Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Story of a Girl ...

A couple of weeks back, British Airways launched their new advert on you tube touching the pulse of newly weds in a traditional Indian family setup:

The tagline: Go further to get closer

The tagline did resonate in me, at a slightly different level may be, but yes, it did.

So when a similar question was put up by IndiBlogger: How far would you go to get closer to someone you love? as part of their contest in collaboration with British Airways, it got me thinking...

So how far could I go for someone I loved and who would that be?

.. Mom, dad, family, or friends… or… ?

Aha, check this video for the answers, my very first, and yes. Please don’t forget to tell me your feedback about it.

Here I go, I hope you will like it.

Going further beyond, getting closer within.
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For all those who can't view the video on this page, please try this direct You Tube link:

If you liked watching this video and if you are an IndiBlogger, please vote for it here or else simply send in your good wishes for me. Thank you. :)

Checklist for choosing good hotel accommodations in India.

For a couple of days now, I am busy zeroing in on a travel destination for the upcoming summer vacations in India. What about you? Are you planning on one too? If yes, then the next thing, immediately after selecting a destination, that would be on our minds is to search for a hotel that is best for us.

After all, a hotel is the place that becomes a travelers temporary home away from home and with the wide range of available accommodation in India, the situation can get a bit daunting if ‘booking a hotel’ is something that does not feature on his/her travel planning list.

Accommodations / Places to stay: A travelers home away from home.

Let me try to help and make this task a bit easier for you. Here’s a list of 5 questions that I believe, you should always ask yourself before pressing the ‘book my hotel’ button no matter where you are travelling to - I always do! Here they go:

1. Am I within my budget?

First things first. Draw a line and define your budget. There is no dearth of good hotels today in any range that you choose. Scan your options well, pick what looks good for you and shortlist the best from among them. The last thing you want is to end up splurging in this area such that it leaves you with a smaller pocket for other expenses like shopping, right? All you need to do is do your homework well. And then, follow it up with a bit of research through Google.

2. Am I travelling off season?

If yes, then there is some good news for you. Most of the hotels offer steep discounts for travelers travelling in the off season. And sometimes these can be as steep as saving you almost 50 percent of the original price. Do not shy away from bargaining. Remember that old adage, the customer is the king, the possibilities are endless and the market very competitive. Know the logistics well and speak confidently, you never know, sometimes that is all it takes to strike a good deal in your favor.

3. Does the hotel have pick up/drop facility?

Checking this box is important if you are not going to have any private transport pick you up from your point of arrival. Because of the competitive nature and the growing notoriety of touts, especially in touristy locations like Jaipur, many hotels offer for a pick and drop facility. Most of the time, the hotel itself will inform you about it but there are times when they don’t make it specific. Hence, the best thing is to never take things on face value and ASK. You might just get lucky.

4. Have I checked on the hotel amenities that are important to me?

Are you travelling in the winters? Did you check with the hotel if they provide for a heater? And what about a geyser? However small or trivial these questions may sound, unavailability of any of these items can be a real dampener once you reach there. I personally believe money is just one aspect; but the real finesse lies in the value and services. Make sure the hotel ticks all the right boxes worth your money especially those that are important to you.

5. How is the connectivity of the hotel with respect to the places I am looking forward to travel to?

needn't tell you how important choosing a hotel in a good location is; there is already tons of material written on it worldwide. Hotels seem to be everywhere these days, in all the directions of the city, in varied corners of the world. In such a scenario, it’s not difficult to get confused with all the available choices.

The answer to this dilemma lies with you. If you are planning to primarily explore the city and are dependent on public transport for getting around, then look out for a good centrally located hotel. On the other hand, if your stay is merely a stopover while reaching your ultimate destination, then you might as well deviate and select that location that is most convenient to pick your travelling from the next day (ex. Nearer to airport, railway station, etc.).

In short, the goodness of the connectivity of a hotel is directly related to your itinerary. Make sure you equate them properly and choose a hotel accordingly.

