Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Gujju tam bram mish mash!

I am just back from a 4 day trip to Bombay. We had gone to be a part of my cousin, Meghna and Chitrang's big wedding celebrations. Boy. Big is an understatement. There were about 5 different events, each grander than the other. Not that I am complaining 'coz I absolutely love weddings. Believe it or not but the preparation for this wedding began way back in February 2013. We had booked flight tickets back then and were looking forward to it since. Lol! Hopeless we are!! But this was a great way for the rest of the family to catch up with each other, to relax and to generally have a good time. Not to mention a perfect excuse to get a few things done - lets see I cut and smoothened my hair(Studio Profile again!), bought 2 sets of anarkalis, bought a ton of makeup and just generally went crazy. Before you get judgemental on me, let me tell you my mom and aunts were no better. They also went to the parlor, got their hair done, bought anarkalis and dyed their hair, painted their nails etc. Even a sober person like Geetha got her hair straightened.. so that is the kind of pre departure preparation that happened for Meghna's wedding. Lol! My cousins and I also created this group chat on Whatsapp and kept buzzing each other on what we were going to wear, what we were going to do and were just so excited. I wish I could relive those moments, so much fun!!

Day 1 - We reached around 5 pm in the evening and checked into ITC Grand Central at Parel. Yup. You heard me right. I told you it was called the "wedding of the year". We were right up in the 15th floor with a fabulous view. The first event was the Sangeet cum Cocktails evening at Blue Sea, in Worli. A lovely venue and a super fun evening with a live DJ. First up there were family dances which were too cute to be true. Uma aunty and Vinay uncle were such live wires on stage it was so cute to watch them. Then of course the dance floor opened up and we all generally went a little crazy! Pics from night 1 - 

Day 2 was the Tamil style engagement and mehendi ceremony. We all woke up bright and early, hogged a sumptuous breakfast at ITC and got ready to leave to the engagement ceremony. The dress code was Kanjeevaram Sarees, so we all wore our bright and colorful best!

The decor was super pretty and there were lots of stuff happening at the event - first off, we started with some heavy duty dancing to welcome the boy into the mandapam, then we had mehendi, bangle making, bead making, pottery, astrology etc all going on simultaneously plus of course the actual event - the engagement! The couple happily posed for the shutterbugs. Chitrang was a real sport - he wore a veshti, he danced, he sang and was really friendly.

Below is a picture with Lokesh Kapoor - he is the chief wedding planner and was the butt of most of our jokes - some of his nicknames included gundu, radio gundan(coz he was seen walking with the walkie talkie 24/7!) etc. Lol! He was a really nice chap and did a good job with all the organizing. Kudos!

Post the engagement we went back to the room and wanted to crash! We had a grand plan for the evening - My cousins and I - Sne, D, Ashwin, Preeti, K & I were heading to Marine Drive and later to Leopold's for drinks and dinner. It was a real fun evening!! All of us were in "high spirits" and had the time of our lives! Good times. We came back late that night and just crashed.

The next morning we had a late start to the day - We were visiting Chitrang's house for Gujrati lunch and were super excited. K opted out(hence no pics) as he had woken up early in the morning to capture Mumbai. Sample this -

So beautiful!! I wish I had gotten out of bed when K woke me up at 5 am. But it felt like it was sacrilege to wake up that early on a holiday - it is not often that I get to snuggle in the ITC bed. Rotfl! Ok pj.

That evening, we had an event called the "Suron Ki Shaam" which was a nice, musical evening. It got off to a nice start with kids dancing to the "Shree Ganesha deva" song from Agneepath. It was followed by
lilting melodies of the 70's and 80's. Very well sung by all the singers. When we finished dinner and got back to the hotel, it was about 11:30 pm. According to us the night was still young. D, Sne & Ashwin came by our room and we sat there chatting and laughing - Now is perhaps the right time to tell you some fantastic news about Ashwin - he is getting engaged in Feb 2014 and the wedding is in July 2014! We are all majorly excited about the upcoming wedding and to meet his lady love, Mythreyi. More on that later. Anyway coming back to our "after party", Ashwin had bought "stuff" for us which we promptly opened and got into high spirits(yet again!). Conversation flowed freely and around 12:30 we got a call from none other than the bride herself - Ms. Meghna! She wanted to come by our room and have a drink. We all welcomed her and what followed was an hour of good conversation, lots of jokes, family gossip, the couple's story of how they met etc etc etc. It was good fun. After some time, Meghna & Ashwin left the group. The 4 of us went a little mad - We played a song called "Party All night" and danced, giggled, yelled etc etc. My hubby was the nuttiest of them all! Gosh. That night still makes me laugh and laugh. One of the bestest after parties ever! Yes it ended with the 4 of us having ice cream at the coffee shop in ITC(1000 bucks if I'm not wrong) - who cares. It's not everyday that we get to do silly things like this!

Party all night! 

