I recently hopped over to Hong Kong (booked the holiday with Makemytrip, their Simply Hong Kong package) with my niece aged 9 and my daughter aged 6. I was the only adult on this trip, I am the only one who is mad enough in the family! I have taken out my daughter alone and my niece has stayed with us in her school holidays. Before the start of the trip there were jitters all around.I heard that my brother-in-law wanted Vasu (my niece) back just before the start of the trip, but then he somehow managed to let go. Some of the lessons I learnt after traveling with kids:

Keeping their stomachs full: If you have raised a child, you already know this. They are at their crankiest when they are either hungry or sleepy. Having two kids meant they would fight with each-other as well in such scenarios. I knew this from my previous trips. But on the trip to Hong Kong, there was an added issue. We didn’t try too much to get Indian food. I want them to experiment with different food. I had a stock of chips (which my sister supplied) and in addition to that we had a lot of fast food. We tried Starbucks (my niece wanted to go there), we tried Burger King but in the end the kids did miss familiar food that they are used to. At home they take it so much for granted. They enjoyed dragon fruit a lot. Pizza was the biggest hit with them.

Traveling with Kids

My Daughter and My Niece, Also known as Double Trouble #Canon550D

Kids are perceptive: Within a few hours of landing in Hong Kong, the kids declared that the country was much less crowded and it was quite clean! They also said people were not honking. I never expected such wisdom in first few hours!

Standing in a queue: I guess we imbibe it from childhood. In Hong Kong we have to queue at so many places. Both the girls wanted to go and stand just a little ahead in the line, they were not jumping the queue but they would just stand a fraction ahead of me in the line! It was quite a task to make them stand in a straight line!

Queue, Disneyland, Hong Kong

This is how they would queue! #Canon550D

It is easy to teach not to litter when no one is doing it: I found that as Hong Kong was quite clean, the kids automatically started throwing everything in the dustbins. Both the families have a strict no littering policy but the kids try to test our patience in India. But when they felt that no one else did it, they automatically starting throwing things in the dustbin.

When to play and when not to: For the kids everything was an occasion to play, be it the sensor activated water taps or soap dispensers. I had to continuously tell them not to treat everything as an object of play!

Kids love simple things: If I was on my own, I would hardly spend anytime inside the hotel room. But the kids loved to play inside the two bedroom suite we had at the Royal View Hotel. They would invent games on their own and spend quite sometime playing it!

No TV was a good thing: There were not many cartoon channels on the TV and after an initial token protest, they didn’t even ask for TV! At home they do watch a lot of cartoons.

Disneyland, Hong Kong

Disneyland, Hong Kong #Canon550D

Deciphering advertising:  As the kids watch a lot of cartoons they were quite excited about the visit to the Hong Kong Disneyland. In reality we went there on hot Sunday with every other ride having a wait time of 60 minutes. By 4.00 pm they had enough and they demanded to be taken back to the hotel! Later they said they would give only 5 out of 10 stars to Disneyland!

When photography took a back seat: I consider it was quite an achievement that even when I was standing at the Central Harbor at Hong Kong during the golden hour, I was more glued to the kids than to clicking pictures. Vasu and Chhavi wanted to jump into the water from the platform as it looked attractive. With such ideas being floated and voted for regularly, photography took a severe beating.

Fun Time in Hong Kong

Fun Time in Hong Kong! #Lumia1020

We had a lot of fun: We actually had so much fun! On the last day my daughter came and asked if we could stay for a few more days! Now if only they study well, I am quite willing to take them out next year again to another country.

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Photography takes a back seat when you are traveling with two kids. And the kids are like pieces of luggage but with wheels that are slightly out of control. The trip to Hong Kong is going by in a flash! It was a lazy Sunday by any stretch of imagination but here is a picture of the Central Harbor, Hing Kong, nonetheless. See you on the other side soon!