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This was my checklist I recommend you keep in mind before booking your hotel the next time around, now it’s time to share yours! Did I miss out on any point? Do you have anything to add? Please do so in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Eureka Sky Deck and The Edge: Things to do in Melbourne

St. Paul's cathedral Lanes and alleyways: Melbourne art culture - Tram rides - Queen Victoria Market - MELBOURNE MEMORY #5: EUREKA SKY DECK / The EDGE - Captain cook's cottage - Flinder's street station - Yarra River - MCG - Federation Square - Cuisine - Extras.

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"Don't lose hope. When the sun goes down, the stars come up.
If there is one thing in life that you can never lose beside yourself, it is the hope for a better day,
because there will always be one."

It had been 2 days now, ever since I had landed here, that I had been waking up to an unkind weather.

No use going there today, all you will see is fog and clouds, you will be wasting your money!

Eureka Sky Deck in foggy weather conditions: As seen from the Yarra River Bridge.

… is what the kind staff at Citigate hotel told me. Sometimes, I wondered if I would be able to fulfill this cherished dream of mine. Nevertheless, I waited for it. It was not until the evening of the third day of my trip that I got my reward.

Yeah, yeah. You can go today, its good, they said, flashing a smile as bright as the weather itself, and giving me their thumbs up as a sign of approval. And, I found my heart leaping in joy!

A short walk from Flinders street down the course of the Yarra river saw me at one of the most-sought-after and not-to-be-missed attractions of Melbourne. One of my dream memories too: The Eureka Sky deck!

Eureka Sky deck tower, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Eureka Sky Deck: Something that just can't be missed while you are in Melbourne!

Standing with a certain bit of pride, dignified and imperial, draped in profound blue, the Eureka sky deck was magnificent, almost artistic with bees hovering on its structure, beautifully complimented by the clear blue sky. Its 24 carat gold plated 10 storey cap shone in the evening freckled sun.

Artistic Bees at the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
The artistic bee box on the The Eureka Sky Deck: The highest vantage point in the southern hemisphere.

I had to crane my neck to an almost 180 degrees to see it right through. Melburnian pride of sheer architectural brilliance, I thought.

Watch your ears, the staff warned me as I was led to the lift which, I was told, at speeds of 9 metres per second, was apparently also the fastest in the southern hemisphere. I was transported to the 88th floor in a jiffy! 

It was around 6 PM when I reached the deck and there was still some time for the sun to settle down. A few people strolled around but things were still quiet. I anticipated a significant increase closer to the sunset.

Inside of the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
The 88th floor on the deck

LED strips on the ground doubled up as guides pointing to the binoculars fixated at regular intervals. Through them, I saw the Flinders, the Yarra, the Great Ocean road and more such must see attractions of the city.

Blue tinged windows of the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
What of Melbourne would you like to see?

Eureka Sky Deck during the day:

But most of Melbourne, I saw naked – uninhibited and unbridled, through the glass windows, in lights of different hues. It was a point where Melbourne ceased to be a city. Instead, she became a metaphor of timeless beauty, a thing of joy forever, an art, a poetry. It was a point where tall skyscrapers suddenly dwarfed, the noisy chaos of the city collapsed and the hurried pace of the people halted to a standstill.

Touched slightly by the lights of bright golden yellow, Melbourne looked spectacular from any window that I saw.

Eureka Sky deck Melbourne views, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Melbourne from 300 mtrs. above, indeed a unique experience!

Sometimes colored in a bluish tinge, sometimes in a reflective mood and at other times clear like water,

Golden reflections at the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
In reflections.

... Melbourne looked beautiful. More importantly, Melbourne seemed so much quieter and subdued… cut off from the usual chaos and noise that is very much an integral part of the city that I had known by now. I had silently grown in love with Melbourne all through the past days but today, I loved her more.

Eureka Sky deck sunset, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Look out through these 'Viewfinders': there are about 30 of them.

Eureka Sky Deck during dusk / sunset:

It was almost 7 now. The deck had turned a lot noisier than before. But did it matter? I guess, no. I was anxious and excited; it was my much awaited appointment with her, albeit in a different avatar. The setting was perfect. The lights of the sun which had till then illuminated the sky with a healthy dash of yellow now mixed orange and purple in it. Soon, dusk set in coloring all the scrapers and the river below.

Sun setting at the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Dusk: A time to pause and reflect.

