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Weekend trip to Jodhpur – Photo journal

On a fine weekend we took off to the Blue city of Jodhpur. Without putting in too many words, here is a Photo Journal of our 2 days in this stunning and regal city of Jodhpur!

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The trip kicks off with a long long drive starting from Delhi. The Delhi-Jodhpur highway is pretty neat I must say with no potholes to interupt your drive, this route would be any long drive enthusiast’s favourite. Start late night or real early to avoid traffic, just like us. Not a vehicle in view!

Enroute the Delhi – Jodhpur highway, apart from a host of dhabas (road side eateries) near Delhi, not many places to eat were available as we started approaching Jodhpur and further into Thar. One place we came across early morning after looking for a place to eat for long luckily was also serving the best freshly made, stuffed aloo paranthas I have had in a long long time.

Beautiful local woman we came across dressed in traditional attire.

After a few hours of long drive we retired to this lovely elaborate desert Reort and Camp, Thar Oasis for the night and to experience a camping experience in the sand dunes.

It is brilliant how this place is in the middle of no where, yet very well kept and yes! It has a sparkling swimming pool too. What else could one wish for!

As the evening set in, we headed off to the dinner in the dunes set up. A gorgeous set up with white sofas seated around a stage with Rajasthani folk music and dance. Dining with some chilled beer under the expanses of the starry skies was an unreal experience. The music was filling up the evening air and the entire atmosphere was breath taking.

Watch Rajasthani folk dancers in action!

Next day we headed off to the architectural marvel, Mehrangarh Fort. Perched high up, the Fort overlooks the entire blue city of Jodhpur. The Fort has a galore of artileries, weapons and war costumes worn by the Kings and queens during their time of rule on display. Its mind blowing how big the weapons they used were! We stayed on till the sunset, and watching the sun g down from the fort itself is a stunning view.

Peek Inside the Fort!

If you are in the mood to shop, hp into the many stores inside the Fort for vibrant local ornaments, accessories and decor.

And after a super tiring day of Fort watching, how could we miss the super awesome Rajasthani Thali. Perfect way to end a weekend trip to Jodhpur!

 

The Indian “Great Wall of China” – Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, India

Things you need to know before visiting the Kumbhalgarh Fort:

  • The place usually gets very crowded during peak season (September – March), so make sure to reach early to be able to have a not-so-rushed visit
  • The stairs inside the Fort are pretty steep and narrow, so be careful, not very convenient for people who have problem with small spaces (claustrophobia)
  • Take a guide who can help you around the Fort to not get lost. Do bargain
  • The walk up to the Fort is pretty steep, so be well equipped with proper walking shoes and a water bottle since it could be exhausting
  • Being at the Fort during sunset is one of the best things to do, since it is a captivating view
  • You might consider watching the Light and Sound show in the evening, although it is too much of talk and less about the Fort, watch at own risk (it is in Hindi language though!)
  • Eat properly before going up there, since to walk around the Fort properly is pretty time consuming
  • Mornings and Evenings are best time to visit

 

What you need to know about the’GREAT WALL OF INDIA’:

For the longest time we only knew about The Great Wall of China and its history, but we have a close counterpart in India as well which happens to be the Second Longest Wall in the world after The Great Wall of China. Unknown to the outside world for a very long time, this place is now gaining popularity, Kumbhalgarh Fort in Rajasthan, India also referred t now as the GREAT WALL OF INDIA.

Built in the early 15th century by the Great Maharana Kumbha and further extended in the 19th century, this fort is also where The Great King & warrior of Mewar, Maharana Pratap was born. History has it that this is the invincible Fort which could not be conquered even by the mighty Mughals alone, only together with the armies of Delhi, Amber and Marwar they were able to break through the Fort. This Fort is a standing icon of the bold and unbreakable Rajput glory and spirit.

The Fort is a safely protected by the massive snake like meandering Fort Wall which is 15 kms long and 1150 m to 1200 m in height, the wall is as thick as 12-25 feet and broad enough to allow an army of eight horses to ride abreast. It runs through the mountain cliffs and valleys of the Aravalli ranges sometimes going uphill or taking a descent structured with long walk ways, stairs and seven huge gates. Also within the Wall it guards 360 temples. Along with the Fort the Wall encompasses around some of the forest ranges of the Kumbhalgarh National Park which helps in the safe keeping of a few Indian endangered species, it is home to the famous panthers & leopards of India and also a variety of other wildlife. The Wall is an standing proof of the brilliant architecture from the Rajput era, built with such brilliance that even after 700 years of its being it still stands tall unmoved. It is this wall that is known as the second longest continuous wall on the planet after the ‘Great Wall of China’.

 

 

Must Visit Places in Singapore – Part I

Must Visit Places in Singapore – Part I

  1. Marina Bay

Singapore has a place for everyone and for the ones interested to indulge in a bit of luxury, Marina Bay Sands is the perfect destination. It is a one of its kind integrated resort which rules the Singapore city skyline. It consists of three 55-storey towers of luxury hotel rooms and exquisite suites. It also houses the Sands Sky Park which forms the crown of the three marvelous towers. The Sands Sky Park provides breathtaking 360 views of the city from the observation deck. If you splurge enough to be a guest at the Hotel, you can experience the unique feeling of swimming in the infinity swimming pool overlooking the horizon at a height of 200 metres. One of the luxury must try experiences in Singapore is taking a dip in the pool while the watching the sun go down across the horizon. Indulge in shopping at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, which has the largest collection of coveted designer show rooms and boutiques in Asia. Immerse your taste buds in exotic fine dining options, which includes restaurants by celebrity chefs, fine dining or casual eateries.

Stunning Laser show at Marina Bay Sands at night

For those interested in Science and Arts head to the Lotus inspired building, ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, it is well known for the highly accoladed exhibition FUTURE WORLD: Where Art Meets Science. The museum is host to many blockbuster touring exhibitions that explores creative processes at the heart of art, science, technology and culture such as Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal, Collider and more. Ground attractions include the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands, featuring stunning performances for world-class entertainment. 

