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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.

Fujairah – the land of mountains, forts, and beaches.

Fujairah – the land of mountains, forts, and beaches.

It was our anniversary on the 25th of May, and the best way to celebrate it was to explore a new city together. So we decided to go to Fujairah, a lesser known emirate in the UAE. Fujairah is situated on the east coast.

About Fujairah: It is one of the seven emirates of the UAE and is situated on the east coast and has the coastline on the Gulf of Oman. The public transport is scarce here but taxis are available in plenty.

Best time to visit: definitely not May! It was very hot! The winter months ( November to March) are the best time to visit  any emirate in UAE for that matter 

Dress code: The emirate of Fujairah is not as liberal as Dubai and one must follow the dress code when visiting the mosque and other religious places. Swimwear etc. is allowed within the resort/ hotel limits.

We started from Dubai, which is on the west coast of the UAE at 2:30 PM. We took a metro from the Ibn batuta station to the Union stop. From Union, we boarded the bus E700 that would take us to Fujairah city ( Dh 28). Taking the bus was the biggest mistake we did on this trip It took us 3 hours to reach Fujairah whereas a taxi ride would have taken us to our destination in an hour and a half (Dh 250 approx). After a tiring journey, we got down at the Etisalat stop, Fujairah and checked in to our rooms at Hotel Nour Arjaan by Rotana. The hotel was right behind the Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque, the second largest mosque in UAE. The view from our hotel was just amazing.

View from our hotel Nour Arjaan by Rotana

Next day, there was a sumptuous spread for breakfast. We had our heart’s content and left to explore the city.

Yummy breakfast at the hotel

We asked our taxi driver to take us around the city. Our first stop was the Al Bidya Mosque.This mosque is situated at around 35KM to the north of Fujairah. This mosque is also known as the Othmanian mosque. It is the oldest mosque of UAE and was built in 1446 AD. The mosque was built using only locally available materials like stones and burned clay.

The view from the entrance to the Al-Bidya Mosque

The Al Bidya Mosque

On the way, we saw the Korfakkan Corniche and the Fujairah Seaport.Our next stop was Al Bithna Fort, which was 13 KM west of the Fujairah city.

Korfakkan Corniche

On the way, we stopped by at the heritage village, but it was not open yet. Then we headed to the fort. We had difficulty in finding the way to the fort as there were no direction signs put up anywhere. Finally, a friendly Emirati guy led us to the entrance.

Al Bithna Mosque

Al Bithna Fort is the 2nd largest fort and is nestled between a mountain range on both sides of Haam Valley. There is an agricultural oasis in front of the Fort. Al Bithna Fort consists of a main three- storied tower and one smaller tower located at the north. We spent some time here ( It was too hot to be out in the sun) and then went on to Al Hayl  Fort and Castle.

On the way to Al Hayl Castle

The Al Hayl castle was built in the year 1930. The road to this castle was narrow and through the mountains. I was surprised that there can be a castle in such a deserted area.  The guide at the castle told us that the forefathers of the current King of Fujairah had stayed in the Al Hayl castle. And there was an entire village in that area. (Now there are no people staying around the place).

It was already 1:30 PM by then and we were starting to get hungry. But we thought of visiting the Fujairah Fort before lunch. As it was Friday, the fort was closed. The Fujairah Fort was built in between 1500-1550 AD. This fort comprises of three circular towers and a square one. We took few snaps outside the fort and headed to the Lulu mall in Al Etisalat road for our lunch.

Entrance to the fujairah fort
Fujairah Fort
Ceiling at the Lulu Mall

Post lunch we got back to our room for a bit of rest. It was impossible to go roaming as the temperature was around 40 degrees C. I had a complimentary back and shoulder massage from the hotel :). At around 5 PM, we went on to visit the  Fujairah Museum.

The Fujairah Museum

Fujairah museum houses the artifacts that were excavated from the various historical sites of Fujairah. The entrance tickets cost  5 Dh per person. The museum is divided into two sections: the heritage halls: which displays the occupations known to the region like fishing, agriculture etc. It also includes the display of weapons, utensils, and costumes of the region. The Antique hall includes the excavated artifacts. The place was worth the visit and gave us a rich insight of the culture of the locals.

Our last stop was to the Fujairah Corniche. The place was very crowded as it was a holiday. We spent some time sitting on the shore and enjoying the surroundings and passed by the Sheikh Zyed Masjid, the second largest mosque in UAE and got back to our room at around 8 PM.

