Friday, January 18, 2019

Weekend at Ganesh Baugh - Kutch - Review

If you live in a metro city, specially one like Mumbai - you crave for a time-out to be somewhere peaceful, silent, green, serene. Somewhere you can go spend some quality time with your loves ones, or maybe silent time with yourself or connecting with nature. Ganesh Baugh was one such place I recently visited. Usually family vacations are at some standard luxury resort at Goa or some other tourist location - but tourist locations means crowd, noise, chaos. Now imagine being at a 100 acre lush greenery, living in the middle of trees and farm-life. A standalone basic accommodation with all modern amenities like a hugeee bathroom with geyser, jetspray (yes I need to know if the loo has a jet spray!), toileteries, bed sheets etc. There is a granite flooring with granite bed and since we went during winter - we did not even need the fan.


Unfortunate for us, we spent one whole day traveling as our train was delayed - so when booking tickets, see the delay pattern and then book. If you're coming from Mumbai Kutch Express is a good option. Nearest railway station is Anjaar, but that is a small one where not all trains halt, so then there is Gandhidham junction which is half an hour away. We reached on Friday night and after hours in the train, we could not wait to reach and have some hot home cooked food. The owner Mr.Bhatia and his staff was awaiting us and there was hot traditional Gujarat food awaiting us - Gujarati kadhi, sev tamatar nu saak, khichdi, chapati, chaas and some salad. We ate to our heart's content and turned in for the day as we wanted to rest up for the hectic day ahead. They have a proper functioning kitchen on the upper floor (rooms are on the ground level) - where all ingredients and utensils are there if you want to cook anything on your own. It's a great thing specially if you're traveling with children as you need to prepare milk or something else for them, or if you want to have tea or coffee anytime of the hour or are in mood for the midnight maggi - it's like your own home.


Next morning I woke up at around 7am, there was darkness in the room with the doors closed and shaded, and since we arrived at night we couldn't see anything. So now picture this - I open the room doors to see hundreds of trees, chilly air and li'l fog and peacocks and peahens running around! I could not believe my eyes. If you're from a small town or happen to visit villages frequently, you may not be surprised. But I have seen peacocks roaming freely like this only in my childhood days when I visited Jaipur, my native place. So I was so happy. I ran inside to go get my GoPro and record, and those camera shy and maybe human shy birds vanished. We had some tea and got ready for a long day ahead - covering places in Bhuj and then heading to Rann Utsav, read more about that here.

We were back late night, after having dinner outside on the way (Hotel Neelam, quite good food - much recommended). We chatted for a while and snoozed again - since we were exhausted. Our earlier itinerary had us on the road for hours again the next day but we did not want to tire ourself, plus being our last day we wanted to spend some time at the farm so we changed our plans. Next morning we got up and had our chai with a bonfire to warm us too - why should bonfires be only for nights, right? It was very soothing and soon we explored the farmhouse to see what all it has. They have ample of fruit trees bearing Guavas, Mangoes (during mango season they get really busy), lemons etc. They also house some domestic animals apart from dogs - like goats, cows, horses. We were even lucky to spot a family of great Indian antelopes (neelgaay) who apparently can jump heights and happen to visit the farm frequently owing to the fact there aren't many humans around. We saw the mother, father and kid (not from near though, from far off) - they are like giant deers (built more like a horse). Mr.Bhatia told us there are deers also which you can sometimes spot.
There was a very friendly black lab called Tiger - who even my toddler grew fond of. My toddler also grew very fond of the owner Mr.Bhatia, whom he addressed as "babaji" on his own, he hasn't even heard that word before!



Day 2 (technically Day 3) was then spent exploring li'l bit more of Bhuj and then heading to Bhujodi to shop for local handicraft and visiting the Vande Mataram memorial park (a must visit). We bought shawls, purses, copper/brass bells, kurtas etc from here. My only regret was not getting to spend more time at Ganesh Baugh - there was still a lot I did not get to see - like their inhouse nursery, nearby school etc. So I would recommend you to plan a trip with atleast 4-5 days minimum in hand so that you have atleast 2 days just at the farmhouse. They can easily accommodate a group of 10 - so if you're planning to visit with friends or family - they are there to host you. I opted to stay at Ganesh Baugh rather than one of the tent city tents because those are a rip-off, charging a crazy amount for a tent stay, plus it's too crowded and noisy - which I wanted to avoid and ofcourse thanks to Manasvi, our host from Mumbai who told me about this place - thanks a ton! You can book the property online or get more information here - Ganesh Baugh AirBNB.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

A trip to Rann Utsav & Kutch with toddler + Little Travel Bug Book Review

I had Rann Utsav on my bucket list since ages and finally went in December end! I aim to have one family trip a year - with my parents. This was that trip for 2018.

