Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dear Melbourne, I got a lil crush on you.

I have been meaning to tell this to you for a long time now … And though, it’s taken me over an entire year – excuse this sluggish dud, but I needed this interval to reveal my true feelings for you – I thought, with a new prompt on IndiBlogger in association with your guardian Tourism Victoria, this was the perfect time to get my act together and finally let the secret out of my heart.

Dear Melbourne, I got a lil crush on you.

I wonder why, but I can’t stop thinking about you. Perhaps because you are so unique in your character. Flamboyant. Creative. Childlike. Weird. All at the same time. Such a big contrast to the first impressions I had about you: Imposing, daunting, sticking a larger-than-life picture in the ordinary eyes of this unknowing Indian girl.

City of Melbourne

Ah, how naïve I was!

Innocent and raw. Too trite to understand simple facts that true relationships are never about first-impression-affairs. But about growing your way in and getting won over with time.

I learnt that from you, Melbourne. Thank you!

You beguile at first and then, ever so slowly, charm your way in. Frankly, I am mesmerized by your dazzling persona and besotted with your unruffled attitude. You seem to carry this blithe vibe around you that echoes: I care-a-damn-of-what-you-think-about-me. Not trying to be anything else. Not trying to be anyone else. To just be effervescently happy and unabashedly confident with your quirky sense of attitude, divine coffee and peculiar arts - wow. How cool is that. You are different, Melbourne. You do know that, don’t you? You are not one of those superfluous chatterboxes who believe in blowing their own trumpet. And, why would you? That would belie your enigmatic individuality. An individuality you wholeheartedly embrace. An individuality that you are clearly in love with. An individuality that speaks for itself - a voice so real; the world sits up and listens.

Dear Melbourne, please; don’t mistake this for a love letter.

Because it’s not – I know only little of you. But yep, this is true… I am a bit love struck and I fear I might just be falling for you. And here are the reasons, why:

Abstract creativity in city laneways: Here, there … EVERYWHERE!

You hate to be pinned and mapped so you splatter your art and culture all around for the world to discover it for themselves. Your imagination runs wild and creativity is your skin – you wear your art on your sleeve and you are not afraid to show it. But, this you do, in your own way and style!

So that one day, you hold my hand and lead me to the most idiosyncratic aspect of your personality: Evocative street art in narrow hidden lanes and alleyways. And the other day, you bowl me over by your colorfully decorated trams, literally moving around the busy streets as moving art-boxes on wheels.


Melbourne Graffiti in lanes and alleyways
Melbourne Art Trams
Why, am I not surprised!

With your dreary skies one moment and brilliant sunshine the next, you come across as a bit moody but I like you anyhow. You know how to convey things in the most interesting manner and in the most unusual of places. You sweep me off with the things you say and the way you say them. (A rhino for a tram? Ah, I love your sense of humor!).

On your marks, get set, SHOP!

Your creativity reflects not just on the streets but in the way you dress up as well! With you, shopping is not just shopping but a way of adventure. Under soaring glass cnopies and mosaic floors (Royal Arcade and the Block Arcade) and in renovated heritage buildings (Melbourne GPO and Nicholas building), as pedestrian-only pathways (Bourke Street Mall and Degraves Street) and in subterranean subways (Campbell Arcade) – you delight every visiting traveler, shopaholic or not, with a twist that speaks for your eccentric and well reputed fashion and style.

Melbourne's shopping precinct - Royal Arcade

For all your boutique shops and luxurious malls, there is a corner of your heart that beats for the locals through the 1878 set Queen Victoria Market, it’s souvenirs may be a tad overpriced but its fruits and veggies fresh from the farm produce is something that tickles the taste buds of every visitor with glee.

Melbourne's local market - Queen Victoria Market


High your COFFEE and drink it too!

