July 2023 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Friday, July 21, 2023

Rolling Injipara Tea Estates of Valparai: Stunning Location for a Morning Walk

Injipara Tea Estate and the factory in the yonder, Valparai

Do you love plantation holidays? Well, if you do, you will certainly like the rolling Injipara tea estates of Valparai. Owned by the Woodbriar group and home to two of the Briar Tea Bungalow properties, this private tea garden landscape is a treat for the eyes. As Injipara tea estate is privately owned land, only the people staying in any of the Briar Tea Bungalows can visit this place. This means that you hardly have more than a few tens of people at any time here.

The rolling hills of tea as seen from the cottages of Stanmore Garden Bungalows, Valparai

While the private roads of Injipara tea estate make for a beautiful winding drive, I think it makes for a stunning location for a morning walk. You can either embark on your walk after your morning tea/coffee or you can carry hot piping coffee and cookies with you and enjoy them at a scenic pit stop.

The scenic private road through Injipara Estate, Valparai

Tea factories, rivers, birdlife, wildlife, butterflies, lush nature and more can be experienced on this walk through Injipara tea estate. While you enjoy the heady smell of tea wafting through the air, keep an eye out for peacocks that usually can be found amidst the tea bushes during the morning hours. There are old bus stops that make for great picnic spots and where you can enjoy your tea/coffee and cookies. The fresh air, the disappearing morning mist, the golden rays of the morning sun and the heady panoramic view of rolling tea gardens makes this an absolutely special morning plantation walk.

Injipara Tea Estate, Valparai

If you happen to be visiting Valparai, do check out this place. If you aren’t staying at the Briar Tea Bungalows, you can drop by Stanmore garden bungalow for some tea and snacks and request the office for permission to go on this walk. If you are staying at any of the Briar Tea Bungalows, you should definitely not miss either the Injipara tea garden morning walk or the hike to Nadumalai river. I recommend this place with double thumbs up!

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Thursday, July 20, 2023

Top Tips for a Canada Road Trip

Wildlife Crossing in Banff National Park, Canada

Driving across Canada is a great way to explore the best places and get an authentic experience. There are lots of perks to opting for an adventure with a car or RV, the most important of all being how much you will actually see along the way. However, choosing this option does require some strategic planning that is simply inescapable. Here are the top tips for a Canada road trip that will enhance your adventure and create some great memories.

Plan Your Route from Start to Finish

The best way to plan your road trip route is to divide destinations into non-negotiable and optional. The optional column is things you can fit in along the way if time allows, and the non-negotiable is self-explanatory. With this list of places, sights, and experiences you can begin to build the most efficient driving route that will tick every place off along the way.

Make Sure You Know the Rules of the Road

Canada has its own driving laws that you need to learn if you are going to be spending a significant amount of time behind the wheel. Don’t get caught out by poor preparation, because it is important to feel confident before you start driving so your trip is as enjoyable as possible.

Take Care of Essential Admin in Advance

There are a few things you will need for your Canadian road trip, including, most importantly, your passport. Canada requires people from a lot of other countries to hold a valid visa too, and you can click here to figure out what you need to do in this area. Sorting out the details means taking care of the tasks like this well in advance of your departure date. You don’t need anything delaying the big moment, and admin is just a small steppingstone to cross in order to have the best adventure.

Plan for the Weather

Yukon Highway, Canada

Canada has some extreme weather depending on where you are going and what time of year it is. Certain parts have freezing cold temperatures and lots of snow, and even storms which you won’t want to get caught up in. Research your route properly and make sure you are not at risk of being swept up by any adverse conditions from the skies because this will put your safety at risk and reduce the enjoyment factor too. The best time to drive about is definitely the spring or summer (as long as you have air conditioning).

Pack Smart

Canada is a vast country, especially when traveling by road. There could be hours between petrol stations and amenities in certain areas so you have to pack smart. If you see a big gap on the route, make sure you are covered provisions wise and fuel wise so that you don’t end up in the middle of nowhere with limited phone reception and options for being rescued.

Whether you’re going to see the mountains or hitting the big cities, Canada has hundreds of things to offer travellers. Stay safe by planning ahead and making sure you are aware of potential dangers along the way.

Note: The pictures used in this article have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the creative commons license. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.org.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2023

7 Smart Ways to Cut Travel Expenses and Maximize Your Experience

7 Smart Ways to cut travel expenses and maximize your experience

If you’re feeling that call to broaden your horizon and see the world, you’re certainly not alone. Many people head off on their travels to experience new cultures, cuisines, and landscapes. However, traveling has the potential to cost a fortune, which is what puts many people off. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered with these seven smart ways to cut travel expenses.

