Varanasi: A Timeless Experience

Exploring Varanasi brings to life the sensory assault that travelers to India often speak about. How does one describe such a place?

There is the town center, built like any other Indian town – an epitome of unimaginable urban chaos born to haphazard development and oppressive heat; a tapestry of unsightly buildings with open storefronts selling everything from deep fried snacks to toothpaste to screwdrivers to holiday tours.

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When Earth Rumbles

Standing on the crunchy crust of mineral deposits in Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression, an improvised towel-turned-scarf wrapped around my face to avoid slaps of sulfur fumes and intensely hot desert air, I look around in befuddled amazement, asking myself how and when did this combination or Martian and lunar landscapes descend upon earth. The answer has been around for over a century, strongly rooted in German meteorologist Alfred Wegener's 1912 theory of the Continental Drift.

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I Don't Like Lists But Paris Deserves One: My Top Experiences

I just returned from five days in Paris during the peak summer tourist season. For those who have read my previous posts, you’d know I like to draw parallels between any new city I travel to with ones I’ve previously visited. So continuing that trend, Paris is an amazing blend of London, New York’s SoHo and St. Petersburg. The weather during my time here was spectacular, if only a tad too hot but that’s perfect for me, anything less that Delhi’s searing summer heat would do. From movies, books and other sources of popular culture, we all know Paris is a lovely city but I was truly astounded by the sheer number of beautiful historic buildings, they’re literally everywhere.

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Rio Again, But Slightly Off The Beaten Path

Wasn’t even six months since my last visit to Rio, and here I was back again for five days during the Memorial Day long weekend, thanks to 50,000 British Airways Avios miles which got me an economy class round-trip on American Airlines. Having been to the more conventional touristy places during my last trip in Dec 2017, I was more keen on checking out places that are traditionally deemed ‘nice to see but low priority’ on most to-do lists.

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Spring In Brooklyn

While the weather is still pretty chilly, Spring is enthralling us with beautiful scenes at every corner. Magnolia, Japanese Cherry, Crabapple and Wheeping Cherry trees stand proud in full bloom everywhere you look. Biking around Brooklyn is finally back to being a joy after a long drawn winter and that's all I'm going to say. Photos will do rest of the talking here, all taken during my bike rides and walks running errands over the last couple weekends.

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What To Do When In Quetzaltenango

Quetzaltenango is Guatemala’s second largest city, a 5 hour bus ride from the capital Guatemala City. The cities are less than 100 miles apart but traffic moves relatively slowly here due to the hilly terrain. The word Quetzaltenango is obviously a mouthful, so for the sake of convenience (I think) and other cultural and historical factors, it is also referred to as Xela – pronounced shay-la. A google search told me that Xela is actually short for the city’s’ Maya name, Xelajú – something I was able to separately fact check since I saw a few storefronts that used the word Xelajú as part of their name.  The city is located in the western highlights of the country so the climate can get pretty darn chilly even during the summer months. After experiencing the massively slow yet blissful pace of life around Lake Atitlan, I decided to take an impulse trip to Xela.

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Rio De Janeiro On The Beaten Path

I had the good fortune of spending a blissful week in Rio De Janeiro in December 2017. While riding the taxi to get to my hostel in the neighborhood of Leme, I couldn't help think how similar Rio is to Mumbai, a thought I also had for Sao Paulo but in hindsight, Rio is more comparable. After much deliberation, I have deduced that Mumbai is Rio without the breathtaking scenery and omnipresent street art. But enough about pointless comparisons.

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Two Days In Paraty

Paraty is a sleepy colonial town located in the Bay of Ilha Grande, home to a happy union between verdant mountains and warm emerald waters. The town shot into prominence in 17th century after the discovery of gold mines in the mountains of Minas Gerais. Paraty was used as a port to ship the gold to Rio de Janeiro, from where it made its way to Portugal. After the gold reserves were exhausted, the city fell into despair and made a comeback a few decades ago as a hotbed of tourism.

