandhi Road. Thenthuk and Bhagthuk soups are a must try. You will fall in love with them.

For all those who love tea,

For all those who love hill stations,

For all those who love toy trains,

And

For all those who love the Land of Thunderbolt…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul.

About #XploreBharat

“Today the #XploreBharatBlogTrain has come to Darjeeling at The Contemplation Of a Joker from Puri -thebloggersdiary.com The next stop of this #XploreBharatBlogTrain is Bangalore – Sirimiri.in

This post is a part of the #XploreBharat Blog Train hosted by
Aditi, Esha, Maheshwaran, PraGun, Preeti, Saba, Sanjota, Sudip, Suhasini, Supriya

And a big shout out to our sponsor for taking this Blog Train experience even further.

KAIV is a personal grooming accessory and appliances brand offering a wide range of world-class products.

FabZania is an upcoming food, travel, entertainment, and lifestyle web portal

25

Hidden Gems of Goa – Vasco da Gama

Hidden Gems of Goa

Almost every year I visit Goa since 2009 but the last trip in December 2018 was unique for me. Instead of partying or vacationing this time I was there for the Goa River Marathon 2018. The start point of the marathon was Chicalim SAG Cricket Ground and hence I decided to stay in Vasco Da Gama. On almost all the previous occasions I have either stayed in Panjim or near the Calangute/Baga beach.

Staying in Vasco da Gama gave a different milieu to the whole trip altogether and I made a promise to myself to explore the lesser-known gems of Goa which the regular tourists and travelers miss.

HISTORY

Goa is famous for its beaches, sun, sand, food and partying. Present day Goa is the smallest state of India by area but it’s history dates back to prehistoric times. The Portuguese who arrived in Goa around 1510 to take control over the spice route has immensely influenced the Goa that we see now. Their reign ended in 1961 long after India got its independence. It got full statehood status in 1987. It was a major trade hub of India because of its location of the Konkan Coast in Western India.

ABOUT THE CITY

Vasco da Gama gets its name from the renowned Portuguese traveler Vasco da Gama. It was founded in 1543 and was ruled by Portuguese till 1961.

On the road on my bike

The city lies on the western tip of the Mormugao peninsula, at the mouth of the Zuari River, about 30 kilometers from Panaji, Goa’s capital, and about 5 kilometers from Dabolim Airport. The Murmugao port remains a busy shipping route and a major port of Independent India. It is also nicely connected via railway network and the Vasco Railway station is the other major station apart from Madgaon railway station.

The climate is a typical tropical hot and humid climate. Personally speaking anytime is a good time to visit Goa but as per the locals the season is usually from October to February as most of the discos and hang out places are closed during peak summers.

It has its share of public transport, which is considerably cheap but might be inconvenient and irregular for a traveler’s liking. If you know how to drive and are a responsible driver then I suggest the best way to explore Goa is by renting a two-wheeler. The price ranges from Rs 300 – 800 per day depending on the bike you choose.

Note: While renting a bike, please be aware of one-ways as cities and towns in Goa are full of it and they are very strict about it. From the vehicle number, they know whether you are a local or traveler and hence become easier to get hold off.

After finishing the marathon I decided to take rest that day and the next day I rented a bike for about Rs. 500 per day to see and explore some hidden places.

I started with Three Kings Chapel.

Three kings chapel

Three Kings Chapel

Three kings chapel is situated in the Cansaulim region in a village called Chandor. It is about 15 km from Margao and about 17 km from Vasco Da Gama. As I was using a rented bike to commute I got to enjoy the scenic route by which you reach the Chapel as it is in an extremely secluded place.

The church was established in 1599 by Fr Gonsalo Carvalo S.J. and is affiliated with St Thomaqs Church, Cansaulim.

The Church also has a haunting tale associated with it. According to the story Goa was once inhabited by three rulers, each of which wanted the complete control of Goa, which wasn’t possible under the Portuguese Diplomacy policy. One of the kings was King Holger Alvunger; he invited the rest two over for a dinner and poisoned them. He couldn’t bear the public outrage that followed and committed suicide. It is believed that the chapel is haunted with their souls.