  1. Clarke Quay
Dazzling Clarke Quay at night

Nightlife in Singapore is always buzzing with action. Clarke Quay is one of such places and indeed one of the best places to be in after sunset. It is the nightlife and party hub of Singapore. Sparkling with dazzling lights, partying people and jazzy nightclubs, Clarke Quay is one place you don’t want to go home from. It is booming with a host of unique bars, concept restaurants and pubs along the Singapore River. Originally a centre of commerce along the Singapore River, Clarke Quay is nowadays a hub of restaurants, concept bars, retail stores and entertainment outlets. Go for a drink at the Bamboo Bar at The Forbidden City or Lunar Asian Fusion Bar which has got great shows, or Bar Opiume at the Empress Place by the riverside and for a late night out dancing and drinking drop in at the Attica or Canvas. 

 

  1. Gardens by the Bay

Step into the future at Gardens by the Bay, it is a pompous, mammoth colourful futuristic park encompassing 250 acres of land on the waterfront of Singapore. Famous for what is called the Supertree, these structures form an extravagant skywalk over the gardens, 9 to 16-storey-tall vertical gardens that collect rainwater, generate solar power and act as venting ducts for the park’s conservatories.

View from below of the magical Gardens by the Bay

Huge seashell-shaped greenhouses create temperature dipping hilly climates and there are innumerable trees and plants of various species to be discovered, cool-dry climate of regions like California and South Africa, and boasts more than 32,000 plants comprising some 160 species, cultivars and varieties, is also  world’s largest columnless greenhouse. Besides ultra-modern design, the conservatories also use cutting-edge technologies for better energy efficiency. Not to be missed is the cool, misty Cloud Forest Dome, with its 35-metre-tall “Cloud Mountain”, covered in orchids, ferns and bromeliads and containing the world’s largest indoor waterfall. If you dare, take the OCBC Skyway, a suspended 128-metre-long walkway between two Supertrees, for a bird’s eye view of the park. This destination is a perfect fun place for both kids and adults alike. The most spectacular view of the Gardens is visible from the top of the Marina Bay which happens to be directly opposite the park, it’s hard to miss the sprawling 101-hectare lot right by the water in Marina Bay. . This dazzling light and sound show takes place nightly amid the Supertrees. Then dine at romantic Pollen in the Flower Dome, glamorous Indochine at the top of the Supertrees or Satay by the Bay for hearty local food. Getting here is easy, either via walkways from the hotel, giving you an elevated view of the gardens, or taking the slightly longer riverside promenade to enter the park near the two domes. The park entry is free of cost except for the climate controlled greenhouses or for a walk amongst the Supertrees, for which there is a charge. The main park area is open from 9:00 to 21:00.

  1. Raffles Hotel

One of the most iconic places and old buildings that contribute to the heritage of Singapore is the luxurious Raffles Hotel. It is a colonial-styled and has a long standing history dating back to 1887 due to which is has become one of the most significant Singapore landmarks. It has an interesting list of celebrity guests that have graced the hotel consisting of the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Queen Elizabeth II and the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Iconic Raffles Hotel

The Raffles Hotel has 103 suites and 18 distinctive restaurants and bars. It also has a brilliant arcade with over 40 international designer stores like Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, etc. Having a Singapore Sling at the Bar in Raffles is a heritage experience that one could indulge in. It is here that ‘The Singapore Sling’ also regarded as the national drink of the country, was first created in 1915 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon.

The World famous ‘Singapore Sling’

Primarily a gin-based cocktail, the Singapore Sling also contains pineapple juice as the main ingredient, along with grenadine, lime juice and Dom Benedictine. Giving it the pretty pink hue are cherry brandy and Cointreau. 

  1. Merlion Park

Hailed as Singapore’s national icon, the mythical Merlion with the head of a lion and the body of a fish is an unevitable statue that cannot be missed, seven in total placed around the city. The Merlion is a reminder of the beginnings of Singapore as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, meaning ‘sea town’. Its head represents Singapore’s original name, Singapura, or ‘lion city’ in Malay. Visit the Merlion Park to get a closer look at the legend of Merlion. Spouting water from its mouth, the Merlion statue stands tall at 8.6 metres. This icon is a ‘must-see’ for tourists visiting Singapore, similar to other significant landmarks around the world. Built by local craftsman Lim Nang Seng, it was unveiled on 15 September 1972 by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the mouth of the Singapore River, to welcome all visitors to Singapore.

The most famous picture that depicts Singapore

But with the completion of Esplanade Bridge in 1997, the statue could no longer be viewed clearly from the waterfront. So in 2002, the Merlion was relocated 120 metres away from the original position to where it stands in Merlion Park today, in front of Fullerton Hotel and overlooking Marina Bay. The park also houses a smaller Merlion statue. Known as the ‘Merlion cub’, it stands at 2 metres tall and weighs three tonnes. The original sculpture and its cub are the most well-known among the seven approved Merlion statues in Singapore. 

  1. Singapore Flyer

If you are in the mood to fly in the sky and take a spin in the air you must go to the Singapore flyer. Standing out in the Singapore skyline, the Singapore Flyer is not just another orb. Asia’s largest giant observation wheel provides some of the most magnificent views of the city. Located at the heart of downtown Marina Bay a complete spin takes one as high as 42 storeys. Step into this thrilling ride which consists of one of the 28 fully air-conditioned glass capsules, and be raised for a 30-minute spin overlooking stunning day and night scenes. Grasp the enchanting views of the city and the iconic and historical landmarks such as the Marina Bay, Singapore River, Raffles Place, Merlion Park, Empress Place and the Padang are visible.

Don’t miss the sky high ride for a complete bird’s eye view of Singapore

On clear days many of you might also be able to spot landmarks far away like Changi Airport, Sentosa Island and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia as well. Imagine dining amongst the clouds, this is something the Singapore Flyer offers, you can have high tea, enjoy fine-dining or sip on cocktails and Champagne on the Singapore Flyer’s special in-flight packages. Also an interesting mix of entertaining experiences such as a flight simulator and a fish spa are also available. Once you land, done miss visiting the Singapore Food Trail, a unique 1960s themed food street offering famous local fare such as ‘bak kut teh’ and Hainanese chicken rice. 

