How to plan a Budget Vacation to London- Travel Guide

When planning any trip locally or abroad , the main criteria should be maximum sightseeing in minimum cost. Value for money is the motto followed by us or any avid traveller. Well , this motto was initially difficult to apply for our London vacation which is one of the costliest city in the world. Plus the continuously depreciating value of the Rupee against the British pound added to our planning woes. After months of brain racking sessions calculating costs combined with tick marking all major sightseeing spots,various permutations and combinations there was a point where due to sheer mental exhaustion I was all ready to go and book a tour with a tour operator. But better sense prevailed finally and Whew ! finally we arrived on a London vacation plan at a reasonable cost. Just sharing what I learnt and will follow in future for further trips

Book a tour off season : Try to book a vacation during the off season period of that country / city. The airfare rates, accomodation rates are quite low during that time . If unable to do so do read the points mentioned below.

Air tickets : The first step to a cost saving holiday is planning much ahead of schedule and thus booking the air tickets at a lower rate. Closer the date of travel , higher the airfare. Put price alerts on sites like Skyscanner, Make my Trip, Kayak around dates which you are likely to travel or else book the air tickets through a travel agent. They get bulk discounts which can be passed on to you. We got a good deal on our airfare flying Emirates Mumbai-Gatwick Airport( London ) & Edinburgh (Scotland) -Mumbai through Kedar Ubhayakar a staff of Travel Tours ( Part of FCM Travel Solutions ).

Food : Food is a major expense in London. But through our travel we found cost saving ways in that too. We normally had our lunch and dinner in small cafes or restaurants . Generally on an average a meal costs about 9 -10 GBP per person and drinks 1.50-3 GBP.

Fish & Chips and Hunter’s Chicken ( the pic on the lower level ..A British speciality )costs about 9-10 GBP
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Britain’s signature dish -Fish & chips
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Pimms a delicious gin based lemonade topped with strawberry, oranges

There are Supermarkets like Sainsbury or Tesco with many outlets spread out in London city which sell Veg/ Non Veg Sandwiches , ready to eat meals ,pizzas , bakery items like doughnuts cup cakes , variety of breads , soft drinks and fruits ranging between 1.50 GBP to 4 GBP which also substitute for a hearty breakfast or a light lunch- dinner.

Sandwiches in the Meal Deal Scheme 1.50 GBP
A Ready to eat meal at Sainsbury’s Supermarket

Travel by local transport : London has the best transport system in the world. The network of transport like Tube ( Underground train) ,Metro train and bus is so well connected that there is no need to take a Cab or Uber which works out very expensive. There are Maps printed at every Bus stop displaying the Bus No and the route ( stops ) it will take.

A map outside a Bus stop

Similarly for the Metro and Tube ( Underground ) there are maps outside every station with the destination stops clearly mentioned . Plus there are announcements and screen displays made on the Bus and the train / tube about the next destination where the bus/train / tube will make a stop. So it makes it easy for us to alight at our destination . It takes about a day to master how to read a map and once you have understood it, travelling in London is a dream.

The indicator on a bus displaying the destination stops

It is advisable to buy an pre paid Oyster Card when travelling in London. It can be used for travel in a Bus,Metro or Tube. We found it an excellent way to travel fuss free. Buses only accept Oyster Card ( no cash ) while cash can be used for Train or Tube tickets which can be purchased at the ticket window. The tickets rates are quite high for the train in peak hours ie 6.30 am – 9.30 am and 4 pm-7 pm so bus travel where the peak hour rates don’t apply is preferred. In that sense buying an Oyster card works out more economical . Oyster card can be bought at the airport or at railway stations too. There are helpful railway personnel at the railway stations to guide you on how to purchase a Oyster card or help you board the right train.

Using an Oyster Card at the Railway station
The Double Decker Red Bus

Plus travelling in a Double Decker Red Bus taking in the sights of the city is an pleasant experience.

Travelling to places outside London like Lake District or Scotland, the National Express Bus is a cheap mode of transport. We used this bus service while travelling to Lake District. It cost us just 17 GBP-per person . The tickets can also be booked on their official site. Trains like the Virgin Trains , National rail also depart for Lake District or Scotland but they are very expensive than bus travel.

