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”

Rishikesh – (S)piritual or (A)drenalin?

These 2 words come straight out of dictionary to describe Rishikesh. A place where your soul would feel confused to go for divinity or rush. Read on to pacify your hormones.

A city situated in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, among the foothills of Himalayas. The sacred river Ganges flows through, making it one amazing destination to visit.

I had my visit here back in April 2017 from a warm Punjab Trip. The city was dotted with pilgrims, adventure-seekers, confused travelers & lots of locals. With scores of devotee flags and people enchanting ‘Jai Mata Di’ (Hail the Goddess), the place was seeming eternal. Tourist season was in full-flow & all hotels & stays were overbooked. Package tour operators were not even entertaining customers as they were enjoying the season with both hands.

Tip: Booking early will save you money!

Rishikesh, as the name suggests, is a land of sages and saints who visited in ancient times. Rishikesh is also known as ‘The Yoga Capital of the world’ as it has a number of yoga & meditation centres to learn & practice. People throng here & stay for months if not days just to attain perfection in this field. Consequently though, they turn into a regular visitor.

 

Blog6_4

(In pic above: One of the most sought after activity in Rishikesh, Yoga!)

TheTwin National Heritage Cities’ of India are Rishikesh and Haridwar. The topology of Rishikesh encompasses hilly terrain, mountainous range & a beautiful river flowing in between. The nature sets in to give you a spectacle. Spiritually speaking, the place has lots of temples, pilgrim stories & sacred places to visit.

This place is as ideal it could get, well suited for all types of travellers. Pilgrimage and spirituality invites old-age travellers with families. Adventure activities pull young couples, solo travellers and foreign tourists.

Pilgrims flock here to witness the evening ganga aarti at Parmarth Niketan Ghat and take a holy dip in the sacred Ganges, considered a step closer to attain Moksha or freedom.

 

Blog6_3

(In pic above: Rafting in the ganges in Rishikesh)

There are a lots of adventure sports provider to cater & satisfy the adrenalin gushing inside you. Camping in nature and staying under stars is the ideal way to go! (This comes straight out of an ideal dream, but hey, you can do this actually)

Caution: Do not forget to check operator’s licence when you go for adventure activities, do it from a trusted brand or entity, they should be registered with concerned authorities

Rishikesh displays a perfect balance & calmness for all type of travellers, as they criss-cross the streets & walk through those same by-lanes of the shopping markets. More often, you will see more foreign nationals, making people confused what this city is offering them (I bet you need to explore this place).

Must noteNon-Veg Food & Alcohol is not permitted due to religious importance of the place.

Lakshman Jhula is one of the iconic spots of Rishikesh (at a distance of 5kms from city centre). It is an iron suspension bridge over river Ganges which connects two villages of Tapovan & Jonk. The other one is Ram Jhula, situated 2kms away from this place.

A number of meditation centres, spa centres, expedition points and ayurveda centres are located in this area. It is termed as the main activity spot of the city, as it keeps buzzing through the day.

The city is a starting point for the famous Char-Dham Yatra (Four sacred-place expedition) of Badrinath (Lord Vishnu), Kedarnath (Lord Shiva), Yamunotri (Origin of River Yamuna from Yamunotri Glacier) & Gangotri (Origin of River Ganga from Gangotri Glacier) where scores of pilgrims participate to experience the thrill.

 

For tourists into pilgrimage & divinity:
Place to Visit Entry Fee (INR)
Tera Manzil Temple Free
Neelkanth Mahadev Temple Free
Sivananda Ashram Free
Beatles Ashram Free
Laxman Jhula Free
Ram Jhula Free

One can book stays at ashram too, which provide budget accommodation. Few of them are Madhuban Ashram, Yoga Niketan Ashram, Parmarth Niketan Ashram

 

For adventure-seekers in Rishikesh, below is your list
Things to do Cost (INR)
Camping Starts from 1,300
River Rafting Starts from 800
Bungee Jumping Starts from 3,500
Flying Fox Starts from 1,800
Giant Swing Starts from 3,500
Jungle Safari Starts from 1,100
Rajaji National Park 150 (Indians), 600 (Non-Indians)

Few places from where you can book your adventure activities are Haridwar Rishikesh Tourism, River Rafting in Rishikesh, Jumpin Heights

Additionally,

  • Cost may vary for different operators
  • I suggest you to take combo of above activities as it will cost you cheaper by 10%-15%
  • There are restrictions on who can do these activities. Check before you book as it depends on a person’s medical condition, age & height. (Several factors you see!)
  • The cost of river rafting depends on the length (distance) of the activity chosen.
  • Other adventure activities include Cliff Jumping, Body Surfing, Trekking

 

Therefore, i would highly recommend you a trip to Rishikesh, covering all this city has to offer, from soaking the purity & divinity in the air, to performing yoga & meditation at its centres, rafting along its scariest patches & sleeping under the stars besides the same river. Trust me, you will re-discover yourself. (and do not forget me, Phew)

I am certain you would have made up your mind to explore Rishikesh. Let me know what makes you pack by commenting below.

