6

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

Advertisements
52

‘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

13

A Date to Remember – #TheBlindDate #SayYesToTheWorld

Every day that you live is a blind date with the world. You never know what will come tomorrow. All you can do is live each of them to the fullest. I might not be forever around but whenever you will go out and see the world just remember in all those places that I visited I left a part of me for you to find it and make it your own. Every time you visit a new place It’s like a blind date. Be a traveler and not a tourist. Make a Bucket List, Travel to Explore…Meet people…Speak to them…Live the culture…Eat their food…Celebrate their festivals…Hear their stories…Trust your instincts and the world will be your home and while you are there become one of them. Go and live your passion and #SayYesToTheWorld.

I reminded myself of these words from my father, as I was about to board the flight to a location in Southeast Asia.

It was a pleasant morning and the sky was bright and clear with some scattered white clouds losing their way to home. I thought of taking a nap instead of watching reruns of the pre-installed TV programs and movies as a part of the in-flight entertainment system.

About 30 minutes into the air, the flight started shaking. For a moment or two, I thought this was regular turbulence. But it started to get worse and felt terrible. By my calculations, we should have been over the Indian Ocean. I looked outside the small airline window. The plane was amidst real dark treacherous clouds. There were continues flashes of lightning complemented by resounding thundering. It was something that I had never experienced before.

It was not a nice feeling, the plane was going up and down like a roller coaster and it seemed as if it was already beyond the control of the cockpit crew. I tightened the already fastened seat belt and held onto anything possible. I had this strong eerie feeling that this might be the last trip that I am taking…’I-am-about-to-die’ – the sensation came all over me.

Things started coming off. The plane was beginning to lose chunks of its wings. The overhead luggage started falling here and there. There were shrieking prayers, crying children, hugging families and dying souls. Even the crew was holding on to seats for their lives.

Suddenly a huge flash of light hit the plane. The whitening effect was so bright and blinding that nobody was able to see anything henceforth. I closed my eyes and remembered my loved ones for the last time.

In a couple of minutes, everything went silent. The plane had stopped trembling and the skies had suddenly cleared. In fact, it was clearer than ever before. An unknown force was pulling the plane vertically downwards. The movement felt as if the plane was being maneuvered and controlled from outside. It was slow enough not to cause panic anymore. It finally landed.

The uproar and screaming had mellowed down and was replaced with the tears of joy. Nobody was concerned, including the crew, about what this place was. Everybody just was happy to be alive, breathing and on land. The exit gates finally opened.

The moment I got out the first thing that I saw was a huge snow covered mountain in the backdrop of the landscape. My initial thought was how the hell did they end up making an airport at such a precarious location. Still not completely recovered from our disastrous experience I took each step with caution. I was finally on the unknown land.

There was a crew, which had lined up to receive us and was dressed up in silvery crimson uniform and in a material that I had never seen before, forget about wearing it. Something was peculiarly odd about them. I felt that my senses aren’t in the right condition and hence I was feeling so.

I was not sure whether they would understand my language and still gave it go and asked one of the members, “What place is this? Where are we?”

The person didn’t respond immediately. After proper consideration, she said, “Sir, please follow us. The authorities will answer your queries. We are only allowed to receive you and take you to them”. Her sentences were not flowing…she was speaking word by word without any connotation and tonality as if she had just learned the language.

We walked into the ultra-modern glass structure surround by surreal picturesque natural beauty. We reached a cabin and entered after she did a retina scan. She asked me to sit and wait for the person from the authority. I was feeling scared, lost and thirsty but was too intimated to ask for anything. I quietly sat down.

Someone entered the room. She (I thought so) was tall, bald but had strikingly shiny spotless skin. She was also dressed up in that material, with teal being the only difference instead of crimson.

Before she could say anything, I questioned, “Ma’am! What place is this? Where are we?” ‘Would it be a good idea to ask for some water’, I thought.

She pressed a button; a small portion in the wall separated and a glass of water came out in a tray. I was confused to have it but too thirsty to actually have a choice.

She said, “Hi Sir! Please calm down and have some water. You are safe here. You are in a parallel Universe and this is Planet U or Utopia – an exact replica of the Planet Blue. We were transporting something through our teleportation beam, which was left exposed for some extra milliseconds and that’s how your plane got entrapped in that energy field and you all landed here. Please don’t worry about anything. No harm would be done to anyone.” She too was speaking in a word-by-word format. I was still wondering whether I asked for water loudly and missed half of what she said. I really wanted to ask, “Why are you speaking like that?”