The Fujairah Corniche
Shiekh Zayed Masjid, Fujairah

Next day was the start of the holy month of Ramadan, which is why we covered all the attractions in one day. We had a great breakfast at our hotel and checked out at around 12:30 PM.

This time we did not go back by bus 😛  and booked a taxi instead. We had a great time in Fujairah!

An Ancient Land Called Mahabalipuram

An Ancient Land Called Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram, also known as Mahamallapuram is situated in Kanchipuram district of Tamilnadu.  It is famous for the monuments built in 7th -8th centuries by the rulers of the Pallava dynasty.  The monuments are listed on the world heritage sites list.

Mahabalipuram is around 30 minutes far from Shollinganallur (the place we stayed). We, a group of friends took shared auto from Shollinganallur to Mahabalipuram. The entry ticket is 30 INR for Indians and can be used for visiting other monuments around Mahabalipuram. Visiting time: 6 AM to 6 PM.

Places to visit:

The Shore Temple:  It is one of the oldest stone temples in India and is made entirely of granite stones. There are three temples, one large and two small. If viewed from a Nothern end, the temple appears like Dharmaraja Ratha. This pyramidal structure is placed on a 50 feet platform and is approximately  60 feet high.

5 Rathas: Built during the 7th century by the Pallava ruler, the 5 rathas are architectural marvels.  The Rathas are excellent examples of Dravidian Architecture and are monoliths ( each Ratha is chiseled out of single rock). The five rathas are named as ‘Dharmaraja Ratha’, ‘Bhima Ratha’, ‘Arjuna Ratha’, ‘Nakula Sahadeva Ratha’, and ‘Draupadi Ratha’ after the five Pandava brothers and their common spouse Draupadi from the great Indian epic ‘Mahabharata’. This place is listed in UNESCO world heritage site.

Arjunas Penance:  It is a monolith wonder  43 feet tall. One can see intricate art on the rock depicting the scenes of the natural and the celestial world. These carvings are a treat to the history buffs 

Arjuna’s penance

Caves and Mandapams: there are various mandapams or halls all through the monument complex. Some of them are Krishna mandapam (the largest cave), Varaha mandapam, Ramanuja mandapam. And several caves like  Mahishasura Mardini cave temple and the tiger cave( this is situated several KMs outside the Mahabalipuram monument complex).

Varaha Mandapam-source-Wikipedia

Krishna’s butter ball:  It is a gigantic ball shaped rock that is inclined at 45 degrees without rolling down. The massive rock weighs several tons and has been standing that way for over thousands of years now.

Krishna’s butter ball source:wikipedia

 Tip: There are a lot of refreshments like raw mangoes, fried groundnuts, water bottles and juices available nearby, that is sold by the locals at a bit higher prices. It is advisable to take your own water bottles and some snacks.

Mahabalipuram lighthouse: One can visit the top of the lighthouse after paying a nominal entry free. One has to walk a lot even to reach near the lighthouse.

Raya Gopuram: It is an unfinished tower, yet it was worth visiting. It was supposed to be the entrance to all the monuments on the hill.

Raya gopuram -source-Wikipedia

One can visit the seashore and enjoy the breeze and get back to Shollinganallur ( good hotels are available for stay) by evening.

 

Beach Hopping in Mangalore

Beach Hopping in Mangalore

I am a Thalassophile-Lover of the sea. The infinite sea never ceases to amaze me. Having spent my entire life near the coast, the sea is something that always soothes my soul. This article is about the beaches in Mangalore.

Mangalore is a coastal city in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka. It is approximately 350 KM from the state capital, Bangalore. One can visit Mangalore on weekends for a dose of Vitamin Sea. Beaches are one of the major attractions of the city along with numerous temples, churches, and parks.

To reach Mangalore from Bangalore, There are plenty of government and private buses from Bangalore (VRL, Sugama, SRS etc) that start from various locations in Bangalore. One can also take a train (new Kudla express) or a flight to Mangalore.

There are private buses available to travel within the city( Bus numbers 45,56 15 from Mangalore). There are plenty of Ola cabs and autos available too.

Visiting the beach is preferable during the evening because Mangalore is really hot!!! To start off, visit the famous Pabbas ice cream parlor in Lalbagh (near KSRTC bus stand) and savor the yummy and delicious ice creams(Gadbad, Tiramisu, Chocolate dad and what not !!)

