April 4, 2022

March 21, 2022

Illithode: A Secluded Getaway!


It got greener, denser and darker as I drove through the winding road to Illithode, an eco-tourism site along the banks of River Periyar, near Malayattoor in Ernakulam. I was reminded of Paniyeli Poru from the photos I found, and the diverging road that led me to the place.


Bordering forest reserves, the Mahagony Thottam here is resplendent with innumerable Mahagony trees intimidatingly staring down at you. A short trail meandering through the tall trees with bird calls in the distance made it a delightful walk from the information counter. Swirling branches, the sunlight filtering through the canopy, fallen tree trunks and the rustling foliage made it seem like I was deep inside a forest. The wind swishing once in a while, and the chattering of the monkeys made it all the more engrossing, until the break of a laughter among a few visitors behind brought me back to the moment. 



Strolling further, while dodging past the trees, I could hear the gurgling of waters as we neared a clearing. Soon, I was staring at the Periyar, flowing relentlessly, and the water glittering like precious stones. Despite the sun blazing away, I waded into the cool shallow waters, placing my feet with caution over pebbles, some of which were round and smooth, while a few not so much. While the waters at Paniyeli Poru are gushing, and with dips, under currents and whirlpools, it is much calmer here, and you can into the waters, which are mostly knee high. Making myself comfortable on a protruding rock, I gazed at the flowing waters, greenery along the opposite bank, and pebbles, which were so visible through the waters. The water was so pure and clear that the pebbles seemed like they were right on the surface, and not a foot below. I sat there for a while in the midst of the peaceful surroundings, watching in oblivion the Periyar flowing away.


Illithode is a great place to connect with nature, to play in the clear waters, or sit idle under the shade of trees, watching nature in all its glory.

How to reach Illithode: 

The closest city is Cochin, which is 60 km away from Illithode via Aluva and Malayatoor. Cochin is well connected to other cities across India by trains and flights. It’s ideal to take your vehicle or a private cab to get to here.

March 14, 2022

How to Visit Manali on a Budget

Manali is one of the best and most alluring holiday destinations in India, and one does not have to take so many leaves to visit this little hill station located in Himachal Pradesh. The things that make Manali mesmerizing and breath-taking are too many, with some of them being the great weather, mountains covered with lush green forests, and amazing sight-seeing options. While you are there you can experience the best recreational and adventurous activities that will make your trip worth it. So, if you are bored and do not have any plans for the summer, pack your bags and visit this beautiful place. Below are some points that will help you to plan the entire trip on a budget.

Book the tickets in advance

The best and first thing you have to do if you are planning a trip to Manali is to book the tickets in advance. Since it is a popular hill station, and most travelers plan their vacation to visit there, it is highly likely that you might not get tickets for the required dates. Also, if you book your tickets in advance, there are high chances that you will get them at a cheaper price. If you are traveling from Delhi then you are in for some luck, as you can catch the bus from the Kashmiri Gate bus stand, and it would take you about 12 hours to reach Manali. The fare is approx. Rs.1000, which is nominal.

Book the hotel rooms in advance

Once you have decided your dates, make sure to book the hotel rooms as well, especially if you are traveling during the peak season. During this period most hotels charge double the rate than they usually do. So, if you are a little tight on budget, or do not wish to spend a lot on the trip, ensure to make your stay arrangements as well in advance. You can book the rooms in advance with affordable price from Makemytrip, Cleartrip, Agoda and more. To avail the extra discount use coupon code. Try to book a hotel room near Mall Road since the hotels there are comparatively cheaper and more affordable.

Rent a bike or a scooty

When it comes to visiting the local adventures, an ideal way to save money is to rent a bike or a scooty for commutation. There are several places that you can visit on a bike, which includes Vasisth Temple, Solang Valley, Naggar, Jana Waterfalls, and many more. All of them can be reached on a two-wheeler.

Skip the big restaurants

The best part about Manali is you will get ample eating options along the roads. So, if you don’t want to spend a lot, skip the restaurant at least for a day. This will save you a lot of money and you will get to taste the local dishes as well. The place has so many street food options including Bombay Bhelpuri, Samosas, Sidu and Babru among others.

Take every essential thing that you may require

It is an obvious fact that when you visit Manali, you will go there with the thought of having some adventure. However, do not forget to carry all the necessary things required for the same with you, as everything there will be expensive since it is a touristy place. So, if you don’t want to spend unnecessarily, pack a little more. Also, take a few packets of wafers and snacks to keep yourself satiated.

