Diu – The Discoverer’s Favourite

Chilled by the European winds, I wanted my next vacation to keep me warm. I was looking to get away from the noise and crowd of my city. I searched. And I found. Diu was so small, yet so empty – as if it had been waiting to just see me all this while.

Diu's music is in its waves

Diu’s music is in its waves

It’s Nothing Like Daman

I had previously been to Diu’s cousin – Daman (read: How Daman Delighted Me), and I thought this island would be a reminder of that trip. But I was wrong. Diu is more beautiful… in many different ways. Its beaches are cleaner, its streets are lined with a cycling lane (which unfortunately goes unused), and it rewards its admirers with unique places to eat and hide inside.

Ghoghla Beach - the largest one in Diu

Ghoghla Beach – the largest one in Diu

Ghoghla – The Morning Beach

Diu is no Goa. It’s not a wild, party place. It’s a place to nurse your hangover, and find peace amidst nature. Still, it is easy to rent a car, bike or scooty in this ‘Isle of Calm’. I did not find a place to rent a bicycle though. However, if you are a possessed walker or runner, you will enjoy exploring Diu just as much on foot.

My first evening here was spent watching the sun set over Nagoa Beach, close to my hotel – The Hoka Island Villa. The port wine I had that night gave me a nice sleep. This is why I surprised myself when I woke up early the next morning. My little white scooty urged me to cross the bridge and leave the little island.

I was on Ghoghla Beach. It was too early for the tourists to pour in. Too early for the sun to burn my skin. It was just perfect – my tripod agreed. I saw a little kid turn cartwheels on the sand. I stopped fiddling with my camera and ran to the sea, the breeze encouraging my hair to let go. I told myself that day that I would do a beach marathon someday. (And I am doing it this year! 🙂 )

Fortim do Mar - The Fortress of Panikota

Fortim do Mar – The Fortress of Panikota

A Fortress in the Sea

Fortim do Mar is visible from most of Diu’s coastline. It is hard to miss this seafort which seems to stand in the middle of nothing but water. I wonder sometimes if it is possible to rent this place to spend some quiet time with oneself. There’s a lighthouse there which perhaps offers a nice view of Diu from the top.

Baroque beauty - St. Paul's Church

Baroque beauty – St. Paul’s Church

What Portugal Left Behind

Visiting places of historical importance always unsettles me. A part of me wants to marvel at the wonders of the era bygone – the architectural ruins, the fusion cuisines, the stories and the ways of life. At the same time, another part of me fills up with rage at the masterminds of organised slavery. But time teaches us to move on. To forgive. To accept the good. And to make a promise not to repeat the bad.

St. Paul’s Church is a 17th century building, manifested in the Baroque style. One is reminded of Portugal when one observes the artfully decorated windows and doorways, the arched wooden doors and the murals on the ceiling. The church is still in operation, and you will find the 10 commandments framed against each pillar along the aisle.

Chakratirth Beach... guarded by a lighthouse?

Chakratirth Beach… guarded by a lighthouse?

Some Beaches Find You

As the day wore on, I saw people filling up the streets of Diu. I had to escape before my paradise of peace would vanish. So, I took another road and came across an amphitheatre with a sea-view. It was a viewing space for the grand performance by nature! The sea is so vast, it can help you forget all your troubles.

On the other side of the step-amphitheatre is the Chakratirth Beach, so named because of its semicircular shape. In between the two is an elevated perforated rocky patch. This is where I saw the sun go down again.

Washed by the sea, this shrine has its own story

Washed by the sea, this shrine has its own story

Myth or Mystery?

A 5 minute ride from Chakratirth brought me to the Gangeshwar Temple. This one is located underground. The legend goes that the 5 Pandavas (from the Indian epic Mahabharata) spent some time during their exile at this spot, worshiping Lord Shiva. Today, there are 5 shivalingas (one of Shiva’s manifestations) at the same spot. You can climb down the steps to watch the sea wash over the shivalingas at high tide, as if offering its own prayers to the Hindu God.

Naida Caves - where light plays hide and seek

Naida Caves – where light plays hide and seek

Caves that Will Haunt You

Diu is home to another kind of caves – this one, man-made. Naida Caves were formed due to the activities of the ruling Portuguese. They would cut away rocks from here and build monuments on the island. Nevertheless, these hollows and crevices are quite enchanting today. Climbers and creepers have wrapped some parts of the caves. Aerial roots have sheathed some other portions, almost turning this cave into a palace with many rooms. Moss has coloured some walls in shades of surreal green. Sunlight plays wonderful tricks on the human eye when it enters these caves through the rough openings and green canopies. It is poetic how destruction can also be beautiful.

