Jani Jermans – Travel Diaries

June 10, 2022

An Awesome Spain

Filed under: International Travel — jani @ 11:25 pm

About Spain: It’s a country on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula with diverse geography and cultures. Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona, is defined by Antoni Gaudí’s whimsical modernist landmarks like the Sagrada Família church. It is the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, which is also known for its art and architecture. The fantastical Sagrada Família church and other modernist landmarks designed by Antoni Gaudí dot the city.

When IBTM had a conference in Barcelona, I thought I should go as Europe was always in my bucket list of travel. Then I realized that we had initially planned to go to Lakshadweep as Sur wanted me to do the PADI course which I had wanted to do after my Thailand snorkelling trip where I felt I needed to do diving course so that I could join Sur. So, I asked Sur to choose between these two places, as Barcelona conference was scheduled at the same time that we planned Lakshadweep. As expected, Sur chose Barcelona as he said Lakshadweep we can do it later. So I registered and got accepted and we planned our trip to Spain.


There are two consulates in India, namely New Delhi and Mumbai and it comes with Jurisdiction.

Mumbai: All four South Indian States, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Daman and Diu, Maharashtra, Pondicherry, and Gujarat.

New Delhi: Remaining states and Union territories fall under this jurisdiction.

BLS International accepts the applications on behalf of the embassy and they are present in most of the cities. Do check the close by office in your own state and then you can submit the application to them.

Document Checklist:

Do check the BLS link (https://india.blsspainvisa.com/) for more details and check for latest updates before filing the application. Sample checklist is mentioned below

  Visa Application Form: Form to be filled in blue pen and with the original signature from the applicant

Photographs: 2 recent photographs as per the specific requirement attached (do refer the link mentioned above)

Cover Letter from the Applicant: Attach the letter with the purpose of travel, dates of travel and with complete itinerary

HR letter from the company:

Company Letter: Letter should Confirm your approved leaves and employment details.

Company Id proof: Recommended.

Invitation Letter: If you are invited by the local entity, do get the letter in Spanish and English

   Hotel Booking: Do attach the hotel confirmation with complete payment done prior for the entire stay.

Flight Details: Confirmed flight booking to be attached.

Tour Itinerary: Give the day wise itinerary.

    Travel Insurance: It has to be issued by the approved Insurance companies, the link mentioned above will give you all the details and as per EU guidelines, minimum coverage of 100,000 USD to be there for at least 30 days .

Sworn Declaration for travel insurance signed by applicant: Attached

Salary Slip: Last 6 months of salary slips to be attached

Bank Statement: Last one-year bank statement in original (with bank seal and signature) to be attached

Income Tax Returns: Last 3-year IT returns to be attached

Pan Card Copy: To be attached

BLS Authorization Form: To be signed and attached

Passport Details: Passport copies of all pages including the old ones to be attached

Marriage Certificate: In case, spouse is accompanying

  Birth certificate: In case child is accompanying

Note: All the documents must be in English like marriage or birth certificate, in case it’s not in English do get the certificate issued in English before filing. In case your trip expenses are split by your spouse, then you need to ensure to share all the documents mentioned above for your spouse as well.

Travel itinerary:

Day 1: We had our early morning flight with Air France and after just over an hour layover in Paris, we landed in Barcelona in the afternoon.

The hospitality of Air France was good. Once we landed we hired a cab to go to IBIS Styles Barcelona City Bogatell, this is a budget hotel and weather was little cold as we visited in the month of November. We had a smooth check in and went to the room. Once we freshened up, we came down for lunch, they didn’t have much option, but we ordered some omelette and enjoyed the coffee and went around in the evening for a walk close by. We went to Ciutadella Park which was close by. The 70-acre grounds has the Parliament of Catalonia, lot of official buildings, beautiful garden, fountain, statues, trees with lots and lots of oranges. I was so tempted to pluck the oranges, which is always a fun activity in India specially with the tamarind trees on the roadside but I had to control myself as we were in a different country. We found lot of birds specially parrots and people were feeding and they were quite used with the people as they were not scared and stayed for their food until they were full.

Then we headed to my favourite place in the city which is the Museu de la Xocolata (Chocolate Museum) where it was all about chocolates. We picked up few chocolates and few which had 90% cocoa for Sur’s dad as he wanted to get the maximum cocoa one, later when he tasted he realized he should stick to 50 or 60% as it was too bitter. The best one here is the hot chocolate, I could drink every time and not get tired of that as it was not very sweet which I liked about. Every time I passed this place I was nagging Sur for a hot chocolate. If you love chocolates, this is a place which you shouldn’t miss. After enjoying my best find in Barcelona, we stopped at a nearby restaurant for dinner, enjoyed some great food along with wine. We found that none of the wine in Barcelona was bad. In fact each one was better than the last and we ended up finishing a bottle for almost every meal. Then walked back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

Day 2: After a great breakfast of breads, pastries, cheese, eggs and juice, we headed to We Barcelona office for the Barcelona Walking Tour with Eco Boat & Helicopter Ride. The best thing that we found for sightseeing is this company called We Barcelona, after the first trip which we found through Trip Advisor, we didn’t look for other tour operators and we booked all the sightseeing tours for the remaining days with them. They were the best and all that you need to do was to go to the pickup point wherever they ask you depending on the trip that you book. Since I had Sur with me, we had taken metros for most of the places as for me it would have been difficult without him. The hotel also had the metro station close by so that helped with all our logistics.

This is to experience Barcelona by land, sea and sir. So we first started exploring by land and did a walking tour by visiting the Gothic Quarter and were listening to the Catalonia stories and their history.

The charming Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gòtic, has narrow medieval streets filled with trendy bars, clubs and Catalonian restaurants. There is also the Cathedral of Barcelona and street arts. After that we walked to the Church of Sant Felip Neri in the Gothic Quarter (The romantic, slightly faded church is an unmissable corner of the Gothic Quarter and in the evening you can see people gathered with friends and family for a evening get together for fun, laughter and music ). We then proceeded to Plaça de Sant Jaume (square at the center of the Old City of Barcelona and the administrative heart of both the city and surrounding Catalonia) and went and saw the Town Hall and Palace of the Generalitat of Catalonia (Government of Catalonia, is the institutional system by which Catalonia politically organizes its self-government). We explored the Jewish quarter and passed by the Santa Maria del Pi (it is a 15th-century Gothic church).

After visiting Spain I realized that walking is the best way of seeing Europe, as it’s so beautiful that you need to explore it by foot wherever possible.

Then we went for a boat ride at Port Vell and enjoyed the cold breeze of the Mediterranean Sea, it was so beautiful.  We visited The Columbus Monument, which is a 60 m tall monument to Christopher Columbus at the lower end of La Rambla, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. It was constructed for the Exposición Universal de Barcelona in honor of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas and then went to the heliport where our sky adventure began. That was one beautiful short ride over Port Vell and the beautiful beaches and view from above was spectacular. The trip ended there but we had a quick bite near the port and then went near the pier.

It was all sea gulls which were huge and then headed to Aquarium Barcelona, which had a collection of 11,000 animals representing 450 species.

After the Aquarium visit we headed in the evening for Barcelona old town walking tour with Flamenco Show and Tapas Tour through We Barcelona. We had a guide who was Catalonian so, as we were walking to the place, she took us through the gothic quarters and old town and explained more in detail which was an eye opener. So we kind of repeated the morning walk tour once again in the evening but didn’t complain as the guide was so passionate about her culture and history, we were glued to her listening to every detail of it. After the walking tour we headed for a flamenco show which was spectacular. After a bit of snacks and drinks, we went to an outside restaurant to try the authentic Tapas in a near by pub. Tapas are bite sized snacks and it was quite interesting in a crowded pub. After enjoying those we walked back to the hotel and crashed for the night. Even though we were walking late in the night, never felt scared as we felt very safe in the city.

Day 3: After a great breakfast, we left for Montserrat Monastery visit and Natural Park Hiking with Railway from Barcelona through We Barcelona. It was a little longer ride from the city and then we reached Montserrat. It is a mountain rising over 4000 ft. into the air from Barcelona. We went to the church and then we rode the funicular railway to a scenic viewpoint, and took a nature walk in Montserrat Park while returning. It was a mini hike and enjoyed very bit of it and found lot of thyme and Rose Mary plants on the way. It was very exciting and beautiful and then returned back to the monastery. Since it was a Sunday we had the weekend market as well with varieties of home made cheese and everything tasted delicious. So we picked up lots of cheese and a dessert wine from the monastery and left. Enjoyed every minute of the drive and we returned back to the hotel. In the evening, we went around closeby, had our dinner and crashed for the night.

