Travel PitStops – July

 

Hello readers! The Indian monsoon system is very active and has covered the peninsula  17 days early! The country is getting battered with heavy downpours and fresh-post-rain-greens! It’s absolute bliss to visit places which get enriched with natural beauty, but at the same time it proves to be a dampener due to heavy rains.

It is time to enjoy this natural spectacle at places where it looks best. Hop onto a destination which remains accessible with pleasant climate and would add to the fun. Get ready to feel splash along rainy zones and experience the majestic scenery mother nature has to offer.

 

WITHIN INDIA:

COORG

 

Kodagu or ‘Coorg’ in the blessed state of Karnataka in South India, is one of most famed destinations to visit. It is the smallest among 30 sub-divisions of the state, which was merged with Mysuru in 1956.

Rightly known as ‘Kashmir of Karnataka’, this place enthralls you with its opulent beauty and natural habitat, also being the top visited place in state.

Lushed with dense green forests, natural vegetation and coffee plantations, this place just gets picturesque. The native of Kodagu – Kodava’s – are a sporting ‘okka’ (clan) having major contributions to the country’s national hockey team.

 

The Kodava Hockey Tournament is the largest regional tournament in the world. It is held every year and hosted by families to promote sports and culture.

The event gets lots of sponsorship and media attention as it is being successfully organized since 1997!

 

The Kodagu district is ranked among top 5 literacy districts in the state. Madikeri is the headquarter of Kodagu district.

 

How to Travel?

The geographical terrain hinders rail and air connectivity. But the elevated rugged paths, present a beautiful journey to the destination.

Nearest Railway Stations:

Kerala: The nearest railway stations are Kasaragod (110 kms), Kanhangad (124 kms)

Karnataka: The nearest railway station is Subrahmanya Road (85 kms) but connected with Mangaluru as the main hub. Mysuru and Hassan (both 105 kms) are the other 2 major stations.

Nearest Airports: The destination does not have an airport, but regular flights from major cities connect Mysuru (121 kms) and Mangaluru (156 kms)

Road Connections: The main transport authority of the state KSRTC operates regular buses from Bengaluru (5-6 hours, 265 kms), Mysuru (2-3 hours, 105 kms) and Mangaluru (3-4 hours, 150 kms).

The most common way to reach Coorg is by road as you have to de-station or land at nearby cities. Karnataka & Kerala both have good road connections leading to the place.

 

The ghat (hill) sections describes the experience that awaits you at the destination.  The 3 main ghat  roads that make you reach Coorg are:

  1. Sampaje-Madikeri ghat road from Mangaluru
  2. Panathur-Bhagamandala ghat road from Kasaragod, Kanhangad
  3. Iritty-Virajpet ghat road Thalassery

 

What to do & visit?

The most visited places here are Talakaveri (place of origination of River Kaveri), Bhagamandala (located at confluence of 2 rivers Kanika & Kaveri).

Triveni Sangama is the spot where above 2 rivers and a 3rd river Sujyothi from beneath the ground joins.

 

Nagarhole National Park

(In Pic Above: Elephant sighting on a beautiful misty morning in Nagarhole National Park)

 

Other places of visit

Nisargadhama – 28 kms away, a beautiful river island to visit along the banks of River Kaveri, this scenic place is home to varieties of bamboo trees

Abbey Falls – 23 kms away, multiple small streams gush down from a height of 70 feets from a cliff, presenting stunning views

Dubare Elephant Camp – 17 kms away, a natural treat, watch elephants bathe and play, learn their behaviour from trainers here. These elephants are used in renowned Mysuru Dasara Festival

Nagarhole National Park (in pic) – 75 kms away, a perfect wildlife treat, a potential candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Irupu Falls – 61 kms away, also known as Lakshman Tirth Falls

Tibetan Buddhist Golden Temple – 34 kms away, also known as Namdroling Monastery (full name being Thegchog Namdrol Shedrub Daryeling), serves as the centre of Buddhism in South India

Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary – 78 kms away, it is home to rare birdlife. Being one of the 21 sanctuaries in the state, it is surrounded by Kukke Subramanya Forest on one side and Bisle Reserve Forest on the other

Madikeri Fort – 17 kms away, this historic fort is a perfect spectacle of past and present, rebuilt by Tipu Sultan after taking over from Muddu Raja who built this in 17th century. In 1834, the fort was captured by British

The Raja’s Seat – 18 kms away, a famous sunset point, was used as a gazing and entertainment spot by the erstwhile rulers. The place is enhanced by a toy train that gives a ride in the park and further magnified by beautiful landscape surrounding the seat

Tadiandamol – 45 kms away, highest peak of the Kodagu district, good for trails and trekking

 

Regional Languages: The native lingual tone is Kodava. Takk and English are other languages spoken among the demo-graphs

Tip: You might come in contact with ‘Leeches’ during monsoon as they stay in leaves and wilderness. These are small blood-sucking animals, but less harmful than mosquitoes. If you encounter one, spray some salt or apple cider vinegar on it to repel you immediately.

Regional Festivals: The planting of rice crop, Kailpoud, is celebrated on September 3. Puttari (new rice) is the rice harvest festival celebrated late November / early December.

Food: Kadumbuttu and Pandi Curry (Steamed Rice Balls and Pork Curry) is a famous local dish here.

Clothing: As this place offers aplenty close-to-nature activities, it is suggested to wear light and comfortable clothing so it becomes easy to trek and traverse. Do carry jacket to protect yourself from cold evenings/nights, raincoats if in case you are visiting during monsoons.

Temperatures: The temperatures remain pleasant and ranges from 16° C to 22° C. It starts getting cold by night.

