My Year In Travel
“Not all those who wander are lost”- J.R.R. Tolkien
I’ve always admired the jet setters- the people who hop on and off airplanes effortlessly, wake up in different time-zones never having to adjust their body clock, know a restaurant or two to recommend in every city and have those coveted stamps in their endless passports. So, I decided I’m going to make 2014- 2015 about being one of them. The glamorous globetrotter that barely has her feet on the ground. For 15 months straight, I have taken a plane (if not two) out of Mumbai to a different city or country! Truthfully, I loved every minute of it but found that besides the (serious) envy (and borderline anger) of my friends and family, my year in travel was hardly “glamorous”. I failed at the magical body clock; I stumbled around between flights; the airlines lost my luggage; I tried some really bad food and ran out of pages on my passport. It’s not for everyone, and to all those who always give me the “I want your life” line, I say, “the grass is always greener on the other side”. Yes, friends & family were missed, work was compromised, but I know I am a traveller in my spirit because after all is said and done- I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here are the highlights of my year:
Tanzania: Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Carter & Serengeti
There are few ways to “reset” your soul; visiting Africa is one of them. Intensely wild and exhilarating, it was a perfect way to start the year by gaining perspective on what is important. See my detailed experiences from my trip to Tanzania here.
USA: New York City, Philadelphia & Bentonville
6 years of multiple-trips-a-year to the Big Apple and still not one that is boring! How the city constantly keeps its electricity going, even in the brutal winter is unbelievable. Each year for my winter trips I have a new favorite thing to do to beat the blistering cold; be it exploring snow covered central park or seeing Christmas markets and holiday lights. From this trip, these are some of my favorite gourmet recommendations and favorite bars with cozy fireplaces to beat the cold.
Philly… sigh… I have a love affair with this city that’s undeniable. It was my home, it has my best memories and is the place I met some of my best friends. Since I went to school here 10 years ago, much has changed in this beautiful historical city: a college town with an interesting student- working population mix is now younger and cooler. Here are my picks of philly’s coolest haunts.
Bentonville, Arkansas- never heard of it? Well, neither had I. I visit here strictly on business- it is headquarters to the world’s largest retail giant, Walmart, but I did muster up a list of things to do in and around Bentonville. So if like me, you find yourself stuck here, it isn’t as bad as you think.
Austria: Ischgl & Innsbruck
Ski week: A 25-year-old tradition we really look forward to! A large group of our friends from all over the world make it to the slopes each year. Granted our trips are more about bonding, views, wining and dining than skiing; I highly recommend Ischgl as a town for the young at heart. Check out the best slopes and restaurants/bars to hit in Ischgl. Innsbruck is the closest airport and makes for a charming stopover town; see my favorite eclectic “Stay and shop” options in Innsbruck.
Netherlands & Sweden: The Ice Hotel in Kiruna & Amsterdam
My husband am I were gifted an adventure trip to Sweden’s spectacular Ice Hotel. It was a holiday with freezing temperatures, specialized clothing, interesting architecture and activities fit for life in the North Pole. Here is my what to expect guide for those who are willing to brave it out.
Amsterdam is a chameleon. To those who visit, it is what you want it to be. It can be more charming than Venice, more provocative than Sin City and more romantic than Prague. For my city guide to Amsterdam, click here.
India: Ranthambore National Park
USA: Miami & Las Vegas
I was “invited” to Miami with my mom and her friends. I agreed to go because it was really just a way for me to spend quality time with my mum before a work stint in Las Vegas. 3 short days THE beachy city, with a bunch of 50 year olds shouldn’t be too hectic, right? WRONG! These 50 year olds gave me a run for my money! Poolside soirees, tanning on the beach, visiting the hottest clubs & restaurants and walking around from the first sign of activity to the last. Here are my favorite places we visited on the trip and a few new ones to watch out for.
After 3 days of total debauchery in Miami it was on to Las Vegas for work. Las Vegas is home to one of the world’s largest jewelry shows- the JCK. For 8 consecutive years, my business trips are not devoid of “the good life”. Yes, its exhaustingly long working hours (a 12 hour day is considered “light”), but there are plenty fancy dinners, great shows and unique experiences after hours. There’s a reason why US’s premier party capital has become the centre of big business
Summer in New York for me means parties, parties and more parties. This trip was no different; sleep deprivation, hangovers and food comas galore. Enjoying the weather with some delectable al fresco dining and drinks at rooftop bars, tops my list of favorite NY summer activities.
Perfect for a quick getaway, The Leela Kovalam is only a short 15-minute drive from Trivandrum Airport, in the capital city of Kerela. A five-star deluxe resort with a host of accommodations, its most attractive feature is its theatrical location. Perched on a cliff, the Arabian Sea lashes against the rock face and most rooms offer views of the famous Kovalam coastline. The clubrooms in a separate annex have an exclusive infinity pool overlooking the ocean. The 8000 sq ft Ayurveda spa, Divya, offers extensive treatments suggested by qualified Ayurvedic doctors and therapists, personalized to your ‘ailments’. The airy Yoga pavilion, perched atop the cliff, is perfect for those inspired to watch the sunrise. Food is a highlight; the hotel has 5 restaurants serving everything from delectable pizza to authentic Malyali prawn curry. There is no real reason to leave the hotel but the backwater excursion is interesting for first-timers like me. A 3-hour drive will take you to the southern most tip of India, Kanyakumari – where you can witness the Arabia Sea meet the Indian Ocean and the Bay Of Bengal.
Finland & Sweden: Stockholm, a Baltic Cruise to Helsinki, Linkoping
Stockholm is one of my favorite cities in the world. Its unique topography, tranquil archipelago, charming old town and vibrant/young vibe makes it a must visit when in Europe. For my city guide to Stockholm click here.
