The best vacations of celebrities in 2018

It was a year of wonderful adventures, soul-stirring sojourns, memorable expeditions and unexpected voyages for celebrities. Read about their best vacations this year

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Anant Nag, actor

We have been travelling quite a bit to the US these past few years. This year, too, we went to America. It so happened that our vacation coincided with the release of our Kannada film there ­— Sarkari Hi. Pra. Shaale, Kasaragodu. It was already a hit here in India. We went to see the shows in San Jose, Detroit, Milwaukee and Chicago. We had a wonderful time in Chicago — Kannadigas there had organised some major cultural functions. There is a massive temple that the Kannadigas have built there with nearly all the gods in the Hindu pantheon!


What made this Chicago holiday special was the time we spent with a group of 30 young Kannadigas. They made our trip very memorable, made sure that we did not miss Indian food at all! They were with us for all the 25 days that we stayed in Chicago. They miss India, particularly Karnataka. We had an opportunity to observe their hectic lifestyle from close quarters. They shared all their pains and pleasures, how they reconcile with their problems and solve them. You see, they also felt good sharing. After all, they are all in their early 30s, and I am 70; they all look up to me for several things, because I am an actor and all that! I spoke to them about the consumerist society in America, and wondered if they were able to save any money at all. “We do save something, but the attitude here is to spend. We live from weekend to weekend!” they told me.

Incidentally, I had an offer to work in a film when I was just leaving for the US, and as soon as I came back, I decided to do the film as I was motivated to do it after seeing those Kannadigas in Chicago. The film is about the lives of young software engineers in India, and the name of the film itself is Weekend! What a remarkable coincidence! And as the winter began in right earnest, we ran back home. It was so cold that we had to advance our return journey by 10 days!

Ramesh Aravind, actor

In the last one year, the best place I visited was the French Riviera. We shot there for the remake of Queen in Tamil and Kannada — Paris Paris and Butterfly respectively. We mostly shot in Frejus, Saint-Raphael and Nice. The places were amazingly picturesque. We also peeped into Monaco. To finish the film, we had to do a proper tour of Paris — ‘visit the Eiffel Tower’ kind of thing. We also went to Athens to do some patchwork for the films. These places are filled with history — the French Revolution, the ruins of Julius Caesar era in Frejus. And people were nice, food was amazing, their wine was terrific, and we did all this while filming. When I saw Acropolis, I remembered all the great Greek stories, and when I shot in the same spots, it was an amazing feeling. These places have become part of my psyche after reading historical books. And I had the opportunity of being there, working with the locals, trying to understand their culture, getting actors from their films. That was the best experience.

Samyukta Hornad, actor

This year, I had gone to Sri Lanka to shoot for a film. When the shoot was over, I extended my stay just to spend time at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and the turtle projects near Kandy. I generally spend time with animals like this, all by myself. The idea was to spend two hours at Pinnawala and move on, but I just couldn’t. It was so lovely being there. I spent an entire day feeding the baby elephants milk and fruits. As a visitor, you cannot stay for a long time here, but I somehow convinced the authorities to allow me more time with the elephants. I spent the next day visiting the four turtle projects near Kandy. I wanted to learn as much as I could about them.

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka

Also, I was in Abu Dhabi for an award function recently. After it was over, while others were chilling at a cheese factory, I went off into the desert to meet some camels, all by myself! I also did something that I had watched on NatGeo – drawing a huge heart on the sand by driving over it in a car. I came back with a sunburnt face and the broadest grin — I couldn’t get over it for days!

I always make sure that my year begins with a visit like this, with animals. In January 2018, I had gone for a shoot in Kerala and I visited a small elephant orphanage cum sanctuary near Kochi. And I ended the year with the Sri Lankan trip — I don’t know what will happen in January 2019!

