Less than 48 hours in Vietnam | First impressions | Diwablog 3

I recently went to Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon) on a quick work trip, literally less than 48 hours! Funny thing – Vietnam has been on my travel radar for a while now, but it fizzled out quite recently too. Maybe sometimes watching something over and over on social media does it. Anyhow, I’ll be making more trips to Vietnam and I am pretty sure I would love many things there. Here are some things I noticed on this first trip to Ho Chi Minh City that I am itching to share:

Women clothes appear awesome in local shops: This is the number 1 pattern I literally saw from afar in so many streets. Vietnam, like India, has lot of local shops around rather than just global brands. Whenever I was sitting in a cab or on a scooter, I just kept noticing that how many random shops have such amazingly beautiful clothes. I have such deep regret in not getting the time to go venture in. 😦 This is my must do activity when I go to Ho Chi Minh City next.

Street food vendors sit near their carts! In India also, street food is pretty big. However, vendors keep standing next to their carts. I don’t know why it never happened that anyone brought stools to sit next to their carts like folks in Vietnam do. My assumption is any of the below reasons:

  1. Vietnam is not as densely populated as India so its not like that the cart is having customers all the time without any breather and the vendor cannot do without standing.
  2. Indian street food requires a lot of live cooking, while Vietnam I guess has more of assembling. Hence, the vendor can just stand, serve and sit down again till the next customer comes.

It was a fun thing to observe and some vendors were even wearing the traditional Vietnamese hat (Google it if you don’t know).

I was shocked about the food! I expected to love Vietnamese food since I thought there will be many readily available vegetarian options. Especially since I read online that Vietnam has a lot of Buddhist population who eat vegetarian food on certain days. Anyhow, Ho Chi Minh offers a lot of varied international cuisines but what I meant was vegetarian food was not mainstream at all. That was quite a shocker and I didn’t like the taste as much as I like Vietnamese food in Indian Vietnamese restaurants! Hahaha.

Ao Dai is so pretty & so easy to get made! Its a traditional dress for Women and I found the modern, minimal version quite pretty. It can actually be styled in various ways I feel and it accentuates people’s body structure it seems. However, what made me sit back and take notice is that there were a lot of tailor shops which means its pretty easy to get one made as per your desired customizations!

I think this post has turned more interesting than I imagined. I hope the readers also feel the same. 🙂 Would love to hear from you!

Remembering Lake Bled

You know what I dislike the most about places? When they are underrated as hell. Sure, it helps a great deal to keep them tidy, untouched, beautiful and, most importantly, unpolluted. I know this is a great thing in the bigger picture that less people know about a special place. However, I get this huge itch when people are planning their holiday in a really popular place, say, the Swiss Alps and they don’t even know about its close neighbour – Slovenia. This really tiny country nestled between Austria, Italy, Croatia & Hungary is culturally a sister to Croatia. It’s actually pretty surprising that for such a small country, they have beaches, mountains, gorges & what not. One such beauty is Lake Bled in Slovenia.

I was working in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, for 6 months. That’s when I got to know about the lake Bled in Slovenia, a spot this country is really proud of. These days, every now & then, I keep coming across Instagram posts by travellers going to this beautiful place, however, I had never heard of it until then. Heck, I got to know about Slovenia only when I interviewed for that internship, so, well.

To say that the lake Bled in Slovenia is straight from a fairy tale would be an understatement. If there ever was a run up for the most beautiful & enthralling fairy tale, lake Bled in Slovenia can be an easy top contender.

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With its 16th century Church on an island right in the middle of the lake, where a bell rings every now & then, this place is hauntingly beautiful and, of course, straight out of your whimsical dreams. Not to mention, the beautiful, little markets in this tiny town selling all sorts of whimsies.

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If you ever see yourself at the lake Bled in Slovenia, one thing you cannot miss is the famous cream cake of Bled or Kremna Rezina or ‘Kremsnita’. It is a dessert worth its salt & I have had a good share of it, not just at lake Bled, but also when my colleague’s mother used to make & send it for the whole office. What a wonderful thing to be recalled of while writing this post! ❤ So, where was I? Yes, Kremsnita. Do not miss it at any cost. Just now while I was Google-ing the cake’s Slovene name as I had forgotten, I got to know that the most famous one in Bled is from the Park Hotel. So, take your pick.

Only regret – my pictures do not do justice to the beauty this place is.

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I am also currently doing a 30 day series of the pictures I took in Slovenia on my Instagram.

Rann Of Kutch: How to plan on a budget

I recently traveled to Rann of Kutch with my family – the great white desert in the Kutch region of Gujarat, India. As it is with me always, I love researching about the places I am traveling to (and also to win conversations with taxi drivers when they act know-it-all :P). In this case, it was more necessary to research because I was traveling with parents so I wanted to have a rough itinerary at hand.

Researching about this travel to Rann of Kutch left me extremely surprised. I was living with the belief that it’s a very popular destination, especially during the annual cultural fair of Rann of Kutch – Rann Utsav. I expected tons of information online but, to my surprise, there were many blogs with vague information. I had to dig deep to find useful ones. Due to this whole exercise & my own travel to Rann of Kutch, I can now safely say that my experience can help anyone planning a trip there, even on a budget.

Disclaimer: Ours was not an extremely budget friendly trip, but I have shared points how to cut costs without missing on anything.

Read on to plan an amazing trip to Rann of Kutch:

What is Rann of Kutch?

Rann of Kutch is a salt marsh located in the desert area of Kutch region of Gujarat, India. It appears every year after the sea in this area dries out roughly during November – February. As a result, the whole area appears like a beautiful white desert (but salt instead of sand). It is known as one of the largest white deserts in the world.

