July 12, 2020

Mountains are Calling!

It's not just the mountains; even beaches, lakes, roads, forts, islands, waterfalls and wildlife as well are calling every travelling soul out there during these uncertain times. It would take a while before travelling becomes common again, an even when it does post COVID 19, the way we travel is going to be totally different. 

However, until travel sneaks its way back into our life, let's relive our old travels through photographs, videos, experiences, views, adventures and numerous memories that we have collected over the years. Go search your hard discs and phone galleries to run through them for some virtual travels.

Am gazing at the above picture of Kanchenjunga Peak (taken in October 2019 near Darjeeling) today to celebrate the completion of 11 years of Tales of a Nomad.

July 1, 2020

Islands of Kadamakkudy

Kadamakkudy was half awake as we manoeuvered the car through its narrow alleys sandwiched between marshy lands, mangroves, fish farms and endless paddy fields. There was hardly anyone outside at 6:30 in the morning. Google map wasn’t really helpful as I took a few wrong detours to turn up at dead ends with gorgeous views of the backwaters, fishing nets, slanting coconut trees, paddy fields, numerous birds and a few solo fishermen going about their chores. Most of these islands are still not connected by a road or a bridge and we had to take a couple of make shift ferry services. These are a few small boats tied up together and operated with an engine to help people and vehicles hop on from one island to another. It is an interesting experience to float away with your vehicle on the serene backwaters and enjoy the surroundings.

Kadamakkudy in the suburbs of Ernakulam is a cluster of 14 islands- Valiya Kadamakudy , Pizhala, Cheriya Kadamakudy, Murikkal, Palyam Thuruth, Pulikkapuram, Moolampilly, Kothad, Korambadam, Kandanad, Puthussery, Chariyam Thuruth, Chennur and Karikkad Thuruthu. The islands are majorly known for their large cultivation of Pokkali rice and fish farms.

I wouldn’t say there is a list of places to see or explore in Kadamakkudy. Instead, the place is all about soaking in the surrounding, nature and landscape. The breathtaking landscape and the engulfing tranquility would definitely leave anyone gazing in oblivion. This is a great place for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts who love landscapes and avian fauna. There are more than 70 species of birds around these islands.  With beautiful narrow alleys running through the country side, Kadamakkudy islands offer lovely trails for cyclists as well. The islands are known for its sunrises and sunsets, and it is well recommended to visit Kadamakkudy during either of these times.

Travel Tips:
  • There aren’t any good restaurants except for a couple of toddy shops.
  • Visit early in the morning or in the evening. 
  • If you would like to cover multiple islands, it is ideal to come in own vehicle

How to reach Kadamakkudy islands:

Kadamakkudy islands are 18 Kms away from Ernakulam. If travelling by own vehicle, cross over the islands of Bolghatty, Mulavukad and Moolampilly to reach Pizhala, the main island in Kadammakudy. Alternately you can take a bus from Ernakalum to Varappuzha and then take another bus to Kadamkkudy. There are also boat services from Ernakulam, but the frequency and timing needs to be checked prior to the visit.

June 17, 2020

Thumboormuzhi Dam and Butterfly Park

A spate of butterflies welcome as you walk through the large entrance gates of Thumboormuzhi dam and butterfly park. The check dam on Chalakkudy river in Kerala is enroute Athirapilly waterfalls and is a popular attraction on this road that leads further to Malakkapra and Valparai.

Fluttering and colourful under the bright sunlight, visitors can easily spot Buddha Mayoori, Blue Glassy Tiger, Garuda, Striped Tiger and more than hundred other species of butterflies here. It is an absolute eye soother to see them flutter around this park by the banks of Chalakkudy river. 

Further ahead lies and children’s park and then the hanging bridge over Chalakkudy river. The dam was built for irrigation of the farm lands in and around Chalakkudy area. A walk on the hanging bridge offers picturesque vistas of the gushing Chalakkudy river, Thumboormuzhi dam that checks its flow, rocks protruding from the river, hills in the backdrop and surrounding lush greenery. Across the bridge is Ezhattumukham, the other bank of the river, which offers an access to the waters and visitors can take a dip in the same.

While visiting the dam post monsoons is ideal as the river would be at its furious best, the butterfly season is prior to the monssons. Thumboormuzhi is an underrated one day getaway from Kochi and Thrissur which many skip in a hurry to reach Athirapilly waterfalls.

Travel Tips:

  • The dam is open from 9 AM to 5 PM
  • There are entry charges of INR 15 per person
  • There are a few shops that sell short eats and snacks on Ezhattumukham bank.

