Travelling Is Life

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page

Travelling Is Beginning

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step

Travelling Is Involvement

A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles

Travelling Is Exploring

Tourists don’t know where they have been, travellers don’t know where they are going

Travelling Is Observation

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things

Monday, April 30, 2012

Melaka Through Pictures

A boat ride at night time in River Melaka can be very refreshing
360 degree view of Melaka from the rotating cabin of Menara Taming Sari
Eye on Melaka is situated on river bank. There are other attractions too
Duck tour is done on an amphibious vehicle. It is a fun ride of 45 minutes
Chinese Temple in Harmony Street. The oldest Chinese temple in Malaysia
The Mosque in Harmony Street of Melaka. Its architecture is Sumatran
Inside view of the mosque. One can see Victorian-style chandelier
For authentic Baba-Nyonya food, don't miss to go to Donald & Lily's
Famosa Restaurant on Jonker Street is famous for its chicken rice balls
A Baba-Nyonya house, which has been converted into a museum now
Inside Baba-Nyonya house. It speaks of wealthy lifestyle of its owners
New parts of Melaka. These are built on reclaimed land and are well-planned
Looking toward sea from St. Peter's Hill. Land seen here is reclaimed one
The participants of the MAP Fest, which is being held every November
Colourful trishaws are unique to Melaka... in fact an identity for Melaka
Children enjoying a ride in one of the trishaws on Jalan Kota
The Melakan Art and Performing Festival is becoming a regular feature now
The fountain at the Town Square...dedicated to Queen Victoria of Britain
Town Square also known as the Dutch Square, has many roadside shops
The Clock Tower situated in the Dutch Square looks stunning at night
Melaka River, which has been a backbone for Melakan economy
A monument on the banks of river, where bastions of fort were excavated
The famous red Christ Church built by Dutch... Situated at the Town Square
Graffiti on the rear walls of buildings situated on both sides of the river
A replica of Flor Do Mar ship. It houses one of the maritime museums

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Quick Escape to Alluring Alibaug

If you are in and around Mumbai and looking for a quick escape from the daily rut, Alibaug is the place for you! We had planned to go to Alibaug only for two days but then extended our stay with one more day since our entire journey was full of surprises with sparkling beaches and quaint villages and ancient architecture. Alibaug is a pristine, nicely hidden quite little place with beautiful beaches, just 130 kms away from Mumbai and 138 kms from Pune! The place itself gives you a feeling of being into the interiors of Kerala. Just imagine streets and beaches lined with hutments and coconut groves!

The beauty of Alibaug lies in its clean and clear beaches, surrounded by beautiful forts like the Kolaba Fort and old churches, which instantly take you to the an era gone by. There is a Magnetic Observatory that is more than 150 years old. Then there is fascinating tower of St Barbara, famous Vikram Vinayak temple and a lot of small attractions thrown all over the place.

The main beaches near Alibaug are Kihim Beach, Rewas Beach, Saswane Beach, Kashid Beach, Awas Beach and Mandwa Beach where you can see farmhouses of a lot of film celebrities, and of course the Nagaon Beach. They all keep you enamored by their white sands and cleanliness.

Places not to be missed
A little ahead of Alibaug, almost 30 kms, is Kashid. Here you get your first hand experience of true beach fun, with lots of shacks to relax, white sand, camel and tonga rides, boating, surfing etc.

Murud and Janjira
A stone’s throw away from Alibaug are small and sleepy twin towns of Murud and Janjira. Historically, Murud holds a very important place. These towns are just 45 kms away from Alibaug. Located on the sea shore, these towns are prosperous due to seafood industries and flourishing tourism. Janjira is a very famous fort in Murud, which is built 2 kms into the sea. During 15th and 16th centuries, it was the capital of Siddis. It was the Great Maratha Shivaji’s base from where he initiated many of his famous assaults on his enemies. Due to its strength and grandeur, the palace remained unattainable to all of his rivals, however strong they had been.

Where to stay in Alibaug
Accommodations in this part of the country are good enough to suit any pocket, but it is the family-friendly hospitality which sweeps you off your feet. For a relaxed stay and civilized service with contemporary services you can opt for resorts like Shoreline Resort, Sand Piper Resorts, Golden Swan Resort, Mahua Bagh and Lotus Beach Resort. For more economically suitable options you can go for Boarding, Beach Resort Silver Sand, Sea Face, Kinara Hotel, the Nest Bamboo House and Sea Shell Resort. There are cute little cottages also available, owned by local people, at decent rates.

How to get there
Mumbai is the closest airport 140 kms away. From there, one can hire a taxi to get to Alibaug, a 3-hour drive away. It is well connected through roadways to the cities along the Konkan coast. There are prepaid taxis that are available from Mumbai International Airport. The taxi operators charge around Rs 1500 for a trip from Mumbai to Alibaug.

