If you want to travel for experiences , culture , nightlife ,natural beauty and awesome food and still not burn a hole in your pocket, then your search ends right here, ALMATY,Kazakhstan. Most people ,who haven’t traveled enough, feel that ,you need to select a specific place for a specific activity or an interest, but there are hidden gems ,which have it all and ALMATY certainly is the one. I have no doubts what so ever ,that ,it is going to be the king of tourist destinations in central Asia in the near future. Here are my 8 reasons, why you should plan an Almaty trip now .
- Cost factor :
The biggest single factor that can make a destination expensive is the currency. The Kazakh Tenge,scores big on that front . 1 USD is approximately 370 KZT, or for an Indian traveler 1 INR is approximately 5 KZT. So anything that you buy or spend on doesn’t seem to be too expensive. You can actually finish your trip with all the luxuries ,but in a budget.
- Air Astana:
Personally for me ,the travel experience starts right at the airport. The national airline of the country is pretty nice. Though you cant compare it with the biggies of the middle east or say a Lufthansa, but the aircraft are classy,well maintained, great crew and fantastic service. You might have traveled places that have been British or French colonies and might have seen their impact, well,your introduction to the Russians happen right here on the flight.
- People :
Once you land and you interact with the locals, you wont take much time to mingle. They are warm and welcoming. Though the language barrier continues to be a hindrance as most people speak only Kazakh and Russian, they, will still try and make you comfortable. A foreigner on their land is still a novelty, so don’t get surprised if you are stared at or being asked to click a picture with them.They don’t like foreigners getting cozy to their women thou.
- Natural Beauty:
A simple 30 minute drive to the outskirts of Almaty and you are in for some amazing views. Though, cant be compared to what you see when in Alps and the countries around, this surely is a miniature version of it. It can leave you mesmerized. No pictures can ever do justice to ,what you actually see and end up feeling once there. The visit to the Big Almaty Lake and to the Kyrgyzstan border is a must. The mountains, The snow,the rugged terrain,the shepherds,the trekkers,the picnickers all will keep you engrossed at all times.
- Food :
No holiday is ever complete without lip smacking food. If you love eating and meat on your plate is what you like,then this is the place. From chicken to lamb to beef to horse meat to deer to rabbit ,you name it and you get it. You can enjoy authentic trukish and Georgian cuisines along side the Russian stuff. If you want to try out local delicacies, try out the BESHPARMAK made out of horse meat,the traditional Kazakh preparation.
- Culture : The city is full of traditional stuff. The major population being Muslims,Christains and Jews,the city is full of beautiful religious buildings. The Zenkov cathedral and the central mosque are the two standout architectural masterpieces that are a must visit.The markets are full of lovely scarfs and skull caps and crosses decorated in various froms. The famous evil eye too has a strong presence.
- Night Life :
Surprisingly, one of the factors that brings the most tourists to this city is the night life. If you like gulping down gallons of spirits and dancing your nights out ,then this place surely will become your darling. Though a non drinker myself, I could easily figure out the variety of spirits on display and again not too expensive. The Russian stuff in their bars is supposed to be top class. The ambience and environment is electric .But, all those who are walking in from the major cities of the world, don’t expect the places to be as huge as your home city, these places are pretty compact ,but enough to thrill you.
- Sports :
A place that snows and gets to temperatures of -32 degrees obviously is going to be a major spot for winter sports. So Skiing and related activities happen regularly . But, apart from these, during the not so cold climate, you can find football and golf here.most kids that I met were skiing enthusiasts and they have professionals coming here from across the globe for the same. So, if winter sports is what you are really good at, this place has to me high on your wish list.
Finally , My recommendations while visiting Almaty:
- Do check for climate before you leave. The place gets really cold from November to March. If you are travelling from warm places like say Mumbai,Chennai or Colombo, this is a huge factor.
- Do not carry too much KZT (Kazakhastani Tenge). Carry any global currency like USD,EURO There are many currency exchange spots and the rates are pretty good.
- you will need a translator at all times. Just google translator wont suffice.
- The airport is really small, don’t expect it to match a Changi or Heathrow.
- Places to Visit in almaty
- Panfilov Park
- Zenkov Cathdral
- Central Mosque
- Big Almaty Lake
- Charyn Canyon
- Kok –Tobe ( if you have kids with you)
- Green Bazaar (closed on Mondays)
- Shyambulak Ski resort
- Loads of pubs.
Junaid Khateeb is an avid traveler alongside being a software trainer and a teacher.
