Bali: The Land of Temples and Beaches

A new day refilled me with the zeal to explore this beautiful city and the best way to do it was to go for a walk, just to familiarise myself with the surroundings.  I noticed how despite having a robust nightlife, the city woke up early and completed the Morning Prayer rituals. On the doorstep of each building, you would find prayer offerings for good luck.

The Essentials in Bali:

Right outside Sekhar Bali homestay, you would find many eateries and restaurants offering breakfast.  But if you are on a budget trip then entering the INDOMARET/ MINIMART or ALPHAMART would be the right thing to do. You would get a variety of food in each of these stores (The prices may differ) – fruit cups, muesli, cup noodles – things that cause less hassle. It is recommended to stock up your inventory, should you be staying in Bali for a few days.

My next aim was to find a cheap and sustaining SIM Card. Since I was traveling internationally, it was cheaper to buy a Balinese SIM than pay the huge roaming charges deducted by my local SIM back in India. You get a number of SIM cards but I chose to opt for simPATI. A SIM card would cost around 20,000 -30,000 Rupiah. Some stores might ask for more and it is up to you to settle for a higher price or negotiate.

For traveling at ease one would require personal transport.  Bikes can be hired at 60,000-75,000 Rupiah per day (a little negotiation is required here!). There are options for hiring cabs from hotels/ resorts for sightseeing or you can opt for package sightseeing tours. All these options would depend on how much are you willing to spend.

Another MUST HAVE is a Sarong. It is a traditional lower body garment that needs to be worn by men and women when entering temples. Though all temples and religious sites have the provision of lending Sarongs to the tourists; but I chose to buy one- more as a memory. They come in different price ranges but mine cost 30,000 Rupiah.

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Colorful Sarongs for Sale 

With a ready backpack full of tour essentials – dry food, water bottle, Sarong, SIM, mobile charger, Purse, Cap/ Straw Hat, and medicines, I set off on my Bali tour.

Tanah Lot – The Land in the Sea:

Located around 30 km from Denpasar, Tanah Lot literally translates to Land in the Sea since during high tide; the temple seems to be floating on water. The area is surrounded by many Caves thought to have been created by Sea Snakes. Tourists are not to disturb the caves or the snakes (if spotted). Legend has it that the temple was built in the erstwhile village of Beraban in around 15th-16th century to honor the teachings of Dang Hyang Dwijendra by his disciples from the village. The original inhabitants of Beraban believed in monotheism until touched by the teachings of Dwijendra. The Temple Festival takes place every 210 days according to the Balinese Calendar.

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Tanah Lot Temple
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Walking across the Caves 

Since I happened to visit during low tide, I could walk around the place. It is advised to wear sneakers or sturdy shoes as the land is quite muddy and slippery. However, being situated right beside the sea, it has a great view which is utilized by every tourist by taking numerous photographs. The land around the temple has been developed for tourists and now hosts numerous eateries and souvenir shops.

Nusa Dua Beach:

My lunch consisted of one of the finest meatballs and fruit ice tea I had ever tasted and all under 20,000 Rupiah!  My next destination was the Nusa Dua Beach meaning ‘two islands’. Nusa Dua was developed as a tourist destination since the 1970s. The beautiful beach often becomes the hotspot for day trips as numerous eateries, water sports and resorts have developed nearby to provide all the amenities to the tourists. Should you be lucky you can also find a shell or two – like I did.

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People at Play 

Kuta Beach:

It was nearing sunset and I decided to head back near the homestay and explore the Kuta or the Sunset Beach. Formerly a fishing village, Kuta is now a developed tourist destination as it accommodates budget travelers and is near to the airport. Kuta is a bathing beach and visitors are allowed to have a gala time till around 5/6 pm. Souvenirs and drinks are also available on the beach; however, to keep it clean, food is not! But not to worry, cross the road and you would find some of the biggest food brands and shopping pavilions to indulge yourself in.