Fact: Kodagu is one of the highest coffee producers in India. The district became rich post coffee revenues, as it produces some high-quality export stuff. It is the highest producer of a coffee variant Robusta, accounting for approx. 45% of the total national production. Apart from Robusta, this region also produces Coffee Arabica.

 

 

OUTSIDE INDIA:

UNITED KINGDOM

 

Though we have a bitter history with them, but this nation offers unparalleled travel experiences to its visitors. A developed nation having gentle highlands, the unending motorways, the infinite grasslands, plethora of proud history and gothic architecture, all present a bouquet of memories to cherish.

No more a part to modern-day European Union (as they opt out), this nation has rich colonial legacy and vivid aristocratic stories. At some point in time in history, the ‘British Raj’ had mastered 25% of the global map.

The ruthless aggression and military advancement they possessed made it easier for them to capture land and monies.

 

The country referred as ‘Kingdom’ is a union of Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.

London, a global city, is capital to the kingdom. Wales, Scotland and England are collectively known as Great Britain.

Edinburgh serves capital to Scotland, Cardiff to Wales and Belfast to Northern Ireland.

United Kingdom is a classic example of bi-polar political systems, a monarchy in parallel to democracy.

 

How to Travel?

Having one of world’s extensive transportation system, traveling locally within the nation is a no-brainer. A barrage of travel options like domestic airports, trams, metros, public buses, inland waterways, bicycle paths and efficient cab systems make it a convenient destination to explore.

The country has some global cities which are superbly connected with regular flights from corners of the world.

 

London is a global aviation hub with 6 airports (Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick, Southend, Luton, and City Airport) as it handles roughly 60% of UK’s air traffic.

Heathrow is the major of them and was world’s 7th busiest airport handling 78 Mn+ passengers annually in 2017.

 

The nation’s other major international airports are Manchester, Birmingham & Glasgow. The country has navigable rivers like Thames (largest here, London ki Ganga!), Severn, Trent, Mersey and Tyne.

 

What to do & visit?

A list of tourist places await you to discover this crown. UK has multitude of things to offer to visitors of all generations and taste. The immaculate neo-classical and modern architecture just pulls you towards itself.

Plenty of lakes (known as ‘Loch’) in the north-western parts of UK, give breathe taking nature views, also allowing to do boating and fishing.

The country is home to some iconic dots on globe along with renowned people from history and literature. London is the epicentre of all major tourist attractions. The best way to hop around the city is by using Tube (Metro) and Public Feeder Buses from metro stations (more about this in the travel section below).

 

William Shakespeare, JK Rowling, Harry Potter, Manchester United, Chelsea, Madame Tussauds are few of the embossed brand names that this country has given to our globe.

 

Westminster Bridge with Big Ben

(In Pic Above: The Palace of Westminster and Big Ben at the backdrop of Westminster Bridge on River Thames in London)

Places to visit in:

England

London – Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Eye, The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, Warner Bros. Studios (Harry Potter), Madame Tussauds, Royal Albert Hall, Wimbledon, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace

Birmingham – Cadbury World (Yes! Here you can see how your purple bar has come of ages)

Plymouth – The Eden Project (largest indoor rainforests)

Liverpool – The Three Graces

Manchester – Manchester United Stadium

SalisburyStonehenge (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Stratford-upon-avon – Royal Shakespeare Co., Anna Hathaway’s Cottage

 

Scotland

Edinburg – Edinburg Castle, Deep Sea World (Longest underwater viewing tunnel), Palace of Holyroodhouse (Official home of queen of Scotland), Arthur’s Seat

 

Wales

Cardiff – Cardiff Castle, Snowdonia National Park

 

Northern Ireland

Belfast – If you are a GoT Fan (Game of Thrones), visit Winterfell. Also visit St. Patrick’s grave and Titanic Belfast (where this giant ship was made).

 

Tip: United Kingdom follows Imperial Scale of measurements, hence they use Miles (1 mile = 1.6 kms approx.) and Yards (1 Yard = 0.9 meters approx.)

Clothing: If you arrive from tropical / sub-tropical / dry climatic countries, the temperatures might make you feel cold. Better advised to have layers of clothing, cardigans, jackets, mufflers. The country receives good pour annually, but this month holds intermittent rainfalls.

Basic Communication Snippets:

Ace – Awesome | Wotcha – Hi | Ta – Thanks

Naff – Uncool | Hiya – Hi there | Cheerio – Goodbye 

 

Temperatures: The range remains from 12° C to 21° C making it pleasant throughout the month.

Food: Common cuisines among Britons / Brits (the way netizens are called) are fish and chips, roasted beef, Chinese and Pudding. The other famed eats are Welsh Cakes, Smoked Haddocks, Shortbread Biscuits and traditional Ulyster Fry breakfast.

Currency: Great British Pound / Pound Sterling (GBP), 1 GBP = 91.24 INR approx. at the time of writing

Driving: Left side of the road, Right hand drive. Thinking to drive in UK?

Transport:  London has the oldest underground Metro ‘The Tube’ founded in 1863. Glasgow Subway is the 3rd oldest subway in the world after London and Budapest, founded in 1896. Liverpool has similar metro type system.

London Tube is divided into 9 zones, where zone 1 and 2 hold most of the top tourist attractions. Referring to London Tube Map, you can find your destination stations. Additionally, cities are well equipped by Public Buses, Cabs, Cycle Tracks, Trams, DLR (Docklands Light Railway), River buses, Cable Car and Rail. Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland) is connected through national railways.

Buy a Brit Rail Pass (cannot be bought by people holding UK Passport) to explore beautiful landscapes and rugged countryside. The London-famed Double Decker buses operate in every corner of the city and also organize city tours.

