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Month: July 2017

Exploring Dubai beyond the shopping malls

Exploring Dubai beyond the shopping malls

Dubai is known as the entertainment capital of the Middle East. The Emirate is renowned for the shopping malls, futuristic architecture, and exuberant nightlife. As we had already visited almost all the enormous malls in Dubai, We decided to explore Dubai, beyond the shopping malls.

The best time to visit is November-March (December being the peak month).

Visa for Indians: Indians can apply for the visas to UAE through the agents or the nearest visa application centers. Now the UAE provides Visa on arrival for Indian passport holders with US green card or residence permits.

The EU nationals can enter the UAE without a visa for 90 days out of 180 days unless otherwise stated. Check out the Visa policy for your country here

Stay: There are numerous 2,3,4 and 5-star hotels that you can book according to your budget. Make sure you compare the prices in various sites before booking the rooms.

Dress code: Dubai is the fashion capital of the UAE and the dress code is very liberal here as compared to the other Emirates. But make sure the dresses don’t offend the locals.

Currency: The currency of the UAE is known as Dirhams(Dh) and 100 fils make a dirham. 1 AED= 17.57 INR.

Things to do in Dubai:

Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort: Dubai fort and museum is situated in the near the creek area.

Entrance: 3Dh

Timings: From Saturday to Thursday, from 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM, and Fridays, from 2:30 PM to 8:30 PM.

The place offers insight into the rich cultural heritage of Dubai. There are ancient items like pottery, weapons etc. The place is a must visit in Dubai.

Al Fahidi Fort and Museum
Some pearls and other artifacts
Deep divers
A scene from the ancient Arab land
The exit

The temple and the textile souk: Visit the Temple complex (Krishna and Sai Baba temples) and the Gurudwara in the same building. These places are near the museum.The textile souk or the old souk offers a massive range of fabrics (wools, cashmere, silk, cotton etc.) along with several souvenir stores.

Take an Abra to the other side of the Creek: The abra is the traditional boat of the Emirates. The ride costs 1 Dh per person. It takes around 10 minutes to reach the other side. The ride is totally a great experience.

The Abra Station
The view from the Abra
The sunset

Visit the gold and the spice souks: Visit the world famous gold souk of Dubai. The gold souk is situated near the Dubai Creek. The visitors remain astonished at the sight of so much gold. All that glitters is gold in the gold souk. The spice souk is quite near the gold souk. You can smell the place before you see it. The tantalizing aroma of all the spices is amazing. Besides the spices, one can get basmati rice, dry fruits, and various other materials in this souk.

All that glitters is Gold in Dubai!
Yeah!! All Gold
Guinness World Record for the Largest Ring made of Gold

Visit the Miracle garden and the butterfly garden: This park is the regions’ largest flower gardens with around 45 billion flowers blooming at a time. This place is a treat to the eyes. The Garden is closed during summer months. Tickets: 35 AED pp

Its heard to believe Dubai is actually a Desert

The Dubai water canal: This is the newest attractions of Dubai. This is the extension of the Dubai Creek till Business Bay. One can take a cruise ride in the water canal in the evenings or simply take a walk around the place.

Dubai Water Canal

Visit the Palm islands and the Atlantis lost chambers aquarium: I would recommend visitors to take a tram to the Palm Islands (from JLT stop) so as to see the crescents of the palm clearly. The tram tickets cost 30 per person (to and fro). One can either spend time taking photos outside the Atlantis (in the jogging track) or visit the Aquaventure water park or the Lost Chamber aquarium ( entrance starts from 100 Dh) One can also take helicopter rides and airplane rides from Marina (starts from 500AED per person)

The Atlantis (View from the Tram)

Go Dune bashing and Desert Safari: Take a Desert safari and enjoy the dune bashing in an SUV. The desert safari costs around 150 Dh per person and it is worth the money. The tour offers you a pickup and drops from the hotel. After the dune bashing, the tourists will be taken to the desert camp site where there will be Tanura show, belly dancing, Hookah bar followed by the dinner at the camp. Though the dinner is not so praiseworthy, the overall experience is amazing and one of the must haves in UAE

Ships of the desert-Camels
Tanura Dance
Sunset scenes at the desert

Visit at the top –Burj- Khalifa: Visit the observatory at the top of world’s tallest building at 124th floor. You can view the entire area from the telescope. The tickets cost around 150 Dh per person.