Bali War Memorial:

My last stop before I retired for the day was the Bali War Memorial. Back in October 2002, the city was a victim of terrible bombings which saw almost 200 deaths. The victims were of different nationalities and to pay homage to those who lost their lives, the Bali War Memorial was built on the site of Paddy’s Pub, one of the sights of the bombings; on the second anniversary of the bombings in 2004.  The Memorial consists of a large plaque made of marble with the names and nationalities of the victims written on them.  The monument also has the flags of all the nationalities who lost their lives. The Kuta Karnival is a ceremony and celebration held in October to honor the lives of the deceased. Over time, the activity became a major tourist attraction and a PR-able event. During the Karnival most pubs and the Kuta beach have various activities; water sports competitions and something for everyone. It embraces and celebrates peaceful diversity.

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Bali War Memorial 

I ended my day happy and satisfied with the sightseeing so far. But was also excited for all the mesmerizing sights I would see the next day. I leave you all the glimpses of some of them.

More coming up next week. . . . . . .

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Setting out on an adventure to Bali

My travels have mostly taken me to the West – in terms of residence or academics- but I got my first opportunity to travel to the East rather South East when Bali came to be on my travel charts. The Island of Bali, in Indonesia, reverberates scenes of romantic holidays in the first go, but it is much more than that. During my initial research, I found almost all kinds of geographical landscapes (except deserts) to be present in Bali. From pristine beaches to freezing volcano; from mesmerizing waterfalls to trekking ridges – you name a place and it is there! Being an international destination, and one which cannot be visited very often (call it time restraints or financial), it needs good research and planning before actually laying foot on this scenic terrain.

Research Essentials:

  • Dates
  • Flight options
  • Visa Formalities
  • To check the Weather and pack your luggage accordingly (Cannot be 100% accurate but we can always go with an idea)
  • Hotels/ homestays booking
  • Exchange rates and convert some INR to Indonesian Rupiah
  • International SIM cards
  • In-land transport options
  • A bucket list of places you really want to visit, their timings, entrance fee etc.
  • To check the local Traditions and Rituals and dress code if any
  • To make a list of Emergency Contact Numbers (including embassy etc.)

Planning your visit:

With a hectic work schedule in events, I hardly get time for holidaying around. But October being a festive month with a large number of holidays was my chance to sneak away to a much-needed vacation. Settling for 25th – 31st October 2019, the next immediate step was to scout for budget flight options. For this, Malindo Air was chosen. We had a 12-hour halt in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur International airport before catching the connecting flight to Denpasar, Bali. The best part was since it was only a journey of 6 days; I did not require a Visa with an Indian Passport. Clearing immigration was enough.

Malindo Plane

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia commons

Accommodation and In-Land Transportation:

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Sekhar Bali Homestay

The weather in Bali during October would be hot and dry during the day but cool during the night. Surrounded by water bodies on all sides gives Bali a pleasant climate throughout the year.  This was a complete budget trip; the best in the lowest was my motto. After checking many options which at one-time included a villa I opted for Sekhar Bali Homestay, in downtown Kuta. Kuta is the most happening place in Bali, two-minutes from the beaches and the most envious nightlife you could ever imagine. The best exchange rate was from Dollar to Indonesian Rupiah and hence I converted the INR to USD to IR. Exchange Rates differ and it is best to check right before you are planning the trip so that you can get the best returns.  Like every place you have the options of hiring cabs and taxis- Grab and Blue Bird; but what most individuals prefer is to hire a bike that is available from 60,000 IR to 75,000 IR a day (oil on the individual).

Making a Bucket List:

Bali is a country to be geographically lauded for. From rice fields to forests; to palaces to islands; from volcanoes to museums; to beaches and waterfalls to temples – such diverse scenic landscapes to see everywhere. I jotted down quite a few places to visit but then not everything was physically possible nevertheless I have seen at least one tourist place from every category- from the famous Bali Swing to Ubud Palace; from Kuta Beach to traveling on the toll bridge; from Goh Gajah Temple to Monkey Park. Bali is a country steeped in rituals and hence in all religious places women are expected to cover their bodies and wear a Sarong.

