Thursday, 27 July 2017

How To Have ‘Local Experiences’ In An Indian City?

I’m so much in love and in awe of India. No, it’s not a patriotic statement. It’s purely an expression of a traveller’s heart. Although I’m an Indian by birth, and have lived here all my life, I’m fascinated by it. I think it’s unusual to be fascinated by your own country. What do you say?

But, I have reasons for my fascination. I think Indian cities exude so much. There’s so much to absorb in an Indian city – chaos, drama, thrill, colours, and sounds. You just can’t get enough of it in a jiffy. You have to give it time.

The best way to explore a city (not just in India but anywhere in the world) is by seeing it from a local’s perspective. It’s always more fun to have local experiences in a city. And, when it comes to Indian cities, the experiences are unique and diverse.


So, here are my tips on exploring Indian cities through local experiences –

Amble through the local markets.
I always make it a point to stroll through a famous market of the city that I’m in, which helps me learn about its local traditions and preferences. For instance, if you browse through the markets of Kolkata, you would discover a great deal about its art and craft, traditional clothes, spices and a variety of other local stuff.



Taste and learn about the local cuisine.
Since I’m a foodie, I like to taste the local cuisine of my destination. It’s always fun and also enriching to learn about a city’s food history – little details about their culinary traditions and different evolvements that happened over the years.

Besides finding restaurants that serve authentic local cuisines, you can also look for an opportunity to eat at a local’s home. Yes, eating straight from a local’s kitchen is an exclusive experience. You would not just savour delicious home-made food, but also get some interesting insights about the place, the culture and the people. 



Travel by public transport.
Unless you want to do a guided tour of a city, refrain from travelling in taxis. It’s always better to use the public transport of a city. You can hire cabs on and off for your comfort, but make sure to experience some modest and charming modes of transport. For instance, a cycle rickshaw ride in the alleys of Old Delhi can be an absolutely enthralling experience.  


Talk to the locals.
I like talking to the locals quite a bit on my travels. I always look for an excuse to begin a conversation. Quick pleasantries, gleam in the eyes, smile, small chit-chats or long conversations – any kind of communication opens doors for better understanding of the local way of living and beliefs. For instance, I never follow Google maps for directions. I always ask a local if I’m looking for a place.    


Walk the streets.
I love walking and wandering in a new city. There’s a sense of freedom in walking through places in a city. The best part about wandering a city is that you get to discover so many unexpected and interesting attractions while you are on a lookout for something particular.

What has been your favourite ‘local experience’ in an Indian city?  

This post is written in collaboration with Xenia City Experiences.

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Thursday, 13 July 2017

10 Reasons To Explore Karnataka

Whenever I’m asked about my favourite destinations in India, I have my pat answer – Rajasthan and Goa. However, there’s one destination where I have travelled quite a few times and it has grown on me. It’s one of the states in Southern India – Karnataka. I have done all kinds of travels there – solo travel, family travel, mother-daughter trip and couple travel, and all my experiences have been fabulous.

Karnataka is quite diverse I’d say. There’s so much to explore and absorb in the state. But, wherever you go in Karnataka, make sure to transit in Bangalore for a few days. I simply love the city. I want to go back to Bangalore for its amazing food scene, and its lovely tree-lined streets. Some of the hotels in Bangalore give a good overview of the city. So, choose to stay at a nice hotel, such as Shangri la hotels.

Here are my reasons to love Karnataka –

Beautiful landscapes

As a traveller and a photographer, I look for beautiful landscapes all the time, and Karnataka has plenty of them. Be it my road trip from Hyderbad to Bangalore, Hampi or Dandeli, I have been amazed by the awe-inspiring landscapes.

Have a look at these pictures and you will know what I mean –


Great food

As a foodie, I can vouch for the gastronomy of Karnataka. From the South Indian dishes to the multi-cuisine eating options, I have loved the food wherever I have been in Karnataka.


Lovely people

I believe people are the soul of a place. I have met some really nice folks in Karnataka. Even though I have not been able to communicate in words due to language barrier, the smile and the warmth of the locals have expressed what I needed to hear.

