Delhi’s homestays and B&Bs

Sodhi Lodge New Delhi

A little guest house in New Delhi

The commonwealth games were to be the coming-out party for Delhi’s small hotels, home-stays and B&Bs. But as we all know, things did not quite turn out that way. Not too many tourists in Delhi converts into despairing house owners & desolate premises. Not a good situation. But if the experience of places like Coorg in Karnataka and Kochi in Kerala are anything to go by, there is no reason to despair. The emerging breed of travellers – both domestic and international – seem to like alternate accommodations. The better ones among these little places in Delhi will get filled up in time. They just have to hold on.

Duty Free Scam at Bangkok airport

Since I am transiting again through Bangkok in the next few days, a friend of mine who lives in the region alerted me to a scam that has been reported from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.

Evidently, sales people in some of the duty free shops are likely to unobtrusively slip in an item that you have not purchased, into your bag. As soon as you step out of the shop, the police are called in and you get ‘arrested’. The only way out of this apparently is to pay a hefty bribe all around.

I do not know whether this is true. But I guess it certainly pays to be watchful..

http://www.asiaone.com/Travel/Tips/Story/A1Story20090415-135496.html

http://www.travellerspoint.com/forum.cfm?thread=62493

Travelocity India

Travelocity is coming through (and not just by buying up Indian companies) – looks like they have some of the better flight deals in the region. I recently found a Bangalore – Singapore return (economy of course) on Singapore Airlines for Rs 11,200. And a Bangkok return for 13,600. Both of which are better than the normal fares offered by m0st travel Agents.

So, if you have the time (or the necessity!) to do research f0r good flight deals, I suggest Travelocity India.

Taxi musings

Talking to taxi drivers is often illuminating & almost always very interesting. And Singapore this week was no exception.

It started with Piara Singh who dropped me downtown from the budget terminal at Changi. His take on the economics of Tiger Airways (to which I have recently defected casting aside all moral and other compunctions I had about low-cost flying – a chance to get Singapore return at Rs 7.5k is no time to be queasy) flights to India was better than any commissioned Market Research I could have done.  He explained to me why the Load factors on Singapore bound flights were very high on Mondays & Tuesdays (incidentally, it was 100% on Monday last) and why the India bound flights are full on Thursdays and Fridays. Piara Singh’s ancestry was in Amritsar and he talked of how Indians from Amritsar are spending a lot of money in Singapore.  Most of all, he seemed calm & at peace with himself.

And then I got a succession of Mr Tan and Mr Tang, these names being common I understand because of the overwhelming presence of the Hokkien people in Singapore. One was particularly noteworthy. He hated Ikea – you know, the Swedish, clean-look, low-cost furniture company. He hated them with a vengeance reserved by Spanish terriers for large & woolly bears. In short, a passionate hatred that is unlikely to significantly affect the hatee. His hypothesis went so. The mastermind boss ( the way he hissed it, I was almost reminded of the evil Shaakaal in the early 80s Hindi movie Shaan – my teenage touchstone for villainy) of Ikea makes poor quality things that he very cleverly gets the stupid Singapore customer to buy by employing a combination of black-magic and European smoke & mirrors. And Since Singaporeans flock to Ikea in ever increasing numbers, Mr Tan/Tang has his view’s validated everyday!  When he found that I too had fallen into Master Ikea’s seductive trap and ended up buying a table-lamp, the bottom fell out of his respect for Indians too.

The next chap told me about Asian people. He started with the Thais since he was engaged to a Thai girl and due to get married the next year. This is what he told me about the Thais.  Be very careful around the Thais, he said – they never show their anger.  Now, this is true. I have always found the Thais to be fairly pleasant and never angry, which I had always taken to be a sign of their essential good nature. Not so, he said. Remember, if they get angry with you, they will smile at you and bam, before you know it, you will be knocked out cold from behind. I started wondering  about the likely longevity of his upcoming marriage. So, I asked him who are best & the worst people in Asia. The Japanese he said are the best. And the Malays the worst. And before he could tell me why, we reached my destination.

