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Monday, February 29, 2016

Top 5 Favorite Activities in the Philippines

The archipelago of Philippines owing to its volcanic nature and tropical location is home to so many gorgeous sights and rich adventurous experiences. While most of the tourists to the Philippines head to Manila for its night life and shopping malls, to Boracay and nearby islands for its beach parties, white sandy beaches and emerald waters, to Bohol for its chocolate and green hills and to Cebu for a larger island experience, I prefer a slightly different trail in the Philipiines. My favorite 3 islands in the Philippines are Luzon, Palawan and Mindanao, but as Mindanao is not considered very safe, I am listing below my top 5 favorite things to do from the islands of Luzon and Palawan.

1) Hiking in the Rice Terraces of Banaue

Banaue Rice Terraces of Philippines - a sight to behold

A fantastic tropical atmosphere, dense greenery, misty mountains, cooler climes, tribal culture and lots of hidden beauties…that is Banaue for you. This is one of my favorite places to hike in the Philippines. I absolutely love hiking over the rice terraces from village to village, coming in close contact with the local people, understanding the Ifugao traditions and seeing a natural wonder up close. And the rice wine here is something special and a perfect way to relax after a long hike in the mountains.

2) Exploring the world’s longest underground river at Sabang

Sabang underground river - one of the new 7 natural wonders of the world

It is believed that millions of years ago, the island of Palawan was connected to Borneo and hence the nature, flora and fauna bear more similarities to Borneo than to the rest of the Philippines. A fairly under-developed part of the country, Palawan has many special attractions. One of its more famous ones is the Puerto Princesa underground river, which has been classified as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Located near Sabang, this river is the world’s largest underground river and offers everything from an awesome cave experience, rich jungle experience, fantastic birdlife, a remote beach and the absolute awe of one of mother nature’s special creations.

3) Island Hopping off El Nido

Island hopping off El Nido is a total fun packed water adventure trip

Located in the northern part of the Palawan island, El Nido is a perfect destination for off-beat adventure. Dirt biking, mountain biking, jungle trekking, ATV rides, remote waterfall hikes, island hopping, cave diving and so much more is on offer here. While Nacpan beach, Duli beach and Dagmay beach are three remote pristine beaches located in this region, the highlight of an El Nido experience is its island hopping. Located a short boat ride away from El Nido are stunning limestone karsts, blue lagoons, underground cave systems, blow holes, remote beaches with nothing but a green mountain around it and basically things that all adventure lovers and water babies will drool over.Snorkeling, Scuba diving, discovering underground caves, fishing, eating the fresh catch, climbing misty mountain tops on these remote islands and lots of swimming are on the menu here. While the days are loaded with activities and things to do, EL Nido nights are more laidback parties with great food and alcohol. They are the more subdued version of the Boracay parties.

4) Tropical Trekking near Batad

Tappiyah Falls - lovely setting near Batad, Philippines

The stone walled rice terraces of Batad are like the eighth wonder of the world for me. While most travelers see these rice terraces and then leave, the best option is to stay here for a longer while as this region has so many rich tropical sights that will blow your mind away. You have tropical treks, green horse shoe bends, mighty waterfalls in the middle of dense green mountains, misty mountain top trekking trails and many other jungle trails for all kinds of hikers. And to top it all, the countryside experience is way more different than the rest of the more touristy places. The locals here are real friendly, but they take some time to warm up to strangers, so it might be prudent to spend some time here for a thorough experience.

5) Scuba Diving off Coron Island

Limestone karsts and emerald waters - great for scuba diving off Coron island

Located north of Palawan Island, Coron island is known for its colorful coral reefs and rich marine life. One of the underwater biodiversity hotspots of the Philippines, scuba diving enthusiasts and researchers used to frequent this island many years back. Today, more mainstream scuba diving organizations are present to enable regular travelers to experience this rich underwater beauty. Be it wreck diving (from the world war days), cave diving (this is a specialty here), coral reef diving or lake diving, this place has all the secret ingredients to blow the minds of even the most accomplished of scuba divers.

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Travel Photo of the Day: Pots of Twante, Myanmar (Burma)

Colorful pots fom the pottery town of Twante in Burma

Located in the Iyerawaddy delta, it is the clay of the river that makes Twante a special pottery town of Myanmar (Burma).  For centuries, the people of Twante have lived off their pottery skills. Even today, their pots are of huge demand throughout Burma, but unfortunately, a lot of their new generation travels to neighbouring Yangon to do jobs in the city. This town, with its rustic riverside atmosphere and great pottery industry makes for a fantastic day trip from Yangon, the capital city of Myanmar (Burma).

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

10 Unique Experiences for your Laos Holiday

Laos is my favorite destination in South East Asia. I love its greenery, its relatively untouched territory, its oodles of peace and stunning mountains, rivers and nature. If there is one place in the world, where I want to go on a relaxing holiday, it has to be Laos. Having said that, Laos is a great destination for backpackers and for those wishing for some off-beat adventure experiences.

