Property Review: Lakshman Sagar, Rajasthan.

To call it an oasis in the middle of desert will not be a hyperbole. It is an amalgamation of ethereal experiences – waking up to the sound of peacocks; swimming in a crater like pool; visiting the local market in a village; taking a cooking lesson in someone’s backyard; sampling local cuisine; snoozing in air-cooled mud houses; watching sunsets from the rooftop; having drinks by the lake side while locals serenade you with folk songs; star gazing and then sinking into your king sized comfy bed – are a few (among many) things one can do at Lakshman Sagar.

 

Lakshman Sagar located amidst the arid region of Marwar in Rajasthan, promises and delivers exactly that experience.

Lakshman Sagar Swimming Pool
Could not resist our own photo session !

 

THE SETTING

 

Once a hunting lodge of the Thakur of Raipur, Lakshman Sagar, now is an eco-friendly resort, catering to those looking for authentic rural experience. It is located in middle of a jungle, far away from civilisation. To reach there is no mean task, but that adds to the charm (and also to the cost) of the place. It is built on a zero kilometre concept, which means that almost everything has been sourced locally from nearby villages, thus improving livelihood of the people around it. Food is organically grown on their own vegetable garden. Out of an 18 member team, I am told 15 are from nearby areas and believe me when I say this: they are well trained and have now a skillset, which will carry them through.

 

The property spans 34 acres of land and is set around a ridge and on the bank of a lake, which is a watering hole for antelopes, blue bulls and migratory birds. It is a surreal experience to sit by the lake side around a bonfire, to combat a slight nip in the air.

Courtyard of Lakshman Sagar
At dusk, when lamps are lit, look out area of resort

 

The property has 12 huts , which are spaced out to maintain a high degree of privacy and tranquillity of the resort. These are mud houses with thatched roofs to keep it cool during sunny days and air coolers are just enough to put you in a deep slumber as if, you have not slept in ages. They have captured the vibrancy of Rajasthan in bold and beautiful colours of Fuchsia, Lime green and Orange-red, while doing the interiors of the hut. The colours are not overwhelming but a lively dash of energy when contrasted against brown, dry mud walls.

Hut front view Lakshman Sagar
Front view of our hut, from the other side of the lake

 


 THE SERVICE

 

We were looked after by the trio of Manhar Singh (property manager), Amol (attendant) and Dayal Singh (guide). Their service is too cute, if I may use that word. On our nature walk, half way through, we were treated with chilled soft drinks and water, while watching the sunset. The camper was placed by someone on the spot, just when we started the walk. On enquiry, Dayal singh told us that at night, after service is over, they research ideas to elevate the guests experience and they came across “Sundowner”. What impressed me is the honesty, with which they looked after us. It was reflected everywhere from munchies magically appearing on our sunbed near the pool; to rooms being serviced more than 2 times in a day; to kerosene lamps being lit in far off areas of the property, which are not even visible.

 

It is no longer a secret that Asians have cracked the code, redefined it to a great extent, in the hospitality business. It amazes me to see boutique properties playing catch-up with their ‘big brothers’. Our all demands were met with aplomb from customising food menu to sourcing local speciality dishes.

Lakshman Sagar
From Zanana Mahal, Resort team setting up the bar at Mardana Mahal

 


THE FOOD

 

This is an all meal inclusive resort and the menu is pre-fixed. Having said that, they are completely flexible to your dietary requirement and taste. The cuisine is primarily local, comprising of lots of pulses, gram, and meat. I really like Rajasthani cuisine so I enjoyed my meals. They don’t use premixed curries and even grow the spices locally.  To make sure they adhere to it, they don’t have a refrigerator (We didn’t know this was possible in this century). All vegetables are grown by them and they follow the “Farm to Fork” principle to the core. To stir things up a little, they have themed dinners and field breakfasts. We were fortunate to have a jungle themed dinner, where they cooked the meal like old times, without using chopping knives, and other modern kitchenware. You can expect to have smashed potatoes, rough edged onions, spiced curry and meat (“lal maans”).

Food at Lakshman Sagar
Food in a big lunchbox was delivered to our hut

 

Field breakfasts are also an amazing way to explore village life. Early in the morning they take you for a walk through fences, shrubs, rocky terrain, maize plantation to the nearest hut, where you are treated with a kingly breakfast spread of tomato chutney, makke and bajre ki roti,aloo parantha, curd, buttermilk, fresh sweet lime juice.  It would need another post to describe the field breakfast experience; so we’ll let your thoughts wander off into the wholesome rural breakfast experience, we had.

Field Breakfast at Lakshman Sagar
Can’t get any more real than this !

 


THE FACILITIES ON OFFER

 

The property boasts of a crater-like swimming pool, carved out of the huge natural rock, which is an absolute beauty and catches your eye as soon as you step in. No doubt, it serves as a backdrop for numerous swimwear shoots. In the evenings, they set up a bar, which has a good collection or foreign and local drinks. The local whiskey with a rose-like flavor, on the rocks (pun intended) is a must try, for an authentic experience.

 

Space is not a constraint here and they have huge sitting areas facing the lake. They have two common areas built out of the existing towers. One is Zanana ( for ladies) with pink curtains and offers splendid view of the pool and has a fountain in it. Second is Mardana ( for gents) with blue curtains, which primarily serves as a dinning hall.  Mud huts have carpet area of more than 1000 sq feet and come equipped with their own air cooler, plunge pool, huge deck, king size bed, living room, ensuite bathroom, wine chiller, and sitting corners. Attention to detail is mind boggling as all items placed in the room are aesthetically designed from locally sourced material, adding to the rustic appeal of these huts.

Collage at Lakshman Sagar

 


 


WHAT STOLE THE SHOW?

 

It has to be the design of this resort, without a doubt. Everything has been designed to give you the authentic experience of staying in a village, nestled in the Aravalis, by the lake. This place is about rural experiences with all the comforts imaginable. You have mini brooms serving as shoe cleaners, twigs from neem trees to serve as a toothbrush, brass vessels as glasses, cots on the deck to lounge under the sun and what not. All that remains is for you to take out your kurta (Headgear optional, though highly recommended) and disconnect with the rush of “city life” while you sink into your cot.

Sunrise at Lakshman Sagar
Splendid views of sunrise from our deck. Couldn’t ask for more!

 

Now that you are convinced, lets bring you up to speed with the practicalities. Know more about Lakshman Sagar


Get there 

It is ~ 2 hours from Ajmer and lies between Beawar Station and Sojat Road Station, which falls on the route of The Aravalli Express (this train runs between Mumbai and Jaipur.) You can get off on any of these stations and take a taxi to the resort or request for a pickup. Closest commercial airport, in Jodhpur is about 2 hours away.

 

Hole in your wallet

Expect to pay around INR 13,500 per night meals inclusive. Credit cards are accepted. Drinks are charged extra.

 

Internet / Television

There are no television sets on this property. 3G signal is available at the highest point of the resort. It is a different issue that you may want to stargaze and catch-up with your partner than fiddle with your mobile phone.

 

What else

– Staff speaks excellent english

– Loos are western

– Decent collection of Rajathani and Foreign liquor

– No library or board games, you can carry yours, if staying longer. Birding  and some other books are available on request

– Inhouse activities like nature walk, cooking class, field breakfast are complementary. Outside activities includes visit to Raipur fort, village walk, horse-riding, safari to nearest wildlife sanctuary and local shopping.


 

The author of this article only profiles properties he has visited and where he would like to go again, without blinking an eye or changing anything about it.  Author paid for himself, during the visit. Any property is reviewed on five parameters, which are:

  • Setting :- The property needs to have its own personality.
  • Service: I like being looked after,  without the staff being intrusive.
  • Food: Has to be sumptuous, even if there are limited options.
  • Facilities: No minimum requirement but should have basic comforts that should add to the character of the place.
  • USP: There has to be one unique quality, which makes it different than the other offerings out there.

 

Culture Code: All You Need to Know About Chopsticks

There’s a popular joke going around on the internet that says “Whatever you do, there’s always going to be an Asian who does it better”, same goes for eating food, how do they eat food with chopsticks, things which I can’t even hold! We’re all embarrassed of using them initially, the food slips out in between, or worse, you never get the food in the first place and end up piercing your chopsticks through the meat; all this while it takes your Asian counterpart just 2 minutes to finish a bowl of rice (yes, rice) with chopsticks! 
Here’s an article on them, on what they are, how to use them, what the differences are among different types of chopsticks and how they vary across Asian cultures.

 

PS: The author of this post is pretty skilled at eating with chopsticks, rice included. =P

Featured Image by Rafa Lorenzo.

