Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First Visit to Scandinavia - Sweden 2011


I BBM'ed Sayalee. Yoohoo - our visa for Sweden had come through and we were all set to make our first trip to Scandinavia.  5th September to 12th September 2011 were destined to be super-fun filled days!

Day 1:
Autumn in Swed

Qatar Airways was our preferred carrier for this trip (the cheapest one for this sector :P). Journey to Doha from Dubai was uneventful. 2 hr stopover at Doha Airport made us enter the duty free shop. We found a cool backpack for Anvesh and some Arabic nankataai for Ananth & Pritesh - our hosts in Stockholm. Can't forget Anvesh - their 10 month old son :-)  

Flight from Doha to Stockholm was a good 6 hr 30 mins flight. Food was nice and the entertainment too. They had some wonderful collection of world movies including Indian regional languages. Ananth had come to Arlanda to pick us up. With a combination of bus-train-bus, we reached Ananth's place in Kista area in about 50 minutes. 

This 50 minute journey was just a trailer of what we were going to see in next 8 days :-) Autumn had just started and we were already able to see tinges of yellow, orange, pink and red. Amazing!!!

Kaande pohe made by Pritesh made our afternoon snack; while a super meal of corn-cheese parathas in the dinner completed the day. Non-stop chattering in between as you would've already guessed :-) 

Day 2:

We took the morning flight to Kiruna (Northern-most airport in Sweden) for a 4 night stay in that region (Abisko, Riksgransen and Kiruna).  
Kiruna airport would, I think, be smaller than Mumbai or Pune's General Post Office! Yes, it's that small. With only a couple of flights served in a day, one shouldn't even expect it to be flashy and jazzy. We could get the bus which transferred us to the Kiruna train station. We were in-time to catch the train to Abisko. 

It took about 90 minutes for us to reach Abisko. Abisko is a very small village and has hardly any establishments around. There exists a national park as well in Abisko; however we were a bit disappointed as it was hardly anything compared to sizes of national parks in India. Our hostel - Abisko Turiststation Hostel - was run by STF (Svenska Turist Foreningen - a body run by Swedish Government to manage their hostels in the country). STF also carries out pre-scheduled activities such as hiking, fishing, camping at most of its hostels for tourists. It was an easy check-in as we had already pre-booked our stay there. 

The room allocated to us had a bunk bed and only basic facilities. Shared kitchen was available as well as there was a small store that had frozen food and quick bites for sale. The in-house restaurant, we thought, was quite expensive with regard to food served. Maybe we are too used to the food prices in Dubai......!

A late evening walk in the national park right upto the Vasijaure (name of a lake) rounded off our day. Not to forget - Sayalee was able to capture rainbow over Vasijaure in her camera just before our walk. 

Day 3:

After a heavy breakfast, we went to Panorama cafe which is set at an elevation of 900 metres on Mount Njoula. It was very windy to go up in the chair-lift, but we took the chance. Trust me on this, the views from Panorama Cafe are simply breathtaking. After spending an hour there, we got back to the base station by chair-lift. Winds were literally toying with our chair! 

Norway!!! :-)

Yes - second half of our day was going to be spent in a small town called Narvik in Norway. We had not really planned for it in advance; however with the local information available, we decided to visit Narvik and come back to our hostel in Abisko at night. 

The journey to Narvik in the bus was extremely picturesque and it took about 90 minutes to reach Narvik. Narvik is a sleepy town which gained importance because of the iron mines there. Rail track was laid between Narvik and Kiruna for transportation of iron ore in 1903; that's more than 100 years ago!

One thing that we noticed in Narvik was almost all households had flower beds. What supreme colors!!!

After a coffee break, we headed back to train station to catch the last train to Abisko. Chicken tikka masala + rice felt heaven at Abisko hostel's shared kitchen for dinner. Don't get confused; we just cooked the frozen food that we had bought :-) 

Day 4: 

After a heavy breakfast (again!), we checked out from our Abisko hostel to go to a place called Riksgransen. The train journey was hardly 30 minutes from Abisko. After reaching to our hostel in Riksgransen, we got to know that this place is normally 'in-season' during winters but not in autumn. Hence, there were hardly any tourists around. And more importantly, no restaurants were open :/ Shared kitchen was available; though there wasn't any store around to buy frozen food. 

Only thing possible to do in Riksgransen was to go on a trail. And we did the same! 

We set off in the afternoon towards Katterjakk where we there was a store to buy some frozen food. After a nice 40 minutes of walk, we reached Katterjakk and yes, there was a store indeed :-) There was a cafe too! With some light evening snacks and coffee, we were back on our foot to reach our hostel. This time we decided to get adventurous and took a trail going right through the middle of forest. Reminded me of my himalayan hiking ventures....

After a couple of detours, we reached our hostel in Riksgransen. There was still some sunlight outside. Mind you time was 8.30 pm. We again decided to go for a walk - this time in the opposite direction of Katterjakk. After just 10 minutes of walk, we reached at Norway border... :-) There's only a small toll-booth there at the border but no patrolling as such. 

