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Road Trip to Amritsar and Golden Temple

Recently I had an opportunity to visit Delhi on an assignment with my colleague. Being a travel freak, it has been a long time since I last explored a new place, and Punjab was a new place for me. 

Western Punjab is famous for Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh, Punjabi food, and of course shopping. 

My eyes glittered on this news that I will be traveling soon, and seeing the weekend approaching near, my friends and I thought of going on a road trip to Amritsar.

Road Trip to Amritsar

Amritsar, a holy city in Punjab, is the land of Golden Temple and people with golden hearts. It lies 280 miles (450 km) north-west of New Delhi, the capital of India. Being close to India-Pakistan border is just a 45 minutes drive from Wagah Border, with Lahore city on the other side.

Our trip was in the month of January, which is still very cold in Punjab. We heard road trip to Punjab is picturesque view so all of us were excited to experience it.

Connaught Place, Delhi

5:30 AM

We rented a cab and left for Amritsar early morning at 5:30 am from Connaught Place so that we could avoid the heavy traffic during Delhi morning rush.

delhi morning fog_road trip to Amritsar

Photo: Smog in Delhi / CC Sumita Roy Dutta

We crossed the borders of Delhi enjoying the thick layer of fog that we can hardly see anyone outside the window and reached 70-mile Dhabha (situated near Samalkha) which is around 75 km from Connaught Place.

Breakfast at 70 Mile Dhaba

7:30 AM

Paratha with chole, salads, curd, pickles and a Glass of Lassi

The road from Delhi to Punjab (NH-3) is very smooth, thus it took us approximately 2 hours to reach Samalkha Since we left early, all of us were hungry, so we stopped at this Dhabha to have some breakfast and enjoy the fog.

This famous dhaba serves authentic Punjabi style food like Chola Bhature, Lassi, Paratha makhan maarke (Paratha with butter on it). It was worth the early morning drive and satisfied our foodgasm.

After having scrumptious breakfast we relaxed there for some time and continued for Amritsar. We still had 7:30 hours long journey left before we could dive ourselves into the holiest city of the Sikhs.

Read: 5 Free Things to Do When Traveling

Wagah Border

3:30 PM

We didn’t want to miss the Flag Ceremony at Wagah Border so we drove non-stop crossing Panipat, Kurukshetra, Ambala, Ludhiana, and Jalandhar on the way.

Wagah Border is the gate that witnesses partition of India and Pakistan. It serves as an international border checkpoint for India and Pakistan.

Every day the Flag lowering ceremony commences at 4:30 pm in winter and 5:30 pm in summer which is witnessed by thousands of people. During this ceremony, soldiers of both the countries march towards the Wagah gate in a very energetic and passionate way to lower down the flags with full respect.

Photo: Top side is India, the bottom side is Pakistan/ CC Guilhem Vellut

With the sound of the trumpet, the 45 minutes ceremony comes to an end and soldiers march back to their flags. We were lucky enough to grab a clear view of the ceremony. The atmosphere was electrified and patriotism filled the air during the ceremony and we were deeply moved by it.

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After the ceremony, we left for Amritsar which is 21 miles away from Wagah border. We reached Golden Temple by 6:30 in the evening.

Photo: As seen from the Indian side/ CC Samir

Photo: as seen from Pakistan side / CC Guilhem Vellut

Golden Temple, Amritsar

6:30 pm

Once we reached Golden Temple, we were starving to our death. Local people suggested to us about Kesar da Dhaba which is located in the market outside Golden Temple. We got our dinner packed and checked in an OYO room nearby the Golden Temple.

Since it was an impromptu trip we did not make any bookings. However, we did not face any difficulties in searching for a night stay. The place has many hotels, OYO rooms for tourists.

After having the delicious authentic Punjabi food, we went to Golden Temple to attend the Hukamnama (prayers).

Pro Tip: If you are short on budget, know that you can spend the whole night in Golden Temple itself.

Photo: People waiting inside the golden temple/ CC Anees Mohammed

The insides of the gurudwara is the epitome of peace with the religious patrons of Sikhism singing Gurbani and meditating inside the Guru’s abode.

Pro Tip: Golden Temple is a very peaceful place. People are advised to keep their cellphones on vibrate/silent mode. In case the call is urgent, then please take the call outside the temple.

People are advised to dress appropriately and cover their heads when entering Gurudwara. You may carry handkerchiefs or dupatta to cover your head. In case you are not carrying one, you need not worry as you will find provisions for head gear inside Golden Temple.

We sat at the side of holy water watching the temple and enjoying the peace. It was almost 1:30 am (late after midnight) that we realized we should take some rest. We went to our OYO room and slept.

Photo: The entrance to Golden Temple / CC Guilhem

Jallianwala Bagh

5:30 AM (Day 2)

We woke up early in the morning, to watch the sunrise over Golden Temple. The majestic view when the rays fall on the walls of the temple is indeed worth it. After having tea, served at Golden Temple we left for Jallianwala Bagh.

Bullet Marks appearing on a wall in Jallianwala Bagh

On our way to Jallianwala Bagh, we had delicious mouth-watering Parathas at Bhai Kulwant Sigh Kulche. We four friends competed on who can finish the arm length glass full of Lassi first. After breakfast, we headed to Jallianwala Bagh.

It is located at a walking distance to Temple. Jallianwala Bagh holds within itself the cries of 1,000s of Sikhs who were trapped and killed on the holy day of Sikhs (13th April 1919) by the British Empire (then ruling India). People can still see the wall with bullet holes in it.

Read: Road Trips: 5 Do’s and Don’ts

Shopping and Return Journey

11:30 AM

Juti Store (Footwears for women)/ CC Shankar

We still had time before we leave for Delhi, so we planned to go on a shopping spree in the local markets of Amritsar. Whats better than giving oneself a typical localite look. We bought Patialas (for Females) and Pathani (for Male) complimented by Juti (footwear).

After giving our stomach a delightful treat of Chole Bhature from a restaurant at Lawrence road, we left for Delhi around 3 pm.

On our way, we halted at Kesar da Dhaba for dinner and to enjoy the last bit of Punjab for dinner. We reached Delhi by 1 am in the night, after several halts due to the traffic and ended our 2-day trip to Amritsar.

Last taste of Punjab. Mooli paratha with butter on top and chutney, salad, achaar on the side./ CC Soniya Goyal

Tips for Delhi-Amritsar Road Trip

  • Start early from Delhi. The traffic is bad and a time waste if you only have a couple of days to travel (let’s say if you are a weekend traveler).
  • One night and two days are enough to cover the highlights mentioned in this blog.
  • Try to avoid summer season (April-July) as the temperate is generally unbearably too high.
  • Do not carry and/or flash cell phones, cameras at the Wagah International Border.
  • If you are traveling off-season, you can plan a serendipitous trip as you will have no problem finding hotels on the go.

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Read Next: 5 Tips For First-Time Visitors To India

Author bio

This blog post is written by Vishakha, a finance girl by profession and a traveler by heart. You may also get in touch with her through her personal blog at https://vishakhajalan.wordpress.com/

Biking Manali Leh Highway: Toughest Terrains in World

This is the story of how a distance of 480 km took us three days on a motorbike on one of the toughest terrains in the world. Yes, you read it right, the ManaliLeh highway in Northern Himalayan region of India is one of the toughest terrains.

Biking Manali Leh Highway

Four of us started with two Royal Enfields. Three of us could ride and we all took turns. The only traffic here is the occasional Indian Army trucks and other soul-searching wanderers who are also willing to test their will.

We started this adventure to ride what is claimed as the highest motorable road in the world. In this remote region, the phone connectivity is unheard of and you have to enter your details at every check post to let them know you’ve survived, to tell the tale. To live another day.

Related: 9 Tips to Prepare for a Long Motorcycle Roadtrip

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The Ride: 480 KM in 3 Days

It was around 1 in the noon, when we had to stop riding. The tire was now wobbling beyond control. We couldn’t prolong it anymore. 12 spokes were broken. And we were in the middle of nowhere.

Our friend’s bike had gone ahead. We were wondering what to do next when we saw a bike coming from the opposite direction. Delighted we stopped him, asking him if he had seen our other rider somewhere ahead. He had, but almost an hour earlier.

No way of contacting the other bike, no towns spotted in the vicinity, and with no other riders for as far as we could see. This was not looking good. This was not how I had planned my bike trip to go when we started 3 days ago.

The Challenge

They said it would take us three days to do it. We had rented our bikes in Manali, filled them up with fuel, carried extra fuel in cans and off we went.

We knew the roads could get brutal, the climate could turn any moment without notice from warm sunny mornings to mild showers. At noon time we were enveloped in clouds and in the evenings we were greeted by the chilly winds.

Let’s recollect the journey. Let’s start at the beginning.

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DAY 1. MANALI- KEYLONG (120 KM)

With all our gears on we slowly rode out of Manali towards Rohtang pass. Our journey had begun. Rohtang is the first high altitude pass (3987 M) you encounter when you set off towards this Himalayan journey.

We were initially cruising at a decent speed wondering why people take two-three days, as the roads though mountainous were well maintained. Soon we reached the beginning of the pass and it was here we encountered how brutal the mountains can actually get.

As we started ascending the pass, the roads started deteriorating. Pretty soon they became non-existent. All there was, was mud sloshed due to the slight rain which made it almost impossible to ride on, especially with a pillion.

Biking in the Mud

So two of us had to get off and walk down the road while the other two struggled to keep the bikes steady. The adventure had just begun. The muck which was almost 10 cm deep and your feet would go right in till the ankle.

The only people who were actually still cruising at their original speed were the truck drivers. At one point hitchhiked in the truck till a point where the roads got decent again which was after an easy half an hour.

We made it past the pass and down to a nominal altitude by 4 pm. Which was where we realized we had only covered 80 km in 5 hours!

Rest in Keylong

The other 40 KM of the day took us another 4 hours and by the time we reached Keylong it was pitch dark. We could hear the sound of a river flowing right next to us while the only source of light was from our bikes headlight.

One wrong turn could leave us going down the cliff into the icy cold water or right into the rocky mountain on the other side.

Dirty, exhausted we made it to the end of day one. After a quick dinner we went to our beds. Dreaming of how tomorrow would be. 

DAY 2. KEYLONG-PANG (180 KM)

The next morning we were mentally prepared for what was ahead. We set out after a hot breakfast, cruising through the road for about an hour thinking we had gotten better after the previous day’s experience.

Of course, it wasn’t going to be that easy, we soon stopped at what was a waterfall flowing on the road. Rocks below, water flowing from the top. Even if the pillion got off, we still had to walk across the water and since we were not wearing gumboots the water went through our shoes. And our feet froze.

We rode past many such streams/waterfalls which flowed right through the road, the occasional rocks which fell from a landslide here and there, the muddy slush, the sandy road, and rocky terrain that day.

The Beauty of Pang

After riding through one of the most beautiful landscapes with natural rock formation, clean blue skies, and yellow-brown rocky cliffs, we reached Pang by evening.

Photo  credit: Pang

Pang is just simply mesmerizing. It is a village with no phone connectivity at all.  It did have an army base however which had a landline connection. Pang is a high altitude village located at almost 4200 m above sea level. And at that attitude sleep was hard to come.

The stars you see during the night from this village are mind-blowing. We saw almost one shooting star every ten minutes and the mesmerizing view of our milky way galaxy to make up for the lack of sleep. 

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DAY 3. PANG-LEH (150 KM)

We started our final stretch riding through another high altitude pass where the lack of oxygen and us being tired due to lack of sleep made it hard for us to continue.

The other bike went further ahead while we were cruising at a slower pace. As we crossed around 40 KM, we came past an amazingly rare straight stretch with well-maintained road our spirit rose.

All was well when suddenly our tire started wobbling. It was here we stopped to find out 12 spokes were broken. And there was no mechanic or civilization there. We then somehow pushed the bike and walked for about a Kilometer when luckily we found a small village with 10 houses.

A Kind Stranger

A small shop owner told us we could stay there while waiting for vehicles which could give us a lift. After an hour of sitting by the road hoping for a vehicle to pass by we finally saw a minivan. The villager stopped the van, spoke to the driver, explained our problem and he finally agreed to haul our bike on the back and take us to Upshi, the next town 30 KM away with a mechanic.

We were saved. While we hopped on the van, the other bike which had gone ahead came back as they heard about us stuck here through another rider. Now all four of us were together and we were finally heading towards Leh.

When we reached the mechanic, he did not have the needed bike spokes and asked us to go look for the spare spokes in Leh and to get it repaired there. (Sigh!)

Upshi to Leh

Now, Leh was another 15 KM away from Upshi. So one bike entered Leh carrying the tire of the other bike, going from one shop to the other for almost 2 hours trying to find the spare parts. By 5 PM in the evening, we finally got them and by 6 PM, we were back to the mechanic who told us to come back the next morning for the bike.

So this was how we finally made it to the city of Leh at 7 PM in the night after 3 full days of the journey.

Conclusion: Himalayan Wisdom

We started off with 2 bikes but reached the city with one! The mighty Himalayas can change all your plans and teach us how insignificant we truly are in the big picture.

If anything, this trip taught us the valuable lesson of humility and how everything is connected in the big picture. Strangers can be nice and helpful. Things can go wrong when you least anticipate them. After all, all things are connected and there is a reason behind it all. We must find our place in this world.

Related: All About Altitude Sickness and How to Deal With It

Read More: 6 Most Dangerous Places to Travel

Author Bio

Neha is an adventurer, biker, and travel blogger. Please read more of her adventurous stories on her blog “Unknown Indian”.

 

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Visit the 38 World Heritage Sites in India

Today we are going to list all of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. As of 2020, India has 38 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the 6th most of any country.

Sit back tight and enjoy the photos from some of the magnificent sites ever built. Or better yet, plan your next trip. If you are into bucket lists, then you can even attempt to visit all 38 sites.