Accommodation : Hotels in London especially Central London can be quite expensive. It is advisable to book with AirBnb which work out cheaper than a hotel room . If in a group an entire AirBnb flat can be booked which works out still economical. We stayed in a AirBnb flat at Islington , Upper street which was quite a convenient place to stay considering there were bus stops just below our hotel plus the Angel Train station was just 5-7 mins at a walking distance.

London is divided into 6 Zones . The main attractions are situated in Zone 1. There was a debate whether to book an AirBnb in Zone 1 which is expensive or stay in the far away Zones to save on the accommodation cost. But we realized that travelling from eg Zone 6 to Zone 1 would cost us on travel plus time of travelling . Hence we decided to stay in the AirBnb accommodation in Zone 1 thus saving on travel time and travel costs .We reached all the happening places in Central London in less than half an hour so had more time to explore the city .

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Tower Bridge

Online booking of Sight seeing places : London has a lot of places of historical importance and pleasure too. Since we were travelling in July which is a peak holiday season we had expected huge queues at the ticket windows for all the major sightseeing spots. So the first prudent step was to go on the official sites of these places and book the tickets online. eg to book online tickets for Madame Tussauds go to their site and follow the instructions on the screen . The procedure is quite easy.

Normally the payments to these online sites can be made using a Credit card . There is a small fee charged for using the Credit cards . A printout of your ticket should be carried with you to be shown at the ticket window on the day of the sightseeing.They either scan the bar code on the ticket printout or issue tickets. The queue at this ‘online booked tickets’ window is quite less than the ‘on the spot ticket booking’ window.

Another benefit of booking tickets online are the rates . The ticket rate is a little less when booked online than booking across the counter. And even a little lesser rate while paying in pounds makes a whole lot of a difference . Some places have a group discount. Check on their sites to avail of a group discount.

Warwick Castle

Hope you liked this blog. Do share your views in the comment section .

Next Blog will be on how to cover the major attractions of London with tips on sightseeing

Stunning Lake District(England) Travel Guide

Lake District,located in Cumbria is the largest National Park in England and famous for its lakes,forests & mountains and picturesque locales. Since 2017, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The major towns in this National Park are Keswick, Windermere,Ambleside & Bowness-on-Windermere. Ullswater , Borrowdale are also scenic places in the Lake District

How to reach : It can be easily visited from London by train or bus.We boarded a National Express night bus from Victoria Coach station in London and reached Manchester in the wee hours of the morning .The bus journey is comfortable and smooth. There was a 3 hour halt at the Manchester Bus station and then a two hour drive to Windermere . There are direct buses too to the towns of Lake District but slightly expensive than a break journey. Trains start from Euston Station of London to Oxelhome Lake District, however the tickets are quite expensive so bus is a cheaper option.

Windermere :The first glimpse of Windermere town is jaw dropping. Typical medieval British homes with grey coarse stone masonry work and sloping roofs. Cobbled streets with narrow lanes and a riot of colourful flowers blooming outside every home and restaurant highlighting the grey stone homes. The clear blue sky in the background makes it all the more captivating

On entering Windermere town ,there is a tourist information centre. The first thing we did after disembarking from the bus was to obtain a Map of the Lake District . (I always recommend keeping/buying a map of a region/ city when travelling. It really helps . You can get the maps for free in Information centres or railway stations ).

Windermere in the evening

How to travel to places in Lake District from Windermere :

By Bus : There are buses which shuttle to & fro from Windermere just at the start of the town ( Bus Nos 555, 505 ,599 ) to Keswick, Grasmere, Rydal, Ambleside on one route and Bowness on Windermere ,Kendall on the other route at the duration of 5 -10 mins. We can take a pass for a day which costs nominal and which allows us unlimited travel the entire day to spots between all these locations . Groups ( 4 or more persons) have a further concession on the pass. Since we were four of us ,we took the group pass.Buses have a partially open roof on the top so viewing the scenic countryside is a dream.

By Ferry : There are ferry rides/Steamer rides between different locations from the Windermere Lake Jetty.

Windermere Lake : is a large lake in Cumbria’s Lake District National Park, northwest England. It’s surrounded by mountain peaks and villages, including Bowness-on-Windermere on one side and Ambleside on the other.

