2019 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Traditional Malenadu Cuisine: Lip Smacking Experience

Kadubu, Halasahannu Hittu, Ghee, Coconut Chutney and Gojju - Traditional Malnad Breakfast

Are you a foodie? Do most of your holidays and trips revolve around the local food experiences? Well, they certainly do for me! What better way to know a place and culture than by their local cuisine. I think food is an integral part of getting to know people and their culture and while it is extremely enlightening, it is at most times, a treat to the senses and to the palate. A beautiful combination indeed.

Akki Roti, Kessa with Kachampuli and Coconut Chutney

Every year during the monsoons, I make it a habit to visit the Western Ghats. While the consistent pitter patter, the lush green environment and the abundance of nature are the popular reasons for visiting the Western Ghats during the monsoons, I have a hidden reason. And that reason is delicious Malenadu food that is absolutely heavenly to gorge on during cold, damp and misty days.

Shavige with Sweet Coconut Milk, Red Rice, Majjige Huli, Spicy Eggs and Chicken curry

One of my favorite places for such a rich gastronomic experience in Malenadu is a traditional home located somewhere between Bisle Ghat and Sakleshpur. They grow their own produce (vegetables, fruits, spices and greens) and even have their own poultry and cows for a healthy daily source of eggs and milk. And most importantly, the lady of this traditional home cooks an unbelievable array of lip smacking dishes that trigger happiness via each of our senses.

Yummy breakfast of Akki Roti, Kadubu, Kessa greens and Young Bamboo shoots at Athihally, Malanadu, Karnataka

Be it the traditional Kadubu served with fresh coconut chutney, soft Akki roti served with kessa (a nutritious green that grows wild during the monsoons) and Kachampuli, Shavige with sweet coconut milk, young bamboo shoot salad, fermented jackfruit with coconut milk steamed (Halasanahannu hittu) and served with home made ghee, majjige huli, bas saru and rasam served with steaming hot fresh red rice, horse gram salad, fresh veggies with grated coconut or so many other dishes, this Malnad food experience keep getting richer and richer.

Kadubu, Akki Roti, Bamboo shoots and Kessa greens with tamarind make for delicious breakfast at Malanadu, Karnataka

While the vegetarian certainly enjoys his vegetarian Malenadu fare, it is the meat lover who is absolutely spoilt for choice with an assortment of pork, chicken, fish and egg dishes. The Malnad pork like the one at Kodagu enjoys legendary status and is enjoyed during all important events and get togethers. And for evening snacks there is freshly roasted jack fruit seeds with piping hot coffee (with fresh cow milk and home grown coffee). Pure trip to heaven! What more does a foodie need?

Tasty Malnad Breakfast of Shavige, Egg Curry and Beans Coconut

Delicious Malnad food where the ingredients are all locally sourced along with the some of the best nature in Karnataka and my favorite season of the year makes the Malenadu region of Karnataka one of my favorite go-to destinations for a monsoon holiday. Do you have any such favorites where you go simply for the food?

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Make your Saudi Arabia Trip Memorable with these Travel Tips

Rub 'Al Khali desert, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world but it has certain travel norms. To have a peaceful stay in the country, it is indeed important to follow those rules and regulations. So, if you are planning to visit this spiritual centre of Islam, you are required to be well aware of their policies.

Another piece of advice is that to plan a trip well is that all the bookings must be done in advance. Booking Flyadeal flights via Cleartrip can help you save a few bucks. Cleartrip offers special deals from time to time, which you can avail to get special discounts on your flight tickets. To make your Saudi Arabia trip a memorable one, here are few tips to follow:

1. Check out your reason to visit the country

Irrespective of your purpose to visit the country, whether it is for traveling or business, be clear about why you are visiting the country as the visa that you’ll require to enter the country will seek your exact travel purpose. For pilgrimage, there is a separate visa; and for business trip, you are required to show proof of appointments for business in the country. Professionals like journalists, photographers and writers do not easily get the visa. Therefore, listing the job title plays a crucial role in getting the visa. Hence one needs be extra careful in this regard. In addition, while you apply for the visa, ensure that you are applying for it a few weeks before your scheduled travel dates. The visa application process to visit the country takes time and also involves background check and investigation regarding the purpose of your visit.

2. Arrange for Travel Insurance

When you are planning a trip to Saudi Arabia, talk to your insurance provider and check if your insurance policy covers you outside the country as well. If not, then opt for an insurance plan that does. Though the healthcare facility in the country is not bad, yet as a traveller, you may have to burn your pocket if your traveling is not insured aptly.

