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Author: Travelure

Award-winning Travel Photographer. Canon Photo Mentor. Photo Tour Leader. Photo Educator. Photo Jurist. Driven by his mission is to make destinations desirable. Passionate about capturing the sights, sounds and stories of the places he visits. Winner of India's biggest blogging contest - GrabYourDream and Grand Winner of NatGeoTraveller's PhotoEssayContest!
Bali – A Little India in Indonesia

Bali – A Little India in Indonesia

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Besakih Temple Complex

Indonesia Series Part-II. Appeared in December 2016 issue of Smart Photography, India’s Premier Photography Magazine.

Bali – A Little India in Indonesia

In my previous travel story, we travelled to Lombok. Let’s embark on a Bali journey this time.

You may read Indonesia Series Part-I (Lombok – Bali of 70s) HERE.

I will start this journey by asking a question – in how many locations outside India would you get a feeling that you are in the land of Mahabharata, Bhagwat Gita, and Ramayana?

Not many, I guess. But in Bali, I constantly kept getting reminded of India’s holy epics!

Bali-Little-India-Indonesia

Bali ranks high every time a travel conversation veers towards beaches, water sports, nightlife, backpacking, volcanoes, and more. But one fact that gets seldom talked about is the Hindu influence here. Of the 17,000-odd islands that form the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is the only officially Hindu island.

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Gita Updesh – an elaborate sculpture in a Denpasar roundabout

We were staying in Seminyak, an area surrounded by Kuta, Denpasar, and North Kuta. To give you a further sense of its location, let me just say that it is on the rear edge of the lower fin of this fish-shaped island – and this fish is swimming from left to right.

Seminyak is a lot quieter than Kuta. But then, that’s not saying much as even this area is a major travel hub in Bali with the presence of many luxury hotels including the Oberoi Bali. It is fast developing into the high-street shopping capital of Bali.

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The steps leading to Besakih Temple

Besakih Temple

One of the days, we decided to travel to northwest Bali to visit the scenic Besakih Temple. This complex has 23 separate, yet related temples, located on 6 levels on the slope of the highest mountain in Bali – Mount Agung. We were glad we were accompanied by a guide from our hotel as he was well prepared and had carried sarongs. The scam here is that the touts insist you hire a sarong at an exorbitant rental of US$ 25-30 each and they also compulsorily force you to engage a guide at equally ridiculous fees.

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Intricate carved sculptures of Vishnu Temple in Besakih Complex

Mount Agung is normally covered in clouds. But, during our visit we were fortunate to have seen it. Making our way to the temple complex, high humidity made its presence felt and we were sweating profusely. It is definitely advisable to wear a hat during a visit to Besakih.

Besides various other Hindu deities, there is also a Vishnu temple at the highest level of the complex. Intricately carved sculptures and idols adorn this temple. The compound of this temple accords the best view to the spread-out temple complex!

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Goa Gajah cave entrance (do note the Hindu mythological connection of this bas relief)

Goa Gajah

While returning from Besakih Temple, we took a detour and went to Goa Gajah – a cave temple with a recently excavated sarovar (pond). Both, the cave entrance and the sarovar had superb sculptures and carvings of gods and goddesses – some from Hindu mythology. Inside the cave, there is an idol of Lord Ganesha!

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Idols inside Goa Gajah

A usual drive through Ubud took us past a string of streets, each one lined with art galleries displaying Balinese and other art.

The roundabouts across our route had well-painted and well-maintained sculptures – from Geeta Updesh to Arjuna with his bow and arrow, from Rama with the monkey army to Vishnu killing a demon while riding garuda!

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Foreground – Goa Gajah Sarovar. Background – Goa Gajah Cave.

It is interesting that the manifestations of these gods and mythological characters resemble Hindu gods, mythological characters, and their accepted form. Vishnu riding the garuda is holding the conch shell and chakra; while Arjuna clearly seems to be wielding his favoured bow – Gandiva!

Tanah Lot and Uluwatu

We spent a couple of sunsets at scenic Balinese Temples dedicated to sea gods. Both, Tanah Lot as well as Uluwatu form a part of the seven temples dotting the south-western coast of Bali. Both are dedicated to Rudra, the Vedic manifestation of Shiva.

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Tanah Lot Temple gets surrounded by seawater during high tide

While Tanah Lot gets surrounded by seawater in high tide, Uluwatu is perched on a cliff that is 70 metres high.

Local guides recommend that the traveller should visit these temples around sunset. While sunset does add magic to these temples, getting good images of these temples around sunset definitely poses a challenge!

You may choose to shop in touristy Kuta or pricey Saminyak, experience the colourful nightlife across the entire southwestern Bali, or closely interact with free-spirited and talented Balinese artists in Ubud.

You may even decide to do the wildlife trails in Bali to check out the elephants and a wide variety of monkeys. It may be your wont to trek the volcanos and jungles, or indulge in exotic watersports.

But if you are as fascinated with the Hindu discovery outside India as I am, I definitely recommend that you visit the places I have shared in this travel story. You may even choose to do one better by hunting out and discovering a few more gems and come back with story richer than mine!

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Our Family Fun and Togetherness in Kashmir

Our Family Fun and Togetherness in Kashmir

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Our Family Fun and Togetherness in Kashmir

Every year, winters arrive at our door with cold winds, woollen clothes, mouthwatering snacks to nibble beside an Angithi, and a perfect time to go for a family vacation. A vacation to rekindle the warmth in our relationships and to make endless memories that we can cherish for the rest of our lives.

Recently, while skimming through my Facebook account, I came across #ErtigaHolidayDiaries campaign by Maruti Suzuki Ertiga which emphasized on sharing the beautiful moments a family spent together during holidays. And frankly, I instantly warmed up to the idea and decided to share about my family trip to Kashmir.

During this holiday, we had travelled around to all the touristy places around Srinagar. As I was going through the photo album, nostalgia engulfed me like fog on a cold winter morning while the feelings deep within were warm!

So, without any further ado, let me plunge into my very own chapter of #ErtigaHolidayDiaries!

