It has been raining non-stop in most of India, certainly in Mumbai which seems to be flooded every other day. But that is no reason to sulk and eat leftovers every alternate meal. Also, if your typical food scene looks like cereal-for-breakfast, rajma-chawal-for-lunch and soup-for-dinner, you definitely need to eat out! Perhaps, cash-crunch is your excuse for not dining out? However, that shouldn’t stop you from hogging at the top restaurants in your city any more. Here’s why:
GIRF Is Back This August
Thanks to the initiative by Dineout, India’s largest platform for dining out, August is going to be a month of binge eating. After the Great Indian Restaurant Festival (GIRF) in February, earlier this year, they’ve come up with an encore this month. From 1st August to 1st September, you will be able to dine at over 8000 restaurants across India for half the regular price! Read on to know more…
What Is The GIRF?
GIRF is the annual Great Indian Restaurant Festival happening in 17 cities across India right now. All of August is now the #MonthOfMore because you get to eat more (twice as much, to be precise) for the same price. Dineout is offering flat 50% off your entire bill on select restaurants in these cities, and Mumbai obviously is one of them. What’s more? There is no restriction on the minimum or maximum amount to be spent, and you can avail the offer on a-la-carte dining, drinks and also buffets. This means you can go out to eat more often and collect more Instagram-worthy pictures while you’re at it!
How Can You Participate?
To make the most of the 4th edition of the Great Indian Restaurant Festival, book your tables on Dineout. You can do this by downloading the Dineout app, searching for the restaurants by filtering your city, preferred cuisine and ambience, and finally, reserving your table. Don’t make the mistake of putting this off for later because the seats are limited and the demand is high. Keep an eye on their Flash Sales to buy deals at only INR 11! So, what are you waiting for? Plan all your brunch meetings and date nights for August and prepare yourself to eat your way through August.
Do you have a list of your favourite restaurants ready yet?
Asia is a vast, stunning and one of the most unique parts of the world. Within this continent, there is a wealth of different countries to explore, animals to observe and food to taste. Today, we’re going to take a look into some of the places in Asia which you should add to your bucket list this year.
The first place is one of the most popular holiday destinations in entire Asia while being a stunning sanctuary of tranquillity and natural beauty. Indonesia is a beautiful country anyway, and whether you decide to try coffee in Java, stay at Jual Rumah Di Medan or island hop for a few weeks, there is a lot to see and do. Bali is a small island in the heart of the country, and often a place people go to enjoy a weekend away and for some great waterfall walks. It is also a great place to scout for a yoga retreat.
Bandung is the third largest city in Indonesia and a place full of vibrant culture and lots of activities to participate in. During your visit here, you’ll be able to shop around the city and enjoy the markets where handmade ceramics and clothes are sold. You can also enjoy the Dutch colonial architecture as well as a stunning zoo and a relaxing botanical garden. There’s something for everyone in Bandung, and you’ll never run out of things to do.
Bangkok is a world away from the idyllic and quiet islands of Thailand. Until you set foot into the city, you won’t believe how buzzing and beautiful this city really is. The capital of Thailand, Bangkok is full of life, with plenty to do and see during your stay. The Wat Arun temple will give you a striking view of the riverside. You’ll also be able to enjoy a thriving market with over 15,000 stalls and fusion food from all over Asia.
China is perhaps one of the most well-known countries in Asia, and also a location which enjoys some amazing cultural hotspots and natural landmarks. Beijing is an amazing place for you to visit if you want to be able to see the wealth of history in this country. Do not miss the Great Wall of China and the National Museum which houses relics and artefacts spanning the last 3000 years. The city itself is stunning at night when the lights take over the cityscape, offering you plenty of activities to enjoy.
Chengdu might be a lesser known name when you search for places to see in China, but it is a location which should definitely have on your bucket list this year if you love history. This city reaches as far back as 6000 years, and is a wealth of chronicles and magic. The main attraction you’ll appreciate in this city is the Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre which helps to bring pandas back into the wild to keep the species alive for the years to come.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand is an incredibly vast space to explore, and with the many islands and cities to choose from, it can be hard to nail down a single destination for the trip. However, the small city of Chiang Mai is where many travellers come during their backpacking adventures. There are lots of places to enjoy a vibrant nightlife, amazing food, and lots of areas to shop for some new clothes and jewellery.
Da Nang, Vietnam
Vietnam is a highly underrated country in Asia, often overlooked when people plan a summer vacation. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful nation, and one which is definitely worth a visit. Da Nang is a coastal city in the heart of the country, and a great place to enjoy sandy beaches which aren’t overpopulated. It also has a Dragon Bridge which runs over a river.