How to reach Thumboormuzhi Dam:

Thumboormuzhi dam is 45 Kms from Thrissur and 60 Kms from Ernakulam (Cochin). The dam lies on the Athirappilly road, and the nearest main town is Chalakkudy, 17 Kms away. There aren’t frequent public transportation services to Thumboormuzhi, and it is recommended to visit in your private vehicle.

May 18, 2020

How travel is going to change post the COVID-19?

Since most of us entered into lockdown in March , the world as we know it has changed drastically. After we emerge from the lockdown not everything will go back to the way it was - especially travel. Every aspect of travelling will need social distancing in it – from where you can travel to how you can sit on a plane. So how can we travel responsibly post the COVID-19 phase?
1. Start with travelling closer to home - Most countries would be coming out of lockdown at different points of time. They would also be having restrictions on letting in outsiders.  It is better to plan your first vacation within the country or somewhere closer to your country. Choose a good getaway within your country. You will have hands-on information about the situation in your own country rather than a foreign place.
2. Choose your accommodation with someone you trust - To maintain cleanliness, it is best to choose an accommodation with someone you trust or with a well-known brand. Do not opt for cheap hotels, which are not known for their cleanliness. Read reviews and research well about your hotels before booking them. Avoid overcrowded hostels where it would be difficult to maintain social distancing. The lesser you interact with people, the better; at least until we are fully unlocked from the grips of COVID-19.
3. Health certificate could be made mandatory - Most states and countries would also ask you to submit health certificates before you enter. This could become a norm until the Corona virus has been completely eradicated. It will always be best to have health certificates ready in hand when you first start travelling post COVID-19.
4. Buy an international travel insurance policy - Travel insurance policy will be of use now more than ever. If in the worst-case scenario you have to undergo any medical emergencies, having an international travel insurance will cover for the expenses. There are also higher chances of flights being cancelled or delayed. Travel insurance will cover those expenses too.
5. Avoid public transport - This might come as a blow to budget travellers, but avoiding public transports is the best precaution you can take right now. Overcrowded public transportation could be hotspots for virus infections. They could also be unsanitary. Even if you are opting for metros or buses, ensure you maintain proper social distancing norms.
6.  Opt for private transportation modes - Choose private vehicles like cars to get around your destination. You must know how to get an international driving license in India before you plan your trip in a private vehicle abroad. You can also opt for a trustable personal taxi service.
7. Plan road-trips - Road trips could be the best form of travel post COVID-19. Destinations to which we can drive-in will be the safest and affordable choice. You will have better control over the itinerary this way.
8. Staycations to ensure social distancing - Staycations are when you stay at a place nearby your home rather than travelling abroad. You can plan on a resort getaway or plan on a leisure activity time with your family at a place. This will reduce the number of people you meet. It will also be less expensive and more sustainable.
9. Travel maintaining social distancing and by wearing a mask - It is always best to ensure we follow the practice of maintaining social distancing and of wearing a mask even after we come out of lockdown. Ease on restrictions doesn’t necessarily mean that the virus would also be easy on us. Take the necessary precautions while you travel.
10. Last but not least, maintain hygiene and wash your hands often - COVID-19 has instilled in us a very good hygiene practice – washing your hands often and maintaining proper hygiene. It is best to keep following this practice even after corona virus has been eradicated.

P.S.: The author of this article is Arya T.N.

May 12, 2020

Win every new challenge on Royal Enfield Himalayan BS6

As I sat scrolling through my old travel photographs it reminded that I haven’t travelled nor gone for a long ride in a while. Road is my favourite home and in the last couple of months I have terribly missed the deserted roads, meeting smiling strangers, breaks at nonchalant tea stalls and gazing at endless landscapes. The eudemonia that I feel while am on the road can never been explained in words. And I am sure many of us can relate to that.

The last three years were filled with travels winding my way through various destinations. From a 78 day long ride across Himachal, Ladakh, Kashmir and Uttarakhand to the ride across the temples of Tamil Nadu to covering the palaces and forts of Rajasthan to the rides across secluded beaches of Maharashtra to staying with the local tribes in Arunachal to exploring the art and architecture of Italy to diving in the blue waters of Maldives, my travels have been a concoction of memorable rides and unforgettable destinations and breathtaking experiences, which have all been nostalgic.

With a full-time job and the present lockdown situation that the world is facing, travel seems too farfetched for the next few months. Staying indoors without travels is definitely a challenge but virtual tours are one way to relive memories and keep the travel spirits high. Reading travel book,travelogues and blogs, watching travel videos and movies, and researching on new destinations are some of the ways the traveller in me has been readying himself for the future travel days.

