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Posted on: Thursday , Dec 31, 2009 At 14:28 PM

Happy New Year + Looking Back At 2009


2009 was an active year here at 'India Explored'. It has been a busy time covering every aspect of travel and travel news, exploring new destinations and knowing more about the well known places. This year, the viewership of 'India Explored' jumped past 6 figure mark and has been growing strong. This year has seen more than 150 posts on various aspects of travel.

I hope your have enjoyed the writings on this blog. It would be great to hear from you about the content on 'India Explored', about what you like and what you did not like, and what new things would you like to see covered on this blog. I will be ears to your suggestions, please leave a comment here and have your say. Thank you.

From 'India Explored' I wish you a very happy and prosperous new year and a lot of travelling to all the places you have always dreamed of going.

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Posted on: Thursday , Dec 31, 2009 At 14:01 PM

Destination Of The Month: Kanha National Park


Far away from every major tourist destination is the vast expanse of Kanha National Park spread over 2000 square kilometers. It is home to one of the largest population of tigers in India, boasting of more than 80 tigers living in the park. Also populating the wilderness of Kanha are many mammals like spotted deer, wild dog, leopards, gaur and wild boar.



Image by oktatabyebye user rnaidu

One of the specialties of Kanha are the near extinct Barasinga or swamp deer that are hard to spot anywhere else in the world. The number of Barasingas in the park had once plummeted to less than hundred, but timely conservation measures have helped their population to bounce back to more than five hundred.


Kanha's forest primarily constitutes tall sal trees that occupy most part of the national park. A vast grassland exists in the center of the park, which provides sufficient grass for the herbivore population.


Know more about Kanha National Park here and here.


The Season


Kanha National Park remains closed during the monsoons and re-opens in November. The best weather in the park is during February to March. However, tiger sightings are at its best during the hot summer months.

Tiger Sightings

With more than 80 tigers inhabiting the park, sighting them is not difficult, especially in hot summer days when they are often found next to a water body. The park is divided into three zones - Kanha, Makki and Sarhi. Sightings are usually best at Kanha Zone.



Picture by oktatabyebye user Ran

See more pictures from Kanha National Park.

Things to do and places to see

Go on a safari to see the tigers and other mammals, take a walk in the periphery of the park where sightings are equally likely and walk on a designated path within the park to see birds. There is a well kept interpretation center in the middle of the park, which is a must see. Know more about what to see in Kanha


Places to Stay

Accommodation of all budgets is plentiful in Kanha. Some of the featured accommodations in the park include Baghira Log Huts, Kanha Safari Lodge and MPT tourist hotel.

More information

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Posted on: Thursday , Dec 31, 2009 At 09:43 AM

The Story Of A Missing Tiger


While I was travelling in Madhya Pradesh in the last few weeks, the local forest department officials were worried and sleepless about a tiger that had gone missing from Panna Tiger Reserve.


Panna National Park had become completely devoid of tigers, with the last of the tigers spotted sometime in the middle of this year. The state forest department decided to relocate a few tigers from adjacent national parks to populate the empty reserve. Three tigers were relocated, of which two of them formed their new territories in the reserve. However, one of the tigers which could not accustom to the new location escaped from the park and slowly made its way back.


This tiger was reported missing from Panna a month ago. It was collared, but the undulating landscapes made the signals weaker and tracing the tiger was becoming difficult. However, the forest department and the Wildlife Institute of India managed to keep track of the tiger as it moved slowly towards west from Panna. A week ago, the news finally came of the tiger having returned to Pench and re-establishing itself in its old territory!


The story of this tiger came to a good end. However, it still leaves the local forest department and the scientists in a fix. This tiger was brought to Panna to mate with other two tigresses relocated to the park. It needs to be seen if the forest department will try again to shift a tiger to Panna.

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Posted on: Thursday , Dec 31, 2009 At 00:43 AM

Travelling In Madhya Pradesh


I spent my year-end holidays travelling across some well known and some less known places in Madhya Pradesh. The least known of these places was Orchha, while the most well known was Khajuraho. The Central Indian state did not disappoint me. Firstly, being far from all the major cities, it doesn't get large tourist crowds even in its well known destinations. Next, it has some remarkable sites that are a feast to the eyes.


I started my journey from Orchha, a small town at the northern border of the state. I then went to the historical town of Khajuraho and then to Kanha, the tiger reserve with one of the largest population of tigers. I also spent a day in Jabalpur in between, visiting Dhuandhar falls and the marble rocks through which Narmada flows.


Orchha impressed me with its quiet setting next to a beautiful river. Khajuraho has some exquisite carvings that are unlikely to be seen anywhere else in North India. The beauty of the narrow valley through which Narmada flows near Jabalpur is unparalleled. And in Kanha, I got to see the mighty king of the jungle. The trip could not have been better.


I did happen to find some difficulties in traversing the state. Transport between towns is poor and painfully slow. The quality of accommodation could be much better. Some of the smaller towns in MP are incredibly dirty. These are probably some reasons why MP doesn't see as many tourists that match its potential. Nevertheless, the sights in MP are worth putting up with all these problems.

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Posted on: Sunday , Dec 06, 2009 At 23:45 PM

Snow In India


With the winter about to reach its peak in December, snow fall accelerates in most regions in the Himalayas. Though snowfall may begin as early as September in some places, most of the precipitation happens after December. Below are a few images of snow in the Himalayas, shot in different parts of the country. The images are from Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir respectively.







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Posted on: Sunday , Dec 06, 2009 At 23:20 PM

Cycling Tours In India


With a new season of Tour of Nilgiris about to be kicked off soon, there is a cycling fever gripping Bangalore. More and more people are taking up cycling. It is fast catching up as a popular sport. Weekend rides around the city is becoming popular and so is cycling in far away destinations . An emerging trend is to travel with the bicycle. A few new tour companies are now working to organize biking tours. Some non profit organizations are also working to popularize cycling. If you are looking for some place to begin your cycling adventures, here is a list you may be interested.


Muddy Boots. Muddy Boots organizes weekend cycling getaways in Wayanad and Coorg. See http://muddyboots.in/ for more details.


Cycling and More. Similar to Muddy Boots, Cycling and More organizes weekend cycling tours out of Bangalore. Visit http://cyclingandmore.com/ for details.


Ride A Cycle Foundation. RAC-F is a non-profit organization working to promote cycling. RAC-F organizes the hugely popular annaul cycling tour of the Nilgiris. They conduct workshops and organize events to promote cycling. See http://rideacycle.org/


Goa Cycles. Goa Cycles works to promote cycling in Goa. They regularly organize group rides in Goa. See http://goacycles.wordpress.com/

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Posted on: Sunday , Dec 06, 2009 At 19:55 PM

Nilgiri Mountains Railways Remains Closed


Torrential rains this November in the Nilgiri mountain ranges resulted in loss of many lives and properties. It also caused massive landslides in some locations and damaged the tracks of well-known Nilgiri Mountain Railways. The extent of damages is such that the repair work can take a few months to complete.




Fallen rocks and mud are being removed from the track in many locations.  Rebuilding the tracks is in progress where landslides have occurred. The railway authorities have not yet given an estimate of time for reopening the tracks. However, a trial run may begin between Ooty and Coonor soon.


This means that if you are planning to be in Ooty this holiday season, it is likely that you may not be able to enjoy train ride for the full distance. But if the track between Ooty and Coonoor is recommissioned, you can still get a glimpse of the journey.


Read more at http://www.newkerala.com/news/fullnews-1624.html

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Posted on: Sunday , Dec 06, 2009 At 19:06 PM

Common Tickets For Asi Monuments


ASI has launched common tickets that can be used across all its monuments. You can buy these tickets in many places, such as airports, tourism department offices and a few hotels besides buying them on location. The ticket is valid for a year and can be used at any monument.




There are three varieties of such tickets. One can be used for all world heritage sites. The second one can be used at all other ticketed monuments, while a special ticket is available for Taj Mahal alone.


With this, if you are planning to travel a lot and are likely to visit places where ticket counters can be crowded, you can save the hassle of having to stand in a queue and buy a ticket at each monument. This could be especially useful for Taj Mahal, where you normally see large queues at the ticket counter.


For more details, see http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/Now-no-waiting-for-tourists-to-get-entry-tickets/articleshow/5302485.cms or http://www.asi.nic.in

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Posted on: Sunday , Dec 06, 2009 At 18:40 PM

A Cruise From India


Until recently, cruise tours offered to Indians were mostly around Singapore and other places in South East Asia. It involved flying to Singapore or Malaysia and then hopping into a cruise. A few cruises from abroad did visit Mumbai and other ports once in a while, but none of these focused primarily on Indian Tourists.


Image of the cruise, courtsey Louis Cruise Website


This is bound to change soon. Cyprus based Louis Cruises is now launching a cruise that will be departing from Kochi, visiting Maldives and Colombo. The cruise to Colombo or Maldives will be a 4 days and 3 nights affair with prices starting from Rs.17,500. The company is also offering a one-night high see tour costing about Rs.6,000.


The cruise will also have a casino, making this a novelty for Indians who do not have access to casinos anywhere in the country except Goa. See more about the cruise and the tours at http://www.louiscruises.com/destinations'map.html?FROM=INDIA

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Posted on: Tuesday , Dec 01, 2009 At 15:23 PM

More Variety In Tourism


I was mentioning last month about a new concept called divorce tourism and asked the readers about more less know initiatives in tourism. oktatabyebye member Ashwini MK mentioned about Babymooning. As you might be able to guess from the name, it is a vacation taken by a couple expecting a baby, enjoying a good journey together before they dedicate themselves to caring the baby.

I came across a few more innovative concepts and new initatives in the recent past. Disaster Tourism or Holocaust Tourism is not a new thing, as it is well known in places like Germany and Cambodia. Now it may be coming to India too. The government of Madhya Pradesh intends to convert Union Carbide factory, where the disaster struck in 1984, into a tourist place. Read more about it at http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/72899/India/Disaster+tourism+plan+for+Bhopal+gas+leak+site.html

In another news, experts are considering facilitating the tourists see the whale sharks off the coast of Gujarat. Read more about it at http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/experts-to-study-feasibilitywhale-shark-eco-tourism-in-gujarat/378005/

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Posted on: Tuesday , Dec 01, 2009 At 14:45 PM

Irctc's Railway Tour Packages


We all know IRCTC as the ticketing service provider for Indian Railways. But there is more to this successful company, which also organizes railway package tours. IRCTC runs many inexpensive theme based tours that make travelling hassle free and comes without the pains of having to book tickets for many train routes. Their list is long and caters to many themes such as pilgrimages, hill stations, Goan beaches and many more.

Some of these tours, especially pilgrimages are so inexpensive that you may never find a cheaper package through any travel operator. Their Bharat Darshan package is priced at just Rs.500 per person day, which includes transport, meals and accommodation. It is an ideal way to travel at lowest possible budget.

For a complete list of IRCTC's railway tours, see http://www.railtourismindia.com/cgi-bin/dev1.dll/irctc/booking/vatplanner.do  

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Posted on: Tuesday , Dec 01, 2009 At 14:36 PM

Hover Rafting In Tawi River


You would have heard about of River Rafting, but how about some hover rafting? Hover rafting inolves cruising over the water using a hovercraft, a kind of a vehicle that can move on both air and water. It actually skims over the surface supported by a cushion of high pressure air ejected from the bottom. Rajiv Kotwal, an entrepreneur trained in managing hover crafts has now started a new service of rafting with hovercrafts in Jammu's Tawi River. This is a first of its kind facility in the country. The J&K government intends to introduce hover rafting facilities in Ladakh and Kashmir regions in future.

How would an experience of hover rafting be? It is too new a sport to say more about it, but my guess is that it should be more comfortable and less adventurous than a rafting trip. But it would definitely be a novel experience.

Read more at http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20091126/region.htm

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Posted on: Tuesday , Dec 01, 2009 At 13:12 PM

Tourism And Selfishness


This is not about being greedy, but just a wish to be myself. There are many times when we have gone to a popular place, only to see it very crowded. Obviously there are many people out there like us who want to enjoy good things in life. But sometimes it feels like there are too many people and too few good things! But we have to accept that a beautiful place does end up being crowded, especially if it has been marketed well!

Karnataka was one of the laggards in tourism in the south. Kerala has carved itself a name with tourists worldwide. TamilNadu has its well known locations and places of pilgrimage. Andhra may not boast of many touristy locations, but it tops the list of most visited states, thanks to pilgrimage centers like Tirupati.

Karnataka does have its share of beautiful places though. There are fine beaches just south of Goa. There are beautiful hills along the western ghats. Some incredible archeological monuments are spread all across the state. There is wilderness and wildlife too. Yet, the number of visitors who come here is far less than its neighbouring ones.

Lack of infrastructure and poor marketing were two major reasons. But the current tourism policy seems to be out to address it. In a new initiative (see http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/karnataka-govt-unveils-new-tourism-policy-200914-8953 ), the government of Karnataka has announced cash incentives and subsidies for setting up properties and building tourism infrastructure. If backed up properly with marketing assistance, Karnataka too can see its boom days in next few years.

Now coming to the topic of selfishness, Karnataka is my home state and this is where I have grown up all my life. Having traversed its length and breadth, one thing that makes me happy is the fact that many beautiful places are far less crowded compared to its neighbouring states. Honestly, I would have liked to see it left that way. But then, I have to admit that it doesn't make much economic sense. I may just have to learn to share the beauty with other travellers who deserve to enjoy Karnataka's splendours. Have you felt like this about your own region?

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Posted on: Tuesday , Dec 01, 2009 At 13:06 PM

Festivals And Events - December 2009


This is the beginning of the month and time to look at festival and events for the month. Here is the list.

  • Hornbill Festival, Nagaland. This is probably the most awaited festival from North East. The festival is held in the first week of December. According to Nagaland Tourism authority, Hornbill Festival is "the major event is a showcase of the entire Naga culture." Read more at http://tourismnagaland.com/Events.html and http://www.hornbillfestival.com/
  • Chennai Music Festival, Chennai. This is a two week music festival festuring many well known artists. The festival starts on 15th December and concludes on 1st January 2010. See complete schedule at http://www.artindia.net/madras09/academy.html
  • Winter Festival, Mt.Abu. Held from 29th to 31st December, the festival begins with a procession and ends with a display of fireworks with a showcasing of cultural events through the festival days. See http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/Attractions/Fairs-Festivals/WinterFestivalMountAbu.aspx
  • Camel Festival, Bikaner. The 2-day festival begins on 30th December on Bikaner's Junagarh Fort. The fest involves various events and sports involving camel. Visithttp://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/Attractions/Fairs-Festivals/CamelFestival.aspx
  • 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: Wednesday , Nov 25, 2009 At 15:43 PM

Books For The Indian Eplorer - Vi


'India Explored' brings you a series on books for the travelling Indians. See the right-side column to go through earlier books in the series. Today's focus is on a few books written by well known writer Ruskin Bond.

  • Rain in the Mountains. A compilation of short write-ups and stories by Ruskin Bond includes some beautiful narration of life from his window and his life in Mussourie.
  • Indian Railways Stories. This is a compilation of stories about Indian Rawilays, a system celebrated by writers since the days of British. The compilation has stories from well known writers like Rudyard Kipling and Bill Aitken.
  • Delhi is Not Far. One of the well known books by Bond, this is about a struggling writer living his dreams.
  • Night Train at Deoli. This is a book with a collection of short stories. Like most of Bond's work, this too is a beautiful narration of simple yet touching scenarios. The story 'Night Train at Deoli' is a narration of a college boy's unrequited love.
  • Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra. This book contains memoirs of Bond, his growing up in Dehradun, his family, friends and people around him and further about love to the mountains of Garhwal.

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Posted on: Wednesday , Nov 25, 2009 At 15:02 PM

Divorce Tourism


I had heard of some common terms like romantic holidays, rural tourism, pilgrimages. And then there are some less common ones like Ramayana Tour and Bollywood Tourism. But this is the first time I am getting to hear about such a thing called 'Divorce Tourism'.


