Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Cradle of European Civilization – the Island of Crete, Greece

The Cradle of European Civilization – the Island of Crete, Greece


We all love beauty and miracles of nature. But nature can be biased sometimes and throw most of its beauty at one place all together. Crete is one of those places. Crete is the largest Greek island and fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. This island lies at the center of the eastern Mediterranean basin, located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea separating the Aegean from the Libyan Sea. It is the most populous island in Greece with a population of more than 600,000 people. Crete is particularly mountainous and has many high peaks, three of which are over 2,000 metres high. It is one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. This island was the centre of Minoan Civilization which was built the first palaces in Europe. The climate in Crete is primarily temperate. Snowfall is quite common on the mountains between November and May but it is quite rare in the low areas. In Cretan summers, average temperatures reach the high 20s to low 30s Celsius with maximum 30s to 40s.

There are many ways to reach Crete Island. One way is to fly to Athens and then fly to Crete or during summer with charter flights from Europe directly to Crete. Another way is to arrive in Greece by ferry from Brindisi, Ancona, Bari or Venice in Italy and from there travel to Crete either by airplane or by boat.


Places to visit


Crete has been one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. You can reach the island via two international airports in Heraklion and Chania and a small airport in Sitia or by boat to the main ports of heraklion, Chania, Rethimno, Aghios Nikolaos and Sitia. Here are some places in Crete that will surely blow your mind.

Agios Nikolaos


Agios Nikolaos is situated in Eastern Crete and is 70kms from east Heraklion. It is the capital of Lassithi perfect. You can relax at one of the lakeside taverns and admire the setting and watch the fisherman at work in their colorful boats. The modern marina here hosts up to 255 boats and yachts at one time. If you go out shopping here then it is nothing than a delight as there are lots of small handicraft shops and souvenir shops with the modern jewellery. There are snack bars, taverns and restaurants on almost every street corner.


Agios Nikolaos has its own beach named Kitroplatia beach. It is quite a sandy beach and lined with cafes and taverns.



Loutro is a small seaside village situated in South West Crete. It can be reached only by boat or on foot as there are no roads to of from this village. Despite of this fact this place is one of the main charms of Crete and it is quite adventurous also to reach this village without using and roads or air. You will feel like stepping back in time as there is nothing more pressing to do than swim, have an ice cold coffee or enjoy quite a lazy lunch at one of the taverns. The village consists of a number of to let rooms, small hotels, cages and one cigarette kiosk.

Chania Old Town and Harbour


Chania is situated in the North West of Crete. The main attraction here is the old town of Chania with its Harbour lined with restaurants and cobbled alleyways. If you explore the back alleyways, you are going to discover amazing gems there. You can also take a trip on a horse drawn carriage to give your feet a rest and explore out and beyond the Harbour.

The Katharo Plateau


The plateau of Katharo is not as well known as Lasithi but its attractions are the silver grey rocks that glitter in the sunlight in contrast with the red soil. The few trees here have dark hat shaped crowns that give shade to the roots and offer relief to sheep and goats in search of some cold place. From Katharo, a stony trail climbs back down towards the coast in the direction of Kroustas. The road follows the course of an underground river, dry on the surface which created little oases of green amidst the stones.

Venetian Fortress


It is situated at the entrance of the old Harbour. It has been continuously repaired due to the violent waves of the sea which has been causing damages to its stonework. It is built with the big blocks of stone and it consists of two floors. This castle is open to visitors and during the summer period it is used for various cultural activities related to art exhibitions, music and theatres.

Palace of Knossos

 knossos-palace-gate      MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The Palace of Knossos is located in North Central Crete on the Kephala hill. This palace is connected with several thrilling legends such as moth of the Labyrinth, the Minotaur and that of Daidalos and Ikaros. If you are into some ancient history then this place is a must see. You can hire a guide which is highly recommended. That is how you can know about the importance and history of this ancient site.

Chania, Crete

There are many more places to hang around on Crete Island. It is more like a small country than another Greek Island. It is the most fascinating and diverse island in all of Greece. Undoubtedly, worth a trip.

Of French in America: Villa Deveena, Negredrag

Of French in America: Villa Deveena, Negredrag

Want to taste the exotic French cuisine? Move to France! Okay, maybe that’s not the ideal solution for everyone. So, maybe, Villa Deveena is the right place to satisfy your craving for French food. Villa Deveena has always been the first preference for locals and tourists looking to taste authentic French food located in located in Playa Negra, Los Pargos, Northwest Province of the region called Guanacaste. You’ll find an important portion of the Costa Rican cultural and natural resources. This area is well known for its magnificent tropical landscape and natural untouched beach.

Hotel Villa Deevena is a small distinctive hotel, privately owned, at a walking distance from the very famous world-class surfing beach Playa Negra, where howler monkeys call and where you can enjoy a spectacular sunset, pleasant walks, and great swimming. It is 50 minutes from Liberia International Airport, 20 minutes from Tamarindo Airport and minutes away from a beautiful golf course Hacienda Pinilla and Hotel JW Marriot. The airlines serving Liberia Airport are Delta, United, American, Continental, and US Airways.

Hotel Deveena

This terrific restaurant, however, is hidden in an unassuming location. The grounds, from the road, look like nothing you would yearn to explore. But once you enter the restaurant, it is casually elegant and the service is attentive and friendly. The food can be compared favorably to the best French restaurants you will find in New York or Paris but with none of the snobbery. The wine list offers excellent quality with very reasonably priced delicious choices available.  The whole place is a feast to your eyes the entire Balinese themed property is worthy of a praise, including the swish bungalows set around beautiful and glittering pools.

