Thimphu Travel Guide: A complete itinerary

 

 

You have made up your mind. 

The temptation is too hard to resist.

There are pretty mountains, prettier people. 

Monks and mountains

 

No traffic signals. 

Quaint, colourful architecture with dainty windows.

Those windows.

Men wearing long skirts (gho), indulging in archery and dancing in merriment.

Almost fairy tale like.

So you are going to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan: the Himalayan kingdom of happiness, the land of the Thunder Dragon, a treasure trove of simplicity and smiles and stunning architecture. 

 

Most of the standard itineraries include just one day of sightseeing in Thimphu. However there is a LOT to see and experience and just one day hardly does any justice to this charming town.

While there are certain absolute must dos (touristy places), there are quite a few simple, off beat experiences that give you a glimpse of the local Bhutanese life.

 

A local Bhutanese lady praying at the Changangkha lhakang

So here is a travel guide with a 2 day itinerary for Thimphu:

Day 1:

Local fare at the morning Farmer’s market: 

From local vegetables like fern, asparagus to juicy Mandarin oranges, the farmer’s market has it all. For the love of local markets, I ventured into this one and saw large scale purchases being made, groceries, grains, local mushrooms and cheese made of yak’s milk.

Lady selling grains at the weekend market

 

The market comes to life on weekends when vendors from outside the city arrive to sell their wares, selling incenses, handicrafts, camphor, saffron , wild honey, red rice and barley.

Pray at the National Memorial Chorten: 

Watch faith in its varied forms at the Memorial Chorten, where young and old come together to circumambulate the white building with a golden crown. Most people do 108 rounds of this Tibetian styled Chorten with their prayer beads and prayer bells. Built in 1974, as a memorial to the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, this shorten is a place of daily worship.

 

Some will prostrate outside the Chorten on wooden planks, get up and repeat this. You cannot enter the building, but watching faith in its purest form was the highlight for me. Along with this portrait of this aged man sitting near the entrance, asking me why would I want to photograph an old man like him.

 

Watching faith in its different forms:

 

The Buddha viewpoint : for views and more:

 

You can see the Golden Buddha glistening in the sun from almost any part of Thimphu. Perched on a hill, in all serenity and opulence, the 51 metre tall Buddha Dordenma statue stands as if overlooking Thimphu and blessing it.

A fifteen minute journey leads you closer to the Buddha statue. It contains 100,000 8-inch-tall and 25,000 12-inch-tall gilded bronze Buddhas as well. Once on top, the views of the valley are breathtaking.

 

Lunch time with the young monks at Dechen Phodrang:

 

Monks at the Dechen Phodrang monastery, Thimphu

 

I find monastic schools to be great places for photo ops. Candid shots of young monks topped with their simplicity and coyness make my trip to the monasteries extremely fulfilling. Some of these indulge in a chat, some scurry away, some hide their faces, while others are too busy wrestling with each other to notice.

 

The BEST time to visit this monastery is when a senior monk rings the gong and declares a break. Walk around, watch them play, let the scene wash itself on you. This is where you discover innocence in its most candid form.

The view from the monastery

P.S: The views from here (if you decide to shift your gaze from these munchkins) are gorgeous too!

 

Free time with local kids: 

Post lunch I head to a local school opposite my hotel. Why?

Because I love visiting local schools in every tiny town village I go. And in Thimphu, this was probably my favourite hour spent. First I was engrossed in a football match where everyone was a Ronaldo and the din was high enough to get everyone in the vicinity to sneak in the grounds and watch. Then I was busy chasing a group of cuties who looked at me from behind pillars. And after half an hour everyone wanted to be clicked and the bye byes were never ending!

 

Trashi Chho Dzong:

 

The administrative building opens to visitors only after the officials leave. So this can be only visited post 5 pm. One of the most majestic Dzongs in Bhutan, with intricate architecture and a massive compound.

The white and red building, built by the first unifier Namang Namgyal, is home to a monastery as well the civic body, is named as the ‘Fortress of the glorious religion’. The beauty of the dzong is that it was built without any nail, no architectural plans.

More pictures of the Trashi Cho Dzong here.

Catch a cultural performance: 

Get traditional and witness the local song and dance of Bhutan. Most of these performances can be arranged by your hotel. Settle in and get a glimpse of their masked dances (Drametse Ngacham), village dances, archery dances, dance of the pounding soil and more.

