A beautiful sunny day in Florence

How should I describe Florence? Should I start with the immediate sense of style and fashion the city exuded….? Or possible the most amazing designs of Gold Jewelry and the never ending Leather Market..? Or the fact that the ENTIRE CITY IN ITSELF WAS ONE BEAUTIFUL PIECE OF ART, like a large lovely museum..I think I’ll pick the latter..and that the reason you must set aside at least a day from your Italian Vacation to explore the architectural wonder called Florence

The view from Ponte de Vecchio

The view from Ponte de Vecchio

I arrived Florence via a Trenitalia train from Venice. Honestly, I DID NOT want to visit Florence. I only did because my husband wanted to. While honestly Venice and Amalfi Coast will still be my top choices for Italy, Florence was interesting too- in its own unique way.

The entire city of Florence is like a museum in itself. The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is built around two main Piazzas- Piazaa del Duomo (the largest Dome built in brick and mortar in the entire world) & Piazza del Signoria, with many other small Piazza. But how I explored Florence was to just take a map and start walking- aimlessly. I would stop every few steps- go all wow about a church/market/architecture I would see and THEN refer to the map to understand where I was and what was I ‘wowing’ about. Trust me, this way of exploring Florence was fun!

Everywhere you look in Florence, you will find art..

Everywhere you look in Florence, you will find art..

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Guess guess..is this another piece of art..or a human with some very good make-up on!?

Guess guess..is this another piece of art..or a human with some very good make-up on!?

I enjoyed the different markets at Florence..be it the gold market at Ponte de Vecchip or the never ending leather market which sold anything and everything made of leather. Some stuff at the leather market was pretty nice, but being an animal lover that I am, I could not buy something that was being described as “made of the skin of a baby lamb”!

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One thing I particularly enjoyed in Florence was that art still lives among the people of Florence. While some pursue art for money, some create art just to add their bit in making the world a more beautiful place.

Posing with a lady who made some very pretty paintings

Posing with a lady who made some very pretty paintings

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You can see here that this man simply loves what he does

As does he... :)

As does he… πŸ™‚

This was the gate of a church- all in gold. And you simply can’t resist touching and feeling the beautiful artwork. Do notice the head of a boy popping out on the top left corner πŸ™‚

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And the visual delights don’t just stop! Justice can be done to the sheer intricacy of the work in this church ONLY when viewed in real life- not in pictures

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While all of the key attraction in Florence can be visited on foot, which way do you plan to explore this rich artistic city on your next vacation….?

The Modern Style?

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OR

The Vintage Style?? πŸ˜‰

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Bangkok and the Taxi Mafia!

Planning to Exploring Bangkok via a Taxi/Cab?

On a recent trip to Bangkok, I had a first hand experience of the taxi mafia- Good news, by end of day 1 I LUCKILY got the most awesome driver who explained the entire mafia to me and how to work around it!

Airport to Hotel- As soon as you get out of the Airport, you will be required to but a pre-paid slip, which you will give to one of the zillion taxis lined up outside the airport, which will take you to your hotel.

  • There will be at least 2-3 such pre-paid counters. Ask the lady on the first counter how much the pre-paid coupon is for (should be around 50 baht). Whatever she says, go a recheck with the lady at the next counter. Buy the coupon if the price quoted is the same (after hearing a few friends’ experiences I did not trust ANYONE in Bangkok. In fact in all of Phuket NEVER BUY ANYTHING WITHOUT CROSS CHECKING WITH ANOTHER SELLER OF THE SAME THING- YOU WILL BE AMAZED AT PRICE DIFFERENCES.
  • Once you get the coupon, go to the driver and DEMAND that he start the meter. Pay the highway toll separately, do not get that added into your total bill. If the toll is 60 baht they will charge you 100. The driver will give you a lot of crap about his ‘monthly toll card’ and that you should pay the toll to him, but do that ONLY once you see at the toll, how much is being deducted from his card, and most importantly whether it is for one-way or for return journey.
  • Its a good idea to use GPS to see whether or not they are taking the shortest route to your hotel.
  • Remember, if you are travelling from Don Muang Airport to Suvarnabhumi Airport OR vice versa, use the free airport shuttle bus. They let you carry as much luggage as you want. OR there are 1-2 direct public buses with only 1-2 stops between the airports (I think it was bus #Β 554 & 555Β ) which you can consider taking since the frequency of the free airport shuttle bus is not that great.

