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Posted on: Tuesday , Dec 30, 2008 At 20:33 PM

Airfares Go Down

After a long period of continuous increase in prices and additional levies that had made flying expensive, airfares are looking downwards again. Nearly all the airlines have now reduced ticket prices in the last few weeks, making flying attractive once again.

I went to one of the ticketing websites to check the extent of reductions, and was pleasantly surprised to see prices hovering around their lowest levels that existed a few years back. I could see a long distance flight ticket from Delhi to Bangalore sold at as low as Rs.3,174.00  The best Chennai - Bangalore fare was at Rs.2424.00

While low prices are a good thing, in the new year, I would still try to fly as less as possible, and prefer taking trains. Besides the fact that I have plenty have time and can afford to go by train, taking trains is a lot more environment friendly than flying.

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Posted on: Monday , Dec 29, 2008 At 13:55 PM

2008 On India Explored

This blog started in the early months of 2008, and has been updated regularly since then. It has been more than 100 posts in the year, covering travel news, interesting information and destination features. The page views have approached 25,000 and hopefully will accelerate faster in 2009. Here is a quick look at the all the destination guides we have had in the last 9 months.

Happy travels in the coming year, and wish you a very happy new year from 'India Explored'

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Posted on: Sunday , Dec 28, 2008 At 13:39 PM

Train To Khajuraho

Khajuraho joins the list of places that are now connected by Indian Railways.

The Railways Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav flagged off the train connecting Khajuraho with Jhansi on December 26th, putting the famed temple town on the railway map.

A large number of tourists travel from Orchha near Jhansi to Khajuraho, and they had to rely on buses till now. Nearest train station to Khajuraho was at Mahoba, more than 60km away. Train connectivity between Jhansi and Khajuraho makes getting to Khajuraho a lot more easier than it is now.

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Posted on: Saturday , Dec 27, 2008 At 12:07 PM

Crossing Wagah And Tracing The Hoysalas

I am sick, down with fever, sitting at home with not much to do and bored to death. Boredom and I don't go together, and when it does come to me, it takes off as fast as it arrived. Today, I am spending time searching for travelogues that kill boredom, and quickly came past a few write-ups that lifted my spirits and put me in the mood of travel.

Read about temporal's experiences of wandering in Amritsar and then crossing the border at Wagah to Lahore. His write-up seems a bit partial to India, but who cares, it makes a good read besides making me feel good.

Laxmi writes about her visit to a small non-descript village in heartland Karnataka where she explores the little places that stand witness to birth of a kingdom - of the Hoysalas. She has been tracing the roots of Hoysalas all through the year and writing about it. More of it here.

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Posted on: Monday , Dec 22, 2008 At 13:27 PM

Destination Guide: Thanjavur

Overview. Thanjavur is well known for its paintings and the huge temple built by chola kings. The Brihadiswara temple, or the 'big temple' as it is sometimes called,  remains the tallest landmark in town even today, and is visible from far. Built by Chola kings, the temple is nearly a thousand years old.

thanjavur temple

Orientation. The two well known places to see - Brihadiswara Temple and Thanjavur Palace are close to each other and in the center of the town. The Temple is in a large complex and can take more than an hour to see it from end to end.

Things to do and places to see

Thanjavur Temple

Thanjavur's Brihadiswara Temple was built by Raja Raja Chola in eleventh century to commemorate his victory over the king of Kerala. The temple was subsequently enhanced by the Maratha and Nayak rulers of Thanjavur. Today, the temple complex includes the tall Brihadiswara Temple surrounded by an Amman Temple, Muuagan Temple, a Ganapathi Temple and a mantapa for Nandi.

The gopura of Brihadiswara Temple has a 85 tonne stone crown. How it was lifted up remains a mystery even today. There are some speculations that it would not be a monolith, and some people say that it might have been taken up through a ramp several kilometers long. 

thanjavur paintings

The inside walls of the temple complex are decorated with Thanavur style paintings, most of them in bad shape today. The insides of the main temple too, are said to have sections with frescoes that are now closed for visitors to prevent possible damages. The roof of Nandi Mantapa adorns colorful floral designs, and so does Amman Temple. But the later has gone through a round of painting in recent years, which has made it loose its original touch and appears garish instead.

thanjavur temple elephant

While you are the temple complex, don't forget to pat the temple elephant and offer her bananas.

