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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Great Iranian Hospitality

Iran is one of those countries that likes to please its guests. Such a country wide hospitality is difficult to imagine, but I think may be it is because they were cut off from the world for so many years or may be it is genetic. Either way, I truly enjoyed and appreciated the Iranian hospitality during my stay in Iran. I would get invited to join locals for a cup of tea, some sweets, a full meal and also stay with them for many days. Do not confuse this with ‘Taarof’, another of Iranian culture where hosts offer guests something out of courtesy. While, I was offered Taarof almost everywhere from shops to buses to hotels to streets to markets, true hospitality came in between and boy was I really floored. People stayed back and guided me to taxis. A local Iranian lady took me to the bus station and haggled the prices for me when she could have just given me directions. Almost in all cities, locals offered me to join them for a cup of tea and some sweets. I even got to stay with a super friendly local family in their house and got to explore the true Iranian culture. But, the one memory of true hospitality that remains in my head is of this chilly day at Na’in.

Super Hospitable Gaz shop Owner from Na'in, Iran

Myself, a Turkish guy and a Chinese girl, all 3 backpackers were exploring the desert city of Na’in with laden backpacks and shaking in the bitter cold and desert winds. We had decided that we would explore Na’in as part of a day trip from Toudesk Cho to Yazd. And after some 2 hours of hitchhiking, we arrived at Na’in.  We had finished exploring the Jame Masjid and had just had a cold lunch at the ruins of the Na’in citadel. After some food in us to warm us up, we were exploring through the deserted and awfully quiet alleys of Na’in when this Iranian gentleman hurriedly walked up to us and requested us to enter his shop. At first, his shop seemed like a storage place, but upon entering, I saw that this was a shop where gaz (a chewy sweet candy made from rose water, almonds, sugar and honey) was being prepared. Our host could not speak any English, but since I could understand words like (Kheyli Sard – meaning very cold) and (garm chai – hot tea), I got to understand his offer of a cup of hot tea in the cold weather.

He quickly made up a hot stove, inverted some jerry cans and made us three backpackers sit around the fire. While the water on the stove got warmed up, he offered us gaz, honey, sugar and almonds to munch on. It was his way to warm us up before the tea was ready. He asked where we were from and was interested to know that none of us were European travelers. He spoke about how he grew up in this desert town, has 2 sons and 2 daughters and how he manufactured gaz in this shop of his. By then, the tea was ready and he offered us 3 glasses of hot tea and some gaz candy to go with it. After our first glass of tea, our host offered us a tour of his small gaz shop, the storage and even showed us how gaz is made.

We loved our conversations with him so much and the fact that we were nice and warm and glowing after I don’t know how many glasses of tea and gaz, each one of us bought some gaz candy souvenirs from his shop for extremely attractive prices. In fact, the gaz candy from here was so good that my other local Iranian friends to whom I offered these as gifts were surprised at this high quality gaz.

It is such warm hospitality that warms my heart and makes me travel more off beat and not so popular travel destinations. The people of Iran, you will always have a special place in my heart. And this gaz shop owner sure did warm us with his tea, gaz and hospitality on a bitterly cold Na’in day.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Story of Iranian Door Knockers

One of the most interesting things in travel for me is to connect the dots with respect to religion, history, culture, traditions, languages and basically the very essence of why we are the way we are today. Iran is one of those countries with a rich past and its embargo with the outside world has ensured that it has kept its culture and traditions prevalent even to date.

When I was backpacking for a month through this gorgeous country, I saw door knockers such as in the below photograph at many locations across the country. Initially, I thought it was a design element, but when I kept seeing the same design on the main doors of houses across the country, I knew there had to some reason and that’s when I checked with the locals to find the answer. The answer lies in the religion of Iran, where men are not supposed to see the faces of the women other than his mother, wife, daughter or close family.



Outside their home, the women of Iran wear a Chador (gown to cover their body and face) and a Roosari (Scarf to cover their head) and hence have no problem in being in the same environment as the men. However, at home, they are in more comfortable conditions and hence are without their Chador and Roosari. In that case, if any guest comes to their house, the women need to get dressed again before greeting their guest. If it is a woman, the covering up becomes an overkill and if it is a man and if they are not covered, then it becomes a problem.

To solve this problem, the Iranians keep 2 different knockers on their doors. If a man comes, he knocks the door knocker that looks like a thick bar of metal. This knocker sends a sound into the household that tells the people inside the house that their visitor is a man. So, either the man in the house greets the male visitor or the woman gets dressed up and greets her visitor. In case, the visitor is a woman, she knocks on the knocker that is circular or heart shaped and that has a hole in the middle. Again, this knocker sends a different sound inside the house and the people know that it is a woman. So, the woman of the house does not worry about dressing up and comes out as is to greet her female visitor.

Both these knockers symbolize the male and female genitalia. In smaller towns and villages, you will see the more authentic and large knockers on the big wooden doors, but in the cities, some houses do not have it and if they do have it, they have smaller knockers on their main door.

It is such stories that make travel so much more intellectual for me. Do you agree? Do you like such unique cultures? Is there anything from your travels that stands out in your head?

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Handy: Best Travel Invention in recent times

On my recent trip to Singapore when I stayed at the Ibis Bencoolen, I was greeted to a special experience on entering my hotel room. Normally, I would just throw my bags on the floor and relax on the bed for a while. This time around, I was surprised to see a Google Nexus 4 phone called ‘Handy’ next to my bed and shining under the light of the bedside lamp. How often do you see a mobile phone on checking into a hotel room? This was my first and with piqued curiosity, I looked closer at the phone and found that it offered a whole lot of stunning features and functionality.

Handy Travel Phone

It offered me with:

1) Unlimited local and international calls

2) Unlimited 3G mobile internet, which was at pretty high speeds and through which, I could form a mobile hotspot and tether my other devices.

3) A helpful travel guide of Singapore that included maps, restaurants, shopping, hotel directory and much more.

4) Hotel numbers on fast dial in case I get lost in the city or am unable to find my way back to the hotel.

5) And all the features and applications that we normally use on our phones, all fully loaded.

And the best part is that all these cost only 15 SGD per day. If I had to get a local sim, I would have had to pay a fee for it. And then, I would have had to activate data, international calling and much more. And all this would cost me additional. When I normally make international trips, I make calls back home, I need to access the internet for work, for maps and for using the apps on my phone.

I used this phone thoroughly for 24 hours : made calls to India, made local calls to my friend, called the hotel desk many a time, used the 3G for maps, created a wi-fi hotspot and connected my laptop and my phone to it, used the restaurant guide, used the night clubbing guide and much more. I really thrashed the features of this phone and was super happy with the results.

I feel that the Handy is ideal for short business trips and for short holidays as it will work out much cheaper if you are the call and data indulging type. And fairly cheap even if you use some features. It also allows you to use your local phone for emergencies or incoming text. The tethering feature also allows you to stay connected on the move. The only drawback is one that is with all smartphones, which is battery life and which you can counter by carrying an additional battery back.

Right now, this service is available at some hotels in Singapore and Hong Kong. I think with a strong travel invention such as the Handy Travel Phone, that day is not far away when we will find it at many hotel chains across the world. If I hear right, the Handy is coming to India too. That day would be a special one for the Indian hospitality industry.

