Travel Experiences, Short Stories and More...

  • Transit Tour of Hong Kong, China

    An Informative read about the various tour options available for transiting tourists based on my travel experiences in Hong Kong...

  • 5 Awesomest Things To Do In Mauritius

    A sneak peek into my experiences at Mauritius...

  • Living in QATAR - My Honest Experience

    Explore what it feels like living in one of the richest countries in the world...

  • Top 10 Experiences In The United States

    There are several great things that America should undoubtedly be proud of and there are several things that I found intriguing in the USA.

  • Kashmir... the only paradise on Earth

    Read More About Our Recent Mindfreaking trip to Kashmir...Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Sonmarg and more...

  • Himachal Pradesh - An Experience @ Manali and Shimla

    A Travellogue on our recent tour to the Himalayan wonderland and the beautiful cities of Manali and Shimla

Living In QATAR - An Honest Experience

Qatar, as I remember is a place populated with money hungry or needy expats. Certainly, what really could motivate a migrant worker or a senior working professional live in a climate of scorching heat, a Muslim culture devoid of humane freedom and a land that does not treat it’s visitors with dignity. Money free of tax or a better job role? Although, Qatar does not have anything of it’s own, even the food, groceries and clothes are imported from other countries viz. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, China etc. And this is not only limited to the goods and merchandises but also to the work force who opt to travel to Qatar from these countries in the sheer hope of making their lives better.

Daily Lifestyle in Doha

Doha is the only major city in Qatar and a majority of the country’s population is that of expats. Qataris form a small population and enjoy the apex position in the Qatari society. Qatar does not provide citizenship to people of other nationalities despite their decades of stay in the country. I have noticed that most of the top positions in the local Qatari organizations are acquired by local men and women. English may not be always the official language at work and you may many a times encounter several Qatari co-workers speaking in Arabic language. Qataris are relaxed people and overall work culture is slow. Do not get bothered too much if work is not moving fast or simple decisions take unusually long time. This is the way work happens in this satisfied, rich country.

Life of an average migrant worker in Qatar is boring. If you are single, living in Doha, be prepared for this boredom as neither the climate nor the places outside are that appealing. Expat population is quite high in Doha and you could very well make friends easily here since there are many more expats like you getting bored to death. Walking around the Doha Corniche in the evening may be relaxing but being a single Asian male, I had some bad experiences of being ill-treated by a Qatari guard around Corniche. Well, do not necessarily take this as a humiliation since this is quite common in Qatar as there are several places in the city where single bachelors alone or in groups cannot roam around esp. on Fridays. Most Qatari men can legally marry up to four women and most commonly do not like anyone of them being ogled by other men. Hence, most of the places in Doha are reserved only for families.

A daily life of a migrant construction worker is pathetic in Doha. They are often exploited, overworked and most of the times enslaved by their employers. I have tried communicating with few of these workers and have seen their homes which brought nothing but sympathy in my mind. An average construction worker often stays in Qatar for several years saving money and sending it to their families. For most of such families, their man slogging in Qatar is the sole means of bread and butter yet unsure when he could return home. These construction workers work in extreme and adverse climatic conditions and often die every day yet unnoticed. It is said that work must stop if the temperatures rise beyond 50 degree Celsius but authorities never declare such things to meet their deadlines.

I observed that Non-Muslim Women have a better freedom of clothing in cities like Doha. However, it still needs to be remembered that Qatar is still a part of the Middle East and women are expected to cover their knees and shoulders while in public. Men are expected to avoid a prolonged eye contact with a woman and maintain sufficient distance while communicating with women at work.

Places to Visit in Qatar

There are merely a handful of places you can visit in Doha. The best time to go out in Qatar is between November and March since the climate is rather favorable during this period. Between April and October, the place remains as hot as hell. People who have never visited the middle east regions just can’t imagine the kind of extremity of the temperature.

There are several Islamic cultural centers in Qatar and even people of other religions and beliefs are encouraged to visit these places. I would rather encourage you to visit the Fanar, which is Qatar’s Islamic Cultural Center spreading awareness about Qatar’s culture to Non-Arab population. The Fanar is an iconic structure of Qatar with a beautiful Arabic architecture. There are also some Arabic language courses available in case it is a matter of someone’s interest.

Fanar - Qatar Islamic Cultural Center
The Dukhan beach, around 60 kms. from Doha is the most visited picnic spot among the locals and expats alike. It is by far the best hangout I have found in Qatar. The Dukhan beach is an ideal place to have a barbeque party for families. I have even observed few European ladies bathing in the sea water in bikini here. That is something way beyond the social taboos but how far a culturally different woman wait to break free in such a wicked country? The sea water however, has considerable levels of salt content which will not let you drown for sure. But beware, you may have problems if the water enters your eyes causing irritation and discomfort. The Dukhan beach is a very good place to enjoy water sports. Several rich locals own their own speed boats and other water sport equipment. These may also be rented for a ride.

Dukhan Beach, Qatar
The Pearl Qatar is a well-constructed place in Qatar and is a good place for a weekend visit. It is a home for several International brands the prominent being the Ferrari showroom just at the entrance gate of the Pearl Qatar. It is also said that other nationalities can own their property at the Pearl Qatar however these are too expensive. Visitors can enjoy cruise rides and some adventure water sports at the Pearl Qatar. The view of the Doha skyline offered by the Pearl is just as beautiful as that seen from the Corniche. While in Qatar the Pearl is a place just too good to miss.

Doha Skyline as seen from the Corniche
Souq Waqif is the shopping destination of Doha. Souq literally translates to a market and Souq Waqif translates to a Standing market. It is at a 10 min walking distance from the Fanar and also from the Corniche. Shopping enthusiasts could enjoy shopping traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, perfumes and souvenirs at the Souq. Astonishingly, I also found live animals and birds including lizards, owls, eagles, tortoises etc. for sale at the Souq. The Souq also offers premium range of Hukka bars and I found many locals and expats hooked up smoking at these parlors. In the evenings, you may get a change to enjoy a traditional Arabic folk dance at the Souq. Within the Souq, there is also a small exhibition of paintings depicting the glorious Arabic culture. The shopkeepers are friendly and will be interested in providing information about products they sell. However, this place may be restricted for single men at times esp. on Fridays which is supposed to be a family day in Doha.

