Monday, September 26, 2016

Dubai: I was so High!

Travelling Boots
Next to my Ride

I’m gonna start with a confession! I’m an absolute nature lover and hence never really fell in love with Dubai. I mean I love forests, waterfalls, beaches.. Green and Blue basically! Hence Dubai never won my heart, till I was assigned there for a contract on marketing collaterals for the most Iconic places in Dubai.

Travelling Boots
Burj Khalifa
It was only then that I found a whole new love and respect and was left in awe of what stood before me. I introspected and realized that my being a history buff was so limiting suddenly. I questioned all the governments of the world in my mind.. “Why were we not creating beautiful landmarks anymore?”
I mean.. look at Dubai.. It’s literally made of sand.. rather made out of sand.. inspite of sand.. They have nothing going for them except a land which is Earthquake proof. I have to give it off to the Prince and Government of Dubai to create such amazing structures. They keep wanting to succeed and supersede themselves. Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, Palm Islands.. and now the soon coming World Islands.
Travelling Boots
The Sea Plane being prepped!

In my many visits to Dubai I had seen 'em all and marveled at these architectural wonders. UNTIL!
All true UNTIL… Until I had the chance to see Dubai from an aerial view! Have you ever been in a state where you were physically ‘gob-smacked’…  when you actually were at the edge of your seat for complete 40 minutes… when you felt like a child and wouldn’t stop looking everywhere hoping to absorb every view even better than your camera ever could… and all of this with the adrenalin rush of being in an 8 seater sea plane?
Travelling Boots
Burj AlArab
Travelling Boots
Meticulously Planned Dubai

We took off from the Dubai Creek in charming 8 seater  Sea-plane. I took a seat right behind the co-pilot. After a short brief from the young Captain, we were ready to take off. And boy did we TAKE OFF… I’m usually good with words but I don’t think I’ll be able to nail this one and would urge you to put this ‘Ride of a Lifetime’ on your bucketlist. At the speed of 180 miles per hour, from cruising over waters of the creek, we were gliding up in the air over Dubai.
Travelling Boots
Palm Jumeirah

Within moments we were right over the Palm Islands. Silence fell on all of us in the flight as we hovered over the most amazing sight from our windows. Dubai is like the ultimate view for a person with OCD. Perfect in every way, in every shape and every conceptualization. I mean, think about it, to create… physically create islands and lands in the shape of a Palm and then create Islands in the shape of the World Map next to it.. Bigger and Grander in every way. To be able to see the Burj AlArab’s entire structure along with the helipad and finally to soar around the Khalifa. You see my predicament?

How can I ever describe to you how each moment felt? How proud and yet small I felt when I physically had the bird’s eye view of what all my race had accomplished? And then for a smart company to create a flight plan for us to feast our eyes on?

Travelling Boots
The World Islands

Travelling Boots
My Private Window view

In 40 minutes you can get the thrill of taking off in a sea plane from a creek, fly over the most developed cities of the world which prides in creating structures which are monumental to say the least and then land smoothly back on water. Create a memory of a lifetime! Excitement of breathtaking views! Adrenaline rush of being in a sea plane! All from the luxury of your large private window! 

Post the ride
                                                                           For all queries contact: Seawings Dubai

Monday, August 22, 2016

5 things you never knew about Macau!

Travelling Boots, Smriti Shankar
Welcome to Macau!
When I told my friends I was invited to Macau, their first reaction was.... "but you are no gambler!". Yes! Macau is the Vegas of the East and RIGHTLY so... Each and every hotel has one arena better than the other with the much acclaimed Venetian being clearly the best.
Travelling Boots, Smriti Shankar
I felt the need to look POSH!
An hour's boat ride from the busy Hong Kong, and there it was. This small independent area which is a part of China and yet uses Hong Kong Dollars as its currency. I could see China from my hotel pool just across the Inner Harbor. Of all the places I've been to, Macau didn't seem like a place for backpackers... it's all so... umm.... POSH! Buildings and structures full of grandeur and glitter. Every hotel with its own signature style and themes and guest entertainments.
My friends spent hours teaching me various games so I'd able to atleast play the part once I got there... Ummm I gotta be honest.. I'm terrible at keeping a straight face and playing Poker. They had built me up so much that somewhere deep inside I wasn't even looking forward as my idea of travel was never to spend time inside fancy hotels and casinos.
Little did I know, the Macau Tourism had ensured I saw everything else that the city was, so here's a list of my top 5 findings.