But it’s the food that gives the place its mesmerizing effect. Looking specifically into the food Deveena offers wide range of options; its menu consists of original dishes, prepared by Chef de Cuisine Patrick Jamon, that delight their guests in a casual setting. The menu features fresh seafood and other ingredients chosen for their ability to satisfy palates and refresh their guests after a day spent on the beach, by the pool, under the sun, or enjoying the great outdoors.


Even the place containing this fabulous restaurant is awesome with range of outdoor activities to do. In Costa Rica, the visitor can enjoy lovely tropical beaches, the grandest adventures, the wonders of nature, scintillating culture, all the necessary components of an ideal vacation. There is so much to do in this wonderful part of Costa Rica. World class fishing can be had right off the coast. Beautiful waves can be found all over the area, perfect for any skill level of surfer. Try the stand-up paddle board in one of the locally diverse estuaries or help rebalance yourself with an amazing yoga class on the beach.

Apart from good food and various recreational options, Deveena offers relaxations to body and soul. The hotel offers on-site massages (reservation required) and Reiki sessions. Villa Deevena offers a swimming pool which is open from 7 am to 10:30 pm, air-conditioning in all rooms with fan, and a staff who will do their very best to provide for all your needs with a service rating no less than 10 on 10. Transportation to Villa Deevena can be arranged if you have dinner or hotel reservations with them just by contacting their front desk. You must be thinking opting for such a magnificent hotel would make your purse weigh less but it is quite the opposite. Their room tariffs and food prices are very much affordable. During high season that is from November 15th to August 15th excluding Christmas and New Year they charge US$95 for single/double room and US$15 for additional person. During holiday season, that is, between December 20 and January 6, they charge higher rates of US$145 with a minimum of five days prior booking.

The best way to get to Hotel Villa Deevena is to land at Liberia International airport. There are regular flights from the USA landing at Liberia airport: Delta Airlines from Atlanta, American Airlines from Miami, Continental from Houston and several others, all with good connections to other cities. Liberia airport is only at one and half hour drive from Hotel Villa Deevena. You can either rent a car at the airport or they can arrange a taxi to pick you up and bring you to the hotel. The current rate is about $100 one way.

To make your trip much more memorable you rent a car drive on your own. From Liberia, drive towards Santa Cruz. Just before the bridge at the entrance of Santa Cruz, turn right and follow the signs to Playa Junquillal, Paraiso and others. After 17 km on a paved road, you will cross a bridge. Take the first turn to the left after the bridge and then the first turn to the right following signs to Paraiso and Playa Junquillal .After another 17 km on the newly paved road, you will reach Paraiso. At Paraiso’s soccer fiels, turn right following the sign to Playa Negra. Look for the sign Villa Deevena to end your memorable ride.

No wonder that thousands of tourists have made Costa Rica their top travel choice and Villa Deevena is the first preference to make holiday reservations.

Have a shake with the Sheikh- Burj-Al-Arab, Dubai

Have a shake with the Sheikh- Burj-Al-Arab, Dubai

Burj Al Arab is claimed to be the one and only 7-star hotel in the world. Although it is disputed that ratings can not go higher than 5 stars, yet this luxury hotel, which is the fourth tallest hotel among all the hotels across the world, stands at a magnificent height of  1053 feet and towers over all the structures Dubai in United Arab Emirates. The Burj Al Arab resembles the sail of a ship is constructed on an artificial island which is around 280 m from the Jumeirah beach. Around 39% of the total height of the Burj Al Arab  is just non-occupiable space. The name of the Burj Al Arab was just Dubai Chicago Beach Hotel due to a previous demolition of a hotel in the same area in 1997 after which the hotel was renamed as Burj Al Arab when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum declared the new name.


The construction of the Island began in 1994 and the Burj Al Arab was designed by Tom Wright who was an architect from WKK Architects. Both the designing and construction were supervised and managed by Rick Gregory from WS Atkins. Initially the Burj Al Arab resembled the sail of Arabian vessel. The aim was to construct a building that would become a representative of the flavor of  Dubai. Burj Al Arab , The Seven Star hotel was then built by Murray & Roberts which was a South African construction contracting firm and the Al Habtoor Engineering.The Burj Al Arab was officially inaugurated in December 1999.



Just a day at Burj Al Arab will reveal that the hotel isn’t 7-star for no reason at all. Most of the salient characteristics and attractions of the hotel required very intricate and intense engineering marvels if not rocket science! The hotel stands on the artificially constructed island and just to strengthen its base, the constructors had to drag at least two hundred and thirty long piles of concrete each of approximately 130 feet into the sand. The whole process of creating land in the sea took three years while it took lesser time than this to construct the Burj Al Arab. The hotel used up over ninety two thousand cubic yards of concrete and nine thousand tons of steel to be what it is today!


The hotel is managed by the Jumeirah Goup which takes care of the twenty eight two-storey floors of 202 magnificent bedroom suites. The hotel is so expansive that the smallest suite is 1820 square feet while the largest is 8400 square feet in area!But all this splendor doesn’t come cheap. The Royal Suite costs $ 18,716 per night and is therefore rated as the world’s twelfth most expensive hotel suite compiled by the CNN Go in 2012. Statistics and past records show that The Burj Al Arab is very popular with the Chinese because in 2011 and 2012, about 25 per cent of all bookings at the hotel were done by Chinese.


Al Muntaha means “Highest” or “Ultimate” in Arabic and lives up to its name by being 660 feet above the Persian Gulf and offers a splendid view of Dubai. Al Mahara meaning “Oyster” can only be reached through a simulated submarine voyage and it is a large aquarium with a capacity of 260,000 galleons of water. The aquarium alone is larger than the area of a whole flat people usually live in! The wall of the tank Al Mahara is made of acrylic glass so that it can withstand the pressure of such a large volume of water. The glass is thus, 7.1 inches in thickness.