The next morning we woke up quite groggily. It was the wedding day and we had to dress in sarees yet again. Which meant eating an early breakfast. Shucks. We finally got up, dressed and headed out to receive the baarat. Full on dancing in front of ITC. Fun times! Glimpses from their wedding -

The wedding was followed by a super grand reception at night. It was a large open ground with so many different counters of food. My god. My head spins when I think of it! We ate and ate and ate :D The best part of the trip was getting together with my family and especially all my cousins. We were waiting and waiting and waiting for the Bombay trip but finally it was all coming to an end. Boo Hoo.
Did I shop? Don't fall off your chair but no, not really. I bought one pair of chappal at Linking Road, that's about it. Mr. K on the other hand, bought a nice pair of jeans(finally got one which he liked!) and was really happy.

I could go on writing but I shall stop my verbal diarrhea here. Enjoy the pictures. And congratulations again Meghna & Chitrang. God bless!
 I doubt I shall be blogging before the new year.. . I really wanted to wrap my year up properly but no time. Sigh. So on that note, here's wishing you & yours a fabulous 2014 - Party hard on the 31st night and live it up! See you next year, Tada.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hong Kong!

We went back and forth on whether we wanted to visit this country simply because K had already travelled there with his family a few years ago. But me being me(read: stubborn) he didn't have too much of a choice. He finally said yes! So in case you are wondering why we didn't do Thailand and why we did HK instead(coz Cambodia is closer to Thailand), there's your answer right there. 
We were spending about 5 nights at HK. We reached quite late at night(about 11:30 pm local time). HK is very well connected via trains, buses and trams. Hence commuting is a breeze. The first thing we did was to get an Octopus card at the airport which can pretty much be used in any public transport, stores etc. It has a deposit of about $50 HK. 
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express at Soho. I must it was a very practical choice. Not too fancy, not too big, great location and quite reasonably priced as well. It is probably a good time to talk about how everything is so pricey in HK!! Yes, food, stay, shopping - every single thing is expensive. So it is better to be smart about the hotel choice - look for one which has a metro station within walking distance. 

What I enjoyed seeing? 
1. The Victoria Peak - This is a must see and a must do experience. And to make the most of the experience, please try and choose a day that isn't too foggy. The whole point of taking the tram up there is to take in some of the fabulous views it offers. We went on a windy day and boy, I absolutely loved standing out there with the wind blowing on my face. Take a look at the stunning view - 
A fabulous view of HK 

My personal favorite! 

2. Avenue of Stars, Tsim Sha Tsui - This is HK's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Honestly, I didn't care for the Chinese walk of fame because apart from Bruce Lee & Jackie Chan I cannot claim to know any other Chinese actors. However what I really loved was the "Sound & Lights Show" which is fabulous! Do not miss it. It starts at about 8 pm, but we ensured we reached there early to grab good seats to take some snaps. 
The beautiful HK Skyline 

Say cheese :)

The Bruce Lee statue at the end of the walk 

3. The Nan Lian Garden & Chi Lin Nunnery  - When you google "things to do in HK" this one doesn't really pop up. But I am glad we discovered this beauty. This is bang in the middle of a busy junction(it has a metro station) and it is noisy and crowded outside. But once you step in, you are transported to a different world altogether. The Nan Lian gardens and the Chi Lin Nunnery are peaceful, quiet, serene and so so picturesque. 
Love the colors especially the rich orange bridge 

Pretty pink flowers 

Looks surreal right? :)

4. The Big Buddha at Lantau - HK has different islands surrounding it and the Big Buddha statue is in the Lantau island. Most tourists take the cable car ride to Lantau island to visit the Big Buddha. I suppose that is mostly for the amazing views. However, we decided to just take a bus that goes very frequently and is equally comfortable not to mention tons cheaper than the cable ride. After all we have done enough of cable car rides in India, thank you very much! ;-)  So we took a bus to see the Big Buddha statue. It was a bright sunny day and we absolutely enjoyed the ride. What I particularly didn't enjoy was climbing the 240 odd steps(yep I counted!), so I pretended to pose for K whenever I wanted to breathe! lol. It is best to do this in the morning when the sun is out - you can get pretty pictures of the Buddha. Once you climb up to get a closer view of the big man, you can look all around and see very pretty sights of the Lantau island which was lush green. 
Catching my breath! 

The Big Buddha Statue, Lantau 

5. Macau - A trip to HK isn't complete without visiting Macau. Macau is Asia's answer to Las Vegas. A place that is constantly buzzing with activity(read: gambling), full of tourists and full of fun! We wanted to do a day trip to Macau so we set off early in the morning to catch the ferry to Macau. On reaching the Macau port, post clearing immigration(yes it is a separate country so taking your passport and clearing immigration is mandatory) we headed outside to see a row full of buses that transfer us to the hotels for free. The main reason behind is that they want tourists to come to their hotels and start gambling(basically throwing away money just like we did!). But before that, we headed to see the Senado square which has the St. Paul's ruins(an old cathedral that was burnt down) and also a store called Sasa which sells make up & where I spent close to 2 hours going ballistic. Sheesh!! ;-) 

We then headed to a Portuguese restaurant where we had the yummiest rice ever!! It was simply wow!! Post lunch, we walked around town a bit before we headed to the Macau Tower side. Believe it or not, we saw people bungee jumping from the top of this tower at 3 pm in the afternoon. Crazy stuff!!!
Macau Tower 

Our sun burnt faces say it all! 


