Showing posts with label Tourism in India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tourism in India. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Kerala : How to plan for a lifetime's experience

Kovalam Beach
Kovalam Beach

I have been planning this for months and it finally came along in the best time. A full stretch Kerala trip with Kanyakumari as an added bonus. I will not tell you what to do, but HOW to do it. How to plan your dream Kerala Trip. 

Caution: Mine was too comprehensive. Needs high energy and will be quite tiring. 

I chose the monsoon theme..I wanted to be in the middle of the action. This is the only place in India which offers monsoon as a tourism opportunity. I was lucky. I expected super heavy rains. Instead. I ended up right in between the rainy season and summer which was Perfect.

Advantages in travelling in mid August

  • Rainfall almost over.
  • Waterfalls at their fullest.
  • Greenery all over the state.
  • Backwaters, beach sides and rivers all very clean.
  • Abundant coconuts to enjoy.
  • Hotel rates brought down.
  • Less crowd everywhere.
  • Festive Preparation going on.
  • Shopping becomes pocket friendly.
Our route map:







                                                   

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Panvel
Trivandrum
Kovalam
Kovalam
Thekkady
Munnar
Munnar
Kochi
Pune

Why should you go by train ?

Konkan railways is different from all others. Amazing sights . Beautiful waterfalls (some of them were huge). Lots of tunnels. Breathtaking rivers and bridges. Glimpses of the Arabian sea every now and then. It's a journey everyone should make at least once in his lifetime. (We took the Sampark Kranti from Panvel)

Our Journey through photographs

Kovalam Beach Side

Lighthouse standing guard at Kovalam Beach
Walking along the beach is such a joy

Sunset at Kovalam Beach



Alleppey Beach beside our resort
Sunset at Alleppy beach

A tiny boat with the sunset in background..Just amazing view
What's Kerala without Coconuts

Kerala offers various kinds of Coconuts. The water and the pulp inside are both consumed
Different kinds of coconuts can be found everywhere.

Kanyakumari

Waiting for sunrise at Kanyakumari was such a unique experience..One side Indian Ocean, another side..The Arabian Sea
Poovar Backwaters

Poovar Backwater was a good experience.

Thekkady/Periyar

An hour long boat ride in the forest. We saw an elephant herd.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Munnar 

Munnar Tea Gardens

Kochi beach with Chinese fishing nets



The harbor at Kochi is a busy one. You can see huge ships crossing it, all day and night.

The oil industry can be seen at the right corner. Ships keep crossing every now and then at Kochi Harbor

We finally got caught in rain at Kochi . It nevertheless made the scene more captivating.

Huge ship entering , while a couple leisurely walks by.

Very Important Tips



Before you journey starts
  • Book for trains from the list of Konkan Railways that suits best for you. (You can refer this link)
  • Book your train at least 2 months before. There's plenty of rush in these trains.
  • Plan your trip from the bottom of Kerala to the top (Hence,  book train till Trivandrum i.e Ernakulam Railway Station) . Catch return flight from Kochi. 
  • Book the train and flight YOURSELF. DO NOT let a travel company book them for you.
  • For each city you are going to visit, note down good hotels fitting your budget from good websites like TripAdvisor or MakeMyTrip. Then book your vacation from makemytrip or similar travel organizer. Tell them, that you have already bought tickets. They need to plan according to you. Also handover the list of hotels , so they book only from your chosen list.


What to Pack (The most important things)

  • Rain gear (Umbrella, raincoat, lots of plastic bags)
  • Rain proof Foot gear (My Quechua all weather sandals were enough for the whole tour.), Extra bathroom flip flops for beaches.
  • Extra fold-able bag to bring back all shopped items.
  • Laptop (A DSLR is going to need constant flushing of photos)
  • One light jacket (Munnar might be chilly)
  • Towel, Swimming gear, Cap.
  • Binocular.

Locations


Trivandrum:

Visit the Shangumugham Beach same day as you arrive, at evening. Preferably, book the "Uday Suites" hotel (Book online. Use as much vouchers as possible) . From there, it's walking distance to the beach.

Kanyakumari: 

Plan your Kanyakumari trip from Kovalam. Start at night 2 AM , so you can reach before Sun Rise.

