April 2018 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!
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Friday, April 27, 2018

5 Places for a Dream UEFA Champions League Holiday in Europe

St Peters Square, Vatican City, Rome, Italy

Summer is that perfect time for a special European holiday with family and/or friends. Not only is the weather absolutely gorgeous at this time in that part of the world, the pleasant, bright and long days ensure that you get maximum time for exploration followed by action packed nightlife. Add to this the ongoing UEFA Champions League and you have what I think is a dream holiday in Europe.

Starnberg near Munich, Germany

If you are a football lover or even a sports lover, this could be a lip smacking holiday proposition for you. Watching your favorite players play in iconic football stadiums amidst colorful and noisy fans and then rejoicing that experience over some freshly brewed beer and exploring these amazing European destinations during non football time is kind of like a perfect sports holiday. These days, sports holidays seem to be the in thing in the world of travel. Whether it is the Olympics, the recently completed Gold Coast Commonwealth games, a pan Europe Champions League in this case or the upcoming football world cup in Russia, they offer the best of two fantastic worlds – sports and travel. I would opt for such perfect combo trips in a heart beat.

Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral, Madrid, Spain

If you are a die-hard football fan and money is not an issue, I would say plan a Champions League Europe road trip where you travel between the various UEFA Champions League locations. This way, you get to enjoy the semi finals and finals up close and live, you get to live that European road trip, you get to explore some of the best cities of Europe and you get a taste of the amazing European countryside and its various attractions. If the road trip sounds a bit too much for you, you could opt for a specific UEFA Champions League match location (Kyiv, Rome, Madrid, Munich or Liverpool) and plan your entire holiday around it. Either ways, the below tips and ideas will help you make the best of your dream sports holiday to Europe. Before you read any further, make sure you plan properly to get a solid travel insurance plan and a good multi-currency forex card like the ones offered by Axis Bank to ensure that are fully equipped to handle crowds, safety issues, finance issues and any possible medical contingencies.

Pokrova Nunnery, Kiev, Ukraine

Here is the handy UEFA Champions League Schedule to help you plan your trip:

Date: 25-April-2018 | Location: Liverpool, England

Semi final 1st Leg | Liverpool vs Roma | Liverpool won 5-2

Date: 26-April-2018 | Location: Munich, Germany

Semi final 1st Leg | Bayern vs Real Madrid | Real Madrid won 2-1   
   
Date: 2-May-2018 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Semi final 2nd Leg | Real Madrid vs Bayern Munich

Date: 3-May-2018 | Location: Rome, Italy

Semi Final 2nd Leg | Roma vs Liverpool

Date: 27-May-2018 | Location: Kyiv, Ukraine

Final | TBD vs TBD
And here is the dope on all the five locations where the semi finals and the finals of the Champions League will be held.

Kyiv, Ukraine

Vydubychi Monastery, Kyiv, Ukraine

The location of the UEFA Champions League final and the capital of Ukraine is one of the lesser explored hotspots of Europe. I call it as one of the top unlikely holiday destinations in Europe. This inexpensive destination, which happens to be one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe dating back to the 5th century, is a treasure trove when it comes to cave monasteries, churches, cathedrals, palaces, monuments and historic buildings.

San Miguel Monastery, Liev, Ukraine

I would start my Kyiv exploration with the gorgeous St. Sophia’s cathedral, a UNESCO World heritage site and one that houses the world’s largest ensemble of frescoes and mosaics. And once I have climbed its bell tower and soaked in the city’s spectacular aerial view, I would head to Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, one of the oldest and most important monasteries in Ukraine. After visiting this 11th century cave monastery that has immense religious significance, I would make my way to the beautiful St. Michael’s gold domed cathedral. This working monastery dates back to the 12th century. Other interesting places worth exploring are the Open-Air Museum of folk architecture and rural life, Andrew’s descent, Mariyinsky palace, Museum of the toilet’s history and last, but not the least, FC Dynamo Kyiv, Kyiv’s local football club and stadium. For souvenir shopping, old communist stuff and matrioshka dolls, visit the market at Andrew’s descent.