12 ways to Pack smartly, Travel smartly & not feel carrying a cupboard!

We all love to travel & explore places. But have you ever given a thought that the baggage we take with us hampers our energy & memories just because you have to carry it everywhere. There is no denying that only you have to carry it for yourself, so why not make it light & travel freely all around.

No chik-chik, no jhik-jhik.

Let’s delve into how you should make the maximum productive use of every inch available inside your bag without carrying those extra clothes which you never wear on the trip.

“You see some clothes just hang around with you in your trip & comeback home safely without getting touched. But the best part is, they travelled a new place”

So there is no point taking those extras, you can still get a coolie at the station or a carrier at airport, but in your hotel room, it’s you who have to pick that suitcase up & keep on the bed (Bad Practice though! I just said it, I don’t do it, neither should you)

pexels-photo-269334

Manage stuffs in a way that brings out the best in you, avoiding hassles of planning days before on what to take & what to leave behind. Just pack & leave by following these simple guidelines. It is not a standard one-size-fits all, but more or less common to every traveller. It also depends on the type of travel like leisure, business, adventure or any other type of excursion.

1. Always keep your clothes folded in a proper way & not jumbled like you have just thrown them in a dustbin. Folded & well-kept clothes yield more space.

2. Take a maximum of 2 pair of Jeans (keep in mind that you are wearing one while travelling), as these are immortal products which never expire nor they retire (we say rough & tough), until you try to tear one yourself to make it look fashionable. You can wear lots of Tees on a single pair of jeans.

3. Always place your Jeans or Towel at the base of the travelling bag, as they are somewhat sturdy pieces of items that are used the least when you are on the move.

4. If you have a hotel booking or are going to make one, the towel you carry becomes redundant, as it is already provided by the hotel. So be sure to avoid carrying it for no reason.

5. Take Handkerchiefs & not cloth napkins, as they are made of pure cotton, dry easily & beyond a doubt slimmer when folded well. Cloth Napkins on the other hand look stuffy.

6. Keep all your toiletries in a well-maintained kit & not plastic bags. The reason behind is plastics bags assume the shape of the stuff kept within, which looks very bad & shabby plus it has a risk of getting torn which may lead to liquids oozing out of it, while kits have more space, have sections according to the things you want on your travel, like shaving kit, toothbrush, toothpaste, face creams, cosmetics etc.

7. Keep paper soaps and not a full soap, to wash your hands. This will save a lot of space as paper soaps are nothing but thin sheets.

8. Keep more T-Shirts rather than Shirts, as they are easy to fold & are comparatively lighter. Shirts on the other hand, are clumsy to maintain, as they have to be kept-well till arrival (as you can’t risk wearing a shabby looking shirt when you arrive, but t-shirts mostly remain intact)

9. The biggest load of all, your footwear. Try to take cloth-made footwear (canvas shoes) over leather-ones as they are light in weight & easy to carry & fold. If you are going to wear just one pair throughout your journey (not recommended at all, as it might stink after a few days), then you can wear the same while you travel & not keeping in the travel bag. Take a max of 2 pairs of footwear (again wearing one while traveling)

10. If you traveling to a cold climate destination, wear a handy jacket on way to avoid stuffing it your baggage. Even if you have to put it in your bag, don’t fold, rather keep it open, as it takes more space when folded & becomes bulky.

11. If you require a neck pillow, carry ones which can be inflated at the time of use. Cushion neck pillows take unnecessary space when not in use.

12. Do not carry heavy DSLR’s (forget this point if you are obsessed with your thing or are a professional photographer) if you have got a worthy smart phone camera. These days mobile cameras are well equipped and they take superb pictures.

P.S. According to different travel styles, airlines come up with estimated baggage you carry on their flights by doing an analysis of what travellers mostly carry in their bags. This table helps you to plan out & save your money on extra weight. This is highly recommended for people who look for weighing machines after packing their suitcases, and guessing how much will the suitcase weigh? Any guesses?

You might have never come across this table below. (I mean come on, who weighs clothes & other travel stuffs! Ridiculous!) So I weighed it for you, to decide how much you can carry.

Items Weight (in Kg)
A Jacket 1-1.5
A Pair of Jeans 0.4
A Shirt / T-shirt 0.1
A Typical Empty Suitcase 3-4
A Travel Backpack 1.5-2.5
A Shoe Pair (Cloth) 0.75-1
A Shoe Pair (Leather) 1.5-2
A Shoe Pair (Running Shoes) 1-1.5
A Laptop 2-2.5
A DSLR Camera 0.75-1.25
A Travel Kit 0.5
A Towel 0.25-0.5
A Leather Belt 0.2

 

From the table above, you can easily figure out your post-packing suitcase weight sitting at home.

If you are travelling for a wedding, thanks for reading so far, none of this applies on you. 🙂

The only suggestion is to travel by train or road, so that you won’t get charged for that extra luggage.

I tried to cover most of the essentials which these days traveller carry. Let me know your experiences about packing, I am sure you will be having some crazy ideas. Comment below & spread it to the world.