But the idea is simpler than it looks. Book the couples who have a troubled marriage in a holiday to a romantic getaway and provide some counselling and spiritual advices while they are there. The plan is mooted by Mumbai based KV Tours and Travels. I would not know about the guidance and counselling part, but the holiday locations look hardly new. It comprises the same honeymoon holiday destinations like Shimla, Manali and Goa.


While the media is buzzing with the news, the website of KVTours doesn't give much information. It simply has a few images of couple looking away from each other. See http://www.vidilon.com/divorcetourism.htm


See more details at

  • http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/report'troubled-marriage-try-divorce-tourism'1282978
  • http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1941208,00.html

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Posted on: Wednesday , Nov 25, 2009 At 13:29 PM

Indigo Seat Booking Fare


While booking my ticket from Bangalore to Kolkata on Indigo's website, I was pleasantly surprised to see an option to choose my seat number. I was used to getting a seat allotted at the time of checking in, so this was new to me. Out of curiosity and a wish to pick a seat of my choice, I clicked on it and opted for a convenient seat. A bigger surprise awaited me at the next page as I was asked to pay an additional hundred rupee for my seat reservation. 


That's when I realized that a Ryan Air like payment system has already arrived in India, where you pay an additional price for everything you add. In the subsequent pages, I also found options to pre-order my meal or buy extra luggage space at an additional cost.


I think it is not a bad idea to ask additional payments for every additional service, as long as a necessity (such as access to toilets, for which Ryan Air was thinking of fixing an entry fee) is not termed as additional service.


Have you seen any such additional payment options when you booked tickets with other airlines? Let us know.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Nov 24, 2009 At 12:36 PM

Wildlife Population Increases In Kashmir


The insurgency in Kashmir in the last few decades has made the people of Kashmir go through a lot of pain and suffering. But the wildlife in Kashmir seems to have actually benefitted.

 

The strong presence of army in the state and the fear of being caught in a fire between armed forces and insurgents has kept the poachers indoors in the troubled years in Kashmir. The mammal population in the national parks of Jammu and Kashmir has increased many fold.

 

According to officials, population of Asian Black Bear population in Kashmir has increased from a mere 700 to 3000 in last two decades. Also flourishing are the birds and animals like leopards, musk deer, black partridge and pheasants.

 

In a rather curious incidence, bears even mauled terriorists and killed 2 of them in the recent past!

 

Tourists too have reasons to rejoice. With peace returning to valley, Kashmir is opening its national parks for safaris and other tourist activities(See earlier report on India Explored for details).

 

More information.

  • http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Jammu-Kashmir-wildlife-population-rising-Officials-/articleshow/5240124.cms
  • http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUSTRE5AG20220091117

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Posted on: Tuesday , Nov 24, 2009 At 11:23 AM

Destination Of The Month: Kerala Backwaters


The backwaters of Kerala are wonderlands where water occupies more earth surface than land. People live in tiny islands that comprises just their house and a farm. They commute through the village and outside via water channels using their own boats. A lot of their life is spent on water.



Picture by Aparna Kunde on oktatabyebye

The abundant water lands coupled with tall coconut trees and the triangular Chinese fishing nets constitute the picturesque landscape of Kerala Backwaters. Tourists can spend nights floating on the water in Kettavallam or house boats - comfortable rooms in self sufficient boats with bed rooms, kitchen and sit-outs.

Most of these backwaters are located around the towns of Alappuzha (Alleppey) or Kumarakom.

Know more about Kerala backwaters

The Season

Weather in Kerala is unkind to visitors for more than half the year. Summers can be very hot and humid. When the monsoon begins, it pours continuously and sun rarely comes out. Come winter, from November to February, Kerala is a beautiful place to be in. The glorious winter sunsets paint the backwaters in hues or red and orange, adding a drama to the already colourful landscape.

The Boat Races

Annual boat races in the backwaters attracts large crowds. The long snake boats are driven by a large team of enthusiastic participants. Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Allapuzha is one of the most popular events in Kerala. Read more about Nehru Trophy Boat Race



Picture by Dharmendra Singh on oktatabyebye

Things to do and places to see

Alleppey is well known for its backwater cruises and the house boats. While you are cruising through the backwaters, you can see some traditional craft materials made of coir and savour some great Keralan food. Also visit the Alappuzha beach. You can see the Snake Boat Race if you are there at the later half of monsoon season. See more about Alappuzha.

Kumarakom is known for its luxurious resorts as much as it is known for the scenic beauty. Besides taking a boat in the backwaters of Vembanad Lake, you can also visit Komarakom Bird Sanctuary. Read more about Kumarakom on oktatabyebye.


Places to Stay

Some of the popular places to stay in Alleppy include Marari Fisherman Village Beach Resort and Lake Palace. Read complete list of hotels and user reviews for Hotels and Resorts in Alleppey.

Kumarakom is known for some of the finest accommodations in Kerala. Well known among them include Taj Garden Retreat and Kumarakom Lagoon Resort. See complete list and user reviews of hotels and resorts in Kumarakom.

Images of the backwaters




See more images from Alleppey and Kumarakom.

More information

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Posted on: Tuesday , Nov 24, 2009 At 09:26 AM

Indian Sets A Travel World Record


Kashi Samaddar was unhappy when he had visa troubles and got stranded in Johannesburg for two days. One of the causes of the problem, it seems, was his Indian passport. Unlike anyone else, he did not keep quiet and forgot about the issue. He vowed to visit as many countries on earth as possible with his Indian passport.


Starting on the mission, he travelled extensively and visited as many as 194 countries in nearly seven years and ended up create a record of visiting maximum number of countries in a short period.


But the accomplishment was not easy. It was very hard to get visas in some less know small countries. He faced multiple rejections but did not give up. The journey wasn't easy either. He narrowly escaped being bombed once and had to go without food for three days another time.


After his accomplishment, Samaddar has now setup "Travel, Tourism and Peace Initiative" to convince countries to make their visa norms simpler. See the initiative's website - http://www.ttpglobal.com/


Read more.

  • http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1229474/Man-visits-country-earth-record-time--worlds-boring-photos.html
  • http://www.myfoxmemphis.com/dpp/news/dpgo-Man-Sets-Record-Visiting-Every-Country-mb-200911211258838825116

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Posted on: Tuesday , Nov 24, 2009 At 09:05 AM

Ladakh Is Now More Accessible


Bordering Pakistan on one side and China on the other, Ladakh has been provided with a large military presence for protecting our boundaries. Access to some places along the border are restricted due to security constraints. While some locations such as Pangong Lake and Nubra Valley can be accessed only with a permit, areas very close to the border are out of bounds for Indians as well as foreign nationals.


The good news now is that the defense ministry has now decided to open up more areas for tourists and climbers, irrespective of their nationality. The decision now awaits clearance from home ministry.


Turtuk, the last village near the border to Pakistan will now be made accessible to tourists. The village of Turtuk was reclaimed by Indian Army in the war against Pakistan in 1971. The new areas will offer a bigger treat to mountaineers and climbers, who will get access to 104 peaks for climbing. 


See complete details at http://visitladakh.com/en/the-news/276-mountain-peaks-in-ladakh--india-to-open-104-peaks-to-all-climbers.html

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Posted on: Tuesday , Nov 17, 2009 At 21:49 PM

Introducing Sandakphu


Where in India can you expect to find one place where you can see Mt.Everest as well as Mt.Kanchenjunga from the same place? There are probably very few such places where it is possible. Sandakphu is one of them.


Sandakphu is the tallest peak in the state of West Bengal, standing at a height of 3636 meters. Its location close to the high Himalayan ranges aids it with some great views of the tallest mountains on earth.


Thankfully, despite its high location, there is a small village at the peak and basic accommodation is available for travellers. On the top, it is not just view of the distant mountains, but also the verdant hills and rhododendron forests that appeal to the visitors.


Approach to Sandakphu however is not simple. It takes a long days walk to the peak, or a difficult jeep ride through rough roads. The view from the top would be worth the effort of the journey.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Nov 17, 2009 At 12:16 PM

Compilation Of Best Hotels


Expedia has compiled a list of top 10 hotels from across the country and also rest of the world in an easily navigable page. The list has many usual suspects like The Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra and Taj Lands End in Mumbai. 


The top slot is bagged by The Oberoi Grand in Kolkata.


While most of the entries are predictable 5 stars, there are a few surprise entries do exist in the form of Gateway Hotel Ganges in Varanasi, The Ambassador Hotel in Delhi and Lemon Tree Amarante Beach Resort in Goa.


See the complete list on expedia website - http://www.expedia.com/daily/promos/hotel/insidersselect/default.asp?mcecid=ipsplash'au You can also click on each hotel to get details and facilities.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Nov 17, 2009 At 12:03 PM

Kumbh Mela 2010


Kumbh Mela, the once in twelve year event that witnesses the largest gathering of people in one place on earth, is back in 2010. The venue is Hardwar, said to be one of the holiest places in earth.




Besides the pilgrims who come to be blessed by bathing in the river, the event attracts large number of travellers and photographers who come to witness the event. The mela begins on the 14th Junuary 2010 and goes on for more than 3 months.


More details on Kumbh Mela, its religious significance and the associated rituals can be seen on the govermnet website - http://www.kumbh2010haridwar.gov.in/ The government machinery sets to work months in advance for accommodating more than ten million people who visit the mela site during this period.


If you intend to visit, see http://www.kumbh2010haridwar.gov.in/bathdates.htm for the auspicious dates for bathing.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Nov 10, 2009 At 10:09 AM

India Tourism Wins World Tourism Awards


India Tourism's Incredible India campaign has won "World's Leading Destination Marketing Campaign" award in recently announced World Tourism Awards. The 'Incredible India' campaign from Ministry of Tourism has been one of the most successful campaigns that has won many awards. You can see a collection of their campaigns on Incredible India Youtube channel - http://www.youtube.com/India


The other awards won by Indian organizations are as below.

  1. India won Asia's Leading Destination award
  2. Trident Gurgaon was awarded "Asia's leading hotel"
  3. Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur was awarded "Asia's leading resort"
  4. The Oberoi Wildflower Hall in Shimla was awarded "Asia's Leading Spa Resort"
  5. Darbar mahal suite in Jaipur's The Raj Palace was awarded "Asia'a Leading Suite"
  6. Orange County Coorg won "Asia's leading theme resort"
  7. Incredible India was awarded "Asia's leading tourist board"
  8. Orange Country Resorts won "Asia's Responsible Tourism Award"

See the complete list of awards at http://www.worldtravelawards.com/

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Posted on: Tuesday , Nov 10, 2009 At 09:34 AM

Weather Updates - Snow In Manali, Rains In Tn


With Manali receiving the season's first snow fall, the mountains around Manali now have a thin spread of snow. Though the snow melted away in Manali town, weather reports expect continued precipitation, which means that there is a good chance of snowing everyday.


It has also been raining in Shimla, though it is too early to expect snow in these parts. Shimla had a poor monsoon this year and the current rains are expected to ease water shortage in the hill station and surrounding areas. Temperature in Shimla has dipped below 10oC.


Down south, it has been raining heavily in Tamil Nadnu. Incessant rains have caused considerable damage in the state and has resulted in many deaths. It is best to avoid TN coast and the Nilgiris till the rains subside.


Related news:

  • November rain cheers Shimla - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/November-rain-Showers-cheer-hills-plains/articleshow/5213785.cms
  • Snow in Manali - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/Manali-receives-first-snowfall-of-season/articleshow/5213789.cms
  • Rains in TN - http://www.ptinews.com/news/368814'Toll-in-TN-rains-mounts-to-39

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Posted on: Monday , Nov 09, 2009 At 13:13 PM

No Birds In Bharatpur


Unlike every year, Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur may not be teeming with birds this winter. Thanks to the poor monsoons, the marshes in the sanctuary are dry and the birds are forced to go to wetlands in other areas.

The number of birds that have arrived so far this year is very small. Last year was a good winter when the park was full with birds, but the earlier years have seen similar situations when the birds had deserted the national park.

The Park is fed with water through an artificial reservoir, which forms wetlands that are ideal for the migratory birds. However, water level dips during the years when the monsoons are poor, forcing the birds to take off to other wetlands nearby.

Read more at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/Migratory-birds-skip-sanctuary-this-winter/articleshow/5178362.cms

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Posted on: Monday , Nov 09, 2009 At 12:27 PM

Airfares Go Up


With a hike in fuel prices, airlines are increasing the fule charges on every ticket. Jet, Kingfisher and Go Air have added an additional fuel surcharge of Rs.100 to 200 starting this week. SpiceJet is also planning a similar hike. Other airlines have not yet announced any decisions.


The additional fuel surcharge on routes that are less than 1000km is fixed at Rs.100. For longer routes, the additional surcharge is fixed at Rs.200. 


In another news related to airlines, Jet Airways has won two awards at the Abacus-TAFI awards, including the award for 'Best domestic airline in India'.


More information.

  • Jet, Kingfisher and GoAir hike prices - http://www.livemint.com/2009/11/06224350/Private-airlines-increase-fuel.html?h=B
  • SpiceJet may follow - http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/transportation/airlines-/-aviation/Jet-Kingfisher-hike-fuel-surcharge-SpiceJet-too-may-follow/articleshow/5202686.cms
  • Jet Airways wins awards - http://www.pr-inside.com/jet-airways-wins-prestigious-awards-at-r1570167.htm

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Posted on: Thursday , Nov 05, 2009 At 12:29 PM

Safari In Kashmir


Slowly and surely, Kashmir is opening back again to tourists just as tourists are becoming open to the idea of visiting Kashmir. Last one year has seen an increase in tourist inflow to an extent that Kashmir needed more rooms accommodate them all during peak season. As peace returns in the valley, more and more places that were unsafe to access are now opening up to visitors.


Kashmir's Dachigam National Park seems to be one such place. AFP reports (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jRq5bUs8d2MOCUJPBRpfskHY2nDQ) that the park was re-opened for safari in June and it has remained violence free so far. The sanctuary is home to some rare Himalayas wildlife such as musk deer and red deer.


The park is another destination to add to your list if you are heading towards Jammu and Kashmir. See more about Dachigam National Park on oktatabyebye, and get all the information you need.

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Posted on: Thursday , Nov 05, 2009 At 10:28 AM

Festivals And Events - November 2009


Here is a list of events, fairs and festivals in November 2009. If you have a festival near your area in current or next month that you would like to see listed, please leave a comment.

Sonepur Mela. Asia's largest cattle fair in Sonepur goes on for 30 days during the entire month of November. Read more about the fair in Bihar Tourism website - http://bstdc.bih.nic.in/Destinations/SonepurFair.htm Also see more about Sonepur - http://bstdc.bih.nic.in/sonepur1.html

Bundi Utsav. The Bundi festival in Rajasthan's Bundi town starts today and goes on for 3 days. Read more from Rajasthan Tourism website - http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/Attractions/Fairs-Festivals/BundiFestival.aspx

Majuli Festival. Majuli Festival, held from 21st to 24th November is a major cultural festival in Assam. Read more about the festival and the location on Assam Tourism website - http://www.assamtourism.org/majuli'festival.htm

IFFI Goa. The annual International Film Festival of India is held in Panjim and nearby cities from 23rd November to 3rd December. See IFFI website for more details - http://iffi.gov.in/

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Posted on: Saturday , Oct 31, 2009 At 22:19 PM

Arrival Of Migratory Birds


With the onset of winter, migratory birds have slowly started to arrive here in South India. Many species of migratory birds arrive in the Indian plains from colder regions and stay from November to Februray.




I have been looking out for birds in the last few days and have started seeing the first trickle of birds. Grey wagtails are often seen near small roads. Brown shrikes have started appearing. It should be a matter of a couple of weeks before more birds start coming in.


If birds interest you, don't miss to make regular visits to nearest waterbody or a forest area. It is a pleasure to watch these little avians go by their daily routines.

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Posted on: Friday , Oct 30, 2009 At 19:47 PM

Active Tourism


A decade ago, travelling meant going to a new place, seeing the sights and coming back with memories. Few people ventured beyond well known sights and fewer people went looking for a deeper experience. Except in rare occasions when people trekked in interior Himalayas, no one really thought much about better experiences during their travels.


With the flourishing Indian economy in the last decade, people had more time and money to invest on travel. A few people started venturing beyond the well known. Taking the road less travelled became acceptable and many travellers learnt the pleasures of spending more time and getting up close with their destination. More and more people started looking at the quality aspect of the journey and the learnings that comes with travelling.


In the last few years, I have seen people with interest in wildlife trying to improve their knowledge of bird species and understand their behaviour. Adventure and activity seekers are going beyond just treks and looking at options such as rock climbing and cycling. Those who visit monuments are keen to understand the context of history in which those edifices were built.


This change in trend has also created a new generation of travel companies. They do things beyond just booking your tickets and accommodation, they take you through an experience. Such companies do thorough research and invest in knowledge that they share among people who travel with them.


Muddy Boots, a company that specializes in active vacations conducts cycling tours in the western ghats. Some professional photographers such as Kalyan Varma conduct photography tours in national parks. Similarly, TravelWise, a company I have founded with a partner works on intensively researched weekend trails from Banagalore spread across various fields like nature and heritage.


Do you prefer to do such active travelling? Have you ever gone on an active journey either by yourself or through any organization that conducts such tours? Do share your experiences in the comments and let us know who conducted your tours.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Oct 27, 2009 At 11:46 AM

Boat Service In Thekkady Will Restart In November


The tourist boat service in Thekkady's Periyar lake was stopped after the tragic incident in which a boat sunk and more than 40 people drowned. Investigations later found flaws in the boat that was used and blamed Kerala Tourism department for the incident.


Boating in the lake was a prized attraction of Thekkady. Subsequent to suspension of boating in the lake, tourists stayed away from the reserve.


The government is now performing safety checks in all locations where boating facility is available. The checks are expected to complete in next 10 days and boating facility in Periyar is expected to being in the first week of November.


Read the complete story at http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/boating-facility-at-thekkady-lake-at-periyar-wildlife-sanctuary-to-resume-next-month-8629

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Posted on: Tuesday , Oct 27, 2009 At 11:30 AM

Less Known Destination: Chamarajnagar


Surfing through the web, I found an article on MysoreNEXT, an online magazine from Mysore City. It mentioned about the tourism potential of Chamarajanagar district being underutilized (read http://www.mysorenext.com/ShowArticle.aspx?ID=1686&SECTION=1 )




For those who do not know, Chamarajanagar is a small district in the souther edge of Karnataka with one of the highest forest covers in the state. Within its boundaries are three protected forest areas, which includes parts of Bandipur National Park. Shivanasamudra, a waterfall that probably discharges maximum amount of water in Karnataka is located within the district and is popular with daytrippers from Bangalore and Mysore.


However, most people still don't know where is Chamarajanagar and what are its attractions. It is a great place to trek through its deep jungles in winter months. Forest department once started a tourism program called 'Mystery Trails', in which they designed trekking routes around Chamarajanagar. But the plan failed due to lack of publicity.


Chamarajanagar also has one of the richest tradition of performing arts. It is home to some indigenous arts like Goravana Kunitha and several other type of folk dances. Much can be done by establishing tourist centers and providing sufficient publicity.

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Posted on: Thursday , Oct 22, 2009 At 17:52 PM

Winter In The Himalayas I - Zanskar


It is a popular belief that the upper Himalayas are largely inaccessibly and buried in snow during winters. While it is a fact that most of the higher regions are indeed buried in snow, you can still visit a few exciting locations if you are an adventurous person. 'India Explored' will feature some such places in a series called 'Winter in the Himalayas'. The first in the series will cover 'Chadar Trek' in Zanskar.


Chadar Trek - Introduction


Zanskar River runs through steep inaccessible valles in the trans Himalayas, flowing through rugged Zanskar region and merging with Indus in a village called Nemo. When the passes are buried in the winter snow, the only way locals get in and out of the valley is buy walking on the frozen Zanskar River. One of the most adventurous treks in Ladakh region is doing this walk over the frozen river surface. The sheet of ice is called Chadar, and hence the name Chadar Trek. 


The condition of chadar can vary every day depending on the weather conditions. Sometimes the chadar can be broken in places, forcing the trekkers to climb over steep slopes. Sometimes when there is no option, one may have to walk in the freezing waters of the river. Naturally, this trek requires good endurance and stamina.


The Trek


oktatabyebye user Pradeep Chamaria writes about the experiences of the trek:


The surface of the river was changing with every ten to twelve steps we took. At some point, it would be flat, transparent ice, and just a few metres ahead, frozen froth with ripples in it! The ripples on the surface made walking very difficult as it was difficult to get a firm foothold on these. By the middle of the day’s trek, the number of times I slipped had come down to a minimal. Now I was slipping only when I would try to stop or look around to make a frame for my camera.


Read his full travelogue of Chadar Trek.


Manish, another oktatabyebye user also has his story to share about his experiences from last winter. He says:


Along the frozen and semi frozen river surface, this changes from hour to hour. It climbs high at times above broken ice, and at times you have no choice, you have to get wet feet. At times it seems impossible and you will not believe what the human body can do, or how thin a ledge of ice will support you. You will watch the porters do the impossible. And then we follow them.


Read his travelogue


Chadar Images.


Manish has a whole lot of images on Chadar Trek, which gives you a clear perspective of how the trek is. Naturally, it is not for someone who can't endure those harsh weathers. Picture below by Manish. You can see the original image uploaded by Manish here, and his Chadar Trek album here.




Also see a video uploaded by Manish here.


Information


If you intend to go on chadar trek this year, Manish is planning to organize the trek again this year. You can get in touch with him through his profile page.

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Posted on: Thursday , Oct 22, 2009 At 13:35 PM

Destination Of The Month: Pushkar


The 'India Explored' destination of the month for October is Pushkar. The village of Pushkar in Rajasthan is known for its annual fair, which attracts large crowds of tourists and photographers. The Pushkar fair this year is scheduled from 30th October to 2nd November.

Visiting Pushkar

With the transition to winter from summer, Pushkar will have the best possible weather during the fair. The summer heat will be gone but it won't be so cold that you shiver through the night. Mornings will be at their beautiful best as the sun lights up the desert in a golden glow, and a gentle mist brings out a mystic feeling in the air.

Pushkar Fair

The Pushkar fair is an annual gathering of locals for buying and selling camels. The large open ground in the desert at the edge of Pushkar town will be full of local men and their camel during the four days of the festival. The dust kicked up by the camel fill the air. The fair is a good time to be in Pushkar to see a sea of camel waiting to change hands, turbanated men looking out for selling or buying camel or Rajasthani women dressed in bright red saris. There will also be some entertainment like camel and horse races.

Things to do and places to see

Pushkar is known for its holy lake, on the bank of which Brahma is said to have meditated. Also well known is the Brahma temple next to the lake. Today, with a large number of regular inflow of tourists, Pushkar has also become a place to shop for traditional Rajasthani arts and craft material. Read more.

See more information on Pushkar fair.

While you are there, you can also visit the well know Darga of sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in nearby Ajmer.

Places to stay

Some popular places for staying in Pushkar are listed below.
Most hotels tend to get full much in advance during the fair. Make sure you book before you go. Prices also shoot up considerably during the days of the fair.

Images of Pushkar



See more pictures of Pushkar.

More information

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Posted on: Tuesday , Oct 20, 2009 At 12:22 PM

Luxury Trains Galore


The concept of luxurious train journeys in India must have begun with Palace on Wheels, which took well heeled travellers in a train across Rajasthan, Agra and Delhi. It was a successful project that resulted in many such trains being launched in other parts of the country.

Last two years saw a series of such new launches, which included 'Golden Chariot' in Karnataka and such projects in Mahashtra and Punjab. These trains saw a mixed degree of success.

Now it seems like a time to launch more luxury train journeys. Two such new projects are in the making, one promoted by government of Punjab and another one launched with the help of Cox and Kings.

The Punjab Government promoted train will go through Delhi, Agra and Amritsar besides a few more places in Punjab. The Cox and Kings promoted train will be the first pan-India luxury train that will go through Mumbai, Aurangabad, Udaipur, Sawai Madhopur, Agra and Delhi.

See more info on the new trains below.
  • http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/transportation/railways/Luxury-tourism-to-run-on-private-wheels-2-trains-already-on-track/articleshow/5140039.cms
  • http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/centre-sanctions-luxury-train-incredible-india--punjab-luxury-train-to-promote-tourism-in-punjab-8571

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Posted on: Sunday , Oct 18, 2009 At 10:04 AM

Ksrtc Facilitates Sms Booking For Bus Tickets


KSRTC, Karnataka's government owned transport company that runs a large fleet of buses has announced a facility of booking bus tickets via SMS. This is probably the first time that a bus company in India is offering bookings by SMS. KSRTC was also one of the first state owned transport companies that launched web based ticket reservations.


If you would like to book via sms, SMS 'KSRTC' to 56767. You will have to download a mobile application which permits ticket bookings through any GPRS enabled phones. It works like a typical e-ticket which will be sent to your email address.


Read more about KSRTC mobile booking facilities at http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=KSRTC+tickets+now+an+SMS+away&artid=8ws7eJvLgm8=&SectionID=Qz/kHVp9tEs=&MainSectionID=w44iAeuGCu8=&SectionName=UOaHCPTTmuP3XGzZRCAUTQ==&SEO=Karnataka%20State%20Road%20Transport%20Corporation

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Posted on: Wednesday , Oct 14, 2009 At 16:20 PM

Manali - Leh Highway To Close On October 31st


The Border Roads Organization (BRO) has announced that the Manali-Leh highway will be closed for vehicles from October 31st. BRO will stop maintenance work from this date, and will not be able to perform any rescue operations if vehicles get stuck on the highway.


The road closes every winter since the weather turns bad and the area gets buried under snow. After staying closed for about 7-8 months, BRO re-opens the road by clearing the snow in June-July. Leh and other parts of Ladakh will remain inaccessible by road till the date of re-opening.


Although BRO stops managing the road from November, the road has been seeing intermittent snow fall and blockades since September this year.


Related News: http://www.hindustantimes.com/Manali-Leh-highway-closed-from-Oct-31/H1-Article1-465056.aspx

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Posted on: Tuesday , Oct 13, 2009 At 16:44 PM

Kaziranga Opens Early


Thanks to below average monsoons in the North East, Kaziranga National Park has opened for tourist three weeks ahead of schedule. Instead of initially planned date of November 1st, the park has been made accessible from 10th October.


Currently, only jeep safaris in select areas will be open for tourists, since the roads in many sections are yet to be rebuilt after monsoons. Elephant safaris are yet to begin, since the tracks used for safari are still not repaired.


In another related news, Kaziranga is suffering from poaching incidences in recent past. A tiger and a rhino were found dead in the park last week. Authorities foiled another attempt at poaching and poachers were forced to retract after 30 minutes of shootout.


Related News:

  • Kaziranga Opens Early - http://www.telegraphindia.com/1091011/jsp/northeast/story'11600002.jsp
  • Rhino and tiger found dead - http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/details.asp?id=oct0809/at04
  • Shootout in Kaziranga - http://www.ptinews.com/news/321337'Shootout-in-Kaziranga-National-Park

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Posted on: Tuesday , Oct 13, 2009 At 16:26 PM

50 Best Places To Eat In The World


UK's leading newspaper The Guardian has published a list of 50 best things to eat in the world, and where to eat them. The list, unlike such lists compiled by many travel magazines and newspapers, doesn't just focus on upmarket eating places and specialized dishes, but also has some down to earth locations.


Featured among the 50 are three restaurants from India, with two of them in Delhi and one in Mumbai.


The restaurants featured from Delhi are Karims (www.karimhoteldelhi.com) and Sagar Ratna (http://www.sagarratna.in/). Ther later is a chain of South Indian Restaurants spread across NCR. I have eaten in the Sagar Ratna at CP a few times and have found them to be good. Featured from Mumbai are the Kebabs from Bade Miya (Tulloch Road, Apollo Bunder).


Have you been to Curry Karims in Delhi or Bade Miya in Mumbai? If yes, let us know how did you find the food there and what did you find special about the place.


For the complete list and the addresses of the restaurants, see http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/sep/13/best-foods-in-the-world 

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Posted on: Monday , Oct 12, 2009 At 12:21 PM

Award For Taj Mahal Hotel In Mumbai


Nearly a year after the unfortunate firings in the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, the hotel has something to cheer about. The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower has been awarded by Business Traveller Asia Pacific Magazine as the best business hotel in Mumbai. The other two hotels in Mumbai that followed the Taj are Grand Hyatt and The Oberoi.


The best three hotels in New Delhi were shared by the same three hotels but in different order - The Oberio, Taj Mahal and Hyatt Regency.


There were various other award categories for airlines and hotels across Asis Pacific, but none of the Indian carriers or hotels have managed to grab a position among them.


See the complete list at http://asia.businesstraveller.com/asia-pacific/awards



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Posted on: Monday , Oct 12, 2009 At 11:28 AM

National Geographic 50 Places Of A Lifetime


The National Geographic Traveler has featured a list of destinations titled as '50 places of a lifetime' in their current issue. The list intends to, according to NG Traveler, "showcase those treasured destinations that every curious traveler should visit in a lifetime"


This is the second such list, following a list of cities for travelers to see, compiled in 1999 by the magazine staff. The old list has now gone online with plenty of information on each of those destinations.


Among the Indian Cities featured in the list are, predictably, Delhi and Mumbai. Another not so popular destination from India that has gone into the list is Fatepur Sikri under the category 'Paradise Found'.


See the earlier list of cities from 1999 that has now gone online at http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/places/places-of-a-lifetime.html  See an interactive map of the current list at http://traveler.nationalgeographic.com/2009/10/map/pol-interactive

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Posted on: Thursday , Oct 08, 2009 At 11:42 AM

Isro Wants To Put People In Space, Tourists Too!


ISRO is seeking a spaceship from Russia to conduct manned missions in outer space. Curiously, news reports indicate that ISRO also intends to take tourists to the space. Space tourism is still a concept in nascent stages, though a few companies do offer space tours to anyone interested.


The proposal from ISRO was revealed by Roskosmos, with which ISRO is trying to source spaceships. It would be interesting to know what ISRO's has to say about this news. ISRO has not given any press releases on the matter yet, and most of the Indian media is silent about it. It would also be interesting to see who in India would take the initial tours, if ISRO is to get on with such tours.


See http://www.ptinews.com/news/313249'ISRO-seeks-Russian-spaceship-for-manned-flight for more details.

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Posted on: Monday , Oct 05, 2009 At 12:40 PM

Travellers Update On Flood In Andhra And Karnataka


You might be aware that parts of Andhra Pradesh and Northern Karnataka are suffering from floods for the past few days. The situation is getting better at the moment, but metorological department has warned that the rains could continue for next 24 hour duration. Some of the popular tourist places in the affected regions include Badami, Hampi and Bijapur. You may not face problems in these towns but the roads to these places could be blocked in places.

South and South Central Railways have cencelled many trains and rerouted a few more due to floods. Listed below are the links to complete list of route changes announced.


Southern Railways

  • http://www.southernrailway.gov.in/press/index.php?id=989&evnt=DETAILS
  • http://www.southernrailway.gov.in/press/index.php?id=988&evnt=DETAILS
South Central Railways

  • http://scrailway.gov.in/web/Press'Release/cancelled'trains163.htm
  • http://scrailway.gov.in/web/Press'Release/cancelled'trains162.htm
  • http://scrailway.gov.in/web/Press'Release/cancelled'trains.htm

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Posted on: Monday , Oct 05, 2009 At 12:20 PM

Festivals And Events - October 2009


As usual, here is a post to begin the month, with a list of festival events for October 2009.


Diwali. Celebrated all over India, the biggest festival in the country falls between 15th and 19th October, with daily festivities varying in each part of the country. However, one can see lamps lighting up the front of the houses and crackers being bursted continuously wherever you go.


Rajgir Dance Festival. Held in Rajgir, Bihar from October 24th to 26th. This is a colourful festival of classical and folk dances, organized by Government of Bihar. See more about Rajgir at Bihar Tourism Website - http://bstdc.bih.nic.in/Rajgir.htm


Pushkar Camel Fair. Held in Pushkar, Rajasthan from 25th October to 2nd November. The most popular festival in Rajasthan is a fair meant for buying and selling camels. It attracts large number of tourists from all over the world. See http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/Attractions/Fairs-Festivals/PushkarFair.aspx for more details.


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Posted on: Wednesday , Sep 30, 2009 At 13:04 PM

More Blogs On Oktatabyebye


I have been writing on this space regularly for more than a year now, and often lurk around in neighbourhood to check on other writers who blog on oktatabyebye. Here is a few that I see posted regularly.


1. Narayanvee writes about travelogues in the mountains. The long posts on the blog, called 'Mystic Mountains' has stories from places like Gangotri, Amarnath, Badrinath and Valley of Flowers. There seems to be lot more to come, all about mountains.


2. Deepak Amembal's blog, called Rambling Around, has stories from Maharashtra, especially near Mumbai


3. Partha writes about travel trends, mostly related to business of travel at 'India Travel Trends'

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Posted on: Wednesday , Sep 30, 2009 At 12:18 PM

Musing On Pilot Strike


A few weeks ago, Jet Airways pilots went on strike despite a court order preventing them from doing so. Many flights were canceled and passengers suffered, sometimes stranded in the airport. While Jet lost money as their planes remained underutilized, other airlines were probably happy to see their flights running full. Being one of the big airlines with low utilization, Air India would have derived maximum benefit.


All this is not unusual, considering that we are a country used to striking employees who do not stop until their demands are met. But what struck me hard was the way other airlines priced their last minute tickets.


We were on the way from Bangalore to Delhi, and our flight was delayed by a few hours(this was not Jet Airways flight). Since we had to be there in Delhi as early as we can, we decided to check for other flights available. There was a Kingfisher flight which departed soon, and we considered booking on it. But the price they quoted was exorbitant - more than twice the normal full fare between Bangalore and Delhi. At more than Rs.23,000 for a seat, this was the highest fare that I had ever heard of for economy ticket between any two locations in India.


What do you think about such an attitude? We did not take the Kingfisher flight, and thankfully our flight departed earlier than we thought it would. But there would be some helpless passengers who might have had no choice but to fly at these prices. Kingfisher might have made their money in a time of crisis. But would they get returning passengers? Would they be able to build trust with travellers? Would they benefit from such an act in the long run? I doubt it.

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Posted on: Sunday , Sep 27, 2009 At 21:47 PM

Cruising Along The Ganga


Travellers can now take a long cruise along the Ganga, starting from Varanasi and going all the way to Kolkata.

Starting this month, Pandaw River Cruises will begin offering cruises along the Ganga. The cruise starts at Varanasi and makes a 15-day voyage downstream. The first such cruise will be departing from Varanasi on 28th September. There are regular departures from Varanasi through the winter of 2009-10 and again in 2010-11.

Predictably, this is an expensive cruise with prices starting from USD5000. The cruise will pass through some major destinations like Sarnath, Patna, Nalanda and Plassey before arriving at Kolkata.

See http://www.pandaw.com/info.php?p=1284&l=1&page=itin for more details on the tour.

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Posted on: Sunday , Sep 27, 2009 At 11:23 AM

Tour Of Nilgiris On Bicycle


Ride A Cycle Foundation, a non profit group promoting sustainable transport, is organizing a 8-day cycling tour along the Nilgiri Mountains. 


'Tour of Nilgiris', or TFN as they usually call it, begins on 15th December and concludes on the 23rd. The participants begin from Bangalore, passing through Mysore, Hassan, Coorg, Wayanad and Ooty before returning. 


Registrations are already open, and more than 280 people have already registered. However, the organizers want to limit participation to 70 people. Selection may not be based on first come first served basis, so you can still register and try your luck.


To register and know more details on the tour, visit Tour of Nilgiris webpage - http://www.tourofnilgiris.com/

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Posted on: Wednesday , Sep 23, 2009 At 15:09 PM

Mysore Dasara


Dasara is the biggest festival in Mysore and surrounding areas of South Karnataka, celebrated with great fanfare. This year's Dasara celebrations have begin in the city, and will go on till 28th of September.


Historically, Dasara festival had the patronage of the Kings of Mysore. Today, the Government of Karnataka continues the tradition of celebrating Dasara in a grand way.


The festival started with inauguration by Sri Sri Ravishankar on the morning of 19th September. Programs during the festival days include an exhibition of arts and crafts in a sprawling exhibition ground, sports events and cultural evenings. Particularly well known are the kusti competition - a form of wrestling. The Mysore Palace will be lit up with thousands of lights every evening during the festivities.


The program concludes with a grand procession lead by elephants and followed by various tableau. The last day is the most eventful of the festival days and attracts large number of tourists.


Visit the official website of Mysore Dasara (http://mysoredasara.com) for schedules and other details.

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Posted on: Wednesday , Sep 23, 2009 At 14:56 PM

Destination Of The Month: Shimla


Starting this month, 'India Explored' will feature two travel destinations within India as destination of the month. The feature will give you an overview of the destination and why this is the best time to visit the chosen destination. The article will also provide you with links to all the information you need such as places to see, things to do, where to stay, etc. This month's destination is Shimla.


Visiting Shimla

The monsoons have more or less ended in India. The last bout of rains left this mountain town 10 days ago. The weather is now pleasant, sky is blue and the hills look beautiful. Before the winter begins in the plain, escape the last days of the heat in this hill station town.


Things to do and places to see

The most popular place for visitors in Shimla is the mall road, where you can walk from end to end without seeing a car. Shop or eat in the pleasant weather or see some cultural programs at the ridge. Other places include the erstwhile British headquarters of Vice-Regal Lodge, Christ Church, Scandal point and Sankat Mochan Temple. Read more.


You can also walk along the reserve forest near Vice-Regal Lodge. Read more.


Also visit nearby places such as Chail, Naldehra, Narkanda, Kufri and Tattapani. Read more


Places to Stay

Some popular hotels in Shimla are listed below. See complete list here.


Images of Shimla




See pictures from Shimla


More Information

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Posted on: Tuesday , Sep 22, 2009 At 16:52 PM

The Last Days Of Monsoon And Coming Of The Winter


It is the time of the year when the monsoon starts receding, making way for the pleasant winter days. Coming six months are the best time to travel in the plains of North India and see its splendors, without worrying about the scorching heat of summer.

What are your winter travel plans?

If you are in north, you can visit the forts of Rajasthan and see how the royalty lived before the days of independence. You can see its beautiful deserts that are known for camel safaris and golden sunsets. It is also the right time to be in UP and MP, home to some popular tourist destinations like Varanasi, Agra, Khajuraho and Orchha.

In the south, plains of Tamil Nadu, beaches of Kerala and Goa tend to have the best weather in winter. Also worth visiting are the heritage sites in Karnataka - Hampi and Badami.

In a few weeks, it starts snowing in high passes in the Himalayas, effectively blocking road access to places deep in the mountains. Though the weather can be harsh, you can enjoy skiing in the valleys of Gulmarg and Auli.

For wildlife enthusiasts, it is a great season to see migratory birds that come to the plains for breeding. It may not be the best of times to see larger game in our national parks, but the foggy forest landscapes bathed in golden rays of morning sun look the most beautiful in winters.

It is a task requiring endurance, but I have decided to head to the mountains this winter and go trekking on a frozen river. Watch this space for my experiences, which I shall write about on my return in January. Where are you planning to go this winter?

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Posted on: Tuesday , Sep 22, 2009 At 13:21 PM

Rail News - Faster Trains And Festival Specials


The Indian Railways is at launching a few new superfast non-stop trains that will cut down long distance travel time. The Railway Minister had planned 14 such trains in the last budget, of which two of them have become operational this month. The trains are named as Duranto Express. Currently Duranto Express Trains run on Kolkata-Chennai and Kolkata-Delhi routes.

 

The railways have been announcing new trains to clear rush of passengers during Diwali. Unfortunately, the list of these new trains are not available in a single place anywhere on Indian Railways website. Here is a list of trains based on regions.


North:

1. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/city/allahabad/Special-trains-for-festivals/articleshow/5031281.cms

2. http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/festive-rush-railways-adds-special-trains-coaches/520053/


Central: http://www.centralchronicle.com/viewnews.asp?articleID=14775


South:

1. http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=SCR+to+operate+special+trains&artid=YmW0MEGhwoA=&SectionID=e7uPP4|pSiw=&MainSectionID=fyV9T2jIa4A=&SectionName=EH8HilNJ2uYAot5nzqumeA==&SEO=

2. http://www.newkerala.com/nkfullnews-1-110395.html

3. http://www.newkerala.com/nkfullnews-1-114196.html

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Posted on: Tuesday , Sep 22, 2009 At 12:41 PM

Waiting At Delhi Airport


I was on my way back from Delhi to Bangalore, and had a chance to go through the new terminus at Delhi's domestic airport. The swanky terminal looks impressive to begin with, but it did not seem as good as the first impression made me believe.


The biggest complaint I had was about lack of space near the gates. 16 gates are tightly squeezed next to a narrow passage that offers very little space for departing passengers. During peak hour departures, it will be crowded with people, barely leaving any free space. There are just a handful of chairs that can seat only a small 5% of the people who wait to board.


There are other problems too. The passenger lounge can barely accommodate everyone in the hall. This too would be short of space in the years to come as the traffic grows.


Having spent thousands of crores on a new terminal, it baffles me why the architects have not addressed something so basic. I sincerely hope this is a temporary arrangement before the construction work is complete. But if this is how it is meant to be for a long time, it won't just be an annoyance, but a problem in scaling the airport further.

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Posted on: Friday , Sep 11, 2009 At 15:52 PM

Rohtang Pass Closed For Tourists On Tuesdays


Due to road widening works from Manali to Rohtang, Rohtang Pass will not be accessible for tourists on Tuesdays. Tourist traffic bound for the pass will be stopped at Kothi, 30km from Manali. The closure will be between 9am and 6pm, and will be in place till the road widening work is completed.




Since the road remains open till 9am, those travelling to Lahaul region and further to Ladakh, who normally leave early in the day may not be affected. Emergency vehicles and public transport buses from HRTC will be allowed to use the road even during the hours of closure.


If you are planning to visit Rohtang in near future, ensure that you the road to pass is open. Some early snow falls last week had temporarily shut down access to the pass.


Related stories:

1. Rohtang Pass closed for tourists every Tuesday - http://www.deccanherald.com/content/23991/rohtang-pass-closed-tourists-every.html

2. Snow fall in Rohtang - http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?a=jjesadeahgf&title=Manali'Leh'highway'reopened'282'people'rescued

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Posted on: Friday , Sep 11, 2009 At 15:29 PM

Deodars Of Himachal


Driving past the deciduous jungles with stout looking trees beyond Solan towards Chail, a traveller is pleasantly surprised on entering the periphery of Chail. Here, a reluctant greenery of the lower slopes suddenly burst into dense and dark-green terrain, as the deodar trees rise high and spread all along the slopes.




The superb greenery continues along the hills for most of the way towards Shimla as one drives through Kufri and Mashobra. Beyond Mashobra, the slopes get steeper but the unrelenting greenery only gets thicker, forming one of the densest deodar forests that you can see anywhere in India.


The town of Shimla too has its share of deodars. As you move from west to east along the Mall Road, the urban structures slowly make way to Deodars. There are many places in Shimla where you can walk in silence among Deodars.


Naturally, green cover is always a victim of growing pressures of tourism and development. The Government of Himachal is now trying to plant more deodars within Shimla, and running an afforestation drive across Himachal. I hope they succeed in making Shimla greener.


Read more on planting deodar saplings in Shimla at http://www.newkerala.com/nkfullnews-1-106332.html

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Posted on: Friday , Sep 11, 2009 At 14:56 PM

Where Do The Tourists Go?


The ministry of tourism has recently released statistics on states that attract maximum number of tourists. The surprise entry in the list comes right on top. The state that sees highest number of tourists is not Rajasthan, UP or Kerala that are known for some popular destinations. It happens to be Andhra Pradesh, thanks to a large number of people who visit the Balaji Temple at Tirupati. Subsequent positions are taken by UP and Tamil Nadu.


Looking at the number of tourists who visit these places, bulk of the domestic tourists seem to go to the top three states. While the top three states get tourists in the order of a 100 million every year, Rajasthan at number four receives just 28 million tourists.


See the complete list of top ten states at http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshowpics/4982694.cms


When it comes to foreign tourists, the most favoured destinations were Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

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Posted on: Friday , Sep 04, 2009 At 11:23 AM

Festivals And Events - September 2009


This September is going to be packed with celebrations! Onam was celebrated on the 2nd of this month in Kerala, and there is Dasara to look forward to. For people from Bengal, it is a frenzy of celebrations of Durga Puja at the end of the month. Listed here are the fairs and festivals for this month.


Dasara or Navaratri. Dasara or Navaratri is celebrated from 19th to 28th September. Although Dasara is celebrated in many parts of the country, it is a grand state sponsored function in Mysore, that culminates with a procession of elephants on the 10th day. See http://www.mysoredasara.com/ for details. It is also a popular festival in Coorg. Navaratri is celebrated with many public functions and dance programs in the state of Gujarat.


Kullu Dasara. Unlike in rest of the country, Dasara in Kullu begins when it concludes in other places. It begins on 28th September and goes on for 10 days. See more details at http://kullu.net/culture/cl111.html


Durga Puja. The most celebrated festival of Bengal begins on 25th September and concludes on 28th September. Kolkata is the best place to see the celebrations.

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Posted on: Friday , Sep 04, 2009 At 10:52 AM

India Explored Crosses 100k Page Views


It has been about a year and half since I begun "India Explored" on oktatabyebye. Although it was a slow beginning, I posted here regularly, featuring a mix of travel news, interesting things for travellers and a few personal stories. We now have a little more than 100 posts from 2009 alone, and 128 posts from 2008, together getting closer to 250 mark.


I hope you have enjoyed the journey so far and will be with me in the coming days. I will be making attempts to add new features and more variety in the coming days, and will look forward to making constant improvement here. Your feedback would be of a lot help in this journey; it would be great if you can spare a moment to scribble your thoughts about how "India Explored" can be made better.


Thank you for being with me so far. I will look forward to your continued patronage.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Aug 25, 2009 At 11:35 AM

Worshiping Ganesha With Elephants


When we were all  busy worshiping Ganesha during the festival and going from street to street looking at decorations on the big statues, there was a more interesting celebration happening in the forests of Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary. The worshipers here were not people like you and I, but elephants!


22 elephants from an elephant camp brought the Ganesha idol, and two of them performed a pooja in front of a gathering of locals and tourists.


The tourists would be surely amused at the fair, but I wonder if the elephants enjoyed the whole thing. But the good thing - the elephants received special food for their effort at the end of it.


Read more about it at http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/feature/elephants-worship-lord-ganesha-in-mudumalai'100237294.html

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Posted on: Tuesday , Aug 25, 2009 At 11:14 AM

Jet Airways Pilots Plan To Go On Strike


This is an important news to make note of, if you are planning some travelling in September.


National Aviator's Guild, a union on Jet Airways pilots, has declared that they will go on an indefinite strike starting from midnight of September 7th.


The trouble started when Jet Airways decided to terminate two of its pilots a few days ago. The sacked pilots claim that Jet Airways was taking a measure of retribution for their role in establishing a trade union of Jet employees.


If you have any travel plans in September and have a Jet Airways ticket in hand, be prepared with some alternate options. Read the full story at http://business.rediff.com/report/2009/aug/24/air-jet-pilots-plan-indefinite-strike.htm
 

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Posted on: Tuesday , Aug 25, 2009 At 11:05 AM

Books For The India Explorer - Vi: Coorg


See right-side column for earlier posts about travel books on India. In this post, I am listing four books that gives insights into the history and culture of Coorg, a hilly region in southern part of Karnataka.


Nuggets from Coorg History by CP Belliappa. This book has insights on the last four hundred years of Coorg's history. It is written as a compilation of short chapters, each one telling an interesting story.


