Sunday, June 29, 2014

Experience called Oman

Some places are a must visit people say, and then there are places I call a must experience. The Sultanate of Oman goes in the later list in my case, thanks to some buddies of mine who made sure I was in awe of that place even before I could visit it! Oman is one of the most geographically diverse nations of Arabia. There was a time when, while watching Aladdin, I used to imagine Agraba to be in Oman; courtesy - my neighbor who had just returned from the land of Sultans. So when asked, ‘How would you experience Oman?’ I had 50 points and no words. Guess when a place leaves you speechless and then gives you a lot of stories, your travel becomes an experience to remember. So in order to get the stories this is what my travel would be like, mostly. (Letting go of the reigns of my imaginary travel fanatic horses for them to run free :D)

1.   Omani Agraba – Muttrah
Legend has it that Oman was mistaken to be India by European Travelers and they made Muttrah their main port for trade, back in time. Even today, in spite of the onslaught of modernity, Muttrah seems to be in a time wrap. Muttrah is an antique freak’s and shopper’s paradise. It has the oldest traditional market of west Asia called Muttrah Souq that flaunts an ambience built with Turkish lamps, spices and incenses. You can also see a large part of the city flaunting the old mud houses – similar to the ones shown in Aladdin. But it is not just about the old heritage; Muttrah is also known for its Corniche with lavish yachts and deep blue sea. Sounds like modern Agraba doesn’t it?

2.  Wadi Wonders
It won’t be wrong to call Oman the land of Wadis. Oman is known for its Ocher yellow and rust shade mountains hiding aquamarine pools and lush green terraces within them – called as Wadis. From the serpentine Snake Canyon aka Wadi Bimah to the gorgeous Wadi Bani Khalid, from the submerged cave and perennial waterfall of Wadi Shab to the peaceful Wadi Tiwi, the Wadis of Oman are a must visit. The best time to visit Wadis though is the Khareef season till late February as in the other season the heat and the comparatively dry pools steal the main essences of these places. The important thing to remember to travelling to Wadis is four wheel drive, normal vehicles won’t do you any good.

3.  Salalah
Since I started talking about Khareef, it is obligatory to talk about Salalah. Salalah a lush green area, adorned with beautiful blue shoreline, is the second largest city of the Sultanate of Oman. As it is the birth place of the current Sultan of Oman, Sultan Qaboos Palace is the place in Salalah to begin the city trip with. To let go of the awe of its magnificence a visit to Al Haffa would be the best idea. Other than these places Salalah is known for its heritage archeological site Al Baleed and Mugsail Bay. Bird watchin in Khor Ruri is also a pleasant way to spend the day for nature lovers. This area also treats its visitors with fields of Frankincense. And history lovers, this might interest you - Job’s tomb!

4.  Caving in - Jebel Shams and Al hoota Caves
The rugged exquisiteness of Oman is an integral part of its natural beauty and one of its jewels is Jebel Shams. Lush green in summers, snow capped in winters – it is the highest range of Oman. At the foot hills of Jebel Shams is Al Hoota caves – one of the largest cave systems in the world. Although normal visitors can enjoy the sight of limestone stalactites and stalagmites in only the first circuit, the cave system is more than 5km long traversed by underground River which creates 3 large lakes, first of one with 800m length.

5.  Desert safari – Wahiba Sands
To visit Oman and not go for a desert safari would be nothing less than a crime. Wahiba Sands offers the best experience of the Arabian Desert. Sand dune rides, Bedouin singers, camps and camels, and cloudless skies with a bright full moon. Gives the picture doesn’t it? When I think of Wahiba Sands, this is what plays in my mind by default –
Arabian nights, like Arabian days
More often than not
Are hotter than hot
In a lot of good ways
Arabian nights, 'neath Arabian moons
A fool off his guard
Could fall and fall hard
Out there on the dunes

6.  Oman outside Oman – Musandam
Did you know a part of Oman is in UAE? Musandam is an exclave of Oman and is known for its scenic beauty, glacier-carved coasts and cliffs, greenish blue shoreline, and fjord formations.  The castles (Khasab Castle being the main one), dolphins, crystal clear water and city with the traditional environment of the area makes it a must visit when in Oman. This place – also termed as the Norway of the east, is also ideal for scuba diving!

