How to travel safely during COVID-19

COVID -19, pandemic, lockdown are some of the words which have hit the world hard in the past year. After an entire year of fighting with the virus, dealing with the stress, we are now trying to cope with the changing world. Traveling has gradually started to get back on track with the governments, airlines, accommodations setting safety protocols to curb the spread of the virus. But are you ready to take the big step and step out to your dream destination?

Here are few tips before you live your travel dreams again.

Are you ready to travel?

  • The first & most important step is to ensure you are physically & mentally ready to travel again. In case you are dealing with any severe health issues or have any symptoms related to COVID, contact your doctor first. Avoid traveling unless you get fit.
  • Being mentally fit and not panicking in case any emergency arises during your travel is essential, especially if you are traveling alone.
  • Your Instagram / facebook flooded with pictures of people traveling to beautiful destinations should not be the basis of your travel plans. Travel if you feel it is essential, without being driven by external social pressure.
  • Take a COVID test before you start your travel to wipe off any chances of spreading the virus unknowingly.

WHO COVID Updates

Plan your travel

Planning is the Key

Now that you have checked your travel readiness, its time to plan your travel.

  • Choose destinations that have been marked as safe or have a less number of COVID cases.
  • Many of us love the thrill of unplanned trips. It is advisable to avoid such adventures for now. Have a trip plan with details of travel dates, destinations, transportation, and stays.
  • Check out the safety measures & guidelines provided by different airlines. Choose the safest airline option.
  • Ensure that the accommodation option you choose follows safety measures to avoid the spread of COVID. Check if they provide any assistance in case of emergency.
  • It is suggested to have some local contacts in your travel destination. This should include local government helpline numbers, medical services contacts, etc.
  • Avoid traveling extensively. Check the safety options for local transportation beforehand with your travel agent, stay, or local guides.

COVID Guidelines by Airlines:

Indigo

Air India

Spicejet

Air Asia

Go Air

Vistara

Prefer local destinations

Explore local beauty

Dream of scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, experiencing the wilderness of South Africa or paying a visit to the royal Buckingham Palace in London. Well, it is better to put these plans on hold for some time and explore beautiful travel destinations nearby

Follow local government’s travel prerequisites

Follow the guidelines

Make sure to check out the latest COVID-related guidelines provided by the local government for travelers on their official website. Some destinations may require filling a form or a negative COVID test report. Prepare the documents or fulfill any prerequisites desired as per the government guidelines.

India: State wise Travel Guidelines

Pack your essentials

Don’t miss the essentials

Having done with your trip plan, it’s time to get ready to fight any undesired interaction with the virus with your travel essentials.

  • Keep few cleans masks handy
  • Grab few sanitizer bottles before your travel
  • Carry a medical kit with necessary medicines
  • Keep a few emergency contacts handy

Know local rules & be responsible

Follow local rules

With few destinations undergoing a lockdown, few being partially open to travel, and many with travel restrictions it is better to know the rules beforehand. Check out the rules set by local government in your travel destination. Do not violate these rules and put others at risk.

Government of India: COVID Guidelines

Follow safety measures during traveling

Be Safe

Now that you are ready to travel, ensure your and others’ safety by following few pointers.

•  Follow social distancing : Keep distance from people around you. The distance to be maintained varies from one country to another ( 2 meters in India, 1 meter according to the WHO Recommendations & followed in China, Denmark, France, Hong Kong, and Singapore). Ensure you check out the social distancing guidelines in your destination.

Ask people politely to maintain a distance. Avoid traveling to crowded tourist spots.

• Wash hands frequently & properly : Keep washing your hands frequently for 20 seconds with a handwash or a hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol content to keep the virus away. Do not miss to follow this step every time you touch a surface.

• Wear mask when outdoors : Wearing masks in public places and transports is mandatory in many countries these days. Always wear a clean mask when you are outdoors to prevent the spread of the virus. Keep few extra masks handy and change your masks every four hours.

• Avoid using public restrooms : It is better to avoid using public bathrooms as much as possible. Being used by many people, public restrooms have a high probability of being a source of contamination.

• Avoid crowded food outlets : Exploring any destination is incomplete without the delicious local cuisines. While you may be drooling over the tempting street foods, it is better to avoid eating in unhygienic or crowded food outlets. Prefer a clean, healthy meal in your own company or with your travel buddies.

Feeling any symptoms: Self isolate

Self isolate in case of any symptoms

In case, you feel any COVID-related symptoms, or you have come in contact with an infected person, firstly DO NOT PANIC! Isolate yourself in your room and contact the local authorities. Get a COVID test done as soon as possible and take rest. Do not travel until you are tested negative and follow the local government guidelines.

Be Patient

Do not rush to the airport, public places to get your work done quickly. Be patient. Daily changing COVID scenario may lead to the cancellation of flights or stays. Be prepared beforehand to alter your plans.

Enjoy your trip

Experience your travel destinations safely

Now that you are ready to safely explore your lovely destinations, onset your travel with a smile.

Jaipur – Ultimate 3 day travel guide

The Pink City, colored gems, forts, and one of the earliest planned cities of India, Jaipur is a window to the grand past while retaining a touch of the modern world. Do you know the city was painted pink by Maharaja Ram Singh as a symbol of hospitality? Well, what could be better than experiencing the hospitality of the Rajputanas and getting a taste of royalty in Jaipur.

Jaipur came to life when the Raja of Amber, Jai Singh II planned to shift his capital from Amber & this dream was brought to reality by architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya. Each corner of the city has something to offer, whether it be a palace reflecting the grandeur of the past, temples, beautiful gardens, the world of precious gemstones, delicious Rajasthani Cuisine, or the colorful & vibrant markets. Exploring each of these jewels of the city would take at least a month. If you want to experience the vibrance of Jaipur in a shorter duration, here’s a 3-day trip plan to Jaipur.

DAY 1:

Hawa Mahal or, the palace of winds was built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799. This red and pink sandstone structure with five floors has more than 900 windows decorated with lattice works. The wind circulation through these windows kept the Mahal cool during the hot summer season. They were also a window for the women of the palace to the outer world. This beautiful crown-shaped structure stands today as the symbol of the grand architecture of Jaipur.

Jakub Hałun, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jantar Mantar is said to be the largest stone astronomical observatory in the world. Built in 1724 by Raja Sawai Jai Singh, this UNESCO world heritage site has nineteen instruments to observe the position of astronomical bodies. This ancient marvel derives its name from Jantar, which means instrument, and mantra which means calculation.

Jakub Hałun, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

City Palace is the beautiful showcase of Rajput, Mughal, and European architecture. Built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh between 1729 – 1732, the palace has magnificent courtyards, gardens, and Chandra Mahal & Mubarak Mahal. The museum inside the palace tells stories of the grand past through artifacts & handicraft products. The Palace has three gates with Virendra Pol and Udai Pol gates being open to the public.

Albert Museum is the go-to for history buffs. This world of antiques and artifacts was built in 1876 by Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II, with the foundation being laid when The Prince of Wales, Albert Edward visited India. The museum is situated in Rambagh and is the State Museum of Rajasthan. The 16 art galleries take you to around the world with ancient coins, pottery, carpets, musical instruments, jewelry, and an Egyptian mummy.

Experiencing Jaipur is incomplete without exploring the colorful markets of the city. Situated between Sanganer Gate and New Gate is the world of vibrant hues, Bapu Bazar. This famous market is known for Rajasthani handicrafts, attires, décor items, textile, brass works, and the iconic Mojaris. Well, the price of the item depends on your bargaining abilities!

DAY 2:

At the top of Aravali hills, overlooking the Maotha Lake is one of the most magnificent palaces of India, Amer Fort or Amber Palace. Built in 1592 by Maharaja Man Singh I, the fort was erstwhile center of the princely state of Jaipur. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has six separate sections, each with its own courtyard and entry gate. With Sheesh Mahal, Mirror Palace, Baradari Pavillion, this red and yellow sandstone palace brings back the grandeur of Rajputana kingdoms to life.

