Monday, 21 May 2018

Honesty in travel

Are we always honest when sharing our travel experiences? Do we say out loud that we didn’t like a place? Or that we didn’t understand why a certain place was so revered by travel enthusiasts and writers alike? Do we always share details about how much we hated a certain medium of travel?
I don’t think so. So much of what we read about online or even discuss with friends or colleagues is so cheerful and full of stories detailing great things that happened. After all, you don’t want to be that person who hated visiting a particular destination. How can you show any less enthusiasm than what is expected of you?

Why are we so afraid to be honest? Will it taint our vision of a destination? I don’t think so.
Just last year, I had some epic failures when travelling. I set out to go to Manali and stay in this beautiful Airbnb property, but the bus I booked from Delhi to Manali was cancelled due to riots in Haryana sparked by followers of spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim after his arrest. And just like that, my entire trip was cancelled. Thankfully, Airbnb was gracious enough to refund my payment.
I tried making my way to the mountains a second time after a month, and failed, yet again. After spending six hours on the road to Nainital, I was told by my Airbnb host that the rooms at his property have been sealed by the authorities and I won’t be able to stay there—probably one of the most random things that I have faced. Twice, my trips got ruined. But there wasn’t much I could do about it; I just made the best of the time I had.

It made me realise that travel was never meant to be easy or always be a source of sunshine and sparkle. It was meant to be tough and enjoyable in equal measure. When you travel, you face numerous challenges—big and small—and navigating through them ultimately makes your journey more fulfilling. When you travel to the mountains, the tough terrains you cross are eventually rewarding in the landscapes you discover. When you find yourself lost amid the by-lanes of a tiny town, you may be rewarded by meeting complete strangers who become friends for life. It is these unexpected discoveries that make travel so memorable.

So find joy in getting lost and be honest about things you dislike. Travelling isn’t always perfect, but that’s how you collect the best stories.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

TRAVEL TIDBITS - Run For Your Bun Café, London

Work it to earn it—that’s how you’ll get your meal at this unique café in London. Launched with the aim of promoting a healthy lifestyle, Run For Your Bun Café offers nutritious meals for which customers have to pay in the form of exercise.

Photo by David Lloyd Clubs

Once you arrive at the cafe, you place your order at the counter and receive a receipt with all the exercises you need to do as part of your assigned workout. The six-minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout includes exercises that range from sit-ups and lunges to squats and jogging on a treadmill. There are personal trainers at the cafe that check if you've completed the exercises; only then do you get your meal.

Photo by David Lloyd Clubs

Far too many people today are leading sedentary lives; eating junk food and being a couch potato. This café is a great initiative in encouraging people to focus on maintaining good health and well-being. 

Free meals, healthy food and fitness—do you really need more reasons to visit?

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.