Day 4: We had to check out of this hotel and had to check in at Ohla Eixample which was booked by the conference organizing team. It was one of the best hotels and had an amazing hospitality. We just dozed off and woke up in the evening and was hungry. Sur decided to step out for lunch and I didn’t have a patience to walk to much, so we found a Michelin star restaurant diagonally opposite to the hotel where we were staying and Sur said the review was good. So we went inside. I had never been to a Michelin Star and this was my first time. Once we entered, we realized we were not dressed appropriately as everyone at the restaurant was in formals and I was wearing a track pants and T-shirt and Sur was in jeans and T-shirt. I was the most under dressed and I was embarrassed. Since I was hungry, we quickly found a corner, had a quick meal and left. The food was great but the quantity was less and I  didn’t have the patience to order more as I was already embarrassed with my dress code.

Sur found it difficult to get his veg food as we tried to customize a non veg food and that was a disaster, since he didn’t like the veg options from the menu. I learnt few lessons on that day. 1. Never enter a Michelin star restaurant in casuals. 2. If you are really hungry and need more quantity of food and then this is not the place. 3. Don’t try to customize the food, it has to be original. After the embarrassing situation at the Michelin star restaurant, we went back to the room, ordered some more snacks as I was still hungry and crashed for the night.

Day 5: The day was busy with back to back meetings and appointments at Fira Gran Via Barcelona which was the convention centre. We were picked up by bus as it was far from the hotel where we stayed. While I was at the conference, Sur was enjoying the hospitality at the hotel. Once I was done with the conference, we both went to the seafood restaurant at the hotel for dinner. As usual I enjoyed but Sur didn’t have much option being a vegetarian and the customized one was not very great. Then we returned to the room and crashed for the night.

Day 6: Another busy day with meetings and appointments and then evening we had a IBTM world club night Opium Barcelona which was fun after a tiring day. I headed back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

Day 7: While I headed for the final day of conference, Sur checked out and checked back in to IBIS styles where we stayed earlier pre conference days. So he was busy with that and then came to the venue to pick me up in the evening as I didn’t know the way to reach back. We went around nearby and found a grocery store, picked up more cheese, wine (even the local wines were great) for our consumption as we became addicted to the good wines of Barcelona. Then we grabbed the dinner at a close by restaurant along with more good wine and then crashed for the night.

Day 8: After a good breakfast we headed for the winery and cava (sparkling wine) tour of Pere Ventura. Here we found combination of modernity and tradition in which the company takes pride and first time I enjoyed the sparkling wine (Cava). The winery is located on the outskirts of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, in a lovely home reminiscent of an old farmhouse. The underground cellars with vaulted galleries looked breath-taking. We also got to enjoy wine tasting and every single wine was great. Then we were dropped back to the pick up point where we went around to see Gaudi architecture. Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was a Catalan architect known as the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí’s works have a highly individualized, sui generis style. I have never seen such a fantastic creative work till today, I was in awe of the buildings. After admiring the greatest architecture and creative work, we went around for a night walk for some time, had our dinner and crashed for the night.

Day 9: Had another delicious breakfast and headed for Girona and Costa Brava tour with Explore Catalunya. After a long drive, we reached Girona. Girona is a city in Spain’s north-eastern Catalonia region, beside the River Onyar. We had a time for ourselves to explore on our own and enjoyed the medieval architecture, walled Old Quarter (Barri Vell) and the Roman remains of the Força Vella fortress. Landscaped gardens line the Passeig Arqueològic, a walkway following the Old Quarter’s medieval walls, which include watchtowers with sweeping views, I felt I was in Great wall of China. Few scenes from Game of Thrones were also shot in Girona. After enjoying the cathedral and architecture, we went to the shopping place to pick up some souvenirs. Then we headed to Costa Brava. This is a coastal region of Catalonia in north-eastern Spain and the town was almost empty as it was off season. Sur was complaining that next time I need to take him during summer and not winter. We enjoyed the beach to ourselves as hardly any shops/restaurants were open due to off season.

We had lunch at Tony’s restaurant and our guide suggested that I try the Paella which I have been wanting to try but was not sure where. Paella is a Spanish rice and is one of the best-known dishes in Spanish cuisine. Since this is not a veg dish, Sur settled for some salads as he had very limited option. After enjoying the places and food we headed to the hotel. We crashed after dinner as we had an early morning flight to catch the next day.

Day 10: We had to wake up early and head to the airport and the hotel helped us to book the cab. We reached the Barcelona Airport but no shops were open as it was too early for the day. Then we boarded Air France, had a stop over in Paris. We did a bit of shopping and then boarded for Bangalore. Landed in Bangalore after a good hospitality from Air France. The awesome Spain visit came to end but this was never enough as we could visit only Barcelona and not the other cities. It’s so beautiful that you need more time to enjoy the beauty, architecture of the country and even then, it would be never enough.

Here is to more visits to Spain and Europe, until then Stay Safe……….


Unexplored Bangladesh

Filed under: International Travel — jani @ 11:24 pm

About Bangladesh:
People’s Republic of Bangladesh, is a country in South Asia. It is the eighth-most populous country in the world, with a population exceeding 162 million people. Bangladesh shares land borders with India to the west, north, and east, Myanmar to the southeast, and the Bay of Bengal to the south.
I had visited this country a decade back and am sure it might be different right now, so this is like going back to my memory lane a decade back.
Visa fee is gratis for Indian nationals and you can visit the below link for all the details

Travel Itinerary:
Day 1: This was the peak of Kingfisher Airlines and Jet Airways days and my first choice always had been Kingfisher, however I didn’t have flight availability for the same dates as I had to reroute from Chennai-Delhi-Kolkata-Dhaka-Kolkata-Chennai. I had to settle with Jet since that was the only option available with these routes. I enjoyed the Jet Airways hospitality and landed in Delhi. I had to come to Delhi since my passport had to be picked up from here since my visa for Bangladesh was submitted from the capital and I didn’t have time to wait for the passport to be couriered to Chennai. My employer, being one of the diplomatic missions, they got their visas easily, so I didn’t go through any glitches myself. At that time getting Bangladesh visa was a bit complicated so being employed with the embassy came as an advantage. I went to the office directly and met the Delhi team, exchanged pleasantries, picked up my passport, went for an amazing lunch at the cafeteria and it was time to go to airport for my next flight. I got a cab and was on my way to airport and then I get a message saying flight is delayed. I didn’t want to go to airport so early and I was confused. My cab driver was an old Sardar and he was extremely friendly. When he asked me what time was my flight and when I told him, its been delayed, even without me asking he volunteered to take me around New Delhi and he tried to show the important places. I was happy enjoying the places from the cab and he became my official tour guide as I was new to the city. Finally after an hour or two, it was time to go to the airport and the cab driver dropped me back to the airport. I thanked him, went to the airport and again there was a delay. Finally by midnight my flight took off and landed in Kolkata. A decade back, Kolkata airport didn’t look that great and I had to spent the night at the airport since the connecting flight to Dhaka delayed due to fog until the next day. It was not at all a pleasant experience and the food choices were bad. Somehow managed the night at the airport with much difficulty. (FYI – Recently I did travel to Kolkata and of course the airport looked far better than I experienced at that time. That’s a welcoming news for Kolkata Airport)
Day 2: After much delay finally the flight took off to Dhaka from Kolkata. Again due to fog they couldn’t land in Dhaka as the visibility was low. After hovering for more than hour or two we landed in Dhaka. I got picked up by the office staff and I was asked to stay in the company guest house. It was a huge house and had multiple floors. I was given an entire floor to myself. I heard the hotels were very few in Dhaka that’s why most of the companies get an independent house for their employees to stay for their short visits. For me that was my first experience being all alone at a huge place and I had no idea how to operate any of the things in that house. Number one, it was too huge and I was scared, staying alone and was waking up often to ensure that I locked all the doors and was scared in the dark to go from one room to another. Then trying to use the household items, at that time I didn’t know how to operate the washing machine, coffee maker etc. I wish we had you tube popular at that time. I felt disabled not knowing anything since the house had everything equipped but I couldn’t operate anything and anyway it didn’t matter much as I didn’t know how to cook. I also had a help who was coming to the house while we were at office and made sure everything was cleaned, my clothes were washed and dried. First day I was in a shock after seeing my clothes washed and ironed and then I realized it was the help. I never met her so I had to thank her in spirit.

Travelling in January, the weather was biting cold and I didn’t have any more patience to take the help of my colleagues who were staying in different floors, however when it came to the heater in the room, I had to ask someone for help since that was lifeline and my colleague was happy to help. The office was opposite to the building that we were staying and it had restaurant and bar attached to it. So I went for the dinner and after a quick meal, I rushed to the room as it was too cold for me stay out at the restaurant and I crashed for the night

Day 3-7: I went for the breakfast at our office restaurant and the staffs were mostly from West Bengal, so they could speak Hindi. When they knew I was from India, they immediately started chatting and for the next few days they became my friends since all my meals were at the restaurant and they also had an amazing food.
Then went and met my office colleagues, had a wonderful time knowing and learning from them. They were extremely friendly and very helpful. That week had been amazing and productive. Even though I was alone, I felt at home whether it was at office or at the restaurant. There are the two places that I visited for the whole of that week. I didn’t know how time flew but that was one memorable and productive week.

