Locomotoring

Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …

Posts Tagged ‘Weekend getaway

Mission accomplished

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Courtyard of Mission Carmel

Courtyard of Mission Carmel

I have been meaning to do a circuit trip of missions around Bay Area. There are quite a few of these missions, so one can’t hope to cover all of them in a day. I have had eyes on a few – Carmel, Jolon and Soledad with possibility of San Miguel thrown in. Opportunity presented itself this memorial day weekend – so I packed some sandwiches, a few slices of the wonderfully moist and orange flavored cake ala Clotilde and, a thermos full of Chai. We left early on this Sunday summer morning – a perfect California day that held promises of a warm clear blue skied summer afternoon.

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36 Hours in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong at night

Hong Kong at night

Hong Kong is a perfect city for short term business trip or vacation. Its multiple neighborhoods and islands offer different culture experience – some more trendy and some more traditional. You can sample this city out in bits and parts over  multiple trips. Here is our recommendation based on our leisurely experience during a short stay in Central district.

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January 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Urban hike in San Francisco, from Ferry Plaza to Fort Point

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Kites at Marina Greens

Marina Greens; Click for a photos from this hike ...

Choose a day that isn’t too cold. Start the walk from  Ferry Plaza. If you start on a Saturday, you will be able to pick up your lunch from the Farmer’s market. When you are done exploring Ferry Plaza, start walking westwards and stay as close to the bay as possible. Many of these piers offer pedestrian walkways. The route is unmistakable, so there is little to no chance of getting lost. If you are planning on completing the hike, plan on walking about 10-12 miles and spending anywhere between 3-6 hours.

Here is what you will see on this hike – San Francisco skyline from several vista points, sailboats dotting the sea, yachts moored at the harbors, large container ships crossing underneath the Golden Gate bridge, kites doing acrobatic maneuvers by the marina, kids playing in big or small groups, people of all ages sunbathing or jogging, couples of all genders holding hands or kissing, buildings with military architecture – extensions of Presidio. In spring, you will see Crissy Field in a wildflower bloom.

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Walking tour of San Francisco’s Chinatown

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San Franacisco Chinatown

Click for photos of San Francisco Chinatown

At first glance, San Francisco’s Chinatown appears to be a collection of trinket shops. Only during the Chinese New Year celebration does this place truly come alive and then one has to be prepared to brave the cold winter rains which often afflicts the celebration, and huge crowds.

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India’s village tourism

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Recently New York Times published an article on village tourism in India – “Villagers in India Open Their Homes“. Author of this article stayed for three days at a small village called Samthar near Darjeeling, the tea hills of West Bengal.

This is distinct from staying a night at a village as part of an adventure trip. In this case the principal activity for guests at village homestays is observing and joining in the humdrum rhythms of village life. While a local government official was quoted saying that one has to stay for at least 3 months to enjoy and understand the villages, 3 days is a small beginning.

A small beginning to what? That is what I am pondering over.

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Written by Som

March 11, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Winter camping in a desert park

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Bow Willow Campsite at Anza-Borrego

Bow Willow Campsite at Anza-Borrego

It is raining cats and dogs today. Winters of Northern California typically bring cold rain and dark cloud covered skies. Good for water table but not good for the soul. My thoughts turn to Anza-Borrego desert state park, the largest of California’s state parks and a perfect escape from rain drenched winters. A couple of winters ago, we camped at the Bow Willow campgrounds. We are intermediate campers – we can do without the comfort of hot showers for a day or two but do need a chemical toilet. Bow Will was perfect – clear skies, not too cold, no bugs, hiking trails nearby.

I still remember that for dinner we had Trader Joe’s Lentil Rice Biryani heated on our camp stoves. Last night we had Chicken Biryani Dum Pukht style and while my Biryani is infinitely better on a culinary scale, there is something special about campside food. Is it the appetite built up from all day hiking, the fresh air enhancing the aroma of food, the effort of getting dinner ready in an unfamiliar setting, or sitting down for dinner without the TV?

Written by Som

March 3, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Vegas, gateway to getaway

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Chihuly exhibit at Bellagio

Chihuly exhibit at Bellagio

I live in San Francisco and Vegas is my favorite gateway to a getaway. I like Vegas – it is hard to not be amused by this crazy city. But what I love lies within 4-6 hours driving distance from Vegas. So … I get into Vegas, enjoy a night of neon excess and then I get out.

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Gates to nowhere in a sinking city

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Alviso Marina

Alviso Marina

I am talking of Alviso, the little town that can be approached at from Hwy 237, at the southernmost edge of the San Francisco Bay. It had a glorious past and was all set to become an town of utmost importance. But that didn’t happen – train tracks were built to bypass the town. The building of Bayside Cannery – one of the top 5 canneries in US in its heyday –  is still standing with murals depicting Alviso’s past and present.

With views as glorious and a neighborhood as quiet, you would think that the real estate prices would be skyrocketing. But Alviso is sinking, little by little. So, it has become a forgotten neighborhood where Bay Area locals come to get a glimpse of the past and enjoy the marshes.  Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge leads tours of the Alviso marshes to explain this area’s ecology. They also have events like “Beginning Birdwatching” or “Beginning Bird Photography”.

