Busting the ‘Nothing to do in Oslo’ myth

Travelling means different things often. Some travel for a holiday, others like us to discover the world. What is the difference you wonder? Well, travelling for a holiday often means a lovely relaxed break at a luxurious spa or resort in a scenic location. Travelling to discover the world? Well, that means lugging backpacks, hunting for bargains for rooms, tickets and even the best ways to move around. That often means that you get back home, in need to soak your feet, pamper your skin and with a backpack of clothes to wash…but what makes it worth it is the memories that you come back with. New places, new discoveries and most importantly…people and seeing their countries to their eyes. Following their suggestions, discovering the local quirks and secrets and concluding that this world is not as bad as the politics that sour it. It is true that most European capitals begin to resemble each other, differing just a tad bit in grandeur and scale. But that should be no reason to feel been there..done that now, should it?

So here we are in Oslo…braced for a boring city, as reiterated by several friends who have been here before and surprisingly, guide books too. Friendly tip 1: Ditch pre-c0nceived notions. Take all the advice on where to travel and how to travel till you actually begin the journey.

Once the travels begin, let yourself be surprised and overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Don’t let someone else’s experience be your guiding bible.

We crossed over from Copenhagen to Oslo in a cruiseliner. Woke up to a sunny but slightly nippy day and clambered to the topmost deck to experience the scenic crossing of the Oslofjord into the bustling city.

wp-image-1938294226jpeg.jpg

Highly recommended, but remember to carry Norwegian currency. The last point that they accept Danish Kroners are on the cruiseliner. That said the city centre, Jerbanetorget, is not too far away. You can find money exchanges there. Friendly tip 2: You are better off without paper currency. Use the card, pay online. If you are from countries where you need to convert your currency first into USD, GBP or the Euros, perish the thought.

Oslo is a relatively small, cosy city. Walk around. If you have a couple of days, grab the Oslo pass. It gives you access to museums and various modes of public transport including the train, tram and the buses. But look hard at what you want to do in Oslo and select your pass accordingly. Most museums in the Oslo city are shut on Mondays. And on Thursdays, entry to their lovely National museum is free. ( Thank me later!)

What were my absolute favourites:

  1. Walking around on a bright and sunny day along the main tree-lined Karl Johann’s gate and realising several of Oslo’s landmarks are on that very road!
  2. Sitting on a bench, eavesdropping on the conversations of elderly Afghani men trying to follow snatches of their conversations while the Oslo Jazz Festival played in the background. wp-image-1695615096jpg.jpg
  3. Sipping a glass of Claude de Val Blanc in a restaurant set in the oldest house in Christiania – the town built by Christian IV. Oslo was known as Christiania up till the early 20th century, the Norwegian king Haakon secured Norway as a separate kingdom from Sweden.
  4. Watching the Oslo harbour from atop the Akershus Festning. Take a book and grab a bench and just spend a couple of hours dividing your time between reading and staring at the blue blue seas and skies
  5. The ferry trip to Bygdoy – the museum island to take in the Viking museum, Kon-tiki museum and Maritime museum.
  6. Trudging through one of the biggest and prettiest cemeteries and nearly getting lost there, while on our way to the Vigeland Sculpture Park. The sculpture park was a sight to behold and to think, one sculptor sculpted and designed the mammoth park. wp-image-782475138jpg.jpg 
  7. Some quiet time spent wandering through the Nobel Peace Center and the powerful messages of peace and reconciliation.
  8. I haven’t even got to the Munchmuseet – that hosts the second largest collection of Edvard Munch’s paintings after the Oslo National Museum. It is tiny and while we were there, I discovered the work of Jasper Johns. wp-image-1788179780jpg.jpg
  9. Ohhh..and our Air B&B hosts, William and Sofie who opened their home to us. They gave us a peek into the lives of the Norwegian. (Sofia is Swedish, but William believes Norwegians are the most adaptable of the Scandinavians!)
  10. Ohhh and talking about people, a big shout out to Gert too ( we talked for over 5 hours but never asked him his surname!) Gert, the retired electrician who was our co-traveller on our Oslo-Bergen train journey, pulled out all the reserves of his limited English vocabulary to tell us about Norway and its people. Final friendly tip: If anyone tells you that Norwegians are neither as friendly as the Danes or social, tell them that’s because you did not smile and say hello. Everyone acknowledges a friendly gesture..even the shy Norwegians!!