There is a very small story behind the term “the world’s only Seven-Star hotel” which is exclusively used for the Burj Al Arab. This hotel of the Arabs has been the recipient of lots of limelight ever since its construction for being titled as “the world’s only Seven-Star hotel”. Yet, the hotel management shirks off the responsibility by declaring not to have ever made those claims themselves. They also say that they have never used the term ever even in their advertising.  It is believed that the “Seven-Star” term was coined by a British journalist who first seemed to have visited the Burj Al Arab on a press trip before the official opening of the hotel. The journalist in her review described Burj al Arab as “above and beyond anything she had ever seen” and thus called it a seven-star hotel!


But, besides all the accolades and praises, Burj Al Arab has attracted criticism as well which all seems to be quite a contradiction given how well-designed the hotel actually is. All pertain to the hotel being constructed with very advanced technology and engineering feats which is a result of not the imagination of the Arabs or their technical prowess but due to excessive wealth that the country holds! But, whatever be the review, the truth is uncontested that the Burj Al Arab is a place to visit, if one has money in pockets and wishes to experience royal flavor all in one place!

Heritage Landmark of India, The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai

Heritage Landmark of India, The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai

taj-mahal-palace-hotel-and-tower-mumbaiTaj Hotels Resorts and palaces are collectives for the Indian Hotel Company Limited (IHCL) and its subsidiaries and it is renowned and recognized as one of the Asia’s largest hotel company in the world incorporated in 1902. The official founder of the Taj Group Mr. Jamsetji N. Tata incorporated its first ever hotel the property of The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Bombay in 1903 and was open to guests from 16th of December. Mumbai now earlier was recognized and known as Bombay. The Taj resort. The Taj is a symbol of Indian hospitality, completed its centurion year in 2003 happily. Taj Resorts and Palaces comprises of 93 Hotels in %% locations across India with an additional 16 International hotels in the Maldives, Malaysia, Australia, UK, USA, Sri Lanka, Africa, Bhutan and the Middle East as well.

There is a widely known and spread story that Jamsetji Tata decided to build the luxurious hotel after he was refused to enter one of the city’s grand hotels, Parke’s Apollo Hotel, as it was reserved to the whites only which was preferably the British people whereas another belief to be mentioned is that the Taj was built as a result of the request of the editor of the Times of India who felt the need of a hotel which would be worthy of Mumbai for years to come ahead.

Bombay-Mumbai-Taj-Mahal-hotel-towerA treasure-trove of invaluable memorabilia, there is a story to be said behind every pillar similarly a landmark deal in every boardroom, and a storied celebration under every awning and even this hotel has a history behind itself to be told. The basic history of this magnificent hotel The Taj Mahal Palace and Mumbai is dramatically intertwined. This hotel in Mumbai is Mumbai’s first harbor landmark which was built 21 years before the Gateway of India was actually constructed and the hotel even was the first one to acquire first licensed bar in the city. For more than a century, the Taj over the years from the very beginning has played an intrinsic part in the life of the city, by hosting maharajas, dignitaries and eminent personalities from across the globe who come to visit India. Today it is a leading Hotel in the world and even the favorite destination for discerning business travelers.

domeThe Taj Mahal Palace and Tower is a prestigious luxury hotel that is located in the Colaba region of Mumbai, India besides the Gateway of India which is one of the most happening place in southern part of Mumbai. This hotel is an architectural landmark with a very rich history attached it itself. This iconic 110 year old heritage underlines the legacy of Indo-Saracenic architecture. The Taj Mahal Palace and the Tower are the two distinct building and both of them were built at different periods and in different architectural styles as well.

This hotel has listed to itself a vast list of most famous guests including Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Jacques Chirac, The King and Queen of Norway, The Prince of Wales, Roger Moore, Joan Collins and it is also the home for international cricket teams on tour for the game.

Taj-Mahal-corridorThe Taj Hotel at Mumbai was designed by India architects namely Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya and D. N. Mirza. When Vaidya dies, the British architect W. A. Chambers completed the project. Most of the hotel reflects Vaidya’s original worked out plans. The cost of construction was £250000 (£127.5 million now). During the First World War, the hotel was used to treat a soldier with a 600-bed hospital. The dome of the Palace hotel is made from the same steel that is used to build the Eiffel Tower as Tata imported the same steel during that period of time and this was even the first Hotel ever to install and run a steam elevator.

The tall building which is constructed behind the Taj Mahal Palace is the Tower wing of the Taj Mahal Hotel as mentioned earlier which was designed by American architect Melton Bekker and was constructed in 1970s. The Taj Hotels are known as the Taj Palace and Tower jointly.

-Taj-Mahal-Palace-Hotel-Sea-LoungeThe side of the hotel seen from the harbor is actually its rear whereas the front faces away in the west. The hotel was built facing inland, possibly to allow the vehicles of guests to approach the hotel from the city easily so as to avail convenience. Four decades ago, the old front was closed off, and since then the access has been made through the harbor side entrance.

The Taj comprises of variety specification to stay at it, which includes the categories of The Taj Mahal palace Rooms, The Taj Club rooms, The Taj Palace suits, the signature Suites and the Presidential suites creating a perfect blend of rich history and modern convenience. The Taj Group of company took the expansion of the Taj Mahal Palace and tower by constructing a tower and increasing the number of rooms from 225 to 565 rooms. The company began a long term programme of geographical expansion and development of new tourist destinations in India which led to its emergence as a leading hotel chain in India and worldwide.

