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Hong Kong for first timers

10 Apr
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Yes the same shot of Hong Kong you see in every Hollywood movie featuring the city

 

They say – a minute in New York is a second in Hong Kong. And I could why. My first trip to HongKong was nothing short of spectacular. The glamorous billboards and ubiquitous skyscrapers, glitzy pubs and cafes of Lan Kwai Fong, the melt in the mouth din sums, the nostalgia inducing boat rides at Victoria Terminus…

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Walking the streets endlessly for hours watching locals and ex pats going about their business never felt so good.

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But what I loved most about Hong Kong is the vibe — throbbing and pulsating with energy. For someone who loves the city life,  it’s infectious and addictive.

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Hop on board the Star Ferry  

To get an up close look at life in the charming city, hop on board the Star Ferry. For just 3HKD you will be treated to one of the most scenic boat rides in the world. The boat ferries passengers from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and back.

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The Victoria Harbour also happens to the most photographed harbours in the world. So be armed with your cameras. The best time to ride it is in the evenings.

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The Mid-Level escalator in Hong Kong

It’s quite astonishing to find an escalator (the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator) cutting through the hustle bustle of the city. The Life spills over on to the streets on both sides of the 2624 ft escalator. They only move in one direction, and go with rush hour — in the mornings they go down, and in the evenings they go up. It’s not only a touristy must-do, but very practical too.

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The night is always young at Lan Kwai Fong – the party district of Hong Kong

Lan Kwai Fong is where you head to paint the town red. The atmosphere saddles from stylish wine clubs, sedate cafes and raucous sports bars.  The area comes alive at night when the action spills on to the streets. Even if you are not a party animal, LKF is a great place for people watching.

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Strolling along Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade is one of the best ways to see the beautiful views of the Hong Kong skyline and bustling Victoria Harbour.

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This amazing city is a melting pot of food, culture and fun just waiting to be discovered.

 

 

I found my paradise in Maldives – Gili Lankanfushi

6 Feb

glm_crusoe-residence-exterior-with-hammockIt’s not hard to see why Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives keep winning Travellers Choice awards for luxury hotels

My shoes were collected and stowed away the moment I stepped into the luxurious speed boat that came to pick me up at the airport. Gili Lankanfushi  has a ‘No News No Shoes,’ policy. They were returned to me only when I left the resort for my flight back to India!

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Escape to Saj By The Lake

19 Aug

Should you need a nudge to get out of Mumbai and expand your sights, let me introduce you to a young resort just three hours away. It goes by the name Saj by the Lake and it’s warm and welcoming. Continue reading

5 things you must do at Aamby Valley

18 Aug

I love the rain. It’s my favourite weather. The smell of wet soil just when it begins to rain is not only sweet, but brings new hope and makes you look forward to the rainbow and sunshine. So when life throws you a rainy day, play in the puddles! Or better still head to Aamby Valley a picturesque resort nestled amidst mountains and lakes, just 23 km from Lonavala.

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The Aussie Chalet I stayed in

A visit to this scenic and mammoth resort was long overdue and thanks to Food bloggers Association of India (FBAI), it finally happened last month. So here’s a first person account of the five things you ought to do at Aamby Valley.

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Book Streets of Mumbai

21 Apr
Low res Dilip Mahindkar at the booth on Book Street

Dilip Mahindkar specialises in architecture and interior design books

It’s true that there are book streets all over India but none rivals the ambiance of the one in Mumbai. Nestled against the backdrop of beautiful Victorian buildings and tall peepal trees the book street in Mumbai is where Vikram Seth jostles for space with William Shakespeare. Who knows what you could find here?

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Fun under the Sula Sun

9 Feb

low res Balkan Beat Box at SulaFest 2016As much as I love music, I hate concerts. It’s just such a messy affair with sweaty people jumping and dancing in open pavilions. I would rather walk, go running, or sit in the back seat of a car listening to my favourite bands than see them in concert. And that’s the reason I passed on the opportunity to be a part of Sula Fest for the last couple of years.

