TTL: Sassoon Docks

I had become quite restless at the lack of what I perceived as apt content for a blog post and it was making me jittery. A text out of the blue from dear old Subhanjana asking about Sassoon Docks was the best thing that happened a couple of days back. I realized that it had been more than a year, here in Mumbai, and I was yet to pay one of the largest fish market of the place and the first wet dock of Mumbai a visit. I called up Haldar if she would be interested to join in, and she was. So, Sunday was the planned day.

Information was that one must get to the docks as early as first light to get the fishing trawlers coming in and fishes being unloaded. Since, we had to travel by train and cab to the docks, we were late, and did not get those shots.

What we got were shots of the fishing auctions and the market, with all the chaos and hustle bustle. Enjoy.

Fish Auction in Progress, Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

Fishes being readied for auctions, Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

Fishes being readied for auctions, Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

Fishing Trawlers in the dock, Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

Fishing Trawlers in the dock, Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

Fishes for sale in the market, Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

Basket transfer in progress , Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

As we were walking about taking photos, this lady in the following photos took interest in showing off her merchandises. She also showcased the octopuses. Live octopuses. We were quite excited 🙂

Lady holds up a fish for display, Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

Lady holds up octopus for display, Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

Sassoon Docks is also famous for the street art one can find in the location. It was the site for a street art exhibition in November, 2017. There is an art exhibition centre at the docks, which were not open when we were there, so, we shot the walls.

Wall art at Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

Wall art at Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

Wall art at Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

Wall art at Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

Haldar posing in front of a wall art, Sassoon Docks, Mumbai, India

As we walked out of the place, I noticed a crow, flying with a fish in its mouth. Lens cap was off already. In one fluid motion, the camera was switched on, tracked the crow and let the continuous high mode fire.
Behold the result:

Flying crow with a fish in mouth, Mumbai

I am mighty impressed by the auto focus system of the Nikon D7200. Am yet to fully understand and use the 3D focussing system properly on the camera.

As we got to Churchgate station, a piece of art caught my eye.

Mural at Churchgate Station, Mumbai, India

Apparently similar installations shall be done in other stations too. That shall be something to look forward to.

A sequel of this post shall follow soon with Haldar’s shots!

Cheers!

To Vietnam: Ha Long bay

It was effectively the last day at Hanoi, for the next day, we would fly back home.

Our day began, yet again with the tour bus picking us up from our AirBnb and we were happy to know that we were headed to Ha Long bay. Our back up plan was Ninh Binh province.

En route, we crossed the Red River and realized that kids, in both our country and theirs, are absolutely same. They get excited to see a bus full of foreigners always 🙂

The Red River, Hanoi, Vietnam

Happy kids waving at us, Hanoi, Vietnam

Now, as we were closing in on the coast, we could see the isles at distance and it was very beautiful! Honestly, it felt very much out of the world.
Soon, we were at the dock, which looked more like a transit station, with people bustling all about. Our tour guide kind of herded us to our boat. As soon as we were seated, we were underway and lunch was served.

Lunch included eggs, chicken, squid, prawns, potatoes, rice rolls and a full fish. Accompanying these was a bowl full of sticky rice and some condiments.

Rice Rolls, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Rolled fried eggs, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Boiled prawns, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Fried chicken, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Squid salad, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Fried potatoes, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Full cooked fish, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Now, that we were well fed, we moved to the upper deck of the boat to take in the views and we were amazed. The islets rising out of the bay, hundreds of them and some even had caves.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

As we cruised on, we approached an encircled area within the bay where there seemed to be a floating jetty of sorts.

Towards the fishing village, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

On that floating jetty, it turned out to be a hub for kayaking or guided boating. Now, neither of us had ever done kayaking, and when offered with the prospect of kayaking, I and Ritwik were beyond ready, immediately. Ankita and Manas were hesitant, but since a boat would take 4 people, and the two of us had left them on the jetty and were donning our life vests already, they got themselves a kayak too. It seemed very easy to kayak, you pedal, you move, simple. Except it was not. Instead of us taking a turn and going towards the caves, we were moving towards the open sea, unable to turn left or right. Finally, we realized that we were horrible kayakers and pedalled back to the jetty. The men took pity on us and let me and Ritwik to the boats. In the meantime, Ankita and Manas, also first timers, had proved that they understood physics better and were already kayaking away to glory.

