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Eco resorts: an emerging trend in India

Image Courtesy: www.resortsincorbett.co
 Travel and hospitality sector in the Indian scenario is rapidly growing. It has become more organized, approachable and trendy than before. Especially, the hospitality sector had never been so versatile. Accommodations are available in various forms to suit the travelers coming from diverse backgrounds and having diverse tastes.
 
Cozy resorts providing spiritual healing centers, palaces converted into luxury hotels providing royal treatment, houseboats for a romantic holiday, a night at some remote jungle resort and huts on trees for a meditative mind…you can think of countless combinations like these. Backwater stays, rural home stays and village stays are gaining global recognition.  You will be surprised to find the one in some or the other corners of India.
 
As a major breakthrough, Eco Tourism has gained widespread popularity. As per the definition, Eco Tourism provides a unique traveling experience for nature lovers. It is another name for responsible traveling to save natural environment and to create awareness regarding the preservation of natural environment.
 
Eco friendly accommodation (Eco Resorts) is a part of that project. This is an effort to re-connect with the lifestyle that has gone into oblivion. In village stays, you would be offered to stay in the traditional style houses so that you can have a firsthand experience an Indian village lifestyle. You get village home stays in Coorg, Kerala, and the North-Eastern states of India especially.

Features:
Eco resorts will be built without harming the local environment by utilizing what is available at local sites. Basic amenities will be provided along with hot water and internet facilities. Housekeeping department will ensure that there will be eco-friendly/organic products kept inside each room. If it is located in any sanctuary area there will be a guided tour or wildlife safari attached to that. Trekking, hiking, and camps will be arranged by the local guides. At present, you would get cottages, bamboo and wooden huts, houseboats, tree top huts and village home stays in India.

Location of some major Eco Resorts:    
‘God’s Own country’ Kerala has the highest number of eco lodges and resorts in India. ‘Tourindia’ group of enthusiast were the pioneers in the field of backwater tourism in India. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is the most visited destination.  You would get houseboats, tree houses, Tiger Trails, eco-lodges and cave-houses for nature lovers.
Karnataka state is renowned for Bandipur resorts, Nagarhole jungle Inns, home stays in Coorg, Dandeli resorts, Kabini reservoir lodges, cottages at B.R.project. You can enjoy wildlife safaris, joy fishing, trekking, bird watching, elephant rides, and many more attraction in these resorts.

Some of the famous Eco- Lodges:
  • Tusker Trail resort at Bandipur National Park, Karnataka
  • Corbett Riverside Resort, Claridges Corbett Hideaway, The wild safari Lodge at Corbett National Park.
  • Krishna Jungle resort, Kanha Jungle Lodge, Tuli Tiger resort at Kanha National park.
  • Wild Grass Lodge at Kaziranga National park.
  • Kumarakom Lake resort at Kumarakom Bird sanctuary.
  • Spice Village Hotel, Taj Garden retreat and Lake Palace Hotel at Periyar Wildlife sanctuary.
  • Tiger den resort, Tiger Moon resort, Sher Bagh at Ranathambore.
  • Sundar Chital Tourist Lodge at Sunderbans.

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Kailash-Manas Sarovar Yatra Series - 5

Nyalam to Manas Sarovar

Nyalam is situated at about 35 km from the Kodari border at 12, 300 ft altitude. It is located in the Shigatse Prefecture of Tibet. It has expanded from being a village to a small town by housing shopping streets and hotels. From here onwards, we start experiencing the climatic variations of a typical Tibetan Plateau. We can feel a warm morning changing into a windy noon, accompanied by sudden downpour. Evenings will be very cold and it gets dark very late. Nyalam is the place where we get acclimatized with the crazy weather conditions of Tibet. It is better to be wrapped up with warm cloths.
Nyalam (image credit:Prajna LS

The road from Kodari border to Nyalam was mesmerizing. The journey begins at the lower point of a Ghat section and as we move on, the landscape changes. Green hill slopes, river streams, steep valleys, countless waterfalls…nature unwinds in varied forms. As we approached Nyalam, we began noticing the Rocky Mountains and dry pastures.
We were accommodated in a dormitory. Accommodation for all Yatris will be the same upto Manas Sarovar. These towns will be closed for winter. Don’t expect any luxury at these dormitories. There will be common latrines with very poor conditions. It is better to carry tissue roles. At some points, especially during the Kailash Parikrama, we used the open ground for that purpose. But, be careful about the dogs there. Never go alone.
Food will be prepared by the Sherpa team, a soup will be provided every evening. Good enough for the survival. The leader of our Sherpa team was Sangey. The team carries utensils, cylinders, groceries and vegetables in a separate vehicle. After reaching every destination, they would be busy with unloading, cooking, washing, serving, and again loading everything into the luggage van. They were our chefs, guides and doctors! They are well experienced trekkers; they know how to survive in extreme weather conditions. If at all could get through the risky Parikrama of the Mount Kailash it was due to the support of these Sherpas. Very friendly and affectionate companions.
The team used to provide the Diamox tablet after dinner. Diamox tablets are essential to overcome the ‘altitude sicknesses. We had started the diamox course in Kadori itself. As we move on to higher altitudes, we start feeling nausea, headache, and fever. Symptoms may vary from person to person. Increased heartbeat, pulse rate, palpitation, sweat, and loss appetite may cause troubles. We get tired very easily. It becomes very hard even to walk. Once after acclimatizing with the climate, these symptoms may disappear. Nevertheless, it is better to take diamox tablets to avoid the risk.
You can buy accessories of trekking in Nyalam. Walking sticks, down jackets, shoes, water cans could be bought here. Carry enough Chinese Yauns, you may need the currency to pay for porters and ponies during Kailash Parikrama.
Next day morning, we left Nyalam for Dongba. It takes about 8 hours to reach Dongba from Nyalam. On the way to Dongba, we passed through the Brahmaputra River valley. We had finished the packed lunch on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. We reached Dongba at about 5 in the evening. Most of our teammates were tired and despite the intake of Diamox, we were suffering from Altitude sickness. Headache, nausea and loss of appetite were common symptoms. We were instructed strictly to cover our body with thermals and down jackets. We stayed that night at Dongba.
The most awaited day had arrived. We left Dongba, next morning. It is about 3 to 4 hours journey from Dongba to Lake Manas. Our bus moved along the serpentine path, passing through bare hillocks covered under white clouds. Our initial excitement to reach the ultimate destination had been hushed by the tedious travel experience. Most of our senior mates looked tired and sick. It was indeed a hard time for us to manage our mental and physical health under the erratic climate condition of Tibet.
Manas sarovar lake (image credit:Prajna LS)

