Category Archives: Travel

Golden Gate in San Francisco

I visited the city of San Francisco in mid-May this year. it’s an amazing place and a must see if you are visiting the United States. San Francisco is gifted with beautiful weather amazingly located between the Pacific Ocean on one side and San Francisco Bay on the other. The City is situated on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula has a very touristy feel. You can ride on a HOHO bus. That’s a great way to take a guided tour of the entire City. The Golden Gate Bridge is a mile (1.6 km) long and we got down at one end and walked back the distance. It is an engineering marvel which makes you feel wonder at the marvels of human creativity. We visited the Bay Bridge also (San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge). The visit to Pier 39 at the tip of the Fisherman’s Wharf’s district lifted our hearts. There are stalls selling fresh seafood and you can watch the chef cook prawns, lobsters and crabs in front of your eyes. The place is a gourmet’s delight.

At Lombard Street is fun to visit with a very distinct set of roads. The one-way section with 8 hair pin turns and a steep gradient made us feel as if our car hung from the edge of a cliff. Another must do is the Chocolate Factory and the Ghirardelli ice cream is heavenly doing full justice to the ratings it has been given on the net. We also visited the Ocean Beach on the other side of San Francisco. The opportunity to visit the Google Campus was wonderful. We took the ferry around the Alcatraz Island and waved at the sea lions. We could not visit a few other tourist spots due to time constraints. It was a memorable holiday in a wonderful city.

Garden Estate, Gurugram

Garden state is one of the one of the oldest residential complexes of Gurugram (Gurgaon). It comprises both villas as well as apartments. There are about 300 residential units in the complex. Most of the residents are those who had initially inhabited the complex. It was constructed in the early nineties. Many of the residents are corporate retirees since ITC was involved in building the complex. Garden Estate is situated at the entry point to Gurgaon as you approach it from Delhi on the Mehrauli-Guragon Road. Guru Dronacharya metro station has come up next to the complex which makes it very accessible. It is surrounded by some of the top corporate houses of Gurgaon.

Right across Garden Estate is the Global Business Park with many corporate offices. There are many hotels located nearby (Fortune Select Hotel, Le Meridien) and their close proximity makes them a favourite venue for many residential meetings, conferences and celebrations. The complex itself is complete in all respects with not only excellent residential facilities but also great landscaping, a swimming pool, a club, a salon and a beauty parlour. There is a restaurant where local parties can be hosted. It has a lawn close by which is a boon for children who want to run around and play games while the grown-ups converse and have food. There is an excellent walking track all along. One round of the complex measures approximately 1 km. This provides an excellent and gentle way of exercise to the denizens of Garden Estate.

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. New York Never Sleeps.

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. It really could feel that New York never sleeps.

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.

Delhi to Dharamshala

Last month we travelled from Delhi 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!

There is no direct train from Delhi to Dharamshala. We travelled Delhi to Pathankot by Dhauladhar Express and from Pathankot to Dharamshala by taxi. We 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. Initially the prospect of a night train from Delhi to Dharamshala and then a taxi trip immediately afterwards appeared daunting. But once we started it was all very smooth.

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 own 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. Throughout the journey from Delhi to Dharamshala and other places I had great network coverage.

The trip from Delhi to Dharamshala, Dalhousie and other places proved to be a rejuvenating breeze.

Places to visit in Amritsar

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. The places to visit in Amritsar are the Attari-Wagah border, the Golden Temple and the Jallianwala Bagh.

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. We still had two more places to visit in Amritsar.

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 had coincided with a public holiday in Punjab.

Upon exiting the Golden Temple we still had one left of the places to visit in Amritsar. One, that we very much wanted to visit. Jallianwala Bagh. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were brought to life in our minds. And, of course, Udham Singh.

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.

I think I have never seen greener fields than those I saw in Punjab. In a couple of fields local dangals (wrestling matches) were being conducted much like depicted in the movie Sultan.

Best Time to Visit 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. I learned the best time to visit Goa is when I can.

Dabolim airport in Goa is much smaller than the Delhi airport. This results in shorter walks in and out of the airport. I happened to visit Goa in October followed by a quick visit in January. Both months proved to be great times to visit Goa.

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.

The pace of life slows down so much that whenever one visits Goa turns out to be the best time to visit Goa.

Northern Ireland

A beautiful countryside, warm and 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 old Bushmills distillery.

I don’t remember the Uber service being around the time I visited Northern Island. I guess by now surely Uber or Lyft or some other mobile app based cab service must be available in Northern Island.

Northern Island is part of the United Kingdom. Belfast is the capital and the largest city in Northern Island.

Bordeaux Wine

Most visitors to France go to Paris or the south coast. However, the Bordeaux region is just as attractive for a leisurely holiday. More so for wine lovers since Bordeaux wine hails from this region.

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. With hundreds and thousands of hectares of vineyards the region produces huge quantities of Bordeaux wine.

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.

I am sure now there must be Uber or Lyft cabs in Bordeaux wine country.

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.