A Breathtaking View Of The Sea & The Sand from a Sand Dune
A Half or Full day Desert Safari towards the south of Qatar along the Saudi Arabia border will also come to your rescue if you are craving for a much needed break from the mundane life at Qatar. There are quite a few tourist companies who offer a pick up and drop to and fro the Desert Safari. If you are a group of 4-5 members, you can hire a Land Cruiser or a similar vehicle and get drenched into the wilderness of the white desert along the salty blue sea. Watch the experienced driver inflating the tyres of the Land Cruiser and driving you along the edges of the sand dunes to take away the *hit away from your *ss. This is by far my best experience of being in Qatar. During sunset, the deep blue sea looks breathtakingly beautiful from the sand dunes. During winter days, the desert almost turns into a cold hell. There are packages available for an overnight stay in the desert tents which is an experience in itself.

Accommodation in Qatar

Most of the migrant workers in Qatar live single for a simple reason that it is not so easy to get a Visa for a family. I have recently noticed that for some reason, Qatar has started rejecting Visa for female workers. Moreover, the cost of accommodation in Doha is very high. Most expats in Qatar share accommodation and live in a poor and unhygienic conditions. However, In case you are a senior executive hired by a local Company in Qatar, arranging visa for the family becomes easier. Most of the apartments and condominiums are owned by local agencies or a local Qatari who could charge huge rent for a decent accommodation. Nearly, all places in the country look the same hence, it is worthless to search a locality where you could find your home. I would suggest you could opt a place to live near your office.

Food and Grocery Options

Since 90% of the food and groceries are imported, you would find the same food options that you had in your home country but with a much higher price. There are several high rated food brands and joints in Doha along with local small Malabari restaurants mostly owned by Indians (Keralites) and Nepalis. Sometimes, it may become difficult to find a Vegetarian option in these restaurants. Chicken, Pork and Beef based food items are abundantly available. Khabus and Hamus (Arabic breads) are the cheapest subsidized food options available for the poor. However, they are tasteless and cannot be taken as a daily food option. Most commonly, there are several Filipino and Indian restaurants serving good food all over Doha.

The municipal water supply is good however, drinking water needs to be purchased which may cost you QAR 8 to 10 for a bottle of 5 liters.

Transportation and Communication

With fuel being dirt cheap in the country, owning a car becomes inevitable for another good reason that Public transportation is still in the state of infancy. There are local buses plying in Doha but their frequency cannot be trusted much. Locals and some expats are much fond of cars and tend to spend much on speedy, high end machines on the roads. When it comes to roads, these are the most unsafe places in the country. I have noticed that most locals drive like maniacs almost unbothered of pedestrians walking or crossing the streets. This, just explains their disregard for human life and a boastful attitude of possessing great wealth.

Speaking on cellular phones is very expensive and a single phone call for a minute could cost half a Qatari Riyal. A little study on highly expensive telecommunication industry gave me an answer that the sector like several other sectors is dominated by the King of Qatar and it is him who decides the price you pay for speaking to your loved ones. Broadband Internet services rates are also higher than normal.

Education in Qatar

I believe that it is a good sign that middle eastern countries like Qatar is giving more emphasis on quality education. There are several Public and Private institutions providing good education to the children. However, the Public Schools and Colleges are confined to Arabic curriculum. Private schools and colleges have American or British curriculum in studies. Qatar encourages hiring of qualified teachers and educationalists in its quest to impart good education to its people.

Well, with all those mixed experiences of observing the life of an average expat in Qatar, I conclude that human life is certainly much more than craving for money. The State of Qatar is one of the richest countries due to its enormous natural wealth of oil reserves. Its GDP will remain strong for several decades to come; which is nothing but easy money for sure. Qatar is still totally dependent on other countries for its simple daily needs and I am sure given the adverse climate it will always continue to. It must learn to recognize humanity above materialistic wealth and religious beliefs.

The Transit Tours Of Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong has been attracting transiting tourist for quite a while now. The most crucial question a transiting tourist at Hong Kong will ask is what to visit and what to skip? Well, it really depends upon the amount of time you have in hand for your connecting flight. In case you have a very small layover approximately 2-4 hours, I would never suggest you to go out of the airport. In such a scenario, you can always visit several shops at the airport itself. I would strongly suggest that you can plan to visit places outside the airport only if you have more than 4-5 hours of layover time. In my case, I had a long layover of around 11 hours which was quite enough for me to visit quite a few places in the town. In case you land at the Hong Kong airport in the early morning, you stand a good chance to avoid the crazy rush of city. In my opinion, with such a good layover time, one must not think of skipping the Hong Kong Downtown and the Peak. Trust me, even if you skip any other places at Hong Kong, you won’t regret it much.

The Majestic View of Hong Kong Sky from The Peak
Frankly, as far as my recent travel experiences goes, the Peak is what I would recommend to visit for all transiting tourists. Another close option I could suggest is the Big Buddha on the Lantau Island which is however, an almost half day tour from the Tung Chung Cable car station. I had a glimpse of the Big Buddha which is situated on a mountain peak on the Lantau Island from the aircraft during my landing at the Hong Kong airport. But, to observe the large Buddha Statue, you really need to focus on the mountains. There is a stream of cable cars continually moving towards the Big Buddha statue which is also prominently visible from the airport.

Exploring the Hong Kong City

I reached Hong Kong early morning at 5:30 AM and soon after the immigration check, I bought a round trip Airport Express ticket costing HKD 180. The Airport Express is the quickest mode of transport towards the Hong Kong Central Station and the journey hardly takes 25 minutes. The frequency of the Airport Express Trains is also quite good which assures a nominal waiting time. The journey in the train is very luxurious and speedy. I enjoyed the comfort of a speedy transport through the mountains, the flyovers and the bridges built over the sea. It also provided glimpses of the huge skyscrapers built on either side of the railways.

