Impermanence!

We grow up with dreams in our eyes and songs on our lips and we discover that life is not what we thought it would be. And then we discover nostalgia’ – Gabriel Marquez

This blog is more of a personal note, a pause-and-reflect kind of emotion. That feeling to hold on to the last few grains of memories. A blog to pay tribute to the one last thread of support in my life that made me see the vastness of opportunities outside of the confinement of the traditional small town – For Bauji!

I know I have written about him earlier, and that time I swear I did not know, that there will ever be a day where I would be describing him as a memory. Never pictured that he’d leave. Some people in our lives we really wish stayed forever. But then thats IMPERMANENCE I guess. He was an absolute legend in my life. A man who struggled from a very early age; then partition, disputes. He always told me he was never good with studies but then he was fantastic in sports. And boy, he made sports his passion. He was awarded with so many colors (the one sporstmen wear on the blazers) and he was damn proud of those. He never fell sick even once in his lifetime. He boasted about a healthy heart of a 60 year old even at the age of 99. Never ate outside food, hamesha ghar ka khana and ghar ki chai.

Anyway, you know my story thread until my last blog. I had moved back to Bundi for a good 7 months. And I mentioned in length about my stints back at home. So i’ll start from where I left. While I was at home, I would make pocket trips to different places within India, with Mumbai being the most frequent as my friends and work was here. Plus hotels were damn cheap. ๐Ÿ˜€

Last 3 months – May June and July brought me and my family on the edge. My Bua (Dad’s sister) got covid positive. The family panicked As it happened at the time when cases were not increasing but exploding. Bauji was worried as it was at that time when Rajasthan was flooding with cases. Hospitals were not admitting patients and oxygen cylinders were not available at all. So then Bauji, being the head and worried for his daughter ordered an ambulance and called Bua to Bundi to get admitted as there was some scope here. Her condition kept deteriorating and honestly, I know that sight, it was so horrible back then that even if a patient is mentally fighting hard to get better, when he/she sees the one next to his/her bed dies, they lose the will power. I think thats what happened with her. She could not fight for long as every day bodies were being wrapped in polybags and were transferred to crematorium. Bua passed away after about 20 days of battle with covid.

We all were upset but there was someone who broke from the inside more than us. He was broken and I used to be around him more than before as i did not want to leave him alone much. It crossed his mind that whats the point of living for so long that you see your kid die before you. I would just sit beside him, try to talk and to my surprise he actually kept a strong face. I remember him telling me ‘Arey koi baat nahi beta, bhagwaan ki marzi thi. Main hoon na’

[His Main hoon na ( I am there) had been my biggest support and I guess over the years I have learned that at times reassurance is so much powerful. I think its an underrated support – Reassurance. Anyone telling you, and its just the power of words in this otherwise unforgiving world – Hey! I am there, you’re good! ๐Ÿ™‚ ]

When I saw him saying Its Okay beta I am there, I was thinking what is this Man made of. He is breaking inside and its evident but to support his grandkids from falling apart. The one thing that he and we all were proud of his – The Will Power, was slowly deteriorating. I could see he was just willingly glued to his favt corner in the bed, listening to the news on his phone, Listening to youtube videos but eyes were glued to one corner as if the mind was overthinking constantly .

As if this was not enough and then my Tauji (Dad’s elder brother) and his daughter and I got Covid positive. I followed the guidelines, locked myself and took precautions but the most important thing I told my family was to not tell Bauji at all about my condition . I locked myself in the other house. My cousin who would take care of him on a day to day basis also got covid so she was locked as well. Bauji knew about her. And again, he was shattered as this time he thought he’d lose his family one by one. I saw the strongest man I ever knew, cry a bit, slyly trying to hide his tears as he thought he was going to lose his family and there’s nothing heโ€™d be able to do.

My cousin and I got better around the same time. We were so happy to be next to him again, try to get his mind off random overthinking and to make him smile. But that was short lived as Tauji’s condition deteriorated further and he had to be admitted. It was just before this I went to Mumbai as I had recovered from covid and I had some work and thought i’d make a weekend trip and be back in no time. Bauji was fine, He laughed when I told him give me money as I need to travel and he was enjoying his authority while scolding me as usual. lol

I got a call a day before I was to leave back from Mumbai to Bundi. It was late at night and my cousin callled me and she was crying real bad. She said Bauji’s health has suddenly deteriorated, he is losing consciousness and the oxygen level is fluctuating rapidly. I froze, I dont want to write on the things I pictured/imagined. All I knew I wasnt ready for whats coming. I got really restless to somehow leave back. I booked myself for the first flight the next day and I hoped and prayed that he gets better. He always got better.

As I was boarding I got the news. This part, I am not kidding, I broke down, I moved away from the boarding line, sat on a chair and I cried and cried. You know the worst part of all this, my mind immediately took me to the scene where I knew this time the home wont be the same as I left it. I was scared. I got this scared about 11 years ago when Mom passed. This feeling unfortunately was familar, I was like a hollow creature with nothing inside. Masking my tears with my cap and face mask, I took a look around with people going on about their business as usual, the bus had come to pick us up, the flight was ready as if nothing happened. While to me it was all in slo-mo, again. I suddenly dreaded, I did not want to go home anymore. I did not want to face what was on the other side. I kept crying my whole journey in the flight remembering that legend who shaped me to who I am as a human.

As our car was to reach home, I knew as I’ll enter all my fear would come true. Something that I knew but did not want to face, something I had seen and lived once already. Since It was covid times so there were not many people. It was deserted. Just few family members sitting outside in the lawn. I did not remove my cap and my mask as I did not want anyone to read and notice my face. My love for him was personal, I wanted to grieve alone. Like I did when mom left. I did not want anyone to even come close to me or touch or console me. As I made my way inside to the room where he used to lay down and talk to me, I stopped for a second, took a deep breath and went in. Side by side I could hear all my earlier dramas, yelling, screaming out his name that I used to do everytime I would visit him, it was all ringing in my head. But the reality this time was very different.

As I entered the room, as I looked at his side of the bed empty; I sat on my knees with my hands on the bed where he used to sleep and I couldnt control myself. He wasnt there. He just wasnt there. I hadnt felt this alone, left behind in a long time. I am not sure if I am able to put the same emotions in words. You know I grieve in pockets. I dont know if its related to my mind or what but I try to hide the deepest issues from the world and grieve about them alone when No one’s watching. It wont ever be that I have cried or let out in one go, it always happens in pockets. Like a sudden flash of memory and there the dam breaks again.

โ™ฅ๏ธ

I saw his watch lying unattended on the table, and it reminded me of my banter with him where I used to say I want a new watch and he’d proudly flaunt his Rs. 500 watch and say ‘Nalayak, See, this watch has been going on for a decade now and I still dont need another one and look at you, every year Sir wants a new one’. LOL. I kept the watch with me as a memory and will keep it for the rest of my life.

Funny how life can flip in a second. Funny how this is something that we all know still it ends up surprising us when we go through it. My world flipped upside down after him. How do you feel when the last suport you feel in this world leaves you. I saw a lot changed around me from then. I weighed words over actions and I saw many things far more clearly – some I wished I never saw but then thats life. Since then I am trying, to be the best version of me. A version he pictured, a version he was so proud of. I wont lie I got lost/maybe still lost in process to try to pick up some pieces, to fix the cracks deep down, to look forward and just BE.

One of the most clicheโ€™d statement we hear as we grow up is – ‘We should always spend more and more time with the ones we love as tomorrow is not promised’. Be it family or friends, Never miss an opportunity to tell the ones close to you about how much you love them. How grateful you are to have them and life is beautiful with them around. As I look back, I know the memories as well as the pain is still fresh but that man still makes me smile through it all. One thing that I am glad is I was with him during his last days. I had the chance to sit by his side and shit talk and laugh and make him laugh. I had never stayed this long in my hometown in 15 years as I did this time. Maybe it was all for a reason, Maybe there some force that knew I just had to be there!

From that day on – Its life AB (After Bauji)

Love and Light

Manu

@vegetariansharma

Society after 30!

Lately I know my travelogues be missing, C’ourse I miss them the mostest but a lot changed in last one year. To be honest, not much effect it had on me coz as my friends say ‘ You were well prepared for quarantine for years’ with reference to me being willingly locked in my apartment in Mumbai, with occasional(almost everyday drinking) and netflixing with my boy whisky(my dog) by my side. So its safe to say that I smooth sailed into quarantine. lol

My inspiration lately to write these blogs is often derived from some experiences and emotions that have resurfaced in my life, Some things that I tried hard to let go but have not been able to or something’s that has had an impact on me personally. Believe me, I am not writing all this to get attention (as still some think), I hardly even promote my posts, but my weird stupid blogs have become my friend, specially the ones who we vent our hidden inner emotions to.

For this blog I have a direction in mind, I hope I dont lose it mid way lol. The direction is about How our so called society looks at us after 30. Most of you know that I come from a small town in Rajasthan. Family is well known and established, Thanks to my mom even I had good education and managed to land myself a good job. But then has it ever happened that at times all these accolades fall short because the so called society has a certain scale on which you are measured – a basic graph that has age on X axis and parameters like School, College, marriage, kids on Y-axis. Well not that I have any complains with it. I am sure it has worked wonders for many, many that I have seen and grown with, everyone seem content and happy.

This is more about the ones who dont. The ones who probably have a different ask from life, the ones who have a different definition of success, completion and most importantly HAPPINESS. To find love is a beautiful thing, Infact LOVE is the only true intangible treasure that has the power to turn everything alright, to heal you with just one glance or touch. I always smile, respect and adore the ones who can proudly say that they’ve found it. But then there is also a segment of crowd that hasn’t. Some are still looking, some starting to give up coz they’ve spent a lot of time looking and some have given up and now channeling their energy into something else (mostly by being the support to the ones who have love)

Iโ€™ve learned to see life(for all that i have known until now) as a thing of balance, And I often quote the law of thermodynamics that I learned in chemistry that ‘energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed..’ which I try to apply in my life too, In the sense that… Ok I lost track of why I wrote that thermodynamics thing above, I might come back to it later. but then focusing back on the ‘Some of us’ who are running a bit late( as per the society) in finding ourselves or finding love or finding what we love. You know a lot of years were passed in trying to fit in, I have personally grown from being offended with everything said to me to letting it slide. I dont think I ever told this to anyone ever but I would secretly pick up habits/style of talking/being from people I used to admire because I never believed in ‘I was unique’ I would look at the way people would behave, talk, the confidence in particular I was obsessed with – How does this person have this quality? Does he/she not feel scared a bit? or is it just me who blows before every step he takes and even then ends up screwing. This often reflected in me trying to make decisions for most part of my life. I knew I was a little different in the way I look at things. For eg at work I am often told ‘This is not the way it happens, and I would say ‘said who? where is it written? and then I would still go and do it.

Nevertheless, Lets focus on Love and everything around it. Being away and working in a city as unforgiving as Mumbai, it did good to me personally. My first job was here, I met some of the most beautiful people, colleagues and friends here. It was here I had my heartbreaks, Love, My boy whisky came in my life, I discovered my passion for traveling. All this had a great impact on my self confidence too. I went from being an average ‘good for nothing’ to ‘yeah I know what I am’. They say you become the 4th person in the company of 3 you keep. So it is very important to select your tribe that matches your vibe. Being in Mumbai indeed wasn’t easy but I will talk about the good it did to me, I worked hard on my english (both formal and informal) Where I come from, english did not exist much, specially the spoken one. So back in school, me and a friend used to learn a new word every day and he would dial me on landline or I’d dial him and the first thing we used to speak was some random sentence that would have that new word incorporated in it. lol and we became so pro that everytime we used to figure whats the new word this time and say ‘Yeh kaha se seekha, what does this mean’. Seriously it was fun, coz otherwise here in Bundi Times of India English edition used to come one day late, meaning todays news will come day after tomorrow. So yeah, being in Mumbai I worked even harder on myself, I groomed on a physical and mental level, mostly because the enviornment around was so competitive, I loved it. I still make a lot of mistakes and still a lot to do but I wouldnt have reached even this much if it was not for being by myself in Mumbai

The reason I spoke about confidence and the positive impact of my last 10 years in Mumbai is because I started focusing on self, being proud, I learned to pat my own back even when no one did. But honestly, that still cant match up to someone you consider close telling you ‘hey I am so proud of you’. I have told my friends that if someone someday hugs and says ‘Man I am so proud of you’ I think I will dismantle like a sand castle. lol koi na. So yea, While you’re evolving, you dont realize that the society meter(the one i spoke earlier about) is ticking, I was running late on certain parameters decided by the so called society and slowly I could feel the heat.

Its funny though that all your accomplishments, your hard work, battling with loss, everything loses its value if its not on the society-graph. Depression? lol please dont bore us with non existing things for attention. Tell us when are you getting married! Arent you already way past your age. Me – ‘Yeah but I feel thers’ a lot to figure for myself first’. Them – ‘what? where you learned all this from?’ Sending you away was a mistake it seems’. ‘you are such a loner and you’ll be this way it seems’. Me – ‘okay I need some help with certain things I am going through’ Them – ‘Get married first’ Me – ‘Can you guarantee my unresolved issues will magically solve themselves If I get married’ Them – ‘ Boy You talk too much, who is teaching you all this, is this what Mumbai has taught you’

See I dont blame the rest for being the way they are. Most dont question so life is rather easier. The ones who question or try to tread a bit different from the decided path, are often stuffed with more of what they already going through. But then is it also so difficult to focus on the individual and not on ‘what people will say’, focus on the indivudual’s accomplishments and for once to step out of the x and y axis and maybe set new parameters. After all life is all about getting from point A to Z with nothing but love and happiness in between.