Some pieces of history rest in a Gothic Church

Some pieces of history rest in a Gothic Church

The Abandoned Church

What is today known as Diu Museum, once used to be the Church of St. Thomas. Built in 1598, this Gothic white church was abandoned several years ago. It is not used for prayers anymore, but houses relics from the past – sculptures and scriptures carved in stone.

Diu has another old church which has been converted to a hospital now.

The Arabian Sea looks mesmerizing from Diu Fort

The Arabian Sea looks mesmerizing from Diu Fort

Diu Fort – Where Warriors Lived

I was saving the best for the last! 🙂 Diu Fort is a large complex that housed soldiers in the barracks, ammunition in underground chambers and canons at every gap in the walls of the mighty structure. This fort is perhaps the largest store of so many canons of different types. Somewhere in this enclosure is a lighthouse – the tallest one in Diu. At every nook and cranny, there is a viewpoint to see the infinite Arabian Sea softly making waves under the sun. Exploring the entire fort takes at least a couple of hours, so plan your day accordingly.

One of the canons which were used to smoke the enemies

One of the canons which were used to smoke the enemies

Diu is a small union territory in India, but it packs quite a punch! Have you been to similar quaint places that have surprised you with how much they can offer?

Advertisements

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.

Must Go to Melbourne!

It is still 2014, and I’m already dreaming about the places I want to visit in 2015. I made dozens of wishlists of things I want to try and food I want to gorge on. But I threw those lists out of the window when somebody told me I could do it all in one place! Last month, my friend from Melbourne flew down to Mumbai and he couldn’t stop telling me about all the lovely things one can find in Victoria. He flew back to Australia but left me dreaming about that city down under…

Breathtaking Drive on the Great Ocean Road

That magnificent stretch of silver is surrounded by pure gold – the golden sun above, the golden reflection of the sunny skies on the Pacific Ocean, and the Twelve Apostles jutting out of the waters from a golden era! What wouldn’t I give to go on a long, long drive with my best buddies (a la ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’! 😉 )

Top Secret: The 12 Apostles change colours at sunrise and sunset! Those rock statues sure know how to rock! 😀

Squeal at the Seals or Point at the Penguins

Source: visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Phillip-Island

Source: visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Phillip-Island

Now, there are some birds and animals you don’t get to see everywhere. When in Victoria, make the best use of the opportunity and head to Phillip Island! If you go on a boat cruise, you’ll get to wave your hands at the slippery seals barking from the rocks. And once you’re on the Island, you’ll witness the wondrous sight of thousands of little penguins wading across the sand to head to their burrows on Summerland Beach! (Yes, you don’t always need snow to spot penguins! 😉 ) While we’re on the topic of wildlife, let’s not forget koalas! These cuddly furballs are only found on this continent. You can take a peek at their joeys in their pouches at koala conservation centres or treetop boardwalks that let you watch the playful marsupials scurry along trees and bushes.

Slurp some Chocolate or Swirl some Wine

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Phillip-Island/Things-to-do/Food-and-wine/Local-produce/Pannys-Phillip-Island-Chocolate-Factory.aspx

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Phillip-Island/Things-to-do/Food-and-wine/Local-produce/Pannys-Phillip-Island-Chocolate-Factory.aspx

If you are on Phillip Island, you might as well drop in at Panny’s Chocolate Factory and feel like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If the brown elixir is not your cup of tea, head to The Coffee Collective for your shot of caffeine in this coffee capital of Australia! For wine lovers like me, Melbourne has acres and acres of lush vineyards and a whopping 850 wineries! The cool climate and fertile lands of Victoria make it one of the best places to produce fine quality wines. Take a tour of a winery and indulge in some wine tasting with a sommelier.

Fly Over the Yarra Valley

Source: visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Yarra-Valley-and-Dandenong-Ranges

Source: visitmelbourne.com/Regions/Yarra-Valley-and-Dandenong-Ranges

Touring this beautiful wine region shouldn’t all be about walking. One can zip through the estates on a Segway, or even better – float in the air on a hot air balloon! The best thing about the ballooning experience is that you get to test your own balloon and watch how the hydrogen-filled giant is propped up. Yarra Valley has an ideal terroir. The harvests produce the country’s best wines with fruity notes. And, there’s always grape-stomping for the teetotallers! 😉

Pick Your Own Strawberries and Relish them with Cheese

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Gippsland/Things-to-do/Food-and-wine/Local-produce/Prom-Country-Cheese.aspx

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Gippsland/Things-to-do/Food-and-wine/Local-produce/Prom-Country-Cheese.aspx

For the ultimate “farm-to-plate” experience, spend a day at the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm which is open from November to April. They’ll let you pick strawberries straight off the ground! You can either eat them on their own or try some exotic strawberry liqueurs and jams. Melbourne also produces some interesting artisanal cheeses. You might want to try the deliciously creamy sheep-cheese varieties! However, if your are on a budget and wish to try everything under the Victorian sun, catch a tram to the Queen Victoria Market. It is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere and sees footfalls of over 10 million a year!