After reaching the Hong Kong Central station, we boarded a taxi from the train station towards the hotel which costed me additional HKD 35. The taxi driver may charge you HKD 5 additionally for each luggage bag. I would recommend to get this thing sorted with him prior to boarding the taxi. In case, you do not have any luggage with you, I would recommend you to walk towards the Peak Tram station which is merely 20 min by walk from the Hong Kong Central Station. Taxis in Hong Kong are too expensive and are avoidable if you are prepared to walk on the streets to gather an extra fun and adventure.

Hotels in Hong Kong are very expensive too. Overall, I observed that the entire city has been facing a land crunch. Numerous multistoried buildings are just a result of severe fight for land for settlement. You could end up paying almost USD 100 for a hotel room sized that of a bathroom in the city center. In case, you have a really long layover or if your flight is on the next day, I would suggest booking a hotel in advance but be ready to spend more for less.

The Historic Peak Tram
The Peak tram is the best way to reach the Peak Tower. It will cost you HKD 40 just for the tram ride. An additional HKD 40 on the same ticket, will give you access to the Peak terrace which will offer you a magnificent 360 degree view of the Hong Kong City. I would strongly suggest you to go for the HDK 80 ticket as missing the Peak terrace is something not worth it. The journey through the Peak tram is historic one. The tram has a glorious history starting back from the year 1888. Over the years, there have been few changes in its way of operations; however, there have been absolutely no change in the thrill and the fun riding it. The tram could scare you with a tilt of as good as 27 degrees with the horizontal as you experience the skyscrapers almost leaning towards you. Although the Peak Tram journey could last for about 10-15 minutes towards the Peak Tower and back, I can assure you that it will remain evergreen in your mind for the rest of your life after you leave the place.

The Peak Tower
Sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck

The Effiel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building in New York, the Skytree in Tokyo – every world city has an iconic observation deck. In Hong Kong, it is “sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck”, located in the city’s tallest building, ICC. From this harbor-front vantage point some 393 meters above sea level, you can enjoy incredible day and night Victoria Harbor views, and a stunning 360-degree panorama of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Terrirories. “sky100” offers you an unparalleled viewing experience, from the hustle and bustle of this international city to its visionary urban planning.

View from the sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck
The Peak tower is an architectural wonder and it has experienced several changes in its structure for the past few years. It is a place for entertainment, shops and eateries. Food is expensive at the Peak. A single bottle of water will cost HKD 12. 

Madame Tussauds Hong Kong

There is a wax museum located in the tower at an additional cost. You may plan to visit it if time permits and if it is a matter of your interest to take pictures with wax models of several renowned personalities. But above all, the terrace view of the Peak tower is unparalled and something which you will cherish lifelong. As the one and only celebrity-inspired attraction in Hong Kong, you can meet over 100 A-Listers from around the World in one place at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong. Not only can fans get up close with their idols and snap pictures, they can also interact with these celebrities and iconic personalities as they step into each of the specially designed exhibition sets. The new expansion “Fantasy Kingdom” brings more excitement to the star-studded journey with the Super Heroes, Children’s Favorites and Chinese Legendary figures.

Madame Tussauds @ The Peak
Located on The Peak, Madame Tussauds Hong Kong is only eight minutes away from the city centre when visiting by the Peak Tram.

Many people think Hong Kong is only cosmopolitan city with its high-rise apartment blocks and busy roads. However, this is not the case. The New Territories, which lie between the Kowloon hills and the boundary which Mainland China, is an enormously diverse suburban area full of contrasts, a blend of traditional customs and modern ideas, of natural beauty and man-made achievements.

More than a century ago, this area was entirely rural. Small villages and farming fields dotted the landscape, home to people who farmed rice, tea and other crops. Today, the area still abounds in rural beauty. Yet modern developments have made its mark. Sophisticated new towns exist alongside peaceful woodland. “The Land Between” is the land bridging the motherland in China and the city centre of Hong Kong. It stands both as a gentle reminder of Hong Kong’s past as well as hopes for closer relationship with the motherland in the years to come.

A Spectacular View from the Airport Express on the way towards Hong Kong Central MTR
The land between tour visits the Yuen Yuen Institute where you can see the significance of Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist contributions to society. Then it’s out into the countryside, going up the Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest mountain. The bus drives past banana plantation, village hamlets and the surroundings of the Tai Mo Shan Country Park. A photo stop is made at the Tai Mo Shan lookout point where you can enjoy panoramic view of the harbor and the industrial / residential town of Tsuen Wan to the south. If the weather is unfavourable, the tour stops at the mountain’s lower lookout point for a view of Shek Kong Valley. The tour continues down the mountain and onto the wooded valley of Lam Tsuen and Fanling. You will visit Fanling Walled Village and walk past the old village wall with gun holes in it and a family ancestral hall where ancestor worship continues to be practised. The village belongs to the Pang family, one of the five great clans of the New Territories.

Then it’s time to head to the boundary with Mainland China by driving on Luk Keng Road. A photo stop will be made at Luk Keng Road lookout point to see natural surroundings of Starling Inlet, and the boundary town of Sha Tau Kok on Mainland, just across the Inlet. Next is a trip through the Plover Cove Country Park. The view is dominated by the water of Plover Cove Reservoir on one side and the massive ranges of Pat Sin Lang Range Country Park on the other. A photo stop is made at Bride’s Pool Falls, which has a constantly flowing waterfall year round. It is a popular place for outdoor BBQ parties in the cooler months.

Hong Kong Heritage Tour

Hidden away among high-rise apartment towers and busy highways, the past lives on in the New Territories – a living museum shaped by the rise and development of the so called five great clans of Hong Kong (the Tang, Hau, Pang, Liu and Man). Taking in historic sites around the New Territories, the Heritage Tour brings to life the customs and cultures of these clans and provides a fascinating glimpse of Hong Kong’s rich heritage.

1.       Tai Fu Mandarin’s Mansion / Fan Tin Village

Located in San Tin, Tai Fu Tai is an opulent stately residence built in 1865 by a senior Man clan member who was bestowed the title of Tai Fu (mandarin) by the Qing emperor. The extravagantly designed interior boasts three courtyards and is a striking example of how high-ranking officials once lived. The visit also includes a short walk into Fan Tin Village, the village where Man clan members live. Many of the village houses still retain their historic architecture, bearing testimony to the historical and social developments of the area.

