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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sand Dune Mountains

There are always times when we come across weird things in the weirdest of places. And some of these weird things can form some of the most interesting experiences of your travels. If you happen to be in Ladakh, such interesting experiences are bound to be ubiquitous. Ladakh’s magnetic hill is such a well known natural wonder. But, have you ever heard of a mountain that is made of sand dunes?

The Sand dune mountains of Lamayuru
These interesting formations, such mountains can be seen in and around the town of Lamayuru in the Western Himalayas of Ladakh. They are quite a sight. But, if you next to these sand dunes and try jumping on it, you will find out that these sand dunes are in fact as hard as the mountain and very unlike the sand dunes that we see in the deserts. And this is in spite the fact that they look very much the same.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Why you must visit Washington DC

Washington D.C. is a cosmopolitan and eclectic city where visitors encounter stately monuments scattered amid swinging nightspots that feature every kind of music from blues to rock and roll. This is the kind of city where people stroll through the National Gallery of Art by day and spend their evening dancing at the Eighteenth Street Lounge on Dupont Circle. Washington is as elegant as the cultured traveler could desire and as vibrant as hip urban partiers could wish. In a unique city filled with fascinating experiences, it’s possible to fall in love and gain a whole new perspective on the changing landscape of American culture.

Washington is a city known for monuments, and no trip here could be complete without visits to a handful of the renowned landmarks. The Lincoln Memorial offers an atmosphere of awe while a trip to the top of the Washington Monument provides a sweeping view of the mall and an opportunity for some unforgettable photographs. Guided tours of the White House and Capitol are available and no one should pass up a trip to experience these landmarks firsthand. For an especially spectacular experience, consider seeing these monuments by moonlight. After the sun goes down and the artificial illumination comes on, these edifices are cloaked in romance and majesty. View it all best from a Potomac Riverboat cruise.

Anyone visiting the capital on the weekend should make a point of visiting the Eastern Market. This Capitol Hill staple has been in operation for more than 100 years. It’s the place to find fresh produce and baked goods or to barter for flea market bargains. The Market Lunch Counter boasts to-die-for blueberry pancakes that the locals swear by. This is an excellent opportunity to experience a slice of authentic color. Georgetown is probably the best place to find eclectic shopping. People spend hours browsing through antique stores alongside designer clothing and one-of-a-kind boutiques.

As a center of government and tourism, Washington offers a stunning array of accommodation options. Foremost among these is the collection of Doyle hotels in Washington. The chic, upscale and luxurious property known as The Dupont Circle Hotel provides unparalleled service combined with excellent location. For a superior experience, reserve a room at Level Nine where guests enjoy only the best service and amenities. With comfort and elegance to spare, The Dupont Circle Hotel is the last word in Washington luxury accommodations.

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Planning your Boston Adventure

Boston is a city where colonial charm echoes amongst modern high rises. Its charming streets are filled with historic landmarks, renowned cultural attractions and a wealth of fine shops, cafes, restaurants and nightlife establishments. Planning your Boston adventure takes time and plenty of research on the city. For those who are well prepared, Boston is one of the most fascinating and unique cities in the United States.

Before visiting Boston, be sure to conduct proper research online. Try to familiarize yourself with the city’s culture, climate, history and demographics. When booking your hotel, make a point to shop around online for the best deals. Doyle hotels in Boston are an affordable and practical option for many visitors while the Back Bay hotel offers convenient access to the fine shops of Newbury Street and the Charles River. There are a wide range of hotels in the city suitable for every budget and personal taste. Lastly, be sure to carry a map with you during your visit and to dress appropriately, as the city’s weather is notoriously in flux.

Once you’ve done enough research and planning for your Boston adventure, it’s time to get out and see what the city has to offer. Boston boasts the largest collection of colonial and Early American landmarks in the United States. A great place to start your adventure is the Freedom trail, a walking tour of 16 of the city’s most renowned historical sites. A must-do activity for visitors, the Freedom Trail takes adventurers to sites of interest like Boston Common, Paul Revere’s House, the Massachusetts State House, the USS Constitution and much more. The city’s premier attraction, the Freedom Trail is both fun and fascinating.

Elsewhere in Boston, visitors will find a plethora of museums, theaters, historic landmarks and other sites of interest. The sprawling New England Aquarium is one of the city’s top attractions, home to a vast array of marine life to see. Boston also plays host to historic and architecturally stunning neighborhoods worth visiting such as Back Bay, Beacon Hill and Chinatown. In addition, the city holds many world-class museums and cultural institutions like the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science and the Massachusetts Historical Society. Other top landmarks and attractions in Boston include Fenway Park, the Arnold Arboretum and the Boston Public Garden.

