Monday, February 15, 2016

Koh Samui never aged !

Koh Samui…is like that cool uncle who never aged… I first fell in love with Koh Samui when I was all but 18. At almost 30 now I can say, Koh Samui rather than becoming OLD and passee, it has embraced a new generation of resort goers, many of them upscale. Fine stretches of sand clogged with beach loungers, almost rubbish free roads, world class international cusiine, luxurious spas that are dirt cheap and beach bar parties for the scantily clad 20-something that start at noon. They say Koh Samui has a quieter side with long, tourist free stretches of wild and shaggy coconut palms. But if I really needed the quite  would I go that far now?

We travel not to escape life ... But for life not to escape us ! 

I have always mainted, I am the quintessential city girl who loves her hustle and bustle. I find that almost meditative ! I love the steaming streets-side food stalls, I love backpackers shanties as much as I love those ultra modern beach bars serving fancy over priced cocktails. I love my street side shopping and bargaining as much as I love walking into that open air mall only a tourist place can offer ! Koh Samui is everything that I love and more.

Koh Samui is glossy in the night and a sleepy town by day. It really wakes and breathes life only after 5. Something I absolutely love ! I went with my sister Dhwani and friends, Ami, Pankti, Jinal and Varun and we were living at The Novotel Kandaburi, which is 5 mins by a tuktuk from Chaweng beach. The beach here is relaxing, Crowded enough to find an eye candy in his beach shorts lazying and reading a book but not that crowded that you want to walk further and further down the strip to find some peace and quite. During the day we enjoyed relaxing by the pool and enjoying cocktails. The hotel is literally on the beach and we enjoyed our time dipping in the ocean and enjoying vendors coming to us with fresh cut food and corn on the cob. 

There are a few things I highly recommend. A Day trip snorkelling/ scuba diving to Ang Thong National Marine Park which is made up of an archipelago of about 40 small islands combining sheer limestone cliffs, hidden lagoons, white-sand beaches and dense vegetation providing a postcard-perfect vista almost anywhere you look.

The numerous caves and crevices are home to nesting swallows and there's a narrow coral reef in the southwest of the park. From Ko Samui, a couple of tour operators run day trips to the Ang Thong archipelago. We booked a Kayaking tour. For as awesome as the picture looks, we were very happy discovering all the caves surrounded by the endless waters... but there comes a time when you look back and find you are miles away from the beach that you first started at. I just want to say this... it was quite an upper body workout ! 

But once we hit the shore, the cool wind under the winter sun, on a hammock made everything worth it ! A word of caution, and it might just be my stupidity to carry it with me, but I lost my first and only hat while kayaking :(

The evenings are very easy to fill up. Once we hit Chaweng, there are plenty of things to do. We watched a Muay-Thai Boxing Match at the Chaweng Boxing Stadium. Grotesque to say the least but an experience which makes all rocky balboa movies look real to me for the very first time ! 


At Samui’s northern end, on a small rocky island linked by a causeway, is Wat Phra Yai. Erected in 1972, the modern Buddha (sitting in the Mara posture) stands 15m high and makes an alluring silhouette against the tropical sky and sea. 

Ark Bar with its fireworks display every Wednesday and Saturday makes the 9pm slot easy to fill. Head over to see the stunts and smoke some sheesha. The staff is a little flustered, ofcourse with reason, years of dealing with drunken men and women of all ages and sizes have given them frown lines !

 Another good place of sheesha, drinks and good music is Solo Bar. Head over there for some pre-dinner cocktails and you will find a whole mix of people. If you over hear them, they are talking in all different languages with insertions of Ang Thong, Koh Tao and Koh Phan Gang ... so you know they really are making sight seeing or next day plans or simply discussing what to do ! It's when you go to a place of mix-cultures that I really go down nostalgia and remember my trip to belgium as a student of the Rotary's Youth exchange program.. .. Click here to hear all about my experience. 

When in Thailand, have some soul food comprising of a good Thai Curry with Steamed / Bamboo Rice. Terminal D is a Wine and Resto Bar has Some amazing food options for the hungry traveler ! 