Setting out on an adventure:

The common notion is that an adventure begins when you reach your destination; I believe the real adventure is during the planning phase, it just culminates when you reach your destination. Thus on a rain-washed evening, I set out with my back-pack to the Kolkata airport to catch a flight to this unknown destination. International flights are often scheduled in the evenings to post-midnight- a trend which I have generally seen. My flight was at 12:05 IST with Malindo Air. This was my first time with them and they were truly hospitable. In fact, they upgraded my seat to a Window seat with more leg space and a fine view. What More, they even added a meal to it!  The first leg of my 4 hours journey from Kolkata to Malaysia was smooth and without any turbulence. I reached Malaysia at around 8 in the morning (remember time zones change). Since I did not have a transit visa I had to wait for the connecting flight at the airport.

Malaysia Truly Asia to Bali:

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Model Planes at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 

Kuala Lumpur International airport like most international airports is cosmopolitan. With branded shopping arcade to clean toilets and huge waiting areas, especially for transit passengers – the airport provided all facilities to the visitors. After almost a 12-hour wait and several cuppa noodles later I caught the connecting flight – again a Malindo Air – to Denpasar.

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Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar

A three-hour journey later I reached Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar well past midnight. The view from the window was beautiful- twinkling lights and risings waves in the high tide! Of course, it was too dark to see anything properly but I did have the next four days to explore. After clearing the immigration and booking a Grab through the Free WIFI at the airport I reached Sekhar Bali homestay – my home for the next five nights. It was indeed a long journey and it was best to sleep it off to reenergize for a new day where many adventures await.

Lastly, I give glimpses of my travels ahead but would talk about them in greater detail in the subsequent blog posts.

 

Legendary Llandudno

“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli 

After spending a great time  exploring Cardiff, we called it a day . We had a train at 5 am and were well aware of the fact that our breakfast and half of our sleep would have to be continued in the train. After bidding goodbye to Cardiff,  we decided to take a quick nap to greet Llandudno with high spirits and enthusiasm. It was a long train journey – almost four hours and I stayed awake only to take some photographs of the sunrise (probably my second sunrise in the UK 😛 ) and a sneak peek of the beautiful Tintern Abbey. Of course, the main Abbey was far from the train station but the fact that I got to see the land on which William Wordsworth composed Tintern Abbey , even from a distance, is an honour in its own way. 

“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. “- Lao Tzu 

Unlike the day before, where most of the time was spent travelling , today we reached before 10 am and had the whole day to explore the seaside and the city. Llandudno is a very small city consumed by the beach and the pier. Most of the economy runs by through the hostels, lodges, restaurants and tourist curio shops. It was impossible to roam around with our luggage thus we requested our hostel (Llandudno Hostel) to let us keep the baggage and set out to explore the city on foot. It is best to acquire a map of the city but even if you don’t have one, it would not be very difficult to navigate your way . 

We headed to the beach to soak in the essence of the beautiful day and some sunlight (which is rare). This photograph was taken at the Llandudno Promenade. Most of the buildings in the photograph are hostels and hotels for the tourists. Notice, how they are all painted in pastel shades. It is because by the rule of the Government they are to stick to the pastel shades. Further, the houses are not very tall – at a glance around three storeys.  Again by the Rule of the Government the houses were not to exceed the breadth of the adjoining streets and thus they are not very high. 

This is the Llandudno pier. It hosts many curio shops, restaurants and activity centres for the children. I would highly recommend stopping by to enjoy a nice scoop of flavoured clotted cream ice cream. In fact, you might often find a nice nook and corner saving yourself from the prowling eyes of the seagulls and enjoy the ice cream. Oh yes Seagulls eat ice cream too and they do enjoy it 😛 . 

We had not planned our day at all. After walking for a while we figured out that hourly Hop- On Hop- Off buses leave from the Promenade and so we hopped on one of them. It takes a nominal fee of £7 -£10 and tickets can be purchased on spot. The running commentary on the bus gave various historical information about the place and introduced those customs and stories which are not even found in the hundreds of internet pages. Below, is a photograph of the West Shore of the city.

This structure was the erstwhile tram/train station. After the introduction of the bus in the city, it was closed down. Interestingly, it is assumed that the last tram/train driver became the first bus driver .

This play park and the adjoining residential area hints of Romanian architecture. This is because the, then Queen was close to the Romanian Royal family and thus Llandudno has  glimpses of Romanian architecture in certain parts of the city like this.