Boats and kayaks exploring, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Boating on the emerald green waters of the Ha Long bay was nothing short of a cinematic sequence.

Through a cave, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Boating, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

There were collective ooohs and aaaahs as we crossed the caves with limestone karsts and we spotted Ankita and Manas, happily kayaking away.

Ankita and Manas Kayaking, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

We went about boating for some more time and then headed back, on towards the limestone caves.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

The limestone caves with their stalactites and stalagmites all about, was eerie and it fueled our imaginations.

Limestone formations in the cave, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Limestone formations in the cave, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

The views within and from the top of the hill were just amazing.

We had booked the tour after extensive searches on TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet websites and came across many wonderful options, including this one Halong Bay luxury day tour, which turned out to be quite interesting.

I thank Ankita for being steadfast in her orders to go to Ha Long Bay, no matter what! Glad we carried it out 🙂

That evening, after we were back, we went back to the streets near the Hoan Kiem lake and got sloshed. Tottering, we made our way to a tiny shop, which was closing down, and asked for food. The guy had two options, a roasted quail soup or a beef jerky salad. We took one of each type and wolfed them down. Honestly, they tasted horrible!

Beef Jerky Salad, Hanoi, Vietnam

We had our taxi booked, and the next day, we flew out of Hanoi!

With this, our tour of Vietnam came to an end. It was an amazing experience and a welcome break from the daily grind back home.

In the next post, I shall do a quick recapitulation of the places, and also thrown in the learnings from the trip.

Cheers!!

To Vietnam: Hoi An by the night!

After we were back, we had just crashed into our beds, tired and exhausted. We had planned to go to the beach, the An Bang beach. When we woke up, twilight was fast fading. So, we quickly got on our bicycles, and rode for about 4 kms to the beach.
We paid 30000 VND per bicycle as parking fees and went in. It was dark by then, and we could see lights of far away ships near the horizon. There were deck chairs on the beaches, and it seemed that they were free to use. We sat there for some time, and were hungry. A hour and a Banh Mi later, we were ready to leave.
As we were retrieving our bicycle, Ankita noticed that here phone was missing. She had put it in the cycle’s basket an instant earlier and now it was gone. We started searching for it desperately everywhere. Our primary suspect was the attendant, who had suddenly turned deaf and mute! We glared and growled at him, and bared our teeth, and he slithered away to a hidey hole. Ritwik followed him, came back victorious with the phone. We made a swift exit out of the area to avoid any such risks any more.

Lit up entrance to the old town, Hoi An, Vietnam

We crossed into the old town soon, and it was just wow! Lights all around, lamps, lanterns, LED lights. Best bit, no vehicles. We parked our bicycles beside the Japanese Covered Bridge and hit the streets.

Camera set on lowest ISO, long shutter exposures and deep apertures, I went about shooting.

Street with colourful lights and people, Hoi An, Vietnam

Street with colourful lights, Hoi An, Vietnam

Every other street had lamps in them lighting up the street. The shops had various happy hour offers and it was thronging with tourists and locals alike.

The Thu Bon river, now had multiple boats with tourists on board, rowing up and down. Some had the floating prayer lamps with them while some were simply enjoying the ride. Ritwik and I got interested in the long exposure opportunities while Ankita and Manas went ahead to a nearby museum.

The Bridge of Lights, An Hoi Bridge, Hoi An, Vietnam

Boats on the Thu Bon river, Hoi An, Vietnam

A lady selling the floating lamps, Hoi An, Vietnam

The Thu Bon river at night, Hoi An, Vietnam

Now, it was almost 2100h and we were hungry too. So, we crossed the river and went to the other bank, where it was as if a carnival was on. All shops were glittering with lights, live music being played, food and ale galore. And then, the street which had every kind of food imaginable.

Busy street with tourists and locals, lights, food, Hoi An, Vietnam

Lamps for sale, Hoi An, Vietnam

The other bank also gave a perfect shot of the Japanese Covered Bridge.

The Japanese Covered Bridge at Night, Hoi An, Vietnam\

Promptly at 2200h, the lights went out and the music subsided and it was the end of a long day. We lingered back to enjoy the quite and calm atmosphere of the place for some time, and shot some more photos.