If you get tired of Thai Food, I would recommend Gringos cantina on Chaweng street for some Tex-Mex !  Blue Berry Margaritas anyone ?? 

For Deli style fresh food, excellent coffee and sandwiches, hummus and falafels head over to Magnolias. Ask for Dahliya the Israeli owner and she will give you the warmest hug ! This is on my MUST-GO-AGAIN list ! 

LA-TAVERNA is an un-missable ITALIAN restaurant on Chaweng Street ! I can fly to Koh Samui, quickly eat the ricotta ravioli in sage butter sauce and fly back and still think its a dream.. ! Pair it with a wine or two and you are all set for an evening of happiness ! 

But happiness comes in many proportions on the island of Koh Samui. It can also come from a street side food cart selling crepes. They all do amazing crepes to be honest. Nutella or cream cheese and onion, anything is going to make you smile cheek to cheek.

Give me street food and I will be happy... give me a cocktail in a fanastic bar with a picturesque sceneary and you will see my happiness !! We went to On The Rocks Bar at the Six Senses Koh Samui. It's Simple and understated decor actually compliments the breath taking views this bar has to offer. We actually went there for dinner, but we didnt make the reservation mark. So if you plan on heading there, do make reservations before hand. 

The tuktuk will literally take you everywhere you need to go. NEGOTIATE NEGOTIATE NEGOTIATE .... ! Everything will come at half the price including a massage at an upscale place or simply a wrist watch which the shop owner claims is a first copy ! 

The street markets sell everything you will need to survive a beach location. From Flip flops to sunscreen. So you dont have to worry about what you forgot back home. It will also sell you things you really dont need. Like the carved hand made soap which I am now struggling to finish or those amazing hanging paper mache lights which got slightly squished on the way back home or my black hat from the first picture which i lost to the sea.... but Koh Samui makes everyone happy ! I cannot wait to go back  there. This time with my darling husband Kunal, who I missed so much throughout my trip. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Republic Day Pride

Like any other urban Indian student, Republic Day for me was like any other National Holiday. No school, Sleeping in till late and then hearing my father’s story about his time as a Sea-Cadet. The March past in New Delhi that he almost made to and how his friend lost the concessions form of the Railways and how he missed his chance to attend this prestigious moment of his life. My husband Kunal on the other hand, like any other geeky teenager sat glued to the television. Watched the Parade live on Doordarshan and marveled on India’s military prowess.

 I often say this, We are destiny’s Children. The astrological powers in our kundli had our fates written. A Friend’s father Is the current Minister of Law and Justice of India, the honorable Shri D. V. Sadanand Gowda. He has handled various portfolios, including the Chief Minister of Karnataka and the Ministry of Railways. He was so kind enough to extend us an invitation to witness the 67th Republic Day Parade In New Delhi ! Oh what an absolute Honour it was. Kunal and I were elated. We sent our ID’s 2 weeks prior to the parade for our security clearance. Tickets were booked and our best suits were pressed for THE-DAY !

We reached a day PRIOR and for the first time I understood what a mission it is to live in Delhi ! The high security alerts at the airport, The multiple check-nakas to be passed before you get out into the city. The roads all marked off.  The 5 km Radius near India Gate was curfewed out by mid-night. The national capital, particularly the Central and New Delhi areas, were brought under unprecedented security blanket as thousands of personnel kept a hawk-eye vigil to thwart any untoward incident. There were intelligence inputs that terror groups may target some important installations in the city. 
 We were to meet at the ministers residence at sharp 7am. The following morning it took us a little under an hour of circling at the Tyag-Raj Marg to understand that we will not be able to enter the area – let alone the minister’s residence  without the required pass. A massive ground-to-air security apparatus was put in place in the national capital. Commandos with light machine guns were deployed at 10 strategic locations and anti-aircraft guns remained positioned at vantage points in the capital. The entire region of Central and New Delhi had nearly 50,000 security personnel drawn from Delhi Police and central security forces guarding every nook and corner.  Under this situation we stood in 7 degree temperature on a big round about and made a few calls. Mr. Shetty, our Minister’s P.A.  was kind enough to come on a long morning walk in his best suit to come give us our pass and allow us to enter the road leading to his residence.

