Sky Watch Friday- Overloaded

By Mridula on November 28, 2014
in Cell phone photography, Sky Watch, XperiaZ3

I guess I am cheating a little today. I picked this picture for Sky Watch Friday more because of the overloaded bus rather than the sky. But it has blue sky too, won’t you agree? But then it has been one of those weeks where it feels weekend came after five rather than the regular one week. So you have to give me some sack.

Also I thought the saying on the bus was great ‘100  में से 80 बेईमान फिर भी मेरा देश महान’ (’80 out of 100 people are corrupt by still my country is great’ is a rough translation).

I was coming back from a wonderful stay at the Jaipur Marriott. We were not very far away from reaching home. I was feeling quite lethargic by now, a bit impatient too. After all it is at the end of the journey when you wish to reach home fast.  And then I witnessed this scene on the Jaipur-Delhi Highway.

Overloaded bus India

A Bit of Blue Sky Too!

I hesitated initially because if the passengers notice someone clicking a picture, particularly a woman, they can start shouting and hooting. And I was in no mood for that. But then the scene was too delicious to let go without an attempt. No one noticed me clicking the picture from the car. I guess the boys were too busy holding on to their dear life!

But the biggest coincidence was when I posted this on Facebook and my sister shared it. One of her friend’s said the students were from the polytechnic where she is a teacher! She had some very sharp words to say about this habit of her studnts. Of course there have been accidents in the past. But then it is indeed a small world, where you click a random picture and someone finds a connection with it!

The Mayhem Called Packing

By Mridula on November 27, 2014
in Canon D550, Gadgets, Photography, XperiaZ3

I love to travel but I hate to pack. Packing gives me anxiety; packing is akin to nightmare for me. For international trips there are visas to worry about and I have got them on the last possible day so many occasions, which again meant last minute packing! That is why I so love visa on arrival destinations. But over the years I have develop a method over the madness called packing but follow it at your own risk!

Documents First

Documents

Documents First is my Motto

For any trip documents are important and this is usually my starting point. For me this phase also means making sure I have enough money and a few cards for the trip. If it is a domestic trip life is a little simpler as it usually means having the travel ticket, money/cards and if I have done it in advance, hotel reservation proof. An Id proof is always to be carried.
If it is an international trip life gets a bit more complicated as that means passport, travel insurance and photographs in case of visa on arrival. I do bother about forex too but more often than not, I end up buying it from the airport. For visa on arrival I do thoroughly check all the documents required and make sure that I have it.

As soon as I have crossed this stage I relax a bit. The next bit is easy but very important to me.

Gadgets

Gadgets and Chargers!

Gadgets and Chargers Essential!

I cannot imagine traveling without my SLR, my cell phone- XperiaZ3 and my laptop. That used to be my complete list of gadgets. But now I have switched to an eBook reader so I need to pack that too. The SLR goes with about 3 additional lenses and a tripod. There was a time when I used to carry a point and shoot camera as well. But now with cell phones like XperiaZ3 having amazing feature rich cameras I do not carry a point and shoot any more.
As important as the gadgets are their chargers! I regularly ensure that I have 4 chargers with me. On the international trip the adapter for different type of plug points is a must. Without the chargers and the adapter, my gadgets soon become dead weight!

By the time I cross stage 3 I am certainly euphoric. I feel my packing is done. And you know who is coming down the slide head first, on my phone screen saver. No points for guessing that it is Chhavi!

Clothes and the Like

Clothes

Clothes get packed Somehow!

I approach packing clothes with mixed emotions. If it is hot weather I will ensure that I have my swim suit. After that I wish they could somehow get packed on their own! A few decent clothes which will cover ‘formal’ occasions and ‘smart casual’ times I manage to get ironed and packed. If it is winter I make sure I have woolens so that I would not freeze to death, I do not take cold well!

Footwear means comfort to me. I have never worm high heels in my life and I don’t have any plans to change. This category also means making sure I have a toothbrush and a comb. And I am all sorted. If I fear dry skin I will pack a Vaseline and moisturizer as well.

