Fellow traveler friends,
It gives me immense pleasure to inform you that I have been voted as a Top India Travel Blogger by Myoksha.com, a travel portal that talks about pilgrimage experiences in India. This feature puts me in the company of some very passionate, daring and suave travelers and I am extremely honored to be in their company.
To read more about the feature, you can look up the article here. And I would recommend that you look up the other travel bloggers in this list. There are some sensational personalities here out of which I have been lucky to know and travel with some.
Thank you Myoksha for putting me in this esteemed list and a big thank you to all you readers for encouraging me and following me on my lovely journey.
For a sneak preview, you can look up the screenshots below.
Friday, August 29, 2014
Indiana has a wild side, as evidenced by the crazy offerings you can find in its capital, Indianapolis. Here are six thrilling experiences you'll find in this exciting city.
Indianapolis Children's Museum
Image via Flickr jennylynndesign
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is the largest of its kind, with five floors and nearly 500,000 square feet of things to see, do, and learn. Guests can touch a real T. Rex bone in the Dinosphere, virtually explore the colorful art of glass blowing, make "Jiggle Jelly" in the science lab, and much more. Free parking, Wi-Fi, a carousel, and a food court with five restaurant choices help make this day-long excursion a winner for the whole family.
Lafayette Road Ethnic Food Corridor
A large collection of ethnic restaurants located within walking distance of Lafayette Square and many cheap Indianapolis hotels provide a literal buffet of dining choices for the cuisine lover. Some mouth-watering dinner possibilities at the Lafayette Road Ethnic Food Corridor include: Cairo Cafe & Mediterranean, Udupi Cafe, India Palace Restaurant, El Puerto De San Blas, Havana Cafe, and Saigon Restaurant.
The Slippery Noodle Inn
At almost 165 years old, the Slippery Noodle Inn is the oldest bar in the history of Indiana. The building began its career in 1850 as the Tremont House but is now affectionately called "The Noodle" by Hoosiers far and wide. In Civil War times, the locale served as part of the Underground Railroad. Nowadays, it serves mostly beer, burgers, and of course, noodles. Plenty of celebrities and famous musicians have made appearances at this historic bar.
Broad Ripple Village
Broad Ripple Village is a forward-thinking neighborhood in Indianapolis whose motto is, "We're open if you are." Art and architecture star as the area's main cultural themes, with the Indianapolis Arts Center at arm's length, pedestrian art scattered along the Monon Trail, and an annual historic home tour that showcases the eclectic nature of the region's architecture. The neighborhood has a reputation as a hip hangout for college kids and free thinkers of all ages.
Rhythm! Discovery Center
Less than a decade ago, the Rhythm! Discovery Center opened as an interactive percussion museum. Sponsored by the Percussive Arts Society, the center's goal is to offer hands-on rhythmic experiences that touch on the music education standards of the U.S. teaching curriculum. Visitors have access not only to common trap sets and drums, but also a bevy of rare percussive instruments from countries around the world. After learning about music at the museum, don’t pass up the opportunity to hear talented musicians at Victory Field which regularly hosts outdoor jazz performances and other concerts.
Indy Racing Experience
Image via Flickr jim.greenhill
Those who dream of experiencing the high-speed thrill of IndyCar racing can buy such an experience here. Customers can choose to be a passenger in an Indy 500 vehicle or to actually be the driver of the car. Guests select which track they wish to drive: choices include Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Iowa Speedway, and even the Streets of Toronto. This experience is not for the faint of heart; speeds get up to 180 miles per hour. Group experiences and "victory laps" are also for sale.
Culture. Food. Fun. Thrills. Indianapolis has it all. No matter what type of experience you're hungry for, you can find it in Indianapolis, and Hipmunk can help.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
On my recent backpacking trip to Rajasthan, I spent a lot of time exploring the city of Jaisalmer, its suburbs, the Thar desert and its remote villages, the remote temples, the ancient irrigation villages and much more in the desert. You get a feeling that the desert remembers and there is a lot of magic during the monsoons in the desert. If you are planning a holiday to this desert region of Rajasthan, these top things to do in and around Jaisalmer might come in handy for you. And all these tips are based on my recent experience.
