Travel

Being a travel photographer, lush green nature and hills have always attracted me. I find peace in the lap of nature, walking across flower blooms while enjoying the gigantic fresh smell filling my nostrils giving me a sensation of another world. A 3 days trip to Kodaikanal was a much needed getaway to take a break from work and relax.

Kodaikanal is a city of hills located at a distance of 462 kms (8 hours bus distance) from Bangalore, India. It is called as the Queens of Hills.

This trip was all about witnessing the cool weather, seeing nature through a different perspective and clicking photographs.

March 30 – April 1, 2017

Stay

We booked a hut through Airbnb in Misty Mountains. The location and the hut were eye popping and situated at the highest altitude in the city.

Day 1, March 30

We arrived Kodaikanal at 6 in the morning and booked a taxi to our stay. It was 2.5 kms away from bus station, Naidupuram. The view was so amazing and refreshing that I kept wondering why did I not visit this place before.

Our stay in Kodaikanal:

We planned to cover Kodaikanal lake, Bryat park and Coaker’s walk on first day as they were 3 kms away from Misty Mountains.

Continue reading A getaway to the Queen of Hills – Kodaikanal

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Every evening on the roof top of my hostel in Delhi, I used to see the shining airplanes going off into the thin air and wondered when I would get a chance to fly in one of these with my own capability. While that dream was fulfilled the moment I joined Microsoft, I started wondering to fly to United States in the best of airlines to feel how is it like to be in the most powerful country in the world..You can say that my dreams always get upgraded.

Being at Microsoft has its own benefits

I owned an important piece of project in Microsoft. There was a talk going on to fasten the velocity of work we were doing. Given the complexity of the project, its architecture was written in many layers few of which was coded by team at Redmond. Due to time zone difference and the critical timing, we had to act on it quickly to enhance quality of product. They decided to send me over to interact with people, understand different layers and their communication.

A sudden plan

I hardly remember traveling somewhere in such a big rush. It was 4 O’ clock in the evening when I was checking flight tickets and changing date in the calendar on the online portal to finalize which day to travel. 6 O’ clock, my friends found a flight that was to take off the next morning to Seattle and I spent next hour mentally preparing myself to fly so unprepared. It was just hard to believe that I would be traveling to US, one of my dream destinations without any preparation. My parents were asking me every other day if I bought winter apparels. I usually prefer to plan everything in advance and this time, without have a flight ticket in hand, I didn’t want. With support from my friends at Microsoft, I finally decided to give it a chance. There are few things in world for which you need not to be prepared. After all, traveling somewhere without much thinking has its own share of fun. And this was not somewhere. This was what I dreamed of long enough.

It all started with a joke. I was worried I was not getting any ticket in good airlines next week. I was tired, exhausted not a clue on what to do. “There is a flight next day at 4 in the morning. You can catch that.”

“Holy cow! This would be too early. How on earth would I be able to catch that?”

I knew they were serious when my manager said. “Actually, I think you can go.”

“But I haven’t done any shopping”, my forehead was shining with worry lines.

“It’s alright. What are the things you need? You can borrow them from me.”
My friends helped to prepare an itinerary. I literally got only 2 hours to dine and pack my bags. I usually never take more than 30 minutes to pack, but since this was my first trip to US, I didn’t want to take any chances.

It’s Emirates, baby

The moment I stepped into the flight, I got the answer why it has been coined as the best airlines in the world. The service, the infra and the experience was just amazing. It is very unlikely that you would be left unhappy after an Emirates travel. It was a 22 hours long journey with a 3 hours layover in Dubai. Being a movie buff and their huge collection of movies, I didn’t find it difficult to spend time.

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Hello from Redmond!

The flight was just on time. You might find it funny but the first thing I missed at Seattle airport was no taxi driver asking me where would I want to go. I didn’t have US Sim Card and it was freezing cold to stay for long in the open weather. There are two Marriott hotels in Redmond and I missed to mention which one I wanted to go to the local taxi. Even with a 50% chance of landing at the correct hotel didn’t work for me. Redmond is kinda a developed village. It’s hard to find anyone on the road. It was near difficult to ask someone for navigation. Luckily, the second Marriott was just a few blocks away.

Few of the pictures of the hotel:

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I learned that labor is costly in US. The gorgeous lady at the business center handed me over a map which had directions to follow my room. It’s very unlike in India that you would have to carry luggage to your room on your own in a decent hotel.

My first status update from Facebook on the arrival night.

