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

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Vibhooti Falls: Karnataka’s jungle waterfall with a natural swimming pool

Swimming under the Vibhooti Falls

Do you like waterfall holidays? Do you like herbal baths? Do you like to swim under a waterfall? If you said ‘YES’ to all 3 questions, then you will definitely be interested in Vibhooti Falls, a gorgeous jungle waterfall tucked deep in the forests of the Western Ghats in the Uttara Kannada region of Karnataka.

The journey of Vibhooti falls starts somewhere near the Yana limestone rocks and caves deep in the forests of the Western Ghats surrounded by the Sahyadri mountain range. As its name ‘Vibhuti’, this waterfall is powerful and resplendent. It tumbles in multiple levels after many small streams join together while passing through swathes of herbal and medicinal plants. And the best part about this waterfall is that it has a large and deep enough pool that allows you to swim right under the waterfall and not worry about under currents or sharp rocks.

Enjoying a waterfall shower amidst pristine forests of the western ghats

A scenic forest drive and a short trek leads you to this tropical beauty. Ideally, you should visit Yana rocks and caves first as that requires a lot of walking in the tropical sun. And then when you visit Vibhooti falls, you can simply lounge in the pool and cool yourself off. Its pool is shallow at one end and deep towards the waterfall, thus allowing people of all ages and swimming abilities to enjoy this waterfall.

The dense trail that leads to Vibhooti Falls

It is a raging torrent during the monsoons and is ideal for nature lovers and photographers. Bathing or swimming during the monsoons would be impossible and not recommended. But, during the post monsoon season, the water levels are more manageable and thus perfect for a dream tropical waterfall holiday with friends and family. During the sultry summer months, waterfall would be a tiny trickle, but you can always lounge in the pool.

Vibhooti Falls - a jungle waterfall in Uttara Kannada, Karnataka

If relaxed herbal baths under a waterfall while being surrounded by lush forests is your idea for a holiday, then Vibhooti falls is a fantastic choice. The entire forest, waterfall, nature and outdoors package of this holiday is special is a must-experience on your next long weekend from Bangalore.

Vibhooti Falls - waterfall with a swimming pool

Best season to visit:

The monsoons are the best time to visit if you wish to see the waterfall in its full glory. However, if you wish to swim in the pool under the waterfall, then post monsoon season from October through February would be ideal as that is when water flow would be manageable.

Summers can be best avoided due to low water levels and high temperature and humidity levels.

A waterfall holiday to Vibhooti Falls, Uttara Kannada, Karnataka

How to reach here:

The nearest airport would be Hubli, though Goa International airport and Bangalore international airport offer the best pan India connectivity.

Hubli, Ankola and Kumta would be your nearest railway stations.

Sirsi, Gokarna and Kumta would be your best bets when it comes to bus stations.

If you are driving from Gokarna, the route would be Gokarna –> Andle –> Onibail –> Santepete –> Markal –> Hillur –> Achave –> Mabagi –> Vibhooti Falls

If you are driving from Kumta, the route would be Kumta –> Divgi –> Antravalli –> Devimani Ghat –> Khurse –> Manjaguni –> Devanahalli –> Yana cross –> Mabagi –> Vibhooti Falls

If you are driving from Sirsi, the route would be Sirsi –> Kalkuni –> Hegdekatta –> Devenahalli –> Yana cross –> Mabagi – > Vibhooti Falls

Where to stay:

If you prefer homestays, there are quite a few options in the Sirsi-Yellapur region. My favorite is Tavuramane homestay, a fantastic rustic destination surrounded by pristine greenery.

If you prefer luxurious resorts, opt for the ones near Gokarna, Yellapur or Dandeli.

For simple hotels, Sirsi, Yellapur, Dandeli and Gokarna offer good options.

For beach stays, look for properties in and around Gokarna.

Vibhooti Falls - a great location for a waterfall holiday

Where to eat:

The nearest place to eat is a small restaurant at Mabagi village, about 3 kms away.

If you want better places to eat, then you will have to try out the restaurants in either Sirsi, Gokarna or Kumta. Each of these places should be about 60 to 90 minutes from Vibhooti Falls depending on road conditions.

It is best to have some food and water with you at all times due to the lack of eating options in the vicinity.