Courtesy: These are signature experiences of Suryagarh, a boutique luxury hotel that allows you the explore the unexplored. If you wish to experience these signature experiences while indulging in some royal Suryagarh luxury and true Rajasthani hospitality, you can directly reach out to them at www.suryagarh.com for bookings and more details.
See the City View from Jaisalmer Fort
The Sonar Qila or Golden Fort is the largest living fort in India. Made out of yellow sandstone, it towers over the desert city of Jaisalmer. It is struggling with sanitary and drainage problems, but amidst all these problems, it has managed to maintain a lot of its historical beauty. The museum, the palace and the tower are completely worth the 60 to 75 minute audio guide tour. The icing on the cake is the stunning 360 degree view from the top tower. You can see the entire city, the jain temples, the Pakistan border and the desert.
Gadisar Lake in the Evening
If you feel like enjoying the evening breeze, go for a boat ride or listen to some bhajans being sung at local temples, then Gadisar Lake is the place. This lifeline of this desert city has the same yellow sandstone architecture as the rest of the city. The place is a big hit with the locals who come here in huge numbers every evening and especially during the weekends.
Marwari Thali and Halwayi Breakfast
The Marwari thali and Halwayi breakfast is an integral part of the desert culture of Rajasthan. Bajra roti and Missi roti with Gatta Masala and Kher Sangri tastes delicious for lunch and dinner. And for breakfast and an evening snack, mirchi vada, kachori, samosa, ladoos, lassi and other sweets make for a lip smacking experience.
Breakfast with the Peacocks at Khaba Fort
Every morning, about 50 to 100 peacocks fly in from all over the ruins of a Paliwal village at the call of a local boy who has been following a long family tradition of feeding bajra seeds to these peacocks. This happens very morning around sunrise and makes for a great sight as you not only get to see these peacocks, but you get to see the sun rising over the ruins of the abandoned Paliwal village. And once you are done with your breakfast, you can explore this small, yet important historical fort and its 2 temples.
Richness of Patwon Ki Haveli
There were a lot of successful merchants in the hey days of Jaisalmer and through their success, they made a lot of money, which they used to build extremely luxurious houses for themselves. These uber rich houses are called havelis and many of them still exist to this day. They are located within the city area and very close to the fort and the main bazaar. The richest and the most well maintained haveli is the Patwon ki Haveli where you can see a museum that holds artefacts of their rich past. This haveli also offer stunning views of the Jaisalmer fort.
Dinner by an Oasis
This is one of the true luxuries of the desert life. Spending an evening under the star lit desert sky, listening to some folks music, swaying to the cool desert breeze and eating local dinner is quite an experience.
Camel Safari at Sam or Khuri Dunes
When anyone speaks of the mighty Thar, the image of the rolling sand dunes immediately come to our mind. We have seen a lot of such images from our movies, but it is even more surreal to see and feel it in real life. Going on a camel safari at around sunset and watching the sand dunes dancing in the golden hues of the sun is quite a sight. It is here at the sand dunes that we can indulge in dune surfing or dune boarding and then there are these nomadic villages close to Sam and Khuri that are worth visiting. And then who can miss either the dinner on the sand dunes under the star lit sky or staying overnight next to these sand dunes in desert tents or traditional mud houses.
Kuldhara Chudail Trail
If you are up to chasing ghosts in an abandoned Paliwal village by night, then you have to go on this trail. Surrounded by cemeteries, cenotaphs and ruins, this trail is believed to be occupied by female ghosts (chudail) who have been spotted by many male travelers with each of them having their own epic stories. Even though I did not spot any chudails, the eerie level on the trail was pretty high and the entire group stayed together for comfort.
Paliwal Villages and the Silk Route
The Paliwals were successful citizens of the Thar desert from the 11th to the 16th century. They were part merchants and part cultivators. They designed indigenous irrigation systems like the Agor, Khadeen and Dhora that allowed them to harness water in the desert. Due to this smart invention, the people of the desert still get to cultivate bajra, chana and vegetables in the desert. They were also good traders and did successful business with China and the Middle East across the famous Silk Route. Then, one fine day, due to poisioning of their drinking water supply, they abandoned all their villages and left this part of the desert for good. If you wish to know more about their history, see the irrigation systems in place, feel their stories through their abandoned villages, cemeteries, cenotaphs and sati sites, then this is one of the top off beat things to do in the Thar desert.
