Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What's the Smell: My hostel encounters with Smelly friends

As soon as I think of my unpleasant encounters with smells, I remember my hostel days. Limited number of bathrooms, you on your own and a lazy atmosphere makes everyone skip a day or two from our regular bath routine. But there were some students who would always smell unpleasant.

It was exam time and preparatory leaves were going on. I had a friend of mine who was too lazy to take a bath, whenever she would go out, she would dump himself with a full deo spray, apply gel to her hair, wear an ironed dress and assume that she is ready to impress everyone around. I went to her room because I wanted notes for the exam. There was a peculiar smell which made me feel sick.

I asked her- "What's that smell??" sniffing my nose.
"What... what smell??" she asked back.
"I don't know, something strange. Did you take a bath today?"
"Wha... what smell yaar..." She immediately picked up a room freshener and sprayed it around.
"No.. its not the room... Its you." I grinned at her making a nosey face.
She did not admit that she has'nt taken bath and just kept on ignoring my comment. I couldn't tolerate even a single moment in that room and told her that I would come back for the notes.

Image Source: Google
Ugh.. it was unbearable.I wondered if she was aware of her smell. Later she came to my room with the notes. I could clearly smell that huge shower of deodorant or perfume that she had on her, but still there was a peculiar repulsive smell.
"What's that smell?" I asked again. She took a long breathe and made a pleasant grin.
"Is'nt it nice.. its my new perfume.. that too bina gas vala"

I was not sure if it was a problem with olefactory settings in my nose or was it really her problem. She was a very popular girl in college and I was not sure how her various boyfriends never smell what I do.

I decided to figure out her problem. She was my friend and I was concerned if she was undergoing any skin problems or if my nose was too sniffy. So I asked her very frankly if she has bathed today.
She replied, "Yaar.. there is so much left to study, no time for bath. I had it yesterday."
The next day, same time I asked her if she had gone for bathe. She felt my behaviour towards her was turning strange. but she replied.
"Its too cold yaar.. december ke mahine me kaun thande paani se nahata hai"
The next day again there was another excuse for not bathing.

So I spoke to the hostel warden and explained her the long term implications of the conditions prevailing in our hostel. Few Racold heaters were ordered for the hostel, and soon I realised that there were days when my smell friend became a pleasant smelling friend.
A deodorant can never replace a hot water bath.

This post is exclusively written for Racold What's that smell contest in association with Indiblogger.

So, if you also undergo a smelly encounter, recommend them a hot water shower with Racold water heaters.

Visit their facebook page on https://www.facebook.com/racoldthermoltd

Sunday, March 9, 2014

SkyScanner Travel Smart: Living the Yash Chopra Dream!!!

Image Credits - myswitzerland.com

My dream destination has always been Switzerland. Since my childhood days I have fantacised being around Sharukh khan on one of the Yash chopra movie sets. The beautiful Alps in the background, flakes of snow blissfully falling over me and I am dancing hand in hand with the most handsome man in bollywood. Things have changed over the last 14 years since DDLJ was released, Sharukh is no longer as handsome, YRF have explored more lovely places to shoot their romances and I too have reached my 30s. Now I imagine myself with my lovely husband doing campfire, but the Alps background still figures in all my imaginations.

Image Credits: www.englishforum.ch
So I would make a trip to Switzerland as soon as I had saved enough money in my bank account.
The first step is smart planning to maximize the trip in my budget. I do not want to go through any travel agent as they charge unnecessary commission and when all the information is available on the Internet why not utilize it.
Image Credits - Google images

Charting the destinations to go - It is said that Swiss beauty is more in its villages than cities. But I want a mix of both, so I would surf travel sites such as wiki travel, lonely planet, Switzerland tourism to figure out the locations.

Image Credit: http://www.skyscanner.co.in/
Planning for the flights - I would log into skyscanner, the one stop shop for all your travel needs and search for flight options. I will prefer to select the cheapest flight, but I am not sure which airport in Switzerland would have maximum flights from India. So I simply search for "Bangalore" to "Switzerland". The results shows me flights to all the three international airports and a comparative study helps me select the lowest price for my travel dates. I can shuffle my travel dates avoiding weekends to check if further reduced price is available and found one.