I wont lie, but just picture yourself, working hard on you every second of the day, you want to spread the same with the ones real close to you but everything you do or attempt is willingly or unwillingly unacknowledged because none of that matters If you aren’t following what the world says. Lets understand this with an example – One of your friend/colleague throws a party, with people attending from all walks/streams of life. You and the friend/colleague had a small disagreement over different views that you have and none is wrong, itsjust different. You visit the party with a gift/wine and you are outright ignored and the thing you got is unacknowledged while you see the same friend/colleague gushing over the smallest of things others brought. How do you feel! only coz you have a different viewpoint than the rest. (consider the friend/colleague as society and You as you) IDK if this example made sense, it did while writing. lol

Quite often I am told, this whole social media is a scam, to be honest, I have been a vocal advocate of how the datas and privacy is breached by social media giants and all but on the flip side, this has come as a blessing, atleast to me. You see, I have had the lowest and the worst year that went by and it had nothing to do with covid or lockdown. (Though I am now in the best space physically and mentally). In this time, it was only and only my dog and all you guys, lol, surprisingly showered with so much love and attention always. And I am not saying to just say it, it is true. There were times I would not post a single story or any update and my DMs would be flooded mostly with concerns, checking if I was okay. You have no idea how all that helped me sail through. I mean how many people around can actually say that. So to all, and everyone who is reading this and even not, You’ll have had interestingly deeper impact on me. and Dont we all remember who helped us when chips were down! ๐Ÿ™‚

Another important thing that not just helped but also gave a relief was that due to these connections and my posts or any stupid thing i would publish, I connected with so many of you who were either going through the same, or have been through the same. I still keep a collage of all good things/DMs/Texts in my favt folder to constantly remind me that I am not Alone. As Babu bhaiya from hera pheri said ‘Khushiyaan baatne se badhti hai aur dukh baatne se kam hota hai’ ~ ‘Happiness multiplies and sadness reduces when shared’ โค

I think I wrote enough, the whole idea has been to just highlight how you are seen for being a little early or late on the socio-graph. So what though! I am also one stubborn man myself, haha. I been running away mostly from certain questions and expectations, the moment any of it gets heated up again, I run again. So already planning my next escape. ๐Ÿ˜€ Its been fun though. Love you guys! ๐Ÿ™‚

weirdly my neighbor is playing the song – Pal bhar ke liye koi hume pyaar kar le, jhoota hi sahi ๐Ÿ˜›

Pic for attention ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ™ˆ

Signing off

MRS

That hockey stick in the bedroom!

Okay! this blog is a bit off track from what I write usually, but it is something I wanted to pen down for a while. There’s something I noticed during my last trip here to Bundi (my hometown). It was like this wake up call that sort of reminded me to pause, and look beyond myself (for a change) lol

In order to make sense of it, I’d need to go back in time a bit. I might pour out some personal things but that is required. My close friends and acquaintances are aware of it but maybe its time to expand my thoughts to more. So, I lost my mom to cancer about 10 years ago. I was very naรฏve – had just started my job in Mumbai right after college. I think that is why I was the last one to be told about my moms condition. I was really close to her, ofcourse who isnt! I wont dwell into more details on it, as that is way too personal. So yeah, after my mom passed, for a very long time everything was in slow motion. I did not know what next. How will I cope. I think everyone in my family put up a brave face to the world, no one broke down in open but I bet my life everyone did, alone, hiding from the rest, coz I definitely did. Still do.

Right after my mom, I started being more and more reserved in my own shell. My connection at home was fading, I reduced the number of calls I would make home. Initially it would remind me the void that I’d miss mom’s voice, asking my whereabouts and all. I’d even dread coming to my hometown as I would try my best to avoid any situation that would lead to any debate in my head or anything. I distanced myself more, as on a personal front I still could not come to terms with the fact that she wasn’t there. Here in small towns, we are so experts in hiding the actual emotions and just be used to the things they are. The concept of ‘talk your heart out’ doesn’t exist in smaller cities.

You see, the upbringing in small towns is rather different, you and your parents will have have the gap of, umm idk what to say, yeah the gap of obedience. You respect everything they do and say. their word is your command. It is in every household. You say ‘Ji Mummy, Ji Daddy’ and you do your thing for the rest of the day. Their one phone call can get your high down and their one slap would factory reset you for a month. That is how it is and thats beautiful too, I mean you miss all that when you grow up.

During one of my recent visits home, I noticed something that moved me and it was like this jolt that opened my eyes to things I wasnt paying attention to. I noticed a hockey stick next to the bed in Dad’s bedroom. I saw it, didnt pay much attention in the afternoon but at night it got me thinking . I thought is this because he stays by himself, the house is big and he has kept it for his safety! While it was perhaps usual, coz here in small towns people have the habit of keeping something around, but i had never seen this before in my house.

That feeling of guilt/helplessness rushed through me. I have mostly been away from home, at times tried my best to be away as I did not want to encounter certain emotions again. I legit felt helpless. We get so busy growing up that we forget our parents are growing up too, and infact they become like kids as they grow up. Time passes by so slow if you see it day by day but so fast when you look back. It was at that moment I thought to myself to pay more attention at home, to whatever remains of how mom left. He has lost a partner too. My dad is a phenomenal character no doubt, he has his way of seeing things. All of my ego and clashes took a back seat recently and I figured, being the elder one, I have not given much back(as per society’s expectations) but least I could do is to repair the damage and take everything that there is – Only Upwards.

I think we all realize at some point in our lives about our priorities, I always wanted to avoid the basic circle of life – grow up, study, get married, have kids, get them married, die, perhaps that is why I hate the whole concept of society. My demands and expectations from myself are a bit different than the ones I see around me. I never labeled them as wrong for thinking different than me, I expect not be labeled too. We all are eventually moving towards the same goal and that is Happiness. It may have a different definition to you than it has for. None of that is wrong. We are all trying to provide – to provide for self, for our loved ones; to have a happy life. Everything comes to us at the right time, if not things atleast realization does happen at the right time. I am so glad I noticed all this and tried to change myself a bit. Had this happened a year ago or before I probably would not be able to see so many things as I was jinxed in my own shitty stuff that kept my vision foggy from all the important things.

Lastly, as 2021 dawns, I wish you all figure and realign your priorities. Man I can say one thing, no shit is as serious as we think or make it in our minds. I have had friends vanished on me without warning, I have had setbacks at work, I have visited Therapists(not massage therapists lol) in this year.. all these things that I was never prepared for, happened. And here I am, writing to you in the start of 2021. And as a matter of fact, from where I stand today, the view of tomorrow is lighter and clearer. And remember – Its never too late to come home! โค

Okay Dad is calling ๐Ÿ˜‰ Ciao!

My first trip in 2020: Day 2

November 14, 2020: while thinking of the date I just realized today is Children’s day as well. No mention I see at all about it though. I guess the craze was only till we would put stalls in schools called as ‘Baal Mela’ (kids fair) Memories with that is another avenue to be discussed some other time ๐Ÿ™‚

Yesterday was quite relaxed and not as hyperactive. I woke up, ran to meet Bauji, As usual I screamed from the lawn and I could hear him ‘ aa gaya nalayak’ from far, lol. I sat with him, spraying dettol spray all over, apparently thats only a Mumbai thing to do, I am literally mocked here for going overboard with sanitization. Maybe coz there’s no such big a threat I guess. But I have lived enough months between virus to be suddenly careless, plus the safety measure is more for them than it is for me.

Thats bauji tucked inside the blanket and yelling at me ๐Ÿ˜‚

So Yea, I was jumping around him, I dont know why though, its only with him I become this 10 year old kid always asking for something. While as a kid it used to be biscuits and bournvita and I remember I would wait for him to come from market and run to his scooter to snatch the big bag and hunt for the things I asked him. Funnily enough I would know the sound of his scooter from far as it would take turn to the street for home and I used to run to the main gate of the old house. And as I can rightly say, from asking for Rasna to a college fees we all grew up. lol. I chilled with him and my cousin who stays at home with him, had jalebi and kachoris ๐Ÿ˜› and left for this historic landmark very close to home.

The place is called as 84 pillared Cenotaph or ’84 khambo ki chhatri’. Yet another place very close to me and my friends back in childhood. I am sure if they ever read it, they’ll be just as emotional as i am while writing abut it. Why so? coz this iconic landmark(which is now a ticketed heritage) was once our school-bunk hideout. We all would come here in school uniform, yapping endlessly about any random incident. Create stupid politics, connect random couples and then talk about everything stupid under the sun. Like that was our Parliament and we were proud self proclaimed ministers of random imaginary departments.

Coming from Mumbai, anywhere that its silent or a human-free zone feels spooky. As I entered the chhatri, there was not a single soul. I could hear some music filtered through the air, I knew it was coming from far. It took me a while to adjust to the silence as ofcourse not used to it. lol. The time as if slowed down, not a single soul around, no one to bother, just that magnificent place and its cold floor where I sat for an hour thinking about good old times ๐Ÿ™‚ I was clicking pics with my head in all possible directions until one such direction was UP and as I put my phone on self timer and looked up, I saw a hive of the biggest bees ever and I froze. lol, my effin soul left my body and laughed from far while I maintained a poker face and picked up my bag and ran. Not that they were to do any harm to me, but I have been attacked by bees in childhood, and yesterday wasnt the day I was willing to look like a swollen bun, so I left ๐Ÿ˜€

Within this second i spotted the hive. Lol

In the evening I went to Jait Sagar lake, one of the favt spots in the city for its beauty that can only be experienced in person. I will still try to explain to you – So its this lake full of Lotuses, with one thin road on one side, mountain on the other. On the other side of the road there is a garden that mixes with the other mountain and the jungle. Its green as far as your eyes can see. and far across the distance you see a tiny hunting palace that was used by the kings back in those days to hunt. A friend took me even further to a random trek and I was scared to trek even 50 mtrs as my mind had pictured a leopard coming out of bushes atleast 50 times. ๐Ÿ˜€ So I clicked a few pics and vanished. However, the journey was a beautiful one. Nothing beats the virginity of the Indian villages, the freshness, the air itself is healing. The ones who have been to an actual village knows what am talking about.

Certified trekker(in my head)

I must say I am surprisingly occupied here, haha, I mean my time is legit booked. With so many people through instagram and ones who are friends for about 20+ years are all around and I am so excited to meet, One such bunch of friends I met yesterday for dinner. It is always a walk, no infact a sprint down the memory lane with them and they lived upto my expectations yet again. They reminded me of people who were in our lives in school about 25 years ago when we were in Class 2nd and some other people, and teachers and their antics. I was so amazed coz I knew them all but forgot about them and they were talking about all our madness as if it happened last year. I must have not laughed this hard in a long time. I am still smiling while writing this. Missed this genuine connection. Perks of being from a small town as I always say ๐Ÿ™‚ After that I stood another childhood friend for a while, the champ waited for me for an hour and right after dinner I went to meet him, He was sitting alone on the road on his bike. In speed I crossed past him and then he followed and says ‘Kya be! Royal Enfield nahi dikhi bhai ki!’ hahaha. More about all this on next blog.

PS HAPPY HAPPIER HAPPIEST DIWALI

My First trip in 2020 : Bundi Day 1

Nov 12, 2020 – Hello there again! ๐Ÿ™‚ Long time eh. What a year this has been, feels like last week when the lockdown was imposed which I thought would last for about a month or two and after that I’d travel atleast somewhere. I knew this year would be domestic as a lot happened after my Greece trip that needed me to park myself and clear my head to a fresh page.

Well, Here I am. November 2020, Diwali time, Work from Home and lazyness got the best of me and so I was hardly even excited to go anywhere. And then Dad called about 2 weeks ago and in one sentence the call ended ‘Been about 2 years you havent come, If you planning to skip this time too, forget this place’. Cut to the next scene, I am all packed waiting at the airport ๐Ÿ˜€

While this trip has just started and there may not be much to share, however, unlike all my last trips, I thought to update this section daily. with what happened throughout the day, where I went and all that. One cant discount the fact that my hometown is one heck of an unexplored treasure that often gets masked due to the bigger cities like Jaipur, Kota and udaipur in the vicinity.

I dont care much about all that, to me this place has defined who I am, You never really realize this until you have left it all behind and then you come across with one pic somewhere on the net and damn, it teleports your right there. I’d say this this one blessing only us small townies can experience. Everything, even the slightest of things like a samosa stall can make us so nostalgic that we can talk about the quality and the rain-hideouts and waiting all wet for the garam garam(piping hot) samosas to be served

Let me tell you something about Bundi and my love for it. While the love always existed, But in the early days when I left town for higher studies, whenever anyone asked where i was from, I’d always say Kota as I would expect them to atleast know of that place coz its well known. I barely told anyone about this place because most people would have hard time locating kota, let alone them finding Bundi. As I stayed away for longer, my love for this place grew endlessly. All those places where we played, we ran, we went cycling, monsoon-picnics and what not. Everything you see today and go WOW, all of that was our playground, our arena where all my friends would sit for hours and stare at the moon’s reflection in the still water of Jait Sagar lake and talk about life. haha. life has been our favorite topic since forever. Funny that am sure today when all those friends look back, none of us knew that soon we would be standing at crossroads with a different road for everyone. To the flip side of it, I guess it is this city that has our roots so strong that no matter what we have become or where we are, It always calls us back. How many in the world today can feel that!

I was honestly feeling chained to one place for a long time, while Quarantine didn’t bother me much as I am selectively introvert anyway but after a while the mundane gets to you. Specially for a guy like me who is now a good number of kickass solo trips old, I had to get out and I realized due to no international travel a lot of people/bloggers were exploring India in their own unique way and I thought lets first explore and put my city on the map and then take it from there.

I caught an early morning flight yesterday(12 Nov), landed in Jaipur and then from there got picked up by my brother and his wife who were enroute bundi from Delhi, its quite a smooth sail on the road though. Bundi from Jaipur is about a 3.5 hour ride. We reached home at about 2 pm, unpacked, met Dad, usual some small talks over tea and crashed

Our midway halt at dhaaba

So, we have two houses in Bundi, one is the new one, was the dream project of my mom and dad together(built somewhere around 2001), pics you all have seen on my insta and here.

New House

and the other one is the old one where my favorite person today still lives at 100. Bauji as we call him, built that house in 1960s sometime and one BIG Family would stay there, believe me that house is a 1960 massive maze in itself or maybe that I was a kid and grew up mostly there, i used to get lost very easily. Every evening me and my friends from the neighborhood would meet up and run around, play cricket and hide and seek where the hiding spot would be any house in the whole street. It was an everyday ritual, until Mom would scream ‘Khaana khaane aa jao’ (come the food is ready) Boy! those days ๐Ÿ™‚ Funny that I am oscillating between the present and the past while writing this, But I hope I am able to get my emotion clear.