Be Flexible with Dates

The prices for accommodation and flights are always more expensive during peak periods, but there’s no real pattern as to when the cheapest options will be during this time. Therefore, you should have flexibility when searching online. For example, instead of putting exact dates in for a week away, you could search across a whole month and simply book the cheapest dates. As accommodation and flights will make up a large portion of your total spending, it’s a good idea to learn how to find the cheapest flights and accommodation.

Find Budget Accommodation

If you don't set some boundaries, you’ll find that your accommodation will consume the majority of your budget, leaving you with very little to enjoy yourself. Therefore, you should learn how to find cheap accommodation options. For example, instead of staying in lavish hotels, search for hostels, Airbnbs, and homestays. In most cases, these options will be considerably cheaper - often saving hundreds of dollars across the duration of the trip.

Find Free Things to Do

Some activities will cost a lot of money, but there will be a lot more to do at very little cost. For example, instead of walking around the niche art show, explore the free museum or roam around a local park. If you’re stuck for inspiration on where to go, you can look at the walking tours and follow the route yourself. In most cases, you can find all of the information provided by the walking tour operator online.

Eat Where the Locals Eat

People need to eat, and popular tourist destinations know this, which is why you’ll find inflated prices. Therefore, when it’s time to enjoy a meal, head off the beaten track and find restaurants frequented by locals. Not only will you save plenty of money, but you’ll also have a unique cultural experience that you won’t find in a restaurant full of tourists.

Avoid Using Taxis or Renting Cars

When traveling within your destination, you’ll find that using taxis or renting a car will be fairly expensive. Whereas, if you’re willing to spend time observing a timetable and waiting for trains, trams, and buses, you’ll save a fortune on travel and have more money to spend on activities. If you’re visiting large cities like Paris, London, and Amsterdam, you’ll find they have incredible and affordable transportation networks.

Register for Newsletters

If you’re planning your trip well in advance, have a look online for travel-related newsletters to sign up for. As well as receiving useful travel information, you may be sent exclusive offers for attractions, flights, and accommodation. Even though newsletters will fill up your inbox, you can organize them into a dedicated travel folder and set exclusive notifications for incoming emails.

Consider Volunteering

If you’re heading out for a long traveling experience, then consider volunteering for an incredible experience. Even though you won’t get paid for volunteering, many placements will pay for travel, provide food, and even accommodation, which means you can spend more on other elements of the trip.

If you don’t budget and think about ways to slice travel costs, you’ll end up falling short of fulfilling your wanderlust. With these smart money-saving strategies on your side, you’ll be having that much-needed escape in no time.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2023

The Top Destinations for Older Adults on a Cruise

Top Cruise Destinations for Older Adults

Cruising offers a unique and exciting way for older adults to explore the world. Not only is it a wonderful way to see a number of beautiful, exotic destinations, but it gives seniors the chance to have an exciting, adventurous vacation in comfort and style, without excessive effort or inconvenience.

However, with a plethora of cruise destinations to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide where to set sail. Fortunately, many destinations cater specifically to the interests and needs of older adults, providing enriching experiences and unforgettable memories.

In this article, we'll explore some of the top cruise destinations that are perfect for older adults, offering a combination of relaxation, cultural immersion, and breath taking sights.


Glacier National Park, Alaska

Cruising to Alaska is an excellent choice for older adults seeking natural beauty and tranquillity. The region's majestic glaciers, rugged mountains, and abundant wildlife create a picturesque backdrop for a memorable cruise experience. The breath taking views of Glacier Bay National Park and the grandeur of the Inside Passage are ideal to view from the deck of a cruise ship, and there are plenty of charming coastal towns which can be explored on shore excursions.

The Mediterranean

Cruising in the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean region offers a treasure trove of historical sites, cultural diversity, and scenic landscapes, and as such it is a glorious cruise destination for seniors. Cruising through the Mediterranean allows older adults to visit iconic destinations such as Rome, Athens, Barcelona, and Istanbul, each filled with rich history, architectural wonders, and world-renowned museums. The Mediterranean is one of the calmer expanses of water in the world, so there’s no need to worry about storms or rough weather, and you can explore ancient ruins, stroll through charming old towns, savour delicious cuisine, and immerse yourself in the vibrant Mediterranean lifestyle.

The Scandinavian Fjords

Cruising through the fjords of Scandinavia

A cruise to the Scandinavian fjords offers the chance to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of Norway's landscapes. The fjords offer a serene and peaceful environment, with towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque villages. Cruise along the fjords, stopping at charming ports like Bergen and Geiranger, and enjoy the region's unique blend of natural splendour and Scandinavian charm.

South Pacific Islands

For seniors seeking a tropical paradise, a cruise to the South Pacific islands is an ideal choice. Destinations such as Bora Bora, Tahiti, and Fiji, provide crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, and lush green landscapes, as well as incredible luxury and first-class treatment. The laid-back island lifestyle and warm hospitality make it a perfect destination for older adults looking for a serene and rejuvenating getaway.