Day 8: It was time to pack and leave for the airport. On the way I saw the local buses which I felt like they should have ben in a garage as they looked very old and almost it had to be discarded. Also I got to know that due to the geographic location of this country, it bears the brunt of the natural calamity every year which also hampers the country’s development. That was the sard irony, but I wished I had explored the city which I didn’t as I was travelling alone. Finally we reached the airport and the driver came all the way till the immigration and until I got out of the immigration, he didn’t leave. I even asked him why was he wasting his time accompanying me as it was waste of time for him and he said, since I was a single lady travelling alone, some of the immigration officers might be a little nasty, so he was trying to protect me. So I was enjoying the VIP treatment as he had the permission to come all the way to the Immigration. Finally my flight took off and landed in Kolkata and then my flight back to Chennai and landed to my city.
I wish I could travel now as this country is still unexplored and it’s already added in my bucket list
Until then Stay Safe and Happy Deepavali/Diwali…..

Blissful Experience at Varu Island Resort, Maldives

Filed under: International Travel — jani @ 11:23 pm

During the Covid time, Sur and myself missed the most is travelling. When my friend Ajay from Kaia Tourism (He can be reached at ajay.anand@kaiatourism.com) told us about Maldives and he had got a good deal, we decided instantly to go ahead for Sur’s 40th birthday. Even though both of us were not really comfortable to travel at this time, we just took a risk of going for it and am glad we did that.

About Maldives:

Maldives, officially the Republic of Maldives, is a small archipelagic state in South Asia, situated in the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean. It lies southwest of Sri Lanka and India, about 700 kilometres from the Asian continent’s mainland. Maldives translates to Garland of Islands in some of the southern Indian languages, and which is what you will find there. The white sand and turquoise color of the sea/ocean is truly breathtaking. Even though I have heard about Maldives and it’s beauty, it was not in my immediate bucket list of travel but I am glad that we took a risk in this Covid time and thanks to the Maldives Govt and its people in controlling the covid cases and opening up the borders soon. Their efforts are commendable in ensuring all the safety protocols are followed and in keeping the covid cases under control to ensure others could visit their beautiful country. Hats off to them. If you need a break from all the Covid stress, now you know where to head to…You are in safe hands in Maldives and am sure you will thank me later.

Covid Guidelines:

Before travelling to Maldives:

  • PCR Negative certificate valid within 72 hours of departure (Would recommed to reach out to a good hospital when ever you undertake international travel. Manipal Hospital gives the report within 24 hours and they were excellent in their service)
  • Fill up the health declaration form of Maldives (https://imuga.immigration.gov.mv/ethd/create) within 24 hours of departure and have the copy of the same

Before returning from Maldives:

  • Fill up the health declaration form of Maldives (https://imuga.immigration.gov.mv/ethd/create) again within 24 hours of departure and have the copy of the same.
  •  Fill up the self declaration form of India before boarding the flight (https://www.newdelhiairport.in/airsuvidha/apho-registration), without which you would not be allowed to board the flight


I heard this is the only country providing visa on arrival to all the countries free of cost. So why do you wait? Just ensure you have your boarding pass, passport valid for at least for 6 months and PCR Negative certicate. Voila, you get your on arrival visa from 30 to 90 days.

Travel Itinerary:

Day 1: Travelling from Bangalore to Malé, you don’t feel like you are doing an international trip. It’s just 2 hours of flight time and as you start to enjoy the ocean and it’s turquoise color, you had already landed Velana International Airport to the beautiful country of Maldives .

The immigration process was a breeze and once the visa on arrival stamp was done, we exited the airport. We were picked up by the Varu team at the airport, then we waited for other guests to join and headed to the speedboat which almost took 40-45 minutes to reach the Varu Island Resort.

We were greeted by the staffs as we got out of the speedboat, headed to the reception, had a welcome champagne, finished the check-in formalities, prebooked the activities for Diving/snorkelling, Sunset/Star gazing cruise and received the pre booking details of other specialty restaurants and then we were escorted to our rooms.

We had booked the watervilla and it was superb. We just lazed around for the day and went to Charcoal (Pool Bar) for a high tea and snacks as we were hungry by then since we missed the lunch. Then we lazed around in the beautiful villa in the late afternoon. It was time for dinner and had to go to Lime and Chili restaurant (multi cuisine restaurant). We were not hungry, so had a quick bite and then returned to the room and crashed for the night.

Day 2: After a sumptious breakfast at Lime and Chili, went for a swim near our water villa. Then we headed for a quick lunch and then rested. We had to cancel the sunset cruise booked at 5 PM as we were lazy to step out and went back to sleep. We had to force ourselves to go for Dinner as we had a booking at Kaage (Maldivian Cuisine). It was Sur’s 40th birthday and initially I offered him to change it as he is a vegetarian and I knew the Maldivian cuisine is incomplete without Tuna, he wanted to go ahead. So we entered the restaurant after a nice walk around, we were offered screwpine fruit juice shot as a welcome drink, which I thought I would miss since we were not exploring the capital other than the resort island where we usually get this fruit. Then we were given Feyli, which is black or dark blue wrap-around which has a border at the bottom with different types of stripes. With the evolution, the original black lines have been replaced by gold and silver as well. Then we headed to the room to watch the video, about Maldives and it’s history, which was very interesting. I didn’t know cowrie shells were used as a currency once. After enjoying the video, we sat for dinner. I enjoyed the authentic Maldivian cuisine which is mainly Tuna and other sea foods and Sur had to settle with the vegetarian version. It was interesting people could make so many fish snacks out of Tuna like samosa , rolls etc which was a pleasant surprise since all I knew was various fish curries, being a coastal girl myself. I had a great time trying out the authentic local dishes and I was impressed. Then staff had got a nice chocolate cake to celebrate Sur’s birthday. Since he is not a huge fan of chocolate, I had to eat his cake and it was yummy. Then we went around for a nice walk and then headed to our villa. Sur had a lovely surprise awaiting where the staffs had decorated the bed with happy birthday message using coconut leaves and rice petals. It was so beautiful and am glad he had a great 40th birthday with such amazing staffs around to make his day all the more special. We didn’t feel of removing the decoration so soon, so we sat out on the deck for sometime enjoying the stars, and then had to come back to the bed to crash for the night.

Day 3: Had a late and an amazing breakfast, swam in the ocean, went for a lunch and then it was time to catch up for a nice massage. Sur had an amazing hot stone massage which was worth every penny. I opted the aromatherapy which was complimentary. Then we walked around the beach for some time and then it was time for the Indian Ocean Gala dinner near Lime and chili. It was the best dinner with lovely music and delicious food. If you are travelling, make sure you are there on Friday night so that you don’t miss this. There were lot of honeymooners who had a nice table arrangement done separately and it was beautiful. After some time, rain did spoil that. But staffs did their best to ensure they had a lovely time.

Day 4: We had to wake up early since we were going for the diving, so had an early and quick breakfast and headed for diving. Since Sur was certified he went for the diving at two different spots and I heard this was one of the best for diving and I settled for snorkelling. Unfortunately the water was so choppy and I felt very uncomfortable, so I had to withdraw and that was very disappointing. I heard it was so beautiful which I missed it. We returned and then headed to lunch at Nu restaurant (Mediterraean). The food was as usual great, staffs were amazing and service was excellent. We rested for awhile and then headed to Lime and Chili for another great dinner. We skipped the star gazing cruise since it was cloudy and crashed for the night.

Day 5: Had an early breakfast and we had to check out. So we packed everything and kept ready so that staffs can pick up the luggage and then we waited in the reception for our speedboat back to airport. Thankfully staffs took the tempearture and reminded of our health declaration form which needed to be filled, we didn’t realize it had to be filled before 24 hours departure as well. So we filled it quickly and then headed to the speedboat to the airport. After almost 40 minutes of drive, we reached the airport. We had to wait for sometime in the foodcourt, since the airport is small and we were not allowed to go in until the airline counter opened up. After half an hour, the counter opened and we went for a checkin. To our suprise the lines were not moving and people were standing there for a long time, we were puzzled why there was a delay and what’s making the checkin so slow. Finally when we reached the counter, we had to face the truth that our boarding passes would not be handed to us until, we fill the self declaration form in Air Suvidha portal, which almost no one did and that’s why it was taking so much time and is mandatory for people travelling to India. I was a little annoyed that why did the airline or cleartrip where we booked the flights didn’t mention about this in any of their communications so that we would have done it earlier and not wasted our time and also other fellow travelers who were in the queue. I had to appreciate the airline checkin staffs, who were very supportive and were patient enough to wait for us to fill the details. Finally we filled up, showed the confirmation and then airline staff handed over the boarding pass. Then we headed to immigration. It was a breeze as usual and once that was completed, we headed to the security, did a bit of shopping and waited in the food court. After a dry burger for lunch, inspite of ordering it with cheese, headed down to the gate for departure. We finally boarded after a slight delay and then it was announced that there is a flight delay again for half an hour. I just slept off in the flight, so I didn’t realize when it started taking off. After 2 hours we landed in Bangalore and then we were in for a lot of health checks, first they checked the self declaration form, then temperature check and then oxymeter check. Since we cleared all, we were allowed to go to the immigration counter. Then we picked up our luggage, did some shopping and as we were stepping out we were stopped for another check. It was for Covid tracking and after taking our passport details, we exited the airport and finally reached home after an hour.