  1. Resorts World Sentosa

Want to go wild and crazy with no dearth of things to do? Resorts World Sentosa is the place you should be headed to. It is an integrated resort experience designed to keep the whole family enthralled. The key attractions includes the Universal Studios theme park, Adventure Cove Water Park, and S.E.A. Aquarium, which includes the world’s largest Oceanarium. It also has several dining options with various themes when you are hungry. This is not just it, the resort also has a casino. Try your luck the Bond’s way.  One is sure to get drained out after all the activities, to rejuvenate yourself take a break and pamper yourself at a spa or better book a stay at one of the hotels in the resort itself which has couple of jazzy hotels. Some of the not-to-miss places you have to indulge in are:

  1. Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore is Southeast Asia’s first Hollywood movie theme park. It is a spectacular assembly of extravagant adventure rides and huge selection of attractions and entertainment for both families and adventure seekers. Majority of the rides here are specially designed for the Singapore Park. The theme park is home to seven block-buster movie-themed zones, and each one of them is designed with a lot of detail and very close to movie avatars. It also has a fantastic Hollywood Walk of Fame at the Hollywood zone, you would feel as if you have ventured into New York, the landscape transforms into impressive city skylines, including a replicas of subway entrances. Feel the power and adrenaline rush of being in a real movie like set up and feel the action and thrill and the powerful special effects produced by Steven Spielberg.

Breathtaking rides: Sci-Fi City features the blockbuster ride TRANSFORMERS The Ride: The Ultimate 3D Battle ride where you get to fight evil forces in heart-pounding 3D combat. Next step into the Ancient Egyptian world and come face to face with mummies and beetles in an indoor roller coaster in total darkness – ignite your senses here. Looking for your favorite animated movie character, meet them at Madagascar and prepare to be drenched in a wet river boat ride.

Thrills and spills: Performances here are equally spectacular. Kids will fall in love with the Shrek 4-D Adventure at Far Far Away. This cinematic experience lets you feel the action of the movie. Fond of Spielberg’s dinosaurs from the Jurassic Park series, walk into The Lost World and witness death-defying stunts and explosions in the live performance in the Water World. I am sure these thrilling rides will leave you exhausted, rejuvenate your energy between the attractions and step in to the many themed restaurants across the parks. 

  1. The Adventure Cove Waterpark

Is a water lover’s paradise; it has an extremely well maintained world class Marine life. This includes the S.E.A Aquarium that is abode to over 100,000 marine animals. The Adventure Cove Waterpark is a dream place with thrilling wet and wild rides. The very cute Dolphin Island, where you can interact with the friendliest mammals. History lovers can visit the Maritime Experiential Museum to learn about Asia’s rich maritime history and Singapore’s past as a trading port. At night immerse yourself in the mesmerizing display of water, fire and light at the Lake of Dreams and the Crane Dance, where mechanical cranes transform into birds through a journey of love.

Continued in Part II….

 

Singapore – Getting There

At a Glance

 

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Singapore is a stunning and beautiful island strategically located in the heart of South East Asia which also happens to be world’s only island city-state. This breath taking island is one of the most popular and busy travel destinations in South East Asia. It is not only of great commercial interest but also a booming tourist destination as it sees travelers dropping in from all around the Globe.

Singapore boosts of an interesting mix of uber modern architectural marvels as well as age old temples and traditions. Not to be fooled by the size of this tiny island, it has a lot to offer with innumerable options to choose from. It is like a parallel universe residing together all in this small city.

On one side the city skyline is clouded with tall skyscrapers and modern state of the art structures such as Marina Bay Sands, a three-towered skyscraper that is a vital part of Singapore’s horizon, Resorts World Sentosa which is home to the very famous Universal Studios theme park, and the majestic Gardens by the Bay and many more such iconic places. On the other hand there are the humble century old buildings like the elegant Raffles Hotel still standing tall more than a century after being built. This island state was a former British trading post and colony and even after independence and the blend of cultures is ingrained in all aspects of life in Singapore.

The cultural blends are strongly visible in the food scenario most prominently. Cuisines from all around the world are available. Alongside world class fine dining restaurants offering international cuisines, the street food available here is also finger licking good. Due to its vicinity with other South East Asian countries the food culture in Singapore is an amazing confluence of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences. One can escape the hustle and bustle of modernity in Singapore by visiting the very exotic Chinatown and Little India to get a flavor of the neighboring Asian countries.

How to get there

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Visa & customs:  For information on visa requirements and the Visa Free Transit Facility, you can visit and check with the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority or the Singapore Overseas Mission in your city or country. The visa application form is available for free at all Singapore overseas missions. For detailed information and requirements for entry to Singapore you can visit the Official website for Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore

By Air: Changi Airport in Singapore is one of the most busy and well connected airports in the world. It sees over 100 airlines flying to more than 250 cities around the world. Most of the well-known international airlines have their operations in Singapore. Few local airlines operate from Singapore such as the renowned Singapore Airlines and budget airlines Tiger. The airport itself is very well maintained and conferred with many awards, it boosts of modern amenities and activities for tourists and travelers making it a world-class attraction in its own way.

By Sea: Singapore is an important port of commercial interest due to its strategic location in the heart of Asia; it is one of the world’s busiest cruise centers. Several cruise operators of various kinds like luxury, premium, and contemporary types operate from here. The newest is the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Singapore which can accommodate the largest range of cruise liners.

By Road: Singapore is also very well connected by roads; it can be easily reached from West Malaysia through a scenic ride. Two checkpoints need to be crossed before entering Singapore; one is at Tuas in the west and Woodlands in the north. They both operate 24/7 facilitating ease of reach to Singapore via road.

Getting around Singapore:  Singapore has one of the best public transport systems in South East Asia, it is fast, efficient and world class and is well connected;  enough to make reaching the various places in Singapore easy and comfortable without much hassle.

