Monday, July 30, 2012

Hill Temple (Malai Kovil) at Seevalaperi Village

South India is synonymous with temples and even more so the state of Tamil Nadu. This state has more temples than bus stops. And that too very remote and ancient temples.

Hill temple (malai kovil) at Seevalaperi Village
There are a lot such temples in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. Many such temples in its small villages host the family deity of a lot of us who hail from Tamil Nadu. Even my family deity exists in one of the temples here. One such village is the Seevalaperi village that is situated on the banks of the Thamarabarani river.

Setting skyline at Seevalaperi village, Tirunelveli district
This village is known for its 2 temples, one belonging to Lord Shiva that is located on the ground, while the other more famous one is located on the top of a hill and is called ‘Malai Kovil’ or hill temple. A short climb to the top of the temple ensures that you get a brilliant view of the Thamarabarani river and all the villages around.

How to Experience Paris Just Like a Local

The chic Parisian style is often imitated, but never bettered, and that doesn’t only apply to their fashion. Whether they’re enjoying a meal or just getting around their city, the Paris locals do it in their own way - one that you’ll easily pick up after arriving on cheap flights to Paris, as long as you know where to start.

Getting Around
The roads of Paris are notorious for their traffic so forget pricey taxis and take the Metro, where you can rub shoulders with Paris’ trendy travellers.

Alternatively, if the weather is good you could make like the hippest Parisians and use their bike-sharing system, Vélib'. It’s a great, inexpensive way to see the sights, and to be seen by the locals too!

Dining in Paris is entrenched in ritual and tradition, and mealtimes are taken leisurely with many courses consumed over several hours. In fact, surveys have shown that the French take longer to eat than any other nationality.
With this in mind stay away from the fast-food joints after arriving in Paris, and head to the Latin Quarter where the restaurants will be relatively tourist-free, and the food quality will be at its best.

Parisians care very deeply about coffee, and sip it very slowly and customarily never drink it with any other meal than breakfast. If you do try to order coffee with a meal, it won’t arrive until after dessert, so don’t think that your waiter has simply forgotten!

As for alcoholic drinks, don’t forget to enjoy an aperitif, or an alcoholic drink before your evening meal. Many Parisians will enjoy a glass of champagne, but if that’s a little outside your budget try a Kir Royale, which is sparkling wine with a drop of crème de cassis.

What better reason to visit on flights to Paris than to indulge in some shopping? However whilst the city is brimming with expensive designer boutiques one of the best shopping experiences in Paris is to be found at its weekend flea markets.

The best of these are to be found at Les Puces de Montreuil and Les Puces des Vanves, where local collectors rifle through old postcards and vintage clothing lovers scour suitcases of old, beautiful garments. Don’t be afraid to barter on the price too.

The video embedded in this post is copyright of and has been used here in this post with their consent.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Guest Post: Tips for Traveling to India

If you are someone who is invested in traveling to India, you’ll find that you have a wonderful experience ahead of you. Whether you are traveling to India for business or pleasure, there are a few tips that you should keep in mind to ensure that you have a great time.

Limit Your Trip India is big, and there is a great deal to see and do. While you might want to shop in Delhi and hit the beach in Goa before you take a look at the tigers of Madhya Pradesh, you’ll find that it is best to confine yourself to one or two areas. It is very easy to get worn out if you try to see everything, and the truth is that you’ll have a much better time if you simply slow down. By limiting yourself to several areas, it allows you to see a lot more during your stay. Madhya Pradesh has nine national parks, making it a great destination for travel. This is one area you want to be sure to visit. When traveling to India, think about doing it as a part of a tour. A tour will make sure that you get to see every place that you want to see, and it will also help you take things easy. Talk to a travel agent about picking up a package deal and make sure that you outline the places that you want to see.

Eat Carefully It is very possible to get sick from food and beverages that has been poorly prepared in India. When you eat fruit, make sure that you peel it yourself, and when you want to drink water, stick to the bottles. Skip tap water and make sure that you don’t eat anything that has been rinsed in tap water; this means that raw salads are right out. Most people find that it is very easy to go vegetarian in India. You will not be missing out on much of the local cuisine; vegetarian food is prevalent throughout all of India, and in many cases, it is safer than eating meat that has been stored in questionable circumstances.

