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Travel Point…. Experience Corner….. down the lane of Memories


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I amsterdam ! #EuroTrip

I amsterdam ! #EuroTrip


“The world’s big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” : John Muir

Europe ! This is going to be my first post on any international trip 🙂 The destination was added to the bucket-list in 2017 while returning from the Dubai Trip. The group was fixed and as a first step a Whatsapp group ‘Europe 2018’ was created in May 2017. But until Dec 2017, there wasn’t any progress to the plan. One of the friends had to drop the plan due to some unavoidable circumstances and the group stayed low till Jan 2018. Finally, in Feb 2018 we finalized and booked the tickets for the trip of the year in June.

There were three of us who finally were going to make their dream a reality: Kiran, Khushal and myself. The theme was clear: budget trip with maximum experience and minimum hassle. It was more of kind a party circuit and we were covering four countries in 12 days: Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Prague(Czech Republic), Vienna(Austria) and Budapest(Hungary). Amsterdam was our entry point, followed by Prague, Vienna and Budapest. I will be updating another separate post on how to plan a budget Europe trip. We planned our stay in hostels (Party Hostels) and planned all the inter-country travels through bus(Flixbus).  In this blog-post, I’ll be covering Amsterdam only.

Visa: Schengen visa is the 2nd most critical visa after US visa. One shouldn’t take this lightly while applying. The catch is one need to book the flights, hotels and all inter-country transport and fix the itinerary before applying for the visa. So in case you are not getting the visa, then all your non-refundable bookings can make your wallet really light. 26 countries are covered under Schengen visa: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. If you’re travelling to any countries other than this, you will have to apply for visa separately.  The country for which the visa is to be applied is based upon your entry point or the country in which you have longest stay in Schengen region.  Each country has different rejection rate depending on traffic and stringency. In India, they have too embassies; one at Delhi(For North Regions) and the other at Mumbai(for south region of India). I applied it through VFS global which has its center as most of the major cities in India. The process is really systematic and easy. You need to get a prior appointment at the nearest VFS center and then need to submit respective documents and fees at your designated appointment time. They will also take the fingerprint at the center. If needed, you may have to appear for an interview at the embassy at a later date. Luckily, I didn’t have to as all my documents were perfect. I received the visa-stamped passport by courier at my address in 2 weeks.  I will be putting up a details post on the documents part and filling the application.

Transport:  By the time you reach Amsterdam airport, the major part of the headache you would already have dealt with. Transport inside Europe is real easy and simple. Depending on your plan, you may opt for Euro-Rail or bus or low-budget air-carriers. The Euro-rail is convenient and comfortable, but it is not that wallet-friendly unless you are a student or under age of 27. Air carriers will come cheap if you have fewer luggages (say within 7kg) which is rarely the case. So we had chosen bus for inter-country travels and booked it in advance through Flixbus.

Inside the city, there are tourist passes available for 24-hr or 48-hr which will give you access to all local transports/trams/buses/metros. For inter-city travels, you will have to get the tickets separately.  All public transport inside Amsterdam is run by GVB.

  • 1 hr : € 3
  • Children’s 24 hour ticket: €3.75
  • 24 hours (1 day): €7.50
  • 48 hours (2 days):  €12.50
  • 72 hours (3 days):  €17.50
  • 96 hours (4 days):  €22.50
  • 120 hours (5 days):  €27.50
  • 144 hours (6 days):  €31.50
  • 168 hours (7 days):  €34.50

In addition there are trains operated by NS (Dutch Railways) which connect Amsterdam to Schiphol Airport and the rest of the Netherlands. Regional buses(Connexxion/EBS/Arriva) can take you to some nearby places of interest. Waterland ticket pass is also available which will give unlimited access to ride on water-bodies around Amsterdam. At Airport, ‘I Amsterdam’ card also can be bought which gives unlimited access to public transport and entry to some museums and tourist points. Depending on your travel plan, you may opt for the best option.

We took a metro to Amsterdam Central from Schiphol airport and then a 48-hour pass. That solved most of our transport needs.  

Stay:

Hotels in Amsterdam is pretty expensive and if you are planning to stay around City Center, that may cost you a small fortune. Very limited hostels are available in the city center area. The Bulldog hostel is a good one and is located right at the center of all actions. We had stayed at Bob’s Youth Hostel. Though the amenities were minimal, but it was right at the city center, with a tram stop being right in front of the hostel. A bed per day costs around INR 1500 to INR 2000. In pick season, the price may suit up till INR 3500 per night.  Most of the hostel doors in Europe are magnetic. They will provide you a chip-based card, you need to swipe it to get access. No security guards, No locks! But if you lose the card, you may have to sleep outside on the road for that night, unless you get lucky and someone else opens the door.

Food:

Food is damn costly and can make a hole in your pocket. Even in hostels, they don’t provide any complimentary breakfast or shared kitchen option. The initial day, we survived on the Indian brought stuffs: cakes, snacks and chocolates. Then McDonald’s came to our rescue. It was the only option available with reasonable price.  For a burger meal, the cost was around € 9. Don’t forget to visit the Cafes around the City center and check its menu. You may find some pretty high-level stuffs in their menu card 😀

Communications:

You may buy a SIM card of GT Mobile or Lyca. The cost is around 25 Euro with one month validity. This will be enough for a 10-14 days trip and will cover most of the areas. For internet, you may use hotel/hostel internet for major usage and SIM card internet for mobility and urgent cases. You will find free-internet access at most of the cafes, stations and important tourist spots.  We managed the entire trip with one SIM only which cost us 25 Euro.

