June 2021 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Hong Kong Visa for Indians: Pre-Arrival Registration (PAR) Slip

Hong Kong Visa for Indians - Pre arrival registration PAR Slip

There was a time when Indian citizens would get free visa on arrival to Hong Kong. Even now, some Indian citizens could get such a visa on arrival, but it depends completely on the immigration officer in front of you. Today, Indian passport holders require a pre-arrival registration (PAR) slip prior to their arrival at Hong Kong else there is a chance that they might be sent back.

Below is all the information about the pre-arrival registration (PAR) slip for Indian passport holders and how Indian passport holders can use this to plan their trip to Hong Kong and may be Macau or mainland China if they intend to travel via Hong Kong.

What is this Pre-Arrival Registration (PAR) Slip?

The pre-arrival registration is something like an electronic authorization or e-Visa. Indian passport holders need to apply for this pre-arrival registration (PAR) online before arriving into Hong Kong. If you wish to apply or wish to know more, you can read further about the PAR on Byevisa.com.

What are the minimum requirements for this PAR?

The PAR Hong Kong visa requirement for Indian citizens is fairly simple. All you need is a passport that is valid for at least 6 months, 3 empty pages in it, travel and accommodation details.

What is the validity of this PAR?

This Hong Kong PAR travel document will allow you to visit Hong Kong multiple times for 14 days each during its 6 month or 180 day period. This is ideal for those who are planning short trips to Macau, mainland China or Taiwan keeping Hong Kong as a base. This way, you can keep returning to Hong Kong from the different destinations and need not apply for a new PAR as you are allowed multiple entries within a 180 day window.

However, if you change your passport or if the 180 day window has passed, you will need to apply for a new PAR slip.

How do I apply for this PAR?

If you have access to the internet, you can fill the pre-arrival registration for Indian nationals form on the Hong Kong immigration department website. You could go via a travel or visa agency in case you do not have access to the internet or if you wish someone else to handle it on your behalf.

This form entails the following details:

1) Information of registrant: Name, nationality, sex, marital status, date of birth, place of birth, residential address in India, contact telephone number

2) Information of passport: Passport number, date of issue, date of expiry, place of issue

3) Previous travels to Hong Kong

4) Previous visits to foreign countries or territories

5) Occupation

6) Details of coming visit: Purpose of visit, proposed duration, address of accommodation, address of local connection (if any)

7) Others

8) Identification question

You will need to confirm the details once you have filled all the details. Do ensure that all the information matches the information mentioned in your passport.

How long before I receive the PAR slip?

You will receive your PAR slip (if approved) immediately upon confirming your details in the form mentioned above. In case your PAR slip does not get approved, you could try applying for a Hong Kong visa at the nearest consulate or may be call them and see when you can apply for this PAR again.

You can take a print out of the PAR slip, sign it and keep it with your passport. You can store a soft copy of the PAR slip as a PDF copy on your phone as a back up in case you lose the print out.

What documents do I need to carry before I arrive into Hong Kong?

These are the following documents that you need to carry with you when you arrive into Hong Kong:

1) Valid passport

2) Printed copy of the PAR

Do remember to carry your PAR slip with you at all times wherever you are traveling within Hong Kong.

So, now that you know how you get your pre-arrival registration (PAR) slip for Hong Kong, all that you have to do is complete your covid-19 vaccination, wait for the international borders to open, book your flight tickets, get your PAR and enjoy a great holiday in Hong Kong.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2021

10 Top International Holiday Destinations for less than 1 Lakh Rupees

View from the John Suwan view point of Koh Tao, Thailand

I know that this may not be the best time to travel. But, once we are all vaccinated and the international borders open up, we can hope for a slow return to normalcy. And this includes going on those international holidays that we have dreaming of for the past two years when we have all been indoors or inside our respective cities. And to make it special for you, I have come with a unique list of 10 international holiday destinations that Indians can visit for less than 1 lakh (100,000) rupees.

Such a holiday would be for a couple traveling from India to one of the below mentioned 10 destinations for a period of 7 days and 6 nights and would include their flight tickets (return), visa charges, 3 or 4 star accommodation, food, logistics and entry fees. This international holiday would not only be customizable as you get to choose the itinerary, but it will also not burn a hole in your pocket.

