A Travellerspoint blog

11 tips to live your travel

Taking a cue from my blog title 'To travel is to live', it is important to live your travel.

Life would be boring without travel. Everybody wants to travel as much as possible. But, work and responsibilities do not let the majority of us enjoy a long or never-ending vacation. So, whenever we get the time to travel, shouldn't we make sure that the current trip is always better than the previous one and thereby enriching the travel experience with every successive voyage? Small things can add so much to your travel memories.

11 tips to live your travel

1. Everything that starts well ends well. So, It is essential to dress the best you can for the Flight. No, we are not going to be papped for the Airport looks. But are we less than a celebrity in our own life? So, wear your best comfortable yet trendy clothes on, wear those expensive shoes (yes, the one which you had kept only for special occasions), add some accessories, apply makeup... and paint your lips red. Be flight ready.

airport-2373727.jpg

2. Be yourself. I repeat. Be yourself. You have been wanting to talk to and mingle with strangers, have fun with children, take photos while posing funnily or glamorously, read a book in a quiet exotic location. Do that.

IMG_20160416_132504262.jpg

beach-chill-deck-chair-604888.jpg

3. Avoid traveling with people having a different idea of traveling from yours. Because it does not matter where you're going, it's about who is accompanying you. You might end up spending your holiday not doing what you want.

4. Click pictures with your guide, your hotel staff, locals and the fellow tourists you become friends with. There is a very less chance of you ever going to meet them. But you still got a chance to relive the memories whenever you want to.

IMG-20160416-WA0063.jpg

5. Apart from the popular tourist attractions, explore the road less traveled. You will find yourself in less crowd and noise.

IMG_20160421_145241014.jpg

6. Dress up nicely every day while you travel. Great photos make greater display picture and even greatest memories. Don't forget to carry that chic dress and those heels for a special day.

f68293e0-895c-11e9-b09e-5fcab4e5764d.jpg

IMG-20170127-WA0014.jpg

7. Soak up in the local culture. Observe the locals and learn why they do or not do certain things. Do things the same way. Be one of them. Understanding a country's culture expands your mind and fills the gap.

8. Travel using public transport as much as possible. It is a great way to explore any destination plus it will help you save some bucks.

architecture-buildings-cars-1115254.jpg

9. Try the local delicacies. It might not be comforting to your taste buds, but you will probably not be able to taste the authentic version again.

10. Eat local fruits. As per the Nutrition Science, Seasonal fruits retain more nutrients than their counterparts. It will keep the digestion running. Moreover, there are certain fruits that you don't find in your home country. I had Yellow Watermelon and Durian fruit in Kuala Lumpur,  Breadfruit in Seychelles...

berries-bowl-of-fruit-citrus-1128678.jpg

a31866c0-895d-11e9-b09e-5fcab4e5764d.jpg

11. Capture moments. This gives a chance to go into a photo and relive that part of life. We have at least 10 stories around a single photo. Don't believe me? See an old photo and you will understand.

night-1927265.jpg

I might have missed out on something but I still have an upcoming trip (to live more). These are one of the best things that I have done so far while traveling. 

Posted by Bulbulonthewing 12:41 Comments (0)

Amritsar

Home to Sikhism's Holiest Shrine

sunny 30 °C

Amritsar is a city in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab. Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh guru is believed to have found the holy city of Amritsar. The pious city shares its border with Lahore, Pakistan.

The best time to visit Amritsar is between November and March. The weather is pleasant and ideal to visit tourist attractions.

How to reach Amritsar

You can reach the city by Air, Rail or Road, depending on the time you have.

Air - Sri Gur Ram Dass Jee Internationa Aiport is connected to other parts of India. It is also connected to other countries with direct flight to International cities

Rail - Amritsar railway station is the main terminus station. It is well connected with other parts of India.

Road - If you are traveling from nearby states to the holy city, the best mode to reach is by Road. The simple reason is that it allows you to explore many things on the way. Do visit 'Haveli', a restaurant on the Amritsar - Jalandhar Highway for some delicious food and entertainment on-the-go.

Conveyance from Amritsar Airport

Riding a taxi is without a doubt the best way to reach the city center. The trip will take around 20-30 minutes. Estimated prepaid taxi fare to get to the city center would be INR 350-400. You can also try Uber/Ola to get more competitive prices.

If you are visiting Amritsar for religious reasons and carrying small baggage, enquire if you can take a free shuttle bus to Golden Temple from the Airport.

One tip here - Avoid riding any other taxis, since they can scam you. There have been incidents of overcharging tourists. If at all, you have to ride one, ask the driver to turn on the meter.

Accommodation

Many 3-star hotels are located in the radius of 1-3 km from the Golden Temple. The hotel tariffs range from INR 1500- NR 2500 per night. There are many Dharmshaalas nearby Golden Temple ranging from INR 500 to INR 1200 per night.

One tip here  - It is better to book the hotel after reaching Amritsar (if you are an Indian). This allows you to bargain and make a deal at the online price, sometimes even less. The main advantage is you book the hotel after having a look at the rooms.

Commuting

The cost-effective and convenient way is to use Rickshaw or Autos for local commute. The average auto fare from the station to the golden temple would be INR 100-120.

Foreign Exchange

The safest is to buy local currency from any bank. There are many reputed forex dealers as well. But, a bank is the easiest to locate anywhere.

