London is less polluted and well planned

This article is written by Pranav Arora

My journey from Rana Pratap Bagh to London was like the title of the movie, Amritsar to LA. London is the place I am sure most of us want to visit. It reminds me of tall ancient buildings, Shahrukh Khan running on the London Bridge, its rich heritage and also real English people. I got an opportunity through my school under the UKIERI project to visit London this year.

When I arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, I felt as if everybody was welcoming me only.

The flight gave me a relaxing, enjoyable and home-like feeling during the journey. The view of the sky from the window was amazing. I was imagining that the clouds were vanilla ice-cream scoops with the sunlight as a mango topping over it.

After eight-nine hours, I reached Heathrow, where I met Crispin Bonham Carter, with whom I was going to stay for the next six days. His family and I talked about the Indian cricket team, Indian food and my project. They gave me Indian food to eat.

London is famous for its theatre. I went to the Peacock Theatre, where I watched a play, Insane In The Brain. It was like our Munna Bhai movies. But it was a dance based show. I tried English food, less salty and less spicy, and made good friends.

The next day, I went on a London tour where I watched Will Smith starrer, I Am Legend, at IMax, the only 4D cinema in the world.

A show at the IMax, London

On day four, I got the chance to visit London Eye, which cost me 10 pounds. I also enjoyed the cruise on River Thames. It was very relaxing. The funny dresses of the guards outside the Buckingham Palace and their kettle cover like hats made me giggle.

In the Tower of London, I saw the Kohinoor diamond. It is so beautiful and lustrous. It made me feel proud that we are its original owners. The visit to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum was my next destination. It took me a few hours to reach there from Southhall by car. I saw wax effigies of Beckham, Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and many more.

The family with whom I was staying took me on a cycle ride. They were really concern about saving the enviroment by not burning fuel.

They know my keen interest in cricket, so they took me to Lords for a match. There we watched a match between Middlesex and Kent. I was supporting Middlesex, which won the match by a little margin. I got to see Adam Gilchrist and David Warner very closely. I also saw Sachin Tendulkar’s autographed bat and Kapil Dev’s sweater worn in the 1983 cricket world cup at the Lords Museum.

The Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Southall, London

In the last two days of my visit the school where I was on the mission gave me a party. I tried real Italian pizza and got to see its preparation too. I danced the entire night. I bid goodbye to the English family with teary eyes and went to my paternal aunt in Southhall. I was overwhelmed to see a beautiful and majestic gurudwara there. Southhall is like mini India.

I really didn’t want to come back to India. Though I love India but living is better there. London is less polluted, less corrupted, well planned and the beautiful weather inspires you to stay there for long.

Finally my aunt dropped me at the airport. I am still in touch with the English family and will definitely go to UK for further study.

Pranav Arora

14 Sept 2010

Must Try Food around the world

Yes, being safe is the usual choice when it comes to eating out whilst you are travelling. Well, you really don’t want an upset stomach in the midst of your a trek in the Namibian desert or a stay in the village where the nearest doctor would probably be miles away.

The safe traveller would pack in couple of packets of dried nuts, fruits, chips and resort to heading out to the nearest burger joint. And yes, I do agree that packing a sandwich or a burger over trying out the local flavor always seems the right way to go especially when you are face with a menu of unknown dishes. Paani-puri? Anago-meshi? Uova con tartufi? “Um, I’ll take a sandwich and a salad to go”

But, I’ve always felt that the best way to sink your feet into the local culture is experimenting and what better way than the local cuisine. There is an instant connect – bang on when you sample the local delicacy just like every one else. You throw off the mantle of being ‘just another tourist’ and don on the ‘locale flavor. So how do you do it…well, it’s pretty simple!  Take a cue from the locals when looking for the perfect dish to try. Look around. See what the crowd is gorging on.  Smile. Point. And Indulge!!!

And ofcourse, a bold and brave taste buds are essential; in some cases, an iron stomach is encouraged.