Dress Light, Dress Conservatively Both men and women should be aware of the heat in India; dressing in loose, light clothes is an ideal way to beat the heat. While most people are comfortable wearing Western clothing in the major cities, it is a good idea for women to adopt conservative clothing when they are traveling. Skip the shorts and low-cut or tight-fitting tops and opt for things like cotton shirts with long sleeves and loose linen or cotton trousers. Consider picking up a salwar kameeze set of matching tunic and trousers, which is what many local women will be wearing.

About the Author: Steve Reid is a life-long traveler who writes about a variety of travel topics. He often writes on behalf of Liberty Travel, a leading travel agency located in the United States. Liberty Travel offers all inclusive vacations to many locations.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Safe Summer Trip Tips - 6 Ways To Make Your Travels Safer

Summertime is the time of the year when many people do most of their traveling. It’s important to consider safety when you’re on those crowded roadways, and when you travel abroad. Here are 6 ways to make your travels safer this summer.

Make sure your car is in tip-top shape Before you head out on any road trip it’s very important to make sure your car is in good working condition. Do this by checking all the fluid levels, check the air pressure in the tires, make sure the wipers work, and test all lights to be sure they are working properly.

Be prepared for the worse In the event you should break down, or get lost, it’s important to be prepared for the worse. You should take enough supplies with you to last you at least 3 days. Water, non-perishable snacks, sunblock (In case you wind up walking for help) a hat, mosquitoes repellant and a good pair of shoes.

You should also keep a well-stocked first-aid kit and emergency road flares.

Give your insurance policy a checkup Has your policy lapsed? Will you be traveling through a state that requires higher minimum liability coverage than you currently have? Do you have collision coverage?

Many people forget this summer trip safety tip, but you need to make sure you have adequate coverage, and that your policy is current and in full force. Contact your insurance agent who will help you with this.

Map out your route Knowing where you’re going is one thing. Having a route mapped out is completely another. Don’t take the chance of getting lost on some desolate highway or winding up in a shady part of town.

Sit down and map out the route you’ll be taking to get to your destination. You should also activate the emergency GPS feature on your cell phone. In the event you do become lost far away from anything, authorities may be able to use the GPS to find you.

Tell someone where you’re going All too often, people will head out on a trip without telling anyone where they’re going. Spontaneity is a cool trait, but it’s always a good idea to inform someone about your travel plans.

Let them know when you’re leaving, where you’re going, when you anticipate arriving and when you think you’ll be back. Check in with them along the way so they know you’re on track.

Is your destination safe? If you’re travelling overseas, make sure the region of the world you’re going to is safe. Sometimes certain countries and regions around the world are labeled as unsafe to travel to or through.

If you’re traveling to a region that is considered to be dangerous, do yourself a favor and cancel your trip. You may wind up losing some money, but it’s better than losing your life.

About the author of this article: Maryellen W. works to keep consumers safe by educating them on auto insurance and safety-related topics.

Best Honeymoon Destinations for Active Couples

imageYou've just gotten married, but your fantasy event is far from over! Now it's time for the honeymoon! Maybe you and your spouse aren't ones to laze around on the beach…maybe you want adventure, and experiences that might put you outside of your comfort zone, or those that allow you to challenge yourself physically.

If you are looking for a trip full of unique experiences for you and the love of your life, there are so many travel options for you!

1. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a small, budget-friendly country with plenty of activities for the active couple. Both the Caribbean (Puerto Viejo) and Pacific (the Nicoya Peninsula and Manuel Antonio) sides offer snorkeling, scuba diving and game fishing. If you're a hiker, the Poas and Arenal volcanoes are great mountains. You can also whitewater raft into the interior jungles along the Pacuare and Reventazon River and stay at primitive or "glamp"-orous camping sites among the monkeys and jaguars. At the end of your trip, there are great places either on the beach or in San José to wind-down too!

2. South Africa
South Africa provides plenty of adventure and romance for a couple. Watch lions and leopards at Kruger National Park while staying at a private five-star game lodge. Travel to the Drakensburg mountain range for activities like mountain biking, kayaking, mountaineering and more. Why not test your nerve by cage-diving with great white sharks near Capetown? By night, you can enjoy South Africa's breathtaking views and fine wines to toast your amazing day!

