Archive for the 'Travelogue' Category

Planning a Dream Trip via Skyscanner: Japan

After completing my Euro trip, I have been eying to visit Japan since long. It is like a dream – you board a flight and woosh – you’re transported to a completely new culture. Murakami and Guy Kawasaki have long since beckoned me with their works. It doesn’t help that Japan is land of samurais, geishas, mountains, bentos, castles, mountains, temples, shikansens, onsens, kabuki, ikebana, shiatsu, takarazuka revue, zen and zazen.

But hey, it’s Japan that means no communication in English, and it means completely different food for a veggie like me – so you need better preparation. Much better preparation than that I had needed for Europe. But first one must get basics right – visa, travel tickets, hotels and then one can spend time to plan more intricately.

First question that comes in mind: which is the best city to enter Japan – Tokyo, Nara, Kyoto, Sapporo, Okinara, Hokkaido? More clearly, which place has the cheapest flights? Even though I hadn’t made up my mind if I would visit Okinara and islands or Hokkaido, I was sure I would visit Tokyo in my first visit.

Japan is expensive. If not careful, you would go over budget in a blink and that is one thing that can cramp the pleasure of travelling. And in that planning the trip via Skyscanner was a lifesaver.

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The first search in skyscanner made clear that Tokyo was cheapest way to enter Japan compared to other Japanese cities. Another search confirmed that I wasn’t saving any money by catching a flight to Tokyo from let’s say Mumbai. Bangalore was as good place as any to start the journey.

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Cheapest flight is to Tokyo

So, that’s decided I  time I visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima  (all are close to Tokyo); Okinara, Mt Fuji and Hokkaido will have to wait for next time. I planned for 10 days in  December, a month when I always try to visit a new place, a personal ritual. Skyscanner was obviously a best choice since it scans all flight sites such as expedia, makemytrip, cleartrip, ibibo etc for best deals – hence, it is a lifesaver.

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Flight to be booked to Tokyo in December

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Bangalore-Tokyo flight – cheapest one available on the day

The Tokyo plan is roughly like this:

Motto: Have fun, live in bit relaxing luxury and do bit different things.

  1. Shiastu treatment
  2. Eat an izakaya (A buffet with both Japanese and Asian-Western fusion dishes all at a very affordable price)
  3. Geisha dress up, it happens in both Tokyo and Kyoto. (Tho I have never aspired to dressup in Indian tourist places such as Kashmir, HP)
  4. Watch kabuki and geisha dances
  5. Helicopter cruising from Tokyo bay at night
  6. Day trip to Nara – JR train or a bus will suffice. To be decided later.
  7. Trip to Onsen (steam bath) – since I am going in December, imagine the pleasure of onsen in snow-capped places. Bliss.

Here is more of Tokyo in pictures: http://www.skyscanner.net/news/tokyo-pictures

Next stop – Hiroshima

I don’t like my holidays to be too packed. Plus they say some people have a trip in Japan going in and out of trains. So I thought I would deviate from the norm and use a flight for this trip. Faster as well. Skyscanner helped again. 🙂

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Tokyo to Hiroshima flight – 1.5 hrs

After going through usual sites like Peace Park, memorial etc in Hiroshima, I head to Kyoto, by JR rail this time, which I have been ignoring. I should utilise my week rail pass that I intend to buy. (I tried car hire from Hiroshima to Kyoto using skyscanner before I remembered I didn’t have a driver’s license.)

Picture5Next stop – Kyoto

Two of the key things to do in Kyoto was to go to green tea picking and visit Takarazuka theatres. (Google for more info please).

Hotel bookings

Since all major flight travel bookings were done, I then turned my attention to booking hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima. This was another easy job with Skyscanner as it has at its disposal LOT of options from various sites. At Skyscanner, I can search hotel results using filters such as popularity, price, stars and name. I checked these three factors when booking a hotel: location, price and reviews. At the end of the day, I was happy that I had found reasonably priced, good hotels!

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I booked hotels based on three key factors: Location, price and ratings

(See the highlighted tab in the first screenshot)

Hiroshima

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Easy hotel search at Skyscanner.com

Kyoto

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Hotel chosen at Kyoto – fast, reliable search

Actual hotel screenshots from the original site where you’ve to book. Nice place, isn’t it?

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Actual site where you can book the hotel in advance without any cancellation charges. Booking.com has been my favorite site. Glad, skyscanner scans along with hundreds of others!

