Traveling with a Baby the Journey So Far

I recently spoke about these experiences at a travelers meet here in the city hosted by an enterprising travel company called F5 Escapes which along with group tours for families and individuals specializes in travel for women. They always seem to have a list of compelling tours for women planned in their dossier. It was also exciting to hear other stories at this #JustGo event from other women travelers on their journeys and travel experiences.

It is true that I expected to have traveled as much as I could before my baby was born and then probably stay in one place and ‘ settle down’. But the truth is that since he was born we have traveled more and much further. So far since my kid, we have managed to tick 7 countries from our list and have actually lived in 4 of these countries for a couple of months. Not bad for a 2 and half year old rt? Now the next milestone we have is when my toddler will start school and as friends with good intentions tell me that once the kid starts school we will have to put away our suitcases for the next 10 or more years. This of course remains to be seen.

You will need  a lot of enthusiasm as you will in evidently end up chasing a toddler around an airport.

We gave birth to a born traveler who happens to be more at ease and amicable on the road than anywhere else, home seems to be the last place he wants to be in. We aren’t strangers to long haul flights, sleeping at airports and making the best of the available food though I do follow some basic rules like always keep three things handy eats, entertainment and enthusiasm. You will need the last one a lot as you will in evidently end up chasing a toddler around an airport.

It has been our experience that kids adapt fast and sometimes better than adults and we experienced this first hand as my then 9 month old baby fell in love with noodles in Singapore, waddled in his thick fleece jacket with us around China and charmed many locals, hmphrrd like a hippo in Kenya and trekked with us in South Africa at Cape Point. Traveling with my kid has been quite different from traveling solo or as a couple as our first thought before we travel to a new destination is his well being.

Young ones are sturdy they managed the difficult trip down the birth canal didn’t they.

The reactions from different people in these various countries have also been very welcoming. We have posed for umpteen photos with strangers in China, have always managed to get special service at restaurants as my kid managed to charm waitresses and sometimes cooks. Have had staff at hotels give us small gifts for the kid and many interesting conversations with locals. We have had some small scares on the road too like being stuck on the road with four consecutive flat tires in Kenya, being pulled aside by the authorities at the airport because the kid was running a slight temperature, falling sick in China even after ensuring that he ate only hygienic food. Our positive experiences out weigh any small bumps we might have on the road. I would quite wholeheartedly recommend that families travel with young children beyond theme parks, you never know what adventures you might run into.

At an airport in China when traveling alone with my kid
At an airport in China when traveling alone with my kid

The Grasslands of Masai Mara and the Great Migration

I cannot stop writing about the Masai Mara in Kenya as it has been one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. The charm of the Masai Mara happens to be its vast grasslands and the animals indigenous to Africa. As if this wasn’t enough the Mara is also the stage for the annual event called the Great Migration, where thousands of Wildebeast and Zebras cross from the Serengiti in Tanzania to Kenya on a yearly trek.

The magic of Masai Mara are its animals and thousands of tourists flock to the Mara to experience the Mara through a game drive. These are some of the images we took during our 3 day game drive safari in Kenya, most of these images were taken without zooming and they haven’t been edited either but they look mesmerizing nevertheless. Wish a certain dentist from the US had shot using a camera instead of a gun.

Giraffes playing Peekaboo
Giraffes playing Peekaboo
A Gazelle being alert
A Gazelle being alert
A herd of elephants always on the move
A herd of elephants always on the move
A Hyena, the most scary looking animal I have seen
A Hyena, the most scary looking animal I have seen
A Secretary bird
A Secretary bird
A Wildebeast the main star of the Great Migration
A Wildebeast the main star of the Great Migration
The remind my husband of the Beatles and their iconic image
They remind my husband of the Beatles and their iconic image
The lion enjoying his King size breakfast ( a wildebeast)
The lion enjoying his King size breakfast ( a wildebeast)
A family of Hippos, a very territorial animal in the Mara
A family of Hippos, a very territorial animal in the Mara
An Ostrich following a herd of elephants
An Ostrich following a herd of elephants
Zebras the other half of the Great Migration
Zebras the other half of the Great Migration
White Rhinos a rare sighting for us
White Rhinos a rare sighting for us

Pics credited to RazorRasu

6 Interesting and Unique finds in Kolkatta

Kolkata evokes mixed feelings in me as I find it difficult to wrap my head around the multitude and conflicting aspects of the city. It is a city with futuristic thoughts, ideas and ideals. It is also the only Indian city that can boast three Nobel laureates and it a city that clutches on to its past and tugs it along. Parts of Kolkata’s the glorious past and its exuberant present are well maintained and polished but there are also parts of the old and the new that intermingle to form a melee of sorts.

Kolkata has always managed to surprise me, amuse and amaze me and exasperate me. I am no expert on the city but I seem to have traveled to the city on more than a couple of ocassions and I almost always have a new experience, a new tidbit of information, a new taste for my taste buds and a new aspect of life. Here are some aspects of the city that are as unique as the city itself.