And then I stumbled upon Singapore’s most interesting citizen, who for the rest of this post will be called No-name. This guy had eyes that verily twinkled with villainy – late twenties, aquiline jaw, a small beard and a unique complexion that teetered between south-east asian brown and south Indian dusky.  Seems his grandfather ran away from Kerala as a boy of 10 around the first world war.  He then married a Chinese woman in Singapore and they begat a son that was no-name’s father. His father then married a Malay woman and brought No-name to the world, as the quintessential Singaporean with all 3 races well blended in. We started with the obligatory chat about how I had my beginnings in Kerala too and why he should visit it just once. But he quickly put that behind and got down to brass tacks and on to his favorite subject – Hookers. I got the most comprehensive run down on the seamy side of Singapore – incidentally, Singapore has legalised prostitution, which no-name assured me thrives in a corner of this otherwise squeaky clean city/country.  He told me all about the difference between races & the sophisticated economic calculations that went into the buying process. Although he got mildly irritated when I passed up on his offer to help me get acquainted with the situation, he was too good a sport to let that get in the way of bonhomie and we parted friends.

City-breaks in India

Why is that nobody in India (well, almost nobody) goes to another city in India on a holiday? In many countries, going to another city is a valid &  interesting vacation for most people. They might take in a play, do some fun shopping, eat interesting stuff on street corners, go to a bunch of attractions in and around the city and generally enjoy themselves silly.

In India, come weekends or vacations all we want to do is run away from the city we live in and hit the countryside. Which, given the conditions under which we live is understandable, I guess. But I am surprised at the lack of effort by city worthies to make our cities more tourist friendly. The reason I say that is, most of our big cities have some unique stuff to add to a vacation experience and need not be such bad options for a quick break – even with the traffic jams, a broken down power system and the bug-bear of them all, the monsoons. And of course, given the absence of business travel on weekends can actually help all businesses depending on the traveller.

Well, like everything else in Indian tourism, looks like nobody relevant has got around to thinking about it. What a poor, orphaned child Indian tourism is! Which is probably just as well, considering what could happen if our ‘leaders’ actually get into the act.

One day in an ancient Indian city

One of the tragedies of India’s tourism is the lack of surviving physical structures of the pre-colonisation period (ie. before the 1600s). Varanasi is of course there, as the world’s oldest continuing city. But a lot of the magnificence is no more to be seen. On a visit to Tanjavur last year, I was able to see the extraordinary temple there that the great Raja Raja Chola built and so get a glimpse of the creative outpouring that fed big stuff like Angkor Wat and Ayuttaya in other lands.

So, it strikes me that ancient India’s cities (of the likes of Thanjavur & Konark) must have been fascinating places in their golden moments and if ‘recreated’ well, can add a lot more depth to our tourism. And with this thought in mind, I have been scouring a lot of literature to find out exactly how an ancient Indian city would have been.

I struck pay-dirt a couple of years ago and not in any obscure place as you might imagine. It was in A.L Basham’s seminal historical work, ‘The Wonder That Was India‘, where he quotes an early Tamil poem, the ‘Garland of Madurai‘ which describes a day in the life of the city of Madurai. Captivating stuff. And since I cannot do any better, I am reproducing in its full, the relevant page from that book. Here it is (it is a much longer piece than I would normally have in this blog where I have a self-imposed rule of brevity, but its beauty lies in its comprehensiveness and so..):

The poet enters the city by its great gate, the posts of which are carved with images of the goddess Lakshmi, and  which is grimy with ghee, poured in oblation upon it to bring safety and prosperity to the city it guards. It is a day of festival, and the city is gay with flags, some presented by the king to commemorate brave deeds, flying over the homes of captains, and others waving over the shops which sell gladdening toddy. The streets are broad rivers of people, folk of every race, buying and selling in the market-place or singing to the music of wandering minstrels.

