Ubud Essentials

The promised Ubud post is finally here! I will get straight to it.

Where to stay:
Ubud is a lovely town about an hour (+30mins) from Denpasar. Aptly named the cultural hub of Bali, Ubud has plenty to offer from indie art shops to white water rafting. That said, the main attraction is the Monkey Forest and I recommend staying close to it for the simple reason that it opens into the Ubud Market. There are two entrances to the Monkey Forest – essentially you can go in from one side of Ubud and get out from the exit in the local market. We stayed on the quieter side but the walk to the market (a narrow lane around the forest perimeter) took just 7 minutes. You can check out the property here. It’s a big house with a lovely garden, an open shower in the upstairs bedroom, a quaint balcony and a beautiful view of the rice fields.

Food:
Though I am a vegetarian and on my way to becoming vegan, I recommend a nice long walk in the Ubud Market if you are looking for cafés with a good music scene. I recommend drinking local – I did enjoy their local beer (Bintang) despite harbouring a strong preference for pale ales. There’s a cute corner restaurant at the entrance (non-market) of the Monkey Forest that has a total hippie music scene. Check their board for announcements. Other than that, here are my recommended restaurants for vegetarian food near Rumah Buda.

  1. Sage Cuisine
    Address: 
    Jl. Nyuh Bulan No. 1, Banjar Nyuh Kuning, Ubud, MAS, Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
    Phone: +62 361 976528
    I recommend: Pancakes, Coconut coffee, and Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl
  2. Trattoria
    Address: Jalan Nyuh Bojog, Desa Nyuh Kuning, Ubud, MAS, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
    Open: 8AM–11PM
    Phone: +62 811-399-241
    I recommend: Farm Pizza, Tomato Basil sandwich (it’s a double panini, very filling, and totes-delish). The omelette is served with toast and blue-berry jam (LOVED IT!) Oh and the coffee is good too. Trattoria is a chain and you can find it in Kuta as well. The staff is pleasant and accommodating.

Definitely try the gelato parlours in the Ubud market. I recommend the local mangosteen (I liked the tea) but I am not a big fan of the local coconut flavour in ice-cream.

Shopping

  1. Dream Catchers: I don’t even know where to begin. You will find massive ones in almost every shop. For the big ones (with three rings), your upper limit is IDR200,000. If you are making a single purchase, I doubt you will be able to command this price. So try to club it with something else. They generally quote IDR350,000 for these.
  2. Earrings: The tiny ones just bigger than studs in sterling silver are quoted at IDR100-150000. Pay no more than IDR50,000.
  3. Kimonos: I have wanted them since I took up Japanese at age 15. When I saw how much they cost in an Asian Shop in Amsterdam, I gave up on the dream. There are two types – satin and silk (or so they say). Satin comes with a lining and is slightly coarse. They quote IDR180,000 in Kuta/Legian so if you can’t get a good price in Ubud, wait till you get to Kuta. The silk ones are soft and dreamy – quoted at IDR350,000, can be brought down to IDR230,000 after a LOT of haggling.
  4. Carved wooden idols: We have a mini elephant collection now. In different sizes. Negotiate up to IDR 100,000 for a decently sized elephant. You can also find lovely Ganesha idols along with the Buddha ones. Club your purchases for a good deal

Shopping Tip: Go when the market opens. The fewer the people, the better the negotiations. The sellers will bring the rates down if you aren’t surrounded by a crowd because they don’t want others to ask for the same price!

What to do in and around Ubud:

  1. Kintamani Tour – Covers Mt. Batur, the rice fields, a coffee plantation, and Tampaksiring. If you choose to do the hike, you will have to find a tour operator in the market. I believe you have to leave ~2am for the sunrise trek. Parking and toll cost IDR95,000 and entry is IDR80,000. You can buy lava paintings from local artists in the temple grounds. They are actually made from crushing the rocks of Mt. Batur.
  2. Mt. Agung – This is the other trek. If you choose not to do the trek, you can drive to see Pura Besakih (the biggest temple). Sarongs and offerings are compulsory if you wish to enter the temple. If you don’t bring either, you’ll be restricted to the outer area of the temple which is a total bummer after the climb. Tip! Scooters will take you up for free but will charge IDR10,000 for the ride down to the parking lot. You can pay to use the loos (or buy something from the local shops in which case they don’t charge to use the loo) but I recommend you avoid them and save yourself from a UTI.
  3. Tampaksiring – The Holy Water Temple. Sarongs are included in the ticket cost but you are not allowed to get them wet. So, if you are planning to take a dip in the holy water fountain, bring your own sarong and en extra set of clothes. Tie your hair! You won’t be permitted inside the inner temple if you don’t.
  4. Monkey Forest – Honestly, I am not a big fan of monkeys. I definitely do not like the idea of being outnumbered by animals that like to jump on you and grab things out of your hand. But if you are up for a nice long walk in a wonderfully preserved reserve, head out early when it isn’t too crowded.
  5. Puri Saren Royal Palace – It isn’t really a palace tbh. Just a small courtyard with some photo-ops. I liked the one-hour long Legong Dance. It starts at 7:30 but I advise getting there early and taking up the pseudo-balcony seats in the back. Ticket costs IDR100,000
  6. Goa Gajah Caves – Lovely landscaped gardens. Ticket costs IDR20,000. You can easily spend an hour here. Don’t shop in the market. The rates are higher than the Ubud Market.
  7. Setia Dharma House of Masks – Understated. That’s all I can say about the buzz for this place. Our driver didn’t even know about it but I insisted that he take us there. I loved it. There is no entrance ticket but a donation box is placed outside the last display hall. Beautiful gardens ♥ We didn’t sit down in the café but it looked nice. There are plenty of toilets here and they are CLEAN.
  8. ARMA – Agung Rai Museum of Art. Ticket costs IDR80,000 and includes a welcome drink. You will find artists and students creating stone sculptures and paintings in the gardens. Set aside an hour or more for this museum.
  9. Gili Islands –  I wasn’t looking to party so I didn’t go. But you can check for rates in the market. They will undoubtedly be high. Check with your hotel / hostel / AirBnB if they can score you a good deal.
  10. Massages – Plenty of options in the market. Foot massages and reflexology start at 15 mins and go up to an hour. Fully body massage is offered in 30m – 1h – 2hr schedules. Rates vary depending on establishment. I suggest taking a walk in the market while you enjoy your gelato. Ask around for rates and check hygiene before you select one.