The pristine Vibhuti falls in Uttara Kannada, Karnataka

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Yana caves – two tall limestone rocks and caves jutting out in the middle of dense jungle

2) Magod Falls – one of the most magnificent waterfalls in Uttara Kannada

3) Sathodi Falls – Karnataka’s prettiest jungle waterfall

4) Shivapura hanging bridge – a suspension bridge on the river Kali

5) Unchalli waterfalls – one of the tallest waterfalls in Karnataka

6) Arbail ghat – one of the wettest places of Karnataka

7) Beaches of Kumta, Ankola and Gokarna

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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Tavarumane Homestay: Blissful Rural Holiday Destination in Karnataka

Tavarumane Homestay - Ideal Rustic Holiday Destination

Modernization, better accessibility and increasing pollution levels have ensured that we have to look far and wide to find those ideal relaxed holiday getaways that are located in the lap of nature, are built around a sustainable economy, are far away from all kinds of pollution and where there is no modern day chaos. Rural getaways with remote destinations fit the bill, but they are few and far between. One such blissful rural holiday location that I came across recently is Tavarumane homestay, a beautiful home and farm stay that is located amidst mountains, forests, streams, waterfalls, plantations and farms in the Jajjigudde village of Uttara Kannada in Karnataka.

Paddy fields ready for harvest in Uttara Kannada, Karnataka

Tavarumane, which literally translates into mother’s place in Kannada has everything that I look for in a holiday destination. It is a mud house that is surrounded by lots and lots of greenery. It has delicious home cooked food made from self-grown or locally sourced ingredients. It has zero noise, extremely limited connectivity and zero internet. It is life at its simplest best with lots of sunshine, good exercise through a multitude of farm, forest and mountain walks, no gadgets, nutritious food, clean air and beautiful nature. And for those who wish to explore beyond the farm, there are many tourist attractions in the Uttara Kannada region like Yana Caves, Magod Falls, Sathodi Falls, Unchalli Falls, Vibhooti Falls, Shivapura hanging bridge and others that can be explored as part of half-day and full-day trips.

The kitchen at Tavarumane homestay

Surrounded by mountains of the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats, Tavarumane homestay is located in one of the wettest regions of the country. And understandably so the vegetation is dense. In terms of farming, only areca palm, rice and vegetables are grown as most other farm or plantation plants do not seem to handle the heavy rains well. On the positive side, this has ensured that the native species of the forest grows in abundance here along with many rare herbs and medicinal plants. This diversity in flora attracts a wide variety of fauna that includes butterflies, birds and wild animals.

Sunset colours over the Sahyadri mountains of the Western Ghats in Uttara Kannada

Even though the location is pristine and surreal, the highlight of a stay here has to be the hospitality shown by Mr. Hegde and his wife and the food that they serve to their guests. Both of them seem to shower love on their guests and go to any extent to make their homestay experience a happy and memorable one. The yummy food that they serve here is a part of this loving experience. Cooked in traditional local style and with vegetables, fruits and spices that grow in their land and served with fresh cow ghee (from their cow’s milk), fresh wild forest honey (that they rear themselves) and unique sauces, their meals, snacks and desserts are simply unbelievable. Just writing about it brings water to my mouth. Their food was so good that I don’t have any pictures to show for it. The food disappeared into our mouths before we got a chance to take our cameras out. I would visit this homestay any day of the year just for its food.

A beautiful countryside road in Uttara Kannada, Karnataka

If good sleep, herbal baths, head massages, lots of sunshine, a rustic farm environment, a local family, lip smacking food, birds and wildlife and forests are your requirements, then Tavarumane homestay is the place that you ought to be checking out. Relaxation, zero (air, water and noise) pollution and digital detox are the main things on agenda here, but if you wish you can add birding, walking and sunbathing to it. And also playing with their in-house cat, dogs and even a wild monkey that visits every morning to be fed. This simple homestay is what you need if you need a true break. I highly recommend this rural holiday gem!

