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el gouna!

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our best discovery and favorite part of the trip was our stay at the movenpick resort and spa at el gouna.

el gouna is this small resort town by the red sea near hurgadha, developed and owned by the Sawiris’ family of egypt. it’s a 4.5 hour drive from cairo {we rented a car and driver}. the drive to el gouna is beautiful to say the least. with the red sea on one side and the desert mountains on the other. this one time while A and i were playing 20 questions {the things we do to pass time} we randomly saw dolphins! in the sea. that’s how close the road is to the sea and that’s how untouched the place is.

el gouna was so unexpected. the resort was beautiful and vast. it took us 10 minutes to just walk from one pool  to another. we spent an entire day by the lagoon pool which overlooks the red sea. el gouna serves alcohol everywhere even during ramadan. and it comprises mainly of european tourists.

on day 2 in el gouna we had an experience of a lifetime when we went quad biking into the Sahara Desert. it was a 5 hour tour, where we visited the bedouin villages, drove up the hills {mountains?} and saw the view of the Sahara desert and the entire town of el gouna from up top. the time we spent in el gouna will always stay with us. and i have a feeling we’ll find our way back there again.

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^^ during ramadan the occupancy is generally v low and it’s like we almost had the hotel all ourselves ^^

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ramadan in egypt

our entire 6 day trip to egypt was during the holy period of ramadan. at first we weren’t sure whether it was the best time to visit. but it worked in our favor in several ways.

firstly there was little to no traffic on our drives to the pyramids and zamalek {by the banks of the nile} from heliopolis. which ashraf informed us, could have taken us as much as 2-3 hours on a normal day.

secondly our hotel stay was cheaper than it would have been during the non – ramadan period and unlike what was informed to us most of the restaurants that we wanted to visit were open during the day.

the negative – no alcohol available freely. only in 5 star hotels and bars {if you show them your tourist passport}. but fortunately we had carried our own liquor and could easily have a drink of two at ashraf’s home before heading out. oh and another tiny negative – v.v. long lines at the shopping malls. i spent three hours at the mall and could only manage to buy a total of 3 items. and that’s very unusual for me.

the best part – we got to visit a ramadan tent! during ramadan cairo gets festive and every night after the sun sets they have festive tents in few areas of the cities {mostly in five star hotels} with a wide variety of egyptian food, sheesha, live music and dance. also the shops are open way past 10 pm and there is such a festive atmosphere during the streets at night.

we visited the tent at the concorde el salam. we had the most delicous Egyptian food, kebabs, breads and rice. and listened to live arabic music. the night went on till 2 am and that’s the closest to egyptian nightlife as one could get during ramadan!

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during the day we decided to try non-egyptain food for a change. we visited maison thomas, established over a hundred years ago in the zamalek district of cairo in the 26th of July street. after that we had cheesecake a makani’s which i highly recommend.

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^^ pizza at maison thomas is one of the best in cairo!^^

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^^ impromptu stop at sequoia for pictures^^

Egypt Again.

the last time i visited egypt was in June, 2011, a little more than five years ago. it was more of a stop over on the way to my final destination, new york. we decided to stay for two days with the primary intention of visiting the pyramids and the sphinx.

this time it was different. A has been wanting to visit egypt ever since he can remember. i had an off from work on the 6th of July {which also happens to be my birthday} so we decided to make a short trip out of it.

A has colleagues in Cairo, a family of four. he’s very friendly with them and they had been inviting us to come over for a while. we decided to spend 2 days in cairo at their home. two days in el gouna this beautiful resort town by the red sea {around a 4.5 hours drive from cairo} and the remaining two days in el ain sokhna another resort town by the red sea {around a 1.5 hours drive from cairo}.

we flew via egypt airlines. cairo is a short 5 hour plane ride from mumbai. on learning of our plan, a lot of people asked us whether it was safe to travel to egypt. we inquired with our friends in cairo {who informed us that it was 95% safe} and decided to take the slight risk.

Day 1.

we landed in cairo at around 5.30 am! our friend ashraf picked us up at the airport and drove us to his house in heliopolis which is a 15 minute drive from the airport. he showed us around his beautiful home {which was to be our home too, for the next few days} and we met his sweet wife and the two most adorable kids. seline {1.5} and mark {5}.

after having an Egyptian breakfast of falafel {it’s not just a lebanese staple! but egyptian too}, ful {egyptian flava beans} eaten with aish baladi {egyptian flat bread}, koshari {egyptian rice with lentils} scrambled eggs and cheese.. we took a tour of old cairo and visited the coptic district of cairo  and its’ several churches {ashraf and his family are catholics}.

it was 35 degrees and sunny .. but old cairo is beautiful and we didn’t mind the sun at all.