A stunning view of the Windermere Lake in the evening

Ambleside : is a pretty quaint town with lots of cafes.It is on one side of the Lake Windermere. The entire town is picturesque. Potted flower plants in pink,red,purple strategically placed to contrast the dark local stone houses. A stroll around the streets and capture the visual beauty of the place is worth it

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Note the cute miniature stone house in the garden

Bowness -on-Windermere : is a fishing village with old houses , narrow streets and quirky corners.A visit to the Bowness Pier and sit watching the geese which abound on the lake shores , watched tourists enjoying their boat ride and just relax oblivious of the hectic world we have left behind home.

Bowness on Windermere Pier
A beautiful house amidst the greenery

Grasmere : is a scenic village with a lake by the same name and the place of birth of the greatest poet William Wordsworth. He lived in a house called Dove Cottage for 14 years and has called it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found Grasmere” . He is also buried here along with his family in St Oswald’s churchyard. Next to the Church is a tiny shop called the Sarah Nelson’s ‘Grasmere Gingerbread’. It was started in 1854.

Isn’t the sight ethereal ?

A block citing Wordsworth at the entrance of the churchyard where he lies buried
William Wordsworth’ s tombstone in St Oswald’s church

A must visit and a must buy- Gingerbread
The Grasmere stone bridge

Keswick : is a pretty and vibrant market town with lots of cafes. Close by is the Lake Derwentwater famous for its scenic beauty. It is surrounded by hills (known locally as fells), and many of the slopes facing Derwentwater are extensively wooded. A regular passenger launch operates on the lake, and you can hop on and off at various jetties and explore the woods around the lake.

Near Keswick is the famous Castlerigg Stone Circle built around 4500 years ago by pre historic farming communities and served as a place for rituals or ceremonial activities or movement of goods

Lake Derwentwater
The jetty at Derwentwater to take a cruise

Keswick Market

Lunch is delicious bakes from a Cornish Bakery
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Castlerigg Stone Circle

Borrowdale :is a picturesque valley in the Lake District and close to Keswick.

Miniature green slate houses in the background

Ullswater : is the second largest lake in the Lake District . The lake flows in a serpentine fashion and is considered to be the most beautiful lake in Lake District

A meaningful message on every table in the garden near Ullswater Lake

Kirkstone Pass : is a mountain pass in the English Lake District, in the county of Cumbria. It is at an altitude of 1,489 feet. This is the Lake District’s highest pass that is open to motor traffic and it connects Ambleside and Ullswater. There is the Kirkstone Pass Inn built in the 15th Century and is still functional

Kirkstone Pass Inn

A wood seating to view the scenes around Kirkstone Pass


Well , if you have read my previous blog where I have mentioned the modes of travel and food specialties in Bangkok, this one’s interesting for girls and guys who love shopping. Like I have said Bangkok is one of the most happening city for shopping. Cheap & affordable shopping…

After a 2 hour drive from Pattaya, we checked in at a Hotel in the Pratunam area of Bangkok. The Pratunam Market was just a few minutes from our Hotel so that was our first stop to explore Bangkok

Shopping : Pratunam Market is a major market selling clothes, shoes, and fashion accessories at wholesale prices. There are small alleys and jam-packed small streets selling clothers ,T shirts , suits , winter jackets . Prices are very cheap, and most shops offer retail prices for single pieces. There are shops and tiny stalls flowing over to the sidewalks also selling clothes, souvenir items etc. Ofcourse bargaining is allowed and they reduce the prices considerably.

A vendor selling his wares

Across from Pratunam Market, Baiyoke Tower I offers five floors of similar clothing and a good handful of shops selling accessories such as leather totes, belts, faux jewelry, women’s shoes and baseball caps. The building is air-conditioned, thus making it a nice escape from the midday heat. We found an Indian tea vendor selling masala chai in small plastic cups just outside Baiyoke Tower. Indra Square or Indra Market is also situated in the same vicinity

Late evening we decided to visit the MBK Market which is in the PhayaThai area . The market is quite far from Pratunam area where we were staying. We could have taken a Tuk Tuk but the rates quoted were quite exorbitant . Plus since it was evening, there were traffic jams and congestion in most parts of the city. Hence we decided to travel by train to reach MBK. We boarded a train from Ratchaprarop station (which was 5 mins walk from Pratunam market area ) to PhayaThai station and from there we took a Tuk Tuk which dropped us at MBK market.