Sightseeing:

Rijksmuseum: Rather than Rijksmuseum, this place is more famous for the ‘I AM Sterdam’ sign which is a trademark spot of Amsterdam. Your Amsterdam visit is incomplete without a candid photo taken here. This place is at the center of attractions of the city and lot of tourist points are a stone’s throw away from it. Vondelpark, Van Gogh Museum and Canal ride boarding point to name a few.

The national museum is dedicated to arts and history of the city and is the largest art museum in the country. Around 8000 objects are currently on display ranging from 1200 to 2000. The entry tickets costs around € 19 for adults and free for below 18 teen agers. Discounted tickets are also available for students. When visiting the museum, take some time out and feel the art.

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Heineken Experience:

It is a short tour of the old Heineken brewery that ends with fresh beer tasting. Better to pre-book the tickets to avoid the queue. It starts with a brief video on the start of the journey followed by the making process with lots of visuals and a brief session on the content and mixture of the beer.  You may get to taste the beer at its each stage. Lots of souvenir photos and videos options are there. The photos and videos will be mailed to your email id. The journey ends with two glasses of fresh beer. There is option to print a bottle of beer with your own name also, but of course with an additional charge.  Entry ticket costs around € 18.

Zaanse Schans:

This is one of the best places in the Netherland to get a glimpse of the country side view. The place is nearly 17 km away from city center and can be reached by train. Zaandijk Zaanse Schans railway station is the nearest and the ticket costs around €4.20. Once you get off at the station, the windmill area is nearly at a 1 km walkable distance. En-route, you will get the view of the first wind-mill and once you reach till the bridge, it will feel like heaven. If you want to buy anything, there is a store just before the bridge. Don’t forget to get some chilled beer and some snacks. Believe me, you’ll thank later. Zaanse Schans is more of a commercialized wind-mill area and is well-marked for the tourists. Just by the side of the Zaan river, there are a row of wind-mills giving a spectacular picturesque view. The village is so-peaceful and serene. There is a cheese factory here, don’t forget to put your hands on these fresh and juicy cheese. There are lot of windmills in this area, you may climb to the top of one and enjoy the scenic view.

We walked till the last stretch of the road and at the end settled down at a nice spot. A windmill was right in-front of us, we were sitting on the lush green grass, our legs dipped in the water of river Zaan with ducks playing by our side, the cool breeze from the other end of the river rubbing our face with the coldness and cruises passing-by our side once in a while. The set up was heavenly. Then the party started. Chilled beer, spicy snacks, juicy cheese and the herbs from the cafes of Amsterdam ! Oh ! The feeling is inexplicable. The spinning of the windmill in front got slower and slower and the wind got cooler. The rest is history…

That return journey from Zaanse Schans to Amsterdam Central, I will never forget in my life or it will be more apt to say, will never be able to remember. Thanks Hande and Khushal for being there with me, that day.

Canal Cruise Ride:

Amsterdam Canal Cruise ride is one of the most glamorous ride here and is a must-do-activity. There are different options: starting from hopon-hopoff to guided tour varying from 1 hr to 4 hr. The ticket price varies depending on your boarding point, duration and time of the day; sun-set time being at a higher side. Night ride option is also available. The entire Amsterdam is connected through the canal and it used to be a fort and all the houses by the side of the canal used to be the ware-houses where the people used to store. On the canal ride, the guide will brief on the history and the unique architecture of the houses. Why the houses are little tilted? Why the shape of the houses are like that? Why there are pulley’s at the top of the houses etc etc.? The canal route is very beautiful and the ride is very smoothing.  A good ride will cost around € 15 – € 25.  

Red Light Area:

Amsterdam tour is incomplete without a night-tour to the famous red-light area. It is at a walkable distance from the city center and gets lively around 11 PM till 3 AM in the morning. Lot of adult-show options are there: ticket price ranging from € 10 – € 50. Lot of small cabin sized rooms are there with red-blue light flashing and glass-made transparent wall. Everyone trying to lure and get your attention. The red light stands for girls and the blue for the trans genders. For a 15-20 mins of action, they normally charge € 50. The atmosphere of the area is quite different and not everyone could stand. There are lot of eateries on the route to Dam Square and they do remain open till 3 AM.      

Dam Square:

It is one of the important spot in Amsterdam. Lot of eateries, fast-food joints are there. Madame Tussauds Wax museum is also located by the side of it.

Vondelpark:

Though nothing much is there to see here, but this is an excellent place to kill some time and chill. The park is surrounded by lush greenery and full of people jogging or walking or cycling around the place. There is a small lake in the park. You can just sit by the side of it and chill with a can of beer. Yes, everything is allowed here.  When we visited the place just as to kill sometime, we were amazed by the huge no. of local residents who were just chilling there with some drinks and with their friends that too on a weekday. Some even were working at the park with their laptop. And there were people from each age groups: from kids to youth and senior citizens.

Other Attractions:

  • Van Gogh Museum
  • Stedelijk Museum
  • Anne Frank House
  • Royal Palace of Amsterdam
  • Madame Tussauds  Was Museum
The majority of the city commutes on bi-cycle.

Though, we had a short stay of two days here at Amsterdam, but it was worth it. Our next destination was Prague, Czech Republic. Stay tuned !

My Expenditure: [Amsterdam – 3 days / 2 Nights]

  • Stay: € 80
  • Transport: € 30
  • Food & Beverages: € 44
  • Tickets: € 51 ( Rijksmuseum + Heineken exp. + Canal Ride – 17.5 + 18 + 15 )
  • Total: € 206

I will be putting up separate posts on how to apply Schengen visa and how to plan a budget euro-trip within 80k (all inclusive). Follow the blog to receive immediate update on the same.