“Sir, we don’t speak here on this planet. We only read minds. All our communication is telepathic, though no one stops us from using words, we believe in saving energy of all kind.”

In shock and awe, I picked up the glass of water with trembling hands and started having it. It was the freshest of liquid I ever had. It did calm me down.

She continued, “I am your chaperone till your stay on our planet. I will be here 24*7 and you just have to remember me and I will be happy to help. We are trying to arrange for your travel back to Planet Blue, till then please consider this as your home. Would you like to have some food or would you like to rest for a while?

I knew that my time was limited here and since it was an unknown land, I wanted to make the best of it. I would like to see some places while I am here.

The Everest

“Definitely Sir. Let me make it easy for you. I know the geography of your Planet and since it is similar we should visit the places you might not be easily able to visit on your planet. We don’t have countries or any borders here on this Planet. You can simply walk and hop on from places to places. For your reference I will use the name of the places that are there on the Planet Blue”, she further added.

“Whatever you get on your planet you will get the same here, may be better. Everybody sees the renowned locations what if I show you places of your own world and make you experience things that will leave you speechless”, she said with a wide smile.

I agreed and said, “Yeah! That’s a wonderful idea. People usually visit those known wonders of the world. Please take me to places which I haven’t been to and let me experience those hidden pleasures and locations.” I handed her a list of places and countries I have been to.

Kashmir

She got up from her seat and signaled me towards a gallery. After the exit, there was a translucent blue colored vehicle without any wheel. It was about 2 feet in the air and it worked on a technology, which depended on the magnetic field of their planet.

For the first time in my life, I was witnessing something as strange as this. Obviously, I had to be the pillion rider of this supersonic vehicle. She asked, “From where would you like to start?”

“I thought you could read the mind”, I replied with a grin and held the backrest tight.

We reached our first destination. Very few Indians can claim that they have experienced something like this. I was viewing Kashmir and its snow-covered peaks from the Pakistan side. It was a mesmerizing sight. I knew I had to see a lot and couldn’t afford to spend too much time at a single location.

Our next destination was the ancient city of Kandahar in Afghanistan. It is a beautiful city. We visited the Blue Mosque and did take out time to try out some of the Afghani bread. The locals were playing the Pashto tunes and some of them were surprisingly dancing to them as well. We too joined in. She did have a humane side to her irrespective of her artificial appearance.

Big Almaty Lake

We then headed further north to Almaty. Flying over the Tien Shan Mountains was a sight I would take to my grave. You can find the last wild apple forest in the world there. In fact, Almaty gets its name from that only – it means ‘Father of Apples’. We decided to pluck a few and have them sitting next to the tranquil Big Almaty Lake.

Next came the place of Vodka and stunning women – Russia. After tasting some of the finest Vodkas and getting our spirits high we headed over to the Altai Mountains and Lake Baikal. There was no point in spending too much time in those chilling deserted forests of Siberia and we decided to move on.

Clay pots used to make wine

We reached Georgia – Balcony of Europe. She took me to Mtskheta – a Unesco world heritage site. We met some of the most incredible and warm people in the world. A family hosted a dinner for us; prepared some ‘Khachapuri’ and served some of the finest homemade wine, one can ever taste. We decided to take some rest there.

Next, we headed to Armenia – a country that lost about 1.5 million people in one of the worst genocide in human history and still home to the friendliest people around. It is also home to the oldest winery in the world. It was worth every sip along with ‘Lavash’ – their awesome bread that has successfully found its way in the Unesco list of intangible cultural heritage.

Hot air balloons – Turkey

She then took me to Turkey to show some of the most unrealistic views. ‘Cappadocia’ for its hot air balloon experience against the backdrop of a spellbinding landscape. Then she took it a notch higher; we visited ‘Pamukkale’ – the land of thermal pools – the mineral-rich thermal waters flowing down white travertine terraces on a nearby hillside.

Our next stop was Greece and we started with the ancient city of Acropolis, Athens before heading to one of the most visually stunning Greek islands – Santorini. No trip to Greece is complete without visiting Mykonos – the Ibiza of Greece.

Santorini

We then crossed the Dead Sea and headed to a place surrounded by conflicts and chaos – Jordan. It is so amazing that it is a world in itself. After visiting the historic ancient treasures like Petra and Jerash, we went for a true Bedouin experience – camping in the middle of Wadi Rum in yurts made out of wool and gazing at the stars.

