#TravelTips: 24-hours in Amsterdam

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With this post, I enter the #AtoZChallenge of blogging in which I will be writing about things to do in cities listed in alphabetical order. For today, we have Amsterdam.

Cycling is the most preferred mode of commuiting amongst the people of Amsterdam. So, when there, hire one. The city has more than 8,00,000 cycles so one can imagine how convenient cycling around is. It is easy to maneuver, takes you everywhere and the city being bike friendly, cycling everywhere actually acts in your favour.

Amsterdam has something for everyone –  be it arts & exhibition, concerts & music, performing arts, museums, festivals, events, film and cinema. Here is a rundown of few things you must cover if you have 24 hours to spend in the city.

Anne Frank House

This is a part of history one shouldn’t miss. Even if you have never heard of Anne Frank, this is a good time to find out more and visit the musuem. The museum is open on all days of the week. This is the place where Anne and her family hid, and yes, this is where she wrote her diary. You can find out more about the timings, price or ticket and what else can be seen at their website http://www.annefrank.org/

FOAM Museum

The FOAM museum is an international photography organisation based in Amsterdam. If you are even remotely interested in photography, you might want to head over here. The museum is open on all days of the week though the timings differ. You’ll need to buy tickets which can be done from their website http://www.foam.org. You can be part of an ongoing tour or attend any of the current photo exhibitions.

Blue Boat Tour Company

Canal cruises in Amsterdam are absolute must and Blue Boat Amsterdam Canal Cruises give you the perfect ride which you deserve. You have the option of city canal cruise, open boat cruise, hard rock burger cruise, kids cruise, dinner cruise, and more. The experience is grand and once in a lifetime. Not only that, this gives you the wonderful opportunity to explore the city in a different manner. Know more about this at https://www.blueboat.nl.

Hermitage Museum

When one mentions the Hermitage Museum, what comes to mind is the one in Russia. However, there is a branch of the same museum at Amsterdam! Located in a building which dates back to 1861, it is at present the largest satellite museum. The musuem houses two very prominent and permanent exhibitions – Matisse to Malevich and The immortal Alexander the Great. If you wish to visit the place, learn more at their website http://www.hermitage.nl/en/.

Night Life

The nightlife scene at Amsterdam is on fleek and there is something for everyone – be it festivals, bars or night clubs. There is this option called the Amsterdam Nightlife Ticket which you can get from IAmsterdam, and gain unlimited access to eight different Amsterdam nightclubs for seven days. Along with the free pass, you’ll also get free welcome drinks.

These are only few of the places one can visit. It is quite possible that none of them interest you. These are just few suggestions from me, nothing more.

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Filing For Indian Passport Just Got Easier!

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There used to be a time when attaining a new passport or even renewing an existing one was quite a cumbersome process. Over time, the rules started becoming quite transparent. And recently, rules at Passport Seva Kendra have been amended to make attaining a passport extremely easy. I collated the new rules and listed them in this post –

  • Annexure A or Marriage certificate which was mandatory to file an Indian passport are no more so. Married couple can submit their applications even if they don’t have a marriage certificate.

  • People who are divorced can now apply without having to submit the divorce decree which was earlier mandatory. Mentioning the name of the spouse is not a compulsory requirement anymore.

  • If an orphaned child was to apply for passport, earlier a birth or school leaving certificate was required. With the new rule, all that would be required is an attested letter from the Head of the Orphanage which will do as a proof of birth.

  • When applying for passport of adopted children, the resgistered adoption deed is no more mandatory. Instead, a self-attested letter autheticating the adoption would suffice.

  • When government employees seek a passport on urgent basis, they can submit a self-declaration in Annexure N, informing that prior intimation about the application for Indian Passport had been given to the Head of the Department. Identy certificate or no objection certificate from the employer are no longer needed.

  • Earlier, when sadhus and sanyasis applied for an Indian passport, they were required to mention the names of their parents. As per the recent rules, they have the choice to mention the name of their Guru instead of parents, as long as it is accompanied by atleast one document out of Aadhar Card, Election Photo Identity Card, PAN Card, etc. that has the name of the Guru under the header of parents names.

  • Children born out of the wedlock would not have any hassles with applying for an Indian passport. Only document that is required to be filled in this regard is Annexure G.

  • Regarding attestations of annexes, applicants can self-declare on plain paper and submit the documents.

  • Number of annexes to be filled have been brought down as A, C, D, E, J, and K have been detached reducing the number to 9 annexes only.

  • When single parents apply for passport of their children, the application has been simplified and the parents can opt against mentioning the name of the child’s other parent.

