Thursday, April 16, 2015

Trip report – Mykonos, Greece

It has been six months since we visited Greece. The details are now blurry, but the stories from the vacation need to be here. And so it goes.

The symbolic windmills in the beautiful town of Mykonos. 

Lovely views

We had to take a ferry from Santorini to Mykonos. It was the first week of October and I had read stories of ferries being cancelled at the last minute. Thankfully, the weather was fine and we set sail to what was a an extremely beautiful beach destination.

Now Mykonos is the party capital of Greece. Unfortunately for us, the party ended in August. The most famous beach there – Paradise beach – has thousands of visitors shedding inhibitions and dancing all day in the summer months. We went to Paradise beach twice, only to enjoy the tranquillity and the beautiful sand.

Our hotel was in the centre of the town. But the GPS fooled us and our first outing was a disaster. We were going to the centre and it took us from ‘the shortest route possible’.  It was dark, the road was narrow, cars were coming from all directions, and we were walking to find restaurants!

When we did reach the area, it was absolutely beautiful with lots of narrow walkways, shops and restaurants all around. Our friends wanted Indian food, so went to this desi joint and encountered a horrible waitress. She kept glasses on our table with a loud bang. When we asked for chapatis, she came and said with a disturbing attitude,“We don’t have them. What will you do?”. When we look back, it was absolutely hilarious. That ‘what will you do’ has become a famous quote in our house!

The next day was another adventure on its own. Again, I must say, the GPS was at fault. We hired a car and went beach hunting. Our first stop was the pretty and simple to reach – Paradise beach. The ocean was cold and so we just lazed around on sun loungers with beer and good food. The waitress was the cutest! Close to the beach there was a cliff where they had an Indian restaurant. We called the owner to ask about it before driving there. He asked us to come after a couple of hours!

The sandy beach of Paradise!

The Boy - exposed!!! :p

Yes, October was not a peak season and people were relaxing. Now these Indian restaurants in European cities usually have two people managing a small restaurant. One serves, the other cooks. This guy was no exception. Only thing is he was having a conversation with someone back home and expelling BC/MC with ease!

We had a laugh with that too. And then we thought of going to Super Paradise beach. If we would have taken a U-Turn and gone to the highway, the road to the beach would have been easier. We didn’t know. So we asked our GPS for help. She took us from mountains and pebbly roads which were extremely dangerous. It was the most adventurous ride we’ve had in our life. It was steep, it was uneven, it was long, it had blind turns, it was a SINGLE road on a mountain…hmm!

But we managed to laugh that off as well and went to two more beaches after that. They were mostly empty because the water was cold. Even then, there lay a couple of topless women and the boys were happy!
We imagined how those beaches would be in summer. They were absolutely gorgeous. The clubs were amazing. The bars were superb. We thought we’ll go there again sometime..

In the evening we went for dinner at an Italian place in an area called Little Venice. The water from the sea splashed on the banks and the place was a beauty. Nobody asked us ‘What will we do’ and they even gave us blankets because it was a tad cold. We felt welcomed.

Little Venice in Mykonos

The next day we thought of not taking our chances and visiting Paradise beach again. We have lots of fun with the couple we went with, so it didn’t matter. The vacation was chilled out and we had nothing to tick mark. The people at the beach were humble and it was another feel-good outing. In the evening we went to eat Doner kebabs at a smallish restaurant. The owner was clearly stoned! Our friend couldn’t find him and so, he started tapping the counter mildly. The guy appeared from nowhere and started saying ‘What are you doing? Have some respect. You have to respect me.” Man, what was up with these people in Mykonos? Summer had been long it seemed!

We walked around the beautiful market area again in the evening and discovered little corners. Our hotel room was perfect, their breakfast was huge, and the beaches were blissful. Even with some rude encounters, our trip was perfect. We thought we’d go again.

Loved these lanes in Mykonos

Our plane out was a very small one, with sort of a ladder to the door! We went to Athens for a flight back to Bahrain. The next day was Karwachauth, the friends were going to stay over-night before going to their home in Dubai, there was supposed to be a party at my place that night… I loved every bit of it!

