Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Picnic At Khorfakkan Beach

Going by June's titles so far, it's safe to say nature and travel has been the theme of the month. No fancy restaurant dining, or enclosed spaces. Nothing but greens and blues all around, deep breaths of fresh air, this time with a hint of salt.

For our most recent escapade, we headed straight for Fujairah's Khorfakkan beach, one sunny afternoon. Being a weekday, there weren't many people around either, leaving the view pretty much undisturbed. Like our recent trip to Fujairah, the drive was long and the mountain ranges along the way were great company too. Perfect kind of getaway for couples looking out to escape the city and work reminders.

Unlike our previous trip, this time we did a little pre-preparation to make it more interesting. Planning a picnic for two is easy, especially when you're both adults. Just ensure you have enough food an water and some memorable conversations.

For lunch, we went old school. No boring packets of crisps or sodas. The one thing we really loved about picnics when we were kids were the sandwiches. And that's precisely what we carried along. Spicy chutney sandwiches are the best! Just add boiled and spiced meats along and you're done. We even carried a few boiled eggs. Can't go wrong with those. And to quench our thirst, there was plain old water. While we didn't carry fresh juices with us this time, it's definitely on the list for our next trip.

Choosing a picnic spot was real easy. There's plenty of soft grass all over and the trees make it easy to pick out the shady spots. Picnic tables are equally distributed too. We chose to bring along an old bed sheet and just get comfortable on the ground.

With so much of our time spent on smartphones, tablets, and the sort, we figured we ought to leave those distractions out for the day. Only work mails were allowed. There was no checking of social media timelines because that would't make it a fun picnic. Besides, the internet could never compare to a calming view of the beach, the cries of seagulls and crashing waves around you. Bliss.

A deck of cards or a frisbee would've been great if we carried them along to pass the time. Instead, we made do with pens and spare notebooks to play 'Name Place Animal Thing'. Anyone who's been to school in Bombay has probably spent many a hilariously educational hour, or three, playing that game.

Before we knew it, the sun was starting to set and we had to pack up our things back into the car. The beach was in the opposite direction of the sunset so we got no view of that before leaving. We were so busy being goofy, playing games, and generally having such a good time together that we'd have missed it anyway. Can't wait for more of this!

City life is great. Makes days like these so much more beautiful.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bali Memories And Friendship Bonds

Left to Right: Jen, Clarissa, Cynthia, Ivy, Philo, Tanya* and Gloria
Today's post is inspired by a warm chapter of friendship; one that blossomed during those budding school years and continues to grow, brimming with a lifetime of journeys and memories. This isn't my story, though it's a kind of bond i look forward to with the special ones in my life.

You know what they say about how it's better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times, that's exactly how it feels when you hear how these ladies have been setting out on trips together every chance they get. Kudos to them, leading on with their friendship goals so effortlessly and respectable enough to teach any generation a thing or two about what a lasting friendship looks like.

So without further ado, here's Gloria's telling of the tale with the girls on their adventurous trip to Bali. 

I've always wanted to visit Bali and was happy to do this one with my school friends.

We flew Malindo, an airline that I'd never heard about! (The others very wisely, took out heavy travel insurance, except me. I did a sasta online one). But the aircraft was new, spacious and surprisingly great. The hostesses wore lacy white tops with a long skirt, very pretty, very feminine and as we learnt later, very traditional.

Bali is one of the 17000 islands that make up the archipelago of Indonesia and is most popular with tourists.

Most roads are narrow 2-lane affairs but driving is disciplined and drivers are patient and not noisy like us in Mumbai, honking even at red signals!

Our guide, Sutapa, told us that in Bali, buildings could not be higher than a coconut tree - approx 17 mtrs. So that explained lack of high rises. But we were not complaining! The greenery was abundant, lush and somewhat similar to Goa, but aesthetically, much more clean and pretty.

Getting used to the Indonesian Rupiah was a total riot though! Prices are in thousands, hundred thousands (lakhs) and millions! Felt like lakhpathis while paying the Rupiahs! Unfortunately, 1 lakh Rupiahs equals approx Rs. 560/-. However, you could bargain like crazy in the smaller shops.