7.  Forts Forts and more Forts
I have a weird inclination towards forts due to the Rajasthan lover in me, so how could I let go of the Omani forts - Nizwa fort, Bahla fort and Castle of Jabreen. Unlike Indian forts, these are made of mud and sand and are brilliant examples of Arabic interiors. Also Nizwa is famous for the single largest falaj in Oman.

8.  Sur
The historical town of Sur is one of the most well formed natural harbors of Oman. It has some well known castles – the Sunaysilah Fort and the Ras al Hadd Castle, which are not as grand as Jabreen Castle, but are beautiful none the less. Sur is also the best place to go for turtle watching, the turtle beach aka Ras al Hadd being the best site. The view of the azure waters with tiny and huge turtles running around the shore is something you wouldn’t want to miss. And to go to Sur and not have fish or lobsters would be a shame as Sur’s rich marine life is something they are definitely proud of. On the way to Sur is also the demon hole aka Bimmah Sink hole, which is considered are one of the prettiest land sink holes in the world. The locals believe it is created by some meteorite impact but scientifically it is formed due to mineral cave disintegration. Regardless of its formation and origin story, it is a place worth visiting.

9.  The heart of the Sultanate – Muscat
Muscat, the largest natural port of the world, is the capital of Oman and the place without which a visit to Oman is null and void. Muscat is a place where we see the traditional merge in harmony with modernization; the harbor of Muscat flaunts the traditional wooden dhows along with the Sultan’s Yatch; the Sultanate roads and hotels are world famous and so are the Grand mosque aka Sultan Qaboos Mosque and the Al-Jalali and Al-Mirani forts. The grand mosque in particular is known for its grandeur, architecture, world’s largest hand woven carpet and a 14 meter tall chandelier that is festooned in the praying hall. Though the whole mosque is not open to women, the mere site of it can leave you speechless.

10. Let’s talk food – Istanboly!

Okay, this might confuse a lot of Omanis as Istanboly is in Muscat, then why make it a separate destination? Well the reason is my friends. They way they talk about the Istanboly Shawarma is as if it comes from some different planet and no matter which Shawarma they eat from which country, they end up comparing it with Istanboly’s product and consider the shawarma as “nowhere close to the delicious Istanboly Shawarma”. So this would be my must eat at destination in Oman.

There are a lot of other places that the sultanate has to explore like the Masirah Island, the fabled lost city or Atlantis of the sands, Queen Sheba’s palace and city ruins and many more; but these 10 top my list of “Experience Oman.” Hopefully, I will get to visit all these places some day and have a lot of Baklava, Omani halwa and Chocolate Dates - Yay to my sweet tooth!

P.S. - This post has been written for Beautiful Oman contest arranged by Indiblogger and Oman Tourism.
A special thanks to Mohit Rajadhyaksha and Franklin Patrao for all the Omani stories and pics you guys shared. :) And photo credits - Mohit and Google.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Monsoon Alphabet Meal

Breath of fresh air
With the post rain petrichor
Fills my sense and makes me crave
For a hot cup of coffee and some pastry freshly baked
For a hot platter of all kinds of pakodas
While I laze and spend this dark lighting evening
With a light book and my window seat

Yes, I am in the monsoon wonderland finally! The rainy haze has finally set in Mumbai (also where I am at :P) and I couldn’t have been more excited to bid the scorching heat goodbye. But with the beautiful weather, we Indians are used to savor pakodas and bhajias, get drunk with the aroma of hot coffee or masala chai, and some crazy yet awesome people like me would also enjoy ice cream! Hungry already?