Rome, Italy

The mighty colosseum of Rome, Italy

The eternal city and the home of the gladiators, Rome offers an eclectic mix of culture, history, fashion, shopping, food and nightlife. With a UNESCO world heritage site in its historic center, you are never too far away from grand ruins, ornate statues and fountains, ancient churches and beautiful palaces. One of my favorite cities in Europe, this is the land of the pizza and gelato, it is home to the mighty Colosseum, Vatican, the catacombs and about 900 churches and it also hosts some of the best musical theatres in the world.

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Like everyone, I would recommend the underground Colosseum and gladiator tours. Once you get through these two, explore the old Rome city by foot and get lost in its medieval atmosphere that is full of uneven cobblestones, roof gardens, fountains, sculptures, paintings, old houses, baroque buildings, churches, narrow streets, squares and viewponts. Key highlights of this walking trip would be Trevi fountain, St. Peter’s Square, Piazza Navona, Tiber riverside, Piazza della Rotonda and the piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. If you are into viewpoints, I would heavily recommend climbing to the top of the Vittoriano or to the top of the Janiculum hill.

Panorama of the Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Catholic Rome is a treat to the eye. There are so many churches to explore that you might need a few months to cover all of them. But, for a quick, yet great experience, I would recommend visiting St. Peter’s Basilica, St Paul Outside the Walls, Santa Maria Maggiore and San Giovanni.

Bernini's statues and Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy

For Rome’s top haute couture, via Condotti and via Cola di Rienzo are the places to go to. If you feel like a flea market, head to the one at Porta Portese, but do be warned that this place gets quite crowded.

Madrid, Spain

Fountain and statue on the streets of Madrid, Spain

This capital city of Spain packs so much cultural and artistic heritage that you can see it almost everywhere, right from its landmarks and architecture to its museums and art galleries. This city also lives and breathes football, so a trip to Santiago Bernabeu, the home of local club Real Madrid is not to be missed. It’s food scene and nightlife is also top notch, so you have pretty much a lot to see and do both during the day and night.

Calle de Alcala, Madrid, Spain

Madrid feels like a young and high energy city, so as a traveler, you are bound to have a spring in your step as you explore its key landmarks such as Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel, Palacio Real, Plaza de Oriente, Museo del Prado among many others. For something more action packed, catch a flamenco show or a bullfight at the Las Ventas Bullring and if you are into music, head to the nearest opera theatre. For a gastronomic experience, opt for a old Madrid Tapas and Wine tour and for nightlife, the iconic joints are La Esquina de Eusebio Tapas Bar, the El Rincon de Fogg bar and the Joy club.

Munich, Germany

The inner city of Munich, Germany

The birthplace of the Oktoberfest and the home of Bayern Munich, Germany’s most famous football club, football and beer is an integral of this capital of Bavaria. While you might not be able to indulge in the Oktoberfest during the UEFA Champions league, you can certainly soak in the culture, shopping, fine dining, nightlife and Bavarian beer hall atmosphere. Munich’s baroque architecture is a treat to the eye. Whether you are at the four grand royal avenues (Briennerstrabe, Ludwigstrabe, Maximilianstrabe, Prinzregentenstrabe) that run through Munich’s inner city, Schloss Nymphenburg or at the churches of Frauuenkirche and Theatinerkirche, the bavarian architecture of this South German city is bound to dazzle you.

Altstadt - Landshut, Munich, Germany

Munich as a city is all about appreciating art, football and beer. It is home to many theaters and music venues showing different plays and performances. So, do catch a show when you find time. And typically, there are summer festivals. Do keep an eye and ear open for dates and locations so that you can experience the true Bavarian festival where beer never stops. If you are a hardcore beer lover, spend a lot of time in its many beer halls and beer gardens and get the best experience of Bavarian beer culture.

Liverpool, United Kingdom

Chinatown, Liverpool, England

Liverpool, the city that lies within the historic county boundaries of Lancashire is famous for its cultural heritage, football teams, music and nightlife. The birthplace of ‘The Beatles’ and the home to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, every music lover is bound to want to visit this uber friendly city. And that's not it. There is the UNESCO World Heritage Pier Head Waterfront that is living testament to Liverpool’s successul seaside trade and maritime history. Then there is Europe’s oldest Chinatown and Liverpool and Everton, two of England’s most successful football clubs. Then, there is the World Capital City of Pop. There is the European Capital of Culture. As you can see, Liverpool wears many different hats.