This blog is keeping in mind you are going with small kids, I have written another more detailed one on our stay here.

Mode of Journey -
There are trains, flights and good roads leading to Bhuj so you have lots of options, but if you're opting for trains please choose the Express trains and check their reviews online. My Mumbai to Gandhidham (that's where we were staying) train called Gandhidham express was really horrible. It was rescheduled to start 4.30 hours after the scheduled departure time and was running late plus the bathrooms and train coaches were a disaster (Even in 2 tier AC coach) so we wasted a day plus were irritated. Specially with kids you want a clean train that runs of time, and do check in advance if there is a pantry on the train or not, ours did not have - so if you are not carrying sufficient food, you're stuck.

Places to visit in Kutch/Bhuj with kids -


1. Rann Utsav, Dhordo, White Rann
So if you have done your research in advance, you will know that there is the Tent City and the normal Rann Utsav. Tent city has accommodation plus activities and more but it is super expensive.
There is the open for all Rann Utsav which has shopping and food stalls, washrooms (not in a great condition though) and a car parking. After that point you have to either walk or take a camel/horse driven cart ride to the white sand desert. What we did not know is that once you reach the White Rann there are no amenities - no washrooms, no drinking water or food or anything. You have to go back to the shopping stalls by taking another camel-ride for any of that. Its expensive and time consuming. So if you plan to spend hours at the beautiful dessert stretch- clicking lot of pics, watching sunset over the never ending horizon and watching the full moon - then please carry snacks and water in your bag. Also in winters, light woollens are required - it's important to cover ears specially. My kiddo enjoyed running around the hugeeee area!


2. Vande Mataram Memorial, Bhujodi, Bhuj
This is a new addition - and it's beautiful. Ample of space, a large fountain, beautiful structures and small hut-style cottages showcasing the local Kutch-work and a lake, bridge and ample greenery. They also have a 4D show that usually get sold out pretty soon - we anyways missed it coz it happens at late evening and we had a train to catch. But do visit this place - only thing, the queue for the tickets was realllly slow. It is located in Bhujodi, where you should do your local handicraft shopping as well. We left the toddler with his nana - and the ladies did some shopping. As kids will get bored in the shopping bit.


3. Radhe Krishna Temple, Bhuj
Now this is a place one might not recommend to a tourist, but I was very impressed by this temple and wish there was something like this in my vicinity as well. It's a huge space again, a small simple temple with colourful steps. Lot's of place where artists set up camp and were drawing or sketching or painting. There is a small kids park, pond with ducks, walking path and shaded area to sit and white sand everywhere. All in all, one could spend couple of hours here at peace - reading a book, writing or whatever else - while kids played around. What a concept! Temples wouldn't be so boring/chaotic then.

4. Kutch Museum
I will definitely not recommend going to Aaina Mahal & Prag Mahal with kids because they were extremely crowded, very old structures that look like they would collapse any time. There is a tower at Prag Mahal which has clearly instructions of not staying at the tower for more than a minute but no one follows that! Infact there is a very narrow set of steps to go up or come down, so I suggest not taking small kids here. But you can take them to the Kutch Museum where they can learn a li'l about the royals and old things - only if that interests them.


We could not go to Narayan Sarovar, Kala Dungar, Mata ni madh on this trip as our one day was gone due to train being late. Maybe some other time! There is a place called Chattedi at Bhuj which had nice stone structures to click pictures, if that interests you. Its unfortunate that due to harsh climate conditions and no rain, the lakes are all dried up in Bhuj. Also, you will be on the road a lot, so if your kids are motion sick, it's better to hire a non AC car or rikshaw - we had a non AC car, climate was wonderful so there was no need of AC, infact it drops a lot in the morning and evening onward - so kid who usually is motion sick, did not have any problem luckily.