In the end, I just tell myself, “you have the documents, you have money, anything else that is really important that you forgot, you can buy.” And then I run out yelling, “yippee I am all done” and go out on that trip!

A Memorable Stay at Jaipur Marriott

I am not a fan of road trips, they usually leave me tired. Also at least twice during any journey, I get a feeling that we barely escaped colliding! But the driver of my car from Jaipur Marriott was a real pro, I never felt that we would collide at any point in this trip!

Delhi Jaipur Highway

Breakfast Stop on the Delhi Jaipur Highway

So, it is a great testimony to the skill of the driver that I was not feeling like a nervous wreck when we arrived at the Jaipur Marriott.

Welcome Drinks

Welcome Drinks

I still arrived tried so it helped a lot that a person escorted me to my room and then asked for my Id card. But there were refreshing welcome drinks before that! Then as soon as I I managed to get my luggage I took my camera and started clicking pictures.

My Room at the Jaipur Marriott

My Room at the Jaipur Marriott

I had this entire big room to myself. What floored me was the floral decoration on the bed and my name monogrammed on the pillow cover! I enjoyed the fruits and I wish they left fewer cookies in my room. I am quite sure I gained two kg just on this single trip!

My Name at the Lunch Table Too!

My Name at the Lunch Table Too!

It was soon time for a late lunch at their all buffet style day dining restaurant Okra. The buffet spread was huge and had dishes from various parts of the world. Executive Chef Sahil Arora also joined us for lunch. Now I am not a foodie so I had very silly questions to put to him. I asked him about Sashimi on the table he explained the process quite patiently to me. I like it when celebrity chefs make you feel secure enough to ask silly questions!

O2 Spa, Japir Marriott

O2 Spa, Japir Marriott

After lunch I thought I would crash for an hour but then the only available free spa slot was in 15 minutes. I had a blissful one hour of Balinese Massage at the O2 Spa. I came back looking much better and relaxed than when I went in!

Cocktails at the Lounge 18, jaipur Marriott

Cocktails at the Lounge 18, jaipur Marriott

The dinner (much later) was their new done Lounge 18. It is a trendy night club and quite popular with the young crowd of Jaipur. To begin with I went with a safe choice of a red wine sangria which was good. I enjoyed the mushroom starters along with the numerous others that came my way. I ordered a Cosmos as my second drink which is vodka and cranberry based and I absolutely loved it. I think I am a vodka person after all!

Sudeep Sharma, the director of food and beverages and Rohit Dhar, the general manager of the hotel justifiably feel very proud of the success of the lounge. It was a Saturday night and by the time the tired me decided to call it a day, the place was full of young people for whom the weekend probably had just begin!

Liquor Chocolates at Jaipur Marriott

Liquor Chocolates at Jaipur Marriott

And if I thought that I had seen it all for the day, I was wrong. Right by my pillow were liquor chocolates and I could not resist eating one! It was a sweet way to end the day! Jaipur Marriott has an excellent cafe and bakery called the Jaipur Baking Company. All the chocolates and cookies to our rooms were supplied by them! It is headed by Chef Anil Dutt. He again was very kind and shared numerous stories about his days as a chef. He even told me about the time, when at the beginning of his career he burnt 6 trays of cookies!

Food at Jaipur Marriott

Food at Jaipur Marriott

After a good night’s sleep it was tome for a sumptuous breakfast again. Once again the spread is huge. Jalebis and the South Indian counters were my hot favorites. I was told that the puri and sabzi was also divine but then if I ate all that I would have gained 4 kgs! And if you think the post is going on and on about food, well that is what it is going to be!

Kullad Wali Chai

Kullad Wali Chai!

My absolute favorite at the breakfast was the Kullad Wali Chai! They also had masala chach in kullad too.

The Swimming Pool at the Jaipur Marriott

The Swimming Pool at the Jaipur Marriott

It was one of those heavy breakfasts that told me that I need to go and stretch my legs immediately. I ended up by the pool area. The weather had turned cold so I could not use the pool though. It is on the basement level, quite close to the gym and the spa. After this stroll we headed out to the city and turned back only after shopping to our heart’s content in the evening. The evening offered a foot reflexology session at the O2 spa again.