 

Chopsticks have been around for four-to-five thousand years now, they became the way they are today after the Qing Dynasty made it’s impact in China. Chopsticks are thus, of Chinese origin. Eating with them was practiced because they were considered an extension of the fingers, that wouldn’t be affected by heat or cold. They are the utensil of choice in China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Thailand and parts of Nepal, though chopstick etiquette and sometimes the chopsticks themselves vary across countries. Other uses of this simple instrument are cooking and tying long hair!

Asian culture places high importance on manners and rituals, so another argument for using chopsticks is found in this Confucian thought;

“The honourable and upright man keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen.  And he allows no knives on his table.”

It is worth noting that Asians don’t cut their food on the table, and use chopsticks as a dominant utensil, so the food, be it chunks of meat, or sushi or dumplings are already made in small sizes.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHOPSTICKS

Chinese Chopsticks: Or Kuaizi are relatively “unfinished”, meaning they are rough around the edges. They take a square-like shape on the edges so that they don’t roll off the table. Design wise, chopsticks here are less round and more sharp edged, rectangular.
Chopsticks in China are longer than any other type, this is because people in China eat from shared bowls and plates placed in the center of long Lazy Susan tables. Chinese chopsticks are made from bamboo, jade, ivory and other materials but universally, are roughly of the same length (10 Inches), of course the chopsticks being talked about here are the traditional ones, modern China and Chinese use a Japanese style chopstick for daily use.

They also double up as popular gifts in China because “good things come in pairs”

Image: Camille Orgel

Chinese chopsticks
Un-Tapered Chinese Chopsticks

Japanese Chopsticks: Or Hashi, are shorter in length as compared to Chinese counterparts, measuring in at 9 inches or lower. Japanese chopsticks vary for individuals, the “man of the house” has the longest pair, and the woman uses a shorter one, while the child uses the shortest chopsticks. This is also because unlike the Chinese, Japanese meals are served in individual bowls so chopsticks are used according to the size and stature of the person.

Japanese chopsticks are narrow, tapered unlike the Chinese kind, this is because sharper chopsticks help take out the bones from fish, which is an essential part of Japanese cooking. Thinner chopsticks can reach smaller pieces of bone easily, with a better grip. The material from which they are made varies from the significance of the event, ranging from wood to bone, among others.

Image: Charles Low

Japanese chopsticks
Tapered Japanese Chopsticks

Korean Chopsticks: Or Jeotgarak, are roughly the same length as Japanese chopsticks, what makes them unique is the fact that they are made of metal. Ignoring the fact that metallic chopsticks are heavier, in Korea they are made of this material because in the olden days, the Kings would eat with silver chopsticks, which would change color if the food was poisoned.

Korean eating etiquette is very different from the two mentioned above, they use spoons and scissors too, spoons are used to eat rice and soup, and those who use chopsticks to do the same are considered to be of a “lesser class”, the justification for using scissors probably lies in the Confucian thought of no knives on the table, so anything that does need to be cut will be cut using scissors.

Image: Abhijit Jadhav

korean chopsticks
Metallic Korean Chopsticks

 

Chopsticks
Top: Japanese Chopsticks, Center: Korean Chopsticks, Bottom: Chinese Chopsticks

Roughly judging, Chinese chopsticks can reach food that’s far away while the Japanese ones are best suited to eating smaller food, and the Korean ones are the most hygienic given that they are made of metal. Chopsticks in other regions like Thailand, Laos and Vietnam imitate the original Chinese design and aren’t very different.
Image: worldofchinese.com

 

CHOPSTICKS AND DINING ETIQUETTE

Before we tell you what should not be done in certain cultures, we will tell you how to use chopsticks!

The author of this post believes that there is no “correct way” to hold chopsticks because different people have different hands and as long as one can comfortably eat with chopsticks without making a mess, they’re doing it right. Either way, there is a widely used method of using chopsticks.

  • Place your first chopstick in the between your index finger and thumb, this should rest there and will always remain stationary. Lock it, by pushing it with your third finger so that it doesn’t move.
  • Take your second chopstick, align it with the tip of the first stationary chopstick, and hold it like pen using the fingertips of your thumb and index finger.
  • Practice the motion of your second chopstick (the one that moves), make sure your “up-down” action with the chopstick always lands on the stationary one.

These are three simple steps to use chopsticks, if they don’t work out you can always find a way to make something else work for you! Eating with chopsticks requires practice and strong fingers because we rely on their strength to pick up food with them.

Now that you know how to use chopsticks, here’s what you should NOT do with them in some parts of the world;

Chinese Culture

  • You should not pierce your food with chopsticks,
  • You should not play with your food by digging for specific things in the bowl (this is considered unholy),
  • You should not tap the edge of your bowl with them (beggars do this),
  • You should not point your chopsticks at anyone,
  • You should not let your palm face the ceiling while using them,
  • You should not use chopsticks for rice if it is served on a plate and not in a bowl, this stems from Chinese pragmatism.

Japanese Culture

  • You should not transfer food from one person’s chopsticks to another,
  • You should not stick them vertically in a rice bowl (this is a funeral ritual),
  • You should not use your own set of chopsticks while moving food from a communal plate into yours, ask for a new set to do so,
  • You should not rub broken chopsticks together,
  • You should not cross your chopsticks,
  • You should not place the chopsticks anywhere else other than the rest that is provided for them.

Korean Culture

  • You should not eat before the eldest member has begun eating,
  • Unlike Chinese and Japanese culture, you should not bring your bowl close to your mouth while eating,
  • You should not place your chopsticks to the left of your spoon, the spoon should be on the left,
  • You should not use chopsticks to eat rice, it is considered lowly,

Vietnamese Culture

  • Unlike Chinese culture, you may use them to eat rice from a plate,
  • Unlike Korean culture, you may raise your bowl to eat,
  • You should use both chopsticks at all times, even if it is just to stir something,
  • You should not directly consume from the communal plate, always transfer food into your own bowl first.
  • You should not make a “v” with your chopsticks.

Taiwanese Culture

  • You should not bite on your chopsticks or let them linger in your mouth for too long,
  • You should not use them with a soup bowl,
  • You should not place your chopsticks on the table, place them across the top of your bowl,
  • You should not transfer food from one set of chopsticks to another (like in Japanese culture)

Hong Kong/ Cantonese Culture

  • You should not commence till the eldest member has begun eating,
  • You should not put your chopsticks on the table once done eating, rest them on the bowl you ate from,
  • You should ask for a set of new of sticks while transferring food from a communal plate on to yours.

Lastly, it holds true universally that you should not use them to gather attention by making gestures, using them as drumsticks and so on and so forth, you should not hover them either, and lastly, you should not use chopsticks to transfer other utensils.


Who knew there was so much to know about chopsticks! It works great as a conversation starter too, next time you’re at an Asian restaurant, you’ll be glad you read this article.

 

 

Mauritius versus Maldives, What floats your boat?

I have been often asked by friends to help them choose between Maldives and Mauritius for their next holiday. Maldives and Mauritius are two scenic island-beach destinations located in the Indian-Arabian ocean stretch. They are located strategically close to each other and have similar topography, but these two island nations are very different and unique in many ways and have often perplexed travelers on which one to choose. One is said to be created by volcanic action and other by accumulation of dead corals. Both of them are good in their own right but here I will try to dissect, which one is more suitable for particular occasion, travel personality, interest, company, budget and time of travel.

 

Mauritius is a tropical paradise loaded with blue seas, sandy beaches, luxury resorts, historic sights and virgin forests. It is famed for its cultural diversity, which is reflected in its cuisine and welcoming people. You often find yourself distracted with limitless activities offered on this island. Maldives is an obvious choice, if you are looking for an unparalleled luxury, stunning white-sand beaches and amazing underwater experience. It has some of the best diving and snorkeling sites in the world.

images: WaldorfAstoria, Mrwallpaper.com

Above: Maldives Below: Mauritius
Above: Maldives (Waldorf Astoria)
Below: Mauritius (Blue Bay)

 


 

The Basics

Mauritius has been  influenced by the Arabs (who visited in the medieval period), the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, the English and of course, it’s native. Having been invaded and colonized repeatedly and finally having achieved complete independence in 1992, Mauritius is a young country that is highly ranked for its political and economic freedom.

 

Maldives on the other hand is the smallest Asian country, geographically and demographically. This unlikely combination is because like every other island country, Maldives too was subjected to regular annexation and colonization. However, the Islamic laws are highly liberal because tourism is their major source of revenue and hence, they don’t practice any rigidity, attracting as many tourists as they can.

 


 

 

Money Matters

It largely is a function of where are you travelling from and where are you going to stay. Mauritius, offers wider spectrum of choices in terms of accommodation. You can easily find a hotel or resort as per your budget. You will also be able to get holiday rentals, service apartments and airbnb listings. Mauritius is also known for its street food, which by definition is cheaper and exotic, if you are not in mood of fancy meals in your hotel.

