Showing posts with label journey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label journey. Show all posts


Passion of reading

This question really sounds absurd to start a decent discussion on reading. I am not a writer nor pose to have any writing skill but I like to read. It is said the type of books you read generally depends on your attitude and personality. I believe reading as a habit has always allowed to nurture a wholesome sense of well being. But most of us read books to lull ourselves to sleep.

I read any thing that I can grab and not picky about subject or writer. Once I like a new writer; try to read his other work as well. In last 5-6 years can only think of two books that I started but couldn’t finish – ‘Satanic Verses’ and ’The Argumentative Indian’. This makes me wonder am I a good reader or not? Normally, I do not try to review books as I read for pleasure and have a good time. Though these books are well known, well read and sold million of copies I wonder is it wrong with me or with these books?

The journey of reading book takes back to memory lane - we (me and my brother) were hooked to reading from very early age as we grew reading books. Special thanks goes to my Mom for inculcating this habit in us. Switching from a totally pictured short comic to a immensely boring book of at least a hundred pages, with no images or diagrams was not easy though so I don’t blame any kid who would frown at the idea.

But there were others too who really appreciated this habit of ours and gifted us wonderful books as we grew. We were considered as book worms; we even saved money that we got from our elders to buy firecrackers at the time of Diwali. As for us the philosophy was simple – book lasts longer than a firecracker and you can always re-read books. We still have those well preserved collections to re-read. Now a days, with too much stress in work place many of us miss out on reading in this very manner and sadly it is only in times of grief, loneliness or insomnia that we seek refuge in reading some stuff.

I read many writings of Mr. Rushdie and really liked them a lot. ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ is my favorite; just found out it got published after his most controversial work. I was in adolescent when ‘Satanic Verses’ got banned and always wanted to find out what was out there - a forbidden passion. So while in US I tried to borrow it twice from public library - got bored and could not follow the story after few chapters. I still wonder who are those who might have read, realized the content before banning the book? Did they just ban the book based on its name, who knows its a long history now.

Now coming back to ‘The Argumentative Indian’, a collection of published works by Mr. Sen during his long career and research. Though there are excellent foot note and reference in page I could not agree with writer about his view on recent India. Besides this, there were so many words which require frequent referring to a good English dictionary.

May be being a young Indian I see India from a different lens. Being in India I find his view on recent history of India to be unaccurate and one sided. To me his references are very academic in nature and away from ground reality; also his views are squinted for recent political history. Without doubt he poses to have vast knowledge about Indian history, culture and I am no one to make any comment on it.

To sum-up, this two books failed to keep me glued to finish it. May be one day I will try to finish them and will re-read… till then happy reading.


Goodbye – Mumbai – a quick update

I did not want to use a title like “Welcome to Bangalore” or “Here I come to Bangaloru” on purpose as need some time before I can call this my new home. From long time we were knowing that we have to move to Banglore but on personal grounds I had to postpone it which was readily accepted by my company. In recent months, I was waiting for that green signal from my company that I have to move in any case.
At last, on Sunday (27th April) I partially moved; travelling from Mumbai to Bangalore in my car covering 955KM in 20 hours. The experience of that journey deserves a post of its own. I hope to write on that as soon as I find a suitable place to rent and settle myself a bit.


Milan shopping - trip came to end

Time to say Ciao, a presto (bye, see u soon) to Venice!!! Although we knew it might never be soon again. With happy mood we left for Milan from where we started our memorable journey. We boarded Euro-star for which we had to make advance reservation. Indisputably it was the best train we boarded in last seven days. On reaching Milan kept our luggage in lock room and set off to explore the business city as well fashion center of Italy.

Starting with Milan’s cathedral, the city’s centerpiece and third-largest church in Europe is worth visiting. Next to Cathedral Square “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele” – Milan’s great four-story-high, glass-domed arcade- place to shop for rich and famous. Milan’s famous opera house was closed for renovation. We skipped Leonardo’s “Last-supper” and his bronze horse which he never built.

We had pasta at lunch in small store which was really ambrosial - no doubt. Late afternoon, wandered through big brand stores for clothes and ultimately I bought one wrist watch for myself as souvenir which cost me dear.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Early evening, we headed towards a restaurant recommended by guide book in the business district which was very deserted being Sunday. Unexpectedly, we found the place and it was big restaurant with white table cloths. We were received with great affection and hospitality by owners which we can never forget. Service was excellent along with food. We started with Pasta and had fish as second serving oh! That was big fish as they served us; Pamela missed all those bones and head as they took away that trolley (as she is a big human cat who loves to chew bones be it fish or chicken). Well, slowly clock was ticking off giving us a reminder to say Ciao to Italy. Train to Paris came from Venice and we had a good night sleep after a long strenuous day.

Epilogue: Writing travelogue after 3 years was not easy. Had to refer various web site to get the details right. But the only person made it finish is Pamela as she wrote each pages and I just added few lines here and there. Yes, its worth remembering those eight days. This was great to immerse oneself with recollections of those lazy afternoon or vigorous morning for sure as I know I am not going to have this kind of break soon in my present life.


Milan and Lake Como


Weeklong journey of Italy takes us back to summer of 2004; due to various reasons never posted travelogues on time though pictures from the same were published on time. Please hang on as we try to recite detailed vacation from our faithful memory.

We had a night train from Bercy Station, Paris. For us, reaching Bercy was bit far from our Metro Station (Exelmans on M9) as there was no easy interchange; while on street-road map it looks closer from our apartment. This train is not a fast train (TGV) but fast enough to take you to Venice from Paris in one night. We started around 20:30 but due to summer it was still very bright day when we left Paris. We travelled by first class; the cabin was similar to AC 1st class compartment of Indian trains in size. No doubt, the spotless and punctual services are incomparable. Only down side of this night train is missing the beauty of Alps as we cross in the night.

