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

Monday, June 24, 2019

My First Podcast: An Easy Travel Talk with Get Out Podcast

Travel tralk - My first podcast with Get out podcastTravel tralk - My first podcast with Get out podcast

I am proud to share with you with my first podcast ever. And it is an interview or should I say a laidback heart to heart conversation with Nikhil Shankar of Get Out Podcast, a weekly podcast covering inspirational stories of travel, culture and society from around us.

This easy going conversation touches the following facets of my personal, travel and professional life:

1) My blogging story

2) My childhood

3) The turning point in my life

4) My long term dream

5) Some interesting travel tips

6) My travel lifestyle

7) What about travel that I love

8) Breaking the myths of safe travels

9) Some of my travel experiences that blew my mind

10) My love for the Western Ghats

11) The art of picking up new languages

12) How I have enjoyed being a vegetarian traveler

13) How I try to understand the movement of cultures and languages in history

14) Connecting history and geography from high school while traveling

15) Visa issues with having an Indian Passport

16) The oldest temple in the world

17) The love for Shahrukh Khan, Bollywood, Indian Food and rich Indian colours

18) Racism during travels

19) The origin of some exotic Indian foods

20) The culture of head bobs and sounds

21) Volunteering during holidays

22) Photography as a way of my travel life

23) Travel blogging as a career is not as rosy as it seems

24) The perk of having time on your side

25) The joys and perils of working on your own

26) The joy of traveling non popular destinations

27) Handy tips to handling foreign currency and forex

28) My upcoming travel calendar

29) Being thankful to the universe for giving me this fantastic life

30) The art of failing to succeed

31) Not everyone is supposed to live a life of mediocrity

The entire podcast is about 2 hours long. So, if you are stuck in traffic, have a long bus or train ride back home from work, have a long layover or have a few hours to kill during the week or weekend, do give this travel podcast of mine a listen! And let me know what you think. I am thinking of doing this more often if you all seem to take a liking to it.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Kenya’s Maasai Tribe: A Colorful Photo Story

Adumu Dance performed by Maasai tribals

They are some of the fastest long distance runners on the planet. They are also one of the tallest amongst the human race. They even have a wildlife wonder named after them. They are the Maasai people, a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting Kenya and Tanzania. Famous for their fearsome reputations as warriors and cattle herders, they are a nomadic and semi nomadic group of people whose origins point to the lower Nile valley north of Lake Turkana in North Kenya. Today, they are spread all across Kenya and Tanzania and are especially concentrated around the game reserves.

This patriarchal tribe is steeped in rich traditions and customs and in spite of rampant modernisation and increasing influence of tourism, they have somehow managed to keep their traditions alive. This photo story aims at showcasing a bit of their colorful life, amusing customs, fashion and their day to day living.

Above photo: The Maasai warrior who jumps the highest is allowed to choose the prettiest bride. This dance called Adumu is primarily performed during Eonoto, the coming of age ceremony of warriors.

Maasai Warrior

Above photo: The Maasai men love the color red. This is the color they usually don unless they have had circumcision when they wear black. Some wear some patterns, but that would also be dominated by red. Colorful beads complete the daily fashion ensemble for them.

Maasai women

Above photo: The Maasai women are extremely hard working and do everything from taking care of children, cooking, jewellery making, singing and dancing during important events, collecting wood from the forest, stone cutting, house building, cattle rearing and much more.

A Traditional Maasai Hut made up of mud, sticks, animal dung and plastic for waterproofing

Above photo: A traditional Maasai hut is made up of natural materials that keep it dry and cool. The materials are mud, stick and animal dung. These days, they also use plastic for waterproofing.

The Maasai way of starting a fire

Above photo: Even though the Maasai people have embraced modern style of living, they have not let go of their ancient traditions. This is how they create fire the traditional way.

Maasai woman carrying firewood from the forest to the village

Above photo: The Maasai people visit the forest every day and this is an example of a Maasai woman carrying firewood for her daily needs.

Maasai warrior blows a trumpet made from the horn of the greater kudu to signal capture of the lion

Above photo: Lions and the Maasai people are part of the same storyline. Since they mutually share the same territory, you can see a lot of lion related stories in their customs. This is a trumpet made of the horn of the greater Kudu that is blown to signal the capture of a lion.

A Maasai warrior showing off his hair beads

Above photo: Rich use of colors, beadwork, plaited hair and body modification adorn the young Maasai warriors.

