France And Euro 2016 – Chamonix

Chamonix

If you’ve been following this blog, this is a continuation to my last travel post ( Link : France And Euro 2016 – Marseille). From Marseille, we headed to Chamonix. A small and beautiful town, near the border of Switzerland. One can opt for either of the two ways to get here:

  1. Take a flight or train to Geneva and hire a cab or a car from Geneva to Chamonix.
  2. Or one could opt for a car from wherever they are to Chamonix. The journey is about 515 kms or a 4 and a half hour drive incase you don’t take a stop in between. Being near the border of Switzerland, the roads are very scenic with snowclad mountains and lush forests.

The taxi ride from Geneva to Chamonix.

We opted for the former, all thanks to the Car Rental agency swiping our card multiple times and causing it to block instantly. Taking the train is slightly complicated cause you need to change trains, and take care of your luggage simultaneously. Also, since we bought tickets at the last hour, it was pretty expensive for us.

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As far as the train changes go, from Marseille we travelled to Lyon, and then changed trains from Lyon to Geneva, followed by a taxi that charged us about €300. The train takes about 5 hours to get you there, however it was the famous TGV that we were in, so that was another small experience added to this EuroTrip. And since we were spending a great deal of money anyway, we decided to spoil ourselves with first class tickets at an additional €25.

About Chamonix, it is something I would describe as a small village, not even a town.But surrounded by mountains, including The Mont Blanc; it manages to attract a great deal of tourists.

Evening and sunrise view of The Mont Blanc from our room.

We checked into “Des Balcons Du Savoy” which is a 4 start hotel at the edge of town, about a 7 minute walk from the centre, which is why it is cheaper than other similar hotels in the area. The hotel was comfortable, and the rooms very spacey. The highlight for us though, were the windows facing the Mont Blanc and the automatic blinds. You’re probably thinking whats so good about automatic blinds, and let me tell you; wanting to open the blinds right after waking up to get a sunrise view, or being able to control them from your bed after a tiring days affairs has its own satisfaction.

img_4700.jpgChecking in, we immediately set out to explore the town. It is a very cute town, with very small structures, not bigger than 2-3 storeys, except some hotels. A town that reminded me of my time in Whistler,Canada. Cafes everywhere, branded shops to shop from, sports stores to buy high-end trekking gear from, and countless restaurants offering a number of cuisines, bakeries and dessert houses. That macaroon tower had me swooning, despite never having tried one back then!

This place is like heaven for people who like outdoor sports especially cycling and trekking thanks to the enormous number of sports stores offering the most premium quality equipments. Things I’ve literally never come across back in Mumbai.

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There’s a small river that flows through the town giving you a DDLJ feeling (Every bollywood fan will get this!). This town also has a small casino, but the tables open only after 08:30. However, it only has roulette, blackjack and slot machines to offer. However it’s fun for newbies, as minimum bet starts at as low as €2.

A very important thing to note for people who do not have a lot of time in Chamonix is to cover the following things, as far as sightseeing goes.

  1. The Gondola for Aiguille Du Midi
  2. Train ride to Mer de Glace

Thanks to a lot of tourists and long queues, it takes almost a day to cover either of those. So its better to start off as early as possible and try to cover The Aiguille Du Midi first, since that is much more beautiful and time consuming.

The first gondola starts at 6:30am and there’s one gondola every 30 or 15 mins depending on the number of tourists. We took a gondola at 7:30 and went up pretty fast. There are a lot of things to do up there.

One of the stations, and a gondola for skiers. However, it was under maintenance when we went.

A few stations at different levels, to look at the Alps, with panoramic views, etc. There are a lot of steps to climb, from one station to another; however, the air above is thin which may get you exhausted pretty quickly. There’s a cafeteria at the top which serves good food. There are ample souvenirs in the gift shop, right outside the cafe. I haven’t come across similar souvenirs anywhere else so if you like something, you should probably buy it. There is also a gift store right outside the gondola station at ground level.

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On one of the stations is a glass cabin that is made, which overlooks the Alps. To get there, you have to take a lift that takes you from 3777m to 3842m. It is crowded above and we had a queue of about 10 minutes, however by the time we were done, the queue extended to over a 30 minute wait. All thanks to our early start to the day.

There is a separate gondola for anyone who wants to get a close look at the Mont Blanc (the one that was under maintenance) but there’s no other way for tourists to get there. There’s a path for all those mountain climbers and snow Trekkers so if that is something you’re interested in, and have experience in, you could get the necessary equipment and do it. It looked pretty fun, and partly dangerous/risky.

From there, we headed to our train ride. The train ride takes you to the Mer de Glace. There are again two ways to go there, first being the train and the second being a trek from Aiguille Du Midi.

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The Aiguille Du Midi gondola is divided into two parts, and the trek starts from the lower, or the first stop. After reaching Mer de Glace, one should take the smaller gondola to go towards the ice caves.

After the gondola, take the stairs to get to the ice caves. This is very tiring as there are a total of 435 stairs(counted specifically and specially) downwards to get to the ice cave and the same upwards to get to the gondola.

The ice caves are beautiful and something I haven’t seen ever before; inside with a lot of lights that are put up, don’t expect too much as the whole journey in the ice caves is about 5-6 minutes, however it’s something rare to see and hence worth it.

Inside The Ice Caves.

After coming back up, we took the train back to Chamonix. The rest of the day was spent in resting as the first half got too tiring and exhausting. In the evening we set out to see the town again. For those who want to shop, all the shops close by 7:30pm so adjust accordingly. The next day, we set out for some trail cycling and exploring.

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You can hire two kinds of bikes:

  1. A motored electrical bike.
  2. A normal geared bike.

I’d recommend the bike since its almost 1/5th the effort, and allows you to enjoy the scenery and not kill yourself, peddling over the hills. The trails are beautiful, going through the woods and across streams and rivers. We found a beautiful spot to take some really beautiful photos.

It was serene, enjoying the blue skies, the quiet with only the sound of the stream. One of the highlights of the trip. So very peaceful.

I hope you like this post. Feel free to like, share and subscribe to this website. I’d also love to hear from you via comments.

Thank you and regards,

The Travellothoner.

France And Euro 2016 – Nice, Eze Village & Monaco

Nice

From Paris, we took a 6 am flight to one of my favourite cities, Nice (pronounced as “Neece”). Unfortunately, our flight was delayed due to an air traffic personnel strike (which I was told was neither a big deal nor very rare in this part of the world). Arriving in Nice at 10, we checked-in our luggage in the hostel and headed out towards the beach.

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Nice from atop the hill.

The Villa Saint Exupery Beach Hostel, Nice. It was a pretty good place, considering its location which was just 5 minutes from the beach. Although most places in Nice are not more than 5-10 mins from the beach. In terms of its interiors and amenities, it had a full fledged bar inside and a cool place to hangout and chill, or gather up before going for a bar crawl. A lot of us just hung out here with our fellow travelers from across the world, with loads of stories to share. That is one of my favourite aspects about living in a hostel, the people generally tend to have travelled a lot, or aspire to. The vibe is pretty good and the interaction is genuine, something which doesn’t always happen if you check into a hotel. The hostel also had a fancy kitchen with all kinds of equipments to make life easy.

I personally prefer a hostel over a hotel for multiple reasons:

  1. It is cheaper, because you pay per-bed and not per-room. Although, you don’t get any value added services either.
  2. The people are usually cut out of a similar cloth, backpackers or travellers with an agenda to just explore the street and cities, explore local cuisines or just wander. People who believe in low-cost travel.
  3. Its just overall more informal and comfortable; and in a way, more interactive!
  4. These people also tend to be reliable sources of information to help you plan your local itinerary.