It pays to buy contact less Oyster cards for tourists valid across transport channels. These cards cannot be bought once you are in London, so buy it before you reach. Oyster cards can be bought at airports (Stansted and Gatwick), Eurostar trains to London, UK embassies in your country. Additionally, this card offers discounts with partners too. Cash is not accepted at most of the transport channels in the cities.

Visa: Check visa rules & fee for your country here! It may vary depending on the type of passport you hold.

Fact: London has 8 Mn Population but 19 Mn annual visitors! 

Visit Government of UK Website

Buy Visitor Oyster Cards

 

Guys, this is all about Travel PitStops Series for July.

Let me know your thoughts about the blog.

If you want me to add any other details going forward in this series, just comment below & don’t forget to subscribe! Kindly share with people who are intending to travel to these destinations. 

If you are travelling / have traveled to any of these destinations, i would love to hear your experience and story. 

Read Previous Editions

Travel PitStops – May

Travel PitStops – June

Andaman & Nicobar Islands – are they surreal?

 

Pearls are found in the ocean, goes the saying for these gems located off the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. The clear blue-turquoise and endless waving waters make it one of the most undisturbed places on earth, to soak in, and enjoy nature.

My personal visit to Andaman in April 2016 has left me spell-bound! One life, one visit, is all it requires!

Where are Andaman & Nicobar Islands?

This archipelago sits right amidst sea, on eastern-most side of India, a string of 572 islands, of which only 38 are inhabited. Nestled between Bay of Bengal on the west and Andaman Sea on the east, this place is a nature lover’s paradise. If you are looking for complete overhaul in monotonous life for even a few days, just grab your travel gear and make a move. The destination is as quaint and peaceful, just like it’s serene and picturesque!

 

Andaman & Nicobar Coast

(In Pic Above: The beaches here will rejuvenate you, just like this one in Havelock)

 

Indian Subcontinent is blessed to have this pearl in its necklace. The tourism potential is immense as it offers aplenty activities from deep-sea diving to paragliding over sea.

Being one of the 7 Union Territories in India, it is centrally governed too! The islands are located in proximity to Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia (separated by Andaman Sea) than to India.

This stunning beauty has its share of dark past during the erstwhile colonial days of India. The island host’s Cellular Jail aka Kaalapani in Port Blair, where rebels of British rule were kept far beyond the Indian mainland in dismay and darkness.

 

How’s the island structured?

The archipelago is mainly split into 2 distinct regions: Andaman Islands and Nicobar Islands.

North Andaman, Middle Andaman, South Andaman and Little Andaman form the Andaman group. The most habitable islands of Andaman’s are Middle and South Islands of which Port Blair being the capital, is also the major city with connectivity.

Moving northwards 160 kms and 230 kms from the capital, Rangat and Mayabunder in Mayabunder Taluk are next in line, followed further 298 kms north is Diglipur. Diglipur is the northernmost city of Andaman Islands.

North Andaman is home to India’s only active volcano ‘Barren Island’, which last erupted in 2017.

Moving down south, a group of Nicobar Islands lie scattered across the ocean, mostly uninhabitable. The Nicobar Islands consist of Northern Group, Central Group and Southern Group.

Car Nicobar being capital, is the only major city, which lies in the Northern Group. Indira Point in the Great Nicobar Island (Southern Group) is the southernmost point of the Indian Sub-continent, just 150 kms off Sumatra, Indonesia!

The Great Nicobar Island is one of the largest island in Nicobar and is also one of World’s Network of Biosphere Reserves as designated by UNESCO. Campbell Bay National Park is a part to it.

 

Natives of Andaman & Nicobar Islands

The islands are home to 400+ different native groups of which Jarawa, Onge & Sentinelese are most prominent in Andaman Island. The Nicobarese and Shompen are native to Nicobar Islands. Majority of the island population (more than 80%) lives in Andaman while a handful have made Nicobar (less than 15%) as their home.

The Andaman Islands are host to one of the most primitive group of mankind, the ‘Jarawas’, located in the dense forests of Baratang Islands. They live a life of seclusion, detached from our gadget-slavery world in complete darkness. They still hunt using old stone-age tools, wear nomadic clothes, should feel lucky if you spot them. Since the area is restricted and confined, special permissions are required to visit their territory.

Best time to visit: Winters are the best time to visit this pristine address starting October until February. The mercury starts rising rapidly from March until May, causing intense sunburns. As monsoons invade the islands in June, it is not recommended to visit considering the high seas and rough weather.

The facilities are not yet comprehensively developed in smaller islands leading to power outage. The sky is clear throughout the year barring rainy months, providing ample sunbathing!

 

Pristine Neil

(In Pic Above: Small glass-bottom boats anchored at a beach in Neil Island)

 

How to travel? The Veer Savarkar Airport of Port Blair (only airport in the island) is adequately air-connected to major big cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bhubaneswar, Cochin and Vishakhapatnam, through direct and indirect connections.

The main transport here are the cruise operators, as they help in shuttling between islands in the region. Major cruise operators are Makruzz, Coastal Cruise (part of Makruzz), Green Ocean Cruise and Makruzz Gold.

Phoenix Bay Jetty in Port Blair is the main dock port for all sea connections. Connections are available from port cities of Chennai, Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam through M V Swaraj Dweep, M V Nancowry, M V Nicobar, M V Akbar and M V Harshvardhana (check sea port timetable for departures).

These ships take an average 3-4 days to complete one leg of the journey. The tickets can be booked at STARS (Ship Ticketing Advance Reservation System) Counters in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Vishakhapatnam and Port Blair. Schedules are released at least a month in advance, so be sure to book early.