World Heritage Sites in India

The sites are grouped and listed based on geographical proximity, so if you are planning an India visit, you can plan your itinerary accordingly to cover some or all of them in the most efficient and cheapest way possible.

Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi

Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi was the precursor monument to the Taj Mahal (built a century later). Set at the center of luxurious gardens with water channels, it was built by the second Mughal Emperor Humayun’s widow Biga Begum (Hajji Begum).

Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi

Its Mughal architectural style has been acclaimed as the “Necropolis of the Mughal dynasty” for its double-domed elevation provided with Chhatris.

Apart from the tomb of Humayun, the funerary also has 150 tombs of various members of the royal family. It has a number of water channels, a pavilion, and a bath. The tomb set on an irregular octagonal plinth has a raised dome, covered by marble slabs and decorated with Chhatris.

Qutb Minar, Delhi

Qutb Minar is located south of Delhi. It is a tall red sandstone tower. Built at the beginning of the 13th century, the complex of structures comprises the Alai Darwaza Gate, the Alai Minar (an incomplete mound of the intended tower), the Qubbat-ul-Islam Mosque (the earliest existing mosque in India), the tomb of Iltumish, and an Iron Pillar without any rusting.

The complex is a testimony to the Islamic depredations during the period as seen from the materials used for building the complex which are those that were removed after destroying Hindu and Jain temples.

Red Fort, Delhi

Red Fort (Lal Qila) is a palace fort built in the 17th century by Shahjahan, the fifth Mughal emperor as part of his new capital city of Shahjahanabad.

Located to the north of Delhi, it represents the glory of the Mughal rule and is considered the Highpoint of Mughal architectural, artistic aesthetic creativity. The architectural design of the structures built within the fort represents a blend of Persian, Timuri and Indian architectural styles.

Isfahan, the Persian Capital is said to have provided the inspiration to build the Red Fort Complex.

The planning and design of this complex, in a geometrical grid plan with pavilion structures, was the precursor of several monuments which were built later in Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and other places.

The palace complex has been fortified by an enclosure wall built with red sandstone (hence the name Red Fort).

Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, Chandigarh

Chosen from the work of Le Corbusier, the 17 sites comprising this transnational serial property are spread over seven countries. Urban and Architectural Work of Le Corbusier in Chandigarh is home to numerous architectural projects of Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Matthew Nowicki and Albert Mayer.

Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks

Both Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of Flowers National Park are nestled high in Western Himalaya. Valley of Flowers National Park is renowned for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers and outstanding natural beauty. This richly diverse area is also home to rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep.

The gentle landscape of the Valley of Flowers National Park complements the rugged mountain wilderness of Nanda Devi National Park. Together, they encompass a unique transition zone between the mountain ranges of the Zanskar and Great Himalaya.

Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh

Great Himalayan National Park, in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, is characterized by high alpine peaks, alpine meadows, and riverine forests. The Upper Mountain glacial and snow melt water source origins of several rivers, and the catchments of water supplies that are vital to millions of downstream users.

It is part of the Himalaya biodiversity hotspot and includes 25 forest types along with a rich assemblage of fauna species, several of which are threatened.

Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World is a mausoleum – a funerary mosque. It was built by Emperor Shahjahan in memory of his third wife Begum Mumtaz Mahal who had died in 1631. It is a large edifice made in white marble in typical Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Islamic, and Indian architectural styles.

This much-acclaimed masterpiece was built over a 16-year period set amidst vast Mughal Gardens on the right bank of the Yamuna River. It has an octagonal layout marked by four exclusive minarets at four corners with a pristine elevation of a central bulbous dome below which the tombs are laid in an underground chamber.

Calligraphic inscriptions in-crusted in polychromatic pierra dura, decorative bands, and floral arabesques glorify the monument’s graphic beauty and provide a picture-perfect impression to the viewers.

Agra Fort, Uttar Pradesh

Agra Fort, also known as the Red Fort of Agra, which represented Mughal opulence and power as the centerpiece of their empire. The fortress located on the right bank of the Yamuna River, built in red sandstone, and surrounded by a moat, encloses several palaces, towers, and mosques.

It is very close to the famous Taj Mahal with a buffer zone separating the two monuments. These monuments are remarkable for the fusion of Persian art of the Timurid and the Indian art form.

Agra Fort was built from the 16th century onwards till the early 18th century. The impressive structures within the precincts of the fort are the Khas Mahal, the Shish Mahal, Muhamman Burje (an octagonal tower), Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Am, white marble mosque or the Pearl Mosque, and the Nagina Masjid.

Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh

Fatehpur Sikri, “the City of Victory”, was built during the second half of the 16th century by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. It was the capital of the Empire and seat of the grand Mughal court for 14 years.

Despite bearing exceptional testimony to the Mughal civilization at the end of the 16th century, it had to be abandoned due to the twin reasons of lack of water and unrest in north-west India, leading the emperor to shift the capital to Lahore.

The complex of monuments and temples, all uniformly in Mughal architectural style, includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid, the Buland Darwaza, the Panch Mahal, and the Tomb of Salim Chishti.

The English traveler Ralph Fitch considered the city in 1585 as “considerably larger than London and more populous.”

Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Maharaja Jai Singh at his then new capital of Jaipur between 1727 and 1734. It is modeled after the one that he had built at the Mughal capital of Delhi.

He had constructed a total of 5 such facilities at different locations, including the ones at Delhi and Jaipur. The Jaipur observatory is the largest and best preserved of these and has a set of some 20 main fixed instruments built in masonry.

Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan

Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur is located within the Indus-Ganges Monsoon Forest Biogeographical Province. The area of the wetland of the park shrinks to a mere 2500 acres during most part of the year.

It has a human-built environment created partly by embankments dividing the area into 10 units, and has sluice controlled arrangement to maintain the water level. It is famous for 364 species of wintering birds that flock in large numbers, arriving from distant countries of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China, and Siberia.

Hill Forts of Rajasthan, Chittorgarh

Hill Forts of Rajasthan, are a series of sites located on rocky outcrops of the Aravallis mountain range in Rajasthan. They represent a typology of Rajput military hill architecture, a style characterized by its mountain peak settings, utilizing the defensive properties of the terrain.

These hill forts in Rajasthan represent Rajput military strongholds across a vast range of geographical and cultural zones. They enclose large territories and even complete villages in walled compounds.

The property consists of Chittor Fort, Kumbhalgarh Fort, Ranthambore Fort, Gagron Fort, Amer Fort, Jaisalmer Fort. These fort complex includes palaces, Hindu and Jain temples, urban centers and trading centers.

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is situated in Panchmahal district in Gujarat, India. There is a concentration of largely unexcavated archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties cradled in an impressive landscape which includes prehistoric sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th-century capital of the state of Gujarat.

The site also includes, among other vestiges, fortifications, palaces, religious buildings, residential precincts, agricultural structures and water installations, from the 8th to the 14th centuries.

The Kalikamata Temple & Jain Temple on top of the Pavagadh Hill is considered to be an important shrine, attracting large numbers of pilgrims throughout the year. The site is the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city.

The Queen’s Stepwell, Gujarat

Rani ki vav (The Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat, is a famous stepwell. It is famous for its size and sculpture. The length of Rani ki Vav is more than 64m long, 20m wide, and 27m deep and there are more than 500 sculptures of god.

Most of the sculptures are in devotion to Vishnu, in the forms of Dus-Avatars Kalki, Rama, Mahisasurmardini, Narsinh, Vaman, Varahi and others representing their return to the world. Also it has Nagkanyas, Yoginis, Apsaras (beautiful women) showcasing 16 different styles of makeup to look more attractive called “Solah-shringar”.

Historic City of Ahmadabad, Gujarat

The walled city of Ahmadabad, founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th century, on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati river, presents a rich architectural heritage from the sultanate period, notably the Bhadra citadel, the walls and gates of the Fort city and numerous mosques and tombs as well as important Hindu and Jain temples of later periods.

The urban fabric is made up of densely-packed traditional houses in gated traditional streets with characteristic features such as bird feeders, public wells, and religious institutions. The city continued to flourish as the capital of the State of Gujarat for six centuries, up to the present.

Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra

Ajanta Caves are Buddhist caves that were built in two phases. The caves depict richly decorated paintings, frescoes, which are reminiscent of the Sigiriya paintings in Sri Lanka and sculptures. As a whole, there are 31 rock-cut cave monuments which are unique representations of the religious art of Buddhism.

Ellora Caves, Maharashtra

Ellora Caves are a cultural mix of religious arts of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. These are 34 monasteries and temples sculpted contiguously into rock walls of a high basalt cliff, which are seen along a length of 2 km (1.2 mi). Dated to 600 to 1000 AD, they are a reflection of artistic creation of the ancient civilization of India.

Elephanta Caves, Maharashtra

The Elephanta Caves are a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri (literally “the city of caves”) in Mumbai Harbour, 10 km (6.2 mi) to the east of the city of Mumbai.

The island, located on an arm of the Arabian Sea, consists of two groups of caves — the first is a large group of 5 Hindu caves, the second, and a smaller group of 2 Buddhist caves.

The Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures, representing the Shaiva Hindu sect, dedicated to the god Shiva. The rock-cut architecture of the caves is dated to between the 5th and 8th centuries, although the identity of the original builders is still a subject of debate.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a historic railway station in Mumbai, which serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways. It is one of the busiest railway stations in India, and serves Central Railway trains terminating in Mumbai as well as the Mumbai Suburban Railway.

This famous architectural landmark in Gothic style was built as the headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. It took ten years to complete.

Churches and Convents of Goa

Churches and Convents of Goa are monuments built by the Portuguese colonial rulers of Goa between 16th and 18th centuries. These monuments are mainly in the former capital of Old Goa.

The most significant of these monuments is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which enshrines the tomb containing the relics of St. Francis Xavier. These monuments of Goa, known as the “Rome of the Orient,” were established by different Catholic religious orders.

There were originally 60 churches of which some of the surviving monuments are the Saint Catherine’s Chapel, the Church and Convent of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Jesuit Borea Jezuchi Bajilika, Asisachea Sanv Fransiskachi Igorz, the church of Saint Cajetan and its seminary, Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, and Church of Saint Augustine.

Western Ghats of India

Western Ghats, also known as the Sahyadri Mountains, a mountain range along the western side of India and one of the world’s ten “Hottest biodiversity hotspots.”

A total of 39 biodiversity hotspots (including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests) were designated as world heritage sites – 20 in the state of Kerala, 10 in Karnataka, 5 in Tamil Nadu, and 4 in Maharashtra. Some of the key ones are:

  • Agasthymalai Peak
  • Periyar
  • Anamalai Mountains
  • Nilgiri Hills
  • Talakaveri Valley
  • Kudremukh Hills
  • Sahyadri

Group of Monuments at Hampi , Karnataka

The Group of Monuments at Hampi comprise a somber but ostentatious Hampi town, on the banks of the river Tungabhadra in Karnataka. Hampi, as an important Hindu & Jain religious center.

Dravidian temples and palaces abound in Hampi. These won the admiration of travelers between the 14th and 16th centuries. Hampi subsumes the ruins of Vijayanagara, which was the former capital of the powerful Vijayanagara Empire.

Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka

The Group of monuments in Pattadakal cover a remarkable series of nine Hindu temples, as well as a Jain sanctuary in northern Karnataka.

In this group of temples, the Virupaksha Temple, built in 740 AD by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate her husband’s victory over the Pallava kings from the south, is considered the most outstanding architectural edifice.

These are a remarkable combination of temples built by the Chalukya Dynasty in the 6th to 8th century at Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal, the latter city was known as the “Crown Rubies”. The temples represent a remarkable fusion of the architectural features of northern (Nagara) and southern (dravida) India.

Pattadakal is considered a Hindu holy city and within the heritage complex are eight temples dedicated to Shiva, a ninth shaivite sanctuary called the Papanatha Temple, and a Jain Narayana temple.

Great Living Chola Temples, Tamil Nadu

The Great Living Chola Temples, built by kings of the Chola Empire stretched over all of Tamil Nadu. This cultural heritage site includes three great temples of 11th and 12th centuries namely, the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram.

The temples testify to the brilliant achievements of the Chola in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting. You can visit all three of these:

  • Brihadeeswarar Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Tamil Nadu
  • Airavateshwarar Temple, Darasuram, Tamil Nadu
  • Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

The Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, in Tamil Nadu, about 58 km from Chennai, were built by the Pallava kings in the 7th and 8th centuries. These monuments have been carved out of rock along the Coromandel Coast.

The temple town has approximately forty monuments, including the largest open-air bas-relief in the world. The monuments inscribed are the Ratha Temples: Temples in the form of chariots, Mandapas, 11 Cave sanctuaries covered with bas-reliefs, rock relief of Descent of the Ganges, which is the largest open air Rock relief also known as Arjuna’s Penance or Bhagiratha’s Penance.

Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya, Bihar

Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya is a unique property of cultural and archaeological importance. The first temple was built by Emperor Ashoka in 260 BC around the Bodhi Tree Ficus religiosa (to the west of the temple).

Revered and sanctified as the place where Siddhartha Gautama Buddha was enlightened in 531 BC at age 35, and then propagated his divine knowledge of Buddhism to the world, it has been the ultimate temple for reverential worship, over the last several centuries, by Buddhists of all denominations, from all over the world who visit on pilgrimage.

The main temple is 50 m in height, built in Indian architectural style, dated between 5th and 6th centuries, and it is the oldest temple in the Indian sub-continent built during the “Golden Age” of Indian culture credited to the Gupta period.

Nalanda, Bihar

The Nalanda Mahavihara site in Bihar comprises the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE. It includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important art works in stucco, stone and metal.

Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian Subcontinent. It engaged in the organized transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years. The historical development of the site testifies to the development of Buddhism into a religion and the flourishing of monastic and educational traditions.

Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal

The Sundarbans National Park, the largest estuarine mangrove forest in the world is a national park, tiger reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a biosphere reserve located in the Sundarbans Ganges river delta bordering the Bay of Bengal, in West Bengal.