One point to note is that hostels, just like hotels usually have a late check-in around 2-3pm and check out is always early at 10am, so one must plan accordingly! Although most of these places do allow you to store your luggage without any questions or hassles, and its pretty safe in general.

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While walking across to the beach, we came across this wonderful waterpark. It is just a joy to watch little kids play in the fountains, more so adults, who behave like little kids and just live in the moment. Those few beautiful minutes of just joy and peace! From there, we headed towards the street markets. It was like a small organised farmers market with lots of stuff ranging from handmade soaps and candles to fresh fruits and jellies.

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The beach in Nice is beautiful and the water is different shades of blue. There is a small hill in Nice, which is right opposite the port and is a couple hundred steps to the top. It is called The Castle Hill. Up there is a big garden and a nice picnic place. One can see the whole beach as well the entire city from up there. It is too good to miss and doesn’t consume a lot of time either. One can walk towards the port from there and look around and enjoy!

One thing to keep in mind is that Nice has a fantastic nightlife! Big casinos and clubs. The whole strip across the beach is full of casinos.

Keeping that in mind, we napped in the afternoon and hit the casinos in the evening, to try our luck. Turned out to be like my lucky day, since I was able to earn enough to sustain my expenses for the next 2 days 😇

FYI : Hostels provide nothing other a bed to sleep and a kitchen to cook. So it is important to carry your own bath products and personal toiletries, towels and food (if you plan to cook).

I woke up the next morning and headed for a run on the promenade along the beach. It was a joyous experience, with the blue sea on the right and a fresh cold breeze hitting my face. A good run and then on to the beach I went, into the cool turquoise blue water for a swim. You’d want to carry a pair of slippers or swim shoes since it is a pebble beach, so that’s going to hurt if you plan to walk bare feet.

Coming back to the hostel after the swim, we freshened up and left for Eze Village. Nice is a small city and can be explored on feet within a day or one could rent a bicycle and ride around. It’s beautiful!

Eze Village

The thing to remember in Nice, is that the bus frequency is very low so when you want to go outside the city, keep a track of the bus timings! The trams can get you to other places inside the city. Ubers aren’t so easy to get or the best option is to rent a car and go around!

We took the bus and headed to Eze village. It is located on the top of a mountain and one has to explore it on foot. It would take barely a couple of hours to see the whole village, which is very quaint and cute. It is similar to the narrow streets with small gelato shops in Rome or Greece, a visual treat for anyone who’s into art.

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View from atop the Eze Village Garden.

It has narrow roads and is an uphill task. Some good cafes to eat at and a few ice cream stores with authentic gelatos that literally melt in your mouth. There’s also a garden at the very top which is quite unique.

Monaco

Taking yet another bus from Eze Village, we touched down into Monaco. The biggest attraction here is the Monaco Casino (the one you see in the Bond movie Casino Royale), the World renowned F1 race track (as seen in the beginning of Iron Man 2) and AS Monaco FC (the football club).

The Monaco casino is huge with fancy exotic cars parked outside. A city so rich, one can spot between 15-17 Rolls Royce’s and twice the number of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and the likes within a span of 30-40 minutes. It is safe to say, a trip to Monaco and you won’t feel so special about exotic supercars anymore.

The race tunnel and a part of the track.

After the casino we strolled around the racetrack that goes around the port. Lots of luxury yachts and small boats here. A sight very rare to the naked eye.

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View from the train back to Nice

Coming back to Nice from Monaco via train, we finished supper and headed to the clubs. Of the 4 clubs I came across and after asking around, we headed to the one, which is now a personal favourite, Wayne’s. That’s the best bar and club in the city for me. With an awesome space to dance and drink. Live music followed by a dance floor made of tables and chairs. Nobody dances on the ground.

Next Stop : Marseille, Poland Vs. Portugal.

Until Next Time,

The Travellothoner.

Leh Ladakh – A Mountainous Desert

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Day 1

Disclaimer : We went to Leh with the intention of participating in The Half Marathon that happens at 11142 Feet. Read all about the marathon here and check out my experience of the marathon here.

The trip started with a flight from Mumbai to Ladakh with a small layover in Delhi of about 40 minutes.

Take my word for it, do what you have to, but make sure you end up on a window seat. That Himalayan view is something you won’t see anywhere else! Those white clouds like balls of cotton, clean brown mountains with literally no vegetation and then the snow clad mountain ranges.

Pro Tip : When you take a window seat, make sure you don’t take one in the centre of the plane, or else your view will be blocked by the wings or propellers.

 The landing at the Leh airport is also very fascinating. The airport area is a flat plain situated right between a range of mountains tied to each other like the knots in your earphones just after you take them out from your pocket. One thing to note is, photography is not allowed anywhere near the airport! Phones or memory cards can be confiscated or you’ll bee made to delete your photos.

The Ladakh Airport, more like The Ladakh Air Strip.

There are no taxi meters here, prepaid taxis is the only way, but the prices are standard, so no chances of one getting cheated. One has to buy a pass from a ticket window and then head to their respective taxi!

There are two main area for stay:

  1. Somewhere near the Changspa Village
  2. The Leh Market
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We were staying in Evam Chunka, exactly opposite bobs cafe. It’s a good hostel/hotel and very reasonably priced! I personally recommend it cause the caretakers/owners are really nice people who will serve you with mint tea/coffee or normal tea right outside your room.

As far as acclimatisation and care for the first day go, one must just drink plenty of water (4-6 liters) and avoid any kind of physical exertion in the first few hours and neither go to sleep. Avoid sleeping even if you’re tired from your journey or sleep deprived due to an early morning flight. The reason being that the air is too thin and your body hasn’t gotten used to it yet; and sleeping in this situation would mean inadequate oxygen supply which would only cause severe headaches.

The reason behind drinking excessive water is that the body uses the excess water in the system to absorb and make up for the lack of oxygen in the air. In case of a headache, take a crocin (cause we are more accustomed to it) and not diamox (despite it being recommended for acclimatisation at high altitudes, diamox takes a few hours to show results, also, please double your water intake if you’re switching to a diamox routine. I would strongly suggest taking your doctor’s opinion)

While I am not a doctor, I’ve trekked at high altitudes a few times and finished my Leh Marathon without the use of diamox. In my personal opinion, it is not  necessary to take it (unlike a lot of people suggest). Even if you do, start a day before your trip and not after reaching Leh.

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Steps to Shanti Stupa

For lunch, we went to Rice Bowl, a good and peaceful place and one must try the ‘Kashmiri Dum Aloo’ there! As far as mobile networks go, stick to BSNL (surprising, I know!) or Airtel. Cellular data displays 2G, however it is pretty non existent. Most restaurants and cafes have Wi-Fi, with a rotating password that changes everyday.

In the evening, we headed for the stairs of the Shanti Stupa, and marvelled at the shades of sunset. There is also an alternate route to go there via a vehicle, which is towards the other side. The slope is about 1km in length one way, a great place to practice for the marathon.

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View from the top of the steps
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View from the top of Shanti Stupa

We were lucky enough to see a full moon, rise from beyond the mountain, which was magnificent and I was lucky enough to grab that on a time-lapse.

One must be very careful to climb down irrespective of the time of the day, because the steps are uneven and there are no railings whatsoever. It is also a must to carry a powerful torch or use the flash off the phone, for the same.

Reminder : Your phone battery will give up on you a lot faster in cold weather. You won’t realise how it drops from 70% battery to 40% within 30 minutes.

We had dinner at Bob’s, and slept by 9:30 due to excess fatigue and an early running and workout plan the next day.

