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Monday, March 31, 2014

Travel Photo: The Portuguese Culture of Macau

Macau is known more for its casinos and its insane gambling amounts, but it also has a UNESCO World Heritage site by way of its rich Portuguese culture. This is the old area of Macau with the famous St. Paul’s ruins, St. Augustine’s Square and many colonial churches and buildings. And the best part is that all this old town can be easily covered by foot, thereby allowing one to explore all these sights at leisure.

Chinese, Portuguese and English at Macau
I loved exploring this side of Macau by foot. All I had was a map in hand and a camera and I went clickety-click. Whenever I felt hungry, I grabbed a bite of the famous Portuguese egg tart or their superb baked cookies and kept moving through this very beautiful and well maintained old Portuguese area of Macau. Have you explored this side of Macau as yet?

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Travel Photo: Misty Hong Kong Harbor

Photographs of the Hong Kong harbor from ground level and from the peak have been popularized all around the world, be it on the internet or in print media. But, one doesn’t get to see these views round the year. On my first trip to this bustling oriental city, I went with such stunning images of skyscrapers in my head. But, only when I reached the harbor did I understand that one hardly gets to see the sun in the March-April season, which is more misty and cold.

Misty Hong Kong in March
And as a photographer, I saw lots of misty scenes both at day and at night. And both at ground level and at the peak. While this caused me a few sobs, I tried to find some good sights even in this inclement weather and this photo is one of such sights. I really liked this boat that offers tourists a short cruise around the Hong Kong harbor. To me it looked like a pirate boat amidst all the skyscrapers of Hong Kong.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Travel Photo: Banteay Srei Temple, Cambodia

It is Angkor Wat and Prasat Bayon that capture the imagination of most of the tourists who visit the Angkor heritage site in Siem Reap, Cambodia. But, if you want to see a richly carved temple, then head to Banteay Srei, the citadel of the woman, located at about 35 kms from Siem Reap. This temple is part of the Angkor temple complex and hence can be visited with the same Angkor wat ticket.

Intricate carvings on Banteay Srei temple walls
The best time to visit this temple is right after sunrise when the golden rays of the sun fall on the beautiful carvings of this Hindu temple and one can also see the reflections of the temple in the temple pond. This also allows you to enjoy the sunrise at Angkor wat before making your way here.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Travel Photo: Monks at Ayutthaya Temple Complex

Ayutthaya, an ancient capital of Thailand is a great place to explore if you are a history and temple lover. This second capital of Siam after Sukhothai was founded in 1350 and is located at the confluence of three rivers: the Chao Phraya river, the Lopburi river and the Pa Sak river. What was once a thriving and rich royal city is today a cluster of temples and ruins that is collectively recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Monks in front of Ayyuthaya Temple
A lot of tourists choose to explore this historical park as part of a day trip from Bangkok as it is a 2 hour drive away. If you are a out and out history lover, then you should base yourself here for three days or more and explore the whole of Ayutthaya at leisure. But, if you are not that much into history like me, a day trip should suffice as it gives you ample opportunity to explore all the main sites of Ayutthaya and its various temples. I shot this photo while on such a day trip from Bangkok.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top 10 things to do in Bumthang, Bhutan

Bumthang is often referred to as the ‘Switzerland of the East’. Its wide open valleys, its snow capped mountains, its green country side, its fast flowing mountain streams and its easy paced life all give it’s a Swiss like look and feel. But, this ‘Switzerland of the East’ has more to offer through its beautiful temples and monasteries that offer a rich spiritual experience. Typically, most tourists to Bhutan visit Paro and Thimphu and if time permits they make their way to Bumthang, but if you ask me, you should definitely put Bumthang way up in your Bhutan holiday itinerary. I stayed here for 8 days on my recent backpacking trip to Bhutan and the below top 10 things to do are based on this experience of exploring different areas of Bumthang.

Kuje Lakhang
The very old and very beautiful Kurje Lakhang of Bhutan
Built in the 8th century and associated with Guru Rinpoche, this is one of the special temples of Bhutan along with Kyichu Lakhang of Paro. This beautiful temple is located by a mountain river and can be seen from the Tamshing monastery. The three temples in the Kuje complex are dedicated to the three kings of Bhutan. Facing the temples, the first one on the right is the oldest and contains the rock with Guru Rinpoche’s body imprint. The second temple was built by Ugyen Wangchuck and houses a huge image of Guru Rinpoche. The third temple is built in traditional style and blends wonderfully with the older buildings.

Jamey Lakhang
Street hawker selling her wares in front of Jampey Lakhang, Bumthang
Revered as one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, the Jamey Lakhang dates back to the 7th century. This is the place where all the famous festivals of Central Bhutan are held. It is believed that King Songtsengampo built this temple on the knees of a demoness who was occupying Tibet and threatening Buddhism.

Chumey Valley
Yatra wool being woven at Chume Valley, Bumthang, Bhutan
This is the place of the famous yatra wool of Bhutan. Today, a lot of residents of Chume Valley have become very rich due to rich cultivation of potatoes, but the place got its name first from yatra wool, which is made from the sheep living in this region. The women of Chumey dye this wool and make a lot of interesting wool products that include sweaters, blankets, bags, scarves and much more. As a tourist, one can visit some of these small scale yatra factories, see the women weaving the yarn and also buy some of the finished work products. 

Tamshing Monastery
Colourful mural inside Tamshing Monastery, Bhutan
Located across the river from Kuje Lakhang, the lovely Tamshing Monastery was built between 1501 and 1505 by Pemalingpa, the great Bhutanese Nyingmapa Lama. This private monastery contains some of the most remarkable paintings of this period in the Himalayas. Restored in the mid 20th century, this shrine is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche and his eight manifestations. When you are here, ask to see the steel mesh coast forged by Pemalingpa. It is believed that if you carry it thrice around the shrine, your sins will be washed away.