Pabba’s icecreams
Gadbad
Tiramisu and Chocolate dad
cutlets

The first beach is the thannirbhavi beach. This beach can be reached directly by road or by a ferry from sultan Battery. The ferry charge is Rs 40 per person (to and fro). It takes around 10-15 minutes by the ferry. You are greeted by the canopy of shore pines and food shacks on the way to the beach. This beach is one of the silent and less crowded beaches of the city. One can either take some fun rides (banana ride, quad bikes) or enjoy the pristine beach and spend some time taking pictures :). You can also try seafood and charmuri from the shacks.

ticket counter for the ferry
Gurupura river
Sultan Battery
Shore pine trees-source: wiki
Charmuri

Return to Sultan battery by the ferry to visit the next beach -Panambur Beach. It is the most popular beach in Mangalore and always crowded. The famous kite festival and the airshows happen here. One can go for parasailing or a horse or camel ride at the beach. If you are a crowd friendly person, this beach is the perfect place to be. The sea is calmer here and it is easier to play in the water.

Panambur beach on a weekend. Source: coastaldigest.com
Kite festival 2016: source: daijiworld.com

The next beach in the beach hopping series is the Sasihithlu Beach. This beach is a bit secluded and a hidden gem. Not many visitors come here. This is the best beach to unwind and let the child in you out. 🙂 . Relax and enjoy the tranquillity of Sasihithlu beach. Although travelling from Mangalore to Sasihithlu, NITK beach comes first, I would suggest visiting the Sasihithlu beach first and then visit the NITK beach for the sunset.

Last but not the least is a visit to the famous NITK beach and the lighthouse. It is situated on the highway NH 66, towards Udupi. It is famous for the Sadashiva temple, the lighthouse, and the beach. The Sadashiva temple has been featured in some movies too. Also one must visit the lighthouse to view the 360-degree panoramic view of the city. The view from the top is breathtaking. The lighthouse closes at 6 PM. So make sure you get your tickets (INR 10) and visit it.

Virgin beach NITK

Ariel view Source: the internet

Watch the mesmerizing sunset on the shore. On the way back, visit the Sadashiva temple and get the blessings of Lord shiva.

Abu Dhabi in a day

Abu Dhabi in a day

Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. It is the largest of the 7 Emirates and also the richest. This Emirate consists of 200 Islands and 700 KM coastline. One can easily visit Abu Dhabi from Dubai, either by car or by bus.

The distance between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is approx. 140 KM and it takes around 1 hour 30 minutes by bus. The buses are available from Al Gubaiba Bus station in Bur Dubai (E100) or from Ibn batuta stop (E101). The frequency of the bus from Ibn Batuta is every half an hour. The ticket costs 25 AED, one way. Ordinary NOL card with sufficient currency is enough to swipe for the bus ticket.

the bus is the cheapest transport available to reach Abu Dhabi (taxi costs 300 AED one way!) or there are private tours that take a full day/half day city tour to Abu Dhabi for around 150-200 AED per person. Getting around Abu Dhabi is easy as there are plenty of cabs and price is reasonable ( meter starts from 3 AED, unlike in Dubai 5.50 AED

Places to visit in Abu Dhabi in a day

1) Marina mall: one of the famous malls in Abu Dhabi which houses all the local and the international brands. It also features the bowling alley, cinema and ice rink. One can also take the ferry wheel ride outside the mall (200AED pp)

2) Abu Dhabi corniche: It is a 8 km stretch and an amazing place to spend a couple of hours with the family.One can simply sit and enjoy the sunset, or cycle around, take a walk.Kids can play in the kids’ area. There are plenty of eateries available too.

3) Heritage Village: The heritage village is 20 minutes taxi ride from the Abu Dhabi metro station.The entrance to the heritage village is free. This place showcases the culture of UAE. It has an entire Emirati village re-created including the wells, farms, home, godowns etc. It shows how the city was before the oil boom. Kids can enjoy the camel ride and the horse rides here. There is a small souk, where the souvenirs, silverware, toy camels etc can be purchased. Also, there is a museum which houses photographs of various stages of development of the UAE, from small fishing villages to the super cities. The artisans there give a live demo on making of leather shoes, bags and glassware and various artifacts. One can have some quite time sitting at the sea shore and enjoying the view of the Abu Dhabi skyline from here. Recommended time to be spent: 2 hours. (unfortunately, I do not have enough pictures of the heritage village.)

pic courtesy: visitabudhabi.ae

4) Emirates palace Currently the 7-star hotel in Abu Dhabi, It used to be palace before. The visitors are allowed to visit the Hotel. Since it is closed on Friday (only hotel guests are allowed), we could not visit.We just took some snaps near the entrance to the palace. On the way to the palace, one can also see the famous Etihad towers (fast and furious 7 towers jumping scene) and ADNOC headquarters.