Day 2

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View from the hill

The next day started at 6am. We freshened up and set out for our morning workout. Through the market, taking the uphill route that goes towards the Khardung La pass, we went up 6kms, rested and did some more light jogging followed by another 6kms downhill on our way back. This was one of the best routes I’ve ever jogged on.

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Runner’s High + The View = Literal Heaven Feels
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A Seat with a view
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During the whole journey, we made sure we hydrated adequately. It is also recommended to buy a cotton mask here, due to a lot of dust. It is available in most stores in the market, and barely costs 50 rupees. However, it is quite uncomfortable especially if you wear specs, since mouth breathing causes it to condense on your glasses (super annoying).

Once back at our hotel, we freshened up and then set out to collect our race bibs. Later we enquired about hiring a car and bikes and headed for lunch.

Important : It is important to note that a permit is required if you’re stepping outside Leh, which includes Pangong Lake, any of the high altitude motorable passes, etc.  which can be done at any travel shop in the market.

Later around 4, we hired 4 Royal Enfields (commonly known as bullets) and set out to the magnetic hill! The route is beautiful, unlike something I’ve ever seen! And the journey takes anywhere between 60-90 minutes. Also worth noting is that the rental companies mess with the ignition so that the bike is unable to go too fast, so if you really want to enjoy your bullet or speed up, figure that out beforehand.

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The magnetic hill and phenomenon is very real and works on a vehicle as big as an army truck! Just 5kms ahead of that, is a sangam of two rivers, also where they take you if you want to do some rafting.

While going to the magnetic hill, one will come across the Patthar Saheb Gurudwara. It has a very interesting story behind it. This place is solely managed by the Army and has the best masala tea in Ladakh. A heaven for tea lovers, who don’t get decent tea in the city!

Day 3

Today early morning, we set out towards the Pangong Lake. We hired a car the previous day, and left Leh at around 8:30am. The distance to the lake is not more than 150kms, however it takes 5-7 hours or sometimes more due to bad roads and depending on traffic(usually an army convoy or too many vehicles on a narrow road) and the climate.

It is totally okay to skip breakfast and leave early, since there is a small strip before the first checking, where one can have breakfast. These places serve delicious Aloo/Cheese/Paneer Parathas with Rajma (Beans) and curd. We could not enjoy as much as we would’ve liked, because the weather switched to extreme cold and snowfall while driving up the hill towards the Changla Pass.

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At Chang La Pass

It is the second highest motorable road, after Khardung La at 17688ft. The air up here is extremely thin and oxygen scarce. So it is advisable to just get down, freshen up, click some photos and leave and not overexert physically.

Ps. Me and a friend went and played with ice for not more than 5 mins and felt nauseous with a head splitting headache right after we got back in the car.

NOTE : IT IS ADVISABLE TO STOP FOR PHOTOS ONLY ON YOUR RETURN JOURNEY BACK FROM PANGONG LAKE, SO THAT YOU CAN REACH THERE ON TIME DURING DAYLIGHT!

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The cold weather continued, and it was super windy at the lake. Usually, it is cold all through the summer months too, however not too windy! After clicking photos at the start of the lake, we headed forward to the Shooting Point as the locals call it (the place where the final scene of 3 idiots was shot) which is a better place to click photos, and then head ahead towards the tents!

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Pangong Lake Shenanigans.

One has three options while coming here :

  1. Leave early morning, visit the lake and come back.
  2. Spend the night at the lake and see the sunrise the next day.
  3. Spend more than one night here.

Note – Last I heard, staying at the Pangong Lake has been discontinued due to the Indo-China Border disputes. I am not certain and would ask you to do your due research beforehand.

If you’re going for option 2, it is advisable to stay in a tent which is about 5-7 kms away from the start of the lake. It is quite economical and one can select a tent based on the luxuries they need.

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That is how option 2 looks.
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Option 2 from the other side.

And if you’re going for option 3, one can opt for proper wooden cabins, that offer a great view of the lake.

It should be noted that the lake area gets colder than Leh city, and hence proper winter wear (preferably snow wear in case of extreme weather) is advised.

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A choice of soup, fried rice and some eggs is all you’ll get near the camp site! One has to drive all the way to the start of the lake for better food! The organizers usually have a campfire at 9:30!

There is nothing else much to do here!

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Pangong Lake – Sunrise Time Lapse (Video)

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We woke up at 4:30am, just to see the sunrise and catch this view!

This is The Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake, an endorheic lake spanning eastern Ladakh and West Tibet situated at an elevation of 4,225 m (13,862 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and divided into five sublakes, called Pangong TsoTso NyakRum Tso (twin lakes) and Nyak Tso. Approximately 50% of the length of the overall lake lies within Tibet, 40% in Ladakh and the rest is disputed but controlled by China. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 km. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It has a land-locked basin separated from the Indus River basin by a small elevated ridge, but is believed to have been part of the latter in prehistoric times. (Source : Wikipedia)

Check out our entire experience from our trip to Leh Ladakh, India.

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Dubai – Luxury Personified

Disclaimer : This is an old post from my travel experience in 2016, one of my first trips since I started blogging. In hindsight, I realise I missed out on some truly beautiful places and for more info on Dubai, you can check out travelwidnik.com for some great insights and photos.

Coming directly to Dubai after a weeks travel in Frankfurt, Germany (Part 1 and Part 2); I was already so excited about this extended trip, until I got to see the view from the flight; it was truly breathtaking and unlike anything I’d seen before.

Those skyscrapers and towers, and standing amongst them, in its ultimate supremacy, The Burj Khalifa, the building I was in awe of, just as much as some of the mountains in the Himalayas or beaches in Asia.

One of those very rare man-made creations that I actually left me speechless!

The fact that we circled around for atleast 30 minutes did not tend to bother me for a change and all I wanted was for that to continue. I did not want to give up that aerial view just yet. I was trying to soak in as much as I could, and my helpless efforts at trying to capture that beauty. I don’t think any camera I’ve ever owned could do justice to that view!

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To start with, Dubai has the widest accommodation options ranging from $60 a night and upwards, sky is the limit! The cheaper accomodation is usually around the Bur Dubai area. Following that, it gets expensive as we move towards downtown and The Jumeirah. There’s also the Armani hotel, adjoining The Burj Khalifa, that is supposed to be really great.

Dubai has so much to offer to its tourists. Be it in terms of shopping, sightseeing, activities, adventure sports or just to chill around and relax.

Barasti Beach Cafe

This is one of the coolest places to hang out in Dubai, and a personal favorite. The ambiance is super and there’s always a live performer or a DJ. The place is always full and with a mixed crowd, people who are Semi-formally dressed and the others who show up in shorts too. Decently expensive alcohol and availability of Sheeshas makes it a crowd favourite. Open till 2am, this is must go to place especially over the weekend (Thursday-Friday night).

Atlantis, The Palm

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Captured from The Monorail

Atlantis is mainly divided into two for tourists :

1. Aquaventure – A water theme park

2. The Lost Venture Aquarium : A huge indoor aquarium

I’d personally heard a lot about the theme park and expected it to be the watery-version of a something close to a 6-Flags Amusement Park, although not as grand, it was pretty cool nonetheless. There are about 8-10 slides in all and a lazy river. One of the slides in the start, The Poseidon and the group tube slides are really the best! What I would personally suggest is get over with the rides in 4 hours between 10 and 1pm and get ready and head to the aquarium by 2. It is a different, rare experience that one should do.

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The Atlantis also has the dolphin bay, where one can play with the dolphins, and the dive into the aquarium to see the sea life at hand. There are various such highlights, but they need to be planned and booked in advance. Slots usually fill up as long as a couple of weeks beforehand. The Theme Park and Aquarium can be completed by 4pm which gives you ample time during the evening for shopping or some other kind of entertainment.

