Top 5 Cricket World Cup Destinations

With the ICC Cricket World Cup in full swing, I have decided to bring you my specially curated travel-list for the cricket-lover in you! From the first World Cup in 1975 to the one that you’re watching on your big screens right now, cricket has taken us across 16 beautiful nations, spanning 4 continents. While most will be engrossed in the game, there are many of us who yearn to go beyond the stadium and explore the wondrous sights each host country has to offer. Let’s set the ball rolling!

1. United Kingdom (England, Scotland and Wales)

The World Cup tradition began in England, and this country hosted the first three World Cups until India and Pakistan ended the hat-trick. Once you are done gaping in awe at the Lord’s Cricket Ground, you must grab a seat on one of the 32 capsules of the London Eye. You will get a bird’s eye view of over 55 famous landmarks of London while the giant wheels takes 30 minutes to complete a round. Don’t forget to take some selfies on the London Bridge – one of the seven wonders of the world! Then, as the Big Ben strikes six, head on over to Madam Tussaud’s and marvel at the lifelike wax statues of celebrities from all over the world. If you have more time, don’t forget to visit the Buckingham Palace and several state-of-the-art museums.

Scotland is a country straight out of a fairytale! Home to the magnificent castle of Edinburgh and the haunted waters of Loch Ness. (Remember the sea monster, Nessie?) Explore Skara Brae, a stone-age village, and ruins of imposing castles and brochs. The beaches and hills are sure to take your breath away!

Wales, not unlike Scotland, has scores of alluring castles. But the prettiest attraction here is surely Snowdonia – a visually appealing national park. You might also want to take a look at Sygun Copper Mine and National Slate Museum.

2. India

Source: maharajas-express-india.com

Source: maharajas-express-india.com

India has hosted the World Cups thrice so far, and it arguably has the highest number of cricket fans in the world. My country is one of the most diverse, both in terms of terrain and culture. You can enjoy the snow in Gulmarg, up North, or laze inside a boathouse in the backwaters of Kerala, down South. India has the mighty Thar desert, the holy land of Gaya, the crazy party-scene in Goa, the beautiful Taj Mahal and the beguiling Sundarbans all in between. Your experiences in India will be as unique and colourful as its people and cuisines!

3. Australasia (Australia and New Zealand)

Source: bonfireexpeditions.com

Source: bonfireexpeditions.com

The largest country in Australasia, Oz is a spectacle of natural and man-made beauty. The Great Barrier Reef, the 12 Apostles, the Blue Mountains and clear beaches are nature’s gift to the Aussies. By the same token, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, the Eureka Tower and the Great Ocean Road are gifts from the Aussies to the rest of the world. As Australia hosts various matches for this season, let’s hope India lifts the cup again!

Source: placestoseeinyourlifetime.com

Source: placestoseeinyourlifetime.com

Kiwiland is co-hosting this year, and it’s a wonderful excuse to explore its two islands. If you’re an LOTR fan, hop over to Hobbiton and feel like a hobbit yourself! NZ gives you plenty of chances to interact with its indigenous Maori people and taste their scrumptious food. After a long match, relax at one of the hot springs. New Zealand is chock a block with volcanoes and the natural geysers and hot springs come as no surprise. The beauty of it all will surprise you though! 😉

4. The Netherlands

Source: travel.nationalgeographic.com

Source: travel.nationalgeographic.com

Holland is a small European country that has only co-hosted the World Cup once, but it packs quite a punch! The land of windmills has enough to keep you here for several days. Its charming streets are best explored on a rented bicycle and its canals, best crossed in a gondola. The Netherlands is steeped in history. From Anne Frank’s House to Rijksmuseum, there’s so much to see! Holland is also famous for its liberal laws on weed. One can order “magic mushrooms” and “space cakes” in restaurants! The best thing about “NE” of BENELUX is that it’s a part of the Schengen region, and a Schengen visa gives you the power to travel through most of Europe! 😀

5. Kenya

Source: animalorphanagekenya.org

Source: animalorphanagekenya.org

Africa’s lesser known cricket destination is a magical country which is true to its roots. The Kenyan cricket team may not have been able to beat South Africa too many times, but Kenya sure beat it to make it to my travel-list for this year! This West African country is the abode of a mind-boggling variety of wild animals and birds. Maasai Mara is a global-favourite when it comes to observing animals in their natural habitat. Animal-watching does not have to be all about roughing it out. You can opt for elegant luxury tents and try “glamping” (glamorous camping) if your budget allows it.