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^^ walking around the streets of old cairo with ashraf and his family^^

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^^ something about narrow lanes ^^

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^^ A and Seline….up until then i had never seen A even hold a child. seeing the two of them bond the entire trip made me SO happy. i think it’s safe to say now that he likes kids^^

at night we saw the pyramids of giza and the sphinx. the sound and light show. we were 6 of the 15 people in total who were there to watch the show. it was a friday night and a public holiday.

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it’s sad that a sight as beautiful and mesmerizing as the pyramids of giza and the sphinx {one of the seven wonders of the world} attracts such few people these days. it has a lot do with political instability in the region {two revolutions in 5 years!} and worldwide terrorism in general. and it saddened me so very much to see all the locals outside trying so hard to sell us their souvenirs. running after us and even begging, ready to sell them for as low as 1 USD. Ashraf informed us that a few years ago they would sell the same souvenirs for 20 USD and we would have had to reserve seats for the sound and light show a week in advance!

i hope and pray that things get better for them soon. and that the egypt tourism industry bounces back to its former glory days which it well deserves.

the machan

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A and i have been fortunate enough to have traveled a lot in our first few months of marriage.

there’s no better ‘quality time’ then going away, just the two of you.

a few of our closest friends gifted us a weekend stay at the machan, lonavla and we can’t recommend it enough to people.

it’s a very different concept. they have tree villas with glass walls, which make you feel very connected to nature. also, they don’t have wifi or phone network. which made A a very happy man {i survived! only because it was just a weekend}

we stayed at the sunset villa. and had our very own outdoor hot tub. in the evening we took a stroll around the property and found out about their yoga classes. A and i both joined in, and it was extremely relaxing {although i practice yoga regularly at home with my teacher, somehow doing it at the machan surrounded by nature, was a whole different feeling}.

the machan has both lunch and dinner buffets with simple indian cuisine options. we both liked the home-made taste of the dishes.

we ended the night with a one-hour game of scrabble which to my surprise, he won :/ who knew about his hidden vocab knowledge?

i tell you, this man, it’s been three years {almost} and there’s still so much to learn about him. and that right there is my favorite part of our marriage.

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^^us^^

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^^ the best part of our villa ^^

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^^ scrabble wars^^

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^^ beautiful flowers everywhere^^

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^^ duplex for two^^

Dubai

we went to dubai in january, 2016. the last week of january. it’s already been two whole months.  have been meaning to write about our time there before. but man, does time fly…

it will forever be one of my most memorable trips with the husband. yet.

we didn’t do much. mostly just ate really good food. shopped at the dubai mall. swam a lot {does jacuzzi count as swimming?} and spent quality time with few of our favorite people.

we stayed at husband’s friends house near downtown dubai. very close to the burj khalifa. which was great as that’s where most of our friends stay so everything was walking distance. also they were just moving in themselves, so helping them unpack and sort the furniture was a fun and new experience.

the dubai shopping festival was going on and they had a beautiful outdoor market at the burj khalifa park, all the days that we were there. husband and i walked by the outdoor market on our way to the khalifa.

on this trip, we finally got to try  pappa roti! AND it’s gone right to the top on my list of favorite foods. i liked the regular bun. but husband liked the nutella one better.

one night we kinda ‘crashed’ a bachelorette and chandni and i  had an amazing meal at zuma. inn my previous visits to zuma we mostly just had their cocktails. but guys their truffle mushroom rice?!? i’d go back just to have another bowl of it ;)

we tried out cafe habana and the mexican food there was surprisingly good. so were their drinks {a.k.a the blow job shop. no seriously}

we also went for the arab health expo importers meet at the habtoor grand beach resort and met few of husband’s colleagues from germany. post dinner we had a few drinks at buddha bar with chris and anette. it was a night that we would never forget. our last one  with chris {r.i.p. chris, you will forever be in our hearts}

although i left early. was there just for 4 days. husband stayed back a few more nights for work. it was sad leaving him behind. and just leaving dubai. over time i have grown to really like the city

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^^ jacuzzi time with baby rajveer on the 76th floor was something else! there was a slight chill in the air and the view was amazing. husband joined in too, only by then we were too comfortable to get out and take more pictures.  sorry you were missed out A!^^

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^^ pappa roti regular bun. my favorite^^

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^^and husband’s favorite. which was great because we didn’t have to share^^