3. Avoid carrying non-Islamic items

In Saudi Arabia, carrying any item that Islam does not allow is strictly prohibited. Such items include pork, porn material, alcohol, etc. The law of the country bans the public adherence of any religion except Islam, hence even if you follow a non-Islamic faith, ensure that you worship only in private.

4. Track the Weather

If you are visiting the country in between November and February, keep a live tracking of the weather conditions. In the current years, the country has faced heavy rains and flooding, which have caused serious damage. During your visit, observe the weather reports frequently to ensure the precautions can be taken to avoid any danger. The best thing you can do is to avoid planning your trip during these months.

5. Mind your gestures and behaviour

Take note that shaking hands or kissing, even if in greeting or a farewell, in public is not an appropriate gesture in Saudi Arabia. Also, remember that the citizens of the country speak too closely when two same-sex people are having conversations. Respect their way of conversations and do not shout from a distance.

6. Show Respect towards Local Customs

Saudi Arabia has strict customary restrictions, particularly for women. Women cannot travel alone, neither are they allowed to drive. Females are advised to visit the country with an elder or husband. In addition, there are certain areas where men and women are kept separate, and women aren’t permitted to enter in certain places. Beaches and amusement parks might have different visiting hours for men and women, so it’s better to learn about them prior to your visit. These customs may seem strange to you, yet be prepared to follow them and gather knowledge about further associated customs prior to your visit.

Masjid Al Haram, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

In addition, travel with your partner to Saudi Arabia only if you have an official marriage license. Unmarried couples who are applying for a visa will have to face rejection, as they are not permitted to travel together.

7. Photography and music norms

There are certain restrictions around photography in Saudi Arabia. You cannot take pictures of government buildings, airports, Muslim women, military installations and palaces. Also playing music in public is prohibited in the country, as it is regarded as a factor of public disturbance. You can listen music inside your hotel room until and unless it is not loud to offend any outsider.

8. Maintain modesty in dressing

When you are in Saudi Arabia, ensure to dress modestly. As the country is a conservative country, you must give special attention to your dress. Women should wear a dress that covers their full body like loose trousers or skirts, long-sleeved shirts, etc. Though a headscarf is not sternly required for travellers, however wearing one will depict your respect for the native culture. In addition, wearing the traditional abaya may help you avoid any arguments. Women should ensure to be as covered as possible. Men also should wear full-length trousers and their shirts must have sleeves. Though dressing conventionally is important, specifically for women, but men also should follow the native dress codes.

9. Try to travel in a group and avoid alcohol

The stringent government rules do not permit a tourist to travel to the country all alone. Hence, while you apply for a tourist visa, you will be required to prove that you are traveling with an organized tour group of four or more. During your visit, ensure to avoid drinking alcohol, as it is illegal in the country. Even the flights or the hotels in Saudi Arabia do not allow you to booze.

How flyadeal flights and Cleartrip can help your trip to Saudi Arabia?

The mosque of the prophet in Medina containing the tomb of Mohammad

Flyadeal is a Saudi airline considered as an economic arm of the General Organization of Saudi Airlines. This is operating in the economic aviation system of the country. Book a Flyadeal flight via Cleartrip, which is a travel site on which one can avail special offers on flights to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. This is a low-cost flight booking platform with safe booking process. Top routes that Flyadeal covers in Saudi Arabia include Riyadh to Jeddah, Jeddah to Riyadh, Dammam to Jeddah, Madinah to Riyadh, etc.

Plan appropriately with Cleartrip and do have an understanding of the unique culture of Saudi Arabia. You can also book your accommodation with the help of Cleartrip and can enjoy a memorable visit to this destination. Remember that Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer to respectful and well-prepared visitors who follow their norms.

Photo Courtesy: The photographs in this article have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the Creative Commons License. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

How to plan a dream motorcycle holiday to Ladakh?

Dream motorcycle trip to Ladakh

A motorcycle ride to the highest motorable road in India is a dream trip for all motorcycle enthusiasts. It would certainly feature in the travel bucket-list of many Indian and international travelers. After all, such terrain and panorama is rare and only exists at a very few places across the world. This motorcycle ride to Ladakh in India’s Western Himalayas is dubbed as one of the top 10 best motorcycle rides in the world. However, it takes a lot of planning to complete this challenging journey. There are many things to keep in mind such as AMS, tough terrain, mountain riding experience, etc. So, the key question here is how to embark on one of India’s top motorcycle routes and successfully complete this dream motorcycle journey to Ladakh?