Rishi, actor

My best vacation this year was in Meghalaya. I had gone there for work, but decided to explore the region and turn it into a vacation. I went to Shillong, Sohra (previously Cherrapunji) and Nongriat. I had heard a lot about the beauty of this place, especially about the scenic roads, so I always wanted to explore it. I rented a two-wheeler and went on a road trip through the state. The drive between Shillong and Sohra was simply beautiful. It was almost like Scotland: stunning landscapes, greenery all throughout. And when I went, it was raining, too. As Cherrapunji is known for its rain, it was truly wonderful experiencing that. But the rains there are unpredictable and very dense. So, the people there work only between 12 pm and 6 pm.

Two things about Meghalaya stood out for me: one, there’s a matriarchal society in place. Families are by women, so the youngest daughter is the head of the family. Second, they don’t worship God, they worship nature. They are respectful towards nature, don’t cut trees, and keep their surroundings extremely neat. If you go to Sohra, you will find a dustbin on every lamp post. I also went to Jingkieng Nongriat Double Decker Living Root Bridge in Nongriat, some 40 km from Cherrapunji. It’s an organically formed living root bridge that is stunning. Driving through such a scenic landscape with rains for company was the best bit of vacation for me. I am a pahadi person and love going to the hills, places where there’s some peace and quiet.

Ricky Kej, musician

My concerts and work on various environmental causes take me to places around the globe where I get to perform and showcase my music live to audiences. Some of the places I travelled to this year were Poland,
Geneva, Canada, New York, as well as places in India such as Mount Abu and Andhra Pradesh.

In October, I was invited to perform at the UN Headquarters in Geneva for WHO’s first Global Air Pollution Conference. I got to perform to an amazing audience of world leaders, heads of various UN departments, several global high-ranking dignitaries and others. I even created a new song called ‘Let Us Breathe’ for this conference. Just being in the UN HQ was a huge honour, and performing at this historic place was a totally awe-inspiring experience.


I also made several trips to the remotest parts of Andhra Pradesh to observe and learn first-hand from the tribal farmers about the zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) technique being followed there. This technique does not use any pesticides, chemicals, no GMOs, and is 100% natural. I noticed the massive difference that this technique is making to the lives of the natives. I tasted the freshest produce! I also collaborated musically with the tribal farmers to create a music video called ‘One with Earth’to showcase this technique to the world. I just returned from Katowice, Poland, after attending a series of meetings at the COP24 Climate Change Conference. Poland is an absolutely beautiful place. It was snowing and the landscape was mesmerising.

Vicky Ratnani, celebrity chef

I am in love with Lamma Island, a small island that lies southwest of Hong Kong. Usually, when I go to Hong Kong, I stay in the central part. This time around, I went to Lamma Island to spend time with a friend who stays there. Lamma has a casual, beautiful, free-spirited vibe. I went for long treks and walks here, ranging from 40 minutes to three hours. There are multiple trails, you can walk up and then down to the tiny beach. The sunsets here are absolutely fabulous. Then, there are scores of seafood restaurants and bustling cafes: you can even take your fresh catch to some places and they’ll cook it for you. Or, you can choose the seafood from the fresh tanks. Food is not cheap here, but since it is fresh off the sea, it is absolutely worth it.

On weekends, Lamma gets quite crowded, people make day trips to trek and dine here. But the beauty of it all is that this island has absolutely no cars. Only bicycles are allowed in this micro-community of eco-warriors and neo-hippies. The air is so clean and fresh here, the views of the sky and sea are fantastic. It was a brilliant escape from the urban madness of Hong Kong. A decidedly peaceful and welcome break from the busy commercial streets of Kowloon.

R Balki, director

My favourite holiday spot is London, where I go every summer. The weather is pleasant and my main objective is to catch the summer cricket that goes on there at various venues such as Leeds, Birmingham, and more. It’s quite something to just go and watch the game being played so brilliantly. And since two years now, there are also courses happening on visual arts and culture at the University of Cambridge, wherein you get to study fascinating aspects of baroque architecture, history of the arts, paintings, and so on. My wife, Gauri, and I have now decided to go in for them every year.


