Dubai – Take another look.

IMG_3475
Area around Dubai Mall

A revisit to Dubai is plausible because it is rare to see a city transform so rapidly from a small fishing creek to the poster city of the world in one single generation. Its proximity and connectivity from India make it an obvious choice when one wants to think of a brief no hassle, vacation that doesn’t beg for too much of planning.

A few years ago people would remember Dubai for its Sheikh Zayed Road, where the array of concrete and glass structure gave a feel of slimmer, taller, Manhattan. The Dubai mall, where one is bound to get lost in 1200 brands sprawling across 1million Sq./m. The area around the mall with Burj Khalifa superimposed in the background of Bellagio like fountains beckoned Las Vegas. While sauntering on the sands of Marina beach with trendy restaurants on the boardwalk felt like a scaled down Miami. And the native Arabic experience where one would go for a desert safari, ride a camel and watch a belly dance in the dunes. It felt like a trip around the world in a nutshell.

IMG_1367
One of the malls of Dubai

But why bear the guilt of revisiting one place when there is a whole wide world to explore?

Maybe because Dubai is a young city, growing to its adolescence with very high energy. Unlike other travel destinations that had been already built and now preserved to perfection Dubai is actively competing in the race of making and breaking records-at times its own and sometimes taking everything a notch higher from what mankind had already achieved. And that thought wouldn’t disappoint anyone.

IMG_3987
Marina Area

There are plenty of new additions in the span of five years, like The Glow Garden, the Miracle Gardens, The Dubai canal, largest indoor amusement park and the most recent the Dubai frame. All these conspicuously prove that Dubai isn’t merely a city of skyscrapers and gigantic malls. It has also become the hotspot for party lovers. Be it the coolest beach parties or the hippest nightclubs it broke all notions of conservatism when people would think of a Mideast nation. All this development did not happen in isolation, it changed all that was preexisting, the roads, the skyline and the people. Dubai portrayed itself as a global city; with less than 15% of native population, it has become a potpourri of people and cultures from across the world.

IMG_E3452
Miracle garden

The recently completed projects are now ready to be overshadowed by the superlative ones in the pipeline. To quote a few: Another tallest tower, underwater villas, Mall of the world, the biggest animal safari, biggest fashion street, floating Venice.

These projects are getting built with an edge of courage and fearlessness right in the middle of a desert with no rivers or suitable soil to hold such structures. Traveling back home watching from the little window of the flight, the city fades away in the dunes keeping the promise that it’s never going to be the same if you come with new eyes and fresh mind.IMG_3384

 

Some useful tips and information:

  • Dubai is a winter destination for tourists. Travel between the months of October to April places like glow and miracle garden are a winter affair only.
  • For commuting locally a Nol card is a good option, which includes all the modes of transport.
  • Book  “Burj Khalifa at the top” tickets in advance as it is mostly sold out in peak season.
  • Be clear in  thought while booking an accommodation. If shopping and tall buildings are your things, stay close to Sheikh Zayed road, if clubbing and nightlife is what you are looking for stay close to JBR area and if luxury and seclusion only then go the palm side.
  • Take a cruise from Marina to Palm to see the skyline from a distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Jaipur literature festival- “Of the writers the storytellers​ and the dream sellers

img_1199

One would be hard-pressed to find a city like Jaipur that exudes so much heritage, culture, and art during the times of the literature festival hosted every year. My very earthbound brain suddenly generates an ability to curve away from the mundane life and an intellectual feeling is just a byproduct of attending the sessions for 4 days. Being in the top 10 places to visit in India I was never able to see my city from a travelers perspective but the fest is the time where I see people coming from all parts of the world and makes me wonder what is it that brings them here?

Perfect weather of January for basking sunshine, perfect folks of the city to take pride in hosting such an event and the perfect venue-“The Diggi Palace” (Diggi palace accommodation ), decorated like an explosion of colors. Maybe it’s the vibrations of those colors, which create an osmosis of ideas in the mind. Then how can one not become a writer, or at least feel like one?

img_1200

Fair enough to make it so colorful because being a “Jaipurite” I understand colors beat like heartbeat within us. We think, dream and dress in colors, colors that my friends from other countries usually shy away from.