Backwater experience:
We suggest, you visit the Poovar Backwater cruise. It's worthy, very private and beautiful. Visit this link for an idea.
Beware: Bargain very well. Take the 1 hr trip ONLY. Any longer is not worth. Pay only max 1000rs per head. No more.

Alleppey:
Choose for a resort along the beach side. Let it be far from the city. You will love the stay. Nothing but clean sea shores, beautiful sun sets. And the sound of the roaring sea. (Please carry mosquito repellents too).

Suggestion: If possible, do not choose to live on a houseboat. I heard it is highly boring and costly. Not worth it. It's your choice. 
Note : You can still visit them for some time, if not stay.

Munnar:
Choose a hotel with a great view. Read review comments before you book. 
Visit the Tata Tea factory. (There's nothing to eat there, so have your breakfast before you start).

Thekkady:
While in the city, choose a hotel in the midst of the market. Stroll around the market and you will get an idea of the richness of the local market in spices, chocolates, and art. The Martial Arts and Dance show is also nearby centrally placed. Shows start at evening . Around 200 rupees per head per show. Don't miss that.

Kochi:
Stay at a hotel near the sea beach. It feels European. It's fun to walk around the coast. Lots of classy hotels to dine. Also check timings for all visiting spots (churches, museum or zoo are closed on some odd days). While going to airport, ask the driver to cross the sea on steamer (the car itself rides on it).

Shopping

This might be the favorite part of many people. Kerala has lots to look out for. 

Saaris and other clothings: From Kochi, or Trivandrum
Chocolates: From Thekkady and Munnar.
Banana chips: Anywhere.
Spices: Thekkady and Munnar
Tea: From munnar local market.
Artifacts: They are very costly. So bargain well.

In all, enjoy the most. Eat, explore, sit beside the shore, and gaze. Bon Voyage.

Kovalam Beach road. Watch the amazing sunset.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Rajasthan: The Best backpacking destination in India

Rajasthan : The Abode of Rajas




Why Rajasthan indeed?



  • Suitable for all size of plans . Week long , month long , or a day long.
  • Numerous popular cities to visit.
  • Shopper's paradise.
  • Best forts in India in one State.
  • Diversity - Greenery, Desert, Lakes, Urbanization or Tranquility. You will get it all.
  • Wildlife Sanctuaries
  • Heritage cities - Best for people who love cities with a history.
  • Food - A host of popular dishes to cherish. Vegetarians rejoice.
  • Transport - All options are available, abundant and safe. Trains. buses or airways.
  • Budget friendly - One can choose a budget fitting as he likes. Everyone can enjoy irrespective of his pocket strength.

Itinerary:


1.  Pune to Mumbai (Bandra Terminus) (via Bus)
Distance: 159 km
Duration: 3-4 hrs

2. Mumbai to Chittorgarh (via Train 22901 / UDZ SUPER FAST)
Distance: 831 km
Duration: One night stay in Chittorgarh

3. Chittorgarh to Udaipur (via Passenger Train) ,
Distance: 117 km
Duration:  Same day departure for Jodhpur

4. Udaipur to Jodhpur (via State transport Bus)
Distance: 261 km
Duration: Two night stay at Jodhpur

5. Jodhpur to Jaisalmer (via Bus)
Distance : 285 km
Duration: Two night stay at Jaisalmer (First night at Sam Sand Dunes)

The Beginning


Before you get excited about reaching Rajasthan , you must be aware that your Trip begins as soon as you leave your room. Ours started from Pune and we caught our bus to Mumbai. This was a good opportunity for me to spend some time in the City Of Dreams.Mumbai.  Our train was to leave at night from Bandra Terminus. So we ventured wherever our hearts took us. We tried some local Bombay dishes, Vada pav , Mumbai Special Thali and more street food.


First Stop . Chittorgarh:


Inside the fort:
7 Gates
2 Stambhas
3 Palaces
1 temple

Note!  Time needed to cover all points: Minimum 4 hours

How to plan :


Arrive early in the morning and check-in to any hotel (should be closer to the fort)
Hire an auto and visit the Fort. Take plenty of time to explore. It is huge enough for a full day.


Udaipur : The city of lakes


Although we spent just one day here, I would suggest, you should plan for at least 2 days (1 night halt), as this city has a lot to offer. I won't list them all. But for back packers with a short time, these location are the ones I would recommend as a "must visit".