Mebar Tso
Mountain stream enroute to Mebar Tsho, Central Bhutan
Mebar Tso or Burning Lake is a holy site and pilgrimage place for the people of Bhutan. This place got a lot of negative publicity due to many tourists losing their lives here. Hence, extra caution is advised while visiting this place. This lake that is more of a gorge gets its name from a famous episode of Pemalingpa’s life. If you are not a pilgrim, the place as such does not hold a lot of spiritual importance, but the nature here is very beautiful with green countryside and a fast flowing mountain river. It takes about 40 minutes to get here from Bumthang area.

Relaxation amidst Fruit Orchards
The entire region of Bumthang is famous for its fruit orchards. Apples, pears, apricots, walnuts and more can be found here in plenty. If relaxation is on your agenda, then basking in the morning sun, reading a book with a hot cup of tea amidst fruit orchards would be an excellent idea.There are many homestays in Bumthang area that offer this experience. Personally, I indulged in this at the Swiss Guest House that is full of apple and pear trees.

Jakar Dzong
Jakar Dzong -tucked amidst pine trees
The Jakar Dzong or the fortress of the white bird was founded in 1549 by the Drukpa lam Ngagi Wangchuck. It sits on top of a hill that overlooks the Choekar town and its location offers a wide open view of the Bumthang valley. The headquarters of the Bumthang district is established here, but there are no resident monks here. This dzong can be seen from almost anywhere in the Choekar town.

Lamey Gompa
Colourful windows of Lamey Gompa, Bumthang, Bhutan
Formerly a royal monastery, but currently a forestry office, this gompa built in the 19th century cgan be visited by walk from the Choekar town. This walk provides lovely views of the Jakar Dzong and the Bumthang valley. If you are adventurous and feel like hiking, you can continue from the Lamey Gompa to Tharpaling monastery via the old Kiki La pass. A lot of local Bumthang people perform this hike on festival days to tie a prayer flag at Kiki La. Apparently, this brings in good fortune.

Kunzangdra Monastery
Kuje Lhakhang, one of Bumthang's famous temples
On the other side of the Bumthang valley and towards the Tang area, which is an agricultural region specializing in sheep rearing lies the Kunzangdra Monastery at a height of 11,000 feet. This monastery was founded by Pemalingpa in 1488 and lies opposite one of Guru Rinpoche’s meditation spots. If you are daring and have the services of a guide, you can hike from Kunzangdra monastery to Pemaling Gompa and down to the Swiss Farm to complete this trail.

Ura Valley
Line of chortens at Kurje Lakhang temple, Bumthang
The Ura valley is known for its spectacular scenery. It is on the way to the Ura valley that one can see the huge white Gangkar Punsum (23,750 feet), the highest peak in Bhutan. And in addition, there are a lot of mountain scenery to be seen before you descend into the valley that is characterized by broad sweeping slopes, clement pastures and wide fields. At the bottom is a large village with clusters of big houses linked by little alleys paved with stone slabs, a rare sight in Bhutan.

How to get to Bumthang: There are two options to get to Bumthang. One is by road from Thimphu via Wangdi Phodrang and Trongsa an d the second by air from Paro to Bumthang. Tashi air has regular flights to Bumthang from Paro. And there are regular buses that ply between Thimphu and Bumthang every day. One can also hire a luxury tour bus, SUV or car to go on this mountainous road journey. Typical road commute time to Bumthang from Thimphu is 8 to 12 hours depending on vehicle type.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

An Orlando Theme Park Experience

Orlando, in sunny Florida is popularly referred to as the theme park capital of the world. These theme parks offer a lot of interesting sights and activities that appeal to all kinds of travelers. Whether you are a family with kids, teenagers, school kids or young couples, these theme parks have enough oomph in them to keep you interested and sometimes make your jaws go wide open.

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Walt Disney world, Universal Orlando, Discovery Cove, SeaWorld Orlando, Wet n Wild Orlando, Kennedy Space Center, Gator Land and WonderWorks are some of the top attractions here. A lot of these are water based theme parks to go with Orlando’s warm and sunny weather.

Katina_&_Dawn
At Walt Disney world, one can indulge in a myriad of joyful experiences at its theme parks and water parks. At Magic Kingdom, one can delight in classical attractions, enchanting fireworks, musical parades and beloved Disney characters across 6 whimsical lands. At Epcot, one can see technological innovations and the culture and cuisine of 11 countries. At Disney’s Hollywood studios, movie magic comes to life, awash in the glitz and glamor of Hollywood’s golden age. And all these include intergalactic adventures, plummeting elevator rides, rollicking roller coasters and more that one can book at new Disney tickets. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is one of the largest animal theme parks in the world and is home to more than 1,700 animals across 250 species. If water fun is on the agenda, then Disney Typhoon Lagoon Water Park offers the perfect getaway with its exhilarating waterslides, children’s play area, giant wave pool and more. At Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park, one can delight in exciting waterslides, family-style raft rides and a one acre wave pool.

Wet_n_Wild_Orlando_-_The_Storm_1
If you are looking at Universal Orlando, then you can be a part of Harry Potter’s wizarding world at Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, experience cutting edge rides, shows and interactive attractions at the Islands of Adventure and great family water rides at Wet n Wild. These water rides include sand castle, soakers, water jets, cannons, waterfalls, hydra capsule, extreme tube ride, bubba tub, vertical slide and much more.

For snorkeling, marine adventure and more water based fun, Discovery Cove, Aquatica and SeaWorld Orlando offer a lot of options that are similar to Universals’ Wet n Wild and Disney’s water theme parks. For those space and astronomy geeks, the Kennedy Space Center offers great getaway avenues and if you want to get close to Florida’s famous alligators then Gator Land is the place to visit

Whatever your interest may be, Orlando’s theme parks will have something for you and your family. It is no wonder that that they are some of the best in the world. Go on and let yourself loose at these theme parks with your family.