Built in 1726 by Sawai Jai Singh II to protect Amer Fort, Jaigarh Fort stands proudly as the unconquered fort of Rajasthan. The fort is situated on the top of “ Cheel ka Teela” or Hill of eagles in the Aravali range. This defensive structure is connected to Amer fort through underground passages. Jaivana Cannon, which was once the world’s largest cannon on wheels, is housed inside the walls of Jaigarh Fort.

Nahargarh Fort is an addition to the series of forts built for defense purposes. Built in 1734 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, situated on the Aravali Hills, the fort offers a panoramic view of the city. Nahargarh, which means ‘abode of tigers’, is connected to Jaigarh Fort through extended walls over the hills. The fort was used for retreat purposes by the royal ladies & men. Don’t miss to witness the rich biodiversity of Rajasthan at the Nahargarh Biological Park.

Jal Mahal is an architectural marvel sitting in the mid of Man Sagar Lake. The Mahal was built in the 18th century by Maharaja Madho Singh I as a shooting lodge for the kings. With four underwater floors and one-floor peeping above the lake, this pink sandstone palace is a major tourist attraction. The palace is not open to the public, but you can enjoy its magnificence from the banks of Man Sagar Lake.

DAY 3:

Situated in the Alwar district, with prohibited entrance between sunset to sunrise, Bhangrah Fort has many myths, fables, folklores to tell. Built in the 17th century by Raja Bhagwant Das, the fort has four intact entrances, Hindu temples, mansions, and ancient sculptures.

Daniel VILLAFRUELA, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Birla Temple is a pure white marble temple located at the base of Moti Dongri Hills. Built by the B.M Birla Foundation in 1988, the temple is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Visnu. The temple is situated on an elevated platform and has many carvings depicting mythological themes. With three domes at the top of the temple, representing three religions of India, Birla Temple stands as a symbol of Modern India.

Chokhi Dhani is the perfect place to experience the essence of Rajasthani culture and cuisine. Established in 1989, this resort introduces you to the much-preserved heritage of Rajasthan through mini-village fairs, performances by local artists, and delicious Rajasthani food. You may enjoy the royal experience with their Royal cottages, Cottage Rooms, and Haveli Suits.

Some Tips:

How to Reach Jaipur:

Airways: Jaipur International Airport (around 15 km from the city center) is the nearest airport connected with domestic and international locations.

Railways: The local railway station is connected with major destinations in India. Luxury trains Maharaja Express and Palace on Wheels provides a royal ride to the city.

Roadways: State and privately owned buses connect Jaipur with other destinations in India.

Local Transport: Rickshaws, taxi are readily available for traveling within the city.

When to Visit: September – March

Where to Stay:

Booking.com

Zostel

Airbnb

What to eat:

Pyaaz Ki Kachori at Rawat Mishthan Bhandar, Station Road

Kathi Role at AI Bake, MI Road

Chicken Tikka at Sethi Barbeque, Raja Park

Dal Bati Churma at Santosh Bhojnalaya, Sindhi Camp

Lassi at Lassiwala, MI Road

Rabri Ghewar at Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar, Johri Bazar

Exploring Indian workations with The Hosteller

Imagine working on a piece of code while chilling on a beach in Goa, curating the next marketing campaign for your company while watching the snow in Manali, or analyzing the stock market while experiencing the royal palaces of Udaipur. All these dreams can transform into reality with the help of a newcomer in the world of travel enthusiasts, Workation. This joint venture of work & vacation translates into being on vacation while working. With no time, Workation has become the heartthrob of the travel community. 

One of the leading backpacker Hostel chains in India, turning this dream into reality is The Hosteller. With lovely hostels in beautiful locations across India, this hostel chain with its best facilities ensures a smooth working environment for digital nomads & travel lovers. 

The hosteller provides mixed dorms, female-only dorms, and private rooms. These stays are affordable, with the dorm stay price starting at INR 399/- only. Let’s explore beautiful workation destinations in India with The Hosteller.

Udaipur

City Palace, Udaipur

The city of lakes, palaces, and a mirror of the vibrant colors of Rajasthan, Udaipur is the perfect destination to experience the royalty of the Rajputana. How about getting a taste of royalty while you plan for your next brand campaign? The Hosteller, Udaipur welcomes you!

How to reach: The Hosteller, Udaipur is 3.5 Kms from Udaipur Railway station.

Reaching Udaipur:

Airways: Maharana Pratap Airport (22 Kms) is connected with cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, and others. For arrival from international destinations Jaipur, Delhi and, Mumbai international airports are a better choice.

Roadways: Regular bus services are available from Udaipur to other cities in India.

Railways: Udaipur Railway station is connected with major cities in India.

Nearby tourist places: Gangaur ghat, Lake Pichhola, City Palace, Jagdish Temple

Pricing: INR 2500 per week (For dorm stays)

The Hosteller, Udaipur

Explore The Hosteller, Udaipur

Read : Udaipur : Where I lost my heart

Delhi

Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi

Chandni Chowk’s Jalebi, historic red fort, peaceful Bangla saheb, the craziness of Hauz Khas, Delhi is rightly known as the heart of the nation. How about combining work with exploration of this beautiful city? If the answer is yes, The Hosteller Delhi welcomes you!

How to reach: You can take a metro on the pink line to reach the Ashram Metro Station. The Hosteller, Delhi is 400 meters from the metro station.

Reaching Delhi:

Airways: Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi is well connected with cities in India and abroad.

Roadways: State-owned and private buses run between the city and major destinations across India. Inter State Bus Terminus at Kashmiri Gate, Sarai – Kale Khan Bus Terminus, and Anand Vihar Bus Terminus are the three major bus stands in the city.

Railways: With more than 10 railway stations the city is connected with all major destinations in the country. New Delhi railway station, Old Delhi railway station, and Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station are the important ones.

Nearby tourist places: Lotus Temple, Hauz Khas, Akshardham Temple, Safdarjung temple

Pricing: INR 2500 per week (For dorm stays)

The Hosteller, Delhi

Explore The Hosteller, Delhi

Goa

Calangute Beach, Goa

Beach, blue sea waves, and a warm evening. Can there be a better work setup? If you love the peacefulness of sea waves, the craziness of beach parties, or the thrill of sea surfing, Goa is the perfect destination for your workation. Come to Goa and relax, rejuvenate and reconnect at The Hosteller, Goa!

How to reach: Take a bus from Panjim KTC Bus stand to Mapusa and another from Mapusa to Anjuna. If you are coming through airways, take a prepaid taxi/ local bus from the Goa International airport. The bus takes you to Panaji. The distance is around 18 Kms and takes 40-45 minutes during travel.

The Hosteller, Goa is 5 minutes from Anjuna Beach.

Reaching Goa:

Airways: Dabolim Aiport in Goa is connected with many domestic and international locations.

Roadways: Kadamba Bus stand in Panaji is one of the main bus stands that connect the state with other cities.

Railways: Vasco-da-Gama ( South Central Railway terminus) and Madgaon (Konkan Railway terminus) are the two major railway stations in Goa.

Nearby tourist places: Anjuna Beach, Calangute Beach, Baga Beach, Candolim Beach

Pricing: INR 3000 per week (For dorm stays)

The Hosteller, Goa

Explore The Hosteller, Goa

Manali

Manali

Skiing in Solang Valley, trekking in Parvati Valley, or paragliding in Pir Panjal, Manali is one of the most loved destinations in the Himachal. With eyes meeting snow-clad mountains every time you look around, escape to this beautiful town with The Hosteller, Manali.

How to reach: The Hosteller, Manali is around 1.6 km from the Manali Bus Depot. You can reach there through local transport.

Reaching Manali:

Airways: Kullu Manali Aiport (50 km) is the nearest airport connected with Chandigarh and Delhi. Chandigarh International Airport (306 km) is the nearest major airport with higher connectivity.

Roadways: Manali is well connected with New Delhi, Shimla, Kullu, Leh, and other major destinations in India through private and public buses.

Railways: Joginder Nagar Railway Station (around 50 km) is the nearest railway station. Kalka Railway Station (277 km) is the nearest main railway station connected with major cities like New Delhi, Amritsar, Jammu, Kolkata, etc.