Below are 10 things you can do under the purview of relaxation and off-beat adventure to have a unique experience on your next holiday to Laos.

1) Cycling or Motor biking across Bolavan Plateau

Tade Fane Waterfall in its green surroundings, Laos

Southern Laos and especially the Bolavan plateau with its cooler climes is blessed with an insane number of waterfalls, coffee estates, quiet green villages in the countryside and lots of dense forest cover. Most tourists give this part of Laos a miss or spend only a brief time here. However, if you spend more time here, you can make a solid connection with the very friendly local people, do some mountain biking, dirt biking, waterfall climbing, forest trekking, and so much more. This is untapped territory and offers the best of off-beat adventure in Laos. Be ready to rough it out though.

2) Ziplining across the dense green canopies of north Laos

This is a stunner adventure experience. Ziplining over the dense forest canopy of North Laos to reach your tree house, waking up to the sound of exotic birdlife and to the sight of the sunrise over the misty forests and ziplining every time you wish to hit the ground. This experience is not for the faint-hearted, but if you wish to indulge in adventure, this has to be one of Laos’s top adventure experiences. As you are located right in the middle of a serene forest, you can go for jungle treks, birdwatching, wildlife sighting, fishing and/or mountain biking.

3) Traveling by river from Muang Khua to Nong Khiaw

The spectacular Nam Ou river and the mountains at Nong Khiaw, Laos

The whole country of Laos follows a riverside life. Hence, a Laos holiday is not complete if you don’t experience this riverside life. For an off-beat river trail, follow the Nam Oou river downstream from Muang Khua to Nong Khiaw. Muang Khua is a quiet riverside town. Muang Knoi, the next stop is a village totally cut off from the world with no electricity or phone connectivity and then comes Nong Khiaw, a beautiful large town with all modern amenities and the riverside charm. It is quite an experience to travel across Laos by river and see its countryside and small villages.

4) Attending a traditional Lao wedding

Newly Wed Laos Couple in traditional attire

It is not easy to get invited to a local wedding, but if you do get the opportunity, do not miss it. During this local wedding, you will get to understand their traditions and see how close it is to our Hindu traditions in India. The event is extremely colorful with lots of glitterati and as always, there is delicious local food. The fish and the bamboo salad are to die for.

5) Idling at a riverside hut at Don Det or Don Khon

Don Det and Don Khon on either side of the Mekong, 4000 islands, Laos

You can’t get any better than this for a relaxed holiday. South Laos and North Eastern Cambodia is home to 4,000 islands that lie on the Mekong river and these islands offer a rustic riverside atmosphere that screams ‘relaxation’. You could play your guitar, read your favorite books, volunteer to help the locals with their day-to-day work, go for a swim every day in the Mekong river, enjoy the fresh catch of the day from the river and basically do anything that gives you relaxation. And if it rains on these islands, the place becomes nothing less than magical.

6) Applying for a visa at embassies/consulates in Vientiane

Prayers being offered inside Phra That Luang temple, Vientiane, Laos

This might not be your stereotype tourist activity, but if you are traveling to other countries on this trip of yours, you should know that Vientiane is possibly the easiest place around to apply for a visa. Most travelers apply for a visa to India, China, Myanmar, Vietnam and even Russia from here. Visa formalities for all the so called tough countries becomes so much easier here. And while you wait for your visa, you can enjoy the easy paced life of this capital city and the evening markets by the Mekong river.

7) Swim under the Kuang Xi waterfall

Gorgeous Kuang Xi waterfall near Luang Prabang, Laos

One of Laos’s prettiest waterfalls, the Kuang Xi offers a great day trip from Luang Prabang and a fantastic way to cool down in the tropical heat. While you can take almost any kind of transport to this place, I prefer to take a mountain bike and a dirt trail to reach this waterfall. The countryside is fabulous and the mountain bike allows you to go to places where other vehicles cannot go. And once you reach the azure waters of the waterfall, all you’d want to do is dive in for a refreshing dip and then admire the nature in this place. Once you are tired of being a water baby, you can explore the Kuang Xi sloth bear sanctuary nearby where sloth bears caught by poachers find a home.

8) Do a cannon ball at the Blue Lagoon near Vang Vieng
Canon balls, reverse canon balls, and many other forms of jumps at the Blue Lagoon, Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng is one of the main reasons for Laos being such a favorite on the South East Asia backpacking trail. Its tubing, drugs and beer scene used to be a rage between 1980 and 2000s. Unfortunately, a lot of people lost their lives to drugs here and thankfully, it has been many years since all of this has stopped. However, if you go today, you can explore some of its pristine lagoons, caves, limestone karsts, TV bars and so much more. My favorite is canon balling from the top branch of a tree into the blue lagoon. Water babies and adventure enthusiasts will love this place.