The closest main railway station is at Panvel. Panvel is an important station on Konkan Railway and is approximately 50 kms from Alibaug. From Panvel, the road trip takes about one hour. Though the closest railway station is Pen, but not all trains stop at Pen.

Alibaug town is well connected by buses with Mumbai, Panvel, and Pune etc. Buses also ply to most of the main beaches in the area. One can reach Alibaug via Pen. It is about 30 kms. From Pen, there are many buses. The main bus stop is located at a walking distance from Alibaug Beach.

It is the most preferred mode of transportation amongst local people. It is far quicker and exciting as compared to road or train journey. Alibaug is connected to Mumbai via two of its surrounding beaches. There is a catamaran service between Gateway of India and Mandwa beach, which operates between 6 am to 6 pm daily. The journey takes around 50 minutes. From Mandwa, the boat operators have their own chartered bus service to Alibaug. Bus journey is of 45 minutes and the ticket price includes both catamaran and bus fare. There is a second option from Dockyard Road in Mumbai. A ferry service operates daily between 6 am to 6 pm from Dockyard Road to Rewas. It is one hour journey and ticket price includes only sea fare. From Rewas, one has to go to Alibaug by State Transport bus or by auto-rickshaw and it takes around 1 hour. One has to keep in mind that ferry services are suspended if it is high tide, and those usually remain suspended during peak monsoon season.

You can also hire a taxi to go to Alibaug. Different operators charge differently but whichever way you go, Alibaug is a great stress-buster with its clean beaches, less crowd and sheer tranquility.

Text and Photos by Ambreen Zaidi

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Journey On Death Railway

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I didn’t know that train journeys in Thailand could be so much fun, until I had hopped on a passenger train going from Thonburi in downtown Bangkok to Nam Tok situated in the hilly north-western region along the border with Burma. Apart from the journey itself, it was the thrill of being on Death Railway that had sowed the seeds of excitement in the first place. The infamous Death Railway once connected Siam (Thailand) with Burma (Myanmar). But I was not going up to the last station; my destination was Kanchanaburi- a small town and a state capital situated on the banks of River Kwai- and it was three and a half hours away. Most of the travellers going to that part of Thailand make Kanchanaburi as their base to explore further. It is in Kanchanaburi that you find the world-famous bridge on River Kwai (made famous by a 1957 movie ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ ).
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Before I take you onto this journey, let me tell you an interesting fact about the naming of the bridge. When this bridge was constructed during Second World War, it was not on River Kwai actually. It was built on the mighty River Mae Klong, but wrongly documented as built on River Kwai, which is in fact a smaller tributary and merges into River Mae Klong a little further downstream. To correct this historical mistake, River Mae Klong up till the merger was renamed as Kwai Yai (literally meaning ‘the Big Kwai’) and the tributary River Kwai was renamed as Kwai Noi (literally meaning ‘the Small Kwai’). And after the point where two Kwais merge, the river name remains the same as Mae Klong. It does sound interesting, no??

The Journey Starts
We were three friends visiting Thailand together. It was the month of December in 2010 and the sun was rising a little late in the northern hemisphere. So, when the train started from the station at 7.50 in the morning, it was still pleasant in otherwise hot and humid Thailand. The trains covering short distances usually have 3rd class seating compartments and seats are not reserved. The train fare in Thailand is according to the distance travelled, but they charge a flat fare of 100 Baht from foreign tourists travelling on Death Railway no matter where one wants to alight.
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The railroad passes through some beautiful landscapes. As the train starts coming out of Bangkok and labyrinth of stone buildings starts thinning, green paddy fields and banana trees start meeting your eyes; and believe me, those are very soothing sights. You get to see a lot of country-side life on the way- quite opposite to what you witness in Bangkok. This is real Thailand.

And inside the compartment, you can get a chance to interact with this rural life of Thailand. Don’t be surprised if you find some of your co-passengers giving you constant glares and flashing a large grin the moment you happen to look straight into their eyes. After all, you are a foreigner and a rare and special commodity in the rural areas. You have to be lucky to get into conversation with one of them, because a very few of them know English.
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It is advisable that you take enough eatables with you as these trains don’t have a pantry car. Though, you will frequently have vendors inside the train selling beer cans, water bottles and small eatables. We had got some packets of fried rice with us. It was fun to sip beer while cool breeze from the open windows was blowing in my face.

One more thing you will like about the train journeys in Thailand is the stations are very clean and are not crowded with vendors. The bigger stations do have eateries and other shops, but those are inside the station premises and never on the platforms- quite opposite to what you see in India.

