• Beira Lake
    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. View of a Sri Lankan airline 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…

  • Plaza dancing outside a shopping mall in Shanghai
    Asia,  Blog,  China,  Travelogue

    Plaza dancing

    A walk through the streets of Shanghai can throw up a lot of surprises, especially in the suburbs, away from the main tourist areas. Like an open-air dance session in full flow in a public sidewalk. Shoppers on the streets of Shanghai I frankly didn’t know they have a term for it – Guang Chang Wu. It’s also called plaza dancing or public square dancing and has been very popular among the middle-aged throughout China since the 1990s. Public square dancing The routine is simple. The neighbourhood gather around at a park or, in this case, a large public sidewalk, and dance through well-choreographed routines as music plays in the…

  • Leh - Manali highway
    Asia,  Blog,  India,  Travelogue

    A road trip unlike any other

    There are some drives you do. You know you can and look forward to that long road trip. And then there are some drives that you wouldn’t. Not for lack of wanting to, but because you know it requires certain skills, none of which I have. Ladakh is one of those places. Pit stop just after Khardung La rest area Making friends Thankfully, as part of the package, I had a driver through our five-day stay in Ladakh. From the moment he picked me up at the airport, right to the moment when, five days later, he dropped me right outside the airport, once again. Our driver through my stay…

  • A rikshaw driver cycles his bike on the Truong Tien Bridge
    Asia,  Blog,  Travelogue,  Vietnam

    Bridge over troubled water

    The Huong River, or Perfume River, runs through the city of Hue, dividing it between the old-world charm of the Imperial City and Thien Mu Pagoda on the one side and a more modern setting on the other. Bridging these two sides is the iconic Truong Tien Bridge. The iconic Truong Tien Bridge A bit of history A rattan bridge was initially built during the reign of King Le Thanh Tong who ruled between 1460 and 1497. Over the years, it was upgraded with wood. However, the bridge that we now know is a little over 100 years. It was built in 1899 by the French who ruled over Indochina…

  • Tibetan prayer flags that adorn Boudhanath Stupa
    Asia,  Blog,  Nepal,  Travelogue

    Boudhanath Stupa – the great tower

    As the plane takes a turn and starts its decent through Kathmandu valley, peer a little through the window on the left hand side and you will see a huge circular dome, with two large eyes intently watching you as you watch it. This is Boudhanath Stupa. The eyes of Buddha at Boudhanath Stupa Nepalis refer to it as simply Chorten Chenpo, which translates to ‘Great Tower’ or simply ‘Great Stupa’. Towering at 36m high, it is one of the largest stupas in the world. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, since 1979. An incense burner As you leave the hustle and bustle of the busy road behind,…

  • Bhairava Nath temple
    Asia,  Blog,  Nepal,  Travelogue

    Bhaktapur – the city of devotees

    As the minibus gets out of Kathmandu city and weaves its way through heavy traffic to Bhaktapur, you know you are journeying back in time. And long before you reach your destination, the first sights that catch your eye is the rooftop of the magnificent Nyatapola Temple. Narrow alleys inside Bhaktapur Immerse yourself in culture Depending on who you speak with, Bhaktapur or Khwopa, is known variously as the City of Culture, Living Heritage, Nepal’s Cultural Gem, An open museum and City of Devotees. There is a reason why it would have so many names. With its great architecture, detailed woodcarvings and intricately designed statues, the Malla dynasty did well…

  • Thiksey Monastery with the Indus Valley plains below
    Asia,  Blog,  India,  Travelogue

    Thiksey Monastery – Kingdom in the sky

    Perched on an outcrop, at an altitude of 3,600m and approximately 18km from Leh, on the highway to Manali, is a place so unique, it is like a kingdom onto itself. This is Thiksey Monastery or Thikse Gomba. The mountains of Leh A bit of history In the early part of the 15th century, Je Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug School or Yellow Hats, sent six of his disciples to remote regions of Tibet to spread the teachings of the new school. Tsongkhapa gave one of his disciples, Jangsem Sherab Zangpo, a small statue of Amitayus and directed him to meet the King of Ladakh seeking his help. The King…

  • A boatman gets his boat ready for the day
    Asia,  Blog,  India,  Travelogue

    Break of dawn at Manmandir Ghat

    There’s something magical about rivers. Silent and serene most of the times, and yet devastatingly powerful when they choose. The Ganges, especially when you are in Varanasi, is one of them. The best time to gaze at its beauty is early in the morning, just before the sun rises, from any of the 85 ghats that dot the bank. Steps leading to a small temple The highlights of a visit to Kashinath temple is to make it for the first aarti, or prayer offering. It’s offered before the sun rises, between 3 and 4 am every day. However, you need to be there much before that, as there normally is…

  • Views of the Indian Ocean from the ramparts at Galle Fort
    Asia,  Blog,  Sri Lanka,  Travelogue

    Postcards from Galle Fort

    If there is one place where you can see the rise and fall of western empires, it must be Galle in Sri Lanka. And nothing encapsulates that better than Galle Fort. View of the Galle Clock Tower from the Moon Bastion It was originally built by the Portuguese in 1588. Then along came the Dutch who fortified it further from 1649. The British, not wishing to be left behind, went about with their own modification from 1796. It was finally the Sri Lankans who, immediately after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, went about restoring it to its present glory. Views of the town within the walls of Galle Fort Today,…

  • Fishing on the Umngot River
    Asia,  Blog,  India,  Travelogue

    Discover a gem in Meghalaya

    Hidden away in the southern tip of Meghalaya, around 100 km from the Shillong and barely 2 km from the international border with Bangladesh, is a picturesque town with lush greenery, crystal clear waters and clean air that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere. That town is Dawki. View of Umngot River Dawki (Duki or Dauki) has the only direct road route that connects it with Bangladesh, and initially served as a trading town between the two countries. In fact, Dawki is well known for its coal mines and limestone exports. An elderly local woman Crystal-clear waters of the Umngot River However, of late, several visitors have discovered its…