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Wholesale Vegetable market, Dal Lake, Srinagar

The time we spent in Srinagar was magical. An early morning Shikara ride to the famous wholesale vegetable market in Dal Lake gave me a glimpse of the traditional lifestyle of Kashmiris (natives of Kashmir). #ErtigaHolidayDiaries

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Predictably, my daughters had refused to wake up early in the morning for the Dal Lake Shikara ride to the vegetable market. But, they were not prepared to be denied the opportunity to do a Shikara ride, all the same. So, here we were… for their Shikara ride! #ErtigaHolidayDiaries

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What good is youth if you do not indulge in occasional tomfoolery? A dried maple leaf is a fun adornment for the tousled hair – or so my younger daughter thinks! #ErtigaHolidayDiaries

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It was a joy to click my two princesses as they sat on their mock throne in Nishat Bagh. As I click, the younger one is distracted. Well, being the younger one, isn’t that her right? #ErtigaHolidayDiaries

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Gulmarg. As we were heading towards the famed Gulmarg Gandola, these pony-riding tourists reminded us of the Wild West Action Thrillers from the era of the original Hollywood Cowboy – Clint Eastwood! #ErtigaHolidayDiariesfamily-fun-togetherness-kashmir

As we crossed this vast meadow, wife and I were sharing with our daughters that the famous Bollywood hit song from Rajesh Khanna starrer ‘Aap Ki Kasam’ (Jai Jai Shiv Shankar) was picturised in the temple at the edge of this meadow. #ErtigaHolidayDiaries

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Here, the pose says it all – “Yay, we’ve made it to Apharwat (2nd level of Gulmarg Gandola)! While it was sunny here, the wind chill and the snow around made us freeze. Well, almost! #ErtigaHolidayDiariesfamily-fun-togetherness-kashmir

Pahalgam, here we come! Little lambs and bunny rabbits in their arms, their expressions seem to say – ”We are loving it!” #ErtigaHolidayDiariesfamily-fun-togetherness-kashmir

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. My better half decides to truly live up to the saying. Here she is, in total traditional Kashmiri finery! #ErtigaHolidayDiariesfamily-fun-togetherness-kashmir

One is happy, while the other is zapped! As we were climbing down the Sonamarg glacier, my daughters were gingerly walking down the slippery terrain. So, I can’t be sure if she was zapped or it was all concentration! #ErtigaHolidayDiariesfamily-fun-togetherness-kashmir

Believe it or not, all of us screamed in unison – “We love traffic jams!” – as we were crossing this adorable herd. As dog lovers, we even loved the Himalayan Sheep Dog who was dutifully keeping step with his master. #ErtigaHolidayDiaries

Dear Readers, I hope you enjoyed this little chapter by me in the on-going fun-filled #ErtigaHolidayDiaries dedicated to celebrating family and togetherness!

For more chapters of #ErtigaHolidayDiaries, visit their Facebook page or check out their tweets (@ertigabymaruti)

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Silent, Yet Eloquent – Cellular Jail, Port Blair

Silent, Yet Eloquent – Cellular Jail, Port Blair

 

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December 2016 issue of JetWings, the in-flight magazine of Jet Airways, carried my Cellular Jail image shot in Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands. This monument holds an important place in Modern Indian History.

Silent, Yet Eloquent – Cellular Jail, Port Blair

Cellular Jail forms an integral chapter of India’s freedom struggle. Commissioned by the British in 1896 and completed in 1906, it was built to exile Indian freedom fighters away from mainland India. It was called the ‘Cellular Jail’ as it did not have any dormitory – only solitary confinement cells – 696 of them.

The reason? The British did not want Indian revolutionists to interact and plan their moves. But plan they did, finally liberating India. In a way, despite not being the centre stage, it continually stole the limelight. Today, this National Memorial bears a mute testimony to the success of the freedom struggle and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Port Blair.

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A good time to visit London? Now!

A good time to visit London? Now!

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Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, London

London!

I saw some.

I missed some.

So, London keeps calling me back.

When am going to plan a visit again?

The answer is ‘Right Now!’

Want to know why?

Then, read on!

A good time to visit London? Now!

It was summer of 2012. My elder daughter, who was just 20 then and was doing her graduation with an offshore London School of Economics-affiliate (LSE-affiliate) college, got selected to do her summers in London. It was going to be a 6-week residential programme.

Like most Indian parents, while we were proud, we were also concerned about her first-ever solo stay in an alien town. So, after some intense family deliberations, my wife nominated me to accompany her and see if the stay and other arrangements were satisfactory.

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Oxford Street in Olympic Finery

Here, let me just remind you that summer of 2012 was Olympics-time in London! Though a popular phrase goes – “All roads lead to Rome”, around that time, the world had replaced ‘Rome’ with ‘London’. This little fact ensured that my trip cost was going to be through the roof.

As a travel photographer and writer, I naturally wanted to make the most of this… er…  opportunity. After all, it was going to be my first-ever visit to London!

All the same, with due consideration to the budget, I decided to keep my stay in London short. So, three nights it was. In this city packed with places of interest of all hues. But then, something is better than no something!

After settling her in, I started my brief sojourn with London. The more I saw, the more I fell in love with it. Besides the usual day-long London city sightseeing trip, I explored the city on my own too. I was truly on the move there!

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The Tower Bridge, as viewed from the Tower of London.

So, let’s see what all I managed

The city has 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites – The Tower of London, Kew Gardens, the site comprising Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster, and St Margaret’s Church, and the historic settlement of Greenwich where the Royal Observatory marks 0° longitude, the Prime Meridian, and GMT. I managed to visit three of these, but ran out of time and had to skip Kew Gardens. A pity, really!

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The Royal Observatory at Greenwich

At the Tower of London, I took a Beefeater tour (Yeoman Warder tour) and visited the Crown Jewels vault and saw the Koh-I-Noor diamond. I took a Verger Tour of the Westminster Abbey and clicked a photograph (with Verger’s permission) of the first grave in the Abbey – that of Edward the Confessor. I stood astride the brass (or is it copper?) strip that marks the Prime Meridian.

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A Beefeater. They are the traditional custodians of the Crown Jewels.

I did a ride on the famed London Eye. I did a short cruise over Thames. I took a walk through Hyde Park and swung past Royal Albert Hall. I admired the artists and their gorgeous art near the National Gallery. I saw a unicyclist perform at the Covent Garden. I also witnessed the ceremonial change of guard at the Buckingham Palace.