Thanjavur Palace.

While Brihadiswara Temple is a good example of well preserved ancient edifice, Thanjavur Palace is just the opposite. Nevertheless, it has many things worth seeing. 

thanjavur palace

The bell tower is a queer seven story structure that looks like a modern multi-storey building, and has a maze of hapahazard passages inside . The main palace building looks like a temple from outside. Inside the palace is Saraswati Mahal Library, which has a rare ancient books from the collection of Maratha King Sarfoji. The Maratha Darbar Hall in the palace has a colorfully painted auditorium. 

thanjavur palace

Food and Accommodation

Thanjavur is a big town, and has many budget and mid range hotels. South Indian food is available in small restaurants spread all over the town.

How to reach

Thanjavur has a train station. Nearest airport is at Trichy, which is approximately 60km away. Regular buses connect Thanjavur with Trichy.

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Posted on: Sunday , Dec 21, 2008 At 15:16 PM

No Beach Parties In Goa This Year End?

There were some rumours and unconfirmed news reports earlier that the Goa Government will ban beach parties in Goa this year end in the wake of Mumbai attacks and subsequent threats of terror. But the chief minister of Goa had denied it, and had mentioned that things will go on as usual.

But Goan government seems to be going back and forth on this issue, swinging between security concerns and tourism lobby. There were orders issued again yesterday, banning parties by the beach and open areas in Goa. How-ever, parties in hotels and enclosed areas can continue as usual.

So if you had plans to spend the Ney Year's Eve in Goa's Beaches, it is time for you to rethink on it.

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Posted on: Sunday , Dec 21, 2008 At 14:59 PM

Looking Up To The New Year Of Travel

The Government of India has declared 2009 as the 'Visit India Year'. This may not mean much to the domestic tourist though. It would mean the tourism department will have more budget allocations for their roadshows and publicities abroad, and more foreign travellers might visit India. The government has also announced incentives to repeat visitors coming to India. See more on the story.

At a personal level, I am already making some travel plans for the coming year. I will begin the new year with a 2-week visit to MP - a state with many treasures but less popular with tourists. I hope to spend a few weeks in Sikkim and Garhwal Himalayas in mid-2009 and a trip to South East Asia in later parts of the year.

2008 has been good for me in terms of travel. I visited Rajasthan early in the year, followed by Tamil Nadu. During the middle of the year, I made a long trip to Ladakh and then to Goa last month. I am going to end the year with visit to MP, which will stretch to early next year. There was an opportunity to visit the whole of India on a three month trip which I had to let go due to personal reasons.

How has 2008 been for you when it comes to travel? What are your plans for next year? Do leave your comments.

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Posted on: Sunday , Dec 21, 2008 At 10:49 AM

Destination Guide: Jog Falls

Jog Falls is India's tallest waterfall, located at the edge of Sahyadri mountains where river Sharavati plunges from a a height of nearly 250 meters. Though it was a popular tourist center for long, its fame was re-established three years ago when Kannada blockbuster movie 'Mungaru Male' – monsoon rain - was shot in the surroundings.

Overview. Jog Falls is formed by river Sharavati falling from a cliff. The fall can be viewed from either sides of the river, and each side gives a completely different perspective. If you are daring enough, you can even look down the gorge and see the fabulous view from the top. There are a few dams built along the river, and noisy power stations, but not all of them are open to public.

Jog Falls

Best time to see the waterfall is during the monsoons and just when the fury of the rains is over. Sometimes, the gorge gets covered in fog during the monsoons and you may not get a view of the fall for hours. The fall reduces to a trickle in summer.

This video shows Jog Falls at its best. But keep in mind, it is a rare event to see so much of water going down the cliff.

Orientation. Jog Falls is 30km from nearest town, Sagar. The view points and places to see are far from each other. Best thing to do is to hire a vehicle to take you around once you arrive.