Finally we did a spot of gambling(slot machines) inside this hotel called "City of Dreams" and lost a bit of money like fools. But hey, we can say we gambled at Macau(!). Before we knew it, it was time to take the bus back to the ferry stop as we were heading back to HK for the night. We were super tired and a bit cranky after the long day. But so worth waking up early for!! 

Apart from these, the other things K and I enjoyed doing at HK was to walk around the flower Market and the Bird Market. 

Aren't they just gorgeous? Loved the colors captured... My hubby's really really good! hehehe. #selfdabba 

As you can see, there is just so much to do in HK. We spent a good 5 days there and it was just about enough. Apart from this, there is all that shopping to be done especially at the Ladies Market and the Night Market. Superbbb! 

The party part of HK is actually at Lan Kwai Fong(LKF) which is close to Soho. This is where we went for drinks and dinner on our last night at HK. Hard Rock Cafe was fab!! A perfect end to an absolutely wonderful holiday! 

Would I visit HK again? - Of course I would!! It is such a vibrant, fun, fast paced, clean and wonderful country that I wouldn't think twice about going there again!! 


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cambodia - Part II - All about Phnom Penh!

I'm hoping you have read this before you read this post. After 4 days of pure fun, lots of knowledge on the Angkor Wat temples and some amazing memories, the hubby and I were all set to leave SR to head to the capital city of Phnom Penh(Read: Nom Pen). We took a bus from SR to PP - roughly takes about 6 hours with an hour break in between for lunch. We travelled in the Giant Ibis bus service, supposed to be the best of the lot. Well I had no complaints. Was very comfy. We finally reached PP in the evening around 7pm.
First impressions? 
While SR was more tourist friendly, PP was commercial and very business like. Its fast, its dirty, its congested like most other capital cities. 
Where we stayed? 
We stayed at the Hotel Blue Lime, which is again situated in the heart of the city although probably not the nicest part of the town. I was very apprehensive about the place as we were nearing it in our tuk tuk. But once we stepped in, I realized my fears were unnecessary. The hotel was super clean and the staff were very polite. The rooms were again not too big, just right for 2 of us. Breakfast every morning was by the pool side, was very very relaxing! 
What we did? 
1. Killing Fields : Couple of must see's at PP are the Killing fields of the Pol Pot regime - the journey through the killing fields is sort of eerie - each spot is explained in detail in the audio guide, it is absolutely terrifying to think of what those guys went through during this genocide.  Read here to understand more about what exactly happened -

The memorial at Cheung Ek Killing Fields
2. The Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda: The other place to visit is the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. We visited in the morning when the sun was out and it was a clear blue sky.. The result? A lovely picture with a beautiful backdrop! 

The Silver Pagoda is located in the same complex as the Royal Palace. The main attraction  is the famous "Emerald Buddha" of Cambodia which is housed here. Unfortunately we are not allowed to click pictures inside the Silver Pagoda :-( However, it is simply stunning! There are various other golden Buddha statues that were equally beautiful and the tiles inside the Pagoda are all made of silver. 

3. Tuong Sleng Genocide Museum: Umm this isn't a real fun place to be... it is full of painful memories of their genocide, with some pretty horrific pictures and sights. However, it is worth a visit to understand the kind of pain they went through in the Pol Pot regime. Will skip posting the pictures, kinda gory!! 

Where we ate? 
Just like SR, PP is full of road side, cheap and fun restaurants. The one thing K & I enjoyed at Cambodia was their food. We were so so apprehensive, considering we are vegetarians. However, I must admit we were so wrong! We loved eating at this small restaurant called , The Vegetarian. Small portions but so satisfying! We alternated between eating at the Shisha place where we had yummy hummus, pita breads and hookah to having Khmer food which is noodles, egg and veggies steamed or tossed together in a sauce and yup we couldn't resist eating at an Indian joint one night as well! Hahaha. 

1. You will need to use US dollars everywhere - carry lots of small change. Reason being their local currency is not used that much. If I am not wrong, 1 USD = 4000 Riels!! Whoa! I know :) 
2. Try and experiment food as much as possible - we had a wild time trying out different things every day - great fun! 
3. The Angkor temple complex is hugeee and has so much information. I would strongly recommend a good guide to take you around and show you the lovely temples. And yes at least 2 days is required! 
4. The weather plays a very vital role, hence plan your trip during the nicer times of the year - October is a good time, so is January to March. It tends to get super hot during the day, so beware. I am from Chennai so I felt at home :) 
Will post soon about my second half of the trip, to Hong Kong!!