Golden-Dragon-restaurantThis is not just a Hotel but an iconic Landmark. Taj comprises of a unique set of iconic properties making its mark in the history and tradition that deliver truly unforgettable experiences to the tourists and the visitors. A collection of outstanding properties with strong heritage as hotels which offers something more than that great physical product and exceptional service. This hotel is defined by the emotional and unique equity of its iconic properties and furniture that are authentic, non-replaceable antiques which has a capacity of great potential to create memories and stories.

For your sweet tooth: The Story of Rosogolla

For your sweet tooth: The Story of Rosogolla

India is known for the variety of desserts available all over the country. Indeed no occasion is adequately celebrated without a hearty filling of sweets; and different regions of the country have their own signature dishes. Bengal for example has always been known for its sandesh and rosogolla (literally meaning ‘dumpling of sweet syrup’ ). A rosogolla is a sweet popular in the states of  West Bengal and Orissa and is basically made of soft spongy balls of cottage cheese (chana) dipped in thick viscous sugar syrup. Over the years, the sweet has undergone its fair share of transformation and is now popular throughout the country for its mouthwatering deliciousness. The rosogolla has its share of variants. While the normal and most popular version is white in color, you also have the nolen gurer rosogolla (made from special  seasonal date jaggery ‘nolen gur’ available in the winter), the Kamalabhog (orange flavored) and Rajbhog (Royal meal).




The Origin: Bikalananda Kar and Khir mohana

The exact age of the sweet is debated upon. The original recipe is at least three to six centuries old as opined by historians. Rosogollas are used as the only sweet offered to Goddess Mahalakshmi (consort to Lord Jagannath of the Puri temple) durig the annual festival of Rathayatra. The festival is six centuries old and the rituals have hardly changed with time. This implies that the sweet must be as old as the festival itself. Moreover in old scriptures the roundness of Lord Jagannath’s eyes has also been likened to the shape of rosogollas.








The Rosogolla took its birth in present day Odisha and was originally known as Khira mohana. It has been a traditional Oriya sweet dish for a long time and was invented by the celebrated confectioner of the yesteryear- Bikalananda Kar. The Kar brothers popularised the sweet and their descendants still operate the confectionery from Salepur, a town near Cuttack, the capital of Odisha. The present day Rosogolla differs from the erstwhile khira mohana quite a lot. The traditional recipe found its way into the Bengali kitchen at the time of the Bengal Social Renaissance when the Upper Class Bengalis in Kolkata started employing Oriya cooks in their kitchen.

The legendary confectioner (moira, as called in the local language) Nobin Chandra Das of Kolkata is accredited to be the father of Rosogollas as we know them today.

Nobin Chandra Das and how he invented the ‘Kolkatar Rosogolla’

The Oriya Khira mohana was not as spongy or soft as the rosogolla. Moreover it was perishable, making storage an issue. Nobin Chandra Das took upon himself the task of revolutionizing the sweet to suit Bengali tongues. His forefathers had been sugar merchants in Kolkata for a long time and had a well established business in sweets. Nobin Chandra Das came up with the perfect recipe to soften the dessert and make it last longer. What he had now was delicious dumplings that melted in your mouth leaving you wanting for more. What was left was marketing the product, and luck lent him a helping hand.










The legend goes that one day a travel weary man asked for water from Nobin Chandra Das, and Das being his hospitable self offered him a rosogolla along with a glass of water. The man turned out to be famous Kolkata businessman Raibahadur Bhagwandas Bagla. He was so impressed by the humble looking sweet that he used his influence to popularise Das’ creation. Soon enough Bengal started to swear by the rosogolla. They say that Das refused to file for a patent for the recipe of the sweet as he believed that his creation would be popularised only when it would be sold in sweet shops across Bengal. He taught many confectioners the intricacies of his winning recipe; and today the fame of rosogolla has traveled across the length and breadth of the country.

It was with the marketing genius and ingenuity of Das’s son that the rosogolla garnered more fame. K. C. Das, as he is popularly known today, invented the canned version of the sweet and it was now possible to ship the product over long distance. Needless to say, the rosogolla found its adequate share of takers.

Traditionally rosogollas are sold in clay pots called ‘handis’. In Nepal the sweet is popular under the alias ‘rasbari’. An interesting piece of trivia: The Indian space agency, ISRO is developing dehydrated rasgullas for Indian astronauts in its planned manned mission in 2016.






The Rosogolla is unparalleled in popularity in Kolkata when it comes to pulling crowds. It has been suitably reinvented from time to time. Western flavors have been incorporated into the traditional recipe to come up with innovations ranging from the chocolate rosogolla, the strawberry rosogolla and vanilla flavored ones to a few  bizarre combinations as well. However the simplicity of the humble traditional recipe maintains its hold over the taste buds of Bengalis. Bengali taste has become synonymous with the ubiquitous sweet and everything ranging from a hot Bengali to anything remotely desirable is often lovingly referred to as ‘rosogolla’. Needless to say, if you happen to visit the City of Joy anytime, you will be a fool to give the Rosogolla a miss.

Of Thailand and Thai Curry!

Of Thailand and Thai Curry!

Thai curry is the shortcut to gain a true favor of Thailand. The curry not only represents the tastes of the Thai people, but also the ingredients, the dishes and the famous cuisines all of which are together termed as the Thai curry. A typical Thai curry dish is prepared from curry paste, milk of coconut, seafood or meat, vegetables or fruit and herbs. Curries are also made in India and have been a sumptuous part of the Indian diet for longer than in any other country but the curries in Thailand mainly differ from the curries in India in that the Thai curries use ingredients such as herbs and aromatic leaves to give them a different taste of spices and fragrance of the various herbs.