Journey Begins:

Parco Sempione

After checking in pre-booked hotel at business centre of Italy, Milan and having our breakfast we left for Sforza Castle, rebuilt brick fortress and Parco Sempione. There is also “Arco della Pace” resembling Arc-de-Triumph of Paris to hail Napoleon’s entry into Milan. These are in the northern part of Milan and worth visiting.

Santanu had heard a lot about Lake Como from his old colleague Antonio about his home town. Those countless description aroused a curiosity to visit Lake Como. Como and other lakes of Northern Italy are very famous as they border with southern part of Switzerland. They are the tourist destination to relax in tranquillity for rich and famous. Rich bankers, fashion designers or Hollywood movie stars all want to grab a lake side property here. In old time, these lakes also meant reliable mode of transport to higher Alps from southern end.

Lake Como

Just half an hour from noisy, bustling Milan, Lake Como is a magical combination of lush Mediterranean foliage and snowy alpine peaks. We took a classic lakeside promenade, where roads are narrow, bit congested, and lined by old villas (some of which even converted into hotels) and from here we took a ferry ride to Bellagio on the southern shore known as the pearl of the lake.

Ferry ride is very enchanting leading to other small villages along lakeside which are hop away. Bellagio has narrow cobbled streets, breathtaking views, impeccable small homes and glorious villas with winding alleys, flowering balconies and lace-curtained windows which give a feeling of most captivating spot.

Tips: Instead of walking you can take a cab or bus from the train station to the lake front if your legs feel weak.

In recent time, two big ticket movies which I saw were shooted here - “STAR WAR –II” and “Ocean Twelve.”

Although, village is not animated by tourists but still we repented to leave this place as we had already booked hotel at Milan. Train journey from Milan to Como was nice but lost in our memory to the natural beauty of the lake and that magical afternoon on ferry. On returning had dinner at one of the restaurant near Galleria Vittorio Emanuele which was scrumptious.

Tips: As summer days are long, afternoon ferry ride is a better option that way you can use the first part for exploring something else. You may enjoy the afternoon sun on the ferry for a sun-tan. But too late in the afternoon means you might not be able to get an “aller-retour” ferry ride.


Exploring…Bits n Bites

Singapore has so many ethnic cuisines to offer for its natives that you have to stay long to explore all the corners. Food is highly influenced by Malaysian, Chinese, Indonesian and none other but South Indian too. Even annually Singapore government organizes “Singapore Food Festival” in month of July. I was lucky enough to get a glimpse of it. When it is a matter of food I consider myself to be “not a typical desi” sticking only to one variety of food. I love to explore as much as I can. But of course at same time I try to avoid certain meat other then duck, chicken, turkey,lamb or goat. So, after that only sausages or bacons can make way to my plate with choice rest I do not like to taste due to various personal reasons. Well, please do not be surprised as I went very specific with meat. As, according to French there are so many delicious delicacies to taste ; that do not think only about Chinese or Korean if you are a vegetarian.

Red chili Chicken

Recently, I had Red chilli chicken from a western wok at my lunch. For lunch, we have a food court opposite to our Singapore office. It is not specific to any company; it seems there are few others nearby as well. Variation ranges from Indian to Japanese to even cross-cultural fusion. So a lot to choose from if you can figure out. I am not sure sometime what they have as main-ingredients. But this dish was simple to order as it said red chili chicken with rice. But, astonishing part was the numbers of chilies it had. At first, I was bit skeptical about its spiciness with so many chillies in plate but later I took a bite of one of those and found they are not as hot as they looked. A Good experience indeed:D.

fish curry

The second picture of Fish curry is from a food court eatery; the curry was excellent… very close to Indian kind but then the down hill journey started for me. They said - you can choose two veggies as side dish and I opted for Spinach and peanut sauce. I specifically asked about the Peanut one as they mentioned it will be melange of sweet and sour savour. When I was ordering my plate it looked like that sauce had some sprouts but thank god I am not a vegetarian - infact it had some dry fish. But, as a whole this side-dish was a big thumbs down which changed my taste-buds …yuck!!! :.(


Mahabaleshwar Day-II

On day 2 we woke up late from bed took a stroll in the backyard then decided to walk towards main market to book our return trip and to have breakfast. On the way we had strawberry from street corner as its very common people selling it through out same product. We booked our return bus trip and were asked for shared taxi at 175 Rs for Mahabaleshwar darshan which we accepted. Walked on main bazaar street of Mahabaleshwar which is full of quaint shops that are certain to catch your fancy.

Relaxing Its bit hot at noon in this time of year. We had Kate’s point, Echo point, Needle hole, Venna lake, Lodwick point, Elephant head and sunset point.

Sunset point called Bombay Point being close to our MTDC resort, is the expansive view of the sunset considered to be one of the most beautiful, popular and oldest sights in Mahabaleshwar. But too crowded with tourists and people come here to ride on horse and get themselves photographed with horse stunts and backdrop of sunset. It got its name since it was on the old road to Bombay.

Next day started return trip in the morning; we got to enjoy the whole journey in those semi-comfy chairs of bus. Otherwise we had to face hair raising stunts from some of the crazy drivers in those winding and hair-pin bending roads.

Sunset Point


Mahabaleshwar-Weekend getaway

Unlike last time we booked our trip with bus agency for 700Rs (2 persons). Our reporting time was 00:15AM at Kharghar node but we were quite early then our reporting time 11:30 PM fearing we might not get a public transport to reach on time. We waited for our bus and waited, and waited and waited some more. It was about 00:30AM and there was still no sign of our bus. We gave a call to bus counter and asked them when the bus would show up. The guy there kept on saying that it was late and it just started from other side of Mumbai-suburbs.