If you have some time to spare, there’s a 16 to 20 hour (oneway) ferry connection between Stockholm and Helsinki leaving in the afternoon and arriving the following morning. Don’t expect the luxurious American cruise ships, the “better and newer” Silja Line cruises offer round trips and has just basic on board services such as bars, restaurants, different types of cabins, and duty-free shopping. The reason to do this trip is the staggeringly breathtaking views of the Baltic. You will end up spending most of your time on deck taking in the vistas or watch the ship arrive and depart from the 2 major cities. For my guide to Top 10 things to see and do in Helsinki, click here.
We were in Lingkoping for a close family friend’s wedding. This little off the tourist track town may surprise you. See lonely planet’s guide to this city.
Kenya: Masai Mara
What better way to spend father-daughter time, given our hectic schedules, than a to bond in the jungle! Kenya’s superb connectivity (internationally and domestically) makes it an easy short trip from Mumbai. Kenya Airways has a daily, direct flight Mumbai- Nairobi (5 hours) and SafariLink is a fantastic small local airline that links all of Kenya’s popular national parks and offers several trips a day into different Mara airstrips. The new wave of top of the line camps, make for world-class accommodation with delicious food, luxurious amenities and amazing hospitality. You can be as disconnected or connected to the outside world as you choose to be. The highlight remains the excitement of watching some of Africa’s best game. We stayed at the lovely eco-friendly Ilkeliani Camp, which offers only 17 tents luxury tents that combine old traditional safari style with modern necessities. The property is surrounded by the Talek River; a favorite for local elephants in the area to quench their thirst. The home cooked meals were delicious and catered to dietary restrictions.
India & Mauritius: Goa & Mauritius
What- a – partaaay!! My 30th birthday saw 43 of my friends fly down to Goa for 3 days to celebrate with me, and one of my closest friend’s had a dream wedding in Mauritius. October never looked so good! Since both these trips were more about having an insanely good time with friends and less about travel, I’ve chosen to leave them out of the blog but I cannot resist recommending the places I went to and partied at. In Goa: we stayed at The Sofala, a gorgeous boutique hotel with 21 rooms, perfect for parties like mine. We had an epic party with a fantastic DJ and Saxophonist at the Sofala poolside as well as another at Thallasa, with its gorgeous backdrop and delicious food. In Mauritius: we stayed at the Le Touessrok and the Long Beach hotel (for the wedding party), both exceptional resorts that I highly recommend for their food, locations, amenities, luxury and service.
Okay ill say it- For the most part, I dislike Delhi. It’s dirty, crowded, unsafe and polluted. The monuments and history would have been great attractions, were they maintained better by our government and if the visitors had basic civic respect (although I should mention we had a spectacular VIP/insider’s tour to the Red Fort). The fog, the sweltering heat and the blistering cold make the ideal visiting window short; and of course I am a Bombay girl- I am expected to have an anti-Delhi bias. But there is one saving grace (besides the jovial Delhi families and their amazing hospitality)- THE FOOD… sigh… THE FOOD!!! For a foodie like me, it’s hard to resist. Delhi undoubtedly is foodie capital of India. A few kilos of weight gain and a food coma is an expected outcome of any Delhi visit. Here is my list of the must visit gorging options.
Italy & India: Venice, Florence, Rome & Rishikesh
An Italian romance is like no other and of course there is “dolce far niente” (the sweetness of doing nothing)!! This trip was my husband’s 5-year anniversary present to me. Each city is a spectacular backdrop for a different kind of romance. For what to see, where to live and where to eat, see my Lover’s Guide to Venice, Florence and Rome.
After a hectic year it seemed only fitting to go off the radar with him into the quiet Himalayas. Ananda Spa is a great way to unwind. Read my review of it here.
USA & Europe: NYC, Philly, Zurich, Linz, Vienna, Oslo, Valencia, Vicenza, Paris
More NYC and Philly! – Here’s a list of my top 10 favorite things to do in NYC and top 5 for Philly in the winter. And then there was this insanely crazy Euro- business trip (from hell)!! I lost my luggage on day 1). I was in each city for a day so here’s my guide to a day in each of these cities for business travelers.
I brought in the New Year in the Ananda Spa near Rishikesh and even then going back to the Himalayas a month later, this time at the WildFlower Hall in Mashobra, didn’t seem too soon. I don’t know what it is about this mystical part of our country, besides its abject beauty, that beckons me and my sense of calm. For help to choose which one to visit- Wildflower Hall or Ananda- click here.
Thailand & Germany: Hua Hin, Bangkok & Frieburg
Hau Hin was the location of another friend’s Indian destination wedding, so I will leave it out of this travel blog. I highly recommend Hua Hin as a great short beachy/golfing getaway option from Bangkok. We stayed at the Amari Hua Hin, which I liked for its eclectic feel (note: the property is not beachfront). Bangkok is a shopper’s and foodie’s paradise! Check out my review of Bangkok’s remarkable Gaggan Restaurant.
Later that month I visited the Freiburg jewelry show and was pleased to see that this wee little town in the middle of the Black Forest is Charming and interesting. For a city guide here’s the Truth about Freiburg.
Phew! Since March 27th 2015 I have been grounded. New projects at work, reprioritizing priorities, spending time with the people I love and such. Yet wanderlust hasn’t left me. It’s been nearly 2 months and my heart yearns to travel. So after trying to exercise much restraint, I’ve caved. I’m booked to go to Goa next week and explore the south of the state for the first time ever. Needless to say, I CANNOT WAIT!
P.S. all the links on this post are not yet active. I will be updating them in the weeks to come. Thank you for your patience. Love xoxo