1) Thailand

This country is the eternal favorite of the Indian traveler. This cultural hotspot with its ancient kingdoms and colourful temples, bustling shopping avenues, pristine beach holiday destinations and lush mountains and forests has been charming international travelers for many decades now. Add to its affordability, delicious Thai cuisine and traditional massages and you have a dream holiday destination.

How to get the visa: The Thailand Visa process for Indian passport holders is fairly simple. One can get an e-VOA (e-Visa on Arrival) at the airport in Thailand, an e-visa (normal or express mode) valid for 15 days before you depart from India and a Thailand stamp visa that is valid for 60 days. One can choose the visa type depending on duration of stay and ease of application.

My favorite part of the country is: The islands of Koh Tao and Koh Lanta, the meandering mountain roads between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son and its capital city – Bangkok, which is also referred to as the Venice of the East.

2) Bhutan

Punakha Dzong at the confluence of Mochu and Pochu rivers

This Himalayan kingdom also happens to the happiest nation on our planet. It’s friendly people, rich Buddhist culture, vibrant temples, colourful festivals, snow capped Himalayan mountain vistas, lush valleys, fast flowing rivers and its multiple avenues for adventure and relaxation will appeal to all kinds of travelers. Unlike citizens of other countries who have to spend USD 250 per day to explore Bhutan, Indians do not have to pay any such fee. And we can drive in our own vehicles. I think this is one of the best perks of the Indian passport.

How to get the visa: Indian passport holders do not need a visa to visit Bhutan. All they need is their passport or voters id card and documents for their vehicle if they are going on an overland journey.

My favorite part of the country is: The trek to Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s nest), shopping for woollen products at Chumey valley, relaxing in the gorgeous Bumthang valley (which is also referred to as the Switzerland of the East), the cantilever and hanging bridges of Punakha and sunrise over the snow capped mountains seen at Dochula pass.

3) Sri Lanka

A Sigriya sunset view as seen from the top of Pidirangala Rock, Srilanka

This pearl in the Indian Ocean packs a lot of action for its visitors. From ancient temples and Buddhism trails, coastal getaways and lovely beaches, hill stations and tea estates, rainforests and wildlife sanctuaries to adventure sports and shopping, the island of Sri Lanka has it all. The smiling people, the rich use of spices in their cuisine and their lush green environment make this country even more appealing.

How to get the visa: Indian passport holders can apply for a Sri Lankan e-Visa or ETA (electronic travel authorization) on the Sri Lankan immigration and emigration website. All you need are confirmed return tickets and proof of finances.

My favorite part of the country is: The ancient civilization of Sigriya, the heritage train ride from Colombo to Nanu Oya, the amazing wildlife of Yala National Park, the beaches around Trincomalee and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve.

4) Malaysia

Batu Caves - the famous Hindu murugan temple near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A popular destination with honeymooners from India, Malaysia is famous for the markets and other shopping avenues in its capital Kuala Lumpur, the beach paradise of Langkawi, the lush surrounds of Cameron highlands, the jungles of Malaysian Borneo and its gorgeous islands that are known for its clear waters and rich wildlife. In addition, Malaysia offers a lot of duty free shopping, access to unique nature, delicious food and a rich array of tropical fruits.

How to get the visa: There are 3 options to get a tourist visa to Malaysia. One is a eNTRI visa that allows you to stay in Malaysia for 15 days, but it only works if you enter from India, Singapore or Thailand. The second option is the eVisa that allows you to stay in Malaysia for upto 30 days, it is valid for 3 months and is good for multiple entries. The third option is to get the sticker visa from your nearest consulate in India.

My favorite part of the country is:Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary in Sabah (Borneo), seeing the orangutans up close at Sepilok, trekking inside Gunung Mulu National park and seeing the Rafflesia flower at Royal Belum National Park.