That was one hell of a trip and travelling for the first time during Covid, it was all a learning experience. First of all I wanted to say a big thanks to Varu Island Resort Staffs who were so helpful, provided excellent hospitality and they were amazing. Special mention to their simplicity, that’s what I loved them for. They had a smile for everyone, ensured every one was attended to and were prompt to assist when needed. Even though, due to Covid, we couldn’t hop on to other islands or do any sightseeing, we had a great time as Varu staffs ensured we had fun and we didn’t miss out any. My admiration for the people of Maldives for their simplicity, their welcoming nature and their amazing work to ensure all the safety protocols are adhered during this Covid time so that we all remain covid free and have a great holiday break inspite of the covid situation. A big applause to them…

I know many of you might want to travel but a bit scared. It’s the right time to travel to Maldives and rest assured you are well taken care of and you would enjoy the place without worrying about Covid and people are so welcoming to anyone coming to their country and they are glad to host you and give you a memorable experience. Now this should be on your top priority. Happy Holidays……

Shukuriyaa Maldives…….



One hell of an adventure in United States of America

Filed under: International Travel — jani @ 11:23 pm

About USA: The U.S. is a country of 50 states covering a vast swath of North America, with Alaska in the northwest and Hawaii extending the nation’s presence into the Pacific Ocean. Major Atlantic Coast cities are New York, a global finance and culture center, and capital Washington, DC. Midwestern metropolis Chicago is known for influential architecture and on the west coast, Los Angeles’ Hollywood is famed for filmmaking.

I could never forget my first trip to US, which was almost a decade back. I was a novice to International travel and I was not prepared and had very limited information in hand. So when one of my previous employers asked me to visit the US office for official work, I was happy to go and also was little worried as I was too scared to travel solo. But this turned to be a challenging and one hell of a solo adventure trip and it was also a great lesson.


You have to fill up the online form as mentioned below, take the appointment and then attend the interview in person. First there was bio metrics to be done at VFS office (Currently it’s OFC) and then you need to go to the consulate directly in Chennai (as per the jurisdiction). Since you cannot carry anything in hand while visiting consulate for interview, be prepared to visit only with the consular documents and then also getting fried under scorching sun outside the consulate as there are longer queues.

My interview went smooth and I was very excited when the officer said, your application is approved. Finally I was relieved once I received the visa. I received my visa within 3 days of my interview and I was ready to fly.


Travel itinerary:

Day 1: I was booked in Emirates and I fell in love with their service and was glad I flew that. After enjoying their hospitality, we landed in Dubai. Then we boarded a bigger and better flight from Dubai to New York and I didn’t know how quickly the time passed. Even before I realized, we landed in Newark Airport. Even though I flew longer flight for the first time, had a comfortable one because of Emirates. Since I was very paranoid travelling alone I ensured the cabs were prebooked so that I don’t get lost as my phone didn’t have any network. Landed in Newark Airport, got my taxi, drove for almost an hour to New Jersey and checked in to Best Western. The hotel was great. Had a smooth checkin and ordered the food from outside since hotel didn’t have one. When the food came I realized, the portion size of US was huge. So that was lesson number one to order as minimal as possible so that you don’t waste food. Enjoyed the delicious food and crashed for the night.

Day 2: After the breakfast, I asked the hotel staff for help in reaching my office. The reception lady said my office was on a walkable distance, so I decided to walk. When I stepped out, I realized that I failed to note down the address of my company in a notepad as I didn’t have wifi to check the address/map online. So after walking for almost 15 minutes, I had to come back to the hotel, get the address and walk back as I hardly found anyone to ask for directions. That was lesson number two. I did find difficult to locate the building as I didn’t find the company signboard outside. Somehow, I went inside the building after making sure the address is correct, verified with the reception lady and she guided me to our office. I was only relieved when I met my colleague. I was busy for the whole day with official meetings and discussions, then came back from work, had my dinner and crashed for the night.

Day 3: After a great breakfast (loved their omelette, one of the best omelettes I have ever tasted), went to the office and then I had to travel to the client location in NJ where most of our employees were based out of. I spent the whole day in answering their work permit related queries to our expat employees. After a fruitful day, came back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

Day 4: After breakfast, headed to office. After training and paperwork, returned in the evening, met an attorney, went for dinner in another Indian restaurant which they wanted me to try and got dropped to the hotel and and crashed for the night.

Day 5: After the delicious breakfast, we went to the office and then had to travel to New York as we had an appointment with one of the travel partners. We finished the meeting and went to the café for a nice coffee. Since I love coffee, she wanted me to try espresso and I didn’t enjoy it. I realized I was more of Cappuccino fan than Espresso. We then went to Anjappar Restaurant (Indian Restaurant) for lunch, even though I told my colleagues, we try local, they wanted to try Indian. So I went along and it was really great. We then walked around the NY Street and my colleague became my city guide and she was explaining me to the important buildings around. Also I saw a small park which had Tulip flowers and I loved it. Then went to Times Square and I was disappointed as I was expecting some monument, then walked around near Empire State building. Then we had our early dinner in NY and went for a nice pizza for dinner which was recommended by my colleague. That was one of the yummiest pizzas I have tasted with lots of lots of cheese. After that I was dropped back to the hotel and I crashed for the night.

Day 6: Since It was a weekend, my colleague offered me to tag along with her while she was taking them for their weekend football practices. So I booked a cab and I ended up getting a limousine. I made sure I was not charged extra and then I realized I was lucky since no cars were available that weekend, they had to sent the limousine and I got a free upgrade from a small car to that. I enjoyed the drive and I couldn’t complain for the upgrade. I met my friend, her spouse and kids and then went for a shopping with them, then had our lunch at one of the shopping mall. It was a great place for shopping as I loved the quality of the clothes. Then I got dropped at the hotel. Towards evening, I took a little bit of courage, just to walk around alone and it was great. As it was getting darker, I rushed back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

Day 7: After an amazing breakfast, I checked out and then headed to the airport for San Diego, California. Landed after more than 6 hours of flight. It was a beautiful city. Checked in to Holiday Inn Express and crashed for the night.

Day 8: After enjoying the breakfast, my colleague had picked me up to go to office. Met the colleagues, was busy with back-to-back meetings for the whole day. Came back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

Day 9: After enjoying the breakfast headed to office, had meetings for the whole day. This office had a food court outside with various options for food, which was great. Then returned to the hotel and crashed for the night.

Day 10: After breakfast, went for a half day sightseeing to the city. I had booked with one of the local travel agents. The driver was our guide and we were three of us, a senior couple from Canada and myself. We went to Hotel del Coronado, also known as The Del and Hotel Del, which is a historic beachfront hotel in the city of Coronado, just across the San Diego Bay from San Diego, California. Then headed to USS Midway Museum is a historical naval aircraft carrier museum located in downtown San Diego, California at Navy Pier. The museum consists of the aircraft carrier Midway. The ship houses an extensive collection of aircraft, many of which were built in Southern California. There is a famous statue of sailor kissing a lady, which everyone was attracted to. Then we headed to San Diego Bay which is a natural harbor and deep-water port located in San Diego County, California near the U.S.–Mexico border. We had a picture with the whole group, spent a little time and then headed to the Balboa Park. Balboa Park (Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre historic urban cultural park in San Diego, California, United States. In addition to open space areas, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens, and walking paths, it contains museums, several theatres, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo). Since we didn’t have much time, we did a quick tour and went to see the garden, orchid glass house which I was most interested. Then headed to La Jolla Cave (La Jolla Cove is a small, picturesque cove and beach that is surrounded by cliffs in La Jolla, San Diego, California. California sea lions can be found in the waters of the Cove and hauling out, temporarily leaving the water to rest on its beaches, cliffs, and bluffs. So we did go to the beach to see the Sea Gulls and Sea lions. That was really awesome experience. As we drove, we also came across few streets with the most beautiful house, each one was made in a very different architecture. That was a great experience and a quick half day tour to the city. Then I had to rush back to the airport to go to Dallas. After 2+ hours of flight landed in Dallas and checked in to holiday Inn Express and crashed for the night.