In front of Tavuramane Homestay and in the lap of nature

How to reach Tavarumane Homestay:

Tavarumane homestay is located in Sirsi taluk of Uttara Kannada. From Sirsi, you take the Hulekal road, cross Hulekal and Vanalli villages and then further ahead take a dirt track towards Tavarumane homestay. In case you are using Google maps, do remember that there could be some errors in the last mile. It is best to call the homestay owner and get proper directions. Only BSNL mobile phones work post Hulekal.

In terms of distance from Bangalore, it is about 460 kms if you opt for the Shimoga highway and 430 kms if you opt for the Chitradurga – Davangere 4-lane highway.

The nearest railway station would be Hubli. The nearest bus station would be Sirsi. The nearest airport would be Hubli, though Bangalore airport (430 kms away) and Goa international airport (210 kms away) would have the best pan-India connectivity.

How to make bookings:

Call Mr. Padmanabha Hegde at +91 98415 89037. Phone signal can be weak at times at the homestay. Hence, do try after a while if you are unable to get through.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

6 smart tips for anyone planning a road trip

6 smart tips for anyone planning a road trip

There’s something very enticing and exciting about the open road. Whether you’re heading somewhere with a destination in mind or just seeing where the road takes you, a road trip is one of the best ways to travel. However, if you’re planning on hitting the road any time soon, then you may want to plan a little and make sure you and your vehicle are 100% ready for the trip ahead. Unfortunately, safe road trips aren’t as spontaneous as the ones we see in the movies!

Not sure of where to start? Check out these 6 smart tips for anyone planning a road trip.

Ensure you have road side rescue in place

No one likes to think the worst. But if your car breaks down or if you find yourself in an accident – if you’re looking for legal representation check out this Sarasota car accident lawyer – it’s always better to have something in place to ensure you get home, or to your destination safely. Signing up to a road side rescue service means that you can be in touch with reputable and professional mechanics and local tow services within minutes, thus making it a worthy investment.

Clean out the car

I’m sure most cars have a few gum wrappers and maybe a few pieces of trash here and there. It’s the sign of a loved car, right? As true as that may be, after a few days on the road the amount of trash and mess in your vehicle could multiply significantly, making you stressed and ruin your entire road trip experience. Try to clear out the car before you set off and every couple of days into your trip. You’ll be so glad you did.

Bring the right accessories

Bringing the right equipment along could mean the difference between actually enjoying your road trip and heading out on a journey that’s full of inconveniences and that is just terribly frustrating. Therefore having the right accessories is essential. Make the following items a priority:

- Sunscreen
- Flashlights and batteries
- Car adapters
- Hand sanitiser
- Hand wipes
- Sunglasses
- Toilet paper – you’ll be glad you did!
- Emergency cash
- ID
- A phone power bank

A great playlist

While listening to radio presenters can be interesting, when the signal fails or you’re between stations, it can get a little frustrating. Putting together a playlist full of all your favourite songs is an absolute must. Not only can you create the soundtrack to your adventure, but you can sing along at the top of your voice and enjoy yourself!

Bring a map

While its great to be able to rely on GPS and our smart phones for directions, it’s always better to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Get yourself a traditional road map and keep it in your glove compartment just in case.

Some nutritious food

A road trip is a great opportunity to sample some new food and cuisine! However, days of sugary, unhealthy food not to mention all the snacks in between will start to take its toll. From stomach problems to lethargy, it’s important to have some healthy snacks such as nuts, cereal bars and fruit as well.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Sathodi Falls: Karnataka’s Prettiest Jungle Waterfall

Sathodi Falls - the pretty jungle waterfall of Karnataka

It is as pristine a location as it can be. The untouched forests of the Sahyadri mountain range of the Western Ghats form the background. And the massive backwaters of the Kali river forms your entry point. Somewhere in these mountains and forests start several small streams that join together to form Karnataka’s prettiest jungle waterfall.

This waterfall, about 50 feet tall, is called the Sathoddi falls and it is one of the more beautiful waterfalls in the waterfall district of Uttara Kannada in Karnataka. Starting near Kallaramane ghat, the gorgeous Sathodi falls flows into the backwaters of the Kodasalli dam, into the Kali river. Every bit of the waterfall’s journey is scenic and untouched and we can experience it’s journey from the time it tumbles as a waterfall to the time it joins the Kodasalli reservoir.