3. American West
Maybe traveling abroad isn't your thing (or simply not in your budget). The American West can offer many options including staying at all-inclusive guest ranches like Vista Verde Ranch. You can get beginning or advanced horseback riding lessons, go fly-fishing, hike, rock climb or kayak. Take advantage of America’s national parks like the Grand Canyon or Yosemite if you'd like to explore on your own.

4. Los Angeles
Not only does this city offer amazing food and entertainment, it is also a hot spot of physical activity. Los Angeles' "Muscle Beach" encourages visitors to get their workouts in while visiting the ocean. There are many opportunities to surf and participate in various other water sports, like jet-skiing and sailing. Famous yoga, Pilates and fitness instructors offer intro classes at their studios, making the city great for adventurous fitness buffs. If you happen to plan your honeymoon in the spring, it may fall over the weekend of the LA Marathon, which newlyweds may want to participate in together!

If you're adventurous but still can’t decide between all of the potential honeymoon destinations that we’ve laid out for you, check out websites like The Knot for further ideas!

Nallamudi Poonjolai: Velu saw God here!!

Green Western Ghats, Waterfalls Galore and the Kerala side all visible from the Nallamudi Pooncholai View Point

Om Adi Muruga! Om Adi Muruga!! One can hear these loud cries while approaching Nallamudi Poonjolai, a fabulous view point tucked within the Valparai hills and inside the Anaimalai Tiger Reserve.
These cries or rather loud chants are made by a ‘Velu’, an elderly farmer who says he has seen the Lord Muruga himself at this very view point. From that day, Velu takes care of this place as if it were his temple. And the best part is that Velu is quite an educated person who is well conversant in English. So, if you need details about his spiritual experience, all you have to do is find him.     
Enjoying the Nallamudi Pooncholai View Point at Valparai

The funny part is that…even though Nallamudi Poonjolai is a great view point, it became famous only after Velu saw God here. It is Velu’s tryst with destiny that spread like wildfire all over the town of Valparai and the villages surrounding it.
Waterfall that flows from Nirar Dam and into the state of Kerala

Such is the magic that Velu is allowed unrestrictive access to this area even though others are not allowed as this view point happens to right in the middle of the forest area. This is a rule created by the forest department to prevent human-wildlife altercations. But, Velu is above this rule.
Serene View of the tea estates of Valparai

I was talking to a forest guard here and he was telling me that Velu apparently lives here. The wild animals do him no harm and he lives off the produce of the forest. He also told me that Velu visits the interiors of the forest every day and shouts his chants. May be, there might be a temple coming up here real soon.
Being one with nature at Valparai

You should definitely visit this place to be in the place where god was seen! Apart from that, for us normal people, this place is a stunner set amidst a spectacular setting.
The misty views at Nallamudi Poonjolai, a famous view point near Valparai

Located at about 13 kms from the town of Valparai, the drive to the Nallamudi Poonjolai view point is itself special as you weave and turn from one tea estate into another. The green waves of tea make for a refreshing sight.
The short walking trail to Nallamudi Poonjolai

And once you reach the check point, a short uphill walk (say a relaxed 10 minute walk) through another tea estate brings you in full view of Nallamudi Poonjolai. The wide view with forests on one side and tea estates on the other are a nature lover’s delight.
Splendid view of the Western Ghats at Nallamudi Pooncholai, Valparai - 1

The monsoons are ideally the best time to visit this place when it is completely green and umpteen waterfalls intersect the greenery. The best views here are generally seen in the early hours of the morning when there is no mist or cloud cover.       

Splendid view of the Western Ghats at Nallamudi Pooncholai, Valparai - 2

Whether you decide to visit this place for its spirituality or for its natural beauty, I am sure you will not return disappointed. Your experiences with Velu, or lest alone stories about him or the splendid green surroundings or a combination of the above will ensure that you find inner peace albeit only for a moment. Om Adi Muruga!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Evening Skyscapes over the Thamarabarani River at Kallidaikurichi

Every monsoon, I go to my hometown, Kallidaikurichi, which is a small town situated at the foot of the western ghats in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. And when I am there, I end up visiting all the waterfalls around it, which are usually in full flow. Typically, a monsoon visit would mean taking a bath under each waterfall (Manimuthar, New and Old Courtrallam, Agastyar, Vana Theertham and Five Falls) after a good oil massage, followed by a sumptuous meal and divine sleep on the swing (unjal in Tamil) in my grandmother’s house.