We were greeted so warmly by this humble man. Mr Gowda reminisced about his days with the BJP party and his trials and tribulations to get to where he is today over tea and snacks. The day took on its course then..IT started with a flag hoisting ceremony at his residence after which I took my first ride in a LAL-BATTI walli car. I was absolutely elated ! It was the first time I understood that POWER is different from MONEY. We were a part of the 4 car convoy on our way to the saluting gallery. 

We went through the necessary security protocol and were shown to our seats. We were a party of a thousand people who were there to watch the nation’s pride. Slogans of Bharat Mata Ki Jai … Vande Mantram made the crowds swell with pride.

 French President Francois Hollande was among the guests of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited to view the spectacle of the parade held in New Delhi, filled with marching bands, floats, camels, military hardware, and stunt performers. French soldiers also took part in the parade. It is thought to be the first time a foreign army contingent has participated in India's celebrations.

 Colourful floats from various Indian states, traditional dances, and gymnastics by children were also part of the event.A Dog squad of India’s paramilitary units also participated for the very first time !

A total of 23 tableaux were on display at the ceremonial parade with 17 of them belonging to various states and Union Territories.  The tableau of Gujarat depicted rare and exotic varieties along with the Sidi community settled in the Gir forest, performing their traditional dance.  

The heart throb of the event was the Indian Aviation’s gallant display. A breath-taking ‘Trishul’ formation comprising three Su-30 MKI of No. 24 Squadron flew over the Rajpath. Trailing them was the ‘Globe formation’ comprising one C-17 Globemaster flanked by two Su-30s, followed by the fighters, where five Jaguars flew in Arrowhead formation, another five MiG-29 Air Superiority Fighters called the ‘Tridents’ flew in Fulcrum style.  

The end of the parade was marked by a single Su-30MKI fighter pulling up vertically in front of the reviewing stand while carrying out so-called vertical Charlie rolls. I can still close my eyes and experience its vibrations in my heart.

Like all good things, the Republic Day Parade was all but 90 minutes. The sun came out a few times but the clouds kept us chilled but enough for us to enjoy the spectacle. The Afternoon ended with a hearty Indian Meal and a promise to play catch up of the parade every year even if we do not get these life changing experiences. The Invite to the event now is kept in a straight format with all the other important household papers and is something I am going to cherish for a long time !!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Foetus A & Foetus B

I have commemorated every life event with a post on my blog… and to not write something so dear to my heart would have been not honoring those two little souls that were Kunal and my everything for the last 4 months. Superstition has it in India that you do not announce the onset of pregnancy in fear that someone will cast an evil eye on you. So after treading the fine line between telling lies and slowly revealing to the inner circle about us being pregnant we had finally officially hit the 3 month mark where we could happily tell of our little secret to others. Oh what a happy time it was. Everything baby related just springs everyone’s attention including your Facebook timeline which thanks to the cookies on your electronic devices knows that you are pregnant. Advertisements from Stem Sell Banking to Baby Center offering a million dos and donts.

Despite eating the vitamins on time to avoiding Chinese Food… On Wednesday night Kunal lightly rubbed my belly for I was feeling so uneasy. It was the first time in my 18 weeks of pregnancy did I feel this discomfort. Maybe I was tired… could it have been that short walk from Starbucks to the car that has made me this tired ? Could it have been those maternity jeans that were tightening around my growing belly ? I couldn’t tell. These cramps that I had never before experienced just grew stronger and by Thursday morning I was going into full swing labour. To add to this, my water sac was lurching down. But call it prescense of mind or a twisted tale of fate… I reached the hospital before my water broke ! Miraculous… said the doctor. And put me on an operating table where they pushed my babies and the water sac upwards in what was called a complicated procedure which went on for 2 hours and 45 minutes. That day post the Cervix stitch, I was recovering well. I had paused all hopes and dreams for that one day which all came swinging back. HURDLES … I told myself… Kunal and I said silent prayers !