Day 5:

We checked out from Riksgransen hostel in the morning and took a train to back to Kiruna. Though we had landed in Kiruna from Stockholm, we had not got any time to see the place. Kiruna is again a small town with iron mines in the vicinity. 

Our place of stay in Kiruna (Hotel Vinterpalatset) looked like a bungalow but now converted in a hotel. Room was neat and clean. We stepped out immediately after dumping our bags in the hotel to roam around. Kiruna centrum has some nice shops offering goods made of reindeer skin. We bought some souvenirs and t-shirts from the market. Unfortunately the tour for iron mine visit in Kiruna was not available on that day. For dinner, we tried to have authentic Swedish fish preparation at one of the recommended restaurants. However, it didn't go too well with our taste buds :-(

Day 6: 

This was the end of our journey in Northern part of Sweden. We took an early morning flight to reach Stockholm. Reaching to Ananth's place from Arlanda was much easy this time. Plan was to visit amusement park at Grona Lund in Stockholm. Stockholm city is actually a group of 14 islands and Grona Lund is one of them.All these 14 islands are connected by bridges; so traveling isn't an issue. Ferries also ply between some of the islands.

All of us could experience some of the wildest rides in this amusement park. It had 'Free-fall' as well. Was scary but also fun :-) 

We ended the day with amazing bread-pudding cooked by Pritesh in dinner. Yummy it was!!

Day 7:

This was our penultimate day in Sweden. Ananth and Pritesh took us to Centralen area where we had a foodie time in having Spanish Paella, Dutch Pancakes, Polish Samosas (Yeah, something of that sort :P). 

After pet-pooja, we reached Vasa Museum. Vasa was a huge wooden ship that sank near Stockholm in 1628 in its maiden voyage due to its faulty design. 300+ years later the ship was found by a research team and then it was pulled up. The wood had not deteriorated completely as Vasa had not entered deep sea waters when it sank. The museum literally houses the ship and things found on the ship and is temperature controlled. This is probably the only ship which has been pulled up and kept in a museum. 

Next on our list was Gamla stan (another island which houses the old town area). We could buy some great quality Swedish crystal creations in Gamla Stan; one of them having Lord Ganesha etched on it. 

Homemade cheesecakes made by Pritesh rounded off our day 7 in Sweden. 

Day 8:

Our last day in Sweden :-( But we had had a wonderful time in Sweden; special vote of thanks to Ananth, Pritesh and also chhotu Anvesh who has become very friendly with Sayalee masi :-) 

We reached Arlanda to catch our return flight to Dubai via Doha. Our first visit to Scandinavia had come to an end, but we know that there are a lot of places and sights yet to be seen in that region and hence at least one more visit is essential. Next time we will plan it sometime in winters so that we get to experience - 

a. Icehotel - built completely with ice every year with new design
b. Northern lights
c. Hike from Finland to Sweden to Norway that includes walking over frozen lakes

After a journey of about 9 hours, we were back in Dubai but obviously with plans for our next trip running in minds ;-)

That's it from our side folks! Hope you liked this travelogue. Do let us know your comments and suggestions for next destination as well :-)

Sayalee and Jaydeep

[ PS : Pictures @ ]

Saturday, June 13, 2009

R i Y A D H -- 2 (Last Part)

Part 2 (Last part)

As the background is set now, let me pen down some more experiences –

5) Mamlaka & Fasiliyah

These are the 2 tall buildings which happen to be the only places of interest in the city. Mamlaka (also called as Kingdom Tower) is a beautiful piece of construction and you can go to the skybridge on 99th floor. Really cool view you get from there. (Link). Nothing special in Faisiliyah though.

6) Muttawa

I had found some company to roam around in the city when 2 guys joined in @ client’s office. They were staying in the same hotel where I was put up. We were a good team and used to go for dinner every day at a mallu restaurant. On a Friday, we decided to head to an area called Batha. This is Hongkong lane (Pune) + Chor Bazaar (Pune) + Fashion Street (Mumbai) type area wherein you can get really cheap deals but obviously without guarantee / warranty.

Time was 6:25pm and all the shops were closed for evening prayers. Like hundreds of people, we were also sitting on steps outside that row of shops. Suddenly, everybody started running around. Ultimate chaos within 2 minutes!

We realized that we were the only 3 guys sitting on those steps. ‘n Whoaaaaa… We saw a guy in Arabic robe and with a thick stick (Small but thick Bamboo) in his hand running towards us. Damn… I think it was the scariest moment of my life! We ran like we were running for a gold medal in Olympics. That Arabic guy was only a few feet away from me. After covering a few feet, I think that Arabic guy found some better target and he went behind him. Phewwww…

Now some bit of information – Who was that Arabic guy? Google has answers of all questions which probably God also doesn’t have! Answer I got – “Muttawa”. They are religious police. Lots of stories are available on net. I’m not sure how true they are. But I suggest you to go through this Wiki Link. to get a hang of it.

