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Posted on: Friday , Jan 30, 2009 At 12:15 PM

Destination Guide - Manali


One of the prime honeymoon destinations in North India, Manali epitomizes mountain scenery of the Himalayas. Its mild temperatures are a good break from summer heat of the plains, and its a delight to play in snow during winter. Manali also serves as gateway to higher mountains up north – to Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti.


rohtang pass



Overview. Manali has an envious combination of greenery and snow. While deodar trees surround the town, a little up north, Rohtang Pass is buried in snow for more than six months a year. Comfortable resorts and hotels in all budget are spread around the town to help make visit to Manali a pleasure.


Orientation. Manali itself is a small town with a mall road no longer than a quarter kilometer. But interesting locations are spread around the town, and some as far away as a two hour drive. Autorickshaws can serve as means of transport for short distance commute, while taxis are easily available for longer journeys like going to Rohtang Pass.

Sightseeing and Activities

Manali Town. The mall road, which is rather small in comparison with other popular hill stations, is the place for quick eats and some shopping. Most of the conveniences in town are also located here, like travel agent offices, ATMs, restaurants, internet and utility shops. HPTDC office is located at one end of Mall Road.

Hadimba Temple and Manu Temple. Hadimba Temple, built in 16th century, is dedicated to Bheema's wife - Hadimba. Its a small temple built in wood, typically Himachali style with with a tower in the center raising three storey high. The temple is located in a large deodar grove and is a beautiful place to spend the day at. Manu Temple is another well known temple in quiet surroundings of Old Manali.


hadimba temple

Vashisht Hot Springs. Located three kilometers from Manali off the road to Rohtang is a small village of Vashisht. This is known for its ancient Ram Temple, and a sacred hot springs where people can take a dip. Today, Vashisht also doubles up as a popular backpacker hangout.

Solang Nala. A twenty minute drive from Manali, this place is a large activity center. A plane area in Solang serves as a sports center where you can go on parasailing and paragliding rides. In winter, this places serves as a ski slope. Just 20 minutes walk up from Solang is a sacred place where a tiny waterfall is known to form ice lingam in winters. You can also opt to hire a horse to ride to this place.


solang

Rohtang Pass. One of the famed passes in the country that serves as access to Ladakh and Lahaul-Spiti regions, this place is also a large tourist attraction. Snow remains on Rohtang until June-July every year, attracting large number of tourists from the plains who want to see snow. The way up to Rohtang is also very green and beautiful, with vista of deep valley of Beas River. Once the snow starts melting, Rohtang is covered in beautiful flowers all along the surface, which is worth seeing.

solang
 

Naggar. Thirty minutes away from Manali down the Beas Valley, Naggar is known for being the residence of famed Russian artist Nikolas Roerich. Roerich's paintings are displayed in a small museum located in the house that was once Roerich's residence. Naggar was also the capital of Kullu kings. A castle built in 15th century by Raja Sidh Singh is now a heritage hotel owned by HPTDC. Other attractions of Naggar include two ancient temples dedicated to lord Shival and Gauri Shankar.

Food and Accommodation


Manali has no dearth of places to stay and eat. South Indian and North Indian foods are easily available on the mall road, with plenty of eating options. A few renowned restaurants on the road to Old Manali serve world cuisine. Vashisht is the place to go for typical backpacker menu comprising Israeli, Italian, Indian and fast foods. While good hotels are located all around Manali, budget places are located in Vashisht.

How to reach. The airport is located at a place called Bhuntar, two hours drive from Manali. HPTDC runs overnight Volvos from Delhi. There are buses available from other major towns around Delhi, such as Chandigarh and Haridwar. Driving from the planes is also a good option if you are well verse with mountain roads. There is no rail connectivity.

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Posted on: Thursday , Jan 29, 2009 At 19:10 PM

Books For The India Explorer - V


'India Explored' has been posting travel book suggestions for the readers who want to know more about the country. Here we have is the fifth posts in the series, bringing you four more book. See links below for earlier posts in the series.