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A quickie with Pune : Fun, Food and Frolic

This was a weekend trip to attend Sunburn 2018 on 29th of December. The line up was pretty awesome. Don Diablo, Vini Vici, Hugel, Nucleya and Ingrosso-Axwell all at the same place on the same day and at the same time. But the sunburn management team has went to dogs and had tried every possible way to ruin such an awesome event. From place location to Food counters and beverage counters, everything was as shitty as it could have been possible. If things goes like this, there might not be anymore sunburns after 2-3 years. Well this blog is not to whine. Overall the fireworks, stage set up combined with the electric performance was worth the effort.

Next day, I had my return bus at 8 PM and all my friends left to their respective location in the morning. So I had the entire day to explore Pune a bit. This being first leisurely trip to Pune, there was lot to cover. Initially I thought of going for Paragliding at Kamshet or visiting Pawna lake or Lohagad fort. But that being located little far from the central city dropped the plan. And decided to visit the near by points only.

The journey started with Shaniwar wada. Nothing much to see here, but couple of spots are good for photography. Entry fee for Indians is INR 25 and for foreigners INR 300. Early morning, the crowd was not that much. On a chilled morning, just sat in the sun and baked the warmth for sometime.

Then moved to Dagadusheth Halwai Ganpati temple. The temple though is bit small in size, but is extremely well-organized. Shoes and luggage can be kept outside at the counters free of cost. The statue of Shri Ganesh shines in the golden radiation of holyness and wisdom. After offering my prayers, I stumbled upon ‘Joshi Badewale’. From the look, it looked like a old and good store. I did try the famous Bada Pav there and moved to Aga Khan Palace.

Being within the city limit, all the destinations were easily accessible through uber cabs. The entry fee os INR 25 for Indians. At Aga Khan Palace, there is also the samadhi of Kasturba(Mahatma Gandhi’s wife) and a part of Gandhiji’s wife. And the entire palace has turned to a museum of Gandhiji and Kasturba. I clicked some pics and the killed some time on its lush green garden. The garden is well maintained and an excellent place for photography.

Next destinations was Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum. The entry fee is INR 50. For mobile photography they charge additional INR 100 and for DSLR INR 200. For the first time, I was glad that I didn’t bring the DSLR. But it is worth it. They have done quite some set up for photography. The museu2 has two wings. In Wing A, four floors and in Wing B three floors are decorated with quite a number of items and quite colorfully. The lightings and the presentation of the displayed items is at its best. They have different section at each of the floors. from utensils to musical instruments to clothes and lot more. It is worth a one time visit. I had planned my travel destinations as above because I had to return to Swargate to catch the bus. This museum is a stone’s throw away from Shaniwar wada. So someone may cover with that too.

It was almost 6 PM and I was looking to have some goodfood. Then google suggested me one and only one place: The goodluck cafe. It was only 2lm from the museum. While going though the revirws, I was afraid I might not get a table. But luckily, I got one. It is famous for Maskaa Bun and tea. I tried Mutton soup and Bhuna Chicken. The taste was worth the visit and ended the day with a happy tummy.

It was time to catch the bus and end the quick tour. There are lot of other options nearby Pune which can be explored with some more time in hand e.g. Mahabaleswar, Matheran Lonavala etc.


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Mangalore, Udupi and a tiny heaven called ‘Bengre’

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“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” :Jacques Cousteau

This was a pretty short trip. I’ll also keep the content as short as the trip. One Friday out of the blue, four free souls: Sidharth, Arpit, Manish & myself decided to embark upon a one-day weekend getaway to Mangalore. Mangalore is at a distance of around 350km from Bangalore (Whitefield) which is approx.. 7 hr drive(without traffic). 

We started around 1am. The road till Hassan was  excellent and totally straight forward. The traffic were very less in this route, hardly a few buses. Seeing at the long stretched straight roads, scenes from fast and furious were flashing in our mind, but alas! We didn’t have any Nitro Booster and it was a mere 1000cc engine. We reached Hassan(which was the mid-point of our trip) in around 3 hr and took a quick tea-break.  The captaincy of the wheel moved from Sidharth to Arpit. As it was a sleepless ride, so the captains were having tough time behind the wheels. But the evergreen songs inside the car let the wheels rolling. We crossed the western ghat by 6am and took another quick tea-break.

We reached Mangalore around 8:30am, had breakfast on the way and directly moved to Tannirbhavi Beach. Before going to the main beach, we went to the end of the road where the backwater joins the Arabian Sea. But it was disappointing. Only piles of garbage were there. On can spot a number of peacocks though, but most of them have been faded.

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Then we turned back and went to the beach. We entered the beach just by the side of the park. (There is a parking lot just at the initial stretch of the road. Don’t go there. The best is little further. So keep the wheel rolling until you see a entrance gate and some shops at the right side of you.)

The beach was pretty clean and the white sand on the beach was just adding icing on the cake. There was an on-going pre-wedding phootshoot. We just sat on one of those chairs and soaked the beauty with morning chillness. Horse riding was also available at the beach. We clicked some photos and moved to Panambur beach.

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Panambur beach is just 7km away from the earlier one.  This was a busier beach, but lot of water sport activities options was there. In INR 700, they were offering  a package of Banana Ride, Speed Motor-Boat ride and a 10-mins boat ride in the coastal area. Th beach was little deep and unsafe though for a bath. But as we had decided of going to Udupi, hence we moved ahead.