7) Settling in KSA

There was a Tamilian guy in client’s team but he was working in KSA for almost 8 years. He had picked up Arabic really well. One day I asked him about his family over the lunch.He said he had not brought his family in KSA and all his folks were in Chennai. I thought it could’ve been easier for his family to adjust in Saudi as he is a Muslim. He told me about the safety factor. Apparently there are a lot of incidents happening wherein families are attacked by people there and they do not get justice from police force as well.

This is all what I’ve heard and I do not undertake any responsibility for correctness of these statements. But I suggest you to take a look at an article that was published in Arabnews.

8) Airport woes @ KKIA

Riyadh’s King Khaled International Airport is country’s one of the main airports in the country and is well connected to main cities in Asia, Africa, Europe. But surprisingly Asians face a lot of problems in immigration queue while flying in the country. Immigration time of 2-6 hours is not a new thing there for Asians. Asians standing in queues where no officers turn up for 2-3 hours is also a common thing! Amazingly, this doesn’t happen with Europeans, Australians, Americans, Nationals of Middle eastern countries. Anyway, this is my view and I COULD BE COMPLETELY WRONG as well.

Well, that’s it guys from my side. Hope you enjoyed reading this second part as well. I’ll be waiting for your comments.


- Jadeeb

Thursday, April 16, 2009

R i Y A D H

8 weeks project in KSA (kingdom of Saudi Arabia).. I don’t know what did I feel when I got to know this. It seemed an interesting project to work on. But Saudi?? I definitely had some apprehensions before I nodded my head indicating my readiness to take it up.

Something about KSA:
For those who do not know – KSA is one of the most challenging countries to stay in. They expect expats also to abide by their customs and respect their religious beliefs. You are not supposed to schedule a meeting in thier prayer times (5 times a day). All the shops close in their prayer times (approx 25 minutes for each time; 5 times a day). Women are not allowed to work here in offices (apart from a few exceptions). Women are not allowed to drive in KSA. Yes that’s a fact – believe it or not! And, every woman in the country needs to wear Abaya (Burkha) irrespective of the religion she follows!

With this background, I was set to fly to Riyadh – the capital of KSA. Instead of flying on Emirates’ nice and cozy flight, I ended up flying on Saudi Arabian Airlines’ B777. It was a nice flight. I was just trying to read my KSA visa again when I was in-flight. I could read only 3 things – 1) My name, 2) Validity 3) No. of entries. There were many other details printed on it but all in Arabic. I was curious to know what that Arabic text stood for! Mr Mohamed, my co-passenger, helped me out. He translated that for me. And then only I got to know that even though total validity was 3 months, maximum period I could stay in the country was only 30 days! And this critical information was in Arabic. I revalidated all my visa details after landing at Riyadh as well.

KSA is one of the biggest countries in Middle East. It shares borders with Kuwait, UAE, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Oman, and Iraq. There’s also a roadbridge to Bahrain from Dammam which runs for 40 kms in the Persian Gulf. Riyadh is the capital city and is centrally located. Its equivalent to Sharjah in UAE or Pimpri-Chinchwad area (near Pune) in India. Other prominent cities include – Jeddah (approx 500 kms to the west of Riyadh and on red sea), Dammam (approx 450 kms to the east of Riyadh & touching Persian gulf.). Both are good ports and have good air & sea links with other countries. There are some nice places to visit in KSA but none of them is in central region. KSA’s currency is Saudi Riyal (SAR) and approx 1 USD = 3.75 SAR. (or 1 SAR = 13 INR). Highways are overcrowded with mostly American cars like GM, GMC, Ford, Lincoln. A litre of Petrol costs 45 halala (0.45 SAR); 55% cheaper than a bottle of 1L mineral water (1 SAR). Weekend in KSA is Thursday+Friday!KSA is in GMT +3 hrs of timezone.


Saif had come to pick me up at the airport. I kinda understood what does globalization mean at that time. Client’s HR manager, a Yemeni guy, had sent Saif (an Indonesian driver) to pick me (Indian) – who works in a company in UAE which has got its HQ in Switzerland – up at Saudi’s capital in American car (GMC). Wow! Saif could hardly speak English. He dropped me at my hotel apartment whose name I couldn’t understand!

Ok, let me just briefly touch upon my experiences in KSA so far!

1) Check-in: Hotel reception
When I checked in there, the manager gave me a print out and asked me to sign on that. I looked at the paper and asked, ‘where do you want me to sign’? Reason: That printout was completely in Arabic! He pointed some space. Damn, I just didn’t know on what paper I was putting my signature on! 

2) Day 2: Morning.. Leaving for office!

I did not know the name, address of the hotel I was put up. So I asked in the morning at the reception. There was some different manager who did not understand even a bit of Ingleezi. Somehow I managed to get a card which had hotel’s address and telephone number. As expected, it was in Arabic. Damn, how the hell i’m gonna stay in this country for next few weeks, I thought.

