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Posted on: Tuesday , Sep 30, 2008 At 20:46 PM

Airline Fares


With difficult days for the airlines, things aren't going too good for passengers either. Cheap deals have disappeared, and minimum fares have almost foubled compared to two years ago. Every now and then we hear about some additional fees or surcharges over base fare. Taxes, then fuel surcharges, coming ahead is transaction fees. Add to that, Bangalore and Hyderabad airport are lobbying with the Civial Aviation Ministry to impose User Development Fees.


It is complete chaos out there with ticket prices. An article on Business Standard tries to make sense of it. Worth a read, if you are a regular air traveller.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Sep 30, 2008 At 08:53 AM

Mysore Dasara Celebrations


The grand festival of Mysore Dasara is beginning today at Mysore. It will be ten days of unlimited celebrations and events for people of Mysore and those travelling there.


The official website is now updated with all the details of the events. There is much to do and see, including music concerts, sports events, an exhibition, folk events and a lot more. The most celebrated of all the events being, the procession on the last day with elephants.


See the complete schedule here. Also visit the home page of mysoredasara.com; don't forget to keep the sound turned on!


Also see: Kullu is another place where Dasara is celebrated with lot of fanfare. Some information on this at the official website of Kullu.

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Posted on: Monday , Sep 29, 2008 At 19:54 PM

Karvy Flowers In Sgnp


Karvy, a plant that flowers once in 7-8 years are now blooming in Sanjay Gandhi National Park. So if you are in Mumbai, don't forget to head there this weekend, or you will have to wait for many more years to be able to see them again. 


These flowers belong to the same family as the Kurinji flowers that grow in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which flower once in 12 years. 


See the full story. See more about the flower here.

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Posted on: Monday , Sep 29, 2008 At 19:37 PM

Additional Fees For Flight Bookings


Starting November, booking a flight from a travel agent is going to cost you more.


It all started a few months ago when 'Indian' declared that they will stop paying commission to travel agents for flight bookings from October. In the times when airlines are struggling with high fuel prices and overcapacity, other airlines quickly followed and it almost became a crisis situation for travel agents.


The solution that has now been worked out is simple - let the users pay! So every ticket now booked with a travel agent will cost more, by a minimum of Rs.350, to a maximum of Rs.10,000 for a first class international flight. This additional charges is termed as 'transaction fee'. See more on this.


Surprisingly, even tickets booked on an airline's website also attract this transaction fee, but this money will be earned by the airline itself and not a travel agent! That seems a bit very unfair.

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Posted on: Sunday , Sep 28, 2008 At 19:34 PM

Where To Go This Winter?


With the winter setting in, its mostly the plains of India where it is the right time to travel. Though most domestic travel happens in summers when the sun is blazing, a lot of places in India are best visited in the winters. In the coming few months, India Explored will explore travel ideas and destination for the winter. We have already started with a post on Hampi.


Just before the beginning of winter, here is an overview of ideal places to visit from across the country.


1. Temple Towns of Tamil Nadu. In 10 days, you can cover Madurai, Thanjavur, Chidambaram, Kanyakumari and Rameshwaram. Or you can visit any one of these places for a weekend.


2. Beaches and backwaters of Kerala. Alleppey is a celebrated destination. Other places - Kovalam, Varkala, Cochin and Kasargod.


3. Northern Karnataka. Where history and architecture is at its best in the country. Visit Hampi, Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal and Bijapur. Spice it up with a visit to Belur and Halebeedu in Southern Karnataka, if you have enough time.


4. Beaches of Goa and Southern Maharashtra. Not much needs to be told about Goa. Visit North Goa's famed beaches, and in Maharasthra - Ganpatipule and Sindhudurg.


5. Madhya Pradesh. The less touristy state has much to offer than people know about it. Orchha and Khajuraho for remains of yesteryears, Kanha and Bandhavgarh for wildlife, Dhuandhar falls and Pachmari to be in the lap of nature.