The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
On whatsapp: +919820183864
During our college years, while watching movies like Dil Chahata hai or Zindagi na milegi dobara or 3 idiots,we all might have wondered or even questioned, Do these kinds of friendships really exist ?
A group of friends , who are part of each others life 24 X 7 , know all about the good ,bad and the ugly side of you and still dont judge you. The ones you can laugh heartily with or more importantly cry your heart out. They are part of every faux pas of your life and are still proud of you. The fights amongst you are superficial and no matter how big it is, you aren’t scared of losing them. you have awesome memories with them and the most important thing is, you know ,that come what may they will always be there for you whenever you need them.They are Gods most precious gifts for you, your proverbial 3 Am friends,the friends for all seasons.
Do you have one such friend?
if you have , you are one of the few privileged ones in this world.Trust me, most of us dont.The fact of the matter is, that, you don’t need a group , even if you have one such person in your life ,he or she can help you weather any storm in your life.That one person can be the adrenalin rush you need or the calming influence when you are anxious.In simpler terms, he or she could be the balancing factor at various points in your life.This one person can say the most mean things to your face to keep you grounded or ,if need be, can lie so smoothly to make you fly.This person can read your heart and your mind when you are in the dilemma or just a low sounding ‘hello’ from you on the phone , makes him/her know what is amiss.
These kinda people are absolute gifts from the GOD,the true treasures of ones life !!
But, why dont i have any such friend? or
how can i get one such gem?
here it is, my simple tip, on how to find or get one such sunshine in your life.
lets start by analyzing ourselves, we always look at people around us and wonder, where is that one person, that you have been wanting all your life.You have so many poeple around, but you still are practically alone.
The fact is,every person around us, is also looking at the people around and thinking exactly the same thing. now we all are in a scenario where, we are all seeking something and not thinking about giving.
Have you ever thought of being someone’s sunshine? someone’s 3 am buddy ?
Are you willing to spare time from your busy lives to fill in for someone when they need you?
Are you willing to prioritize someone over your own self?
Have you tried to, go out of the way, to accommodate someone’s request or fulfil someone’s need ??
if you have never done so, or ,if you do it once in a while, imagine, you are now looking for a someone who does exactly the same thing for you EACH AND EVERYTIME you need it . you are seeking something that you have never given.
My idea is pretty simple, if each one of us decides to be someone’s 3am friend, a friend for all seasons, then there is a possibility that someday ,we all will have that one person in our lives. Make no mistake , being there for someone at all times, is not easy and it might not be reciprocated too. You might end up being taken for granted, But, the beauty of such people is, that they are selfless. They are not expecting the other person to return the same or even have similar feelings or attachments towards them. Never, I say Never, expect the person you feel so strongly for ,to have the same feelings for you. If they do, grab it with both hands, coz you are now the richest person in the world.
As you finish reading this write up, make yourself a promise, that you will try and be someone’s man friday, and someday you will be lucky to have your own.
Junaid Khateeb can be reached at
Anyone travelling to India, will agree, that no visit to India is complete without visiting its maximum city, MUMBAI. Obviously, for any visitor the usual tourist spots like the Gateway of India or the Elephanta caves or Haji Ali Dargah are on the list,but ,if you are a tourist, who wants to feel the vibe of the city or wants to experience something,that only this city can offer, then here is the list for you :
Mumbai Local Trains:
If you are from USA or UK or any other western country, then am sure, you would have experienced the peak hour rush while travelling on the Undergroud in London or Subway in New york. But, when in Mumbai ,do experience the fun (and not so fun for many) of travelling in the mumbai local trains. One big difference s , that Mumbai locals are not closed unlike the underground or the subway. Trust me, the crowd on a non peak hour , will still be much higher than peak hour rush in any other country. My sincere advice is, no non Mumbaikar should try travelling at peak hours, just for the fun, visit just the station at peak hours and you will know what i mean.
Catch a Bollywood Movie:
Catching a Hollywood flick at Piccadily circus or a play at the West end or a musical at the Times square might be a routine for some of you, but watching a latest bollywood release in Mumbai is a very different or dare i say a better experience. I firmly believe, that movie going experience in mumbai in way better than most coountries in the world. The luxurious theatres, awsome services, never ending queue of patrons makes is so much fun. So , next time in Mumbai, do catch a bollywood flick on a Friday or a Saturday evening at one of the plush theatres near you.
Enjoy an IPL game:
For beginners , who do not follow cricket , let me just inform you, that cricket is India’s number 1 sport and Mumbai is one of the most important centres of the game. IPL (Indian Premier League), is Indias premium T20 Cricket tournament (similar to EPL ) but is played only in the months of April and May. Even if you dont understand cricket, visiting the Landmark Wankhede stadium for a game ,just for the experience ,will be well worth it. 33000 screaming fans, never ending energy,deafening sound, its difficult to match up anywhere in the world.just make sure, that you book your tickets well in advance.
