Balinese Beats

You know that feeling when you first fall in love where all you can think about is that one person? Well that perfectly describes my relationship with Bali. Before I even set foot on this island, I knew I was going to love every second there. The best part about Bali is that it truly has something for everyone.

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I am a DJ and a big part of my musical inspiration comes from travelling a lot. I find inspiration in every new face, in every rock, in every wave, in every grain of sand. The more variety I take in, the better my music becomes.

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One of the places that held the most personal significance, during my one week trip to Bali, was Tampak Siring. Tirta Empul is a water temple complex and holy mountain spring near the town of Tampak Siring. The spring feeds various purification baths, pools and fish ponds surrounding the outer perimeter, which all flow to the Tukad Pakerisan River. I walked in with a mountain of things weighing me down but left with a light heart and an open mind.

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Another turning point for me was the Full Moon Party that I was a part of. Never before have I experienced such a pure flow of music. Many people I’ve met, look at DJing as a pre-planned set and something that has to fit in a certain box. But Bali taught me more about freedom than I have ever learnt before. Music is a creative expression of freedom and cannot be boxed in, just like a free spirit. The more you learn to let go and go with the flow, the more beautiful and meaningful your sets become. The most important part of a DJ is not their head or their hands but their heart. You have to truly feel every single beat and then, magically, you will find that you can mix anything together and create a seamless set.

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Considering I travel a lot and my motto is to always experience new cities and new landscapes, I have to admit…Bali you stole my heart and I will be back for sure.

Waves and Visions

My love affair with the beach started from as way back as I can remember. When I close my eyes, I fondly recall family outings where we would all go to the beach and everything that worried us would just melt away as the smell of salt in the air filled our nostrils. It was almost like being hypnotised into being instantly happy.

beachIt’s no wonder then, that as an adult, the beach is my favourite retreat. It’s ironic that I live in a desert but it is the water here that makes me the most happy. I can vividly recall the first time I set foot on the beach in Dubai. Everyone else was excited to see the iconic Burj Al Arab in the distance but for me I just jumped through the waves like an excited dolphin.

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The ocean reflects my essence – beautiful, mysterious, wild and free and that’s why I enjoy solo travel with the ocean as my companion. Thailand holds some beautiful memories because I finally shed all my inhibitions and tried Scuba Diving in Phuket recently. I can still feel my palms turning cold as I struggled to put on my scuba diving gear. As I gripped the mouthpiece and let go of all my fear I never felt more free in my life!

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As the water surrounded me from all directions, I entered a parallel universe where my senses were overwhelmed by the underwater beauty! I reached out and gently touched the underwater plants and rocks as a school of brightly coloured fish swam by me like I was a part of their natural habitat. That feeling of being one with nature is something I will never forget.

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My next water adventure was in Ibiza where I finally worked up the courage to try fly-boarding. I had seen a couple of people try it in Dubai but didn’t even know what it was called. In Ibiza, it called out to me and I answered that call by facing my fear head on. The feeling of the water surging under you and propelling you higher and higher is unforgettable. It reminded me of this game I used to play as a kid, called Dangerous Dave, where the hero had a jetpack.

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Every time I visit the ocean, I learn something new. Sometimes it is a simple lesson and sometimes it is a profound one. The one quote that stirs within me every time I hear crashing waves is this one: The strongest waves crash at the coast and go back to the sea and reform all over again…stronger.

New Year’s Travel Resolutions

Travelling gets the adrenaline pumping through your veins like nothing else can. Sometimes it’s exactly what you need to break the monotony. Sometimes it’s just what you need to feel alive.

tblisi.pngSo this year, instead of making resolutions about losing weight or making piles of money, why don’t you make some travel resolutions? Step out of your comfort zone, save up for that trip you have had your heart set on for years. Stop making excuses about why you can’t go and instead just pack your bags and go where your heart leads you.
nyIt might be a short trip in the same country that you live in or it might be a life changing decision like quitting your job to go globe trotting like This Guy On His Own Trip.

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Take the plunge before you get a chance to second guess yourself. I promise you that you won’t regret it! I have done it myself. I have travelled to Georgia without having a penny in my pocket thanks to a friend who gifted me an adventure when all I had was a dream.