Do you ever plan a trip around cricket matches? Have you been to any of the destinations on my top-5? Let me hear your stories in the comments below!

This blog is part of the Blogger Dream Team.

Congenial Hotels in Mumbai

If you are planning to visit Mumbai anytime soon, the first question on your mind (even before you think of the sightseeing list) will be “where to stay?” Mumbai has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in not only India but also the world. And the most expensive of all things in Mumbai is the real estate rate. With such skyrocketing prices, one wonders how and where to stay in Mumbai.

Do you prefer king size beds?

Do you prefer king size beds?

But the best hotels in Mumbai are not necessarily expensive. Any list of hotels in Mumbai will certainly have some excellent options for the budget traveller. And affordable hotels need not be run of the mill. There are budget hotel-chains of some very prominent luxury hoteliers. These hotels provide you not only the best in class services but also don’t cost you a bomb. There are also some tips and tricks to make sure you get the best deal out of our stay in Mumbai.

Cleanliness of the washroom is just as important as the room itself!

Cleanliness of the washroom is just as important as the room itself!

The first trick is to plan ahead and book as early as possible. Remember that if you travel in the off season (think monsoon), hotel bookings in Mumbai will be dirt cheap for you! Another trick is to travel in groups, as family or couple. The room-rates for single occupancy and double or family occupancy is almost the same in Mumbai! It makes no sense then to pay for two people when you are travelling alone. Once in your room, avoid eating out of the mini refrigerator. The products will always be marked up. It is better to eat at the in-house restaurant or any place nearby. Also, making phone-calls from the room-phone to numbers outside of the hotel will accrue extra charges on the final bill.

Five star hotels have a charm of their own

Five star hotels have a charm of their own

Most hotels in Mumbai are congenial and very professional. They will change your bed linen and towels every day or two. If you require your room to be cleaned more frequently, call up the room service. These services are mostly not billed extra. Also, beware of the high taxes in Mumbai! Most hotel menus will quote a price excluding all taxes. Your final bill will have VAT, service tax, service charge and in some cases, charity-charge. (Yes, it’s true!!) So, plan your spending accordingly and read the fine print.

Business hotels have a no-nonsense atmosphere

Business hotels have a no-nonsense atmosphere

While you may be tempted to sneak the wall-mounted hairdryer and cutlery (when you call for your food to be served in the room) to make up for your huge bill, refrain from doing so. Good etiquette demands that you respect the property you stay in and leave it for the next occupant as good as you found it when you first moved in. The complimentary sachets of shampoo, soap, toothbrush and comb can be safely stashed away in your travel-kit, though! 😉

Have you ever had a case of "more cushions than my fingers can count"?

Have you ever had a case of “more cushions than your fingers can count”? 🙂

Mumbai is a fairly safe place for tourists and has a plethora of stay options for all kinds of travellers – business, hostelites, sightseers and honeymooners. From luxury resorts and five star hotels to homestays and budget bed-and-breakfast places, you will not have any trouble securing a roof over your head! Happy travels to you!

This post has been written in association with askme.com.

Travelling With Children

On my blog, I’ve always written about travelling solo or with adult friends. But in reality, most vacationers are family-trippers. And while it’s wonderful to have your close people around you, it becomes a little challenging if you have little kids. 🙂

I have fond memories of travelling to multiple destinations with my parents and sister as a child. I loved each and every one of those moments, but it is only today that I realize what my folks must have gone through, handling two mischievous kids! 😉 Kids add a kind of excitement to every vacation as they view the world with their innocent minds. To help you experience magical trips and avoid misery as you tag along your little ones, I have curated a list of things to do and know when travelling with children:-

Kids Love the Sand and the Sun

If there’s any group of people that loves beaches the most, it is children! If you want to have a relaxing vacation, head to the beach. Leave your kids with some plastic spades and buckets so they can make their own sand castles, and sunbathe without their constant chatter! But remember to slather some sunscreen lotion on them as their sensitive skin is prone to sunburns.