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ibis Bencoolen: Fantastic 3 Star Economy and Value Hotel in Singapore

Won’t it be nice to have the luxuries of a 5 star hotel for the price of a 3 star? Well, that is what the Ibis Hotels swear by and which I figured out on my recent stay at their Ibis Bencoolen property in the heart of the business and cultural district of Singapore. This below hotel review is based on this recent experience of mine.

Merlion - the icon of Singapore

1) This hotel says it will ensure a good night’s sleep for you. They provide super comfortable beds and soft pillows, a sound proof room and a room that can be made totally dark. I think this is one of the top perks of this hotel.

2) The basic rooms might be a bit small, but they are packed with all the necessary amenities of a larger hotel, like comfortable surroundings, hot showers, hair dryer, iron box and board, television, mini bar, temperature controlled environment, wi-fi, tea/coffee service and more.

3) They offer free breakfast in the morning that is quite elaborate and a in-house restaurant for other times. They also offer room service.

4) They are one of those eco friendly hotels who care about the environment and hence offer free glass bottles with filtered water, energy efficient lighting and accessories that prevent wastage of water. If you are the eco friendly type, you will definitely like these features.

5) The hotel is located right next to the Bugis MRT station and hence has great location value. The central business district, the Orchard road shopping district and most of the cultural attractions are located at close walking distance from the hotel.

6) The hotel’s support staff and front desk are very customer service oriented and are always eager to help you out.

7) For all the above, the cost for a big, yet basic room is less than INR 7000, which is quite a good price considering the location, facilities and 3 star status of this hotel.

I really liked the features of this hotel and found it to be total value for money. If you are a couple on a holiday to Singapore or on a business trip and are looking for economy 3 star hotels that tilts towards luxury, the Ibis Bencoolen should be a great option for you.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Top Travel Grooming Accessories for Men

Grooming is an integral part of everyone’s life these days. It makes us look and feel good, thereby increasing our confidence levels. Most of us keep a lot of grooming accessories in our bathroom closet, but somehow forget to take it with us during our holidays or business trips. Women seem to take care of their grooming needs well, but most of us men seem to give it a miss. And we end up spending a lot of money to procure it from local markets or we end up looking unkempt. If you wish to avoid these two broad problems and also ensure that you have no problems with airport security or baggage weight, you can follow these handy tips based on my many days of travel experience. If planned well, all of these will fit into a small travel pouch or toiletries kit.

Men's Travel Grooming Accessories 

Hair, Beard and Moustache

Beard Trimmer
Facial hair is trending these days, but it has to be well groomed to attract the right attention. It is here a beard trimmer comes in handy and is one of my favorite grooming accessories. Depending on your choice, you can pick up small ones with low battery backup or big ones with a lot of battery backup. Personally, I use a multi level beard trimmer from Panasonic that gives me about 8 hours of beard trimming battery and one that holds charge even for as long as 30 days.

Shaving Razor and Blades
Most men do not forget to carry their razors, but forget to carry enough blades. In most places, you will find the blade of your choice, but in some you won’t and that can lead to a rough shave. As long as your razor is not a knife edge razor or one that works on old age blades, it will pass through airport security in cabin bags.

After Shave Balm
This is another accessory that most of us men forget to carry with us on our trips. A good after shave balm goes a long way in keeping our face well moisturized and protects us from cuts. If you are going on a short trip, I would recommend putting your after shave into a small squeezo bottle or tube.

Scissors
A pair of scissors go a long way in keeping your moustache and beard well groomed. The only problem is carrying it in cabin baggage. Do ensure that you pack it into your check-in baggage else you will face trouble while clearing airport security.

Small Comb
A comb comes in handy to groom your hair and while trimming your beard and moustache. This is again something that we forget to pack in our toiletries kit.

Shaving Cream, Gel or Foam
This is required if you shave regularly, but if you pack a good moisturizing soap and a good after shave, you can give it a miss. If you really like your shaving cream, then make sure you carry it in gel form and in small quantities. A 50g gel tube will last you many months. Personally, I think foam is not a good idea as they come in pressurized containers (that can rupture in transit) and are bulky.

Shaving Brush
Personally, I prefer carrying a shaving brush in my kit. Call me old school, but I feel that it comes in super handy and prevents me from making my hands messy. It also ensures that a little bit of shaving gel goes a long way in producing a lot of lather.

Moustache Wax and Moustache Comb
If you like to keep your handle bars or take pride in your moustache, a moustache comb is an essential accessory. Moustache wax is also great if you wish to keep your moustache in one place. I use the ClubMan moustache wax and comb.

Hair Styling Gel
An important accessory for those who like to keep their hair in one place. These days, it is used by many men and is easily available in small boxes or tubes. 

Skin Protection

Sunscreen
Personally, I am one of those skin types that don’t burn and I am already very tanned so I don’t use sunscreen lotions, but most of you are not like me. If you do not wish to get burnt or if you do not wish to tan too much, having a sunscreen lotion in your toiletries pouch is an absolute essential.  Depending on your location, carry SPF 15, 30, 45, 60,90 or 120. These days sunscreen lotions are available in wide varieties waterproof, whitening, moisturizing, etc., so depending on your need and location, you can take your pick.

Hand Cream
Different weather conditions, dirt, water and pollution can make our hands lose their sheen.  A hand cream helps in getting this sheen back. It can also be used as a backup moisturizing option. Not an essential, but a good to have. Personally, I use the shea butter hand cream from L’Occitane.

Moisturiser
These days, most hotels (with the exception of luxury and 5 stars) do not provide any moisturizing or body lotion. Hence, it becomes essential to have some in our grooming kit. The last thing we want is to go meet people with flaky or grey skin. You can either buy small packs or buy a large pack and a small travel pouch and keep replenishing it. The latter helps you save on cost while keeping the baggage weight the same.

Lip Balm
The lip balm or chapstick is one of the most under rated skin protection accessories. While traveling, we see a lot of different environments and weather in a short duration and the first thing that gets affected are our lips. It is in such situations that lip balms are fully appreciated. Personally, I use the Moisturizing lip balm from L’Occitane.  

Nail Hygiene

Nail Clipper

Most men forget to pack a nail clipper in their toiletries kit and we end up borrowing it from others. I have done this and this is not something that I would recommend. If personal hygiene is important, I would recommend carrying one for personal use. The nails also look good when these are around. 

Smell Good


Perfume
According to me, a good perfume is an integral part of a man’s grooming kit. It comes in handy for date nights, late night parties and especially when you have women around you. You can either purchase travel size bottles or buy small travel perfume spray bottles that you can keep refilling.

Deodorant or Anti-Perspirant
A deodorant is always present in my grooming kit. For a trip to tropical countries, it is an absolute necessity. Even though deodorant sprays are easy to use, I don’t like pressurized containers in my checkin baggage as they can burst any time due to the heat at airports or in the boot of cars and buses. I prefer roll on deodorants. You can opt for an anti-perspirant if you are meeting someone outdoors and are wearing dark clothing. 

