Mum's end to tiffin box tantrums......

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

An evening in the desert of Dubai


We had already explored the man made wonders of Dubai. Now, we were left to experience a ride in the desert. Desert Safari in Dubai deserves special mention.  I saw numerous hoardings in the airport encouraging a desert safari, a feel of the life of a Bedouin.

                      
Scintillating view of the Dubai desert


We were told by our travel agent that we would be picked up from our hotel premises at 3:30 pm.   We were picked up at right time and preceded towards the desert. We were accompanied by our fellow passengers from other hotels in the same vehicle. There is nothing more exciting than experiencing a desert safari in Dubai.

              
Al Awir road leading to the desert

We used the Al Awir road to reach the desert where we were expected to enjoy a camp. The sand dunes and the scintillating sunset was a real treat for the eyes. The sun appeared like a red ball with crimson hue playing all around. We were busy capturing these awesome moments with our DSLR camera. The photo shoot was interesting while we posed like models. Standing amidst the Arabian Desert gave me goose bumps and my mind was occupied with that imagination of ‘Arabian nights’, which I once read during my childhood. After capturing some nice glimpses of the sunset and desert, we proceeded towards the camp which was a fifteen-minute ride.

             
Car ride in the desert
   



                                 
Ship of the desert

                            
Now, these fifteen minutes of the bumpy ride was an experience of the life time. Only Emirati nationals with a special license are allowed to ride along the sand dunes with tourists. I am not joking, but I saw our vehicle speeding over the dunes at almost sixty-five degrees from the ground. I almost closed my eyes while I tried keeping my hand erect recording those spine chilling moments. We almost swirled from one end to another.  I realized that once inside the sand dunes there is no other way than speeding.  Somehow, I was successful in getting a good video recording.

                         
Our footsteps in the Arabian desert


The camel ride was a good experience and cost 10 Dirham per person. Since I had already experienced this, I was not interested in spending time and money again. Some co -passengers who availed the ride, defined it no lesser than a night mare with full chances of being fallen down from that height.  

                                
Quad bike ride for those adventure freaks

Some people described that to be an interesting ride and expressed to repeat it.
Some adventure enthusiasts were indulged in riding quad bikes. That must be a worthy experience. It was almost 5:30 pm and the sun was about to set, so the heat was comparatively diminished. I observed how the quad bikes rolled into the sand dunes. The cost for riding 20 minutes was 15 Dirham.

               
Camp at Desert

When we entered the camp, it was a great attraction. There were sitting arrangements made with benches and carpets on the sand. There was a good arrangement of washrooms and some VIP corners which was available at 100 dollars. They are meant for families who want to enjoy the program in full privacy. We enjoyed the starry desert night and the series of entertainment. The arrangement is full buffet type and I immediately gulped some water and juice.  The temperature soared down and became comfortable.


       
The belle dancer

We enjoyed the belly dance performed by some unknown Arabian dancer. The skinny lady was dressed seductively and her Arabian attire dazzled the night while the performance was no lesser than a ‘wow’. She almost set the stage on fire with her amazing dance steps. She was balancing a stick on her chest with utter perfection. The Arabian music, the dancer, the drinks and the snacks- filled the ambiance with an amazing ‘wow’ factor. I felt like meeting with the ‘’queen of the desert”.    

                   

There was various attraction meant for the tourist like slipping into an Arabian outfit. While the males wore a white thobe (Jubbah), the females wore black Abaya. It was exciting to get a new look. Tourist seems to be excited with their new Emirati look.

                     

Balancing the Falcon on hand                  


There was a man carrying a Falcon in his hand. A snap with the bird cost me 10 Dirhams. That was an amazing experience. Never before this did I ever touched or carried a bird. I cautiously kept the bird at a hands distance, but to the contrary, I found that it was tamed. It was a heroic deed carrying the wildest bird of the desert in my arms.

                        
Seesha- an attraction of the desert safari


                  
Inside the camp, there was an arrangement of ‘Seesha’ or the traditional pipe line of the desert. There were various flavors and variations like – strawberry, chocolate, and mint. The pipes are changed after each sip. I sipped a hookah and that I was a first timer initially had some problem of choking but later enjoyed it.