Well today I am going to talk only about food – monsoon food thanks to the beautiful location I am at right now (Goa it is!) and the amount and quality of food I have been enjoying lately (You guys have no idea!).

A perfect monsoon meal has to start with hot coffee or tea, for me it is Masala Chai with a lot of ginger. Just imagine the sight of the tea brewing in a clear glass carafe against a misty window hazed by the falling rain. And if it is accompanied by a chip and dip delight of potato fries and onion pakodas made by your Mom, what else could be a perfect start to a lazy rainy evening?

Post twilight let the lights rest of sometime. Dim the bright light of the rooms and set the ambiance with beautiful blue sparkle tea light and here comes the main course. As the Goa fever is on, I have developed a lot of liking for sour, mildly acidic and spicy food. The tangy tomato rice, spread out in an Indigo Neuvodinner set, with chicken vindaloo and goan prawn curry cooked with the tinge of kokum. Goan cuisine is the result of the Portuguese influence on Indian cuisine and hence this dinner would take anyone to the colonial Goa or on a virtual trip to the spice world of two nations. While vindaloo is a picked curry which is at times enhanced by addition of raw mango, goan prawn curry is spiced out by chilies – used a lot in Portuguese food and then addition of kokum subsidizes the hot curry with mild tanginess. And all this teamed up with the picture-perfect Mediterranean salad – cherry tomatoes, red onions, sweet pepper red and yellow, Greek olives garnished with feta cheese, taunting you with the colorful appeal in a clear square glass bowl. Yes! This was my awesome meal tonight, just not decorated this attractively.

And the cherry on the meal would be a desert that would go any glutton go crazy right? What about brownie with Ice cream! Sizzling hot brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, decorated in a round dish, with the layers distinctively visible; and this with an amazing match of the FIFA WC - my personal idea of a flawless night! Did I forget to add my mom opted for blue lagoon instead of ice cream? No matter how tantalizing it looked in a tumbler that looked very similar to the Canard tumbler of Borosil, I stuck to my Ice Cream.

Well I tweaked the look of my monsoon delight a bit with some Borosil products to make you guys hungrier, because I think the food that looks better tastes the best and I really wanted to give you the taste of the food I enjoyed, with words this time (Sorry no photos). This was the Alphabet meal I served for you tonight. Let me know your idea of a perfect monsoon meal too.

P.S. - This post is written for the My Beautiful Food contest organized by Indiblogger and Borosil.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Travel Techy - Top Ten Tips

Let us celebrate a no technology day!
Too difficult?

Ok, let’s celebrate a no social network day?
Want something less challenging?

Alright let us vouch for a no Whatsapp day!
Wondering now what to do with your smart phones?

Well that is how technology has enveloped our life these days. We don’t always realize how crazily we depend on technology – from fan to light, from computer to cell phone and now with the overabundance of apps out there we have accepted technology to be one of the basic needs along with water food and shelter. But how do we stay close to this basic necessity while travelling? So here is my list of top ten things to do with technology when on the move; and this list won’t have the basic calling and messaging requirements. Guys think of more :D

1.    Social Life – Facebook and Twitter is something everyone uses by default but have u heard of more. Take foursquare for a spin and pose a bit for instacrowd (Instagram). Discover the world on Pintrest and know more about the world on Quora. Sounds fun right?

2.   Write – You see something – Blog; You notice something – Blog; You see something wrong – Blog. Just use Blogspot Tumblr and Wordpress to stay connected to the world virtually and in reality.

3.   Explore – Going to a new place, google is cool but still better use google earth! Also read as may travel blogs as you can, they definitely give you more insight about the place and what are Tripto and TripAdviser there for, just use them, they are yours!