Liverpool lives and breathes football

As a sports lover, we are bound to visit the Liverpool and Everton Football clubs and then I would recommend taking a walk through the streets of Chinatown, Canning and Ropewalks to see Liverpool as it was hundreds of years ago and then winding it up with a trip to the Beatles museum on Albert Dock. For shopping, there is Bold street, Lord street and MetQuarter and for an interesting shopping and dining combo, immerse yourself in the place called Liverpool One.

So, what have you decided? Are you embarking on that Champions League road trip across Europe or do you prefer to spend your time in one city or country? Whatever is your decision, this trip is bound to be a dream European holiday with plenty of top class sporting action. All you need to remember is to get yourself a good travel insurance coverage (for all medical and logistical contingencies) and a solid forex card to get the best of both safety and great exchange rates. Axis Bank with Mastercard is currently running an offer on their forex card where they are offering a fully sponsored trip to the UEFA Champions League finals in Ukraine along with other branded merchandise. Do give them a look. Who knows? May be, you might be the lucky winner! Go on and have a fabulous sporting holiday in Europe this summer.

Photo Courtesy: All photographs have been borrowed from wikimedia commons. Each photo has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.org.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Top 15 Things to do in Bali

The exquisite Pura Ulan Danu Batur, Bali

Bali! This name is synonymous with honeymoons and romantic holidays among us Indians. To others, it is a great surfing destination, beach holiday, rejuvenating holiday, backpacking trip and much more. This tropical paradise packs everything from temples to volcanoes, surf to forests, luxury properties to rustic homestays, rich shopping avenues to cultural experiences and last but the least, pristine beaches to relaxing spa and massages. The diversity of Bali is such that irrespective of the type of traveler you are, it packs a serious punch. You could be a solo backpacker, a volunteer, an adventure travel enthusiast, a couple on a honeymoon, a young family with kids or even an elderly couple, Bali is bound to mesmerize you and give you the kind of holiday that will give you full value for your money and that also recharges your batteries. It is one of those ideal easy visa destinations for the budget Indian traveler.

A rainy moment from Pura Tirtha Empul temple, Bali

If you are thinking of or planning a Bali holiday ( it is visa on arrival for us Indians), here are the top 15 things that you must experience and that should somehow find their way into your itinerary. All of these are based on my personal experience of slowly exploring the different parts of this exotic tropical island.

Kecak Dance at Uluwatu Cliff Temple

Uluwatu Temple at Cliff's Edge, Bali, Indonesia

Watching one of Bali’s most iconic art performances on a cliff top amphitheatre at sunset time is definitely one of the top highlights of a holiday in this tropical paradise. This Kecak fire dance, which is a dance-drama (stories primarily taken from the Hindu epic Ramayana) at its core, is an interesting mix of vocals, costumes, fast movements and chorus. The best way to enjoy this sunset cultural program is to visit the Uluwatu cliff temple in the late afternoon, enjoy all the surreal ocean and cliff views when there is light and then with the setting sun, head to the amphitheatre for an hour of Bali cultural magic.

Shopping at Sukowati Market

Paintings shop by the street at Sukowati Market, Bali, Indonesia

From paintings to clothes, masks, jewellery and souvenirs, Ubud’s Sukowati market is the place to go to for that authentic local shopping experience. You might get most of these goods elsewhere in the touristy markets of South Bali or at the Bali international airport, but no place will be able to match the low prices of Sukowati market. From T shirts for a dollar to paintings for 5 dollars, this place will you give you a wholesome shopping experience. And the icing on the cake is that you can a local procession or a temple ceremony while shopping at Sukowati market.

Climb Batur Volcano

Batur Caldera and the Batur Lake at Kintamani, Indonesia

One of the must do experiences in Indonesia is to climb a volcano and Bali is no different. From the active volcanoes of Agung and Batur to the scenic beauty and hot springs of Bratan, you definitely have to experience climbing one of these. Whether you are experiencing the sea of sand, watching hot molten lava flow in the middle of the volcano, cringing from the smoke bellowing from the belly of the volcano or being mesmerized by the panoramic views, a volcano climbing experience in Bali is a total adventure experience. Out of these three volcanoes, my personal favorite is the Batur Volcano as it is easy to climb and offers you the view of the gorgeous Kintamani hill station and the absolutely stunning Pura Ulan Danu Batur temple, which you should experience after your adventurous volcano climb.

