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Oman:Visa,History,How To

                         Beautiful Places Never Die,They Become More Beautiful Over the Years
 
I often wonder what is important in a place more, its historical relevance or just the sightseeing places which we often mark down with a sense of achievement in our maps, tweets and tags and feel most content with. How many of us delve deep enough to really know a place, some places are really worth diving deep in. And once I dived in the vast sea of information on Oman provided by Kaes and Mohammed from Zahara Tours and of course Oman Tourism, more and more intriguing facts started coming up.To read all my Previous Posts on Oman Click

Today morning, I thought let's skip history and plunge in straight to Muscat, Nizwa and Sur which are main cities/or rather cities I visited but later realized how important it is for you to know what is behind what you see, or rather going to see. And to be honest, History was the subject I hated the most back in High School but the world history is definitely beyond the textbooks, it’s damn interesting. Let's begin with Visas (I know it's imp!), currencies bit of local lingo and history and to not make you feel sleepy with this, lets discuss this quick event which I don’t know how many of you know about.

Did you know??

Perched High Above the Gorge at Wadi Shab near Sur in Oman, Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series took place in 2012.

Now that I have given you the hint that it's not going to be a boring the same old usual stuff, let’s begin with the visas and other stuff quick quick quick.

Oman Visa Process

To be frank and also suggested, the best way to get visa is through an Indian Tour Operator/Local Operator to Oman . That means you can either book your visa through reputed Travel Agent like Thomas Cook, Cox and Kings and the like or local travel agent such as Zahara Tours(which we used). To enter the country, you need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months .A resident of India, holding an Indian Passport can get an electronic visa (E-visa) through an Indian Tour Operator. To identify the different types of visas, please visit the Royal Oman Police website which is as http://www.rop.gov.om/visa/english/onlineservices_visaapplication_main.aspx


I wouldn't recommend the use of Travel Agents for Europe(I would be writing about Schengen Visa shortly since I am visiting Spain in May) or UK but with Dubai and Oman it gets simpler.

Oman Visa Documents

  • Scanned Copies of passport valid for at least six months.
  • Scanned Passport Size Photographs
  • Return Ticket and Hotel Confirmation from Oman
  • Visa Processing takes about 4-6 working days (Fri Sat are non working days in Oman)
  • Single Entry Visa up to 10 days cost OMR 5 and
    Single Entry Visa with stays of 10 days to a month costs OMR 20.
Oman Currency

                                                                    Spend Wisely in Oman

1 Omani Rial = 156.61 INR(Current Rate as of 17/04/2014)
1 Omani Rial = 1000 Baisa
Since the amount is huge, you need to careful about how much you spend because you wouldn't know when you do so. We exchanged currencies at a State Bank of India in Muscat from Dollar to Rial. In that Bank, we also had exchange options as Indian Rupee to Rial.Although currency is on the higher end,you would find comparative prices everywhere,like Dish dashas(local dress for men) comes for 5 Rials,Caps for 1 Rial at the souk.

Omani Local Network

It's important I know. Most of us Indians have a habit of talking to our friends, lovers, family .When abroad best is to use Skype. I hardly use Skype(I limit my internet to bare minimum when I travel). I usually buy Sim from the Airport or the local joints. In Oman its best to buy Sim at the Airport. I bought the SIM for 2 Rial with incoming free and free internet. Just to tell you Dollar wasn't acceptable at the Sim Card booth center at the Airport, and I had to borrow money from someone. You can also exchange Dollars with Rial at the Airport for the amount you need for SIM and rest at the city center.

Official Language

Is Arabic. But English is widely spoken and understood. Many of them even understand Hindi because we have many Indians settled there.

Local Time

GMT + 4 Hours

How to Reach Oman: Air Tickets,Road ways


The national carrier of Oman is Oman Air which is a convenient flight costing around 18k +.The other options are Air India (20k +) from Bangalore.Muscat is also 5 hours 30 minutes by road from Dubai.


History: The Origin of Oman

Oman came from a name called Uman. Uman is believed to have originated from the Arab Tribes who migrated to its territory from the Uman Region off Yemen to Magan(a name thought to refer to Oman's Ancient Copper Mines).Many tribes settled in Oman making a living by fishing,herding,stock breeding as there was no border between Yemen and Uman.

Oman had a pure Red Flag until 1970.The name of the state with the Red Flag was 'Muscat and Oman'. Muscat was the eastern Arabia not Oman. Oman was the interior part ruled by Imam who never ruled Muscat. When they both co-operated the name was changed to 'Muscat and Oman' and after the defeat of Imam, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said changed the name to Sultanate of Oman. When Sultan came into power, he did not wanted to keep the Flag colour as only red which symbolises power and changed it to 3 colours which is the present flag of Oman - Red, White and Green. To know what these flag colors mean in detail click: The Meaning of The Oman Flag Color

History: The Indian Ocean Trade and Oman

                    Frankincense is also one of the ingredients in the most Expensive perfume Amouage

I know how your face lights up with that one word India! But how does India in any way connected to Oman, you wonder?


As far back as 5000 BC, southern Oman(now called as Dhofar) was the centre of Frankincense trade. This highly priced commodity produced from aromatic sap of the Frankincense tree was traded for Spices from India and was carried by caravans all across Arabia. Frankincense is found only in Salalah (which is north of Oman) because you need lot of Humidity for the plant to grow and survive. The Monsoon(Khareef Season) in Salalah comes from India because we have Indian Ocean There.