Waiting to board a train to PhayaThai station


A Tuk Tuk experience

MBK Market is probably Bangkok’s most famous shopping mall.There are eight floors packed with 2,000 shops that sell everything from clothing, fashion accessories, handbags, leather products and luggage to furniture, mobile phones, electric appliances, cameras, stationery and DVDs. As a rough guide, fashion can be found on the lower floors, a mass of electronics on the third and fourth floors, with home furnishings and souvenirs on the fifth and sixth. There are food courts also on the fifth and sixth floor. However , most of the merchandise is often copy products but if authenticity is not an issue then this market is apt.

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MBK Market- A Shopper’s Delight

Some shopping tips to be followed are – MBK market is very huge with multiple entrances and multiple lanes on each floor. So it is better to note down the entrance number from which you enter or click a snap of a landmark shop near the entrance so that if you are shopping in a group and decide to split for shopping this landmark becomes a reference point for assembling in one place later.

Do not buy in the first shop if you like a product. There are many shops selling identical goods ,so you may find the same product a bit cheaper in the next lane on the same floor plus the owner may negotiate the price too. Half a day is required for shopping at this mall.

Chatuchak Weekend Market is the largest weekend market in Thailand. It is open only on Saturdays & Sundays from 9 am till 6 pm. It has more than 15,000 stalls and is a shoppers delight. It takes time for a first time visitor just to comprehend from where to start shopping given the huge size of the market with its innumerable alleys which are numbered.Like MBK market, the numbered entrances are useful as reference points while navigating through the market. Clothing and Accessories,Pet Accessories, Plants and Gardening Tools, Books,Art,Antiques and Collectibles,Handicrafts,Ceramics Furniture and Home Décor, Food and Beverages are the innumerable items for sale in the market.

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One of the entrances leading to Chatuchak Market

Bargaining is a must since the rates quoted are high. Again do not buy at the first available shop. It is advisable to browse through some other shops selling the same item and then decide on the final purchase. Meanwhile note down the Shop No which you have shortlisted in case you don’t get a better bargain further. At least half a day is required if you wish to visit majority of the stalls.

Shops in the outer periphery of Chatuchak market


The road leading to Chatuchak from Mo Chit station

If you are coming to Chatuchak by Skytrain (BTS) you should get off at Mo Chit Station and exit the station by exit number 1. From here just follow the crowds to the market entrance.

Another highlight of Bangkok are its Floating Markets . Floating Markets serve the purpose of shopping and also can be marked in the sightseeing itinerary of a tourist. There are other floating markets near Bangkok but we chose the Damnoen Saduak market which was 1 1/2 drive from our hotel . The curiosity of what a floating market looked like was killing me . And when I saw it , I could not contain my excitement and happiness. We got into a small boat and the boatman took us down the winding waterways to get a brief glimpse of those who live on the river plus the various hawkers vending their food stuff ,souvenirs and clothes.

The houses along the winding waterways enroute to the Floating Market

The journey takes around 20 minutes and it’s great to enjoy the ambience of the floating market. A lot of Thai fruits are sold on the boats, while parked boats and fixed stalls alongside the waterways serve deep fried snacks, dried seafood and noodle dishes. If you want to buy a snack or coconut water / soft drinks or even bargain for a souvenir,you instruct your boatman who parks it near the stall. Drinking coconut water while gliding in a boat through the waterways was an exotic experience .

It’s ‘parking’ your boat at the side to buy food items
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Lady vendor selling Thai fruits in the Floating Market
Stalls alongside the Floating Market

After the boatride , the boat halts aside and you get down at a market on stilts which has many stalls selling all touristy stuff like T shirts , souvenirs,Thai artefacts etc. But we found the items quite expensive at the floating market than down town Bangkok.

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The market on stilts alongside the Floating Market

Traffic jam of boats at the floating market

The unique way of shopping in the canals is a wonderful experience.

After a shopping spree, the next item on our itinerary were the famous Thai Temples and the Safaris which will be covered in the next blog.

Scintillating Bangkok

This is our second trip to Bangkok. The previous being a few years back. Bangkok has always been a favourite international destination inspite of us having traveled to many countries. Since we travel on our own ( no tourist packages for us please ), use the local transport and eat local food imbibing the local feel of a place is easy plus it helps us understand the country and its people.

