December 2014 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Choosing the Right Footwear for Hiking

Any hiking enthusiast knows the importance of choosing the right outdoor footwear before heading out on an exciting adventure. With the proper hiking boots, you can easily traverse any rough roads and steep mountains. The great outdoors can be very unpredictable. Even if you start your trip on a sunny weather, there is still a big chance that it might rain. This sudden change can greatly affect your trip.

When it comes to choosing the right boots, it is highly recommended if you start by determining what kind of hiker you really are. Will you be crossing a terrain that is light and has less vegetation? Will you be taking your trip on a summer day? Are you climbing rocky and steep mountain rangers? These are just some of the questions that you need to consider when choosing the right shoes.

Check out this short post to learn more about the choosing your next hiking boots.

Selecting the cut and weight
Hiking boots are usually categorized based on their cuts. The rule of thumb is that the higher the boot cut, the heavier the footwear.

As a lightweight boot, this one is perfect for casual strolls on your local woods during a dry weather. Its main characteristics are soft, flexible, and breathable. These boots only reach slightly above the ankle, so it offers great support to your feet.

These are medium weight shoes that are ideal for longer hikes on tough terrain with higher vegetation. It has a higher level of ankle support, and most products are water-proof to help hikers survive sudden weather changes.

This is the heaviest boot among the three categories. Commonly known as mountaineering boots, these are specially designed for extremely difficult terrain and tough weather conditions. They offer great protection to your feet, but they are not as breathable as low-cut shoes.

Choosing the Fabric
These are commonly made from leather or synthetic fabric.

Of course, leather is more expensive than its other counterpart. They are also more durable and well-suited for longer trips across tough terrain. Unfortunately, they are not that breathable. You might feel some discomfort while wearing it on a hot summer day.

Synthetic shoes, meanwhile, are lighter and cheaper compared to the former. These are ideal to wear during casual day trips.

These are just some of the factors that you need to consider when choosing the right hiking footwear. If you know other useful tips, feel free to share them in the comments section!

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My Photo on the Cover Page of a Book

In the past, my photographs were featured in newspapers, magazines and on websites. This is is the first time it has ended up being the cover page of a book. And hence this one is very special for me. The photo is of a sunset sky over the Mahanadi Bridge in Orissa. I took this picture during the summer of 2009. This book, 'Love - A Reason to Live', is a travel story of Ivan and Daphne who travel the globe while serving the needy. Samuel C Cowgill, the author of this book has portrayed their journey in this book through a story that shows how orphanage despair turns to family joy and give them a reason to live. On a quick flip through, it looks like a moving travel story.

My photo featured as the cover photo of a book

Cover photo acknowledgements in a book

I haven’t read this book as yet, but plan to read it at the first possible opportunity. If this interests you, do look it up either online or at your nearest bookstore. Happy reading!!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tips for Staying Connected When Traveling in India

If you are planning a trip to India, whether it is for a gap year adventure, a vacation or a business trip, you have probably already taken care of things like checking if you need any vaccinations or malaria medicine for the region you are going to, and finding out the places you want to stay in and visit. One thing you may not have thought so much about, however, is what you are going to do about your phone and internet access.
Connectivity tips for India

Photo by Reuben Strayer

If you are planning to visit remote places and experience India, you may not even really want to have to be bothered by things like checking your email, but the fact is that a phone and an internet connection can be a lifesaver when you are far from home. If you are going on business to one of India's professional hubs like Chennai, Bangalore or Mumbai, connectivity will be an essential. Here we look at a couple of things to do before you go to help you stay connected.

Use a VPN
A VPN, or 'virtual private network', is a network you can access that is secure, and can make it seem that as a network presence, you are actually in a different location to where you are. When you use things like hotel Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi hotspots at places like airports or restaurants, a VPN protects your data. Not just in India, but all over the world, data gets hacked in public networks, so before you go, it is well worth subscribing to a VPN service you can log in to every time you access the web on your trip. Another benefit of using one of the many secure VPN services that are often used in India by travellers is that you won't have any regional issues, for example with web content like videos not playing because while they are accessible in your home region, they are not available in India.