In 1 hr, we reached Udupi around 12 noon. We first moved to Malpe beach and the Sea-Walk by its side. Here also lots of water activities are available: Para-sailing, Speed-boat etc. There is a St. Mary’s island here which is easily accessible. But considering our limited time, we had to forego that and moved to the best location of the trip: Bengre-Udupi.

Bengre is one of those hidden gems and truly a heaven on earth. One side of the village is Sea and the other side is surrounded by river. Thanks to Manish, we found this heaven on earth. He, being a localite, knew the in-and-out of the place. It is around 10km away from Malpe beach.  The serenity and peaceful atmosphere of the village is out-of the world. The area was in the form of a Delta surrounded by rows of Coconut trees.

Finally, we settled at this place and explored the surroundings. Manish just knew the perfect place for the Non-vegetarians and took us there. This place is also famous for taddi(a local form of mild alcohol). We found a spot just by the side of the beach and relished freshly cooked Squid-rings, Prawn-Pakodas and fish-fry with a smooth taste of taddi(some also call Som-rass). Then after a while, we moved to the river mouth, set-up the party there right on the beach inside the water. We just strolled and rolled there till the evening and enjoyed the magnificent view. There was also an Allapuzah style boat which was giving a touch of Kerala to the venue and another boat that was catching fish just beside us. One side where the river was flowing into the sea was bit deep, whereas the other side it was only knee-deep. It was kind of a premium private beach with 360 degree splendid view. Initially, we were the only four at that side of the beach, but then around evening a few other people joined us. We clicked couple of pics and started our return journey.

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We started around 4:30pm and reached Bangalore back around 2am. The entire trip was indeed like a roller-coaster ride. To sum up, we covered 930km+ in 25 hr with four pit-stops: Tannirbhavi Beach, Panambur Beach, Malpe Beach and Bengre-Udupi. The route we covered: Bangalore – Mangalore- Udupi – Mangalore – Bangalore. On the same day, the captains of the trip had tamed western ghat twice that too both the times at night. Wasn’t this truly amazing! Hats off to Sidharth and Arpit. Though it was little hectic, but it was worth it. Not a single person had slept in those 25 hrs of journey.  The view of the marvelous Bengre-Udupi just washed away our sleep somehow.

Here is a small video capturing the beauty of it… [Source: Vyoma Aerospace]

Tips:

  • Plan a two day trip to the place which is perfect. First go to Mangalore. Enjoy the beach and water-sports and in the evening move to Udupi. Enjoy Sun-set there. If possible, do campfire at night by the side of the beach. Next day go to Malpe beach and St. Mary’s island and then return back Bangalore.
  • Going to the river-mouth at Bengre is a must.  
  • Mangaladevi temple, Sultan battery and NITK beaches are other important tourist points of Mangalore.
  • Agumbe is near-by only. With one more day, Agumbe can also be covered.

Figures:

  • Total Cost per head(inclusive all): 2000 INR (with four persons w/o stay)
  • Total KM: 930 km
  • Total Time: 25 hr
  • Total toll-cost(two way): 500 INR

Do not forget to share it with your wanderlust friends 🙂 Happy travelling 🙂


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Chikmagalur : A Perfect Weekend Getaway

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“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”  -Robert Louis Stevenson

Chikmagalur is one of the top weekend destinations from Bangalore, though it is still away from the lime light. The hill station is famous for coffee plantation, greenery and a number of waterfalls. On one weekend we, a group of five friends: Abinash, Ritesh, Britto, Prabina and I decided to explore this beautiful place. Abinash has a Grand i10 and Britto is a self-proclaimed F1 racer :p So ‘how to reach’ wasn’t a hassle at all this time 😀

How to Reach Chikmagalur:

It is around 250 km away from Bangalore and is a 4-hour journey. The road is pretty good for most of the part. A number of state-run and private buses ply to the place. The nearest railway station is Kadur which is 40 km away. The best option is to hire a cab. Now a lot of options are there: Ola Outstation, Goibibo Cab, MMT Cab service etc. If you have  a car, you can even hire only a driver and go. DriveU, Hire4Drive, ezidrive, Zuber are a few driver hiring sites. We decided to make it a self-drive road trip to reap the most out of it. We started from Bangalore around 4:30 AM.

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A dam we came across on the way

Where to Stay:

A lot of options are available depending of budget, luxury and experience. Zostel Chikmagalur is one of the top choices in terms of budget and experience. But we decided to  go beyond that and to choose the best in terms of experience. We had booked our stay at Forest Homestay – Maradi(Aldur). It is 27km away from the main city Chikmagalur, and exists among dense forest and coffee plantation. A few of my friends had been here last year and had shared their experience with me. If you want a serene and out of the world experience, then this is the place. Apart from Airtel, you hardly will get any network here. So like literally out of the hustle bustle of busy life.

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For booking, you can check online on Goibibo or you can contact directly at below mentioned no. (Nuthan: 9449175960, Omar Homestay Advisor : 9538280008. This is just for reference purpose only.) They charge by person basis which includes Stay(Cottage or Tent), Food(Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks & Dinner : Both Veg and Non-Veg), welcome drink, one morning trek, night campfire and a few other engaging activities. Additionally, you can inform them for additional snacks: Chicken(400 per KG), Fish(500 per KG), Mutton (600 per KG). This includes making and service charge. Even home made wine is available on chargeable basis(Figwine: INR 500 per bottle, rest: INR 250 per bottle). They have made provisions to play badminton, cricket, carom, rifle-shooting and Bow & Arrow. Visit their official site for details.