It was about 01:00 AM and yet no sign of our bus. All shops had closed down and everybody else around us had boarded their respective buses and gone. And there we were, two sitting with bags on the pavement in the middle of the night. Phew! All along we were cursing ourselves and was thinking the difficulties we might have to face if we have to return home then at last at 1:30AM we did board the bus.

Entrance of MTDC

Well, this time we even booked our hotel beforehand with MTDC. One can check the availability; book the room of your choice from your own PC. The only trap is - pay heavy penalty if you change your mind at last moment. We booked for Krishna cottage for 1450 Rs per night. MTDC is located near the road to Pratapgad outside of the city center, the dwelling units are covered in thick greenery. The stretch of road on which the MTDC lay is quite desolate. The PWD guest house is adjacent to this resort, which is equally or rather more charming. Tourists of MTDC can walk into the PWD guest house, stroll and even have food at the PWD restaurant. One more beauty about the PWD bungalow is the sunset spot which we missed. The beautiful lawn in front of the PWD bungalow overlooks the whole ranges of Sahyadri, more importantly, there is no crowd here. Really, much better than Mahabaleshwar’s famous sunset spot. The lonely road is a good joggers’ track or one can enjoy the walk (inside) which is pleasant or can enjoy the backyard of cottage and you have an opportunity to listen to chirping of various kinds of birds. There are 30 cottages which is most beautiful part of this resort. This resort is heaven for nature lovers as shrouded in greenery. A great escape for those assaulted daily with the view of our urban jungles who really want to get stress relief. The trees sway in the wind the swishing sound engulfs you and makes you feel relaxed.

Since, we reached early morning we had an option of choosing cottage of our choice. We picked lucky 13 close to PWD guest house. The cottage rooms are quite spacious and have good clean big bathrooms as well. The rooms are equipped with television which is only useful in case you plan on staying indoors.

Not accustomed with nocturnal bus journey we were groggy. And moreover Santanu wanted to relax rather then rushing from one point to another. After having breakfast at PWD guest house we took a nap to recharge ourselves. With nothing better to do we set off for Panchgani, Pratapgarh and Wai at noon. Though Taxi wallah having fixed rate cards we bargained for 1000Rs for 3 places.

We started with Panchmari which derives its name from five hills that surrounds it. This trip includes Parsi point and tableland. Parsi point is famous for best view of Krishna valley down below. And table land offers the panoramic view of Panchgani itself. It's largest plateau in Asia, a small plane can land here. It is situated 60 meters high on the eastern side of the town. It protects Panchgani from strong winds, heavy rainfall and makes this hill station enjoyable all year round. It streches far beyond eye can see. On way we went to strawberry garden where you can buy all the fresh products available there. We bought strawberry jam.

From here we went to Wai, foothills of Panchgani ancient town with temples. It is believed Pandavas stayed here in disguise during their exile. Dolya Ganapati Temples on the bank of Krishna river are well preserved of their times.

After having late lunch we set off for Pratapgarh which is about 26 kilometeres from Mahabaleshwar on the opposite side of our first two destinations. This is the fort where the legendary confrontation between Shivaji and Afzal Khan took place and which saw Shivaji emerge victorious. At pratapgarh we hired a govt. recognized guide Satish for 80/- who was very informative and helpful for taking our snaps:-).He explained every aspect of it in detail. The fort was quite fascinating and we climbed up some 400 odd steps to enjoy the view from atop. There is a splendid view of the lush green valley and the forts Raigad and Makarandgad can also be viewed on a clear day. We were not lucky enough to have crystal clear weather rather it was hazy. On the east and the south the hills have steep slopes covered with dense forest in contrast with rocky west and the north. The hills gradually descend to the valleys separating Mahabaleshwar and Kineshwar range on the east and the Konkan valley on the west. We enjoyed sunset on our way back to Mahabaleshwar from one of the Shayadri range.

At twilight, we headed towards our cottage. Suddenly there was a strike in the city and all the shops were closed. This situation caught every visitor’s off-guard and everyone approached MTDC restaurant for dinner. Though tired and famished we had to wait for 2 hours - as small kitchen was not capable to handle such big volumes of orders in one evening. What a chaos it was. Oh GOD!!!


Wednesday- Best of all weekdays

From Sunday evening I keep waiting for middle of week i.e., Wednesday as next weekend looks too far to me. If there is any special occasion planned for Wednesday evening it really cheers me up. On last Wednesday it just happened that Pamela called me at work saying that she is going to come to VT (CST) all by herself boarding a local train (…..for first time).Thanks to Meher for encouraging Pamela to come over in the first place.

Well, Pamela did panic at last part of her journey as she was all alone in the wagon with two transsexuals sitting beside her. Moreover, on not seeing me at VT she vented her anger on me over phone as I was to meet her there. Its true, that I somehow always get entangled in work or some urgent phone call when ever I need to be on time to meet her. On top of it her phone battery was also running low. Somehow we did meet up without much problem and I am not that good writer to juice up that meeting. Anywayz, as per plan we met Meher in front of GPO and headed to Kala- Ghoda via Cab.


Kala-Ghoda is crescent shaped plaza nestled around an array of heritage buildings such as Elephantine College, the David Sassoon Library and the Watson Hotel. It is named after a statue which is long gone now of King Edward VII astride a black horse. This plaza is around South Mumbai which is fast emerging as the arts hub of downtown Bombay. Meher being born and brought up in south Mumbai she knows streets like back side of her palm. After walking across all those gorgeous office buildings from bygone years we reached Horniman Circle Park where French rock band “Merzhin” was to perform for the Kala-Ghoda festival organized by Alliance Française, Mumbai.. This festival actually takes place inorder to improve the existing infrastructure of the area and giving it a distinct identity as Mumbai's art district. And this festival basically brings together work from various fields like arts, theater, film, music, literature, dance, heritage walks, exhibitions, children's events offering an interactive cultural mélange for Mumbaites.