9) Tracing history along the Mekong river from Northern Thailand to Luang Prabang

Mekong River from the Ting Cave

Another popular backpacking route that begins near Chiang Saen in Northern Thailand and goes to Luang Prabang in Central Laos, this trail on the Mekong river takes you through villages and rich Mekong history that has been preserved very well. It can get quite boring to travel 10 days by boat, but if you plan your itinerary properly, you can opt to stay back at the intermediate villages for 2 to 3 days, explore its nearabouts and continue your downstream journey to Luang Prabang.

10) Trekking in the forests off Luang Namtha

A dense forested part of Laos and one that is blessed with much cooler weather, the Luang Namtha region of Laos is ideal for hiking, trekking, mountain lovers and wildlife lovers. Home to many small tribes, this belt is ideal for those multi-day long treks through dense jungles and to remote villages in an already fairly sparsely populated country.

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Travel Photo of the Day: Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

A UNESCO World Heritage site and a natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef is in a league of its own. Everything about it seems appealing to me. When you get into the water, the rich colors and the marine life mesmerize you and when you see it from above, the colors blow your mind. If you are a scuba diver, water enthusiast or even a nature enthusiast, this is one place you have to experience for yourself. Queensland has so many attractions in addition to the Great Barrier Reef that one can possibly spend an entire month here and still only skim the surface.

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Travel Photo of the Day: Agonda River Estuary, India

Boats near Agonda estuary, South Goa, India

A gorgeous location in South Goa, Agonda beach and Agonda estuary are beautiful at all times of the day and in all seasons. Personally, I love the sunset on this beach, the rivers upstream and the entire countryside coastal highway. This place is not as busy as Palolem and yet, not too far away in case you wish to indulge a bit. Basically, a win-win.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Travel Photo of the Day: Golistan Palace, Iran

Inside Golistan Palace, Tehran, Iran

One of Tehran's historical gems, the Golistan Palace, located right in the heart of Old Tehran is a great work of art and architecture. With rich colors, glasswork, colorful murals and beautiful gardens, the Golistan palace is a must visit place in Tehran. Each of the buildings within this palace have a story to tell!

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Global Confluence of Music, Dance and Spirituality: Don’t miss to be a part of it!

From the 11th to the 13th of March, 2016, the capital of India (New Delhi) is playing host to an event of gargantuan proportions. Everything about it seems to dazzle the eye, senses and the mind. The Art of Living is celebrating the momentous occasion of its 35th anniversary through the ‘World Culture Festival’ where people from 155 countries unite for the cause of global peace. In simple words, it is going to be the biggest entertainment (art, music and dance) event ever hosted in India. Some of its proportions are beyond my wildest imagination. Take some of these figures as examples of this mighty event:

1) The stage for this event is the size of six football fields

2) More than 25,000 artists are going to perform live at this festival, which makes it the largest live concert ever.

3) 3.5 million people are expected to attend, including world leaders and celebrities, which makes it on par with the Soccer World Cup in Brazil and bigger than the Winter Olympics in Sochi and the ICC Cricket World Cup in India.

4) 8,000 musicians are supposed to dazzle the spectators through the 40 odd instruments that they will be playing. Now, that according to me is a true music festival and one that every music lover will appreciate.
 


While the numbers do tell the story, I for one am entranced about getting to see the art music, dance and cultures of the world in one place. I don’t see any place in the world where you will get to see all of this in 3 days.

1) The Mystical Dervish Whirling dancers of Turkey

2) Sri Lanka’s traditional Kandyan dance

3) 100 dancers showing the different dances from Indonesia

4) German Choir

5) 500 Bulgarian Dancers

6) Nepal’s folk dance

7) Hip Hop dancers from the United States of America

8) 650 African Drummers

9) 100 Argentinian dancers doing the Tango

10) 100 glittering Brazilian Samba dancers

11) Traditional dances from Pakistan

12) 300 Thai dancers who bring alive the Royal art, dance and music

13) Folk dance from Hungary

14) 100 folk dancers from Russia

15) Traditional performances from the Middle East

16) More than 200 dancers bring dance forms from different parts of the Philippines

17) Grand performers from Belarus

18) Trapeze dancers from Japan

19) More than 500 exotic Latin American dancers

20) 100 Lithuanian Musicians

21) Traditional Japanese dancers

22) Huge Swiss Alphorns

23) 1000 Chinese singers

and so much more…
 


It is going to like a ‘duniya darshan’ in 3 days. We will know more about the world through its art, music and dances than ever before. This World Culture Festival 2016 is going to offer one unprecedented high to all its visitors, who will learn to celebrate cultural diversity.
 


