14 Sep 2016

48 hours in Varanasi - what to see, do and eat, and where to stay

“Banaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together”. Mark Twain's description of Varanasi all those years ago still holds true. 

My husband and I were in Varanasi at the invitation of Plush Escapes and we stayed at Suryauday Haveli at Shivala Ghat - a charming, intimate boutique hotel overlooking the mighty Ganga. 

See my video of Shivala Ghat below.

It was our first visit to the oldest living city in the world. The airport is quite modern & swishy (I was pleasantly surprised), but as we made our way towards the city, I could see the truth behind Twain's words.

The airport is at least an hour away from the city, and by the time we got to the hotel, we just wanted to rest a bit (considering we arrived from Mumbai on a 7.30 a.m. flight!). Stepping inside the haveli, it's easy to forget all the noise and chaos of Varanasi. It's just so peaceful! 

See the sunrise on Shivala Ghat video below

Read about our experience at Suryauday Haveli, Varanasi on the Plush Escapes blog. Meanwhile, here's my 48-hour mini-guide for Varanasi. 

9 Aug 2016

Feel at home with Ovolo Hotels in Sydney (plus an Ovolo discount code inside!)

The number of hotels I have stayed at - I have lost count.

The number of hotels I remember vividly - less than ten!

Most hotels follow this cookie-cutter format when it comes to rooms, so much so that you can rarely them apart. This is true not just of the hotel chains (where they probably need to maintain a consistent look), but many stand-alone & 'boutique" hotels fall into that trap as well. But I'm glad to see that there is a slow change across the industry, and a genuine attempt at breaking the mould. 

Hong Kong-based Ovolo Group is one such boutique hotel chain. I have now stayed at four of their properties across Hong Kong & Australia (read my post on Ovolo Southside Hotel, HK), and while each of them bears a distinctive Ovolo stamp, they still manage to retain an individual personality. 

So let me take you on a photo (and video) journey around Ovolo's two properties in Sydney - Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour and Ovolo Woolloomooloo.

30 Jul 2016

30 photos that will make you want to visit Poland

Think about Poland - what images does it conjure up? WWII, Auschwitz, Communism?

Poland in 2016 has slowly but surely emerged out of these historical shadows, and has firmly taken its place in the European Union. And because it has yet to embrace the Euro, travelling through Poland is like doing Europe on the cheap (1 Złoty = 17 INR, a steal compared to the pricey Euro)!

I just spent 10 days travelling around the country, getting a glimpse of its pretty cities, its breath-taking countryside, and its unique cuisine. While detailed features and blog posts will take some time, here are 30 photos (and videos) that will make you want to visit Poland now! 


Plac Zamkowy or Warsaw's Castle Square is flanked on one side by the Royal Castle (the sandstone coloured building on the right), the former residence of Polish kings. The column in the centre honours King Sigismund III Vasa, and was erected in 1644. Most of the square was devastated in WWII; the castle and the pretty townhouses on the left are largely reconstructed buildings. 

15 Jul 2016

Macau's melting pot of flavours - where and what to eat in Macau

If you're heading to Hong Kong (read my post on where to stay in Hong Kong), Macau is an easy day trip to make. There are regular high-speed ferries connecting the two cities, and you can easily head over there for a bit of gambling. But look beyond the glitz and glamour of casinos and you will find Macau’s unique, hybrid cuisine. 

I had the chance to experience Macanese cuisine last year, and I wrote about it for the Hindu Business Line's weekend supplement, BLink. Here's an unedited version of my article

United flavours of Macau

“Oh, you’re going to Macau! Please bet 100 (HK) dollars on black 13 for me”, said a friend. 

“You must check out the realistic artificial sky at the Venetian”, said another. 

“There’s a fantastic Dragon of Fortune show at the Wynn”, said a third. 

My response to them was, respectively – “what?”, “why?”, and “you mean like in Game of Thrones?”. I have played the odd round of poker with friends, but gambling, in general, is of little interest to me. And the gaudy, over-the-top casinos of Macau left me cold. What did warm the cockles of my heart was the food – a curious combination of Portuguese and Chinese influences, giving rise to an interesting East-meets-West crossbreed.

12 Jul 2016

Here's why you should stay at Ovolo Southside Hotel, Hong Kong

Buzzy, glitzy Hong Kong. A city that never sleeps. A foodie's paradise. A shopper's delight. 

Update: This post has been updated with a promotional offer. Scroll down for the Ovolo Hotels discount code.

I got a chance a re-visit the city last month, courtesy Ovolo Hotels - a hospitality group that operates hotels across Hong Kong and Australia. Owned by Indian-origin, HK-based entrepreneur Mr. Girish Jhunjhunwala, Ovolo runs 8 hotels and 2 service apartments across three cities - Hong Kong, Sydney, and Melbourne. I stayed at four of their properties (since I visited Sydney & Melbourne too), and I must say these are some of the coolest boutique hotels I have stayed at! 

Here's why I loved my stay at Ovolo Southside Hotel, and why you should stay here when you're in Hong Kong next.