Anyway, the introduction from the Director was very "French" as he mentioned if you want a good life learn French. What a snobbish French way of welcoming audience. Point to be shared is - a very different experience as we enjoyed the concert sitting on chairs ;) ...hmm a rock concert and sitting!!! The band was good and they tried their best to get people rocking but it did not work after all Indians..... that too on Wednesday evening.

Spanish lamb

From there after an hour we left for dinner walking two blocks we found ourself in front of Café Mocambo. It has two levels of seating.; the interior is decent but not stunning. The menu is mostly continental and parsi with lots of Pasta dishes to choose from. Other then that lamb, steak and lasagna are also available. They have standard fridge displaying yummy desserts - really yummy! Many phirangis also hang out here.


Indian Newspapers

There is no real newspaper to read in India at this moment. Well I know I made a big statement but could not start in better sarcastic way. Hold on, let me explain from my past to present. I was thinking abut this topic for a while a now as I see so many newspapers under my nose while going to work by local train in the morning. It is almost like I read every other headline from three to five major publishing houses.

Newspaper means many things to so many people but for me it surely means a starting of a new day with news from yesterday,today and tomorrow. A cup of hot beverage in one hand and a newspaper in the other will be best way to start my day.

I remember once the newspaper used to be very boring in black and white. That time there was no mass “offset” printing for newspaper in India. The printing was not very clear and it used to be thin with only 8 to 10 pages.

If that make you think I am old ;) I was hooked to newspaper quite early. Then suddenly one morning came offset printing with half-tone picture of famous events in rare occasions. I remember it lasted for few years. Then suddenly we found ourselves with the color supplement for the weekend. It was exciting to check on weekly basis those glossy papers; some times we would save them to cover books :D

With time newspaper started to become heavier in weights and started to loose focus from main news. The downhill journey started. The focus of editors turned to advertisement to make news paper cheaper for making more profit.

Like addicts we got used to read about all those cocktail parties in front page and City Complements.

This turned a golden way for the newspaper publisher to print photos of celebrities. All celebrities like to show off little or more depending on their personalities. May be we can call it a golden hen for the editors. Indian society being very hypocratic it was an easy way to publish swimsuit photos of Ms. Anderson with out any one complaining. Indian educated conservative middle class adores the same. The whole news paper has become a tabloid. That way Ms Stone & Spears makes exclusive headline.

May be with economy doing good everyone is having a feel-good-factor; no one really wants to read real news about the global climate change or war on Iraq - everyone is happy in their little world. People are also bored with reading Indian politics the same story of corruption, vote bank – religion or caste from our politicians.

It is all most free can you believe that you can get one full year subscription for just Rupees 199(less than 4 Euros). That means less then One Rupees a day where One rupee can not buy any thing in India now.


Lunch Time

I am finding it tricky as I try to compare my experiences and life styles that I encountered from two different continents. I do not know if my readers will be able to understand me. Moreover, my recent journey is an unusual one as most Indian travels east to west while I moved from west to east.

During my stay at Paris for last 3 and half years, most of my lunch at work was at shared corporate cafeteria between three companies. I appreciated the price, quality of that food always particularly the desserts and varieties of yogurts available there. May be I understand, why French cuisine is considered to be world’s most refined cuisine. Unfortunately, I am not a food critic that I can pen down those exotic tastes to get water in your mouth. But as I think about them I roll my tongue ;)

In general, breakfast in France is a small affair consisting of croissants & bread rolls with some butter and jam to spread which is usually accompanied by milky coffee or hot chocolate or café noir. Since there is no set time for breakfast in France it makes them bit hungry by noon :) . Le déjeuner (lunch) was once a two hour mid-day meal but has recently seen a trend toward the one hour lunch break.

It is common at corporate world to be given lunch vouchers as part of their employee benefits. These can be used in most restaurants, supermarkets and traiteurs; however people having lunch in this way typically do not eat all three dishes of a traditional lunch due to price and time considerations. A sandwich followed by a dessert is quite commonly seen and can be found ready-made at bakeries and supermarkets, cafes, bistros or restaurants. Even many restaurants, offer a lower priced prix fixe menu at lunch which is not available in the evening.

It is common in France for someone wishing you “Bon Appetite” if he/she realizes that you are going to have food as you take the exit from office door or lift at noon while in India we hardly say anything before starting our meal. Rather I believe there is no exact translation even in Anglo-Saxon culture for “Bon Appetite” but it does exist in Latin culture in some form or other like in Spanish or Italian lingo.

I have been a silent participator for most of the times as I use to feel shy to communicate with my linguistic skill of French. These three pictures are the only I have from all those lunch time I had with my colleagues. These were taken at very end of our stay with Pamela’s new phone camera. I always felt that I was going to miss those lunch hours if I move out of Paris; now I write about them before they become distant memory.

At my current location in Bombay we do not have any in-house cafeteria at our office (a small office compared to Paris). There are plenty of restaurants around to choose from or I can order for lunch at my desk. With the last one you can work as you take a bite. I am sure any health freak will tell that it is not good for soul and body. Food is supposed to be taken properly so that you chew and eat in peace while a meal in France is not simply a moment dedicated to the nourishment of the body; it is indeed a time for social and even spiritual replenishment.

In Modern India, where average work hours are getting longer and people are slogging more at work. This may be very disturbing social and physiological changes and might have adverse effect as the dynamic working population grow older.