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Brick In Brooklyn

I am sitting on a wet wooden bench in the patio of an otherwise cozy café in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood as I mull over this post. While I continue to ponder, worth mentioning that I stumbled upon a really cool store named Regular Visitors on Smith Street earlier this morning. It has got a little bit of everything – kitchen staples, watches, stationary from Japanese clutch pencils to artisanal envelopes, apothecary, cleaning supplies, an entire wall dedicated to magazines and newspapers, and heavy metal plated tailor shears which remind me of the scissors my grandmother used in India decades ago. Everything is displayed on elegant white shelving, lots of neat straight lines and all this is complemented with a splendid grey veined marble topped coffee counter. I should have had coffee there but instead chose to wander around the neighborhood until I found this wet bench to sit on.

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Washington University In St. Louis In Pictures

I hadn't latched on to the iPhone craze during my time as a graduate student in Washington University in St. Louis between 2010-2012 so none of the campus pictures I took then are fit for purpose for posting here (I was perfectly happy with my Blackberry, which by the way, I still feel has most functional key pad among all phones out there). I moved to New York City for work right after graduating and as life got busier, there wasn't any thought devoted to heading back to St. Louis for a walk down memory lane. Two years there were enough I suppose. However, I had the opportunity to visit St. Louis for a couple of express trips this year to participate in coaching and mentoring sessions with current students at school. It was during these trips the pictures uploaded here of our beautiful university were taken (except one or two, which are older).

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A Peek Into Santo Domingo

Going to keep this short. Like a hurried work email to recap key points from a meeting. So here goes - 

Spent a few days here in the fall over the Labor Day long week. The old part of town, Zona Colonial has a lot of character. I walked past a number of cozy cottages and cafes, the kinds with stucco walls and rustic tiled flooring. The oldest church in the Americas, Catedral Primada de America built sometime in mid-16th century is also located here, close to the Columbus Park area. The culinary scene was really underwhelming, no food carts serving lip smacking tacos or carnitas like the ones you come across in Mexico City. Highlight of the trip was a day spent in Boca Chica, a beach an hour away from Santo Domingo. Clear blue waters, shallow lagoon for light swimming and a beach glistening with white sand. 

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Discovering The Colonial Charm Of Morelia

Morelia is the crown jewel among colonial cities in Mexico and its charm and authenticity are unparalleled. It used to be called Valladolid until 1828, after which the name was changed to Morelia in honor of José María Morelos, revolutionary priest turned soldier and one of the heroes of the Mexican War of Independence. For what its worth, doesn't the name Valladolid have more of a timeless romantic ring to it? I spent four days in Morelia recently and having returned to the rigmarole of corporate life, greatly miss its grand architecture, open plazas, and countless cafes to while away time at. This city isn't for those looking to tread on the hackneyed tourist trails consisting of a rollicking nightlife, casinos, eclectic cuisine and mixed drinks with pretty umbrellas. But one will find plenty of delight in experiencing Morelia's languid pace of life, steeped in culture and history amidst a splendid tapestry of colonial structures.

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Day Trip To Pátzcuaro And Isla Janitzio

If you have the better part of a day to spare during your stay in Morelia, I highly recommend a jaunt to a few of the towns and villages that dot the Michoacán tourist trail with Pátzcuaro, Isla Janitzio and Quiroga being some of the more popular ones. While visiting all these three in a single day could be a stretch if like myself, you’re pinching pennies and using public transportation every step of the way. However, checking off two is very much doable.

I let Pedro, one of the student workers at my Morelia hostel break the tie between Quiroga, allegedly a Mecca for those looking for handicrafts, and Pátzcuaro, known to be a more wholesome town. Pedro preferred Pátzcuaro and thus that’s where I decided to go, in addition to Isla Janitzio. So on an appointed day of my choosing, which as of writing this was only a few day ago (..nostalgia..sigh..), the hostel proprietress named Laura, an incredibly kind lady poured over the map of Morelia marking crosses for places where I could take coletivos (i.e. mini buses) to commence my day trip.