Melbourne is not called cosmopolitan for nothing! You will find almost every cuisine you crave for. Cafes and restaurants dot this megacity where fresh organic produces are in demand. You cannot visit Australia and not try barbecued dishes or craft beers! Microbreweries and streetfood are insanely popular with the local crowd here. And the variety you can have is mindblowing! There’s Greek souvlaki and Indian samosas in the same block sometimes! 😀

Relax in a Thermal Pool

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Mornington-Peninsula/Things-to-do/Spa-and-wellbeing/Peninsula-Hot-Springs.aspx

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Mornington-Peninsula/Things-to-do/Spa-and-wellbeing/Peninsula-Hot-Springs.aspx

Too much travel can tire me out. This is why I shall pre-book a session at the Peninsula Hot Springs and let my body and soul unwind with a mud wrap and hot stone treatment. The natural spas in this region have therapeutic properties in their minerals. After I’m rejuvenated, I shall get back to more activities in Melbourne! 🙂

Gawk at Artsy Streets

Melbourne is very progressive when it comes to street art. This is so liberating for budding artists and expressionists! Hosier Lane and a few others are dedicated to creative and edgy street art. One can lose oneself in this maze-like place full of messages displayed through spray-paintings. Even the street-name is a work of graffiti!

And Do A Million Other Things…

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Melbourne/Things-to-do/Tours/Sports-tours/Melbourne-Cricket-Ground.aspx

Source: visitmelbourne.com/regions/Melbourne/Things-to-do/Tours/Sports-tours/Melbourne-Cricket-Ground.aspx

Melbourne cannot be seen in a day. Not even in a week. And no, even a month won’t suffice! This multicultural city has SO MANY SURPRISES that you will want to move here permanently for a couple of years to truly enjoy the spirit of this place. There’s something for every kind of traveller. The budget tourist can take the hop-on-hop-off City Circle tram which is free! The well heeled can book a helicopter ride over the Southern Ocean to watch the 12 apostles from the sky. The sports enthusiast will find the Aussie Open, the ICC World Cup and many other matches to keep her busy. The History buff can take the Gold Mine Tour at Sovereign Hill, and the architecture-phile can awe in wonder at the sweeping arches and towering skyscrapers. Even little kids can let their feet hang out of a window on the Puffing Billy! 🙂 It’s hardly a surprise then that Melbourne has been titled the “most livable city in the world”! You wouldn’t just live here, you would THRIVE!!!

When I woke up from my daydream, I was so amazed with the variety of activities I could take part in that I decided to pull my friends into this dream too. Without re-creating any scenes from Inception (the movie), I simply asked them a few questions:-

I set the ball rolling on Twitter

I set the ball rolling on Twitter

My tweet got my followers dreaming on Twitterland! 😉 And I picked out some replies for you to see:-

Picture5 Picture3 Picture10

Surfing was something even I did not think of! And even though I’m not a big fan of cricket, I love stadium tours. This virtual interaction taught me I could dream better if I spread the dream to more spheres. So I threw the same questions to my fans on my Facebook page:-

The excitement spread to Facebook! :-)

The excitement spread to Facebook! 🙂

The number of replies I received did not even fit into a screenshot! 😀 See how community dreaming is better than fantasizing on your own? I don’t want to leave my WordPress followers out of the excitement, so I have a special New Year Contest for all of you!!! 🙂

All you have to do is answer the following question and send in your replies as comments to this post:-

Which of these places would you want to visit in Melbourne and why?

(Psst… You can reread this article to make a decision. 😉 ) The most creative reply will win a shopping voucher worth Rs.500! (Yay!! 😀 ) Send in your entries by 5th Jan, 2015.

My Airbnb Bucket List

A couple of days back, one of my favourite travel bloggers, Shivya, announced the AirbnbBucketList contest on her page. I posted my entries but I could not stop at that. The images of those beautiful dwellings found their way into my dreams and I’d wake up shattered by the reality of getting dressed for work and waiting for the day to end so I could get back home and dream some more. I read somewhere that keeping a dream-journal helps people deal with recurring dreams and understand the deeper meanings behind them. So here I am, writing about this particular dream that I saw thrice in the past 3 days…

Source: https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/1720832

Source: https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/1720832

This neat little cottage is tucked away in Mayne Island, Canada. But for now, it sits firmly in my head. The house appears as it if has been modelled by a kindergartener playing with Playdoh. It’s so smooth with no apparent edges! The roof curves fluidly, lending a kind of flexibility to the character of this edifice. The grassy patch around this quaint house is home to Opal & Onyx, the sheep that stay here and welcome new guests every now and then.

