Page 3 of Bellini Travel Blog Posts

Asia » India » Rajasthan » Udaipur July 1st 2018

City Impressions Picturesque Udaipur was the setting of the James Bond film Octopussy, and there is no shortage of places in town to watch it on loop: it definitely highlights the city's variety - the palaces, temples, narrow streets, and of course the lakes. This is definitely a more attractive city than Jaipur, in part because it is much smaller, and since we visited in late June / early July, it wasn't very crowded. We really lucked out with the weather - about 90F every day with no rain, much cooler than it had been the week before. Still, it being the low season, many of the best shops and restaurants were closed, and the ones that stayed open desperately touted their product every time I walked past. Motorbikers also take this opportunity to speed 40mph ... read more
Thali at Natraj
City Palace Grounds
Some Temple

Asia » India June 29th 2018

Umaid Bhawan The pre-monsoon heat in Rajasthan makes June part of the low season, when it's easy to score half-price deals on classy hotels that the Rajas in the palaces would have ordered a dozen of their concubines slaughtered just to stay in for a night. Having three sets of eyes on us during the delicious buffet breakfast, ready to leap to meet any of our needs, made it challenging to slide parathas, etc. into our hidden lunch containers. Running in Jaipur? The Collectorate Circle Park has only one thing in common with the old A.E. O’Block Junior High School track: 5 times around equals about one mile. It's in the middle of a 5-10 lane traffic circle (depending on the vehicles currently in it), making access as difficult as putting your hand in and out ... read more
Rolling Chapati!
Old City Scene
Our Room at Umaid Bhawan

Asia » India » Himachal Pradesh » Shimla June 24th 2018

The 10-hour bus from Manali wasn't too bad- the driver only had to slam on the brakes causing luggage to fall 6-8 times and we only passed one overturned van (see photo). THE CITY Shimla is an attractive city that seems to hang off the hills. It reminds me of Valparaiso, Chile. Roads stretch along the slopes horizontally, switchbacking on the edges, while staircases and lifts cross vertically. 7K, pedestrian-only Mall Road is a nice escape from dodging vehicles (though they give too many VIP exceptions, if you ask me), and the Lower Bazaar that runs parallel is an entertaining scene to stroll through. Almost all the tourists in Shimla are Indian, so the town offers more chain stores and expensive, formal restaurants, rather than craft markets, cafes, or bars, like in Manali. The first night ... read more
Almost Left Behind
Overturned Van
Biggest Waste of Money Ever

Asia » India » Himachal Pradesh June 21st 2018

Peggy and I completed the 4-day Hampta Pass trek (and then another day for the Lake Chandratal extension, all with Himalayan Trails (; The total cost, including transport, guide, tents and sleeping bags, mules to carry the gear, entrance fees, 3 cooks, and food, was just under $200 per person. There were four others in our group - a British couple and two Indian women. I assume most come to this blog to either browse photos or to get travel information, so I'll spare everyone an exhaustive narrative. Rather than going through our itinerary day by day, which can be found on any tour company's website, here are 10 observations and opinions about the Hampta Pass trek that we couldn't find information about before our trip. 1. Scenery The alpine scenery is impressive and some ... read more
The Perfect Mountain
Meal Prep
At the Pass

Asia » India » Himachal Pradesh » Manali June 13th 2018

GETTING THERE FROM KULLU AIRPORT We could have taken an 8-hour death bus from Chandigarh on one of the most dangerous roads in the world, but we opted for a semi-sketchy, 30-minute flight to Kullu, and then an hour and a half taxi to Manali. The landing at Kullu Airport is apparently a challenging one, but the weather cooperated. Kullu itself seemed like an interesting town that wouldn't be terrible to get stuck in for a night, but it was easy to prepay a taxi to Manali with set prices from the taxi union. The pre-monsoon road construction and general traffic turned the trip from an hour and a half to two, then three, then four hours. At this point, traffic had been at a standstill for an hour, so we got out and walked the ... read more
The Manali Waterworks
Caption contest?

Asia » India » Punjab June 11th 2018

After a day in Delhi recovering from the long flights from the U.S., Peggy and I took a five-hour train to Chandigarh in a fairly comfortable air conditioned car. We spent two nights at the Red Fox Hotel to break up the journey before flying to Kullu, since we'd read that Chandigarh is India's first planned city, and according to India City Walks, is "a benchmark of modernisation, and is a rich, prosperous and green city, rightly called 'the city beautiful'!" Of course, everything is a matter of context. We were, in fact, able to (somewhat) walk safely along sidewalks and berms to Sukhna Lake and to Nek Chand's Rock Garden, and everyone surprisingly stopped at the red lights. The lake was more or less a muddy reservoir with pleasant gravel trails alongside, but the rock ... read more
Trees in rock garden, with horde
Hauling Water
Sukhna Lake

Middle East » United Arab Emirates August 22nd 2017

Flights from southern Africa to Dubai, and flights from Abu Dhabi to many places are quite cheap, so we decided to make three days of it. It was a pleasant albeit hot stopover from Harare via Kigali, Rwanda, and worth it to see the souks of Dubai, the modern and clean metro and malls, Wiz (Burj) Khalifa, and then a super-easy bus to the Grand Mosque and Abu Dhabi.... read more
Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi
Inside Grand Mosque
ladies' wear

Africa » Zimbabwe » Bulawayo July 30th 2017

Prior to our trip, it was difficult to find timely information online about traveling in Zimbabwe, as of the summer of 2017. Once on the road, we had hoped to meet people in South Africa, Zambia, or Botswana who had been there recently, but we met no one. So, here's what we found from visiting: Tourism: There simply isn't much of it right now, likely because of all the difficulties explained below. We had initially planned to spend more time in Zim to check out Mana Pools and maybe some other destinations farther from major cities, but ended up settling for the two main cities: Bulawayo and Harare. In hindsight, we probably could have found buses or local shared taxis to these smaller destinations; then again, we even had to spend half a day looking for ... read more
World's View in Matopos
@The Bulawayo Club
Flower at Doon Craft Market

Africa » Botswana » North-East July 28th 2017

We crossed the border from Zambia at Kazungula, which was fairly straightforward but required a short ferry across the Zambezi. A bridge is in the process of being built but the projected finish date seemed a tad optimistic. We found a cab on the other side- 10 minutes to Kasane, where we based ourselves for visiting Chobe National Park. The town itself isn't terribly interesting, other than the warthogs roaming the streets, nibbling on ample trash. Be sure to exchange all Kwacha (Zambian money) at the border, since there is nowhere in Kasane to do it. We tried the banks and bureaus, but eventually I had to just ask around to find someone who knew a Zambian and exchanged with her at a terrible rate. We stayed at Plateau Guest House (pronounce it plat-oo or no ... read more
Fighting Elephants
Warhogs of Kasane

Africa » Zambia » Livingstone July 24th 2017

The flight from Johannesburg was quick and inexpensive. We met up with my friend John (see 2009 Quilotoa and Galápagos blogs) and his girlfriend Cristina and explored the falls area for a few days, fully aware that it is a very well beaten and expensive tourist track. Zambia and Zimbabwe now offer a dual visa for visiting both sides of the falls. Apparently you can go back and forth between the two repeatedly as long as you don't go to another country. Livingstone and Victoria Falls The town of Livingstone is surprisingly authentic, with plenty of shops and activity in town and then shanties and dirt roads surrounding, which I ran through and found to be safe and friendly, largely because most of the tourists seem to fly in and stay at extravagant camps in the ... read more
Jungle Junction / Bovu Island
Peggy and mist on Zambian side
@Boiling Pot

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