Kids are the world's cutest beach-bums!

Kids are the world’s cutest beach-bums!

Snacks Can Save the Day!

Do you know the main reason kids are always agitated on a trip? They are hungry! Always carry titbits for your toddlers, especially when on a long road trip. You may not always find kid-friendly restaurants or food  on your way. As far as I know, road-side dhabas make food that’s way too spicy for children. So pack some sandwiches, nuts, crackers and chocolates when your bundle of joy accompanies you on that weekend break. Remember, not to make the food boring. Your kids don’t have to drink milk or eat bitter veggies when they are on holiday! Cut them some slack and indulge them with some junk food. (It’s okay once a while!)

The Bangali puchka

Food can keep your kids calm when all else fails!

Playgrounds Are Kid-Magnets

When you need some quiet time with your better half, head to the local park and let your kids have the time of their lives. Children can be surprisingly easy to manage if they have something or somebody to play with. The slides, see-saws and swings at playgrounds will keep your kids happy and active at the same time! Be careful of ride-injuries though. Make sure you carry some basic first-aid stuff with you. Nothing fancy, just band-aids and ointment. You can always buy other things from the local pharma-store. And this reminds me of medication! Do not forget to keep a few tablets or syrups for stomache-ache, acidity and fever. Dehydration can be quite common in the summers. A packet of Electral will see you through any eventuality.

Footloose in Kodagu

Swings and slides and swing your kids’ mood in your favour! 😉

Theme-Parks and Cartoons

Your trips with your children should not just be about keeping them busy or out of your way. You must plan something that they will truly enjoy. And what better than a trip to a theme park! From my visits to Ramoji Film City, Essel World, Water Kingdom and a few others, I have realized how wonderful it feels to go back to being a kid again. If you can take your kids to any of the Disneyland(s), there’s nothing like it! If you can’t, there’s plenty of other stuff you can plan. There are doll-museums around the world (one in New Delhi) and toy trains in many touristy places.

Nordic nights

Children love animated experiences

Children have their own way of perceiving vacations. They can give us some interesting insights into the places we take them to. You will be amazed to know how kids write their travelogues. Catch a glimpse of their words here – http://www.clubmahindra.com/teddytravelogues/

The Big Bird Comes to India!

I was browsing through my old photographs the other day and I noticed how rapidly I had been outgrowing my clothes. I grew so much and so fast in my preteen years that my parents always bought me a size bigger… just in case. It’s funny how this “growth” is not localized to our bodies. A lot of things keep growing in this world – incomes, aspirations, appetites, and especially for India, population!

As a country gets bigger, so does its aspiration. The rising middle class now wants to vacation abroad, try exotic cuisines, and fly higher! So, the arrival of the world’s largest commercial aircraft in India was a logical progression. What we did not expect though was that the Lufthansa A380 would not only be the largest but also one of the finest!

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

This big birdie flew into Delhi’s IGI airport last month and received a landmark welcome. I predict that aviation in our country will soon be revolutionized by a wave of giant planes cruising in our skies. And this is great news because “bigger” is certainly better for Indian aviation! This will be a slightly long post, so fasten your seatbelts as I take you on a vicarious flight aboard the #LufthansaA380! But first, watch this timelapse video of the “green giant”:-

The biggest bird in our sky is a blessing that has finally been bestowed upon us frequent fliers. Here’s why we need more double-decker planes flying in and out of India:

1. Rising Population

With over a billion people jostling for space on the Indian land, imagine what would happen if we all decided to take to the skies one fine day! And this may be hypothetical today, but in the future, as more Indians decide to fly, most of India’s residents will be airborne at any given time. So many people require multiple decks on an aircraft and a LOT of seats (not to mention, frequent flights). Lufthansa has taken one step in that direction. We need more operators to follow suit.