I received a great travel logging book for kids from Little Travel Bug - their travel diary. And we logged our Bhuj travel in this book! This colourful, fun and interactive travel diary provides a place for children to record fun travel stories everyday while on a vacation. This book makes diary writing simple, easy and interesting for children. Imagine, how much fun it will be to re-read this diary together once they grow older… remembering all the little details that made their vacation special! My toddler is only 4 so he cannot write on his own yet, but I asked him the questions, which he answered and I logged the details for him so that when he's older he can check out his expeditions and add to them! Cool concept I think.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year New Gadgets! #SmartHomeRevolution #GetFitWithFlipkart


“Ok Google”, start typing out this blog article for me. Yes, I can totally dictate notes, messages and the sort to my smartphone or smart-speaker or any other device and have my own personal assistant write this post for me. 

Today, close to 2019, this is what we have come to. Smart products that help us to live smart. Mind you, these smart products don’t help you become smarter, nor do they imply that humans are not smart. They are just gadgets and technology meant to make our life easier, faster, and our days more productive.


The aim is to take less time in doing certain tasks as compared to before. So that there is more time for us to do what we should be doing – Living. I have had a very gadget-oriented childhood and am a gadget lover till date. Dad being a IT businessman meant I learnt how to assemble a PC while other girls played with kitchen sets. And husband is a gadget freak too!

I own a smartphone and a smart wearable hybrid watch, smart lights in my home and not to forget my smart weighing scale from Mi (Yes it shows my weight and calculates BMI and syncs to my phone fitness app). I have not yet indulged myself in a smart-speaker yet, which is very much on my wish list. I also gifted my dad a smart blood-sugar checking machine that syncs with the phone via an app.

Being a 90’s kid, (Technically 80’s coz born in 1989) I have seen the evolution of technology right in front of my eyes. From the landline to cordless to big antenna’d mobile phones to flip phones to touch screens and today’s sleek smartphones that replaced all other gadgets like the Walkman, camera, and so on.

It’s a never ending debate about the pros and cons of technology, but we have to admit that certain privileges of technology like being able to speak to anyone, anytime anywhere or being able to search for the answer to anything in a few clicks to clicking a picture of every small thing we do without worrying about camera roll getting over and so on, we are pretty lucky.

How do smart products make my life better now? I’ll give you a few instances –

1.      I like to sleep with lights off, but my husband and son need light on. Not only that, we get too lazy to get up and switch on/off the light and can even get into fights! Philips Hue kit was the best solution. Works on WiFi and you can control the lights with the phone app. Not only that, you can choose from different colours and can have any shade of light or pattern. It even has a timer and all that jazz. Best thing ever, and super easy to set-up and use. I gifted this to the music lover husband, you can use the app to get light in sync with music and have your own discotheque at home.


2.      I have tried different fitness bands, but I don’t like the daily/weekly battery charging. Also I love the charm of analog dial watches. Enter, Fossil’s hybrid smart watches. Look like analog watches but have most features of a smart watch with activity tracker, notification alert, buttons that can be assigned to take a photo, toggle volume and so on. Husband gifted this one to me on my Birthday!


3.      Mi Digital Weighing Scale This I ordered when our earlier weighing scale broke down and I read a fellow blogger’s review. It is bit more expensive compared to regular weighing scales, but has a memory to remember everyone’s weight, syncs with Mi Fitness app and most importantly tells you your BMI and how much weight you need to gain/loose. With a kid, senior citizens and fitness freaks in the house, this was a great purchase.

Smart gadgets help push us towards our fitness goals or organising goals and so on! I am definitely getting myself a smart-speaker during the next Flipkart sale!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Top 5 Netflix Christmas Movies of 2018 #StreamTeamIndia

It's almost that time of the year! A month to go for the cheerful and everyone's favourite holiday - Christmas! I love it because its cold (Mumbai winters get at the most snug jacket or sweatshirt wearing cold only), but we just need a reason to pull those out, have hot chocolate and cinnamon coffees and rejoice!