How do I plan the motorcycle bit?

The highway leading to Khardung la, one of the highest motorable roads in the world

There are 3 ways to plan your motorcycle logistics:

1) Option 1: Take your own motorcycle

This is the best option as you get to take your own motorcycle. Some riders ride all the way from their city or they ship their motorcycle to the nearest point and then ride from there. As a thumb rule, motorcycle riders to Ladakh usually prefer sending their bikes by train to Delhi or Chandigarh and then start their journey from there. You could also send your bike by road or by air. There are many options, but I personally prefer Indian railways. If you travel in the same train, the process becomes much more simpler.

2) Option 2: Rent a motorcycle at Delhi or Manali

If you do not want to take on the worries associated with motorcycle logistics, you can rent a motorcycle of your choice at Delhi, Manali or Leh. The prices are reasonable, though it is advised to check the motorcycle thoroughly before you decide to take it on your long ride. It is best to get it checked properly by a mechanic to ensure that the engine, clutch, brakes, tyres, etc. are all in good condition.

3) Option 3: Go with a motorcycle touring company

This is the option with the least headache and possibly also the safest as it comes with the service of tour guides, mechanics, doctors, etc. Such Ladakh bike trips run by motorcycle tour operators are ideal for first timers and for people with limited riding and/or mountain experience. A lot of motorcycle tour companies allow you to select your motorcycle in advance. Some even allow you to keep interchanging motorcycles during the course of the trip. Usually motorcycles in such outfits will be in good condition and in case of any trouble, you will always have access to an in-group mechanic.

How do I plan the itinerary?

The mountain highway to Leh

Your itinerary would depend on the time you have at hand and the route you opt for.

Route 1: Manali to Ladakh via Rohtang pass and return the same way

This is the traditional and most popular route that begins at Manali. This is also the shortest route. It takes you via Rohtang pass, Tandi, Barlachala pass and Tanglangla before heading towards Leh. Acclimatization points would be Tandi or Jispa, Sarchu and Leh. Once you reach Leh, you can opt for the Leh - Khargung La- Nubra valley circuit, Leh – Pangong Tso – Tso Moriri circuit and/or Leh – Lamayuru – Alchi – Kargil circuit.
While it is possible to complete this route in 10 days, it is best to have at least 2 weeks for it.

Route 2: Manali to Ladakh via Rohtang pass and return via Srinagar

The famous signboards on the Ladakh mountain highway

This is what I call the full Jammu and Kashmir circuit. It begins at Manali and then heads to Leh via Rohtang pass, Tandi, Sarchu and Upshi. Like in the previous option, you can explore Khardung la, Nubra valley, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri and the surrounding monsteries. But, for your return leg, you don’t head the same way to Manali, but head to Chandigarh via Kargil, Drass, Srinagar, Patnitop and Pathankot. This route is longer, but allows you to get an experience of the lush Kashmir valley.

This route should take 14 days to complete, though I would keep 3 days as buffer for any kind of contingencies.

Route 3: Manali to Ladakh via Rohtang Pass and return to Shimla via Spiti valley

This is the magical Western Himalayan route as it allows you to experience the best of both Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh. The route starts at Manali and like the previous 2 routes heads to Leh and after seeing all tourist attractions of Ladakh, it returns the same way till Keylong. At Keylong, it diverges towards Gramphoo, Chandra Taal Lake, Kunzum pass before heading into Spiti valley. After exploring the various high altitude villages of Spiti valley and nearby Pin valley, it makes it way to Shimla and/or Chandigarh via small diversions to Sangla, Chitkul and Kalpa.

This is the longest route and will easily take at least 3 weeks. The roads beyond Gramphoo are some of the worst in the region. Hence, it is extremely essential that you are a good rider and can handle really tough off-road mountain conditions.

How do I handle AMS?

Capturing the Pangong Tso beauty in his lens

There are 4 golden rules when it comes to handling AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness.

1) You ascend slowly and spend the night at lower altitudes after completing a higher elevation during the day

2) Stay well hydrated and keep physical activity to a bare minimum during the first 48 to 72 hours

3) Try to avoid smoking and drinking during the first 48 to 72 hours

Petrol pumps are few and far between in Ladakh

4) Descend urgently to a location of lower altitude in case you struggle big time (like high blood pressure, heavy breathlessness, blood coming out from the nose, etc.)

As a precautionary step, motorcycle riders usually chew ginger and garlic right from Manali. While this makes your mouth stink and your stomach uneasy, this allows you to fight AMS successfully. Others carry a pill called Diamox which is known to help with AMS. However, Diamox comes with a side effect of tingling in fingers and at other places. Do be aware of it.