Photographing the beautiful Sathodi waterfall

A trip to Sathodi falls is not just about the waterfall, but about the entire journey. Once you turn off the Yellapur – Dandeli highway, pretty little plantation villages greet you before the rickety-rackety roads morph into jungle roads with tall trees and dense foliage. As you wind your way through these roads and curse their extremely poor quality, you cannot stop but admire the sounds and visual charms of mother nature here. As you keep admiring nature’s beauty, the forests give way to a stunningly blue water body with extremely comfortable concrete roads to its side.

Sathodi Falls - The prettiest jungle waterfall of Karnataka

This blue water body is the Kodasalli reservoir and thanks to the concrete roads, the experience from here becomes way more superior. Pretty soon, you reach the parking spot and the ticket counter of Sathodi falls and from here you travel the last kilometre on foot. Colorful butterflies, a wide variety of flora, giant squirrels, macaques and many other birds, insects and animals give you company during your walk. To me personally, the highlight of this 1 km walk has to be the millions of butterflies that throng this forest and keep fluttering from one branch to another.

The pristine jungle dirt track that connects Yellapur with Sathodi Falls

While you are mesmerized with the wild charms of nature, you hear a faint roar that keeps getting louder as you walk forward. Pretty soon, you see the cause of this roar and it is like love at first sight. Surrounded by tall mountains on one side and dense green jungle on the other, the Sathodi waterfall falls gracefully into a pool of azure. This single step waterfall, which falls gracefully during the non-monsoon season can don a very rough look during the rains. As I had gone right after the heavy monsoon rains of 2019, I could see the trail of destruction it had left behind in terms of broken tree branches, broken bridges, etc. Keeping the destruction aside, Sathodi Falls is as peaceful a location as it can be.

The first view of the Sathodi waterfall upon completing the trail

It’s herbal waters, its gentle roar, its forested surroundings and its short journey to the Kali river is a must-experience for all nature and waterfall lovers. This waterfall holiday in Uttara Kannada is not just any waterfall holiday, but one that is offbeat, untouched, a butterfly haven and one of Karnataka state’s prettiest jungle waterfall. Do visit it on your next trip to Uttara Kannada and let me know your experience in the comments below.

Families enjoying a waterfall holiday at Sathodi Falls

How to reach there:

It is best to have your own mode of transportation to reach Sathodi falls. Either a jeep or motorcycles are recommended as roads are in pretty poor condition from Yellapur to Sathodi. Sedans and other cars with low ground clearance are strictly not recommended.

The route from Yellapur to Sathodi Falls is as follows. Head north from Yellapur on the Yellapur – Dandeli road. About 2 kms from Yellapur and after crossing the Kalamatha temple, there is a road to the left leading towards Shivapura hanging bridge and Sathodi falls. The road winds and turns via Angod and Dehalli villages before heading towards Shivapura hanging bridge and Sathodi Falls. There are boards at most intersections pointing you in the right direction. The total distance from Yellapur to Sathodi falls is about 25 kms.

Sathodi Falls - one of the prettiest waterfalls of Karnataka

Best season to visit:

The monsoon and post monsoon season are the best times to visit this waterfall as that is when the waterfall is in full flow and the surrounding nature is lush and in abundance. Summers can be dry and a bit too warm. Winters are also a decent time to visit this waterfall though water flow might be a bit lower.

A myriad of greens and blues at Sathodi Falls, Uttara Kannada, Karnataka

Where to eat:

There is a small hotel near the Sathodi falls parking lot where basic meals are available, but one has to order in advance.

For a much wider range of food options and good quality restaurants, head to Yellapur, about 25 kms away. Hotel Shanbag and Hotel Indraprastha are two good options. Locals seem to throng to hotel Shanbag.

Entering the final destination on the Sathodi waterfall trekking trail

Where to stay:

The nearest place to stay would be Sathodi forest homestay about 10 kms away, but accommodation is usually basic. There are many other such homestays in the Sirsi – Yellapur region that offers a beautiful mix of traditional hospitality with great locations and delicious food.

If you prefer city hotels, opt for hotels in either Yellapur  (25 kms away) or Sirsi (85 kms away).

For luxurious stay options, look up properties at Yellapur, Dandeli, Ramanguli, Karwar and Gokarna.