This region is densely covered by mangrove forests, and is one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger. It is also home to a variety of bird, reptile and invertebrate species, including the salt-water crocodile.

Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha

Konark Sun Temple is a 13th-century Sun Temple in Odisha. Located on the east coast of the Bay of Bengal in the Mahanadi Delta, it is built in the form of the chariot of Surya, the sun god with 24 wheels, and is heavily decorated with symbolic stone carvings and led by a team of six horses.

It was constructed from oxidizing weathered ferruginous sandstone and is one of the most renowned temples in India.

Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh

Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi, located 45 km (28 mi) from Bhopal in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are a group of Buddhist monuments dated between 200 BC and 100 BC. The site, however, has been conjectured to have been developed in the 3rd century BC, when Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire ruled.

The principal monument is a Stupa dated to the 2nd century and 1st century BC. These Buddhist sanctuaries were active Buddhist religious monuments, which flourished till the 12th century. The sanctuary has a plethora of monolithic pillars, palaces, temples and monasteries in different status of preservation.

Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh

Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka described in the UNESCO Inscription as “a magnificent repository of rock paintings within natural rock shelters” is located in the foothills of the Vindhya Hill Range in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

It is spread in sandstone formations. The rock shelters comprise a group of “five clusters of rock shelters” with paintings that are inferred to date from the “Mesolithic period right through to the Historical period”, with the 21 villages surrounding them reflecting the traditions displayed in the rock paintings.

The unique rock art has been discovered in 400 painted shelters spread over a vast area amidst a forest with high diversity of flora and fauna, with some of the shelters dating back to 100,000 BC to 1000 AD.

Khajuraho Monuments, Madhya Pradesh

Khajuraho Group of Monuments belong to both the Hindu and Jain religious practices with striking fusion of stone sculpture and architecture. The best example of this outstanding feature is seen in the Kandariya Temple.

Of the 85 temples built, only 22 temples have survived. Located in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, it is renowned for its unique original artistic creation and proof of the Chandela Culture that existed prior to the Muslim invasion of India in the early 12th century.

The stone walls of temples are decorated with a profusion of sculptures with intricate details, tantric symbolism, and sexual expressiveness of ancient Indian art.

Kaziranga, Assam

Kaziranga, located in the Northeastern state of Assam in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra River’s south bank. It was established as a reserved forest in 1908 to protect the dwindling species of rhinoceros.

This large park, which covers 106,250 acres of land has the distinction of being home to the largest population of the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros. There are many other mammals and birds species protected in the sanctuary.

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the northeastern state of Assam. It is in the plains of the Manas River in the foot hills of the Himalayas, on the border with Bhutan (contiguous with the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in Bhutan).

The sanctuary is the habitat of several species of plants, 21 most-threatened species of mammals (out of 55 mammal species in the sanctuary), 36 reptile species, 3 amphibians and 350 species of birds.

Endangered species include tiger, pygmy hog, clouded leopard, sloth bear, Indian rhinoceros, wild buffaloes (the only pure strain of buffalo in India), Indian elephants, golden langur and Bengal florican.

Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim

Located at the heart of the Himalayan range in northern Indian State of Sikkim, the Khangchendzonga National Park includes a unique diversity of plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and spectacular, snow-capped mountains covered with ancient forests, including the world’s third highest peak, Mount Khangchendzonga.

Mountain Railways of India

The Mountain Railways of India represents a collective listing of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and the Kalka-Shimla Railway under the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Two railways, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (1881) and the Kalka-Shimla Railway (1898) are located in the rugged hill regions of the Himalayas of Northern India and the other two, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (1908) and the Matheran Hill Railway (1907) are located in the rugged hill regions of the Western Ghats of Southern India.

Scenic Train Rides in India that are also UNESCO sites:

  • Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
  • Kalka-Shimla Railway
  • Nilgiri Mountain Railway
  • Matheran Hill Railway

These mountain railways of India has been stated as for being “outstanding examples of bold, ingenious engineering solutions for the problem of establishing an effective rail link through a rugged, mountainous terrain.”

So, which of these UNESCO Sites in India have you visited? Which ones are on your list? Please share your travel stories and tips in the comments below.

 

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5 Tips For First-Time Visitors To India

India is a burning cauldron of culture. And people who want to visit India, are most attracted to its diversity and food. But it is all fun and games till someone mugs you and you are left with nothing but your clothes. Here are a few tips to guide you through your first visit to India.

Embrace Comfort Over Fashion

India is a proud mother of four seasons. No matter where you travel in India, you will find yourself unsure of what the weather will be next. For example, let me tell you my own stories from experience.

I once saw a girl dressed up in a summer dress, but wearing heels; heels on a beach! Yeah, you read that right. You have to take that pointy thing off your foot if you want to have a chance at feeling the sands between your toes.

I also once dressed up in three layers of clothing in a hill station, but as the noon came, I regretted my choice of clothes. In India, you will come across different weather in different regions. In summers, Delhi and nearly rest of the country are burning.

But the quiet Himalayan towns are a respite. Carry with you clothes that are modest and comfy. The public here is conservative, so forget showing arms and legs unless you are on a beach or a city like Delhi, Bangalore or Mumbai.

Protection from Strangers

This point may sound weird because travel is all about going places and making friends. But India is a risky place to travel to. You will be appalled at the rape cases that occur on a daily basis in the country. It is not just the safety of women travelers I am talking about but also the males.

I will share a personal story here too. It was the first time my uncle traveled to Delhi, and then he was drugged and mugged by his taxi driver. It was with the help of a few street kids that he made it to the hospital and still lives.  Just want to say that be smart and alert. India is a friendly place till you do not lose your common sense.

 

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Explore Offbeat Bypaths

Yasss! Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Udaipur, and Jaipur – the Golden triangle is all good. But if you want to really discover the essence of India then all you have to do is pack your bags and dare to tread somewhere less traveled. 

Everyone visiting Manali goes to the Hadimba Devi Temple but there are a few who travel to the smallest church in India, which is also located there.

The swargadwara of Puri is the famous beach but take a ride and go to the Chandrabhaga beach which is quiet and surreal, unlike the crowded ones.India, no doubt has popular places to offer but you can steal offbeat from it and still be happy.

Caution: Spice Alert

Those who are the health nuts are going to have a teeny weeny bit of trouble here. Wherever you go, you will find local street foods. And I will be lying if I said they are not good. Try the local food as much as you want but be ready to be hit with a tsunami of spices because Indians do not hold back on it.

Carry medicines with you though, so that you can treat yourself in case of emergency. Drink loads of water ( bottled ones), which will help with the food as well as the excess sweating.

Train Travel is the Best

Mostly all the cities in India are well connected with railways. Rather than taking flights from prominent cities and then using trains or buses. It is better to travel by Train. You can even login to the IRCTC app which offers various trips for tourists.

 

And you can easily book the tickets from one destination to other. Always make sure to book an A/C ticket because the general can be sweaty and cramped (that is if only you want comfort travel).

 

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5 Monastery Stays Which Brings Wanderlust In You

The Art of Traveling is not just about exploring new places and chasing after the experiences. Travel accommodation (where you stay) also has a key role in bringing the wanderlust in you.

I am a traveler who looks forward to life-changing experiences rather than luxurious travel. And, this time I ended up in search of some unique ‘monastery stays’ which are open to travelers and allows them to explore age-old traditions and cultures.

Even though monastery stays are not much popular among travelers, it opens a great opportunity for travelers to have a close encounter with the customs and lifestyle of monastery communities who are living isolated from the outer world. It is fascinating, to say the least.

Monastery Stays

Here is the list of five monastery stays from around the world which are open for travelers and that invokes an inner wanderlust in you.

Hemis Monastery, India

Photo by Madhav pal/cc-by-2

Hemis monastery is one of the most famous Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayas on the foothills of Indus valley, located few km away from the popular tourist spot Leh, in North India.

The main attraction of Hemis monastery is the Hemis festival, a cultural celebration of colorful dances and unique rituals of Buddhist monks which is conducted every year in the month of June or July.

Tourists can have a stay at this monastery if informed beforehand and get an insight into the Buddhist culture from the friendly monks.

 

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Read: 30 Best Inspiration Travel Quotes

Kopan Monastery, Nepal

Photo by Dr.blofeld/cc-by-2

Kopan monastery comes second in the list of monastery stays, established in Kathmandu, the downhills of the Himalayas in Nepal.

It provides facilities for travelers to stay in their adobe and be a part of their community as a guest. They also provide meditation courses for travelers who are interested.

Travelers can walk around the monastery to feel the calm and serene ambiance, can meditate in the gardens or meditation halls, visit the prayer wheels and communicate with the monks to know about their customs and rituals.

Read: 30 Awesome Travel Quotes To Inspire Your Wanderlust

Sanctuary of the Madonna Di Pietralba, Italy

The third monastery stays on the list is the Sanctuary of the Madonna Di Pietralba in Italy which is beautifully located between Nova Ponente and Monte San Pietro with an astonishing backdrop of snow-covered Dolomite valleys.

Thousands of pilgrims come to visit here annually to worship the miraculous statue of Lady of Sorrows. Sanctuary of the Madonna Di Pietralba has a history which dates back to 18th century.

Being a tourist you can enjoy the pristine atmosphere of the chapel by immersing in its historical stories; enjoy trekking, golf and mountain bike tours during summer; can visit the religious sites connecting to the sanctuary.

New Norcia Benedictine Community, Australia

Photo by Chris Fithall /CC-by-2

New Norcia Benedictine community is located in the monastic town called New Norcia in Western Australia. This monastery was found by Spanish Benedictine monks in the year 1847.

They welcome tourists to experience their monastic life and to explore the New Norcia town. They conduct day tours for visitors which includes visiting the Abbey church, an old Flour mill which dates back to 1879 and other activities.

There are self-guided tours where one can learn the Benedictine community’s history in the art gallery; experience the 1500-year-old tradition of the community in their private chapel; visit the New Norcia hotel and taste a glass of Abbey wine.

 

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Sisters of Nazareth Convent, Israel

Photo by Tele2001 /CC-by-2

Sisters of Nazareth Convent in Jerusalem, Israel has got interesting historical facts. The convent was built by a group of French nuns who came to Jerusalem in 1881. Later archaeological evidence was discovered in the convent premises, which includes underground rooms, built walls and rooms which dates back to the 1st century AD.

The area where the convent was built was a Jewish burial site in the Roman period. Today this convent runs a school for deaf and blind kids and they also provide accommodation for pilgrims.

Travelers can stay here and experience the peaceful atmosphere and they can visit the Jewish remains after taking an appointment. 

Have you ever thought how life would be for a person who lives in a monastery leading a religious life? What would be there perception about travel?

Travel is about exploring places, exploring the culture and exploring people. If you are a traveler who seeks for unique travel experience, then never miss a chance to stay in a monastery at least once in your travel life.

Related: The Ultimate Travel Bucket List

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Author Bio

Sneha Thomas is a budding travel blogger and a freelance travel writer for hire, who is out on her travel shoes to explore the world after finishing her Pharm.D graduation.

Her writing and marketing skills have helped her quickly land clients. When she isn’t writing you can find her traveling to cultural and offbeat destinations. 

You can learn more about Sneha on her travel blog at Earth’s Tenant and join in her travels at her Instagram stories.

A Vintage Photo Story of Modern Travel

Imagine the world a century ago, when there wasn’t a fast metro connection, nor was convertible an entity yet. An age of black and white photographs, which people still treasure today.

We bring you a series of the vintage photos to paint the story of modern travel: from how stewardess became flight attendant and how convertibles came to play. We hope you enjoy this series as much as we did.

This is how a bustling street in the Cairo Open Market (Egypt) looked like in the year 1911, with the camels gracing the roads along with the crowd.

Posing is an art as old as the civilization itself, and this man does it like a pro. Dressed like an Arab in front of the Great Sphinx back in 1913.

The travelers of the 20th Century admire the fortifications of a building from the 18th century in Acapulco, Mexico in 1916. Two Centuries captured in one vintage photo.

Read: The Ultimate Travel Bucket List

The Atlantic City Boardwalk was a perfect place for an evening stroll, back in the days of 1920. And by the looks of it, we can see it was very popular among the folks.

A beautiful sight is hard to look away from. That is what passengers of the Oriental Limited Train are doing. As they go from the Skykomish county, Washington in 1923. The passengers are just peering down to admire the view of the river across them.

Related: World’s 10 Most Beautiful Train Rides

Our genes are forever the same, throughout the ages. Then how can we ignore the hawker trying to sell souvenirs? Image of the French Riviera in 1926.

 

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The Islanders are all set to offer their daily offerings to the temple in 1927, Bali, Indonesia

40 long years after its construction the once hideous tower was now the emblem of Paris. A man soaks up in the majestic view of the Eiffel Tower in 1929.

Composing a photograph to bring the iconic half dome of Yosemite National Park, might be hard. But we had talented photographers back in 1933. Two visitors pose in the Glacier Point Hotel against the background of half dome of Yosemite National Park, California.

A Pan Am flight landing in Brownsville, Texas in 1938. You can see the flight’s comfort clothes were not hoodie and sneakers but traditional dresses.

 

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A Pan Am plane docked at the Manila Bay as curious children look at it in awe in 1940.

A stewardess putting together the meal for the passengers. Don’t be surprised by ” Stewardess” because 1940 was long before the use of ” flight attendant” which was used after the rise of the third wave of feminism around the 1970s.

A woman just getting out of her car to admire the gorgeous landscape ahead of her in South Africa, 1941.

Shreds of evidence in history show us that fine dining came from the French. Guests dining al fresco in Dives-sur-Mer in 1943.

This image calls out epicness on many levels: a woman, on a horseback, calling out to  an eagle. Image clicked in 1944.

Dark and desolate landscape sometimes makes for an amazing photo. This image captured in 1945 is of the rocky landscape of Costa Rica.