Thailand is another Southeast Asian country sharing its borders with Cambodia,Malaysia ,Laos & Myanmar. It is famous for its beaches, food and nightlife. The climate is tropical with high humidity. It is cooler in the months from November to February.Shopping is very cheap and bargaining is acceptable.

Currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht. When we had been there the conversion rate was 1 THB equals to 2 INR. Language spoken is Thai though most of the locals speak English

Bangkok the capital of Thailand is famous for its Malls selling electronic gadgets, street food and fine dining restaurants(the options are many), cruises, Floating Markets & the famous Thai massage . It is best explored taking a stroll through the lanes ,using the local transport and experimenting with the street food which is available in every nook . and corner.

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Bangkok City

Food Travails : Thailand is a famous foodie haven . Khao Pad (Fried Rice), Pad Thai (Thai style Fried Noodles), Som Tum (Spicy Green Papaya Salad), Gaeng Daeng ( Thai Red Curry)are just a few famous and delicious dishes to mention. In Bangkok, for the adventurous foodie ,there are food items sold on roadside stalls/ carts like Chicken feet soup,Fried insects and bugs/scorpion,dishes of red ant and its eggs, grilled snakehead fish & the Durian fruit which has a strong smell. But since we were not so adventurous we stuck to the tried and tested dishes though we did try out a lot of street food like soup, Chicken/ pork on skewers etc. There are a number of Indian restaurants in Thailand so if you need to stick to comfort food ,there are many options available. There are a few vegetarian restaurants too.

Comforting Thai food -Jasmine Rice with Thai Curry

Travel : There are many cheap and easy modes of transport in Bangkok mainly the tuk tuk (Our Rickshaws), trains , buses and the river taxis ,ferries which take you around parts of Bangkok and the nearby places near it. We normally used to travel by Tuk Tuk or by local train . If you plan to travel by Tuk Tuk it is advisable to haggle for the commute rates since they sometimes charge exorbitant rates for tourists.

Train travel is fun, cheap and more convenient since we can avoid the traffic blocks which we encounter if we go by road. There are proper signboards at the railway platform plus in case of any problem there are booths to guide the tourists who plan to travel by train.

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Easy & user friendly ticketing booths at the Railway station
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A scene during Thai peak hours. Very disciplined crowd

We also travelled by the river taxis which run up and down the Chao Phraya River. Apart from train travel there are express boats, river taxis or ferries across the river to reach various tourist destinations like Wat Arun,Wat Pho & Grand Palace. Officegoers also use this mode of transport to escape the road traffic

Office goers waiting for the river taxi

†††The road traffic is bad especially during peak hours . Long serpentine queues at traffic signals make commute difficult. So it is advisable to use the public transport during peak hours

Streets of Bangkok in the evening

After a brief review on Bangkok, let’s me continue with the trip details wherein after a satisfying stay at Pattaya, our next stop was Bangkok . The drive from Pattaya to Bangkok by road is 2 hours .

We checked-in at our Hotel in the Pratunam area of Bangkok which is in the heart of the city. After keeping our luggage in the rooms, we proceeded to explore the surrounding area and what could have been better than visiting the Pratunam Market which was the closest market in that area and a 10 minute walk from the hotel.

Since Shopping is a very dear and integral part of my travels and I bet of a majority beautiful girls and ladies too,and the blog being on Bangkok which is a shopper’s paradise I have written a separate blog on the main shopping areas of Bangkok.

So stay tuned in for the next blog on Shopping and the sightseeing places in Bangkok

Heritage Elephanta, India

With a fascination of exploring heritage structures especially in India and revisiting history , it took me decades to visit an absolutely awesome place so close to Mumbai. We have toured around various parts of India and abroad visiting places with ancient history but like they say “Ghar ki murgi dal barabar’, inspite of being an Mumbaikar (a term we born and bought up in Mumbai love to call ourselves ) it never did occur to visit a place so close to our city brimming with history and heritage.

Elephanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site . Located on Elephanta Island or also known as Gharapuri they are about 11 kms northwest from Gateway of India. The island has a coastline of 7 kms with two hillocks seperated by a narrow valley . The island has three small villages Raj Bunder,Shet Bunder & Mora Bunder which are still inhabited by people .