But, all that misery seemed temporary when we had a glimpse of Lake Manas from our moving bus. It was a clear noon, fortunately. All our dismal faces brightened up. Wow, what a breathtaking moment!! In a clear day light, the lake surrounded by snowy mountain peaks like a glittering blue veil appeared heavenly. It was an ethereal sight.

[To be continued…]  
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Tripura: Land of Oranges

It was a princely state in the colonial times. The state at present, is just gearing up for the contemporary trends in tourism. Tripura, best known for rich natural landscape, is quiet region compared to its sister states in the North Eastern India.
Agartala, the capital city of Tripura is the most visited city. Accommodation with wide range of hotels and resorts and connectivity make Agartala a possible tourist junction in Tripura.
People of Tripura feel proud if you mention the name of Indian legendary music composer late S.D. Burman. S.D. Burman, possessing a royal inheritance in Tripura, was born and brought up in present day Bangladesh. But, he is considered an icon of Tripura till today. Another legendary personality, the poet Rabindranath Tagore also is respected highly in this state. He seems to have great affinity with the Manikya rulers of Tripura. So, you would win the hearts of Tripura people by mentioning these two famous personalities!
Total 19 tribes live in the state. The Kokborok speaking community is the main dominant tribe among all. At present the state houses mixed culture. Influence of Bengali culture on food and festivities is apparently visible.
Agriculture is the main activity here. Tripura borders Myanmar in the east and Bangladesh in the west.
How to reach: Agartala is well connected by road, rail and airways. Flights are available from Agartala to Delhi, Kolkata, Imphal, Silichar and Guwahati. You would get connecting flights to other cities. Agartala is connected to Assam, Dhaka and Comilla by train. The state is connected by only one National Highway and that is not in good condition.
What to buy: Buy Bamboo and Cane products and Tripuri traditional dress. Tripuri traditional dress consists of three parts out of which only two parts are worn nowadays. The pattern will be somewhat like wrap around and a top, but it is known as Rignai (wrap around) and Risa (top).
What to see: Most visited city in Trpura is Agartala. Other parts of the state could be reached by buses and taxis. Interiors of the state can offer government guest houses and low budget hotels.
  • Agartala: The city boasts of having a rich historical connection with the Manikya rulers. The city was the capital of the Princely State that ruled over the region. Ujjayanta Palace, Museum, Sukanta Academy, and Purbasa Emporium are the main attractions in the city.

  • Unakoti, at about 178 km from Agartala, is a place of attraction from archeological point of view. This place is known for stone carvings on a hill belonging to 7th/8th centuries. These rock carvings of Shiva and other gods are situated randomly on a hill. Imagine a hill comprising carvings on its huge rocks everywhere! Also visit Debtamura and Pilak sites.
  • Tripura Sundari Temple: it is considered one of the Shakti Peethas in India. The place is located about 55 km from Agartala.
  • Gomuti Bird sanctuary: This is located at about 40 km from Agartala and is a good place for bird lovers.
  • Jampui Hill: This is at about 250 km from the capital. This is a beautiful hill station comprising orange gardens. Visit during winter months to see orange trees bearing orange fruits. 
    Jampui Hill (image credit:yohyoh.com)