Courtesy: All the photos in this post have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the Creative Commons License. Each photograph has been linked to its respective photo page on wikipedia. 

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The Iconic Cruise on the Danube

The word Danube is very much an integral part of Europe’s past and present. This international waterway is Europe’s second longest and the longest in the European Union. It passes through ten countries and four capital cities. In many ways, it forms the life line of most of these countries. From a tourism perspective, this iconic river offers a windfall of attractions through pristine nature, medieval history, bustling cities, vibrant landscapes and much more.

640px-Wachau_Valley_Durnstein
A great way to enjoy this river is to indulge in deluxe river cruises that offer the perfect getaway for families and couples alike. Since this river passes through ten countries, the tourist can choose from a variety of cruise itineraries that span from simple week long itineraries across Central Europe or multi-week long itineraries that run across Central and Eastern Europe. whether you are interested in war-torn villages and towns of Eastern Europe or the imperial cities of Central Europe, the Danube offers a lot of avenues.

Budapest_by_air
A lot of people have also known to couple Danube cruises with cycling or walking tours as it offers a different perspective while visiting vineyards, ancient cities and villages, castles, palaces and more. While some prefer this different experience, the others prefer a traditional cruise experience. Either way, the Danube doesn’t fail to surprise you.

640px-Basilica_of_Esztergom
One can look to start at Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava or Belgrade, the four capital cities on the Danube for easy access. One can also go deeper into the Danube delta if bird watching and rural life are of interest. If time does not limit you, then you can take a cruise across the length of the entire river. Traditionally, tourists pick up a small loop to explore on this mighty river. This enables them to make it a well rounded holiday that offers relaxation, access to popular sights, great food and a rich cruise.

640px-Nikopol-danube
If you are planning a cruise on the Danube, either plan early or book last minute to catch crazy deals. And while booking remember to keep these places in mind – Iron Gate – the narrow gorge between Serbia and Bulgaria, cliff top town of Veliko Tarnavo in Bulgaria, Kalocsa – one of the oldest towns of Hungary, the spectacular city of Budapest, the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, Vienna, the Wachau wine region, the confluece at Passau and Regensburg – one of Germany’s best preserved medieval cities. I am sure you will end up loving your iconic Danube cruise experience.

Courtesy: The images in this post have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the Creative Commons license. Each photograph has been linked to the respective image page on wikipedia.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Top 3 Family Ski Resorts in Europe

If you are in Europe, have a family with children and looking for an adventurous family holiday, then family ski resorts would offer a great option. Such family ski holidays will be cherished by the entire family as there will be everything from daredevilry, snow fights, games, competition and lot of family love and bonding. And to top it all the mountain air and pristine nature make for a great family rejuvenation session too. Below are three top family-friendly ski resorts in Europe that will ensure that your family has a dream ski holiday.

Alpe d’Huez, France
Chemineedumasclea
Alpe d’Huez is the main hub resort of the fabulous ‘Grandes Rousses’ ski area that offers plenty of family skiing opportunities over the 250 kms of wonderful piste, and endless acres of off-piste powder. Renowned for its sunshine as much as for its excellent snow record, Alpe d’Huez is at the same height as Val d’Isere, and the ski area soars to virtually a whole vertical mile above, at the Pic Blac summit and the guaranteed snow of the Sarenne glacier. For children skiing, it is the huge main snow-bowl immediately above and around the village itself which is the main attraction. The plentiful wide open pistes here offer the perfect mix of confidence building blues and gradually more challenging reds, making this an excellent resort for making steady progress.

Obergurgl, Austria
Obergurgl_from_the_southOne of Austria’s highest ski resorts with presence of upto 3,080 meters, the Obergurgl is one of the more famous and sought-after ski resorts that has a traditional relaxed charm, a cosy, intimate feel and a family friendly apres-ski atmosphere. Set high at the end of the picturesque Otz valley, the village center benefits from having no through traffic at all, and the ski area boasts an enviable snow record stretching normally from November right to until May. The children’s kindergarten ski area and ski-school meeting point are conveniently located and for those who have progressed beyond the beginner’s stage, the blue runs of the Gaisberg provide the ideal area to move on to, and wide open slopes and superb snow conditions make for relaxed, enjoyable skiing.

Saas Fee, Switzerland
640px-Fee_Glacier
The ‘Pearl of the Alps’, the Saas Fee is a traffic free resort with guaranteed snow and Swiss charm and rated as one of the finest jewels in Switzerland’s crown. The main selling point about this resort is its location as it is surrounded by thirteen towering 4,000m peaks, in a delightful valley culminating in the huge glacial snow bowl of the ski area itself. The traffic free village center, the Chalet located at the foot of the slopes, excellent leisure center, the ice-grotto and tobogganing are some of the main reasons why the Saas Fee is just about the perfect resort for family skiing holidays.

Courtesy: The images in this post have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the creative commons license. Each image has been linked to its original page.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Round the Corner — Holiday Destinations Just a Hop From Ireland

Holidays are a fantastic opportunity to spend quality time with your friends. If you’re catching up with a buddy who lives in another country for a short break, a great idea is to meet in the middle. This way, neither of you has to travel too far and you can spend more time together.

The destination you select for your vacation depends on where you’re setting off from. If your pal’s arranging their last minute holidays from Ireland, perhaps a European city or coastal resort would be ideal. Of course, Ireland itself has lots of attractions, including prehistoric monuments at Brú na Bóinne, the rugged terrain of County Donegal, the monastic ruins of Glendalough and Clonmacnoise and the bright lights of its capital Dublin.

