Monday, October 23, 2017

Backpacking Across Budget Friendly Southeast Asia!

After 3 years of traveling in India we step out of our comfort zone, this time embarking on a slow backpacking trip across 4 beautiful South East Asian countries steeped in history, culture and also have seen their share of war and tough times.

For a long time we did not feel like traveling out of India as our Incredible Nation offers so much for a traveler. However, these backpacker friendly and hassle free Nations with simple Visa process fed our travel bud and we felt it was about time that we experience more of Asia. 

We step out to make more memories and add colors to our lives!!


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Udaipur The City Of Lakes!

History weaves a beautiful picture of a bygone era where palaces, forts, speak about the grandeur lifestyle of the Royals, when it comes to Palaces, there is nothing like Rajasthan to provide a peak into Royalty. Udaipur, in Rajasthan is just the place to get immersed in the tales of Kings and Kingdom. This beautiful city surrounded by Aravali range is known for it's rich history, culture, scenic locations and Rajput era colossal palaces and forts. Also known as "City of Lakes," "Venice of East," this place stands as a fine testimony to Royalty. 

The most popular lake in the "City of Lakes" is Lake Pichola. It is an artificial fresh water lake that was set up in 1362 AD to quench thirst of locals and irrigation purposes. 

Lake Pichola
The beautiful City Palace, located on the banks of Lake Pichola, was built over a period of 400 years by the Mewar rulers. Built in a flamboyant style, with a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture, this palace is considered one of the largest of it's kinds in the State of Rajasthan. A large part of the palace is now a museum and this beautiful palace complex with balconies, towers exhibits murals, wall paintings, intricate mirror, marble, silver, inlay work and leftover of colored glass. 

The Mor Chowk offers a glimpse of the colored glass mosaic work. The peacock in this chamber was crafted using 5000 pieces of glass in green, red, blue and gold colors. This fine craftsmanship is breathtaking to say the least. 

Fateprakash Palace, a part of City palace, now converted into a hotel houses the much celebrated crystal gallery. The gallery exhibits extensive furniture and home decor in crystal as the then ruler Maharana Sajjan Singh wanted his entire decor to be classy and had ordered everything from London in 1887. Unfortunately, he passed away before the shipment could arrive and the consignment was left unopened for the next 110 years. 

Jagmandir Island Palace, also called the "Lake Garden Palace" sits pretty on one of the two natural islands on Lake Pichola. The Royal family used this palace as a summer resort and it is believed to be the inspiration for Taj Mahal. The Jagmandir Island palace can be reached only by boat from the Bansi ghat jetty next to the lake palace. Their rooftop is the perfect vantage point to enjoy magical sunset. The palace also offers suites that are managed and run by the HRH Group of Hotels. With a little splurge, a stay here would be an ideal royal experience.

Jag Mandir Island Palace

Lake Palace is also situated on an island in lake Pichola. This stunning piece of art was built using pristine white marble and served as a luxury summer palace for the Royal family. It is now been converted into a luxury hotel and run by Taj Group of Hotels.

Taj Lake Palace
If Vintage Cars excite you, just few blocks away from city palace on Gulab Bagh is the Vintage Car Museum which is a must visit. Home to some of the rarest classic and vintage cars owned by the Royal family. 

Fateh Sagar Lake, another man made lake, built in the 1680s is perfect for an evening stroll. There are numerous options around the lake to subside your hunger pangs. The street food around is finger licking good and hygienic plus a Kulhad coffee by the lake on a cold evening makes your day. 

Food is an integral part of travel and while in Udaipur do check into these quaint cafes.

Cafe With A View
Mic & Munch cafe is a perfect mix of live music and great food, with an extensive menu to choose from, they serve amazing Mexican food. A perfect cafe to spend your vacation with loved ones either chatting away or choose from the many board games in house. On weekends, the place is packed and happening with local talents entertaining patrons.  Do try out their Paneer Cigar Roll and chocolate Pani puri. It is located at Inaya complex, Bhopalpura.

109 cafe - go where the locals go, do what the locals do. This place is highly recommend by locals, they have won hearts by offering amazing hospitality and high service standards. The organic drinks served here are quite impressive and their Basil seed drink is a must try. It is located at Gangaur Ghat Jagdish Square.

