Tuesday, April 27, 2010

India Wishlist

During school vacations, there was always a family holiday in India. We traveled to the northern states in summer vacations and south India during diwali holidays. As I grew older, we started going overseas and long haul travel within India diminished.

 I regret to say that in the past decade I havent really been around India. Yes, I have been to Goa and a few Indian metros, if someone can give me brownie points ! My last years trip to the Kumaon region has simulated me to explore India further. I wish to re-visit the same states with my family, but with a twist. Here are a few places on my wish list.....

1.   Tracking the tigers on foot at Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh.

This is a newly opened national park in Madhya Pradesh is 1400 Sq.Km in area. The wildlife is diverse with tigers (supposedly 44 !), leopard, chital, nilgai, bison, wild boar, wild dog, fox, porcupine and black buck antelope and the park has an an excellent variety of birds. There are backwater boat safaris and elephant safaris for spotting game. This is also one of the few parks in India which permits walking safaris inside the park. Currently, the tourist numbers are low which makes games viewing exclusive. I think it could be the next big thing. Its easy access to Bhopal airport and the trip can be combined with the nearby Pachmarhi hillstation. The best place to stay is Forsyth Lodge. http://www.forsythlodge.com/

2. Stay in a Tree House at Wayanad, Kerala.

Wayanad is a verdant hill station is full of plantations, forests and wildlife. Most resorts and homestays here offer the unique experience of staying a treehouse. I personally think its Indias best "eco-retreat" . Wayanad is 100 km from Calicut (now Kozhikode). Its an excellent combo trip alongwith popular sibling Coorg. I have been wanting to stay in the treehouse at Tranquil Resort in Wayanad since quite sometime.  It’s a homestay within a 400 acre private coffee and spices plantation, nestled within the remote and lush rainforests. http://tranquilresort.com/ . A value for money  homestay option is Cheeral Green Homestay http://www.cheeralgreenhomestay.com/.

3. Get spiritual on the beaches of Gokarna, Karnataka

Gokarna lies on the southernmost border of Karnataka adjoining the state of Goa and is a sleepy village around a holy Ganesh temple, a pond and a beach. But it is also the gateway to some of the most untouched and beautiful beaches of India.The most famous and favoured among the beaches is Om Beach which gets its name from its unique shape in the form of the symbol Om. There is upmarket SwaSwara, which is owned by the CGH group http://www.swaswara.com/ . Otherwise, Om beach resort is very popular and gets the job done http://www.ombeachresort.com/.

4. Get trapped by the mountains in Sangla Valley, Kinnaur District, Himachal Pradesh.

Get surrounded by the mountains in Sangla Valley. Tucked away in the Eastern most Himachal Pradesh, bordering Garhwal and Tibet, lies Kinnaur. The Sangla river is the biggest tributary of Satluj and flows through Kinnaur carving the Sangla valley. Nearly 3,000 metres up and a short drive from Chitkul, the Sangla is last village on the old India-Tibet trade route. Its presents an enchanting experience where you see the confluence of Hindusim and Buddhism. This is not easy to get to - its four hours from Shimla but the views more than make up for it. I dont know many places to stay in Sangla as yet, but Kinner camp was interesting http://www.kinnercamps.com/. There should be plenty of village guest houses stays available.

5.  Glamping in the Thar Desert, Rajasthan.

Luxury tented camps have become the hippest way of experiencing deserts. Mountains, deserts or jungles, the  glamping culture has definetly taken off !! These camps are largely eco sensitive and built by local workers using local materials, the camps are a relatively guilt-free way to enjoy the tranquillity of the desert. As “glamping” culture is spreading across the world, many such camps have sprung up in Rajasthan, especially around Jaisalmer. The Manvar camp is an excellent value for money option. http://www.manvar.com/camp.htm but if you want to splurge its definetly the Serai http://www.the-serai.com/index.html.

Most of these destinatons offer accomodation ranging from budget to luxury. If you need specific suggestions, please write to me.

