A bridge in the sky…where eagles dare!

A man-made marvel in between God-made nature!

Very often we find ourselves in a situation having to decide on places that we need to visit especially when the visiting country throws open a number of getaways. Malaysia is one such nation that offers multiple choices in terms of exciting destinations within its borders. And I had this challenge too as I was planning my trip to Malaysia. As someone with a passion to explore everything that I can, Langkawi fitted right into the plan.   

Langkawi is possibly an undeservingly undersold destination when compared to others, among all the places that you could visit when you are in Malaysia. The reasons for this are the amazing man-made creation amidst some breath- taking nature. The very first sight of that picture showing the Cable car ride and the Skybridge as they appeared in a climax of a movie and then its appearance in front of my eyes, in the travel guide book in my hotel room, reassured my plan was absolutely right indeed. 

Langkawi…by the pier.

Getting there

 Air Asia and Fire Fox are the two carriers flying to Langkawi and I chose Air Asia. The other option is by a ferry, if you have enough time. Made up of 99 islands on the west coast, Langkawi quietly dazzles as one place that cannot be missed when you are in Malaysia. Though you may not find many fancy resorts and glamorous hotels, this place does have modest accommodation facilities to offer. The fact that it is not commercialised as some of the other destinations, keeps Langkawi raw and full of nature. Sporting a hot, humid and a tropical climate with an average annual temperature of about 32 degrees Celsius, Langkawi’s popular beaches are Burau Bay, Pantai Cenang, Pantai Tengah, Datai Bay and Pantai Kok. The main island, surrounded by an absolutely stunning sea in the best of turquoise as it can get, has in its interior, a mix of beautiful paddy fields and the jungle-clad hills.

Amust do’ without a doubt.

The first in most list had to be the Cable Car & Skybridge, which woos many a visitor to this place. After about an hour of driving through some really picturesque fields, with the glimpses of blue water making it more interesting as the terrain kept getting uphill, I reach the Oriental Village in the upper northwest of Langkawi Island, near Pantai Kok. This is the entrance for what turns out to be one long ride in the cable-car all the way up to Mount Mat Cincang. And as the car climbs higher, better it gets in terms of what I see, which includes an awesome view of the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls like a thick white line with twists and twirls sketched on a 550 million years old grey rock, that makes a rugged canvas. 

Spectacular setting…as the Sky Cab climbs up the heights

The best part of the whole experience is this ride itself in the longest free span mono cable car – the Sky Cab as they call it. This incredible ride offers spectacular ‘360-degree’ views as we cruise along a height of 650 meters above sea level, covering over 1700 meters in distance. What a ride! Rainforest jotted with hills under my feet, cool clouds on a blue sky over my head and the invitingly chill breeze hitting my face, I get there on top, the final destination. 

From one mountain top to another…cable cruising.

I step out to find myself actually looking at the magnificent Sky Bridge, all made all in metal, suspended across Mount Mat Cincang and a neighbouring mountain. The first flash of thoughts are in awe of this beauty. An amazing work of architecture, a brilliant art in metal and a masterpiece that defines incredible precision in design & balance.

Engineering at its best…that defines perfection in design & balance

Considering the height, this longest free span and curved bridge in the world, never ceases to amaze, especially when the passing clouds sometimes causing less visibility, it is as though you walk through ‘a curved bridge to the heavens’. Suspended from a single pylon, this brilliant work of art hangs at about 100 meters above the ground level. The uniqueness of this masterpiece lies in its curve as it offers spectacularly changing views of the world below and an unforgettable spatial experience. 

Hanging with a curve to offer the best of views
Brilliant balance…cool curve & another awesome view

This place offers such amazing views that makes you want to spend more time on top, especially if you are one who enjoys more with a camera in hand and looking for newer sights. The climb down by the SkyCab downs the excitement level too, but with a satisfaction of having explored the heights, where eagles dare!

Beautiful blues…and the green islets

Whats left to explore… 

Back in the plains, the calm beaches present a pleasant picture and worthy enough to spend time strolling around. With the ships and boats spread around on these blue waters provides great frames for the camera. 

when the sky went wild…offering a volcanic effect.
Sailin’ through…on waters so blue

The other ‘must do’ things when in Langkawi are the Eagle Square which actually offers a beautiful view of the sea with ships anchored around, an awesome landscape as a part of the background and some nice Indian cuisine. The interesting cloud formation in a characteristic dark grey right above the tip of the peak offered my lenses a volcanic effect. Sungai Kilim Nature Park, where they feed the sea eagles, Bird Paradise and Wildlife Park completes the list.