Food in Amritsar

I should actually put this under 'Things to do in Amritsar'. No trip to Amritsar is complete without eating a meal at 'Kesar Da Dhaba'. This vegetarian Punjabi Dhaba is more than 100 years old. It is located in a narrow lane, around 500 meters from the golden temple. The lane, especially in the evenings, is overloaded with people waiting for their number to flash on the small screen outside the dhaba. I am not joking. I waited for around an hour.

Amritsar is a city in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab. Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh guru is believed to have found the holy city of Amritsar. The pious city shares its border with Lahore, Pakistan.

The best time to visit Amritsar is between November and March. The weather is pleasant and ideal to visit tourist attractions.

How to reach Amritsar

You can reach the city by Air, Rail or Road, depending on the time you have.

Air - Sri Gur Ram Dass Jee Internationa Aiport is connected to other parts of India. It is also connected to other countries with direct flight to International cities

Rail - Amritsar railway station is the main terminus station. It is well connected with other parts of India.

Road - If you are traveling from nearby states to the holy city, the best mode to reach is by Road. The simple reason is that it allows you to explore many things on the way. Do visit 'Haveli', a restaurant on the Amritsar - Jalandhar Highway for some delicious food and entertainment on-the-go.

Conveyance from Amritsar Airport

Riding a taxi is without a doubt the best way to reach the city center. The trip will take around 20-30 minutes. Estimated prepaid taxi fare to get to the city center would be INR 350-400. You can also try Uber/Ola to get more competitive prices.

If you are visiting Amritsar for religious reasons and carrying small baggage, enquire if you can take a free shuttle bus to Golden Temple from the Airport.

One tip here - Avoid riding any other taxis, since they can scam you. There have been incidents of overcharging tourists. If at all, you have to ride one, ask the driver to turn on the meter.

Accommodation

Many 3-star hotels are located in the radius of 1-3 km from the Golden Temple. The hotel tariffs range from INR 1500- NR 2500 per night. There are many Dharmshaalas nearby Golden Temple ranging from INR 500 to INR 1200 per night.

One tip here  - It is better to book the hotel after reaching Amritsar (if you are an Indian). This allows you to bargain and make a deal at the online price, sometimes even less. The main advantage is you book the hotel after having a look at the rooms.

Commuting

The cost-effective and convenient way is to use Rickshaw or Autos for local commute. The average auto fare from the station to the golden temple would be INR 100-120.

Foreign Exchange

The safest is to buy local currency from any bank. There are many reputed forex dealers as well. But, a bank is the easiest to locate anywhere.

Food in Amritsar

I should actually put this under 'Things to do in Amritsar'. No trip to Amritsar is complete without eating a meal at 'Kesar Da Dhaba'. This vegetarian Punjabi Dhaba is more than 100 years old. It is located in a narrow lane, around 500 meters from the golden temple. The lane, especially in the evenings, is overloaded with people waiting for their number to flash on the small screen outside the dhaba. I am not joking. I waited for around an hour.

Food to try - Try out the dal makhani, palak paneer, and Tawa Parantha. The food is dripping with desi ghee (unsalted butter) but tastes so good. The dessert, phirni (served in earthen pots) is a must for your taste buds to have an unforgettable climax :-)

The cost for two is approximately INR 500. The dhaba opens at 12 pm and closes at 11 pm.

One tip here - The waiting time here is a minimum of 45-60 minutes. Plan your 'hunger' accordingly.

a35ba0f0-8752-11e9-9568-c55fcb032468.jpeg

a3e2f960-8752-11e9-9568-c55fcb032468.jpeg

Golden Temple

Darbar Sahab is an illustrious pilgrimage site of Sikhism. It is usually called the Golden temple because it is plated with gold. The entire top of the temple is made of pure gold. As per Lonely Planet India, the temple is a blend of  Hindu and Islamic architectural styles. The foundation stone of the temple was laid in 1589. Words can explain the beauty of the temple, but not the sublime peacefulness which is felt there. You can spend hours inside the temple without ever getting bored. The more time you spend there, the more you would want to stay. The temple is surrounded by a manmade lake (Amrit Sarovar) that has a lot of red fishes in it.

Darshan

The darshan (visit) time starts from 2:30 am till 11 pm. The crowd is much lesser than it is during the daytime. I reached the temple at 11:30 pm, thanks to Kesar da dhaba waiting time :-), with a hope to take good photos. But, I ended up staying there till the next morning. If possible, stay there for the 'darshan' which starts at 2:30 am. It is exceptionally calm during the night. The chanting of 'Satnam Waheguru' before the doors are opened for darshan, is a pleasure to the mind and heart. It leaves a therapeutic effect on both mind and body. After the darshan, while exiting, take the prasad. The Prasad, called Karrah, is a halwa made up of wheat flour, ghee (unsalted butter) and sugar.

d0984960-8752-11e9-9568-c55fcb032468.jpeg

dbb570c0-8752-11e9-9568-c55fcb032468.jpeg

dc84a7a0-8752-11e9-8e73-29444b5dd845.jpeg

Many pilgrims take bath in the sacred Amrit Sarovar. The water is believed to have healing powers. The pool is called the 'Pool of the Nectar of Immortality'.

One tip here  - Cover your head all the time. It is a way to pay respect to God. You will get a good scold from the sevadaars (volunteers) if the head is uncovered at any time.

