Happy New Year everyone. As we enter the new decade with lots of hope and faith, we must thank the year that has just ended. While the whole decade was a life changing experience as a blogger, 2019 was a phenomenal year with respect to traveling. I will always remember it for it gave me an opportunity to see some of the most beautiful places in Europe, Middle East, South East Asia and India. While I dug in deeper for better stories, I upped my style game too. I not only wrote better travelogues, interesting personal accounts and some cover stories but I also felt as if I discovered myself at the age of 34. To let not the good times and good memories fade away, this is my attempt to capture the year in words and pictures.
2019 had begun with a bang. I partied hard on the 31st night and woke up to a beautiful day in Maldives. For all these years, I had thought that Maldives was highly overrated but trust me it is amazingly gorgeous. Yes, there might not be much to do if you are not a water baby but you got to go there, at least once. The water is pristine. I agree that the hundreds of resorts outdo each other, everyday in laying down new definitions of luxury but I bet the local islands and the capital- Male will take you closer to the soul of Maldives.
Mumbai, Prayagraj, Lucknow, Ayodhya, Govardhan and Parvada
In the first four months of the year, I traveled within India. From Maldives, I flew back to Mumbai. Soon, I had an opportunity to be a part of the ArdhKumbh in Prayagraj. From there I visited Lucknow and then Ayodhya. In March, I celebrated Holi in the region where Lord Krishna grew up and April saw me discover a new place called Parvada, near Mukteshwar.
KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN
The trip to Bahrain turned out to be very-very refreshing, especially because it gave me a chance to see Bahraini history and culture, closely. Not to forget, after Indian cuisine, Middle Eastern food is my favorite. Manama seemed like a city where one could settle in easily, make friends and enjoy a good life. In fact, I quite appreciated the balance between the high rise futuristic buildings and the traditional Arabic settlements. With beaches and islands around, Bahrain is not purely a desert. It is definitely worth for your next travel.
VIJAYAWADA, HYDERABAD, AMRAVATI
While 2018 was mostly about traveling between Delhi and Mumbai, 2019 was about Andhra Pradesh. My husband’s new project took him to Vijayawada and obviously, I followed him there. I had been to Vizag before but this year was my luck to see what Andhra Pradesh had to offer. Well, I did discover a couple of gem places like Kondapalli, Kuchipudi village, Machlipatnam and more. The trip to Hyderabad during Eid was absolutely worth it.
On 30th May, I traveled to Nepal to participate in Himalayan Travel Mart (HTM) 2019. It was a 14 days trip, covering some of the most beautiful places of this Himalayan country. While you may wonder what would someone do in Nepal for so many days, I would like to tell you that this was my second visit to Nepal and still it did not feel enough. There is lots to discover, especially the temples, the UNESCO Heritage sites, the wildlife, the valleys and the hsitoric Darbar squares of Patan and Bhaktapur. If you are a trekker, Nepal is heaven for you.
July was the month of my much awaited Euro Trip. I was off to Brussels to start my tour of 7 countries. Well, it wasn’t about touching every city or village but some of the major cities. The idea was to gain some insight around their history and culture. In Belgium, I lived in Brussels for nearly two weeks, in parts. The city really impressed me with its love for comic street art. I also visited Antwerp, Ghent and Ostend. And no mention of Belgium is complete without its waffles, fries, beer and chocolates.
Next, I went to Germany. It is a huge country with lots of places to see. I did not want to rush into things and kept to only two cities in 6 days. I covered Berlin and Hamburg and loved both of them. While the port city of Hamburg really impressed me with its canals, Speicherstadt and Elbphilharmonie, the street art of Berlin made the street art lover in me, absolutely elated. Of course, when you are there in the capital city, you cannot miss to revisit history and see everything that remains of the Berlin wall.
REPUBLIC OF MALTA
This one is truly blessed with wholesome sun and charming waters, all round the year. This archipelago, Republic of Malta is home to some serious history and picturesque landscapes. The country is very-very old. The civilizations have been there since the early Neolithic period of 5000 BC. Its oldest megalithic monuments are listed as UNESCO heritage sites. Valletta is one of the tiniest capitals. It is home to gorgeous architecture. Also it is identified as UNESCO World Heritage Site for it has more than 200 historic monuments. The islands of Gozo and Comino are not to be missed at any cost, whenever you are visiting Malta. 3 days dint seem enough. Do keep a week for Malta. Its truly, truly gorgeous!