Nearby tourist places: Solang Valley, Rohtang Pass, Naggar Castle

Pricing: INR 2500 per week (For dorm stays)

The Hosteller, Manali

Explore The Hosteller, Manali

Kasol

Parvati River, Kasol

Imagine a peaceful evening in a picturesque forest or sitting near a crystal clear mountain stream, while you bring your java codes to life. If this is a dream come true for you, Kasol is your go-to destination. Explore friendly, green, and peaceful Kasol with The Hosteller, Kasol.

How to reach: The Hosteller, Kasol is 500 meters from Manikaran Bus Stop.

Reaching Kasol:

Airways: The Kullu Manali Airport (31 km) is the nearest one. Chandigarh International Airport (157 km) is the high connectivity airport nearby. Private Taxis and vehicles run between the Kasol and the two airports.

Roadways: State Transport buses run regularly from nearby states.

Railways: Pathankot Railway station (150 km) is the nearest railway station. Chandigarh Railway Station (310 Kms) has higher connectivity.

Nearby tourist places: Kheerganga, Tosh, Grahan, Parvati Valley

Pricing: INR 3000 per week (For dorm stays)

The Hosteller, Kasol

Explore The Hosteller, Kasol

Bir

Bir

Classical Indian wisdom traditions at Deer Park Institute, Silent retreat at Dharmalaya, tea production at The Bir Tea Factory, are some of the lesser-known aspects of the adventure destination of India, Bir. From the adrenaline rush of paragliding to the peaceful meditation sessions, Bir offers you a wide range of escape plans. Analyze the ups and downs of the stock market while cherishing the beauty of Bir with The Hosteller, Bir.

How to reach: The Hosteller, Bir is 2 Kms from Kotli Bus Stop.

Reaching Bir:

Airways: Kangra airport, Dharmshala (67.6 km) is the nearest airport, but with limited connectivity. Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport, Amritsar (260 km) is the nearest airport connected with major destinations in India.

Roadways: Bus services are frequently available from Delhi and nearby cities.

Railways: Ahju Railway Station (3 km) is the nearest railway station with limited connectivity. Pathankot railway station (143 km) is the nearest one with higher connectivity.

Nearby tourist places: Bir Billing Paragliding, Nyingyang Monastery, Tsering Jong Monastery, Deer Park Institute

Pricing: INR 2000 per week (for dorm stays)

The Hosteller, Bir

Explore The Hosteller, Bir

Mcleodganj

A unique amalgamation of Himachali and Tibetan culture, Mcleodganj offers spiritual escapes, volunteering opportunities and adventure activities. With Triund Trek, the holy presence of the Dalai Lama, view of Dhauladhar range, Minkiani pass, Kareri lake, this beautiful town has something for everyone. Experience this beauty with The Hosteller, Mcleodganj.

How to reach: The Hosteller, Mcleodganj is around 2 km away from McLeod Ganj Bus and Taxi Stand.

Reaching Mcleodganj:

Airways: Kangra Aiport, Dharmshala (20 km) is the nearest airport connected with Delhi, Kullu, Chandigarh. Taxis and buses are readily available at the airport. Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi is the nearest main airport connected with major Indian and foreign destinations.

Roadways: Many state and private-owned buses run between Mcleodganj and Delhi, Chandigarh, Dharmshala, and nearby cities.

Railways: Pathankot Railway Station (90 km) is the nearest railway station connected with major other Indian cities.

Nearby tourist places: Bhagsunag Falls, Triund Trek, Naddi View Point, Namgyal Monastery

Pricing: INR 2500 per week (For dorm stays)

The Hosteller, Mcleodganj

Explore The Hosteller, Mcleodganj

Jibhi

Banjar, Jibhi

A secret town in the lap of the Himalayas, far away from the hustle-bustle of tourists, Jibhi is the perfect destination to experience the raw beauty of the Himalayas. Forests of cedar and pine trees, the Great Himalayan National Park, Jalori Pass, Jibhi is blessed with immense natural beauty. In love with a low key, offbeat destination, come to Jibhi and enjoy nature like never before with The Hosteller, Jibhi.

How to reach: The hosteller, Jibhi is around 5 km from the Ghiyagi Bus stop.

Reaching Jibhi:

Airways: Kullu Airport (60 km ) is the nearest airport. Chandigarh International airport (300 km) is the nearest major airport connected with major other cities in India.

Roadways: Buses run from Delhi, Chandigarh to Aut village (a village in Mandi district). You can take another bus from Aut to reach Banjar (a town in Kullu district) and another bus from Banjar to Jibhi. You can also hire a taxi in Aut to Jibhi.

Direct bus service between Manali and Jibhi is also available.

Railways: Shimla Railway station (150 km) is the nearest railway station. There is no direct train between Delhi & Shimla. Take a train from Delhi to Kalka & then from Kalka to Shimla. Experience the ride of the “toy train” between Kalka and Shimla.

Nearby tourist places: Tirthan falls, Hippo falls, Chhoie, Great Himalayan National Park

Pricing: INR 2000 per week (for dorm stays)

The Hosteller, Jibhi

Explore The Hosteller, Jibhi

Jaipur

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

The Pink City, colored gems, forts, dal bati churma (A Rajasthani delicacy), Jaipur is a window to the grand past while retaining the touch of the modern world. Do you know the city was painted pink by Maharaja Ram Singh as the color was believed to symbolize hospitality? What could be better than experience the hospitality of the Rajputanas at The Hosteller, Jaipur?

How to reach: The Hosteller, Jaipur is around 4 km from Jaipur Railway Station and 1.2 km from Sindhi Camp Bus stand.

Reaching Jaipur:

Airways: Jaipur International Airport is the nearest airport connected with domestic and international locations.

Roadways: State and privately owned buses connect Jaipur with other destinations in India.

Railways: Jaipur Railway Station is connected with many significant destinations in India.

Nearby tourist places: Albert Museum, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, Bapu Bazar

Pricing: INR 2000 per week (For dorm stays)

The Hosteller, Jaipur

Explore The Hosteller, Jaipur

Pushkar

Camel Festival, Pushkar

Pushkar, known for the Camel Festival and the only Brahma temple in the world, is visited by many tourists every year. Beyond the mythological connection, the city also has preserved ancient Indian architecture. Inclined towards discovering mysteries of Indian Heritage? Come, explore Pushkar with The Hosteller, Pushkar.

How to reach: The Hosteller, Pushkar is 500 meters from Pushkar Railway Station

Reaching Pushkar:

Airways: Jaipur International airport (140 km ) is the nearest airport. Hire a taxi from the airport for a 3 hours journey to Pushkar.

Roadways: Buses run between major cities like Delhi, Jaipur to Ajmer. State transport buses take you from Ajmer to Pushkar.

Railways: Pushkar Railway Station is the nearest one with limited connectivity. Ajmer Railway station (14 km) is the major railway station nearby connected with cities like Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai. A 30 minutes drive from Ajmer Railway station takes you to Pushkar.

Nearby tourist places: Pushkar Camel Safari, Pushkar Lake, Sunset Point, Brahma Temple

Pricing: INR 2000 per week (for dorm stays)

The Hosteller, Pushkar

Explore The Hosteller, Pushkar

Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer Fort

The Golden city, with yellow stone buildings, camel queues, Kalbelia dance, and a night in the majestic Thar desert, Jaisalmer is a dream town. The Havelis, forts, art, and culture of the city tell stories of the last eight hundred years. Walk into this dreamland that takes you on a journey to an ancient kingdom with The Hosteller, Jaisalmer.

How to reach: The Hosteller, Jaisalmer is 2.3 km away from Jaisalmer Railway station.

Airways: Jodhpur Airport (300 km) is the nearest airport. Cabs are readily available at the airport for Jaisalmer.

Roadways: State-owned and private buses connect Jaisalmer with other cities in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Railways: Jaisalmer Railway Station is connected with major cities in the country.

Nearby tourist places: Desert Cultural Center, Gadisar Lake, Jaisalmer Fort, Kothari’s Patwa Haveli, Moti Mahal

Pricing: Starts INR 2000 per week (For dorm stays)

The Hosteller, Jaisalmer

Explore The Hosteller, Jaisalmer

Best destinations for top Indian festivals

India is a country of many colors, celebrations, and festivals. Most of the festivals have been the child of religious beliefs, but some have been the outcome of a regional lifestyle. In present times, these festivals are an escape from our fast-moving lives to celebrate with loved ones. 

