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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

1000 year old Papanasanathar Temple: Where you can wash all your sins away!

Neeranjanam coconut and ghee lamps at Papanasam Temple, Tamil Nadu

There is some solid connection of temples with deeply rooted mythological and spiritual significance and their location amidst a pristine environment. Usually such temples attract a lot of pilgrims and visitors. The Papanasanathar temple located by the banks of the Thamarabharani river is one such amazing temple set in a lush green atmosphere.

At the Papanasam Shiva temple, Tamil Nadu

No one knows the exact time of birth of this temple, but it is steeped in many legends. One legend is about Sage Agastyar not being able to watch the divine wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati due to heavy crowd at Kailash. And the location where his prayers were answered by the divine pair is Agastyar Falls and the temple located nearby is Papanasathar temple. The other legend is about Lord Indra incurring Brahmatti dosha, when he slayed the demon Dwastha, the son of God Shukracharya. He was advised by God Brishapati to wash away his sins at Papanasam and the lingam he worshipped by the banks of the river is now the temple. There are some other legends surrounding this temple, but these two are the most believed even in this time and era.

Enjoying a dip in the Thamarabharani river at Papanasam

Imagine this! Lovely countryside of India’s deep South, surrounded by the forests of Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserve and the Agastyar mountain range of the Western Ghats, a lovely perennial river called Thamarabharani that begins in this mountain range and that flows by this temple and a stunning array of dams, canals and water bodies located in the vicinity. And the temple towers over all of this and hence is the cynosure of all eyes that visit this region in India’s deep South.

The traditional tea master of Tamil Nadu

Usually, my experience begins with a drive through the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, a shower under the Agastyar waterfall, a warm glass of Sukku kaapi (dry ginger coffee) to warm yourself, a visit to the Papanasanathar temple and then a hot local meal in any of the nearby villages. If you feel like it, you can also bathe in the river by the temple. A lot of people also sprinkle the holy water on their head just before entering the temple. A dip in the Thamarbharani is considered very auspicious especially during the month of Aadi (Aashada) when people pray to their ancestors.

The Papanasam Shiva temple seen from the banks of the Thamarabharani river

Built originally by the Pandya kings, the Papanasanathar temple saw many additions during the rule of the Vijayanagar and Nayak kings. Constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture, the temple has 3 main design elements that stand out. One is the large 7-tiered gopuram that is common with most South Indian temples. Then, there is the massive granite wall that surrounds the temple enclosing all its shrines and then there are the steep steps that lead all the way from the Thamarbharani river to the main temple entrance while you keep looking at the temple gopuram.

The ancient turmeric pounder at the Papanasam Shiva temple

Inside the temple, the main shrine belongs to Papanasanathar lingam, his consort is worshipped as Ulagammai, there is a shrine for Natarajar in the Ananda Thandava posture and then there are small shrines for Ganesha, Subramanya, Durga, Dakshinamurthy, Navagrahas and many other temple guards and yali sculptures. While all the shrines and gods are unique in their own way, there are 2 things that are bound to catch your attention. One is the pounding stone in front of the Ulaagammai shrine where ladies pound turmeric and apply it on to their hands and face and the other is the sight of the gorgeous Natarajar statue, which is unlike the ones seen in other temples.

The temple gains prominence during the months of Thai (January 15 to February 15), Chitirai (April 15 to May 15), Aadi (August 15 to September 15), during the days of new moon, pradosham, Thiruvadarai and during the festivals of Thai Poosam, Shivaratri,, Brahmotsavam and Agasthiyar Thirukalyanam. The temple can get pretty busy on these days and hence it is recommended to plan properly.

Neeranjanam offering at Papanasam Shiva Temple

This temple is best explored as a day trip from Tirunelveli, Tenkasi or Kollam, the three major cities located in the vicinity. You can offer your prayers at this temple, bathe under a waterfall, enjoy the dams and the forest atmosphere and soak in the charms of the laidback countryside of India's Deep South. However you opt to experience this temple, you are bound to be mesmerized by this 1000 plus year old temple beauty that is set amidst oodles of gorgeousness!

Temple Timings: 6 AM to 1 PM and 4 PM to 8 PM on all days. Open all day on new moon days.

Location: Papanasam, about 55-60 kms from Tirunelveli

Nearest Railroad: Ambasamudram (but it connects only via passenger trains). For long distance trains, Tirunelveli (55-60 kms) would be the best option.

Nearest Airport: Tuticorin (about 80 kms), Thiruvananthapuram (about 120 kms away)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Bose SoundSport Free: Awesome Wireless Earphones for Travel, Gym and Outdoors

Bose earphones and the charging case

As my phone lost its 3.5 mm jack, I too gave up my wired earphones and made the bold jump to the world of totally wireless Bluetooth earphones. Initially, I was very apprehensive with the switch. After all, I had been using the wired way of life for a pretty long time. But, having used the totally wireless way of listening and talking, I now wish I had made the switch sooner.