Llandudno and its adjoining lands were owned by the elite Mostyn family. This particular grave is the family grave of the Mostyn family.

The great Conwy Castle is a must when in Llandudno. The Hop -on Hop- Off bus has a stop in the Conwy Castle and those who wish to explore it more closely are welcome to get down here and board the next bus to continue  their journey. Apart from the castle itself, one can take some time out and explore the town of Conwy. Let me be honest, the grand architecture of the Conwy Castle was what attracted me  in the first place. Due to non availability of accommodation in Conwy we decided to stay in Llandudno and pay this castle a visit.

This is a skyline shot of the narrowest doorway in the world. I had seen the tallest doorway in Fatehpur Sikhri, India and then I saw the narrowest one in Wales. In fact, just before this doorway approaches, the audio guide mentions safety precautions as it is indeed difficult for the bus  to go through this narrow doorway without making frequent stops .

One must not forget that Llandudno was being developed in a patriarchal society. Thus when the Lady of the Mostyn Family, referred to as Lady Mostyn, decided to build a hotel and maintain it, most men laughed at her. Interestingly, today decades later this hotel (below) is the most luxurious and sought after hotel in Llandudno and the rooms are booked months in advance .

This is a view of the city centre/ market street of the city.

The entire city tour takes around an hour for a full ride. It takes you through the towns of Llandudno, Llandudno Junction, Deganwy Village and Conwy . It was almost noon when we came back to the Promenade and thought of strolling around the pier. If you want , you can settle for a nice live show of the Codeman’s Punch and Judy and spend an hour laughing your heart out. 

While most of us who have read Alice in Wonderland have known that Lewis Carroll composed this famous prose in Oxford, but not many know that the inspiration was taken from this quiet seaside resort of Llandudno. In fact, when you take the tour of the Great Orme the commentary includes the ruins of the house Carroll stayed in and befriended the owners daughter who was the inspiration behind Alice. Throughout the city, you would find sculptures dedicated to Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland including the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts. You can walk around the city and follow the Alice Trail and uncover many hidden stories about it. This photograph was taken in the Llandudno Station. 

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson 

This is a photograph of the Great Orme from the pier. ‘Orme’ means sea monster and the way the rock juts out of the land and into the sea it has found an apt name for itself; being called a monster which engulfs the sea. On the other side of the city near the West Shore, lies the Little Orme. You can actually opt to trek all the way up to the Great Orme or take a nice tram ride (like we did). Again, tickets can be purchased on  spot for a minimum of £5-£7. This ride takes around an hour and a half with a twenty minutes halt at halfway point for refreshments. 

The Great Orme has some beautiful caves which are open to the public for self exploration (free of cost). It also has a fully functional church . This is the oldest in the area and is made by clearing the rocks from the Orme. 

This photograph  was taken at the Halfway point.  This place has a little restaurant and parking space wherein those driving all the way up can take some rest and click beautiful photographs . We took up most of our time climbing the Great Orme and taking photographs . It is said that a pair of Kashmiri goats were presented to the then British Queen but since she had many goats , she presented them to her friend in Llandudno . Thus in the Great Orme if you spot Kashmiri Goats, do not be shocked. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any ! 

“It is not down in any map; true places never are. “- Herman Melville 

As we continued our journey forward from the halfway point, the beautiful outline of the Snowdon Mountains emerged in the horizon. According to our commentator, the Snowdonia mountains host many rare species of flora and fauna “and if you are lucky enough you might spot some rare species of Pokemon hiding in there. ” 😛 . 

“Half the fun of travel is the aesthetic of lostness. ” – Ray Bradbury 

After descending from the Great Orme and having a bite we relaxed at the hostel before going out again to explore the promenade. This time, it was nearing sunset and most of the people were getting ready to leave. Many tourists had come for a day trip to the sea and were making their way to the train station. The Promenade guards were vigilant about the tourists clearing the area for Coast Guard practice sessions. We took a walk around the shore and settled for some nice Welsh Orchestra which was being played by the Town band. 