Setting sun adorns the Kallidaikurichi skyline over the Thamarabarani river
In fact, this is like tradition to me. But, this year, the rain gods forced me to break my tradition. As no rains meant no water in the waterfall. Thus when I was there a couple of weeks back, I had to resort to other pastimes. And that is when I decided that I would spend an evening sitting on the banks of the Thamarabarani river that flows a kilometer behind my grandmother’s house.

Golden yellow skyline at Kallidaikurichi
The pictures in this post are of the Thamarabarani river against the Western Ghats in the background, the mountain range as seen from the Kallidaikurichi town as I was walking from my grandmother’s house to the river and the skyscapes that I saw around sunset time.

Vibrant skyline over Kallidaikurichi's Thamarabarani
And all this was possible because of the lack of rains. Else, there would have been no blue visible in the sky and I would have not got to see such beautiful skyscapes.

Western ghats in the background from the Thamarabarani's bank at Kallidaikurichi Kallidaikurichi skyline over the Thamarabarani at sunset Kallidaikurichi skyline over the Thamarabarni river Sunset at Kallidaikurichi with the Western Ghats in the background

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Early Morning View of the Manimuthar Hills

The Manimuthar region of the Western Ghats, the Manimuthar river and the Manimuthar dam are a huge draw in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. If one is headed in this direction, one can also see the tea estates of Manjolai, the scenic beauty of Kudrevetti, the Upper Kodayar Dam and the Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserve in whole.

First rays of the sun on the palm trees with the Manimuthar hills in the background
All these places are great tourist spots in their own right, but if one is headed to these places from Kallidaikurichi, the simple beauty forms are typically missed. It was such a warm sight that I saw when I stopped one early morning at a gas station that is bang opposite the road that leads onto Manimuthar.

Early morning sun's golden rays
The golden rays of the sun were casting a nice soft glow on the Asian Palmyra palm trees that stood in the foreground while the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats or the Manimuthar hills rose in the background. It was a beautiful sunrise view. But, a lot of us travellers miss such pristine moments in search of the ultimate destination!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Top 5 Underrated City Destinations

City breaks are ideal for those who want to get away for just a few days or even a longer break. They all have plenty for the visitor to see and do and are perfect for those who enjoy spending time in the hustle and bustle of city life. However, they are all different and for those who want something a little more off the beaten track there are plenty of cities that are considered to be well worth a look.

1. Why not take a trip to the capital of Estonia? Tallinn is considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the Baltic region. Explore the Old Town district and visit some of the wonderful museums in order to find out more about the area. It is also a great place for those who want to do some shopping. There are plenty of boutiques and shops that sell items that cannot be found anywhere else. Enjoy some of the local cuisine in the restaurants and as there are now plenty of budget flights available, it will not break the bank.

2. Marrakech is just coming into its own as a holiday destination and is perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in a very different culture to their own. There are vast marketplaces where visitors are able to buy anything and everything. In recent years the hotel accommodation that has been developed there has tended towards the luxury end of the market, so there are plenty of spas to be enjoyed.

3. For those that do not mind a longer journey flights to Perth are becoming more and more reasonable. For a trip to the Australian city it is better to have at least two weeks to spare because of the travelling time, and because there is so much to see and do. The city has plenty of art galleries and boutiques and visitors are always sure of a warm welcome from the friendly locals.

4. Another long haul option is Hong Kong, and it is a must for serious shoppers. There are so many markets and stores that plenty of time will be needed to explore them all. It is also a great place for a night out, with numerous restaurants serving both local and international cuisines. Visiting Hong Kong may sound like an expensive option but visitors will be surprised by how reasonable the area can be.

5. Head over to Colombia for a trip to the city of Cartagena. This has the best of both worlds; it has the vibrant city life as well as a beach resort atmosphere. Visitors can enjoy local cuisine in the restaurants and appreciate the traditional hospitality, and also have great fun on the beach and in the clubs.

City breaks are a must for those who love to explore new places and with so many beautiful cities within easy reach it would be a shame not to take advantage of the offers available on flights. Why not take that advantage now and see more of the world?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Where have the rains gone?

Is it global warming or climate change or El Nino? Whatever it is, I see a definite void without the rains. The Southern Peninsula is the most affected. It is around this time that typically every year that I go on my monsoon treks and get totally drenched while seeing brilliantly green landscapes. But, this year, the earth around me is parched and looks bone dry.