Pravin Godkhindi, musician

There were so many concert tours in 2018 that were special. But the most memorable one was in London, my first ‘real’ family holiday abroad with just the four of us: wife Sarika, son Shadaj, and daughter Sureeli. Usually, I ask them to tag along when I have a concert tour and join them whenever I have some extra time. But this was different, I was completely available for them 24x7. We spent two weeks exploring all the beautiful places in and around London. It was also the most memorable holiday because I lost my iPhone! I was in a chairlift with my 5-year-old daughter, with a spectacular view of the beach in The Needles, in the Isle of Wight, for company. We were ascending and I was admiring the view when suddenly my phone fell from my pocket and went straight down! There was absolutely no way of getting it back. But I didn’t show any reaction whatsoever, I didn’t want my daughter to be startled. Other tourists ascending the hill on the opposite side were hysterical, yelling about my phone falling. But I was trying to be cool, controlling my emotions with great difficulty. Maybe that was God’s way of telling me that I should spend more time with my family. It was a holiday in the truest sense — I had no Whatsapp, no news updates, nothing — I was a complete family man! After that experience, I now don’t check my phone every now and then. So, losing my phone on this holiday really helped me.

Vikas Khanna, celebrity chef

My best vacation this year was when I had gone to Varanasi to shoot for my movie, The Last Colour. It was a work trip that turned into a vacation. I don’t know if any other place could be as rejuvenating as Varanasi. There’s an energy around this city that absorbs you completely; the city is so pure yet eclectic. It was a real holiday in the sense that it set my priorities right. It was very powerful for me because the locations that I was shooting at were all far away from the main ghat, and even the locals weren’t aware of them. For me, it was like a perfectly designed holiday because it not just gave me pleasure but also made me understand myself better. You know, there’s a deadline to everything in life and no other city can tell you this better than Varanasi.


Generally, I don’t go on vacations because my work takes me places and I always get to eat! My family doesn’t like to go on vacations with me because I get obsessed with food and I lose the concept of vacation, and start working in the kitchen. Having said that, I went to Northeast India this year to discover more about the region and its cuisine. The place, the tribes, the food, everything in Northeast India was so different from everything that I had encountered before. I knew about the cuisine, had written about it, and even worked with chefs from Assam, Mizoram and Manipur, but this was the first time I was working hands-on with home cooks. So, it was a very powerful and defining trip.

Prem Chopra, actor

My first visit to London in the late 1960s, as the first member of my family to ever go abroad, is my all-time favourite holiday! Dev Anand had shot for Prem Pujari in Switzerland and I took off to London to stay for a few days. My first impression was that London was a bigger form of Mumbai. There were quite a few Indians there even then. I was totally fascinated by the plays being staged there. I watched Fiddler On The Roof and I was flabbergasted by the amazing sets and production values. Then I watched The Mousetrap, a play that was running for 25-30 years! I was told that Britishers were snobbish, but my experience was that they were as normal as anyone else. When I visited a pub, I found one goes in as a stranger and come out as a friend! When I went there again, we caught up with each other like old friends. In fact, I made so many best friends there for life, and also a girlfriend. Things fizzled out, and she is happily married, and must be a grandmother by now!

Jenjum Gadi, fashion designer

In 2018, I, along with three of my friends toured France and parts of Italy, especially Milan. There is no point in my talking about Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, art galleries of Paris. I didn’t like the city. It’s too serious a place. Everyone is so correct — ultra beautifully dressed, absolutely straight-faced, there is no life in them. Maybe the weather, almost always raining, makes them like that! Moreover, if you don’t know French (we didn’t), the French can be very rude. But Southern France is better. We enjoyed Cannes and Monaco. They are so rich that only the richest cars like Lamborghini, Bugatti and Aston Martin are seen on the road. Women are dressed in costliest attire but they are so plastic. The richest casinos are there. We had made a friend on our train journey from Paris to Monaco. In fact, he had saved us from being caught by a ticket checker as we didn’t have coins to buy tickets! He spoke English and was also friendly with the gatekeepers of the casinos. So through his help, we entered a few casinos and had a look. From there, we took a train to Milan, Italy. And what a difference between the two countries! People reminded us of our Punjabis — laughing, joking, loudly dressed, absolutely uninhibited, women wore such sexy attires and even the food was so good. My advice: skip Paris, but don’t miss Italy!