The Burj Khalifa

The beaches: There are many private and public beaches to spend quality time with family here. The Jumeirah beach is a chilled out beach here.One can take awesome snaps of Burj-al-Arab from here. Kite beach is famous for the kite surfers here, one can enjoy several water sports on this beach. Barasti Beach: This is a private beach and bar in Dubai and one of the most happening places. There are several events organized here. One can enjoy the chilled beer and hookah sitting on the beach side.

Visit the Madinat Jumeirah: It is a souk very near to the Jumeirah beach. Visit the souk to check out the souvenirs and local handmade items. There are also good restaurants and bars in that place.

Enjoy at the global village: The global village is world’s largest exhibition. It features over 25 pavilions showcasing the art, merchandise, and handicrafts of the countries across the globe.This place is a must visit in Dubai. The global village remains open from November to April. Timings: 4 PM- 12 AM. The entrance ticket is 15 Dh per person.

Other attractions:

IMG world of Adventure: This is an indoor amusement park. Ticket prices: 245 Dh per person onwards.

Wild Wadi water parks: The wild wadi water park is near the Burj-al-Arab and is one of the best places to beat the heat.

one can also go for the Hatta safari or to the Dibba Musandam as one day trip.

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Bekal -A visit to my native land

Bekal -A visit to my native land

Bekal is a small village situated in the northernmost district of Kerala, Kasargod. This place happens to be my native too. We visit here to attend the functions at our family temple every year. Bekal is famous for the Bekal fort, which is the largest fort in Kerala. There is also a famous Shiva temple on the way to the fort.

Getting here: One can visit Bekal by train or by road. The train Mangalore–Coimbatore passenger departs from Mangalore Central at 7:35 AM. The journey is of 45-50 minutes. But we usually travel by our car. It is around 75 KM ride from Mangalore city.

We started at around 7 AM from Mangalore by our car. The NH66 road is in excellent condition now.Our first stop was the Anantapur Lake Temple. This temple is built in the middle of the lake in Ananthapura Village. Legend has it that the cave near the temple is connected to the Ananta Padmanabha temple of Thiruvananthapuram. Unfortunately, I had not clicked any pictures of the temple during my visit there ( as our phones were switched off)

Anantha Padmanabha Temple, Kerala Source:Wiki

The temple is also famous for the vegetarian crocodile, Babiya who is said to be the guardian of the temple. The temple has a really amazing architecture. After visiting this temple, we reach Thirkannadu in Bekal. This is a famous temple of the region and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is situated right in front of the beach. After visiting this temple, we left for our ancestral home in Bekal for lunch.

Thryambakeshwara Temple Source:Wiki

Pro tip: If you are a vegetarian or do not prefer food with coconut oil, it is better to carry your own food. As most of the restaurants serve beef here and use coconut oil for all the dishes.

After a sumptuous lunch prepared by my granny and a bit of rest, we went on to visit the famous Fort.

Timings: 8:30 Am -5:30 PM

Entrance: INR 5 and INR 25 for the camera and INR 20 for car parking

There is a Mukhyaprana temple ( Hanuman temple) at the entrance to the fort and an ancient mosque nearby which are a proof to the religious harmony that prevailed in the land. The fort was built by Shivappa Nayak of Ikkeri dynasty and later captured by the Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore in the year 1763.

The fort was very well maintained and the gardens were in full bloom too. My most favorite part of the fort was the one end jutting to the sea. One can feel the sea waves splashing at your place from the point. Also, it was one of the best sunset view points that I have seen. Also, the famous song “Tu hi re” from the movie Bombay was shot here, in this fort.

The main structure and the well-maintained gardens
The View from the top is awesome!
One more
The View
The stairs to the underground storage space
The exterior walls of the fort
My favorite place !!

Later we decided to visit the Bekal beach, which is adjacent to the fort. There are rides and a park for the kids. We spent around 15 minutes there as it was very crowded.

We left for Mangalore at around 5 PM and reached home by 7 PM.

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Travel Essentials for your next trip

Travel Essentials for your next trip

Packing for a trip can be a grueling task. I am used to adding a lot “just in case” stuff to my luggage which is totally unwanted. Recently, I managed all my necessary stuff in one backpack for my three-day trip to Fujairah. Hmm! I am getting better at packing every time I travel. Therefore, I decided to share my travel essentials with you all.

Before you start packing, here are a few things to consider:

Destination: Destination is the key determinant of the things you pack. For example, if it is a beach location, one should ensure to pack summer essentials, whereas if you are planning for a colder destination, one needs to ensure that the sweaters and winter stuff are packed.

The luggage limit: Ensure that the packing is in accordance with the permissible luggage limit

Days of stay: Pack your stuff according to the number of days. Plan your apparels and accessories according to the itinerary. This will save you from over packing.