IMHO:

  • BUY a sarong instead of renting one. Even though all travel guides (incl. Lonely Planet) and the boards outside the temples state that sarongs AND/OR decent clothes are permitted, they will insist on sarongs. I ditched my pants after Day 2 coz it was annoying to wrap a sarong around full length pants. So, wear your shorts and carry a sarong along.
  • Halve every quote like I said in my last post. Check everything you buy for tears and/or breaks.
  • Ditch the Blanco Renaissance Museum. The ticket was way too overpriced for the sparsely covered mansion. I would rather have spent more time in ARMA.
  • If you wish to trek, see the temples, and go to Gili Island budget a week in Ubud. There’s no way you can get everything done in less than 7 days. It will be way too exhausting.

Up Next: I will post the promised itinerary next. I thought it would be better to get this detailed post out first. Stay tuned, my peeps! ♥

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Bali: Arrival – Stay – Money – and more!

I am moving soon and I wanted a short holiday that required minimum planning. Air Asia answered my prayers by announcing discounted tickets! Bali is gaining traction as a popular holiday destination from India and after spending a week there, I can see why! So here’s everything you need to know about booking your holiday. Trust me, you don’t need a travel agent 🙂

Getting There: Keep an eye out for promotions. Air Asia announces discounted fares multiple times a year. For example: Late May through early June, return air fares were going at approx. INR 15,000. Soon after they shut this promotion, they opened another for travel dates starting from January 2018. So, book your tickets early.

Visa: VoA (for 30 days) for almost all nationalities. There was a USD35 charge for VoA until a few years ago. VoA is now FREE! All you need is a return ticket to show the immigration officers and you are good to go. Oh, the Bali officers won’t even bother to ask. It is only the officers in India who might question you about your return date.

Stay: Are you a first timer? Do you care about arts and crafts? How fit are you? Do you like adventure sports? Are you just looking for a spa holiday? Is this a bachelorette plan? Well, where you should stay depends on your answers to the above questions. I split my stay between Ubud and North Kuta (~Canggu). I picked Ubud first because I wanted to be closer to the airport towards the end of my stay – just in case of emergencies. If you are all about hiking, the local arts, and some quiet time – head to Ubud without a second thought. The drive from Denpasar airport to Ubud takes roughly 1-1.5 hours and costs IDR300,000. If you decide to stay on the beaches of Kuta/Legian/Seminyak, be prepared for crowds and constant partying. The drive should cost approx. IDR100,000 and will take 30-40 mins. depending on traffic.
For backpackers, there are plenty of good hostels around. I picked two beautiful AirBnBs and was far from disappointed. More about that in my detailed posts for Ubud and Kuta coming up soon.

Money: The easiest currency to convert is USD. There are ATMs in Bali but I do not recommend using them due to widespread news of cards being compromised later. Go hard cash! Sadly, HDFC/Axis/etc. do not supply Indonesia Rupiah either on card or cash. And the exchange rates are terrible anyway. I decided to go with BookMyForex this time and was happy with the service. All you need to do is fill out the online form – you can see the exchange rate and decide the amount you wish to convert. You will soon receive a confirmation email along with an intimation to send over the required documents: copy of passport data page, flight tickets, copy of visa (not required for Bali), and your PAN card. On approval of these documents, they will connect you to your nearest forex provider – in my case it was Orient Forex in town. The forex provider will send you the bank details for transfer [for amounts > INR 50,000 NEFT/IMPS is mandatory. For lower amounts, cash is accepted]. Their TAT is 4 hours but since NEFT takes longer, they recommend IMPS if you wish to receive the currency the same day.
In Bali, you will find “Money Changers” on every street. We converted within the range of IDR12,900 to IDR 13,270 per USD. I do not recommend converting at the airport. Step out into the city and find a money changer. You are bound to get a better rate. Heads up! Be wary of money changers in Kuta/Legian/Nusa Dua/Benoa. They will display ridiculous rates and cheat you. We saw offers going up to IDR13,899 when the actual rate was IDR13,200 per USD.

Getting Around: Hire a scooter. It is the most economical mode of transport in Bali. Rentals are approx. IDR 11,000 per hour which translates to ~INR 55. Can’t get cheaper than that! Tours in Ubud (with pick up and drop) for 8 hours cost IDR 600,000 if you negotiate well with your AirBnB affiliated driver. They tend to cost higher in the market. Tours in North Kuta for 10 hours cost IDR 550,000 but I believe you can negotiate further. If you are travelling in a moderately large group, the car (with driver) is a great option considering the cars seat 5 – 6 adult passengers.