Below are a few tips to spend the night in Golden temple

1) Carry a light jacket to cover yourself as it gets cold during the night.
2) You can meditate while sitting near the lake. It's tranquil in a way, that can only be experienced.
3) If you have a late night hunger attack, you can go straight to the langar hall. The langar is a 24 hours community kitchen, which serves free food to about 100000 people every day. There are volunteers who do seva i.e. help in cooking and serving the food. You also get tea and toast right outside the hall 24 hours a day. The meals are basic vegetarian food i.e. lentils, bread, rice, vegetables, etc.
4) Go and reserve your seat in front of the main door before 1:30 am. You will find people already sitting there. The Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture, is treated as a living person. The kirtan starts at around 2:30 am and the Guru Granth Sahib is placed in the Akal Takht (bed).
5) If time allows, meditate on the 3rd floor of the temple. Real peaceful energy.
6) If you are driving you're own car to the Golden temple during noontime, it is highly recommended to leave the car at the hotel. You won't easily find a parking space outside. Finding a parking space in the night is not a problem.
7) Lastly, take as many photos as you can of the beautifully lit temple. Without a question, it is the most beautiful Gurudwara (temple) in the whole world.

Wagah Border

A place which makes any Indian feel Patriotic. The border divides Indian and Pakistan. It is about 30 km from Amritsar, India and 25 km from Lahore, Pakistan. One can reach here by bus or taxi. The buses start from the golden temple, costing approx INR 100 per person. The cab will charge around INR 1000-1200 from the golden temple to the border. It is better to ask your hotel to arrange for a taxi. The ceremony takes place every day. The timings change depending on the season. The ceremony starts at around 5:15 pm and 4:15 pm during summers and winters respectively. The entry is free.

Wagah Border Ceremony

Also known as Beating Retreat Ceremony was started in 1959.  Patriotic performance by way of an extremely energetic Parade is done by the Indian soldiers and Pakistan soldiers simultaneously. The parade is done along with loud shouts of 'Vande Mataram' and 'Hindustan Zindabad', which means - 'long live India'. The audience repeats the same at the top of their lungs. It feels as if there is a competition going on as to which country's audience is louder. The parade involves foot tromping (while lifting the legs very high) by the proud soldiers. It is an amusing display of one-upmanship. After the Parade, the soldiers lower the flag and take it off, only to hoist it the next morning. This is a daily ritual.

IMG-20190322-WA0054.jpg

For an Indian, it is an uncanny feeling to watch Pakistanis right across the Border Gate.

A few tips for Wagah Border

1. Try to reach the stadium half an hour before the ceremony starts. Take the place on the top. You will be able to see 'Lahore, Pakistan'. The parade view is nice and can be seen on the big screen displayed. If you are more keen on watching the soldiers from near, then take your seats on the ground level at least an hour before the ceremony starts.
2. Do not carry anything except money and a bottle of water. There are stalls inside selling food and drinks.
3. Inform your family before entering the main gate as the mobile phone would most likely be not working due to the jammer.
4. Wearing a cap and shades is a must. Wear good sunscreen as well.
5. Wear comfortable footwear as a fair amount of walking and climbing the stairs are involved.
6. If you are driving yourself, you can park right outside the entrance gate or not very far from the entrance gate. Some people will ask you to park at least a kilometer before the entrance on grounds such as - only VIP pass holder's car can go ahead now or there is no parking space ahead. They will most likely be lying. If you park there, you will either have to walk or ride a cycle rickshaw (by paying not less than INR 70-100) till the entrance gate. It is suggested to go and check the parking situation outside the entrance gate yourself.
Jallianwala Bagh

This public garden witnessed one of the most heinous crimes committed by the Britishers on April 13, 1919. The Britishers shot around 1000 people dead, who had gathered in the garden for a protest against the arrest of 2 Nationalist leaders. There were about 25000 people present there. Some tried to escape from the garden and some jumped in the well built in the premises.

The place has a great significance in Indian History. The walls of the garden still have the mark of the bullets. The well, in which people jumped is also well preserved.

The garden is near the Golden Temple and the entry is free. It is open on all days.

One tip - Avoid going in noon time (during summers). It is unbearably hot.

Durgiana Temple

Also known as Lakshmi Narayan Temple, is another pre-eminent temple in the holy city. Idols of Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Durga, and Lord Vishnu are worshipped here. The architecture of the temple is similar to the Golden Temple. This temple is also built in the middle of a lake. A bridge, built across the lake gives access to the pilgrims. There is a langar hall here as well.

The temple is open from 6 am till late in the night. But, visitors are not allowed inside the temple for about an hour in the noontime, somewhere between 11:30 am to 1 pm. Plan your visit accordingly

Partition Museum

If the history of India interests you, this is a must go.

One tip here - If you do not have a lot of time, skip the pre-partition section and head towards the Boundary commission room.

Must try vegetarian food in Amritsar

1. Lassi (sweetened buttermilk)
2. Amritsari Kulcha (a kind of bread)
3. Makke di roti (corn flour bread) and sarso da saag (mustard gravy), one of the winter delicacies in India
4. Dal Makhani
5. Ram Ladoo

a707eaa0-8753-11e9-9568-c55fcb032468.jpeg

Best to shop in Amritsar

1. Punjabi Jutti, it is Punjab special footwear
2. Papad Vadiya
3. Kara (Steel Bracelet), you will find these outside the Golden temple
4. Punjabi dress i.e. salwar and kameez

Posted by Bulbulonthewing 22:24 Archived in India Tagged temple golden Comments (0)

Masai Mara

The Stunning African Savannah

semi-overcast 25 °C

For wildlife lovers, Masai Mara is one of the finest wildlife destinations which should not be missed. Everything starting from the 'Big 5' to it's breathtaking Savannah makes it a reason to be visited once in a lifetime. Masai Mara is the largest game reserve in Kenya covering about 1510 kilometers square of stunning grassland. The reserve is named after the locals who live in the region, the Masai, and the word 'Mara' means 'spotted' in Masai language, indicating towards clumps of trees and cloud shadows over the savannah.