My totally wireless listening and talking companion is the Bose SoundSport Free wireless earphones. It cost me a pretty buck (INR 18,990), but I have to say that it is worth every bit of money that I spent. And it is my perfect gym, travel and outdoor companion. Like my sunglasses, wallet, phone and watch, it travels all the while with me.

Here are the various reasons (after many many months of use in various conditions) why I am totally in love with it. It can definitely do with some improvements, but overall, it is hear to stay in my life till Bose or some other brand comes with some other radically new product.   
Fabulous Sound

Bose products are known for their sound and the Bose SoundSport Free wireless earphones are no different. It is a bit partial towards base, which augurs perfectly well for my workouts. Even at other times, when I am relaxing and listening to my music library, the notes and sounds are crystal clear. Sometimes the effect is so good that I think I have a high end headphone instead of a small pair of earphones.

The hassle free music powerhouse - Bose SoundSport Free

One can control their music library either through their music player, the Bose Connect App or the pause, play, next and previous buttons on the right earphone. For a small gadget, it certainly packs a serious punch. And there is no interference or lag.

Only the right earpiece works during calls, which is kind of sad, but otherwise everything about it is great. The sound quality and clarity are spot on and there is no lag whatsoever. You can control calls and their volume either through your phone or the right earpiece.

No Wires Whatsoever

The colorful and vibrant Bose SoundSport Free earphones

Unlike some Bluetooth earphones that have a neck band, the Bose SoundSport Free is truly wireless and all it has are 2 beautifully designed earpieces.

Snug Fit that has never fallen out

A lot of people on the internet have called the Bose SoundSport Free as Frankenstein-ish due to its big sized earphones. Yes, the Bose SoundSport Free earphones are definitely bigger than the earpieces on the wired earphones. But, I see this as a blessing than as an aesthetic issue. Had these earphones been real small, I would not even know if I lose it. At least here, I will get to know if the earphone drops somewhere. And it is just a matter of time before you get used to this size. Others would not even notice if you hang flowing locks or have a full beard.

These wireless earphones have never slipped out even once. And I have used them during my cross fit sessions in the gym, on treks, while cycling and on train and bus journeys where I am sitting next to an open window. They are perfectly snug and supremely comfortable. The only time I remove them is when I have sweated even inside my ear. And all it needs is a clean wipe with a dry cloth and we are ready to go again.

Fast Charging and Holds Charge for close to 10 hours

Bose earphones in the charging case

One of the best features of the Bose SoundSport Free wireless earphones is its super small and super efficient charging case. Not only does it charge real quick (0 to 100 in about 3 hours), but it also holds charge for close to 10 hours. The earphones get automatically charged whenever you place them in the charging case. So basically after a 60 minute workout, the earphones get fully charged by the time you finish your shower and get ready for your next activity.

The only thing I wish is for Bose to have provided a USB – C charging port with the charging case. USB – C is the modern standard that is fast replacing all the old USB ports and it would have been nice if Bose had incorporated that into this premium product.

No Noise Cancellation

This Bose SoundSport Free earphones do have not the famous noise cancellation feature of Bose as they are meant to be used in real life outdoor conditions where it is essential to hear ambient sounds (car horn, traffic sounds, sounds of danger) to protect one from an untoward incident.

Top Class Bluetooth Standards

The Bluetooth standards on this device is top class, which means pairing with your phone is a breeze and there are no drops, lags or interference. The connection is as good as a wired earphone, which says a lot about its quality.

I have tested the Bluetooth range on my cross fit floor where my phone lies in one corner of the room while I am working out some 20- 25 feet away. I find there are more lags at home where there are thick walls and lots of different electronic devices, but this again happens after a distance of some 15 feet.

When the earphone had ben launched, it had a pretty solid lag with videos, which have been addressed to a great extent with its firmware and software updates. Now, the lag is barely noticeable and you notice it only when you are really intent on finding a fault. I watch my YouTube videos and online TV shows on the move using these earphones and the experience is top notch.

Sweatproof and Water Resistant

I have a bald head, which means that when I break a sweat, my head turns into a mini waterfall that eventually falls on my earphones. The Bose SoundSport Free wireless headphones have been working admirably in spite of that. I have even used it in light rain and it works absolutely fine.

Easy to Use Bose Connect App

These Bose Sound Sport Free wireless earphones are easily recognized by the Bose Connect App, which enables easy updates of software and firmware. It also enables you to locate your earphones in case you lose them. Additionally, it doubles up as a mini music player and allows you to connect/disconnect Bluetooth.