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

2. Rising Wealth

As our wages increase, we’re not going to put up with the cheap experiences that come with cheap flights. We’ll need our champagne and shawarmas when we make that expensive honeymoon trip to the Bahamas. This is why it is heartening to see the easy-on-the-eye beige interiors of the Lufthansa A380’s First Class. You can actually sleep on a fully flat bed under warm blankets with your privacy-partition up. After all, you need to look like a million bucks on your million-buck vacation!

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

3. Rising Stinginess

Yes, you read that right! We have become very stingy after we started making so much money. We suddenly don’t want to waste our hard earned green bills on things that hurt the environment and rob us of our natural resources. We buy energy-efficient LED lights, install motion detecting bath fixtures and only buy cars that run 20 kilometres per litre. Good thing the A380 has four turbofan engines which bring down the fuel consumption per passenger. The 3-metre diameter is quite impressive too!

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

4. Rising Love for Shiny Things

Everybody knows that every Indian family worth its salt will buy gold before they buy life insurance. This love is not restricted to the yellow metal. We now also love shiny steel parts of Harley Davidsons, shiny diamonds studded on shiny platinum jewellery, and shiny new shoes. It’s interesting to know that the Lufthansa A380 has a shiny body because of a transparent protective coat over one layer of colour. This high tech paint keeps the plane working in -60 degrees Celsius and +60 with equal ease.

5. Rising Interest in Weight-Loss

We are so busy working off our flab at the gym that we hardly noticed the A380’s single-paint design. That saves so much weight and ultimately, kerosene. (Fuel efficiency is inversely proportional to weight.) This plane is not called the “green giant” for nothing! It is giant, but surprisingly light!

6. Rising Sizes (despite that “thing” for weight loss 😛 )

The great Indian feasts ensure that all our plans of shedding those extra kilos are tossed out of the window. We have our big waists and tired feet flapping all over the place. This is why the A380 has more legroom (even for Economy), and a nice footrest in the Business Class.

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

7. Rising Tech-Savviness

With the number of tech-wizards that India is churning out every year, it’s easy to see how tech savvy our nation is set to become.  The green giant is sure to impress this group of people with its tail-camera that relays live video (on to the in-flight entertainment screens) of the sky and the view around. This camera was initially installed for the pilot’s benefit, but looks like we’ll all reap some.

8. Rising Obsession over Meditation

The concept and art of meditation was developed in India many years ago. It is in fashion again now, thanks to the world-citizens who have been popularizing this art in several countries. So when you are on that long haul flight, you wouldn’t have to miss your Yoga practice, thanks to the quiet interiors of the plane. If you wish to go further, you can also change into your Yoga-clothes and stash your travel-clothes in your personal wardrobe (first class only).

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

9. Rising Urgency to “Take a Leak” 😛

I don’t think I need to mention how many Indians without toilets have to trek miles to relieve themselves. While these are not the same people who fly high today, they will someday. It’s good to have nice washrooms aboard the Lufthansa A380, so you don’t have to avoid eating or drinking when you’re up in the air. You will forget you’re on a plane when you see the lavish fittings and spacious wash cabin for the first class.

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

Picture Courtesy: a380.lufthansa.com/TAKEPART/#/DE/EN/home

Now you know why we need BIGGER and smarter things to carry us around! You will certainly agree that ‘bigger is better’ for the Indian aviation industry, won’t you?

Sonu Sood’s Travel Secrets

Dear readers, because you have been such wonderful followers of my travel blog, I have a surprise for you! After a bit of lobbying, I finally got hold of one of the hunkiest men in Bollywood – Sonu Sood!!! 🙂

Sonu Sood agrees to share his secrets with me

Sonu Sood agrees to share his secrets with me

Despite his fame and prosperity, Sonu has kept his feet firmly on the ground. His disarming, warm demeanor told me I was going to have a great afternoon with him. Before I give you details of our tete-a-tete, let me tell how far he has come from his peaceful existence in Chandigarh to the big city life of Mumbai.

Sonu had  a simple upbringing and was very close to his mother. He studied Engineering, but realized early on that his real passion lay in acting. He was a successful model for a few years before he turned into an actor. His journey was not easy. He did not have a godfather in the film industry. He made his way through the labyrinthine paths of Bollywood solely through his hard work and perseverance.