Traditional Maasai Village

Above photo: This is how a traditional Maasai home looks. It is easy to set up and easy to leave. Works perfectly with their semi-nomadic lifestyle.

A small Maasai village get-together

Above photo: A mix of tradition and modern day life. Maasai gentlemen having a get together under the shade of a tree.

The Competition to jump high is quite intense. The one that wins this competition wins the prettiest bride

Above photo:
The Maasai warrior who jumps the highest is allowed to choose the prettiest bride. This dance called Adumu is primarily performed during Eonoto, the coming of age ceremony of warriors. Spread over ten or more days, this includes parading of the girls in their spectacular costumes, the mothers singing and the young warriors participating in a competitive jumping exercise.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

12 Gorgeous places to stay during a weekend getaway from Bangalore

12 Gorgeous places to stay during a weekend getaway from Bangalore

It is that time of the year when the Western Ghats are going to be the home of rich monsoon action with lush green surroundings, bustling nature, full water bodies and simply a lot of abundance. This is also the perfect time to head west from Bangalore to experience those surreal weekend and long weekend getaways that include idyllic walks in the rain, sipping hot cups of tea or coffee and reading/relaxing while the world dissolves itself in a blur of rain, mist and fog and going on monsoon treks.

But, the key question here is where to go? Do you go mainstream or do you go offbeat? Do you go to Kerala, Tamil Nadu or stay in Karnataka? Do you opt for a home stay or do you stay in a luxury resort? Should you opt for budget or should you splurge?

I am pretty sure that you might many such questions in your head prior to planning your weekend getaway from Bangalore. I can’t possibly answer all of your questions, but I can certainly guide you to some of the prettiest properties in the Western Ghats for a possibly monsoon weekend or long weekend holiday for you, your friends and your family. These properties fall under a wide budget, luxury and experience net and hence could cater to a wide variety of people. Here is the full list of these 12 gorgeous places from which you can pick n choose for your next Bangalore weekend getaway.

1) Aham Anubhava: Wayanad, Kerala

Drone shot of Aham Anubhava, Mylambady, Wayanad, Kerala

Aham Anubhava is your traditional plantation home located in rural Wayanad. This is the kind of place to go to if you crave for quiet, lush nature, delicious food and lazy walks. This rural getaway is a perfect place to get in close proximity with Kerala’s laidback countryside, rich birdlife and may be even some wild animals. The highlight of a stay here has to be the lip smacking food prepared by the female head of this family.

You can read my full review here: Aham Anubhava: Traditional Plantation home in Rural, Wayanad, Kerala

Distance from Bangalore: 260 kms

Budget Range: $$

Experiences to be had: Plantation home, Rural holiday, Home cooked Brahmin food

2) Gravityville: Ooty, Tamil Nadu

Straight out of a fairytale - Gravityville, Ooty

Gravityville is straight out of a fairy tale. It is a 1936 colonial home located on a 1 acre plot very close to the golf courses in Ooty. It’s well thought through design, pristine surroundings and easy access to the tourist attractions of Ooty town and outside makes it a hot favorite. And right now, you can get the entire home for a steal. Look it up on AirBnB.

You can read my full review here: Gravityville: A Fairytale Home in the Queen of Hills ‘Ooty

Ooty, Tamil Nadu

Distance from Bangalore: 260 kms

Budget Range: $$

Experiences to be had: British era colonial bungalow, Creative design

3) Keremane: Sringeri, Karnataka

Keremane Homestay - Sringeri

Keremane is your traditional and simple Brahmin household that is surrounded by farms, forests and mountains. The place is simple when it comes to modern day comforts, but it is truly five star when it comes to mother nature. It is a great base for a temple, waterfall or a rainforest holiday. Do remember to try out the vegetarian meals here.

You can read my full review here: Keremane Homestay: Solitude in the Western Ghats

Distance from Bangalore: 325 kms

Budget Range: $$

Experiences to be had: Traditional Homestay surrounded by rainforests, Absolute calm and peace, Lush nature

4) Honey Valley Estate: Coorg, Karnataka

Honey Valley Resort, Coorg

They were once the largest producers of honey. Today, they make do with coffee estates, spice farms, fruit orchards and an extremely popular homestay. All of 100 acres, Honey Valley Estate is the last point of civilization before you head into tropical jungles and to Thadiyendamol, the highest peak in Coorg. The highlight of a stay here are its umpteen walks and treks.