Thereafter we had an early dinner and went out for our customary night walk. This photograph was shot during the walk at the promenade . It was interesting to see how a place which was full of activities had become so quiet. The pier , although lighted was closed and locked . The shoreline was made inaccessible in parts due to the approaching high tides. We wandered around the town for a little longer and saw most of the hotels were having karaoke dinners and dancing in their common rooms. Soon, we called it quits as well and went back to our hostel . We grabbed a movie ‘ Out of Africa’ and went ahead to watch it, thus ending a beautiful day. 

I have a habit of trying to explore the early morning hours whenever I am travelling. Usually, at home, no one sees me wake up before 9 -10 am.  This photograph of the sunrise (below) from the Promenade was taken around 6:30 ish. Not many people were present and those who were there had come to walk their dogs . I spent almost an hour here witnessing the beauty of this place before catching my homeward bound train . Though I was happy to go back home, I was also disheartened that this experience came to a close so soon. 

Taking a vacation for the first time on my own with friends had opened me up and in the true sense made me a traveller. To imbibe the various customs, cultures, traditions that the people of Cardiff and Llandudno had to offer was an experience in itself. And I think it has made me more confident as a person to handle life in a way I want to without being a slave to the dictates of the world. 

“Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey . “- Pat Conroy 

I would leave you with this beautiful quote and sunrise till I come back to share my next adventure. 

 

British Museum: Memories of Ancient and Modern History

I was awakened early in the morning by what I thought was a bird singing. It was only when I saw my friend getting up to switch off the alarm on her phone that I realised it was  time to get up. I checked the time. . . .It was 7 AM. . . . and we had settled down to meet our parents at 9:15 AM. Gleamy eyed I woke up , took a bath and got ready. 

British Museum dekhtei ekta puro din lagbe . . .Bujhli. . . .Okhane ato kichu dekhar ache je ekbar giye dekhe utthe para jai na” (It will take one full day to visit the British Museum. There is so much to see that one day is also not enough), I was told repeatedly by my father who had been to London and the Museum before but was still fascinated every time he went. This got me excited to see the museum. 

Interestingly, on normal days I take the liberty to stretch the time but that day, I was spot on time.  9:15 AM it was and my mother’s phone rang to inform her of our arrival. We took sometime off from the prepared schedule and booked tickets to Madame Tussaud’s for the following day before hitting the roads. After taking a bus, walking for sometime , asking few people around and spotting a gothic looking building which (in my opinion was the museum); we finally found the museum. . . . . .Well one of the entrances of the museum. . 

According to the http://www.britishmuseum.org ” The British Museum was founded in 1753, the first national public museum in the world. From the beginning it granted free admission to all ‘studious and curious persons’. Visitor numbers have grown from around 5,000 a year in the eighteenth century to nearly 6 million today.” . . . .It further states that ” The origins of the British Museum lie in the will of the physician, naturalist and collector, Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753). Over his lifetime, Sloane collected more than 71,000 objects which he wanted to be preserved intact after his death. So he bequeathed the whole collection to King George II for the nation in return for a payment of £20,000 to his heirs. The gift was accepted and on 7 June 1753, an Act of Parliament established the British Museum.

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British Museum, London
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Entrance to the Museum
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Dragon Tiles, China Shanxi Province Ming Dynasty, 1400-1600 Lead Glazed Stoneware “Dragons are associated with good fortune, rain and water; and offered symbolic protection against fire”

After going through a mandatory bag checking and climbing a flight of stairs which reminded me of the Titanic stairs, I chanced upon this. This beautiful dragon tiles was so elaborately and intricately designed. It gives the perfect charm and effect of the Chinese culture; properly preserved centuries after it was actually made.  

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Man’s Cloth by El Anatsui Ghana , 1998-2001 Recycled Metal Foil bottle Neck Wrappers “Erosion of cultural values through unchecked consumerism here symbolised by the bottle necked wrappers.”

I next entered the Afrikaans Gallery which had objects curated from various parts of Africa. This gallery does not have the Egyptian displays as a separate gallery is dedicated to it. 

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Idols on Display

These idols from the display in the African Gallery reflected the tribal culture and handiwork very closely. 

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A Display of pots and jars

Pots. . . Jugs. . . Jars. . . however you name them the objective of these items were the same . . . almost. But their look and design were so different from each other. 