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What is Rann Utsav?

‘Utsav’ is a Hindi word meaning festival & ‘Rann’ is desert. ‘Rann Utsav’ is the name of nothing but a tent city that the Gujarat tourism builds in one of the white desert villages – ‘Dhordo’ roughly from November to February for tourists to come & stay. Rann Utsav is the official name of the tent city only, however, this term is used popularly for the entire white desert area during the festival period (Nov – Feb).

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This is a very vibrant & beautifully constructed tent city with luxurious tents & cultural programs. They try to show their exclusivity by not letting anyone inside if you are not staying in the tent city which arises people’s curiosities even more. However, as much as it maybe a nice luxurious experience just like many other luxurious experiences (read – a spa, a fine dining dinner etc.), I believe you are not missing out on anything unique by not staying in this tent city. Especially, not an authentic experience of staying in the Kutchi white desert. For that, you may have to stay at the actual homes or community homes of the locals who, by the way, are very warm & welcoming towards tourists.

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There are many other private tents in Dhordo as well as other villages near to the white desert which are relatively cheaper than the Gujarat Tourism Dhordo tent city (relatively less decked up too though). We stayed at one of the private tents (details in next section) but it’s absolutely not necessary to stay in a tent if you are on a budget & you won’t miss out on much, in my opinion.

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Lighting at our tent

How to plan your travel to Rann of Kutch?

1. The itinerary we followed:

Day 1:

  • Reached Bhuj (a city in the Kutch region), did some local Bhuj sightseeing:
  • Some palaces: Prag Mahal, Aina Mahal
  • A Museum: Kutch Museum
  • Gorging on lots of Gujarati street food ❤ ❤
  • Bhujodi: This was the highlight of my whole trip & I am going to do a whole post about Bhujodi. It’s a small village next to the city of Bhuj where villagers create & sell handicrafts. More in the next post!!
  • Please note that there are many more palaces, lakes, museums etc in & around Bhuj in case you are interested. A quick Google search will give you all.

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Prag Mahal

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Day 2: 

  • Left for the white desert:
  • On our way, we took a slight detour for Maa Ashapura temple, as suggested by our taxi driver.
  • Reached the tents we had booked, ate lunch & rested for a while to leave for the white desert area just in time to watch sunset. Our tent was in the village Gorewali, some 4-5 kms away from the Dhordo tent city. We stayed at Nova Patgar tents, we got a good deal then, it was a good experience & their food was absolutely mind-blowing. ❤
  • Reached the white desert area, walked through the white desert while the sun gradually set in, night-time crept up & cultural programs in the area began. Please note that cultural programs like folk dance & music happen all around this area, not just inside of the Gujarat Tourism Dhordo tent city.

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Maa Ashapura Temple

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Our tents – Nova Patgar Tents

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Day 3:

  • Started from our tents towards Mandvi Beach & Vijay Vilas Palace which is on the way to Mandvi Beach.
  • I think you should try to fit in Mandvi Beach in your itinerary because beach in a desert was a new experience for me & sighting camels on a beach was definitely my first time! 😀 However, only as a beach, there is nothing great to talk about.
  • Vijas Vilas Palace is also a very beautiful architectural piece but since I have done most of the Rajasthan palaces early in life, so far I find other palaces underwhelming in comparison. If it helps, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was shot here. 😀

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2. How we traveled to Rann of Kutch:

During Nov-Feb, the flights to Bhuj are extremely expensive, so we booked flights till Ahmedabad. We hired a taxi from Ahmedabad to Bhuj & further. You can also reach Bhuj from Ahmedabad by bus or train & its a comfortable journey. From Bhuj onwards, you will have to hire a taxi or motorbike for other destinations like White Desert area (Dhordo tent city area), Mandvi Beach etc.

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3. Make Bhuj your base location & take day trips to other places, if not staying in tents:

We stayed in a tent for one night but it’s absolutely not necessary. You can take a trip on your hired vehicle from Bhuj to the Dhordo tent city, enjoy the white desert till night & come back to Bhuj. It is totally convenient. There are many good, budget stay options in Bhuj.

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4. What we didn’t do, but you should:

  • This one village called Dholavira is known for its Harappan Civilization archeological site but what many don’t know is that on the way to Dholavira, you spot a cleaner white desert part because of less tourist intervention. It is so white & absolutely beautiful especially compared to the Dhordo area white desert which is very crowded with tourists. Dholavira is on the way from Ahmedabad to Bhuj but it doesn’t have a lot of proper stay options, do your research on where to stay. Else, you can take a longer road trip by not staying there.
  • Mundra has the largest private port in India located in the north of Gulf of Kutch, you can consider visiting.
  • Barren crack-land in Little Rann of Kutch: Read this post here, his posts helped me the most in planning this travel to Rann of Kutch.

5. Useful Tips:

  1. The obvious one – book flight tickets as early as possible because November – February is the peak season.
  2. Check the Rann of Kutch calendar on Google & plan your trip during a full moon, the white desert looks amazingly pretty during a full moon night.
  3. Many people, including locals, will suggest you to reach the white desert area right before sunset. While that is optimal, it doesn’t hurt to be slightly more early and have a day time look also. It will be hot, but that way you get to have a day time as well as night-time view. If you are staying in one of the tents, you can have a sunrise view also. 🙂

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That’s all from my side. I do understand that this post has become very word-y & super lengthy. If you read till here, it means a lot to me & I’ll love to hear from you! 🙂

Happy exploring! 🙂