5) Indonesia

A door in Tirta Empul Temple, Bali, Indonesia

This largest archipelago is home to so many attractions that one trip is not even going to be enough to scratch its surface. It has some of the world’s best marine sites, best surf, most active volcanoes, rich wildlife, unique tribal cultures, amazing cuisines, great coffee, thousands of pristine beaches, rich Hindu and Buddhist temples so much more. The world over knows about the popularity of Bali as an island holiday destination. Now, add to it a few more hundreds of islands with a much richer experience and you have an unforgettable holiday package.

How to get the visa: Indian passport holders get a visa on arrival when they arrive in Indonesia. The visa is free and all you need to show are your return tickets and proof of funds.

My favorite part of the country is: Swimming with baby sharks at Karimun Jawa, watching the sunrise over Mount Bromo, trekking upto the top of Gunung Merapi to watch the molten lava flow in the dead of the night, tropical rainforest called Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park and the cultural hotspot of Tana Toraja.

6) Dubai

Mountain biking in Dubai

Another perennial favorite with Indians is Dubai. It’s skyscrapers, shopping malls, year end festivals, luxurious accommodation and fine dining is well etched in the hearts and minds of Indians thanks to the Indian movie industries. Add to it umpteen adventure activities, a rugged landscape, bustling local markets and luxurious dhow cruises and you have a dream luxurious holiday in Dubai.

How to get the visa: Getting a Dubai Visa is fairly straightforward. All you need is your passport, passport size photograph and return ticket. If you happen to be flying via Emirates, you get a 96 hours transit visa. And if you wish to stay longer, you can apply for the 14, 30 or 90 day tourist visa. Each of these visas come with a regular and express mode.

My favorite part of the country is: Mountain biking in the Hajar mountains, dune bashing on the various desert trails, taking the local abra boat and engaging with the locals, watch the Dubai landscape from the top of Burj Khalifa and soak in the hustle and bustle in the various souks of Dubai.

7) Nepal

Peatn Heritage Zone, Nepal

Nepal offers a beautiful mix of adrenaline rush, panoramic vistas, culture, spirituality and adventure. It is not just a country for mountain climbers and trekkers, but it is for everyone. Patan, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and Lumbini are the cultural hubs. Chitwan National Park is their wild heart. Pashupatinath temple and Muktinath temple are its most popular spiritual destinations. Pokhara, which is famous for its surreal Himalayan views is a gateway to the cold desert of Jomsom and the trek to Annapurna base camp and peak. And on the opposite site of the country lies its most popular trail, which leads to Everest Base camp and peak. In between, there is ample amount of nature, culture, good food and great people.

How to get the visa: Indian citizens don’t need a visa to visit Nepal. All they need is their passport or government authorized identification card.

My favorite part of the country is: The trek to Annapurna base camp, the temples of Patan and Bhaktapur, the evening aarti at Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, staying in the tea houses near Jomsom and walking in and around the lanes by Kathmandu’s Dubar Square.

8) Laos

Crazy Jumping Stunts at Vang Vieng's Blue Lagoon

Laos is the ideal country if relaxation is on your agenda. It has lush nature, a very slow pace of life, it is cheap (which means you can stay for a long while), it has delicious food, great culture and very helpful people. It has quiet fishing towns, a 1000 islands on the one of the largest rivers in the world, a lush plateau, a great mountain side, a fairy tale city, rich forests and many underground caves and rivers, all offering great avenues for adventure. In between all of this is the opportunity to use your feet, soak in the sunshine, relish the local cuisine and recharge your batteries.

How to get the visa: Indian passport holders get visa on arrival at most Laos borders. All you need are 2 passport size photographs, a return flight ticket and proof of funds. You can also apply for the same at the nearest Laos consulate. The visa offers a stay of 30 days that can be extended by a further 15 days.

My favorite part of the country is: The fishing hamlets of Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi, Motorcycling through the lush forests of Bolavan plateau, chill at the riverine islands of Don Det or Don Khon and explore the culture in the fairy tale city of Luang Prabang.

9) Cambodia

The Lovely Long Beach of Koh Rong Island

Cambodia is home to Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu temple in the world, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most visited destinations in the world. While Angkor Wat should definitely be in your Cambodia holiday itinerary, there are many more tourist attractions in this tropical country. It is home to gorgeous islands, pristine beaches, a lake that is an ecological hotspot, its heart wrenching killing fields, a lush tropical atmosphere with many spots to unwind, relax and rejuvenate.

