Frankincense- Carrying Home a Bit of Oman

A day before the Oman Indian Roadshow 2015 I got a call from their office. Dency, the lady at the other end told me, “I want you to see how much Oman has to offer, and change the perception that it is just a desert.” After attending the show yesterday night at the Hyatt Regency, I have to say they succeeded 100% in changing my opinion. In fact they have got me hooked.

Lubaina Sheerazi, the Oman Tourism representative gave a comprehensive presentation on Oman at the event. I found an old clip of hers on Youtube where she defines the vision of the ministry. Yesterday night she said, “Oman can offer you Arabian Nights in a modern context!” She also stressed that culture is an integral part of the experience and they cherish it. I got to experience a small part of the culture right here in India.

In the course of her presentation Lubaina mentioned frankincense and looking at the blank reaction of the audience she added, “people from the Christian fraternity would know about it.”


A Beautiful Frankincense Candle

Today when I opened the information bag they gave to the attendees, I found a beautiful frankincense candle in the bag. Holding it in my hand made it so much more real. As I was one of those blank people, I went off to learn more about it.

*Frankincense finds a mention in the Bible as one of the three gifts given to baby Jesus by the three wise old men, the other two being gold and myrrh. I now understand the Christianity link mentioned by Lubaina. I read that is still burned inside the Vatican.

Made from the bark of Boswellia Sacra tree, it is said to have medicinal properties. BBC reports its use in cancer research as well. The tree is found in the region of Dohfar in Oman. The Oman Tourism website says for the people of Dohfar frankincense is life itself!

Humanity has known the frankincense tree since ancient times, and a special relationship has grown between the two. Frankincense is a symbol of life, or rather it is life itself, for the Dhofari people. It is not a mere tree, but an embodiment of culture, history, sociology and geography.

The history of frankincense trade makes for a fascinating to read as well. My introduction to frankincense has ignited my curiosity about Oman, the land of ‘The Empty Desert’, dunes, wadis, mountains, canyons, beaches and much more! I hope I get to go there one day.

* All the information about frankincense has been taken from the three sources (BBC, Oman Ministry of Tourism and linked in the post.

PS. I was invited to the roadshow by Oman Tourism.

Sky Watch Friday- The Last Working Friday!

Or in other words I quit my job and today is my last working day. It was not entirely planned but when things became such that quitting looked like an option, it looked increasingly attractive.


I Quit My Job

I would walk past this sign without ever noticing it for the past one year. But now that I am about to walk away from it, I clicked a picture, for the first time!

I do not wish to make a big deal out of it because I may simply join another job after sometime. But in the meanwhile today is my last working day and I have no other offer in my hand! Yippee! I actually want that break.

Some people asked me if I did it so that I could write more or travel more. I am not so sure. I did it because it felt right. And simply to take a break. If there is more travel because of it, it is most welcome. What will I do in that break is still a matter of debate. How long will the break last is also to be seen.

A few months back if someone would have asked me if I wanted to quit my job, I would have said no. But then why did I quit? Well as I never talk about about my other life in which there is a Dr. before my name and a tag of a professor after it, maybe it is time to talk about it. I guess there is so much to talk about that I can write a book on it!

But first and foremost I want a break, long or short, slow or fast, travel filled or not but it is the break I am looking forward to! I actually thought of quitting before, but I worked so much for my Ph.D. that it always stopped me, but not this time!


Beautiful Skies!

In the meanwhile you enjoy the Sky Watch Friday while I prepare to enjoy my break.

Five Offbeat Stays Where I Would Like to Spend a Day!

When I was invited to take a look at the website I was not sure what to expect. By now I have spent a few hours on the site and I have to say I quite like the prices they quote! At that prices I am game to try out a few properties soon! I decided to pick up five that excited me due to various reasons and share it on my blog.

A Tree House in Leh, Ladakh

A Tree House in Leh, Ladakh

A Tree House in Leh, Ladakh

I visited Leh in 2005 and I am completely smitten by the place. It was less of a journey and more of a pilgrimage for me, that trip to Ladakh. While browsing through the various stays I stumbled upon a tree house! Now I can only imagine what fun it would be to stay in a tree house anywhere but I can take a bet that in Leh it is going to be extra special. I actually want to drop everything and run straight to Leh and try out this tree house!