Those puppets hanging in front of alleys of forts of Amer, those bangles displayed in shops of Johri Bazaar, those bandhej stoles flowing in the breeze of Bapu Bazaar and the colorful turbans moving in the streets of old city area when you watch them from those terraces and pavilions upstairs, they all scream VIBGYOR.

img_1220

To complement this theme parts of the city and the iconic buildings were illuminated with colorful lights owing to the Republic day celebrations.

img_1203

One can just attend the literature festival to enjoy the variety of people from bibliographers to philosophers and their attires. Men dressed in crop top and saris, to women peacocking fusion fashion, the intellectuals dressed in khakis and kurtas and the thinkers dressed in rags and pajamas.

We can see every form of possible art and ideas sprouting in the central lawn- an architect sketching a cusp of the arch, a painter painting the colors of flowers aspiring musicians playing the ukulele to launch a music album of his own, budding poets trying to  complete the broken proses, and the rest of us discussing controversies stirred in the sessions. Even the festival bazaar was full of unusual ideas from camel milk soap, Chantilly stoles and artisans ice creams everything was speaking art.

Few things to remember for the fest:

  • Do an online registration, which closes four days prior to the festival.Jaipur Literature Festival
  • Take a cab to the venue rather than self-driven cars to avoid parking hassles.
  • Start your day early to avoid the crowd and if you really want to listen (it gets seriously crowded after 1Pm)
  • Attend the alternate events of music and theatre, which happen in the evening and are pre mentioned on its official site.
  • Grab a seat early morning if you want to attend few consecutive sessions in the same venue.

And  being done a week after when I am trying to hold onto the more transfigured form of me from the wisp of the wind of day to day life, all I could say is a visit to Jaipur is recommended not only because of its monuments, its colorful bazaars, its scrumptious food but also to be a part of Jaipur literature festival.

img_1201

Cadaques(Costa Brava,Spain)

“Ll Dolce Far Niente”-Sweetness of doing nothing.

img_5719

While watching the movie “Eat Pray Love” I came across this Italian phrase and the image of “Cadaques” instantly flashed in my mind.

“A Spanish holiday”-The first timers would go “cuckoo over” Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and all those trip advisor cliché destinations where they would go visit cathedrals, piazzas, palazzos, museus and of course those football stadiums add more weariness to the routine which they wanted to escape and defeat the very purpose of vacationing to relax.

Not that one should not do those things, nothing against it but there should be some part in everyone’s travel itinerary where the very idea of stop, hold, take a breath and look around, not through the lenses of your camera but with real eyes.

While reading the travel guide “Lonely planet-Spain,” came across this name “Cadaques” and googled it to see a pic and was taken aback by this little picturesque village. Thus it was added into “MY” cliché itinerary of Spain.

We started a road trip early morning from Barcelona along the coast line of Costa Brava and made stopovers to the towns of Lloret De Mar and Tossa De Mar (both were absolutely worth it).

Tossa De Mar
Tossa De Mar

Of course we drove through the sunflower laden fields with winding roads along the coast, which was all as imagined from the Bollywood movie “Zindagi na milegi Dobara”.

But after the town of Tossa de Marr the roads transfigured to rugged, high altitude, narrow mountainous terrain with deep gorges on the sides.

It was almost dusk by the time we entered into the town of Cadaques and although Google doesn’t leave much scope for freshness these days but somehow the setting sun gleaming on the waters and the reflection of golden stones around it beckoned a field of turquoise set in gold. The ripples on the surface of water appeared to be like dancing fairies.

I think traveling is a wonderful way to give you moments, which can go down your book of “memories to behold for life”, and that one glimpse surely qualifies for it.img_5623

Around 3 hours drive from Barcelona, nestled amidst the mountains and difficult accessibility prevented tourist flocks, which was the reason the town looked so pure even the buildings around it were washed with the purest form of color –“White”.

Few things that I learnt from my travel experiences:

Book your stays in a villa or apartment as far as possible to give you a very authentic local feel.

Go for early morning walk around the place to really understand the way of life of that place.

“Cadaques cool apartment” was the place I booked and would highly recommend it because of the height of its location it had a very wide birds eye view of the entire town.Cadaques cool apartments

View from my Apartment

Rent a small size car for the reason that parking is a big issue and the lanes very narrow. While trying to squeeze my rental mini van in that narrow lane I got lots of scratches on the car but the locals took pride in helping, as proud as the town itself.

Finally the car was parked in the garage of the apartment and there was no way it was going to get down again until we checked out.