Did you know?
Two brave women to sail India to Oman across Arabian Sea .To know more click here

                                                         The Hint of Gujarat in Muscat


In Olden days, these traders would rely on to the fixed schedules of monsoon that would easily transport the Dhows with the wind. The oldest trade lines hence was with Kutch, you would still find traces of Swahili Carvings and Khimjis in Muscat and rest of Oman. In fact one section of Muscat near the Muttrah Souk has Gujarati Styled Buildings dating back to 1930's and 1940's.We will also discuss the stark resemblance in cultures like the institution of Marriage in the upcoming post on Muscat. We will also discuss about Dhows when we discuss Sur. We will discuss about Frankincense too a little more, and where can you get them in detail.

 History: The Influence of Portuguese, Persia, Iran, Zanzibar, Gulf

                                           The Carvings by Portugese at Nizwa Fort

When you are in Oman, you will cherish the hint of different cultures wrapped into one while retaining its originality. The Portuguese Ruled Muscat for 140 years, they were there in 1500's so that explains where Oman has so many Portuguese Forts. The Persians ruled Oman for the longest time from the 1st century till the 10 th century, the Arabian architecture is inspired from Iran and Persia. The Cap are from Zanzibar. Originally Omanis wore Turbans before the 10th century; they started wearing caps when they bought the slaves from Zanzibar during the sea trade between Oman and Zanzibar. Till 1964,the king of Zanzibar was an Omani.

Oman enjoyed further prosperity in pre- Islamic times also through the trading of copper .Indeed, Oman is referred in some sources as Mountain of Copper and there are evidence of vigorous trading between Oman and other Gulf Countries.

The Renaissance of Modern Day Oman:The Rise of Sultan

Did you know ?
As per the Global Peace index of 2007,Oman was listed 22 which was even 3 positions higher than Australia!


As per the people of Oman, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said is the most respected and the wisest of all who has given his heart and soul to the development of country since he took over the authority from his father in 1970.Before 1970, Oman had 3 schools, no roads, no buildings, no nothing. His Majesty,Sultan Qaboos Bin Said was born in Salalah and he received his primary and secondary education in Salalah and at Pune, in India, and was sent to a private educational establishment in England at age sixteen. At the age of 20, he entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. After passing out of Sandhurst, he joined a British Infantry regiment, The Cameronians, and was posted to the 1st Battalion in Germany for one year and also held a staff appointment with the British Army.

After his military service, Sultan Qaboos studied local government subjects in England and, after a world tour, returned home to Salalah where he studied Islam and the history of his country. The first oil extraction happened in Oman in 1957 by Iraq Petroleum Company but it was only after 1970's that it was exported to Korea by Oman.

To get a quick glimpse before 1970 watch the video:


And now, Oman has everything which a modern country should have. The best of rules, regulations ,roads, facilities, schooling which is compulsory for everyone. In fact I was stunned to know Oman now has 1050 fully equipped schools with 600,000 boys and girls studying. The Sultan believes in peace and making peace around the world, hence Oman shares a very cordial relationship with its neighbors including Yemen and Iran .Mohammed from Zahara Tours told us he met Sultan when he was 15years old as they were staying behind the Palace. The Sultan once in a year does "Meet the People" trips where he himself with the ministry ask the people for their problems, get to the root of it, and solves it then and there.

That's it for today.I know its heaps and bounds of information over there, but I guess it’s better than those just about going anywhere suggestions. As you read through Muscat,Nizwa and Sur you would know its significance :) Till then, Shukran(Thank You).We will discuss the Vocabulary in the next post as we travel through interiors of Muscat Plus a video on Oman in the coming blogposts.

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Top 25 Interesting Facts About Oman

The Contrasts in Oman is worth visiting once in a lifetime.
@Oman,Beach of Ras al-Jinz Turtle Reserve,yes the stories on nesting the Turtles are soon to begin
for we stayed in camp and saw 5 Turtles Nesting
Previous Blog Posts: A Warm Hi From Oman
Click on the image to know what I wore
  

1)Oman has no Income Tax & no Sales Tax.Whoa Relief!

2)Oman runs on Oil and Liquefied Natural Gas.In Oman,with 1 US Dollar you can buy 4 Liters of Petrol.

3)With no Taxes and plenty of Oil,the cars are very very cheap.Hence public conveyance in Oman is almost non-existent.Everyone owns a car.

4)Oman is having one of the best Road Network in all the Gulf Countries.Ah! with this I take you through the video I created on Roads in Oman taking you through Main Roads,Deserts,Riverbeds(Wadis) and everywhere else.Hope you enjoy :)




5)In Oman,there is Left hand drive and no honking is allowed.Also if your car is found to be dirty by the authorities,you have to pay minimum fine of 10 Rials.

6)The Taxis have rates for fixed main routes and it doesn't go by meter.The taxis are cheap.But if you want to go to an interior street,you have to pay extra.

Dancing Dunes @ Sand Stock 2014,Oman
A night with Music to dance our blues away in the sand. 

7)Oman is 1400 kms with 9 hours by car,13 hours by Bus and 1 Hour 45 Minutes by plane.

8)In Oman you get a large chunk of land(costing approx 100 Rials) as a gift by the administration on
your 24th Birthday irrespective of whether you are a girl or a guy.Earlier,the age was 18 but people use to sell the property and buy a car.

