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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WITH LOVE FROM THE MOST ROMANTIC CITY OF INDIA-UDAIPUR

I am a complete dreamer and I don’t shy away from admitting to it either. I love to dream…Dream about countries, cities, beaches, mountains, lakes and so much more. So, while conversing if you feel that I have switched off, maybe I actually have switched off… And have commenced my day-dreaming probably about being on this beach I came across while glancing through my social media account.

For many of these dreams have turned to reality and many are on the wish-list but I am in a happy space as I gradually want to unravel these places spread through the length and breadth of the World Map. Eagerness to visit any destination makes me think more, makes me read more and most importantly it make me work more (harder) so that I can savour the destination in its true spirit.

Today, I am going to throw some light on my very first holiday and trip of 2017… The trip was made to Udaipur- the city of lakes where I had been to-long time ago. But yet again there was something about it which was making me want to visit it sooner than soon and so it happened! Having a loved sister in company just added the right colour and laughter to the trip.

So, without any further delay-sharing as much from our trip…

  1. When visiting this rather romantic city- best is to stay closest to the lakes. I love the water, so there was no way that I was going to be away from the water. We chose- Udai Kothi to be our home for 2 nights and 3 days. Yes, you can see the lake from several parts of the hotel and I must share that our stay was cozy and comfortable. Though we didn’t eat much here, but we would certainly look forward to the breakfast area by the pool to just sit and relax. We clicked umpteen pictures, for the property is gorgeous in white and gets decorated with gorgeous marigold flowers in the common areas. I must add our room was much bigger than expected and was stocked with all the essentials.
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  2. We had amazing gastronomic experiences, like each meal surpassed the one before. For the very reason that we ate to our heart’s content- we are actually happy that we got to walk quite a bit! Hear me out on this one-whenever you decide to visit the City Palace Museum- you must make time to eat at the Palki Khana as this restaurant lets you enjoy the view of the overwhelming structure.
    Also, when both of us were wanting to try out a nice café- we landed in front of the Udai Art Café which was established by Meropi, a vibrant lady hailing from Greece who is a photographer, a coffee connoisseur, a chef and an adventurer. Wow, impressive right? She impressed us equally while she passionately helped us decide our order. We binged big on their pesto pasta and crepe with mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese and bell peppers. We loved our meal which was light on our tummies and pockets!
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  3. For our evening meals we opted for the Aravali Lakeview Restaurant at the Radisson Blu Hotel where we binged on some Laal Maas and the second evening we ate our all-time favourite, Chicken Biryani at this spectacular restaurant right opposite our hotel called Hari Garh. In both cases, we enjoyed views of the lake (both were different lakes), had amazing food and didn’t land up paying all that much. At Radisson Blu, while we enjoyed a live flute performance, the next evening- we played and enjoyed some soothing music from our own phones as we got the best table which only made us pray that the time should freeze as we were having the best time ever!

    Glimpses from  Aravali Lakeview Restaurant at the Radisson Blu Hotel-
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  4. Two things which must feature on your itinerary when in Udaipur- the Lake Pichola Boat Ride and a visit to the City Palace Museum. You are able to soak in much of the city on opting for these two!

    Views from the boat-
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  5. When in Rajasthan, you would certainly have a strong urge to shop everything colourful that meets your eyes. At the Hathipole market– we shopped dupattas like there’s no tomorrow. Also, while passing through several lanes. we picked up jhumkas and lovely neckpieces! Ghewar and Pyaazki kachori are must buys from the Jodhpur Misthan Bhandar for all loved ones back home.
  6.  So, here’s the funniest account-just when someone advised us to head to Sajjangarh for a picturesque panoramic view of the city- we did get there but without looking around much straight away got the tickets for their biological park. Yes, you got that right!!! Little did we know that the very next gate leads to their rather pretty Monsoon Palace… Want to know what next? We were on a golf cart scaling through the park and giggling like little girls spotting the lion, tiger and much more…

  7. For our divine calling, we headed to the Jagdish Temple which is a large Hindu temple in the middle of Udaipur…And we were thoroughly satisfied with our visit.
  8. We thought of ending our trip on a high note and hence, headed to The Oberoi Udai Vilas. Words fall short to describe the beauty that this place is. We had made a reservation for their restaurant-Chandni and post arrival,were soon guided to our table which was facing the lake on one side and gave us a beautiful view of the property on the other. The quality and taste of the food was extremely impressive and we enjoyed every bit of it.
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    Here are few handy tips if you are planning to visit Udaipur anytime soon-

    1. Be ready to scroll around with your luggage in case your hotel is situated in some narrow lane as sometimes the taxi drivers don’t want to risk taking their cars through the congested routes.
    2. Some of the locals take art classes which seem very interesting. Make sure if interested, you keep aside approximately 3 hours for it.
    3. Commuting isn’t an issue, you’ll find autos mostly everywhere…We also made good use of Uber!
    4. Make sure you take reservations in case you are planning to visit one of the plush properties and even check if they allow non-residential guests at all.
    5. We did hear much about the Bagore ki Haveli for its popular evening show with a variety of Indian dance- maybe you could check it out!


    Happy Travelling, always!!!
    -Sonali