Village charms

Karnataka has many interesting villages. The life is so laidback and fun. I have explored the countryside of Hampi on a bicycle and wandered through the villages of Udupi.

Here are a few glimpses –


It’s colourful and quirky

Karnataka has lots for your wandering eyes – flower hawkers, colourful temples, effortless street art and festivities.


Culturally vibrant

There’s so much to admire about the culture of Karnataka – the traditional music and dances, the everyday living of the locals, etc.


The beaches of Karnataka

Yes, the coastal belt of Karnataka is remarkable. The fact that it’s so untainted makes it so much more appealing. The beaches of Karnataka are quiet, beautiful and unheard of.

Take a look –


The heritage of Hampi

Hampi is a unique town of Karnataka – its UNESCO recognised world heritage site for its ancient temple complexes. I’d say it’s one of the most inviting reasons to visit Karnataka.

Lots of quick getaway options

Karnataka has places like Coorg, Hampi, Mysore, Nandi Hills, Chikmagalur and many others that make excellent quick escapes from Bangalore. So, you are always inclined towards exploring more and more of Karnataka.


Good transport options

Compared to the rest of India, Karnataka has good transport facilities. As far as my experience goes, I travelled with ease through places like Bangalore and Hampi. There are trains and buses available to commute between towns and cities.

Have you been to Karnataka? Is it your kind of a destination?
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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

My Favourite Places For SLOW TRAVEL

Slow Travel is my favourite way of exploring a place. I like to travel without an agenda on mind. I wouldn’t say that I don’t visit ‘tourist’ points. I’d say that although I mostly enjoy immersive, slow-paced travel, I do follow set itineraries once in a while. But, I don’t believe in visiting all the hot spots and exhausting myself. I believe in visiting a few places with inquisitiveness and keenness.


So what is slow travel?

In my opinion, slow travel is following your heart. It’s about observing the everyday life of a place, the locals, the regular shops, markets, cafes and restaurants, and other such things. I also believe that slow travel is about not caring about time. When we are too busy in our schedules, we try to accomplish a lot through the day. But, we end up feeling that time is just flying away. So, slow travel is your opportunity to hold that lost time and live it.

How to travel on a slow pace?

I have been able to do slow-paced travel on both long and short trips, because I guess it’s more about your attitude and style. If you want to soak in the tone of a place, you stop and notice a lot of things. I’m not saying that you should put the popular sites off your list, but keep a balance. For instance, I did visit the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, but I also watched the sun rise from my hotel’s rooftop. Do your share of touristic stuff, but do it within your comfort zone. Don’t over exhaust yourself.


So WHERE should you go to experience ‘slow travel’?

Well, as I said earlier, slow travel is an attitude and style of a traveller. You can experience a slow-paced travel anywhere in the world. But, I have a few favourite destinations for SLOW TRAVEL.

There are places that are ideal for slowing down and doing nothing. Since I have travelled mostly in India, I’d like to talk about destinations in India –

Jaisalmer
I had a two-day trip in Jaisalmer. I wouldn’t say that it was exactly slow-paced, as my first day was totally consumed by the desert safari. However, I made the following day an immersive one by not doing much. I sojourned at one of the guest houses in the Golden Fort, which is the best place to stay in Jaisalmer for the real ‘soak-up’ time. You don’t need to go anywhere. The moment you step out of your hotel, there are varied elements to introduce you to the culture of Rajasthan. Besides, there’s a different air to Jaisalmer. It’s a world of its own.


Here’s what I did to absorb the essence of Jaisalmer –

- Enjoyed an early morning tea with my fellow travellers. We sat on the rooftop overlooking the temples and the entire vicinity of the fort.  
- Wandered through the narrow lanes of the fort.
- Watched the locals go about their day, children play cricket, artists paint and shopkeepers and vendors do their work.
- Had an afternoon of natters with my hotel staff. It was a different experience for we always look at them from a business perspective. It was nice to know about their lives.


I’d definitely like to revisit Jaisalmer on a long trip, maybe a week or so. I’d like to spend my days sitting in a cafĂ©, reading books, writing something or talking to people. Jaisalmer has quite a few interesting cafes and restaurants, which are ideal for slow travel. I didn’t get a chance to explore them due to my tiny trip. But, on my next visit, I’m going to snack on every meal possible and drink as much caffeine as my stomach allows.    