A bridge that curves…in between mountain tops…and a walk in the sky.

Langkawi, which means ‘eagle’, is a little island destination which makes a perfect ‘short getaway’ for an unforgettable experience, when in Malaysia.

A masterpiece in mighty metal, that millions marvel!

If there is one thing that comes to everyone’s mind the moment the city of Paris is mentioned, it is the Eiffel Tower. And it is also the very reason why it is clearly the No-1 if not the top attraction for every first-time visitor to what has been long cherished as a most romantic city in the world. 

As a traveller I am no different and neither do I wish to be different not to put the Eiffel Tower right at the very top in the list during my first visit to Paris. As most visitors, my expectation too was as towering high, right on my way to the Eiffel that showed itself in glimpses as we drove towards it. Standing over 1000 feet tall and weighing over 10,000 tons, this amazing structure in metal on 4 pillars clearly makes us go awestruck at first sight. As it is claimed, this incredible structure having taken 2 years, 2 months and 5 days, without a doubt has amazed millions till date and will continue to do so for 100s of years to come. As a testimony to French engineering, this tower is a frozen moment of the great industrial era at the end of 19th century.

The mighty Eiffel…just when I turned into the road to encounter the marvel

Though the wait in the queue may put you off, it is definitely worth it once the ascent begins. Having been modernised in 1900 by Gustave Eiffel, a decade later after their inception in 1889, two of the original elevators are still in service. Now this is an incredible fact that elevates the excitement and interest levels of most visitors like me, as we move up. As someone with the lens in hand and hungry for the views that are differently captivating, every stop that we made at different levels offers more of them. 

A structural marvel

The lovely landscapes around…

As we move up, the first sight is a spectacular landscape that showcases an orderly built city, star-studded with centuries old monumental structures such as Palais de Chaillot, the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, esplanades, the beautiful River Siene and the beautiful lush green Champ-de-Mars park forming the intermittent spaces that completes a perfect panorama. Every frame from the tower’s high, offers nothing short of centuries of rich history and culture. The slowly moving boats carrying loads of enthusiastic tourists on River Siene, adds more than life to every view, be it live or through the lens. 

On the way to dizzyin’ heights…
Shining bright to stand out from the rest.
The most scenic River Siene

The higher one gets on the Tower, more interesting are the views and the experience. The whackier side of me is made to imagine a large cake with some intricate icing in white and a green base, that has been precisely cut into a pattern of different sizes.  And thats exactly how one of these city views appear right from the top.

A spectacular view of the nearer old and the farther new of Paris!
Perfectly designed…a green view from the top.
…the green junction
An incredible view…

Every little variations seem to be adding more beauty to these sights. And one cannot miss the beautiful bridges that seem to appear like those incredible line drawings that connect interesting points on carefully drawn travel plan on a large canvas. The three main bridges Pont d’Lena, Pont d’Alma and Pont de Bir Hakim pose elegantly for me as they connect the two sides of the waterways, right below the Eiffel Tower, and also conveys much about the sophistication in planning of this romantic city.

Beautiful bridges
A view from the other side…
Tall & awesome.
A mighty engineering marvel & truly a strain in the neck view!

The Iron Lady, as it is called, standing tall above the French capital, celebrates 130 years and this goes as a little tribute remembering the Parisan engineer Gustave Eiffel, the creator. This mighty engineering marvel is sure to awe millions from all over the world for 100s of years to come. 

Its so Paris…and incredibly so, from the running Seine!

The best of Paris by the River Seine…as I cruise along.

This undeniably romantic city never fails to charm a traveller, be it, the first time or a frequent one. As travellers we identify and reminisce every place we visit with a distinct feature of its own. When it comes to Paris, many such features converge to make this beautiful city, one of the most adorable one without a doubt. 

Beautiful bridges that never fail to impress…

Be it the beauty of the Parisian landscapes, the awesome architecture, the incredible history in the form of the memorable museums, the art or just the magical beauty, Paris bares it all, incredibly so when viewed from river Seine. This particular trip to Paris, one of my ‘must do’, was the day Cruise on the River Seine. As Seine runs through in a pattern just as if to show some of the best sides of Paris, it is a pure treat for my eyes as well as my lenses.

Cruising along…for a pure visual treat of rich history.