2.       Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall / Lo Wai Walled Village

Lung Yeuk Tau in Fanling is home to the Tangs, one of the five indigenous clans of Hong Kong. Visit the 16th century Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall, which honors the Tang lineage, including a Sung dynasty princess and her husband. The exquisitely decorated three-hall building is still used for annual rituals and festival celebrations. The structure was declared a protected monument in 1997. A photo stop will be made at the nearby Lo Wai Walled Village, the first walled village built by the Tang clan. The site was also declared a monument in 1997. However, the Walled Village is a private property and visits can be organized only by invitation.

3.       Man Mo Temple / Tai Po Market

Dedicated to the deities Man (literature) and Mo (Martial Arts), the Man Mo temple in Tai Po was built in the style of a central walled compound to emphasize seclusion. Its construction in 1892 marked the founding of Tai Po New Market. Within the temple walls more than a century ago, defiant villagers chase to oppose Britain’s 99-year lease of the New Territories, sparking a five-day “war” that failed to avert the area falling under British control.

4.       Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees

In the Lam Tseun Valley, the two famous banyan trees are a favourite with local villagers who come to burn joss sticks and incense papers hoping their wishes will come true. During Chinese New Year, many Hong Kong people make a pilgrimage to this spot to make a pilgrimage to this spot to make their Chinese New Year wishes. Participate in this tradition and your wish may come true.

The Lantau Island Experience

Whether you are interested in aerial, land or water activities, Lantau has just the right thing to offer – the idyllic fishing village, the renowned Big Buddha, the rare Chinese White Dolphins, local culture and heritage, thrilling water sports. Ngong Ping 360 is where you start your Sky-Land-Sea Lantau adventure.

The Big Buddha at the Lantau Island
Ngong Ping Cable Car

Kick start your Sky-Land-Sea Lantau adventure with a 25-minute, 5.7 km cable car ride. Enjoy the stunning landscapes of Lantau Island, and the warm welcomes from the Big Buddha and Ngong Ping Village. Riding on Asia’s longest bi-cable ropeway, you will enjoy the blues and greens of Tung Chung, North Lantau and the South China Sea. If you opt for a Crystal Cabin, you will experience an uncluttered bird’s eye view through the cabin’s novel glass bottom. Private cabin services are also available to have a privacy for couples and families.

2    Ngong Ping Village

Disembarking from your cable cars, you will arrive at Ngong Ping Village – a 1.5 hectare culturally themed marketplace. In addition to offering visitors with unique shopping and dining experience. You can also enjoy the three main attractions of Ngong Ping Village – the multisensory “Stage 360” and “Motion 360”, as well as the enlightening “Walking with Buddha”.

3.       Completing the Lantau Experience

Venture out to the other parts of Lantau Island by taking a bus at Ngong Ping’s Public Transport Interchange located conveniently right next to Ngong Ping Village. Discover culture, heritage, nature, native wildlife, fresh seafood, local delicacy and more hidden gems of the island.

Big Bus Tours in Hong Kong

The Big Bus Tours offers you the best possible sightseeing experience to visitors and tourists. Their speciality includes a 24 or 48 hour ticket, hop-on and hop-off facility, 4 routes with more than 20 breakpoints, fun and entertaining commentary, complimentary rewards booklet and free earphone and tickets to major attraction. You can explore Hong Kong’s famous landmarks; from the high rise skyline of Central, buzzing Nathan Road to world famous Stanley Market.

A Busy Street at the Hong Kong Downtown
If you are for more than a day in Hong Kong, Big Bus is the best way to discover all that Hong Kong has to offer at affordable price.

Hong Kong Wetland Park

Opened in 2006, Hong Kong Wetland Park consists of a 60-hectare wetland reserve area which embraces freshwater marsh, streams, mangroves, farmlands, fishponds, reedbeds, butterfly garden, floating boardwalk and three bird hides. Visitors will explore various wetland animals and plants, and understand the importance of balanced ecosystem.

By demonstrating the best practices in energy saving and sustainability, the Visitor Centre has won many international architectural awards. Three themed galleries showcase the biodiversity of the wetland ecosystem, cultural development and wetland conservation. Visitors will learn from different perspectives through the exhibits, movies and interactive games too. The wetland park tickets can also be booked online and is operational between 10:00 am to 5:00 pm except on Tuesdays.

Spring and summer times are the best seasons for watching butterflies, dragonflies and flowers in Hong Kong Wetland Park. Apart from the beautiful butterflies, spectacular plants such as Common Melastoma, Fortune’s Cape Jasmine, Lidded Cleistocalyx, Water-lily and Indian Lotus are also major attractions. During autumn and winter time, thousands of migratory birds including endangered species like Black-faced Spoonbills take shelter in the park. The three bird hides and Viewing Gallery are equipped with telescopes for visitors to watch birds. The prime time for bird watching is from November to March.

The Park regularly organizes special campaigns to introduce wildlife, such as the annual “Bird Watching Festival” every winter. Guided activities of various themes are held every day in the park. Yuen Long where this Park is located has numerous famous natural or cultural attractions, such as Tsim Bei Tsui, Kam Tin Tree House, Ping Shan Heritage Trail etc. You can also take a 10-minute taxi ride to Lau Fau Shan, a renowned seafood centre, for delicious seafood and souvenirs. Yuen Long town centre is also a great place for Chinese and International cuisine.

How are the locals of Hong Kong City?

While in Hong Kong Central, I interacted with several local people in the City. I found that language is a major barrier in communication among-st the local population. Keeping the language issue aside, I also found them to be indifferent to questions asked by tourists. In face, I found many of them simply nodding a 'No' even before I asked them for directions. Is this an attitude problem? I am not really sure but several local people of Hong Kong are not friendly at all. Most of them are too much engrossed within themselves so much so that they often behave indifferently or sometimes with a whim of anger.

