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Memories from my diary

Trip to Muscat, Oman – Part-1 / Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

One of the must see places in Muscat. The mosque is very grand, beautiful and serene. The white color of the mosque speaks for its beauty, peace and purity. It is located within the Muscat city and easy to find the route in google map. Plenty of parking spaces available within the place.

The mosque is surrounded by garden and tress which gives freshness and eternal feel when you enter. The huge prayer hall entrance door with classic wood work adds to our amaze.IMG_7028The main prayer hall walls were decorated with art work .The main hall is lightened by Swarovski crystal chandeliers which were glittering like gold.IMG_7059 (2)IMG_7056IMG_7131The carpet in the main prayer hall is the second largest in the world. There are five minarets surrounding the mosque and the main minaret is 90 meters height.

For visitors the timing is from 8.30 am to 11 am from Saturday to Thursday and closed on Friday (Ramadan might be different).

Dress code:

Abbaya is not mandatory for female. Any dress covering full legs and hands till wrist is allowed. Head need to be covered using scarf or veil (Hijab). Jean with loose full hand shirt or long cardigan, salwar kameez with dupatta, long Skirts are allowed.

For male – full length trouser or jean with shirt or T-shirt is allowed.

There is a shop inside the mosque which sells veils for 5 OMR and rents abbayas for 2.5 Riyal. It takes minimum 1 hour to glance around the mosque. Food is not allowed inside the mosque. Weather was hot and the temperature was around 32-35 deg C.

Date: 3rd Dec ’15

Lebanese Village Grill and Restaurant – Mankhool

It was last Thursday we thought of trying some new cuisine in Dubai. After a detailed research in Zomato, we finally decided to visit Lebanese village restaurant in Mankhool. Restaurant is located in the main area of Mankhool, opposite to Ramada hotel, next to Al Ain computer plaza and close to Al Fahidi metro station. Parking is available on the side of the restaurant (parking during weekend will be difficult). Outdoor seating, home delivery and dine-in available here. We chose to go to first floor which was so spacious and big.

We ordered Falafel, fatoush, chicken kebab, cocktail juice and traditional bread. Our order didn’t take much time, max of 15 mins. Chicken kebab was delicious but quantity was less, falafel was too hard and dry. Staffs are not so friendly. I heard that Shawarma is good at this restaurant. price was above average.

Dubai Grand Parade ‘2015

Date: 21st November 2015

Venue: Meydan Grandstand Race course, Nad Al Sheba

This was one of the most awaited car show in Dubai. It was delight for the car lovers. The parade had classic, luxury, sports, vintage and rugged muscle collection of cars. It was a city wide parade which featured super model cars and motorbikes. Thousands of people were gathered along the parade route to watch and cheer them.

The parade was supposed to start at 12.30PM; however it started only at 13.15PM. Temperature was around 35 deg C, better to take sun hat and water bottles. Don’t forget to take your cam!!

grandThe parade started at Meydan racecourse and crossed some of the important landmarks touching Sheikh Zayed road, emirates towers, financial centre, downtown via iconic streets Al Ain Dubai road, Ras Al Khor, Al Khail Road & Al Meydan Street.

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We were at Meydan to watch the parade. There was plenty of free car parking provided inside Meydan. This is one of the must see event in Dubai.

Next to this parade line, there was some drifting event organized by the Committee.

Check this link DRAFTING; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QspDrrBzUcU

Aappa Kadai – Al Karama

Appam is of-course the best here. The taste has been consistent in this restaurant. We have tried most of the items here. Some of our best liking items are Hyderabad biryani, appam, Chettinad, chicken curry, nonveg meals and almost all starters and soups. It is basically a South Indian cuisine restaurant. The ambiance is good and staffs are friendly. If you make home delivery order, they almost deliver it on time (approx 45 mins to 1 hour). Its located in front of Karama Park. Ample car parking (B parking) is available in front of the restaurant but it would be a problem during weekend. This restaurant is one of our preferred restaurant if we would like to have flawless dine out.

aappaaa

Trip to Georgia (Europe)

This post is about our recent trip to Georgia (Europe) during mid of Oct’2015.