Running through the heart of this beautiful city, river Seine defines Paris and its very character in such an adorable way. And the perfect way to enjoy this ride is to be on the top floor of the boat positioned just enough for spectacular views and to frame ‘em with your lenses. Another wise thing to do is to take a ride that starts late afternoon and ends just after the sun goes down. This way you get to see the best side of Paris in different lights. The sunny late afternoon glare, the pleasant evening light with an orange shade as it beautiful turns pink and then red, and finally the pale dark as the city lights get switched on. The ear plugs for the pre-recorded narration provided in multiple languages, is a must to understand and adore the history that you pass by as the boat cruises along.

Differently designed…to bridge the present with incredible history

One of most interesting and inevitable part of this ride is when the boat cruises under those ‘differently designed’ and ‘built to impress’ bridges. So many of them. If you are one with a camera, I bet you cannot deny yourself of not being tempted to capture most of them. Adorned with magnificent statues and sculptures, some of these beautiful bridges are artistic masterpieces.These bridges big and small, sort of creates a pattern with equal time periods, like the clap board for different scenes, that Paris offers for us to enjoy.

Clap board 3…shot 5 and the count of the bridges continue…
Adorned with magnificent statues and sculptures!
Clap board 18…shot 27 and still counting with great views.
Cruising through history amidst works of art…

As we pass through the tree-lined boulevards, the majestic structures stand in beautiful order studded with many iconic landmarks and it is a sight that we can soak into. Not to forget, some adorable sights that features beautiful people being themselves to reiterate why Paris is such a romantic city, true to its claims.   

Moments in partnering…in a city so romantic!

Musée d’Orsay appears to awe as we sail, with its interesting history of transformation from a modest railway staton to a museum that treasures a trove of masterpieces from great artists such as Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir and Gauguin. 

Once a prison that had dingy dungeons underneath, The Conciergerie now, that houses law courts, appears elegantly. It is bizarre to know as the history tells the story of many men and women were herded to the guillotines like lambs to the slaughter, right from this structure.

Notre Dame, as a most famous church building in the world and as one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture appears next to amaze us. The sheer beauty of this structure urges you to wish the boat slows down so that you had an ‘eye-full’ of this masterpiece that treasured some of the best objects of faith such as the Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross and the Holy Nails.

The river divider…in the finest French Gothic architecture

If these are not enough, some of the most interesting history captured and created in the form of breathtaking structures such as Palais Garnier and Opéra National de Paris appear one after the other as we cruise along. And yes, the one and only Louvre museum shows off the iconic facade, declaring why it is the best of its kind as the boat sails past. 

Giving sky, the shine…

And as the sun sets, by now, with the cloud lines blurring and the pinkish red of the dusk streaking across, the darkest brown structure in metal magnificently standing as Eiffel Tower poses in all its glory, as the cruise nears the end. 

The Eiffel…sandwiched!
A view of Eiffel while cruising along river Seine…as the sun goes down

Without a doubt, for an unforgettable experience of this beautiful city called Paris, the Seine cruise is an absolute must.

Gothic Heidelberg castle & a cruise through romantic Rhine Valley.

History in brick red…at dusk

As they say they, some of the best travel experiences are from those that are not so well planned. This one really was a perfect example of one such experience that I had when travelling in Europe. And the more you stay excited to explore places in the short gaps in between your planned travel, better are the chances that you find yourself enjoying such awesome experiences. This was one such “a day’s experience” that is sure to make a wanderlust soul like mine, very happy, when in Germany, especially in Frankfurt. 

The steamer by the pier for a cruise on the Rhine

Cruising through rich & interesting history

After a nice drive from Frankfurt, it is time to set sails along the Rhine river. A traditional steamer anchored by the pier looks more than inviting to unfold history so rich, as it cruised along the river. Though most popular among the travellers from across the world, this is a ‘must do’ one that should be featuring in your lists of ‘things to do’. This route takes us through UNESCO listed River Rhine and what better way to travel than on the top deck that is open to sky offering great views on either side as we cruise along. And if you are one with a camera and a couple of cool lenses, you are in for a treat. 

The Rhine Valley that is a world heritage site unfolds history as we cruise along. Some of the best known landmarks such as Lordly Rock and Rudesheim appears to be posing just the way we want them to. The quiet and romantic villages that appear on either side seem to be undisturbed by the chaos from the outside world.

By the Rhine…as we pass quietly
Calm & peaceful
a quiet & romantic village

This is clearly a ride to keep counting those medieval castles and feel intrigued as you hear interesting stories about everyone of them. The grand old castles, some of them almost as the remains of ruins bare a haunted look, while some look rustic but liveable are converted into expensive hotels. And I am sure every room in these castles will have an unique and interesting story to tell from the medieval age.