Food: Total paradise for meat eaters. Not so great for vegetarians and vegans. It is difficult to explain the concept of vegetarian because they tend to include eggs and sometimes even fish in vegetarian diets! That said, we did find some great restaurants and cafés that customised their menu for us. If you don’t find one that is willing to accommodate your requests, stick to Fries, Onion Rings, Nasi Goreng, and Nasi Campurr.

Shopping: Halve every quote you receive! Repeat that after me. Bali is all about bargaining skills. And they don’t resent you for shooting down their offer price. So, don’t be ashamed to quote a ridiculously lower price. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by huge dreamcatchers, carved wooden elephants, stone Buddha statues, and silk kimonos. Check out my upcoming posts for where to shop and how much to pay ♥♥


Up Next: Ubud in 3 days

Travel hack: Jewellery storage

Hola! I had been meaning to launch my Studio page for months and finally did it here. My DIY game is very unstructured and usually stems from my immediate needs 🙂 Well, guess what? I went impulse shopping yesterday and ended up with some very bright earrings fit for a day at the beach ♥ I am off for a holiday with the fam at the end of this month and I am superrrrr excited! I am looking forward to some pool time and great Asian architecture. But mostly, I am ready to flaunt my accessories – haha.

I am a minimal packer and rarely go overboard with clothes/shoes/accessories. But hey, everyone deserves a break from the rules. I was wondering how to pack my big hoop earrings for my beach holiday when inspiration (and Pinterest) struck hard. I have usually put all my big, hoop earrings in a box and then ended up fishing for the ones I actually want to use. Also, sometimes the metal tends to rub on each other flake off. There goes a good pair of your favourite accessory! Well, no more. A little bit of Google and Pinterest investment paid off. Lo and behold – the earring folio book!

What you need
Felt Cloth
Thick cloth for cover
Scissors
Sewing Thread & Needle
Lace/Buttons/Elastic for decoration (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cut your felt cloth into equally sized rectangles. I used three to make six pages. You can decide your own number. But remember that felt is pretty thick and you will need to sew it into a book.
  2. Cut your cover cloth into a slightly larger rectangle and double fold the edges and sew them in.
  3. Place your felt pages over the cover and fold them all together at the middle. Mark the folding line.
  4. Now run a stitch over this line and make sure it is tight. Secure the ends with 2 or 3 stitches so that they won’t come off.
  5. Your earring folio book is ready!

Have a peek at what it looks like here:

What travel blogger would be if I only posted about shopping and skipped travel hacks❔here's a quick diy for carrying all those big earrings and pins ❤ instructions will be up on my travel blog tonight, so be sure to check them out 💋 doesn't this earring folio book really nice to store and carry around? 👌 Tell me what you think! I went for minimal without decoration, but you lot can surely be more creative and add some lace and colour 💐🍁 I am so glad to find a soft and safe space for my hoops and "Hand of the King" pin #travel #traveldiary #travelblogger #travelshopping #solotravel #solotraveler #borntotravel #borntotraveltheworld #girlontheroad #borntotravel #borntotraveltheworld #letstravel #backpacker #wanderlust #wordpress #wordpressblog #gameofthrones #handoftheking #travelgrams #travelgram #instatravel #travelingram #diyproject #diy #travelhacks #travelhack #diytravel #traveldiy #jewelry #streetshopping #jewelrystorage

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This book feels so snug (coz of the felt cloth) and I love the bright pink colour. I hope this was a fun and helpful tutorial 🙂 I am totes excited about my upcoming holiday and I will be sure to post about it soon. Till then, Auf Wiedersehen ♥

Keep slaying the fashion game when you travel!

Travel Stories: the good and the bad (2/3)

As promised, I am back with the second set of travel stories. To read the last account, click here.

Berlin, August 2015

I was travelling from Prague to Berlin on a particularly rainy morning. Contrary to popular belief, Germans can be late (oh yeah, I was shattered!). The Deutsche Bahn was late getting into Prague and was further delayed by unplanned stoppage during the journey. I was travelling with a hiking backpack and a pilot bag that was growing heavier by the day. My fellow passengers were a quiet lot and nobody seemed to particularly care about when we reached Berlin. The man who’d occupied the seat by the window had disappeared for most of the journey and I had no one to talk to/confirm the delay announcement with.

By the time we pulled into Berlin, I was cranky. I had lost most of the afternoon and I still had to locate the hostel. Dragging those bags off the luggage shelf was no ordinary feat. I was trying to reach my bags when the missing passenger appeared next to me. Not only did he get my bags down, he carried them to the door and helped me off the train. I protested that it was unnecessary and excessively kind but he refused to hear any of it! He was even considering walking me to the escalators 🙂

Prague, August 2015

I was staying at one of the most popular hostels in town – Mosaic House. Mosaic actually owns quite a few hostels around its main building but the facilities aren’t the same. Hostel World still shows the booking as MH, but you could actually be registered at say maybe Moo. I was in a mixed 4-bed dorm with a tiny balcony and no ventilation. It wasn’t possible to pull out the storage space and stand next to it at the same time – it literally took all the space between the beds once it was pulled out! My roommates for the first night were pretty nice but they moved out the next morning. I was out with the boys all day and when I got back the second day, there was no one in the room. I’d been out boating, climbing hills, and dancing on the streets – I was dead to the world the minute I lay down in my bed.

It was in the middle of the night when I woke up to loud drunk talk. The Brits had invaded. I drifted in and out of drugged sleep over the course of the night and woke up to a state of demolition in the morning. There were dirty food plates all over the room, empty beer bottles rolled around, and there was rubbish all over. The fat, half naked boy in the bed next to mine was snoring in all that mess. I ran out, showered, dressed and headed straight to the hostel reception to ask for a different room.