Old House. Built by bauji in 1960s

I woke up at around 4 pm, picked up my bike and ran to meet Bauji in the other house. Now this is my favorite part of the day. I been out of home for about 12+ years and everytime I come to this house, I always find this man sitting in the big hall, wrapped in a blanket with monkey cap in winters and sitting in his lungi in summers. HAHA, He perhaps hates to admit but the smile on his face hearing me scream BAUJI from far speaks otherwise that I am his favorite. I did what I do best, jumped right next to him like a 10 year old and screamed BAUJIIIII, and he was legit laughing, at 100 years old, with now a thin layer of skin on bones I was shocked to see him this way. I know its the age and he has lived the best life that i have known or seen. By best doesnt mean lavish, but the life of struggle, a self made man who was a sportsman all his life, I have seen political parties coming to him and asking for suggestions. the respect he has in the city and to an extent the state is unparalleled. People who know both of us say that I got the ego inherited directly from him.

What a phenomenal job he has done and the life he is seeing. I am proud af to be his grandson, though he lives amongst his great granddaughters too. Now this is one treasure no money can get you. I sat with him, did my traditional time pass conversations with him and was venting out my anger coz he did not wish me on my birthday. Brother and his wife joined soon after and it was a scene just like the good old times. All of us sitting and talking and bothering him and he enjoying all the attention and laughing. We could see tears roll down his eyes the more we made him laugh. he signaled to his left wanting to reach out to a towel, and I thought it was a bundle of notes he wanted to award me with. lol. Thats me bothering him. But yeah he liked that.

In this trip, fortunately a good number of friends are in town too, people who I went to school with. Another beauty of being from a small town, your friends age with you. you’ve shared tiffin in school with them and till today you share your stories(ofcourse now their kids share tiffin at their school) Nah! I still dont feel old at all.

So this was yesterday for me! Hopefully I will add more stories in coming days. Happy Diwali ya’ll.

Vegetariansharma in Europe – Italy ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น like nothing you’ve known!

YOU MAY HAVE THE UNIVERSE IF I MAY HAVE ITALY – Giuseppe Verdi

They say ‘Its better to See something once than to hear about it a thousand times

we truly are lucky to be living in this time where everything is connected, one person’s travelogue gives us an idea and excites us to plan our itineraries too. Yet no technology can ever match upto your own experience of the places that you see with your own eyes – live! Many of those who closely followed my journey this time on instagram and facebook, knew where I went but barely anyone knew how I decided on the places that I visited and why!

This trip got a lot of attention from countless people, all wanting to know more about the places, specially Italy. and why not! 90 percent of my trip was in Italy and the stubborn side of me wanted to compete with myself (earlier trips) and visit the least explored places.

From ‘oh you’re Indian, I love India’ to ‘Where on earth is India?’ From absolute strangers at some bar at 9 pm to travel buddies and wasted at 10.’ from having cookies as lunch to World’s best Pizza’s’ – I lived a dream in this trip and I cant wait to share with you the same

HOW IT BEGAN! –

The travel bug’s venom only spreads more and more and once you are infected and the only cure is to keep traveling. Ok so this planning was the funniest ever, because I knew i was going to Europe but didnt know where!! I had been to europe twice earlier but those trips were one country at a time. This time I wanted to visit atleast 3, i wanted more but then the message from the bank popped up (sign from the universe) ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

My first priority was Portugal, and it stayed till the end, until i was close to start my trip – will come to that later. I wanted to cover Lisbon, Porto, Faro and San Sebastian in Spain and Valencia and Seville and Madrid. I had booked my stay at all these places and i was all set. while i figured that Portugal visa dates were not available and someone suggested to try from France as the visa is easier from there and then i can go to Lisbon from there. I did the same.

I started the visa process for france, my earlier travel stamps helped and it took only 2 days for the visa to come. happiness knew no limits. immediately booked my tickets – Mumbai – Paris, Madrid – Mumbai. Everything else was in between. trip duration was all decided to be 14 days.

Now that the dates, tickets and stay was booked, I started doing research on the places, areas nearby and famous spots and things to do. I dont really know what got into me and one search led to another and next thing i know I was checking tickets and stay in Italy. LOOL

There was this one place that i really wanted to explore – a small town in south east of Italy called as Polignano. no one had heard of it, so beautiful that if pictures were true, then I knew it will be a trip of a lifetime. I checked on the places, distances, commute etc and here I was, with a revised itinery that wasย  – Mumbai – Paris – Rome – Bari – Polignano – Naples – Amalfi – Madrid – Mumbai. Capri was never a part of the plan, but then as i said, signs from the universe, a mistake at the very last minute made me cancel one thing and book another. you’ll know as you read through it.

So fellow travel enthusiasts, lets start with Paris!!

PARIS, France (July 5th- 8th )

I promise to be honest in my blog and I want no one to do the mistakes that i did. Paris was more like a landing spot to me as my Schengen visa was from France. My bookings were done, I wasnt really too excited about this city of romance but i thought, when am there, might as well spend a few days and strike off the Louvre and Eiffel from the bucket list ๐Ÿ˜‰ maybe someday when I have a lover, i will photoshop our picture together in front of it. lol

I stayed close to the Arc De triomphe, a monument that lies in the heart of the city with 12 streets stretching at 360 degrees from it. a beautiful sight no doubt. on the second day itself, i walked from ADT to Eiffel, the distance between the two is about 2 kms. I love walking, so it was cool. one of the famous streets from ADT is Champs Elysses. Itsย  Parisian answer to India’s famous Shopping street with World famous brands including the LV flagship store.

Of all the places i visited in Paris, the funniest and my favorite was Eiffel. I had seen millions of photos where people pose like they trying to catch the tip of it but to see it live was a funny experience altogether. it was as if everyone was competing against one another. Thanks to my selfie stick i tried my best shots too. You have to give it to the beauty of the monument. It was this time when the reality sank in, when I sat down, kept my bag aside and layed down on the park and thought to myself – Manu!! you are in france, out again on a solo trip and right in front of you is the Eiffel tower. goosebumps. what added to the excitement was that the trip hadnt even begun for me!

Next Day again the same routine, thats the perk of always staying in the city center or close to the famous spots. i highly recommend that. i walked through Arc De triomphe, this time I witnessed Paris celebrating France’s victory in Quarter Finals in FIFA 2018. ADT was covered in smoke with streets jammed, people yelling, drinking, firing crackers, smoke all over. ADT, as it lies in the center, has subways to reach to it, crowd had covered it all and people were all over and around it. drinking, hooting, all around. as i walked down the subway to have a closer look, I saw a bunch of people running towards me and all crying. i kept walking, and in no time my eyes started watering and i couldnt breathe for a minute. lol. It was my first ever experience of a tear gas, but what kind of celebration would make you use such gas. I left that question in Paris itself. Overall it was quite a sight. Little did I know that it would be France that will win FIFA 2018.

Seeing all that drama I made my way to the Eiffel again, this time I walked till its foot. sat on the bridge on that river and was observing people around. Mostly couples or families. i saw a lot of Indians too, people those who have been to eiffel tower would know that on the park, you see a lot of Indians selling water, beer and wine inย  a bucket. they keep roaming around all over, sit together for a while and get back to business. lol.

From Eiffel, i took a cab for Louvre. was there for about 15 minutes and got dropped back. then walked to the hotel.

I was deliberately taking it easy in Paris. I walked slowly, took random streets to find my way to the hotel, stopped wherever to have croissants, pizzas etc.

To sum it up now. Paris was not really that pleasant too, the city is overtly priced and I didnt find it much welcoming either. As a traveler i love to talk to people, to sit at some bar and have random conversations. In Paris, on my first day itself, i checked in to the hotel around 11 pm and the room given to me was wrong. the manager next day apologized but still, first impression lasts longer. It took Paris only 2 days to make me reconsider my entire trip and I was wondering, is this how Europe going to be for me. can i go back already. Hope kept me going and I kept telling myself – Boy! you aint seen nothing yet, you are going to see some of the most beautiful, unusual places on the planet. My next stop was ROME. And really, I was so excited to be there. Cabs in Paris are expensive, this was one of the first mistakes i made – to pay 50 euros one way from the airport to the hotel. that translates to 4000 INR.

Paris overview and Important Points

  1. Before booking open the city map and locate these places – Arc De triomphe and Eiffel and Champs Elysees. these are the main areas and I recommend you book your hotel to be around this place.
  2. If you are fond of walking then from these areas, you can cover most places walking. if you wish to go to Louvre, take a taxi from Eiffel, its max 10 euros. the tuk tuks are 30 euros. we have enogh of that in India plus i didnt find it that appealing or romantic.
  3. Read the reviews of your hotels thoroughly. I strictly check reviews as i write them too. see the amenities well. However, if you stay at the area mentioned above, you will have many restaurants at walking distance.
  4. Food and Drinks in Paris is expensive. say 1 veg pizza is about 12-15 euros. Thank god to my maggi cup noodles. ๐Ÿ˜›
  5. Airport transfers will get the best of your pocket. i paid 100 euros return. and that pissed me off.

ROME/ROMA – ITALIA

So here I am all smiles as now begins my favourite part of this magical trip. Paris indeed got me thinking that did I make the right choice to do this trip? I trusted my instincts and wanted to reach Rome. and BoY! As i look back now, My life changed with the experiences i have had and the place I visited.

I landed at the Fiumiccino Airport(FCO) that is about 40 kms on the outside of Rome. In Paris I paid about 50 euros one way from the airport to the hotel and i was pissed off. Hence i did my research on the transport options from the Rome airport. I came across with one article that said that further walking at the end of the airport, you can find buses that take you to the Roma Termini(the train station at the center of the city) for as low as 7 euros. I was alone, i had all the time in the world and Paris experience made me more alert to these things. I saw the Bus station at the end of Terminal 3 and booked my seat. Coincidentally the place where i was staying was walking distance from Roma Termini. These little signs made me believe that real magic of this trip will begin now. ๐Ÿ˜›

Rome was special for many reasons, one of the most important was that this was my first time ever in any hostel. Being Indian, my perception of the hostel was very different, more in a negative light. ‘How will i live with 5 strangers in one room?’ ‘where do people keep their luggage?’ ‘Shared Bathroom! No way’ ‘will it be safe and hygienic?’ countless thoughts and I wasnt sure how it will be.

The name of the Hostel was ‘ROMEHELLO’ and it had maximum rankings of the hostels in Rome, rated best for location, cleanliness, staff. and as i entered, my entire perception changed. In this trip, wherever i visited, i always checked in late, weird! lol.

In Rome as well I checked in around 10 pm or so and I was greeted with so much happiness and warmth as if they were waiting for me all day. The best part i loved was that no one at any 5 star hotel must have spoken or greeted me the way this hostel staff did. What a new thing to learn and its so true that half of your tiredness goes away if someone smiles and says hello. the same thing happened. The staff explained to me the hostel’s dos and donts and my room etc. handed me the map of ROme and i headed to my room straight.

As i opened the door of my room, I said ‘sorry’ and took a U turn. I saw a pretty girl sitting on one of beds, busy in her phone. I reconfirmed if I was in the right room. Must have annoyed her for sure by asking multiple times. Not my fault, this was the weirdest thing i was expecting after a long day to have a girl as one of my roommates, very unusual but a pretty encounter!!

The roomย  was really clean with a common bathroom inside the room and was spic and span. lockers were provided to everyone to keep your luggage. graffiti on the walls, gave this hostel a very young and lively look.

Camila (my roommate) was from Brazil, she and I got along like house on fire. She was really happy to learn that I was from India and its one of the places she really wants to visit and I was awestruck when she said that she was a ballet dancer.

I was really happy! with the decision of staying in a hostel. Didnt feel alone, not even forย  a minute. you meet so many people from different parts of the world and you drink, sit, eat with them and get to learn so much. the staff too was so supportive and sporty. It was fabulous overall. My 3rd roommate was from Mexico. sweet shy guy, was very young and was studying in spain but wanted to explore Italy. These 2 were my friends in Rome.

Every Day we all would get up, go for breakfast and then decide where to go. the best part was that no one would interfere in anyone’s itinery. One was visiting Vatican, one went to Colosseum and I decided to walk around and explore the streets with a map.

One of the most important things that i keep in mind when i travel or plan my travel is that my stay has to be in the city center. I Love walking and exploring small streets, i believe one often comes across things that catches your attention and is the real essence of the locality.

With a map circled with target areas, I started exploring the historical city of Rome/ ROMA. excitement to visit one of the 8 wonders of the world i.e Colosseum couldnt be contained and i started marching towards it. Rome is a city that can be best explored walking. Every street, no matter how narrow or big tells a story of the ancient Roman architecture. Romans have very well preserved it and with dignity. I stopped at various eateries, kept fueling myself up with coffee and croissants and finally, here I was, staring at the Colosseum.

The Colosseum was built in 70 AD and is a free standing amphitheater of sorts that was earlier used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles and its said that it could hold upto 60-80000 viewers. It is also the biggest amphitheater ever built. after staring at it for about 30 mins, i finally started to believe that i was actually in front of a monument that I had only seen in books or movies. It was quite hot so i climbed on one of the walls under a tree overlooking this magnificent masterpiece and kept my phone and bag aside. for about 1 hr, i was blank, no thoughts, no stress, no plan, just sitting aimlessly, as if the time stopped or i stopped for a while.

Walking back to my hostel I stopped at various cafe’s and souvenir shops. did i mention earlier how much i love collecting souvenirs!

FIFA fever was on with France being in semis and England on the other hand. All over you could feel the heat of the madness. being Indian it was just as mad as what cricket is to us. in europe the bars are mostly outdoors on the sidewalks. they dont drink to fall on the floor, they drink to get tipsy and enjoy the vibe.

It was like an unspoken ritual for me and my roommates to catch up after a long day of respective itineraries and just sit at the bar in the hostel and play some games or watch the match. this experience of me sitting with absolute strangers turned friends was one of a kind. so many stories to tell, so much to talk on so many things. it was wonderful

VATICAN – Smallest country in the world

This name and place needs no introduction. what i learned recently was that Vatican stands as an independent country on its own. situated in ROME is rougly the size of about 4 sq km. They sayย  it used to be much bigger in terms of area but has now shrunk to a smaller bit. however till today the rule stands that no building in rome can be taller than the VATICAN’s Dome. hence you dont see skyscrapers in ROME. interesting!