Masai Mara reserve shares its boundary with Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

Flight Recommendations

A few budget and good airlines to travel to Kenya are Ethiopian Airlines, Oman Air and Kenya Airways. I personally have traveled by Ethiopian Airlines. I always book my tickets through Goibibo (India). You can also check Skyscanner for cheap flight tickets.

Foreign Exchange

Most of the transactions are prepaid for the packages and accommodation. Park and Masai village entrance fees can be paid in dollars. So, you will need Kenyan shillings (KES) only for shopping (Masai village), outside food, and for the purpose of giving tip to the staff. I got around 30 dollars exchanged at the airport itself which were more than enough for the next 3 days.

There are banks as well near Masai village in case you want more of the local currency. Just ask your guide to take you to any bank.

428e4220-84e4-11e9-a9aa-47a7eca26367.jpg

Reach Masai Mara by air

To reach Masai Mara, you need to take another flight (an aircraft actually) from Wilson Airport (about 15 km from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport) landing at an Air Strip in Masai Mara. Airlines like FlySax and Safari Link are good ones. I flew in a 10-seater aircraft and it was quite an experience. The aerial view is so beautiful to watch.

One tip here - You might experience extreme air-sickness, even if you don't suffer from one. The main reason is the small size of the Aircraft as well as the height at which it flies. The small aircraft fly at a height of around 5000 feet (which makes noise). And since this is a light aircraft, you will feel all the bumps which can make you feel pukish. So, keep a couple of air sickness bags with you. Keep staring at the mountains or landscape. Best is to pop a motion sickness tablet 1 hour before taking off.

Reach Masai Mara by Road

This is another option to choose, only when you have a lot of time and patience. It takes around 7-8 hours to reach Masai Mara from Nairobi. First 2.5-3 hours, from Nairobi to Narok, are worth the time. You will be able to see the beautiful outskirts of Nairobi and the Great Rift Valley Escarpment. But the last 4-5 hours will be a rough and bumpy ride, which in turn would be exhausting. It is highly recommended to hire a 4x4 vehicle to make your ride evener. Road option is economical as compared to the air option, but supplemented with a long, bumpy and tiring drive.

Best time to visit Masai Mara

Masai Mara is a year-round safari destination. However, many tourists come to witness the Wildebeest Migration. This migration takes place between July to October. During this period, around 1.5-2 million animals migrate from Serengeti (Tanzania) to Masai Mara in search of the lush green grazing grounds and invigorating water. They need to cross the Mara river to come on the Masai Mara side. This view, while the animals cross the river, is spectacular. A lot of these animals fall prey to the crocodiles (in the Mara River) while crossing. You could also enjoy a hot air balloon ride to have an amazing view of the migration.

Avoid visiting during the Migration period if you do not want a lot of tourists around. I visited the reserve in the month of January and it was calm, cold (in the mornings and evenings) and almost tourist free. It was only me, my guide and the wildlife most of the time.

Visa

You can get a 'Visa on Arrival' at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport or an e-visa by applying online. It is advised to apply for the e-visa online so as to avoid queues at the airport later. You can apply for the same through the official website or other reputed companies. However, check that the agency does not charge a high service fee. Some companies charge a whopping service fee ranging from 50-80 dollars.

A single entry Tourist Visa costs 51 dollars and has a validity of 90 days.

Yellow Fever

Take this vaccination when you enter a country traveling from a country having the risk of Yellow Fever. Nairobi has a low risk of Yellow fever. However, it is compulsory. The airport authority might put you in a quarantine station for around a week if you do not have the certificate. Get the vaccination done at least 10 days before flying.

One tip here - Avoid scheduling important things for at least a day after the Yellow fever vaccination. Up to 1 person out of 4 is sensitive to the side effects of this vaccination. I had suffered from a few side effects like headache, low fever and upset stomach for a day. You might also notice swelling where the shot is given.

Itinerary

Up to 3 days is enough to breathe in the lush green Savannah and see the famous 'Big 5' which are Elephant, Lion, Rhino, Leopard, and Buffalo. You could get 7-8 game drives (depending on your package deal) in 3 days which is good enough.

Mobile Network

Go for Safaricom. It works fine in Masai Mara except for the remote areas.

Conveyance from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

The distance to Wilson Airport is nearly 15 km which takes around 30-40 minutes. It is advisable that you pre-book your taxi from www.kaributaxi.com. You could also book a prepaid taxi. The trip would cost you around 30-35 dollars.

I had the airport pick up and drop all included in my trip package, which is actually convenient.

One tip here - Keep 4-5 hours of a margin between landing at Jomo Kenyatta and Taking off from Wilson. You might find traffic on the way or maybe it could take you more time in the immigration procedures. It is always advisable to keep a safe margin.

Flight (small plane) from Wilson Airport

This is an eye-catching place before reaching Mara. Wilson airport is a cute little airport. It has a small waiting area and a tiny restaurant. I had checked-in in such a little airport for the first time. They take your bigger bags in check in (not more than 15kg per person). You can carry a handbag with you on the plane. The red colored plane is even cuter. Sitting in a 10-seater plane where you can see all the buttons in front of you and the pilots operating those buttons was bizarre. There is no air hostess on the plane. The pilots only perform every job.