Rohtang Pass

Rohtang Pass is one of the major attractions of Manali, and if you are planning a trip here, make sure you plan to add this to your itinerary as well. However, Rohtang Pass cannot be visited throughout the year; it opens from May end to October third week, which also depends on weather conditions. So, if you have to go there, make sure to book the cabs in advance since last-minute bookings can cost you a lot. So, to avoid any type of inconvenience, make sure to do all the books before your departure date.

The above tips can save you money while you are exploring Manali. Being on a vacation does not mean that you have to spend a fortune. You can easily plan a trip on a budget, especially to a place like Manali.

 

P.S. This is a collaborative post.

February 28, 2022

Coddiwomple!

 


Like the goats here, sometimes the traveler in me needs a bit of guidance. Else, I always prefer to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination! As the saying goes, isn't traveling also about the journey, as much as it is about the destination?

January 31, 2022

Gaze in Oblivion!

Myriad shades of green blanketed over obscure and undulating mounds, with fog intermittently draping the setting, and the road making its presence felt by snaking through, makes this view from Thamarassery Churam, one of my all time favourite landscape frames.

December 15, 2021

Nallur Fort: Ruins Amidst a Biodiversity Heritage Site

It’s not tough to find this secluded place, but blink your eyes and you are sure to miss it. Nestled close to the Bangalore International Airport, Nallur Tamarind Grove was declared a biodiversity heritage site in 2007.

The lone guide here says that this 50-acre site is home to a few hundred tamarind trees, some of which are more than 300 years old. There are claims that the trees here were initially planted by the Chola kings, during the 12th or 13th centuries. The oldest tree is more than 400 years old, which was interesting due to the fact that the tamarind trees usually do not live for more than 200 years.


As much as I was amused listening to the stories about the trees, I kept looking for a fort, or ruins of one, as the name Nallur Fort suggested. There were no traces of a fort here except for a dilapidated Chennakeshava temple, with a few broken pillars scattered around, with no roof, and walls that had caved in. This is all that remains of Nallur Fort, which as per historians and locals was built during the 14th century, by a local chieftain. While there are stories that might pique the history lover, there are no proper records suggesting when and who built this temple.



A closer look revealed beautiful carvings and friezes on its remaining walls, which had withstood the time. The detailing, carvings and architecture has resemblances of Vijayanagara style. The motifs though visible, have faded over the years, but still kept me captivated. A lone sculpture of a headless goddess greeted me as I stepped in. The insides of the temple had overgrown bushes, creepers, lantanas, and more scattered remains of what were once magnificent works of sculptors. Surprisingly, I find ruins and dilapidated structures more intriguing than the ones that have remained mostly intact. They probably have more stories to tell than the rest. How this temple survived, despite everything else related to the fort having disappeared over the years makes it quite an enigma.

Vandalized or destroyed during the rule of the kings; the sculptures, carvings and ruins of this temple shrouded by tamarind trees remains totally disregarded, and needs immediate attention. As much as we need nature, the world needs art too, in its various forms. Unless the authorities act, the next time you are here, all that remains would probably be only the tamarind trees, which is sure to leave you with a sour taste.

How to reach: Nallur Fort or Nallur Kote is near Gangamma Temple, and is 45 km away from Bangalore.

November 19, 2021

Top 5 things to do on your visit to Dubai Expo 2020

Even though the pandemic has spoiled the travel plans of many, Expo 2020 Dubai has not failed the hopes of travel enthusiasts by allowing them to travel around the world without any hindrance. Are you already wondering ‘how’?

Expo 2020 Dubai is an event where 192 countries from across the world are participating to share their innovative ideas for a better world through sustainability, mobility and opportunity, which are the themes of this mega-event. This expo is aimed at inspiring and triggering curiosities and ideas for the upcoming generations. After a long wait, the ban on international travel was lifted by UAE, which led to the sudden increase in applications for Dubai visa as travellers were waiting to visit the city of gold.