We stayed at the Risata Bali Resort & Spa in South Kuta, 1 km from the airport. Had a free evening the day we arrived, 14th, so we headed for a massage, which is a must do in Bali. It was unexpectedly relaxing but a bit embarrassing, for a first-timer like me! We were required to strip, wear only a disposable panty and were then pounded, kneaded, pulled and pressed to the nth degree for almost an hour. It ended with a body mask and flower bath. Quite an unforgettable experience, eh Iv?

15th - did a tour to Celuk, and saw the silver and; gold workshops. The showroom had some fab pieces on sale.
Had a buffet lunch at Sari restaurant which afforded super views of Mt. Batur volcano and lake.
Saw traditional paintings being done at Ubud and viewed the many paintings which were casually displayed in large halls. Nothing casual about their prices, though.
Visited the Tampaksiring Holy Water Spring temple where the fish were really fat! Back at the hotel, some lounged by the pool while the others had a dip before heading to Jimbaran for a seafood dinner that was Ivy's birthday treat. Dinner on the beach was another great experience. Got back to the hotel and brought in Ivy's birthday with tiramisu cake and Irish Bailey, (sponsored by Cy and Iv, respectively).

16th - The banana boat ride at Tanjung Benoa, was fun as was the glass bottom boat
ride to Turtle island where we held turtles, a python, an iguana, and even a toucan. A couple of owls and bats obligingly tolerated us, as we took photos.
Had a marvellous lunch with cocktails and Bintang - the local beer.
When we returned to the hotel in the evening, a live band was playing and some of the guests were belting out American Pie. We joined them and had an enjoyable sing-song. Tanya requested the band guys to sing Happy Birthday to Ivy, so it was quite a chorus with the firangs also joining in lustily. As we all trooped back to the room for a nightcap, Iv was quite surprised to see a little cake kept in the frig for her, from the hotel. So naturally, we had to sing and cut the cake again!

17th - strolled the streets in the morning and purchased a few souvenirs. Evening was the Bounty Dinner cruise which had live music, traditional Balinese and modern dances. As there were other tourists from India, they played/sang a couple of Hindi songs. Lots of legs were shaken!

18th - free day so we caught up with some more shopping, some did a second spa session, some headed for the beach and since we discovered a RC church nearby, two of us 'holy janes' attended mass which was in Indonesian. Later the vodka-finishing session before dinner and the gift-finishing session after was good fun.

19th - we headed back home happy to have enjoyed ourselves and sad that it was over.

Nasi Goreng, Mee Goreng, satays are tasty, cheap and easily available all over the place. You get them with beef, chicken or seafood. Nasi Goreng is served with some sago papads, kimchi salad and a fried egg. Most dishes came with sticky rice, sambal, sweet soya sauce and an onion salad which when mixed with the rice was yummy. The fresh fruit juices too were amazing. There were other cuisines available including good old McDonald's, Burger King, even Bread Talk, but I really enjoyed my fried rice n noodles and didn't get tired of eating it. Tried babi gulang (pork spare ribs), which was a bit gamey, but tasty.

There are innumerable branded  goods for shopholics in malls, and plenty of street shopping if you want cheaper stuff. But the most amusing were the wooden penis bottle openers that were shamelessly displayed all over the place! Got a bit of a shock to see it the first time in a Govt. shop.

Getting back to Mumbai was fraught with anxiety on account of the flood situation. Our flight was circling for almost 35 mins before landing, 45 mins late. So you can imagine the rush as fights were landing tapa-tup. But walking out of the airport without waiting in the serpentine queues and without any baggage check, was the final icing on the cake, thanks to Cynthia.


*FYI, far left and second from right are two very special people in my life, my dearest hubby's mum and his lil sis who tagged along.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Nature Trip: Dubai Butterfly Garden

Staycations can be tricky. Dubai is doubtless, a great city because there's always another novelty to check out. Butterflies surviving the Dubai heat? Now, this needed investigation! It's not like you get to see delicate insects freely roaming about, everyday. And especially when you're an expat from Bombay, you crave for patches of nature. So Dubai Butterfly Garden made the list.

