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Posted on: Thursday , Feb 26, 2009 At 12:50 PM

Summer Travel

February is ending, and there is a slow and steady rise in mercury levels. With the approaching summer, it will soon be very hot, and travelling in the plains will get difficult. But it is also the time when kids have holidays and there is enough time to travel. The mountains, with their fair weather, come to the rescue.

A boatman in Nainital

I am beginning my summer travels with a quick visit to Ooty, spending time in the green and beautiful mountains of the Nilgiris. Later, with the progress of season, I am planning to spend time in the Himalayas, escaping the heat in the plains. Where are you planning to head this summer? Some suggestion here.

Shimla Mall

The choice in south are not many. Ooty, Munnar and Kodaikanal remain the popular destinations. Places surrounding Bangalore, though not as pleasant as the hills, still tend to have a good weather.

Up North, the mighty Himalayas provide plenty of choices. There are well known hill stations - Shimla, Dalhousie, Dharmashala, Manali, Darjeeling, Nainital, and many more. Himachal and Uttaranchal are full of beautiful Himalayan destinations, and if you are in Delhi, there are many places to go to. So where do you choose to go?

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Posted on: Thursday , Feb 26, 2009 At 12:17 PM

Lp Travel Blog Awards - Vote For Windyskies

Lonely planet had announced its first every travel blogger award earlier this year. The initial round of nominations are now closed, and a list of nominated blogs have been put for voting. Voting constitutes 50% weight and another 50% weight comes from a panel of judges.

'Windy Skies', written by Anil P is the only blog from India in the nominations list. Windy Skies is nominated under the category of 'Best Travelogue'. Visit Windy Skies at and vote for the blog at

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Posted on: Thursday , Feb 26, 2009 At 10:51 AM

Cruising On The Ganges

When Eric Newby decided to take a boat and travel from Haridwar to Kolkata on the Ganga, he met with many difficulties(Read: "Slowly down the Ganges" by Eric Newby). There was not enough water to take the boat in most places. But beyond Allahabad where the river was wide and deep, it was a smooth ride all the way. 

Varanasi boat ride

From later this year, you can traverse this stretch in luxury, taking a cruise boat from Kolkata and going upstream in comfort all the way to Varanasi. TransIndus, a UK based tour organizer, will be running cruise tours from Kolkata to Varanasi, starting this September. The 15 day journey upstream will be traversed in a 28 cabin luxury vessel that can accommodate 56 people. Read more on it at'content&task=view&sectionid=8&id=23155

Though the Ganga is navigable after Varanasi, and British vessels once used to carry cargo from Kolkata all the way to Allahabad, there haven't been many attempts to use this stretch for tourism. Besides Kerala's backwaters, the only well known river cruise runs along Brahmaputra. Both Varanasi and Kolkata have good potential for tourism, and there is a good chance that this will be a successful initiative.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Feb 24, 2009 At 17:33 PM

Festival Alert: Losar

It is a little late for this update, but not too late that the event has passed. The Tibetan New Year, called Losar will be celebrated on the 25th of February. You can witness the celebrations in many Tibetan monasteries across the country. But not all places may celebrate losar, so it is best to check ahead.

One place where Losar is best witnessed is in Bylakuppe, a Tibetan settlement in Coorg. This year's Losar is likely to be all the more colourful with presence of His Holiness Dalailama at the monastery. So if you are in Bangalore, or close to any Tibetan monasteries up in the Himalayas, it is not too late to pack your bags and hurry. One of the prime attraction of Losar will be dances performed by the monks.

In case you are going to miss the Losar in Bylakuppe but still would wish to see Dalai Lama, he is going to be there for 10 more days. Call the monastery to check if he has any public appearances. See for contact details.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Feb 24, 2009 At 16:02 PM

Tourism Dharavi

It has been a few years since slum tourism has been picking up in Mumbai. Slumdog Millionair did not start a trend, but gave plenty of fuel to the practice. Dharavi, apparently is becoming popular with the tourists.

