Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book Review: The Bogus Read by Divyamaan

Title: The Bogus Read
Author: Divyamaan
Pages: 289
Publisher: Leadstartcorp/Frog Books
Genre: Fiction

Getting the book:

I got this book back in December from the author for a review but due to my infrequent travels and impulsive planning, simply kept delaying reading the book. Although I carried it in my bag almost the entire time, this week I finally decided to pick it up and read the whole thing before I get busy again. The only thing I kept thinking the entire time that I was reading it was why I kept procrastinating for so long. It’s a superbly fun read. The title ‘The Bogus Read’ and the illustrations on the cover give the definite first understanding- this is not to be taken seriously. No ‘anti-nationalism’ intended. This is satire at its best.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Travel aficionados, visit the Heritage Transport Museum in Gurgaon

Wait, what? There is a Heritage Transport Museum in NCR? Where? Why have I never heard of it even after living in Delhi for so long?

These were the exact thoughts that went through my head when I read about the museum which was part of the itinerary of the Tigor Drive thismonth.

I checked their website and the first image that came to my notice was that of a rustic train engine at the entrance. I was sold! This place needed a visit right away. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tata Tigor Styleback Pre-Launch First Drive Experience

Last weekend I was invited to Delhi by Tata Motors and Indiblogger for driving and experiencing the brand new offering from the carmaker- the Tata Tigor. Being marketed with the keyword ‘Styleback’, the Tigor indeed has a stylish and modern look that would appeal to the youth.

The Tigors all standing at Andaz Delhi in the early morning hours. Photo: Tata Motors

The Tigor is a compact sedan and as Mr Pratap Bose, the Head of Design at Tata Motors, put it, ‘The car is aimed at consumers who are looking at upgrading from their hatchbacks but are not willing to go into the premium sedan category.’

Friday, March 24, 2017

6 Trending Places Indians can go backpacking on budget

If there is huge growth of one set of travellers in India right now, it is the young backpackers. The ones who simply want to pick up the backpack and leave for a budget holiday with just a basic plan in place. Here I enlist 6 popular backpacking destinations from India and abroad which are in vogue among Indians right now and definitely on my to-do list:

1. Ladakh

A lot has already been said and written about Ladakh in a very short span of time. The unspoilt valleys, the barren mountains, the vast fields, the blue lakes - a place which was almost undiscovered and beyond budget less than 10 years ago, is now already on its way to getting too commercialized. But hey, there is still time! It’s still not one of the cheapest places to visit, nor very easily accessible. But backpacking? Yes, you ought to do that.

Getting there: One can fly in and out of Leh directly. Flights are cheap in the off season. During the peak season, the prices can be notoriously high. Flying in through Srinagar and roadtripping via Kargil and Drass is a better option and also helps in gradual acclimatization. Take the Manali-Leh highway  if you like.

Best Time to Visit: May-August (June-July is the peak season) Winters are too harsh.

Landscapes like these dominate every view of Ladakh

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Traveler’s Odyssey: Meeting Strangers

When he decided to go on a trip with a random group of people, he had no clue what to expect or how things might turn out to be. ‘It would be a new experience’, he had imagined and ventured out without a second thought. Weeks later when he took the train back home, all he could think of was the time spent together with this random group of people and how surprisingly well they had managed to forge a bond.

“What has she studied?”

“What do his parents do?”

And similar questions his mom asked him when he told her about achievements of this random group of people. He had answers to none of them. ‘Why is knowing these things even important?’  he thought and was certain they all would have the same thought. 

Thursday, March 09, 2017

The Post Office in Thimphu, Bhutan

Did you know you can get featured on a postage stamp in Bhutan? Yes, one which is legally valid and can be used for sending letters or postcards!

Receiving a postcard with a postage stamp with your photo on it- can there be a better feeling for any philately enthusiast?