  • City Palace
  • Lake Palace (Unfortunately, you can just enjoy view from a distance as tourists are no more allowed to visit it)
  • Lake Pichola


Note : 
1) For all the above spots , the good thing is, you don't need to travel at different parts of the city. All are located around each other at walking distances.

2) Do not miss the evening light & sound show in City Palace (It's ticket are to be bought separately).

How to plan:



  • Take a passenger train in the morning from Chittorgarh Station. It's about 3 hrs journey.
  • Visit your selected spots in Udaipur (Depends on how many days you have. There is a lot to see here).
  • Watch the evening light and sound show in City Palace.
  • Shop on City palace road
  • Catch a night bus from City Bus Station for Jodhpur.








Jodhpur : The Sun city



Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan. So it is abound with markets, food and what not. This is where you stop to shop. We spent 2 days here. Most amazing looking fort I have ever seen. The Mehrangarh fort. It looks like a giant sitting on a mountain.
For shoppers, busiest market near Clock Tower. It's a must visit (women are going to love this).

How to Plan :


Get a hotel near the Mehrangarh Fort (We stayed at Hotel Haveli ) and the room with a view of the fort.



Go on a hike from your hotel to the fort. Explore all day



At evening , visit the city market near the clock tower. Try a variety of cuisines offered in road side hotels. The tea tastes awesome. I discovered a host of sweet dishes.




Have dinner at roof top with a view of the Mehrangarh Fort alive with lights. Most amazing view of any fort you have ever seen.



Checkout at morning and leave for Jaisalmer via Bus. The buses are another thing to notice. The interiors are decorated to remind you of the culture and art of Rajasthan .




Jaisalmer: 


Our final destination. The golden city of India. Jaisalmer . And it's crown jewel, Jaisalmer fort also known in other languages as "Sonar Kella" in Bengali , or "Sone Ka Kila" in Hindi. Jaisalmer fort is the only fort in India where people still reside. It has around 5000 population. The fort is self sustaining . It has got everything you can imagine. Temples, Market, Food, post office. There is nothing like it in the whole world.
                            I bet you must be thinking, when do we get to see some sand . Well....It's literally all sand here. The fort itself is built with Sand Stones. Even cooking utensils are made out of them . Fossil stones are abundantly found which are used to make a variety of things. I leave you to discover all that by yourself.

Rajasthani Folk Singing

The Lone Camel Rider

How to plan:


Reach Jaisalmer by afternoon and Finish up lunch while.
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Then book a trip and night stay in Sam Sand Dunes. Don't pay more than 2000 Rs for one person.
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Hire a THAR Jeep and enjoy riding over Sand Dunes. Thar desert is all yours.
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At night, the camp comes alive. There is Rajasthani dance and music. Enjoy food. Light drinks. And folk dancing, daring acts performed by both men and women.
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Next day, come back to Jaisalmer city in the morning and check in to a hotel outside the fort, conveniently located at walking distance. (We stayed at 1st Gate hotel. The best hotel experiences of my life. Little overpriced but worth every penny.)
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Explore the fort. Visit the market around. (I explored the fort at least 3 times...The fort is too enticing to visit. Loved the narrow lanes, homes, shops, Puppets hanging from the walls...I just can't get enough)
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Next day, checkout to catch your train :( .

Say your good byes to the most amazing back packing trip you ever had.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Why should you visit Kashmir sooner?

"If there is paradise on Earth, this is it"


And paradise it was . Early winter is the perfect time to plan for a visit to Kashmir. We will suggest to keep your itinerary  short . And enjoy the best trip of your life. 



   My Visit Month : Mid November 2015


As we were flying close to Srinagar, about 20 minutes before landing , all of a sudden , every passenger in the aircraft was on his toes craning theirs necks over the tiny window to catch a glimpse of the above. A fleet of Snow Giants.


   Visit Meena Bazaar in Dal Lake

Market on water...Only on Dal lake
  You will find a floating village with houses , shops, and hotels on all kinds of boats.



    A night on a House Boat


5 star houseboat ..Royal Dandoo group of hotel..Jigar Palace


Houseboats stacked in Dal Lake Srinagar

Take a Shikara ride.Watch the super clear reflection of the mountain. Spot fishes and water birds.

Dal Lake shikara ride



Take a 2 day stay in Pahalgam. Visit Mini Switzerland first day on a horse ride.



Visit Sonemarg. Enjoy the snow.