The calm Thu Bon river at night, Hoi An, Vietnam

We reached back around 2330h to find the receptionist at our hotel fast asleep. Had to wake her up for the keys though, guess people sleep early in this side of the world. And, that is how our stay in Hoi An ended. Next day, we would leave Hue, via train! The journey would be something to look forward at.

Cheers!!

To Vietnam: Hoi An by the day!

Our flight from HCMC to Da Nang was delayed by about 4 hours, so we requested the VietJet associates on station to possibly find an alternative flight, they got us something that was just a couple of hours away. The flight was uneventful and we reached Da Nang around 2100h. Luckily, Ritwik had the foresight to book a cab beforehand, which would take us to our hotel in Hoi An. I highly recommend this. Yes, it will cost you some money, but it shall be totally worth it. We were picked up by a Ford Endevour and off we went to our hotel, the Green Apple hotel in Hoi An.

We were welcomed with a plates of fruits and fruit juices.

Fruit Platter at Hoi An

By the time we were ready to go out and eat, most of the nearby shops had shut down, so we asked the ladies in the hotel to help us out, and they pointed us out to a nearby restaurant.

Sticky Rice and sauted chicken, Hoi An

Fried Calamari, Hoi An

Chicken Ramen Noodles, Hoi An

Spicy rice and chicken fried, Hoi An

We found the food to be outright delicious. We retired, excited that we had an entire day to roam about the town the next day.

Next day at Hoi An began with us gorging on enormous quantities of bacon, sausages, eggs, boiled chicken, bread, jam and butter; not forgetting the juices and coffee, all in the amazing buffet breakfast at the hotel. We began the day trip by getting ourselves cycles from the hotel. The cycles were free to use, and all you had to do was ensure that at the end of the day, you brought them back in one piece.
Now, in Hoi An, there is an old town area, which has the typical french charm to it. There are some old houses which are preserved in their original conditions, community halls and assembly halls, etc, strewn all about the place.

We travelled on bicycles, Hoi An

Buildings with french influences, Hoi An

Buildings with french influences, Hoi An

To enter these, you shall need a ticket. On a single ticket, there are 5 tiny slips of paper, which are torn away as and when you enter these ticketed places. There are a total of 11 such places within the Old Town area. Also, the area is marked walking and cycling only.

Boat on the Thu Bon river, Hoi An

A street in the old town, Hoi An

We went to the Cantonese Assembly Hall, the covered Japanese Bridge and the Cam Pho Communal House during the day.

Cam Pho Communal House, Hoi An

The Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An

Cantonese Assembly Hall carvings, Hoi An

Murals at the Cantonese Assembly Hall, Hoi An

These places were quite fine, in my opinion, but not exactly spell binding sorts. Yes, the work done on the murals and the sculptures are quite artistic, yet I didn’t feel them to be absolutely amazing.

Instead, what I did like was the An Hoi Bridge, which bridges the Thu Bon river.

An Hoi bridge, Hoi An

This river is also known as the bridge of lights.

There were these heads, made of plants, up for sale. Found them a tiny bit creepy!

Weird artefacts on the streets, Hoi An

Hawkers were highly enthusiastic about selling a flying object, which resembled a bird. It was powered by a twisted rubber band and once released would flap its wings and fly.

Flying objects, Hoi An

We also got ourselves some pop up cards. These greeting cards come in various themes and tones. Choose your favourite and always bargain.

Pop up Cards, Hoi An

By this time, it was past noon and we felt hungry. So, after roaming aimlessly for sometime within the Old Town area, we crossed to the other side and found a place where the sign board signed the presence of cheap beer; and egg coffee.

Spring rolls, Hoi An

We made peace with beer, spring rolls and egg coffee. The spring rolls are different from what we have here. These were not fried, and the covering was made of thin rice film.

Egg Coffee, Hoi An

The egg coffee was a different matter all together. Rich strong coffee, sweetened using condensed milk and sugar, with an egg added to it, while it was piping hot, and then served. It was very filling, and very sweet. Had to tick it off the checklist, done that.
Then, we were on our way back to take a bit of rest. Later we would go out again, to the beach, and then we had plans to come back to the night market.