Fully Furnished AC Rooms in a Guesthouse in Calangute, Goa

Fully Furnished Standard AC Rooms In Guest House In Calangute

A Guesthouse in Calangute

From a tree house to AC rooms is quite a contrast. But I like all kind of experiences, from luxury to trekking! I picked up Calangute because it is a bit out of my comfort zone. I am a peace/nature kind of a person. And Calangute is North Goa, the party hub! I liked the appearance of the room and the surroundings and hence this preference for a Guesthouse! It is also in pretty Goa colors!

Luxury Tents in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Luxury Tents In Jaisalmer

Luxury Tents in Jaisalmer

I have been to Jaisalmer and I so so like the place! I have been to sand dunes but I have not stayed in tents. This time if I go, I would like to stay in a tent closer to the dunes. I would take a camel safari where I can spend a night in the desert under the stars and wake up to watch the sunrise!

Standard Room in a Guesthouse in Naldhera, Shimla

A Guest House in Naldhera, Shimla

A Guest House in Naldhera, Shimla

Naldhera is just 22 kilometers ahead of Shimla but it is a different world. It is a peaceful place, where you do nothing other than enjoying nature. But I also know that there were only a few stay options which were on the higher side. So when I saw a room in a guest house I wanted to go back to Naldhera!

Bamboo Cottages in Wayanad

Bamboo Cottages in Wayanad

Bamboo Cottages in Wayanad

In this list Wayanad is the only place I have not been before. It is the lure of exploring a new place plus living in a bamboo cottage that gets me excited. I have had my share of hotels. I am always game for an offbeat experience which these bamboo huts could offer!

You can find out many more such drool worthy stays on the Do check it out. So basically MyIndianStay is a platform to connect travelers and local hosts in order to provide unique holiday experience to the traveler. It is my kind of travel! And if you like writing, MyIndianStay is running a contest as you read this. There are prizes worth Rs 28,000 up for grabs! Check out their Facebook Page for more details!

Heathrow Airport Welcomes you on the Ultimate VIP Journey and to Indulge in a Personal Shopping Experience Like No Other

One of the finest airports internationally, Heathrow is also one of the busiest and sees tremendous destination and transit traffic from all over the world. 2014 witnessed a total of 73.4 million footfalls with 2.5 million of those travelling to and from India.

The well-heeled Indian of today is a global citizen and settles for nothing short of the best with airport commercial spending rising significantly in a time poor environment. An evolving outlook, increasing disposable income and refined tastes are the main driving factors for Indians indulging in luxury purchases. Heathrow understands that every journey is unique and its VIP services illustrate the superior levels of service that distinguishes it from other international airports and is aimed at enhancing the airport experience for both transit and destination passengers.


London Heathrow

A private and personal service like no other, Heathrow VIP offers a luxurious and exclusive transition making it the perfect airport experience. Heathrow has over the years offered Private VIP service for dignitaries and heads of state. This service now extends to the world’s most discerning travellers and ensures the perfect airport experience with private and personal service like no other. This service is available to book for those travelling on First or Business class flight tickets, with all airlines flying to/from Heathrow Airport. A luxurious and exclusive transition through Heathrow includes

After arriving at a dedicated entrance, VIP passengers will enjoy the oasis of calm that is Heathrow VIP. A highly specialised team will take care of everything, while travellers relax, work or spend time with their invited guests in their private lounge. Security procedures occur within their suite, and once the flight is ready they will be chauffeur driven directly to the aircraft.



A team will be waiting for passengers to step off the aircraft, where they will be whisked away by luxury vehicle to their private lounge. Whilst they unwind, representatives will assist with immigration formalities and collect their luggage. Once completed, a pre-bookable fleet of luxury cars, or their driver, will take them to their desired location.


Heathrow connects hundreds of destinations worldwide, and are pleased to offer these luxury services for transferring flights. A team will escort transit passengers from their arrival, through to their private lounge and on to their departing flight.

