Friday, December 30, 2011

Johannesburg, South Africa

It’s been nearly 10 months for me in South Africa and I have experienced many things here. I think I will be able to explain something about South Africa now. 

I am staying in Johannesburg, one of the largest cities of South Africa situated in Gauteng. Johannesburg is a very beautiful city, people are very friendly here and most important thing “It is very safe to stay in Johannesburg (yeah few areas are dangerous but that are everywhere isn't it??)”

Food: You can find too many Indian restaurants in Johannesburg. Renowned ones are Taste of Punjab, Vintage India, Delhi Darbar etc. You can also find KFC, Mcdonalds and many burger joints which are really good (esp. if you are non-vegetarians).

Grocery: There are 2 big Indian/Pakistani market in Johannesburg Fords burg and Laudium. You can find all type of spices and other grocery items here which you can’t find it in stores. Other things you can find it in PicknPay, Makro and FruitnVeg.

Transportation: This is the biggest problem in Johannesburg rather in South Africa, you should have your own vehicle otherwise it’s very difficult to travel around. There are many agencies who give car on rent. Your Indian license is valid here and the driving style is also same as India.

Living Style: People in South Africa start their work early and they close it early also. All the big malls close @ 5 PM very few @ 6 PM. You will feel difficult in starting up early. However, it gives you more time for yourself and your family. People are very fashionable here. You can see very different and pretty dresses, hair styles and stylish boots :)    

Shopping Malls:  There are too many malls in Johannesburg Monte Casino, Sandton, Rosebank, Hyde Park, Cresta, Bright Water commerce. You can enjoy Hindi movies also in Numetro @ Monte Casino & Hyde Park Mall. You can also find some renowned African craft markets like Bruma and Rosebank. 

Tourist Attractions: Johannesburg has many tourist attractions; I will try to list down few here:   

Carlton Panorama - At the Carlton Panorama you will have some very wonderful views of the city from the 50th floor tallest building in South Africa.

Sun City - Sun City Tour with its casinos and roulette tables and beaches this proves to be a very fun outing.

Lesedi Cultural Village - You can see how the people live there with their cultural dance and much more. 

Gold Reef City - Spend some time at the Gold Reef City is a reproduction of the city of Johannesburg in the early 1900’s.

Johannesburg Zoo - A day at the Johannesburg Zoo is a joy. You will see so many animals and enjoy all the exhibits.

Johannesburg Planetarium - There is a tour of the planetarium that takes two hours to shows and explains about the planets. 

Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve – A very good place for one day picnic. You can also visit wonder caves inside this park.

Nelson Mandela Bridge - The largest the 284 meter long cable-stayed bridge in South Africa.
Mandela Family Museum - Nelson Mandela's house in Orlando West, Soweto, now called the Mandela Family Museum.
Montecasino – One of the best complexes in Johannesburg with an array of restaurants that include Japanese, Portuguese, Mediterranean, Eastern fusion and, of course, Italian. There is one huge casino and Numetro multiplex.

Museum Africa - Museum Africa’s focuses on indigenous African cultures, history and archaeology, and linguistics, and the collection of rock art.

National Museum of Military History – You can see collection of weapons, military aircraft, medals, uniforms and other war memorabilia.

SAB World of Beer - A tour that explains art of beer-making and brewing; and a cool treat of beer after that :)

Sandton City - One of the main attraction in Sandton is Sandton City. This shopping center is ranked among the largest shopping centers in Africa
Apart from this there are many good places which you must visit when you are in South Africa.

Kruger National Park
St. Lucia
Port Elizabeth
George & Knysna

Enough for this post I will share experiences about Durban, Sabie, St. Lucia and other trips in some other post. Hope you liked it and some of the information was helpful :) 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


It's not a bad place to start this new blog ... the City of Bridges as it is called ... Venice ... towards northern Italy flanked by Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia ...

So lets get down to business ...

Venice has 2 airports ... the one that caters more to international flights is called Marco Polo airport and it is situated towards the outskirts of Venice. There is nothing very close the airport tourism wise and living close to the airport does not make much sense since everything is too far away from here.

The other airport is called Treviso airport which is also situated on the outskirts of Venice and it is also quite far away from major tourist destinations. It caters more to the low-cost airlines along with some domestic Italian airlines. Most of the time, you will be dealing with Marco Polo and not Treviso.

There are 2 major train stations in Venice called Venezia-St Lucia and Venezia-Mestre. There is a ACTV (regional transport body) bus that connects you to Venezia-Mestre from Marco Polo. The bus number is 15 and its frequency is once every 30 minutes. The bus stop for this is directly outside the arrivals section of the airport. You dont have to move an inch. It takes close to 40-45 minutes to reach Venezia-Mestre from the airport by bus.

Conveyance wise ... Venice is quite well connected especially for a tourist. The best way to reach the heart of the city is to hop on to an Alilaguna boat. It is called Vaporetti more commonly in Italian which translates to water bus in English. This is the best way to roam around in Venice.

There are outlets in the airport itself, very close to the arrivals section where you can buy train, bus and Vaporetti tickets. There are quite a few flexible options regardless of whether you are travelling by boat, bus or train. You will seldom require the services of a train since there is no metro service in Venice as such. But you will require bus and Vaporetti. There are daily passes available as well as weekend passes along with 3 day, 4 day and 5 day passes.

For bus, you can buy a one time pass too ... which costs you 1.10 Euro and you can travel for 75 minutes in one direction using this on any number of buses. Remember its one direction only. So you cant use it to go from airport to Mestre and back. Italy is also a bit cumbersome when it comes to tickets. When you buy this ticket, you are still not eligible to travel on the bus. You need to get into the bus and get your ticket validated. Crap. There are validating machines on the bus. You need to put your ticket inside these machines and then the machine prints something on your ticket and throws it out again. Some buses also have detector machines. So you dont need to put your ticket inside but you just need to flash it in front of the detector.