 

To Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City and onwards…

As we were back quite late from the previous day’s adventures, we woke up late. Meaning, we had to rush and ration our available time between the Ben Thanh market, the War Remnants Museum and the Bitexco tower.

We made our way on foot to the Ben Thanh market, located centrally within the city.

Friends posing with a graffity

It has a big gate proclaiming the market and within is a market where you can find almost everything.

The Ben Thanh Market, Saigon

The Ben Thanh Market, Saigon

We were hungry and in need for some urgent breakfast, hence we made our way to the food street within the market for Banh Mi.

Choice of meat for Banh Mi, Ben Thanh Market, Saigon

Condiments for Banh Mi, Ben Thanh Market, Saigon

The Banh Mi, Ben Thanh Market, Saigon

After we were done with the breakfast, we roamed within the market looking at the wares to offer. Bargaining and haggling is rampant and is definitely needed. A general rule of thumb to be followed is that to begin the bargain at 50% of asking price and gradually increase to a maximum of 70% of the asking price.

We bought few souvenirs from the market and were headed towards the War Remnants Museum.

Friends posing with a local lady. Saigon

A 15 minutes Uber ride got us to the museum.
This museum is special, for the fact that it highlights the ugly face of the invading army in the country and this time, it was the smaller country which had won. History is written by the victors holds true, and we get to see the evils which the US Army had done to the ones they considered to be threats. The museum is rife with stories and artefacts from the times of the Vietnam war. Stories of future leaders of US population, who were then deployed at Vietnam and the atrocities they committed are plastered all around the walls in vivid details.

The War Remnants Museum, Saigon

Tanks from the Vietnam War, War Remnants Museum, Saigon

Shells from the Vietnam War, War Remnants Museum, Saigon

Relics from the Vietnam War, War Remnants Museum, Saigon

Relics from the Vietnam War, War Remnants Museum, Saigon

Relics from the Vietnam War, War Remnants Museum, Saigon

Relics from the Vietnam War, War Remnants Museum, Saigon

True, that the museum is depressing and the descriptions are gut wrenching, but it is a necessary bit of knowledge that should be imparted to the populace.
The museum gives an insight into how much the country has evolved from the devastation and destruction that was there just a few decades ago.

Next up, we went back to our place and grabbed the bags. We were headed to the 3rd tallest building in Vietnam, the Bitexco Financial Tower. Tickets are available at the ground floor for the sky deck tour and also a Heineken factory tour is available. The Heineken factory offers a unique tour, which includes a couple of pints of beer and the souvenir that you obtain, is a pint with your name engraved on it. Sadly, we were out of time for the Heineken tour.

Bitexco Financial Tower, Saigon

A binocular at the Bitexco Financial Tower, Saigon

Panorama from the Bitexco Financial Tower, Saigon

Later, we booked an Uber, yet again and made our way to the airport, for an onward flight to Da Nang. There, a taxi would receive and drop us at our next destination, Hoi An!

To Vietnam: Touchdown – Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) or Saigon, used to be the erstwhile capital city of South Vietnam, prior to the reunification of the country. It used to be a French capital town too during their reign over the Cochinchina colony. Now, HCMC is the most populous city of the country. A city bustling with traffic, energy and food.

Air Asia Flights parked at KLIA 2

We landed at the Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport (SGN) on 1st of  April, 2018 at about 1300h local time. We had a layover at the KLIA2 (Kuala Lumpur International Terminal 2) and onward flight to Saigon. At SGN, we had to clear the immigration first to get to our baggage.
Immigration procedures were fairly simple. There is a window where you submit your passport, the approval letter and the filled form (attach 2 photos with the form) and then you wait. Your name shall get called out from another counter, where you need to pay USD 25 and receive your visa affixed passport back. Then you go the queue for the passport control, they stamp your inwards date, maybe ask a couple of questions, done!
We retrieved our luggage, bought a couple of local sim cards, costing us each 9 USD and came out. We also converted 100 USD to VND, which turned out to be about 2.2 million VND. Be careful of the denominations though. I found that they have currency notes of the following denominations (in thousands) – 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500. It is easy to confuse amongst the zeros and sometimes the notes stick together too. Just take your time to count and pay, simple.
We had booked our stay with the Chill Box hotels. It was a couple of kms away from the airport and the best way to reach there seemed to be using Uber. Later, we found that Uber was indeed the best way to travel within the city for they are quick to respond, and the cost is quite reasonable. The local taxis do rip you off real bad.
We dropped our bags, bathed, refreshed for a bit, and were out on the streets by 1700h. Since we were famished, the first place where we saw something being cooked and served, we went for it.