Onyx says hello to you!

Onyx says hello to you! (Source: https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/1720832)

I often enter this hut in my dreams and gasp at the tastefully designed wooden roofs and bamboo-stairway (to heaven, perhaps? 😉 ) I notice there’s a showcase full of my favourite books and a basket next to it. I decide instantly to fill my basket with a book and head outside to enjoy the summery skies and short tales.

The inside story (Source: https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/1720832)

The inside story (Source: https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/1720832)

I re enter this tiny paradise and fall fast asleep in my circular bed with half a dozen pillows to keep me comfortable. I wake up to find I have a splendid view outside – the sun is bright and the forest, green. I walk out onto the balcony and breathe in the fresh woody air.

The room upstairs (Source: https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/1720832)

The room upstairs (Source: https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/1720832)

I realize I am hungry now. I head down to the S-shaped kitchen. The counter has some scones, I see. I put some tea leaves to boil in a kettle. I pick up some butter on my way out of the kitchen with my plate of scones and a cup of tea, to sit outside in my balcony with nature again…

The food-space (Source: https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/1720832)

The food-space (Source: https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/1720832)

But before I bite into any swirl of scone, I hear the doorbell. Immediately, I rush to answer the door, but the door brings me back to the present, and I find myself sulking on a Monday morning. From the rustic peace in Mayne Island to the noisy streets of Mumbai – I return to the grind of daily-life, and long for that dream to come true someday…

*  *  *

The title of this post is rather misleading. I don’t have a list, just a little dream. If you too dream of living far away in a lovely cottage, enter this contest now!

Daman – Developing through Tourism

With spring’s stolen colour

The water shows me sky.

Gujarat’s younger neighbour,

Daman, is anything but “dry”!

Clear skies in Daman

Clear skies in Daman

52 years after its independence from Portugal, Daman nurtures new lives in this small union territory in India. With the intention of relaxing in its beaches, I marched along this little city in the month of March this year. But little did I know that a glimpse into Daman’s past would make me cognizant of  the effects tourism has had on this coastal wonder.

This report on the 20-year plan that the government announced in 2002, highlights how effectively tourism will harness Daman’s unique offerings and make it a win-win-win situation for the economy, the locals and the environment!

  • The now deserted forts of Moti-Daman (Big Daman) & Nani-Daman (Little Daman) were once guarded by the Portuguese. However, with the intervention of the Tourism Department, these forts will soon have more visitors. Travel-packages that include heritage-walks, local cuisine and cultural shows will bring equal joy to tourists and the locals as they find more employment-avenues.

 

  • Positioning Daman as a pocket-friendly vacation-spot, the administrator is boosting its infrastructure. The construction of several bridges and a coastal highway are already under way. The most useful bridge, according to me, is the one that connects Moti Daman to Nani Daman. The other route will set you back by several hundred Rupees. I always wondered why the backwaters couldn’t be navigated via boats (which the fishermen use on a regular basis), and was ready to shell out more just to bob up and down the water. My prayers will soon be answered.

 

  • The Waterfront Development Plan aims to maintain & develop the Devka & Jampore beaches, along with the Daman Ganga river and the place where it meets the Arabian sea. The waterway between Moti and Nani Daman is set to be opened to tourists! 🙂 The entire beach-line will get a retaining-wall to reign in beach-erosion. The sand on these beaches may be dark, but their future is certainly bright!

 

  • The focus of this mega-plan is on the conservation of nature. Special care is being taken to avoid adverse impacts to the environment, with the alternate recourse being mitigation & compensation. The international cycle-track (under construction) is the hottest attraction in this soon-to-be eco-tourism hub!

 

  • The inhabitants will now have a special part to play in the bigger scheme of things. Heritage walks and interaction with locals will now take tourists to Portuguese-style settlements too! Locally handcrafted bamboo and leather products are as much in demand as alcohol and fish. This spells a huge boon for the aboriginals.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Daman was once regarded as the most poluted of all beaches due to industrial wastes leaking into its waters. But all that is now set to change for the better! Cleaner beaches, water-sports, boat-rides, walking tours, village-interactions… Do you need any more reasons to pack your bags and head to Daman?