Sing along the Bhutanese tunes, strung on their wooden instruments, tap your feet on the sounds of cymbals and wooden drums and call it a day dancing away with the locals. More on the dances here.

Day 2: 

Cheer at an archery match: 

Start your morning by heading to the Changlimithang stadium. Watch the local Bhutanese men in action wearing the national dress Gho and playing their national game.

Marvel at their skill of hitting the bull’s eye from a distance of 140 metres and dancing and celebrating every point.

It is nothing close to what I had ever seen. Far away, in a small Himalayan kingdom, there is still archery being played by men in skirts and you can still revel in their happiness, despite knowing zilch about the game.

More about the game here.

Football is played too in the grounds nearby and there is Football league!

Head to the Changangkha Lhakhang:

This 12th century Buddhist temple is the oldest in Thimphu, situated on top of a hill, where people bring babies for their naming ceremonies and to seek blessings from the protector deity Tamdrin. Children are given sacred yellow threads.  Inside the temple, the main deity is Avalokiteswara with 11 heads and thousand arms. The temple has many prayer wheels and the views of the valley are splendid.

 

 

Date with the Takins at the Motithang Takin reserve:

The Takin is similar to a hybrid of a cow and a goat and is the national animal of Bhutan. The Takin reserve is where you can find them lazying around in a green enclosure. It may not be the most photogenic animal but the surroundings are serene with tall trees spread all over.

Do not miss the colourful, handwoven stoles sold at the entrance by a lady who weaves dainty stuff in front of your eyes in interesting combinations.

Folk Heritage museum and lunch: 

To know more about Bhutanese traditions and culture, head to the Folk Heritage museum and understand the nitty gritties of a Bhutanese household.

 

The place is magic. Once you enter the earthy building, you feel transported to another era with stone cauldrons, ornate vessels, wooden utensils and cooking apparatus, their age old storage systems and dyeing procedures.

The museum is recreated and built on the lines of a rural Bhutanese house and every floor has a significance.

Have an authentic lunch (Buckwheat pancakes, Sooja and a variety of Datshi, a gravy of cheese and vegetables served with rice).

 

National Library :

The building is home to ancient Tibetan texts and manuscripts, some wrapped neatly in silken cloth.

Most of these are written on hand made paper and stacked between pieces of wood.

 

There is also one of the biggest books in the world on display here. For architecture lovers, this building is a delight, with its unique wooden interiors and Bhutanese styled white exteriors. Do not miss the wonderful flower display in the gardens leading to the building.

Take a stroll in the Clock tower area:

You now have a fair idea of the city, its slow pace, friendly people and straight routes. Take a walk around the Clock tower area, visit the Post office and get your very own personalised 3D bhutanese stamps, walk the markets come alive, indulge in local meal interacting with locals sipping Butter tea. The taste of Thimphu is going to be with you for a long, long time.

 

Where to Stay: Hotel Sambhav, Chubachu, Thimphu.

View from the room at Hotel Sambhav

A comfortable hotel, with great views of the Thimphu Chu, wifi and outstanding hospitality of Mr. Pradhan and his team.

Local Bhutanese cuisine is served in their restaurant and they do arrange for cultural performances.

Getting around: 

While most of the attractions are walkable, there are cabs that take you around at a pre decided fare.

If time permits visit the Zanglopelri Lhakhang too, a small Buddhist temple with huge prayer bells.

 

 

Have you been to Thimphu? What is your favourite memory?

 

 

Finding Shiva in the caves of Pachmarhi

It was my second day in Pachmarhi.

The scenic roads of Pachmarhi

At 9.30 in the morning, I was all set to visit the famous Jatta Shankar caves. As Saeeb, our guide led the way, I feared it might be one of those Shiva pilgrimages where oodles of milk overflows into drains and mosquitos hover over these drains. Seeing the line of shops selling offerings further confirmed my fears.

However, the curiosity of experiencing caves with the natural formation of Shiva’s matted locks got me going.

We walked through a rocky path with boulders on either side.

The pursuit of Shiva

 

Boulder clad mountains

There were saffron coloured Trishuls standing at every corner and air was filled with the ringing of bells in the many tiny temples on the way.

The rock cut mountains and the sound of water were constant company till I saw an old lady with matted hair.

She sat on a rock, in rags, with unkempt hair and a wrinkled face selling oils to cure joint pain.

As I moved ahead, she began to sing. I stopped. Her voice had nothing to do with age or frame.