You can read my full review here: Honey Valley Resort: A Peaceful Homestay in Coorg

Distance from Bangalore: 260 kms

Budget Range: $$

Experiences to be had: 100 acres of coffee estate and spice gardens surrounded by waterfalls, streams, rainforests and tall mountains, bird watching

5) Windermere River House: Inchathotty, Kerala

The Gorgeous Windermere River house property at Neriamangalam

If you are looking for a tropical destination to unwind, Windermere River House has to be it. Located by the banks of the Periyar river, Windermere River house offers that perfect blend of luxury, nature and laidback Kerala countryside. The Thattekad Bird sanctuary and the Neriamangalam forest are located close by for all those bird and wildlife lovers.

You can read my full review here: Windermere River House: Where time goes for a stroll

Distance from Bangalore: 535 kms

Budget Range: $$$

Experiences to be had:

6) Niraamaya Cardamom Club, Thekkady, Kerala

Niraamaya Cardamom Club, Thekkady, Kerala

Niraamaya Cardamom Club is the kind of place where you can not only relax, but can rekindle romance. Surrounded by cardamom plantations, this place dishes out some amazing Kerala food and offers some authentic Kerala style Ayurvedic massages. Even though Periyar Tiger Reserve and Thekkady are the main highlights here, one can trek around the property and hope to get lucky with wildlife sightings.

You can read my full review here: Niraamaya Cardamom Club: Slice of Heaven in Thekkady, Kerala

Distance from Bangalore: 500 kms

Budget Range: $$$$

Experiences to be had: Cardamom plantations, Traditional Kerala cuisine, Easy access to Periyar tiger reserve

7) Dodda Mane, Agumbe, Karnataka

Dodda Mane, Agumbe, Karnataka

Do you remember the popular TV show ‘Malgudi Days’ that used to air on Doordarshan a couple of decades back. Well, Dodda Mane is the place where this TV series was shot. This place, which literally translates into big house is not just famous for its history with Malgudi days, but also for its rustic hospitality and rainforest surroundings. This place is like your grandmother’s home – warm and happy. The food here will definitely blow your mind. I will return here in a jiffy just for its food.

You can read my full review here: Dodda Mane at Agumbe: Great Hospitality with a rustic homely experience

Distance from Bangalore: 355 kms

Budget Range: $

Experiences to be had: The house where Malgudi days was shot, Rainforests, Monsoon treks and King Cobra

8) Windermere Estate, Munnar, Kerala

Open to the Sky Lunch at Winderemere Estate, Munnar

Located just outside of bustling Munnar town is Windermere Estate, a gorgeous cardamom and tea plantation that is surrounded by the towering mountains of the Western Ghats. This luxurious plantation home is perfect for those who wish to explore Munnar and the offbeat destinations around Munnar while indulging in a bit of comfort. The library here is the perfect place for all those book lovers and for those lazy bums.

You can read my full review here: Windermere Estate: Luxurious Plantation Home in Munnar

Distance from Bangalore: 440 kms

Budget Range: $$$$

Experiences to be had: Cardamom and Tea plantations, Luxurious mountain holiday

9) Malnad Homestay, Bisle Ghat, Karnataka

Monsoon Motorcycle Rural holiday to Athihally, Karnataka

Malnad Homestay is your typical rural homestay that is simple, authentic and is located in a remote village. Surrounded by cardamom and pepper plantations, this is the kind of place that will be liked by budget travelers. Go here for the gastronomic experience. Meat lovers will have an absolute ball here.

You can read my full review here: Malnad Homestay: Perfect Rural Holiday in Karnataka

Distance from Bangalore: 240 kms

Budget Range: $

Experiences to be had:  Delicious Malnad Food, Cardamom lantations, Rural holiday

10) Gramam Homestay, Kochi, Kerala

Gramam Homestay, Kochi, Kerala

A Kerala backwater holiday cannot get any better than this. Located by the backwaters, Gramam Homestay is a traditional Kerala home that is located in a small village about 40 minutes from Kochi. It is that kind of a place that allows you to enjoy the countryside atmosphere while not being too far away from the charms of Kochi old city.