Exquisite Jain Temple at Ludrava
This temple blew me away from the moment I walked into it. The attention to detail, the sheer intricate work, its beautiful jharokas and its unbelievable torana (entrance gate) are exemplary. This temple is Jain dedicated to the 24th tirthankara is a beautiful fusion of Jain beliefs and folklore that they heard from their Chinese trader friends. This entire town, Ludrava was the capital of erstwhile desert kingdom before it moved to Jaisalmer.
Jain Temples inside Jaisalmer Fort
While the Ludrava temple is outstanding, the other Jain temples in the Jaisalmer fort are not far behind. They are equally beautiful and sport the same yellow sandstone construction with intricate architecture. These temples are extremely popular with Jains and also many Hindus. If you have time, make sure you get to understand the meaning of each of the carvings on the inside temple walls. There are a lot of stories and beliefs portrayed here.
Shopping for local embroidery work at the Jaisalmer market
The markets of Jaisalmer are colorful with bright textiles, spices, carpets and much more. If you feel like taking home a souvenir, you can try picking up a hand embroidered wall hanging, cushion cover, bedsheets and much more. You can also buy the famous Halwayi items like laddoos and other sweets. In simple terms, it is a colorful shopping extravaganza.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
It is the famous Indian Handlebar Moustache and is the pride of the men of India and especially in the land of Rajasthan. I have tried my hand at it for many months and have to say that it requires a lot of hard work, patience and maintenance. But, when you go to Rajasthan, you almost see every man sporting this moustache. They say that it is the only thing that differentiates them from the women and they take immense pride in growing and maintaining it. I laugh at their reasoning, but admire their determination.
If you wish to grow such a Rajasthani mooch, do not cut any of your moustache hairs, comb them sideways at least 5 times a day and keep twirling them as many times a day as you can. And if you can indulge, do use some moustache wax or gel to shape it. And remember, it takes a long time to build a quality mooch. In this case, this colourful Rajasthani man has stayed at it for close to 4 years and this is the end result. His colorful turban, his accessories and his thick mooch gives me great camera presence. Have you tried growing your mooch as yet? Have you been successful with the Indian handlebar?
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
People travel for many reasons, and an interest in sports can make the perfect springboard for the trip of a lifetime. Where better to make that trip than in America, with its rich and colorful history of sport? From Indianapolis to Chicago, here is a list of some of the best cities and venues to head to in order to explore America's great sporting heritage, as well as some of the most popular and interesting routes to take for your road trip – just don't forget to include a few sports tickets in your budget.
Famed for its speedway, Indianapolis should be a must for any sport fan planning a road trip. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the venue for the world's most famous speedway race, the Indy 500, which has been hosted here since 1911. The three-foot row of bricks at the start/finish line has earned it the nickname “the Brickyard”, and fans as well as winners come here to “kiss the bricks.” With a current capacity of around 400,000 spectators, this place is awe-inspiringly vast. Indianapolis is less well-known for basketball, but Hinkle Fieldhouse, a 10,000-seat hall in Butler University, was the site of a famed 1954 victory dubbed “the Milan Miracle” in the Indiana state basketball championships. The Cinderella-style triumph of the tiny school was immortalized in the film Hoosiers, which was also filmed here.
Philadelphia is credited as being one of the most sports-crazed cities in the US, and it's not just because it provided the setting for the series of Rocky films. There's even a bronze statue of Mr. Balboa at the foot of the Philadelphia Art Museum steps, where you won't be able to resist punching the air. Fiction aside, you could visit real-life boxing legend Joe Frazier's gym, now on the National Register of Historic Places. The University of Pennsylvania's Palestra Stadium, meanwhile, has been called the Cathedral of Basketball – it was one of the largest arenas in the world at the time of its opening in 1927. Aside from the monumental architecture, it's seen some great games in its more than 80 years of existence. The NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte is just one reason to visit this pleasant and picturesque state. Another is the Richard Petty Museum in Randleman, which presents the story of one of the most successful families in stock car racing. It also gives you the opportunity to take one of the most scenic drives in the US, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs from Virginia to the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina.