 

Maldives is unarguably seen as a luxury holiday destination, where wealthier strata of tourists are found roaming about. It offers crystal clear water and most of the resorts are on individual islands, offering lagoon villas as their specialty. World’s most exclusive hotel brands compete with each other to attain ever-greater heights of luxury, from personal butlers and private lap pools to in-room massages and pillow menus. Cost of staying in a resort is around 40% more expensive in Maldives, as compared to Mauritius. Also being a resort island, you have no choice but to eat at the resorts. It is taxing and tiring to hop islands.

It is cheaper to fly to Maldives from Indian subcontinent as it is closer. Visa requirements are relaxed, you may, at most be issued a Visa-on-Arrival.

 


 

 

Travel Personalities

Mauritius is a multi-lingual multi-cultural state with widespread diversity in terms of culture and tradition. An ideal traveler over here should be an explorer; someone who would be thirsty to unravel how different beliefs exist in perfect harmony and the series of events that led to such an influenced development. Also the nature lover would find Mauritius nothing short of bliss. The beautiful diversity in the marine ecosystem can be explored through scuba diving, sailing, water skiing and surfing. Mauritius is known for its varied flora and fauna, most of which is intrinsic to the land. It is the only place where the erstwhile Dodo bird was found. Hence this picturesque beach destination is ideal for the quintessential, unsullied traveler; someone who is young, energetic, boisterous, and adaptable.

 

An ideal traveler to the Maldives is the one who is laid back. He is someone who can lie in the hammock under the sun all day and simply stare at the beauty of nature around him. Maldives is an amalgamation of many islands of which many are designated only for the purpose of agriculture and tourism (the main GDP contributors). Hence a large number of resorts are found on such islands. People who wish to have a relaxed, peaceful vacation should definitely visit these resorts as they are completely worth it. With clear; blue skies, sun-kissed beaches, lucid aqua blue water and luxury at its best, Maldives is a fit vacation spot for the kings and queens. Maldives also offers one of the best sites in the world to scuba dive, the coral reefs and its marine ecosystem make this area amazing for diving. If you fancy snorkeling in the shallow waters behind your lagoon villa with baby sharks, manta rays and turtles then there is hardly a place better than this.

Image: fordivers.com, lushingham.com

Left: Mauritius: Windsurfing and Water Sports Right: Maldives: Diving
Left: Mauritius: Windsurfing and Water Sports
Right: Maldives: Diving

 


 

 

Travel Company

Mauritius is good for multigenerational holiday, where everyone can find their space. There are golf clubs, temples, zoos, waterfalls, national parks and loads of activities. It is also good for Independent travelers.

Maldives is an ideal place for honeymooners or those who are looking for complete tranquility. Just imagine yourself marooned on an island with all the luxuries at your disposal. People also have good time with toddlers, who are well looked after and there is no pressure to go anywhere.

 


 

 

Food

Mauritius is a tiny island with population of around 1 million people; it has an incredibly rich and diverse food culture due to colourful mix of ethnicities – Indian, French, Creole, African and Chinese. The island is also blessed with fertile soil, so the local produce is incredible – from exotic vegetables to tropical fruits to fresh seafood. Street food is fantastic in Mauritius – you can get everything from fresh coconut water, chopped fruit covered in chilli and sugar, hot curries topped with chilli and pickles wrapped in buttery breads (Roti Chaud), battered eggplant, steamed dumplings, split pea fritters with chilli and Chinese fried noodles. Mauritius also has fabulous restaurants – from local eateries with authentic food to gourmet places that serve Mauritian fusion food. This is one place where vegetarians can rejoice– most of the street food available caters specifically to vegetarians.

 

Maldivian food is a fairly limited affair, consisting of fish, fruit and spicy curries. Your only chance to try ‘real’ Maldivian cuisine is in Malé, where cafés selling traditional snacks or ‘short eats’ are cheap and plentiful. However, on resort islands, you will find between one to ten restaurants depending on the resort’s size and level of luxury. These restaurants will pamper you from food around the globe. Cuisine will be international, with all food other than seafood imported. People won’t really step outside their islands so Maldives is a safer bet if you aren’t open to trying new kinds of food just yet.

Images: Maldivesisles.com, confessionsofafoodaholic017.blogspot.com

Left: Maldives: Seafood Right: Mauritius: Chana Puri
Left: Maldives: Seafood
Right: Mauritius: Chana Puri

 


 

 

Travelling time

As Mauritius is located in the southern hemisphere, the summer and winter months are opposite to seasons in Europe. Mauritius enjoys a typical tropical climate with warm sunny weather virtually all year round. Summer months are from December to April, when days are long, hot and humid and the winter months, that runs from May to November are cooler and drier. Cyclone season comes in January and goes on till March, being the wettest months best avoided by water sports enthusiasts and divers. Coastal temperatures range between 25°C and 33°C in summer and between 18°C and 24°C in winter. On the plateau it will be some 5°C cooler. Apart from the Christmas-New Year peak, Mauritius doesn’t really have high and low seasons. The situation is more dependent on outside factors (such as the French school holidays, which cause a big increase in demand and prices in August).

 

There is no bad time to go to Maldives, with good weather (plenty of sun and consistent temperature of 30°C) throughout the year. The best weather though, is found between November and March, which is also the peak season and resorts can be fully booked and pretty expensive. The rainy season is not usually intense and many people prefer to travel from April to October to the Maldives because it is a bit cheaper and less crowded. It is hot year-round and the water is always warm enough for water sports. It is so warm that many people don’t even wear a wetsuit.

 


 

Still undecided?

Let us give you one more reason each, to travel to these beautiful islands.

Even though other sports like wrestling are important in Mauritius, it is football that people worship the most. So if you are a football lover, you will find yourself entertained, be it while playing the sport, or by discussing it with soccer fans in the region, there’s no derth of them.

 

Maldives, is the only country in the world with the lowest natural highest point and hence is vulnerable to potential future inundation, as sea levels rises due to global warming, should the place cease to exist in a few years, sadly as the case maybe, you should make a quick visit. After all, it is hard to find white powdered sand and more luminous cyan-blue water anywhere else on earth.


 

A Guest Post on Portraits of Indian Women

Here at Happy Tripping, we have been trying to stir things up, finding more ways be it mainstream or offbeat, to inspire you, our readers, to travel; What better than having Photo-Travel-Blogger Siddhartha Joshi do a guest post on portraits of women. He shows you 5 pictures of women, in black-and-white photography, each with a different story around her.

 

Women are intriguing photography subjects, they are the muse of the artist, they show grace, beauty, and emotion and as they age. Like the finer things in life, they get better with age. I have been photographing woman across the world over the last five years or so, yet there are none more beautiful than the Indian women. The following is a photo-essay on “Portraits of Indian Women”, comprising of five images, from a very young girl on her way to school in Ladakh to an old woman selling household utensils in a market in Ahmedabad. My hope is that each portrait will speak more than the words, even if their stories remain untold.

 

Portrait 1: I do not know her name, but I met her as she was hop-skip-jumping on her way to school with a bunch of kids in Lama Yuru, Ladakh. She had the widest smile, despite early morning school!

She's the one that left Monday Blues behind
She’s the one that left Monday Blues behind

Portrait 2: This was taken at the Tarnetar Festival in Gujarat a couple of years ago – I could only click her candidly as she walked through the crowd selling gas filled toys. She hardly spoke and there was an inherent sadness around her.

portrati 2
There’s nothing more painful than watching someone sell toys when they should be playing with them.

 


Portrait 3: This one is an image of a lovely woman who was visiting Pushkar Fair with her sisters. I clicked her as she stopped by a local flea market shop and surprisingly she gave me a smile as soon as she saw my camera.

portrait 3
Women have always had a special connection with a camera lens

Portrait 4: Here’s another shot of happiness, pun intended. On being prodded by her other female friends at the market, she even sang a lovely Gujarati song for me!

portrait 4
Smiles say way more than captions ever will

 


Portrait 5: I consider this one of my best portraits, not just because of what can be seen, but mainly for what can’t be. I met her on a Sunday morning at Ahmedabad’s flea market where, despite her age, she was sitting in the sun without a cover and selling plastic household utensils. The lines on her face told me many hidden stories.

portrait 5


I was not always a portrait photographer; do read about my journey into becoming one on my blog. Its been quite a roller coaster life!

All of these images have been clicked on a DSLR, but have all been edited on a mobile phone. With the fast moving world, mobile editing has become extremely useful not just for travel bloggers and photographers, but almost everyone else as well. Read my tips and tricks on using mobile phones here.

 

Siddhartha Joshi

Siddhartha is the author of the post above, he was responsible for clicking these great images and describing them, Siddhartha is a designer, traveller, and a travel blogger who loves people more than everything else. He derives his passion from interacting with the people for whom he designs products as well as from the people he meets during his travels. He is extremely passionate about inspiring the world around him to travel more, as he truly believes that only travelling can break barriers and make us more tolerant and accepting of our differences. He hopes sometime in his lifetime, there would be a world without visas and boundaries!

