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.
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 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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But I could venture only to take a picture of fried grasshoppers (extreme right) and other insects which are sold as food!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
There is something about watching sunsets, it is an activity of leisure, at least for me. In my daily life I am mostly commuting through the most blazing sunsets! When I am at home over the weekends, I still somehow do not end up watching sunsets. Sunset for me mostly means I am traveling! And I did get to see some gorgeous Krabi skies in Thailand with sunsets and without them as well.
I stayed at Pimalai Resort and Spa at Koh Lanta an sialnd in Krabi province. Their public spaces were simply stunning. This was the view from the infinity swimming pool of the Hill Villas. It was threatening to rain that day but the threat never materialized. I got a bright day to explore Koh Lanta in the end. And I still remain suntanned. When I came home, I was sun burnt actually! But how I loved my time in the land of sun, sea and sand!
I do not know what to do when I get to see a place in harsh daylight. I was at the beautiful Old Lanta town about noon. And yet the scene in front of me was so serene that I had to give it a try.
My first evening at Koh Lanta gave me overcast skies. It has been a persistent theme of all my travels since June 2013 so I accepted my fate! I had some time off to myself this evening, so I was out with my tripod. I was also one of the last person to leave the beach!
It is because of my tripod I was able to get this half way decent dusk picture! See how unromantic you become when your sole focus is on taking pictures! Here was soft light, lapping waves and sand beneath my feet and all I can talk about is a tripod! I actually classify my sunsets as with a tripod and without a tripod!
And then there was sheer magic on Klong Muang Beach which is right across the road from Sofitel Krabi, where I was staying. I will start off next week right from where I am leaving today, the sunset at the Klong Muang Beach. As the evening deepened the magic also increased manifold but that would be for next week’s Skywatch Friday.
I was invited to Thailand by TAT New Delhi and I had an amazing time.
Koh Lanta is a beautiful island in Krabi. To reach the island one has to take a boat or ferry from Krabi. My speed boat, was waiting for us at the private Pimalai Resort and Spa jetty. The jetty was about two hours drive from Krabi International Airport. It is not everyday that I take speed boats from a private jetty!
The speed boat ride was a lot of fun. When the boat starts moving at full speed the wind becomes a hairstylist! It also tries to snatch away your camera, so be careful!
The public spaces of Pimalai Resort and Spa are stunning! I so wanted to sit down on the wooden bench and read a book but it was part of their spa I believe!
One of the major attractions of Koh Lanta is Mu Ko Lanta National Park. You can go on a small hike to the watch tower inside the park. It gives a beautiful vantage point. The beach was truly peaceful and a delight to walk through. There is an entry fee to visit the park.
While walking through the Old Lanta Town I was fascinated by the petrol being sold bottles. You can guess immediately that it is meant for motorbike users. Hiring a motorbike is a popular to explore the island. It reminded me of so much of Goa!
While walking on the pier of the Old Lanta Town I saw this fisherman cast his net. I must have been the only tourist on the pier! He had his catch in the green bucket and he had plentiful!
We went walking around the mangrove forest area too. If you like seafood the rustic restaurants of the area can cook fresh catch for you. I could not sample it as I am a vegetarian.
You can walk around the fisherman village close to the city center. Even though it was right next to the parking lot, it felt so remote from the civilization! No one seemed to be in any hurry in the village!
The tuk tuks at Koh Lanta were a variation of the ones I see in Bangkok. They were as colorful and had many women drivers.
I just loved the colors and the setting of this local restaurant aptly named Swedish Pub and Restaurant! I went there for lunch and a hot sun was blazing on the deck. But I would love to go back and have a dinner there. They did excellent veg pizza too!
Sunset dinners are very popular in Thailand. That meant I had my dinner by 6.30 pm or so. At home this is a real early hour for me to even think about dinner! I was initially reluctant but I did enjoy the idea of the sunset dinner in the end. I went to a local restaurant called ‘Same Same but Different’ which was right by the beach. As dinner was over at an early hour, I was forced to retire early too! And it was a blessing, as if left me refreshed when I got up the next morning!
If you wish to explore a quiet place in Krabi, go to Koh Lanta!
I was invited by TAT New Delhi on this trip and I really had a blast.
I stayed at the Pimalai Resort and Spa at Koh Lanta in Krabi, Thailand. The resort is right next to Kantiang Bay Beach. Koh is Thai means island. The first evening at I had free time, so I walked down the beach with my camera and tripod in hand. Unfortunately the clouds once again managed to overwhelm the sun to a very watery retreat.
This is the best the sunset had to offer on that day. Usually when the colors start fading in the sky I too head back to my room. Already the beach was giving an almost deserted look. There was another person with a tripod around sunset but he retreated before.
This time I decided to stay even when the reds, pinks and the purples in the sky were fading. There are so many who rave about ‘the blue hour’ and I wanted to give it a try to. I could still see some people running on the beach. There were a father and daughter too, laughing and running around. I think the daughter did most of the running, but you get the idea, father was running behind her!
I tried F22 and 30 seconds but for the scene above but it came out too dark. So I went with f2.8 and 2.5 seconds. As these are initial attempts, even though I know they should have been better, I still like them.
However, this is my favorite picture from the evening. This one came out well with f22 and 30 seconds setting. Of course the water becomes so smooth because the shutter was open for 30 seconds. With real eyes I still saw it as normal water!
While I was fiddling with my camera, I asked the father to click a picture for me with my cell phone. It had not got so dark then. He clicked at least 10 pictures of me in quick succession. And then he ran after his small daughter who managed to climb a small rock by then!
Do you click pictures at the blue hour? What has been your experience? I liked the first pictures, though I need to remember that if it feels too isolated, I should head back without another thought. This time at Kantiang Beach I walked off with a lot of reluctance as I had a dinner waiting for me after a short while!