With temperatures rising mercilessly this summer, weekend getaways near Delhi are the best way to beat the heat. Bhimtal, a hill station near Delhi, is perfectly placed for a quick escape in the hills of Kumaon, without the crowds of its neighbor, Nainital.
I’ve crossed Bhimtal several times while making my way into the higher reaches of Kumaon. Most of these times, I’ve looked away from the Bhimtal Lake, which though surrounded by colorful trees, looks only as clean as you can expect an easily accessible lake in India to be. Read more
Hidden beaches in Thailand are not easy to come by, but the road led us to one on the beautiful little Koh Mak island, a well-kept secret in eastern Thailand.
There it lay. A mile long beach with pebbly white sand. The sea had receded into low tide, inviting us to wade into the shallow waters. Broken boats lay on patches of the sea bed that would otherwise be submerged in water. Read more
This story was originally published in The Hindu.
Swarms of people greet me as I alight at the Jaipur railway station, some arriving in the pink city with royal expectations, some transiting through it to seek the desert culture of Rajasthan, and many slyly trying to identify first-timers to the city so they can put their touting hat on. I incessantly nod no to the constant soliciting of Madam auto, Madam taxi and Madam hotel, until I reach the exit of the station and someone’s Madam auto soliciting succeeds. I can see his bewilderment when I ask to go to Surya Vatika Road on the highway towards Chomu, and the fare negotiation is skewed in my favour for once, because he has no idea where we are going. Read more
It lies before us in all its splendour, brought to life by incessant cheering and booing. Men in white togas, and women dressed in colourful long tunics, keep their eyes glued to the pit below. The chariots have circled the arena, and the dust kicked up by the hooves of their galloping horses is slowly settling down. Armour-clad gladiators take centre stage; battle-hardened men who know this might be their last fight. The smell of sweat hangs heavy in the air, as their bravado drives the fourteen thousand spectators wild. The crowd is baying for blood, as a strong sense of anticipation mixed with dread engulfs the atmosphere. I am forced to look away from the bloodshed, towards the calming expanse of the emerald blue Mediterranean Sea that this Roman amphitheatre overlooks. I shake off these musings and smile at my vivid imagination. Read more
In vino veritas. In wine there is truth. And on the Spanish countryside, truth of a different kind; one that lays bare a love affair I never knew existed.
My romantic tryst with wine starts on a rainy morning, on the Cister route in the province of Tarragona, an hour’s drive from Barcelona. We drive alongside lush green valleys, partly covered in mist, as a bleak sun shines over the surrounding hills, promising to warm up an unexpectedly cold day. As the rain slows to a drizzle, we stop next to a stretch of carefully manicured vineyards and let the aroma of the grapes intoxicate us. We are in the premises of the Santa María de Poblet monastery, and as we’ll soon learn, these vineyards produce black wine, a darker version of red; there are hours to wait before we can try it. Read more
I’ve been thinking a lot about Southeast Asia lately. It was on the islands and among the rain forests of Malaysia that I discovered my wanderlust. If Singapore was home for the six years I lived there, Malaysia was my second home, and Vietnam and Indonesia were those indulgent escapes that you needed to fork out money for a flight, to get to. Truth is, there was no lack of indulgence in Malaysia itself, albiet the indulgence of luxury and pampering rather than that of long distance or air travel. Read more
It is no secret that I was blown away by Mauritius; who wouldn’t, with its stunning blue coastlines, charming mountain hideouts, and picturesque sugarcane fields? Yet I constantly found myself craving a younger version of the island, when chunks of its coastline were not cordoned off by resorts, and maps of the island didn’t come laid out with a platter of restaurants and activities. I wanted a Mauritius that could let me be impulsive and discover its treasures serendipitously. Read more
Loud Hindi music blares through the silence of the valley, carrying the wind with it. Women dressed in their most pink and jazzy attires walk down the path to a village hut below, big smiles pasted on their faces, their eyes fixed on their toddlers who keep running faster than their fancy heels can take them. This is not your usual day in Peora, a small village quietly tucked away in the forests of Kumaon in Uttarakhand. It’s the day before a wedding, and the entire village seems to be rejoicing, dressing up, laughing, singing, dancing, feasting and celebrating. Read more
Since my first Euro trip last summer, I haven’t stopped thinking about the dreamy countryside towns & villages I bumped the cities for. While there isn’t a better way to see the European countryside than to hop on the Euro Rail and get off on a whim, After Sunset style, it may not work for travellers constrained by time, money or well, the comfort zone of a plan. Unearthed by traversing the depths of Google and through conversations with the local people & regional tourism boards, here is my choicest list of 4 small towns & villages across Italy, France & Germany, that I fell deliriously in love with. Read more
My choice of travel accommodation has slowly transformed from anything-cheap-goes in my student days, to pampering value-for-money hotels / resorts during my short-lived corporate life, to anything offbeat that offers a chance to interact with the local people since India Untravelled happened i.e. now. With several of the latter under my belt since I moved back to India almost 9 months ago, I’ve decided to highlight, review & convince you to experiment with such off-the-beaten-track living in this weekly Sleeping Spotlight. Read more