World's wondrous ways...

Shivarajkumar, Actor  

I love travelling. In spite of my hectic schedules, I did manage to travel a lot this year. I went to Muscat for a Kannada Rajyotsava function. From there, I went to Dubai.

I also travelled to Bangkok, Scotland and Goa. I like all kinds of places for my holiday: both modern and ancient cities. But the most memorable vacation was to Scotland. I went with my wife Geetha, daughter Nidhi, and her friend Shreya. My daughter decided on this place.

Scotland is such a beautiful country. We went to many places there including Edinburgh. We explored the entire city, actually. I especially remember the train ride from London to Scotland, which was absolutely spectacular. At one point, you can see the entire stretch of sea. I can never forget that sight.  
Scotland has many heritage buildings that are awe-inspiring.

Even our hotel was beautiful. We also visited my wife's niece who is settled in Edinburgh. We explored the local culture and culinary scene, too.

The weather was very cool, which also added to our holiday experience. In all, it was a great family trip.

Vijay Prakash, Singer
For me, a holiday is not about having an agenda and following it. I like to explore the place one day at a time, at my own pace. A holiday is not just about visiting places, it's also about unwinding, feeling the place, eating local food, and so on. Usually, my wife decides the place, taking into account our daughter's holiday schedule and interests. I am an avid traveller, and as an artiste, I keep travelling around the world. But till date, I have never holidayed while on work. I refrain from exploring the place by myself as I miss my family. So, I do sightseeing only when my family is with me.

Most of the places we had gone on vacations before, such as the US, the UK and Australia, were all glossy and full of buzz. So, this time, we chose Iceland, which is a highly unusual choice for a holiday. We had a great time in this incredible country.

Iceland is just this vast expanse of barren land with hardly any people. So, nothing really blocks your view here. It has this pleasant yet unexplored energy. We travelled around the country, including the capital Reykjavik. Iceland has a staggering number of huge waterfalls and lakes that are simply stunning. The presence of massive volcanoes lends a raw appeal to the place. Maybe our planet looked like Iceland when it was born! The omnipresent emptiness of the place made me feel very relaxed.

I remember one instance where we were just driving back from a volcano cave to Reykjavik in our car and stopped for a cup of coffee. We noticed a small lane going upwards. On impulse, we decided to check it out. Even though we weren't  
prepared to hike, it was so beautiful that we kept on climbing. Eventually, we reached the top from where we got a 360-degree view of Reykjavik, which was mind-blowing.

During our vacation, I felt that Iceland has this 'high value, low intensity' theory in place. So, it's an expensive place, which ensures fewer footfalls. But it's definitely worth seeing once in your lifetime. In fact, my wife shot a short video of me singing my song  'Kayanaat'  on an iPhone across locations in Iceland. You can see all the mesmerising spots of Iceland in that video: glaciers, waterfalls, lakes, volcanoes etc! We are planning to go back to Iceland once again.

Ranveer Brar, Chef
I strongly believe that travelling makes us better individuals. Discovering new cultures, especially cuisines for me, adds to our perspective and enriches our experience.

A trip to Turkey for a food documentary shoot earlier this year was yet another feather in my travel hat; in fact, it was a jewel. The Turkish are extremely passionate about their food. The cuisine has a flavour-filled diversity that no words can truly do justice to.

When it comes to the actual food exploration, I was completely spoilt for choice. We covered Istanbul, of course, Antalya and Izmir, including the quaint old towns of Sirince and Kaleici. Istanbul is multi-cultural, so you get to taste a variety of food from different parts of the country. The traditional  meyhane  are famous for the  meze  platters (appetisers). Then there are the famous  kebabs. One can also see the subtle change of flavours and difference in the use of spices as one travels from region to region. The southern cities, for example, are known for spicy food. The Mediterranean region has more use of olive oil, as also seafood, due to its proximity to the coast.