While many festivals are celebrated across the country with high zeal, some destinations give a special touch to these festivities. Here are some of the renowned festivals of India and the destinations to experience their full vibrance.

  1. Holi in Mathura

Holi Celebrations, Mathura

The festival of colors Holi is famous across the globe. The festival drives its linkage to Hindu mythology, with a belief that Lord Krishna killed Hiranyakashipu in his Narasimha avatar. It is also celebrated as a spring festival. The craziness of Holi in Mathura is unbeatable. It is a week-long celebration & each day has a specific theme & location. 

Day 1: Lathmar Holi in Barsana. Women dress up as Gopis and beat men dressed as Gops with sticks. 

Day 2: Lathmaar Holi in Nandagaon

Day 3: Phoolwalon Ki Holi in Banke Bihari temple, Vrindavan

Day 4: Widows’ Holi in Gopinath temple in Vrindavan

Day 5: Holi in Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan; Holi Procession in Mathura; Holika Dahan at Holi Gate

Day 6: Holi in Dwarkadheesh Temple

When: March 

Where to stay: The Radha Ashok, Brijwasi Lands Inn

2. Durga Puja in Kolkata

Augustus Binu, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pandal during Durga Puja

Durga Puja is the celebration of the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. The grandeur of this festival is best experienced in the land of sweet rosogolla, Kolkata. A ten-day celebration marks the festivities where the last five days involve significant rituals. Hopping from one beautiful and lighted pandal to another is a must during the Pujo.

Day 1: Mahalaya. It is considered as the day of arrival of Goddess Durga from her marital home (Kailash).

Day 6: Sashthi. The arrival of the Goddess is celebrated amid the sound of dhol and shankh in a ceremony called Bodhon.

Day 7: Maha Saptami. Kola Bou Snan is the ritual performed where a small banana plant, wrapped in a red border saree, is bathed in the water of a reservoir.

Day 8: Maha Ashtami. Kumari Puja is performed on this day where young girls are worshipped as a form of the Goddess. The evening is marked for Shandhi Puja.

Day 9: Maha Navami. Dhununchi Naach is performed in the evening with people dancing to the dhaps of dhol with clay pots filled with coconut husks and camphor.

Day 10: Vijaya Dashmi. The end of the festival is marked by sindoor khela and visarjan.

When: September – October 

Where to stay: Holiday Inn, The Sonnet

3. Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai

Grand Procession, Ganesh Chaturthi

With a grand procession of people dancing to the tunes of, “Ala re ala, Govinda ala” and a prominent statue of Lord Ganesha, Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the biggest celebrations in the city of dreams. These 10-day festivities start with the arrival of idols of Lord Ganesh in homes and pandals. Every day the lord is offered sweets, flowers, rice, and modaks. The celebrations end with the visarjan of the idols in water bodies. Some of the must-visit pandals to experience the festival at its best.

  • Lalbaugcha Raja ( Central Mumbai)
  • Ganesh Galli Mumbaicha Raja (Central Mumbai)
  • Khetwadi Ganraj (Grigaim – South Mumbai)
  • GSB Seva Ganesh Mandal (King’s Circle – Central Mumbai)

When: August

Where to stay: Holiday Inn, Lemon Tree Premier

4. Onam in Kerala

Sam P Raj, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kathakali during Onam

The festival of plenitude and happiness, owing to a season of good harvest, Onam is significant in Kerala. The festival also has mythological linkages with the occasion indicating a visit of King Mahabali to meet his dear subjects. People across the region together take part in renowned boat races, tiger dances, mask dances, martial arts, tug of war, and music carnival. This 10-day celebration starts with a grand procession called Atthachamayam near Kochi. 

When: August – September

Where to stay: Lake Palace, Radisson Blu Kochi

5. Lohri in Punjab

By Beatrix11freedom – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86782137

Giddha during Lohri

The land of mustard fields (Sarso Ke Khet), sweet lassi, and Bhangra, Punjab is indeed the place of happiness. Adding to the jolly mood of the land comes the festival of Lohri. It is a celebration of the winter crop season, remembering the passing of the winter solstice & the sun god. Gur, Ghazak, til, sarso da saag, makke di roti are the main attractions of Lohri. On D-day, a bonfire is scheduled at night and people offer popcorn, peanuts, rewri/rabri ( a sweet delicacy) to the fire as a reverence.

When: January 

Where to stay: The Landmark Amritsar, Fairfield by Marriott Amritsar

6. Camel festival in Pushkar

Pushkar Mela

A twist in the series of festivals! Welcome to the Pushkar camel festival. With over 4 lakhs people, thousands of camels, cattle, and horses and spread across a span of 14 days, Pushkar welcomes you for an experience of a lifetime. From beauty contests, races, trading, don’t get confused, all solely for camels, the mela is quite an attraction for the tourists. It also offers local crafts, music and magic shows, acrobats, a heritage walk, and a thrilling hot air balloon flight. 

When: November

Where to stay: RTDC tourist village, Gulaab Niwas Palace

7. Hemis festival in Ladakh

Masked Dance, Hemis Festival

Every year a two-day festivity brings the cold deserts of Ladakh alive. Celebrated on the birth date of Lord Padmasambhava (10th day of the 5th month in the Monkey year) inside the Hemis monastery, it is the Hemis festival. The sounds of drums, pipes, and cymbals onset the festival early in the morning. Followers seek blessing from a portrait of the Guru, and here comes the main charm of the festival, Cham dance form. It’s a masked dance performed by colorfully dressed lamas, bringing enthusiasm in the spectators. Exhibitions of local craft items are put up, where you can buy lovely souvenirs for family & friends.

When: June – August 

Where to stay: Yarab Tso, Woody Vu Stok House

8. Hornbill festival in Nagaland

Tribal Dance, Hornbill Festival

Hornbill is another off-beat festival on the list. It was started by the government of Nagaland to promote inter-tribal interaction and promote the heritage of the state. The festival derived its name from the beautiful hornbill bird, which is a part of many local folklores in Nagaland. The celebrations are held at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama where different tribes of the state showcase their culture through dance forms, indigenous games, crafts, sports, fashion shows, and music concerts.

When: December 

Where to stay: Niraamaya Retreats Aradura, Razhu Pru

9. Dev Deepawali in Varanasi

Pritiwary, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ganga aarti, Dev Deepawali

A riverside with millions of lamps, it would indeed be a magnificent sight. Well, the view is offered to you during Dev Deepawali in Varanasi. After 15 days from Diwali, the Gods are believed to descend to earth and take a bath in the Ganga in Varanasi. On this day, every step of every ghat in Varanasi is lighted up with earthen lamps. People take a holy bath in the river, with a belief to get rid of their sins, which is followed by offering earthen lamps to Ganga. Tourists specially visit Varanasi to witness the grandeur of the festival and the magnificence of Ganga aarti in the evening. 

When: November 

Where to stay: Taj Ganges, Radisson Hotel

10. Dasara in Mysore

Grand Mysore Palace

It’s the Dusshera festival, but with lots of difference. It’s Mysore ka Dasara. A 10-day celebration is organized in the royal Mysore Palace, Maharaja college ground, Chamundi Hills, and many other locations across the city. Mysore Dasara is dedicated to Goddess Chamundeshwari of the Chamunda Hill. The main attractions are Jumboo Savari, dring which of Goddess Chamundeshwari is carried on an elephant in a public procession, and a torchlight parade at the Bannimantap grounds. The Mysore palace is illuminated with thousands of lights, and the golden throne is put out in the Durbar Hall for public display, which is a yearly affair.

When: October – November

Where to stay: Grand Mercure Mysore, Radisson Blu Plaza

Five best Konkan beaches in Dapoli

Do you know there are more than 100 beaches in India, around 40 in Maharashtra alone? While some of them are well known, a few other hidden gems are yet to be discovered. 215 km away from Mumbai is a peaceful getaway, Dapoli. This coastal hill station will surprise you with many pristine beaches, green lush hills and calming vibes. Here are the top 5 beaches in dapoli, ready to take you to the world of waves.