Pasadena's Rose Bowl
California is road trip territory, and cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, with its giant redwood trees and surfing towns, is a real treat. However, the destination here for sport fans must surely be the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, the venue for the oldest bowl game in college football and a staple of US culture. It has also hosted five Super Bowls and three BCS National Championship games.
From Ohio to Chicago Take a baseball road trip across the mid-west, from Ohio to Illinois. First, head up to Canton, in northeast Ohio, home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame; then take time out from the sporting arena to check out Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, before making the drive west to Chicago. One of baseball's oldest and best-loved ballparks, Wrigley Field, opened in 1914 and became home to the Chicago Cubs two years later. Babe Ruth may have referred to it as a “dump” back then, but it's precisely because it's so rickety and old-fashioned that makes it so loved and treasured. Other important sites for baseball fans include Babe Ruth's birthplace, Baltimore, and Wisconsin, where fans can make a pilgrimage to Green Bay's Lambeau Field.
Upstate New York and Massachusetts - baseball and ice hockey
Baseball fans should take another road trip down the Eastern Seaboard, starting with visiting the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA – it was here that the game was created in 1891 by James Naismith. Boston itself is possibly the baseball city in the US, and home to the “Green Monster” itself, Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark in major league baseball. The Boston Red Sox moved in there in 1912. In Cooperstown in upstate New York, the National Baseball Hall of Fame is the oldest hall of fame in the US, and while you're here, don't miss a tour of the Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum. Then travel further north to Lake Placid to relive the legendary ice hockey match of the 1980 Winter Olympics, when the US – with a team made up of amateurs and collegiate players, defeated the Soviet Union in the “Miracle on Ice” – named the Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Nepal is one of those few countries where Indians don’t need a visa. The borders are fairly transparent with free movement of citizens on both sides. All you need is an identification proof that proves your citizenship. A passport, voter’s ID card or other nationally accepted identification document works. At the immigration section, they just take a scan of your identification document and let you go through. And you can stay as long as 2 years inside Nepal and sometimes even more. Yesterday, I came through the immigration counter at the Tribhuvan international airport in Kathmandu and they didn’t even stamp my passport. I was let in after a quick scan of my passport. As an Indian traveler, this is a rare experience and hence I totally loved the special treatment.
So, if you planning on trekking in the Himalayas or exploring other parts of Nepal, you don’t have the visa stopping you.
While this article is primarily targeted for people looking for a tourist visa, those looking for work permits, business visas and jobs in Nepal can look up the Search Jobs Abroad website.
Saturday, August 09, 2014
There is something infectious about Rajasthan that keeps attracting me to it. While Jodhpur was unbelievable, Jaisalmer presented a different look that made me wish I stay there forever. The Sona Qila, Jaisalmer’s golden fort is the star attraction of this city along with the mighty Thar desert and hence my Jaisalmer moment is inside this fort while I was looking at the golden buildings in the horizon from it.
While I was listening to my audio guide and making my way through the fort, I noticed this elderly Rajasthani sitting by a window and grabbing a breath of fresh cool air (The humidity levels were stifling that day in Jaisalmer due to the rains). While my body seemed to appreciate the cool breeze, my mind seemed to appreciate the view of this man and the dry city landscape beyond. I made small conversation with him and during this I asked him if I could click his picture and like all hospitable Rajasthani people, he smilingly obliged and this is the output. Do you like this Jaisalmer moment of mine?
Friday, August 08, 2014
As you all know, I just returned from a fantastic backpacking trip to Jodhpur where in I got to explore most of the city, its beautiful attractions and its surrounding places. This blue city has to be one of my favorite cities of Rajasthan and the city appealed to me so deeply that I wish to return to it soon. The people are eager to help, the food is top class, the shopping avenues are many and the attractions are vibrant. Below are the top 10 things to do in the beautiful city of Jodhpur that is based on this recent experience of mine. I hope they come in handy while you plan your Jodhpur holiday.