Golden Pass - Montreux

Today is the last day of our trip. We had already reserved for boarding another panoramic train “Golden Express" which will take us to Lausanne where we started our journey one week ago. By now I was so used to that after waking up my first thing was to peer out the window to check weather. And like every time it was bright sunny morning at our last day of vacation. After having heavy breakfast we headed towards railway station of Interlaken with our luggage.

From our previous experience with glacier express where we missed the window seats we made sure that get the same while booking in advance.This special train is broken into two main parts. In the first part it is almost like any other Swiss railway train but it is only written “Golden Pass” on the outside.And there are no special panoramic windows; which is a blessing for the camera.

Traveling by train to Zweisimmen on the Golden Pass BSL train, offers panoramic views of the Swiss Alps, mountain slopes and valleys with picturesque chalets which is something different to experience. Train snakes through the Simme Valley passing through the rural Simmertal where one can see Swiss cows grazing on the Alpine meadows. Listening to the distant sound of cowbells tickling on the pastures is very amusing.

At Zweisimmen, we changed to the Golden Pass MOB Train to Montreux. This is the only line in Switzerland that offers VIP seat at the front of the train giving a river's eye view. This ultra-modern train gives the traveler the unique sensation of being totally at one with the grandeur of the unfolding landscape. While passing through the region of “Châteaux d'Oex” we saw beautiful Swiss villages for one more time. There are lots of hiking or other outdoor activities around this region. Admiring the view of Lake Geneva on one hand and the sprawling vineyards alongside on other hand we descended to Montreux. We enjoyed magnificent views of alpine beauty on our unforgettable rail journey of Switzerland.

We came to Montreux from Lausanne after keeping our luggage. We took a relaxing promenade on lakeshore to go to Chateau de Chillon. This 13th century castle has lots of history to tell in itself. Lord Byron's famous poem “The Prisoner of Chillon” was set on prison which is at the cellar of the castle. We spent almost 2 hours there and at the same time it was raining heavily outside.

We wanted to go to Geneva to see “Jet d'eau” (water fountain) but it looked like it might be a better idea to be at Montreux as we would be running out of time. Later in the evening we boarded TGV back to Paris – and this time it was in First Class: D


Mount Jungfraujoch - 23rd June

Top of Europe

Today we woke up very early as to move towards our next destination Interlaken (means between two lakes). I immediately peered out the window to check out what the weather was like. I was very concerned about our trip to Mt. Jungfrau. But to me it seems to be a perfect day. Santanu was bit hesitant as it was cloudy & gloomy all the way while coming down from Mt. Rigi. He rather mentioned it appeared to be nice down at the bottom of the mountain, nothing was promised way up top. Since, the journey to Interlaken takes around 3 hours by train so we left Zurich around 7AM leaving our host still sleeping.

Anywayz, at Interlaken we already had a booking for an apartment hotel which was cheap, cozy with all kitchen amenities in the room; that means we can cook our own food if we want. So, we first went to our apartment-hotel to keep our luggage .Then headed to Mount Jungfrau- top of Europe.

In Switzerland prices are always astronomical so ticket to Jungfrau was no exception. Like always we carried “take-away” lunch before boarding the train. After reaching Lauterbrunnen from Interlaken we were to change and take cog-wheel train to reach to Kleine-Scheidegg a tiny, isolated resort surrounded by vertiginous scenery. In a short time, as we ascended, the villages below were barely visible. The presence of snow gradually increased, while the temperature gradually decreased.

From Kleine-Scheidegg we changed to the Jungfraubahn, another train, which tunnels straight into the rock of the Eiger. Stopping briefly for panoramic picture; looking at glacier from a rock window to say in simple words. This ride up is by world's longest existing cog-rail and quite extraordinary. I assume it is among the most fascinating scenery in the world we have ever seen.

There were several things to visit like ice palace and experience the breathtaking panoramic view from the Sphinx Observation Terrace overlooking the Aletsch Glacier (Europe's longest glacier). After getting down from the train we first went to Swiss-sphinx. It was the highest point of the whole place. We went outside onto the observation deck and relished the views. As parts of the observation deck extended past the building, the floor beneath us was made up of metal grates. Looking down, it was making me feel giddy Santanu was bold enough to take me around the whole building. Day was really bright and sunny as if meant for taking pictures so throughout whole trip we took plenty of photos.

From there we went to ice palace. This consisted of basically an underground ice sculpture exhibition. Everything was ice; the ceilings, the walls and even the floors. Something really amazing. From there we went to snow where one can slide or do James Bond stuns on a ropeway.
The trip to Mt. Jungfrau will undoubtedly remain among the first things we think back on. What a difference some nice weather made for us that day. After spending few hours we descended via Grindelwald to Interlaken.

Glacier Express - 20th June

Today we got up very early to take a quick trip of city as we did wanted to go back to snow clad beauty of Switzerland instead of its Mediterranean lake shores. But before having a heavy breakfast, we took a promenade in the park along lake shore where there are lots of open sculptors from Dada movement. After we took funicular ride to Madonna del Sasso.

We were determined to take glacier express from Andermatt to St.Moritz today. So, by 9.00 we reached station; Santanu saw a BBC program about Wilhelm Express on TV and was eager to board the same from Locarno till it connects Glacier Express. But due to train schedules we had to take an inter-regional train from Locarno to Goschenen via Bellinzona. Our compartment was vacant with two of us only. That left us to hop from one side to another in order to take photos as the train made turns to gain altitude. Being a standard train the chief advantage is the windows generally can be opened, for cool air and unobstructed views and take picture – with no ghost image.