  1. The Great Arc by John Keay. this is a story about mapping geographical terrotories of India in first half of 19th century by British surveyors. The story talks about four decades of effort by George Everest(after whom Mt.Everest is named), and his predecessor William Lambton. 
  2. Himalaya by Michael Palin. Michael Palin is known for travel series' he makes for BBC. This book is his memoirs of three month long journey from end to end of Himalayas, shooting a series for BBC. The book covers his journey from Afghan-Pak border to China through India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.
  3. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. This is the best selling book about an Everest climbing mission gone bad. Besides a log of what happened in the mission, this also introduces the reader of the preparations involved in climbing Everest, it's economics and difficulties.
  4. Abandon by Pico Iyer. Written by one of the best known travel writers in the world, Abandon book is a story that revolves around sufism, where someone goes in search of secrets of Sufism to Iran, India and Spain.
See earlier posts in the series - parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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Posted on: Sunday , Jan 25, 2009 At 20:03 PM

The Theyyam Season


Theyyam is a traditional dance form and a means of worshippingof local deities in Northern Parts of Kerala. It is popular in Kannur and Kasargod districts.

In Theyyam, artist wears an elaborate costume rich in color, added with a large head gear that may sometimes be pepped up with burning lamps. The performances often happen through the day, and some Theyyam festivals go on for as long as three days. At some point of time during the performance, the deity in whose temple premise the Theyyam is performed is said to occupy the performer, who gets excited and frenzied. This part of the ritual can often seem spooky.

The Theyyam season begins every year in mid-winter, and increases in frequency in January and February. This is a good time to see Theyyam performances in villages of Kannur district. See http://www.vengara.com/theyyam/index.html for more information on Theyyam.

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Posted on: Saturday , Jan 24, 2009 At 15:09 PM

Destination Guide: Jaisalmer


Located at the edge of the country and in the middle of vast desert, Jaisalmer is the ideal place to see isolated sand laden landscapes of Thar desert. The sandy stretches here are sparsely populated and is an ideal for those who want to get away from the crowds, and are in search for a sense of of peace and tranquility.

Sand Dunes


Overview. Jaisalmer is well known for its desert terrain and Rajasthan's cultural heritage. It is a popular tourist destination, well known for camel safaris and camping in the desert.


Orientation. Some of the worthy historical places to see are located within walkable distance from the center of the town. But one needs to head out to see the expanse of the desert. Although it is ideal to have a vehicle at your disposal to drive around the desert roads, it is possible to visit most of Jaisalmer without the aid of one. When you are on a safari, your tour operator can usually arrange all your transports.


Artifacts for sale in Jaisalmer


Sightseeing and Activities


Jaisalmer Fort. Located on a tall mound, the Jaisalmer Fort is visible from every part of the town. The majestic fort. Built in 12th century by king Rawal Jaisal, it is one of the oldest forts in Rajasthan. Inside the fort are a few well know Jain Temples, an ancient temple of Laxminath and the royal palace.


Fort


Gadisagar Lake. Just outside the town is this large lake which usually has plenty of water through the year. You can relax on the lake shore, or go on a boat ride in the lake. A few chhatris are built in the middle of the lake.


Gadisagar Lake


Sam Sand Dunes. Located near the vast desert national park, Sam is a stretch of sand dunes popular with tourists. The soft sand on the dunes and the striations formed by the wind are popular with tourists. You can go on camel rides here, or camp overnight.


Sand dunes of Khuri. Khuri is a small village 40km South-East of Jaisalmer, known for its relatively untouristed dunes. Being near Desert National Park, you can often site wildlife like blackbucks and the less seen desert fox. Thought Khuri is not as popular as Sam, its a good place for camel safaris.


Camel Safaris and Sand Dunes. The most popular activity in Jaisalmer is the camel safari. You can go on short pleasure rides lasting a few hours, or spend days gallivanting in the desert camping with your camel drivers. It is a great way to get a feel of the desert, and to spend days away from the crowds.