Blue View from the Top of Mehrangarh Fort
The Mehrangarh fort is the highlight of a Jodhpur holiday and hence features on the top of my list. One of the largest forts of India, it commands a stunning view of the entire city of Jodhpur. It is from the top of this fort that you can see the famous blue houses of the city that give the city its nickname ‘The Blue City’. The Museum, the palace and the rest of the fort also make for a great dive into the rich history of the Rathore rulers. I would recommend that you opt for an audio guide as it will help you appreciate the structure better. For a totally off-beat experience at this fort, do remember to be at the top of the fort at 3:30 pm every day as this is the time when they feed the wild kites and eagles. An ancestral tradition, this feeding of meat attracts more than 200 to 200 raptors that swoop in to catch the meat in mid air.
Mirchi Vada and Samosa at Shahi Samosa
The Halwayi tradition is very much an integral part of Jodhpur’s culture and so much so that people seem to eat their favorite snacks for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you wish to indulge in this Halwayi tradition, do try out the iconic Mirchi Vada and Kaju Samosa at the Shahi Samosa shop that is located near the clock tower (ghanta ghar). There are no seating facilities here, but you can always see a huge crowd in front of this shop for these snacks.
Mawa Kachori at Janta Sweet Home
In continuation with the Halwayi tradition, you should try out the super delicious and sweet Mawa Kachori at Janta Sweet Home, the most famous sweetmeat shop in Jodhpur. This dish is extremely sweet, so do plan for a sugar rush. While you are here at Janta Sweet Home, you should also try out their Special Malai Lassi that is so thick that is feels like an ice cream as you dig in with your spoon. Their Matka Rasmalai is also pretty famous here.
Walk Around Sardar Bazaar at Ghanta Ghar
The Sardar Bazaar is the place where all the shopping action is. The best way to get to this place is by taking the steep walking path from Mehrangarh to the clock tower. This will take you through the blue houses, the cane workers, the painters, the pottery section, the souvenir section, the vegetable, fruit and grocery market and finally to the clock tower where the rest of the market lives. Here, you can buy handicrafts, locally made embroidered cloth, local dresses, spices, jodhpuri shoes, scarves, carpets and much more. Even if you are not into shopping, this place is ideal to soak in the vibrant atmosphere and the rich colors on display.
Dal Baati Choorma at Bhavani Dal Baati
Dal Baati Choorma is one of the iconic dishes of this side of the world. A trip to Jodhpur is not complete without having a Dal Baati Choorma meal. If you prefer authentic taste and wish to eat delicious Dal Baati Choorma, try them out at the Bhavani Dal Baati restaurant. If you wish for a more authentic local experience, eat at the Baati Dal Baati restaurant, where you sit on the ground like the locals and eat in simple surroundings. There are other options around Jalori gate as well. The ideal way to eat this meal is by crushing the Baati into a powder, mixing ghee, chillies, onion and dal to it and then finally add the sweet choorma to it. Then, you can eat all of it together with a local papad. Simply delicious it is!!
Desert Safari at Ossiyan
Jodhpur’s nearest desert getaway is Ossiyan. Located 65 kms away, this desert city offers a fantastic desert safari experience into its remote villages and across its beautiful sand dunes. It’s 9th century temple is also quite a sight and it towers over the city when you look at it from the desert. A lot of people like to go on a camel safari and stay overnight inside the desert at one of the rustic desert camps.
Jodhpuri Shoes, Carpets, Silk Scarves
The colorful markets of Jodhpur offer interesting avenues for the shopaholic to indulge in and even so for the normal tourist looking to pick up some souvenirs. The most popular souvenir here is the Jodhpuri shoes (locally called mojari) that come in a myriad of colors. Even hand made cotton and silk carpets and silk scarves are quite a rage with shoppers. Spices and other handicrafts can also be bought as souvenirs or as gift items.