Nuremberg-Dresden, August 2015

I was traveling east with MeinFernBus/FlixBus to Dresden. The bus was late and by the time I boarded, most of the seats were taken. I found an empty spot at the back next to a young boy. I did my usual – ist hier noch frei? – and sat down. As a rule, I don’t talk to strangers unless they initiate conversations. I am yet to figure out whether Europeans are chatty and informal, so I play safe. I’d roughly factored in the delay into our scheduled arrival time but was surprised when the bus pulled into a town as scheduled. I expressed my wonder out loud and my neighbor corrected me by saying we still had over an hour left on the road! This short exchange opened up a conversation about my travel plans, love for everything German and of course funny German words.

I’d picked up a sheep (ein Schaf) in Neuschwanstein and he was traveling with me. I’d clipped my iPod to his belly so it looked as if he was my DJ. My co-passenger seemed to take a liking to the little guy and asked if he tagged along on all my trips. I told him about my Füssen day trip and how I was yet to figure out a name for him. Well, we soon started talking about our favorite German words and he told me how his friends from Netherlands found it difficult to say – schätzchen which means ‘treasure’ but is used for a partner (like darling or sweetheart) Even though my favorite word remains Sehnsucht, I have grown to love and use schätzchen in conversations and hope to someday use it for my partner. Btw, I named the sheep after my co-passenger. They are both called Anton.

Frankfurt, August 2015

On the last day of my backpacking holiday, I was moving hostels within Frankfurt to be closer to the airport to avoid any unforeseen delays in getting there. I lugged my backpack and trolley bag across the underground maze at the Hbf and got into a train heading to the airport. Now, the thing with these trains is: they are designed for large bags and trolleys. There’s plenty of space to stand, but not too many seats. Oh and the seats are self-folding which means that you can create additional baggage space in the absence of passengers.

I was crammed into a seat by the window. I was completely blocked by my bags and fellow passengers. Considering that I’d been on the road for a good 20+ days, and had travelled across 3 countries, I had a fair bit of baggage weight. When it was time to get off, I couldn’t hoist my backpack onto my back! There was too little space to create a point of leverage. I was struggling and about to fall over when the policeman sitting next to me lifted my bag (with one hand, might I add!) and pushed it onto my back. Needless to say, I was exceedingly embarrassed and yet, oddly relieved.

Provins, January 2015

I usually made unplanned trips over the weekends. This meant that I’d lie in bed on a Saturday/Sunday morning and randomly pick a destination for a day trip. On one such morning, I couldn’t decide where to go until I reached the train station. I looked at the train timetable and decided on Provins. I had no idea what to expect! When I reached the town 90 minutes later, all seemed quiet. Everyone who got off was walking towards the other end of the town. I followed them in wonder. All the locals seemed to have stepped out of a Game of Thrones set. It was crazy! As I walked up the hill, it got even fancier. Bang in the center was a cauldron on fire. They were making Glühwein ♥ I’d walked into the annual Medieval Festival!! I couldn’t believe my luck. I walked out of that fair with some wonderful old-fashioned ear rings, a sword that looks like a cross between Arya Stark’s Needle and The Sword of Godric Gryffindor. Oh, and I spotted some dudes that looked a lot like Robb Stark and Jon Snow 🙂

Paris, early 2015

I don’t remember where I was returning from. It was a day trip to a nearby town – perhaps Blois. I got off at Lazare which is a giant underground maze – I shit you not. You can switch multiple metro lines, reach the outbound trains, and take RER from these underground tunnels. The only caveat – you have to walk a lot. I was a bit lost and extremely fatigued at the end of the day. I couldn’t quite figure out how to reach the Line 1 metro and decided to approach a subway employee in uniform. He offered to walk with me till the metro because he was headed there. A huge departure from the French people I’d met till then, he turned out to be chatty. When I told him I was from India, he said he’d traveled there. He told me everything he’d loved to eat in India and even recommended a few good places to visit!

Nice, January 2015

I grew up in Bombay, a coastal city. My dad builds ships. So you can understand the deep love I hold in my heart for the ocean. I love to feel the wind in my hair when I stand on the deck as we sail. I left the coast and moved south. I made a  monthly trip home to sit by the coast but that had been difficult after the second year. When I moved to Paris, I’d been away from the coast for a good 6 months. I’d never seen such blue water until I’d checked out the view from the TGV getting into Cannes. I was mesmerized. As soon as I reached Nice, I dropped my bags in the hostel and ran to the Promenade de Anglais. I hiked to the viewpoint to check out the port and immediately decided to go to Monaco the next morning. When it was time to go back to Paris on Sunday afternoon, something didn’t feel right inside me. I was okay until I reached Courbevoie. But by the time I got home to my apartment, I had tears streaming down my face. I went straight to Flavia’s. She thought I’d been dumped until I mumbled out incoherently “blue… Nice.. the sea….” She laughed and ruffled my hair – “Natürlich, you’re a coastal girl!” I was crying because I’d missed the sea ♥

Paris-Lille, December 2014

Oh, this is an incident I have mentioned a number of times on the blog but have never elaborated on. This incident is also the reason why I sleep at airports/train stations/bus stations the night before I travel.