Heathrow also offers complimentary Personal Shopping for customers looking for that personal touch. Bringing together over 400 brands under one roof, travellers can book a bespoke consultation with an accredited stylist who speak nearly 35 global languages, be it day or night.


Personal Shopper Experience

Irrespective of class of travel or minimum spends, the Personal Shopper Team is there to help with fashion advice & styling, gift ideas for that special someone, or choosing the perfect travel accessories all of this, with the advantage of tax free pricing.

Heathrow is also home to the world’s first airport shopping lounge in Terminal 2, where Personal Shoppers can assist with browsing, trying on and purchasing from multiple choices across brands, in the privacy and comfort of the brand new suite.

PS. This is a sponsored post with the content and the images provided by the sponsor.

Sai Vishram Beach Resort, Byndoor

When I realized at the Delhi Airport that the Air India aircraft that was supposed to fly from Delhi to Mangalore was not cleared by the maintenance, I was worried about my trip. However after two hours of delay they found another aircraft to take us to Mangalore. And that is how I had a fabulous time at Sai Vishram Beach Resort in Byndoor, Coastal Karnataka. It is a resort that serves only vegetarian food and it doesn’t serve alcohol. And yet they are so popular for family vacation!



The View from the Earth Cottage

I arrived at the Sai Vishram Beach Resort by evening. it was an overcast day.  I was so tired that when Adarsha the resort manager asked me if I would come by the beach for the evening tea, I replied in the negative. I had my tea and samosa sitting in the balcony of the earth cottage. I could gaze at the sea in far distance and I was content. Later I shifted to one of the sea cottages by the beach.


The Semi Outdoor Bathing Area in the Beach Cottage

Both have their own advantages. In the Earth Cottage there was a rose apple tree right in front of my room and I could eat the fruit straight from the tree! I loved the outdoor bathing area of the sea cottage. In the end I would take the sea cottage because I could go to sleep to the sound of the sea out there.



A Yakshagana Performance at Sai Vishram Beach resort

In the evening there was a yakshagana performance happening in the open theater within the premises. Yakshagana is the folk art of Coastal Karnataka, it is usually held from dusk to dawn. The resort performance was of one hour. As it was in the local dialect, Kannada, I could not understand the language much. But it was a privilege to watch the act of Arjun and Sudhanva and Lord Krishna being played out in elaborate costumes.


The Arjun and Sudhanva Story

The story is about Sudhanva holding the horse of Arjun so that Arjun and Lord Krishna would come to his kingdom and he would get to see the Lord. In the end you don’t need words to enjoy the art. I thoroughly enjoyed my time watching the performance!



My Breakfast Plate

From the open theater I straight headed to the dining area. Sai Vishram serves excellent vegetarian food, night, morning and noon! They have a variety of food, including noodles and at least one North Indian dish.


The Lunch at Sai Vishram


There would be many South Indian dishes. I liked the idea of having a nice fruit section for dessert apart from traditional desserts. The best was that they kept an ice cream fridge for the guests where you could go out and take out any ice cream that caught your fancy. It was hugely successful with the kids.

The artists who performed the yakshagana were having dinner at a nearby table in their normal clothes and I could hardly recognize them as the same who were performing in the elaborate costumes!


Chaat by the Beach

They would serve the evening tea and snacks by the beach, which I loved. They would put pitchers of fresh juice on the beach during the day which was another lovely idea.

Water Sports


The Banana Boat Ride

I crashed early after dinner and took my own sweet time to wake up the next day. That way I quite fresh in the morning again. After a heavy breakfast I went to the sea. I met Prashanth and his family and together we went on the banana boat ride.

That is when I discovered Chandravati, the dare devil female water sports instructor of Sai Vishram. I then went on the jet ski with her. She rides like really fast! She truly is an inspiration. Then I tried my hands at kayaking and it was fun too. There are many other water activities that I could not try dues to lack of time.


Off in a Kayak!

A guest who was visiting Sai Vishram Beach Resort for the fifth time with his family told me, “We love coming here because they encourage you to go out in the sea. Not many resorts do that!”