By train: MRT (mass rapid transit) system in Singapore is definitely the most efficient and fastest way to commute around the city. The Rail network is extensive and connects almost all the key attractions in the city. Tickets can be bought for single trips, for a mix of both rail and bus network one can buy the Singapore Tourist Pass, a value card which will allow unlimited travel for one day (S$10), two days (S$16) or three days (S$20). Cards are available for purchase at the Transit Link Ticket Office at the following MRT stations: City Hall, Raffles Place, Ang Mo Kio, HarbourFront, Bugis, Changi Airport, Orchard, Chinatown, Lavender and Bayfront. The MRT stations and trains are well equipped with facilities to make travel smooth for wheel chair users, visually impaired, as well as families with strollers.

By taxi: Taxis are also frequently used and a common mode of transport especially for the places not accessible by buses or trains. Cabs run on meters, although it is advisable to check with the driver because a lot of them charge based on time, location and destination of travel and might also add surcharges depending of the company the cab belongs to. Make sure to ask for a receipt at the end of the trip. Taxis can be boarded from the roadside at most places, or by queuing for any of the taxi stands found at shopping malls, hotels and tourist attractions. Cabs can also be booked by calling at a common taxi booking number, 6-DIAL CAB (6342-5222), which than routes the call to any available taxi company’s call centre.

By bus: The most economically viable mode of transport in Singapore is the bus system which is extensively connected covering all routes to places in the city. It is also a great and comfortable way to explore and see the city also because most buses are air conditioned, a very important aspect for traveling in the tropical climate of Singapore. Singapore Tourist Pass is commonly used to pay for the bus travels by using the card reader located next to the driver as your board and exit. Cash payments are also accepted but need to be exact change amount.

Singapore Visitor Centre: Three Singapore Visitor Centres in ION Orchard, Orchard or Chinatown are available in case you need help. Information on tips and recommendations to plan your itinerary, purchase tickets to attractions and tours are available here, also you can pick up locally designed souvenirs and book accommodation for your stay.

To be continued in next post ‘Must Visit Places in Singapore’

Kashmir: At the time of Curfew

I have seen Kashmir in Bollywood movies and always wondered when I would get that chance to go there. It seemed like a piece of Europe in my own country India, enormous mountains, tall pine trees, rivers running in between the valleys, blue skies, shikara rides, gorgeous looking people and so much more beauty all in one place.

So I booked my flight and hotel tickets way back in the month of May to travel to Kashmir in September. September being a busy season in Kashmir and when I had booked my tickets in May the hotels were almost getting sold out. But as my luck would have it, curfew struck Kashmir in July. All the news channels and newspapers were flooded with news about the curfew. So I waited for a few months until August to check back on the situation, unfortunately not much had changed. Came September and a few days left for me to travel to Kashmir and by then the curfew had been on more that 50 days. With uncertainty and my wish to visit Kashmir, not knowing when next I would get a chance to travel to this beautiful place I decided to go ahead with my plans. I definitely did receive a lot of ‘are you crazy to go there now?’ type statements from various people I know. And so I did go..

As a result during my time is curfew stricken Kashmir I did end up busting a few myths about how Kashmir really is during curfew..Here is a detailed account of my days in Kashmir during curfew.

Day 1:

With an anxious heart and partially worried head I finally arrived at the Srinagar airport. I was greeted with the impact of curfew the moment I landed in the Srinagar Airport. While I was waiting for my luggage to arrive I happened to get acquainted with a local woman from there living in Delhi, we started chatting and boom came the question ‘What brings you to Srinagar?’, when she heard I was there travelling for leisure, she was totally livid! How could I plan to travel to Kashmir during the curfew, my reply as usual was that my tickets were booked way in advance and I wanted to take the chance. This was just one of those many discouraging conversations that followed later during my days in Kashmir.

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view from the flight

My houseboat owner arranged for my travel to the houseboat from the airport. On my way to the houseboat I noticed that all roads were totally barren and all the shops were closed. Except for the army personals there were no other people on the roads and not even one shop was open.  I reached my house boat and was greeted by the keeper with a warm smile. After taking some rest I discussed with the hotel people on what are the places I could visit.

The Mughal Gardens:

So for my first day I visited the Mughal Gardens. There are 4 gardens which make it up to the Mughal gardens. I would say a few of the gardens were beautiful with lovely blossoms of various kinds, although don’t expect too much, I must admit I was a little disappointed by a few too. None the less all of them are well maintained and have a heritage value so these are more than just gardens and rather monuments, lets put it that way.

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At the Mughal Garden
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All the lovely flowers in the Mughal gardens

Sankaracharya temple:

Next I went to the Sankaracharya temple, it’s a beautiful climb up the hills, it’s a 800 year old temple, clean and very well maintained, due to the curfew it was ONLY me who was there at that time, there were no tourists at all. And I loved the experience to be able to take in all the beauty all by myself. I realized I had not been in so much silence in a long time. The view from the top is breathtaking, the entire Dal lake and Srinagar could be seen from above, the peace and serenity of the place is contagious, I wish they would have let me click a picture of the view, I could not click any since it is a high security zone and cameras and phones are not allowed.

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Adoring the beautiful view from the view point on the way to Shankaracharya Temple

Sunset at Dal Lake:

On my way down, I spent some time at the Dal lake. The sun was setting and it was a mesmerizing view to behold, as the sun was setting the shikaras formed a silhouette and a perfect vision to take away with me for life.

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Mesmerizing sunset at Dal Lake

Shopping:

I planned to shop a little and since most of the shops were closed, our taxi driver took me to an underground store belonging to the co-operative, I must say the place was a steal, huge collection and very reasonably priced.  I almost bought everything in the shop! It should be a must visit place for anyone who plans to go shopping. I retired to the houseboat after this, on my way back I could see a few shops were open since the curfew would usually last from 6am – 6pm. Few shops were open and for a change I could see some locals on the streets which was welcoming to see. Although my plan to dine somewhere outside failed since all the eating places were shut down. So I settled in for a homely dinner at the house boat. I did enjoy my first day in curfew stricken Kashmir.