Haunted or not but it is best advised to visit the chapel during the day time – one it is in a remote location, secondly, because there is an amazing view which is not possible to view in nights.

After returning I decided to rest, as I had to wake up early to witness the sunrise the next day at Hollant Beach.

Hollant Beach

Unfiltered Hollant Beach Sunrise

Goa is the beach capital of India but did you know, this is the only place in the whole of Goa where you can witness a sunrise. It is situated right at the feet of the Western Ghats about 3 km from Vasco da Gama and in close proximity to Bogmalo beach. It’s a lesser-known beach, in fact, it’s a small hidden beach with only locals inhabiting the nearby areas.

It was about 6:30 am when the first rays appeared on the horizon. There was no one in sight on the beach barring a few early morning birds getting ready for their day ahead. Few fishing boats were already lined up the banks but the men were yet to come. It was a surreal experience away from all the hustle and bustle and noise of parties.

The Next stop was the Pilot Point.

Pilot Point Mormugoa Port

Pilot point of the Mormugao Port is situated in the Sada region of Vasco. The point gives you a picturesque view of the Zuari River kissing the Arabian Sea. From here you get a splendid view of the Vasco city as well as the Mormugao harbor. It’s a good place to take selfies or simply just sit beside the road and absorb the relaxing view.

On the same stretch, you need to go further ahead to the top of the Mormugao ridge to reach the Japanese Garden.

Japanese Garden and Sada Beach

View from Top of Japanese Garden

There is another hidden place in the Sada region of Vasco da Gama. It is only about 2 km from the Vasco da Gama railway station and bus station.

The secret here is that to reach the beach you need to go through an old small Japanese Garden that has a trail which leads to the beach through a small jungle followed by a temple. The Mormugao Port Trust maintains the garden and it is enclosed within the ruins of huge walls of Fortaleza Santa Catarina. From the garden, you get a breathtaking view of the sea, the sun, and the beach.

Many people visit the Garden but don’t know how to reach the beach and simply go away. The beach is a perfect place to relax away from all the crowd and noise. Here it is only you…the sea…the waves…the sand…and nature.

The next stop is a real secret place because of the way to reach the Fort.

Mormugao Fort

Mormugoa Fort

Going further ahead from the Japanese Garden there is a huge complex of Marine department. You need to enter that and keep going straight till the end. Once you reach the end you will find a small trail that will lead you to this Fort that is now completely abandoned and in ruins. It has a spooky and an eerie feel to it. Inside the fort there is a small circular tower with a cross-mounted on it. You get another view of the harbor from here.

The light was fading fast and since there was no ‘alive’ soul in sight I decided its best to return.

EAT & SLEEP

Maggi and Pav

Vasco has lots of suitable options to stay in. I won’t advise you to stay in Vasco if your itinerary is all about Calangute, Panjim and the regular Churches but if you want to try out a different flavor staying in Vasco is a good economical choice.

 

Anantashram / City shack – their Goan fish thali is a must try.

Shree Kashi Dairy – Decent fast food options at reasonable prices.

The Temptation – lovely café with a good menu, which opens 24 hours.

Udipi Ujwal Restaurant – good veg Goan options.

Goa is not just about beaches and booze – it has a soul – a very alive one 🙂

Me at Sada Beach

For all those who love to travel Solo,

For all those who love Goa,

For all those who like exploring hidden places

And

For all those who think Goa is much more than just beach and booze,

It’s not a goodbye

But it’s a GOOD BYE

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

 

“Today the #XploreBharatBlogTrain has come to Vasco da Gama at The Contemplation Of a Joker from Chennai – Prernawahi.com The next stop of this #XploreBharatBlogTrain is Jharkhand – shravmusings.com

 

This post is a part of the #XploreBharat Blog Train hosted by
Aditi, Esha, Maheshwaran, PraGun, Preeti, Saba, Sanjota, Sudip, Suhasini, Supriya

And a big shout out to our sponsor for taking this Blog Train experience even further.

KAIV is a personal grooming accessory and appliances brand offering a wide range of world-class products.