Ride an Auto Rickshaw :
Public transport ,across the globe comes in various shapes and sizes, but nothing like an auto rickshaw. People ,who have traveled to Thailand, might find it similar to tuk-tuk’s , but auto rickshaws are much cheaper and easily available,do take a ride.
Visit a Ganpati Pandal:
Though, India is a country of festivals, in Mumbai, nothing compares to Ganesh chaturthi. If you are around during this festival (around aug-sept every year) , a visit to a local Ganpati Pandal will be an experience of a lifetime. The beautiful decor, courteous people, awesome mithai (sweets) distributed as sweets and long queues of devotees , makes it one of a kind. When in lords city, do visit him, its enriching.
Mumbai offers world cuisine and wherever you are from, you will find your food. But, mumbai street food is one of its kind. You should surely sample Vada Pav ,Pav Bhaji and Pani puri in Mumbai. Though, maker sure you make a request for a non spicy one.
The last thing you should buy in Mumbai ,are brands. you can always buy them in your home city. Mumbai, offers huge amount of street shopping right from apparel to books to beauty products to everything. If , you can bargain well, you will end up buying a whole lot of stuff, whithout causing a hole in your pockets.
It is that time of the year,when almost everyone is gearing up for the New years. There are folks,who have been making never ending plans. There are some, who are trying to shed the extra kilos. Some are still hunting for ‘that’ stunning dress they gonna wear and then there is me (or people like me) who don’t have a plan for the new years eve and we do not intend to make one.
Its not, that I have not done that ever.In the growing up years, as a teenager , we used to get all excited about the new years. Wanted to see the glam parties and the stuff that goes on.But, that attraction and interest didn’t last long and here are the reasons.
You might be in the middle of the most chaotic time in your personal life or might be going through the worst appraisal at work, but you still need to party.
If, I ask why?
Dude its 31st, how can you not party, the whole world is partying. Lots of people end up at parties so that, they do not feel alienated. you party ,when you want to or when you are really happy, and not just for the heck of it.
You enter any party venue, and then there are a million people stacked in there. These events are always oversold and not to mention the gate crashers. I always felt that at least 30% crowd at such bashes are actually gate crashers. With such a sea of human flesh around, you start feeling suffocated in those small and closed venues. The dance floor is non-existent, there are never ending queues at the buffet counters.we Indians are any which ways never short of crowds. Be it trains,buses ,metros or even streets, please spare me at a party at least. I am here to enjoy!!!!
Free Pass hoarders:
Come December and everybody starts looking for a free invite or a free pass to some new year bash. Lots of people manage to get those and you can actually look at them and recognize when they arrive at the venue. These are those, who are trying to make the most of the opportunity .At times, ill behaved ,loud and in a herd.
Though I am a non-drinker but, have friends who do drink and I have been out with them on multiple occasions. Drinking to enjoy the drink and drinking to get drunk, are two different things. I fail to understand why, but lot of times, even affluent people ,tend to lose their mind ,when they are offered unlimited drinks. They try to gulp a gallon down before the twilight. As the night progresses, these dancing drums of all possible spirits , start with their un describable dance moves and then graduate to throwing up. These sights are unbearable.
Over hyped :
Over the years, I realized all these parties are just over hyped. They are all the same. The themes ,which are used for marketing purposes are ridiculously untrue. From the Russian theme party to the Brazilian samba to moon and back and what not.They just don’t justify the sales pitch.
Any invite to a decent venue is priced from 5K onward ,and the for a 5 star event , they start at 10K. Even the hotel rooms are priced atrociously.Remember, they are exactly the same facilities which are sold at 5 times the price.Honestly, I never found a party,which was actually worth the price we had paid for the invite. In fact, the same hotels and venues offer much better services and quality on the other days.
New years eve , and how can I not mention the traffic. From the by lanes to the highways everything is jam packed. Every car in town is on the road and so are all taxis. The traffic ,starts to build up from early evening and remains the same through the night. The millions walking on streets or near beaches ,start jay walking bring the traffic movement to a crawl.
So what do I do on New years eve?
Well, for me its like an everyday evening. Just that, I don’t go out. Am home and that’s about it.
Let me start by getting into the minds of the cricket fans in India. We live all our childhood playing gully cricket and at the same times following everything that has got something to do remotely with bat and ball. Forget international games, we spend lot of our time in our young days playing and watching local tournaments ,box cricket tournaments and school tourneys on gymkhana grounds.