Breaking in the Cities
However, the European mainland also has its tempting holiday options. You’ve got the traditional tourist hotspots that you can explore, of course, such as Paris, Rome and Barcelona. However, if you fancy something a little different, the Hungarian capital of Budapest might catch your eye. Easy to access, this metropolis is bursting with architecture. While there, you can stay in historic hotels such as the former prime minister’s residence Bródy House or the ex-aristocratic palace Hotel Palazzo Zichy. There’s no shortage of watering holes in this city and you should check out the many garden bars on offer, just for the experience. You can also relax in Budapest’s famous thermal baths.

For sheer natural beauty, though, it’s going to take something special to top Iceland. You can spend some time in the buzzing capital of Reykjavik or, if you fancy getting away from it all, head to the north of country. Iceland’s second city Akureyri is easily reached by a short connecting flight and from here you can check out the impressive sea life on the island of Grímsey. You might even get to see the Northern Lights.

Joining in the Beach Boom
If you and your friend simply want to chill out on the beach, a resort on Albania’s Adriatic coast is a rewarding option. The country has 380 miles of coastline and seaside villages galore. Many people are expecting a tourism boom here, so now may be one of your last chances to see the area in all its natural beauty.

For all out relaxation in the sun, the Canary Islands are perfect and Fuerteventura is a great option. Here, you can get your fill of bars and beach life and this holiday spot represents the ultimate in convenience.

Of course, wherever you end up will depend in large part on how easy it is to coordinate travel arrangements with your friend. However, with a little research, you shouldn’t struggle to find the perfect destination for your rendezvous.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How to make short holidays feel like long term travel

When was the last time you had a few days to explore a new destination, and the person you were travelling (or staying) with insisted on charging around like a head teacher on a school trip, ticking off sights and waypoints with something akin to religious fanaticism? In your visual memory of this trip, you might find it hard not to accessorise that person with an imaginary clipboard.

Can’t remember? You’re either a lucky traveller or you are that person.

If that does actually sound like you, it’s likely that - however much you crave going abroad - you haven’t quite relaxed into the long term travel mindset. The secret is simple; unless crisis occurs, you can always go back. Once you understand this, every trip, from a couple of weeks’ holiday to a lucky few months of globe-wandering freedom, becomes part of your lifelong travel journey - instead of another compromise before you get round to the “real” travelling.

“Just because you must work between trips doesn’t mean that every holiday or adventure can’t be a segment in one lifelong journey.”
It is very, very easy to fall into the dual traps of (1) feeling like you don’t have enough time to do everything and (2) absorbing an enormous list of “musts” before you’ve even visited a place. This can make the travel mindset quite difficult to relax into. Social media, regular media, guidebooks, advertising, documentaries, personal recommendations - all potentially useful, but also capable of flooding you with so many expectations that you struggle to see past them to what’s actually in front of you.

To avoid these traps, you must first accept that no, you do not have time to do and see everything you’ll read or hear about. You might be shrugging right now, and thinking “of course I don’t”... but it’s amazing how frantic some people can get because they’ve absorbed the fear that they’re somehow “doing it wrong” if they’re not constantly ticking off items on an ever-extending list. Next, accept that even if you revisit a place a dozen times, it will keep changing - maybe swiftly, maybe slow, but inevitably - and that is part of the fragile magic of existence.

Having relaxed about the nature of time and your own mortal limitations, you can learn to approach every trip, whatever its length, with a long term travel philosophy. Although we all have different reasons for travelling, people who make the most of it tend to treat every trip as not only an experience to be enjoyed right now for what it is, but also a sort of gentle on-the-ground reconnaissance for future travel.

As you explore, don’t panic about what you can’t fit in this time - just follow up the opportunities you can, and make a note of what you can’t, but wish you had. This is a really good method for assessing whether or not a place is worth passing through again - if you come away from a place with a long list of things you would’ve like to do, the chances are it’s worth returning to. If you ran out of interest after day 2 and turned up enthusiastically early at the airport due to sheer boredom, you can probably cross that place off your revisit list.

Crucially, remember that travel should not be a chore, and it certainly shouldn’t be treated as a list of achievements with which to impress anybody else!

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Friday, March 14, 2014

How to Prepare for Long Term Travel

When heading off on a two week holiday abroad, preparation may be a little stressful, but it’s also relatively easy - a swimsuit, weather-appropriate clothing, and the right currency are all you really care about once you’re out there. Chances are, if you’ve forgotten anything, you can either buy from your holiday destination or you can wait until you get back home. When travelling over a longer period, however, things become a little trickier. Not impossible by any means, but there are some additional aspects you’ll want to take into account before heading off for months or years at a time.

Plan Your Route

If you’ve only got limited time and need to be at a departure port on a certain day at a certain time, you’ll want to plan a route that takes you from your starting destination to your end point in an efficient manner - preferably a route that allows for at least an overnight stop at your departure city to allow for any delays along the way. Also keep in mind there are travel restrictions in place between certain countries, such as Cuba and the United States, for example, so to avoid running into any issues with the law, make sure you pre-plan a route that doesn’t require passing between two conflicting destinations.

Arrange Accommodation

Hostels, hotels, motels and B&Bs are usually the obvious choice for short stays abroad, but what about when it comes to long term stays? For travellers on a budget, campsites may be the perfect option, although you’ll want to check in advance that the areas you’re staying in are safe. Perhaps a more secure option are hotels and motels with discounts for long term travellers, or ‘residents’ as some hotels say. These hotels often have onsite laundry facilities and common rooms to make long term travel sociable, easy, and stress-free. If you’re looking to be more comfortable during your trip, consider a short term apartment lease. You’ll have all the comforts of home, without needing to commit to a full on rental contract.