A drum beats, and a royal procession passes down the street, with elephants leading to the sound of conchs. A refractory beast breaks his chain, and tosses like a ship in an angry sea until he is again brought to order. Chariots follow, with prancing horses and fierce footmen.

Meanwhile stall-keepers ply their trade, selling sweet cakes, garlands of flowers, scented powder and betel quids. Old women go from house to house, selling nosegays and trinkets to the womenfolk. Noblemen drive through the streets in their chariots, their gold-sheathed swords flashing, wearing brightly-dyed garments and wreaths of flowers. From balconies and turrets the many jewels of the perfumed women who watch the festival flash in the sunlight.

The people flock to the temples to worship to the sound of music, laying their flowers before the images and honouring the holy sages. Craftsmen work in their shops – making bangles of conch shell, goldsmiths, cloth-dealers, coppersmiths, flower-sellers, vendors of sandalwood, painters and weavers. Foodshops busily sell their wares – greens, jak-fuit, mangoes, sugar candy, cooked rice and chunks of cooked meat.

In the evening the city prostitutes entertain their patrons with dancing and singing to the sound of the lute, so that the streets are filled with music. Drunken villagers, up for the festival, reel in the roadways, while respectable women make evening visits to the temples with their children and friends, carrying lighted lamps as offerings. They dance in the temple courts, which are clamorous with their singing and chatter.

At last the city sleeps – all but the goblins and ghosts who haunt the dark, and the bold housebreakers, armed with rope ladders, swords and chisels, to break through the walls of mud houses. But the watchmen are also vigilant, and the city passes the night in peace.

Morning comes with the sound of brahmans intoning their sacred verses. The wandering bards renew their singing, and the shopkeepers busy themselves opening their booths. The toddy-sellers again ply their trade for thirsty morning travellers. The drunkards reel to their feet and once more shout on the streets. All over the city is heard the sound of opening doors. Women sweep the faded flowers of the festival from their courtyards. Thus the busy everyday life of the city is resumed.

Chandni Chowk, Jama Masjid & the New Delhi metro enroute to Karim’s

Before we move forward, here is a confession. I am not the world’s greatest fan of mughlai food. As Mohit observed, at times mughlai food seems rich & heavy just to be rich & heavy – and not because it adds immensely to taste. The last time I had wandered around the Jama Masjid area was about 20 years ago on one magical Ramzan evening just as the food stalls were getting busy. And i decided to go back again to see whether I could rekindle romance.

Nope. Karim’s was a sore disappointment. While the Burra did hit a couple of high notes the general sense was of let down. Maybe I ate the wrong stuff or maybe the place is over-rated now. Dunno. But, I did find a small place in Chandni Chowk that served ‘soth india dishes’ including Dosa and Chewmen. So that made up for it.

The highlight of the evening without a doubt was the New Delhi Metro. This is one of those rare times that an Indian will find it in him to praise anything contemporary over the ancient (for, who can argue with stuff so old nobody really knows anything about it). And I must thank Mr Sreedharan and his team at the Delhi Metro for this (and, I suspect Sheila Dikshit, the Chief Minister of Delhi, who, from all accounts is a lady determined to leave a lasting impression on Delhi). As any of us who have lived in Delhi can say without an iota of doubt, if a Metro rail can work in Delhi it can work anywhere else in India. It does & so it can. As I watched, the doors opened & closed automatically at every station and the world’s second most unruly crowd got in & off demurely. Atta boy ol’ S!

The Jama Masjid & Chandni Chowk area reeks of history (and a lot more, but that is par on course for all our cities). I am told that there a number of ‘walks’ you can do to get it all in. What I missed however was a good walking map. Wonder why no one has done one.

Segway across New Zealand, Turkey and soon all over the world

Ok, this is an interesting one. Kevin Hey and a bunch of other guys now offer tours that allow you to explore New Zealand’s cities on a Segway. You remember the Segway Personal Transporter? Those contraptions that allow you to stand on them and move about on wheels.

Looks like Segways are catching on in Tourism. I came across a video that show Beach Resorts in Turkey using them (see the video on top). A friend of mine in the travel business in Goa tells me that a couple of resorts there are thinking of getting a few here too.

