Travel & Me…

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Well, I don’t know what really intrigued me to write this piece but I am still going to go ahead and pour my feelings and emotions about my magical and intense relationship with Travel!

As far as I can remember, I have always loved to travel. No matter what age I was- I was excited each time around mom or dad would announce details of our next holiday. As kids, I’d say our holidays mostly (not all) were to safe and well known places. In the sense, the kind of holidays you usually expect families to take so that minimum risk is involved with going wrong.

A place now not necessarily on one’s “Places to Travel List”- Mussoorie, the “Queen of Hills” as it’s been referred to, made for a constant holiday for us every summer break. To be honest, at times we would detest the monotony. But in today’s times of rampant change- I am glad we as a family had some sense of tradition which got followed and now we do have this treasured trunk of memories. I am not saying monotony was essential but maybe simplicity was. I am thrilled that we tasted the simple things in life as now luxury is more available with growing up.

I mean going pretty much packed in a family car with limited leg room, stocking up everyone’s favourite munchies to share on the way, then heading to modest yet long standing restaurants for their specialties such as Chole Bhature at The Green Vegetarian Restaurant, Steamed Momos at The Rice Bowl, Omellete at the Lovely Omellete Centre or even the Maggie at Char Dukan. All this only added much more flavour to one’s holiday. Best part was that there was little to no “Me Time” and there was a lot of “OUR TIME”. There were little to no selfies but a lot more memories etched in one’s heart.

To be honest, this isn’t a critique of times today necessarily but just a little jiggle for each one of us to be able to enjoy our holidays or family time more. Also, what I didn’t realize then- I wish I am fortunate enough to gift my kids some sense of legacy- in the sense, I visited Mussoorie 24 years in a row straight and that’s not it, this is something which was started during my father’s childhood.  I mean there is no such thing as lack of options but today, I feel blessed to talk about something rather unique even amidst that monotony.

And not to say we just made it to the “Queen of Hills” as a family, we went to the beaches, we went to some really nice heritage properties, we went to some more hills and we also made several road trips. My first flight as well as first foreign trip didn’t come so early but I am glad it didn’t else maybe I would have been devoid of the simple pleasures. For instance, having my father wait as I wrote my final exam to quickly rush to the train station to catch our overnight train to Goa wherein the whole family occupied close to ten beds. Not sure if I’ll do it now but I am glad we did it then as I wouldn’t swap that for anything else!

Today, my job and passion to travel has taken me to several places and I must confess that each place has been ultra-special for me-maybe because there were a lot of firsts attached to them and also for the sheer pleasure of touring on one’s own earnings.

I have to say that my love for travel was triggered during my childhood days and I am glad and grateful to parents and family for ensuring we traveled enough. I pretty much convinced myself of being a travel writer but though that plan didn’t materialize fully (no regrets) – I pretty much got my wings on in my early 20’s and so intensified my relationship with travel.

Here are few snippets of some really special experiences at some really special places-

  1. Thailand, 2012- This one was extremely special as my father let me go by self for the first time to visit friends in Bangkok and Pattaya. I was pleasantly surprised with his decision. And what an empowering feeling- I suddenly felt more responsible and just loved life a little bit more. And not to miss adding- visiting Phuket a year later to indulge in water sports like never before- I feel several fears got conquered at that very instance. Also, Bangkok continues to be special as I have experienced some of the top quality properties, thanks to my blog!
  2. Japan, 2014- I learnt the sense of gratitude and compassion from the most wonderful people I encountered in Tokyo. And in general, the build up to the trip inculcated much faith in self as well as courage and confidence…On a side note, I learnt how to spend 12 hours at the airport if you have a connecting flight 😉
  3. Sri Lanka, 2015- Witnessing the tea gardens of Nuwara Eliya was like my mini encounter with Switzerland!
  4. Bangkok, 2016- This was with family and our special toddler (my nephew), the joy of gifting a holiday to my mom- priceless!
  5. Europe, 2016- What do I say about this one? The trip comprised of my solo visit to Istanbul- sounds fancy but did require much preparation within and out to take it on! But really there was an entire sense of self-discovery during those two days. Then came Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin with my best friend- of course we had some wonderful experiences and ticking off a few things from my wish-list including watching a tennis grand slam live but what it truly made me realize was the richness of a bond that had been nurtured. The way my best friend took care of me, the giggles we shared, the confessions we made- wow, I can see us doing that even at 80!