You can read my full review here: Gramam Homestay: Blissful Kerala Backwater Paradise near Kochi

Distance from Bangalore: 520 kms

Budget Range: $$

Experiences to be had: Kerala Backwaters, Traditional Kerala food, Kerala countryside, Lush green environment

11) Chingaara Estate, Coorg, Karnataka

Chingaara Estate, Coorg

Contiguous with Honey Valley Estate, Chingaara estate is named after the mighty Chingaara waterfall that is located in the property. The father runs the budget Honey Valley estate, while the son runs a slightly more upscale Chingaara homestay. This place is ideal for those who love long nature walks and treks. You can also soak in the sun and catch up on some reading.

You can read my full review here:  I don’t have a property review written about this place, but I have one about the waterfall after which it is named. Here it is: Tropical Trek to Chingara Falls, Coorg

Distance from Bangalore: 260 kms

Budget Range: $$

Experiences to be had: Chingaara waterfall, 100 acres of coffee estates and spice gardens surrounded by rainforests

12) Monica Garden Tea Bungalow, Valparai, Tamil Nadu

Grey Malabar Hornbill seen at Monica Garden Tea Bungalow, Valparai

This is the kind of place where you can spot rare birds and wildlife right from the property itself. Part of the Woodbriar group, Monica Garden Tea Bungalow is a British colonial bungalow that is surrounded by tea estates and the Anaimalai tiger reserve. It is perfect for large families who want to have a special hill station holiday. The in-house chef and especially the dessert chef are legendary.

You can read my full review here: Monica Garden Tea Bungalow: A Colonial Holiday House at Valparai

Distance from Bangalore: 400 kms

Budget Range: $$$

Experiences to be had: Tea Estates, Wildlife sightings, Delicious food, Colonial British bungalow, Hill station

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Who makes the best Lassi of India?

The famous Jodhpur Lassi at Shri Mishrilal Hotel, Ghanta Ghar

No one in their right mind will not like the Indian Lassi! Arguably India’s most popular and famous drink, this thick and sweet yoghurt drink that comes in many flavors and thickness can send you on a dizzy path to foodie heaven. Whether it is the traditional sweet lassi, mango lassi, dry fruit lassi, elaichi lassi, zafrani lassi or any of the many other flavors, this drink is had all through the year. Some have it in the morning on an empty stomach as a daily dose of probiotic. Some have it to beat the summer heat. And some have it to digest a heavy Indian meal. And each of them enjoy the happiness quotient that comes along with it.

Freshly made Lassi on the streets of Amritsar

But, the key question here is, where to find the best lassi of India? While there are lassi shops galore in all the towns and cities of India, not everyone gives you that foodie heaven trip. I am an extremely big fan of this sweet drink and have tried it almost in every single Indian village, town, city, highway that I have visited and where it was available.

Lassi making machine at iconic Lassiwala of Jaipur, Rajasthan

There are a few that have left a long lasting effect on me. They are:

1) The simple, but fresh and thick lassi served with no sugar early in the morning on the small bylanes of Amritsar old city. It one of the top Amritsar food experiences and is definitely my favorite for its sheer simplicity, texture and taste.

2) The divinely creamy and thick Elaichi and pista lassi of Shri Mishrilal hotel at Ghanta Ghar, Jodhpur. This lassi is literally like ice-cream and is to be had with a spoon. Goes extremely well with spicy chilli bajji and kachori. A great breakfast idea in the blue city of Jodhpur and a hot favorite for those who like their lassi rich and creamy.

3) A fresh glass of thick lassi served with malai at the iconic Lassiwala of Jaipur, one of the top foodie experiences of Jaipur.  This lassi is not as rich as the Jodhpur one, but still packs quite a punch.

4) The lassi available on the highway dhabas in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana who have their own cows. This fresh lassi goes so well with the traditional Punjabi food that these dhabas dish out.

The iconic snack of Jodhpur

Well, these are my favorite places to have the best lassi experience in India. I would love to hear your lassi experiences so that I can try them out when I visit that place next. Let’s share this love for lassi!

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Gotipua Dance of Odisha: Where boys dressed as girls perform with grace and acrobatics

Goti Pua dance and its various positions

It is an ancient dance form from the state of Odisha. Some even consider it to be the precursor to the modern day Odissi classical dance. It is a combination of masculine and feminine elements. It is a combination of grace and strength. I am referring to the traditional Gotipua dance of Odisha.

Gotipua (which literally translates into single boy), is a dance form that is believed to have originated in the Puri Jagannath temple many centuries back and whose heritage is kept alive in the tiny village of Raghurajpur. It is a group dance where the dancers praise Lord Jagannath and Krishna by enacting different stories from the life of Radha and Krishna. Beautifully decked dancers perform these stories with graceful movements and a rich show of acrobatics.

