Art Nouveau in Riga

Two weekends ago, my friends and I headed to the Paris of the North. Riga is an Eastern European gem with a labyrinth of cobbled- streets to explore. And an equally impressive number of bars to boogie at.

Riga Riga Riga

Riga boasts of the largest art nouveau open air museum in Europe. Forty percent of buildings in Riga are in the style of Art Nouveau, making the historic city centre a UNESCO World Heritage site. Continue reading

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The Bay Area

Time for some throwback Thursday. #TBT to this May when I was in San Francisco with my childhood sweethearts for our friend’s wedding. The five-day long wedding celebration may have been the reason for our visit to the Bay Area, but we definitely managed to find time to enjoy the NorCal lifestyle.

San Francisco San Francisco San Francisco San FranciscoWith our base camp in Fremont, the BART became our trusty chauffeur, lugging us from East Bay to Alameda to the SF piers. Continue reading

Prague

Prague was the first European city I ever visited on my own. One summer, many years ago – when I was 18 – I did a travel writing course in Prague. It’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be a hobbyist travel blogger without that trip. But then again, Prague will turn anyone into a travel blogger.

Prague PragueWhen my friend Shanelle told me that she’ll be visiting Prague on as a part of her annual European adventures, I decided to crash her trip. And Rema decided to crash ours.

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Wah Taj!

My first memories of the Taj Mahal were TV commercials with Ustad Zakir Hussain playing the tabla in front of the monument, then sipping on tea and saying, “Wah Taj!”

Directly translated it means Wow Taj and after visiting it a few days ago, I don’t know how else to describe the Taj Mahal. So, I am shamelessly stealing the iconic phrase.

Located in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is unsurprisingly one of the most visited in India. Here are some of the highlights from when my friend, Cat, and I visited.

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Stunning Chamonix

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (or just Chamonix, or “Cham” according to the cool kids) is a stunning town nestled in the French Alps, very close to the Swiss border. It’s the launch pad for some of the most exciting skiing in the region, and a fun town to spend a serene, cosy weekend – which is exactly what I did two weekends ago.

It’s also one of the most picturesque places I have ever been to, so I cursed myself for nothing taking my camera with me. Trusted iPhone saved the day and here are some of my favourite shots from the beautiful Chamonix. Enjoy!

 

Amsterdam as seen from the canals

I love water bodies. Lakes, rivers, oceans, swimming pools, bathtubs: fill up something with water and throw me in there and I am a happy wader. But even if I can’t swim in the water (example: canals), I still like being around/on it.

So, it’s no surprise that when I went to Amsterdam last month, I bugged my friends to go on a canal tour with me. My Dutch-convert friends protested and told me that those tours were quite touristy (read: boring), but if the weather was nice we could hire our own boat and go exploring Amsterdam the proper way – through the canals. The weather was not nice for rest of my visit.

But, I went back to Amsterdam for my birthday last weekend, and lo and behold we were blessed with a gorgeous autumn day where the sun was shinning bright and the crisp wind was just chilly enough. (There is no way to not make this sound cheesy and poetic – it was just one of those days!) So, we hired a boat through Sloepdelen, bought some picnic food, jumped in the boat and started exploring. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my trusted camera with me, but here are some of my iPhone photos. Enjoy!

The World of Whitsundays: Above & Underwater

Whitehaven beachDuring my mid-semester break, I joined my friends Fanny and Henrik on their tropical Queensland adventures. We met up in Airlie Beach, a typical Aussie backpacker haven lined with bumpin’ bars, to embark on a 3-day-2-night Whitsundays sailing adventure.

The Whitsundays are a group of 90 continental islands situated off the coast of central Queensland. As their small mountain tips peak up from the Coral Sea and happy fish live among the coral underneath, they provide an excellent opportunity for adventures both on land and underwater.

Sixty or so tour companies run day-trips and longer tours around the Whitsunday Islands, so finding something to cater your interests won’t be hard. If you have a flexible schedule, here is a tip: don’t book ahead of time. Show up at Airlie Beach and ask around if there are any discounted spots available on trips leaving in a day or so. Chances are you’ll find something easily. We found three spots on the SV Whitehaven ecotour, and we reckon we saved a good chunk of money by not booking ahead of time.

Now that the logistics are out of the way, here’s the fun part: our tour provided us three opportunities to snorkel at different reefs, a visit to the Whitehaven Beach, kayaking in the open waters, bushwalking the islands, and plenty of time to tan aboard (if the weather cooperated). That sounds like a great trip, doesn’t it?

It looks good too…

SV Whitehavan
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Best views of the Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is the most iconic symbol of the city, gracing the Bennelong Point in the Sydney Harbour. Inaugurated in 1973, after almost 15 years of construction, the Sydney Opera House is a UNESCO World Heritage site valued for its “achievements in structural engineering and building technology.” Stemming out of Sydney’s CBD (short for central business district, or as us North Americans would say, “downtown”), and recognizable from miles away, the Opera House is definitely one of the most photographed sites in the city.

But, what’s the best place to photograph it?

The Sydney Opera House has a bit of an advantage in that case: it looks amazing no matter where you take a picture from. But, some spots are better than others. Here are my top 7 favourite spots to snap a shot of the Opera House (in no particular order):

East End of Circular Quay 

Sydney Opera House
When you get off a bus to go to Circular Quay, and walk towards the Opera House, this is the first view you are likely to see of this landmark. Chances are you’ll reach for your camera instinctively and snap a shot. This is one of the first photos I ever took in Australia, and it’s definitely one of my favourites.

Taronga Zoo 

Sydney Opera House
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Melbourne’s Graffiti Walls

Before I went to Melbourne, many of my Aussie friends told me, “Roop, you’ll love Melbourne – it’s so artsy!”

I have seen cities and neighbourhoods drown in an overdose of forced artsy-ness, so I was slightly skeptical as I started exploring Melbourne’s CBD. But, my worries were misplaced. Melbourne is the right kind of artsy: the buskers are in love with their music, the street art is organic, and the thriving alleyways are rich cultural communities.

During a short free walking tour of Melbourne, graffiti walls grabbed my attention. After the orientation, I grabbed a map indicating the city’s most impressive graffiti walls, and set out on an afternoon of exploration with another Canadian.

Here are some of my favourite shots:

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The Beautiful Bay

Pick up your camera. Point it any direction. Take a photo.

There is a 97 per cent chance that if you are in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, your photo will turn out to be amazing.

Ha Long Bay is hands-down the most visually pleasing work of nature I have ever seen. Jagged limestone formations sticking out of a pearly green bay. Roughly 2,000 islets (exact number varies from source to source) spread over 1,553 square kilometres, emerge out of the water, peaking at different heights.

This place has seen 500 million years of climate and geographical changes and evolved as a tropical green biosystem which is home to 14 endemic floral specials and 60 faunal species.

But along with all the flora and fauna, it is also home to about 1,300 Vietnamese fishermen, some of whom have never stepped foot on dry land and call this bay home. This bay was also home to us for just over 24 hours and that gave us a pretty good idea as to why these people never want to leave.

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