Our dinner for the night was held Saffron, the Indian specialty restaurant. The chef in-charge was Paramjeet Singh Oberoi. His signature dish was saffron paneer which was excellent, it would just melt away in the mouth! The restaurant opens at 7.00 pm and closes at mid night. It features live music too.

A Group Selfie

A Group Selfie by Sudeep Sharma (On Extreme Left)

I can’t remember last when I talked about food so much! At some point during the trip, I remembered that I went to Jaipur in 2010 last. I wodner how I let so much time pass without going to a city I love so much.

A Glimpse of Amazing Thailand

By Mridula on November 23, 2014
in Thailand, Videos

I have been extremely lucky to visit Thailand 4 times by now! I have collected a decent amount of pictures. I have tried to out in in a video now. Do check it out. Enjoy. And if you have any tips about improving the video, let me know.

Post your Travel memories on Travel Tales from India & win a 2 night free stay for 2 at Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa

By Mridula on November 19, 2014
in India, Travel

It takes a lot to spill a well-kept secret! Which is why, in collaboration with Condé Nast Traveller India we’re giving one Travel Tales from India reader a 2 night free stay for 2 at Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa, Mumbai and a copy of the latest issue of Condé Nast Traveller India

All you have to do is share your best-kept travel secret in less than 100 words with Travel Tales from India using the hashtag #TravelSecret. Don’t forget to include your email address.  So the last line of your comment should look like  #TravelSecret followed by your email. The contest ends on 24 November 2014.

Share Your Thoughts to Win!

Share Your Thoughts to Win!

Share your thoughts in the comments section, from which the name of one lucky winner will be chosen. The best entry as judged by the CNI team would win.  The hotel opens to public from March therefore the validity for winning voucher is from 1st March to 31st Oct 2015. All the coordination for the winner would be done by CNI team.

I am sure you wish to know more about the resort and this is what an exclusive preview in Condé Nast Traveller India October – November 2014 issue says about the property.

Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa

“If you’re looking for a holiday full of delicious contradictions—seclusion and togetherness, modern luxury and mossy wooded groves—this is a good hotel to pick.

Its romance and tranquility is undeniable and it affords an unexpected degree of privacy. Several rooms are housed in stand-alone buildings separated by acres of wooded area, so you can allow yourself the illusion of having the place to yourself. The suites, several with terraces, and bearing names such as Serenity and Sanctuary, offer sweeping views of the evergreens clothing the hills. Jamun trees nestle against the walls of the terraces.

There’s food for the soul, too. This being berry country, you can expect strawberry pancakes and mulberry shots, apart from intriguing signature dishes such as the Gavran mooli chathai peeth and chikki muffin. Look out for Latest Recipe, which serves international cuisine. And for coffee and cocktails, there’s Longitude 73.

Outside, there are additional delights, such as pony rides or fruit cream from roadside eateries. You could walk up to one of those ‘points’ where you can sit and contemplate. Or you can hold hands and rediscover good, old-fashioned romance in this good, old-fashioned hill station.

LE MÉRIDIEN MAHABALESHWAR RESORT & SPA opens in March 2015

211/212 Mahabaleshwar-Medha Road, Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra (021 6826 2222; www.starwoodhotels.com; doubles from 12,999, including breakfast)

To read more grab your copy of Condé Nast Traveller India October – November 2014 issue, out on stands”

O2 Spa at Jaipur Marriott

By Mridula on November 18, 2014
in Cell phone photography, Rajasthan, XperiaZ3

I just got back after spending an extended weekend at Jaipur Marriott. Sometime during the trip I realized with a start that I went back to Jaipur after four long years! I wonder how I let that happen! But I am back now after having an awesome time at the hotel and in the city but spa comes first!

As always I was working till Friday. I am so averse to packing that it had to be done last minute as usual. However, this time I managed to pack and wind up by 11.00 pm which is early by my standards. I had a 6.00 am start the next day.