IMG-20180109-WA0000.jpg

IMG-20180109-WA0225.jpg

IMG-20180109-WA0221.jpg

Guide for Masai Mara

It is crucial to hire a good guide, preferably someone through reference like I did. One cannot afford to miss even the smallest of things in this mysterious corner of the world. My guide, Moses, gave me one of the best experiences of guided trips ever.

Landing at Mara

You will land at an air stripe, in the middle of the boundless ground. Your guide will be waiting there to pick you up. The pilots themselves will take out your luggage from the cargo hold. If you land during or before noontime, you will start with the first game drive right away. The guide will then drop you at your hotel in the late evening.

Language Barrier

It is not a big issue here. Mara is the top wildlife attraction in Africa. The camp/hotel staff, safari guides, they all can speak English manageably.

Masai Culture

The Masai are an ethnic group inhabiting Kenya and Northern Tanzania, the total population being approximately one half million. Masai people are welcoming and friendly. They welcome tourists to visit their villages to have a flavor of their local culture and lifestyle. They charge a fee in return.

The Masai are traditionally polygamous. Our guide is a husband to 3 wives and father to 8 children. More a man has wives and children, more respect and social importance is given to him.

Years ago, the Masai people had a tradition where the young men (alone) should kill a Lion to prove his manhood and bravery. This tradition has stopped now because of more Masai's being educated and understanding the importance of Lions in the ecosystem. Now, even if they kill a Lion, it is generally done in a group of 10. My guide told me stories when he had killed a Lion when he was 20 years old.

Accommodation

Take an all-inclusive package deal, it cost me around 300-400 dollars per person for 3 days. The inclusions would usually be - accommodation, breakfast & dinner, Air stripe picks up and drop, hotel/camp pick up and drop and game drives. Ensure that 4-6 game drives are given (for a 3-day package).

I stayed in Ashnil Mara Camp. The stay was lovely and comfortable. Most importantly, we got Vegetarian food here. During the nights, It used to feel like as if I am sleeping around the animals. I constantly used to hear sounds of hippopotamus (as the river was just outside our room) and monkeys (or maybe some other kind of apes) troping on our roof. It was a little scary, yet ecstatic.

From the dining area in the camp also, one could see the hippos in the river. We even witnessed the Mongoose near the camp fens. I saw these attractive creatures for the first time ever.

One tip here - Most of the camps are in the reserve itself. They are well fenced and well protected. However, ensure that you close all the windows and doors of the room before stepping out and also while sleeping. The monkeys are notorious and can cross the fencing. There have been cases when they have entered the room and ruined the guests' belongings, room curtains, mosquito net, etc.

One more tip It is not uncommon to hear stomping sounds from your roof. Do not worry. It is usually the monkeys again. It is not advisable to step out of your room in the late night.

Other good camps to stay are - Intrepids Mara Camp, Governor's camp, Sala's camp, Rekero Camp, etc.

National Park Fees

Your guide will take you to to the park ticket counter where you need to buy the entrance tickets. The ticket price is 80 dollars per day for an adult. So, if you are there for 3 full days, you need to pay 80x3=240 dollars for the ticket.

The breathtaking Masai Mara - Things to do

1) Enjoy your game drives

As I mentioned earlier, if you arrive at Masai Mara during or before noontime, you will start with the first game drive right away. The most thrilling part about the game drive is that you expect to see a Giraffe next but you will spot a Zebra. When you anticipate seeing a Zebra, you will have a herd of Impalas beside your open Land Rover (Yes, I drove in that). After seeing some wildlife, you will suddenly see yourself holding your seat rest as tightly as you can because of your Land Rover crossing the small streams of water on the way. The crossing is bumpy but electrifying. This is one experience you should record on your camera, of course, after getting used to crossing a couple of streams.

General tips

a) Remember that your guide is always right. Follow your guide's instructions no matter what. All the guides are local and well experienced with the activities of wild animals. If you want to go to the loo, tell your guide 10 minutes in advance. He cannot just stop anywhere. He will have to find a safe place first to allow you to step out of the car.
b) Avoid wearing very bright clothes. Some animals might behave aggressively if come across bright colors. Wear subtle colors.
c) Do not throw any food or anything else in the park. When you complete the first game drive itself, you will feel how priceless the wildlife is on the earth. The Savannah gives that feeling of another world (where only the wildlife lives). Don't spoil their small world.
d) Do not make any noise when your vehicle stops near animals like Giraffes, Antelopes, Zebras, Impalas, etc. They get panicky and alarmed even when the vehicle is accelerated. Try not to frighten them intentionally as much as possible.
e) Avoid talking at all when near the Lions, Leopards and other carnivorous animals. You never know when did they have their last meal :-) I am just kidding. Any animal won't do any harm to you unless you provoke them. For eg. Rhinos can be very aggressive. Our guide took us very near to the Leopard and Lions, but, we were about 50 meters far from the Rhino. He then enlightened us that if the Rhino gets angry, he can turn our vehicle upside down.

The game drives can be best explained and described not in words, but photos.

CollageMaker_20190530_220637396.jpg

IMG-20180109-WA0029.jpg

IMG-20180109-WA0202.jpg

2) Do not miss a picnic breakfast

You will start with your game drives very early in the morning. Ask your camp and guide to arrange a picnic breakfast for you. It is usually non-chargeable.

