November 2019 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!
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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Punakha: Bhutan’s Gorgeous Valley Town

Buddhist Monk next to a colourful window at Punakha Dzong, Bhutan

Lush paddy fields, a majestic dzong fortress, cantilever and suspension bridges, mud houses, green mountains and a gorgeous river confluence make up the landscape of this valley town. I am talking about Punakha, the winter capital of Bhutan and a very pretty valley town.

Punakha Dzong at the confluence of Mochu and Pochu rivers

This scenic valley town of Punakha is famous in Bhutan for the following reasons:

1) Its 17th century Punakha Dzong that is known as the palace of great happiness or bliss. It is the second oldest and the second largest dzong in all of Bhutan and is even listed in Bhutan’s tentative list for UNESCO inclusion.

2) It is where Ugyen Wangchuk, the first king of Bhutan was coronated.

3) It was the capital of Bhutan and the seat of government till 1955.

4) Its rice farming. The fertile valley of Punakha between the Pho Chhu (Male) and the Mo Chhu (Female) rivers grows some of the best red and white rice in Bhutan.

5) Its Punakha suspension bridge, the longest suspension bridge of Bhutan.

6) The gorgeous view of the confluence of the Pho Chhu and the Mo Chhu rivers with the Punakha Dzong in the middle.

7) The wedding location of the current king and queen of Bhutan.

8) Its annual Domche festival.

Monks on Punakha's Suspension Bridge

Unlike the rest of Bhutan, the Punakha valley is warmer and hence becomes the top place to visit in Bhutan in the winter season. It’s close proximity to Paro, Thimphu and the panoramic Dochu La pass give it additional brownie points.

Rice harvest time in the fields of Punakha, Bhutan

Like most of the cities of Bhutan, Punakha’s epicentre is the Punakha Dzong and that is where you should start your visit to Punakha and move out from there. The Punakha Dzong is absolutely massive and just walking around the dzong should take you a good half a day. In case there is an ongoing festival, do plan a full day at the dzong. The experience becomes much richer when you get to interact with the in-house monks and see how they go about their daily lives.

Cantilever bridge next to Punakha Dzong, Bhutan

Once you are done with the dzong, do walk a bit forward towards Bhutan’s longest suspension bridge. Walk the entire length of this suspension bridge, feel the adrenalin rush and the strong gust of wind while admiring the pristine panorama all around you. If you head further after this bridge, you will come to the famous rice fields of Punakha and in all probability, you will see a lot of people going about their daily farm chores. If you wish, you can walk all the way to Wangdue Phodrang through village and farm trails or you can opt to return to Punakha.

Colourful window on Punakha Dzong, Bhutan

Once you return to the Punakha Dzong and cross the wooden cantilever bridge, you can see the houses of the Punakha town. This is where the hotels, restaurants and shops exist. Further out are more fertile lands and paddy fields. And on one trail a bit further out, you will come across the stunning view of the Punakha Dzong and the confluence of the Pho Chu and the Mo Chu rivers. Somewhere enroute, you can catch locals playing a game of football. May be, you could join them too.

Buddhist Monk from the balcony of a temple in Punakha Dzong, Bhutan

While Punakha is certainly worthy of a day trip from Thimphu and Paro and as a pit stop on your journey to Trongsa or Bumthang, I think this scenic valley town deserves more time as it offers a different character to the other cities in Bhutan and that certainly beckons all culture and nature lovers. I certainly recommend this lush valley town of Bhutan. Do go there on your next holiday to Bhutan and let me know how what you think about it.

Game of soccer being played at Punakha, Bhutan

How to reach here:

The only way to reach Punakha is by road. It is well connected to Thimphu and Trongsa by the main Bhutan highway. Thimphu is about 85 kms away and it should take you about 3 hours. Shared taxis and buses are easily available. Commute can get slower if Dochu la pass is either snowed in or if there are any landslides enroute.

The nearest airport would be Paro at about 140 kms away.

Young Boys from Punakha, Bhutan

Are special permits needed for Punakha:

No special permits are required for Punakha, but if you are planning to head east from Punakha towards Trongsa or Bumthang, then you might have to get special permits from Thimphu.

The mighty Punakha Dzong of Bhutan

Where to stay:

There is one 4 star hotel and a few other small lodges to stay in Punakha. If you have your own mode of transportation, you might find more options to stay at Khuruthang, Walakha and Wangdue Phodrang. Stay options vary from homestays and budget lodges to 4 star boutique hotels.

