on the road. New year-2018 in Sri-Lanka.

Hello World! And a Happy New year 🙂 (I know I am crazy late for that but well, a good wish is always relevant!)

I am back. When I left from here, I was a Mamma of one, prepping up my nursery for the little one to come. And now I have a almost 6 year old and a 1 year old in my tribe. Life’s been busy to say the least. After I’ve had my second one, life with one kid has seemed like a breeze. Now with 2 and work, I have had my hands pretty full. And have been putting all my creative energy on my insta account. But hopefully this year I’ll be able to do this space more justice too.

We started off the year with a trip to Sri-Lanka. And since a few of you asked for travel tips on my insta page. Here I am. Back on my blog after too long a break.

So it was my first time there. I loved the country. Its clean, has so much to offer despite being so small. Amazing food and humble and kind people. It was a short trip for us and we covered only a small part of it. Hope to go back again soon to explore more.

TOP EXPERIENCES

  • The Safari in Udawalawe
  • Visiting the beaches:
    • Unawatuna
    • Mirrissa
  • The Galle Fort
  • Turtle hatchery
  • Shopping at The Paradise Road in Colombo
  • Enjoying amazing sea food
  • Enjoying a cocktail by the beach, in Mirrissa, while watching the sunset

Sunset on Mirrissa Beach

The last sunset of 2017.

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At the Turtle Hatchery

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In and around Gallefullsizeoutput_36e9fullsizeoutput_36dcfullsizeoutput_36a1fullsizeoutput_369dfullsizeoutput_3686

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THE SAFARI IN UDAWALAWE

Udawalawe is smaller, a third of the size of Yala, covering 308 square km / 119 square miles BUT far less busy. Nonetheless, given its smaller size, it has a greater density of animal to size ratio, particularly elephants.
What you can hope to see.
Elephants. Udawalawe is well known for its elephants because they are attracted to the Udawalawe reservoir.

Leopords.Ahhhh the leopards! The main reason why most people do a safari in Sri Lanka.Leopard spotting is the big game at the parks. Unfortunately, leopards are very hard to spot because they are solitary and elusive mammals, hunting at night and sleeping during the day. We were not lucky enough to spot a leopord, but thanks to the keen eyes of my 5 year old, we did see a wild cat.

Peacocks. Both parks are a heaven for bird watchers, particularly for peacocks. Crocodiles. What my 5 year old was most keep to see. Reptile lover that he is. Unfortunately, we managed to spots only some bobbing heads in the lake.

Entry fees for Udawalawe National Park

In Udawalawe, the park entry fees are the same: $15 for one day or $30 for two days. However, hiring a jeep for half a day should be a bit cheaper, around 3,500 rupees ($24 / £16).

A safari Jeep will fit around 4-8 people (depending on the size of the vehicle), so when you share the cost between the number of people, it is not so expensive.

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SHOPPING AT PARADISE ROAD, COLOMBO

We planned our trip specially such, so that we would have a day on our way back in Colombo. So we could shop at the lovely and unmissable Paradise Road. A Home store not to be missed when in Sri-Lanka.

They have lovely mix of everything home. Table ware, Kitchen ware, cushions and more. And a lovely cafe too. Must must visit.

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WHERE WE STAYED

Sergeant House
This is a small luxury boutique hotel in Unawatuna, a town is Southern Sri-Lanka. Known for it’s coral reef and palm lined beaches. The hotel is in a colonial-style building with stylishly decorated rooms in a modern style. The pool and garden area is lovely and the chef serves up a delicious mix of Thai, Sri Lankan, and western specialties. You can choose each day from the menu, what you’d like them to serve you for the night.It’s wonderfully secluded and quiet. And the  Unawatuna beach with all its restaurants is just a short walk away. The staff is friendly and helpful. There is also a Spa offering some fantastic Ayurvedic massage.

We reached very early in the morning, as our flight timing was such. So the room was still occupied. The staff did their best to make us comfortable in a small area outside. And also served us break-fast which was a delight!

The service and food especially are something you can look forward to, in this boutique hotel.

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KEY INFORMATION

BEST PERIOD TO VISIT

Sri Lanka’s climate is rather complicated for such a small country, due to the fact that the island is affected by two separate monsoons – though this also means that there is usually good weather somewhere on the island, at most times of the year. When thinking about the best time to visit Sri Lanka, it’s worth bearing in mind that the basic pattern  can vary significantly from year to year, and that global warming has disrupted these already complex weather patterns.