Sticky rice, vegetables and a pork sausage

What you see above is fried rice, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and a pork sausage. I do not remember what it was called, but it tasted quite nice. The sausage had a slight sweet taste to it. The rice, when mixed with the soup, soya sauce and some chilly paste, became absolutely amazing. Chicken, egg and beef options were also available for the same dish.

A street in Saigon

Umbrellas in a street in Ho Chi Minh CityNext, we were headed to towards the town centre. Since we werent scheduled to be in HCMC for a long time, we concentrated only on the places within the city. It was past 1730h, so we could not go in the museums.
One of the museums which we could not get toWe went to the Notre Dame Cathedral and found it very beautiful.The Notre Dame Cathedral, SaigonRight beside the cathedral is the post office, which has been operational since the French were there.The Central Post Office, Saigon

There were street performances in progress in the lanes and we progressed towards our next destination for the evening, The Hard Rock Cafe, Saigon!

Long exposure outside the Hard Rock Cafe, Saigon

Since it had become quite late by then, we decided to head back, and retire early.

Dried fish for sale, Saigon

A sculpture in an alley, Saigon

For dinner, that night, we gave Pho, which is basically a bland-ish noodle soup with choice of meat, a try. I did not like it much and in the trip, never did we have another bowl of Pho.

A Bowl of Pho Bo, Saigon

We retired for the day by 2300h and had planned to visit the Ben Thanh market, The War Remnants Museum and the Bitexco Financial Tower before we flew out the next day.

The trip continues in the next post.

Cheers!!

To Vietnam: The planning

As with any trip, there ought to be proper planning. This time, it had to be much more detailed.The scope of winging it in a foreign country was limited.

Visa: Vietnam offers Visa On Arrival (VOA) for Indian citizens, if they have the approval letter already. Obtaining the letter was not a difficult job to accomplish. We searched for visa to Vietnam on Google, and then it was just finding out the cheapest option. We went ahead with this website. We had to pay 8 USD per person for the approval letter. The letter arrived within a couple of days, along with a copy of the form that we would have to fill. A mandatory visa stamping fee of 25 USD per person is to be paid during immigration at the point of entry.

Flights: We had booked our flights, to and fro well in advance. This may appeal to the mass, as it did to us. Make it a point to book the tickets from the airline company’s website. ENSURE that each booking are on a single PNR. Since the flights have a stop invariably, which will either be in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, having the booking on a single PNR ensures that you do not have to go through immigration at the intermediate country and that your luggage is counted as a through baggage, so you check in your luggage at home, and retrieve it right at the destination. In  case you have a long layover and want to check out the country, make sure you have a visa prior to your arrival. Do not depend on a VOA. Flights within the country is fairly easy and cheap. Make sure that you are at the airport at least 2 hours prior to the flights for the domestic flights while it should be minimum 3 hours for the international flights.

Hotels: We also had our hotels booked at the places we would stay. It should be noted that if its just you, or max two of you, staying at the backpackers’ hostels is the best way to go. You get to meet people of various countries, interact with them and make friends. While if you are travelling in a bigger group, it is better if you book hotel rooms. The cost per head will be similar, but you shall have multiple bathrooms at your disposal. This is preferable if you guys need to leave at the same time. Since we were 4, we had hotel rooms booked. While booking the hotels, we tried to go go for the ones which have been vetted multiple times by travellers across the world and were within walking distance of the tourist hub. I shall tell more about the hotels we were in as and when we reach each city.

Trains: Vietnam has a limited number of train plying their reunification route, starting right from Ho Chi Minh City ending at Hanoi. It passes through picturesque routes, hills, sea shores, markets and even doorsteps. We had ours booked from Da Nang to Hue. You can book the tickets from the Vietnamese Railway’s website. Do check out this website for a treasure trove of information about the travel.