Owing to scattered land pieces, rail connections are not present in the island!

Fact: Distance of these islands from countries: 45 kms from Myanmar, 90 kms from Thailand, 160 kms from Indonesia and 1,200 kms from India!

Where to stay? Port Blair is the most habitable city, with infrastructure and facilities in place. The city is small, less crowded and it gets silent by early evening. Aberdeen Bazar is a busy marketplace, the area has many food joints and shopping spots. Also, it is easy to get taxi / auto / public buses. Here you can buy local art and handicrafts specific to the island.

Port Blair acts as a base for tourists, so one can shuttle between islands, stay there and comeback to this main South Andaman Island for all sorts of connectivity.

Places to visit: Well, lots of! The most talked about are Port Blair, Havelock Island, Neil Island, Ross Island and Baratang Island.

 

Cellular Jail

(In Pic Above: The identical cells of Cellular Jail, a total of 698)

 

Port Blair is very scenic and natural, aided with a spice of history. Cellular Jail, a historic national monument, which stands brave to the hardships faced by Indian brave hearts who rebelled the British Raj. The prisoners were put behind bars in this solitary confinement known as ‘KaalaPani’ or Black water. The construction of this penal settlement was primarily done to make prisoners suffer and stay miles away from mainland.

The premises houses world war memorial, art gallery, image gallery and a library on freedom movement. With the introduction of online booking process to purchase tickets, one can book in advance prior to visiting.

 

Cellular Jail Promenade

(In Pic Above: Cellular Jail, as seen from the entrance)

 

This living spectacle is a must visit, each brick and corner brings alive the hardships of our great people. Additionally, the Light and Sound Show (son-et-lumiere) that happens every evening that tells you the real story behind and what exactly used to happen inside the jail. Book now!

 

Also to visit in Port Blair are Corbyn Cove’s Beach, Chidiya Tapu (known for its scenic sunsets), Wandoor Beach, Andaman Water Sports Complex, Chatham Saw Mill, Ross Island, Viper Island and Naval Museum, Samudrika Museum, Mount Harriet National Park (backside image of a 20 Rupee note), Jogger’s Park, Sippighat Agricultural farm and Sagarika Cottage Industry Emporium.

 

Islands near Port Blair: Ross Island, Viper Island, Baratang Island

Islands to stay: Havelock Island, Neil Island

 

Ross Island, named after Captain Daniel Ross, also hosts a sound and light show (except Wednesday) to showcase the historic past it had. It is located just 3 kms east of Port Blair. The island was in itself a city, home to Administrative headquarters of the island which was abandoned after a quake in 1941. The ruins of magnificent past can be seen when you visit, a plethora of old branched trees have tightly held onto legacy!

The islands’s first penal settlement was constructed in Viper Island, now abandoned, still has some ruins of the past and is just 4 kms west of Port Blair.

 Havelock Jetty

(In Pic Above: The stunning views of Havelock Island Jetty)

 

Havelock Island is the most visited tourist island. The collection of beautiful beaches like Radhnagar Beach (Asia’s Best Beach 2004), Govind Nagar Beach, Vijay Nagar Beach and Kala Pathar Beach, make you glued to the immaculate beauty of the island. The island is famous for snorkelling and scuba diving.

 

Welcome to Neil

(In Pic Above: This is how you are greeted on arrival at Neil Island Jetty!)

 

The next in queue is the Neil Island, a smaller version of Havelock, having stunning beaches like Laxmanpur Beach and Sitapur Beach. You can go for glass-bottom boat tour to check out the corals and underwater marine world, not far from beach.

On way to Baratang, Mud Volcano is one spectacle to watch for, an active mouth, spewing mud and gases!

Baratang Island: The ‘Jarawas’ have their habitat in Baratang Island, a restricted entry zone. They hunt wild forest animals for their livelihood, latching on fishes when they hunt in sea. They are a small community of 250-300, fearing extinction after the construct of Great Andaman Trunk Road in 1997 through dense jungles. The project has created a lot of uneasiness and unrest for the community as it invades their life and territory. What’s more, it risks spread of diseases to both the natives and visitors. Tourists and private operators make commercial tours to visit the place and thus disturbing their natural habitat.

To combat this, the administration has started a sea route to Baratang in 2017, but as enthusiasm doesn’t seem building, Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) remains a primary choice and is being promoted more by operators.

Another spectacle, Limestone Caves in North Andaman in Baratang Islands is a natural treat amidst dense forests. The untouched beauty is still well-preserved as you sieve through the mangroves providing an ecosystem for flora and fauna to thrive.

Tip: Don’t visit remote places on any island till late night, as there is dearth of transport services after sunset. Be well-planned and keep your driver partner (if you have one) in loop with your plans.

 

Neil Sunset1

(In Pic Above: A dreamy sunset in Neil Island)

 

What to eat?

Non-Vegetarians will feel home as they will be spoilt for choices. No dearth of seafood options makes it a gastronome’s kitchen. Sea fish, Lobsters, Prawns and Crabs are few of the many options for diners. For Vegetarians, South Indian Basics, North Indian are available aplenty with regular Indian Cuisines. A number of food joints are present in Port Blair. Islands on the other hand have a scarce presence of such outlets, so you have to rely mainly on your hotel and a handful of shacks for dining options.

Suggested to carry some reserve food always, especially if you are travelling with kids or old people, as you have to also deal with early night and late mornings for commercials to open.

 

Neil - Lazy Tree

(In Pic Above: Untouched sand beaches at Neil Island)

 

Taxi/Cab: Private Cabs / Buses are easily available from airport and hotels. Though Ola / Uber don’t have services here.

