Travelogue: New Zealand

A trip without a single Kiwi sighting, but we got magnets!

After a pathetic year and a half delay, I am here to talk about the beautiful New Zealand honeymoon that I took with my honey. Before the sh*t hit the fan, we managed to have the most wonderful holiday together at a breathtaking destination and it was essentially a travel adventure together after the wedding madness. Hopefully, whenever things open up, you’d be able to visit one of the most stunning places on Earth and experience it yourselves.

We were going to NZ in the peak of the tourist season and hence, I had made the bookings a few months in advance. We tried hiring a travel consultant to design our itinerary but the price knocked me off my feet. I sorted out our itinerary in half that amount and some change to spare. Yep, I am an expert itinerary maker by now! I can’t forget how I had to completely re-pack a day before our flights to India, because I had packed assuming that it’s summer time in NZ. But just out of curiosity, when we checked the weather, we saw a lot of stormy clouds and rainfall in Queenstown. So out came all the cute rompers and shorts, and in went leggings and long skirts.

We decided to fly out of New Delhi, travel across New Zealand and catch our direct flight back to LA. Our stopover to NZ was in China, and we spent a blissfully unaware 4 hours wandering at the airport. We were already sick(no thanks to Delhi December pollution) so no reason to suspect anything! They did take our temperatures a few times ,but who knows! We had sent sent our excess baggage back with friends, because NZ local flights are insanely strict about weight limits. Yes, they check 3 times and we had to wear 3 outfits and stuff our pockets to the oblivion each time. We had wanted to see both North and south Islands and hence we divided our trip into those parts. Our itinerary was Auckland-Queenstown-surrounding areas-Auckland and I had planned it so that we do some fun and touristy activity and then relax for a day or two. Both of us are also super into AirB&Bs and enjoy actually spending time and unwinding. So it was a go-go-go and a break sort of a situation. I will expand on our shenanigans further, location wise.

Auckland: We landed in Auckland on a sunny afternoon and reached our hotel close to the airport. We were going to spend the next day and half in Auckland, do touristy stuff, and leave for Queenstown. The touristy stuff included a tour to LOTR’s Hobbiton movie set and Waitomo glowworm caves. The tour was going to start bright and early, so we spent the evening lazing around, and pounding on the ‘honeymoon special’ cheesecake. I was all set on using the ‘newly wed couple’ card everywhere. And boy, did it get me desserts!

Hobbiton was very fun! I have to admit that I have watched only 2 LOTR movies and so has Mr. PB, but it was all very exciting nevertheless! The lush pastures of the Shire, the mighty trees, the little houses are adorable and beautifully preserved. Our tour guide was really fun and enjoyed regaling us with stories. We enjoyed some mulled wine and pints, and moved onto the the next part of the tour. The Waitomo glowworm caves are something that I could never imagine! We took a boat ride and had to try and keep our mouths shut for the fear of worm excretes falling in! It was visually stunning but we have no photographs! You aren’t allowed because the camera can scare the worms. While sailing through the limestone grotto, you have to be completely quiet since the worms get stressed by sound and stop glowing. It takes them a massive amount of energy to turn ‘on’ again. There is a part of the cave called Cathedral that has phenomenal acoustic quality and a number of musicians have performed there. It was a day well spent! The next day, our flight was in the afternoon, so we could laze around, and chill. Mr. PB got a haircut too, which I think is the weirdest thing to do on a holiday.

Queenstown: Imagine lush plains and field with a gazillion sheep on one side, and a massive lake on the other. Yep, that’s Queenstown. As soon as we landed, I was in love with the place! It was everything green and just so beautiful! Our AirB&B was right by the lake and the view was to die for! The living room and bedroom had floor to ceiling glass panes that made us wake up to serenity each morning. We had adventures planned for our stay in Queenstown. The city is famous for bungy jumping, canyon swinging, and other activities that involve falling off from great heights. And we did all that! What an exhilarating experience! The swoosh in the tummy while falling down is just something else. I absolutely recommend it! We had a great time walking around amidst the greenery and grabbing bites here and there. Heck, this girl even went running by the lake and it literally, never happens! We also visited a local lavender fam which made my pose-like-an-actress dreams come true.

Fiordland: I had come across a ton of images while researching the beauty of NZ and the Milford sound fjords were in a lot of them. There is a U shaped valley, carved out by the Glaciers, 100,000 year sin the making, in the southern side of NZ. The valley is dotted with spectacular waterfalls! There are many more falls even on the way, and it’s a day long trip with plenty of stunning stops. You know the fields that you see in the movies with swaying long grass? Yep, here! Also, this was the only tour open on Christmas Day and it worked out beautifully.

Fox Glacier: After a few fun-filled days in Queenstown, we picked up our rental car and headed to Franz Glacier, which was 4-5 hours away. The travel had the most beautiful, lush fern laden sights and I could not help wonder if a T-Rex would suddenly emerge! It rained, it sunned, and rained again. When we reached, we decided to walk around and what a great idea it turned out to be! We went to check out a small trail called Minnehaha walk by our hotel, and ended up walking with a little French family with two young boys, who were looking for glow-worms! It was so exciting to peek into the dense, fern speckled trees and spot the glow-worms inside the hollow trunks. The kids were fearless and one gave me a sea shell that he had kept from a beach! ❤ This turned out to be one of the best highlights of the trip. The next morning arrived bright and early and we checked in for our helicopter ride and hike on top of a freakin’ glacier! Fox Glacier is a reminder of the might of the Earth as well as a grim nod to climate change. You can tell where the retreat and shrinkage has taken place and it all leaves you in a humble awe. We turned out to be quite lucky, as 80% of rides had been cancelled in the last 6 months because of the fickle weather. Also, once you get there, things can change really quickly, and the previous week, a tourist group had to stay in tents for 9 hours. They store everything at the heli landing site and have a very limited number of people that they take. This hike had me loaded with goosbumps throughout, and the beauty, beyond words. Thankfully, the sun was out for most of the time and we didnt have to wear our heavy jackets as much. We walked with our snow shoes on, and absolutely had to follow the guide. The guides have to come up with new trails everyday because of the ever changing conditions and safety of the ice. One wrong step, and sh*t can go south. But, dang, what stunning sights! Our last stop in Southern Island, was one for the memories. I may cautiously call it life-altering, because I have been inspired to be way more environmentally conscious than I was before. The glaciers tell a story, and the recent chapters are pretty emotional.