1. Water pumps that spill water from the Ganges on the roads

This image is representational of the spouts found across the city
This image is representational of the spouts found across the city

A very unique aspect of Kolkata that I discovered on my recent trip was water pumps on the side of the roads that spout water continuously onto the roads and drains. The water pumps was water straight from the Ganges and the water spilled onto the road in full force. These pumps were apparently installed by the British to wash the roads and feed the horses. Some of these pumps or spouts have taps that can be opened and closed while a majority does not have any mechanism to close the tap when not in use hence flow continuously. These water spouts are used by the road dwellers and I am sure they find it to be a boon but I do wish more of these had taps installed on them.

2.Wooden Trams

Trams were a common fixture in cities during the Bristish Raj and remnants of the tram system can be found in Mumbai but to see an operational tram one needs to go to Kolkata. These trams have probably been operational since the British and cost a mere 5 Rs for the ride. The down side is that the tram moves slower than people on the crowded and narrow roads. It is worth the experience for a joy ride though people in Kolkata still use the tram system judiciously.

3.Wooden boat ferries across the Ganges

A wooden boat that ferries people across the Ganga
A wooden boat that ferries people across the Ganga

The Hoogly river (distributary of the Ganges) is the lifeline for the city of Kolkata and traditionally life in the city revolves around the huge expanse of the river. One of the beauties of the Hoogly are the wooden boats that ferry people across the river for a small price of Rs 10. The boat ride is quite therapeutic as you sit huddled on the floor of the boat with the few other passengers as the boat idles across the river. Very few major cities in India can boast this experience.

4.Hand drawn rickshaws

Hand drawn rickshaws are another relic that has stood the test of time in Kolkata long past its prime. Most hand rickshaws are more than 30 years old in the city and the people in Kolkata still use its services to meander on narrow crowded streets. It is quite a sight to see a man pull the rickshaw with two or more passengers. It also comes as a shock to people who are seeing hand drawn rickshaws for the first time.

5. Bonedi Bari

Tagore Bari
Tagore Bari

Bonedi Bari I am told translates to the aristocratic houses of the yester year. A walk down some of the older parts of the city is testament to the beauty of the old houses and the charm they must have had. Most of the houses today are in need of serious repair and some are abandoned but for a tourist who wants to have a glimpse of the old aristocracy in Kolkata, one can visit the renovated houses of Vivekananda and Tagore Bari. The house where Swami Vivekananda grew up has been renovated to match its former glory and offers a glimpse of life as it was. Tagore Bari is more of a museum.

6. Tatya Tope’s Achkan and hair at Victoria Memorial

Victoria Memorial is one of the most prominent landmarks that the British left in India with sprawling gardens surrounding the memorial. The memorial houses many artifacts from the times of the Raj in Kolkata among these artifacts is Tatya Tope’s achkan or jacket. Now for those who are weak in Indian history Tatya Tope was a celebrated leader who lead the rebelion of 1857 against the British. He was born in Maharashtra and led the rebellion in M.P and was executed there. The jacket sticks out like a sore thumb in the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata as it almost feels like Tatya Tope forgot his jacket in Kolkata which they later put in a glass case and lets not even start wondering about the lock of hair. Don’t believe me go have a look for yourself.

The City That Gave Us Love

Philadelphia is a very special city for us for many reasons. We fell in love with Philadelphia the moment we laid eyes on her. The city of Philadelphia is a tourists delight and the pride of any one who calls the city their own, however briefly. Philadelphia was the first capital of USA and it was the city where thinkers like Benjamin Franklin walked on the same cobbled stone streets as found today. It was the stage of the American Independence and has many stories to tell from that era. The city saw many first’s such as the first telephone, the first elevator (lift) and many other innovative inventions of time immemorial.

If anyone wants to get a feel of the city all you have to do is play the original game of Monopoly, you will find Reading Terminal, Water Works,Park place and all the other Monopoly squares come alive in Philadelphia. The game was designed based on the city of Philadelphia. The city gives the feeling of being a compact city with the roads criss crossing to form perfect squares while being deceivingly big. The city has maintained the same characteristics and flavors from the day William Penn planned the city.

Philadelphia is a mix of historical and modern surprises at every corner. Every road and every nook between the Delaware and the Schuylkill rivers has a brilliant story to tell, giving the city so much in terms of character. The city has something to offer to every type of person with the Rocky statue for the movie buffs, Reading Terminal and Philly cheese steak for the foodies, Eastern State Penitentiary for the history seeker, free libraries and museums for the seeker of literature and art and Fairmount Park for the nature lover. The center of the city has the symbol of Love which has become a universal icon for Love. Here is my ode to the city of Philadelphia in photographs.

The City that gave us Love
The City that gave us Love
Reading Terminal station which is now a famous but authentic food court
Reading Terminal station which is now a famous but authentic food court
Boat House Row one of the most Romantic parts of the city
Boat House Row one of the most Romantic parts of the city
Eastern State Penitentiary  and its chilling past
Eastern State Penitentiary and its chilling past
Remember Water Works in Monopoly ? Here it is
Remember Water Works in Monopoly ? Here it is
Door way to Ben Franklin's House
Door way to Ben Franklin’s House
A Frozen Lake
A Frozen Lake
A rusted Door at the Penintantary
A rusted Door at the Penintantary

Photographs credited to Razor Rasu