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Manipur Tourism – A Slice of Switzerland


Manipur TourismAre you planning a holiday to Northeast India but not sure which destination to choose, Manipur travel can add whole lot of fun and excitement to your holiday. From tranquil landscapes, adventurous wildlife, floating islands to warm hospitality, the place is simply spectacular.

Manipur is located in northeast part of India. The beautiful land shares its boundaries with Nagaland in north, Mizoram in south and Assam in west and in east it shares international border with Myanmar.

Where to Go

Imphal

Imphal is Manipur’s capital and hence, an important hub of culture and all commercial acitivity. The beautiful city is surrounded by 7 beautiful hill ranges.

Khwairamband bazaar: The famous bazaar also known as ‘Ema Keithel’
will let you have a glimpse of matriarchal set up of Manipur. It is the largest market in the country run by women. You can pick up traditional Manipuri handlooms like shawls, clothes, bags, baskets, household tools, and lot more as souvenirs. A lot tourists shop cane and bamboo handicrafts here.

War cemetery:
The War cemetery remembers the Indian and British soldiers who died during World War II. It looks serene and is very-well maintained portraying brave stories of soldiers.
Shri Govindajee Temple: The temple possesses simple structure, with twin domes, a courtyard and a huge raised congregation hall. The temple is immensely sacred to Vaisnavites.

Gambhir Singh shopping complex: Want to buy those shirts and shoes worn by rock stars? Well, this is the place from where you can buy them. Shop for latest international fashion accessories, or get yourself a creative tattoo from a tattoo shop.

Loktak Lake and Sendra Island

About 48 km from Imphal, Sendra Island is an elevated hill located in the center of Loktak Lake, the largest fresh water lake in northeast. The scenic island opens up an exquisite panorama of many small islands with glistening blue waters and rich aquatic flora. Loktak is like a small inland sea with glittering stretches of water. It is an ideal place to enjoy water sports like boating, canoeing and others.

Keibul Lamjao National Park

The national park is located about 53 km from Imphal, on the border of Loktak Lake. It serves as home to endangered species of Sangai deer. The unique feature of this national park is that it floats on water.

Moreh

A place to experience little bit of Myanmar; Moreh is located 110 km from Imphal, on the territory of Tamu. A bustling commercial hub of northeast, tourists can enjoy the benefits of rupee while shopping here. You can easily get a good bargain on a range of Chinese, Burmese and Thai electronic gadgets, carpets and clothes.

Hong Kong Travel Guide


Hong KongDeserted beaches and crowded streets, antique markets amongst neon jungles, endless energy and also quietness of the Buddha, Hong Kong is both dynamic and overwhelming, and thoroughly easy on travellers.

The sub-tropical climate of Hong Kong means summers are hot and humid, hence, getting around is sweaty and uncomfortable. Spring season (from March to April) and autumn (from October to November) is the best season to visit Hong Kong.

City sights

To enjoy the iconic views of the city, a tram from Central to Peak Tower, can be a perfect start. Get photographed with resemblance of Michelle Yeoh or Jackie Chan at famous wax museum. Capture some of the fabulous snapshots of the city skyline at Avenue of Stars. Don’t miss to enjoy the splendid sound and light show here at night called as Symphony of Stars.

To get closer to Hong Kong, wander around Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, or Tsim Sha Tsui districts. Explore the Chinese antiquities in Museum of Art. Go to Pak Tai, one of oldest temples of Hong Kong, built in 18th century. Aberdeen is immensely popular amongst travellers for its amazing floating village. The huge floating restaurant here has hosted guests like Queen Elizabeth II and many Hollywood stars.

Food, drink and nightlife

To explore the splendid range of international cuisines, head to Lang Kwai Fong and SoHo. The local cuisine is Cantonese. Do not miss to taste a various kinds of dim sums, vegetable or meat filled steamed dumplings.
Every night in Hong Kong is bustling, energetic and full of surprises. A visit to the glitzy cocktail bars, nightclubs and karaoke joints in SoHo, Wan Chai and hat Avenue can be an amazing experience.