Arepas of Colombia

Colombia might be the only Latin American country where rice is more important than corn. But Colombians have a special place in their heart for the cornmeal cakes they call arepas. If you’ve never had the pleasure, imagine corn bread with a more delicate crumb that’s been flattened into a pancake, filled with cheese or egg, and griddled or fried to form a brown, crispy crust. Each bite sends butter streaking down your chin and, for Colombians, inspires memories of abuela at the stove. For the best, fly down to Cartegena…head to the nearby soccer field, where a gaggle of ladies sell carimañolas (yuca fritters filled with ground beef), empanadas, and most importantly, those fabulous arepas.

Sago’t gulaman of Philippines

One of the beautiful things about the Philippines is the love for food everyone has. And a must try local delicacy is Sago’t Gulaman – walking around local markets, you would find street food vendors with their moveable food cart serving hungry lines of mouths just waiting for a bite to eat of this local delicacy. Sago’t Gulaman is a mix of sago and agar agar in a sugary caramelized liquid. This dark colored refreshment is sweet to the taste and filling with all of the sago and gelatin like cubes. Top it up with a cantaloupe juice – where the melon is so sweet….strips of the cantaloupe meat float around your cup, so you get some with each sip you take. If you finish all of the juice, the cantaloupe strips are layered right in the bottom of your cup, all ready to be snacked on.

The Henderson Waves Bridge – Singapore

The Henderson Waves Bridge – Singapore

Henderson Waves is a 274-metre (899 ft) long pedestrian bridge. At 36 metres (118 ft) above Henderson Road, it is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. It connects Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park. It was designed by IJP Corporation, London, and RSP Architects Planners and Engineers (PTE) ltd Singapore.

The bridge has a wave-form made up of seven undulating curved steel ribs that alternately rise over and under its deck. The curved ribs form alcoves that function as shelters with seats within. Slats of yellow balau wood, an all-weather timber found in Southeast Asia, are used in the decking. The wave-forms are lit with LED lamps at night from 7pm to 2am daily.


Henderson Waves springs from a scenic location off Mount Faber and spans some 284 meters above Henderson Road, a six-lane freeway running through the south coast of the island state. This man-made structure, the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia, is smoothly integrated into the landscape.
It has seven spans, six of typical size (3.5 meters high, 24 meters long), and a larger one (6 meters high, 57 meters long). The upside spans unfold above deck level and house temporary activities, such as seating, lounging and sight-seeing. The remaining spans unfold below deck level and are not accessible –simply ensuring the continuity of the structure.
Two inclined decks extend the bridge at both ends, linking it with existing pathways and plazas. The full length of the bridge runs close to 284 meters, and the difference in elevation between springing and landing is equal to the full height of a seven-story housing block.
The design concept of Henderson Waves is based on a folded three-dimensional surface-form created by means of simple mathematics. The architect of the project used proprietary mathematical techniques to define its form simply and rigorously. Hence the form bends, undulates, and ascends by twenty-one meters in one movement; in the process it also deforms to provide adequate egress, sloping, shelter, and scenic viewing to pedestrians and cyclists.

The surface-form of Henderson Waves is made of steel and timber. Steel is needed for structural purposes, whereas timber celebrates the beauty of natural forms.

The primary structure of the bridge features a sequence of steel arches and catenaries (or down-facing arches) joined across, and resting upon, reinforced concrete pylons. These pylons (the tallest of which reaches 38m) sit between waves as it were, at the point where the surface-form self-intersects and tapers down to a single beam.

The 1,500 square meter timber deck sitting on top of the steel structure is the centrepiece of the project.
The complex, doubly-curved portions of this large expanse of tropical hardwood form a tapestry of 5000 modular boards, each varying by a single degree every 10m –and many tapered to measure.
The entire deck being supported on a steel sub-frame with vibration dampeners, the coordination of steel and timber became a challenging task. Using its proprietary equations, the architect issued precise numerical descriptions of the surface at regular 500mm intervals, and provided dimensional coordinates that greatly assisted the production of the timber manufacturer’s shop drawings.

The Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong inaugurated the newly completed project on Saturday May 10, 2008. This stunning piece of public infrastructure is one of three new linkways built by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in the Southern Ridges, at a total cost of S$25.5 million.

Architect IJP Corporation and RSP Architects Planners and Engineers PTE Ltd, SIngapore. Engineer RSP Architects Planners and Engineers PTE Ltd, SIngapore. Concept and scheme design engineering by Adams Kara Taylor Consulting Civil and Structural Engineers, UK.

Source: Wikipedia

Three Days In Amsterdam

Hotel Europe, Amsterdam

One of my favorite cities in the world is Amsterdam, and it has nothing to do with the colorful red lights that are so characteristic of the city. What I love about Amsterdam is that it reminds me of home with its brick buildings, open skyline, history (the Pilgrims came from Leiden before they landed on Plymouth rock!), and similar attitude towards life. Over the years, I’ve visited Amsterdam on many different times and I’ve spent countless hours walking the city, making local friends, and living in the city for a few months in 2006. The city deserves more than just a two day to its coffeeshops most people give it. However, if a few days are all you have, here is a itinerary that will give you an idea as to what the city is really about

Day 1
Free Walking Tour

A good way to orient yourself to the city is with a walking tour. You’ll learn some history and be able to see where all these windy canal streets take you. I recommend the free New Europe walking tour. It covers a lot of ground and gives you a good general overview of the city.

Canal Tour

Amsterdam is a city tied to the water. The canals of Amsterdam are incredibly beautiful and there’s nothing like seeing the city from a boat. Skip the big canal boat tours you see around the city. They are over priced and you can hire a private boat tour for less. Look for guides around the Red Light District.

Van Gogh Museum– This may be one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, but don’t let the crowds deter you from your visit. The museum features many of Van Gogh’s best works of art alongside an excellent biography of his life. The museum is laid out in chronological order starting with his earliest works. They also have paintings by other famous artists like Monet, Manet, and Matisse. I’ve been three times, but then again I love Van Gogh.

Rijksmuseum – Rijksmuseum is located right next to the Van Gogh Museum. Although it is constantly under renovation, the museum still features an extensive Rembrandt collection, and you’ll be able to see the famous painting, The Night Watch. Besides Rembrandt, there’s also a good collection of other classic Dutch painters.

Vondel Park

Amsterdam’s largest and most popular park is a great place to walk, bike, people watch, or relax, especially after a visit to a local coffee shop. There’s a playground, places to play sports, and numerous areas for hanging out. During the summer, Vondel Park is filled with people.

The Heineken Experience
This museum used to be a lot better when it was cheaper and they offered more beer. It’s not a working brewery and in comparison to the Guinness Museum in Dublin, it’s lame. The price of admission buys you three beers and you’ll learn a bit of the history of Heineken. There’s even a video game.

Day 2
Anne Frank House

In all honesty, I don’t like this place. I found it to be anti-climactic and overall, I felt the Jewish History Museum does a more thorough job of relating the events in Anne Frank’s life and the Holocaust. You basically do a slow walk through the house. But if you don’t mind waiting in line and you’re curious about her, it might be worth the visit. Get there early to avoid a line.

The Jordaan Area– This heavily residential area is one probably the most missed attraction in Amsterdam. I personally think it’s the best area of the city. Although it’s right near the city center, hardly any tourists enter this maze of restaurants, cafes, and stores. Make sure you walk around. It’s peaceful and a great place to avoid the mass of tourists crowding the main streets.

The Tulip Museum

Located in a room inside a tulip shop, this little place does an interesting job of telling the history of tulips in Holland and the infamous Tulip craze. It’s one of the best off the beaten attractions in Amsterdam. Best of all: you’ll never find a crowd.

