Mt. Bromo and Ijen Crater – Indonesia

 

Bali is probably the most well known destination in Indonesia but this country has other out-of-this-world places which are worth visiting, Mt. Bromo and Ijen Crater being among them.

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Mount Bromo or Gunung Bromo is an active Volcano (it last exploded in November 2015), stands at 2,329 metres and is located in East Java, Indonesia.

It’s difficult to tour this place without a tour guide as only specific jeeps with license are allowed on the mountain and you are better off with a tour guide as you have to drive on mountains in the night. Our guide picked us up at Surabaya Airport at around 10pm to drive us to Mt. Bromo which is 4 hours away. We freshened up at our hotel and left for Penanjakan Peak for the sunrise  which is a few minutes drive up the mountain. The place can get crowded but you can climb the wire railing and watch the sunrise from there. It’s probably the most stunning sunrise we’ve ever seen. The rest of our itinerary was to visit Savanah, Teletubbies Hill and Bromo Crater, all of which are equally stunning.

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The next day we left for Ijen crater which is a 5-6 hours drive. Around 2.00 am that night we trekked the steep mountain for around 2 hours to reach Kawah Ijen. You can see blue flames at night but since there was a lot of fog when we were there, we couldn’t see anything. But the place was still very beautiful. You have to wear gas masks to protect from the sulphur fumes. We saw many sulphur miners working there under dangerous conditions without masks.

Needless of the early mornings, the steep climbs, we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. We also got to taste the most expensive coffee in the world. What more could you ask for?

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We would recommend this place in a heartbeat. Some of the pictures below.


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Little Guilin – Singapore

little guilin

Living in Singapore, there often comes a time when you want to go somewhere to escape the chaos of the city. While browsing on the internet I stumbled upon pictures of a place called Little Guilin. The western part of Singapore, I find, is much more greener than the East. If the weather is good, it almost feels like you are living on a hill station.

We left home at 11 in the morning. We alighted at Bukit Gombak mrt. Little Guilin is a very short walk from the mrt. As we walked on the winding road with a stadium on the left, we were almost wondering how could a place like that exist between the high rise condos and modern infrastructure. But as you walk closer and spot the towering rock structure from a distance, you know you are in for a treat. We spotted the lake after a few minutes. As we entered the park, it was almost like entering a small paradise. There were 2 boys fishing, a bunch of kids watching the fish struggling as it was pulled out of water and an old man sitting on a rock and watching his grandchildren play. Its like being transported in time when things were simpler.

We sat on a rock nearby and simply watched the ripples on the lake from the light rain. If you avoid looking at the 2 buildings jutting out from behind, it almost feels like you’re not in Singapore.

Note: Little Guilin is modelled after Guilin in China.

Wangfujing shopping street

Fancy Scorpions on a stick? Go to the Night market in Beijing!!

Wangfujing shopping streetAfter the flag lowering ceremony at The Tienanmen Square, we walked down for a few minutes on a cool, crisp night and entered Wangfujing shopping street.

If you are the adventurous type where food is concerned, this place could be heaven for you. But we don’t really eat much in meat other than chicken and Pork. Sometimes we eat duck but definitely not when we can see the eyes and the beak.

Wangfujing shopping streetYou can find dumplings, scorpions on a stick, heaps of octopuses, baby ducks, snakes and other delicacies. But don’t worry, you can also find things to eat here – satay, Duck Pancakes, kababs among other things.

Wangfujing shopping streetThe atmosphere is lively, there are a lot of tourists around and generally good time can be had just by walking around and trying to recognize things on sticks. We would highly recommend this place even if it’s a place where probably only the tourists visit.

Siem Reap city

Siem Reap: The city of Ankor Wat

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Siem Reap is home to some of most beautiful archeological sites, Ankor Wat being one of them. There is a lot you can do in and around the city. There’s Ankor Wat of course, The night market, Silk factory, Stone Carving workshop, fish spa, shopping among other things.

Siem Reap airportSiem Reap city When we drove into the city from the airport, there seemed to be a mild sand storm or just a lot of wind I guess. The city is not very developed compared to other South East Asian major cities. We stayed in Ankor Paradise which was a great place to stay with some balconies that open on the main road. We bought the hotel voucher through Group-on and it worked well since the location was great. It was just a few minutes walk to the main market.