This festival is not just going to be about art, music and dance. In between, there will be spirituality and meditation sessions spearheaded by none other than Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Founder of Art of Living himself and his team. The goal of these sessions is to embrace spirituality and add serenity to the loud and clear voice of unity, oneness and celebration. And to share India’s special genius of spirituality as a solace for the world.
 


Do you want to go on this ‘duniya darshan’ journey? Do you want to explore and experience the musical roots of various cultures and traditions from around the world? Do you want to make noise about the goodness in the world? Do you want to vividly showcase and experience total harmony despite the diversity in nationality, race, culture, religion, traditions and more? Do you want to witness India’s biggest festival ever?

Well, get ready to pack your bags and experience global culture like never before!!

Dates to Remember: 11th to 13th March, 2016

Destination: New Delhi (Live Web Streaming is also possible)

Oh! I forgot to mention that this event is absolutely FREE for all!

World Culture Festival

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Travel Photo of the Day: Indian Rhino from Assam, India

Indian Rhino at Kaziranga, Assam

Summer is fast approaching and it is that time of the year to go wildlife watching as sightings are the best. If you are interested in seeing the one-horned Indian Rhinoceros then head to the north eastern state of Assam in India where you can spot them in any of their many national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The popular places to spot a rhino are Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park, Orang National Park and Pabitara Wildlife Sanctuary.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Travel Photo of the Day: Batad, Philippines

Green Horseshoe bend - in tropical forests near Batad, Philippines

Batad in Northern Philippines is known for its stone walled rice terraces. These rice terraces are so famous that it commands a UNESCO World Heritage site tag. While the rice terraces are absolutely spectacular, the mountains and the lush green tropical forests near Batad are also a sight to die for. Steep treks criss-crossing rice terraces and jungle trails leads you to some of mother nature’s most pristine views. This is one such view of a horseshoe bend in this mountain river that is located in the middle of absolutely gorgeous greenery. It is such views that make the steep ordeal a total value affair.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Experience the best of Mumbai

Mumbai is the incredible city of dreams. It is renowned for being the business and entertainment capital of India. Mumbai never fails to capture the hearts of tourists who flock to it from all parts of the world. The culture of this metropolitan city is a boisterous blend of cuisines, languages, food, fine arts, cinema and festivals. The crowded but lively city of Mumbai is constantly in a state of flux that keeps it going round the clock. It is not an uncommon sight to spot people eating dinner at 2:00 in the morning!

The city never sleeps, the nights are just as dazzling as the days. Such is the magnificence of this wondrous city that anyone who steps on to this land cannot resist its bewitching charm. The never-say-die attitude is what makes the city so alive and enthusiastic. No matter what time you enter the city, the electrifying energy that the city sparks out will amaze you in and out. However, Mumbai is a sprawling city and there are numerous places to explore. To ensure that you experience the best of the city, here’s a list of fun things to do in Mumbai:-

Go Gaming in Mumbai

1. Go Gaming: There are a number of gaming parlours in Mumbai that lets you engage in intense video gaming sessions, filled with fun and excitement. Video games are an excellent stress buster and uplifts your mood instantly. Go alone or with a group of buddies and enjoy a thrilling gaming sessions. Challenge others to make your games more interesting and socialize with fellow gamers. Good gaming is guaranteed here!

Mountain Biking in Mumbai

2. Mountain Biking: Mountain biking is the sport of riding bicycles off-road, often over rough terrain, using specially designed mountain bikes. It is a sport enjoyed by millions of people across the globe. In Mumbai, you can easily rent a mountain bike and explore new places. Experience a sense of freedom, discover and explore new places while keeping fit and meeting great new people whilst cycling. Make sure you experience this highly enjoyable, varied and often adrenalin-fuelled sport of mountain biking.

Bollywood dance in Mumbai

3. Dance Bollywood style: Bollywood dance is a fusion of traditional and classical Indian dances with the influence of some jazz, hip-hop and modern dance. Bollywood dance is fun, energetic, keeps you fit and improves your mood in no time. Whether it’s a wedding or a party or a dance competition, you never stay far away from the graceful yet highly energetic moves of the Bollywood dance. Mumbai, being the hub of Bollywood, host many professional Bollywood dance studios.

Essel World Amusement Park of Mumbai

4. EsselWorld: - EsselWorld is Asia’s largest amusement park, which is located at Gorai in Mumbai. EsselWorld boasts of around 71 attractive entertainment rides designed for all age groups. The star attractions of EsselWorld Mumbai include bowling alleys, an ice-skating rink, cricket grounds, a virtual play room for video games, a massive naval killer ship converted into a very cool science museum and a thrilling roller coaster that will make you scream your lungs out. Packed will limitless fun and adventure, EsselWorld will make you feel like a kid again.