Post booking, I would all set with my date of travel and which flights I would go with. Now the next step is to understand the visa formalities and apply for the same.

Travel Insurance: Purchasing travel insurance is mandatory for visa formalities. There are various insurance providers and it can be purchased online.

Image Source: Google
Visa formalities - Since the country falls under EU, I would be required to apply for the Schengen tourist visa. I researched on the vfsglobal.com site and schengen visa site. The procedure described is very easy and does not need an agent to apply for you. Just collect the required documents and apply for an online appointment. The documents requirement mainly include your travel itinerary (day to day travel plan which can be prepared yourself), bank statement (proving you have enough balance in your account) and supporting documents for your itinerary such as travel tickets and hotel bookings.

Once the plan and itinerary is ready, I would go and book my travel tickets. The next step now is to search the right hotel.

Image Credit: http://www.skyscanner.co.in/
Selecting the right hotel - Again skyscanner comes to your rescue with wide range of hotels from different booking sites all at one place. I search for hotels in Zurich first since I would be landing there. The sorting can be done by Price per night and to avoid confusion the rate is shown in Rupees. Since I am budget travelling, I would like to stay in a hostel rather than spend heavily on hotels. So I shortlist few hostels from the list based on their reviews, ratings and distance from the Zurich central station. Taxis can be expensive, especially when you have to pay in CHF, so select a hostel which is nearby the Zurich station.

Similarly I booked hostel rooms for my other travel cities as well.

Travel within the city - Skyscanner offers car hire options to choose from a variety of providers and who would'nt love to roam in the Swiss interiors in a nice convertible.
Most of the country can be covered by public transport and trains. The cities are small enough to be covered on foot with a backpack on. And yes, my research on travel sites/blogs says that most of the tourist spots are close-by to the local station. The country is tourist friendly and have tourist information offices everywhere. All you need to do is just walk in and ask for a map of the city. The map will not only contain the directions, but also the popular tourist spots and how to reach them.
So this is it. I would prefer the public transport system. But to avoid buying tickets at new destinations or being fined for boarding wrong trains, the best option is to go for a Swiss pass where I have the freedom to explore the country in any bus, train, tram or even ferry without any worries.
Image Credits - myswitzerland.com

Swiss Pass - A simple search on google provided me the link to purchasing a Swiss pass. The options were for 4, 8, 15 or 22 days. I would preferably select an 8 day pass for second class and order it online providing my India address for it to be delivered. As promised on their website, the pass arrives in 5 days from ordering it.

Image Source: Google
Smart Packing - I love to travel light, but missing any essentials might cost heavily. So I will make a list of all the important items that need to be carried including camera, phone, credit cards, tickets, visa, passport, some cash, first aid and clothes according to weather.
Check the weather in Switzerland and pack the woolens, jackets, thermals etc properly. I will also pack some packets of cuppa noodles (which can be made instantly by adding hot water), soups and biscuits to survive in case of emergency. Most of the hostels provide coffee makers or boiled water for the cuppa noodles.

Other Smart Tips to follow:

Image source: Google
Medical kit: I always carry a small medical kit and it has proven very useful in many of my trips. Generic medicines for headache, fever, body ache such as paracetamol, ointment for muscular pain and first aid will do wonders in emergency. Make sure to carry a doctors prescription along with the medicines, even for OTC as some countries may have restrictions.

Image Source: Google
Credit/Debit Cards: Make sure to carry debit and credit cards which do not charge any international fees. I never ever use credit cards outside the country unless there is an emergency. There are a lot of credit card frauds that are being reported when credit cards are used outside or on airports.  Do not pay by credit cards, carry travellers cheques or withdraw cash from ATM using debit rather than swiping directly. I try to make most of the transactions by cash.

Image Source: Google
Smart Phone Batteries: Since I use my smartphone extensively be it for google maps navigation or whatsap messenger, locating local eateries, train timetables so it is bound to go dead too soon. And while trekking, it might get difficult to find charging points. So I prefer to carry extra battery packs while travelling.