Siemp Reap CitySiem Reap city

The night market is a place where all the tourists and backpackers spend some time drinking and eating. Like any other South East Asian market, it has a lot of bars and massage places. A rather nice and lively place to relax. There is also a huge market for fake goods like LV, Prada and the likes. Also present is a section for pirated books.

Siem Reap citySiem Reap city Years of Khmer rouge atrocities have definitely left a mark. You see headless statues and destroyed work in the temples here. You see people on wheelchairs, a result of the landmines,trying to make a living by selling paintings. Tourism helps.

Zhujiajiao ancient town Shanghai

Venice in Shanghai – Zhujiajiao ancient town :Shanghai

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Well it is known as the Venice of Shanghai. Zhujiajiao is an ancient town located in the Qingpu District of Shanghai. We had no idea how or where to buy tickets from because we didn’t want to go through a tour or an agent. We googled the ticket center address and we knew we could get a bus from there. Now this sounds easier said than done. Because if you can’t speak Chinese, good luck with making the cab driver understand what you’re saying. So we did the smart thing, got the hotel receptionist to write down the ticket counter place in Chinese and we also took a map. It still took us 3 rounds around the same junction to find the place.  Again we rushed to find the counter because it was nearing closing time. We found the counter at the basement and with hand gestures and map and our Chinese translation, managed to get two tickets to the place. Thankfully everything but the date and timing was written in Chinese. The ticket counter guy was sweet enough to point us to a English pamphlet of the place.

Zhujiajiao Ancient Town

The next day we reached 5 mins before the bus left and found it already boarded and waiting for late comers like us. All the people in the bus were Chinese and they were nice enough to point out our seats when we took the wrong seats the first 2 times.  We reached the place in about a couple of hours or maybe even less.

Zhujiajiao Ancient Town

There are rows and rows of weeping willow trees that great you on the way to the entrance. Since it was our first time seeing these trees, we were kind of  distracted. Zhujiajiao is what it says it is.  An ancient village on water. We had fun strolling around the cobbled streets looking at different varieties of food and souvenirs, dress shops and other entertaining things.There are a lot of alley ways and small shops along the way. The small streets open up to a huge junction.

Zhujiajiao Ancient Town Zhujiajiao Ancient Town

There are a few cozy and pretty cafes scattered along the way and there’s Starbucks. I wonder how Starbucks found it’s way here, but it was a relief to get a reliable chai latte to lift our tired spirits.

Beware of the temple in the village. We went in and couldn’t say no when the 2 Chinese temple guys separated us and took us to two opposite tables. The one who guided me saw my hand, pretended to read the lines, then wrote something down on a paper, put it in an envelope and gave it to me. Then he showed me a register to sign and obviously pay, which I was not going to go. I hate scams like this. I refused saying I had no money. He asked me to return my fortune back to him. Of course. I was only glad to return him the scrap of paper.

Zhujiajiao Ancient TownI bought soft wool socks made for my darling niece from this sweet lady. We also got our paper cut outs made. We watched a 5d movie (yes!) and I had my picture taken in a Chinese dress. I simply cannot resist things like that.

Zhujiajiao Ancient TownAs the sun started setting, it scattered a warm glow over the place which made it look even more beautiful. We might have enjoyed it even more if it wasn’t super hot.

Zhujiajiao Ancient Town

Forbidden City - Beijing

The Forbidden City – Beijing

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Forbidden City - BeijingIt’s bloody huge. It’s really huge. Did I tell you it’s huge. If you manage to not get lost in the palace, figuring out your way between thousands of rooms, kudos to you. There are 9999.5 rooms in the Forbidden city, all of which are not open to visitors.

Forbidden City - BeijingThe Forbidden palace is on every China Traveler’s agenda after The Great Wall. I’ve read a couple of books on Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi who was the last Empress of China. Since then I’ve been fascinated by this place.

Forbidden City - BeijingWe went in early and we expected the ticket counters to have long queues but seemed like almost everyone was either with a tour guide or had purchased tickets beforehand. We went in but not before buying an electronic guide which not only looked very pretty and snazzy but was very helpful.