On my recent visit to Dubai, I happened to glimpse a chap tearing across a boulevard near my hotel on a segway, a sight which rang all the right bells in me. I would certainly like to have one, although driving one around in any Indian city is asking for serious trouble. In Bangalore, I will most likely disappear down a man-hole never to be heard of again. I can think of at least 3 people who would like that.  :)

View of Dubai from a helicopter

Anshul & Rashi took their 5 year old up in a helicopter over Dubai. It costs US$ 800 for a 30 minute (max. 5 adults) and they say it is well worth it. Here is some of what they saw. Check it out the next time you are in Dubai.

A Dubai Panorama

The Burj Al Arab & Jumeirah beach Hotel

The Burj Dubai on its way to becoming the world’s tallest building

Cranes over Hotel Atlantis

Click on for a few more photos.

Continue reading

Barasti Bar at the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina

The Barasti bar in Dubai was recently polled by Worlds Best Bars as THE top bar in the world (the photo above is from their site).  And since I run a site that does ratings, for a living, I know the ‘Best” rating is a bit of a cross to bear. For, being labeled the best restaurant or bar or hotel is like getting a reputation in the old wild west as the ‘fastest gun’. Every cow-poke in the west then wants to have a shoot out with you for the chance to win and attain immediate notoriety. Life can get troublesome.

Anyway, my old project finance friend Anshul (whom I hadn’t met in a long time) decided he would treat me to an evening in the Barasti and so we went. It was a really muggy weekend evening. The bar has an inside area and a nice outdoor patio kind of space facing the Arabian Gulf, all of which added up to a lot of space. Since I live in a country where extreme highs of temperature are the norm, I was not fully enticed by the 40-odd degrees outside and decided to stick to the indoors; air-conditioned, you see.

The booze was fair to good and so was the food, although everything generally took a long time to get to the table and seemed pretty expensive. There was live music and Euro cup on TV. Brits and assorted Europeans overflowed from all nooks and crannies. (This is the biggest change I can see in Dubai; the overwhelming & very visible presence of Europeans).

My verdict is – good, nice atmosphere if you ignore the occasional sensation of a hostel reunion, decent food & booze. Certainly worth a visit if you are in Dubai. But, the best bar in the world. Nah…

Click here for all my posts on Food & Drink

Click here for all Dubai posts

An evening at the waterfront promenade in Larnaca

(Larnaca Waterfront Promenade)

The shrill whistle blew my reverie. The fat guy again, on the dot every 15 minutes or so. For the full 3 hours that I sat there, I did’nt see him sell any stuff. But he sat in front of his little shop with a mischevious inner smile just about touching his lips. And every 15 minutes, he would pick up a little whistle and let go, scaring the odd pigeon and causing ripples in absolutely nothing else. Larnaca’s waterfront promenade at twilight is a place nothing much can cause ripples in.

The wildest sights of the evening are the young studs walking about in marauding groups. And knowing the way Cyprus is, the most dangerous thing they will probably ever get up to is to overdo the hair-gel. Hey, but I cannot complain. I used to be one too, and soon, my elder one will get there. Whew. The chicitas walking in front know exactly what is happening. The poor guys behind, huge hormone cocktails all of them, frantically hurrying after lithe tanned legs in front, involuntarily caught in the oldest rip tide of Life – that of the mating call.

What a mixture of races this is. I can see the patrician Greek faces one remembers from old paintings that show oval faced Greek beauties with tendrils of hair over the faces. Well, go to the Larnaca promenade to see them. They are still there and they are beautiful. Is’nt it strange how the greatest civilisations have the best looking women – is that a Cause or an Effect I wonder?

Anyway, back to the Race question. The ubiquitous Filipino nanny is here too. What is it about the Filipinos that seem to make them great care-givers. For some reason, they seem to be a Race of friendly, caring people for whom the act of helping others is genuinely interesting. While economic necessity and the ability to speak English are often touted as the reasons why Filipinos are all over the world as maids & nannies (and of course, there is no doubt about these), I am starting to think there is more to it than that.