Travel : Elephanta Caves can be reached by the daily boat service operating from Gateway of India . The ferry service starts at 9 am and the last ferry from Elephanta is 5.30 pm. The travel lasting for 45 mins is quite smooth and comfortable and the sea gulls hovering around the boat waiting to be fed with tidbits make the journey enjoyable

Sea gulls encircling our boat enroute to Elephanta Islands

Our colony club had arranged for a one day picnic to this beautiful island . We had heard that it would be a 120 steps climb to reach the caves and would be tedious. I was very apprehensive on hearing this but the love for exploring heritage places won the battle raging in my mind and after seeing the magnificent caves , there was not a moment of regret. Though the steps leading upto the caves are built of stone, they are quite broad and not very steep . Both sides of the steps are lined with stalls selling clothes, costume jewelry, artifacts cold drinks, eatables so stopping at stalls admiring the items on display made the climb very easy

Our Colony excursion group

The Elephanta Caves are a collection of cave temples predominantly dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.The Main cave is an unusually large excavation supported by rows of massive pillars which rest on a square stone base.

On the left of the main entrance is the main sanctum enshrining an Linga and with four doors on either side having Dwarpalas or Doorkeepers . There is a big fair held every year during Mahashivratri . The island was captured by the Portuguese in 1534 AD. They have destroyed many sculptures and defaced them . Presently these Caves are a protected site under the Ancient Monuments preservation Act

The Shiva Linga in the main sanctum
A Dwarpala on one of the entrances of the main sanctum

The sculpture of Maheshmurti which is the most famous and iconic image associated with Elephanta Caves. The Central face depicts a calm Shiva or Mahadeva . The Destroyer image of Shiva or Bhairava image to the left depicts Shiva with a cruel mouth, moustache and hooked nose with skulls and serpents . The face on the right is a peaceful Shiva with feminine expressions holding a lotus.

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One side of the Maheshmurti sculpture is the Ardhanarishwar Shiva sculpture depicts Shiva, one half of body is female leaning against his Bull Nandi, the upper hands holding a snake & a mirror. The lower part of the sculpture is slightly damaged

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Ardhanarishwar Shiva

On the other side of the Maheshmurti is the Gangadhara Shiva Sculpture. The main sculptures are of Lord Shiva & his consort Parvati. According to mythology the mighty river Ganga was trapped in the matted locks of God Shiva. The Goddess Ganga has been depicted as the three headed Goddess above his hairlocks .

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Gangadhara Shiva

There is a sculpture of Natraj Shiva or the Lord in the Dancing Pose .However the lower portion of the sculpture is completely missing

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Natraj Shiva

A beautiful sculpture opposite the shrine is a scene showing Lord Shiva’s marriage to Goddess Parvati

Kalyanasundara Murti ( Marriage of Lord Shiva & Parvati)

On the north of the main entrance is a sculptured panel depicting a serene Shiva as a Mahayogi sitting in meditation on a lotus

Mahayogi Shiva

Many sculptures were damaged or defaced during the Portuguese invasion

Dwarpal sculptures which are damaged

Damaged structures of the Dwarpals ( Doorkeepers)in the background

There are other smaller caves also near the main caves ,but many of them do not have sculptures of great importance and are in a derelict condition

The trip to Elephanta is half a day trip. It is recommended to start the trip early in the morning to escape the heat and the milling crowds which start in the second half of the day

Holi Festivities at Mahim Koliwada

A visit to the local fishmarket on a Sunday and an warm invitation from our Kolin (fisherwoman) from whom we buy fish regularly to visit the Holi celebrations at Mahim Koliwada where she resides seemed like a exciting prospect. I had heard that Holi
is the most important festival of the The Koli ( Fisherfolk) community in Maharastra,India however after I visited it and seeing the festivities and grandeur it was confirmed .

As it is known Holi is the festival of colours and heralds the end of winter and the beginning of spring and harvest. All over India especially in North India and West India the festival is celebrated with a lot of gusto.

Holi celebrations at Koliwada start days before the actual festival . The night before Rang Panchami or Dhulivandan (the festival of colours ) the fisherfolk light a bonfire gather and circumbulate (pradakshina ) performing religious rituals in front of the bonfire

The next morning is celebrated as Rangpanchami or Dhulivandan ( festival of colours)where people smear each other with colours like gulal and drench each other with water

A tall bonfire is erected between two chawls standing opposite each other . Every chawl has a different decoration and rangoli themes . The bonfire is decorated with flowers, garlands and an image of a Goddess complete with green bangles, saree is erected atop the big pole. A lot of creativity ,love and devotion is displayed when decorating the Goddess.