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Set Your Travel Woes Aside with Travel Insurance to the Rescue

If you are a travel buff, your wandering souls need no introduction to the afflictions of a traveler. From being stared at with intrigue to being the victim of a lousy baggage theft, you might have faced it all. Now who can forget the worst case scenario where you actually ended up missing your respective trains or flights. Even through all these setbacks, enjoying every minute of it never needed any prodding.

Travel insurance to the rescue

While making the most of your trip is up to you, there are few out there who are working as dedicatedly as they can to assure you of a pleasant trip every time you head out. Travel insurance is one such entity that assures you to have all the fun, without worrying about things going wrong. For those of you who have proved how eventful their trips have been in the past, this is your best bet at enjoying a relaxing one.

Royal Sundaram travel insurance provides everything from health covers and coverage for lost baggage to home insurance, personal liabilities, accidents, and repatriation. This would essentially let you gorge on all the things you wish to, without worrying about how it would affect you.

Suitcase Travel

So if you have lost your luggage in the past, because that is just how fate grants you her blessings, get a travel insurance cover. While you may not get back those pair of jeans you love so much, you will at least be able to purchase temporary essentials. You can also look forward to coming back home with the reassurance that your home insurance will take care of any mishaps that could have happened in your absence.

One of the best features of the travel insurance is the coverage given for your health. Since everyone tends go a little crazy on a holiday, a travel health cover doesn’t seem all that surprising. Whether you ended up getting an emergency surgery (your appendix chose your holiday trip to start bothering you) or broke a tooth while having fun, travel insurance will cover everything, both health and dental expenses, allowing you to go overboard on your vacation and enjoy to the fullest. If you do end up being financial liable to a third party while on your trip, the travel insurance will take care of it. This also applies in case you end up injuring yourself in an accident. Since you wouldn’t be carrying enough cash to get yourself treated or pay for your medical expenses in these cases, your travel insurance covers for any expenses incurred for your medical treatment.

Flight Delays and Travel Insurance

With our luck, delayed or cancelled flights are not such a far fetched theory. Brandishing cash for tickets to the next flight is another hassle you would go to any lengths to avoid. Your Royal Sundaram travel insurance will not only take care of the travel expenses but also provide an automatic extension on your existing coverage in case of any such unexpected delays. You sure would need one in rough and uncertain weather, where even predicting the next flight is impossible.

With all these advantages lining up, what more could you want? Travelling without worrying about all thing that could go wrong will, for a change, make your trip all the more pleasant and enjoyable. Whether it is the smallest of issues to a full-blown chaotic mess, your travel insurance is sure to pull you through with no hassles.

So go ahead and plan your next trip with gusto with travel insurance as your shield.

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Travel Photo of the Day: Kaafu Atoll, Maldives

Kani Island, Maldives

Tropical Island atmosphere, soft white sands, swaying palms and warm emerald waters, Kaafu Atoll, located south of Male in Maldives is that perfect jewel of the Indian Ocean. It is fantastic for a relaxing holiday and even better as a romantic destination.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

IIT Guwahati: Where nature and learning come together

Won’t it be fabulous to do your bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate in the middle of pristine nature and greenery? IIT Guwahati is one such place and I figured that out for myself when I visited their campus last month to give my TEDx talk.

Cycling is a way of life at IIT Guwahati campus

Photo Courtesy: Adarsh Shrivastava, a student of IIT Guwahati

I am mad about nature, outdoors and wildlife and I love learning environments. Hence, it was no surprise that I fell in love with the IIT Guwahati campus at first sight. This 750 acre campus flanked by the mighty Brahmputra river on one side is a gorgeous educational institution in the middle of a forest like environment and umpteen number of lakes.

IIT Guwahati campus as seen from a distance

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia.org and used under the Creative Commons License

IIT Guwahati has like 4 lakes on campus. 2 of them are natural, while the others are man-made. All these lakes are fairly large. During my three days on campus, I regularly spotted pelicans, herons, egrets, cormorants and pintails on the lake waters. I woke up to the sound of whistling thrushes and to the chatter of babblers. Sometimes, I would wonder if I was actually on a wildlife trip to some of the national parks in Assam. Such is the richness of birdlife on campus.

IIT Guwahati - surrounded by pristine nature and greenery

Photo Courtesy: Adarsh Shrivastava, a student of IIT Guwahati

It is not just the birds that are seen often here. Students and the people on campus told me that they often hear the call of the jackal, they have spotted deer from time to time and they spot pythons and other snakes every monsoon season. In fact, the vegetation around the university campus is so dense that I would not be surprised if the wild animals often watch the students at close quarters.

Hoopoe seen at IIT Guwahati campus

Photo Courtesy: Adarsh Shrivastava, a student of IIT Guwahati

The idea is not to scare you, but to let you know that if you are a nature, wildlife or birdlife lover, then this place is apt for you. For not only can you go about your studies under the umbrella of an elite education brand, but you can also indulge in your passion of exploring the rich nature that lives on campus.