At some stage in our lives everybody has wanted to be a Gavaskar or Kapil Dev or a Tendulkar. For us they are not just cricketers or just stars , we all see a part of them in ourselves. It might be an absolute illusion, but that’s why the words ‘CRAZY’ & ‘FAN’ always go together.
Most of us will know the statistics of these heroes and their performances.we have heard experts & commentators discussing and analyzing their techniques a thousand times. So at least we feel that we know a lot about them, but obviously that is not true.
When Sachin tendulkar’s restaurant called TENDULKAR’S had opened in Mumbai, I went their time and again for dinners, this inspite that the food was pretty average.The reason was simple, I never went there for food, I went their to see the memorabilia that he had kept there. His bats,jerseys,trophies etc. we were thrilled looking at them from close ,as it made us feel that we are in touching distance of our hero. That’s how the fans think.
On Thursday 29th Sept , I was at PVR ICON, Andheri ,Mumbai to catch another movie and was thrilled when I got to know that M.S. Dhoni, himself was present in the audi for the premiere of his movie. Not that, we got any special treatment, but , just that he was in the same campus as I, it made my evening. That’s how the fans think.
The list of Bollywood releases for the year 2016 got sports fans really excited ,as the list mentioned AZHAR , M.S.DHONI and a movie on SACHIN slated for release. The IPL fever was at its highest when AZHAR finally released, no points for guessing ,I did watch it and sadly walked out of the theatre very very disappointed.
Today I walk out of M.S. Dhoni (the movie) and I am disappointed again.
The so-called biopics that Bollywood makes, have always been a disappointment as first and foremost they have to be politically correct. These movies talk about those aspects of their life or career, which are known to all the fans.Add to that, all the masala that is added to make it a commercial success.
We go into the movie hall, wanting to see and know the ‘OTHER’ side of our heroes, but unfortunately that is non-existent. Also, apart from the struggle , we want to know about the feelings that they went through when they made correct as well as incorrect decisions. The world talked about it, but what was it within their minds. If the unspoken has to remain unspoken, why have a biopic??
What I Got to See in M.S. DHONI, the movie
- His early childhood ands passion for the game.
- Hurdles he faced on his way up.
- The steps he climbed on the way to the top.
Apart from point no 1, I guess the fans knew the other 2. So how is watching this movie different from reading the daily newspapers.
What I (as a fan) wanted to see in the movie.
- His childhood
- What was he told when he was handed over the captaincy. (remember , it was in very controversial scenario)
- What was he thinking when he handed the ball to Joginder sharma in the penultimate over of the 2007 T20 world cup.
- What was the reaction of yuvraj, when suddenly Dhoni decided to bat ahead of him in the 2011 WC finals.
- How did he feel to be ‘AUCTIONED’ in the IPL in its inaugural year.
- What he felt about the failures that he faced as a TEST captain overseas.
These are just some of the questions, the list can go on and on.
The movies don’t present both the sides of a coin. I am not mentioning AZHAR at all, as it was a disaster from the first scene to the last one.
DEAR MAKERS, WE WANT TO SEE THE PERSONALITY OF THESE HEROES FROM WITHIN THEIR REAL MINDS.
What they appear or do superficially is known to all of us.
If 3 hours is not sufficient to do justice to all aspects, why make it?
HOW ABOUT A WEB SERIES??
WE FEEL CHEATED AFTER WATCHING SUCH BIOPICS.
As I recline my seat and make myself comfortable for watching the latest Bollywood release in a nearby Multiplex, I am surprised when the multiplex plays a trailer of a to be released Marathi movie. Am impressed with the promo, the plot looks good and so is the treatment of the subject, but though I appreciate the promo I don’t make any plans of catching that movie the following week.
As my Bollywood pot boiler unfolds , my disappointment increases with every frame as the movie goes from bad to worse and I just wait for it to get over. Well, I am not surprised thou, as I had fair idea that it was not going to be great and honestly I just came in as it was the most promoted and talked about big banner release with mega stars. Also this was not the first time that I was watching a big banner bull shit, where the makers had succeeded in luring me into their film.
Now as I walk out of this much hyped ,zero on content melodramatic nonsense, I start questioning my sensibilities as too why on earth are we awestruck just by Bollywood, when the regional language makers are churning out a more sensible stuff.