Details:

Airport to Houseboat transfer: Rs 500

Day tour of Srinagar: Rs 1500

Continued in Part II…Coming soon!

One night stand with Bangkok

One night stand with Bangkok

What do you do when you have one day in Bangkok and want to make the most of it, how to come up with an itinerary that makes full use of the time. Not having the luxury of too many days leaves from work, me any friends planned a 5-6 days trip in Thailand, a perfect break! According to our itinerary we had 1 day in Bangkok! And trust me we made the full use of each minute! So here we go..
The Flight:
We had booked an early morning flight, well early in the true sense. Kolkata, India to Bangkok flight, departing at 12:05 am. We had a Spicejet flight that cost us really cheap, but this was the worst flight experience in my life. To start with the seats were unusually cramped up. For a 5feet 4inch figure too it was extremely difficult to sit properly due to excessively less leg space. The flight somehow managed to have all the unruly passengers at once. There was a huge group of middle aged men who were the loudest and the most uncouth, lets blame the mid-life crisis for that. Anyways the flight was on time never the less. We arrived at 4:00 Bangkok time. The flight duration was 2 hours roughly. After a smooth Visa on Arrival process that roughly took us about an hour, we were all set to step out into Bangkok.

The Taxi ride:

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Pink taxis plying on the road

 The taxi service was pretty smooth, after having booked a pre-paid taxi we were utterly pleased to be directed towards a striking Pink Taxi. What more would be so pleasing for a bunch of girls at 5:00 in the morning, more than a hot pink taxi. That just set in the right mood. The roads were empty, clean and the sky a gloomy blue. The taxi driver was a pretty old man with wrinkles with a very warm smile. Yes he did not understand a word of English. So we have to wake our sleepy brains up to try and explain him where we needed to go. We had a hotel reservation near Khao San road. Unable to understand us and vice-versa we showed him the hotel reservation printout, although he was unable to read it. He did take help from a passerby to read him out the direction. He had lovely Thai music playing, we did not understand the language but it calmed and relaxed. Our first pic in Bangkok was one with the pink taxi taken by the driver!
Morning in Khao San road:
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Board at a cafe in Khao San

We arrived at the hotel which was perfectly place on the main road, no alleys or hassles to find out the hotel, since we had reached

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Open air street side cafe!Lovely place

early at around 7:00 am. And the check in time being 12:00 pm, we had a lot of time to laze around until we got a room. So instead we munched on a few freebies kept in the waiting area, had some fresh coffee and headed out to explore what was around. The morning walk felt lovely, fresh air, empty roads, it was just the best start to a lovely day. We kept walking by closed shops, eateries and banks until we met a guy, whom we asked if there was any market place nearby. Fortunately we were a stones throw away from the famous Khao San road. We fastened our pace. And we knew we had reached Khao San the moment we could see restaurants with lazy tourists like us and colorful eateries, roadside stalls selling local food. The road sides were lined up with tables and chairs, with empty, some full with people busy enjoying there morning breakfast.

We walked across the several restaurants admiring the various unique decors, names and themes that each place had. The entire stretch of the road somehow had a unique freshness and warm feeling to it, very welcoming and bright.
We decided upon a unique place that caught our eye. It had a very welcoming living room type décor with super comfy sofas and waitresses dressed in pink, by now pink had already seemed to become the color of Bangkok. We ordered continental food but to our surprise it was lip smackingly delicious.
There were a couple of there tourists too who interacted with us, clicked pictures with us as well. Well the one think I loved about eating in Bangkok. You do not need to pay taxes. What a relief to be able to pay for exactly what you eat, also that almost all of these places offered free wifi. Sipping on some fresh juiceOn our way we could not stop having a few tall glasses of freshly made fruit juice.
By the time we were back in the hotel it was 11:00 am and were allowed an hour early check-in.
Chao Phraya River ride:
Chao Phraya River
Chao Phraya River
At the hotel we all took a quick one hour nap while the other was in the shower, that way we had our share of power nap while utilizing the time. We were ready in sometime and also set to explore the traditional side of Bangkok, also referred to as Old Bangkok. We asked the hotel receptionist for directions around old Bangkok, and they were really helpful to guide us with all necessary details and a map.
And we took off, admiring the many shops on the way and after making our self a quick coffee and ready to eat noodles easily available in the departmental store. Within 10 minutes of walking we reached the Chao Phraya River side. The hotel guys were so helpful in advising us to not take a tuk-tuk (local 3 wheeler transport) which would cost us around 100-150 thai baht, and instead go via the quickest and cheapest transport, the ferry which hardly cost ur around 10 thai baht. Not only that the ferry ride is too beautiful. The river side if full of big fishes which is amusing to watch.
Feeding some ferocious fishes in the river
Feeding some ferocious fishes in the river
Imagine yourself in a ferry and any direction you see there is heritage and tradition and the culture of the Bangkok. The ride itself seems like an attraction. One of the local guys helped us identify the ferry with a reddish orange flag as the one that would take us.
Old Bangkok:
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Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha @ Wat Pho
Old Bangkok is mesmerizing with architecture that is intricate and colourful. Old Bangkok is house to most of the famous attractions like, the Grand Palace, the inspiring beauty of Wat Phra Kaew, the traditional learning centres Wat Pho and Wat Mahathat, the latter widely considered one of Thailand’s first universities and a centre for meditation. Sanam Luang, a historic park next to the Grand Palace traditionally used for important Royal or Buddhist ceremonies, and the National Gallery. We deboarded from our ferry at the Grand Palace.
Grand Palace is an epitome of wonderful thai architecture. Its intricate detailed work and maintenance is commendable. It still hosts important ceremonies today. After Grand Palace we headed to Wat Pho.
 Wat Pho or better known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha is a must visit just to witness the magnitude and massiveness of the place. Please be aware that all these places have strict dressing rules, women are required to not wear short or revealing clothes. Although Wat Pho has the arrangement of a robe incase you are not dressed appropriately for the place. But yet it is advised to either carry a cover up change or clothes like we did as advised to us by the receptionist or be dressed in not revealing clothes. You are also required to take off your shoes before entering. What strikes the most about the place is the massiveness of the reclining Buddha. The figure is 15 metres tall, 46 metres long, so huge it would make you wonder how it even got inside the building. The Buddha’s feet are 5 metres long and decorated in mother-of-pearl illustrations of auspicious ‘laksanas’ (characteristics) of the Buddha. 108 is a significant number, referring to the 108 positive actions and symbols that helped lead Buddha to perfection.* The rest if the area too is big enough and worth taking a walk through. There are many English speaking guides but I felt its better to gain knowledge about the place online than waste 200-400 TB unnecessarily.
While these 2 attarctions were on one side of the river, the next place Wat Arun was on the opposite side of the river. We again took the cheapest and quickest way out to the other side of the river by the ferry at 3TB, it opposite to Wat Pho. Make sure to keep Wat Arun at the end of the list since it looks stunning during sun-set when it lights up. When we arrived it was still sunlight. Same dressing rules apply.
Wat Arun: Temple of the Dawn
Wat Arun: Temple of the Dawn