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The Tower of London

I spent some time in Trafalgar Square; though, the pigeons I saw Amrish Puri feeding in ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ (the biggest hit Bollywood has ever produced) had gone missing by then! I had a pint of beer at Sherlock Holmes – a pub on Northumberland Street that was established in 1736! I watched the Spain vs Italy Euro Cup finals at Buckingham Arms in Westminster area.

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Stonehenge, near Amesbury, Wiltshire, UK

Heck… I even managed a day trip to Salisbury and checked out Stonehenge – another UNESCO World Heritage site.

Well, I did manage a lot, but I have some regrets… regrets of not being able to do many more things.

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London Eye, South Bank

Let me share some of those

I missed out on visiting Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. I also did not have enough time to make it to the Museum of Brands (this one is of special interest to me as I have spent 27 years in Advertising!). Though I am an avid Hard Rock Café T-shirt collector, I could not find time to visit this iconic destination in London.

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Ceremonial Change of Guard, Buckingham Palace, London.

I did go past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, but I could not see a show there. I missed out on seeing the great displays at the Tate Modern and the National Gallery. Remember that popular TV show – Crystal Maze? I was a big fan of the show. And naturally, I wanted to take on the Crystal Maze in Zone One. But, I couldn’t.

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A potpourri of traditional and modern at the Westminster Bridge

I also did not manage Ripley’s Believe it or Not at Piccadilly Circus. Or the London Zoo. Or the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street. Or the Royal Opera House. Or even the Museum of London. Or… well, there is so much more I wanted to do in London that this list can be endless!

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Tomb of Edward the Confessor, Westminster Abbey

Why this post now?

I chanced upon the British Airways (BA) page recently and discovered they had unleashed some bonanzas – exclusively for their customers. BA customers enjoy special shopping discounts at multiple outlets across London (for the whole list, CLICK HERE). They are offering their lowest fares – with hotel stays thrown in! I found a return ticket with a 5-night hotel stay, breakfast included, for just Rs. 54,106!!!

They have also suggested some real cost-saving itineraries under various heads. Check these out HERE.

And, the icing on the cake – British Pound that used to hover around Rs. 100 is now at Rs. 82.

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Royal Albert Hall

What Next?

I feel this is too good an opportunity to let go. So, I am going to book a trip right now! Those of you who have always wanted to visit this great city but have been deterred by the high costs should also do the same. As they say, opportunity knocks but once!

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City view from London Eye.

Like I said – A good time to visit London? Now! Happy Travels!

 

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Vivo V5 – For Captures After Pack Up

Vivo V5 – For Captures After Pack Up

vivo v5 captures pack

Vivo V5 – For Captures After Pack Up

Pack up is a jargon that photographers and filming crews use. It is a bold announcement of ‘end of the work for the day’. It also means that the equipment may now go back to the storeroom, as it won’t be required again till the next work shift starts.

Even as a travel photographer and a solo worker, there is a time of the day when I announce ‘pack up’ to myself. The ‘pack up’ time may vary. If it is a city destination that I am covering, it could be late in the night as my plan may include shooting low-light shots of city life or night cityscapes. But if I am doing a road trip to a nearby attraction, the ‘pack up’ may happen as soon as I finish shooting the attraction and am on my way back.

vivo v5 captures pack

After ‘pack up’, most photographers follow an unwritten rule – No Camera! And, I am no different. Even I follow this rule!

But then, not all photographers are travel photographers. As a travel photographer, there are times after the ‘pack up’, when I wish I were prepared to capture the moment because my trip may present unusual photo-ops! These photo-ops may be a chance meeting with a celebrity, a spontaneous get-together at my hotel, a breathtaking sight that catches my eye as I turn the street corner, or any of a million more eventualities that may throw themselves at me! These are the times that leave me with a regret – the regret of being unprepared.

vivo v5 captures pack

Additionally, being a professional photographer also puts some extra pressure on me – the pressure of capturing even my casual images in acceptable quality. Sub-optimal images won’t do!

So, when Vivo approached me with their V5 (a stylish smartphone with a camera) and requested me to do a field test, they specifically mentioned about its 20mp front camera and its moonlight selfie capability. Have a look at this beauty HERE.

vivo v5 captures pack

Now, what does that capability mean?

For the photographer in me, it spells freedom – freedom of lugging around my gear after ‘pack up’. And still having the option of capturing decent images in those after-hours, even in low-light situations. I readily accepted the offer of doing this field test!

vivo v5 captures pack

Field Test

I shot some low-light shots that would normally turn out to be pathetic. I shot erratically moving subject, some still life, neon lights and other signage and the results were satisfactory. All those worked well for me.

May be you should also give it a shot?

vivo v5 captures pack
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Sharing 16 UNESCO Sites of 2016 in My Hundredth Post

Sharing 16 UNESCO Sites of 2016 in My Hundredth Post

Soon, we will all be celebrating the onset of 2017. Before 2016 bids goodbye, I have another milestone to celebrate – I am scoring a century! Yes, that’s right. This is my hundredth post. I wanted it to be a landmark in more ways than one. Hence, I decided this post would be about the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I visited during 2016. Coincidentally, there are 16 of these!

Instead of keeping this post chronological, I am going to mix it up a bit! Some of these UNESCO sites may seem inane, but each is loaded with solid reasons for inscription. I’ll be going over those too. So, let me start the sharing.

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Reclining Buddha, Cave Temple, Dambulla

#1. Golden Temple or Cave Temple, Dambulla, Sri Lanka

It lies around 150km East of Colombo, in central Sri Lanka. While the distance isn’t much, it can take you around 4 hours to reach here from Colombo.

While there are many caves sprinkled around the area, most travellers visit the 5 significant adjoining caves in the temple complex. The entire complex is still functional as a Buddhist Temple though it dates back to between 3rd century BCE and 18th century CE. Extremely well preserved, it was inscribed as a UNESCO site in 1991.

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Qutub Minar on a lunar eclipse night

#2. Qutub Minar, New Delhi, India

This 73-metre tall minaret is the tallest brick minaret in the world. It was commissioned in early 13th century by Qutb-al-Din Aibak and was completed by his successor, Iltutmish. Along with the other monuments in the Mehrauli Archeological Park, Qutub Minar has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You may wonder why I talk of Qutub Minar – a monument near my home. Well, I know of many people who live in Delhi but have never visited some of the monuments here. So, no harm sharing about my visit here during this year!