9)When you build a house in Oman;from foundation to the painting the administration checks 6-7 times each and everything.You don't need permission to color homes white.Whereas for other colors,the permission is required.That explains why Oman is oh so white!

10)Every year,the Indian Navy is in Oman to train the Omani Navy.Last year in 2013,they stayed for 6
months.

11)Omanis live by Fwala.Their age old tradition of greeting with Omani Coffee and Fresh Dates.

12)The Four Prominent Colors of Oman are Blue(Healing Properties),Green(Islam),White(Peace) and Red (Monarchy)

                                    Opulence at its best at Royal Opera House @ Oman
                                          Click on the image to know what I wore!

13)Electronic Items are very very cheap in Oman like LED,LCD,Camera Watches.

14)You can camp anywhere in Oman

15)Oman is one of the peaceful and safest countries which has no wars with any other Gulf countries
including Yemen and Iran.

16)Muscat has been the Arab Culture Capital and has countless cleanest Arab City Awards in its Kitty

17)In Oman both men and women usually know how to drive and owns a license.Mohammed from Zahara Tours had his sisters working in Banks,Ministry and Insurance.By and large,women are educated and well to do.

                                               The Idea of Stay in Oman is always Grand 
                  The Infinite Pool with the Sea @Al Bustan Palace,Oman where we stayed

18)Irrespective of their modernity in thoughts,Omanis are very culture driven.Their traditional dress is
Dishdasha(for men) and Hijab(for women).However,there is no compulsion on how anyone should dress except the office,mosque and formal to dos.The tassel around their neck in Dishdashas usually has Itr(Fragrance) which men use when they don't like the smell at any place.

19)Omanis marry early by about 21.However,there is no such rule on who should they marry,when should they marry and how should they marry.They can marry within their communities or outside.They are also allowed to mingle with their male peers(although no PDA's are
allowed in most places).

20)Omanis enjoy unemployment benefits such as the government pays 220 rials for those who are
unemployed and search three jobs for them to choose from in 6 months.

                   Wadis are uniqueness of Oman.Me, swimming in Wadi Bani Khalid @ Oman

21)50% of Oman goes to India for Medical Treatments as Medicals in India are cheaper.

22)In Oman,you can practice all religion freely including Hindu,Muslim and Christian.

23)Oman has 8 million Date Palms.Dates are integral part of Oman where the palms are woven into
mats,coverings for food,baskets and even brooms.

24)His Majesty,Sultan Qaboos Bin Said tours the various cities of Oman once in a year in Meet-the-
People-Tour.In that,he understands their needs and requirements and fulfills them with the
administration.

25)There are more than 500 forts,castles and watch towers in Oman.

There are plenty more interesting facts,which I will reveal in upcoming posts.If you know of any more,ping me down, just here in the comment Box :)

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Dubai:Skydive,Souks,Malls

Rediscovering Dubai:The Other Side Of It

Ever since I have been back from my trip to Abu Dhabi ,Dubai and recently Oman;something in my heart has changed miraculously.I have starting loving the disparities in culture and can easily convince myself that the modern with the traditional can coexist peacefully.Respect is the word for Dubai for what it has achieved in the recent past.For all posts on Dubai click:Dubai_All_Posts

During my return flight by Qatar,I could very well see how Doha is coming up as a new hub of tradition + modernity in the 1 minute video they showcase while one of the journalist in my recent trip to Oman said Bahrain is a great place to be at.The whole of Middle East is on a spectacular rise,and offer more than a dull lackadaisical perception many have.I wonder why?Because there is so much to explore,and so much to know.For example,before Oman I never knew what Indian Ocean Trade was and Never knew that we all are so connected literally.But we are,it's a small world,and each of us are one - way - or -another been part of it.


                                             I love to play an arc @ Skydive Dubai
                   /* Click here to read where I did my first Skydive - None other than India */
   Flash News on Dubai:Dubai skydiver breaks world record for jumping with smallest parachute

If you ask me what has made me write a post again on Dubai,I would say the picture below which I randomly found in my hard drive.Quite recently ,I have traveled to another gem in the middle east namely Oman(Read here why Oman is my favorite country of all the 10 countries I have visited).Dubai is highly cosmopolitan and when you enter by car from Abu Dhabi to Dubai,you will spot intricate designs on the buildings(very Arabesque,Moghul like and then it changes to tall posh Skyscrapers with glittering glasses on their window panes).I like Abu Dhabi for the Corniche and the peaceful lifestyle while Dubai for the Speed and the Glitter.In the last blog post we had discussed about Visas,Where to Stay,How To Travel,Desert Safari and the very usual to-dos.In last-to-last post we discussed about Abu Dhabi and why you should visit both Abu Dhabi and Dubai together or better still Dubai,Abu Dhabi and Oman together as they are all peaceful neighbours.You wouldn't forget the experience because each is so different from another.

Dubai as the locals say was all sand and desert many years back

Dubai is a happening place,where when we were there,apart from us admiring the White Sandy beaches and the Desert Safari ;we were also part of the celebration of Dubai Expo 2020 win(very well deserving),National Day and DIPC(4th Dubai International Parachuting Championship).Brought to us by the Emirates Aerosport Federation it had competition amongst Skydivers from around the world for Accuracy Landing,Formation Skydiving, Canopy Formation, Canopy Piloting and Artistic Events at Skydive on the Jumeirah Beach.Since the admission was free for visitors,we had our fun time playing volley,randomly trying to make formations on ground and walking on the rope,all in the spirit of festivity.Dubai has got an envious and the most beautiful drop zone for Skydiving in the world over the Palm Jumeriah Island.Dubai also has many interesting festivals and events around the year for which I would suggest,plan when the festivals are ;)










The Dubai Skydive has one of the world's most beautiful drop zone

Watch the below video to know why?