Auckland: This was the last leg of the trip, and I daresay, made me wish that I had skipped the city. The city is marvelous, no doubt, but is almost shut down between Christmas and January 5th. Very few restaurants were open, and the crowd was very touristy. We took the ferry on New Years’s Eve to go see a neighboring Island and spent the afternoon at a winery. We welcomed the 2020 with mellow fanfare on the terrace of our hotel, underneath the fireworks. It was a little underwhelming, and I wonder if the weird funny feeling in my tummy was an indication. Ah well!

We said goodbye to NZ on the 1st with a full heart and buckets of memories. New Zealand was phenomenal and we couldn’t be happier that we chose this country to begin our new phase of life. A small part of me was left behind in Queenstown, and it’s living it up in the rolling grass on the shores of the brightest, bluest lake ever!

I am posting some pictures, but they don’t do any justice, like none at all! Not just because the place is too beautiful, but also because my photography skills are non-existent. Ah well!

  1. If you are taking domestic flights in NZ, make sure you pack according to the weight restrictions and buy extra weight allowances well in advance for discounts. They are a nightmare when it comes to strictness!
  2. BOOK EVERYTHING 6 months before, as soon as you book your flights. Use free cancellations later. But the activities get filled out very quickly. December is the busiest time.
  3. It is southern Hemisphere for summer’s on in December, but it still gets cold and rainy. A rainjacket is a must. Queenstown rain can be heavy, so umbrellas are not that useful.
  4. The food was underwhelming for me as a vegetarian, but expect a lot of lamb!
  5. The wineries of NZ are famous for white wines, so drink up!
  6. Southern Island is better in my opinion if you like the nature. Northern Island has more big city vibes.


The great, grand city: Ciudad de Mexico!

I have traveled to Mexico a fair few times now, mostly for good food, and dog shelter work with the rescue organization. A few months ago, our HR/company owner at work traveled to CDMX and came back talking amazing things about the city! I was intrigued, and got an email somehow the same day about freshly dropped prices. Was it a sign of the heavens above? I do not know. Did I act on it? Heck, yes!

Also, this marked the first international(well, we arent counting 5-6 hours spent in Rosarito and Ensenada) together. We were a ball of mush and quite cutesy together, and how gross! It’s cute to travel together on flights and be my grumpy self during early morning flights. I am pretty adorable like that.

We bought some insanely cheap round trip tickets from Tijuana, MX to CDMX and purchased bridge crossing tickets as well. If you dont know about it, CBX is a service that connects San Diego with Tijuana airport and you get to clear border security, immigration and all that jazz right away! It’s a pretty nifty deal and extremely convenient! Make sure you give it enough time in case there are lines. We did not find any crowds! Easy-peasy!

We landed in CDMX on Friday late at night due to flight delays, and so obviously, we did not explore the city at all. Our AirBnB was a private room in a guy’s house who works as a digital artist. The house was old, charming and beautifully done with a rustic appeal. The best part? It was in one of the best locations of the city for a walkable, fun, food and mezcal scene, with all places of touristical importance a short uber ride away!

We woke up nice and late on Saturday morning with a lot of coaxing from the boy about it being late at 10.15 am, without him actually getting up though. We got dressed, and headed out to check out Chapultepec Castle and the park. We had, had a nice brunch at Panderia Rosetta and the climb up the hill to get to the castle, took care of the calories, or so I wish to think. The castle is known to be the only one in this side of the world where aristocracy actually lived. I really wish I could tell you more about the place, but alas, all the information was in Spanish. Our spattering language skills were not enough to overcome the impatience. We looked at the architecture, paintings, displays, admired them and moved on. The castle is a beautiful sight though, and worth spending time at. While meandering through the park, we spotted Parque de Gandhi on the map and decided to check that out. We felt like we were on our own personal Dandi March because of the amount that we walked just to locate that statue and the park. We did find it, it was nice, albeit it was missing the glasses. But before the evasive statue was found, we bumped into such a fun circuit training area of the park called, you can guess it, Gandhi Circuit.

We walked a bit more around the Polanco area, exploring the posh area and finally discovered the expensive joys of e-scooters. We had some yummy gelato at what looked like an upscale place, and headed back to Condensa to enjoy the rest of our evening. We missed out on the Frida Kahlo museum during this trip because of crazy traffic in that area. We made up for it by tasting some smoothest mezcal at the 11th best bar in the world. Licoreria Limantour was phenomenal and the unexpected rains late in the evening added some noir charm to the evening. The server we had, went an extra mile to get us drunk on some complimentary taster shot and some particularly delicious drinks. We ended the night with a sugar rush at El Moro with churros and chocolate sauce. It is one of the must-do things in CDMX, but I can pass on it in the future as churros are not in my top 5.

The second day also arrived bright and late and we were totally in a relaxation mode. We explored the park next to our AirBnB that had a Sunday flea market. A big chunk of it was for dogs! They had a walk-in trailer clinic, some exercise areas, adoption posts and a lot of stalls for dogs and humans. There was a ball pit for dogs where an exuberant huskie was scaring all the terriers away! We bought some fresh fruit, yummy mango-tajin flavored popcorn and fresh coconut water. We visited the museo de anthropologico after a sumptious brunch at Bisquette Obregon with a staff that went out of the way to please us. The museum is quite stunning with a lot of information and this time in English as well. The displays are spectacular and arranged zone and age wise. The museum talks about the history of north-central-south America and the culture since thousands of years ago. The Spanish invasion was a turning point in history and we all are aware of what it did to the indigenous population. It also talks about the origin of man and that was my favorite part indeed. We explored Insurgentes that evening and had dinner at the most outstanding pizza place ever! We had a pizza with huitlacoche which is a sort of corn smut or fungi that infects corn. As disgusting as it sounds, it is delicious and is a delicacy, bringing more revenue to the farmers than healthy corn itself! Go figure! We scootered around a bit more and had some more mezcal at a dive bar, but a splitting headache made us head back home and call it a night.