FabZania is an upcoming food, travel, entertainment, and lifestyle web portal

55

‘Joy’ of the City of Joy – Kolkata

“Today the #XploreBharatBlogTrain has come to Kolkata at The Contemplation Of a Joker from Hyderabad – Hackytips. The next stop of this #XploreBharatBlogTrain is Manali – Panormic Ripples

One of my closest friends was getting married last year in Deoghar (Jharkhand). He was my batchmate in MBA and over the years we have developed a special bond and hence I had to make the journey to his hometown for the marriage. This was the first time I was traveling to the Eastern part of India. In fact, I have traveled to more than twenty states in India with East being the only exception. This was my perfect opportunity.

Kolkata is just about 4 hours away via a train journey from Deoghar and I had already made up my mind to explore it before I even left for Deoghar. After the ceremonies and rituals of marriage throughout the night, I reached Jasidih station, which is the closest railway station to Deoghar. I wasn’t able to successfully procure a confirmed reservation in the early morning trains to Kolkata hence I decided to purchase a general ticket and board the first going to it.

I reached Kolkata in the afternoon and the weather, for once, was as forecasted. I was greeted by a thunderstorm and it was raining heavily. I checked in a hotel at Park Street as it is centrally located and all the major attractions are more or less equidistant from it.

HISTORY

Victoria Memorial

Kolkata or as it was spelled, Calcutta till 2001 is also referred to as the ‘Cultural capital of India’. Kolkata is celebrated for its cultural heritage, literature, food, festivals, arts, theatre and above all its people. The city is also known as the ‘City of Joy’ because of its seamless amalgamation of food, festivities, and people. French author Dominique Lapierre gave this name after he wrote a novel with the same title. People from every walk of life find their place and space in this jam-packed city.

The British East India Company arrived in Kolkata around 1690 and made it the capital of British India in 1772 till it was replaced by Delhi in 1911. They also constructed the Fort William in 1702 but I was denied the permission to visit it as it is currently under Indian Army jurisdiction.

During the 18th century, it was truly a cosmopolitan city with multiple cultures flourishing here. In fact, the city still has India’s only Chinatown because of Chinese migrants during that era.

ABOUT THE CITY

Kolkata is the third largest city in India with approx. 15 million people after Mumbai and Delhi and is situated on the east coast of India. It is the capital of the state of West Bengal.

The fifth busiest airport in India and with three major railway stations – Kolkata railway station, Howrah Jn and Sealdah railway station, connect it.

Climate: It has a tropical climate and usually hot, wet and extremely humid during summers and comparatively cooler during winters.

Best time to visit: November to February.

Getting around: Kolkata is well connected through public transport. There is a good network of metros, local city buses, local taxis and others like rickshaws and auto rickshaws. Kolkata has upgraded to app-based taxis also – Ola and Uber are operational throughout the city.

The old heritage tram system is still operative but the coverage has come down drastically and it is only there as a tribute to the city. Don’t forget to take any random ‘Tram Ride’ just for the sake of experience. It is considerably cheap. Other striking notable things when it comes to transport are ‘Yellow Taxis’ and ‘Hand-pulled’ rickshaws. Kolkata’s streets are filled with these Ambassador yellow taxis. Most of them have “No Refusal” written on them – to signify no driver can refuse any ride. But be prepared to test your bargaining skills.

As the city is growing and modernizing, the number of yellow taxis is reducing at a faster pace and it is being replaced with an air-conditioned white one with blue stripe; most of which are Maruti Suzuki Dzires.

I didn’t like the concept of hand pulled rickshaw and it reminded me of slavery and hence avoided it completely.

I decided to stay back in the hotel and catch up on some sleep and waited for the thunderstorm to pass. In the evening I took an auto rickshaw to the college street to visit the Indian Coffee House.

TOP ATTRACTIONS

Indian Coffee House

Indian Coffee House

It is an old café with immense heritage attached to it. Also known as College Street Coffee House, this place was one of the locations where a lot of freedom fighters and eminent personalities used to gather before independence. To the credit of Indian Coffee House they have been able to maintain that old rustic charm and if you go by the prices on the menu you will feel they are pre-independence era too. You can get a plate of cutlets and a cup of coffee for a meager sum of Rs. 30. It is crowded by narrow lanes from all sides and is in close vicinity of the Presidency College and the University of Calcutta.

