4 day Long Weekend Trip to Dubai

Itinerary for a four day visit to Dubai

The traveller in me hates letting a long weekend go by without a plan. I always try and make most of it. But, they can be stressful. While you want to make the most of it, there is always that sense of inertia to plan for travel. There are a lot of things you need to take into consideration – cost, travel time, time to experience the place you’re traveling to, the accommodation, itinerary and the list goes on. So, I’m going to make it easy for you by penning down a ready-reckoner itinerary. For anyone looking for a good quick vacation from India, UAE is a pretty good bet for 4-5 days. Continue reading “4 day Long Weekend Trip to Dubai”

The love for beaches

Recently I got back to my routine runs at Worli Sea Face. As I finished my run, I had this warm feeling spreading through me that brought a familiar smile on my face just looking at the waves. They were barely visible in the dark night and I found myself thinking just why I have such a fascination for the ocean.

A lot many people have asked me if I am a “Mountain Person” or a “Beach Person”. While I am still not entirely convinced they are a mutually exhaustive set there are many reasons about the beach that evoke such strong emotions in me. Continue reading “The love for beaches”

The 7- mile drive

Continuing my stories on my first trip to the United States, the beach lover in me was over-excited for the Key West leg to begin. The usual traveller in me always loved googling every aspect of the town I plan to visit, but this time I decided I’ll take it as it comes. Key West was one place I did not google, I heard a couple of people out on things to do and see but restricted the urge to delve any further into it.

Of course, I couldn’t help myself from researching after the trip. Key West is part of the Florida Keys Archipelago that was earlier a Spanish colony. The name is derived from the Spanish word “Cayo” meaning small island. While it could be geographically small, the islands are a major tourist hub and a pit-stop for most cruise ships sailing past the coast. Continue reading “The 7- mile drive”

Gulf of Thailand Tales

Continuing my adventures in Thailand, we left Bangkok in much anticipation of the endless blue green waters only to land in Chumphon, the point from where we were to take the ferry to Koh Tao (Our first stop in the series) in pouring rain. No, this was not the kind of rain that stopped after a mild drizzle, this was the kind that outpours and floods cities like Mumbai. Needless to say, our hearts jumped to our throats. We were in for a week of sun, sand and the beach not to cower under shacks from heavy downpours. We researched all we could at that point and realised much to our dismay that November is the time for rains in the southern part of Thailand and we realised gravely that this oversight could cost us our vacation. Continue reading “Gulf of Thailand Tales”

Thailand Adventures

Situated right in the middle of the Indo China Peninsula, Thailand is a popular destination in India, sadly, for all the wrong reasons. Thai in the Thai language stands for “free men” or people in general and The Land of the People is truly a diverse country to cherish. After long deliberation, we had narrowed down on Thailand as our vacation destination and why not, it truly is the most “Value for Money Destination” as famously claimed.

We had 8 days to spend in Thailand and given the limited connectivity between islands, we decided to pick one coast for our first trip and decided to stay in the Eastern Coast, a little away from crowded tourist packed destinations like Pattaya or Koh Phi Phi. We decided on Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui (Detailed Itinerary to follow) Continue reading “Thailand Adventures”

Money, Money, Money

Well, you always do budget how much a trip costs and you plan your finances accordingly. But what happens when you go slightly wrong with those calculations? Well, you get royally screwed, especially if you are a student on a shoe string budget.

We were towards the fag end of the euro trip you know that time where the complacency and the arrogance get the better of you?! We were on our last trip before we had to head back to India in the Croatia – Prague- Hungary trip and we reached Zagreb on a Saturday evening after a long hauling journey from France via Germany, Austria and finally reaching Croatia.

The problem with travel is that you very soon lose all track of which day of the week it is. We had planned to go to Plitvice Lake the next day and had to pay the vendors for the travel etc. for the same. We went to the ATM and we got an error message when we tried withdrawing 100 euros. We said okay, could be a problem with the machine, like big social service workers we told people behind us in the line saying there is some issue with the machine. We walked another 200 metres and came across another ATM, we tried the transaction again and we again got a failure.

Now curious, we decided let’s try a lower amount, we put 75 euros and again the same error. We wondered what could be the concern, we tried more times and finally decided we will pay and get a balance confirmation, turned out we had 2 euros on the card (we were hedging the euro and converting it as and when the rates dipped against the INR and forgot to keep enough buffer, aren’t we thoughtful) and some coins as cash with us. And we could not do any bank transaction as it was Sunday the next day and all banks were closed and we could not buy any more euros till Monday morning in India. And so started the day strapped with no money in Zagreb, thankfully we had free breakfast at the hostel and some nutri bars from Germany to munch on. We saved our 2 euros to get us a slice of pizza in the night and I must tell you it was the most delicious pizza I have ever savoured.

So always, always, keep enough money to keep you going for a few more days than planned, trust me it helps!!

The hunt for Northern Lights

If you are in Europe and have gone all the way to Scandinavia, there is no way that Northern Lights cannot be on your agenda.

What is the Northern Lights?

Northern Lights or Aurera Borealis is a natural phenomenon that happens when electrically charged particles from the sun enter into the earth’s atmosphere and collide with our gaseous particles simply put. Aurora Australis is its southern counterpart. A scientific phenomenon that lights up the skies in hues of green, yellow, pink or purple. While the common colour is green or greenish yellow, some rare occurrences of purple have also been spotted.  Oxygen emits yellow, green hues while Nitrogen emits red, purple hues. The earth’s magnetic field channels these solar particles towards the north and south magnetic poles and hence the occurrences are restricted to solely higher altitudes.