We crossed the entire stretch of Sahara desert before heading to the most unique location of the Planet. You don’t realize the perfidious breadth of the desert until you actually fly over it.

I had previously covered a lot of Europe and hence requested her to take me to Iceland. It is a different planet altogether. From geography to topographical features, all are vividly peculiar compared to the rest of the world. She said you are lucky this time of the year and we were able to witness the Northern Aurora.

The Northern Aurora Lights

We moved on to another colder region, spotting a rare polar bear, the home of maple syrup – Canada. There is nothing that would amaze you once you visit Iceland but every sight has its own charm and there is nothing like standing in mist from the Niagara Falls.

We then proceeded towards the land of ‘Mayans’ in the state of Yucatan in Mexico. They are considered to be one of the most intelligent and advanced ancient civilizations. The heart of their culture was in ‘Chichen Itza’. You can also try the Yucatecan food for its Mayan influences.

Everybody speaks about Belgium chocolates – The Mexican ones are equally good. Don’t forget to try a pint of Mexican beer and their tequila – in fact, it is the official drink of the country.

If you are a believer in Aliens and in the fact that they have surely visited the Planet Blue pay a visit to Machu Picchu in Peru, to know what they were really capable of. It is also known as ‘Lost City of the Incas’ and a Unesco world heritage site too.

Machu Picchu – Peru

It was time to head over to the so-called peculiar lands – Australia and New Zealand. They are unique in their habitat, vegetation, animals and nearly everything.

Both of us had a spoon full of Manuka honey – produced by bees rummaging on the flowers of the Manuka tree, a very special tree that only grows in New Zealand. We hogged to some Kiwi fruit before traveling to catch the Southern Lights at Lake Tekapo. It is as majestic and surreal as the Northern Aurora.

If you want to see a white shark or a deadly poisonous snake then Australia is the place to be. Along with its beauty, the eccentric nature of the land has given birth to some really strange animals and features – especially the Great Barrier Reef – the largest coral reef system.

She suggested we should return, as it has been already so many days that we were missing from the base and by now they might have worked out the system for my safe return.

Manuka Flower and Bee

I had lost all count of time…day and night…was awestruck and hypnotized in the entire splendor of the planet and above all her magnificence and simplicity.

She wanted to show me one last place and then head back. We parked our vehicle and decided to take a stroll on the Great Wall of China while sipping at some of their potent teas including the most expensive of them all – The Panda tea. It would have been unfair if we just had Panda tea without actually paying them a visit.

We got back on our vehicle and started on the journey back. She said, “Remember the mountain that you saw when you landed. That was Mt. Everest.”

Great Wall of China

Sitting at the top of it and knowing that everybody else is below you is a pretty ‘high’ feeling in itself. We sat there and chatted for a while before returning to the base.

The next day it was time for me to go back from this enriching experience. A lump formed in the middle of my chest. She was there with her effervescent smile to guide me back to the restored plane. I knew no matter how much I see the world now it would be incomplete without her.

People say that they have made a Bucket list but I can proudly say that I made #TheBlindList

 

For all those who love to Travel,

For all those who believe in Blind Dates,

For all those who Travel to Explore

For all those who are openminded

For all those who #SayYesToTheWorld

And

For all those who love #TheBlindList

It’s not a Goodbye…

But It’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is my entry to #TheBlindList and #SayYesToTheWorld Contest

Watch the Video and Fall in Love with the World again

4

To Travel is to Live

To Travel is to Live

Image Ref: Travelimg.org

“To Travel is to live” – Hans Christian Anderson

I have always believed that humans were born to travel… to reach out to places and experience them. But somehow we have found ways to confound ourselves in our lives by making it busier ‘n’ busier with things, which keep us stuck to one location. Some are lucky…their work gives them a chance to travel but then their travel is again restricted to the power-point presentations…hotel check-ins…and catching sleep in their flights. This is not the kind of travel I was referring to.

Travelling to a location is getting a feel of that place in every sense possible…from food to culture…from dressing to mannerism…from meeting new people to actually living with them to experience them. The more you travel the more your soul feels liberated. There is a unique sense of freedom attached to travelling which can only be lived.

Me at Manneken Pis

Me at Manneken Pis

Recently I have been lucky enough to visit countries outside India, which has been a part of conscious effort that I took to simply travel and literally live places after I met a life threatening accident in 2009. It made me realize that one never knows which one is your last day…so why not live each one to the fullest.