Architectural Beauty of Jaswant Thada
Jaswant Thada is a beautiful white marble cenotaph built in the memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. This place can be visited on the way to or on the way back from Mehrangarh fort. From here, one can see an aerial view of one part of the Jodhpur city and also see the Mehrangarh fort towering in the distance. The lake in front of this cenotaph provides quite a surreal foreground to this monument.
Luxurious Ummaid Bhavan Palace
A luxury palace hotel, a working palace and a museum, the Ummaid Bhavan Palace is a striking landmark of the city of Jodhpur. 70% of this palace is managed by the Taj group as a luxury 5 star hotel, 10% exists as a museum for the tourists and 20% is for the royal family. As tourists, we are allowed into the museum and the hotel. In the museum, you can see artifacts from the rich royal era, interesting murals on the wall of the palace, lots of richness and the various gifts and collections of the Maharaja and his queen. And while you are here, do not miss the opportunity to see some of the rarest cars of the world in the vintage cars section.
Cenotaphs of Mandore Garden
Mandore is an ancient town, located about 9 kms from Jodhpur. Once a part of the Parihar empire, today, it is famous for its Royal cenotaphs, temples, a ruined fort and other monuments all located within a very green setting that is dubbed as the Mandore Garden. Popular with the locals especially on national holidays and weekends, this place offers a good day trip from Jodhpur.
Thursday, August 07, 2014
The world knows about Rajasthan and the myriad of colors it offers. There is color everywhere. The women and their colorful dresses. The markets and even the men. The pagdi (turban) is their main colorful accessory and come with a rich dash of colors that contrast so well with their plain clothes that I sometimes wonder why we don’t wear such colorful turbans as a fashion accessory.
In this case, I befriended this guard at the Mehrangarh Fort who was dressed in traditional attire. Not only are the people of Rajasthan colorfully dressed, they are also very cordial and hospitable. I never came across a single person who was not helpful to me. Damn! I am already missing Rajasthan!
On my recent trip to Jaisalmer, I stayed at 2 places. One was a luxury property in the middle of the Thar desert and the other was a budget hotel located close to the Golden fort of Jaisalmer. This review of mine is about the budget hotel called ‘Mystic Jaisalmer’ where I stayed for 2 days and 1 night.
1) This hotel enjoys prime location. It is situated just outside the fort and all the tourist attractions like the Fort, the Havelis, the Bazzar, Gadisar lake and the Jain temples are located close by. A lot of people prefer hotels located inside the fort, but the drainage problem is actually destroying the foundation of the fort and hence is not recommended.
2) This hotel comes under the budget category and offers dormitory, fan cooled and air conditioned rooms. I stayed in a non-air-conditioned dormitory, which is comfortable with a fan, attached bathrooms and safety lockers. However, I won’t recommend this place during the hot summers unless the hotel owners make the dormitory air-conditioned. The dormitory costs INR 300 per bed, while the other rooms cost INR 600 and INR 1000 for fan-cooled and air-conditioned respectively.
3) The hotel offers free wi-fi and one that is comfortably fast.
4) The hotel has a roof-top garden restaurant that offers great views of the fort. It is also very breezy under the star-light night sky. The food though is not that special, but it is alright.
5) The hotel is fairly new and hence the infrastructure is very good and all the areas and rooms are very clean.
6) The people running the place are also very service-oriented and hence try to help the tourist as much as possible.
7) They also organize their own camel tours and night safari in their desert. It looks like they own another budget property or camp in the desert.
8) The only sad part is that this hotel is surrounded by filth like the rest of Jaisalamer city.
9) The bus station, train station and other restaurants are also located within walking distance from the hotel.
I would definitely recommend this hotel if they make all their rooms air-conditioned. Even otherwise, I would recommend for its good service and proximity to attractions. According to me, they make for a great budget hotel in Jaisalmer.
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
Off late, I have been making a conscious effort to evangelize my love of travel through the mainstream media channels. This will allow more of us to find solace in the joy of travel and indulge in the life that I have been living since I made travel my career. This is one of my full length articles in main stream media and it is about one of my favorite destinations – Burma. This article titled ‘The Land of Temples’ can be found in the August issue of Complete Well Being Magazine, a national health/well being magazine. You can read it here or even better, if you buy a copy of this magazine (August 2014 issue) and look up pages 92 to 96. I hope you enjoy reading this article.