What is the best season to visit Ladakh?

Chemrey Monastery, Mustard Fields and the Himalayas of Ladakh, India

Ladakh is beautiful all year round and hence allows all year access if you fly into Leh. However, since you will be riding over the high mountain passes of the Western Himalayas, you will have to plan your ride between May and August. The rest of the year, Rohtang pass and the other high passes are closed due to heavy snowfall. The exact time of opening and closing of the mountain passes varies every year depending on the extent of snowfall. This information is usually available online so that can be checked easily.

Once the tunnel from Manali to Keylong is ready, this route will be open all year round as it will skip Rohtang pass altogether. Till that time, you will have to make do with the summer months of May through August.

Any important things to keep in mind?

Posing at Chang la high mountain pass

Following are some important things to keep in mind before and during your ride to Ladakh:

1) There is no petrol pump between Tandi and Karu (about 350 kms). Hence, plan to carry jerry cans with additional petrol for contingencies.

2) Mountain weather can be tricky. Things can change very quickly. Stay prepared for all 4 seasons within the course of a single day.

3) The high mountain passes are extremely beautiful and begs a long stay. However, a long stay at such high altitude places with low oxygen can lead to AMS.

4) Do not block the way for Indian army vehicles. It is us who are going on their roads and not the other way around.

5) Ladakh is a pristine, yet fragile mountain region. Please refrain from littering or causing any kind of damage to this sensitive ecosystem.

6) Summer months happen to the busiest tourist season in Ladakh. Hence, it might be prudent to make all your bookings well in advance in case you wish to stay at a particular hotel or if you wish to visit a particular festival.

7) Buddhist monasteries are places of worship. Do respect the sanctity of the place by reducing your volume levels.

How do I go about inner line permits?

The Holy Buddhist scriptures in front of a monk at Shey Palace, Ladakh

Inner line permits are required for some border zones in Ladakh. You can either apply for them yourself at Leh or ask someone to apply on your behalf. The process is simple and it requires your ID card, some passport size photographs, your vehicle papers and your rough itinerary. Inner line permits usually take at least a day, but if you ask for a speedier option, you could get it sooner.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The Hidden Gem called Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

Bonnet Macaque poses in front of Manimuthar falls, Tamil Nadu

It is home to a rich array of wildlife. It is home to umpteen seasonal waterfalls. It is home a diverse range of forests. It is home to many reservoirs, dams, water bodies and hydroelectric projects. It is even home to some hill stations and tea estates in small pockets. I am talking about the hidden gem called Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, a vast expanse of pristine nature and wildlife in the southern extremes of the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu.

It is home to more than a 100 tigers, but hardly anyone in the wildlife circuit seem to be aware of this destination. It is contiguous with the pristine Agastyarmalai biosphere reserve and hence shares the same amazing ecosystem. This ecosystem gives birth to many rivers, waterfalls, flora, fauna and a diverse landscape ranging from tall mountain peaks in the Western Ghats to plains pretty much at mean sea level. It is home to some seriously wet evergreen forests on the windward side and some seriously dry deciduous forests on the leeward side.

The scenic Manimuthar village of Tamil Nadu in India's deep South

This diversity makes it a perfect home for a wide range of animals ranging from the endangered King Cobra, lion tailed macaques, tigers, leopards, elephants, gaurs, Nilgiri langurs, Grey Langurs, slender loris, Nilgiri Tahr, wild dog, jungle cat, Malabar giant squirrel to a wide variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians and other mammals.

The gorgeous forest waterfall inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu

It is part of the river sanctuary that is considered a hotspot for its wide range of endemic flora and fauna. This river sanctuary forms the catchment area of 14 rivers and streams (Thamirabharani, Ganga, Ramanadi, Karayar, Servalar, Manimuthar, Pachayar, Kodaiyar, Gadananathi and Kallar), which in turn give birth to seven major dams – Karaiyar, Lower Dam, Servalar, Manimuthar, Ramanadi, Gudananathi and Karaiyar, which in turn form the irrigation backbone for this region.

The lush green scenes of Kalakad Mundathurai Tiger Reserve

These rivers, dams and waterfalls are the ones that usually attract visitors of this moderately hot region. While the dams make for great picnic spots, it is the waterfalls (Manimuthar, Agastyar and Vana Theertham) are loved by all for their herbal waters, cooling effect and for the sense of relaxation that they bring to everyone. But, amidst all these big water bodies lies a lot of wildlife that are given a miss even by the locals. For a long while, even the forest department never provided any infrastructure.