We reached Kanchanaburi almost on time. But sadly, we had not crossed the famous bridge yet. It is about 5 kilometres ahead of Kanchanaburi station towards Nam Tok. This bridge was to be crossed on our return journey which we took two days later from Wang Po- a beautiful place further up in hills in Sai Yok area and the second last station on this route.

The Return Journey
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The return journey was far more exciting- thrilling, to be accurate. We had stayed at Sai Yok the night before. It had a station named Wang Po. We boarded the train in after noon from there. Just after leaving Wang Po, the train crosses Wang Po viaduct- a wooden bridge which is in the last stages of its life. It is built along River Kwai Noi. The train speed is so low that it almost crawls. And below on the right side you see a sprawling water body. Don’t be surprised if your heart skips a beat... It was one of the most thrilling experiences I had in life. And on the banks of river, one can see lush green lawns of resorts. These resorts offer the beat stay in the area.
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The rail section between Nam Tok and Kanchanaburi runs through lush green hills and above the meandering river and it offers some great views. I had missed this on my journey two days before which had ended at Kanchanaburi. But the return leg compensated for the earlier miss. 
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Our final moment of exhilaration during this return leg came when we reached ‘the bridge’. As the train took a curve and the bridge came into sight, I could see many tourists taking a stroll on it. How the train is going to pass them!!! Well, the train slowed down and the strollers took refuge on small platforms built at regular intervals on both sides of the bridge. They waved when train passed them. It was an unforgettable moment. And it had completed my first experience as a train traveller in Thailand. My second train experience in Thailand came one year and two months later when I went to Chiang Mai. That I will describe in my next article.

Some Helpful Tips
  • The trains usually run late in Thailand, and this was the case during my return journey and my journey to Chiang Mai. They will start on time, mind it… but will get delayed during journey. You can blame it on single line on most of the sections.
  • For 3rd class compartments, there is no need to buy tickets in advance. But you should be at the station early to get good seat if you are starting from originating station.
  • Outside Thonburi station, there are many vendors who sell cooked food. The food is good and clean.
  • The train to Kanchanaburi departs two times daily from Thonburi station. First one at 7.50 and second one at 13.55. and the train from Nam Tok departs at 5.20 and 12.55 daily for Bangkok.
  • The biggest station or the central station in Bangkok is called Hua Lamphong. It is located in the centre of the city in Pathum Wan area on Rama VI road.
  • There is online booking system of train tickets in Thailand. You can check the availability of seats than can book your tickets at The charge per transaction is 20 Baht and you can book four passengers in one transaction.
  • Else, you can use private train travel agencies like, or These agencies charge a fee for booking tickets through them.
 Text and Photos by Ajay Garg

    Tuesday, April 17, 2012

    Amsterdam- The Sin City

    My first impressions of this city were foggy. Literally; the city is filled with fearless smokers at its every nook and corner. It is a city that is known for its legal permissiveness of sex and drugs. A city that attracts millions of travellers every year; a city that lets you unleash that wild side you otherwise keep tamed for the real world. This is the city of freedom.

    In Amsterdam, you’re probably considered an outcast if you’re not looking for sex, drugs and crazy partying. I was one such outcast. In a bid to explore beyond the periphery of the usual suspects, I found some intriguing spots in a vast cobweb of canals. Aside from the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House and the Heineken Experience, I also discovered Dutch-style fries drowned in mayonnaise, the colourful Dutch tulips, their large family-size pancakes, numerous bicycles everywhere, and much, much more.

    Rijksmuseum @ Jan Luijkenstraat 1 
    Considered to be one of the 10 most principal museums in the world, the Rijksmuseum houses works of notable artists like Rembrandt van Rijn (The Night Watch) and Het Joodse Bruidje (The Jewish Bride) are on view here. It also contains a vast collection of Netherlandish paintings from 15th to late 19th century, together with Delft earthenware and a gorgeous doll house. There, I happened to witness a very intriguing artist at work. The objet d'art of artist Maarten Baas was a huge grandfather clock inside which a man is seated (visible through a translucent white screen), who changes the time every minute. It was so fascinating that most of the crowd would finish the museum tour and then spend several minutes at the exit watching time change minute by minute.
    Open from 9am-6pm (till 10pm on Fridays); Admission fee €10

    Van Gogh Museum @ Paulus Potterstraat 7
    For any Van Gogh fan, this is a must-visit. This three-storied building illustrates Vincent Van Gogh’s development as an artist and captures facets of his personal life through a permanent collection of over 200 paintings and 500 drawings; along with letters and quotes from his family and friends. One of its current biggest attractions is the reproduction of one of his most famous paintings- The Bedroom- through a life-size visual display. It also serves as a visually vibrant educational platform for someone who isn’t familiar with his work. You can also take home some of his works in a miniature avatar at the museum’s souvenir  shop that has everything from magnets to mugs to coasters to button pins to puzzles to chocolates (with wrappers decked with the paintings) to table mats to tea pots to lunch bags.
    Open from 10am-6pm (till 10pm on Fridays); Admission fee €14