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Nederluleå Church, Gammelstad, Sweden

#3. Church Town of Gammelstad, Luleå, Sweden

Stone church of Gammelstad was built by Sweden in 1492 as the first move to lay lien on the territory, as borders were not well defined in those days. A church town came about around this church.

Here, people would build cottages and would use them for stay during their big feast pilgrimage. Though privately owned, these cottages were not meant for permanent residence. These had no water supply, no heating facility, and no cooking arrangements. All that was and still is taboo as these cottages were meant for a spartan stay during the pilgrimage. And that is what defined a church town. As it stayed true to the initial intent, the church town of Gammelstad has earned a UNESCO World Heritage site inscription in 1996.

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Dressing up Buddha at Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba, Anuradhapura

#4. Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Considered to be the first capital of Sri Lanka (from 4th century CE to 11 century CE), Anuradhapura lies 205 kms North-East of Colombo. This distance may take up to 6 hours by road.

The excavated ruins consist of three types of structure – monastic buildings, Dagobas (bell shaped masonry), and Pokunas (bathing tanks). The largest Dagoba (Ruwanwelisaya) is 1100 feet in circumference. It got inscribed as a UNESCO site in 1982.

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Across this Amsterdam canal, you can spot the Anne Frank House

#5. Canals of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

More than one hundred kilometers of canals, about 90 islands and around 1,500 bridges are there in Amsterdam. The three main canals from 17th century – Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht – were dug during the Dutch Golden Age. These form concentric belts around the city, the Grachtengordel.

These canals are the keystone of Amsterdam’s exemplary city planning and were inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010.

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A memorial commemorating indentured labour landings in Mauritius

#6. Aapravasi Ghat, Mauritius

Aapravasi Ghat (Immigration Depot) or Coolie Ghat has earned its UNESCO inscription in 2006 for being the first port that received indentured labour, many of whom settled in Mauritius, while the others made their way to the plantations across the British empire.

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Impressive interiors of San Agustin Church, Manila, The Philippines

#7. San Agustin Church, Manila, Philippines

San Agustin Church is one of the four Baroque Churches of Philippines that were inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1993.

The church building does not only seem imposing and indestructible, it truly is. It has withstood repeated calamitous damage at the hands of raging fires, enemy attacks and high-intensity earthquakes.

Its flat ceiling has been painted in a magical way to give an illusion of 3D bass relief work, just like what you see in the Gallery of Maps (Sistine Chapel), Vatican!

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Sanchi Stupa, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India

#8. Sanchi Stupa, Sanchi, India

This Buddhist monument is the oldest brick monument in the country. It was commissioned in 3rd century BCE by Emperor Ashoka and was built over the relics of Buddha.

It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989.

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Bali Rice Fields

#9. Cultural Landscape of Bali Province

Volcanoes provide Bali with fertile soil. Combined with a wet tropical climate, that makes it an ideal location for crop cultivation. River water has been channelled into canals for irrigation. It allows the cultivation of rice on both flat land and mountain terraces.

Rice, water, and subak, (water-controlling cooperative social system) together have shaped the Bali landscape over the past thousand years. These are an integral part of Bali’s religious life too. As rice is seen as the gift of god, the subak system is considered part of Bali’s temple culture.

Together with their temples, five rice terraces of Bali covering an area of 19,500 hectare, became a UNESCO site in 2012.

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Polonnaruwa Buddhist Temple Ruins

#10. Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

After the decimation of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa became the second capital of Sri Lanka. The most illustrious king who reigned was Parakramabahu I. His reign is marked by a distinctly superior irrigation system as he was obsessed with not wasting even a drop of water that descended from heaven. It was inscribed as a UNESCO site in 1982. Even today, Polonnaruwa remains an important Buddhism pilgrimage site in the country.

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The intricate system of windmills for keeping the sea waters out

#11. Kinderdijk, The Netherlands

When you are living 7 metres below sea level and you do not have gills, you need to keep the sea water out of your village. The residents of Kinderdijk, a settlement that is a 25-minute speedboat ride inland from Rotterdam, deployed an ingenious technique to pump seawater out – an elaborate arrangement of 19 windmills.

Though these windmills were commissioned in the mid-eighteenth century, they are still functional. They continue to fulfill the original purpose of keeping the land dry while providing 3-storeyed living quarters to the farmers who own them. A windmill-turned-museum gives you a glimpse into the local culture and lifestyle. This well-preserved traditional innovation has earned the windmills of Kinderdijk UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997.

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One of the water bodies in Singapore Botanic Gardens

#12. Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore

Created in 1859, the Singapore Botanic Gardens demonstrate the evolution a Pleasure Garden, to a colonial Economic Garden for research, to a world-class botanic garden that is both – a scientific institution and a place of conservation, recreation and education. This site got inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015. Incidentally, this is the only UNESCO site in Singapore.

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The Secretariat Building in the Capitol Complex, Chandigarh

#13. Capitol Complex, Chandigarh, India

In 2015, the architectural work of Le Corbusier got acknowledged by UNESCO as World Heritage, thanks to its outstanding contribution to the modern movement. This work is spread over 7 countries – Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Japan and Switzerland. Chandigarh’s Capitol Complex is a part of this UNESCO listing. While the Secretariat building is a typical Le Corbusier structure, the Open Hand Monument is an abstract installation in the Capitol Complex that has been adopted by the Chandigarh Administration as the symbol of the city.

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Le Morne Brabant forms the backdrop of the Crystal Rock

#14. Le Morne, Mauritius

These are two of the most recognisable spots in Mauritius! While Crystal Rock is just a fossilised coral reef, Le Morne Brabant got inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 for an unfortunate reason. This monolith was a hideout for slaves who would run away from their masters. When the Abolition of Slavery Act got passed in 1853, these masters went to Le Morne to give the good news to the slaves. The slaves misunderstood the intent. They jumped and committed suicide from this cliff!