How to get the visa: Indian passport holders can easily get an eVisa for Cambodia or they can go via the Cambodian consulate and get the stamp visa. Both options are fairly straightforward as you all need is your passport, proof of funds and return flight ticket.

My favorite part of the country is:Prasat Bayon, one of the temples part of the Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap, the floating world of Tonle Sap, Koh Rong’s white sandy beaches and emerald waters and relaxing in the laidback riverside town of Kampot.

10) Vietnam

Mui Ne - where sand dunes and the sea meet in Vietnam

The last destination in this list also happens to offer a great bang for the buck. It is also a place that offers many charms. You can fire guns and rifles at Cu Chi Tunnels near Saigon, you can surf down sand dunes at Mui Ne while looking at the South China Sea, you can float down the Tam Coc river while surrounded by paddy fields and limestone karsts, you could indulge in mountain treks at SaPa and you can explore the Hindu trails of the Champa kingdom at My Son. Then, there are the eternal favorites of Vietnam – a Halong Bay cruise, the cultural hub and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hoi An and shopping in the local markets of Ho Chi Minh.

How to get the visa: Unlike the other countries, the Vietnam visa is not as straightforward. You can either apply for an e-visa, get the approval letter and get your visa on your arrival in Vietnam. This evisa is valid only if you fly into the approved airports and they don’t work for land borders. You can also get the stamp visa from your nearest Vietnamese consulate. The pre approved stamp visas will work at all borders.

My favorite part of the country is: The cultural hub of Hoi An, the Tam Coc river cruise, dune surfing at Mui Ne and trekking in the terraced rice fields of Sapa.

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Thursday, June 03, 2021

Belur Chennakeshava Temple: The Grandest of all Hoysala Temples

The famous pillars of Hoysala architecture at Belur, Karnataka

The temples built during the reign of the Hoysala kings of Karnataka happen to be some of the most intricately designed temples in all of India. Their lathe turned pillars, beautifully carved sculptures, ceiling work, reliefs, friezes, iconography, inscriptions and history are some of the best in the business. Out of the 1500 temples that were built during their reign, the 12th century Chenna Keshava temple at Belur happens to be the grandest of them all.

Dedicated to the handsome lord Keshava, this 12th century temple marvel and an important pilgrimage site in Vaishnavism was built over three generations and took 103 years to finish. It was commissioned by King Vishnuvardhana in 1117 CE on the banks of the Yagachi river in Belur, also called Velapura, an early Hoysala empire capital.

A colorful moment from Chennakeshava temple, Belur, Karnataka

It was attacked and plundered many times by Muslim invaders and was always rebuilt. The Vijayanagara kings took over the mantle of temple management and restoration upon the end of the Hoysala era. The large gopuram, a gold kalasa, smaller shrines and other elements were added during the reign of the Vijayanagara kingdom. But, the main temple, its sculptures and design elements are still from the original Hoysala era. And boy are they are a treat for the eyes.

Photographs and videos hardly do any justice to this temple. While the large sculptures, the relief panels and the friezes on the external walls of the temple are simply outstanding, it is the different design elements of the temple interiors that make your jaw drop. May be, that is why they don’t allow you to take photos of the temple interiors. You have to come and see for yourself.

Side view portrait from Belur Chennakeshava temple, Karnataka

This ekakuta temple that is built using soapstone started with the temple architecture template of Western Chalukyan artists and then added the Hoysala flavour to it. As with temple architecture, things get more intricate and ornate with time. So it is simpler when you compare it the Hoysaleswara temple at Halebid and the Chenna Keshava temple at Somnathpura, but what Belur enjoys is size that is matched with intricacy and design. It has the largest navaranga of all Hoysala temples and nearly all of the famous Hoysala artists have left their mark here.