I must reiterate that I haven’t kicked aside the simple pleasures from my trip, this year itself I thoroughly cherished my trip to Udaipur with my cousin where the simple satisfaction of visiting a temple or being on a boat to absorb the surroundings were truly memorable.

And there is so much more… I can’t thank my job enough for letting me taste immaculate food of Kolkata, treating my eyes to the skyline of Dubai, refreshing my senses in Nepal, indulging in Ayurvedic massages in Kovalam and exploring other cities and their unique offerings such as Bengaluru, Chennai and Mumbai amongst others!

 

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Gokarna Forest Resort, Kathmandu

Lastly, as the quote goes, “Not all those who wander are lost”- I love to wander every now and then, but trust me- mostly my travels have great purpose as they usually do add more purpose to my life!

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Here’s to my endless wanderlust!!!
-Sonali

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An Unforgettable Hotel Experience in Bangkok

Confucius asserted, “Wheresoever you go – go with all your heart”. It is quite a thought and advise to take and while I actually went with all my heart to this property- I even came out with my heart filled with beautiful experiences and memories which are going to stay with me forever! In short, this was not just any visit or stay in a hotel- it was one where I felt cherished and cared for throughout!

The property I am referring to is a sister hotel to the award winning 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai, and is located on Sukhumvit Soi 39 in Bangkok called the 137 Pillars Suites & Residences Bangkok. It enjoys a wonderful location as it is situated only a short distance from the upscale and fashionable shopping district of Emquartier/Emporium.

01 Hotel lobby

The architects for the property are Palmer and Turner from Bangkok, with Interiors by P49 Design and Landscape by Wabi Sabi Studio. 34 exquisitely appointed suites opened their doors earlier in April this year. And lucky me, just late May- I got the opportunity of experiencing the magic at their Sukhothai Suites.

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The check-in procedure was extremely smooth and exclusive as my suite check-in happened at the Leonowens Club where we were even treated to a refreshing and colour-packed welcome drink.

In no time, we were guided to our suite and I have to admit it that I had a jaw-dropping moment- the minute I stepped into my suite and what made it even more special was a welcome note and platter filled with goodies.

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As I looked around, I unravelled all about my home for the next two nights! Some of its features included a private butler service, maxi bars with wine cellars, user friendly mood lighting, high ceilings, large walk-in wardrobes and stunning marble en-suite bathrooms with chic circular baths complete with built in TV.

01 Sukhothai Suite - Bathroom

They even reckon that the sleep experience is of the highest standard and the spacious balcony was the ultimate chill zone, complete with the traditional 137 Pillars House signature rocking chair and an over-sized day-bed for two, with superb view of the Bangkok skyline. The balcony was a true blessing for a person like me who loves to sometimes just disconnect and relax!

​137 Pillars Suites features the 137 Pillars Hotels & Resorts signature Leonowens Club, the Jack Bain’s Bar and Cigar Divan, and the exquisite Nimitr specialty restaurant featuring Thai favourites with a molecular twist as well as Western delicacies created by their Group Executive Chef and Culinary Artist, Peter Marx from Sweden. A meal here is a must. We dined here once and not just enjoyed the true beauty of the restaurant but thoroughly loved every bit of our meal as well.  It was quite an experience I must say!

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Their Bangkok Trading Post Restaurant is an all-day dining bistro and deli appealing to local residents and guests, serving Western and Asian favourites as well as freshly baked breads, connoisseur coffee and specialty beverages. I was told that both the restaurants were designed and created by Bangkok’s chic design couple Sophie Beghin and Faun Israrena na Ayudhya of Santhaya Associates.

And this is not it, staying in the suite comes with even more added benefits. One need not use the common pool, instead I had an amazing time swimming in their rooftop infinity edged pool. Also, an exclusive gym facility is available for the suite guests! The 27th floor has chic late check-out and early check-in pods and separate shower facilities in the event that suites are fully booked.

