Category Archives: Travel

New York Never Sleeps

New York city is one of the most amazing and vibrant cities in the world. I recently had the chance to travel across the USA from the West to the East coast and found New York to be the most versatile city. It is the most densely populated city in the United States and culturally the most diverse. It is home to people of umpteen ethnic groups. The city truly never sleeps. The streets are bustling with people who appear to be in perpetual hurry. The city works 24/7. It is an amazing tourist destination.

We visited the Rockefeller center and the Empire State Building. The night view of the city from the top of these buildings is breathtaking. The skyline of the city glows with the lights from the high rise skyscrapers. Buildings are aglow in myriad colors. A 360 degree view of all the landmarks is a feast for the eyes.

A visit to Ground Zero and the 9/11 museum brought home the full impact of the horror of the attacks and its aftermath. The scale and magnitude of the rescue and relief operations was immense.

Times Square is a must visit on every tourist’s itinerary. It is a hub of activity and human energy in motion. You have to stand at the Time Square and feel the pulsating atmosphere.

The sculpture of the Charging Bull in Wall Street is supposed to have brought back luck to the stock market when the great recession happened in 1929.

The Statue of Liberty is situated on Ellis Island and you have to take a ferry to it. The statue is symbolic of the great human values of Liberty and Freedom.

In nutshell New York city would always top my list of places to visit in the USA.

Dharamshala and Dalhousie

Last month we travelled to Dharamshala, McLeod Ganj, Dalhousie and Kajjiar. We made the trip by train via Pathankot. There are plent of trains from Delhi to Pathankokt. All run full to capacity. I think one of the bookings I made was for the last available ticket!

We travelled Delhi to Pathankot by Dhauladhar Express and made the return journey by the same train as well. I had looked up the net for the difference between Pathankot station and Pathankot Cantt and made the booking for the station code PTK. Pathankot Cannt’s station code is PTKC.

The train starts from Old Delhi Sation. The night time journey is very convenient because one can easily sleep with stretched out on the berth. The train arrived towards 8 am at Pathankot. Taxis are easily available as soon one exits the platform. The greatest benefit of train stations in smaller towns is that they are cleaner and one has to walk lesser.

We took a taxi drop to Dharamshala. Of course, we had deliberated whether to go to Dharamshala first or to Dalhousie. I decided by calling up the hotels and was informed there wouldn’t be much difference either ways.

Here are some photographs of Dharamshala

The road trip to Dharamshala was very pleasant. We had breakfast at a dhaba en route. Delicious paranthas and hot chai. Upon arrival at Hotel Dhauladhar of HPTDC (Himachal Pradesh Tuorism Development Corporation) we were provided a nice and comfortable room overlooking a garden. There was a big surprise in the room. An air-conditioner with heating. This is usually not seen in India and was least expected in a hill-station. Things have really changed in India.

We freshened up at our pace and went in to the restaurant for lunch leaving all travel planning for later. Afterwards, we out for a walk in the market, Kotwali Bazar, near the hotel. The Dharamshala taxis stand was also close by and we enquired about the taxi fare to McLeod Ganj, Dalhousie and what else could one do in those parts. There were plenty of plans available with fixed rates each covering several points.

We located a small and clean sweets shot with coffee and snacks and had a cup of hot coffee.

Upon returning to the hotel I sought the receptionist’s advice and decided upon a short trip to McLeod Ganj the next day.

The next morning we piled into a hired Alto and drove up to Naddi point near McLeod Ganj and later went to the Tibetan Moanstery.We returned to the hotel by late afternoon and had snacks for lunch at 5 pm.

In the evening we went for a stroll in Kotwali Bazar and found our steps took us to the sweets shop again for another great cup of hot coffeee.

The nights were spent watching TV and having a very slow dinner in the restaurant.

HPTDC is great, of course.

Here are some photographs of Dalhousie

Next day, after breakfast, we started for Dalhousie in a taxi. We arrived late afternoon in Dalhousie at Hotel Manimahes of HPTDC. We were shown into a room with a fabulous view of the mountain range. It had snowed a few days ago and the weather was cold. We went down to Gandhi Market to streth our legs. Here again we happened upon the taxi stand which was close to the hotel and equired about the fare to Khajjiar. Then, we went to a confectionary store and had steaming hot momos.

We were advised to have dinner in the room due to the cold weather. It was an enjoyable meal which was had watching a movie on cable television.