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A display from the Museum

This fish sculpture resembled the flying fish so closely. 

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Idols in the African Brasscasting Section

The Brasscasting section was given a separate space in the museum display. According to the http://www.zyama.com, “The art of bronze casting was introduced around the year 1280. The kingdom reached its maximum size and artistic splendor in the 15th and 16th century. For a long time the Benin bronze sculptures were the only historical evidence dating back several centuries into the West African past, and both the level of technical accomplishment attained in bronze casting, as well as the monumental vigor of the figures represented, were the object of great admiration.” Similarly, “The numerous commemorative brass heads, free-standing figures and groups, plaques in relief, bells and rattle-staffs, small expressive masks and plaquettes worn on the belt as emblem of offices; chests in the shape of palaces, animals, cult stands, jewelry, etc. cast by Benin metalworkers were created for the royal palace.” This is how brasscasting came into existence. 

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Chair made of rifles

One glance at the sculpture and you will notice that  it is a chair which is nothing unusual. But on a closer look you would find that this chair if made of rifles .

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Inca Civilization Idols

I remember reading about the Inca civilisation in the South Americas for the first time in Tintin and the Prisoners of the Sun. The second time they came up was in the British Museum. According to the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, “The Inca civilization flourished in ancient Peru between c. 1400 and 1533 CE, and their empire eventually extended across western South America from Quito in the north to Santiago in the south, making it the largest empire ever seen in the Americas and the largest in the world at that time.” The civilisation was “Famed for their unique art and architecture, they constructed finely built and imposing buildings wherever they conquered, and their spectacular adaptation of natural landscapes with terracing, highways, and mountaintop settlements continues to impress modern visitors at such world-famous sites as Machu Picchu.Regarding the downfall of the civilisation, it has been said that , ” It was this combination of factors – a perfect storm of rebellion, disease, and invasion – which brought the downfall of the mighty Inca Empire, the largest and richest ever seen in the Americas. The Inca language Quechua lives on today and is still spoken by some eight million people. There are also a good number of buildings, artefacts, and written accounts which have survived the ravages of conquerors, looters, and time.”

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Great Hall/ Reading Room (Sculpture, Displays, Library)

Our next destination in the museum was the Great reading room. It had a long passage in the centre with seats to sit . There were sculptures, bust figures, and displays on both side of the path. Running the entire length of the hall on each side were shelves containing books, scriptures or artefacts. It would probably be a 0.3 mile walk from one end of the room to the other. In fact, I remember that standing at the entrance I could not see the exit on the other end. 

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Krishna

There were various displays in the Reading Room, From Ptolemy to Cupids and Rosetta Stone but what caught my attention the most was the beautiful sculptures of Lord Krishna from Hindu Mythology. 

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Museum Display

This sculpture was at the entrance of an amazing gallery. immediately it reminded me of Indian women. Women sitting in front of their doorsteps and making rangoli (patterned designs with colours ) during festivals; women giving alpana (patterned designs made of fabric colors or  rice paste) ; Women in helplessness and it would have gone on and on if someone hadn’t bumped into me by mistake and reminded me of the time. I chose to come out of my dreamland and move on further inside the gallery. 

The objects on display were beautifully made and intricate details were carved to perfection. I need not say anything more; the photos will talk for themselves. 

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Display from the Museum
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Display from the Museum
After seeing the gallery we found ourselves on the portico. This place had the museum shops along with restaurants. A flight of stairs led the visitors to another gallery, this time my favourite-The Egyptian Gallery. Below is a photograph from the portico to the roof of the library. this place has been previously photographed by many in colour and B&W; I tried to follow in their footsteps. 
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View of the roof from the portico

For some strange reason, mummies have attracted me since I was a child. Well, this is not a mummy but a pharaoh would do as well. I usually avoid putting in my photos in the post; but I could not but put this one. 

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Me with Ancient Pharaoh Head in Egyptian Display Section Photo: Dimple Meera Jom

Our last stop was the museum gift shop. As usual postcards was what I ran after. I also saw this huge teddy who probably had ‘eaten’  lots of other smaller teddies. Thus a photo with him was a must. 