Seasons: Monsoons / Rain – June until September, Winter – October until February, Summer – March until May

Temperatures: Moderate oceanic conditions prevail, making extreme temperatures a rarity. The range annually remains in 22° C – 32° C. The rainfall is heavy in monsoon seasons and the seas are not safe to travel too. But for rest of the year, you can have pleasant temperatures with soothing breeze.

Driving: Left side of the road, right hand drive

Currency: Indian National Rupee (INR)

Visa: No visa required if you are an Indian National. Though you need a permit (for an Indian too) to visit Nicobar Islands, since the area is regulated.

Note: All foreign nationals are mandated to have RAP (Restricted Area Permit) while visiting the islands. RAP can be taken on arrivals at airport or seaport, or from Foreigner Registration Offices / Immigration Authorities at airport at any of the 4 metros (New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata)

Hey guys, i hope this read inspires you to visit the islands. Its an experience of a lifetime. Let me know if you want any other information, i would love to help you.

Read more:

Tell me about Dubai

Should i visit Rishikesh?

Travel PitStops – June

A couple walk-by jetty

Hello readers! Its time for some rains to pour and why not, we need an escape from this scorching heat! A travellers’ journey never stops, though seasons keep changing!

The last 2 editions of Travel PitStops series featured hilly destinations (domestic) as they were ideal for travel in summer months.

This edition onwards we switch on to beautiful rainy months ahead. India has a great monsoon and rainy season. 70% of our people are directly/indirectly employed with the agricultural sector for their livelihood. God bless them with abundant rains!

So lets explore the changing colours of leaves from golden to fresh new green and feel that smell of mitti (soil) right through the air by visiting some amazing places.

So keep your windcheaters, umbrellas and crocs handy to travel along rainy paths.

 

Within India:

Goa

If you ask anybody in India who has never travelled a km outside their city, where does he want to go?

The ecstatic reply will always be “Goa”!

Yah, this destination is such talked about, the energy, vibe and aura of this place is so inviting.

Your visit this month will be greeted with monsoon showers, marking a low tourist season. On the flip side, you can make a budget trip as everything gets cheaper in the slack period, so you can explore more.

Goa was a Portuguese colony until 1961, post which it was taken over by the Indian Army by running Operation Vijay. The state of Goa came into existence in 1987, until which it was a Union Territory.

7 rivers bathe the state, flourishing it with absolute greenery and dense mangroves, providing a biological ecosystem for thriving flora and fauna.

The coastal area is dotted with numerous shacks, giving a pleasant setup to unwind and relax amidst the cool sea-breeze. Hiring a vehicle is the best way to move around locally in Goa.

 

Goa_Immaculate Conception Church

(In Pic Above: Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, Panjim)

 

How to Travel?

Located in Vasco da Gama, Goa International Airport is the only serving airport of Goa with connections to major cities and metros. Almost all Indian domestic airlines and few international airlines fly in here.

The state is well-connected with rail routes penetrating smaller towns. Vasco da gama is the terminus for trains coming from south whilst for others the terminus is at Margao.

It is always advisable to pre-book to protect fares (in case of flights) and make advance reservations in trains.

 

What to do & visit?

Endless spots to visit. It not only offers pristine beaches, you will come across artistically built cathedrals, forts, dense greenery for eco-lovers, Portuguese-styled mansions and a lot more. Read ahead for a refined list of places to visit.

Panjim, Margao, Vasco da gama, Mapusa and Ponda are the main cities of Goa.

Goa is as simple as black and white. You can visit historically old constructions of old Goa on one side and glitzy-disco spots, beach-side restaurants and lively shacks on the other. It purely depends on the travellers taste.

 

Churches – Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, Basilica of Bom Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, Our Lady of the Rosary Church

Forts – Chapora Fort (‘Dil Chahta Hai’ movie scene was shot here), Fort Aguada, The ruins of the Fortress of Colvale, Corjuem Fort, Cabo de Rama, Fort Gasper Dias

Beaches – Miramar Beach, Calangute Beach (most famous, at the same time crowded), Baga Beach, Anjuna Beach, Ozran Beach, Vagator Beach, Chapora Beach, Morjim Beach, Ashwem Beach, Mandrem Beach

 

Special Mention: Party Hard @ Tito’s, LPK (Love, Passion, Karma), SinQ Nightclub, Club Cabana

Tip: Boozing in Goa is much cheaper than other places. So eat->drink->party->drink (don’t forget to sleep to party next day). Goan’s have a local popular liquor ‘Feni’, can give it a try!

Food: Goan Fish Curry, Khatkhate (vegetable stew), Bebinca (Sweet Dish), Ros Omlette

Clothing: Pull out all your flashy party wears from your wardrobe! It’s a partying-people’s paradise. Tourists prefer to keep it loose due to humid conditions. Make sure to have cotton apparels more as they dry quickly. Suggested to keep rainy-wear handy, prop it up with smart umbrellas and waterproof footwear.

Temperatures: Range from 20oC to 30oC, quite humid, keep yourself hydrated at all times

Fact: Goa is the smallest Indian state with an area of 3,702 square kms!

 

Also Read:  What exactly is Rishikesh?

 

Outside India

Portugal:

Did you love Portuguese Architecture in Goa?

It’s time to visit the architect’s dome then!

Ranked 3rd most peaceful country (after Iceland and New Zealand) in 2017, visiting this destination is a no-brainer.

Portugal, a south-west European nation bordering Spain, is the 18th largest nation in the zone. Rich in heritage, culture and architecture, this marvellous destination attracts tourists from around the globe.