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Visitors enjoying a lazy afternoon on one of the ramparts of Galle Fort

#15. Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka

Built in 1588 CE and further fortified extensively from 1649 CE onwards, the fort is a living, buzzing township with multi-cultural population. The town planning of this habitation is typical of the Dutch (a sterling example being Amsterdam). It survived the notoriously devastating tsunami that hit 14 countries on 26th December 2004. It houses a few churches, one of which has been converted in to a mosque after Muslim accession of the fort. Additionally, the fort has a clock tower and a lighthouse.

sharing-16-unesco-sites-2016-hundredth-post
Skogskyrkogården or Woodland Cemetery

#16. Skogskyrkogården or Woodland Cemetery, Stockholm, Sweden

Few cemeteries across the globe can boast being UNESCO World Heritage sites. Skogskyrkogården is one of those. Interestingly, this cemetery got inscribed in UNESCO list because of its landmark architecture that influenced numerous cemeteries across the globe. It is a brilliant blend of terrain, vegetation, and purpose. Interred grave of Greta Garbo, the heartthrob of Hollywood in 1920s and 30s, is also here (she passed away in Manhattan).

Now, while visiting 16 of these heritage sites during the year was fascinating, here’s looking forward to 17 or more during 2017!

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Delhi-Perth return for only US$250 (Rs.16,856). No Kidding!

Delhi-Perth return for only US$250 (Rs.16,856). No Kidding!

delhi-perth-return-for-only-250-dollars-no-kidding

In case you haven’t booked your year-end travel yet, read on and save!

Delhi-Perth return for only US$250 (Rs.16,856). No Kidding!

Lately I have been flying around a lot. Now, how much is ‘a lot’? Well, this year, I have done a little over 85,000 kilometers till now and the year is not over yet!

Earlier, like you, I used to pay what any of us would be paying for a normal air ticket. But it is not so any more.

And what’s my secret? It is…

Well, not so fast! We’ll come to it soon enough!

My Normal Cheap Air Fare Search Methodology

I would decide on a destination. I would decide on dates. I would decide on the acceptable basket of airlines. And hit Google Search. Google Search would throw up fares on those dates and would point me to the sources. I would head out to those sites, make some fine-tuning and book!

Sure, I was getting relatively cheaper airfares. But nothing came close to what I have started getting now.

My New Cheap Air Fare Search Methodology

A Caveat: Be Flexible. You can book and then apply for leave 🙂

So, what’s that secret source of savings? Well, I just discovered a magic bullet called ‘Everywhere Search’ on the Skyscanner App.

Download the app by clicking on the links below (While you could download this app from anywhere, please do so from here; it may win me a free ticket. Thanks for your help!):

iOS

Android

How Does ‘Everywhere Search’ work?

Briefly, in just a few clicks. See below the step-by-step guide to using it and making those elusive destinations come closer to you.

Step 1: Fill in your airport of origin (in the example below, mine’s New Delhi)

Step 2: Fill ‘Everywhere’ in the destination field

delhi-perth-return-for-only-250-dollars-no-kidding

 

Step 3: Click on the calendar to fill in the dates of travel. It gives you two options – ‘Specific Date’ and ‘Whole Month’. Click on ‘Whole Month’ option.

Step 4: A drop down menu open underneath ‘Whole Month’. In the options offered, click on the option that says ‘Cheapest Month’.

delhi-perth-return-for-only-250-dollars-no-kidding

Step 5: A long list of countries with the fares in ascending order opens out. Select the destination that you like (of course from amongst the top few cheapest destinations).

delhi-perth-return-for-only-250-dollars-no-kidding

Step 6: A drop down list opens under the destination country that further gives you the destination cities in that country and the respective fares to that city. Click on the one you like and airline options open up.

delhi-perth-return-for-only-250-dollars-no-kidding

Step 7: Select the journey start date with the cheapest airfare (it would be shown in green) and then proceed to select the return date (again choose the fare shown in green). The total will appear on the bottom grey panel. This total may vary a little from the lowest shown in the previous screen – depending on the selected journey dates (the lowest will actually total up to what was shown in the previous screen).

delhi-perth-return-for-only-250-dollars-no-kidding

Step 8: Click ‘Show Flights’ and you’ll see your cheapest option on top. Click on ‘Select’ to book.

Want to try it before downloading the app? CLICK HERE TO TRY!

Don’t wait for any more steps now. Go book!

By the way, Australia is trending as a destination of choice amongst Indians for 2017. To see the other treding destinations, CLICK HERE.

Bonus Step: Chances are that many times, for destinations around Asia, the cheapest airfare may be offered by Air Asia (like the Delhi-Perth fare I talked about). Click here to know about how to beat their notorious EXTRA charges.

Booking now?

In the eventuality you get your cheapest fare for a flight leaving tomorrow, click here for a ready-reckoner of destinations that will gladly provide you a ‘Visa on Arrival’ (for Indian Nationals only).

In case you need any more details about ‘Everywhere Search’ feature, please CLICK HERE.

Download the app by clicking on the links below (While you could download this app from anywhere, please do so from here; it may win me a free ticket. Thanks for your help!):

iOS

Android

Happy Travelling!

Pin it!

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Avoid Sea View Club Room, The Leela Grand, Kovalam

Avoid Sea View Club Room, The Leela Grand, Kovalam

Avoid Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam
View from our Balcony

Background

We had made a Sea View Club Room booking with The Leela Grand, Kovalam in January 2015. The 4-night stay would have left us poorer by approx. Rs.84,000 (~US$ 1,230 – i.e. US$ 307 per night). Around then, due to its financial mess, SpiceJet was cancelling many of its flights and this news was commonplace knowledge.

Our flights on three out of the four sectors also got cancelled and thankfully, the news came to us at a time when we could cancel our room bookings without losing any monies. We did cancel but there was a regret of missing out on staying with a property with one of the finest locations anywhere.

In September 2016, we had another opportunity to visit Kovalam and we were going to stay in The Leela Grand. We stayed there and this stay prompted me to put forth an honest review for money-paying guests who may plan a stay at this property. I want them know the realities of a stay here to make a considered decision.

Avoid Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam
Infinity pool, The Leela Grand, Kovalam

Sea View Club Room, The Leela Grand, Kovalam

“You’ll come to Kovalam with me?”

My wife was speaking at an IoT-focussed conference in Kovalam. Since the conference organisers were hosting her and they were fine with spouses coming along, she asked me if I would like to accompany her.