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What keeps me going back to Death Valley

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Storm approaching salt flats of Death Valley

Rain approaching salt flats of Death Valley

What a beautiful, serene, solitary desert this one is. It is also the driest, hottest and largest national park. People have indeed died here although not in recent years.

My first trip to Death Valley was on a Thanksgiving weekend. We had started from Bay Area a little after ten. Nearly 12 hours later, we drove into Stovepipe Wells Village. They had given our room away. We had called at least twice that evening to let them know we would be arriving late!

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McLeodganj, Little Tibet of India

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Street of McLeodganj

Street of McLeodganj

McLeodganj, or upper Dharamsala is a bustling town, a well-known vacation spot, in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. Since the 14th Dalai Lama sought refuge in this town after the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959, it has seen a steady influx of Tibetan refugees. Now, the Tibetan population perhaps outnumbers the locals.

The Tibetan Government in Exile, which operates from here, has set up various facilities for the refugees. There is an old peoples’ home, a dormitory for fresh arrivals and a large setup of ‘homes’ and ‘school’ for children. A large number of Tibetans send their children across to McLeodganj with groups of refugees to ensure that they receive good education and get to study Tibetan culture. Many of these children never see their parents again. Some are scared to make phone calls to them back in Tibet and gradually lose touch with them.

McLeodganj, partly because of the popularity of the Tibetan cause in the West and partly because of its serene surroundings has always been a backpacker ghetto. The pressure on the resources of this small town is increasing and one sees more vehicles than people walking the streets these days. As far as tourism is considered, McLeodganj is a well-appointed town. One can find hotels of all ranges and most facilities that one hopes for in a town like that, like good Internet cafes (with broadband lines), fairly worthy restaurants and even a discotheque.

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Hello…Want to see a dead body?

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We had just stepped off the rickshaw when a young boy selling charms approached us. He was too young to have a street-smart swagger and walked towards us with the timidity of someone new to the job. A smile eased his hesitation and he stepped closer. ‘Hello…Want to see dead body?’ he said, grinning ingratiatingly. Casual and breezy…

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Not on the map, part IV, Abhaneri – 8th century stepwell

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Stepwell with its emareld green pool

Stepwell with its emerald green pool

On our Delhi-Jaipur road trip, we had spent the night before at Sariska and started the day’s adventures with Bhangarh, the 17th century ghost town. Now we were on our way to Abhaneri, the site of 8th century stepwell.

It was afternoon and we were quite thirsty. At Bhangarh, couple of village women were serving water the old fashioned way – using a long handled copper pitcher out of a bucket, presumably the water was drawn from a nearby well. We had dared not drink it. We had run out of water and hadn’t found bottled water on these off-the-map roads. We stopped for tea at a local temple. I don’t recall much except a large cauldron of bubbling milky tea and a hyperactive group of adorable little baby monkeys. After nearly twenty five years, I had tea out of an earthen cup.

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Not on the map, part III, Bhangarh – a ghost town

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On our way from Sariska to Bhangarh

On our way from Sariska to Bhangarh

On our Delhi-Jaipur road trip, we had spent the night in Sariska and were on our way to Bhangarh that morning, a 17th century ghost town.

Our road was narrow and unpaved. A landscape of spring time fields full of fresh green shoots, village women in their bright chunris, wrinkly old men herding goats, buffaloes and children bathing at the same water hole, blue sky above, and georgette like veil of clouds. Dotting this landscape were ruins of old forts and chattaris, cenotaphs and occasionally, ads for mobile phones.

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Not on the map – part II, Sariska

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Tigerless tiger sanctuary

We had left for a Delhi-Jaipur road trip that morning. By the time we reached Sariska, it was already evening. I had spent my childhood in a town called Alwar, a small town then, not very far from Sariska. My memory of Aravali range were these undulating hills that sparkled in the noon sun due to the presence of trace amounts of mica. That evening, the Aravali hills surrounding Sariska had looked a dull greyish-brown in the setting sun.

Although the tigers at this tiger sanctuary are now all dead or departed, many wild animal species such as leopards, hyenas, jackals, spotted deer (cheetal), wild boars, sambars and four-horned deer are still there. A casual visitor these days is likely to see only monkeys. We didn’t encounter any that evening.

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Written by Som

July 1, 2008 at 5:59 am

Not on the map, Part I – Getting out

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Sharing the road

Sharing the road

Last spring, after poring over several weekend getaway guides, we decided to go on a Delhi-Jaipur road trip via Sariska, a tiger sanctuary, Bhangarh, a ghost town, and Abhaneri, site of a 8th century stepwell.

It is always hard to find good maps, even in Delhi. We had to go all the way to Rajasthan Tourism Center in Connaught place to find a map of the state. And when we finally found it, we couldn’t locate either Bhangarh or Abhaneri on it. We didn’t let that deter us. All of us had traveled to remote places in India without maps. Besides, the distance between Delhi and Jaipur is only 250 kms, so even if we got lost, we would only be half a day away from home!

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Written by Som

July 1, 2008 at 1:44 am