Thimphu, the capital city of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, is unique in lot of ways. It is the only capital city which doesn’t have a single traffic light. The buildings- be it a roadside café or the best hotels- they are all intricately designed. I was in awe of the architecture of the entire country as soon as I first saw it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

How to avoid sea sickness even in mild sea

Before we went on the Lakshadweep cruise trip, the term ‘sea-sickness’ had meant something very vague in my head. For some reason I used to put in the league of ‘homesick’ when I should have put it with ‘motion-sickness’. So a few days before the trip, Google came to my rescue and I read about this menace.

‘Carry medicines and you should be fine,’ came the unanimous response from every web page. Even I wondered how difficult could this possibly be.

It’s one thing to think it’s going to be easy and another to actually face it.

When we set sail on-board MV Kavaratti from Kochi, initially the excitement didn’t let any other thought enter the mind. But soon enough we were to realise what being sea-sick actually meant. Our body takes time to adjust to the swaying motion of the ship. Usually while smooth sailing, the ship doesn’t move much. But in case there are winds and the weather isn’t good, the ship can sway very highly (as we experienced on the last day on board).

‘The weather is great, so it is highly unlikely to get sick. But in case you do, don’t worry. Soon enough your body will adjust to the motion and you will be fine tomorrow,’ Jafar had told us during the briefing on Day 1.

My mom was the most badly affected and we had to get her the strongest tablets from the hospital on-board. The medical staff seemed prepared for this and was distributing the tablets without much questioning.

I have huge motion-sickness, but probably the excitement of being on a ship was psychologically making sure I don’t get sea-sick. (I did feel a little nauseous though and had negligible food on-board while the ship was sailing from that day. You should have seen the huge amount of tasty food that was wasted on that first night- thanks to everyone realising that eating wasn’t easy)

Here are some of the precautions and remedies I feel would help you out in case of sea-sickness. These are all from my experience of those 5 days in the ship and so may or may not work for everyone.

  1. If you usually have motion sickness, you are more likely to get sea sick.
  2. Usually the first day would be bad; then your body would get used to the motion of the ship; there is no guarantee though. My mom remained affected on all days through the trip.
  3. If you are feeling sea-sick, eat less and avoid milk products.
  4. Take medicines, don't avoid them thinking you would be okay if you fall asleep. It just might make the situation worse. Take the doctor’s advice.
  5. A cabin in the centre of the ship is less affected than one on either the front or back ends; similarly the lower the level of the cabin, the lesser the effect of the movement of the ship.
  6. Fresh air is a big saviour, try and get out of your cabin, the fresh air hitting the face helps.
  7. So does staring out at the horizon. I think it helps in making your brain understand the relative motion which isn’t visible inside the ship.
  8. The smaller the ship, the larger the effect of motion and hence more chances of falling sea sick. Go on the Harmony of the Seas hoping no sea-sickness can affect you because it’s so huge.
  9. Don't go to sleep immediately after a meal. It might increase the tendency to throw up.
  10. Sleep with your head facing the forward direction of the ship.
  11. Keep yourself involved in activities. Sea sickness like motion sickness is to a certain level psychological. Staying distracted and not thinking about your churning stomach helps. Just enjoy the experience of being in the middle of nowhere, with water all around, the magical feeling might just keep you occupied and distracted and away from sea-sickness.

I was feeling a little nauseous and so was sitting on the stairs of the top deck of the ship on the second night. And to keep myself distracted, believe it or not, I was writing pointers for this post. My sister clicked a picture of the moment too!

Sitting on the deck of MV Kavaratti, noting down pointers for this post, to avoid getting sea sick. September 2016
And remember, sea-sickness is very normal. Since our bodies are not used to keep swaying with the sea waves, it affects us. And it affects a huge number of people out there. So there is nothing to worry. Don’t let it ruin your dream cruise vacation!

If you have some more recommendations on how to avoid sea sickness, do let me know in the comments below.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

You don’t always need a plan in life

I have always been a person with a well decided plan- Be it what's tomorrow's agenda or what I will be doing in the coming months. While heading for a trip, I would have each and every day's itinerary chalked out- where to stay, options of things to do, the possible commute and so on. Because of how much it worries me, I can never be without a plan, or so I thought until recently.