Funnily enough, there are a number of people who look fairly Indian. They look like us, but they also look different. Mysterious. Are they Gypsies? And then of course, there are the hordes of Northerners. Brits, Germans, Nordic types, Russians, Slavs…

Now, let us dwell on Northerners for a moment. They work hard all through the year, running hither and thither buying this, selling that and making money. And for one glorious month every year, they go to the Sun and hang about and do little, soaking in enough heat into their bones to help them pass the next 11 months in a harsh land. Geography determines all human actions. If you are born in a cold and hostile land that does not give you an even chance of survival, the only thing you can do is to Do. Move about, keep warm, forage and maraud – just to survive. Thousands of years of this imperative has given the Northerners a way of life that I am sure they never thought possible. They have almost effectively tamed the Elements in their favour and with their great expending of energy brought the whole world under their sway. So successful has this model of incessant work been, some of them have even coded it into their religion. They call it the ‘Protestant Work Ethic’. The idea that more work is morally & spiritually uplifting and someone who does less work deserves a boot from God. Get to hotter climes and you can see this idea start to wobble. Many years ago, I remember reading a novel by the American Frank Yerby, in which the first scene opens with a European pastor walking down the steps of his ship after a long voyage under the blazing summer sun, to find a small Indian curled up, sleeping under a tree. Confirms all his prejudices of the ‘indolent natives’. Now the whole world has unquestioningly adopted this ideal of incessant work and its pay-off of world domination. Come to think of it, this is a pretty stupid idea for people in warmer climes. After all, if your land is blessed by the elements and there is no threat of imminent death (as there would be in cold and hostile clime) I see no reason to work so hard. And young George, the Cypriot with a Dutch mother, who gave me a great introduction to Limassol and Lefkara (about which another post will follow) eloquently argued for the same thing. Alvin Toffler in one of his books has a chapter titled “Gandhi with Satellites’, in which he paints the possibility of the human race moving to a very small, local community based mode of a quiet life (much like our forefathers in the tropics did just a couple of generations ago) but with the important difference that technology allows us to be masters of the Elements everywhere on Earth and to communicate with each other across the globe. I believe the next century wil take us very close to this situation. Modern Cyprus is a harbinger.

In this medley of races is obviously a medley of clothes. Uber-chic western dresses mix with turkish head scarves with the odd traditional skirt thrown in. Why do Western women look so good in western clothes and not so good – sorry girls – in Indian stuff like Sarees (ok, ok, just to even the field, I think the reverse is true for Indian women). I think it has to do with Shoulders. Occidental women are generally big-built and this means wide shoulders. The more I observe western clothing the more I think it is primaily about adorning these wide shoulders. On the other hand, clothing for Indian women is mostly about draping the hips – the shoulders dont seem to count. And in this difference probably lies the reason why the twain can never meet.

And in these deep and grave thoughts, passed an evening at the waterfront promenade in Larnaca…

Click here for all my Cyprus posts>>

Weekend getaways from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata and 10 other Indian cities

HolidayIQ has just revamped its weekend getaway section. Now one can find weekend getaway destinations as well as weekend getaway resorts/hotels by distance from each of the top 17 Indian cities.

Click here to see the new pages:

Weekend getaways from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata

Weekend getaways from all 17 cities

Set Jetting to Sex and the City

(Photo from Destination on Location)

So you always wanted to DO New York? Here is your chance. For 15,000 dollars (US), you can spend 4 days & 5 nights traipsing across Manhattan, Soho, Chelsea & the Meatpacking district for an intimate journey through the world inhabited by Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda & Amanda of Sex and the City.

Highlights include meals at Balthazar, Pastis, Raoul’s & Cipriani, shopping at Jimmy Choo,  Scoop, Intermix and Versace, nights at Club Socialista et al. You can even choose your favourite character from among the girls and go for a ‘perfect saturday afternoon’. All of this, while you are escorted by people who know their NY stuff very well.