Amsterdam History Museum– This museum features a very thorough history of Amsterdam. It’s big and you’ll need 3 or 4 hours to really see it. There are a lot of relics, maps, paintings, and audio visual information through out the museum. My favorite is the computer graphic showing the growth and construction of the city over time.

Saint Nicholas Church- This is my favorite church in Amsterdam and one of my favorites in all of Europe. It’s a baroque style church with nothing amazing about it but the immense interior, its age, and the stain glass make it beautiful. You can sense the history inside.

Red Light District

Though much tamer than it has been in previous years, the Red Light District is still an interesting area. You’ll find all the seediness you’d expect, and even a few families. Just don’t take pictures of the girls in the windows. Big bouncers might appear out of now where and smash your camera.

Day 3
Do a Bike Tour

Bikes go with Amsterdam like wine goes with France. The city loves bikes and there are supposedly more bikes in Amsterdam than people. In fact, forget about keeping a lookout for cars. It’s the bikes that will run you over! Seeing Amsterdam and its surrounding area from a bike is something I definitely encourage people to do.

Jewish History Museum– An often-overlooked museum, the Jewish History Museum tells the history of Jews and their prominent and influential position in Amsterdam. The exhibit on World War Two does a great job of highlighting Dutch complacency, resistance, and guilt over the Holocaust.


Everyone goes to Vondelpark to sit around, bike, or get high, but east of the main city center is a beautiful park with a lot fewer people and green space that is just as nice. It’s about a 30-minute walk from the city center, but it takes you through residential areas of the city not often seen and way off the tourist map.

FOAM– This photography museum houses wonderful pictures and sees few crowds despite being in the main part of the city. It’s a must for any photography lover. I really enjoyed all the black and white photographs and the outdoor garden.

(Optional activity: Coffee shops. I didn’t include any in this list of things to do because there’s more to Amsterdam than its famed smoke shops. If you do want to go to some, you’ll find them all around the city. They are like Starbucks- one on every corner! I like Dolphin. Skip “The Grasshopper” though. They grossly overcharge.)

This list only touches the surface of things to do in Amsterdam. There’s a lot of off the beaten path activities you could include as well as many markets, shops, and museums to see. Three days in any city is never enough time to really see, but, given Amsterdam’s compact nature, it’s definitely enough time to hit all the “major” attractions here. You just won’t hit anything else.

Nomadic Matt

Sept 2010

The Como weekend

Como Pano as viewed from Lake Como

Driving southeast from Germany, through Switzerland towards Italy, the Italians reach you before you reach Italy. In a service area near the Swiss-Italian border, the small grey-haired lady behind the coffee counter (who turns to customers with a sprightly “Prego!”) is surprised by our request for a Cappucino mit Sahne (cream); for the Italians, coffee goes only with milk. We are heading towards the Italian Lake District, to a town next to lake Como, about 20 kilometers from the city with the same name. Como is close to the Swiss border, which explains the Swiss-Italian blend visible there. The roads are small, but the traffic exhibits traces of Swiss restraint. Fashion shows a stronger Italian influence: the elegant costumes in Como mirror the styles I’ve seen in Milan. The elaborate lakeside villas and the expensive cars – Mercedes Benzs, BMWs, Porches – paint a Swiss-like glossy, rich canvas. You could take in the alpine mountains all around and believe you are still in Switzerland. This isn’t the Italy of the South, not the real Italy, as some would say.

We reach Como on a balmy Friday afternoon, and continue along the treacherous road to Lezzeno. The SS583, a winding road that cuts through the mountainside along the western arm of lake Como, is not more than four meters

wide in most places, and it narrows down to two meters along some curves. When there is time to spot an approaching car I slow down almost to a halt, but there are times when you meet the daring Italian in his tiny Fiat around a blind bend, and at such times the only recourse is to close your eyes and pray to the local diety, la Madonna. After twenty minutes on this highway I can take it no more; I drive into the next roadside restaurant I spot.