She sung and the robust voice reverberated across the ridge.

Here’s a video:

Words could give goosebumps and here was proof. Her “Om Namah Shivay” cut through the boulders and resonated straight back while a crowd assembled to listen to her. 

She continued singing as I walked towards the cave, her chanting kept ringing in my ears.

The magical rays

I take the final staircase to go down to the caves and the scene is nothing short of dramatic.

Sun rays filtered through the trees falling perfectly on the perpendicular stack of Trishuls outside the cave. The fumes of smoke from the Havan swirled  higher and higher creating a surreal atmosphere. And when this smoke met the morning rays, magic was created. For a moment, everything around me dissolved. The people, the murmurs, even the ringing of bells seemed distant.

The Trishuls stood against the backdrop of an enormous mountain. As devotees bend down and entered a small horizontal opening, I ventured around to absorb the aura of the place.

The cluster of Trishuls

It was mystic and the place reeked of positive, powerful vibes. On one had were two sides of the mountains trying to meet each other , on the other hand were huge boulders hanging precariously as if stuck between the mountains.

The precariously hung boulders

Inside the cave, the lights were dim and I could see many natural rock formations (shivlings). These are actually stalagmites, round in shape revered as natural lingams.

It is said that every Shivratri, a snake visits these and leaves the cave. The ceiling of the cave has a formation of snakes which resemble the matted locks of Lord Shiva, hence the name Jatta Shankar. There was water on the floor of the cave as well as water dripping from the ceiling. No-one knows the source of water, which is popularly known as Gupt Ganga.

Once out of the cave, you can see two small ponds (Not so clean), fed by springs.

The unique surroundings of Jatta Shankar, coupled with the aura of the place, draws so many pilgrims/tourists to this place.

I left with the echo of the lady’s voice and the chirping of birds ringing in my ears, still in awe of the enormity of the boulders.

A devotee prostrates infront of a Shiva idol

Story of Jattashankar temple: It is believed that Bhasmasur, a devotee of Lord Siva wanted a special power to turn anyone to ashes with his touch on their head. When he was granted this by Shiva, Bhasmasur misused the power by trying to test it on Shiva himself. Shiva had to flee and take refuge in this cave.

Temple timings: 7am to 7 P.M

Do not forget to munch on the local mulberries sold in tiny packets on the pathway to the temple.

My pursuit of Shiva continues. It was now time to head to Bada Mahadev, a shrine located at a distance of 10 kms from Pachmarhi. The journey to the cave was scenic but the place is infested with monkeys waiting for pilgrims to get their food packets out. This cave isn’t as dramatic as Jatta Shankar but is definitely bigger and longer. Water droplets ooze out of the rocks constantly and collect in a pool (kund). A cluster of Trishuls is present here as well. There aren’t any natural Shivlings here, but Saeeb brings attention to one very unique Shivling, which he claims, dates back to the 7th century.

There is also a Parvati cave nearby, dedicated to Shiva’s wife, Parvati.

Story of Bada Mahadev temple: 

It is believed that Lord vishnu killed Bhasmasur here by tricking him, looking like a beautiful woman, taking the avatar of Mohini.

At a walking distance from Bada Mahadev is the Gupt Mahadev temple. If it weren’t for the sign and the saffron flags, you’d probably miss the opening of the cave. The cave is so narrow, that I wondered how I’d ever enter it. The priest instructed that only two people can slide in and walk sideways to see the shrine inside.

When these two come out, another pair will be let in( there wasn’t any scope of traffic jams of course).This was fascinating. Your body is pressed between the two walls of the caves and you inch towards a small ray of light. The cave is so well camouflaged that the name Gupt (secret)  Mahadev is apt.

The path ahead of Gupt Mahadev leads to Chauragarh, one of the holiest shrines for Shiva devotees, a steep 4 km climb with 1300 steps.

You can see the shrine from Forsyth’s point and I make a mental note to return someday, to see devotees carrying Trishuls on their shoulders to offer at the temple.

Chauragdh as seen from Forsyth’s point

Saeeb tells me there are lakhs of trishaws up there, of all metals, even Gold and silver. They are auctioned later. It is said that if his wish is fulfilled, the devotee offers a Trishul at the temple.