It was the year of the independence of India – 1947. The sightseers revel in the beauty of a wooden float boat ride.

Before hiking became a hype these two men, stop and stare at the Grand Falls, Arizona by leisurely sipping their coffee in 1951.

A convertible rides from Anacapri, Italy in 1970. Convertibles were first manufactured in the 1940s and the first ever was Chrysler Thunderbolt.

This gorgeous image was taken at the Ionian Islands, Greece, 1973. The boats wind through the narrow cliffs of Cephalonia.

All Photo Credits go to the National Geographic Photo Archive.

 

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10 Best Summer Places To Visit In India

Summer is the hot weather usually comes after every spring in India. High temperature and sweating make the days and night tired and sluggish. So everybody is looking to visit some cool place to spend some time and beat the heat.

The destination like the Himalayas, southern beaches, the western and the eastern ghats (bay) are very much preferred locations to visit in India. So, if you are fed up with the hot weather, please consider including some of the recommended destinations from our list below.

There is a way you can still chill out during the hot Indian summer days.

Summer Places To Visit In India

Coorg (Kodagu)

 

Coorg is an awesome place for summer vacation in India. This beautiful piece of paradise is loaded with the hills and valleys of the Western Ghats. This is most desired and visited a hill station in Karnataka. Kodagu is also called the “Scotland of India” and “Kashmir of the south” because of greenery and clean weather conditions.

It is very special place in India which attracted most of the tourist to visit and spend time in natural beauty. This place is cuddled up at the altitude of 3500 ft above the sea. It is the home for Tibetan refugees and Kodava people. The majestic environment of this hill station is ideal for trekking, photography, and revival of the inner soul.

Places to visit in Coorg

  • Abbey Falls
  • Namdroling Monastery
  • Talakveri
  • Bramhagiri Hill

Read: 121 Fun Facts About India (Before You Travel)

Manali

 

Manali is one of the crown jewels of North India. Almost everyone in India is well aware of Manali and about its natural beauty. Manali is the hill station located in the state Himachal Pradesh attracts lot of tourist and visitors. It lies in between the Pir Panjal and Dauladhar range of Himalayas be a magnet for  water streams and mountain adventures.

Most of the adventurers visit Manali to have fun of playing sports like paragliding, water rafting, and trekking. It is one of the best hub to the newly wedded couple for honeymoon too.

Places to visit in Manali

  • Beas River
  • Hidimba Devi Temple
  • Manikaran Gurudwara
  • Salong Valley

 

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Read: 5 Things You Should Know About Indians Before Visiting India 

Andaman Islands

The many gorgeous islands of the Andaman in the Indian Ocean is full of beautiful beaches and opportunities for water adventures. If you want to beat the worst heat of the summer season then visit this seaside. This is the popular destination for summer vacations and honeymoon.

There is 52 small islands are located in Andaman out of which 36 are occupied by various tribes and local people. The historical existence of stone age culture also attracts the visitors to spend time here. This tropical area is enriched with the trees and wildlife.

Place to visit in Andaman island

  • Ross Island
  • Jolly Buoy Island
  • Radhanagar Beach

Kashmir

Kashmir is the place which do not need any introduction. In India, it is known as the “The Paradise on Earth”.  The awesome weather with snowy mountains is the perfect place to visit during summer. It is also called the Switzerland of India”.

Gulmarg, Srinagar, and Pahalgam in Kashmir is most visited and popular valley among visitors. The rides of famous Shikara and mugal garden is the most famous things to do in Srinagar and in Gulmarg the most loved gondola rides of khilanmarg are the thing that most of the visitors do.

Place to visit in Kashmir

  • Dal Lake
  • Shankaracharya Hill
  • Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden
  • Gulmarg
  • Betab Valley

Ladakh

Ladakh is the“little Tibet” in India. Known for its natural beauty and several spiritual places to visit, it is the ultimate place to visit during summer season. The large mountain range of Karakoram, snow-covered hills, small lakes, cold weather, and enchanted Buddhist crowd attracts a lot of tourists.

In summer most of the motorcyclist take adventures trip here. The Leh highway is the most famous road for thrill lovers. This is the best place to visit during summer when the fierce sun comes to burn you out with excessive heat.

 

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Place to visit in Ladakh

  • Pangong Lake
  • Shanti Stopa
  • Leh place
  • Khardung La Pass
  • Magnetic Hill

Ooty

Ooty is a hot spot for summer vacations. Toy trains are fun to ride here. It’s a mountainous region. So if you want to visit the place which is very good to curve the hot weather with some interesting beautiful toy train riding then go for this amazing place.

The beautiful cottages, gardens flooded with different varieties of flowers, fresh air, churches, botanical gardens, and peaceful weather charms this place very much.

Place to visit in Ooty

  • Doddabetta peak
  • Tiger Hill
  • Ooty Lake

Shimla

Shimla is the very attractive tourist site during summer. Known for its natural beauty, it was first developed into a vacation town by Scottish civil servant Charles Kennedy in 1822 as a summer home. Now, it has attracted a lot of visitors. It is the best place to spend honeymoon as well. The snow hills, chilled weather, waterfalls, and the Himalayas are the most visited sites there.

Places to visit in Shimla

  • Ridge
  • Mall road
  • Kufri
  • Toy Train
  • Theog
  • Christ Church

Darjeeling

The majestic place well known for tea gardens is the hub for summer vacations. The mountain range of Kanchendzonga is the most luxury and rejuvenating place for everybody. The fresh air, Toy trains, Greenery, and tea gardens look very beautiful and charming. Darjeeling is a place that radiates inner peace and joy.

Places to visit in Darjeeling

  • Kanchenjunga Mountain
  • Japanese Peace Pagonda
  • Tinchuley Valley
  • Mahakali temple

Read: Darjeeling Travel Diaries: Tales From The City of Hills (Part 1)

Read: Darjeeling Travel Diaries: Tales From The City of Hills (Part 2)

Read: Darjeeling Travel Diaries: Tales From The City of Hills (Part 3)

Shillong, Meghalaya

Shilong is the capital of Meghalaya is one of the famous tourist sites in India. The place is enriched with hills, pine trees, waterfalls, chilled weather, and fresh air. It is the most preferred site to visit during summer weather. For exciting offers check yatra coupons.

Places to visit in Shillong

  • Elephant falls
  • Ward’s lake
  • Umiam Lake
  • Sweet falls
  • Bishop Falls

Mount Abu

Rajasthan is the place known for hot weather and desert. Mount Abu is the most amazing hill station of Rajasthan even it is the lone hill station of this state. It attracts enormous tourist to visit during summer days. Small lakes, hills, and beautiful greenery attracts the people to visit this place

Places to visit in Mount Abu

  • Nakki Lake
  • Dilwara Temples
  • Toad Rock

Conclusion

Chill out the summer weather by visiting these awesome and cool place. These are the most preferred and visited hill stations by the tourist during summer. These places are enriched with the beauty of nature like rolling hills, waterfalls, small lakes, and fresh air.

So, go ahead and beat the Indian summer by visiting these majestic places and enjoy the magic of mother nature.

 

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Top 9 Spring Destinations You Must Visit

When the freezing temperatures give in to a subtle rise in warmth it means spring is at the doorsteps. Spring season is one of the best times to explore scenic places because of cheaper hotel rates and uncrowded destinations.

Top Spring Destinations

Below is our pick for the top 9 spring destinations from around the world, for you to enjoy the coming of spring.

Cape Town, South Africa

The second largest city in South Africa sees spring during October-November. The gap between the warm tourist season offers great deals on accommodation. But there are occasional showers, and the wind blows hard in these months.

When the wind subsides, the city offers splendid architectural walks; sandy bay walks, hiking in the Table Mountain, and wine tours in Constantia Valley.

Gulmarg, India

Tourists visiting India during February–March experience a pleasant temperature. Unlike the summer months which are really hot in India. Gulmarg is a city in Kashmir which sports snow even during the spring months.

It has the world’s highest gondola ride, and not just that, Gulmarg sports some of the World’s best trekking routes as well as skiing opportunities. Get ready to chill down on your next visit to exotic India.

US Virgin Islands

The archipelago of Virgin Islands belongs to the U.S. and enjoys a tropical climate most of the year. So Spring here is more like a short trailer for the upcoming long summer. February to April seems to welcome temperature drops as well as price drops.

The spring induced fun includes hot curried meats, brewery tours (Cruzan Rum Distillery), and historical landmarks like Blackbeard’s Castle, Christiansted.

Coorg, India

Who said India is too hot! Maybe it is. But if you want to avoid the summer heat, India has yet another world-class destination in the abode of holy hills that is home to quaint villages. Coorg sets a unique scenery and experience if you visit during the Spring months.

For a complete list of things to do here, please read Coorg Travel Guide.

The water in the famous Abbey Falls has a fair amount of volume and depth. During this time, the misty waterfalls do not get shrouded by an overdose of water. The Coffee plantations in Madikeri in Coorg is another must-visit destination. Coorg flourishes during Spring and gives all of the tourists yet another reason to visit India.

Twentynine Palms, California

A town with a tale of courage displayed in the Old School House Museum, Twentynine Palms is in the Californian Desert. The surrounding scenery of the city gets enhanced by the Joshua Tree National Park.

The desert landscape acts as a camping ground for hikers and rock- climbers. Twentynine Palms during the Spring season is an out of the world experience. It is the only time in the year when you can have a first-hand desert trip without turning to cinders in the heat.

Lisse, Holland

When Lisse comes alive in Spring, the tulip gardens bloom in their beautiful glory. From March to May the tulip flowers in Keukenhof, Lisse make it an attractive destination. This gorgeous village has a rich cultural history reflected in the renovated Keukenhof Castle.

The bright flowers and the castle together bring the best in nature. When spring knocks, have your share of flowery awesomeness at Lisse in Holland.

Kauai, Hawaii

Photo via Good Free Photos
An island that remained unconquered by any external forces (including the US) even after numerous attempts is the Island Of Kauai. Kauai was not part of Hawaii for a long time. This may be one of the reasons why it is more laid back and rural compared to the other Hawaiian Islands.

Those who are looking for a remote and secluded place for a spring getaway, Kauai is your paradise. Being oldest of the Hawaiian islands, it has sandier coastlines. It isn’t just the sand though, but the Garden Island lives up to its name.

There are plenty of National Parks and wildlife reserves that deserve a visit. The Na Pali Coast offers great peaks for hikers. And the Spring weather makes it all even better.

Alishan Scenic Area, Taiwan

This piece of paradise in Taiwan wraps around the Mount Ali. It is a 415 km long and hilly nature’s awesomeness that is hard to ignore. The gorgeous and wild scenery provides for many hiking trails as well.

In the springtime, the tea and coffee plantations become lush after the end of harsh winter months. Have a slice of traditional Taiwan this spring by visiting the wooden Buddhist temples and by interacting with the local Tsou tribe.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Those who love pedestrian-friendly cities are in for a treat in Buenos Aires, the capital and most populous city of Argentina. There are several walkable paths where you can gawk at the splendid greenery surrounding you. During Spring, the botanical gardens and the green open spaces become a refreshing attraction in a rather busy city.

For a relaxing day, embark on a nearby wine tasting tour. Buenos Aires has every trick up its sleeve, may it be medical tourism or luxurious golf courses, it caters to all of your senses, especially during the Spring (when the city has everything to offer at a discount.)

Let us know about your favorite Spring destinations in the comments below.

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Top 8 Medical Tourism Destinations

Medical tourism has become quite popular. Many patients can receive treatment at affordable prices compared to what they would pay in their home country.

An increase in the number of medical care professionals, patients, and technological improvements have catapulted the following nations to the list of top medical tourism destinations.

 

The following countries are chosen for the availability of data, accessibility, price and internal framework. Consequently, consumers from abroad are seeking treatment in these destinations:

Israel

From plastic surgery to neurological therapies, Israel supplies various clinical and healthcare solutions. Despite the recurring security issues, local professionals are committed to preserving the country’s medical tourism industry.

The country faces political crises, but the economic situation is flourishing. This economic upturn is reflected in the low price of treatments. Clinical specialists have more up-to-date methods and cures than their colleagues in other countries.

The area around the Dead Sea is popular for skin therapies. Visitors can use seawater to cure psoriasis and associated problems. Plus, the high atmospheric pressure in the area naturally helps patients with cystic fibrosis.

Thailand

Thailand is popular another nation known for cosmetic plastic surgery. For 20 years, Bangkok’s Bumrungrad International Hospital has been treating international clients. According to Patients Beyond Borders, approximately 1.2 million individuals visited the clinic in 2015 alone.

South Korea

South Korea brings in a steady flow of foreign travelers. Many of which visit South Korea to explore unrivaled Korean traditional medication, Otorhinolaryngology, infertility treatment, oral medicines, ophthalmology, spine treatment, joint/rheumatism care, organ & hair transplant, cancer cell treatment and extensive health and wellness trials.

Some of the most popular healthcare treatments amongst medical vacationers in South Korea include skin lightening, rhinoplasty, and eyelid surgical procedures.

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Turkey

Turkey attracts medical tourists from the Middle East, Eurasia, the United States, and Europe. Plus, the personal health treatment system strives to be one of the critical wellness service providers in the world.

The nation is also home to the highest number of Joint Commission, internationally accredited, clinical establishments around the world. Turkey is second only to the United States.

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Puerto Rico

Although Puerto Rico is new to many clinical and healthcare travelers, it gives travelers various benefits. This island is easily accessible and it has clinical knowledge and medical care frameworks that match those in Europe and the United States.

Most of the trained doctors comply with privileging and credentialing demands that resemble those in the United States healthcare facilities. The fees, however, are higher than in various other emerging medical tourism destinations.

India

India has a variety of perks for the medical tourist. Compliance with international specifications, accessibility to the most current clinical technology and reduced expense are just some of such advantages. The federal government is likewise taking steps to offer a framework that will attract even more clinical tourists.