6. Gujarat and Rajasthan. Rajasthan has plenty to offer, and winter is obviously the best time. Start from Jaipur, pass through Jodhpur, Udaipur and end in Jaisalmer or Bikaner. In Gujarat, see the only place in India host to Asiatic Lions - Gir. Rann of Kuchh is another noteworthy area in Gujarat.


7. UP and Uttaranchal. Varanasi, Rishikesh, Corbett. A few places worth mentioning among many beautiful places to go to. Skiing in Auli is an option for adventure oriented.


8. The North East's plains. It is ideal time to visit the plains of Assam, especially if you are the kind looking for wildlife. Visit Manas, Nameri and Kaziranga National Parks


9. The Himalayas. Most of the mighty mountains are out-of-bounds for winter. But it is ideal time to go to lower regions if you can tolerate some cold weather. Winter is the best time to experience clear blue skies in the days and orange sunsets on the mountains. Visit Kumaon, or lower regions of Himachal.

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Posted on: Saturday , Sep 27, 2008 At 11:56 AM

Destination Guide: Hampi


Winter is approaching, and it is a good time to start planning a trip to Hampi. It would be all the more ideal to get there for Hampi Festival, usually held in the first week of November. For exact dates of the festival, keep watching this space. 


sunrise



Overview. Hampi, in its glory days was the capital of Vijayanagar empire, one of the most powerful rulers that South India's history has seen. Text books speak about richness to an extent that people sold gold and diamonds on the streets. What remains today are the ruins of those days, spread over a vast area. The setup of Hampi itself is amazing, with its boulder strewn landscapes and a river flowing amidst them.

Orientation. Hampi is a large area. If you have a short time, say a weekend or less, it is best to do your monument hopping with your own transport. You can hire auto-rickshaws near the main Bazar. For those who have plenty of time, the ideal way to move around Hampi is by hiring bicycles.

Sightseeing and Activities

Sunrise and Sunset. Sunrise from Matanga Parvata is a magnificent scenery that you would not want to miss. The Rough Guide for South India calls the sunrise 'arguably one of the most beautiful sunrises in the world'. Lonely Planet doesn't fall short in praises either. Make sure you wake up early enough to complete the 30-miute climb to the peak before sunrise. For sunset, head to Hemakuta Parvata near the bus stand.


sunset


Vithala Temple. Vithala Temple is the most prominent temple in Hampi, with its famed stone chariot, musical pillars and its UNESCO World Heritage Monument status. The beautifully carved pillars are said to give out melodious tones on striking them; but delicate that they are, you are not allowed to touch them.


stone chariot


Viroopaksha Temple. Nearly all temples in Hampi were desecrated during invasion from Muslim Rulers from the north, and today, there is no worshipping in these temples. Viroopaksha Temple is an exception. With its tall gopura, it is visible from far away anywhere in Hampi.


viroopaksha temple


Queen's Bath Complex. This is a large area full of ancient monuments. Visit the queen's bath, Hajara Rama Temple, Lotus Mahal and Underground Shiva Temple in this area.


King's Court Area. Another large complex, not very far from Queen's Bath has has the ancient Vijayanagar City within a ruined fort. Look for King's Court, a large tank, Mahanavami Dibba where festivals were held, and complex channels that fed water to the palace.


Around Krishna Temple. Not far from the main bus stand is an ancient Krishna Temple. And a little further down are statues of Laxminarasimha and BadaviLinga, both large monolithic statues.


lakshminarasimha


Daroji Bear Sanctuary. 10Km from Hampi, this is a small forest which offers protection to bears and is an excellent place to sight some black bears.


Food and Accommodation


Being a backpacker destination, finding local cuisine in Hampi is not always easy. What you can find more often is Israeli, Italian and Continental food. Mango Tree Restaurant behind Viroopaksha Temple is an good place to eat and while away your time. A lot of basic guesthouses are available near the main Bazaar. Only organized place is the KSTDC Mayura Hotel at Kamalapur Village just outside Hampi. Hotel Malligi is your best bet if you are looking for some good accommodation.