Pristine Caribbean Island Holiday

Board a cruise in Galveston and set sail to the enchanting Caribbean, a perennial favourite among cruise enthusiasts of all ages, including older adults. With its warm climate, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture, the Caribbean offers a multitude of experiences. Cruise through the turquoise waters, visit colourful ports like St. Thomas, Cozumel, and Barbados, and indulge in tropical delights. Whether you prefer relaxing on the beach, exploring historic sites, or engaging in water sports, the Caribbean has something for everyone.

New Zealand

Cruising through Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Cruising to New Zealand offers a diverse range of experiences, from stunning landscapes to Maori culture. Sail through the fjords of Milford Sound, visit cities like Auckland and Wellington, and explore the breath taking national parks. Immerse yourself in Maori traditions, sample local wines, and enjoy the hospitality of this beautiful country known for its adventure and natural wonders.

Cruising provides older adults with an incredible opportunity to explore the world in comfort and style. So, set sail on a remarkable journey, embrace new adventures, and create lasting memories as you explore these remarkable destinations tailored for older adults on a cruise.

Note: The pictures in this article have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the creative commons license. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.org.

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Saturday, July 01, 2023

Pattamadai Pai: GI Tagged Beautiful Handwoven Mats from a Tiny Tamil Nadu Village

Elderly woman making silk mat by traditional hand machine at Pattamadai

This heritage item of India was once gifted to Queen Elizabeth II by the Government of Tamil Nadu. In 2013, it received the geographical indication (GI) tag. It is an art form that is centuries old and that is unique to this region. I am talking about the absolutely gorgeous pattu pai (silk mat) and the korai pai (grass mat) from the village of Pattamadai in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu state in India. It is fondly called as ‘Pattamadai Pai’ by the locals.

A stunning 100 count pattu pai (silk mat) from Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu

Made from korai grass found abundantly on the banks of the Thamarabharani river of this region, the Pattamadai Pai started when Syed Khalifa Meeran, a preacher who belonged to the Lebbai community, settled in Pattamadai many centuries ago. Today, this Pattamadai pai, is so famous that it is seen in almost all weddings and engagements that take place in this region. Either, the wedding rituals take place on these mats or they are gifted to the bride and the groom on the wedding day. I have such a pattu pai with the names of my parents from their wedding day 42 years ago and it still exists in pristine condition and it is an absolute joy to sleep on it.

The natural colouring ingredients  for the traditional Pattamadai Pai

The Lebbai community started this art form to provide themselves with a supplementary source of income. They involved everyone in the household. While the men did the outdoor work, the women were in charge of the weaving. Even today, it is the elderly women of this Muslim trading community who weave the high quality silk mats or pattu pai. Unfortunately, there are only a few weavers who are keeping the tradition of weaving high thread count mats alive. Today, a lot of weaving takes place through power looms and the ones that are made via handlooms are lower thread counts.

The famous korai grass from the banks of the Thamirabharani river that goes into making the Pattamadai pai

The journey of the Pattamadai Pai begins with the harvest of the karungadukorai grass from the banks of the Thamarabharani river in the months of September and October and February and March. This korai grass then goes through processes like drying, soaking, splitting and dyeing. The grass is then further dried under the sun and polished with a stone for a smooth finish. Both natural and chemical colours are used to dye the grass.

Inside the workshop of a pattamadai mat weaving center

Once you soak the grass, you can actually split it into different threads. This is what allows the weave of the high quality silk mats. These mats are soft to the touch and can easily be folded and hence demand a premium. Unfortunately, this art form is limited to a few people, especially elderly women. Hence, not only are these mats really expensive, but they also take more than three months to weave the high quality 100 thread count mat.

A beautiful design of a 52 count pattu pai (silk mat) from Pattamadai

I waited for close to a year for these 100 thread count custom silk mats, but unfortunately could never see the final output. That is the sorry state of affairs with our GI tagged heritage products. But, luckily, I received the 52 count intricate design custom silk mats within 6 months of placing the order. You just have to hope and pray that there are no unforeseen rains during that time else the weaving process is bound to take a few more weeks.

Mats of all colurs, designs and types at Pattamadai

If you don’t mind for any custom mats with your name mentioned on it, then you can find a whole lot of ready made options and you might be able to strike a bargain too. Apparently, the demand is for mats with names and dates stitched onto it. People prefer these for weddings and events and hence they cost a premium both in terms of money and time.

Modern power looms that make cheaper pattamadai pai

If you like rich Indian heritage and culture and you like rural holidays, you will definitely fall in love with Pattamadai and its silk mats. Ideally, you should start off with the government weaving center, get to know how they procure the raw materials and prepare it for weaving, see the handloom and power loom weaving take place up close and then move on to the many shops in the village. The icing on the cake would be to take back home some GI tagged Pattamadai Pai gifts for yourself and your family and friends.