So next time someone says nothing much to do in Oslo…refer them to this post!!

(For more photos, check out our Instagram feed: travel kathas) 

Tak tak,

D

Advertisements

Luck favours the adventurous in the land of the fjords

Sometimes you luck in…and how.

N and I love to plan our travel itineraries. We spend a fair amount of time on research..we like travelling on a budget and splurging occasionally on fine experiences along the way.

So while planning our trip through Norway, we began by being certain only of one thing..seeing the fjords. You can’t come to Norway and not see the fjords…duhhh.. To get to the fjords, we realised Bergen is a great place to start. And then our research threw up Flam. 

However, August, the time we had chosen seemed to be when everyone was heading here. We spent a fair bit of time researching AirBnBs to find ones in our budget, but Flam was a no-go. No hotels available for our dates, even if we were to considerably loosen our purse strings.

And then we chanced upon regions near Flam..a ferry ride away we read first…across a fjord branch was Aurland..the Aurlandfjord is a branch of the much bigger and one of the most majestic fjords in the region, the Sognefjord. 

We landed in Flam by the Flamsbana train that weaves its way from Myrdal down a spectacular mountainous rail route and gushing waterfalls, valleys and ravines. And the instructions from our host was to catch a bus, a specific one at that which would drop us on the doorsteps of the apartment we booked for the day. 

Till the moment, we got here..we had no clue how we had lucked in! The place couldn’t be more scenic…with mountains on all sides and the gushing waters from waterfalls nearby the only sound for the most part. We lucked in with the weather too- bright and sunny and welcoming. And imagine spotting a double rainbow!!

We used the spare bikes that were available to bike around by the fjord. I was happier to sit and sun myself while N pedalled further. 

Guides and guidebooks don’t do justice to these fjordlands. We highly recommend that you head to one of the fjords..any one that you blindly narrow down on the map..choose a little place, rent a room for a few days and pitch yourselves here.

Breathe the mountain air..cycle up a path or two or trek along these paths…drink a beer and fire up a barbeque…

Do try some local brown cheese and see if it grows on you (its sweetish and tastes fudgy caramelly almost) and walk around the local shops..some do really fine work (your wallet will definitely be lighter but it might just be worth it!) 

If none of these are your idea of good times…just sit around till the sun finally sets around 11pm in the night. 

And tick another place off your bucket list…The Northern Lights is still a biggie on my travel list and Norway, I promise to be back for that. 

Till then, oh lovely fjordlands…stay pristine and virgin and please don’t give in to the demand by cruise lines and big hotel chains to add more shacks and hotels. Stay small, stay beautiful. 

Five travel tips for Scandinavia

We are currently travelling through Denmark and Norway. And we thought no better time like now to share a few travel tips with those planning to head here soon: 

1. Check the weather and pack wisely: The best thing that we brought with us was a windcheater and raincoat. If you thought the English weather was the most temperamental, you ain’t seen anything of the Danish summer yet! 

2. Avoid eating in restaurants at the city centre: This is a lesson to internalise. The restaurants in the beautiful squares of Europe’s oldest cities look grand and straight out of movie sets and…most importantly full of people (a sign to you that food must be good!). Chances are they are suckers like you…tired and in need of food and a place to catch their breath and wifi. These restaurants are in prime tourist real estate..so the food is likely to be doubly expensive and more often than not, not even worth the price you shell out. Don’t always go by the look and location!