Oral Hygiene

Toothbrush
How many of us have forgotten to carry our toothbrush with us on our trips? It certainly can be a huge pain if you forget.To avoid this situation, I keep a spare toothbrush in my travel kit.

Toothpaste
If you are used to a certain type of toothpaste, it is best to carry your own on your trips. Like with the toothbrush, I carry a spare one in my travel kit. For check-in baggage, you can carry large tubes, but for cabin use, you can carry only a small tube.

Dental Floss
If oral hygiene is important to you, you will pack a dental floss kit in your grooming kit. It comes in handy to get rid of those coffee/tea stains that do not go away with brushing the teeth. Most dental floss kits come in small travel friendly packs.

Shower

Shower Gel or Soap Bar
These days, most hotels (with the exception of premium luxury or 5 stars) do not give good quality soap. Most of the times, my skin becomes super dry after using them. Sometimes they smell too feminine. And which is why I opt to carry my own. I prefer soap bars to shower gels, but if you want to take shower gels, carry them in travel friendly bottles. And if you opt for a soap bar, carry a soap box along.

Face Wash
The one thing that you will miss most while traveling is your favorite face wash. As you will be outside most of the times, your face will bear the brunt of the elements and become tired. Since you will be away from your hotel most of the times, taking a shower and freshening up is not possible always. It is here that a good face wash comes in handy, especially if you are meeting friends or family.

Hair Conditioner and Shampoo 
As I am bald, I don’t need to carry any hair conditioner or shampoo, but I am sure you would like to carry some for yourself. A good hair shampoo and conditioner in travel friendly bottle packs are good to have in your grooming kit. 

I hope this gives you a good idea of what to pack in your travel grooming kit. And do remember that all of the above should fit in a small toiletries kit or bag.  Please do not carry large bottles or pressurized cans. They cause more problems than you can expect.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

20 Must-Do Experiences in Queensland, Australia

I have recently returned from a trip to Queensland, Australia’s sunshine state and I have to say that I enjoyed my 2 weeks in that state thoroughly. It’s greenery, sunshine, beautiful coastline, pristine beaches, rainforests, waterfalls, wildlife,adventure sports and reefs kept me enthralled all throughout. It is a destination I would definitely return to as I would love to relive these experiences many more times. Below is a list of my top 20 experiences from Queensland as I traversed Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Cairns, Artherton Tablelands, Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. They should definitely come in handy while planning your Queensland holiday.

Top Experiences of Queensland, Australia

Hold a Koala

Holding a Koala at Queensland
Did you know that the Koala hugs you as you hold it in your arms? Well, you have to try holding this super adorable animal in your arms to see it for yourself. This is one of the top experiences for me and one that will be appreciated by people of all age groups.

Feed a Kangaroo
Feed a kangaroo at the Australia Zoo, Sunshine Coast
Seeing a Kangaroo in itself is quite a sight for us non-Australians, but what if we could feed them from our very open palms? How cool would that be? If you wish to get closer to these beautiful marsupials, then try the Australian Zoo at the Sunshine Coast. These guys they take care of the animals well and allow you to get close to them.

Go Boomerang!
Hand Made Australian Boomerang
I am sure all of us know what the boomerang is, but how many of us have actually tried our hands at one. The Aboriginal Australians used the boomerang for hunting purposes. They still design hand made boomerangs that you can buy and throw in the air. If you get it right, the joy of the returning boomerang will be immense.

Learn Surfing
The Gold and Sunshine Coasts are one of Australia’s surfing hubs. It is super fun to balance yourself on a board and ride the first wave. And the best part is that both these places has a great surfing culture and that includes surf clubs and surfing lessons.

Indulge in Ocean Jet Boarding at Mooloolaba
This is one of the newer adventure sports of the world. You are strapped into a batmobile’esque kind of boat that has 800 horsepower or more and then you go and play tantrum with the waves. There are spins and there are sways. There is acceleration and there are side lifts. It is a theme park like experience in a boat and one that will take your breath away. As far as I know, there are only 2 places in Australia which offer this service and one of them is at Mooloolaba.

Climb SkyPoint Q1, Gold Coast
270m high adrenaline rush on the gold coast
You will get a huge adrenaline rush as you embark on Australia’s highest external building climb. At 270m above sea level, this is one of the highest external climbs in the world and one that offers 360 degree views of the sensationally beautiful Gold Coast, its canals and its long beaches.

Scuba dive at the Great Barrier Reef
Green Island from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is an iconic name and one that needs no special mention. A scuba dive on any of its world heritage reef sites is a must-do. The sight of the colourful marine world inside the reefs is quite something.

Scenic Flight over the Great Barrier Reef
Getting close to the marine life of the coral reefs is definitely a special experience, but seeing the coral reefs from above in the sky is very special too. Most of the pictures that we see about turquoise or emerald reefs is taken from the sky. So, why not we see such sights with our own naked eyes. Hop on a scenic flight from Cairns and appreciate the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef for a full 45 minutes as you fly over many islands and coral reefs.

Go Sailing off Queensland’s Coastline
With its super long coastline and good weather for most of the year, Australia is famous for sailing. One of the most Australian ways to explore the east coast is on a sail boat. If you have time at hand, you can move from one destination to the other on a sail boat and if you don’t have enough time, you can simply indulge in a sailing day trip.

Visit the Oldest Rainforest in the World
Trekking in the rainforests of Queensland
It is believed that the Daintree rainforest in the northern part of Queensland is more than many millions of years old. It is also the only rainforest that opens out to a sensationally beautiful white beach. There are gorges. There is beautiful wildlife to see, especially the likes of cassowary and the aura of staying in an old, yet pristine rainforest.

Swim under Australia’s most Photographed Waterfall
Millaa Milla Waterfalls of Australia
The Millaa Millaa waterfall in Artherton Tablelands is possibly one of the most scenic waterfalls that I have ever set my eyes on. It has been the location for many Ad shoots and that is why it earns itself the title of Australia’s most photographed waterfall. Swimming under such a scenic waterfall is quite something. And did I tell you that you can also walk behind this waterfall curtain?

Climb the Story Bridge at Brisbane
Story Bridge and the Brisbane River
One of Brisbane’s iconic bridges, the Story bridge towers over the Brisbane River, the soul of Brisbane. If you feel like adventure and wish to soak in some of Brisbane’s beautiful skyline and river life views while making your heart beat wildly, then the Story Bridge climb is for you. Like the SkyPoint climb, this one is also extremely safe and offers immense adventure.

Explore Brisbane from the River
Brisbane as seen from the CityCat on the River
Like I said before, the Brisbane river is the soul of the capital city of Queensland. Its energy, its pools, its bridges and mostly the entire city revolves round the city. A trip to Brisbane is not complete without exploring the city from the river. On a cruise, you will see the University of Queensland, the residential quarters, the central business district, the south bank, the sensational bridges over the river, the port area and most of Brisbane’s top attractions.

Visit the Theme Parks of Gold Coast
If you are an adventure seeker, you are bound to love the theme parks of Gold Coast. DreamWorld, Movie World, SeaWorld,Wet n Wild Gold Coast and White Water World have so many thrilling rides that you will enjoy every bit of it.