Sunrise Walk


Where the Sea Meets the Backwaters

The next day I woke up at 6.00 am to take a walk to a vantage point and see the sunrise. We must have walked for about a kilometer to reach the point. The view was excellent, after all I do not get to see the sea meeting the backwaters everyday! But the sun played truant, there was no sunrise, the clouds ruled. After going there, I would recommend that you go to the vantage point even on an overcast day as the views are still stunning.

The Beautiful Evenings


The Sai Vishram Beach

I love sunsets by the beach. The location of the resort is such that there are only the house guests on the beach. I spotted an occasional other person from the fishermen families living nearby. I could see a few houses nearby otherwise the whole place was green and silent. The sun was merciful the second evening and gave much cheer to people on the beach!

This was my first tryst with Coastal Karnataka and I never imagined it to be so beautiful. I wonder why tourism has not developed around the coast like Kerala!

PS. I was invited by the Sai Vishram Group on this vacation.

A Food Post from Goa

After traveling twice with food bloggers on trips to Jaipur and Goa, I am slowly noticing food. Otherwise more than 10 years of hostel food simply killed all my taste buds. After almost ten years of travel, I am trying to revive it. Goa is known for its seafood but I am a vegetarian. However, I ventured to taste a mouth full of different types of fish on this trip. So, here I go with a food post from Goa!


Fried Vegetables

One of the first places that we stopped at was Ritz Classic Patto for lunch. I was the only vegetarian on the table. I ordered a vegetable xacuti with rice and fried vegetables for starters. The trouble was that the portions were big and I could not finish everything alone! And I still do not like to leave food on the table.


The Goan Thali

This was the Goan Thali at the Ritz Classic Patto. People who ordered it wondered how were they ever going to finish it! I did taste the fish, just a small bite. I can actually take a bite of fish at times, but the trouble with me is that I cannot finish a complete fish dish ever. I do not go near any other meat, And there is no logic behind these decisions. It is just based on what I feel like doing.


The Dessert

This was my dessert at the Ritz Classic Patto. Since I did not click a picture of the name, I have promptly forgotten the it. I surely need to improve my notekeeping for my posts!


Cashew and Peas Pulao

As a vegetarian one of the dishes I enjoyed was the cashew and peas pulao by OCoquerio at Goa Coconut and Cashew Festival 2015.


Fried Mushrooms

Later we dined at OCoquerio Restaurant as well. One of my firm favorites are mushroom in all its guises. I quite liked the fried mushrooms at the place.


Coffee with Canon

I particularly liked the local cafes in Goa. While walking through Fontainhas we stumbled upon the Urban Cafe, a cozy little place where I had my coffee with Canon! If you are in the area do check it out, you will recognize it by its colorful walls quite easily. There lemon cake is also quite good.


Blueberry Cheesecake

I am very partial to cheesecakes, especially the blueberry ones. I had this excellent piece at Destination One  Escapade by the Calangute Beach. Actually the only food that truly excites me is dessert!


Baileys at Nyex, Anjuna

We visited Club Nyex at Anjuna. It has newly opened and is right by the beach. The Baileys that they served me wa excellent. Actually as I like Amarula a lot I went with Baileys. I was quite happy with my choice of drink.



However, for me the biggest food story from Goa is Kokum. We visited a cashew farm near Bicholim. The farm owner Mr. Joshi gave us Kokum Fruits to carry home. I tasted Sol Kadhi in Goa. So not only Chhavi and I enjoyed the fruits, I decided to make Sol Kahdi out of the fruit skin.


My First Attempt at Making Sol Kadhi

I dried the skins patiently and then searched for a recipe on the net. This glass full of Sol Kahdi was result of my effort. My elder nephew Dilip and I quite enjoyed it.

So this is an attempt to get back to enjoying food after probably ten years of being indifferent to it! I hope I will continue on the path of rediscovering food.

PS. I was invited by Goa Tourism on this trip.

The Beautiful Umbrellas of Chiang Mai

I took notice of the beautiful Thai umbrellas from my early trips to Thailand. Chiang Mai was the place where I acquired a closer acquaintance with them. We visited the Bo Sang Handicraft Center on the San Kamphaeng Road just a little outside Chiang Mai. So come along with me and discover (or rediscover) the hand made umbrellas of Chiang Mai.