Oladar Village cafe, on Lake Palace Road, vintage ambiance in an age old Haveli of Oladar house, a part of which is converted into a cafe. Interiors and decor of the cafe are eye candy and very impressive. Various village elements like cycle, scooter take center stage. This cafe serves amazing chicken pizza and freshly brewed coffee. 

Hook & Iron's Cafe/bar is one of the best places in Udaipur to sip cocktails and quick bites. The Long Island Iced Tea Cocktail is highly recommended. Their interiors are done really well and the good music makes for a perfect evening. The place sits on Sector 11 Hiran Magri. 

Cafe Namaste French cafe, if you have a sweet tooth and crave for yummy pastries your search ends here. The freshly baked pastries aroma draw you into this small cafe. The breakfast here is too good and makes it a must visit. Located at Ashoka Haveli, Chandpole.

Lala Misthan, head here for a power packed little dynamite of Kachori. This crispy deep fried spicy snack packs a punch plus the milk based sweets are very famous here. However, it is only a take away joint. Sitting on Jagdish temple road, this little place is part of Udaipur Heritage walk, need we say more. 

Happy Travel! 

Monday, October 16, 2017

URBY Passport Holder- Travel In Style!

Passport is the most important travel document and requires a lot of care and love. Investing in a good passport holder is a must for every travel enthusiast. Your quest for the perfect classy Passport Holder ends here at URBY.

A swanky leather URBY Wanderlust Classic Black passport holder was beautifully packed in a hard corrugated box and deliver at my door step in the most professional manner. Unboxing it, gave a fine first impression of how securely the passport holder was packed in a lovely little cloth pouch. The way the product was packed and sent across spoke about the founders passion and good taste for luxury leather goods.

The Passport Holder would securely accommodated my passport, Boarding cards, Bank cards and other essential documents and I could pull them up when needed in style. The Passport Holder could be custom made and for a very reasonable price you could get your favorite Travel Quote or Name personalized on the passport holder. Mine came with my Name inscribed.

Only short coming of the Wanderlust Classic Black passport holder is that it did not have a pen holder which would have just been prefect to fill out necessary documents. However, if you are particular about pen holders you can opt for their travel wallet.

Not just passport holders, URBY offers luxury lifestyle and travel essentials products ranging from travel pouches to tie cases, all at a very affordable price. The design and quality of their products are par excellence reflecting on the fact that fine craftsmanship is their forte. Another best part is the free delivery option across India with best logistics partners, for a minimum order value of 500 INR.

The business model of URBY is quite impressive as they have eliminated the traditional middlemen and reached out to customers directly. Thus, making fine quality leather products affordable and inexpensive. The website layout is very user friendly and easy to navigate. accepts major credit, debit cards and Internet banking and the site is encrypted (SSL.)

I am looking forward to use the Passport Holder! Go get yourself a classy product. Happy Travelling.

Disclaimer: I was invited by URBY to try out a Passport Holder and provide an honest feedback. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Road Tripping To Wayanad!

Road trips are a great way to explore India, the freedom it offers is exciting to say the least. Truly blessed to be born in such a culturally rich Nation where every few hundred kilometers offers drastic changes in cuisines, languages and cultures but values, love and affection remain unchanged. We hit the road to visit one of the most celebrated places from God's Own Country- Wayanad in Kerala. A 350 km pleasant bike ride from Bengaluru was impeccably planned and well organized by 3 start ups- Onn Bikes, Scout My Trip and Wandertrails. Onn bikes a bike rental start up provided the bikes that were in great shape. They had arranged for the much sought after bikes from Royal Enfield stable. Scout my trip helps everyone organize travel and plan exciting itineraries. Wandertrails a one of it's kind experiential stay options and activities platform which has all properties verified and strives to give unique experiences for travelers. First time 3 travel starts ups got together to host riders and bloggers.

Early morning ride started from Electronic city, 8 bikes -7 bullets and 1 avenger were all parked waiting to kiss the road. A good briefing as to who would lead the ride and then everyone chose their respective numbers to follow the lead and the tail was decided. Clear instructions were given to follow the lead and stick to the numbers in a zig zag pattern and at no point in time would the order be compromised.The zig zag pattern was to ensure that in case of a sudden brake the bikes do not collide. We had 2 cars as well with us to take care of our luggage and also the crew to document out ride and shoot our videos.

We zoomed past on the most beautiful stretch of Bengaluru - Mysore road i.e Nice Road and it was a sheer delight to be on this beautiful highway with pleasant weather that made the ride even more enjoyable. After riding on this brilliant stretch, we stopped at one of the many Kamat Hotel branches on the highway and had a proper South Indian breakfast and ended it with piping hot filter coffee.