Camel


Patwon Ki Haveli. This impressive five story Haveli is nearly 300 years old, built by a local merchant named Guman Chand Patwa. The haveli is now managed by ASI, and is made into a museum.


Lodurva. Lodurva is an ancient town 30 minutes drive from Jaisalmer. Now abandoned, it has many ruined temples worth seeing.


Food and Accommodation.


Being a tourist town, Jaisalmer is teeming with budget accommodation. It is easy to find clean guest houses all over the town at prices as low as Rs.200 or less. Jaisalmer also has other accommodations at every price level. If you want to spend a night in the desert in comfort, tented mid-range accommodation in Sam Sand Dunes is an ideal location, where you can enjoy the serenity of the desert along with some cultural events and dinner under the sky.


How to Reach. Indian Railways connects Delhi and Jaisalmer. Buses ply into Jaisalmer from Jodhpur and Jaipur, though Jaipur to Jaisalmer is a long way by road.

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Posted on: Saturday , Jan 24, 2009 At 09:57 AM

India Tops Airport Delays


A recent survey by Forbes on flight delays puts many Indian Aiports among the worst.


In their survey that ranks worst departures and arrivals, many Indian airports have been ranked under ten. Mumbai leads the pack as for least timely arrivals, ranked number one with less than 50% on time arrivals. Delhi and Bangalore are also among the top five, putting India as one of the most delayed regions.


With the new airport in place, Hyderabad is missing from the list where it was a regular affair to wait for the runway to get cleared. Bangalore's old airport would have probably scored high in the list, and the new airport which was commissioned on the middle of 2008 should improve their performance in 2009.


But surprisingly, though India's airports have topped late arrivals, none of these airports are listed high in late departures ranking, hinting that the problems may be elsewhere. It is Europe that tops the charts in late departures.


See full story - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28579646/

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Posted on: Friday , Jan 23, 2009 At 22:03 PM

Goa Government And Security Issues


The government of Goa seems to have gotten paranoid about security issues since the days of Mumbai terror attack.


When the terrorists attacked Mumbai last November, Goa was celebrating International Film Festival in Panaji. After the terrorists broke in, Goan government cancelled all outdoor performances scheduled as part of the festival (http://www.realbollywood.com/news/2008/11/terror-strike-forces-goa-to-cancel-all-activites-related-to-iffi.html). 


Next it was the famous beach parties during the new year's eve that the government decided to forbid, citing security fears. Goa was quieter as 2008 ended to make way to 2009 (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Goa'govt'bans'New'Year'beach'parties/articleshow/3867030.cms). 


The latest victim of Goan government's fear is a pan India luxury train. IRCTC has now cancelled a luxury train that was to go from Kolkota to Mumbai via Goa, as Goan government could not assure security of the train(See http://travels.ndtv.com/Story.aspx?pageheader=news&sub'category=&ID=245).


Such reaction of Goa government seem to be an aproach of trying to cut away the nose for catching cold. Life can't be curtailed for fear of security. Goa government must focus on implementing peoper security measures and beefing up intelligence instead of acting like a looser and affecting the living of many people who depend on tourism in Goa.

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Posted on: Friday , Jan 23, 2009 At 21:39 PM

Wishing For Bullet Trains


After returning from his Japan trip, our railways Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav is talking about bringing bullet trains to India (see http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/ET'Cetera/India'will'run'super-fast'bullet'trains/articleshow/4001821.cms). Politicians are meant to make promises and we are meant to hope, but for a moment, I thought how nice would it be to have Bullet Trains here.


Some of these trains in Japan run at speeds as high as 300km per hour, and could make short haul flights a thing in the past. Such trains could efficiently bridge our neighbouring cities and improve commute and communication to a great degree. 


Imagine not having to report to airport two hours before, or leaving home more than three hours early, to get on a flight from Bangalore to Chennai or Delhi to Jaipur. If we have all the adjacent cities connected, many such cities might become neighbourhoods instead of a painful flight or a night long journey. Distance between Chennai and Bangalore, Delhi and Jaipur, Kolkata and Siliguri, Delhi and Chandigarh, Mumbai and Surat can all be reduced to less than two hours. 