Vibrant looking Goti Pua Dancers of Raghurajpur

This dance form is unique in many ways.

1) Young boys transform themselves into graceful feminine dancers for this dance

The acrobatic positions of the Goti Pua dancers

2) Their femininity transforms into grace and poise, while their inner masculinity transforms into strength, acrobatics and yogic mudras

3) And most of them stop dancing once they hit puberty

Boys dressed as girls during Goti Pua dance ceremony, Raghurajpur, Odisha

Sounds interesting right? Well, to understand its uniqueness, you have to understand a bit of its history.

History of Gotipua dance

Goti pua dance in action at Raghurajpur, Odisha

There are two prevalent theories when it comes to the history of Gotipua. One theory states that the Devadasi system gradually declined with the advent of the Mughals. The priests of the Puri Jagannath temple selected boys from poor families to dance for the deity and carry forward the legacy. The other theory is related to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the famous Bhakti saint, who wanted dance troupes to dance during the Rath Yatra. However, the temple priests declined his request citing menstruating devadasis would make the ceremony impure. So eventually young boys were chosen for this dance.

Lifecycle of Gotipua Dancers

The face of a Goti Pua dancer, Raghurajpur

Boys from poor families are chosen at a very young age (4 to 5 years old) and are taught the various nuances of this dance form under a guru. The parents agree for two reasons. One, they ae poor and two, they believe Gotipua is special and is reserved only for God’s children.

From the time they are enrolled into the dance school, these boys do not cut their hair and let it grow. They learn how to tie it into a knot and adorn their face with make-up, such as kajal, bindi and traditional paintings. They wear a traditional dress called Kanchula and nibibandha (a bright colored blouse and apron like silk cloth tied around the waist like a frill). Their palms and soles are anointed with a red liquid called Alta. And in addition, they wear necklaces, bracelets, armbands, nose rings, ear ornaments and others. Most of these are considered sacred.

Goti pua dance show by the boys of Raghurajpur, Odisha

They are then taught the entire repertoire of the Gotipua dance that includes the worship prayer (vandana), Sa ri ga ma dance, enactment of songs or ancient writings (Abhinaya) and acrobatic yogic postures (bandha Nrutya).

They keep learning, practicing and performing till they attain puberty or lose their boyish charms and grown into a man. And that is when they move into a different form of dance or they start grooming young Gotipua dancers themselves.

An inkling of a smile on the face of a young Goti Pua dancer

In a Gotipua dance performance, you get to feel the innocence of the child, the beautiful depiction of the Radha Krishna Leela through the various actions, the beauty, poise and grace of their outwardly feminine form and finally the sheer strength when they perform the stunning acrobatic stunts. All in all, this ancient dance form is as captivating as a modern one. And it is packed with a lot of energy too in addition to folklore, classical forms, music and mythology. A beautiful mix of art, emotion and storytelling that makes for a heady concoction. A must experience on a cultural trip to Odisha.

The acrobatic acts in the Goti Pua dance of Odisha

Where to experience this dance form in Odisha:

Most popular resorts showcase a Gotipua dance performance at their premises from time to time. And so do dance academies in Bhubaneshwar. But, if you wish to visit the roots and spend time with the actual dancers and the artisans, the heritage village of Raghurajpur would be your best bet.

A Goti Pua Dance Model

How to get here:

The nearest domestic and international airport would be Bhubaneshwar, which is about 60 kms away. Bhubaneshwar or Puri would be your nearest railway and bus stations. Puri is 15 kms away from Raghurajpur, while Bhubaneshwar is 60 kms away. You can opt for local buses, auto rickshaws, cab services or drive on your own.

One of the important steps in the Goti Pua dance

Best season to visit:

You can visit all year around, but it is prudent to avoid the hot summer months of March to June.

Raghurajpur Goti Pua Dancers in Monochrome

Where to stay here:

If simple rustic life is your thing, stay at any of the homes of the artisans in Raghurajpur.

If you need modern day comforts and luxury, opt to stay in Puri (about 15 kms away) or at Bhubaneshwar (about 60 kms away).

