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When we say duck here, we do not literally mean the yellow feathery creatures. The Seattle duck is a World War II era amphibious vehicle that runs on both land and water. So we decided to take the 90 min tour for Father’s Day and have some family fun.
All of us were looking forward to the duck ride but as we boarded our purple duck, the LO (little one) got a bit whiny and any amount of singing and rocking did not seem to soothe him. We weren’t sure what to expect during the entire 90 min ride now! But as soon as the ride started, the music started to play and the wind blew against our faces through the huge windows, LO fell asleep in mommy’s arms.
Our amazing Tour Guide
Your tour is as good as your tour guide. Helen Joy, our tour guide, was an exuberant young lady, keeping us engaged with her jokes, little general knowledge pieces and some interesting props. She even demonstrated the “Flying Fish” from Pike Place market with a stuffed dummy fish! She also told us stories about the great Seattle fire and the gold rush, albeit in an interesting rap form, which was cool.
When the Duck swam in the Lake
Unfortunately for us, it was the Solstice parade in Fremont and so that part of the tour was diverted to Ballard. Well, basically the duck tour is a family-friendly tour and the solstice parade participants are supposedly cycling wearing nothing on their bodies but some body paint!
What we Saw
Floating Houses: These are multi-storied (Upto 3 levels) houses with one level below the water level. They are not actually floating and are grounded to the lake floor.
House Boats: These are like RVs on land. They can be towed around using attached boats.
Ballard Bridge and Fremont Bridge: These are drawbridges. So when a big vessel needs to pass through below the bridge, the traffic on the bridge has to be stopped and the bridge parts to let the vessel pass through.
When the Duck hopped on Land
What we Saw
We caught glimpses of:
Pike Place Market
The house from the animated movie “Up”
Seattle Great Wheel
Olympic Structure Park
There are tours starting from two locations.
Seattle Center (near the Space Needle) – We boarded from here
Any ride starting from any of the two points follows the same exact route. There are no stops, and passengers remain aboard the duck at all time.
This ride is no Hop-On Hop-Off tour, neither do they give you a detailed tour. It just gives you glimpses into the major attractions of Seattle and a feel of the city, where water is undoubtedly a big part of the landscape. So, take this ride if you want to experience a unique and novel way of viewing the city or if you have very less time and just want to catch the highlights.
An infant below 5 years of age gets a seat at just $5!
Do not worry about entering the water in this vehicle. It is equipped with adult and kid life jackets. Also, it can catch maximum speed of 4.5 knots in water, which believe me isn’t fast at all. It is more of a leisurely stroll.
We have been planning to head to the beautiful Olympic National Park since long. Finally we managed to take the long road trip from Redmond area. A one day road trip to Ruby Beach was all worth it! the beautiful rock formations add so much character to the beach!
And that sunset! this is stuff that dreams are made of! 🙂
School and college life is usually associated with fun and mischief by most, more by some than others. Ever imagined how life would have been if there was a special prison designed for students, on your college campus?
Our visit to Heidelberg, Germany, brought us to such an unusual well-preserved museum of sorts (for want of a better word). Heidelberg is known as being Germany’s oldest and most reputed university. It is believed that the US spared Heidelberg from bombing during World War II due to the presence of this university.
During our visit to the town, we came across the unique history of the town and were surprised to discover a Student Prison on the Heidelberg tourist map!
As we traversed up a floor of stairs, we did not know what to expect really, when we started to see these black side faces painted on the walls.
And a lot of other graffiti as well..
As the story started to unfold, the guide explained that during the 19th century the most mischievous of the university students were kept locked up in these rooms as punishment. The prison although called so wasn’t really in any dreadful condition but was only meant to keep these students in isolation and teach them a lesson.
But as kids are, they turned this punishment into a kind of rite of passage. All students wanted to get into the prison at least once before passing out of university! This led to a rush of students into the prison with frequent parties and even more unruly behavior. The prison was eventually shut down but has been well-preserved since then.
The most iconic of the graffiti are the black faces. It is said that the students used to pass time by painting portraits on the wall. One person stood in between the wall and a lamp, while another painted the silhouette on the wall using carbon from the lamp. The different color caps are supposed to represent the various houses that the students belonged to.