And one cannot miss the bazaars. The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar in Istanbul are perfect for food indulgence. If you visit the hill town of ÅSirince, then do not miss the Nar Eksisi, which is a tasty vinegar substitute made from pomegranate juice.

And how can one forget the Turkish ice cream vendors? I had looked up their tricks before heading there, but to be at the receiving end of the tricks is an experience on its own! Dondurma, the Turkish ice cream, is unique in the use of  salep, a starchy agent obtained from an orchid
tuber, plus  mastic, also known as Arabic gum. The beauty of these two ingredients is that they make the ice cream resistant to melting and also give them chewiness.

The beauty of Turkey from end to end, in terms of its sights and food, is an unparalleled experience.

Ramesh Aravind, Actor/TV host

Directing the bilingual film Paris Paris (Tamil) and Butterfly (Kannada) at the French Riviera meant weeks of hard work on foreign soil. To do the groundwork, DoP Satya Hegde and I landed in France two weeks before the rest of the crew and cast. We were scouting for the most picturesque landscapes. We skipped production cars and travelled on our own to seep into the local skin... Eiffel Tower selfies and Paris Big Bus tours. Later, we got into the metro. Lost in conversation, we forgot to get down at our stop and realised we were alone on the train, and that it had reached its resting place. Thankfully, it soon started on the reverse route and we came back to civilisation.

With Google Translate as our guiding force, we found Saravana Bhavan in Paris and laughed over masala dosa and poori palya after days of croissants and coffee.

After Paris, we went to Nice. With the recent memory of a terrorist vehicle running over pedestrians on the promenade, the city is wary of suspicious-looking visitors.

Nice at night is beautifully lit, a film-maker's delight. We took photos of the exact frames of places to shoot and then travelled to Fréjus, a small town that would be our headquarters for the shoot.

In Fréjus, I had an interpreter, Guiamme, to help us. He had visited India several times, knew our culture, and loved Bollywood. In the midst of our location-hunting, I was reminded of my dad's first death anniversary. My whole family was together in India, remembering him through a small puja in a temple in Bengaluru, while I was alone in Fréjus.

I couldn't find a temple nearby. I thought the best way would be to visit the ocean at sunrise and relive all the memories of my dad and me. I told Guiamme I wanted a car in the morning. So he came at the decided time the next morning and surprised me with a packet of Indian agarbathis and a matchbox.

On the way, he stopped at a roundabout, plucked a few flowers and gave it to me. On reaching the beach, he quietly stepped aside, leaving me alone with my thoughts. Facing the mighty ocean, with waves gently caressing me, I lit the agarbathis, looked at the sunrise and recalled fond memories of my late father.

We travelled back in silence, no words exchanged. On getting down from the car, I said, "Thank you." It was one of those thank you's that come from the heart and truly connect people.

Jayati Bhatia, TV & Stage Actor
This is not the first time that I have been to Muscat. But to be invited by the Indian Embassy to participate in the celebration of our 70th year of Independence was itself a great pleasure and a unique honour. It was a festival of theatre and our show, Sasural Simar Ka, was the opening show.

During my previous visits to Muscat, I was too busy to enjoy its lush beauty. This time, I had the luxury to roam, visit places, and shop in the crazy, must-bargain market. The Muscat market - Mutrah Souq - is so chaotic and traditional. One look at it and you are transported into the world of films that show the markets of Arab. But one has to bargain, and I just can't do that.

A majority of shopkeepers there are from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. Initially, they act tough, but after some time, they smile and start talking about their native places. And, as my mother tongue is Bengali, I had a gala time talking to them in Bangla.

I bought the popular khanjar (traditional dagger) of Oman and went absolutely crazy in the  ittar  shop. In the end, the exotic fragrances confused me. So I settled on the most Omani-looking, beautifully carved perfume bottle that made me so happy that I broke into a dance by singing 'Afghan Jalebi'  (from  Phantom).

Some passersby and shopkeepers recognised me from my teleserial, which added more fun to the dance. The next best part was the food. Though like in most tourist-friendly countries you get varieties of food; here I loved eating many kinds of hummus. I also devoured Omani dates - big and luscious. And of course, chocolates! To top them all was the coffee with cardamon.  