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Shivapura hanging bridge – a suspension bridge that straddles the Kali river and that allows motorcycles to pass through

2) Kodasalli reservoir – a beautiful water body surrounded by the pristine Sahyadri mountains of the Western Ghats

3) Magod Falls – one of the most magnificent waterfalls in Uttara Kannada

4) Yana rocks and caves – massive limestone karsts that stand in the middle of dense greenery

5) Vibhooti Falls – a beautiful forest waterfall with its own natural swimming pool

6) Winding forest roads of the Artibail ghats

7) Dandeli – famous for river rafting on the Kali river, its tribes and its common great hornbill sightings

8) Anshi National Park – famous for sightings of the elusive rare panther

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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Top Cruising Routes in Asia

Top Cruise Routes in Asia

Photo courtesy: Ponant Cruises

Asia is indeed a harmony of countless rich cultures and is home to some of the oldest civilizations in the world. Cruising Asia means enjoying an unforgettable experience as you explore the exotic landscape and unravel the colonial history. Cruise passengers heading East are sure on a wonderful experience as they come across sea cruise destinations such as Cambodia, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Burma, China, Taiwan, and more. What makes Asian cruising a much more attractive option is that you can cover several countries in one go!

A Ponant cruise to Asia is a lot more than just taking a journey from one exotic port to another. You are on an unforgettable vacation of tranquil landscapes and most intriguing destinations. Ponant luxury vessels and boats add to the appeal of the captivating ancient continent with diverse cultures. Learn more about the exceptional Ponant itineraries on this website and get ready to discover some of the most enchanting and dynastic cities of Asia.

Here are some of the top cruises in Asia.

Japan Cruise

Cruise Holiday to Japan

Photo courtesy: StudioPonant Margot Sib

Enjoy the best of Japan on an exceptional itinerary designed by Ponant that will take you straight to the heart of Japan. Explore the Land of the Rising Sun and its enhancing cities like Osaka, Tamano, Miyajima, Busan, and more. Learn about the history of the samurai and geishas on the Japanese cruise and admire the country’s landscaped gardens as well as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is your chance to discover medieval and ancient Japan.

The Seychelles Cruise

Triton Bay, Indonesia

Photo courtesy: StudioPonant Morgane Monneret

For cruising Seychelles, you arrive and depart from Victoria Port, and the new and exciting itinerary invites you to discover the paradise of archipelago’s Inner Islands. Some of the essential stops include Sainte Anne Marine National Park, Curieuse Island, Praslin, and more. Enjoy unforgettable snorkelling as you get to see coral reefs with stunning species or look at the Aldabra giant tortoises within the mangrove. Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, with its gigantic endemic fruits, should not be missed. Enjoy some moments of relaxation on the stunning islands with fantastic beaches.

Hong Kong to Japan Cruise

What could be better than cruising from Hong Kong and spend some days in Taiwan and Shanghai before heading for the Japanese city of Yokohama. This is your opportunity to get a taste of vast and varied cultures of the Asian region. You will come across countries and cites that are radically different but deeply honour their past. It is indeed a unique experience to see the quiet serenity of ancient times existing side by side with hyper-modernity. Throughout the trip, you can observe the modernist impulse in the traditional aesthetics and architecture of the cities and its food and culture.

Aldabra Atoll Cruise

Aldabra Atoll and its Secret Islands are very popular among the Asian cruisers. The expedition cruise invites you on an unforgettable trip aboard one of the luxury PONANT vessels and leads you to the most beautiful islands with idyllic landscapes that boast of exceptional flora and fauna. During the cruise, there would be endless opportunities to swim, dive, and snorkel, especially when you are in the Alphonse lagoon. Aldabra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the largest population of land turtles and numerous colonies of birds.