The grace and poise of these Goti Pua young boy dancers, Raghurajpur, Odisha

Nearby tourist attractions:

1) Heritage village of Raghurajpur known for its Pattachitra, Tadopatra and papier mache artisans

2) Pipili village known for its chandua artisans and their applique work

3) The UNESCO World Heritage site of Konark Sun Temple

4) Puri Jagannath temple, one of the char dhams and its beautiful beaches

5) Bhubaneshwar and its many intricate temples

6) The ancient cave temples at Udayagiri and Khandagiri

7) The historic Buddhist trail at Ratnagiri, Udayagiri and Lalitgiri

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Monday, June 10, 2019

SafetyWing: Innovative Travel Medical Insurance for Long Term Travelers

Travel Medical Insurance for Long Term Travelers

Exploring the world is a privilege and a surreal experience. Whether you are on a short holiday, a gap year holiday or you are simply a long term traveler, you want to create many happy memories and meaningful experiences. None of us wish to fall sick, lose something or be in a sticky situation during our trip. But, certain things are beyond our control and to mitigate such emergencies without compromising our financial situation, state of mind or trip itinerary, there exists a thing called ‘Travel Insurance’.

Do we need travel insurance?

Why do we need travel insurance

If you ask me, I would say we definitely need travel insurance for all our trips. It is a no brainer according to me. Not having travel insurance is similar to crossing a high traffic road blind folded. The law of probability and the risks are the same. Having travel medical insurance gives you peace of mind, allows you to enjoy your holiday like you should and helps and guides you financially, emotionally and medically in case of emergencies and contingencies. And in return for this, we pay a small fee. It is as simple as that!

If you still do not get the drift, do have a chat with some of those travelers who have faced such emergencies and talk to them about how their travel insurance policy reduced their headaches significantly. One of the examples that immediately comes to my mind is a friend who went to Vietnam on a backpacking trip, had a freak accident riding a rented motorcycle and ended up breaking her back. She had to have back reconstruction surgery immediately. And having a solid travel insurance plan ensured that she got immediate ambulance support and quality medical treatment in a country where she didn’t speak the local language. And she didn’t end up paying anything for the surgery and recovery.

Is there Travel Insurance for Long Term Travelers?

SafetyWing Travel Medical Insurance for Digital Nomads

Now that we have established the fact that travel insurance is essential, lets talk about travel medical insurance for long term travelers. You might ask who fall under the purview of long term travelers. Long term travelers could include travel bloggers, travel writers, travel influencers, travel photographers, entrepreneurs and freelancers who live and work for long durations in different countries or simply slow travelers who move from country to country for many months or years before returning to their home country.

I am your typical long term traveler. My travels and work take me from country to country. My plans are very flexible, unpredictable and I may or may not return to my home country for a long duration of time (anywhere from a few weeks to a few years).

Limitations of Indian Travel Insurance Plans for Long Term Travelers

For a long time, I could not find any flexible travel medical insurance plan for my long term travels. I always had to make do with the standard travel insurance plans offered by the Indian general insurance companies. They came with their fair share of limitations, which made me yearn for a much superior product. Some of these limitations were:

1) Travel insurance in India is very rigid and is offered only for a fixed set of dates and for a fixed country. Any change and your insurance is not valid. If you return sooner, you lose out too as premium amount is not returned.

2) You can only apply for a travel insurance plan before you commence your trip from India. So super tough for last minute planners and for those who simply forgot.

3) They are only valid outside of India, which means they cease to work once you return into India. Any back to back trips and you will have to get a new policy.

4) A lot of the insurance service providers do not provide coverage all around the world. Some countries are completely off bounce for them.

5) Travel and medical insurance coverage is good, but whenever I have used my insurance, I felt that it could have been better, especially when it comes to local partnerships, customer care, translation, hospital coverage, etc.

6) And they do not offer any ongoing plans. Only fixed departure and arrival plans are made available.

SafetyWing: My Long Term Travel Medical Insurance Choice

SafetyWing - insurance for nomads

If you are a long term traveler, you will certainly understand these pain points and which is why I have always been on the lookout for better options. And that is when I came across SafetyWing, a new kid in the block offering an innovative travel medical insurance product that addresses all the above limitations, offers more and that too at a very reasonable price point. They brand themselves as insurance for nomads, but I think they offer a stunning product for all long term travelers.

Backed up by Tokio Marine HCC, one of the world’s largest insurance companies and the underwriters at Lloyds, this insurance product designed by nomads for nomads is everything what a long term traveler wants. Some more features and they will literally be a dream come true. Here are some of its key features:

Why SafetyWing?