The lovely lakes of IIT guwahati

Photo Courtesy: Adarsh Shrivastava, a student of IIT Guwahati

In fact, I loved the campus so much that there were times when I dreamt about becoming a student here. Like most IIT campuses, this one has all the latest facilities and some of the brightest minds in the country. I think if I decide on studying further in India, this place has to be one of my top choices. Do you think you want to go study amidst such pristine nature and brilliant minds?

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9 Places to Visit in Bangalore as a Tourist

I stay in Bangalore and can recommend so many things that you can do to experience the city from a local’s perspective. But, if you are a first-timer to the city or if you wish to explore the garden city as a good-‘ol tourist, then you should definitely experience it like a tourist. Sometimes, it is fun to explore the tourist icons in a bustling city. It gives you that heady feeling of experiencing a different world in the middle of all kinds of growth, traffic and chaos. 

Bangalore has something for everyone. If you are on a path of self-discovery, you can visit the Art of Living Foundation, located in South Bangalore. The city is home to some of the best parks, historical monuments, art galleries, shopping centers and wildlife sanctuaries. In order to explore the city in the best possible manner make use of the Cauvery- an open roof double decker bus that will take you to some of the best hotspots in the city. You can also set out as an independent traveler in the city, although do make sure that you have the following places and tourist destinations in your Bangalore itinerary.

# Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace/Bangalore Fort


Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace, Bangalore

Located within the Bangalore Fort complex, the Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace is an interesting monument to visit. Known for its elegant pillar design, motifs and embellishments, the edifice is a testimony to the city’s rich past and history. The palace houses some of the notable paintings of James Hunter (lieutenant in the Royal artillery), depicting military and day to day lives of those times. If you want to go back in history and unveil Bangalore’s rich past. I highly recommend that you to visit Bangalore Fort and Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace.

# HAL Aerospace Museum


The first of its kind in India, HAL Aerospace Museum is dedicated to the growth and development of the Indian aviation industry. The museum exhibits various aircrafts, helicopters, aircraft engines and flight simulators. You can also get to experience mock air traffic control and learn about the Indian aviation history. A highly recommended place for kids and aviation enthusiasts.

# Bugle Rock


Located in the south of Bangalore, Bugle rock is a massive rock garden that is intriguing to both the scientific community and the general public of the city. The park has waterfalls, fountains and natural rock formations and is visited by several people including kids and the elderly. A great many famous restaurants of South Bangalore are located in the vicinity. If you are a foodie, you might not want to miss this.

# Bannerghatta National Park

Butterfly Park - Bannerghatta National Park, Bangalore

While there are abundant places to visit within the city of Bangalore, destinations such as the Bannerghatta National Park cannot be missed. Situated just 22 kms away from the city, the National park is home to various species of fauna and flora. You can spot indigenous animals of the region such as the leopards, elephants, sloth bears, tigers, etc. This park, which is great for kids and for family outings, is open all through the year.

# Wonderla Amusement Park

Wonderla Amusement Park, Bangalore

Away from the grind of the city, awaits Wonderla Amusement park that offers a fun and memorable time to people of all ages. The park boasts of 59 thrilling rides that are suitable for people of all age groups. Located on the Mysore road, some 28 kms off the city, where affordable land for sale in Bangalore are also available, this park is an excellent place to visit with your entire family and friends.

# Lal Bagh Botanical Garden


Spread across 240 acres, the legendary Lal Bagh Botanical Garden echoes history, beautiful landscape and greenery. It is a must go tourist place in a city that is famous for its gardens. The garden is open from 6 am in the morning to 7 pm in the evening. Every year the garden opens its gates for the annual flower show, which is a big attraction for the people in the city.

# Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium


The Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium, Bangalore is estimated to be visited by at least 2 lakh visitors each year. Equipped with the planetarium projector “Space Master”, this planetarium has a 15 m diameter dome that can accommodate 210 people at one time. You can also visit the science park and buy photos, astronomical books, telescope and science experiments. A must go for kids and those interested in astronomy and space.

#
ISKON Temple

ISKCON Temple, Bangalore

The ISKON temple in Bangalore is one of the largest temples in the world. The temple complex has a flourishing market and a must visit place for devotees of Lord Krishna. Besides religious activities, the temple complex also hosts a number of cultural activities.

#National Gallery of Modern Art


Modern and contemporary art lovers are truly going to enjoy the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore. The gallery has a collection of paintings from some of the well-known painters of India such as Rabindranath Tagore, Raja Ravi Verma and Jamini Roy.

All in all, Bangalore is a fabulous place that offers a fantastic diversity to the first-timer or to the regular tourist. The city is one of India’s greatest urban centers with sprawling real estate projects and lands for sale in Bangalore that has made it a haven for real estate investments. At the same time it is an excellent place to visit if you want to experience a new culture and see something interesting while enjoying its salubrious weather.