Day 11: After the breakfast went for meeting with the attorneys and then headed for lunch. After lunch, one of the attorneys dropped me back to our office. When I went there the office was closed. I didn’t realize the person who had the key was working from home that day and I was lost as I didn’t have phone to connect and didn’t know how to go back to the hotel. So I waited outside the office building for taxis and no one stopped. I waited for half an hour and I was growing restless. Finally I found a gentleman who was returning from a factory. I asked his help to use his phone, however when I told the hotel name, he said, I better walk, since they wouldn’t be able to reach me without a phone. So I started walking. He was there for half a distance then I had to take a right turn and he had to go straight. I thanked him and I left. I was still scared and nervous, walking alone. After 15 minutes of walk I found the hotel sign and I was relieved. Once I reached the hotel, was chatting with the reception lady for a while, had a quick dinner and crashed for the night.

Day 12: After breakfast, went to meet one of the employees, he took me around to meet his family. I was offered a tender coconut juice and I felt I was drinking a toddy. Then went to a good steak restaurant. Had a great time and then his wife decided to take me around for a shopping close by and then they dropped me back to the hotel and I crashed for the night

Day 13: After breakfast, had to say check out of the hotel and headed to the airport to board my return flight. Enjoyed the Emirates hospitality and reached Bangalore and this experience that I will never forget and it also taught me to be prepared for the next international trips.

I had a lovely time, inspite of me not having a phone network throughout the trip. This country has to be explored more as it has lot of things to offer.

Will see you soon….Until then stay safe all of you….




Mauritius – The Paradise Island

Filed under: International Travel — jani @ 11:22 pm

When we were trying to choose a country to travel in 2021, I was sure that it has to be from a African continent as I had not explored this continent. Due to Covid restrictions still in place, it made sense to pick up a beach destination and the first country came to our mind was Mauritius. So we reached out to Sailani Tours N Travels Limited. Mr. Muddasar had taken responsibility to ensure, we had the perfect itinerary. Unfortunately due to my exam schedules, it had to be postponed to 2022. With all the covid protocols, it did seem little stressful, however finally we made it to Mauritius, the Paradise Island..

About Mauritius: Mauritius officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. It was uninhabited Island which was discovered initially by Arab Sailors, and later by Portuguese Sailors. Dutch took over possession initially, then French and finally British before the country got its independence. Owing to its geographic location and centuries of colonialism, the people of Mauritius are highly diverse in ethnicity, culture, language and faith. It is the only country in Africa where Hinduism is the most practised religion. Mauritius is highly ranked for democracy and for economic and political freedom. Mauritius is the only African country to be in the “very high” category on the Human Development Index. According to the World Bank, the country is classified as a high-income economy. Mauritius is also ranked as the most competitive, and one of the most developed economies in the African region. The country is a welfare state. The government provides free universal healthcare, free education up through the tertiary level and free public transportation for students, senior citizens, and the disabled. In 2019, Mauritius was ranked the most peaceful African country by the Global Peace Index.

Few points to note before travel:

  • Mauritius is visa on arrival for Indian Nationals. So there was no prior visa paperwork involved.
  • Next was RT-PCR which had to be taken 72 hours before departure and the report has to be Negative.
  • You also should not have been covid positive for the last 7-14 days prior travel.
  • Do ensure the swab collection time is also within 72 hours window and take it from one of the approved hospitals as per ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) website.
  • The RT-PCR also should have the QR code in the certificate, do ensure that it has. Hospitals like Manipal meets the requirements and also it’s good to get a PCR from such private hospitals when you are planning for an international travel.
  • Do ensure the passport is valid for at least 6 months validity before undertaking the travel.
  • Try to book the hotels/resorts so that you need not wait more time at the airport when you land in Mauritius for additional RT-PCR /Antigen Tests.
  • All in one travel form – (https://safemauritius.govmu.org/), it’s an online form, it needs to be filled up before you board the flight, take a printout and carry it with you while traveling.
  • Get an International Travel Insurance with Covid coverage, make sure there is an addendum/letter mentioning that the insurance covers covid related treatments as well.
  • When you board the flight, the Air hostess does give you 2 cards to fill it up, one is immigration form (white card) and another health form (yellow card). If you have filled up all in one travel form then health form is not required to be filled up.

Day 1: Finally, the long wait of travelling to Mauritius was coming closer, Sur and myself boarded the flight to Mumbai as our flight to Mauritius was from there. We had boarded Vistara and in Bangalore check-in, the lady had asked for PCR. To travel to Mumbai, we need PCR/Vaccination certificate (2 doses). We showed our vaccination certificate and we were allowed to check in. We checked in, got our boarding passes, cleared the security, enjoyed the quick breakfast at the lounge and then boarded our flight. The Bangalore process was a breeze. After enjoying the Vistara hospitality, we landed in Mumbai.

Unfortunately, our flight to Mauritius was only in the evening. We had almost five hours to kill. We thought we will check into the hotel, but by mistake we had exited the transit hotel area and had come to international check in lounge, and we were informed that we couldn’t go back. So we dozed off at the airport for some time as we were very sleepy. Our laptop batteries were dying as I was working in between. Then we had to search for a place to charge it. Finally We found a place in one corner, which means we had to be awake as charge points and the seating chairs were little far. So we kept ourselves awake until the laptop charged and then I distracted myself with work as it was getting really bored to sit in the area waiting for boarding.

Finally Sur went to check if the Air Mauritius started boarding and for our surprise they had began by then. We had a sigh of relief and went to check in. In the check in, the staffs checked every single document, from the flight ticket, insurance, covid coverage, hotel confirmation, PCR, vaccination, All in one Travel Form etc. They ensured that we had all the documents in hand and then handed over the boarding pass.

Then we moved to the security. Surprisingly Immigration was after security in Mumbai. I felt like the process was moving like snail and it was getting crowded as every bag was being sent for additional check. We thanked God that we were there early and we were in no rush so we just stood there, finished our security and then we left. It was more than an hour just to clear the security.

Next was Immigration, even here the process was slow. Immigration officer was asking for all possible documents, he verified and then let us go. We spent another hour to clear the immigration. By the time we were out it was almost 2 hours and I have decided never again to board a flight from Mumbai unless I do not have any other alternative. We had travelled from Bangalore and Delhi and the process were quick and smooth. But Mumbai seemed very disappointing as the entire process was slow. In case you are catching your flight from Mumbai, please ensure to reach at least 4-5 hours earlier for international travel so that you have enough time in hand to clear all the process so that you do not miss your flights.

Since we had enough time, we thought of going to the lounge. We didn’t know there were 2 lounges in Mumbai, one was Adani lounge and another loyalty lounge. We realized Adani lounges are paid ones or by invitation pass holders only. So we then found the loyalty lounge which was in a corner of duty free shop. It had a very average service. We had a quick bite, charged our mobiles and laptops, finished some work and left for the gate to board the flight.

We reached the gate and there was another chaos. There was announcement to board as per seat numbers but no one at the gate enforced, nor anyone followed. When we realized we had to go back to the queue as process was being not followed, we just joined the long queue and then boarded the Air Mauritius flight.

This was our first time in Air Mauritius and the staffs were friendly and the experience was good. As usual I enjoyed the movies on board and enjoyed their hospitality. Then we figured out there were a group of construction staffs from L&T sat next to us and they couldn’t communicate/read/write in English. When Air Hostess handed over both forms to fill up, they asked us if we could fill up for them. So I volunteered to fill it up and got them signed. Also we realized, the Air hostess was finding a little difficult to communicate, so we both volunteered to help them with the translation to serve them the right food and drinks. It was a nice feeling to volunteer for my Indian brethren to help them with the translation to enjoy the airline hospitality and to enjoy a hassle-free flight.

Then there was another worker who asked to fill his forms. We happily did, then we realized he didn’t have his work permit paper, I had asked him but he was showing the flight ticket and vaccination certificate. I had to tell him, he is missing his document and requested him to ask in the group as there were almost 8 workers in the group traveling together. I insisted that he gets his document, and he had no clue what document I am referring too. Then finally someone from the group showed the document in the phone where his name was present and then I had to brief him that he needs to show that document to the immigration when he lands. Finally, my broken Bengali came to help as most of them were from West Bengal. With Hindi and Bengali, somehow, I managed and we were glad that we could help them and that is always the best feeling in the world when you help someone without expecting anything in return.

A humble request to the HR team working on International Assignments/Deputations: Dear HR SPOCS, Our responsibility doesn’t end once we hand over the work paper or book a flight for an employee when they are chosen for an international project whether it’s for a white collar or blue-collar jobs. It’s our responsibility to ensure the employee knows what he needs to carry, do a travel briefing about the process involved when he boards a flight and documents needed to show at the immigration etc. It’s advisable that someone who can speak in English accompanies the group when no one is able to communicate in English, or at least there is a document which mentions all the details that immigration officer might have and add a local number in the destination country to verify/answer the details if the traveller is unable to communicate. Please note Immigration Officers cannot allow the traveller if they are not satisfied with the answers/right documents. Ensuring employee lands in the destination country without any hazzle is also our responsibility. Please make sure to brief every employee who travels on international locations. It would be a great help for your employees.