 

Sid blogs at: The Wanderer

Follow him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sid.the.wanderer

Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sid_travel

5 reasons, why you must take a road trip in Europe !

To be truly able to see and understand a place, get into its minutiae; nooks and crannies and experience the intrinsic aura of a place, one should take a road trip at least once in their lifetime. A road trip is something that emanates the actual essence of travel. Not only that, but to a certain extent provide a state of innate liberation from pre-set schedules of a planned trip. It can be a single long continuous road in the middle of a desert, or the dizzying meandering roads of snow-capped hills, a road trip isn’t just any other vacation, it is an experience of a lifetime.

 

It gives freedom to have a tea a side-kick restaurant, soak up the atmosphere of festive procession, participate in carnival marching towards somewhere, smell the lavender fields, give lift to a stranded person, shop in a make-shift flea market. It is the most independent way to travel. Also, one gets to learn a lot; not only about the place/s that cross his/her way, but also about life in general, i.e. in the philosophical aspect. One gets to see how life is in different arenas of life, how people are, how people live, why they are like that and how they deal with things.

 

One important and obvious pre-requisite of having a fun road trip is the requirement of scenic places to drive through and good roads and on-the-way amenities; i.e., infrastructure. What strikes anybody’s mind when they decide on a place of beauty that also has worthy infrastructure? Nothing but Europe, of course! Europe is the ideal continent where road trips are concerned, for many reasons :-

 

1.)  Good quality roads with proper signage.

2.) Varied choice of landscapes, cultures, people, languages, places and ways of life.

3.) One visa (Schengen)  takes you to almost all countries

4.) Weather is amiable, especially in summers; the ideal time to take road trips there.

Lastly, the place has so much history and is symbolic of so many important events of the world; be it the concentration camps of the Nazis like Auschwitz, the Alps, Mount Jungfraujoch in Switzerland, the Buckingham Palace, the Colosseum, the Vatican, etc. that are worth seeing in person rather than through pictures or testimonials. Our pick of 5 road trips, to be taken in Europe :-

 

1.) Amalfi Coast, Italy

The Amalfi Coast, or “Costiera Amalfitana” is Italy’s most scenic stretch of coastline, a landscape of towering bluffs, terraced villages into hill sides, precipitous roads, lavish gardens, and extravagant mansions over clear-aqua waters mirroring the image of green mountains above them. Deemed by UNESCO “an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape, with exceptional cultural and natural scenic values,” the coast was awarded a coveted spot on the World Heritage List in 1997. The coastline’s most famous towns—Amalfi, Positano, and Ravello—have captivated and inspired artists for centuries, from 14th-century writer Giovanni Boccaccio to 19th-century composer Richard Wagner and 20th-century playwright Tennessee Williams.

 

To begin, road trips are preferably started from Salerno, the coast’s most convenient access point and a busy port. The road runs past viewpoint after viewpoint—the one at Capo d’Orso—and skirts the villages of Maiori (sandy beach) and Minori (ruins of a first-century A.D. Roman villa) before a junction close to Atrani (two tempting churches) whisks you inland to Ravello. Ravello is a small romantic town located in Southern Italy; perched on steep, terraced slopes and blessed with lush gardens, quiet lanes, sleepy, sun-drenched corners, and a lofty setting. The corniche road then brings one to Amalfi; a scenic seafront setting with many cafes and shops, and a mild climate, hugely popular for resorts and the panache of high-life. The must-see places of the area are Cathedral Duomo di Sant’Andrea; Valle dei Mulini, a steep-sided ravine dotted with ruined watermills; Grotta dello Smeraldo, a marine cave of luminous emerald waters that you can visit by boat, elevator, or rock-cut steps; the Vallone di Furore, one of the coast’s most impressive gorges and the villages of Praiano and Positano.

 

Locals recommend planning a drive of the Amalfi Coast during the shoulder tourist seasons, mid-September to October and May, when the road is less crowded and lumbering tour buses are fewer. The roads along the Amalfi Coast are famously winding, narrow, and challenging to drive along with daring Italian drivers, known for their behind-the-wheel bravado. So one might want to watch out for that. Image :- Chris Fletcher

Amalfi Coast

 

2.) The Highlands, Scotland

If one wants to explore the majestic mountains of the north and the rolling valleys, and want to experience a feast for the eyes; then with the right company and a perfect playlist, he/she is guaranteed a scenic drive through the enrapturing Highlands of Scotland. Scotland’s Highlands are unlike anywhere in the world and a Highland road trip covers some of the most spectacular places in the UK.

 

One should start in Glasgow and head to Loch Lomond before continuing north to the small outpost of Fort William from there. Here one can hike the mighty Ben Nevis, the highest mountain of the British Isles, or head west towards Mallaig with a stop at the picturesque Loch Shiel. From Mallaig, one should take the car ferry over to the Isle of Skye, and head back to the mainland via the Skye Bridge. From here it is a short drive to the fairy-tale-like Eileen Donan Castle.

 

Depending on the time frame, one could drive further north to the fishing town of Ullapool and the little village of Lochinver, with its white-sand beaches. Or else drive east towards Fort Augustus, which is the perfect base to explore Loch Ness. Drive along the Loch to the quaint town of Inverness and take the scenic route via Pitlochry to Edinburgh, and one will see iconic Scottish landmarks like the Lochs, Whiskey distilleries and Highland cows.

 

The best time to go is from April to September. The roads are narrow and meandering to drivers should be careful. Also, there is left-hand driving in Scotland. Image :- Liam Warton

The Highlands

 

3.) The Romantic Road, Germany

 The German Romantic is one of the biggest magnets for tourism in the southern provinces of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Based (very) loosely on the old Roman route between the participating towns and adding in some stunning medieval locations to the north, the concept of the Romantic Road is a little bit like the British “ploughman’s lunch” – a marketing idea which appears to be based on history and tradition but which is actually a much more modern invention.

 

Located in the south of Germany, it offers some of the most stunning scenery of the country. Driving from Würzburg to the foothills of the Alps near Neuschwanstein Castle, one will pass thorugh sweeping views, ancient cathedrals and castles. One will drive through the pretty Tauber Valley before arriving in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which dates back to the 13th century with medieval streets and thick city walls – doubtlessly the pearl of the Romantic Road! Other highlights include the gorgeous town of Nördlingen, Augsburg with its stunning cathedral, Hohenschwangau with its jaw-droppingly beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle; Hohenschwangau Castle and the nearby historic town of Füssen. With more time, one can drive up to Munich from there and end the road trip in one of Germany’s most traditional cities.

 

The best times to go are Summer, Spring and Fall and the roads and route can be easily navigated through and driver-friendly. Image :- Magnus Lögdberg

 

Romantic roads

4.) France beyond Paris, France
Paris, one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world has been the interest of generations of people all over the world. However, when it comes to road trips, and when taken in France, it is the idyllic countryside that a traveller should consider. On the way, one can easily see the landscape carpeted with lish, green meadows and the light persistent breeze fragrant of summer flowers. Many tiny villages and towns are dotted along the route, portraying the true essence of the French way of life. A must do; have lunch at a local café in any obscure village and experience the true taste of the delicious French cuisine.

 

An excellent way to start the trip would be to initially tour Paris and then rent a car from there to the surrounding countryside that lie in its immediate and far suburbs. From Paris, the drive could take one to the scenic Chartres, Le Mans, Rennes, Caen, Rouen and then circling back to Paris. Just outside of the city, one should stop in Versailles to see Napoleon’s remarkable palace, and then move on to Chartres, which is home to a UNESCO World Heritage cathedral. From there one could go further for exploring Renne, which still has plenty of well-maintained wood-edifice buildings, which are typical for that area of France. North of Rennes is the spectacular Le Mont-St.-Michel, a rocky island set in the English Channel, just off the coast, that is almost entirely inhabited by the medieval Benedictine Abbey and church – certainly not to be missed! Rouen is home to the extraordinary cathedral made famous by Monet’s painting, and makes for a fabulous last stop on this French road trip.

 

Best time for a road trip is from April to October; and the roads are beautiful with strategic navigation ease. France has left-handed driving. Image :- Regis Krol

France Countryside

 

5.) Dublin-Kilkenny-Cork-Galway, Ireland

Ireland was voted ‘Favourite holiday destination in the World’ by readers of Frommer’s Guide. Lonely Planet listed Ireland as the world’s friendliest country and Cork City as one of the top ten cities in the world and the Irish tourist board’s website, DiscoverIreland.com, was named the best tourist board website in the world. Southern Ireland has some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, especially along the coast. This road trip is the perfect way to get to know the culture, landscape and history of Ireland, passing impressive castles as well as picturesque Irish villages.