Murud Beach

Located in the town of Murud, 11kms from Dapoli is our stop number one, Murud beach. Lying on the Konkan coastline, the beach soothes you with crystal clear sea waves, lush palm trees & a chance to catch a glimpse of friendly dolphins. If you love the thrill of water sports, Murud beach is for you. banana ride & parasailing are a few of the water adventure activities available here.

How to reach: A shared rickshaw from Dapoli Bus depot will take you to the beach in approx. 20 INR.

Where to stay: Hotel Murud Marina, Hotel Sea Face

Kelshi Beach

One of the virgin beaches of Dapoli, Kelshi beach offers you the view of Utambar hills & rare migratory birds as white gulls, sandwich terns, and blue-green Kingfisher. This 3 km stretch of Konkan coast is an escape to enjoy the sunset in the company of the blue waves and gifts of seas as conches, shells, and cowries.

How to reach: Kelshi beach is 30 km from Dapoli. You can reach here by state transport buses, private vehicles or autorickshaws.

Where to stay: Lotus Eco Beach Resort, Exotica Suvarna Samudra

Karde Beach

One of the most beautiful beaches of the Konkan coastline, Karde beach is the go-to for enjoying white waves in the backdrop of green hills. If it is your day, cute dolphins may pay you a visit. Play beach volleyball, frisbee, collect beautiful seashells & enjoy delicate Konkani seafood in the nearby resorts.

How to reach: Karde beach is 12 km from Dapoli. State transport buses run between Dapoli and Karde, but the frequency is less. Hire a rickshaw or a private vehicle.

Where to stay: The Sea Face, Lotus Eco Beach Resort

Anjarle beach

Anjarle beach: Apoorva Karlekar, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visiting Dapoli during November – March? Witness nature at its best & experience the turtle nests, the flight of migratory birds at Anjarle beach. Situated at around 25 km from Dapoli near River Jog’s estuary, stretched over 2 km, and embraced with palm trees, Anjarle is a beautiful escape.

How to reach: A half an hour drive from Dapoli takes you to Anjarle beach.

Where to stay: Whistling Waves Beach Resort, Exotica Suvarna Samudra

Harnai beach

 Having enjoyed the peaceful getaway at Murud, Harnai beach comes as a little surprise to you. 17 km from Dapoli, with hills on one side, colorful flags of the fishing boats on the other, Harnai beach is for every seafood lover. The beach is also a dock with fish auctions happening daily between 5- 7 pm. You can spot Suvarnadurg Fort, in the distant sea, which is home to local fauna. The best time to visit Harnai is in the evening when taking a stroll down the road, you can witness colorful flags of ships coming back from daily expeditions.

How to reach: Buses, rickshaws, private vehicles are readily available in Dapoli for Harnai beach.

Where to Stay: Sea Princess Beach resort, Lotus Eco Beach resort

Some tips:

How to reach Dapoli:

Roadways: A 5 hours drive from Mumbai, Pune takes you to Dapoli. State Transport buses are also available from these cities.

Railways: Khed is the nearest railway station (27 Km). It is well connected with major other cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Delhi. Bus services, private jeeps, and auto-rickshaws are readily available at Khed Railway station.

Airways: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai is the nearest international & domestic airport (235 Km).

Best time to visit: October – March

Where to stay:

The Fern Samali Resort

Sylvan Greens Resort

Sagar Sawali, Ladghar Beach View Resort

Surali Wadi Beach Resort

Five weekend getaways near Nashik

An ancient city with a tinge of modernity, Nashik is a go-to for every nature lover. The city has beautiful destinations and weekend getaways nearby. Are you planning to explore Nashik? Here are five weekend escapes for you!

  1. Sula Vineyard
Wikieditor11221, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sula Vineyard

Spread in 160 acres, Sula Vineyards welcomes you. Whether you are a wine connoisseur or not, the green, lush vineyard is a beautiful escape. Start your journey with a tour of the winery and learn about the journey of grapes to wines. Enjoy six delicate wines during the wine tasting. Next, enjoy delicious Indian and Italian cuisine in Little Italy and Rasa restaurants. End your day buying lovely souvenirs from the gift and bottle shop.

If you want to experience the best of Sula, don’t miss the grape stomping event during Jan-March and a two-day live music festival, Sula fest in Feb.

Distance from city center: 11 km

Timings: 11 am -11 pm

Time required: 2-3 hours

2. Anjaneri

Savitr1915, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Anjaneri Hills

Do you love spirituality, adventure, or want to be lost in the beauty of nature? If the answer is yes, Anjaneri hills are for you. Located in the Nashik- Triambakeshwar range, Anjaneri is considered the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. Up for a morning hike? The journey to Anjaneri fort, situated at around 4000 feet on the hills, takes you through a beautiful valley of flowers, waterfalls, and caves.

The hills derived their name from Anjani, the mother of Lord Hanumana. At the top, you will find a temple devoted to Goddess Anjani. Steep steps, breath-taking view of the valley, Brahmagiri range, Baitarni river, Anjaneri is heaven’s paradise. To touch floating clouds and experience a spectacular view, visit during monsoons.

Distance from city center: 26 km

Timings: All day

Time required: 3-4 hours

3. Triambakeshwar

Triambakeshwar Temple

One of the most reverent places near Nashik is Triambakeshwar Temple. Situated in a village called Triambak, the temple is one of the 12 jyotirlingas. The temple is devoted to Lord Shiva and has many folklores attached to it. It is believed that the current temple was built by Nana Saheb.

The architecture reveals the magnificence of Indian craftsmanship with a three faced statue of Lord Shiva. Each face is a symbol of the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh (Shiva). The walls of the temple have been carved with images of Gods and Goddesses and the premises are considered the origin of the Godavari river. It is also the location of Simhasta Kumbh Mela, which is organized every 12 years. Millions of devotees visit the temple during the Mela, which reveals the importance of Triambakeshwar. 

Distance from city center: 28 Kms

Timings: 5:30 am – 9 pm

Time required: 1-2 hours

4. Panchvati

Since childhood, Ramayana and numerous stories, beliefs linked to it have been an eternal part of our lives in India. Destinations linked to this epic have significant importance and, Panchvati is not a usual one. Considered as the place where Lord Rama, Laxman, and Sita spend some time during their 14 years of exile, Panchvati certainly holds a special place. The term means “Garden of five banyan trees”, and surprisingly five banyan trees are still present at the site. The story of Ramayana further takes you to two other sites near Panchvati, Sita Gufa and Ram Kund.

Sita Gufa

Akshatha Inamdar, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sita Gufa

If you have read/heard/ watched Ramayana, one of the turning points is the kidnapping of Sita by Ravana. A site near Panchvati is said to have witnessed this incident, Sita Gufa. Narrow stairs take you down inside a cave where you find idols of Lord Rama, Laxmana, and Sita. The cave has a shivalinga which is said to have been worshipped by Sita.

Ram Kund

Akshatha Inamdar, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ram Kund

Another holy site near Panchvati is Ramkund, which is known as the bathing site of Lord Rama. It is now famous as the site where the ashes of the dead are immersed. Many take a dip in the pond with the desire to get rid of their sins.

Distance from city center: 4.2 km 

Timings: Sita Gufa: 6 am – 9 pm; Ram Kund: All day

Time required: Half a day

5. Pandavleni caves

Pandavleni Caves

Pandavleni Caves, also known as Nashik and Pandu caves, are a group of 24 rock-cut caves situated on the Trivashmi hills. No, I know what you must be thinking and I had similar beliefs, but it is not related to the Pandavas. Dating back to the 3rd and 2nd century BC, these caves were built by the rulers of the Satavahanas and Kshaharatas kingdoms and are devoted to Hinayana Buddhism. 200 steps up take you to a world of beautiful sculptures, inscriptions, and icons.

The peaceful environment inside the caves gives a sense of life led by Buddhist monks in these caves. Pandavleni has a rich historic significance with its linkage with Buddhist, Jain monks and the Kshatrapas, the Satavahanas and the Abhiras kingdoms.

Distance from city center: 8 km

Timings: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm 

Time required: 2-3 hours

Some tips:

How to reach Nashik

Roadways: Nashik is situated at a distance of  180 km from Mumbai. A 4-5 hours bus ride from Dadar, Borivali, or Thane takes you to this holy city.