The monorail is the easiest way to get to The Atlantis, which currently stops at only two stations, The atlantis being the second one. Two other stations are currently under construction. The monorail gives a close view of The Jumeirah and the sea and is worth going on, simply for sightseeing

The Emirates Mall

One of the best attractions of The Emirates Mall is Ski Dubai,an indoor ski resort, a real snow wonderland. Put on your snow boots and experience Twin Track Bobsled runs, a Snow Cavern filled with interactive experiences, and Tobogganing hills. Head one down to the upgrade station for an exhilarating ride on the Giant Ball or jump on the chairlift for a one of a kind bird’s eye view of the entire park.Don’t miss out on the resident royalty with the March of the Penguins occurring several times a day and is free for all Snow Park guests. The Emirates Mall also has a really big arcade, fit for all age groups.

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A Glimpse of Ski Dubai

The mall is really huge and shopping can be confusing and exhaustive at the same time. Maily cause one can find all of their favorite stores here, and many brands have more than one store. The main structure of the mall is also weird. There are 4 levels on one side of the mall, and just 2 on another side, and mayve 3 on another side. So it is highly recommended that one study the mall map properly before heading to their favortite stores.

Meena Bazaar

Meena Bazaar is one of the biggest areas for shopping in Bur Dubai, for anyone who is looking for cheap shopping. Electronics, First copy of the most expensive watches, perfumes, etc. can all be found in this area. Most people running stores here are of Indian Origin. There are a lot of Indian Vegetarian restaurants here and quite reasonable as far as pricing and quality is concerned.

Desert Safari

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This is an amazing experience, truly meant for the adventure junkie or anyone who’s bored. They pick you in a Land Cruiser, and drive you to the desert.

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At the start of the desert, you’ll be asked to put your seat belts on and then you’re in for a rough ride of drifting and jumping in a car over the sand dunes. Some drivers ask for 100 extra dirhams and in exchange, would end up toplling the car upside down. Then you slowly, calmly get out and push the car back on its wheels.

At the location, there’s option to rent quad bikes and that is quite fun. They have a good seating area, with okayish or cold food. Some belly dancing and local dance sequences, fire play, etc. It would be useful to carry a jacket, cause the desert can get windy and cold. A ride back, a few hours after sundown and you’re back on your way. No more adventurous cars in the dark.

Gold Souk

Gold Souk is another market just to the other side of the creek from Meena Bazaar. You have to go to end of Meena Bazaar and get onto the boat. It takes one dirham per person to get to the other side of the creek. Just across the street are all the local spice shops. Walk a little further and you’d come across the Gold Souk.

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Captured from the boat ride towards Gold Souk.
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There are a lot of Jewellery Stores in the area and some really exquisite ones. So gold in dubai costs almost the same price, but their making charges are quite negligible compared to India, and hence makes it a very attractive place to buy jewellery.

Local perfume shops here, have a lot of Irani Perfumes that have a really strong, long lasting fragrance. They’re not for everyone, but the ones who like it don’t really want to move to other perfumes.

And there are many other shops for makeup and other products. Everything here is cheap, and many stores have just copies and not the original product, so its good to ask and be vigilant about it.

Dhow Cruise Marina

View from thee cruise!

There are two different dhow cruises that run in Dubai. One happens in the Marina area, the other in the creek. The cruise in the creek was boring, or so I have heard from others, and it has been more of a unanimous vote. However, the one in The Marina, started just a couple of years back and is something I found really nice.

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There was decent vegetarian food, a live dance show on the cruise and good music. One can sit in a closed restaurant like environment on the ground level, or open roof on the first level. As it goes through waters, One can see the whole of Jumeirah Beach Residences(JBR), The Atlantis that is across the sea, and the whole skyline near the marina. The view and all those lights just paint a mesmerizing picture (One my phone camera couldn’t do justice to).

The Dubai Mall

The Dubai Mall has a ton of attractions. The aquarium is huge, will consume about 3-4 hours of your time. The whole day if you decide to take up feeding the fishes and other similar exquisite excursions.

The mall also has a really cool ice skating rink. The restaurants are really good, especially the cafes not near the food court. Paparoti, as recommended by a dear friend, is a fantastic cafe. A personal favorite, has a lot of outlets all across Dubai, and its on my priority list for the next time that I go back to Dubai.

The entrance to The Burj Khalifa is through the mall, and hence one can plan shopping and activities accordingly. The mall is open till midnight, so that leaves a lot of time on your hand.

The Burj Khalifa

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This building makes me marvel and think about how far science has come. The lifts go from 1 to 124 floors in exactly 60 seconds.  And as brilliant as that is, it is not even equal to what more it has in store for you.

Standing on the 124th floor viewing gallery, it is visible and yet unbelievable to think that building goes up  75 more floors in height, if not in levels. A building that is at sea level, and yet manages to cut through the clouds almost everyday all through its life.

One can take the stairs and go up to 127th floor. I sat there for 4 hours, an hour before sunset. So looking at the bright day, to seeing the sunset and then it getting dark and seeing the whole city light up. It kind of made my day, the perfect end to the perfect trip.

The City and Beaches

The Sheikh Mohammed Palace, one amongst the many palaces of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is not gaurded by any sort of security whatsoever. Even when he’s driving or on the move, he has no kind of bodyguards around him. The only way people know its their king in car is by the number plate. The Sheikh’s number plate reads ‘1’. The only guy in Dubai with it. According to him, his people love him so much, that they cannot think of harming him, and hence no security is necessary. There are a lot of beaches in Dubai. The Jumeirah beach, Nikki Beach, etc. One can find people surfing, paddle boarding, etc. There are also a lot of cool shacks in the area which have some or the other kind of activity going on.

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The Burj Al Arab from The Jumeriah Beach

JBR is a really cool place to hangout at. The restaurants and clubs are quite expensive, but its a good place to chill and walk around nonetheless.

360 a nightclub in Dubai, and a host of other nightclubs that are open all night. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman on your own, Dubai is the safest place there is.

Abu Dhabi

There are various one day tours available to explore Abu Dhabi. The major places to see are The Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Ferrari World.

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A Panorama inside The Sheikh Zayed Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed mosque is the biggest mosque there is, in the UAE. It is so big, during Eid, more than 41000 people visit the mosque.The mosque is large enough to accommodate over 40,000 worshipers. The main prayer hall can accommodate over 7,000 worshipers. There are two smaller prayer halls, with a 1,500-capacity each, one of which is the female prayer hall.

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The outside of the mosque

More than 3000 workers were employed for the construction of this mosque. Natural materials were chosen for much of its design and construction due to their long-lasting qualities, including marble stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. The mosque has the largest knitted carpet in the world, used about 1300 workers and weighs over 35 tons.

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There is a library, located in the northeast minaret, serves the community with classic books and publications addressing a range of Islamic subjects: sciences, civilization, calligraphy, the arts, coins and includes some rare publications dating back more than 200 years. The collection comprises material in a broad range of languages, including Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Korean.

Ferrari World

It is a very cool indoor theme park. Has about 25 rides, of which 5-6 were under construction. It is also important to read about the park online, many rides need separate tickets aside from the entrance fee, and the top slots are not available unless you’re lucky.

Regards,

The Travellothoner

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Butterfly Slo-Mo (Video)

Here’s a new slow-motion video of just a bunch of butterflies flocking around one tiny plant. This place (A tiny garden inside the Yeoor Hills, Thane) where we went trekking recently. These hills have some nice waterfalls if you trek into the jungle interiors for about 30-45 minutes and are best when visited in the rainy season.

I hope you like it!

Note : For more updates and photos, please follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterand YouTube.