I Love You The Peak
On the contrary, when I was asking my way back to the Hong Kong Airport Express Station to a local person, an old Filipino lady interrupted us and offered a help with guiding me with directions. Another non-local couple spent almost 10 minutes speaking to me advising me with places and markets I could visit around the area. They also suggested me of some Do's and Don'ts while visiting the local markets. Undoubtedly, you can expect a good helping hand from the fellow tourists while in Hong Kong rather than the locals. While interacting with fellow friendly tourists, you would never know if they would be instantly ready to capture a lovely picture with you too ;-)

Top 10 Experiences In the United States

Many of my close friends and acquaintances have been asking me about my experiences in the United States right after my first visit to this nation of Prosperity. More than the travel experience, I would like to emphasize on my people and cultural experiences in this post which I believe has left a significant impact on my mind esp. after my consecutive visits to the country. There are several great things that America should undoubtedly be proud of which includes their infrastructure, broad open freeways, ease of luxury, quality of lifestyle, their minimum wages practice and a broad open mindset to treat every individual with dignity. There are several things that I found intriguing while in the USA some of which I would like to pen down along with some other things for which I can only pity the Americans. Let us start with few good things first.

Treating Individuals with Dignity and Respect

No wonder the United States has strict laws in this matter and it is just not fair to mistreat your co-worker, individuals providing you household services, family member including a toddler or a random person on the street. Treating each other with respect irrespective of his/her creed, race or origin of birth or position at work is something taught to the American kids right since the tender age at schools. Unlike India, an average worker’s lifestyle is much more uplifted than his Indian counterpart. There is almost no discrimination of work in the United States. At work, you may have a top designation or a better job role but when it comes to treating individuals, it is always with dignity. At a workplace, every individual contribution is valued and respect for individuals is a major factor for a better productivity at a workplace. When it comes to Indians working at an American workplace, well, it really hurts for me to say that Indian Managers are the ones spoiling this culture. There seems to be a long way for them to get out of the Superiority complex given that at a workplace there is just a Senior-Junior relationship that prevails. 

Random Greetings

All these days I have been accepting random greets from strangers while at the workplace or while walking down the streets. This was unusual for an Indian like me where I have been seeing people in my country staring at strangers continually until he remains in the range of the visual contact yet reluctant to offer a smile. That is something me, being an Indian would like to be ashamed of. I am sure that Indians would try to evade this in the pretext of cultural differences but to all such guardians of Indian culture, I would just like to ask if it really costs to greet a random person you come across? Believe me, I had been away, lonely on the other part of the globe yet such gestures helped me pacify my loneliness and made me realize that I am not away from home. If we could just stop comparing ourselves with others and overcome our jealous mindsets, I am sure this is not that difficult. Today, we are so much engrossed with our self-centeredness that we easily label a person greeting you as crazy or an overfriendly weirdo. Something worth giving a thought!

The Road Belongs to Pedestrians First

I have never felt so privileged to walk on the street before. If you are a pedestrian, you will be treated like a God in the United States. No wonder, that there are strict laws and penalties if you hit a pedestrian or a construction worker which may go up to USD 10,000/- and imprisonment. Right since my childhood days, I have been taught to look over the right and the left before crossing a road. On the contrary, I have seen cars and trucks stopping several yards away to give me a way while crossing the street. Moreover, cars stop compulsorily at the STOP signs even though there are absolutely no pedestrians crossing the roads. I was really amazed to see the Zebra crossing rules really adhered and put to practice. Most of the times, I felt embarrassed to make so many vehicles halt on the roads just for me. Wish I could explain them that I am not used to such a royal treatment on the streets. What a regard for human life! Well, if not something to learn from, this is something of which most of the Middle East and Asian countries should be ashamed of.  

Millennium Park @ Chicago Downtown
Feels like a Valued Citizen

No land on this planet is free of Crime but Certainly, being an American feels like a privilege when it comes to regard for human life. While in India, we keep on hearing victims dying of abuses, yet ignored by the authorities until it grabs a certain threshold of attention or attains a certain level of pressure on the authorities. Just call up the 911 helpline and boom there is a troop of Cops to escort you. Well, I did not have a practical experience of it but I really adore their readiness. Apart from this, the liberty of thoughts, liberty of beliefs and the freedom of life free of discrimination makes it one of the best countries to live in.

Mom does not know where to ask her Son to Eat

American food is the worst food in the world. Nonetheless, the Americans are fond of food, with numerous food joints, fast food chains and eatery options, what they are left behind with is a body loaded with extraneous fat craving for some more. When it comes to food, it is sad and true that Americans do not know what to eat. Most of them run behind Italian burgers, pastas, macaroni and salads. Pork, becon  and Ham are their favorite ingredients in almost every food item which often makes the food rich in fat content. Given that an average American leads such a luxurious way of life, does he really need to follow such a fat rich diet? It is truly said that diseases like the Diabetes, Obesity, High blood pressure and Hypertension are the diseases of the Rich. There are always good nutritious food options available which Americans can learn to cook on their own and eat. Of course, giving up their conventional food habits will not happen in a day, rather it needs to be cultivated. I seriously believe that, the United States needs a food revolution.  

Sex Just Happens in the US

While in most of the Asian countries, pre-marital or extra marital sex is considered a Sin, most of the Americans including the teenagers believe that Sex just happens. Now, what is that supposed to mean is something that I would like to leave up to you. For instance, I had been to the Water Tower Place, a prominent Mall at the Michigan Avenue in the Chicago Downtown with a co-worker friend, and happened to come across this lady managing a shop. This friend of mine was quite a talkative person and was in no time engaged in a conversation with the lady. After a brief spell of a friendly conversation, they ended up with this topic of having fun this weekend. Well, I was quite sure where this conversation would have landed up my friend in a situation which his fiancé would never like. Sex just happens is the conception and it is an integral part of friendship and a relationship is what most Americans believe. Of course, the United States is a free country and so are the sexual preferences and sexual whims. 

Americans can buy Almost Anything 

The American Dream is prosperity and with prosperity comes the continual desire to make human life easier and more convenient each day. Keeping this in mind, sellers and manufacturers can encash any of their weird ideas to penetrate into the American market. It could be anything like an automated floor mopping broom, a lipstick that also serves as a lip balm, onion peeler or an egg smasher. They are so used to technology that it is almost impossible to imagine daily life without machines. No matter what is sold, you will find a buyer for virtually anything and everything. 