Mulyangiri:

It is around 23 km away from Chikmagalur. We reached Chikmagalur around 9:30 AM and our check-in time at hotel was 12 noon. So though we had planned to go here the next day, we went the same day after having some breakfast at Chikmagalur.

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On the way to Mulyangiri

The last stretch of the road was bit bumpy and narrow; but we had Captain Britto at our side. We never hesitated to stop n click on the way. We reached around 11 AM at Mulyangiri peak. The weather was pleasing, neither cloudy nor sunny. There is a temple on the Mulyangiri peak which is a 15-20 mins climb. The route is smooth and there are stairs till the top. The view from up there was magnificent. There was greenery everywhere, till the eyes could see. We enjoyed the beauty for sometime and started our journey to the home-stay around 12 noon.

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We had to again comeback to Chikmagalur and to take a different route for the Homestay. The last 4km of the road to the homestay was really in bad shape. But they were repairing that. Hopefully, in a few months, that will be fine. The Homestay was at the remotest corner of the forest and the road ends there only. We reached the homestay around 1:15 PM. We were taken to our cottage which was 100m away from the parking area. We were greeted with welcome drinks: Mango and Lemon drinks. After a long travel, it was the best one could get in that dense forest. The location of the homestay was just perfect like a single cottage in the middle of the forest and coffee garden. As it was Friday, there was no one apart from us. So the entire place was ours to enjoy.

Though everyone was damn tired, two had directly come from Chennai and almost everyone had 1 to 2 hrs of sleep last night; still everyone could have been found at the badminton ground.

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And the irony was I had fever the previous day, but it all vanished once we reached Chikmagalur 🙂 We played for around half an hour and then asked for the lunch. After getting refreshed, we came to dining table. Thank god, they had  a geyser there. The lunch was delicious, as we were all non-vegetarians; they had made two chicken dishes. All the dish was cooked in local malada style with a flavour of their speciality. After a sumptuous lunch, we were supposed to go to Shankar falls which was  nearby only. But due to some reasons, it was closed those days. So we decided to pay a visit to a nearby pond(they call it lake :p) after a short break.

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Coffee

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Spiders were ruling the spot!

Around 3:30 PM, we started for the pond. They provided life jackets to everyone for the safety. It was just a 5 min walk from the cottage. But when we reached the pond, we were disappointed. The water wasn’t that clean and it was a small one. Noone was ready to take a plunge in that. Then the staff members jumped in and cleaned the water a bit. Prabina and Britto finally took a plunge. I didn’t risk it as I was out of fever just a few hrs back 😀 And it wasn’t that tempting also.

Then we came back to the cottage and played some games. Some were busy with badminton and a few other with the rifle and bow n arrow.

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Around 5PM ,we started for the sunset point. It was a 15 mins walk from the cottage. The place was awesome. Peace and calmness was in the air. The forest was surround us and a huge mountain at our back. And the sun in its golden glory descending below the horizon. We sat there for quite sometime and enjoyed the golden touch of nature to the fullest. We clicked some awesome sunset pics and made our way to the homestay. It was pitch dark by the time we were returning.

We took a short break and then had snacks: pakoda and fresh filter coffee. After  a while, we lighted up the campfire and started the forest party. We had ordered for pepper-chicken, chicken kabab, chilly chicken and fish fries. They kept bringing one by one and under that almost full-moon night, beside the campfire ; we continued our party. It wasn’t that cold that evening, but it was pleasant weather. The babbling sound of the nearby waterstream was overpowering the powerful of bass of our Bluetooth speaker. It was dense forest around us, but there were two dogs with us all the time. They were just lying beside us and were enjoying the chicken bones. The party went on till late night, then we had our dinner and went back to bed.

Next morning, we had to wake up at 6 am to go on a nearby trek. Britto literally dragged me down out of the bed to wake me up. By 6:30 AM, everyone was all set for the trek. It was 7 km up and down. Though I had done a couple of treks earlier, this was different. Though this was short, but was full of surprises. The route went through the dense forest and to the top of a mountain. There was a butterball there and one could see the surrounding area clearly from up above. The place was a bliss.

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After a tiring, but refreshing trek

We clicked some pics and came back.

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Breakfast was ready by the time we reached the cottage. We packed our bags and did some more shooting before we checked out. The staff member Uday was very courteous. The stay was extremely pleasant.

Jhari Falls:

We then drove to Jhari Falls.which is 48 km away from the homestay and in the same Mulyangiri route. But what we didn’t know that there was a walking distance of around 3km before you reach the waterfall. As it was a Saturday, the waterfall was heavily crowded. This is also called the milky waterfall as the splash of water almost looks white as milk.

Baba Budangiri:

It was just 8 km from Jhari Falls. The weather was cloudy and chilly that day. There is a temple of Baba Budangiri there. There is also a waterfall 3km away and a lake around 4km away from the temple. But as we had less time, we stopped at a nice location, enjoyed the weather a bit and started our return journey.

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A few other points of interest are : Kudremukh, Hebbe Falls etc

It was  a perfect road trip and  a must try with friends if you are nearby Bangalore.

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The Ride, The Riders and the Clicker (Behind the Lense)

Tips:

  • Make sure you don’t have any booze with you when you are going to Mulyangiri. There is a check post before that.
  • On the way to homestay, you’ll find one booze shop at Aldur market and one at Chikmagalur.
  • Take a Bluetooth woofer with you.
  • Take a pair of shoes if you are going for trekking.