Wat Arun is not only beautiful but adventurous too. The Temple has a unique structure and architecture. As you start climbing up the stairs of the temple the stairs start becoming steeper and steeper, and the stairs gets narrower. It does get scary at the heighest point, we did muster up the courage to climb up but trust me looking down the stairs was pretty scary. There is a railing to hold onto for sure, I would suggest don’t miss the climb. BY the time we got down, it was just about sunset, as we made ourself comfortable on the lawn on the banks on river Chao Phraya, the temple lit up. It was so inspiring as symbolic to us to be present there to watch it light up against the setting sun.

Wat Arun bu the evening..Gorgeous sight!
Wat Arun bu the evening..Gorgeous sight

After we were done soaking in so much tradition and beauty of Thai architecture and culture we knew it was time to enjoy the night-life. Since the ferry services last only till around 7:30 pm we had to make a quick chase to get back to Khao San via ferry, we were lucky to get onto the last ferry. The river ride is even more beautiful at night with the spires of the Thai architecture lit up all around. We go of and headed towards Khao San. Its transforms into a different place at night. Unlike morning it was bustling with energy and tourists of all kinds and places. The energy is infectious that it gets onto you. After an entire evening of walking and climbing we settled down for an obvious foot massage, very easily available at evry 10 minutes distance. Trust me the foot massage acted like an energy bar for me. As it it took away all the exhaustion. We set off to explore almost the entire stretch of Khao San, it has amazing clubs and eatries. We tried the local pad thai noodles and must say it was cooked to perfection.

20141127_201348 You can also find many vendors selling fired crickets, flies, scorpions, cockroach, but incase you are 20141127_201404not a fan of fried insects you can click a picture of them or with them for 5-10 THB. Now that’s business!

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Sea food platter! YUM!
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Street side delicious street side noodles

You can see restaurants, bars, clubs of all sizes, colors and styles, and most of them seem pretty inviting with great continental or local thai cuisine. Indian food is usually expensive there. For shopping I would suggest this is not the best place as its on the more expensive side. Shopping for souviniers is easy though as bargaining is possible. With this we ended our one day in Bangkok, we made the most of it and loved every bit of it.

Stay tuned for our next blog entry on the other side of Bangkok.
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DEFINITELY Goa

Things to DEFINITELY do in GOA in an all girls trip

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Definitely 1.
Buy a bikini.
Goa has all kinds of beaches, few in which you can wear a bikini and few in which you might feel a little out of place. So, skip the afternoons and the overcrowded evenings. Try the early morning beach in a bikini in Baga or Calangute or the more calmer Morjim, feel the cold ocean in a fluorescent bikini. Nothing like the morning sea caressing you. Bliss!
Definitely 2.
Buy your poison..beer cans mostly.. soak yourself in the ocean waist down, sip from your can and celebrate the evening. I bet beer never tastes this good anywhere else.
Try this especially in the evening or at night..when the beaches are lit up with the candles on the shack tables, when the breeze is cool and the shore is not so crowded. Feel the infinity before you under the starry skies.Cheers.
 Definitely 3.
Loads of sunscreen of the highest SPF
You never want to get all tanned and spoil all the pretty pictures do you? Saline water and the sunny beach are a deadly combination for severe tanning. Stay protected.
 Definitely 4.
Dig in to the Goan Seafood.
Goan food, pickles, seafood try them all. Also don’t forget to take note that the second language used in all the menus in most restaurants is Russian 😉
 Definitely 5.
Don’t miss The Banana boat ride.
 Ok it is the funniest ride I have had in a long time, its like a self imposed accident/capsize into the saline water :P. It looks as funny as it feels to be in one.
Definitely 6.
Put on your dancing shoes and head to Club Cubana.
 It has the perfect location on top of a hill, you can see the searchlight beam from afar. The most interesting part, the open jeep ride from the parking to the club..it really gets the energy pumped up, the curvy track uphill is the most adventurous part.
(Gurls, don’t miss the girls night, madness and hot men guaranteed ;))
 Definitely 7.
Climb up the light house to catch the stunning view of Goa from the light tower.
Note: Girls!!! avoid wearing short skirts (the mistake I made). Inevitably while de-boarding the vertical metal stairs you don’t want the long queue of people below getting a glimpse J..So dress smart!
Definitely 8.
Grab a plate of magi cooked in which ever style you want after a hard hitting dance night at Tito’s lane.
The maggi stall is just outside the Titos lane and you can almost find it open at the wee hours J. Just want your would want after a crazy night for your hungry stomach. The best mid night snack.
 Definitely 9.
Drive down to Anjuna beach to watch the sun setting beyond the rocky shore and for the love of all things junk.
Also explore the flee markets of Anjuna in the mysterious looking rocks. Especially in the evenings the small flee shops amidst the rocks lighten up, also check out the several open shops selling glowing accessories and crazy junk jewelleries. Definitely a must have souvenir from Anjuna.
Sunset @Anjuna Beach
Sunset @Anjuna Beach
 Definitely 10.
Rent a jeep or a bike to explore Goa in your own style.
Sure as hell you will get lost..but sure as hell you will have the time of your life trying to figure out the roads. But do be careful as even a minor scratch on the rented vehicle can lead the your paying out heavily to the vehicle owner. So take a ride on your own risk!
Goa definitely has a lot more than just this to offer, this just happens to be my personal list of picks 🙂 We would love to hear yours as well!
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Why travel blogging is fun and useful!