1. Free Shows: Get yourself a city guide and check the shows at every hotel. Unlike most places I've been to, hoteliers in Macau have taken visual delight to the absolute next level. The Wynn Hotel for example has the Dragon of Fortune and the Tree of Prosperity show in their lobby. You can google all you want, nothing will do justice to this light, graphic, props and music show with the globe ceiling and floor opening up... absolute delight! Or the Diamond show at the Galaxy Hotel followed by the peacock dancers. And yes you can just visit these hotels and watch these splendors for free!
Travelling Boots, Smriti Shankar
Diamond Show at the Galaxy

2. Macau Science Center: Ok! Fact! When I saw this on my itinerary I wasn't excited AT ALL! Till I got there! So wish we were taught geography, biology and cool science stuff the way it's done at the Macau Science Center! Nope! It's not JUST for kids cause I had a blast and although we just had an hour to see all of it.. I had to be torn away to keep up the deadline! This area had the coolest Dinosaur exhibits, a food and calorie area to teaches us about healthy food and Body Mass Index, coolest exhibit of how the ground moves during earthquakes and many more cool stuff!
Yup! They made science COOL!
Travelling Boots, Smriti Shankar
The amazing Science Museum
3. The Shows and the Dining: With all the leading posh brands of hotels, of course you can expect Michelin star studded chefs and restaurants, however Macau has a Portuguese history hence I'd urge you to spend sensible money on some local restaurants and enjoy the wines and Portuguese food... it's Yummm!
Travelling Boots, Smriti Shankar
Insane Foooood!
So when I had shared with my readers that I was heading to Macau, one of them had repeatedly asked me to watch the Dancing Water show, so I did! And again... what a spectacular delight! An absolute feast for all your senses.. and highly recommended! Also there is the Broadway at the Galaxy which is a street market style entertainment zone with insane dances and local food carts!
Shopping: Yes.. You can expect every brand to have its flagship outlets here with the latest collections, however do step outside for the local market scene at the Senado Square.
Travelling Boots, Smriti Shankar
The Dancing Water Show
4. Kids: At the onset of this point... NO.. Macau is not just for men who like to gamble.. it's a heaven for kids and most hotels have invested dammm well to keep them entertained with the likes of Sheraton who have tied up with Dreamworks to hold various fun events for kids all year round. Or they can visit the Panda Pavillion.. haha! They are SO lazy and SO cute! Or even the Chinese Garden!
Travelling Boots, Smriti Shankar
My day with the Pandas :)
Travelling Boots, Smriti Shankar
The gorgeous Chinese Garden

5. 3D World: So Macau has the world's first 4D paintings museum and also gives visitors a chance to play director and take their own 3D pictures.. and gosh it's so funnnn! To be able to put myself in surreal romantic backdrops to pictures from the old times to being eaten by dinosaurs or being on top of the Macau Tower or even being a dancer with Michael Jackson.
Travelling Boots, Smriti Shankar
The 3D World
Oh! Before I wind up; ofcourse I went to the Venetian to try my luck... and if you are as unpretentious as me... my only tip is.. stick to the roulette tables and check the numbers which have come in the last few games and gamble accordingly (Wink!)

Thank you to the team of Macao Tourism for this informative and amazing experience.
Travelling Boots, Smriti Shankar

Monday, May 16, 2016

10 Travel Tips for Ubud- Bali

Travelling Boots in Bali, Smriti Shankar
Spas Spas Spas
Ubud is by far the most intense and yet chilled out place I have ever been to! It's... It's not a tourist spot even though thousands of tourists are here cause in a couple of days they just blend in with it's people and methods because it simply IS the place to Eat.. Pray.. Love! 

Here are my top tips while in Ubud:

1. Don't pack too many clothes: Trust me your wardrobe just isn't equipped to handle the weather here. Just pack your pure cottons.
Travelling Boots in Bali, Smriti Shankar
Cottons ONLY

Travelling Boots in Bali, Smriti Shankar
Have fun with your clothes

2. Forget the makeup and creams: It's a tropic island! Hot and Humid as hell! Just don't even bother with all your fancy SPFs. You could use the sprays if you can resist not wiping your sweat.
Travelling Boots in Bali, Smriti Shankar
No Make Up

3. Don't shower everyday: Haha! Kidding! The Spas here are dirt cheap and just such a pleasure. Why take a simple bath when you can have someone relieve all your stress, massage you, scrub you and then ask you to dip yourself in a flowered bath all for like Rs. 1000 or $15 right?