Japan is known for its amazing landscapes, and when we think of the most idyllic place in the country, most of us picture cherry blossoms, a lake and temples. Fukuoka is the epitome of an ideal Japanese scene, and during your time here, you will be able to see some stunning temples, relax on the beach and eat fresh seafood in the evenings. Make sure you also see the castle in Maizuru Park.
India is one of the most vibrant cultural spots in this part of the world. If you fancy relaxing this summer, a visit to Goa is a great idea. This state is located by the sea and apart from endless beaches, you will be able to see the Basilica of Bom Jesus which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a great landmark to behold. You can also enjoy a fresh Goan curry to relish the coastal flavours.
Hanoi is the second largest city in Vietnam and a great place to enjoy the architecture and history of the country. You’ll be able to delve into the French culture as well as Chinese history, and see a whole wealth of amazing things. There are over 600 temples in the city as well as parks to enjoy a stroll in, and markets and spots to eat at.
Which of these places have you explored?
Do you think Asia can satisfy your travel cravings?
Malaysia is one of the most diverse countries in South East Asia, featuring vibrant cities, natural wonders and a rich history. If you are still in the process of planning your summer holiday, head to this delightful country which will also be quite easy on your pocket. Here are some of the must-see attractions and activities you can indulge in while you vacation in Malaysia:
Trek in Taman Negara National Park
Taman Negara is the largest national park in Peninsular Malaysia, and a popular location for hikers looking to do some jungle trekking. Its walks pass through mountains, rivers and waterfalls, with the opportunity to see monkeys, bears, tapirs and water buffalos. Those daring enough can even cross the longest rope walkway in the world. You can take guided tours along stretches of the treks. There are, meanwhile, plenty of guesthouses in the Taman Negara area for spending the night here. Shuttle services from Kuala Lumpur may be the easiest way to get to this national park.
Spot An Orangutan In Sepilok
The small town of Sepilok is located in the depth of the Bornean rainforest. Its claim to fame is that it’s one of the world most popular sites for spotting wild orangutans. Although endangered, the locals here are trying their best to conserve the population. There’s even a rehabilitation centre here where you can see these apes up close. There are several accommodation options in Sepilok, including B&Bs and homestay options for savoring an authentic experience of rural Malaysia. To get to Sepilok, your best bet is to take a bus from Semporna.
See The City Sights In Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is the country’s capital, and the perfect place for seeing the urban side of Malaysia. It’s home to some incredible pieces of architecture, including the 451.9m tall Petronas Towers (once the tallest skyscraper in the world). Kuala Lumpur also has some incredible malls, including the Berjaya Times Square which features an indoor theme park, an IMAX cinema, a spa centre and a karaoke lounge. To top that, it’s the country’s hotspot for nightlife and dining. There’s no shortage of hotels in Kuala Lumpur. They also have a number of hostels for those on a budget. It could be worth exploring some of the neighbouring cities such as Selangor where you can find affordable apartments such as this Mentari Court development. You can get to Kuala Lumpur by flying straight into KL International Airport.
Marvel At The Historical Architecture In Malacca
Malacca offers a different kind of city feel from KL. It’s much more historical and traditional. Its past use as a colonial trading port had resulted in architectural influences from Europe, China, India and the Middle East. Some of its most iconic buildings include Christ Church and A’Famosa Fort. You’ll also find lots of galleries and museums here for delving further into the country’s history. The city has a number of boutique hotels that can be perfect for a romantic break. Malacca also has its own airport, making it easy to get to.
Visit The Beautiful Beaches Of Langkawi Island
Langkawi Island is Malaysia’s top beach destination. Here, you’ll find white sands and crystal clear water. There are plenty of attractions here, including Eagle Square, Mahsuri Tomb and Museum and a large aquarium named Underwater World. There are also plenty of watersports to indulge in here, although you may prefer to lounge on the beach and grab a cocktail at one of the local beach bars. You can get to Langkawi by air or by taking a ferry – there are multiple options, depending on whether you want to explore the rest of Malaysia first. Langkawi has plenty of luxurious hotels as well as several cheaper accommodation options for backpackers.
The very mention of Hong Kong usually conjures up images of skyscrapers, high-end restaurants and crowded shopping streets. There is, however, another side to this seemingly busy Asian territory. I discovered early this year, on my maiden trip to the Far East, the little-known wonders on the island of Lantau. This is the island on the Pearl River that houses Hong Kong’s bustling international airport. But barely a 20-minute drive away is an idyllic village called “Ngong Ping”.