1) The best of travel and medical

Wide coverage of SafetyWing Travel Insurance

What I like about SafetyWing is that it offers the best of both travel and medical insurance in one single policy thus removing almost all worries of long term travelers.

When it comes to the medical component, they cover the following: hospital room and nursing services, intensive care, ambulance services, urgent care, physical therapy and chiropractic care, emergency dental and all other eligible medical expenses. These will come in super handy if you either fall sick or meet with an accident and need medical assistance.

And when it comes to the travel component, they cover the following: trip interruption, trip delays, lost checked luggage, natural disaster, political evacuation, emergency medical evacuation, personal liability, accidental death and dismemberment. This is to mitigate all unforeseen circumstances and help create a contingency plan.

2) Extremely flexible

You could be in any country or you could be in the middle of your travels and it would not matter. You could apply for your SafetyWing travel medical insurance plan any time you want. There is no more need to be in your home country to get yourself a travel insurance plan.

And unlike fixed payment plans of traditional insurance, SafetyWing works just like a subscription with automatic monthly payments wherein your policy renews every 4 weeks till you assign an end-date. This avoids situations where you forget to renew and thus lose your coverage. There is also an option to avail of their travel medical insurance for specific dates.

3) Visits to home country are covered

This is a very unique feature and super useful to all those who don’t have medical coverage at home. Say for example, you travel to the USA for 3 months and then return to India for 2 weeks before heading to Thailand for say a month, SafetyWing’s unique feature will provide you medical coverage in case you fall ill when visiting your home country. This feature allows you 30 days of medical coverage in home country for every 90 days of policy.

4) Affordable price point

Travel Medical Insurance for Digital Nomads

The actual price would depend on your age and destination, but as a thumb rule, if you fall in the age bracket of 10 to 39 years and you are visiting any country apart from the USA, the insurance plan costs you US Dollar 37 for a duration of 4 weeks. Such a plan would cover you up to a maximum limit of USD $250,000. For the range of coverage and for the duration, the insurance premium cost is extremely affordable.

5) Excellent worldwide coverage

SafetyWing’s travel medical insurance can be purchased in 180 countries. In addition to this excellent worldwide coverage, they offer 24x7 support when a person is in need and they have a good network of medical partners.

6) Young children included

1 young child per adult (up to 2 per family) aged between 14 days and 10 years can be included on the insurance without any added cost.

More plans in store

SafetyWing’s travel medical insurance is only the first step of their journey with the end goal of building a full global safety net for online freelancers and long term travelers.

Overall Verdict

This is a fabulous insurance product innovation for long term travelers. Their depth of coverage, unique flexible features and affordable price point makes them appealing to all kinds of travelers and certainly to nomads, freelancers, professionals and entrepreneurs who travel often or stay abroad long term.

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Sunday, June 09, 2019

Dabbaguli: A lesser known Sunday getaway near Bangalore

Dabbaguli - A great offroading getaway from Bangalore

Cometh the weekend and a lot of us wish to run away from the chaos and traffic of urban Bangalore. I certainly do and head deep into nature where the air is cleaner, the sounds are lower and the pace is slower. If you do too, you will definitely find this article very interesting.

In this time of social media, I am pretty sure most of you are aware of the main weekend trails that lead you out of Bangalore. This one is totally off-beat!

Riding deep into the Cauvery wildlife sanctuary

Imagine this…country roads past Kanakapura (an hour from Bangalore city provided there is little traffic) lead you into the unpaved paths of Cauvery wildlife sanctuary via Ragi, Mulberry, Peanut, Castor and other lush farm land and charming villages. An hour of off-roading takes you to the banks of the Cauvery river right inside this wildlife sanctuary. And once you are at your destination, giving you company are wild monkeys, rich birdlife and may be even some wild elephants.

Pit Stop next to the Cauvery at Dabbaguli

As a thumb rule, the forest department does not permit vehicles entering the fragile zones of a wildlife sanctuary, but located here is a temple called Hollakare Dabbagulleswara that is revered by the people of the surrounding villages and hence people are allowed to visit till this point. And it is this temple that lends its name to this offbeat destination, which is called Dabbaguli (or Dabbagauli), which is actually located in Tamil Nadu. While 99% of the route is in Karnataka, it is at the last few kilometers that you actually enter the state of Tamil Nadu.