Why travel blogging is fun and useful!

Well, let me be honest, I am a pretty lazy person, having said that I am making it obvious that blogging really wasn’t my first choice or idea, the very idea of blogging meant hours of typing, hours in front of the laptop, lots of editing, posting, reading etc. As characteristic to lazy people I took the easier way out, like sharing my travel experiences on Facebook, Instagram, or rather let’s say social networking websites, or if I really was in the mood, maybe take to TripAdvisor to pen down my experiences, having a full time job in the IT industry and other interests to go with it, made it more so obvious due to lack of time and energy.

 So what made me change my mind??

 No 1. Travel journal

On an average I travel 10-12 times a year, and by travel I mean leisure travelling, not business or work related trips. So having a weak memory, inspite of travelling to a lot of places I would usually not remember a lot of stuffs about my trips. It was infuriating and disappointing at the same time. The obvious answer to this was a travel journal. Very soon I realized that the last time I held a pen in my hand to write something down was 6 years back. So basically my handwriting was too disinteresting for me to find the courage to read the lines ever again. That meant the obvious solution was an online journal. Once I was convinced I would be maintaining a travel journal, why not as well a blog that would also allow me to share my experiences and interact with others like me.

 No 2. Extreme travelers

Frankly, I am sure a lot of you might agree or disagree that the travel blogs usually out there online are by extreme travelers. What do I mean by extreme travelers? The travelers who are usually long term, backpacking travelers or the professional travel bloggers. What I found amiss was the regular next door, working class travel bloggers. I definitely am not surprised though that maybe the other half are too busy to take the time out to write things down, but then somewhere there remains a gap. The criteria’s of travel for a full time salaried person and an out and out professional travelers are very different. For me the travel is more budget, time frame and convenience targeted. So getting to know travel experiences from that perspective is really something I would like to contribute to.

 No 3. Biased posting

Sometimes when I really liked travelling to a place or have a great experience, I have tried posting in open travel review websites like TripAdvisor, etc. but it seems half of my reviews go unposted. I don’t blame them though, I am sure they need to maintain a certain decorum. But by trying to write down posts that seem postable to them maybe I would be compromising on my honest experience sharing indirectly, which definitely I have a problem with. In my own blog I can write honestly, no pleasing or screening.

 No 4. Its Liberating

I never imagined how liberating it could feel to be able to share and express ones thoughts or experiences. What started as a way to keep my travel experiences organized, now has me totally hooked on to it.

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Viator

Caves of Meghalaya

The one most interesting part of India is the North East India. Gorgeous waterfalls, one of its kind world famous One-horned Rhinos, the mighty Brahmaputra with the worlds largest river island called ‘Majuli’.

I found myself in Meghalaya recently on my trip to North East. It is home to Scotland of the East, the mighty Elephant Falls, the highest rainfall receiving place of the planet and a network of caves. Caves have always intrigued me. Mysterious and complicated as they are. Cherrapunji which is also the highest rainfall receiving place on earth houses many exotic caves. Mausmai caves being the oldest and the most mesmerizing caves and the newly opened Arwah Caves. These 2 are the most tourist frequented caves in Cherrapunjee.

I started my journey from Shillong. A taxi to the Cherrapunji caves is easily available from the police bazaar taxi stand in Shillong. A full small car as taxi should cost one around Rs 2000 for round trip. Personally I preferred to go in the monsoon season so that I could enjoy the beauty of the place on Earth receiving the highest rainfall, and Boy! was it raining?! Its was an unforgettable experience, it was raining so hard that rain had the effect of fog like haze out as we looked out of the car window screen. It had been raining non stop for 3 days already. We left early at 6:30 am for our trip to the caves with enough buffer time considering the excessive rain and low visibility. The visibility was as low as 1 feet. It took us a good 3 hours to reach the first cave on our list, the Arwah caves.

Arwah Caves

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The fish which doubles as the tiny source of water falls as well


 

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Basking in the sun on a swing in the middle of the nature walk
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Valley view from the walkway

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The make shift huts have mannequin type villagers stationed to give a human touch to the place. As we entered the cave, cave entry being wide enough, you get the mysterious feeling already. Then a flight of steel staircase took us beyond, which we had to climb down which took us further into the cave. They had water flowing at the floor, and since we went at the monsoon season it was not just water but a strong force of water sweeping our feet, clean and cold. The guide informed us that the water from the caves was drinking water and could be used for the same purpose. The first section is wide and high, it has lights fitted as well, also there is something like an upper deck of caves network as well that can be climbed from this section using staircase installed there. We did climb up into one of those smaller caves, gives you quite an attic like feeling and makes for an adventurous one as well. Once we climbed down the guide helped us further into the caves.


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Monkeying around in the caves

Further was a very narrow and high passage into the caves where there are no lights and only torch light was the source, with water sweeping our feet we reached this large hall like opening. The guide told us the water flowing inside the cave was pure and fit enough for drinking. The guide also showed us fossil print embedded into the walls of the caves. Further inside, the guide pointed towards fresh stalactite formations with shape edges and shiny surface. Its was a thrilling experience. A must visit I must say.

The next one on our list is the Mausmai caves and is one of the oldest caves that was discovered and has been a tourist attraction for a really long time. We reached the location when it was raining tremendously.

The entrance to the cave was only a few flight of stairs and which us inside the cave. The maturity of the caves is prominent as the stalactites & stalagmites have huge formations and some have a glittering effect as well. Although the opening as we entered was not too big.

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Trying hard to not slip!