Airways: Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai is the nearest airport (180 km). Cab services to Nashik are available at the airport.

Railways: Nashik Road Railway station, 10 km is connected to major other cities in the country.

Best time to visit: Oct-March

Where to stay:

  • Hotel Express Inn
  • The Source at Sula
  • Beyond by Sula
  • The Gateway Hotel Ambad Nashik
  • Ibis Nashik

What to eat:

  • Thalipeeth at Heramb
  • Misal Pav at Ambika Missal
  • Bhel Puri at Shaukin Bhel
  • Jalebi at Buddha Halwai
  • Kheema Pav at Joggers Pavilion

5 must book dates for you

What kind of relationship do you have with books? Is it a daily meetup, or a causal talk, or a once in a blue moon hello. Whatever the frequency maybe, each date brings a chance to gain immensely from your friend, the book. 

I have a pretty strong friendship with books. A half an hour daily catchup is mandatory, though they graciously forgive me a few times. 

There has always been a plethora of these gems available, and with different personalities as thriller, biography, drama, poetry, the list is endless. While each has great value to add to your life, a few of my meetups with them have tuned into relationships of a lifetime. 

Here are my five best friends, who have been there through thick and thin & are ready to be there for you too.

1. The Art of Happiness

Where is your happiness?

What is the goal of your life? Power, money, companionship? In the end, these means are helpful as long as they lead to the achievement of the ultimate state: Being happy! If you ask me, the sole goal of my life is to be happy. 

If I get a promotion this year, I will be happy; If I travel to more than 10 countries this year, I will be happy; for many of us, our happiness is bound by external stimuli. The Art of Happiness breaks this gap between the outer and the inner world and shows a path towards happiness.

The fundamentals are simple. 

  • Be compassionate and kind to others.
  • Focus on inner contentment instead of chasing the Ferrari. This may seem tricky, for how do we let go of the love for Ferrari. The answer is to focus on what we have and appreciate that.
  • Before making any decisions, check out, “Will it bring happiness to me?”. Maybe not in a short term.
  • If you are trying to build a lasting relationship with someone, know the true nature of the person.
  • Stop overthinking & overacting to minor things.
  • Before making an attempt to understand others, know yourself.

Do set up a date with this friend of my mine to find your path to happiness.

Set Up a Date

2. The Fountainhead

Passion or Power

Let us have a cliché discussion on money/ fame versus passion. “Follow your passion, and the money follows you” we have heard this quite often. But are you ready to bear the thorns of the path to follow your heart? 

In a utopian world, righteousness takes you through a flowery path. In the real world, there are numerous twists and turns that you may have to go through. Still, the outcome may not be what you desired. Are you ready to face what it takes is the question we need to ask. A perfect portrayal of such a journey has been done by my beloved friend, The Fountainhead. This friend of my mine has been my go-to in times of confusion for years. If you are caught up in a conflict between heart and head, do reach out to our advisor friend, The Fountainhead.

Set Up a Date

3. Man’s Search for Meaning

What’s the meaning of your life?

Who am I?

Where did I come from? 

Where am I heading to?

 Questions like these have been popping up for years. While these might have been left unanswered, there have been extensive attempts to find meaning in our existence. If we can not find out answers to the questions of who and where, finding a reason to keep going in life is much needed. I know, the discussion is getting complex! A friend of mine is ready to make it easier for you. 

Taking you through a roller coaster ride story of people who experienced extreme physical and mental torture in concentration camps in Nazi Germany, Man’s Search for Meaning is here for you. 

It sheds light on the most overused yet ignored term, “Life’s purpose”. If the phrase appears superficial, let my friend share examples of the drastic impact of having a purpose had on the prisoners in a concentration camp decades back. Having something to look up to made some of them bear the tough daily life and, the ones who lost the sense of an end goal lost themselves. 

Confused about your life’s purpose? Check out what my friend has to say.

Set Up a Date

4. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long & Happy Life

What’s your Ikigai?

Japan, the epitome of transformation, is also the home of some of the fittest and healthiest communities in the world. The lifestyle, individual practices, and the mindset of people in these communities contribute to a long, contented, and healthy life. To help you turn your life around to a happy and fit one, my lifestyle consultant friend, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, is here. 

It spills the secret of Ikigai, which means your reason for being. While you would have discovered your purpose with the help of Man’s Search for Meaning. Ikigai lays down some tips to change your health, mindset, and lifestyle. The most important gift from Ikigai is the learning to create a flow in each and every task that you do. 

The learnings from Ikigai are immense, which I have poured down in another blog post: Ikigai: The pathway to a better life

Set Up a Date

5. The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Heaven or Hell

What will happen to you after death? Well, there exist diverse beliefs trying to answer this question, but there is no fixed answer for now. While we do not know about life in hell or heaven, we surely can do something about our lives on earth. 

Let me introduce you to my next friend, The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Our roller-coaster lives, filled with unrelated coincidental events and people, are actually connected. So, here my friend provides you five life lessons to make you understand the chaotic world. 

  • All people who cross paths with you and incidents that occur once in a blue moon are connected in some way. Remember the shop where you bought a book yesterday? The seller has used the money to send her young sister to school, who turns up to be your daughter’s best friend and saves her life. Pure fiction? Yes, but an example of how people who cross paths with you are unknowingly connected to you.
  • Sacrifice, whether small or big has significant importance.
  • Hatred does more harm to self than others.
  • Love is never lost, it just changes form. 
  • Your life and actions are never meaningless. 

Set Up a Date

These generous friends of mine are gaily waiting to connect with you and share their stories and learn yours. Do hangout with them and share your experience with me. And yes, do not forget to say a little hello from my side.

First solo trip to Pondicherry

Firsts are always special. Take a moment & think about your first solo trip. Do you remember the excitement, the fear & the feeling of freedom? Whether it was a month-long, just a few days, or even a single day outing, it brings a smile to your face.

My first solo trip, even though it lasted just a day, is special to me. After checking out the pros, cons & lots of questions, I took a trip to Pondicherry (or Puducherry) in 2017. Contrary to my expectations, nothing catastrophic happened. But did it pave the way for my future trips? Indeed yes.

The beginning at Paranur

Early morning around 7 am, a girl was rushing to the Paranur railway station (around 60 km from Chennai). She had to catch the next local to Chengalpattu. At 7:55 am, the train to Pondicherry would depart without paying any heed to her gathered strength. Few locals pass by & she gets into the ladies coach.

No points for guessing, the girl is me.

Where would these rail tracks take you?

Running parallel to a large lake & bidding goodbye to the distant hills, a few minutes later, the train reached Chengalpattu Railway Station. It was time to rush again. Didn’t I mention I had not bought the tickets yet?

Few steps up, few steps down, crossing the over-bridge, I was standing in front of the ticket counter. One, two, three …, I lost count of the number of people ahead of me in the line & so did my hopes of making it happen.

But they say, make a wish 10 times & it turns into reality. Grabbing the ticket, which was my prized possession at that moment, I rushed to the mentioned platform. Well, this is my inherent quality; I am rushing all the time.

The train to Pondicherry

So, reached the platform, got into the train, checked my seat, the other seats, took a close look at the fellow passengers, and the mind started revealing its true colors. There is still time, let us go back, it is not safe, why do you need to go alone, you will get bored? Unheard voices started ringing in my ears.

In one line, the heart said, “It is now or never.” and there was no going back.

Love for window view

I love traveling by train. Two reasons, one the view, second the people. Flights have cut short our travel time, but I miss some of the amazing experiences train journeys have given me. Those stories are for some other day!

Let’s for now, focus on what’s happening around. The folks around seem normal, keep a tight hold of the straps of the bag. Time to enjoy the outside view. The train ran parallel to green fields, met few smiling faces and concrete buildings. 3 hours later, I had accomplished my mission! Pondicherry welcomed me with a drizzling sky.

Exploring the city

Rock Beach

Auto-ride vs Walk…what do you say?

“Rock beach is 2.6 km away.”, google assistant said & I started contemplating whether to take an auto ride or walk the distance. The increasing speed of the rain compelled me to settle for the former.
A few minutes later, I was standing in front of the renowned rock beach.