You can also try your luck at staying inside one of the monasteries in Punakha and around.

Mythological creature at Punakha Dzong, Bhutan

Where to eat:

There are a few restaurants in Punakha town where you can catch a bite to eat. However, they might be operational mainly during meal times. It is best to be aware of the timings well in advance.

Monks walk on a road leading to Punakha Dzong, Bhutan

Best time to visit:

As Punakha is located at a lower elevation when compared to other cities in Bhutan, it can be comparatively warmer and sultrier than the rest of them. However, it never gets too warm here. Hence, you can visit this place all year around. It is best during the winters when the rest of the country is either snowed in or is very cold.

Local Man from Punakha, Bhutan

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Snow capped mountain ranges of Dochula pass

2) The capital city of Thimphu

3) Trongsa Dzong, the largest dzong of Bhutan

4) Hike to Wangdi Phodrang by the forest trail

5) Ritsha – the model rice growing village of Bhutan

6) Bumthang – the Switzerland of the East

7) The beautiful Paro valley and the iconic trek to Tiger’s Nest monastery

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Monday, November 25, 2019

6 Tips for Choosing the Right Travel Gear

6 Tips for choosing the right travel gear

If you’re not an avid traveler but want to give it a try, it’s important that you know how to choose the right travel gear for your trip so that you are fully prepared for any possible situation. If you’re struggling to find out how to choose the right equipment for you, don’t worry! We’ve compiled a definitive list of 6 amazing tips for choosing the right travel gear, so read on and find out how you can travel effectively.

Make Sure Your Equipment is Durable

If you’re planning to add a little adventure to your travels by trying new sports like kayaking, hiking or climbing, it’s incredibly important that you choose equipment that is durable, so that it won’t break during use and leave you stranding on a cliff edge or in the middle of a river lake. Although good quality and durable equipment may be more expensive, it will save you money in the future as you won’t have to buy a replacement for the broken equipment. This counts for water sports especially; for example, if you enjoy paddle boarding, you might want to check out inflatable paddle boards that are strong enough for lakes and rivers so that they do not break and leave you stranded.

Plan for the Weather

Sunglasses and hats allow you to handle the sun

Despite all of the different weather channels and forecasts available, you can never truly predict what the weather is going to decide to do on the day of your travels, so you need to make sure that you have planned for any feasible weather scenario. There are plenty of rain jackets and waterproof footwear that you can buy to avoid getting soaked during your adventures without taking up your hands by using an umbrella. As well as preparing for the rain, you need to make sure that you prepare for the sun by choosing suitable hats and sunglasses that can shield your eyes but do not get in the way of any adventures you might be undertaking.

Wear Sensible Footwear

Choosing the right footwear is essential

Footwear is possibly the most important piece of travel gear that you need to seriously consider when you are deciding what clothing to take. You need to make sure that the shoes you choose have great grip on them to avoid slipping on wet surfaces or loose gravel when you’re hiking. As well as this, it’s crucial that you wear shoes that are comfortable, as there is nothing worse than having sore and blistered feet when you are trying to have the adventure of a lifetime. If you do find that your feet become blistered while you’re travelling, there are lots of ways in which you can alleviate the symptoms and pain.

Pack Light

Packing light

If you’re traveling far on foot at any time during your travels, it’s important that you pack light. There is nothing worse than carrying a heavy rucksack on your back throughout a long journey. The extra weight on your shoulders can not only create lots of pain, tension and discomfort in your shoulders, but it can also negatively impact your mood as you are far more likely to become physically exhausted a lot faster. Make sure that the clothing you pack is lightweight, and, if possible, try to pack lightweight adventure gear, as carrying around heavy oak paddles will surely make the journey more strenuous and therefore less enjoyable.

Be Cost Effective

Just because you want to buy high quality travel gear, it doesn’t mean that you have to spend hundreds of dollars on the best reviewed and branded products. One of the best ways to be cost effective when buying travel gear is to avoid shopping in physical stores and instead use online shops to directly compare the prices of similar if not identical products. You may find a product that is highly priced because it is a well-recognized brand, but the exact same product may be sold for a cheaper price by a lesser known brand, so make sure you shop around before you commit.