Tuesday, August 05, 2014
I love to stay in hostels because they offer comfortable budget accommodation through an air conditioned environment with safety lockers, great wi-fi, proximity to the tourist attractions and the ability to meet like minded travelers. On my international travels, I have stayed in umpteen hostels for a significant amount of time, but never came across good quality hostels in India till I came across Zostel.
Zostel is a hostel chain that runs hostels at Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur in Rajasthan, India’s most tourist oriented state. Zostel offers quality and facilities that are on par with hostels across the world and at great budget Indian prices. On my recent trip to Rajasthan, I managed to stay for 3 days at their hostel in Jodhpur. This review is based on this recent experience of mine.
1) Unlike a typical Indian hostel, this one comes with international quality standards. Their beds, rooms, safety lockers and washrooms are all of great quality.
2) They are air-conditioned and offer great comfort in Rajasthan’s heat.
3) They have the concept of a central meet-up area where all travelers can meet, strike interesting conversations and share their stories.
4) Zostel offers free wi-fi like most international hostels. They even offer free laptop or desktop for those travelers traveling without their gadgets.
5) The one at Jodhpur is close to the airport, while the ones at Jaipur and Udaipur are located right in the heart of the city and close to all tourist attractions. Even though the Jodhpur hostel is close to the airport, it is still close to all the tourist attractions as the city is extremely small.
6) The people running the place share the love of travel and are great company for us travelers. They make sure all our questions are answered and if not, they guide us in the right direction.
7) The hostel at Jodhpur comes with a roof top view and sit out area. Between 8 pm and 9:30 pm, one can catch a good view of the lights at Ummaid Bhavan Palace from here.
8) They also offer tailor made tours for those who want a bit of planning.
9) Their washrooms are clean, airy and come with all necessary amenities.
10) And all this costs only INR 350 per person per night, which is just USD 6, which according to me fits perfectly into the world of budget travel.
I thoroughly loved my stay at Zostel – Jodhpur and would love to stay again with them at their Udaipur and Jaipur property sometime soon. If you are a budget traveler and seek the joy of hostels, I would recommend that you give them a try.
Mountaineering, rafting, skiing, trekking, trail running and surfing are just some of the many adventure sports India has to offer. While embarking on any adventure, the traveler has no choice but to discover the heart and soul of the ancient cultures and colorful people. It’s part of the package deal- it’s inevitable.
“This guest article has been brought to you by Himraj Soin, from The Outdoor Journal, an adventure sport publication based in New Delhi, India (www.outdoorjournal.in) and a partner of beontheroad.com. All the photographs in this post belong to the magazine.”
Unclimbed summits, unnamed rapids, remote trails, long hiking- there is no place like India when it comes to eclectic adventures. In the 1980’s, few pockets of climbers who were passionate about the sport, would strap on their colorful harnesses, which looked like they belonged at Woodstock, recruit their buddies, and climb a peak. They were the pioneers; the hipsters, the innovators, and they didn’t even know it. The adventurists of the 80’s are always viewed in awe- for being daring and adventurous, with limited means and awareness. Now, the outdoor scene in India has drastically changed. While still a niche group, awareness is growing- whether it’s mountaineering, climbing, skiing or surfing, amongst many others, the market is growing and people are stepping out of their comfort zones. Even in comparison to a decade ago, the number of people interested and participating in “adventure-activities” has grown exponentially and today, is well over 300,000-500,000.