Vietnam to Singapore Cruise

Cruise to Vietnam

Photo courtesy: Ponant Cruises Ship

Another of the popular Asian cruise covers Vietnam and then Hong Kong to Singapore. The cruise offers you a glimpse into the Asian lifestyle and culture. Those families living in floating fish farms in Vietnam and alter halts in Hong Kong and Singapore are sure to amaze you. The cruise covers visits to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Mekong Delta.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Goa’s Prettiest Rural Holiday Destinations

Goa's Prettiest Rural Holiday Destinations

I am sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘There is more to Goa than its beaches’ in your travel circles. I completely agree with it. There are many amazing experiences to be had in Goa apart from its gorgeous coastline and pristine beaches. Like, for example, Goa is one of India’s best monsoon destinations. I had recently written an article on ‘5 best monsoon experiences to be had in offbeat Goa’. Now, that the monsoon season is over and the peak winter season is fast approaching, I want to talk about another side of Goa that is as beautiful and charming as its beaches. They showcase true Goa. They are Goan villages. And the best part is that they won’t be as crowded as the beaches.

Here is the list of Goa’s prettiest villages that make for fabulous rural holiday destinations.

1) Aldona

Bread making the local way at Aldona, Goa

Aldona is like a gem in the crown of Goa tourism. With a mix of hills, dense tree cover, rivers and backwaters, this peaceful village is as beautiful as it gets. Along with its scenic setting, it is known for its white church with white cemetery, creatively built houses, cable bridges, stone bridge, its old world charm and laidback lifestyle. All you need here is a bicycle, a camera and a place to stay and you will end up having one of the best rural holidays of your life.

Top Attractions: Corjeum fort, 16th century St. Thomas church

2) Assagao

Rural holiday destinations in Goa

Known as the flower village of Goa due to its rich Marigold production, Assagao also happens to be one of Goa’s most trendy villages with up and coming neighbourhoods. Located in the hills of North Goa, it is a tiny little village that is known for its beautiful streets, cashew groves, elegant colonial villas with pretty gardens and Portuguese era churches. It is the perfect base for those who love the beaches of North Goa, but wish to stay in a quiet setting away from flea markets and parties.

Top Attractions:
Birdwatching, Cashew groves, Some of Goa’s best cafes and restaurants, 18th century St. Cajetan church

3) Saligao

Farming in Saligao, Goa

This tiny green village of Saligao in North Goa is known for its maze like tiny pathways that connect the houses with paddy fields and coconut plantations. It is the perfect place to go to if reading or writing is on your agenda or if you just want to stay away from all the urban noise and modern day life.

Top Attractions: The Florentine restaurant, Mae de Deus church

4) Chorao

A paradise for photographers and birdwatchers, Chorao is an island on the Mandovi river. It is most famous for Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary that is home to mangrove forests and a rich array of flora and fauna. Apart from this lush habitat, it is made up of 3 sleepy villages, a fort in ruins, churches and temples. A highly recommended place for all nature lovers.

Top Attractions: Birdwatching and mangrove forests, 16th century St Bartholomew church

5) Chandor

Church at Loutolim, Goa

This sleepy village of South Goa was once Goa’s ancient capital between the 6th and the 11th centuries when the Kadamba dynasty ruled Goa. Located by the confluence of the Kushavati and Zuari rivers, Chandor tells you great stories about Goa’s pre-portuguese era and how it was a wealthy and important trade hub. Examples of its rich past can be seen in the remnants of a 11th century temple, a Nandi statue and a fort. Even older inscriptions have been found here. In simple words, it is loaded with history and a perfect rural destination for all those history lovers.

Top Attractions: 350 year old Menezes Braganza Pereira house

6) Nerul

Fishing communities are big in Nerul

This coastal village, tucked right in the middle of the estuaries of the Mandovi and the Nerul rivers and the densely forested hills, is a sight for sore eyes. It’s rich alluvial soil makes it the vegetable basket of Goa. Groundnuts, sweet potatoes, watermelons and coconuts can be found in abundance here. With the ocean, rivers, backwaters and hills all in close proximity, one is spoilt for choice in terms of activities to do here. Fishing and kayaking are the most popular things to do here, apart from indulging in fresh seafood and living the laidback rustic Goan life.

Top Attractions: Coco beach, 16th century Our Lady of Remedies Church, Fishing, Kayaking, Seafood

7) Loutolim

Big Foot Museum, Loutolim, Goa

This South Goan village is a perfect blend of beautiful Goan architecture and lush green nature. Bordering the Zuari river, Loutolim is made up of gorgeous looking contemporary Portuguese houses with baroque windows and large verandahs and green paddy fields. The highlight of this village has to be its palatial homes with exquisite interiors and wooden furniture. It becomes even more special when you stay at one of these places and watch the world go by from its wraparound verandahs.