This past month saw me traveling and going on trips I never planned for. I have been on the road for almost the entire month. All the trips were impulsive and were decided at the spur of the moment. There was never enough time to book confirmed tickets and return tickets were not even given the slightest thought. But the month that has gone by has been crazily memorable.

Kayaking at Dandeli. A few minutes after this my friends thought it would be fun to throw me into the water when I was not even wearing the life jacket (and I don't know swimming). It was fun!

Running on the highway to catch my bus in Mumbai, climbing boulders in historic Hampi, getting dunked in the waters at Dandeli Sanctuary, witnessing the pristine beaches and sunset at Gokarna, conversations till the wee morning hours at the Thalassa beach in Goa and then returning to Mumbai only to start another unplanned trip in less than a week. Clicking photos in front of random colourful buildings in Pondicherry and then sitting by the sea under the full moon, staying over for 3 days in Chennai to see the city and spending all the time talking, playing and at the end bidding emotional goodbyes to people who also decided to stay back. Finally visiting Bangalore, travelling in the upper expensive city bus after figuring out the coding of the bus numbers and staying with friends without informing my relatives in the city until the very last day when it was their anniversary and I arrived at the doors with a cake in hand. The month has seen me witness innumerable goodbyes and emotional farewells at various railway stations and airports…

Friday, February 10, 2017

Scuba Diving in Lakshadweep’s Coral Islands- When I Walked on the Seabed

Scuba diving was perhaps the most difficult to accomplish adventure I always had in mind before it became a reality few months back. It actually turned out to be pretty easy when I got to do it. And you can do it too without even knowing how to swim.

Scuba diving was perhaps the one experience I was looking forward to most, after the ‘travelling on a cruise’ bit, during our LakshadweepTrip. There was as much anxiety as there was excitement. I have never been a very water friendly person, but my interest in everything adventurous starting from rafting in Rishikesh back in May 2011, made sure experiencing scuba diving went into my adventure travel bucket list. I didn’t really care where I did it, as long as I did it.

After having missed scuba on Kavaratti Island, thanks to apprehension, I was first in line at Kadmat Island the next day to enquire about the dive. Kadmat, as per what I had read online, is one of the best dive locations in India. Sadly, there was no dive happening that day due to low visibility. I did snorkel in the beach there, and I would realise the next day that this was going to be of huge help.

Am I on camera under water? Scuba diving in Lakshadweep Islands
The next day on Kalpeni Island, I enrolled myself at the dive centre and filled out the mandatory form that I love calling ‘death warrant’. We were a total of 10-12 people going for the dive.

The instruction session began at the dive centre by PADI certified divers. This was not a certificate programme and we were to follow complete instructions of our guides. They were going to be the ones who control the pressure in the cylinder and take us around underwater. We simply had to follow their instructions, indicate in case there was a worry, and enjoy the views.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Hampi-Dandeli-Gokarna (and Goa): The Tale of a Crazy Roadtrip with Strangers

Indian Bloggers

Two months ago I had gone to Bhutan with This Guy’s On His Own Trip’s Neeraj Narayanan. The trip had been a crazy beginning of things and probably will remain etched in my memories forever. This time three of us- Jyoti, Lavanya and I- from the Bhutan and Darjeeling gang were joining him for the Republic Day long weekend’s Hampi-Dandeli-Gokarna group trip. 18 people, 4 days, 3 destinations, a roadtrip and a lot of crazy adventures.

Running in the middle of the highway

My bus for Hampi was scheduled to leave at 5.40 PM from Goregaon on the eve of Republic Day. Having taken a lot of outstation buses in the last one year, I was standing at the exact spot where the buses stop on the highway. Tracking the bus the entire time on GPS, a few minutes after the scheduled time I saw the bus approaching. Instead of stopping, it continued its journey over the Aarey flyover, unfazed, without caring that it was increasing my heartbeat with every moment and bringing in anxious ‘I missed my bus’ thoughts. I stood dazed wondering how this could be happening for real.