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I have also travelled to Thailand on my first solo trip, without any hotel reservations and without doing loads of research and enjoyed myself thoroughly just going by the recommendations of the locals. I made it…not once or twice but every single time and so can you.

thailand.jpgIf your travel dreams are backed by enough fire you will find your oasis even in the middle of any desert! Happy New Year fellow travellers!
Road Trip UAE | lifeisanopenroad

Dune Bashing at Fossil Rock

Life in Dubai is all about living in the fast lane but if you want to try something different you can always leave the city behind and go dune bashing!

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If you live in Dubai, one of the closest spots is Fossil Rock (also known as Jebel Maleihah), which has something for everyone. The beauty of this point, is that you can see fossils of shells and small creatures that once lived in the ocean here.

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For beginners, you can try an easy trail and follow the main power lines so you don’t get lost. Don’t forget to let out some of the air in your tyres before heading onto the sand (14-16 PSI is recommended). And don’t try this alone, especially if you are doing it for the first time, otherwise you might end up spending more time than you expected in the desert.

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Once you are comfortable with the basics, you can be more adventurous and try some gravity defying moves. This is where the fun actually begins! It’s best to try this in a mixed group of beginners and professionals as you can learn a lot of tricks from people who know the dunes like the back of their hand!

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After your adrenaline craving has been satisfied you can always stop for a picnic and enjoy the breathtaking view! Or even pitch a tent and stay the night.

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The greatest part about setting off on a dune bashing trip is that it is the best way to bond with your friends and make some new ones as well.

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The friends you find in the desert are not always of the human variety but they are equally friendly!

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Once you have tried Fossil Rock and the nearby Camel Rock, you can drive to Big Red, where you can rent a quad bike to ride the dunes (for around AED 250 an hour), before making your way back to Dubai. If you are planning a dune bashing trip and need a guide, email me in advance and I can help you plan your trip. Don’t forget…what is life but one big adventure!

Wine Tasting In Georgia

I was born a traveller. When I was a child, my parents made sure that I fell in love with the outdoors. From Cubbon Park to Bannerghatta National Park to Nagerhole National Park, they took me everywhere. They made me fall in love with trees, rivers, animals and open spaces. My favourite toys came directly from nature as well. I learnt how to make witches claws from Jacranda buds, to make hard balls to play cricket by crushing certain local fruits, to dance in the rain, to let hail stones melt on my tongue, finger paint with vegetables and so many other things that fed my fascination for the wild.

Memories of Georgia | life is an open road

It’s no wonder then that I grew up to be somebody who wanted to travel the world and live in new places just to see nature’s different faces, in different countries. The first exciting international trip I went on was to Tblisi, the capital of Georgia. It was love at first sight when I landed there. Here are a few of my favourite memories from that trip. First up, wine tasting in Georgia, the birthplace of wine!

Memories of Georgia | life is an open road
Georgia is famous for its vineyards and has a wide variety of wine to suit everybody’s taste-buds! I was able to enjoy my first wine tasting experience in this gorgeous country. Wine production began here over 8000 years ago! Some of the regions that produce exceptional wine are Kakheti, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi, Kvemo Svaneti and Abkhazia.

Wine Tasting In Georgia | life is an open road

The experience of wine tasting is not just a treat for your taste-buds but a visual feast as well! Since Georgians began making wine 80 centuries ago, wine vessels of every shape, size and design are a crucial part of Georgian pottery. Take a look at some of the exquisite wine bottles, bowls and pouches I saw there.

Wine Tasting In Georgia | life is an open road

The most common vessel you will see is the Kvevri which is a large earthenware vessel with a coating of beeswax on the inside that is used to ferment grape juice and to store wine. Even if you don’t drink wine, these beautiful, hand-crafted pieces make excellent gifts! If you are a little more adventurous though, you might want to taste wine for the first time in Georgia since nearly 400 different types of grapes grow here! In another post, I’ll let you in on a secret – the most beautiful place to eat at in Georgia. A restaurant that has a waterfall, a river passing by it and grape vines that form a cozy canopy overhead!

Wine Tasting In Georgia | life is an open roadPhoto Credit: Carel Bosman

Heart of a Gypsy

As we get older, we all start measuring how far we have got, how much we have achieved, how many things we have struck off our bucket list. Most of my dreams are travel related. Very little of what I want out of life is measured in terms of monetary milestones. I will always be a gypsy at heart.