Note: It closes fairly early so make sure to reach there before 6 pm for your tea.

I decided to head back to park street as places start closing early in Kolkata.

The next morning it was already raining by the time I got up. I decided to give up the plan of taking a taxi from one place to another and instead, hired a cab for a full day. I had a lot of places to visit and this would have surely helped in saving time considering the rain too.

I began the day with Victoria Memorial.

Victoria Memorial

Victoria Memorial

The British built the Victoria Memorial in the memory of Queen Victoria and it was completed in 1921. It is made of white marble and currently serves as a museum and houses collection majorly from the colonial period. This is the closest they ever came of Taj Mahal, something they wanted to make in white marble.

Location: Southern end of Maidan along the banks of Hooghly river.

Timings: Closed on Mondays; Tues to Sun – 10 am to 5 pm

The Maidan region of Kolkata is a huge open space under the control of the Army but is open for public for sports and leisure. All around the Maidan, there are prominent monuments that can be covered on foot. The same stretch has Eden Gardens and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral was the first Cathedral built in the overseas territory of British Empire. It is the seat of Diocese of Calcutta and is famous for its Indo Gothic Architecture. It was completed in 1847 and suffered massive damage during the earthquake of 1897. The Cathedral complex has a library and a display of plastic art forms and memorabilia. It gives you a European feel and is a captivating sight the moment you enter the complex.

Location: Southern end of Maidan – walkable from Victoria Memorial

I headed to the Indian Museum, which is about 1.5 kms from St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The Indian museum

The Indian Museum

The Indian Museum is the earliest and largest museum not only in Indian but also in the whole of Asia Pacific region. It was founded in 1814 and has a huge collection of antiques, fossils, ornaments, paintings etc. Make sure you have a complete day if you really want to visit each and every section of the museum. One of the special attractions is a real well-preserved Dinosaur egg.

Location: 27, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Park Street, Kolkata

Timing: Mon-Fri 10AM-6:30PM Sat-Sun 10AM-8PM

I tried to cover as much as possible in the time I had. My driver informed me that Marble palace and Jorasanko Thakur Bari are close to each other and they were our next stops.

Jorasanko Thakur Bari

It is the ancestral home of first non-European Nobel laureate Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore. Thakur Bari is the Bengali name for ‘House of Thakurs’. It is now converted into a museum and depicts all the important events of Gurudev’s life. The more you explore the more you realize that their whole family was full of intellectuals and creative people. The house even has a separate segment where it highlights Tagore’s deep connection with the Japanese.

Location: Rabindra Bharti university campus, Jorasanko.

Timings: 10:30 am to 4:30 pm – Monday closed.

Marble palace

Marble palace and Thakur Bari are only 400 meters apart. Raja Rajendra Mullick, a rich Bengali merchant, built it in 1835. It is like a palace and is also made up of white marble and hence the name. The decedents of the family still occupy a portion of the palace while the rest is open for the public as a museum. There is a catch while visiting the Marble Palace. It requires a special permit issued by tourist bureau and photography is strictly prohibited even from the outside. I didn’t have the permit but was able to work my way around by having a word the guards. Though it is highly unadvisable to do so.

Location: 46, Opp Ram Mandir, Muktaram Babu Street, Jorasanko.

Timings: 10 am to 4 pm – Monday & Thursday closed.

My next stop was Dakshineshwar Kali temple.

Dakshineshwar Kali Temple

Dakshineshwar Kali Temple

Rani Rashmoni founded it on 31st May 1855. It is one of the most famous and largest temples in Kolkata and is built in the Navaratna style of architecture. It is believed that the famous religious thinker Rama Krishna Paramhamsa attained spiritual vision here. The Ramakrishna mission takes care of all the operations of the temple. After the darshan, I strolled down to the ghat. It was a mesmerizing sight of the bridge, lights and the calm river.

Location: Dakshineshwar – It is situated on the Eastern bank of Hoogly River about 20 kms from city center alongside the Vivekanand Bridge.

Timings: It is separate for summers and winters and opens twice a day. Do check before going.

Speaking of Ramakrishna mission my next stop was Belur Math.

