Monthly Archives: August 2012

Capture the Color

I was excited when I got tagged by Arti to participate in the Capture the Color contest. All I had to do was post 5 photos that would bring out the five colors – Green, Yellow, Red, White and Blue.  The first thing I could think of when I thought of these colors, was ‘Trees’!

The United States of America is a large country with varied landscapes, geographies, climates and diverse vegetation. During my two years stay at the US, I was fortunate to experience the stark seasonal changes that took place with every changing season.

For the Capture the Color contest, to highlight the 5 hues, I have chosen a theme of trees that I saw at the U.S.  While in India, the only color I associated with trees was green or less green.  In the U.S., I witnessed beautiful phenomena in spring, summer, fall and winter.

I understood the joys of new budding fresh green leaves in spring after snowy winter that left trees utterly bereft of leaves. The North East part of the U.S. was particularly green with miles of roads in a dense green cover.  The large mass of green cover that was called Central Park in New York City was my favorite haunt and I spent many a happy evening bicycling in the verdant park in summer. The photo shown here is from Central Park on a lazy  summer day.

Verdant Green at Central Park, New York City

With Fall, the leaves started changing their colors, withering or falling off after giving in to the strong winds that had replaced the gentle zephyr.  I went to New Hampshire in the peak of the fall season, and was amazed to see the brilliance of the trees in shades of Red, Yellow and some Green. Never in my life had I beheld, entire Red colored or Yellow colored trees as I did there.

Brilliant Yellow at New Hampshire, United States

 

Flaming Red Tree, New Hampshire, United States

Winter came suddenly without warning after Fall, and we were into our coats, mufflers, sweaters and gloves. The days became shorter and evenings dreary with dipping temperatures. The trees had lost their leaves as though biding the snow to come.  Around this time, we planned a trip to sunny California where the winter was mild and the trees had leaves.   A road trip in California led us to the Yosemite National Park. We stayed at a lodge for the night, and the next morning, for the first time in my life, I opened my eyes to a snowy morning.  Snow is not something we Indians get to see, in most of India excepting the mountains and the northern most parts of the country, and I was super excited.

I could not stop marveling at the snowy sights I beheld. The large conifers had their leaves intact, and each of their leaves was laden with much snow, that almost made it look white. The purity of the fresh glistening snow had transformed the park into a magical forest.  It certainly was one of those WOW travel moments that I would never like to forget!

Pristine White at Yosemite National Park, California, United States

My tryst with the four seasons in the United States allowed me to understand the vagaries of nature. Each season is indeed beautiful in its own special way.

The contest wants me to enter a fifth color – blue. Since, I didn’t get a chance to capture trees in the blue or blue trees (if they exist!), I am entering a separate photo here for this.  The photo shows the centennial celebrations for the discovery of Machu Picchu in Cusco, Peru.  After an arduous four day trek on the Inca Trail, we were rewarded by seeing the home of the Incas, Machu Picchu in all its glory.  Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham in the year 1911, and we were in time to witness the grand centennial celebrations in the form of colorful parades and cultural programs. The parades were wonderful with hundreds of colorfully attired swirling dancers swaying  to bands that played cheerful notes. Here is one of the photos from the grand parade.

Vibrant Blue plumes in the Centennial celebrations of the discovery of Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru

‘May the odds ever be in your favor’ if you have participated in this very interesting contest. Some people who I would love to participate in this contest are –

  1. Umashankar of ‘One Grain Amongst the Storm’
  2. Sudha G of ‘My Favorite Things’
  3. Beli of ‘Beli Eats’
  4. Desh of ‘Being Desh’
  5. Srinivas of ‘Travel Tales’

 

Categories: United States | Tags: , , , , | 40 Comments

Are you an impulsive traveler or a planned traveler?

There are travelers who plan months ahead of time, draw up long lists of packing, scheduling, itineraries, do their research, make the bookings, and carry the right phone numbers. Then there are the impulsive travelers who do pick up a backpack and just get out there figuring out things on their way. Well, while it is usually smooth sailing for the planned travelers, the latter rough it out, end up sleeping in a barn, or spend exorbitant amounts. But the impulsive travelers usually have a story to tell for eternity.