Mother Nature was very generous and provided the best conditions for a perfect ride. The absolute black top roads that lead to Wayanad from Bengaluru took us through the picturesque Bandipur National Park.The monsoon added a lovely dash of green to the surroundings. It was an amazing feel to ride with such wilderness for company.

Post sunset, we reached our destination covering 350 km and the ride did end but not our journey. To reach our resort up the hills, we had to opt for an exciting steep climb and that was the highlight of the trip. A 6 km drive in a 4x4 jeep that would take about 45 minutes to reach our destination-  Dare Nature 5000 resort which is the highest property in Wayanad. We parked our bikes in a safe location and hopped onto the jeep.

The drive was the most bumpiest ride but it was epic experience. The entire drive was totally worth it. It looked more like being in a roller coaster rather than a jeep and at one point we crossed a bridge over a water fall. Since the sun was down we could only hear thundering sound of water falls but the sound of gushing water made us happy as we knew this would be an epic experience and in true sense "Being amidst Nature." The place was beautiful, right in the middle of nowhere and we were the only souls around. It was the best way to spend a vacation. It offers basic accommodation, given the remoteness and beautiful location. Basic here is luxury! In life, experience counts more than creature comforts. The views from the resort are killer to say the least. The resort offers a few adventure activities such as zip lining, laddering et all. With no gadgets, no signal, the property was really beautiful and we celebrated the end of a ride with a bonfire and sharing stories and bonding over the love of food. The authentic Kerala food served with so much love and cutting chai and rains was a better love story than DDLJ.

The next day it continued pouring and we had planned for Wayanad sightseeing but decided to change our plans. A short trek from our property, mind you the property spreads over 40 acres of green vegetation, led to the starting point of a massive waterfall and so we decided to head there after a hearty breakfast.

All of us were prepared with appropriate rain gear as it continued to pour and we started our hike. It was a short hike but it was totally fun and we were walking on a small path laid out in between the forest and after crossing a few small water bodies we reached the massive waterfall. En route we were all introduced to natural and free leech therapy, worry not they are harmless and a dash of salt gets them off you. So in the meanwhile let them purify your blood. After spending a couple of minutes getting the leeches off our bodies, it was time to plunge into the ice cold water. With monsoon the waterfalls came alive and we stood under the thundering falls and the ice cold water was like an amazing spa treatment. It was more like our own private falls and we had the time of our lives getting completely drenched and enjoying what Nature had to offer.

All days we were pampered with amazing food made with lots of love. In the evening, our caretaker took us to another trail path that led to a view point and it is the highest view point in Wayand at 5000 feet above sea level. The view of the town from there is mesmerizing. Post that we were treated to yummy pakodas and pipping hot milk tea and cutting chai. We ended the day with some amazing chicken curry and dal for dinner and playing Mafia. All of us bonded so well that it was hard to believe that most of us were meeting each for the first time.

Our ride back to Bangalore started early the next day and with some spells of drizzle, we were spared by the weather Gods for majority of the ride. On our way back we stopped at Roti Dhaba near Columbia Asia Hospital for lunch and the food was finger licking good. The trip could not have been planned any better. Everything worked out amazingly. The bikes were in pretty good shape, we had the most amazing stay with some beautiful experiences that we will cherish and the destination and the ride was just perfect. With some beautiful memories and some amazing friends we wrapped up our wonderful ride and headed back home.

The trip was planned and sponsored by Scout My Trip, Onn Bikes and Wandertrails.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Being A Tourist In Delhi!

Delhi or Dilli, the capital of India. While on one side the city is always in news with headlines ranging from being extremely corrupted, highly unsafe and road rage incidents, the other side talks about the beautiful history of the place, amazing street food, the bone chilling cold winters, and of course tons of affordable street shopping options. Not to forget it serves as the base camp for all trips to the Himalayas. Well almost everyone who visits India would have mostly been to Delhi at some point in their lives so have we be it either for work or for our trips up North so finally we have a post dedicated to the lifeline of India.

What better way to start our Dilli Darshan that with Red Fort. Built by Shah Jahan in 1638 when he moved the capital from Agra to Delhi, this World Heritage Site is today used as the venue by The Prime Minister Of India every year to deliver his speech to the entire Nation on 15th of August, Independence Day.