(This Norwegian national cake served in a restaurant that advertises it as a must try on its board, was stale and masked in double cream. We paid 99NOK for this because this restaurant was on the main thoroughfare Karl Johann’s gate in Oslo)

3. Listen carefully to local advice: Whenever you can, strike up conversations with locals. If you are staying at Air BnBs, ensure your host gives you his take on where to go and what to do. It helps you avoid the ‘tourist traps’ and see the lesser known nooks and crannies of the city. It also helps you avoid the restaurants mentioned in 2. That said, use your discretion too.  N was happy to give ‘The Little Mermaid’ a miss after seeing every Dane we spoke to gag at the mention of their most iconic statue. We walked along the harbour front for quite a while before we chanced upon it and that too due to the crowds around it. I, on the other hand, had always wanted to see this, so I loved photographing her. (The beautiful sunny day that it became after drenching us thoroughly helped too!)

4. Double-check your itinerary and hotels: If you, like us build your own itineraries then spend some time planning whether you would need to look for places closer to the city centre or the airport or the train station. Double check accessibility and the options of transportation. Walking up a hill with a 15kg backpack in rain has the potential to drive a deep wedge between travel partners. And the gods save you if you are already married to each other! Moreover, since accommodation is very expensive across the region, you will have to do some clever juggling with your options.

5. Always try and make time for a Free Walking Tour: Most cities in Europe now have free walking tours. This means you can pay what you can afford and only if you really liked the tour. You decide what the price of the tour you got is. More often than not, you get to see the city with a local and they will take you by foot through paths you’d otherwise never explore and share their city with you. 

Some other travel tips are universal but it never hurts to hear them again: Don’t always hunt for your local food in someone else’s city. Try theirs, learn to appreciate, offer a please and a thank you. And a smile. Don’t constantly whip out your currency converter. That is a sure fire way to a permanent heartburn while in Scandinavia. And my final tip: if you’d like some advice or are lost but are loathe to admit it, stand by the side of a road and focus hard on a local map on your phone or paper. Four times out of five, someone will walk up and volunteer help!!! This has been tested across various cities in Europe.

A friend in need in Oslo

Early this morning, the Pearl Seaways cruiseship docked in at Oslo. N and I were pretty keen to start the second leg of our Denmark-Norway trip. 

Since we got on to the ferry, N has been wondering about whether to convert our dollars into Norwegian Krones (NOK) or wait till we reach Oslo. In a sagely wife moment, I decided that wait made sense. The bureau de change exchange rate sucks, so N didn’t grumble much. Well, we could always exchange it after we disembark. Words that I did not realise would come to bite me in the back. 

We disembarked, finished the mandatory immigration check and uhhh…we were outside the terminal. To get to our Air BnB apartment, we had to get to the City Centre and then take another bus. A taxi driver assured me we could get tickets for the bus on the bus itself…but ahemmm..we had Danish kroners and dollars and euros and pound but no NOK! 

Bus no 60 draws up and the passengers board. I step up and hesitantly check- Can I buy two tickets please? 

Sure, he says. 

Can I please use my card or pay by Euro or Danish Kroner or dollar??? (Highly hopeful and laughable even to my ears)

No, Im sorry..I can only accept NOK

Uhhh…oh no..thank you anyways..we dont have any money. We’ll figure it out.

He looks and asks me in Urdu..where do you want to go?

N hops into the conversation and shows him the address and says but first we need to exchange money.

He smiles, tells us not to get off the bus..and gives us directions to the nearest currency exchange from the point, where he promised to drop us. And in the ten minutes that he took to drop us, I learnt about Mohammad Afzal, the bus driver from Gujarat, Pakistan. His story has been pieced together from the conversation that happened in Urdu as he drove:

He arrived here with his wife and kids..the youngest one was five then..from Gujarat in Pakistan. It wasn’t the easiest of moves he says. But we managed. Today, sixteen years later.. he is a Norwegian, his sons settled here too. And we bond over the Urdu saying…himmat-e-mardaan toh madad-e-khuda. (God helps the brave). 