Tokyo

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Finally the Tokyo hotel – not so expensive but good ratings!

And then back to Tokyo via JR rail to catch flight homeward. Sounds like a dream plan? To me, it is. 🙂

Total cost of trip

  1. Flights: 46, 483/- + 21, 809/- = 68292/-
  2. Hotels: Hiroshima: 2795/- + Kyoto: 4603/- + Tokyo: 8709/- = 16097/-

Total: 84394/-

(I still have 15k spare for other things and accommodate last minute travel plan changes.)

A sweet glimpse of this dream trip:

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May this dream come true. Amen!

(This post is a part of Skyscanner travel wizard activity at BlogAdda.com)

Interview with the Braveheart, Dr. Ritu Biyani

Today I bring to you an extraordinary story of a courageous woman, Dr. Capt. Ritu Biyani, who is based in Pune. She is a woman who has worn several hats – a dental surgeon in army, first Lady Officer paratrooper from the army dental corps, a mountaineer, skydiver and a thorough nomad.

Her story can be an inspiration to you, me and everyone who has faced, even for a moment, the dreaded fear that – This is it. The precious life that you have so far taken for granted, may no longer be there.

Dr. Ritu grappled with this fear in 2000 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought back and survived.

It is after the struggle for survival is over and acceptance for the inevitability of the situation seeps in; comes the hardest part – rebuild your new life. How you choose to do it, is where heroes differ from the common folks.

Dr. Ritu decided to dedicate her life for educating people on cancer, preventive measures and offering supportive care for those afflicted with it. She decided to reach out. To thousands of women and men, living along the length and breadth of the entire country. Yes, the length and breadth of the country. Literally.

She drove solo across the country, the four tips of India, along with her 14-year-old daughter Tista in a Ford endeavour for 177 days! Distance covered – a whopping 30, 220 kms! First woman to go on such a solo drive, she, along with her daughter Tista holds Limca Book of Records for first mother-daughter  duo  expedition on cancer awareness across the country.

Here’s a quick Q and A with the lady herself:

Why a road journey? Why this need to reach globally and not focus on just local awareness?

(Naughtily smiles) Yes, a good question when going only local could have made me famous as well, at least locally. But cancer is not a local problem. It does not recognize geographical, cultural, political, socio-economic boundaries.

I am a doctor, and yet I was taken unawares by breast cancer at a young age of 40. So my thought after survival was what about so many of the other women who in the course of multitasking in their different roles in daily life are unaware of their health. They keep their own health on low priority.  It is imperative that they must be forewarned and be groomed to prevent.

Traveling is second nature to me.  I am at peace when I am at roads. So I thought I would travel to people with my story, with scientific facts and basic awareness about cancer. I focus on oral cancer and cervix cancer, besides breast cancer.

That explained, I have undertaken several local initiatives like cancer walks, workshops etc. in Pune.

Continue reading ‘Interview with the Braveheart, Dr. Ritu Biyani’

Delhi to Pune

Life can change in a moment.

Suddenly I decided to pack my bags and move to a different city. Not that sudden though, since I did have about 20 days to prepare. There was not a day when I did not lament about having to leave my city, Delhi. Delhi is home, and leaving home is never so simple.

I entered Pune while it was raining hard. Rains had delayed my flight was by half and hour, it took even longer at the conveyor belt. Flights are sometimes painful experience for me, since I have a peculiar trouble in flight. So delay was certainly unhappy, coupled it was though by yucky in-flight movie: Chandni Chowk to China! More about that later.

Continue reading ‘Delhi to Pune’

Europe Tour: Slideshows

As promised, here are the complete Europe trip slideshows as created by Shreyas. Go on, have a look at the sideshows and don’t miss the captions.

Amsterdam

Brussels

Continue reading ‘Europe Tour: Slideshows’

A Trip to Europe: Part 4

Shreyaspeak:

February 24th 2008

It was carnival day in Arlon. It was time for everyone to get on to the streets and make one hell of a mess. The carnival is being held for the past 30 years and it is quite a sight. K, M and I decided to walk the streets of the city in the morning to just take in the pre-carnival atmosphere. The carnival procession was to start in the afternoon. We saw the preparations for the procession, people dressed in weird clothes, bands playing. The whole town was in frenzy. We ate French fries and bought a balloon for M that cost a whopping 5 Euros. Wow!!

Soon it was carnival procession time. We found ourselves a nice place to stand and watch the procession. The parade started with so many troupes of dancers, performers, bands, weird dressed up people, people throwing sweets and confetti.