I have had mixed opinions about tourism that takes tourists to the poorest of the places, where people live in not the best of the conditions. It seems to be in poor taste to showcase rest of the world about the conditions that some people live in. It feels rude and snobbish. But at the same time, it also seems to do good in some way. It is very much possible that some of the visitors keep coming back to help uplift the life of people living in the places they visit. Tourists also bring in flow of much needed money into people who need them. And then, trying to oppose slum tourism seems to be a way of trying to live in denial.

What is the right thing is very hard to say, and depends on the perspectives of every person. What are your thoughts? I would love to know.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Feb 24, 2009 At 15:45 PM

Kerala: A Place Where The Government Works

I was in North Kerala last week to witness a traditional ritual called Theyyam that usually happens in Kasargod and Kannur distrcts(Read more about Theyym on India Explored here). Though Theyyams keep happening regularly in the region, there is no published schedule easily available. Having heard that there are Theyyams happening between 22nd and 26th of February, I decided to just get there and find out more.

Once in Kasargod, I made my way to the office of District Tourism Promotion Council(DTPC). Someone manning the desk asked me to contact the DTPC secretary. They usually get very few inquiries on Theyyams, and did not have any information handy. The secretary was not in office, but was in the government guesthouse where he was staying. Prejudiced against all things government, I assumed he was just being absent from his duties. But when I called him, my opinions were immediately reversed. He was on his way to give an official training, but agreed to spare some time for me. And when I did go there, I found him to be a humble person without any air that the babus usually possess. He spoke to me earnestly, gave me plenty of data and leads despite getting delayed with his training. And he offered to be at help again when needed.

It is very unlikely that you would get similar help from another tourism office elsewhere in the country. They might give you whatever information they have, and if not, just shrug and let you go. But in Kerala, the government machinery seems to work.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Feb 17, 2009 At 21:53 PM

Gulmarg Update And Snow Condition In Auli

We had mentioned about trouble in Gulmarg last week, which arose when a swede was seen skiing with quran inscriptions on his skis. The tourist apologized, and fortunately things returned to normal in a day. See for the update. The calm has returned to Gulmarg, the best skiing destination in India and probably one of the best in the world, is seeing many tourists. As a travel agent I know mentioned, it is indeed a destination sought by eager skiers. The snow has been good and this is one of the few places where tourism industry is still doing good in these gloomy days.

Meanwhile, things are not as bright in Auli, another well known skiing destination in the country. There is hardly any snow in the mountains in these parts and the ski lifts are not operating. If you had any plans to visit Auli this month to ski, consider changing your plans.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Feb 17, 2009 At 10:31 AM

Airport Development Fees At Delhi

We had earlier mentioned that passengers flying out of Mumbai and Delhi may have to cough up an additional fee (See Airfares likely to go up in Mumbai and Delhi). Now the government has permitted Delhi International Airport Ltd to levy these fees starting from March 1st.

International passengers departing from Delhi will pay a steep Rs.1300 as Airport Development Fees, while domestic passengers will have to pay Rs.200. The fees will be in place for three years, but it will be a subject to review after six months.

Similar to Delhi, Mumbai International Airport Ltd had sought to impose Airport Development Fees, which is still under review. Watch this space for updates.

See full story -

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Posted on: Monday , Feb 16, 2009 At 09:37 AM

Rose Festival At Chandigarh

The annual rose festival in Chandigarh is scheduled to commence on 20th of this month.

It is a three day festival held in Chandigarh's well-known rose garden, where hundreds of species of rose will be kept for display. The event will be pepped up with cultural shows, which includes musical performances by bollywood singers and fashion shows.

If you are anywhere around Chandigarh, mark your calendar from 20th to 23rd February. See the event schedule at Chandigarh Tourism website -

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Posted on: Monday , Feb 16, 2009 At 09:09 AM

The Fishy Airfare Hikes

I was looking for airfares from Bangalore to Delhi two weeks back, and was pleasantly surprised to see rock bottom prices offered by most airlines. The best airfare, with all taxes and surcharges inclusive, was less than Rs.2500(one week fare, midweek flight), the lowest I have seen ever. The reduction in aviation fuel prices had a good effect in the prices going down.