Central Harbor, Hong Kong

Central Harbor, Hong Kong

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Heading out to Hong Kong with Two Brats!

by Mridula on August 14, 2014

in Uncategorized

It is time to head out to Hong Kong today with my daughter and my niece (my sister’s daughter), better known as Brat 3 and Brat 4. Brat 4 is my daughter by the way, as she is the youngest of the lot. If you are wondering about Brat 1 and 2, they are my nephews and this brattiness is assigned simply in a chronological order!

This is a personal trip that I booked with Make My Trip long before they invited me for Bhutan. With two young kids (brats actually) I chickened out and did a package! Everyone else in the family is wise, they simply stayed away from handling the two packets of dynamite but what to do … meine tou aab okhli mein sir daal diya hai …. Hong Kong was the destination of choice because of the Disneyland and the age of the kids! I hope traveling will not turn them simply into bigger brats!

It was a particular type of war this time, I could not even blog for a few days before leaving the station, I had so much work to finish. Then as usual the packing is not complete but this time my sister offered that she will complete my packing. Now that is why sisters are priceless!

I have never felt more uncertain before the start of a trip, I mean traveling with two kids is no joke. I hope they will not turn all my hairs grey! Depending on the outcome of this trip, I may plan to travel more with both the brats together! Now that has to be offered as a carrot to them, that and keeping their stomachs full all the time.

I am sure both of them would like to have the window seat. If they fight too much, I will simply take the window seat! On that note I close this post. And I promise that once I come back there will be a lot of updates from my three recent trips, Thailand, Bhutan and of course Hong Kong.

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Even before landing I was excited about the trek to the Tiger’s Nest in Paro, Bhutan. As I was visiting in monsoon I asked my friends on Facebook beforehand if I should be carrying trekking shoes or normal sneakers would do? An overwhelming majority who had done the trek told me to carry my trekking shoes and I was glad that I did. The route is quite clearly marked but it rained while we were getting down, which made the trail slippery in turn. I was glad I listened to others and carried my trekking shoes.

Taktsang Monastery, paro, Bhutan

Taktsang Monastery, Paro, Bhutan #Canon550D

The Tiger’s Nest is also known as the Taktsang Monastery. It is at an elevation of 3210 meters (10,240 feet) which is about 900 meters above the Paro Valley. I consider 900 meters a lot to be climbed in one day. We could see the monastery faintly from our hotel Naksel Resorts itself. Aditya who is the business development manager of Makemytrip (my sponsors for this trip) for Bhutan had done it already. He was not sure how many of us would be able to do it. When we started we were 6 people plus our guide Raju Rai ji.

Prayer Flags

Prayer Flags on the Route. Tiger’s Nest, Paro, Bhutan #Canon550D

The trail is well marked, there is no chance of getting lost on it. And coming from me, who can get lost even in a telephone booth if it had two exits, it means a lot. It is well maintained and litter free as well.

We started slowly from the base. After a while I found my rhythm, and started going up. Soon one of us wanted to go back and Raju ji went back with them as well. He said he would catch up with me later. I meet three of my mates on this trip a little ahead. I had a sip of water and told them that I would go ahead. We decided to meet at the cafeteria. Aditya told me that the cafeteria was at least 40 minutes away.

According to the legend it is said that Guru Rinpoche flew to this treacherous location from Tibet on the back of a tigress from Khenpajong, hence the name Tiger’s Nest as well.

Tiger's Nest, Paro

It Looked so Steep! #Canon550D

From below, the location of the Tiger’s Nest looked so fantastic! To imagine that people were reaching here in 8th century was mind boggling. The mind would also boggle a bit at the thought that I had to climb all this to reach the place. In my mind, there was no doubt that I would reach there eventually. It took me less than 40 minutes to reach the cafeteria. I sat down and asked for a cup of tea which never arrived. I am told that the hike is 3.5 kilometers one way.

The cafeteria is the only source of nourishment on the way, though there is water available in many other places. After waiting for half an hour I was getting really impatient. Then a man with his cell phone came and said I should talk to my guide. I was happy to hear Raju ji telling me to proceed as others had gone ahead! I was quite happy to start again.