Explore North East India-Nagaland


Nagaland
Nagaland, the land of 16 indigenous tribes and their unique traditions, is located between Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. Kohima is the capital city. The city of Dimapur bordering Assam is the main city inside the state having good connection with other parts of the country by road, rail and Airways. It takes about one and half hour to reach Kohima from Dimapur by road.
Culture of Nagaland comprises of indigenous tribes following the traditions of their forefathers, but, most of them have been Christianized during the Colonial rule. One can expect modernized cities and people over there. However, the native culture is preserved through community festivals and local rituals. The Great Indian Hornbill festival is one such cultural gathering of all tribal people.
It is the home for Hornbills, Tragopan (State Bird of Nagaland), and Mithun (domesticated Gaur species. The geographical terrain contains hill ranges. The region experiences cool weather throughout the year. It is one of the most hospitable destinations in North East India.
Nagaland is served by one airport located at Dimapur. Connecting flights and direct flights are available to Guwahati and Kolkata. Dimapur is the well connected railway head in the state. Buses and rental taxis are available to travel around the state.
You can stay either in Dimapur or Kohima. However, do not miss to experience village stays. Bamboo huts built in the model of the tribal huts provide you a different experience. Do not worry about the amenities. The huts and guest houses at the villages provide western facilities.
Indian tourists are required to get Inner Lane Permit and foreign tourists no longer require the Restricted Area Permit (barring tourists from Bangladesh, China and Pakistan).
Destinations to visit:
  • Dimapur: This is an ancient city known for Ahom rule and the Kachari Dimasa rulers. It is said that the region in which the present day Dimpaur is located was the place of Hidimba (wife of Bhima) from the Mahabharata. At present the city is the gateway to Nagaland. Ruins of old Kachari tribe are preserved in the city.
  • Kohima: This city witnessed the famous battle between the Japanese and the British forces during the Second World War. Visit the war memorial and the Kisama Heritage Village here. Make a trip during the first week of December; you would get to participate in the famous Hornbill Festival.
  • Mokokchung: This district is the home of Ao tribe. Visit the Mopungchuket village.
    Mokokchung  (image credit:stylesatlife.com)

  • Mon: It is the home for the Konyak tribe. You can find the tribal people appearing in traditional tribal dress. This district borders Myanmar. The district hosts Aoleong Monyu Festival in April.
  • Wokha: This is the home for Lotha tribe. This is best known for landscape, and fresh farm products.

Meghalay: Land of clouds!

Meghalay, as the name suggests, is the land of clouds. The state is the home for highest rainfall belt comprising Chirapunji. The state shares its borders with Assam and Bangladesh. Shillong is the capital city. It is a state that is adorned by green hills all over and is thus, districts of the state are divided on the basis of hill regions. So, you see Khasi Hills district, Jaintia Hills district etc.
The state is a rich source of coal, limestone, dolomite and quartz. Timber, bamboo, reed, cane, lemon-grass, thatch grass and medicinal herbs are grown all across. The state experiences highest rainfall in the country.
Khasi culture is one of the indigenous cultures of the region. The community follows matrilineal kinship tradition. Khasi is one of the spoken languages of Meghalaya.
Let us explore tourist destination in Meghalaya. Destinations are divided according to the hill districts in which they are situated. Exotic landscape, waterfalls and caves are the main attractions in the state. You would be interested to visit deep rock caves wading through waterways! Meghalaya houses such ones.
  • Khasi Hills Region:
    image courtesy: www.indiatravelpal.com

Shillong is the most popular city located in the Khasi Region. The capital city is the gateway to enter Meghalaya. You can visit the city all through the year. It is a well connected to Assam. Shillong is a hill resort comprising waterfalls, green valleys, river brooks and gardens. The city entertains wide range of guests. It would be an ideal place to hold business conferences.
This region is the home for heavy rainfall areas including Cherrapunji. Smit, Mawaphlang, Sohra (Cherrapunjee), Laitkynsew, Mawsynram, Nongkhum Island, Ranikor river valley and Mawlynnong Villages to experience exotic landscape.
  • Jaintia Hills Region:
This is located towards the border of Bangladesh. Dawki, is the gateway to enter Bangladesh. It is a border city where lots of border crossing activities go on. It is a route for international trade between India and Bangladesh. The Umngot River is the natural boundary between the two countries.
Tyrshi Falls, Lalong Park, Krang Suri Falls, Umlawan Cave (this is considered to be the deepest and the longest cave in the sub-continent), Thadlaskein lake -these are some important sites to visit.
Thlumuwi Waterfalls (image credit:flickr.com

Get in: There is a small airport in Shillong about 35 km from the city. It is called Umroi Airport. Flights to Kolkata are available. Best way is to reach via Guwahati, which is just 2-3 hours journey by road. Helicopter service is available from Guwahati to Tura and Tura to shilling.

Buy: You would get bamboo artifacts. Buy Naga and Manipuri shawls that you get in Meghalaya. You would get Manipuri wrap-around skirts and lungis too. Khasi Scrub, a natural handmade scrub you would get on the streets. 