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The Heart and Soul of India: 6 Tourist Attractions in Delhi No Traveler Should Miss Out On

Ahinsa Sthal, Delhi

A trip to India is a journey of a lifetime. There are so many places to see and things to do in Delhi alone that you will need several days to see even a small amount of the beauty this city puts forth.

From flight booking to reserving the hotel, a trip to Delhi is colorful and exciting. There are many airlines that reach Delhi from ports all over the world. You can visit Delhi any time as there are many flights from all the major cities such as Ahmedabad to Delhi, Bangalore to Delhi, Calcutta to Delhi, etc.

Here is a list of 6 tourist attractions in Delhi that no traveler should miss out on.

1. Nehru Park in Chanakyapuri

Nehru Park is a beautiful green space and is the center for recreational activities. This is a must see when visiting Delhi. There are morning and evening concerts to enjoy as well as the annual Bhakti Festival held in September. This festival is centered around yoga and brings in hundreds of thousands of people.

Located on 80 acres, Nehru Park is named for the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. It is located near the center of the city and that means easy access to many shops and restaurants.

2. The Red Fort

Red Fort, Delhi

The Red Fort is considered the tourist attraction of Delhi. A marvel of Mughal architecture, created from red sandstone, it was built in 1638.

The fort houses the Chhata Bazaar and many special events showcasing light and sound. In 2007, UNESCO declared The Red Fort a World Heritage site. This is considered one of the most famous and popular places to visit in Delhi.

3. Jantar Mantar Observatory

Jantar Mantar, Delhi

This ancient scientific marvel was erected in 1724 by Jaipur scientist Maharaja Jai Singh. This instrument of astronomy is no longer accurately used due to the tall buildings surrounding the planetarium, but visitors can wonder at the way men brought the stars closer to them near the beginning civilization.

This is one of the most visited attractions in Delhi with the many principal instruments of the observatory like the Ram Yantra, the Samrat Yantra, The Misra Yantra, and the Jai Prakash. Built by the Maharaja Jai Singh II, the temple of Bhairava is also on the premises and should not be missed.

4. Akshardham Temple

Akshardham Temple, Delhi, India

Everyone visiting Delhi suggests a stop at the Akshardham Temple. Among the beautiful Hindu temples, this is one of the largest in the world. It was built by the BAPS organization of spiritual leaders and is a spectacular work of architecture. The white marble and pink stone combine to create a beautiful building that shines day and night.

There are many different exhibits that visitors can wander through, including the lovely garden with its theme-based sections. Tourists can also enjoy a boat ride along the beautiful Yamuna river.

5. Chandni Chowk

Chandni Chowk is considered the heart of Delhi. It is the main street through Old Delhi, where anything and everything you could ever want can be found. The shops, closely packed together, have the most number of inexpensive items you will ever find. And don't forget to sample the street food when you are here.

6. Connaught Place

Connaught Place Skyline

After a long day of sightseeing and shopping, stop by Connaught Place for some of the finest cuisine in Delhi. Foodies from everywhere love to sample the multi-cuisine from street-side cafes, street vendors, fancy dining and casual eateries here.

The list of places to visit in Delhi is long and you may need a few extra days to fit in all you want to see. Guided tours are available or you could simply wander around at your own pace. And when you feel like a change, you can always take a short 2 hour drive and spend a weekend in Agra experiencing the beauty of the Taj Mahal.

Photo Courtesy: All the photos in this article have been borrowed from wikipedia under the wikimedia commons license. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Lesser Known Kerala Mountain Railways: Treat for Nature Lovers!

The beautiful railway bridges near Punalur, Kerala

If you love train journeys, you have got to love the sheer diversity and reach of Indian railways. From the lush green Konkan railways to the mountain railways of Nilgiri, Darjeeling and Shimla, from one of the longest rail routes in the world to the sensational rail-sea bridge enroute to Rameshwaram and from uber luxurious train journeys to the rooftop madness that you see in the remote corners of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and the North East, Indian railways has got to astound you. In fact, the way I see it, you have not experienced India unless you have experienced her charms through its trains. This is my top recommendation to people who are visiting India and a recommendation that I keep taking myself too.

The tunnels of Kerala mountain railways, India

One such gorgeous railway route that I came across recently is the newly reopened Kollam – Sengottai railway route that passes through the lush green heart of the Western Ghats. About 114 years old, the Kollam-Sengottai route, was the first railway line in the erstwhile Travancore state and it connects the coast of Kerala to the plains of Tamil Nadu, the East coast and all the way up to Chennai.

Paddy fields and palms - a Courtrallam countryside view

This railway line is in an area that I call the India’s deep south and it is full of tropical rainforests, evergreen forests, waterfalls, national parks, tiger reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, stunning bridges, tunnels, lots of rubber and spice plantations and umpteen hectares of paddy fields. In simple words, if you happen to be a nature lover, this lesser known mountain railways of Kerala and Tamil Nadu is meant for you to explore and experience.