Travelling Boots in Bali, Smriti Shankar

4. Fruits: Oh my god! Eat the Fruits! Eat the Fruits! Eat the Fruits! They are absolutely organic and heavenly!
Travelling Boots in Bali, Smriti Shankar
Passion Fruit and Snake Skin Fruit

Travelling Boots in Bali, Smriti Shankar
Local Food

5. Local Food: Try the duck here and must try the tofu and tempe with rice and crisps

6. Kombucha: Champagne of the Gods! This is Organic wine. Yup! You read it right! It's fermented tea and tastes great actually. I believe the best place for this is at the Clear Cafe. Try it!

7. Ecstatic Dance Party: I'll give you details in my write up but just put it on your list for now. You have gotta attend one of these.
Travelling Boots in Bali, Smriti Shankar
At the Ecstatic Dance Party

8. Yoga Session: Try to take one of the Yoga classes. The way they handle yoga here is most unique and its a lifestyle here.

9. Sound Therapy: I don't know if you have heard of this before; I hadn't! It’s actual healing by sound and is absolutely scientific. Try to attend one of these sessions or atleast talk to the experts who practice it. Its enlightening!

10. Apps: Uber doesn't work all areas here so get yourself the GrabCar app for taxis and more importantly GO-JEK for the scooter taxis. Oh GO-JEK is my absolute fav app considering they will even get you your coffee or food orders whatever and deliver it. They were my saviour after my accident there!
Travelling Boots in Bali, Smriti Shankar
Go-Jekkinnnn Haha!

Most Importantly:

Don't be You: Take this one seriously! Just for the few days you are in Ubud; forget everything you know and believe in and listen to everything this cosmically charged place says to you and shows you... Unlearn.. Relearn and Love Yourself!

Travelling Boots in Bali, Smriti Shankar
Unlearn.... Relearn... Love Yourself!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Ramgarh- Hidden Haven

Travelling Boots in Ramgarh
Travelling Boots in Ramgarh
We all know I love to travel Solo, but it never meant I don't enjoy company! I just happen to be very picky about who I travel with and who can handle me when I’m not me. Allow me to explain.. I’m a very calm and unexciting person in the city I live in.. I like it like that! But when I travel I’m like this energiser bunny full of curiosity and an unquenchable thirst to see and experience everything. Something only a few can relate to. 

So when we needed to just get away for a weekend, my friends turned to me to look for options and I chose Ramgarh Bungalows. A Neemrana property tucked away on a hill a little ahead of Bhimtal and beyond Nainital. The website made it look perfectly quaint and just what we were looking for. But it was a section called ‘Writer’s Bungalow’ that had me sold. 
Travelling Boots in Ramgarh
The route..???!!!

Friday morning 5 am we were on our way. Me with my closest and most caring friends Rohit and Swati. Rohit is the most wonderful affectionate guy I know. He is mischievous and yet a perfect gentleman and Swati and I; although we had met only recently.. she and I had connected like we were always meant to be! My absolute soul sister.. who is rarely more giving than I am. Twas a beautiful drive and like a perfect road trip should be… it was full of all kinds of songs, many pit stops and a gorgeous drive.

The air started getting crispier and colder as we went uphill and around hairpin bends, lost our way and went back and forth a few times but nothing.. I mean NO-THING, no website, no HD picture could have prepared us for the what we were about to see. The property in front of us was the perfect specimen of Romance, History and Old World Charm. Nothing but virgin green mountains all around, clear blue skies above, dew filled grass under my bare feet and butterflies dancing all around me.

Travelling Boots in Ramgarh
The Writer's Bungalow

Travelling Boots in Ramgarh
The Breakfast Layout
If this line alone hasn't made to time travel and taken you away from the busy life of lights and gadgets and notifications, come on… take a long drive on these winding and unwinding roads and get to Ramgarh Bungalows.

Warm, simplistic food and service in the quiet of Nature and the noise of birds, bees, breeze and words bursting in my head. We spent 1 night in Ashok Vatika where Jawahar Lal Nehru had lived once. Too tired after the early morning and long drive, I decided to snooze for a while and as I lay on the 4 post high bed; something just hit me. It was quiet. I mean just quiet. No sound of vehicles, no horns, no AC, no fan.. just some tweeting birds. The best most sound afternoon nap ever followed.

The nights were so silent that you can hear your own breath. We lay outside on the grass just gazing at the skies for hours and were simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of stars our sky could hold and we could see… a privilege we city people simply can not enjoy. 

Travelling Boots in Ramgarh
The Writer's Bungalow

Travelling Boots in Ramgarh
Inside Writer's Bungalows 

Travelling Boots in Ramgarh
Cutest interiors
Twas really the next day that I found out about the story behind this place and was suddenly a whole new invigorated and inspired. The Writer’s Bungalow. Quaint cottage with 2 rooms and the cutest yellow interiors. These are old structures which have been restored so have a very earthy feel to them with the old school doors and windows. Now the best part was… many many years ago, Rabindra Nath Tagore had possibly started writing the Geetanjali here. 