It’s been only 11:00 PM here and I am done with sleep. It’s quite chilly outside and the roads are empty. A grave silence is there in the winds. Next couple of nights, I am gonna spend as a night crawler. I wonder if the new government would encourage vigilante. All of a sudden, I feel like I have all the time in the world and I have very less to do.
If I was not able to respond to your chats due to my busy schedule, Let’s catch up now

Being a hobby photographer, I found everything very interesting and screaming at me to be clicked.

The view outside my hotel room. As you can see, cars are parked in the open air. In the morning, the car windows are covered with a thick layer of ice.

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Just by the first look, I can say that discipline and patience flow in veins here. I never saw anyone rushing, everyone (well almost) greets you with a wide smile, cute children laughing on pavements and the most important thing – punctuality. People prefer to be on time. They dine by 8, sleep by 11 and wake up at 6.

Good morning Redmond

It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You don’t realize it until you skip dinner and have a heavy breakfast in Indian style dinner. Good morning Redmond!

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!JetLag

I was under impression that I won’t be getting sleep at usual time because of all the jet lag stories I heard. To my surprise, jet lag did magic to my schedule which I couldn’t follow even after trying for 10 years and many apps claiming to help you do so. I slept at 10, wake up at 6 and rushed to office by 8. It was just an amazing feeling. It was refreshing. I was way more productive. I never knew a good schedule can do miracles in your day to day life.

To be continued…

I have many things to share. Please stay tuned.

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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Goa was always in my “Places to visit” list. Although I have been to Goa before in an office visit, it was very different this time, less lavish and a lot more fun.

Trip duration: 4 days and 3 nights

I took a bus from Hyderabad to Panjim. You won’t feel it like a 15 hours long journey if you love writing or something else to keep you busy.

Unfortunately, I chose to travel after just 2 days Indian PM’s demonetization move. I usually don’t keep cash with me which I regretted badly in the trip. Good thing was that most of the taxi owners agreed to get the pay in form of diesel.

Stay at Simrose

Simrose is a beautiful resort situated in Agonda beach, South Goa. The stay was refreshing. The best thing Simrose offered was amazing food and pleasant view of sea waves from the resort. Their hospitality is just mind blowing and you just can’t stop appreciating them. I booked stay from Simrose website. Simrose is more beautiful at night

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Day 1 – November 11, 2016

I reached Panjim at 10:00 in the morning. I took a taxi from there to Simrose which costed 1800 INR. Agonda beach is just outside of the resort. Rest of the day I spent wandering on the beach. As an amateur photographer, I was mostly interested in shooting sunset. Sadly, Agonda beach didn’t happen to be a good place to witness sunset. Sunset was quick and the sky was dull and washed out. I managed to click few pics.

Leopard Valley

One thing that attracts tourists to South Goa is its secludeness. It is a disappointment if you are party goer and love crowd. However, there is one good thing. There is a DJ that is organized every friday and that is just 30 minutes taxi distance from Agonda. Leopard Valley is a place located amidst the forest kind of environment and if you love to lock and pop your body in loud music under the sky, this is just the place for you. I was lucky because it is closed in monsoons. And it was opened after a long break on the day I reached. Huge foreign crowd and drinks.

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Day 2 – November 12, 2016

There is a river just behind Agonda beach and after meeting few people, I came to know that it attracts mostly nature lovers. Since nature has an unparalleled beauty in the morning, I booked a boat at 7:00. It was a 45 minutes journey. The river was so calm that I felt like the boat was quitely slipping on the ice. Surrounding lush green forest on both sides habitating many birds was the icing on the cake. It was very refreshing. Few of the pics of this soothing boat ride:

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The main purpose of Goa visit was fashion Photoshoot and it started on the second day. I spent full day in shooting. It was exhausting and so much fun.

Day 3 – November 13, 2016

Third day was also spent in fashion Photoshoot. It was so exciting to witness glamour and fashion. Models were very helpful and it was easy to shoot in a pose I like.

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If you loved my work in fashion and glamour, please follow my Facebook page Instaglam for updates

Thanks to Simrose for offering such a great view. The sound of waves striking the sea coast and a bottle of chilled beer combined with mouth watering delicious aromatic food was enough to relieve the tiredness.

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Day 4 – November 14, 2016

I booked a motor boat to go to Palm beach. It was 120 minutes up and down ride. The beach had a small waterfall and a small hill. It was even less crowded than Agonda.

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Things to remember:

  • Plan early. If you’re sure about the dates you are planning to visit, book flight tickets ASAP. I procrastinated and delayed booking tickets by 10 hours, and ticket cost inflated 1.8 folds.
  • Visit South Goa if you’re looking for a place away from crowd

Copyright © 2016, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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