One of the top 20 countries to be visited globally, Portugal greets 13 million inbound tourists annually. Lisbon or Lisboa is the capital city of Portugal.

The archipelago (group of islands) of Madeira and Azores complete Portugal. The highest peak Mount Pico, an ancient volcano is situated in the Pico Island in Azores.

June 10 is observed as the ‘Portugal Day’ on the death of their national literary icon Luis de Camoes in 1580, who is regarded as their language’s greatest poet.

 

Lisbon_Belem Tower

(In Pic Above: The Torre de Belem in Lisbon on a dreamy sunset!)

 

How to Travel?

Portugal’s major cities are Lisbon, Porto, Faro, Amadora, Braga and Setubal. From here, one can connect to all other towns via rail / bus. Scores of International Airlines fly to Portugal’s 3 International airports of Lisbon, Porto and Faro.

Iberia, TAP Air Portugal, SATA are few of the many domestic airlines flying here.

Borderless travel across Schengen countries makes any European trail a delight. Portugal is part of the Schengen Pact thus allowing seamless travel in Euro zone. Though the archipelago of Azores & Madeira are part of Portugal, they still are not part of the pact, but follow Schengen Visa Code. 

The major seaports are Lisbon, Aveiro, Faro, Setubal and Leixoes.

CP (Comboios de Portugal) is the major rail services provider in here. The different types of train are Intercidades (Intercity), Alfa Pendular (High Speed), Urbanos and Regional & Inter-regional. Check railway connections in Portugal and make your bookings.

Travellers who are from Europe but outside Portugal can buy One Country Portugal Pass from Interrail, giving unlimited travel for the number of days you select with partner rail providers. Remember, for travellers outside Europe, you can only buy Eurail Pass.

These passes also come with additional benefits of discounts on tour buses.

Additionally, stations have bike (aka bicycles) parks where you can park them while coming to and leaving stations.

 

What to do & visit?

Portugal has some scenic beach fronts, 850 kms of long coastline, medieval castles, dense forests. Porto Santo in Madeira Islands is one such quaint destination.

Lisbon in central Portugal is rich in history, Faro in South Portugal has pristine beaches while Braga in North Portugal has an eminent presence of Roman architecture.

 

Visit in Lisbon: Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Monastery), Castelo de Sao Jorge (Castle), Torre de Belem (Tower), Palacio dos Marqueses de Fronteira (Palace)

Visit in Porto / Oporto: Igreja de Sao Francisco (Church), Palacio da Bolsa (Palace), Casa da Musica (Concert Hall), Museu da Misericórdia do Porto (Museum). The term Port Wine is derived from the name of this city.

Visit in Sintra: Palacio Nacional de Sintra (Palace), Quinta da Regaleira (Estate, a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Palacio Nacional de Pena (Castle cum Palace), Castolo dos Mouros (Castle)

 

The city cards offered by Porto & Lisbon are very economical and effective way of seeing these city for less.

The Lisbon City Card also offers free Metro, Bus, Trams, Lift (Elevators, Ropeways) services.

The Porto City Card (can buy in app or Porto Tourism Offices) bundles free entrance to museums, discounted dining, free use of public transportation and many other features.

Marinha Beach in Lagoa is one of the topmost beaches in Europe and among 100 most beautiful beaches in the world!

The 17 kms long Vasco da gama bridge on River Tagus in Lisbon is Europe’s largest.

 

Tip: If using a metro in Lisbon or Porto, buy a day pass, which proves to be cheaper and economical.

Clothing: As the temperatures remain moderately pleasant, light summer casuals works well. Do not forget to carry a sunscreen and a sunglass while venturing into beach areas.

 

Basic Communication Snippets:

Ola – Hello | Bom dia – Good Morning | Boa tarde – Good Afternoon

Boa noite – Good Evening / Good Night | Obrigado – Thank You

Por favor – Please | Bem-vindo – Welcome | Adeus – Good Bye |

Ate logo – See you soon

 

Temperatures: Range from 20oC to 30oC (Pleasant)

Food: Bacalhau (National Dish, Salted and dried cod), Cozido ( Mix of Meat, Vegetables and Sausages), Pastel de nata (Custard tart)

Currency: 1 Euro = INR 78.63 approx. at the time of writing

Driving: Right side of the road, Left hand drive

Transport: Metro (Lisbon & Porto), Tram (Lisbon & Porto), Public Bus, Taxi / Cab, Uber (Lisbon & Porto), Rail

Visa: Check visa rules & fee for your country here! It may vary depending on the type of passport you hold.

Fact: Portuguese is the 6th largest spoken language globally. 9 more nations use it as their official language.

 

Guys, this is all about this month’s Travel PitStops Series. I have added Food and Basic Communication Snippets to better understand the place you are visiting.

Let me know your thoughts about the blog. If you want me to add any other details going forward in this series, just comment below & don’t forget to subscribe! Kindly share with people who are intending to travel to these destinations.

 If you are travelling to any of these destinations, i would love to hear your experience and story.

 

Read Previous Editions

Travel PitStops – April

Travel PitStops – May

Travel PitStops – May

Beach Summer

 

Hello readers! Hope all of you are enjoying your holidays.

I hope my first article of Travel PitStops series – April ignited your travel souls.

Here I am with my 2nd article of the Monthly Travel Pitstops Series with 2 new cool destinations to think on. (Trust me, its scorching heat across the country, I am travelling too!) But still there are a lot of places on our beautiful globe to satisfy your travel buds and make you wear winter clothes (atleast a jacket or 2).