Travelling Boots in Ramgarh
Me lost..

Travelling Boots in Ramgarh
Still Lost...

Travelling Boots in Ramgarh
Perfect moment captured....
Yes you read me right.. here… right where I was standing he had lived and wrote. He probably was looking at the same view as I was and started writing the Geetanjali. Mahadevi Verma had also lived here… hence the name.. Writer’s Bungalow!

Ramgarh is known as the the Fruit Basket cause they grow all sorts of exotic fruits here and the best part is they rarely use any chemicals.. hence they may not be the prettiest fruits but they are exploding with taste and juices. You can go for a Nature Walk to explore the orchards around.

Travelling Boots in Ramgarh
Sai Baba Temple- Ramgarh

Swati is religious and wanted to visit a temple so we drove all around searching for a temple and stumbled upon the cutest smallest Sai Baba temple not far away and a restaurant which served the freshest most tasty simple food we had eaten… oh my god how we indulged in pure gluttony! 
We walked for hours.. sometimes humming songs, sometimes huffing and puffing with the uphill climbs and sometimes just silently to soak the view and fill our lungs with this fresh air with smiles on our faces. 
3 days… we barely talked and yet felt more connected than ever! In the silence of nature and away from the static of radio waves and buzzing phones… we rejuvenated our minds, hearts and souls. 

The most perfect weekend getaway!

For booking with them: Ramgarh Bungalows

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Berlin and all Emotions in a Day!

Travelling Boots, Berlin

Travelling Boots
Outside my Hostel
I was coming into Berlin from Amsterdam and had decided to stay in a hostel. I was going through a tough time with my monies and had to be smart if I had to finish what I had planned. Now I know when I'd say to some Indians that I stayed in a mixed dorm in Berlin, they would be gob-smacked, but the truth is; they are absolutely safe cause you have like so many more people always in the room!! Unlike a hotel room where anyone can come knocking at your door and create trouble! So here I was with similar hesitations and yet complete confidence that I could handle any situation.
It was a small room with 3 bunk beds and when I entered; most of my room-mates were sleeping and I had the lower bunk. I silently pushed my luggage around and sneaked back down to the reception for a quick bite and to pick up information. The place was buzzing with people of all ages.. well budget travellers like me to be precise. The lounge was just simple, unpretentious and everything was affordable! The receptionists were nice and gave me a total download on everything I needed to know and the best ways to see the most of Berlin without splurging!

Travelling Boots

The Walking Tour

Berlin is one of the few places where one can experience every possible emotion in one single day!
This was my first tour that I had booked myself for, and the reason will kill you! Yes! It was a FREE walking tour of Berlin.. all I needed was my walking shoes and a good night's rest! When I'm trying something new anywhere I intentionally don't keep any expectations, that way it's easy for me to be pleased and also it's incredible how the smallest thing can over joy me! Thankfully the tour was to start right outside my hostel and like a good girl I was on time. 

In a few minutes many people had come together and this young man with shabby hair, cargo shorts and a perfect English accent was hollering out to all of us. Aaron Birchenough had landed up in Berlin for love and decided to stay. A historian and archaeologist by profession, he now lead free walking tours and believed in being happy in life! He loved his job and he loved Berlin!

St. Mary's Church

Travelling Boots
The Neptune Fountain

The Dark History

Travelling Boots
Berlin Cathedral
We started from Alexanderplatz, easily identified by the Fernsehturm (the TV tower), the 2nd tallest structure of European Union and the iconic World Time Clock. This places had been redeveloped several times and now is the busiest shopping area. A ten minute walk took us to the next spot, the St. Mary's Church. Possibly built in the 13th century, it has a striking statue of Martin Luther outside and a beautiful Neptune fountain. I was the only solo traveller in the group and oh so busy taking notes. What can I say I'm a writer and I don't like forgetting (haha)! Next stop was the Berlin Cathedral with its magnificent dome. Yes it was amazing, but its location is why I remember it so well... it was right next to.. ahem.. the LUST GARDEN... infront of the Altes Museum (Old Museum). Nope! It's a public garden now and no funny business was happening and yet the name!!??
Travelling Boots
At the Lust Garden
But it was the next place that reminded me of the suffering this little city had both caused and endured. The Neue Wache, a simple small structure with nothing spectacular from the outside, had the most intense sculpture of the "Mother and her Son". The mother's head hangs lowly as the body of her son lies curled up at her feet under the Oculus (a circular opening in domes) exposed to the sun, rain and snow... depicting the suffering of all civilians in the war. It was deafeningly quiet inside and yet my head was pounding with the vibe of the place. It felt like the souls of the innocent were all trapped in those walls.