Why I Chose Ngong Ping Over Disneyland
The giant statue of Buddha is visible from the Ngong Ping marketplace in Hong Kong’s Lantau Island
Most first-timers with a Hong Kong visa prefer a trip to the famous Disneyland on the same island of Lantau – incidentally, the largest island of this nation. However, for those of us who prefer quietude over cacophony and natural sights over manmade rides, Ngong Ping Village offers some relief. Quite unlike mainstream Hong Kong, this hamlet, located on an undulating, hilly terrain, is a paradise of sorts – lush green mountain vegetation on all sides, a quaint marketplace lined with dainty shops, and a chilly climate, uncharacteristic of its subtropical position.
There are several ways to reach Ngong Ping from the airport, but the prettiest way, undoubtedly, is to take the ropeway. You can take a taxi or a bus from the HK arrivals area and get off at the Tung Chung stop. The cable car ride begins from here. It is possible to buy tickets on the spot, but I had prebooked mine on Klook to avoid the queues (which get longer as the day wears on).
The Gondola Ride
I shiver inside my 360-degree crystal cabin gondola en route to Ngong Ping
The cable car ride is aptly named “Ngong Ping 360” for the 360-degree views of Hong Kong that it provides. The standard gondolas are glass-walled but have an opaque floor. For a slightly higher fee, you can get yourself a crystal cabin which is transparent on all sides. The premium gondola is worth the extra charge as it lets you view the forestlands, walking trails, treetops and many other gorgeous things without hindrance. The ride takes 30 minutes each way, and offers plenty of time to soak in the picturesque Lantau Peak, aerial views of the South China Sea, the amazing multi-layered road network of Hong Kong and several of its islands, bridges that connect the islands, and ships at the harbour. (If you ever plan to enter this country through another route, take a look at this set of information to help you prepare better.)
The Village Walkway
The starting point of the Ngong Ping Village walkway.
This high-tech village has free WiFi and is split into three sections: Village Square, Bodhi Path and Country Market. The village square is essentially the place for eateries. There are teahouses and umpteen restaurants and cafes waiting to serve you exotic teas and cuisines from Hong Kong, China and other international flavours. The Bodhi Path has the information centre and some installations from the Buddhist culture. The final section of the village walkway is the country market which has a string of shops selling a lot of unique cultural things, such as chopsticks, art, silver, gadgets, souvenirs and a lot more. When shopping
Beyond the village walkway is the religious part of this island. After you have crossed the iconic white gate and the sprawling paved route, you will reach the palatial shrine area. This is preceded by a circular stage with flags all around it. To your right will be a stairway (with countless steps) to a giant statue of the Buddha – Tian Tan monument. You can either take on the arduous climb to the statue or stay back and explore the Po Lin Monastery.
This Buddhist monastery was built in 1906 in traditional Chinese architecture. The courtyard has a huge stand for worship purposes, around which devotees offer their prayers by way of lighting incense sticks. The scent of the incense wafts throughout the courtyard and perhaps inside the main shrine which has three large statues of the Buddha that represent his past, present and future. I am not a religious traveller, so without dwelling too long before the temple, I headed back to the food lane for some lunch.
Eat Like A Hongkonger
My bowl of udon noodles with curd bean sheets, sweetcorn and seaweed goes well with the chrysanthemum tea with wolfberries and honey.
The average HK local has 5 meals a day, the last one being a sort of midnight snack (wow! 🙂 ) which is consumed hours after dinner and called “siu yeh“. While they have plenty of meats on offer, vegetarians will find sufficient options without having to resort to other cuisines. Dim sums, baos and congees apart, Hong Kong offers interesting soup bowls which are large enough to be the entire meal. Being China’s Special Administrative Region, the place is big on flavoured teas. They even have a tea museum!
For those who love to hike, Lantau Peak happens to be the second highest peak in Hong Kong at 934 metres. Also known as Fung Wong Shan, the peak is clearly the tallest on Lantau Island, especially when viewed from the Ngong Ping plateau. The trek begins from the same point as that of the Wisdom Path which passes a tea garden. If you are not up for the entire thing, just do the Ngong Ping Fun Walk and come back.
Nei Lak Shan Country Trail
Lantau Island’s Nei Lak Shan country trail looks like an adventurous one.
If you are of the courageous type, attempt the Lantau Peak hike early at around 4 am. This will give you enough time to reach the peak in time for a glorious sunrise. You can spend the night at the youth hostel along this trail, or just bring your own tent and sleeping bags if you prefer roughing it out. The Nei Lak Shan country trail will give you ample opportunities for bird photography and an insight into subtropical plants.
Useful Information For Hong Kong
Interiors of the Hong Kong International Airport in Lantau
Indians must apply for pre-arrival registration for Hong Kong before the trip. RedCarpet Assist ensures hassle-free visa application.
Hong Kong Dollars is the official currency of the country. However, some shops happily accept US dollars if you run out of HKD.