Popular procedures include orthopedic surgery, eye surgery, heart bypass surgery, and bone transplants, among others. Currently, Chennai is the ultimate healthcare destination for medical tourists in India.

Malaysia

With more than half a million medical travelers coming to the nation yearly, Malaysia places as one of the most health and wellness care friendly spots for those looking to find help outside of their country. Even Americans come to the country’s large English-speaking populace and solid facilities.

In order to diversify its economic situation amidst the Asian financial crises, Malaysia invested in its medical tourism industry. Malaysian medical facilities are recognized as major players in vitro fertilizing at a cost that’s 20 percent less than many other western medical centers. Malaysia’s medical facilities are also known for their innovative treatment of burn victims.

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Brazil

People searching for an affordable alternative to plastic surgery should visit Brazil, which is one of the top locations in the world for these procedures.

According to Patients Beyond Borders, around 200,000 international tourists visited Brazil in 2013 for cosmetic treatments. Plus, the savings are extreme, with costs about 30-50 percent below what American physicians would charge for treatment.

Furthermore, medical tourism in Brazil has long been known for its Ivo Pitanguy Clinic in Rio de Janeiro, which performed more cosmetic surgery procedures than any other places in the world.

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15 Money Saving Tips That Actually Works

Long distance travel is a luxury most of us cannot afford. Not because it is expensive. But, because it takes time off from your work or study, money for tickets and lodging, and not having a lot of responsibilities back home (kids, pets, elderly parents, etc). 

In this blog, I would like to cover how can you save money during your travel to make the best out of it. We have 10 fantastic money-saving tips for you compiled from several travel experts to make you able to travel like money doesn’t matter!

Read: Top 10 Money-Saving Hacks (Infographic) So You Can Travel More

STICK TO YOUR CHECKLIST

To get rid of the TML (Traveler’s memory loss), you can quickly make a checklist. This is the first money saving tip you ought to follow. List out all the things that you need during your travel, including brush, toothpaste, shampoo, tampons, and every necessity.

Once you are sure that you have all that you need with you, you won’t have to spend your money on things you already have. In this way, you save your money and invest it in other things during travel.

IS A ROOM WITH VIEW NECESSARY?

This year I traveled to three different places. When I was in Puri, I booked a room with an ocean view with a large window. And it cost me an enormous amount of money. Other than that, when I went to Darjeeling, I booked a room with a view of the Kanchenjunga, and it also cost me heaps.

But on my next trip, I booked a room which accommodated all my needs but was without any view. It cost me lesser than any one of the rooms. The point is, you hardly stay in your room when you travel around the destination. You only get back at night, when it is dark to see anything.

So, why spend money on something which you are not gonna enjoy for most of the time? Instead, follow this money-saving tips to save more for doing something adventurous on your trip.

SHORTER YOU STAY, LESSER YOU PAY

Don’t pick up debts just because you are having fun

Traveling is the drug of our choice, and if travel were free everyone would be a vagabond. But travel isn’t free; it costs bucks which do not come easily to you.

Plan your stay at the destination, and make it the shorter you can. It lessens most of the cost, and a day off before you get back to your normal schedule is always relaxing.

ALTERNATE DELUXE & STANDARD

Those who do not travel often, always tend to go for luxury rooms during their vacation. But luxury rooms are pricey and are out of the budget for few.

In that case, you can stay in standard rooms during most of your trip and then change to deluxe rooms at the end of your stay. Your wish gets fulfilled, and your pocket doesn’t hurt much either.

KEEP TRACK OF CONVERSION RATES

As you know, the Euro and pound are at the lowest conversion rates ever! It is making all the travelers crazy, as they pack their bags for a trip to London this fall. If you keep track of the currency rates in different parts of the world, you can steal a cheap travel vacation.

Read: 8 Tips on How to Travel As a Couple on a Low Budget

OFF SEASON BONANZA

We all want tourist attractions all to ourselves when we travel. But it seldom happens during the peak season. This is the number one money-saving tips that travelers follow. Travel experts advise that if you travel in the off-season, then not only will you ditch the crowds but also lower your expenses.

And if you want to travel somewhere during the peak season, go to a destination which is underrated. That lessens your price tag as well as the crowd. And then in the off-season travel to the big places.

GRAB A TOURIST CARD

When you travel to any destination, do your research on the tourist cards available in that area. It helps save you more than you can imagine. It offers free or discounted rates on sightseeing, hotels, dining, and transport. Check that you don’t spend more on the tourist card, than what you want to save.

Read: Smart and Common Travel Hacks

WHERE & WHEN NOT TO TIP

In India tipping is not a gesture that many follow, but Americans are so used to tipping that they do it even when it is not required.

If you tip a lot, then do your homework before you visit a place, so that you do not waste your precious money on tipping, when it isn’t needed. Keeping these money-saving tips in mind you can avoid unnecessary expenses.

Read: 10 Hacks to Save Money for Your Dream Vacation

PACK YOUR FOOD & DRINK

There are times as a traveler when I wanted to strangle the housekeeping because they did not offer me the jug of water I so badly needed. Then I started keeping a reusable water bottle with me, which I filled whenever I got a chance.

But When the water needs were taken care of, I got the hunger cramps. Keeping biscuits, dried fruits or nuts with me helped me get rid of that hunger pangs.

Packing your food and water beforehand means less unnecessary expenses. You don’t have to spend extra dollars on a bottle of water or snack. Little money saving tips save much.

CREDIT CARD SURPRISES

You should use everything that is at your disposal to make your travel cheap and easy, and that includes your credit card. There are hidden perks of credit cards which most of us are ignorant of.

If you have a Visa Signature card, then you can get serious perks on over 800 hotels listed in the luxury collection. And the American Express card users can avail perks on about 900 hotels.

Not just that you also get Travel insurance and lost luggage reimbursement in Visa Signature cards. There is an extensive list of perks hidden in your card. Put it to use.

SELL UNWANTED GOODS

We all have those old books or furniture or that camera or old iPad which we do not read anymore! You may even have clothes that don’t fit you or interest you anymore or that pair of boots. A simple rule you can apply when trying to get rids of things is this: if you haven’t touched it in a year, you don’t need it.

It is therefore wise that you put such items on sale at a website (eg. Craiglist), apps (Offerup, Facebook Marketplace), or simply do a garage sale.

SET WEEKLY SPENDING LIMIT

You should not bite more than you can chew. Be practical! And save every week. Put aside a specific amount for your needs and do not spend more than it. If say you save at least $70 USD a week, you will have a minimum of $280 USD saved in a month. (Which by the way means you can comfortably live for up to two weeks in Thailand with that money!)

DECIDE YOUR DESTINATION

There are wannabe travelers all around, planning a trip that is never going to happen. We are saying “never going to happen”, because the majority of us have full-time jobs and a tight budget.

How are we going to make that trip to Hawaii or Singapore? We keep thinking, planning, plotting but the vital link we all forget is “money.” Now that we have covered the money part, there remains one last step.

You must decide where you want to go and carefully narrow your lists of available options. Pick a destination that fits both your budget and your dream. Those who want to travel abroad might like to take a decision on a country where their currency is valuable than the local currency.

For example, Americans can plan a trip to Thailand, Indians can go to Hong Kong, Europeans can go to Hawaii. A Smart way to choose your destination is to check your currency value. And…cheap flight tickets.

USE GOOGLE FLIGHTS

Google flights is hands down the best free tool that you can use to find a flight that is both viable and available. Even if you are planning a last minute trip. You can set your home destination and then play with the dates (into the future) to find a cheap deal.

We hope that you have found our article helpful. By keeping the tips we have shared with you in mind, we’re sure that you will be able to make every dollar count in your trip.

We wish you safe travels!

Read Next

World’s 10 Most Beautiful Train Rides

Train rides are exciting. Enjoying the beautiful scenery never gets old because it is never monotonous. Below are few pictures of the world’s 10 most beautiful train rides from around the globe that will make you want to hop on a train right now.

The Ghan

Want a change of scenery? The red ravines of Australia await you. The Ghan rides through the heart of the dreary landscape, making it look like something out of an alien world movie.

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Belmond Grand Hibernian Train

Ride from Dublin to Cork. Get comfy in the happy booths of the Belmond Grand Hibernian which gives you a tour of the Irish countryside.

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The Canadian

With the super awesome dome cars that give you an unfiltered view of the rugged scenery of Canadian countryside, you will love a train ride of The Canadian.

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Orient Express aka Belmond

It is not always about the gorgeous scenery, sometimes it is about a classy black tie extravagance in the heart of Europe. The Orient Express might be one of the oldest luxury trains but it is also the classiest of all.

The route of this luxury train has changed several times, so if you want to check this off of your bucket list, do a quick search on their website.

As of today, the train operates from London to Istanbul or Paris to Budapest with several other major European cities in between.

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Glacier Express

We all know that Switzerland has the best of everything in some sense. For example, who doesn’t enjoy gaping at the snowy peaks?

The Glacier Express takes you on one of the most exhilarating train rides, which connects two mountain resorts St. Moritz and Zermatt in the Swiss Alps.

 

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Shongololo Express

Are you up for an adventure in the African mainland? Then you may want to experience the rich and exotic natural beauty of Africa.

And, what better way than hopping on one of the affordable trains rides in Africa, and indulge in viewing the diverse wildlife of Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia.

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Trans Siberian Railway

As the Shongololo takes you across the Victoria Falls, the Trans Siberian Railways takes you through the Lake Baikal in Russia. It offers a 14 days train ride from Vladivostok and Moscow.

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Maharaja Express

You’ll feel like a royal the moment you step into the traditionally decorated cabins of The Maharaja Express. It gives you a taste of the elegant Rajasthani Royalty, while you wind through the golden sand dunes of the Thar Desert in India.

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Train to the Clouds

It is aptly named the Train to the Clouds as it is one of the highest trains in the world. It makes it way through the mountainous landscape of Andes.

Let your heart skip a beat by taking one of the dangerous train rides in the world.

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California Zephyr

A kaleidoscope of scenery is what you see when you board California Zephyr. It provides you the diverse natural beauty of Western Coastal America.

The train route takes you through the Rockies, Sierra Nevada range, and the Pacific Coast.

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13 Best Destinations To Enjoy A Unique Tea Experience

There are only a few places around the Earth where the Tea plantations thrive. And most of the Tea plantations are in the East. If you want to taste something exquisite, these 13 unique tea destinations will live up to your expectations.

A Tea Plantation is not just about the green leaves sprouting, but the surrounding valleys (and the methods used to make it) play a significant role in luring travelers.

DARJEELING, INDIA

When the word tea is on the tip of my tongue, I can’t help but think of Darjeeling. The mighty views of Mount Kanchenjunga offer a stunning backdrop for the Tea Valleys in Darjeeling. Some of the popular tea plantations are Happy Tea Valley Estate, Glenburn Tea Estate, and Tirrihannah Tea Garden.

SRI LANKA

Ceylon Tea is one of the world’s finest tea that is grown in Sri Lanka. The humidity, cool temperatures, and rainfall of the country’s central highlands provide a climate that favors the production of high-quality tea.

These tea is popular in England and the Middle East. The tea industry was first introduced in 1867 by James Taylor, a British tea planter who arrived in Sri Lanka in 1852.

ASSAM, INDIA

North Eastern India abounds in valleys, and the weather here is conducive for nurturing tea plants. Assam is one of the seven sisters which has numerous Tea Plantations like the Rajmai Tea Garden (which has a beautiful pond), Socklatinga Tea Garden, and Baruah Tea Garden.

MUNNAR, INDIA

When we are talking about India, it is not just the North Eastern states that are rich in tea plantations. But the Southern States have enough hilly regions to support vibrant tea gardens.

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate is one of the best places not only to experience the Tea plants but also to see the sun rise behind the hills. There are small tea stalls on the way up the hill, do taste a cuppa tea here in the early morning.

KYOTO, JAPAN

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In the little town of Wazuka, there are about 300 families who come together to take care of the Obubu Tea Farm near Kyoto. There are many ways to tweak up your tea experience here.

If you want you can take up tea internship, or you can visit during spring when the Geisha Dance Festival – Miyako Odori takes place.

MAINLAND CHINA

Green Tea in Mainland China

The Yunnan, Fujian, and Zhejiang tea tours are some of the best you get in China. You will find plenty of tea houses and shops to entertain your tea passion. Yunnan Tea Market and Jinan tea Wholesale market are places which follow Chinese tradition.

It means you can walk into any shop and take a free sip of tea. And if you like it, then buy some.

DA YU LING, TAIWAN

The tea plantations in Taiwan are closing up rapidly. And Da Yu Ling area is a must visit for every tea lover. You see the Taiwanese high mountain teas up close and also get an enchanting view of the mountains. But you ought to keep up your energy as hiking and trekking will drain your energy.

MALAYSIA

Malaysia has some world class and award-winning tea estates that you should visit if you are a true tea connoisseur. Tea was likely introduced to Malaysia by Chinese traders and it has been since enjoyed by Malaysians for hundreds of years.

The majority of Malaysian tea is produced in the Cameron Highlands region, sometimes referred to as Malaysia’s “Green Bowl”. It’s located about 3.5 hours from Kuala Lumpur by a car and is situated on the scenic Titiwangsa Mountain Range, which is also a popular destination for it’s scenic beauty.

HAWAII

 

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Hawaii offers you a tropical tea experience. There are some classy hotels here which have a brand name that revolves around tea. The Modern Honolulu and The Halekulani provide a power-packed three-course meal which heroes tea.

Be it tea sandwiches or scones, everything served has a taste of tea.

ENGLAND


Even though Europe is not great in the production of tea, The British have inculcated a 5’o clock tea habit. There is a myriad of hotels which bring you a Typical 5’o clock British Tea Experience.

One such place is Tea and Cake London by Zena Alkayat where there are 80 rooms to make your tea visit formal and perfect.