3) Day 2: Dinner

Challenge 1) where to eat - Thankfully, my client had arranged for my conveyance from hotel to office and back. After reaching office, I managed to understand the name and brief address also for the hotel  In the evening, my boss dropped me at one of the restaurants near my hotel. I thought I’ll get some authentic Arabic food over there.
Challenge 2) Where to sit – I pushed the door and entered in there. I knew that in KSA they have separate sections for family and singles. So I was looking out for singles section. Couldn’t see any signboard indicating that. So I asked a waiter. He did not have a clue what I was trying to ask. I had to go in complete dumbC mode to explain him that I’m hungry, I want to eat and I want to sit somewhere in singles’ section. He gave me a smile and showed me the way! Yes, I was gonna get some food  Singles’ section had a cubicle like structure with walls of approx 5 feet. That waiter asked me to go in one of those cubicles. As I opened the door of the cubicle, I saw only a carpet laid down. No table and chairs  ! So I had take off my shoes and sit down there. I was wearing my suit, tie and was sitting on a carpet for eating something. It was funny!
Challenge 3) What to order – The next challenge was what to order. I dumbC’ed him to get something in chicken and no beef. He nodded his head positively and got back with some type of chicken biryani and pepsi. I could eat only 20% of it .It wasn’t that tasty either.
Challenge 4) How much to pay – At the counter, I did not have any clue what my check was amounting to. I gave 50 riyal note; expecting to get something back. He gave me 37 riyals back. So my bill was 13 riyals only! Good..

Arabic (Saudi, Yemeni, Syrian, Jordanian, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, Bahraini etc... Basically who can speak Arabic) guys are very friendly and they wont try to cheat you. However, there's a genuine barrier of language.


To learn speaking basic Arabic phrases and numbers!

4) Telephonic conversation

As part of my project, I was supposed to get some updates from client’s offices in Jeddah and Dammam. Guy sitting in Jeddah office was good in English and hence I got my information from him within minutes. Then I dialed for the guy sitting in Dammam. Man, it was so damn difficult to understand what was he trying to communicate.

JD: “Salaam aalekum Majid. data1 ok & moujud??”

Majid: “Wallekum assalam hamdullah Mr Jadeeb. Data1 No ok. Tomorrow inshallah.”
JD: “ What is the problem?”
Majid: “my car break. I not go to other office + (something something in Arabic)”
JD: “By what time will you send data1 tomorrow?”
Majid: “Ok, tomorrow inshallah hamdullah”.
JD: “Tell me the time.”
Majid: “I don’t know.”
JD: (thinking thinking.. and finally ..) “Ok fine!”
Majid: ”Thank you!”

5) Washing Machine

The place where I’m staying in is a self serviced hotel apartment. Means its like a fully furnished 1 BHK. There’s no restaurant, café, recreation area in the hotel. After 4-5 days of my stay, I wanted to wash my clothes. There was a semi-automatic machine in the bathroom but it did not have either water or electricity connection. So I asked the hotel manager – how do I use this machine. He said, its simple! Move the machine to the other corner of the bathroom where there was an electric point and pour water into the machine using the bucket. I was amazed but I hardly had a choice. When I moved the machine to get the electric connection, I noticed that it was blocking the way to come out of the bathroom. Man, I really had to squeeze through a tiny winy gap to get out of my bathroom after setting up the machine for washing. After a while, I had to do the same exercise as I had to move the clothes from washing compartment to the dryer. Grrrrrr…. There wasn’t enough space in the bathroom where I could’ve done dhibi-pachhad also.

Now I’m kinda settled here in Riyadh after 4 weeks of stay. I had a quick trip to Dubai last weekend to get a new visa stamped. Lets see if I can visit any interesting places in Riyadh in next 4 weeks.


- Jadeeb
(They find it very difficult to pronounce my name. So they call me Jadeeb or Jay or something like that :) )

Thursday, December 11, 2008

B for Bandhavgarh

6 friends (Dipti, Hemant, Jigna, Jaydeep, Ramkrishna, Sonal) ...
5 safaris ...
4 days of isolation from the mainstream world ...
3 shivery mornings which froze us from hair to you know what ...
2 royal sightings ...
1 experience of a lifetime!

Frankly speaking I was not expecting so much of fun in this trip. Reason being I didn’t know 2 people (Jigna and Sonal) joining for this trip. But I got pretty much sure about the unlimited fun for this trip when I had to give directions to Sonal and Jigna to come to Chandni Chowk in Pune. All of my friends who have come for roadtrips with me would speak for my direction sense... but this time ... Ooh la la ... Somehow I managed to find them near Sinhagad road overbridge and managed to show them Chandni Chowk as well. :)

Other 2 punekars – Dipti & Ramkrishna (RK) – were gonna meet us directly at railway station while the 6th and the most important member of the group – Hemant – was supposed to meet us up at Katni. Our train to Katni (Nearest major railhead to reach Bandhavgarh) was Darbhanga express and it definitely managed to भंग the ice for us. We were gossiping in top gear as if we knew each other for ages. Regular dosages of Chai, Bhel, Cutlets, Parathas helped us maintain the same momentum for gossiping. On the other hand, Hemant was getting irritated at Katni as his train reached there before time and our train got delayed by over an hour. Finally, we reached Katni at 1140 hrs and immediately packed ourselves in Santaram Express (Tavera for Katni to Bandhavgarh journey marshalled by Santaram dude). Jigna managed to catch some sleep in the road patches full of potholes as well. Wah bhai wah!