A whole new world |lifeisanopenroad

I was born and brought up in Bangalore and spent more than 20 years there. As soon as I graduated, I left the nest and shifted to New Delhi where I was a television journalist with CNN-IBN for 5 years. While I was based in Delhi, I travelled extensively across India covering Goa, Kerala, Rishikesh, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mussourie, Nainatal, Shimla, McLeod Ganj, Chandigarh, Gujarat and a ton of other fascinating locations.

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Anyone else would think that after landing such a great job why quit right? But the gypsy in me was crying out for change. So I packed my bags and moved to Dubai. Finding a job in Dubai is no easy task. Luckily for me, it all worked out smoothly and before I knew it, I was on a plane heading to a new country with just two suitcases containing all my belongings. It was the most exciting moment  yet my heart was in my mouth as I did not know what the future held in store for me.

Divya Gojer |lifeisanopenroad

Since I wanted to try something different, I looked around for where I could best use the skills I had honed at CNN-IBN. I got into Social Media which is an industry that is booming at present and there has been no looking back after that. I love what I do and am always looking for new ways to challenge myself. What’s next? I’m not sure as yet but for now, I am loving this experience and want to make the most of it. Live your dreams out they say. I certainly am doing just that!

Krysalis: Awaken Your Inner Beauty

Anybody who knows me, knows that I love to travel. Through all my adventures, I have realised that some special journeys don’t involve physically moving from one place to another but involve a journey within yourself.  When I was little, I remember trailing along behind my mother to the beauty salon and being fascinated by all the things that happened there.  To a kid, what happened in there was almost magical. I would walk in, clutching the hand of my tired mother and watch her undergo a marvelous transformation. As the staff in the salon started working on her, I would watch the stress just melt away.  She would forget all her worries and a smile would spread across her face and wrap her in a cloak of warmth and positive energy.

Krysalis Salon | lifeisanopenroad

I have always been quite a tom boy but as the years rolled by, I have enjoyed my fair share of visits to the salon. I would rush in, do whatever I had to do and rush out. I never had the time to waste at a salon, I had better things to do. All that changed the day I stepped into Krysalis. I fell in love with it instantly. It was not just the look of the place that grabbed my attention but the warmth that filled the entire salon.

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I have watched not just one or two but dozens of people I know undergo massive transformations at Krysalis.

Krysalis Salon | lifeisanopenroad

People step in, dragging their feet, tired because of what life has thrown their way but after a few hours at Krysalis, I have seen the same people walk out with a bounce in their step.

Krysalis Salon | lifeisanopenroad

So what is so different about this salon? Honestly all I can say is that they are specialists at awakening inner beauty. At every other salon I have visited, you are just another customer, another source of business but at Krysalis, they believe in investing in people’s lives. So if you live in the UAE, drop by if you want to undergo a metamorphosis and feel renewed from within. What better way to celebrate the New Year than to get a completely new look?

Krysalis Salon | lifeisanopenroad

Camping At Um Al Quwain

It is very easy to get absorbed in city life and forget about the beautiful outdoors. It is even easier to drown in a sea of skyscrapers if you live in Dubai. That is why I always surround myself with friends who love to travel and appreciate nature. That way I stay connected to what I love the most. It is the secret to how I manage to constantly dream up new adventures!

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As the Eid break fast approached, my friends all made plans to leave the country. Unfortunately, I could not leave the UAE as I was required to stay connected to office work. But I found a way around that as I was meandering through Dubai Mall. As I wandered through the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, staring at the exotic marine life on display, a plan began to form in my mind!

Dubai Mall Marine Life| life is an open roadI quickly called up a few close friends and we made a plan. We decided to go camping in Um Al Quwain. The plan involved leaving Dubai by 6pm but we eventually headed out only by 10:30pm. Nothing was going to stop us! We headed out in our trusty Pathfinder and reached Um Al Quwain by midnight. The weather was heavenly and we quickly set up our tent. The smell of barbecued meat slowly began to fill the air and I could not tear my eyes away from the grill. I took up the role of BBQ Assistant, just so I could snatch the first piece of meat that came off the grill. A few hours later, once our tummies were full, we grabbed spears and walked along the shoreline looking for crabs. We shone our torches into every little crevice and spent a long time perfecting the art of crabbing. Finally, our bag began to fill up. None of the crabs were as gigantic as the ones I had seen at the Dubai Mall Aquarium but they were certainly large enough to eat!