Pria Kataria Puri, fashion designer

My most memorable trip this year has to be the one I made to the island of Greece. I mapped out my trip beforehand as I wanted to visit the coveted trio of Santorini, Mykonos and Athens. Each of these locations brought in its own tastes and sensibilities to enrich my experience and stay here. Santorini was a dream, an absolutely surreal experience, with great Greek food, scenic beaches, and a warm, welcoming vibe. The people are very friendly. The stark white of the urban setting against the unbelievable blue of the unending sea makes for a picture perfect scene. I went to Santorini with my husband and children. We enjoyed our family vacation here and stayed in an apartment in an area by the name of Oia. The entire apartment overlooked the bewitching sea. I am an avid traveller and have visited many places across the globe but I firmly believe that Santorini offers views of the most spectacular sunsets on this planet. It is simply magical. You can never tire of soaking in the feel of the place and clicking endless pictures.

Mikanos carries the fun party vibe with the brilliant blue of the sea filling the horizon in whichever direction you look. I loved shopping at the tiny shops and picked up many unusual souvenirs. The music is fantastic here and creates the mood for partying at leisure. I enjoyed walking around, discovering the nooks and crannies, sipping on unbelievable cocktails... Athens brought in a taste of the ancient with its fabulous unfolding of old ruins, forgotten monuments and spacious palaces. The capital of the country is dotted with scores of small restaurants serving absolutely delicious food. The entire experience was absolutely amazing and unforgettable. Call it indelible. I would love to go back to Greece very soon again.

Shaheen Abbas, jewellery designer

The best vacation of 2018 has to be my trip to scenic Florence! Summer vacation is an elaborate affair with us. We plan it out with the kids and hop across multiple locations. So, this year we went to Spain, London... and then the children came back to India with my husband Roshan (Abbas, filmmaker). I went off to Florence. What made this trip special was that it was the first time in my entire life that I was absolutely alone on foreign turf: with no friends, no family around. I did not know a single soul out there in the city of flowers. This actually gave me the brilliant chance to make tons of new friends. It was so much fun. I loved Florence, for its people, its vibe... Everything I loved was there: from pasta to great wine to fabulous conversations. You just have to be in Florence: simply walk around, and let the city take you. That is exactly what I did. Walked around, made impromptu plans to hang out with my new friends over a cappuccino at the piazzas... Also, what made this visit extra special was that I was there to study to be a bench jeweller in one of the most sought-after schools of contemporary jewellery. So, this time around my trip to Italy simply combined everything: my love for travel (I am an incurable globetrotter), jewellery (my passion) and great food (I simply love Italian fare).

Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy

Dr Sangeeta Shankar, violinist

Recently, I along with my husband and two daughters, went to Leh in the Himalayas. I am still unable to recover from the breathtaking landscape of the place. Even as we flew from Delhi to Leh, I just couldn’t get over looking at the unending snow-capped peaks of the uninhabited Himalayas. I have flown over the Alps of Switzerland but there the snow-clad peaks last for about a couple of minutes. Here, we were flying for over 20 minutes and the snow peaks never seem to end! And then there was the hot tea served in beautiful bowls. I am not a tea drinker but how can you not drink the most unique tea which is boiled with salt and butter? I still have the aftertaste. Besides the pristine clarity of the lake waters and starkness of the dry mountains, what was amazing and unbelievable was the dexterity of our local driver, Noorbu Damer, who drove our car. There was a particular stretch that took us from Pangong Lake to Nubra Valley. For the life of us, we couldn’t see even small trace of a road on the rocky route. But he drove the car so safely, with so much skill that we weren’t worried about our safety even for a minute on those treacherous mountains. He even took us home for us to meet all the locals and that was another experience of seeing how these mountain people lived in such harsh conditions without any complaints. A visit to Leh-Ladakh should be a must on everyone’s bucket list!

Published 28 December 2018, 19:30 IST

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