Our stay was arranged in Mogli resort at Tala (Bandhavgarh). Mogli is one of the better managed resorts in Tala and currently has a total of 30 cottages. We set off to evening safari almost immediately after dumping our baggage at Mogli. An open top Maruti gypsy was waiting to take us for the safari. At the main gate of the reserve, Ramnath Yadav was assigned to us for the safari. With Vikas at wheel and Ramnath’s expertise in tracking tigers, I was excited to have some royal sighting. Pugmarks, calls from animals like chital and monkey are some of the key elements to track tigers.

Chitals’ intense calls ... Followed by monkeys’ calls ... Sure sign of tiger being around ... All gypsies on the move to park themselves to get a good sighting ... We wait ... 5 minutes ... then 2 more minutes ... Nobody is moving ... Not even whispering ... All the gypsies have taken their positions and playing a patient game ... ‘n then Ramnath whispers, “Vikas, Gaadi ghumao. Jaldi. Pichle wale raste pe jayenge. ” For a moment I thought, damn here goes a chance of a sighting. But then, we had to trust Ramnath’s instincts. So did us. Nobody spoke anything. We came on a route which we had previously travelled on.

Krrrr... Chhh... Vikas stopped the gypsy all of a sudden. ‘n there came the moment which we were eagerly waiting for. Mirchani tigress was about to cross the road with her 2 cubs. Hemant pulled out his Canon EOS 400D and I took out my new Panasonic FZ28 to get some fantabuluos shots. There she came. Man I can’t tell how beautiful that scene was. Her cubs were only 18 months old but looked like fully grown tigers. Marvellous! Class one!! डोळ्यांचं पारणं फ़िटणे म्हणतात ना तसं! Wow! “Ramnath rocks!”, everybody said. Our safari ended shortly after that sighting as we had to hit back to the main gate by 1745 hrs to avoid any penalties. Our bandhavgarh venture couldn’t have had a better start than this. (INW: Click here)

Evenings at Mogli were chilling and we had to put on some extra clothing to keep ourselves warm. Uno, cards, songs, gossip, skyy ... Evenings were no difference to the fun gear that we were engaged into.

0500 hrs, next day morning (5 Dec ’08).. Man it was so damn difficult to get off from the bed and get ready for the morning safari. But we managed somehow and reached the main gate at 6. Again, Ramnath was gonna be our guide for that safari. I was getting ready to spot tiger once again. ‘n so were the other guys. Hemant and Ramnath briefed us about the B route and tigers around that area. Hemant spotted some birdies as well for us. Shrike, Malabar pied hornbill, Magpie, Kingfisher were some of the birdies which we could manage to see. We heard a lot of strong calls but couldn’t get a sighting in this particular safari. We were told that there’s a tiger sighting muhurat at 0905 hrs for that day by a pundit. For the first time in my life, I got to know there could be muhurat for sighting a tiger as well. His prediction went totally flop but we enjoyed knowing this funda.
We went for Bandhavgarh fort visit after this safari. The fort is huge and has history associated with it from Ramayana days (
More). We went to 3-4 scenic spots, Ram mandir and Kabir’s mandir before having packed lunch there on the fort itself.

Evening safari (5 Dec ’08).. This time we got Mukesh Burman as our forest guide for the evening safari. Mukesh is a good friend of Hemant and Mukesh only had arranged the stay and safaris for us. We again went on different routes looking out for tigers. Some villager had seen B2 in the afternoon in nearby area. Sometimes we travelled back ‘n forth on the same route multiple times. But no luck. It was getting dark. Almost 1710 hrs. Hardly 35 minutes we had in hand to reach back to the main gate to make a timely exit. But then suddenly we heard calls from chital. Mukesh decided to take us on a certain route. We stopped and positioned ourselves. 5 minutes go by. Clock was ticking at 1720. It was getting darker every second. n Mukesh said, “B2”! Everybody tried to see what Mukesh’s expert eyes had spotted. Yepp, it was B2 – The most dominant male tiger in the area open to tourists in Bandhavgarh reserve. He was very far when we first saw him. But he was walking slowly towards the road. We were hoping to get a closer look. As he took each step and inched towards us, we couldn’t stop admiring his beauty. What an animal! The king! I can definitely tell you guys its an awesome sight watching a fully grown male tiger in action. And B2 didn’t disappoint us at all. He crossed the road right in front of our gypsy. Hemant and I were always in two minds – whether to admire his beauty through naked eyes or to capture it in camera lens. He coolly crossed the road and walked into the grass on the other side. He didn’t care about the people watching him, he didn’t care about anything actually! Guess that’s what makes him the king! Once again - डोळ्यांचं पारणं फ़िटणे म्हणतात ना तसं! 1735 hrs. We had to rush back to the main gate in 10 minutes and we did exactly the same. But we just couldn’t stop talking about B2. (INW : Click here)

We couldn’t see many animals in last 2 safaris of our trip (safaris on 6 Dec ’08) though we did a good amount of birding. Every time you go inside a forest you get a different experience. We thoroughly enjoyed each of our 5 safaris in Bandhavgarh – Thanks to Ramnath, Mukesh, Vikas and of course Hemant who shared his knowledge and also 2 wonderful documentaries with us.