Our meeting point was the Delhi JW Marriott in Aerocity where we had a quick bite before we started for Jaipur by road. Early mornings never agree with me and I was quite tired when we arrived. In fact, when I looked at the mirror a tired and lined face stared back at me.

O2 Spa at Jaipur Marriott

O2 Spa at Jaipur Marriott

After a late lunch, it was time to book an appointment at the O2 Spa. I tried to get a booking for 5.30 pm but all the slots were gone! I asked then if I could an appointment for 4.30 pm immediately and they had slots.

Within 5 minutes I was walking to the O2 Spa which is at -1 level of the hotel. My wait at the spa reception was pleasant. I settled down to choose a treatment.

O2 Spa, jaipur Marriott

Flowers at the O2 Spa, jaipur Marriott

I usually go for Aromatherapy as it smells nice but I decided to try the Balinese Massage this time. I was fresh offered orange juice while I was waiting. They offer facials, body wraps and many other treatments. The spa menu is available online.

O2 Spa Room at Jaipur Marriott

O2 Spa Room at Jaipur Marriott

The therapy room was soothing, done in Rajasthani colors. The steam room is also within the main room which was very convenient.

The massage was a sheer bliss, I could have actually fallen asleep. It was one hour (actually more if I include the steam and preparation time) of not doing anything, listening to music and getting thoroughly pampered.

Spa Oils at O2 Spa, Jaipur Marriott

Spa Oils at O2 Spa, Jaipur Marriott

Biniya was the name of the lady who was with me. She was really good and often asked about the room temperature and the pressure and if I was comfortable. The only trouble with me is that I am ticklish but we managed to sort it out after a few minutes.

After that hour of bliss, when I went back to my room and looked at my face in the mirror again it was more like my usual self! I actually quite enjoy spa pampering but I never thought it really makes any difference unless you live a balanced life anyway. But after the O2 experience at Jaipur Marriott I have to think again. I think that I feel fresh only after adequate sleep but here I was looking better after spending an hour in the spa without getting any additional sleep! Now that is some food for thought.

I was invited by Jaipur Marriott to spend the weekend with them. And it was a great weekend. 

Sky Watch Friday- Beautiful Krabi Skies

By Mridula on November 14, 2014
in Canon D550, Cell phone photography, Photography, Thailand, XperiaZ3

It is because of participating in Sky Watch Friday over the years, I learned to appreciate the skies better. I still watch a lot more sunsets than sunrises but then I do not see that changing soon! And sometimes I do get to see sheer magic, as only nature can perform. Krabi Skies in Thailand are beautiful any time of the day. It can become an enchantress at the sunset if it decides to do so!

Ritz Carlton Krabi

As the Evening Sets at Ritz Carlton Krabi

I start with this image of pool side at Phulay Bay which is a Ritz Carlton Reserve. Though not in the picture but a little away was the sea waiting for all the glorious colors that would start appearing in the sky in a little while!

Klong Muang Beach, Krabi

Klong Muang Beach, Krabi

But as I was staying with Sofitel Krabi I spent a lot more time on Klong Muang Beach which is right across the road from the resort. Of the two days that I spent at Krabi, only on one evening I had time to stand on the beach and watch the sunset. I click pictures more than . This was one of the tripod days. I have used a lot of zoom mounting the camera on the tripod to click this picture.

Magic in the Sky- Krabi

Magic in the Sky- Krabi

Everyday when I can stand and gaze the setting sun, I wish for a little magic. But off late I got too many watery sunsets. However, Krabi skies were kind to me, they went ablaze at sunset. There was a pier a little ahead which would have made for such a beautiful picture. But I could not easily approach it from the beach and time was running out, I had to start from the hotel at 7.00 pm for dinner in the town Ao Nang. However, I lingered on till I can, after all who can walk away from such a sky, to click a few more pictures.

Krabi Sunset

Krabi Sunset

The drama continued as the sun went down. There were many Sofitel guests on the beach and a few of them moved to where I was clicking pictures. One of them said remarked, “is it not a special one?” I entirely agreed with him that the sunset was indeed magical.

Krabi, Thailand

Magic in the Sky, Krabi, Thailand

I did not wish to leave the beach but I hate being late for appointments so with an effort I walked away from the sunset even though I knew, had I stayed it would continue to enthrall me for some more time!