But it seems like a shocker to see the same prices today. The cheapest available ticket costs more than double. No wonder that the Civil Aviation minister suspects something wrong here, and muses about possible cartelization.

Having understood that the tough competition and rock bottom prices do not do good to them in the long run, there is a good possibility that the airlines would have come together to jack up the prices. The collective increase in prices and the minister's comments have brought sufficient attention for MRTPC to initiate an inquiry(See'By'Industry/Transportation/Airlines''Aviation/MRTPC'to'probe'uniform'air'fare'hike/articleshow/4120859.cms).

It is always a welcome thing to have low fares, but at prices like Rs.2500 or less for a flight from Bangalore to Delhi, the business would have been unsustainable in the long run. Though hiking prices is wise in the long run to ensure that there are enough airlines operating, and good competition to make businesses run efficiently and stay passenger friendly, a cartel, if exists, would defeat the whole purpose.

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Posted on: Monday , Feb 16, 2009 At 08:36 AM

A Special Journey Across India

Travel is not just about seeing places. It is about the experience of the new place, getting know the pulse of life in the places we are in, mingling with local populace and getting up close to the essence of destination we are at.

But so many times, we get into situations where travel becomes impersonal. We stay in hotels, see the sights and come back. It can very well happen that we do not know anyone at the destination we are in, we are shy to talk to strangers or we just don't have a clue about the best way to get personal with the people around us in a new place.

A special oktatabyebye traveller is just trying to work around all that. He is going from city to city, all over India from north to south, and trying to do things that a normal tourist would never get to. He is asking people to help him stay for a day or two, and help him see places. Ashish is not only getting to see the beautiful country, he is getting a chance to make new friends, see special things about each city that a tourist might never get to know, eat at small eateries that serve the best you can get. His travels are turning out fruitful. He is writing about it all on oktatabyebye. Read his stories here.

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Posted on: Monday , Feb 09, 2009 At 19:04 PM

A New Meditation Destination

Mumbai has a new Vipassana Center with the world's largest pagoda that can accommodate 8,000 persons at a time.

The new Vipassana Center, with its 325 feet high pagoda could be a destination to look forward to for spiritually inclined people as well as passing tourists. It was thrown open today by the president Pratibha Patil.

The center is away from the mainland in Mumbai and is accessible by a short boat ride. Read full story at

Vipassana is a buddhist meditation technique popularized by SN Goenka, and is widely practiced in India and many other countries. See for more details.

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Posted on: Monday , Feb 09, 2009 At 18:51 PM

Travel Alert: Trouble In Gulmarg

Gulmarg is witnessing some trouble since yesterday, and some protests have resulted in shutdown in the India's best skiing destination. Protesters have been asking to take action against a Swedish tourist, who is said to be using skis with Quran inscriptions on them.

According to the news story, there were some tensions in Srinagar and police had to scatter protesters by bursting tear gas shells.

From the reports, it looks like the situation can return to normal quickly, but Kashmir being a sensitive region, it is advisable to stay alert if you are heading towards Srinagar or Gulmarg.

See full story at

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Posted on: Monday , Feb 02, 2009 At 12:49 PM

Festivals And Events - February 2009

Surajkund Crafts Mela. This is one of the well known crafts event showcasing cuisine, culture and crafts, organized by Haryana Tourism and Tourism Department of Government of India. Held in Delhi from 1st February 2009 to 15th February 2009. See website of Haryana Tourism for details -

Nagaur Cattle Fair. The second largest cattle fair in Rajasthan after Pushkar, the Nagaur Cattle Fair is held from 2nd to 5th February in Nagaur. See Rajasthan Tourism Website for details.

Desert Festival in Jaisalmer is held from 7th to 9th February, which showcases the culture and history of the Marwar region. See Rajasthan Tourism website for details.

Mahashivaratri falls on 23rd February. A lot of people gather in Varanasi this day to visit Kashi Vishwanath Temple. See for more details.

Pattadakal Dance Festival. This is a dance festival organized by government of Karnataka, held in the small historical village of Pattadakal. Dates are yet to be announced. Watch this space for more details.

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