The final day in CDMX was reserved for Teotihuacan pyramids. I dropped the ball here and did not book a tour on time. We ubered to the pyramids which is an hour or so on the freeway and paid around USD$40 plus some toll. When we got there, the guides seemed rather expensive and I started feeling the pinch of disappointment on my failed planning. But we started to talk to people about their tour and guides and while I was buying a hat to protect myself from the heat, the boy ended up talking to a guide and his group and he asked us to simply join him! He told us not to worry about any payments because what he did was for the love of his city! Oh my heart! We had a great time around the ruins and learning about the history of the pyramids. We learned about the Gods and how nature was such an important part of the culture. We also learnt more about the brutality of European invasion. But nothing was more intriguing than learning about the ‘ballgame’! Seriously, look that up! The winner of the game used to be sacrificed to the Gods! Real motivational! The highlight of the trip was climbing the gazillion steps to the top of the Temple of the Moon and then the Temple of the Sun. That was my workout of the month. After the tour we shopped around at the local tiendas and spent more than we normally would have. But thank you, exchange rate! We didn’t quite bargain a lot because it just felt wrong to us, to see the shacks and the people actually working hard in that heat. Were we gullible? Yes. Were we upset about it? Nope. We found out about buses at the last moment that were insanely cost-effective, and rode back to the city for chump change practically.

The last evening of the trip was spent at an upscale, classy restaurant called Azul Historico and the dinner was divine! We had some of the most creative meals and the boy even tried ant eggs! The service was phenomenal and the place was stunning! I had a soup made out of 18 flowers, and enchilada with hibiscus flowers. Wut?! Mango was the flavor of the month and my Mango Manguita was exceptional! That was pretty much it for us and the only space we had for dessert, barely accommodated the chocolate we got with the check.

Mexico City, you were stunning! We had a fabulous time and we hope in our hearts to see you again. But for now, onto the next trip!


  1. We have been learning Spanish, and we had a bunch of trouble with things getting lost in translation, but it was fun! Not everyone can speak in English here. An app called ‘Spanishdict’ is a real life-saver! Some restaurants do have English menus though.
  2. Try all the local foods, but keep common sense in mind by asking for freshly cut fruits and keeping an eye out on hygiene. But don’t be that person who goes ‘ewwww’.
  3. CDMX deserves 3-4 days to soak in all the culture! Stay in the central part of town as per budget since that makes traveling easier. Condesa, Roma, are some of the best spots with a lot of walkable places around. The cafes and restaurants are exceptional here!
  4. Take Ubers and avoid cabs! E-scooters and bikes are in abundance here, but the costs somehow add up more than shared ubers.
  5. Chapultepec Park should be divided in to multiple days because each attraction takes up a few hours atleast.
  6. The city is mostly closed on Mondays, including the attractions, except the Teotihuacan Pyramids.
  7. You can book tours or AirBnB experience to go to the pyramids. There are buses running every 20 minutes to and from the pyramids that take about an hour to complete a one-way journey. The buses are fast and comfortable enough, and insanely cheap. You will find guides at the door, but bargaining is a must. You can even chat up a group or couple and share a guide.
  8. Hats and sunscreen are a MUST at Teotihuacan. There are zero trees and no shade. You will want to climb everything and the sun beats down on you. Stay hydrated!
  9. Tips are not manadatory in restaurants, but they do ask if you would like to tip/propina. I find it awkward to say no, and hence I succumbed each time.
  10. If you are vegan/vegetarian, CDMX is very cosmopolitan, and you will get a lot of good food choices. Go nuts!


Travelogue : Seattle, Washington.

I got to get out of town after a looooong time, and it was awesome!

I was planning on visiting Seattle for quite some time and I was quite inclined to make it happen ASAP, come rain or shine. And boy, did it rain! My friend SP from Minneapolis, and I booked our tickets, and so we started planning.

I did not plan a whole lot for this trip, which was both good and bad in a way. I got a few suggestions from Mad and DD but the snowfalls and road closure put a dampener on those plans. all for good though, because instead of Mt. Rainier, we covered the Boeing factory! The drive to Everett was quite nice. It was raining(but, of course) and the surroundings were so lush and green! San Diego is freakin’ awesome but I do miss seeing greenery in SoCal. The Space Needle turned out kind of sad because it was all fogged out and there was no view except from the elevator. It was mean of them to charge full price with the rotating restaurant shut for construction and fogged out view, but ah well. The Chihuly glass garden turned out to be a great show stealer and was one of out favorite sites in Seattle.

We saved the most interesting, and sort of pretentious(but I am all about it!) Seattle experiences for the last day. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room is a must have experience, even if you are not a coffee person! We tried their flight and chose three delicious coffees. We saw beans getting roasted and ground, and packed. We saw crazy brewing methods and hipster men in fun mustaches. We learnt that the menu is ever changing because these are small lot batches from different parts of the world. One of the coffees that we chose was from India! The whole experience is like wine tasting, but leaving you super caffeinated instead of drunk.

If you like Portland, you will like Seattle as well, though I prefer Portland more. Maybe it is because we both are weird?! I do have a travelogue on Portland. But I highly suggest visiting Seattle, maybe during better weather conditions.

My friend and I pigged out on food and drinks and each night, managed to return to the hotel in good time to catch up on sleep and experience total relaxation. We needed some rejuvenation to break out of the funk, and thankfully, we got that.

Leaving you guys with some pictures and tips for Seattle trippage.