                   
Tanoura Dance- an awesome feat 

                           
              
We enjoyed ‘Tandoura dance’ which originated from Egypt. A man wore a light fitted dress and executed Sufi swirls while Arabian music played in the background. Lights were put off so that the tourists could enjoy the charm of the dress. The dancer balanced the tambourine in his hand and positioned himself like a tree and many other poses. This was a fantastic feat.

            
Beffet in the Desert


We enjoyed a sumptuous Arabian dinner in the desert. There were various kinds of dishes and separate arrangement for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. We started with mind boggling kebabs, hummus and ended with meat dishes. The arrangement was simply superb.


                          
Fire show- an admiring performance 


Last was a fire show which was enchanting. The man balanced fire sticks juggled and mesmerized the audience with his extraordinary feat. The day ended, it was almost quarter to ten at night. We dispersed from the camp and headed towards our transport to be dropped into respective hotels. The day was awesome and it was a wonderful feeling to know how the Bedouin existed when there were no facilities. Something that missed my eyes was the underground cooking of meat, which is still a wonder to me. Next time I visit Dubai I am sure to see the process of meat being cooked by the Bedouins under the sand.

Dubai is a land of wondrous 'man made'' structure and natural beauty. The land is blessed to be governed by His Highness Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He is known to make Dubai the center of global attraction. The Arabians are warm, hospitable and at the same time very touchy to any nuisance that can harm their country.  I realized again, that by virtue of good governance even a desert could be converted to a paradise like Dubai.






Thursday, 31 August 2017

Dubai- the world within itself

                         
Burj Khalifa at dusk

                 

Dubai is rightly called the investment center of the world. With a GDP of $403.2 billion (acc. to 2014) the economy of Dubai is the second largest in the United Arab Emirates.  The main income of Dubai is tourism which makes it the seventh most visited city in the world. The other sources which make it one of the richest in the world are- real estate development, royalty from oil companies, tax from foreign banks, hotel and entertainment tax, luxury item imports and tax from alcohol. From my recent visit to this ultra- modern, neon dazzled city, I realized the fact that good governance and discipline could be instrumental in elevating a city and its people to the number one position. Dubai is accessible from all parts of the world.
         
Sultan's palace in Dubai

     

As a tourist, there are various attractions which draw people from around the globe. I made a booking in a 5-star premium category hotel quite beforehand. I must say that booking should be done pretty before time because Dubai is always a very busy destination and the hotels remain booked throughout the year. The next day, we were taken for a half day city tour. There are several attractions, man-made structures that draw visitors all from across the globe.

             
View of the Twin Tower from Al Zayed Road

A visit to Burj Khalifa@At the top: A man made the structure, 828 meters high, proudly boasts to be one the highest structures in the globe. It took 6 years for this to get completed starting from 2004. There are millions of men contributing to this huge structure. We booked tickets to the 125th floor, and then queued to climb. An elevator climbing 10 meters per second took us to the top floor which was an observatory from where we could see the city. Well. I cannot describe my feeling being at the top, only the cars and other humans seemed like ants from that height.  Maximum roads and structures in Dubai starts with ' Al' which means Sir or respected.

             

Majestic view from the top floor of Burj Khalifa


We took snaps, videos and posed for photos. There was an arrangement to climb to the 148th floor also with a special ticket. Burj Khalifa has several offices, restaurants, night clubs and observation decks in it. Celebrities like Shilpa Shetty, David Beckham, Giorgio Armani and others have their residence here. The spectacular view from Burj Khalifa is worth mentioning including the Address hotel. It was a great feeling being at the top.
                   

Aquarium at Dubai Mall

We climbed down and then approached towards the aquarium in Dubai Mall: The aquarium is a great attraction in Dubai especially for the kids.  Dubai aquarium is enlisted in the Guinness book of world records for being the largest acrylic panels.  Dubai aquarium and underwater zoo shelters many crazy species. We saw the aquarium tunnel, Aquarium Park, underwater zoo and creepy crawling animals.  We saw various animals and fishes especially.  It has more than 300 species of sharks and other carnivore aquatic animals.