Brought together by a company that calls itself Destination on Location. As their name suggests, it is all about escorted tours to movie locations or as they call it, ‘Set Jetting’.

I have held for sometime now that movies and tourism will soon coalesce pretty forcefully and it will mean a tectonic shift in the travel experience, especially at the premium end. DOL is an interesting beginning.

Click here to read another post I wrote earlier on something similar.

Planning a holiday abroad? Book your hotel online.

Over the last few weeks I have had a number of people asking me various doubts on planning an independent international holiday & particularly about booking hotels abroad. So, till such time as HolidayIQ launches a comprehensive international section (don’t worry, that is coming soon & I promise, it will be a great planning tool), here is a quick primer on how to book hotels & resorts abroad.

I am an online guy, so my first preference is always to book hotels online. With both Travelocity and Expedia launching India sites, the widest international hotel inventory is available to be booked from India and paid in Rupees. So, it sure beats your neighbourhood travel agent hollow. And since both sites have an Indian call centre, one can also talk to a real person in India to double check your bookings, which is often a real comfort.

I stress-tested booking a family room (4 people, 2 adults and 2 kids) at Orlando – in or around Disneyworld – on both the sites. Both Expedia & Travelocity did a good job and threw up a number of options (although Travelocity gave funny error messages & repeatedly failed in my Firefox browser which was a disappointment). However, Expedia’s search methodology was a shade more user-friendly since it allows you to find hotels by naming the Attraction you want to go to and throws up hotels around the attraction. Of course, both Travelocity & Expedia also allow you to narrow the list of hotels in the search results by distance or ease of access to the attraction.

Both excelled in prices. Hotel room prices around Disneyworld started in Expedia at Rs 1386 per night and in Travelocity at Rs 1583 per night. Continue reading

New Delhi International Airport, Taj Palace Hotel, Indian Airlines now called Air India and Fujiya

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(Delhi airport. Photo from : http://www.newdelhiairport.in)

I am just back from a quick business trip to Delhi which coincided with the coldest week in Delhi in 28 years. Not good news – but as luck would have it, the first day there turned out to be very cold but very sunny, which is a lovely combination. So, escaped unhurt.

For old times sake (and because they have a bloody early morning flight from Bangalore), I flew Indian Airlines, which has now been determinedly renamed Air India. Unfortunate. Because in the process, Indian Airlines, which I have always had a soft corner for, is really starting to resemble Air India, which according to me is unquestionably among the the 10 worst airlines in the world. So, here is an emotional requiem to Indian Airlines; RIP.

Among the obscene prices for hotels rooms in Delhi, I was able to wangle a slightly less indecent price (fairly crazy nevertheless) from the The Taj Palace hotel by booking a no-cancellation room, way ahead of time on the Taj Hotels website. It is always nice to stay at the Taj, because somewhere they have perfected the art of clean & efficient luxury service without the ‘looking-you-over’ approach of some Indian luxury chains, not the least of which is the Oberoi. Continue reading

Can the Calicut Heritage Forum preserve the best of Malabar food?

chemmeen_prawn-biryani-_calicut_malabar.jpg

(Photo of Malabar Prawn Biryani, from Eastern Spices)

Ever since Sunita’s family introduced me to the absolutely crazy food in Calicut (Kozhikode), I consider myself a staunch honorary citizen. If luscious food weren’t enough, Calicut is also one of India’s ancient cities; the centre of the old world’s spice trade, particularly Pepper trade. So, it has Food & History going for it, which is two strong strikes for that city.

