30

G – Global Village | #AtoZChallenge

G – Global Village | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

Global Village, as the name suggests, is an extravagant cultural, entertainment, family and shopping destination. It is a first of its kind in the region and claims to be the world’s largest tourism, leisure, shopping, and entertainment project.

The Global Village is truly global in nature as it features 30 pavilions that showcase more than 90 countries through 35,000+ shopping outlets from across the globe. It covers a massive area of 17,200,000 sq ft (1,600,000 m2), which attracts more than 5 million visitors every year. To give you an idea of the size of the village, they have about 18300 parking spots.

It is like a festival or carnival celebrating the best of culture from countries of the world when you embark on the journey through a group of pavilions. It offers unique international cuisine and breathtaking entertainment experiences across a wide range of entertaining games and interesting tours.

To give you a perspective, in the Indian context, it is like the India International Trade Fair, which usually is organized at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi, where we have pavilions and stalls from different states and division of India.

Currently, in its 23rd season, it usually begins around late October or early November and lasts till next April.

Global Village consists of fours sections namely, Events and Concerts, Carnaval, Dining and Shopping. The Carnaval features more than 60 exhilarating rides and games that can be enjoyed with the entire family. This year the event is set to host over a whopping 13,000 entertainment and cultural shows.

History

Global Village started out in the form of a number of small stalls in 1996 located on the Creek Side opposite to Dubai Municipality before being shifted to the Oud Metha Area near Wafi City for 5 years. Since then it has been its is current location and you need to take the exit 37 on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road and Emirates Road.

Every year they come up with new attractions, shows and concerts – hence it is always great to visit once every year for the locals.

Pavilions

The pavilions are divided into six main regions.

  • MENA: The major pavilions under it are – UAE Pavilion, KSA Pavilion, Iraq Pavilion, Yemen Pavilion, Lebanon Pavilion, Syria Pavilion, Bahrain Pavilion, Oman Pavilion, Iran Pavilion, Kuwait Pavilion, Khalifa Foundation Pavilion, Al Sanaa Pavilion, Jordan Pavilion.
  • The Far East pavilion features Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Philippines.
  • Europe Pavilions: Turkey Pavilion, Russia Pavilion, Europe Pavilion, Bosnia and Balkans Pavilion.
  • The African pavilion represents around 15 countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Angola, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Rwanda, Madagascar, Namibia, South Africa and Nigeria.
  • The Americas Pavilion represents 48 countries in North and South America.
  • The South Aisa Pavilion highlights experiences from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Must buy

This is the best place to buy some souvenirs, artifacts and handicrafts, as it is practically not feasible to visit these many countries.

  • Yemen: The Yemeni honey is considered the best in the world.
  • Iran: The best place to pick up dry fruits from including saffron.
  • Morocco: Argan Oil.
  • India: Antiques like wooden chests and glass work furniture.
  • Africa: Handicrafts, Coffee, Shea Butter & African Black soap.
  • Turkey: Rose perfume, Coffee and Turkish delight. Do try their street food.

Food and Restaurants

There are a plethora of street food options – Every nook and corner would have one. The roasted chestnuts and dynamite shrimps are a must try.

There are 23+ restaurants serving you most of the cuisines. For Indians, there is ‘Grand Barbeque’ and ‘Punjabi Village’, which was getting covered by National Geographic the day I visited.

Timings and Tickets:

  • From 30th October 2018 until 13th April 2019:
  • From Saturday to Wednesday from 4:00pm – 12:00am (entry gates close at 11:30pm)
  • Thursday, Friday and Public Holidays from 4:00pm – 1:00am (entry gates close at 12:30am)
  • Mondays are dedicated to Families and Ladies only.

Entrance: There are 2 main entry gates to Global Village Dubai – Gate of the World and Cultural Gate.

Entry Tickets: AED 15 per person per day. Children under 3, People of determination with one companion and seniors above 65 years old are given free entry to the village.

You can also go for a VIP ticket that includes car passes, entry tickets, VIP parking tickets, restaurant vouchers, circus cards and much more.

Getting There

There is no direct metro connectivity but the RTA provides the public with 4 bus routes to Global Village:

  • Bus no. (102) starts from Rashidiya Metro Station.
  • Bus no. (103) starts from Ittihad Station and will pass by Baniyas Street, Al Rebat Street, and Nad Al Hamar.
  • Bus no. (104) starts from Al Ghubaiba Station and will pass by Sheikh Rashid Street, Al Jafiliya Metro Station, 2nd Za’Abeel Street and Dubai-AlAin Street.
  • Bus no. (106) starts from Mall of the Emirates Metro Station.

The service runs from 3:15pm until 11:15pm, with 30 minutes of travel time.

Note and Tips

Get hold of a Global Village Dubai Map as soon as you enter, it makes it easier for you to plan which pavilions you want to visit.

It’s a huge place so if you are traveling with family, try to stick together.

It would be really smart if you could take a picture of the parking spot, as it might be really chaotic to find it while returning.

Global Village is the perfect and unique family destination whether you are traveling to Dubai for a holiday or settled in the region. Don’t miss it.

For all those who love family destinations,

For all those who love to try new food,

For all those who love rides,

And

For all those who love the Global Village…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 7th 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.

Read the Previous post here: Dubai – City of Gold

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

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.

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13

E – Emirates of UAE | #AtoZChallenge

E – Emirates of UAE | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

In 1971, when the British Empire could not further rule the ‘Trucial States’ as per the treaty relations established, they decided to liberate them. On December 2, 1971, six of the sheikhdoms of the Trucial states came together and formed a federation based on a constitution drafted in record time known as ‘United Arab Emirates’. On February 10, 1972, the seventh sheikhdom, Ras Al Khaimah, also became a member of the federation.