Thai curries in the world are called as ”kaeng”,  also written as “gaeng” in Thai language. Thailand also has  avast history of the origin of the curries and their preparations that have evolved over time, while still retaining their original flavor. The first Thai dictionary  in the year 2416 according to the Thai Buddhist calendar and 1873 CE according to the calendar we usually follow, defines kaeng as “a watery dish to be eaten with rice and utilizing paste of the shrimp, onions or shallots, chillies and garlic as essential ingredients” of the gaeng or the kaeng. Coconut milk is not seen in this definition and thus  many Thai curries like the kaeng som and the kaeng pa do not use the milk of coconut in the curry preparations.


The word “curry” in the Thai language is “kari”. the term is used for dishes that use the Indian style of curry powder called the phong kari in thai language or for kaeng kari which is made according to the Indian style ingredients and proportions. One such curry famous in Thailand is the Kung phat phong kari which is the fried  prawns with egg and curry powder. Although “kaeng” is liquid substance, like the water, but the thickness of the sauce can differ from being very thick or being like water itself. Also dishes can be completely dry. Dry dishes like the phat phrik khing are stir-fried with a curry paste. Noodle dishes of khanom chin nam ngaio are also Thai curry dishes which use curry pastes.


Kaeng Chuet is a kaeng exception and is a Chinese style meat or vegetable broth with pork, tofu etc. and does not contain chillies, garlic, onions and shrimp. The term Kaeng Chuet means “bland curry” but it is a soup, and thus also called Tom Chuet. Curries are eaten with rice which is the long grained jasmine rice in Thailand’s central and south areas while northern Thai rice is sticky. The curry is also popular with noodles such as fermented rice noodles. Curries can also be eaten with Thai chapatti. Khao kaeng or khao rat kaeng or “curry-on-rice” is a traditional fast food restaurant in Thailand. It specialises in ready made curries served with rice. Thai curries also use lemon grass, galangal, coriander etc.


Depending on the type of curry many ingredients for the paste could be turmeric, coriander seeds, pepper, cumin or boiled fermented fish. The ingredients are ground together with mortar and pestle in Thai tradition and in modern times with the food processor. then the paste is fried in cooking oil and then mixed with the other ingredients. Thai curry pastes can be made at home from the ingredients available in the markets of Thailand and are also available in semi-cooked or ready made form in super markets.


Thai curries are mostly cooked with with meat and fish as main ingredients. Vegetables, fruit, certain tree leaves and flowers along with bananas are also used. Curries can also be mixed vegetable curries or the bamboo shoots curries. but usually the ingredients depend on the availability of that material in raw form in the particular season or time of the year when it is most popular in the Thai diet. For example the pork and chicken are available all round the year and so are the fish and sea food from rivers, and Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand. Other traditional ingredients in Thai curries can be frogs, snakes, snails, wild birds, fowl, Sambar deer and wild boar! In the vegetarian curries, commonly used vegetables in curries are Thai brinjal or eggplant, squash and pumpkins.


Kaffir lime leaves or finger roots are cooked with the other ingredients sometimes to add to the taste while the Thai basil is added just after the cooking is done to preserve the full taste of the curry. Fish sauce is used for flavoring, cooking as well as for an add-on taste on the tables along with sliced green chillies for the spicy taste. Lime juice or tamarind juice is also used in sour curries and to achieve a distinct taste and aroma the curry paste is first fried together with vegetable or coconut oil before adding other things for the perfect Thai curry!

Parana – Land of the Foz de Iguazu

Parana – Land of the Foz de Iguazu


Located in the south of the country, Parana is one of the 26 states of Brazil. It is bordered by the republic of Paraguay in the west with the Parana River as its western boundary line. Parana is one of the central tourist attractions of Brazil. It is the seat of mesmerizing monuments that are always a visual treat for the eyes. This Brazilian state is also famous for the waterfalls of the Iguazu River that flows across the border of Parana into the Argentine province of Misiones. The river is believed to have its origins near the city of Curitiba. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. The UNESCO World Heritage List cites the Iguazu Falls as one of the most tempting, sensuous beauty of nature. The Iguazu Falls have also featured in several movies like The Mission, Moonraker, Baraka etc.

The falls are about 23 kilometres upriver from the Iguazu confluence with the Parana River. It is again divided into several smaller waterfalls varying between 60 to 82 metres in height by numerous islands. However about 900 metres of the fall does not have water flowing through it. The water that flows through the lower Iguazu gets collected in a canyon and is passed on to the Parana River. The Itaipu dam is in close proximity to the river. The junction of the water body also marks the border between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. About half of the river flows through the Devil’s throat- the border between Brazil and Argentina. However, almost 80% of the falls pass through the Argentine border.  The Devil’s Throat in Argentina has water pouring into it from three sides. They are arranged in a way that it seems like the letter ‘J’ is kept reversed.



Watching the falls, the heavy gush of water down the hills is indeed a feast to the eyes. It is a once in a lifetime experience and we get to witness the bounties of nature. The name Iguazu is derived from the Guarani or Tupi words ‘y’ meaning ‘water’ and ‘uasu’ meaning ‘big’. History says that there was once a beautiful woman called Naipi whom a god had planned to marry. But she had cheated on him and fled with her lover Taroba on a canoe.  Enraged the god determined to take revenge on the lovers by cutting the river into halves, thereby creating the waterfall. It was Alvar de Vaca, a Spanish conquistador who discovered the falls in 1541. The Iguazu falls are often compared to the Victoria Falls that separates Zambia and Zimbabwe. Not only are the Iguazu waterfalls taller than the falls of Niagara but are also twice as wide as them. Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt of The United States exclaimed: Poor Niagara! after getting struck by breathtaking beauty of the falls. Moreover Iguazu has the second largest annual flow compared to other waterfalls in the world after Niagara.