How to Reach. Hospet is the nearest train station. Nearest airport is far away at Bangalore, from where you can take a bus, train or a taxi to Hampi.

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Posted on: Thursday , Sep 25, 2008 At 18:05 PM

Snow In Lahaul + Leh Manali Highway


Here is a noteworthy news for those who are planning to travel in Himachal/Ladakh in near future.


Snowfall has begun much earlier than usual this year, and the season seems to be nearing its end. First major snowfall in Rohtang Pass happened on the 6th of September, leaving many vehicles stranded for hours until the road was cleared. But it was only a matter of time before the pass was re-opened for traffic.


The next incident happened this week, again leaving many locals and tourists stranded. This time it was for a longer period due to continued bad weather in Lahaul and Spiti region. There has been heavy rains resulting in many deaths and landslides in Himachal.


Rohtang Pass is still not closed for the year, and BRO has managed to re-open the road. But those who are heading that way should exercise caution.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Sep 23, 2008 At 16:29 PM

Books For The India Explorer - Iv: Ladakh


See the right side panel for links to earlier posts in this series. This time, a list of books for those interested in Ladakh.

Ladakh - Crossroads of high Asia by Janet Rizvi: Rizvi's book is a scholarly work with detailed study on every aspect of Ladakh, including geography, people, living and changed seen in today's Ladakh. The author's deep understanding and knowledge of the region is evident when reading the book. It is a good book for those who want to get a deep understanding of the region, but doesn't go well for light reading.

Ancient Futures by Helena Norbert-Hodge: This is yet another book written by an author who has understood the region well. Hodge has been coming to Ladakh for more than 25 years, since the time the region was opened for tourism. The book gives an excellent preview of Ladakhi culture, while giving a lot of emphasis on the troubles brewing in the region due to influence of the modern society.

A Jounrney in Ladakh by Andrew Harvey: This book has plenty of personal experience of author travelling in Ladakh.

Trekking in Ladakh(Trailblazer) by Charlie Loram: This Trailblazer Guidebook is more or less like bible for those who intend to trek extensively in the region. With very detailed maps and descriptions, it is a must keep book for everyone who is keen on trekking in Ladakh.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Sep 23, 2008 At 15:37 PM

Images From India


An incredible collection  images from India  from recent times at boston.com - a must see.  

The images are a collection of photos from major media companies like Reuters, AP Photo and Getty Images. Contains photos from the recent floods, Ganesha Chathurthi celebrations, Janmashtami and much more. Do not miss.

Note: Due to some technical issues, the linked URL doesn't show up correctly. Please replace single quotes in the web address by underscore when you view the page to go to the correct page. Thanks.

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Posted on: Sunday , Sep 21, 2008 At 10:02 AM

Internet On Trains


Indian Railways is doing all that it can to become a current generation carrier. Latest in their offering - satellite based internet connectivity on their trains. Trials are currently underway on Ahmedabad-Mumbai Shatabdi, and may be expanded to important trains in other routes.

The story on ET says: Passengers will soon be able to use their laptops in running trains as Indian Railways is mulling over a proposal to provide satellite-based internet facility in premier trains. A trial run is already underway in Mumbai-Ahmedabad Shatabdi Express and our aim is to provide the internet facility in certain premium trains including Rajdhani and Shatabdi, said a senior Railways ministry official.

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Posted on: Friday , Sep 19, 2008 At 21:58 PM

Destination Guide: Kanyakumari


We keep hearing people say all the time - 'from Kashmir to Kanyakumari..'. Kanyakumari is well known for being the southern tip of mainland India. It is also a popular tourist destination, place of pilgrimate, and the southernmost train station(naturally) in the country.

sunrise hour

Overview. The local name for Kanyakumari is Kanniyakumari. Adjoining the seas three sides, Kanyakumari remains windy most of the time, keeping it a little cooler than rest of the plains of Tamil Nadu. Temperatures are moderate for most of the year, but peak summers are best avoided. October to March is the ideal period to visit. With Travancore hills donning the northern parts, and greenery dominating the plains, Kanyakumari is a picturesque location.