Now Aurora is not something you can spot so easily. There have been multiple references of Aurora to a Diva and rightly so, you have to pursue her patiently and wait for her to open up in the skies and take her swirl.

Essentials for its occurrences

  1. Aurora can be best visible only when it is pitch dark – 10 pm to 1 am is said to be the best time to view the Aurora
  2. Clear Skies – The basic necessity for visibility of these colours is clear skies, cloudy weather and rains reduce the impact of the visibility of these charged particles
  3. High Altitude – As the particles are drawn towards the magnetic poles, their spread is limited to places nearby the arctic circle

Best places to catch the northern lights

Well if you are in Europe, Scandinavia is your best bet to view the northern lights. Both Northern Norway and Northern Sweden offer amazing places to catch the Aurora. After a lot of research I would recommend these 2 options

  1. Tromso, Norway
  2. Abisko, Sweden

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Golden Rule

Never go only for the northern lights. Choose a destination where you have something to do and ensure spotting the aurora is just a brownie point over and above that. The weather in the Arctic is very unpredictable and could change in the blink of the eye. So ALWAYS CHOOSE A DESTINATION where you can explore during the day and manage to catch the Aurora as well to avoid disappointment

Why Abisko?

  1. Railway connectivity to Abisko from Stockholm suited our travel schedule
  2. They have a beautiful National Park in Abisko
  3. The weather forecasts showed clear skies in Abisko in the week we chose to hunt the northern lights
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The beautiful view just before sundown in Abisko, Sweden

Where to check for weather forecasts?

We constantly followed the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks for the best forecast to view the aurora. They had recommended a chance of 6 on 9 to view the aurora in the week we had planned to travel and it was the highest they had predicted in the entire month of October in 2013. You can view the forecast here before travel.  http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/NorthPolar/20160909

How to get to Abisko?

The beauty of the Scandinavian countries is the amazing rail connectivity. Abisko is around 1300 kms from Stockholm, however, direct night trains are available from Stockholm to Absiko. There are a couple of stations in Abisko  – Abisko Ostra or Abisko Touristation, so pick your destination depending on your accommodation arrangements

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Places to stay in Absiko

Though the population in Abisko is just around 100 ( Yes, I am not exaggerating, The recorded census of population in Absiko as on 2005 was 85 and there are more dogs there than humans), there are multiple options for accommodation in terms of hostels, hotels & cottages in all price ranges.

We booked our hostels through http://www.abisko.net/

They are on Facebook as well https://www.facebook.com/abisko.net

Amazingly responsive and absolutely friendly. Just about 2 minutes walking from the Ostra station in Abisko and beautiful spots in and around the hostel to view the Aurora.

The much awaited Aurora

After all this planning now comes the worst part, the wait. We reached early evening and settled in into our lovely accommodation provided by abisko.net and went out for a walk to explore the town. The streets were long, cold and empty. The views enthralling, you could see snow capped mountains far away, a completely different kind of vegetation and oh, not to forget snow ledges pulled by dogs. The owners of our property were an elderly couple who had 60 dogs, yes, you read that right, 2 human beings and 60 dogs, that was pretty much the ration in the entire town. It was like the whole town was painted in a blue filter and before you knew, the night was setting in and it was getting pitch dark. We made our way back to our hostels, made some hot noodles and all hostlers gathered around trying to find the best spot to camp for the night.

The beauty of the accommodation is that you can view endless skies from all around the building. We even heard stories of how people caught it sitting on their beds through the windows. So we each picked our spots and sat there just staring at those skies. The first few minutes were lovely looking at the skies, but you need patience. We waited hour after hour in the freezing weather, it was a long wait. Alas, as the night grew it became more and more cloudy and started to snow, and with heavy hearts conceded to ourselves that there  was no chance we would view it. Given our tight schedules, we could not afford extending or modifying our schedule. We had taken our best bet, selecting the perfect place, the perfect day, the perfect time. But, I guess somethings are beyond all the planning when it comes to the Aurora. But we had the best time in the snow in the deserted town of abisko.

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When you are at crossroads in a cold ghost town alone early in the morning
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When you catch the entire rainbow from start to finish

Lessons Learnt

  1. It is not an easy hunt. Plan a long duration to give yourself the best chance to view the northern lights.
  2. It is very very unpredictable. The weather can change at any point in time, so always be prepared for that.
  3. Camp to different places where the Northern Lights can be spotted. Many a time the phenomenon occurs but is not visible in certain areas due to unclear skies or places not being sufficiently dark
  4. Keep your faith up! It will eventually show, at least that’s what I am still hoping
  5. No matter what happens, Do not forget the Golden Rule – Always travel for the destination.

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Given today is JK Rowling and Harry Potter’s Birthday, I thought it only fair to post my take on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in my blog.

For all us 20th century folks, Harry Potter is much more than just a fantasy. We grew up with Harry Potter, we sympathised with that 11-year-old kid living in the cupboard under the stairs, we found ourselves in the years as Harry, Ron and Hermoine made their way through Hogwarts and waited with bated breath on those long lines in July 2007 just to get our hands on the final chapter in Harry’s life just to find out if he lives to tell the tale after Voldemort. Continue reading “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”

Corporate Madness

Don’t worry! I am not going to digress into a corporate mumbo jumbo. This is still pertinent to the musings of a traveler, just the exception that this time these profound thoughts came in on a work travel.

We have all had those random shit work days where you get nothing accomplished but are totally physically and mentally drained out by the end of the day. Well today was one of those days for me. It was the usual day business trip which essentially translates to 2 hours in the cab to and fro from the airport, 1 hour in the airport, 2 hours in the airplane one way.   Continue reading “Corporate Madness”