There are about 20 members of his extended family here. There is a community. A good life built from literally nothing.

Do you like cricket, we ask. No Indian-Pakistani conversation can move forward without that mandatory question. No, he says. I like to walk, go to the mosque and then the rest of the time is spent working or with the family. I am.blessed with a good family he says. 

Does he go back to Pakistan? Yes, he says..once a year for sure..sometimes twice. His aged parents live there. Moreover like last year, when his daughter got married, he says half the plane was filled by his family members going home for the wedding!

This year though, his leave will be spent going on the Hajj with his wife. Its easier to get a permit from Norway unlike from Pakistan and India he says. 

And as he turned the bus towards the town centre, he points out to the currency exchange.. gives me a few tips on travelling in Oslo too.

As I thank him, I tell him how touched we are that he offered help. I take people to their destinations. You are my people. Im happy to help.

Mohammed Afzal from Gujarat in Pakistan considered N and me as one of his own. We speak the same languages, we have shared history but a political line now dictates our patriotism and allegiance.

But when politics is kept aside, the Mohammed Afzals of the world are the friends that lend you a helping hand when you could do with one.

Thank you travel gods for sending him our way this morning. He did us a good turn and someday we hope to do someone else a good turn. If there were more such favours traded, there would perhaps be a little less hate and more empathy for each other? 

And thank you, Mohammed Afzal of Oslo Ruter# Norway and Gujarat, Pakistan. Your good samaritan deed will remain a big debt of gratitude in this wo-mad’s heart!
Love,

D

Surviving the chaos in hilly Dharamsala

If you are the kind that scours the work calendar for long weekends to escape from the daily humdrum – away from the urban chaos, you also need to be the kind to plan it weeks (if not months) in advance. Or you’ll end up doing what we did!

Not that it is not fun, but like N says – there’s travel adventure/backpacking fun that you enjoy when you are in your 20s. You decide on a destination on sheer impulse, head to the nearest bus-station, wangle your seat and head off – reservations be damned, hotel bookings can wait till the destination is reached..and the return – well, let the journey begin before that? In your 30s, caution weighs over recklessness. Being in office Monday morning is as important as taking that quick holiday, travelling in comfort is essential and having all your bookings in place – that does mark the transition over travelling years.

12105906_10153015800280044_7337891648933710417_nSo we tried recapturing our younger selves – packed our backpack, took a Metro to Vidhan Sabha, a cycle rickshaw to Majnu Ka Tila and plunged into a sea of confused humanity of backpacks and tired office faces eager to escape the plains for the hills – just like us. We’d booked Volvo buses only to realise private operators are mostly an amorphous set of boards- they most likely have panchayats, where they decide how to fill seats on buses to optimise their operations. Tip 1, if you plan on a weekend away madness, choose government buses – most state governments run Volvo buses to tourist destinations. Brings me back to point in the intro para – plan it weeks in advance. The government buses get sold out really really fast! But the first view of the hills and the valleys through the large bus windows as the sun rises makes the overnight trip really worth it.

It also does not help that your weekend and the destination you chose also happens to be the time and place of  an international T20 match featuring India. So apart from the backpackers heading in the same directions as us, there were also horn-happy youngsters out in their swanky cars – the width of the bonnet just about the size of the width of the narrow mountain roads winding up from Dharamsala to McLeodgunj.