The experience isn't anything like Dubai's Miracle Garden, with flowers blooming beneath the shining sun. Instead, you'll find them fluttering about in temperature controlled spaces and not out in the open air.

So off we went to see the butterflies in their makeshift home. The entrance to the domes includes a gallery of colourful butterfly art that is aesthetically arranged and quite eye-catching. The ambience in the domes is mildly humid and cool with plenty of chirpy sounds to make it feel as realistic as possible. Guides along the way will tell you about the common species and teach you how to get a butterfly to perch on your hand or fingers. Don't try to pinch their wings and catch them though, else you'll injure the little critters.

The butterfly garden is on the way to Dubai Miracle Garden, so you can see the two together. There is a separate gate for either of the two locations if you aren't up for them both. Though, do phone in advance as the flower garden is seasonal and is usually closed for the summer due to the extreme weather conditions. Admit for one is AED 50 and if you have kids, they visit for free.

Below is a video taken at dome one. Plus, bonus video of the butterfly art gallery. Enjoy!

About 12,000 species of butterflies imported from the Philippines, Columbia and Costa Rica here. Three air-conditioned...
Posted by Epicgrammatic on Saturday, 20 June 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

Park Essentials For An Enjoyable Read

Sundays in Bombay were all about catching up on a good book or preparing for exams at the little joggers' park about five minutes away from home. After you walk along the joggers' path, a quarter of the way in and straight across the gate was my favourite place. On the way were floral plant specimens with display boards spelling out their names in English, Hindi and Marathi.

At the end and to your right, you would find a small partially enclosed corner with a single row of five or six, wide marble tables with matching benches. Sort of the kind you might find in a cool, dusty library. My favourite was the last one because it was right at the back, in the corner by the high outer wall of the park. A partial wall partitioned the spot from the jogging area giving you a view of the people and the netted sports playground to the left of the jogging footpath. Boys in shorts playing football is all you'd see there. And against the high park, the wall by the benches was surrounded by greenery. Was always just great to take it all in before going for the books.

On a good evening, the only people you would find were the quiet, studious kind. An unfortunate evening would include gossiping aunties and teens, though if you're an expert reader or student, you'd have mastered the art of tuning people and noise out by now. All of this made it the perfect reading spot.

Since moving to Dubai, there hasn't been a park anywhere near me with benches accompanied by tables. There is a nice park close-by and walkways by the beaches, of course. Sadly though, they all come with regular benches, which isn't all that bad i suppose. Can't be too picky when you're in a city like Dubai.

Needed for a good read
Trusty bag
I have my own favourite shoulder bag (pictured above.) It's dainty, light and durable enough for me to carry around my e-reader. Space is the tricky bit since you might want to carry some other items, but it's better to keep it to a minimum.

Meet my e-reader
Your e-reader should be your one and only sidekick for days when you just need to get away from people, their vehicles and other noisy things. Ideal for when you require much needed peace and me-time.

Behold the darling of my bedside (other than my ring-bearer*.) Of course it's a Barnes and Noble Nook. Certainly isn't a Kindle. It's not that I mind reading out of regular dead-tree print books, occasionally i do; though, lugging them around just isn't my cup of tea.

Status badge
This isn't necessary, for obvious reasons. But it can be useful for warding off any unwelcome folk passing by who think it might be a good idea to make casual conversation and ask you out to coffee. Because duh, that's not why you're at the park. All that sort of engagement is for book stores and coffee shops. Anyone asking you for the time and then going away after you've provided the required information is acceptable. Exceptions can be made for a good conversationalist or a cat.

Cats are always a welcome distraction, as petting one would most likely bring you good luck on your future adventures.

Should you need to make emergency calls, you'd require to have a fully-charged phone at hand. Though that's hardly ever the problem, it's usually around so one can snap a nice and meaningful paragraph off a page. There's always a good quote you want to remember.

A bonus reading tip--- switch off your internet data so annoying notifications do not plague the peace.

*ring-bearer - my beloved husband