 

Our Southern Ireland road trip starts in Dublin and brings you to Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick and Galway, and ends back in Dublin. Some of the highlights of this road trip are County Kerry, which has a rugged coastline and tall mountains, and is especially famous for the Ring of Kerry, a circular road that follows a trace of coastline of mountainous fingers jutting out into the ocean. The infamous Cliffs of Moher, which tower 700 feet above the ocean, are another highlight of this trip. Dublin is known for the Dublin Castle, Phoenix Park, and Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison turned museum that held and executed the rebels of the 1916 Rising and Trinity College, where the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow are held. Cork is famous for The Church of St. Anne, known for its clock tower dubbed “The Four Faced Liar” on account of all four of the clocks showing slightly different times. The biggest lake in the country, Lough Corrib, is situated north of the city of Galway.

 

The best time to go is between March and October. The roads are narrow and difficult, not ideal for novices; so that must be kept in mind before going. Image :- Mark Lawson

Ireland 

 

Amazing National Parks around the world – II

This post is in continuation of Amazing national parks around the world. In this post, we are profiling our pick of three nationals parks in Asia, Africa and Oceania. Click here to read the first post.

 

Asia

Fuji-Hakone-Izu national Park, Japan

Best time to go – spring and summer months (Late February-September)

Famous for – Mount Fuji, Fuji Five Lakes, Hakone, Izu Peninsula, Izu Islands and Cherry Blossom and Plum

 

Being home to Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji, Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park is an assemblage of dispersed tourist sites that dot the region. It is located in the western Tokyo Metropolis, Japan and is one of the first four National Parks established in Japan (Feb 2, 1936). It attracts huge crowds every year on account of its strategic location to the Japanese capital. This park is a scenic assortment of varied topography like water falls, hot springs, volcanic islands, deep lakes and coastlines. Lined by sub-tropical fauna, this place is exceptionally enchanting due to the presence of beautiful cherry blossom and plum trees, the likes of which have adorned Japanese calligraphy and paintings since centuries. This park, in itself, captures the legacy, tradition, beauty and identity that Japan stands for, in the world. Image :- 

Fuji-Hakone-Izu national Park, Japan

 

Guilin and Lijiang River National Park, China

Best time to go – Anytime of the year

Known for – Karsts; Limestone cones, cylinders and hills with unique names like “Elephant Trunk” or “Dragon Head”; boat trips on Lijiang River

 

A long time ago; limestone stratum, which makes up the hills in this national park, had accumulated at the bottom of the ancient sea. Several millions of years later this part of the Earth’s crust went up due to massive earthquakes. Subsequently heavy showers and snow befell on this region, eroding the bedrock that was already weakened by cracks and ruptures. Later the upper limestone stratum fell off, exposing spired limestone trunks, which are considered by modern scientists as exemplary and picturesque, ancient karstic rocks; forming the unique shaped hills. During the orchid blooming season, one can see a variety of multi colored flower islands light up on the slopes. Hazy mountains and still waters of the Li River have a magical aura that has inspired Chinese painters and poets through centuries. Image :- Conor Macneill

Guilin and Lijiang River National Park, China

 

Sundarban National Park, India

Best time to go – Anytime except the rainy season (mid June-mid September)

Known for – Besides being a National Park, it is also a Tiger Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve; Mangrove trees; the Royal Bengal Tiger

 

On 4 May 1984 Sundarbans was declared as a National Park, as a core area of Sundarbans Tiger Reserve in 1973 and a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1977. The area, located in West Bengal, India; is immensely humid (80% humidity average) and has heavy rainfalls. That’s why rainy seasons are not ideal here. Its biggest attraction is the endangered and majestic, Royal Bengal Tiger which attracts huge gamut of tourists from across the world. It is also home to a variety of bird, reptile and invertebrate species, including the salt-water crocodile. The park is made up of 54 small islands and is crisscrossed by several tributaries of the Ganges River. There are seven main rivers and innumerable watercourses forming a network of channels at this estuarine delta. Hence this area is densely green is located at the scenic union of the rivers to the Bay of Bengal. Image :- Asif Salman

Sundarban National Park

 

Africa

Victoria Falls National Park, Zimbabwe

Best time to go – June-September (Winter months)

Known for – Victoria Falls, Victoria Falls Bridge, Rainforest, David Livingstone statue

 

The Victoria Falls National Park, complete with The Zambezi National Park together cover a massive area of 56,000 hectares of land. It is home to the iconic “Victoria Falls”, which is one of the “Seven Wonders of the World”. It is made up of five falls; four of which lie in Zimbabwe (The Devil’s Cataract, Main Falls, Rainbow Falls, Horseshoe Falls) and one lies in the bordering country, Zambia (The Eastern Cataract). The rainforest consists of very unique species of flora and fauna, that are intrinsic to the topography (Fig, Mahogany and Date palm groves, etc.). The Victoria Falls Bridge is renowned for bungee jumping, a major attraction to many tourists. The Zambezi river flows through, which also forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Image :- Clare Forster

Victoria Falls

 

Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia

Best time to go – February and April (rainfall months)

Known for – Naukluft mountain range, Namib desert

 

Established in 1907, this national park covers an area of 49,768 sq. km. That is larger than the area of Switzerland (41,285 sq. km.). The area is characterised by high, isolated rocky outcrops made of dramatic blood red granites. This place has the tallest sand dunes of the world, some being more than 300 metres from the desert flow. The dunes taper off near the coast, and lagoons, wetlands and mudflats located along the shore attract hundreds of thousands of birds. A surprising collection of creatures survives in the hyper-arid region, including snakes, geckos, unusual insects, hyenas, gemsboks and jackals. The Namib-Naukluft is the largest game park in Africa and the fourth largest in the world. The most well-known area of the park is Sossusvlei, which is the main visitor attraction in Namibia. Image :- Anne Cathrine Bernhoft

Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia

 

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Best time to go –Anytime of the year

Known for – the annual migration of 1.5 million white bearded wildebeest; 250,000 zebra and the Nile crocodile

 

The park, established in 1951, is Tanzania’s oldest national park and remains the flagship of the country’s tourism industry, providing a major draw to the Northern Safari Circuit encompasses Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park, Arusha National Park, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The park lies in the north of Tanzania, bordered to the north by Kenya, continuous with the Maasai Mara National Reserve. To the southeast of the park is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, to the southwest lies Maswa Game Reserve, to the west are the Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves, and to the northeast lies the Loliondo Game Control Area. Together, these areas form the larger Serengeti Ecosystem. There are usually three regions; the emblematic scenery of the almost tree-less grasslands, the western corridor with the “black cotton” or black clay soil (home to the Nile crocodile) and Northern Serengeti, a landscape dominated by open woodlands. The wildlife is speckled and migratory in nature over here. Elephants, Giraffes, dik diks, Lions, Rhinos, Buffaloes, Babboons, Crowned Cranes, Kori Bustards, Marabou Storks, etc are found here. This park attracts about 90,000 tourists each year. Image :- Eduardo Huelin

National Park Niokolo Koba in Senegal

 

Oceania

 

Uluru-Kata Tjutu National Park

Best time to go – March-May

Known for – Sandstone monolith, Uluru/Ayers Rock, Kata Tjuta/Mount Olga
The sandstone monolith is 348 meters high and most of its bulk below the ground, located in this National Park. It is home to Uluru, Australia’s most recognizable national icon; that acknowledges Australian indigenous culture and helps people recognize and relate to Australia as a country worldwide. Kata Tjuta, meaning ‘many heads’, is a sacred place relating to knowledge that is considered very potent and perilous, only suitable for initiated men. It is made up of a group of 36 conglomerate rock domes that date back 500 million years. Uluru and Kata Tjuta provide physical evidence of feats performed during the creation period.

The Park is ranked as one of the most significant arid land ecosystems in the world. As a Biosphere Reserve under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program, it joins at least 11 other reserves in the country and an international network aiming to preserve the world’s major ecosystem types. There are a number of walks that visitors can take around the major attractions of the Park. The Base Walk is one of the best ways to see Uluru. Other walks surrounding Uluru include the Liru Walk, Mala Walk and Kuniya walk, while the sunrise and sunset viewing areas provide strategically beautiful picture-clicking locations. Image :- 

Uluru National park
Blue Mountains National Park, Australia

Best time to go – November-May

Known for – Sandstone rock formations, rainforests, waterfalls, adventure sports, plateau cliffs, Katoomba Scenic Railway
The Blue Mountains National Park is one of the most popular in Australia. The majority of tourists to the Blue Mountains see the national park from one of the many lookouts between Wentworth Falls and Blackheath, and many of these never actually set foot in the park. Activities for the visitor include short walks to lookouts above cliffs and waterfalls, overnight and longer walks to more remote areas of the park, canyoning, abseiling, rock climbing and mountain biking. It is also home to the world’s steepest railway, The Katoomba Scenic Railway. The most famous attraction in the park is the Three Sisters rock formation. It attracts about 600,000 tourists at an average.

Structurally, the Blue Mountains are part of the greater Sydney Basin and  lies on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range. The plateau slopes gently down from west to east from a height of around 1,100 m near Mt Victoria to less than 200 m around Glenbrook. Image :- Dennis tan

Blue Mountain

 

 

Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Best time to go – November-March (Summer Months)

Known for – Helicopter Hunting, Milford Sound, Takahe Bird, Tramping, Water Falls, Picturesque Splendour
“A cherished corner of the world where mountains and valleys compete with each other for room, where scale is almost beyond comprehension, rainfall is measured in meters and scenery encompasses the broadest of emotions”- This is how the author of the book “Mountains of Water- The Story of Fiordland National Park” described this absolutely stunning place.

Established in 1952, Fiordland National Park occupies the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand. It is the largest of the 14 national parks in New Zealand, and a major part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site. A variety of habitats here support a diverse range of flora and fauna, with many developing in relative isolation leading to a high rate of endemism. The park is a popular destination for alpine climbers and trampers, with the Milford, Kepler, Hollyford and Routeburn tracks all in or close to the park. Market hunting from helicopters continues today in a reduced fashion, with the largest market being Germany. The NZ government uses helicopters to poison the deer and possum population with aerial dropping of large volumes of 1080 poison, despite some public opposition to the indiscriminate use of such poisons. Image :- Andrea-pozzi

Milford Sound 

 

How to make your holiday photos better- Guest Post

We scouted the web for the simplest article, which without using too many jargons can help you in improving quality of your photo, dramatically. We came across this one, which in no more than 8 points will help you in capturing your scenes better. This is a guest post written by Josh Bender. This article originally appeared here. 

 

I love photography, it’s pure magic. So it tears me up inside whenever I see terrible photos that could have been so much better. Many times when we are out and about I get asked by a friendly tourist to take a photo for them. They hand over their compact camera and point out the shutter button, and dash over to pose for their memorable shot. I politely take the shot for them, but it’s nasty and I silently cringe a little. This scene has played out too many times, and so I’ve dedicated the time to write this post in an attempt to save the world. Save it from more terrible holiday photos.

 

You don’t need super expensive fancy photography gear to take a nice shot. But you do need to ensure you do not commit one of these mortal holiday photo sins. Please read it and re-read it, repent of your wicked ways, then share it with your friends so they can be enlightened too. And then tell them to continue to share it otherwise you’ll leak embarrassing photos of them on Facebook. That should do the trick.

Without further ado, here are my 8 super tips that will turn you into a mega famous photography guru without spending a cent.

 

1) Clean the fricken lens, dude!

The number one reason why your photos look crap is not the cheap compact camera you’re using. It’s the giant finger smudge on your lens. Oh, please save me from tearing my hair out, and just use a simple lint-free cloth to gently remove any smudges from your lens. Hold the camera up to a light or the sun to get a better view of marks and gently rub it in a circular motion. And presto, the marks are gone! You probably have a suitable cloth that came with your pair of prescription glasses or sunglasses. Or if you’re using a smartphone, just rub the camera lens on the inside of your shirt. Instantly you’ll make the world a better place.

 

2) Use a lens cap for a DSLR or camera case for compact cameras

Once you’ve got your lens squeaky clean, keep it that way. Chances if you’re using a digital SLR (DSLR) or interchangeable lens (ICL) style camera, it came with a lens cap. Make sure you carry it everywhere. In fact, mine is always on my camera in between shots. I don’t want to stop whatever I’m doing mid-shoot to clean my lens. 99% of accidental fingers on the lens are avoided this way.

 

3) Read the manual – eek!

If you’re a guy, you might have trouble swallowing this tip. But trust me, it will help you. Learn what the camera’s pre-configured settings mean: candlelight, sports, snow/backlight. Find out how to access those settings. Please, for the love of God, don’t use “automatic” (A). Understand what “aperture” and “shutter speed” means. And if your camera has a HDR (high dynamic range) feature, understand how and when to use it.

 

4) Turn off the automatic flash please!

Taking night shots of a building far away with the flash won’t work. Shooting subjects behind a glass window with the flash won’t work. There are very few occasions where the built-in flash is needed. In fact, when I was visiting a zoo recently I noticed a tourist next to me using a fancy DSLR camera with his in-built flash, terrorising an innocent insect inside it’s glass enclosure. He was only capturing shiny white reflections on the glass. I couldn’t stand it, I casually wandered over and recommended the no flash option. The next shot he took was actually passable, not a white blur.

 

5) Understand the basic concepts of composure

Learn how to frame your shot. Use the “rule of thirds” to position your subject in the right spot – either one third from the left or right edge of your frame, and then preferably one third from the top or bottom. This technique makes your shots look more interesting instantly.

Most cameras have a built-in focus feature when you half-press the shutter button. Understand what focus methods your camera supports. Usually it will be on some kind of “automatic” setting by default. You’ll have a lot more control by choosing “centred” instead. Then simply half-press the shutter to focus on your desired subject, and move the frame sideways, up or down to achieve your balanced “rule of thirds” scene. You’ll look like a pro in no time. Here’s some examples to help you visualise:

The subject (red building) is on the intersection with the right and bottom thirds.

The centre of the subject (sunflower) is on the right third.

 

6) Shoot in RAW, if possible

If your camera supports RAW format, shoot in that to capture more detail. You may need an extra memory card since RAW images are much larger in size (they capture more detail), but it will be well worth it. Sometimes you only get 1 chance to capture that special moment. So grab as much detail as possible using RAW. Some cameras support saving the file in RAW and JPEG formats at the same time which is even better. You will need to eventually convert the file to JPEG in order to use it for the web or email. This brings me to the next point…

 

7) Post processing

In line with the previous point, try using some free software to edit your photos. The human eye can see 11 “stops” of light, but a high-end DSLR camera only capture about 3 “stops”. If that jargon sounds too confusing, don’t worry. It just means your eye sees more than a camera. So balance the highlights and dark areas and correct those mismatched colours.
I prefer using Adobe Lightroom (which unfortunately is not free). It’s the industry standard and has a lot of neat features.

But there are also some free software packages like GIMP if you’re on a tighter budget. Once you’ve made all the desired changes, simply save (or export) the image into JPEG format and it’s ready to share or print.
If you want to shoot amazing HDR photos, ideal when capturing a scene with wide range of brightness, then Photomatix is the most popular multi-frame HDR processing software. This topic is a little too complicated for this list to discuss in detail, but if you’d like to read more, take a look at Trey Ratcliff’s video tutorial from Stuck In Customs.

 

8) Read up about photography

Now that you’ve started to actually take some decent shots, you might find you enjoy this. I know, it’s addictive. There are lots of great free blogs that specialise in tutorials for photography, from which camera lens to choose, to how to shoot stars at night, you’ll find the answers. You can learn almost everything you need to know without spending a cent. Here are a few of my favourites that will help beginners:

digital-photography-school.com

digitalphotographysecrets.com

exposureguide.com

digitalcameraworld.com

 

When you take your camera on your holiday, it’s a statement. You’re saying that you are doing something important enough that you want to capture the moment to relive it again and again. It’s precious. It’s a memory that you want to keep as vivid as possible. And photography is powerful like that. This is why I want to help you make the best possible memories.

Or perhaps you just want to show off to your friends on Facebook how cool your holiday is and make them jealous. Either way, I won’t judge.

But one thing is for sure, once you put these timeless tips into practice, your holiday photos won’t be nasty anymore. In fact, they’ll look pretty darn good. Yep, I think you might have escaped photography purgatory. And together we’ll make this world a (slightly) better place.

Awestruck: 15 Best Places in the World to see Street Art

Graffiti has evolved from work of an idle mind to piece of art. It is no longer just looked as an act of vandalism but the reflection of culture, history, political views and pulse of the city. In fact some of the city municipalities have dedicated walls to showcase the ‘street art’, which enhances the aesthetic appeal and thus commercial value of their city to tourists. Street artists use this canvas to raise awareness of social / political issues or just to showcase their personal artwork. Whatever be the reason, it is hard for tourists to miss the beat of city, when you encounter one.

 

Here is a list of 15 places where you can witness such street art, after this, you’ll never look at these places the same way again.

 

Melbourne
Where: Australia

This Australian city counts stencils, paste-ups and murals as street art but has criminalized tagging and graffiti. But that hasn’t stopped a rebellious group of people to engage in art which may be illegal, but awe-inspiring nonetheless, a lot of others have used stencils too, a legal form of expression. The city of Melbourne encourages street art on buildings to create an enriching environment, should the owners of the property agree. To find yourself surrounded by Street art in the Stencil Capital of the World, head to Hosier Lane, Union Lane, Caledonian Lane or 21 Degraves street.

Image: Michael Golloti

Melbourne Street Art
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure (Trash Can Alley, Hosier Lane)

 


Moscow
Where: The Russian Federation

If Moscow landed up on this list because of one person, it’d have to be P183, the artist dubbed as “Russia’s own Banksy”, the man who spent countless nights in detention for his art, had started to create without fear ever since the authorities in Moscow negated laws criminalizing street art. The Late P183 created art with political undertones which is relevant even today, given that he upheld strong values against consumerism, it is evident in his art. To catch a glimpse of street art in Moscow, head to the outskirts and abandoned factories and your eyes will be rewarded.

Image: Sternrockwell.wordpress.com

Russian Street Art
This is a revolution, a peaceful yet impactful one.

Istanbul
Where: Turkey

A vibrant city like Istanbul would’nt be complete without the vibrant souls that add color to it. Istanbul’s street art scene is discreet, noticeable only in a few parts of the city, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of the art on the city. The city of Istanbul has had its differences with artistic rebels, notably when it comes to issues of adding color and beautifying a city with such heritage. The aim of the artists here is not, of course, to ruin Turkish heritage, but to let arts from different times meet and coexist in Istanbul. Believe it or not, there’s an app on Street Art in Istanbul too! It recommends that you should see Istiklal Street, Karakoy, Kadikoy, and Tunel to get the best of art here.

Image: cinemusiccompany.com

Turkish Street Art
Colors run wild here in Turkey

Bethlehem
Where: West Bank, Palestine

War torn Palestine has been under strife and constant exposure to violence. Their history of conflict with the Israelis is millennia old, but that doesn’t seem to stop artists on the West Bank from sending out politically flared (and painful) messages across through art. Travel to Palestine has certain complications and requires immense courage right now at least, but if you’re game, head to Bethlehem and see their side of the wall, and story. Tear-jerking art exists, and we believe it has found it’s place in Palestine.

Image: Jon Eickmeier

Palestinian Street Art
A painful message for the world to see.

Cape Town
Where: South Africa

Many tourists flock to South Africa for wildlife, extreme sports, and what-not, consistent with such colorful memories, is colorful art, dashes of color appear throughout the city. Art is like the wind here, it’s the only thing that never changes, and that brings about a positive, binding vibe to the city. Sure, there’s the mischievous attention seeking art here, but the works that appeals to everyone most are the creations of Faith47 (and Freddy Sam). Her art, is focused on conveying co-operation of the South African people, engaging with concepts of freedom, and equality at large.

Image: fatcap.com (Faith47)

South African street art
It’s a dog eat dog world.

Lodz
Where: Poland

This has got to be the most colorful town in the World. With over 20 huge murals all over the city, Lodz has rejuvenated itself with an injection on energy, and color. Artists from around the world have contributed to the creation of a colorful town, which inevitably, has allowed for an influx of travellers. This place is a must visit! It can be covered in a couple of hours and while you witness art on a such a grand scale, you’ll encounter friendly people too!

Image: Marco Crupi

Polish Street Art
Never a dull day, in Lodz

Lisbon
Where: Portugal

Portuguese tourism recently has been aimed at communicating a linguistically and visually appealing culture. Art here, has exploded, it wasn’t there yesterday but it magically appeared today. Art in Lisbon is special simply because of it’s scale, old tattered buildings have become the canvas for people to show off their skills at making burglars, animals, and other abstract creations that’ll let your imagination run wild. Portugal’s urban renewal sees a key role being played by art, it’s restricted to old buildings, but then again, there’s plenty of them to make art on.

Image: megancstroup.blogspot.com

Lisbon street art
“Street Art Tourism” is a proper thing here, and you can see why.

Paris
Where: France

Paris has been the playground to artists like Banksy, Shepard Fairey and even their own Space Invader. It is an obvious choice for artists because this is the place that lets creativity and imagination reach it’s peak, the fashion capital of the world looks fashionable thanks to the creations of anonymous artists. Think about it this way, won’t you want a fancy background for the Hermes clothes you just bought?
Of course, that’s not all that Parisian street art is about, Paris’ underground has the art that depicts it’s dark side, while there’s your fair quota of commercial art too.

Image: imagestoliveby.wordpress.com

French Street Art
Le Art Nouveau

 


Berlin
Where: Germany

This place had a fair reason to paint and express emotions and ideas on a wall, the Berlin Wall (all that remains of it) is the place to go if you want to see German emotions unfurl, from graphic imagery to subtle resilience, Berlin’s street art scene has you covered. The best places to spot some whacky art: Mitte, Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, the most popular piece of art for locals is the Kreuzberg Spaceman! Who knew there was such art hidden in the uber urbanized centre of Germany?

Image: Justthinkingloud.gr

German Street Art
Art is Omnipresent

London
Where: The UK

This city has given birth to the greatest street artist that lived, Banksy. His playground and canvas were the streets of London, where his stencils of humans and animals magically appeared and disappeared over time. London has seen politically influenced humor when it comes to street art, and the best way to witness this is of course, by checking out the works of Banksy, the works that remain. You can easily trace his art on a map, this place is only second to New York when it comes to street art.

Image: Theguardian.com

Big cities and broken dreams.

 


Bogota
Where: Colombia

Colombia is cursed with a reputation of human and drug trafficking, it’s reputation has become such that people tend to avoid travelling to Colombia, it is only “Daredevils” who dare to go here, but much of that, like any preconception, is false. Columbia is in the books of art history, more importantly, street art history. After much reform and struggle, Colombia has changed it’s outlook on street art, after decriminalizing it, promoting it and making it a “touristy” thing, Colombia is no more the anti-self expression land you once thought of it to be.

Image: travelwellflysafe.com

An appeal to humanity

Buenos Aires
Where: Argentina 

Art here tells the story of it’s people, addressing historic issues of aggressive military dictatorship to the economic crisis of 2001 to the Kirchner era, Argentina’s history is recorded better on murals than it is in textbooks. While media may be influenced in ways more than one, art here tells us the story of the people. It is unifying, large and of course colorful. Argentine tolerance of art in its various forms has helped it bloom into what it is today. Though technically street art remains illegal, authorities look the other way, unless the messages are extremely inhuman or explicit.

Image: Streetartnews.net

“The arrival of an idea” art by an Argentine artist

Sao Paulo
Where: Brazil

A place with streets like “Batman Alley”, and a place that has given birth to the best soccer players in the world, there ought to be some other wacky things around São Paulo that seem noteworthy and mentionable. One of them is the street art here, we suggest you keep an eye out for the space invaders spread across the city, these little space creatures are easy to miss, but they give the city uniformity. Street art here varies not just in the message, but where it is conveyed, drainage holes, pillars, walls, anything an artist can color, is colored.

Image: NY Times

Chilling at the park with supersized me.

 


Los Angeles
Where: The US

Los Angeles is the city of the West, perfect bodies, California sun, famous people and what not. It is overrun by artists, and art here is varies from sanctioned legal works to gang graffiti you might find while walking down the ‘hood. LA’s art scene is mostly just deep messages hidden in words and pictures, from simple “Love Me”s to “People like the things that are pretty, they think they’re deep” to recreations of politicians in an artistic way, LA sure packs the heat, literally and figuratively. If art is about sending a message, LA is loud and clear.

Image: streetartinla.wordpress.com

Mt. Rushmore got the Cali tan.

New York City
Where: The US

A city overrun by people is on the world map as the world’s economic, social and cultural capital. NY has been the inspiration for many works of art, and naturally so, some of it is found on the walls of this city. Lady Liberty sure loves her art, if you visit, add this to your to-do list and be sure to go to places other than visiting The Statue of Liberty, Times Square, 5th Avenue and other attractions.

You’ll find art everywhere, Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, wherever you go, there’s going to be a splash of color that makes you smile. Pictured here is a vibrant depiction of the popular kiss between a woman and her man, a sailor who returned from the sea. It’s the power of New York, adding color to the dullest of things.

Image: Womenontheroad.com

Let’s call it magic.

 

Everything you needed to know about Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest, the world’s largest fun-fair just kicked off in Munich yesterday, and is set to go on for another 16 days, till the first weekend in October. Gallons of beer, a carnival like setting, merry Germans (and others), traditional music, dancing and pretty women are what make 6 million people visit this event annually. As Oktoberfest #181 kicks off, and gathers momentum, here’s all you need to know about it.
Featured image: Uwishunu.com

 

Paulaner Beer (Paulaner.com)

WHAT IS OKTOBERFEST?
Oktoberfest. It is the world’s largest fun fair, and locally goes by the name of Wiesn (It takes after the grounds where it is held)

 

What was originally a wedding celebration has now become a ritual to celebrate Bavaria.