Belur Math

Belur Math

Belur Math is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna mission and math founded by Swami Vivekanand in 1897. There is a temple in the center of the math surrounded by lots of trees and gardens. It is about 4.5 kms from Dakshineshwar Kali Temple is on the Howrah side of the twin cities. You can reach there by crossing the Vivekanand Bridge.

Location: Belur, Howrah.

Timings: Separate timings for Summers and winters; opens twice a day and closes early.

It started getting late and for my last stop, I headed to the Kalighat Kali Temple passing the Howrah Bridge.

Howrah Bridge

The moment you think of Kolkata the first that comes to mind is of Howrah Bridge. This is the most iconic feature on Kolkata’s landscape. It connects the twin cities of Howrah and Kolkata and is built on Hoogly River. In 1965 it was renamed Rabindra Setu. The traffic isn’t allowed to halt on the bridge that makes it really difficult for a view and take photographs. I will forever be in debt of my driver that he took me to a spot from where I could get a full view of the Bridge.

Kalighat Kali Temple

Kalighat Kali Temple

Kalighat Temple is the older of the two famous Kali temples in Kolkata. It is one of the 51 ‘Shakti Peethas’. It is of more historical importance than the other temples in Kolkata but currently, the locale around it has become overcrowded. Be prepared to be surrounded by pundits and shopkeepers who will swarm upon you for getting some or the other puja is done for you at some expensive price.

Location: Kalighat

Timings: 5:00 am to 2:00 pm & 5:00 pm to 10:30 pm

Mullik Ghat Flower Market – Ref – TheWrongShot

Other noteworthy places to visit, which I wasn’t able to cover, are:

Mother Teresa home – The home of Mother Teresa – the tomb of Mother Teresa is also kept there.

Kumartuli – it is famous for sculpting clay idols for festivals. It is particularly a great sight during the Durga Puja days.

South Park Cemetery – visiting a cemetery isn’t a normal thing but it is famous for its colonial history

Old Chinatown – famous for its Chinese breakfast and other oriental cuisines.

Mullik Ghat Flower Market – for its colorful array of flowers at the display.

FOOD & STAY

Food is an equally significant part of Kolkata’s heritage dominated predominantly by Bengali cuisines. Bengali sweets are a must try – Rosogulla, Sandesh and Mishti Doi. Do try their peculiar Biryani, which is cooked with a whole potato in the middle of it. Baked Rosogulla is the latest craze and I found it absolutely amazing, as Gulab Jamun is my favorite sweet delicacy.

I can personally vouch for these places:

Balaram Mullick – for baked rosogulla and other Bengali sweets.

6 Ballygunge Place – a chain of restaurants for authentic Bengali cuisine.

Bhojohari Manna – typical Bengali meal but at a nominal cost.

Arsalan Restaurant and Shiraz Golden on Park street for non-veg.

Kolkata has no shortage of places to stay – you can choose as per your needs. But if you want to cover most parts then Park Street is the best centrally located region. It has good restaurants as well as nightlife options with awesome connectivity.

TO SHOP

New Market

New Market – ironically it is one of the oldest markets in Kolkata, built by the British in 1874. If you are good at bargaining then this is your heaven. It is closed on Sundays if you are travelling on weekends to Kolkata.

Garihat Market – It is another paradise for shopaholics. The street market is full of options. Wherever I travel I make it a point to buy a saree for my mother. The market is famous for its ‘Tant’ saree, a traditional Bengali saree and ‘Sakha Paula’ – the handsomely crafted shell and coral bangles usually worn as a combination of red and white.

Kolkata has very aptly played its part in the history of India and no Saga of India’s heritage is complete without Kolkata featuring in it.

For all those who love traveling,

For all those who love Bengali sweets,

For all those who love Kolkata

And

For all those who find the ‘Joy’ in the city of joy…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

About #XploreBharat

This post is a part of the #XploreBharat Blog Train hosted by
Aditi, Esha, Maheshwaran, PraGun, Preeti, Saba, Sanjota, Sudip, Suhasini, Supriya

And a big shout out to our sponsor for taking this Blog Train experience even further.

KAIV is a personal grooming accessory and appliances brand offering a wide range of world-class products.

FabZania is an upcoming food, travel, entertainment, and lifestyle web portal