From the untouched mountains of Kashmir, we bring you- Gulmarg or the meadow of flowers. Today, we have one of the most popular and “best” ski destinations in Asia. Gulmarg in Kashmir will not remind you of skiing in the Alps, or snowboarding in the Rockies. Shredding the Himalayas is a different experience: it’s wider, more dangerous and definitely more remote. Situated in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in North India, the ski resort (Mt. Apherwat) that boasts of the second highest cable car in the world (4,200m) opened in 2005. With a local but competent ski patrol and avalanche safety team, Apherwat offers phenomenal off-piste with breathtaking views of the Himalayas and Nanga Parbat (8000m Himalayan peak). If you like heli-skiing and know how to use the related safety equipment, this is the place to be. The skiable terrain of this mountain is pristine but wild. It is one of the largest, longest, and highest in Asia. A growing market, the slopes are still very pristine and relatively uncrowded. With great five-star hotels as well as rustic, alpine huts- the stay is always comfortable, cosy, and epic. Littered with Indian soldiers, camouflaged in the white snow and green conifers, one feels more than safe while shredding the slopes.
South India has become incredibly popular for climbing. Pilgrimage (2003), a sensational climbing video made famous by American climber superstar Chris Sharma, has driven a lot of traffic to this part of the country. A hot spot for climbing enthusiasts, Hampi and Badami hosts a number of bouldering problems. Savandurga, one of the largest monolith hills in Asia, is another great spot for traditional climbing. Standing tall and granite at 1126m, it has 700-1000 ft high technical climbs. This particular rock wall has seen epic first ascents in the 1980’s. The routes are infrequently repeated and this hill remains a classic today. In fact, only recently did the first American and Indian redpoint an 8b+ climbing problem in Hampi. Having mostly experienced phenomenal bouldering in Colorado, we were extremely impressed with the boulders of the south- a definite must for anyone who wants to rip up some sick, holy, gnar-gnar.
Trekking is also some of the best in the world in this country- from high altitude hikes in the scenic Ladakh, in the Northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, to excursions in the meadows of Himachal Pradesh; the Himalaya is the adventure playground of the world. In the Northern states of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Zanskar, and the Nubra Valley are more than exquisite for trekking. With purple mountains and green valleys intertwined with the Silk Route, this is the Switzerland of India. With peaks that resemble the Matterhorn, Ladakh is a dream for geologists. Being mostly in the rain shadow of the Himalaya, the contours, cracks, and details are vivid and easy to see with the naked eye- another benefit for geologizing. In the state of Uttarakhand, the Kumaon and Garhwal valleys are littered with towering peaks, alpine meadows and saturated with Hindu mythology. One of the most popular adventure activities, people come from all around the world to visit these states, amongst many.
As for running, once should get away from the main, hectic cities. Apart from the renowned Himalayas, the state of Gujarat, in the North-West of India, close to the Arabian Sea, has recently put itself on the global map of the ultra trail running scene. A site older than the pyramids of Egypt, spanning 100 hectares of an inexplicably advanced city shrouded in five thousand years of mystery, Dholavira was one of the largest metropolises of the Indus Valley Civilization, as well as the most prominent archaeological site- located on a scenic island surrounded by a salt marsh, known as the Khadir-Bet in the Great Rann of Kutch. With varying landscapes from salt plains to desert shrubbery to great white beaches, it has it all. As of recently, it is home to the “Run the Rann” event- an ultra-trail race with different distances in the desert décor of the “Great Rann of Kutch”.
River Zanskar: an up and coming rafting hub in India. Zanskar is situated in the eastern part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in the Kargil district with the Zanskar Range separating it from Ladakh. A region in Ladakh, it is one of the highest inhabited places in the world. In the summer, the Zanskar, one of the highest rivers in the world, creates Grade four and five rapids, many of which are still unnamed. In the winter, the river freezes over and the only way to access the kingdom is by trekking on the frozen gorge. We went rafting there in the summer and after emerging from the canyon, our adventure ended at the confluence of the River Indus and the River Zanskar- a beautiful conclusion. We had survived grade five rapids called the Dislocator and the Constrictor, as well as paddle through a mountain blast. We had had a psychedelic five-day trip- without the peyote. Throw the Zanskar River into your bucket list, find the Copper Star- it’ll be gorge-ous. The last lost horizon of the world, the land of white copper, it is the Grand Canyon of Asia.
Due to it’s myriad of cultures, varied topography, and endless adventure opportunities; India has become a popular yet pristine country to explore. Always accommodating to the influx of tourism, adventurers, and explorers, the industry is growing and will continue to do so, the adventures will flourish and people will discover.