MOROCCO


Morocco never fails to surprise me, and in the Tea Department also it has got a secret weapon in its arsenal. Tea in Morocco is generally a man’s duty. The man of the house prepares the tea, and that custom runs in most of the families.

Mint Tea is like water to the Moroccans. It is customary to drink 2-3 cups of Mint tea before having a meal.

AUSTRALIA

Unlike Europe, Australia has a long history related to Tea. And there are loads of farms for you to visit. You can take a tour of the factory in Nerada Tea plantation or join in the Devonshire Tea feast.

Another place on your list should be Tea Estate Madura which is the one and only Tea Estate in Australia.

VANCOUVER, CANADA

It is hard and nearly impossible to grow tea in the freezing temperatures of Canada. Still, there is a farm in Vancouver called just the “Tea Farm.”

Growing tea plants is in an experimental phase. But you can visit, and see history made before your eyes as it is the first such place in Canada.

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Gangtok Tales: The City of Snowy Peaks (Part 2)

North Sikkim was awesome sauce, and when I was wondering what I would do on the next day of my trip, I got a call from my guide. He was a kind friend, and he recommended we visit South Sikkim that day. According to him, South Sikkim was a lot more beautiful than North Sikkim; I had to agree because I hadn’t seen it. It was time to remedy that.

ADVENTUROUS ROADS TO TEMI

A three-hour long drive took me to the mountain where Temi Tea garden sits. India is diverse, you know? At one place there is black soil, and nothing grows, whereas at the another place conifers rise towards the sky.

Coming from a place where 40 degrees Celsius is a standard temperature, seeing this mountain felt like heaven. We drove higher and higher up the mountain, and then we came to the Temi Tea Garden. It was massive, and when you see the clouds kiss the vibrant green shrubs, it is heavenly. It is here that my sister stepped out and bought flowers, they weren’t from a high-end shop, but a street vendor. They were a pretty orange East-American flower (as the vendor named it).

After wandering through the valleys of tea gardens, and seeing the Swiss looking lands, we were on our way to another hill. Hill hopping is common here, so there we went to our next stop – The Samdruptse.

THE CLOUDS OF SAMDRUPTSE

I will tell you; I have never been up in the mountains. So, walking or breathing at such a height was a chore for me. It is a miracle that I did not faint somewhere in the valleys.

The height took its toll when we reached the hill of Samdruptse; I wasn’t able to control my breathing. On the internet, you might see that the height is 4,000 odd feet, but the actual height here is 7,150 feet. That is the highest I had ever been. You need to let your body catch up with the atmosphere before you get going.

The giant statue of Guru Padmasambhava is here. There is also a temple beneath, where you can find the stairs to the top. You can click pictures from the statue where the view is magical. You can see the clouds floating between the valleys, and in the midst of it all is the magnificent statue of Guru Padmasambhava.

 

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THE STUNT AGAIN

Other than seeing the huge statue, and greeting the clouds, I also did something daringly stupid here. Most of the monuments in Sikkim get heavy protection.

And before entering the temple, I sat outside one of the high steps of Samdruptse, as you can see in the pic. You know what happened? Don’t even get me started.

I was just sitting there, ready with my sunglasses on when the Army guard charged in. I had no clue what I did wrong, and he was there charging towards me like an angry bull. He yelled “Yaha Nahin, Neeche!” meaning “ Not here, Get down!” And if I had not been scared out of my wits I would have taken some time to admire that fine frame of an army man. But I jumped down as fast as I could and ran into the temple.

CHAR DHAM AND BABA MANDIR

I am not a religious person. I do believe in God.  And religion, not so much. So, when my guide turned the steering wheels towards Char Dham, I was like “Stop Right There!” But he said that it was one of the best places in South Sikkim, and as a tourist, I should not miss it for the world.

There we went to the place where I did not want to go. Arriving at the site did not elicit any excitement in me. I took a chance and went straight ahead to the ticket counter. When I saw it was all about temples, I skipped the tickets. Instead, I stood just in front of the Char Dham and clicked this splendid picture which encases all the four dhams (the four temples).

Again when my guide parked the car at Baba Mandir, I groaned, I thought we were done with temples. Apparently not. Yet when I stepped into the Baba Mandir a strange kind of peace descended on me. It was so peaceful in here.

There were two floors of the temple. The picture above shows the ground floor where you can offer your prayers. On the first floor, there is a priest who offers you holy water. I didn’t go close to him, but my sister did. The thing I loved about the Baba Mandir was its ceiling. It had the galaxy painted on it, and it looked marvelous, to say the least.

DANGER JUNKIES

If you ask me what I liked most about my trip to South Sikkim, my answer will be – The Roads! There are few places to visit in South Sikkim. But for a girl who has seen nothing except drought lands – the serene mountains were like manna for the starved.

We drove through roads which had stiff bends with no warning of what was coming from the other side. It was scary; it was thrilling. On our way back, I didn’t want it to end. From the look on my face, my guard knew my mood.

He proposed I get out of the car, and enjoy the view because it was the last I would get of the City of Snowy Peaks. Out I went, the clouds sailing up the mountains, me trying my hands (and legs) at rock climbing, and me sitting in a depressed pose at the valley divided by Teesta River, this adventure was about to come to an end.

À BIENTÔT

The next day, as my car went downhill, it felt like I was leaving a part of me behind. I was also taking so many parts of the places I visited home with me. It wasn’t a goodbye it was À Bientôt, until we meet again. So, I haven’t even deleted the number of my guides. “Until next time,” I said to them and until the next time it will be. Cheers to the City of Snowy Peaks.

 

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Gangtok Tales: The City of Snowy Peaks (Part 1)

Ever thought that roaming around is tiring? For me, it wasn’t until I encountered altitude sickness that I began to agree. I was on my way to Gangtok from Darjeeling when the height of 6,700 ft. caught up to me.

I advise that you fill your tummy before you get in a car for Gangtok because if you aren’t full you are going to get super-sick. It is also going to take away the pleasure of watching the glorious scenes unfold before you if you feel ill.

SLEEP AND SHOPPING

After three and a half hours of journeying, I finally reached my destination. And whereas my Darjeeling’s home stay was a delight to stay in, in Gangtok I got a stinky room at that same price.

My whole day was all about sleep, sleep, and sleep. But even though my hotel room was stinky, it had a convenient location. It was just on the M. G. Marg. Since it is the market area, when the shopping fairy hits you, you can go and shop anytime.

That is what I did during my first day at Gangtok. Sleep and shopping. It was time to get some rest, as the next day I was heading out to see the North Sikkim, and it was going to be exciting!

PEAKS AND RUMTEK

On May 2nd, my guide Pravin and I set out for a long drive to North Sikkim. My first stop was at the Hill View Point, from here I saw the mighty peaks of K2 as well as Annapurna. It is a joy to see the highest peaks of the world laden with snow.

The Hill View Point was on my way to the Rumtek Monastery, which is one of the largest in Asia. It has the Dharma Chakra Center and is also home to the Golden Stupa. Vehicles do not go to the Monastery.

You need to walk half of a kilometer uphill before you see the face of the Monastery. Do not forget to bring identification with you because it is mandatory.

I was the first tourist to visit that day. Since it was off season and I was pretty early I had the monastery all to myself. You can see in the picture below the Hall of the Monastery. On the right-hand side, there is a signboard which reads – “Way to the Golden Stupa.”

THE STUNT

From here, I climbed and reached the Stupa. The Military Guards are at the doors of the Golden Stupa, and there will always be a monk inside. There is a signboard indicating No Cameras, but I sneaked in my cell phone.

Once you step into the room, you are going to think “What is this?” But then the monk comes in and switches on the light. That is when you see the glittering Golden Stupa. And by Golden I mean Golden, there are all kinds of riches in there. You can see it through the glass. Alas! You can’t touch it.

I took all kinds of risks to click a picture of the Golden Stupa. So, the picture is kind of blurry. After my daring stunt at the Stupa, I went to the Nalanda Institute, which is one of the first in the world.

 

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WATERFALLS OF SIKKIM

One of the top tourist destination in Sikkim is the Ban Jhakri Water Falls. Unlike the Monastery, the Ban Jhakri waterfalls were overloaded with tourists. 

Many of them were hung on tight harnesses, trying to cross the rope bridges across the waterfalls. And even though, I can dare a photograph in a Military secured zone, I shun water. So, crossing the rope bridge was a no-go.

But I did something interesting. I wore the traditional Sikkimese dress and clicked pictures with my sister. And as you can see I totally look like a typical Sikkimese Woman in the pic, don’t I?

CLOUDY PEAKS

It was past lunch time at the falls, and I was super hungry. We set out to the Tashi View Point because my guide told us it is where we could eat lunch. Sadly, the only thing available there was pineapple.

The view of Kanchenjunga from the Tashi View mount is stunning. Luck wasn’t on our side though, the clouds shrouded the peaks and even the afternoon sun did nothing to blast it away. Yet, I viewed all the other peaks that were visible to my glassed eyes.

THE HOWL

After seeing the best zoo in India, Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, I wasn’t sure I would like the Sikkim Zoological Park. But mate! I was wrong. Where PNZP is man-made and skilfully organized, Sikkim Zoo is wild and untamed.

I loved the raw, untamed beauty of the park. You have to walk around in the woods to see the animals. It feels surreal. First on the list was the common leopard, then came the cute red Pandas followed by a leopard cub.

I was on my way strolling alongside my sister when I heard a deafening howl. We were on our way to see the Himalayan Wolf. But after following the directions, we reached a point where the road was blocked with a sign “Himalayan Wolf Under Treatment.”

That was when we heard the howl again. You can well imagine, walking through the woods on a snowy day and hearing the howl of an ailing wolf. It still gives me chills.

FLOWERY DELIGHT

A long day of sight seeing was coming to an end and my guide wanted it to be special. So he took me to the yearly flower exhibition that takes place in Gangtok. I have very little knowledge about flowers. But what can I say? They are pretty.

ROPEWAY DARE

I have a long list of fears, and the top on the list is water, in the second place is heights. I even fear taking escalators. But it was a trip where I wanted to try new things. So, I took the chance and rode the ropeway.

The view of the mountains beside and the city below was astounding. You can see the picture of the city below. We rode until we reached Deorali, flying over the traffic and through the valley. And after riding 20 minutes on the ropeway, I thought “Heights can be beautiful.”

So, that is how my second day at Gangtok came to an end, with me fighting my fears. That is what traveling does friends; it frees you.

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Darjeeling Travel: Tales From City Of Hills (Part 3)

My eyes were closed, but all I could think of was when was I going to see the sunrise at Tiger Hills. As soon as my Alarm went off at 3:30 am, I got ready to hop in the car and ride to the Tiger Hills, Darjeeling.

I arrived there at around 4:30. It was freezing out there. I have seen winters in my town. But this chilly was out of the world. What can I say, they are closer to the Himalayas! The vegetation here is Alpine as well.

SUNRISE AT THE TIGER HILLS

I forgot to wear my gloves, and my fingers became dead. It was a miracle that I was able to click the pictures. Sunrise at the Tiger Hills is all about luck; you see the sun or the clouds will shadow the rise.

The picture you see above, where the sky is orange-red, is taken when the sun is about to rise.

And after the sunrise, you can see the glowing yellow ball of light amidst the clouds. It was surreal to see the sun play hide and seek with the watchers. I have a video made of it; it is funny how the sun showed up when I asked it to *winks*.

GETTING DOLLED UP

Just after watching the sunrise, we headed towards the Batasia Loop. The traffic on the way back was horrible. We reached the loop at around 8. It is an Eco- Garden, where there is the track for the famous Toy Train of Darjeeling.

In the morning you can’t see the Toy Train travel on the tracks. But at least you can see the War Memorial and get dressed up in traditional tea picking dress.

The vendors charge 50 INR for one costume. And if you hand them your camera, they can click your pictures. You don’t need to hire a photographer to click your pic because they will charge 100 INR.

After all the hustle and bustle of the Batasia Loop, we headed straight to our hotel to eat our breakfast. A short break and we were ready to start our Day Trip around Darjeeling.

RISKY DRIVE & A QUIET GARDEN

Driving in the hills is dangerous, but it is also deadly, and I did not know it. My driver was a guy named Naren, who was a kickass driver.

When I got scared of descending 6,000 ft below, he was so thoughtful. He pulled over and clicked some pics of me, then he put on his sunglasses and said “ Don’t Worry!” in that cute, weird North Eastern Accent.

All throughout the drive, my heart was in my throat. I finally reached my destination, the Ganga Maya Park. It was quite unlike any tourist destination, and there were little to no visitors. I roamed around and clicked some beautiful pictures in the Hilly Forests.

At the end of the park was a waterfall, not just a waterfall, there was also a reservoir below it. As I was on a trip of changing myself, I thought to take a risk. To be honest, I don’t know how to swim, I am super- freaked out when I see a lot of water. You can call it hydrophobia, but I call it “fear of drowning.”

But I took the chance and booked a boat and paddled my way around the tank. I didn’t feel a twinge of fear, I was a bit apprehensive in the start, but later I enjoyed the ride. The waterfall from up close was beautiful.

 

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OVER-RATED TOURIST SPOTS

If you ever visit Darjeeling, you will know that Rock Garden is one of the overrated destinations here. I was excited to visit it as I heard it is made of rock.

But once I saw it, I was disappointed. The crowds filled every level of the park. And you hike and hike from one level to the other to see nothing except the made up scenery. I personally did not enjoy my time here. You can see my pic, do I look happy? Duh no!

ANIMALS AND MOUNTAINEERING

The other most hyped spots here are the Zoo and the HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute). My next destination was the Zoo. As a kid, I had never been to one. So this was my first time, and my *inner-11 year old* just squealed at the prospect of seeing Leopards and Tigers.

The cages at the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park are huge. It is designed that way to make the animals feel at home. There were different kinds of Animals here, ranging from snow leopard to yaks. It was a joy to watch them.