Enjoy the taste of a Flat White
Australia is not the world for Espressos and Cappuccinos, but for flat whites. The non frothy and caffeine strong Flat White is Australia’s favorite. You should go get yourself one at any of the leading coffee outlets of Queensland.

Cruise the Canals of the Gold Coast
Canal System of Gold Coast, Australia
Did you know that the Gold Coast has more canals than Venice? And did I tell you that the Gold Coast canal system is insanely scenic? It is an immensely pleasurable experience to hire a boat and cruise through the canal system of the Gold Coast.

Spend a relaxed Beach Holiday at Noosa
A relaxed beach holiday
Noosa is a small beach hamlet on the Sunshine Coast. If a relaxed beach holiday is on your mind, then Noosa would fit that bill like a dream. You can swim, surf, relax, read a book or basically do anything you’d like in this super calm beach holiday destination.

Indulge in some Fishing at the quiet waters off Twin Waters
Evening Fishing at Surf Beach, Twin Waters, Sunshine Coast, Queensland
The coast off Queensland is famous for its fishing. You can either catch it for your barbecue dinner or simply indulge in game fishing. At twin waters, the estuary ensures ample fishing options. All you need is some fishing gear, which you can either rent or bring your own.

Chomp on the Tropical Fruits
Paw Paw - a delicious tropical fruit of Australia
Paw-Paws, Pineapples, Watermelons, Red Bananas, Dragon Fruits, Rambutans, Avocado, Longan and many more exotic tropical fruits can be tasted at Queensland, one of Australia’s top tropical fruit growing states. It is a great way to beat the heat and also works as a beautiful detox.

Soak in the energy of Brisbane’s Riverside
Brisbane Riverside
Brisbane is one of those cities that has a sizzling energy and active lifestyle. People go running, cycling, swimming, rock climbing or indulge in many water sports like sailing, kayaking, jet skiing, stand up paddling and many more. If active lifestyles appeal to you, you should definitely try a bit to soak in this infectious energy and indulge in any one physical activity that revolves around Brisbane’s iconic riverside.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Elderly Woman from Abyaneh, Iran: A Travel Portrait

Abyaneh is one of those destinations in Iran that appealed to me quite a bit. Yes, it does have a scenic setting with flowing mountain ranges and mud houses, but what captivated me the most were the people of Abyaneh and their beautiful culture. These ever-smiling people used to be Zoroastrians earlier before they were forcefully converted to Islam. Today, they follow Islam, but also follow their old culture, dressing style and language. The whole village is like this.

Portrait of Old Lady from Abyaneh, Iran
In this case, this elderly woman has a roosari (scarf) like all Muslim women, but also wears a flowing colourful gown and skirt with flowers (a Zoroastrian culture) and they speak the Pahlavi language. Though, they also speak Farsi (Persian), the language of Iran. I had a great time talking with this elderly lady who helped me understand a lot of the ancient traditions of Zoroastrianism. I had a local Iranian friend to do the translation as this lady did not speak English and communicated either in Pahlavi or Persian. If you ever get the chance to visit Abyaneh, do remember to spend some quality time with the locals and get to understand their ancient culture.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Selfie from Australia’s Highest External Building Climb

This is the era of the selfie rage!! The rage is so much that the selfie sticks are one of the most used travel accessories these days. Personally, I don’t use a selfie stick, but have been very much smitten by the selfie mania. But, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that I had no selfie shots on my blog as I had been sharing it only across my various social channels. So, here goes the blog’s first selfie shot from the SkyPoint Climb, Australia’s highest external building climb. At approximately 270m from the ground and with just a body harness and steel cable for support, this climb is a serious adrenaline rush. Lasting 90 minutes, it offers 360 degree views of the sensationally picturesque Gold coast that has a long beach line, fantastic surf and innumerable canal system. From the top of SkyPoint Q1, you can also see Gold Coast’s skyline, the far way hinterland and the mountains beyond.

Climbing one of the tallest buildings in the world - Q1, Gold Coast, Australia
This selfie was taken at the very top where you could lean down and see cars as toys and people as ants. If you love adventure, love sensationally beautiful aerial views and if you want to do something out of the ordinary, the SkyPoint climb is for you. A detailed story on my experience will follow soon. Do stay tuned for more SkyPoint, Gold Coast and Australia stories.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cairn’s Northern Greenhouse: One of the Best Hostels I have stayed at!!

This was possibly one of the nicest hostels that I have stayed at in recent times. This was at Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef in the Northern part of Australia’s Queensland state. I stayed here at the Northern Greenhouse for 7 days and 6 nights and the below review is based on this recent experience of mine.

Northern Greenhouse hostel at Cairns

1) The one thing that you almost always miss in a hostel is space. But, here at the Northern Greenhouse, space is everywhere. Their rooms are huge. So are their bathrooms, their kitchen and common room. There is so much space that you forget that you are staying in a hostel.

2) The Northern Greenhouse used to be a Service Apartment. Hence, each dorm room has a fridge, a kitchen sink, a balcony and an attached bathroom, which are great luxuries to have in your hostel room. And the best part is that there are only 6 bunk beds in a large room.

3) The hostel has a lovely swimming pool that is clean and open 24 hours a day.

4) The hostel has a great common sit out area which also doubles up as the dining area, pool table area, movie arena or a simple hangout den. It is next to the kitchen where you can cook your own meals. The hostel provides you with free access to gas stove, microwave, pans, plates, spoons and other essential cooking accessories.

5) This hostel offers free tours or free barbecue dinners on most days of the week, which are very enjoyable and they come absolutely enjoyable. I took one where they took me on a half day trip to cascade waterfalls, a scenic place at about 30 minutes away from Cairns.

6) The hostel is located right in the heart of Cairns. Hence, everything is a short walk away, be it shopping malls, travel agents, supermarkets, night markets, bars, restaurants and most of the things that we travelers need.

7) The hostel offers free wi-fi to all its customers. The wi-fi works great in the common area, though it hardly works inside the dorm rooms. It works just outside the dorm rooms though.

8) The front desk of this hostel are possibly the most smiling and helpful front desk that I have ever met at any hostel. They were extremely knowledgeable about local tips and ideas, were super super helpful and were always clued onto customer service like 100%.

9) The hostel also has an in-house tour operator called ‘Friendly Travel’ who can arrange your trips and bookings, if you’d like it.

10) The hostel serves free breakfast. Though, do keep in mind that breakfast is simple cereal and milk and toast with butter, jam and peanut butter. However, if you’d like you can cook your own breakfast.

11) All the dorms are air-conditioned, come with safety lockers and hot showers. They even have extra fans in the room.

If you are planning a budget holiday to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or the rainforests on the mainland if you are using Cairns as a base, then I would seriously recommend staying at the Northern Greenhouse hostel. I am sure that you will be as happy with this place as I was.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Holiday like a Millionaire – Guide to the Upper East Side

New York’s famous Upper East Side is known for its opulence and is one of the city’s most affluent neighbourhoods. Located in Manhattan, the Upper East Side can be found nestled between Fifth Avenue, Central Park, the East River, 96th Street and 59th Street and everyone from the Kennedy family to the Rockefellers reside here, with the area being famous for having some of the highest priced apartments in New York, and one of the highest costs per square meter in the world. It became a recognizable area thanks to its appearance in numerous films and TV series including recent programmes such as Gossip Girl, which saw wealthy best friends Blake Lively and Leighton Meester regularly frequent the area.