On your way to Pahalgam, visit apple orchids . Taste all kind of apples. The golden ones are supposed to be the best.




The dark ominous mountains  look like some forbidden place. I, was simply amazed.




Aru valley is the most beautiful sight among all the points in Pahalgam. Visit this on your second day in Pahalgam.Set out early.



 Every journey you make will mesmerize you . The melting snow. The blue river. Take breaks. Keep your camera busy.



In Sonemarg , visit 3 major points by jeep


Put your high boots and thick fur coats on, and enjoy some sledging, and snow ball fights. Its playtime.



 What we learned :


From this trip , we gained a lot of experience, had to churn out lots of tricks to tackle prices and deals right from landing to return back home. They might save you a lot of money.

Here's our suggestion for a honeymooning couple or family


  • Day 1: Srinagar  - Local sight seeing (3 gardens) and house boat stay
  • Day 2: Sonemarg and back to Srinagar
  • Day 3: Pahalgam (Horse ride to Mini Switzerland)
  • On the way to Pahalgam, visit Apple orchards and Saffron fields
  • Day 4: Pahalgam (Car tour to Aru Valley, Betaab Valley, and Chandanwari), then back to Srinagar
  • Day 5: Gulmarg, and back. Shop in Srinagar till shops close down (Around 8 PM)
  • Day 6: Shikara ride of the Dal Lake. Then catch the afternoon flight after 2 PM .

    Food you should try

 Wazwani cuisine is famous for its wide variety of dishes. Satiate your culinary desires .

  • Veg lovers: Sorry not too much to offer. Try the Kashmiri Pulav and Kashmiri Alu Dum
  • Non-veg lovers : The Wazwani Thali, Chicken Irani and Chicken Kanti

Where to book your package

  • Book from a local tour arranger. Preferably government run agency . I am providing details of the one we used. 
Web: www.srinagartourism.com | www.kashmir-tourism.com |
Email: kashmirtourism@hotmail.com  
  • Buy tickets for flight/train yourself. Pay them only after reaching their office.

How to deal with local guides

This is the most important piece of advise we want to give you, so you do not get cheated.

         At Sonemarg:

  •  Deal offered by guides - 7500Rs for couple. 3 spots in Jeep . 12 points on sledge (which is nothing but may be a few feet of snow track). Snow clothes and boots for both.
  • What you should pay : Max 3000rs . (In summer, pay 500rs per head max)
  • Why: Out of 3 spots, 2 are in the same place. You don't need snow clothes if already are protected well.

         At Pahalgam:

  •  Deal : For mini Switzerland (plus 2 spots on the way) , deal offered by guides – 1800rs per head.
  • What you should pay:  Max 1500rs per head.
  • Why: 2 spots are nothing but views of Pahalgam village...and some water tank with a story. The open plateau (mini Switzerland) is although worth visiting.

        At Gulmarg:

  • Don't hire a horse if you want to visit the Gondola alone. Just walk the mile.
  • Don't rent any winter clothes. No matter how cold it is, you are going to sweat when you reach the top. Your normal winter clothes you already brought along will be sufficient.
  • Hire a guide . Pay 300-400rs , and no more. He will get you the tickets for Gondola (to avoid getting in ticket line and join the actual queue to Gondola ride)

     

    Shopping Tips


What to buy?

  • Shawls - Bargain very well...they start from 300rs to unlimited..
  • Carpets - We got a good deal of 9K on a 5X7 inch carpet...It's awesome
  • Bed covers - Single ones 2000 max, doubles 3500rs max.
  • Food items like Saffron, Walnuts, Apricots (Khubani) , Almonds, Kidney Beans, Kashmiri Mirch . Buy these on your way to Pahalgam near Pampur village.
         Note : If you are getting your purchases couriered by the shopkeeper, please do not pay the      
         whole  amount . And note down more than one contact's phone number.


Where to buy?: 


Everything is available in Srinagar in and around. Shop while returning from Gulmarg on the highway. Buy all items from one shop to get a good bargain....And bargain very large...Never agree to prices that are asked at first..Trust us...We brought down prices to their knees...Max 60% of the asking price.

Most importantly, enjoy being there...It's just beautiful and peaceful to be there..I felt privileged to get an opportunity to visit Kashmir...Now I can die in peace...Best of luck fellow travellers.