I was scheduled to spend the Boxing Day weekend in Lille. It was to be my first overnight trip and backpacking experience. I attended midnight mass on Christmas Eve and then spent a random day walking around Paris. I got stalked by two different dudes (one who actually followed me home!), and came home visibly upset. My colleagues decided to cheer me up by taking me to the Eiffel Tower (it was crazy crowded, but we ended up shopping in the flea market) followed by Frozen in bed. At about 11pm, I decided to take a nap and promised to wake up a few hours later and pack my bag for the trip to Lille. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

I woke up at 6:36am for my train that was scheduled to leave from Paris Nord at 7:16am. Doesn’t sound good, right? It wasn’t. The La Défense Metro station was at least a 10 min walk from my apartment, after which I had about 15 stops to go with one metro line change at Châtelet. I was screwed. My immediate reaction was intense panic. I had barely enough time to pull a pair of jeans on, grab the clothes strewn over my bed, pick up my shoes and run! Well, I did run. I put my shoes on in the elevator and zipped my jacket as I ran out of the building. I had tears streaming down my face when I saw that the first set of elevators (of a total 3!) wasn’t working. Putain! I had some quick decisions to make. When I reached the metro station, I walked up to a bakery and asked what was the fastest way to get to Nord. RER. I’d never taken one. I crossed my heart, bought a ticket (I wasn’t sure if my Navigo covered it) and proceeded to the Voie. Well, I was in luck as I jumped onto the first train that arrived seconds later. After a change at Châtelet to RER-D, I reached Nord at 7:14. Almost there, but was I? I was on Voie 36 and my train to Lille was on 54. Fuck shit. Once again, I ran like my life depended on it. I surfaced at the open air outbound line only to watch the doors seal (they are timed) and the train move out of the station. I sat down, cried, and then proceeded to the Information counter for help. The young officers asked me why I was late. “I overslept,” I mumbled wiping my tears, further ruining my eye make-up from the previous day. “20 euros,” they demanded. I had a choice. It was nearly my entire ticket cost, but forfeiting it would mean loss on the stay bookings I’d already made. I agreed. But by then they’d had a change of heart. They waived off the charge, stamped my ticket and asked me to board the next train to Lille. [I later realised that they were trying to rip me off] Needless to say, I have never been late for bus/flight/train again.


When I started writing the second set, I realised that I had some more stories to tell. I will be back with the third bonus set as soon as I can 🙂 Until then, read and spread the wanderlust, my peeps 🙂

Travel stories – the good and the bad (1/3)

Hola my peeps! I have been AWOL from both sites for quite a bit. Blame it on the working life. Bombay weather has been meh! While I lay in bed dreaming about the streets of Prague and slowly battling the onslaught of flu, my mom asked me if I had any particularly disheartening experiences while travelling. I think I’d like to include the good with the bad. So, here goes.


Lille, December 2014

This is my absolute favourite town in France. On the border of France and Belgium, in Flanders, this delight of a town draws from both cultures. There’s Belgian fries to gorge on and more boulangeries than you’d ever need.
This was my first overnight trip and I had never travelled solo before. I was walking around the town with my nose in the map. Lille is one of those few scattered towns in Europe that has its own Use-IT map. I had decided to figure out everything without stopping for directions from the locals. I was doing pretty great (barring a few wrong turns) but 3 people actually stopped to ask if they could help me. Oh and one of them was a pizza delivery guy who stopped his bike, got off, and offered to help!

Frankfurt, August 2015

Despite my unwavering love for everything German, this city didn’t quite live up to my dreams. I was travelling from Berlin to Frankfurt and reached quite early in the morning when it was still dark outside. I was still sleepy and it took me a bit of time to figure out where I was. The bus depot is a little further down from the Hbf and the city sort of ends there. There was absolutely  no one on the streets and I later found out that it leads into a dangerous red light zone. I needed a general sense of direction and approached an old man. He’d come to pick up his daughter who was about my age. Both, the man and his daughter, blatantly ignored me and walked away quickly. I thought it was exceptionally rude because I was a young girl with a backpack who spoke fluent German and looked more sleep deprived than dangerous.

Paris, December 2014 

I was stupid enough to go to Porte de Clignancourt for some flea market / artsy shopping on Christmas morning of all days. The one thing you must absolutely keep in mind when going to places like La Chapelle, Clignancourt and Anvers (Sacre Coeur) : hold on to your bags! Also, watch your back. Yeah, that’s not a joke. Once you get out out of the Metro station, come to a set of crossroads that spread out like a circle. You have to walk past a Burger King / Mc Donalds and an array of shoe shops before you reach the flea market. I noticed a guy smiling at me from across the road. He was going in the opposite direction so I didn’t think too much about it until he was suddenly next to me. I had crossed on to the other side and was moving along the circular path so I couldn’t figure out how he was suddenly so close by. Anyway, he kept following me until I ducked into a shop. I had to hide in the trial room to get rid of him but that didn’t seem to work. I nearly ran back to the metro station. Well, I got followed by a different guy from the La Défense Metro station to my home in Courbevoie. I ended up watching Frozen in bed to get over the experience.

Nice, January 2015 

I was actually on the way back from Nice to Paris. A really old man with dreadlocks, dressed in Asian clothes (think Nepal or North-eastern India) gave me a toothy smile. I smiled, nodded and went back to reading my book. He crossed me on his way to the food car a little while later and stopped to ask if he could get me something to eat – in perfect Hindi! It was a total jaw-drop moment for me. I did not expect anyone to address me in Hindi in France of all places – oh and absolutely not on the Riviera. I thanked him and said no but I was too shocked to further conversation. I sort of regret it now because in retrospect I would have loved to hear his story.