Boston is home to a wealth of shops, restaurants and nightlife spots too. Fanieul Hall and Quincy Market are home to a wide array of great restaurants and stores while Downtown Crossing is Downtown Boston’s retail epicenter. The city is also renowned for its fresh seafood and vibrant nightlife, especially in the Allston/Brighton neighborhood.

With so much to see and do, your Boston adventure is sure to be fun and memorable.

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Enchanting Edinburgh Awaits!

It has never been easier or more affordable to travel from Manchester or London to grand old Edinburgh. A city that blends the best of both old and new. A gorgeous mix of medieval buildings in the Old Town combines with the slightly more modern and majestic Georgian architecture in the New Town. Edinburgh is the thriving pulse of the arts and culture scene, formerly known as the Athens of the North, the city has a wonderful array of activities and festivals all year round.

In the Old Town, discover a wonderful array of medieval relics. Visit the Abbey and Palace at Holyrood House. This is one of the Queen's official residences and holds the Royal Collection of Art. This site was also where Mary Queen of Scots lived during her reign.

Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile is a magnificent and enormous fortress that was built on top of an extinct volcano and it has been the epicenter of life in the capital for the past thousand years. Home to the Edinburgh Tattoo, military museum, a chapel and many layers of history to be peeled back at a visitor's leisure. Entry is £15 for adults, then purchase a headset for £3 to get a guided tour.

All along the Royal Mile are dotted tartan shops, cashmere wool retailers, high-end pubs, kilt-makers and distillers. The area has many stand-out restaurants and pubs that really show people how to have a good time. Wander downhill to the Mitre, where they have excellent grub and a good selection of whisky. Another good place to rest the weary bones after a day of sight-seeing is Café Truva, a wee café where the coffee is good and the service is friendly.

For those with a shopping itch to scratch, head across the bridge over to the New Town, where Princes Street has a usual fare of High Street retailers and George Street is teeming with specialist boutiques, high-end fashion retailers and stylish restaurants. Take a stroll down to the exclusive Stockbridge area and discover eclectic antique and designer shops and the leafy and lush Water of Leith trail. Edinburgh is a collection of treasures waiting to be discovered, and there is something for everyone to love!

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Baker’s Falls: An Exquisite Waterfall in Sri Lanka’s Horton Plains, National Park

It is always quite an experience to see waterfalls in full flow and it gets even better if the entire setting is tropical. It was such a setting in Sri Lanka’s Horton Plains national park where the Baker’s falls is located. One can reach this remote waterfall by going on a hour long tropical trek.

Baker's Falls has more water this time and more exquisite
I have been to this waterfall a couple of times, but this time around, the weather was different with a lot of rain and thus this beautiful waterfall was in full flow. I would have preferred blue skies too, but had to do with dense mist and grey skies.

Admiring the beautiful Baker's Falls
But, irrespective of the weather, this waterfall along with its pure setting captivates one and all. One can just stay here and relish the surroundings for hours together.

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Trek to World’s End

There are quite a few places in Sri Lanka that make you feel that you are in ‘paradise’. One such place is World’s End, where the terrain drops into a 1000m drop in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. A nine kilometer trek through grasslands and tropical forests lead to this massive fall in land. But, the best part is that one hardly expects this drop until they reach Mini World’s End, which is like a preamble to World’s End.

World of Clouds at Mini World's End in Horton Plains National Park
Both these places offer unparalleled views of the lush green cover below, but my personal favorite is when the clouds float in between. And this happens when there is a slight drizzle in this tropical terrain. Both these places inside Sri Lanka’s Horton Plains National Park make you feel that you are truly in heaven.

World's End at Horton Plains National Park
The trek that leads to both these large drops is also quite a sight as it meanders through grasslands, ponds, waterfalls and tropical forests. Overall, a tropical trek to World’s End is definitely a must-do activity in Sri Lanka if you wish to enjoy paradise in its most beautiful form!!

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Frozen Indus River in the Changthang Cold Desert

The Changthang Cold Desert is a real special place. It’s extremely low oxygen levels, its remoteness, its barren look, its mighty Himalayan ranges, its blue skies and its snow fed rivers make it one of the best sights in the world. You hardly see any living organism in this terrain! Such is its tough nature.