Pre-plan:

Before booking our flights, I’ve searched a lot in Google about the beautiful and must visit places in and around of Georgia. We were more interested in nature and landscapes; accordingly I finalized the places to visit. There are few websites which helped us to plan our trip e.g. Tripadvisor, virtual tourist etc.

After complete research, finally we booked our flights through Flydubai and hotels through Booking.com.

Flight journey & things at Airport:

We boarded the flight from Dubai and landed Tbilisi at 5.45AM in morning, the total journey took three hours. It was drizzling outside when we landed Tbilisi; the temperature was approximately 12 degrees. The airport was quite small with very few flights there.

Immigration was done in few minutes as we had on arrival visa (for UAE residence visa holder*).

*For travelers – check here to check the visa requirement.

We planned to change currency in airport because the local currency (GEL – Lari) is a closed currency which means we can’t exchange this anywhere outside Georgia. It is available only inside the country. They usually exchange for euro and dollars. We had dollars to exchange.

One of the private taxi driver who spoke English approached us inside the arrival terminal and accepted to drop us to the hotel. Initially we didn’t agree and we were about to take metered taxi in the airport. But after our discussion, finally he agreed for 0.6 lari per km.

On the way he helped us to get currency exchanged and get a local sim (Geocell **). The local sim cost 25 lari and we recharged for – lari . When we reached our destination, he demanded 6 lari/km which is almost four times higher than the agreement. We had no option other than to pay him since it was raining outside and we were completely exhausted. We argued and fought with the driver but no use and finally we paid him 138 lari (but the actual cost was just 40-50 lari only)

***(http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294195-d7940215-r320822927-Taxi_Georgia-Tbilisi.html)

At last we reached our destination – Vera Holiday Home in Tbilisi.

Vera holiday home lies amidst of residential area in Tbilisi. The area doesn’t seem to be pleasing; however, the house was clean with all basic amenities for cooking. By the time we reached room it was 6.30am, so we quickly took a nap and planned to start to Kazbegi.

Our plan for the next three days was – 1) Kazbegi 2) Batumi/Mtirala national park 3) In and around Tbilisi

Check my detailed feedback and review about Vera Holiday home – Click here.

Day 1 – Trip to Kazbhegi (Stepantsminda):

We arranged a local guide cum driver Mr. Nugo for the day. He was on time waiting for us. We all set to go and explore Kazbhegi. Kazbegi is about 5000ft above sea level, so we were able to feel drop in temperature as we moved up in altitude. The road from Tbilisi to Kazbegi was very good and travels along bank of the river Araqvi and a water reservoir. Our travel took nearly 2.30 hours to reach Kazbegi.              

Ananuri Fortified Castle / Church

After an hour of travel, we stopped at a Fortress/Church which was on the way. It is sited at the end of Zhinveli Water reservoir (dam). The church and serenity of nature was so pleasing to eye. This old church lies in between the river Araqvi. The church is very old but maintained periodically in all these years. View from the church towards the dam was amazing. . The view of the bridge from the Castle was wonderful. There were few petty shops located in the open parking area.

We bought a local snicker called “Churchkhela” which is made out of grape juice stuffed with walnuts. The taste was delicious and energizing, after few bites we felt the fullness. We bought some hazelnuts which was so fresh.

It’s one of the most beautiful and unspoiled tourist attraction. Best place for panoramic view, we took lot of pics in and around the place. It’s worth visiting and one of the must see place if you are traveling to Kazbegi.

Check my detailed feedback and review here – http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g1598758-d2487371-r322623380-Ananuri_Fortified_Castle_Ensemble-Ananuri_Mtskheta_Mtianeti_Region.html#

We continued our drive to Kazbegi. The travel in-between the high raised snow caped mountains was a treat a to the eyes. The visibility was getting poor as it was very foggy day. The temperature dropped to around 4-5 degrees. We suddenly noticed strange deposits on the specific location of the mountain.

The water flowing on this mountain is salty in nature. These deposits are formed due to flow of water over years. It was very strange yet interesting to see.IMG_5870.jpgAfter an hour of travel we reached Kazbegi, we had our lunch in the nearby restaurant. We had opportunity to try local traditional food of Georgia called Khachapuri. It was made of bread with local cheese and t it was just cheesy.