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Me with Big Bear in the Museum Shop Photo: Dimple Meera Jom

And lastly, I leave you with a collage of some other displays from the museum. But my adventures are far from over. . . Do come back next week for an exciting adventure ahead. 

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Photos by Kalyan Sen
mummy folder
Photos by : Shakuntala Sen

Some useful information:

Address: 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB

Opening Times: Mon-Thurs (9:30 AM- 8 PM)

                                Fri- (9:30 AM- 6 PM)

                                Sat- (9:30 AM- 5 PM) 

                                Sun- (11 AM- 5 PM) 

Entry Free

Website: http://www.bl.uk/

London: The City Which Never Sleeps

The beautiful light of the moon came streaking in through the window and fell on my face. It woke me up. I checked the time; it was almost 2 am in the morning. My friend was fast asleep. I kept staring at the beautiful tree outside, whose leaves shined and glowed in the moonlight. At that very moment two things crossed my mind- Did Shah Jahan feel the same way as he watched the monument of love glowing in the moonlight with his old worn out eyes? Does moonlight still fall across my bed in my room in India?

My stream of thoughts were interrupted by a loud siren of an ambulance -the 6th since I came to London. I saw my friend stir a little and went back to sleep.

I didn’t realise how time flew. It felt like only a minute ago when we were out on the streets but now were both in bed; one sleeping soundly and one enjoying the beauty of the night.  Images from our little night walk flashed in my mind’s eye.

It was still one of those days when the sun bid an early good-bye. After a tiring sightseeing, I went back to my hostel room. My friend and I were watching some random English movie when a quick glance reminded us that it was about  time we went for dinner. After a quick dinner, we left to explore the streets of this beautiful city by night. We decided to keep it short and just take a walk around Fitzroy Street, but our adventurous side took away all our weariness and we extended our walk to a longer one. 

It was around fifteen minutes to ten and the shops had just started to shut down for the day. Those that were already shut, still had lights on displaying their products in a surreal glow. Interestingly, I noticed that most of the shops around the street were furniture shops apart from various eateries and a customary (rather mandatory) Pret A Manger in every other street. 

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Even though the shops were shutting down, the roads still had a large crowd of people. The lights were switched on in almost every building that we passed through and it did not seem that it was almost 10pm. People of all nationalities and cultures intermingled in this big city. I had heard , read and used the adjective ‘cosmopolitan’ for the city quite a number of times myself; but that day, I realised the true meaning of the word. 

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Soon after, I came across this huge Graffiti. Even if this might not hold a lot of significance in the post, I added it as it reminded me of an old friend from Calcutta. He is a Graffiti artist himself and honestly, every time I see one, he is the first person who comes to my mind. 

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My walk took me to this pub called The Court. Though, we did not stop there, but I could not help but notice that the pub was so full inside that there were people sitting in the chilly wind outside enjoying a pint or two. It was then that I realised that the temperature had begun to fall and we had to head back. It was almost 10:30 pm. 

But. . . .I also realised that given our tight schedule it would not be possible to come out exploring the streets for another night; and it would be a shame coming this far and not seeing the Parliament House glowing in the bright lights at night. That majestic scene which has never failed to be a part of all Bollywood and Hollywood movies justified the essence of London at night. Just the thought of having a glimpse of that scene filled me with a new enthusiasm. And thus my destination was decided and there was no looking back. . . .

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While I stood there gazing at this sight, I did not realise the time, the temperature or even how long had I wanted to see this. A lot of mixed thoughts came to my mind- Harry Potter and his friends flew in their broomsticks with this background ; Sherlock Holmes lived in London; Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham was shot in London; Saifeena’s favourite holiday destination is London and so on. These strings of thoughts did not really have any relation to the ethereal moment I was experiencing; but I guess true Happiness does not come with a definition and an explanation of how a person should react. 

A check on the watch let me know that we should be REALLY heading back. The day ahead had lots of interesting and amazing things in store for me and I did not want to sleep through it all or look dreary eyed. 

On my way back, the streets had finally started emptying . It came to my mind that probably everyone finally found time to sleep unless they suffered from insomnia. 