Image Source: Google
Language Translation: Europe is multilingual continent and people may not necessarily understand English. From translating signboards to menu card in restaurants, help is required. Switzerland has four national languages - German, French, Italian and Romansh. So, I download the Google Translator app on my smart phone. If you want to translate the menu card to find out vegetarian options, just click a pic and ask the app to translate.

Image Source: Google
 Important Numbers - I always save the address and phone number of Indian Embassy in my phone. Apart from that, also keep note of police, ambulance and tourist office phone numbers. Keep a scan copy of passport saved on email id just in case all your luggage is lost.

Image Source: Google
Sim card- Having international roaming on cellphone can be very costly. So, I purchase a Lebara sim card from the International terminal in India itself and inform my family about my new number which I switch on after reaching my destination. I only know Lebara which offers 1cent/min calls to India, but I am sure there would be other similar service providers also.

My Smart Itinerary: Where I would go and What I would do

 I would prefer to travel to Switzerland in the summers as during winters most of the Alpine peaks may not be available for Skiing or trekking. Since I would land in Zurich, my itinerary would start from there.

Zurich is known for its metropolis culture and fashion labels, a mile long shopping street with world class fashion labels is walkable from the station. The likes of Armani, Gucci, Guess, Vuitton, you name it and it could be found on these streets. The city never seems to sleep as there is no official closing time, people love to party till wee hours in the morning. I would also love to experience a flavor of the Swiss parties for a day.
Image Credits - myswitzerland.com

 The Zurich lake looks beautiful in the evenings.

From Zurich I would travel to Interlaken, which also means surrounded by lakes. It is about an hour and a half by train. It provides extremely beautiful scenaries to the three mountains Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. I guess Jungfrau is the place where certain Sharukh Kajol scenes were shot, and it is also the highest peak amongst the three, so I would definitely go there.

Image Credits - myswitzerland.com

 Zermatt is another summer destination which is known for Matterhorn, one of the world's most famous Switz posters. It is a car-free destination, so there are no horns, no fussy roads, just some happy people walking around the city. I would click pictures of the serene surroundings and go on hiking, trekking and nature trails.
Image Credits - myswitzerland.com

 The trip should be a mix of nature and cities, so my next destination would be Geneva, which is known for UN headquarters. Apart from UN headquarters, it is the host to a beautiful Lake Geneva and also the worlds smallest metropolitan. A fountain of 140 mt high super jet marks the periphery of Lake Geneva as of symbol of world's smallest metropolitan.
Image Credits - myswitzerland.com

 Continuing with my itinerary, my last destination in this Alpine country would be Montreux region, which is known for its moderate climate and Mediterranean vegetation. It is the home to a beautiful castle which continues to inspire our fairy tales till date. The Chillon Castle is located on a rocky island on the shore of Lake Geneva and provides serene views to the likes of poets and artists.

Image Credits - myswitzerland.com

Wine and Dine: Switzerland is known for its Chocolates and Wine, so I would definitely indulge a little bit in wine tasting and chocolates. I would also go for fine dining to experience the Swiss cuisine and the famous chocolate filled cappuchino.

I hope to travel to my dream destination Switzerland in 2014 and re-live the DDLJ moments in original... 

Image Source: Google

So, If you also want to travel smart, then visit Skyscanner to book your flights and hotels.

This post is exclusively written for Travel Smart with Skyscanner contest in association with Indiblogger.

Visit the skyscanner website for more information: http://www.skyscanner.co.in

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dove Go Play: Time to go Bollywood !!!

I have rough curly hair and none of the hairstyles suited me. Since childhood I craved for compliments but my unruly wavy hair were never quite gather any. I used to feel jealous of my friends who had silky shiny hair, they would sometimes open them, sometimes color them or they would portray streaks of different shades at times. It was rather annoying to me as I could never try any of those styles. All I would do it put lots of oil and braid them as they would get unruly in no time otherwise. Whenever I went to a beauty parlor for haircut, the beautician would comment on how dry and low quality my hair were and advice to use shikakai, some expensive conditioners, serum etc. Who wants to listen to unsolicited advice, but still I tried all the products they suggested diligently. Sometimes I felt that I am a scapegoat for the beauticians who would buy whatever product they sell. I tried umpteen hair oils, shampoos, conditioners, serums and natural remedies too. The expensive salon products would make you look good for a day but in subsequent washes the quality of hair further degraded. The harsh chemicals in salon products led to excessive hair fall and greying of hair. On the other hand the natural remedies were not as effective.