But they did not reach so much in time to our god… he gave me strength, but to what end ? On Friday evening I went into labour again. This time it was worse. The cramps started 15 minutes apart and started at 11 pm. They went on right through the night… well into the day… till I was told what I was silently pushing aside as cramps was labour pains… they got worse by around 6pm. They were 3 minutes apart and lasted 15 seconds each time… after which I lost count … more like I lost faith..

The doctor came in at 8pm to check me… but I had just bad news coming my way.. My water had broken… and now it was inevitable. My uterus was weak and couldn’t take the pressure and thus I was going into labour with the burgeoning of a twin pregnancy. But I had to ask one last question… lets try save one ? I asked… but this was not going to be possible either… And there I was, Sitting in a maternity gown on the cold steal of a hospital stretcher outside the operation theatre saying my last good bye to my darling husband who held my hand. He reassured me all was going to be okay.. !!

OKAY ? How does one see these amazing colourful dreams, think about what kind of parent one is going to be ? Think about all the values that are important and how to impart them to your offspring ? Think about all those birthday parties and school admission and play dates in your head all becoming a blurr and be OKAY ?

What happened next is a scene I will never forget… Waiting for the aesthetician to come in. Going into the operation room finally after 24 hours of being in labour. Getting the epidural shot… feeling that from the last of your toe nail to your head.. that white clock on the wall to my right showing 11 pm and being told by the doctor that it will last another 2-3 hours until I was fully dialated… that conversation with god for mercy… for not allowing this to go on any further… that ray of hope at 11 20 when I pushed and delivered FOESTUS A… that second push at 11 25 to deliver FOESTUS B…Pushing your tiny souls out of your uterus into this world they will never see… There was no cries of joy… there was no oh it’s a girl… it’s a boy… I had two of those… the room went silent. Their little bodies so tiny, they fit into the kidney shaped tray meant for surgical tools ! They were too small to survive the weight of the world. And what was worse, I, their mother, couldn’t do anything to save them.

To sit there crying on the table while the world just goes back to doing their job. The nurse pushing the drugs through the IV. The cleaning lady sweeping the rags from the floor. The doctor carrying my little babies out and away from me. They didn’t let me hold them… the trauma they say is something you never get over. The 4D scan from just a few days ago will never be cross referenced. The little ones were tied together into a white cloth and would have a burial the next day. They say you cant cremate them accordingly to the Hindu last rites. They meet their maker buried in a mix cemetery.

My father held my babies in his hand from the hospital to the cemetery the next morning. Each one took their turns to pay their last respects and that was the last of them. Now they remain as Foetus A and Foetus B in the bunch of medical reports along with a hospital discharge card … Mis-Carriage !
How easily it was written by the reception staff at the hospital. Once back home we had an array of visitors. Messages poured in from far and wide… some expected, some unexpected. Some sypamthetic and others just a simple line saying they are sorry. Days have gone by.. precisely 40. The tears have dried up.

"Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good."- Beatrix Potter

Today, I can truthfully say I'm happy. Happier than I've been in the last 40 days. Which may seem unusual coming from someone who just experienced a loss. I've had friends comment on how well I seem to be doing, questioning how I remain so positive? I don't have a logical answer, except for this:  I believe that our baby is coming. Next month, next year, next decade - the when doesn't matter anymore. How do I know? Through intuition, dreams, and inner dialogues with our child - all things that cannot be scientifically explained or rationalized. I just have an undeniable, unshakable belief.

"As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit" - Emmanuel Teney

And I understand that this will be a part of my story, even if it's the very first chapter of a long dramatic novel. No matter what the outcome, these struggles are defining my character, strengthening my resilience, growing my compassion and shaping me into the person I need to become.

"Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul". – Max Ehrmann

Please know, I didn't write this post for sympathy. More than anything, I wrote it to reach out to other women dealing with Miscarriage. Quite a few of you, more than any of us may think, are going through similar trials and emotions. Everyday I hear an aunt or my friends talk about their miscarriage, I was surprised by the number of couples who have gone through this painful loss. My friend and her husband went to a seminar to educate themselves about what they were up against - the auditorium was packed, standing room only.

