Places to Sightsee in London in a Week

London is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and was in my bucket list since a long time. This year in July I could finally manage to tick if off the list.

The climate is wonderful though one moment it is sunny and the next moment it’s raining.. extremely unpredictable ( Moral of the story is : Always carry your umbrella along for sightseeing).

Sightseeing in London requires a lot of walking . Most of the attractions are situated close by so taking the public transport is not feasible ( Moral of the story is : Wear sturdy & comfortable shoes )

London has a lot of places with history and art. In this post I am going to share the main sightseeing places in London . Like I have mentioned in my previous post on How to Travel to London on a Budget ( Do read it ) , London is divided into 6 Zones. The main attractions are in Zone 1 and a few in Zone 2. 

Atleast a week is required to sightsee the major attractions. And it is preferable that all the tickets for the attractions are booked online on their official sites since there are huge queues at the ticket windows plus the rates of tickets purchased online are a lesser than the ones purchased at the ticket window

I have clubbed the sightseeing itinerary day wise based on their proximity to each other to save time on travelling and avoid using public transport.

What to see on Day 1 : Tower of London, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast ,All Hallows by the Tower, The Monument,Sky Garden The Shard, Tate Modern , City Hall & the London Bridge are all in the same vicinity. The famous food market Borough Market is also situated close by. This market has stalls of different cuisines and desserts. The St Pauls Cathedral can also be visited which is a little distance away

The White Tower in the Tower of London
The iconic London Bridge ( not to be confused with the Tower Bridge)

There are many buses going to these places . The London Bridge station, Tower Hill station are also close by.

What to see on Day 2 : Westminister Abbey , London Eye,Big Ben, Buckingham Palace ( including the Royal Mews & The Queens Gallery ) & the Imperial War Musuem (Churchill War Rooms ) . You could also relax at the St James Park or the Green Park next to Buckingham Palace.

The Westminister Abbey opens at 9.30 am and takes about 2 hours to view.

Westminister Abbey

The Buckingham Palace has the change of guards on the foregrounds of the Palace at 10.45 am ( it gets real crowded so recommend to go early to get a prime spot ) . It is advisable to visit the Palace first lest you miss this event and then visit the Westminister Abbey and the nearby attractions.

The change of Guards outside Buckingham Palace

Note : The lavish interiors of the Buckingham Palace are open for display to the public only from July – October . Book online in advance to avoid disappointment. The slots for viewing get filled  fast . Rest of the year the Palace can be viewed from outside.

What to see on Day 3 : Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus,Leicester Square , China town.

China Town

Shopping at Selfridges, Primark on Oxford street or at the highend shopping destination in Mayfair and Bond street. All these places are at a walking distance .

What to see on Day 4 : Covent Garden ( an upscale shopping market ) , Madame Tussauds, The Lords Cricket Ground, Camden Market for shopping . Relax at the Regent Park and also visit the Portbello Market which is closer to The Lords

Covent Garden

What to see on Day 5 : Musuems : There are excellent musuems in London for History Buffs . The British Museum with its amazing ancient cultural exhibits from around the world takes an entire day or more. So plan your tour dates accordingly taking into account the days to be spent in the museum. Do check out their Egypt & Greece exhibits atleast if pressed for time .

The National Gallery with paintings dating back to the mid 13th century by some of the famous artists like Rembrandt ,Vincent Van Gogh, & Michelangelo . The National Gallery is at Trafalgar Square so can be combined while exploring Trafalgar Square

The Musuem of London can be visited along with the The Kensington Palace, Princess Diana’s Memorial Foundation and the Marble Arch . Hyde Park is adjacent to the Kensington Palace 

What to see on Day 6 -7 : Book Day tours to the scenic countryside . You can club Oxford, Warvick Castle,Stratford Avon and Cotswold in one trip . Windsor Castle, Bath & Stonehenge can be combined in another trip. You can book the tours through local tour operators like Viator , Evan Evans.

Warvick Castle
Roman Baths-Bath

London is a big city. It’s not possible to cover each and every tourist attraction within a week . However , the major and most visited and famous attractions are mentioned above.

Hope you find this helpful . Do follow me to read my blog on ‘ How to explore the London Tourist spots alongwith the history behind the places ‘.

The Great African Safari

An avid follower of National Geographic,Animal Planet and watching the documentaries on the the wildlife in Africa especially the Wildebeest migration , this trip was a much awaited and eagerly looked forward to Adventure trip.