Nobody was in the mood to return back to city life when we woke up on 7th Dec. But क्या करें, पापी पेट के लिए करना पडता है ... We packed ourselves into Santaram’s Tavera to reach Katni. As we reached Katni, we got to know that our train, Patna – Pune SUPERFAST, was running 1 n half hours late. But neither of us had any complaints as we were having great time together. Train journey became very much memorable coz of Mendhicoat! Sonal, RK and Dipti’s team played exceptionally well and didn’t give my team (Jigna, Hemant, Jd) any chance of loosing :)

Well, that’s it guys in this particular travelogue.
Picture gallery:

Sharing some links for those of you who want to visit Bandhavgarh –
1) Bandhavgarh – Reserve, Project Tiger, Fort, Other info -
2) Bandhavgarh Tourism Routes (Tala Range) -
3) Photographs posted by Hemant at INW -

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Exotic Egypt

Its been a long long time since I've written something in the "Khabar" series..

This time its "Khabar Egypt ki"..

After almost 6 months I had got an extended weekend - from 1st October to 4th October - Thanks to Eid al Fitr.. My Bahraini friends - Hemant & Vikas had planned for a holiday in Egypt.. I thought it will be a great idea to join them for this trip.. Karan, my roomie in Dubai, was also game for the trip.. So the plan was frozen.. Hemant & Vikas would fly from Bahrain to Alexandria (their port of entry in Egypt) and will reach Cairo by train on the same day.. Karan & I would fly from Dubai and would meet H & V at Cairo directly.. 

I'm hardly gonna put any historical facts in this khabar as its very complicated and even I wont be sure that whatever i'll be writing is true or not.. For instance - One of the Ramses kings had 200 children.. 80 sons and 120 daughters.. He married some 12 of his own daughters and had children from them.. So the mother of that child was also his sister and aunt.. The newly born will again be called Ramses.. One Ramses king ruled for 67 years and one ruled for 31 years.. Guides tried to explain but it was too heavy a dose to digest within 2 days.. If you are interested, please wikisearch for "Tut Ankh Amun", "Nefertari", "Ramses", "Tuthmosis", "Anubis" etc..  

So lets get back to the track and get involved this Egypt ki khabar.. 

October 1: 

Karan & I reached Cairo at 5:30 in the morning.. We had pre-arranged a taxi as we did not want to waste time in the day.. Mahmoud was already waiting for us with his Ferrari in the form of Daewoo Nubira.. We met H & V who were deep in sleep at Nubian hostel.. After shower 'n quick bite of felafal sandwich, we headed off to the village of Giza.. Giza, some 15 minutes drive from Cairo, is the most favorite destination in Egypt for all tourists.. 

Pyramid @ Giza! Wallah..

I was actually seeing a pyramid.. Couldn't believe it for a long long time.. All four of us decided to see the pyramids and sphinx sitting on horseback.. Deal was fixed and we were off in a flash.. There are 3 main pyramids (Kings' pyramids) and 6 small pyramids in Giza.. Pyramids are well constructed with stones weighing from 1 tonne to a max of 30 tonnes.. Angle of pyramids is 52 degrees.. 

Our next stop was Saqqara pyramid which is around 20 kms away from Giza.. Saqqara is kinda stepped pyramid and is actually the first pyramid built in Egypt.. They are in the process of doing some essential reconstruction work at Saqqara; so we just had to be satisfied with the photographs.. Next destination was Dahsour.. There are 3 pyramids in Dahsour - Red, Pink and Black.. However, they do not look to have slightest of tinges of those colors.. The only plus is you actually can go inside the red pyramid.. Theres a small entrance after climbing 100+ steps and then you need to crawl down for another 15-20 minutes through an ultra small opening.. I managed, somehow :) Dahsour and Saqqara are ,however, not amongst the popular tourist destinations.. 

After Dahsour, we again headed back to Giza where we had some arabic lunch in one of the roadside cafes.. Challenge for veggies as its difficult to find meal without meat in this part of the world but its not impossible.. In the evening, we tried to understand the history as we saw the 60 minute light and sound show @ Giza pyramids.. The show was beautifully crafted; with different light streams, lasers and audio with a good quality.. 