 

Reference: Forest Homestay

 


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A Weekend Trek to Ilaka Got via Triund (McLeodganj)

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“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”            – Cesare Pavese

It’s been quite some time since I had made this trip, but couldn’t have shared the experience. As it is said, “it is never too late”. Last year(2016) when I was at Delhi for my internship, I had utlized 6/8 weekends in exploring the nearby places in and around Delhi. McLeoganj and trek to Ilaka Got via Triund was one of those six trips. The trip was for a span of only two days and it was a solo trip.

  • Duration: 2 days
  • Budget: INR 3500 (Including transport from New Delhi)

How to Reach:

A lot of buses ply to Dharmasala and McLeodganj from ISBT, Delhi. I boarded the Himachal State Transport(HRTC) Volvo AC Bus (these govt. Buses are indeed good !) around 6:15 PM on a Friday evening from ISBT, New Delhi. The ticket price was around INR 700 after applying some discount coupons on Paytm. I met Sam here who was sitting just by my side and was on a world tour. He was going to stay for a month at Mcleodganj and then had plans to explore the North-east region of India. He had just completed his studies and before going into a full-fledged business; he decided to explore the world. The benefit of solo travel is that you get to meet a lot of travellers like this and get to know their motivating story. The bus reached Dharmasala around 6AM and McLeodganj around 6:45 AM.

Trek to Ilaka Got via Triund:

Before setting out, I had carried out a preliminary research on the area and had contacted a tour operator who was organizing trek to Ilaka Got at a cost of INR 2500 per head. But I hadn’t booked any. When I got off at McLeodganj bus stop, I came across a board “Himalayan Treks” (just near the tea shop at McLeodganj bus stop). As it was early morning, there was noone except a local who was sleeping on a bench there. When I talked to him, I got to know that he was  a trek guide(Vijay – +91-7831804538) and he agreed to take me till Ilaka Got(including Food + Accommodation) for just INR 1500. But as I was the only person, he told to wait for some other trekkers till 10 AM and if noone woould turn up, then he agreed to take me only.

I walked towards the market and from there walked down a bit till I found a reasonable hotel. As it was a Saturday, the road was filled with school kids waiting for their pick up bus. A lot of hookers were asking for hotel stay on the way, but I preferred bargaining with the hotel directly and finally fixed a deal of 2 hr stay(for refreshments only) for just a price of INR 200. I took a quick snap and was ready for the exploration around 9 AM. The view from the hotel was refreshing and picturesque. The entire McLeodganj was basking in the golden ray of morning sun.

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I explored the market area, had breakfast and went to the guide around 10:30 AM. On the way, I came across this small, but beautiful temple which is situated within the market area.

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Unfortunately or fortunately, there wasn’t sign of any other trekker. So he agreed to take me alone. I had aimed for Indraahar pass(14765 feet) which was a 5-6 days trek. In two days, it was impossible to cover Indraahar pass. So I settled with Ilaka Got(11800 feet) which is also a 3 day trek. Had I had one more day, I would have gone for Indraahar Pass definitely.  I had to complete it in 2 days due to lack of time. The journey started at 11 AM.

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Drop off till the starting point of trek(Gunadevi Temple) was provided by the tour operator. I had kept all the unnecessary luggage at the tour operator office to increase my walking pace and had taken only the essential ones. The trek to Triund started around 11:30 AM. The path was passing through a thick jungle. The view was getting better with each step. A lot of fellow trekkers were on the same path, a few were just sitting on the lush green grass and were enjoying the picturesque beauty. The path is extremely well-marked and there is no chance of someone getting lost, in case someone is travelling alone. There weren’t much water sources on the way. After around one hour of trek, we reached Magicview cafe from where entire Dharmasala and Kangra valley was visible(including the cricket ground).

We took a short break and continued the journey. The route was filled with rhodendron trees. We reached at Triund(10,000 feet) around 2:15 PM. It started drizzling the moment we reached there. We rushed into one of the Maggie shops there and enjoyed our lunch. Hot Rajma-Chawal and pickle in that chilling weather was a bliss.

The sky got cleared in 15 mins and I went out and explored the vicinity. It was a long stretch of lush green field(bugyal) and the slight pour of rain had made the sky clear. A group of foreigners were playing guitar and enjoying the awesome weather to the fullest. A duo of Belgium beauty were relaxing on a piece of rock in awe of the gigantic snow-clad mountain standing in front of them. A few trekkers were setting up their tents. Tents are available on rent here. The higher you’ll go, the costlier the food will get. A bottle of water was INR 60 here and a plate of Maggie around INR 100.

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Though my heart was saying to stay for a little more time, the mind was against it. We had to reach Ilaka Got before the sun set. So with a heavy heart, we started for Ilaka got. After ascending for around 15 mins, I got a better view of Triund. It was believed that the entire Dharmasala town is built on a pond and any tectonic vibration may result in sinking of the town. Now there is also work in progress to connect a rope-way directly from McLeodganj till Triund. I was doing a two days’ trek in a day. And the path was mostly steep at the beginning. The guide was walking very fast as it was a daily routine for him, but for me it was getting difficult to keep pace with. On top of that, there was hardly any source of water on the way. After an hour of walk, I was so exhausted that I would have slept on the road given the chance. But the path was getting more scenic and greener.

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The last stretch was mostly flat. Then we came across another Maggie point. The shopkeeper seemed to be a friend of the guide. They started chit chatting and a laid down on those lush green grass. Clear blue sky was up above my head and snow-clad Dhauladhar mountain in front of me. The campsite of Ilaka got was visible from here, but there were still miles to go.