Standing the test of times…in twilight
Weathered & pricey
Testament to an incredible history…

Being the end of winter season, the flora on either side of the Rhine offers an interestingly eerie feel in different shades of grey. With cloudy skies above, the waters too seem to be dark and moody, as the chill winds keeps stinging my cheeks.

The youngest traveller who managed to distract me…very sweetly!

After the spectacular ride through history on Rhine, the cruise comes to an end, only to be hosted for a wonderful evening of wine tasting. The ambiance that the little ‘family run’ place provided us, was something that makes this wine tasting truly unforgettable.

An interesting set up for a fine wine tasting session

The entire place appeared to be a museum of some sorts, with every inch on the wall with an antique displayed. The floor just enough for the visitors to walk around, this place offers the best German wine with a lovely dinner.

The lovely loos with an incredible collection of interesting antiques

And the most adorable spot clearly are the toilets that is sure to retain every visitor in much longer than the usual, gazing around and most likely clicking pictures of a wide range of interesting artefacts.      

Heidelberg castle – the remains of rich history

The best landmark in this little town of castles is clearly the Heidelberg Castle. Standing high on the hill the Heidelberg castle appears to be in an elevated level from the plains, as one of the most important renaissance structure in the north of the Alps. Originally built in 12th century, the castle, as history says, has been hit by lightning bolts twice apart from the wars. Partially rebuilt in 17th and 18th centuries, the castle stands in all its gothic glory with its ruins narrating interesting stories from centuries past. 

Gothic glory stands elevated…
an approach marked by the ruins…
A gateway to a renaissance structure
To enter…back in time

Once on top the castles, you get a spectacular view of the old downtown, the beautiful bridges that run across the Neckar river, the similar looking houses that are built to appear in an orderly fashion with red tiled roofs.

The old Town, a beautiful bridge and river Neckar
A view…with the evening sun shining through the town

The dominating brick red colour all around and the ruins that seem to have experienced time and history, characterises the castle thus making it more interesting to know about.

The Fassbau

The best part of the castle is this giant wine barrel that sits inside the castle adjacent to the king’s hall. The Barrel Building’s cellar houses a giant wine barrel – the great Heidelberg Tun, sitting unbelievably big, all in oak wood and with an incredible story to narrate.

the great Heidelberg Tun – the giant wine barrel

The story narrates about a dwarf called Perkeo of heidelberg, a court jester who used to entertain people with his jokes and his legendary ability to drink wine. And boy, what a big barrel! Built in 15th century this giant barrel can store over 200,000 litres of wine, that was collected from the ruled territory as taxes during those days.

Perkeo…the eternal keeper stands guard

And the life size wooden figure of Perkeo by the giant barrel stands as a guardian, an eternal keeper of the barrel and became a mascot to the city too. On top of the giant barrel is a dance floor for the visitor who loves to shake a leg on the wooden floor seasoned with centuries old wine. And if you fancy a private celebration in such an historical structure, they hire out the King’s hall next to the barrel… obviously for a fat price.  

The fabulous facade and incredible interiors

Standing tall & majestic
A fabulous facade weathered over centuries

A part of the castle, as one of most beautiful palaces of German renaissance, stands with its facade adorned by amazing sculptures that seem to bring alive the likes of David, Hercules, Samson, other Kings and Emperors.

Designed to inspire…through the ages

The palace courtyard flaunts richly decorated creations of art on the inside and has lovely gardens on the outside, with incredible views.

A historical sit-out…
…for a beautiful view!

Heidelberg – the Gothic town 

The old…and the not so old…as the sun sets
…for a perfect walk
…for the shopper in us
An evening in the romantic town of Heidelberg…as the sun goes down!

After an overdose of historical ambiance, for those who wish to ease out into shopping, there is the city of Heidelberg with cobble stone streets and perfectly placed lamp posts, adding flair to the evening. The cute looking shops and inviting restaurants set up a perfect end to an awesome day of exploring and remising history in Heidelberg. 

Clearly a ‘must-do’ when in Frankfurt. 

Lovely Lucerne…that is simply Suisse!

Lovely Lucerne

As the train approaches my destination, it seems like the views through the window sequenced a misty and beautiful dawn. Nature in all its creative glory turns these quickly passing views into the first etched memories of the city of Lucerne, forever.