Get the Right Visa

Be aware that some countries require a visa to be obtained prior to travel, while others allow visitors to enter the country without a visa providing they stay for only a limited amount of time. The United States, for example, allows visitors to enter with a visa waiver form (ESTA) for up to 90 consecutive days at a time. Going to Hong Kong? You can stay visa-free for up to 6 months. However, if you’re travelling to Nepal, you will need a visa, no matter how long you’re staying. The Nepalese Government requires all visitors, except those carrying Indian passports, to obtain a visa before being allowed to officially enter the country.

Pack Sensibly

When packing for 6 months, many travellers feel like they need to pack everything, including the kitchen sink! However, packing for 6 months or even a gap year abroad should really be no more different than packing for 2 weeks - just make sure to find laundry facilities so you don’t start to stink! The only real difference in terms of packing is that you should consider any medications you take an ensure you either have a good supply to last you throughout your trip, or are equipped with medical information for your destination to allow you to pick up any necessary prescriptions.

Preparing for long term travel is only as challenging as you make it. If you do your research beforehand and are prepared to travel only with what’s necessary, you should find packing for a six month trip just as easy as for a two week holiday.

Summary

This article lists some handy hints to make preparing for long term travel easy and stress-free.

About the Author: Rebecca Brown is a long term traveler who indulges in travel writing.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Top 10 Traditional Food Joints of South Bangalore

I live in South Bangalore. I am a vegetarian and I love eating traditional food. The good thing for me is that South Bangalore is a haven for those who love traditional South Indian vegetarian food. The food is authentic, it tastes delicious and it costs very less. Some of these places don’t have a sitting arrangement, but that’s part of the eating experience. Whether it is a cup of traditional filter coffee, some freshly made Rava vadai, spongy idlis, lip smacking benne masala dosai, paddu with spicy chutney or masalai mandakki, the options are phenomenal and you return home with not only a full stomach, but a full heart too.

Idli_Sambar
Based on my personal experiences, I have put together a list of top 10 traditional food joints in South Bangalore. They include popular options as well as not so well known options, but still fiercely popular among locals. I have linked linked each restaurant to the respective page on Zomato so that you can find the address, contact numbers, timings, map, menu details, cost, etc along with the reviews of other customers.

Brahmins Coffee Bar
The Idlis here are like how my mother used to make. They are so soft and tasty that sometimes I feel like I am eating at home. If you want a home away from home taste, then this is the place you should go to for authentic south Indian breakfast items that are available all day long. The Uppittu (upma) and filter coffee of this iconic restaurant are also great. They don’t have many items on their menu, but whatever they have is top class. They do not serve Sambar for the dishes, but just chutney, which is very nice.

Davangere Benna Masala Dosa

BennnedoseThis place is not on Zomato, but it gets so much crowd that you will realize this place serves great food. One of my absolute favorites of South Bangalore, this restaurant is located near East Anjaneya street, NR Colony. It is next to a ICICI Bank ATM and a Bisleri water shop. Like the name of the restaurant, the famous item on their menu is their Benne Masala Dosa. While this is very tasty, my personal favorite is paddu, which is served with groundnut chutney. Their butter idlis, girimittu and filter coffee are also very nice. The best part about this place is that it offers total value in a taste vs cost scenario.

VB Bakery
This is one of the oldest bakery in the city and is definitely a house hold name in South Bangalore. Their masala bun, khara biscuit, Masala Bread, Coconut biscuit, KBC (Khara Bun Congress), Honey cake, fruit cake and many other items are hot favorites. This iconic place is at the edge of Bangalore’s only food street – Thindi Beedhi. So, you can couple Thindi Beedhi and VB Bakery making it a culinary extravaganza.

Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR)
586px-Foaming_filter_coffeeThis place put Bangalore on the world food map and holds its place high in all the foodie hearts of Bangalore. Most of the visitors to Lalbagh are regulars here. They have branches all over the town, but there is something about the 1st MTR restaurant that brings people in huge numbers to it. Popular with both the young and the old, this icon of Bangalore serves a lot of delicious traditional South Indian food, but my personal favorites are Ragi Dosa, Rava Idly with ghee, Khara Bath, Masala Dosa and Coffee.

Thindi Beedhi
This is not a traditional restaurant, but a street that is full of traditional restaurants. Located in the VV Puram area of South Bangalore, this is possibly Bangalore’s only food street. From Kali Dosa to benne masala dosa, from masalai mandakki to filter coffee. from hot jalebis to hot badam milk and from maddur vada to akki roti, this place has it all. If you feel like eating the traditional foods of Karnataka, this is the place you have to visit. Since this people doesn’t feature on Zomato, I have linked to my earlier post about Thindi Beedhi to give you more details.

Vidyarthi Bhavan
Uzhunnu_vadaThis is another of those iconic restaurants of South Bangalore. Located right in the heart of super busy Gandhi Bazaar of Basavanagudi, this place always runs full. Personally, I dig their Rava vadai, but their benne masala dosai seems to be the crowd’s favorite. Their coffee is also pretty special. Such is the popularity of this place that even the elderly people prefer to wait for a seat in this restaurant.

New Modern Hotel
I don’t know how many of you Bangaloreans have heard of NMH. Located in VV Puram, this is one of the older restaurants of Bangalore. Their Thatte Idli, Thairode, Chiroti Milk, Chow Chow Bath, Rava Idli and Hot Badam Milk are favorites here. For some reason, I like their simple vegetarian meals during lunch here too. Simple and tasty food that is easy on the stomach and the wallet, I will always remain a big fan of NMH.

Maiyas
They belonged to the family of MTR, but due to a family split, they started their own food business in Maiyas. While they are relatively new when compared to the MTR name, their food still has the same quality to it. Every time my father and I visit the Jayanagar side, we always make sure to have a cup of coffee here. And I know how long is the queue for this special coffee here. Their baked items and snack items are also very good.