Sunset from our Hotel
Read about Athens and Santorini in previous posts.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Purpose of their Life

There are some of us who are the thinking types. We look at the clear blue skies and wonder ‘what is the purpose of life’. I am one of those. I am also one of those who finds her answers by typing the thoughts down.

I have this house help who lives in the Middle East to provide for her family back home in India. She must be around 30. She got married to her late sister’s husband because the sibling died leaving a daughter behind. After getting married, my maid had another daughter. She lived with her for 1.5 years and then left her with her grandmother so that she can earn money and provide her a comfortable life. It has been four years now and she has not seen her daughter.

There is another maid who has daughters who are now 16 and 20, respectively. Last year the 20-year old got married. My maid spent all her life’s savings to ‘give’ her away. Not only this, she had to spend six months in India to sort out some issues. When she came back she had lost her previous jobs and had to look for new ones. Fast forward nine months, her daughter was now expecting her first baby. Of course there was no one else who would help her daughter give birth. So it has been two months and she is again in India, spending all her hard-earned money on rituals.

My taxi driver got married and came back sans the wife because it is costly to bring here here. Also, he has a mother back home who needs a 'care taker'. He went for a short vacation and after nine months his first child was born. Since then, he has seen his child once and hasn't got the resources to bring his family here. 

It is the same with almost every person working in homes, driving taxis or working as a labour here. I wonder what inspires them. I wonder if they have ever thought ‘what is the purpose of their life’.

If we were animals without dreams, aspirations and thoughts, I would have considered this normal. The purpose of life would be to make another life, help it grow and your job is done. But I live in an over-populated earth. Although I have enough resources and my sacrifices wouldn’t be as much, I still think it is a huge price to pay.

Our society has ingrained certain beliefs in us. It has laid down a certain course of action – study, work, get married, have multiple children, die – everything else is secondary. If some of us decide to do something out of the ordinary, we are made to question our own decisions. That is how society f***s up our mind.

To me, the purpose of life is to be happy and take care of what God has given you. Our first responsibility is to take care of our own body because it is really a gift. Everything else is secondary. These people who live here and work for their children’s upbringing don’t eat enough. They are dying a slow death. They are not even living with their kids who can give them the ‘happiness’ they must have aimed for when they gave birth. Some of them even have extra-marital affairs here to get emotional support from another human being. Needless to say, their spouse back home indulges in the same.

I know that it is education that makes us question the norms. They probably did not have the chance or ability to go against the system. We may not have a reason not to have kids, but seeing them miserable is definitely a reason to question the whole process.

Isn’t it time people started advocating both sides of the coin? There may be a lot of happiness in having children, but there may be more joy in not having them. It is time our world started seeing childfree as a normal thing rather than a selfish act so that these people, who sacrifice the most to adhere to the world’s established rule, are enlightened.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Trip Report - Santorini, Greece

We went to Greece last year because there was a direct flight from our city and we had little to do during Eid holidays. A friend asked us, and we didn’t have a reason to say no. And well, who doesn't have Greece on their bucket list?

Deciding on Athens, Santorini and Mykonos was easy. All three are extremely diverse towns with a good mix of beauty, culture and entertainment. We saw varied landscapes of Greece all through our vacation and that is what made it so interesting.

Now we’ve all seen Santorini in movies. We all want to go there. The blue and white is alluring and every picture that you have seen of the place is so romantic. Well, it is all true. The place is picture perfect – nothing more, nothing less.

Freshly painted structures of Santorini

I love yellow!

The city is divided in two parts – Fira and Oia. The hotels are all on a cliff with a lot of steps to reach them. We decided to stay in Fira because it had more places to eat! And we chose a hotel that had no steps (which was hard to find because there are only 2-3).

Our hotel was at the beginning of a long pedestrian-only stretch that had shops and restaurants on each side. The grey and white floor, freshly painted structures, light music coming out from each place, tourists mingling and laughing – it was all wonderful.