Offbeat Goa
There’s an ‘unruffled’ Goa that I absolutely love. I was amazed when I visited it during its busiest season of Christmas and New Year, and I could still discover the quiet Goa in the lesser-known places like Saligao (North Goa) and Loutulim (South Goa). Then on another trip, I got to explore Olaulim (a village in North Goa), which is your ‘Goa sans beaches’.


Here’s a quick glimpse into why Goa is my favourite ‘slow travel’ destination –

- My morning saunter through Saligao, discovering the countryside, and visiting a local bakery.
- Exchanging pleasantries with locals, taking their tips on what to explore in Goa.
- Wandering through Fontainhas – the Portuguese gem of Goa.
- Bathing my soul with lushness at Olaulim Backyards


I have never visited Goa alone. So, I definitely have a ‘solo and slow’ trip in store for myself. I’d like to sojourn at a heritage home stay, eat only the basic Goan cuisine, wander through places, discover cafes and restaurants, check out bookstores, markets, and perhaps build some friendships.

Srinagar
I had a long solo trip in Srinagar, Kashmir. I’d say Srinagar has been my best ‘slow travel’ experience so far. I was there for 13-15 days, out of which I made a few quick trips to the other parts of Kashmir. But, Srinagar was my base and I really dug deep into its local life. I ditched the Mughal gardens and most of the things that are on a tourist’s wish-list and embraced the sights and sounds of the markets, the alleyways and the famous Dal Lake. My ‘solo’ shikara ride is one of my most favourite memories.


Here’s how I absorbed the beauty of Srinagar bit by bit –

- Repeated visits to the Dal Lake, solo Shikara ride, and my natters with the houseboat chaps.
- Bakery hopping, lots of auto rides, lots of aimless walks around the Dal Lake, Boulevard area and in the old city.
- My stay with a traditional Kashmiri family.


Srinagar was totally a no-agenda trip. Therefore, I could learn so much about the Kashmiris. I realized that except for some ‘hard selling aggression’ of the business folks, Kashmiris are usually sweet and polite people. I’m definitely going to revisit Kashmir during the autumn season when it’s all ‘yellow and brown’. 

Also, I'd like to encamp in the lesser-known regions around Srinagar... I have never really backpacked, but I'd like to try an external frame backpack and live in a solo tent.

Hampi
I enjoyed four blissful days in Hampi. Although Hampi has lots of places to visit (it is a World Heritage Town recognised by UNESCO), you can spend days doing nothing and simply soaking in the laidback vibe around. I did a mix of sightseeing and relaxing.


The top ‘slow travel’ experiences that I had in Hampi –

- Woke up early to witness the countryside bathed in the mellow morning sunlight.
- Bicycled my way to the Anagundi village. Halted to have a ‘disastrous’ lunch with a fellow traveller. (Travel isn’t about delicious meals all the time.)
- Enjoyed noshing on delicious continental food across the river.
- Mingled with my foreign fellow travellers at the guest house where I stayed and shared a dinner with them.
- Watched quite a few beautiful sunsets.


I’m definitely going visit Hampi again. But, I won’t just go for its heritage. I will also aim at eating a lot of food – both local and continental. I’ll try to make it a reading holiday, too. Hampi is a perfect cocoon for a reader. You can sit with a stack of books on a hot afternoon and just enjoy every bit of it.

What about you? Have you tried slow travel?
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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

My Top 10 'Instagram' Travel Photos

I love drooling over all those stunning travel images on Instagram! Truly, there’s no better inspiration than beautiful photos. Isn’t it? It’s like travelling through the world virtually. I’d like to admit that I started using Instagram a little late, but I’m enjoying it thoroughly now. In fact, I have a huge collection of travel photos from my travels of so many years that I can’t wait to share. There are some photos that I haven’t shared anywhere, not on Facebook nor here on my blog.
  
So, follow my voyages on Instagram/voyager_for_life

For now, enjoy my top 10 travel photos on Instagram in no particular order –
A post shared by Renuka Walter (@voyager_for_life) on
A post shared by Renuka Walter (@voyager_for_life) on
A post shared by Renuka Walter (@voyager_for_life) on


Did you enjoy my ‘Instagramic’ voyage? Make sure to follow me on Instagram!