The beach shore is filled with large black rocks, which my mind concluded is a way to protect the sea from human intrusion. I could not resist the pull of the sea anymore & settled on the sand. Watching the blue waves merge with the sky above, I almost lost track of time.

Rock Beach

The sudden sound of people rushing broke my daydream. Turning my head the eyes meet a huge camera setup. It was a movie shoot!! This trip was definitely breaking the record of firsts!

India and movies, do I need to say more? Indian cinema apart from the glamour & glitz is an inseparable part of our lives. I don’t even remember how many dialogues are a part of my daily communication. With great curiosity, and let me admit honestly excitement, I joined the crowd. Peeping through the crowd I saw a lady crying and a man trying to console her. Don’t worry, it was a part of the act. I couldn’t recognize the actor or the actress or even get a clue of their dialogues. Asking the cheering & clapping folks , it turned out to be a Kannada movie.

Sunset at Rock Beach

Seeking blessing from Lakshmi

It was time to let go of the attraction of the sound, camera, action, and explore the city further. Walking on the pavements, crossing streets, I found a beautiful elephant generously showering her blessings on people. How could I be deprived of the joy of the company of this lovely friend?

Steps ahead led me to Manakula Vinayagar Devasthanam, a large temple devoted to Lord Ganesha. The name of the temple has a story of its own. The equation is simple:

(Manal = Pond) + (Kula =Sand) + (Vinayak = Ganesha)

And here am I, still wondering where did my name come from!

But the main attraction of this temple is Lakshmi, our friend. Offering her some bananas & receiving generous blessings, the steps started again.

Yellow houses in the white town

A part of the white town

The houses turned yellow all of a sudden in the White Town. Yes, I like dramatic stories. But in the middle of the white town in Pondicherry, I am sure this thought will cross your mind once. Roaming across the streets, feeling the cry for food in my stomach, it was time for the French Cafés of the town.

Let me give a little backdrop. Pondicherry was a French colonial settlement long back. While it is a thing of the past, French food and the township are few remnants of the past era.

Time for some French cuisine at Baker’s street

My mind was a bit lost in the stories of the French era, but the legs knew the destination. I was standing in front of Baker’s street, the renowned French café of Pondicherry.

French Cuisine

With croissants, quiches, tempting chocolate & my all-time favorite burger, I wanted no more. There was no time to waste. Only after the order arrived, the mind laughed at my misjudgment of my capacity. The food was delicious & I left with a pile of empty plates on the table & yes, a heavy stomach.

 In the Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges

Had a heavy meal, go for a walk –  I had read this in some article on transforming from the Christian Bale of The Machinist to the Batman in The Dark Knight Rises. This dialogue helped me convince my sleepy self to explore the city a little more.

Where to go next? But the sky was in a mood to put a stop to my expedition with a heavy downpour.

Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges

I entered a church nearby to save myself from the rage of the rain. But the beauty of the place demanded more attention. It was the Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges, one of the oldest churches in Pondicherry designed in Greco-Roman architecture.

I have always felt a special attraction and a sense of peace in places of worship. Sitting in one of the rows, discussing my plans with God and how the world has turned up to be, strengthened this belief. The watch did its duty, and it was time to leave.

Shopping at night in Pondicherry

Luckily the rain had stopped by now. Jumped into an auto, rushed to the ticket counter, onto the platform, the first step inside the train, and I looked back. What did change? Nothing, the mind said, but the heart smiled silently, for impressions of a lifetime had already been made.

Some tips:

How to Reach:

Airways: Puducherry Airport takes daily flights from Bangalore (except Wednesday). However, you can get connecting flights from other major cities. Chennai Airport, 135 km away from the town, is a major domestic and international airport.

Railways: Puducherry Railway Station, 4kms from the city center, gets many short and long-distance trains.

Roadways: East Coast Road (ECR), Grand Southern Trunk Road (GST) and National Highway 32 connect Pondicherry with other major cities.

Commuting in Pondicherry: Hire two-wheelers, autorickshaw or radio taxis.

Best time to visit: Oct-March

Why you do What you do?

There are 8 wonders in this world. Great Wall of China, Petra, Colosseum, Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal, Christ the Redeemer, which is the next one? For me, it is Human Behavior. The twists & turns & unpredictability of human behavior are beyond the complexity of the rest seven wonders. The past few months of leisure started a chain of thoughts for me. Beyond the unanswerable questions of existence, chicken, or the egg first, life on earth or water first, I stopped at, “why I do what I do?” And the search for answers led me here to Wired Tales.

Let’s go down the memory lane

As a child, I loved playing, dancing, singing, creative writing, in short everything other than studies or the accepted norm. Growing up the outer environment changed & without any external pressure, I knew I was supposed to be focused on studies solely. No, I don’t deny the importance of studies, but, everything else lost significance in my own eyes. Life was going in the usual flow, with some sweet & sour moments & without a pause button.

Well, did the what-ifs never crossed my mind? It will be a lie if I deny that. But no, that’s not for you, I said to myself.

Fast forward to present time

March 2020, post-graduation done, new job & new city in a few months & the ultimate goal achieved; a settled life. But someone disagreed & the pandemic happened. The chaos, fear, and anxious state for the first month was followed by a race to be utmost productive and make the most out of all the time I had. The bubble had to burst & I sat thinking what next. For the first time in months, I was looking back at my life, wondering about my actions, decisions & where I am heading to.

We live in a world of benchmarks. I looked around to find out how my role models have been coping with these questions. There was no answer, just an expectation to get the best ROI on everything that I do.

The formula is simple:

If (Hour spent leads to material gain)

            Profit

Else

            FAILURE

Why does the painter keep trying to create the best portrait for hours? Or the musician keeps searching for that one note for hours?

I was puzzled and had no answers.

Where was the answer?

A group of misfits, living their own world, some of them, known as influencers, had the answer for me. Life’s motto is simple for them, “Do what you love?”. Love camera, capture your surroundings; love traveling, write about your journeys; love cooking, share your recipes; just do what you love!

What gave them the courage to fight against the odds, external and internal resistances, and the uncertainties? I don’t have an answer yet. But against popular belief, their decisions about their careers are not made in a spur. They understand their financials, evaluate the pros & cons, and make a game plan before taking the leap of faith.

Where it led to?

These misfits inspired me to let go of the inhibitions I have been holding on to for so long, to break free & stop worrying about the ROI of each and every action. It is definitely not easy to let go the chains that we keep ourselves trapped in for years. But it does no harm in taking small steps at a time.

All my life, I have been pondering about what I love. Reading about the new-gen misfits, I started thinking, joining broken links & decided to give my love for traveling and writing a chance.

So, here I am at Wired Tales, jotting down my experiences & thoughts.

What’s next?

There is a long way to go & a lot to do, and I just want to enjoy this process without being worried about the end results. I am no preacher, just trying to live by the motto, “Have no regrets”. A request to all of you; paint, dance, roam, code, build, analyze, whatever you love, do give it a chance. Who knows when the seeming coal gets transformed into a shining diamond.

Udaipur: Where I lost my heart

The city of lakes, palaces & a perfect mirror of the vibrant colors of Rajasthan, Udaipur is the destination to experience the royalty of the Rajputana. With beautiful scenic locations, rich culture, history & for my love of Rajasthan, the city was on my bucket list for a long time. It was time for the last college trip & without ifs & buts, I set off to Udaipur with my friends.

Jaipur to Udaipur

Lake Pichola

The city is well connected with other major cities of India by airways, roads & railways. For the love of train journeys, I boarded the Kurj Udaipur express at Jaipur railway station. The morning sun welcomed us in the city of lakes. We had booked a stay near lake Pichola & lucky us, it was in proximity to many of the tourist places. 

Fall in love with the City Palace

The grand entrance

Rajasthan is the land of kings & palaces and Udaipur is no exception. Our hopping journey started from the magnificent City Palace in Udaipur. The palace was a few minutes away from our stay. I am in love with palaces & the royal aura they possess. The moment I stepped inside the grand entrance; I was lost in the magnificence of the palace.