  • Mentioning the name of only one parents when an individual is applying for their own passport, is allowed now.

  • Earlier, those born after January 26, 1989 where required to sumbit their birth certificate. With the new rule, this is not mandatory. Any other proof of date of birth is also acceptable and the document could be any one amongst – Aadhaar card, Pan card, birth certificate issued by Municipal Corporation/Registrar of Births and Deaths, driving license, voter’s card or policy bond. Goverment employees can submit the copy of the Extract of the service record of the individual if still in service. If retired, Pay Pension Order with DOB can be submitted. Both kind of documents submitted by government employees need to be signed and authorized by the administer in-charge of the department/Ministry.

These are the current changes in the rules. However, rules can change with time, so it is best to check the website of Passport Application.

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A Visit To Patwon Ki Haveli, Jaisalmer

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If you are in Jaisalmer and, you will of course visit the Jaisalmer Fort or Sonar Killa. And once inside the fort, you simply cannot go back without walking a short distance to the five identical mansions also known as Patvon Ki Haweli. While most of your half day tour will be taken up in exploring the fort but do ensure that you have 60-90 minutes to explore Patvon Ki Haweli as well.

Legend has it that there used to be a wealthy trader named Guman Chand Patwa. He had five sons and for all of them he had got identical havelis made. The first of the houses is under Archeological Survey of India and ASI has ensured that the interiors of the house remain intact giving a clear indication of the lifestyle of the family inhabiting it. The house and the interiors have been well-maintained by ASI and visitors can explore it after purchasing tickets for admission. The havelis were built in the early 18th century and had taken 55 years for completion.

Made from yellow sandstone keeping to the picturesque look of the entire town of Jaisalmer, the havelis are examples of some of the finest craftsmanship. As I said, the first of the mansions has been converted into a museum and is being maintained by ASI.
We were spellbound from the first glance at the havelis, right from outside. The jharokhas and the windows visible from the lane outside give a clear idea of how beautiful the work of the craftsmen who built the structures were.

One didn’t need to be told that the families which resided in the havelis were rich. Right from architecture to interiors to the ceilings and the furniture, everything was modern, exquisite and way ahead of time in terms of design and planning.

The decor would make one wonder if the interiors are actually from current times and we are visiting the house of someone who has just stepped out for a while. Everything has been so well-maintained that it is difficult to believe that no one has lived here in decades. The master bedroom had things related to children like a paalna, a pram and even a tricycle.

The ceilings of the entire haveli are worth mentioning. The design of the ceiling is different in every room and each one has exquisite designs. Goes to show the standard of craftsmanship involved and one can easily imagine how much time it must have taken to create each design.

The interiors of the haveli is as if the house owners were there a minute before you enter the room. Everything is displayed in such a manner that I actually went into a trance like mood to imagine the family there, in front of me, everyone doing their own things,

From the terrace of the first of the Patwon Ki Havelis, we can see the entire expanse of the Sonar Kella – Jaisalmer Fort.
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Where To Shop When In Bangkok?

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When you land in Bangkok, you have the choice to head off to one (or, more) of the islands or spend some time in the metropolis. We headed off to the beach towns and spent two and a half days in Bangkok before our return. Our hotel was centrally places at Sukhumvit, so most of the places to shop from where literally at stone’s throw.

Husband and I both make it a point to experience travel in local modes of transport in the cities we visit. A couple of minutes walk from our hotel, and we noticed a flight of steps leading to Nana metro station. Great! We climbed the stairs and first went to see the route chart. Siam was a few stations away and we knew it was a shopping hub. So, the first day in Bangkok, we headed off to Siam station. At Siam, there are three glitzy malls – Siam Discovery, Siam Centre and Siam Paragon.
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An eclectic city, Bangkok has it all. Siam huge mall and Siam station opened to the mall and we could enter it directly. The mall also houses the famous Madame Tussaud’s wax museum.  South Asia’s largest aquarium, a host of international high-end fashion brands and a 16-screen cineplex are all a part of the huge experience called Siam Paragon.  The architecture of the mall is very well thought of and one doesn’t need to walk a lot or get lost.

The main floor of Siam Paragon is all about luxury. The most high-end brands are at display and the collection is very unlike what we see in India, even in the metros. This is a rich person’s playground. Even if you are not there to spend monies, have a good time exploring and kicking pictures. That’s what we did.
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Moving one floor up, you will find yourself at the fashion venue and price-conscious shoppers can have a good time shopping here.
The second and the third floors house leisure and lifestyle brands. You can get lost here and you won’t even complain. Cars, high-end furniture, technology, salons – your jaw will drop once you look around. I know mine did!