Mizoram


Mizoram is one of the less travelled states in North Eastern region. It could be termed as a state of hills; cities are built up on the hill slops in almost all districts of the state. The state is best known for close-knit community sense. The Mizo people are less conscious about class distinctions, it is said.
Mizoram is located on the southern tip of North East India hosting indigenous ethnic communities. However, culture of Mizo people has undergone transformation due to Christian Missionaries in the early 18th and 19th centuries. Almost all communities are Christianized, it is doubtful yet, how distinct are they now, in real terms.
The state of Mizoram is surrounded by Myanmar and Bangladesh, two foreign countries. Assam, Manipur and Tripura are the Indian states bordering Mizoram. Aizawal is the state capital.
How to reach:
The Lengpui Airport situated at about 35 km from Aizawal, the state capital is connected to Guwahati and Kolkata. Silichar in Assam (180 km from Aizawal) is the nearest railhead. Buses and private vehicles are available from Silichar to Aizawal.
One needs to obtain Inner Lane Permit. Carry your photo ID and copies of your photographs. Entry formalities can be done at these cities: Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Delhi and Silichar.
Main occupation in Mizoram is agriculture. Up until recently Mizo people used to practice the age-old ‘Jhum’ (slash and burn) cultivation. Now the government has introduced new methods of farming. People are uniquely distinct and show strong community sense.
MIzo people are best known by their Bamboo pole dance which is called Cheraw Dance. They celebrate the festival of Thalfavang Kut Festival every year in the month of November. This is a harvest festival. Cultural games and dances will be showcased during then. 
image courtesy: indianetzone.com
 Mizoram offers cloud filled hills, emerald valleys, meandering streams, and unique tribal culture. Weather would be pleasant all through the year. September to May would be the best time to visit. Buy handicrafts, hand woven fabrics and bamboo crafts.
Tourist destinations in Mizoram:
  • Aizawal: This hill town is closer to many important tourist destinations in Mizoram like Reiek village on a mountain top, Durtang Hills, Hmuifang, Berawtang, Solomon’s Temple, and Khuangchera Puk Cave. Don’t miss to visit the World’s Largest Family in Baktawang Village. Aizawal has good many hotels and resorts with modern amenities. Make the city your base destination. Rejoice your shopping in the traffic free Bara Bazar.
  • What else would be more interesting than to explore exotic forests, steep hills, waterfalls in Mizoram?! Visit Phawngpui Blue Mountain which is located near Myanmar border. It is at about 230 km from Aizawal. You would be enthralled by rare kind of orchids and rhododendrons flowers. 
    image courtesy: industrialtour.com
     
  • Sibuta Lung Stone Architecture at Tachhip Village (20 km from Aizawal), Memorial of Chhingpui, Pangzawal Village, Lung Memorial Stone, Tualchang Stone slabs , Tomb of Vanhimailian, Vantawang Falls are some other tourist sites near Aizawal. Aizawal city is the main tourist point in Mizoram.

Manipur: the land of Gandharvas!


Manipur, being the home for a tradition of antiquity called Sanamahism and an oldest ethnic community called Metei, is known as the ‘Switzerland of East”. Imphal is the capital city.
Manipur is the land of unique Metei culture representing unique dance style and sports traditions. The region is known for elegant dance styles, music tradition, martial arts and sculpture. The Rasalila dance with delicate and graceful movements is known to be inherited by Gandharvas. Pung Cholom, a group dance performed by playing a percussion instrument called Pung, is a dance form performed by male dancers. 
image credit: manipuri.20m.com
 
The state was founded in 1972. It is surrounded by three Indian states (Mizoram, Nagaland, Assam) and a foreign country (Myanmar).
Manipur’s geographical terrain contains river valleys, and hills. The natural environment in Manipur has been undisturbed so far. The presence of AFSPA has been a matter of concern and you might have heard of Irom Sharmila the brave lady of Manipur who has been protesting against it.
Manipur is connected well by Imphal Airport. The capital town is linked well to Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Silichar and Agartala by air and roadways. If you are traveling by train, Dimapur in Nagaland would be the nearest destination. But, Dimapur is located at about 220 km from Imphal.
Manipur hosts a 10 days cultural fest from 21st to 30th November every year. It is known as the Manipur Sangai Festival.
Accommodation: Imphal city is the best place to stay. You would get plenty of hotels. If you want to check resorts in the interiors of Manipur, you would get of course.
Cuisine: Staple food is rice along with leafy vegetables and fish. They use herbs and spices while preparing food. Serve in small banana leaf pouches. Ngari, Iromba, Chamfoot and Morok are some popular names of Manipuri dishes.
Shopping: Go for Handloom articles, silk sarees, scarves, bamboo articles, ivory articles, shawls and jewellery.
Important tourist destinations:
  • Bishnupur district: The popular tourist spot - Loktak Lake, a 14th century Vishnu temple, Keibul Lamjao National Park, INA memorial and the Loukoipat Lake. Loktak Lake is situated at about 48 km from Imphal. A tourist guest house attached with a cafeteria is there on an island called Sendra Island facing the lake.
  • Imphal is divided into two districts: Imphal East and Imphal West. Imphal, the state capital is located in Imphal West district. Manipur State Museum, Shaheed Minar, Zoological garden, palace, Ima Market and the very famous Khonghampat Orchidarium are the main attraction in the district. The Orchidarium houses more than 100 orchid varieties. It is located on the outskirts of Imphal city.
  • Senapati district: The district houses old villages belonging to age old Naga tribes. Yangkhullen and Makhel are the quite known among them. Mao, an oldest hill station is located in this district. Dzukou valley is the most popular tourist place in the Senapati district. With picturesque landscape and unique Lily flowers the valley attracts nature loving tourists. The valley is the home for the highest mountain peak in Manipur named, Manipur Mount. Sadhu Chiru Waterfall is also located in the same district.

Kailash-Manas Sarovar Yatra Series-4

The Friendship Bridge

Image Courtesy:Prajna LS
 Next day morning, we proceeded towards Kodari border along with a team of Sherpa men in a private travel bus. These Sherpa team accompanies us throughout our journey.  This team takes care of routine breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It is a team consisting of trekking experts, a chef, and other helpers. A pantry vehicle follows the bus carrying pilgrims. Fortunately, our Sherpa team consisted of very caring and jovial persons.

 Our aim was to cross the Kodari border that day. We took the Arniko highway that connects Kathmandu with China occupied Tibet. Kodari is a small township comprising Tibetan migrants mostly. Nepali people are scantly visible. It is the last town of Nepal. Traveler inns are available providing only basic amenities.