Exploring Bangkok

  • My biggest learning- each time you visit a place of sightseeing, like a museum or Grand Palace or Safari World or Siam Ocean Park-Β NEVER USE THE METER!Β Yes! I am not kidding. Bargain..bargain like crazy..through the bottom of your nose! Khao San to Safari World is over 500 baht by meter, and I actually went for 150 baht!!Β How? Well, each time a driver drops you at there ‘key locations’ they get 20 lt of petrol as a reward/payment for dropping you at the attraction site!Β On your way back to the hotel, you MUST demand that the meter be on.
  • If you see some over sweet guy who will charge you peanuts to not only drop you to your location, but even wait for you DO NOT AGREE! And NEVER Β pay a penny in advance. They are definitely going to run away even though they promise ‘free waiting time’ (we were left deserted at Safari World 😦 Β ..Its was on the way back from Safari World that we met this driver who gave us all these tips, which I am not sharing πŸ™‚ )
  • NEVER sit in the autos who will promise you dirt cheap rates(like 1/10th the meter rates if you stop for ‘5 min’ at 2 shops. You will be required to spend 5 min at the first shop and they will be really sweet to you. While you get down at the second shop they will either run away or claim you did not spend enough time in the shop or that you need to buy something
  • Avoid going to the police. I saw numerous instance wherein the police blindly backed the locals.
  • Consider travelling via the local buses! I enjoyed this thoroughly! Its not only the metro train that makes different parts of Bangkok well connected, its the very well spread buss network! Google your to and fro points and see options of available public buses- Awesome fun and super economical.

Tour Packages

  • First step, check with your hotel reception about any package you are interested it. Chances are that they will try to sell you their own package. Hear them out as it will give you an idea of the rates etc.
  • Once you have done that, start exploring- Thailand is a country that flourishes on tourism. You will see millions of people selling packages on the streets.

Hotel to Airport

  • If you do not want to spend that much, consider asking your Hotel Reception to arrange a minibus for you. I thought it was super convenient and super comfortable for 120 baht per person. Also, the mini bus picked me up right from the entrance of my hotel.

Hope these tips help and in case you have some other suggestions that helped you during your Bangkok trip, feel free to share in the comments here πŸ™‚

Snorkeling vs Scuba Diving

I love water, and most of my vacations are beach destinations. While I have Scuba Dived a few times, sometimes I have enjoyed snorkeling as much as, (if not more), than scuba diving. Below are some pros and cons which will help you decide what you pick will be on your next beach vacation, especially if you are a first timer.

Scuba Diving is a great experience, extremely enthralling to feel the life under the sea. However, nothing in this world comes for free. And not just the money, but the time and energy required for your first scuba diving is way more than that required for snorkeling

Scuba Diving pros over Snorkeling

  • You get to swim WITH the beautiful fish and other sea lives- its magical!
  • You can have a peek-a-boo at their tiny little homes πŸ™‚
  • Though scuba diving allows you to actually touch and feel things underwater, I seriously feel that one should not touch..and especially not break/harm anything under water (including corals)
  • With some prior experience you can go to greater depths. In some regions just the sheer variety of life you will find barely 6mt deep is way more vibrant than what you can see from snorkeling
  • You do not need to know swimming. You are controlled by the oxygen pressure and the weights attached to your body. My husband who has NEVER swim in his life thoroughly enjoyed his first scuba diving experience. Until unless you are a professional, you will have a buddy to guide you. Ideally a buddy should NOT be assisting more that one person under the water.

Snorkeling pros over Scuba Diving

  • More economical- not only in terms of money, but even in terms of time. For a short 2-3 day beach vacation, Scuba Diving would not be the best option as and good institution will require you to undergo at least one session of pool training( ~2-3 hours) followed by the actual dive. Its is BEST advised not to take your first dive on the same day as your first pool training. Save up all your energy and start afresh on the next day, as the getting accustomed to breathing from an oxygen cylinder can get you SIGNIFICANTLY tired; you really don’t want to miss out on a single dive one you are there, in the middle of the ocean!
  • Scuba Diving is definitely more risky, so ensure you choose a reputed organization. I feel one should definitely not keep cheap/economical deals as a factor for risky adventure sports.
  • All you need for snorkeling is the mask and flippers- easily available for sale/for rent (I generally prefer snorkeling without my flippers). However, in case you plan to snorkel..in case the bed is rocky or has a lot of sea urchin, please do put on your flippers
  • It really depends on WHERE you are vacationing at and what the weather conditions under the sea are. For instance, once I went to an island off Goa, and I was so glad I did scuba diving- I would have seen nothing if I had snorkeled. On the other hand, in Phuket- Koh Phi Phi, where the water was CRYSTAL CLEAR, and very still, I was SO glad I opted for snorkeling instead of scuba diving. Another eg- you’ll see some amazing pics/videos taking during snorkeling at Maldives in an interesting blog MaldivesDreamer , where snorkeling can provide as beautiful and clear view of underwater life as scuba diving.Β Β Also, scuba diving can be pretty tiring..Not just the entire event, but dressing up, the oxygen tank..all of it
  • While ideally its best to know swimming, snorkeling can be done even if you don’t know swimming, ONLY if your partner knows swimming and is confident that they can assist you. I for instance held my husband’s hand and we happily snorkeled for a good half hour. However, initially it was super difficult to convince him that I would not let him drown! πŸ˜‰