The Cup of Truth, in the underground subway just next to the luxurious Citigate hotel, is where I am squeezed to meet the ‘busy, important and truthful’ cup that is as fabulous and charming as the aroma wafting out from the freshly extracted coffee beans. I am an Indian - more of a tea person but you are right Melbourne - your coffee tastes divine.

Cup of Coffee - Melbourne

The best part is that you don’t need experts to taste and declare that for you – you are already high on quality and take nothing less than superb for an opinion. You just know what a weary traveler would want after a hard day’s exploration – from The Little Mule to Patricia and Brother Baba Budan - your coffee trail never ends.

As FOOD as it gets!

Melbourne, there was one thing I was skeptical about you but I am so glad – you proved me wrong. You seem to show no difficulties in embracing cuisines from others and seamlessly integrating them with your own. You promise to dish and serve pure veggie treats while I am there and then lead my nose to affordable restaurants where I can treat my taste buds without testing my credit limit (see Om's Vegetarian - unlimited full course meal for $ 6.50 and Gopals of the Hare Krishna Movement). I can’t name many other siblings of yours that take care of travelers like you do.

Home like Dal chawal at Gopal's ISKCON, Melbourne


… What next?

At the MCG, I am star struck, gaping in awe at the number of renowned personalities and media persons from world over coming over to meet you!

Melbourne, darling… aren't you a global rockstar?

You are chic. To the point of modern but what really laps my heart is how you proudly flaunt your diverse heritage and distinctive traditions for all to behold. Wandering down the carefully numbered streets and peeping through the rain glazed windows of the wiry city circle trams; I gaze up and marvel at your historical buildings you have so carefully preserved down the ages.

Flinders and City Circle tram, Melbourne

The dynamic Flinders street station still remains a living icon of your very existence, the diagonally opposite St. Pauls Cathedral never fails to peacefully conveys its message of humanity and empathy.

To the ordinary, you seem to be in some sort of chaotic hurry but to those who care to scratch a little, you are a lover of joy and peace. And, a keeper too. Wrapping myself up in your warm embrace of the meandering Fitzroy (a classic Victorian landscaped garden) is one of my favorite things to do because there is something very dreamy and quixotic I find in this combination...


...me, nothing-ness and you.

Wandering in the Fitzroy in Melbourne, Australia

This is a point where I am already impressed but what can I do? I am still a blogger by heart, rather unromantic, curious and crude. So I casually pop: What next? Subconsciously implying: Umm… guess it’s time to move on, looks like I have seen it all. Only to see my foot, tumbling in my mouth, rollicking soon after.

I find myself pushed to The Edge, where looking out over the edging, I realize how much I have missed while wandering my time in the center. ‘Living Life on the Edge’ is your mantra. And, you encourage me to do the same: to live on the edge of everything that bounds. All that is restricting. All that is ordinary. Which is why you bring me to one of your most happening places: Federation square. It could well have been a regular meeting adda but nah! That is boring for you. So, you throw in some amazing artists and live performances and allow them to feed their talent to the general public. You also put me atop the legendary Puffing Billy train for an exciting day down through the country side…

… and you do this and you do that ...

With you, there is never a full stop. There never was. There never will be. Because the surprises you hold never seem to end!

No wonder then, a bunch of awesome bloggers in India are going gaga over you and competing for a chance to meet you. Soon, someone will fly over to have a nice long rendezvous with you. Someone, who will remind me of all the wonderful times I had spent with youI wonder if that someone will remind you of me too?

Melbourne... I've got a crush on you

I am probably never going to see you again and I have grown to be as content with that fact as I can. However, no matter how far we are apart or whether we ever speak again, I won’t ever forget you. I can only hope that for all the times I remember you, you will think of me once in a while too…

Dear Melbourne, I 've got a lil crush on you…

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#Contest! Show your love for Melbourne and get loved in return!