The water falls with a deafening roar and joins the running stream. Though the place experiences a sub tropical climate round the year, it is normally very misty. Because of this, people also consider the Iguazu Falls as “the place where clouds are born”.  It seems as if the water throws itself over the cliffs as the morning mists rises above the forest. Its breathtaking beauty has the power to make us seem small when compared to the Iguazu Falls. One could visit the falls through Argentina, Brazil or Paraguay as it is located in the so-called tri-border of the three countries. Moreover none of the three countries have claimed the ownership of this beautiful art of nature. Foz do Iguazu (a Brazilian city) and Puerto Iguazu (an Argentine town) is considered the safest locations from where one could catch a glimpse of the waterfalls of Iguazu.

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Visiting the falls for a day and spending time on each side is always worth one’s time. One can also go for a boat ride or indulge in other activities that are offered. While the majority of the falls are in Argentina, it is the portion in Brazil that offers a much better view of the fall. However those accessing the falls via Argentina can take any of the five tracks paved and well marked by the Argentine government of which the path via Garganta del Diabla is the most attractive. One could take the free train running up the river and watch from the main horseshoe of falls where the roar and spray are most tremendous. Wildwater rafting and abseiling activities are other sports that one could enjoy on a trip to the ‘Cataratas del Iguazu’.

The Iguazu Falls also offer the best views and walkways than any other water sights of the world. A person standing at any point is always surrounded by 260 degrees of waterfalls. It is one among the most monumental waterfalls in the world. Spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy established a plaque ‘A Sri Chinmoy Peace Falls’ dedicated to the site in 2000. However, the majesty and beauty of Iguazu was also on the verge of dying in 2006 when the place got affected by a long drought. This had resulted in diminishing the amount of water to 300 cubic metres per second. Today the falls belong to a family of hundreds of similar beautiful “Peace Blossoms” of the world that are dedicated to promoting world peace and international friendship.

Khajuraho Temples, India: Paean to Passion

Khajuraho Temples, India: Paean to Passion

One of the most potent symbols of Medieval art in India survives in the form of the Khajuraho temples in the Chatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh. It is about 620 kilometers south east of New Delhi and is India’s best known complex of Hindu and Jain temples. The walls of the temple are adorned with exquisite signature sculpture which speak volumes of the local craftsmanship. One tenth of the sculptures are explicitly erotic in nature and the blatant display of passion has earned the temple a sobriquet- the Kamasutra temples. Out of the 85 temples originally built, 22 still stand today. More sites are being excavated in a quest to unearth India’s forgotten legacy. The temples display a highly precise and distinct form of architecture. Mortar has not been used. The temples are carved out of sandstone blocks that have been joined together by means of precisely constructed joints and held together by the forces of gravity. The Khajuraho group of monuments have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Early History

The name Khajuraho is borrowed from ‘khajura vahaka’ which literally means the ‘carriers of date palm’. The surrounding areas were densely populated with date palms, giving the place its name. In the period between 900-1300 AD the place was under the rule of the Chandela dynasty under whose patronage the 85 temples were constructed. Khajuraho was their cultural capital (political capital being the city of Mahoba). Khajuraho was never really fortified but the walls surrounding it had eight gates, each flanked by two golden palm trees. It is said that every Chandela ruler had at least one temple built during his lifetime. The famous traveler Al Biruni mentions the Khajuraho temples in his travelogues. In AD 13335 Khajuraho also crops up in the works of the famous Arab traveler Ibn Batuta. However owing to Muslim invasion in the 12th century, the grandeur of the monuments took a beating. The Muslim invaders defaced many of the religious monuments of the area.


In 1819 AD the British Engineer T. S. Burt discovered the Khajuraho temples assisted by the locals and was followed by General Alexander Cunningham. General Cunningham led a excavation in the area with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and put Khajuraho on the world map. Today, with a conscious effort at restoration Khajuraho has  recovered a part of its lost glory. The temples attract tourists from all over the world and has become a tourism hot spot. The Madhya Pradesh state government as well as the Government of India have adopted steps to promote tourism in the area. The otherwise remote area is now accessible due to the building of the Khajuraho railway station. You can get direct trains to Khajuraho from the New Delhi station.


The Temples

The temples standing today are divided into three clusters, the southern, eastern and western temples. The western block is the most popular and it has the most imposing structure, the Kandariya Mahashiv mandir dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Chaunsath Jogini Temple, situated on the bank of the Shivsagar Lake, is believed to be the oldest temple in Khajuraho and depicts a style different from the Chandela style of architecture. The Western temples are characterised by the ornate wall carvings, which are often erotic in nature. The temples are dedicated to the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (the Hindu Gods of creation, nurturing and destruction respectively).

The Eastern temples are comparatively quieter and have a more simplistic architecture. The grand erotic sculptures are missing, however the understated elegance is as pristine as it gets. In the backdrop of the Khajursagar lake, the scenic beauty of the temples are breathtaking. The most important structure here is the Brahma temple which however is a misnomer. The temple’s central deity is actually Lord Shiva. The confusion perhaps arised from the fact that a four headed shivalinga (statue of Shiva) was placed at the entrance of the temple. Lord Brahma usually sports four heads.


The different temples are listed here.