  1. It will be helpful to get an idea about weather when you go. It was very cold and rainy when we went. I admit that I forgot about that when I booked my tickets. But in all honesty, I just wanted to go, come what may.
  2. Carry your good warm jacket, and thermals, and umbrella.
  3. Spend a good amount of time at Chihuly and do watch the glass blowing demo. It is quite interesting! It is every hour, am to pm.
  4. Buy your souvenirs inside the space needle visitor center and not in the little shop outside. Ha!
  5. If you are a Seafood lover, Seattle is the place for you. Hang out in the Pike Public Market and you will know what I mean. From what I hear, skip Mexican food.
  6. Commit on spending a couple of hours at Starbucks roastery. And also keep a few minutes spare. As many know, coffee is a friend of the digestive tract. ‘Where is the restroom?’ is a common question with some urgency, that the servers get asked. 😀
  7. The airport is kind of far from Seattle mainstay. There is a train from the airport to downtown Seattle and I recommend it if you opt to not renting a car. Also, parking charges are kind of exorbitant in Seattle. We used Lyft to get around and it was very reasonable. There are a bunch of bike shares too for a buck an hour or so!
  8. There is a beautiful Japanese Garden by Capitol Hill which was closed for the winter season, but I recommend that.
  9. I feel rather bad that we could not go to see Mt. Rainier and the reflection lake, but that makes me want to go back during summer. It is an hour and half drive from the airport, and can be covered in a day trip.
  10. Pick for a hotel or AirBnB in downtown to stay close to the action.



Travelogue : Weekend-ing at Baltimore-Washinton DC

I had a tryst with a different part of America over the last weekend.

I was over to visit my bestie AH over at Baltimore who is in US for 3 weeks on some training session through his work. It was a trip that I had to take because I am going to miss his wedding in January which is such a bummer. All in all, it turned out great because I even got to meet my very special friends! Murat, his wife and his brand new baby girl Damla! He isn’t big on Facebook but he was scrolling through the feed to read about what was going on in Ankara. He came across my picture and he noticed it was tagged in Maryland. He asked Becca if he was seeing it right. He texted me right away and we made plans within the next 15 min and AH and I drove off to Murat’s about an hour outside Baltimore. I was under the impression that he was far away! Haha! They are my buddies who got married in Turkey in September! Boy, Murat did a great job timingwise. 😛 We were teasing him about his, ahem, strong swimmers. Baby Damla is beyond cute. She is a sweetheart and she wouldn’t stop staring at me with her big gray eyes and smiling with her tongue poking out! It was a great drive with lush greens on both sides of the road and it was a great evening with friends.

In Baltimore, the location of AH’s hotel was at the harbor and it was so picture perfect with graffiti, cobbled streets, street-side cafes. I have heard a lot about the issues plaguing Baltimore currently and how it can be a rough neighborhood, and from what people told me, the downtown is a much nicer area. I did not go to the highly recommended Aquarium because I have been to Sea World 3 times and I am perhaps done with fishes for a loooooong time.


We took a day trip to Washington DC and saw most of the iconic buildings and monuments. We spent a lot of time at the Smithsonian and I cannot recommend enough the Air and Space museum and Natural History museum. Please do not miss the Smithsonian! Here are some pictures.

Travel tip:

  1. Perhaps the most important tip would be to factor in atleast $15 parking charges a day into your budget. We did a lot of car moving here and there and saved some dough. It’s a horrible situation with very expensive parking rates in both Baltimore and Washington DC. In hindsight, do check ZipCar availabilities around your place of stay.
  2. Wear your best walking shoes possible.


This trip was a particularly special one. We had always wanted to take some sort of vacation together since college days. But with me here and the boys and girls in India, it was obviously very hard. The boys do go on way more trips than my girl friends though and I feel jealous that I miss all those. Moo and I managed to travel together to Turkey, meet up in US and all that, and that ways, we are quite satisfied. With AH, we had never thought that we’ll meet up in America like this! I would have loved to have him come home and see California but financially it wasn’t possible for him and so I flew out to meet him. It was worthwhile also because of meeting Murat and ticking off DC from my list.

I cant help it, but this trip was also bittersweet. He was visibly upset when I left and he said this. ‘PB things are going to change now’. His words could not have been truer, however much in denial I am. Things are changing and they will continue to change. I am trying to hold on to those days but they are like sand between my fingers. The more I forcefully hold on, the more they escape.

Maybe I just need to let go. Everything.


Travelogue : Sequoia National Park

I think I am a medium sized human. I am not super short, but I am not tall. I look like a mid size girl(I don’t think I am ready to be called ‘woman’ yet) at almost 5’ 4”. But I felt really, really tiny standing next to the massive Sequoia trees that form the forests of Sequoia National Park. I wish I was taller. Like just an inch more, or two.

It was Madhuri’s happy budday on Thursday and her boy DD decided to surprise her by flying over from Connecticut. He had taken Abhi, Nish and me  into confidence and we planned a nice little day trip to Sequoia and King’s national park on Saturday. We reached LA on Friday night and prepped for the next day which had to begin early to utilize all the daylight we had. I was up at 4.30 am to shower and we left at 6.45 or so after a Starbucks pitstop. We also took a lovely breakfast break where we had enough breakfast for all the king’s men. We had scrambled eggs, green omelets, toasts, pancakes, biscuits, hash browns, fresh orange juice between the 5 of us. Thanks to that, I was knocked out in the car for almost an hour. The food, and car’s movements and the never ending road is enough to push me into a deep stupor.

The drive to Sequoia is about 4 hours from LA. The road is beautiful because it is lined with huge orange tree farms. We even saw some farms owned by Halos that supply tangerines/clementines/’cuties’ to Walmart and such. At one point, we even got out, took pictures and stole 3 oranges. I had a very terrifying thought of a sniper up in the tree waiting to shoot trespassers, thanks to DD and Abhi.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we reached Sequoia. By the way I have to totally mention that I did not like the way the visitor center lady refused to give me a map. I am not sure how much it costs them, but they may as well print out a non-glossy plain version to hand out to people if they are so worried. It really pissed me off. But I also blame my hormones for over-reacting. I was in a lot of pain, and very moody. 😦

After driving up another little bit to the visitor center, Nisha spotted a sign about gas and that prompted her to ask if we had enough gas in the car. Turned out, we had barely enough to drive back to the gas station. So that cancelled our plan to go to the King’s but that was fine because we were anyways going to run out of daylight by 4.30 pm. There was no point in going to King’s and drive down those winding slopes in the dark.