I was particularly excited about my trip to Vatican, it was about 5 kms from my hostel and my roommate from Brazil had already visited on her first day. she boosted me enough that i can reach there walking and i did the same. I started about 10 am in the morning and with the help of maps i reached and as i could see that famous St Basilica’s porch and the Dome, within a snap as if i was in some periodical drama. No matter how many times you see anything on TV or movies, the experience of seeing it live is something that cant be compared, ever.

Here’s a few things that you need to keep in mind if you are in Vatican:

  1. It is a crowded place indeed, with thousands of people visiting at a time.
  2. every hotel/hostel in Rome has tickets to skip the line at the Vatican.ย  you can buy the same from your hotel/hostel for about 30 euros. However the same has to be redeemed for another ticket at Visitor center once you are at Vatican
  3. I took my ticket and i though that was it, but i got lost in locating the visitor center. luckily I met an Indian guy who was there as an assistant to visitors and he suggested me that i take a guided tour
  4. At first I thought it was some gimmick but then I moved with the flow as i didnt have much option, seeing the crowd I kind of felt lost anyway.

The assistant, who immediately yelled out loud – Are you Varun Dhawan? took me by surprize as I literally paused while walking. ‘How d F do you know about him’? I asked. He replied – ‘I love Bollywood’ LOL. He then proudly explained how bollywood celebs visit Vatican etc etc. He convinced me to pay extra 20 euros and take guided tour instead which will help me understand the chapels and the architecture of the Vatican even better. I agreed.

The guided tours are a big business at Vatican, every 10 mins they form a group and with the help of a guide they take you inside. you are provided with a walkie talkie with headphones so at about 10 meter distance you can hear the guide. Main attractions inside the Vatican are the SISTINE CHAPEL, VATICAN MUSEUM and ST PETERS BASILICA(Worlds Biggest Church)

Taking the guided tour was indeed a good decision for me. the guide explained a lot about the history of the Vatican and How Pope is elected, How Michelangelo was assigned the work of the painting and architecture etc. It really is like time travel. all these years I had only heard and now i was seeing it all. To Sum up my experience inside the Vatican – MESMERIZING. the wall paintings, gold plated ceilings are preserved for centuries and is perhaps how Art should be defined.

Elated with the beauty and mystery of the Vatican, i made my way back to the hostel. I had given 1 day to Vatican and i finished that in just half a day. For the next day I decided to browse through the streets, get the local essence of the city. As it is ROME is world famous for so many things and i wanted to have my own answer to – WHY ROME WASNT BUILT IN A DAY ๐Ÿ˜›

On my last day in Rome i visited colosseum again, stopped in every street, for a better understanding of the routes, areas, landmarks etc. Every street here would lead you to some famous landmark. for egย  – one wrong understanding of the map took me to Fontana Di Trevi – a fountain that is believed to be a lucky charm, you flip a coin with your back towards it and make a wish. Its also an architectural masterpiece.

ROME OVERVIEW

  1. Book your stay around the Roma Termini (central train station). Everything else is closer to this. this will also help you get a cheaper transport from Airport to the Termini (7 euros in a bus) compared to 50 euros one way if you take a cab
  2. My hostel costed me about 180 euros for 4 nights! Which was a pretty good deal during season time.
  3. If you love walking, Rome will mesmerize you with magic in every street.
  4. Spend good amount of time at Colosseo. Admire world’s biggest amphitheater and picture some high end gladiatorial fights inside in full audience ๐Ÿ˜› Have some wine by the restaurant next to it.
  5. Give one full day to Vatican and I recommend the guided tour. It will help you understand the beauty of it and also the reasons of its being and better insights
  6. There are plenty of bars by the side of Colosseo, do visit Rome’s oldest bars there
  7. Also try world’s best Pizza’s at any of the Pizzerias, they are everywhere. ofcourse ITALY ๐Ÿ˜‰

POLIGNANO A MARE; BARI – ITALY

Most of you now must be suddenly even more keen on reading from here as those who followed my journey while I was at it, would know that this part of my trip was called as ‘A slice of Paradise’

As mentioned earlier, i had booked my hostel close to ROMA TERMINI, my next journey was to start from there. I had booked the train to Bari (south east of Italy) and from there another train to Polignano A Mare – a beautiful, secluded small italian town which is yet unexplored by regular tourists. Little did i know that the journey from hereon was going to be life changing with the views and beauty that i never thought i would have seen.

Why I planned the Off Beat Polignano A Mare?

The answer to this can be well understood by frequent travelers, because once you are addicted to something, you just want to keep getting better at it and you just want to explore more and more off beat destinations. Honestly, while I was planning this from India, I had no idea that it would be successful and more than that, it will be much moreย  beautiful than what pictures showed. Exploring small Italian towns was always a dream. I had seen a few pictures of the world famous restaurant in this town called as GROTTA PALAZEZZE and also the cliffs with water so clean like nothing i had seen before. I knew i had to do this, whatever it takes.

So i boarded my train from Rome and after crossing through the famous bits of the Tuscan region of Italy, i was in BARI, a big town in the south east side of Italy. till here the journey was smooth. But I had to change my train from Bari to Polignano. The Journey to BARI was about 4.5 hrs. I got stuck at Bari station as I didnt know what train to catch from now as it was a journey of only 30 mins so the ticket could be used in any train that would stop there, but the confusion was which train will stop in Polignano?! I asked a few people and faced the expected situation – language. like a lost tourist i was asking people around, and then I contacted my airbnb host. His name was Vito and that guy turned out to be like a blessing in disguise.

He guided me and infact he checked the schedule of trains for me and told me to see the screen and check for a specific train number, as i saw that, it was scheduled to arrive in 30 mins and I eventually boarded the right one.

From here started the journey that i will never be able to get off my heart and mind. In 30 mins i arrived in Polignano. I dont know why but it was the rarest incident where as i landed in a place so different and far away from the ususal, i was all smiles, alone. it was about 9 pm and sun was setting slowly. Vito guided me to his place and here I was crusing through streets so quiet, old people sitting outside their houses and talking. neighbors sitting together and talking and ofcourse staring at this random stranger dragging this trolley and heavy handbagย  in the middle of unknown. And i was still smiling. As it was a first ever experience to a place who no one knew about.

Danny and Vito were fabulous hosts and as i reached their place, Vito sat me down and explained the place, the city etc. I couldnt contain my excitement as i was finally in this heaven, pictures of which I saw on instagram. I aksed him – ‘Where is that restaurant?’ He laughed and explained to me on the map and i couldnt wait till tomorrow to run to explore this town.

I woke up to a wonderful breakfast made exclusively for me by Danny. It was really amazing talking to him and learning about the local culture and much more. Polignano is a city as small as Bandra in Mumbai. the city runs alongside the sea and as i said, its unexplored and untouched by Asian tourists specially. I walked to the stretch and until now I had no idea what i was going to see. As i went to the cliff side, I literally was in tears.

Walking towards the cliff I knew there was sea in the front, but as i reached the Balcony of the cliff and I looked down, the view got me emotional. I could see the depth of the rocks and the turquoise water hitting the rocks and the cliff. There were sea caves under the cliffs. Say I was standing on a balcony and below me I saw a boat entering the cave that was right under me. I stood still to soak in the beauty of this place. tried recording as many videos and click as many pictures as possible but the excitement was such that the fingers were running faster than my mind. I STILL CANT GET OVER THAT SIGHT.

It was like living a dream, i started walking across the stretch of the balcony. Polignano is a city that is basically on a cliff and it slides down to a few beaches and underwater caves as you move further. Its not just those cliffs but also the city that is just as beautiful. Small narrow streets, houses turned cafe’s and shops. White pavements with colored artifacts and street art. I would often sit down on the sidewalks and do nothing but stare at the crowd crossing through. Polignano is a very old city and the old town is very small with one church at the center and a few streets extending from it and a central area where you see restaurants and bars.

As you move out of the old town gate, you see another master design of mother nature, the U shaped natural beach. This truly was one heck of an experience. Once again it was getting too much for me to believe that what i was seeing, was it really there! I made my way down to the beach and saw everyone sunbathing and chilling. i am falling short of words to describe the sight, so i would let the picture decide for it ๐Ÿ™‚

Visiting this place was my escape from the usual and mundane life in real sense, it wasnt a regular city or anything like I had ever seen before . Now that i look back and think of it, it was the top highlights of my trip. If you could picture yourself in a small, really small town somewhere in south of italy where you see less of tourists and more locals, where the water is pristine and the air so fresh, thats how i lived those 3 days in a beautiful self imposed isolation in heaven.

POLIGNANO OVERVIEW

  1. Book your stay in advance, polignano is rapidly gaining popularity on tourist map and world over.
  2. I paid about 15000 INR for 3 nights in Polignano that included breakfast. I absolutely loved the airbnb accomodation of Dani and Vito
  3. one of the top highlights of this magical small town is the world famous restaurant called as GROTTA PALAZEZZE. A meal there can be very very heavy on your pocket and has to be booked in advance but the view truly is worth all the hype. A single 2 course meal here can be about 150-200 euros i.e 17000 INR
  4. Food otherwise is not that expensive but souvenirs are. I love collecting magnets hence i had to buy.
  5. If you arent that hydro phobic as I am, do try the boat tour. its too surreal to be true. I didnt try but i loved what I saw. I almost booked myself for it but backed out last minute. The tour takes you under the cliffs and to a small island and back. you see a different side of Polignano from the otherย  side and i bet its captivating. the tour is about 20 euros for 1.5 hrs

NAPLES ย  – Blessing in Disguiseย 

With extra bags full of memories i started my journey to Naples. Well This part wasnt as easy as it looked in my pictures. My real plan was to visit a small locality next to Amalfi called as Maiori. I booked this gorgeous looking villa from India itself and i was very proud. One important point though if you guys traveling to Europe, credit card bookings is a must, even if you book a refundable booking. I dont have one and i faced real issues. My booking would get canceled everyday as they would cancel it stating the debit cards arent accepted.

Coming back to the disaster here, so this booking in Villa Pandora at Maiori was done well in advance and it was non refundable. Little did i know back then about the public transport issues in this side of Italy. On my last day in Polignano i started prepping for my next destination, which was supposed to be Maiori. I started looking out for transport and was shocked to learn that there are no easy public transports available to the place that i booked. Trains are the most common and easy way to commute in Europe and here, the train was max to Naples. from Naples the options were you either take a ferry to amalfi, then change to Maiori. or you rent a private car and that option was not less than 150 euros one way. I did check on other options and one friend in India been constantly helping me out with options but there was none, unless am ready to pay 300 euros return via private car. The reason i didnt want to take ferry is because of the luggage i had. Let me simplify my ordeal to you –

From where i was i.e Polignano, I had to take a train to Bari (30mins journey) then wait for another train to Naples (5 hrs journey) and then hunt for a port to take me to Amalfi via ferry and then change again. There was no way in hell I was ready for that much of tension to reach a place. I had to take a call fast and then decided to let go of my booking in Maiori and rather make a fresh booking in Naples. i looked for options and this being the season time I was not getting many options in my budget. I got lucky with one place – Ramada, Naples. located very close to the central station where I was about to get off, i booked it.

At this point I was really frustrated that my itinerary for next 3 days came crashing down suddenly and bigger heartbreak wasย  losing about 250 euros of my booking in Maiori as it was non refundable. Now that I think of it, it still hurts but I guess I would have never experienced what i did with my change of plans.

They say everything happens for a reason and it cant be anymore apt in my case here. As i checked in at my usual check-in time in this tour (about 10 pm) I ran down to fill my room with enough booze supplies. Man I drank every god damn day in this trip as well. lol. Raising a toast to my madness, mistakes, happiness and to being proud of being where I am. I went to to the hotel bar and saw a pretty face sitting by the bar as they were about to shut, she looked latin to me, in no time i changed my plan to take booze into the room and instead i sat there deliberately. ๐Ÿ˜€ I honestly had no idea we would get into talking. I casually ordered for a Manhattan for myself and finally after the entire day of traveling, i was at ease.

“This cocktail looks like you have had a long and tiring day” she initiated the conversation

‘”F** Yeah It was, plus i lost some money coz of my stupid booking at one place” I said

we started talking and drinking and her energy was so infectious that I didnt feel tired at all. We were yapping like we were long lost buddies and what surprized me the most was that she was an ex american military who had to ‘Medically discharge’ as they say coz of a mishap that happened. WOW! I was instantly fascinated with her as she explained her army lifestyle and how she is now exploring life on her own terms. Thats the beauty of traveling alone. you meet crazy people and the stories you get to hear and tell. She was way too enthusiastic about everything and believed in not wasting a single minute. I wont be lying if i said that i never met any girl so quick in staarting a conversation and as you turn, in no time she has made friends with anyone who is around her. lol

Both of us decided to explore Capri together. I told her about my fear of water and saw a wicked smile on her face with one eyebrow up, as if now her short term goal was to somehow throw me into the water. lol As it was my first day or rather night in Naples I didnt want to wake up and rush to Amalfi or capri immediately. As is I was upset about the losing money to that booking. But Ashley(Ms Military) lost no time and as she woke up, she ran to explore Amalfi. Now before you picture these places, know that Amalfi, Sorrento, Positano or Capri are not in Naples. you need a tour to explore these places. So yeah! I woke up to her messages saying she was in Amalfi and i was laughing. Everytime i think of her, she kind of reflects that energy still ๐Ÿ™‚

We mutually agreed on exploring Capri the next day. I had to make the most of my changed itinery. So if not amalfi, Capri had to be the place. in my spare time I took a walk around the city of Naples and learned about Limoncello, a locally produced drink with alcohol content of 25-30% made from world famous Lemons of Amalfi region. Italians use it as a digestive post dinner, and its taken in shot glasses preferably.