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But the people who did not sleep were the neighbours of Fitzroy street. The pub was still full of people merry-making and chatting with their near and dear ones.

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With the lights diminishing in the streets now, except for the street lights; every man on the road had their mobiles switched on which made their face glow in the dark. 

I went to the hostel room and finally called it a day; but before sleeping I took some photos of the neighbourhood. . . . . Let me leave you today with those photos . . . Because the next Sunday would introduce you to my Adventures on Day 2. From the British Museum to the London Traffic and even getting lost in the city. . . 😛 Do come back for more next week. . . .

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Photo Feature: Instapics

Having a Social Media presence on a variety of platforms is the ‘in thing’ in contemporary digital world. Thus, I too have an Instagram account, where I share some of my photographs . Here are some of my favourite photographs, from Instagram. I believe, every photo has a story in it and a story behind it. While the story inside the photographs are quite visible, this is the first time, I would probably explain the stories behind it. 

8. https://www.instagram.com/p/_z2AczOwSu/?taken-by=subhadrika007

This was taken in Albert Square Manchester during the Christmas Lights Switch on. There were around thousands of people gathered in the Manchester Council to see the big Santa being lighted.

You can have a look at the entire event at https://trekkersoftheeast.wordpress.com/2015/11/08/city-council-comes-alive-with-the-lights-of-christmas/ 

7. https://www.instagram.com/p/yEpXA6OwSX/?taken-by=subhadrika007

It is not that I am an avid fan of cats, but I like them. They are sweet and cute. My college is technically incomplete without cats. There have been times when they have actually entered classrooms and sat down as additional students. This cat was taking a nice winter afternoon sun bath amongst the bushes when I clicked him. This photo was taken by my mobile as I did not take my camera to college.

6. https://www.instagram.com/p/BAdLPuiOwSD/?taken-by=subhadrika007

China Town, Manchester is a lovely place. It is just off the corner from Manchester Piccadilly. This huge ornamental gate is almost like a symbol to this ancient culture. Chinatown is flooded with amazing Chinese and Thai restaurants and takeaways. This is one place that cannot be missed in your bucket list for Manchester Sightseeing.

5. https://www.instagram.com/p/BAa5Jcauwcy/?taken-by=subhadrika007%20

The very first cup of Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows that I made myself. I don’t usually cook or mix a drink, maybe because I am not very good at either. but when it came to making a cup of Hot Chocolate, I did give it a shot. P.S It was not very bad either 😛 , but not something that I would make ever so often .

4. https://www.instagram.com/p/_t1udvuwXC/?taken-by=subhadrika007

A bit too late to put up Christmas Photographs isn’t it? Well, I completely agree. But I just like the look of the photo. It was taken during a very cold and freezing evening. It gives me chills, when I think of how I removed my gloves to shoot this photo. 

3. https://www.instagram.com/p/8G3nxSOwYr/?taken-by=subhadrika007%20

Taken during one of my rare vacations in Jaipur, Rajasthan, this is a photo of the beautiful palace in the Amer Fort. Built by the fierce Rajput rulers of this state, the Amer Fort and the structural construction within it draw heavily from both Hindu and Mughal architecture. Though this place is a must visit in Jaipur, I would advise you to take the trip in Winters and not in the scorching summer sun. 

2. https://www.instagram.com/p/8G3PDVuwXy/?taken-by=subhadrika007%20

This too has been taken inside the Amer Fort. This is the entrance to one of the temples in the fort. Interestingly, I have often tried to count the number of steps but have lost myself somewhere in the middle. Have you been successful in counting the total number of steps? 

1. https://www.instagram.com/p/74xJ3wuwY9/?taken-by=subhadrika007

This photo is my most favourite one out of the whole lot. It was taken in Burra Bazaar, North Kolkata while I was out on a heritage tour to some of the nearby Synagogues and a Temple. It was during a small food break that we took in between our sightseeing, that a friend wanted to enjoy juicy oranges under the warm winter sun. This photo was taken when she was purchasing the oranges from the seller.

Which one is your favourite photo? Do comment and let me know why? I would also appreciate if you do find faults in them and would like to let  me know how I could improve on my skills in the comment section below. Thanks. 🙂