We the people of Maharashtra (me included) have been always guilty of going for the glam quotient without giving a proper thought to the Marathi options that we have. I feel that it’s time we start giving Marathi Movies their due and I have 5 reasons to do so,
The Marathi releases that we have seen in recent past have been great in content, where the writers still hold the forte and are given the due importance. Unlike Bollywood, the emphasis is not just on the scale but also on the story that needs to be told.
It’s a known fact that most actors in these movies are from theatre background and hence are tremendous performers.From Sachin Khedekar to Swapnil Joshi to Sonali kulkarni to Atul Kulkarni and many many more. These are brilliant performers and essay their part with so much ease and are so convincing. These guys don’t need over the top dialogues or reactions to put across their stuff.
Grey cells come alive:
Lot of times these movies touch upon sensitive topic that they actually make you think. We are more often than not worried about the world issues rather than issues closer to the home. These movies remind us about them once in a while.
These movies are not always about billion dollar business magnets or an army basher individual super hero, but most times they are about people like you and me and our lives. Looking at characters you can believe that they exist and you might bump into one of them any moment in your life.
Reading through the write up, if you thought that these movies are less of entertainment and more of a documentary, let me warn you, you will be pleasantly surprised at the lively treatment of the subjects. Good music and locales are part of all these movies off late. So never low on entertainment quotient.
FINALLY: I don’t want a diktat from Shiv Sena or MNS or someone else about the number of shows or timings etc. all of us who understand Marathi should give good content a chance to grow. Am sure if we do, the industry grows , so does the language and most importantly we have great content to keep us entertained.
GO BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
As the ICC cricket world cup 2015 came to a close, the indian team, though having lost the semi final,still made the country proud. The team undoubtedly performed way above the expectation and dominated almost every team till they ran into the rampaging Aussies.
The success of the Indian team was attributed to the captain cool, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the media went all out praising the best Indian captain ever. Though, I am a die hard cricket fan and love to see Dhoni when he gets going but I am still not a diehard MSD fan. Also,I firmly believe that he might be the most successful Indian captain ever but not the best captain that India has ever had. Well, here is my argument,
- Test matches
Agreed that Dhoni has an enviable ODI record, but the true test of a captain is the test matches.In alien conditions against top notch opposition Dhoni’s Win/Loss ratio is something that is best forgotten.All other previous Indian captains too had an impotent pace bowling attacks.
Dhoni Overseas Tests:
Number of matches :30
- Home conditions:
Dhoni is at his best when slow bowlers are tightening the noose around the batsmen and the ball is difficult to get away.that is why he has a tremendous record at home.On foreign soil ,where this formula doesn’t work, he is at total loss of ideas.
Dhoni ODI record-outside asia
- Test batsman:
We all know what a fantastic player Adam Gilchrist was and even in tests he would walk out to face the second new ball and destroy the opposition. How many times has Dhoni done that?? .Also it is a well known fact that Dhoni is susceptible to good fast bowling in swinging conditions. As a test batsman, he has never been a threat to the opposition.
- Team building:
We all know, what was the state of Indian cricket team when Sourav Ganguly took over. In comparision ,Dhoni inherited a team which was well settled and trying to win by playing aggresively. A feature that was never in built, but was installed by SOURAV GANGULY.
- IPL Effect:
Dhoni has been helped a great deal as all his team members have played IPL. They are used to high pressure situations and have been there and done that.They are used to crowds and have played against top class players. So,when they are picked up for national side,they are never intimidated by the occasion. All previous captains got players ,who had just played Ranji games and maybe in front of 100 odd spectators,they took more time to find their feet in international arena.
- Selection policy:
I have always felt that Dhoni’s Indian team has too much of CSK influence. Jadeja was groomed (though still not fit for games abroad) but not enough chnces were given to amit mishra or a rahul sharma or so many others. Even when ashwin was not performing well, no other spinner was picked up. I still don’t believe that Axar never got a game ahead of Jadeja in the WC2015.
- Cool as a Cucumber:
Yess, that’s a tremendous trait, but if we look at the most successful captains in the past, say an Imran Khan,or Steve Waugh or an Arjuna Ranatunga, they were cool, but occasional reactions from them kept players on their toes.Remember, How Sourav Ganguly got under the skin of the Aussies ,just by delaying the toss, isnt that an aspect of captaincy.
- ICC events:
Am happy that India has done so well in the ICC events in the past few years, but I feel I is the collective gain from many of the previously discussed factors. True, Dhoni also is responsible for this success, but its not entirely Dhoni.
For Dhoni, numbers might be in his favour,he is a great ambassador for the game, But for me ,the best captain that India has ever had is SOURAV GANGULY.
He redefined Indian cricket and that’s what we love him for.