So loves, if you think this is the end to start a family, whether you've been trying for a year, or five, I want you to know that you're not alone. I hold my hand out to you, so we may walk this path together.

FOETUS A : 244 gms, A baby boy… My little Nandi
FOESTUS B : 252 gms, A baby girl… My little Sacha

Monday, October 19, 2015

Picnic after a fall !

Monday, August 31, 2015

Istanbul: a mash-up of East and West

Istanbul: a mash-up of East and West that vibrates to the rhythm of techno Sufi drums and daily prayers. The city is an expanse of neighborhoods’ that stretches across the tips of Europe and Asia and – even while supporting a population of about 20 million (not all documented) The red bus guided tours had some different numbers to what the tourist guide had to tell us – it has managed to organically unearth itself amongst the hills inbetween the Marmara and Black Seas. Despite this city’s green serenity, the locals carry the age old conflict of East and West within, something clearly visible when one compares the old city surroundings and the chic neighbourhood of Ortakay.

Thankfully for the traveller, no one in Istanbul is willing to give up the time-honoured legacy of Turkish hospitality from their lost empire. So while the workday moves at a snail’s pace between tea breaks and nargile puffs, the nights are packed with an affable energy that threatens to sweep a visitor off their feet if they don’t mind their ‘ç’ and ‘ș’. Attention to the details of everything pleasurable: food, company and beauty is an essential part of Turkish culture. Istanbul residents’ commitment to this satisfaction of the senses seduces the nose with roasted hazelnuts and perfume, the eyes with the distorted colours of glass lamps, the heart with the salons of homes, and the imagination with the greenish blue eyes of that girl/guy sitting across from you at the cafe.

The historic Sultanahmet on one side of the Golden Horn, the fun European side of Beyoğlu and its many suburbs on the other and the Asian side divided from the rest of the city by the Bosphorus. All are fascinating and all have their own attractions.The most important thing to do when planning a trip to Istanbul is to allow enough time to explore. Too much to see and too little time is a common catch cry from those returning after a visit to this wonderful city.

In Sultanahmet

1.The Topkapi Palace
The palace was the home of the Ottoman sultans during the 15th to 19th centuries. Four courtyards with beautiful gardens and fountains surround a multitude of buildings housing the Harem…a must see, we Walked to the end of the garden for a fabulous view over the Sea of Marmara.. all while enjoying a dollop of ice cream at the café to beat the heat.

2. Aya Sofia or Hagia Sofia
Built in 537 as a Church, it later became a mosque in 1453 and finally, in 1935, a museum. You will be in awe of its beauty as you stand under the dome taking it all in. Take the steps to the gallery where stunning mosaics dating back to the 12th century can be seen. As one of the most beautiful buildings in Istanbul it is a sight that shouldn’t be missed!

3. Sultanahmet Imperial Mosque or Blue Mosque
Across Sultanahmet Square facing Aya Sofia stands the city’s main Mosque with its six minarets. It is known affectionately as the Blue Mosque because of the blue Iznik tiles that decorated the walls. You need to make sure you are suitable clothed to enter this mosque. But worry not, they will further cover you up anyway.

4. Hippodrome
You will have probably walked over the Hippodrome without realising that this was once the scene of chariot races and the centre of Byzantine life. Three statues still remain here. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts also overlooks the Hippodrome.

5. Kalpali Çarsi or Grand Bazaar
I can guarantee you will get lost in the maze of streets and passages that is the Grand Bazaar. Each trade is congregated in its own area: carpet sellers in one street, goldsmiths in another. There are some good buys on the leather street whilst the arts and crafts, ceramics and brassware areas may also tempt you. You’ll need a rest at some stage so pop into the Fez Cafe in the centre of the old part of the market for beautifully served refreshments and to plan your next stop. Despite many warnings from everyone who has ever been to Turkey, We got lured into buyinh Turkish tea. With Love tea that looks like pot pourri and Apple Tea which tastes like heaven, do you blame me ?