A Peek into the Chinatown Bangkok

By Mridula on November 13, 2014
in Canon D550, Photography, Thailand

In all my visits to Bangkok (four and hoping for more) I never really tried street food, which was a pity. Bangkok and Thailand have such a varied street food culture and I was staying away from it! But I visited the Chinatown Bangkok which is on the Yaowarat Street and the record was set right! The plan was to roam around and eventually have dinner there.

Kuan Yim Shrine, Bangkok

Kuan Yim Shrine, Bangkok

Our first stop was the Kuan Yin Shrine which is a Chinese Temple. As you can see red was the dominant color around. I picked a particularly quiet moment to click the picture, there were quite a few people around, offering their prayers.

Incense Sticks at Kuan Yim Shrine, Bangkok

Incense Sticks at Kuan Yim Shrine, Bangkok

The idea was to explore Bangkok by night and see what it offered. So we explored Yaowarat Street area which is the Chinatown and Pak Klong Talat which is the largest 24 hour flower market in Bangkok. Both are colorful places.

Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls

So how did I fare as a vegetarian? I actually did fine. One of the first things that I could try were vegetable spring rolls. And they were good.

First Taste of Durian

First Taste of Durian

I tried the famous Durian for the first time on this walk. I read so much about it, I saw notices in front of hotels saying ‘no Durian allowed’ but I thought the fruit was alright. Maybe the famed smell which bars its presence from many hotels kicks in after a few days? I could eat the fruit without holding my nose.

Insects as Food

Insects as Food

But I could venture only to take a picture of fried grasshoppers (extreme right) and other insects which are sold as food!

Yaowarat Street, Bangkok

Yaowarat Street, Bangkok

The food market is a night market. You can see some vendors put the chairs right by the road. It was a lot of fun walking around and eating things! I was told that there are days when Chinese eat only vegetarian food due to religious reasons and the street market sell a lot more variety.

Cooking Food Bangkok Style!

Cooking Food Bangkok Style!

But the most fun was watching food being cooked while we waited for it to arrive to our table. And nothing was on fire, this is how they cook food on the Yaowarat Street! The flames would go really high when they put vegetables on the frying pan. I was constantly told to take care and not become too engrossed in taking pictures, or my hair might catch fire!

Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market, Bangkok

Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market, Bangkok

After food it was time to head to Bangkok’s biggest flower market Pak Khlong Talat but then I have already written about it, you just need to click the link to see it. It was a beautiful night out for me in Bangkok and it was my first proper introduction to street food and Durian!

I was invited by TAT New Delhi to visit Thailand and I had an amazing time.

Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort

By Mridula on November 12, 2014
in Canon D550, Cell phone photography, Photography, Thailand, XperiaZ3

I stayed for two nights at Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort which I will call simply Sofitel Krabi in the post. It is a beautiful property and has a magnificent swimming pool, a pool which is the biggest in Thailand. The architecture of the hotel is in colonial style.

The Lobby at Sofitel Krabi

The Lobby at Sofitel Krabi

I had a lovely room at the third floor, the top story of the hotel. It was a pool facing room, which gave a peak of the ocean beyond. It was a large, spacious room with a work area and a cozy chair for reading or if you prefer watching TV. I would take the stairs to my room but there is a lift too in the extreme corner of the floor as well.

My Room at Sofitel Krabi

My Room at Sofitel Krabi

The bathroom was luxurious too, with products from L’occitane for use. The bath tub was beautiful and deep. Everything was maintained well and I really had a comfortable time.

The Beautiful Swimming Pool at Sofitel Krabi

The Beautiful Swimming Pool at Sofitel Krabi

The highlight of the hotel was the pool for me! I heard of it even before reaching there and I was so looking forward to swim. But my itinerary was such that I could find time to take a dip only once! It is a 700 meter pool and I have not made a typo.

I knew I would didn’t had enough time to swim around it all but I surely wanted to walk around it. I could not even do that! The short swim that I managed was wonderful. It was a favorite hanging place for many guests. There were hammocks in the lawns around the pool and they too found a lot of takers.

