Category Archives: Travel

Curating Itineraries 

While I love travelling and exploring new places, our recent trips have been requiring a lot more planning and deciding on places to visit. This curation of itineraries have now become as enjoyable as the travel itself.

Travelogues & Travel Vlogs: 

There was a time when I read a lot of travelogues and travel blogs and imagined what each place would be like looking at the few photos added as part of that article/blog post. 

But nowadays, with a lot of travel vloggers/ digital nomads / YouTube creators posting a lot of their personal travel videos, there is a wide variety of visual media about every other place. Not to forget all those aerial videos shot by a drone, which gives such a beautiful, extensive coverage of a place, that watching a drone shot only results in more and more places getting added to your wishlist. Depending on the destination of your choice, this amount of information can either be a boon or a bane. 

Despite the huge amount of videos, I still prefer to read articles in several websites like The Cultutre Trip, Travel Triangle and Trip Savvy and Lakshmi Sharath’s and Arun Bhat’s blogs and, not to forget, all sorts of random articles shown as part of a ‘Google Search’. I also read books from ‘Lonely Planet’, ‘DK Eyewitness Travel’ and ‘Insight Guides’

Traveller Type: 

Any vacation planning always starts with the basic research of ‘things to do’ in that destination.

Being a family of heritage and nature lovers, we generally try to get information on whether a UNESCO World Heritage Site or a nature-related UNESCO spot like ‘Biosphere Reserve’ or ‘Global Geopark’ exists there. If it’s a destination within India, then we look for ‘Archaeological Survey of India’ (ASI) monuments too. 

Sun Temple, Modhera, India

An adventure-seeker or a party-goer or a solo traveller or a foodie might look for a completely different set of things to do.

Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk, Penang Hill, Malaysia

Trip Duration: 

This list of ‘things to do’ generally determines the approximate number of days required to visit a place. I also like to glance through all those pieces like ‘24 hrs/48 hrs in a city’ to see if just that duration is enough for a place.

Flight Offers: 

Of course, not always do we plan and book tickets. There are also times when we book the tickets and then do planning on the go. For instance, we had an absolutely wonderful vacation at Langkawi, Malaysia without any planning. In fact, since we hadn’t seen much of Malaysia, the only reason that we chose that destination was because of an offer from Scoot airlines. 🙂 

Scoot flight at Ngurah Rai Airport, Bali, Indonesia

For those residing in Singapore, you should check out those regular offers from Scoot (Jet Star & Air Asia too) to destinations in Southeast Asia (and India and Australia).

Advanced Booking for certain Attractions: 

Once the travel dates are finalized, we generally check if any attraction requires pre-booking of tickets. For instance, if you want to go to the top of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur to get some nice city views, then you should definitely book the tickets in advance since it generally gets sold out fast. 

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Also, do check out Klook for any offers on the tickets for attractions in Southeast Asia.

Accommodation & Food: 

The location is one of the main points which we generally consider when searching for a family-friendly accommodation. 

When you are travelling with kids, food is an important thing which you have to consider. In the case of foreign countries, we prefer a place near an Indian restaurant (preferably a pure vegetarian one, if possible). We use Google Maps to find restaurants and read their reviews before zeroing on one. 

Poori at MTR, Bengaluru, India

If we are to reach a destination during the night time, we generally prefer a place near the airport/ railway station/ bus terminus (at least for the first day) and not in some remote location. 

For city trips, we generally see where the majority of places of interest are located and try to find a hotel near that area. That way, we can either cover many places by foot or by just taking an auto or taxis from Grab / Gojek / Ola / Uber etc. 

In hill stations, we give first preference to a place near the city centre, since that’s where you will have a lot of food options and easy availability of transportation too. Besides, walking long distances on hilly terrain isn’t really my cup of tea. 

Hotel Shiva Vilas Palace, Sandur (Hampi), India

We generally book through Agoda or and always look for the option for free cancellation before the check-in date. We again read the reviews on these platforms as well as on Google Maps before deciding on one. But, there have been times when the room which we finally got did not match the description or the reviews. 

Local Transportation: 

No itinerary planning is complete without deciding on the mode of transport in the destination. 

Apart from the public transport buses and MRTs and, of course, the taxis – the usual full-day hired taxis or taxis from ride-hailing apps like Grab, Ola, Uber, Gojek, etc., each place also has its own unique transportation. 

Tram at Kolkata, India
Toy Train, Darjeeling, India

Tuk-tuks in Cambodia, autos in Myanmar & India, hop-on hop-off buses in Paris & Singapore, free shuttle buses in Kuala Lumpur & Penang, trams in Kolkata & Antwerp, tongas (horse cart) around Mysore Palace, train ride through Luxembourg, toy train in Ooty & Darjeeling, boat rides in Kolkata, Cambodia & Myanmar, funicular train in Penang, cable car access for some temples in Haridwar, Udaipur and Pavagadh and so on. 