Comment on 'which of these places would you want to visit in Melbourne and why?'
And, you could win yourself a Rs. 500 shopping voucher,
Courtesy IndiBlogger and Tourism Victoria!
Contest Ends 5th January! HURRY!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Weekend Getaway to Pune (via the Mumbai-Pune Expressway)

29 - 30 Nov’ 14:

It was 6 to 7 years back when I last visited the twin sibling of my city, Mumbai… Pune. Thus, when the prospect of visiting Pune came forth in November, even if it was only for a day and a half, it got me all excited.

Lord Ganesh in the car - India Travel
With an excited call out to Lord Ganesh, here starts our trip to Pune!

The balmy afternoon sun roiled above our car as it busily sped past the hustle bustle and skyscrapers of Mumbai to take the wide speedy roads of the six lane Mumbai-Pune expressway. The 90 odd KM long expressway (officially the Yashwantrao Chavan Mumbai Pune Expressway) connecting the two cities is the shortest road link from Mumbai making it the most preferred among the other alternative available routes to reach Pune today including the old NH4.

View of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway from the window of my car, Maharashtra India

The road conditions spanning the entire stretch of the expressway are excellent, and the sights so charming that they make the high toll charges totally worth it. The drive saw me glued to the window seat of my car gorging at the scenic vistas unfolding outside. It’s good to see nothing much of this expressway has changed in the past few years. The car still zooms past sweeping all those sights that I had fallen in love with when I had first taken the road years back. These are things I look out for and enjoy every time I hit these roads.

What are they? Well, here they go - sit back and enjoy!

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR WHILE DRIVING OUT TO PUNE (VIA THE MUMBAI-PUNE EXPRESSWAY)

The mighty range of the Sahyadris on one side and half vegetation, deep gorges on the other side for company...

6 lane high speed Mumbai Pune Expressway, Maharashtra
Mumbai-Pune Expressway

Dark tunnels - look at the sparks of light flying around!

Crossing one of the tunnels - Mumbai Pune Expressway, India
The --- tunnel – among one of the 5 tunnels along the expressway.

Monkeys! who squeal and jump with hopeful eyes pierced through the windows of your car, feasting on the bananas received...

Monkeys eating bananas along the fence, Mumbai Pune Expressway, Maharashtra, India
Monkeys along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway

And, the changing colors of the horizon...

Sunset on the Mumbai Pune Expressway, Maharashtra India
Sunset on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway

At around 6 PM… after travelling for about 3 hours and covering close to 200 kms., the sky began changing moods. As I saw the evening sun cast its orangy gleam over the urban facade of the city, I wondered about our meeting the next day. With no fixed plans and just a day to explore ... how was she going to treat me? Were there any surprises planned? or was one day too short a time to know a multifaceted personality like her?

All answers were revealed through the events of the following day, in their own time and in their own way.

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How to Reach Pune and Other Traveler Tips.

Pune is well connected with Mumbai and most of the other Indian cities through all the modes of transport like air, train and roads. Most travellers from Mumbai, however, prefer taking the roads as the journey takes only about 2 to 3 hours (approx. 200 KM.) depending on the traffic. Hiring a cab or taking your own are undoubtedly the best options in this case.

- For those who prefer air travel instead, Pune airport is located in Lohegaon, which is about 20 KM. from the city.

- While going to (or returning from) Pune to Mumbai via the expressway, you can take a detour to Lonavala-Khandala which is situated midway through the route. So if you do have a bit of time at hand, you can try exploring a new area.

- You won’t find any dhabas or eating shacks across the Mumbai-Pune expressway, so look out for the ‘Food Mall’ located midway to have that quick bite or even a cup of coffee.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Celebrating 5 Years Anniversary of 'My Yatra Diary'

I’m not sure what I’ll do, but— well,
I want to go places and see people.
I want my mind to grow.
I want to live where things happen on a big scale.
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s been a long time... But today, for some reason, it doesn't feel so. I don’t feel the depth of time. Not before, I sit down and flip back the pages. Like the colors of a morning sun slowly splashing its magic on the chalky canvas of the twilight sky, the grainy hues of nostalgia come creeping in...