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^^ bachelorette time – at zuma. too bad we didn’t get any pictures of the food ^^

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^^ breakfast with husband at the IHOP. my standard order, the buttermilk pancakes + mushroom and spinach omelette^^

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^^ the cocktails at buddha bar. husband went back again on his last night just to have another espresso martini ^^

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^^ our very last night with chris…. so grateful to have had a chance to meet him in this lifetime. he will be missed dearly :( ^^

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^^ shake shack. husband tried his shake shack burger for the very first time and he wasn’t disappointed ^^

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^^ vapiano. need to eat at this one in every city we go to^^

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^^ chandni and i, shopping at the mall while the husbands were at work ^^

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^^ view from the top ^^

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^^ mexican cola! am always up for trying new colas ^^

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^^ cute little cafe at the dubai mall, which unfortunately we did not try.^^

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^^ customary touristy picture^^

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^^ dubai buses ;) ^^

ubud

we spent an entire day in ubud.

we visited the rice terraces, the batik painting stores, the wood carving stores and the bali zoo ! {fun fact – what i liked about the bali zoo is that unlike most other zoos that i have visited, the bali zoo has some fun interactive activities that each visitor could opt for. A and I chose to feed the crocodiles and the tigers at nominal extra costs.

at night once we returned to our hotel in seminyak, we visited the kudeta beach club {food tip – if you are vegetarian do NOT try their sushi. have the pizzas instead}

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^^ batik painting which is a technique of wax-resist dyeing of cloth ^^

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^^ feeding the crocodiles and the tigers. for those few hours we were kids again. ^^

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^^ the beautiful rice paddy fields of ubud. it was a 45 minute trek to the top, unfortunately i forgot to wear sneakers, so i had to do with slippers throughout! let’s just say it wasn’t very easy and A wasn’t v happy with my shoe choice that day^^

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^^ unfortunately the only picture i have of kudeta^^

other fun things we did in bali because really this could go on for several most posts…..

Visit the dovetail – we happened upon it while we were walking around seminyak square. their bartenders whip up some of the best cocktails in seminyak. also the owner was super nice and gave us lots of dishes to try out {on the house!} he was a delight and we spent hours at the bar just talking about how similar our traditions and cultures were!

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^^ the tomato balls at dovetail were amazing ^^

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^^ with the namesakes! my husband and the owner shared the same name and birth dates! how co-incidental ^^

Also visit saigon street if you happen to be around the potato head beach club. they serve some great vietnamese food and the most good looking sangria i have ever seen!

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if you like desert as much as we do, try out the fat turtle. we had the red velvet pancakes and the nasi goreng. but everything on the menu looked so v tempting >>>

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and last but not the least – the truffle polenta fries at sisterfields is a MUST try. i’d go back to bali just to have those again ;)

all in all it was a great vacation. A and i  met so many people from around the world.

i say this every time i’m back from a vacation but its amazing how people  from different countries and cultures are deep down all so very similar. we think the same things and believe in the same principles. well most of us anyway….

bali (continued)

we sat in our beautiful hotel for almost all of day 3.

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^^ our beautiful villa…. when we first booked it, i was v excited about the thought of having our very own  pool right beside our bed, but we barely used in the six days we stayed there. ^^

we stayed at aria luxury villa and spa at seminyak.

the temperature on that particular day was upwards of 40 degree Celsius. we finally made our way out of the room just to grab a bite.

since potato head beach club was just only few minutes walk away, we decided to try their indonesian restaurant called Lilian.

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^^ our meal of grilled tofu in yellow curry, Indonesian chicken curry and fried catfish with some steamed rice.^^

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^^^ we had heard so much about rock bar before we left for bali but nothing could have prepared me for this incredible view. it was a 40 minute drive from our hotel and totally worth the ride.  also it helps that they whip up some of the best cocktails in bali. ^^

after having a few drinks at the rock bar, my husband surprised me with an amazing meal at this hip new restaurant in Bali  called cuca. he had done a bit of research before we left the hotel and come to know about it. the meal, which was fusion indonesian, was incredible and there was an indonesian wedding going on right by our table {it’s an indoor/ outdoor restaurant}. such a perfect date. it’s unfortunate we took no pictures !!

fast forward to Udaipur

i haven’t received my wedding pictures from the photographer as yet. it may be a while before i get them and it only makes sense to post about the wedding/ reception/ cocktail party once i receive the pictures.

so lets fast forward to udaipur?

udaipur was my top choice for a destination wedding. unfortunately we didn’t go ahead with the idea of a destination wedding {too much planning and with both of us working all day we had little time}

so my very sweet family decided that we would all go to udaipur post the wedding and spend three days to celebrate the marriage  and to detox ofcourse…

we were around 30 of us and had the entire top floor of the hotel to ourselves.

we stayed at the fatehgarh palace which is about 30 mins away from the city center. it’s a breathtaking property. calm and peaceful and has some of the most amazing views of the city.

in our three days there, we walked around the city palace, ate street food and did some jewelry shopping at the small shops on the roads.

one night we had dinner at ambrai. a beautiful lakeside restaurant to celebrate my aunt and uncle’s 25th wedding anniversary.