Amsterdam, January 2015

This remains my most harrowing experience. It was my first trip after I got the residence stamp and it was absolutely unplanned. It was the first snow of the season, and it was still dark when MegaBus dropped me off in the middle of nowhere. I followed some Chinese boys to what they said was the ‘city centre’ only to realise (after walking 4 kms in the snow) that I needed to go in the exact opposite direction. I sought help from a group of college kids who were out for a walk at 5am. They offered me some bread and gave me directions to the closest bus station. One of them offered to walk with me but I said no (I remain divided on that decision because of what happened later). While I was waiting for the bus a guy kept driving around the block in circles. He’d slow down and gesture at me, drive on, only to come back a few minutes later. I was close to tears (out of sheer fear, nothing else) when thankfully the bus arrived and I jumped on.

Paris, November 2015

Woohoo! Another one from the city of dreams. I was headed to Sacre Coeur on a blissful Saturday morning. I had just moved to Paris and wasn’t aware of the unsafe pockets in the city. When you get off at Anvers, there’s a narrow path leading up to the base of the church. It’s flanked by shops on both sides and the road itself is littered with scamsters moving cups and asking you which one holds the ball inside. I was crossing the service road just outside Anvers when I noticed a young man going in the opposite direction. Girls, I believe, have this sense which enables them to tell if something is off. I didn’t think too much but I did notice him. I was at the base of the church, about to climb the mini hill, when I realised this man was standing right behind me. [I am telling you people in Paris have passed their Apparition tests!]
“Your face,” he said in slow in English, after I’d said my usual non parle francais, désolé. “It’s very beautiful for me. Can I buy you a drink?”
For starters, it was 9:30 in the morning and way too early for a drink. And hey! I wasn’t crazy enough to accept an invite from a stranger. He went on to ask if he could walk to the church with me. I gave him a staunch no for a reply. But I was too shocked for much else. [Nothing in India had prepared me for this!] He asked for my number and I had my own Taken moment – Later, I even checked under my bed for space to crawl into. There was none and given that my Dad isn’t Liam Neeson I vowed to steer clear of strangers!

Cologne, January 2015

My first city in Germany! [A lot of firsts in this post] Cologne isn’t a popular backpacking destination given that all it has is a large number of churches. Cologne is famous for perfume (natürlich!) and Kölsch, a local brew. It is an absolutely delightful light beer that is consumed in 200ml glasses. Früh is a ridiculously famous brewery right outside the Dom. When it opened at noon, there were already about 100 people waiting to get in! I was alone which made it difficult to find a table. I approached an old, balding, pot bellied Kellner who took one look at me and said – “Because you’re alone, I make you sit at a table full of German people!” And then he proceeded to seat me with a large family of senior citizens who seemed to be out for weekend brunch. They were a joyful and welcoming lot who didn’t mind my intrusion. They asked me a few questions and were pleased with my passable German. They even helped me with a few words that I’d forgotten! The Kellner was pleased when I asked for the pale ale and even happier when I rounded off the bill adequately. When he heard me address him in German, he was so exceedingly happy that I thought he might hug me!


With that positive experience, I’ll end this post. I’ll be back tomorrow night with the second set of stories. If you’ve had similar experiences, I’d love to hear them 🙂 Both good and bad stories are welcome.

Nürnberg Attractions

This is my second post on Nürnberg. For information related to train stations, bus stations, and hostel reviews, check here.

Doku Zentrum (Documentation Center and former Nazi Party rally grounds)

All information related to DZ can be found on the website for Nürnberg museums here. Tickets for adults cost €5,00 and include the audio guide. If you choose to pay an extra €2,50 for the Tagesticket (day ticket), you can visit all local municipal museums free of charge for the duration of that day. However, this concession is not available for holders of the Nuremberg Pass.
You can take the tram#9 from Nürnberg Hbf or tram#6 from Kohlenhof to reach DZ. The Haltestelle is right outside the building.

Courtroom #600

All information related to visiting hours, and admission fee can be found here. This surviving Nazi officials were prosecuted for their war crimes in this courtroom. Their contact details :

Memorium Nuremberg Trials
Bärenschanzstraße 72
90429 Nuremberg, Germany
Tel : +49 (0)911 321 – 79 372
Fax : +49 (0)911 321 – 79 373
Email: memorium@stadt.nuernberg.de

Albrecht Dürer’s House

You’ll probably discover this inconspicuous house as you walk around the town. It is right on A. Dürer Straße if you check your map. Guided tours are available in English at 2 pm on Saturdays. For more information, check here.


Next up: DIY walking tour in Nuremberg

Nürnberg

Nürnberg or Nuremberg, in the German state of Bavaria is best known for the post WW2 trials. This city had also been the location of Nazi party rallies and laws stripping Jews of their citizenship were passed here. There was symbolic value in making it the place of Nazi demise. If you have visited Dachau or any other CC, this is where you get your closure. This stop, I believe, is a must for every student for the simple reason that Nuremberg is home to the Doku Zentrum (Documentation Center) – the former Nazi Party rally ground. Apart from the famous courtroom #600, the town offers a fort (which makes for a pleasant morning hike and breakfast spot), the house of Abrecht Dürer, and a toy museum.

Getting There:

  • Nürnberg Hbf – The central station is located just off Bahnhofstraße (A&O Nürnberg Hbf) and easily connects to Königstraße, Allerbergerstraße (Novotel), and Frauentormauer (Five Reasons Hostel). Grab a map before you exit or look up the directions to your hostel using the station WiFi.
  • Nürnberg ZOB – If you are arriving by MegaBus, MeinFernBus or Flixbus, this is where you’ll get off. Look for a bright yellow neon sign POST on an ancient building. The ZOB, Bahnhofstraße is just around the corner from the post office.