Precious moments, fleeting emotions, countless memories flutter across…
shaping 290 posts, 1840 days, and God knows how many words.

Even as this occasion calls for a gala celebration of words itself… the irony remains: words betray, as was the case some 5 years (and 13 days) back. I confess, even when the entire world might look like moving at a lightening speed, nothing really changes for me. Words are still not easy to come by, they are greased just like moments; slipping away faster than they arrive. Seems like mind finds joy in its own little games that it has got to play.

Anyway, the fact remains. 5 years and I have managed to continue writing. Something. And, all credits go to her: She’s really been a wonderful companion all these years.



Meandering down the paths, crisscrossing turns left and right and dodging speed-breakers up and down, it’s a good feeling to have finally reached somewhere. She’s been a great company all along, someone who’s managed to melt the crust of my exteriors away and shown me a new perspective for life… something I am yet to fully uncover and explore. It's going to take a lot of time, considering my snail speed but even for the tiny glimpse that I see, I will always be eternally grateful to her.

Here are a few doodles I managed to scribble while thinking about things learnt, also unlearnt in my 5 years journey with my blog and travel blogging...



The practice of art isn't to make a living. It's to make your soul grow. ~ Kurt Vonnegut



There is no footprint so small, that it cannot leave an imprint on this world. ~ Unknown



I would like to travel the world with you twice. Once, to see the world.
Twice, to see the way you see the world. ~ Unknown



In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you,
but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art. ~ Rumi

Can't really thank you enough... for all your time, visiting and gracing my little diary with your priceless blessings, footprints and well wishes through all these years. It was only because of your motivation and constant encouragement that I have survived this long perhaps. Thank you, for filling colors on the chalky canvas of my sky... Thank you, for adding beautiful melody and music to my otherwise common song...

... THANK YOU ...

YOU, touched a part of my soul.

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Since we are celebrating the completion of 5 years of this diary, I thought of compiling a list showcasing the power of 5! So, here it is, the TOP 5 posts of 'My Yatra Diary' based on pageviews of all time (November 2009 to December 2014).

5 POSTS WHICH HAVE STOOD THE TEST OF TIME - ALL TIME HIGHEST PAGEVIEWS:




ISKCON Temple, Delhi : 44823 pageviews




TIME FOR AN ANNIVERSARY GIVEAWAY!

Just a quick note to say that the #MyCollegeDiaries Contest is still on! Participate NOW and you could win your share from cash prizes worth Rs. 10,000!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

AIRBNB: Save Rs. 1500 on accommodation for your next trip!

Who wants to save some cash on hotel bookings
the next time you are going tripping?

I, for one, certainly want to! I mean, there are fewer things than saving money on accommodations that can really give your trip that much needed jumpstart. And if you are one of my types too, make sure you are staying with me and reading on.

Because today, I am going to pass on an Airbnb credit chunk in your pocket, right here, in this very post to help you save the next time you travel and book.

SAY HELLO TO AIRBNB!

Airbnb is a community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique accommodations at any point in time, at any place in the world. Thriving on the traditional host-guest relationship in a sustainable fashion, it aims to connect people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 34,000 cities and 190+ countries. 

Impressive with tonnes of pictures and accompanying reviews for the listed accommodations, the website worked like a breeze the first time I browsed through randomly. And some of these properties – they made my jaw drop, literally!

These are homes I have always dreamt of, living in someday… a cozy rustic hideout in the midst of a jungle, a lot of woody interiors, the music of the birdy chirps wafting in the air, tea drinking sessions with stunning mountain views in the distance and a lot of creative and arty stuff to keep me occupied… It’s good to know that with Airbnb, such homes actually exist!

Moving ahead, I went on and created a wishlist consisting of 5 interesting properties that I would like to visit someday. Check them out below:

1. "A-Frame" Rustic Off-Grid Cabin: Forest Route 17N, Gasquet, CA 95543, United States.