Gorgeous Manimuthar Waterfalls inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu

While this helped retain the pristine status of this ecosystem, it remained relatively hidden from the outside world. Recently, the Tamil Nadu forest department has formed a KMTR Eco Tourism division that provides accommodation inside this tiger reserve and offers guided wildlife walks and treks to different areas within this diverse forest.

A pit stop inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu

If you like hidden destinations and off-beat trails, you have to explore this tiger reserve. If you love nature, traditional Tamil Nadu villages with ancient temples, waterfalls, dams and lot of wild action, you will have to visit Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger reserve and the entire region.

A Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve Pit stop moment

This part of India’s deep south is one of Tamil Nadu’s best kept secrets and KMTR is a jewel in its crown. In addition to a waterfall, wildlife and nature holiday, you will get a proper rural Tamil Nadu experience that will be authentic and untarnished. And that’s what makes this hidden gem even more special. Do remember to check it out on your next holiday.

On the offbeat trails inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

How to make bookings:

For day visits, one can get entry tickets at the forest check post, but if you are looking to stay overnight or you wish to go deeper into the forest, you will have to book in advance by booking on KMTR Eco Tourism website or by calling the KMTR forest office.

Two wheelers are not allowed towards Manjolai. 4 wheelers are allowed provided you get the permits at least a day in advance.

Scenic forest road leading to Manimuthar Falls and Manjolai Tea Estate, Tamil Nadu

How to reach here:

By air:

The nearest airports would be Thiruvananthapuram (120 kms away), Tuticorin (80 kms away) and Madurai (180 kms away). Out of these three, Thiruvanthapuram would have the best connectivity with the rest of the country.

By train:

Tirunelveli would be your closest major railway hub. An hour’s drive from there will take you to KMTR. There are also multiple passenger trains that ply daily between Tirunelveli and the various locations of KMTR.

By road:

KMTR is well connected by road, be it the Kalakad side, the Manimuthar side or the Papanasam side. All three routes are well connected with Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Where to stay:

You can stay at any of the following options:

1) Forest Bungalows managed by KMTR tourism inside the tiger reserve

2) Palace home of Singampatti Zamin

3) Homestays in the surrounding villages or

40 Guest houses, lodges and hotels in the surrounding villages and towns

Best time to visit:

The best times to visit are during the South West monsoon months of June, July and August and the winter months starting November through February. The rest of the year would be fairly hot.

Nearby Tourist Attractions:

1) Ponmudi, offbeat hill station of Kerala, about 3 hours away

2) Nellaiappar Temple, Tirunelveli – 7th century cosmic wonder, about an hour away

3) 1000 year old Papanasanathar Temple, about 30 minutes away

4) Karaiyar Dam, about 30 minutes away

5) Tenkasi temple, about an hour away

6) Manjolai tea estate, about an hour away

7) Tiruchendur Murugan Temple, about 2 hours away

8) Kanyakumari temple, about 90 minutes away

9) Varkala, the cliff beach of Kerala, about 3 hours away

10) Punalur to Shencottai Mountain railways – the lesser known mountain railways of Kerala, about an hour away

11) Kallidaikurichi, the village of the saaral season, about 30 minutes away

12) Agastyar Falls, about 30 minutes away

13) Thenmala forest, about 2 hours away

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Monday, July 08, 2019

Rogan Art: 300 year old creative magic of Kutch

The stunning tree of life Rogan Art that can be seen in the White House

This art is so rare and special that the Indian prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi gifted it to the U.S president Barack Obama during his visit to the US in September 2014. The gift was a tree of life Rogan art painting made by one artisan family from the tiny village of Nirona in the Kutch district of Gujarat.

Now, you might be saying…so what is so special about this painting? Well, this Muslim family of Abdul Gafar Khatri from Nirona village is the only living family in the entire world to practice this ancient form of painting. Believed to have come to India about 300 years back from Persia, this Rogan art is a beautiful combination of Persian motifs and Kutchi colours and style. This gorgeous ancient art form has been kept alive by the men of the Khatri family who have passed on the skills and secrets to the future generations. Without them, this art form would have gone extinct. Today, a lot of the Khatri family members are National award winners and their paintings can be seen all over the world. That is the speciality of this rare and ancient art form.