This June only I was travelling to Europe for the first time and that is when I realized that we ourselves don’t give respect and weightage to our heritage. I was standing in front of one of the most popular destinations in Brussels – The Manneken Pis and the crowd was going crazy to get them snapped with the creation. I too followed the suite but couldn’t stop myself from giggling at the fact that all these people were going mad for something which was smaller than the size of my head 😀 . The biggest disappointment came when I went to see the Mona-Lisa in person. I thought it would be a huge painting or something bigger than it actually is. I simply kept wondering what wrong did the other 2000 odd paintings do to do not deserve any attention as everybody was running to see ‘The Mona-Lisa’.

Image Ref: irisholidays.com

Munnar – Image Ref: irisholidays.com

The more I travel the more I realize that there is hardly any place in the world like our own country India which gives us so many diverse locations to visit. From world-class beaches in Goa and Pondicherry to the mesmerising Ladakh…from the soul soothing Rameshwaram to the serene honeymooning Munnar…we have it all.

We have our own ‘Scotlands’ in Coorg and mini France in Auroville. With Russian scribed menus and more Russians holidaying than in Russia we have a lot to offer in Goa. Even the Sunburns and VH1s could not keep Goa off its calendar. The cheap booze just adds the silver lining to Goa and Pondicherry.

Coorg - Image Ref: mouthshut.com

Coorg – Image Ref: mouthshut.com

If you are the spiritual kind then you are in the best country of the world. From Varanasi to Rameshwaram…From Haridwar to Jaggannath Puri…From Dwarka to Amarnath…it’s not about the location but it’s about choosing a deity and you are sure to find a historically beautiful place associated to that deity. There is even a temple in Ujjain where you’ll find liquor being served as ‘prasad’ to ‘Bhairon Baba’.

 

Image Ref: travelandmore.in

Image Ref: travelandmore.in

If you are a mountain lover I will fall short of words but India will not fall short of hill stations and snow capped ranges to take your breathe away. Whether it’s the north where you’ll have the ranges of Leh…Ladakh…Kashmir Valley…n so on…or in the north-east where there is a hill named after nearly every tribe that lives there. You need to be in Sikkim to understand what I mean by when I say ‘Soul Soothing’. In the west we have the sand laden yet chilling ‘Mount-Abu’ while the ‘Nilgiris’ giving an awesome cooling touch to the south.

Gokarna - Image ref: gokarnagreenland.in

Gokarna – Image ref: gokarnagreenland.in

Leave alone the beaches of Goa and Pondy…visit the beaches of Andaman and Lakshwadeep to be spellbound. Or if you simply want to enjoy the view with your chilled beer and no one in close proximity to disturb you then you have places like Gokarna and Kashif beach.

Somewhere in Kerala - Image Ref: www.scoopwhoop.com

Somewhere in Kerala – Image Ref: http://www.scoopwhoop.com

There must be a reason why Kerala is known as ‘God’s Own Country’ and the only reason is because of its natural beauty and breathtaking landscapes, which it holds. The backwaters in Kollam and Kochi are a treat for the solace seeking ones while place like ‘Waynad’ are for the rain lovers.

Talking of the rains how can we forget that India is the home for the place with the highest amount of rainfall in the world. Mawsynram holds this unique record with reainfall almost all round the year, in fact the state in which it is itself known as the ‘land of clouds’, Meghalaya.

Mawsynram - Image Ref: niejedztamjesli.wordpress.com

Mawsynram – Image Ref: niejedztamjesli.wordpress.com

If you talk about monuments and historical places you will be surprised that every other dot on the map of India holds a special place in history with its share of heritage and monuments on India’s timeline. We stand at Eiffel Tower in awe while forgetting our own Wonder of the World, ‘The Taj Mahal’ which makes the foreigners awestruck for ages. Even cities like Jaipur and Lucknow can boast off places like ‘Hawa Mahal’ and ‘Imam Bara’ respectively, which are architectural geniuses in their own way. Its about picking up a city and you are sure to find monuments or places to see at least for a day or two.

The TAJ - image ref: sqmegapolis.wikia.com

The TAJ – image ref: sqmegapolis.wikia.com

To add to all this…each and every place in India has its own Culture…Language…the kind of food we eat and even the colour of the soil. So before you decide to shell your big bucks on foreign lands…try giving India a chance…and I am sure you won’t be disappointed. And the biggest reason why we love our India because this is where our home is.

This blog is part of Blogger Dream Team

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul