Casela Nature Reserve, AFRICA

I grew up looking at Lion King and watching amazing jaw-dropping documentaries on National Geographic. I always fancied seeing the wildlife in Continental Africa. When I visited Mauritius, little did I know that I would be getting a small trailer of what the real wildlife in the African plain would look like! By far Mauritius is one of my favorite countries so far, I absolutely loved the country for its nature, exhubarent wildlife, the vast sugarcane farms, endless expanse of landscape, seamless merging of the dense forests with the Ocean at horizon & the union of the sky with the Ocean at the far distance.

Now I had a wonderful opportunity to appreciate this country even more when I visited Casela. Its a nature park reserve and its gorgeous. The buildings within the park are built with Volcanic Rocks – they look absolutely stunning. The lush green vegetation inside hardly lets the relentless sunlight to seep through, the birds happy in the ponds, and the animals in perfect harmony and they all seem to be at peace.

I loved the landscapes at the Casela Nature Reserve. We tool the safari and we were taken into the wild! I absolutely loved the idea of keeping the humans in a cage and letting the animals free, for we were infact visitors to their homeland 🙂

We offered bread to the Ostrichs and several Zebras came by to enquire as to who the new set of visitors were. The children and grown ups were thrilled alike when an ostrich made a surprise apprearence at the window and snatched the bread off a persons hand.

The lions are in a seperate enclosure and you can walk with the African Lions but at your own risk.

Apart from the fact that there are animals there, its a beautiful park with an endless expanse of lush green lawns, as the terrain is elevated the ocean breeze that blows is calm, cool and refreshing.

I absolutely loved my visit to the Casela – if you are in Mauritius you should definitely visit this place & I am pretty sure you will love it too!

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Twilight Rendezvous

I am a big fan of fresh air at a serene location. In the middle of the Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometers off the coast of Continental Africa are few islands sprinkled like pebbles in the ocean. The Mascarene Islands are a delight to any nature lover. And if anyone has not appreciated the beauty of nature up until now, then seeing these immaculate islands –  will definitely be an eye opener.

Few weeks before i set off to these islands, I was slightly apprehensive about the fitness routine I was following at the Gym. I read few blogs on the internet and one of the best suggestions was to go running. Excersice after a few months becomes integrated into your lifestyle, it becomes a default part of your regime & feels natural. Sometimes few people feel good only after a workout 🙂

When i read this blog about inculcating running when on vacation it sounded like fun! When you have running shoes – you can run in any vacation spot you are at. You dont need a gym per say – but just a road or field where you could have your daily dose of cardio.

Good for me that i read this – for I saw quite a few historical locations around the place during my morning run! I went to a beautiful river, a nice sugarcane field, a lovely mountain – it was bliss. 

  

 When I was at Vacoas – I was told about this beautiful park named ‘Parcours de Sante Fin’ – I went to see it without any preconceived idea whatsoever, as to how it might look – but when i saw it I was speechless – The lawn was perfectly manicured. The railings a beautiful form of art, and i met very warm people who greeted me with the sweetest sounding Bonjour 🙂

  

 I put on my Asics Running shoes – every single morning and did at least 3x400mts run, crunches and lunges. I savored the sweet pain post my workout & looked fitter as the days went by. I am glad i read that blog about not missing cardio while on vacation and my romance with Dawn at Vacoas is definitely an event to remember.

Looks like I am waiting to go on another vacation to get some cardio 😉

Lantern

Giving is extremely healing to the soul. Transferring an object without the expectation of receiving anything in return, the act of giving itself, is altruistic. In fact, it has a healing streak and feels peaceful. I once read that you gain by giving rather than receiving. I never quite understood this – how could I gain by giving away something?

As the days went by, I realized that the feeling of altruism associated with giving is much more valuable and therapeutic than collecting things from others and keeping a vicious tab of the people who owe you!

When I first started giving I sensed I felt happier. You could gift someone just to bring a smile, as there is nothing more beautiful than the feeling that you are responsible for that joy. 🙂 Pleasantly surprising someone with a bunch of flowers could make their day. It would be wonderful to see their reaction, astonishment mixed with surprise & gratitude.

My friend Guitanyali gave me this beautiful lantern, it looks beautiful, it is artistic and I loved the detailed artwork of dried flowers on the lantern. It is simple yet elegant, beautifully handcrafted at the ends with handloom twines. The warm, bright yellow incandescent lamp illuminating from within, radiates beauty, warmth, and an undying sense of affection with which it was passed on to me.

When you give a token of appreciation in the form of a thoughtful gift, you can sense the positivity the inanimate object brings to life. For, even after years I can feel the genuine warmth, love and affection that was passed on to me – what better way than to seal these beautiful gestures in the form of a lantern?

This lamp doesn’t just adorn my balcony, but also brings a smile to every passerby on the street as they slow down to see the yellow fire like glow radiating from within. This lamp invokes the element of creativity in me. As I write, I have a desire to try to emulate this piece of art 🙂

It lights up the house and radiates love, warmth and affection. I have a thing for fine art & this is one among them. A lamp is always the winning horse when it comes to light up my life!

Ever wonder what could be an ideal gift to someone special? A friend you appreciate? A neighbor you want to express your gratitude to? A simple, elegant and beautiful lamp would be a good choice.

Cultural Splash in Beijing – 北京市

Beijing the capital of China, is the nation’s Political, Educational and Cultural capital. Located in Northern China, Beijing literally means Northern Capital. The name was coined during the Ming Dynasty to distinguish the city from Nanjing, the southern capital.

Before I could land in Beijing, I did a through detailed study of the Subway lines, cross  checked the interchange station & which station to get off at. The airport transfer train is very efficient, it was effortless to reach my Travellers Hostel at Qienmein.

The moment I got off at the Qienmein station – I was pretty surprised by what I saw! Just outside the station, a group of small kids were warming up for their early morning classes of Kung Fu. I was not expecting this – I wanted to see a scene like this but dint actually expect to see this the moment I set foot in the city. I was ecstatic to see this scene. I next saw a guy, practicing some lethal kung fu chops on a tree trunk! As I approached him, he saw that I was a tourist and needed help and greeted me with a warm NiHao. I showed him the address on my phone and he guided me with the best sign language there is! He instructed me to cross the street, walk up to the signal lights and take a right turn 🙂

Coming from a tropical country like India, low temperatures never fail to amuse me. It calms me and brings a smile no matter what. The people were totally amused to see a non-Chinese walking admist them. I got several second looks. I even saw a child run up to his friends and they came to see me 🙂 LOL

My first morning in Beijing was by far the most memorable. It filled me with a sense of calm and comfort. I was not apprehensive at all, I strangely felt safe in a foreign land and I absolutely loved the city.

I stayed at a Hutong – a traditional courtyard residence. My days in the hutongs of Beijing were beautiful, the days bustling with eateries, serving steaming hot dumplings, the nights alight with people walking about, pleasant music playing in Hutongs, the residents out in the courtyard enjoying a game of badminton. Several evenings I would sit on a patio at the hutong with a smile, immense gratitude in my heart to be able to witness a beautiful cultural interaction such as this.

Beijing is rich in the Cultural heritage and you can immerse yourself in the various flavors the city generously offers.

Petronas @ Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia came across as a very organised country, the roads impeccable, there was order in the system and I guess it’s a lot to do with how the citizens conduct themselves. The subway stations are calm, quite, and the office rush hour is an epitome of tranquil and peace. The kiosks at the Subway stations make the commute for first timers very pleasant and the transition is seamless. The airport transfer is one of the best I’ve seen so far, its fast, efficient and the officials are very warm and congenial to the inquiry. An employee of KLIA, went to the extent to write down a detailed plan for me to reach the city 🙂

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The KLIA – Airport transfer ticket to the city.

I interchanged the subways at Sentral and reached KLCC at the Petronas. As soon as you get off the subway exit, on your left you will see the magnificient towering structure of the twin towers. Its gorgeous and exquisite. It’s a beauty all the way from the floor to the entire expanse of the building. The logistics at the Petronas is impeccable and its worth seeing the towers, after all it did enjoy the reputation of being the tallest building until recently. IMG_0298

View of the city of KL from the Petronas Towers.

I had breakfast at the cafeteria with the office crowd. They had authentic Malaysian cuisine and I absolutely loved it. We had a tour of the towers and the lift to the 86th floor reached in record time. The view is splendid, the bridge connecting the towers does sway if the wind force is quite strong as it is suspended. IMG_0311

The swaying bridge 🙂 Connecting the twin towers.

The staff at the Petronas are a bunch of very happy people. It does say a lot about the company I guess. At the desk the person issuing the ticket for the tour of the towers was very warm and she wished me ‘Happy Diwali’ that was so thoughtful of her, and a small gesture like that remains in your memory for days to come. IMG_0315

A courteous, happy employee is the biggest asset to a company 🙂

From high above the towers you can see small little tents, I later realised that that it was a Massive Mall. One of the largest shopping complex I’ve been to! Efficiency at its best as the power is sourced from the Solar panels. Even the solar panels are a visual delight as they are artistically arranged! At the mall, I bought my favorite fleece jacket from Uniqlo 🙂 IMG_0299

The Solar Powered Mall at KLCC.

The view and the experience is worth the effort and time. It a building with a keen sense of taste and would be a delight to an architect and a lover of fine art. Way back in 2002 I had dreamt of being there and here I was having a splendid time at one of the tallest, beautiful, marvelous building in the world.

Good Samaritan – Be one!

Raise you vibrations to attract the good, and only the best will be filtered your way.

When travelling, one has to be vigilant at all times. You got to keep your bags in check, your documents and the currency you are carrying. Not to forget, the constant improvisation on the ever effervescent contingency plan.

Before I set off for my first Solo Trip, I was a nervous wreck, I was freaking out. For the first time in my life I experienced ‘Cold Feet’. I now understand what the Brides, Grooms, Parents-to-be or anyone else feel when they have a panic attack. I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t eat, I had constant headaches days before my travel.

That’s when my friend KK came to my rescue, he said “Nam, don’t worry! You will be fine, you have traveled before and its gonna be a walk in the park for you. Just relax, breathe and GO!” Honestly I dint believe a word of what he said, for I was thinking of almost cancelling my ticket! Yes! I panicked probably because I was travelling to a non-English speaking country for the first time ever. KK said “Just be positive, and only the good ones will come your way. Be good and you will attract only good people. But stay vigilant and be street smart”.

I finally relaxed and took it one step at a time, I remembered to count my blessings and keep looking for the good. And many Good Samaritans came my way! From my first pit stop at a transit in KL, I had encounters with amazing good hearts. Yes good people have good souls, you can sense it, it feels good – very good to be around them. I met a person from Switzerland who was in KL to see the Petronas – we soon became friends as she was also a solo traveler, we shopped and had lunch together. We had a fantastic time.

When I reached my destination I had several encounters with Good Samaritans. This travel taught me many things, one of them was that there are angels all around. Look for good and you will find it. Help comes in various unexpected ways.

One morning after breakfast i saw that a couple left the restaurant but they dropped their Subway card on their way out. I knew this was a lifeline, I handed it to them and they were grateful for the gesture and asked me what my plans were for the day and instantly tore off a bunch of sheets from their immaculately filed travel file and gave it to me. To this day I don’t know how I would have managed that day ‘without’ that info. It was so detailed and it was ‘absolutely necessary’ and the universe just filled the jigsaw puzzle for me. I was overwhelmed.

Help comes in various forms, every single day we need to remind ourselves that, ‘The Best is YET to come’.

Golden Mantra: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you!

Wok Over the Water

The delicious, authentic local cuisine one gets to relish on travels, could be THE motive to travel for a few wanderers. Guilty!!! 😉

I have heard the elders in my family say, the food tastes better if cooked with love. Another friend Parag strongly believes, the energy with which the meal is prepared could be in your favor or it could be harmful. I totally agree to this. Probably that’s why you can’t really replicate the exact taste and flavor of a dish, and it differs from person to person.

I treated myself to a meal at the Asian Wok restaurant – famously known to be over the waters. Located in the North Male Atoll – 90 mins by speed boat from the airport at Maldives. Once in a way I guess its ok to pamper yourself 🙂

The chefs are interactive, and they looked very happy in their jobs. I guess that is recipe #1 – to be happy 🙂 The vegetables looked so crispy and fresh – the meal was sumptuous. I once saw a movie in which the chef comments about the flavor in the vegetables differing from region to region. He says the taste is not the same. I guess sometimes it feels like the vegetables do have life.

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Hand picked organic vegetables at the Asian Wok – Maldives.

The Asian Wok restaurant is built over the waters, strategically located at the entrance of the Meerufenfushi island – it provides a panoromic view of the ocean, the neighbouring local island to the west, the speed boats decorating the turquoise blue ocean & a splendid view of the fancy looking yatch anchored at the harbor.

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My first glimpse of the Asian Wok 🙂

The view from the ‘walk through windows’, is the icing on the cake. You could just jump off the ledge to take a swim, check out the colorful reef, swim with the harmless black tipped baby sharks and get back to sipping your wine and enjoying a custom-made dish of your choice. The view is breathtaking and I couldn’t really capture the moment in my camera frame. This place is like walking into a dream while you are awake.

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At the window seat – ready for the dive! Dreamy!!!

A visit to this magical land, you will be overwhelmed with contentment and gratitude, for just being there.