Make Sure Your Gear is Secure

Being on the go constantly can potentially place you at more risk of being mugged or stolen from. For example, if you choose to camp, you will therefore not have a secure place to store your belongings. When choosing travel gear to take with you, make sure that you find clothing with zipped up pockets to effectively avoid being pick-pocketed. As well as this, it may come in useful to buy jackets and clothing with hidden pockets in them so that you can safely carry your wallet around with you without drawing attention to yourself and potential thieves.

If you’ve not properly traveled before, it can be difficult to know what is the right gear to take with you, as there are so many options at so many drastically different price points. While this is true, there are ways in which you can make this decision much easier. Try these 6 easy tips and tricks to choose the right travel gear for you.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Key Tips On How To Stay Healthy When Traveling

How to stay healthy while traveling

Traveling to another city or country can become a fantastic experience. But, it's challenging to enjoy the sights and sounds if you're feeling under the weather. Getting sick during vacation can destroy your travel plans. So, here are five essential tips to help you stay healthy before and during your trip.

Get Enough Sleep


Traveling can be all about relaxing the body and mind. Eliminate the fatigue and stress you feel doing your daily grinds back in your neighborhood. But, it can be too much of an excitement to see the sights and sounds of another locale. So, sleeping might become a challenge while you're staying in another town.

However, don’t forget to get enough sleep during your travels. Don’t let the excitement get to your head. First, your body needs the rest to help you maintain the right amount of energy to:

● Carry heavy luggage

● Walk all day

● Cross time zones / Battle jet lag

● Enjoy tourist locations

Plan your itinerary before the date of your travel. You can also make a schedule of events to help allocate time for you to rest in between destinations.

Eat Nutritiously


It can be easy to reward yourself with all the tasty treats your vacation has to offer. After all, you’re traveling because you want to get away from what could be a seemingly mundane everyday routine. Still, don’t forget to eat nutritious food while you’re on a trip. You don’t want to cancel your tour because of an upset stomach.

Watch your diet while you’re staying in another city. Eat balanced meals, and don't overload with carbohydrates. Filling your stomach with carbs may give you a blood sugar spike. If that event happens, you might feel drowsy, and that can inhibit the excitement you should feel while trying to view the different tourist spots.

Exercise


Tips to stay fit and healthy during your holidays

Many hotels have indoor or outdoor gyms you can use to help you stay fit while on vacation. These gyms may come fully-equipped with tools like dumbbells, treadmills, and weighing scales.

But, some hotels and inns don’t have gyms. If so, it doesn’t mean you can’t have enough exercise during your trip. Take note that a little exercise can go a long way.

You can start by taking the stairs instead of the elevator when going back to your room. Also, you can bring exercise equipment with you during your trip like resistance bands. Use these tools to do exercises like weighted lunges and bicep curls. The bands act like weights, but the former isn’t as heavy as the latter.

Use CBD Oil


Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is an extract from the hemp plant. But, this organically-occurring chemical compound doesn’t deliver the same mind-altering effect as another cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Using quality oils may help promote numerous health benefits. It’s because of the components found in CBD that it might help improve conditions like:

● Chronic pain

● Inflammation

● Anxiety

● Depression

● Addiction

For example, you can use CBD oil before your flight to help calm your mind if you’re afraid of heights. Also, you can consume the product while you’re on vacation if you have chronic physical ailments like arthritis. CBD might also help normalize blood pressure as it is best studied for hypertension.

But, you should research the laws of your destination regarding CBD use. The last thing you'd want is to get in trouble with the local authorities because of this product.

Gain Health Insurance


So you’ve planned everything down to the dot, but it’s still best to be humble and accept the fact that not everything will go entirely as you planned. You might travel like a Boy or Girl Scout as your luggage comes with all the necessary tools you need for the trip. but accidents can still occur.

You can help safeguard your health during your travel if you have the right insurance plan. Health insurance for travelers can cover the fees for specific accidents or mishaps when you're in another city. Remember, mental health is also essential; unexpected medical charges during your vacation can put unwanted stress on your mind.

Ask your insurance provider for appropriate coverage plans to help you remain calm before, during, and after your trip.

Remember to stay on your toes while you’re traveling. Follow the tips mentioned above to help you stay healthy when you’re on vacation. Take note that traveling can be great for physical and mental health. Make sure you prepare for the possibilities that may happen during your trip. You may also list your travel goals and objectives in a small notebook. Review your notes if you feel lost in the course of your retreat.

