Monday, 29 September 2014

4 Essential Ingredients Of Quality Travel

Travel is the romance of life. Although it seems like escaping reality, it actually makes us come to terms with ‘reality’. If you are a passionate and a seasoned traveller, you will understand what I am saying. Travel is beyond the idea of recreation and killing the monotony of life. It is a deeper happiness.


After travelling for so many years, I can say that I have attained a small degree in travel. My travel mistakes and misadventures have garnered wisdom and maturity in me. Now, I can call myself a quality traveller! And, it is pretty simple. Quality is far easier to achieve than quantity. You can go to innumerable places and see innumerable things, which may wear you out eventually. On the contrary, if you stick to fewer places and engage in fewer things, it would prove to be more substantial.
    
So, here’s the recipe of quality travel -

Slow travel

If you want to enjoy travel, keep it slow. Try to stick to a place for at least a week to be able to immerse into the environment. Get up early to watch sunrise, go for walks, sit by a lake, frequent a café, skip a few tourist sites and just do what you feel like doing.

Sunrise in Jodhpur

When I was in Gangtok, I barely did anything to speak of. I simply wandered and observed the shops, people and the local buzz, yet I felt a connection with the city.    

Experiences

Travel has little or no meaning without experiences. Whenever you set foot on a new land, make sure to explore it with an open mind and try to embrace whatever comes your way. Travel is full of wonderful surprises. For instance, you could get a chance to participate in a local tradition or someone could invite you for a cup of tea. Such unique things add quality to your life as a traveller.

Cultural experiences in Jaisalmer

I had a fabulous time in a village of Darjeeling, when I had breakfast at a local’s home.

Conversations

Talking to people is the most amusing part of travel. You don’t really have to be an extrovert to do that. There is a difference between being friends and being friendly. I’m an introvert, but I recently discovered a new side of me that loves to interact with people. I love mingling with people who belong to different regions, beliefs and cultures. It gives you a chance to discover the real essence of a place.

Tea and conversations

My dining table conversations with my host in Kurseong revealed a lot about the region, its history, its people and the challenges they face as a community, their mentality, lifestyle and traditions.  

Learning

I would like to use one of my favourite quotes to express my viewpoint – “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.” It’s such a beautiful quote and it sums up my thought perfectly. Each time you embark on a new journey, you learn something out of it. There are a few things that you learn by chance – it could be through a mishap or an unforeseen circumstance, while there are other more meaningful lessons that you learn if you really care to learn.

Quiet introspection and learning

The biggest and the most valuable lesson that I have learnt through these years is that life is beyond our desires and insecurities. I have learnt to see life with a broader outlook. So, I’d say that don’t ever keep learning out of perspective.

Do you have something to say?

How do YOU define quality travel?  

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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

That’s How I Discovered Darjeeling

Darjeeling is a legacy. It’s not an ordinary destination. I had a void in me as a traveller that always kept Darjeeling somewhere on my radar. Even though I had heard so many bad reviews about it, I still wasn’t deterred about visiting it.

I still wanted to make it there.

The true Darjeeling

As I always say that I am a curious traveller, I want to do what I want to do, and I want to go where I want to go. I will probably hit my head on the wall and know that it hurts, but I will still do it once. Since I was in Sikkim, Darjeeling wasn’t a distant dream.

When I am fascinated about a place, I draw a certain picture of it in my mind. Somehow, I knew Darjeeling was going to be delightful. I remember my first impression about it – there was a tinge of glow in my heart the moment I touched the brinks of Darjeeling district. I could feel a difference in the air. The pine trees on my both sides hinted at the secret treasures that I was about to unravel.

I DIDN’T go to Darjeeling town.
      
I went to Darjeeling, but not to the polluted, busy and commercialized Darjeeling town. I chose to stay in the quietude. I explored the offbeat Darjeeling - the villages, the tea gardens, the lesser-known towns, the British heritage, and enjoyed mingling with the Nepalese folks.

Lamahatta

Lamahatta was my first layover.

I kept it pretty off-the-cuff. When I was heading to Lamahatta, I didn’t have any idea about the place. I wanted to go somewhere else, but didn’t find a room there, so I had to settle for another accommodation, which landed me in Lamahatta.

Lamahatta is a small village, which is also one of the best spots to have clear glimpses of Kanchenjunga Mountains. 

Goomtee Tea Estate & Resort

Goomtee Tea Estate & Resort got me a chance to stay at a vintage bungalow.