Just next to it was the HMI. It is a mecca for the hiking enthusiasts. It not only has all the amenities to train the Mountaineers but it also has a superbly equipped museum. Cameras are a no-no inside the museum. So you cannot click pictures. But inside the museum, you get to see the gears used by famous mountaineers like Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary.

TEA AND PEACE

After a long day of sightseeing, my legs were sore, and my back sprained. Still, we had places to go. The tea garden we went to was one of the biggest in Darjeeling. The estate was huge, I just took a few steps around and soaked in the beautiful scenery. Just outside the estate, there is a stall which sells Darjeeling Tea.

They gave me tea; I tasted it. And then I bought four gigantic packets of Darjeeling tea. And as I am writing this, I am drinking tea made from those leaves.

The last stop was the best – the Peace Pagoda. Before my trip, I saw the Peace Pagoda in pictures and I dreamt about seeing the Peace Pagoda in person. When I saw it with my own eyes, the pictures did not do it any justice.

It is like a creamy white cake perched amidst the coniferous trees. If you want you can visit the Japanese temple, which comes before it. But I skipped that part and went straight for the Peace Pagoda.

It has three levels, and the top level has the “Parikrama.” It is on the third level that you see the various phases of Lord Buddha’s Life sculpted around the Golden Dome. It was gorgeous just seeing the sunshine on the sculptures at the highest man-made point in Darjeeling.

 

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Darjeeling Travel: Tales From City of Hills (Part 2)

The Darjeeling hill station story continues in this next chapter of Darjeeling travel diary. The City of Hills is a hidden paradise full of natural beauty and serenity all around.

I could not sleep the first night because I had luggage to look after. But still, I was refreshed and all set to hit the road. Taxis were waiting in the parking lot of the station. You can simply go up to the drivers and ask around for one who is going to your location.

SILIGURI TO DARJEELING

I choose a guy who was decent looking but Ohh Boy! It took him about an hour to fill up the taxi. Then we finally started the long awaited journey. We drove through Military bases and it was unlike any experience I ever had.

  On my way to the Military Base near Darjeeling

ROADS OF THE HILLS

After driving through the military base, we started our ascent. I had never seen how a city on the hill looks. But once we started ascending, the sight was just “wow.” In the picture below you can see the road that we used to climb higher and higher into the hills.

Roads cut on Hills”

Just at the middle of the mountain we stopped and had breakfast. This was the first time I got a look at the wooden houses which are popular in Hill stations. The little Dhaba (hotel) where we had our breakfast in is in the picture below. Isn’t it cute?

A Cute Little Dhaba

After breakfast, we ascended again, and reached, 6,700 ft above the ground level. The town of Darjeeling is dolled up for everyone to see, there are flower pots decorated in each and every house. Nothing looks prettier than the wooden houses adorned with varieties of flowers. I had kept my GPS on, so when I reached my hotel, I asked my driver to drop me there.

All the taxis head to the Chowrastha or the Market area. But you can ask the driver to drop you at your hotel if it is on the way. After hours of sitting in a jam-packed car, it was hard for me to carry my luggage and climb to my hotel. That is when I learned the first lesson of Hill Station tourism: you have to climb a lot.

Climbing is like walking here. And those who don’t have strong legs will get toned legs if they live here for a month.

 

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THE COMFY HOMESTAY

I stayed at a homestay which I booked online. It was only my second online booking, so I had some doubts. But once I took a look at the hotel my hopes sunk. It wasn’t like I was expecting a 5-star, but I thought at least, no harm in looking for a hotel, right?

I was told to wait, as my room wasn’t ready yet. Then walked in the owner, and I was struck by her beauty. Shoyeta introduced herself and asked if I would care for some coffee. My hopes were dashed, but a coffee sounded heavenly.

A Hot Cup of Darjeeling Coffee

As soon as I said yes to the coffee, the receptionist showed me to my room. And Oh-boy! I was totally wrong. My room gave me a spectacular view of the mountain ranges, and it was more than comfy. The tiny coffee mugs, with all the Sikkimese prints, looked beautiful.

SPINNING CYLINDERS AT DALI

Day one in Darjeeling was uneventful by far, except the lucky room I got. In the afternoon though, I couldn’t sit still. I headed to the nearby Monastery – Dali. It was just a 5-minute walk from my hotel. At the time I visited, about 3:30 pm, there were no tourists around to block the views or photo bomb my pictures.

The High Flag of Dali

Dali was empty, except for the massive furry giants moving everywhere. The dogs here may look scary, but they are harmless. I roamed free in the monastery, and also went to the prayer room. There was an old lady there who was adorable; she let me spin the giant cylinders in the room.

On my way back, I sat in the coffee shop at the monastery. The coffee was from a coffee machine- nothing fancy. However, you get to sit in the open and have a stunning view of the Darjeeling town. After my coffee, I headed back from the Monastery.

My next stop was the Chowrastha market. Even though it is summer in India, Darjeeling is unpredictable. One moment it will be all sunny and the next you see clouds rolling in. If you are a tourist, you can get confused on where to go. I followed a girl, who shared a taxi with me. She led me to the old market, where you can get cheap woolens, cheaper outfits, and the cheapest umbrellas.

Quick tip: If you are traveling to this part of India, do buy one of these because, in Darjeeling, you can get very cold at night. Plus, your clothes won’t dry easily in a cold weather, and it rains here frequently.

JAMMING WITH A STRANGER

After a whole lot of buying, haggling, and burning a hole in my pocket, I got back to my Homestay. Once I cozied myself up with an oversized sweater (which I had bought that day for my Paa), I flipped through a book of mine – “Mrs. Funnybones.”

I couldn’t concentrate because I heard someone playing guitar. I tiptoed to the reception desk, and there he was the receptionist Amrit. He asked me to join him, and then when I made myself comfortable on the sofa, we both started hitting notes together.

I felt over-the-top happy because it was the first time in my life where I was in a strange place, with a complete stranger. Still, never in my life had I felt so free. Our jamming session came to an end when his little angel daughter popped in and asked to go to bed. That was when we bade our goodbyes. But we promised to make a video of us jamming the next day.

The Jamming Session with Amrit

I had to sleep early because the next day was going to be interesting. I was going to see the best scenery of Darjeeling, the sunrise at the Tiger Hills! I quickly filled my stomach with chicken and rice and turned off my bed lamp. The next day was going to be epic….wait for it… Dear Dairy!

Read the first installment of my Darjeeling Travel Diary (Day 1 & Day 2). Trip reports and stories from The City of Hills.

 

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Darjeeling Travel: Tales From City of Hills (Part 1)

My hometown (in Odisha, India) is not just an ordinary town, I wish it were Darjeeling but no, it has to be the town with the highest temperature in the summer. In winter you can get frostbite, in summer you can get sunstroke. Talk about the weather (lol). What can you expect at 50 degrees Celsius?

What can you expect at 50 degrees Celsius? So, this summer I planned to go to a hill station I hadn’t been before. My first choice was Kodaikanal and Ooty, which are in South India. But after scratching those options, I finally went straight to the City of Hills – Darjeeling!

DARJEELING TRAVEL DIARY

My journey started on April 27th. To say the first day of the journey was uneventful would be a big mistake. You know what happened? I had booked my tickets way ahead of time (over two months). I booked lower berths so that I could sleep well. But traveling alone in India makes people think you are helpless.

A guy who had not got his ticket confirmed asked me to change my seat and go to the upper berth. It was so annoying, yet I patiently said: “No, thanks”. He started blowing his bad breath voice louder and louder in my ears and then it started getting on my nerves. It was in the evening around 7 pm when he brought in the railway police and tried taking away my seat. But thank goodness, the Railway Police told him to grow a brain because I already had a confirmed ticket.

GIRLS FIGHT BACK

Later that night, he again picked a quarrel. Now, I was already at my breaking point. I was done being the decent girl, who was quiet as he kept misbehaving with me. I was so done with him now. As he started to quarrel, he was also getting back retorts from me.

The quarrel became so severe that the Railway police came in and helped us cool down. That guy even threatened me, so the Police stayed up all night beside me to ensure I was okay. Now, that is a benefit of being a woman in India. The police were so helpful to me. Four of them stayed close to me so that I wouldn’t face any problems.

The first night of my journey and I was already about to smash someones’ head! But the next day was so much better.

FIRST STOP: HOWRAH

I did not have a direct train to my destination. But you should know that no Hill station in India has direct trains. You need to go to the destination using a shared taxi. The next morning, April 28th, I arrived at Howrah. The weather was “oppressive.” Thankfully, my train was at 11 am, so as soon as I boarded the train, I was all good.

My first step into my compartment and I was like “Whaaaaa!?” It was full of guys, and by guys I mean a whole lot of testosterone in one place makes me uncomfortable. I went straight to my seat, and it was occupied by a gang of rowdy looking North Eastern guys.

But when I said to them it was my seat, and I needed sleep because I had a rough night they were very understanding! Even though they were a lot in number, they agreed to give me my seat and sit uncomfortably.

 

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NO SLEEP (TRAIN WAS FUN)

I wanted to sleep but I really couldn’t! Why? Because the train in which I booked my ticket was not a train but a running Super Market. All kinds of Vendors came, they sold sarees, t-shirts, watches, blankets and all kinds of food, especially the Macher Jhol (fish curry) and rice.

When I was done trying to sleep, I woke up and all the guys were giggling in front of me. They started our conversation talking about anything and everything. Our major fun started when a vendor came by. He sold water bottles and before he came near our seats he would give us an imaginary phone call and said: “Hello, Hello!” When we all started giggling, he would come nearer and sell water in all kinds of voices “Pani, PANI, Pani.” All the “Pani” were different, one shrill, one loud, one in a low bass and one falsetto.

These guys were so much fun that I didn’t even have to put on my “ tourist mask.” We laughed we talked and even shared “Paan” – the authentic beetle leaf of India. Soon came the Bridge which is built over the Padma River. I even made a video of it, you can see it on The Art of Travel Youtube Channel.

Bridge over the Padma River

MAKE FRIENDS WHEN TRAVELING

As dinner time came closer, all my packed food was exhausted. Do not blame me, I am a hardcore eater, and I eat when I am bored. So, when one of the guys saw me whining in hunger, he offered me a packet of his snacks. I know, I know, we shouldn’t eat what a stranger offers. But I was so hungry I didn’t give a thought. It was like “do or die”.

These awesome fellow passengers were too adorable for words. One offered to buy me a saree, the other tried to buy me a watch, and the other one was wise and bought me a “Paan.” All in all, my second day of traveling was eventful and fun! You rarely meet such guys in India, but I guess, I was lucky that I did.

THE CITY OF HILL

When my destination arrived, that is Siliguri aka the NJP Station, I didn’t want to leave, but adventure called. Once in the station, I had to find the resting rooms. I had to take a morning taxi to Darjeeling, as nobody drives to Darjeeling from Siliguri at night. That is why I had booked resting rooms online at the NJP Station.

New Jalpaiguri or Siliguri Railway Station

The Railway Police here are helpful and they guided me to the rooms. After two tiring days of travel, I wanted a clean bed. That is exactly what I got. The room was clean, the bed made, clean sheets and the adjoining bathroom was also in good condition.

I breathed a sigh of relief as my head hit the pillow. The next morning when I would see the Hills of my dreams was yet to come. Darjeeling, here I come!

Read next: Darjeeling Travel Diary (Day 3 & Day 4). Trip reports and stories from the City of Hills.

 

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Trip To Puri: An Odishan Odyssey

The roaring waves of Bay of Bengal engulf the golden sands, and beside it blows the flag of Jagannath Temple. Stepping on the soft sands of Puri beach is like experiencing Nirvana. Puri is a pilgrimage, that is why it is abundant in ancient stone temples.

Trip To Puri

When I planned my trip to Puri, it was on a whim. But as it was off-season, I did not face any difficulty in finding tickets or hotels. If you travel to India and want to take a look at some of the old traditions, then Puri is a refreshing place to go. It is not just about an overload of temples, but also the rejuvenating beaches.

THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS

As I live in Western Odisha, it was no biggie for me to reach Puri. I took the train Sambalpur-Puri Intercity Express (18303), which leaves at 6 in the morning. According to me, the best way of exploring India is through the Indian railways. That is why I enjoyed my train journey.

There were many bridges, over the Mahanadi River on which the train went. Along with the watery delights, you see the landscape change from arid to coconut tree studded. If you start from Delhi, then the journey becomes too long. So take a flight to Bhubaneswar, from there reach the railway station or the bus station.

There are regular trains from Bhubaneswar to Puri, but the City Bus service is better (frequent and fast).

My train took me directly to Puri, so I did not have to change trains or buses. But if your route is via Bhubaneswar (60 Km from Puri) then you need to board a train or Bus. It costs just Rs 20 – Rs. 30.

ACCOMMODATION IN PURI

There are many hotels along the Beach, that you get confused on which one to pick. I recommend you download the Goibibo app while you tour India because it offers you hotels at half the price of what you pay at the desk. Toshali Sands, Mayfair Hotels are the brand names in Puri, but they are a helluva expensive.

If $150/day is okay with you then book all these high-end hotels, if not then there are many hotels with low price. I landed an amazing deal on GoIbibo-Sagar Tarang Residency is an exceptionally new property. But the services they offered was impressive at just $25/day (which is 1500 Indian Rupees per day).

Most of the hotels here have their own restaurant, the one I stayed in had one too. But it was so darned pricey! *eye rolls*. So, I did what the best in Eastern Odisha is, I tasted the “Dahi Bara” for breakfast, “Elisi Macha” for my lunch, and “Chingudi Tarkari” for my dinner.

I know, I know, you must be wondering what I am saying. Lemme clear it up in the next section.

 

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ODISHAN GOURMET

A hungry stomach is just a hindrance while sightseeing. Your hotel desk will keep calling you to take breakfast or dinner at the Restaurant. Who cares! Just a grilled Sandwich costs you Two hundred rupees. I will tell you how to survive in the same Rs. 200 throughout the day.