Other caves in Pachmarhi: 

Reechgadh caves

The Reechgadh caves

In my cave hopping, I came across another extremely intriguing cave: The Reechgadh caves are a geological wonder. The route to the caves is extremely picturesque and the caves themselves are beyond gorgeous. It is a 15 minute climb but absolutely worth it. Kusum trees add colour to the rocky terrain as I walked on twisted tree roots.

 

Trees and caves

Reaching the entrance, my jaw dropped in awe. I hadn’t seen such a magnificent cave ever.

The entrance of Reechgadh caves

Suddenly feeling like an explorer, I crawled inside the catacomb corridors only to find bats inside!

The place is called Reechgadh as it was once the favourite haunt of bears. I adored it too. The huge cave, the solitude, peeping out of  dark tunnels and ofcourse climbing a tree as well.

Pandav caves:  another famous tourist spot in Pachmarhi are the Pandav caves( it is believed that the Pandavas stayed here for a while during their exile).

The caves overlook a beautiful and well maintained garden and as they are perched on a small hill they offer panoramic views of Pachmarhi.

No one can enter them as all of them are sealed and yes, they do lack the magnificence of the other caves, but the climb is worth the view you get.

Pachmarhi is a beautiful, highly underrated place. From mysterious caves, to fragrant jungles, gorgeous waterfalls and ofcourse, to find Shiva!

The magical sunset at Pachmarhi

 

Things to do around Sharjah

A love affair with Sharjah had already commenced and there was too much to see, marvel at and be awed of in this Emirate. In the days that followed, daily excursions near Sharjah to Al Hajar , Mleiha and Khorfakkan ensued and led to startlingly surprising discoveries. While the architecture of the city mystifies, the bustle of the souks enthralls and the skyline excites, the areas around the emirate reek of natural beauty.

You might want to see both these contrasts in the video below:

On one end are endless sand dunes, with desert winds blowing creating ripples, on the other are the blue waters of the Gulf of Oman, with the sea breeze blowing creating ripples.

The ripples on Khorfakkan beach

The ripples on the dunes of Mleiha

So when you have time in hand, while in Sharjah, here are some day excursions you can take, absolutely doable with a little bit of the hills, a little bit of the sand and a little bit of the shores!

The magnificence of the Al Hajar mountains

Al Hajar mountains: Distance from Sharjah : 100 kms

 Raw, rugged and rocky. The drive to the Al Hajar mountains via the East coast, welcomes you with panoramic views of deep ravines and layers of mountains as if they are stacked one behind the other.

The wonderful journey to Al hajar mountains

 

Where skies meet the hills

 

Curvy roads lead the way and the mountain breeze keeps company as you venture deeper into the mountains, standing tall with gravel and devoid of vegetation.

The mountains with gravel and rocks

 

It’s a different kind of a mountain range, sparse trees, mostly shrubs, minimal greenery, yet majestic in their own way. The Al Hajar mountains are one of the tallest in the Arabian plateau.

 

Layers of the Al Hajar range

Drive from Sharjah to Fujairah via the East coast road and watch the landscapes change from cityscapes to dry deserts to rugged terrains

 

. The Al Hajar mountains stretch all the way to Oman and for that stretch you’d need an Omani visa and a 4×4. For the Fujairah stretch, you can drive straight past with the blue waters of the Gulf of Oman giving you company.

Cloudy skies and a long winding road

Somewhere at a pit stop, I came across a group of locals, camping at a spot overlooking the valley, cooking their own food, lighting a small fire and celebrating their weekend.

Locals

Stop at the Friday market on the East coast road to interact with the local tribes selling traditional carpets, fresh fruits and vegetables and clay pots.

There is an array of colours at the market with fruits imported from various countries on display. Hop in a shop where carpets from Afghanistan and Iran are exhibited and marvel at the grandeur of the handwork.

Khorfakkan beach: Distance from Sharjah: 134 km

 

Drive straight to Khorfakkan for a tete a tete with the gorgeous blue waters of the Gulf of Oman. The drive is as mesmerising as the destination. With Oman just 2 km away, you are tempted to head straight to Musandam, but wait. I strongly recommend a visit to Khorfakkan first. As your eyes meet the magical blue, you wonder if you are in UAE in the first place.

Khorfakkan means the creek of two jaws and it belongs to Sharjah even though it is geographically bordered with the emirate of Fujairah.

There are island trips offered by boatmen and you can kayak as well. But if you would like an entire stretch of the beach to yourself, hop into the Oceanic Khorfakkan Resort and Spa, a luxury resort just 1 km away from the main town, with picturesque views of the sea from their rooms.