Dubai as you all know is very popular for Shopping, the great Dubai Shopping Festival is known to many.I,however in those 5 days of travel was so impressed with everything else,that I almost forgot to shop.5 days in Dubai is an injustice to Dubai,there is so much to do here(I wish I had more time to immerse in Culture,the way it was for Oman).Dubai is known for cheap gold at the Gold Souk area of old Dubai.The souk is a traditional market which sell Gold and where windows after windows are lined with dazzling Gold all around.Just adjacent to Gold Souk,is the Perfume souk.Thousands of fragrances will invite you to try or buy the traditional or the branded perfumes at a discount.The Spice Souk,located also adjacent is a collection of spices and herbs.

All that Glitters is oh! yes Gold @ Gold Souk Dubai

The Gold Souk in Dubai also holds Guinness World Record for the world's heaviest Gold Ring

                                                 Enlighten Your senses at the Perfume Souk

Dubai Mall,also known as home to Dubai Shopping Festival is one of the largest mall in the UAE. Mostly consisting of branded shops,Dubai Aquarium(one of world's largest water tank) and Ice Rink is also located in the Dubai Mall.For dirt cheap and bargain-able products,Dubai Outlet Mall is a good choice.The best attraction however in Dubai is the fountain beside Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa Tower;The world's largest choreographed fountain where the water dances to the Arabic music in the evening is a delightful sight to see.


The Stunning Architecture You Wouldn't find in Many Places

                                                      Fishes at the world's largest water tank


Can you spot me? Ahead of Burj Khalifa - The tallest Building in the World






The Synchronous Fountains Dance on Soothing Arabic Music

Captured in a video



With this my trip to Dubai comes to an end,share your experiences and let me know what do you like the most in Dubai.

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A Warm Hi From Oman

 What happens when you fall in #LOVE with a country and it refuses to leave your mind #Obsessed #Possessed #Crush and when you leave you feel like an ex who just said "Bye Bye"!   @Muscat,Oman                                           

You with a hope in your eyes wish that the tour never ended,by then the plane arrives and you get in.And when you do,you again spot the white washed city of Muscat in the backdrop of Mountains and sea and you know this LOVE is going to stay.With Oman I complete 10 countries,but Oman is undoubtedly the best country I have been to(many were surprised until they saw the pictures!).It has got everything a country must have,the just perfect balance of modern and ancient.The down-to-earth all time humorous and helpful people,deserts,wadis,gorgeous coastline,envious mountains and roads and sinkholes,a country which in itself is an inspiration.For anyone who plans to settle down soon,visit Oman and you will know how beautiful the world is all over again.

/*Please note that the pictures have been compressed for better page load*/
 
                 The second largest Canyon in the world after Grand Canyon @ Jebel Shams,Oman

When I heard about Oman in last SATTE 2013,I could see the sparkle in the eyes of people who described it to me.But I couldn't believe a country can have so much to see,given the fact that it isn't so much known to us yet.So today,I take you to a glimpse of my la-la journey to Oman and we drool on a quick photo-essay which I had tough time selecting from because all the pictures have come out just like fairy tale.

                   Did you know?The song "Jiya" from the Bollywood movie Gunday was shot in Oman
                and Oman's stunning locale was the choice in "Once Upon a Time in Mumbai 2"
                                                    Image Source:DailyMail
                                   Click to watch song video:Jiya Song in Oman
                                 Click here to watch what Sonakshi says about Oman

The song "Jiya" from Movie Gunday was shot in Al Hamra which is 40 minutes from Nizwa.Al Hamra is a village which has the oldest preserved mud houses(upto 400 years old) in Oman.

Meanwhile,If you have any questions on Oman,ask and I will get back to you with information.Thanks to Oman Tourism and Zahara tours for being the perfect hosts.The process on visas,travel videos and more stories,folktales and info will be in coming posts.So we begin,shall we?

More than 100 dolphins dancing wild in the open sea.
Sea Turtles laying eggs in the night at the shore,where else than Oman

The ancient and the modern
A view so delicious to be true @ Sur,Oman

Wahiba Sand Dunes is made of Corals and Seashells,as this was under the ocean before.
Unlike any other Sand Dune in the world.
 @ Wahiba Sands,Oman

 Where theater comes alive,watching Romeo and Juliet

Beautiful country,with beautiful people
That's what Oman is
All about!



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Shimla:Places,Stay,PhotoEssay

The Snow Opera,The Infinite Flakes and The Frost Bites Part I


                                 Time stands till when I rather sit and admire @ Shimla

I took the road that many take but little did I know that I will get to witness something which many never got a chance to see in Shimla(may be Kufri or Manali but not Shimla).As I turn pages of my morning newspaper of the recent Srinagar Avalanche,the memories of my Jan trip to Shimla came back as a flashlight. The snow-The satisfactory,the playful,the harmful,the slippery,the pleasing,the tease.

"I think It's gonna snow tomorrow. Said my brother.I cuddled real hard in my bed,the footprints of snow wasn't for Shimla I thought.May be when we reach Manali,it'll be snowy and white washed.Not Shimla,no ways,I haven't heard Shimla snows out in recent years,may be years ago but not now.Snow is and was always famous in Kufri,Solang and Manali,but this year is different"


                                       I woke up to the view that many ain't aware of yet
                            The Shimla Railway Station Groomed In Hushy Mushy White
                                                And this is the first hour of snow!