Image Courtesy:Prajna LS
Kodari lies in a God gifted ambience. Whether it is a boon or a curse, one should decide for himself. Situated on top of a Himalayan valley, the town is blessed with a picturesque landscape. Green hills, countless waterfalls and the meandering Botikosi River flowing down the valley make this town look beautiful. However, the fate of migrants is a big question mark. Poverty and an uncertain future haunt the township and that is strikingly visible for travelers.

 The road to Kadori from Kathmandu is called the Arniko Highway. This road has been constructed with the initiatives taken by the China Government for the improvement of bilateral trade and commerce. You can’t call it a proper highway. It is a narrow strip of road skirted by steep hills on side and the Botikosi River Valley on the other side. Landslides are common during rains. We could notice the damage already done by previous landslides. A scary highway indeed.

A bridge has been built across the Botikosi River and the bridge is known as ‘Friendship Bridge’. This bridge is a part of the Arniko Highway connecting China with Nepal. One will have to cross the bridge on foot. Nepali vehicles are not allowed on this. A red line has been drawn in the middle to mark the boundary between two countries. Chinese military commandos will be guarding on the other half. Border crossing is done through strict immigration process.

Chinese immigration center is located on the Chinese side of the bridge. That area is called Zangmu. The United Nations has not officially recognized Chinese status on the Tibetan territory. However, China is executing its supremacy over the land and visitors are supposed to respect the law of the land. After crossing the border, tourists will have to travel with Chinese travel guides in the Chinese permit vehicles.

Due to Indo-China border tensions the Kailsh Manas Sarovar Yatra was banned from 1962 to 1981. Kadori is the only official gateway to enter China from Nepal side. We were strictly warned in Kathmandu as not to talk about political affairs of China and about Dalai Lama.  It is almost a known factor there. There seems to be an undeclared deal among the Nepali merchants/businessmen/traders/travel agencies. They do not encourage any kind of activities against the Chinese policies in Kathmandu or anywhere inside the Chinese territory. In that way they have secured entry into the Chinese territory. One can use the trade route for uninterrupted trade and commerce. That must be the reason, perhaps, that the number of private travel agencies in Kathmandu is increasing day by day for conducting Kailash-Manas Sarovar Yatra. These private agencies assure us of a safe journey inside the Chinese Territory for the same reason. As long as one does not protest or keeps showing green signal to the Chinese Supremacy the show goes on!

Most of our travel mates were elders. Most of them had come to accomplish the ultimate yatra, it was a dream come true for them. They were excited, thrilled to have that ultimate experience of reaching the abode of Shiva. However, the Kailash Manasarovar yatra (on this route) makes us to think about the bilateral relations of India and Nepal with China. We did share a bit of unexplainable anxiety, could observe the same in the eyes of the migrant workers crossing the bridge everyday for the daily bread.

One needs to obtain a valid passport and a Chinese Visa before crossing the border. We had group Visa, but we had to get through the immigration check in. The Chinese agent booked by the Nepali travel agency must be present on the Chinese side to complete the formalities. To our bad luck, that fellow didn’t turn up on that day. We were put up in a roadside inn. We waited till the evening for the Chinese guide. Late in the evening, our Nepali guide came back with the message that the Chinese guide would come next day morning. We were made to stay in the same inn where we had lunch that noon.
Image Courtesy:Prajna LS

Image Courtesy:Prajna LS
Houses of that town were roughly built on the hill slope, terraced residences. Timber houses without foundation. The Inn we had stayed was built on the edge of a slope overlooking the Botikosi river stream. It had a balcony and if we stand on that we would feel as if we were standing on a hanging bridge! Such an unstable condition. Kids of migrant workers rush towards you asking for snacks, and money. Pretty and adorable Tibetan faces, mostly girls and women were seen.

Next day, we woke up to a chilly morning, bought hot water paying 100 Nepali rupees for each bucket, had bath and got ready to cross the border. After this day, we again had bath only in Kathmandu on our return journey, on the twelfth day!  It is just five minutes’ walk from our inn to the Friendship Bridge. We crossed the bridge in a line. It was indeed an emotional moment for all of us to cross the border of a country on foot. I was imagining about the experience of crossing the Indo-Pak border!

Photography is not allowed on the bridge. Even at the immigration center, visitors are not allowed to take photos. But, we noticed a few foreign visitors shooting outside the immigration center. Please confirm anyway with your travel guides before taking snaps. We took a snap of the bridge from a far distance.
The Chinese guide had arrived and we proceeded towards Nyalam in a bus. The road from Zangmu to Manassarovar is well maintained. We would be provided with a well conditioned luxury bus to travel. So, the bus journey till we reach Manas Sarovar is completely hassle free. But, one can’t be so confident about the accommodation facility. Now, we have entered the Tibetan Plateau.

Let’s explore the Tibetan plateau in the next episode!