Hire a Phone
If you don't like the idea of paying roaming charges or if you want to use your regular mobile phone in India, you can hire a phone before you go to use there. This will allow you to choose the level of service you need (calls, SMS and/or data), and pay a predictable rate each day for the phone, rather than the often confusing roaming charges. With many providers you can choose the model of phone you want, and can also insure it (if insurance isn't included in the package) for a small amount each day, meaning you don't have to worry about taking your own phone somewhere it may get lost, stolen or damaged.

You can stay connected in India fairly easily, but it is worth making sure you have taken security and potential cost into account in your plans ahead of your trip. Simple things like using a VPN can save you a lot of trouble down the line in terms of security, and avoiding roaming fees by renting a mobile can make staying connected more affordable.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Silk Road Hotel: Lovely Environment to stay in Yazd, Iran

Yazd is one of those places of Iran that has a calm, relaxed and archaic feel to it. It is one of the highlights of Iran and is steeped in deep desert culture and great desserts. During my stay at this lovely city, I stayed at a place called the Silk Road Hotel, a traditional house turned into a hotel for 3 nights and 4 days. The below review is based on recent experience of staying here.

1) This place is located right opposite the Jame Mosque and is hence located right next to the old city, which gives it prime location. And because of this prime location, most of the places to see, visit, eat, buy, etc. are all within walking distance.

2) This traditional hotel offers a great local ambience that comes with private rooms and dormitories. The rooms are great, while the dormitories are a bit smelly, due to lack of ventilation. But, their prices are very attractive and hence the stuffiness is easily forgotten. The dormitories don’t have heating and sometimes get cold early in the morning. The shared bathrooms are great and provide lovely hot showers.

3) The hotel serves great food. This is one of their top attributes. Their breakfast is possibly one of the best I have had in all of Iran and their in-house restaurant dishes out some delicious local and Indian food. The food prices are also very reasonable.

4) The people running the place have an Indian connection.

5)The people running this place are very friendly and always eager to help. I feel like a friend or a member of family here.

6) The wi-fi in this hotel has great coverage and the speed is good, but when there are more people accessing it, the speed drops terribly.

7) The hotel also has an in-house travel agent who helps with all bus, train, tours and flight ticket bookings. They are very professional and helpful too.

If you are looking for a great budget hotel in the heart of Yazd, look at the Silk Road Hotel. If I return to Yazd, I would definitely stay with them.

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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Tak Taku Homestay: Rustic Living close to the Sand Dunes of Iran

A trip to Isfahan is not complete without exploring the beautiful rolling sands located close to it in Verzaneh. One can either explore it as part of a day trip from Isfahan or stay at a village called Toudeshk Cho and explore it the more rustic way. I chose the later and ended up staying at a family run place called Tak Taku Homestay that is located on the way from Isfahan to Yazd. The below review is based on my recent experience of staying here.

1) This is a good family run place located by the mountains in a small village of Toudeshk Cho. The place is homely, comfortable, has heated rooms and offers shared bathrooms. You sleep on mattresses laid out on the floor, but in a traditional and cosy setup. Costs vary depending on whether you take bed and breakfast, bed and breakfast with dinner or full board.

2) The place serves food, but it is necessary to book in advance.

3) The place comes with free wi-fi.

4) Since it is located close to the highway, one can easily find buses to Esfahan, Yazd, Na’in and Tehran.

5) The owner of the homestay also allows you to cook in their kitchen if you do not wish to eat their home food.

6) For sightseeing, you can hike in the mountains around, do a walking tour of the village or explore the Varzaneh sand dunes located 45 minutes away. The homestay owner arranges taxis that you can hire to visit the desert.

7) While a lot of things are good about the homestay, I would have preferred if the owner had a nicer attitude towards his customers. To me and my other traveler friends, he sounded brash and arrogant. May be, he is featured on lonely planet and wikitravel, but that doesn’t mean that he treats his customers badly. In my stay here, I found him hostile sometimes and speaking at the back many times, which I did not appreciate one little bit. However, he was helpful at many times, which was good for us.