The pizzeria, which has a terrace overlooking the lake and the mountains, appears empty, and the only man attending is in no hurry to serve us. He arrives at our table after ten minutes and reluctantly presents the menu cards. We spend the next two hours there. Wife joins a long teleconference, and uses her iPad to give a presentation. (It is a sobering reminder that we belong to the “always-connected” generation, and that we do not control when we go “offline”). I gaze around at the green mountains curtained by a thin mist, at the occasional boat that ferries people across the lake, at the bees leisurely surveying the flowers on the railings. The view probably hasn’t changed much over the centuries; there are surely more settlements next to the lake, but everything else seems untouched. This may be an illusion created by the stillness of water and the immovable, immutable mountains: you feel they’ve been around for thousands of years, and will continue for thousands more. There is a timelessness about this place that make two hours seem like eternity.

Our room is in an apartment in Lezzeno, one of the small towns hugging the mountainside. The landlady is a friendly middle-aged Italian woman, whose second language is French; neither of us know Italian, but Wife claims to understand French: she deals with the handover business. The Italians cannot speak without using their hands, so what ensues is a frenetic display of gestures, emotions, and words, at the end of which Wife sends me a reassuring glance: everything is understood, settled.

It is a modern, well-furnished apartment, with a hall serving as a common living-dining-kitchen and with two individual rooms. Guests are expected for the weekend in the other room too: a French couple later that afternoon, and a German lady next day, once the French leave. The hall has windows that open out to the lake, about a hundred meters away, and a row of cottages stands in between. But these houses are at a lower level, which leaves us an unobstructed view, similar to the one from the restaurant terrace we just left, but at a lower level. I unload the car and settle down to read. Among the Italian magazines in the apartment is a copy of Vogue with a black & white picture of three plump beauties; inside is a photo essay with the tag-line “Curvy is Sexy”. I am still flipping through these pages when the landlady comes in, followed by an elderly couple, the French guests. My first instinct is to turn the pages to a safer section, but then it occurs to me that we are dealing with the French: why hide anything? After a few friendly greetings – the zestful Bongiorno! has now turned into the sensualBonjour – the landlady goes on to explain the apartment to our fellow guests. When she leaves, the elderly French lady is keen to speak to us: do we speak French? Je parle une petit peu Francais, Wife replies with confidence, and that is enough encouragement for the lady: she begins a conversation; I retire to the bedroom. Some minutes later, when I turn my ears to sounds from the hall, I hear a stream of French sentences punctuated by short mouse-like squeaks. I listen harder: the lady is going on and on, and every once in a while Wife manages to squeeze in an “Oui!” before the lady continues with her discourse. …………. Oui! …………… Oui! ……….. Oui! ……


In the evening, after the sun goes down and before darkness seeps in, we walk to the nearby restaurant the landlady has recommended. The town clings to a small stretch of SS583, and on both sides of this road are the familiar Italian-style cottages, simple houses with small wooden windows, tiny grilled balconies, and orange-tiled roofs in a slight incline. The road is deserted, but every now and then a car or a motorbike whizzes past. When vehicles approach together in both directions we stop and lean back, against a moss-covered brick wall or an aluminum railing, praying that the vehicle on our side is driven by a tourist, not an Italian; then, recovering our breath, we continue walking. The lake, to our left, glitters like a sea of molten lead, and the mountains in the distance fold over the sky as it grows dark. Soon we reach a small church, lit in amber, with a small stone-covered courtyard in front. This space will be the locus of an important ceremony in two days, but we do not know this yet. We take some pictures, and walk over to the restaurant. Aurora, a charming lakeside ristorante, is packed with foreign tourists; conversations are in English – British and American – and the waiters speak English too. My penne pasta is excellent, the best I’ve tasted in years. An hour and half later we walk back, watching the sparkling lights on the far side, listening to the hum of a ferry crossing the lake. In less than half a day, Italy has shown us a different life, a mix of leisure, beauty, terror, and full of character.

9 Oct 2011

This Article is sourced from the blog,, the author is an Indian living in Germany