Inside City Palace

It was built over 400 years by several rulers of the Mewar dynasty & preserves the past architecture and art forms. With sections like the Raj Angan (Royal Courtyard), Zenana Mahal (Ladies Chamber), Sheesh Mehal, Krishna Vilas, Mor Chowk & Lakshmi Chowk, the Mahal takes you back to the era of Rajput Kingdoms. 

The grandeur

 A sneak peek of Lake Pichola & the surrounding city from the balconies of the palace is a must if you are a tourist at heart. Taking hundreds of pictures inside the palace, we went down to Lake Pichola. 

Royal architecture

The Indian cinema has introduced us to the lifestyle of the kings of Rajasthan, but could it be better than the palace revealing its own story? Well, I have my reservations. I wish I could live forever in this royal palace. Seems like a dream? Shiv Niwas Palace, Jagmandir Palace, and Lake Palace hotels are ready to turn it into reality & provide you a taste of Rajput lifestyle & hospitality. 

View of Palace from Lake Pichola

Explore lakes in the city of lakes

Lake Pichola

Lake Pichola

If you are in Udaipur, you are probably a few minutes away from a lake! This city has beautiful lakes, palaces, islands, ghats, parks with rich historic significance. We had a glimpse of lake Pichola during our visit to the city palace. This artificial water reservoir is the home of four beautiful islands, Jag Niwas, Jag Mandir, Mohan Mandir & Arsi Vilas. Take a stroll around the lake, listen to folklores on the Natani Chabutara & witness the beautiful sunset on Gangaur Ghat.

Fateh Sagar lake

Fateh Sagar Lake

Protected by the Aravali hills from three sides, with its still water & islands, Fateh Sagar lake is not just another lake in the city. As soon as we reached the lake, the colorful boards inviting us to try adventurous water sports caught our attention. Do you recall the first time you tried a water sport? Yes, I was super excited too. The 45 minutes jet ski ride, the view of the Aravali range & glimpse of the Nehru Park, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Nehru Park

Now that I had a sight of Nehru Park, how could have I resisted visiting this lush green marvel. Jump on a board & a few minutes later gliding through the lake you land upon the floating island, known as Nehru Park. This ovular shaped park has numerous fountains, a green velvet cover & not to be missed, a floating restaurant in the shape of a boat. 

Preserved Dharohar in Bagore ki Haveli

Bagore ki Haveli

Strolling across Lake Pichola we reached a grand architecture near Gangaur ghat. The sound of Rajasthani folk songs took us inside the grand entrance. And we found ourselves rejoicing a colorful dance form being presented by Rajasthani folks dancers in the courtyard of Bagore ki Haveli. It was the Dharohar dance show, which reveals the rich history of the grand kingdoms through Chari, Tehra Taal, Gorbandh, Ghumar & other dance forms. We were about to leave when the sleek motion of the Kathpulis started & what a great experience we were about to miss! The comic narrative, thap of dhol & skillfulness of the puppeteer made me wonder about the beauty of these lost art forms.

Dharohar Dance

 The Haveli with hundreds of rooms, glass & mirror work, attires & art forms is a perfect representation of the Mewar kingdom. We reached the Haveli after 5:30 pm. While we couldn’t witness the beauty of the museum & interiors, the dance forms under the sky full of stars made my heart smile.

The land of worship

From Jodha Akbar to Padmavat, Bollywood movies have reflected the devotion of royal Rajputana families towards Indian Gods & Goddesses. With “Payoji Maine Ram Ratan Dhan Payo”, playing in the cab, I was lost in my thoughts remembering the stories of Mirabai, the Rajput princess who devoted her life to Lord Krishna, when the outside view started changing.

Large marble statues were being transformed into different forms by skilled hands. We had entered Rishabdeo, the town with the largest miner of green marble. 

Kesariyaji temple

Kesariyaji Tirth

As we moved ahead, the sight of white pinnacles caught our attention. It belonged to the famous Jain temple, Kesariyaj Tirth. Dedicated to Tirthankara Rishabha, the temple has beautiful pinnacles, arches & carved walls. Fascinated by the architecture & with saffron in my hands to offer to the lord, I entered the temple premises.

Mansapurna karni Temple

Karni Mata Temple

Temple in Rajasthan with lots of white rats: Does this sounds familiar? For me, it flashed the image of hundreds of rats in a temple that I had seen on some TV channel. While the main temple behind this story is the Karni Mata temple of Bikaner, you witness a similar sight in the Mansapurna Karni Mata temple of Udaipur. 

Stairs to Karni Mata Temple

A 5 minutes ropeway ride or a 15 minutes walks through stairs takes you to the famous temple on the Magar Maccha hills. The temple is devoted to Karni Mata, who is also the official deity of the royal family of Jodhpur and Bikaner. 

By the time we reached the temple, the sun was merging into the horizon. The view of the Udaipur city from the top & the shimmering Taj Palace hotel in Lake Pichola looked spectacular.

Saheliyon ki bari: It’s all about entertainment

Entertainment is a big buzzword in our world today. But did you know how much recreation was valued in the Rajputana kingdoms?

If your answer is no, welcome to Saheliyon ki bari. Situated on the banks of Fateh Sagar lake, this beautiful garden was a gift from Maharana Sangram Singh to his queen & her 48 maids who accompanied her after marriage.

Saheliyon ki Bari

The lush green garden has numerous fountains, a lotus pool & a tour to the past through the museum which preserves royal household items. I was taken aback to know about the rain fountains that created imagery of maidens dancing in the rain. Well, we were already in the augmented reality phase in the 18th century!

Story of the Mewari Rana at Haldighati

“आगे नदिया पड़ी अपार,

घोड़ा कैसे उतरे पार, 

राणा ने सोचा इस पार ,

तब तक चेतक था उस पार “

I was teary-eyed when my Hindi teacher recited these lines from the poem “चेतक की वीरता”, back in school days. This poem also reminds me of Maharana Pratap Singh, the brave king of Mewar who fought endlessly with the Mughals to protect his motherland. How could I miss discovering the journey & valor of this great King!

Haldi Ghati mountain pass

With this thought, we set off to Haldi Ghati. Today it is just another mountain pass marked by yellow colored soil. But history registers this place as the ground of the famous battle of Haldighati. 

Maharana Pratap Museum

The site of the fight is now covered with forest. Searching for stories of the battle, we landed in the Maharana Pratap Museum. Artifacts, pictures, models, portraits, and a light & sound show takes you on a journey to explore the life of the famous warrior of Mewar. The model depicting the last meeting of Rana & his loved horse Chetak melted my heart.

Valor of Rana

The courtyard of the museum displays models of various items like bullock carts, utensils, dresses to kolhu that was an eternal part of our ancient culture.

Moti Magri

Statue of Maharana Pratap on Moti Magri

Another marvel dedicated to this beloved king of Mewar is the statue of Maharana Pratap Singh & his dear horse Chetak on Moti Magri hills. The hills also offer a visit to a beautiful Japanese rock garden, old ruins & a scenic view of the city. 

Grab colors of Udaipur at Hathi Pol Bazar

Hathi Pol Bazar

During this entire trip, I was captivated by the colors of Udaipur. With the desire to take a few of these colors back, we landed in the Hathi Pol Bazar. With mojaris, Rajasthani miniature paintings, handicrafts, the market has something to offer to everyone. The vibrance of the shops captivated us & we ended up buying lots of gift items.

As my trip ended, waiting for the train at Udaipur station, I felt something was missing. While everything seemed intact, I had lost a piece of my heart in the palaces, colors & lakes of Udaipur forever. With a dreamy heart & a promise to be its forever, I bid Udaipur adieu.

Some Tips:

How to reach

Airways: Maharana Pratap Airport is 22 km away from the city center & gets flights from major cities in India.

Roadways: Udaipur bus stand connects the city with major cities in the countries through regular & luxury buses.

Railways: The local railway station is connected with major destinations in India. Luxury trains Maharaja Express and Palace on Wheels provides a royal ride to the city

Best time to visit: September – March 

What to eat:

Dal bati near Gulab Bagh

Dabeli at Sukhadia Circle

Kachori near Police Line Road

Pani Puri in Ashok Nagar Main Road

Jalebis at Delhi Gate

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