Just before landing, thought will use the rest room, but to my disappointment, the toilets were filthy and used tissues were all over on the floor, in the sink etc. I literally had to run away from there. Finally we landed to the beautiful Mauritius, went straight to immigration, it was a long queue, it went smoother and quick and then to the health officials. Since we were staying at the hotel/resort, we were let off immediately as others had more test at the airport and they had to wait. Then we picked up our luggage, converted some local currencies, found Mr. Vishwa who came to pick us up from the airport. We were chatting a little as he was speaking Hindi and he played nice old Hindi Songs for us. After almost an hour and half we finally reached the hotel.

By now it was early morning. As per the process, as soon as we land Antigen test had to be done at the hotel. The receptionist at Tarisa Resort took the test, we both were negative, so we were allowed to check in to our rooms. We were hungry, the hotel staffs already kept some bread and salad for dinner. To our disappointment the breads were too hard, even if I have to make a sandwich, I didn’t have energy to chew that hard bread and we were too tired to do that. Then for our disappointment the salad had egg plant. I am not sure who eats grilled egg plant, with the bread. We thought at least will have some extra butter and bread, but there was hardly little butter kept which was not enough for this hard bread. It was so disappointing to see such a pathetic dinner kept at the room. They had also forgotten to keep the cutlery. Even though we didn’t want to disturb the staff, we had to call the reception to send a butter knife at least. Finally we managed to have a bite of little bread with whatever butter we had and all other had to be wasted. We were not at all happy to waste the food but we couldn’t force ourselves to eat this dinner as well. We were too tired to complain and we just dozed off.

Day 2: We got up and rushed for a quick breakfast. They had bacons, chicken sausage sautéed with uncooked onions, pan cakes, omelettes and bread. I was looking for some healthy local breakfast options and I was quite disappointed they didn’t have any. Unfortunately, it was the same breakfast that we had the next 8 days, not a change even for a single dish. By now we realized it was a bad idea that we had pre paid for the dinner at this hotel. Unfortunately we didn’t find any other hotels close by, so we were left with no other option. Anyway we didn’t want to disappoint our day, we just had an omelette and croissant which was thankfully good and then we went to explore the city. We were picked by 11 AM by Mr. Ramveer, our guide for the entire stay in Mauritius.

Today we had explored North Island. First we were taken to Citadelle (Fort Adelaide) where the entry is free. This 19th-century military fortress features a walled courtyard & it has panoramic city views. It was a great place to get a great view. Then once we came down, we stopped in the small souvenir shop and then started our journey back.

Then we proceeded to Port Louis city tour. It was just a drive in, going through their Parliament, Supreme Court etc. Situated on the northwest coast, Port Louis is the business and administrative capital of Mauritius.

Then we visited the Marie Reine De La Paix Church, which is an open church located on the Signal Mountain with an amazing breath-taking view of Port-Louis and is a popular spot for prayers. It also overlooks the city and the sea. This monument was unveiled in 1940 and it was built to put Mauritians under the protection of the Virgin Mary in the context of the Second World War.  You also have few steps to climb to reach this church which has amazing garden surrounded by beautiful bougainvilleas.

Then we proceeded to Caudan Waterfront, a popular leisure and shopping place. It includes shops, banking facilities, casinos, cinemas, restaurants, a marina and a five star hotel. We entered to the shopping place, first we stopped to buy a Kuanfu Ripe Black Tea. It is produced on the volcanic island of Mauritius where the currents of the Indian Ocean brings the warm and humid subtropical marine climate, combined with the volcanic erupted soil creates the basic quality of Kuanfu Ripe Black Tea. Here they use an innovative technique to ferment the tea further for no less than 365 days. The Kuanfu Ripe Black Tea is a unique type of tea, which achieved a new height in the world due to its characteristics. The Kuanfu Ripe Black Tea soon allowed Mauritius to have a seat in the global tea market, especially in China.

Then we headed for some street shopping, we stopped for a tropical mixed fresh juice, which had papaya, passion fruit, watermelon, mangoes etc which was super delicious and then Sur had picked up a T-shirt. Since we were not very hungry we stopped at a café shop for a pastry and hot chocolate. That was very bad as well. So we just forced ourselves to finish it.

Then we went to Blue Penny Museum which was our last stop at Caudan waterfront. It’s a museum dedicated to history and art of Mauritius. The museum collection includes the 1847 Blue Penny and Red Penny stamps. It also has the love story of Paul and Virginie which is based on Bernardin de St-Pierre’s novel Paul et Virgini.  

Then we left for Jumbo Hypermarket. We needed to do some shopping as the hotel seems to be too stingy with toiletries. Usually I carry everything but this time I had forgotten to refill after our Meghalaya trip. Tarisa only gives you a bathing soap, towel and one litre of water for 2 people. So you need to buy more water bottles, shampoo, lotion, conditioner, tooth brush, tooth paste and anything else that you might need of. The hotel property is beautiful and was quite surprised about their stinginess even with the basic Amenities. So we bought all that we needed for the next one week of stay. We also picked up some wine, gin and lots of cheese for our snacks. Natural Sweet Rose’ from Robertson Winery had been my best pick up and we enjoyed so much that it was very difficult to put down the bottle without finishing it and we had to pick up one each for the next few days. We reached the hotel, enjoyed the wine that we bought and headed for Dinner. Once again that was a disappointment, for vegetarian, Sur had hardly any options and for myself the meat was too sweet with the sauce and a fried rice extremely dry. We had a bite and left the place as we couldn’t eat this dinner. Since we had cheese stoked up, that helped Sur a bit as I was too tired and dozed off. 

Day 3: We had the same breakfast and we started our journey to South Island. First we reached to Le Port Ship Model Factory and Showroom, where they build thousands of replicas of famous boats like Black Pearl etc.  They also have aircraft souvenirs of various airlines from different countries. They had souvenirs made out of Blue Marlin fish beaks and tails in original which was very impressive. Also there were other souvenirs like paintings, jewelleries and other gift items. It’s very difficult to leave this place without picking any as the entire shop was a work of art and it was worth shopping here.

Then we did drive in tour of Curepipe town which has lot of duty free items. This town lies at a higher elevation, often referred to as the “Central Plateau”. We passed through their municipality office and there were walk in blood donation came was happening. I was too tempted to go there but we were short of time to explore the place so I skipped.

Then we headed to Trou Aur Cerf which is an extinct volcanic crater where we could enjoy the lovely views of the crater and the plateau. We enjoyed the local ice cream there which had a passion fruit flavour for a change and it was good.

Then we headed to Grand Bassin, which has Ganga Talao (Sacred Lake), which is a crater lake situated in a secluded mountain area in the district of Savanne, deep in the heart of Mauritius and considered sacred for Hindus. This area has lot of various Hindu temples and we went near the lake, where people were offering their pujas, we said a prayer and we returned.

Then we headed to Mangal Mahadev which was close by. It is a 33 m tall sculpture of the Hindu god Shiva standing with his Trishula at the entrance of Ganga Talao. It is a replica of the Shiva statue in Sursagar lake in Vadodara, Gujarat in India and is the tallest statue in Mauritius. Then diagonally opposite side we had Maa Durga Statue. This statue is measured at 108 feet, 33 meters high, thus making it the tallest Durga Mata statue in the world.

Then we headed to La Vallée Des Couleurs (The Valley of Colours) Nature Park and refers to the colourful geological formation in the region, which provides exciting activities and attractions such as Quad Biking, Ziplines, Nepalese Bridge, Kart and Trekking. We booked a safari to go around the property, while we were waiting we tried the blue berry donut which was too sweet for me to handle. Then as our safari arrived, first we went to see the 23 coloured Earth. The origin of it dates back to millions of years after the volcanic eruption of the Bassin Blanc. It is a phenomenon arising from volcanic activity and mineral deposits; totally unique to this one beautiful spot on earth. There were also lot of small Guava fruits where the leaves looked very different and the staff said it was Chinese (small fruits) and French guava (bigger fruits) trees. He found one ripe Chinese guava for me and made me taste it. I was so happy and it tasted good.

Then we headed to Chamouze waterfall, they also have a zipline to view the waterfall to see it close. We enjoyed the view and then headed to Vacoas Waterfall. The name Vacoas actually refers to Pandanus utilis, the common screw pine which is found in Mauritius. The Vacoas plant previously being used to manufacture sugar bags. Today, the fresh Vacoas leaves have been used to make baskets, yarns, ropes and souvenirs while the dry leaves are disposed of as agricultural wastes. The products manufactured from these fibres are found to be of high strength, lasting and have a high service life. This dry leaves also been used for the hut roof as well. Then it was time to try the 3rd longest zipline in the world of 1.5 Km. Even though initially I closed my eyes, slowly I opened my eyes to enjoy the beautiful view and that was one you shouldn’t be missing out.