During this search for travelogues and videos I happened to stumble upon a video on YouTube which I could resonate with so much. Everyone goes through difficult times and searches for that perfect dose of motivation that keeps life going. For some it comes in the form of riding their Royal Enfield. It is the therapy that gives them clarity of vision to move ahead. I instantly wanted a test ride to feel the magic. Himalayan BS6 has been launched recently and while checking it out at a showroom near you may not be possible, remember I was talking about virtual tours?

How about we indulge in one? Go on, take the tour, I’ll wait a minute.

I am impressed by the new additions in Himalayan BS6 with more focus on rider safety as hazard light feature has been introduced. There has also been a change to EFI in BS6 from Carburetor in BS4 with no drop in performance at higher altitudes.The most important change is that BS6 engine has become more environment friendly with more of ethanol in fuel. The new riding experience is going to be out of this world.

But the challenge that I am facing at present as a traveller is that I cannot travel frequently, but I am being patient enough and hope to travel for long in the near future. What excites me right now is the anticipation of being on the road on the new improved Royal Enfield Himalayan BS6 that makes all the waiting worthwhile. The lockdown may feel like a challenge right now but it’s going to end soon with me back to the road!

P.S.: This post is in collaboration with Royal Enfield

April 28, 2020

Gudibande Fort- A Quick Getaway from Bengaluru

It was Byresagara lake that showed up first as we manoeuvered our way along the narrow village road. The lake was placid, had a few storks, rising mist and a lone fisherman, which made the frame absolutely breathtaking. The towering Gudibande fort atop the hillock loomed in front of us as we drove towards the village that was waking up. It was a race between the sun and us the moment we drove out of Bengaluru in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. By the time we took a detour on to the village road, the sun was had already spread its hues over the horizon.

Gudibande fort located in Chikballapur district, north of Bengaluru was built in the 17th century by a local chieftain Byre Gowda. Byrasagara lake at the base too was built by him, who was considered a robin hood by the locals as he often robbed the rich and helped the poor. The fort is considered to be built as a replica of Madhugiri fort.

It is an easy climb all the way with a line of steps initially which turns into narrow rock chiseled pathways as you go higher. The hillock is strewn with boulders and some look precariously placed with a pathway beneath. The views from the vantage points enroute are an absolute delight with panoramic vistas of the surrounding areas. The rock cut slabs which act as steps at many places make sure that the climb is adventurous as well. A large part of the climb is a gradual ascent, with some short steep stretches.

The fort has seven levels with fortifications, ruined structures, small shrines, entrance gates with carvings, many bastions, and a rocky terrain throughout. Most of the structures are in a dilapidated state with overgrown bushes. The fort also has a few escape routes and rainwater harvesting ponds that you cross on the way up. Dodging past the large boulders, once you reach the top, the views are spectacular. Distant boulder strewn hillocks, miniature houses, Byrasagara lake and the barren brown landscape are an eye soother. Atop the hillock, there is a temple dedicated to Shiva. Though the temple isn’t attractive enough, carvings on the lamp post in the front are intricate and beautiful.

It is quite windy at the top and be prepared to face it once you reach the summit. Start as early as possible to avoid the harsh sun. While the climb took us less than an hour with multiple stops, we reached the base in half an hour. Gudibande fort is an ideal place for people who are new to treks and those who love landscape photography. It is still not so popular on the tourist’s map, and that’s another reason to visit this fort.

Travel Tips:
  • Start the trek before 7 AM
  •  There are no shops at the top or at the base
  • There is space to park vehicles at the base

How to Reach Gudibande fort:

Gudibande is 95 kms from Bengaluru. Take NH 44 and take a left at Perasandra to reach Gudibande fort.

March 18, 2020

Taj Samudra - Sri Lanka's Stunning Waterfront Hotel

Image credit: Taj Samudra

Sri Lanka, the island nation, is a mesmerizing mix of beaches, valleys, mountains, and forests. This compact destination has a wide array of cultures and unexplored hamlets ready to be explored. Quite hard to resist, Sri Lanka has been a favourite destination for couples for a while now. Romantic walks on the beach, adrenaline-pumping hikes in the mountains, discover ancient temples; there is something for every kind of couple. Here we share a list of things to do in Sri Lanka along with accommodation options that can come handy for your next vacation.

Things to Do in Sri Lanka

Walk on the beach

It is never too late to go on a romantic walk on the Turtle or the Hikkaduwa beach. Let the waves touch your bare feet with their mellow sounds.

Candlelight dinners at the beach

Sri Lanka is popular for its sunset views on the beach. Candlelight dinners on a beach is the most romantic evening you can gift to your better half.