Rom Borsang

Rom means umbrella in Thai. So ‘rom’ is the famous handicraft of Borsang village in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The handicraft center had eye catching displays of umbrellas. They also take you through the umbrella making process. one of the best explanations of the umbrella making process can be read here.


The Spirit House

But before we get into umbrella making, you might have noticed the spirit houses outside Thai homes or work places. It is an offering to the spirits dwelling that might be dwelling in the area and may get disturbed because of a new house or workplace coming up! A spirit house is a peace offering to the spirits of the area.


The Sa Paper

The two key ingredients of the umbrella are the sa paper and the wooden frame. Sa is Thai for mulberry. So the Sa bark is taken off the tree and boiled. It is then pounded by wooden mallets. It is further treated. Finally they are dried in the frame on wooden frames.


The Wooden Umbrella Frames

These are the wooden frames on which the umbrellas are mounted. Both the paper and the frame are handmade.


Making the Wooden Frame

The making of the frame requires complex hole drilling in the pieces of wood, which is what this woman was doing with dexterity!


Bo Sand Handicraft Center

Finally the paper after further treatment is mounted on the frame and then painted. We were told that it is the process of making it waterproof that makes the Chiang Mai umbrellas unique. It is done with persimmon fruit and oil but the exact formula is a secret.


A Beautiful Display

The painted umbrellas are a delight to watch. It was with a lot of difficulty I managed not to buy one to carry home.


Hand Fans

The factory also had other artifacts as well, hand fans caught my eye too! Conversing with the people working there was difficult as we did not speak each-other’s language but they were quite cheerful about me going around clicking pictures.


The Paints for the Umbrella

An array of paints were to be seen all around the place! And they not only specialized painting on the umbrellas but on other stuff too.

An Artisan at Bo Sang

For example, this beautiful lady offered to paint my white cell phone in the ravishing colors of Chiang Mai. She could do it on my jeans or handbag too! But the chicken that I am, I did not take up on the offer. I now wonder if I should have taken it up!

That Aimless Walk at Harangi Backwaters

I have said it often, I love to walk, all kinds of walks, but more than anything else, the aimless walk. The evening I went walking around Harangi backwaters (Kushal Nagar, Coorg, Karnataka) sky provided enough drama for me to keep up with my Sky Watch Friday post!

The Overcast Sky


The Overcast Skies at Harangi Backwaters

To begin with the sky was overcast. However my attention was diverted by the monks who were present in numbers. Some of them were playing football! The mystery was solved when the Sai Vishram (my hosts) staff informed me that Bylakuppe Monastery was close by.

The Gathering Clouds


The Lone Tree

The landscape throughout was beautiful. And yet the small white stuff you see on the ground was trash! I wonder why can’t we keep our public spaces clean. I only saw the monks cleaning after them when they were going. And the skies were busy gathering clouds!

The Threatening Clouds


The Threatening Clouds at Harangi Backwaters, Karnataka

Half way through my walk the clouds started to threaten! We hurried back. Rather my companions hurried back with my SLR. I walked leisurely with my waterproof cell phone! I eventually got caught in the downpour. I went in the RV to change, thinking that it was going to be a very watery end to the day.

The Change in the Weather


The Change in the Weather!

However, within the short time that it took me to change, the weather managed to change its mood. It was breaking through. Nagaraja, one of the staff members of Sai Visharm remarked, “the rain came only to get us!”

The Monks Go Home


The Glow in the Sky

With the break in weather, I was hoping for some drama in the sky. But the football game was over. The monks were headed home!

The Glow in the Sky


The Beautiful Harangi Backwaters

For me the joy of travel lies in these small things, like watching the weather change its mood and the monks waving at me as they went!

Bhawa Spa, Bangkok

It is raining spas on Travel Tales from India these days. I have been to three spas in last two months and by my standards that is  lot. When I was in Thailand (on invitation from TAT New Delhi) I visited the Bhawa Spa, Bangkok. I wonder how they do it, but the ambience itself does something to make you relaxed.


The Spa Oils

We were presented with a refreshing drink with soothed me down even further. We were going for an aromatherapy massage. The ladies explained the virtue of the various oils. Papaya and almond caught my attention as it was meant for dry skin! I have to say there were better smelling oils but I am beyond the days when I would pick them up just by smell!