We had to get back to the hostel and pick our stuff immediately as we had to catch a night train to Luxor.. Train was ontime as Cairo was the first station :)

October 2:

Train journey was damn discomforting as we had managed to get only the chaircar seats and not sleeper berths for this 11 hour journey.. On top of that train was running 2 n half hours late.. Masood had come at Luxor train station to pick us up.. He had put us in a small hotel called Princess.. Luxor is anyway a very small town.. After freshening up and stuffing some pizza in our stomachs we went out to see Karnak temple in the afternoon.. Within a few minutes only, we realised that we couldnt have had the greatest of times in the scorching sun..But still we saw the Karnak temple and clicked loadsa snaps.. We decided to get back to our Princess and rest for a while before we could venture new places in the evening.. Evening 6pm.. Walking along the bank of Nile, eating some hot futaane, enjoying the breeze.. ahaahaa.. Luxor temple was looking so damn awesome with the lighting at night.. After the photosession in Luxor temple, we went shopping.. My friends bought a few souvenirs, papyrus paintings (click:, stones, etc.. After a good dinner, we could fianlly catch some sleep at our hotel.. 

[ East bank of Nile in Luxor is called City of Life (Logic: Sun rises from east) and similarly west bank is called City of Death.. Karnak temple and Luxor temple are on the east bank while valley of the kings and queens in on west bank.. ]

October 3: 

Well, the interesting part was that we could get only 3 hours of sleep as we had to wake up at 3 in the morning.. WHY?? We had booked ourselves for an early morning flight in a Hot Air Balloon.. As per the schedule, we crossed Nile in a small boat to go to the west bank of Nile.. A jeep then dropped us near the balloon.. Guess what! We had company of atleast 20+ other balloons and so many people around there.. Our flight lasted for about 60 minutes as against the planned duration of 35 minutes.. Our captain Wael found it difficult to find a safe place for landing.. But it was fun! 

After this particular venture, we started our trip of west bank with a visit to Hatshetpsut temple.. Its the place where embalming (mummification) used to take place.. It used to take a total of 70 days to prepare a mummy.. They had advanced tools to do that.. Egyptians strongly believed in life after death (called Afterlife).. Our next stop was at Valley of the Kings where 200+ tombs of kings from various dynasties who ruled are believed to be present underground.. 62 tombs have been found till date.. They keep open any 3 tombs open to tourists and keep on doing the maintenance work for other tombs.. All the tombs have many pictures drawn onto them with sign language.. All the colors are still very much in tact.. No photography is allowed inside the tombs though.. You can easily walk inside the tomb.. There are separate chambers built in most of the tombs.. A tomb can take anywhere between 3 to 25 years to complete.. A king used to be buried (as a mummy) in the coffin kept in his tomb and that was the starting point of his Afterlife.. So every king used to have a separate tomb for himself.. Most of the mummies have been moved to Cairo museum but Mummy of Tut Ankh Amun is still kept in his tomb @ Valley of kings.. Tombs of 2 queens who ruled the land of Misr are found in the nearby area - Valley of the queens.. Out of that queen Nefertari's tomb is supposed to be very beautiful from inside.. Most of the times it is kept under lock but if you can pay 40,000 EGP (Egyptian pounds) i.e. 3,50,000 INR they open it for a group of max 10 people and for 10 minutes only.. No photographs again!

That kinda rapped our 2nd day in Luxor and we headed back to Princess to pack our bags and to come back to Cairo again.. Our train was scheduled to reach Luxor at around 12 midnight but unfortunately it screwed our happiness by reaching Luxor only at 3 o'clock in the morning.. It was a long distance train, which had already covered 400+ kms of journey from Aswan and was scheduled to go upto Alexandria.. Just for information: Alexandria is the northern tip of Egypt (traces of greek culture can be found there); Cairo, the capital, is 3 hr train journey towards south from Alexandria; Luxor - again towards south - 670+ kms journey from Cairo and Aswan - located in southern egypt.. 

October 4:

Our train got horribly delayed and reached Cairo only at 2pm instead of scheduled time of 8am.. It totally wasted our day in Cairo.. We had kept this day to visit Cairo museum, cairo mosque and the citadel.. Quickly after dumping bags at Nubian, we headed straight towards cairo museum.. We could see some royal mummies over there.. Ramses III, Ramses IV, Tuthmosis IV and few more.. Time was ticking for our return flight back to Dubai and we did not have any other choice but to leave Cairo museum and head back to Nubian to pick our bags up.. Saying Goodbye to our new egyptian friends in the form of staff @ Nubian, Karan and I took the return flight to Dubai while Hemant and Vikas carried on to Alexandria just to catch their return flight.. 

Well guys, thats it from my side.. I had decided not to write a longish khabar but I think I've crossed that limit while writing for day 1 itself :P

Anyways, hope you guys liked reading this travelogue.. As always, your suggestions/comments are welcome!!!



PS: Well, I have got a small collection photos as well (chosen from 800+ photographs clicked by all 4 of us; special thanks to Hemant for providing stunning pictures of Pyramids and temples in Luxor).. You might want to have a look.. Mind you that photos are heavy files and hence you may have to wait a few more seconds to get the photos loaded.. But I assure that you wont be disappointed..  