Within India:

Munnar

One such natural destination to visit in the southern part of our country is Munnar. Situated in the beautiful state of Kerala at an altitude of 1500 metres above sea-level, this place is comfortably a summer-escapade. The lush green covers of forests and tea plantations will enthral you. This place used to be a hangout for the British elite in erstwhile days of British Raj.

Munnar is also known by the name ‘Kashmir of South India’!

Munnar

(In Pic Above: Fresh-looking Tea Plantations in the hills of Munnar)

How to Travel?

The nearest airport is Cochin (110 kms north-west) & nearest railway station is Ernakulam Jn (130 kms westwards, Station Code: ERS). After reaching the nearest points, one can travel by road and enjoy the scenic elevated road trip towards the forests where the traveller will be greeted by fresh air and nature treat.

What to do & visit?

Munnar is blessed with abundant flora and fauna that mesmerizes the nature lovers. A blue-coloured flower named Neelakurinji (Neela means blue, kurinji means flower) blooms every 12 years. (The next bloom turning hills blue, is this year from July to October, so don’t miss!).

The altitude of Munnar allows tourists to do trekking at the south-india’s highest peak, Anamudi, at a height of 2700 metres. The peak is situated inside Eravikulam National Park. The park is spread across 95 sq kms of area and houses some rare animals and birds.

Tourists can visit Mattupetty (13 kms from Munnar) to see the dam and lake and enjoy swift boating.

One can also visit Chinnakanal, where water falls from 2000 metres and they are also known as Power House Waterfalls. To visit fresh tea plantations, visit Anayirangal (22 kms from Munnar). Also visit Anayirangal Dam, surrounded by tea plantations and superb forests.

A visit to the Tea Museum in Nallathanni estate is a must. It showcases rich heritage and legacy of tea plantation over the years, with evolvement of machinery and methods of cultivation.

Munnar is commercially known for its tea-plantation, significantly operated by corporate giant Tata.

Tip: Being a hill station, take your sports shoe, as you might have to do a lot of walking!

Clothing: Carry light layers to protect from breezy evenings which get a little cold by night.

Temperatures: Range from 15oC to 22oC

Fact: This place got its name from the confluence of 3 rivers: Muthirappuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala

 

Outside India

Mongolia:

Remember, in our childhood days, we used to hear stories about Changez Khan. Decades later the iconic name has not been forgotten. A Mongolian ruler, who found the largest empire (his empire extended over 33 Mn sq kms) in history is actually spelt as Chinggis Khan!

Mongolia

(In Pic Above: The 130 feet tall Chinggis Khan statue in the outskirts of capital city Ulaanbaatar)

This picturesque destination is sandwiched between Russia in North and China in East, West and South. It is world’s second largest landlocked country. Mongolia is also one of the world’s least densely populated country!

The major religion is Buddhism while widely spoken language is Mongolian. Many Mongolians still live a nomadic way of lifestyle which has evolved over history. They stay in ‘gers’, a compact-portable camp house made of wood and leather. The whole equipment can be carried on just 3 camels!

How to Travel?

The national domestic airlines fly to other cities within the country and are well-connected with the capital Ulaanbaatar. Aero-Mongolia, MIAT Mongolian Airlines are few of the domestic airline operators.

The capital city has direct connections with Asian peers while they have transit connections from other parts of the world through hub and spoke model. MIAT Mongolian provides its services from India too.

What to do & visit?

Mongolia offers a variety of adventure activities owing to its rugged landscapes and untouched waterfronts. Horse Riding, Mountain Trekking, Camel Trekking, Wildlife watching and Hiking are a few activities. Road-tripping Gobi Desert in the south is a spectacle not to be missed. It is a cold desert with vegetation and sand.

Khovsgul Lake in the north is one serene place to visit. A calm quaint natural treat, ideal for staying and camping. The lake can be reached from the town of Murun. Gorkhi Terelj National Park north-east of the capital city is a dense expanse of virgin forests.

The major cities of Mongolia are Ulaanbaatar, Erdenet, Murun and Darkhan. Due to 250 cloud-free days in a year, Mongolia is also known as the ‘Land of Blue Skies’!

Naadam festival is one of the most celebrated events in Mongolia which happens in July. (This year it is being held from 11th to 15th July). The event includes 3 main sports: Horse Racing, Wrestling and Archery.

Tip: Buy maps of Mongolia from Map Centre near Gandan Monastery

Clothing: Keep winter clothing like jackets, woollens, gloves as it gets really chilly after evening.

Temperatures: Range from -0.3oC to 15oC (Amazing)

Currency: Mongolian Tugrik (1 MNT = INR 0.03 approx. at the time of writing)

Driving: Right side of the road, Left hand drive

Visa: Check visa rules & fee for your country here! It may vary depending on the type of passport you hold.

Fact: The capital city of Ulaanbaatar is home to approx. 45% of the country’s population!

 

Guys, this is all about this month’s Travel PitStops Series.

Let me know your thoughts about the blog. If you want me to add any other details going forward in this series, just comment below & don’t forget to subscribe! Kindly share with people who are intending to travel to these destinations.

 If you are travelling to any of these destinations, i would love to hear your experiences and stories.

Want to know about other travel destination? Read about Travel PitStops April edition

Continue reading “Travel PitStops – May”

Being Indian about Passport

From travelling around the globe, to visiting your kids at high school in a foreign university, to do destination weddings outside country, to leaving a country after scam (probably until you are found one to be!); for every act mentioned, you need a valid country-authorized passport. It is an officially recognized travel document that permits a person to cross-borders with other nations.

The word “Passport” – literally means a document to steer “pass” through a destination “port”!

 

How did passports come into existence?