A and I stayed back an extra day and had dinner at this other amazing rooftop restaurant called AD 1559. it is brilliant and i would recommend it to everyone who visits udaipur. it offers one of the best views of the city and of the city palace

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^^ the hotel lobby, pool and the view from  our hotel room!!^^

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^^ our hotel from a distance^^

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IMG_1716IMG-20151203-WA0092^^ best part of the day was breakfast with this amazing view! breakfast wasn’t extravagant but just perfect. with a bit of indian and continental both ^^

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^^ posers^^

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^^ matching colors with this cutie!^^

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^^ A and i were upgraded to their royal suite {was it?} but it was a great surprise and kind gesture. they even left a chocolate cake in our mini fridge and we had our very own jacuzzi right by an amazing view ^^

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^^ walking by the city palace^^

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^^ view of the city from the top!^^

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^^dinner at ambrai^^

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^^ our last day alone in the city^^

udaipur is definitely one of the prettiest cities i have been to. there’s such a charm to it. the lakes, the palaces and the cute little cafes by the road. i love it all and i’m glad that part of my wedding festivities took place there. i wouldn’t have had it any other way.

GOA

my office colleague and good friend aditi got married this weekend at goa.

it was such a fun wedding. and absolutely different from any other wedding i have been to before.

firstly because the groom and bride actually seemed to be having a blast. they were so calm and chilled out the entire time. 12 am on the night before the wedding (which was at 7 am) they came to our room in their swimwear and said guys get dressed it’s pool party time. i feel how a wedding is, says a lot about the couple itself. and this is one crazy fun couple.

also we were some of the few indians at the wedding. and  the other guests were from all over the world. there were guests all the way from nigeria, estonia, washington d.c., taiwan, singapore, netherlands, london and many more.

they were such a fun and enthusiastic bunch. ideal wedding guests. with no hang ups and always willing to participate in all activities no matter how alien some of the traditions might seem to them.

it was great getting to meet and then get to know each of the guests, personally. and learn about their experiences.

lastly it was a small intimate wedding (not more than 50 guests) – which is my favorite kind of a wedding. too bad i can’t have that for myself but i am happy for anyone who can.

it’s going to take me a few days to get over this weekend. till then all i have his my last few days of notice period to distract me ;)

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^^we stayed at this charming portugese villa called palacete rodrigues it was a 10 minute walk away from anjuna beach and had beautiful antiques and rooms. perfect for the intimate wedding^^

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^^ need a ride anyone? the host couple had rented around 10 – 12 bikes for the guests to use to explore the city during the day. i was strictly off bikes this trip {due to an impending wedding ;)} but walking out to this site of these colorful bikes was something else^^

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^^ pool parties at the villa pool which went on all day all night. i kid not^^

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^^ the happy couple!^^

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^^ FINALLY got the chance to visit thalassa, goa. the food was exactly how i heard it would be. we had the kalamata olives, the chicken souvlaki, fried cheese and the gyros.^^

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^^ i even made my roommate come with me to ozran heights next door, the place where A proposed to me a few months ago on my birthday. read here.^^

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^^ and they are hitched!!^^

cannot be happier for the married couple…

Amby Valley 2.0

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just got back from our long weekend in amby valley city. our friends have a beautiful house on the hills and it was great to escape the hot, sticky mumbai weather for a few days.

the air out there is so fresh and delicious and you don’t even realise it till you’re back in this city and breathing mumbai air.

it was great catching up with friends, relaxing, playing board games and eating all the food in the world. amby never fails to impress.

this time we even rode ATVs. which was my favorite part of the weekend. since i can’t drive {?!} ATV is the closest i come to driving a car.

i also tried a few games of play station with A and i finally get why he’s so obsessed with his PS. it’s addictive!

i am so glad tha,t after much contemplation, i decided to take time off from work before the D day. i feel significantly happier and lighter. and have all this extra time to spend with friends, family and more importantly myself.