Gazetteer of Coorg by G Richter. A book published in 1870, this is written by the then principal of Government School in Madikeri. The book documents every aspect of Coorg in detail, including the region's culture, biodiversity and history.


Tale of a Tiger's Tail and other yarns from Coorg by CP Belliappa. Another book by Belliappa is a compilation of humorous short stories from Coorg.


Kodavas by BD Ganapathy goes into details of culture and history of the people of Coorg.

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Posted on: Monday , Aug 24, 2009 At 23:03 PM

Overlooked Stunning Structures


Featured in a recent list of Reuters' top ten 'overlooked stunning structures' is Jaipur's Jantar Mantar.


Reuters website mentions Jantar Mantar as "The Griffith Observatory of its time, this 17th-century planetarium of sorts played a pivotal role in predicting the area's astronomical and meteorological events. Among its many gems is a giant sundial. "


Have you seen the Jantar Mantar and felt that it is a special place? I spent a few days at Jaipur a year ago, and passed by Jantar Mantar without seeing it. I went inside the enclosure hosting these structures that initially looked weird, only to find that the observatory was under renovation. Some sections were half painted and some places covered with scaffoldings. I decided to skip Jantar Mantar that day. But whenever Jaipur comes into my mind, I always remember not being able to take a guided tour of Jantar Mantar.


Read the full story at Reuters website, which has the full list of 'overlooked stunning structures' - http://www.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUSTRE5761PR20090807

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Posted on: Saturday , Aug 22, 2009 At 23:17 PM

Flower Bursts


One of the charming things about the Himalayas in the monsoons is the burst of flowers that can be seen occasionally. In places like Manali, you can sometimes see large areas full of tiny flowers. Here are a couple of pictures I had shot during one of my visits to Himachal.



















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Posted on: Saturday , Aug 22, 2009 At 21:30 PM

Of Drought And Travel To Mountains


After giving an optimistic view for the last two months, Government of India has relented and accepted that the monsoons have failed. Many parts of India have not seen regular rain falls this year, and North India is seeing continuing sultry weather. 



This also means more and more people are trying to get out of the plains and finding refuge in the mountains. Hill stations like Shimla are having extended season, and the number of tourists visiting is higher than usual. I was told that hotels in Shimla were completely booked and there was no accommodation available last weekend.


A friend who owns a riverside property about 100km Shimla have been seeing good business. They usually closes for the monsoons every year, but have decided to stay open this time.


I will also be heading towards Shimla in the second week of September. I will be spending a few days travelling in the beautiful deodar forest stretches between Shimla and Chail. Watch this space for some stories and photographs from the region.

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Posted on: Saturday , Aug 22, 2009 At 18:21 PM

Ladakh Confluence


A four day music festival, called Ladakh Confluence, is scheduled from August 26th on the banks of Indus in Ladakh. The festival will have artists coming from all over the world and performing at the venue, which is nestled in the mountain region above 10,000 feet.


Besides the music shows, there will be many other events planned during the days of the fest. It includes wildlife and nature film shows, children's activities, dances, photography, thangka painting sessions and many other activities with local flavours. The tickets for the confluence will be available online till 26th, after which they can be purchased at the venue.


At the moment, the news from Ladakh is that it is becoming difficult to find accommodation in Leh during the festival days. If you are thinking of Ladakh sometime in the next 10-15 days, it would be best to plan your trip in advance and book your accommodation.


For more details on the festival and to book tickets, visit http://theconfluence.in/ They can aslo help you plan your travel and book your accommodation.

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Posted on: Friday , Aug 21, 2009 At 19:29 PM

Swine Flu And Travel


I live in Bangalore, one of the cities where people have died of swine flu. The number of people infected now stands at a few hundreds, which is a cause for alarm. I see people wearing masks everywhere, preferring to stay cautious. Those who wear masks probably constitute a very small percentage, but significant enough that I keep bumping into them every now and then.


That brings me to the question - would I cut down my travel plans due to fear of infection? Travel news feeds are full of reports about fall in tourist numbers, thanks to the flu. A few governments have even issued advisory against travelling to India. A few travel agents I spoke to fear about decline in domestic travel as well. Would it be sensible to stay at home and be careful?


Opinions may differ and some people tend to be more cautious than other. For me, it would be hard to sit at home worrying about an infection that has affected a miniscule share of our population. Yes, there would be some danger of infection when you are in a crowded transport or in a large gathering, but I might as well risk it than stay home. I would not advice everyone to do the same, but am curious what people think about it. What is your take on the flu? Would you prefer to stay cautious or just get out when you wish to?

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Posted on: Friday , Aug 21, 2009 At 19:07 PM

Night Traffic Ban In Bandipur


The Government of Karnataka had issued orders to ban all vehicular traffic after 9pm in Bandipur National Park earlier this month.  A PIL filed against the order has now been dismissed by the Karnataka High Court, ensuring that the traffic ban is here to stay. Starting from the first week of August, vehicles were not allowed inside the park from 9pm to 6am.


The ban applies to two important roads connecting Mysore with the South. NH212 and NH67 pass through the national park, connecting Mysore with Ooty and Wayanad. The ban however doesn't apply to public transport buses belonging to state governments.


The ban means that you would not be able to drive through Bandipur if you are travelling to Wayanad or Ooty from Bangalore. If you intend to travel from Bangalore to these areas in a private vehicle on a weekend, you would be forced to depart on a Saturday morning instead of Friday night.


See full story at http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=Night+traffic+ban+to+stay&artid=xuA98cy/6y0=&SectionID=Qz/kHVp9tEs=&MainSectionID=Qz/kHVp9tEs=&SEO=&SectionName=UOaHCPTTmuP3XGzZRCAUTQ==

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Posted on: Friday , Aug 21, 2009 At 17:40 PM

Elephant Charges Tourist


Two French tourists were charged by a female elephant near Mudumalai Forest Ranges in Tamil Nadu. One of them, a retired school teacher died on the way to the hospital, while her sun suffered leg injuries.


This could be one of the rare incidences where a tourist was attached and killed by an elephant, but the incidences of tourist and elephant encounters are not uncommon. It happens regularly in Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, where the tourist activity has increased manifold in last decade.


The forests in this region host a dense population of elephants that often comes into close encounteres with tourists. While elephants in groups are mostly harmless and only mock charge the tourists to keep them away, getting uncomfortably close to the herd can result in trouble. The web is full of stories of people who had to come face to face with the pachyderms in the forests of Madumalai, Bandipur, Nagarahole and Wayanad. It is a temptation to get closer to these beautiful animals and live the wildlife experience to the fullest, but wisdom lies in exercising caution and staying at a distance.


Read the full story of elaphant attach at http://www.hindu.com/2009/08/15/stories/2009081550750100.htm

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Posted on: Tuesday , Aug 18, 2009 At 12:30 PM

Karnataka On Oktatabyebye


Besides writing on this blog, I have been frequently spending time writing on oktatabyebye about places to visit in Karnataka. It is a long list now, covering most of the well known places in the state. If you are planning to go anywhere in the state and looking for information, this compilation of write-ups from me should help you find what you need.

  1. Udupi
  2. Dandeli
  3. Agumbe
  4. Gokarna
  5. Hampi
  6. Chitradurga
  7. Srirangapatna
  8. Dharmasthala
  9. Chikmaglur
  10. Bandipur
  11. Jog Falls
  12. BR Hills
  13. Nagarahole
  14. Kemmannugundi
  15. Belur
  16. Mekedatu
  17. Melukote
  18. Shivanasamudra

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Posted on: Tuesday , Aug 18, 2009 At 11:34 AM

The Hoysala Heritage


Most of you would have heard of the temples carved in stone in Belur and Halebeedu. These temples built by the Hoysala Kings are known for their fine architecture and intricate carvings. They are also among the well known tourist destinations in Karnataka. If you are living in Bangalore or elsewhere in South India, it is very likely that you have already visited these places. But did you know that there are dozens of equally beautiful temples around Belur and Halebeedu? The monuments spread around Belur and Halebeedu do not show up prominently on the tourist map, and hence rarely visited.




Take the Veeranarayana temple in Belavadi for instance. It is just 12km from Halebeedu and you see hardly any visitors there. But it is a fine structure with an array of 108 pillars, all of them polished to perfection and each one carved differently. Not very far from Halebeedu are a bunch of Jain Temples huddled together, again built with many round pillars adorning the front porch.




There are countless such temples to see, like the four-shrined temple in Doddagaddavalli or the temple with a round front-porch in Arasikere. The Hoysala Kings had built nearly a thousand temples during their four hundred years of rule. Nearly a hundred have survived even today, many of them restored to their old glory by ASI.


Travel Wise, an initiative formed by me and a fellow travel writer aims to show these centers of perfection in stone to the curious travellers. We do occasional weekend trips from Bangalore with small groups. Our next tour is scheduled on August 29th. See http://www.travelwise.in for more details.

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Posted on: Monday , Aug 17, 2009 At 11:00 AM

Kargil As A Tourist Destination


Ten years after the war against the intruding forces from Pakistan, Kargil was in news once again last month when the nation paid homage to the martyrs. To help people visit those places where our soldiers fought successfully, the Government of India is planning to develop Kargil as a tourist destination.


The first concern is here is of safety, as Kargil is very close to the Line of Control and can be a target for firing from the other side of the border. Kargil also requires much improvement in terms of tourist facilities. Options for accommodation is Kargil are very few, and a rush of tourists may result in shortage of supply. The government is planning to pump in twelve crore rupees to resolve these problems and to improve security and tourist infrastructure in the town.


Kargil is significant not just a place where a war was fought, but as the gateway to the picturesque and isolated Zanskar Valley. It is also a transit point where people tend to stop and spend a night during the long journey from Srinagar to Leh. Improvement in tourist infrastructure can help travellers in travelling to these places in more comfort.


See more details at http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/business/india-developing-kargil-as-tourist-destination'100225790.html

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Posted on: Monday , Aug 17, 2009 At 10:29 AM

Sundarbans And New 7 Wonders Of Nature


After the declaration of seven wonders of the world two years ago, it is now time for deciding seven natural wonders. The seven natural wonders campaign has been running since December 2007, in which more than 440 locations were nominated for the honour. Of the 440 initial nominees, 77 were shortlisted through a voting. 28 of them made it to the last round after being filtered by a panel of experts.


The selection process for the final seven has already begun. A public voting will decide the winning entries, which will be unveiled only in 2011. The one location from India in the final 28 is Sundarban Delta, the world's largest mangrove forest.


To see the list of finalists, visit http://www.vote7.com/n7w/nature/finalists. To vote for your favourite locations see http://www.vote7.com/n7w

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Posted on: Friday , Jul 31, 2009 At 11:10 AM

Mid Monsoon Post


I know, the rains have barely begin in some parts of the country to call it mid-monsoon. But in Karnataka, it is almost past the halfway mark already. I am in the mood for rainy days and can't stop writing about it. In the hilly and forested regions of the state, it has been raining heavily for the entire month of July. There is a bit of let up in the last week, and the intensity of rains has reduced.


I spent a few days in malnad area in the western ghats last week, which has been seeing a lot of rain in the last month. The place where I went to is very close to Jog Falls, the highest waterfall in the country. 




The countryside in these parts looks so good after the rain has fallen, I found it hard to return. It is cloudy and pleasant, and the temperatures are just perfect. The greenery is lush, the lakes are full and there is lot of life and activity in the nature. Paddy fields have young saplings that form a carpet of green on the earth surface. Streams are full with water. It can't get more beautiful.


I hope I can use the next one month to do some travelling, when the rain continues to bless these parts. Watch this space for updates.

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Posted on: Friday , Jul 31, 2009 At 10:38 AM

Treks In Himachal


The Government of India's Department of Tourism, along with Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports(ABVIMAS) is conducting trekking programs in different parts of Himachal in September and October.


The treks will be in the mountain areas around Manali, Shimla and Dharamsala, and will be of four days in lenght. The trekking will be managed by ABVIMAS, an organization under Government of Himachal Pradesh. ABVIMAS is the largest adventure sports training center in the country.


See more about the treks at http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/dot-govt-of-himachal-pradesh-to-conduct-trekking-expeditions-on-three-routes-in-the-state-7619. See ABVIMAS website - http://www.adventurehimalaya.org/ - for more details about the organization. They have comprehensive training programs in all genres of adventure sports.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Jul 28, 2009 At 12:57 PM

No More Casinos In Goa


If the Goan government has its way, the Casinos operating from Mandovi River at Panaji may stop operating soon. Licenses of five of the six boats from which the casinos are operating have expired, and are not renewed by the state government. The casinos were said to be creating problems to navigation of barges along Mandovi River. Local NGOs were also unhappy about the impact of casinos to local culture.


Goa was the only place in India where casinos were allowed to operate so far. The government of Sikkim has plans to introduce Casinos in Gangtok, but until that happens, there will be no options available for people who love to spend time casinos.


As of now, only one casino operator has a license that is valid till October. The casinos have now moved to Goa High Court on the order. Watch this space for any new developments.


See more details at -

  1. Goa to sell off 5 casinos - http://www.deccanherald.com/content/16278/goa-sell-off-5-casinos.html
  2. 5 casinos to be sealed - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/NEWS/City/Goa/5-casinos-without-NOCs-to-be-sealed-Mickky/articleshow/4827887.cms
  3. Goa to stop casinos - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4825154.cms

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Posted on: Tuesday , Jul 28, 2009 At 12:44 PM

Adventure Carnival At Hyderabad Airport


If you are likely to be travelling into or out of Hyderabad by air between September 25th and October 11th, make sure you check out the adventure carnival to be held in the airport premises.


The GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited, in collaboration with Delhi based tour operator Wanderlust Travel is organizing an adventure event at Hyderabad Airport. The event will offer activities like bungee jump, paintball, dirt biking, etc.


See more details at http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/wanderlust-travels-and-ghial-to-organise-extreme-adventure-carnival-in-september-2009-7605

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Posted on: Sunday , Jul 26, 2009 At 19:15 PM

Change In Unreserved Ticketing In Trains


Until recently, unreserved tickets on Indian Railways could be booked three days in advance. But a new order from Indian Railways has removed this facility, and passengers travelling can buy tickets at the counter only an hour before the hour of departure.


This has been causing trouble at some stations where regular travellers have the habit of buying tickets in advance to avoid last minute rush. In places like Mysore from where a large number of passengers travel to Bangalore using unreserved tickets, there were chaos at the ticket counter.


Indian Railways has not issued any statements about resolving this problem. Till they act, getting an unreserved ticket may mean standing in queue during the last minute rush.


See full story at http://www.newkerala.com/nkfullnews-1-79093.html

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Posted on: Sunday , Jul 26, 2009 At 18:58 PM

Road To Badrinath Closed


People who have been on the char dham yatra and heading towards Badrinath have been asked by Uttarakhand Government not to travel for the next few days. A cloudburst in Chamoli district has resulted in landslides, and the road to Badrinath is currently closed. Uttarakhand government or the Border Roads Organization have not mentioned a timeline for repairing the roads. A few pilgrims are also stuck on the other side of the road at Badrinath.

See more details at http://ptinews.com/news/183857'Pilgrims-asked-not-to-come-Badrinath-for-time-being

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Posted on: Friday , Jul 24, 2009 At 13:03 PM

Solar Eclipse - Photos And Videos


The much hyped longest solar eclipse of the century is now over, but the buzz around it has not come down yet. Viewers were disappointed in some areas in India, thanks to monsoon clouds, especially in Targna village in Bihar where the eclipse was expected to be seen at its best. In Bangalore where I live, people waiting for the partial eclipse did not get to see much.


But the web is full of some beautiful imagery and videos of the eclipse from various parts of the world. Boston Globe Big Picture Blog has an excellent collection of images from many countries. See http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/07/the'longest'solar'eclipse'of't.html


The full video of the eclipse from various location can be seen below.

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Srwfkt2jp'Q
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-wflBLAiWY
  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKNNhbILWsY

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Posted on: Thursday , Jul 23, 2009 At 17:20 PM

Monsoon Update From Karnataka - Things (not) To Do


During most of June, it was a drought like situation in Maharashtra, Karnataka and other parts of South India. Despite met department's predictions of near normal rains, there was no sight of precipitation. But come July, what started to look like good rains nearly turned into a deluge. People in the hills rarely got to see the sun, and it kept raining day and night.



The biggest troubles were in Coorg. Bhagamandala, the small village on the way to Talakaveri was flooded many times. Rivers overflowed, and there was no let up in rains. It was the same story along the coast, and in the hills of malnad region. The plains in the north did not get as much rains, but the overflowing rivers coming down from the hills supplied the much needed water.



There has been some decline in rainfall in the last few days, and life is returning to normal. If you are looking up to do some monsoon journeys, this would be the time. There are waterfalls to see, that will be running in full force. Jog and Shivanasamudra, the largest falls in the region are attracting many visitors. A long drive in the plains, where it is not raining much but the weather is pleasant and cloudy would be worth it. It is better to wait and watch for some more time before heading to Coorg, but do go if you are not afraid of the pouring rains. Make sure you are very careful near the water - fast currents have pulled in many people in the deluge in last few weeks, and many lives have been lost. Enjoy the monsoons while it lasts, safely!

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Posted on: Tuesday , Jul 21, 2009 At 22:49 PM

Watch Solar Eclipse Live


The countdown for the century's longest solar eclipse has begun. Tomorrow morning, the sun will be masked for more than six minutes at places. Naturally, astronomy enthusiasts are excited. The eclipse can be seen in parts of North India from Bihar to Gujarat, with a small village outside Patna identified as the best location within India.


If you are like me, not able to be there to see the eclipse from where it is happening, the next best thing to do is to watch it live. A few websites are relaying it live, bringing you the eclipse as it happens. Though none of them are broadcast from India, these are from places where the eclipse can be seen at its best.


To see the eclipse live on your computer, visit University of North Dakota website at http://sems1.cs.und.edu/~sems/Sems'Photo.php or go to http://www.live-eclipse.org/ The eclipse can be seen between 5.28am and 7.40am in various parts of the world.

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Posted on: Monday , Jul 20, 2009 At 12:24 PM

Udaipur Is World's Best City?!


In a surprise of sorts, Udaipur has topped the polls as the World's Best City in travel and leisure category. The poll was conducted by Travel+Leisure magazine, in which Udaipur ousted last year's winner Bangkok. Jaipur also features among the top 20. Incidentlly, neither of the two cities had made a mark in their last year's survey.


Other aspects of the survey included best airlines and best hotels. None of the Indian carriers made it to the top ten. Among the hotels, four properties from India made it to the top 100. Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra stood at number 28, sliding from 6th rank last year. Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur, Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur and Rambagh palace in Jaipur are the other hotels from India.


See the complete list and survey results on Travel+Leisure website - http://www.travelandleisure.com/worldsbest/2009/results.cfm?cat=cities


Incidentally, not every news about Udaipur in the recent past has been very good. Udaipur's famed lake, in which the lake palace is located, had run completely dry earlier this month. However, it seems to be raining well in those parts in last week, and the glory of the palace should be restored sooner or later. See pictures of the dry lake at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1199799/Indias-Palace-Lake-Palace-Mud-drought-takes-toll-romantic-resort.html

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Posted on: Thursday , Jul 16, 2009 At 10:27 AM

Solar Eclipse Next Week


A total solar eclipse is about to occur in parts of North India on July 22nd, creating excitement among astronomy enthusiasts. The eclipse can be witnessed from 13 states, but the best views are said to occur in Bihar.


In Patna, the eclipse is expected to last for 3 minutes and 30 seconds, the longest duration in India. At a point somewhere in the pacific ocean, the eclipse can be witnessed for more than 6 minutes. A little village called Taregana in Bihar is chosen as the ideal place to view the eclipse. There is much excitement in the village as lot of people - scientists as well as enthusiasts - are likely to arrive to see the phenomenon.


The eclipse occurs at 6am on July 22nd. If you are not able to be there to see it, expect to see live coverage in some television channels. Stay tuned to this column for more details.


More information on the eclipse:

  1. Eclipse fever in India village - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south'asia/8149149.stm
  2. All roads lead to Taregana - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/NEWS-City-Patna-All-roads-lead-to-Taregna/articleshow/4777009.cms

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Posted on: Wednesday , Jul 15, 2009 At 12:49 PM

Darjeeling Is Closed!


Tourism is hit in Darjeeling and Sikkim in the last few days owing to bandh called by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha(GJM). Darjeeling and surrounding area have been in trouble on and off in the last few years owing to demand from locals for a separate state. The hill town was hit by sudden bandh calls several times last year.




A bridge on the affected NH31A


Although the bandh does not affect the state of Sikkim, the approach to Gangtok and rest of Sikkim has become difficult. The National Highway NH31A, which connects Siliguri with Gangtok and other parts of Sikkim is a lifeline of Sikkim. Parts of the highway run through Darjeeling Hills, and have been affected due to the strike calls.


The current bandh was called by GJM to demand removal of some senior police officials in the town. At the moment, talks are expected between GJM and the state government, and the status of bandh may depend on the outcome. If you are planning a visit to Darjeeling or Sikkim, it is best to wait and watch for next few days.


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Posted on: Wednesday , Jul 08, 2009 At 16:42 PM

Air India Updates


I had written last month about possible consequences of flying with Air India. Air India managed to avert possible employee strike, though their last month's salaries will be paid only by July 14th. The management has been in discussion with unions about possible restructuring, salary cuts and other options for keeping the airline afloat. In the meanwhile, government is mulling on major restructuring of the airline and starting a low cost airline. It has asked Ratan Tata to help in reviving the company. No concrete decisions seem to have emerged yet. It is best to wait and watch to see how things turn out with AI.

Related Stories:
1. Air India Employees to get Salaries by July 14th - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India-Business/Air-India-employees-to-get-salaries-by-July-14/articleshow/4749754.cms
2. Ratan Tata asked to help revive AI - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Ratan-Tata-asked-to-help-revive-Air-India/articleshow/4751111.cms
3. Government to restructure Air India - http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124694950764604721.html

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Posted on: Wednesday , Jul 08, 2009 At 16:15 PM

Festivals And Events In July 2009


Teej Festival, Jaipur. Held on 24th and 25th July, Teej is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in Rajasthan. See more details on Rajasthan Tourism Website - http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/Attractions/Fairs-Festivals/TeejFestival.aspx


Kashmir Peace Festival, Leh. The Kashmir Peace Festival is a 2-day performance that will be held in Leh Polo Grounds. See more details on their website - http://www.kashmirpeacefestival.mk74design.com/festival.html


Monastic Festivals of Ladakh. Various monasteries in Ladakh have their annual festivals scheduled through summer. Yuru Kabgyat festival in Lamayuru is scheduled for 8th and 9th July. Phyang Monastery Festival is on 22nd and 23rd. Korzok Gustor Festival is on 23rd and 24th. Call tourism office(01982252094) at Leh to double check these dates and know more about festivals in July and August.

If you know of any fairs, festivals and events to be held in your city, leave a comment on this page, and I will include it in the listing.

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Posted on: Wednesday , Jun 24, 2009 At 22:05 PM

Think Before Booking With Air India


India's National Carrier has been in trouble for many years, and seems to be hitting a dead end. With mounting losses year after year and no good news in sight, Air India has again sought a bailout package from the government. This time, they are looking for a very high sum of Rs.10,000 crores. The airline will not be able to pay salaries to their employees at the end of June.

Despite the continuous failure of the airline, government is still willing to help out the airline. Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has expressed the inclination to provide a bailout package. The only difference this time is that Air India may have to respond with a strong restructuring program.

In the meanwhile, Air India also has to manage the interest of their employees who go on a strike at the slightest excuse. The airline's decision to delay the salary for June has already provoked the union, which has threatened to go on strike if the salaries are not paid on time. It would be wise to stay away from Air India until the crisis is resolved.

Related News:
1. Praful Patel on Bailout Package for Air India: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/News-By-Industry/Transportation/Airlines--Aviation/Bailout-package-for-Air-India-Patel/articleshow/4656212.cms
2. Air India Seeks Rs.10,000 crores http://ibnlive.in.com/news/air-india-in-crisis-seeks-rs-10000cr-bailout/95473-7.html
3. Air India Strike Looms: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Business/Air-India-set-to-cut-wages-stir-looms-/articleshow/4689910.cms

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Posted on: Wednesday , Jun 24, 2009 At 09:35 AM

Progress Of The Monsoons


A friend who is currently in Delhi complained to me of hot weather, with temperatures soaring over 43 degrees. Another friend in Bombay said they are eagerly waiting for the monsoons, which should have been there by now. Sitting in Bangalore, I am wondering where have the rains gone, after an initial outburst which brought some cheer. It is summer like weather here too.


By mid-June last year, it was common to see news that read "Monsoons his ABC city," as the clouds slowly progressed northwards. Met department had initially predicted normal monsoons, but later changed to a delay in monsoon which would be made in later stages. World Meteorological Organization expects a poor monsoon this year. Yesterday, a news report in Hindu wrote about IMD changing the outlook of the monsoons to 'below normal'. How is it really going to be, we will know for sure in a few weeks.


I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for good showers. Here is a picture of a foggy day from this monsoon.


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Posted on: Wednesday , Jun 24, 2009 At 08:27 AM

Ramayana Tourism!!


New themes continuously keep getting added to the portfolio of travel companies. There are many uncommon trails that include Bollywood Tourism and the now fashionable slum tours. A recent addition now comes from SriLanka, in the form of Ramayana Tourism.


It is a new concept created by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. It intends to attract tourists to 50 locations that have been identified to be associated with the Ramayana. Some places are even said to have archeological evidences, though most others are simply based on faith. It is an 8-day long guided tour, and already has many people going on the tour from India.


I could not help but wonder how vast such a tour could be, if conducted in India. Nearly every small town temple has a story to tell about its association with Ramayana or Mahabharata, boasting of some event or the other taking place at the location. 


See more details on the tour at http://www.etravelblackboardasia.com/article.asp?id=62653&nav=13

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Posted on: Wednesday , Jun 24, 2009 At 07:55 AM

Increasing Airfares


With the fuel prices starting to climb up in the international market, airlines have slowly started increasing the prices. It is the fuel surcharge that is now adding up to the ticket price, making flying more expensive.


The first airlines to begin the fare hike were Jet and Kingfisher. The airlines industry usually tends to wait for someone to make a start, and everyone will follow. So, soon after the announcement from Jet, SpiceJet and Air India have followed suit. The hike in fuel surcharge is at Rs.400. The total taxes and surcharges on a tickets now is usually above Rs.3,000.


Airlines are still far from having a good run and are suffering from low occupancy. Despite hiking the regular fare, Jet and SpiceJet are offering special fares with restriction in dates.


See complete news:

1. Jet, Kingfisher hike fuel surcharge: http://www.hindu.com/2009/06/18/stories/2009061855971600.htm

2. SpiceJet hikes fuel surcharge: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/News-By-Industry/Transportation/SpiceJet-hikes-fuel-surcharge-by-Rs-400/articleshow/4670358.cms

3. Jet, SpiceJet, JetLite offer special fares: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Business/India-Business/Jet-SpiceJet-Jetlite-come-up-with-special-fares/articleshow/4641325.cms

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Posted on: Monday , Jun 15, 2009 At 12:04 PM

Monsoon Images


I made a quick getaway with my camera in search of some greenery, rain and fog. Western Ghats, it had to be. Here are some pictures from the trip.


Green valleys, a lake and overcast sky.


Cattle graze in the wide valley.


Patches of Sun and Shadow.


Fog trapped in a depression in the mountains.

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Posted on: Monday , Jun 15, 2009 At 09:55 AM

How Kashmir Is Shooting Itself In The Foot


A year ago in July-08, I was heading to Ladakh to spend two months traveling in the region. Our initial plan was to go through Srinagar and over Zoji la. On the way, we probably would have spent a night or two on the Dal Lake, given a visit to Gulmarg and a few more places. But just before we were about to head that way, unrest broke out on the Amarnath issue.


But so much has been told about the beauty of Kashmir, we were still keen to visit the region. Having come so close, there was no point going back without even seeing Dal Lake. Though we skipped Srinagar and took the Manali route to Ladakh, we intended to return via Srinagar when things would be quieter. At the end of two months when we were ready to return, there was still no sign of peace in Srinagar: people were still fighting for those 40 hectares of land. As a result, houseboats that bring income to the locals would have gone unoccupied. Hotels that give jobs to local would have gone empty. Kashmir had lost a full summer of tourist season.


Kashmir has a winter tourist season too. Gulmarg is a highly favoured destination for skiing enthusiasts from all over the world. Most of the winter was uneventful in 2008, but there were hiccups then too. Violence erupted in Srinagar when a Swiss tourist was seen on the slopes, with some quran inscriptions on his skis.


This summer was much better and peaceful, and Kashmir is said to have received record tourist inflows. The local tourism industry finally had work to do. But last week, violence erupted again and tourist vehicles were stoned at. It subsequently resulted in many bookings being cancelled and tourists calling off their visit.


For neary 2 decades, external forces created havoc in the valley, brining tourism activities to a complete halt. The army has finally gained control over infiltration in the last few years and tourists were slowly trickling in, their numbers growing every year. It is now domestic violence that is hindering tourism. It is probably a small population that is the cause of all the trouble. But Kashmiris must realize that their livelihood relies on maintaining peace in the valley. They must come together against the forces that encourage violence. The valley is so rich and beautiful, they have no need to work on expensive marketing campaigns to bring in visitors. All that they need is to keep the house in order, and people start coming in large numbers. It is time for Kashmiris to work in that direction.

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Posted on: Monday , Jun 15, 2009 At 09:32 AM

Indian Railways Goes International


Just imagine not having to pay for an expensive flight ticket for your journey abroad, but simply buy a train ticket at the reservation counter of a local railway station! It would be so much less expensive to travel beyond borders.


We already have rail links with Pakistan, but going anywhere else on a train is unthinkable. But it may well become a reality in the days to come. Indian Railways can now connect with 27 countries, thanks to a agreement to interlink the Trans-Asian Railway network. The agreement is effective from June 11th, and allows Indian Railways to connect with countries in South and South East Asia, China, Russia, Central Asia and parts of Europe. It may not immediately mean that there will be passenger connectivity across these countries, and you can simply hop into a train and get down in Moscow. The treaty seems to be primarily aimed at freight traffic. But if an interconnect is established and the trains begin running across borders, there is no reason why it would not eventually result in introduction of passenger trains.


I would look forward to see that day to come. It would be a joy to trace the route taken by Paul Theroux which resulted in the legendary book - 'The Great Railway Bazaar'.


See the full story - http://ibnlive.in.com/news/indian-railways-set-to-connect-with-27-countries/94539-3.html

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Posted on: Tuesday , Jun 09, 2009 At 21:26 PM

Travel Plans For The Rainy Days


The news of the monsoon always brings me a desire to getaway and escape to verdant and open spaces. The western ghats, where streams come alive with the first rain and waterfalls gush down the valley, are always my first choice. I can sit on a rock and watch the gentle flow of the water forever without getting tired.


I still remember with half regret and half happiness that I completely missed the monsoons last year. Regret because I barely got to witness the monsoons, and happiness because I was travelling through the exotic landscapes of Ladakh region then.


It is time to make up for the loss this year. As the monsoon season has just begun, I am off to witness the beauty of the rains and the fog filled pleasant cold air. See you in Kodaikanal in the coming week! Here is a picture from my visit to the region earlier.


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Posted on: Monday , Jun 08, 2009 At 15:56 PM

The Less Known Hoysalas


I have been researching a bit on the thousand year old Hoysala Kings who ruled parts of South India. In the process, I dug into a bit of their history, and visited some of the places that very few people know about. These places are not on the tourist map and are rarely visited, and yet they are in the same region where two most well known and well visited temples - Belur and Halebeedu - are. Here are some pictures of the places.