My favourite Christmas movies help me not feel like I am missing out on the magical New York kinda Christmas. Ofcourse, the all time fav's like Home Alone series, A Christmas Carol, The Grinch who stole Christmas, The Holiday etc will forever remain on the list. But we always need something new, and this year, there are sooo many Netflix original Christmas movies out there, and I have seen them all to tell you which one's to watch and which one's you could skip. Let's start -

1. The Holiday Calendar -


I have seen The Vampire Diaries completely and I was thrilled to see Kat Graham aka Bonnie Bennet as the lead actor! A cute movie and touches your heart and has the Christmassy feel to it. I wish I had that advent calendar too.

2. The Christmas Chronicles - 


A good watch with the kids, I wish I could magically visit the North Pole too! And the Santa character looks quite BadA** I'd say!

3. A Christmas Prince & A Christmas Prince - The Royal Wedding


Though this one was already there on Netflix a while ago, if you haven't seen it, what better time. A prince, a makeover and Christmas - it's got it all! Modern age Cinderella stories you'll! And the movie's sequel just came out on Netflix too - with the wedding! So you got 2 movies here.

4. Angela's Christmas-
An Netflix Original animated movie about a young girl named Angela. It's a 3D animation with a poor girl named Angela, her family, the spirit of Christmas and ofcourse, Christmas miracles.

5. The Princess Switch -


Vanessa Hudgens is back in a chick-flick! Though it pretty much looked like it was made more than a decade ago. Cute, but cliche'd. If that's your type, you would like this movie. But I am sure teenage girls will like this one.


There also is A Christmas Inheritance, Christmas with a view, A royal Christmas, A storybots Christmas and a lot more. Its crazy there are so many movies that you could watch one movie every day throughout the month - I am kidding you NOT! There is also Nailed It - Holiday launching on Dec 7. The only thing I am probably upset about is that we did not get a Peter Kavinsky starring Christmas movie as a gift from Santa. Wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Fantastic beasts - Crimes of Grindelwald - INOX IMAX Experience

I usually watch movies in the Inox next to my home in Navi Mumbai. For this special screening, we were invited to Imax experience at Inox, Rcity Mall. And I was impressed. It's been ages since I've been to this multiplex. Definitely 5+ years. Entry and security check was seamless, they had a VIP lounge and I was very impressed to see a kids lounge where there was peppa pig playing and a couple of toys. I haven't seen this at other multiplexes. A totally engaging lobby experience in all.


I was super excited about this movie because I am a Wizarding World and Harry Potter fan, have read the books and seen the movies and have read fantastic beasts and where to find them as well. After the part 1, was absolutely looking forward to part 2. And also excited coz I was going to see it before rest of the world, in a special premiere! Couldn't get any better than that. And was looking forward to seeing Johnny Depp, who by the way, you cannot recognize at all. The cinematic experience was just mind blowing. The movie was in 2D but because of the Imax experience, it gave this 3D life-like feel. I don't have words to describe how crisp and clear and brilliant the output was. And the surround sound. Usually corner seats don't give as good an experience as center seats but even though we were towards the corner it felt no different - because of the curve of the screen. 


 I won't be giving movie spoilers but you do know that you get to see Dumbledore during his youth, even Professor McGonagall and Hogwarts! Because the HP series ended, anything that connects with makes me nostalgic. The Niffler (and it's adorable babies) and Bowtruckle are there from the first movie. But apart from that, there are way too many new creatures and it's amazing. I loved the Kelpie, the Zouwu, and even the intense looking Matagots. Oh you'll even know the back-story for Nagini! There is so much happening and so many connections with Harry Potter series.
  

We had the good old movie combo of popcorn soft drinks and samosa. And overall had a great experience. The icing on the cake was the quick Harry Potter quiz after the movie where people won wands, and rest got posters and t-shirts. Which I absolutely loved. Can't wait to catch the next movie at Inox Imax!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A blind date with the world from @stunningmoon's point of view. #TheBlindList


Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

I have always been someone who plans travels to the T. Right from making travel and stay bookings months in advance, to doing my research on where all to go, places to visit, weather forecast, commute options, what souvenirs to buy etcetera etcetera. My packing list is also ready in advance, as a note on my iPhone - so that I don't forget anything important at the last moment.


via GIPHY

But really, to be honest, where is the fun in that? Once I have already seen the images of the hotel, room, amenities, tourist locations and everything else under the sun, there isn't much left to take me by surprise! In-fact, for all you know, my expectations have been raised to something and I may be disappointed with what I actually get to experience. I am sure that has happened at-least once with all you travellers.