Deorital-Chandrashila Trek – With India Hikes

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There are a lot go reasons why one should experience trekking and this trek especially – the forests, the birds, the fabulous mountain views, the experience of living in a tent at 0 Celcius, Overall adventure, etc. For three days, you trek through dense rhododendron, maple and oak forests. On the fourth day, you trek with the most astounding views of the Garhwal peaks. Atop the peak, on a clear day, you can get a 360 degree view of peaks like Nanda Devi, Chaukhambha and Trishul.

Another highlight of the trek is the chance to climb up to the world’s highest Shiva (also known as ‘Mahadeva’, one of the principal deities of Hinduism) Temple. Tungnath is a thousand-year-old temple and is one of the five Panch Kedar, the holiest of Shiva Temples.  The sunrise (we managed to capture 2 time lapses do check it out towards the end!) from the Chandrashila summit wraps up the trek with strong emotions and memories to take back home.

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Day 1: Getting to the base camp – Sari

  • Altitude: 6,601 feet

On the first day of the trek, the journey began with a drive from Haridwar to Sari village. The journey was picturesque the confluence of Rivers Alakananda and Bhagirathi to form River Ganga. The entire journey traverses the mountain side, with the river flowing below you. 

Quick tip: Pick the window seat on the right to enjoy the views!

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This is the actual initiation of the biggest river in India, River Ganga. This is the point where Rivers Bhaghirath and Alakananda meet. It is the River Bhaghirath that has its source in The Gangotri Glaciers.
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The view of the mountains from our car enroute Sari Base Camp.

We reached Sari by 6 pm. Sari is a small village with around 100 houses. If you reach Sari when the sun is still out, go down to the village and walk around. There is a small school amongst the fields. This school was built in 1947 and is the only school at Sari. The views around the village are gorgeous!

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The Sari Village, Uttarakhand

Day 2: Sari to Deoriatal

  • Altitude: 6,601 feet to 7,841 feet
  • Distance: 3 km
  • Time taken: 1 hour

The adventure starts from Sari. There is a sign-board indicating the trek route to Deoriatal in the heart of the small market in Sari. The sign board says Devariya Tal, which is an alternative name for the lake. It’s called so because it’s believed that devis (Goddesses) once came to the lake to take a dip.

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A well-defined rocky trail is laid here. This trail begins with a gradual climb up the mountain. After approximately 15 minutes, we came across village houses and an old local temple.

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Ten minutes into the hike, the trail starts to become steeper and steeper. The forests have been cleared here, so one will get a good view all around. At the valley-facing end, one can see the summit of Chandrashila and below it, the holy Tungnath temple. The trail is well-defined all the way to Deoriatal. After a steady uphill trek for about 20-30 minutes, we reached the first view-point. The Forest Department has constructed a hawa ghar for the travellers here. This spot is ideally located to relax and feast your eyes with a grand view of the mountains and the valley.

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The walk towards Deorital.

After a steady hike of ten minutes, we reached the second view-point. Now, at 7,434 feet, Sari was no longer visible.

With only a kilometre left, we found ourselves at the backside of the mountain and got a view of the Ukhimath side of the valley, though only for a while. Another 20 minutes later, we found a dhaba.

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Deoriatal is just two minutes away from here. After a very short downhill trek, the surroundings opened up to a grand view of Deoriatal, with Mt. Chaukhambha looming in the background.

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Our Campsite in Deorital
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There’s nothing much to do here as you reach, you can go around the campsite and explore the trails around. The forests around here are lovely. An enthusiast can be able to see and hear several rare Himalayan birds. There’s a watch tower close to the lake that gives you grand views of the surrounding mountains.

The beauty of the view generally intensifies in the morning, when the clouds have cleared to offer unreal views of the hills. No camera can ever do justice to these scenes.

Although getting ready and packing up at 6am at Zero Degree Celsius can be a big and time consuming task. We had a record of not being on time a single day of our trek. Wrapping the sleeping bags can be tricky too if it’s your first time and one must come to terms with using the portable toilet. Personally, washing dishes or hands in that cold was the most daunting task. Since the temperature falls below zero degrees by 8pm, with winds, the water tends to freeze or is on the verge of it.

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View From The Watchtower

Day 3: Deoriatal to Rohini Bughyal

  • Altitude: 7,841 feet to 8,790 feet
  • Distance: 8 km
  • Time taken: 6 hours

There are no water sources during this trek. The next water source is a small stream towards the end of the trek and otherwise directly at the campsite at Rohini Bugyal. We always carried atleast 2-1 Litre Bottles with us. Carrying a bladder is a good idea, however it’s hard to carry when you already have a trekking bag on your shoulder.

Full of rhododendron and maple trees, this trail was a beautiful one. Every now and then, the Kedar Dome and Chaukhamba peaks peek at you through the trees and don’t stop being mesmerising.

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There is a small clearing as we exited the forest. In front of us, the Chandrashila peak was visible.

Taking the ascending trail ahead of us as we got a much better view of both sides of the valley. The ascent is steep, and one can hire a porter in case picking up their backpack becomes too difficult. However, this has to be decided and told to the trek leader the previous day at the base camp. The fee is about Rs.350/day/bag.

After 15 minutes of climbing the ridge, there is a hill-top with a flag post. This is Jhandi Dhar. In the month of March and April, the trail is blazing with red and pink flowers of rhododendron.

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The forest continues to thicken throughout the trek. We were mistaken to have thought the forests until now were dense. In some areas, we also found snow across the trail. It is important to see whether that snow is fresh or frozen. Fresh snow is never slippery, frozen snow is! One should always watch every step around snow.

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From here, there is a steep descent. The descent is sharp, but pleasant. Further, the trail took an eventful turn as we entered the forest ridge. The flora of the region was stupendous. Every now and then, we came across small shrines with bright yellow flags tied to them. These were all made by tourists and localites. One could use these as landmarks to ensure they’re on the right trail. One should keep an eye out for wild animals here, although they don’t usually show up around groups, especially during the day!

After 20 minutes of gradual ascent, there’s a walk on level land, the trail opens to a small pasture land. We exited the forest even as the view of Chandrashila peak greeted us up front. Just before us, there was a second forest ridge that needed to be traversed. The trail ascended sharply as we re-entered the forest once. This part of the forest had some of the oldest oak, maple and rhododendron trees of the Kedarnath Sanctuary.

By now, we had already trekked approximately 5 km. There were three trails branching out from here. From here, we could see the Kala Parvat, which is a peak located on the right of Chandrashila peak. Below Kala Parvat is a small glacial lake, called Bisuri Tal. As the legend has it, the Pandavas hid their weapons here.

The trail from here was a leisurely walk ahead for about 30 minutes as we passed a small rivulet. The stream was the only source of water and it is advisable to fill your bottles here. Rohini Bugyal is about a 3 minute walk from here.

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Campsite at Rohini Bughyal, with a view during sunset.
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Rohini Bughyal

Day 4: Rohini Bughyal to Chopta

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  • Altitude: 8790 feet to 9100 feet
  • Distance: 6 km
  • Time taken: 5 hours

Rohini Bughyal is a small meadow surrounded by a beautiful rhododendron forest and  view of the Kedar dome and the Kala Parvat peaks. The sunset view from here is incomparable!

This was a short and easy trek that involved traversing the ridge of Rohini Bughyal to enter the meadows of Bhrujgali. From the campsite of Rohini Bughyal, one can observe a tall rhododendron tree, which is just a five minute walk from the camp site.

We entered the forest of upper Rohini Bugyal and reconnected with the trail to Chopta. The trail that ascended gradually all the way to the top of the forested ridge. It took us 30 minutes to reach the ridge top, which was covered in dense forest cover. The locals call this spot as Tikidi Khal.