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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Chintala Venkataramana Swamy Temple: A 16th century marvel in Andhra Pradesh

Epics and Hindu mythological stories on Tadipatri temple

It is yet another offbeat day trip or weekend destination from Bangalore. It resembles Hampi’s Vittala temples in many ways and it is classified as one of the Monuments of National Importance by the Archaeological survey of India. I am talking about the 16th century Chintala Venkataramana Swamy temple that was built during the reign of the Vijayanagara empire.

Offering prayers at Chintala Venkataramana Swamy temple, Tadipatri

Built by Pemmasani Timmanayudu II, a subordinate of Krishnadevaraya of the Tuluva dynasty, the Chintala Venkataramana swamy temple is known for its granite sculptures, stone chariot, striking resemblance to Hampi’s Vittala temple,  Vijayanagara style of temple architecture and for its mesmerizing visual depictions of Hindu mythological stories and folklore.

A bright monsoon day at Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

Spanning 5 acres and located by the Penna river, the Chintala Venkataramana temple was built around the same time as Hampi’s Vittala temple. May be, that is why they share striking resemblances to each other. While the Vittala temple was built using red granite, this temple at Tadipatri was built using much older black granite.

Hampi Vittala Temple like horse chariot at Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

A mighty temple gopuram greets you upon your entry. Right after it is the sthamba and then comes the garuda mantapa that is in the form of a stone chariot with rolling granite wheels. While this stone chariot resembles that of the Vittala temple in Hampi, it is much smaller in size. Right in front of the Garuda mantapa is the large Mukha mantapa with its forty pillars followed by the Ranga Mantapa and the Garbha Griha.

The main mantapa of Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

The Mukha mantapa and the Ranga Mandapa are full of images and stories from Mahabharatha, Ramayana and Bhagavatha, all in proper sequence of events. It is certainly one of the highlights of a visit to this temple as each pillar tells beautiful stories through its intricate carvings. The other highlight of this temple is the 10 feet high classical masterpiece statue of Lord Venkataramana Swamy that is located in the Garbha griha. Just as you enter the garbha griha, do pay close attention to the ceiling to see the octagonal shaped flower.

Ananta Sayana Vishnu on the walls of Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

If you thought the Garuda mantapa stone chariot, the Mukha mantapa pillars, the Ranga Mantapa and Grabha Griha were beautiful, wait till you begin your temple parikrama (circumambulation). Every inch of the exterior walls of the temple are carved and each carving tells you a lot about our gods and our puranas. There is so much carving on the walls of this temple that it might take you a couple of days just to see them all.

Walking by the beautiful walls of Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

Built according to Shilpa shastras, this Vijayanagara era temple gem with its eye catching Dravidian architecture will appeal to all kinds of art, culture, history and temple lovers. I don’t know why it is not spoken in the same breath as Hampi. May be Karnataka has done a better job of promoting it than Andhra Pradesh. Whatever the reasons might be, I think this temple is so culturally, creatively and aesthetically rich that it is a must visit in my mind. It’s rustic atmosphere adds to the charm.

Vermilion on the feet of the gods at Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadiaptri

If you wish to experience a stunning piece of temple architecture that is not well known in the masses, the Chintala Venkataramana Swamy temple is that offbeat gem. Together with the Bugga Ramalingeshwara temple located a km away, these two temples of Tadipatri are the pride of our nation and are living examples of our crazily good creativity in temple architecture. I recommend both these temples with multiple thumbs up!

The elephant staircase leading to the garbha griha of Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

Temple timings:

6 AM to 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM to 8 PM (if you wish to enter the garbha griha and see the main deity). The temple campus is however kept open from 6 AM till 8 PM.

Hampi Vittala temple like carved pillars at Tadipatri temple

How to reach there:

There are two popular routes to Tadipatri from Bangalore.

One is to take the 4 lane highway (NH 44) all the way to Anantpur and then take the state highway to Tadipatri. This route would be fast and is about 272 kms long.

The other option is to take NH 44 till Nagasamudram and then take the smaller roads to Tadipatri via Dharmavaram, Narapala and Muchukota. This road would be scenic post Nagasamudram and gives you an opportunity to experience the countryside of Andhra Pradesh. Dharmavaram is also a great place to stop for breakfast if you happen to leave Bangalore real early.

