Author Archives: admin

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. 🙂 

En Veedu Thaai Tamizh Nadu – As I long for home!

Visiting Penang, Malaysia, recently, I was struck by a pang of homesickness, stronger than ever.

Our first evening there was spent visiting three Hindu temples – Waterfall Hill Bala Thandayuthapanai Temple (ThaNNeer Malai Kovil), Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple and Nattukottai Chettiar Sri Muruga Temple. These three temples were quite farther away from the Georgetown City Centre and the calmness and the quietness in the locality lent an added divinity to these temples. Right below the Waterfall Hill Muruga temple, there were organizations like Hindu Mahajana Sangam, a Tamil school and Gandhi Peace Centre which were housed in small buildings. But for the Malay nameplates for these buildings, it wouldn’t have been surprising if someone had forgotten that they were not in Tamil Nadu, but were in a faraway country.

Some of the temples in Penang date back to more than a hundred years and temples like Sri Mariamman temple date back to 1833! Seeing our culture and traditions intact there, I wondered how it would have been back then.

No aeroplanes, no telephones, no WhatsApp to help you constantly stay in touch with your family back home. What made those people leave their home, board ships and migrate to a faraway island which practically didn’t have much back then? How many days did it take for them to reach this place from their home? How many times did they actually visit their home again? It obviously wouldn’t have been as easy as boarding a flight and reaching your home in just 4 hours!

As they were trying to recreate a piece of their home in an unknown place by following their culture and traditions and building temples for worshiping their deities, how did they handle the life here amidst unknown people from different countries and their longing for the life back at home? As the years passed by, did they miss their home more and more or did they learn to seek comfort in their new life and get settled there happily?

As thoughts after thoughts raced through my mind, I eventually realized that my thoughts were no longer about those people who migrated more than a century back, but it was more about only my own thoughts and feelings.

It could be visiting a place like this or it could be something as simple as listening to

en veeDu thaai Tamizh Naadu enre sollaDaa
en naamam Indian enre enrum nillaDaa

You never know when you feel that pang of homesickness triggered within you!

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.
Continue reading

My Current Playlist

Just thought of writing here what I am listening to nowadays….

A R Rahman’s masterpieces:

    • The classic Veera Raja Veera
    • The fun piece Nana from Couples Retreat
    • The soul-stirring Dichotomy of Fame from Rockstar
    • The playful Kuru Kuru KaNgaLile from, again, Couples Retreat
    • Ponni Nadhi from Ponniyin Selvan – the same Rahman can sound playful in Kuru Kuru KangaLile and pack so much energy in this ode to Ponni Nadhi
    • The haunting, contemplative Latika’s Theme
    • The inspirational ‘Never Give Up’ from Million Dollar Arm

The trailing background music of Kuru Kuru KaNgaLile is as lovely a piece in itself, as the one in the background for ‘Jugni’ from ‘Kaatru Veliyidai’. The vocals, the humming, the chords, the melody – there are multiple layers of awesome music running all through this less than 3 minute song.

Bliss of Navarasa Kannada:

  • Ni Paadamule Gati by Sanjay
  • Vande Sada Padmanabham by Sanjay
  • Naan Oru Vilayattu by Sikkil Gurucharan & Anil Srinivasan (Album – Tarunam)

The first two bring out the joyous shade of Navarsa Kannada, while the last one brings out the other rasa of Navarsa Kannada by being all soulful! 🙂

Finally, Sanjay’s Shri Parvati in the beautiful Shri Raagam is one song that I just can never have enough of! This is such a beautiful composition, replete with some lovely chittaswarams.

What are you listening to? 🙂

Kaatru Veliyidai Revisited

I just couldn’t get myself to watch Kaatru Veliyidai again, because the very thought of watching the abusive nature of Varun (VC) was making me feel really irritated! What madness is it that makes the human mind hold on to someone despite all the abusiveness!

I finally got myself to watch a few scenes some time last year and, before I knew it, I got hooked big time to the magic of ARR & Mani Ratnam. What music and what visuals!

It is one thing to portray the initial happy days of a simple relationship, like in Alaipayuthey and OK Kanmani, where the relationship itself is yet to really begin. But it is quite a task to portray a complex relationship like that of VC and Leela’s, which is synonymous with everything but happiness.
Continue reading

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.

Pink-necked Green Pigeon & Mynah

This tree having red-berries (Carpentaria Palm tree?) often hosts a wide variety of birds – be it the ubiquitous mynah, the tiny sunbird, occasionally a koel and even a bird as colourful as this pink-necked green pigeon!

Here’s a mynah grabbing that red berry and running away 🙂

The Koel

Among the sporadic posts written here in the last decade, the rain trees outside the windows of my home in Singapore have often found a mention and anyone still following this blog will know how much I love just standing and staring at those trees, taking in the greenery, the sight of the birds inhabiting it and the sleeping leaves as the sun starts to set. During silent times like weekday day times, I often have the chirping of birds for company. While orioles and mynahs are regulars, the woodpeckers, parrots and koels are the occasional inhabitants of these trees. A koel seems to have recently made a tree its home and, thus, I have been waking up to the beautiful singing of the koel every morning. A nice way to begin the day, isn’t it?

Unblock the block

I was reading some time back about how to unblock the writer’s block. Reading the point which talked about remembering the intention behind why one started to write had me getting back my inspiration in a flash. After all, I am still as passionate about all the things that I was passionate about back when I started to write and it was to share more about those passions that I started to write.