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Explore North East India

North-Eastern India is the less explored region in India compared to other parts of the nation. Lack of accessibility was the major concern for the tourists. But, now, the region is slowly opening up to nature enthusiasts. Though there are instances of separatist protests and agitations in a few parts of the region, tourists activities go on. However, it is better to update yourself before landing up there.
North East India, as the name suggests, is located to the North-Eastern part of India bordering China (Southern Tibet), Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The region consists of seven states: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura. Rich biodiversity, indigenous local cultures and picturesque landscape have made this region versatile and unique. Let us explore the tourism possibilities of each state within this region. There are two World Heritage Sites in the region and they are located in Assam: Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam.
Arunachal Pradesh
Known as ‘The land of Dawn lit Mountains’, the state of Arunachal Pradesh is located on the eastern most part of North Eastern India bordering China, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nagaland and Assam. Bound by the Himalayan Mountains in the north, the state is the home for exclusively rare variety of orchids. Hence it is also called the Orchid State of India.
Image credit: sparktravels.com
Culture of Arunachal Pradesh comprises indigenous tribes and Buddhist traditions mainly. Most of the tribal language belongs to Tibeto0Burman family, which is known as Tani language. Itanagar is the capital city.
Buddhist Gompas occupy the larger section of state heritage sites and thus makes the state a destination for ‘Spiritual Tourism’. The Tawang Monastery is one of the important Buddhist sites in the entire India.
Travellers need Inner Lane Permits to travel within the state. There are different travel circuits marked by the Tourism Authorities and the tourists will have to mention to which circuit they will be travelling.
Travel locations within the state are spread out among five river valleys (the Kameng, the Subansiri, the Siang, the Lohit and the Tirap), lakes, Himalayan peaks and Himalayan forests. The climate depends upon the locations; freezing Greater Himalayas, cool Middle Himalayas or moderate lower Himalayas.
Four main travel circuits are:
  • Tezpur-Tipi-Bombdilla-Tawang
  • Tinsukia-Tezu-parasuramkund
  • Margherita-Miao-Namdapha
  • Itanagar-Ziro-Daporijo-Along-Pasighat
Main tourist destinations within the state are:
  • Tawang Monastery: This 17th century Buddhist monastery is the largest in India located about 180 km from Bomdilla. It is situated at 10,000 ft altitude.
  • Ziro: This is the headquarters of Lower Subansiri district. This town is known for community festivals hosted by the Apatani tribe.
  • Namdapha Tiger Project
  • Sela Lake near Bomdilla
  • Malinathan temple, Rukmini Nagar, Parasuram Kund are associated with epics of India.
  • Itanagar: the state capital houses archaeological sites. Ita Fort, Ganga lake, Jawaharlal Museum are main attractions.

The state is not served by a proper airport. Airports in the Assam state are the nearest points for air travellers. By road, the state is connected to Tezpur of Assam. Soon it will be connected by a railway line Harmuti to Naharlagun. Stay in guest houses, lodges, private hotels and home stays. 

Booking a Cab for 1st Time?

Are you planning to take your family for a leisurely holiday and you are thinking of making your own travel arrangements? If you are confused whether to hire a taxi or to travel in bus, then we have a suggestion, book a cab. By hiring a taxi you would not only be saving time but also your money. Don’t be surprised. Rental cars are affordable by anyone these days. Moreover, cabs can be booked online and that is made easy by Clear Car Rental Company.
If you are booking a cab for the 1st time, you would naturally be scared and confused. Will that be affordable, reliable, or will that be convenient…all sorts of doubts arise in your mind. Online Cab Booking services are plenty these days, and you can book a cab through your cell phones. Here is a trustworthy Online Cab Booking service provider that clears all your doubts regarding cab booking, follow Clear Car Rentals.
There are two ways for cab booking which is followed usually; one is the conventional way of booking through travel agents and another one is on the spot booking. Online Cab Booking is the new wave in the history of cab booking in India. It is as reliable as your travel agent and more efficient than him.



Online cab booking would be done through online service providers who are connected to various travel agencies and cab owners. Clear Car Rental Company, a reliable online rental car service provider, guides you how to book a car. It is fast, easy and simple.
Open the Clear Car Rental web page. On the home page, you would see a search box. Just fill the details asked in the search box. Choose the type of service you need: whether it is an out station trip, local or transfer service. Click whether you want for a round trip, a one way drop off or a multicity travel. Enter the starting point and end point, duration, date and time.
Now, you will be directed to our price deal on the different types of vehicles and select the one you prefer. Book the car! You can pay the full amount or partial in advance. Everything would be mentioned online. If you have our discount coupon, mention that. We accept all types of cards, and you can make cash payment also.
Filter your search through wide range of vehicles and price range. Our staff will be at your service round the clock. Advantage of online cab booking is that you can book in advance, can choose from wide range of booking options, vehicles and price list. Booking is done very quickly.
We are connected to 210+ cities now. We provide rental cabs for Outstation, local and transfer services. These services come in three types: Round trip, One way and Multi city travels. You can book for full day or half day. Book cabs for airport transfers, leisurely holidays, wedding, parties, business trips and any other kind of travel packages. Go through our travel guides to know more about the destination. We provide reliable and efficient service.
Call us: 0888 885 5220