Most of the original furniture has been preserved well in the prison.
How to reach
Augustinergasse 2, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
Heidelberg is an hour’s train ride from Frankfurt. The town is best traversed on foot as everything is in walking distance.
The Columbia river gorge in Oregon state is a wonderful place. Not just it presents beautiful view of the gorge itself but is also home to several waterfalls which meet the river. Usually, to view a waterfall, some trek is required, but that is not the case along the gorge. Just park the car and walk a couple of mins to view some gorgeous waterfalls..
This was taken at Latourell waterfall along the gorge. We forgot the tripod in the car and were too lazy to go back and bring it, so used a makeshift tripod (read stones and branches) to get this 🙂
Photography is a powerful medium, which incorporates a lot of technicalities and great deal of patience. There are few who have the rare talent of wielding their huge camera lenses and other paraphernalia to capture the essence of their subject. Today we bring travel inspiration in the form of a gifted lad who is a photography enthusiast, nature photographer and amateur rail fan.
Meet Parth Jha who likes to be referred as a wildlife enthusiast, a nature photographer and an amateur rail fan. He is currently a student of Chartered Accountancy, but loves spending time exploring the jungles in India. He claims to find an immense feeling of self satisfaction in capturing nature and wildlife via his camera lens.
Having spent 7 long years in the field of wildlife photography, which he found amazing, he hopes the coming years to be even more so. Lately he seems to have developed a keen interest in aerial imaging and photographing the railway connecting the hinterlands of India. The next few months, he also plans to capture aerial photos of ancient monuments all across India.
Regarding his life-long travel goals, Parth says “I can only say that I want to visit all the places I can before my brain and body restricts me to a bed.”
“I travel to explore and learn, don’t we all? The world is astonishingly diverse, in terrain, culture, landscapes and what not. Each new destination is like unlocking a new level on your favorite computer game. I believe one can learn a great deal by travelling. Each trip will connect you to new people, their culture and ways of life. I have fancied exploring the wilderness all my childhood. To see all those beautiful animals on Discovery Channel in real life was and is a dream. There is so much to explore!”
“This is a very tricky question. I have essentially loved every place I have visited. I haven’t had any bad travelling experiences yet but I am sure it will happen one time or the other.
I particularly liked my experience travelling to and documenting the Satpura Narrow Gauge Network near Jabalpur. We visited in September 2015 and it was fascinating. Only a train lover would understand the joy of seeing a narrow gauge passenger dancing on the track, carrying people from one village to another, with carrying people at least double the capacity, with passengers both inside and above the train. It is like time travel. The slow and relaxed life in the villages is something which most of us will never experience.
The major reason why I loved this trip was because I knew I would never be able to do the same trip again. In fact no one would be able to make the trip. The narrow gauge network has been discontinued and all my experiences of the visit are archived in my photos. The existence of that railway network is part of history now.”
“My bucket list is long and weird. I want to visit Ladakh, not for biking but for the snow leopard. I want to visit Kangra Valley in Punjab, not for snow capped the mountains but for the narrow gauge train running through them. I want to visit the Western Ghats, not for a relaxing holiday but for an elusive species of kingfisher.”
Most Interesting Trip
“I would like to share my trip to Satpura National Park here (not to be confused with the Satpura Railway mentioned above). This was easily the most unexpected experience I had.
So, I have had a very bad luck with wildlife sightings for someone claiming to be doing this for 7 years. I have spent months at a time with no sighting at all when everyone else seemed to have tigers and leopards coming to them for autographs. So naturally I did not have very high hopes for any sightings at Satpura. The park is not the most popular in India, rightly so because of the shy animals and thick forest. My impromptu trip started from Bhopal and we drove for 4 hours to Madhai (near Hoshangabad). We stayed for 36 hours and did 3 safaris and I cannot begin to tell how awesome they were!
The forest is stunning. We saw a leopard within the first hour of our first safari and two sloth bears after the sun had almost set. During the remaining safaris, we were blessed with an exclusive sighting of a huge male tiger in golden sunlight.