We had a buffet breakfast the next morning. We learnt the short route to Khajjiar was blocked by snow and we would have to take the longer road via Chamba. We were very keen on visiting Khajjiar since it is referred to as the ‘mini Switzerland’ of India. It is a long drive of 3.5 hours by this route. The view at Khajjiar is fabulous. It is a large open ground with Deodar (Himalayan Cedar) trees all around. One can see the snow capped peaks through the tree leaves. At times we could see paragliders soaring up above the tree tops.

It started raining lightly on the way back and we stopped for chai pakoda at a dhaba. We returned just as night was falling and went straight to our room. Room service provided us with chai and hot milk. This was followed by another enjoyable and sumptuous dinner in the room with a movie on cable television.

We were to start our return journey to Delhi the next day. The train was scheduled to leave from Pathankot station at 11 20 pm. We decided to go to the Gandhi Market in Dalhousie in the morning and left for Pathankot after lunch. We placed our luggage in the Cloak room at the Pathankot Station and walked to the City Centre Mall located 5 minutes away. We bought tickets for Badri ki Dulania and followed it with a liesurely dinner in the mall. Afterwards, we walked back to the station. The road felt safe enough. There are shared autos also available.

The train was already lined up on the platform. We collected our bags from the cloak room, located our coach and settled in for the journey back to Delhi.

There were no radio taxis in Dahramshala and Dalhousie. There we no Ola Uber in Dharamshala and Dalhousie.
The mobile signal is straon in Dharamshala and Dalhousie. The internet works fine in Dharamshala and Dalhousie.

Amritsar and Wagah

Last month we travelled to Amritsar by road. Eleven people in a Tempo Traveller. The journey took a long time with a few breaks to stretch legs, have a bite and sip on a cup of tea. Roads have improved a lot in India and it was a smooth journey.

We went to Wagah border near Amritsar for the lowering of flags ceremony at the India Pakistan border. It was very crowded. It was possible to look across the border into the amphitheater in Pakistan when seated high enough.

Afterwards we had a sumptuous dinner and retired for the night.

Next morning we woke up early. Really early at 4 am and got ready to visit the Golden Temple. We arrived at the Golden Temple before 6 am and there were only a few people outside. The adjoining area has been renovated and looked very beautiful. After removing our shoes we dipped our feet into the water at the entrance to the Golden Temple. To our surprise the water was heated!

Inside it was crowded. We realised our visit coincided with a public holiday in Punjab. Afterwards, we visited Jallianwala Bagh.

The air was much cleaner than in Delhi. On the return journey we came across a field in which crops were being burnt.

Since, we had our own bus we didn’t need to hire a taxi. Didn’t see any Uber in Amritsar. Didn’t see any Ola in Amritsar. Didn’t see any radio taxis in Amritsar.

On the way back we stopped at a food court on the highway and had dinner and tea.

We decided a train would have been more comfortable for such a long journey. If possible, an overnight train.

Here are a few photos I clicked.

A Beach Holiday in Goa

Recently I travelled to Goa twice. A beach holiday each time. Doesn’t usually happen. The first trip was self-funded. The second was a reward in an office contest.

Dabolim airport in Goa is much smaller than the Delhi airport. This results in shorter walks in and out of the airport.

The beach resorts were an hour away both times I travelled. The first trip was spent in South Goa and the second trip in North Goa. Both are delightful. There is no Uber in Goa. There is no Ola in Goa. Looks like there are no radio taxis in Goa. But, there are pre-paid taxis available at the airport. Or, one can ask the hotel to provide a taxi. Sometimes, hotels include airport transfers in the holiday package.

I enjoyed my stays at Varca beach and at Candolim beach. A walk on the beach in the morning and evening is refreshing and good exercise. Though I can swim in a pool I restrict myself to floating in the shallow water by the beach. Catching a wave as it comes in and floating on it is a great experience. Para sailing in the Arabian sea is good fun. The boat men suggested we take a dip in the sea with the life belts on and we did after some coaxing. A few minutes of backstrokes a kilometer from the shore is awesome.

Walking along on Candolim road in the night I could hear music wafting out from the cafes along the road. Many had karaokes and it was the guests singing. People of all nationalities throng this road. The breeze is cool and the traffic is gentler than in Delhi.

Here are a few photos I took in Goa.

Northern Ireland

A beautiful countryside and a friendly people welcome you to Northern Ireland. The emerald island is blessed with lots of rainfall which gives its countryside a lush outlook.