Learn Surfing at Kuta

Myriad of Silhouettes and gorgeous sunset rays and colors at Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Surfers absolutely love Indonesia for its gorgeous surf. And the gentle breaks of Bali are considered to be the perfect surfing spots for beginners. So, if you wish to learn how to get on the board and ride a wave, then Bali is the place for you. In my personal experience, Kuta is a fabulous place to learn this sport. You get the gear, there are good trainers around and the waves are consistently gentle and good.

Stay in an Ocean View Villa with Private Pool and Butler

Gorgeous Indian Ocean facing villas of Bali with private butlers and swimming pools

Bali is insanely popular as a honeymoon destination. Hence, one can find all kind of luxury properties managed by more or less all the leading global hospitality chains. Staying in some of these properties is an experience in itself. After all, it is not every day that you have an ocean facing villa with a private swimming pool, private butler and some of the most exotic foods and beverages on offer. Whether you are going on your honeymoon or on a regular romantic holiday, such a stay ought to be an experience in itself.

Stay with Locals

Paddy fields next to Gunung Kawi, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

While Bali has no paucity of luxury hotel properties, the other end of its spectrum, which is humble homestays, packs an equal punch. Not only do you get to interact with the locals in their native surroundings, such stays allow you to become one with the locals through their culture, food, mannerisms, nature, festivals, regular way of life and more. If local rustic holidays is your thing, then I would totally recommend this as its experience is unparalleled.

Take a Holy Bath at the Pura Tirtha Empul Temple

Taking a holy bath at the Pura Tirtha Empul, Bali, Indonesia

Not too far away from Ubud in Central Bali is located a Balinese Hindu temple called Pura Tirtha Empul. This temple built using traditional Balinese architecture is famous for its holy baths where the devotee sit under a temple gargoyle and get cleansed of all their sins. Not only is this experience one of a kind in Bali, this temple and the heavenly nature located around the temple is totally worth otherwise too.

Explore Bali on 2 Wheels

Balinese Men at Ubud, Bali

Usually, many visitors to Bali stay either on the Southern coast or in and around Ubud and visit a few top attractions using four wheelers. I feel Bali is best explored on two wheels. This could be either a bicycle or a motorcycle. The reason I recommend this is because Bali has pristine green nature, beautiful countryside, excellent roads and many off beat attractions that one will only come across during the trip on two wheels. This also allows you to cover more regions of this gorgeous, yet fairly large island. You could start in the South, make your way from Kuta to Uluwatu, Tanah Lot, West Bali National Park, Besakih, Kintamani, Ubud and then back to the South.

Explore Bali’s only National Park

The Indian Ocean View at Bali, Indonesia

One of Bali’s least visited areas, the West Bali National Park, Bali’s only national park is made up of rainforests, lowland forests, mangroves, islands, coral reefs and pristine beaches. This gorgeous diversity has made it home to many amazing flora and fauna. You should go here if you are interested in remote beaches, rich marine life, wildlife and birdwatching. Wildlife sighting, snorkeling and scuba diving are the popular activities here, though one can also choose this place if they are looking for a totally off the radar beach experience.

Watch Devdan Show

Entering the Gunung Kawi temple of Bali, Indonesia

Another highlight of a Bali holiday are its shows. And the best one at that is the Devdan show where the Nusa Dua Theatre brings to life the local traditions and cultures from the islands of Bali, Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua in one high energy dance performance. Nicknamed the treasure of the archipelago, this show is a combination of traditional Indonesian dance forms, modern contemporary dance, world class aerial acrobatic attractions, dazzling costumes and high tech special effects.

Get an Authentic Balinese Massage

A luxury holiday at Tanjung Benoa, Bali

A holiday to Bali is not complete without indulging in its traditional Balinese massage. Whether you take it at a simple massage parlor or at a luxury spa, the exotic oils and the overall massage itself will make you feel rejuvenated. It is the perfect way to recharge your batteries before returning home so that you are all ready to conquer your work and daily life with full force.

Indulge in some paddy field work like the Locals

Rice fields ripe for harvest in Bali, Indonesia

A lesser known activity in Bali is to assist the locals with their farming.  Whether you are doing this as part of a volunteer program or have made friends with a Balinese family, this rustic holiday program will treat you to the best of Bali’s nature, its friendly people and its culture and traditions at the very root level. You could be working in the paddy fields, in the coconut plantations, in the vegetable gardens or you could be even growing herbs. This green experience will be our way of saying ‘Thank you’ to mother earth.