Heaven on earth
A shot that I jus’ couldn’t miss…

When in Switzerland, apart from the big cities such as Geneva and Zurich, one little ‘must-visit’ city is Lucerne. As a most popular town in central Switzerland, it has a lot to offer and I am never tired of this beautiful place despite multiple visits. Whether you travel on work or for leisure, a day and a night is a ‘must do’ in Lucerne. The best things are, to laze around Lucerne with long walks on those beautifully cobbled-stoned lanes, a chilled out sunset cruise, incredible chocolates, good wine and some amazing food.   

A perfect setting

The first best thing to do is easily be the first thing that you get to see the moment you get outta of the railway station after reaching Lucerne. Its the river that runs by and straight ahead you are treated with the sight of bridges, big and many small connecting the lanes so beautiful. As it is located by the shores of lake Lucerne and its outflow, the Reuss river, the town has always been a perfect destination for tourists. As always I start by walk around the lake with the spectacularly posing ‘snow peaked’ mountains – Pilatus and Rigi that form the background for an amazing setting.

Charming Chapel Bridge 

Be it morning as the sun rises or in the evening as the dark sets in, this most famous wooden bridge appears to be one of the best things that can be viewed through your lenses from either side of the river. The Kapellbrucke, as they call it is built to last for centuries as an iconic wooden bridge that welcomes you the moment you step out of the Lucerne station.

The Chapel Bridge at dawn

The bridge spans diagonally across the river Reuss and remains ever-inviting for a walk through the 14th century structure. The wooden pillars and beams in symmetrical patterns seem to create a perfect walkway from one end to the other, while offering an amazing view of the city on either side. A collection of paintings from the 17th century depicting events from Lucerne’s history are at display inside the Bridge. With the blue waters reflecting the Chapel Bridge, the lake’s most favourite swans, as always, add to the calm and serenity to the entire view and a cool shot for my lens too. 

The Chapel Bridge at dusk

A visit to lucerne is never complete without this moment looking at these swans, as they say ‘mated for life’, with clear water, chill evening breeze and a walk across the bridge. As the evening creeps in at dusk, the mesmerising image of the snow capped alps begin to fade into the blue, only to dominantly reappear in the morning. 

A walk though the Chapel Bridge…in awe
Mated for life!

The crying Lion of Lucerne

As we walk on the other side of Reuss and into the lanes, the next thing on the mind is to spot the Lion of Lucerne. As an inquisitive wanderlust, this is more than a reason to find something that sounds so interesting. This is a sculpture created as a memorial commemorating the Swiss soldiers who lost their lives during the French revolution.

A dying lion, wounded and in pain sculpted to depict the sadness. This monument that is set amidst rocks today, is said to have made Mark Twain praise as the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.  

The Lucerne Cruise ride

A cool cruise along the river Reuss

My personal best is the sunset cruise, though you have the option to choose the lunch cruise too. One of the interesting things when you travel is that you get to realise and appreciate certain ways to do things when you travel. And the fact that ‘the best way to see some of the places is through the waterways’ is one such learning.

A little town by the lake

And Lucerne too, offers the best of its sides with some spectacular views when on the cruise ride. An antique paddle steamer, which we were in, moved gently into the calm waters showing us every bit of the alpine nature on either side and the little towns by the banks. The ‘deep blue’ clear water, the rocky slopes, comforting greens, old churches, idyllic coves, some fishing boats and the snow-covered mountain peaks form a perfect backdrop for the incredible painting-like views.  

Gone fishing…Lucerne lake

After an amazing cruise ride, it is time for some sweet indulgence. The board says Confiseur Bachmann and once you are in, it is hard get out, as they have some of the best chocolates and confectionery products.

Walkin’ the city so beautiful!

The chocolate wall, the sweets & savoury items, the ice cream and the treat goes on. And if you are a sucker for chocolates as I am, there is no escape from this place. Walk along the beautiful lanes to find town squares and awesome looking churches. 

Cobbled-stoned lanes & age old structures
An old church

If you have an interest in horology, you will find some of the best watch makers in action in the watch shops. The town lives up to its watch making history and traditions and you can catch up with these watch makers actually in their act with such precision and details, displaying master craftsmanship.

Shopping…
Lovely Lucerne!

And finally to end the day, the city of Lucerne offers a wide variety of choices to savour the culinary diversity. Be it the Swiss cuisine or even the Indian, there is always a place to settle down for a perfect dinner by the banks of river Reuss or the lake Lucerne, with some fine wine.