Shopping

Though Hong Kong is no longer a bargain paradise especially for electronic goods, but shopping is still irresistible here. Buying locally designed clothes from Stanley Market can be a wonderful choice. Take back home those traditional Chinese cheongsams and jackets from Shanghai Tang. Pick up some souvenirs at Nathan Road or at Jade Market, which has about 400 stalls to choose from.

The Night Market at Tempe Street is all flooded with both fake and wondrous herbal cures, so pick wisely. Tempting and exotic aromas waft in from dai pai dong. After satisfying your appetite, spending some few minutes with fortune-tellers and relishing local street performances can be a total fun.
It doesn’t matter if you have come for a short-break or a long relaxing one, Hong Kong is one travel destination that will never fail to surprise you with its plethora of experiences.

Ooty: Queen of South India


OotyUdhagamandalam- doesn’t it sound like some tongue twister? Named as Ootacamund during British rule and later was renamed as Udhagamandalam by the Tamil government, still everyone prefers its short n sweet nickname, Ooty.

Settled amongst the Nilgiri mountain range running between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Ooty served as home to Toda tribes in the beginning. In 19th century, two of the British Collectors happened to land upon this place. The salubrious climate and lush beauty cast was enough to cast a spell. After buying up land from the Toda tribe people (really cheap, at Rs.1 per acre), the colonials made Ooty the summer capital of Madras. The British colonials also built a sanatorium for their troops here so as to relax from India’s scorching heat, humidity and a lot of tropical diseases.

Finally, with the efforts of John Sullivan, a British Collector of Coimbatore, Ooty received a firm position on the map of India in nineteenth century. Since then, millions and millions of travellers have relished Ooty’s delight. Nicknamed as “Snooty Ooty” by free India’s educated class, Ooty is magical in every single bit. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru showered upon it, the gracious nickname, “Queen of the Nilgiris”. Unfortunately, in current times, Ooty’s tremendous charm isn’t as pristine as it used to be, all hats off to commercialization, excess of construction and of course the killing pollution. Luckily, the awareness towards environment, eco-sensitivity and concerns about tourism has helped to curb the gloomy trends to some level.

Well, that’s certainly a part of the whole fun. The road route either from Mettupalayam (Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu) or from Bangalore, Karnataka is all full of twists and turns, thoroughly exhilarating if you aren’t prone to motion sickness. A better romantic option is the miniature train journey from Mettupalayam which is a 46 kilometres ride and rakes about 4 to 5 hours on a ‘rack and pinion’ track. On the way, sometimes the speed is so slow that you can easily hop off your seat and take a walk alongside train and again get right back! A total of 16 tunnels, lustrous streams, bottomless ravines and verdant tea plantations, will all be your company and make you feel pleased with their pleasing charm. Don’t miss such a ride, therefore, book tickets well in advance. The higher you will go the fragrance of blue gums – the eucalyptus trees are all ready to cast a spell on you.
The colonial heritage of Ooty is definitely the quaint stone cottages, intimate lanes portraying both traditional and modern architecture and gardens filled with flowers. One can easily see the imprints of Collector John Sullivan today too, which exists in every nook and cranny here.

Don’t miss to check out the Stone House which was built by Sullivan in the year 1822 and now lies inside the Government Arts College. The house is called “Kal Bangla” by the locals. Sullivan played a vital role in upbringing this scenic hill station. Ooty Lake was built under his supervision. Boating on this lake is quite a fun activity with natural greeneries surrounding you. He also played a vital role in uplifting the economy of ooty and introduced tea, vegetable and fruits cultivation.

A visit to the famous Botanical Garden is highly recommended. Fully crowded in its peak season which is from April to May, its main attraction is lovely old trees, which are ages old. One of the species is reported to be almost some twenty million years old! Then the golf course, situated at an altitude of 7,400 feet is both exquisite as well as challenging.
Some of the best spots of Ooty lie away from the town centre. A drive to Doddabetta Lookout, one of the highest peaks of Nilgiris (2,633 metres) or Valley Views at Ketty can be a great option to spend some time alone in nature’s arm. Coonoor, about 17 kilometres away, is a small, quiet version of Ooty. A walk amongst colorful Sims Park, or visit to a tea plantation, can be a rewarding experience. Birdwatchers can enjoy the sights of Nilgiri verditer, parakeets, thrushes, pipits, skylarks and cormorants.