Bollywood was the biggest craze since I was a teenager and I craved to look like models and actresses. Even after matching their dress I could never match their style. Though disappointed, I had accepted the fact that some things in self are by birth and will never change.

After all that, one of my friend suggested me to try Dove shampoo and conditioner. Though I was apprehensive to experiment with another product on my already broke hair, I decided to give it a shot. After the first wash, it felt softer and a bit more manageable. The smell of the product was also arousing enough to gather couple of compliments on my wet hair. I tried subsequently and to my surprise, after every wash my hair were softer and smoother, and no hair fall. I felt happier to try different hairstyles and just let is fly open without any worry about damage. I would try different looks from bollywood and it all suited me.
Dove Hair Care Range

I was as if my life had turned upside down. I will share some pictures where I tried the bollywood styles and I also go compliments for my hair.

I my college I wanted to have Bipasha Basu style of curls, she was the latest model in the industry with lots of Bhat camp hits and the Bips trend was something to look for. I thought of giving it a try and I thought it was not bad. People specifically commented on my hair. It was quite easy, overnight oiling, washing in the morning and little bit of blow dry with a roller comb.

This gave me the confidence to try more hairstyles on my newly managed hair.

Post completion of college, we all go posted in different companies. First look in office for a filmy girl like me had to be inspired again by the then latest flick, Corporate, where Bipasha Basu truly justifies her image of a successful confident woman in a high ponytail.
Oh my God.... I totally rocked it too. Soon I was forgetting my hairy vows and focusing on more important aspects of like.

For office picnic again I had to think of something unique and thanks to bollywood movies, the latest running flick at that time was Gajini where Asin played the role of a bindass open minded girl seen portraying a hairband most of the time. That was it, I tried it and believe it or not, it was major style statement. Women folks started asking me from where I had purchased that band and how it suited me so much.

Soon my parents found a guy for me and I had to meet him for the first time at a coffee shop. In arranged marriages, first impression is the last impression as most of the time only one meeting is allowed. How could such important occasion go without me being inspired by bollywood again. My parents wanted me to portray a moderate homely look and play it down. By now they were very well aware that their Bollywood fanatic daughter would want to be rebellious. I wanted my true bindass personality to come out in my first meeting. The filmy trends suggested aviator glasses with a western casual outfit, be if Deepika Padukone in Cocktail or Prachi Desai in I me aur mai or Priyanka Chopra, no one seemed to get enough of Aviators. So it was :)
You can see my picture and guess what, it all went amazing and the decision was a yes. I liked the guy too ;)

On my engagement I wanted to try a modern yet retro look, so I took a printout of the model I wanted to look like and showed it to my parlor lady. To my surprise, the lady who had passed a thousand comments on my hair earlier and looted me with all those expensive products, complimented me.
"Aapne hair spa karvaya kya?" she asked rolling her fingers through my hair. I had no words, I simply smiled.

Wedding look - On my wedding I wanted to look my traditional best, so I opted for another actress inspired hairstyle. Though it seems like a simple braid and a gajra tied over it, carrying this hairstyle required me to have long strong and thick hair. I avoided getting them cut for a couple of months before my wedding and I was glad to pull it off very well.

Now comes the honeymoon which is one of the best times you spend with your husband. It is indeed special, but will I still spend all my time looking like bollywood actresses? I decided to just be myself on my honeymoon, and let my hair speak for themselves. I let them free to flow and fly the way they wanted to, not the way bollywood wanted them to be...

My hunger for healthy happy hair is satisfied now but bollywood craze still continues... :)

Recently I had to attend a friend's wedding who is from Chennai and she insisted that I dress up like a South Indian. So how could my look not be inspired by our latest Chennai Express, Deepika looks beautiful in a half-saree and south hairstyle. I tried it too... :)

So if you are also bollywood crazy like me or love to play with your hair, go for Dove and you will fall in love with it.

This post was exclusively written for Dove Go Play contest in association with Indiblogger.

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