Ashley and I did enough and quick research on Capri tours and with most of the top rated tours being sold out we decided to book one with the hotel itself. The tour was for about 130 euros with return jetty ticket from naples port. One option we had was to explore capri on our own but we stuck to the tour because we didnt have much time to do our homework on capri to explore it by ourselves, plus i read in various blogs that food, transport etc in Capri is expensive. well at least all that was covered in the tour.

CAPRI – *insert your favourite song on nature* โ™ฅ๏ธ

We boarded the jetty aroud 930 am and the journey was about 45 mins. Here starts another life changing experiences as one of the best highlights of my trip. as we neared capri the water was turning from blue to light blue and turquoise. you just wont or cant put your phone down for a second as you wouldnt want to miss a single moment to record the beauty of that place. The mountains of capri kept growing bigger as we went closer and you start seeing people on their private yachts parked in the middle of the sea, champagnes, pizzas and diving. true Italian style of luxury. We got off the port and I bet everyone who was in the jetty was awestruck with the beauty that was in front of us.

Unlike Polignano, Capri is already on world map of tourism and attracts about 30-40000 tourist per day in season time. As per our guide the population of Capri is about 50000 people. Capri is just one part of the island which is basically the base and the ports the top part is called as ANACAPRI (Ana in italian means top) We took a bus to go to anacapri and we were told to be prepared to witness the surreal beauty of this gorgeous little yet populated island that is also a holiday destination to various Local and international celebrities.

After various turns and uphill ride during the journey we crossed through the MAMA MIA ROAD. true to its name its called as Mama Mia road because the view from there is breathtaking and too good to be real. Like any picture taken from there will make a perfect wallpaper.

Here we are almost at the top of the island and the boats and jettys look like small white paper boats. We got off at Anacapri, while walking through those narrow streets with white houses covered with contrasting red and yellow flowers with just space for doors and windows to be seen, we arrived at a small market and on top of us was the cable car that takes one person at a time to the highest peak of the island.

Our guide noticed the childlike excitement in me and Ashley and she said if we wanted to go to the cable ride, she would give us 30 mins to go and explore and be back. the ride was for 11 euros but well, if you wont spend on scuh once in a lifetime experience whats the point of the trip then. In no time we both were in the queue for the cable ride.

As I was close to my turn to sit on that single carrier cable cart, I started to reconsider, maybe i had a fear of heights too which I didnt know. lol. But it was too late. I took a deep breath and i was pushed into the constant moving cable cart and up I started. I settled and in just 10 secs I felt the adrenaline rush like a sudden chill in my veins. and the view was like a drug. The high of getting higher to the topmost point in the Capri Island was worth every penny. Endless blue sea merging with the blue sky in the horizon with a small piece of land in the middle of heaven. what an exhilarating experience it was.

Finishing our cable tour we headed to have lunch which was included in out tour, thankfully. Post lunch we descended downhill to Capri. Here we stopped at a marketplace with narrow streets and a common porch. whats diffferent about this market? well unlike regular local shops, here the brands were of the likes of Dolce and Gabbana, Chanel, ferragamo and many more. Lined up as if its a regular local thing. Not my cup of tea, we know why! ๐Ÿ˜› I still browsed around and clicked some good pictures. it was indeed fascinating to see Chanel and Gabbana’s for the first time in a store covered with floral walls and climbers.

We went down and here my fear was put to test. Ashley was adamant to do a boat tour, which wasnt included in our package but they said it would be worth it. The tour takes you around the Capri Islands, through the Caves and the famous BLUE GROTTO(a.k.a GROTTA AZZURA) – A sea cave on the coast of the island, where the sunlight passes through the underwater cavity shining through the water. the cave is only 1 meter high and its open only when the sea water isnt rough.

I was panicking earlier on taking the tour but then when the guide asked who all are willing to go for it, everyone except me raised their hands. and FYI my tour had an old couple aged 60 years. I was ashamed of myself, but happy at the same time, as this was going to be the leap beyond my fears.

This tour is for 18 euros and it lasts about 1 hr around the entire island. As the tour started, i felt at ease, specially when I saw the old couple enjoying, initially i was scared but honestly, this ride was much much smoother compared to my ride from Naples to Capri. even tough this was a small boat. Here began my yet another experience that wouldnt be replicated ever again. Some things have to be lived once and as i was in that moment, on that boat, with every passing minute I was headed closer to conquering my fear. and then the boat guide announced that we will be crossing through what Italians call – CAVE OF LOVE. Secluded 3 huge rocks placed in the middle of the sea, with one having a naturally carved gate. Our boat was supposed to go through that.

Heart started beating faster, I knew this, would be a once in a lifetime experience, specially for a guy who never thought would get into a boat on deep waters. While cruising towards it our guide explained to us the myth attached to the cave of love, they say if you kiss while crossing under it, you and you r partner will live happily forever. lol

Ashley yelled – ‘What if someone dont have a partner?’

‘you can kiss me or the captain’ – said the Boat guide. haha

All aboard the boat, were smiling ear to ear as we crossed the cave. we all yelled 3..2…1 and on the other side of it, I felt i accomplished something. as if I stepped on the other side of my fear. Remember that moment in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, where Hrithik becomes numb after the dive and is just sitting and absorbing the beauty of it. That is exactly how I felt, as i turned back and saw the cave of love (now behind us). they say some experiences are priceless and I guess you know which ones in your life transcend you into a complete different and upgraded version of yourself, once you push yourself to limits you never knew existed. This was my moment and for the first time I felt happy and proud to not be able to put it in words and to just live it as it is.

Everything after this was in slow motion, it was an instant high and i couldnt get over it, we sat on the jetty back to Naples and as I reached the hotel, i opened a can of beer to celebrate. All Smiles, high on life. I was seeing myself from a very different viewpoint. ๐Ÿ™‚

CAPRI & NAPLES OVERVIEW

  1. if you already know you have to do capri, book your tour in advance. you may get discount of 10-20 Euros. The Tour will still cost you about 100 easily.
  2. You can also choose to stay in Capri for a day, This being an island, consider everything will be expensive. I suggest you do a day tour instead from Naples.
  3. If you want to explore Capri on your own from Port of Naples, the fare is 40 euros return for the jetty. Rest you pay separately for the transport, which i believe is expensive there. Which is why Tours are the best
  4. YOU MUST DO the cable cart in Ana Capri, reach at the topmost point of the island and see the view that you wouldnt have imagined ever in your life. its that gorgeous. The ride is about 1 euros
  5. Also, YOU MUST do the Boat ride, a separate tour around the Capri Island, you pay 18 euros for that but MAN!! once you in it, you would want to splurge all you got on the sight. if you are lucky, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT MISS THE BLUE GROTTO.

MADRID, ESPANA ( Last but not the least) –

Many of you who are well aware of the Europe map would wonder why Madrid was my last spot if I was in Italy. As mentioned earlier my original itinerey was Portugal and Spain, and hence my return flight was booked from Madrid. but my itinery changed for good and Italy replaced Portugal, but the return flight stayed as is. I boarded the flight and as i reached my hotel in Madrid, i realized i made a mistake again.

I am otherwise very particular about certain things during my trip. A good hotel in the city center is always what i look and book. This time I ended up bookingย  a hotel that was way far from the city center. Now far in Madrid terms means 5 kms away from the center. While I am used to walking 15 kms in a day when traveling. These 5 kms were impossible as the hotel was off the Highway. and you arent allowed to walk on the highways. The only option as my hotel suggested was metro. I got myself a card for 14 euros which was eligible for 10 journeys on the sky blue line. But then the closest metro station was about 2 km walk, through a residential area. in short it was a boring area with no essence of the capital.

However after a few stations, I got down at SOL, its said to be the center of the city and is full of culture in every street. Right from the bull fight street paints, Huge beef stores, bars almost everywhere, shops, Street performers. Everything was lit and everyone was busy exploring on their own. This was relaxing to me as well, as majority of my trip was in less populated areas and hotspots. This was a mtero, capital of Spain, home to Christiano Ronaldo. And i was ready to surrender to the city vibe. I shopped, sat by the cafe’s, googled and explored some famous hotspots. My trip couldnt have had a better conclusion than this. I lived my dream in these 2 weeks and I was ready to party in Worlds one of the top cities. I pub hopped on my own and i would start random conversations with people by the bar. everyone would share their experiences as most of them were tourist themselves. One thing i learned that they really have a fascination with India. Not sure if they want to visit, but everywhere I have been welcomed with a pleasant surprise and my country has definitely got them excited.

I was in Madrid for 4 nights, and every day i would follow the same routine. explore different areas, I wish Iย  booked a place nearby city center but thats fine as its over. I would conclude my night with a beer or two and sleep! All smiles. ๐Ÿ™‚

This was the end of my trip peeps. I seriously urge you to travel. you would be surprised to learn how beautiful does it feel to get lost sometimes, aimlessly. What rush you feel when you sit by the sea somewhere far far away from you own comfort zone and all you see is sunset and all you hear is the sea waves tapping the cliff under you. Time Stops! literally! C’est La vie!!

TRIP OVERVIEW

  1. I applied for my visa from France region. the schengen visa cost is about 6000 INR. I was told France visa comes quickly and in my case it came quickly than i expected.
  2. I am personally not a fan of Paris, it consumed a lot of my money and time. If you are a fan of eiffel or Lourve. I would rather you stay here for only one day. But as mentioned earlier book your hotel around Arc De Triomphe or Champs Elyssess
  3. My return flight costed me about 38k return. Emirates, which is bound to have Dubai halt. My landing destination was paris and return was from Madrid
  4. once in life try the famous European hostel living. even for a day. See and meet strangers and get to know them. They are really safe and cheap and hygienic.
  5. Rome is best explored on foot. But keep in mind to stay either around Colosseo, or Central Termini. the International airport is far from the city but you can do what I did. Pay 7 euros for a bus and it will drop you to termini. Otherwise cabs would charge 50 euros.
  6. Colosseo, Vatican, Fontana Di trevi, Ancient Remains of Rome and Bars by Colosseo are a must must watch
  7. My train journey from Rome termini to Bari and to Polignano was about 80 euros. But I wanted to try the first class experience. You can get a second class ticket for 50 euros. But keep in mind that Unlike India, train prices may change. so book and keep. There is literally no difference in first and second class compartments. They are all well equipped.
  8. If you are doing Polignano, and want to visit the world famous Restaurant, GROTTA PALAZEZZE, keep 150 euros aside. ๐Ÿ˜›
  9. Polignano has its own charm, the U shaped beach, the clliffs, caves. Its still not yet exploited, notย  by asian tourists to be honest. My stay in Polignano costed me 15000 for 3 nights, breakfast was included in Danny’s and Vitos Airbnb
  10. Flights across Europe are cheap but book well in advance. With one Schengen visa You can visit all schengen countries without any hassle.
  11. At Naples, book yourself around Castle Nuovo or Pizaa Vittoria. these are the plush areas of Naples and also the port of naples is right here, so the jettys to capri or Amalfi would be closer to you
  12. One day tour to Capri costs around 120 euros that includes return from Naples. However, as mentioned earier, YOU MUST DO THE BOAT TOUR and THE BLUE GROTTO. No point in visiting otherwise. Boat tour is additional 18 euros
  13. I couldnt do but you can definitely do a one day trip to Amalfi and Positano. Its just as amazing via ferry.
  14. MUST try the limoncello, you get it in bottles and it tastes like lemon slush but with alcohol. Its like a digestive for the Italians and they drink it after dinner.
  15. in polignano, take a 30 min bike ride or train to monopoli. Its yet another untouched, unexplored sea side beauty. unlike Polignano its flat surface and not on cliffs.
  16. MUST TRY the boat tour in Polignano as well. You see this gorgeous small town from a different angle
  17. Also the U shaped small beach called as LAMA Monachile Cala Porto. you have seen me there ๐Ÿ˜‰
  18. Usual beer in Italy costs you about 1-2 euros. my choice of food included pasta and pizzas mostly. pasta can range from 7-12 euros and Pizza would range about the same.
  19. Note that to reach Polignano, because its a very small town in the south east of Italy, is difficult. the train station is very small and less of its population speaks English.
  20. Try the lemon-orange slush once you in Capri. its nothing like you have ever tried before. Made from the homegrown lemons and crushed ice. its one of its kind
  21. If in Paris, sit by the foot of Eiffel and try the gelato. go around the sunset and see the light show. You see a lot of indians wandering around with a bucket selling water and beer

One Last and perhaps an important tip – Try Only Italy if possible rather than getting greedy to cover many countries. While my trip was nothing less than a dream, I still wish I hadnt had to spend money in Paris on bookings etc. I could have well used and extended my trip to Italy instead. Italy is one such country that has so much to offer and its vast diversity from Culture to pristine beaches, from Vatican to underwater cavelands. It deserves all your time. I didnt do North of Italy and the Tuscan region. But you can perhaps take a tour to PISA and see the leaning tower. and the Tuscan area and Florence too.

I hope my itinerary helps you to motivate yourself to go out there and explore the beauty of this world and write your own stories rather than to be told. Life is beautiful and its ending one minute at a time. I have been told, questioned and many are still surprised on How I make it happen? How i take so many trips. The answer to that is simple and is also known to the ones who ask these questions – Anyone can do it, Most people crib, they dont want to plan, if you dedicate your energy to it, anything is possible. Most of my trips are budgeted, all you got to do is to keep you eyes and ears open. there are many offers for interested ones. And once you step out, what seems impossible here, sitting at your comfort, you will be shocked to learn that its a part of ordinary lifestyle outside. GO FOR IT!

Love and Light

MANU ( Instagram @vegetariansharma)

Vegetariansharma in UK! 12 days of losing myself in a Fairytale vacation

So much excitement, so much to share, and here I go writing my yet another mad adventurous crazy trip to the continent I never thought I’d be able to visit.

They say credits should be given where its due. Hence, before I start, I dedicate this blog to my friends Ashish, Cedy and Rohit for proving my motto right that Friends can be family too. Every time I count my blessings and see the things that unfold in my life, i realize its not mere luck, its the people I’ve earned over the years and believe me! If you make right friends for whom you’ll do anything, they’ll do anything for you too.