You will have your breakfast under a balanite tree, only where your guide feels safe to stop. The vegetarian breakfast typically includes a Croissant, juice, chips, fruits, and water. Non-vegetarians might get a ham in addition to this.

When in life you will eat your breakfast with so much thrill? Standing under a single tree (you might not be able to spot another one any nearer), eating your food looking at the endless ground, and having a constant fear of spotting a lion or cheetah running towards you. After all, you are standing in the reserve where Lions, Elephants, etc. are in abundance. Actually, more than scary, it is exciting.

1c04e830-84ed-11e9-a31a-df7fa67c586c.jpg

3) Take a trip to the local Masai Village

When you are in the world's most mysterious corner, it becomes significant to understand the culture of the people out there. Your guide will take you to one of the Masai Villages. When you reach the village, the villagers will welcome you by singing their folk songs. They will dance and insist you to join them. Dance with them. There will be 2-3 people which including the chief of the village to guide you through the village and show you around. They speak good English. The village where we visited, had huts built in a circle. We were shown the Masai huts which are made of grass, cow dung and urine. There is no fan and no ventilation in the huts. The food is also cooked inside itself. It is basically just 2 sections (can't call them rooms) and a small area adjacent to one of the sections where the food is cooked. Tourists who wish to stay in the hut for a night, are given one of the sections. On average, 4-5 people live in one hut.

After visiting the huts, the village chief will take you to another area having stalls selling Masai jewelry, showpieces, etc. These are all handmade by the Masai Women. The products are not very good at finishing and are over-priced.

If you are lucky, you might see a dead Lion's head. Moses, my guide, explained that whenever a Lion is hunted by a villager, the whole village celebrates it by dancing around the hunted Lion's head. The head is then displayed on one of the trees in the village.

The Masai Village entry fee is up to 20 dollars per person.

Posted by Bulbulonthewing 20:07 Archived in Kenya Tagged wildlife masaimara masaivillage Comments (0)

5 Tips for vegetarians in ‘not too vegetarian’ destinations

Hi, do you have a veg burger? Without ham, chicken, fish…yeah without egg too? Oh! No problem. I would like to order a Margherita (it is a cheese and tomato pizza, simplest of all) in that case. What? Do you put the chicken in that too? You cannot customize it? Fine.

You will be able to relate hilariously to these questions and situations if you are a vegetarian…

Being an Indian, where around 40% of the total population is vegetarian, I find it extremely difficult to come to terms with the fact that I might not get the same delicious vegetarian food in a foreign country. After traveling to around 11 countries, I go well prepared to handle the ‘food’ part of travel better.

There are a few practical tips that I would like to share with the vegetarians.

Instant food and Non-perishable food items

The most helpful, of course, is to take instant food packets and non-perishable food items. Most of us, most of the time, think that we will figure out something after reaching the destination. We will eat fruits and salads there, if nothing else…or we can have milk, croissants, etc. Guys, this is difficult to do in real. You need at least 1 big meal in a day to truly satisfy your hunger, especially when you are traveling. So, stock up on instant meals and cup noodles. The instant food like cup noodles, rice flakes(poha), upma, sabudana khichdi, tea, coffee, etc. are the best as the only thing that is required to cook these items is a cup of hot water.

Other healthy non-perishable food items that you could carry are oats bar/cookies, dark chocolate, dry fruits, dried berries, homemade snacks (potato/banana chips, roasted chickpeas, etc.

Make the best use of breakfast spread

Most of the hotels provide complimentary breakfast. A few things that you can find in the spread for yourself would be bread, croissant, tea/coffee, fruits, salads, etc.

Most of us (vegetarians) end up having butter toast, tea or juice, maybe a fruit…

Now, there are a few things that we can do to have a good heavy breakfast, the most important meal of the day.

Have Milk and Muesli, if the same is available in the spread. This is absolutely the best breakfast that you can have.
If you have cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese slice, etc. in the spread, just put them between two toasted slices of bread and eat the sandwich. This is a healthy option too.
Generally, the fruits in the breakfast spread are not fresh cut, which can be harmful. However, if fruits like apple, banana are available in the whole form, nothing like it. Have these fruits along with milk.
If none of the above is available, you are left with no option but to have those banana cakes, bread jam, brownie, etc. This is the least healthy option.

Do your homework well

Before traveling, you should know a few vegetarian restaurants in the area where you will be staying and roaming. This small exercise will not only save you time while traveling but will also help you to plan the quantity of food that you need to carry from your home country.

Supermarket – The saver

Find out the supermarkets near your accommodation. You can have a great variety to choose from. You can always get chips, biscuits, cookies, etc. here. However, you still might not be able to find veg cup noodles in a lot of countries.

Cook your own food

Airbnb properties, Hostels, and Homestays generally have kitchens where you can cook your own food. After all, cooking is a stressbuster too. Also, look out for properties that have a small refrigerator in the room. It helps to store the groceries for the next couple of days.

Posted by Bulbulonthewing 04:16 Tagged food breakfast instant vegetarian Comments (0)

Hoi An

The beautiful and vibrant ancient town

sunny 30 °C

I spent only 2 days in the ancient town of Hoi An. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. The town is vibrant in the noon time and well-lit in the evening. Hoi An is one of the liveliest towns I have been to so

IMG_20190406_093825.jpg
large_IMG_20190406_113041.jpg

Conveyance from Danang Airport

Like in Hanoi, there is no direct bus from the airport to Hoi An. There is a bus stop around 2-2.5 km from the airport.