Friendly tip: While people say they are off to Dharamsala, what they don’t tell you is that they sp12107819_10153015800470044_120085182443405240_nent hardly any time in that town. Everyone drives up to McLeodgunj a few kilometres uphill. Yes, you can walk it up, but I’d suggest take a taxi and save your breath for the gorgeous panoramic views of the Kangra valley.
McLeodgunj is far more than just a hill station – it has political significance too, for it’s the seat of the Tibetan government in exile – a government trying to fight Chinese annexation of Tibet. Since the annexation in the 1940s, there has been amass exodus of ethnic Tibetans to escape persecution. When the Dalai Lama fled Tibet, India offered him asylum and several thousands of them settled in Dharamsala making it into a little Tibet. To understand the struggles that Tibetans went through, there is a Tibetan museum just by the Dalai Lama temple. So when you visit the temple, do spend an hour there. It is an on-going struggle for autonomy – a demand that China has refused to entertain, calling Tibet an inalienable part of its territory. Across McLeodgunj, you’ll come across posters seeking a boycott of Chinese goods to show solidarity with the Tibetan cause.
12107289_10153018620920044_6861516932402625779_nWe stayed in one of the hotels managed by the Norbulingka Institute- The Serkong House, so a visit to the Institute was part of the deal. There are daily shuttles from their two hotels in McLeodgunj to the Institute, which is in Dharamsala. Spending half a day in the institute is definitely recommended. It’s like a little haven, with the sounds of gurgling waters, chirping crickets, huge fish and abundant greenery, giving it a surreal feel. The Institute also trains local Tibetans in several ethnic arts and crafts, which are then sold through their shops. It’s fairly pricey on the Indian wallet, but all the proceeds go into preserving a culture in a home away from home. That perhaps makes the premium that you pay for owning their handmade artifacts worth it.  The guides say Norbu in Tibetan means precious and lingka refers to picnic. A precious picnic, for sure! While there, sit in the cafe, soaking some sunshine with a glass of ginger-lemon-honey tea in the winter. That’s all you’d perhaps want to do through the break.

wpid-20151004_114558-01.jpegMcLeodgunj was once an important British station – but today, you will hardly see any signs of it. A massive earthquake in 1905 not only killed several officers, soldiers and their families, but also reduced most colonial buildings to rubble. And the Raj decided to move their summer capital from Dharamsala to Shimla. This church, among the last straggling remnants of the days of the Raj is a must-visit. St.John in the Wilderness can look neglected if you try to visit it over a working week-day. But on Sunday, the church doors are opened for two services. And looking at the altar, the sun filtering in through stained glass decorations, you can’t but imagine how the services would have looked a century and a half ago, when families would have congregated in the Sunday best to reaffirm their faith and mingle. Don’t miss out on walking through the gravestones, some hidden by the spreading wilderness. Some ornate descriptive ones will tug at your heartstrings – young families wiped out within days of each other – you wonder if it was illness or an accident or perhaps even suicide? There’s one memorial you can’t miss. That of Lord Elgin, the second Viceroy of India, who spent his final months in Dharamsala and wanted to buried here.12144826_10153018620995044_1993878872900690071_n

Set aside the dark thoughts and in the time that you are in McLeodgunj, take as many walks as you can to admire the Kang12112461_10153015800380044_6123973573794063356_nra valley from different angles. You can trek up to Dharamkot – the town where people head to for accommodation when McLeodgunj is fully booked. You get lovely views of McLeodgunj and Dharamsala down below.

You can also walk towards Bhagsu, an old village famous for an old temple that is reverred by the native Gorkha populations settled here. There is also a waterfall, the Bhagsunag falls. We walked till nearly there and then turned back – wondering12079242_10153015800730044_7930648840543261001_n why – the snaking traffic, the honking and the steadily billowing dust from the stomping tourists and their huge vehicles clogged my asthmatic lungs pretty bad. Rather than fall ill, we walked back!

This post cannot end without a mention of the food you can hope to eat in this hill station. Eat in the small eateries that dot the place. Some are definitely better than the others, but one thing that stood out across most places, big and small that we ate in was that food was always cooked fresh and has a vibrant, rustic taste that increases your appetite a tad more! Where did we eat? Well, we tried the Clay Oven (for Tibetan and Nepalese fare), Jimmy’s Italian (yummy wood-fired pizzas) (they are owned by the same family), Moonpeak Espresso and a few smaller places that Tripadvisor had rated high. The spinach and cheese momos – you rarely see that in the plains and the wholesome flavourful Tibetan flat-noodle soups and the spongy steamed Tibetan bread.