 

The best time to visit the west and south coasts and hill country is from December to March, while the best weather on the east coast is from April/May to September.
Sri Lanka’s position close to the Equator means that temperatures remain fairly constant year-round. Coastal and lowland areas enjoy average daytime temperatures of around 26–30°C (often climbing up well into the 30°Cs during the hottest part of the day). Temperatures decrease with altitude, reducing to a temperate 18–22°C in Kandy, and a pleasantly mild 14–17°C in Nuwara Eliya and the highest parts of the island – nights in the hills can be quite chilly, with temperatures sometimes falling close to freezing. Humidity is high everywhere, rising to a sweltering ninety percent at times in the southwest, and averaging sixty to eighty percent across the rest of the island.

HOW TO GET THERE

At present, the only way to get to Sri Lanka is to fly into the island’s international airport at Katunayake, just north of Colombo. From the airport you can take a taxi or pre-book one through your hotel. Which is what we had done. We had the van waiting for us when we reached and we drove directly to Unawatuna. Approximately 2.5 hours of a drive on way.
Air fares remain fairly constant year-round – in general, the further ahead you book your flight, the better chance you have of getting a good deal. We flew Sri-lanka Air and it was a comfortable flight. Also, for us it was super short! Probably the shortest flight I have been on.

FOOD

Sri Lankan food is delicious, so make the most of it while you’re there. However, knowing where and when to find the good stuff may prove a harder task than you anticipated. Bowl-shaped hoppers (savoury rice flour crêpes) are a highlight, though they are typically only served first thing in the morning or in late afternoon. Rice and curry is a lunchtime affair, while kottu rotty (chopped flatbread stir-fried with eggs and vegetables) is only available in the evening.

Those familiar with Asia will be surprised at the lack of street food stalls; instead, some of the best food can be found in the kitchens of small guesthouses.

You can read more here. About the top 10 things to not miss while in Sri-Lanka to eat.

SAFETY

Yes, the country went through a 20 year civil war, but life has since returned to normal after the end of the war in 2009. Sri Lankan people are famous for their hospitality, and violent crimes towards tourists are virtually unheard of. I have met some of the kindest and most welcoming people in Sri Lanka! Just as you would for any other country that you travel to, exercise a reasonable amount of caution and keep an eye on your personal belongings when you head out. Don’t flash money around and leave expensive jewelry and electronics in your hotel room or at home.

LANGUAGE

Sinhalese and Tamil are the two primary languages spoken in Sri Lanka, but I’ve personally found that many people also speak or understand basic English. Most people who work in, or live around, major tourist destination cities like Galle, Mirissa, Weligama, Unawatuna, Colombo and Kandy will be able to communicate in conversational English.

Here are some useful phrases you should know before you go:

  • Ayubowan = may you live long, a formal way of greeting someone. You can also just say “hello” or “hi”
  • Istuti = thank you
  • Kohomadha = how are you?
  • Hari = okay, got it, fine (you often say this twice – “hari hari”)
  • Lassanai = beautiful

VISA

Most visitors will need to apply for a Sri Lanka tourist visa (except for nationals of Singapore, Maldives and Seychelles) but this is easily done online for a fee. My recommendation is to apply a week or 2 before your trip, it usually takes 24-48 hours for the visa approval to come through.

 

TIPS

  • As soon as you arrive make sure you get a SIM card with access on the Internet, it’s easy to find them also in the Airport. Using a local SIM is very cheap and 4G is great in all the touristic areas. I had the mis-fortune of losing my sim just when we got the new one. But then I was connected with whatsapp with my old number. So it was all good.
  • Don’t forget bugs and mosquitos repellent. Being a tropical country they are everywhere. The draw-back of all the lovely greenery you are surrounded with. We carried mosquito patches for the boys, but despite having them on, all the time, they still got bitten. 😦
  • Sri-Lanka is an extremely safe travel destination, locals are humble, good-hearted and welcoming. Respect their culture and you’ll enjoy an amazing time!
  • Unlike other popular tropical destinations, Sri Lanka remains relatively pure, untouched and unspoiled. Yes, there are massive tourist destinations and slightly shady beach parties, but you won’t find anywhere like Kuta, or Patong in Sri Lanka. With tourism rates projected to explode over the next few years, now is the perfect time to visit!

SRI-LANKA WITH KIDS

 

Sri-Lanka is absolutely family and kids friendly, there are so many activities to do all together and resorts and hotels welcome them with open arms.

FOOD

The food wasn’t a problem anywhere. The hotel made special meals for our one year old on request. My 5 year old was happy with all the sea-food on offer everywhere. The only thing you need to be a little careful of is the spice. The chilly could get a bit much for the kids.