At Sequoia, we did a little hike in the woods to go to this Tunnel Log which has been carved out of a massive fallen tree to let vehicles pass. They say that they never move the trees and let nature take its own course. Some of the trees have been there for almost 2000 years! A few witnesses say that the tree suddenly starts to snap and the roots make a huge sound like thundering avalanche and that’s when the tree falls. It is all a matter of minutes. I would rather not stray in that tree’s path. There was also an interesting point about forest fires and how natural fires are beneficial to the eco-system. Due to man-made activities, these fires have become rarer and more dangerous. So rangers start controlled fires to help in boosting the ecological balance of the Sequoia and Redwood trees. Oooh, and there are bears in the area. Also, we spotted a deer from very close in the car!

There was a foot of snow on the sides but the roads were clean. Some parts had the frozen, slippery snow, but it was okay to walk as long as you were careful. We were driving an all wheel drive SUV, so we did not need snow chains as well.

Some pictures form the park:


  1. There are campgrounds at the start of the national park and we plan to go back there to camp overnight in the spring. It is beautiful and very green.
  2. There is no gas for 40 miles inside the Park, so definitely put gas in the car before you enter the park. It doesn’t hurt to have a full tank.
  3. Keep in mind the amount of daylight you have if you plan to go hiking and plan your spots to see accordingly.
  4. Carry your camera and wide lens(if you have them). Beautiful opportunities to capture a very different landscape.
  5. Wear waterproof shoes with good grip. I wore boots but without any grip. But thankfully, I did not fall.
  6. There is nothing inside the park to eat. Or at least I did not see any café or restaurant. We carried potato fry and bread to make sandwiches. So, stock up accordingly.

Travelogue : Death Valley

Thanksgiving. Long weekend. Get out of town. That’s the mantra we seem to be following these days. Any long weekend or vacation spent at home is akin to a crime.

My holidays started pretty much when a very old friend from college Sayali came over to my part of the country to catch up on our friendship and enjoy her vacation. We had a blast, went to Las Vegas, clubbed, gambled, boozed and did the usual Vegassy stuff. After coming back to Orange County, we visited the local beaches which were too cold to be enjoyed thoroughly. Yet we had a great time sitting on top of the lifeguard’s post and talking.

Thanksgiving dinner was had at my buddy Shawn and Alicia’s where food was served to us in quantities that will put an elephant’s diet to shame. I am still eating leftovers and I am still set for two more meals.


One of the very exciting things that I did was to go to the Death Valley National Park with Abhi and Nisha. It is one of the largest national parks in the country and is a huge expanse of flat lands and mountains, a lot of it actually below the sea level. The say that Death Valley is the land of extremes. The temperatures range from 120 F in summers to 20 F in winters, which is around 48 C and sub-zero. Also, you get to see extremely beautiful night skies with the milky band. It was a few nights after full moon, yet we could see a gazillion stars just at 7 pm. My skin tingles at the thought of a moonless night over there. And a date. Meh.

We stayed at the Panamint Springs Resort which is a family owned resort with a few rooms, pre-built tents, RV hookup sites and campgrounds. It is an old and basic arrangement but worked very well for us. The restaurant had vegetarian options in pizzas and burgers and a couple of appetizers. Nothing fancy considering that it was a friggin’ remote location with ZERO cell service. Yep. No internet. No phone. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

We stayed in the lodge on Friday night after a 4 hour drive from OC to Panamints springs area. The drive was rough with a lot of unpaved roads as would be commonplace in such an area. In the next couple of days, we enjoyed quite a few Death Valley massages as Abhi called ‘em gravel-ey roads. We ate and slept, prepared for a an early day. We had some sumptuous buffet breakfast on both the days with pancakes, scrambled eggs, cereal, croissants and such. On Saturday, we set out to cover most of the sightseeing in the area.

There are two things worth mentioning. First, I was awed by the sand dunes. They were so beautiful! Now, I have an itch to go back to Rajasthan in India to see the desertlands. For the nerds interested, scenes from Star Wars have been shot at those Sand Dunes in the Death Valley. We walked quite a bit in those dunes to get to a nice high point and then returned with scoops of sand in our shoes, socks, jeans, yep.

The second point of interest that I loved was Badwater. It is a highly salty marshy area with encrusted soil on top as of now because of the heat and is about 300 ft below sea level. The history says that a traveler thought it was a good spot for his mule to have a sip of water but the mule refused to drink it. So, he named it Badwater. The water is so saline that only a few special aquatic creatures like this bunch of weird snails can survive there. To maintain ecological balance, straying off the boardwalk is not permitted. By the way, there is also a Badwater marathon for idiots who like to run in extreme weather conditions and die. Count me out.

Leaving you guys with some pictures I took during the trip.


  1. September-November seems to be a great time and so is spring. Any other time will ensure that you will either boil or freeze to death.
  2. Come prepared for some walking and bring your hiking shoes. Each point is atleast half a mile away from the parking lot with some good hiking loops around.
  3. Bring plenty of water. Don’t be too fussy about food if you are a vegetarian and be prepared to eat same meals. It is not a place to expect buffets.
  4. If you are a social media or smartphone addict, you are screwed.
  5. Bring all your camera equipment. The place is indeed beautiful for photography and astronomy enthusiasts.
  6. Book lodging or camping grounds well in advance. It seems to get full real fast, especially for long weekends.
  7. Do an estimate of the amount of daylight you will have and the places you want to see. Pace yourself accordingly.
  8. Forget everything above and let Abhi and Nisha plan, so that you can sleep in the backseat. 😀

Travelogue : Turkey : Istanbul

The ultimate Turkey travelogue is here!

After Cappa, we were all set to catch a flight to Istanbulllllll baby! I was mad excited about that one and I did not let the late flight play spoilsport. We reached Istanbul around 2 hours late than my expected timing. The craziness of Istanbul and the men started right away. Men in Istanbul are flirts and that’s just an understatement. The shuttle driver while going tour hotel,  called me to sit in the front, asked me if I was ‘Hindistani’, said mashallah to me a few times and made me take my sunglasses off because he wanted to see my face! I tolerated all that only because he was giving me a legit tour of all the places we were passing.

