bhargavkesavan

Travelogue, Nostalgic memories and more…


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Manhattanhenge, 2019


You might remember this post from 2016, Manhattanhenge, New York’s Stonehenge.

Yes, it’s that day of the year & the one of the four days in the whole year. Annually twice, twice in May & twice in July occurs the Manhattanhenge which was designed 200 years back while making the blue print of the modern Manhattan.

I was among thousands of other fellow photographers on Tudor city, soon to walk out and find a better spot near Bryant park. As usual there were many passers who looked very surprised and curious to find out why is the roads crowded with hundreds of photographers on each traffic lights.

Someone asked me what I was photographing, I was glad to explain about Manhattanhenge & they joined others in the Bryant park junction. Just the buses were a bit irritating similar to 2016! Just for an hour or so if buses were routed through alternate street that would be great! As the number of viewers grow each year, this should be considered by NYPD.

Alright, lets jump on to the photos. Here are the photos of Manhattanhenge & behind the scenes that I shot today. If you’re in the city tomorrow (Saturday, 07/13) don’t miss it. You can watch it from 42nd, 34th, 24th & 13th street.

Manhattanhenge, 2019. Shot from 42nd Street.
Shot on 07/12, 42nd street.
Bye, bye, Sun!
Viewers and Photographers on both sides of the roads through out the 42nd street!
I couldn’t find a good spot on Tudor city overpass, so I’d to run back to 42nd street, the same spot where I shot Manhattanhenge in 2016.
I was standing among this hundred+ photographers just to realize I can’t make a shot & took a run to 42nd st!
Hundreds of hands and cameras to capture this beauty!
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Best Food carts in Avenue of Americas!


If there is one thing that you need not worry during your visit to NYC, that’s Food. There are plenty of options to eat when you are in the Big Apple. You will get food from $4 to even $3000 a meal!

They say that if you want to try out all the eateries in the Manhattan, you will need 84 years! I know we don’t have so much time left, so I’m going to list the best three food carts in the Midtown Manhattan or in fact the best in entire New York City.

When you enter Avenue of the Americas from 42nd street or from any of the midtown streets, you will start seeing food carts in every corners; especially during lunch hours. There are food carts which functions just during the lunch hours and only on weekdays.

Trini Paki Boys

First time I’d food from here is during Fall 2014. Mohamed runs his cart for 17+ years now and his Mom use to take care of their business before him, so for close to 25+ years this cart is right in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

I usually have Veggie over rice and Veggie over Dhal roti. Dhal roti is very special in this cart. Mohamed is very kind person, he gets along his customers very easily, in fact it should be said in other way, customers get along with him very easily for his friendly nature. He always know what I was going to order.

His cart is so famous that he got published in print media in Japan, He was published on Travel & Living Channel and several other media has praised his food over the time.

If you are in city & like to enjoy a tasty food on a weekday, do stop between 43rd and 44th street on Avenue of Americas.

Here is the google map marker http://bit.ly/TriniPakiBoys

This is Mohamed
Trini Paki Boys

Royal Grill Halal Food

When Mohamed is out on vacation or takes a day off, my next best food cart is Royal Grill Halal Food, it’s just two streets from my office and I’ve had at least hundred lunches from here. Mohamed Alam and his wife are the best people ever to run a food cart.

They are so kind and hardworking people. They start their day as early as 7 AM in the morning and their cart is open until 11:30 PM. They’ll change their shift with their employee at 7 PM but the food taste will remain same.

Alam serves Veggie samosa in his cart along with veggie rice. Falafel over rice, Veggie Biriyani (Not the typical Indian biriyani), Veggie rice with Dhal are the best food here for vegetarians. My wife likes the falafel rice from here, so whenever I order falafel at evening hours, Alam makes it fresh for me before I take bus to home.