  • Chausath Yogini (64 Yoginis)
  • Brahma Mandir
  • Lalgun Mahadev
  • Matangeshwar (in active worship)
  • Varaha (an avatar of Lord Vishnu)
  • Lakshmana Mandir
  • Parshvanath (Jain Compound)
  • Devi Jagadambi (the Mother of the Universe)
  • Chitragupta Mandir
  • Kandariya Mahadeva Mandir
  • Vamana
  • Adinath
  • Javari Madir
  • Chaturbhuja Mandir
  • Duladeo Mandir
  • Ghantai Mandir
  • Beejamandal Mandir (under excavation)




Erotic Art at Khajuraho

The Virata Samhita scriptures of the Hindus say that the placing of erotic art, and motivs of mithunas (lovemaking couples), goblins, plinths and other alankaras at the entrance of a building is auspicious. Many temples had already started using erotic alankaras as temple carvings but they were usually placed below eye level. The Khajuraho temples were the first to blatantly display copulating couples in passionate embraces and elaborate orgies in the wall sculptures.  Broad hipped nymphs (apsaras) have been depicted in various stages. However only one tenth of all the sculptures are erotic in nature. The remaining murals depict the daily lifestyle of common people where they are involved in mundane activities like women applying make up, washing their hair and musicians playing on their instruments.




Now the Khajuraho temples have been long known for their erotic carvings. Many say that the carvings celebrate the male and female powers coming together to create power. Others say that the carvings were supposed to educate the young boys who spent the first years of their life in hermitage (Brahmacharya). However contrary to popular imagination, the statues are not of deities engaging in passionate acts.




The Khajuraho dance festival, held every year in the first week of February is another attraction of the place. During this period the various classical Indian dance forms are showcased here.

Visit Khajuraho and know for yourself!

The Just married would know: Aitutaki, Cook Islands

The Just married would know: Aitutaki, Cook Islands

The Cook Islands are well known for their stunning beauty, crystal clear water and tranquil setting. The archipelago transports you to some other world away from the mundane worries of your daily life. The most romantic of the lot is probably the Aitutaki which is the archetypal romantic getaway that promises honeymooners a blissful time away from the world. Here you have all the amenities you desire, but also a feeling of isolation from the outside world. Here you are truly alone with each other without a care in the world. Aitutaki has been lovingly nicknamed the Honeymoon Island for obvious reasons and lives up to its name. It has been gathering popularity as a wedding destination for some time now. Undoubtedly, with the tranquil water, stunning beaches and breathtaking sunset, the destination of your dreams comes alive on this tropical island.


The main island of Aitutaki and the barrier reef surrounding it is almost like an equilateral triangle in shape, each side nearly 12 km long. The central lagoon is one of the most celebrated attractions of the island. The palm fringed beaches are like paradise on earth and the fact that mass tourism has not yet managed to ruin the pristine locations add to the appeal and allure of Aitutaki. Tapuaetai or the One Foot Island is one of the major attractions of the place and has been recognised as one of the leading Australian beaches. The magic white sand plays its role quite effectively.

The Honeymoon Island

Aitutaki has a rich historic legacy which is both astounding and equally fascinating. It has witnessed Spanish invasions, bloodthirsty seafarers and Maori migration over the course of time. And now the pristine beauty nature has to over has won over couples from around the world to make this beautiful island one of the most preferred honeymoon destinations. Captain William Bligh sighted Aitutaki for the first time in 1789 and since then the world has been witnessing the charms of the most glorious of the Cook islands. It is less than an hour by air from Rarotonga and is the proverbial tropical island.


The white sand, the magical sea and the flight of sea birds come together to create an ambiance that is truly unique. The Polynesian legends surrounding the island are also quite interesting. The original inhabitants believe that they are descended from Ru-  the famous seafaring warrior who sailed from Avaiki, the Polynesian homeland and settled here with his four wives. He sailed with his followers in a double-hulled canoe and landed on the beach on a full moon night. Mesmerised by the island’s beauty, he  named his landing point O’otu – full moon. It is also said that the highest peak of the otherwise flat island was carried to its present place by fearsome warriors who claimed victory over the mainland. Ceremonial volcanic boulders are still placed in formation on the island and visitors continue to be fascinated by them.

The Bishop’s Cruise and other marvels

Aitutaki has a lot to offer in terms of tourism. When on this island, you cannot afford to miss the Bishop’s cruise which is a brilliant experience. The cruise offers a view of a flock of technicolor fish and makes a different world come alive with the Aitutakian songs, dances and storytelling. The island is also a great snorkeling haven and the flying boats that sailed in the original coral route add to the charms of this island.


Aitutaki is a shopper’s paradise with the Saturday market teeming with tourists and locals alike. The colors of the local land come alive in the gathering which is a milieu of traditions and modern lifestyle. The traditional Pandalus hats, bags, mats and fresh seasonal produce are available at affordable prices. Visitors can also lay their hands on colourful sponges and souvenirs to remember Aitutaki by.

Aitutaki is the home to the oldest church in the Cook island. The church is imposing and has magnificent acoustics that makes listening to the church hymns a divine  experience.  The village of Vaipae, nicknamed Hollywood comes alive every Sunday to the sound of drumbeats and the toe tapping music to which Aitutakian dancers beat up a storm. Fire dancers showcase some traditional techniques that perhaps have taken centuries to perfect. The fire dancers cause tiny tremors in your heart with their bravado.

Missionary influence in the island today (Aitutaki was the first among the Cook islands to convert into Christianity) is limited to a number of beautiful white churches and the traditional attire mu mu. Thankfully the Aitutaki genes did not permit the giving up of drumming, dancing and other carnal pursuits in the name of religion (as dictated by missionaries once upon a time).


Thus if you want to have a blissful romantic vacation away from the nitti gritties of everyday life alone with your loved one, come to Aitutaki. It will transport you to a world that is very familiar and yet unknown. There is something about the easy going and hospitable attitude of the Aitutakians that lure you to the island and leave you with memories to last a lifetime. The just married will know.