I sat down in a carefully chosen corner. I reserved those few moments for myself. Listening to the silence outside, immersed in the magic of nature... Perhaps it was a call to the sun’s playtime. Where the sun with its troupe of clouds and lights had been called back to the House by the angels above? I saw it rushing. And along with it, went its lightening troupe.

Sun set time at the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Calling it a day, but they will be back tomorrow.

It was a time to thank the angels of the universe for all that the day had been and make a silent wish for a better tomorrow…

Eureka Sky Deck at night:

Twilight fell... on a cold freezing night of spring, there she came… like a bride, all decked up, with her evening ensemble, sparkling in her evening attire, with little stars studded in her evening gown. Resplendent in her glowing evening jacket and cuddled in the dark of the blanket, she revealed enough to take my heart and breath away. Melbourne now looked even more gorgeous than before.

Night views from the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Melbourne at night: Isn't she gorgeous?

'The Edge' experience:

Time flew by as I kept staring at her beauty. My rendezvous broke by a vibrating beep that came out of a mobile-like device handed to me by the staff of 'The Edge' a few minutes ago. It was time for 'The Edge', a thrilling adventure exclusive to only the Eureka and the brave. Touted as one among the most stunning glass adventures in the world, the edge is a glass cube which projects 3 metres out of the building as soon as you step onto it. The experience began with 6 of us, all tourists closed inside the cube and the glass cube enveloping itself in a fog. It continued with some shaking and eerie noises which were meant to scare us out. Okay, it did freak me a bit. But not for long. The best part came in, soon after. Now, all the dramatics faded away. I stood in a dimension where I felt suspended, not exactly on glass but in time. There were fewer hindrances here, the views more crisp and clear.

Edge experience at the Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
Step onto 'The Edge': Only, if you dare!

By now, it was 9 of the night and this is when I decided to head back to my hotel. But not before doing that one last thing that was still left to do: Gazing through the open wire mesh on the terrace. A gust of chilly wind kept me shivering as I gazed several metres down and infinite lengths afar; I could see lights all around, twinkling, interlocked and latticed. Lights which reflected a world dipped in challenges and excitement, uncertainty and hopes, difficulty and simplicity...

Night views, Eureka Sky deck, Melbourne Victoria Australia
From the open wire mesh on the terrace while shivering in the chilly winds: A different face of Melbourne

As I walked across the Yarra River bridge back to my hotel, I saw the Eureka Sky Deck resonating in stillness just as the Yarra. Silently, I said, thank you before hurriedly walking away, for it had helped me meet Melbourne that day, not this one which I was walking in, the real one.

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Tips for travelers:

1. For best views: consult the locals for the views are subject to weather conditions and wind speeds and the locals know it best.

2. Time your timing and save some money: If you plan to experience skydeck views in daylight as well as night, the best and cheapest way to go about it would be to purchase the ticket for 'General Admission' (not 'sun and stars') and reach the deck sometime before sunset. This way you can enjoy day views, sit for the sunset and further enjoy night views as well, all for a ticket that was, well technically, meant only for the day. It will not only save you a few dollars but also give you an experience to remember.

3. Photography in The Edge is not allowed and tickets for it are available on the deck itself.

Fast facts:

- Skydeck 88 is the highest vantage point in the southern hemisphere.
- Eureka is 984.3 ft / 300 meters in height.
- The lifts travel at more than 9 meters per second making them the fastest in the Southern Hemisphere.
- The glass on Eureka's top 10 levels is 24 carat gold plated.

How to get there:

Located on the southbank of Melbourne's Yarra river, a short walk from the CBD, Federation Square or the Crown Casino along the course and  across the bridge by the Yarra river takes you to the deck. If at all you get confused, all you got to do is follow the building, it will guide you towards itself!

There are also numerous trams and bus routes which drop near to the Southbank area.

Location, Contact and opening and closing hours:

7 Riverside Quay,
Southbank VIC 3006, Australia.

10 AM to 10 PM (last entry at 9.30 PM).

(03) 9693 8888;

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GIVEAWAY: 'My Most Memorable Memento Contest' is currently underway (till 16th March) where you can blog and win Rs. 8000 shopping voucher ($120 Amazon voucher). Do participate, I am  looking forward to seeing you there! Here is the link again :

Previous stories from Melbourne: