Warm cozy bed, soft light and mild soothing cold; a perfect setting to make me lazy enough not to move out my bed despite being aware of an interesting village outside, that might be wide awake busy with their daily chores. Gathering all my strength, when I opened the door of my room’s balcony, I was wished a lovely morning by the hazy fog spread over the garden. The smell of the wet mud and misty air were all the more refreshing. And the fresh dewdrops made the red roses in the garden look glittery. And to fulfil the need of the background music to this fanciful scenery, Indian Magpie, sunbirds and Indian Rollers chirped in the sweetest way and reminded me of the imaginary fairyland described in some childhood stories. Read more
Munching on a special bhel near the Lumbini bus stand, I was irked by the strong taste of mustard oil in it and was also preparing myself to travel in a jam-packed bus to Kathmandu. And at the back of my mind, I was praying God to send a lady passenger in the next seat so that I can have a peaceful sleep without much worry. Though, Nepal is quite safe when it comes to solo female travel no matter which country you are from, what you are wearing.
“ I arranged girl sit with girl sit, ok mam?” a person in charge informed us in ‘his’ English and did this without even asking for it ! (God really listens? Hahah) Read more
Tranquility and spirituality in the air and the flooding divinity can not only be seen but can also be felt deep within your heart. It doesn’t matter if you are the believer of the faith or not, it would lure you just get a corner along the central canal or in the wilderness of the bird sanctuary.
I didn’t really understand the chanting going on outside the Lumbini Palace, but sitting under the Bodhi Tree, the chanting really felt to be soothing to my mind. The background music of the rustling leaves seemed to be notifying its presence and contribution in invoking the divine energy.
What I loved the most about Lumbini was its blissful surroundings and the desolate trails that led to the pastures spread till my eyes could see. Read more
While devouring the inordinate tranquility in the Buddhist Town of Shravasti, a Srilankan coupled created enough excitement for me to visit Lumbini. I was just a few kilometers away from Nepal border and had no plan of crossing it. But the destiny had different plans. The only train moving to Gorakhpur from Shravasti was delayed by 5 hours and there was no chance I could reach Kushinagar before midnight.
And thus was born an impromptu plan to visit Nepal. Considering that I had no internationally valid ID proof, I was a bit skeptical about the entry. After reaching Nautanwa, I took an auto to reach the border and realised that it wasn’t really a border but looked more like a busy crossroad near Bhindi Bazaar in Mumbai. Read more
Palaces, Forts , luxury and a vivacious culture of the Royal State of India are flashed upon the screen of your mind when you read the word ‘Rajasthan’. The state gives you a glimpse of the Royal Rajputana empire that was known for its gallantry, tradition and extravagant lifestyle. Though tourism has brought most of its colours out to shine, there are many experiences that you miss while just following your fixed itineraries. And this article is aimed to bring before you the hidden jewels and fantastic experiences.
Clicking the iconic step-well with 3500 steps
When the directors of The Dark Night wanted the best geometrically designed prison for the adventure of Batman as a savior, they couldn’t find a better match than this beautiful well constructed centuries back by the Rajput Kings in India’s Rajasthan. The well isn’t only a perfect selfie spot but also the best spot for architecture and sculpture lovers. The step-well, known as ‘Chand Baori’ is located at Abhaneri village. The actual purpose of the well that has a three-storied quarter on one of its sides was to serve as the Summer Holiday Home for the kings of that time. The architectural brilliance keeps it cool during the summers and warm during winters. The step-well even served as a source of drinking water till very recently. The complex around the well has some ancient idols of Hindu Gods and carvings.
It is altogether a different experience roaming around the village of Abhaneri adorned with tiny mud houses where the ladies cook on traditional stoves wearing yellow saris.
Regular buses and private cabs ply Abhaneri which is around 95 km on Jaipur-Delhi Highway.
Walk around India’s Ancient Open Art Galleries
Not too far from the royal city of Jaipur, inhabited the richest merchants who dealt in the business of opium and zari (golden thread) through silk route. The group of villages where they lived came to be known as Shekhavati group of villages. Each of the merchants is said to be richer than even the kings of the then Rajputana Empire. They showed off their richness by decorating the walls of their havelis (royal house) with the frescos depicting the foreign lifestyle and the characters or stories of Indian mythology. A few of them have the ceilings embellished with the real gold sheets. The village of Churu, on the other hand, has a huge haveli with around 11,000 windows. Each village would thus present before you, a new surprise as you walk around the streets awestruck at the paintings.