Offer your Prayers at Pura Besakih Temple

Pura Ulan Danu Batur, Kintamani, Bali

One of Bali’s most important and revered temples, the mighty Pura Besakih temple is a sight to behold. Located on the slopes of the active volcano Mount Agung, this 6 tiered temple is believed to be existing from pre-historic times. Offer a prayer here, while you soak in the beauty of its architecture and if you feel pretty adventurous, embark on a climb to Mount Agung.

Enjoy the Cool Mountain Climes of Kintamani

Family photo in front of Pura Ulan Danu Batur, Kintamani, Bali, Indonesia

Most of Bali weather is tropical in nature, which means it is warm and humid during the day with a chance of rain later in the day followed by pleasant evenings. If you wish for cooler climes, then your best bets are either Kintamani or Besakih. Out of these, I prefer Kintamani as it is super quiet and laid back unlike the busy temple town of Besakih. The cooler climate of Kintamani allows you to go on a trek to the Batur caldera, take a walk amidst its various gardens, explore the gorgeous Pura Ulan Danu Batur temple or simply read a book while you sip on a hot cup of coffee.

Indulge in some Photography at Pura Tanah Lot

If you are into photography, then you should definitely not miss out on the opportunity of capturing sunrise or sunset at Pura Tanah Lot, the temple that is located off the Southern coast of Bali in the Indian Ocean. The golden hours ensure that you get many different hues to capture this amazing piece of nature and temple architecture. Even non photographers should visit this temple just to lay your eyes on something spectacular, especially at sunrise.

A door in Tirta Empul Temple, Bali, Indonesia

So, go on, book your flights to Bali, avail the easy visa on arrival and end up having a rejuvenating holiday filled with diversity in Bali.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bali’s Lush Green Gunung Kawi Temple: A Travel Photo

The absolutely gorgeous Gunung Kawi temple tucked amidst pristine greenery

For some reason, I have been thinking about Indonesia and more particularly Bali for the last couple of days. The lush greenery, the gorgeous nature (beaches, volcanoes, forests, national parks and more), the smiling people, the laidback culture, the delicious food and coffee (kopi) and its temples and rich Hindu connection gives it a special flavor like no other. A beautiful way to explore this stunning island is by bicycle or motorcycle and there is so much more to it than its southern surf, beaches and luxury hotels, which is what most visitors experience during a typical Bali Holiday.

Paddy fields next to Gunung Kawi, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

There is Besakih, Kintamani, the West Bali National Park and so many other places to explore in this tropical paradise. Temples, rich traditions and culture, volcano treks, living with locals, diving in marine national parks, Hindu festivals and so much more is on offer here. One can easily spend anywhere between 2 weeks to a few months here. I think it is the perfect place to rejuvenate in pristine surroundings. One such place that I love for its nature, tranquillity and its temples is Gunung Kawi that is famous for its rock-cut temples and that is a fabulous place to experience in Central Bali. Don’t miss out on a rural holiday in this part of Bali. In simple words, it is a thin slice of paradise where you are one with mother nature.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Which is the city with the highest number of two wheelers?

A District 1 night scene at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Do you know which city in the world has the highest number of two wheelers? Is it in India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, Philippines or Vietnam? Well, to be honest with you, a lot of cities can lay stake to this title. For starters, the city that I live in, Bangalore, can lay claim to it. So can Pune in Central India. But, there are other cities that have an obscene number of two wheelers. There is Dhaka in Bangladesh, Jakarta in Indonesia, Bangkok in Thailand, Manila in Philippines and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.



Most of these South and South East Asian capital cities are bustling metropolis with chaotic traffic, which according to me is the perfect recipe for owning and driving two wheelers. As someone who has ridden a two wheeler in all these cities across India, Bangladesh and South East Asia, I have to say that Vietnam’s capital, Ho Chi Minh city is possibly the city with the highest number of two wheelers in the world. Riding a 2 wheeler on its roads is akin to being a bee in a fully functional bee hive. There is strength of numbers and everything moves in waves, but the nice thing is that there is orderliness even in such chaotic numbers. Have you experienced this 2 wheeler madness in Ho Chi Minh City? Or would you like to share your experience from a trip to a different city in the world that could potentially lay a claim to this title?