5)Sheik Zayed Grand mosque: It is one of the largest mosques in the world. It can accommodate around 41000 worshippers at a time.This mosque is open for people of all religion except during the prayer time.Women are required to dress modestly and cover their head with the scarf. The mosque is an amazing example of the modern day Islamic architecture. With over 80 domes and more than 1000 pillars, the mosque is a feast to the eyes of the visitors. The main attractions of the mosque include the largest loomed prayer carpet and the beautiful chandeliers (made of pure gold and Swarovski crystals).

6)Yas Island: Yas Island and Ferrari world need an entire day to dedicated to itself. But one can visit the Yas Island for a photo stop and also visit the Ferrari Merchandise store( Right before the entrance to the Ferrari world) and buy some Ferrari souvenirs and goodies.

One can also visit the Abu Dhabi souk, the carpet souq or the Abu Dhabi falcon hospital if the time permits.

The bus back to Dubai should be boarded from the Abu Dhabi bus station.

Gadauri-I fell in love with the Snow

Gadauri-I fell in love with the Snow

Finally, my wish for seeing the snow was turning into reality.  We were all set for our trip to Gadauri on our second day in Georgia. We started at 9 AM after the complimentary breakfast at our hotel. Gadauri is a ski resort located around 2 hours away from Tbilisi. The temperature there was estimated around 1 degree C without snowfall.  We both were fully decked up in our winter suits. Our first stop was Jinvali water reservoir, which is on the way to Gadauri.

Jinvali/Zhinvali reservoir

Jinvali/Zhinvali is an artificial reservoir located on the river Aragvi. It provides Tbilisi with drinking and utility water.The reservoir was only half filled as it was still winter in Georgia. It reaches its full capacity in spring, melt once all the snow from the mountains melts. After few pictures, we headed to Ananuri Castle Complex.

Ananuri Fortress
Ananuri Fortress
Ananuri Fortress
Square tower
Church,Ananuri Fortress

The entrance to the fortress is free. The Ananuri castle complex consists of a fortress and two churches.  The fortress is on the UNESCO tentative list for the world heritage sites.  The construction of this fortress dates back to 13th century. It was a beautiful structure. There was a small underground tunnel too. We went up the square tower for some snaps . The steps were too narrow and the landing at each floor was made of wood and too rickety. It was a kind of adventure going on to the top :P. Later, we visited the church in the complex. Once outside, we took some snaps of the amazing landscape and started towards Gadauri.

Inside the church
Ananuri Castle
Ananuri Fortress

First glimpse of Snow
View from the highway

Around half an hour later, we had our first glimpse of snow.Yayy!! I was thrilled beyond words. As we moved ahead, we could see entire mountains covered in snow.Indeed a mesmerizing and an unforgettable view. When we reached Gadauri at around 12 PM, it started to snow (Thank God for fulfilling all my wishes that day :)) Then we quickly had our lunch at a local restaurant there ( some soups, Pizza, and lemonades). The plan was to spend the rest of the day there. There were options for skiing, paragliding and helicopter ride.Well, we did not opt for any of them but took a chairlift to take us to the 2nd level. Unfortunately for us, we were unaware that there are many levels that the chairlift could take you (5 I suppose), but since Sandro took just one ticket each, we couldn’t go up any further.

View on the way

Level 2 was breathtaking enough. It was totally covered in snow and we both were freezing in spite of all the winter wear. There was a restaurant, Vitamin, which we visited for some hot coffee. Once we were feeling warm enough, we went on to explore the place. Well, there was pretty much nothing to explore, but for the infinite stretch of snow and people skiing around. It took some time for the awesomeness to sink in 🙂 I was in love with the snow, the view and the mountains. After spending 2 hours literally doing nothing (jumping around in knee deep snow), we took the chairlift back to the level 0.

The view <3
All the snow

All the snow
Restaurant-Vitamin
Chairlift
View from the chairlift ride

We started for Tbilisi at around 4 PM and reached our hotel by 5:50 PM. Later we realized that we missed a visit to Russian-Georgian friendship monument which was a bit far from the resort area :(After a quick change( I hadn’t realized my socks and trousers were wet because of snow ), we decided to explore the city and grab some dinner.

The city looked very beautiful in the twilight. As we walked, we found a tattoo studio. I had been long planning to get a second tattoo done. Until that day, I was not sure of what the tattoo would be. At that moment, it had to be a snowflake. I was totally and irrevocably in love with the snow *blush*. That was my first travel tattoo 🙂  We were surprised when we saw the Georgian tattoo artists watching a Telugu Movie. Later we got to know that one of them had worked in Tollywood industry and had widely traveled across India.  50 laris and 20 minutes later, we were back exploring the streets of Tbilisi.