A Display in the Waiting Area of Bhawa Spa

The waiting area was beautifully decorated. There was an outdoor swimming pool which caught my attention. They had spa products for sale as well.


The Swimming Pool at the Bhawa Spa

I have to admit I visited a spa for the first time, in connection with my blogging I think in 2008. I was extremely reluctant to begin with. But spas have grown on me gradually! There were two team members for whom it was a first time in a spa. Talking about first times in a spa, the best piece I have read is by Prasad NP.


The Foot Massage Essentails

The massage started with a relaxing foot massage. The setting of the room automatically made me switch on the princess mode! The foot massage was followed by a full body massage. I had an wonderful one hour where gradually my various aches and pains, which I didn’t even know existed, started melting away.


The Rooms at the Bhawa Spa

The lady who gave me the massage was excellent. She would at appropriate times ask if I was comfortable or not. They also recommended that we take a bath at the beginning of the massage and keep the oil on after the massage.

When we came out, we started comparing notes. One of the first timers told us that he got so surprised by the depth to which his towel was pulled while massaging his lower back that he got up with a jerk and spilled the oil! We laughed and laughed at him and with him!


Mango Sticky Rice!

While we were emerging one by one from the various rooms, Bhawa served us with mango sticky rice for after massage! Now that truly made my day. Mango sticky rice is my favorite Thai dessert. It was an excellent ending to a very relaxing time at the Bhawa Spa, Bangkok.


Of Lunch and Conversations at Bawarchi, Intercontinental, Bangkok

When I travel I usually eat local food. I am a vegetarian but I do not hanker over Indian food while I am traveling. heck I like to travel so much that I could eat just bread and butter and never complain as long I get to see new places or even revisit old ones. But when I get to eat Indian food on in a foreign land once in a while, I thoroughly enjoy it! Bawarchi Intercontinental Bangkok was one such delightful experience because of the food and the conversation!


The Intercontinental, Bangkok

It was one of the Songkran days when we landed at Bawarchi! I was whispering to one of our team-members if I was inappropriately dressed in shorts. I was dressed for Songkran. In walked another dressed and all the unease about my dress vanished straight away! Compared to him I was dressed to meet the queen!

The Beer Saga


I was the Only Woman to Have Beer!

There were five of us in the group, three women and two men. When we were asked for our choice of our beverages three of us opted for beer and two for buttermilk. I was the lone women giving the men company for drinking beer. Arpti and Gairav came up with a tag line for the other two girls- “Buttermilk in Bangkok!” And that became the butt for so many jokes! I was the eldest in the group and other young people would anyway spare me a lot of jokes, but thankfully I was not drinking the buttermilk!

The Food

It started with masala papad and beer for us and buttermilk for the buttermilk girls, Vaishali and Manjulika! After not having Indian food for a few days I had a new appreciation for the masala papad!


Paneer Tikka Ajwaini

The starters were delicious, we had Paneer Tikka ajwaini  and Tandoori Brocolli for vegetarians and Tandoori King Prawn and Tandoori Lamb Chops for the non-vegetarians. The non-vegetarians were of course welcome to the vegetarian options!


Tandoori Broccoli

If you ask my honest opinion I was full with the starters and I would have happily called it a day. By now the buttermilk excitement had gone down. But a new one came up within no time. It was a Tuesday. And many Indians do not eat non-veg food on Tuesday due to religious regions. One of us decided to go ahead and eat it. Within no time she was declared ‘Khuni Darinde.’ We were laughing so much that we had to remind ourself that we might be disturbing others! One of the staff responded- “You guys are in Songkran mood!”


The Main Course

By the time the main course arrived. It was Butter Chicken and Rogan josh for non-vegetarians and Saag Paneer, Daal Makhani and Hyderabadi Biryani for everyone with assorted flat Indian breads. The dessert was Gulab Jamun.

We had so much fun while having the delicious food that we never realized that we were getting late for our Songkran fun! If you are craving Indian food in Thailand in lavish surroundings look no further than Bawarchi.