View from the room at the Oceanic resort

Even if you do not stay, you can dine at their sea facing restaurant or indulge in a spa with a view.

The private beach at Oceanic resort

The hotel offers kayaking packages as well.

You can see the Khorfakkan port at a distance, with container ships bobbling in the sea.

Khorfakkan is easily one of the most beautiful areas along the east coast of UAE, with its laid back charm and raw natural beauty.

Al Bidiyah archaeological mosque: 

The Al Bidiyah Mosque

 

Enroute Khorfakkan, you will come across a yellow structure situated on a small hillock. Masjid Al Bidiyah is built of mud bricks and stone and has a unique structure, quite unusual for a religious building in the emirates.

 

The mosque has a roof with four pointed domes and supported with an internal pillar and is known to be as old as 1400 AD.

The mosque is bordered with shrubs and cacti, giving the place an Arabic desert feel. A stop at the mosque on your way to Khorfakkan is recommended if you are a history buff and like all things ancient.

 


Besides, it is right alongside the highway with no detours.

Mleiha Archaeological centre  : Distance from Sharjah: 62 kms

 

Nestled in the desert dunes of Sharjah, is an ancient , well preserved archaeological site called Mleiha.

Ancient Mleiha is a treasure trove for lovers of archaeology. The place has an intriguing history and a guided tour of the museum provides breathtaking insights to the history of Mleiha and the role it played in the evolution of the human community.

The exhibition centre has classic interactive displays where one can browse through various areas: geology, hydrology, natural resources across basins, gravel, mountains and springs. Walk through the different periods of human civilisation: The Iron Age, the Bronze Age, Neolithic and Palaeolithic.

After the guided tour, one can step out and witness the fossil rocks and the dunes  by means of a desert safari.

It is an adrenaline rush as you enter 4x4s and gear up for dune bashing. The drivers follow a trail and take you around these ethereal natural structures which make you wonder in awe.

This desert safari stresses on the natural exploration bit rather than the cultural bit and is far less commercialised than the ones in Dubai. (So do not expect any belly dancing here!)

 

Watching the sunset over the dunes was a calming and gorgeous experience and what’s better, it wasn’t even crowded!

 

A definite must do if you love to don the explorer hat and dig into ancient history of a place. Do not skip the museum tour as it helps to understand the geology of the place.

 

Other Emirates:

UAE offers a plethora of options for every kind of traveler: the adventure seeker can head to Ras Al Khaimah. The architecture lover can head to Abu Dhabi for visiting the Grand Mosque, the shopper can head to Dubai for mall hopping or indulging in a laid back luxury stay at JW Marriott in Dubai, one of the many Dubai hotels and the beach lover can head to Ajman for a quiet, low key break.

 

If you thought Sharjah was boring, well you clearly haven’t explored it enough. Head out away from the usual attractions and discover dunes, rocky mountains and blue waters that reek of the natural beauty of this emirate.

 

The uncommercial desert safari at Mleiha

P.S:I was invited  to Sharjah by Sharjah Tourism Authority and Air Arabia, but needless to say the views in this article are my own.

Reasons to Visit Hong Kong this Summer

In May 2012, I had a chance to visit Hong Kong. Sadly, it coincided with the start of my career in advertising and I had to give it a miss.

Ever since, Hong Kong has been on my bucketlist and everytime I read an article on the experiences Hong Kong offers, my heart does a little guilt flip, while Hong Kong sits proudly in the list , waiting to be ticked.

A cultural extravaganza Pic credit: Discover Hong Kong

Hopefully this summer” I tell myself, sitting and wishfully planning the list of to –dos in this exciting destination. While some may like it for its glittering lights, carnivores may visit it for its delectable Asian palate.
But here are my reasons to visit Hong Kong this summer:

• The iconic Helicopter tour: flying over the Victorian harbour

Night View of the Victorian Harbour
Pic credits: Discover Hong Kong

So picture this: flying over glittering lights, gazing at ferries, container ships, coastal vessels and motor yachts. Now imagine doing this with the option of dining in the air. Due to a space crunch, Hong Kong decided to build skyscrapers and Look Up. In this tour, one can look down and see all these architectural marvels standing proudly in the city.

 

View from the top
Pic credits: Discover Hong Kong

• To be an honorary Panda keeper:

 

Be a Panda Keeper!
Pic credits: Discover Hong Kong.