This cart has been published in so many news articles & is featured on ABC 7, PIX 11 tv channels. Alam and his wife has won best food cart award a few times and they have also won The Vendy Award. What makes his cart special is that he remembers all his customers favorite food from his cart. He will always welcome everyone with smile! He also provides a loyalty card, which gets punched each time you have food form his cart & your every 8th meal is free for being a regular customer. I’ve missed tens of such cards, sometimes purposefully.

Here is the google map marker to his food cart – http://bit.ly/RoyalGrillHalalFood

That’s me with Alam & his employee inside food cart.

Moshes Falafel

You know Little Brazil? It’s on 46th street, two streets further from Royal Grill Halal. Little Brazil is famous for food carts, you will literally see a fleet of food carts during lunch hours. This cart is here for close to 4 decades! You will see few elderly youth running this store who attracts their customers with their witty talks.

It’s the best ever cart specially for falafel, I love the pita that comes with the yummy hummus & a pickle. It costs a couple dollars more than the previous two carts but it tastes equally excellent! They have a happy hour during evening hours, so if you miss that prime lunch rush hour, you can have little discount in price.

What I like here is that since its not rice and no gravy in food, you will get the food in a paper bag for take out. So we can say Moshes Falafel has banned plastic bags way before NY’s plastic ban!

Here is the google map marker for this cart – http://bit.ly/MoshesFalafel

Fruit Cart

Yes this is not favorite for most people, yet when you prefer fruits or like to see what varieties of fruits available, just stop by the Fruit cart next to Trini Paki Boys. A mom and daughter from Vietnam runs this cart for more than a decade. You will see ample varieties of fruits.

You can get fruit juices of various combos and custom combos as well and all for less than $5 you might get the same juice in Jamba Juice or other fancy branded stores but this cart is no less than any of those. You will get two stomachs full of fruits for just $4 a small order and don’t even ask about the large order which I struggled to finish one whole day! (nope! no exaggeration!)

Google map marker – Just go to Trini Paki Boys from above, the cart towards city bike stand is this! You can’t miss them. They’re open throughout weekdays.

Small!

What makes New York City best is that you will find hundreds of food carts run by people from all over the world, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Iran, Turkey, China and every single country in this world & you can taste every one of them and have your stomach full.


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Endangered Animals – Grace-ful Ice


It’s December & Cold… So? It’s time to see Ice carvings happening in New York City. Ice sculptors of Okamoto Studio performed Live ice carvings on the theme “Endangered Animals” this year at the Grace building (HBO) at Midtown Manhattan.

It takes an average of two hours to give life to the giant ice bars which is sculpted, flamed, brushed and what not to give it a perfect shape!

Take a look at the endangered animals that are carved so beautifully by the passionate artists of Okamoto Studio. BTW… if you’re in the city, you can still see this ice carvings till late noon today, do stop by if you’re around.

That stripes stands out!
Dolphin is cute even it’s an ice statue!

Every year during second week of December ArtsBrookfield arranges Okamoto Studio to perform ice carvings in their properties in the city, also Okamoto studio performs live ice carvings every Saturday night at the New York Botanical garden, do checkout their social media pages for updates.

Checkout the Ice carvings from 2014-2017 in my previous posts in this blog. Do follow my Instagram profile & enjoy the photos


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TheBlindList – My blind date with Earth!


As a child I’ve dreamt of places which I don’t know if exists in this world or not. I’ve imagined me going to forests and spending more time in nature, thought about camping (which I was not aware such thing existed and the very name “camping”) but it was my imagination that I’ll spend time in forest & mountains.

Then twenty years later came a time when I visited Havelock Island in Anadman Islands. the most beautiful place on earth. I spent few days with my friends wandering in the woods which was our first hiking experience which turned more adventurous when we heard elephants trumpeting at a distance! We cancelled one of our days plan to enjoy snorkeling, it was like a blind date with earth! I jumped on to the reef with just the snorkeling kit  & I was floating for half a day enjoying the most colorful fishes in the crystal clear waters. It became more wonderful when I saw a family of Nemo fishes just that the little nemo was not lost! And my first bucket-list was complete when I did a scuba diving at Chidiya Tapu in Anadaman through Lacadives.