What struck me about the beauty of Muscat was that despite being an arid Middle Eastern country, it's lush green. And there are no glass-paned multistoried buildings. And only three colours - white, light green and sand - are used to paint its buildings. Plus, the blue sea on one side and a range of mountains on the other makes the city look great.

On returning to Mumbai, I wished we could have some cleanliness, orderliness and some good infrastructure that we had enjoyed in Muscat. I feel Mumbai is in constant labour pain. I'm just hoping that one day, a beautiful child is delivered from this pain.

Juhi Chawla, Actor
My favourite holiday this year was to the  Maldives! My family loved it as they did a lot of the water sports, diving, snorkelling, as well as spent a lot of time on the beach, soaking in all the sun! I first wasn't too keen on going there since I am more inclined towards the hills and mountains, but they managed to take me along, and at the end of it I realised that I actually had a great time there!

The weather was warm, the place we were staying at was, of course, lovely.

The best part about where we stayed was that every guest was given a cycle, so we would cycle to the lobby, around the hotel, to the seaside cafe, etc, which was amazing.

Another highlight of the trip was the hotel having a lovely facility for aerial yoga, which I had attended when my kids were out  diving and swimming. It was such great fun. I even took up learning snorkelling on the trip, and it felt lovely to just be floating on the water and watching the serene and calm sea life underneath. So when my family was busy diving and doing all the other water sports daily, I would be busy snorkelling and enjoying the calming effects of the sea.

Overall, we really did have a relaxed and an amazing holiday. It was truly my most memorable vacation of 2017!

Shalmali Kholgade, Singer
There are many reasons why I choose Japan over any other place in the world; topping the list are its people with their exuberant culture and the geography of this island country.

Nagoya is where I always start my Japan journey. Nagoya itself is a bustling city with incredible shopping opportunities. It has an entire underground network of roadways that are lined with shops for pedestrians. The malls are basically buildings which, in some cases, are as tall above the ground as they are deep underground. It's amazing how the Japanese have organised their space effectively!

I also visited the shopping district of Shinagawa. I travelled by the Shinkansen train (Japan's high-speed public transport system). It transports you in a matter of two hours from Nagoya to Tokyo, which otherwise would take four hours by road.

Among the many things I did, there were silver-ring- making workshop, a trapeze workshop, and some ninja training at a place that was a few hours' drive from Nagoya.

Sushi is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Japanese food. There's a lot of noodle soups, sashimis and other varieties of fish that are so fascinating!

I like to travel alone because I like to take my time in exploring the places I visit. But I also think that my brother and his family are the best company to keep while travelling.

In 2018, I'm looking forward to spending a month somewhere in Europe in the summer, when work settles down a little. I'd like to go to Spain or Italy, and travel to its interior by road and rail.

Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Singer
If you are travelling in a group and have a couple of people who can drive well, then you should travel through Europe by road. This way, you'll see many places, many nooks and corners which usually aren't listed in a tour itinerary. Hire a good vehicle and enjoy the trip. And the best part of a road trip in Europe is that there is no parking problem at all!

Also, preferably, stay in serviced apartments or homestays, and not in hotels. We did that for all of our 25 days of travel through Budapest, Prague, Holland and Switzerland. Even the best of hotels don't have the homely atmosphere these apartments offer.

We entered Europe through Amsterdam as I had a concert there. My family and relatives joined me there, and after the concert, we hit the road.

Besides sightseeing, what one likes while vacationing abroad is trying different cuisines. I am a foodie, so I loved trying different cuisines served in different countries in their unique way. There was a fusion of food. A warning though: when in these countries, avoid eating at the so-called Indian restaurants.

Besides food, what I loved is their street music. You see and hear music being played everywhere. They have so many different instruments, and their music is great fun. It's a fantastic display of music, totally. At many places, even I sang and played their instruments. Luckily, unless there are some Indians in the crowd, you can be incognito. That gives you the liberty to enjoy the atmosphere.