India is a place of contrasts and that is why I love it so much.Recently one of the ladies I met from abroad,glanced at my visiting card and said "Which place is this,with so much snow?" and I said "Sikkim,India".India is a land where not-so-surprisingly every season is a discovery.Blame it on Greenhouse effect,but with the snow falling for months after it should stop,it makes me give a sheepish smile to God.Many of us,even me a few years back had cravings for snow.Even now,the snowfall brings excitement like no other.It is purity unparalleled,the only thing which perhaps gives us the childlike joy almost instantly.But as it is a boon for the people who are first-timers,it is a bane for the locals who live there.We,in Shimla for 3 days with half the time no electricity,chose to wander around slipping falling finding our way to some place.But for how long is the question for locals?With heavy snow,is the lack of basic food(mostly during snow time,the vegetables are from lower terrains) which you get.With that,most of the times,it is the potatoes which they survive on or the Maggi or the Tea.Snow teaches patience and tests your toughness.It can be soft,but it can also be unbearable.But let's today talk about the brighter side of the whitewashed Shimla,and my memories to make your heart feel a little light . After all,not all snow is heavy to the soul!

                                               Gaurav enjoys the hot Pahadi Maggi

My first snow moment was in Dehradun some 13 years back with my cousin and the memories I have is almost non-existent now.It is those old printed photos(yes! I love them more than digital prints) that I recall looking like a clown with loads of layers of clothing my mom had put me on.Ever since I gained my consciousness to the level that I remember to what I felt,Ladakh was the first heavy snow moment(with temperature at Airport at -3,and -20 at Pangong with the frozen Pangong at Sight).In Ladakh I reluctantly had to wear jacket of local goat fur(I prefer wearing not no many layers during snow,but this was cold in early April which is considered winters in Leh) which my driver had insisted on after he rejected my fancy yet to me thick urban Jacket which I got.Then there was unpredictable snowfall in Auli(Jan) where I had gone for skiing,and I chose to stay when other ran for shelter.Then was Sikkim(Feb) where the vehicle got stuck in heavy snow and I chose to climb a just there hillock for fun.Of all these places,North Sikkim was the first place,where I experienced severe snowfall,with it snowing every morning and night and every time in between.Everytime I think, Snow God got a chance to cover the city in Snow Blackout.Although my plans to Gurudogmar got cancelled due to severe snow,it felt just perfect to be there,eating the Pahadi Maggi(it's different) and almost indulging in snow.For all those who want their vacation to be snowy visit Leh(Oct End-Apr,sometimes even Early May),Srinagar-Gulmarg-Sonmarg(Dec-Early March),Sikkim & Arunachal(Dec-Feb),Manali(Dec-Jan),Auli(Jan) but these are just what I faced when I went there,falling of snow it's only by God's grace.I guess,when he's angry he pours more than what makes us happy reminding us of the superpower he has got,and when he's happy he shower his blessings in soft cotton like snow and when he's harsh,he throw hailstones.

I recollect the memories of the tiring but fun 10 hours of my bus journey.I know you would say why didn't I choose Kalka Shatabdi,which was oh so convenient.If you remember, my trip to Kasuali had a very convenient Kalka taking us just almost there,Shimla was unplanned at 10:00 am.10 am and a bus service.It took us 45 minutes to reach ISBT from our home.And at 10:45 am,getting a Volvo bus to Shimla was impossible.The great and comfy buses leave early by around 9.The almost broken and slow buses leave by 10:45 am.A little disheartened,we chose to board the Volvo to Chandigarh which he promised will take no more than 4.5 hours.With a pitstop at KFC,we reached Chandigarh.From Chandigarh,we took a Non-AC small bus to Shimla(it was the only option we had considering our time we reached).

                               The Aww look that says it all.Picture Coutsey: Gaurav Sinha

When we reached by our bus to Shimla it was around 8 pm.Instead of getting down at the bus stop which is downhill and a little far from the mall,almost opposite ends and some kms which I'll tell you how we walked the last day out of no choice,and then took a lift to reach fast.We got down at a highway juncture few minutes before the bus stop because we had to go towards the mall.Idea was to catch the local bus from that very point.And then the wait.It was very very cold,almost freezing.The lights at the juncture was non-existent,with we with a mere hope looking for signs of dim lights of our bus which might come anytime,which for 45 minutes didn't.Just then the bus arrived,and instead of taking a lift from the several taxis which were passing by,we hopped into a overcrowded bus.The best way I guess to examine a population density of a place is to get onto a local bus.And then you wonder,really so many people exist!We had to walk then from the railway station to the mall.

For those who are travelling Shimla for the first time,the regular stop is quite far from the mall.So if your bus reaches late,its best to get down at the juncture and take a local bus.You can ask the driver to stop where the local buses run on highway.Don't fret,almost half the bus passengers get down there,so you wouldn't be alone

As I said the night was cold,and after about 10 hours of journey,I was barely willing to go hike uphill to the mall but with the hunger for food I dragged myself up.I remember my brother saying "Come fast,the shops will be closed,can't you see its freezing cold here!".