A visit to Pykara Falls with a picnic brunch can be a great family time. From here, a drive down to mudumalai, a national park that falls in Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, can be quite a learning session for kids. The park is home to about 600 elephants, tigers, panthers, wild boar and spotted deer. See the tiny, quaint hamlets of Thoodalai or Manimandhu, about 1000 tribal’s survive today.

You call it Queen of the Nilgiris or Queen of South, Ooty still stands majestic and bears that charming grace. When visiting Ooty, remember to pack light!

Harihareshwar, a weekend getaway from Mumbai


HarihareshwarHarihareshwar is a small town located 200 kilometres from Mumbai city and shares a good reputation in the world of pilgrimage destinations. The town has earned itself the reputation of tranquil weekend getaway from Mumbai. The ancient temple at Harihareshwar settles just right on the beach. And all these beaches of the town are widely popular amongst city-wallahs looking for an escapade. Long, wide and shallow, the pristine beaches here are ideal to swim. Alongside, the lovely backdrop of the Konkan coastline adds its own unique charm to the whole scene.

Such is the worth of the temple located here, that Harihareshwar is often referred as Kashi of the South. The temple homes idols of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh and Goddess Parvati. There’s also a hill on the seashore which is called as ‘Harihar’ or ‘Pushpadri’. Shri Kalbhairav and Shri Yogeshwari are two other temples in the premises. The holy town of Harihareshwar is surrounded by four sacred hills, namely, Harshinachal, Harihareshwar, Pushpadri and Bramhadri. One thing to always keep in mind when in Harihareshwar, cell phones do not work here. Not to make you completely feel like an alien, there will be are few STD booths near the temple. So get ready to have mobile-free holidays.

A trip to Harihareshwar can be easily coupled with a trip to Shrivardhan (19 kilometres) or Dive Agar (25 kilometres) – both small towns popular for scenic beaches.

Here is a list of sight-seeing places in and around Harihareshwar:

• Harihareshwar Temple – 8 kilometres
• Gram devata Somajadevi (10 kilometres)
• Jeevnabander – Fish Port (12 kilometres)
• Shrivardhan seashore (10 kilometres)
• Dive Agar beach (21 kilometres)
• Bankot Fort (5 kilometres)
• Dighi Bandar and Janjira Fort (36 kilometres)
• Bhairvnath, Rameshwar, Kusumadevi, and Bharadhkol Vitthal Temple
• Devkhot – Pandav era caves
• Rupnarayan temple, Dive Agar (22 kilometres)
• Rotha Supari of Shrivardhan
• Jeevaneshwar Temple – Swayambhu Shivpind (12 kilometres)
• Pure gold-cast Ganpati idol – Diveagar (21 km)
• Aaravi, Shekhadi, Walvti – spectacular sea shores (13-21 kilometres)
• Shrivardhan town
• Laxmi Narayan temple
• River Savitri at Bankot creek (4 kilometres)
• Bhimachi Kawad (trekking point)
• Tambadi Table land (trekking point)
• Samsher Baba Peer Darga

Pushkar, Its temples and the famous Pushkar Fair


PushkarPushkar, an oasis in a widespread desert land is a magical place that has something really unique about it. Settled around a small lake, this sleepy town is holy to Hindu pilgrims.

The amazing desert backdrop, small streets and shops, the old-styled restaurants and the beautiful lake makes Pushkar one of the best backpacking destinations in India and for many, an ideal honeymoon retreat. Life is really slow here and people here some of the friendliest in whole of India.

Temples of Pushkar

The land of Pushkar is all blessed with temples including one main one which is especially dedicated to Lord Brahma and the only one of its kind. All the temples are definitely worth the visit and some of the popular ones are:

Savitri Temple

Simply breathtaking in view, this Savitri Temple is nearly 45 minute walk up an awful lot of steps. Best time is to go at sunrise or sunset for a real great view.

Mahadeva Temple

The beautiful Mahadeva Temple was built in the beginning of the 19th Century. The temple portrays simply magnificent structure and design of which Pushkar holds immense pride.

Ramavaikunth Temple

This one is town’s largest and most intricate Temple and simply awe-inspiring. The temple was built by a team of skilled masons who were brought from South India. if you get chance, do have a look here.