So basically our planned course of the tour ahead ceased to exist from there and the “sweetness of doing nothing”,came into existence.

Small town, rough beaches and no monuments. Basically nothing to do, nothing, but just walk around the town.

The town, with arches leading into meandering narrow pathways. Pathways, which were cobbled merging into stairs sometimes, up and then down.

img_1039

Stairs, advancing to some courtyard of the cluster of houses. Houses, with red, green and blue windows and crawling bougainvillea in alcoves of their walls. Walls, radiating crimson peach pink and all the hues of red.img_1038

All of it just seemed like a painting, a painting so perfect to inspire Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. No wonder they came here because they knew pure beauty is tonic like no other.
img_1041.jpgIt was such a sleepy little town people did not seem to be going anywhere and in no rush to do anything and we too were not in a hurry.

After wandering entire day and watched the sky transforming from azure to saffron, we decided to take a boat ride.

img_5621

All this while it was the town that mesmerized and now it was the distant view of the place with its silhouette in waters and that silhouette changed its color with depth. Water was clean and sparkling that we could actually see the floor of the sea.

img_5758
The boat ride

There were tiny islands in between where people were just lazing and had come before the sunrise and had no intention of going back even at sunset.

“Doing nothing”

At some point in the middle of the sea you can jump into those waters and swim around (so carrying a swim suit along wouldn’t be bad idea).

While coming back all I could think was because “nothing”cannot be quantified so the joy derived from it is bound to be “infinite” only if we knew how to put it in our practice of daily lives once in a while.

Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan

Being brought up and lived in Rajasthan I had  never thought that after traveling so much all across the world, a trip itself in Rajasthan would  be my inspiration for my first travel blog.

Driving down from Jaipur to Kumbhalgarh was  an experience in itself. The way my familiar landscape of flat lands  and wide desert laden vistas changed after the district of Beawer  to rugged mountanious terrain, winding roads and small green meadows miraculously appearing in between those rocky mountains with colorful little villages perched on a top of a small hills was so amazing.

As soon as you enter the town of Kumbhalgarh what you do not  expect to see is this  pristine sparkling lake which was the focal point of many resorts of the town .The town is very touristy with no main markets or housing population as such but only Resorts and Hotels-some near the lake and some over the mountains.

So if you avoid typical tourist seasons(which I couldn’t) the town would by very quiet peaceful and serene.

The first sight of the Kumbhalgarh fort and you are awestruck by the sheer size of it …and its not that I have not seen forts before, but the size of the guarding wall (the second largest wall after “The Great wall of China”) which was 46 kms long hosting a Marathon on it every year makes you feel ..”Yes this would be the place where the brave warriors of Mewar like Maharana Kumbha and Maharana Pratap would surely come take refuge and win the wars when there own political forts were besieged by Mughals”. Yes, it does lives upto its reputation of undefeated “at least by the sight of it”.

The light and sound show in the evening at the fort is must see because you are enveloped by the most beautiful canopy of stars over you as soon as the light go out the folk Rajasthani music in the background and even the cheesy narration of history all sets the mood at the right note.

Trek to Parshuram Mahadev temple is highly recommended for the most secluded and underexplored views away from the regular hustle and bustle of the tourists.

Being totally unprepared for the trek we just set off with some local recommendation to visit that place. I Had been walking on the fort all day already tired, and in the evening we set off for the trek.

It was around 1.5 kms steep downhill one way in the middle of the forest, no handrails no, support and no sport shoes for me. After you arrive at the temple platform and ascend to some 200 solid stairs, enter in a narrow cave where the Shiv Linga there was some calcite deposit of the cave itself.

Parshuram Mahadev Temple 1

While coming back the sun had already set.

Dark and chilly trek now steep uphill in the forest, without lights, with no battery and signals in cellphones and in those dark moments all we could think of was the bears and leopards that had become man-eater, seemingly present around us. It looked like a “No Man’s Land” at that time of night. The very thought that no one else was going to come and look for us over there was petrifying enough to cloud the logic in your brain..nevertheless convincing ourself to take “one step at a time” and not thinking too much about the completion of journey was the keyword for that moment, and of course we came back safe and sound but in retrospect today sitting in the comfort of my living room is making me think that why don’t we think like thison-the-way-to-parshuram for life in general.

Things would be so less complicated and there would be clarity in our minds for at least that particular moment which we are in to.