Next stop was Bebelplatz, known for the Nazi book burning. In 1933, they burnt close to 20000 books that day, and now a memorial under the glass plate in the cobbles showcases empty bookshelves which could have held those 20000 books. Then we walked to the famous Checkpoint Charlie, which was the crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. I mean can you imagine your whole city split in two overnight... by a WALL? It really did happen... people and neighbourhoods were simply divided by a wall. The Berlin Wall... While I stood there, I couldn't help but imagine how helpless the people must have been. With absolutely no control on their lives. Aaron shared stories of how some people tried to jump the wall and it just gave me goose bumps!
Travelling Boots
Charlie Checkpoint
The next stop was the Fuhrerbunker. Now this was the underground air raid bunker, where Hitler married Eva Braun and also committed suicide with her and killed his only dog Blondi. Ofcourse its not open to public and we just stood over the area where many feet below out feet... he had died. Aaron informed us in a very hush voice that some extremists still have meetings around this area apparently. You know there was nothing there... just plain grass and some very dull buildings where people live now.. but I was just so full of hate that I found myself cringing.. Hitler.. the man responsible for so so so many tragedies had breathed the air in the same area I was standing in years ago... Such an uneasy thought!
But what came next.. knocked me into lulled silence and a very very heavy heart! The Memorial to the Murdered Jews. The name itself is grim and the place... although it's just a cluster of asymmetrically pieces of grey rectangles.. almost like graves.. 2711 concrete slabs.. all of it is just so cold in colour and vibe that it... the sadness and dullness of it could give you a shiver down the spine. You can walk all along and it's been designed in such a way that you can only walk alone. Much like our lives.. no matter how many people are around us.. we all are alone. And this place was like... the designer wanted us to walk alone with our thoughts of what this country had seen and lost.
Travelling Boots
The Ampleman

We also came across a couple of cool things specific to East Berlin, like the Ampleman, the man in a hat in the traffic light and the Trabi (Trabant) Car.

The last stop was the Brandenburg Gate, finally a good note to end on... ofcourse it had seen its share of wounds considering its location but the air felt more cheerful.. thanks to the tourists! All of us in the group had become friendly and said our byes to each other. I stayed back with Aaron for a bit for my list of questions.. Yes! I'm a history buff! I asked him how I could use the rest of my day best and he gave his suggestions and highly recommended the Pub Crawl.
Travelling Boots
Aaron n Me at Brandenburg Gate
The Pub Crawl- The Lively Present

So initially.. I had my share of a million hesitations but a chat with Aaron had relaxed me and given me the courage to give it a try. In this journey of 45 days and 13 countries.. this was one of my many firsts and wasn't going to be the last for sure!
Now a Pub Crawl; as the name suggests is much like the walking tour except they make you hop from one pub to another offering free drinks everywhere for a fixed price paid at the staring point. Anybody can join and you can quit anytime.
Travelling Boots
My Roommates

My leg was paining with the over 4 hour long walk and I had started limping so decided to go back to my hostel and rest up to gain energy for the Pub Crawl. I think I was also emotionally drained with all the information and sadness. When I reached the hostel, some of my room-mates were up and we said our hellos. A couple from Canada, a very cute girl and Spanish speaking guy. We chatted up and exchanged plans for the night and moment I said I was planning to go for the Pub Crawl, the cute girl Thais Farias, popped her head out and asked if she could join me.. OFCOURSE! I was over-joyed actually and Rafael decided to join in too.

We all slept for a bit and then Thais and I got up and started getting ready like 2 girlfriends who knew each other since years.. discussing what to wear and how to do our hair and make-up. We three went down to the lobby together and it a little while our hostel lobby was full of youngsters and travellers from almost every part of the world. Big groups of girls and boys and friends and couples. Oh I can't possibly describe the energy but it was electric! Soon the organiser was there leading all of us to the closest tube station. Yup, you got that right! It started with a trip in the tube.. and I discovered that Irish are the most fun people as Sean came and introduced himself with his absolute boyish charms. Soon we were hopping from 1 pub to the next across Berlin and making friends and cheering to the sojourns of us travellers. We spoke of our stories and places we had been to and what our plans were. Conversations were flowing easy and friends were easy to find.

Travelling Boots
The Pub Crawl Gang

Berlin was one of the friendliest cities so far with an array of emotions to explore. It was a testimonial of what I believe so firmly in... Don't let your past decide who you are today!
Travelling Boots
The Trabi