However I made an exception this year and thank god I did! Cause it wasn’t just a heady mix of music…but also wine, gourmet food, fashion and more…

low res Grape Stomping at SulaFest 2016After a four hour bus ride from Mumbai and a quick shower we headed straight to the fest and to the job – wine tasting. Yes I know the age-old rule about drinking (one that everyone knows and most people have broken) always fill up on food before filling up on alcohol. But food surfaced just before the second round of tastings. I particularly enjoyed the Brut Tropicale in an attractive digital psychedelic bottle covered in riotous paisleys. Made with premium black grapes including PinotNoir the sparkling wine is fresh, fruity and very palatable. The Riesling, limited edition Rasa Shiraz and Rasa Cabernet were all washed down with the very delish goat cheese made by chef Morgan Rainforth of the popular SOLEIL by La Plage.

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Kailash Kher performing with his band at Sula Fest 2016

There were loads of special tours and tastings for all the wine enthusiasts. Hardys, Asahi Super Dry Beer, Cointreau, Grant’s Whiskey, Jägermeister, Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Whiskey and Stolichnaya Vodka ensure no one went thirsty!

What piqued my interest the most was the wine and ice-cream pairing. Adaptability is a positive quality, so I said – let’s break some rules. According to dessert and wine pairing guidelines, the wine should be sweeter than the dessert, or else the wine may come across as flat. The other element to consider is acidity. Most wines are inherently acidic. London Dairy paired five of their ice-creams with some sula best sellers. While I am not sure if the pairing worked for ME but the mango sorbet from London Dairy is just divine.

low res Kim Sharma at SulaFest 2016Fun activities like foot massages, tarot reading, grape stomping, etc added to the fest-feel. There was glamour too – Narendra Kumar, Mona Juneja, Yash Birla, Ishita Arun, Arjun Khanna, Kim Sharma, Malini Aggarwal, Malavika Sangghvi, Devieka Bhojwani, Aparna Badlani, Sameer Daddy Malhotra…

The music line-up included The Cat Empire from Australia who made their India debut with songs from their soon to be released album ‘Rising with the Sun’! Sunday saw Kailash Kher perform two songs from his soon to be released album – Kailasa Ishq Anokha. The Atmasphere stage in the midst of the vineyard had DJs spinning some incredible underground music.

SulaFest 2016 DayFast fashion brand VERO MODA launched its spring summer collection 2016 at the fest. Anushka Manchanda gave the audience an fashionable performance as a showstopper.

Any wine festivals you have attended? What was your experience?

I can hardly wait for the next edition…

NIVEDITA JAYARAM PAWAR 

 

 

 

The Staycation rage

16 Jan

Traveling to a beautiful resort in a picturesque location isn’t the only way to vacation. This holiday season, plan a ‘staycation’ and unwind within (or just outside) your own four walls. Let me tell you how…

 

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Dome of Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai 

Instead of gobbling up the cheap airfares and hotel rooms and spending time, energy and money on a vacation to a faraway place, try staying home, or close to home, and give yourself a much needed staycation.

A staycation is a holiday or vacation time when you stay and relax at home and explore nearby areas of entertainment and recreation. Though the concept achieved popularity in the US during the Great Recession and in the UK due to the weak Pound which made overseas holidays more expensive, it finds resonance even today with those short on time and reeling under ever increasing cost of living. Unwinding minus the stress is the central theory behind a staycation.

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8 things you ought to do in Leh

5 Aug

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Nothing prepares you for the beauty that’s Leh – breathtaking lakes, majestic snow clad mountains, mesmerising sand dunes, stunning blue skies, magnificent gompas and luscious momos. After much deliberation I finally made it to Leh in May this year. And what a trip it was. From climbing mountains, frolicking in the snow, riding a camel to meditating in a gompa…I did it all. Here’s a list of the 8 things you must do in Leh

Attend the marriage of two rivers

Zanskar, Lake, leh, tourism, ladakh, beauty, natureI have seen many rivers but never the merging of two rivers – Indus and the Zanskar. The confluence of these two rivers is distinctive in the colours (dark brown of Zangsar and white of the Indus). They come together and flow towards Pakistan. If you are the adventurous sorts you could even go river rafting here.