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Wayanad


Wayanad region in Kerala is known for aboriginal tribal culture, paddy fields and rich forests. The region is not connected by rail network yet. It is situated in the southern tip of the Deccan Plateau bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states. The region has been a district in the state of Tamil Nadu. The entire region comprising three Taluks has been chosen as one of the promising tourist spots under the Responsible Tourism project in Kerala.
Kalpetta is the district headquarters. You can approach this region via Karnataka or Tamil Nadu. From Karnataka side, one can enter through Mysore and Coorg. Kozhikode in Kerala is the nearest major destination that is connected well by rail/road and airways. Kalpetta is at a distance of about 75 km from Kozhikode. Sultan Bathery is another main town in Wayanad having good connection.
Speciality of this region is that it is tucked away in the wild forests of Western Ghats. The remoteness and less movement of population have created a distinct atmosphere in the entire region. You feel like exploring more. Winding Ghat sections, thick jungles, wild life, heritage spots and the local indigenous/un-disturbed tribal culture are really rewarding. Preservation and conservation of the local culture and environment has been the priority of Wayanad Tourism Organization.
Explore:
Chembra Peak (image courtesy: keralatourism.org)
Chembra Peak, Neelima View Point, Meenmutty Falls, Chethalaym Falls, Brhamagiri Hills, Banasura Sagar Dam, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuaries in Muthunga and Tholpetty, Sulthan Bahthery Jain Temple, Edakkal Caves, Wayanad Heritage Museum, Muniyara, Pazhassi Raja’s Tomb, Valliyoor Temple, Papanashini, Tirunelli, Pookote Lake, Sentinal Rock Falls, Sunrise Valley and phantom rock…huh! Innumerable spots you see.
Many NGOs have joined hands in the preservation of local culture and have been providing market to locally grown products. Medicinal herbs, spices and handicrafts produced in this region are in great demand.
Accommodation:
Resorts and home stays overlooking Jungles and plantations are very popular among the tourists here. These home stays provide the experience of traditional homes of Kerala. Jungle resorts are typical of this region.

Thekkady

The Responsible Tourism project in Thekkady was inaugurated in 2008. The intention behind this project was to provide a reliable market for the local products, and to ensure eco-friendly tourism in the region.
Kerala state is a hotspot of Indian tourism. Destinations of diverse interests like beaches, ancient temples, backwater trail, houseboats, wildlife sanctuaries, hill stations and moreover the state offers peace full travel experience.
Thekkady, which is known for Periyar Tiger Reserve is located in the Idukki district of Kerala. Idukki district itself is a major attraction comprising wildlife sanctuaries, hill stations, spice plantations, elephant rides and rich landscape.
Thekkady is the gateway to enter the Periyar Reservoir which is famous for the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Thekkady is a small village showcasing the rich heritage of Kerala Culture. Timber cottages, eco-friendly resorts, home stays are available here for the tourists.
Periyar Reservoir (Image Courtesy: osakaair.com)

Nearest railhead is Kottayam and the nearest airport is available at Madurai. However, ideal way to enter the place is to go via Munnar hill station. Munnar is situated at about 85 km. If you go in a private vehicle, you can reach within 2 hours. On the way, you can have a glance at spectacular spice plantations.
Munnar is closer to Ernakulam Railway Station and Cochin International Airport is the nearest air base. So, you can cover Fort Kochi, Munnar and Tekkadi in one package. Spend a day at Thekkady to experience the village stay.
You may have to buy tickets for entering Periyar Reserve at Thekkady. A jungle safari in the Periyar Reservoir is the main part of the Jungle Safari over there. You will get to see wild animals near the river. Actually the Tiger Reserve is located within an island surrounded by the Periyar Lake. So, you would be taking a round of the Periyar Lake. Boat mishaps have been reported recently, confirm with the locals before booking a boat ride.

Visit nearby spice and coffee plantations; Murikkady is the nearest of all. Thekkady is also connected to Kodaikenal Hill station of Tamil Nadu. 

Kailash-Manas Sarovar Yatra Series-3


Kathmandu to Kadori


Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal is an ocean of mysteries. It is one of the ancient cities of Nepal comprising Hindu, Buddhist and local Nepali culture. At the outset, the city does not open up to strangers. Temples of ancient Hindu origin, Buddhist Stupas, Tantric cult, relics of vanishing royalty, and the silent presence of China can represent only half of the umpteen hidden stories. 
 We were there for only one day and were allowed to go out till the evening to explore the city. In the evening, we were supposed to attend a training session conducted by our travel supervisors. We were put up in a three star hotel near the airport. Yatris (pilgrims) coming from various part of India were there. Our batch of pilgrims consisted of around twenty yatris from Karnataka. A small group had come from Delhi. All of us were set to start our Yatra the next day.
We woke up to a misty morning; the city was drenched in rains the night before. The local guides had told us that they would take us to see Pashupatinath Temple at around 9 a.m. We, three ladies (me, my aunt and my sister-in-law) wished to have a morning walk. We found a joggers pathway just in front of our hotel.
We found group of ladies wearing red and yellow saris walking up and down that path. Some passerby said that the pathway leads to the Pashupatinath Temple and the ladies were dressed up for Naga Panchami celebrations. As we moved back, we were tempted by a roadside tea vendor and we sat on the small cane stools before the vendor. It was she. Her name was Manju. As we were sipping the hot tea served in tiny plastic cups an old woman whose hair was knotted into a bun on top of her head came there, took another stool and perched there. She had worn a brown colored sari and was joined by another woman wearing similar kind of sari. As we greeted they smiled at us. Manju served black tea to them. They were conversing in Nepali Bhasa. In a few minutes, as we were watching, Manju offered a cigarette to the top knotted old woman, and the lady started puffing fumes!
The moment was like a flash of experience for us. I knew about Nepali men and women puffing Ganja (Marijuana). One can recall the song ‘Dum Maro Dum’ from Devanand’s film Hare Rama Hare Krishna! When we asked, the woman told her name, it was Velmayi. Earlier, on our walk, we had met another old woman plucking some tender herbs on the roadside. Whenever I recall this ‘flash of experience’, I feel like visiting Kathmandu once again to spend lengthy hours with these women to hear their stories!  
We took a round of the city in the noon. We visited Pashupatinath Temple. This ancient temple of Shiva is situated on the banks of Bhagmati River. It was crowded with women in bright hues. Saris in red, yellow and green combination, bright red lipstick, vermillion on the forehead, flowers to hair and bead necklaces…gleeful Nepali women in groups were seen everywhere. 
Image Courtesy:Prajna LS
 Some were sitting before priests performing rituals, some were dancing in the temple courtyard, and some were standing in the long queue waiting for their turn to have a darshan of the deity. We were not allowed to take the camera inside the temple premises. So, I missed taking a picture of that ancient structure. 
 After that, we were taken to the well known Bouddhanath Stupa of Nepal. That evening we attended a briefing session about trekking. We were given down jackets; these are provided by the travels people for rent. They took 500 Nepali rupees. Next day, we were supposed to cross the Friendship Bridge at Kodari and reach Nyalam. 