Towel Art in My Room, Sofitel Krabi

Towel Art in My Room, Sofitel Krabi

I used to take my breakfast at Maya and the spread used to be huge. I checked out a few things only from the buffet. My standard was fruit and juice followed by either pan cake or eggs. I liked their organic muesli too.

One night I was so hungry I ordered a veg Pizza as there were not too many veg options on the room service menu. I do not what it was, whether I was so hungry or the pizza was so good or a combination of it, but I polished it off all alone! And it is a record of sorts!

Their Spa is called So Spa in association with L’occitane but I could not try it out. They arrange various excursions for their guests on shared or private basis. I visited Hong Island with them on a private speed boat trip. It was so much fun and such luxury. Do click the link and check out the post on Hong Island too. They have a golf course too as the name suggests, but I only caught a glimpse of it while driving in and out of the resort!

Klong Muang Beach, Sofitel Krabi

Klong Muang Beach, Sofitel Krabi

The beach is right across the road to Sofitel but it is a public beach. I loved it, I was lucky to see two amazing sunsets on it. But due the location, the hotel cannot have an exclusive beach. But I have a feeling that this is true of other hotels in the area as well.

The lobby of Sofitel Krabi had a lively environment. Whenever I was coming or going, someone from the staff would say a kind word to me, or simply greet me. If you are looking for luxury in Krabi with a lively atmosphere, you will enjoy Sofitel Krabi. I had a truly lovely time with them.

I was invited by TAT New Delhi to visit Thailand and I lived in such luxury on this trip!

Re Cafe and Bar, Ambiance Mall, Vasant Kunj

By Mridula on November 11, 2014
in Canon D550, Cell phone photography, Delhi, Photography, XperiaZ3

Chhavi and I visited Re Cafe and Bar Vasant Kunj (at Ambiance Mall ) this Sunday. Five minutes into the journey Chhavi started “Kaab aayega” (are we there yet) and I was wondering what to do. While chatting with her, I requested the driver to increase the volume of his songs and surprisingly for the rest of the way she kept humming the songs! As it was a Sunday there was hardly any traffic, we reached the mall without any hiccups!

Re Cafe and Bar, Ambiance Mall, Vasant Kunj

Re Cafe and Bar, Ambiance Mall, Vasant Kunj

We were greeted by Abhishek and we let Chhavi decide on a seat. She picked up one of the regular tables instead of some of low seating that is available. And it was time to choose our food.

Rosaline

Matching with her Dress!

She ordered a Rosaline and I a mango based drink. And before the drinks could arrive Chhavi was in her exploring mood! So Abhishek offered if she would like to play with an iPad. But we settled down on drawing. They gave her markers and she was happy drawing on the many boards placed at low height for kids. There are books and games as well to choose from.

Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil Soup

With Chhavi happily engaged I could pay attention to the food. I am having cold at the moment due to season change and I enjoyed the hot soup even more.

Hummus and Pita Bread

Hummus and Pita Bread

The hummus and pita bread were my favorites. I managed to make Chhavi eat two of the breads, rest I polished off. This was one dish we finished in minutes. It so reminded me of my visit to Jordan this year. When you find yourself at Re Cafe and Bar do try out the hummus and pita bread, it is quite good.

Mushroom Cashew Mango Curry

Mushroom Cashew Mango Curry

I ordered a mango drink so I ordered a mango based main dish as well! The curry was mild flavored. I like mushroom, I like cashew and I like mangoes separately so I thought I had to try this dish which had it all! It was served with rice and pachari! If you are in mood for an exotic South Indian dish, you can surely give this a try!

The Decor, Re Cafe and Bar

The Decor, Re Cafe and Bar

The cafe is running various promotions on beer, vodka and whiskey these days. So, if you need an added incentive to visit the place, this might just be it. I asked Chhavi what she would like to add when I was writing. She told me, “I liked the juice, I liked the ice cream but I liked drawing the most.” Together we had a good time at Re Care and Bar.

We were invited for lunch by the cafe and we really had a great time.