 

Meditate at Diskit monastery

monastery, Leh, LadakhThe 32 meters tall golden Buddha statue is both awe-inspiring and humbling. The other monasteries worth spending time are Hemis, Thikse, Spitok and Shey. Just close your eyes and sit at the Buddha feet. Peace comes naturally.

Ride a two-humped camel in the sand dunes of Nubra Valley

camel, double humped camel, dessert, nubra valley, lehRiding a camel was a first for me (leave alone the double humped one). The gentle souls decorated with embroidered patches just glide across the dessert. While here don’t miss the wild horses, mountain dogs and goats.

Play in the snow
photo (100)I had seen snow before but what I saw in Leh just amazed me – powdery, fluffy and pristine. As cheesy as it sounds I jumped out of the car to pluck icicles hanging off the mountains and face the snowflakes flying in the air. I learnt to speed down the mountain and attack unsuspecting tourists with snow bombs. For someone who spent her childhood throwing styrofoam bits in the air and pretending to be under a snowfall, this was magical.

Just chill by the lake at Pangong

Pangong Lake, Leh, Ladakh, river, lake, salt water lake   Remember the postcards we collected as kids of blue lakes and brown mountains? Pangong is simply that. Sit by the river and you could even spot rare migratory birds like the Black necked Siberian. Sixty per cent of the lake lies in China and the rest in India. Lake freezes completely in the winter even though it is a salt water lake.

Traverse the Khardugla Pass

Khardungla Pass, Leh, Mountain, snow, ladakhAt an altitude of 5359 meters it truly feels like on top of the world. The drive itself to this second highest motorable road in the world is scenic with snow capped mountains and valleys. Don’t forget to get off the car to feel the chill breeze on your face and some steaming hot chai.

Gorge on momos and Thupka
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Ladakhi food is blend of Tibetan, Indian and Continental.  Summer Harvest at Leh market has the best momos. They also do a decent Chinese fare. Try the regional speciality – thupka a soup of vegetables and noodles.

Shop Shop Shop
I always wondered what the fuss about Pashmina Shawl was all about until I held it in my hand – beautiful, warm and soft enough to fit into a handbag. The Leh market is the best place to pick up a genuine pashmina along with semi precious stones and tribal jewellery. Bargain hard.

Have you been to Leh? Do write in with your experiences.

The bloggers meet at Grand Mercure Goa had everything – great food, a little adventure and loads of madness

23 Jul La Brise, Goa, drink, beach

La Brise, Goa, drink, beach As strange as it may sound – I had to work on my relationship with Goa. The city failed to impress me the very first time I visited it 2000. I didn’t feel drawn to the beaches or awed by the orange sunsets over the Arabian sea.The lush green paddy fields faded in comparison to the ones in my native town Mangalore and the colourful temples were not as vibrant as the ones down south. I couldn’t spot the local joints for fresh seafood and the ones at upmarket restaurants didn’t tantalise my taste buds.

I wondered what the fuss was all about. Goa didn’t touch me the way it touched my friends. But I was determined to find the ‘cool’ side of Goa. Fortunately work kept taking to Goa and slowly and steadily I discovered why the happy go lucky hippies, the soul searching yogis and free thinking artists love this city and descend on it every after year. I felt the trance music of Anjuna, chomped on chorizo-pao, got drenched under Dudhsagar falls, gambled (without luck) at the floating casinos and queued up like a pro outside Mambo’s and Tito’s.

Every visit revealed a different aspect of Goa. I learnt to travel without a destination. Just zooming past sleepy villages and beaches in our rickety rented bikes. Stopping where we wanted to and eating where the locals ate.