It is July and this is supposed to be green, but the drought has given the landscape a different look
Take the town of Kallidaikurichi in Tamil Nadu as an example. This town, situated at the base of the Western Ghats should have got enough showers by now and the entire area should be covered by dancing paddy fields. But, instead, all we see is golden yellow grass with cracks beginning to form below it. Where have the rains gone this year?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Connect to Newcastle

Newcastle has much to offer in terms of theatre, music, dance, comedy and art this summer, with the Connecting Light festival as one of the most notable.

As part of the London 2012 Festival – which runs for 12 weeks from 21st June until 9th September – Connecting Light is a major new art installation which will take place along the line of Hadrian’s Wall.

On Friday 31st August and Saturday 1st September art-lovers all over the world can use digital media like iPads and tablets to connect with each other and view the wall being lit up by LED lights, but those who would rather take part first-hand should book into one of Travelodge's hotels in Newcastle and enjoy the experience up close.

Using a series of tethered weather balloons which will be lit internally by LED lights, the installation will become a line of pulsating colors as messages are sent along the wall.

Designed by New York based digital arts collective YesYesNo with Zachary Lieberman, the aim is to understand the wall in a modern context and imagine it as a bridge rather than a barrier.

"Our concept is to create a digital platform by which messages can be communicated the entire length of the Wall…as a means of connecting rather than dividing,” says Zachary. “People will be able to interact at sites along the Wall as well as all over the world through the internet."

"Connecting Light will turn what was the Roman Empire's northern frontier into a contemporary communication system,” adds chief executive of Hadrian's Wall Heritage Linda Tuttiett. "We want to inspire a worldwide conversation of people’s thoughts…and…communicate the importance of the World Heritage Site".

Development work is currently underway in collaboration with Newcastle University’s Culture Lab, where Zachary Lieberman has been made a visiting professor.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

National Geographic features my photos in their magazine

To all those who do not know…National Geographic Traveller magazine launched its first edition in India this month and it is called ‘National Geographic Traveller India’. And they were kind enough to feature two of my photos in it, pay me a decent sum and send me a nice hard copy for my collection.

Nat Geo Traveller India - 1st Edition

The first and the larger photograph is on page 168 that talks about Tranquebar: Place of the Singing Waves. I took this photo of Fort Dansborg on a dark afternoon from the Tranquebar beach.

Tranquebar Photo featured in National Geographic Traveller India
The second and the smaller one is on page 64, which talks about ‘Island clean up’ in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. I was surprised that someone was interested in this photograph. Guess it is a lesson to all us photographers to store all our photographs, irrespective of how insignificant it might be. I took this photo while entering the Viper Island, which is known for its gory gallows from the Kaala Paani days.
Andaman Photo featured in National Geographic Traveller India Magazine
The magazine is not available online and hence I scanned some of these pages in my home scanner. I guess the quality can be much better. If you wish to see it in shining print, pick up the hard copy from your city’s magazine stands. And I am sure you will treasure reading the launch edition of this magazine as the photographs (apart from mine Smile) and the articles are simply astounding. It makes for a fabulous read and totally worth the 120 INR bucks that you spend on it.

Thank you National Geographic and Ack Media (Ack Media or Amar Chitra Katha Media, a part of India Business House was responsible for launching National Geographic Traveller magazine in India) for the feature. You have certainly made me real happy!!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Wildlife Photography: Large Herd of Swamp Deer at Kaziranga National Park

The swamp deer or the Barasingha is one of India’s prettiest deer members and its designer horns are quite a sight. This species is not spotted in all of India’s forests, but seen quite frequently in huge numbers in Kanha national park in Madhya Pradesh and in Kaziranga Tiger Reserve, Assam.

Large Herd of Swamp Deer (Barasingha)
I was lucky to see them in huge numbers during my last visit to the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, North East India. In this case, I saw them while completing my evening elephant safari.

Swamp Deer (Male and Female) enjoy the setting sun at Kaziranga
And the setting sun was casting a nice golden glow on them making all of them look very photogenic. As you can see in the photographs, some of them are relaxing while some are grazing and the male members are staying alert for possible danger.

Swamp Deer (Female)
It is such moments that make you yearn to be in the wild!!