Top things to do at Dubai Expo 2020

Here are the top five things to do on your visit to Expo 2020 Dubai

·    Experience future of food at the Epochal Banquet

Although you will be able to enjoy a wide range of tastes at Expo 2020's food court, why not experience the future of dining through Bompas & Parr's immersive multi-sensory studio, at the Epochal Banquet. It's a two-hour long culinary experience that arouses your senses with AI feats from the future. It is also influenced by microbiology, space, artificial intelligence and hyper-intelligence.

·    Visit the SpaceX rocket at the Expo

Do you really think you can navigate all of the 1080 acres on foot? Hitch an electric bicycle that will help you explore a lot more than what you can on foot. In the USA pavilion, you will be able to see a real Space-X Falcon rocket, and the atmosphere doesn't feel anything less than a space lab in the expo. Also, you can spot genuine Moon rocks and the US Mars Rover at the space lab.

·    The future of service stations inspired by UAE’s national tree

The national tree of UAE is Ghaf, which is also symbolised as an epitome of resilience because of the region’s harsh climatic conditions. This futuristic service station has been designed on the exoskeleton of the body of the Ghaf tree. Moreover, it’s entirely solar-powered plus its canopy is made of carbon fibre too.

·    The glorious Al-Wasl Plaza

The first thing that will catch your attention once you enter the expo is the glorious Al-Wasl Plaza. It's a majestic cathedral of projection lights, 3D sounds, and other attractions to offer you a mind-blowing experience. If you feel like taking a break, just have a seat there and experience the grand theatre of light work that you will remember forever.

·    Interact with the on-ground robot-pals

Another exciting activity that one can indulge in is interacting with on-ground robots that can be seen walking around the place who can talk and respond to you. It is certainly exciting for the kids, and you can take photos with them easily.

In addition to these activities, there are many more things to do at this Expo 2020 Dubai. Make sure to choose the best Dubai packages while making your holiday plans because you wouldn’t want to miss a single thing when it comes to travelling in the city of gold.


P.S.: This is a collaborative post.

November 17, 2021

Rural Frames from T.G.Halli Reservoir

At a time when we are slowly going back to travelling our backyards, my visit to Thippagondanahalli Reservoir threw up a surprise. The gates were closed and access to the dam was denied, but further search on the maps led me to a different route through a village to the reservoir. It proved once again that maps aren't totally trustworthy, as the road turned into a mud trail and came to an abrupt end without a cue. However, it was serendipity, as the trail led to lush green pastures and sprawling farmlands where farmers and bullocks toiled away. Beyond the farmlands I could see glimpses of the blue waters of the reservoir with the intimidating Savanadurga Hill in the backdrop. Absolutely picturesque frames on offer!  



Sometimes a wrong route takes you to the right destination!

Travel Information:

Thippagondanahalli Reservoir is 46 km away from Bangalore.

Built over River Arkavathi, this is one of the largest reservoirs near Bangalore.

October 3, 2021

Jodhpur: Places to Visit in the Blue City

Ashok and I rode through the narrow gully that meandered its way past houses and shrines, which seemed like an endless path, until it came to an abrupt end. Parking our bike, we headed up a staircase to the rooftop of one of the numerous blue structures that cluttered the place. From the rooftop we hopped on to the neighbouring hillock. We were in race to witness the setting sun from the sunset viewpoint with a sea of blue houses in the foreground. Luckily, we were just in the nick of time to see one of the prettiest frames in Jodhpur, and that was a great start to my exploration of the Blue City.

The city get its nickname, ‘Blue City of India’ due to the numerous houses painted with a mix of indigo and limestone, which gives it a sky-blue colour. My local guide, Ashok mentioned that the houses painted in sky blue colour belong to the Brahmin community. It’s probably a way to discern their houses from the rest. Another story reveals that this was done to keep termites away, which had encroached these houses.

However, much before the city got its tagline, Jodhpur was the capital of the Marwar kingdom, which ruled a large part of present day Rajasthan from 13th century A.D. until early 19th century A.D. From the Delhi Sultanate to the Marathas to the Mughals, the Rathore Kings of Marwar fought off multiple attacks, sometimes losing out and becoming a vassal, while at other times, winning and getting back the power. The first capital of the Marwar dynasty was Mandore, and later in the mid 15th century, it was shifted to Jodhpur, by the king, Rao Jodha, after whom the city is named.

While its rich history and stories will leave you captivated, the city has quite a few interesting places to visit, which will take you through some of its bygone glorious days.