The convenient way is to call a taxi from your hotel. My hotel charged me 500000 VND for pick up and drop both after bargaining. They had quoted 600000 VND in the beginning.

Language Barrier

The problem is far more than is in Hanoi. The simple reason being, Hoi An is a town and not a city. There are so many tourists in the town who you can talk to and get help about directions, food, etc.

Accommodation

The accommodation is cheaper in Hoi An as compared to Hanoi. You can book a 4-star property for as less as 800000 VND per night. I stayed in a 3-star villa for 500000 VND per night (including complimentary breakfast). The Villa was beautiful, had a spa and a pool. The room was gorgeous and had a balcony. Most of the accommodations provide free bicycles to the guests. In Hoi An, you can book Airbnb property as well for the same rate as the hotel. Majority of the hosts provide complimentary breakfast.

One tip here – Book your accommodation as near as possible to the ancient town as you will be spending most of your time there only.

Commuting

Almost all hotels and Airbnb properties provide free bicycles to the guests. If the Old town is less than 2-3 km from your accommodation, you can ride to and from the Old town.

If you plan to go to the beach, coconut forest, vegetable village, etc., then renting a motorbike from your hotel is highly recommended. The traffic is not like Hanoi, which makes it easier to drive there. The rent is 120000-150000 VND per day.

Food

Hoi An is very famous for food, particularly street food. Being a vegetarian, I can write only about vegetarian/Indian restaurant.

The only restaurant where I had my lunches and dinners at was Ganesh Indian Restaurant (24 Trần Hưng Đạo, Phường Minh An, Hội An, Quảng Nam). I am not lying when I say that not a single time did I see any other Indian there during the two days that I had my meals there. I felt proud to see the tourists from various parts of the world coming here and enjoying the Indian food. The restaurant is a very basic one, no ambiance and all. It is popular only and only for the delicious food it serves.

Try out the Paneer mutter, dal tadka, kadhai paneer with paranthas/rice. After eating here, I did not even try finding out any other vegetarian restaurant. The cost for two for a meal is less than 200000 -300000 VND (without alcohol).

da51fda0-82c7-11e9-8fdb-bbf53e106c57.jpg

For non-vegetarians, Hoi An is famous for Cao lầu. It is a Vietnamese noodle dish consisting of pork and greens.

Foreign Exchange

Just like Hanoi, you can buy local currency either from the airport or any bank in the town. There is no substantial difference in the rates.

11 Things to do in Hoi An:
Old Town

The town is a UNESCO world heritage site having more than 2000 years of history. It truly is a beautiful old town. It was an important trading port from the 15th to 19th Century. The town still has its traditional wooden architecture intact.

When you reach the old town entrance, look for the ticket counter (I bought it from Tran Phu, Phuong Minh An). You need to buy an entrance ticket to the old town. The price is 120000 VND only. The ticket gives you entry to any five attractions mentioned in the brochure given by the ticket control staff. You have to buy one more ticket if you want to visit more than five attractions. The brochure also has a map and details of shows and activities like music, dance, pottery, etc. in the town. Most of them are for free.
IMG_20190406_110941.jpg

The ticket is valid for 24 hours. It means that entry is not allowed to any of the Old town attractions 24 hours after issuing the ticket. But, the ticket gives entry to visit the old town (minus attractions) for as many days you are there. In fact, you need to buy a ticket only and only if you want to visit tourist attractions. The money collected helps in the maintenance and upkeep of the attractions.

One tip here – Park your bicycle near the ticket counter for 15000 VND. It is better to park it at the entrance as the town will be best seen on foot.

Attractions that I visited in the old town

Japanese Bridge

It is a landmark attraction in the town. It was made by the Japanese in the 18th Century as a way to reach the Chinese quarter across the water. Japanese architecture still remains intact. Today, the bridge has become synonymous with Hoi An.

When entering from either side of the bridge, you will see dog and monkey statues on both sides believed to guard the bridge. There is a small temple on the bridge dedicated to the God of Weather, Tran Vo Bac De. The people pray here to fend off any approaching disaster. When you walk on the bridge, you can feel the vibrations as if it is going to break now…but, the historical piece remains intact.

You need to show the entrance ticket when you enter the bridge. They cut one part (implying one attraction visited) from the main ticket.

Hainan Assembly Hall

The hall was built in 1851. The hall has a section dedicated to 108 Chinese merchants who were killed because they were mistaken for pirates. The hall is well maintained and worth a visit. Look for the spiral incense sticks on the ceiling. They are quite fascinating.
8555c960-82c9-11e9-a6ed-c3e9552290f3.jpg

Duc An Old House

The house is 100 years old. The current owner Mr. Tram is the sixth generation of the family who has been living in the same house. You might be able to meet him at the entrance. He is funny and friendly. The house showcases old but appealing pieces of furniture, cup sets, etc. There is a small section that sells clothes and souvenirs as well. You might be fortunate to meet Mrs. Tram in this section. She is a friendly lady who told me about her husband and 2 beautiful daughters who live in Danang. She explained the Chinese birth chart which reveals one's animal sign. You can buy a coin having your animal (horse, ox, goat, etc.) sign inscribed.

da8e1c40-82c7-11e9-8fdb-bbf53e106c57.jpg

Hoi An Museum

This museum is worth a visit. The museum explains Vietnam’s History in detail. There are interesting pieces of history kept in the museum. I spent an hour and a half there, without getting bored.

One tip here – Taking the audio guides in the form of the mobile device from the museum counter is recommended. It is available in languages like English, French, German, Japanese, etc.