Okay so! Lets get this started. Like my Turkey blog, i like to start from how the plan to UK germinated at first place. All thanks to Ashish who had been constantly forcing me to visit him and see the country as its been really long since he moved to Manchester and bought a house there. After my Turkey solo trip, i was like this Lion who just tasted blood and is now hungry for more. So UK had to be it.

VISA Process

As mentioned earlier, i never though i’d be able to visit UK as the visa process is too stringent and a lot more of documentation and proofs are required if you’re an Indian citizen. A regular working employee like me who doesnt know what savings are, it had to be more impossible I thought. One of my colleague, my boss to be precise, had recently visited London and helped me finish the regular formalities of the Visa form, documents etc and this was the beginning of my egoistic trip to UK.

I knew that it will take 10+ working days for sure for me to know whether or not i got it approved, and i was restless. My plannings are always last minute and if you read my Turkey blog you’ll know how! Lol. My bio-metrics date was 5th march and i was to travel from 22nd of March. Lets focus on the point here that after applying on the 5th i had to wait for 10 days i.e till 15th to get a Yes or a No and then i had to book my tickets accordingly ๐Ÿ˜ Time was a b**ch in my case or maybe its the way i plan ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

THE JOURNEY

As soon as the visa was done I contacted my friend in Manchester and told him about the same. Honestly my original plan was to only do London but thanks to my friend on convincing me to rather cover the countryside of UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง as well before actually doing London and of course i had to abide as the more i see the more memories i make โ™ฅ๏ธ

My Itinerary-Manchester – 2 daysโ€ข Edinburgh, Scotland – 2 daysโ€ข Scotland highlands- 1 day tourโ€ข Glassgow – 1.5 daysโ€ข London – 5 days. As i said this in my earlier blog that you never really travel alone, there’s a world full of people waiting to get to know you. This was absolutely right in this trip of mine as well for I met some of the most amazing people throughout my journey. I landed in Manchester and stayed over at my friends for 2 days. Here I met Swanand, a lively chap and also a traveler andย  Parind, this champ who has traveled to 70 effin countries and was off to Morocco ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฆ before taking a halt in Manchester. I felt so naive in front of these people talking about their travelogues, experiences and countries, languages. Thats the level i wish to reach some day. Incredible! My friend showed me around Manchester, one day Parind and i went for a walk on our own to explore the city. One of the best things I really enjoy in my trips is walking on the streets unknown, without any map, just to explore as i know i wont ever be lost and infact will discover something different. Something new! We walked a lot. Parind had this classic diary in which he had postal stamps from local post offices of all the countries he’d visited. I was amazed to see the stamps on it and it gave me this feel to be a traveler forever. Honestly, its a feel you only know when you travel and that too as a solo traveler or on your own kind of explorer. We were hunting for Manchester post office on the streets and he got his yet another stamp! Kudos boy!

I wont lie, i was kind of Jet lagged as my flight was of 15hrs and then time difference but my FOMO kept me awake for a long time. The excitement, the weather, everything just wouldn’t let me rest. Eventually i gave up, we came home, decided to rest a bit and then to head out clubbing the same night. My nap that was supposed to be of 2 hours before we’d go clubbing turned out to be of 10 hours and i woke up the ext day at 7 am. Struggling to light the fancy stove to make tea, finding something to eat around, eventually woke my friend up ๐Ÿ˜We had a train from Manchester to Edinburgh at 230 pm, so we decided to make the most of our time and headed to the MANCHESTER UNITED FOOTBALL STADIUM The weather in UK was just about perfect that is 5-6 degrees with Spring just breaking through winters and shedding the snow that had the city covered all this while.Coming from Mumbai its a no brainer that I love winters ๐Ÿ˜ป

SCOTLAND ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ณ๓ ฃ๓ ด๓ ฟ HERE I COME :

Manchester piccadilly station was where we boarded our train to Edinburgh

The journey was worth 5 hours of a magical countryside breathtaking view as we entered from England to Scotland. Trains in UK are a must, to really connect with the country on a personal level. Thats how you see the real remote places around.

My FOMO didnt really let me sleep throughout my journey as i didnt want to miss a single view that was to come my way.

I got down at Edinburgh haymarket station as the hotel I was staying at was walking distance from there.

I was staying at Hampton by Hilton in Edinburgh. Duration – 2 nights and 3 days

Edinburgh is the captial of Scotland and my friend mentioned that its one of his favourite cities, and it took me less than a minute after getting down to realize why! This city has the charm to take you back to those Royal fairytale days stories of which we heard in our childhood. Traditional houses that are made of stones and look like a sequence of small castles all around, lush green lawns perfectly trimmed to make you believe in the beauty of nature. I said this before during my live posts – you think of the best piece of nature that comes to your mind and then think one notch higher, thats Scotland for you! โ™ฅ๏ธ

Edinburgh’s top highlights include the Castle, Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh dungeon(where I didnt go inspite of being shamed and dared by my friends) The Church, Royal Mile, The Elephant cafe (where JK Rowling sat and wrote the first Harry Potter Book). Overall the entire city is breathtakingly beautiful, you’d come across countless small lanes that’d open to a picturesque view. There was hardly any moment where i had to put my camera down while browsing through the city.

I walked to the castle. The road to the castle is called as the Royal Mile and its a landmark in itself. With shops and restaurants lined up all the way till the castle, you also cant miss the traditional bagpipers playing across the mile. The castle is huge, no doubt, and has many museums to awaken the historic side of you. If you are keen on learning the Scotland’s legacy of rulers, fighters and the battles, all is pictorial inside the museum along with some crown jewels ๐Ÿ’Ž (the only room where you arent allowed to take pictures and is strictly guarded) The Edinburgh castle is located on top of a hill so the view you get is of the entire city with sea on one side and city on the other.

Across the Royal mile is located the famous Elephant cafe, this is the place where JK Rowling wrote the first ever Harry Potter book. The cafe looks like just another cafe on the block but on the glass you see the mark that reads ‘birthplace of harry potter’ with a picture of Rowling sitting and writing โœ๏ธ

Enough walking and browsing for one day, evenings in such weather would call for some local drink tasting and nightlife cruising. I went back to the hotel, rested a bit and charged myself up to see what Edinburgh was upto at night, it was a weekend hence I was expecting to see the city out and about.

I went down to the lobby to have a few drinks and then my friend decided to show me around as he had already been to this city before. Already inebriated, i don’t recollect where exactly we went but it was a great club. Lol. One thing i noticed about clubbing and nightlife in UK overall is, that unlike India, here the party goers start hopping the clubs from or around 10pm onwards. No seriously, i was coming from my Indian clock that misled me to believe that by default the clubs will open late and after they open the crowd will fill in easily from 1 am onwards but I was wrong, and as a result, i waited about 45 mins outside in the queue only to get in ๐Ÿ˜† whatever little bit of booze i had in my system was all gone till the time i entered and immediately ran to the nar to fill myself in. That itself was another struggle, but i was happy ๐Ÿ˜Š we had a few drinks, few locals even approached us flaunting the scottish way of hospitality. After knowing that we were from India, they bought us a round of irish whiskey, specially called as SMOKEY WHISKEY to try it out as they really savoured it and how. And it really was classic and ofcourse smokey. I immediately got hooked to the taste of it, and called for a few more of the same. At first one scottish lady gave me those dagger looks when I said i’d like my whiskey with ‘little coke’, took me not time to realize maybe she didnt like it! So i corrected myself and said ‘how ever you’d like’ with a broad smile. It was a wonderful night. I even got the privilege to talk to a few drunk locals outside the club, abusing uber, a small fight where a drunk man trying to enter the club but was pushed by the bouncers.

The next day’s plan was to climb that gigantic Arthur’s seat. This peak is a famous hiking destination in Edinburgh and is worth all the hype for the view it offers. Seeing that peak before starting i got in two minds whether or not to do it, but then you only live once, aint it!? What if once i left Edinburgh i’d regret of not hiking on the Arthur’s seat, so I walked towards the peak. Panting, stopping, running, dragging, finally after 1 hr or so i managed to reach at the top and Man! What a view! You see a complete 360 degree view of that magical city of Edinburgh with green lawns as far as your eyes can see and sea cutting through the city.

SCOTLAND HIGHLANDS โ™ฅ๏ธ

Just when I thought i was placed at worlds best scenic beauty, i was immediately given a dare by the nature as if it said ‘wait boy! You aint seen nothing yet!’

The next day we decided to take the SCOTLAND HIGHLANDS tour from Edinburgh. The tour costs about 48 pounds which is equivalent to 4000 odd Indian rupees and is a one day tour from morning till evening. They also have 2 days tour, choice is yours.

Early morning we were picked up from Edinburgh in a bus that had other clueless tourists like us who didn’t know what the day had in store. Honestly i cant describe the beauty of scotland highlands as it goes even beyond the perfect imagination of your mind. Its a journey where you blink and you miss the beauty that nature has been holding for centuries and is preserved just as is by this country.

Our driver was a funny man who kept guiding us and kept telling us stories as and when we crossed the famous spots. This was the day where the journey was more beautiful than the destination itself. Highlands comprise of the untouched mountain areas of Scotland that crosses through Multiple rivers, hills, snow covered roads etc. You also come across various castles built across the river with stories attahced to each one of it.

Few favourite spots I remember where we stopped to take pictures were Glencoe – where Skyfall the movie was shot, and a part of Harry potter and Game of thrones too. Also its known for the distilleries of the finest scotch in the country. My head was constantly going left-right in the bus as there was so much to see and capture and to sink in โ™ฅ๏ธ

In Scotland the lakes are called as LOCH. Once you are there, you see how rich this country is in natural resources as they work very hard to preseve the same. There are many lakes you see while on the tour with water so clear that you can see the pebbles even from a moving bus. With fog cutting through the mountains and settling on top these lakes like a cotton shield. Magnificent and magical โ™ฅ๏ธ

We also crossed through one station where at 11 am the mountain express also famously knows as the HOGWARTS express passes through. I know you can picture the beauty of it as i was thinking of that scene from Harry Potter where the train crossed through the mountains… Yep! Its all there in real!

GLASSGOW

Glassgow was more like a resting halt for us. Soon after coming back from Scotland Highlands tour, we took a train from edinburgh to glassgow, the journey time is less than an hour.

We had our apartment-cum-hotel booked next to the Glassgow central station. The apartment was called HO-TEL apartments. I reached at the apartment around 7 pm and just walked around a bit as I had to catch a train the next day to LONDON โ™ฅ๏ธ

At this point of my trip! I knew I was one lucky b**rd alive. So much of world and this country i’d already seen and with some amazing people as company, and now I was headed to a complete SOLO trip to worlds one of the finest cities – London. Countless thoughts, excitement, what to do, what not to do, etc rushing through my mind as i boarded the Virgin train to London, the journey time was 5 hours odd and yet again my FOMO kept me up and excited.

LONDON – Last but definitely not the least! โ™ฅ๏ธI wont be lying if i told you that through out my journey to London I was smiling ear to ear,and the view only added to my happiness. I wont cal myself lucky, as most people do, coz i know wherever i am, whatever i feel i have achieved, I’ve earned it. And most important of that is the relationships and people.

I arrived in London Euston at 430 pm and here began my solo trip to this city where suddenly everyone was rushing to nowhere. I come from Mumbai so all this wasnt new, same speed, same people just well dressed, running around busy to head somewhere. That again, made me happy, as no one knew me here.

I immediately booked myself an uber and the driver was en route. I got a little confused on which side of the road should i wait so i asked one lady at the signal, even before I said Excuse me! She, without even looking at me, said ‘Dont talk to me’ lol, I turned red in anger and as no one was there to bother, i laughed and figured my own way out. My hotel was BERMONDSAY SQUARE HOTEL at the Bermondsay square, which is centrally located and was walking distance from The Shard and the Tower Bridge โ™ฅ๏ธ

Weather in London when I reached was 4-5 degrees with unexpected drizzle at times. Even snow(last snow of the season) was forecasted but it didnt. My room was just perfect, from the lobby i could see the tower of london and a beautiful park right next to it. The hotel wouldnt serve alcohol in the bar and to the room so i ran down to the grocery store and stocked myself up! ๐Ÿคฉ

I immediately refreshed myself and went out exploring – my favourite thing to do on solo trips. A little information from the hotel reception on which is the closest landmark etc and i was out and about. While walking through the bermondsay street i got really close to the the London central station and nex to it was THE SHARD. Perhaps the tallest building in London,designed in the shape of the nib of a pencil.

With every step i was taking to the streets unknown, i was getting happier and ecstatic to what is going to come my way, i crossed The Lalit Hotel and then reached the world famous Tower bridge. All this within just a few of reaching London. Yass!

Honestly, i couldn’t believe i was standind at this iconic landmark about which i had only read in books in childhood or saw videos on youtube. I was really amazed with the architecture of this because the bridge opens itself to make way to bigger ships to pass through. So there I was, alone, lost in the crowd with a thousand others, happy to the core, trying to soak in the moment and believe that i made it! I was taking my own sweet time to look around the bridge, read every sign on it, stand by the walking passage and see small cruise ships go by. Click some pictures. My phone camera surprised me with the pics it delivered. See it to believe it.

The rush in my veins i felt at that moment, i cant pen it down. I know i may be mentioning it again and again but i couldnt stop gushing over the sense of happiness and satisfaction. All of us are so tied with pre decided or self inflicted boundaries. All it takes is one decision to break free, to live the life you’ve always dreamed of.

I was walking back to the hotel, on the way i stopped at an Indian restaurant, timing was perfect as i wanted to prcel some food for the room. I was shocked to see the restaurant full with some even waiting for their turn. And all non-indian customers. Lol wow! I sat down by the bar and ordered for takeaway. The restaurant manager started talking and asked where i was from! I thought he’d know in no time that i am an Indian but because he didnt, i asked him, where do you think i am from! He said ‘umm Brazil’ ๐Ÿ˜‚ took me no time to become twice my size as i told him, hey that is a compliment too, as much as i love being called an Indian on foreign lands, lol

I was in London for 4 days odd and most of the to-dos and musts were already informed to me by my friend before i got here. The next day i decided to visit the LONDON EYE. It wasnt really close to my hotel so I thought to take a cab at first. But why? When i can browse through the smallest streets, walk along with my favt hot chocolate and enjoy the view while i get there. Before that i went to the SHARD and got a ticket for the evening time slot.