The merchants had abandoned their havelis when they got the opportunity to settle in the big cities like Kolkata and Mumbai during the British Era. One of the havelis also belongs to one of the richest businessman of United Kingdom, Laxmi Mittal. The best villages to stroll around are Churu, Mandava and Nawalgarh. Rajasthan Tourism Board, as well as many travel agencies, provide a special package of a tour to these villages. Or else, you can book your stay at Castle Mandawa or ‘Malji ka Kamra’ and ask them to arrange for the heritage walk around these villages. Click here to read more about these havelis if you wish to visit.
Explore the City of Lakes – Udaipur
At the heart of the otherwise a barren land of Rajasthan lays a city adorned with a number of lakes. Udaipur can be called an epitome of luxury and royal beauty. Apart from the splendid palaces, havelis and hotels, the city provides you an excellent ethnic experience. The traditional puppet shows, listening to the folk music at Gangaur Ghat on the lake, visiting the temples are few of such experiences.
Moreover, this is the only city that lets you enjoy a stay right in a middle of a lake. The Taj Lake Palace Hotel at Udaipur is located in the centre of the Lake Pichola with a grand view of the palace on one side and a sprawling range of Arravali Hills on the other. For all the hippie budget travelers, a number of hostels are available in the centre of the city.
Sleep under the Stars on the Golden Sand Dunes
Ever wished to wake up to the view of a star-studded ceiling in the middle of the night! That’s exactly what you must expect while camping in the dunes of the Thar Desert in Jaisalmer. While the city itself reflects the golden granules in its pastel yellow architecture, the Thar Desert makes you fall in love with the aridity of the place. Besides camping, the Youth Hostel Association of India gives you option of trekking in the desert and camping on untouched and inaccessible dunes every night.
This would certainly be a lifetime memory and should not be missed at any cost. And my personal recommendation for the backpackers would be to stay in the Free Backpackers’ Hostel run by Dilbar Jaisalmer and he would take care of most of these amazing experiences in Jaisalmer. Or you can contact a local named Kheta for a complete rural experience. Read My Guide to explore the Golden City of Jaisalmer.
Heritage Walk to see the Opulent Havelis in the Lanes of Bikaner
While the haviles at Shekhavati villages would take you on a historic trip of the bygone era, the Rampuria havelis at Bikaner would give a glimpse of the lifestyle of a rich family. It is said that the family was so rich that even the king used to ask for loans at the time of urgent needs. Many families in Bikaner had their own palace like havelis and led a royal life. With intricately carved wall and the doors and style inspired by the British architecture, the Rampuria Havelis makes for a unique antique structure and also resembles the old buildings of the New York City. For some stunning pictures, it should be visited early in the morning.
Get Amazed at the Vibrant Palaces of Bikaner
Grand corridors with artistically painted walls flanked by elegant windows pillars and the antique artefacts add to the aesthetic feel of the Junagadh Palace. The palace is an epitome of artwork and is certainly a masterpiece when it comes to wall-art. The colourful rooms at Lalgarh Palace and Lakshmi Niwas Palace are also equally astonishing. Staying at one these palaces converted into luxury hotels can be an imperial experience.
Witness the Marvelous Marble Architecture of Ranakpur and Mt. Abu
The man-made marvels of Ranakpur and Mt. Abu would definitely leave you awestruck with its delicate designs carved on white shining marbles. The temple is a perfect specimen of dedication, hardwork, patience and spirituality. Both the temples located at a few kilometres away from each other have been completed only due to the dedication of their builders. The work continued even while their builders came and bade goodbye to this earthly home. The temples would startle you with its flowers, devil faces and other symbols of Jainism carved on pillars, doors, and walls of this place of worship. The audio guide would entertain you with interesting stories behind each figure and carving of the temple. And you would not get enough of it in just one visit, and the sculptures would lure you to keep gazing at them.
Walk Around the Second Longest Wall of the world
The fort, that is the birthplace of the Legend named Maharana Pratap , the brave king of Mewar, is still guarded by a mighty wall fringing the fortified area for 36 kilometres. A walk on this wall, on an early morning, would give you a panoramic view of around 360 Hindu and Jain temples built across the fort and the lofty palace overlooks the vast area at the other end as if guarding the premise that once flourished with the devoted subject of the Rana Kings. The view outside the fort is equally mesmerizing with acres of green fields spread as far as your eyes could see.