There are many other old houses, assembly halls, and museums which you can visit such as an old house of Tan ky, Old House of Phun Hung, Cantonese Assembly Hall, Fujian Assemble Hall, etc.

Night cruise

Since you must have already done the day cruise in Hanoi, experiencing a night cruise is worth it in Hoi An. In the middle of Thu Bin river, you will be at complete peace despite of the fact that roads surrounding the river are extremely vibrant. The only thing you can hear is the noise of the wind. It is marvellous to see everything so well lit around while you are in the middle of river.

The cost is 150000 VND for two for 30 minutes.

One tip here – Take a photo just when you come under the bridge adjoining the two sides if the river. Take a photo with the bridge above your head with ‘HOI AN’ written on it ????
IMG_20190406_202716.jpg

Night Market 

As the sun goes down, the old town is beautifully lit up with silk lanterns. It is such a pleasure to the eyes. Originally, the lanterns were used to light up the houses. Although there are not a lot of things that you do not get in Hanoi, the market itself is a pleasure to roam around. During the weekend, you might get to see the live music, dance on the roadside. I got to watch a really nice performance by a dance group.

IMG_20190406_210944.jpg

One tip here – Buy whatever you want, from Hanoi. There is very little scope for negotiation in the old town.

Coconut Forest

This, I would say, was one of the best attractions. It was peaceful, noisy and fun. ???? I was surprised that a lot of tourists I met did not have this on their list of attractions to cover. I experienced Halong Bay, Trang An, Night Cruise… but, Coconut forest is a different category. You need to go here either by motorbike or taxi. You can ride a bicycle as well if you are sporty. The forest is around 7-8 km from the old town.

You cannot reach here by simply using GPS. You will find some places liked coconut village, coconut forest homestay, etc. in the google maps. You will need to ask people there and go deep in the lanes. Fortunately, the second lady that I asked the directions turned out to be the one operating the boat tours. I followed her motorbike and reached the starting point.

IMG-20190412-WA0082.jpg

The rates that these boat owners will quote is exorbitant, something like 200000 VND for 45 minutes to 1 hour. I bargained and did it for 120000 VND per person. You can always ask for an extended time in the waters if it seems difficult to bring down the price. In any case, you should have the extras for the same price or the same for a lesser price ????

You will find yourself sitting in a basket boat, which is the main differentiator. The rower will take you through the beautiful narrow path of, what they call ‘forest’. It is charming and soothing. The rower, after 15-20 minutes, will then take you to the noisy center. You will see a fisherman casting the fishing net in the most stylish way and hauling it in. He will then give a chance to the tourists to do the same for some 50000 to 60000 VND. On the other side, you will see a man whirling his boat at the same place rapidly. Oh! It was so engaging, not for the faint-hearted though????

Tip your rower as the place is visited by fewer tourists as compared to other attractions.

One tip here - Your rower will give you a sudden surprise by rapidly circling the boat the around. Sorry for spoiling the surprise, but you might as well tell the rower in advance not to do that. If you are not prone to vertigo etc., don’t miss the fun!

Le Loi Fashion
There is something new that you will see here. All the paintings are hand embroidered. It is not as simple as I am writing it here. You will experience it only when you go there and watch. The beauty is that you will not understand if it is embroidery. You will think of it as a normal oil painting, yes, even after going nearer. You will realize the truth when you see the women doing the embroidery in the store. Photography is strictly not allowed.
Managed to capture one painting (embroidery actually)

Embroidered-Painting.png

It is a special souvenir to take back home. The paintings have so many shades to it that will leave you spellbound thinking as to how did the women gave it multiple shades. For eg., There was a painting of an old lady. You will be thrilled to see the way the embroidery has minute details on the face like wrinkles, lines, etc. I liked this painting the most.

The price of the paintings starts from 1000000 VND (for a small one).

Tailor-made silk dresses

Every 6th or 8th shop in the old town is a tailor shop. Yes, tailormade clothes are that popular here. However, I personally did not really find it worth the money charged. I was asked to pay 700000 VND for a solid color knee-length silk dress, with no print, no unique style.

An Bang Beach

Go here either early in the morning or an hour before the sunset (preferable). The beach is not a must visit. Go if you have 2 hours in hand. You can relax on the shacks by paying 20000 VND per shack. Get a can of beer and watch the people swimming. The beach is suitable for swimming.

Tra Que Vegetable Village

This can be completely skipped. It is a farm with ‘organic’ vegetables being grown. The farmers here claim that no pesticides are used to grow the vegetables. If you are lucky enough to meet a farmer, you might as well see the different vegetables being grown there. Also, if you are luckier, you can find someone there to help you have a buffalo ride there. I could not find anyone there except for a couple of old farmers. Now, I am sure it would have been difficult to converse with them, even by speaking broken English.

Hoi An has a nightlife, worth exploring. There are a number of clubs in the old town. The best ones are Q-Bar, Mango Mango, White Marble Wine Bar, etc. Most of these open at 11 pm and closes at 2-3 am.

Lastly, if you have time in hand, you can go for a half day trip to the marble mountain in Da Nang.

There is this old city of Hue as well, which is 120 km from Hoi An. Hue is a UNESCO world heritage center. It is suggested to go to the above attractions in guided tours.

Posted by Bulbulonthewing 03:38 Archived in Vietnam Tagged restaurant town bridge museum house fashion old forest coconut ancient hall hoi an assembly duc hainan loi ganesh japenese Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 5) Page [1]