I haven’t tried some of the above-mentioned options, but we do plan our day based on the available transport options in a place.

Google Maps: 

Apart from all the above-mentioned points, to me, personally, this is the real culprit which spoils the wanderlust in me. 🙂 Checking out one place on the map shows some other place nearby and before you know it, you are seeing photos of it, reading about it, all within the Google Maps app itself, and before you know it, you either divert the car to that place on the way on a whim or end up adding one more day to your itinerary just to cover that one place! 

Map of Langkawi, Malaysia

Checking out a place in Google Maps gives me the feeling of a child let loose in a chocolate factory! It’s another fact that I cannot resist a chocolate factory even now! We decided to skip visiting an archaeological site and instead went to the Amul chocolate factory during our trip to Gujarat! I still remember the aroma of chocolate that wafted through the air as we neared the factory and the sight of Choco Poco (Amul’s very own Gems) that literally poured out of the machine! 

Amul Chocolate Factory, Anand, India

Sorry for deviating from the topic, but now you know what my weakness other than travelling is. 


Ultimately, irrespective of how much ever planning that you might have done, there will be days when things might not go as per your plan. 

Something like changes in weather can change your travel plans or even cold, fever or tiredness can make you cut down on the places to visit or even something unbelievable like a pandemic can occur resulting in lockdowns of cities and countries and cancellations of flights and trains!  

But, there will also be days when you unexpectedly visit a new place which will give you a most memorable experience. 

Just like life in itself, travelling too is all about going in with the flow and experiencing every moment of it. If I appear to sound a bit philosophical here, as you experience discovering one place after another and meet all kinds of people, you continue to get reminded of how you are nothing but a mere speck in this vast universe! 

Happy Travelling! 

P.S.: I love reading travelogues and travel planning articles as much as I love travelling itself. Having read so many articles like this, I really wanted to give writing something like this a try. 🙂 

Enchanted by the Teal & Turquoise of the Sea

That phase of life when in your teens you went gaga over not just Hrithik Roshan, but also those turquoise & teal seas and the beautiful island in Kaho Na Pyar Hai! What if you suddenly got to reminisce about that phase while you are cruising on a speedboat at 100 km/hr speed right on those teal and turquoise waters?!

When I first moved to Singapore a decade back, I expected to see some beautiful beaches here, since, if not on an island, where else would you find beaches? But when that island happens to be a developed country and you resided right in the heart of the city and was totally caught up in the everyday routine of life, it didn’t matter whether there were beautiful beaches or not. After all, how many times have I even visited Marina beach all through my life? Anyway, a decade of living on an island had actually made me forget all about those deserted islands and pristine beaches.

When we planned for a trip to Langkawi, Malaysia, island hopping and mangrove tour were, indeed, part of our itinerary, like every other tourist. But, while reading through the itinerary of the package which we had chosen or even while watching a few YouTube videos of the places, I didn’t really notice the colour of the water.

Langkawi happens to be an archipelago which has geoforest parks having the status of UNESCO world heritage site.

Reaching Langkawi on a Friday evening, it was already 7 pm when we reached our hotel and, hence, we couldn’t do much that day apart from walking through some surrounding streets of our hotel and shopping at a supermarket.

The next day, we started our sightseeing with the island-hopping tour. It was some half an hour’s wait at the jetty before we could board the boat. It was an extremely unpleasant wait, though, thankfully in open space, with a strong smell of petrol in the air and no breeze whatsoever blowing.

I was distracted for some time initially, since my son, who was already scared of travelling by boat, had to sit amidst strangers since we boarded the boat last and couldn’t get seats together. I had to keep turning around to check on my daughter and son.

After some minutes, the beautiful landscape dotted with hills and hillocks on the edges of the water started grabbing my attention.
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Kurumugil Song & Gujarat Marvels

In recent times, if there was a movie that I really wanted to watch after seeing all the initial trailers, it had to be Sita Ramam. It’s another fact that I didn’t watch until it got released on Amazon Prime!

Seeing the trailers and promos, all the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of Ram apart, there was this one song that had me going back to it again and again, right from the lyric video release. The visuals, the music, the backdrop, the charming Dulquer & Mrunal – it was one of those rare songs that was very captivating, both musically and visually!

The colourful, animated butterflies flying rhythmically to the soft, opening music full of old-world charm (The role that these butterflies play in this movie, especially till the climax! Sigh!), the simple, poetic lyrics, the veena in the interludes and in the ending of many lines all through the song, the sight and sound of kids singing and dancing in chorus (do we even have such beautiful chorus in songs, nowadays?), the happy faces of Sitamahalakshmi and Ram 🙂 and, besides all these, the locations with some stunning architecture! What a beautiful setting the stepwell with all its mini-gopurams made for all the kids to run around along with the hero and the heroine!