Food: You must understand that vietnamese people are primarily meat eaters. Beef and pork are the most commonly available kinds of meat. Chicken is a rare find. Egg is common though. In the week that we were there, I did not spot any place serving lamb or goat. If you go to places like Da Nang or Hoi An, which are beach towns, you can get ample sea food. Fried food is not common. Most of the food is baked or boiled. Noodle soups or Pho, are most commonly available. A food that kept us alive, for it was healthy, readily available and cheap on the pocket was Bahn Mi. It is a baguette with shredded meat and some sauces and comes mainly in beef, pork and egg variety.

Banh Mi, Chicken, Baguette, Meat, Mint leaves
Banh Mi (Chicken)
Condiments accompanying Banh Mi , chilly, sauce, lemon
Condiments accompanying Banh Mi

Drink: Packaged drinking water is fairly easy to obtain, but it does not hurt having some sort of water purifying options along. Beer is cheap and plentiful to choose from. The most common were Bia Ha Noi, Bia Saigon, Bia Huda and Heineken. The beer felt toned down, and I would feel more fuller than being tipsy at all.

Clothes: Restrictions on what you wear exist at the religious spaces where it is expected that one would wear clothes which are not revealing. Other than these places, we didn’t see any signs or reactions which would suggest that the people are remotely bothered of what you wear. I suggest you have a look at the weather forecasts and pack accordingly prior to your trip. In case you want new clothes, night markets are present in the tourist places, which are amazing places to get stuffs cheaply. Do remember to haggle about the price.

Currency: The local currency is Vietnamese Dongs. 1 INR = 350 VND roughly. Do not get excited about the exchange rate for the minimum denomination we came across was a 1000 VND and it was not enough to buy a bottle water. So often you shall find yourself moving about with millions of dongs, just be careful with the money as you pay. It is easy to confuse a 10000 VND with a 100000 VND. With a little practice, it shall be fine. Also, the big shops have card swiping options. Do note, the cards swiped do not require a pin to complete the transactions, they just make you sign the slip, so hold on to your cards real tight. You shall need to convert INR to USD here, and then use them to convert to Dongs at Vietnam. You can pay by USD, but you shall be overcharged invariably, hence, stick to Dongs.

Now, that you have a back ground about the country, we shall continue post the arrival at HCMC.

Feel free to reach out to me for any doubts and clarification that you may have till now.

Cheers!!

To Vietnam: Prelude

India, land of dreams and dreamers. We dream about everything. From having a perfectly cooked rice for dinner to achieving pin point accuracy in missile hits, we have dreamt it all, and collectively, have achieved them all. On an individual level, going on foreign trips using your own hard earned money is a dream that every person harbours over here. I also had the dream. And now, that I have achieved it, I want more.

It all began sometime in September 2017, when me and my fellow colleague, Ankita, found ourselves in a crowded cafe discussing the possible countries to visit. Our first point of consideration was exchange rates, how much does 100 INR translate into?. Not the brightest way to make choices, but it did get us rolling. Then we compared the easiest thing available to compare against, beer price. That gave us a realistic idea of the places we might choose for our visit.
We concentrated on the south east asia, simply because the travel is not the biggest expense here. Touring within Europe might be cheap, but getting to the starting point of the tour is the maximum share holder in the entire expenses. Here, we did not have similar problems.
We wanted to visit a country which has not yet become a tourist hotspot amongst us. Cambodia and Vietnam were the contenders, and we chose to go to Vietnam. We called up two other friends of ours, Ritwik and Manas, and they were ready for the trip immediately. So, we decided, that in on 1st of April, 2018, we shall meet at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

I intend to be as detailed as my memory serves throughout the series. I shall talk about the flights we took, hotels we booked, places we visited, what we ate, what I liked, what I didn’t and there shall be photos. The posts shall be long and opinionated. So, strap in, for the series shall be a long one, and I hope to keep the posts regular.

Cheers!!

TTL: Clean Beach, Clear Water ; Diveagar

Within the group, we had all joined our respective jobs in April, and by the time it was September, we were desperate for a break. So, when the Dusshera break presented an opportunity for 4 days of holidays, a trip was immediately planned and executed.