Then comes the interesting part, where the caves form a very narrow tunnel like passage that took us further. It is highly advised that obese and aged people avoid getting through the passage, as the way into and out of the narrow passage to the other side of the cave is slippery and also needs good balance of feet. One could easily get hurt if not careful. The narrow passage took us further into the cave where there was a pretty big opening but a very small area and then we walked out of the cave. The way out is spooky, the exit took us out to a walking track with dense trees around, and as we made our way out it got dark got pretty creepy as well. It seemed like a scene out of some spooky Hollywood movie I must say 😉 Over all a pretty adventurous place and a again not a place one should miss if visiting Cherapunjee.

The Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya

Last year during one of my trips to Meghalaya, I happened to learn about the Living Root Bridges from one of our taxi drivers, not only did the name find my interest, but the way the taxi driver described it was equally interesting and fascinating.

So once I got back I googled and read a lot about it. The more I read the more I wanted to go visit this mysterious place. So finally after a little bit of planning I took off to this majestic place.

Meghalaya’s double-decker and single-decker root bridges are unique in the world and one of its kind. The bridges are a brilliant examples of bio-engineering. The secondary roots of the Ficus Elastica trees are entangled in such a way, done so by the Khasi people ages ago, that after many years they grow across streams or tiny rivers to form what we now see as the Living Root Bridges. These root take around 15-20 years to grow into bridges strong enough to hold many people together.

Reaching this place:

Well, to begin with this place is not the easiest to reach. Reaching Guwahati is easy, Guwahati is one of the most prominent cities in the  North-East of India, it is well connected by air, rail and bus to all major cities and also some international locations. Once you reach Guwahati, you have the option of either going to Shillong or Cherrapunji directly, we chose to go to Shillong as it is my obvious favorite place to stay. Shillong is the capital city of Meghalaya, the state where the Living Root Bridges are located. From Guwahati airport there are several options of transport. My suggestion, if you are alone or 2-3 people, take the Winger service, its basically a big traveller van, spacious and comfortable for a 3 hour journey. They charge Rs 400 per person for an air conditioned winger service. If you are a larger group, hire a car for Rs 2000. We stopped at Nongpo for tea and snacks, Nongpo again is famous for its various pickles available for sale there, we saw an abundance of pickles of various types, my favorite one was the fish & bamboo pickle. I found the rates at the restaurants not very cheap and the food not very yummy, but it works fine as a stop over. On your way we passed the Bora Pani lake, one of the largest lakes and very beautifully maintained, it is kept really clean as well. It took us a good 3-3.5 hours to reach Police Bazaar in Shillong. After a quick check in into our hotel in Police Bazaar, we took to the streets of Shillong in the evening. Police Bazaar is the main hub in Shillong and one can find several taxis and drivers standing there in the taxi stands. As soon as we approached one of the drivers we had a crowd of drivers ready to bargain. We fixed one taxi at Rs 1500 to take us to and fro from the Living Root Bridges. It was a good bargain since it was monsoon season and off season at this time of the year. Usually one can expect the hired taxis for 4 people to cost Rs 2000 – 2500.

Next day we started our journey to the Living Root Bridges at 8:00 am after breakfast. Since we were travelling in the month of August, we were greeted pleasantly by heavy rainfall and why not so, Meghalaya is after all the land of the rains. The roads were not as bad as we had assumed them to be. Apart from a few landslides on the way which caused no harm to the roads, we also came across several tiny waterfalls formed due to heavy rainfall, after which we reached Sohra. Post Sohra the road gets a little bumpy as we took a right turn which headed towards Tura village. It is not even a proper road, it is basically washed out due to heavy rainfall. In total it took us 3 hours to reach Tura, the village from where the trek to the bridges start.

At the Living Root Bridges:

When we reached, the rains had subsided, you we found a couple of shops at the beginning of the stairs going downwards, selling biscuits, chips and one could also hire a local guide if required for around Rs 500, which might be bargained to Rs 400 for a to and fro trip to the Living Root Bridges and back.

We started our trek with the local guide, who unfortunately only spoke his local language and broken English. The first few flight of stairs are properly cemented, wide stairs. As you further walked ahead the stairs start getting narrower until we reached a flight of twisted stairs taking a plunge downwards providing majestic views of the hills around with multiple natural waterfalls found during monsoon season.

Double Decker Root Bridge
On the way
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On my way downhill
Way to the Bridge

We found the local guide helpful since he voluntarily helped us carry one of our bag packs. And since it was raining non-stop there were no locals around to ask for directions, so we definitely would have got lost since the direction markings were not very proper and lets not even talk about GPS guidance.  After a certain stretch of stairs we reached a rocking hanging wire bridge, with water gushing below it, it was and absolute thrill crossing it I must say.

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Our local guide holding on to one of our backpacks 🙂
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Thats me!
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and a few more..

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Steel Hanging bridges
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Braving the hanging bridges

In total there are 2 hanging steel bridges we had to cross and a series of unpaved natural stairs to reach the magnificent Living Root Bridges. It took was 1.5 hours to reach to the bottom inclusive of considerable time we spent clicking pictures in the hanging bridges and around. We spent a good 2-3 hours there soaking in the surroundings and admiring the intelligence of these ancient people who had mastered the art of using natural resources of engineering.

On our way up we stopped by a local shop selling tea and omelette.  Although funny thing the lady did not know how to make an omelette, so we helped her make one. It took us 2 hours to climb back up the 3000 stairway.

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Small tea shop run by local people
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The local woman making the omelette finally after we taught her how to make it. YAY!

I felt this beautiful piece of bio-engineering was way under hyped and not known to a lot of people even in my own county India. I hope more people take a journey to this beautiful bridges, it is once in a life time experience for sure.

Some more snaps from my trip:

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Serene and quiet amidst nature!
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Our umbrellas taking some rest as the rain stopped
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The Root Bridges from the upper deck
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Never ending stairs
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Tiny Pineapple tree
A local place ‘Serene Homestay’, could be booked for a few nights if one intends to stay here instead of moving back to the city. This place is the only one home stay here and a pretty popular place for tourists to stay as well. Details and phone no. of the place available in the picture

 

 

 

I would recommend staying @ Review: Eee Cee Hotel