    The Heineken Experience @ Stadhouderskade 78
    Amsterdam is the birthplace of one of the world’s finest beers, Heineken. The Heineken Experience comprises the first ever Heineken brewery, opened in 1887, that was transformed into a visitor centre that held informative tours on the brewing process of this beer. Today, the Heineken Experience offers an exciting interactive tour that last for an hour and half spread over 19 different rooms. It includes historic exhibits, the brewing process through interactive videos, their advertising reel starting from 1958, a football section with memorabilia together with foosball tables, a stable with Heineken shire horses, a section where you can create videos, do a karaoke number and click photographs of yourself and send it to your friends, a special simulated movie called Brew Your Ride explaining the brewing process in a lighter vein, and a souvenir shop with T-shirts, glasses, etc. 
    My favourite part of this ‘experience’, however, was definitely the tasting room- where you can also learn how to pour beer the right way, how to correctly skim the foam, and more tips from the experts- and the Brew U section, where you can create your very own personalized beer bottle etched with your name on it.
    Open from 10am-6pm (Tue-Sun); Admission fee €14

    Anne Frank HousePrinsengracht 267
    This was truly an extremely emotional experience, yet an unforgettable one. Having known nothing about her, not only was I enlightened about her story but also was touched by it. This is the actual house where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis for over two years. The house, now a well-laid museum, puts together her story and the history of the eight people who hid there between 1942 and 1944, and those who helped them during their hiding, the way she recounts it in her diary. It even has actual pages she initially wrote on, as well as medium-sized model of the room she stayed in hiding. Also on display are several videos by people who knew her expressing her family’s anguish over the perils they had to face.
    However, it was her father’s video that really shook me. I didn’t expect to feel so overwhelmed. And I certainly didn’t think that I was going to cry. But it took me by surprise, and without invitation just came rolling down when I heard him say (about Anne, after reading her journal); ‘You never really know who your children really are.’
    Open daily from 9am-7pm (till 9pm between March and Sept); Admission fee €7.50

    A Canal Cruise @ Damrak 26 
    Enjoy a relaxing evening by taking a canal cruise, as it lets you see the city in the most laid-back way. It’s a great way to see Amsterdam’s most prominent spots and understand its history and architectural influences via this one-hour tour.
    Tour departs every 15 minutes from 10am-4.30pm (till 6pm from April to Sept); Tickets start from €10

    Sneak Peeks
    • Tulips and clogs (wooden shoes) are trademarks of the Dutch capital, so pick some up at the Bloenmarkt (Flower Market) along the Singel canal.
    • For large, main-course-plate-sized pancakes, make a stopover at T’Singeltje, along the Bloenmarkt. It has welcoming wooden furniture with vintage photographs of Amsterdam on the wall. Oddly, it has napkins on the lamps. Never understood that!
    • Walk into the Magic Mushroom gallery -also along the Bloenmarkt- to purchase everything and anything related to drugs: seeds, pipes, bongs, candies, chocolates, cookies, and loads more.
    • I didn’t visit any coffee shops, but according to hearsay, Bulldog Cafe is supposedly a popular spot. If cheese is your fix, then you must try the wide variety at Henri Willig Cheese. The flavours range from pesto and fenugreek to pepper and herbs and garlic cheese. 
    • Adding to the list of museums in Amsterdam, you could also explore the Sex Museum (tracing its history), Marijuana Museum, TortureMuseum and Vodkamuseum.
    • If you just want a lazy afternoon sitting by a lake or cycling around a park, Vondelpark -just south of the city centre- is the place to be. Sprawled over one and a half kilometres, it has numerous paths, lakes, wide expanses of green and a restaurant/bar.
    • For a quick satisfying meal, head to any of Amsterdam’s FEBO outlets. They are everywhere! You should be able to get a good burger for around €2.
    Have a Great Trip
    • When planning your trip, double-check all of the above as admission fees and timings are subject to change.
    • Be sure to do a search on ‘Free things to do in Amsterdam’. There are several things to do and places you can visit that are free of cost and it is best to know before you reach, so that you can plan your days accordingly. For example, you can catch a free concert at The Boekmanzaal, which hosts free concerts (performed by either Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the Choir of the Netherlands Opera or the Netherlands Ballet Orchestra) on Tuesdays at 12.30pm from September-May.
    • The Dam Square is often abuzz with activity with some crazy street artists putting up fun attire and tricks to entertain an audience.
    I stayed at the Stayokay Hostel in Stadsdoelen. You can find many budget accomodations on travel websites like and 

    Text and Photos by Ruchika Vyas
    of Traveller Stories

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