The scenic railway ride in India's deep south - Thenmala to Punalur, Kerala

The Thenmala Eco tourism zone, the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary and the Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserve are the main stretches of forest located on this route. They are bound to appeal to everyone with their rich animal and bird life. The Palaruvi, Kazhuthurutti, Courtrallam and Agastyar falls are the famous waterfalls that fall on this route. And bathing is allowed on a few, which makes them extremely popular destinations in this hot tropical region. Then, there are so many famous temples on this route that are possibly on every itinerary of a Sabarimala pilgrim. For starters, there is the Arayankavu Sastha Temple, the Achankoil temple, the Tenkasi temple, the Papanasam temple and so many others. And then are enough and more traditional villages in this region that will appeal to you with their unique cultures, traditions, food and nature.

Photographing the scenic mountain railways of Kerala near Punalur

You could either take any long distance train plying on this route or if you happen to have more time at hand, you could take the passenger trains and explore each small attraction that makes this region so special and charming. And while you are at it, don’t miss the many arch bridges that fall on this route, especially the 13 arch bridge or the Pathimoonu Kannara Palam at Kazhathuruthi and the Aryankavu – Puliyar (Kottavasal) tunnel. You could experience it both by being on the train when it crosses the bridge or climb to the top from the highway roads under it. Either way, the lush green forest landscape with the arch bridge and the tunnels, makes for a surreal sight. Be prepared for heavy gusts of wind, though as these points are like natural wind tunnels.

A picture perfect countryside moment from India's Deep South

If you dig train journeys and are on the lookout for offbeat routes, I would recommend taking a ride on the Kollam-Sengottai railway line and experience the Western Ghats from its heart. Nature lovers, you are bound to go bonkers!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Best 6 Exceptionally Romantic Destinations around the World to Visit in 2019

The iconic mountain holiday destination of Zermatt, Switzerland

For a romantic sojourn, the options are endless in the world. In fact, every country has few hotspots that it uses to promote it as a romantic destination. But, when all you think about is secluded serenity amid breath taking panoramas or a dreamlike location to sway away your sweetheart and awaken warm, fuzzy feelings, then certain destinations ace every component of a quixotic ambiance. One such destination is Maldives which is certainly the top choice for any honeymoon traveller or romantic couples. Apart from this, here are our top 6 romantic destinations which we feel have unique combinations of elements for an exceptional romantic holiday.

1) Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Vibrant Sunset colors in Dubai

Dubai never ceases to amaze its visitors. Though the emirate is popularly known for its iconic architectural structures and futuristic concepts, there are plenty of places to see and things to do in Dubai for couples and newlyweds.  Discover the beauty of Dubai desert on an early morning hot air balloon ride.  Spend your evenings watching illuminated vistas of Dubai skyline on a Dubai Dhow Cruise at Dubai Creek or Dubai Marina. Dine at Burj Khalifa’s Atmosphere or Madeleine Café & Boulangerie while enjoying charming views of the beautiful Dubai Fountain. If you are looking for luxury experiences, definitely you won't find opulence anywhere else as you would find in Dubai. Spoil your beloved with a stay in an underwater suite in Atlantis the Palm, spend a  night in the solace of the silent desert and starry skies at chic desert resorts or experience luxury at the finest at the most luxurious hotel in the world - Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. Whatever experience you choose, Dubai assures you that it will be some of the most memorable moments of your life.

2) Zermatt, Switzerland

Serene ambiances, stunning natural vistas and a hint of adventure welcome you at Zermatt. A stroll through this quaint village dotted with Swiss chalets, shops and cafes nestled at the foot of wintry mountainous terrain feels incredibly romantic. Zermatt is also completely car-free which means you are far away from bustling sounds of the modern world and can have nonchalant strolls in calm surrounds or a horse carriage ride through the township. The village looks absolutely breath taking along the majestic backdrop of snow-clad mountains. Zermatt offers various walking trails which is one of the most serene and romantic experiences to witness in the lap of nature’s splendour.   At the edge of the village is one of the most iconic mountain peaks of Switzerland – Matterhorn. Experience the best of Zermatt’s natural beauty with rail tours to Matterhorn. Likewise, you can also arrive at Zermatt on the shuttle train service or you can enjoy a scenic journey on the Glacier Express which takes you through St. Moritz to Zermatt. During winters, this charming village offers a plethora of winter sports activities and is one of the best spots in Europe to enjoy a skiing experience if you want a touch of adventure in your romantic sojourn.