 

It all started in 1810 with the marriage of King Ludwig I and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The event invited all people of Bavaria to come and celebrate and even promote German agriculture and lifestyle on the public grounds that are named “Therese’s Meadows”, though all that is history, the modern rendition of the festival has become the way it is since the 1950s.

 

Oktoberfest has been fairly consistent too, the only times it didn’t happen was during the two World Wars, and at times because of a cholera outbreak. It opens with a 12 gun salute and after the Mayor of Munich taps the first beer barrel, it is a matter the mayor takes up on his ego, limiting the number of blows to open the barrel. The festival rakes in 1.1 billion Euros a year, and is the most identified symbol of German tourism.

It is a “happy” place indeed! (Oktoberfestns.blogspot.com)

 A FEW FACTS ABOUT OKTOBERFEST

  • Beer here is served in huge mugs called Maß (Pronounced Masz) which equals 1.76 UK Pints. (That’s 1 liter of beer in a mug)
  • Waiters carry beer in huge amounts, with little or no spillage, they can easily carry up to 27 beer mugs with them.
  • Beer can lead to all sorts of weird behavior from people, the worst of them is public urination, which leads to a Euro 100 fine.
  • People who get wasted, thanks to so much beer are called Bierleichen (Beer-corpses), there’s easily around 10,000 of them every year, who make the trip to German Red Cross’ hangover beds to sleep and get a spare set of trousers to avoid humiliation on the way back home!
  • It is a tradition to dress in typical German clothing, the lederhosen (for men) and dirndl (for women) who take part in the Oktoberfest parade on the first Sunday of the festival.
  • Oktoberfest employs 12,000 people annually, the festival has been of prime importance to Munich since it is so profitable.
  • All the beer found at Oktoberfest, is Bavarian. It is sourced from the 6 official breweries in Munich.

 

WHAT GOES ON AT OKTOBERFEST?

Stereotypically, the carnival is about beer more than anything else, but it would be a shame to say that’s all it is limited to. The festival is a celebration of people and their culture, it is typically Bavarian and lets people do things that have been customary since olden days.

 

There’s small, big, and large tents here and each serves beer, but each one is unique in it’s own right too. The parties with loud music and pop-music start at 6 in the evening, something the youth think should be an all day affair, but other than that there’s the traditional Chicken dance (YES! It is of German origin), crossbow shooting competitions, barrel racing and what-not. A rather funny way to describe it would be drunken organised chaos.

 

Oktoberfest is a ritual in itself, no doubt, but people come here to do other things too. The famous iced gingerbread cookies which lovers share are typical of Oktoberfest celebrations. Other than cookies, there’s Wursts (Pork sausages) and Pretzels on offer too. Since it is a carnival, it also has roller coasters and rides that bring out the kid in everyone!

 

Given the chaotic environment brimming with alcohol, it might not be considered wise to get kids here, but that doesn’t stop a lot of kids from coming to Oktoberfest, and as hilarious as it may be, the parents are the ones that unleash their inner animal while the kids watch. The reversal of roles has been negative at times, when parents are finally sober and in their senses, they find their kids are missing.

A large tent full of merrymakers (gunaxin.com)

 

That’s pretty much all you will come to know by reading up on the festival, the next level is experiencing Oktoberfest, and while you may have missed out this time, you can always go next year, come back with wonderful experiences to share, and of course, a beer belly.

 

HERE IS WHY YOU SHOULD GO.

If you like beer, beautiful German women in their traditional Dirndls, men who slap their thighs imitating old court rituals, experiencing new things, singing, dancing, and sampling local food, and if you’re genuinely fascinated by German culture, this is the place to go.

 

WHY YOU SHOULDN’T GO.

If you have an aversion to noise, people under the influence, and if you can’t tolerate people wetting their pants in public (altogether involuntarily) you should avoid visiting.

 

Mistakes are part of travel experience! Never regret them

You made a mistake, and sadly time travel has not yet been invented, so why are you still thinking about it?”​​― Dave Guerrero

 

Learn from them, laugh at them but never ever regret them. Travel is all about experiences, which create lasting memories. Experience can be pleasant or otherwise but memories are always good. It may seem like the world is lost on you when your child scribbles on your passport just before the upcoming trip or when you forget a corkscrew to enjoy the wine, you just bought from supermarket or ended up on a road with dead end, following a patchy signal on GPS. But when you look at rear-view mirror, you come out wiser and enriched with these great stories to tell.

 

Think about it, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about your trip where you missed your flight connection. You must have ultimately managed to reach your destination or worse have lost one day in transit. Big Deal ! Ability to laugh at our mistakes and learn from them makes travelling fun. I have made quite a few mistakes in my years of travelling and we always have a hearty laugh, when I think about them. This list is not to teach you to avoid them but to bring smile to your face, if anyone of them resonates with you.

 

1.) Used moisturiser in place of sunscreen :- We were travelling to New zealand, where temperatures are between 18-22 degree Celsius in the day so you don’t feel the sun. It is also not an ideal beach destination, so we completely skipped the sunscreen. Feeling the chills, we kept applying moisturiser till the time we realised that we have accelerated the process of tanning ( unintentional) and got sunburnt as a result!
2.) Used Ferry in place of Catamaran :- To be honest, I didn’t know the difference between two and read it interchangeably, while I made the booking.  I learnt it the hard way, when it took us 4 hours to reach Korcula from Split in Croatia , when Catamaran takes 1 hour. Ferries are bigger and made to carry cars / more passengers and operates on long-haul routes with frequent stops.
3.) Went with a group of friends without any plan :- This is one mistake, you should be avoiding. Lot of us in exuberance of reunion after five years or catching up in an offshore destination, forget about the most important thing. What will we do ? You should have some sketchy plan, which is discussed with everybody. It can be what all adventure activities you will do, or which restaurants are must visit or you just want to relax and chat. Last thing you want is the awkwardness when everyone wants to go in different direction.
4.) Stayed outside the main centre of town for ‘peace and tranquillity’ :- Lot of resorts and even many listings on Airbnb, use words like “peaceful location”, “away from the crowd in a very quite lane”. Be extremely clear on what you want. Most of us like to be part of chaos, explore the nightlife, stay in the old town. When we travelled to Mykonos, we chose a nice looking hotel, 5 Kms outside the main square. It was not particularly enjoyable, when all we wanted was to feel the pulse of the town and have to wait impatiently for the next shuttle to depart.
5.) Took Manual car, when have to drive on the other side of the road :-  Road trips are the  best way to explore any country. Unfortunately its not the same side drive for everyone. World is divided between right and left hand side drive. It takes some time to tune your mind to drive in a different direction but is still manageable. What is hard is to have similar hand / foot coordination, on other side of what you are used to. We changed our manual car to Automatic within a day, when we were on our road trip in Croatia.
6.) Went without proper gear/ equipment for expedition:- Have you found yourself asking “do you have extra snorkelling gear” on a sailing holiday or “can I borrow your Go Pro”, when you are out for trekking in wild. In the excitement, we tend to ignore the preparation that is required to do our favourite activity. Always check if your shoes will support you on the tough terrain, do you have your own club, if going on a golfing holiday. It will make your experience much more pleasant to have your own gear.
7.) Didn’t account for taxes, highly priced meals in an expensive resort :- Off-season rates are tempting and suddenly our dream hotel looks within a our reach, if we stretch our budget little more.  By all means, indulge yourself sometimes, you deserve it. But while doing budget allocation, account for below-the-line items like luxury surcharge or the expensive meals that you will have to take in that secluded resort. Know clearly what you are getting into !

 

8.) Relied too much on GPS :- GPS is a machine and is almost everytime right but never ignore your instincts. Atleast when you are driving in isolated locations, where chances of help are remote. I have had numerous incidences where, GPS has taken me to a road, which is too narrow for car to pass or which is drowned 2 feet down by a new stream, just formed. Use of GPS with certain degree of scepticism will make sure you are never lost, unless you want to !
9.) Didn’t carry soft copy of important documents :- We were not going to drive on our holiday to Greece and did not bother to carry our license. But when we reached there, it was apparent that best way to experience an island city is to have your own ride. We regretted not having the soft copy of our driving license. It doesn’t hurt to carry soft copy of your passport, booking details, driving license, insurance policies and emergency numbers handy on your mobile device. We did manage the soft copy though after frantic calls back at home.
10.) Did not budget enough time to catch the flight :- This has happened to us twice , once when we completely underestimated the driving time to the airport and missed our flight. While travelling it’s always better to keep some buffer for unforeseen instances. Another time we booked a connecting flight from a different terminal and realised that there was no way, we could have caught our connecting flight and had to reschedule it.

 

Do let us know about the interesting travelling experience, which exasperated you for a moment but makes a great story to tell !

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