On reaching Goschenen we immediately boarded another train to Andermatt where we spent an hour taking photos. Swiss trains are like Swiss watches never late-always on time so was Glacier Express

This train actually starts from St.Moritz to Zermatt or vice versa which is of 7 1/2 hr. journey across 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels and across the Oberalp Pass at 2033 m altitude. It’s really incredible journey via beautiful landscapes with valleys, glistening mountains & splendid greenery. It’s a train with huge wrap-around windows, allowing you to see through part of the ceiling no wonder why visitor do not complain spending bucks. You never know how alpine panoramas hits right in the face unless you experience it. But, the windows in the panoramic cars generally can't be opened, means photographs usually come with a glare.

As soon as we boarded the train, memories from Bollywood movies got refreshed. As there are umpteen of songs featured on this train. Unfortunately, we did not have window seats. And as it was mid-day lots of people were having their lunch at their seat. The dining car was next compartment to ours; we spent a good time there. Glacier express is a very touristy train as people from every corner of the world try to taste Swiss Alpine beauty. We had good conversation with our co-passengers who were Americans staying at Saudi Arabia.

On reaching St.Moritz we had a nice meal freshly prepared at Railway restaurant. As staying in the classic alpine resort was out of our budget so it was more economical to board a train for final destination to Zurich via Chur.

The train back from St-Moritz was a normal one which was good as that allowed us to take pictures with out glare. The journey from Chur to Zurich was also very scenic as the train runs along two lakes - Lake Walen and Lake Zurich.


Post Bus - 19th June

Till we are not sure what would be our next destination for today. The nearest attraction is Montreaux, but that being so close to Lausanne we were discussing to keep it for last day. After taking a hearty breakfast we reached railway station. We asked at the information desk about the Swiss travel pass and Post Bus.
Traveling with yellow Swiss post bus system is really breath taking experience as they connect any place in Switzerland which can’t be reached by train. As we had some print out from web sites but none were close to Lausanne. One of the routes that attracted our attention was Napoleon route from Saas Fee to Locarno. But the special tourist post bus operates once a day most of the time and you need to make reservation for the same.

After buying Swiss Flexi Pass from the Railway station, boarded a train to Visp. The train journey to Visp was nice as it gave the taste of Alps and its beautiful mountain ranges. The bus trip from Visp to Saas Fee was magnificent. We initially wanted to get the Glacier express today itself but being a special train we could not connect the same. So we spent only 20 minutes at Saas Fee also called pearl of Alps. Saas Fee is a very beautiful car-free resort nestling at foot of glaciers One local young gentleman invited us to little Himalaya of Europe while getting down from the bus. There we had our ‘take away’ lunch.

On our way back we continued till Brig by the same bus. From Brig we had two choices – either by a train or bus. Train goes to our next destination in the south of Switzerland via long tunnel while bus takes a longer route through Simplon Pass to some remote village of Italy from where we were to take a train after 2 hours to our today’s destination (Locarno).

Well, Santanu insisted on later uncertain one as we would have reached Locarno at 21:30 and we had no hotel booked for that night. No doubt the journey along this pass was breathtaking almost 2005m above sea level. As soon as we reached border station we were only 2 passengers left from the bus and we were transferred to a mini van where we had only one co-passenger. It was quite assuring that someone is going with us as it was already 5:30 PM quite late for a place in absolute no-where. We were told by our co-passenger in broken English and Italian that there will be a bus in next 5 minutes, but that 5 become 25 and we three are waiting for bus. There is no posted time table of the same. We started to realize that we were in Italy from the very systematic and punctual Switzerland. It was quandary that we were in. The last part of today’s journey to Locarno was a very memorable one as we got rescued by two gentle Swiss.

In short, trip via road across the most beautiful Alpine passes with spectacular views over the snow covered mountains, through narrow winding valleys, lakes and picturesque villages is something amazing.

Lausanne -18th June

Alors , trip started on Sunday morning 18th for Lausanne from Paris with out any plan for next 7-8 days to be done in Swiss. On Friday and Saturday we made few calls to our friends to get an idea about the top attractions in the Switzerland. Santanu got some print out from work about Post Bus.

He reluctantly noted one hotel address for Interlaken and booked one B&B for Sunday night around Lausanne. The train journey from Paris was not much event full as Santanu slept most of the time and I enjoyed the French country side while listening to music. Thanks to Santanu for getting the I-Pod while he was snoring mildly.

On getting down at railway station we got all the information about top sights to be visited in Lausanne from very helpful tourist office but as it was Sunday the main Railway information center was closed so we could not plan anything for next day. Lausanne being a small city by northern part of Lake Geneva, home of Olympic Museum and Swiss court of Justice.

We spent that whole afternoon walking up and down its walkway. Starting our walk along the lake side from Olympic park to Château d'Ouchy. From there we went to Gothic Cathedral via central market after visiting Esplanade de Montbenon. It was bit long walk ascending all the time to the hill top.

While descending we realized the B&B that we booked was very far so we asked about hotels in tourist office and they found us some thing nice close to Olympic museum. After having bath we just walked along the lake shore which was very pleasant & relaxing. But the nice evening walk was very short lived as Santanu realized he does not have his wallet with him for which we had to make a sudden U-turn and walk fast back to hotel. Thank God it was such a relief to find it lying on the bed. We ended up having dinner in nearby lakeside restaurant.


Uncertain Voyage

After traveling to so many places in Europe in last three years now we were thinking to travel to some other part of globe which can be easily reached from Paris within few hours maybe somewhere in North African. The very thought came was how about going to Morocco or Egypt but none of them was perfect weather wise to visit. Then also after too much of thinking we settled for Morocco and started to gather touristic information. It may be a backyard for most French but being Indian it means we need to get visa. So, process started by calling embassy to know more about it... getting a phone call answered requires lot of luck. Either line is busy or it gets dropped on half way when they try to pass the call.