3) Koh Lipe, Thailand

Pristine beaches of Koh Lipe, Thailand

Thailand is no doubt one of the most budget-friendly destinations preferred for a romantic interlude. Its idyllic beaches and azure waters are major attractions as honeymoon getaways. However, the most overhyped and popular beach destinations such as Phuket and Krabi are now crowded by tourists making it lose its secluded charm and thereby not able to provide the serene and secluded ambiances desired for a romantic getaway. Nonetheless, there are many more isles in Thailand that are not yet swarmed by tourists and offer the perfect blend of turquoise waters, pristine beaches, and tropical sunshine. One such hidden gem is the Koh Lipe - an island located within the Tarutao  Marine Park. Teeming with crystal emerald waters, gorgeous sandy stretches of beach shores and verdant forests, it is an ideal place for secluded relaxation. The underwater realm around the isle has some of the best corals and marine life making this a beautiful place for scuba diving and snorkelling.

4) Tuscany, Italy

Rich culture of Tuscany, Italy

One of the most gorgeous places to travel in Italy, Tuscany offers a splendid Italian countryside experience. The region has a flawless mélange of Italian architecture, nature scenery, culture, and food scene.  However, the dreamlike landscapes and hazy ambiance sets the scene for a blissful romantic getaway. Start your romantic holiday with a Florentine romance at the historic city. Next, soak in the Tuscan beauty on a hot air ballooning ride over the countryside. The sight of centuries-old structures, rolling vineyards, and undulating green mountains is truly breath taking. Spend your evenings amid stunning sunsets at Castiglione Della Pescaia or unwind with a relaxing dip at the thermal springs of Saturnia or Bagno Vignoni. Don’t forget to raise a toast to your togetherness with some of the finest wines of Chianti vineyards.

5) Hawaii, United States of America

Picture Perfect Hawaii Scenery

A secluded island away from the mainland of United States of America, Hawaii is amazingly different from the rest of the country. Brimming with tropical foliage, rugged cliffs, brilliant blue waters, serene beaches, and volcanic terrains, Hawaii offers an amazing setting to live like an islander even though you are in the USA. Feel the wind in your hair and taste the salt in the air - Hawaii is all about living carefree. You and your beloved would love to get off the grid of daily grind and spend some time amid nature’s pristine beauty. Laze around on the beach or catch a wave while surfing, Get pampered at relaxing spas or enjoy an exquisite tropical dining experience, every moment spent on the island will make you fall in love more with each other and with the destination.

6) Kerala, India

Lush scenes at Kerala's Echo Point

One of the most beautiful places on the earth is rightly called ‘The God’s own country.’ The State of Kerala in Southern India is a refreshing blend of verdant foliage and entwined backwaters. While the southern part presents a gorgeous fusion of brooks and verdant green landscapes, the north offers gorgeous cascades, rainforests and verdant hill stations. Stay in a houseboat which silently glides through pristine backwaters, camp under the starry skies of verdant jungles, stroll around misty tea plantations or rejuvenate with a traditional spa treatment that melts away your stress. Kerala is the best place to enjoy romantic serenity with a touch of holistic essence.

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The Ultimate Maryland Travel Bucket List

Baltimore Landscape

Maryland is one of the most beautiful and diverse places in the United States, with so many different attractions to check out in a relatively small area. In fact, there's so much to do there that you might feel overwhelmed by choice. The great thing about Maryland is that it's easy to get from place to place, as everything is in close proximity to each other, and there are reliable public transit options. In this article, we'll help you decide what to check out in this beautiful state with the ultimate Maryland bucket list.

How to Get There

Before you can start exploring Maryland, you need to get there first. There are a wide variety of transportation options available in the state. If your main destination is Baltimore, you can fly into Baltimore-Washington International Airport, which is located just south of the city. You can also fly into one of the two airports in nearby Washington, DC, Washington-Dulles or Washington-Reagan. Reagan is located closer to the city of DC. Once there, you can rent a car for the best access to all of the activities Maryland has to offer. However, if you prefer not to rent a car, there are many other ways to get around. Baltimore has its own light rail system in the city, as well as commuter trains expanding throughout the state. The Washington, DC subway system also expands into parts of southern Maryland. You can also use cab and ride share services throughout the state.

Visit The National Aquarium in Baltimore

National Aquarium, Baltimore, Maryland

The National Aquarium is one of the biggest in the United States, with over 750 species of marine life. It is one of the only places in the country where you can get such a comprehensive look at water animals, plants, and their ecosystems. The museum is located right on the harbor, and promotes a mission of conservation and education about marine life. Some of the unique exhibits at the National Aquarium include an Atlantic coral reef, a marine mammal ecosystem with bottlenose dolphins, and an open air shark tank. Many of the exhibits have received international acclaim for their innovation. In addition to these fascinating programs for all ages, they also have many attractions that are great for children, so it's a perfect family activity for your Maryland trip. The aquarium is public transit accessible via the Shot Tower station on the Baltimore metro system.