The colors and the 400 year old traditional Rogan art painting of Kutch

Rogan, which is a Persian word, refers to the thick residue that is produced when castor oil is heated over fire for more than 12 hours and then cast into cold water. This is the main ingredient for this painting and castor oil or castor seeds for this are sourced directly from the farmers who grow this crop abundantly in the region of Kutch. Then, this Rogan residue is mixed with natural mineral pigments obtained from the earth of Kutch to get the desired colours. Finally, the artisan uses a six inch metal stick or pen to take this colorful and elastic residue from his palm and weaves his magic onto a piece of fabric. There is however an element of surprise here. If you notice the Rogan paintings closely, you will see that they are symmetrical in nature. This symmetry comes due to the creation of a mirror image of the painting when the residue is wet. While making one design, the artisan folds his fabric and presses the design onto the other side of the fabric to ensure that the design repeats itself.

Rogan Art - the oil based painting of Kutch

In this way, Rogan art finds its way into wall hangings, bedsheets, bridal wear, pillow covers, table cloths, sarees, file folders, stoles, scarves, dress materials and other decorative pieces. And even the White house.

There was a time when the textile industry was picking up. There were no tourists visiting Gujarat. And there was hardly any visibility to such heritage. It was easy for the Khatri family to have left practising this art form and embracing the prospect of a job in the textile industry in Ahmedabad, Surat or Mumbai, but they didn’t opt for it. Instead, they painstakingly preserved this rare heritage of India through suffering and poverty. It was only in the recent past that the government floated initiatives promoting such traditional art and thus slowly their lives changed and more people got to know them and their amazing Rogan art.

The Khatri brothers of Nirona, Kutch

This is the story of this Muslim family from Nirona village in Kutch and how they preserved a Persian art form for over 300 years in their family. This Rogan art is certainly a highlight on the handicrafts trail of Kutch and is bound to blow your mind away. Do pay a visit to see it at close quarters. And may be even buy something for yourself and/or your family and friends as they make for great souvenirs. And while you are in this region, you can also experience the sound engineers of Kutch, the embroidery artisans of Bhirandiyara, the lacquer artisans of Nirona, the folk music, the rich dash of colors, the salt desert called White Rann and the colorful festival of Rann Utsav.

Rogan art - the art form kept alive by the Khatri family

Nirona village and its Rogan art family are a must-have in your kutch holiday itinerary. I would definitely recommend it to all. One can learn a lot from the colorful humans of Kutch, their rich handiwork and some of their well preserved heritage and culture.

From scarves to stoles to wall hangings, Rogan art make for great gifts

How to reach here:

The nearest airport would be Bhuj. Bhuj airport has good connectivity with Mumbai and Delhi. Bhuj also has a railway station with decent connectivity. For a high traffic international airport, Ahmedabad would be your best bet.

Nirona is about 40 kms from Bhuj and about 72 kms from Dhordo where the Rann Utsav tent city and the White Rann are located. It is best to have your own mode of transportation for last mile commute and to explore the different handicraft villages in the region.

Sumar Khatri and his Rogan Art creation, Nirona, Kutch, India

Where to stay:

If you prefer luxury, stay at Rann Utsav tent city. If you prefer traditional local homes, opt for village homestays in Nirona or in the nearby villages.

Colorful handicrafts from Nirona, Kutch

Best season to visit:

The winter months from November through February should be your best bet, but if you can handle warm weather, then you can visit all year round.

Rogan Art in different colors and designs

Nearby Tourist Attractions:

1) Rann Utsav, a winter festival that happens near the Great Rann of Kutch

2) White Rann, India’s largest salt desert

3) Colorful villages of Kutch

4) Bhirandiyara, the embroidery village of Kutch

5) Various handicraft villages of Kutch

6) Family schooled sound engineers of Kutch in Nirona village

7) Congregation of Lesser Flamingos in GRK and LRK

8) Wild Ass sanctuary in Little Rann of Kutch

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Sunday, July 07, 2019

WeCcarryy: No more check-in luggage hassles

No more check-in luggage hassles

One of the classic headaches of air travel is check-in luggage!

Problem Statement: Baggage Worries

WeCcarryy - Avoiding luggage check-in problems

You have to ensure that everything is according to the airline weight restrictions or you end up paying an additional fee. Hence, we carefully pack keeping the weight restrictions in mind, measure the weight and keep re-packing till the weight is within limits. Then, we lug it all the way to the airline check-in counter to check it in. Standing in long queues with our heavy luggage is another hassle. Then comes the agonizing wait for the check-in luggage at the destination baggage belt and finally you lug it to your hotel room or home.