So whatever it is you pick, don’t spend a zillion hours thinking ‘What if the other one would have been a better experience’. There’s always going to be a next vacation where you can try what you did not do in this vacation!! πŸ™‚

snorkelling

Silver Silver everywhere..not an earring I can resist buying!

So I have always been a BIG fan of silver earring. And I just chanced upon an amazing shop in Connaught place which had the best silver collection ever!!

Once my aunt was wearing a really beautiful pair of earrings that I completely fell in love with, and when I complimented her, she immediately took them off and gave them to me. That was my first pair of earring, which I have still kept (even though they broke off 😦 ) Since then I have invested in silver jewelry more that any other form of jewelry

A sneak peak into some of my silver earrings collection

A sneak peak into some of my silver earrings collection

Today I went to this shop called Bronze Age in CP (near Janpath Lane, opposite Fresco’s) Β and I fell in love with almost everything I laid my eyes upon! (The small owl earrings, the white ones to the right of the owls and the ones right below the owls were my take homes from Bronze Age today! πŸ™‚ ) I only which they had a website for online shopping as well!

This is what the store looked like from outside..Now you know what prompted me to enter and shop so much! :)

This is what the store looked like from outside..Now you know what prompted me to enter and shop so much! πŸ™‚

Another pair of earring I really liked were these butterfly ones..Somehow they are different..

Another pair of earring I really liked were these butterfly ones..Somehow they are different.. INR 1300

I found some earrings/bracelets in the form of animal figures extremely adorable!

The pair of owls I bought..INR 950

The pair of owls I bought..INR 950

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A very cute silver photo frame..and again, notice the blue/white eyed owl earring behind the frame?

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The very cute bug shaped earring! INR 1000

The very cute bug shaped earring! INR 1000

I am not much into bracelets, but really like this butterfly one..

I am not much into bracelets, but really like this butterfly one..

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For all ring lovers..they had a decent collection of rings as well

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And that’s me- after a happy day of silver shopping! πŸ™‚

My only regret in this shop was that all of their silver was oxidized, hence slightly blackish. Sometimes I like the silvery silver stuff as well.

Do visit this shop, if not for their silver collection, then for the cute little things ON which they had displayed their silver jewelry. eg the bear on which the butterfly earrings in the above pics is placed was also for sale!

My love for flats- Sandals

Summers are approaching, and I am already eager to get my summer sandals out! As I was out shopping this weekend, there were these particular ones that caught my eye at Zara

Pink sandals- Zara

Pink sandals- Zara

I love flats that are pointed at the toes, but its so rare to find just the right amount of pointedness..too much, and it looks witchy..and also looks a tad bit too formal. Not only did I LOVE the colors on this piece, but also the amount of pointedness at the toe, which made it very comfortable too!

Ofcourse I wasn't allowed to take pics, so I could only capture this poor shot wearing the Zara sandal..P.S. My other blue shoe is a Zaara as well..I love it because its a deep blue- great for formals as well as casuals..

Ofcourse I wasn’t allowed to take pics, so I could only capture this poor shot wearing the Zara sandal..P.S. My other blue shoe is a Zaara as well..I love it because its a deep blue- great for formals as well as casuals..

I would have bought this one IMMEDIATELY if not for a pair with similar style I had seen online, and have been contemplating buying for the last 2 days.

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Again, love the colours..very summery! Will go with India wear as well as western wear. For INR 1499 available at DonebyNone.

Now I cant decide between these two- any suggestions will be helpful..else I may just by them both! πŸ˜‰