The hall leading to the garbha griha at Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

Other places to visit enroute from Bangalore:

1) 7th century Bhoga Nandeeswara temple at the foot of Nandi hills

2) The vineyards and vegetable farms of rural Chikkaballapur

3) Sri Veerabhadra temple at Lepakshi, another Vijayanagara era temple

4) Gudibande Fort, a great fort and hike that offers some breathtaking views

5) Penukonda fort

6) Avalabetta, a lovely hill full of beautiful nature and great views

7) Skandagiri hill, a climb to see misty mountain top views

8) Chandarayana betta, a great place for a short hill climb

Doing the pradakshanam at Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri

Best season to visit:

The post monsoon and winter months from October through February would be a great time to visit this temple. You can visit during the other months too. Just that it might be a bit too hot and humid for comfort.

Entering Tadipatri's Chintala Venkataramana Temple

Where to stay:

Tadipatri has a few budget hotels to cater to its visitors. If you want something luxurious, I would recommend that you head to Anantpur and if you feel like some adventure, stay in tents by the Pennar river at Gandikota.
If you are traveling from Bangalore, you can also visit this temple as part of a day-trip, thus avoiding any stay.

Beautiful carvings on the temple walls at Tadipatri

Where to eat:

Tadipatri city has a lot of places to eat near the market street surrounding Sri Chintala Venkataramana temple. These are not high quality restaurants, but simple hotels serving delicious food. For something exquisite, you might have to go to Anantpur that is located about 55 kms away.

A moment at Sri Chintala Venkataramana Temple, Tadipatri, Andhra Pradesh

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Bugga Ramalingeswara Swamy temple, another Vijayanagara era gem, located just 1 km away

2) The natural wonder of Pennar river canyon at Gandikota

3) Belum caves, one of the longest cave system in the Indian subcontinent

4) The beautiful caves and Sri Uma Maheshwara temple at Yaganti

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Essential items you need to take while camping

Camping trips are a great way to explore the outback

There are a lot of reasons why you should go camping. For one, this outdoor activity can bring you closer to nature and let you get away from your digital screens. Camping also allows you to exercise, especially if you decide to incorporate other outdoor activities such as hiking, trekking, and swimming. In a nutshell, camping can boost your mental and physical health in a lot of ways.

Camping can be fun, but since you’re going to spend time outdoors, preparation is key. You need to come up with a list of the essential items you need to bring and ensure that these are placed inside your backpack days before the actual trip. It’ll be hard to improvise when camping if you don’t have the necessary gear or tools to start with.

For your next camping trip, make sure to bring the following items:

Campfire Cooking Supplies

The joys of cooking under a camp fire

Daily chores, such as preparing and cooking meals, can become more fun once done outdoors. Aside from having a change of scenery, cooking on a campsite allows you to bond with your friends and family. For kids, this part of the camp can even become their favorite!

For your next camping trip, bring a cooking stove, propane tank, and utensils. Cutting tools such as a knife is vital when cutting food, and a camping saw makes it easy to chop wood for your fire pit.

If possible, decide what meals you are going to prepare or cook weeks before your camping date. You’ll know which cooking supplies to bring if you know what you’re going to cook at the campsite.

Sleeping Bags

The idea of sleeping directly on the grass while gazing at the stars can sound exciting and romantic. If you're a new camper, you might have planned to do this. But no matter how visible the stars are or how great the weather is, sleeping outdoors without the proper equipment isn’t a good idea.

Lying on the grass at night can make you susceptible to mosquitoes and insects. These pests will feast on your body, and by the time you’ll wake up, your body is already full of insect bites and rashes.

The dangers of lying outdoors don’t end there. Since the temperature at night drops drastically, sleeping without the proper gear can lead to chills and even hypothermia.

To ensure that the quality of your sleep or your health isn’t compromised when you’re camping, place your sleeping bags in your backpack ahead of time. This is one of the most basic gears in camping as it provides cushion and insulation as you sleep.

Some sleeping bags also have stash pockets for you to properly store your watches and compact devices.

Tents

Camping in the Western Ghats of India during the monsoons

Sleeping inside your sleeping bags can be a great way to spend the night, but abrupt weather changes might prevent you from doing this. Strong winds and rain will make it impossible for you to sleep outdoors, even if you have high-quality and durable sleeping bags.