It is a Culturally Poor Country

Americans are the most confused people when it comes to their culture and matters of heritage. They have some weird festivals like Halloween for which they spend Billions of Dollars on evil decoration materials, vampire or a zombie costume and makeups. They believe that this is a tribute to their ancestors who are turned into ghosts and regard it as a matter of celebration. I have seen people shopping like crazy for Halloween. When it comes to shopping how can I miss describing the festival of Black Friday or the so called Thanksgiving when several almost kill each other to get the best deal at Walmart and Best Buy outlets. I wonder why this is called Thanksgiving and not Sorrygiving in it’s true sense. 

It’s just the United States and Rest of the World

I remember how one of our American Onsite Project Manager landed himself in trouble at the airport after he was made realize by the authorities that he actually needed a Business Visa to travel to India. All these years, he had never been outside the United States and had been travelling all throughout the United States only. In fact, this is a common mentality built due to ignorance amongst a majority of the Americans who truly believe that it is just the USA and rest of the World. Being born in the most powerful country in the world does that give them this privilege? America may be a free country but you would still need a Visa to fly to other countries. Alas! We hardly care is what most of the Americans think about it.

Nothing is sold less than a Dollar but Pennies are all Over

Pennies or a Cent coins are found abundantly almost all over the United States in ample quantities. They are in every car, office cubicle and most of the times lying orphan on the streets. No matter you like to carry them or not, if you do a cash payment at a store you will get a handful of them in return. Weather you opt to throw them away or collect them is left up to you. Many think that it is almost worthless but they are still abundant in circulation and there is almost no dispute I have found in the United States over change.

The United States has been a Prosperous Nation for several years and I believe that, strict implementation of policies, adherence to the laws, dedication towards the national affairs, harmonious attitude towards the state property, ethics and respect towards it’s citizens are few of the driving factors towards the success of the Country. If I were an American citizen, I would have happily paid my 30 percent taxes as I would be sure that this money will actually return back to me in the form of better freeways, free quality education for my kids and improved infrastructure and transportation facilities. It is only after a democratic government could build such a trust, the citizens would feel motivated to work towards a Nation of Prosperity.

Anatomy Of The Morning Phenomena

Travelling between the time zones is by far the best experience an international traveler can get. It is quite easy for a curious traveler like me to get boggled with the several amazing natural phenomena one could happen to experience during your journey between two far away places on the planet earth. We often have been listening since our childhood days about the shape and size of earth, the sun being a stationary in space and the moon being a satellite of the earth which keeps on orbiting around the earth.
That Amazing Moment When Night Transforms into a Day
A Day Far far Away
While many of the travelers are struggling to grab a power nap to battle their jetlags, how many of us really bother to open the airplane window and bother to observe the beautiful experiences out there in the sky wide open? Probably, quite a few of us. I often get amazed by the fact as to how different places on earth observe day and night at the same time.
There are often times when I have been stupidly calling my friends and family members to verify if there is really a daylight out there in India while I am located far off from home. How could some place of earth observe such a hot, sunny afternoon when at the same time some other place on the same planet experiences a pitch dark black night which seems like it never observed a day before. I know we take facts for granted and I know that the earth is like a big ball and the sun is like a big electric bulb in dark space. But, observing this happening in it’s live environment is an amazing experience, all thanks to the technology of the recent times.
Amazing experience observing the night transforming into a day
From the surface of the earth, it is quite an experience observing the dark night sky gradually turning lighter and lighter until it turns into a sky with broad daylight. And we have been observing this phenomenon since we were a child - the earth rotates around it’s own axis causing day and night. Nights turning into days and days turning into nights is quite a daily experience but have you wondered how it would feel like observing both the day and the night at the same time. Yes, it is this exact moment when your airplane reached to a point travelling through a dark night and you are able to see the first ray of light at the horizons while you realize you are still in the dark.
An Airplane Piercing Into A Day
Gradually, as you move forward, this ray of light becomes brighter and brighter transforming almost everything around you into a beautiful aura of colors. That is what we call a beautiful morning. Experiencing this from a 30,000 feet above the surface is quite an experience.

10 Best Things To Do @ Hyderabad

Call it the Land of Biryani, the land of the Nawabs or in recent days the High Tech City, Hyderabad always has the same aroma, the same uniqueness to offer no matter at what point in time in history you have been to the place. Undoubtedly, this city has not lost it’s charisma all these decades or probably centuries. Although, the City has witnessed a great deal of modernization in terms of the Information Technology Industry, but the very essence of the Old City of Hyderabad seems to remain the same. And, the very feel of this City has not deviated with respect to all the best things it has been promising for several years to offer to the tourists and visitors. 

The Charminar
I had been visiting Hyderabad for business reasons and recently spent a whole week trying out several usual things tourists do at Hyderabad City and also some offbeat things that really makes your tour in the City remarkable. After all those days spent at Hyderabad, here are the top 10 best things to do while spending your time in the City. 

10. Feel the Old City at the Charminar

You haven’t really visited Hyderabad if you fail to visit the Old City and the Charminar. Decades after decades, generations after generations, this place has seen absolutely no change. And, that is the specialty of the Charminar area. The Archaeological Survey of India has been maintaining this monument and charges a nominal fee of INR 5 for Indians. Buying this ticket will provide you access to enter the monument building and climb upstairs for a spectacular view of the busy Hyderabad street. Beware of the pick pockets since this area is rather known for this. The Charminar is always a busy place and there are numerous stalls, hawkers and street food sellers surrounding the main street. 