We had planned to go from Pune to Diveagar. About 150 kms drive west through the western ghats would take us to this beach. We had heard of it to be quite a picturesque and clean one, so we were quite interested about it. I was looking forward to the drive, it had been quite a few months since I had gone for a drive. The Google Maps screenshot depicts the route we had taken.

Route from Pune to Diveagar
We booked ourselves a self drive car from Zoomcar, a snappy Honda Jazz and we were away at the crack of dawn; at about 8 am.

Me posing with the Honda Jazz

The road we took, would take us through the scenic Tamhini ghat and then further on, we shall reach Mangaon and then on to the beach.

Clouds enroute to Diveagar

Random flowers by the street

Hillscape enroute Tamhini Ghat

Long open road

En route Tamhini Ghat

Natural beauty galore. The road is patchy at places, with ditches which needed us to creep over them, but over all, the road to the beach was kinda fine.

Once near the coast, there runs a parallel road to the beach, with multiple points of entry to the beach. Find the right fork and one can take the car directly to the beach.

The beach road to Diveagar Beach

The beach was quite amazing. Wide and clean. The slope is a gradual one, making it ideal for families consisting of kids to come over and have fun too. Options of water sports were present too. The water is clear and absolute fun to splash about it.

Horse drawn Tongas on DIveagar Beach

Water Scooter at Diveagar Beach

Diveagar Beach

Small waves at Diveagar beach

The wide Diveagar Beach

Quad bikes on the Diveagar Beach

Clear Water at the Diveagar Beach

Diveagar Beach

Diveagar Beach

The friends gang posing at the Diveagar Beach

In terms of crowd density, this is not a dense beach. One can find space to run about and play happily on the beach or have their own peaceful time. Be advised though, there is almost no shade on the beach and no provisions for chairs or umbrellas are present. Only a handful of shops selling water bottles and snacks could be found, so carry your food and water positively.

Once we had exhausted ourselves on the beach, running about  and splashing about in the water, we were on the ride back home. Instead of taking the route we had come by, we chose to take the alternate route, which would have us join the Mumbai- Pune expressway near Khopoli. On map, all we could see was a nice long almost straight road. What it actually turned out to be, was very close to a nightmare. The road is non existent for most of it and there are murderous ditches all along. Ditches the size of dustbins which would gobble up a wheel and some of the axle too. By the time we had reached the expressway, we were tired as hell and still had another hour and a half worth of travel left. So, take it from me, do not take the return route that we had taken, it was horrible.

We did make it safe and sound, albeit worn out and tired. Had a nice big meal at an old haunt of ours and we retired for the day.

When I look back, yes, it was tiresome; true, we could have gone to some other places too, but in the end, it was fun, and absolutely worth it.

Until next time!
Cheers!!

The Ahmedabad Story

Ahmedabad, a big bustling city on the banks of the river Sabarmati is located in the western state of Gujarat in India. Home to more than 6 million people, it is also a city which is rich with history and stories.

Let me brush up on the history for a bit. Back in the 15th century, a ruler from the Delhi Sultanate, by the name Ahmed Shah became the leader of the city. In the later years, the Mughal ruler, Akbar conquered Gujarat and Ahmedabad became a thriving centre of trade and commerce. Later on, in the mid 18th century, Ahmedabad was surrendered to the Marathas. The Marathas fought over the precious piece of land and managed to keep it under their control, until the mid of 19th century when the British moved in and established an army cantonment in the city. With increase in trade and technology, textile industry took off and Ahmedabad came to be known as the Manchester of the East. Over time, freedom struggles and a stable government, Ahmedabad has grown to become one of the fastest growing cities of the decade and one of the best cities to live in, in India.

On a trip to the NIRMA University in the city, a thought intrigued me, what happened to the dynasty, the bloodline, are they still rulers somewhere? Or have they all perished! I wished it be that they would still be there and maybe meet them too. For a photo story shoot, a bunch of us, went to the Swami Narayan Temple in the heart of the city.
As I walked around the place, I saw loads of people, and found it to be a nice opportunity to talk to them a bit, get to know the place and also take a few photos.