From here, there are two trails.

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We took the second trail and descended 500 feet to reach the stream crossing. It took us 20-30 minutes to reach the stream. It’s a good idea to refill your water bottles here. There is a small bridge that needs to be crossed. We were lucky to get a lot of snow here, which meant snow fights for an hour.

From here, we took the trail that now ascended gradually with a series of three scissor bends. As we climbed up, the view of the valley got better and better. Around 20 minutes of steady climb took us to a small meadow. There were a series of shepherd huts here made of stones. In summer, one could find locals occupying the huts with their livestock.

As we entered the meadow, a diversion towards the right and around 20 minutes of descent through a jungle trail,we came upon a road ahead. A kilometre walk from here to reach the Chopta campsite. 

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View from the road, enroute Chopta campsite. You can also check it out here!
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The road towards Chopta.
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Campsite at Chopta.

Day 5: Chopta to Chandrashila Peak via Tungnath and back to Chopta

  • Altitude: 8790 feet to 12,083 feet
  • Distance: 8 km trek
  • Time taken: 4 hours

We were ready to leave by 3:30 am, so that we could treat ourselves to a sunrise view from the Tungnath and Chandrashila peak. The trek from Chopta to Tungnath is accessible via a cemented pilgrim trail. It ascends sharply via a series of scissor bends. The walk is pleasant, but is a very steep climb. The trek up to Tungnath temple is approximately 2 km.

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The Tungnath Temple

Chandrashila peak is 1.5 km above the temple . The route to Chandrashila peak is through the backside of the temple. During winter, this trail is completely buried in snow. Those planning to do a winter trek here by themselves, are strongly advised to carry crampons/micro-spikes and an ice-axe. We too went in December, however there was only one occasion of light snowfall and hence no extra equipment was necessary.

The sunrise on summit

The climb from Tungnath to Chandrashila was an ascent of 600 feet and was a very steep climb. After negotiating a series of switchbacks, we reached the upper base of Chandrashila Peak. From here, the summit of Chandrashila is visible. The climb up to the summit takes 30-45 minutes.

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The view of mountains before sunrise
Sunrise Time Lapse on the opposite side of sunrise!
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After sunrise.

Once at the top of the peak, one can get a 360 degree view of the mountains of Garhwal and Kumaon. Walk past a tiny temple and see some great mountains of Uttarakhand, like Nanda Devi and Chaukhamba and more. The sunrise view from this spot is the best I’ve ever seen.

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The route, To and From the Chandrashila peak.

The trek back to Chopta is via the same route taken to reach here. It takes 20-30 minutes to reach Tungnath and another 60 minutes to reach Chopta from Tungnath.

A 360 degree view from the top of the summit!

We chose to head down to Chopta on the same day.

Day 6:  Depart for Haridwar

We Boarded our jeeps from Chopta for a drive back to Haridwar. We reached Haridwar between 6 – 7 PM. It was about a 10 hour car ride, so one must leave accordingly.

It is advised that you keep a buffer day because the weather is unpredictable in the mountains. Rest at Haridwar for the night. You can explore Haridwar the next day and take the Mussoorie Express or Nanda Devi Express to Delhi in the evening.

Note : For more updates and photos, please follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterand YouTube.

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Deorital Chandrashila – Chandrashila Peak – Time Lapse (Video)

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This was the view on one of our treks that we did. We started our summit climb at 3am and reached the peak at 6am, just before sunrise. I hope you enjoy this video!

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This was the view on the opposite side of the sun:

Check our experience of the entire trek here!

Note : For more updates and photos, please follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.

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The Canadian Rockies – The Alaskan Cruise

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Image courtesy : Alaska Tours
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Ps. I hope you’ve read our experience through Vancouver here.

Whether you are interested in seeing glaciers and visiting The Glacier Bay National Park or checking out the Alaskan way of life and visiting old gold rush towns, there is an Alaskan cruise that can help you do just what you want. Cruises to Alaska are usually available from May through September each year. According to Alaska.org, there are around 15 cruise lines that offer Alaskan cruises. So one must do some very thorough research before booking their since this is no cheap affair!

How to choose the ideal cruise liner for you?

Step 1 : The first thing to do is decide what the start and ending destinations of your trip are going to be.

Step 2 : Fix your dates and budgets. These experiences usually range between 6 – 10 nights and it’s important to realise the time on your hands and the amount you’re willing to spend (more days also means more money).

Note : Going through the first two steps will eliminate half of your options and make your decision making easier. Usually, other than citizens of North America, most people take a trip though the Canadian Rockies and then head for a relaxing week on the cruise. 

Step 3 : Determine the type of cruise ship atmosphere you prefer, as it can vary between cruise lines. For example, AlaskaCruises.com lists the Alaskan cruises by Norwegian Cruise Lines to have a casual atmosphere, while the Regent Seven Seas have a luxury atmosphere, with Holland America Line Alaskan cruises having a premium feel in between the two.

Note : If you’re confused about which cruise liner to choose or what packages to take, you can check out this really helpful TripAdvisor Article!

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My Story

We had been on the Holland America Cruises, aboard the ‘Nieuw Amsterdam’. It was humongous, like a floating island, with almost 11 floors and over approximately 2100 people. The ship has multiple restaurants, some common and some, where a reservation and a formal attire is necessary. For more info on this cruise click here.

Pro Tip 1. Carry a suit or a blazer and appropriate footwear (especially for tourists) for an evening called ‘The Captain’s Dinner’ and for entry into some exclusive restaurants (I wish someone would’ve told me that).

Pro Tip 2. It is always preferred to take a balcony room. It is pricier, but it gives you a great view of the glaciers in The Glacier Bay National Park or when you’re simply spending time in your room (which isn’t a bad idea when the tides get rough and a lot of activities are put on a pause and in-room dining is unlimited).

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We made the following stops in our journey :

Skagway, Alaska, US

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The Municipality and Borough of Skagway is a first-class borough in Alaska on the Alaska Panhandle. The population in this town is close to 1000 people which doubles in the summer tourist season in order to deal with more than 1,000,000 visitors each year.

The port of Skagway is a popular stop for cruise ships, and the tourist trade is a big part of the business of Skagway. The White Pass and Yukon Route narrow gauge railroad, part of the area’s mining past, is now in operation purely for the tourist trade and runs throughout the summer months.

Fun Fact : This town totally reminds me of a typical town in a Texas as shown in various Hollywood movies of the 70s and 80s.

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The Train Ride

Glacier Bay

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Glacier Bay was pretentious for the way it flaunts its ice. The glaciers practically terminate in your lap. A cruise to Glacier Bay National Park with Holland America Line will show you a UNESCO World Heritage Site that protects a unique ecosystem of plants and animals living in concert with an ever-changing glacial landscape.

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Literally nothing beats this scenery and view. A gods gift, untouched and super pure!
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Room with a view.

When a monumental chunk of ice splits off a glacier and thunders into the sea the impact shoots water hundreds of feet into the air (We could only manage to see small chunks, but it was glorious). You hold your breath as you catch the moment on film. Then you wait for it all to happen again. And it does!

Glacier Bay has more actively calving tidewater glaciers than any other place in the world.

Ps. Within the ship, people park and reserve seats hours before they get to this view. The deck and the viewing area are super crowded and the temperature in is negative and one would have to stand in freezing cold to get a good view. Hence a room with a balcony is a good decision to make. It is more expensive, but definitely money well spent.