The group at the ruins of Hampi. Photo: Ishpreet

In the next 30 seconds, the emergency helpline calmly informed me over phone that the bus would stop on the other end of the flyover and I should hurry to catch it. As the afternoon sun blared in all its glory and one after the other auto-rickshaws turned down my request citing the just one-kilometre distance, I helplessly ran in the middle of the highway amidst the traffic, my suitcase in tow, sweating profusely and telling the conductor to wait for me. As I neared the bus a grin spread across my face- Not because I wasn’t missing the bus after all, but because I knew a crazy trip had just begun. It was a sign of things yet to come.

Friday, February 03, 2017

A Dreamy Sail aboard MV Kavaratti- Cruise to Lakshadweep

In just about 4 hours of being on board MV Kavaratti, I had gone around exploring the entire ship even before it could start sailing. I was already in love with the experience. Read here.

Around 3 PM, the ship finally started its journey from the port. The entire process of getting undocked and into the main waters took a long time. A smaller vessel first pulled the ship away from the dock and then turned it 180 degrees around so that the nose of the ship faced the open waters. Then slowly the cruise moved away from Willingdon Island and towards the Arabian Sea. Almost all the tourists seemed to be up here on the top deck to see the entire procedure. The blazing heat of the sun was disregarded as fascination took over.

MV Kavaratti stands in the middle of the Arabian Sea at Lakshadweep

We crossed many ships standing at the huge port. None of them were bigger than ours for sure, although some looked classier. I had never seen so many cruise ships so close before this day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

11 Pictures from the Sunset Cruise on the Alleppey Backwaters

In the age of digital and social media today, whether you want it or not, you do look for beautiful sceneries and backdrops for your next social media share or for the long awaited cover photo change.

On our trip to Kerala, the Alleppey Backwaters provided one such opportunity when any angle you look at, any where you focus your camera, you get yet another beautiful setting not to be missed clicking.

One can easily take a short 2 hour ride in one of the motorboats or one of the longer half-day or full-day rides to explore the hidden charms of the backwaters in Alleppey.

Here is a collection of photographs I clicked during our sunset cruise on a small motorboat in the Alleppey Backwaters.

Small motor boats stand at the entrance of the Alleppey Backwaters, Kerala

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

10 Awesome Reasons You Should Join This Trip to Odisha

Indian Bloggers

'Who goes to Odisha, wahan to sirf gaon hain,’ my best friend remarked several years ago. Probably you had a similar thought on reading about this trip. And that is where everyone is shortsighted. It is easier accepted that people outside Odisha do not know about what is in the state. Yes, Odisha takes pride in its village culture, but is also a hub of education (IIT, IIM and AIIMS all three have made their presence), has several growing and potential near future metro cities and is rich in history, culture and heritage. Remember Emperor Ashoka? After winning all of India, he was forced to relinquish power and pride right here in Odisha!

I thought I would give 5 reasons but as I started writing I realized there is more awesomeness there. So, here are 10 reasons why you must join us for this weeklong trip to Odisha:

1. It’s going to be an enriching trip

The trip is a mixed bag of sorts- heritage, culture, natural beauty, wildlife and adventure. You will get to know why a 12 year old kid committed suicide when the Konark temple was completed and how the Puri temple deities go through a body-change every 13-19 years (huge mystery there); you will witness the Eastern coast’s waves which are perfect for surfing, even better than Goa; you will sit in a small boat and go 10 kms into the Chilika lake in search of the dolphins and migratory birds; you will also go on a night hike to a beach to spot the largest nesting site of the Olive Ridley turtles- it's the only place in the world that sees them in such huge numbers. From adrenaline pumping to a peaceful beach escapade, this trip has it all.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My First Time on a Cruise Ship- Onboard MV Kavaratti

I don’t know many people who have ever been on a cruise ship. A cruise vacation does trigger a lot of curiosity and when we were headed to board MV Kavaratti for our first cruise vacation, I was definitely ecstatic. I had read everything about it available on the internet (and there isn’t much) and this post explores what my naive and curious mind experienced.