via GIPHY

Hence, for my next travel escapades, I pledge to go on a blind date with the world. Blind dates can be scary, but exciting. Just like you don't know what kind of a person will you find on the date - will he/she be attractive or funny? Will he/she be there on time or will you be kept waiting for hours? Will they share similar interests with you or will you both be poles apart? Just like that - will I love the place I visit or not? Will I find things to do out there that I'll enjoy, or will I not? Will the people at this location I travel to be kind and helpful or not? Will I have the time of my life or will I not?


via GIPHY

The answers may be in my favour or may not, but at-least there will be some suspense, something to look forward to that I do not already know! THAT my friends, will be a trip, a journey I would remember for life. Just pack an overnight bag of the most basic important things, maybe leave my phone behind for this travel? Because really speaking, when we're constantly clicking snaps or selfies, or posting them on instagram stories or going LIVE, we're actually not "LIVING" in the moment, pun intended. 


via GIPHY

I have never traveled solo - something that is there on my bucket list. I would like to believe that just because I am married and have a child, it is not too late for exploring the world solo, and maybe at the same time experience self exploration as well! Solo travels are the best to know yourself better, find inner peace, reflect on life - well, so I've heard!



via GIPHY

So, inspired by this video below, I am absolutely ready to go on a blind date with the world - to some place I had never ever thought I would go - are you? Participate in Lufthansa's competition here and stand a chance to make your bucket list come true!


Saturday, September 29, 2018

5 things that I learnt from #MyFriendAlexa for my blog's health!

All through September I read some 200ish blogs, shared them on Twitter, wrote 10 blogs myself (my average earlier was 2-3 blogs a month) and I have to admit that it was very frustrating or tiring at times to meet the criteria of mandatory reading and commenting on blogs daily. But I did it! I pushed myself and I saw great results! Here is what I learnt in short -


1. Reading other blogs is as important as writing yourself.

We totally love getting comments and views on our blog articles. That's the case with everyone right, everyone likes to get some e-love! So don't be a miser with sharing other's articles and commenting on them. Because, it helps you better your Alexa ranking! Yeah, you read it right. This is something I wasn't aware of. You leave some digital footprint, plus you get to leave your name, email and blog URL too. Maybe the blog on whom you commented, will come visit your blog to reciprocate?

2. Commit to your blog - be consistent.

As I mentioned earlier, thanks to being a working mother, my blog was not a priority and I wasn't consistent. Would only write when there was a campaign or I wanted to review something. But after being a part of Blogchatter's campaign I realised how important it is to be consistent - atleast 2 blogs a week. Even your readers would stick around this way, or else they will loose interest. So now I totally plan to have a month's plan in advance on what I should write on. If you do not have enough content you could write a micro-story, poem or even put up a photo-blog. I saw many people do that. Think of it like you'd be dedicated to your partner and call them daily or meet them every weekend - same treatment to your blog.

3. There are so many topics to write on - lot of inspiration out there.

When I had to read 10 blogs a day, I was mind blown to see the creativity out there. The different topics people write on. Fiction, poetry, photo blogs, DIY's, recipes, experiences, travel. I was totally inspired by a few pieces and took notes to write my own blogs on for instance - 30 things that make me happy or break my travel escapades into parts so that they could be a lot more detailed. So if you have a writer's block, go read a few blogs and be inspired!

4. Don't make your blog just a sponsored portal or full of ads

I'll be honest with you. My blog used to be a very heavily sponsored content portal. Most of the articles I wrote were sponsored reviews or campaigns or contests. When I came across similar blogs written by others - I found it quite irritating. I did not feel like reading them or commenting on them and that got me thinking - Why would anyone want to come on my blog and read my sponsored updates or share/comment on them? I haven't monetised by blog by having ads on them yet, but other blogs which had a lot of ads - I found them very irritating too! So hence, I plan to have a lot more non-sponsored content on my blog. Promise.

5. Add easy-sharing widgets and maintain SEO friendliness

My blog had a in-built share widget but it did not have many options for instance adding my twitter handle to it. Thanks to #MyFriendAlexa I explored many widgets and enhanced the shareability of my blog. Now anytime someone shares my blog alteast I know about it on Twitter! I also learnt many SEO lessons and technical details about blogs. There is a lot of algorithm going on!

Thank you Blogchatter.