The place I would love to visit again and again is Prague. There are so many things to see. Their architecture and historical places are so unique and beautiful. Venice is also good, but  ek visit ke liye kaafi hai!  (one visit is enough). Switzerland is a place to relax. We have been to that country earlier, too.

But, to tell you the truth, once we returned to Mumbai and went to visit our farm in Pune, we found that to be more fun, relaxing and enjoyable! Nothing like  apna desh, apna ghar.

Azeem Banatwalla, Stand-up comedian

There are typically three things I want to do when I'm on vacation - eat, sleep, and drive. I successfully managed all three this past August in my new favourite-country-in-the-world, Scotland. Having initially made the comedic pilgrimage to the wild party that is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, my wife and I took a welcome reprieve from the madness with a scenic train ride up north to Inverness, a charming, sleepy Scottish town on the banks of River Ness. Two days were spent at a gorgeous family-run Airbnb in the village of Kilmuir, with a population of under 100. We spent most of our time curled up with books in our living room, occasionally peering out of French windows onto a private black-sand beach. A vintage fireplace would crackle away, as we nibbled on homemade scones with a boiling pot of Scottish tea.

Refreshed and ready for the Scottish Highlands, we rented ourselves a cute three-door hatch and embarked on two-thirds of the North Coast 500, widely renowned as the greatest road trip this planet has to offer.

A seasoned Scotsman will tell you that you can often experience four seasons in one Scottish hour - a bright and sunny day can turn murky and grey before turning into a full-blown thunderstorm that turns sunny again, almost as if pretending like that previous hour never happened. It was our good fortune then, that we had clear, sunny skies from 9 am to 9 pm on all four days of our road trip. From Inverness, we drove east through rolling hills and gaping canyons en route Applecross, where we chanced upon hidden, untouched beaches, little coves that begged a swimsuit and exploration, stopped at desolate cafes with no human life in sight, ordered a cup of tea in exchange for the luxury of using their bathroom! Every bend in the road was a postcard-picture waiting to be clicked. We touched Ben Nevis, the highest point in the UK, the winds whipping at us mercilessly, almost as a chastisement for taking a selfie in such biting cold!

Up further north, we broke our drive at The Marine lodge in Thurso, one of the northernmost tips of Scotland, which really felt like the edge of the world. On either side of Thurso, we drove to Wick, John O' Groats and Durness, where a wrong turn led us to a hidden artists' village, where we discovered Cocoa Mountain, a café which claims to serve the best hot chocolate in the world and having nursed my way through a large mug, I am inclined to agree.

In an almost perfect road trip, I had just one regret. On our second night in Thurso, the aurora borealis was spotted just above our hotel, and it breaks my heart every time I have to tell people that we slept through it. Since that day, I've cut down my list of favourite things to do on vacation from three to two.

Raveena Tandon, Actor
Raveena TandonMy favourite vacation this year was at the Nagarhole National Park. My kids Rasha and Ranbir Vardhan (and I) love wildlife. This park has taken good steps towards the preservation of our wildlife. It's a treat to be in the jungle, among Mother Nature's best creatures.

I enjoy planning jungle vacations because there is  a certain romance and also some mystery attached to them, and Indian forests and wildlife sanctuaries like these have always been more exciting for me than similar ones abroad.  

Boman Irani, Actor   

Boman IraniWhere I go is not so relevant. What is more important to me is the company. We love to travel in a group - not only the extended Irani family that also includes the older generation, but also my close friends like Cyrus Broacha and Kunal Vijayakar, and even their families.

The most important part of any vacation is being together, having fun, and especially looking after everyone's personal preferences.

Naturally, we plan well in advance, and this year, we went to Dubai to celebrate my birthday. We even appointed a tour manager to look after us. Some of us love yacht rides, so we did that. We had music sessions, and I had taken my guitar. In short, we had a blast!



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