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Friday, 5 May 2017

Why Is Travel Better Than Education

If you go by Saint Augustine’s quote – “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”, travel is a huge gamut of learning. Yes, travel is education. In fact, it is far greater than the traditional education that we get through school textbooks. Though I don’t intend to rule out the significance of formal education, I really want to hit hard on the fact that travel is your school for life.


I love my own travel quote, too – “The world expects you to be well-educated, but I’d rather like to be called well-travelled.”

Also read: How Do I Manage To Travel (Who funds my travels?)


Travel is your practical classroom.
Travel is your school for life without a classroom. You don’t mug up anything. You make notes on the pages of your heart and mind. The breezes, the dust, the sun, the rain, the people – their smiles, gestures and language, the colours and textures of various things, the taste of different cuisines, the thrill of witnessing a beautiful landscape, the joy of listening to some great cultural music and the fear of getting lost in the unknown… there’s so much to experience when you travel. You touch and feel everything; and thus, the lessons on the road resonate with you forever.



Travel makes you get out of your comfort zone.
I think that’s the best part about travel that it takes you out of your comfort zone. Your passion for travel makes you do things that you wouldn’t think of doing otherwise. In my case, I have travelled under dire situations – have been cramped like luggage with other passengers on long, rough road trips, stayed in dirty hotel rooms once in a while, and experienced many little stupid things that just happen, but you take them in your stride, because you want to travel!


Travel introduces ‘the alternative way of life’ to you.
I seriously believe that travel is another way of life. Those who don’t travel miss out on so much about life. On the contrary, those who travel get introduced to the much more meaningful way of life. In my opinion, a traveller has power of better perspectives, better experiences and better knowledge than a person who hasn’t been on the road. Well, I don’t intend to belittle the experience of staying home and raising children and building relationships. In fact, I have deep respect for homemakers. But, travel teaches you a gamut of things beyond your own life, family, relationships and education.


Travel makes you discover the real you. It refines you as a person.
Yes, travel gives you the freedom to be who you really are without any pressures. Your smile on the road is one hundred percent genuine and not obligatory. You do things that you really like to do, and not because someone has told you to do them or you ought to do them to fulfil some norm. Also, you become a better version of yourself when you travel. In fact, you become deep as a person, and also tolerant of the frivolousness of life, because you know you are sitting at a vantage point from where you can have the best view of life.

Have you checked out the best spotting scope under 200?


Travel makes you wiser and smarter.
Travel makes you tough. The wisdom that you attain on the road is different from the conventional wisdom or intelligence of the life sans travel. Travel teaches you the economics of travelling on a budget, yet experience exceptional joys and adventures. Travel makes you learn about the history and geography of a place.

I don’t know about you, but I’m fond of studying maps. I always go through the map of a place that I’m about to visit. So, travel makes you learn things naturally.

Travel opens your mind. It gives you the real picture of things and scenarios.
I’d like to validate this point by giving you an instance – my solo travel to Kashmir unveiled so many facets about the people of Kashmir that I didn’t know about. What I experienced in Kashmir was far from what I had heard about it. People form a notion in their head, which is given to them from one instance. But sadly, the ‘one instance’ notion becomes the truth in people’s minds until they discover the ‘real’ truth themselves. The people of Kashmir are as polite, respectful and friendly as the people in your own backyard. And yes, it’s absolutely safe to travel in Kashmir as long as you take care of yourself nicely (the way you’d anywhere else).

Also read: My Experience Of Travelling Alone In Kashmir


Travel has no scorecard, but you are always on a high.
Each trip gives you something substantial, something worth reminiscing. No matter how troublesome or challenging your travel could get, you still end up experiencing something that adds value to your life. For instance, I look back at my Arunachal Pradesh journey with a fondness for I got to stay with a Monpa family in the last leg of my trip, which helped me understand their way of life so deeply. My trip turned out to be epic not because I ticked off many places, but because I immersed into the place on a personal level. So, quality is always above quantity.

What about you? What has travel taught you?
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