Before you ask me, I will declare it myself. I did not go to Amsterdam but chose Rotterdam over it. And I visited one of the most beautiful villages, Giethoorn in Netherlands. I had heard a lot about Rotterdam and it did impress me with its bold and modern architectures but when it comes to Giethoorn, I haven’t seen any village more prettier. This car-free village is mostly about canals, charming wooden bridges and pretty houses. I am gonna post a blog post around it pretty soon.
Austria had been on my mind for a long-long time. I would not claim that I have seen Salzburg, Innsbruck, Hallstatt but I am glad I made it to Vienna. It is one classy and elegant city. I spent 4 days in the city and mapped its length and breadth. The palaces of the Habsburg empire are magnificent. My most favorite street in Vienna has to be Kaerntner Strasse. The visit to Vienna will always be memorable because I celebrated India’s Independence day with the folks at Indian embassy of Vienna.
A Shahrukh Khan fan cannot miss to go to Prague. I had to do this city for him. So many of his movies have been shot in this city and it is so easy to live those moments. Charles bridge is not just an attraction, it is an experience. When you are there, you can’t miss to dig deeper about Franz Kafka and visit his house, now museum. Prague has lots of history in its Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, astronomical clock, Petřín hill and Vyšehrad. If fairy lands exist, Cesky Krumlov is one of them. A day visit to this village from Prague is inevitable. Just go for it.
This was the last leg of my first Euro trip of the year 2019 and Budapest actually took me by surprise. What a vibrant place it is! The party culture is addictive. Thanks to my friends, I went for late-night club hopping here and enjoyed it thoroughly. The picture of ‘The Széchenyi Chain Bridge‘ and the parliament building will remain etched in my mind, till I go back again. The experience of the river cruise was one of its kinds. You must do it here. Only when I visited the city did I learn that the name ‘Budapest is about reunion of three city names -Óbuda, the “Old Buda”, Buda and Pest. The hilly Buda district and flat Pest area are bisected by the River Danube. You must explore both the sides.
Spain was not part of my Euro trip. It happened just the way miracles happen. While I was on my way to Prague, I got a message to join a media trip to Spain in the next month. I was elated. And the places that I got to visit will definitely make you envious. I know Madrid and Barcelona are top choices, but I did the latest favorite ones, Valencia and Ibiza. Both of them were extremely refreshing. While I attended the national parade of the autonomous region of Valencia, it was amazing to get introduced to a completely different side of Ibiza. If you know it only for its parties and trance clubs, read my post.
While Bali evokes nostalgia and I always look forward to going back there, this time I also got to see Lombok. This trip was a part of media familiarization with Malindo Airlines and Indonesia Tourism. I love the beaches and sunsets of Bali and of course Kuta is my favorite area but this time I came back impressed with Lombok Island. It is a less crowded cousin of Bali and a perfect hot-spot for water sports lovers. The Gili islands are gorgeous and don’t forget to meet the Sasaks, the native tribes of Lombok.
Those who know me well, also know my love for writing around art and culture. I am always keen to know about the people, heritage, tribes, their festivals, old crafts and more. And what could be better than being invited for a cultural trail in Malaysia. I have a special connection with Kuala Lumpur because it happens to be the first city where I was invited as a travel blogger in 2014. Petronas has a special place in my heart. Malaysia also happens to be the country where I did my first solo trip. I traveled to Penang for its street art. Last but not the least, Melaka is yet another favorite city. I loved going back there after 4 years.
INDIA – CHHINDWARA and UDAIPURWATI
December ended on a very fulfilling note. I got to see two places that I was complete unaware of. While I got the opportunity to attend the corn festival, one of its kind in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, I visited one of the small towns, ‘Udaipurwati‘ in Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. India is diverse and chaotically charming and I love exploring the not so popular places. Hopefully, more of it will happen this year.
Great company make great trips!
Overall, 2019 was a blessed year! I would like to thank everyone whom I met during my travels. You have all been wonderful travel pals. Hopefully, 2020 will be more enriching for all of us. While I know there are a lot of family responsibilities to cater to, I can’t wait to travel more. Hopefully, 2020 will teach me to balance it better. And of course, one person that I must thank is my husband. Without him, nothing is possible.