Anyway, we went to there embassy in-person for submitting all documents which went on very smoothly; women in-charge said it will take 15 days to get our visa. On asking whether we should buy ticket for Morocco? hmm... its OK to get it and sends us to her higher authority to get it confirmed. Now this Monsieur says gently... after 10 days you should get it without any problem so its OK to buy ticket. Being excited we started to plan our trip and get more information. But Santanu being skeptical never showed any interest in buying the ticket and always postponed the same. But at same time he was so excited that just day before his CISM test he made a phone call to find out VISA status. Well it was negative, he went to consulate in-person on Monday 12th June and found the same negative answer and was told to come by on Thursday 15th June to take visa for a journey that was supposed to start on Saturday 17th. Well, Thursday didn’t bring any luck either which made Santanu furious.

Its well said "man proposes and god disposes". The whole euphoria vanished like a whiff of smoke as neither on 10th nor on 15th day of submission we got VISA. Since this holidays were forced one which means if Santanu doesn’t uses it he doesn’t gain anything.

There was one backup plan for Morocco, but it was never in place as we never thought seriously, the plan was to touch cities-towns of France that we have not visited yet like Nice, Bordeaux, Bayonne and Chamonix along with some part of Swiss. Well it might sound bit crazy idea but truly we are crazy when it comes to traveling. Now the search for last minute ticket started. Since there were no discounted ticket on SNCF web site and the only ticket that we could grab was round-trip from Paris to Lausanne on Friday 16th. At once started to make phone calls to our friends who have already been there.For this trip, Santanu wanted to travel with his big red North Face backpack and he was not interested to make any plans on itenary or any pre-bookings for hotels. As if he wanted to sing the famous Bengali song "Path harabo boleyi toh aaj pothey nameychi..." by Hemanta Mukerjee.(I got down on the road only to get lost .. )Bonne voyage!!!


Uddan - Flight

This time for our trip to India we chose Qatar airways. Seeing its publicity Qatar Airways, one of the fastest growing airlines in the world. Taking you more personally! every now & then on BBC encouraged us to book for the same. This airline is based in Doha, Qatar covering around 70 international destinations. Check-in at Paris was very smooth though they were very strict about luggage weight.

In-flight service was good with very comfortable seats having enough leg room; quality of the food was better than what we had before and was good with choice of films and music on demand. In short, good service for almost 7-8hrs.of long haul flight. What let the airline down was ground services at Doha airport which was awful. Too congested, with no seats, toilets overloaded. There you can see all South-Asians in blue collar jobs. Services at airport were very poorly managed.

Qatar generously gave free dinner coupon for 4 hours stop-over in the age of no-frill air lines. Finding a long queue and no place to seat we opted for a quick stroll in the small duty free section. Having all kinds of perfume from France, small souvenirs, wines, cigarettes and YES last but not least is our yellow metal (gold) shop. Where every Indian was making a pilgrimage. Truly, wherever & whatever the price of gold be India’s fascination towards it will not lessen. We too went there especially Pamela who is no less.
Now having watched Syriana few days before it looks as if few of its scenes were getting played there. Arab men in there white dress and women in their black just 4 feet behind them. And the same goes for those South-Asian working community in middle east.

It was time to board for our next flight from Doha to Delhi. Everyone was in rush to get into the flight showing their so called Indian etiquettes as if they have bought the flight; and flight was going to leave without them. Again in-flight service was good along with food menu. As the flight landed people from rear end seem to be in more hurry then those who were sitting at front. Best part was the person from back who came running to be the first to take exit from economy class was the one who was asking for help at Immigration counter as he was not able to fill it himself.

May God bless those Indians! Otherwise rest journey was peaceful.


Sikkim - Gangtok

My current home in India is Siliguri, north of West Bengal may not be the most alluring for tourist destinations. But it is the most important city in the entire Eastern Himalayas due to its geographical location. As city is unabashedly an industrial centre and gateway to seven sisters of North-East along with Sikkim & eastern part of Nepal. My parents moved here ten years back and by that time I had just started my career; never had ample holidays to explore any thing around. Always I used to be too tired to get out of home and end up with novels and old music. But this was for the first time I did take days out to visit Gangtok.

Though journey was not very memorable or different than that of those I had while growing up in North-East region except that Pamela was with me this time. Traveling by Jeep through those narrow winding roads is an experience in itself where our co-passengers thought that we are going for honeymoon trip. The drive was very scenic with Teesta River flowing all the way. The forested hills are still green but truly there is continuous deforestation going on for either cultivation or smuggling woods.

We reached Gangtok after midday and the Taxi Stand was the most active part of the city like any other small or hill town in North-East. There are too many touts to rob you. If you travel light and are able to carry your luggage yourself you can avoid them. We stayed in a ITDC hotel near to M.G.Marg where we had our lunch at its expensive restaurant. Then we went out for booking our trips for sightseeing & daytrip for next 2 days. Being a tourist place it seems everyone wants to rob so you need to have good negotiating skill & make sure what you need you get the same. After bargaining we were able to book our trips for next 2 days. Then from there we went to the Government Institute of Cottage Industries (also called the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom) which promotes and teaches the ancient crafts of Sikkim (like painting, mask making, weaving, wood carving) to keep them alive. It is located at zero point, few km uphill from the main Gangtok town.