If you are planning to eat here, you’ll be spoilt for choices. I’ll talk about that in a fresh post, because here, we talk about where to shop while in Bombay.

 

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Moving on, another place to shop in is Terminal 21. The mall spread across multiple malls has the most unique design. Each floor is designed based on a different, famous city of the world. the decor, the shops and the restaurants are all in accordance to the theme of the floor. The picture above and below here are from the floor – Istanbul as the beautiful hanging lights indicate.

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Across the road from Siam Paragon is MBK Shopping Center. This place is packed with local shoppers as well as tourists. Eight floors with 2000 shops divided amongst themselves, the shopping mall is thirty years old. Here, you will get literally everything you need. From pens and DVDs to furniture and leather products. This mall is not as posh as the three Siam malls, but it serves its purpose very well indeed.
Chatuchak is the ultimate weekend market. The number of stalls and wares there are unbelievable and you will come back with hands full of shopping bags. Pratunam is a wholesale market of fashion wares. The Chinatown market is also a must visit. Spices, food, shoes, clothes, accessories – there are oodles of options, specially for wholesale buyers. If you are in Bangkok for a while, head over to Or Tor Kor food market and come back loaded with Bangkok’s special fruits and vegetables.
And lastly, one place you simply cannot miss is Bangkok’s flower market. A treat to the eyes, nostrils and to the heart, one must visit here even if there is no need to buy flowers.

 

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Free Four-Day Transit Visa at Qatar Now

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Recently, we learnt that international roaming is free on Airtel now. Yes, there is small print, but at least the option now exists! And who doesn’t love anything that comes with the word free? We Indians sure do!
I learnt about another free related to travel this week. The news is that if you have a layover in Qatar for more than a few hours, you can just ask for a FREE transit visa which can be for up to four days. And this is supposed to be hassle free. At Hamad International Airport, Doha you will have to just show the proof of your onward journey. This option is available to all customers.
Earlier, a passenger could request for a transit visa only if the layover duration is minimum 8 hours. Now, the time has been brought down to 5 hours while the duration of the transit via has been increased from 48 to 96 hours.

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Five Basic Rules You Should Follow When Travelling To Another Country

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So, your bags are packed and you are ready to go? Travelling, however exciting, in not an easy thing to do. When you visit new countries and mingle with people from new cultures, there are certain manners that you need to follow. It is important to blend in and appreciate, all the while ensuring that you retrieve ultimate joy from your journey to the place. To do so, there are five basic things one needs to keep in mind. These are so basic that most of know that they should be followed, but we tend to ignore them. We would expect the same out of people visiting our country, but when we are the travellers, there are times when we forget. Not only for them, these basics include some things which are for our own money. After all, for most of us, the constant idea is to save money so that we can travel more. Putting together the most important basics in my opinion, and would love it if you add your points in the comments section!

Use Public Transport

Hiring a private car or taxi is expensive in practically every country. Yes, it is safe at the first thought but not only will you be spending too much, you will also be losing out of the experience of travelling like the locals. Bus, train, boat – use the means of transport the locals usually use. Not only will you be saving money, you will also be living the local life, knowing the people and culture upfront.

Dress Appropriately

Pack the kind of clothes that will not be frowned upon in the country you are going to. Respect their rules and sentiments. Say, if you are going to the middle east, ensure you find out what all clothes are permitted. Carrying the right clothes is also important for another reason. So that you shouldn’t suffer because of drastic climate changes. Pack according to the weather in the country you are going to, so that you don’t fall sick.

Be Flexible

It is a strange land for you. Customs, the people, food, climate – everything is new. But you are guests in their land. So, be flexible. It is okay if you don’t get the food you eat at home every day. Try something new. Don’t look down at the locals because you don’t like something they do. They didn’t invite you there; in fact in most places, the locals welcome tourists with welcome hands.

Do Not Litter

This is a special instruction for Indians. Please, do not litter. Firstly, it is bad manners and shows your home country in a very bad light. Secondly, it is disrespecting the country you are in. And most importantly, in some countries, you might be sentenced to imprisonment for making your surroundings dirty.

Travel Light

I understand. At the time you sit down to pack, it feels like you’ll be needing everything own in your vacation. Well, you won’t. Packs the basics, so that you can save time, money and energy. Tugging huge suitcases along all the time slows down your pace, you need to spend money on cabs and it can be very tiring. Be a smart traveller, pack only the essentials.

 

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