The Army road that leads to Hanle in the Changthang Cold Desert 
The place gets even tougher during the winters, but that is when me and my crazy friends ventured into this pristine terrain. After visiting the Pangong Tso, Tangtse and Tso Moriri side of Changthang, we were headed towards the remotest parts of Changthang Cold Desert, which include Hanle, Lyoma and Nyoma. This is also a sensitive area as the Indian Army has set up base to patrol its border with China.

The frozen Indus flows through the Changthang Cold Desert 
The drive from Chumathang to Hanle took us through some of through some of the best sights we have laid out eyes on. But, unfortunately, we could not enjoy all of it in the open due to the extremely cold weather. But, we did manage to see some fantastic views of the meandering frozen Indus river surrounded by the mighty Himalayas. Sights such as these are truly heavenly. We even managed to walk a good distance on the frozen Indus river. I will share that experience in a separate post.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blue Fin Bungalow: A Fab place right on Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lanka

The Unawatuna beach is one of those beaches where the shacks or hotels are located perilously close to the waters of the ocean.  But, that is one of the greatest thrills of the Unawatuna beach, a cove beach located on the west coast of Sri Lanka.

Blue Fin Bungalow - a lovely place to stay at Unawatuna Beach
And if you are planning to spend your beach holiday at Unawatuna, there are great properties to pick and choose from. Personally, I stayed at the Blue Fin Bungalow, a private bungalow that is adjacent to the famous Lucky Tuna restaurant. This bungalow is pretty simple, but swanky in its own right. It comes air-conditioned with 2 double beds, a LCD TV, a large bathroom and a very large sit-out, which is my personal favorite.

Blue fin bungalow - right on the beach
The large sit out comes with 2 hammocks, a couple of large tables and lots of sitting space. This is ideal for your own private candle night dinner on the beach. And at ten large steps to the sea, the waters are never too far away for a short dip or a long swim. For immediate food n beverages, one can leverage the services of Lucky Tuna restaurant and if you have oodles of time, you can explore the other beach shops and the town around it.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Landscape Photography: Passing through Leh Market in the high Himalayas

Ladakh is one of the top places to shoot landscapes and the best part is that it is open all year round for the landscape photographers. One need not be in any special place in Ladakh to capture it’s pristine beauty. In fact, a relaxed walk through the markets of Leh can also throw some interesting sights.

Khardungla river as seen from the Leh Market road 
Such a sight it was when I saw this view of a frozen Khardungla river with the mighty, yet barren Western Himalayas in the background and surrounded by leaf less trees. And all this while me and my friends were strolling through the Leh market on a very cold winter morning.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Upcoming Travel: A Solo Ride after close to three years

My last solo motorcycle ride was my ‘India on a motorcycle’ trip. And it’s been close to three years since that trip.  In fact, I haven’t gone on any solo trip since then even though they are sometimes the best form of travel as you can explore to your heart’s fill without any commitments or distractions. Apologies to my fellow travel buddies if you find this statement a bit harsh, but I think you would tend to agree with me at some level.

This time around, I have 5 days with me from April 5 through the 9th. I plan to leave home tomorrow morning around sunrise and head west into the cooler climes of the Western Ghats. Initially, I wanted to go visit Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, Anshi National Park and Nersa on the Karnataka-Goa border, but then later, after putting in some thought, I have decided to go aimless (no sense of destination planning). The reason is pretty simple. I have been to most of the places in Karnataka and have traversed through all of its highways. Hence, this time around, I intend to travel west and drop by any interesting place that I find on my way to the western ghats and back. A simple thumb of rule would be to follow the Karnataka Tourism signboards, but then a session with the locals opens up more options.

And regarding the route, I am planning to take the really small roads that pass through the smaller towns and villages of Karnataka. I simply hate to ride on the 4-lanes and hence this decision. I hope that this will be an interesting trip for me in spite of the increasing temperatures. Hopefully, I will have loads of stories and photographs to share once I am back. Cheers till then…

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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Spectacular Galle Coastline

The best place to admire the Galle coastline is from the top of the bordering Galle Fort. This ancient fort, which prevented the 2004 tsunami from hitting the Galle town offers stunning views of the waves hitting the rocks below.

Spectacular Galle coastline as seen from the Galle Fort

The entire Galle coastline can be easily seen from the fort. In fact, a leisurely walk ensures that one can see different aspects of Galle from old Galle to fishing towns to lighthouses to beaches and many more. I am sure it is an even better sight during the monsoons when the seas are rough.

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