Puliyogare Point
Like the name suggests, this restaurant located in NR Colony is famous for its Puliyogare or tamarind flavored rice. Apart from Puliyogare, my taste buds have also taken a liking to their Sakkare Pongal, Pongal, Coconut rice and button idlis. And finally wash it down with some filter coffee. This place might have have the iconic status of Vidyarthi or Brahmins, but its quality is definitely up there.

Kamat Bugle Rock

Uttar_Karnataka_food
The Kamats are a big name in the restaurant industry of Karnataka and hence it is no surprise that one of their restaurants sees a mention in this list. The Kamat Bugle Rock is one of their newer restaurants that is famous for its North Karnataka lunch that includes Jowar Roti, Palak Sagoo and more. In fact, whenever I feel the craving for North Karnataka food, I end up going to this restaurant. Apart from the north Karnataka meals, they serve typical south Indian food too.

Courtesy: The photos in this post are courtesy of wikipedia.org and have been used here under the creative commons license. Each photograph has been linked to their page on wikipedia.

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A Passage From India — Why Visit Dubai?

Dubai is fast becoming one of the foremost holiday destinations in the world, with people from all walks of life flocking there for a variety of different reasons. From business trips to family fun days, Dubai really has it all. The flight pact between India and Dubai will make it much easier for Indian travellers to head for Dubai in the near future. So if you’re planning a trip, here are a few things to bear in mind before you go. When it comes to comfortable, stylish accommodation, Dubai hotels are among the finest in the world. If you’re looking for luxury then why not check out the Burj Al Arab? Known for its distinctive sail-shaped exterior, it stands as a renowned monument of modern Dubai and is an outstanding taste of Dubai’s culture.

The local population of Dubai is largely varied, with just 17% made up of Arab UAE nationals, and Dubai is a hot destination for Indian expatriates who are looking for somewhere that will present with them new opportunities. A few highlights of life in Dubai include zero income tax, short travel times between India and Dubai (around 2.5 hours) and a huge, multicultural range of languages. Dubai also has a fantastic travel network, both within the city itself and to other parts of the Emirates. The Dubai Metro is the world’s largest automated service and the bus service is fantastic for anyone looking to avoid paying pricey taxi fares.

In terms of food outlets, Dubai may just be a home from home for Indian visitors. While there are a number of global brands throughout the city, including McDonalds and Pizza Hut, there’s also a wide range of Indian brands such as Maakhan Bhog and Bikanervala. Food here is very affordable and comes from all over the world, so the choice is near endless!

For keen shoppers, the Dubai Mall is definitely worth a visit. As the world’s largest shopping mall, there’s certainly something for everyone here. Alongside the shops, visitors can check out the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, as well as the Dubai Ice Rink, which can accommodate up to 2 000 skaters! Back in 2009, SEGA Republic was opened here. It is a 76 000 square feet indoor theme park dedicated to Sonic the Hedgehog – certainly somewhere that adults and kids alike will have tons of fun together and relive memories of the most famous hedgehog in video game history.

So if you’re taking a short holiday or considering a more permanent move, Dubai is a world-class city laced with plenty of Indian culture. Home is where the heart is, and you just might find your own in Dubai!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

5 Popular Surfing Spots in Bali for Beginners

Bali is a world renowned tourist spot situated in Indonesia. Every year, millions of tourists from all corners of the world visit this place. Apart from enjoying the exotic beauties, there are several things to do in Bali. From sightseeing to trekking, safari to shopping, people can indulge themselves in several activities to lose track of time. However, the most popular activity of Bali is surfing.

There are very few people, who visit Bali, but do not go for surfing. According to the level of expertise in this popular water-sport, the exotic beaches of Bali can be categorized to several parts. However, keeping in mind the fact that most people are the first-timers in surfing, Here are the 5 most popular surfing spots for beginners in Bali:

Surfing in Bali

1. Kuta This is the first beach for the surfers in the island. Robert Koke, an America, followed by a couple of locals, started surfing in this spot, in 1936. Though several changes took place, Kuta still remains one of the most attractive surfing spots around the world till date. The water current gets stronger and the waves grow bigger than before in the afternoon. Therefore, beginners are advised to enjoy surfing in the early morning, and leave it to the experts in the afternoon.

2. Legian This beach is considered as the sister beach of Kuta. Just like Kuta, the waves in this surfing spot have an average height of one to three feet, making it an ideal place for beginners. One advantage that this spot enjoys over its sister beach is that, this area is less crowded than the former one. As a result, several surf schools have popped up in the Legian beach to help people be an expert surfer. However, just like Kuta, try to stay away from the water in the afternoon.

3. Tuban The popular ‘Airport Lefts’ and ‘Airport Rights’ surf spots are situated just outside the Ngurah Rai International Airport. In this spot, the swells can be as high as five feet. However, one would need a boat ride to go beyond the reef, and reach the spot. Beginners can enjoy moderate waves near the beach. The crowd varies day to day but is less compared to that of Kuta.
       
Colorful surfboards and the waves

4. Canggu This is one of the most gorgeous beach, as well as surfing spot in the island. It is just 30 minutes away from Kuta, with a local name of Pantai Batu Bolong, after the local temple with the same name. The sunset here is awesome, making it one of the most beautiful, yet functional place for the surfers. The waves here are appropriate for almost all types of surfers. However, the beginners should be careful as, unlike other beaches there are no lifeguard patrols on this coast.

5. Seminyak This white-grey sand beach, situated on the northern side of Legian beach, offers larger swells, some of which are almost double the size found in Kuta. However, short lengths are available, which are ideal for beginners and kids. Being a comparatively less crowded area, there are several camps and surfing schools in this spot.

Therefore, choose either of the above spots to include surfing among several other things to do in Bali to enjoy the water and beaches like never before.