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Friday, April 06, 2018

How I spent a surreal rural holiday in a remote Mishing tribal village of Assam?

Traditional hat and traditional loom - Mishing Tribal Village, Assam, India

Imagine this!

Lush green environment at Panbari Mishing Tribal village, Assam, India

You are surrounded by lush tea gardens and mighty tall trees of the Kaziranga National Park. You are staying in a chang house (house on stilts). You wake up to the sound of the whistling thrush and you sip your evening tea to the chatter of a rich number of bird species. You are truly in the lap of nature. Where farm lands end, the forests begin. Greenery, pristine nature and calmness is omnipresent.

Smiling kids of Panbari Mishing Tribal Village, Assam, India

And that’s not just it. Every day, you are treated to lip smacking authentic Assamese cuisine and some home brewed rice beer. Your leisurely walks include walking by paddy fields, vegetable gardens, banana plantations and tea gardens. And for more excitement there is always bird watching and wildlife sightings. For company, you have smiling kids and very humble and affectionate locals.

Delicious Assamese meals at Mishing tribal homes

I was treated to such an experience during a rural holiday in a remote tribal village of Assam. This village called Panbari is situated in the floodplains of the mighty Brahmaputra river and is located tantalizingly close to the Kaziranga National Park boundary.

People of mishing tribe at Panbari, Assam and fresh green paddy

The people of this village are simple, yet very hard working and lead a fairly independent life, as in, they don’t depend much on goods and services from the outside world. Each family have their own cows, goats, pigs and hens so there is no paucity of milk, butter, yogurt, eggs and meat. Each family have their small tea garden that is located right behind their home so no need to go to the market to buy tea and they sell the excess produce to the market to make some money. They have their own fish ponds, vegetable gardens, paddy field and banana plantations, so pretty much they always have a steady supply of home grown organic food all through the year.

Rice beer and Chang ghar dining - Mishing tribal village, Assam

Their dwellings, called chang houses are simple elevated structures that are designed to handle the heavy rains, flooding during the monsoons and the extremely humid weather. Bamboo, mud and dried palm leaves make up the bulk of the structure, but these days, the villagers are leveraging the use of bricks and cement too. The village has electricity, but power cuts are quite common during the summer and monsoon months and hence most traditional homes are built with proper ventilation and consistent cross air flow.

Nursery for paddy crop, Mishing Tribal village, Panbari, Assam, India

Both the men and women of this village do hard work. While the men wear their gamcha (cotton sarong) and zaapi (bamboo hat) and work in the farms and fields, the women wearing their traditional Mekhla Chador do all the household chores, take care of cattle, pick tea leaves and weave clothes using traditional looms. Apart from farming, the men of this village do odd construction jobs, cut trees in the forest, work as forest guides in the Kaziranga National Park when the park is open and weave bamboo baskets when they either get old or when they do not have any outside work contracts.

Master weaver artisan of Panbari mishing tribal village wearing her mekhla and chador creation

Most of the women of this village have been taught to weave by their mothers, grandmothers and/or sisters. Typically, each home has a traditional loom in front of the house that the women in the house make use of during their free time. But, these days, under the umbrella of Impulse Social Enterprises, an NGO, that promotes the well being of the women of North East India and a Government of India initiative that is working towards preservation of rural weaving and handicrafts, more women are learning the craft and are spending more of their time weaving.

Traditional loom being prepared by hand by Mishing Tribe woman, Assam

In fact, I went to this village mainly to experience their traditional weaving up close and bring that learning to all of you.

Mishing tribal woman learning the art of weaving at Panbari, Assam, India

This traditional weaving initiative has ensured a slightly better livelihood for these people. More income certainly adds a touch of modernization, but these villagers love their roots, so they still try to follow their ancient methods and practices. The only good thing that modernization brought to their life is good education for their children, especially all their girl children, which like we all know is the right way to go.

Portrait of Mishing tribal woman weaving on her traditional loom, Panbari village, Assam

A new revenue stream for these villagers is rural tourism, where they offer a room in their home and share their food for a small fee. It is not organized tourism, but it is definitely catching the fancy of the villagers. And that is how I landed in this Assamese village that is made up of 80 to 100 Mishing tribal people.