We planned to visit Gveleti waterfall which is about 20 minutes’ drive from Kazbegi. Nugo helped us to hire a 4WD car, which cost 100 lari. After few minutes of road drive, the car drove on the Rocky Mountains (unfinished road) to reach close to waterfall. We had to walk about 15 minutes to see the waterfall. The short trail was challenging for beginners and had difficulty in carrying our son who is just 4 years old. Kids and aged ones will find difficult . There were not much people around this place and we could see only one family.

The location of waterfall was very beautiful and the water was freezing cold. We were able to reach close to waterfall and felt the freshness of the water. We planned to finish for the day and return back to Tbilisi, as it takes 2.5 hours travel and the day was getting darker.IMG_5926IMG_5911Check my detailed feedback and review – http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g1156085-d6781724-r320322283-Gveleti_Waterfall-Stepantsminda_Mtskheta_Mtianeti_Region.html#

When we reached Tbilisi, we were so hungry and looking for a good restaurant. We headed to an Indian restaurant (Little India) which is located in the city centre. Lot of varieties and choices of Indian food available. Taste was good and delivery was quick. Price was also reasonable. Most of the local drivers know this restaurant.

After our dinner we reached to the hotel and relaxed for rest of the day.

Check my detailed feedback and review – http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294195-d2054535-r319712632-Little_India-Tbilisi.html#

Day 2 – Train to Batumi / Mtirala National Park:

The day started enthusiastically. Our train to Batumi was at 8.45am and we were advised to be there in station before 30 minutes. We boarded 2nd class in train and it was 5 hours travel to Batumi. The ticket was booked on the previous day, it cost 25 Lari per person. IMG_5948The train was moving between beautiful mountains, rivers and small towns. Small coffee vending machine was available in the train. We reached Batumi at 2pm and our driver was waiting for us. We asked him to take us to McD for lunch and it took 10 mins to reach there. The weather in batumi was so chill and drizzling. Roads are very narrow and slow moving traffic everywhere. We had our lunch and packed our takeaway for dinner.

We started to Mtirala national park which is 1 hour and 15 minutes’ drive from Batumi. The total distance from Batumi station to the park is 35 kms. We reached Chakvi village in 15 to 20 mins and the road was pleasant till Chakvi village. The road from there to National park was very jerky and it took 45 minutes to reach the national park. The road seemed to move into the forest and we drove along Chakvistavi river. There was heavy flow of water in the river. On the way, we have to cross few small wooden/steel bridges and there are lot of scenic views we come across. The only negative is that there was no proper marking or sign board kept on the way. It’s recommended to use 4WD. IMG_6073.jpgFinally after a long travel we reached Mtirala national park administration office at 5.00 PM in evening.IMG_6337.jpgNobody was there at visitor centre , however admin in-charge ms.Ally helped us to locate guest house. We proceeded for the check-in in the guest house. The Guest house is located 300-500m away from the visitor centre.IMG_6218 The Guest house is maintained by a lady called Ms. Eteri, she helped us to complete the check-in formalities and showed the room. She does not speak English but we managed with the sign languages. She was the only person available in the guest house. She stays in nearby village. Morning she comes at 8.00AM and leaves in the evening at 7.00PM, so no one will be available during the night except the guests. During our visit, we were the only family stayed in the guest house.

There are five rooms available in the guest house, each room can accommodated two persons. . Each room has two single beds (small in size), toilet and old wooden cupboard (open type). Electricity and hot water was available throughout the day. IMG_6022.jpgThe hotel was in between those beautiful mountains with river flowing just in front of it. . The location of the guest house was very beautiful with greenery around and soothing sound of the water flow .We spent some time exploring around in the evening.

We had our dinner that we packed and slept along with the nature which was the best and amazing experience for us. The weather was very cold and we were shivering. We heard some beautiful sounds of birds and other mysterious sounds nature.

Ms. Lali is working in National Park who has helped us a lot during our booking and guided us to reach this place. You can contact her here.