That said, I definitely recommend Megabus. Have a look at my post about planning a holiday here. MeinFernbus (merged with FlixBus) is way more expensive. My ticket from Munich to Nürnberg cost me just £1,20 and the WiFi in the bus actually worked!

Hostel Review:

I stayed at The Five Reasons Hostel on Frauentormauer. This place holds a 9.2 rating on HostelWorld and I thoroughly endorse it! The location is perfect, the staff is super friendly, the kitchen is squeaky clean and well equipped, there’s a garden in the back, the rooms are spacious with large windows, and don’t even get me started on the bathrooms ♥ It’s the complete luxury experience for a minuscule fraction of the cost. They actually have paintings and rugs in the bathrooms. Can you beat that? Also, the reception is equipped with iPads for your ease of access GoogleMaps, tours, etc. They also have a Polaroid Wall in the foyer that you can contribute to by sending them pictures of your stay.

Transport:

You can pick from the regular options – UBahn, SBahn, buses, and trams. For the most part, the town is accessible on foot. It’s really not that big. The only time you’d need to take the tram is to reach the Doku Zentrum. But more about that in my next post!

Attractions:

  1. Nuremberg Fort : At the far end of the town – way past the local market, museums, and churches – this is a short hike. You can drive up to the base. There is parking available. There isn’t much to see on the fort. It’s basically a ruin. But it’s a great place for a picnic, or a photoshoot. The top of the fort offers a beautiful panoramic view of the town.

2. Germanisches Nationalmuseum : Founded in 1852, it is home to a large collection of items relating to German culture and art.

3. House of Albert Dürer : This was the workshop of Albert Dürer, who was a Renaissance artist.

4. Neues Museum : This is the museum of modern and contemporary art.

5. Nürnberg Toy Museum : Founded in 1971, it is considered one of the most well known toy museums in the world. It is also called the Lydia Bayer Museum.

6. Doku Zentrum : What was earlier the rally ground of Nazi Party, is now a fantastic museum that chronicles the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. It is also, I believe, the only standing structure of that period associated with the Nazi rule.

Next Up: Nürnberg Attractions


Follow me on Instagram for the travel pictures with mini stories! Each post on WordPress is accompanied by many more pictures @trouvaillediaries ♥

Schloss Neuschwanstein

Another fantastic day trip from München are the two castles of Neuschwanstein (noy-shwan-stein) and Hohenschwangau (ho-hun-schwan-gaau). First things first, reserve your tickets here. If you don’t do that two days before your visit (and before 3 pm), forget about seeing the inside of the castle. For some reason, the website didn’t let me reserve my place – tourist season, I think – and I had to stand in a long line only to find out that the only available tour was after my evening train back to Munich. So, reserve your tour in advance!

Getting There

Purchase a Bayern ticket from the U-Bahn or S-Bahn closest to you. This ticket will cover the U-Bahn ride to the Hbf. The ticket costs €23,00 for 1 passenger with the addition of €5,00 for every extra passenger in a group of up to 4. You can do the math here. Instead of buying two separate tickets as a couple, add the €5,00 and bring down your individual cost from €23,00 to just €14,00! As you can see, the cost reduction is much higher as you add more people.

A kind DB employee printed out a train schedule for me. München – Bochelau – Füssen. Now, your train for Bochelau will leave from one of the platforms on the other side of the Hbf. All the trains to Salzburg, Vienna, Budapest, Paris, etc. leave from the main hall. Walk to the end, go left and you’ll find another hall on the other side. The trains here are smaller. It’s more like an intercity coach. When you get off at Bochelau – a tiny station – take a look at the printed schedules in the glass displays. Take a picture with your smartphone. It will be divided into Füssen – Bochelau and Bochelau – München, vice versa. Go through the timings and figure out what time you need to leave from Füssen to make it back in time to your hostel in Munich.

Run to Bus #78 as soon as you get off. All passengers from the train will be running with you! The bus will drop you off at the base of the hill. There’s a public loo if you’d like to freshen up. Keep those € coins handy. There’s a separate line for collecting tickets. You’ll be immediately glad for not being in the other line. There’s a kiosk next door if you fancy a Käsepretzel and a chilled beer. Walk uphill to catch the bus that takes you to Marienbrücke. Believe me, it is worth the €2,60 return ticket. The view from Marienbrücke is stunning. I’d definitely like to go back in the winter to see the snow covered castle. After the 30 minute tour, walk back to Marienbrücke for the bus back to the ticket center. If you do not wish to take the bus on the way back, buy a single ticket and walk down the path indicated.


I couldn’t help myself! I had to bring this little guy home ♥ There’s a kiosk on the way down with all kinds of gifting material. It was love at first sight. Named after the boy who sat next to me on the bus from Nürnberg to Dresden, Anton went on to become loved by co-passengers, hostel roommates, immigration officials, and airport security personnel.

München

When I landed in Munich, I was thoroughly exhausted and almost about to pass out in the airport lobby. I had flown three times in one single day : Bangalore – Mumbai, Mumbai – Paris, and finally Paris – Munich. Phew! I had nearly missed that last connection so my relief on having reached Deutschland was unmatched.