Elderly Mishing tribal man weaving a basket, Assam

One of the highlights of this rural holiday in Assam has to be its people. These warm hearted, helpful and ever smiling people teach us a thing or two about humanity, which we urban citizens seem to have forgotten or lost somewhere. Right from the time they picked me up from the bus stop on the highway to treating me like one of their own, I was blown away by their hospitality.

Tea drying the traditional way at a Mishing Tribal Home, Assam

And don’t even get me started on their delicious food and fresh rice beer. The Jhulokia chilli, freshly ground mustard seeds, farm fresh vegetables and young bamboo shoots (I absolutely relish them), juicy (yes, very juicy) rice grown in their farm, the secret ingredients of the women of the house and the fact that they cook their food in mustard oil makes the humble village meal a gastronomic journey into traditional Assamese cuisine.

Tea Gardens of Mishing tribe located by the Kaziranga forest, Assam

This rural holiday in Assam offered me to perfect recipe to enjoy our land’s traditions, food and nature while rejuvenating my body, mind and soul. My typical day involved taking walks in the village, striking conversations with the friendly people over some tea and fresh betel nut, teaching the kids some photography and playing football with them, watching the women weave their magic with their hands and traditional looms, trying my hand at cattle herding and farming and I even touched a baby rhinoceros at a nearby animal rescue center.

Traditional Gamcha being made in the traditional loom, Assam

The foodie in me loved the traditional cuisine, the birdwatcher in me loved the chirps, whistles and songs, the cultural lover in me loved experiencing the day to day life of these villagers, the simpleton in me loved the basic living where you wake up to the sun and sleep to the gentle night breeze and last but not the least, the Indian in me loved yet another of India’s gorgeous villages.

Tea Gardens of Panbari Mishing Tribal village surrounded by the forests of Kaziranga National Park

The Mishing village of Panbari was everything that I had wanted in a rural holiday. In fact, I felt richer, happier and more content than before. I definitely learnt a thing or two from its super hard working and affectionate people. This is one place I wouldn’t mind returning to in a jiffy! Definitely a off beat holiday gem!

Bookings:

Local women working in the tea gardens of Assam, India

If you wish to spend your rural holiday in this village, try contacting Ranjith Doley at +91 96137 86941. He was my host and his wife is a master weaver. I don’t know if there is any other way to make bookings here.

Other Nearby Attractions apart from this Mishing Village:

Traditional Loom in the front entrance of all Mishing tribe homes, Assam

1) Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation – Just a short walk from Panbari is this animal rescue and care center where you can get up close with the animals that have been rescued from floods, poachers and/or traps. This is a great way to explore more of the village and get close to some of the wild denizens of Kaziranga National Park. You can also opt to volunteer here if that is your area of interest.

Colorful weaves of the Mishing Tribe of Assam

2) Kaziranga National Park – If this park is open, this is one of India’s best wildlife safaris as it allows you to sight elephants, tigers, the one-horned rhinoceros, wild water buffalo and many more exotic species. The main entrance of Kaziranga is only a 40 minute drive from Panbari village.

3) Hoolongopar Gibbon Sanctuary – If you wish to see India’s only ape, head to Hoolongopar Gibbon Sanctuary, which is only a couple of hours away from Panbari. Do make sure to carry your binoculars and/or big zoom lenses as these apes are totally arboreal (they are always up in the trees).

Mishing tribal women and their traditional looms, Assam

4) Ancient Kingdom of Sibsagar – A couple of hours from Panbari is the ancient Ahom Kingdom of Assam in today’s Sibsagar. This trip is ideal for those history and temple lovers.

5) Majuli – If India’s largest riverine island is on your agenda, Majuli is the perfect choice. In 3 hours, you can reach this island from Panbari. You could either stay back on the island or return to the village at night.

Mishing Tribal woman with fresh fish on her head, Panbari village, Kaziranga, Assam

6) Dibrugarh – Even though tea estates are to be found all over the region, I am kind of partial towards the lush tea estates and forests between Dibrugarh and Tinsukia. This is a great way to holiday in the lap of nature.

How to get here:

Tribal Kids, Mishing village, Panbari, Assam, India

Guwahati would be the nearest airport with the best connectivity, but Dibrugarh might be the closest airport in terms of distance. The national highway runs just 4 kms from the village so buses are available in plenty. Golaghat would be the nearest railway station. Hiring a cab, taxi or a self-drive car might be the most prudent choice given the remoteness of the village and the lack of access to other tourist attractions.

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