Though there is never a bad time to visit Goa I still had to see Goa in the rains. Thankfully I could tick that off too with my recent visit for the bloggers meet.

Here’s are some of the best experiences from my latest visit to Goa

My stay at the Grand Mercure Goa Shrem
There’s something about this North Goa hotel which stays with you long after you have left. Maybe it’s the omnipresent service, the fabulous food by Chef Ganapati, the soothing spa where tensions are pummelled away and meridians realigned or just the free ice lolly treats by the pool.

pool, Grand Mercure Goa Shrem, Resort, Goa

Vitality pool at Grand Mercure Goa Shrem Resort

Nature and art coexist at Grand Mercure. Antique pieces sourced from old Portuguese homes, high pitched roofs, wide verandahs and brass lanterns add a touch of old school glamour while the constant, mesmerising soundtrack of birdsong puts you in a relaxed state of mind. The best thing to do here is float aimlessly in the infinity pool overlooking the green meadows or have your body primed, polished and pampered at the Warren Tricomi spa which resembles a rain forest.

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Warren Tricomi Spa

The treatment rooms come with an outdoor rain shower. There are cabanas by the poolside for those who wish to indulge in an outdoor spa experience. These come with mesmerizing views of the paddy fields and the hills around.

Since I dislike the joint cracking, muscle pounding massages I opted for the gentle and relaxing Balinese massage which is great way to melt knotty back muscles and relax tense shoulders. At the end of the 60 minute massage I felt like I’d been asleep for a month.

The Food Trail

Food was another highlight of my stay at Grand Mercure. The macaroons at the coffee shop Chy are to die for. Tea connoisseur will be impressed with the collection of teas from first flush to orange pekoe and Darjeeling tea. The vindaloo puffs and waffle sandwiches make perfect accompaniments. Kokum and lemon ice tea are served in cute jars. A blackboard menu announces the chef’s special.

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Chy at Grand Mercure Shrem

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Salad counter at Festa

My personal favourite is Festa the restaurant under a huge banyan tree. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy Ganapati’s Prawn peri peri and hand tossed thin crust pizza. Festa also does a very satisfying Saraswat thali complete with clams, crabs, prompret and sol kadhi. Junho the bar does some innovative cocktails and has an impressive floor to ceiling wine wall.

Sunday brunch at La Brise
I spent a fabulous Sunday on the deck at La Brise soaking in the brilliant weather, gorgeous views of the sea, some great food and live music. This homey, casual restaurant by the beach at Candolim has the best Cajun calamari, fish tikka, lamb chops and waffles.

La Brise

La Brise

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When we went boating
Cruising along Chapora river in a trimaran was the most enchanting part of my stay in Goa. Though we did not spot any crocodiles or dolphins the sights of fishermen mending nests, birds taking flight and the gorgeous scenery was all worth it. At one point we even got down the trimaran and swam across to a small island! That was a first for me.

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With blogger friend Manjulika of www.manjulikapramod.com

With blogger friend Manjulika Pramod 

With blogger and travel ninja Siddhartha Joshi

With blogger and travel ninja Siddhartha Joshi

This trip to Goa truly connected me with the rhythm of Goa – freedom, adventure and a little madness.

Leh fashion diary – looking your best when temperatures drop

1 Jun

 

 

collageI am NOT a winter person. I have spent my entire life in 30 degrees and above. Snow, ice storms and temperatures dipping below 10 degrees is alien to me.

So my recent holiday to Leh was fraught with dilemmas – How do I pile on the cold weather paraphernalia like bulky sweaters, coats, boots, gloves and scarves without looking like a snow woman. Can I bundle up and still look GREAT. It was the classic comfort vs. style dilemma.

When it’s a short trip, existing in slight discomfort in the name of fashion is not so much of an issue. However, this was a week-long trip. I was looking for practical, winter-friendly styles that will let me show my flair for fashion, while protecting my tootsies from frostbite when I venture out of the car to make my first snowman!

So here’s how I crafted my looks for the Leh sojourn with help from stylists and brands.

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