Day 3 – Short trail Mtirala national park:

We planned a short trial for the day, but it was disappointingly drizzling in the morning. The weather was so cold (5-10deg c) with breeze.

We had our breakfast and decided to see atleast the picnic area which is 1km away from hotel. Received all the information map of the trail and started around 9.30 am. (If anyone planning for a trail/trek, do discuss with her about the route map. She will explain you the map and show you the route, she might ask 25-30Lari for guiding).

Cable car – Picnic area

The picnic area was very beautiful place and cable car was the highlight. It is a manual cable-car where we need to pull the rope by rotating the flywheel to move along the cable. We crossed the river by the cable car. It was a thrilling experience. IMG_6152IMG_6104The route was full of trees, plants, water and greenery everywhere. . We could feell earthy smell, fresh air and chillness.. We were thrilled and excited to be in the forest. It was little foggy, moss growing on the trunks of the trees, droplets of water dripping from large leaves, ferns, water trickling through the little creek etc. . We tasted the untouched fresh water from one of the brook, felt the real taste of purity.

IMG_6158IMG_6302IMG_6342IMG_6220After we crossed the cable car, the route got tougher to waterfall, so had withdrawn our trail and planned to return back as we were carrying our kid. After exploring different routes finally we reached the visitor centre. There was small exhibition in the centre about flora and fauna of Mtirala national park.

Video

We packed our stuff and started from hotel back to Batumi. Our next spot was Batumi Botanical Garden which is on the way to Batumi.

Batumi Botanical Garden:

There are two main gates/entrance to this garden. One from Chakvi and another one from Green cape which is close to the city. The total area is close to 1 Sqkm and the distance is approximately 3-3.5 km. We entered at chakvi gate and exited in green cape. It is largest botanical garden in Soviet Union having 39000 species of flora. They have separated the plants based on the geographical zones – e.g. North American, Mexican, Himalayas, Japanese, Chinese and lot more varieties covered in the garden.IMG_6354.JPGWe passed the garden in 2 hours however it needs atleast 4 hours to complete the entire garden. We saw few students and small groups too. The garden is covered by black sea at one side .

The view of the sea along with city from the top of garden was truly a treat. There is a small golf cart available at the entrance area. I would recommend to take/hire this cart if you are travelling with kids and older people. This is one of the most beautiful and must visit place in Batumi.

There are few restaurants at green cape gate where we took short break to refresh ourselves.

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Looking at Black sea – Video

Our next location was Adjara town.

Batumi:

We reached Batumi. It is the main port and commercial city of Georgia. There are few attractions located in the city but we did not spend much time inside the city. The road facing the sea is crowded with traffic all the time. We had a chance to see “Alphabet tower”, it’s a tower with Georgian alphabets on it. IMG_6531

Adjara (Makhuntseti):

Adjara is about 35km from Batumi. It took 20 minutes to reach Adjara region, the credit goes to our driver and the road. The road lies along the very famous river Adjaristskali. This region is surrounded by river , Chorokhi & Adjaristskali.

Makhunstseti Waterfall:

The waterfall was just 1.5 kilometres away from the main road. It took about 5 minutes from the parking to the huge waterfall. It was an amazing experience, water was so chill and fresh. There were few small shops located at the entrance where you can get the local honey and snacks.IMG_6538.JPGThis attraction is not well maintained, the local authorities should take some action and encourage the tourism. This is also one of the most beautiful place in Adjara and must visit also.

Video

Tamara Bridge (Makhuntseti arch bridge):

There is famous bridge called Tamar’s bridge which lies across the river Besletka and 30km from Batumi towards Akhaltsikhe. It is located next to the waterfall. It was named after the Queen Tamar(a). The bridge was built around 12th century but still being used by the people. The bridge is made up of volcanic rocks. The view of river from the bridge was mesmerising.

30 km from Batumi towards Akhaltsikhe, next to a waterfall located Mahuntseti arch bridge, built in time of Queen Tamara. The height of the bridge over the river Adjaristskali is about 6 meters and the length of bridge is about 20 metres.IMG_6556.JPGIMG_6565.JPG

Check my youtube videos here

Adjara Wine house (Adjaris Tskali):

This wine house lies on the main road when travelling from Batumi to village of Adjaristskali, Khelvachauri Municipality, on the main road linking Khelvachauri to Keda (towards Makhuntseti).