Pushkar Fair

Most of us have heard of this popular Pushkar Camel Fair. But, actually this Camel Fair is a one small part of this much bigger event that transfers this serene and sleepy town of Pushkar into a frenzy of utmost excitement, joy, noise and activity colours.

The first five days are mainly all about the trading. Camels, horses, goats, cows, and sheep are all that are commodities of trade…simply fascinating viewing!

Rest of the festival you’ll get a chance to see some amazing events like hilarious camel racing. The fair leaves an indelible mark on the soul of visitors. Truly, unparalleled and lifetime that will surely captivate and mesmerize you!

Goan Food


Goan FoodSo what exactly is that makes the Goan food so much special? Is it the way it is cooked? Or is it the ingredient thing? Is it the style, the passion or the restaurants? Well, to be really honest I would say that it’s the combination of all.

The food in this enchanting place is seriously special which ever way you look at it and here is why……

What makes the Goan food so special?

The ingredients are of course the key factor that determines the quality of any dish. And Goa is one place which excels in this thing. Goa being a coastal state has the main food as fish only. Rice is main companion thereby resulting into immense variety if fish curries.

Especially during the monsoons, the diet of the local people changes a lot because the variety and numbers of fresh fish available shows a dramatic decline. Hence, during these times a Goan person mainly eats more of chicken, pork and Indian vegetable curries!

Despite being centered primarily on seafood’s, the range of Goan food dishes is simply massive; Prawns, gin, oysters, mussels and many more are all available easily in any respectful restaurant and at very reasonable rates.

Well, be ready to find most of the Goan dishes as hot and spicy in taste. Still, that doesn’t means that coolers cuisines are not at all available – you just have to ask for it!

The foods of Goa have a huge influence of Portuguese. Alongside, it does have some impact of changing ‘Konkan’ traditions.

Some popular Goan Dishes

Here is my personal selection of some of the most delicious and famous Goan Dishes:

Spicy Pork Vindaloo

Ah! For many like me who love Goa and Goan foods will definitely feel refreshed just after the reading the name itself…

Roast chicken – Exclusive Goan Style

Simply just like a Punjabi roast chicken, but what actually makes it different is five types of spices used in its cooking. Served with Coco nut sauces, this is truly a divine thing!

Apa De Camarao

This typical seafood dish is made out of prawns.

Goan Fish Curry

A must-try in the world of seafood cuisines – once will try, you’ll definitely come back to this place again! Made with garlic, chillies, goanspices, Haldi Powder, pepperand Tamarind, it is simply delectable!

Shark Ambot Tik

The Portuguese dish has got its name from Sour (tik) and Spicy Ambot) and is classic amongst tourists.

Hampi Travel Guide: Diving into the ruins


HampiHampi is one of those few amazing destinations of the world which thoroughly proves the saying, “it has to be seen to be believed”. So, in case you have any recent plans to see this charismatic Indian destination in the near future, check out this Hampi Travel guide by a person who loves to travel like “hell”.

Hampi is located in the state of Karnataka, a southwestern province of India. It is about 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Bangalore, the state’s capital.

Once the main attraction of the world and capital city of an ancient Hindu empire, once you’ll be in Hampi you will understand the worth of this incredible place. The ruins of the place still so beautiful enough to leave you in amazement. The boulder strewn landscape is ideal for exploring and will leave the imagination wild with thoughts of dinosaurs and of times that never existed and never will….

Where to Stay?

The views on the north side of the river Virupapur Gaddi, is quite laid back and friendly. It also has a cheaper accommodation compared to the south side. Well, for further access to the town, you will have to cross the river on a little boat.

There is almost everything that you require including an internet cafe, shop, small exchange office, bike hire and also travel agents. I think there are about 10 to15 different kinds of accommodation options to choose from on this side of the river. Best is to do proper survey before finalizing your deal.

Things to see in Hampi

Hampi portrays the look of ruins like pebbles stacked up on the beach. It is possible to spend several days exploring and not see them all. Here is a short overview on the most popular ruins and things to see in and around Hampi.

Vittala Temple

About 2 kilometres east from the main town, Vittala Temple can only be reached by foot. The temple is truly one of the best highlights of Hampi ruins. It is UNESCO world heritage site. The condition is quite good besides some ugly cement pillars which are saving the ruins from a collapse.

The work on the temple was started around 1509 during a short rule of Krishnadevaraya. The temple was never finished, but still its beauty is one of the best examples of Vijayanagar art.

Royal centre

Different from other ruins of Hampi, Royal centre describes the ruins of Zenana Enclosure, Lotus Mahal, and elephant stables. About 2 kilometres walk from the bazaar, Royal centre can be reached easily by bike.

The Bazaar and Virupaksha Temple

Though small, still Hampi is a bustling village with many old-fashioned little shops, and restaurants. Virupaksha temple is the oldest and most spectacular building in Hampi.

It was built in the year 1442 and is dedicated to Virupaksha, form of Lord Shiva.

Sule Bazaar and Achytaraya Temple

Just between the Vittala temple and bazaar is situated Sule Bazaar and Achytaraya Temple. Sule bazaar is quite similar to Hampi Bazaar.

Anegondi

Wow! This one is my favourite in Hampi. It is situated north of the river and looks like some scene of computer game ‘Age of Empires’. There is some great climbing involved in it, so get ready to burn some calories out here!

The Museum

This is a cool archaeological museum which costs 5 rupees to get in. There are loads of sculptures, weaponry, tools, and some accurate models of the ruins.

Getting there

By Air

Bellary is the closest airport. It is 70 kms from Hampi but flight service is quite limited. The best bet is to fly into Goa and then get a train or bus from there.

By Train

Hospet is the closest railway station and is just 30 minutes away by rickshaw (nearly 100 rupees). The railway station is very well-connected to Bangalore.

By Bus/Road

A lot if people travel to Hampi come by long distance buses either from Bangalore and Goa. Bus journey from Panaji, Goa takes abour 15 hours and a little more Bangalore.

Chasing Varanasi


VaranasiMy last visit to Varanasi- the holiest cities of the country was overall an interesting affair. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit Varanasi every year to wash away their sins in the holy Ganges waters. It’s actually difficult to describe in words the images I saw, the emotions I felt – void and empty as I walked along the ghats. Then the smells of foul waters, the images of naked people bathing, the sounds of beating drums and hymns are truly an overdose to senses.

Anything and everything is done around the holy river here – life seems to start and end there. Buffalos soaking in waters, locals brushing their teeth or quenching their thirst all through the day, washing of clothes along the ghats, children playing cricket, men swimming for exercise, women getting their heads bald and offering hair to the sacred Ganges, all of these are a common site. Each individual seeks some kind of “spiritual” enlightenment by performing all these actions. But at the same time, everyone must go by its daily life. Meals must be cooked. Clothes must be washed. Money must be earned.

Varanasi Ghats

One main ghat you will surely not able to forget for whole of your life is Marnikarnika ghat – commonly known as “burning ghat”. It is a crematorium where dead bodies are burnt. Photography is completely prohibited here. Once the bodies are fully burnt, its ashes are thrown into the sacred Ganges. Burning fires is a common scene here and about 200 bodies can be cremated once in a day here. Every Hindu possesses the right to be buried in this respectable way. A special kind of wood must be bought to burn the body- one which prevents the smell of decaying bodies and burning hair. Before burning, bodies are wrapped in gold silk and orange or red cloth. Well, not all people are cremated. Children under the age of 10, holy men, pregnant women and leppers are thrown directly into the river with rocks tied to their limbs to serve as anchors. Innumerous sick and elderly people come to Varanasi so as to die close to the ghats, thereby seeking cleansing of their souls for afterlife.

Prior to the burning ceremony, the corpses are first bathes with holy waters of Ganges, which is the last cleansing bath. Once it is done, the bodies are put on the piles of wood, specially selected one. Only male member of family and friends can be close to the body – it’s believed that women are too weak, emotional to hold on their grief. They just stand afar and mourn. The family members take five circles of the corpse before lighting the fire, once for every element (sun, water, air, earth and fire).

Well, no words in this world can describe the pain of seeing all this…really painful. Hard to digest, the pain of life! The same waters serve as a source of life for hundreds daily and also take in its arms the ashes of the dead. A river both respected and worshipped at the same time, this is what Ganges is all about. Truly, in a country like India, things are just that way….