Currently, the seven Emirates constitute the nation of UAE – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah, and Ras Al Khaimah.

History

Archaeological pieces of evidence prove that this region was inhabited since ages. The artifacts reveal the presence of the pre-historic man and transmigration, which dates to as early as 125000 years ago. The region is considered uninhabited during the Glacial Maximum period, 68000 to 8000 BCE. But the artifacts of the ‘Ubaid cultures and Arabian Bifacial’ confirm human habitation since 6000 B.C.

Trade was always the backbone of the region because of its strategic location – whether it was the ancient times of Harappan Culture and Sumerian Empire or during the 19th and 20th century when the Pearling and fishing industry was at its peak or the current era of imports and exports.

Since the discovery of oil in the region the Emirates have enjoyed a prominent position in the world. During the 80s and 90s, it was Sharjah that was of prime importance, the 2000s belongs to Dubai as a top place of tourism and business. Now slowly, Abu Dhabi is taking over as the most important Emirate because of its Financial might.

Emirate of Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and the second most populous city of UAE. It occupies about 87% of the total area of the UAE and is a major hub of political and industrial activities. Abu Dhabi’s rapid development and urbanization, have resulted in it controlling about two-thirds of the roughly $400-billion United Arab Emirates economy.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan became ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966 and was the core-founding member of the federation along with the then Ruler of Dubai.

The nation’s second largest peak and a well-known tourist spot Jabal Hafeet is declared as a ‘heritage site’ by UNESCO, because of its archaeological importance.

It is about a 90 min drive from Dubai and is home to the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – a must visit, it’s their equivalent of Taj Mahal. If you are an adrenaline junkie then Ferrari World is the place to be – it has multiple exhilarating rides along with the fastest roller-coaster in the world. One can also visit the Yas Mall, Yas Waterworld, and Yas Marina Circuit.

Emirate of Dubai

Dubai is the cosmopolitan hub of UAE and the most populous of all the emirates. Home to the tallest building in the world, it is the business hub of UAE. The Al-Fahidi Fort in Dubai, currently the Dubai Museum was created in 1787 to defend the Dubai Creek from getting invaded. Will be covering more of Dubai in detail over the course of the theme.

Emirate of Sharjah

Inside of Grand Mosque

Sharjah is the third largest and populous city of UAE. It was once the wealthiest of all the emirates. It is traditionally conservative compared to the above two and is currently the cultural capital of the UAE. It is a twin city of Dubai – just like Delhi-Noida or Howrah-Kolkata.

Sharjah is a city of museums and mosques. Some of the famous ones are – Sharjah Arts Museum, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, Sharjah Science Museum, Sharjah Archaeology Museum, National History Museum, Sharjah Heritage Area and Al Noor Mosque. Maritime Museum in Sharjah is home to ‘The Pearl’, which is widely believed to be one of the oldest pearls in the world with an estimated age of seven thousand years.

Emirate of Ajman

It the smallest of the Emirates in terms of area and is adjacent to the city of Sharjah, which forms part of the Dubai-Sharjah-Ajman metropolitan area. It has rich coastal history and Islamic heritage and was once the region’s biggest Boat Building Centre.

Top places to visit in Ajman: National Museum, Dhow Yard, Ajman beaches, Etisalat Tower, Al Jarah Cultural Center, Mowaihat, Al Zorah, Ajman Marina and Masfout.

Emirate of Umm Al Quwain

It is the least populated of all the emirates. It was once a popular place for trade and agriculture. Umm Al Quwain fort, currently a museum, guarded the old town from both the sea and the creek. It is a perfect weekend getaway from Dubai because of its close proximity.

There is a series of islands along the shore of Umm Al Quwain, which is surrounded by mangroves and migratory birds. Al-Dour, which is now an important archaeological site, is considered as one of the largest pre-Islamic site located on the coast of the Persian Gulf. Dreamland Aqua Park and Emirates Motorplex are more modern and commercial hangout places.

Emirate of Fujairah

The only Emirate, which has a complete coastline on the Gulf of Oman. The new Sheikh Khalifa Highway connects Dubai and Fujairah and is only two hours drive away. It is the best place for a relaxing weekend getaway. It is famous for its luxurious resorts facing the Gulf of Oman with the mountains in the backdrop. It is the perfect place to catch mountains and beaches in a single place.

It is home to the oldest mosque in UAE, Al Badiyah mosque built in 1446. Other places of importance include: Fujairah fort, Al Bithanh Fort, Fujairah Museum, Al Hayl Castle, Awhlah Fort and Ain al-Madhab Hot Springs.

Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah

The last of the emirate to join UAE, it is about an hour’s drive away from Dubai. It was the earlier capital of Sharjah and was formerly known as Julfar and was founded by Armenians. Sheba’s Palace is a restored archaeological site along with the largest Umm an-Nar tombs, which are considered as the largest in the entire Arabian Peninsula.

Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah, at 1,934 m is the highest point in UAE. Dhayah Fort, Shimal and Jazirat-al-Hamra are of historical importance. Other places include: RAK National Museum, Khatt springs, Hajjar mountains, Iceland Water Park and RAK Pearl Museum.

The Emirates are the perfect amalgamation of cultural heritage and history along with a modern developing future. Thankfully the Sheikhs decided to come together and form this country of so much archaeological importance otherwise this too might have been lost to the unrest in the region.

For all those who have been to UAE,

For all those who knew about the seven emirates,

For all those who love ancient history

And

For all those who love the Emirates…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 5th 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.

E – Emirates of UAE

Read the Previous post here:

A – Arrival in Dubai

B – Burj Khalifa

C – CREEK – The Heart of Dubai

D – Desert Safari

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

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.

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.

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.

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59

‘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.

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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