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Un Día En Taxco

Taxco (tass-ko in phonetic English or तास-को in Hindi)  is a sleepy colonial town in the state of Guerrero, a two and a half hour bus ride from Mexico City. Sandwiched among several hills, the terrain here is steep so you're bound to get a good workout while exploring the town. Seriously, don't forget your running shoes if you do plan to visit! 


White houses with orange terracotta tiled roofs dot the hills which make the town look exceedingly picturesque. Taxco used to be an important center for silver mining in the country however today main economic activities that sustain the town are silverware and tourism. In talking with Uber drivers in Mexico City, I also learnt that Taxco is a popular weekend destination for city dwellers looking for a quick escape from the hustle bustle. 

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While In St. Petersburg

I caught the 7 AM high speed Sapsan train from Moscow to St. Petersburg on a cloudy morning in May. Smartly dressed uniformed officials positioned outside each coach cross-reference passports or government IDs against hand held electronic manifests before allowing passengers to board the train. There is a fair bit of security at the station so once you reach the platforms after clearing baggage check, going back to the main train terminal necessitates lining up for baggage check again on the way back. The reason I state this is because seeing fellow passengers on the platform enjoy an early morning smoke along with a streaming cup of coffee made my stomach grumble with envy. I cursed myself for not picking up breakfast from one of the many cafes that dot the main terminal. Not sure why but I was under the absurd notion that the stationary train's pantry car would be functioning before the journey even commenced. As I found out the hard way, this wasn't the case. The food cart actually rolled past my seat two hours into the journey. 

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Snapshots Of Moscow

Since my early teens, visiting Russia, and more specifically Moscow had been my dream. Every now and then, a news magazine would carry on its cover a picture of the whimsically decorated St. Basil’s Cathedral and I’d wonder to myself, what would it be like to stand right in front of it? What was around it? Such information is now accessible a click away on the internet, but not so much in the 90’s, hence I grew up in a heightened state of unquenched curiosity about Moscow.

The image of this cathedral was so etched in my mind, and so singularly associated with Moscow that every mention of the city would only make me think of this multicolored pastry-like edifice. I also have no shame in admitting that during my teens, I probably thought that this cathedral was perhaps the Kremlin itself!

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Exploring The Moscow Metro

The first thought that struck me as I entered the Belorusskaya metro station after transferring from the nearby Airport Express train terminal was its sheer depth. Used to the relatively shallow subway stations in New York City where the noisy rumble of passing trains can easily be heard and felt on streets above, unending escalators of Moscow metro stations instead take you deep into the subterranean landscape.

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Eleven Hours In Bangkok

Like any global city, Bangkok means different things to different people. For me, Bangkok represents an ultra modern city which has retained its heritage and gritty old charm, a mecca for cheap and tasty street food and a city which offers an abundance of ways and means to happily while away time people watching. Needless to say, Bangkok is also a shoppers paradise and an unadulterated party city with a rollicking night life.  

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Ancient Gems In Quito's Old Town - Two Churches And A Cemetery

Quito is known to have one of the most well preserved and least altered, and might I add the most beautiful historic centers in all of Spanish America. Walking along the narrow up-and-down streets is a visual treat with every turn revealing a rich tapestry of neo-gothic Ecuadorian architecture, colors, authenticity, open plazas, almuerzo shops, fruiterias, key cutters, and most importantly, lots of local people and tourists infusing life into this ancient city. In my two weeks in Quito, I spent countless hours ambling the streets of this historic center, soaking in the view, visiting churches, or simply parking myself on a bench and watching life pass by as I sipped on naranja and zanahoria mixed fresh fruit juice or wolfed down one delicious mango after another. Yes, Ecuador is heaven for those of us who love tropical fruits. While Quito's ancient old town is full of several gems, I wanted to dedicate this post to three sites which I believe should be on every visitors itinerary. 

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