Here you go: CLICK HERE

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sansani : Khabar Dubai Se # Part 5

12,000 feet above ground..
I peep out of an open doored Cessna airfcraft..
I feel a bit of fear..
but a lot of excitement..
I take a look around..
Can see blue ocean n deserts..

a few tense moments....


I jump out of the aircraft................

Whoaaaaaaaa .......!

Phewwww.....Guys, my 1st ever skydive couldnt have got better than this.. After jumping from the plane I experienced free fall of about 60 seconds.. After initial 2-3 seconds, I felt like a superrrrman ! I was flying :) Dancing in the air :) You achieve the maximum speed of abt 200 kmph for a few seconds in that free fall.. The Najaara was simply superb out there.. Me n my instructor, Yevgeny (pronounced as 'Eugene'; dont know why !?! ) were coupled together using the best safety equipments. Yevgeny n me (as a single unit) and steve, the videographer 'n photographer, had jumped together n immediately steve was at his work of capturing those wonderful moments. Steve was relatively new in the field of skydiving photography.. His jumpcount is only 800+ (you read it right, eight hundred plus) for videography.. Talkin about Yevgeny, he has got more than 20 years of experience in skydiving ! 20 years ... ggllllpppp...

After that 60 second free fall, yevgeny opened the parachute for us.. n whooooff.. It gives a solidd recoil ! This was the regular parachute which was gonna ground us safely.. They open the balancing chute as soon as we jump from the plane. It helps in balancing the weights of 2 people.. Steve was still under free fall and we saw him gushing speedily.. He was gonna open his chute @ 2000 feet while we had opened our chute @ 3000 feet.. It took us abt 5 minutes to hit the ground.

Steve was ready with his helmet camera+camcorder to capture my landing moments.. He did that with perfection.. :)
Yevgeny n me landed safely there @ lawn patch..

My craziest ever adventure mission was accomplished !

[ Photos @ ]

[ video @ ]

Some background :
Akshat, Aditya n me were the 3 crazy souls from our college gang who had the balls to go for skydiving.. We had zeroed down "Umm Al Quwain Aeroclub" for this activity.. This particular club is abt 1 hr drive from Dubai.. They do abt 15-20 dives a day but you need to book in advance for your dive.. A skydive (also known as Tandem Jump) at this club costs 1000 dirhams (450 dhms extra for the video and snaps).. [ 1 dirham = 11.5 INR ]

Yess, one more adventure ( n the most memorable till date ) added to my list !

Just FYI my list stands as follows (as of 22/august/2007):
Skydiving (Umm Al Quwain - UAE),
Reverse Bungee (Singapore),
Scuba Diving(Indonesia, Lakshadweep-India),
Trekking (Maharashtra, Himachal),
Beach parasailing (Maharashtra),
River Rafting (Karnataka),
Mountain biking (Karnataka),
Canoeing (Indonesia),
Kayaking (Lakshadweep),
Snorkelling (Lakshadweep),
Water Skiing (Lakshadweep),
Rappelling (Maharashtra, Himachal),
Rock Climbing (Himachal),
Valley Crossing (Maharashtra)

yooohooo !!!

Well guys thanx for being patient enough and reading this update 5 !
Hope you like it....

Jaydeep Hingne (certified Tandem Jumper)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Dubai Darshan : Khabar Dubai Se # Part 4

Hi guys,

Time for another update:: Khabar Duabi se # part 4 !

This time we, a group of 15 lukkhas doing IT management @ SPJCM, had decided to go for dubai city tour or dubai darshan..Weather was very pleasant at 50 degrees odd (:P} but we were getting bored sitting @ our hostels. So we had taken this brave decision to go out.

Our first destination was Dubai museum which is located in Bur Dubai. Bur Dubai means old Dubai. There still exist some very narrow lanes and traffic blocks happen regularly.
Museum was good; we could see some ancient arabic stuff there. After that it McD time for lunch ! Then we went to "heritage village" and "diving village" which were absolute crap. We didnt waste much time there n moved on for Dubai creek park. By mistake we went ahead n landed at "Al Boom Tourist village". (see the name - Al Boom). there was no tourist attraction there @ Al boom, so after clicking a few snaps we moved for Dubai creek park.
Dubai creek park is a nice place wherein they've created one of the nicest golf courses in dubai. Dubai open happens there n big stars like Tiger woods n ernie els do come over there. We couldn't have afforded to play golf there, so after spending some time there we moved on to our next destination - Hyatt's Ice skating rink. (FYI : There are 2 Hyatts, 2 Le meridien's in Dubai). We went to Hyatt near palm deira n enjoyed doing ice skating for abt 90 minutes. :) i couldnt do it for more time 'coz my bum was badly shaken by the 2 falls while trying to balance ....
Next activity was abra ride. abra is a small boat which can carry abt 20 people. We booked 1 abra and had a nice ride in dubai creek for abt 1 hour.

Dinner was at paki ghazi restaurant. Nice place !


Have uploaded some snaps in web album @
Do check when possible.

Also, i'm attaching first 3 dubai khabars in this mail as i had forgotten to add a few people in the list for some updates.

cheers ..!