So SHARD as i said is the tallest building in London and they have opened 2 floors (69th and 72) for the public to be on top and enjoy the view. The ticket price was 30 pounds ๐Ÿ’ท i booked myself for the evening 5 pm time slot, as i had googled first – whats the best time to go the shard.

From there i walked to the London eye. Rains were playing hide and seek for a while, it would drizzle for a bit and then stop and then again and stop. It continued throughout the day. London eye from where i was staying was about 4-4.5 kms. As i reached, i knew i was staring right at another iconic landmark of this city.

I didnt go inside those capsules as it was too crowded with never ending queue. And anyway i knew i had myself booked for The shard in the evening. Which gives a wider and better view of the Royal city of London. But i spent good amount of time walking around the london eye. It was drizzling but it was fine. I was used to it by now. I sat down there and was observing and watching people around. Groups, couples, single, solo travelers like me asking others to click a picture, lol! Thats my spot. After having spent about more than an hour there, i walked back to the hotel. Took a nap as soon as i reached and excited that i was to go to the shard to see the London’s view. As i woke up, i pulled the curtains and it was raining worse than before! There i was, seeing my 30 pounds go waste, but no one would have cared so i had to go anyway.

I entered SHARD and we were taken straight to the 69th

Floor. This floor is indoor – ac hall with a view of the city and from here if you like you can walk up to the 72nd floor which is outdoor, that means open terrace sort of set up, the water was drizzling on this floor on the edges and worse thing was the view getting disrupted as there were drops on the glass of the building. I was so upset, maybe to others they were okay with a glass of champagne and enjoyig the view but to me All I could think of was the 30 pounds, but then I enjoyed the view, only I couldn’t take pictures. A few here and there i tried to manage by sticking my phone to the glass hiding away from the droplets

Everything in this trip was just about perfect and beyond. As i was walking back from the shard, my original itinerary for the next day was to book a one day Hop-on Hop-off tour of the city. But then i got in touch with what I call a blessing in disguise.

A friend of mine from Calcutta days, this pretty girl sent me a text saying if i wanted some help with the sight seeing. And in no time i said I’d love it if she showed me around. More than me she was excited to take me out the next day on the tour. The only condition she kept was that we have to start drinking from the afternoon. I knew i was in for a fabulous day ahead.

As planned, she came to pick me up and we took metros(tubes) to reach Victoria station. This was our first spot as i was told by my friend Ashish to definitely watch the change of guards at the Buckingham Palace. This happens at around 11 am and lasts for 45 mins. We reached just in time for the same but yet again to our bad luck the palace was covered by the crowd to catch a glimpse of the same. I could hardly see anything, all i heard was the music started and i knew the ceremony must have begun. I wasnt really disappointed as long as i knew i got to see the palace. Right next to it is St James Park, lush green park with a pond and ducks swimming in it. Cherry blossom trees alongside that jogging track. It was beautiful

From here we walked to St Pauls Cathedral, another landmark of London. We walked through the southbank walking bridge, it was a wodnerful day as my company was way too entertaining. Her name is Sahiba, and all throughout she was excited to show me around and without even her knowing i made her my official photographer. Lol she happily obliged as well! As we were appraching the cathedral it started raining heavy so we decided to just call it a day, and rather enjoy the weather drinking and catching up to good old Indian stories. As it is it was quite a walk from Buckingham Palace to St Pauls. But every minute was worth it.

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She was yet again, one additional reason for me to believe in the power of Universe, i mean who would have thought we would meet in a city so far away from our country and just laugh and drink and talk! What a fabulous bunch of energy. But wait! It didnt stop there, all tired, i took a nap and then decided to explore the London nightlife. I told My friend that we’d be stepping out and her approval came even before i finsihef the sentence.

I cant not write about yet another experience I had that day, i mentioned about the Lalit Group’s hotel in London. The hotel looks Royal from the outside and I was restless to see what my favourite chain of hotel’s London property looked like. Thanks to Mr Suri, I got connected to the manager of the hotel and was invited to have a meal there. That was it. I entered from the Baluchi side to the restaurant and Damn! That set up was everything you could ever dream of. Traditional style big room beautifully lit up with just perfect lighting from those royal blue chandeliers. That honestly took my breath away. I wasn’t surprised because everything about Lalit Hotels even in India is beautifully designed and perfection to detail is always evident. I made my way to the ‘Teachers Room’ which was the bar and had a few local whiskey’s before I took a tour of the Hotel. I was all smiles as someone was taking me around at the property because it wasnt less than seeing a heritage property come alive and fresh. I had scrumptious dinner and went back.

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Now it was time for some nightlife cruising. My friend recommended one place and we went to one of the clubs in this area called Sohos. I dont know if the city figured that i was stepping out so everyone was already queued up at the club. Lol. After waiting for about 30 mins in the queue we went inside. And drank, danced, and met some really crazy people. Who obviously stopped for a while when they saw us twirling. LOL! The nightlife in London really didn’t disappoint. Lived upto its spirit! Yas

The next day was officially the last day in the city, woke up a little hungover ๐Ÿ˜ and before i could have my coffee the FOMO kicked in again, a little blue feeling took over as one last day of the vacation. What all can i do today’ where to go, what to see. I decided to take it light. After freshening up i walking up to the Tower Bridge and then decided to go to Tower of London. Its a museum and is famously knows for the crown jewels from ancient history that has been kept there. Also the tower of london back in those days was used to keep prisoners and as torture chamber. I had enough time for it, so I went. Walked along the tower of london, once i was out, i sat down by Thames and thats when my overall trip flashed in front of my eyes. I couldnt be any more proud of myself, my friends, my family. The beauty of feeling lonely in the middle of crowd is just my kind of high. No one knew me, all doing their things, busy and i was just sitting and thinking random things.

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Last evening that it was, yet again I decided to give myself a proper farewell by celebrating in some club. I connected with Sahiba again and decided to step out and dance my way through this last night.

We went out to one club, partied till the wee hours of the Morning and there i Had to say good bye to my last chapter of this journey! UK, the memories you gave me will stay for a long long time.

As I conclude this post, I urge you all to travel, if you have traveled you know why, and if you have not then you guys are missing out on what this world and the people in it has to offer. The beauty of meeting fabulous people from all over the world is an experience in itself. I cant be anymore thankful to all my friends who became family, to family who supported my stubbornness yet didnt give up. we are here to make memories, to cherish the beauty of this gift called LIFE. Find time for yourself, Just TRAVEL ๐Ÿ™‚

Last I’d like to thank Ashish, Parind, Cedy, Sahiba, Rohit, Swanand for a booster through out. Ashish this trip wouldnt be possible without you. Until we meet again ๐Ÿ™‚

SUMMARY –

  1. VISA process to UK takes about 10 business days. Fee for 6 month visa is about 8300 INR.
  2. in UK Visa you are also eligible to travel to Northern Ireland, if you wish as it is a part of UK
  3. UK is an Expensive country, and it enjoys a lifestyle of that standard. It could also be because of the weak Indian currency against that. when I traveled the value of GBP was 92 rupees.
  4. I advise to apply for the Visa well in advance, trip to countries like UK cant happen suddenly, unless money is not your concern
  5. Flights can be really cheap (upto 30-33k INR rupees return) if you book in advance
  6. If you are a vegetarian like me, do carry some Cup noodles, lol. i always do. not to survive on them but they really come handy in tough times.
  7. DO NOT travel in Black taxis in UK, they are a complete rip off. for eg – a 4 km trip may cost you 25 pounds i.e 2000 rupees or more. UBERS are the best. and even best is get the Oyester card. it works on all trains, tubes etc. everything is automated there. its a 1st world country afterall
  8. SCOTLAND Highland and Edinburgh is a must if you travel to UK. the countryside will blow your mind If traveling inter cities – train commute is highly recommended. see the beauty for what UK is known for
  9. Normal meal will cost you about 6-7 pounds. regular coffee is of 2 pounds. i must have had buckets of latte through out my trip. at times i even survived on just one croissant with coffee. but thats because i love walking and exploring
  10. If you want to explore the nightlife on a weekend, please be at the club by 11 max. or else wait for 45 mins in the queue like me
  11. Nothing in UK is free, all top attractions viz the Shard, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, London Eye etc have entry cost not less than 25 pounds. Keep your eyes and ears open for discounts, as they have a few bucks off if you book online.
  12. Best time to visit SHARD is sunset. there is no restriction on the time, you can be up for as long as you like.
  13. Book the Scotland Highland Tour from Edinburgh – it will cost you about 50 pounds.But its worth every penny.
  14. Edinburgh honestly is a wonderful city. You’ve got to see it to believe what I am saying!

with all this and so much love and passion intact, i sign off this blog with a quote ‘ TRAVEL MAKES ONE MODEST, YOU REALIZE WHAT TINY PLACE YOU OCCUPY IN THE WORLD – Mark Twain

  • feel free to share your feedback on officialmanusharma@gmail.com or instagram – Vegetariansharma. I sincerely apologize for any grammatical error in the blog, kindly excuse the same and understand the gist of it as i have written it with all my heart only to share it with you, and i am always learning to be better than yesterday. Love and light – MANU RAJ SHARMA

VegetarianSharma in Turkey! Alone, not alone!!

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You never really travel alone, there’s a world full of people waiting to get to Know you’

This couldnt be anymore apt in my case as my first ever impromptu solo trip to Turkey tuned out to be the best experience of my life so far. Being in a corporate job, Ive come across various people who plan their entire year out meticulously but I know i cant really look that forward. Hence everything in my case, specially traveling, i believe has to be planned backwards – Book your tickets and then start planning your itinerary. and touchwood, I have had a 100 percent success ratio when ive planned my trips backwards.

Coming back to this trip, as I follow some of the best travel pages on instagram and facebook, i was deeply inspired to do something I had never done before and measure the depth of the sea on my own. At work and even at home i would do my research with the places to visit that are economical and yet rich in culture and nature!

I started with New York, as i already have the US visa and then researched on Singapore, Dubai and even Bangkok, my search would be as fickle as I am ๐Ÿ™‚ then while talking to a friend i remebered that he visited Istanbul and Cappadocia in peak season (Summers) and with what he described, it turned out to be the destination I was looking for.

Then began my basic research on Visa, Stay, Season, things to-do etc. being an avid lover of nightlife here in mumbai, one thing i was sure of that I wouldnt be judging my destination basis their nightlife. I would rather do an off beat, not-knowing-tomorrow kind of a trip rather than a luxury one. Luckily, as most of the successful trips happen, few ofย  my friends who had visited turkey before came forward and suggested with the areas to look for, shop, eat etc! that was much more to add the header to the chapter I was going to write. So here i go with How and what all happened –

ABOUT ISTANBUL AND CAPPADOCIA

Istanbul is known to all but maybe you guys havent visited yet, It is the only city to my knowledge that belongs to Asia and Europe(Eurasia). the city is divided by Bosphorus river with European side at one end and Asian on the other. Needless to say it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world which has 2 prominent cultures and yet so modern. Top areas to visit and stay from a tourist POV are – Sultanehemet (old city that houses the landmark blue Mosque and hagia Sophia(Damn I miss sitting there with hot chocolate every night), TAKSIMย (young, electric and modern area, the famous Galata tower is here), Bosphorus Bay – Riverside posh- upmarket european side of the city, maximum 5 star hotels are here – I would walk a lot by the river and feed the seagulls, theres enough to do for everyone)IMG_1193

As per My personal experience after the trip, I was told by the locals that Istanbul celebrates all 4 seasons, which means their summers, monsoons, Fall and Winters are just beautiful in its own respective manner. I went in Winters and I can vouch for it.

Cappadocia lies in central Turkey and it is known for the underground cities, breathtaking one-of-a-kind cave houses and hotels and picturesque outskirts. you can choose to stay in either of the two areas there – Neveshir or Goreme. I chose Goreme as my hotel was in that area. Cappadocia is said to be formed after the eruption of volcanoes around the city 1000 years ago. Goreme is a magnificent small bowl of a town located in between those hills. and ofcourse needless to say, the balloon rides are to die for. One important thing that i already knew because of my earlier eurotrips is that people there love to walk, there are all necessary means of transports as well but i personally preferred walking, trust me you see everything in detail and you stop when you want and where you want. wouldnt you want to imbibe the beauty of these places after all. to add justice to this is the compliment i received on the pictures of my trip. all were clicked mostly while i was walking around and exploring ๐Ÿ™‚IMG_1723

VISA and FLIGHT BOOKINGS

(Pats my back) First time ever I did the visa on my own sitting at home, and I didnt know that if you have a US visa you can apply for Turkish Visa online and in 10 mins E-visa is emailed to you. Its valid for 6 months and fee that i paid was 2800 INR. I checked the flights and got a great deal on Emirates (30k return via dubai) I was told that its off season in Istanbul as its winters but it didnt matter as i was keen to explore real winters as Mumbai doesnt have any. and trust me when I say this, there was nothing Off of a season, it was as crowded as it would be on any season.

After scanning through the calendar, i knew which dates to stay in Istanbul and when to be in Cappadocia. that being done I booked my return flights from Istanbul-Cappadocia, it costed 4000 rupees return.

NOTEIstanbul is a very big city and hence it has 2 airports. Attaturk airport lies in the European side and Sabhiha airport on the Asian side. Most international flights land in Attaturk and for Domestic i was told only Turkish alrlines flies from Attaturk, rest other domestic flights go from Sabiha Airport(Asian side). However do keep in mind that Sabiha airport is 45 kms from key areas i.e Sultanehemet and Taksim so if your Flight to cappadocia is from Sabiha, which was the case with me too, then you will have to shell out about 170-180 Turkish Liras (=42 euros or 50 USDollars) So do your calculations accordingly. I had to pay the same hefty cab fare too.