Her question was obviously prompted by our earlier cancellation of the Kovalam trip. Also, since Kovalam was just a spitting distance from some of the bucket list destinations, I readily agreed.

We had just returned from a 10-day Lombok-Bali trip. So, the beach was not such a big draw, but when she mentioned that we’d be staying in The Leela Grand, a hotel known for its gorgeous location, that was another ‘plus one’ to look forward to.

 

Avoid Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam
Look down from our balcony, and you see this

First impression…

We were driven in an Audi Q3 from Thiruvananthapuram Airport to the hotel. The drive was short, but pleasant. We had a separate lounge for check-in as we were booked in their Sea View Club room (higher category room).

Since this property is on a coastal cliff, we climbed down one level to get to our room. As soon as we entered, wife and I exchanged glances and smiled. In our extensive hotel-trotting streak, we had not come across a better view from our hotel room. Though it was dark already, the waters around the property were illuminated by cool temperature LEDs installed by the hotel. And we could see and hear the waves lashing noisily against the rocks.

Avoid Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam
Near the pool, The Leela Grand, Kovalam

I knew this property was the erstwhile ITDC Ashok hotel. And by virtue of this being a government-owned entity established much before perhaps the 300-metre no-construction-zone rule came into being, the property was literally kissing the sea.

Instead of unpacking, we just poured ourselves a drink and sat in the balcony enjoying the view and the ambience. The trance lasted a while!

Reality Check

Once we came back into the room, the challenges of this aging property started to dawn on us. The plug sockets were old and hence unreliable – you plug in a device and hope for the best that it will continue to get charged. These sockets were in sunken ports that had wooden lids. Fair enough, except a typical C, E or F type plug would normally stand upright (as against the D & M types that offer a flat plug). Result? After you plug in a device, the lid won’t close.

Avoid Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam
The lid won’t close

Interestingly, for some unknown reason, the bedside sockets were Type G! You know, those three flat pin ones? Those! The property happens to be in India, and instead of providing the type D or M, or the more modern type K, they provided type G – useful in China, Malaysia and a few other countries for sure, but rather useless here. (For understanding this weird jargon, please see the infographic).

Avoid Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam
Plug types demystified

The bathroom was a sum total of 3 matchboxes – a shower cubicle, a WC cubicle and a washbasin cubicle. The Shower and WC cubicle doors opened outwards, naturally inconveniencing the other occupant – in case he/she happened to be washing hands or brushing teeth.

Avoid Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam
The wallpaper was peeling off

Are you hygiene conscious?

For the hygiene-conscious, please be warned that washing hands in the washbasin is going to a hairy experience! Try as hard as you may, your hands are going to be brushing against the basin bowl as the faucet has been fixed at an angle that leaves little space for your hands.

The towels and bath mats was another crazy story. Over the next 3 days, the housekeeping would forget to leave either the face towels, or the hand towels, or the bath mat. This routine was followed every day and the entire experience left you in a advanced state of resignation.

While unpacking, my wife realised that the drawer housing the safe would not open. Once we pried it open, it was a challenge to close it. The space provided for the suitcase was barely sufficient for one large suitcase. And, it was a double occupancy room, if you please!

Avoid Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam
Sullied view from the room – thanks to the permanent scratches and stains on the window pane

Let’s have some food

It had been a long day. Soon, we were hungry and decided to order room service. That’s when a hunt for the in-room dining menu started. After agonising for a while with various visible and concealed drawers, we concluded that they had omitted to place one in our room. We called the in-room dining and got connected to front office instead. Politely, they asked us to call the room service number again. We tried telling them that we couldn’t find the menu, and were politely told again to call room service. Fair enough!

Avoid Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam
The Leela Grand Beach

We called the in-room dining again and again got connected to the front office. Now, we were losing it. In no uncertain terms we told the front office guys to get their telephone system in order and while at it, to send an in-room dining menu to our room.

There’s more…

Food was ordinary. But, we are used to condoning one bad experience – knowing fully well that the cuisine we ordered may be a challenge for the chef on duty. After dinner, we again stepped out into the balcony and once we came in to call it a day, we realised the balcony door wouldn’t get locked. Naturally, we asked the operator to connect us to maintenance. She politely asked us what did we want. Upon telling her, she promised to have someone fix that soon.

Avoid Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam
Didn’t I say the view is gorgeous

After a 15-minute wait, we reminded her and soon had a maintenance guy come in. He took his time while we were quietly amusing ourselves by watching some B channel on the limited menu of channels on offer. Once he finished, I checked if the door would close, and realised that he had done whatever best he could since the door was any case in an advanced state of disrepair, and hence was unlikely to close properly. We resignedly asked him to carry on.

Well, I could go on and on. But suffice it to say that what we experienced during our first few hours was not an exception, but was a norm in this property.

Next Morning

In the morning light, we noticed a few more issues. The coastal dampness had led to a peeling wallpaper; the window glass had permanent swathes of damage that definitely didn’t do much good to your view of the nature outside. The window blinds were frayed. Over all, the indifference in maintenance was glaringly evident.

Avoid Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam
Frayed blinds

Any reason for such indifference towards a gloriously located property?

Upon making enquiries with the staffers, we realised the Leela Group had sold the hotel to some Ravi Group. When I checked on the Internet, it showed that though it sold the property in 2011, it is still being managed by HLVL (Hotel Leela Ventures Ltd.). While HLVL still continues to make money hand over fist milking its superbly unique location, they seem to have little or no interest in ploughing back any of this money into the upkeep since the property does not belong to them anymore.

What further surprises me is that this property won the Best Indian Luxury Hotel in India Award in 2015 – an award by Lonely Planet India.

Sooner, than later, the news of their mismanagement is likely to reach the market. The earlier that happens, the better. If it doesn’t, chances are the property reviews by traveller are going to hurt not just this one property, but also the entire chain. And, it will turn out to be a huge PR nightmare for this classy chain.

Why Avoid Sea View Club Room, The Leela Grand, Kovalam

When you stay with a group property of a renowned chain like the Leela that is known for its impeccable attention to detail, you are naturally paying an arm and a leg as room tariff. We were just plain lucky as we didn’t have to pay it since we were hosted. So, as a money-paying guest, the least you expect is that the property will have basic 5-star amenities and fittings in the room would work. When they don’t, and instead begin to fall apart, you get up with a start and take notice.