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10 GYM for Suite Guest on Level 26

Trust me when I say that there wouldn’t be a dull moment when staying here. The NITRA spa and wellness center with a separate yoga and meditation sala offers activities including aerial flow yoga, tai chi, reiki and dance. Their Golf Studio seemed rather fun and interesting. Others services include 137 signature dining and picnics by design, a personal shopping service and guide, privately curated and customized tours, tennis and golf practice putting and chipping with personal trainers for both on request, kids’ corner and meeting space.

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In case you want to know how to get here, then here are the details… You could get to the Emquartier/Emporium shopping complex through the BTS Skytrain/MRT underground trains and then you could get a pick-up scheduled in their complimentary London Cab, affectionately known as Louie.

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Also, since the property name reflects residences, here is why- 137 Pillars Residences Bangkok houses 179 private residences offering bespoke facilities for leisure, business and long stay guests including the use of their stylish, customized London Cab.

Lastly, I can’t thank 137 Pillars Suites & Residences Bangkok enough for the most spectacular stay ever! The staff here was the most helpful, caring and accommodating… I thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast each day and have to mention that one cannot afford to miss trying their waffles for breakfast at Leonowens Club!

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Wishing this property great success always as they deserve every bit of it!

Best,
Sonali

Taking the Spice Route

There is no scarcity of restaurants in today’s times, whether it’s the standalone ones or those housed in plush hotels but there are only a few that truly leave a mark, for they believe in delivering exceptional yet value for money experiences.

We were honoured to experience one such outing rather recently, when both of us, dressed in our Sunday best drove down to a restaurant featured among world`s top ten as per Condé Nast Traveler… It is The Spice Route at The Imperial that we are talking about.

And we must admit that this was a day when luck was on our side, as not only were we being hosted to impeccable hospitality amidst rich ambience but joining us for lunch was their star Chef Veena Arora, who has also been awarded as the Best Lady Chef by Ministry of Tourism in India for her Outstanding Achievement and Contribution to the Promotion of Tourism in the Country.

On comfortably being seated, we were constantly reminding each other that we were still very much in Delhi and not in Thailand or Sri Lanka because of the interiors reminiscent of the spice route nations.

If you are a Thai cuisine lover like us, then this be a great bet for the queen chef is born and brought up in Thailand and brings only the most authentic flavours along.

Besides a very extensive and rich menu, the restaurant boasts a special Winter Menu that ensnared our taste buds with the interesting dishes listed below:

Appetizers:

Prawn in a Sarong: Malaysian style por pia skin wrapped prawns, flavoured with lemongrass, chillies and fried crisp. Served with sweet chilli and plum sauce

Fish in Banana Leaf Parcel: Vietnamese style steamed fish flavoured with lemon grass, chillies and pounded glutinous rice served in banana leaf parcel

Soups:

Tom Yum Thalay: Spicy hot and sour mixed seafood  soup, flavoured with lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves.

Main Course:

Meen Biryani: Kerala style rice cooked with fish, flavoured with whole Indian spices

Phanaeng Pla: Crispy fillet of sole served with phananeng sauce

Desserts:

Ice-cream Tauhu: Silky bean curd ice cream with cinnamon flavour (vegan)

All seafood lovers, trying out these delicacies is a must for you all.

And we ordered some more from their a la carte menu too for our strictly vegetarian Shagun.

Appetizers:

Por Pia Chae: Thai style spring roll with vegetables, fried crisp and served with sweet chili and plum sauce

Som Tum Chae:  Tangy Thai raw papaya and peanut salad

Soups:

Kaeng Cherd Tauhu Lod: Clear vegetable and silky bean curd soup, flavoured with fresh sautéed garlic

Main Course:

Phad Phrik Tauhu: Stir-fried silky bean curd and bamboo shoots in Thai basil sauce

Malabar Vegetable Curry: Assorted vegetables cooked in Southern spices from Malabar coast of India

Hmmm… Sounds like quite a lavish spread, doesn’t it? But the best part was that each and every dish was reflective of great love with which it was prepared for that is the reason that each of them tasted a perfect ten on ten.