The image of the Goddess atop a decorated pole

A close up of the Goddess atop the pole. Note the beautiful Devi Mukh (face) ,green bangles and saree draped and adorned with garlands

Notice the braid decorated with flowers on the Goddess erected atop the pole

There is a Small idol of a Goddess Ekveera also installed beneath the decorated pole near the Bonfire . Ladies offer coconuts,betel leaves, haldi kumkum and perform pooja of the idol

A beautiful idol of Goddess Ekveera at the base of the Pole

Pooja being performed of the Ekveera Goddess

Rangolis with sea salt or Rangoli Powder are created around the bonfires

A beautiful Rangoli
A Rangoli made with Sea Salt and displaying a very strong Social message of National Integration

The Koli men,women & children are dressed in their finery. Music is played at every nook and corner of the buildings and the Koli folk can be seen dancing with gay abandon to the catchy Koli music.

Every building is lit with strings of coloured lights and different decorations .There is a festive mood mixed with joy ,tradition and happiness.

A attractive gateway at the entrance of a Building

Celebrations continue through the night with dancing & feasting. Next morning the bonfire is lit amidst fanfare and devotion .

How about connecting with your fisherwoman and paying a visit to her home next Holi by joining her in her celebrations. I bet this will make her happy and bring a smile to her face

Exciting Pattaya

After our exotic Vietnam & Historical Cambodia, what could be better than to end our vacation with a trip to the Land of Fun & Excitement .. You guessed it -Bangkok & Pattaya. If you have read my blog on Cambodia where I have mentioned that we took a flight in the evening from Siem Reap International airport to Don Mueang International Airport,Bangkok.It takes about 1 hour 20 mins to reach Bangkok from Siem Reap(Cambodia) by flight . After completing immigration formalities we proceeded directly to Pattaya which is a beach city and one of the hottest tourist destination.
We had hired a cab from the airport and the drive takes about 2 hours from Bangkok if there is no traffic.

Before I proceed with my narrations about our trip , I would like to give a brief introduction of Thailand for a first time visitor.

Thailand is another Southeast Asian country sharing its borders with Cambodia,Malaysia ,Laos & Myanmar. The climate is tropical with high humidity. It is cooler in the months from November to February.

Pattaya is a beach resort city of Thailand . It is famous for its beaches ,food and nightlife. The locals are friendly & the cuisine awesome & world famous.

Clean city of Pattaya
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Delicious Thai Red Curry & Steaming Rice

For the adventurous foodie ,there are food items sold on roadside stalls/ carts like Chicken feet soup,Fried insects and bugs/scorpion,dishes of red ant and its eggs,grilled snakehead fish & the Durian fruit which has a strong smell. But since we were not so adventurous we stuck to the tried and tested dishes though we did try out a lot of street food like soup, Chicken/ pork on skewers etc. There are a number of Indian restaurants in Thailand so if you need to stick to comfort food ,there are many options available. There are vegetarian restaurants too for the vegetarians . And a special mention must be made of the most delicious coconut water at Pattaya Beach.

Now continuing with my trip details, after arriving at Pattaya late into the night, we checked into our hotel at Pattaya situated close to the beach . Next day early morning we decided to browse through the streets and markets of Pattaya .

Exploring the lanes of Pattaya and on our way to the Soi Buakhao Market

And weren’t we lucky ? Tuesday & Friday there is a weekly market called the Soi Buakhao Market which is among the busiest and most popular local markets in Pattaya. It offers a great range of products at equally great prices and it is one of the best places in town to look for souvenirs.

Stalls inside the Soi Buakhao Market

There are stalls which start early in the morning by 7 am and close down by 2.30 pm. The goods on sale include a wide variety T-shirts, shorts, jeans, Thai silk items, handbags, sunglasses, shoes, and the other clothing. Many street food vendors also set up shop around the edges of the market. Prices are low, however can be lowered further with skillful haggling . We purchased some jackets,souvenirs and clothes. Though the official closing timing for the market is 3 pm , the vendors start shutting down the stalls by 2 pm so it is advisable to visit before 2 pm .

In the evening went for the Alcazar cabaret show which is one of the most popular ladyboy cabaret shows . It is a dazzling show with energetic acts, bright colors and extravagant costumes which promises an entertaining evening for people of all ages.The show is for approximately an hour .And it is definitely a must visit.