Amazing architecture
Some building
Main street, Tbilisi
My snowflake tattoo

We had our dinner in one of the Indian restaurants and headed back to the hotel for a quick nap.  Our driver picked us up at 2:30  as our flight was for 4:40 AM.  We were back in Dubai at 8 AM, the next day. That was the end of a memorable and awesome journey.

dubai
A day in Tbilisi-Georgia

A day in Tbilisi-Georgia

We boarded our flight from Dubai International airport, Terminal 2 at 12:10 am. As it was a direct flight, we reached Tbilisi at 4:40 am. Tbilisi international airport is a small airport and we quickly cleared our immigration and the security check and were out of the airport by 5:00 AM and geez! it was very cold outside (6 degrees C).

Air route DXB-TBS
First View of the city-Tbilisi

The driver was already waiting for us and we quickly left from the airport. We had a hard time finding our hotel and finally checked in at around 6:30 AM. After a quick nap till 9:30 AM we woke up for a sumptuous English breakfast.

At 11 AM we started our Tbilisi city tour with our local guide, Sandro. Our first stop was Mtatsminda Amusement park on the top of Mount Mtatsminda. The entry to the park is free, but for rides, we have to recharge a card available at Kiosk. Hubby and I went for the giant wheel ride (1 Lari per person-Minimum 8 Lari is to be recharged) The view was just breathtaking. We took several snaps at the amusement park and headed towards the main city.

Mtatsminda Amusement park -the entrance
City View from Mount Mtatsminda

Our next stop was Holy Trinity cathedral.  This place is also called as Sameba. It is the main Georgian Orthodox Cathedral and is the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in the world. Sameba was constructed between 1995 and 2004.We lighted candles that are sold within the church complex.Here we encountered an elderly gypsie woman asking us for Lari, unfortunately, we did not have change, and the woman started yelling at us in Georgian 😛  Sandro had to interfere and send her away.

Holy Trinity Cathedral -Sameba

This was followed by lunch in one of the local restaurants. We tried Khachapuri, veggie pizza, Georgian lemonades, khinkali.The local cuisines include meat and chicken. Since we don’t eat beef, we ordered the chicken counterparts of Khachapuri and Khinkali. We tried the local beer but did not like it much.

Veggie pizza, khinkali, Georgian lemonades and Khachapuri

After the yummy lunch, we went on to visit the sulfur baths and a hidden waterfall in Abanotubani. The water was really cold .There was also a bridge full of love locks 🙂 We too added a love lock on the bridge. Then we proceeded to Metekhi Cathedral which is on top of a hill overlooking the Mtkvari River.

Sulfur baths of Tbilisi- On the top is the church of the Narikala fortress
A waterfall at Abanotubani

 

Lovelock Bridge
Metekhi Cathedral
Inside the Matekhi church

Later we took an aerial cable car which connects the Rike Park on the left bank of the Mtkvari river with Narikala Fortress. This ride just cost us 1 Lari. We could have the 360-degree view of Tbilisi. The ride is for 2-3 minutes and then we reached the Narikala fortress. The fortress was said to be established in 4th century BC. We walked around 1.5 KM to see the Mother of Georgia Statue. It was an incredibly beautiful statue. She had a sword in one hand and a chalice of wine in other. The sword was to defend the country from the enemies and the wine is a peace offering to all the friends of the nation. Also, there is a church within the fortress complex. One needs to wear a headscarf and a skirt( available outside the church) to visit inside.

City view from the fortress
Narikala Fortress
Mother of Georgia

We came back to the Rike park by the aerial cable and then went to see the bridge of Peace, situated over the Kura River in downtown Tbilisi. It is a pedestrian bridge of around 150m and very near to the aerial cable station. The modern architecture of the bridge was quite a contrast to locations we visited, which were truly ancient.

Bridge of Peace

[caption id="attachment_181" align="aligncenter" width="580"]

[caption id="attachment_200" align="aligncenter" width="580"] Freedom Square

Our Health chart for the day.  Phew!!

We were already exhausted beyond words. It was almost 6 PM and we decided to end our city tour. We stopped by at the freedom square for a couple of photos and then reached our hotel. We were too tired to even walk or talk. Hubby ordered some local wine and some Biriyani for dinner. It was a great day in Tbilisi and I loved it. 

Cheers!!