And after all, in 2015, we did commit US$1230 for our stay there! We were so glad we didn’t end up paying that amount at that time.

Avoid Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam
I saw this facade in an advertisement in the 80’s

Chances are many of my readers would pay a king’s ransom to stay there. It is only fair that they at least are made aware of how things work or NOT work there. As they say, forewarned is forearmed!

In case any of you faced a similar experience here, kindly feel free to share as a comment. I will incorporate your comment as an independent review into this post itself.

Sea View Club Room The Leela Grand Kovalam

 

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A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
A view from my balcony

TBEX Asia 2016 took me to Manila. I was a speaker there – my topic being Architectural Photography (For those who may ask – “What is TBEX?” – well, TBEX is the largest conference and networking event for travel bloggers, online travel journalists, new media content creators, travel brands and industry professionals). Once I was in Manila, my mind went through a roller coaster of thoughts. Go on, read about them!

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes

I was on a ‘Smoking in Balcony Only’ floor of Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila. It was evening when I checked in. So, I opened the blinds and stepped out into the balcony for a smoke. Voila! A stunning cityscape greeted me! Beautifully illuminated high-rise, a couple of merry-go-rounds draped in psychedelic lights, a seemingly-reclaimed peninsula jutting into the bay, much greenery and smoothly gliding traffic – everything that marks a throbbing, buzzing town, was there!

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
Another view from the same balcony

Later that evening, we had to travel to Hotel Shangri-La at the Fort. A quick Google Search revealed a horrendous truth – this 9.9-kilometer journey would take us over an hour! I suddenly became present to the horrors of ‘smoothly gliding traffic’ in Manila! But, thanks to the police escort provided by Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), Philippines, we reached in 30 minutes!

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
Just after rains

Next morning, we were to visit an Island that held strategic importance during WW-II – Corregidor Island. The gory events of WW-II have turned this island into one of the ‘Top 10’ haunted Islands of the world – mainly because of mass suicides by Japanese soldiers in Malinta Tunnel.

For more on Corregidor Island, visit Eerie, not abandoned – Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines.

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
They do this every day

As we reached the Sun Cruises Jetty, a delightful sight warmed our hearts. Scores of serious cycling enthusiasts were zipping around the place. They were engaged in their morning routine of completing their own personal targets of exer-cycling. And the road was a blurry riot of their colourful attire!

The Photo Walk Route

These initial glimpses were exciting! TBEX folks had requested that I conduct their pre-TBEX Photo Walk next morning. But then, October normally has moody weather in Manila. It falls bang in the middle of the Typhoon season. There was a threat of rain. A typhoon named Sarika (local name – Karen) was threatening to hit Luzon, the island on which Manila is.

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
In the distance – Manila Port

This reality was making TPB veer towards caution. They did not want the Photo Walk disrupted by high winds and a downpour. They suggested we do our Photo Walk in an area dotted with shopping malls – Bonifacio Global City.

Having read a little about Manila and having chatted with our guide to Corregidor Island, I requested that the Photo Walk route be changed. I proposed that we flag off from Bayleaf Hotel as this property has a viewing terrace that gives a panoramic view of Manila and its Spanish walled city called Intramuros.

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
Erstwhile moat along the city wall – now a posh golf course, courtesy the Americans

From there, continue our walk on the famed city wall of Intramuros. Then, proceed to check out the San Agustin Church (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and round off the walk at Casa Manila – a heritage house that showcases the colonial lifestyle. Despite their weather-related misgivings, TPB was pleased with the route as it showcased the real Manila! And, without much persuasion, they agreed!

A Photo Walk to Remember

After a night of pouring rain, the day of the Photo Walk presented a bright sunshine – the type not seen in Manila for days! I guess the elements were with us!

The usual police escort whizzed us past the US Embassy en route Bayleaf and we were chaperoned by the hotel reception personnel to their gorgeous viewing terrace. The view around accorded us a visual understanding of Intramuros and its surroundings. One side presented the Manila Port while the other showed us the colonial quarters! The view was totally breathtaking!

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
The wide city wall we walked on

A few hundred photographs and a refreshing iced tea later, the group stepped out to climb up the city wall. Post-rain high humidity made its presence felt – especially for those who wore grey Tees, with sweat visible all over!

But this humidity was not going to dampen the spirits of the group. They charged on regardless, admiring the moat along the city wall that is now a stunning golf course created by the Americans and the Jolly Bee tableaus spreading some jollity and bonhomie along the way! Ronnie, our guide, told us Jolly Bee is the most successful example of entrepreneurship in Philippines – a fast food chain even McDonald’s hasn’t been able to challenge!

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
Manila University

Surprise, Surprise!

Walking on the wall, we went past Manila University and suddenly found our way blocked by a gate! Even our guide seemed surprised by this little barrier. Surely, it was a new development. We backtracked, got down to the street and walked back to enter ‘Baluarte de San Diego Gardens’. Inside the garden was a 16th-century rampart that was constructed to fend off the high-frequency attacks by the Chinese pirates.

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
The rampart of San Diego

The gardens were beautiful. Here, our guide pointed out an insignificant-looking ornamental plant called Manila Hemp or Abaca. He told us it is used to make the paper on which Filipino currency is printed!

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
The Photo Walkers

By now, the heat and humidity were visibly affecting the group. Sensing that, TPB pulled another surprise out of their invisible witch-hat. We were treated to ‘Sorbetes’ (Filipino for Ice Cream) – that too, in a shaded cabana, well-covered with huge trees!

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
Sorbetes cart

Suddenly reinvigorated, the group refused the offer of getting into the van and instead, chose to walk to San Agustin Church, the star of the day’s walk. In a way, it was good, as we stumbled upon the gallery of the Philippines Presidents as we walked!

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
The Presidents’ Gallery
A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
Casa Manila courtyard – here, photography is permitted
A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
Ornate entrance gate of San Agustin Church

Art meets Heritage

San Agustin Church remains closed for lunch from 12noon to 1 pm. And that was the time when we reached there. Our guide steered us towards Casa Manila, the colonial lifestyle museum, to meaningfully utilise the time till the church opened. Like many museums, photography inside Casa Manila is not permitted. Since we were on a Photo Walk, we spent minimal time here. But what we saw during that brief while, sure gave us a good idea about the colonial lifestyle.