Most locals do not speak much English (if at all). So, come prepared to play some long rounds of dumb-charades 😉 (Just kidding! If you’re lucky, some expats or English-speaking students will help you out.)
Which version of Hong Kong do you prefer more – city or village?
It was midsummer when the Uttarakhand Tourism Board invited me to explore the little lake-town of Tehri earlier this year. While the world hyped about the annual Tehri Lake Festival, I was more excited to glimpse a few other gems. I’d previously been to the north Indian state of Uttarakhand on several occasions, but this time, I was determined to see a few new places of Garhwal. Enjoy this photo-story as I show you the Lower Himalayan valleys through my perspective.
Dhanaulti From The Sky
The Lower Himalayan range is distinctly visible from Dhanaulti.
The day that I was to spend relaxing in my hotel (aptly named “Dhanaulti Heights”), I chose instead to go for a hike to the nearby Surkanda Devi temple. I’m not a supporter of idol worship but I fully encourage hiking in the hills for the gorgeous views, if nothing else. Dhanaulti enjoys good weather and it is a delight to breathe in the pure air up here.
The prettiest room I had was in Kaudiyala – a wooden cottage by the bank of the River Ganga. You can see from the video above what the scene from my balcony was. Sunrises here are unmissable, especially because nature wakes you up (think chirping birdies). The Ganges looks incredible from close quarters, so do the Shivalik Hills.
How Kanatal Turns Orange At Sunset
The glorious sunset in Kanatal.
Kanatal was only a short stop for me on my way to another Garhwali destination, but I didn’t know that when I got there early in the eve. Trotting up and down the mountain trail, I thought I would have nothing much to do except talk to the locals. But the sunset proved me wrong by turning the blue sky yellow and beginning to paint this sleepy town as well.
See How The World Becomes Smaller When You Look Up?
I’ve often realized that being away from humanity has a calming effect on my soul. Perhaps that’s why I’m mostly a solo traveller. Trekking really helps to leave the world behind and let your problems become smaller as you climb up. And believe me, the endorphin rush automatically makes you happy! 😉
Learn What Love Is From The Animal Kingdom
Caught this mommy macaque walking with her baby! <3
There is so much one can learn from the birds and animals. Loving, for instance. When I read horrifying stories of parents abandoning their children or women justifying abortion, I am inclined to think humans have forgotten all about love, care and self-sacrifice. So, I look instead at animals for some hope. And they never disappoint. I was able to click this macaque mom-and-daughter duo during my hike to Kunjapuri temple in Adali, near Rishikesh.
Rafting Camps For River-Lovers
Tents and wooden rest houses in Kaudiyala
If you are not such a fan of luxury and prefer to rough it out instead, Kaudiyala offers plenty of safari tents. These campsites are usually preferred by rafters who will eventually indulge in some whitewater rafting in the Ganges. Irrespective of where you stay, you still get the same clean air and the background music of hundreds of avifauna and a gurgling river.
Appetizers For Lunch, Anyone?
A stack of bread pakoras waiting to be devoured – at a roadside stall along Garhwal’s national highway.
I don’t have too many pictures of Garhwali food as I was too impatient (on most occasions) to take photos before quelling my hunger. I tried a variety of millet breads (both chapatis and parathas) with plenty of potato preparations. I also remember having just snacks for lunch – savoury bread-pakoras, phaan (a wafer-like bar) and kachoris. Uttarakhand also makes some amazing desserts – jhingore-ki-kheer, baal-mithai, and loads of other milk-based sweets.
Berry-Picking In The Hills
The easy path to Surkanda Devi trek (not what I followed though 😉 )
The Himalayas are a great place to find unique coniferous trees and various shrubs and outcrops. My hikes were more fun as I would stop to look at the leaves, smell the flowers and search for fruits. On one occasion, I had run out of snacks during my walk downhill and had to fill up on a peculiar kind of yellow berries (which I washed with water, of course) in the wild. Back at my hotel, a friend had picked some kafal (little red berries) which she shared with me.
One of the most memorable evenings I had was in New Tehri, just before we all set out for the lake festival. Our gang of girls had dressed up in traditional kurtas. After days of hanging around in hiking pants, we finally had the chance to wear some makeup and look like conventional ladies. 😀
New Tehri is still miles away from the lake (Tehri Lake)
And just like that, the rollercoaster trip came to an end. I have chosen to conveniently forget the endless, tiring road journeys and the sleepless state of mind I had on most days. I now only remember the beautiful tree-lined hills, the sweet smell of berries and the wry humour of my fellow travellers.
Do you think you’ll ever go to Garhwal?
What are your favourite things to do in the mountains?