A traditional Pattamadai pattu pai weaving in action

Typical price of products:

1) 100 thread count handwoven pattamadai silk mat (pattu pai) (standard size is 6 feet length and 2.5 feet width): ~ INR 8000 with extra for extra length and INR 300 per line of name

2) 52 thread count handwoven pattamadai silk mat (pattu pai) (standard size is 6 feet length and 3 feet width) with intricate designs: ~ INR 3300 with extra for extra length and INR 200 per line of name

3) 52 thread count handwoven pattamadai silk mat with simple designs: ~ INR 1800 with extra for extra length and INR 200 per line of name

4) Powerloom based simple pattamadai pai: INR 180 to INR 1500, depending on quality and design

5) Handwoven silk pooja mat: INR 750 per piece

6) Bags, purses, storage boxes and/or hand fans: INR 50 to 200 depending on product and design

Inside a Pattamadai pai shop and looking at the mats

Health benefits of Pattamadai Pai:

1) Unlike a modern day mattress or plastic mats, the korai grass of the pattamadai pai is believed to cool down the body and hence reduces all kinds of inflammation in the body. One can either keep the mat directly on the floor or on top of a bed for full benefits.

2) Since the pattamadai pai is made of natural fabrics, it is believed that one gets good sleep on it. It is considered to be very good for toddlers and young kids.

Mats of all shapes and sizes at Pattamadai

Where to buy authentic pattamadai pai?:

1) Raziya Mat Industries – Suleiman: +91 98433 86435. They have two different shops in Pattamadai. One is inside the village and the other is on the highway from Pattamadai to Tirunelveli.

2) Aspeer Mohammad - +91 94435 07392. This shop is right at the corner where the highway meets the village road.

Gift items and daily use items made from Pattamadai pai

Items that can be bought here:

1) Pattu pai or silk mats with or without names and dates engraved onto it.

2) Regular pattamadai pai for day to day rough use

3) Pooja mats and placemats

4) Hand bags and Purses

5) Baskets and storage boxes

6) Hand fans

Daily use items made from Pattamadai pai

Best season to visit:

Pattamadai’s best season has to be between the months of October through February. April through June happen to be the hottest months and are best avoided. However, if you wish to custom order any pattamadai mats, then do keep in mind that work on handwoven mats take place only during the dry season. The moisture in the air during the wet season makes the grass strands stick together and make weaving difficult and a painstaking process.

Inside a pattamadai pai weaving center

How to reach there:

The nearest railway station and bus station would be Tirunelveli, about 22 kms away.

The nearest airport would be Tuticorin, about 60 kms away.

Pattamadai is well connected by a good road network. Buses ply regularly between Tirunelveli and Pattamadai. One can also easily find taxis for hire at Tirunelveli. Hiring a taxi/cab is best if you wish for some comfort and plan to explore other tourist attractions in this region.

Women giving the finishing touches to the Pattamadai pai

Where to stay:

If you prefer creature comforts, I would recommend trying the hotels at Tirunelveli – GRT Regency, Janakiram, Aryaas.

If you wish to stay in slightly cooler weather, you should try the resorts in and around Courtrallam.

If you wish to stay in pristine nature, I would recommend that you stay at the forest rest houses in Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve.

If you care for a true rustic experience, I would recommend that you stay at any of the homestays or guest houses in Kallidaikurichi village agraharam.

The modern pattamadai pai making power loom

Where to eat:

One can easily find basic food to eat at Pattamadai, but if you want something more elaborate, head to the nearby city of Tirunelveli for lots of options. Hotel Janakiram and Hotel Aryaas are two popular options for snacks, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

An elderly woman weaving the traditional Pattamadai pattu pai

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Kallidaikurichi: The village of the Saaral season

2) Iruttu Kadai Halwa: Icon of Tirunelveli

3) Nellaiappar temple: A 7th century cosmic dance wonder

4) Thamarabharani river delta: A motorcycle route full of rustic gorgeousness

5) Karaiyar dam: Offbeat wildlife and nature holiday destination in India’s deep south

6) The hidden gem called Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserve

7) 1000 year old Papanasanathar temple: Where you can wash all your sins away

8) Courtrallam: The herbal bath holiday destination of Tamil Nadu

9) Tiruchendur Murugan temple: Sea shore magic

10) Mannarkoil Rajagopalaswamy temple: Magnificent 10th century temple with an ashtanga vimana

11) 10th century Kailasanathar temple at Brahmadesam

12) 10th century Valiswara temple at Thiruvaleeswaram

13) Sivasailam: One of the wettest places during the north east monsoon in India

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