I LOVE PANDAS! (Who doesn’t?)
Imagine getting to be a Panda Keeper and learning how to prepare pandas’ toys and meals from experts?
At the fascinating Ocean Park, one gets to relive their ‘Panda’ dreams by getting close to the animals and becoming a kid all over again!

• Disneyland!!

No matter how old I get, Disneyland is Disneyland. Period.
What’s best, I can explore a total of seven themed lands at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort is known for adding new attractions, including the recent addition of the “Star Wars: Tomorrowland Takeover” and the brand-new Iron Man Experience, the first- ever Marvel-themed attraction in a Disney park.
And to get the best of both worlds, one can take a ferry ride via the iconic Star Ferry to Hong Kong Disneyland.

The Magic of Disney
Pic Credits: Disneyland, Hong Kong

• To travel on the Peak Tram: the world’s steepest funicular railway:

A unique way to see the city
Pic credits: Discover Hong Kong

The 120 year old Peak tram is a unique way to explore the city. For the love of aerial shots and the thrill of ascents and descents, this features high on my must do list.

An exciting seven-minute journey past Central’s skyscrapers to the rooftop of Hong Kong, the Peak Tram offers photographers breathtaking cityscapes to capture and be awed. Nothing like taking this journey at sunset hours and photograph the city scenery with its 7600 skyscrapers and a magnificent harbour.

To click the British colonial architecture from a hop on and hop off bus and the iconic trams:

For the architecture lover, capturing the colonial style buildings is a definite must do. The cheapest way to do so is hopping into a double deck tram car, known locally as the Ding Ding,
In HK $ 2.30, what ever the distance, you get to witness the British architecture spread across the city on the cheapest mode of transport.

Pic credits: Discover Hong Kong

Another option is the air conditioned Hop on and Hop off bus, which lets you explore the city at your own pace, giving you the flexibility to schedule your sightseeing at your own accord, with the record commentary in multiple languages as company throughout the journey.

• To cruise on the Star Ferry:

Ferries and more:
Pic credits: Discover Hong Kong

The Star Ferry is a 118 year old ship, on which one can get a different but a beautiful perspective on the city. From the bustling harbours to people watching on the jetty, this is one trip a daughter of a sailor wishes to undertake for her love of the sea and ships. Not to forget the National geographic rates the Star Ferry as one of the 50 places of a lifetime.

• To witness the Symphony of Lights:

The Symphony of Lights
Pic credits: Discover Hong Kong

Proclaimed by the Guinness book of world records as “the world’s largest permanent light and sound show”, the Symphony of Lights, which takes place every evening at 8pm atop one of rooftop bars, is a star attraction.

• To dig into Pineapple Buns:
While everyone’s favourite are the egg tarts at Tai Cheong Bakery,I plan to attack the traditional Pineapple Buns at Kam Wah Café.

Pineapple Buns Pic credits: Discover Hong Kong

Fish lover’s can head to Hong Kee and Yum Kee, both of which have over 40 years’ history, with fish ball noodles being the only item on their menu or alternatively discover their very own fish ball vendor on the bustling streets of the city.

And last but not least, Dim Sums! If you did not know, Dim Sum means ‘touch your heart’.

Dim sums!
Pic credits: Discover Hong Kong

The go to place for Dim Sums is Lin Heung Tea House, a century-old joint that’s among the few left that still uses dim sum trolleys.

• To have a field day at the Ocean park:

Fiesta at the Ocean Park
Pic credits: Discover Hong Kong

For the wildlife lover, a day at the Ocean park promises encounters with a variety of animals and marine life.
With a pavilion to view the animals and the Whiskers Harbour with kid friendly rides, this place attracts kids and adults alike. When can you encounter sea lions, penguins, Giant Pandas and dolphins all in a day?

• To be amused at the interactive 3D artwork museums:
Not a selfie person really, but interactive 3D artwork museums, filled with optical illusions and vibrant photo ops are surely my kind of a thing. From optical illusions, 3D paintings to trick eye exhibits, this museum is sure to offer art, adventure and excitement.

• Shop till I drop:

Because everyone loves shopping: Pic credits: Discover Hong Kong

I managed to get a sneak peek into what Hong Kong offers for the compulsive shopper, courtesy my sister. The things she bought were drop dead gorgeous. Hong Kong is high on style as you get the trendiest and latest fashion couture in the city. One can safely be prepared to carry an extra bag or even better, buy one there.