For a safer alternative, always bring your tent. This gear can guarantee your safety and security during harsh weather conditions. A properly-installed tent will stay in place and provide shelter during your camping trip.

Water Jugs

Your body needs water. It serves as fuel for your body so you can walk around and explore. Keep in mind that a well-hydrated body is a healthy body. These are just some of the reasons why you should always bring a water jug when camping.

The amount of water you’ll bring should depend on the number of days you’ll stay outdoors. The longer your camping trip is, the more water you should bring. Not all campsites provide a potable water supply, so it’s best to bring your own.

Sunscreen And Insect Repellent

You’ll never run out of activities to do when you’re camping. Regardless of how long you’re planning to spend time outdoors or who you’re camping with, there will always be activities that suit your preferences.

However, if you’ll end up suffering from sunburns and insect bites during your camping trip, you might not be able to do all of these activities. In worse cases, sunburns and insect bites might become too severe that you won’t be able to get back on track after camping.

Always bring bottles of sunscreen and insect repellant whenever camping, especially if you’re camping with kids. These products can protect your skin and body from the dangers outdoors. By bringing these products, you can engage with the activities set by your companions and experience all the wonders of camping!

Prepare Properly

Aside from using this article as a reference, knowing where your next campsite also helps. By doing some research about your campsite, you’ll know if certain items should be added or removed from this list.

Being prepared can ward off stress, making your next camping trip memorable for all the right reasons!

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

How to go on that dream trip?

How to go on that dream trip

The once in a life time trip! That dream holiday! That special honeymoon! That dream gap year holiday! All of us have different versions of our dream trips and have bucket-lists of such trips. We hope and pray that somehow we are able to experience such dream trips in our lifetime. So, what do we have to do to go on such dream trips? Well, here are some popular options:

1) Work hard, save money and make time for yourself

We all know this, don’t we? But, it ain’t easy. It does not work out for everyone. You need to be dedicated and focused on your goals. Some times, we lose focus. At times, we get carried away or life has something else in store for us.

The key thing here is not just to make and save money, but create time for yourself where you can happily spend it without remorse or unreasonable expectations. The path can be tough at times, but I can say from experience that the results can be extremely sweet if you are driven towards your goal of living that dream holiday.

2) Get lucky

There are lots of companies out there who organize games, competitions or other events where the winner or multiple winners get to go on a fully or partially paid holiday. In this case, not everyone can win that dream trip, but if lady luck is shining her light on you, may be, it could be your lucky break.

Take this interactive game ‘Trip for Pip by FBS’ as an example. In this game, you have to help Pete (your regular boring office guy), break free from his monotonous routine (Office, TV, bed, repeat), become a successful forex trader, earn at least 100 pips (pip is a forex term meaning the smallest price move) and become eligible to win a dream holiday for two to London, Dubai or Tokyo. If you win, you get an unforgettable round trip to Tokyo, London or Dubai for two people that includes Economy flight tickets and 5-star hotel accommodation.

This game is free and you can try your luck as many number of times. All you have to do is play the game when you are bored, solve the challenges, earn pips and be eligible for the dream trip. It is something like the Candy Crush game, but here instead of spending money, you could actually win a dream trip in return. The key thing to note here is that your pip earnings from this game is only valid till Nov 28, because after that the winners are chosen through a lucky draw.

3) Work with a company where the job takes you to your dream destination

This option is tough to get into, but once you do, it is like you get to go and get paid while visiting your dream destinations. Take the crew of National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet, Travel and Living, etc.. All of them visit beautiful destinations across the globe, experience it up close like a local and end up getting paid for it. Of course, there is a lot of hard work involved, but to some, this could be their way to go on their dream trip.

4) Get into the business of taking people on dream trips

There are people who make it their business to take people on their dream trips. Not only do they get to relive their dream often, they even make money out of it. Sounds fabulous, right? Boutique tour operators (photography, wildlife, culture, food, adventure, etc.), tour guides, travel specialists, etc. are some popular options such such travel businesses.

So, which option do you think will work for you?

I have hardly had any luck with competitions, so I usually opt for Option 1. And I have to say that I have been privileged to have gone on many dream trips while availing this option. I hope it continues to work even in my future dream trips. In case you are wondering what they are, here is a small list below.

1) Explore the entire continent of Africa on a motorcycle. Something similar to the Motorcycle Diaries, but may be a much slower version as there is so much to experience in Africa.

