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The colourful Taj Mahal’s of Agra

5 Mar

Yes, you read the title correctly! And no, I don’t mean the many small replicas of the Taj Mahal being sold as souvenirs in shops. During my recent visit to Agra, my awesome local host and sister, Chikirsha, took me around the city and I saw some of the lesser known versions of the Taj. Each of these versions were unique and beautiful in their own way and I thought of sharing this with all of you.

Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

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8 Must See’s and Do’s in Ahmedabad

6 Aug

Ahmedabad – A bustling city and the financial capital of Gujarat. It’s famous for many things but never really known as a tourist destination. On my recent weekend visit to this vibrant city, I was quite surprised to see that the Ahmedabad has a lot of places to visit and many unique things to offer to any type of traveler. It has an interesting mix of heritage sites, a piece of the freedom movement, beautiful temples and mosques, good food, amazing hospitality and a unique culture. It is well connected with other cities in the country and all major airlines and trains have travel services to Ahmedabad.  All this makes it a good choice for a long weekend trip from any part of India.

Jama Masjid, Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Jama Masjid, Ahmedabad, Gujarat

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Konkan Diaries 3: Malvan and my first sight of dolphins in the Arabian sea

4 Apr

Continuing the stories of my Konkan journey here is the next chapter – Konkan Diaries 2.

Our second day in Konkan is my favorite with some unusual activities and unexpected surprises. We had decided to visit Malvan and see Shivaji’s famous fort of Sindhudurg that we all had read so much about in our school history textbooks. In ancient times, Malvan was known as ‘Mahalavan’ meaning a region rich in salt (“Maha” means salt and “lavan” means plantation of salt). Per Wikipedia another possibility is that it’s a phonetic derivative of the word “Mad” meaning “coconut” and “Ban” meaning “gardens” for the large number of coconut trees in this area. And if I was to decide between the two based on the current scenario, I would go with the latter.

River Karli and its backwaters, Konkan Maharashtra

River Karli and its backwaters, Konkan Maharashtra

We started the day with a quick visit to the local village’s small weekly bazaar and post that left for Malvan.

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Konkan Diaries 2: Parule and its pristine beaches

25 Feb

Continuing my experiences from Konkani Diaries 1.

After an adventurous overnight journey we finally reached Kudaal (the nearest bus station for Parule) early morning and got off at the bus stop on the highway. Here we met with Bapat Bhaiya – our host, guide and driver for the entire Konkan trip. Bapat Bhaiya loaded all our stuff in the car and gave us a quick introduction to the area during the car journey. We drove through the town of Kudaal that looked like any tier-two town in India with random concrete buildings everywhere and a big market. But once we were out of Kudaal the scenery changed dramatically. Sitting in the back of the car I had my ears tuned to Bapat Bhaiya’s stories but my eyes were trying to soak in all the elements of the world outside my window. This entire area was extremely scenic with a very Kerala and Goa like look and feel. It was green everywhere with small red brick houses and sloping roofs, long winding roads, mango, palm, coconut and cashew tress all around creating nice canopies, lush green fields (majorly paddy) and red soil, characteristic of this region, making a nice contrast with all the green. In many places the road was at a height and the village cozily nestled amongst palm and coconut trees below.

Pat Lake, Parule - Kudaal, Konkan

Pat Lake, Parule – Kudaal, Konkan

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5 reasons why Sindhudurg must be on your Travel Wish List for 2015

5 Jan

Sindhudurg, the southernmost district in the Konkan belt of Maharashtra and just above Goa, is a traveler’s paradise with stunning panoramas, beautiful golden sandy beaches, pristine backwaters, quaint villages, rare temples, awesome food, amazing people and so much more. Surprisingly (though I am not complaining and I hope it stays that way) it has also managed to remain a secret and avoid hordes of tourists who end up visiting Goa instead.

Sunset at the Kille Nevati Beach, Konkan, Maharashtra

Sunset at the Kille Nevati Beach, Konkan, Maharashtra

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Best Travel Moments from 2014 (The Year of many Firsts’)

31 Dec

Bidding goodbye to any year is never without mixed feelings. On one hand there is an excitement about planning for the new year anticipating new possibilities and potential opportunities. While on the other, there is a sadness like bidding goodbye to a good friend (time!), who has been a constant companion through the year, seen us through life’s ups and its downs, taken us to new shores, helped us grow another bit and discover that one other aspect about ourselves which we didn’t expect to find.

Clouds in water, Shudu Lake, Potatso National Park, Shangri-La, China

Clouds in water, Shudu Lake, Potatso National Park, Shangri-La, China

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Street art, murals and graffiti in Dharavi, Mumbai

28 Dec

Anyone who has ever heard of Dharavi knows that its famous for being one of the largest slums in the world and the place to go for slum tours (for tourists!). But since November this year it has added another feather to its cap – its very own street art and graffiti. For this project, 20 internationally renowned street artists from all over the world (with different art styles and techniques) came together along with the St+Art Foundation and brought street art to select areas in Mumbai – mainly Bandra and Dharavi.

One of my favorite murals by Gomez

One of my favorite murals by Gomez

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My First Chinese Kunqu Opera – The Peony Pavilion

14 Dec

On my recent trip to China (in October this year), among the many must do things was “attending a Chinese Opera show”. But time and expected language limitations made me drop this one off my to-do list. So just imagine my excitement and surprise when I heard that one of the oldest forms of Chinese Opera was coming to India and that too, in Mumbai. And finally on Tuesday, my sister and I joined other theatre and cultural enthusiasts at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre of the NCPA to witness the Indian premiere of the legendary Kunqu Opera, The Peony Pavilion performed by the Northern Kunqu Opera Theatre. This was my first show at the Jamshed Bhabha theatre and I must say it is one of the best halls in Mumbai. The entire lobby is beautifully done with intricately carved marble staircases, chandeliers and pictures with background information on the opera all along the walls.

Shao Zheng as Liu Mengmei

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Planning Guide – for a trip to Kanha National Park

10 Aug

A friend once told to me that “jungles are an addiction” and I thought to myself, “that is just impossible”. Many material things can be an addiction, but jungles – no way. Little did I know then that one trip to Kanha would prove me completely wrong. And if you also think like I did, then its time you plan a trip to this amazing jungle. Below is a quick planning guide to help you find your way –

Introduction to Kanha National Park –

Kanha  is one of the biggest national parks and a tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh, India. By definition, a national park is a  reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns and uses for conservation purposes. Although each country has their own ways of classifying parks as national parks, the common idea always is – conservation of wild nature for posterity and as a symbol of national pride. Per wikipedia, we have a total of 166 authorised national parks in India and there are quite a few more national parks that have been proposed by the state governments and awaiting approval.

Drive through trees

Drive through trees

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Tracking a Tiger in the Jungle

19 Jul

Unlike in a zoo, a tiger sighting in a jungle safari is never assured or guaranteed, as it all depends on where the tiger is at that point in time. And the movement of the tiger is dependent on numerous factors such as – low tiger density, the area the tiger has to roam around in is vast and only specific limited areas are open for public (the tiger has to be where you are), the weather (in rains they retreat deeper into the forests), the topography (can’t see them amidst dense forests), your luck (even during the same safari some see the tiger and some people don’t), etc etc.

The walk of a 3 year old grown up cub, Kanha National Park

The walk of a 3 year old grown up cub, Kanha National Park

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