Add to it excess luggage, kids in tow and elderly travelers and you have a full blown pulsating headache.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our luggage somehow managed to reach our destination hotel and we got to enjoy and chill during our flight journeys?

Solution: Innovative Door to Door Luggage Shipping Service

For a long while, there was no solution in sight and people either resorted to handling the pain or they ended up traveling light. But, sometimes, you do need that excess baggage and in addition to the pain, you end up paying high airline baggage fees too. It is kind of like a double whammy. So, you might ask what we could possibly do in such a situation.

How WeCcarryy works

Well, there is a start-up who has a solution to this problem. As they are young, their reach is not wide enough (only restricted to India), but their innovative door to door luggage pick-up and drop-off service heralds the era of new age hassle free travel. They call themselves ‘WeCcarryy’ and they offer the perfect solution to our excess baggage and check-in luggage worries.

Here are some of their main features:

1) Easy to use mobile app

WeCcarryy Luggage Shipping ServiceWeCcarryy - Easy to use Mobile App

WeCcarryy offers a simple mobile app on both Google Play and AppStore to schedule, pay and track your luggage pick-up and drop-off. All you have to do is enter your flight, pick-up and drop-off details and make the payment. It is as simple as that. And all the contact and customer care numbers can be accessed directly from the app.

2) Door to Door pick up and drop off

New Booking - WeCcarryy - 1New Booking - WeCcarryy - 2New Booking - WeCcarryy - 3

This is their USP. No more fretting about excess baggage fees and the pain of lugging it around. WeCcarryy picks up your baggage about 4 to 6 hours before your scheduled flight departure and they drop it off at your destination or hotel within 6 hours of your arrival. And they even help with packing, if you ask for it.

3) Highly secure and insured

WeCcarryy secures your luggage with a one-time usable galvanized lock and also insures it with a leading insurance service provider to address all your safety and security concerns.

4) Free storage

WeCcarryy Payment ScreenWeCcarryy Payment gateway

In case, your flight gets delayed or you have to go immediately someplace else instead of your destination home or hotel, do not worry as WeCcarryy stores your luggage inside their premises for 24 hours and this storage comes completely free.

Who will benefit the most:

Avoid carrying heavy luggage - WeCcarryy

1) Elderly Travelers: They can now move freely and not have to worry about lugging their heavy luggage, which otherwise could lead to painful situations and aches.

2) Family with young kids: Families with young kids would love to avail this service as they can focus on their kids (especially babies and toddlers) instead of their luggage. This is very essential when you travel in crowded environments, especially busy Indian airports.

3) Travelers with physical disability: For travelers with any kind of physical disability, this service ensures that they don’t have to depend on others to get their stuff to the destination. All they have to do is pack their stuff and keep it ready for pick-up at home and collect it at their destination point.

4) Anyone with heavy or excess baggage: Students, relocating families or anyone with excess baggage would find this door to door luggage service super useful. Not only is it much cheaper than paying the excess baggage fees with the airline, it just makes shifting locations or traveling so much simpler for you.


No luggage hassles - WeCcarryy

If you are one of those who fret about airline check-in luggage and excess baggage, you ought to check out WeCcarryy, the innovative door to door luggage shipping service start-up. I think you might find a solution to your luggage worries here.

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Monday, July 01, 2019

7 Mountain Road Trips to experience in Himachal Pradesh

Extremely scenic mountain village of Langza in Spiti, Western Himalayas

Do you love the mountains? Do you love road trips? Well, if you said yes to both questions, you are bound to be certainly interested in these amazing mountain road trips that take you through sprawling meadows, high altitude mountain passes, apple orchards, winding roads, gorgeous high altitude villages, serene monasteries, snow capped vistas, emerald lakes, national parks and so much more. And what better place to experience all of this than the mountain state of Himachal Pradesh that is nestled in the cradle of the Himalayas.

1) Manali to Chandra Taal Lake and Kunzum Pass

Chandra Taal Lake - Paradise in the Himalayas

One of the more popular routes of Himachal Pradesh, this route takes you from a top hill station in Himachal Pradesh to some sensational mountain passes and a high altitude glacier fed lake. While the half crescent Chandra Taal lake is the definite highlight along with the super famous Rohtang pass, the true charm of this route lies in its tough terrain that is made up of rocky mountain roads with gurgling streams, beautiful Himalayan vistas, thin mountain air and a true off-road like drive. Go here for some amazing mountain adventure.