So, here goes my list:

First of all my hand luggage: My hand luggage usually consists of two bags-one sling bag(cross bag) and a backpack.

Sling bag: Currently I am using the Guess Sling bag. I do not part with the bag during the journey and while exploring the destinations.

The sling bag contents

Contents:

  • My Passport and other IDs
  • My Phone and the earphones
  • Sunglasses
  • Currency
  • Debit and credit cards
  • A copy of travel documents
  • A pen
  • Keys
  • Hand sanitizer and some tissues
  • Lipstick and a Kajal
  • A small comb and clips

These are the things that are on me at all the times

Backpack:  I am currently using the Adidas backpack. It is light weight and not a burden to carry.

The backpack contents

Contents:

  • Lenovo Ideapad ( It is super light)
  • Mobile and laptop charger and Universal adapters
  • Dell tablet (my in-flight entertainment) and hard disk.
  • Novel (nothing can beat the love for books) and a notepad.
  • Camera and charger (The camera case is usually Mr. Rao’s sling bag counterpart 😉)
  • A copy of all the travel documents.
  • Some hidden currency ( just in case!)
  • Sunscreen and perfume
  • A set of clothes, socks, and undergarments (In case of losing luggage)
  • Neck pillow (only if I am taking a flight)
  • Scarf
  • Medicines and bandaids ( medicines with prescription necessary for international travel)
  • A toothbrush and a tiny toothpaste

Check-in bag: I have an American Tourister luggage bag. The bag has many partitions and helps me pack better.

The check-in bag stuff

Contents:

  • Another set of all the travel documents inside the bag
  • The owner information and contact numbers in the front zip, in case of loss of luggage
  • My jeans, shirts, dresses, undergarments, socks.
  • Matching clutches, shoes, sandals, and scarves.
  • Another set of medication with the prescription. Also, pain relievers are a must carry
  • A box consisting of Makeup remover cotton pads, Body lotion, deodorants, hair serum, and lip colors and bb cream and mascara)
  •  A jewelry box for all the accessories
  • Bath towels
  • Some plastic bags and laundry bag
  • Some hidden cash
  • Some eatables ( a pack of biscuits and snacks, if we are unable to buy them at the local stores)

We do not carry bath lotions, shampoos, and the hair dryer and use it from the hotel. Most of the hotels also provide with the vanity kits and sewing kits, which we do not carry.

Deodorant, some cosmetics, the jewelry and watch box and some medicines

Pro tips:

  • Take a photo of all the things that you have packed, that will ensure that you don’t have to unpack and repack to check if the item is present or not.
  • Roll up the clothes instead of folding them.That way we can get more space in the bag.
  • Make sure you have the soft copy of all the travel documents in your email, in the case of emergencies.
  • So these are my travel essentials, Did I miss out anything? Let me know! Happy packing!

 
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The Jewel of Kedah-A paradise called Langkawi,Malaysia

The Jewel of Kedah-A paradise called Langkawi,Malaysia

About: Langkawi is a cluster/archipelago of 104 islands on the Malaysian west coast. Langkawi is officially known as Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah. The islands are the part of the state of Kedah, Malaysia. According to the folklore, Langkawi’s name came from two Malay words – ‘helang’ (eagle) and ‘kawi’ (reddish brown): hence lang-kawi. The emblem of Langkawi is the white-breasted eagle.

Visa Requirements: Indians with the Malaysian Visa (Tourist/Business) can visit these Islands.

Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) 1 MYR (RM) =15 INR

Best time to visit: The peak season is from January to March.It is the summer in Langkawi the hotel and tours are expensive compared to the mid-season ie April to August. September and October are not advisable as it is rainy there. Also, consider the Ramadan dates while planning a trip here. A majority of the locals observe fast during the Ramadan month and thus there are very few activities that you can enjoy during that time. We visited the place during the first week of June

Recommended time to be spent: 3-4 Days

How to reach: The best and the fastest way to reach is the domestic flight from KaulaLumpur International Airport to Langkawi. Air Asia and Malaysia airline offer low fare flights. It takes an hour to reach the Islands. Alternatively one can take flights from Penang too. There are ferries available from Kaula Kedah, Penang and Kaula Perlis if one is on low budget travel. The travel time from Kaula Perlis to Langkawi is 1 hour and 15 minutes and costs around 18 RM per person (economy tickets).

We reached Langkawi at around 2 PM in the afternoon from KL. Checked in to our beach resort at around 2:30 PM. After freshening up, we started for our pre- booked Mangrove tour.