So for the first timers,note the important places to eat and stay at Shimla:

STAY

  • HPTDC Hotel Holiday Home(The Best By Himachal Tourism)
  • Hotel White(Rs 1250) , Lakkar Bazaar
  • Kapil Hotel(Rs 1700) , Lakkar Bazaar
  • Krish Rauni Resort(Rs 2200) A little far from the main town,but quite a good option
FOOD

Baljee(the Mall,Rs 15-100) for Omlettes,Toast and Dosas.Indian Coffee house(the mall,Rs 20-35 for breakfast,cheap dosas and coffee),Ashiana(the ridge chinese,thai rs 40-170).Embassy restaurant(the mall rs 80-190,indian chinese,tasty chicken curry).Cafe sol(the mall,rs 120-400,mexican italian,crispy prawn and enchiladas),Barista,Himani's(casual drink with chicken tikka),Devico's bar(rs 30-100).Middle bazaar and lakkar bazaar for shopping.

                                    Meet another of my travel companion after the Kindle.
                                                              The lightest Backpack

It's quite easy to explore Shimla like Kasauli. Tomorrow we experience the snow,trek to Hanuman Temple with falling bright snowflakes,have tit-a-tat with the monkeys,explore road shortcuts and get back to where I was.Also,you will see a short video(we didn't use much of camera,because every time we took that out,it snowed out!) and also admire the new Wildcraft Rock and Ice backpack which is the best backpack for snow,because its super duper light for its capacity.

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Amazon:Kindle Paperwhite,Review


            To the lover of wilderness,a Kindle is the best travel companion for that easy time
                                             and loads and loads of relevant information.
                                                           @Wahiba Sands,Oman    
            Downloaded Kindle ebook: Lonely Planet Oman,UAE and the Arabian Peninsula

Gone are the days when your travel companions only used to be those printed guidebooks.The world has become much simpler since then,and is certainly just a click away.Ever wondered the benefits of not having to carry those books,and instead a small lightweight Kindle sometimes to kill time on those awkward moments of loneliness(Being in a flight for example/staying in a new place for long time like for months) or to go through details of information which is only available inside the books(The Travel Guidebooks for example).You will ask me,why do I need it,when I have my Smartphone or iPhone?But I would say,if you are a traveler who would rather rely on The Guidebooks to just any random reviews/information on internet you need a platform that makes browsing those guidebooks easier.I am still relying on Lonely Planet for my Greece trip next to next month because the local information it has, is still not available on internet.I might buy Rough Guides too.Carrying the printed copy of course would be a hassle as it will add on to the weight.When I travel,I love travelling light.And when a Kindle can exactly do what a book does,its much convenient too.Also the books on Kindle are comparatively more cheaper,compared to buying the whole on print.


                          The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page!

With Amazon Paperwhite,you can download the book of your choice,and choose reading an interesting friction/story instead in an otherwise boring flight journeys.During my latest trip to the beautiful Oman,I just went through the online guidebooks on Oman to know what Oman has to offer just about anywhere I had the wifi. It's like live streaming of information without having to bother about its weight.And weight as you all know does matter during travel.The more you travel,the lighter you would want your travel to be! 

                            One should always have something sensational,something inspirational,
                                               Something just about anything to read.
                                      Because those who wander do not always get lost

Starting the 4th Feb 2014, you can buy the new advanced Kindle Paperwhite on www.amazon.in or at 250 retail outlets across India including Croma, Reliance Digital, E-Zone, and Vijay Sales stores located in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Pune.

                                  Discovering an ancient and seafaring town of Sur,Oman

Weighing only 206 grams, the new Kindle Paperwhite offers a vast collection of books at high-quality display technology, all-new reading features, faster speed, and a stronger battery backup. The Wi-Fi enabled Kindle Paperwhite is priced at Rs. 10,999 while the Wi-Fi + 3G version is priced at Rs. 13,999.

Kindle has been the best-selling e-reader in the world for the last six years, and the advanced model packs better features into the device, further improving user experience. The features of the new Kindle Paperwhite make it a great learning tool for kids, a traveler’s best companion and a book-lovers in-house library, the New Kindle Paperwhite offers all that a reader would want in an e-reader.

Here’s what makes the all-new Amazon Kindle Paperwhite better than ever:
  • New display technology—Higher contrast and better reflective means whites are whiter and blacks are blacker.
  • Next generation built-in light—Guides light toward the surface of the display so you can read comfortably without eyestrain.
  • New, 25% faster processor—Books open and pages turn faster for a seamless reading experience.
  • New touch technology—19% tighter touch grid makes Kindle Paperwhite respond even more accurately to the smallest touches.
  • New Kindle Page Flip—Skip page-by-page, scan by chapter, or skip to the end of your book, all without losing your place.
  • New Goodreads Integration—Combines the world’s largest e-reading community and the world’s largest community of book lovers.
  • New Vocabulary Builder—Compiles words you look up in the dictionary into an easy-to-access list.
  • New Smart Lookup—Integrates a full dictionary definition with other reference information about a word, character, topic or book via X-Ray and Wikipedia.
  • New In-line Footnotes—With a single tap, read the complete text of each footnote in-line without changing the page or losing your place in the book.
  • Access to 8 million books and 2+ million eBooks. Indian customers can enjoy over 600,000 books priced Rs.200 or less and over 1.2 million priced Rs.600 or less. 
Reviewer’s Checklist
  • Getting Started
  • Read
  • Navigate
  • Learn
  • Engage
Read