Photo Courtesy: All the photographs in this post are courtesy of wikitravel.org and wikipedia.org and have been borrowed under the Creative Commons License. Each photo has been linked to their original file page on their respective domains.

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Travel Photo of the Day: Merlion Park, Singapore

Merlion Park, Singapore

One of the tourist icons of Singapore, Merlion Park is also a national icon. With the top half of a lion and the bottom half of a mermaid, this fountain icon located at one fullerton is located right in the middle of all action. The famous fullerton hotel, Marina Bay, Esplanade, the Victorian era bridges and many more popular places of Singapore are all in close proximity. And I almost forgot to mention that Merlion is also one of the stops for the famous bumboat experience of Singapore.

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Travel Photo of the Day: Nong Khiaw, Laos

Nong Khiaw, Laos

Laos is one of my favorite destinations in the world for a relaxed holiday and Nong Khiaw is a great bet for a relaxed riverside experience in this mountainous land-locked country. In fact, Nong Khiaw, Muong Knoi and Muong Khua on the banks of the Nam Ou river are 3 places that offer a unique and relaxed holiday by the river in Laos. Hikes in the forest, total chilling out, swimming in the river, eating fresh catch from the river and hanging out with interesting people are some of the bonuses. The location in itself is spectacular with stunning mountain backdrops and dense greenery.

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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Travel Photo of the Day: Kids from Bumthang, Bhutan

Bumthang, Bhutan

Today’s travel photo is from the ‘Switzerland of the East’ in the ‘Kingdom of Happiness’. So far, I have been showing you pictures of landscapes, wildlife and iconic destinations. Hence, for a change, I wanted to share the picture of this adorable sister and her young brother whom she is carrying on her back. I met them at Bumthang, a gorgeous location in Central Bhutan. Bumthang is famous for its scarves, woolen carpets and raw silk garments.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Travel Photo of the Day: Mardin, Turkey

Mardin, Turkey

This is one of those destinations that is not on the main tourist trail of Turkey, but this town and the rest of its surroundings are steeped in rich history, glorious sights and an insanely divine experience. I am referring to the town of Mardin in South-Eastern Turkey that used to be an important point in the yester year map of Mesopotamia. Narrow lanes, stone architecture, a complete desert like environment, Mardin offers an interesting mix of Syrian orthodox churches, mosques and many other temples. In fact, the world’s oldest temple at Gobekle Tepe is not far away and the town of Midyat is another one that is steeped in lots of history and one that is located a short drive away.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Travel Photo of the Day: Nilgiri Toy Train, India

Nilgiri Toy Train, Tamil Nadu, India

One of the legacies of British India, the narrow gauge toy train that chugs the slopes of the Nilgiri mountains from Mettupalayam to Coonoor and Ooty is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site and comes under the banner of the ‘Mountain Railways of India’. This Nilgiri Mountain Railway that uses the Abt rack and pinion system to power itself up the steep gradient is a must-experience if you are into heritage train journeys or getaways in the Western Ghats. The other two famous Mountain Railways of India are the Darjeeling-Himalayan railway and the Kalka-Shimla Railway.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Travel Photo of the Day: Santa Monica Pier, USA

Santa Monica Pier, California, USA

I love the energy of South California. There is something infectious about it. Today’s travel photo if of Santa Monica Pier, one of the iconic locations on the South California map and the place where the legendary Route 66 comes to an end. Muscle beach, Venice beach, Hollywood, Malibu and many other such exotic locations are just a short drive away.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My First Volunteering Experience: Why you should give it a try too?

The space of ‘Travel’ has been evolving at a rapid pace for a while now. These days, we hear people talking about off beat destinations, responsible travel, living like locals, experiential travel and much more. Travelers are tired of cliche travel packages and wish for something that enriches their overall experience while providing bang for their buck.

Volunteering at a kindergarten school at Mavinkatte, Karnataka

Volunteering on your holiday (what is called voluntourism in the industry) in one such area that seems to be buzzing in the travel market right now. Even though it is the buzz word, not everyone knows it well and hence the lack of interest especially in our country – India.

Volunteering at a village school in Mavinkatte

And that is why I wanted to share my personal volunteering experience with you all and help break all the myths associated with this form of travel. Like most of you, I had never volunteered on my travels before. I was interested, but never took the plunge. I finally signed up for a volunteering program as I had the support of a friend who had volunteered many times across many countries and had only good things to say about it.

At the completion of the Kindergarten school in Mavinkatte, Karnataka

I opted for FSL India, a NGO based out of Bangalore, having its footprint across India and with excellent NGO partnerships across the world. The destination were the villages of Shetterkhette and Mavinkatte near the town of Kundapur in coastal Karnataka.

