My Roaming Spirit
Whitter*......Wittier than your next door neighbor.
Our perception about this beautiful country has largely been influenced by American movies, is that why we don't really consider Russia for a holiday destination. More so, The greatest Briton of all time, Winston Churchill famously remarked that Russia was "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
I say, you need to visit before you form a perception, oh and leave room for a huge surprise!
We had a very successful trip to Russia. We made it back. – Bob Hope
I reached the Russian Capital at around midnight, with a few friends that I had made in St. Petersburg. The train ride was picturesque with a lot of greenery and open fields to gaze at. We checked into Moscow Marriott Grand Hotel on Tverskaya street, which is the main radial street. We decided to explore the city while it was relieved of its hustle bustle. The enticing back alleys and charming side streets that branch off of Tverskaya street are filled with hole in the wall eateries that are open late and serve some delicious food. The few people on the streets were hospitable and extremely helpful to point us back to our hotel when we lost our way.
The day started with a visit to the famous Moscow Kremlin, it overlooks the Moskva river and is situated in the heart of the city. Kremlin happens to be the seat of the present Russian government and houses the Kremlin Museum and the Armory. Its business as usual at the State Kremlin Palace, a swanky modern building which remains unobstructed by the flocking tourists. I stood gobsmacked staring at this splendid building, which has been destroyed time and again and yet here it stood in all its might. Of course, like a tourist I did click pictures with the Tsar canon and the Tsar bell, which are on display on Kremlin ground.
Whitter*......Wittier than your next door neighbor.
After having my visa application rejected by the American Embassy, Russia was the obvious choice for a holiday. Russian visa was not extremely hard to get! My obsession with Russia could not be contained any longer. First stop was going to be St. Petersburg, formerly known as Petrograd and Leningrad.
I landed at the Pulkovo airport in St. Petersburg, on a fine June afternoon. After clearing immigration, it was a long but scenic ride to Corinthia Hotel in the Nevsky Prospect.
The city was decorated and there was much pomp and show, the people were out on the streets. I checked into the hotel. On inquiring I was told that I got lucky as the city was celebrating Scarlet Sails, which happens to be the most massive and famous event at the end of school year.
Honestly, I had not done much research about the city. After changing into my party clothes. I stepped out to explore the city, on foot. Before that, it was a pit stop to one of the many cafes that line the streets of Nevsky Prospect. As I sat outside one of the cafes and absorbed the breath-taking view while sipping my vodka, I thought about how fascinated I had been about the glorious and bloody Russian history, its architecture, the Tzars and Tsarinas and all the powerplay that Russia has to offer. The architectural beauty of the city is breath-taking. You are surrounded by old European styled building, without any modern building in the heart of the city.
A unique way to admire the Russian Venice is to take a night boat ride through rivers/channels. You get a totally different perspective of the city, the monuments on the riverbanks are lit up and they take your breath away. It was around 9:30 pm and I was surprised to see the sun. That is how St. Petersburg gets another nickname “The City of White Nights”. It’s a natural phenomenon which arises due to its closeness to the polar region and ensures that in summer the nights do not get completely dark for a month (don’t forget to draw the curtains before you sleep) !
That night when I finally went to bed at around 3 am, I could not help but marvel at the beauty and the history of the city. Scarlet sails ended with spectacular fireworks and water show, which was preceded by music concerts and a whole lot of celebration.
It has been one of the most mesmerizing new year with the sighting of snowfall exactly on the eve of the new year. The plans were all set for the next stop to the mountains. One of the most holiest place for the Bhutanese, THE TIGER’s NEST!! also known as Paro Taktsang. The monastery is located 10 kilometers to the north of Paro and hangs on a cliff at 3,120 meters, about 900 meters above the Paro Valley.
We could feel the Dragon calling. It was about 5 hours of drive from Phobjikha Valley to Paro Taktsang. The drive came to an end just at the time of Lunch. And nothing works better than Aloo paratha for Indians to lift up their spirit.