The three pillars of Belur Chennakeshaava temple - elephants, lions and horses

The ideal way to visit this temple is by making yourself free for at least three hours. Sunrise or sunset would be perfect to see the temple sculptures dazzle in the golden light. You start with a simple pradakshina of the external wall before heading inside to admire the real beauty. And once you are done with all your history, art and culture exploration, you can find a nice comfortable place and watch the devotees, tourists and temple priests go about their visit. I always find this interesting and sometimes it makes for great photographs. Finally, you can head out of the temple, search for a good local restaurant and top your visit with some local food and coffee.

There are many ways to explore and enjoy this temple, but irrespective of who you are and where you are from, you will end up being dazzled by the prospective UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best examples of Hoysala temple architecture.

A selfie moment at Belur Chennakeshava temple, Karnataka, India

How to reach there:

There are two routes to reach Belur. One is via the Bangalore – Hassan highway and the other is via the Bangalore – Shimoga highway. Below is the full route map.

1) Route 1: Hassan highway: Bangalore –> Nelamangala –> Kunigal –> Channarayapatna –> Hassan –> Belur

2) Route 2: Shimoga highway: Bangalore –> Nelamangala –> Kunigal –> Yediyur –> Turuvekere –> Tiptur –> Arsikere –> Banavara –> Javagal-> Halebeedu –> Belur

The nearest railway stations are Kadur and Birur. The nearest large bus station would be either Banavara or Hassan.

The nearest airport would be Mangalore international airport, but the one with the best connectivity would be Bangalore international airport.

Narasimha Avatar of Vishnu as a sculpture at Chennakeshava temple, Belur, Karnataka

Temple timings:

The Belur Chenna Keshava temple is open every day between 7: 30 AM and 7: 30 PM. Mangalaarti is held once every morning and every evening. If the garbha griha is closed during lunch hours, you might want to wait or call the priest beforehand for darshan. Darshan and mangalarti timings might vary on certain festival days or other events.

Stories of epics picturized on the walls of Chennakeshava temple, Belur, Karnataka

Best season to visit:

The Belur Chennakeshava temple is open all year round, but it looks the prettiest during the rains and right after it as this is the time when all the sculptures are freshly washed in the rains, the surroundings are lush green and there is drama in the skies above.

Ornate elephant sculpture at Belur Chennakeshava temple, Karnataka

Where to stay:

KSTDC and a few other hotel properties offer good quality budget accommodation in close proximity to the temple campus. If you seek a luxurious stay, head to the Hoysala village resort on the Belur-Hassan highway.

If you are looking for farm stays or plantation stays, you should head to the coffee estate town of Chickmagalur.

Deep in thought - a Devotee at Chennakeshava temple, Belur, Karnataka

Where to eat:

Belur has a lot of eateries, shops and restaurants to choose from. While none of them offer any premium services, one can definitely find a wide variety of food. If you wish for a luxurious dining experience, you should head to Hoysala village resort on the road from Belur to Hassan.

Stunning carvings on the external walls of Channakeshava temple, Belur, Karnataka

Other nearby Hoysala temples:

1) Hoysaleswara temple at Halebid

2) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Javagal

3) Veeranarayana temple at Belavadi

4) Lakshmi Devi temple at Doddagaddavalli

5) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Nuggehalli

6) Sadashiva temple at Nuggehalli

7) Brahmeshvara temple at Kikkeri

8) Panchalingeshwara temple at Govindanahalli

9) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Hosaholalu

10) Chenna Keshava temple at Somnathpur

11) Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe

12) Chenna Keshava temple at Turuvekere

13) Ishvara temple at Arsikere

14) Chenna Keshava temple at Anekere

15) Mallikarjuna temple at Basaralu

16) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Haranhalli

Side entrance to the Belur Channakeshava temple, Karnataka

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Shettihalli rosary church ruins in the Hemavati reservoir

2) The hill station and coffee estates of Chickmagalur

3) The wide Hemagiri falls on the Hemavati river

4) The temple town of Melukote famous for its Iyengars and puliyogare

5) The Jain pilgrimage site of Shravanabelagola that is home to the mighty Baahubali statue

6) The hill station of Kemmangundi

7) The beautiful Hebbe Falls surrounded by coffee estates

8) The absolutely photogenic Mysore palace

9) The butterfly forest of India called Bisle Ghat

10) Bhadra tiger reserve known for its tigers, river terns and leopards

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