But the best option is buying a weekend, 3-day, 4-day or 5-day pass depending on how many days you plan to stay in Venice. This pass includes both bus and Vaporetti. The price is as follows:

1 day - 18 Euros
36 hours - 23 Euros
2 days - 26 Euros
3 day - 28 Euros
4 day - 31 Euros
5 day - 33 Euros

You HAVE to buy one of these. Its very very convenient and it saves you a lot of money. For example, travelling one time from airport to San Marco (the centre of Venice - tourism wise) is 13 Euros per person. This is very expensive. So you have to buy a pass which you can use both on the bus as well as Vaporetti. Buy it at the airport itself.

Places to stay ...

Well, we stayed at a place called Villa Dori ... its situated on the outskirts of Venice in the region of Padova. The link for the same is

It is a budget hostel and it is very similar to most of the budget hostels available in Europe. Most people here tend to stay at hostels rather than hotels because they are cheap. Frankly, hostels themselves are so sophisticated that you dont need to worry about it at all. The expenses here were 30 Euros per person per night. Each room allows only 3 people. If you wish to accomodate more people, they charge 20 Euros per extra person. There is a club inside Villa Dori itself where you can get booze and food along with a dance floor.

The way to get to Villa Dori is: Hop onto a number 15 bus from Marco Polo. Get down at Mestre. Then change to number 25 and get down at the second last stop called Ca Sabbioni. Ask anyone for directions from here. Its actually quite simple. The hotel is bang in front of Ca Sabbioni.

Plus there are tons of other hostels available. You just need to google a bit. For example, there is a chain of hostels in Europe by the name of Camping Village. We stayed at one of their hostels in Rome ... which I will write about in the post for Roma ... so getting accomodation is actually very simple.

Lets come to the business end now ... what and how to roam around in Venice.

Venice is quite a strange city. There is a vast divide between the tourism part of the city and the more modern part. You will be roaming around in the former.

Piazzale Roma is like the big entrance to Venice. It is a place that is well served by bus and Vaporetti. Mostly, you will need to come here no matter where you stay in Venice overnight. Once you are here, you can practically go anywhere in Venice using the Vaporetti. Just replace the Indian bus mentality to the Italian water bus mentality. Thats it. Everything else is the same. There are various water bus routes which take you to every place in Venice. The following is the Vaporetti map:

Places to visit?

The Grand Canal will be your pathway to any tourist spot in Venice ... so I wont talk a lot about this ...

San Marco - the major tourist attraction in Venice. Its a typical Italian Piazza. So you will find this place very crowded. There is the statue of Marco Polo when you get down at San Marco. You walk your way down towards the San Marco Square. You will find the Bell Tower as well as St Mark's Basilica in this square and a huge open space in front. You can safely go inside the Basilica without paying anything but you need to pay 4 Euros to go up on the 1st floor ... there is a kind of a gallery there where you can stand and just have a look around Venice.

Once you are at San Marco, you can just let it rip. Just keep walking in the bylanes watching the millions of the pretty bridges. You will also find lots of shops that contain 2 major items ... the ones mades of glass (Venice is a major exporter of glass) and the famous masks. Venice is one of the few cities that still has this tradition of a masquerade. Once a year, people come out on the streets donning various masks and some lovely attire ... common to the Latin tradition of Carnival ...

You will also come across the famous Venezian Gondolas ... the shapely boats that take you around Venice. Your Vaporetti pass does not work on the gondolas :P

The Gondolas can be very expensive. The entire boat is around 100 Euros and each gondola can seat around 7-10 people ...

Walk around at San Marco. Eat around. The famous Italian Pizzas and Lasagnas along with ice cream. Beware in Europe about ice cream and cakes. Most of them have Gelatin ... so the veggies from India may not like it ... even the non-veggies may not like it ... so watch out ...

Visit The Rialto Bridge ... my best tourist place in Venice. Its a very pretty bridge. Check out the "Bridge of Sighs" ... its also a very beautiful bridge. Walk around in the narrow bylanes of Venice ... you will get this amazing feeling ...

Be patient when you are talking to Italians ... their English is not very good ... they can also be rude at times ... but move on ... ask someone else ...

You have to visit Murano and Burano. Murano is like the glass capital here ... you will be able to see live demonstrations of how glass is made. Burano is a very scenic place very close to the water ... you can just sit down and relax here ...

There is an Indian hotel that we found in Venice called Ganesha. It is run by a Punjabi man and believe me it has authentic Indian taste. We just gorged on the food dished out. You will need to board a water bus from Piazzale Roma to a water bus stop called Riva Di Biasio. Get down here and ask for directions to Ganesha. It is 10 minute walk from Riva Di Biasio.

There is a nice musuem called Doge's place too which cannot be missed.

Thats about it. The essence of Venice is the Grand Canal. Do not forget that your pass is valid for the entire day and night ... so you absolutely have to go out in the night too on the Grand Canal ... the bridges look even more beautiful at night ... its a place for every die-hard romantic ...

There is also this theory that Venice is going to drown in near future ... so might be a good idea to experience it before that happens :)

Distance of Venice from some other prominent cities ...

Rome - 550 kms (there are cheap flights available with ... we bought a return ticket from Rome for 38 Euros :P)
Florence - 350 kms
Pisa - 330 kms
Capri - 770 kms
Lugano (Switzerland) - 330 kms
Zurich (Switzerland) - 550 kms

Venice is well connected via Eurail to most cities in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

I may add some more information as and when I remember something I have missed ...

Cheers ... !!