Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Turkish Çay and some Conversation...

One of the most refreshing drinks that I have ever had (after the Indian ‘cutting chai’) is the Turkish çay.

Pronounced as ‘chai’, the Turkish çay is black tea consumed without milk. In most parts of turkey, you will often find locals huddled up, catching up on a glass of çay, a smoke and a game of Okey (a Turkish board game). Men, Women, youngsters, couples – everyone sips up on their favorite glass of çay… It’s almost the national drink of Turkey!

And like it is many countries, çay can help brew up many conversations..

Once at Selcuk (Western Turkey), çay helped strike a conversation between my then 3 year old daughter and a senior gentleman at this café – they caught up on a chat for almost 30 minutes! He spoke Turkish and she Hindi – neither understood each other’s language – but they had, what we thought, a very meaningful conversation. He even helped her with coloring sketches in her book. Like they say, a smile and some tea – can help you connect with anyone in any country!

Through our 20 odd day stay in various parts of Turkey, we had çay every single day – 5-6 times a day..!  I close my eyes and can still get a whiff of the aroma & flavor …  I think I am going to sign off now and go get me some ‘chai’.

A refreshing cup of çay

Catching up over a cup of çay - at a park in Selcuk
Some çay, smoke and a game of Okey - opposite the roman aqueduct, Selcuk
My daughter & the Turkish gentleman catching up on a conversation at a local cafe

My daughter's new 'friend' helps her color her sketch book

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Man's Best Friend... at a campsite in Khopoli, Maharashtra

Sign at a Campsite in Khopoli, Maharashtra, India (The Big Red Tent campsite):

Sign at the campsite

The 'best friend' looks on ...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Barefoot on a Beach, Western Maharashtra

Walking down barefoot on the Murud beach was one of my most peaceful experiences.

Murud is a coastal village in Western Maharashtra, 240 Kms south of Mumbai (approx 5 hours drive on the NH17).  

While the beach itself is nothing to write home about with its particularly discolored sands... the true experience is in the calm on the beach, the Padmadurg at the horizon during sunset and silhouettes of horsecarts ferrying excited kids (and adults) across the beach.

Care for a horse ride yourself? Hop on!

Fort Name revalidated courtesy: Rushikesh Kulkarni :-)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chugging past paddy fields - The Konkan Coast

A train journey across the Konkan Coast (Western Maharashtra, India) is one of my favourite chugging trips!

Lush green paddy fields with thrifty farm folk tending to their crop.

Of course monsoon particularly brings out the best in this region but it's great any time of the year!

To experience the Konkan Coast, take a train from Mumbai to Goa: the Mandovi Express (day train) or Konkan Kanya Express (night train but almost day time when it crosses southern Maharashtra) amongst a host of other trains traversing this line.  

All in a day's (hard) work...

Chugging past shades of green
A mosque amidst the greens
A little temple by the roadside

Geometry in Nature!

Monsoons bring out the best in the Konkan region
Step out for a stretch at Chiplun station

My all time favourite train journey - the Konkan Coast

The real Kingfisher!

In the land where kingfisher is most associated with chilled beer enjoyed lazily on a beach, this (the real one) perches majestically on a branch off Fort Aguada, Sinquerim, Goa.

Asia & Europe .. @Istanbul

Asia and Europe in one panoramic shot ... brilliant any time of the day - but the sunset just makes it better! View from the Galata Tower, Istanbul

Friday, January 10, 2014

Top 10 things to do in Dubai

As a kid growing up in India, Dubai largely meant only 1 thing - Shopping- the place where you can shop at half the price you'd get in India - electronics, cosmetics, exotic chocolates & gold... and the place where a huge part of the workforce were Indians...

While (unfortunately) it's still largely known for Shopping, I soon knew better that Dubai was a lot more than just that ... 

I was 28 when I first visited and 'experienced' Dubai! From Gravity defying skyscrapers to Wallet defying Gold Souks, from 'who's the largest of them all' Malls to as little 100 sq feet shops in the old souk and from diamond studded personal jets to century old wooden abras - the city's got them all... It's a pity Dubai's known only for shopping!

So here's my list of Top 10 things to do in Dubai:

Deira to Bur Dubai on an Abra

Hop onto an Abra - a small wooden boat that ferries passengers across the creek - at a Waterbus station at Deira (accessible from the Old Souk) and ride across till Bur Dubai - to get a magnificient view of the skyline as you sail across the Dubai creek...  At about 1 dirham one way, the Abra is a great way to experience local water transportation, catch the Dubai Skyline from a different perspective and catch up with locals ferrying across the creek.