STAY and TRANSPORT

Being alone, there were few things I wanted to be sure of, one was my stay bookings and other was my pick up from airport to the stay.ย  i divided my journey from 23rd Nov-5th dec in 3 parts : Istanbul – Cappadocia – Istanbul. and i did my bookings accordingly. In my first leg of istanbul stay, I stayed in Sultanehemet, i did Airbnb and got a kickass deal for 5 nights. i paid 7000 INR total. This man Yasar who is the GM of that place helped me to clear my doubts about the city and much more. turkish prople in general are very very welcoming. Yasar was way too helpful to make my stay comfortable than what I expected. He also arranged my airport pickup (at a reasonable fare). He not only guided me the routes with a proper map but also helped me with a local number and a travel card that could be used in metros and trams (I didnt use it though as I walked a lot)

here is the link of the place where i stayed –ย https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/17704433

Yasar’s airbnb accomodation was walking distance from the famous GRAND BAZAAR, SPICE BAZAAR, BLUE MOSQUE( woh Ek Tha Tiger wala, lol) And HAGIA SOPHIA. This side of Istanbul is an experience of its own. For 5 nights that i was there, i soaked in every street and essence of the old Istanbul. I know it by heart ๐Ÿ™‚IMG_1390

The only regret I have is to pay 170 liras(40 euros) to reach the Sabiha (Asian side) Airport as my flight to cappadocia was from there. Nevertheless, after a flytime of 1 hour I landed in Kayseri Airport (NOTE – Cappadocia does not have an airport of its own, you either book for Neveshir or Kayeseri Airport and inform the hotel to arrange you a pick up.

Day 1, cappadocia – I landed at Kayseri Airport in the afternoon and was picked up by the transport, as booked. I was staying at DOORS OF CAPPADOCIA Hotel (booked through Bookings.com), in Goreme. and my journey from the airport to goreme was of 1.5 hr but its worth a view. I paid in total 30 Liras to the driver. The best part here is that because its a small airport and people land there only to get to cappadocia, they pick up 12-15 people in a small mercedez bus.No complains. its comfortable and well organized and Oh! the view to Goreme is a bonus too ๐Ÿ™‚ as I checked into the hotel, I was all smiles the moment I saw my room. built in a cave like structure that hotel stays true to the city’s essence. Many of you already Know what i am talking about. it will definitely be too much of a dream you’d live in one day ๐Ÿ˜€

Day 2 Cappadocia – I woke up thinking to view the balloons as my view but unfortunately the rides were canceled that day due to bad weather. the Hotel serves only breakfast that is from 8-11 am during winters, they dont have an in room dining facility. which was okay to me as i was anyway wanting to explore around. goreme market was 3 min walk from my hotel so i took a walk, ate outside, shopped a little and then walked upto the sunset point. i cant find an adjective to define that view, you guys can see my pic on my instagram – @vegetariansharma ๐Ÿ™‚ To brace up for the next day I decided to go on one of the tours ( the city offers you 3 types of tours, the green being the biggest, then red and blue) I paid 130 Liras for the green tour, from the hotel itself. I was ready to be picked up for that the next dayIMG_1925

Day 3 – I woke up to the unrealistic view of Balloons all over the sky even before sunrise, with temprature as low as 0 degrees. i went for breakfast and at 930 am I was picked up from my hotel for theย  green tour. the itinerary of the tour was to first take us to an underground city( that digs till 8 floors under the earth, built by the Christians to hide from enemies, you’ll see it to believe it) the guide explains everything while you at it. After about an hour of the underground city tour, you are taken to hike on a beautiful canyon called as ILHARA VALLEY. it goes 500 steps to the valley and about 4 km of walk, but every step is breathtakingly beautiful. After the valley hiking they provide you with lunch and then take you to a Monastery built on top of a hill. the trip takes about a full day and then they drop you to your hotel at around 5-6 pm. As soon as i reached the hotel, I booked myself for the balloon ride for the next morning.

Day 4 –ย  Before coming to turkey I had done my basic research on some of the best hot air balloon companies, Cappadocia has way too many companies and they charge from 75 euros to 130 euros depending on the number of people they accommodate in one basket. I hadย  read a lot in particular about BUTTERFLY Balloons, they had terrific reviews and are also known to carry max 16 people as compared to other companies that at times take 20 people as well. i of course needed enough space for me in the basket hence i chose the best. Butterfly Balloons charge 130 euros in cash. they pick you up at 6 am sharp and offer you breakfast in their office before taking you to the balloons. This was by far one of the best experiences of my life till date. the ride lasted for about 1.5 hrs and we celebrated with champagne with the pilot raising a toast to us. the view while in flight – NO WORDS, Surreal to say the least. you are given a certificate at the end of your flight. ๐Ÿ™‚ now thats a souvenir you want to laminate. if you ask me, when you’ll see the first ray of Sun beaming through the horizon, you’ll know that 130 euros is nothing for an experience like this, dont think of saving in such experiences. i Lived a moment that will stay with me forever. and with this I Was ready to be back on my 3rd leg of journey – Back to Istanbul

Istanbul – 2nd- 5Th Dec

when I said earlier that you never really travel alone,ย  I meant it. While in Istanbul, few of my travel loving friends connected me with their friends who are living in Istanbul, I met a lot of locals too during my stay. One such incident that got me really lucky was when one group from those friends offered me to stay with them during this tenure. That saved me my hotel money for these 3 nights.

I Stayed in Taksim(jehangir/cihangir) this time, this i felt was centrally located to almost everything. what I noticed was that this area was very lively, full of tourists, and majority of young crowd, the eurpean style cafe’s, graffiti on walls, Galata tower, everything is yet another a different experience of this magnificent city.. Do not forget to do the bosphorus river cruise tour, the sight and the experience is mind blowing ๐Ÿ™‚ Sit by the Bosphorus at some cafe, feed the seagulls. theres so much to do in this magical city of Istanbul. you never really feel alone.

one of the best feelings I had while on this trip was I didnt really know what the next day had in store for me. I would wake up, step out and start exploring. and I came across some of the most amazing places and people within the city that even frequent travelers at times wouldnt have seen. the pics showed above are from Galata Tower, and the Cafe and street pic is from these random routes i would take to reach Galata, the area is called ‘Karakoy’

PEOPLE & LANGUAGE

Be prepared to see some of the most good looking people in the world, It amused me to see the genetic beauty of the turkish people. I wish I could find out what is it they eat or drink for it. Turkish people called India as ‘HINDISTAN’, i had instances where i said I am from India and they didnt understand, lol. I noticed the language issues but not to an extent that will make you feel stuck. People of Istanbul are very welcoming and hospitable. They Love India and Indians, a lot of them love Amir Khan, 3 idiots, gajini etc. and Love India for its culture and specially Indian weddings. People in Goreme are even more welcoming than that of Istanbul. More local people know English in Cappadocia than in Istanbul.IMG_1289

I even had a funny yet memorable incident where I stopped by to ask one local couple about the bosphorus tour etc, and they didnt know english and I didnt know turkish. So the guy used google translator to understand what i was saying and vice versa. we became friends for like an hour or two, i was treated with a local turkish tea at a cafe as a welcome drink by this young couple. While at the cafe, we spoke only through the translator on the phone, only our expressions were on the face. I still cant get over this experience. ๐Ÿ˜›

This trip turned out to be much more than just a trip to me, I lived a dream and also a lot more happened that i’d write in a password protected diary ๐Ÿ˜‰ I couldnt be any more Thankful to life!

SUMMARY and TIPS

  1. Fix your dates and Book your flights immediately, ensure it lands as Attaturk Airport.
  2. If you want to explore the metro etc from airport to your accomodation, you can do your research on that as well, i chose to ask for a cab and had informed my host to book the same for me
  3. Book your flights to Cappadocia in advance too, its really cheap, I paid 4k return (I landed at Kayseri Airport) You can either look for Kayseri or neveshir. Inform your hotel that you’d need an airport transfer. Journey from Kayseri to Goreme is 1.5 hrs, its worth every second ๐Ÿ˜‰
  4. As mentioned there areย  2 airports in Istanbul. Domestic is normally from Sabhia airport which is on the asian side but TOO FAR.
  5. in Istanbul if you are there for as many days as i was, I would rather you book you stay at 2 areas, divide your stay between Sultanahemet and Taksim/beyogulu.
  6. If you do so, you will be walking distance from most of the iconic landmarks of the city. As mentioned earlier, Blue Mosque, grand Bazaar, spice bazaar, Hagia Sophia are all at Sultanehemet.
  7. Taksim/beyogulu is home to a younger, vibrant Istanbul with walk to galata tower, Karakoy, and bosphorus river.
  8. DO NOT MISS the Bosphorus cruise in Istanbul and smile even in your sleep with the beauty you going to see. I was even more fortunate to be given the bosphorus tour on a private yacht ๐Ÿ˜‰
  9. For Shopping in Istanbul – Souvenir can be bought from anywhere, spend good time walking at the Grand Bazaar for this. bargain if you must. I bought souvenir from different spots but after walking a lot and comparing at different places. Istanbul is amazingly high on fashion and leather stuff there is to die for. Sultanehemet is a good area for that and also visit Eminonu area in fatih if you want to look for good winter clothes and shoes
  10. cafe’s are undoubtedly the best in Taksim (karakoy) and Bosphorus. give yourself half a day minimum to walk by the bosphorus and witness the grand european lifestyle with cafe’s and restaurants by the river. I befriended the seagulls, you can too. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  11. FOOD is WOW! I love the love of turks for food. they relish their cuisine and its famous all over the world. DO NO MISS the world famous Turkish tea, they swear by it. Baklavas and much more. being a vegetarian I had so many options, i wonder how many orgasms non vegetarians will have ๐Ÿ˜€
  12. If you staying at Yasar’s property, do meet him, speak to him, he is one stop destination to all your concerns as far as istanbul is concerned. he also organizes tours etc. and a genuine honest man.
  13. Roads and streets in Istanbul are steep, and at awkward slopes, carry sports shoes whenever you plan to walk around. its like running on a treadmill at 60 degree angle.
  14. In cappadocia, if you staying in Goreme, do visit the Sunset point, i went there walking, its an uphill walk but the view is worth a million bucks.
  15. I took Butterfly Balloons as my ride, they are the best or at least one of the best in Cappadocia for the balloon ride, they charge 130 euros but after completing your trip, you feel even that was less ๐Ÿ˜€
  16. Do buy souvenir from cappadocia, specially Balloon ones or their famous ashtrays and magnets mad from the volcanic ash. you dont get that in Istanbul
  17. Take Euros and Dollars and a few Hundred Liras. Keep converting as per your need. Its good to pay there in Liras, specially to shops, restaurants etc. I didnt convert my entire money into Liras, I kept doing it as and when required, if you convert there the conversion is –ย  1 Euro = 4.5/4.6 liras. 1 USD = 3.8/3.9 liras
  18. Do not forget to convert the balance Liras to Euros or Dollars when you coming back to India, as later you may not be able to as its not a frequently used currency and many dont have it
  19. In total I had a trip that was much more than luxurious and I took in total 1.10 lacs Indian Rupees for 14 days and this is all inclusive. Flights, food, Stay, transport!

I hope my experience helps you in some way to get to know the city better. I went out to this adventure alone with my diary bank and got back with additional pages full of love and madness. If only my pictures or words could describe what a beautiful country that is and what magic that city holds. I would be happier to see you guys enjoying it on your own. I’ll be forever obligated to this. If you guys need anything else. Feel free to contact, and ignore the grammar errors, if any, for at times oour mind runs faster than fingers when we are writing down an experience thats so rare! ๐Ÿ˜€

And once again THANK YOU so much for loving my posts and showing your love through messages and DM’s, Here’s to many more such beautiful destinations to uncover! *in my head I’am already planning’ ๐Ÿ˜‰

Keep Shining! Keep Exploring!

Signing off!

Manu Raj Sharma. Instagram @vegetariansharma ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

 

Kitty Su, Mumbai

Mumbai, as we know of it, is a city that is constantly evolving and that too at a speed we cant fathom. in the wee night hours start another vibrant lifestyle that you have to see it to believe.

In this post i will tell you about one of the most luxurious club in town – Kitty Su. This lcub is located in a five star hotel in the western suburban side of Mumbai

I have been a regular, literally a regular visitor in this club, the reasons are of course many. the vibe, set up, cocktails, music etc make this club a must visit if you are in Mumbai. the resident Djs also known as resident kittens know what the crowd wants with the latest EDM tracks, also the club is open till late as compared to many other night clubs in the city. mostly we have partied till 4 am or so.

MUSIC and VIBE

Kitty Su’s console has seen worlds renowned DJ’s playing with it and the city dancing to their tunes – Afrojack, Diplo & major Lazer, Skrillex etc are some that i personally attended, So you know what level of madness am talking about ๐Ÿ˜‰

AMBIENCE

From outside the club is designed like a rugged garage. the rusty set up makes it even more distinctive compared to any other club you’d visit.the funniest and wittiest thing i noticed in the club and I cant get enough of it ever are the calligraphic quotes written all over the walls, the quotes are funny and bitchy that you’d love to copy and use otherwise as well.

 

The bar is widespread so there is less waiting even when the club is packed, the dance floor is huge and hence you are never really stamping on somebody else’s foot. club opens around 10 pm but the crowd usually gathers by 1230 am onwards.

So if you in Mumbai and planning to explore a club that is rich in music, drinks and ambience, Kitty would be it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Cheers

M

 

My First! Mumbai

Just like a million others visiting this city on a daily basis, I was this naive Rajasthani boy who after unwillingly getting a job in a production house in Mumbai, ย had no option but to move here. Frankly, Mumbai was the last city I had in my mind to start my career, but then destiny had something else in store, Perhaps ๐Ÿ™‚ . This was 6 years ago and today, from where I see myself, There aint no place i’d rather be

INight view of Mumbai

I shifted here 6 years ago, in April, and I remember i went out partying the very first night i moved in. Thanks to my roommate who made me feel like home from Day 1 itself. It was a private party at Gorai beach (on the outskirts of Mumbai), that was the first and last time i visited that side of the city.

Mumbai has this strong and tacit spirit of life. maybe its in the air that everyone here is on a mission to ย make it big, they dont call it the ‘city of Dreams’ just like that. everything is so fast, but then you know what! inspite of traffic, pollution, slums and population, this city grows on you and HOW.

This is my first ever attempt in Blogging and I sincerely hope to be writing ona frequent basis. I wish to explore and write about the nightlife in this city that lives upto its spirit.

Heres to new beginnings! ๐Ÿ™‚

M