Forbidden City - BeijingThe first thing we noticed was the crowd, there were so many people inside. I started thinking about our vacation pictures with herds of people in it. But you can’t really complain when you’re part of the same crowd now, can you? But you go further and the palace splits into 3 sections, that’s when the crowds start fizzling out.

Forbidden City - Beijing Forbidden City - Beijing

The electronic guide did a good job of explaining the significance of each structure. All the rooms and halls have beautiful, poetic names (Hall of Supreme Harmony, The Hall of Central Peace, Palace of Earthly Tranquility, Palace of Heavenly Purity, Palace of Earthly Tranquility, Hall of Mental Cultivation ) and distinct purposes.

Forbidden City - Beijing

China had such a rich, fascinating and vibrant history that I feel one cannot appreciate any site fully if you don’t know the history.

Indian Village

A day in an Indian Village…

Indian Village

Today I would love to show you my father’s village. He grew up and studied in a village up to 10th grade and then moved to the city (Pune) to study his diploma in Engineering. Since then he’s made Pune his home. Occasionally we go to visit his village for a day since it’s very close to Pune and it’s always fun. It’s slow, relaxing and a great getaway, not to mention getting to meet the rest of the family members.

Indian Village

Last time we went it was the beginning of summer. Because of the open spaces and the vegetation you feel the summer heat more. you can see it in the dried up lake and the browning vegetation.

Whenever we visit, we take pictures with the cows and the hens and the tractor like tourists who have never seen a village before. We also look at plants laden with tomatoes and take pictures with it. We’re crazy like that.

We saw huge full grown onions. They were planted when the onion prices in India were over the roof, but now that the prices are down, don’t know how much profit it could fetch. We also saw chilli plants. There are some chillies grown in our village which are actually sweet. You can eat them raw without burning your tongue. We posed on tractors and ate sugarcane. As always my dad peeled and broke the sugarcane for us to eat since we are delicate city people.

All pictures taken by Nokia Lumia 1520.

Shanghai to Beijing high speed train

Shanghai to Beijing…on a train!

Shanghai to Beijing high speed train
Shanghai to Beijing high speed train
When we wanted to travel to Beijing from Shanghai and were looking for options, we zeroed in on a High-Speed Railway that travels at around 300 km/h. This rail line is the world’s longest high-speed line ever constructed in a single phase. It was more expensive than the airfare but we decided to take it for the thrill of experiencing something new. And we’re ever so glad we did.

Shanghai to Beijing high speed train
First off, the train station is huge, it’s almost like a mini airport. In spite of the chaos  its very well managed. Even though we can’t read or speak Chinese, we didn’t have any trouble locating the boarding area. As far as we remember, there was no check-in luggage line. If you have bags, you can keep them in the train when you board in a separate place for bags. We bought the business class tickets but the second class didn’t look bad either. Considering there was no food served in the train I don’t think it matter what class you take. The seats for both classes looked comfortable except business class has more leg space.

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At 300 km/h we thought the world outside would be a blur but we could see very clearly and also take pictures. If you ever want to travel from Shanghai to Beijing or vice versa, do think about this option. Firstly, you don’t have to reach the place 3 hours in advance. One hour is fine. The boarding process so painless and quick. And the journey is very comfortable. All in all a very good experience.

Bukit Brown Cemetery

Bukit Brown Cemetary

Bukit Brown Cemetery

Bukit Brown Cemetery

Cemeteries are fascinating. Being a Hindu the only time we go to cemeteries is when we are traveling. So when I got a chance to do a photography project in design school, my first choice was a cemetery. Now I’ve seen Christian cemeteries before so I kind of thought a Chinese Christian cemetery would be more or less similar. Well, not really.

Bukit Brown cemetery was the biggest Chinese graveyard outside China. The cemetery is home to many bird species and wild life and is popular among nature lovers and photographers. There are also organized tours every weekend.

Bukit Brown Cemetery

But the cemetery has been in news lately because of governments decision to build a 4-way lane through the cemetery by exhuming thousands of graves. And in about 40 years new public housing will take the place of cemetery. This is so typically Singapore, destroying heritage and nature to build modern structures and on the other hand building a million dollar artificial garden. You see the Irony?