Tour Baltimore’s Points of Interest

There are too many fascinating places in Maryland to name here, but you should take at least a day on your trip to explore them. The Inner Harbor is home to many gorgeous historical ships, so it makes a great starting point. After that, head to the George Peabody Library, one of the most gorgeous buildings in the city. You should also visit Edgar Allen Poe’s grave for a little taste of the macabre that he was known for. Finally, you’ll want to check out the Walters Art Museum, which is free to the public and features centuries of stunning artifacts. These are just a few of the many unique activities you can check out in Baltimore during your stay.

Eat seafood in Fells Point

A Baltimore view

Fells Point is one of the most charming neighborhoods in Baltimore, with beautiful old row houses and cobblestone streets. In particular, it's known for its welcoming pubs and seafood restaurants, which are some of the best places to get fish in the city. You can't beat the quality of the seafood in Baltimore, so it's definitely worth taking an evening to explore the great food in Fells Point. The neighborhood is also known for a vibrant nightlife scene with plenty of live music, as well as chic local boutiques and art galleries.

Relax on the Beach in Ocean City

Maryland has a huge amount of coastline, and while there are many beaches to choose from on your vacation, Ocean City is a quintessential favorite among many locals. This resort town is located on a long stretch of beach running from north to south, with water on either side. Ocean City has a classic American boardwalk, with charming amusement rides as well as plenty of food and drink options. The surrounding area is home to a wide range of restaurants and shopping destinations as well. If you’re feeling active, you might opt to go kayaking in the bay, or you can also relax and see the area via tour boat. There’s plenty of other water sports to check out as well, including surfing, jet skiing, and fishing. In fact, there’s so much to do here that you could easily make an entire vacation out of it on its own.

Explore Maryland’s History in Annapolis

Maryland´s History in Annapolis

Annapolis is Maryland’s capitol city, and it’s home to many historic attractions and architecture that will transport you back hundreds of years. Just taking a stroll through this charming city is a wonderful experience, but there’s plenty more to do here. Many of the houses here are actually historic landmarks that you can tour, like the William Paca House and the Hammond-Harwood House. You can also explore the state’s sailing history at the Annapolis Maritime Museum. If you want to get outside for a day and enjoy the weather, try heading to Quiet Waters Park, where you will find plenty of paved trails and gardens as well as art galleries.

Hike or Boat Through The Great Falls on the Potomac River

Potomac River - Baltimore, Maryland

As you get down closer to Washington, DC, you should take a day to explore the natural beauty that Maryland has to offer. One of the most gorgeous outdoor features in the state is the Great Falls on the Potomac River. These are some of the most dramatic waterfalls on the East Coast, and they are sure to take your breath away. Start your trip at the Great Falls Tavern, where you’ll get more information about the area, and then hike the Billy Goat Trail, which ends at a stunning lookout over the falls. If you aren’t much for hiking, you can also choose to take a historic canal boat tour.

Before you visit Maryland or any other destination in the United States, you should make sure to check ESTA status online. ESTA is the electronic system for travel authorization, and travelers from approved countries can use it to travel to the United States without applying for a visa. You can easily apply online, but to qualify for ESTA travel, you must apply at least three days before your flight. Once you have been approved, your status will be good for two years and you can easily update it online if necessary. It only takes about five minutes to complete, but everyone should complete it before coming to the United States, including infants and children.

Maryland is a beautiful state with so much to do, and it is a great destination for families, couples, and solo travelers. If you are looking for a vacation, that has a nice combination of city life and natural beauty, Maryland is a great option. In one vacation, you can experience the big cities of Baltimore and Washington DC, charming towns like Annapolis, hiking, beach life, and much more.

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Monday, January 21, 2019

A Motorcycling Holiday through India’s Deep South: A Photo Story

There is absolutely no dearth of top holiday locations in India! India has so much to see and experience that sometimes you will feel like it will take a lifetime to see India in entirety. While many such places are popular and well known to the public, there are quite a few other locations that fall on the hidden off beat trails and that seriously beg to be explored. India’s deep south is one such breath taking off-beat area that offers a myriad of experiences for the offbeat experience seeking traveler.

For forest and nature lovers, it has the lush Western Ghats, tall mountains and a plethora of tiger reserves, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The beach lover in India’s deep south is spoilt for choice as he can choose from three different seas – the Arabian Sea of Kerala, the Bay of Bengal of Tamil Nadu and the Indian Ocean at Kanyakumari. And all these three seas are not more than 2 hours from the deep south. Then, there are umpteen waterfalls under which you can take a herbal bath, there are tea estates, spice gardens and view points like no other. And finally, this region has some of the best temples of the South and it has held on to all the rich culture and traditions. And then there is the delicious traditional food, desserts and drinks. All in all, it packs a serious punch when it comes to rich travel experiences.