 


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Kovalam


Kovalam, being one of the popular destinations in Kerala, is located at about 16 km from the state capital Trivandrum. Kerala Tourism has taken eco-friendly initiatives in Kovalam by launching ‘Beyond Beach’ project. Beyond Beach is an offshoot of the Responsible Tourism in Kerala.
As we all know that Kovalam is best known for beach resorts. It is one of the oldest tourist attractions of India since the time of the British. ‘Beyond Beach’ programme offers a unique kind of experience to the traveller and it is mutually rewarding for both: the traveller and the local people. The intention is to develop community based awareness about the local culture and environment as to benefit both the host and the tourist. 

Image Courtesy:kerala.com
No matter whether you are a frequent visitor or a new comer, make sure to ask about this special service that is provided by the local guides. The guides would take you to explore the lesser known interiors of Kovalam and its village surroundings. Have a village life experience in Kovalam.
How to reach:
Trivandrum is the nearest destination to reach Kovalam by road, rail and airways. Hire taxis from Trivandrum to Kovalam.
Where to stay:
Beach resorts overlooking the sea are available.
What to see:
Kovalam is famous for its beaches. Three beaches constitute the 17km long coast line along the Arabian Sea. The Lighthouse beach is the most popular one.
Surfing, Boat ride and motor boat ride services are available on the coast.
Visit Vizhinjam, Poovar, Akkulam, and Agasthyarkoodam Peak if you get time.

“Grape City” Nasik


Present day Nashik wears an urban set up catering all kinds of modern amenities in terms of accommodation, education, health care and entertainment. The city has already started preparing for the biggest event of 2015 i.e. Maha Kumbhamela. Millions of people visit Nashik at that time; it is not an easy task to manage such a massive crowd. In fact, on the day that we had gone, the city was celebrating the Chhat Puja event. 
image courtesy: Prajna LS
 
Chhat is a Hindu festival in reverence of Sun God. It falls on the sixth day of Kartik month (mostly in November after the celebration of Deepawali) according to Hindu calendar. Not all Indians celebrate this Puja; mostly people of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand perform oblations to Sun standing in water.
That day, there was a huge crowd at the banks of Godavari River in Nashik. Devotees who celebrate Chhat had gathered there to perform the ritual. It was already evening when we reached there. The place is called ‘Ramkund’. Pavements and steps are built on either sides of the river. Thousands of devotees coming from nearby places were doing pujas holding the thalis of arati and the entire ambience was filled with enthusiasm.
Before that, we had taken a round of some other tourist sites of the city. People who are familiar with stories of the Ramayana may remember the instances related to Shri Rama’s exile in Panchavati. It was the place where he had stayed along with Sita and Lakshmana. This ancient Panchavati is now located in Nashik.
Visitors can see various places related to Rama’s exile such as Sita’s Cave, the Tapovan, Panchavati, Kalaram Temple and Ram-Sita temple. All the sites have been recreated in accordance with the Ramayana instances for the tourists. These sites are located near Ramkund. One has to walk through the narrow streets skirted by old buildings of the city to visit these sites. This part of the city can give you a glimpse of old Nashik.
We missed visiting one important place in Nashik, I regret. That is the Phalke Memorial which is built in the memory of late Dadasaheb Phalke. Dada Saheb Phalke is known as the Father of Indian Cinema who made the first full length feature film of India named ‘Raja Harishchandra’ in 1913. Nashik was his home town where he breathed his last.
The Phalke Memorial provides clippings from Phalkeji’s life and work. A show comprising movie clippings would be shown in the evenings for the visitors, we missed viewing that. We did not know about the show timings, by the time we decided to go it was over.
Next day morning, we left for Vani. Vani is located at about 75 km from Nashik. It is the abode of Saptashrungi Mata, a powerful deity situated amidst seven hills of the Sahyadri Mountain Range. Nanduri Village is the nearest point to reach the hill temple. The temple is located on a rocky hill. The village that is spread out around the hill temple is known as Vani.
One has to climb up to reach the temple. Thousands of devotees visit every day it seems. The goddess is revered as one among the 51 Shakti Peethas of India. You would walk through rows of shops selling all accessories of the goddess. It was our taxi driver who had insisted us to take a ‘darshan’ of the goddess.
We returned to Aurangabad that evening itself by Jan Shatabdi. Ahhh…How could we forget buying Khishmish (raisins) for home?! Nashik is one of the highest grape growing regions of India.


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