An Amazing View of the Market from Charminar
This is a good place to shop bangles and pearl ornaments. However, you really need to know an authentic shop selling pearls and other valuables. There was a coin seller selling old coins right in front of the Charminar which was a center of my interest. There were also other small shops selling clothes, sunglasses, fancy ornaments and China products. It is quite obvious to find an over-friendly localite  who would pretend to be a guide and would take you for a ride. You may hire him at your own risk. For all other things you want to know about the Charminar, I recommend the Internet! :-)

Complete View of the Charminar
9. Experience the Serenity, Peace and a Gorgeous City View from the Birla Temple

Built with fresh white marble all around, the Birla Mandir is one of the most serene places to be. It’s proximity from the famous Hussain Sagar lake and the soothing view of the Hyderabad City makes it my one of the favorite places. Cameras and cell phones are not allowed inside the temple and this was a matter of my disgust. Nevertheless, the majestic view is better experienced than captured in a picture. One can easily spend an hour or two at the temple and if you happen to fall in love like me with the ambiance  you may spend an entire day all by yourself. At the temple foothills, there are some interesting shops exhibiting several religious books and statues. I remember buying a cutest Ganesha Idol from this shop which I have treasured at home. A few minutes from the temple is Birla Planetarium which is worth a visit. 

8. Try the Awesome Biryani and Haleem at Café Bahar

You won’t believe me but during our recent one week visit to Hyderabad, we have been eating Biryani almost every day at different restaurants and local joints. This was one of the best attempts one could have made to review the various Biryanis available in the City. We tried and reviewed almost every famous Biryani centers including but not limited to the Paradise Restaurant near Prasad’s Multiplex, Shadab’s, Bawarchi’s and Café Bahar. It was just that we happened to come across this awesomest Biryani at Café Bahar at Begumpeth on our last day of the tour. I am not too supportive to several people I come across who adore and overhype the Paradise chain of restaurants for Biryanis, rather I would like to stick and go with my personal experience and by far the Café Bahar Biryani was the best ever I had in Hyderabad. I welcome other thoughts but until I could prove myself wrong with a better Biryani outlet, I would keep on recommending Café Bahar. Needless to mention that this is not a paid post and I do not get any perks for writing  such a positive review about this business. The next time you visit Hyderabad, just try them.

Haleem is quite famous dish in Hyderabad and is made out of meat or chicken or beef by crushing down the flesh into granular pieces. It is a very healthy and heavy snack or rather a complete meal. It is abundantly available all across Hyderabad City esp. during the month of Ramadan. I have seen Haleem stalls on the streets which I would not recommend if you are new to the City. It is better to have it at a decent restaurant where I am sure it is more hygienic and enjoyable. 

7. Visit the Chowmahalla Palace

This is a huge ancient neatly maintained palace of the Nizams. We came across several rooms in the palace which are now transformed into exhibition rooms displaying several old artifacts of the Nizams which includes the clothes, weapons, furniture and even the vintage cars. I remember one room was dedicated to the Sarees of varied kinds which is a must see for Indian women who are fond of this traditional Indian attire. The Palace has a beautiful pond right at the entrance which clearly exhibited the prosperity and royal lives of the Kings of Nizams. The palace also displayed pictures of several generation of Nizams who have been associated with the Palace and the city of Hyderabad. 

Interior View of the Chowmahalla Palace
With such a large historical heritage present at just one place, the Chowmahalla Palace is just too good to miss.

6. Enjoy an Auto-Rickshaw Ride

My opinion about Auto-Rickshaw drivers changes spontaneously when I think of the Auto-Rickshaw drivers of Hyderabad. How can I forget my unique experience with one of the Auto-Rickshaw drivers in Gacchibowli area in Hyderabad who simply offered me a lift. That was one of the cutest experience one could have with an Auto-Rickshaw driver ever in India. The rides here in Hyderabad are like a roll coaster ride. For a vehicle meant to carry a maximum of three passengers, there is always a space for three more. I have also traveled with eight other fellow passengers just to save money during the start of my career. I remember how we used to bargain with the drivers over a five rupee deal. 

An Auto-rickshaw Ride
Auto-Rickshaw journey is just a unique experience in Hyderabad and I really get nostalgic travelling in one. They are abundantly available and take you almost anywhere in the City.  

5. Experience the History at Golconda Fort and Kutub Shahi Tombs

The Golconda Fort and the Kutub Shashi Tombs are situated hardly a couple of kilometers away from each other. I have visited both these places twice – the first time in the year 2005 and the latest being in the year 2013. Like I always say, almost everything in Hyderabad remains the way it is irrespective of when you visit. The Kutub Shahi Tombs are a series of Mughal Tombs which imparts a strong message to humankind. It is said that these tombs were built by several Mughal emperors when they existed. The primary purpose of these tombs being built by them was to see their own graves during their own presence. In literal terms, these emperors built their own graves. Death is a reality of life just like life itself is. They strongly believed that man must remember his own death every single day of his life. Built several centuries back in time, these tombs stand straight today signifying the importance of remembering death just as we live and breathe. 

One of the Several Kutub Shahi Tombs
Forts always excite me and Golconda has been one of my favorite forts so far. After several years of glory, the Golconda stands straight amid-st several ruined walls. It is a sweaty experience to climb this fort and the best time to visit is in the early evenings. When it turns dark, there is a special light show arranged at the fort which narrates the glorious past of the Golconda for tourists. I happened to witness this light show in 2005 but did not wait until dark during the recent visit. I am not really sure if the light show still happens. Nonetheless, spending a peaceful time over the Golconda watching the beautiful view at the horizon is by far a rejuvenating experience.

A View from the Golconda Fort

4. Visit the Durgam Cheravu Lake near Madhapur

This is my favorite place in Hyderabad. Cheravu, as I learnt from my Andhra friend means a lake. This place is at it’s best ambience at evenings. With beautiful flower gardens and plantations all around this is a popular place among families and couples planning to start families. There is a small lake where one can also enjoy a boat ride which is one of the best experience in the evenings.

3. Get Filmy at the Ramoji Film City

If you are a movie freak, I would definitely recommend you to visit Ramoji Film City once and experience the reality of the sets you often see in your favorite movies. They have several packages to suit different budgets. If you plan to stay overnight, accommodation can also be arranged in advance. I believe, this is how movie crew does when they plan a big banner project. But, for the tourists visiting Ramoji, they have enough things that will keep them entertained all around the day. Do not forget to bring your camera as you just cannot stop getting filmy at Ramoji. I really loved the Ramoji Tower which hosted a 4D movie experience of an earthquake. Airports, London street, Statue of Liberty, Hospitals, Railway stations or Meena Bazaar, you will find a replica of nearly everything at the Film City. There were several other rides that cannot be described in words, you would rather love to experience them all by yourself. 