Satpura National Park is a traveler’s secret. Go there before the other tourists mess it up.”
Words of Wisdom from a Part-Time Traveler
“Life is utter waste if you spend all of it at your job.”
“Stop convincing yourself that the corner office has the best view.”
“Plan your official leaves in advance.”
“Travelling doesn’t always mean flying to Europe. India has many untouched places to explore.”
“Making weekend trips is fairly easy with the right company.”
Inspired yet? Check out links to more of Parth’s works here:
Diksit Monastery is one key tourist attraction people visit during their Ladakh visit. Located in the Nubra Valley, the monastery is the oldest and largest in the region. As pretty as the monastery is itself, we could not get over the impressive 32 feet colorful statue of the Maitreya Buddha nestled in the mountain landscape. This photograph was taken from the Diksit monastery.
The beauty of the enormous brightly colored Maitreya Buddha against the mountains is indescribable. For one we can see that however huge a man-made object is, it still appears tiny in front of nature’s creations. And as you look closer, we experience a serenity in the calm expressions of the Buddha coupled with the equally peaceful landscape.
No Ladakh trip album is complete without this picture-perfect postcard, we say!
This is the story of a couple who seeded the passion for travel in me (Purba). And the roots were probably sown subconsciously very early in my childhood. Even though I am writing this post for Mother’s Day honoring my Mom (My Maa), the story would be incomplete without my dad (My Baba) because they have always been a team. And they continue to be a team…
Early Traveling Years
Among the first memories I have, I remember our road trips as a family. Our photo albums at home are filled with pictures of Somnath, Dwarka, Chittorgarh, Mount Abu and other places in Gujarat and Rajasthan. After Baba’s retirement, he always recalls “Even if we just got by from our earnings, not amassing huge amounts of money, we made sure to have a good time and travel as much and as often as possible”.
I remember Maa trying to save on small regular items and not letting Baba spend too much on our childhood whims and fancies, as every other middle class family in India does. But we always traveled! I remember our once-in-a-month day long trips to Chittorgarh (which was 2-3 hrs by road from where we stayed) and almost quarterly visits to Udaipur. It was as if we had combed through every nook and cranny of the cities, visiting there with our extended families when they came over to visit.
Wherever my parents stayed, they made it a point to scan the nearby areas. The most exciting thing was they always preferred road trips, as it gave them more freedom to stop and rest at any place and time they wished. I remember us taking our ever so light Maruti 800 on an 8-hour drive to Jaipur! And this was not 5 or 10 years back, but close to 20 years back!
Lessons in History and Interaction with Locals
My own interest in discovering stories behind the places I visit started with Maa being a history teacher and her interest in historical sites and architecture. Our first stops in any city would be its palaces, forts and other architectural landmarks. Maa would first enrich us with the textbook history of the places and we would then talk to the guides to learn more.
Both my parents loved interacting with the locals, whether it was the guides, the street vendors, drivers or restaurant waiters. They would quickly befriend the locals and Maa would immediately start speaking with them in their mother tongue. By the way, Maa can converse fluently in five languages (Hindi, Bengali, English, Gujarati and Assamese). She can also understand (and speak with some help) three to four more languages (Telugu, Tamil, Nepali) that I know of as of now.
Although I was a rather shy kid when I was young, my parents’ effortless grasp of languages and the more so effortless connection with people made me in awe of them. As any other teenager, I was always embarrassed when they started to speak with someone in their native language, calling them show-offs, I was always pleased inside. Today being a grown-up I am proud of their skills and happy to share their story with the world.
When I moved to a hostel to study Engineering, they still continued their travels more so of Southern India, and I have sure missed so much! Maa was the one who introduced me to Hampi way back in 2007. This was a time when parts of the bazaar were still being excavated and you could hardly spot any tourists. They have covered almost all of India, sharing amazing places with us.
Maa Baba have together covered most of India including certain places like Dholavira, Belum Caves, Badami, Chhipo (West Bengal), Mandu, Lothal that are considered off-beat destinations even today. I wish they would have been travel bloggers; I am sure they would’ve been a riot!