Sri-Lankan food, which is very similar to our Indian cuisine is something you can find everywhere. Its also easy to find westerner restaurants that serve Italian.

SLEEP

Our hotel arranged a crib and high-chair. As would most resorts on request.

ON THE GO

The secret to traveling with a 1-year-old can best be summed up in two words: Be prepared. Whether you’re going a short distance or far away, bring a large diaper bag stocked for every eventuality.

That means lots of easy-to-handle snacks (like dry cereal, fig bars, or crackers), milk, water, plenty of diapers and wipes, a sweater in cool weather, two changes of clothes (in case of diaper blowouts, carsickness, or other spills), extra clothes for you (you never know when you’ll become part of the mess), comfort objects (bear, blankie), and multiple diversions (such as board books, small toys, and finger puppets). Also, ensure your baby bag is equipped with a changing pad. If not carry disposable sheets. You never know where you might have to do a diaper change in an emergency!

On airplanes, travel early in the day to avoid delays. If you can afford it, buy a separate seat for your toddler (and take a car seat on board) to give everyone more room. Give your child something to eat or drink during takeoff and landing to encourage swallowing, which helps reduce painful pressure in the ears. Having your child suck on a bottle, breast, sippy cup, or pacifier works well.

TRANSPORTS

  •  Uber (app android e IOS) works well in Colombo and is super convenient. From Unawatuna, we hired the van to move around to the nearby areas.
  • For a daily field trip rent a taxi driver. We hired a van as we were a big group and needed the space with the kids. In Sri-Lanka, like in India, the car seat for kids is not mandatory.
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in pictures. day out in Delhi.

Sitting in my hotel room in Stockholm after work, I’m browsing through my camera roll and I start reminiscing over this wonderful day in Delhi a few weeks back! 

Starting with a movie together with the entire family. Well almost…missed you on this trip to Delhi, so much Ginni! First time for Kabir for a Bollywood movie too- Kapoor & Sons. Even though it was a lil depressing. Was a great movie about a dysfunctional Indian family, sibling rivalry and love. The society norms and how they affect us. Definitely a must watch! 

Followed by a trip to Dilli Haat! One of my favorite places in Delhi, specially when the weather Gods are kind. It’s not a place to hang out when it’s a scorching 42 degrees and plus outside! Crafts and knick-knacks from different states of India to buy and browse through. And then the yummy food from all over India. You are literally spoilt for choice! 

Moving on from more handicraft sort of shopping to something more high street! Our next stop was H&M😄🤘🏻 

And here we gotto see a new side to Kabir. He’s usually not so thrilled about shopping …unless ofcourse we are in a toy store!! But this time round he was all into it…”Mamma, this looks good…and I think I need that too.” Picking up pieces and creating outfits…”See..this looks good together!” And me and Sapan were left staring at each other! What just happened here?!😂 To his credit, he did do a good job of making his ensembles! 

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On Kabir-
T-shirt- H&M

Denim shorts- H&M

Shoes- Zara

in pictures. the lil traveller and his red suitcase.

Kabir and his red Disney suitcase have been on many adventures together already. But this was the first trip on which he truly owned his suitcase…dragging it across the airport, though the airplane aisle….😄 I’ve been travelling alone with him since he was 3 months old. Mostly to Delhi and back…and as he’s growing older, air travel with him is getting to be more fun and a lot easier too! 🙈

We talk, eat our meals together, he naps a bit, pretend plays with whichever lil toy he’s chosen for the day. And we are there…easy peasy…well almost!

 Other than minor hiccups like when we are running late and he decides he’s in no rush at all to get anywhere. And I realise that our boarding gate is a good 10-15 minute walk away. I grab a trolley, dump him inside, push my stroller below, hang his and make him hold my hand bag and then push!!! Finally I see the gate in sight, rush and get him off and he announces…”Mamma you are such a slow coach!!!” Sweating and tired…I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry…😂

Thank you Ginni Maasi, once again for this lovely gift. Here’s to many more adventures together…with the  red suitcase. 😊✈️

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On Kabir

Hat & Denim jacket- H&M

T-shirt & jogger pants- Zara 

Sneakers- Nike 

a lil note. first international trip as a family.

Its been a while. Some bit of laziness as usual. A lot of travel. Work and play. And life in general!