Juneau, Alaska, US

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No roads lead to Juneau, which gives the Alaskan capital a misty inscrutability. You need to come by air or water, but when you arrive, the place will delight you with its bounty of water, forests, and mountains. Squeezed between the Gastineau Channel and Coast Mountains, Juneau offers a lot of variety in close proximity. The massive Mendenhall Glacier and the immense Juneau Icefields are at its back door. The vast Tongass National Forest stretches away to the northeast. You can shop downtown or get out and kayak, dogsled, raft, hike, whale watch, flightsee or fish. The adventures are as bountiful as the daylight.

The seaplane ride here is a must do, thanks to the glaciers that surround this place!

Ketchikan, Alaska, US

Ketchikan-103Ketchikan clutches the shores of the Tongass Narrows, with many shops and houses built right out over the water. The stairways are weathered and the vibe is cheerful in the town that calls itself the Salmon Capital of the World. Besides the main attractions — Creek Street, the Tongass Historical Museum, Totem Bight State Park and Saxman Village — try a flightseeing trip to Misty Fjords National Monument. These deepwater fjords were gouged out by retreating glaciers, leaving granite cliffs towering thousands of feet above the sea and countless waterfalls plunging into placid waters.

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Something to do in Ketchikan, other than walk around the city is to go on a ZipTrek. This park has about 7 lines, and goes right above the jungle, at an average height of around 70 feet. If you look down, it is very common to spot a bear or even a family of bears, unless the weather reaches an extreme or it starts to rain.


I really really hope y’all liked this entire series of The Canadian Rockies. Stay tuned for more of such experiences. Until next time!

Note : For more updates and photos, please follow us on FacebookInstagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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The Canadian Rockies – Vancouver

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If you haven’t already, please check out our previous pitstop before Vancouver – Whistler here.

Overview:

The Journey :

We left from Whistler and set out for Vancouver. This time we took a stop to visit The Shannon Falls. This fall is quite high. The lower side to the fall is on ground level, and one can hike all the way to the top of the fall, or take a Gondola all the way to the top. We did not have a lot of time on our hands and did not go to the top.

The Shannon Falls

After resuming our journey, we set out on our way to Vancouver via the famous ‘Sea To Sky Highway’. This route has the blue sea on its right, then a small hill where lies the road, and immediately big mountains to the left of the road. So while watching it from a boat or ship, it seems one can start their climb from the sea on to the hills and make their way to the heavens via the mountains. Hence the name.

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A glimpse of the Sea To Sky Highway. Disclaimer : I do not own this photo, this was taken via google to give a better view of the highway.
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Vancouver City

Image taken from tourismvancouver.com

Vancouver has a total population of about 7-8 lakh people and is divided into 5 parts : Downtown, Surry, North Vancouver, Richmond and the West Vancouver. The Western region is meant mainly only for powerful government officials, politicians and VIPs we were told.

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The local transport includes taxis, electrical buses and trains. The electrical bus run with a wire connected above like trams and the routes are divided into zones. Zone 1 has a cost of 2.75 CAD for 2 hours, unlimited transits within that time. Zone 1 and 2 at 4CAD and Zone 1,2 and 3 at 5.5 CAD. And on public holidays and weekends, it’s 2.75CAD flat. The taxis start at 3.20 CAD. One thing to note is that although traveling is cheaper, the wait time is too high. Asking a cab to wait for 5 minutes may cost you more than the ride itself. Ideally it’s recommended you give that cab up and take another one. But if you’re not so lucky, you won’t find another one for sometime. Every cab is a 4 seater by compulsion and the bigger cabs have a wheelchair access too.

One thing about Vancouver is that there are nearly three of every big hotel here. Three Fairmonts, one in downtown, other on the waterfront and the third near the airport. Hyatt, Four Seasons, etc follow a similar trend.

One thing about Vancouver (and this is a very personal opinion) is it seemed very similar to Chicago. If someone were to drop me in the middle of Vancouver and say it’s Chicago I’d believe them until I see some details that suggest otherwise. I can’t really put a finger on why I felt it was similar, but if you feel the same way, do hit me up!

Unlike the other previous places on our trip so far, Vancouver has a lot to offer in terms of shopping. The Robson street has the best brands and shops, of which majority have discounts going on this time of the year (June – July). One can also find cool stores on Burrard Street or any other cross street around Robson. There’s also an outlet mall near the airport which is said to be good, although that’s word of mouth and I avoided going there when I had the chance to just explore the city.

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Fly Over Canada

The round globe on the right is FlyOver Canada. Image taken from flexport.com

FlyOver Canada utilizes state-of-the-art technology to give you the feeling of flight. You will hang suspended, feet dangling, before a 20-meter spherical screen while a film will be played. The film manages to whisk you away on an exhilarating 8-minute journey across Canada, from east to west. Special effects, including wind, mist and scents, combine with the ride’s motion to create an unforgettable experience.

It is important to note there are specific show timings, although they range throughout the day. One can also buy tickets online, in advance. It usually has a queue too. So spare about an hour or so for the experience.

It is located in the downtown area, by the pier. And piers have always been wonderful places to walk, or sit and enjoy some food with wonderful cold winds and a view of the sea. You can also see the cruises getting docked, people and goods entering in and getting out.

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The Butchart Garden

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This is a very famous tourist spot near Victoria, on Vancouver Island. The garden has been designated a National Historic Place of Canada. The park is huge, and has over a million visitors each year. If visiting from Canada, one can take a ferry. Don’t worry about your vehicle, as an additional ticket will allow you to take your vehicle along in the ferry. The ferry is scenic, although time consuming. One can also hire a small sea plane or speedboat from the harbor.

It plays host to hundred and thousands of flowers, plants and birds; of all colors, shapes and sizes. It has various activities inside for kids and food stalls too. One can also spot a small pond with a beautifully dancing fountain. The ideal time to visit is between May and August. However, May and August being extremes. A lot of variety of roses and flowers do not bloom completely until June, and start to wither by August as winter starts setting in.

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Capilano Suspense Bridge

The Suspension Bridge

One of the most famous places to visit in Vancouver is the Capilano. That’s somewhat a garden or a museum or a small natural wildlife park in itself. It has six activities that include a Suspension Bridge over the river, Suspension Bridges connecting trees, Two Small Trails, She Cliffwalk, Story Centre and The Merchandise Shop. One can find a lot of varied vegetation inside, a treat for people who love forests and vegetation. The suspension bridges are fun to walk on and quite unique.

Capilano Suspension Bridge crosses to towering evergreens, cedar-scented rainforest air and Treetops Adventure, 7 suspended footbridges offering views 110 feet above the forest floor. Cliffwalk follows a granite precipice along Capilano River with a labyrinth-like series of narrow cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms and only 16 anchor points in the cliff supporting the structure!

The Cliffwalk

This heart-stopping cliffside journey takes you through rainforest vegetation on a series of unobtrusive cantilevered and suspended walkways jutting out from the granite cliff face above Capilano River to previously unexplored areas of the park. Not for the faint of heart, it is high and narrow and, in some sections, open grated walkways is all that separates guests from the canyon far below.

Stanley Park

Image courtesy : wikipedia.com
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Stanley Park is a magnificent green oasis in the midst of the urban landscape of Vancouver. It is 405-hectare natural West Coast rainforest and enjoys scenic views of water, mountains, sky, and majestic trees along Stanley Park’s famous Seawall. Discover kilometres of trails, beautiful beaches, local wildlife, great eats, natural, cultural and historical landmarks, along with many other adventures. The park offers a wide range of unforgettable experiences for all ages and interests, including Canada’s largest aquarium.

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The famous Rogers Arena, just off Robson Street, home to the Vancouver Canucks.