Day II, we had Allu paratha as breakfast early morning near to Bus stop at Agarwal restaurant & got the same packed for the route also. Then we headed towards our agency. Indians are famous for their IST so our co-passengers. After waiting a while for them to join we started our trip to Tsomgo Lake.
Tsomgo Lake is situated at an altitude of 12,310 ft on Gangtok-Nathula highway. Just few kilometers away from Indo-China border. This road also continues to Lasa, Tibet. Drive to that region is again very different with snow capped mountains & this whole belt is undertaken by Indian military. Salute to our Indian army who are taking pain to guard those borders to make our life easy & peaceful. Really I wonder sometimes how they are struggling there to earn their meal in those extreme cold regions far from there near one.
On reaching Tsomgo lake (pronounced as Changu Lake which means source of lake) we hired snow boots as all the travel agents take their customers to respective brothers stall for hiring jackets, snow boots and water-proof boots. Because of the high altitude heavy woolens are required which we already had.
From there we went immediately to Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial which lies between Nathula-Jelepla pass which is at still more higher altitude of around 13,450ft. Actually, it is built in memory of a sepoy of 23rd Punjab regiment. It seems after few days of his missing he appeared in the dreams of his fellow comrades & expressed a desire that monument be built in his memory. Now it has acquired a statue of a pilgrimage, being Sunday there was langar (free meals served after Sikh services) offered by Indian Army. After one hour stay we came down to Changu Lake.

Weather was getting worse. Tea, snacks & film rolls are available at the dozen of temporary stalls near the lake. But there is no facility of accommodation or proper toilet for the tourist. Rides on yaks and mules are also offered which was worthless to enjoy for Pamela at that temperature.
In the evening, we walked on the main street of M.G.Marg which is normally closed for all vehicles from 5 to 9 PM. Looked for budget restaurant for our dinner; we found one and also found a long queue waiting for their turn. The wait was delightful.

Day III started for us early morning as we wanted to return to Siliguri ASAP. We started our sightseeing activity from Rumtek monastery (largest monastery of Sikkim) and ended with exotic orchid show along with Enchey monastery, Do-drul stupa.
Gangtok is a blend of the traditional and modern, where modern concrete multi-storied structures clings to the hillside along with stupas and monasteries; buddhist prayer flags flutter with the mountain breeze; young college girls in trendy dresses while elderly matrons clad in traditional 'bakus' and lamas in colorful maroon.

Now, looking forward to travel to North Sikkim some day which we heard is more beautiful with valley of flowers and lakes to explore.


Vacation on the horizon

Yes I am going to take vacations! It has been a while (after May 2005) when we went out from our current address in Paris. In our standard of travelling it is a record for good or bad...that can't be said. May be it is the effect of Chateau, Bateau, Gateau.We would love to visit some country-side or mountains now. But, unfortunately Pamela is not at all interested for any ski-trip as she is complaining about the Paris cold all the time. So no trip in Europe for now.
Well, this vacation I am cheering but may be it will be just like another trip to India where my days are more hectic with relatives and long journeys and at the end I question myself was it a vacation or my social duties.
For sure I am going to travel a lot as I will start my trip of India with Delhi and ending the same in Bombay. In between I am going to stop at Siliguri, Calcutta & Durg for sure. I am adding this map with pointers to give an idea.


Lisbon - Portugal

Pictures from Lisbon

Well the over night bus journey between Seville and Lisbon was not very long one. We had an hour long stop as soon as we entered Portugal. The road condition was good and we reached the Oriental Stop of Lisbon at very early hours and the sky was still dark. From there it took another 20 minutes or so to reach the final destination near Zoological Garden. We took a taxi and the ride was a short one to our hotel for only 6 Euros. The driver was nice and he was mentioning about the drought Portugal is facing.

The Hotel (Novotel) was under renovation but the staff was kind enough to get us a room at 4:30 in the morning although we had by mistake booked for only one adult which we came to knew then and there.

After having rest for few hours we headed out from our hotel to Lisbon downtown by metro. It was a very cloudy day. I was feeling heavy headed and wanted to get some coffee.

 Pictures from LisbonAfter walking in Rossio Square for a while we bought day pass for Lisbon Trasport. The Metro system is run by the Government while the Bus, Tram and trolleys are run by a company. Lisbon have lots of trams and it seems like one of the attractions. Lisbon downtown is divided in three major part Bairro Alto, Alfama and Baixa. The first two one are on hills and the last one in the middle of the two.

It took us a while to figure out the starting point of Gloria funicular. We took it to reach the top of Bairro Alto Neighborhood. The ride is very small and full of tourists only. At the end of the 2/3 minute ride the people who bought a single trip ticket was wondering is it really worth or not.

Just getting out of the funicular on the right towards hill there is park, from there we get very nice view of the other part of the city and the river from there. There is also the ‘Porto’ wine collection place just across the street. Start walking downhill towards Chiado. Chaido is very happening place with lots of designer shops and places to east and drink. We visited Sao Roque Church which is very beautiful with lots of excellent tile and marble works inside; it was built in the glory days of Portugal.

We had lunch in one of the restaurant of big mall in Baixa Chaido. After that we took tram 28 for going to Alfama. This one is also a old tram most likely built in 1930s and it passes Baixa district. We visited the Caste of São Jorge. After spending a good time and taking the view of Lisbon & River Tejo we took the same tram back to Chiado. In Chaido we took Bica funicular which is like Gloria a old one but it is very stiff and goes down to the river front. The buildings along side are very old and in poor condition.

Once reaching the river front we took tram 15 towards Belem. There are both new and old tram on this track. Belem is 5 KM outside of Lisbon. On the way we saw 25th April Bridge, which just looks like Golden Gate bridge of San Francisco. The reason may be both are built by the same company. Belem tower and Monastery are the main attractions along with the ‘Monument to the Discoveries’.Well it was a quite a long day and we headed back to Chiado for dinner and then to Hotel.

Day 3 - Rishikesh

The weather looked gloomy with an overcast sky as we woke up. We had breakfast at the hotel and decided to visit Rishikesh today. Again we...