Carnival at Arlon

Carnival Bunny

Kids throwing confetti at each other at Arlon

The whole sight was so colorful and so full of life. We really had a great time being a part of this carnival. Late in the evening, there was a tradition of burning an effigy to get rid of evil. There was a lot of drinking and dancing involved. We watched all of this from our apartment window. End of a very memorable and fun-filled day.

February 25th 2008

An early start to the day as I had to reach Luxembourg’s Gare Centrale in time to catch the 08:10 hours CET TGV to Paris-Est. Took the 20 minute train journey from Arlon to Luxembourg and was in time to get on the TGV. The journey to Paris was really comfortable but for the two long stops at the stations in Thionville and Metz.

After a two hour journey, I arrived at Paris-Est station. My next job was to find a place where I could get a printout of my hotel reservation and then, find the hotel itself. Thankfully, I found a place near the station, got the printout and found the hotel quite easily. I had booked a single room for two nights at this place called Bel Oranger nearby the Paris-Est station. The room costs 95 euro per night but since I had booked it online through a website, I got it for 55 euro for a night. Good bargain indeed.

Continue reading ‘A Trip to Europe: Part 4’

A Trip to Europe: Part 3

Shreayspeak:

February 20th 2008

My fourth day in Europe and today, I was headed to the city of Brugge. A two hour train journey from Brussels-Nord. During this journey, I finally solved the problem of my mobile. The connection was to be set to Line 2 whereas I had it on Line 1. A simple solution to a problem that had caused a lot of misery for me.

Brugge was one city I had no map for and no body accompanying me as well, I was pretty much on my own. I went about walking around the place without having any idea as to what was situated where. But it turned out that I did in fact hit the main old streets of Brugge, saw the main church.

City of Brugge

Church at Brugge

The old town is incredibly medieval in its outlook and if not for the cars, one would easily think that they have traveled back in time. The shopping streets are incredibly beautiful and the old town square is typically European.

Continue reading ‘A Trip to Europe: Part 3’

A Trip to Europe: Part 2

Shreyaspeak:

February 17th, (continued from Part 1)

Met up AP and Sam soon and roamed around Dam Square and the shopping districts of Amsterdam. Sam wanted a few old time records and a few souvenirs to take home. Visited many stores and loved the souvenir ideas of Amsterdam. They are definitely things to look out for… In one store, a T-shirt caught the eye of Sam but she could not find the right size. She enquired about it to sales girl and it turned out that the T-shirt wasn’t kept in the right shelf. The sales girl muttered some curses about the other guys working in the store saying ‘just two more years and I shall have the money I need to get out of this and study’. She was pretty pissed about the “morons”(that’s what she called them) she supposedly worked with.

Asking as to what else she does, she said that she was in a dance troupe and, soon, would be joining Mariah Carey’s dance group that was to tour Europe. She then asked us as to where we were from and hearing that we were from India, she said ‘people say that India will soon be on top in terms of economy. And why not? You guys have so much history’. We gladly agreed. It’s always nice to hear good things being said about ones country. (spoken like a true praise-hungry patriot)

Moving on, we went to a coffee shop called ‘Hunters’. Let’s get the difference between cafes and coffee shops straight. Cafes are normal places where you get coffee, tea and snacks. Coffee shops is where you get all that and also where you get to smoke pot (Hashish). Yes, it is legal to sell this in Amsterdam in small quantities. The first puff was expected to make me cough but it didn’t. Since it didn’t, the second and third weren’t expected to make me cough but they did. (uh, huh Hashish. This is certainly what they call beyond dream. :P) The couple seated at the next table had a hearty laugh about it.

Time for AP and Sam to catch their train back to Brussels since Sam had a morning flight from Brussels back to India . Saw them off at the station and proceeded to my dorm to freshen up. It was 21:00 hours and heh, that’s very early hours in Amsterdam.

Headed off to the red-light district to catch the “action”. There were more people in this place than during the day time and more windows were occupied. It’s quite a lovely sight. The streets have a few people coming towards you and asking if you want coke. It is advisable to just keep walking in such cases… Found a topless bar to get the night started with and what went on through the night is not going to be explained here (sorry!!). Hit the bed (this one was to sleep) at around 04:00 hours CET.

