The capital city of Delhi is one of contradictions. It houses some of the greatest architectural accomplishments of the mighty Mughals and other Islamic rulers, and is yet one of the most congested, polluted cities I have been to. It’s got lavish malls and an excellent Metro system, and yet only areas of commercial and diplomatic importance are clean, green and well-maintained. For the history and architecture buff, there couldn’t be a better city in the country.
Getting around Delhi is super-easy, with the Delhi Metro Rail being efficient, well-connected, unbelievably cheap, and extremely helpful to outsiders. Uber and Ola help things even more, allowing you to discover the city’s jewels at your own pace.
Living in Asia has its perks. The weather, the food, and most importantly, easy access to incredible travel destinations. Singapore has consistently been a favourite among couples, friends and families alike. The Singapore Tourism Board reported an incredible 12.4 million international visitors from January to September 2016. 817,000 of them were Indians.
The ease of travel and range of accommodation catering to different budgets makes Singapore a must-do destination, even if you have just 48 hours.
Indigo, Scoot, Jet Airways and Air India Express operate budget flights from Chennai to Singapore (ranging from INR 13,000 to 16,000 return depending on when you book). Taking the 10pm flight will get you to Singapore at 4.40am local time. Check-in to your hotel and catch a few hours of sleep.
8:30 am – Singapore Zoo
The zoo is well connected by buses or you can take a taxi from the nearest train station connected to your line. Hang out with free range orangutans and lemurs, feed the giraffes, watch the Komodo dragon, learn about tropical and polar critters, and walk through the fragile forest enclosures. You can pack your own lunch or go to the restaurants on site for a choice of Indian, Malaysian, Chinese and international food. The zoo also offers River Safaris and Night Safaris which we decided to skip to be able to tick more things off our list.
We then took the free bus shuttle to the Khatib MRT station, and made our way to HarbourFront Station.
I’m staring at the visual symmetry of a stepwell in the middle of Rajasthan, and I can hardly believe my eyes. We’re on the last day of our Jaipur exploration and happened upon the Chand Ki Baoli by divine intervention from the travel Gods.
While touring the palaces and to-do monuments the previous day, we feel like we’re on a United Nations field trip. Tourists from all over the world wander around taking selfies at the glimmering Sheesh Mahal, and hold up victory signs as they pose with the mahouts and the poor elephants who’ve been taking captivated travellers up and down the hill all day.
We see something called Panna Meena Ka Kund on the tourist map and an auto-driver takes us to it. Through tiny streets and massive potholes we bump our way to the deserted stepwell. It’s taken us by complete surprise – there are no entry tickets and exactly zero tourists. And yet, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
In March 2016, I was lucky to get to visit a textile factory in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu. Since then I have learnt a lot about the water and soil pollution from textile dyeing units, and a lot more about sustainable vs fast fashion. I am personally an advocate for buying less and reusing more, and during my fleeting visit I did not have the opportunity to ask questions about pollution and proper waste treatment.
It was however a wonderful peek into the textile export industry that has put Indian produce on the global map, and this is a gist of that experience.
“Madam, please give me 5 star rating on the app” says the taxi driver as I jostle about getting my bags onto the over-crowded railway station entrance. “Sure, sure” I mumble half asleep. The strong smell of raw fish jolts my senses out of lethargy and I elbow my way through the human soup to the early morning Shatabdi taking me to Coimbatore. My mission is to see textile factories in the humble town of Tirupur, and I am armed with a million questions. Little do I know I am about to get a lesson in globalisation, international trade, and government policies.Continue reading Textile Luxury In Our Backyard
“What do you mean he was not your son? Who has all my clothes then?!” Our dear friends who were hosting us in Bangalore were dealing with a crisis. P had accidentally handed her best clothes to be ironed to someone who turned out not to be her ironing man’s son. While she stressed over if she’d given away her new M&S pants to an opportunistic thief, or donated them to someone asking for clothes, we decided to use the day to do something in Bangalore.
Every time I asked a Bangalorean what I can do when there they said – microbreweries, pubs, restaurants, and umm Nandi Hills? Imagine our delight when we found the Bangalore Palace – who even knew there was one?!
“How could you wear shorts to this trip?!” The Brit in the travel group was met with shocked expressions. “We have to buy you an emergency veshtinow, they’re not going to let you into the temples like that!” One of the many silk showrooms came to our rescue, but not without having to fight off efforts to sell us a pattu (silk) veshti.
The only time I’ve been to this tiny town was to see the Kailasanathar Temple for a college trip. It was meant to be to study the architecture and art history, but if memory serves right was more of a sing-your-lungs-out-on-the-bus trip.
This time though, we made it a point to see it properly and even chatted with the miffed priest who spoke surprisingly posh English. “It was those Brits” he said. “They plastered the temple to restore it, but look, does the colour even match the original stone?” Continue reading Temples and Silks in Kancheepuram
“It’s going to be a relaxed affair guys, you can wear whatever you’re comfortable in.” My soon to be Aussie SIL took us through the details of the upcoming wedding on Skype. “So shorts and T-shirt then?” While she was more than happy to accommodate our casual attire, the eye-rolling and low decibel mumbling from my old school FIL kept us in check.
The itinerary included Sydney and surrounding coastal towns, the Blue Mountains, and a couple of days in the mystical land of Uluru. Sydney is a tourist’s paradise – the Taronga Zoo, Sydney helicopter ride, and the Harbour Bridge climb are recommended must-dos. If you’re one for petting marsupials (an experience you cannot have anywhere else), head to the Featherdale Wildlife Park to hang out with free range wallabies. Continue reading Getting Hitched Down Under
Every weekend we have the same conversation – what should we do? Not ones for partying or pub-hopping, we end up watching a movie, catching up on chores, and occasionally trying a new restaurant.
We’ve been working on a book about Chennai for a very long time now (more about how long it takes to publish a book later), so in an attempt to check off all the ‘to do’ things in Chennai, we hit three recommended spots. The Vandalur Zoo, The Lighthouse, and the Egmore Museum. Continue reading Out And About Chennai
You know how we all have that neighbour who’s got better tiles, better furniture, nicer food that us, more friends than us, more faucets, a bigger TV, and we try and take a sneaky peek inside everytime we can? Colombo is like that enviable neighbour. A recent 4 day trip quickly reversed every expectation I had. Continue reading Why You Must Go To Colombo
You don’t realise the value of your friends till you fall ill on the top of a packed hill station, and your mommy isn’t there to make you soup and nurse you back to health. A recent trip to the Nilgiris proved disastrous in more ways than one. Continue reading Among the crowded rolling hills