The giant’s causeway, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption is a sight to see. Rocks with  hexagonal cross section seem to rise up from the ground aiming towards the sky.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge gives a wonderful (and scary) view of the sea and – on a clear day – Scotland.

Whisky lovers would cherish the pilgrimage to the oldest licensed distillery – the ol

d Bushmills distillery.

Bordeaux and the Wine Country

Most visitors to France will go to Paris or the south coast. However, the Bordeaux region is just as attractive for a leisurely holiday.

Left largely untouched by the second world war, Bordeaux has buildings which are outstanding architecturally. Due to its proximity to the sea, its relatively mild weather is ideal for wine cultivation.

There are many cave complexes on the Dordogne Valley prehistoric humans lived in fairly elaborate communities.

On the way back to Paris, you can visit Rouen, where Joan of Arc was martyred. Rouen cathedral spire was the tallest structure in the world till late 19th century.

The Land of the Rising Sun

For someone whose travels were limited to South Asia and Europe, Japan was different. I cannot describe the difference in words, you have to go and experience it. A mixture of ancient culture seamlessly juxtaposed with modern technology. The hustle of Tokyo and the relatively relaxed way of life in the ancient capital Kyoto.

Tokyo is the largest city in the world and it shows in the crowds and also the efficiency with which the city operates. Shinkansen or the bullet train form the backbone of intercity travel. Mt. Fuji, a mere hour away by train (and a long trek up of course) beckons in the summer months.

Kyoto will mesmerize you with its beautiful temples and awesome food.

 

Turkey

Being on the frontier of the Occident and the Orient, Istanbul is one of the architecturally richest cities in the world. Examples of Christian and Islamic architecture abound in the city which will keep you busy for a few days or a lifetime.

Ephesus, an ancient Greek city, near the present day town of Selcuk boasts of magnificent antiquities and a carefully restored library building. Driving east will get you to Pamukkale, a site of amazing beauty with white calcified terraces covering a whole mountain side.

Cappadocia, with it’s Martian relief, is a out-worldly experience. Massive fairy chimneys and hillocks carved into living communities has to be seen to be believed.

Italy

Asterix went to Rome only once, and he limited his stay to the great city. But when in Italy, Rome should be only one of the destinations to visit. Rome will keep you busy with its Coliseum, the Roman Forum next door and of course the Vatican. Do not miss the Sistine Chapel. If you are there on a Sunday, the Pope addresses the audience on St. Peter’s Square at noon.

Head south to the commercial city of Naples, which is adjacent to two archeologically magnificent ruins of Pompeii and Heraklion. Most of the tourists head to the larger site Pompeii, but the quality of the antiquities at Heraklion is much better. A drive up to see the crater of Vesuvius with the some coming out is another high point.

A day’s drive north will get you to Pisa, which is famous for a tower. Florence is an hour away and is home to some of the best architecture, paintings and statues from the Renaissance period. While Venice is a big tourist draw, Padua nearby is very beautiful too. And also where Petrucio tamed the shrew.

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Coliseum at Rome

 

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St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican

 

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Sistine Chapel, The Vatican

 

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Crater of the Vesuvius

 

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The prominent lean

 

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David by Michelangelo

 

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Row of Gondolas in Venice

 

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Duomo di Milano

 

Greece

Greece, the home of Western civilization. The name conjures up images of architecture of great historical significance – or idyllic islands with miles and miles of soft sandy sunny beaches.

Greece is full of archaeological riches and a lifetime is not enough to fully appreciate them. But a few days of historical touring gives you a snapshot of the most important stages in its history.

Athens is the home to the Parthenon which is the biggest draw. Other sites in Athens do not disappoint either. A couple of hours drive will get you to Delphi from where the oracle used to prophesise. Do not miss the ancient site of Olympia. You can also run in the main stadium to relive the experience of the athletes thousands of years ago.

Many tourists may miss the monasteries of Meteora. That would be a mistake. The geological marvel of giant pillar like rocks coming out of the ground and monasteries built on top evoke images of monks living austere lives for thousands of years.

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Temple of Athena at Delphi
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One of many monasteries at Meteora
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Entrance to the main stadium at Ancient Olympia
Athletes' living quarters at the Olympia
Athletes’ living quarters at the Olympia
Intricate carving on marble depicting cloth on the sculpture
Intricate carving on marble depicting cloth on the sculpture
The Parthenon
The Parthenon
The Parthenon at night.
The Parthenon at night.