We got to the hotel, and met the 15 yr old daughter of the AirBnB owner, Ecenoor, to be called Ej, who made Moo and me fall in love with her. She had a funny way of doing Umm-hmm when we asked her anything, had the most beautiful golden brown straight hair, and milky skin, and, err,….. so on. After chilling in the room for a bit and re-arranging the space to ensure we could open our bags and walk around, we left for the Sultanahmet square. It was barely a 10 min walk for us and the most important places in Istanbul are located here. We had the Sultanahmet mosque on our agenda for that day, also popularly known as the Blue Mosque, the reason being the intricate mosaic work with blue tiles. It was stunning! Just, stunning! Such a huge mosque, high ceilings, intricate art work! It was so beautiful. We went crazy clicking pictures there. On our way out we had a crazy encounter with this creepiest person who touched me inappropriately and had suggestions to party at night with him and his cousin. Ewww. The string of crazy encounters continued with shop-keepers, restaurant servers, random security guards, taxi drivers.

Day 2 in Istanbul, started with an itchy throat. I did not pay much attention to it and moved on. We had planned on seeing the Topkapi palace early in the morning and the city’s main mosques after. We had breakfast and started to walk towards Topkapi palace. Like I mentioned before, most important locations are at a stone’s throw from each other in the Sultanahmet square. But at one point, I decided to ask this seemingly normal looking old man of around 60-65 who told us to follow him and that he will lead us to where we had to be. After a quick glance to ensure enough people in the surrounding areas for safety, we started following him. He spoke to us about ‘Hindistan’, Hema Malini, about him being from Iran and other random things, seemingly jovially. While walking, we came across a junction where Moo spotted a park and a sign that said Topkapi palace. So we stopped there and told the man that err, we have reached. He said ok ok and held out his hand for Moo to shake. As soon as she took it, he lunged towards her with the weirdest pouty kissy face to give her a kiss! She leaned back horrified and I wrenched his arm away from her and both of us pushed him away. It was awful!!! In order to not make a scene, we said bye to him and I tolerated a hand shake where again I had to pull my hand away from him. We ended up having a big laugh about it later. The side view of his pout is burnt into my memory now. Arrrgghh. We have had the strangest encounters ever in Istanbul with the men.

Topkapi Palace was beautiful but very tiring! The palace was home to the Sultans of Ottoman Empire and their queens. My dad told me later that he had seen the movie Topkapi from 1960s which is about a diamond robbery. Indeed, Topkapi palace had a jewelery collection with huge diamonds. But to be honest, some of them did not have the facets that make a diamond shiny and I felt rather under-whelmed on seeing them. But, I will not mind if you decide to gift me one of those. I will adjust.

After Topkapi, we checked out some mosques in the Eminonu area which were walking distances from each other. While walking to the mosques we crossed the Egyptian market, Spice Bazar and the small internal Istanbul bylanes. It really felt like we were walking in the old town area of Pune. The activity, street food, hustle and bustle is so similar to home.

The last stop was Grand Bazar. On the way to GB, Moo and I took a cab and turned on Google Maps for good measure. That led us to realize that our cab was cheating us and we ended up yelling big time at him and paid only 20 lira vs the 40 he was demanding. By then, my itchy throat was feeling like a cat’s scratch post and was full-fledged hurting. We shopped, bargained, felt cheated, felt glorious, and felt extremely drained out  by the end of our Grand Bazar experience. It is huge, people! There are so many shops, so many trinkets, sweets, lamps, it is unbelievable! Of course the shop keepers flirt big time! In order to get magnets for cheap I had to endure getting propositioned for marriage, being told weird things about my lips and being questioned about my v*rg*nity. Goodbye self-respect. Going back to the hotel from GB also involved yelling royally at 2 cab drivers.

Day 3 in Istanbul started with a visit to Hagia Sophia or the Ayasofya. That place made me feel like I was a part of Dan Brown’s book.  It is a huge museum which was a church in the 500s and then a mosque in 1400s and finally restored and converted into a museum by Ataturk in 1930s after secularization. It is the only place I have seen which has Christian mosaics and frescos along with verses from the Holy Quran, side by side. The chapel was H-U-G-E! It was impossible for us to capture the entire ceiling in one go. The domes were decorated so beautifully! It was all just visually so stunning.

The next stop was the Basilica Cistern. The cisterns were used to provide water to the city during the Roman period. It was eerily creepy yet so strangely fascinating. There was water still in there with these giant fat fishes floating around. Somehow I had the chills the whole time we were down there. There are two pillars in there with Medusa’s heads that were not discovered until restoration in the 1980s.

One big surprise was that Vince texted that he and Proctor had just reached Istanbul last night and they would be free to hang out. Moo and I were planning to do the Bosporus cruise after lunch and we asked them to join us. Like every other water body in Turkey, the Bosporus is also a very striking shade of blue! The cruise was so relaxing! We had a pretty good time clicking tons of pictures, and generally enjoying the views. We even sneaked in a nap towards the end of the cruise on their comfy benches inside the boat. Yep.

We had dinner after in one of the many street restaurants over there which involved a huge confusion over the bill and the money we paid and tax and tips. But we chugged along.

Day 4 was our last day in Istanbul and we decided to take the train and check out the other side of the town and Dolmabahce palace. That is the palace which later also became Ataturk’s part time residence in Istanbul and where he eventually passed away after battling Cancer. The palace has been converted into a museum. As with other historical buildings in Turkey, even Dolmabahce features exquisite decoration and intricately painted ceilings and walls. It houses gifts exchanged with other empires and countries in form of Baccarat crystals, chandeliers, carpets, and paintings. A lot of political diplomacy could be seen at play in the pictures and paintings and the gifts. The grounds were lush green, well-manicured and looked out to the gorgeous Bosporus. I would not mind living there at all!

While we were there, the weather decided to play spoil sport and it started raining. But I really, really wanted to have this local street food Kumpir(a loaded baked potato) and Turkish waffles in the Ortokoy area and so we headed out over there, braving the storms, err, the drizzle. The Kumpir was heaven, but the waffle, was O-M-G! It was beyond delicious! So rich, and so yummy! All for 15 lira each which is like $5.

We headed back to our familiar Sultanahmet area back after and spent the evening strolling here and there and rounding it off with our last dinner of Lentil soup.

