Friday, January 31, 2020

Osaka, Japan - From Sacred Deer to Sky-High Sunsets

Feeling rather sentimental (OSAKA TRAVEL WINS) as always, the bittersweet realization that it's time to head back home tomorrow hits hard (KOBE EXPERIENCES UNFOLD & ARASHIYAMA ZEN). Ah, the classic case of Ms. Nava! The end of a journey always stirs up mixed emotions. Returning home means diving back into reality. But then again, who can travel 365 days a year? Unless money starts falling from the sky- oh, wouldn't that be lovely! Ahahahah!

My second last day began on a delightful note with the love of my life: a Japanese buffet breakfast. Aren't they just the prettiest? Just look at the spread I had!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Osaka, Japan - Unexpected Travel Wins

Waking up to the delightful hotel buffet breakfast in Japan never failed to tantalize my taste buds in the most sensational and smooth way (KYOTO ONSEN BARENESS & KOBE EXPERIENCES UNFOLD). Each morning brought a new culinary adventure, where I eagerly explored the array of dishes on offer. Crispy fried bacon, Japanese steamed cakes, and half-boiled eggs drizzled with Japanese soy sauce were just a few of the pleasures that started my day on a high note. One intriguing discovery was the small bottle of oil nestled among the hot beverages.

Curiosity piqued, I learned from the attentive staff that it was coconut oil meant to enhance the flavor of coffee - an unexpected delight that I couldn't resist trying. The blend of Coffee Coconut Oil added a layer of richness to my breakfast experience, a perfect complement to the flavors of Japan.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Kobe, Japan - Where Experiences Unfold

From Osaka (KYOTO: ONSEN BARENESS), it took us around 50 minutes to reach Kobe. Kobe, a port city in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, has a rich history dating back to the 8th century when it served as an important hub for maritime trade (SAPPORO AWAITS & HOKKAIDO WANDERLUST). The city was one of the first to open to foreign trade in the 19th century, playing a significant role during the Meiji Restoration and transforming into a modern industrial center.

Upon arrival, we headed to the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum. Visiting the museum was a profoundly moving experience. As I explored the exhibits and learned about the events that unfolded during the Great Hanshin Earthquake of January 17, 1995, I felt a deep emotional impact. The displays vividly portrayed how this unexpected natural disaster devastated lives, leaving profound mental and physical scars. I felt a sharp pain in my soul, and there were moments when I was left speechless and frozen.

Kyoto, Japan: Kyoto: Zenful Sights and Cuisine

One of the most delightful experiences in Japan is the hotel buffet breakfast. Unlike the pre-arranged tour lunches and dinners, the morning buffet offers (ONSEN BARENESS & ARASHIYAMA ZEN) an array of choices that feel like a feast from the heavens. There's a special pleasure in settling for light porridge, accompanied by an assortment of flavorful condiments, Japanese-style eggs, crisp salads, delicate tofu dishes, and the smooth, exquisite hotel desserts. This spread is a testament to the subtle and refined Japanese culinary delights, and it’s precisely what I indulged in this morning.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Kyoto, Japan: Gion District to Onsen Bareness

In the afternoon (ARASHIYAMA ZEN TRANQUIL), it was Gion District's time to shine! This iconic slice of Kyoto is steeped in history as the city's beloved geisha hub. Dating back to the Middle Ages, Gion boasts traditional machiya houses, lantern-lit alleys, and teahouses where geiko and maiko dazzle with dance, music, and games. Visitors flock here for a peek into Japan's rich cultural heritage, hoping to glimpse elegantly adorned geiko and maiko as they gracefully glide between engagements. Gion is also a culinary delight, offering Kyoto's refined cuisine in nostalgic settings that transport you back in time.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Kyoto, Arashiyama: Discovering Zen in Tranquil Moments

Though I had quite an experience in Hokkaido during winter (HOKKAIDO WANDERLUST & HOKKAIDO WINTER TALES), I couldn’t resist when the same tour group invited me to join them for a trip to Kyoto and Osaka. Missing out on this adventure with my fun and soulful tour buddies felt like it would be a regret. Eager to reunite with them and explore another part of Japan, I said, “Let’s go!” Six days and five nights, with all arrangements (NEW DELHI SOULFUL WINTER) and expenses covered (except for shopping, of course).

Our night flight landed at Kansai International Airport, and we kicked off our tour in the Arashiyama District. Stepping off the coach, I immediately felt the chill of winter. After a briefing from our local guide, we had two hours to explore Arashiyama. I headed straight for the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge (literally Moon Crossing Bridge, aka Sagano Bridge). Amidst the bustling crowd, notably filled with many Chinese tourists, I realized I was the only Indian there. Yippiee!