In walking distance from all the hotels are many street food stalls. I ended up in one, near the Chakra Tirtha Road. The man sold “Dosa”- South Indian Cuisine, “Aloo- Chop”, meaning Mashed Potato Chop, “Bread Chop” and the famous “Dahi Bara”- a curd based dish. It costs around 30-40 Indian Rupees.

After that, for lunch, there was a small restaurant (with no name) in Chakra Tirtha Road (near Mayfair Heritage) which made yummy homemade dishes. Pack the dishes, take them to your hotel room, and relish it. I packed “Elisi (special Odishan Fish Curry),” Raita (yogurt salad), Rice and Dal. It cost me hardly 200( and above all it was finger licking good).

It is here that I tasted the Prawn Pamphlet Masala the next night, and dare I say, it was bottle –worthy. If I could have bottled it up and brought home, I would have.

For Dinner, I went to the SeaGull Restaurant which rests near the SwargaDwar Market. I wolfed down a plate of Chicken Chowmein (Rs. 140 Indian). If you think it costs too much, then head to the nearby street food stalls that offer you all kinds of local cuisines.

And how can I forget the lip-smacking, drool-worthy Hyderabadi Biriyani? Take the fifth turn from Sea Gull Restaurant on Marine Drive Road; The Gopal Ballabh Road has the best Biriyani Joint – New Parijat Restaurant. It is cheap and tasty, and whether you pick it up as a take-out or have it here depends on your mood.

SUN HAS RISEN FOR YOU

Waking up in the early morning is a chore when you are tired. But the effort you give pays off when you see the sun peek out of the horizon. Wake up at four, get ready for comfy clothes then walk down to the beach.

The Swargdwar Beach is famous but crowded. So I headed to the beach of Mayfair Heritage Hotel which was at a walking distance from mine. I sat down, on the secluded beach and watched how colorfully the crimson sun kissed the horizon.

The water changes its color as the sun changes its distance from the horizon, it is amazing to witness the phenomenon. Slowly the intensity of the sun rays increases, and the cold dawn turns to warm morning.

It is fun just to sit there and get the sun-soaked, and collect the shells. But after a while, the cool waves seem tempting. Go, walk on the small waves, or better bath in the bigger ones.

If you stay here till 11 am, then some fishers go fishing at this time (they wear yellow, so it is easy to recognize them,) by launching their boats on the water.

The entire process is interesting to watch. After 11 though the rays become harsh and it is better to get back to your hotel room. (Keeping in mind at which time of the year you visit).

DRIVE ALONG THE OCEAN

Traveling alone comes with its cons as well, so when I heard about the Puri–Konark Marine Drive Road, I could not resist it. And even though I know a little about riding a bike, I took the chance. My guide, though (who was the receptionist at the front desk of my hotel), did not want me to break my leg or anything.

He took the responsibility to take me on the drive. There are three Bike rentals in Puri, but you need to book it seven days before your trip.

As I did not have the booking, we were forced to take my guide’s bike. The Puri-Konark Marine Drive Road itself takes 7 hours. But if you take the shortcuts, your journey time reduces to half, and you get to visit the Konark as well.

I did not visit the Konark Temple but I did see the Jagannath Temple of Puri where the famous Rath Yatra takes place.

SHOPPING SPREE

Shopping is every girl’s weakness (well, at least to some degree). Please do not tell me you don’t like it. My eyes always keep wandering while I am out, to spot something worthy to take home. I will tell you that Puri has a lot of mementos shop. But for hardcore shopping, it is not an appropriate place.

Before I went on my evening visit to the Beach (which I did on nearly every day of my stay), I wandered around the Swargadwar market. This market is like a puzzle, so many twists and turns that you will lose yourself. There are tiny shops, crowded with tourists and the atmosphere here is electric.

Girls, buy a handloom saree in Handloom Garden. It embodies the culture, tradition, and religion of Puri in a single piece of cloth. What more? It will make your friends jealous when you flaunt that waistline of yours with Puri Handloom Saree.

If saree is a bit too much, there are shawls also to take home with you. I collected the best memento I could- some pieces of shells from the Beach. Couldn’t have been happier with anything else.

 

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Related Posts

How To Plan A Summer Vacation In India

The Scorching summer heat in the Indian Mainland makes it unbearable to live. It is in these summer months from April- June that the majority of Indian population goes on tours to Hill stations. But when it comes to a trip for respite, I do not want to spend it in a crowded sight-seeing place.

To plan my next trip in summer, I jotted down some places where a summer stay is wonderful. And you can do so just below 10,000 INR. Keep your eyes open because the next places might be your summer rendezvous. But first, you need to make your choice.

PLAN TRIP TO YOUR BUDGET

CHOOSE DESTINATIONS


The first and foremost step to Plan a budget is to choose a destination which is near you. In this way the charges of transport reduce. For example, I planned a trip to Kodaikanal – but the travel charges were exorbitant. So, I skipped Kodai (maybe some other time, when I have money to spare), and settled for Darjeeling and Gangtok which are near to my state (Odisha). It significantly reduced my travel costs by half.

And if you want to book a/c tickets, then better go in flight because the cost is just the same.Train Ticket cost of Balangir (Boarding Station) – Coimbatore (Destination) was 635 INR (In a Sleeper class, and Rs. 1710 INR in 3A a/c. But when I changed my destination from Kodaikanal ( which is in South India, far away from my home) to East India (which is my home) my train fare is Rs. 325 INR (for Sleeper Class) and Rs. 985 INR ( for AC).

EXTRA TRAVEL CHARGES


In India, there are no direct trains to Hill stations. You have to book tickets to a nearby station and take a bus or taxi to the selected destination. Before you go, plan well and, check the followings:

1) What time does your train arrive at the destination?
2) Are there taxis, shared autos or buses available outside the station at that time?
3) What is the estimated travel cost from the station/ airport to the destination?

ACCOMMODATION


Planning a trip is tiresome, but the main headache of it is -booking a hotel. Just like online shopping, there is no guarantee whether the hotel you booked lives up to your expectation. After the travel costs, the accommodation charges consume the majority of your trip’s budget.

Hill stations are cold and damp. When you book, keep in mind to choose a hotel that provides room heater or extra blankets. Homestays are a better option as the hosts are warm and welcoming. They provide you what you require, and help you around to visit the place as well.

I booked a homestay (Pahari Soul) for my trip, and it offers majestic views of the Himalayas and home cooked meals too. If you want to squeeze your budget tight then go for homestays. There are beds available in almost every hill station- Vedanta Wake Up is a hotel chain which provides beds- 800-900 INR/night. But if you need luxury over comfort then I recommend you stick to pricey hotels which charge 2500- 8000 INR/night.

GETTING AROUND

The best way to choose a hotel that is comfortable is to look at its location. Plan your hotel location, it should be in proximity to the sightseeing places. Pahari Soul- the homestay of my choice is near to the Taxi Stand (a two-minute walk). Whenever I want to reach a sightseeing place- Peace Pagoda or Tea Garden, the taxi stand is at an arm’s reach.

There are shared autos available in India, which turns out to be an excellent way to get around. For backpackers and budget travelers, it is the most cost effective option. Others include the Public Transport- most probably the buses. But they do not take you to your required destination but instead, a bus stop, from where you need take an auto again. So, why add to the trouble?

WHAT TO EAT


Eating at the hotel you stay is seldom a good decision. The restaurants in the hotels have an expensive menu, which makes a hole in your pocket. If you want to follow a budget plan, then I suggest you stay at a hotel which has small restaurants or street food nearby.

In this way, the Biriyani you eat costs you half the amount you paid at the Hotel. The hotel in which I stayed during my Puri Trip was impeccable, but once I flipped the menu I was like- what? Who charges a 120 INR for a masala papad. So, I decided to leave the hotel premises and hunted for some good restaurants. I came across Parijat Restaurant where I had yummilicious Hyderabadi Biriyani at a dream price of 180 INR.

ENTRY FEES

After all of the primary costs of your trip gets planned or covered, move on to the other places you would want to visit. Each and every sightseeing place has an entry fee (there are many which do not have). And make a list of the places and their charges- which gives you an estimated cost. Budget Travelers better choose free things to do. But sometimes you can’t let an opportunity pass – like visiting the Nathu La. A shared cab ride costs 700 INR, which is nothing in comparison to thrill you experience.

SHOPPING


Keep aside some money, to buy mementos in the local market. A 1000-1500 INR is enough (for a shopaholic like me). But those who are on a shoestring budget – better skip this part as this is not necessary. A memento can also be a leaf pressed in your diary or a limestone rock you take from the destination.

What To Buy In India Under $10

Incredible India! It is a myriad of cultural diversity and no trip here is complete without a shopping frenzy. Every traveler wants to take back some mementos from an International trip. A trip to India can be expensive but you can be smart about shopping.

Do you know there is a lot that you can buy in India for under $10? In this blog post, I’ll share with you various items which you can buy in India.

SPICES FROM KERALA


These spices are pricey but decide on what spice you prefer the most, and take that with you. Personally, I love black pepper, and I would choose it over anything else. But whatever you fancy, head to the local shops in Kumily to get a look at the aromatic spices.

If you are in Kochi, then there are also places near Fort Kochi where you can buy Hot Indian Spices – $10 USD is more than enough for buying a small amount of each kind of spice from – cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, cloves and black pepper. If spices aren’t your thing, then buy heaps of banana chips in Kerela (available in most of the local stores).

Warning: If you do not like coconut oil, then avoid it because all the chips get fried in coconut oil here.

SIKKIMESE CUPS


These are probably the cheapest yet beautiful items you get in India. If you are in Gangtok, then head to MG Marg. Most of the stores here have the Sikkimese cups. It costs around 65- 70 INR which is a dollar or so. Some mugs are costlier as they have gold lines added to them. But the price should not vary from Rs. 120-150 INR.

There are also lids available with the cups which keep the tea or coffee warm. And if you are buying mug then buy some tea too. The famous Temi Tea of Darjeeling originated from Sikkim. The best store for buying it is the Golden Tips Tea Shop in Yangthang House, Kazi Road, Gangtok.

BLUE POTTERY OF RAJASTHAN


Blue Pottery is a Persian art of making vessels from quartz powder. Most of the figurines include jars and vases. And the figurines are semi-transparent. But the artwork on it hides its transparency. In Jaipur, there is a home of famous blue pottery artist Kripal Singh.

Singh’s shop is in Shiv Marg and his store’s name is Kripal Kumbh where you get all kinds of blue pottery structures at just Rs. 300 INR – 600 INR. That is what your budget is, right? $10 USD. Neerja in Jacob Road also specializes in Blue Pottery.

CHANIA CHOLI


This is the traditional dress of Kutch. If you are near Kutch, then many families depend solely on embroidery for their livelihood. A colorful lehenga (skirt and blouse along with a dupatta) woven intricately with mirror work. $10 is a bit less to take something as pretty as a chania choli, but you can take a scarf (dupatta) as a memento.

CURRY POWDER


India has an eclectic taste in spices, so after you buy your share of spices take some curry powder with you too. These powders are available in local Grocery stores. Everest and Badshah are the most trusted and authentic brands in India.

Their price ranges from Rs. 60- 70 INR depending on the weight of the packet. You can take the Garam Masala Powder, Meat Masala, Red Chilli Powder, Turmeric Powder, etc.

KONDAPALLI TOYS


Once you reach South India, and you visit a local’s house you see the Kondapalli Toys. These are dolls made from wood, and their heads generally bob. Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore have many stores which sell Kondapalli toys. Their cost varies from Rs. 199 – 1000 INR. Choose something cute and pretty in your budget, and bring it back home. Just don’t let the bobbing heads weird you out.

KATPUTLIS FROM RAJASTHAN


In Rajasthan “Katputli” is the Hindi word for puppet. If you visit Jodhpur, Udaipur or Jaipur, then visit the Puppet show in the area. From there you get an idea of where to buy the katputlis. Rupayan Sansthan in Jodhpur and Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal, Udaipur are organizations where the puppet shows take place.

Cost starts from 200 INR/puppet. Do not let anyone fool you by making you pay $15 USD – that is Rs. 1000 INR.

INDIAN SWEETS


If you have a sweet tooth, then India has uncountable options for you. And what more? It is inexpensive. So, unless you do not have a problem in transit, you are all good to stuff your bags with sweets. There are various types of sweets, and all these are on full display in Chandni Chowk’s Ghantewala Halwai – from Laddo to Jalebi everything is available here.

You can buy 2-3 kilos of sweet in $10. So, that is a sweet deal, isn’t it? Believe me, it is that cheap, but different sweets have a different price per kilo. Check with the shop keeper before ordering the sweets.

AYURVEDIC ITEMS


Nowadays Ayurvedic items are not that hard to find. Any shopping Mall in India has a section for Patanjali – which is most probably the leading Ayurvedic Brand in India.

No matter your requirement, Patanjali has got you covered. But do not buy any products blindly. If you have a skin problem, then buy something that meets your need.

I use the Aloe Vera gel by this brand (first I was doubtful, but now? Glowing!) So I can give you a thumbs up if you want to buy anything beauty, related to it.

The prices are low compared to other Indian Beauty Products. In $10 USD, you can buy pretty much any product of Ayurvedic nature.

CARPETS


In India, you get Varieties of fabric, color, and design in the carpet range. Kashmir is the best place to get a carpet. But if you stick to the major tourist areas like the Delhi- Jaipur then I suggest you buy from Jaipur.

Skip the Emporiums, because they have fixed prices on everything, and no bargaining works here.

But let me warn you that carpet prices are high- the sellers start at quadruple digits. Choose something in your price range – let us say 3000 INR (bargaining brings it down to Rs. 800- 900 INR).

Do your research on fabric and price ranges on online stores as well, so you do not get ripped off.

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