I love anything old, rustic and remote. Add some wood in there and you make sure, you get me - totally. This is how the property managed by the hosts Jane, Dan and Nick caught my eye. They describe their property as a small, rustic, hand built cabin deep in the Northern California woods, part of a remote, off-grid "village" including a few other cabins, dogs, frogs, permaculture gardens and all kinds of cool, sustainable, DIY infrastructure which is something I would definitely like to check out someday!

2. Cottage on private island near Ottawa: Ottawa, Canada.


Ever imagined living in a funky old cottage on a private island? I have. And this next property in my wish list speaks just that. Boasting of spectacular water views all round, yet secluded from other people, this 100 year old base, now renovated still shines in original charm, and looks promising enough for a great Canadian cottage experience.

3. I SETTE CONI - TRULLO EDERA: Ostuni, Brindisi, Italy.


The next property took me to the enchanting surroundings of the town of Cisternino... The picture of the property with the branches of olive tree in the background was enough to entice me in. Set in an elevated position with a stunning view, the home looks like a heaven of peace and tranquility seated in the lap of nature. It's the kind of place where I would like to pick up a good book, or take a short walk to explore the small country streets or the nearest beaches and then - blog about it!

4. Tree Sparrow House, Cornwall: St. Keverne, England, United Kingdom.


Magic! Always fascinated for all things magical right since childhood, there was no way I was going to miss putting this one on my wish list. Hosted by Outlandish Holidays known for creating magical holiday experiences, I particularly loved this tree house as not only was it enveloped in a lot of greenery but is also close to the sweeping sea making it a a perfect place for a cozy, relaxed and an unwinding experience!

5. Mountain Octagon: nature-views-art!: West Augusta, VA, United States.

And, last but not the least. This one is my favorite. Why? Because it combines all that I love in one house, in one place and in one destination - Nature, views and art! Really, there is nothing more I could ever ask for.

Mountain Octagon -- nature-views-art!
These are homes where I would love to stay someday...
What’s your idea of a dream home away from home?

(All images courtesy https://www.airbnb.co.in)

HOW TO EARN YOUR $25 AIRBNB TRAVEL CREDIT?

Okay, coming back to our topic again, let me tell you more about the $25 discount you can gain the next time you make a booking through Airbnb. Please follow the steps below:

  • CLICK HERE to enter my special Airbnb invite for you.

  • Once you are in, do you see a page saying, Arti invited you to join Airbnb? Below that, there is a button that says Sign up to claim your credit. Click that button!
  • Here, you need to sign up via Facebook, OR your email address.
Note: If you are already registered with Airbnb, choose the 'Sign up with Email option' and create a new Gmail account for yourself as this $25 Airbnb promo code offer is only valid for new account signups.
  • Sign in. Click on your Name on the top right hand side of the toolbar and click on Edit Profile. Fill out your profile completely for authenticity.
  • Hurray! You are done! Time to plan your next trip!

Remember! HOW TO USE YOUR AIRBNB CREDIT AND AIRBNB COUPON TERMS & CONDITIONS

As with just about any discount or deals, there’s got to be an asterisk pointing to its terms and conditions. Below, I’ll quickly highlight 2 very important points you need to know now that you are ready to avail the $25 discount you have just received.
  • You must book a qualifying reservation in order to take advantage of this deal.
A qualifying Airbnb reservation must have a total value of $75 dollars or more.
  • Your reservation must be booked and paid for via the Airbnb platform.
All reservations must be booked and paid for via Airbnb in order to receive or redeem travel credits. What this simply means is that, Airbnb doesn't want you dealing with landlords or homeowners outside of their domain as this comes under terms of service violation. Simply roam around in Airbnb and book your stuff while you are there.

Well, that just about wraps up this short guide on how to save $25 on your first Airbnb reservation. Till next time then, hope this travel coupon helps you in your travels and if you have got some personal Airbnb stories to share, please do so in the comments section – since I am yet to try their services myself, I would love to hear them out from you!

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