Bang in the middle of the city is centuries old "Agrasen Ki Baoli." Also known as Ugrasen Ki Baoli, it has around 103 steps and a series of arched corridors. It is believed that the water entices people to commit suicide and the deeper one enters the well, the eerie feel is very prominent and many believe that the place is haunted. Stories apart, this place is definitely worth a visit and few scenes of the Aamir Khan starrier 'PK' movie was shot here. The age old step well is pretty well kept by ASI but is infested by Bats. We were surprised to see such a extravagant water storage facility.

We were blown away walking around the centuries old 'Jantar Mantar.' It is one of the five built by Maharaja Jai Singh II from 1723 onwards. It was built to tell precise time and movements of moon and planets around the Sun, with 13 astronomical instruments in this site. The many yantras constructed here could tell the exact time to the milli second. It was such a fabulous scientific creation from centuries ago and it was unbelievable to know our ancestors were so interested and accurate about time and other planets.

One of the most interesting stops in our Delhi darshan is Qutub Minar. The stunning Minar is a real treat. There are several ancient monuments in the vicinity. The Iron Pillar of Delhi is housed in the same complex and is really a wonder due to its rust resistance feature. It also houses a mosque and an inscription in Persian on the walls of the mosque states that the materials used to build it were procured from the demolished Hindu and Jain temples. A few that we could see were image of Lord Ganesha, different murtis and avatars. Several parts of the monument with the Arabic scriptures have broken off and seem to have been added in the monument later on.This monumental wonder left us with many perplexing questions. Was this an ancient Hindu temple as the architecture and building style suggests. To this day there are several concrete living, hard hitting evidence that have been attempted to destroy across India.

There are several pillars that are just not Islamic style of architecture. One could see this style of architecture in temples of India. By asking these questions if we would be labeled "Right Wing Extremists" or Hindutava fanatics" so be it.

Lotus Temple is a Bahai House of Worship and is open to all regardless of their religion or any other discrimination. Built in 1986, the temple consists of 27 marble clad standing petals.

Thanks to Delhi metro, which is extremely well connected, we visited most of these places at a very economical price and not caught up in the notorious Delhi traffic, but the Metro does get very crowded and during peak hours reminded us of Mumbai local trains just air conditioned though.

While in Delhi we had a typical tourist day out. We stopped in one of the oldest Dabhas in old Delhi- "Kake Di Hatti" and the extremely friendly owners welcomed us and addressed us as 'Beta' and 'Bachchein.' The food portions were huge and even their half portions of butter rich dal makhani and chicken masala had such generous quantity. The rotis were pretty filling and yummy. A delightful heavy lunch for the two of us costed Rs. 400.

For sweets and snacks we visited Banga Sweets and it is easily one of the best places to pick up sweets in Delhi. Do try their cham cham, pani puri and veg puff.

While in Delhi, we checked into Hotel Hari Piarko in Pahar Ganj. Though located in a very congested and a busy market area of Delhi, we had a wonderful stay experience. The rooms were very clean, spacious and comfortable and loaded with all modern amenities. Pahar Ganj main market, RK Ashram metro, New Delhi Railway Station are all at a walkable distance. Even if you are flying into Delhi, the airport Metro rail is the best way to reach the hotel. The only downside to the hotel was a very average complimentary breakfast.

One of our other stay experiences was at "Aspire India Bed & Breakfast," a home-stay in Udai park New Delhi (9810113600.) Owned and run by Colonel Sudindar Singh. The property is bang in the middle of the city in a quite secured residential area. They have very comfortable rooms with an attached bath that come with all modern luxuries.

The best part about the stay is the entertaining, caring and lovable host Colonel Sudindar Singh uncle. Over a hearty and yummy breakfast we had lengthy discussions about travel, Army and India. The home stay has a wide collection of books on travel. It is very close to green park metro station. The host was very kind to give us metro travel card help plan our travel for the day and gave lot of insider information.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Dehradun Nestled In The Doon Valley

A comfortable six hour train journey by the Nanda Devi Express took us from Delhi to Dehradun in the foothills of Himalayas. This beautiful place in the Doon valley nestled between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers served as a perfect break from the scorching summers of Chennai. We bunked here for four days, enjoying the pleasant climate and the occasional rain and relishing the yummy food that Dehradun offers.