6. Galata Bridge
Fishermen line both sides of Galata Bridge day and night. On the level below you’ll find a wide range of fish restaurants. As you walk from the Eminönü, the Galata Tower rises like a beacon. Walk up the Camondo Steps, or take the street that leads you pass the music shops. The historic funicular that runs from Karaköy to Tünel may just be the answer for those that do not like hills!

7. Walk the length of İstiklal Caddesi to Taksim.Keep walking up the hill from the Galata Tower and you will reach Istanbul’s famous pedestrian avenue, İstiklal Caddesi which you can take all the way to Taksim Square. If you don’t feel like walking, one of the famous historical red trams will be only too happy to take you! Explore the side streets that lead from here…there’s a whole new world waiting to be found!

8. Smoke hookah. Argilah, nargile, sheesha, hubbly bubbly – whatever you call it, there is an ample supply of hookah bars in Istanbul where you can lounge around while you smoke the water pipe and sip on a class of tea or coffee.

9. Rainbow Stairs

If you’re walking from the Istanbul Modern to the Dolmabahçe Palace, keep a look out on the other side of the road for the painted steps that join Findikli to Cihanger (Cafe Nove is on the corner)
A local resident painted the stairs to brighten the area but two days later the council painted over them in boring grey! There was such an outcry that they were redone! There are now quite a few stairways in the area that have been painted.

10. Taksim SquareTaksim Square, known as the heart of Istanbul, lies at one end of Istanbul’s famous Istiklal Cadessi. The Independence Monument, at the southern end of the square, commemorates Attaturk’s roles as military commander-in-chief and as a statesman. To the north, Cumhuriyet Caddesi takes you to Nisantasi.

11. Nişantaşı
Nişantaşı is Istanbul’s most fashionable shopping and residential area. Besides great shopping, there are some interesting art galleries, fun cafes. Walk down Abdi İpekçi where you will find international labels including Prada, Cartier,Louis Vuitton and even Laduree! There are more cafes and shops on MimKemal Öke and Atiye Sokak

12. Drink Turkish Coffee
If you come to Istanbul you have to drink tea out of a tulip-shaped glass. Turkish tea is prepared in a rather unique way using a teapot that has two level: one to boil the water, and the other to brew the tea. You then pour the tea into the glass and dilute it with the hot water so that it’s made to your taste.

13. Roof top BarsWatching the sun set from one of Istanbul’s many roof top bars is a must! 360 is one such, pverlooking the golden horn is my favourite in Istiklal Caddesi. Just around the corne.

14. Last and by no means least….eat lots of Turkish food!Where to start…you’ve got to try it all! From the many fabulous bites offered on the street, to cheap and hearty meals to high end restaurants n clubs…Istanbul is a gourmet’s delight. Eat a sesame seed covered pretzel. You can pick up one of these tasty pretzels at any bakery in town, but I suggest you grab one from the little red stands along Istiklal Avenue.

It just adds to the experience. Eat Turkish pizza. Lahmacun is considered to be the Turkish equivalent of pizza. This thin dough is topped with vegetables and herbs. Or a hearty portion of Kumpir,,, mashed baked potatoes with herbs cheese n vegetable salad !!! my heart yearns for it each time I think of it.

We went to some stunning restaurants .. REINA which later turns into a club is on the top of the list of every food blogger, tourist list, local list. And it has rightly earned its place there. I am yet to eat a better warm goat cheese salad which topples my senses like the one that did at Reina. Paired with some amazing wine I thoroughly enjoyed my Pizza too. We were later shifted to the club which played a mix of the best international hits.

For a quite date night my husband Kunal and I would recommend Angelique on a weekday. A table by the bosphorous makes for a romantic setting, no ?

We also dined at Sortie – the club which boasts many restaurants, Cinquo per Cinquo being the Italian Fare.... with some amazing Cocktails !

Ofcourse with all that fine dine, we kept lunches to street fares and an afternoon having some finger licking hummus and pita-falafel sandwiches at Falafel House ! Ask for a vegetarian menu and they will be happy and accommodating.

Have you been to Istanbul? Are there any places you think should be added to this list?If so, I’d love to read about them in the comments!


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