The next day, I said bye to Moo early in the morning to catch my shuttle to the airport. I felt bitter-sweet leaving Istanbul. They say that you feel sadness about leaving a place, not just because you will miss the place, but you will miss the person you were, the age you were at and the state of mind you had. I couldn’t agree more.

Turkiye, it’s been real. And it would be a real pleasure if I get to see you again. Till then, hello new lands!

Tips :

  1. 3 days in Istanbul are not enough if you get tired easily. 4 days should be good to be able to space out all places of historical importance.
  2. Go to the Spice Bazaar to buy most of your Turkish Delights(sweets) and spices. Rest of the goods are similarly priced in Grand Bazaar.
  3. Your bargaining must be at its A-game. Otherwise you are going to kick yourself. There shouldn’t be room for  hesitance in your voice. I think I am good at it. Always offer 1/3rd of the price they quote.
  4. Do go for a Tukish Bath/Hamam. I missed that and I feel bad about it. Don’t feel shy. Who knows you there? 🙂
  5. The cabs are expensive if you are alone or 2 people. For 3-5 persons, it is a better deal than public transport wrt to costs and comfort.
  6. I will not suggest Istanbul as a part of a leisurely vacation unless you don’t care about historical sites.
  7. Try and stay in the Sultanahmet area if you are touristy, and stay in the Beyoglu area if you like street cafes, bars and nightlife. You will have access to train stations from both places.
  8. Vegetarian food is available but not the greatest variety. Don’t expect a royal meal and don’t get fussy. Do try the desserts.
  9. Have the Turkish tea and coffee if they offer it in stores and such. It is a nice experience to sit and chat over tea. I am not too fond of tea, but I rolled with it. Like they say, When in Rome, do the Romans, do as the Romans do.
  10. Keep your eyes, ears and nose open. Take in ALL the sensory delights. 🙂 Turkey is amazing.

Travelogue : Turkey : Cappadocia

So, continuing the adventures of PB and Moo in lands far, far away, on our magic carpet(SunExpress airlines), we flew off to Kayseri Airport to get to Cappadocia/Kappadokya/Goreme, and any other name you want to call it. At this point, I want to mention the itinerary I prepared and how beautiful it was. I had taken printouts of flight tickets, hotel bookings, places to see, food, timings and arranged it neatly, had put color coded sticky notes and arranged it acc to the days. After my itinerary was complete, I felt like a certified nerd, or a professional holiday planner. I prefer the latter and I see myself dressed as Sonam Kapoor for some reason with a bright orange planner. I digress.

So when we were planning the itinerary, we were planning to go to Pamukkale for a day from Antalya . But Moo, made one single request and I had to honor it. She really, really wanted to do a hot air balloon ride. I had wanted to do it too but was in a double mind about it. Thanks to her request, I decided to fit in a night in Cappadocia instead of Pamukkale and check one item off my bucket list as well. So we landed in Goreme after our plane ride to Kayseri and a shuttle to Goreme. Goreme is gorgeous! It is such an unexpected landscape! If you remember my Bryce canyon pictures, it has similar structures but not orange, and rising from around you, and not in a valley. Like, we were pretty much in between those structures. The hotels are also called cave hotels and if you have a higher budget, you can live in one of those. But we had constricted ourselves to a per night limit and the idea that a cavey structure may house lizards, put us off the real cave rooms. After checking in, we had lunch, and went off to check out the Goreme Open Air Museum. It is a Unesco heritage site which was a Byzantine monastery. There are clusters of churches, chapels, housings inside of the caves and rock cut outs. They are extremely interesting with respect to the history.

Boy, was it hot that day! We felt like we were walking in a microwave with the sun baking us. I felt like a drained out battery and we kept hiding in the caves from the sun. At one point, Moo and I got into some cave room which looked like it was a kitchen and plopped down for about 20 minutes with some tourists flitting in and out, but we refused to budge. It was the best escape from the sun. And that day, I had for some reason decided to carry my zoom lens as well, which was adding to the bulk of the scarf/hat/backpack. We couldn’t even take too many pictures of us because for every pic, we had to take out 3 things atleast from our heads or necks at which point I gave up. 😀

Finally when it had cooled a tiny bit, we left the museum to walk back to the hotel. On our way back, we came across this adorable pottery shop where there were 2 trees covered in blue glassy evil eyes, and old earthen pots. The tree covered in blue was so beautiful, aah, I loved it! Finally, we had some energy back into us and we spent that in taking our pictures. Moo was drawn to alien looking zoozoos which I was kinda terrified of. Eeks. We had dinner after and called it a night since we had a rather early start the next day. It was still so hot, that I slept with a thin towel on me instead of a bedsheet. Haha

The hot air balloon ride called for a insanely early morning alarm, but you know what? Right from clambering into the wicker basket, the lift off, the soaring across the skies watching the sunrise, the intentionally bumpy landing, to popping the champagne after the ride, it was all so magical, so dreamy. I had never thought that watching the sun rise from 850 m high up in the sky could be this intense. The view was nothing short of spectacular and I will let the pictures do the talking here.

PS : There will be a part 3.


Travelogue : Turkey : Ankara + Antalya

I am back! *Jazz hands like Karan Johar*

It is September 2015. My birthday month, and never before have I had such an exciting start to my birthday month ever! I am loving 2015 so far. After the meh-ness of last year and half, 2015 has brought new and unexpected things for me. I have run races, climbed hikes, traveled and have so far thoroughly enjoyed myself. I hope the trail of happiness continues. 😀

Turkey was phenomenal! Oh, what a country! I am going to write down as much as I can remember but that is going to cover barely 30% of the memories I have in created. When I met up with the SDSU group in Ankara, we called it ‘CSEL going International’. CSEL= Combustion and Solar Laboratory. We like to call ourselves CSEL fo lyfe. Lol. We had been invited to our Turkish friend Murat’s wedding who was marrying his GF of 3 years Becca. Becca’s all American family also hung out with us and we had a really good time.