Talking about the décor, it is truly one of its kind, there is so much thought which has gone into each and every corner of this restaurant. Believe it or not, but each section of the restaurant represents a part of the human cycle; expressed through hand painted walls, intelligent placing of various elements and the overall ambience.

Well, the interiors are splendid but we have to also share our favorite spot. It was actually their courtyard which is bedecked with traditional Thai sculptures from Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. An evening spent here would be truly worthwhile and memorable.

Before we sign off, we would like to say that if you haven’t been here as yet, you are surely missing on something. And for those planning to visit Delhi anytime soon, make sure you visit The Imperial Hotel for its sharp representation of Indian heritage and culture.

Winter Collection at The Spice Route (South East Asian Restaurant)

15th November 2014- 15th February 2015

Timings:  Lunch- 12:30pm to 2:45pm and Dinner- 7:00pm to 11:45pm

Love,

Shagun & Sonali

Gorge on Grills & More!

It’s only the anticipation of unwinding at a worthwhile joint that can charge you up to drive down from the heart of Delhi to the millennium city-Gurgaon. After a hard day at work, we can vouch for it that all your stress and worries would be drained out-the minute you step into the newly opened- Indian Grill Room.

Our first date with this place was even better as we got to witness the exclusive preview of the alfresco area of the restaurant, the Terrace in early May. The evening was hosted by Kamal Khattar, Owner, Indian Grill Room and well-known socialite Shalini Kochhar. Gulfam Sabri a 7th generation musical scion and new age DJ Vaibhav together mesmerized the guests with soulful Sufi and Ghazal tracks.

Adding glamour to the event were fashion designers Monisha Bajaj and Anil Lepps, Charu Parashar, Jatin Kochhar, Nitin Vijay, Rita Gangwani, Vandana Mehra, Bharti Bhalla,  Meenakshi Dutt, Brinda Bose, Witty Bawa, Shelly & Sanjay Batra, Hairstylist Sylvie and artist Anjana Kuthiala.

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Talking of what remains the primary focus; the place by all standards is massive and serves to be just the perfect venue for all those who like things quite larger than life! The place has a lot of freshness, well even though that’s expected out of a new place, the restaurant clearly stands a league apart from the umpteen Indian food joints in the city. Well, when talking Delhi, there is seldom a chance that you’ll be left to stuff yourself with trashy food but this place stresses much on the quality of food. Each dish reflects much thought and uniqueness.

Papri platter

Grilled Shadras

Gucchi Paneer Lifafa

Raan Sikandari

Salmon – Poli Chattu

And not to miss, the terrace is absolutely to die for! The Terrace @ Indian Grill Room is spread over 10,000 sq.ft. with a water body, gazebos, lounge seating, a performance area and an independent kitchen and bar.  It offers a À la carte menu and is ideal for hosting parties. The cherry on top being the soothing lounge music which is played every night with Wednesdays and Fridays dedicated to guest performers who play Sufi and Retro music.

Open Terrace

More impressed with artificial air conditioning, we decided to be tucked in a corner in the indoor portion and went in for a set menu.

Dining Area

So, as we chit-chatted, the hospitable staff took great care of us and kept pampering us with one good dish after the other. Their biryani and dal makhani are truly lip-smacking.

Also, you just can’t get enough of their kebabs which simply melt in your mouth.  The interesting punch comes in with the exciting beverage menu. We both just couldn’t resist ourselves from slurping some fruit chat and aam panna mocktails. And, for our sweet buds-the gulab jamun and badam halwa did the trick!

Indian Grill Room celebrates Indian cuisine through the use of various Indian grilling techniques like the tawa, charcoal grill, pathar and tandoor. The restaurant aims to provide its patrons with a one-of-a-kind dining experience with open kitchens, and interactive grill station and a private dining room.

Interactive Grill Station

Gazebo at the Terrace

Waiting Area

You’ll never get bored of coming to this restaurant as they quite intelligently change the menu every 15 days.  Quite unusual, isn’t it? So, it’s a wise choice to make two rounds here every month as who wants to give good food a miss? And if the waiting be long, then check the waiting room above; you will not regret the wait. 🙂

The High of Hauz Khas Village…

We have to say that if a village can turn so funky and exciting, then let’s all turn villagers! This place has been revamped to such a degree that you wouldn’t even recognize it especially if you’re entering this space after a couple of years.