It was beautiful place to visit. This wine house consists of wine cellar, tasting rooms, a café/restaurant, etc. the wooden oak barrels where they stored the wine is 200 yrs old. Wine is served and sold here. We heard that here they produce ​​a rare and exclusive wine “Chkhaveri” and Tsolikouri and local Chacha (alchohal drink), also you can buy ceramics and other souvenirs here. The wine house seemed to be busy with wedding ceremonies.IMG_6578.JPGIMG_6572.JPGWe finished our sightseeing for the day and returned to Batumi airport to fly back to Tbilisi. There is a domestic flight from Batumi to Tbilisi for three days a week at 8pm.Fortunately our flight got delayed to 10pm, so we had time to spend in Batumi and cover all the sights as we planned.

The Batumi airport is very small and away from the city. There is no food available inside the airport; however we noticed one coffee shop which remained closed. We reached Tbilisi at 10.30 pm and took a taxi back to our hotel. We packed take away food from McD (there is only one in down town) and had our dinner at room.

Day 4:

We had good sleep and planned for local tour in Tbilisi for the day. Nugo was on time to accompany us for the day. We took a walking tour since it was traffic and diversions everywhere. We were lucky to be there on special occasion ‘Capital day’ celebration. There was plenty of traffic in downtown as people are gathering for the celebration. The area was so colourful with small markets, barbeque, local food, orchestra, horse rides, traditional performances, kids play area and many more.

Sioni cathedral:

It is one of the oldest churches built in 6th century. We were able to view the old town from this church. We got a holistic feel when we entered the church.

Aerial tramway:

We walked to aerial tram station to view the city from top. The tram travel was just 5-7 minutes. The view was amazing. The city looked much bigger than what we thought. Free entry since it was a capital day celebration.

Video

Mother of Georgia:

This statue lies on the top of the hill facing the city. She holds a sword on one hand and a wine cup on the other hand. It is believed that she protects people of Georgia by fighting against enemies with sword and adoring loved ones with wine. It is the true symbol of Georgia.IMG_6618.JPGWe can access this place by aerial tram, it is just few meters from the tram point. We can see the entire Tbilisi from this point.

Bridge of peace:

It is an iconic place in Tbilisi. The beautiful architecture speaks for itself. It’s a glass bridge with white coloured truss structure. It is a pedestrian bridge across the Mtkvari river in old town. There is boating available on the river.

The bridge was flooded with people, on both the sides people were moving and we could not get space to take pics. The view from the bridge was amazing. There are few restaurants available close to this location. A small open park is located on one side of the bridge, during festival time it will be fully filled with local people. Lot of cultural activities will be performed next to this place.IMG_6685IMG_6638

Capitla day – Celebration:

There was huge crowd gathered amidst old town to watch traditional performances. The children danced and sang so beautifully. Their costume spoke the tradition and culture of Georgia. We could see smile, happiness, pride and anxiety in the face of Georgians.

There were few art souvenir shop where we purchased artistic wall design as a remembrance.IMG_6695IMG_6663

Video – Capital day celebration1

Video – Capital day celebration2

Video- Capital day celebration3

Video – Capital day celebration4

Waterfall:

There is a small waterfall in the old town few meters from the bridge. It was surprising to see a waterfall in-between this busy town.IMG_6655.JPG

Restaurant street:

There is a street in downtown where you can find plenty of restaurants where they serve local Georgian and international foods (could not recollect the name of the street). This street was so lively with decorations and people .The Street is known for its best restaurant in Tbilisi .The streets were occupied with restaurant’s light wooden furniture.

Georgian cuisine has their own style of cooking with the spices and ingredients that they get in Georgia. We entered into a restaurant called “Stelzen Haus” (supposed to be a managed by German!!) and ordered “Khinkali” Georgian dumpling. Khinkali was delicious and definitely a must try food in Georgia. It’s famous for its stuffing with pork, also with potato and mushroom. Pork kebabs, barbeque and adana kebabs are some of the other top rated food.