Top Attractions: Figueredo Mansion, Casa Araujo Alvares, Jila Bakery, 16th century Saviour of the world church, Ancestral Goa and the Bigfoot museum

Now that you have seen this list of Goa’s best villages, all you now have to worry is how to reach Goa. Are you taking a flight to Panjim, opting for the scenic Konkan railway route or are you keen on doing a full-on Goan road trip. The choice is purely yours. Irrespective of the mode of transportation, these pretty little villages of Goa will bowl you over with their architecture, culture, natural beauty and rustic life. It is a unique way to spend your next holiday in Goa.

Photo Courtesy: Some of the photographs in this article are courtesy of wikipedia.org and have been borrowed under the Creative Commons license. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.org.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Shivapura Hanging Bridge: A Motorcyclist’s Delight

Crossing the Shivapura hanging bridge on motorcycle

We motorcyclists seem to enjoy winding mountain roads, steep gradients, forested roads, dirt tracks, gorgeous views and river crossings. And that is why the Western Ghats is such a hot favorite with all motorcycle lovers. Throw into a mix a hanging bridge and you have a dream motorcycling destination in the Western Ghats. One such motorcyclist’s delight is the Shivapura hanging bridge.

The dirt track that leads to Sathodi Falls in Uttara Kannada, Karnataka

Tucked deep in the Sahyadri mountain ranges of the Western Ghats in Uttara Kannada, Karnataka lies a remote, yet absolutely gorgeous piece of nature. The mighty river Kali flows here and its waters swell amidst the mountains and forms the Kodasalli reservoir. Straddling these waters lies a cable suspension bridge that is referred to as the Shivapura hanging bridge. This bridge was built to improve connectivity to the villages of Shivapura, Ulavi and others in the Joida taluk. Prior to building the bridge, access was difficult to these villages and they had to take a 125 km roundabout route to reach Yellapur. After building the bridge the distance has changed to 25 kms.

Connecting Yellapur with Anshi National Park, the Shivapura bridge is surrounded by some of the most pristine untouched forests of Karnataka. King Cobras, Black Panthers, Leopards, Tigers and other wild animals roam these forests in plenty. Hornbills, racket-tailed drongos, paradise flycatchers and other exotic birds too can be seen here. The bridge is about 234 metres long and 1.50 metres wide (which is enough for a motorcycle to pass) and can be reached from both the Ulavi and the Yellapur side.

Photographing the beauty of the Kodisalli reservoir from the Shivapura hanging bridge

The easier access is from Yellapur and the distance is about 25 kms, most of which are proper dirt tracks that wind through dense jungle. These dirt tracks can seriously test the mettle of you and your motorcycle. Do ensure that you have good tires, brakes and lights and enough fuel, water and emergency snacks to tide over tough circumstances.

Motorcycle Ride to Kodasalli reservoir, Karnataka

The route is straightforward. Head north from Yellapur, turn left at the Yellapur – Sathodi falls route. Keep following the signboards that lead you to Sathodi Falls. About 22 kms after you leave the highway, the dirt track changes to a solid concrete road. Just ahead of this change lies a signboard. Here, if you head straight, you find Sathoddi falls and if you turn right, you find Shivapura hanging bridge in about a kilometre.

You can either visit Shivapura hanging bridge and return to Yellapur or you can have this bridge as part of your forest route to Anshi National Park, Dandeli and/or Goa. Sunrise and Sunset time is best to make great photographs. Don’t miss out on the beautiful Sathodi jungle waterfall, just 3 kms away. Don’t litter in this pristine environment and do ensure that you don’t overspeed or do anything stupid on this hanging bridge.

Sunset at Kodasalli reservoir, Karnataka

Shivapura hanging bridge is not just a suspension bridge, but a bridge that is surrounded by a beautiful water body, lush forests with rich wildlife and an amazing dirt access, which makes it an absolute delight for all motorcycle lovers. I absolutely loved the bridge and all its surroundings and wouldn’t hesitate a bit to recommend it to you with both thumbs up.

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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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