Sightseeing and Activities

The view from the front of the fall, which is to the south side of the river is the most popular. There are fenced viewing areas made to get a clear view of the fall. In case you are at Jog on public transport, this is the most easily accessible view of the waterfall. When there is sufficient water, you can see all the four strands of the fall, named Raja, Roarer, Rocket and Lady from left to right.

Jog Falls

View from British Bungalow. This is the view from north bank, which gives a lateral perspective of the fall. What you see from here appears completely different from what you see from the front. A small section of the fall that is hidden by the rocks when you see from the front, can also be seen from this side.

Top View. A short walk from the views of British Bungalow, you can get to the top of the cliff. This is only for the daring folks who would not mind walking up to the edge of the cliff and look down at the water falling into the gorge 250 meters below. Five years ago, you would see no one in this area, but some visuals from the movie Mungaru Male changed all that. Today, you may have to stand in a queue to look down if you are here on a weekend.

Jog Falls

Sharavathi Valley. A short 30 minutes drive from Jog Falls towards Honnavar, you can see spectacular view of river Sharavathi flowing in a valley. The uninhabited slopes of the valley are covered in thick greenery. The view makes the drive worthwhile.

Honnemaradu. This is a small village in the backwaters of Linganamakki Dam, 15km from Jog Falls. An adventure company organizes coracling, canoeing, kayaking and camping in islands. See more details.

Other attraction. Between Sagar town and Jog Falls nearly 10km before Jog Falls, the road passes next to a small dam. During the rainy seasons, overflow from the dam forms a small waterfall.

Close to Jog Falls is a hydro-electric plant, but visitors are not allowed here. There are steps leading down to the fall, but decide to go down only if you are very fit.

Food and Accommodation. Facilities in Jog are basic. There are some basic restaurants at the view point at the south bank. The only accommodation available is government PWD guesthouse. A good option is to stay at one of the budget hotels in Sagar and travel to Jog Falls.

How to reach. KSRTC buses connect Jog Falls from Bangalore. A few private buses ply from Mangalore. Nearest train station is at Shimoga, which has daily trains from Bangalore.

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Posted on: Saturday , Dec 20, 2008 At 15:17 PM

Taj And Trident Are Opening Tomorrow

The two hotels that had to bear the brunt of terrorist attacks in Mumbai last month are springing back into their feet, and are ready to re-open for guests tomorrow.

Taj will be open only partially, with rooms in new wing ready for occupation. But the heritage wing has gone through considerable damage, and will take much longer to re-open.

Taj Hotels Website says:

"The Taj Mahal Tower will reopen on December 21, 2008, at 7 pm IST. On this date Mumbai will rediscover its nesting place and play host to the world again. You will feel the buzz of business as usual and experience hospitality that is quintessentially Taj."

Here is the release from Trident Hotels:

"Trident, Nariman Point, Mumbai will reopen to guests on Sunday, 21 December, 2008.

A round-the-clock effort is underway by the management and staff to ensure that the hotel is ready to receive guests.

The hotel will reopen about three weeks after it sustained damage during the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26 November, 2008. The hotel was amongst more than 10 locations in the city that were targeted in the terrorist attack.

When the hotel reopens, enhanced security will be in place to ensure the safety and comfort of guests and staff. The local law enforcement agencies have also been requested to extend all assistance.

The Oberoi Group owns and manages two hotels located adjacent to each other at Nariman Point in Mumbai. These are the luxury ‘The Oberoi’ hotel and 5-star ‘Trident, Nariman Point’ hotel. "

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Posted on: Wednesday , Dec 17, 2008 At 15:28 PM

How About A Taj Mahal In Dhaka?

Ahsanullah Moni, a film director in Bangladesh is working on a project to build lifesize replica of Taj Mahal near Dhaka. The Taj Mahal look alike is nearing completion now, and the Government of India doesn't seem to be very pleased about seeing a replica of the monument in another country.

The Indian Embassy at Dhaka has expressed its displeasure over the 'copy' and is working to see if there is a copyright violation, and hence possible action on the replica.

But I think the Indian embassy did not have to worry. As far as I can see the images of the replica, it can be described in one word - 'ugly'. An eyewitness blogger from Dhaka speaks in similar lines - 'they have used toilet tiles..'