Then we wanted to try the Nepalese Bridge but were too tired and hungry to try that. So we skipped that and went to La Citronnelle Restaurant for lunch. I saw the Deer menu and immediately ordered the dish as I had tasted when I was a kid. It was like any other meat, didn’t feel much difference and it was made a little dry. While I enjoyed the rice, salad and deer meat and Sur ordered his pasta which was really good and he couldn’t finish as the quantity was so much. For dessert I requested for a coconut mousse and I enjoyed the very cold dessert. It was almost evening, so we headed back to see the important person in the park, which was a big tortoise, it’s more than 100-year-old and he was freely strolling around in the open park. He was enjoying his evening snack of grass, so without disturbing we went a little closer for the photograph and then we returned back to the hotel. We reached the hotel and dozed off as both of us were not at all interested to go for the dinner.

Day 4: After breakfast at the hotel, we headed to proceed for full day tour of Ile Aux Cerfs Island. First we went to the office of Aquasea Co Ltd and we booked for a under sea walk, speed boat ride to Ile Aux Cerfs Island, visit to waterfall from that Island and Parasailing. Later they cancelled saying it was too windy to do it. So he was little disappointed.

So we started for the Undersea walk. I was little nervous to do it. We had to do a 5-10 minutes boat ride and from there we went for the undersea walk. The staffs were vey supportive and gave all the instructions and they helped me with the initial hiccups as well. After few minutes, I finally felt confident and enjoyed the undersea walk. We could see we were surrounded by school of Sergeant Major Fish. We could also spot few False Eye Damsel Fish as well. As we started we also saw a hanuman statue on the sea bed and then after enjoying such amazing experience we returned back to the shore.

Then we headed to the fishing village of Trou d’Eau Douce to take the speed boat to Ile Aux Cerfs Island. We waited for the speed boat and then we got dropped at the island. There was another speedboat to see the waterfall and we had almost 45 minutes to kill so we decided to do Para Sailing as there they were doing. Sur insisted so I joined. So we had to take a boat ride of another 5 minutes to reach the platform and then we para sailed. It was an amazing experience and please do not miss out these adventures. Then it was time to rush to the speedboat for the waterfall visit. It was one hell of a ride and we enjoyed except the scorching sun as it was afternoon. As we went closer to the waterfall, we also spotted few monkeys and then we  enjoyed the view of the waterfall and we returned back to the Island.

Then we headed to the restaurant for buffet, Sur had a Margarita Pizza since vegetarian options were very limited. I went for the buffet as I had lot of options. I had fish ball soup, beef, chicken, sausages etc. Also ordered some drinks from Sands Bar which was opposite to the buffet restaurant.

Then we visited few souvenir shops around and by then it was 4 PM to catch the speedboat to get out of the Island. Our guide was waiting at the jetty and we got dropped to our hotel. We reached the room and crashed for the night as I was not interested to go for dinner. Sur decided to go down to try his luck and he was unsuccessful to find something interesting for the dinner with his very limited options.

Day 5: After breakfast at the hotel, we proceeded to Casela Natural Park which is one of the most popular leisure and attraction parks in Mauritius offering a variety of fun and thrilling activities.  It spans over 350 hectares and is divided into 5 zones, each with its own unique characteristic. The 5 zones are Thrill Mountain, Predator Kingdom, African Safari, Pangia Birds and Rides and World of Events. First we went to see the birds, they had Macaws, Parakeets, Love birds, Horn Bill, Turtle Doves, Bare faced Go Away birds, Silver pheasant, Fantail pigeon, Red and yellow barbet, Vulturine guineafowl, Red turtle dove, Javan sparrow, White java sparrow and many more. We also saw green iguanas, fruit bats, and macaques’ monkey.

Then we stopped for a juice of Alouda which is a Mauritian Milk Shake made with Milk, Agar-Agar, Sugar Syrup and Basil Seeds and I had tamarind juice. It was refreshing as I never drank a tamarind juice.

Then we went for the African Safari where we saw the Zebras, Ostriches, Impalas (they have such a beautiful horns), Kudus, Oryx, Nyalas, Waterbucks and Rhinos. We saw a zebra and few ostriches come near the safari vehicle to see what we were up to and it was nice to watch them too close. Then we saw the camel on the way before we took Big Cat safari. Kudos to the guide who explained so well, the trip was very informative. They have walking with lions option but we were under the assumption that these animals might be drugged to do all these activities so we skipped.

But the guide explained during the trip that, here the animals are not drugged and it was a relief to know. We also got to know that most of the Lions and tigers were born here, so as the animals learn to respond to the commands from the staff, Staffs in turn learn the body language of the big cats.  We also heard Lion is considered the king of the jungle as they stay in groups called Prides that makes them stronger comparing to Tigers, as tigers prefer to be left alone which makes them weaker than lions, even though physically tigers are more stronger than lions individually. Here onlythere were Bengal Tigers, which they got it from India and currently there are 10 of them, out of which six of them are born here in Mauritius. The interesting fact about lion is that they take a little time to react where tigers reactions/moods can change in seconds so they are very unpredictable. Since tigers grew here, they are used with humans and if we end of running away in fear in an emergency situation, the tiger tries to chase you to play with you as the running interests them, but they don’t realize their chase can be deadly to humans. So its better to stay away from big cats for your own safety.

Then we went to see Pigmy Hippo but we couldn’t spot it. We also had a ticket for Tulawaka which is the rollercoaster ride but we didn’t want to do that in the scorching sun. Then we saw other animals like Llama. This park also has animal feeding activity with some animals like camel, Ilama, Ziraffe etc.

Then we sat for a late lunch at blue bird restaurant. I had wild boar meat which was ok and Sur enjoyed the veg burger. Then we drove back to the hotel enjoying on the way, the sugar cane fields and Mauritus Fody which is a tiny bird with a bright orange color looked so beautiful. We reached the hotel, thought will go for the dinner today since staff was insiting me to come down as they wanted to give my delayed birthday cake and Sur decided to skip it. So I just had a soup and then hotel staff brought me a birthday cake since the initial plan was to visit Mauritius was for my birthday. Even though our trip got postponed, staff insisted that I cut the cake as they made it already. So I quickly cut it, had a mini bite, thanked them and gave back the cake for the staffs to enjoy and then I went and crashed for the night.

Day 6: We were informed there won’t be any activity today due to the cyclone Batsirai warning. So we woke up, had breakfast and were relaxing at the hotel. We went close to the beach and were doing birdwatching. Mauritius is a bird lover’s paradise as here there are quite a lot of beautiful birds and you don’t feel bored even if you are doing nothing. We spotted cute little Pic Pic bird (Mauritius Grey White Eye), Madagascar Turtle Dove, Zebra Dove, Indian Myna, Sparrow, Red whiskered Bulbul, Village Weaver, helmeted guineafowl, Malagasy Turtle dove and Red Fody. During our drive most of the trees had beautiful village weaver nests all around and it looked so beautiful to look into.

So first we had category 2 warning of cyclone which means water activities are banned. We were just praying that people of Mauritius stay safe from this cyclone and there should not be any causalities. Then we went for lunch but it was almost closing time, so we ordered veg pizza. It didn’t look appetizing as the base was big and cheese was less and all it had was potato, corn and all possible vegetables were added and it not at all tasted like pizza as the cheese was very minimal but it was ok. We forcefully finished that and went to the room. By now slowly there were heavy rain and wind.

It was also day to take our 2nd Antigen test. So we took the test at the hotel, and we were tested negative. We also had the healthcare representative coming to take PCR sample for our RT PCR test to be taken for our flight back to India.

By now the Class 3 cyclone had been announced and we were asked not to go near the beach and we were instructed to stay indoors. The catamaran cruise that was planned which is mostly snorkelling in different spots got cancelled due to cyclone warning. We both were back to work with the limited net connectivity due to the cyclone. Then evening we went for dinner and finally I had the best of meal where very dish was cooked to perfection. I enjoyed the Seafood specially Octopus, Fish, Beef, Duck etc. Sur only could have some salads due to his limited option. Finally I had the satisfaction of a good dinner and then we crashed for the night.

Day 7: We woke up and there was heavy rain and the visit to Aparvasi Ghat and Le Morne also had been postponed as the cyclone warning has been moved to Class 4 which means strictly we should stay indoors. So we were back to work. Since the lab could not open we informed Air Mauritius that we do not have PCR results so we had to postpone our travel dates as we were not allowed to board the flight without PCR. So we informed Muddasar to postpone our flights, then went back to work, had our dinner and crashed for the night.

