Monday, 24 July 2017

Explore Hua Hin Hills Vineyard in Thailand

I am not a wine drinker, but I know it would certainly be unusual to put Thailand and wines in the same sentence. I’ve heard of French wines, Indian wines and even South African wines, but I wouldn’t peg Thailand as a wine producer. So imagine my surprise when I found a vineyard in a place that’s claim to fame is its endless seaside and vast expanses of pristine beachfront. However, don’t dismiss Thailand’s foray into wine production just yet. While they haven’t entered the league of top winemakers in the world, they have definitely proved that they can produce good quality wines in a region that the world couldn't imagine to be conducive to grape cultivation.

The discovery that wine production was possible in Thailand came about over 30 years ago, when a royal project under HM the King began experimenting with grape plantation in the region. That’s when they realised that Thailand’s Mediterranean climate would aid the successful cultivation of grapes. This eventually led Siam Winery to give Hua Hin its first boutique vineyard. Today, Hua Hin Hills boasts of growing over 30 grape varietals that include the Colombard, Summer Muscat, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Hua Hin Hills’ on their loamy sand and slate terrain.

Spread over 560 acres, the vineyard is also home to the Sala Wine Bar and Bistro—which contains a wine bar, retail shop, wine cellar and a meeting facility—where you can learn more about oenology, viticulture, and the detailed story behind the conception of latitude wines in Thailand. Sala, also known as an open pavilion, is a facet of Thai architecture that is meant to be open on all four sides and provide shade, while protecting people from climatic conditions like rain. The bistro is designed using materials like bamboo and red bricks and looks over the lush green rows of grape-bearing vines.

The menu here not only allows you to sample their fine wines, but also offers delicious local food prepared with ingredients grown within the property. You can also request the staff to help you pair your food with their selection of wines. Those who don’t drink alcoholic beverages can choose from alternative grape-based concoctions such as the ever-popular red grape juice, grape smoothie and hot grape tea. People with a sweet tooth must try their grape sorbet and grape yoghurt cheesecake.

However, what makes this vineyard truly ‘Thai’ is the surprising element of elephant rides. Imagine being able to explore a grape plantation seated atop an elephant. Where else but Thailand can you think of doing this?

The activities here include wine tastings, elephant rides, cycling, jeep tours and wine and tapas pairing. The vineyard is open from 8:30am to 6:30pm. For more information, check out their website.

If you’re planning a trip to Hua Hin, do check the official Thailand Tourism website before you go so that you can prepare your itinerary in advance. As for flight tickets, I quite like Thai Airlines. The service is always good and the tickets are fairly reasonable.

P.S.  My visit to Hua Hin, Thailand was at the invitation of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Drip coffee on the go


One of the things I look forward to most when travelling is seriously good coffee. I like mine to be intoxicatingly aromatic, so strong it wakes me up and smooth like silk on my taste buds. But instant coffee powders find it hard to match up to the magic of filter coffee. Lucky for me, I found the perfect coffee companion to take with me when I travel. Meet Starbucks' Origami--a single serve personal drip coffee alternative. You simply need to place the filter on the mug, pour hot water over it and voila! Strong, aromatic drip coffee in an instant.

While they aren’t yet available in India, hopefully you can find them on your travels. I found these in Thailand, and I hear they are available in Japan as well.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Why you should NOT quit your job to travel

Two years ago, at an interview, I was asked “If you love travelling so much, why don’t you travel full-time? Why do you want a desk job?” I answered “Because I enjoy the balance of working in an office with a stimulating team, and travelling a few times a year. I love working with a team; brainstorming ideas; the camaraderie of working together. I thrived on the pressure of crazy timelines, and the results we got in the end.” But the interviewee wasn’t convinced. I don’t know why; considering he himself was working in an office, running a travel-related publication sitting at a desk.

People who love travel always assume that quitting your day job to get on the unpredictable road is somehow going to be as glamorous as all the articles online say it is. But it’s not. There are several writers/bloggers who have managed to travel full time successfully. And they deserve our respect because this shit isn’t easy. The reality of it is very different from what you imagine.

Perception VS Reality
It isn’t all about meeting new people, living in rooms with mountain views or cottages that open right at a beach. Being on the road means being alone a lot. You will be leaving behind your family and friends; not seeing them the for months at end. And unless you have access to unlimited wealth, you’re going to need a lot of money to sustain yourself.

If being passionate to travel is all it took to hop on to the next plane off to see the world, then everyone would do it. But they don’t. And they have their reasons. People stay in soul-sucking jobs to provide for their families or to save for a life they’ve dreamed of living, or to simply make ends meet. Many have debts and numerous responsibilities towards their families that they can’t just leave behind. And money isn’t the only factor stopping people from quitting their jobs to travel full-time. Not everyone is in prime health to stay away from home for months, trekking up mountains or walking down cobbled streets.

And even if you had all the means to travel long-term, who is to say you would want to? You need to be a certain kind of person to travel. It isn’t for everyone. It’s not like taking a vacation or clicking picturesque landscapes to share on Instagram. It’s a lot harder than you envision. You will face many unexpected challenges on the go, and you need to be prepared before taking the plunge. Being on the road means being alone. A LOT. I truly enjoy travelling solo, but it isn’t always fun. The loneliness can get to you. There will be so many moments you wish you could share with someone. You’ll make friends, but eventually you’ll move on to the next destination and be by yourself again. You won’t be able to fill the void of your family and friends back home. You may miss birthdays, weddings, babies, and may not be able to pick up where you left off. Travelling solo can be quite a struggle.

You may not always find a great place to stay. You’ll have to make do with whatever you can find, which can mean just a bed to sleep on sometimes. On my first trip to Kerala, my hotel room booked well in advance was given away to someone else. I had no choice but to find a last-minute alternative. You don’t always get lucky. And you will have to find a way to earn a living to sustain your travels. Even though I worked as a freelancer for a while, it didn’t pay well enough; and the payments never came on time. Your career may even take a backseat while you’re gone, and you may have to start from scratch when you return. Or you may get lucky and find your calling on the road.

To each his/her own
I don’t intend to discourage anyone trying to leave their cubicles for greener pastures or snowy peaks. But before you do, manage your expectations and have a plan. Be prepared for the experiences you will have, and find a way to be financially secure. I know many travel bloggers who have successfully managed to travel for months at end and have no intention of returning to their full-time jobs. But they’ve crossed many obstacles in their path to get where they have and it hasn’t been a tough journey. They endured a lot before they became successful.

If you love to travel and want to leave your life behind to chase rainbows, do it. Just remember, setting off on the endless road is tempting, but it comes with bumps and cracks; so be ready to embrace it all.