Now there was another surprise waiting for me at Goomtee Resort. I didn’t know it was a British-era cottage, which was turned into a resort for travellers to enjoy a stay in the midst of nature and taste the freshly harvested Darjeeling Tea.

Dilaram Village & Tea Gardens

Kettle Valley Home Stay introduced me to Dilaram Village and its tea gardens.

After the colonial stay, I had the warm hospitality of a Nepalese family in store for me. My hosts at Kettle Valley were exceptionally nice. They unveiled the real gems of Darjeeling to me by taking me for village walks, tea garden trails and also educating me on little nuances of the local traditions and the way of life.

Kurseong

I discovered Kurseong, a lesser-known town in Darjeeling district.
   
It was not on my itinerary. I never planned to explore Kurseong, but it just happened by chance. That’s the beauty of travel. While I stayed in Dilaram at Kettle Valley, I managed to know a town like Kurseong too.

Darjeeling district has hill stations like Darjeeling, Kurseong, Mirik and Kalimpong
Darjeeling Town

I made a day trip to Darjeeling town.

Yes, I mentioned in the beginning that I didn’t go to Darjeeling. I wanted to imply that I didn’t devote much time in the commercial town. But I did take a quick trip to the main Darjeeling town as well. I must say that when I reached there, I was smugly happy to have made the right decision of not making it my base.

The Darjeeling hill station is clearly waning. It is far from the charms of the old classic Darjeeling. Although the attempts to make the whole district a tourist web are quite evident, there are still many ‘untouched’ places that I wish remain undiscovered for the rest of life.

So, now you know how to explore Darjeeling, right?

Have you been to Darjeeling? How was your experience?

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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Street Buzz In India – A Photo Essay

If you really want to immerse into the essence of India, wander its streets. Yes, the true India is experienced on the streets. Although the country is different in each region and state, there is a common thread that seeps through each Indian heart. Every city in India has the streets bustling with energy and colours. There is never a lull anywhere. It appears like a mad fete where everyone is rushing towards something. I know that the chaos and the noise can get on people’s nerves. But, the streets in India have character. They define life.

Even though I’m an Indian, I still have a sense of wonder for the street buzz in India. I have put together a few photos that depict Indian streets and the happiness they exude.


He is a Chaiwala (the tea guy) at Charminar, Hyderabad. There is something about tea that Indians can’t recover from. The tea shops on the streets add an unrivalled flavour in our lives.


It’s a snack stall in Darjeeling. The sizzle, the spices and the gluttony go very well with the tourist bustle. Eating on the road is something that can never go out of tradition in India.


It’s a florist shop under an old staircase in Gangtok. The two local girls yakked and giggled non-stop, while the customers kept pouring in.


It’s called the Tibetan market in Nainital, which is madly hogged by the tourists. It’s fun to loiter around here and enjoy the scenic lake view.


Spotting cows, dogs, horses and elephants is also pretty usual in India. It’s a street in Amritsar where a man feeds an elephant while the rest of the traffic waits to get through.


It’s the Fateh Sagar Lake Street in Udaipur. The colourfully decked camels keep the atmosphere vibrant for tourists.


It was during Diwali that this alley in Udaipur was extra chaotic, but this lady added her own fragrance and beauty with her flower basket.


It’s the famous mall road in Mussoorie. These little Bhutta stalls on the streets remind us of the simple joys of life.


The carriage rides in South Mumbai are quite a teaser, which blend with the carefree vibe of the city.


It’s the street around Charminar, which is relentlessly chaotic. Everything from autos, hawkers, people to bangles create a fascinating riot.

Do you like the ‘magic’ on the streets of India?

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Sunday, 14 September 2014

What Should You Count --- Countries or Experiences?

If you ask me, I am yet to be in that league where people have ticked off a whopping number of countries. That is still a dream for me. The only country that I have travelled to other than my own country is Australia. Does that make me a mediocre traveller?


I know so many travellers who have travelled to around 50-95 countries, and that too while they are still quite young. That’s an amazing achievement without an iota of doubt. But, should that daunt me as a traveller?

To be honest, I do feel a little let down by the fact that I haven’t been able to travel as much as I should have been. Of course, there are several factors responsible for it – money, resources, and circumstances. But, should I really feel bad about not have travelled to at least a dozen of countries? Is travel a race?


I am sure that if I were of some other nationality, I would have travelled to a handful of countries by now, but that’s not the case in India. International travel is a big deal here. Indians are slowly adapting to the lifestyle of travel. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is whether travel is about counting countries or is it about counting experiences.