Culture Museums
       
Culture of New York

The Upper East Side is home to a multitude of notable buildings and interesting architecture that lend themselves to the well-cultured atmosphere felt in the area’s museums and galleries.

Manhattan is home to some of New York’s most famous museums including the National Design Museum, the Smithsonian and the Copper-Hewitt. For art buffs, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the Frick Collection can be found here and the Gracie Mansion is also garners a lot of attention as it is the official residence of the Mayor of New York. The Neue Galerie houses early 20th century pieces of artwork from Germany and Austria but the area’s most famous museum is arguably the Guggenheim, where post-impressionist, impressionist, contemporary and early modern artworks can be seen.

The Whitney Museum of American Art can also be found in the Upper East Side along with one of the world’s largest brokers of fine arts Sotheby’s, to give this part of the city an unrivalled cultured ambience often referred to as the “Museum Mile”. Of course, Central Park is a melting pot of cultures where people from all over the world can be found and this sprawling park that has featured in blockbuster films such as Cloverfield and television programmes like Sex in the City and is also located in the Upper East Side.

Shopping However, there is another popular reason why many people visit New York and if you love shopping, then head to Madison Avenue, where luxury brands can be seen on every street corner including Valentino, Hermés and Ralph Lauren. Shops including Barney’s, Chloé, Michael Kors and La Perla can all be found in Manhattan, as well as other high-end designers such as Proenza Schouler, Derek Lam and La Verite. It is a veritable shopping mecca for the rich, where high quality shops are a plenty and designer names adorn every shop door.

Whether you are visiting New York to experience its culture or you want to head straight to the shops to purchase a designer handbag, the Upper East Side is hive of activity that is a playground for the super-rich and famous that everyone who visits this interesting city should explore.

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The Best Restaurants To Experience Italian Food In Milan

Milan is a city where culture is incredibly diversified. You can find people from all around the country and the truth is that basically all cuisines are represented. While you can easily locate various restaurants that offer different cuisines, you will find it a little difficult to find those that offer Italian cuisine.

Italian cuisine is all about various traditional dishes that come from every region in the country. With this in mind, let us consider some really interesting Milan restaurants that you will want to take into account in the event that you want something special. Keep in mind that some of the restaurants are included in the best food tours of Milan but the diversity of Italian cuisine is rarely properly represented through such a tour. You will want to look for the specialties you want to try.

Piedmontese Cuisine

1.
Trattoria Aurora
This restaurant is located right in the middle of Milan, close to Navigli. It is a small and quite familiar restaurant for locals, offering the best of Piedmontese cuisine. Pasta and bread here are always handmade and the Bagna Cauda needs to be considered. It is served as a fondue and is really tasty.

2. Trattoria Masuelli S. Marco
You cannot miss this location. It offers traditional Piedmontese cuisine with a special Milanese touch. The restaurant was opened an impressive 90 years ago. The style is old-fashioned, classic and guests always love the experience.

Ligurian Cuisine

1.
Pizeria Del Ponte
If you want to experience traditional Genoese focaccia at a Milan restaurant, this is the one to consider. You can easily try the Recco traditional focaccia and pizza that is made with special ingredients that come directly from Liguria. The really impressive thing here is the atmosphere. It is simply cozy and highly welcoming.

2. U Barba This is a trendy and informal restaurant. Enjoy a classic Genoese lunch and shop for some handmade pasta. Make sure that you try the trofie here. It is served with pesto sauce.

3. Osteria Via Pre The old-fashioned atmosphere is always reality here. You will feel like in an ancient restaurant. Based on traditional Genoese customs, the cuisine is 100% genuine. Try the pansotti once you are there. It is served with vegetable soup and tomato sauce.

Lombardian Cuisine

1. Al Garghet
The atmosphere here is intimate and the soft lights are welcoming. The restaurant is really comfortable and the vegetable soups are really delicious. All desserts are hand made with the use of genuine ingredients. You will also appreciate the fact that the menu is written in Milanese dialect.

2. Antica Trattoria Della Pesa
Many locals see this as the best restaurant in the city. You can taste some really great Lombardy dishes. It was opened in the year 1880 so we can say that we are looking at a historical restaurant. You can easily try a Milanese risotto with ossobuco. The atmosphere makes you feel as you are living in the past and. Just remember the fact that this restaurant is a little expensive. However, you can experience some authentic Milanese flavors that are not available anywhere else.

Veneto Cuisine

When referring to Veneto cuisine, you will want to consider La Tana Del Lupo. It has a very cozy atmosphere and you can taste the really typical polenta, which is cornmeal that is boiled into a porridge, eating baked or directly grilled or fried. You will love the fireplace as it makes the entire atmosphere more intimate and familiar.

Emilia Romagna Cuisine

1. Tigella’s
This is a fancy restaurant but the atmosphere is still cozy. Here you can try various specialties from Modena like tigelle, which go perfectly with ham and salami and is a traditional Emilia Romagna bread made with the use of flour.

2. Ristorante Da Giordano Il Bolognese
The restaurant is renowned for the delicious, genuine handmade pasta that it offers. It is a perfect location in Milan if you want some tortellini or lasagna. The traditional and familiar atmosphere is practically a place that you can easily fall in love with. Mix up the pasta with some fruits to replenish your Vitamin D doses and then go for a walk or travel to another restaurant.

Tuscany Cuisine

1. La Tavernetta Da Elio
In a very familiar and simple atmosphere you can experience traditional dishes like papa al pomodoro, which is a Tuscan soup that is usually made with bread, basil, garlic, olive oil and tomatoes. Try some trippa and make sure that you consider the restaurant if you want to taste a part of Tuscany cuisine.

2.
Ristorante Alle Colline Senesi
This is a restaurant that you have to always consider in the event that the weather is a little cold and you want something that is traditionally Tuscan. Taste their Ribollita and pici with sausages. If this is not enough, consider the Florentine steak and the spelt soup.

Lazio Cuisine

1. Nonna Maria Osteria Romana
The restaurant is quite small but you will feel comfortable. You will enjoy the lunch there if you want something that is truly genuine. If you consider a visit, the carbonara pasta has to be tried.

2. Cacio E Pepe
This is something different, offering quite a typical Roman experience, helping you to enjoy delicious artichokes, among many others. The design style is contemporary. That is interesting since most of the dishes in the menu come from Roman cuisine.

Abruzzo Cuisine

If you are looking for Abruzzo cuisine in Milan, Il Capestrano should be visited. It is interestingly arranged in 4 rooms, each dedicated to one Abruzzo region. You will find the very best arrosticini in the city. To make everything even more attractive, the dishes and the decorations are reinterpreted, becoming more modern.

Campania Cuisine

1. Friienno Magnammo
All the ingredients utilized here are fresh and genuine, according to Campania traditional cuisine. In addition, here you can shop for Campania specialties after you enjoy the traditional dishes.

2. Nisida
In the event that you are looking for one of the best pizzas in Milan, visit Nisidia. Every dish is prepared with fresh ingredients, including mozzarella di bufala or paccheri cooked with fresh tomatoes.