Fira and its hotels. 

Unfortunately, that was it. You walk around that street, walk up and down the steps, look at the sea, do some window shopping and hog on. It was a perfect holiday for people who are stressed out and need nothing more to do. But for people who look for entertainment for three nights, there was little choice.
In no way I am saying that the beauty of Santorini has any parallel. It is absolutely gorgeous. At the same time, it is extremely touristy. It is so picture perfect that people just want to click all the time. Sometimes it got really annoying seeing everyone with a selfie stick trying to capture the blue and white. Whatever happened to living in the moment?


Along the street in Fira

Fake pose! Someone hates the camera
and this someone did not like tourists in Santorini one bit!

Not to forget, the sunset is the selling point of Santorini. It goes down completely into the blue ocean and looks beautiful. The best views are from Oia. So we went there to check it out. Trust me, we couldn’t stay till the actual sunset happened. There were thousands of people gathered to watch in a very small place and it got claustrophobic. Frankly, I think we never watch the sun set at home. It is equally beautiful in any country facing the sea!

Will do anything for a picture with the sunset

Beauty and drinks in the less hyped Fira!

When it got claustrophobic in Oia

It was cute to watch new brides walking around in there gowns. Apparently, it is a perfect place to get clicked after the wedding. We had lots of fun in our hotel’s balcony watching, guess what, the sun go down! We sat there for hours playing hindi music, drinking, eating and dancing with friends. I just have to mention the doner kebabs we had there - they were to die for! We love our Turkish street food and this did not disappoint us.

Devouring the Doner Kebab!

My advice to people on Santorini will be that you must go for a couple of days at max. I also think it’s a good trip to make when you are, maybe, 50 so that you can completely enjoy the beauty and not be bogged down by the lack of entertainment. It is a pretty place (as you can make out from the pictures) and you will love it. Also, you will click the best pictures of your life here - like we got this one!

Oh yes, why should we be left behind!
Read about Athens here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Journey to Remember

Sometimes, even when you are at home, the days fall short. For me, that time is when I am planning a holiday.

Travelling inspires me. It makes me want to do things I’ve never done before. It makes me want to stay fit to walk around every corner of the globe. I know resources are important, but even if you have the money, you may not be able to travel for several other reasons. I don’t want ANY of those reasons to come in between my plans to tour the world.

So, last few days have been crazy. We have two vacations coming up – one in July and one in September. Before that, we are going home for a month next week. That meant that I needed to chalk out my plans and book hotels so that we get the best rates. And we did.

Did you know there is no better thing than chalking out a plan for a holiday? It makes me visit a place even before I go there. Pictures never do justice to a town. So both the experiences are totally different. Whoever said that planning before going is not important, missed out on breathing the air of a destination before reaching it.

I’ve been visiting Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Cyprus since the last few days. My days start on the laptop, and end with a dream of the destination. We needed to find out the cities we wanted to visit. We had to see which towns had easier connections. We had to book hotels that were both quiet and centrally located. How do you do that? - By researching, reading and asking. I’ve now reviewed, asked and answered so many questions/destinations on Tripadvisor that people send me private mails asking about things. That makes me very proud actually!

Speaking about Tripadvisor, it is one of my favorite places to visit before and after venturing out. I spend hours on it planning my itinerary. And then I spend some time giving it back – by reviewing the places and filing trip reports. The map that I have there, oh well, I wish I could take out a big print out of it and stick it on my wall.

That’s the dream really - to stick a pin on every destination possible. Everyone around me seems to carry a Louis Vuitton or wear an Omega; but my motto is simple – I’ll rather buy a holiday than spend the same amount on materialistic luxuries. The same Rs. 20,000/50,000/2,00,000 (Yes, that’s how expensive these bags and watches are!) can give you immense pleasure on a mountain than carrying a man-made, society-driven, branded rubbish.

So take a weekend off, look into your bank account, open Tripadvisor, and breath-in the air of a destination you have never visited. Then go there and make your life a journey to remember.