2) Live with the indigenous people of Papua New Guinea, learn their culture and study the birds of paradise in this part of the world.

3) Travel to the North Pole and try to live at least one winter in the arctic.

4) Work on a wildlife conservation project in Gorilla land (either Congo’s Virunga National Park, Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park).

What is your dream trip? How do you see yourself making your dream come true? I would love to hear about it. Do let me know in the comments below.

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Wide Panoramic Hemagiri Waterfalls: A Rustic Day Trip from Bangalore



There is something calming about the sound of water and when it is tumbles across a wide landscape surrounded by lush greenery, the feeling is nothing short of heaven. Such a heaven can be found in rural Karnataka on the river Hemavathi just before it joins the mighty KRS dam. I am talking about the Hemagiri falls that is caused due to a weir on the wide Hemavati river here.



Located at Bandihole, this weir was created to supply water to the surrounding villages and their farmlands. And when the river has good flow, this weir overflows and forms the Hemagiri falls across the entire width of the river. Due to the copious rains this year, the Hemavathi river is carrying a lot of water amd thus the Hemagiri falls is out in all its glory. When the flow is low, you can safely go under it and take a natural waterfall shower, but when the flow is heavy, all you can do is find a nice spot near it, admire the lush nature around and lose yourself in the roar of the waterfall.

Hemavathi river, Karnataka

So, the next time you are thinking of a day trip from Bangalore, think of this rustic destination. Not only do you get to enjoy this panoramic waterfall, you get to experience the many ancient temples located in the vicinity. And the best part is that there are hardly any crowds here. So, a perfect hidden weekend getaway.

Hemagiri Falls on the Hemavathy river

How to reach here:

The best way to reach this place is by road. There are 2 routes. One via Mysore road and the other via Tumkur road.

Via Mysore road: Bangalore –> Nice road Mysore road exit –> Mandya –>Srirangapatna –> Krishnarajapete –> Bandihole –> Hemagiri Falls

Via Tumkur road: Bangalore –> Nice road Tumkur road exit –> Nelamangala –> Kunigal –> Nelligere –> Kanthapura –> Krishnarajapete –> Bandihole –> Hemagiri Falls

The nearest railway station would be Mysore and the nearest large airport would be Bangalore.




Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Lakshmi Narayana Temple at Hosaholalu

2) The temple town of Melukote

3) The world’s largest monolithic statue at Shravanabelagola

4) Somnathpur Chennakeshava temple

5) KRS Dam and Brindavan Gardens

6) Mysore palace and Chamundeshwari temple

7) The historical town of Srirangapatna

8) Hoysaleswara temple at Halebid

9) Belur Chennakeshava temple

10) Lakshmi Devi temple at Doddagaddavalli

11) Shettihalli Rosary Church ruins

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Monday, November 11, 2019

Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple: Visit this offbeat gem from the Vijayanagara era

Admiring the sculptures and carvings on the gopuram of Bugga Ramalingeswara Swamy Temple, Tadipatri

James Anderson, an architectural historian who wrote the famous book ‘ History of Indian and Eastern Architecture’, termed the imposing gopurams of this temple as ‘wonders’. Some of the finest carvings of the early Vijayanagar empire can be found here and there are many aspects of this temple that will leave you gaping in wonder. I am talking about the Bugga Ramalingeswara temple in the town of Tadipatri in the state of Andhra Pradesh and that is an offbeat gem from the Vijayanagara era.

Sculptures on the gopuram of Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple annointed with vermilion

Built in the 15th century during the reign of the Saluva dynasty of the Vijayanagara kingdom, the Bugga Ramalingeswara temple is located by the banks of the Pennar river and is dedicated to Lord Shiva who exists here as a swayambhu linga. The interesting thing about this linga is that a perennial underground water spring keeps flowing from the base of the Shiva Linga even though the Shiva linga is about 17 to 18 feet higher than the Pennar river and that the Pennar river is dry for most of the year. This underground water spring is called Bugga in the local Telugu language and hence the name of this temple.

The musical pillars and the intricately sculpted gopuram of Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple, Tadipatri

In spite of having been plundered many times by Muslim rulers, this architectural marvel of a temple has somehow managed to withstand the test of time. While its incomplete, yet majestic gopurams take center stage, it has beautiful carvings and sculptures all over the temple that tell different stories. It could be the sapta swaranga musical pillars in front of the Vishnu shrine (very similar to the musical pillars of the Vittala temple at Hampi), the beautiful carvings on the ceilings (very similar to the Hoysala style of temple architecture) or the epics depicted on the exterior temple walls.