On the way I was asked by a few guides if I was trekking alone? I told them I was with a group and walking alone only for a while. Later on the trail they also told me that the Tiger’s Nest Monastery closes from 1.00 pm to 2.00 pm so that the lamas could have lunch. I realized that I would miss the 1.00 pm cutoff time. They told me to go slowly and click a lot of pictures!

paro

I was Getting Close! #Lumia1020

I readily followed the advice. At this point while I was getting my photo clicked, Raju ji also came and we then walked together. I met an Indian family as well around this place who were heading back. I guess they were quite tired and irritated. But to their credit they had young girls with them, one of them fast asleep and the other I was told trekked all the way to the Tiger’s Nest.

Slowly I too reached the premises which was closed now. I was happy to sit and wait for the gates to open. They kept my bag and camera safely. We are not allowed to carry even the cell phone inside. It is difficult to imagine that the Taktsang Monastery was burned down due to fire in 1998 and rebuilt in 2005.It looked as ancient as ever.

Within no time ( at least it felt like that to my tired limbs) the gates were open again. Post 2.00 pm the place is much less crowded. Raju ji taught me how to bow in Buddhist style. After a brief stay inside the monastery we headed back.

Tiger's Nest, Paro, Bhutan

Tiger’s Nest, Paro, Bhutan #Canon550D

It was threatening to rain now. We still decided to stop at the place where prayer lamps were lit and have tea. When it was our turn to pay, the monk told us that it was free of cost. He then told Raju ji something in the local language. Raju ji told me that the monk had been to Punjab (India) where he had free food in a Gurudwara, so the tea was free as well.

There are a lot of stairs as we start going back. I was dreading that I would get way too tired climbing them. But it started to rain and I had to put my camera in and get the raincoat out! In all this confusing and the pouring rain, I didn’t even realize how I managed to climb up all those stairs. Once I was through with the stairs, it was majorly downhill from there.

Tier's Nest Hike

We did It! #Canon550D

The trouble with me is that I find it equally tedious to go downhill. We stopped at the cafeteria to have a late lunch. Then we started climbing down slowly marveling all the way that how much did we really climb!  In the picture above you can see Raju ji in his traditional dress called Gho. I was wearing a tiger t-shirt but this one didn’t know how to fly!

If you are into hiking, the climb to the Tiger’s Nest is quite manageable. However, I remember an elderly gentleman whom I met while climbing up to the Tiger’s Nest. He was still going up when even I was headed back. He must have been caught in that rain going to the monastery. At one point, much lower in the trail, I told him, “you would remember this fondly 5-6 days later, take my words for it.” He had capable guides and a companion with him. I hope he made it and is now remembering his hike with a lot of happiness. He told me to eat less rice if I was not losing weight in spite of hiking.

When we reached Naksel Resorts late in the evening they offered the three of us an one hour’s massage in their spa. Needless to say it was the best massage I ever had till date.

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I am quite averse to getting clicked. There have been a few exceptions to this rule but quite few and far between. However, when I visited the 3D Art Gallery at the Venezia Cha Am near Hua Hin I behaved in such an uncharacteristic way! You see it was so much fun.

3D Art Gallery at the Venezia, Cha Am, Thailand

3D Art Gallery at the Venezia, Cha Am, Thailand #Lumia1020

There are more than 60 paintings that you can fool around with! I have to admit, I started reluctantly. Initially I was not sure what was the point. But after a few minutes I completely lost it. I play acted, sounds more apt in Hindi, I did so much Nautanki! 

Venezia Cha Am, Thailand

What is the Point? #Canon550D

The Mummy and I, both were left wondering what was the point. When I could not think of a pose to strike, the fellow travelers would suggest something! It was surprising how much I got caught in the fun, I mean me, a professor by my day job and all that!

A Field of  Fire

Ek Aag Ka Dariya Hai! #Lumia1020

So within the short span of one hour, I went through eak aag dariya (a filed of fire) as well! The trouble was I just could not quit laughing. You should have seen the entire media and travel agent group going berserk in this gallery!