An off road ride by the mulberry farms of rural Tamil Nadu

A trip to Dabbaguli is a lot of fun, especially if you are into countryside roads, nature and a little bit of off-roading. If you reach really early in the morning, you might come across a herd of wild elephants and even if you don’t, you and your group might be the only people here at Dabbaguli with the exception of the temple priest. The huge trees, the temple and the Cauvery riverside offer the perfect environment to relax after a rough down hill unpaved path. It is not advisable to get into the Cauvery here, but one can simply soak in the simple offerings of mother nature, which we all seem to be missing in our cities.

A rural Tamil Nadu countryside moment

If you have carried with you a picnic breakfast or lunch, do watch out for the monkeys and do remember to carry your trash back. Once you are done relaxing here and have sought the blessings of the lord at the temple here, head back the same way, but this time spending more time at the villages, admiring the old mud houses, having cheerful conversations with the villagers and exploring the rich farm land, whose produce varies with season.

Farmers taking their peanut harvest near Dabbaguli, Tamil Nadu

For me, these small villages are as important an experience as the destination Dabbagauli as it is these farmers who feed our bellies in Bangalore. Do feel free to explore any of the many farm ways, but do ensure you do not trespass and if you wish to enter private property, do check with the farmer, who in all probability would be working in his farm during the morning hours.

Ragi harvesting near Dabbaguli, Tamil Nadu

If you feel adventurous and have time at hand, you can head all the way to Shivanasamudra cross crossing such beautiful villages. And enroute, there will be popular tourist attractions such as Mekedatu, Mutathi, Bheemeshwari, Galibore, etc. Or you could head the other way and ride all the way to Hogenakkal Falls further downstream on the Cauvery. And you will find many other beautiful countryside on the way.

An off road motorcycling trip to the countryside near Cauvery wildlife sanctuary

Whatever your plan might be, Dabbaguli and this part of the Cauvery wildlife sanctuary and the surrounding villages will blow you away with their simplicity and originality. The pack all the ingredients for an absolutely amazing offbeat Sunday trip from Bangalore. While getting away from the chaos of Bangalore is the main incentive, this hidden gem offers way more than you have bargained. Do plan a ride here the next available Sunday you have and experience it for yourself.

Colorful countryside houses, Dabbaguli

Key words of wisdom:

1) Carry a puncture kit with you as there are no puncture shops in the vicinity

2) Carry some food and water with you at all times

3) Stay alert for wild elephants

4) Stay away from the Cauvery as she is known to swallow people from time to time

5) Carry all your trash back to Bangalore so that we let this place remain pure for the years to come

A Cauvery Riverside pitstop at Dabbaguli

How to get there (route map):

Bangalore –> Kanakapura –> Kodi Halli –> Hunasanahalli (if you opt for the good roads, else you can bypass this location) –> Bannimukkodlu –> Mugguru –> Manchukondapalli –> Dabbaguli (Dabbagauli) on the Dabbagauli – Kottaiyur road in Tamil Nadu. The last stop would be Hollakare Dabbagulleswara temple located by the banks of the Cauvery river.

Rough distance:

110 to 120 kms. The last 15 kms would be unpaved roads.

Entry Timings:

As this place falls under the Cauvery wildlife sanctuary, the forest gate opens only at 8 AM and closes at 5 PM. There are no entry fees, though the person at the forest check post might note down your personal and vehicle details for his records.

Where to eat:

Most restaurants and shops are present only till Kanakapura. Once you turn into the village roads, you will not get anything more than a glass of water, a cup of tea and some packaged local biscuits. For breakfast or lunch plans, I would recommend Kanakapura city. Do ensure that you carry water and some biscuits with you just in case you get delayed.

Off-roading to Dabbaguli, Tamil Nadu

Nearby Tourist Attractions:

1) Mekadatu and Sangama: A narrow gorge after the confluence of Arkavathi with river Cauvery

2) Bheemeshwari and Galibore Fishing Camps: Stunning riverside fishing camps

3) Gaganachhukki and Barachukki Falls: Two mighty waterfalls on the Cauvery in Karnataka

4) Hogenakkal Falls: A wide array of waterfalls on the Karnataka – Tamil Nadu border

5) Talakad: Subterranean temples from the past

6) Somnathpur Chenna Keshava temple: Well preserved 12th century Hoysala era temple

7) Muthathi: Temple and nature reserve by the river Cauvery

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