It wasn’t until the full video of this song was released, that the magnificence of the location became fully apparent. The place fascinated me so much that Google search and much planning later, we visited the Modhera Sun Temple just to see that beautiful step well! Hearing the legend that Lord Rama and Sita once visited this place, we were wondering if that was the reason why this location was chosen to be featured in the song of our Sita Mahalakshmi and Ram. 🙂

Visiting Rani Ki Vav too along with this place, I realized that the famed stepwell featured in our Rs. 100 note is also featured in this song!

The surprise came in the form of the streets of this place called Sidhpur, which we took a detour to, on a whim, on the way to Rani Ki Vav, while googling for any other places to visit nearby. Google Maps said that there was an architecturally splendid, ruined temple named Rudra Mahalaya temple. As we were travelling on the congested market roads of Sidhpur, to our surprise, my husband spotted the Europe-like streets featured right from the opening sequences of Kurumugil till the end! Wow! We had never heard about the Bohra mansions of Sidhpur. Didn’t these mansions just add on to the old-world charm brought out by the opening music in the song? No wonder camels were a part of those scenes in the song, since that part of Gujarat had its fair share of camels and camel carts!

Since visiting these places, Kurumugil has become even more close to my heart, since it no longer just takes me back to the world of Sita Mahalakshmi and Ram, but also makes me reminisce about my epic heritage trip.

The Travel Bug

One thing that often feels surreal in my mind nowadays is how much travel I have been doing in the recent times. A little more than a decade ago, there was this craving in me to visit a lot of places. At the peak of my blogging spree, I read about a lot of places in travelogues and travel blogs and very badly wanted to see every one of them.

As I tick off Hampi, Badami, Pattadakkal, Aihole, Mahakoota, Banashankari, Madurai, Rameswaram, Cambodia and Myanmar from the destinations list, all visited within a span of one year, it indeed feels surreal that I have finally visited so many places that I have only been reading about so far!
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Mingalarbar from Myanmar!

When we started planning for our vacation to Myanmar, every book or travelogue mentioned that you will be greeted with ‘Mingalarbar / Mingalaba’, Myanmar’s very own version of ‘Hello’ except that it means a lot more than just a ‘Hello’, since it is apparently derived from the Buddhist Pali word ‘Mangalar’ meaning ‘source of prosperity, blessing or anything joyous or auspicious’.

We were first greeted with a ‘Mingalarbar’ at the security check at Changi Airport, Singapore. After that, right from the drivers to Hotel staff to shopkeepers, everyone everywhere continued to greet us the same way. There were even those that went to greet us with a ‘Namaste’. Greetings apart, the entire set of people we came across all through our trip turned out to be very courteous.

The Hampi Dream

There are some places that you keep dreaming of visiting some day in your life. Hampi – the erstwhile glorious Vijayanagara empire – has always been that dream destination for me. It all started with the song, ‘Theendai’ from the Tamizh movie, ‘En Swaasa kaatre’ way back in 2000 when I first saw it. It was the pre-Google days when not every info was available at the touch of a mobile. So it took me some time to find out where the song was shot. I wanted to see the temple ruins and that beautiful stepped tank!

In the years that followed, my interest in temples developed beyond visiting them for religious reasons or generally admiring the beauty. I started learning more about the architectural details and the history. Then came the lectures on temple architecture by historian, Dr. Chithra Madhavan. The passion with which she spoke about temples and their history and architecture and the series of lectures on Hampi and Vijayanagara architecture that I attended at Musiri Chamber and Tattvaloka increased my fascination for Hampi. Hampi was that place where the temple architecture that we see today in most of the temples of Tamil Nadu developed. I really very badly wanted to visit that beautiful place filled with marvels in stone from where it all started!

Then there were all those travel blogs, especially that of Arun of His photographs of the place and other travelogues continued to make me wish that I could go there.

All these passion for Hampi and travelling suddenly had to take a backseat after I moved to Singapore and I got completely caught up in my crazed routine as a stay-at-home mom.

Post the visit to Cambodia in September this year, my interest in temple architecture was rekindled in full fervour. Now, all that was remaining was Hampi.

When you come to Madras/ India for just a few weeks during school holidays and have to accommodate several to-dos and consider several other factors, you get only a few days to plan for a trip within India. We had just three days to spare and immediately booked the train tickets lest any other programme comes up.