Someone has rightly said that ‘comparison is the thief of happiness’. If you compare your achievements or even abilities with someone else, you are bound to feel daunted or boastful. And, both the emotions are wrong. The good thing would be to run your own race and be your own competitor.


I do aim to travel as much as I can, and as far as I can, but I am not very aggressive about it. I believe in chewing on each travel experience. I’d rather choose quality over quantity. It’s more important to learn and grow with each new place that I travel to. I think I would like to be proud of my experiences on the road – the challenges, the joys, the fears, and the thrills.


It’s the courage to step out of my comfort zone, the openness to mingle into something unfamiliar, and the curiosity for new places that make me a traveller. I don’t care how many years it takes me to travel to my dream countries. I don’t care for any number. Of course, I do have a travel bucket-list. But I don’t believe in talking about it. I want each of my travel experience to be a surprise. I like to be a spontaneous traveller.


I think if you keep your focus on ‘how many cities or countries’, you will lose your focus. As a real traveller, I’d like to aim at making the most of my destinations. Since I am a travel blogger, I do feel the pressure of adding more and more places to my travel portfolio. But I guess, as long as I gather ‘experiences’ to inspire people, there is no need to fret.

By writing this post, I don’t intend to express that counting countries or continents is a wrong practice. I can understand the emotion behind it. But, everybody has different opportunities and resources. Travel is not a competition. A true traveller is defined by his or her level of inquisitiveness for places, landscapes, cultures, traditions, beliefs and people.

So, it’s not ‘how much you travel’ but ‘how well you travel’ that counts.

What do you say? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

7 Quintessential Experiences Of Jodhpur

There is a certain essence of Jodhpur that’s hard to describe, but it’s still vivid in my mind. To be honest, there is nothing in particular that makes me want to revisit Jodhpur. Interestingly, the arid air of Jodhpur invokes curiosity in a traveller. I believe there are places that you love or hate in a moment, and then there are places that you have to drown yourself into to be able to discover their true character. Jodhpur is one of them.

At first glance, it’s a regal taste of Rajasthan. There are forts, palaces, traditionally dressed men and women, and cultural experiences to savour. But, there is something more intangible that you divulge with spontaneity.

      
So, here are a few things to do in Jodhpur - 
     
1.Take a tour of Mehrangarh Fort

When I visited Mehrangarh Fort, I didn’t know it was one of the iconic forts in India. But I found it impressive beyond my expectations. You get to experience and see so much more than you first anticipate – the fort itself is massive, and then there are so many palaces inside it, which are now museums for us. You can also take a look at the temples adjoining the fort. Besides, you get a chance to enjoy a spectacular bird’s eye view of the city from the top of the fort.
       


2.Take a glimpse of high life at Ajit Bhawan Palace

Ajit Bhawan Palace is said to be the first heritage hotel of India. It’s a place where you can have lunch, sip coffee, or soak sun in the lawn. The royalty is embedded everywhere. Although the palace has been given a modern face-lift, the old elements are kept preserved.
 

3.Enjoy a meal at On The Rocks

As the name suggests, On The Rocks is full of rocks in different forms that give a fascinating look to the restaurant. However, the canopy of trees balances out the rocky look and adds lushness to the ambiance. Evenings are gorgeous with candle-lit dinners and traditional folk dance performances.


4.Visit the museum at Umaid Bhawan Palace

Umaid Bhawan Palace has three portions – the palace, the hotel and the museum. The museum is open for public. There is a separate section where the classic vintage cars are on display. Besides the museum, you can take a stroll around, observe the royal surroundings and allow the royalty to intimidate you a bit!   


5.Explore the local bazaars

The two popular markets – Mochi Bazaar and the Clock Tower market exude the charming ordinariness of Jodhpur. The bustle, the chaos and the colours are just like any other bazaar in India, but the polite vendors and the shy local women radiate subtle nuances of the regal city.  
  

6.Absorb the city vibe on a Tuk-Tuk

Perhaps the best way to extract the local flavour of Jodhpur is to travel by a Tuk-Tuk. It’s the most commonly used transport option, which is cheaper and more fun. You get a chance to know the locals closely, learn their lingo a bit and immerse in the raw Jodhpuri vibe. 


7.Watch the last gleam of sunlight fall over the Blue City

Jodhpur is known to be the Blue City of India for its uniformly painted houses in blue. It is absolutely enchanting to watch the sun set over the blue houses.  

Here's some useful practical information I found on Momondo: Jodhpur is well connected by trains and flights. There are a variety of accommodation options available including the heritage hotels & resorts.

Is Jodhpur your kind of a destination?    

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