The all-new Kindle Paperwhite still includes all the features that helped make Kindle the best-selling ereader
in the world for six years running:
  • Reads like real paper—No-glare display for perfect reading, even in bright sunlight.
  • 8 weeks of battery life—Read for weeks, not hours, on a single charge.
  • Weighs just 7.3 ounces—Hold comfortably in one hand for long reading sessions.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and free 3G—Think of a book and be reading it in under 60 seconds.
  • Carry over a thousand books—Never leave a favorite book behind.
  • Worry-Free Archive—Automatically backs up your Kindle books in the cloud, so you never need to worry about losing your books—re-download your books wirelessly anytime for free.
  • Facebook and Twitter—Share book recommendations, highlighted sections and meaningful quotes with friends.
Navigate

Kindle Page Flip: With the new Kindle Page Flip you can now skip page-by-page, scan by chapter, or skip to the end of your books, all without losing your place. We suggest you:
1. Download a book that has a lot of helpful reference information. A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin is a great choice.
2. When you need to reference information either at the beginning or end of the book (like the map of Beyond the Wall in A Dance With Dragons) tap the screen to bring up chrome in the reader and then tap the bottom bar. You can now easily flip backwards or forwards.
3. When you’re done, simply tap the “X” at the top of the screen to return back to your original place in the book.

Smart Lookup: The new Smart Lookup feature integrates a full dictionary definition with other reference information about a word, character, topic or book via X-Ray and Wikipedia. We suggest you:
1. Find and download a book that has a variety of important phrases. Michael Lewis’ The Big Short is a great choice because it has several references of the term “credit default swaps.”
2. Look up a phrase (such as “credit default swaps”)—you’ll notice that Smart Lookup recognizes this is an important topic and phrase in the book, and gives you the correct definition via X-Ray.
3. An ordinary dictionary would have given you the individual definitions of each word (i.e. “credit,” “default,” and “swaps”).

In-line Footnotes: With new in-line footnotes you can read the complete text of each footnote in-line without changing the page or losing your place in the book. We suggest you:
1. Find and download a book that has a lot of useful footnotes. A great example is The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver.
2. Tap on a footnote to see the information in a pop-up window on your screen. Tap on the link at the end of the footnote preview text to be taken to the full footnote or tap the “X” at the top of the screen to return back to your original place in the book.

Learn

Vocabulary Builder:
The new Vocabulary Builder feature compiles words you look up in the dictionary into an easy-to-access list. We suggest you:
1. Look up a number of words in your books by pressing and holding on the word until the dictionary appears
2. Tap on the Vocabulary Builder tile in your library in Home
3. Quiz yourself with flashcards and instantly see words in context
4. Once you feel confident in your understanding of the word, tap “Mastered”

Did you know? Amazon’s Whispersync technology saves and synchronizes your last page read, vocabulary words, bookmarks and annotations across all of your devices, so you can always pick up where you left off.

Engage


Goodreads:
Join over 20 million other readers and see what your friends are reading, share highlights, and rate the books you read with Goodreads on Kindle. The Goodreads integration is offered only by Amazon and is exclusive to the Kindle ecosystem. We suggest you:
1. Tap the “G” icon in the Chrome reader to access Goodreads
2. Rate the books you’ve read on Goodreads
3. Find a friend and take a look at what they’re reading
4. Share highlights from your favorite books
Technical Specifications
Display: Amazon’s 6” Paperwhite display with exclusive Carta e-paper technology and next-generation built-in light, 212 ppi, 16-level gray scale
Size: 169 mm x 117 mm x 9.1 mm
Weight: 206 grams
Storage: 2GB internal; free cloud storage for all Amazon content
Battery Life: 8-week battery life

Wi-Fi Connectivity:
Supports public and private Wi-Fi networks or hotspots that use the 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n standard with support for WEP, WPA and WPA2 security using password authentication or Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)
Content Formats Supported: Kindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.


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Four Seasons Vineyard: Baramati,Pune

Liquid Yumminess:A Window Into The World Of Wine


I have drunken deep of joy, And I will taste no other wine tonight.
Website: Four Seasons Vineyard

"The 55 acres of yumminess in bunches of small round purple was in front of me.The car stopped,just to get the glimpse of the castle which was huge.It looked like as if we were in another part of the world,while the working women at the field plucking those juicy nectar was oblivious of our presence.As they continued to do their work,it was a sheer joy which crept in me.Yes! This was the first time,I was visiting a vineyard which had plush purple grapes hanging onto them."

I haven't visited many vineyards,just a one near Bangalore and another in Canada.Both of them had bright green leaves but apparently no real grapes at sight.The last two week has been phenomenal,got to see the amazing sight of coffee blooms at Coorg and the rows of rows of grapes hanging at Four Seasons Baramati,Pune. Grapes like other fruits is seasonal.The harvest season for Grapes is Feb-March.It is then ,when you can see the whole process of ripened Grapes leaving their stem to the barrels where they get fermented,stored and processed.

                      Either give me more wine or leave me alone @ Four Seasons Vineyard

The Four Seasons vineyard,located in Baramati,around 1.5 hours from Pune Airport is a place where freshness and aroma of wine linger even after you leave.The trails from the vineyard take you to a hike from where you can view deer in the open or even hyena(if you are lucky).Walk in the rows of freshly produced grapes and taste each of them and you would notice,the further you go,the sweeter the grapes get.There's of course the swimming pool area,where the dinner was being served,and where we all were mesmerized to the tune of Sitar being played in the open view of the blinking stars in the sky by the midnight.The rooms gave us a feel of home,in almost a castle.