While the location of the homestay and the homestay itself is good, I would return to this place only if the owner improves his attitude towards his customers. Having said that, you should may be give this place a try and see for yourself if things have improved.

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Friday, December 05, 2014

Intricate Frescoes from Chehel Sotun Palace, Isfahan

The world over is aware of Persia’s rich past and at the helm of this past was the city of Isfahan that portrayed all this glory through its beautiful gardens, intricate miniatures, poetry, rich architecture, great carving, fie weaving and much more. I have been getting a good idea of this as I have been exploring their squares, bazaars, mosques, churches, bridges, gardens and palaces. I saw this beautiful fresco painting today at the museum inside the Chehel Sotun palace that is situated in the heart of the city.

Colorful Paintings inside Chehel Sotun Palace, Isfahan, Iran

The paintings inside this museum (and including the one above) portray the life of the king, his subjects, and the war with India, Turkmenistan, etc. Through these paintings, one can see the clothing, entertainment, foods, musical instruments, mannerisms, culture and much more. In my last 4 days at Isfahan, I have to say that these miniatures and paintings are one of the top highlights of this beautiful city.

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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Travel Photo: Street Food Shop at Tehran Bazaar

Iran is known all over the world for its rich history, beautiful carpets, vibrant landscapes and great food. However, its most prominent feature is its people, who are warm and ready to help you with a big smile and heart. So far, in my 8 days in this amazing country, the people have made all the difference. 

Street Shop Owner - Tehran

In this case, this was an elderly gentleman at Tehran Bazaar at whose shop I sat down to have my simple vegetarian lunch of local bread, thick bean soup, boiled eggs and tea. He was friendly even though we did not speak a common language. He made room for me at his roadside shop and made me feel very comfortable. I ended up having a hearty lunch at his place.

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Travelers Flock to State and National Parks This Winter

Visiting a state or national park might seem like old hat to you in the spring or summer. You know that you can take a dip in a river or lake, cook food over an open flame and watch the stars at night. You might think that these parks are only suitable for vacations that take place in the warmer months. State and national parks offer just as many activities and attractions during the colder months as those parks do in the summer.

Great Views
The views that you see during the spring and summer at state and national parks have nothing on the views that you'll see in the winter. Imagine seeing that huge lake completely empty with a thin coat of ice across the top, or think about how gorgeous those mountains and hills will look when covered in snow. With a pair of snowshoes strapped to your feet, you can up close and personal with those views. Take plenty of pictures to show your friends and family back home before you relax with a mug of hot chocolate or coffee.

Plenty of Activities
Hiking with snowshoes is just one of activities that you can enjoy in the winter. Some state and national parks have partnerships in place with skin mountains and resorts that let you ski or snowboard down the mountain. If you need some help, you can take lessons from an expert first. You may also have the option of horseback riding through the wintery mountain trails or ice skating right on that frozen lake. There are plenty of other activities that you'll enjoy as well, including ice fishing and backcountry skiing.

Special Activities
Before planning a trip to a state or national park, take a look at tweets by Bluegreen Resorts and other companies. Many travel companies and websites use Twitter as a way to tell travelers about special activities and events taking place all year round. State parks often offer activities designed for the whole family. You might have the chance to take a hike and learn about what native animals do during the colder months, take arts and crafts classes to make ornaments and holiday decorations or go caroling with a group. Some parks even offer sleigh rides and bring in Santa for the little ones.

Heated and Equipped Cabins
Winter is the perfect time of year to leave your camp stove, sleeping bags and other equipment at home. Instead of sleeping out under the stars, you can enjoy a stay in a heated cabin with a private bathroom and private bedrooms. Most cabins also come with a fully equipped kitchen, a television for those days when it's just too cold outside and a screened porch or patio for watching the snow fall. The only things you need to bring with you are your kids and some warm clothing. Always check with the park first to ensure that it has cabins available before you leave.

State and national parks exist all across the country. While these parks offer plenty to do in the warmer months, you can still have fun in the winter. You can learn about local animals, make holiday decorations and enjoy other activities, and you can fall asleep every night in a comfortable heated cabin.

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