You might known Hong Kong as a place where one can go on a business trip, attend a conference or head out with their friends for a fun trip. But Hong Kong has all the ingredients to be the ideal family vacation.

The best ways to explore it is either through a cruise, or flying over the city or simply taking a stroll along the waterfront in Central or Tsim Sha Tsui for an even closer encounter with the city.
Another must do is to get a 360-degree view of the Victoria Harbour from the observation desk on the 100th floor of Hong Kong’s tallest building: the ICC. The deck can be reached by a high speed lift (last I took one was at the Burj Khalifa)

 

From amusement parks, to gastronomical delights, to fascinating museums to exciting cityscapes: Hong Kong has something for everyone.

This summer, Hong Kong celebrates 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and to celebrate this special offers are available to all Hong Kong visitors from 1st April, 2017 onwards.
So what’s your reason to visit Hong Kong?

 

For the love of Andamans


Indian Bloggers

At the slightest mention of Andamans these days I break into a smile. The scorching weather of Mumbai melts momentarily in the sublime memories of the island where forests enchant and beaches enthrall.

Watch this video and read on…

I close my eyes and recall the warm, tingly feeling of walking on it’s many beaches:


From the absolutely pristine, straight out of a Hollywood movie: Radhanagar beach in Havelock island with powdery white sands and turquoise waters, to the dramatic Kalapathar beach with its endless coral graveyard and pieces of naturally carved driftwood spread across the beach.

 

Radhanagar beach, Havelock Island

 

 

Neil Island

From the warm green waters of the Bharatpur beach on Neil island with snails and crabs for company, to the surreal sunset at Chidiya Tapu beach.

 

Sunset with pebbles and waves at Chidiya Tapu

I still remember the music: the roar of the waves crashing on the shores, the loud din of the woodpeckers in Chidiya Tapu, the incessant song of the cicadas in Mt. Harriett and the rustle of walking on dry leaves in the Kala Pathar forest.

 

The crystal clear stretches of waters changing hues at Jolly Buoy with its magnificient corals and magical marine life to the rare, delightful rendezvous with the dolphins of Wandoor, Andamans never failed to amaze.

More than the joy of snorkelling in sparkling waters or collecting shells of different sizes and shapes was the joy of leaving behind your bag anywhere on the island to find it right there whenever you were back.

Laxmanpur beach Andamans

It had forests too. Lush, evergreen ones with huge magnificent trees. Trees that made you crane your neck as you traced their length and tempted you to hug them with all your might.

Neil Island

From the fragrances of the forests of Mt.Hariett to the mesh of mangroves at Baratang island with picture perfect canopies.

Mangrove canopies at Baratang Island

The widespread Mangroves

And then there were limestone caves and a long memorable journey to reach them.

Limestone caves at Baratang Island

There were scribblings on the sand, conversations with the waves, tireless countings of the shining stars in the clear night sky at Neil and hide and seek with the many feathered beauties of the island.

 

 

Long balmy walks to Corbyns cove at port Blair to the crazy shopping sessions at Sagarika emporium. The rolling and pitching of the high speed craft Makcruzz ferrying passengers to the islands to watching the lilting of waves on board MV Belle.

Local interactions made the journeys worthwhile: meeting the strong willed Anuradha, the guide at Ross Island whose passion for her job and the island had a ripple effect on her audience, conversations with Aziz, the sailor on MV Makruzz from Minicoy island, a place I knew nothing about and the absolutely delectable food cooked by Reshma, the girl from Ranchi who worked in a local eatery.

Miles away from the mainland, with little connectivity, it felt an alien country, but yet I was at home.
When Pobitro met every teeny weeny demand, ( from chocolate icecream to the fiercely guarded wifi password), the Cook at Ripple dished out meals like they’re cooked at home, the best ever idli Wada was found at a jaw dropping rate in the middle of a forest and Drumstick leaves pakodas were gobbled at Laxmanpur beach at Neil Island, when everyone at the island lent a helping hand and nights were spent chatting endlessly with Janhvi, who wouldn’t be at home.

I feel the sprays of sea salt and the cool sea breeze, till I hear honks of cars and the screeching of buses in this busy street.
I think I left a part of me, under the tall Mahua tree, or on the Kala Pathar beach maybe,

In this paradise called Andamans.

Picture credits: Jahnvi Vyas