A traveller’s identity across the globe is identified by this crucial piece of document. It carries a person’s face & the country he/she represents. So when you think of hopping borders, just show-off your colourful raffles to enter any country.

The history of passport dates back to 1414, when King Henry V developed a so-called travel document for his subjects to prove their identity in foreign lands. It was a random piece of informative paper which centuries later became an official travel requirement.
The use of Passport started a little more than 100 years ago when European countries constituted The Travel Control Act, 1918, to make it mandatory for people traveling from & into the region post World War 1.

(Come on, let’s give them the credits they deserve!)

 

What about Indian Passports?

The first version of an Indian Passport was released in 1920 and the current version we use was issued in 1986. It is issued by the President of India to its citizens. The Consular, Passport & Visa (CPV) unit of the Ministry of External Affairs has recognised Passport Seva (Passport Service) as the central passport issuing entity.

                  85px-BIpassport               82px-India-Pakistan_passport               Indian_Passport_1986               120px-Passports_Front

(In pic above: from left to right: British India passport, Joint India-Pakistan passport issued to migrants, Current Indian passport, An Indian Diplomatic passport) (Image Credits: Wikipedia)

Additionally, in 1967, The Passports Act was enacted by Parliament of India for the issue of passports and travel documents to its citizens (and other persons) and also regulate their departure.

As I write this article, soon we will have access to Biometric Passports (chip-enabled e-passports) which will carry all the information of a person. The law to bring this into effect was passed in April 2017. The e-passports can be read within 4 seconds, eliminating the efforts of passport officials at the centres and airports.

It will also help in drastically reducing long lines at the immigration counters enabling smooth and hassle-free movements. It will also help in filtering out fake passports. The pilot has been started with Official and Diplomatic Passports first.

Another major development that kicks in soon, is the elimination of details from the Demographic Page, which was largely used by unskilled workers seeking employment abroad.

Important: India does not allow Dual-Citizenship (multi-country citizenship). In simple words, you cannot be a citizen of any other nation, if you are an Indian citizen.

 

Information on Indian Passport

Our Passport has 2 main pages: Profile Page and Demographic Page

Profile Page contains
• Type – The Type of passport (Ordinary “P”, Official “S”, Diplomatic “D”)
• Country Code (“IND”)
• Passport Number
• Surname
• Given Name
• Nationality
• Gender
• Date of Birth
• Place of Birth
• Place of Issue
• Date of Issue
• Date of Expiry
• Passport Holder’s Photo
• Passport Holder’s Signature

Demographic Page contains
• Father’s / Legal Guardian Name
• Mother’s Name
• Spouse’s Name
• Your Address
• Old Passport Number (if any)
• File Number ( a reference application number)

Fact: For adults above 18, the passport validity is 10 years, while for minors it is 5 years

 

Types of Indian Passport

Depending on the requirements and segregation of each country for its citizens, different types of passports are issued. India issues 3 types of passports.

1. Ordinary Passport

• Issued to: Common citizens
• Colour: Dark Blue
• Purpose: Vacation, Travel, Business, Studies
• Type: “P” – where “P” stands for Personal

2. Official Passport

• Issued to: Individuals representing Indian government
• Colour: White
• Purpose: Official Business
• Type: “S” – where “S” stands for Service

3. Diplomatic Passport

• Issued to: Diplomats, Government Officials
• Colour: Maroon
• Purpose: Diplomatic Assignments and Missions
• Type: “D” – where “D” stands for Diplomatic

pass-2530813_1920

(A pro-tip: Never keep passports as shown, i don’t do it either, it might get damaged or unreadable for scanners)

Indian Passport – Global Ranks

As per the Passport Index, which ranks how strong a country’s passport is with respect to its peers, India holds:

  • Visa-Free Score (popularly known as VFS) of 58 (Highest VFS, Singapore 164)
  • Global Rank of 73 out of 98 on the basis of VFS (tied with Uzbekistan and Sao Tome Princepe)
  • Individual Rank of 143 out of 199

These rankings easily explain why our country has less outbound tourists (as you need to get visa for almost every other country). The state of infra for inbound tourists with respect to accessibility is reflected too.

Notably,
• The VFS of 58 includes 25 Visa-free countries and 33 VoA (Visa-on-arrival).
• The Individual Rank of 143 takes into consideration the UNDP HDI (United Nations Development Program – Human Development Index) which says about the perception of the country abroad.

To bring some cheer, India ranks 23rd out of 103 with a score of 157 in the list of welcoming nations (Passports accepted visa-free or with electronic travel authorization).

See we are very welcoming 🙂

“The ranking depends on factors like Global Tourism Contribution, Foreign Relations, Domestic tourism inbound & outbound, currency strength, political stability, inbound tourist facilities, tourist friendly policies, safety index of the country, state of Infrastructure and easiness in shuttling between places depending on transportation.”

To ascertain if there is any development in the factors leading to upgrade or a downgrade, the rankings are revised annually. The better the rankings, the better it is for tourists visiting India & for Indians to travel abroad.

Important: Whenever you travel a foreign land, keep the Indian Embassy / Consulate contact handy, as that is the only centre that can help you out in case of any emergency (Passport Lost / Stolen, Instability in visiting country or any other event)

To get Indian Embassy Information Click here

Passports alone do not guarantee a visit across borders, visa plays a crucial role in deciding the fate. You will read about visa in my next post.

Thanks for reading. I hope this gets you to understand your passport or get one. If you find this useful, would appreciate your comments below and do spread the word! 🙂

Be sure to poke me if you have any questions.

Indian but do not own a passport yet? Click here to get one

Know your Passport Seva Kendra (PSK)