I had a 13 hour flight to Istanbul and an hour flight to Ankara. Murat was picking me up at the airport. As soon as we saw each other, we RAN and bear hugged each other. We just couldn’t stop laughing that we were meeting after 3 years! Showing up for his wedding in Turkey felt so surreal! He kept giving me hugs, we were that happy! We had another hour to kill at the airport so that we could pick up 2 of his friends as well who were flying in from San Diego. After a hearty dinner of, err, burger king bean burger, we plopped down on massage chairs at the airport and that was awkward to say the least. We were like two giggling school girls. As a result, Murat was telling everyone that PB is so funny! And when asked why, his reply was just… she’s so funny! 😀

After his friends came, we went over to the hotel, and I went off to sleep at about 11 pm. I slept like a baby till about 10 am till his friend Vince texted me to come down for b’fast. We ate, I went to my room, chilled pretty much for the whole day till the gang came down from their 3 days in Istanbul. Then we got ready and headed to Murat’s parents’ restaurant for the bridal party. It was one crazy affair! We were treated like super honorable guests and I have never been paid so much attention in my life. Like, not even by my parents. Murat and Becca entered to fireworks and traditional dancing. Murat was doing this move that we thought is thanks to his bad dancing skill, but we learned eventually it is a legit step. They love one kind of dance form which we named pinky finger dance. They basically form a circle with people connected using their pinkies and they do this 1-2-3-4-kick-4-3-2-1-kick step. The WHOLE TIME! I was okay with it until I started getting pulled on both sides by my pinkie which was hurting like a b***** by the end of the night. Food was catered by his restaurant and was really yummy with plenty of veggie options(I would like to think so!)

The next day, my jet lag decided to kick in and I was awake at 5 am! I was lost as to what to do and then I heard it! There is something very beautiful about the Fazr Azan. I lay awake listening to it and then I just got up, started watching random stuff on my iPhone. I was so bored that I ate breakfast twice, once alone and once with the rest of the group. Becca’s sisters said that they too were awake and I should have knocked on their doors. They were bored out of their wits as well. Later after breakfast, we went out for sightseeing where we saw the Ankara Castle and this super interesting museum with old engineering artifacts. We walked back to the hotel at lunch time and the manager could not have been a better host! He drove us to a restaurant of his recommendation, insisted that he will pick us up in an hour, then drive us to Ataturk’s mausoleum and arranged a guide for us. Like I said, people in Ankara know how to host their guests. Ataturk’s Mausoleum was the highlight of my Ankara sightseeing. I learnt so much about the Ottoman Empire and Turkey’s history that I had no idea about. Mustafa Kamal Pasha Ataturk was a visionary who merged European culture with Islamic traditions to create a modern, free-thinking society. From what we saw and learned, he was a feminist and one of his adopted daughters was the first female pilot of Turkey in 1930s. The way Turkey moves, it’s society and culture, shows what a liberal thinking country it is, which is very interesting for an Islamic country. My dad had asked if I could get a book on him, so I bought him ‘The Great Speech’ from the museum store.

Moo was flying in that day and I met her after coming back from the mausoleum. It was a happy, happy re-union for us. Somehow both of us end up meeting more regularly than any other friends. In the last 3 years, this is 4th time that we have met. Not a bad record at all! She came like Santa bringing gifts from parents and friends. I got a top and a cute chotu backpack from Dhaka from Ani and Moo and a dress from the boys, Shibs, Saipan and Hazra. Folks back home sent me sweets. Yay for birthday gifts! 😀

We spent the next day exploring some parts of Turkey too. We came back to the hotel after lunch time to start getting ready for the wedding. We took tons of pictures and selfies after cleaning, scrubbing and decking ourselves up. The wedding venue was gorgeous!

The wedding was a mixture of American and Turkish styles with the vows being read out and the bride in a stunning white dress and all that. There was a ritual where guests who were family lined up and were pinning gold to the bride and groom and giving Becca bangles. I could have sworn she looked like an Indian bride, albeit in white, by the end of it. There was delicious food, really rich deserts, a performance by whirling dervishes(I was kinda underwhelmed) and some more pinky dancing. The real party happened after the wedding where we drove off to a club and danced straight from 11 pm to 3 am. Now I don’t go clubbing too often, but when I do, I go all out. My shoes were off, and I was glued to the dance floor. At some point I ended up earning Vince’s tie around my neck. 😉

We came back to the hotel to finish packing since we had a flight to catch in exactly 4 hours. I could have sworn my suitcase had exploded, there was so much stuff! I think I had an hour of sleep pretty much. We headed over to Antalya on the southern coastline of Turkey. When I say the water was really blue, I am NOT kidding around! It was the most brilliantly blue shade of the sea I have ever seen. So pristine! We spent 2 days in Antalya exploring the bazaars in Kaleici, ruins of Aspendos, swimming in the sea and my favorite part, boating in Koprulu Kanyon. Unfortunately, we couldn’t carry our cameras because of the water, but we could rely on Karen’s GoPro. The guide got us into an inflatable raft and we canoed against the tide to reach this gorgeous spring water natural pool on top of a rock. It had waist deep ice cold water. I got into it and I friggin’ couldn’t breathe for half a minute or so! But sooooo fun!

We spent the evening on the beach swimming in the water and called it a day. CSELers left for US that night and Moo and I left Antalya for our next set of adventures the following morning.


  1. Ankara doesn’t have a lot in terms of attractions, so 2 days should be enough.
  2. Ataturk’s mausoleum is really high on my must-see list. I learnt so much about the Ottoman Empire and the birth of Turkey.
  3. Taxis are fine in Ankara since every must see place is close by to each other, but Antalya, you definitely need a car. We drove to places which were like an hour apart from each other and that would be hard in taxis.
  4. The rest of the wedding party went southwards from Antalya to Kas and if you have more time and budget, I would suggest to do that because there are some amazing boat tours, and hidden underwater cities to see, and the beaches are less commercial.
  5. If you are booking accommodations on your own, through AirBnB and such, make sure that there are atleast 25 reviews and preferably guest pictures. Do not hesitate to ask clearly how far the beach or the main attraction is wrt walking or cabs.
  6. Make sure to carry and wear plenty of sunscreen and hats/caps because the ruins are all out in the open with almost no shade.

PS : This is just Part 1. Part 2 will cover my shenanigans in Cappadocia and Istanbul.