Munich Airport

Flughafen München is the international airport of Munich. I didn’t have to go through immigration because my point of entry into the Schengen Zone was Paris (CDG/Roissy Airport). My passport already stamped and tucked inside my bag, I was ready to embrace Germany – my ultimate love. The terminal I got off at resembled a lowly bus station. The carousels indicators didn’t display flight information and a lot of bags were just lying in a heap on the floor. Thankfully, the WiFi was good. I signed in, while I waited for my bags to arrive, and sent out my “I reached and I am OK” texts to my family. When you get out of the baggage claim area, look out for S-Bahn signs in green. They will take you underground to the train terminus. The Fahrkarten (tickets) can be purchased from the self-help kiosks. Don’t worry if you don’t speak German. They let you choose from 4 or 5 languages and English is one of them 🙂

To reach Meininger Munich, where I was staying, I had to get off at Hackerbrücke Straße. This is also the Busbahnhof and just a stop before the Hauptbahnhof. Don’t worry if you don’t have a map of the train line. All trains have a printed map just above the doors. I recommend keeping a screenshot of Google Maps on your phone / tab before you arrive in the city. Once you have reached your hostel, you can pick up a local map. The U-Bahn in Munich is pretty straightforward. You can also find the map in Google Images.

Hostel Review

I stayed at Meininger Munich which is absolutely fantastic during winter, but definitely not during the summer for the simple reason that it turns into a furnace.
Pros: Linen included, WiFi access, 24 hour reception, Walking Tours and Travel Desk, laundry room, Breakfast (charged separately)
Cons: The windows don’t open. If you are visiting during a heat wave, you will literally melt without air conditioning.

The Meininger chain is pretty famous all over Germany and Austria. I had the most amazing stay at the Meininger near Frankfurt Airport. The City Center hostel has a tiny kitchen and an outdoor terrace. It is centrally located. The bus terminus (for MegaBus, FlixBus, and MeinFernBus) is a short walk away and just next to the U-Bahn line. The München Hauptbahnhof and the city center are further down the road from the hostel. The Augustiner Brauhaus famous for its draft beer is right opposite the hostel. There is also a small bar and restaurant as an extension to the hostel.

I am covering Munich this weekend. Also included are day trips to Dachau and Füssen (Schloss Neuschwanstein). Keep watching this space for more.

Up Next: Munich in a day.

Annecy

Back to Gare de Lyon – where it all started when I made the first day trip to Fontainebleau in November 2014. I didn’t sleep for more than 2 hours because that run to Nord (Lille) still gives me nightmares. I took the RER to Gare de Lyon and was well in time for the train. I had a connection at Lyon Part Dieux and it was a one hour wait. So, I had two hours to sleep. I was quite dead to the world when my neighbour elbowed me – the SNCF staff was here to check tickets! Damn, it is amazing how my body has programmed itself to switch off when I travel. I don’t even need a travel pillow these days.

I reached Lyon Part Dieux at 9 and scoured a Relay store for food. Miracle of miracles – they had a section of books in a foreign language! And guess what I found – Bones Never Lie, by Kathy Reichs! I have no idea why she is famous in France because this isn’t the first time I have seen her books being sold here. The last time I saw a copy was in Latin Quarter and it was an old, battered French edition. I was over the moon to find a copy in English and so I bought it!

I had brought along Gone Girl to finish but I switched to Bones for obvious reasons. I reached Annecy as scheduled at noon. One smart thing that I have started doing is picking up maps at the SNCF stations. This way, your trip isn’t ruined if you can’t locate the Office de Tourismus. I always believed that they place incorrect signs on the roads so that you will never find their offices. I got proof this time! Anyway, so I picked up a map and decided to go to the lake and have a snack.

Once you get out of the SNCF station, Rue de la Gare is on your right. That is the new part of the town. The Office de Tourismus, the lake, and the old town are on your left. I followed the map and found the tourist office. It was closed for lunch. So, I went to the lake to eat my Milka cookies – my travel food on every trip. It began to drizzle so I walked back around the lake to the centre of the town. It is funny that all ice cream shops have the word “glacier” in their name. I picked up Nutella flavoured ice cream before my walk in the old town. The shopping opportunities here, I must say, are excellent! I picked up these really cute gloves with beavers on them, a scarf, a bag, and an umbrella (out of pure necessity). The rain worsened and I was forced to find my way to the hostel.

There is only one hostel in Annecy and I recommend that you do NOT go there. Sure, it is a 20 minute walk from the station and not very far from the old town. But it is the most dingy place I have ever laid my eyes upon! I have a thing against tiny spaces but that’s not my only strike against the hostel. It was small, damp, and smelly. Also, it just happened to be next to a fuckin’ cemetery. With all due respect to the dead, the non-living creep me out. I had no energy to walk in the rain to find another place to stay. So I went straight up to my room and slept. It was only 5PM but I slept so I didn’t have to think about the burly Algerian dudes in my room (seriously, why do hostels take in people over 35?) I refused to wake up until 8am the next day. I showered, picked up my bags and ran out as fast as I could.

The original plan was to go to Geneva for the day. But I found out that there was nothing scenic about the route, and also the few hours wouldn’t be worth the cost of the trip. So I decided to explore the Sunday market which btw was fabulous. If you are a local, that’s the place to buy your bread and meat. If you are a tourist, shop to your heart’s content! I bought some more scarves, a wooden box and a tray for my tea, a wicker basket, and a donkey.

It started raining again when I reached the canals and the ice cream shop from the day before. There was an Italian church just opposite to the shop so I went in. I prayed for a while before going to the lake for lunch. The panini and the coffee I had in the market was long digested. Since the rain refused to stop, I headed to the SNCF station for some respite. I couldn’t move my tickets to another train – too expensive. So I sat there watching Downtown Abbey until my train home. All in all, it wasn’t the best weekend.