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not packing right and improper planning led us into a soup several times. I went dressed and packed for summer to Switzerland one April and spent a pretty penny buying woolens. I spent exorbitant amounts on flimsy raincoats from a souvenir shop in Disneyland when it poured heavily all the time. We got stuck out on the streets of Cusco, Peru at midnight because our travel agent did not confirm our hotel booking; and more recently almost being caught for driving without a license in Mauritius (I had very conveniently forgotten to carry my driving license)!

But when things have to go wrong, they will. Like when I visited Oman. Despite all the planning, we nearly missed our flight because of a miscommunication and the cab driver went to the airport to pick us up instead of picking us from home and dropping to the airport! The dash to the airport, making sad faces to the boarding pass authorities to let us in, and the final dash towards boarding certainly made for an exciting start to the holiday!

While bungling up is quite awful during the journey itself, in hindsight, there are several positives to it after you come out of unscathed. One, you learn to plan for that eventuality. Two, you may end up seeing something more splendid when you lost your way than you had set out to see. Three, you have an interesting experience and memory <and in hind sight, things always look rosier>. Four, you feel stronger, having survived what you did. Five, Distress brings people closer, so if you are in that arduous trek in a group, you might just make those friends of a lifetime. Six, and the best part, you have a story to tell everyone around you and have people hanging on to your every word!

I hope things never go wrong at all on your trips!  But if they do, when you come out of them, you are a wiser and a stronger person. A teeny bit of planning always goes a long way in smooth sailing on the most impulsive journey! A few tips for the impulsive travelers –

  1. I know you hate to book early, but during the peak tourist season, it is advisable to book your hotel and travel ahead of time.
  2. Check the weather and pack right. You don’t want to spend unnecessarily on what you have and be saddled with it forever.
  3. Carry dry high energy food and water if you are venturing on long drives/treks to places where you may not get any.
  4. Always check with the local tourist office for information (There usually is always one at every airport or point where you check into the place).
  5. If you are planning to drive down to the place, make sure you have enough gas, check the tire pressure, ensure the spare tire is in good condition, carry a toolbox and note down the emergency contact numbers of your car maker’s towing services
  6. Make sure you carry proper documentation and identification proofs with you
  7. And yes.. don’t forget to drop an out of office message on your office mail.. so that the boss/other office colleagues do not bother you

Plan ahead or just go at the spur of the moment, be happy with the tales you bring back. Safe and Happy Roaming!

Categories: Other Travel Blah | Tags: , | 21 Comments

Crawford Market at Mumbai

Sale! Discount! Unbeatable deals!  When it comes to unbeatable deals at wholesale prices, it’s gotta be the wholesale market itself! For the uninitiated, Mumbai’s biggest wholesale market is the Crawford market that draws eyeballs, pockets and mindboggling quantities for plenty of shopping.

I stood outside the Crawford market taking the scene in. Cars screech, Bikers honk, people get on and off buses in a cacophony.   A tourist bus screeches to a halt as sunburnt tourists stand in a file gaping at the chaos. People walk around with large sacks. Some like me frenetically click pictures in black and white, sepia and color standing at weird positions across the road trying to keep the chaos out and the market in!

Crawford Market – the main building

I entered the Crawford market expecting more madness. Instead of chaos I found and insane number of shops and goods selling their wares perfectly peacefully!

Aisle inside the Crawford Market building

Why you should visit Mumbai’s Crawford Market

  • Go there particularly if you are shopping for a party of any kind. Go beserk on buying Party decorations, Diwali decorations, Christmas decorations for a fraction of what you’ld pay in your neighborhood
  • You think your neighborhood mall has a lot of ‘imported’ and exotic foods? Check out Crawford market for the sheer variety of things you can buy – types of pastas, sauces, exotic dry fruits including pink cashewnuts and green cashewnuts, chocolates, cheeses, oils of all kinds and cookies from around the world.
  • For a long time, elite south bombayites visited this market for imported perfumes, toys, accessories, luxury soaps, detergents, gifts and cosmetics. It is interesting to still see Persil detergent boxes, the array of perfume shops and the beauty products.
  • Go there just for the heck of seeing how big a market can get!
  • Go there just to check out one of Mumbai’s popular landmarks
  • Go there to check out a piece of history
  • Go there to see another example of architecture after seeing the jhuggis and jhopdis in Mumbai.
  • If you think, the building is not enough market, venture outside into the maze of lanes and by lanes for an even bigger market. Tiny alleys with ramshackle buildings might have the most interesting of things you want to buy. We even came to a shop of magic tricks and one where they sold ammunition! (See pictures below)
  • Visit it to go to another piece of history – the Badshah Juice center which stands there since 1905. You cannot miss out on their famed ‘Falooda’, the rose/saffron flavored drink with vermicelli and jelly and ‘sabja seeds’ at the bottom and laced with icecream  and nuts at the top.oooo. yum!