Southern Culinary delights in Delhi


Hindi word dakshin means south and dakshin is synonymous with what is possibly the best southern Indian food in Delhi.

The first floor of the Hotel Sheraton in Saket, Delhi, Dakshan is a truly a cozy heaven for lovers of south Indian food. The environment and hospitality match the standards of any five star hotels, but leaving all things aside, food is definitely the one prime reason for so much talk about the place.

Just like any other typical place where you would whole-heartedly let someone else to place an order for you, that’s what Dakshin is about. The thick menu with pages scribbled with innumerous culinary delights of south India, the Dakshin menu is truly worth getting lost in. My personal advice here is to (always!) commence the journey to divine meal with meen pollichyadu (fish wrapped in banana leaves) and after that leave on the waiter, he’ll diligently guide you through the choice of your dinner. Other best way, is to invite a south Indian friend for dinner here and let him pick his favourites.

Heart melting fragrance of fish and prawn curries, of daals and vegetables can stimulate hunger pangs of the one with no stomach for food. The meat is too good, but I would personally recommend a No to chicken here because fish is what tops the list of delectable foods here.

A little more advice. Firstly, the chutneys before the meal are simply a divine experience. Though not easy but still try to munch them less so as to save space in your tummy.

Secondly, appams are a must-try. It is definitely one of the major reasons for why I keep coming here: a little sweet and heavenly delicious, soon you’ll find yourself visiting the place especially for them.

Chrysanthemums Show, Chandigarh


ChrysanthemumMy visit to Chandigarh last weekend would leave me with such pleasurable memories was never expected by me. The biggest surprise was my visit to Chrysanthemums Show. The plan was made on the spot and about 7 in the evening we landed up our car outside Terraced Garden of Sector 33, Chandigarh, India.

Chrysanthemums Show is amongst the popular flower shows in India. Truly a delight for eyes, the show presents wide varieties of beautiful flowers.

Spectrum of colours, heart melting fragrances, heavenly ambience all teams up to present an amazing view to viewers. Chandigarh, popularly called “the city beautiful and city of gardens” defines its name very clearly with this amazing Chrysanthemums Show.

Chrysanthemums Show took birth some 10 years ago. With the passing years, the show has gained immense fame and tourist from far-off places gather to witness this unique spectacle of lovely flowers. Today, the show claims itself to be the best flower shows of the country.

It is organised each year by Chandigarh’s Municipal Corporation December month.

Celebrations

It’s not just the locales that participate but also participants from other parts of the country gather here to celebrate and enjoy Chrysanthemums Show. The organisers also conduct various competitions and events to add limelight to the show.

Numerous competitions related to plants take place. Flower arrangement and Gardening are few of them. Gardeners and flora lovers of the city attend this fest to display their flowers.

I and my sister enjoyed the scenic views of red, maroon and yellow chrysanthemums. Almost over100 varieties of Chrysanthemums and 13000 pots with flowers in full bloom were exhibited in this fascinating festival.

The variety displayed was really dense and scattered. Few types of Chrysanthemums that I still remember are pom poms, footballs and spiders and amongst others.

How to reach?

By Air

Chandigarh airport is almost 11 kilometres away from City Centre. Almost all the major airlines of the country connect with city with other important cities of the country like Delhi, Mumbai, Amritsar and Jammu.

By Road

The city holds pride in its excellent road-network. The city is conveniently situated within motor-able distance from numerous main cities of North India. NH 21 and NH 22 ply through the city. Nearly perfect road conditions and spectacular views on either side of the road presents a pleasurable road journey. Regular Haryana Roadways Volvo buses ply to the city from Delhi and Gurgaon. The bus I opted to travel to the city was a Volvo bus whose timings are 6: 30 in the morning and 10:30 in the night.

By Rail

The Indian railway serves the city conveniently. Railway Station in Chandigarh is nearly 8 kilometres from the City Centre. Himalayan Queen and Shatabdi Express are two important trains that serve the city on a regular basis.

When & Where is it celebrated?

Chrysanthemums Show is organised each year in the month of December. The venue is Terraced Garden (Sector 33), Chandigarh.

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