Such is the ambiance that even if you have nothing to do,you would enjoy being there,sipping the wine all day long,playing with cute dogs or walking down the rows of grapes.Yes,that is what life is,being secluded in one place,where only you and you can hear your own voice of being.

                  MY VIDEO ON BEHIND THE SCENES: FOUR SEASONS VINEYARDS
)


Wine comes in three colors-Red,White and Rose.Generally white wine is made from white grapes,and red and rose wines are made from red grapes.The color of the wine comes from pigments in the grape skin which are leached out during the process of fermentation.The wine making process is similar to all three wine colors.The main difference is that the grape skin are removed before fermentation for white wine.For red wine,the grape juice is fermented with the grape skins as it is from the skins that the wine gets its color.Traditionally rose wine follows the same process as red - except that the grape juice and skins are kept together for shorter period of time.That results in the color "blush".Chardonnay,Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc,Viognier are white wines,while Cabarnet Sauvignon,Merlot,Shiraz and Zinfandel are red wines.

In order to flourish,wines need a balance of warmth and coolness,sunshine and rainfall.Old wine countries have a longer history of growing grapes for wine such as France,Spain,Italy,Portugal whereas New Wine countries like Australia,New Zealand,USA,South Africa and India have shorter history of grape growing and they rely on science than the traditional wine making country.We now know why Baramati near Pune(1.5 hours) is an ideal place for the vineyard - cool winters for the wine to sleep,wet spring for the grapes to grow and ripen evenly and dry,mild autumn for harvesting.

Another thing about wine is that it can either be made from a single grape variety or a combination of grape varieties.In the first case,it is known as varietal wine,in second it is known as blend.There are four levels of sweetness in wine - dry,off dry,medium sweet and sweet.The sweetness levels result from how long the wine has been fermented.If the fermentation process runs to completion,the wine is dry.If stopped by a winemaker prior to completion,the wine will be sweeter.Finally the wine will be sparkling(it has bubbles of Carbon Dioxide in it),'Still'(it doesn't have any bubbles) or it will be fortified(it is a higher alcohol still wine).

Making Wine: 5 Easy Steps

  • Grapes are harvest and brought to the winery
  • Grapes are sorted,then crushed or pressed to get juice
  • The Juice is transferred to stainless steel tanks for fermentation
  • After fermentation,the wine is stabilized and filtered and then transferred into barrels for maturation
  • The wine is finally bottled,labeled and dispatched to the market

Four Seasons Wine and Food Pairing


We had with us chef who had in-depth knowledge on wine pairing.His idea of food pairing was innovative i.e Cuisines from India,and spices and assortments from all over the world.The Indian food goes very well with the wine,so we had our four course spread and we started off the lightest bodied wine to the heaviest to the sweetest to complete our lunch.

We started with Amush Bush or Achari Mathis which was inspired by Mathis,Tea and Pickle.Mathis as you all know is a North Indian snack made out of flavored dough,deep fried with Fenugreek. When you eat the Mathis,it opens your thirst and you feel like drinking something.So that's why it was paired with Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc is light bodied,and is made from white grape that has aromas of cut grass,citrus gooseberry,capsicum,herbs and passion fruit depending on where it is grown in India.In India,there is even distinct note of Green chili. If.If you smell the wine,you will smell the flavors of Gooseberry.It is a dry wine and pale yellowish as it is fermented in Barrel.It goes best with starter,and less oily,salads and light appetizers.

Next,we tasted the yummy Dahi(Yogurt) Kebab with a topping of Ricotta cheese,Onion tomato salsa,Mint chutney and Californian grapes.In the non-veg,we had Chicken tikka,with Orange graze(orange and honey) and shooter.The shooter was inspired from our very own Aam Panna,but this was made out of Pinapple. It.It was a Pinapple Panna made with Pinapple char-grilled in Tandoor and then mixed with coriander,black salt and sugar.This was paired with Viognier which is medium bodied,and has a rich aroma of perfume and mellons.

Next,we were served the delicious European inspired but our very Indianized Creole Vegetables.This was done in Roomali Roti,Mozzarella Cheese,Tomato Rice,Makhni Sauce and Broccoli.In Non-Veg we were served,Salman with a plate of upma and on the top we have bell pepper,fresh coconut,spagetti n coriander.This was followed by Molee Sauce which is very famous in Kerala.Along with it was Haldi mirch ka Jhinka(prawn) which is originally from West Bengal and Orissa,and they marinate the prawn with turmeric salt pepper red chilli and lemon juice.This was served with Merlot which is a full bodied wine.

The final wrap up was Basil seeds(soaked in water) with Rasmalai and Pistachios.This was teamed with Late Harvest wine which is a boutique wine,and is completed fermented in Barrel.The late harvest wines are made out of grapes when are they are completely,hence it is a boutique sweet wine which pairs amazingly well with deserts.Late Harvest is completely fermented inside a barrel.

Sauvignon blanc is 25% oak,Viognier 50% oak,Merlot 10% oak.

Next day,we had a Fish dish made with Kachampuli (Famous Coorgi Vinegar).We had Dhoodi Halwa too.Any guesses to which wine they were paired with?


With this,my trip to Baramati comes to an end.Do visit the vineyard and let me know if you loved it.That for sure,you will,because when there is good wine and good air,nothing can,well nothing can,go bizarre.

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