So, when I heard that the good citizens of the city have set up a Calicut Heritage Forum, I was very pleased. Continue reading

Film Festival Tours – vacations for film buffs

I have often wanted to visit film festivals, but one experience with a film festival in Delhi has made me wary of its logistics. The interest is still there. So I was idly wondering whether there is anybody who can give me a vacation tour of the best film festivals and so decided to Google it up. Lo and behold, I found Film Festival Tours in Canada. In their words:

Purchasing and selecting tickets for a film festival can be a challenge, with its lottery system and routinely sold out screenings. But we here at Film Festival Tours take all the hassle out of the process for you. Continue reading

Chelsea Harbour, London

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(photo courtesy : Chelsea Harbour Marina)

Get on to the District Line (green) on the London tube and aim for Wimbledon. Alight at a station called Fulham Broadway and turn left as you come out of the station; walk for about a quiet mile and you get to Chelsea Harbour. London is full of surprisingly nice boroughs and Chelsea Harbour is one of them. If you are in London, are interested in Interior Design and have a few hours to spare to meander out a bit, this is an interesting little trip.

I found Chelsea Harbour a few years ago because I was chasing up a new design centre I had heard rumours of. Chelsea Design Centre - CDC – is a nice concept if you happen to like anything associated with Interior design. (I do, so the interest). CDC is a one-stop mall for various outlets providing designer products for all interior design requirements. When I visited it a few years ago, it was almost exclusively focused on Architects and Builders. I recollect wondering why they had not promoted themselves among the aam janata and I am happy to report that they seem to done it now. It is a concept crying out to be done in India; I think Mumbai, Delhi & Bangalore can each take one such place.

The other interesting place is the Chelsea Harbour Marina which as the name suggests is, well, a Marina. A lovely little marina on the Thames ringed by residential buildings that obviously provide a respite for harassed but well-heeled Londoners.

Here is the link to all my Europe posts.

And, here you can find stuff classified under European Cuisine.

Hong Kong : Disneyland vs Ocean Park

oceanparkguide_map1.jpg

All those who travel to Hong Kong with kids will have to face this one. Which should be a higher priority – Ocean Park, the older amusement park or Disneyland, the scion of a more famous family? Here is my take, having done this with two kids in tow a couple of weeks ago.

If you have younger kids, shoot for Disneyland first. If your kids are bit older (say 12+), Ocean Park is a better first stop. Ocean Park is a lot more outdoorsy, has a few scary rides (check out the Abyss), a really nice 3-level aquarium called the Atoll Reef and puts on a cool Dolphin & Sea lion show twice everyday. If the weather is good, this is a great (however, if the Hong Kong sun is out in force, the kids are likely to get exhausted fast). Hong Kong Disney on the other hand is more compact and has more stuff inside air conditioned comfort, allowing you to beat the normally sultry weather. The highlights of Disney are the various shows they put on. Do not miss Mickey’s Philarmagic & the Golden Mickey.

On the whole, if you have time, do both. This will keep the kids quiet when you go on your shopping rampage.

Here are 2 other suggestions for Hong Kong – one on Food and the other on a Beach.

And click here for all my posts on City Vacations around the world.

Dim Sum

Dim Sum photo

(photo from : http://www.jenzcorner.com/gallery/dragoncity.jpg)

Fuk Yeun Hotpot seafood restaurant (yes, seriously – that is the name) in Mongok, on Kowloon island introduced me to the pleasures of the Hong Kong Dim Sum. The last time I had Dim Sum somewhat close to this good was in the chinese restaurant at The Oberoi in Delhi. Dim Sums come in various types, shapes & sizes. Steamed buns, fried spring rolls, dumplings of all persuasion, veggie concoctions et al. Fuk Yuen rolled out the whole lot. And the real surprise in the package was this Capsicum & Eggplant number.

Moving on. For me, Wontons are the royalty of dim sum. Delicate dough hiding clever concoctions of meats & seafoods steamed in Bamboo steamers. Seems the cantonese word for Dim Sum also means ‘swallowing clouds’ which I guess is as apt a description as possible. Trust the ancients to get it right.

In all of this, I could not get to try out the vast array of live seafood on offer at Fuk Yuen. Tanks filled with lobsters, shrimp, clam, garoupa were all, unfortunately left behind. Next time.

Click here for all my posts on Chinese Food.

And, click here for all my posts on Hong Kong & China.