I don't know if Laloo has ordered his engineers to the drawing boards already, but I sure would like to dream of such connectivity.

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Posted on: Wednesday , Jan 21, 2009 At 11:46 AM

Ndtv Seven Wonders Campaign


The voting for new seven wonders had caused plenty of buzz all over the world some time back, and our very own Taj Mahal made it to the big list. Now, NDTV is trying to compile a list of seven wonders in India, and in regions within India.


Although I personally loathe at these publicity campaigns trying to woo people into their tv channels and websites, it would still do well in introducing beautiful and interesting places in the country to the people.


NDTV Website says: The rich heritage of India is best revealed in its 'Seven Wonders'. From a majestic monolith to places of worship, a mausoleum and a university- our wonderful land is a treasure trove. Join us as we discover incredible India in all its glory. Our campaign endeavours to choose the magnificent SEVEN from the wonder that is India. Your votes will decide the winners among the enchanting monuments from around the country.


You can participate by voting for your facourite monuments and sharing images of nominated places. See http://7wondersofindia.ndtv.com/ for more.

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Posted on: Wednesday , Jan 21, 2009 At 11:35 AM

Airfares Likely To Go Up In Mumbai And Delhi


Last week we heard about people flying out of Bangalore having to pay more, with introduction of User Development Fees(UDF).


In a recent development, ministry of civil aviation is proposing to levy additional fees from passengers flying out of Delhi and Mumbai. This one will be called Airport Development Fee or ADF, and can increase the airfare by up to Rs.300 for each passenger. See full story at http://www.newkerala.com/topstory-fullnews-78409.html


Currently passengers flying out of new airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad have been paying additional fees specific to the city. Watch this space for more developments on ADF in Mumbai and Delhi.

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Posted on: Monday , Jan 19, 2009 At 20:15 PM

Jaipur Literary Festival


Jaipur Literary Festival, an annual event attended by 'Who is Who' of the literary world is starting on the 21st January, and will go on till 25th.


Authors attending this year includes Pico Iyer, one of the best known travel writers in the world. Other well known names such as Shashi Tharoor, Sonia Faleiro, Tarun Tejpal, UR Ananthamurthy and Vikram Seth are going to be at the festival. Amitabh Bachchan is also one of the attendees. For book lovers, authors and avid reades, this is a geat oppotunity to meet celebated writers from across the world and listen to them speak.


The five day program includes workshops, talks by authors, exhibitions and several performances. If you are in Delhi or Jaipur or anywhere in the vicinity, don't miss attending the event. Entry is free, but registering as a delegate provides additional access. Know more at jaipurliteraturefestival.org

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Posted on: Monday , Jan 19, 2009 At 19:56 PM

Two More Unesco World Heritage Sites In India?


The January issue of Discover India magazine hints at two more important sites joining the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.


The first of them is Jantar Mantar, the astronomical observatory in Jaipur's old city. According to the magazine, a decision is already made by UNESCO on this, and Jantar Mantar will soon be added to the list of World Heritage Sites. 


The other place in question is Ooty's Botanical Garden, which has applied for World Heritage Status. The magazine reports that the one and a half century old garden has sixteen heritage sites within it, which should help it secure the position.


India already has 27 UNESCO World Heritage sites. UNESCO also maintains a tentative list, and curiously, neither Jantar Mantar nor Botanical Garden are in the tentatives. See the complete list and tentative at http://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/in

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Posted on: Sunday , Jan 18, 2009 At 13:14 PM

Snow In Kashmir


Rain and snowfall in Kashmir Valley signal the beginning of winter tourist season in Kashmir this year.


After a very lull summer tourist season in Kashmir due to mindless violence related to Amarnath land issue, Kashmir is looking forward to arrival of tourists who want to see snow, and slide down on the ski slopes of Gulmarg. Here is a news clip from Rising Kashmir website.