Go on a Wildlife Safari

Wildlife Safari Sri Lanka is a haven for wildlife lovers. As the country has a diverse landscape, one can go on a wildlife safari and spot animals and birds such as Elephants, Leopards, Sri Lankan Jungle fowl, Grey Hornbill, Sambar Deer, Spotted Deer and many more.

Go on a Scenic train Ride

A scenic train ride with the views of the fantastic vistas of tea plantations, mountaintops and valley, will undoubtedly be the highlight of your trip.

Where to Stay in Sri Lanka?

Taj Samudra: The Jewel of Sri Lanka

Since you will spend quite a few days soaking in all that Sri Lanka has to offer, your stay at Taj Samudra will add on to the experience. Taj Samudra is hands down the best waterfront hotel in Sri Lanka. This luxury hotel inColombo is located at Sri Lanka’s historic Galle Face Green. It gives one of the most mesmerising views of the Indian Ocean and the enchanting city of Colombo. This Colombo beach resort is located in the business hub and is only a short walk away from the city centre. It is located at 21 miles from the airport.

Your stay at this 5 star hotel in Colombo is filled with exemplary comforts and luxury.

Rooms & Suites

Taj Samudra, the exotic hotel houses 300 rooms and suites. These are nestled in 11 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. All the rooms have enhanced comforts and stylish design elements. The rooms also give a panoramic view of the sea line. The rooms are divided as Deluxe, Luxury and Taj Club rooms. Taj Club rooms come with a host of extra benefits such as separate check-in, free access to Taj Club Lounge, complimentary hot breakfast, etc. The suites are divided into Executive, Deluxe, Luxury, Grand Luxury, and Tata Suite. The suites come equipped with wooden flooring, pantry area, balcony, living area, and heightened comforts. The rooms and suites in Taj are apt for a romantic rendezvous on the days you just want to laze out under the sun, with the views of the sea.

Image credit: Taj Samudra

Dining Experience

Taj Samudra offers a variety of dining experiences from traditional to contemporary. Latitude is an all-day diner serving global cuisines. Steak and Grill House serves the finest gourmet food that one can complement with an exquisite wine. Golden Dragon serves a wide selection of Sichuan cuisines. Navratna serves authentic Indian delights. For Japanese exquisites such as Sushi, Sashimi, Teppanyaki and flared cocktails, YUMI is the place to be. For those who have a sweet tooth can head to Pebbles for relishing a dessert. The multi-cuisine restaurants are the ideal options for honeymooners to enjoy a delicious meal in a relaxing ambience.

Image credit: Taj Samudra

Taj Samudra, the best hotel in Colombo, is the best bet for couples who want to have a rich taste of Sri Lankan hospitality. Make your honeymoon memorable with your stay at Taj Samudra.

P.S.: This is a collaborative post.

March 11, 2020

Lone Fisherman

A lone fisherman going about his daily routine early in the morning at Byrasagara lake, near Gudibande fort in Karnataka. March 2020.

February 27, 2020

Mandaragiri- Tucked Away from Tourist Map

A nondescript detour off the Bengaluru- Tumkur highway led to a narrow road with intermittent tarmac that meandered its way past open lands and a few scattered houses.  In a few minutes I was at the base of Basadi Betta, a popular hillock which is also known as Manadargiri.

A few meters before Mandaragiri hill, stands the tall statue of Thirthankara, welcoming people to his land.  A popular Jain shrine, Manadaragiri has caught the attention of travellers with the beautiful Guru Mandir which is in the shape of an inverted Pinchi (a peacock feather fan) next to the statue of Thirthankara. This 81 feet tall structure with its hues and the art works which made a pretty frame took my attention away from the statue of Thirthankara. Guru mandir was built in memory of a Jain saint, and the inner walls have stories and paintings from Jainism.

Manadagriri which is also known as Basadi Betta is a hillock with a few Jain shrines atop it built between 12th and 14th century. More than 400 steps lead to the top of Mandaragiri. It was a quick climb and I scaled it in less than half an hour. Though not spectacular, the aerial views of the surrounding areas were a delight as I walked up. To the left of the temple is a pond with boulder strewn hills all around. However, the view behind was a stunner with the blue Mydala kere lake slowly revealing itself and gleaming against the brown backdrop. There is a narrow trail that leads down from the hillock to the waterbody. Strolled around for a while and headed back as the sun got harsher.

Mandaragiri is a nice short getaway from Bengaluru and remains not so popular on the tourist map.

Travel Tips:

1. Mandaragiri is 65 Kms from Bengaluru. It is ideal to travel in your own vehicle.
2. There are no restaurants nearby, so do carry water and energizers.
3. It is highly recommended to visit early in the morning to avoid the harsh sun.
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