Without any expectations we went to Andaman like going on a blind date just that this is a date with our planet! And of course I was not disappointed and still cherish my Snorkeling & Scuba memories at Andaman!

Four years later, which was this year. My wife & I made plans to visit Grand Canyon. We booked our tickets to Vegas and booked ticket to Antelope Canyon. We were very excited to explore the places we were about to visit and we were openminded about this exploration.

As soon as we landed we rented a car and filled up the trunk and back seat with necessary eatables and water for our 6 days trip. Since it’s most hottest place we have arranged the trunk such a way that food won’t get spoiled. We began our trip to Grand Canyon from Nevada via Route 66, it’s called as “Historic Route 66”. It’s the most deserted place in USA & a heaven to bikers and car enthusiasts who travel to explore & to those who go on exploring the world.

 

As soon as we landed we rented a car and filled up the trunk and back seat with necessary eatables and water for our 6 days trip. Since it’s most hottest place we have arranged the trunk such a way that food won’t get spoiled. We began our trip to Grand Canyon from Nevada via Route 66, it’s called as “Historic Route 66”. It’s the most deserted place in USA & a heaven to bikers and car enthusiasts who travel to explore & to those who go on exploring the world.

The reason this route is so famous is that it’s a straight road for hundreds of miles with absolutely nothing on left & ride sides of the road. There will be signs marked on the way that there are no gas stations (petrol bunks) for next 100 miles or so. You can easily see 10 miles ahead of you on a clear morning or evening when sun is not at peak. Try to keep your AC full, haha it won’t workout! It’s so hot that you will feel you’re in Chennai on a peak summer day or in Hyderabad or Delhi during peak summer and yet it’s more hot than that. You can easily fit one or two of our Indian states in this road as you can see the entire state is just empty area with deserts and rocks and mountains.

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Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

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Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

 

As soon as we landed we rented a car and filled up the trunk and back seat with necessary eatables and water for our 6 days trip. Since it’s most hottest place we have arranged the trunk such a way that food won’t get spoiled. We began our trip to Grand Canyon from Nevada via Route 66, it’s called as “Historic Route 66”. It’s the most deserted place in USA & a heaven to bikers and car enthusiasts who travel to explore & to those who go on exploring the world.

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Historic Rt 66, you can easily see 10 miles ahead of you! It’s a straight road for 100s of miles.

When we reached Grand Canyon we definitely didn’t think we are on earth, it was like diving in Mars. We went to Southern rim of Grand Canyon and we were on self exploration skipping the maps and finding our own trial to hike. To our surprise we saw four weathers on the same day at Grand Canyon. To our surprise we experienced Snow, never knew there is snowfall at GC, thought it’ll be just in December or January but a snowfall during April last week that too during our visit was unexpected! As we started to go back within just 3 miles, it was too sunny and hot! On coming cars looked at us so surprisingly and they had no clue they’re entering Snow land!

After a day we headed to Nevada back via Monument Valley, Utah. Every road is an exceptionally awesome and scary at the same time. Reason why it’s scary is that there is no town or mobile network for hundreds of miles. So you better keep your tank full or running for at least a few hundred miles or keep a hardcopy of maps. When you look from aerial view you will be in middle of no where! Scenes around me never changed as we drove! As we entered Zion national park after 250 miles from Antelope we saw few cars and trucks and felt like back to earth & that we got company or at least there are people to help if you honk! I was very glad when few cars stopped by to check if I’m good & need any help when we parked our car in shoulder.

This all lasted just a while, as we entered Death Valley national park which is called as the most hottest place on planet! It’s 155 degree Fahrenheit / 69 degree Celsius on a peak summer day & it never gets a drizzle any time in a year. And it’s called as the darkest place on earth as well, an excellent place for astro photography. So many people do camping and go on to self exploration.

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It’s called Devil’s golf course!