If you belong to the new school of fun-tainment, whose idea of an evening isn’t just restricted to getting squashed at an over-hyped club, then you are sure to fall head over heels in love with this place.

Simply put, this place is unconventionally good. We think of this place to fall in the category of parallel cinema as opposed to popular cinema. And we all do like some substance in our films, don’t we?

Just last evening, both of us decided to explore the by lanes of this vibrant complex. And trust us; it was as if we were unraveling some mystery. With every turn, we found something interesting.  But you need the willingness to appreciate everything that comes across as a piece of art!

There are a myriad shops selling stuff that you’ll seldom find in any of the so-called happening markets of the city. From film posters to organic fashion, this market has it all.  The highlight of this place sure has to be its cafes. And you’ll actually sense the laid-back attitude in the air only.  You would find it hard to digest that even in a city like ours, people here are in no rush; they are willing to just sit in the same position while reading a book or getting engrossed in some deep conversation.

While the relatively known spots like Kunzum, Amour, Out of the Box, Gunpowder and The Living Room are usually packed, it is some of the newer spots that’ll sure draw your attention as well.

Gun Powder

Kunzum Travel Cafe

OUT OF THE BOX

Situated in one extreme of the complex are places like The Grey Garden and NOX. After quite a walk through the whole market, we finally decided to put aside all the stress and raise a toast at NOX. This only a month old place makes you feel so much at home that you actually don’t give a damn as to who’s listening or watching! The place is simple and so-not in your face and sometimes that’s exactly what you want! And not to miss, we ladies even enjoyed the popular tracks they played as we were gorging on some Ravioli. We’ll reckon that if you’re looking for some secluded serenity, then this might just meet your requirement!

Hey, so think less and soon just drop-in to HKV and who knows you might just bump into the SOUL SISTERS 🙂

Image courtesy:

Second image (Gunpowder)- http://www.facebook.com/gunpowderkitchen

Third image (Kunzum Travel Cafe)-  Katharine Sidelnik/ http://www.theindiatube.com

Fourth Image (Out of the Box) – http://www.facebook.com/outoftheboxhauskhas

Lighthouse In The City

We definitely didn’t have a real hard time hunting this place which was in absolute tandem to our tastes and preferences. Sometimes, good things do come easy and are extremely overwhelming. Lighthouse 13 is one of those places which aren’t in your face yet provide a satisfying experience.

The place is wisely divided into two sections, for those who know us well, won’t be surprised to know that we chose the open space over the closed floor. The terrace overlooks the hustle-bustle of the heart of the city, yet the night time seems totally divine especially on Wednesday’s when soft sufi music only adds to the serenity of the whole ambience.


The food is another highlight of this restaurant as it brings together the best of national and international cuisines. We have to say that each dish would talk about the meticulous nature of the chef. The condiments which come with every dish would leave you biting your own fingers. We absolutely fancied the hummus, sun dried tomato hummus and avocado dips which came in the mezze platter.


What instantly popped out our eyeballs in the bar menu were the wine cocktails. So, we both ordered our separate share. Though, the drinks were refreshing, somehow they didn’t live up to our expectations as the flavours were quite subtle.
As we enjoyed our wine, the chef generously spared time and helped us decide on the menu for the evening. Discovering our love for cheese, he planned it accordingly. From interesting salads like Fattoush to zucchini crepes, the evening had it all that had a touch of cheese.


The menu is honestly quite glamorous with exotic offerings like oysters, prawns, salmon, and duck- all made available under one roof. The ones who’d like to turn towards the safe zone of pasta and pizza, then there are enough options.

And for all those, who like lots of chocolate to end their meal, there is nothing that would work better than a tiramisu or a chocolate mousse! It was absolutely heavenly savouring these under the skylight.

Well, we’ll be honest and admit that the thing which would actually get us back to this buzzing joint is its interesting ambience. After all, this that one important factor which we all are always desperately looking for!
So, those in search of a beautiful rooftop that can assure peace, tranquility and amazing sheesha then do visit this place and if possible make it a Wednesday for their live Sufi night. Cheers!