Almost 4 months back now, we went on our first international trip together as a family.First ever for Kabir. And first time both for me and Sapan to the U.S. Was a great break despite the hardships of traveling with a three year old. I think both Sapan and me got a few extra grey hair. And Sapan ended up working out more in the fortnight we were there than he has in the last few months back at home! 😀 Carrying around Kabir when he was just too tired to walk, like on a hike in the Shenandoah National Park. Or when he was just too cranky and sleepy to sit on the stroller (specially bought to survive NY!). It was an adventure through and through. Driving around the beautiful landscapes of the U.S. Seeing picture perfect towns and gingerbread houses! And spending quality time with my sister after what felt like years. The last few times we met each other was for weddings! Mine, then hers and then our brothers! A great time to have a lot of fun but never a good time to just catch up!



 Kabir of course had a blast. From meeting minions ( who he really believed were the real things) at a drive in theater to riding the waves at Virginia beach. His expression when he saw The HULK at Madame Tussaud was of absolute awe! He clung on to his feet, throwing the biggest tantrum when we tried to peel him away to let others take pictures. He just wanted to stay with Hulk…that’s all! and at such times, there is no reason or logic that you can use to make them understand. To him it was simple, I want to stay with Hulk. I don’t want to go anywhere else. So we ended up with a set of frustrated parents and a crying toddler.

We packed in so much in the 2 weeks we were there, Bethlehem-Boston-Cape Cod- Martha’s Vinyard-Bethlehem- VYC- Virginia Beach-Shenandoah National- Park- Bethlehem. Would have been unimaginable without the days of pre-planning with my sister and bro in law. Figuring itineraries, booking hotels …all adding in to the anticipation of the trip. And it did not not disappoint. It wasn’t the conventional itinerary for a first visit to the U.S. With no Niagara Falls or D.C. in the picture, but we had no regrets!

One of the many memorable moments from the trip was the evening at the Shenandoah National Park. Even with a three year old who isn’t used to walking much and a very pregnant, mommy to be, we managed to do one of the hikes. After almost turning around a couple of times, we finally made it to the summit and it was completely worth it! The view was amazing!!! A true”top of the world” feeling! And then a lovely dinner at the resort with a live country singer. Thanks to him, I now know that John Denver wrote the song “Country roads” about Virginia, Shenandoah and the blue ridge mountains which we were admiring minutes before. Sitting there amidst the sun setting behind the blue mountains and singing “country roads” along with the country singer. The evening was nothing short of magical!


  
Walking down the Brooklyn bridge on a hot morning, taking the boat to the Statue of Liberty while it started raining, enjoying multiple rides on the carrousel in Bryant Park, looking at dinosaur bones in Museum of Natural History, soaking in the view from the Empire State Building, getting stranded in Soho in a downpour, taking in the lights, sounds and madness of Times Square. We did it all in New York!


  

  
So many happy memories made and tons of lovely pictures collected. To browse through years later, on a cold afternoon on the sofa with big cup of hot chocolate and reminisce. And now the next time round we will have a plus one among us in the US!! Kabir will get to be the big brother to his lil baby cousin! Here’s to many many more travels and adventures ahead.

A lil trailer of our fun vacation! A very amateur lil clip made on iMovie…excuse me for it but it’s a first!🙈🙈🙈

in pictures. my swedish summer.

My last two visits to Stockholm before had been in September 2013 and then again in March 2014. Cold and grey both the times. March specially being bitterly cold. After finishing work at around 6, there really isn’t much to do but head back to the hotel and stay warm in the bed! Cold, lonely and bored! So when a trip got planned in June this time, I was super excited! I was going to finally experience the Swedish summer! The Sweden I had seen in the youtube videos of the Swedish summer fest! Happy smiling faces, sun shining pretty much all day and night!!! 🙂 Great food, drinks and games! Specially because this time I was taking a few days off and seeing more of Sweden than the H&M head office and a few stores around 🙂

So you can imagine my disappointment when I reached a cold, grey and rainy Stockholm. Where was the Swedish summer I had been told so much about! Where was the sun?!!!And then to deal with my totally inappropriate wardrobe! I had packed for summer! Maxi dresses, crochet tops, sandals and a straw hat! Mercifully I had thrown in a pair of black denims, which pretty much became my lifeline through the stay!