Manali – A Tourist’s Paradise

Manali – A Tourist’s Paradise

Even if they are unbeknownst to it, fans and followers of the lands of Narnia have a really cool place to look forward to, a place which just doesn’t have the beauty of the fictional lands but has lots of different kinds of fun to offer too.

Manali, named after one of the most prominent Hindu figures – Manu, pulls towards itself all kinds of travelers year long; hippies who wander aimlessly in its beautiful streets; adrenaline junkies who come looking for the thrill of paragliding and skiing and families who come just to take in the chilly breeze and cool their heels off in the breaks. Also, being a checkpoint in the travels to other popular destinations like Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul many a people come here to stay just for the night and then move on, but find themselves enjoying the city even after a week.

homes in manali

Manali is nested deep in the mountains of Himachal at the northern end of the Kullu valley, which’s also why it is often called by the name of Kullu-Manali, even when it is actually 40 kilometers away from Kullu. Located at an altitude of more than 2000 meters and situated by the Vyaas (Beas) river makes it a perfect hill-station.

The altitude means the winter months of November to January go really cold with temperatures dropping to -5 degree Celsius. In summers it becomes a haven for people trying to get away from the heat as temperatures are normally between 15-20 degrees. It receives moderate rainfall during the monsoon.

A beautiful house @ Manali

Disproportional to the amount of tourism it generates Manali is relatively a small town with a population no more than 7000. Manali yearlong, has something for everybody and is a very complete tourist destination.

Places of interest are:-

Religiously oriented tourists go to a wide array of temples situated at or near Manali. Raghunath Temple is one of the prime magnets in Kullu and is a Temple dedicated to Lord Ram. The Bijli Temple is a Shiva temple enormously famous for being regularly struck by lightning being at a height of 2400 meters. The most famous temple in Manali would easily be the Hidimba Temple made completely out of wood and stone, it is situated at half a mile’s distance from the tourist office in Manali. Built by King in 1553, its unique architectural built feels similar to a Buddhist Pagoda. As many Tibetans live in the valley, there are many monasteries located in proximity and are frequently visited by curious tourists.


Rohtang pass is the jump point for one’s trip to another wonderful place called Ladakh, up in the mountains. At height fairly more than 4100 meters it is the highest and most picturesque point in the area. Most of the regions beyond this point are cut away and at great distances which make Rohtang pass somewhat inaccessible; this can be credited with retaining the virginal beauty of the place. The best time to visit is in summer months between June and September as the pass is closed due to heavy snowfalls in winters.


At only 5 kilometers from Manali is the fabled Arjun Ghufa, a cave which tourists love to explore, mainly because of the story behind it. On the baks of Vyaas, it is said it is here that Arjuna prayed and meditated for years in order to please the lord Indra and get a mighty weapon called Pashupata Ashtra.

Popular as the most busy market area of Kullu district and the valley, Akhara bazaar is place to find almost all the things available in Manali; with shops selling everything from food items, beverages to regional attires and clothing items like rugs, shawls and Kullu caps.

Kullu comes with an added attraction of many tourist places very near to it; so, if one feels they have seen all there is to see in Kullu, which in itself is a very great task, then they can leave for other popular scenic hill stations most of which are under the 100 kilometer radius. Known for its apple orchards and located at the center of Kullu valley Katrain is fairly popular, also, there is Kasol is known for the scenic beauty which by some is considered even better than Kullu itself. Then one can always head to the capital of the state Shimla also known as the Queen of Hills and rightly so. Vashistha, Mandi and Manikaran are some other worthy destinations around the corner.

Manali offers almost all kinds of accommodations for visitors. The luxury resorts and 5 star hotels run very busy especially during summers and snowfall. There are numerous budget accommodations to choose from if one is running a tight show. Also in the list are home-stay cottages which let you stay in small home like huts and cottages charging cheap rates for a very close-to-nature experience.

Manali leaves no disappointments for foodies and provides all kinds of cuisines from international to Italian and Chinese. Indian cuisine of course is the most popular. Most of these distinct restaurants can be found in the main market just opposite the main bust stand. A few good names are The Lazy Dog, Red House Café and Shere Punjab. The locals drink two kinds of liquor Lugdi and Arak both of which are similar to beers fermented from rice.

The activities to take up in Manali are too many in number and one always falls short on time. A hot sulphur bath is many visitors’ perfect idea of a relaxing day; these are accessible at different locations like Kalath village , Vashistha village or Manikaran.

Vashistha village is also the center of many adventure activities form river crossing to rock climbing, rappelling and zorbing. As many would expect the valley provides for some very beautiful and enjoyable treks which mesmerize the people so much that most return for another.

Paragliding can be called the most popular sport in Manali given how cheap, less time consuming and easy it is.


Manali is 570 kms from Delhi, the capital of India, and there are buses connecting the town with Delhi, ShimlaDharamsala and Leh. It can also be reached by hiring a private taxi though a reliable and experienced driver is advised as the hilly roads may prove to be treacherous for travel especially during monsoons and snowfall.The nearest airport is Bhuntar Airport, 50 km from Manali, 10 km from Kullu, it takes about 2 hours to reach Manali from here.


Getting around in Manali can be done easily via hiring a taxi which takes people to almost all the popular spots according to one’s package; the taxi cost about 2000 rupees per day. Public transport is erratic and cannot be depended upon especially when one is on a short leash. The other way is to hire a motorbike which is cheaper than the taxis. The dress materials for the trip to Rohtang cost about 200 rupees and include all necessities including boot and shawls.

A trip to Manali should be on everybody’s must-visit-places list.