As I wandered about, camera in hand, I heard the unmistakable sound of a sewing machine, and went right in, to have a chat with the man who was working with a lot of concentration on a piece of cloth. We talked about his work, and his past. At the mention of the past, he appeared a tad bit sad, and said that things are not the same anymore. Yes, I did find it a little strange, but well, I decided to moved on. As I was leaving, he calls out to me and says, “Once upon a time, my wife would command slaves, today she sells vegetables and my son, he makes kite reels! This is what misfortune does to you! I would have been a king back in the old days, but this is all that has remained today”. Needless to say, I had to find the vegetable seller lady, and maybe the son too.

Some search yielded results!

The lady, accompanied with her grand daughter could be found at a local market. It seemed that she commanded a lot of respect amongst the other sellers in the vicinity. I asked, who is she. And the reply came, in a nervous jest, “You don’t know, she is the queen…the queen of the sabji mandi (vegetable market)”, and there was some laughter around. She didn’t look very amused, while the girl retorted, in the choicest of words that some day the fortunes shall  turn and they would serve her, and her brother.


From the other corner of the market, there came some sounds of commotion. One of the shopkeepers swears, looks at me, says with some contempt, “That’s the king we are supposed to serve if the fortunes turn? No damn way”. There was just one thought in my head, this can’t be happening! I rushed to the site of the commotion, and realize that its a street side kite making shop. A man is applying the coatings on the reel (Maanja) while the other one was rolling it. It seemed some altercation had taken place. Nothing I can do there, nor talk much. The guys seemed ready to fight, more than willing than to talk about some what ifs.
As the call for wrap was being sounded, right near where our bus was parked, I saw a boy, another vegetable seller. He had a poise, a gaze and an attitude that made it impossible to ignore and walk away. As I talk to him, he asks me various questions, where I was from, what I did and so on. He was fascinated by the camera, and I showed him the photos. He exclaimed that I met his grandparents and sister. As I bought a carrot from him, he said he has a secret, that no one believes! He said, that he is destined to be a ruler! I smiled, paid my due, and took a photo, but before I left, I asked, “Whats your name”?

He looked straight at me, with a hint of pride in a winsome smile, came the reply, “Ahmed Shah”!

There may be elements of fiction in my account, and in case I got the facts wrong, correct me, I shall be grateful. If I have hurt someone with my account of the trip, please feel free to contact me with your grievances. I cannot claim that all the characters here are fictitious or that any resemblances are coincidental!

Feed me back through the comments please!

Cheers!!

Wandering through Delhi

Hi there readers,

The prompt came up as Wanderlust 🙂 and they asked about the places which made me feel different and amazing. The place that comes up readily, will be Delhi.
The hustle bustle, the crowd, the historic monuments, the food and uniquely, the company. It all amalgamated to be one of the most amazing trip of 7 days.
I wrote about them in detail in the posts which can be found here.
I ll share one of the shots that was a predetermined shot, as I call them, and it came out perfectly.

Bangla Sahib Gurdwara at Night, New Delhi, India

This, right here is, Bangla Sahib Gurdwara shot from across the tank.
Go through the link above, and let me know what you loved and what you believe could have been different.

Cheers!!

TTL: Delhi: Lodi Gardens and Bangla Sahib

These were the last two stops on our list, and there was a specific condition I had for the Bangla Sahib gurdwara, I wanted to visit it at night.
So, we made it to the Lodi Gardens in the evening, and spent some time.

Dome in Lodi Gardens, New Delhi, India

Girl standing at the doorway of Lodi Gardens, New Delhi, India

One of the tombs in the Lodi Gardens, New Delhi, India

The garden is quite mesmerizing and the tombs are simply beautiful. It would be an amazing place to do some light painting experiments. Maybe someday, when I visit Delhi again.

Nearest Metro station will be Jor Bagh (Yellow line).

Next, we went to Bangla Sahib Gurdwara. After quickly depositing our shoes and donning a headscarf, we went ahead. Crowded, yet quite organized this place is. The best bit of the gurdwara, is the lake, and once we went to the other side of the lake,  another of those pre mediated shots, came into being.

Long Exposure shot of Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, New Delhi, India

A five minute exposure turned the lake into a blurry mirror and it was just amazing.

Again, I have Tuhina to thank for taking me to all these places and being my guide and my model and as always, my cherished companion.

I left Delhi the next day, and as I type this out, am in Mumbai. I have shifted here and am based here, as of now.