Summary: Keep the fear aside, and go for surfing in one of the most exotic beaches in Bali to enjoy the beaches ad water in the most innovative way possible, while feeling the rush of adrenaline through the spine.

Courtesy: The photos in this post are courtesy of wikipedia.org under the creative commons license.

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Dubai is Top Travel Destination for Indian Travellers

According to research by leading online hotel distributions and channel management solutions provider, eRevMax, over 15 million Indian travellers are planning a foreign trip. Dubai is currently one of the top two most popular destinations for them, with about 8.3 million passengers who have already travelled to or through Dubai International airport. A recent agreement signed between India and the UAE will see more flights to Dubai over the next year, so passengers will have an even wider choice and get better fares. Figures from Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing also shows that Indian visitors overtook Brits as the top tourist group to Dubai, and there are now 1.75 million expat Indians living in Dubai.  So what are the factors that attract Indians to travel and live in Dubai?

Family-friendly destination Dubai is a family-friendly destination. There are many attractions that appeal to children, including the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, Desert Safari, and Ski Dubai. Another family destination that offers endless fun for children of all ages is Wild Wadi. Children can try the slides, water cannons, and roller coasters. At Dolphin Bay in Atlantis, children can swim and interact with dolphins. Dubailand, a regional and international tourism hub, offers a range of exciting attractions, including shopping options, sporting facilities, leisure and entertainment for families.

World tallest, biggest and largest Dubai has established itself as one of the most popular tourist destinations for Indians by setting a fair few world records. Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building, the world’s highest fine dining restaurant, the world’s highest observatory deck and the world’s biggest shopping and entertainment centre. Dubai has also become a frontrunner to construct the world’s first underwater hotels.

Affordability
As the affluent middle class in India grows, Dubai becomes a more affordable destination. Holiday package per person may cost less than 62,000 Indian Rupee (about US$1,000) and this includes flights, visa, accommodation, meals and sightseeing. There is a range of budget hotels as well as three- and four-star hotels that cater to the middle class Indian travellers. Some tour operators are also offering a night stay in luxury hotel for those who aspire to get a taste of luxury in Dubai.

Shopping paradise
Shopping is one of the main attractions in Dubai for Indian travellers. Dubai’s retail industry is as large as the financial sector and accounts for 13% of the total gross domestic product. Dubai is the second most important international retail destination globally, according to CBRE’s 2013 edition of “How Global is the Business of Retail. Many Indian travellers are drawn to the large discount sales during the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF). With more than 70 malls participating, the festival groups plenty of value to high-end stores to offer great bargains. Shopping malls also organize activities to keep children entertained when their parents are shopping.

Luxury Dubai is also an attractive destination for hi-income Indian travellers. Many wealthy Indians are splashing out on expensive holidays that include stay in four and five-star hotels, private villas or beachfront hotels.
All in all, it can be said that Dubai’s success in India was positively influenced by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Marketing (DTCM) and the travel agencies which have been making conscious efforts to promote the city’s latest resorts, attractions and tours that can appeal to both middle-class and high-end Indian travellers.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

My Interview on HotelsCheap.org

Yours truly has been interviewed by HotelsCheap.org, a discount hotel provider that specializes in finding cheap hotel rates for travelers worldwide. In this interview, they introduce me and my blog as an India focused adventure and photography brand and ask me the following questions.

beontheroad.com interviewed on hotelscheap.org
1) My most memorable trips

2) Name some destinations every first-time visitor to India should make sure to include on their itinerary?

3) What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions Westerners have about traveling in India?

4) Define ‘adventure travel’. What does it involve and why do you love it?

5) What advice can you offer on traveling on a budget?

6) What has been one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned about traveling on your adventures?

7) Can you share some tips for taking memorable travel photos?

8) What destination currently tops your bucket list? Why?

Read the interview here if you are interested in knowing the answers to these interview questions.

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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Trongsa: The Heart of Bhutan

It is in the center of Bhutan. It is the city from where the kings of Bhutan come. It has the largest dzong in the country. Unlike most of Western Bhutan, where the cities are in valleys, this city mirrors East Bhutan by setting itself on a mountain slope. It is also one of the wettest areas of Bhutan. This city is Trongsa, the heart of Bhutan and with a lot of importance to its history and royalty.

Trongsa Dzong and the Trongsa Landscape
Normally, this city is not on the tourist’s itinerary, but since it falls on the way to Bumthang, a lot of tourists spend half a day here. But, if you ask me, this town deserves much more time. The best way to begin a tour of Trongsa is by starting at the T Dzong, which has the view tower that gives stunning views of Trongsa and the Trongsa Dzong and where one can see and understand its history in the Trongsa museum.

The mighty Trongsa Dzong - the largest Dzong of Bhutan
After understanding the history of Trongsa, the next stop would be Trongsa Dzong, the largest dzong of Bhutan and one that needs a lot of effort to explore due to its sheer size. If you feel adventurous, you should try walking down from the dzong to the cantilever bridge where the mountain river flows and then back to the dzong through forests and rice fields. The hike will be tough, but will show you the natural beauty of Trongsa.

The large Trongsa Dzong of BhutanApart from these two highlights, there is nothing much in terms of man made tourist attractions, but I personally found the nature very appealing. If you are for hikes, there are many hikes up hill and down hill from Trongsa that take you to small villages where people live by farming and collecting firewood from the forests. The people of Trongsa are full of smiles and always welcome a good conversation with a traveler and hence interacting with them is a great way to understand local traditions and culture.

T Dzong as seen from Trongsa Dzong
Trongsa has a very laid back life and is perfect for those who love long walks, culture, heritage and mountain nature. One should try and stay here at least a couple of days, if not more and explore the heart of Royal Bhutan.