                         
Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall: Known as the largest mall in the world, Dubai Mall shelters 1200 shops. Having all types of clothing, electronic, toys, cosmetics, and other accessories, this Mall is nothing but a shopping paradise. Over 13 million square feet in area, Dubai Mall has 22 cinema screens and more than 1400 car parking areas. There are attractions like Kidzania and way to the Burj Khalifa. Just splendid! We enjoyed lunch and spent some hours over here. I felt that whatever be the amount of money I carry, there will be no full stop to purchasing objects of desire from this Mall. So, I kept my desire suppressed and just carried on my visit being a visitor and appreciating the enormous structure.  Any could not resist from picking up some dresses for myself and some toys for my kids at last.


Limousine- a common view in the streets of Dubai




                         
Dubai museum 
                   
Dubai museum: located in Bur Dubai, Dubai museum is one of the greatest attractions. With more than 1800 visitors a day, Al Fahidi Fort was built in 1787 and known as the oldest existing building in Dubai. The museum was opened in 1971, with an aim of presenting the normal Emirati life to the outside world.  Although, we didn’t get time to go inside, and the temperature which soared over 50 degrees prevented the minimum attempt to enter out of the air conditioned bus.


Burj Al Arab

We saw views of the majestic Hotel Atlantica and Burj Al Arab. The journey through the underwater tunnel to the Hotel was exciting.


 
Hotel Atlantica

There were more attractions which we could not cover because of lack of time was the Dubai ski, Mall of Emirates, an underwater restaurant inside Burj Al Arab and Dubai Aqua venture. I made up my mind that next, I visit I am sure to visit Aqua venture just to satisfy my kids. Lego Land and IMG World also deserve special mention in this respect.  Returned back to my hotel in Deira area, we prepared ourselves for the next day.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Experience sumptuous Thai food at Asia Kitchen, Acropolis Mall while you are in Kolkata


                             
Impressive decor of Asia Kitchen

Kolkata is my home town and I am always proud of the richly varied culture exhibited by the city. There is no city in India which has a plethora of restaurants to satisfy the taste buds of a food lover. Whenever I get time, I explore new restaurants in my city. This time I bumped upon a new restaurant, ‘Asia Kitchen’, which is situated in Acropolis mall, Kasba. Well, I wanted to try authentic Thai, and this restaurant was my perfect choice. A vertical of Mainland China group, Asia kitchen has attracted critics and the food columns of renowned publications.
             
                                                 
The Logo
   

The first glance: The restaurant situated on the fourth floor of Acropolis mall, attracts visitors and food lovers from the city as well as suburbs. The first glance of the restaurant is impressive, with typical Chinese decor on the walls. The restaurant area can accommodate almost 70-80 people at a time.  Flanked by attractive wooden furniture and an open kitchen, this restaurant is a desired place to hang around with friends in the weekend.
                               
Friendly staff


The service: There is an array of choice of food. You will be presented with the menu card from where you may have an idea of the various delicacy served by them. You will be greeted by the friendly staff who will guide on the choice of food. I visited during lunch hour, so I preferred to take a standard four-course package. They were not having any option of the buffet at that hour.  We were offered starters and gradually other courses and the staff were at the best of their hospitality attitude. I visited the kitchen and took some snaps of the employees working there and they posed no objection.
                                 

Peanut and herb sauce as starter 



Chicken dumpling


Steam rice and chicken in red sauce


Hakka chow mien and chicken 



Fried noodles and ice cream



Mango cheese cake





The food: There are several varieties of food. We opted for a four-course meal named ‘’ The Fantastic Four Menus”, where we were served chicken eight treasure soup and sweet corn vegetable soup. Next, we waited for Vegetable basil flavored dumplings and chicken spring rolls. Obviously, we had a choice or choosing in each category. Since we were four, we had the option of more. The main menu consisted of steamed basmati rice and chicken in red curry. The chicken in red curry was truly awesome. (I tried to figure out the recipe and I am sure I will try once).  It had the characteristic Thai favor; I could smell lemon grass and ginger. We had an option of vegetable Hakka noodles with General Tao’s chicken. The chicken had a sweet flavor. Since I have an ‘open taste bud’ to all types of cuisine in this world; I felt it was simply fantastic. We were served mango cheese cake for dessert. There was another option in dessert namely, honey noodles with ice cream. This was a bit different but quite tasty.