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
Inside San Agustin Church

We entered San Agustin Church sharp at 1 pm. While being ushered through history, Ronnie talked about the superlative work of art that adorns the church ceiling. He talked of how flat ceiling has been painted in a magical way to give an illusion of 3D bass relief work, just like what you see in the Gallery of Maps (Sistine Chapel), Vatican!

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
3D or 2D?

The church building does not only seem imposing and indestructible, it truly is. It has withstood repeated calamitous damage at the hands of raging fires, enemy attacks and high-intensity earthquakes.

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
The Crypt inside San Agustin formerly called the De Profundis Hall

Back to the future

As we exited San Agustin, we were herded into our transport to return to the conference venue. Since Ronnie had endlessly talked about an air conditioned church (The Manila Cathedral), the group requested for a quick, short, stop there. Though the air conditioning makes Manila Cathedral sought-after for weddings, it is notoriously jinxed and normally results in divorces!

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
Awesome stained glass work inside San Agustin

Over the next few days, TBEX conference kept us busy. But the evening parties were taking us places – from Chaos in City of Dreams to The Blue Leaf in Aseana to the Long Bar in Raffles, Makati. The drive to these venues showed us the buzz that is Manila!

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
The Manila Cathedral

I can broadly conclude that this little bit of Manila in my life has been addictive. Leaving Manila has given me cold turkey. Hence, I am resolved to be back here sooner than later, for more of my Manila fix!

A Little Bit of Manila in my Eyes - Little Bit Manila Eyes
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Eerie, not abandoned – Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines

Eerie, not abandoned – Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines

TBEX Asia 2016 was recently held in Manila. Just before it commenced, Tourism Promotions Board, Philippines organised a pre-TBEX tour for us to Corregidor Island.

As the first line of defense for Manila (Luzon Island), Corregidor was of strategic importance during WW-II. Additionally, it was an important WW-II base for the US Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).

Eerie, not abandoned - Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines
WW-II Ruins of Corregidor Island

Eerie, not abandoned – Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines

Eerie, not abandoned - Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines
Malinta Tunnel entrance

Besides other ruins that tell the WW-II story of Far East, Malinta Tunnel bored as a shaft under Malinta Hill, is an important landmark here. Interestingly, sparse resources were used to build this tunnel. These included expired TNT, obsolete equipment, convicted labour, and Japanese cement. Its construction finished in 1932.

Eerie, not abandoned - Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines
Malinta Tunnel layout plan

Architecturally, the general layout of the tunnel comprises the main artery (similar to a petiole of a leaf) with numerous laterals branching out as the veins of a leaf would. Overall, despite an all-pervading eeriness of this tunnel, it has not been abandoned given its historical significance. Instead, the Philippines government has accorded it the status of a national historical treasure.

Eerie, not abandoned - Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines
A diorama of a 1000-bed hospital created inside Malinta Tunnel

While the tunnel was constructed as a bombproof shelter for the army personnel and ordnance, it was used as a 1000-bed hospital during the heightened action of WW-II. Here, many soldiers died before the Japanese army forced the US and Filipino soldiers to surrender on May 6, 1942.

How fierce was the Battle of Corregidor?

Very. The WW-II records show that in a single 5-hour stretch, 1.8 million pounds of explosives rained on the island. And an estimate of the loss of life here during this battle? Over 900 Japanese soldiers and over 800 US and Filipino soldiers.

Eerie, not abandoned - Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines
Drinks and cards – non-war routine of the soldiers

Subsequently, the island was retaken by the US forces on the night of February 23, 1945, by blocking off the tunnel exit through continuous gunfire. As a result, over 3000 Japanese soldiers committed mass suicide by detonating explosives inside the tunnel – one of the largest instances of a mass suicide. Till today, the Philippines government has not excavated the laterals damaged by these detonations.

Eerie, not abandoned - Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines
Radio communication equipment from WW-II

Attention! Ghosts Ahoy!

Today, legend has it that ghosts haunt the tunnel – thanks to many traumatised people having died here. In fact, Corregidor Island features amongst many ‘top 10’ lists of haunted islands.

Eerie, not abandoned - Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines
Life of the forces in the tunnel

Today, Malinta Tunnel is the venue of a Sound & Light show that recreates the events of WW-II. For this purpose, many permanent dioramas have been placed here. These depict the routine life of soldiers in the tunnel, their pastimes, the important events that happened on this battle stage, the conversion of the tunnel into a 1000-bed hospital, etc.

Eerie, not abandoned - Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines
A mute testimony to the events of WW-II
Eerie, not abandoned - Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines
View as we exit the tunnel…

These days, only Sun Cruises can organise a trip to Corregidor Island. They conduct a day/overnight trip to the island. Cost-wise, the day trip is PHP 2100 approx. while the overnight trip sets you back an additional PHP 1500.

Traveller friends, if you are fond of exploring the WW-II sites or are fascinated by the paranormal, do visit Corregidor Island. After all, It is just a stone’s throw away from Manila!

Eerie, not abandoned - Malinta Tunnel, Corregidor Island, Philippines

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Discover how it is carved in stone – Rani-ki-Vav, Patan

Discover how it is carved in stone – Rani-ki-Vav, Patan

Carved in stone, Rani-ki-Vav, Patan

My image has appeared in Radar section of October 2016 issue of JetWings Domestic, the in-flight magazine of Jet Airways (Domestic sectors).

Carved in stone, Rani-ki-Vav, Patan

It is said that this stunning structure, Rani-ki-Vav (The Queen’s Stepwell), was built in 11th century as a tribute to the king and founder of the Solanki Dynasty by his widowed wife, Udayamati. This 64 metre-long stepwell is seven levels deep and is embellished with over 1,500 statues. The stacking of statues on the levels as you go down the stepwell is conceptually an inversion of a typical temple that pays obeisance to water. These sculptures mostly depict Vishnu’s different avatars and the traditional solah shringaar (16 styles of adornments). Rani-ki-Vav made its way into the UNESCO Heritage List in 2014, for its outstanding architecture and creativity, and is an absolute must-see site in Gujarat.

Carved in stone, Rani-ki-Vav, Patan

Carved in stone, Rani-ki-Vav, Patan

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