Orientation. The town of Kanyakumari is a small place, and has many places worthy of visit that are within a kilometer radius. A few visit-worthy beaches and temple are far from the town, and can be 15 to 60 minutes away from the town.

Sightseeing and Activities

Confluence of the Seas. Kanyakumari is known as the place where the three sees meet. The southern tip is the confluence of Arabian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, which is also said to be a holy place.

Kanyakumari Temple. Near the southern tip is the ancient Kanyakumari Temple where Goddess Parvati resides as Kanyakumari. The beautiful temple built in stone is thousand years old, and is worth a visit.

Vivekananda Rock Memorial. The Vivekananda Rock is the place where Swami Vivekananda meditated for a few days. A memorial stands here today, with a structure built by Eknath Ranade, which contains a statue of the monk and a book shop. The island can be accessed by boat.

Vivekananda Kendra. A kilometer from the southern tip on the road to Nagercoil, Vivekananda Kendra is a cultural institute established by Eknath Ranade. The institution runs Yoga and meditation courses regularly, and has a collection of books in their library. The place also has pilgrims accommodation and can accommodate large groups. When you are there, you can see a film on Vivekananda's life that is shown in the institute's auditorium every evening. The institute is located in a large leafy environ where you can spot peacocks. It is adjoining a beach, where you can arrive early in the morning to see sunrise.

Vivekananda Memorial. Near the southern tip is a memorial built for the monk, managed by Vivekananda Kendra. The memorial has plates that tell the story of Vivekananda's life with picture, tracing from his youthful days with Ramakrishna Paramahansa to all the places he travelled to, spreading the message of awareness. 

Sunrise and Sunset. Kanyakumari is the only place in mainland India where you can see both sunrise and sunset over the sea. Don't miss either of these.

sunset

Shuchindram Temple. Just 15 minutes by bus is Shuchindram village which has a beautiful temple dedicated to Shiva. There is a large tank outside the temple, and combined with the temple's tall tower, the place looks beautiful. Frequent buses from Kanyakumari are available to get to Shuchindram.

Padmanabhapura Palace. An hour by bus is the large beautiful palace of Padmanabhapuram. Built over 400 year ago in Karalan style, the temple has some ornate wood carvings worth seeing. To get to Padmanabhapuram, go to Thakkalai town which is one hour by bus on Kanyakumari-Trivendrum highway. The palace is a few kilometers away from Thakkalai town, and auto-rickshaws can be hired to get there. 

padmanabhapuram

Food and Accommodation.
Due to arrival of large number of pilgrims from all over the country, Kanyakumari's restaurants have adopted to serve every kind of food, including South Indian, North Indian, Gujarati and Marwari. You don't find many speciality restaurants, but most places can serve clean and basic food. Though there is plenty of accommodation, they all can sometime get full due to arrival of pilgrims in large numbers. Book ahead. TamilNadu tourism's hotel, which has all rooms sea facing is worth staying in.

How to reach. Kanyakumari has a train station, and is connected directly with many important places in the country. Nearest airport is in Trivendrum, which is 2 hours by road. 

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Posted on: Thursday , Sep 18, 2008 At 19:55 PM

Kalka Shimla Railway Line


The ancient narrow guage track traversing through the foothills of the Himalayas from Kalka to Shimla was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site a few months ago. Indian Railways is now plannig a series of activities to celebrate the event on November 8th and 9th.

Here is an excerpt on the news from Punjab News Line: ..local Panchayats and School Children would welcome the visitors with flags and balloons and exhibitions of rare photos, maps, artifacts etc. will be displayed at Barog and Shimla Railway Stations, she added. She said that dedication ceremony, Himachali cultural programmes with fire works will be organized at Shimla in the evening and special cover and UNESCO certificate will be released. A plaque will be unveiled and foundation stone for Railway Museum will be laid down..