The Verdict: Kolkata has a range of Chinese and other specialty cuisines. Asia Kitchen is a great attempt to get Kolkata acquainted to Thai food.  I don’t say that this is the first ever good Thai cuisine in Kolkata, but still, this specialty cuisine won my heart. Considering the warmth of the staff, the ambiance, the restaurant décor and the food I will rate the food as 4.5/5 stars. The quality of food was superb; I wish it keeps up to the standard whenever any reader (who’s reading this review article) reaches out to this restaurant for dinner.

There is nothing more a heavenly pleasure than enjoying good food is a quality restaurant.


Sunday, 2 July 2017

A visit to Panari Resort near Thompson falls, Nyahururu



Eye soothing lush green lawn at Panari Resort

Nakuru is a place which is advantageous in terms of location. I have seen various development in Nakuru in the last 7 years. Be it business or infrastructure development, Nakuru is undoubtedly the fastest growing town in East Africa. A comparatively newly built resort near Thompson  Falls, Nayahururu developed by Panari group was our destination this weekend. As I told you that I am a great travel freak, any place recently visited by me never misses my travel column.


 
Map wing the way from Nakuru to Nyahururu
                             

From Nakuru, it’s 49 km. The straight road from the highway by the left side of the flyover under construction will lead you to Nyahururu. We were not too early but somewhat between 9 am and 9:30 am we were ready with kids, bat, shuttle, balls, and water. The main places covered in this route are- Mawanga, Bahati, Subukia and ultimately Nyahururu.  While you are passing near Subukia you will get a pole which reads ‘you are near the equator’. We took some photos and thereafter carried on with our journey. We reached Nyahururu in another 25 minutes. Nyahururu is famous for Thompson Falls. Thompson Falls was named after David Thompson, the British explorer in 1809. The 74 meters waterfall originates from the Aberdare Mountain; it is a great place attracting tourists both local and International. Nyahururu town located in Laikipia County is a small place with some food joints and a large resort. There are various excursions that could be planned in case I had a day or two in hand. Laikipia Wildlife Conservancy is the home to almost 2000 elephants, which migrate between Mount Kenya and Samburu region. There are some finely striped zebras too. There are a hippo pool and Lake Ol Bolossat which is home to several birds.


                       
Entrance Panari Resort





A cannon at the entrance 




Kids play area 
Activity for kids 
                       
                      
The First glance: Sprawling over 20 acres of land, Panari resort is like an oasis in a desert. This 5-star luxury resort was completed in 2016. So, we were one of the early birds here. There are 22 cottages and 4 rooms in each. The rooms are cozy and have state of the art décor. Each room is equipped with English style fireplace and wooden flooring. The view of the Thompson Falls is a marvelous site from the rooms. Nothing is more charming than waking up to the chirping of birds and the sound of the waterfall which relieves you from all worries.  This could be a very much desired honeymoon destination for the newlyweds. The area outside the cottage is a mind boggling green lawn which is maintained every hour. There are various activities to entertain the guests. Apart from a modern gym, swimming pool and yoga hall there is an attraction for kids like swing, slides and a trampoline. We saw some people cycling across the area. Some kids were enjoying the quad bike ride. There are a pool bar, silky oak bar and a restaurant named olive brown.



The restaurant
                            
                        
                  
                                                               
Service: The olive brown restaurant was a great place where you can hang out with friends. The sitting arrangement can easily accommodate 200 people at a time. There is a special arrangement for seminars and conference. The venue could be booked for the wedding and other events. The hotel staff was warm and hospitable. The menu had the wide choice of continental, Indian and Pan African cuisines.

                                                           
Indian cuisine


                                               
Butter chicken
                                   


Food: We had opted for Indian cuisine. Chicken dishes were awesome, so was the naan. The 5 star rated restaurant was basically an all rounder which specializes in all types of cuisine. Indian lunch would cost (2500 -3000) Ksh per person.


Verdict:  If you are looking towards a special weekend for two or might be with friends then  Panari resort will be your desired destination. Have a quick view of the Thompson Falls, wildlife tour and the bird watching tour. Enjoy the resort, get rejuvenated at the spa, and enjoy swimming or the mouth watering meals. I say that a night stay is really worth the money spent. Although the rates are comparatively high but justify the luxury of a 5-star facility. The food is good and the area is awesome. Wake up to the mild roar of the waterfalls, listen to the chirping of birds or enjoy cycling around the area of the resort. You will definitely be pampered amidst the well-facilitated resort.  My overall rating of the resort is 4.5 / 5 stars.