Partners in Crime

Partners in Crime #Lumia1020

The biggest partners in crime were fellow blogegrs (right to left) Anil Yadav, Rohan Singh, Gaurav Bhan Bhatnagar and Tarun Gaur. We took so many pictures of each-other that it is difficult to remember who clicked what! This one was clicked by our guide Joey who was very fond of saying chalo chalo (let us go) when he wanted us to move and his pleas in English were falling on deaf ears!

Tat New Delhi- My Genie to Thailand!

Tat New Delhi- My Genie to Thailand! #Lumia1020

This was my third trip to Thailand with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, my second with TAT New Delhi. A big thank you to them for being my genie to Thailand, a place I have enjoyed like no other!

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While I had just one hour before leaving office and later catching the flight to Bangkok, I got an email. It was an invitation to visit Bhutan with Makemytrip. I hardly had anytime to think how would I manage things at work. But it was one of those occasions when I decided to say yes first and think later! I am glad I followed my instincts. I simply loved Bhutan and I have such a bad hangover from the trip. When we landed in Paro, it felt as if I stepped back 50 years in time.

Tiger's Nest, Paro, Bhutan

Tiger’s Nest, Paro, Bhutan

The most memorable part of my trip was the trek to the Tiger’s Nest in Paro but that is going to be a full post in itself. Bhutan is right there on the list of the most beautiful countries I ever visited. Since I came back, I have been plotting on how to go back! Here are some tips for you when (notice I did not say if) you go to Bhutan. The sooner you go the better! Monsoon is also a great time to visit.

Visa Requirements: Indians do not need a visa to enter Bhutan. You can travel on your passport or voter Id card. I used my passport and they simply stamped it. There is no visa fee for Indians. We are really lucky that we have such close ties with Bhutan. Most of the other nationalities have to pay US $250 per person per night to visit Bhutan.

Flights: Only Druk Air, the national carrier, flies into Bhutan. There is only one international airport at Paro. Flights are available from Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. Another way is to fly up to Bagdogra in Sikkim and then do a road transfer via Phuentsholing, but this would need much more time. You might get a cheaper price if you book the Druk Air tickets via an agent or Makemytrip.

Currency: The local currency is Ngultrum (simply called Nu) but Indian rupees are accepted everywhere. I did not change money ever during my trip. As of now the exchange rate is at par.

Naksel Resort at Paro, Bhutan

Naksel Resort at Paro, Bhutan

Hotels: There are hotels to suit every budget. I stayed at Naksel Resort at Paro and Terma Linca at Thimphu. Both are stunning properties, part of the premium package of Makemytrip.

People: People at Bhutan are amazingly mild. Even at our best behavior we may come across as brash when we interact with them. They are deeply religious. Buddhism is the dominant religion. They love their king. After the coronation of the fifth king there is even a whisky in his honor called K5.

Butter Lamps at the Buddha Point, Thimphu, Bhutan

Butter Lamps at the Buddha Point, Thimphu, Bhutan

Shopping: As a lot of tourists pay $250 per day, shopping is quite expensive. The people of Bhutan don’t like to bargain, in fact they don’t bargain much. Only alcohol is super cheap at the duty free. I bought a bottle of K5. Officially they say they don’t accept 500 and 1000 rupee notes but the lady at the airport happily took a 1000 rupee note from me.

Weather: I was in Bhutan during the monsoon. I was told that monsoons are not a good time to visit but it was lovely. You also get everything cheaper. It did rain a bit but never so much as to spoil our plans!

Language: Almost everyone speaks Hindi in Bhutan thanks to the cable TV. Apart from the local language Dzongkha they are taught English in school. Between Hindi and English you will do fine!

Overall: Bhutan is an excellent destination for Indians, I would recommend it to everyone. We are lucky that India and Bhutan share very close ties and we don’t have to pay USD 250 per person per night to visit. But NRIs have to fork out that money!

If you are looking for packages Makemytrip has some excellent ones. They know Bhutan well and thanks to them I had a great a time.

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