Mehrangarh Fort








Standing tall and intimidating over a hillock, Mehrangarh Fort left me gaping at it for long from a distance. This is one of the magnificent forts in Rajasthan known for its spectacular artworks displaying the culture and heritage of Marwar Kingdom. Built in mid 15th century by Rao Jodha, and renovated by the later rulers of Marwar, there are seven entrance gates that you need to pass through to get to the insides of the fort. The canon ball marks on the fort walls talks about the numerous wars the fort had witnessed. The fort houses numerous galleries that display various items that were once used by the royal family, which includes palanquins, armoury, elephant howdahs, paintings, costumes and turbans. The numerous palaces with innumerable windows, extensive artworks, spectacular glassworks and intricate carvings on its exteriors display magnificent craftsmanship. Some of the palaces here are Sheesh Mahal, Phool Mahal, Jhanki Mahal, Moti Mahal and Zenana Mahal. The views of the fort walls and the city of Jodhpur from these palaces are absolutely captivating.


Jaswant Thada


A short walk away from the fort, Jaswant Thada, a gleaming marble structure is a cenotaph built in memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh, one of the Rathore Kings, who ruled in the late 19th century. The magnificent structure is adorned with wonderful carvings, pillars, windows and arches, which are absolutely eye-catchy.


Mandore Gardens




Mandore, which was earlier known as Mandavyapura, was the first capital of the Mawar Kings, until they made Jodhpur their capital later in the 15th century. Don’t get beguiled by the sprawling lush greenery, pathways and the name of this place. What these gardens house are spectacular cenotaphs built in red sand stone with stunning architecture and intricate carvings. Rising tall among the greenery around, the cenotaphs dedicated to all the major kings of Marwar can be found here. Historical facts take a backseat here, as the cenotaphs, which almost resemble a temple have spellbinding art works on the pillars and the ceilings. Further ahead, atop a hillock in the backdrop, are the ruins of a fort and remnants of the old capital.


Kaylana Lake

A placid lake flanked by hills on either side, Kaylana lake is an ideal break from the innumerable structures, architecture and sculptures, that Jodhpur is known for. While, there isn’t much one can do here, gazing at this landscape after a long day of exploration, will be an ideal way to end your day.


Toorji Ka Jhalra

A stepped well built in the mid 18th century; Toorji Ka Jhalra was built by the then king, Abhay Singh for his queen, Tanvarji. The well during those days was maintained by women, who also controlled the water management system across this town. There are more than a hundred such step wells across Jodhpur, but the 200-foot deep Toorji Ka Jhalra is the most popular one. Though the carvings on the steps have faded over the years, the well was once adorned with numerous artworks, which included intricate carvings, water spouts and much more.   


Sunset Viewpoint, Pachetiya Hill

An ideal way to end a day in Jodhpur is by enjoying a sunset atop Pachetiya Hill. Narrow gullies that meander its way past the blue houses lead you to the top of this hillock, which also offers a magnificent aerial view of the city of Jodhpur. The setting sun splashing myriad colours across the sky with houses in various shades of blue in the foreground is a spectacular sight. All that you would want to do is gaze in oblivion as the sun slowly goes down the horizon.


Jalandhar Nathji Ka Mandir

This might a tough one to locate as it is tucked away inside a school premises in one of the nondescript lanes of the city, and it remains shut while the school is not functional. Set inside a large courtyard, this temple is adorned with numerous pillars, which are decked with intricate carvings and motifs. The artwork across the base of the platform have partly eroded and dilapidated. 


Masuriya Hill

This hillock has a statue of Durga Das Rathod atop a horse, surrounded by a garden. However, what bring people here are the panoramic views of Jodhpur city and the spectacular sunsets. This is an ideal place to spend a serene evening away from the crowds, and to enjoy a beautiful sunset.


Sadar Bazaar     

Sadar Bazaar might well be a crowded shopping area with numerous shops selling a wide range of things. However, a major point of attraction here is the clock tower that intimidates the surrounding shops, and displays influences of colonial architecture.  


How to reach Jodhpur:

Jodhpur is well connected to other cities in the country by flights and trains. The closest major international airport is in Jaipur, 370 km away.

Food and Accommodation:

Being a popular tourist destination, Jodhpur has a wide range of resorts, hotels and hostels to choose from. I stayed at Hostel Raahi, which is well recommended. The city also has numerous restaurants, which serve authentic Rajasthani cuisine.

 

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