When he first told his mum that he wanted to leave his home city of Chandigarh to build his acting career in Mumbai, he was pleased to have her support. She told him to keep trying and have patience as he went along. For an entire year that he was in Mumbai, he got no work, and Bollywood seemed like a distant dream. But he did not lose his spirit. He went down South and acted in several Tamil and Telugu movies before breaking into Bollywood.

Sonu in Dabangg (Pic courtesy: movies.ndtv.com)

Sonu in Dabangg (Pic courtesy: movies.ndtv.com)

Fascinated by his journey, I asked Sonu if he likes to travel. And he does! Unfortunately, he does not get much time for sightseeing, but he thoroughly enjoys shooting for his movies in new locales. As he spoke, my eyes drifted to his impressive biceps. I couldn’t stop myself from asking how he keeps fit during his travels and with his busy schedules.

Sonu revealed his top fitness secret to me – he keeps aside 2 hours every day for workouts. His normal day consists of 22 hours. He does not let anything eat into those 2 precious fitness-hours. He keeps all excuses at bay and even after a hectic day, trains at 2:00 or 3:00 in the night! His trainer, who had accompanied him, nodded when I looked at his direction.

I was curious to know when Sonu started building his body. He told me that he was into six-packs right from his college days. He would exercise regularly while juggling with his strenuous Engineering curriculum. He also revealed that he does not make muscles only for special movie sequences. Fitness is part of his lifestyle. This means, you will never catch him in bad shape!

The Bollywood heartthrob opens up to me

The Bollywood heartthrob opens up to me

They say, the quickest way to judge a man is by his shoes. Sonu’s shoes speak volumes of his active way of living and love for travel. Only a man who loves the outdoors would wear tough shoes with good grip!

New places take you closer to new cuisines… We got talking about food. Sonu’s favourite dish is the Punjabi aloo-paratha. He was born in Ludhiana, brought up in Chandigarh, and has been living in Mumbai ever since. But the Punjabi taste has remained with him. He confided in me how in his younger days he would eat loaves of bread and a brick of butter! Nobody told him back then that fats and carbs cannot be eaten beyond a certain percentage if you wish to have washboard abs.

Interestingly, Sonu is vegetarian. And he gets brownie points from me for being one! 🙂 He has never tasted non-veg in his entire life. He is not against eating meat though. He agrees that non-veg is a great source of proteins. But veg food is no less of a protein-provider! Sonu Sood’s awe-inspiring body is enough to silence all naysayers.

Sonu in Happy New Year (Pic courtesy: bollywoodhaberleri.com)

Sonu in Happy New Year (Pic courtesy: bollywoodhaberleri.com)

Sonu plays another attractive character – Jag in Happy New Year. He did a lot of travelling across the world to shoot for this movie. He does his own packing for his trips and kind of hates it. But he loves the excitement of going to a new place. I asked him how he sticks to his diet when he’s up in the air. Because of his stature, he has access to food exclusively prepared for him. He always asks the airhostesses to get him salads. But there are times when he cannot be strict with his food-intake.

Especially when you have co-stars like Shah Rukh and Deepika egging you to eat more! Both Deepika and Shah Rukh love to eat, and when you’re travelling with them, you are bound to be mollycoddled into stuffing yourself! Sonu gives in to rich food once in a while, but he makes sure he never eats junk food.

‘Only dieting and working out can’t give you energy’, I wondered. I asked Sonu how he relaxed so he could give his best performance every day. He has to have some trick for resting if he gyms in the dead of the night! I was in for a surprise. This active actor gets barely 4 to 6 hours of sleep a day! He unwinds by taking some time off from work to talk to people like me. 🙂

The beautiful afternoon comes to an end

The beautiful afternoon comes to an end

I had the best afternoon all month yesterday. Sonu was very generous with his time and words, and even told me I have a beautiful smile. (I gripped my armrest to stop myself from fainting at the compliment.) I wish Sonu a lovely career and life ahead. May he visit newer shores and entertain more people!

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If you are a celebrity (or PR Manager for one) who likes to travel, get in touch with me for an exclusive interview and full-post feature on my blog.