Keep in mind that these are just some of the Italian cuisines that are covered in Milan. Many others exist with dozens of other restaurants. Learn all that you can about the cuisines that are available so that you can enjoy something that is truly special. According to Travel Tipsor, Milan is the perfect city in Italy to experience all the cuisine that Italy has to offer. It is actually better than Rome. This is surprising to say the least. If you know other great restaurants in Milan that offer a traditional experience and that you see as being great, make sure that you comment and make a recommendation.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Iconic Road Signs of Australia: A Travel Photo

If you explore Australia by road, you are bound to come across many of its road signs that warn you of animal crossings and which request you to slow down or take care of themselves and the wildlife. These could warn you of saltwater crocodiles if you are near a swamp, a kangaroo crossing, a koala crossing, a cassowary crossing or any other of Australia’s famous wildlife. I think these road signs are an integral part of the way Australia moves and are something you would never see anywhere else in the world as this wildlife is endemic to Australia. Given that Australia has a large road network and that there are many bushlands, swamps and forests, you will see these road warning signs pretty often while driving.

Famous Road Signs of Australia
I saw this one in photo while exploring the rainforests of Kuranda in Northern Queensland. It warns drivers of a Cassowary crossing. Cassowaries are large and aggressive land birds that are found in the forests of Australia. These signs aim towards protecting the rapidly decreasing endemic wildlife of this vast country. The next time you are in Australia and hit its roads, keep an eye out for its iconic road signs.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Mentioned in Deccan Herald Newspaper

A couple of weeks ago, me and 5 travel bloggers spoke at the Social Media Week International Conference in Bangalore on how travel blogging is evolving as a profession. The audience was so curious about the monetizing part that I ended up writing an article on how to make money from your travel blog. It looks like even the media was curious about it. Yesterday, Deccan Herald mentioned me, the other travel bloggers and the SMW conference in their print and online newspaper. The article titled ‘Capturing memories through words’, written by ‘Preethi Ravi’ talks about the different facets of travel blogging, how to make money from it, how to treat it as your intellectual property and the various styles of traveling.

I have been mentioned in Deccan Herald Newspaper

As I am currently traveling through Australia, I have been unable to check out the print version of the newspaper article. Have any of you seen or read this article in yesterday’s edition of the Deccan Herald?

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Featured as a Top Indian Travel Blogger by BestIndianSites.com

It gives me a lot of pleasure to let you all know that I have been featured as a top Indian Travel Blogger by BestIndianSites.com. It feels real good to be regularly featured in the top 10 Indian travel blogger list.

Featured as a Top Indian Travel Blogger

Thank you all for your support and I hope that I can raise the bar higher. There are other top travel bloggers in this list that I would recommend you to follow. Many of them are close friends.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Great Barrier Reef from the Sky

The great barrier reef is one of nature’s best creations, is one of Australia’s top highlights and is definitely on the bucket list of most travelers. For many years, I have dreamt of seeing it up close. The last few days, I have had a chance to explore a lot of the great barrier reef and the rainforests located on the mainland. Today, I took my great barrier reef experience to another level by taking a scenic flight ride over the Great Barrier Reef.

Great Barrier Reef from the sky
Seated in a 7 seater propeller aircraft, I got to see the Great Barrier Reef from as low as 1000 feet. The green island, the Michealmas Island, Apollo G, Middle G and many other famous reefs of the Great Barrier could be seen from above. It was a tad cloudy and in spite of that, the views were really gorgeous.

Great Barrier Reef as seen from a plane from Cairns
These scenic flights are something I would recommend heavily. And especially for the Great Barrier Reef!!

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Monday, March 09, 2015

Chill Backpackers: Good Centrally Located Hostel in Brisbane

Brisbane, the capital city of sunny Queensland is a great riverside city that offers a lot of avenues for the visitor to indulge in. If you are a backpacker and looking for budget accommodation, you will either find them near the CBD or in the suburbs. Personally, I prefer staying close to the CBD as the entire riverside, the downtown, the bus stations, the train stations and most of the attractions are within walking distance and suits my style of traveling. During my recent visits to Brisbane, I stayed at the Chill Backpackers on Upper Roma Street and the below review is based on these recent experiences of mine.

1) The hostel is located at a 3 minute walk from the Roma transit station and is only a 7 minute walk to the Queen street mall and the city hall, which gives it a top proximity to most of the city’s top attractions.

2) The riverside is only a 10 minute walk away. This is a part of the city that is famous for its running and cycling tracks, cafes, arts center, parks and restaurants.

3) The hostel has a great roof top, which offers fantastic views of the Brisbane river and is a great setting for cooler evenings.

4) All the rooms in the hostel are air-conditioned and come with fully equipped shared bathrooms and toilets.

5) The only negative about this hostel is the fact that you have to pay for your wi-fi. However, the southbank CBD area by the riverside offers free wi-fi, so if you do not want to pay, you can head there.

6) The hostel reception is very helpful. The hostel has a kitchen where you can store food, cook and where you can even borrow their vessels.

7) The hostel has a movie room, pool table and desktops available for rent. These are good to have.

8) The hostel doesn’t have safety lockers in the dormitories, though they have a common locker system managed by the reception.

9) The hostel is located at a short walk from the restaurants, fast food joints, bars and pubs.

The hostel is great. It would be fabulous if it had free wi-fi and safety lockers. But, in itself, I think I like its cleanliness and definitely its proximity to the city. You can definitely look at the Chill Backpackers for centrally located budget accommodation in Brisbane.

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Friday, March 06, 2015

Discover Experiential Travel in Coorg with Plantation Trails

These days the whole travel industry is abuzz with phrases like off-beat destinations and off-beat holidays. But, in my mind, the premium form of travel is when you experience a destination and form delightfully special  memories. I call this ‘Experiential Travel’. And it includes immersing oneself in the culture, its people, its nature, its history, its food and its treasures. And did I say that you need not sacrifice on the luxury aspect.

Guided_Jeep_Drive_Through_Coffee_Plantations
Take Coorg as an example. Popularly referred to as the ‘coffee country’ or ‘Scotland of India’, it is one of the most popular getaways from Bangalore. A lot of people seek solace in its green surroundings during their holidays. But, a lot of these Coorg holiday itineraries are about exploring the attractions of Coorg. Won’t it be great if we connected closely with its coffee making industry? Won’t it be great if we connected with its indigenous people? Won’t it be so much better if we made a connection with the place and experienced it in its truest form?

Thaneerhulla Bungalow
Won’t it be a dream holiday if you stayed in traditional luxury, understood the entire coffee making process, indulged in the nature and wildlife of the Western Ghats, connected closely with the local people and gorged on the delicious food of Coorg. Isn’t that what we dream for in a holiday: luxury, top location, great food, tons of relaxation and an overall special location? The icing on the cake would be a solid local connection. It would be a one of a kind experience right?