Monday, January 20, 2020

New Delhi - North India: A Soulful Revelation

On the last two days in New Delhi (TAJ MAHAL & VARANASI) before returning home, I enjoyed a relaxed morning on the second-to-last day. After breakfast, I stayed in my room, sipping coffee and having a light meal from the buffet. While the rest of the group went shopping, I took advantage of the hotel's fast Wi-Fi to catch up on social media (COLOMBO DISCOVERY & HOKKAIDO WANDERLUST).

For lunch, we headed to "Flavour Of Southvala" in Karol Bagh. Despite the cramped seating, the food was exceptional. We shared a Paper Tosai, a Non-Vegetarian Thali Set, and India's beloved Bru Coffee. The curries were rich and flavorful, thanks to the spices used, and the presentation was appetizing - unlike some eateries that overlook the importance of plating. This meal was a clear winner, making up for the less enjoyable dining experiences elsewhere (CHENNAI & KODAIKANAL).

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Taj Mahal Agra - (North India)

The journey from Jaipur (JAIPUR LOVE CITY & VARANASI SACRED GANGES) to our destination was about five and a half hours, and I was glad to have the company of some lively ladies on this tour. With jokes and laughter filling the bus, time flew by until our first comfort break. These breaks can happen anywhere, often at roadside shops where a bathroom stop is a must. Here’s the thing: you have to brace yourself. Sometimes there's water, sometimes not, so always carry tissues. Out in the outskirts, you can't afford to fuss; no one’s going to hear you anyway.

For men in India, bathroom breaks are even more informal. They relieve themselves wherever they please, and it's a sight that's hard to miss. I'd seen enough in North India to know it wasn't just a South Indian phenomenon (MYSURU & CHENNAI) . At some sightseeing spots, the smell is impossible to avoid as you walk in.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Jaipur, Rajasthan - The Love City (North India)

My first day in Jaipur was heart-melting and soul-touching (JAIPUR: TIMELESS TRAVEL). The city, famously known as the Pink City, is renowned for its distinctive pink-colored buildings and architecture. This unique hue dates back to 1876 when Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh ordered the city to be painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). Pink, symbolizing hospitality, continues to dominate the old city's landscape, preserving its historic charm.

For me, Jaipur is the Love City. The day began with a visit to the Birla Mandir, also known as the Lakshmi Narayan Temple. Built by the Birla family in 1988, this modern architectural marvel is made entirely of pristine white marble and dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. Nestled at the base of Moti Dungri Hill, the temple's intricate carvings depict scenes from Hindu mythology, saints, philosophers, and historical figures (VARANASI: SACRED GANGES)

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Jaipur, Rajasthan: Timeless Travel Magic

Bidding farewell to Varanasi (VARANASI SACRED GANGES) was a deeply sentimental moment for me; it's one of those places that etched a profound meaning into my soul. But reality dictates that we must move on, so from Varanasi Airport, we flew back to New Delhi, landing at the bustling Delhi Airport before heading to Hotel Sohi Residency for our one-night stay. I wish I had more positive things to say about this hotel, but when you’re informed that accommodations will be three-star, expectations are modest. While I am far from being a travel diva, the bedsheets, pillow covers, and blanket left me questioning the cleanliness. The one redeeming feature was the super clean bathroom, a small consolation.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Varanasi - North India: Mystical Journeys Along the Sacred Ganges

One more place to go for the day (VARANASI - EXPERIENCING SACREDNESS), and it’s said to be the best highlight: the Night Aarti at Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple (Golden Temple). Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the twelve holiest Jyotirlingas. Its golden spire stands out against Varanasi's skyline, symbolizing divine light. The night aarti, a revered ritual, draws devotees and tourists with its elaborate chants, hymns, and offerings, creating an atmosphere of profound devotion. Constructed in 1780 on the Ganges' western bank, Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple is a key stop on Varanasi's Heritage Walk, attracting thousands to its nightly ceremony.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Varanasi - North India: The Gateway to Experiencing Sacredness

Having explored South India (CHENNAI & KODAIKANAL) before, this time my journey took me to North India. It was another solo trip, joining a tour group (COLOMBO & KANDY, SRI LANKA) organized by the same friend, though comprised of strangers. Despite the option to share a room and cut costs, I chose, as always, to pay extra for the privacy of my own room.

We arrived at Hotel Arch in New Delhi around 2 AM, greeted by the early winter chill. My room, though small, was clean and comfortable, including the bathroom. The next morning, breakfast was served before 7 AM, a thoughtful gesture despite the limited choices. The highlight was undoubtedly the Bru coffee, a beloved staple in any part of India, whether at street stalls or in hotels.

A Taste of Burma: Masoor Dal and More Lentil Delights

Lentils and dal are essential staples in my kitchen, celebrated globally ( PERTH CULINARY EXPERIENCES ) for their versatility and nutritiona...