Continue reading ‘A Trip to Europe: Part 2’

A Trip to Europe: Part 1

Encouraged by the fact that my Goa trip series was awarded at Dabido’s blog, I decided to publish a friend, Shreyas’ travelogue to Europe. (Dabido, I also take this opportunity to thank you and Ashish who perhaps nominated my post.)

I was intrigued since day 1 when Shreyas told me he was embarking on an trip to Europe on his own. When he returned, I pestered him to write a travelogue until he did write one. 😀 Once I read his travelogue, I was intrigued by the personal touch Shreyas gave to his travelogue. Its not run of the mill where-to-visit story, it is simply how story of his visit with his thoughts and perceptions. 🙂 Without much ado, I will leave you to enjoy Shreyas journey through his words and pictures:

February 16th 2008

Departure from Bangalore to Chennai at 20:25 hours IST in Jet Airways. Arrival in Chennai at 21:15 hours IST. Spent time at the Chennai airport looking at other passengers initially. Had an obscenely expensive cutlet for dinner. Then, made my way to the Leela Palace lounge and watched the F A Cup game between Manchester United and Arsenal which ended up in a wonderful 4-0 win for the Red Devils. Great start to my trip indeed!! ( A real soccer lover, MU fan that my friend is!)

February 17th 2008

Departure from Chennai to Brussels at 01:15 hours IST in Jet Airways again. The flight was good with nice entertainment options and decent hospitality. Arrived at Brussels International Airport at 07:15 hours CET. Took a while to get my baggage, went through checks and then proceeded to the train station at -1 level of the airport terminal building.

Tintin, Captain Haddok and Snowy climbing down the stairs in Brussels

Continue reading ‘A Trip to Europe: Part 1’

My Trip to Goa: Day 4

This is last post in my Goa Trip series. I am posting this after a long gap of posting Day 3 experiences at Goa.

So back to Day 3 in Goa, we spent day exploring beaches on our Kinetic. Before evening, we realized that we hadn’t yet booked ourselves a return ticket to Mumbai. Trains were all booked. We were to spend the next day in Mumbai before catching the night flight to Delhi. We certainly could not miss spending one day with friends and family in Mumbai.

So we set out to Paulo travels office in Panjim on our Kinetics. Panjim is about 35 kms from Candolim Island. We had no clue about the roads. We asked around and used the ferry on Mandovi river to cross it. As soon as I landed in Panjim, my eyes fell on the movie theater in front. It was then playing Khoya Khoya Chand, a movie I had not watched and wanted to watch. My first instinct was, let’s watch this movie here. Of course, my friends berated me. You have come all the way to Goa just to watch a movie that you can watch in Delhi? I had no choice but to agree with them. 😦

View of a Panjim church at night. We just passed by them.

We asked around and rushed to Kadamba bus stand. To our dismay, there were no tickets available for Mumbai at either Raj travels or Paulo travels. We asked around and finally managed to book ourselves a Volvo for next day to Goregaon in Mumbai. Our main purpose fulfilled, we decided to buy goodies from Panjim for our families.

Continue reading ‘My Trip to Goa: Day 4’

My Trip to Goa: Day 3

Lost in Goa

After indulging in water sports in Goa, we started moving toward our rented Kinetic. What! we did not remember where we parked it. All exit points looked same to us. Sand and shacks everywhere. And you know what, when we asked for the directions, we were told that we were still at Candolim beach and not Calangute! Calangute was just a road away at next turn! We spent 15-20 minutes to search for our bikes, but no avail! 😦 I was getting tired, hence I was very chauvinistically suggested that girls should sit at Barista so that guys could get the bikes! Well, we girls revengefully ordered most expensive drink at Barista, hoping to get it paid by absentees. 🙂

At a Goan Disco

At night, we decided to go to famous disco called Tito’s at Bagha beach. They were having a full-blown party-cum-stage show that night that cost 4500/- for a couple. There was a long queue that would have easily taken us 20 minutes to buy their tickets. The show was too crowded inside as well. We decided to go to Mambo’s that was adjacent to Tito’s. It was also crowded, yet comparatively it was not as suffocating as Tito’s. They were charging 1200/- per couple. We were starving for dinner. So we verified at the counter, if they did serve food. They answered yes, a false claim that we were to discover later in edibles. 😦 Once inside Mambo’s, we were told in the kitchen that only kathi rolls were available. I guess that night we all had only kathi rolls, drinks and hookah. I had gin and tonic. I don’t remember what else I drank that night, but I remember being bit tipsy. 😛

Continue reading ‘My Trip to Goa: Day 3’


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