Gastown

Designed and engineered in such a way that the steam accumulates and blows sharply every hour, and the whistles last for a whole 10 seconds. Gastown’s most famous landmark is the steam-powered clock on the corner of Cambie and Water Street. It was built in 1977 to cover a steam grate, part of Vancouver’s distributed steam heating system, as a way to harness the steam and to prevent street people from sleeping on the spot in cold weather. One can also find a lot of Gift Shops around this area and the Maple Syrup being a favorite amongst the tourists.

Ps. Stay tuned to find out about our experience on The Alaskan Cruises.

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The Canadian Rockies -Kamloops, Whistler

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Note : If haven’t checked out our previous story on Jasper National Park, Click Here.

Kamloops

Kamloops Downtown
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Situated at the junction of the North and South Thompson Rivers in the Thompson Valley, Kamloops is the second largest city in the British Columbia Interior with a growing population of 90,000 people. We did not spend much time here, just took an overnight stay to break our 13 hour road trip to Whistler into 2 parts. However, if you’re spending time here you can check out their tourism page for more.

It was a rainy day when we got here, it was not too cold, however the clouds dropped to almost an average building height (a regular occurrence in this part of the world if you’ve read my previous posts). If one happens to drive on a hill or a mountain during this weather, you’d see the clouds beside you, or probably drive above them, a similar experience to that of an airplane.

The surrounding landscapes are similar as our previous destinations, lush mountains and snowy tress all around, however they looked completely different thanks to the weather, almost liking getting a makeover. It’s not the same, but actually just the same.

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Kamloops downtown from the top of a hill

Kamloops is comparatively a much bigger town compared to our previous destinations, or probably can be called a small city. It has a river going through it, which allows it to have a beautiful waterfront and a small artificial pebble beach. Right opposite the waterfront is a beautiful park. There’s some really nice boutiques to shop from in the downtown area, and a really cool bar right opposite the waterfront where I got to watch some NBA action while chugging a lot of beer.

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The Kamloops Waterfront

After Kamloops, we were off to Whistler. Honestly, Whistler was the most beautiful place for me and I could have done with staying here for an extra night or even two.

Whistler Blackcomb

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Whistler is a town north of Vancouver, British Columbia, that’s home to Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America. Whistler Mountain (2,182 meters) and Blackcomb Mountain (2,284 meters), the two peaks that rise above Whistler Village, boast some of the best skiing in North America.

Fun Fact : The Whistler Blackcomb resort’s combined skiable terrain tops 3,307 hectares with more than 200 runs accessed by 37 lifts.

Indeed, there is too much to cover in one day, which is why many visitors plan to spend a week or so on the slopes. Thanks to summer skiing opportunities on Blackcomb’s Horstman Glacier, the Whistler Blackcomb resort also offers the longest ski season of any resort in Canada.

Some hotels provide ski-in access to the two mountains, and multiple restaurants and village eateries are located within ski-boot walking distance of the gondola base (with ski racks set up outside the door and warming fireplaces inside). Snowmobile trips and heli-skiing are also popular winter pastimes at the Whistler Blackcomb resort, and for those traveling with kids, the Coca-Cola Tube Park offers no end of downhill fun.

Besides glacier skiing, in summer, the mountains are busy with hikers, as well as mountain bikers who take to the challenging trails of Whistler Mountain Bike Park. When riding the chairlifts, keep an eye out for bears ambling along the mountain trails in search of berries.

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Overview :

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  • Peak 2 Peak Gondola : Stunning 360-degree views of Whistler Village, mountain peaks, lakes, glaciers and forests. Ride the special glass-bottom gondola for a bird’s-eye view of the forest
  • Shopping : Whistler is a shopper’s paradise, especially for any kind of winter sport equipment or apparel. Spend days browsing the neighbourhoods for fine artwork and fashion, jewellery, the latest outdoor sportswear and equipment, and luxury items – or simply drop in for essential groceries and gifts.
  • Ziplining : Fly through the forest on an exhilarating high wire adventure – no experience required. Glide over spectacular creeks and through majestic old-growth trees on a guided tour. Learn about Whistler’s ecology and wildlife. Feel free as a bird with high quality safety systems and expert supervision.
  • Skiing and snowboarding : Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are a skierֹs dream destination, the ultimate in big mountain experiences. Over 8,100 acres of snow-covered slopes, 16 alpine bowls, 3 glaciers, world-class terrain parks and 200+ marked trails. Enjoy easy access to the base Village with accommodation, shops and an unbeatable après-ski scene located slopeside.
  • Whistler Mountain Bike Park : The ultimate gravity-fed downhill biking experience, drawing mountain bikers from across the world. All levels and abilities catered to with four mountain zones, green trails, technical double blacks, jump trails and more.
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A corner of The Whistler Village
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Whistler Town is divided into two parts :

1. The Upper Village or Upper Whistler :

Whistler has a local population of approximately 10000 people. If you want to live in a proper hotel, head to The Upper Whistler, you’d find The Fairmont, The Four Seasons, etc.

2. The Lower Village or Lower Whistler :

The Lower Whistler is where lies The Whistler Village. A lot of lodges, and some really luxurious ones are to be found in this area. All the sightseeing, shopping and the activities are located in the Whistler Village. It also includes a lot of really good cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs. It basically is the place to be for tourists. There’s Gondola rides to the mountains, ziptreks, bike rides, quad bikes, skiing, snowboarding, cycling on the mountains and terrains, etc.

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Just outside the boundaries of The Whistler Village

Peak 2 Peak Gondola

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The best and a must do activity here is the Gondola ride which further connects to the Peak2Peak Gondola. How it works is you take a gondola ride from ground level to the peak and then you walk to a separate station and take a second Gondola from that peak.

Fun Fact : The Peak2Peak Gondola is 4.4 kms in length, supported by just 4 pillars that are to the very ends. There are no columns or pillars in between whatsoever. The views are absolutely incredible and if you have time, wait for a car that has a transparent glass floor. Those circulate every 30 minutes.

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View from within the Peak2Peak Gondola

At the peak, loop-hiking trails introduce the alpine terrain. There is also a tea hut for warm ups, as the temperatures can be cooler at higher elevations. In winter, skiers and snowboarders make use of the Peak 2 Peak gondola to hop between runs on Blackcomb and Whistler.

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Mountain Biking & Other Sports in Whistler

Check out this video by Berm Peak that talks about why Whistler Bike Park is a big deal!

Mountain biking is certainly the most popular summer sport in Whistler Village, and visitors will see legions of armor-clad bikers heading up the slopes by chairlift to Whistler Mountain Bike Park. But the region offers many other adrenaline-fuelled activities, too. Ziplining is one of the most thrilling, and zipliners do reach highway speeds while flying across forested valleys.

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Whistler Sliding Centre and the Peak2Peak Gondola Station

Another high-speed option is at the Whistler Sliding Centre bobsleigh and skeleton track. Built for the Olympics, the center is also open for self-guided tours. More local thrills are available in the form of bungee jumping above the Cheakamus River, ripping along logging trails on off-road vehicles, and rafting the high waters of the spring freshet.

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Ziplining

Check out this youtube video by Earth Titan

Hiking & Climbing

British Columbia is renowned for its many hiking trails, and Whistler is no different. Trails range from easy nature walks around Lost Lake to elevation-intense mountain climbs. A well-traveled network of hikes radiates from the lookouts atop Whistler Mountain. Gondolas take hikers above the tree line, where the trails are especially lovely during alpine wildflower season.

Read More : Top-Rated Hikes in Whistler

After our time in Whistler, we set out for the beautiful city of Vancouver, where after a brief stay, The Alaskan Cruises awaited us! Stay tuned, to read about our experience in Vancouver.

Note : For more updates and photos, please follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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Sunset Time Lapse – Mumbai

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A time lapse in Mumbai in an overcast/monsoon weather. Shot on an iPhone 11!
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