I got to experience such a dream holiday at the Pollibetta area of Coorg when I stayed at the Thaneerhulla Heritage Bungalow, one of the luxury properties managed by the Plantation Trails, the hospitality group run by Tata Coffee Limited. I stayed in very tastefully designed traditional luxury that is located amidst many acres of coffee plantations and pristine forests. I had my own private butler who always looked into every small detail and every need of mine. I was always treated to lip smacking local foods dished out by their in-house chefs. And did I tell you that there is no other property in sight and all you have for company is oodles and oodles of greenery, omnipresent smell of coffee and sounds of the forest.

This worked like a magical holiday for me as I am one of those travelers who is a foodie, seeks quieter destinations, looks for a deep connection with Mother Nature and connects with the place through an enlightening learning experience. This learning can come through history, culture, people, food, nature or absolutely anything. I have been to Coorg like over 40 times in the past two decades, but till Plantation Trails, I never got to understand how the coffee industry worked and what it takes to get that hot brew of coffee in your morning cup.

All that changed when I went on many plantation drives as part of Plantation Trails’ ‘Bean to Cup’ program. It was on one of these plantation drives that I got to know that coffee flowers smell like jasmine, understood the differences between Coffee Arabica and Coffee Robusta, tasted the delicious ripe coffee pulp, understood the de-pulping and air drying of the coffee beans and basically learnt the beautiful process of how the seeds of one of the most exotic plants on planet Earth ends up in my cup every morning and helps me kick start my day. And it is not just coffee I got to learn about. I made an equally sound connection with vanilla, cardamom, pepper (white and black), silver oak, jack fruit and many more. I had never made such a deep connection with the plant kingdom and I absolutely loved it.

Cottabetta_Bungalow_Courtyard
The birdwatcher in me was also on overdrive mode as these plantations and the surrounding forests are full of exotic species like hornbills, minivets, racket tailed drongos, bulbuls, barbets and many more. Those early morning and late evening plantation walks were like gold dust for me. Even when you can’t spot these birds, you can still hear them and you feel like this is heaven. That is a luxury for all urban people like me who live in our concrete and glass jungles. Greenery, plantations, nature, birds and pure air is such a natural stress buster. I am one of those people who would just go to a place for that alone.

The plant kingdom and nature are my areas of interest, but I think this place is best for those who just wish to unwind and have a relaxing holiday. There are many for whom holidays are just getting away from their busy lifestyles and putting their feet up in scenic locations. All the properties of Plantation Trails are totally aligned towards these kind of holidaymakers. Whether you are a large family with children or a young couple, you will appreciate the purity of this place, its impeccable levels of service, great local food, oodles and oodles of nature and so much heritage luxury that you feel like kings and queens.

Cottabetta Bungalow Verandah Room 2 View
So, the next time, you plan a trip to Coorg, think ‘Experiential Travel in Coorg’. And when you wish for ‘Luxury Experiential Coorg Holidays’, take a look at the lovely heritage and plantation bungalows of Plantation Trails that are scattered all over Coorg.

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Monday, March 02, 2015

Travel Photo: Green Brisbane Riverside

Hello from Australia!

This is my first trip to Australia and the first city that I arrived into was Brisbane and I fell in love with her on first sight. I connect with everything about the city. It’s modern connection, it’s laidback atmosphere, its greenery and its friendly people. And the thing that I like the most is its riverside. The walking paths, the bicycle lanes, the lush tree cover on either bank of the river, the innumerable river based water sports (stand up paddling, kayaking and others), the bridges on the river, the cliffs on some banks of the river and finally the energy of the people of Brisbane as they indulge in physical activities by the river side.

Riverside of Brisbane
I am all super impressed even though this is my first day, but I have a feeling that I will spend more time here and explore this city and its riverside much more. She definitely deserves more. A great start to my Queensland trip, the first leg of my Australia visit!!

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Turkey Food Travel through this Vegetarian’s Gut

Turkey is one of those countries that is famous the world over for its delicious Kebabs. It is also one of those countries that loves its meat. But, it is also one of those countries that is insanely vegetarian-friendly and its vegetarian spread is so high that you will be spoilt for choice. Be its main course, appetizers, cold mezes or desserts, Turkish vegetarian food is such an elixir for the taste buds

Vegetarian Food in Turkey

I figured this out for myself when I trotted through different regions of Turkey cooking with locals, eating with locals, checking out local restaurants, trying out the street food and simply filling my stomach with lip smacking food. I am not talking about packaged or processed food. I am talking about fresh produce and foods that are consumed by local Turkish people in their home on a regular basis and one that is also available at the restaurants all over the country.

Dish made from Zucchini
Its Mediterranean weather and rich soil ensure that it has some of the best vegetable produce in the region and this richness provides Turkish food with all its necessary ingredients and that includes the spices too. If you head to the Aegean or the Mediterranean coast, you will actually see so many vegetarian options that you will think if you are really in a meat loving country. The fertile Anatolian region also adds to that list of breads, vegetables and fruits. The local bazaars are full of fresh vegetables and fruits. Olives, cheeses, milk, butter and nuts are available in plenty. All you have to do is consume them directly, cook it for yourself (if you know Turkish cooking) or consume it through a Turkish kitchen.

Vegetarian Turkish lunch at Istanbul
While I was on my vegetarian food trail through Turkey, I tried many of its foods and the below are some of the best options and they have been categorized across Main course, Salads and toppings, Mezes, Snacks, Cheeses, Starters, Soups, Desserts and Drinks.

Main Course

Turkish Breakfast Fresh cucumber and tomatoes, 2 or 3 varieties of cheese, especially the beyaz peynir and Labneh, homemade jams, freshly baked breads, eggs and fruits with Turkish Tea or Coffee is the perfect way to begin your day. This breakfast is a perfect combination of vitamins, fiber, carbs, fats and proteins

Breads
Turkish meal with cheese, bread, dolma and rice
Turkey is one of those countries where bread is inexpensive, delicious to eat and available in plenty and fresh all over the country.  Pide, Lavash, Bazlama, , Ebeleme, Fodla, Gilik, Tandir Bread, Somun, Tepsi Ekmegi, and Yufka are some of the names that I remember from the so many varieties that I tasted. You can eat these breads with cheese, vegetables, eggs, cooked preparations, toppings and much more.

Croissants, Doughnuts and Cookies
The croissants might have originated in France, but they are as much a staple dish in Turkey as they are in France. The Simit (sesame croissant) is an iconic croissant that is available all over the country. In fact, it is so popular that people carry it on their way to work from home on ferries (in Istanbul) and share it with the sea gulls who have also taken a liking to it. Pattiseries are present all over the country and they dish out a variety of freshly baked croissants, doughnuts and cookies that are made from different ingredients. A fantastic option for breakfast.

Menemen
Menemen
This is one of my favorite breakfast and/or lunch dishes. Menemen is a dish made up of Scrambled eggs with cheese, butter, vegetables and chillies. And it is served with bread.

Turkish Omelette
Vegetarian Turkish Meal
The Turkish Omelettes have cheese in them. They are fluffier, contain bell peppers, onions and tomatoes and are garnished with local herbs and spices. They make for a great meal all through the day, especially on colder days and nights.

Turkish Dolma
Again, a favorite of mine, it is a rice dish that is mixed with vegetables and spices and stuffed in vine leaves. It is served with olive oil and spicy or tangy sauces.