Below are some pictures from India’s deep south that I clicked during my recent 2 week year end motorcycling holiday. I hope you can get an inkling of an idea about the riches of this region through this photo story.

Photographing the beauty of the Southern Western Ghats at Ponmudi

Above Photo Location: Ponmudi Hill Station, Kerala

Above Photo Description: An offbeat hill station, about an hour and a half from the capital city of Thiruvanthapuram, Ponmudi is a dream for every motorcyclist and nature lover. The beautiful ghat roads through lush forests and the Peppara wildlife sanctuary leads you to a panorama that is pretty much unparalleled in the entire Western Ghats. It is also a great location for trekking trails.

Motorcycle trip to Vagamon, Kerala

Above Photo Location: Vagamon hill station, Kerala

Above Photo Description: The land of tea estates and rolling hills, Vagamon is your quiet, off beat hill station. If you do not want large crowds around you and want to go on those lazy walks in the early morning mountain sun, then Vagamon is the place for you.

The stunning cliff beach of Kerala at Varkala

Above Photo Location: Varkala Beach, Kerala

Above Photo Description: A stunning cliff beach, Varkala is popular with both foreign as well as domestic tourists. It’s walking area on the cliff’s edge that is lined with shops, restaurants and ayurveda centers is a definite attraction. Apart from the stunning location, Varkala beach or Papanasam beach is famous among Hindus to wash away your sins and to appease your ancestors.

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

Above Photo Location: Manimuthar Waterfalls, Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Description: A stunning forest waterfall, Manimuthar waterfall is located inside the offbeat Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserve. It’s waters go into the mighty Manimuthar Dam and as it is located on the leeward side of the Western Ghats, it is best experienced during the North East monsoon when the foliage is dense green and the water levels are significantly high.

A countryside pit stop - Courtrallam, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Location: Courtrallam countryside, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Description: One of the famous waterfall locations of Tamil Nadu, Courtrallam is not just special for its waterfalls, but for its paddyfields, lush nature and magnificent vistas. Both sunrise and sunset are gorgeous here, but my personal favorite has to be the sunset, when the sun sets behind the tall peaks of the Western Ghats.

Photographing the scenic mountain railways of Kerala near Punalur

Above Photo Location: Punalur Mountain Railway, Kerala

Above Photo Description: It is not just the Konkan Railways that is blessed with mountain vistas, lush green environment, umpteen tunnels and beautiful rivers and waterfalls. Even the mountain railway near Punalur has all of these. From stunning railway over bridges to long tunnels, this railway line connects the mountain regions of Southern Kerala and they pass through a lot of forests and wildlife sanctuaries.

Old Courtrallam Falls - a medicinal natural bath in the Western Ghats

Above Photo Location: Old Courtrallam Falls, Courtrallam, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Description: Located in the Western Ghats, this is one of the more popular waterfalls in India’s deep South. Carrying water during both the South West and the North East monsoons, people throng here on holidays and on weekends. This waterfall is believed to have medicinal waters as the water flows through herbal forests in the Western Ghats. Go here for a natural massage and a refreshing bath.

Pitstop in front of Basilica of our Lady of Snows, Tuticorin

Above Photo Location: Basilica of our lady of snows, Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Description: This 16th century church and pilgrimage center is located right in front of the Bay of Bengal and in Tuticorin’s old quarter. This is a great place to start your Thoothukudi heritage walk and a must visit location in this coastal town.

A scenic motorcycle ride through the lush Thamarabharani delta of India's deep south

Above Photo Location: Thamarabharani river delta, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Description: Like the Cauvery, Krishna and the Godavari, the Thamarbharani is a perennial river in India’s deep south that begins in the Western Ghats and flows into the Bay of Bengal. Unlike the others, it is not a super long river, but from start to end, its waters supports a lot of rich farming, especially paddy, sugarcane and banana. This is the route where the road runs parallel to the Thamarabharani river just before the coastal temple town of Tiruchendur.

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

Above Photo Location: Kannadigan Irrigation Canal, Manimuthar, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Description: Even though this part of Tamil Nadu falls under the rain shadow of the Western Ghats, it is as rich an agricultural belt as any other place. The reason for this are the umpteen dams in this region and the well connected network of Kannadigan irrigation canals that weave in and out of the farming zones. These dams store water during both the monsoons and the canals provide a steady source of water to the farms and to the surrounding villagers. It was designed and built by an irrigation engineer from the state of Karnataka and hence the name.