Hulikere is a small pond, but is very charming, as you can see from the picture. 


hoysala


Bastihalli has a few Jain Temples with arrays of circular pillars, and tall statues of Jain Tirthankaras inside. Seen in the picture is a section of Parshwanatha Basti.


hoysala


Belavadi village in another temple with a series of pillars. There are 108 of them to see.


hoysala


And at Doddagaddavalli is one of the older temples of Hoysala, at a picturesque location in undulating landscape.


hoysala


All of these are as beautiful, though less ornate than the temples at Belur and Halebeedu, and known to very few despite being located in the same region. Dont forget to visit these places the next time you plan to go to Belur or Halebeedu.

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Posted on: Monday , Jun 08, 2009 At 15:22 PM

Restricted Access To Tourists In Tiger Habitats


National Tiger Conservation Authority, a government agency setup to protect tigers has banned tourists from accessing breeding areas in tiger habitats.

NCTA says that human intrusion in tiger habitat is changing their breeding pattern, and the ban intends to provide undisturbed areas and better environment for breeding.

Personally, I think it is good to see that someone in the government is trying to do something to protect the tigers. But how sensible is this is questionable, since the biggest problem in tiger conservation is probably poaching, not tourism.

The tourism industry is obviously unhappy. But the directive doesn't mean that tourists will be kept out of the national parks. It is only in a few sections of the forest that the access will be denied, and at worst the probability of sightings may come down.

See complete news at http://www.eturbonews.com/9652/india-restricts-tourists-save-its-last-tigers

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Posted on: Sunday , Jun 07, 2009 At 20:31 PM

Amarnath Yatra


The annual pilgrimage of Amarnath Yatra will begin from 15th of June this year. The yatra will be on till 5th August, during which thousands of pilgrims will walk along the mountainous path to the cave temple of Amarnath.

 

Going on the Yatra requires registration with the government of Jammu and Kashmir beforehand. Registrations can done online, facilitated by Jammu and Kashmir Bank on their website. Nearly 1.5 lakh people have already registered for the yatra.

 

The cave at Amarnath hosts a naturally formed ice lingam, which is said to be discovered by a shepherd. Yatra will be open only for two months every year, and involves strenous walk of two to three days. Helicopter facilities are also available to visit the cave.

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Posted on: Saturday , Jun 06, 2009 At 18:40 PM

Manali - Leh Road Updates


The status of Manali-Leh Road has been uncertain in May and early June this year. Low winter precipitation had allowed BRO to start clearing the snow quickly, and they were hoping to open the road in record time this year. However, late snow in Rohtang and other areas hampered the progress, and the road remained closed until the end of May.


Even though the road opened officially for all traffic in the last week of May, reports from the road said that there was still a lot of fresh snow coming down, and people could not get to Leh even a few days after the road was first cleared. 


However, there is no official word about disruptions, and having been two weeks since the road was first open, it should now be seeing fairly regular traffic. The Official Website of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council says the road has remained open.


Tracking the news brings me fond memories of Ladakh, where I spent good two months last year. I wish to go back, but there is much to do and see back at home, it is unlikely to happen. Are you planning Ladakh this year? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Posted on: Saturday , Jun 06, 2009 At 18:29 PM

One Crore Saplings Along The Train Route


Konkan Railways is known for its scenic beauty. It passes through picturesque hills along the western ghats, sometimes carvings its way through hills with tunnels dug into them. The line is also known for some of the tallest bridges built across the valleys and rivers. The already pretty route is set to become even more beautiful in the years to come.


Troubled by constant erosion along the tracks, thanks to heavy rains that hit these parts every year, Konkan Railway Corporation has been planting saplings all along the route from Mangalore to Mumbai. According to a press release, they have already planted one crore saplings, and more to be added every year. 


The release says "Konkan Railway has as on date planted an amazing One Crore of grass saplings all along its route covering an area of approx. 12 lakh sq.m that has not just helped the railway to  prevent soil erosion and make the cuttings on its route stable, but also indirectly added to the green cover along the route thus preserving the environment to a great extent. During the coming monsoon, Konkan Railway is planning to plant about 10-12 lakh such saplings on its route"


Read the full press release at Konkan Railway website - http://www.konkanrailway.com/website/press'2005/Monsoon%20precautions%20-%20110509.pdf

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Posted on: Saturday , Jun 06, 2009 At 18:16 PM

Arrival Of Monsoons


Finally there is some respite from the heat of the Indian summer. The monsoon has arrived on time and is slowly making its way north from coastal Kerala and Karnataka. It arrived in southern parts of Kerala a little earlier than usual, but the progress has been slow.

My sources in central Kerala tell me that rains are not in full force yet, but the weather is much better than summer days, and it is pleasant to be outside under the clouds. Here in Bangalore where I live, sun has more or less disappeared behing the clouds, and there have been some heavy showers in the past week. I was away last week, visiting some of the finest monuments and temples in central Karnataka built nearly a year ago. It poured for two beautiful hours on our way back to Bangalore, giving a clear message that the monsoons are on.

Weather is inviting me to be out, and that is just what I have decided to do. I am beginning my travels again, hopefully started with a journey to the hills and taking the monsoons head on. The rains never fail to soothe my mind. What about you?

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Posted on: Monday , May 18, 2009 At 23:06 PM

Shopping Festival At Bangalore Aiport


The Bangalore International Aiport launched a shopping festival at the airport, starting this week. The festival is not only aimed it shoppers, but is also trying to attract tourists, with Karnataka Tourism as one of the sponsors.


The fest will be on for a month, and will feature discounts, promotions and lucky draws for shoppers at the airport. Along with the travellers who are flying out or coming into Bangalore, the organizers are hoping to draw those who will be travelling through NH7. As an added attraction, it also features some tourist attractions, like replica of the stone chariot at Hampi and the Golden Chariot train. The stalls are housed in a set that appears like a typical village in Karnataka.


Read more on the festival at The Hindu: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2009/05/16/stories/2009051650871900.htm

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Posted on: Saturday , May 16, 2009 At 08:04 AM

The Next Rickshaw Challenege


Remember the Indian Auto-rickshaw Challenge? It is the queer competition of racing a rickshaw through various parts of the country.

The next leg of the challenge, now twice yearly competition, is to begin on July 31st. The Mumbai Express Challenge covers various climates, starting with the hot weather in Chennai and going past the regions in Karnataka where monsoon will be in full force. Passing through Bangalore, the rickshaws go past the western ghats to reach Mangalore, and then drive north along the coast to conclude the rice in Mumbai.

Registrations for the challenge are now open. Participation costs 1600 Euros, which includes the cost of your auto-rickshaw. The proceeds from the trip go to a charity. Visit Indian Autorickshaw Challenge website for more details.

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Posted on: Friday , May 15, 2009 At 20:36 PM

Ladakh On Oktatabyebye


I had only recently mentioned that the Ladakh season has begun, with the Leh-Srinagar highway thrown open to traffic. If you have been wondering where to go and what to do in Leh and rest of Ladakh, here is all that you can see on oktatabyebye about Ladakh. You can see destination information, travelogues and hotel reviews on many places in Ladakh in the list. And some of them are written by me.

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Posted on: Friday , May 15, 2009 At 20:16 PM

Railways And Internet


Nearly ten months ago, I had mentioned about Indian Railways trying to get internet savvy. Railways was running trials on the Shatabdi running between Ahmedabad and Mumbai to make internet connectivity available to the passengers. But it appears like the railways did not have a clear plan when they started the trials. 


The trials seem to be now complete, but there is no proposal to expand to more lines yet. Railways only says that the trials being complete, a report has been submitted to the railways ministry, which is being further examined. 


A report on Business Standard says "The report is being examined and the ministry is likely to appoint a committee for working out the modalities for introduction of internet in trains, a senior railway ministry official said."


Read the full story at http://www.business-standard.com/india/storypage.php?autono=357023

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Posted on: Thursday , May 07, 2009 At 11:26 AM

The High Road To Leh.


The roads to Leh are now thrown open by Border Roads Organization, marking the beginning of the tourist season in Ladakh. The Srinagar - Leh highway is officially open for a week now, and heavy trucks have been plying on the road. It also means that Leh has fresh supply of veggies first time this year, after the long winter.

The official website of Leh administration - http://leh.nic.in still says that the road from Manali has remained closed. The word is that the vehicles are plying through Rohtang Pass too, but may not be fully open to let in free vehicle movement. 

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Posted on: Thursday , May 07, 2009 At 11:19 AM

Festivals And Events For May


Summer Festival in Mt.Abu is starting today and goes on till 7th. The festival begins with a ceremonial procession, and involves cultural displays and fireworks at the end of every day. More details at Rajasthan Tourism website - http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/Attractions/Fairs-Festivals/SummerFestival.aspx


Buddha Poornima falls on May 9th this year. Celebrations are hels in places that were eventful in Buddha's life, including Bodhgaya, Kushinagar and Sarnath.


The Ramanavami Festival in Bangalore that started in April continues till May 10th. See complete timetable at Rama Seva Mandali Website - http://sreeramasevamandali.org/programme'list.html


Beginning on the first of June, for three days is Sindhu Darshan Festival in Ladakh near Leh. The festival celebrates Ladakhi culture. Read more.

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Posted on: Wednesday , Apr 29, 2009 At 23:04 PM

Lifetime Achievement Award For Tigers!


Have you ever heard of tigers being awarded? Travel Operators for Tigers(TOFT) has done just that recently by honouring two tigers with lifetime achievement awards. Of course, the tigers themselves were not there to receive the awards, and it was all symbolic. But the tigers were acknowledged for their contribution to tourism revenues in Ranthambhore National Park.


The two award winning tigers - Machhali and Sundar - together are estimated to have helped tour operators earn aggregate revenue of several million dollars. 


It is not just monetary contribution. The two tigers have also helped considerably in keeping the population of the park stead. DNA News says - "Machhali and Sunder are symbols of hope for tigers, whose population has been dwindling steadily in the country, primarily due to poaching. While Machhali, a dominant resident of Rajasthan's Ranthambore tourism zone since 1997, has brought up 11 cubs, Sundar has sired more than 35 tigers in the Tala tourism range in Madhya Pradesh. Two of Machhali's cubs are now in the Sariska National Park in Rajasthan."


Read more about the award winning tigers:

  • http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1250483
  • http://ranthambhore.blogspot.com/2009/04/machali-12-years-old-award-winner-and.html

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Posted on: Wednesday , Apr 29, 2009 At 22:48 PM

Travel Alert: Thrissur Pooram


One of the most well known festivals in Kerala - Thrissur Pooram falls on the 3rd of May this year.


Pooram is known for its parade of elaborately decorated elephants and generous use of firecrackers through the festivities. However, an accident in earlier festival has resulted in limiting the use of firecrackers in the recent years.


Kerala Tourism website says: "The festival highlights include, among other things, a spectacular pageant of 30 caparisoned elephants and Kudamattom, a competition in the swift rhythmic changing of brightly coloured and sequined parasols. Chendamelam and Panchavadyam performances by magicians of music provide a supremely apt accompaniment to the visual treats. Dazzling fireworks light up the sky to provide a grand finale to two days of classic entertainment."


Read more - http://www.keralatourism.org/event/festival/thrissur-pooram-2144963864218.php

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Posted on: Wednesday , Apr 29, 2009 At 15:45 PM

Rohtang Pass May Open Soon


According to Border Road Organization, snow clearing work is in good progress in Rohtang Pass, and the road across the pass may open soon. Although BRO had initially expected to have the pass open for traffic by mid-April, late season snowfall delayed the progress of work.


Rohtang is the gateway to Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti regions and tourists can start travelling to these area by road once the pass is opened to traffic. Rohtang was officially opened to traffic only by mid-May last year. With the polls scheduled in Lahaul region only on the May 13th, it will also help officials carry out polling with ease.


See complete report: http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/004200904281551.htm

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Posted on: Sunday , Apr 26, 2009 At 12:16 PM

Airfare Hikes And Other Aviation News


As the summer season is on its way when kids get break from schools and a lot of people travel around the country, it appears like a round of hike in airfares is on its way. Kingfisher Airlines has quietly increased fares earlier this month, and SpiceJet seems to be ready to follow. The hike is fueled by increase in ATF prices in recent days.


Kingfisher has increased fuel surcharge on air tickets by Rs.200 to Rs.300. Their ally Jet Airways has declared similar moves, while SpiceJet is planning a hike in the coming days.


Expect to pay more for your air ticket in the coming days.


Sources.

  • http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Apr192009/scroll20090419131101.asp?section=frontpagenews
  • http://www.indianexpress.com/news/jet-hikes-fuel-surcharge-by-up-to-rs-300/448557/
  • http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/spicejet-mulls-hike-in-fares-byto-rs-300/59137/on

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Posted on: Sunday , Apr 26, 2009 At 12:05 PM

Yhai Himalayan Expeditions


The Youth Hostels Association of India(YHAI) organizes annual trekking and adventure expeditions every summer in various regions of the Himalayas. This year's summer expeditions have just begun, and bookings are open for six programs. YHAI expeditions are offered at very low budgets compared to private trekking companies that organize treks on the same routes. It is an ideal way for students and people travelling in low budgets to traverse sections of Himalayas on foot.

One of their well known expeditions to Sar Pass in Himachal Pradesh begins from next week. Batches will be leaving almost every day starting from April 28th till end of May.

To know more on the treks offered by YHAI and to book online, visit their website - http://www.yhaindia.org/program'bookings

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Posted on: Sunday , Apr 19, 2009 At 17:33 PM

Colours Of The Market


It is amazing how much we can discover and observe even in a place we are familiar with. I was at KR Market - Bangalore's busiest market area, and was pleased to spend some time watching flowers getting sold briskly. Here are some images.

Awaiting customers.


For sale..


Splash of colours


No way you can have them for so less!


And at the end, this is what was left.

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Posted on: Sunday , Apr 19, 2009 At 13:22 PM

Google Maps Adds Driving Directions


Finally, after many years since the Google Maps data was available in India, Google has added feature to get driving directions.

The feature works fairly well, and lets you find directions even to smaller and less known places. A search from Bangalore to the small village of Talkad worked perfectly well. But it doesn't appear to be a very reliable option when it comes to finding directions within a city. The direction finder doesn't seem to take into account parameters such as one-ways. It also failed to distinguish main roads from smaller roads in some occasion when I tested for places in Bangalore.

Surprisingly, the launch has been a silent one, and Google has not even mentioned it in their official Google India Blog.

To get your directions, go to http://maps.google.com and click on 'Get Directions' link.

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Posted on: Thursday , Apr 16, 2009 At 11:26 AM

No Alcohol In Goa!!


Summer is not exactly a pleasant season to be in Goa, but lot of people do go anyway. There is a bad news. For those who are planning a Goa trip primarily to stay drunk and do little else through the day, there is another deterrent - elections!

A tussle between election commission and booze retailers has led to retailers deciding to shut shop till the elections in Goa are over. EC wants a control on liquor flow, and has ordered all liquor shops to keep a registry of sales up-to-date by the hour. But retailers don't think it is feasible to do it, considering the large volumes of outflow they normally witness.

So until one of the parties buckles or the elections are over, spirits are going to be down in the beach-state.

See more details at http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/News-By-Industry/Cons-Products/Liquor/Goa-shores-may-turn-spiritless-this-summer/articleshow/4393385.cms

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Posted on: Thursday , Apr 16, 2009 At 08:39 AM

Violence In Sikkim


A not so unusual incidence in rest of India, it still bothers me to know that a bunch of tourists were attacked by a convoy of a political party in Sikkim ( http://newshopper.sulekha.com/news/21-bengali-tourists-attacked-in-sikkim.htm ).


Five years back when I was Sikkim, I found it to be a friendly place where people smiled and laughed and took it easy with strangers. Tourism was just opening up and people were finding plenty of employment in being a tour-guide, operator or driver. Life was looking good, and at the same time Sikkim was getting exposed to rest of India.


One of those days, on our way to Yumthang Valley, my jeep driver commented that there was a murder somewhere in Sikkim. "It never used to happen in Sikkim," he told me with a voice of concern. He was probably not talking just about the incident, but about the general mood of change in the mountain state.


Constant exposure to rest of India, influx of people into the region in the form of new industrial setups, educational institutions, tourism and national political parties are probably changing this once quiet region high in the Himalayas slowly. Although I have not heard much of it, there is a good possibility that hoards of backpackers who come here aid proliferation of drugs. Vicinity to Bihar, and a considerable number of people immigrating from the plains would have increased the aggression level of people, resulting in incidences like above. The state's aggressive promotion of tourism and the hurry to be a part of mainstream India may accelerate its fall too.


While Sikkim is still a beautiful country where life is largely peaceful, I see some effort required to keep it this way. May be slow and calculated growth and keeping a tab on immigration would be the way to go.

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Posted on: Monday , Apr 13, 2009 At 00:28 AM

Snow And Rains In Himachal


Last few days have been seeing heavy snowfall and rain in parts of Himachal. This was a particularly bad winter in Himachal, and snowfall was low in northern regions beyond Manali, and in the west towards Dharamshala. I had earlier written about likely shortage of water in these places in summer if there is not sufficient rain.  


There seems to be some late snow now, with precipitation in Lahaul and Spiti and Keylong area. There was also some rainfall in the lower regions like Mandi, Shimla and Solan.


This could mean that there would be some relief to water scarcity in places like Dharmashala, and a scarcity is unlikely in Lahaul and Spiti region. Continuing snow would also mean that Rohtang pass may not open as early as it was expected to be. See details at http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/enviornment/snow-rains-wash-off-himachal-farmers-hopes'100177725.html

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Posted on: Sunday , Apr 12, 2009 At 23:47 PM

Jaisalmer Fort - A Troubled Monument


With the euphoria surrounding the elections, a minor earthquake in Jaisalmer did not make it to the prominent sections of newspapers. Though the earthquake measuring 5.3 on Richter scale did not cause any loss of life, it has caused damages to the fort which is already in a bad condition. Geological Survey of India reports of a depression that has formed in a part of the fort.


The fort nearly a thousand years old is still inhabited, and is located on a tall mound. With seepage of water into the mound from the drains, the foundation of the fort has been deteriorating over the years, posing a threat to the fort walls. One of the bastions of the fort had collapsed a few years ago due to the seepage. 


The eathquake is a cause of concern and could accelerate the threat to the fort walls. See a detailed report at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Jaipur/Quake-damages-853-yr-old-fort-in-Jaisalmer/articleshow/4382542.cms

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Posted on: Tuesday , Apr 07, 2009 At 17:33 PM

Festivals And Events - April 2009


Like we have every month, here is the list of festivals and events for the month of April.

  • Shri Mahavirji Fair at Jaipur from 3rd April to 9th April. Currently on in Jaipur, this fair is held in memory of Mahavir, the 24th Jain Tirthankar. More details from Rajasthan Tourism - http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/Attractions/Fairs-Festivals/MahavirJiFair.aspx
  • Bihu is the three day festival, the most important festival in Assam to celebrate Assamese New Year. It starts from 14th April 2009.
  • Ramanavami Music Festival in Bangalore runs through April and during first half of May. See more details on an earlier post in this blog.
  • Tulip Festival is held from 7th to 14th April in Srinagar to celebrate blossoming of Tulips, and will be accompanied with daily cultural programs. More details on JK Tourism website.

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Posted on: Friday , Apr 03, 2009 At 19:31 PM

Music Programs - Rama Seva Mandali, Bangalore


April is the month to look forward for Bangaloreans who love classical music. Sree Rama Seva Mandali, based in Chamarajpet organizes a month long classical music program, where all the who-is-who of Indian classical music come to perform.


This year's program include performances from Kadri Gopalnath, Bombay Jayashree, Praveen Godkindi, U Shrinivas, just to name a few.


The music fest begins today, and will go on till 10th May 2009. The programme begins at 5.15pm every evening and ends at 9.30pm most of the days, but the schedules can vary slightly some days. See the complete timetable at http://sreeramasevamandali.org/programme'list.html

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Posted on: Friday , Apr 03, 2009 At 11:05 AM

Results - Ndtv Seven Wonders


So the long running campaign to choose the seven wonders of India finally ended on 20th March with declaration of the voted wonders. Some of the winners, like Taj Mahal, are predictable while there are some less known entries like Dholavira site. Here is the list.

  1. Taj Mahal
  2. Golden Temple, Amritsar
  3. Tawang Monastery
  4. Konark Sun Temple
  5. Khajuraho
  6. Jaisalmer Fort
  7. Red Fort
  8. Nalanda University
  9. Dholavira Site
  10. Meenakshi Temple
Why are there 10 entries in the list? See details about it at http://7wondersofindia.ndtv.com/vote'result.aspx?ch=7

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Posted on: Tuesday , Mar 31, 2009 At 08:14 AM

A Year Of India-Explored


The first ever post on 'India Explored' was made on March 31st last year. We are now a year old, and it is time to cut the cake.

In the last one year, 'India Explored' has 150 posts on board, and has clocked nearly 50,000 views. It has been a good going so far, and the days ahead are hopefully going to be better.

I would love to hear your opinions and feedback about this page. Help me improve 'India Explored' and make it more interesting. Thank you.

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Posted on: Friday , Mar 27, 2009 At 20:36 PM

A Casion In Sikkim


Till recently, Goa was the only place in India where you could gamble in a Casino. Boats that anchored on the shore at Panaji, or the ones that would cruise to deap sea offered casinos in their facility. Nowhere else in India were casinos allowed to exist.


Now, Sikkim has allowed first ever casino to come up in Gangtok. Sikkim is already turning into one of the most popular destination for Indian as well as foreign tourists, and the casino should add to the attraction. The casino opened this week at Hotel Royal Plaza in Gangtok, and is called 'Casino Sikkim'. See more at http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/77564


So if you are itching to throw a dice this summer, you know where to go!

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Posted on: Friday , Mar 27, 2009 At 20:23 PM

Golf Course At Leh?


A news clip from 'News Agency of Kashmir' had me ticked. The minister of tourism and culture in Jammu and Kashmir - Nawang Rigizn Jora - seems to think that Leh is ideal place for creating a Golf Course. An assessment is likely to happen for creation of a Golf course sooner or later(see story - http://naknews.co.in/newsdet.aspx?q=19910). I was slightly disturbed at the idea, since creating a green landscape is not an easy job, and require massive amounts of water that is a scarcity in Leh.


But trying to probe further and researching on the possibility, I found out that a Golf course is already functional at Leh. But the course is not a green carpet as we normally visualize it, but a dry patch of flat land(see picture - http://www.treknature.com/gallery/photo177553.htm). 


I guess another such golf course in Leh would not do much harm. But I wonder how charming would it be to play at Leh, where the sun burns strong and shade is hard to find.

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Posted on: Friday , Mar 27, 2009 At 14:03 PM

Ndtv Seven Wonders Finale On March 30th


We have been tracking NDTV seven wonders campaign on this blog for a while now. The campaign is on its final phase with just three more days to go before the results will be announced. You can still vote for your favourite monument at http://7wondersofindia.ndtv.com/vote'final.aspx


The campaign ends of 30th March, when the winning monuments will be announced in Delhi in a grand celebration. The final list contains 20 monuments, listed at http://7wondersofindia.ndtv.com/vote'final.aspx.


It all looks good so far, except that I have a small complaint. In all places where one of the finalists - Alchi's monastery is mentioned, they have shown the image of the village of Lamayuru. I only wish the organizers had some idea of at least how the monuments looked like!


More about NDTV seven wonders on 'India Explored'

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Posted on: Monday , Mar 23, 2009 At 17:16 PM

Visit India Year Discounts


As a part of Visit India Year, ministry of tourism has compiled a list of participating hotels, airlines and travel agents who are offering discounts and special packages on their website.


The Visit India 2009 website has a long list of hotels that are offering discounts, special packages and theme based tours to choose from, where special rates are being offered.


See Visit India Year 2009 website for full listing.

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Posted on: Monday , Mar 23, 2009 At 15:35 PM

Exit Of Ipl And The Impact On Travel


After some uncertainties about IPL being held at all, the organizers are now contemplating on shifting the venue out of India. The fact that it was impossible to find other dates to conduct the tournament is forcing BCCI to take such a decision.


The recession hit travel industry would have been benefited immensely, had the IPL happened in Indian Cities. From the time of collapse of American economy and the subsequent impact on global trade, hotels have been finding it harder to fill rooms, and airlines are seeing lower occupancy levels. The 45 day tournament would have had a considerable number of people moving between cities, and the hotel occupation levels would have gone up where the matches are held.


The travel industry will have to manage without IPL revenues this year, but not everything is likely to be very bad for them. Elections, the other mega event that is the cause of IPL's departure will also see people of all levels moving from place to place for lobbying and campaigning.

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Posted on: Monday , Mar 16, 2009 At 12:40 PM

Theyyam Images


I have written earlier on this blog about Theyyam season in North Kerala. I made a quick visit to Kasaragod in North Kerala, and attended a Theyyam performance. Here are some images.

Theyyam


Getting the performer ready.


Theyyam


Theyyam


Theyyam


Ready for the performance.

Theyyam

The artist and his assistants.

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Posted on: Sunday , Mar 15, 2009 At 17:43 PM

Resurrecting Dal Lake


Dal Lake is the most important attraction of Kashmir, and is a must stop destination for everyone who travels to these parts. It is also a long known fact that Dal has been shrinking for many years owing to encroachment, pollution and sewage from the town and the houseboats.


Now, the highcourt of Kashmir has stepped into save Dal, and has ordered a crackdown of illegal construction and to shut down polluting house boats. The authorities have started working on it, and a few illegally built buildings near the lake have been brought down. The house boats will have to stop operating until they device clean ways and stop polluting the lake with refuse.


So if you are looking up to staying at the lake - one of the prime experiences of Kashmir, check beforehand and verify that the houseboats are operating.


Related News:

  1. Dal Cleanup: Houseboats first to go - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Dal-cleanup-Houseboats-first-to-go/articleshow/4206650.cms
  2. Crackdown on Dal Lake houseboats - http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20090084991&ch=2/27/2009%206:44:00%20PM
  3. Demolition of illegal houses - http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/004200902261883.htm

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Posted on: Saturday , Mar 14, 2009 At 20:28 PM

More Aiports May Levy User Development Fees


We had earlier reported about Delhi Aiport levying aiport development fees, and Mumbai soon to follow. It now appears to be becoming a standard practice, as many more cities intend to make users pay for development and expansion of airports.


Five more cities - Chennai, Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, Goa and Ahmedabad - are likely to follow the Delhi model. Airports Authority of India, which is working on expansion of these airports, has approached the ministry of Civil Aviation for permissions to impose development fees for meeting the expenses of upgrading. If approved, people flying out of these airports may have to pay an additional fee over the regular ticket fare. See full story here

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Posted on: Saturday , Mar 14, 2009 At 19:54 PM

Himalayan Summer - Less Snow, Water Shortage, Etc


This winter has seen very little snowfall in the mountains of Garhwal and Himachal Pradesh. While the mountains near Joshimath in garhwal had no snow for most winter, snowfall around Manali and Dharamshala is said to be much below normal.


The implication of dry spells could mean much trouble in these mountain regions. Dharamshala is already suffering from water shortage, which may get worse with progress in summer. The BRO has started clearing Leh-Manali highway earlier than normal and expects to open the road as much as a month sooner. Things can get bad in other places in Himachal too, like Shimla, where water shortage is a regular problem every summer. Besides water shortage, the apple trees, which rely on good snowfall and cold weather may not yield a good harvest.


All this means that it may not be very wise to venture into many sections of Himalayas in this summer. Going to places with water shortage will only result in a crisis to locals who will have to share their limited supplies with visitors. It is advisable to use your discretion when you decided to hear to the mountains.

Related stories:
  1. Snow clearing begins on Manali-Leh highway - http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/uncategorized/snow-clearing-work-begins-on-manali-leh-highway'100161913.html
  2. Drought set to topple himachal apple cart - http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/drought-set-to-topple-himachal-apple-cart/351440/

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Posted on: Saturday , Mar 14, 2009 At 19:42 PM

Forest Fire In The Nilgiris


Last week, we had mentioned about Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary being closed due to recurring forest fires. Forest fires seem to be spreading in the region, leading to much trouble for residents and tourists. On March 9th, a group of tourists had to be rescued from fire at Dolphin Nose, a tourist spot near Ooty. Much earlier, a month ago, forest fire had troubled officials in adjoining Nagarahole National Park. Nagarahole still suffers from occasional fire incidences.


I was in Ooty two weeks ago and could see that the weather was notably hot. There was smoke emanating from many places in the hills, the origin of which I am not sure. But the hot climate could easily propagate fire and result in trouble for locals as well as tourists. 


The coming summer months may make things go worse. If you are heading to Nilgiris and surrounding regions to cool off in the summer, be alert to news reports related to forest fire.


Related News:

  1. 200 tourists rescued in Coonor - http://www.eturbonews.com/8179/200-tourists-rescued-forest-fire
  2. Forest fire in Muthanga - http://www.hindu.com/2009/03/02/stories/2009030253870400.htm
  3. Fire in Nagarahole National Park - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/Mysore/Fire-at-Nagarahole-destroys-vegetation/articleshow/4251020.cms

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Posted on: Saturday , Mar 07, 2009 At 19:49 PM

Ndtv Seven Wonders Finals


We had written about NDTV's seven wonders of India campaign earlier when they were shortlisting entries from the states. 


The campaign is now in the final stages, and the voting is on the for the big seven. Twenty monuments have been shortlisted for the finals, which has some unlikely entries like the monastery in Alchi and Dholavira Site.


You can vote for your favourite monument on NDTV seven wonders website here.

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Posted on: Saturday , Mar 07, 2009 At 19:42 PM

Festivals And Events - March 2009


As usual, here is the month's list of festivals and events.

  • Elephant Festival. Held in Jaipur on 10th March 2009, includes procession of elephants. See http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/Attractions/Fairs-Festivals/Elephant-Festival.aspx for more.
  • Mewar Festival. Held in Udaipur from 29th to 31st March. A showcase of cultural programs. See http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/Attractions/Fairs-Festivals/MewarFestival.aspx
  • Holi. 11th March, celebrated all over North India. Best way to be a part of the celebration is to be in the streets of large cities of North India.
  • Ugadi/Gudi Pawda. This is the new year's day celebrated in Karnataka and Maharashtra. The celebrations are mostly confined to homes, and does not involve much fanfare.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Mar 03, 2009 At 10:36 AM

News Alert: Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary Is Closed


There has been a forest fire raging in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and neighbouring Nagarahole National Park for a few weeks now. The Hindu reports that more than 400 hectares of forest has been destroyed in the fire in Wayanad.


The forest department has decided to close Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary for visitors to prevent further outbreak of fire. The news report says that neighbouring forest area of Pakshi Patalam and Thirunelli will also be out of bounds for tourists. It is also advisable to call and check with the forest department if treks to Chembra peak will be permitted.


See full story on The Hundu


If you are looking for a wildlife trip and searching for other options, near by Bandipur National Park, Nagarahole National Park and Madumali can be good alternatives.

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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 http://windyskies.blogspot.com/ and vote for the blog at http://lplabs.com/2009/02/25/voting-open-for-the-2009-travel-blogger-awards/

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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 http://www.itgo.in/index.php?option=com'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 namdroling.org 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 http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/002200902091805.htm 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 - http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2009/02/10/stories/2009021052170100.htm.

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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 - http://chandigarhtourism.gov.in/rf.html

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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 http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/News'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 http://www.hindu.com/2009/02/09/stories/2009020955511100.htm


Vipassana is a buddhist meditation technique popularized by SN Goenka, and is widely practiced in India and many other countries. See http://www.dhamma.org/ 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 http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14853396

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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 - http://haryanatourism.com/surajkund/introduction.asp

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. http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/Attractions/Fairs-Festivals/NagaurFair.aspx

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. http://www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/Attractions/Fairs-Festivals/DesertFestival.aspx

Mahashivaratri falls on 23rd February. A lot of people gather in Varanasi this day to visit Kashi Vishwanath Temple. See http://www.varanasicity.com/mahashivaratri.html 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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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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