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Posted on: Wednesday , Dec 17, 2008 At 15:08 PM

Coming Up - A New Luxury Train To Travel India

Luxury sightseeing trains seem to be here to stay, and proliferate. We had four major launches in almost a year's time - one each in Karnataka, Maharasthra, Rajasthan and Punjab. Now another launch is on the cards and this one is not confined to any state, and will traverse across India.

This new luxury train will go through west, north, east and southern parts of the country, spending a week in each region. The train will be a joint effort of IRCTC and Cox and Kings. It is likely to be functional the third quarter of 2009.

See complete story.

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Posted on: Thursday , Dec 11, 2008 At 23:17 PM

Fog Delays Flights At Delhi Airport

If you are flying into or out of Delhi in the next few weeks, make sure you keep plenty of buffer time, and even stay prepared to see your flight canceled.

Fog reduces visibility in Delhi airport every winter, and flight delays or cancellations are common. Several flights have been delayed today and some canceled, but the visibility situation is said to have improved in the later hours of the day. However, weather situations are usually unpredictable in winter and fog can disrupt flights any time.

Even though Delhi Airport is equipped with advanced CAT III systems that allow flights to land and take off in thick fog, most airline pilots, especially of budget airlines, are not trained to use this system and the delays continue.

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Posted on: Thursday , Dec 11, 2008 At 00:39 AM

Events In December

December is the time of holidays, festivals and the weather is just perfect to travel. May be that's why, there are lot of interesting events and festivals in December. Here is the list of events in the coming days.

  • Mamallapuram Dance festival begins on the 25th of December and goes on for a full month, featuring dances from all over the country. See timetable on TTDC website.
  • Winter Festival, held in Mt. Abu begins on 29th and goes on for three, days, showcasing the culture of Rajasthan. See info on RTDC website
  • Christmas and New Year Eve, needless to say, fall on 25th and 31st. If you like to party, beaches of Goa are the place to be where you can party through the night nearly every night between these days.

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Posted on: Thursday , Dec 11, 2008 At 00:00 AM

Jet Airways Agrees To Pay Commission To Agents

Hopefully this is the last update regarding transaction fees. The additional fee seems to be going out from the list of payments that passengers have to make.

After being blocked by all travel agents, Jet Airways has conceded and has agreed to pay a 3% commission for tickets booked by agents. This doesn't include bookings for Jet Lite. Other major airlines - Kingfisher and Air India are yet to announce their stand. It would be important to know what Air India's views are, since they are the first airline to stop paying commission to agents.

With Jet's decision payout commissions to agents, it is passengers who benefit finally, as they don't need to pay the additional transaction fees that was levied since November. 

Read earlier updates on transaction fees on India Explored

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Posted on: Saturday , Dec 06, 2008 At 15:45 PM

Tour Of Nilgiris

A bunch of cycling enthusiasts from Bangalore have come out with a novel idea of traversing the Nilgiri Mountains on bicycles.  

The tour begins from Bangalore on 25th December, and lasts for seven days going via Mysore, Madikeri, Sultan Battery and Ooty. The tour ends of 1st January at Bangalore after covering 919kms. As the title says, this is not a race but only a tour.

Anyone fit to travel 150km a day and is above 18 can join the tour. Go here to know more and register.

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Posted on: Saturday , Dec 06, 2008 At 15:26 PM

Updates On Airline Transaction Fees

'India Explored' has been tracking developments related to newly introduced transaction fees for air ticket bookings. See bottom of this article for earlier updates.

In the latest development on airlines deciding not to pay commissions to travel agents, agents are trying to hit back at the airlines. Lead by Travel Agents Federation of India, travel agents have targeted Jet Airways and JetLite, and have stopped selling tickets of both airlines.

Although many other airlines have stopped paying commissions on ticket bookings, the agents have targeted market leader Jet Airways to begin with. I searched for air tickets with some travel portals today, and results do not include Jet Airways and JetLite.

See the report here. It is time to wait and watch to see if airlines take a step back.

Earlier updates on transaction fees on India Explored

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