One way distance: 130 kms

Highlights on the route: Rohtang pass, River confluence at Tandi, Keylong monastery, Chandra Taal lake, Kunzum pass

Best time to visit: May to August, when these roads are accessible

2) Manali to Great Himalayan National Park

Trekking beyond the Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, India

One of the hidden attractions near Manali, Great Himalayan National Park is a pure mountain wilderness that spans all the way to Pin Valley national park in Spiti valley. Home to the extremely rare and endangered snow leopard, this national park is great trekking terrain for the nature, wildlife and bird lover. Gushaini and nearby Tirthan valley offer you a view of a rustic Himachal Pradesh with a myriad of colors. Go here for the snow leopard, some trekking and a quiet holiday.

One way distance: 50 kms

Highlights on the route: Tirthan valley, Great Himalayan National Park

Best time to visit: All year around. Winters for snow leopard

3) Manali to Shoja and Jalori Pass

On top of the impassable Jalori pass, Himachal Pradesh, India

Another offbeat destination in Himachal Pradesh, this route takes you to a 10,800 high mountain pass and a gorgeously remote hill station that offers some of the most beautiful snow capped mountain panoramas. While the pretty hill station of Shoja can be your base, Jalori pass and its surreal views have to be the highlight. The steep, narrow and winding mountain roads are also a thrill for the road trippers.

One way distance: 110 kms

Highlights on the route: Tirthan valley, Shoja, Jalori pass

Best time to visit: All year around unless Jalori pass is closed down

4) Shimla to Chitkul and Kalpa

Chitkul and the snow capped Himalayas

This is the famous apple belt of Himachal Pradesh and hence we can refer to this route as the ‘Apple route’. Shimla, Sarahan and Sangla are the best places to visit on this Apple trail and offer you the perfect opportunity to pluck an apple from an apple orchard and dig into it at its freshest best. Chitkul is considered the last village on the Hindustan-Tibet highway and offers spectacular mountain views and trekking opportunities near the pristine Baspa river. Kinnaur Kailash, the spiritual mountain, is seen best from Sangla, but if you wish to get a closer look than Kalpa on the other side of the river offers a much more special view. Both Sangla and Kalpa make great bases on this route.

One way distance: 250 kms

Highlights on the route: Apple, Sarahan, Sangla, Chitkul, Kalpa, Kinnaur Kailash

Best time to visit: All year round, but if you want to go during the apple season, the best months are August through October

5) Shimla to Spiti Valley

The high village of Komic in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh

One of the longest and most iconic routes of Himachal Pradesh, this route takes you to some of the highest villages in the world, India’s highest polling station, India’s highest post office, high altitude monasteries, high altitude lakes and absolutely stunning mountain terrain. The Sutlej and the Spiti rivers and the narrow roads with thousands of turns offer you a dream road trip that boggles the minds of both four wheeler drivers as well as motorcyclists. Go here for one of India’s best mountain holiday destinations.

One way distance: 478 kms

Highlights on the route: Tabo monastery, Komic, Dhankar, Langza, Ki, Dhemul, Llalung

Best time to visit: All year around, unless the roads are closed due to heavy snowfall

6) Mcleod Ganj to Pong Dam Wetlands

Bar headed Geese and the Dhaula Dhuan Range of the Himalayas

One of the hidden gems of Himachal Pradesh and a top birding destination in India, this is the place where millions of migratory birds congregate under the backdrop of the mighty Dhaula Dhuan range of the Himalayas. Starting at the popular hill station of Mcleod Ganj, this route takes you from the mountains to the massive Pong Dam wetlands via the absolutely spectacular Kangra valley. Nagrota Surian is the place to make your base as it offers the easiest access to the birds and for all those panoramic views. Go here for Kangra culture, rustic Himachal Pradesh and rich birdlife, especially millions of bar headed geese.

One way distance: 55 kms

Highlights on the route: Mcleod Ganj, Dharamshala, Kangra valley, Pong Dam wetlands

Best time to visit: All year round, but for the best birding action, go during the winter months from December to February

7) Kaza to Pin Valley

Picturesque Dhankar, Spiti Valley

This route takes you from the gorgeous Spiti valley to the mind blowing Pin valley that is nestled under the gaze of the mighty Pin Parvati mountain. The tiny village of Mud can be your base here. Adventure seekers can trek inside the beautiful Pin valley national park that connects with the Great Himalayan National Park and for regular travel lovers, don’t miss the opportunity to see the aerial view of the Spiti and the Pin rivers from on top of Dhankar village. Go here for absolutely pristine and quiet mountains and valleys.

One way distance: 50 kms

Highlights on the route: Mud village, Dhankar village, Pin valley

Best time to visit: All year round

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