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This is the lowest point in USA. This is how the ground looks & it’s salt.

Death Vally National Park is an area of 3.3 millions acres, you can imagine Goa, Delhi, Pondicherry together and still you will have hundreds of acres left to cover, it’s so huge that you need to travel for hours from one spot to another spot within the park. it has sand dunes, artistic palette, the lowest point in USA it’s called Bad Water Basin, you can literally see the ground with salt. Ground here doesn’t have sand, it has salt & so the ground is white in color. I burnt my finger when I didn’t realize it’s salt & I was scratching it like beach sand!

Generally hot weather is my first enemy on any time of the year, but I’m amazed how I didn’t feel irritated at all when I visited DVNP & I still want to explore it more. This place is definitely a travel inspiration to thousands of people across the world. We got to interact with a couple from Spain and another couple from Italy. If there is a place on earth which is hot and yet people love to visit, it’s definitely this place.

Here is a video that I took in Death Valley.

We’d an enriching experience in exploring a place on earth & yet feels like we’re on mars. We visited without any expectations and with blindlist to this spot on earth like a blind date & we absolutely fall in love with earth yet again! And we’ll never hesitate to go on a blind date with anytime!

Do you like to go on a date with earth & like to say #SayYesToTheWorld without knowing where you’re headed? Do checkout this URL & video below.

#TheBlindList


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How I saved $400 on a 6 days stay in Vegas.


Recently my wife and I’ve travelled to Vegas. It was a week trip, we stayed in Las Vegas for five days with an additional day booking and in Grand Canyon for two days.

After booking flight and rental car the next point where majority of the budget is spent is for the stay. Since it’s one of the main tourist location and costs per night at hotels of all ranges were considerably high. Especially in Las Vegas, hotels near strip were approximately $85-$130 per night even in an average hotels.

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This is price as of today in other Hotels, It was more when I visited last month.

When it comes to hotel, we have very little control over the room that we’re going to stay and the reviews might not help sometimes as the review will be in general for the particular hotel in that location. For example Holiday Inn or Westin or Sheraton in a particular location has got 4.1 star review, there might be hundred rooms in that hotel and there are possibilities we might end up in a room that got one star.

When I made my flight ticket purchase through Expedia, I’ve also made hotel booking as Expedia listed a 15% discount or some discount. After I made my hotel reservation, I felt that we’ve spent more on the stay, that’s when I thought about Airbnb. I’ve already used Airbnb to stay in two different states. Once in Virginia and other time in New Hampshire. I’ve also promoted Airbnb in my blog when it was newly launched in India few years back.

I wondered why didn’t I thought about it at first and I went on to find a best home to stay in Vegas. It didn’t take me more than 15 mins to find a fantastic place which was very close to Vegas strip (the road with Casinos on both sides). And the best part was the price! I got a home for $25/night and the host had a great review and was a “super host”, a term in Airbnb for the hosts who has more 5 star reviews from the guests. I was super happy to see that and immediately made my booking with them for my day 1 and then again at the same home from day 4-day7.

I even booked an additional day with them as my flight back to New Jersey was very late at night. Since the checkout time was 11 AM and my flight was 11:50 PM, I didn’t want to keep my wife somewhere in vestibule the whole day till late night flight in that hot weather. So on whole I booked this home for 6 days (1+5) and my price was $177.77 with tax! It could have been even less if I’d a continues 6 days stay, as there was a break in my stay in Vegas, I’d to pay few breakage in both bills separately. This could have been easily $550-$580 with tax if I’d gone for even the lowest price hotel.

It was a villa with two rooms listed for guests. The host was at the ground floor and we’d our room upstairs. Quiet and cozy. Absolutely felt like Home away from Home! I went through the photos of the house before making the booking and went through the reviews, as the review here is particularly for the room that we’re going to stay. That’s the difference in reviews between hotel rooms and for the home listed in Airbnb.