Day 8: As we woke up, we got to know that cyclone warning has been removed, however it was raining so we couldn’t step out. We also heard there was one casualty when the tree fell on a bus conductor while he stepped out for work. May his soul rest in peace. We also had poor connectivity as hotel network cable got damaged in the cyclone. So now we were trying to plan the activities that we missed as we extended our stay. We got to know water activities cannot be done as it would take some time for the sea to get back to normalcy, so we could do the Aparvasi Ghat and Le Morne activities for the next day. We also fixed our PCR sample collection and it was booked for the next day early morning. We then crashed for the night.

Day 9: We woke up early since we had to give the PCR sample, the Govt hospital staff was on time, gave the sample and then we went to freshen up. We had our breakfast and our guide was ready to pick us up to visit Aparvasi Ghat. This is the Immigration Depot which is a building complex located in Port Louis. It is the first British colony to receive indentured, or contracted, labour workforce from many countries and majority were from India to work on Sugar cane plantations. Respect to the government for building a memorial for them to remember the past history of the country. We couldn’t go inside as the water had come inside due to the cyclone. So we stayed at the reception and saw the photos of the first labour workforce and headed out.

Then we left to Bagatelle Mall, which is the biggest mall in Mauritius and went to the Supermarket to pick up our favourite wine. Then we headed to Alexandra Falls View Point in Chamouny. Unfortunately path was closed as the tree had fallen on the way.

So we headed to Black River Gorges National Park, which has waterfall view point. It was an amazing view. After enjoying the scene we headed for the Rum tasting in Rhumarie De Chamarel. This is one of the rare distilleries still in activity to cultivate its own sugar cane. We paid the entrance ticket and then we waited for the English guide Mr. Giovanni and he explained the complete process and we had almost 12 rums to taste. Since I am not someone who enjoys rum shots, I just had a sip of each. The first rum was a cocktail mix called (Ti-Punch) which was really good. As it was time for lunch, we had it in their restaurant. I wanted to try the lobster but Sur gets scared of looking at the lobster, so I had to settle for Mix Grill which had Beef, Chicken and Fish which came with a nice salad, also I had ordered crab gratin which was too salty for my taste. Then to complete I had ordered Tiramisu and it was another great lunch. Sur ordered their Ti Punch and I had Virgin Pina Colada which was great as well. All that Sur had just 2 vegetarian options either rice with curried pickles or potato gnocci and he settled for gnocci. Sometimes I feel bad for his limited options but I am unable to help as it’s their own individual choice. I also feel you cannot be a true traveler if you cannot explore the local cuisines.

I just realized after visiting few countries like Mauritius and Vietnam, if you love travel and love to explore the world, it helps if you don’t have any food restrictions and be open to explore the local cuisines. I do understand, there is a mind block for the environment that we were brought up, foods that we were exposed to while growing up, religious sentiments etc. Even I had my own mind block to try some of the meats and even vegetables which I got exposed much later in life. I had to thank God for the supervisors who mentored me while growing up and they trained me, that I should be able to eat anything. They always said, if I refuse any local food it means I am insulting the locals. That was my turning point and slowly I opened myself to explore and give a try whether I like it or not. So that helped me to open my horizons to try new food around the world while traveling.

Then we headed to Le Morne Cultural Landscape, which is a rugged mountain that just sits into the Indian Ocean in the southwest of Mauritius was used as a shelter by runaway slaves, maroons, through the 18th and early years of the 19th centuries. Protected by the mountain’s isolated, wooded and almost inaccessible cliffs, the escaped slaves formed small settlements in the caves and on the summit of Le Morne. The oral traditions associated with the maroons, have made Le Morne a symbol of the slaves’ fight for freedom, their suffering, and their sacrifice, all of which have relevance to the countries from which the slaves came – the African mainland, Madagascar, India, and South-east Asia. Indeed, Mauritius, an important stopover in the eastern slave trade, also came to be known as the “Maroon republic” because of the large number of escaped slaves who lived on Le Morne Mountain.

Then we headed back home to pack our bags for our return for the next day. We followed up for the PCR results. Once we received we had to do the arrival formalities of India

Arrival Formalities:

  • Fill up the Self Declaration Form in Air Suvidha (https://www.newdelhiairport.in/airsuvidha/apho-registration), Upload the PCR, Vaccination certificate, passport copies, return flight including connecting flight details if any.
  • Once you submit you get a filled form with the reference number starting with SR
  • That document has to be shared to the airline a day prior as they also were following up for the same.
  • Also we need to pre book the RT-PCR at the city airport where we were landing in India and we need to share the confirmation to the airline staff.

We also got to know that we need to carry the filled self-declaration form as a hard copy, unfortunately our hotel couldn’t help due to connectivity issues. So finally airline helped with the same at the airport. We also needed to keep our PCR certificate and Vaccination certificate ready with us as well. Once we shared the details with the airline and got a confirmation from the airline staff, we went for the last night’s dinner at the hotel. Even though we were not hungry, we went to thank the staffs for their amazing hospitality. Then we reached the room, packed our bags and crashed for the night. 

Day 10: We had to wake up early as we had a morning flight for our return to Mumbai. Ramveer picked us and dropped us to the airport. We went for a check in, we were sent back to the airline counter as we couldn’t get the hard copy of the self-declaration form. Once we got it from the airline office at the airport, we checked in.  The airline staff ensured every single document was checked and we were not missing out any document. Then we cleared the immigration, security and went to the boarding gate. I was hungry, so we grabbed a burger at Burger King and we were looking for a currency exchange counter as Sur had withdrawn local currency but we couldn’t spend it due to the cyclone as we couldn’t step out, so we decided to convert it in India and went towards our boarding gate and then boarded our return flight. We enjoyed the airline hospitality and landed in Mumbai.

Thankfully arrival process seemed much better. First we decided to do Rapid PCR test, since we needed to catch our connecting flights as this result is provided in 45 minutes than the normal PCR which takes 8-10 hours. As we went to the counter we were informed that the travel partner had by mistake chosen Delhi lab instead of Mumbai, so we had to do a fresh appointment in Mumbai Airport and make the payment again.  We gave our Rapid PCR samples, cleared the Immigration, picked up for bags, cleared the customs and then we realized we had time to catch the Bangalore flight so Muddasar was on the job for preponing the flight as soon as we confirmed that our PCR result was negative.  We succeeded in booking Go Air, as that was the only flight available for Bangalore for the night. We booked a taxi from airport and went to Terminal 1.  Thankfully check in was open as we had extra baggage to be paid as well. The process was smooth, we checked in, cleared the security and went to the lounge. This lounge was way better comparing to the International loyalty lounge, enjoyed the steam rice with nice fish curry, which is my comfort food any time of the day. Sur had some Dhoklas and we headed to the gate for boarding. We Enjoyed the GoAir hospitality and landed in Bangalore. We picked up our bags, took an airport taxi and reached Home Sweet Home after such an amazing visit to the Paradise Island. Also do not forget to do another PCR on 8th day of arrival after a home quarantine of 7 days and the test result had to be uploaded in Air Suvedha as well.

First of all a big thank you to Muddasar from Sailani Tours, who is our Travel Partner. He had too many sleepless nights as our tickets were postponed, preponed and rescheduled. He had been a biggest support and kudos for his excellent customer service. Also thanks to the backend team, who was helping him to make our travel hassle free one.

Next a big thanks to our Guide Mr. Ramveer, he was a perfect gentleman and provided a great support through out our stay. Thanks to the local team in Mauritius who helped us in every possiblen way from ensuring the visits are done as planned, the antigen/PCR are scheduled as per the time.

Another big thanks to the staffs at Tarisa Resort, the hotel policy might be towards a stingy one, but the staffs are warm, hospitable and they made sure we had a great time. We had to pass on our special thanks to the housekeeping staff who had to travel during cyclone as she couldn’t skip her work inspite of the risk involved in stepping out. Lots of respect.

Another big thanks to the Air Mauritius Staff, they were so diligent in their work, warm, extremely helpful and hospitable. We loved it.

Another big thanks to the Govt of Mauritius, even though it felt a hazzle to take 2 antigen test after landing and PCR for onward and return, we realized this is just to keep the country people and travelers safe. The strict enforcement of masks, almost 80% population been fully vaccinated along with booster shots, you are a role model for other countries.  Lot of respect for your governance for the welfare of the people.

Last but not least a big thanks to the people of Mauritius. I was blown away by your warmth, self confidence, and the spirit of living life to the fullest each day no matter what challenge life threw. First time I felt I was not in a foreign country and felt at home. I admired the discipline on the road, never heard anyone honking. Everyone followed the rules, everyone was friendly. Even they tried to speak in Hindi, the moment they knew we were from India as most of them could speak Hindi. You were the perfect host and we feel privileged to enjoy your warmth and love.

I wish India removed Mauritius from at risk country list as almost 80% of their population has been fully vaccinated with booster shots. PCR for entry and 2 Antigen test and PCR for return, they are following strict protocols to ensure we are safe. I am not sure why this country is still classified as at risk.

Mauritius, this is truly a paradise Island and the experience has been being in paradise.

Please stay safe………….

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