The Ramoji Film City Entrance
I was quite happy to see several sets and gardens in the same condition as they were seen in several Bollywood movies. A short one hour tour hosted by the Ramoji Film City was remarkable and I am sure all the visitors would cherish this tour and remember the facts publicly shared by the tour guide about the most famous movies shot at Ramoji which they had been watching for years.

2. Board a Ferry to the Buddha Statue

Consecrated by the Dalai Lama the Buddha Statue standing right in the center of the Hussain Sagar Lake remains a new Identity of Hyderabad. There is a ferry service from the NTR Gardens to the statue. However, spending much time near the statue is prohibited since the same ferry will take you back to the starting point. Evenings are the best times to spend around the Hussain Sagar Lake. 

The Buddha Statue at the Hussain Sagar
There are several places around this lake which will keep you busy and entertained. A drive around the necklace road is very nice experience. There are several things that will keep you busy at NTR Gardens including the light show which starts as soon as it gets dark.

1. A Romantic Walk at the Hussain Sagar Lake at Night

The best time to visit the Hussain Sagar lake is in the late evenings and nothing could beat a romantic walk around it. Do I really need to explain about it any further!

Enchanting Coorg and Mysore... @ North Karnataka

If a thought to sneak away from the city stress crosses your weary mind while in Bangalore, then you just cannot miss planning a quick weekend trip to places around Mysore and within the Coorg District of Karnataka. Yes, it is a long road trip and in order to cover the complete places, one needs to reserve at least two days. You can plan an overnight stay in Mysore so as to cover the city and the beautiful places around it which are definitely must visit places on your way to Coorg (Kodagu). The Bangalore-Mysore Highway is a speedy highway which at times may become prone to traffic due to weekend rush on Fridays and Mondays. But if you start early on a Saturday morning, you may cheat the city traffics. This road trip starts from Bangalore visiting Mysore via. a small town called Srirangapatna and then catching up with the Mysore-Coorg Highway. 

Mesmerizing Coorg
Once you are in Coorg, you may also plan to visit the Madikeri which is the headquarters of the Coorg District and is a famous hill station too.

Namdroling Monastery in the Bylakuppe town in Mysore

Bylakuppe is a small town in Mysore District around 96 kms. from Srirangapatna in Mandya District. It was rather unusual for me to experience a very different culture of this town which was unlike several other towns of South India. This town is inhabited by many Tibetans and it is believed that the population of Tibetans including the Monks and nuns are more than 70,000. For some reason, I get a very serene feeling when I look at the Tibetan Monks. 

A Tibetan Monastry on our way to Mysore
We happened to visit the Namdroling Monastery which was an experience of a different kind. Inside the monastery, there are huge golden status of several Buddhas including the founder of Buddhism religion Buddha Shakyamuni, Buddha Padmasambhava and Buddha Amitayus. You can rest here staring at these statues which will bring divine peace to your mind. 

Buddha Amitayus
Today, the Namdroling Monastery is a home for more than 6000 Tibetan Monks and is renowned as a center for the pure upholding of the teachings of the Buddha.

A Tibetan kid in Bylakuppe
Krishnarajasagar Dam and Brindavan Gardens

The Dam is built across the Cauveri River and just beside the dam is the famous Brindavan Garden. It is too rare to miss these gardens on your way towards Mysore. With lush green tree and flower plantations all around, it is surely understood why this has been a hub for shooting several famous love songs of old Bollywood movies. There is a small fish aquarium built across the garden which has quite a different variety of fish on display. This attraction is has a nominal fee and school students visiting the Brindavan really enjoy them. 

The Krishnarajasagar Dam
The Krishnarajasagar Dam is a beautiful and well constructed dam with a planned pathway for tourists visiting it. The mighty flow of the river can clearly be experienced from here and one can imagine how a river flows across several villages of South India quencing the thirst of severals on it's way.

Water Fountains at the Brindavan Garden
The Mysore Palace (Ambavilas Palace)

The famous Mysore Palace remains the greatest attraction in the city of Mysore. One can enjoy a short guided tour through the palace and enjoy a historic view of the paintings and architechture of the structure. The most amazing part of the architechture is that the entire palace is covered with electric bulbs which are all lit up during special occations for e.g. on the auspicious occation of the Dashera which commomorates the victory of the good over evil. The palace was the official residence and center of the Wodeyars who rules the princely state of Mysore from 1399 to 1950.

The Mysore Palace
The palace houses several rooms of unique historic importances which are clearly written and displayed during the tour. Just outside the palace are several lion statues which will make you ponder and tempt you to pose some good pictures with them. Certainly, the Mysore Palace is worth a visit.

Talakaveri and Brahmagiri Hills

Talakaveri is a small temple village in the Coorg District of Karnataka. This place has a good number of tourists visiting every day. This place is the origin of the River Cauvery which further flows through four different states of South India. We can drive all the way to the foothills of the temple. As a common scene across several major temples of India, there are small shops outside the temple where you can buy yourself quick snacks. On entering the temple you will come across a water kund (pond) where devotees wash their feet and hands after travelling through the narrow roads towards the village. There are two temples beside the holy water kund the first one of Lord Ganesha and the other of Lord Shiva. 

A Majestic View of Coorg
The most beautiful part of the visit to Talakaveri is the climb towards the Brahmagiri Hills. Right beside the temple, there are footsteps which will take you to the highest peak of the Brahmagiri Hills which is nearly 1350 feet above the sea level. The scenic view one can observe from this peak is uncomparable to any other place on earth. It is believed that the seven great sages known as the Sapta Maharishis performed a great yagya right here. You can see the distant horizons from here and the clouds kissing the winds as it rushes through your hair. The view of several windmills on these mountains seem too beautiful to miss. I am sure that the pictures you capture from this place will be your best pictures in Coorg.