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clarke quay + cafe iguana

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we spent one of our nights in singapore at clarke quay. and LOVED it.

it’s buzzing, pretty and has all these bars and restaurants {that looked so fun from the outside} we even spotted a chupitos! which is a shots bar. it also has jumping fountains for kids {and adults if you’re like us}

one of our local friends recommended cafe iguana for its mexican, so we had our dinner there. their vegetarian bowl was super delicious.

we also took the night river cruise. and we highly recommend it. it has beautiful views of singapore by night. we got of at the merlion park on our way back. and just sat by the steps soaking in the view and just talking for hours.

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^^ mexican food at cafe iguana, clarke quay^^

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^^ clarke quay by the night is SO damn colorful ^^

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^^ water fountains by night!^^

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^^ view from the river cruise was breathtaking ^^

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^^ merlion park! …. and is it just me or am i getting better at this whole photography thing ;)^^

singapore

although i am quite the travel buff, i had yet to explore east asia. i’ve never been to bangkok or thailand or anywhere else in that part of the world.

so a few weeks ago saloni and i were talking and we decided we should take a short vacation somewhere in east asia. at first we decided we’d go to vietnam and combodia. we almost booked the flight tickets. but then decided against it, as we were traveling solo.

we are both getting married later in the year and since she is shifting to the U.S. of A. post marriage {which sucks! i know…but that’s for a whole different post} we thought it would be a good idea to do a girls trip. just the two of us. and so Singapore happened! {we heard it was one of the safest countries in Asia and it sure did live up to its title}

a few interesting facts about our Singapore vacation:

1) the Quincy Hotel – a month before we were to leave, we debated for days about where to stay {partly out of excitement and partly out of boredom}. we finally shortlisted the Quincy Hotel by Far East Hospitality {she gave in to my insistence on staying there -i read about it on a travel blog} – the all – day free flowing dean and deluca refreshments really hit the spot with me. we paid a bit more than we wanted to. but in the end we were SO damn satisfied. i don’t think i would have had it any other way now that we are back in Mumbai. i also know saloni feels the same way {even though she might deny it}  last night {two weeks since we’ve been back}i got a message from her saying “i really miss quincy” she dint say she missed “singapore” she said she missed the Quincy ;) so there you have it. that’s what a really good hotel does for you.

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^^ our hotel lobby. and the ever flowing food spread! so often we would want to get out to grab a bite but after seeing the spread at our hotel we would just end up eating there {also it helps that it was all on the house ;)}^^

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^^ our hotel pool. we LOVED spending time on the floats watching a movie on the screen near the pool. they even had juices/ energy drinks/ chips stocked up near the pool for refueling ^^

2) the almost cancellation – a week before we were to leave, the managing partner at the law firm i work with informed me that i would have to cancel my vacation {#lifeofacorporatelawyer} due to an ongoing transaction. he said they would reimburse me for the costs incurred. it was all very disappointing. more for Saloni than i as she would have to cancel her bookings too {and for some reason all our bookings happened to be on a non-refundable basis} we found out we were going the day we were leaving i.e. Friday! so you could imagine our relief and my UN-preparedness. looking back i am so grateful for saloni. she took it all SO well. and was most co-operative the whole time.

3) ) universal studios – i have been to the universal studios in orlando and los angeles but honestly it never ceases to amaze me. it has to be the happiest place on earth and looking back most of my very favorite days all happen to be in amusement parks. no matter how old i get.

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^^ mandatory universal pose! ^^

IMG_20150723_174008^^ this right here is what i love about universal studios. the food shops/ carts are so adorable^^

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IMG_20150804_110121^^ posing like little children ^^

4) celavi – on top of the marina bay sands is undoubtedly on the most beautiful clubs in the country. we went there on saturday night and had such a great time. we bumped into another group of mumbai girls celebrating a bachelorette {us mumbaikars, we are EVERYwhere!} we also met a lot of interesting locals. it was one crazy night

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^^ view from the club^^

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^^ bathroom selfies^^

5) shopping at orchard road – singpaore has to be one of the best shopping destinations i’ve been too. orchard street has every thing. the super pricey to the not so expensive clothing stores. you name it, it’s there. i also loved the local brands and did most of my shopping there.

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6) bao today – both saloni and i are “barely non-vegetarians”. we eat only chicken and v. few other dishes with other meat products {pepperoni pizza! yumm} so it was difficult to find good options at restaurants in singapore. we happened upon bao today while we were shopping at orchard street and ended up eating there twice after. the peanut baos, the crystal dumplings and the ramen noodles are amahzinnng.