• Viharamahadevi Park
    Asia,  Blog,  Sri Lanka,  Travelogue

    Colombo highlights in six hours

    What’s it about some cities around the world. You land at its airport, and immediately connect to another flight, train or bus and head to other parts of the country. Getting a fleeting glance of the city, as it quickly disappears behind you, only to see it again, when you are heading back to the airport to leave. Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital and primary point of entry into the country immediately comes to mind. The train from Colombo to Kandy On my previous two visits to the country, that’s exactly what I did. It was merely a transit point before I headed to the sunny beaches down south in Hikkaduwa…

  • A customer at a klek shop in Sofia
    Blog,  Bulgaria,  Europe,  Travelogue

    Kneel in Sofia

    Every global city has its landmarks. Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria is no different. So, when someone asks you about the ‘Kleks’ through the city, you now know. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Photo credit: Neel Mitra) A casual stroll down the city’s streets will showcase landmarks like the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the National History Museum, the National Assembly, the National Palace of Culture and if you pause to look below waist level occasionally, you will most likely see something that is unique to Sofia, a ‘Klek’. The National Palace of Culture (Photo credit: Neel Mitra) With the fall of communism and the entry of capitalism, many Bulgarians started their own businesses.…

  • Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala Rock
    Asia,  Blog,  Sri Lanka,  Travelogue

    The attempt on Pidurangala Rock

    I travelled to Sri Lanka for the second time over the New Year holidays. This time instead of the coast, I opted to explore the wonders of the interior – Kandy, Ella, Dambulla and on to Sigiriya. The initial stairs leading up to the top of the rock (Photo credit: Neel Mitra) Like everyone else, I initially Googled best things to see in Kandy, Sri Lanka and ‘Sigiriya Rock’ came up on every list. Hardly surprising, as Sigiriya Rock or ‘Lion Rock’ is one of the island’s most revered and popular destinations. It may seem to be a large rock formation at first, but it is much more. The rock…

  • Passing through the tea estates on the way to Ella
    Africa,  Asia,  Austria,  Blog,  Bosnia and Herzegovina,  China,  Croatia,  Czech Republic,  Europe,  Hungary,  India,  Morocco,  Norway,  Romania,  Slovakia,  Slovenia,  Sri Lanka,  Sweden,  Travelogue,  Vietnam

    In praise of train travel

    What’s it about long-distance train journeys that brings out the little child in me. A sense of happiness each time I take my seat, listening to the train as it whistles past towns and the countryside. Hurtling through tunnels or racing with the setting sun. There is something that is magical and wonderful about train travel, letting me be the little kid that I always will be. Whizzing through a tunnel between Mostar and Sarajevo Hours spent watching from a window or door of a moving train, as scene after scene unfold. Striking up conversations with complete strangers as they get in at different stations, heading to places near and…

  • The sand dunes of Hunder
    Asia,  Blog,  India,  Travelogue

    The sand dunes of Hunder

    When you visualise deserts, chances are the first visuals that come to mind is the vast emptiness of the Sahara, with its extremely hot temperatures, or closer here in India, the famed Thar desert. Until I ended up in Hunder, in the Nubra valley. An oasis in the midst of the sand dunes I’ve seen plenty of photographs and friends recount their experiences travelling through an area marked by a stunning lake, beautiful monastaries and mountains that simply take your breath away. Sand dunes with the mountains as backdrop However, nothing prepared me for what I experienced in Hunder, about 150 odd kilometers from the capital Leh. Nestled within the…

  • Sri Kailasanathar Swamy Devasthanam
    Asia,  Blog,  Sri Lanka,  Travelogue

    A splash of colour with your prayers

    It’s Colombo’s oldest Hindu temple, having stood on these very grounds for more than two centuries. It’s also one of the most beautiful and colourful temples you will see. This is Sri Kailasanathar Swamy Devasthanam. Entrance to the temple (Photo credit: Neel Mitra) The first time I remember seeing colourful temples was when I was travelling through the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu as a kid. The, many years later, on visits to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, I did see the local temples there, making for a beautiful mental picture with their bright colours against the blue sky. Until I landed in Colombo. A statue of Ganesh adorns part…

  • Inside the vihara at Gangaramaya temple
    Asia,  Blog,  Sri Lanka,  Travelogue

    Treasures of Gangaramaya Temple

    While you can see the main sights of Colombo in a few hours if you are rushed, and about half a day if you want to do it at a leisurely pace, there is one place that will surely take up a couple of hours of your time to see and explore – Gangaramayana Temple. Gold plated engravings inside the temple It is one of the oldest temples and among the most important Buddhist temples in Colombo, Sri Lanka. With a blend of architectural styles from across Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, China and even Indonesia, it brings in plenty of local worshippers while attracting eager tourists every day. The Buddha…

  • View of Beira Lake from Seema Malaka
    Asia,  Blog,  Sri Lanka,  Travelogue

    Contemplate at Seema Malaka

    You can ignore the quality of the water. What you can’t ignore is the serenity that surrounds you, however brief your stay may be. On the calm waters of Beira Lake is an oasis that offers you some respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. A quiet place to retreat, rest and reflect – Seema Malaka. Statue of the Buddha with two of his disciples at Seema Malaka Immediately after you have finished touring Gangaramaya Temple, make your way a short distance away to this oasis. While it is part of the temple complex, it’s worth every moment of your time. You can also read more on things…

  • View of a Sri Lankan airline
    Blog,  Resources,  Sri Lanka,  Visas

    Sri Lanka’s tourist ETA is a breeze

    On the one hand, there are quite a few countries that require lots of documentation to apply for a tourist visa. Bank statements, self-declaration, proof of funds, travel insurance… Then the endless wait, trying to differentiate between calendar days and working days. And then there is the Sri Lankan ETA. Bandaranaike International Airport It is, by far, the easiest and fastest visa application process I’ve gone through. It doesn’t require you to upload a scan of your passport or photograph, or any other documents. All it requires is five minutes of your time, plus or minus a few minutes here and there, in case the kettle has come to a…

  • The Little Princess
    Blog,  Europe,  Hungary,  Travelogue

    The princess and the tram

    Budapest has plenty of things that make it a delightful city to visit. One of them must be an innocuous statuette sitting casually on a railing along the Danube promenade, right in front of the track on which the famed Tram # 2 runs – the Little Princess. The palace in Buda As seems the norm these past few years, I found her quite by chance. Walking along the promenade between Elizabeth Bridge and Chain Bridge on the Pest side, I initially spotted Tram # 2, ranked as among the top 10 tram rides anywhere in the world. While I didn’t do the journey, hopping on the tram gives you…