Then came Wednesday, my last day in Sweden before I take the flight back to Bangalore. And the sun emerged from behind those grey rainy skies!!! And how 🙂 It was such a glorious day! Bright and sunny and deliciously warm! It was also the day I got to spend in the countryside amidst never ending green fields and bright blue sky! It was like being in a fairytale setting….picking wild flowers and berries from the forest, lying on the grass staring at the sky, soaking in the sun and relishing the perfect farm meal-salmon, veggies and rice. And I finally got a chance to use the summer wardrobe i had packed for the trip:) All in all the perfect last day I could have wished for.IMG_5424 IMG_5425 IMG_5433 IMG_5443 IMG_5471 IMG_5472 IMG_5490 IMG_5494 IMG_5502 IMG_5505 IMG_5507 IMG_5514 IMG_5527 IMG_5534 IMG_5536 IMG_5543 IMG_5544 IMG_5555 IMG_5556 IMG_5557 IMG_5560 IMG_5563 IMG_5567 IMG_5572 IMG_5583 IMG_5588

On me

top- zara

palazzo pants- zara

hat- h&m

flowers- from the wild

in pictures. being frida.

Defiantly beautiful, tenacious and veracious. A survivor. A fashion icon. A brave and powerful woman. Frida Kahlo. I love her. Always have, since I discovered her. And have always wanted to have a theme party to get chance to dress like her. And it happened. When I least expected it to. (Don’t most things?!) In Stockholm, staying the weekend over with a friends friend, now also my very good friend. The crazy and fun Bella. So she was invited to a friend’s 30th birthday party with a theme of Frida!!! And I was invited to come along and of course I had to dress the part! Initially a little bummed cos I would have wanted to plan better. Know before so I could carry the necessary tools(clothes/jewellery/ scarves etc etc) to do justice to Frida! But then…that’s her magic. You don’t need a lot. Some flowers, some bright colours and lots of right attitude is enough. It ended up being once of the most fun nights I have had in a long time. Getting together first with two other friends at Bella’s place, cooking, eating, drinking and helping each other become Frida!

I guess I am intrinsically a lil Frida, cos I had no trouble digging out things from my tiny assortment of clothes and accessories I was carrying to get “the look” in place. The flowers, which we had earlier in the day picked up, of course helped! What did do the trick finally was Bella’s dressing gown from Anokhi, which she had picked up on her trip to India in May earlier  this year!

And so we walked out of her apartment, four Frida’s, looking at feeling the part. Pretty, confident and ready for fun. Getting there and seeing the room full of Frida’s, a riot of color was absolutely amazing! The birthday girl, dressed beautifully in a white cast and a Mexican gilet was so lovely. Her Mexican roots making her the perfect Frida! Was so wonderful to see each one looking so different yet in our own way embodying Frida so beautifully. Each one paying respect to the amazing character that she was.

Needless to say it was a wonderful evening. Talking, drinking, chatting, discovering, discussing, laughing…and being Frida!

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“Feet, what do I need them for, if I have wings to fly?”- Frida Kahlo

 

a lil note. travel- Sweden.

Home sweet home. Nothing feels as good as being home with my boys. After 2 long weeks away, one working and another holidaying, felt so good to be back. But then the wonderful time I had in the last 5 days, more than made up for being away from them 🙂

I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to see parts of Sweden I would otherwise never have, had my manager also not been my very good friend! And had she not introduced me to some of her friends, who are now also mine :)))There’s nothing like seeing a city from the eyes of one living there. It’s never as much fun just being a tourist. It’s totally another experience, spending a day as a regular Swede in Stockholm would. Partying Friday night in the most amazing party in the forest, making new friends, learning what “Grog” is 😛 Talking to some random people and then realizing that you have common friends!!! Having an adventure getting back home trying to figure the local transport!Buying groceries at the local super market and making lunch. Getting dressed as Frida for a friend’s friend 30th birthday party!!! Walking in the rain, freezing but not forgetting to click selfies!!!

And then in part deux, seeing some beautiful parts of Sweden, beyond Stockholm. Strängnäs, Uppsala and then the country side. All the places unique in their own way and beautiful. Strängnäs, small quaint town by the lake side. Uppsala, a town which is home to the Uppsala University , founded in 1477, it is the oldest center of higher education in Scandinavia. And because of it, the one that felt the most cosmopolitan to me. And then the gorgeous country side around Almunge, with clear blue skies and a calm serenity. Also, the perfect day for me! My last day in Sweden where I experienced the swedish summer in the true sense for the first time! So beautiful were the surroundings that when I sent pictures to a friend from there, he replied with a …”Where are you?! Heaven!!!” 🙂

Well, almost. For those of you who have been following me on instagram, you would have seen some of the glimpses of the past few days already. For others will post more pictures of my wonderful adventure lugging suitcases around the beautiful towns of Sweden and loving every minute! Sun or not 😉

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“Heaven?!”