While our initial plan was to visit just Hampi for three days at a leisurely pace just like how we did at Angkor, Cambodia, in the end, our plan completely went in for a toss and we ended up doing Aihole – Pattadakkal – Mahakoota – Badami – Banashankari on day 1, complete relaxation and rejuvenation at Hotel Shivavilas Palace and Sri Kumaraswamy Temple and Chakrateerta at Sandur on day 2 and almost the entire Hampi (!) on day 3!

Barring a few places at Hampi, we did manage to see all that we saw as fully as possible, though not as thoroughly as we might have, had we had a few more extra hours.

Day 1 was also another dream-come-true for me as Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal and Mahakoota have always been second in my list of dream destinations to visit.

To say that I am so happy is an understatement to how I am feeling now after visiting Hampi! It is the fulfillment of little dreams like these that make some moments of your life very special!

The Angkor Trail

For the last 18 years or so, Hampi in Karanataka, India, had been that dream destination of my life which I wanted to visit to explore the ruined remains of Vijayanagara empire.

This year we indulged in our first vacation in the last few years – a trip to Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat, the dream destination of my husband. Unlike Hampi or any other heritage site in India, I wasn’t completely aware of the magnificence of Angkor Wat and the other temples. All I knew was it was the largest temple complex and the photos of it looked stunning. In the weeks leading up to the trip and even weeks after it, we started reading on Khmer temples and its architecture and are still reading more and more books on it.

The trip to Angkor Wat/ Siem Reap/ Cambodia turned out to be a trip of a lifetime! We spent 4 full days in leisure taking in as many temples in the Angkor region as possible. With seeing sunrise at Angkor Wat to sequentially visiting temples in each route, we did a comprehensive coverage of the entire place leaving just a few temples. The trip turned out to be exactly how I had always wanted to explore Hampi.

Suddenly, my interest in temple architecture was rekindled in full fervour. Now, all that was remaining was Hampi.

Phnom Kulen 1000 Lingas River & Waterfalls

We reached Siem Reap from Phnom Penh on our second evening in Cambodia. Siem Reap, as you will read everywhere, is the gateway to the temples of Angkor. Till then, we were yet to get a glimpse of any temple belonging to the times of Angkor Wat. So, the next morning, we started from Siem Reap to Phnom Kulen mountain with all eagerness and thus, began our exploration of the Khmer Architectural marvels.

Visitor Info:

There is an entry fee of $20 (USD) for going to Kulen Mountain / Phnom Kulen (Phnom means Mountain in Khmer) and this is different from the Angkor temple ticket/pass. Phnom Kulen is accessible by a single road which is used for ascent till 12 noon and descent after that.

Situated at a distance of 48 km from Siem Reap, Phnom Kulen has a beautiful waterfalls, 1000 lingas river, Preah Ang Thom featuring a huge, reclining Buddha and some ancient Khmer temples which are inaccessible by car. So, we didn’t visit those temples.
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Phnom Penh – First Impression

As the plane was getting ready to land in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, all that was visible was water everywhere with patches of land replete with development and buildings.

I didn’t quite fully know the magnitude of Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers at that time.

From the moment we came out of the plane at Phnom Penh International Airport, I kept getting a feeling of home, read India, all through. The airport didn’t have anything special enough.

Maybe it was the autos (and that too Bajaj autos!) and two-wheelers all over the congested roads.

Maybe it was the small/low-rise buildings forming the major part of the place or maybe it was the congested markets or maybe it was the dozen two-wheelers parked haphazardly everywhere,

Or maybe it was the flooding of roads in ankle-deep water just after a very short spell of heavy rain.

Or maybe it was the way the tuk-tuk drivers keep running behind you to take a ride or maybe the presence of beggars outside all the tourist attractions and temples.

Or maybe the sight of cotton candy, popcorn, pinwheels and balloons sold along the Tonle Sap river promenade at Sisowath Quay was reminiscent of all those and more being sold in Marina Beach.

Or maybe the presence of our Hindu Gods even in Buddhist temples.

Or maybe because the Cambodians’ way of greeting each other by joining both their hands together just like our very own way of greeting.

But there were a lot of other differences. To begin with, Cambodia follows the ‘Keep right’ while driving on the road unlike UK, India or Singapore. This is because of the influence of French on them.

You see all signboards of shops written predominantly in their local language, Khmer.

Apart from cars, two-wheelers and autos, tuk-tuks form a major part of traffic on road. A few cyclos which are similar to the erstwhile rickshaws of India are there too.

There is not one but two currencies used here – U.S. Dollar as well as Cambodian riel – and all the shops here accept both the currencies.

Rivers, pagodas, Buddist temples, markets, museums, Government offices, the royal palace, high-rise hotels – all these are what makes up Phnom Penh.

More on Phnom Penh in the upcoming posts….