Langkawi Places to visit:

1) Take a Mangrove tour: Mangrove tours are package tour starting from RM200 for two people. The price of the tour depends on the tour operator you book with. You can check online for best deals.This tour is by motorboat (private or a group tour). This tour offers truly incredible views of nature. We travel around the Kilim Geo forest in the boat to see the well protected Mangrove forests, the flora and the fauna of the area. Keep a watch on the shores for the animal life. One can see monkeys, squirrels, monitor lizards, otters etc. The tour operators stop at the Gua Kelawar (the bat caves) and Fish farms. The bat caves are made of limestone formation and a really creepy place.

Eagle feeding: Eagle feeding activity is usually included in the Mangrove tour. The tour guide shuts down the engines at eagle feeding sites and throws dead fishes or chicken pieces in the water. Within few minutes, one can see dozens of eagles swooping in from the sky to grab off with the food.

Floating Fish Farms: Here you can see many varieties of fishes that are bred here. You can hand feed few fishes. The guide from the fish farm will take you around and show various types of fishes and aquatic beings that are on the farm.

After the three activities, the tour guide dropped us to our hotel in Pantai Cenang. Our hotel was right in front of the Cenang beach. So we went on to watch the beautiful sunset. There are lots of restaurants in Cenang area (Even Indian Restaurants).We had dinner in one of the Italian restaurants there.

2)Dayang Bunting Geo Forest and the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden: We visited this place on our second day in Langkawi. The Dayang Bunting Geo Forest is the second largest Island in Langkawi. To reach the Lake of the pregnant maiden, one has to go trek your way up to the hill. One the way you can see natural marble formation and various types of local trees and plants. There are a lot of monkeys too.

3)Lake of the pregnant maiden: This is a fresh water lake on the top of the mountain.There is an ancient story associated with this place. The Princess of the Land married a local common man and had a son, unfortunately, the son could not live for long and both of them buried him in the lake. Along with giving their son to the lake, the Princess also prayed for all the woman having difficulty in having a baby. It is believed that having a dip in this lake can solve infertility problems in women.Also if you observe closely, the surrounding mountains are in the shape of a sleeping pregnant woman. Here one can take a dip in the river, take a kayak or a paddle boat for rent or sit and let the beauty of the place sink in.

Also if you observe closely, the surrounding mountains are in the shape of a sleeping pregnant woman. Here one can take a dip in the river, take a kayak or a paddle boat for rent or sit on the river bank and let the beauty of the place sink in.

4)Island hopping tour: This tour takes you to 3-4 islands including the Dayang Bunting. One can book this tour with the local tour agents for around 200 RM per person.We also visited an Island called Beras Basah. It was a beautiful island with the white sand beach. We had a great time on the beach there.

5)Underwater world: The entrance fees is RM 46 per person. Timings:10 AM-6 PM.

This is Malaysia’s largest aquarium and houses more than 200 species of marine and freshwater fishes.

6)Duty-free shopping: Yes!! Langkawi is Duty-free Zone. On our second day, we visited The Zon duty-free and the Cenang Mall ( it is near the underwater world) for shopping. No wonder this place is also called as the shoppers’ paradise.

7)3D art museum: This is one of the most visited places in Langkawi and often very crowded.The 3D art museum is the largest of its kind in Malaysia and 2nd largest in the world. It is situated in the Oriental Village, next to the sky cables. Tickets: RM 38 per person.

8)Langkawi sky cab and the sky bridge: This was one of the most exciting parts of our trip. Langkawi sky cab is the steepest ride in the world. The ride in standard gondolas cost around 55 RM per person. There are VIP gondolas too. The ride takes you to Mount Mat Cincang, Langkawi’s second highest peak.The view from the cab is breathtaking. After around 600 M, disembark in the first station to have a look around and visit the viewpoint and then take another cable car to reach the second level. One has to ascend a series of steps to reach the observatory deck. The view from here is indescribable.

Langkawi Sky Bridge: Is the tallest suspended bridge at the height of 2300 ft above sea level.The view is simply amazing. This is a great place for a photo stop.

9)Dataran Lang ( The eagle square): the 12m high sculpture of the reddish brown eagle at Dataran Lang was built as an emblem of the Island.This huge statue is placed on the star-shaped platform.This place offers a great view of the Kuah Bay and is a great photo point. There are food courts, shops, small ponds, cafes nearby.

We reached our room by evening and went around the Pantai Cenang hunting for souvenirs. There are lots of spas offering a range of services here.( check for the authentic ones before you go).We also got the foot massage for RM25 per person before leaving to KL from the Langkawi airport.

Langkawi is indeed a jewel of Kedah. This is one of my most cherished trips.