How Did We Plan : Travelling to Africa sounds daunting and mysterious and choosing which Country to visit for ‘The Great Migration ‘ and the type of accommodation which we would prefer ( hotel establishment or tents) and the best time to visit was a tricky proposition. Finally after a lot of emails exchanged with local African Safari tour operators and narrowing down to some who offered us packages within our budget and offered to show us more Safari destinations we zeroed down on a tour operator ‘African Traits’ and also our destination Tanzania

Requirements : A Yellow Fever vaccine needs to be taken . In Mumbai it is given at J J Hospital & at the Airport Health Organisation near the Sahar Airport. An International certificate is issued by them which is valid for 10 years. We were also advised to take the polio vaccine

How to Reach : In August ,18 we boarded the Kenya Airways from Mumbai. There was a 2 hour stopover at Nairobi where the immigration formalities were completed. From there we boarded a plane to Kilimanjaro Airport at Tanzania . The flight duration was 1 hour.The tour Safari guides were there at the airport to receive us.

About the Safaris : The Safari jeep has a Guide and a Cook accompanying the tourists . They also carry tents which are put up at the Camping sites . Since we had planned to make this Africa trip adventurous the night halt was normally at a Campsite in tents instead of a hotel accommodation . The tents are secure and well equipped with a mattress, pillow & sleeping bag

A mattress , pillow and sleeping bag is provided
All set to visit The Great Migration

Normally a packed lunch is given when you have a full day Safari tour consisting of a Juice, a pulao , sandwiches, cutlets ,wafers ,bottled mineral water. Lunch or dinner is Chicken curry, sausages, Pancakes , Pasta, Noodles ,Veg Curry , Salad , Fruits ,Banana or Sweet potato fritters.Sometimes the cook asks your preference of food and if the ingredients are easily available he prepares it too.

A packed lunch supplied by our Cook during a Game sighting

Enjoying a packed lunch during a Game viewing Trip
At an African Dhaba enroute to Arusha National Park
Samosas and Sweet Buns

In Africa, the Big Five game animals are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. If you are lucky to spot all the five in your Safari then consider yourself the luckiest .

From the airport we directly drove down to Arusha National ParkArusha National Park is a small park with the Momella Lake and a rich variety of wildlife, but does not have much of a game-viewing experience . Despite the small size of the park, common animals include giraffe, Cape buffaloes, zebra, warthog, the black-and-white colobus monkey with a furry tail, the blue monkey, flamingo, elephant, bushbuck and many other African animals could be seen. Leopard populations are present, but could not be seen. Birdlife in the forest is prolific.

Arusha National Park
Wildebeest grazing in the Park
Lake Momella
Camping inside a tent at Arusha National Park

Tarangire National Park is a lovely park in Northern Tanzania. It is the 4th Largest National Park in Tanzania with about 2850 sq km of expanse and is famous for Baobab trees and wild elephants . The concentration of wildlife in this Park is also quite high. We spotted the Vervette Monkey ( with a black face but small in stature ) , red billed hornbills, huge groups of Wildebeest ( also known as the gnu) and zebras & wild elephants at close quarters

Vervette Monkey
The Baobab tree
Wild Elephants at close quarters

Fact file : 1. Wildebeest and Zebras can always be found together in the wild . Since they both are herbivorous and no threat to each other they complement each other to protect themselves from predators. Zebras have good eyesight & Wildebeest have a good sense of smell. This helps them to remain alert and warn each other in case a predator stalks them

2. Baobab trees store water and when water is scarce in summer , the elephants poke their trunk in the bark of the tree , rip it off and quench their thirst. So where there are baobab trees be sure to spot an elephant close by

Baobab tree with a hollow where the elephants have made a hole and quenched their thirst

Next morning after breakfast we proceeded towards Serengeti National Park one of the largest National park and the most popular game reserve. It is 14785 sq km . One part of it is a grassland due to volcanic eruptions and barren for long distances and the other part has some forest cover. Gazelles were found more in the grassland part so that they could spot a predator. We had to drive through large expanse of Grasslands to reach our campsite in the middle of the Park. On the way we did a game drive through the grasslands .

Barren expanse of Serengati
Our cook Habibu with our team mates

Tent Stay Experience at Serengeti : The tent stay at the Campsite at Arusha seemed very simple compared to our tent stay at Serengeti which was in the middle of the National Park . This was a huge public Campsite which had a Cooking area where the Cooks accompanying the tourists cook food for them as per their preference and a Dining area where tables were assigned to each group for their meals

The cabins where dinner is cooked and adjacent cabin where it is served

There were about 20-30 tents put up on the day we arrived . There is a no electric fencing around the campsite and wild animals are allowed to roam about the premises at night. There are separate Washroom facilities for men & women but situated at a distance from where the tents are parked. We were instructed not to come out of the tent at night unless someone urgently had to use the washroom and and if at all they needed to,they had to carry a powerful torch with them since the entire campsite area was enveloped in darkness .Also we were not allowed to keep any meat items or fruits inside the tent lest they attract wild animals.