Fast Facts

  • Crawford Market earlier named after the first Municipal Commissioner of the country, in the spirit of renaming all that sounds ‘British’ is now officially named as the Mahatma Jyotirao Phule market after the social reformer.  However, the powers that ordain these things have not been successful in getting anyone to call it anything but the Crawford market!
  • The Crawford market building was the first to be lit by electricity in India
  • The Crawford Market used to be the primary wholesale market for fruits and vegetables. However, in 1996, the fruits and vegetables market shifted to Navi Mumbai
  • A Grade 1 heritage structure, the Crawford market was designed by Lockwood Kipling, father of the famous novelist Rudyard Kipling.
  • This building is a blend of ‘Norman’ and ‘Flemish’ architectural signs designed beautifully to allow plenty of natural sunlight, air and shoppers!
  • Don’t miss the impressive frieze on the main entrance that delineates peasants in fields or the charming clock tower.
  • The Crawford market occupies a prime piece of land that is much eyed and sought after by builders, developers and politicians. Fortunately, citizen groups and some sane people in Mumbai have managed to keep these roving eyes away atleast for a while from here, while plans of renovating it are underway

At the Dryfruit store. Check out the pink cashews!

There are chocolates and there are paan chocolates

An Oil shop at Crawford

Blazing guns!

The famous Badshah Cold Drink restaurant

The Yummy Kesar Special Falooda (Yellow) and ‘Royal’ Falooda (Pink) from Badshah

The roadside Magician in an alley

 

How to get to Crawford Market

  • The market is located in South Mumbai near the Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)  opposite the office of Commissioner of Police of Mumbai
  • Take a local train or Bus to CST) and cab it after that.
  • If you insist on taking your car, try and park far away and then cab it since parking can get expensive (Rs 80 per hour!) in peak hours.

Tips

  • Carry lots of cash, since paying by credit card might not be an option.
  • Carry cash for yourself not others. Be wary of pickpockets in the milling crowd
  • Buy in bulk for better deals
  • Haggle. Haggle. Haggle. Even if you think you are getting a good deal. It can get sweeter.
  • Try to go earlier in the day around 10 a.m. after they are done with the loading and get away before it gets chaotic in the evening

 Happy Seeing, Shopping and Saving!

Going back in time with a Sepia look for the main Crawford market building

P.S. - This post was published in DNA in its column ‘Around the Blog’.

Categories: Mumbai | Tags: , , | 31 Comments

Lovely Landscapes of Salalah

The holy month of Ramadan is on here in Muscat at the Sultanate of Oman.  The days are somber and the evenings alive.  The city is sweltering in the August heat and it is cloudy now and then.  I had only heard of this cool city (literally cool I mean) of Salalah where the Sultan resides and which is supposed to be as green as Kerela in India.  With some preconceived notions in my head and how really (not) green can it be in this desert country, I assented to go on a reprieve to visit the tourist town of Salalah.

Where is Salalah? – Salalah is Oman’s second largest city in the Southern province of Dhofar in the Sultanate of Oman and attracts tourists from all over the Middle-east and the world.

How to get to Salalah? – Convenient flights from Muscat and Dubai are preferred options. There are also frequent buses which are quite cheap between Muscat and Salalah for overnight journeys.

What is this city about? – Well known for its green cover and cool weather, it is a welcome change from the oppressive heat around. This is the land of frankincense and history for the traveler.

What is the right time to visit Salalah? – Happily, the best time to visit Salalah is the ‘Kharif’ or the monsoon season in June to September. Few tourists visit in the holy month of Ramazan.

Although I had read about it being a hillstation like place and had some ideas, what I was totally unprepared for was the variety of landscapes that presented themselves in a span of a few hundred kilometers. Beaches, green mountains and valleys, and complete deserts all adjacent to each other were baffling to say the least apart from picturesque. Some snapshots on the landscapes before the full blown blog on this trip -

Desert Sand at Salalah

Coastal fishing village at Salalah

Peaceful green hills and chewing cows

Rocky seas

Observe the contrasting Green hills and desert plains beyond from one location!

Categories: Oman, World | Tags: , | 22 Comments

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