The Check-in Process

We reached the Lakshadweep Wharf and Passenger Facilitation Centre at Willingdon Island in Kochi and got the boarding passes from the SPORTS (Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports) office on the 1st floor. MV Kavaratti is a passenger-cum-tourist ship. Tourists were to check-in by 10 AM so as to avoid the crowd of the local passengers that came after that. The ship was scheduled to depart sometime in the afternoon.

There was a long queue for the security check and we proceeded with our luggage on trolleys. It didn’t take us long to cross this. The security definitely is strict, nowhere close to airport security though. There was a bottle of water in one of our bags and they got us to open the bag to make sure it’s just water and not alcohol. Carrying alcohol is strictly banned on board MV Kavaratti and in the Lakshadweep islands we were headed to.

From here, our entire luggage was tagged with our cabin numbers and was taken separately. We boarded a bus to head to the port, each one of us excitedly looking out of the windows to catch the first glimpse of the ship.

Getting the first look at MV Kavaratti docked at Willingdon Island, Kochi

Friday, January 06, 2017

Exploring Lakshadweep with the Samudram Package

The Samudram package of the Lakshadweep Tourism makes it possible for the average Indian to experience a cruise holiday. It’s not extravagantly costly and is right here in India. It is the only of its kind cruise vacation available in India both for Indians and foreigners.

My father had been planning this trip for well over a year and had done the booking months in advance. Yes, it is rarely possible to get tickets for the Samudram package at the last minute. (There were tourists with us who had paid higher rates to travel agents to book the package. Direct booking with Lakshadweep Tourism by calling or contacting them online is the best way and offers the cheapest rates)

Lakshadweep has restricted tourism and one needs to obtain permits in advance to enter any of the islands. We had booked directly with the Lakshadweep Tourism office and all our permits were taken care of by them. It was to be a 5 day 4 night cruise vacation from Kochi to 3 coral islands of Lakshadweep and back.

Early morning view of Kalpeni, Lakshadweep Islands, from the deck of MV Kavaratti

As the sailing dates came close, our excitement was building up. We had reached Kochi and got on-board MV Kavaratti, the huge cruise ship and our home for the next few days. (Read: My First Time on a Cruise Ship- Onboard MV KavarattiWe went around exploring the ship before the briefing session with the Tour Manager. Jafar is a very friendly and helpful guy, and guided us through the entire plan as per the package.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

When we got lost in Himalayan Forests- The Nag Tibba Trek

We began our trek to Nag Tibba and it was all going smoothly- the same endurance and strength and all of it in the middle of a forest. I was wondering what the different thing about this trek was that I would write on the blog. Guess what happened next? We got lost!

The Nag Tibba trek (3022 m) starts from the village of Pantwari and goes roughly 8 kms uphill. The highest point of the trek is a further 2 kms at a point called 'Jhandi'. We were at The Goat Village (Read about it here) having trekked till there the previous day. So half the route had already been covered. It was to be a half-day excursion to Nag Tibba and back.

After a healthy breakfast of mandwe-ke-roti ka sandwich, Amrit and I were headed for the trek. Mani, the TGV manager and Elita, a fellow blogger were to join us too. 

Panoramic view of the Garhwal region of Himalayas from the Nag Tibba trek, Uttarakhand. November 2016

Manita did tilak of all of us before we started. 'Go ahead with Nag devta's blessings', she told us.

We started from TGV around 10 and the plan was to be back by 2.30-3 for a late lunch. The trail starts off on flat land and slowly turns rocky and slippery. We were taking slight pauses as we walked up taking in the magical view of the valley at every turn.

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