We parked an entire day to leisurely visit interesting places in the city. We stared with the stunning "Forest Research Institute (FRI)." It was so fascinating to be here. The massive trees and the impressive colonial style bungalows are such a treat. Established as an Imperial Research Institute in 1906, FRI Dehradun is an internationally renowned institute for conducting Research and Education in the field of Forestry and Environmental Science. It is also a deemed University and offers 3 M.Sc courses and PhD programs. This place has very interesting stop overs such as the Socio Forestry Museum, Forest Pathology Museum, Silvi Culture Museum, Timber Museum, Non Wood forest products museum and Entomology Museum to name a few.

We might sound very rude or disrespectful but apart from the Timber Museum which housed amazing day to day wooden artifacts, the other museums could not hold our attention for too long as this was not our area of interest. However, it did seem a treasure trove and a mecca for a person who loves forestry and is a fan of plants. Since, we were not able to connect, understand, sometimes even not able to pronounce the names, we were not able to relate with the exhibits or relics but nonetheless the massive arched red brick hallways, stunning greenery around and pillars are well worth a visit. Plus it is a very picturesque location. The massive hallways of olden times provided a glimpse of the past and the rooms looked exactly like the ones from the pictures of fairy tale books with huge  ballrooms and massive chandeliers.

Another interesting stops of the day was "Robber's Cave or Guchhu Pani." A narrow passage leading to a small waterfall. The best part was walking through the stream in ice cold clean water. This place seems very popular among locals and attracted a healthy crowd. The entry ticket is priced at Rs.25. There are several eat outs where we enjoyed a hot bowl of Maggi and pipping hot lemon tea. There is also locker and changing room facility.

From Tyagi Road to FRI, Tapkeshwar Temple and Robber's cave, we were charged Rs.900 for an auto rickshaw, which was value for money. The guy, Zahir Ahmed, was very decent and his contact number is - 8909388339. The best part about him was he made sure we had a good time. He did not rush us or hurry us through and gave us a lot of insider information.

We started our Dehradun food trail criss crossing the lanes of ever busy and happening Paltan Bazar, pampering us with many street shopping options. To our surprise, there were very few hygienic street food options. Undeterred, we walked to Rajput Road and stumbled upon this wonderful and super busy burger joint- "The Buffet." They were selling calorie loaded desi burger with buns that were oil fried. Cheese burger at Rs. 35 per piece was heavenly and melted in our mouth. This could easily be the best burger of India. It would be a grave sin to not taste their cold coffee and mango shake.

Next, we visited the over hyped Kwality toffee store but it was not so great. After that we wanted to head to the famous Ellora bakers that we had heard about but it seemed difficult. There are way too many Ellora bakers that have cropped up in Dehradun. It was a challenge for us to figure out the original one. The one that has the word "Old" is the one that you are looking for. The lip smacking pastries of Ellora Bakers is any dessert lovers delight. They have a wide variety of toffees as well. We loved their imly ones (tamarind) to a great extent.

A heavenly find in Dehradun, Bake Masters, is a perfect place for pastry lovers. We tried their Tiramisu pastry which was just a perfect blast of flavors. Make sure you are there a little early in the evening as the limited stock quickly vanishes.

Kumar Sweet Shop serves the best chaat especially amazing pani puri. The sinful Kulfi Faluda is a perfect way to end your day. Our perfect thirst quencher was the amazing thick cholocate hazlenut milkshake from Keventer's. This amazing little joint serves wide variety of shakes to choose from and is a must try. All these eateries are on Rajput Road, very close to clock tower. After belting hearty street food, we walked up to Gandhi Park and had a nice evening stroll.

While here, we ditched the commercial hotels and checked into "Ginny Gold Home Stay" run by a retired Army man. This home away from home home stay was such a feel god factor after spending 12 days in hotels. The lovely elderly couple running the place took very good care of us like their own. The home stay is located on Tyagi Road, next to Radha Krishna Temple and offers very spacious, clean and comfortable rooms and is loaded with all modern amenities. Only thing is that they don't offer Wi-Fi. It is just a few kilometers away from Railway Station, ISBT and Musosorie Bus Stand. While here, do try the Aloo Parathas. From the terrace of our home stay the view of stunningly lit Mussoorie was amazing and we enjoyed the chill winds late in the night with the the beautiful views.

Mussoorie would be an ideal getaway from Dehradun to enjoy the pleasant climate, views of the surrounding hills and just unwind.