Spider Crab at Dubai Mall | life is an open road

Once our bag was full, we headed back to the tent and exchanged our spears for fishing gear. As we made our way out along the rocks, I slipped and injured myself. I decided to rest for a bit and was rewarded with a huge catch when I woke up. I had missed out on learning how to fish but still had quite an adventure in Um Al Quwain. Our new tent had been inaugurated and had also helped transport half the sand from Um Al Quwain to our apartment. A good reminder of a wonderful holiday!

Beach at Um Al Quwain | life is an open road

Would You Let a Stranger Stay in Your House?

I have a friend who is always travelling and sharing her experiences with me. The other day she brought up the word ‘couchsurfing‘. “What is that?”, I immediately asked. She went on to tell me all about couchsurfing and how it is the best way to travel to new places and get a taste of the local flavour. So I signed up on couchsurfing.org and began to look for travellers who needed a host in Dubai. Much to my delight, hardly half an hour later, I found the perfect pair to host, a Chinese student and his aunt. Twenty four hours later, Xiong and his aunt arrived at my doorstep. The first thing that struck me was that his aunt was a very brave and adventurous person. At the age of fifty, she was trying couchsurfing for the first time! She did not speak a single word of English but still managed to communicate through her eyes and a few hand gestures! Once they’d freshened up, we all head out. Our first stop was Dubai’s world renowned Spice Souk.

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Despite the blazing summer heat, we took the metro to Al Ras station, and headed towards the Spice Souk on foot. Most tourists come to Dubai to troll the malls and find the best deals, but this was a different experience altogether! We absorbed the sights and sounds around us, like thirsty adventurers finding an oasis in the middle of a barren desert, after days of travelling on foot. The explosion of colours and aromas flooded our senses!

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Being from India, I have seen my fair share of eye-popping colours and textures but nothing prepared me for this experience. The first thing that caught my attention was a tub of bright red beans, that reminded me of the ladybirds that fascinated us as children. My little sister and I used to let them crawl on our arms, until they finally flew away.

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From lavender to cinnamon sticks the size of small tree trunks, from fresh henna to colour your hair red to the old fashioned surma that is used to darken the rims of your eyes, from rose water to freshen your face after a long day at the office to tubs overflowing with a ton of different spices, the Spice Souk had something to fascinate everyone! I gifted my Chinese guests a bottle of Rose Water and they loved it!

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Once we were done feasting our eyes and noses on the pleasures that the Spice Souk had to offer, we headed to the Gold Souk which is just a few minutes away from the Spice Souk. We gaped with open mouths at the jewellery on display that ranged from pearls, to gold, to silver, to precious stones I have only read about but never seen! This area is always packed with people, due to the high quality of Dubai gold and the comparatively lower Dubai gold rate.

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When we were done meandering through the Gold Souk, we discovered Irani Faloodas (a delicious, chilled dessert) that completely recharged us. We then got into an Abra (traditional boat) for a ride across the Dubai Creek. It was a welcome treat to feel the cool breeze on our faces and take in the beauty of the colorful waterfront at night.

Couchsurfing for the first time| life is an open road

Later the same night, we headed to the Jumeirah Open Beach to cool off. It was here that Xiong revealed his philosophical side: “Try this. Just float on your back and watch the stars. The sea will drown out all other sounds and you will enjoy being in a world of your own.” Living in a fast-paced city like Dubai, this was precious advice and even better when put into practice!

Couchsurfing for the first time| life is an open road

Although it was my first experience hosting couchsurfers, I truly believe couchsurfing is a great way to connect, make new friends and travel. You should try it too, sometime! Just visit couchsurfing.org to sign up!

The Land of the Rishis

If you ever visit India, one place you absolutely must visit is Rishikesh, the land of the rishis. This place is all about unwinding, getting away from the hassles of day-to-day life and connecting with yourself on a different level. Sounds trippy? It is! Instead of just visiting the busy section of this little town, that is packed with tourists, you should visit one of the private beaches close to Rishikesh.