We had an average of about 2.5 hours of climb ahead of us. It was already 2:45 and the gate to the monastery closes around 5 PM. We obviously had a time crunch but what could stop us. It contains steps as well as straight paths, so there is no correct numbers on how many stairs we climbed
I remember the days where we could play endlessly for the whole day and not get tired. Well that has surely changed in last couple of years. Its been nearly two third of a decade that any of us had the taste of it. So now you know what happens when you put a club boxer in the ring with a Pro. Our hearts were pounding and we could feel the blood flowing through our veins directly to our head. Each gust of winds felt like shrapnel piercing into our body. That said and done, half way through we fell on the ground catching our breath, but it was the race to reach the top that kept us going. That wasn’t the only thing but the scenic view of the mountain covered with the pine trees, the clouds, the waterfalls and the people all around us made the journey worthwhile.
We talk about discipline a lot in school but you can really experience it in Bhutan, there were no wrappers or garbage anywhere on the streets. People of Bhutan made sure
From my adolescence, I have been a mountain admirer and this made me pass through various peaks and passes located in extreme north of India. However, this time I wanted to change the rules of my vacation and chose to visit Munnar, Kerala or as they say it is Gods own Country.
Munnar is green paradise which during British raj was one of their favourite vacation spot. The stunning destination is a 5-hour scenic drive from Kochi airport passing through bends and blind spot but as soon as you approach your destination you’ll witness the lush green valleys, ubiquitous Tea estate and dense fog that would cut down the visibility to less than 5 metres. The view of widespread immaculate tea gardens is indeed bliss and seems like nature has placed a green carpet over the town. The stupendous valleys, grandeur tea plantations, Spice and Ayurveda gardens will keep you enthralled throughout. The place is ideal for nature lovers and the views of high ranging mountains and skyline is just majestic. For the ones looking for some adrenaline rush, this place is also a biker’s paradise and you can witness Royal Enfields to Harley Davidsons cutting through the misty roads of Munnar. Munnar also welcomes adventure seekers with its variety of day and night forest trails, trekking options and a rich wildlife.
I would recommend spending atleast 02N/03D and not miss even one of below mentioned places:
1. A visit to Kanan devan hills plantation (Tata Tea Factory) is must and will be “Jaago” moment for everyone and if you are complacent about your tea making skills then I am sure you will be amused after the insights gained during the session. The educational and entertainment tour edify history, origin, types of tea leaves & garden, tea preparation traits and finally a brief of the entire process from plucking of leaves to packing of final tea crushes. While you are leaving, you can have a pot of fresh tea and buy tea leaves as souvenir for friends and family
Disclaimer: This document is based on my personal experiences and some information might not hold true for everyone. I moved to New Jersey. So things might be slightly different in other states but not entirely. Don’t hold me responsible for anything that goes wrong and yes I make mistakes too!!!
You have planned your move to the U.S. and are looking forward to a new exciting life ahead. But give yourself a moment to pause here. Things always look bright on the other side but it’s a long way before you make it to the end. And believe me you probably will be changing your mind and think ‘let me stay back, India is awesome’ by the time you reach the end of this document. Wait! You have already planned your move, don’t let these hold you back. Get that international exposure and you can always come back to your home land. So let me start the journey for you.
First few weeks
As you land at the airport, remember you need to pay for your luggage cart (first shocker!!!) – About $6 per cart. Second stop converting that to INR. You cannot survive in the US unless you stop that.
You can rent a car (self-driven) from various car rental counters:
Hertz - https://www.hertz.com/rentacar/reservation/
Enterprise - https://www.enterprise.com
The car rental can always help you with initial few days in the U.S. where unlike India you are handicapped without one. Go for weekly rates which are much cheaper as compared to the daily rentals. And note, you can drop the car back at any Hertz/ enterprise counter nearest to you, in any city (yes, even California if you picked it up from New York). Hertz is more wide spread and easily available. And get that GPS on your phone to work. Trust me, google maps will be your best friend in the U.S.
If you are not comfortable driving around in a car right after you land, get a taxi to your destination from the airport (again expensive but your only option unless Uber is willing to pick you up or if you will be living in a city where you have access to metro or buses) - Costs about 75 cents a mile.
You first few days in the US should be spent on getting a social security number, opening a bank account, applying for a credit card, finding a home for yourself, locating a school for your child (if you have one), getting the gas & electricity connection, water connection, phone connection, cable and internet, Renter’s insurance, car, car insurance.