Friday, March 18, 2011

Incredible journey with celebrity Chef Vikram Vij

No serious foodie or celebrity for that matter comes to Vancouver without visiting Vij's, the dazzling Indian restaurant that has helped put the city on the international gastronomic map. Vikram Vij and wife Meeru Dhalwala offer food that is Indian through and through but ever so refined, with discerning taste and style. "Easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world," the New York Times gushed.

A journey with world renowned Chef Vikram Vij that starts in Amritsar and ends in Kolkata slicing through the central heart of India can only be called a culinary expedition uncovering the soul of an ancient culture, exposing the diversity of its multi layered cuisine influenced by foreign invaders, multiple religions, an amazing assortment of traditions and modern influences. Staring with the simple nourishing cuisine of Punjab that is lovingly taken to gastronomic heights by masters of their trade at roadside pit stops all the way to Lucknow where food is meant not only to fill the belly but tantalize all the senses known and unknown to man! Get a glimpse of the delicate and highly refined traditions and mannerisms of the Lucknowi Nawab as you sit at his table as his personal guest and meet his family.
In Varanasi, the cuisine just like the oldest and most spiritual Holy City is nothing short of sublime! Sample what the saints have been eating for centuries! Kolkata, the thriving, modern metropolis offers everything from the traditional Bengali cuisine focused on fish, rice and seafood and the proverbial “Bengali sweet tooth” to the mouth watering innovations left over from the British Raj! Ever wonder what an Anglo-Indian dinner may serve up? Here is your chance to sample it first hand! On to the magical, magnificent town of Darjeeling, sitting at the foothills of the Himalayas, unsurpassed for its beauty and fresh air offering yet another variety of Indian cuisine influenced by neighbouring China, Bhutan and Nepal. There is simply nothing that compares to sipping freshly brewed Darjeeling tea and enjoying “tiffin” sitting in a British era cottage high above the world. For more details click...

Going to India for culture?

Before you visit such iconic Indian wonders like the Taj Mahal, consider taking an auto-rickshaw ride through the city.

First of all, taking the auto-rickshaw is like taking a ride in a 3 seated covered go-cart. Don't worry about the lack of seatbelts, doors, or air conditioning, save that for the tour bus. These drives are more adventure than comfort.

Weaving in and out of traffic into places you would never think a vehicle could fit one sees the regular assortment of traffic plus a whole lot more. Cities in India are working city and people need to get around by any means. Other auto-rickshaws, bicycles, busses, cars, trucks, donkey carts along with pedestrian traffic are all trying to get somewhere while making sure they don't disturb the cows relaxing in the center lane. Just when you think you've seen it all, an elephant meanders by carrying goods on it's back down the road while what can only be described as group of people looking to set a world record for most people on a rickshaw, goes cruising by.

Adventure, culture, not for the weak of heart but definitely worth considering.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reporting back from Egypt - Part 1

Egypt today remains a land of wonders and mysteries that are yet to disclose. The treasures of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt were immeasurably vast. The temples and pyramids are still unique the way they were in the past. But overall Egypt was one of the most beautiful and historic destination I have ever been to. I was in Egypt for 10 days and I think this was good enough time to explore Egypt’s highlights. I stayed 5 days in Cairo and 5 days on board the Nile cruise.

Some quick fact's about Egypt,
Egypt's capital is Cairo, their official language is Arabic.
The population is 82,999,000, their currency is Egyptian Pound.

The airline that took me from Vancouver to Egypt was British Airways. The flying time was about 15 hours. Including a stop at London, England. The British Airways 747 aircraft was clean and comfortable. It had a seat back TV with few games, music and movies, in the first aircraft. London to Cairo flight was not that pleasant as we were delayed by almost 2 hrs at London.

The Cairo airport was surprisingly clean and nice; it wasn’t how I expected a developing country's airport to be. I was met by Indus Travels representative inside the airport and he helped me in getting my Visa on arrival and clearing immigration formalities. The Egypt visa on arrival is very simple, you pay only $15 US and get the Visa.
But when I got outside airport another Indus Travels representative was waiting outside for me to transfer from airport to hotel. They were very welcoming. I arrived at 2 AM in the morning so there wasn't any traffic on the roads of Cairo.

Once I got to the hotel, the staff there took some time to find my reservation but still I was in my room in about 15 minutes. In Cairo I stayed at 2 hotels and one of them was the Grand Hyatt Cairo. Grand Hyatt Cairo is a luxury landmark, directly poised on the River Nile. It is very close to all of Cairo's tourist and cultural attractions. The hotel is just 20 km from Cairo Airport or 45 mins drive.

My room was luxurious and comfortable with phenomenal view of the Nile River.
There was a flat screen TV and 24 hour concierge, and high speed internet. Grand Hyatt is the only hotel in Cairo with a roof top revolving restaurant serving French Cuisine. I would rate Grand Hyatt as 7 out of 10 as it was good but I think service could be little better especially at the time of breakfast.

Will report more next week…

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reporting back from Bali, Indonesia.

Bali was a wonderful experience, with fresh air and sandy beaches.
It is a great place to go if you want to escape the rush of the city and just relax by the poolside.
Bali is filled with culture and history too, visit the Uluwata Temple, it is a Hindu temple set on the cliff of Bali Peninsula, or you could visit the Tanahlot temple which is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Bali, it has a spectacular view of the sunset.

Bali's capital is Denpasar, and is hour and half flight from Singapore. You can find so many cultures on the streets of Bali, like Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist.
The airline that took me to Bali was Singapore Airlines; the flying time was 20 hours, Vancouver- Seoul – Singapore - Bali. I stayed a night in Singapore at Crowne Plaza, Changi. A spanking new brand new property located at the terminal. I would recommend Crowne Plaza to anybody for a brief stopover in Singapore. The best thing is you don’t have to take a ride to downtown hotels.
Flying through Singapore airlines was pleasant and comfortable experience.
This airline has always lived upto my expectations. The Singapore Airlines crew was very generous and helpful as ever.

When I first landed at the Bali airport it was a little crowded and it was hard to find my way around because there was not much help. But once I was outside the airport there was an Indus Travels representative waiting there for me. He welcomed me very well.
On my way to the Villa there was very little traffic because it was a national holiday, and we arrived in no time.
The weather was gorgeous, the sky was blue and the sun was out, the first impression of this country that I got, was that this place was filled with the two things I love:- culture and beaches.

The resort I stayed in was the Samaya Villas part of Indus Travels Private Villa Collection. A very luxurious and comfortable property located in Seminyak area of Bali. It had gorgeous greenery all around it with relaxing sound of the waves crashing onto the shore. The Villa comes with facilities like your own private plunge pool, flat screen TV, a mini bar, 4 poster bed and a butler whenever you want it, and no sound to disturb you. Other than that you will have the main pool, the luxurious "spa at the Samaya" , and two restaurants. One thing I liked about the pool side restaurant was they served breakfast but with a difference. You can order anything from their menu and it is served fresh as per your liking and not a grand buffet.
The villas were very exclusive and secluded yet right on the beach. The resort was really up to my expectations.