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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Sounds of Great Britain

Have you checked out the latest video where the British Tourism board uses ‘Sounds’ to promote Britain across the world? The pouring of a cup of tea, the disturbance of the waves while surfing, the cycle bell, the chimes of Big Ben, the sound of a Wimbledon tennis match, a music show and a black cab beeping are all being used in this short video to woo tourists to mark Britain as their next holiday destination. This video features a whole range of landmarks, people, locations and experiences, including a Dartmouth Steam train, the sound of a Wimbledon tennis crowd, the glamour of the Goring, the buzz at Lovebox festival and the striking medieval fortification at Caerphilly castle.

And the best part about this video is that it is just 30 seconds long and it still manages to show so much. What are you waiting for…check out this video. 

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Monday, March 03, 2014

The Tribes of Dandeli: A Photo Essay

Dandeli, a small town in the Western Ghats of NW Karnataka is very popular for its tryst with the river Kali and for its adventure sports. In the second place, comes its wildlife, nature and birding. But, what a lot of people do not know is that Dandeli houses many tribes within and around the main town. On my last visit to Dandeli, I got the opportunity to meet these various people and interview them. These sessions were very interesting and helped me understand these unique cultures much better. The 4 tribes I met during this visit were the Lambani, Medar, Siddi and Gowli. While I have already written stories about the Lambani and the Medar, I am yet to write about the Siddi and the Gowli. While you wait for all the stories, I thought I should entertain you with a photo essay on the people of these four tribes.

Siddi Tribe – The African Tribe of India

This tribe came to India as slaves during the Portuguese rule (Goa and Diu) and today exist as farm laborers, construction workers and small businessmen. They live in villages outside Dandeli.
Siddi Tribal Kids pose
Siddi kids pose for the lens

Members of the Siddi tribe from near DandeliA group of families from a Siddi tribal village

A kid from the Siddi village near DandeliA Siddi Kid with his tire toy

Lambani Tribe – The Nomadic Gypsies of Rajasthan Originally from Rajasthan, these nomadic gypsies have completely embraced today’s way of living, but still follow their traditions and culture. When they came to Dandeli, they used to do odd jobs, collect firewood from the forest and make country liquor.
Colourful look of a traditional Lambani tribal womanA traditionally decked up Lambani woman

An Elderly Woman from the nomadic Lambani Tribe
An elderly Lambani woman who hardly smiled

Gowli Tribe – The Cattle Herders of South India
They are cattle herders and have more cows, buffalos and goats in their village than people. Today, most of them have taken to work in the city, but the traditional ones still sell milk, curd (yoghurt), ghee (clarified butter) and paneer (cottage cheese) for a living.

A Gowli man out on the streets of Dandeli to sell his milk

Elderly Gowli Tribe Woman near Dandeli, Karnataka
An elderly Gowli woman at a Gowli village outside of Dandeli

Elderly Gentleman from Dandeli's Gowli TribeElderly Gentleman from Dandeli’s Gowli Tribe

Medar Tribe – The Bamboo Community of West India
This tribe makes its living from making crafts and products out of bamboo. In fact, their biggest revenue generator is funeral arrangements wherein a Medar family gets the right to make the entire funeral crafts and pyre using bamboo.
Medar Community - the Bamboo craftsmen of DandeliA Medar family from Dandeli

Bamboo craftsman from the Medar community of DandeliA Medar man makes his living from making bamboo crafts
Courtesy: I organized this trip through www.dandeli.com.

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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Taiping: Great Offbeat Destination in Peninsular Malaysia

When one thinks of planning a vacation in Malaysia, the name Taiping hardly comes to mind. In fact, it was no different for me when I spent an entire month in Malaysia around the middle of last year without having this place in my travel itinerary. But on my recent trip to Malaysia that was on an invite from Tourism Malaysia, I discovered Taiping and boy was I pleasantly surprised.

Perak State Museum, Taiping, Malaysia
This absolutely green town used to be a commercial center during Malaysia’s colonial days till Kuala Lumpur and Singapore took center stage in the world of industrial revolution. Today, this is a well laid out town with an easy going pace. It receives the highest rainfall in peninsular Malaysia. In fact, it more or less receives rainfall every day. Due to this, the terrain is full of forests, greenery and wildlife. The people of this town have a laid back lifestyle that augurs so well for tourism. They have the same smile and helping attitude like the rest of Malaysians.

Malay Wedding customs depicted inside Perak State Museum, Taiping
Taiping has one of the earliest museums of Malaysia. Hence, the Perak state museum is where a traveler can start his Taiping tour from. The other thing that is special about Taiping is its zoo. There are only 3 zoos in the world that offer night safaris. One is at Guangzhou, China. The second is at Singapore and the third one is right in the heart of Taiping. A night safari is a great way to get to see some of the world’s rarest and finest animals. I am not the typical zoo type, but on seeing the quality of the zoo and the health of its animals, I have nothing but glowing words about this zoo.

Old Rolls Royce on display at Perak State Museum, Taiping, Malaysia
In addition to it museum, zoo and night safari, Taiping offers lake gardens, a hill station in the name of Maxwell hill, many jungle trekking trails, many waterfalls and natural swimming pools, traditional homestays, center for biological diversity and much more. In fact, if you feel like relaxing and need a place to rejuvenate yourself, I think Taiping has all the ingredients to be that place.

Fire brigade from colonial days at Perak State Museum, Taiping, Malaysia
It is easily accessible from Kuala Lumpur (about 4 hours) and Penang (about 3 hours). Ipoh, Cameron highlands, Genting Highlands, Langkawi and Royal Belum rainforest are also within close reach. This heritage town offers a lot of culture, interesting food, great people, fantastic nature and much more. I would love to visit this town again and I would like you to give it a try if you like off beat destinations.

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