Kindergarten School Measuring Scale

This 3 week program included constructing a kindergarten school, teaching kids in a neighbouring government-run primary school, building a kitchen garden for the kindergarten school, learning the basics of paddy farming and participating with other locally run social organizations to see their work and contribute where required.

International Crowd – Lots of Cultural Exchange and Fun

Kindergarten School A to Z - Mavinkatte

Like me, there were many volunteers for this program. They came from Greece, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy and India. Some of them were first timers like me, while the others had prior volunteering experience. Right from day 1, all of us bonded extremely well and each one of us was excited to be volunteering in this village of Karnataka. During the day, we worked as a team doing the various activities mutually assigned by the group, while during the breaks, weekends and evenings, we had great cultural exchanges, meet ups and fun. Such an international team is a bonus!

Kindergarten School will always be special to me

Kindergarten School fencing work

For all those who don’t know me personally, I am a big, burly guy blessed with insane amounts of energy. But, what I myself did not know was that I totally love helping people and providing my services to the needy. As part of the kindergarten school building, I did wall scraping, fencing, digging for the kitchen garden, painting and much more through team work.

National colors, bird, flower and animal at Kindergarten School

During my childhood, I used to love being in the sun and getting my hands dirty doing odd jobs and chores. Somewhere in the mad rush of becoming someone, I had stopped doing all these small things that used to give me happiness and once I reconnected with that side of my personality, I just had immense amounts of fun.

The train is ready to rumble at a kindergarten school

I am always fun around kids. At least, that is what my nephews seem to think. But, it was always one-on-one, and never more. And when we are building this kindergarten school, there were already 22 kids. At many times, we had to work with the kids, take care of them and even play with them. To my surprise, I enjoyed playing with the kids and most of the kids got attached to me. I played football with them. I ran imaginary trains with them. We sang together. We laughed together. We ate together. Those kids were adorable and they were the main reason for making this experience one of my best travel experiences till date.

Discovered many Hidden Talents

Teaching mathematics to kids in a village school

I talk a lot and can keep on talking. But, I never ever dreamt that I could be a teacher. When me and my friend, we opted to teach classes at the government run primary school, I can’t tell you how much fun I had. It felt like I was built for this. Grammar from Wren and Martin (Nouns, Prepositions, Adjectives, Verbs), Synonyms, Opposites, Maths shortcuts from the Vedic Mathematics books and much more flowed naturally. As these kids were being taught in Kannada, their levels of English were low, but like all kids their grasping powers were extremely high. During those classes, I felt that this one boy and one girl, they were way smarter than their school and surroundings and sometimes I thought they could compete with city kids studying in excellent private schools.

Teaching kids is a lot of joy

I was an English Teacher. I was a Maths teacher. I was a Science Teacher. I was a Geography Teacher. I did well coordinating outdoor games. I am sure I wore so many other hats. And you know the best part is that I never knew I had it in me to wear such hats. We danced, we painted, we sang, we learnt and we had so much fun. The only sad part was leaving the kids and the school. You could see it on the faces of the kids and that emotion really hits hard at you. The teachers were extremely thankful to us for taking care of the kids and giving them a different, yet fun learning  experience. To be honest, I was thankful to them for helping me discover a hidden side to my personality.

Do your small bit

Teaching tongue twisters and opposites to kids in school

Some say ‘cleanliness’ starts in your home. Some say ‘God lies within’. I say ‘lets do our bit for the world’…to the world that is not as privileged as us. That is something that I learnt from this volunteering experience. That you get immense happiness and joy while you share your time, presence, knowledge and skills with the people who need it the most. The look of joy on their faces was way better than my best materialistic experience or my biggest success story.

Return Richer

Playing with kids in a village school

Usually, after a holiday, we return tired with a depleted bank account and holiday blues that let us struggle with our jobs and career. That didn’t apply to me after this volunteering experience. I paid only INR 5000 for my 3 weeks of volunteering. This was to cover my stay in a comfortable dormitory in the NGO campus and for my 3 meals every day. Of course, I did return tired as the entire volunteering program was a physically exhausting experience. But, because I returned with so much happiness in me, I attacked my work with super high productivity and efficiency. For some reason, the volunteering camp experience was so good for me that I kept that happy energy going for over a month even after my return. I definitely returned richer (in terms of experience) and that hard work that I put in after made me lots of money. So rich on all counts!

I have to VOLUNTEER AGAIN
Volunteering in Schools is so much fun

After this first volunteering experience of mine, I have now been sucked into this concept. I am already planning more volunteering experiences. And all of these in the areas that are close to my heart – wildlife conservation, education for underprivileged children, refugee camps and sharing any other appropriate skill of mine for the service of mankind. I have to see if I can discover more hidden talents within me. I have to see the joy on the faces of the people that I help. I have to do it.

Painting for Kindergarten School

Do you think you would like to create such a journey for yourself and re-brand yourself as a traveler?

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