Pilav
Turkish Pilav
This is rice cooked in butter. Sometimes, garlic is roasted in butter and mixed with the rice. Or at other times, they mixed it with butter, herbs and spices.

Sevketi Bostan
Sevketi Bostan
This is an Aegean specialty that I got to try out at Denizli on the recommendation of my Turkish friend whose family hails from Tire in the Izmir region. It is a yellow flowered thistle plant that is cooked with olive oil, vinegar, chick peas, herbs and spices. It is one of those dishes for which I would travel all the way to Aegean Turkey.

Chickpeas Curry
Turkish lunch with chickpeas curry and artichokes
Boiled chick peas are cooked together with onion, tomatoes, chillies and herbs to make for a great dish that goes very well with rice.
 
Beans Curry
Spinach based Turkish dish
This is a dish that is similar to Chickpeas curry as it is made in a tomato puree with long white beans and garnished with herbs and spices.

Gozleme
This is a thin white bread that is cooked over an inverted vessel (on fire) and garnished with grated potatoes, peynir, spinach and spices. It is a great choice for a light meal.

Gozleme at a restaurnt in Pamukkale
 
Pottery Kebabs
Pottery Kebabs of Turkey
These are vegetarian kebabs (especially aubergines) that are marinated with herbs and spices and cooked inside a clay pot. The final dish is served with hot bread.

Biriyani Rice
Local fruit markets of Turkey
This is one of the famous rice dishes of Turkey where the rice is cooked with herbs, spices and oil.

Dishes with Spinach, Celery
Vegetarian Turkish Lunch
Turkish food includes two or 3 dishes that are made from Spinach, Celery and other greens. These are usually cooked with local herbs and spices.

Croquettes
Delicious Turkish snacks
This is a deep fried breadcrumbed roll that has either potato or cheese as it main ingredients.

Stuffed Eggplant
A very delicious preparation, the eggplants are roasted over a fire and stuffed with a herb and spice paste and then cooked slowly

Kizartma
A Kizartma meal at Selcuk, Turkey
When zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes and/or okra are stir fried in olive oil and served with strained yoghurt and thick tomato sauce, the dish is called Kizartma. It is great as a healthy lunch or dinner option.

Cheeses
Vegetable bazaar in Istanbul
There are a lot of cheeses available in Turkey, but during my 30 days in this country, I got the chance to try out  beyaz peynir (plain white cheese), Canakkale Izina Cheese (a Canakkale special cheese), Kashar Cheese (fresh light yellow colored cheese made from cow’s milk), Eski Kashar (aged cheese), Tulum (goat cheese), Smoked Cheese, Dil Peyniri (stringy fresh milk cheese), Labneh (cream cheese), Lor (low fat, low salt cheese curd) and Halloumi cheese. Out of these, I absolutely loved the beyaz peynir, Tulum, Labneh and Canakkale Izina cheese. These cheeses go with most of the Turkish breads when they are served fresh and hot. Labneh goes well even when the bread is cold.

Mezes, Salads and Toppings
Mezes of Turkey
The mezes and salads are something that you will enjoy all round the country with each meal of yours. Served cold, they  go well with fresh warm bread and with Raki, as part of a Raki Sofrasi session.

Haydari
This is strained yoghurt with garlic, herbs and spices.

Hummus
This is a chick peas paste with olive oil, herbs and spices.

Izmir
Izmir meze
This is green chillies in a tomato paste with herbs and spices.

Tabouleh
One of the freshest salads, this is tomato, onion and tomatoes served with parsley, herbs and olive oil.

Moutabel and Baba Ghanoush
They are mashed eggplant served with herbs and olive oil.

Cacik
This is a strained yoghurt dish with cucumber, herbs and garlic.

Patilican Salatasi
This is a cold eggplant salad.

Turkish Meze made from Beetroots
Then there are others like Fattoush, Artichoke Salad, Olives and Strained Yoghurt.

Starters

Cigarette Rolls
These are deep fried bread rolls that are stuffed with peynir and spinach.

Falafel
Turkish starters with Falafel
Falafel is deep fried chickpeas batter with some herbs.

Kabak Mucveri
These are Turkish Zucchini Fritters that are cooked with eggs, zucchini, wheat flour and herbs.

Soup
While Turkish food has a lot of soups, only a couple of them Sorbas are vegetarian. They are lentil or tomato based, are extremely delicious and go well with both rice and bread.

Desserts
Turkey is blessed with great desserts. You will be always spoilt for choice here, especially if you have a sweet tooth. I have tried many of the Turkish desserts and seem to have a fondness for most of them.

Baklava
At a baklava store in Gaziantep
This is the king of all Turkish desserts. Originating from the South-Eastern Turkish city of Gaziantep, this dessert is made from phyllo dough, pistachio nuts, vanilla, butter and cinnamon.

Ayva Tatlisi
Ayva Tatlisi dessert of Turkey
Not as heavy as the Baklava as it is made from the quince fruit, it is my favorite dessert from Turkey.

Firinda Sutlac
Firinda Sutlac
This is a cold dessert that is made from condensed milk, rice, vanilla and cinnamon.

Pistachio Khadiyif, Peynirli Khadiyif
Peynirli Khadayif
The Khadayif is in the same league as the baklava. Made either from Pistachios or Peynir cheese, it tastes best when served hot. It is extremely filling and is best had as an in-between meal snack.

Sultan Tatlisi
Made from apricots, lemon juice and whipped cream, this is also a light weight dessert.

Pistachio Dondurma
Pistachio Dondurma
Dondurmas are the local ice cream of Turkey. The one that is made from fresh pistachios is one of my favorites.

Strained Yoghurt and Honey
Strained Yoghurt with honey
This is a classic dessert of Turkey and is one of the healthiest options too.

Kunefe
Kunefe
This is a crispy cheese-filled dessert made with kadayif.

Turkish Delights
A truck full of oranges in a small Turkish village
These are Turkish candies that are flavored with rose water, lemon juice, sugar and fruits and nuts.

Snacks
Roasted chestnuts on the streets of Istanbul
As a vegetarian who needs a lot of proteins, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, you can snack on the fresh Mediterranean produce of Figs, Walnuts, Pistachios, Cashewnuts, Peanuts, Almonds, Chestnuts, Sunflower seeds and Watermelon seeds from this fertile country.

Drinks
Kumda Kahve at Karahayit, Turkey
One never says ‘NO’ to a cup of tea in Turkey. Called cay (pronounced as chai), it is like the national drink of this country and is consumed with every meal and many times between meals too. Turkish Coffee or Kahve comes a close second and follows an usage pattern similar to that of cay. 

Sahlep - Turkey's winter drink
During winter time, Sahlep, a drink made from the roots of an orchid, milk, sugar and cinnamon is extremely popular and can be found all over Istanbul, Cappadocia and other colder parts of the country. Raki, an anise drink is the national alcoholic beverage of Turkey.

Pomegranate Juice at Istanbul, Turkey
Pomegranate Juice is one of the most commonly consumed juices in the country and Orange juice comes a close second. Ayran, a salty and thin yoghurt drink is also extremely popular with locals and is my favorite too, especially on a hot day. Efes beer and local wines, especially cherry wines are other popular alcoholic beverages.

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