Dance on the beats of Folk Music in an Old Haveli
As the sun bids adieu and paints lake Pichola with its vigorous colours in the city of Udaipur, the traditional dancers are all ready in their vibrant attires to give you a glimpse of the astounding culture of Rajasthan. Bagaro ki haveli, tucked on the bank of the Lake Pichola seems abandoned and quiet from its exterior, but the moment you enter, you are welcomed by the soothing sound of the ‘shehnaais’ accompanies with the resonating sound of the ‘dholak’. And the evening is filled with joy as the dancers amaze you with their graceful moves and the jingling anklets. ‘Kalbeliya’, ‘Ghumar’, ‘Terataali’, Matki Bhavai’ and other folk dances performed here would take you back to the declined era of Rajputana kings.
Devour the Spiritual Vibes at Pushkar
When the petals of the Hindu God Brahma fell on earth, the town of Pushkar was blessed with the formation of the lakes at the very places. The main lake in the town of Pushkar is now fringed with the serene ‘ghaats’ painted in white and completing just a circle around the lake would acquaint you with the customs of the people belonging to different corners of Rajasthan. While the evening ‘aarti’ the atmosphere turns all the more divine. And in case you choose to be here on a Diwali night, you can expect to see the Ghaats illuminated by thousands of earthen lamps.
The spiritual vibes and the devotion of the people in worshiping the mighty river of Ganga was both astonishing as well as amazing for me. The dark blanket of night was all ready to embrace the dark blue sky, the pundits were all dressed up in saffron, chanting the mantras, offering flowers, garlands and diyas to the flowing Goddess who is the sole beauty amidst the green hills surrounding the valley of Rishikesh. As the aarti started , the flames of hundreds of lamps could be seen spreading the divine charm as the gushing river sparkled in its light as if blessing all her devotees.
The sound of the bells creating a crescendo effect along with the melodious words praising the goddess added to the spiritual aura of Triveni Ghat. But wait, Rishikesh isn’t just about what you think it to be, it is not just a pilgrim, it is a place that leads you to your inner self that might be weeping behind the doors of your mind wrapped around by stress or sadness or an overload of expectations from the society. Read more
“My name is Dolkar and I am from a remote village of Padum region in Zangskar,” said a student who was given the responsibility of taking us around a school campus in Ladakh. “Initially when we joined here, it was too tiring to even take one round of the school, but now, as it is ‘my responsibility’, I got used to it,” she continued. I was surprised to see a young girl like her being so conscious of her responsibility. Moreover, she had just come from a village that is hardly connected to the other parts of the Ladakh region and was now confidently conversing and showing the school campus to the strangers. Read more
Volunteering at different organizations in India can be a way of traveling on a budget while you contribute to the betterment of the future of this country. There are many famous organisations that receive a huge number of volunteers and also charge for the same. While others, who are not so famous on internet, go unnoticed. While managing travel expenses is the problem for most of the backpackers, such organisations come to their rescue who provide them the basic necessities in exchange of their service to the institution.
Here by I would try to put forward the needy institutes that provide the best volunteering opportunities for the travelers in India. Please note that I am putting only those organisations which are not too famous with people and really need the volunteers.
While it would help you spend less along with a great experience, it is a moral responsibility that you devote to the work at the institutions sincerely. Those who would be identified as taking the opportunities for granted and not working sincerely shall be immediately dismissed. Read more
I had specially chosen Smanla Guest House apart from Goji Villa for my stay at Leh. It would probably be the best place away from the hustle and bustle of the market. Only the beautiful location and views do not make it the best place to stay, but also the expertise of the owner in Tibetan medicines makes it an interesting place to stay. So, if don’t want simply roam around Leh-Ladakh and spend your time in learning something, then call up Amchi Tsewang now and you would be all set to go in search of medicinal plants in the high hills of this desert land.
It is one of the divine destinations of Karnataka. There are total five monoliths of Gomteshwara – the son of the first Jain tirthankar(Rishabhnath Swami) in the state, the tallest one(58 ft) of which is located in Shravanbelagola making it a tourist hot-spot. It is also considered to be the tallest monolith in the world. Chandragupta Maurya is said to have died here after he assumed the life of an ascetic. Fascinated by these facts and the craze for the fictional character of Bahubali, I planned a day trip from Mysore to this divine place that led to the creation of a blockbuster movie. Read more