In the meanwhile, railway authorities are considering resurrecting more steam engines - there are 43 of them in all that are left, and the railways sees a good tourism potential.

Also see: an account of travelling by Shivalik Express from Kalka to Shimla by Tim Pozzi on The Telegraph. 

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Posted on: Tuesday , Sep 16, 2008 At 19:51 PM

Mysore Dasara


Dasara is one of the important festivals of Karnataka, and is celebrated in a grand way in Mysore. The heritage of celebration dates back to the time of Wodeyar Kings. Now supported by the government, it is a major event looked forward to by locals and tourists alike. 

This year's Dasara festivities will begin from September 30th and will go on for ten days. The celebrations usually include a lot of sports and cultural events and an exhibition, concluded with a grand procession on the last day. If you are in Bangalore, Mysore, or travelling anywhere in South India, make sure to take a break for a couple of days to get to Mysore and attend the celebrations.

See more about the festivities on mysoredasara.com. It is still not updated with this year's data, but last year's celebrations won't be very different from this year's. And here is a news clip on The Hindu.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Sep 16, 2008 At 19:23 PM

Returning From Ladakh


I am back home after spending two memorable months in the mountainous regions of Ladakh. While I was away, I had scheduled a few posts to keep 'India Explored' going, but the pace of updates here was slow.

Now that I am back, 'India Explored' will be more frequently updated with plenty of travel information, news and alerts.

The Ladakh trip was a rewarding one, with visits to Buddhist Monasteries, huge lakes trapped amidst the mountains, picturesque mountain landscapes and much more. Ofcourse, in the days to come, I will be updating this blog and rest of oktatabyebye.com with lot of information and images on Ladakh. Here is a photograph to begin with.

Ladakh

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Posted on: Thursday , Sep 04, 2008 At 11:25 AM

Festivals For September


Here is a list of festivals scheduled for September 2008, which can help you to make travel plans for the month.

Ganesha Chathurthi. Celebrated in Maharashtra and parts of Karnataka, Ganesha Chathurthi falls on 3rd Septembet. The procession of releasing Ganpathi in water in Mumbai and Pune are famous events that draw large crowds.

Onam. Onam is celebrated all over Kerala in on September 12th. According to onamfestival.org, "Onam is the biggest festival in the Indian state of Kerala and marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali. Carnival of Onam lasts for ten days and brings out the best of Kerala culture and tradition. Intricately decorated Pookalam, ambrosial Onasadya, breathtaking Snake Boat Race and exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam - the harvest festival in Kerala. "

Navarati. Navaratri is one of the largest festivals to happen in India. It begins on 30th September this year, and goes on for 10 days. Places to watch celebrations are Gujarat, West Bengal and Karnataka.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Sep 02, 2008 At 09:19 AM

Perspectives Of Beauty


 You would have head it many times - "Taj Mahal looks beautiful from any angle". Here, you can see it yourself - a few images of Taj, from different angles.


Taj is closed on Fridays. And tourists who arrive on Fridays do no know what to do. Not to worry, just stroll around the monument and someone will approach you offering terrace views of Taj. One such place is in the picture, would have been better with a rose than tissues in the glass.



You see just the Taj in most of the images, which could very well make you feel that you can go there someday, spend a lot of time having the monument all by yourself. But the truth is far from it, and is crowded from the very second the gates open.


Tourists walk up to Taj, eager to get closer. The picture also shows how large is the enclosure of Taj Mahal.



And this is what I would like to call 'Standard View'. How many million times would this picture have been shot? If I were Taj, my modeling fees would have been really steep!


And a slightly skewed perspective. Yes, it is pretty even skewed.



And at the end, to leave you with an easy puzzle. Taj as seen from ........?   Fill in the blanks.


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