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

Friday, April 9, 2010

Destination Prerequisities

When it comes to selecting my destinations, I get quirky. I have a bias for serene places that are far and away from the clutter of the modern world. I have a few prequisities which I use as scanners....
  1. I prefer if my Gujrati folks have never heard about my slice of paradise, and should ideally think that I am the biggest looser by going there. If they ask me "Why on earth would you go there  ?" then bingo !! I made the right choice !!
  2. Wherever you go, there should be a fear of getting robbed, bitten by insects, and get ripped off or haggled.  Most of the time nothing will actually happen. When you're back, you will love the fact that you stepped out of your comfort zone.
  3. Ideally you need to change multiple flights or take several modes of transport before reaching there. After reaching the final airport or station; there should be a long scenic drive or a ferry to a neighbouring island to arrive at the point of rest. 
  4. The trail should be a road full of potholes or a long dirt road to keep unenthusiasts away.
  5. Staying at international hotel chains is a NO-NO. I prefer boutique hotels and homestays. If theres a Subway, Mcdonalds or Dominos I might as well go to Linking Road in Mumbai !!!
  6. I need to see mountains, oceans or any waterbody from my bed. Actually from my bathroom as well.
  7. If people dont speak English, its definetly more exotic. I love to see that feeling of shock when people dont understand you. Its often followed by an exchange of smiles.
  8. Beautiful countryside and laidback feel is my thing rather than skyscrapers,traffic lights and dressy people .
  9. I love to try food which I cant possibly identify with and believe that the tastiest food in the world is made on streets.  
  10. Shopping should be in souks, bazaars or flea markets. Bargaining and haggling help you in developing interpersonal and negotiation skills.
  11. Adventure, adventure and more adventure.
  12.  Whereever I go there should be an inherent feeling that I can live there for the rest of my life. If I feel homesick, I will never go there again.

Writing this reminds me of  a village I stayed in the Himalayas called Alai. It was isolated - no electricity or  roads. It was a two hour uphill hike from the nearest motorable road. There were only around ten homes in the village but still an open air school not very far. It overlooked rice paddies and was surrounded by pine forests with stunning mountain scenery. At sunset the children were singing, dancing and playing in the verandah. A  traditional "Bokhari" - wood-burning stove - kept us warm. Fresh vegetables were handpicked from the garden to prepare the meals and cooking was done using firewood. Aaaahhhh......Why cant I forget that dinner under the moonlight :)

What are your prerequisities when you decide to go somewhere ? Please comment :-)

“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” – Herman Melville

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Travel terminology made easy

The future of travel will not be the all-in-one trip including everything from sightseeing, nightlife, adventure, spa, shopping and relaxation. People are increasingly looking for mission specific and experiential holidays. They want blend their hobbies along with their travels. Unfortunately, this is making travel terminology more complicated....Here are a few terms that I have discovered lately......


"One last romantic trip" taken by an expecting couple before the big arrival. Pre-baby getaways are a growing trend in tourism, as many operators are tailoring packages specifically for expectant couples. Almost all major resort chains are offiering special babymoon packages which may include fruit mocktails, pregnancy massages and courses to learn special recipes for children. For luxury pre-birth getaways check:


CouchSurfing is an arrangement where people offer up their spare bed or couch to globe trotters. The idea is to save money while building friendships between people across the world and adding a personal touch to travel. Its an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals in over 230 countries and territories around the world. Its completely free and no monetary exchange takes place. Sign up on http://www.couchsurfing.org/


 A traveller, who bases his or her destination upon the indigenous drug scene. These guys are looking for tons of inexpensive pot, lenient laws, easily bribed police, and beautiful scenery. Consider Netherlands, Columbia, India, Mexico, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Laos to be major hubs. Checkout http://www.webehigh.com/  a worldwide drug sourcing guide.

Sex Tourism

We all know about this already. Popular destinations are Brazil, Cuba, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Jamaica, Kenya, Netherlands, Russia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. No weblinks for this one :-)


 The healthy art of sightseeing whilst running or cycling. Sightseeing a city while running or cycling is very popular with tourists in many European cities. Now several Asian & American cities are catching up. There will be one in Mumbai soon. An excellent website which offers details of running tours in cities across the world is http://www.globalrunningtours.com/ .For sight seeing day trips by bicycle when in Paris,London,Berlin and Barcelona check out http://fattirebiketours.com/


Glamping (Glamorous + Camping), a newly coined word that combines images more often considered opposites. Imagine a tent setup somewhere in African savannah or in the deserts of Rajasthan. Instead of an uncomfortable sleeping bag and creepy crawlers, the tent is equipped with pillow-top bedding, cotton sheets, pillows and a flannel duvet, a table and four chairs, a cordless lantern, storage, and bath linens. Gourmet meals are prepared and served with the finest wines. Check out http://goglamping.net/  for glamping grounds across the world.


 Older generation or retired travellers who a step away from run of the mill tours and are ready to take the road less travelled.


Partypackers don't mind which country they travel to as long as the booze keeps flowing, there is trance and there is dance. Lots of cafes, restaurants and beaches make ideal destinations alongside tabletop dancers, fetish gear and glitz. They don't do temples, they don't do cathedrals, and they don't do mornings. There are dedicated party tours along with VIP access and front line priviliges to  Rio, Ibiza, Greece, Buenos Aires. http://www.toursgonewild.com/

If you know of any other, please feel free to share them. Happy travels :-)

“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” – Paul Theroux