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We moved ahead. For the first time, I heard the sound of water stream; but it was way below. The half-rotten body of a horse was laying down below. The guide told that the horse got a heart attack two days back due to overburden of luggage. Once the campsite comes in sight, the distance seems to fade away. Finally, we reached the campsite around 5:30 PM and I took a sigh of relief.

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A group of trekkers were returning from Indraahar pass when we reached Ilaka got. They showed the pictures of Indraahar pass and it was tempting to pay a visit there; but I hardly had time. After a short break, I went out and explored the surrounding. There was still some snow by the side of the camp. There is  a cave named Lahesh cave around 1 hr away from Ilaka got, but the route is treacherous and filled with boulders. So I skipped exploring that as it would be difficult returning to Ilaka got in dark. Moreover, the path is extremely steep and I wasn’t in  a condition to climb till the cave after such a long trek. Once the sun went down the horizon, cold breeze and chillness got a grip over my body.

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But it was time for some fun. We were three there: the guide, the cook and myself. I took out two bottles of beer from my backpack that I had carried all this way for this auspicious moment. I put those into the snow beside the camp and we started to make a campfire. But the wind was so cold that it was hardly bearable to sit outside. So we made the campfire inside the dining tent, yeah not recommended. 15 mins was enough to chill the beers in those super chilled weather. I handed them one and made myself cosy beside the fire. After a while, they both started telling me folk stories of their community and of their locality. The talk went on across a time frame of past, present and future. After an hour or two, we finally decided to have dinner and went to bed. The sky out was crystal clear with millions of stars twinkling to the tune of the universe.

Next morning, I woke up around 7:30 AM, had breakfast and started our return journey. The return journey was pretty smooth and comfortable. We reached Gunadevi temple around 11:30am. The guide dropped me at McLeodganj market around 12 noon.  I had booked JAT MURI ROU Express (18110) from Pathankot railway station which was scheduled at 11;45 PM. Pathankot is the nearest railway station from McLeodganj which is around 90km away. So I decided to explore McLeodganj till evening.

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With my guide (Vijay) at Ilaka Got

Things to Do at Mcleodganj:

I fixed a deal with an auto driver to cover the top tourists places nearby within 4 hours for INR 500.

Church of St. John in Wilderness:

This spooky church is situated just a km away from the McLeodganj bus stop. The building is bit old and stands tall among tall trees. An evening visit to this place will surely tickle your adventurous appetite.

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Dal Lake:

This is not a big lake, but the ambience around the place is serene. You can take  a walk around the lake. There is a temple beside the lake.

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Dalai LamaTemple (Namgyal Monastery):

This is just a stone’s throw away from the market. The place is extremely peaceful and serene. You’ll get to see a lot of Tibetan monks here. Most of the people were engrossed in reading holy books and praying.

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Tibetan Museum:

This is just next to Dalai lama temple. The history of Mcleodganj and Tibet is well-documented here. You’ll get to know all the struggle and war these people have gone through in the past.

Naddi View point:

This is just a few km away from Mcleodganj city. The view of the Kanga valley from here is astounding. Some part of the trail of the trek was also visible from here.

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Bhagsu Waterfall:

Though I couldn’t visit this place due to lack of time and this is one of the top tourists spots at Mcleodganj.

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PC: Flickr / Anamika Baghel

Mcleodganj is an awesome place to get some fresh air from the hustle bustle and boredom of life. A lot of foreigners come and stay here for a month and more. The place is lively and refreshing. Hope I will have to pay another visit to this awesome place to complete the unfinished activity of Indraahar pass trek. See you soon Mcleodganj !

 


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Mahabalipuram : An Archaeological Brilliance !

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“For me archaeology is not a source of illustrations for written texts, but an independent source of historical information, with no less value and importance, sometimes more importance, that the written sources.” ― Michael Rostovtzeff

Mahabalipuram is one of the best weekend getaways from Chennai, of course after Pondicherry. But it is perfect for a single day outing. It is situated just around 60km away from Chennai and is famous for its archaeological brilliance. It’s also known as Mamallapuram, so don’t get confused.

How to Reach:

Bike:

If you have got a bike, then you shouldn’t worry about the transport part at all. If not, you can rent one. There are plenty of options available at Chennai (Chennaibikerental, Rentrip, Wheelonstreet etc.) . An Avenger will cost you around INR 750 per day and a RE around INR 1000. The road is best for a bike trip spread alongside the Bay of Bengal (East Coast Road). The road runs parallel to the coast of Bay of Bengal making it a scenic driveway, although you will not see the sea until the last few miles.

Car:

If you have access to a car, that’s ice on cake. This route is part of the road to Pondicherry which is listed as Top 10 road trips to take in India. Car rentals (Zoomcar/Myles) are also available at Chennai. You can also go for a cab or Ola/Uber outstation.

Bus:

The cheapest way to travel is by bus. A lot of private buses or MTC buses ply to Mahabalipuram(Mamallapuram). You can catch one from CMBT bus stop(Z568C route) or from Adyar(Bus no 599, 588, 589). I took the MTC Bus-599 and it took my around one and half hour to reach there, but the cost was just INR 30 🙂

There are a few options on the way to Mahabalipuram; like Crocodile Park, off-road riding, Tiger cave. If you are taking the bus option, you might have to miss this. If you’re boarding the bus at Adyar and planning to have lunch, then Top See Restaurant is a good budget hotel.

Things to Do:

Shore Temple:

(Entry fee INR 30 for Indians)

The temple is located just a stone’s throw away from the bus stop and just by the side of the coromandel coast. A pile of rocks has been put to protect the temple against the waves of the Bay of Bengal. The place is full of archaeological marvelous and lush greenery. One could just sit on that lush green grass and behold the architectural beauty for hours.  It is an excellent spot to try out some photography skills.

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The Shore Temple

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Beach:

The beach area though is not huge, but always adds flavor to the trip. A lot of handicraft and other small shops can be found on the way to the beach. The part of the beach near those rocks is somewhat clean, the further you go, the dirtier it gets. A lot of beach resorts are also there. If you’re planning for a night stay, then there are plenty of options.

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Pancha Rathas:

(Entry fee INR 30 for Indians, INR 25 for Videocam)

This is the 2nd best archaeological marvelous at Mahaballipuram or may be the best. There are five(Pancha) stone chariots(Rathas); each of different size and architectural magnificence. Again a heaven for a photographer.  It is just 1km away from the Shore temple.

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Light House:

(Entry fee INR 10 for Indians, INR 30 for Camera)

There are two light houses: one that used to be, one that is. The view from the light house is breathtaking, but you’ll have to climb all those narrow stairs to the top. If anyone likes rock climbing, then it is a heaven for him/her. There are so many climbable rocks here that you just can jump n hop around.  There are a lot of options to hang out here, you just need to explore.

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Towards the end of the day, dark clouds started hovering across the blue sky and it started raining. That just made the trip splendidly beautiful when the dust on greenery washed away.

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Krishna’s Butterball:

It is a gigantic rock stock to the hill. It seems as if just one push will make it roll. An awesome spot for some creative photography.

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Arjuna’s penance and Tiger cave are a few other interest points.

People here are great with stone carving and making stone sculptures. By the side of the road from Pancha Rathas to Lighthouse, you’ll see a number of sculptures and show-pieces.

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Four to five hours is enough to explore the surroundings. The entry to lighthouse closes around 5:30 PM, so plan accordingly. I embarked upon the same bus at around 6 PM for my journey back to Chennai and reached Adyar in 2 hrs.


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Jodhpur: The Blue City

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“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” – Freya Stark

This was my first visit to Rajasthan to attend the marriage ceremony of a close friend. I had travelled directly after Everest base camp trek to here. Pali was the actual destination I was travelling to, but I was expected to meet my other friends here at Jodhpur and to move together to Pali the next morning. I reached here after travelling by train for 3 continuous days: Kathmandu to Birganj by Bus, Raxaul to Delhi and Delhi to Jodhpur by train (12461-Mandor Express). I arrived at the sun-city in early morning and my friends were expected to reach in the evening. So in-stead of going to the hotel, I decided to explore the city for the day. I had kept the extra luggage at NDLS cloak room as I had to catch my return train from there only. Travelling light actually helps a lot. I bargained with an Autowala to cover the famous tourist spots of Jodhpur and finally settled for INR 500. And then the solo exploration began in an auto…

Mehrangarh Fort:

This was the first destinations in my list. The grandeur of the fort could be seen from far away. The fort is well maintained and guarded. A lot of locals have got employment inside the fort. There were a few playing instruments, singing Rajasthani folk songs making the dull atmosphere lively and energizing. The entry fee for Indian tourists is INR 70 excluding camera pass. Audio guide is also available on chargeable basis. Inside the fort, all the historical pieces are well organized for display with its details written by its side. The lavishness and luxury of the royal family can only be believed when seen in own eyes. From the top of the fort, the entire Jodhpur can be seen. Flying fox and a few other adventure activities can also be experienced at the fort. There is also a Chamunda mata temple at the fort.

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Sheesh Mahal

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Moti Mahal

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Phool Mahal

Jaswant Thada:

It is located just beside Mehrangarh fort. There is a small lake and well maintained garden. The well designed white structure stands out  among those green lines.

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Umaid Bhawan Palace:

It also can be seen from the top of Mehrangarh fort. Only a small part of the palace(left side) is open for tourists and the rest has been turned into a hotel. There are also a few parks at Jodhpur: Mandore garden, Machiya safari park, Rock park etc. I skipped those due to lack of time.

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Ghanta Ghar (Sardar Market):

I had booked my hotel just a stone’s throw away from Ghanta ghar due to the proximity to market and Mehrangarh fort. The Ghanta Ghar is located at the center of the market. There is a famous lassi shop(Shri Mishrilal) in the market and another good one just in front of clock tower near the main gate. I tried 3-4 varieties of Lassi: Makhaniya Lassi(Must try), Mango Lassi, Chocolate Lassi etc. Just outside of the inner main gate, there is a famous Omelet shop. Do try Masala cheese bread omelette and other Omelettes there. The shop is a tiny one and there is no space to even sit, but the omelette is a must try.

I was staying at Hotel Blue Turban, the location was awesome. The proximity to the market and Mehrangarh fort was such that I could see Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada, Ghanta Ghar(Clock Tower) from its rooftop. Did I mention, there was a well-designed rooftop bar from where one can see the lighted Mehrangarh fort. Just imagine…  dim lanterns hanging on an open rooftop and  trying hard to do away with the darkness, blow of gentle cool breeze soothing you and you sitting there with a can of chilled beer in front of the magnanimous Mehrangarh fort just wondering… how ? when ? why ?  someone would have created such a gargantuan fort ? The cannons(topes) could clearly be seen on the top of that enormous wall-line.  If you ever happen to visit to Jodhpur, do try this experience(PS: The fort is lighted till 10 PM). I bet the philosopher in you won’t be able to hold it back any longer.

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PS: On the way from Jodhpur to Pali, I came across the Bullet Baba Temple. The people here vehemently belief him. There is in interesting (or rather sad) story behind this temple also. Do google about it.