What do I love most about my three-day break in McLeodgunj? Apart from the fresh food and the cleansing honey-ginger lemon that I tanked up on, it has to be the Kangra valley views- the glorious sunsets ( I can never rouse myself up for the sunrise) and the walk through the cemetery – remembering men, women and children who lived over a century ago. This quaint hill station, today is the keeper of their memories.12118809_10153015800765044_7345200711533632008_n

 

The Travel Bug: It Bites Some Harder than Others

11222195_10152809972870044_7386701050698979733_n

The view of Mandalay from atop the Mandalay Hill

I’m on my final day of travelling through Myanmar. It’s been ten days since I got here. And I’m in love with a country that’s still learning how to embrace the free flow of tourists into their country. The systems are still not completely in place – public transportation, lack of signages or population that speaks English to help a lost traveller – it might take a few more years, but those that are in place are admirable – new highways, really comfortable long-distance buses, clean restrooms on highway stops (Allelujah!!) and honest people with smiles that make you want to hug them when they struggle through the language barriers to help you out.

Myanmar, I must admit is not the easiest country to travel  especially not in the non-touristy, monsoon season. The hotels offer off-season rates, but you have to shell out a premium for travelling in and around cities. Lack of tourist volumes mean that you are shelling out that much more. And there are few warnings or written material that can help you plan and budget your trip better – often, the hidden costs pop at you when you are already at the spot. There are tourist rates and there are local rates. And as in several other countries, tourist rates are in dollars. But all these aside, there is a joy of discovery when you move through the country. It still feels virginal and lesser explored – not jaded to the ways of foreign travellers poking and prodding through their history and lives.

When I talk about a new plan to travel – a new country that I’m excited about exploring, I’m often subjected to friendly chides – What? Another holiday? Do you even work? Can I have your job? If I could, I’d love to not have to work and only travel. So this post is dedicated to the travel bug – a bug I think that bit me very early in life. And still continues to have its tiny claws embedded deep in me. So what is it that makes you lock your home, pack your bags and take off?

Continue reading

The Dead Sea Chronicles: Some Tips No Book Gives You!

If you are planning a visit to Jordan (and I’d strongly urge you to plan one, if you haven’t thought about it!), there are three places that should be on your must-visit list – Petra, The Dead Sea and Jerash. This post is on the Dead Sea, we’ll talk about Petra and Jerash soon too! Jordan is a country that has the misfortune of being sandwiched by troubled Middle Eastern countries.

When N and I were planning our break, I remember the ooohs and aaahs we got – not strictly in envy and awe – some felt we were being a bit foolish, taking off into a war zone for a holiday! The reality could not have been starkly different. If I’d not known Jordan was in the Middle East, I’d have mistaken Jordan for a European nation where Arabic was spoken – most in Jordan speak better English than you are likely to hear in France!

Back to the Dead Sea – that’s the post, remember?

Most Jordanians head to the Dead Sea over the weekend, head to the public beaches, smoke a few sheeshas while waiting for their mud packs to work before washing it off in the Sea. Tourists like us, on the other hand make a beeline for resorts, expensive (no doubt!) but with exclusive private strips of the beach.

Your geography lessons do prepare you for the Dead Sea – I’m yet to find someone who doesn’t know that at the Dead Sea, you float! Struggle as you might to sink, you’ll bob back up like one of those plastic floats that the resorts use to mark boundaries. Most people also know that the reason everything floats is because of the super-high concentration of salts in the water.

Sunset over the Dead Sea

From far, the Dead Sea looks beautiful, blue and glistening. Go closer and the colour looks greener.. a bit closer and it looks ominously dark – or was it my imagination? The surface has an oily sheen – that’s the first bit of warning the lifeguards at the beach give you. Don’t let the water remain on your skin for too long, the salts can wreak havoc. Shower off the salts as soon as you can! So there I was, all ready for my first experience at weightlessness – two minutes later, I was a spluttering, teary sorry mess, who couldn’t even stand up without support.

