Month: April 2013

Albufera Valencia, Valencia secrets, Valencia lake

Albufera: Valencia’s Best Kept Secret.

On my way to Valencia’s city centre for the Fallas festivities, I got talking with a Spaniard from Asturias in the north of Spain. Hailing from the mountain countryside, surely he could tell me a thing or two about escaping the city on the only spare day I had. La Albufera, he said, es muy bonita. I was sold. By the time I got on the bus that would take me to the south of Valencia, it was almost lunch time. I feasted on glimpses of the charming countryside from the window. The rice paddies had just been harvested, and shone a golden brown. A small river meandered through farms of potato. Men and women strolled through their fields, some watering them, others basking in the warm afternoon sun. Small thatched huts reminded me of villages in India. A paved road ran alongside the fields, and cars raced past in striking contrast to the casual pace of life here. The bus stopped at El Saler, indicated on the map in blue. Across the road, I found myself in a pine forest with a …

solo travel, solo female travel, solo travel tips

6 Alternatives to Travelling Alone.

It is absolutely normal to feel anxious at the thought of travelling alone for the first time. I recently shared tips on how to plan your first solo trip, but if it drives you too far out of your comfort zone, you may be better off considering one of the following alternatives to solo travel, and gradually easing yourself into travelling alone. 1. Travel in a group While a group trip can constrain you to a fixed itinerary and dates, travelling with unknown people is a big leap in preparation for your solo adventures. Opt for a single room on the trip, to get used to sleeping alone and having your own space. If possible, take a free day on the trip to ease into solo sightseeing. Step out of the group to talk to the locals wherever you go, till you attain the confidence to do it alone. The best way to choose a travel company is to speak to the organizers and join a group that would largely consist of amateur solo travellers, not families. …

Brahmaputra river bridges, Majuli Assam, Majuli photos

In Photos: Majuli Island, Assam.

Possibly the most beautiful place I’ve travelled to in India, Majuli is the largest river island in the Brahmaputra River, and in the world.  Accessible via Jorhat in Assam by a public ferry, it has an almost surreal, magical old world charm; we intended to stay here two days, but ended up staying six, and can’t wait to go back. Why? See for yourself. *** 1. CYCLING ON MAJULI ISLAND along rolling meadows, often interspersed with rice paddies and glimpses of the river. === 2. FINDING VILLAGES IN ASSAM that once lived remotely across a tributary of the Brahmaputra River. Now that the river bed has completely dried up, they have access to the relatively more developed mainland of Majuli Island. They still run on solar power though, with mainstream electricity only a distant promise by the government. === 3. BIRDWATCHING BY THE BRAHMAPUTRA RIVER where flocks of birds live by the river, sunbathe on the green pastures, and chill with the grazing cows and goats. === 4. GETTING LOST IN THE WILDERNESS  of Majuli, …

Koh Mak beaches, Koh Mak island, Thailand hidden beaches

Koh Mak Island: Of Hidden Beaches, Broken Boats and Beer.

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. In the distance, islands gently rose from the horizon; islands that should technically mark the start of Cambodia. We were on the eastern edge of Koh Mak island, one of Thailand’s better-kept secrets, and giving us company were only three water-loving dogs. We had set out earlier that evening, from our cosy hideout at Bamboo Hideaway, a rustic bamboo lodge run by an Italian couple who made the island their home three years ago. We followed our tiny map to the dot, and I maneuvered our scooter up a hill, on a dirt road, and into the bushes, till it would go no further. As per the map, this route should have led us to a stunning view of the sea, and all the way down to a beach on the other end …

vegetarian dolma, turkey dolma

Guest Post: A Vegetarian in Turkey.

Guest post by Harsh Mehta. After reading about my vegetarian adventures in Turkey, Harsh asked me about all the Turkish vegetarian dishes I didn’t try, and left me craving to take my taste buds to Turkey again. Through this post, he attempts to tempt the vegetarians among you to plan that trip to Turkey and treat yourself to Yaprak Dolma, Testi Kebab, and Turkish Baklava, among other vegetarian delights.

women in hijab, woman in abaya

Praying At a Mosque: My First Time.

Wearing a flowing black abaya, my head covered in a black hijab, I enter the gracious dome of the Grand Mosque of Bahrain. Under the high, intricately designed ceiling, a massive open space appears to welcome us – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Free Thinkers from over twenty countries – with arms wide open, into the frontiers of Islam. We gather in a circle, around a scholar of Islam, ready to fire questions related to the religion, that we have harbored since stepping foot in Bahrain, or much before. Arabic coffee is served, sip by sip in the traditional Bahraini way, and the topics slowly change from conversion to after-life, from karma to the morality of fornication and stone pelting. I choose to kill the elf in the room by asking about the inequality of rights among women and men, and below is a snippet of the conversation that ensues (in my own words): Me: I’m curious to understand why the interpretation of Islam is different in different countries, when the Quran is considered the ultimate word of god. Mawlana: How do …

Madrid best things to do, Madrid attractions

Te Quiero Madrid: A Photo Essay.

I’m not a big fan of cities, but Madrid was almost love at first sight. Maybe because it was just the start of spring, or maybe because the city is just that beautiful! I spent most of my time by the River Manzanares in Madrid, strolling along the parks and squares of Madrid, exploring Madrid’s markets and cafes, and discovering its quirky neighborhoods. In this photo essay, I share a roundup of some of the best unusual things to see and do in Madrid, including local hangouts and relatively secret places, that are sure to make you fall in love with this Spanish city too.

4 Time Zones, 2 Bucket List Items, 1 Month.

What a month March has been. I’ve travelled along the mountains, rivers and rice paddies of Thailand’s north, revisited with much nostalgia the familiar streets of Singapore, revelled in the festivities of Las Fallas in Spain, and finally made that illusive trip to India’s northeast to live with the Mishing tribe of Assam and explore the wilderness of the eastern Himalayas. And in the midst of all these adventures, I’ve been overwhelmed to see my travel story about Turkey’s Black Sea region, published in BBC Travel, a travel publication I’ve always held in such high regard.