Our tents at Serengeti
Other tourists setting up their tents at the Campsite

This experience was the most thrilling experience of my life. We spotted deer grazing around our tents in the evening . Spotted a pack of hyenas outside our washroom gazing intently at us through the bushes in the dark . We had visitors like the wild fowl, rabbits and hyenas outside our tents at midnight. We could also hear an occasional roar of a lion from the forest.It was an sleepless night but more out of excitement and thrill than fear

Game sighting in Serengeti : Was a unimaginable experience. We left early morning at 6 am for a Safari since our driver explained that we could get to see the Lions enjoying their midnight kill in the wee hours of the morning. And believe me we were not disappointed. Serengati Game Reserve is the mother of all Game reserves in Tanzania.

We had awesome sightings of herds of Cape Buffaloes ( they can give the lions a run for their lives ) Lionesses with their kill, Hyenas trying to scavenge on the carcass of a wildebeest, Two male lions with an antelope kill resting under a tree, a Old male lion feasting on a deer, hordes of giraffe ( we had to stop our jeep for 10 mins to allow a herd of giraffes cross the road) ,a dazzle of zebras and the wildebeest,a pride of lionesses with their playful cubs ( the mothers lazily basking in the sun but keeping an eye on their naughty cubs ) and the highlight of the day were two lionesses just next to our jeep intently trying to catch their prey a group of zebras oblivious to the fact that there were humans around them.

Cape Bu
Two brothers with their kill
One leap and she would have been inside our jeep
The cunning hyena
An old lion feasting on his prey
A lioness crossing our jeep to hunt a Zebra
Sunset at Serengati

Next morning we were off to Ngorongoro Conservation Area or Ngorongoro Crater where again we camped in tents ,but this was an enclosed area. Enroute we visited a Masai Camp and interacted with the Masai people. It was quite chilly at night but we were snuggled comfortably in our tents ,happy and content souls to sightsee such majestic animals

The entry to the Ngorongoro Conservation Centre
Learning to set up a tent at Ngorongoro Conservation Centre

Ngorongoro Crater is a crater formed by a volcani eruption caused three million years ago. The locals ( Masaai) , domestic animals and wild animals reside in the crater. The Ngorongoro Campsite is situated at the rim of the crater and we have to move down towards the Crater to spot wildlife

The view of the Ngorongoro Crater from the top
Masaai Houses seen in the Crater when descending down from Serengati
The Beautiful Crater
Safari jeeps racing to spot a sighting

And weren’t we lucky to spot the elusive leopard on a tree. It was camouflaged but our guide spotted him. After a patient wait of 15 mins he finally decided to climb down the tree and give us a photo shop moment. Will treasure that moment forever.

One of the Big Five – The elusive leopard

And our group was the luckiest cos we were the only ones amongst the hundreds of jeeps on the route that day to get a glimpse of a Cheetah and had the thrill of following him at a distance for some time before he decided he had enough and sprinted away

It was a Nat Geo Live moment for us

In Ngorongoro we finally managed to see the Rhino. It was quite at a distance but we spotted him with our pair of binocs. Apart from the Rhino we spotted Ostriches, Grey Heron, herds of Elephants ,Flamingoes Pride of Lionesses with cubs, Lions . It was an beyond imagination trip

Off from Ngorongoro to our last destination Lake Manyara National Park. This park is similar to Arusha National Park with a lot of greenery and water bodies . Spotted large water bodies with hippos submerged in them ( the hippos looked like big rocks with just their back glinting in the sun ) and a prolific bird life.

Hippos lying in the water

After a satisfying Safari the last day was shopping at the town of Arusha. Purchased African masks , trinkets , shawls from the town market

Off to Mumbai via Kenya Airways with a stopover at Nairobi

Tips for a Safari :

1. Currency used by us was USD for shopping and small expenses 2. The afternoons are hot and evenings chilly. So arm yourself with caps / scarfs and sunglasses for the afternoon tour and warm clothes for the evening . 3.Wear neutral clothes to blend with the surroundings 4. Carry a good Camera ( DSLR are preferred ) and a pair of binoculars ( you may miss out on something important which won’t be seen with a naked eye) 5. Insect repellent and an allergy medicine 6. There are tents of various budgets ranging from luxury to the basic and of different sizes available.Some are larger with beds and other amenities . However the basic tent is also quite comfortable.

Like I have mentioned earlier, spotting the Big Five Game animals in their natural habitat is a sign that your trip has been fruitful . And we could spot all these majestic beasts .

I recommend everyone who’s reading this to try an Safari atleast once in a lifetime. The thrill of seeing wild animals at so close quarters in their habitat can’t be expressed in words. You have to see it to believe. The memories and experience is unforgettable.

Happy We

A few pics of superb sightings below :

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 madametussauds.com/london 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

BANGKOK-SHOPPING

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

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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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Maheshmurti

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