A work of beauty - gopuram at Sri Bugga Ramalingeswara swamy temple, Tadipatri

The other interesting thing to note in this temple is the direction of the Shiva shrine. Unlike other temples where the gods face east, here the Shiva linga faces west and hence instead of the usual east facing gopuram in other temples of South India, the Bugga Ramalingeswara temple has gorgeously carved gopurams in the north, south and west. Out of these the South and the west facing gopurams act as the main entrances and the most intricate ones. The west facing gopuram connects to the Pennar river.

Ornate sculptures on the gopurams at Bugga Ramalingeswara Swamy temple, Tadipatri

These gopurams and the carvings in the temple in overall depict the various avatars of Lord Shiva (Kevalamurti, Dakshinamurti, Uma Maheshwaramurti, Vrishabaruda murti, Natarajamurti, Ardhanarimurti and even the Haryadhra Murti) and his many life stories. Such richness of architectural expression is quite rare and an absolute treat for the true temple and culture lover. There is so much to see and learn here that pretty soon your neck will start hurting from all the looking up at the stunning pieces of art. If you are a Shiva bhakt or a lover of Shiva’s life stories, you will definitely appreciate this visual Shiva purana. In addition to the Shiva purana, you can also spot famous episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata and popular mythological stories such as churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan).

The intricate work on the gopuram of Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple, Tadipatri

So the next time you are looking for a day trip or weekend getaway from Bangalore, do keep this offbeat temple destination in mind. It will certainly help if you enjoy art, culture and temples, but even otherwise, its gopuram wonders are bound to leave you speechless with their sheer presence and rich work.

The helpful priest and the Sapta Swaranga pillars of Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple, Tadipatri

How to reach there:

There are two popular routes to Tadipatri from Bangalore.

One is to take the 4 lane highway (NH 44) all the way to Anantpur and then take the state highway to Tadipatri. This route would be fast and is about 272 kms long.

The other option is to take NH 44 till Nagasamudram and then take the smaller roads to Tadipatri via Dharmavaram, Narapala and Muchukota. This road would be scenic post Nagasamudram and gives you an opportunity to experience the countryside of Andhra Pradesh. Dharmavaram is also a great place to stop for breakfast if you happen to leave Bangalore real early.

The main gopuram entrance of the Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple, Tadipatri

Other places to visit enroute:

1) 7th century Bhoga Nandeeswara temple at the foot of Nandi hills

2) The vineyards and vegetable farms of rural Chikkaballapur

3) Sri Veerabhadra temple at Lepakshi, another Vijayanagara era temple

4) Gudibande Fort, a great fort and hike that offers some breathtaking views

5) Penukonda fort

6) Avalabetta, a lovely hill full of beautiful nature and great views

7) Skandagiri hill, a climb to see misty mountain top views

8) Chandarayana betta, a great place for a short hill climb

Bugga Ramalingeswara temple view from Pennar river

Best season to visit:

The post monsoon and winter months from October through February would be a great time to visit this temple. You can visit during the other months too. Just that it might be a bit too hot and humid for comfort.

The incomplete, yet massive gopuram of Bugga Ramalingeswara temple, Tadipatri

Where to stay:

Tadipatri has a few budget hotels to cater to its visitors. If you want something luxurious, I would recommend that you head to Anantpur and if you feel like some adventure, stay in tents by the Pennar river at Gandikota.

If you are traveling from Bangalore, you can also visit this temple as part of a day-trip, thus avoiding any stay.

A moment from Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple, Tadipatri

Where to eat:

Tadipatri city has a lot of places to eat near the market street surrounding Sri Chintala Venkataramana temple. These are not high quality restaurants, but simple hotels serving delicious food. For something exquisite, you might have to go to Anantpur that is located about 55 kms away.

Colorful sarees and monotone colours of Bugga Ramalingeswara temple gopuram

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Chinta Venkataramana Swamy temple, another Vijayanagara era gem located just 1 km away

2) The natural wonder of Pennar river canyon at Gandikota

3) Belum caves, one of the longest cave system in the Indian subcontinent

4) The beautiful caves and Sri Uma Maheshwara temple at Yaganti

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