Rishikesh White Water Rafting |lifeisanopenroad

The best place to go to is a small village called Byasi, which is barely half an hour away from the main town of Rishikesh. I had just started working at CNN-IBN when the travel bug bit hard. I was earning just Rs 15,000 but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from travelling. Inspiration struck at 9pm, so after a quick call to a friend who travels a lot, I packed my bags and headed to New Delhi’s Inter-State Bus Terminus. My mom freaked out, but was used to my random travel plans, so she did not say too much. I got on a bus to Rishikesh and travelled for a few hours, during which I dozed off, with my head swaying back and forth as the bus jerked towards its destination. The bus came to a grinding halt at 4am in Rishikesh, 6 hours later, and I blinked the sleep out of my eyes. I stepped out and looked around. I had no idea which way I was supposed to go, so I asked my bus driver who kindly pointed towards a smaller bus nearby. “Aap aadhe ghante mein pahunchjaoge madam”, he said (you will reach in half an hour madam).

Rishikesh White Water Rafting |lifeisanopenroad

This time I kept my eyes wide open and looked for a signboard saying Beach Number 18 (Camp RapidFire), except it was pitch black outside. I couldn’t see a thing. Tree branches scraped the roof of the bus as we rattled along the narrow, hilly road. My heart was in my mouth as the minutes slipped by. This was a really crazy idea! Finally when I was about to give up hope, I saw a lantern burning in the distance. The stick figure holding it up was waving it back and forth so that anybody passing by would see it. The light from the lantern painted a bright smile on my face as I jumped out of the bus.

Rishikesh White Water Rafting |lifeisanopenroad

My guide led me down a mud path to a pristine, white, sandy beach. I threw my bag down and lay down in the sand. I was finally there! The sand felt cool beneath me and the moon hung in the sky just like the lantern had delicately balanced in my guide’s hands. This was a camp meant for rafting, trekking, jeep safaris, wildlife, angling, expeditions and a ton of other adventure sports. No electricity and no network on your phone was more of a relief than a sacrifice to pay for these treats.

Rishikesh White Water Rafting |lifeisanopenroad

I lay on the beach till I saw the sun slowly crawl out of the river and into the sky. I heard a voice calling out to me and followed it into a large tent. My guide had steaming hot breakfast heaped on a plate which he gently pushed into my hands. “Kha lo madam. Bahuth acha hai”, he said with a smile (Eat it madam. It is very good!). I wolfed down my food and went for a long trek in the nearby woods. It was the most exhilirating experience! Just me and my thoughts for company. I came back to camp an hour later and had just plonked myself down in a comfy wicker chair when my guide came up to me and asked if I was ready for the rapids. My thighs felt like jelly but the moment I heard the word ‘rapids’, I jumped up.

Rishikesh White Water Rafting |lifeisanopenroad

You can read about adventure sports, check out the best pictures and videos but nothing comes close to actually experiencing it! After pulling on a lifejacket and listening to a few, simple instructions I was ready for the adventure of a lifetime. I hopped into the raft and tightened my helmet strap. We pushed off and started our adventure on the Ganges. We experienced the thrills of big rapids like Daniel’s Dip, The Wall, Three Blind Mice, Crossfire, Roller Coaster, Golf Course and lots of smaller ones too. The adrenaline was pumping through me when my guide turned to me and asked, “Aapko body surfing try karna hai kya?”(Do you want to try body surfing?).

Rishikesh White Water Rafting |lifeisanopenroad

That was the last human voice I heard for the next hour. I jumped into the river and was pushed along by it. It was frightening but exciting at the same time. It felt like wrestling with the mighty Ganges, despite knowing I would never win. I finally stopped trying to fight it and just let my body go limp. That is when I began to enjoy it the most! I scrambled back into the raft exhausted but thrilled. We  moved further down the river before it was time to stop for a break.

Rishikesh White Water Rafting |lifeisanopenroad

Break? You don’t get breaks when you are looking for adventure. We had stopped near a small cliff where only the bravest souls ventured up and then hurled themselves into the white foam below. I went half way up and made the mistake of looking down. There was no way I could do this! But then I had come all the way here and I was not going to go back home feeling like a coward. I ran up the rest of the way and without looking down I jumped. I am so happy I did! It is the best experience ever! You should try it too sometime!  If adventure is what you want, Byasi is one destination that should definitely be on your travel itinerary!

Rishikesh White Water Rafting |lifeisanopenroad

(If you ever land up in Rishikesh and are looking for adventure, a good place to start looking for info is questrails.com)