Monday, 1 May 2017

Getting sun soaked and pampered amidst nature while being at Sentrium Lodge, Nakuru

                       
View of the sleeping warrior while approaching Elementita
                                             

Staying at Nakuru has various advantages, one of those being living quite close to nature. Coming up as the fastest growing town in  East Africa, I have seen significant development in a span of 6 years. While industry and other urban development get a thumbs up, it’s a place which has areas of tourist interest like Nakuru National Park and Lake Elementita at stone throw distance. Weekends here is truly exciting ; you might travel to the resorts here where good food, spa , drinks and other awesome facilities  are available within a 30 minute drive from the town. Visitors from surrounding towns and cities prefer this place and it’s been a popular weekend gateway. While making your way to the rugged and bumpy road you may have a look at the crater set in between the lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru called as ‘sleeping warrior’.

                            
The Sentrium Lodge


Room arrangement in Sentrium Lodge


The first glance: Situated away from the hustle and bustle of the city, sprawling over few acres of land this resort is one of the preferred places of interest for nature lovers. Quite close to Kariandusi museum, Gilgil, this 4-star resort borders the shoreline of Lake Elementita. You will have to travel some uneven bumpy road while entering the resort from the highway. The ruggedness of the road gives you a feel like you are entering the interiors of an African village. You will be directed with signboards and arrows and will ultimately arrive at the desired venue. The very first of the place looks bears a rustic appearance and some traditional African décor. The warm, comfortable nature of the hotel staff will give you a ‘feel good factor’. There are total 86 guest rooms, a swimming pool area, a mini bar near the pool, dining area and a great arrangement where guests can enjoy the mysteries of The lake Elementita while chatting and sipping hot coffee.  What attracts a visitor is a serene atmosphere, the chirping of the birds and mild roaring of sea breeze. In one word it’s the most desired place to be sun soaked and pampered amidst the lap of nature.

                              
Dining area



Comfortable sitting arrangement


Service: A day out here will be interesting to your family and friends. Get yourself rejuvenated in the spa, take a chilling dip at the swimming pool or enjoy the nature- this place will definitely fascinate you. The dining area is a large area with an arrangement for 200 people. We were greeted by the hotel staff with warm towels and then made our way into the culinary fantasies. There is some separate arrangement for people who come with toddlers and infants. They could find themselves equally comfortable. The food has African, Indian and continental variety. We found chefs who were preparing hot naans and serving- an act that is very much loved by food lovers. The arrangement was superb and the staffs were ready to offer a helping hand.  There were enough arrangements for both vegetarian and nonvegetarian preferring guests. The banquet area is given on hire for corporate and personal purposes.


                                       
Appetizer




Salad and sauces



Main course






Dessert



Food: The food is a 4- course meal which is a combination of continental and Indian variety. Apart from buffet serving, you can choose out of the menu card and order food of your own choice. Buffet starts at 1500 KSH per person and children below 12 are charged 750 KSH. You can choose your own sitting area and quietly enjoy your food- appetizer, salad, main course, and desserts. The variety of salads is quite intriguing.  You may choose any variety of meat or fish with boiled vegetable and mashed potato or any other combination of your choice.  But to my opinion, there should have been some more variety of vegetarian preparations. My rating for the food is 4 out of 5 stars. 

                               
Elementita lake from the lodge

Verdict: For nature lovers, this is the ultimate place. If you are staying in the surroundings of Nakuru or might be other cities, then definitely make a weekend plan over here and enjoy the natural beauty over Lake Elementita. You can make a plan for visiting the Nakuru National park, Hyrax hill, Menengai crater and return to the resort in the evening thereby enjoying the warm fireplace and the sumptuous meal.   The rooms are a bit pricey but depend largely on the seasonal fluctuation. If you are fond of bird watching and enjoy a stay beside the water side, then this resort will be the most desired of your choice. My ratings for the place are 4.5 stars out of 5.