4.   Kick Boredom’s Ass – Bored? No one online and to talk to? Nothing interesting happening? Guys the new addiction in town is your you :P And it is the good type of addiction people. QuizUp, LogoQuiz, 2048, Candy Crush, Farmville…well you really need to play games cause that is what I do most of the time while I am travelling.

5.   SHOPPING!!! – Confessions of an Online Shopaholic. Nothing beats the crazy fun of shopping online from the thousand sites.

6.   Music – Tired of your regular playlist – There is a solution for that too! There are a number of sites that let you listen to new and old tracks online, listen to radio, and create playlists too. Now songs can keep you happy forever can’t they?

7.   Videos – Have you heard of YouTube? Forget the Barney Kick but seriously, there has never been a better site than YouTube. Crazy Funny Informative Animes Musical name it and it has a whole new world inside its virtual web. Also missed out on your favorite show, internet has solution to all of your series issues all you need is a PDA.

8.   Photoshop - Artistic much? Since you are travelling you would never have the problem of clicking pics. But imagine you are on a vacation and you run out of memory on your camera, what then? Upload pics on to your laptops of tabs and enjoy. And when bored photoshop can be a real fun thing to do!

9.   Flash – Too tech Savvy? Well you can come up with something really creative using flash. But yes it jolts your techy side for sure.

10. And lastly the bookworm in me would not let me end it without my favourite travel pass time – E BOOKS. You could only carry 1 book earlier but what after you finish it? And carrying multiple books is totally out of question right, weight is always an issue – may it be body fat or baggage fat. So tech solution is E Book and you can read it on laptops, tablets, cellphone and Kindles and done with one start another, no extra baggage guaranteed; it is after all time to transform you see :D

So that’s is how I keep close to the Techy world and the crazy pretty outside world at the same time when travelling. What do you do?

P.S. -  This contest post has been written for the Asus Time to Transform contest powered by Asus T100 and

Sunday, June 1, 2014

10 Things About IT World You Learn in First Year

This post was selected by Blogadda for Tangy Tuesday Section.

When we are in school all we want to do is join college and be free of the ever boring uniform. When we finally step into the college world we dream about blazers and suits and a sophisticated cubicle – basically a cool job. Today most of us are part of the huge IT network irrespective of what degrees we hold and that’s our cool job. IT world is a crazy place and no matter which company you work for you have a universal lingo, universal issues and standard boredom period with a few happy hiccups. Here is my list of 10 things you learn and realize about the IT world in the very first year of your career dream world; or wait is it?

1.    Writing projects in college was easier than documentation work at office. You could always fill in Sholay or Dilwale Dulhaniya Lejaenge or Dark Knight in the pages destined for cold dusty storage and cockroach playgrounds. Here, even though the pages are destined for cold memory storage to be lost in the virtual maze, you have to fill in every detail carefully and it is not just tedious but boring.

2.   The ever sophisticated Formal look is highly over rated.

3.   “Dude why do you look like a zombie every morning? And why do you come early? Why work on weekends?” – Life story of the build guys!

4.   When you see a person looking like he just lost 1 million, don’t waste a lot of emotions on him or her. The person just has no life(s) in Candy Crush or missed 2048 by 1 swap! *Yup that is our life.*

5.   If a person says he has never dozed or felt sleepy during a call – you know you can never trust him.  Liar!

6.   People are the happiest on just two occasions – 1st day of office and 1st day of bench after a long ‘on project’ time. The next closest thing and the only other thing that comes close to this is the day when the servers are down and only onsite team can fix it. *Yes, I know, you are secretly praying this happens on Monday!*

7.   Even if you hate tea or coffee you would never let go of a coffee break! *Just 15 minutes right?*

8.   A bug is always “Not our fault” until in bounces in 5 different team courts and crashes again on your home ground.

Not My Fault

9.   The most important tools in the IT world are Copy-Paste and Google and your best friend has to be stackoverflow!

10. Ever wondered what the whole array of useless F keys do on your computer? Well you would never ask that question ever again.