Here’s what happened – I walked into the seas – a bit chilly, but bearable – what did I expect? I was there in early November when there was a nip in the air. Chill apart, what was pinching me were the sharp pebbles under my feet. Not the easiest to walk on – but I soldiered on. Four steps into the shallow water and I tried sitting down. Not difficult right? Theoretically not- but in reality, like the Titanic that tilted sidewards, so did I, ending up in neither sitting nor floating. And then I did what I should never have. Flailed my hands to find something to hold on to – that’s when I felt something stinging – first my eyes, then my nose and my mouth joined in the stingfest – and I tasted the bitter oily taste of the sea. That’s when panic set right in. Can you imagine the shame of wondering if I’d be the first person to drown in less than one feet of water? Well, when every orifice in your body is stinging, your imagination is allowed to run riot!

The Dead Sea Mud Pot

The Dead Sea Mud Pot

Two strong hands suddenly lifted me out, while my flailing legs suddenly found some steady ground. And suddenly I felt a gush of love for the husband – till I saw him laughing at my panic! And some cool gentle water was thrust into my hands by the lifeguard, who saw my clumsy struggles to right my tilting self. For a couple of seconds, you are in a state of severe conflict – do you guzzle the water to clear your mouth off that vile taste or do you pour it over your face to ease the burning sting? I suggest the latter – trust me, it is experience talking!

Buried in the sand

My first encounter with the Dead Sea kind of set the pace for our love-hate relationship. I loved the ritual of bathing in the Dead Sea. Take a quick dip, float for a bit if you are confident you won’t tilt, walk out of the waters and take a seat by the giant bowl of Dead Sea mud – slather your body and face with the mud and ignore the subtle burn you feel. Let someone bury you in the sands of the beach, till the weight of the sand becomes a pleasant weight. Choose your time to do this wisely. Stay away if its a cold, windy or cloudy day. I had the misfortune of having sand blow right into my nose and mouth and my hands were weighed down by the sands, so all I could do was grin and bear the grit everywhere!!! Fifteen minutes of being buried, shake off the sand, wash off the excess in the Sea and run to the nearest shower to stop the deadly sting from stinging more. It’s great to tell yourself the sting is for a good cause – the mud and water is good for your skin, but how long do you let something sting and burn you??

One last tip I’d give you is choose your resort wisely – there is only one resort – the Hilton, which has access to a shopping mall nearby. All other resorts are mini-islands – once you check in, till the time you check out, you are largely on the resort premises! If you get stir-crazy in the same environs, then ensure you have a taxi to ferry you around. Or you will have to make do with the often-indifferent cuisine served at the restaurants in the resort. We stayed at the Holiday Inn and often felt hard-done by the limited choice available for lunch! Starving souls tend to feel grumpy especially if there are few choices.

The dark foamy Sea

The dark foamy Sea

We spent 4 days by the Dead Sea, largely floating, swimming, eating, floating some more and eating whatever was available. And unlike the fair European skin that turns in a golden tan, mine turned bitter chocolate. Remember that the cold air is misleading, the UV rays of the Sun are no less harsh in winter and my sun-block did me no good.

There you go! When you do head to the Dead Sea, let it not be said that you weren’t warned!

Quick Reckoner

Places to Stay at the Dead Sea – A series of resorts – 3/4/5 stars – choose what best fits your wallet – We stayed at the Holiday Inn!

Things to Do – Float in the Dead Sea, swim in the resort pools, get spa-ed and prettied, head to the Dead Sea Panorama for lunch/dinner for a bird’s eye view of the Dead Sea and Israel, Jericho and Ramallah on the other side, smoke fabulously smooth sheeshas with flavours like apple, lime and mint, down some really smooth Jordanian wine!

Budget – Jordan isn’t cheap – especially for Indians – the Jordanian Dinar (JD) is worth about 1.5USD. Now you do the math on what it sets Indians back by!

Happy travelling,

D