And that’s how I saved $400 in my 6 days stay at Las Vegas! You can definitely save a good price if your destination is a prime spot or if you’re planning for different number of days. If you haven’t tried Airbnb yet, get a $40 for your first booking when you make a trip for more than $75. Visit this link and create an account www.airbnb.com/c/bkesavan

Do send this link to your friend who is planning for a trip!


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Fun Snow Tubing at Camelback Mountains


Winter is here! So is the Snow and snow sports and games! My wife and I decided to visit Camelback mountains to enjoy the Snow Tubing. Since the weather was good over the weekend, we’d planned to go out. It takes about an hour from our home to Camelback mountains.

They’ve Snow Skiing, Snow Tubing, Mountain Roller Coaster, Zipline and other adventure sports. As soon as we reached the mountains, we’ve got a slot for 2 o clock. It was less than half an hour for our slot, so we have filled the contract forms – we need to acknowledge the form stating they’re in no way responsible if anything happens during the adventure sports.

We bought our tickets, it’s $35 per person, military personnel have $2 off. Each slot is for 3 hours, so our slot was from 2PM – 5PM. We stood in the line to enter the snow tube area. It was not crowded like our previous visit that was last year. There are two lines at the entrance of snow tubing – one is for single tube and the other one is for double tube. Single tubes can be attached to make it double, they allow up to four tubes to form a chain. So it’ll be fun if you go with friends or as group.

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There are 22 lanes in each of the two snow tube mountains. We collected our tube and climbed up the mountain – basically an escalator/lift that goes from down to the mountain top. There was a short line in each lanes, as each batch goes down, we get our turn. The fun part is to hold the tube until we’re allowed to slide down, their staffs ensures that until previous batch moves out from downhill, next batch doesn’t slide down, as there are high possibilities for accident.

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So we waited until we were asked to slide down. And our turn! We’d great time sliding for 9 times in three hours! It basically takes 20 mins for us to get one ride down, as it depends on the crowd! Last year we were able to go only for 5 times in three hours.

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Since the weather was not too cold, we wore ear muffs, gloves and normal jacket on us. The first two lanes are photography lanes, meaning their photographer staffs takes snaps of the people slides in first two lanes and gives a tag to collect the photo later from the store. It’s little expensive for the photos, $10 each photo and $40 if you want all pics of yours. It’s not guaranteed all your photos will be good, depends on the day weather lighting etc. It’s not mandatory to collect the photos, we can just see and say no if we don’t like it. Anyways we can always take selfie – but selfie stick is not allowed as it might fall during the slide and cause trouble to others. Just take it with hand and make sure you can balance the tube.

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My wife and I’ve spent a nice day and headed back home with fun memories. Here is the video I took during our Snow Tubing day before yesterday. 🙂 Do comment if you like it!

Do checkout more pics in my instagram page & my photography page in Facebook.

Grace-Ful ICE – Sea Life

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We all have been hearing “Winter is here” from Season 1 and finally in Season 7 winter arrived!!! That’s in series… so is in real! Winter is arrived in 2017! And so are the winter friendly events.

If you’re following my blog you may very well remember the Ice Sculpting event, I’ve been sharing the photos of this event for the past 3 years.

2016 – Grace-ful Ice: Safari
2015 – Dinosaurs – Graceful Ice 2015

2014 – Microcosmos – Ice Sculpture

After the past themes that are Microcosmos, Dinosaurs, Animal Safari… here is the Ice bergs that got the shape of Sea Life by the Okamoto Studio artists. If you are in NYC today, hurry up, you have another few hours to see these sculptures before it melts. If not don’t worry, check out Okamoto Studio in Facebook for their future schedules for this Winter.

Without further wait, here are the photos that I took during Sea Life – Grace-Ful ICE

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Checkout all the photos in this slideshow.

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Click on individual photo in the below thumbnail to see in full screen.

Thomas

My wife and I took a selfie with Thomas. He is a live performer at Okamoto Studio and they’ve been doing the Ice sculpting since past seven years.