Gulmarg has the best ski slopes that India can offer, and also has the best ski lifts available and heliskiing facilities. Below are some links on Gulmarg.

  • http://www.gulmarg.org/
  • http://www.jktourism.org/cities/kashmir/gulmarg/index.htm
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulmarg
  • http://www.skihimalaya.com/gulmarg/index.php


Do keep in mind though, that snow can disrupt people movement, and can often block roads in parts of Kashmir. The Jammu-Srinagar highway was closed owing to snowfall in 15th January.

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Posted on: Monday , Jan 12, 2009 At 15:50 PM

Seeing Olive Ridleys


During winter months, Olive Ridley Turtles arrive in large numbers in many places along the coastal line of India. Though their arrivals are most well known at Chilka Lake in Orissa, you can see them in many other places too. Here is a small list.

  1. Chilka Lake
  2. Near Chennai
  3. Morijim Beach Goa
Winter is the best season to see Olive Ridleys in the beaches, and Orissa is where they are most populous.


In the last few decades, the existence these turtles have been threatened by fishing activity in Chilka lake and other regions. Many NGOs are working to save the turtles from extinction. The efforts of Wildlife Institute of India in Rushikulya Beach south of Chilka Lake are particularly well known.


This is the right time if you would like to watch Olive Ridleys coming down the shore to drop eggs, or see the young ones breaking out and heading into the sea in any of the above places. The nesting season of Olive Ridleys is from October to March.

See some images of Olive Ridleys here and here.

Update: Besides the above, Gahirmatha beach sees a very high density of Olive Ridleys, thanks to gspygrl for the information.

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Posted on: Saturday , Jan 10, 2009 At 09:45 AM

Udf At Bangalore Airport


If you are flying out of Bangalore from next week, be ready to pay up some additional money to get on your flight.


Bangalore Airport International Limited - BIAL - had requested Ministry of Civial Aviation to permit charging User Development Fees(UDF) for departures from Bangalore Aiport. Civil Aviation Ministry has conceded to the request, and starting January 16th, BIAL will levy Rs.260 on all domestic passengers departing from the airport.  


Despite the additional burden on passengers, CEO of BIAL, Alburt Brunner is not happy, as they had requested for a UDF of Rs.675. See full story.

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Posted on: Wednesday , Jan 07, 2009 At 22:44 PM

The Discomfort Of Rajadhani Express


Rajdhani express trains are fast trains connecting major cities with Delhi. They are expensive compared to regular trains, they run faster, are fully air conditioned and are naturally expected to be more comfortable than normal trains. But Mridula, a travel blogger, who takes Rajdhani from Bangalore to Delhi finds that it actually turns out to be a torture! She writes...


..I am looking forward on a 36 hour journey is to catch up on sleep! It is impossible with the music blaring at all hours at a volume over which I have no control.

..They wake you up between 6.00 and 7.00 am in the morning to drink tea!

 

Read the whole story here.


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Posted on: Wednesday , Jan 07, 2009 At 22:34 PM

Festivals And Events - January 2009


I had made a post on event and festivals for January, but either due to my oversight or some technical snags, the post seems to have gone missing! So here is a summary of the events, posted again.

1. Chennai Dance and Music Festival is an event that has been running since December, and will go on till January 15th. Another dance event not very far from Chennai is Mamallapuram Dance Festival, which also begain last month and will be on till January 25th. 

2. Bikaner Camel Festival happens in Bikaner on 10th and 11th January, showcasing the culture of Rajasthan.

3. Sankranti, as always, is on 14th January. Be in Ahmedabad to see week long frenzy of kite flying. The international kite festival is scheduled here on the 11th. The festival is called Pongal in TamilNadu. Go to Madurai to see an interesting bull fight called JalliKattu.

4. January 26th, needless to say, is republic day. Don't miss the parade is you are in Delhi. See the official website for republic day. 

5. Tibetan New Year, Losar, falls on January 27th, and is celebrated in the monasteries of the moountainous regions of the north.

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