Alcazar Show

After an early dinner, we decided to explore the nightlife in Pattaya which is world famous. Walking Street is an entertainment zone in Pattaya. The street is a tourist attraction which draws foreigners and Thai nationals for its nightlife.The 1km strip at the end of beach road is home to hundreds of bars, restaurants and night clubs. From the moment you enter this famous party zone from its beach road entrance, you will be struck by the sheer number of neon lights advertising the many bars, clubs and restaurants. The place is absolutely buzzing with people.

From 6 pm until 2 am the road is closed to vehicles, and the strip becomes a swarm of people. We walked down the entire stretch but there was not a moment we ladies felt unsafe walking through this area or for that matter any area in Pattaya . It is a crowded tourist place and very commercial too.

Walking Street,Pattaya

Next day after an continental breakfast at the hotel , we proceeded to the Sriracha Tiger Zoo which is half an hour drive from Pattaya.

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There is a tiger zoo ,an enclosure where tourists feed tiger cubs milk,a lot of shows like Elephant show,crocodile show ,tiger show,piglet race , circus of lions etc. The visit to Sriracha Tiger Zoo takes an entire day.

Elephant show in the Sriracha Zoo

The morning next, we visited the Coral Island also known as Koh Larn which is a little patch of paradise just a 45-minute boat ride from Pattaya beach . The largest of Pattaya’s Near Islands, it is ringed by beautiful white-sand beaches and warm turquoise seas.

Boats which take you across to Coral Islands

There are many adventure sports available like parasailing and speedboat riding, jet skiing, banana boat riding. Although not much coral left to be seen, the island’s clear waters are excellent for snorkelling. For the less energetic the beach has plenty of sun loungers for you to laze. Beach vendors do exist, but still very small in number compared to Pattaya Beach. For the shoppers ,many shops selling tourist stuff like Tshirts,sarongs ,hats , beach wear and souvenirs can be found along the beach, but the prices tend to be a little higher than in Pattaya or Bangkok city. This trip can be completed by late afternoon

Ready to go for Paragliding at Coral Islands – Clicked during our first visit to Pattaya with the kids

In the evening after our return to Pattaya, we strolled along the beach having the fresh and sweet coconut water .Had dinner at an Indian restaurant.

Nong Nooch village was our destination the next day. Nong Nooch Garden is beautifully landscaped park like a theme park with daily cultural shows, restaurants as well as a vast area showcasing individually themed gardens.

Nong nooch village

We had a leisurely stroll through the botanical park with varieties of cactus and succulent plants, orchid nurseries, tropical palm gardens, bonsai and topiary garden.There is the Thai Cultural Hall in the premises where we watched the Classical Thai Dance.Half a day suffices for a trip to Nong Nooch village.

Nong Nooch Village
Traditional Thai Dance at Nong Nooch Village

Evening was a shopping spree at the night markets of Pattaya with us ladies wishing that the night doesn’t end.

This trip to Thailand in the month of November was our second trip . Our first trip a few years back with the kids was in the month of April which is normally quite humid and hot. However, we were lucky to watch the Songkran festival which is held in the month of April around the 13th – 15th of April .

Songkran festival being celebrated on the streeets of Pattaya

The Songkran Festival is a national holiday in Thailand. It marks the beginning of the Thai New Year .Water is an extremely important part of this festival. As a symbol of renewal in Buddhism, water is splashed on statues of Buddha for good luck, and younger generations bathe the hands of the elderly to receive their blessing in return. People gather in the streets to join huge water fights with pichkaris ( squirt guns ) .Huge drums filled with water are kept on the roadside and locals pour water on each other. Tourists are also drenched in water if they happen to pass by the locals. All happens in good fun with a lot of laughter and festivity. This festival is very similar to our Holi festival ,only unlike India where we smear colors on each other or use water balloons, this festival is only played with plain water.

Songkran festival at Noong Nooch village

Bangkok & Pattaya are our favourite international destinations. This was our second trip to both these cities but we would definitely love visiting them a third time and exploring them more. They somehow grow on you and the vibrant atmosphere makes it all the more appealing.

After exploring most of Pattaya’s famous tourist spots, next destination was Bangkok the capital of Thailand.