Passengers ferrying across the Dubai Creek in an Abra

The Dubai Skyline from an Abra

Art Exhibits at the Bastakiya

Bastakiya in Bur Dubai, can pass off as an Arabian town setting from the 1800's (which I was told it was). Walk through the Bastakiya and check out art & museum exhibits or sit underneath a tree by a wind tower in the complex watching the open air art gallery. 

The Bastakiya

The Philataley House (with Wind Tower architecture)

Ancient Coin Displays at the Bastakiya

Hot Air Ballooning over Hatta Desert

Soar above the Hatta Desert in a Hot Air Balloon .. catch the breath taking sunrise over the desert. Catch glimpses of Bedouin villages, Camel Farms and Locals (and tourists) Dune Bashing. I even caught a Camel Race in action (with paparazzi in tow).

All set to soar!

Sunrise from the up in the air

A Bedouin Village in the desert viewed from the hot air balloon

A Camel Race (with paparazzi) in action

Dubai Museum

I am quite the history buff and ‘dig’ historic sites, ruins and museums… So the Dubai Musuem had to feature in my top 10 ... Located inside the erstwhile Al Fahidi Fort, the museum is a peek into the ‘traditional life’ in the emirates - including the ‘pre oil’ era.

The Dubai Museum located in the erstwhile Al Fahidi Fort

Entrance to the Dubai Museum

The 'Hourey' on display - a small boat carved from a single tree trunk

A replica of an 'Arish' - a summer house with wind towers to keep the house cool & breezy

The Old Souk

This not to be missed Souk (or ‘market’) is by the Dubai Creek and houses the textile, spice and gold souks. Walk through the Old Souk to soak up the heritage architecture and get a flavor of the traditional ‘shopping’ in Dubai beyond the flashy swanky malls. 

Walk through the Old Souk

Heritage Architecture of the Old Souk

Burj Khalifa

You cannot be in Dubai and not go to the tallest building on earth can you… The Burj Khalifa is a metaphorical representation of what Dubai stands for – grandeur & sky-high ambition to be the biggest & best.

The experience of Burj Khalifa begins right at the base – the entrance of the Dubai Mall in Downtown Dubai .. Right from the swanky ticketing office to the elevator that takes you to the observatory deck at Level 124 in flat 60 seconds.

The deck (called At the Top) gives you breathtaking views of downtown Dubai, Jumeirah beach and the Burj Dubai and beyond… Don’t miss the ‘Gold ATM’ at the observatory deck … It’s raining Gold! J

The magnificent Burj Khalifa

View from the Observatory Deck ... the otherwise Tall Skyscrapers Dwarfed by the Burj Khalifa!

Pop that Gold Code... The Gold ATM at the Burj Khalifa Ob deck

The Marina

Walk on the promenade of the Festival City mall get a view of the Festival Marina. Lined with a myriad of jett setter speed boats and even a helipad, the Marina is yet another reflection of the Dubai ‘luxury’ set in the backdrop of the Dubai Skyline.

View of the Marina from the Festival City Promenade

The line up!
Ski Dubai @ the Mall of Emirates

A visit to Ski Dubai is a must only to see how Dubai can make it snow even in the desert (and how!)! Once you are inside Ski Dubai (I was there one Xmas) and if you don’t look back at the rest of the ‘Mall of Emirates’ then you could be anywhere else in the snowy world!

A snowy Christmas in Dubai ;-)
Take a monorail to the Atlantis

Board a monorail that glides past the ‘branches’ of palm jumeirah with the Atlantis Hotel in the horizon… Start the ride at sunset - It’s a scenic ride and the Atlantis hotel post dusk looks splendid with the grandiose illumination… 

In a monorail - with the Atlantis in the horizon

Drive out on the Emirates Highway

Drive out of Dubai onto the Emirates Highway and head out to one of the emirates … As you drive along, catch locals camping out in the sands by the side of the highway in the evening – huddling around a bonfire with the 4 x 4s by their side. Stop by at one of the shacks en route selling fruits, corn cobs, ceramic-ware, furniture and the works. Or drive into one of the parks where locals have set out for a Friday morning picnic…

Drive out on the Emirates Highway

The Sun in the Mirror is closer than you think :-)

Some streets lined with shops selling fruits, toys, furniture even...

Local picnickers steaming up some coffee in a park

Corn on Cob - at a street stall en route the Emirates Highway