Road trip to Ponmudi hill station - a green paradise

Above Photo Location: Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala

Above Photo Description: A lesser known wildlife sanctuary, the Peppara Wildlife sanctuary in Southern Kerala is a pristine ecosystem that comprises of shola forests, tropical rainforests and tropical evergreen forests. In this picture, the forests that you see in the background are shola forests and the route is the one that leads all the way to the Ponmudi peak.

A walk by the banks of the Karaiyar Dam

Above Photo Location: Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Description: The least explored tiger reserve of India, Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve or KMTR is a large tract of diverse forest that is home to more than 100 tigers apart from other animals such as king cobras, leopards, gaurs, elephants, lion tailed macaques, nilgiri langurs, bonnet and rhesus macaques and many other animal and bird species. There are no jeep safaris as such here and the tourism infrastructure is minimal, but there are some accommodation options located inside the forest that will give you a true experience of living in the wild.

Stunning nature of India's Deep South - Pudu, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Location: Pudur, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Description: Pudur is a small town that is located at the foot of the Western Ghats. It is famous for its sprawling panorama of the Western Ghats, about a 240 degree view of mighty tall mountains of the Western Ghats. About a few minutes from Pudur, you start climbing the Western Ghat roads and a few hairpins later, you are in Kerala and more specifically the Thenmala forest of Kerala.

The gorgeous Meenmutty waterfall that flows through the dense tropical forests of the Western Ghats

Above Photo Location: Meenmutty Waterfalls, Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala

Above Photo Description: Meenmutty falls is your perfect forest waterfall. It is located in the middle of dense jungle and you have to trek for 30 minutes to reach it. It is kind of similar to the Dudhsagar Falls of Goa in terms of overall look and feel, but it is a much smaller version of it.
At the Papanasam Shiva temple, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Location: Papanasam, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Description: The 10th century Papanasanathar temple is where one can wash away all their sins. Believed to be the Surya Kailash, this ancient temple is located in the middle of the Western Ghats and the beautiful Thamarabharani river flows by it as a raging forest stream. The days of Thai Poosam, Shivaratri, Thiruvadarai and the entire month of Aadi is special here.

Kappil Beach - the tiny stretch of sand sandwiched between the backwaters and the Arabian Sea

Above Photo Location: Kappil Beach, Kerala

Above Photo Description: Located between Kollam and the cliff beach of Varkala is the quiet Kappil beach. It’s call to fame is the fact that it is tucked right between the Arabian Sea and the backwaters. It is popular with locals and offers a quiet beach getaway where you can choose to sit on the backwaters side of it or the ocean side of it. Pretty cool, right?

A pit stop inside Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Location: Manimuthar Dam, Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

Above Photo Description: The road from Manimuthar to Manjolai tea estates takes you right through the heart of Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserve. It is an offbeat trail and thanks to the poorly maintained forest roads, it offers a lot of off roading opportunities too. Go here early in the morning to spot a rich array of birds and wildlife.

The main gopuram of Tiruchendur Murugan Temple

Above Photo Location: Tiruchendur Murugan Temple, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Description: The famous seashore temple of India’s deep south, the Tiruchendur Murugan temple is an important pilgrimage destination and attracts a lot of people all year around. It is one of those temples that doubles up as a beach holiday getaway. And the drive through the green Thamarabharani delta is just an icing on the cake.

A walk inside the magnificent Nellaiappar Temple, Tirunelveli

Above Photo Location: Nellaiappar Temple, Tirunelveli

Above Photo Description: We all know that Tirunelveli is famous for its halwa, but it is also known for its 7th century temple wonder called Nellaiappar temple. Home to Shiva, Parvati and the Sleeping Vishnu, this temple will certainly appeal to all temple and culture lovers. Do not miss to appreciate the rich carvings just outside of the garbha griha or the sanctum sanctorum.

Lotus pond surrounded by coconut trees and spice plantations - Pullode, Kerala

Above Photo Location: Pullode, Kerala

Above Photo Description: True Kerala can be found only in its traditional villages where the homes have clay tiled roofs, each home has their own spice garden and plantation and where time comes to a standstill. This is one such traditional village called Pullode that is located about 20 kms from Palakkad.

Salt Pans of Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Location: Salt pans of Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu

Above Photo Description: India’s deep south has another feather in its cap. I am talking about salt pans. The coastal town on the east coast is famous for its salt pans. You might not be able to enter them, but you can certainly see them on a road trip in and around Thoothukudi.

1877 Punalur Suspension Bridge - South India's first motorable suspension bridge

Above Photo Location: Punalur, Kerala

Above Photo Description: The first motorable suspension bridge of Kerala was built in Punalur in the year 1877. Spanning over 400 feet and towering above the Kallada river, this suspension bridge looks like a mini London bridge. It is not in use today, but it has certainly stood the test of time and is a historical attraction.

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