In the international travel scene, there were number of instances where Baba was invited to attend professional meetings and events overseas, but on two instances Maa could not just resist the temptation to tag along, were to Florida (USA) and Germany (where they tried to make the most by covering Cologne, Dusseldorf, Vienna, Paris and Amsterdam as well).
The two international trips that we made as a family together were to: Nepal (1999) and Egypt (2004).
A Family Trip to Egypt
I have come across very few middle class families who would save up to travel internationally and that too to Egypt! Indians generally prefer the more exotic destinations closer home like Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka or our own islands of Andaman and Nicobar.
The love for history is pretty apparent in Maa Baba’s choice of Egypt and well we are their kids, why wouldn’t we love the place! So off we went in 2008 to Cairo, Giza and Alexandria. Although our trip initially covered Aswan as well, due to certain issues we had to drop it at the last moment.
It surely was a trip of a lifetime, and boy do we have amazing tales from the lanes of Egypt! The one time our parents had to accompany their two girls everywhere, with both us sisters getting marriage offers left, right and centre! But the presence of our parents with us did not deter a few prospects, one of whom even offered a hundred camels for my hand in marriage! No, this was no joke and did not just limit to one city.
Years before Baba’s retirement (he retired in 2014), they had started planning a life filled with many more trips discovering other parts of India. But, well not everything in life goes according to plans right? The last few years have been really tough on my parents owing to Maa’s ill health. From getting the diagnosis of a rare irreversible lung disease seven years back to a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis that literally made her wheelchair bound on several occasions, Maa Baba have together endured hard times.
But we fought all of it together, and today, Maa is back on her feet (touchwood) and they are back on the road! Since Maa’s return to relatively normal state of health, they have taken a long trip with extended family to Manali, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Chamba valley, Rohtang Paas and Kangra Valley. They also took another trip to Singapore with relatives.
Discovering Something New Always – Chhibo Trip
One weekend early this year while Siddhartha and I were planning articles for our blog, we get a call from Maa that they will be heading to Chhibo, West Bengal (from their Kolkata home). It is an off-beat destination few hours from Darjeeling and they planned to visit there with friends! I haven’t heard any of my Indian travel blogger friends yet cover Chhibo and I had never even heard of the place before Maa mentioned it!
After hearing their story of the place, I am dying to visit the place. I would love to get an account of their visit to Chhibo and nearby areas from them and hope can publish the story on my blog someday.
When I ask them why they travel so much, Maa simply replies with a shrug “Well we just do it! We need to get out there and see all those places, look into the history and learn more about each place”. She does not think it is a big deal and they are just following their hearts! Well I thank Maa Baba for being the way they are and passing on the vibes (and the genes) 🙂
As if the roads connecting Leh to nearby cities were not pretty and scenic enough, BRO (Border Roads Organization) added a dash of humor to it and gave a fun flavor to our journey. The BRO maintains the roads in this region and have planted some funny and quirky road signs along the roads.
These signs are pretty famous with travelers in this region and even a book has been published, which is sort of a collection of images of these road signs. We are sharing the shots we could get from our moving vehicle during our road trip to Nubra Valley from Leh.
Himank is a special project by BRO to specially maintain the roads for three passes: Khardungla, Tanglangla and Changla.
That is definitely some smart work by BRO! Ending this post with a quote that has become very popular in Leh (owing to Aamir Khan’s 3 IDIOTS) and seems to be omnipresent in the Leh scene today!
The Shanti Stupa has become synonymous to Leh, and we thought of posting one of our photographs of the popular landmark. The stupa provides 360 degree views of the Leh landscape. Even with numerous tourists visiting the Stupa, it is really quiet around other than the sound of the strong winds that seem to blow away your woolen scarves and hats.
We were actually pretty lucky to have no tourists around when taking our pictures. It was probably due to the strong gusts of winds that literally froze our fingers, and made it extremely challenging to take pictures.
Note: Look at the snow-capped mountains on to far right of the image. You can see the Khardung-La pass, arguably the highest motorable road in the world.