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IMG_6676The restaurant wall was full of German football team pics (Bayern Munich), overall it’s a good experience.

Turtle Lake:

This small beautiful lake is close to the city. There are few restaurants facing the lake. There were options for boating, but it was closed as it was almost dark in the evening. Though there was nothing so special about this lake, it was indeed quick getaway from the city.

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Video

The view of the city from the top was amazing. The light was fading out and was getting colder. We were exhausted too. We decided to end out trip here and reach airport.

Our flight to Dubai was at 12.30 AM. We reached airport at 7pm and had our food in Burger king inside the departure terminal. We had time for shopping inside airport. We bid adieu to Georgia and took beautiful memories from there.

Our guide – Mr. Nugo

Our trip would not be successful without our guide/driver Mr. Nugo. He is a Tbilisian who speaks English well, he is so cooperative, punctual, friendly and has better knowledge in local culture and tradition. He has an old Mercedes car, the condition of the car is very good. He knows most of the places and short cuts in and around Tbilisi. He explained a lot about the local culture, history, local dance and food etc. We never felt him like a guide, he was just like a friend of us. He has a good contacts and tie-up with local hotels in Tbilisi, so anyone who is looking for a tour can contact him and discuss your plan. He will arrange everything – local hotels, local train/flight etc.

I would happily recommend his name if anyone looking for a guide with car in Tbilisi (Georgia).

Check his contact details here.

(The above is based on my own personal experience!!!)

Insights:

  • October is not a very good month to visit Georgia if you are planning for a trail (trekking), as it was raining now and then. However if you are a nature lover and love greenery then this is the best month
  • If you are vegans (vegetarian), it’s difficult to manage in Georgia, as meat is their staple food
  • Not a good idea to go for trail with small kids and older people
  • Communication is big hindrance in Georgia, get contacts of some English speaking guy before going to Georgia
  • Do take sufficient cash and exchange it to local currency (GEL), since USD/Euro are not accepted in most of the places
  • Beware of local private taxis
  • Geocell – Sim costs 100 Lari with some minimum balance. Further if you recharge it for 25 Lari then you will get free local calls, free internet within Georgia and cheaper international calls
  • There are many beautiful caves and canyons to explore in Kutaisi region in Georgia. Children below 6 years old are not allowed in these places. Try to avoid if you are going with kids. But as I heard that these are the must visit places in Kutaisi
  • Good place for wine lovers

 

We loved Georgia and Georgians

Manisha’s Kitchen – Al Karama, Dubai

It is located in sheikh hamdan colony. The restaurant is Maharastrian vegetarian cuisine. It can accommodate 15 to 20 visitors at a time.  Taste was average. Order took more than 30mins to be served. The menu was very simple and had only few varieties.  Limited ‘A’ parking available in front of the restaurant.

Mezbaan Hyderabad Restaurant – Al Karama, Dubai

We ordered chicken dum biryani combo set..it comes with biryani (sufficient for 3 persons), raita, one boiled egg, few pieces chicken fry. Taste was good, location and ambiance was good…one of the best Hyderabad biryani we tasted recently in Dubai…We would recommend this restaurant for all biryani lover’s.

Sangam Restaurant – Oud Metha, Dubai

I’ve been to this restaurant many times with my family and friends…breakfast, lunch & dinner. Good ambiance, location, reasonable price, ample parking available behind the restaurant (B parking), staffs are very friendly, taste is good..typical and authentic south Indian food..recommended for south Indian veg food lovers.

Hunger Cure – Al Karama, Dubai

Thought of exploring a new restsurant near my home…finally ended up with this restaurant…location is good next to KFC and Park Regis hotel. Visited this restaurant for dinner along with my family. We tasted chicken roll, mini nonveg combo and Masala chai. Roll was very good but the non-veg combo is OK. Unfortunately taste was not as expected, very less spicy or I can say bit of sweety taste..quantity is more.

Parking is the main problem in this area since there are plenty of restaurants available in this location. We will check other items and will update this review!!

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