Month: February 2014

TRAVEL DIARIES: THE RISHIKESH ESCAPADE

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~People don’t take trips, trips take people~

John Steinbeck, the man who gave this wonderful quote was absolutely right, probably that is why the Goibibo team found itself in the train to Haridwar on a sunny afternoon. With our backpacks, DSLRs and travel zeal, some 50 of us from the Gurgaon and Banglore office left from New Delhi. There is a traveller in all of us but when trapped in the hustle and bustle of life, we forget to explore, to wander and to seek experiences. The forgotten adventurer that lay within us awoke with our trip to Rishikesh. Yes, from Haridwar we took the bus to Rishikesh, the gateway to Himalayas.

Indian Railways to our rescue

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Travelling-It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller

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Thus said Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan explorer and it did lead to writing of this post. However, it’s difficult to explain the sheer ecstasy our stay at Phool Chatti Resort gave us. It turned us speechless and left us in a hangover that we are still trying to find the right words to share the high we experienced during river rafting. Beauty turns you into a writer but try as hard as much, the beauty of Rishikesh can never be expressed in the written word. We’ll let the pictures do the talking for now.

The Campsite

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Are we actually doing it?

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Hell yeah!

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Outdoor games, eh?

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Would you smile for the camera, please?

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Let’s take a stroll in the woods

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Yes, it’s cold but I’ve got warmth for you

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Come, shake a leg!!!

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Yeah! No party is complete without drinks

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And because St. Augustine once said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page,” we won’t stop here, we will keep travelling. For a traveller, there’s no fixed destination and there are no fixed plans. A journey is of a thousand miles and one life is just not enough for an explorer. So, dance amidst the cool winds and the high hills, make friends in strangers, live on the edge and drive the HIGHWAY.

By Harshita Srivastava

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Lonely Planet accredited India’s Mihir Garh Hotel as the most extraordinary hotel in the World

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Mihir Garh Hotel

You can be forgiven for overlooking the hot burning deserts of Rajasthan and arranging your stay at a Luxury hotel built within some historic fort. But you might not forgive yourself when you realize that you just missed out on one of the most extraordinary hotels in the world. The Lonely Planet recently came out with the lists of top 10 extraordinary hotels, best valued hotels in the world and the 10 most outstanding eco hotels in the world and for the first time an Indian hotel has managed to secure one of the spots in the exclusive list.

Built just five years ago by Sidharth Singh, the Mihir Garh hotel can truly compliment your adventurous trip to the state of Rajasthan. Overlooking the Thar Desert, the Mihir Garh is an outcome of its owner’s imagination and the local craftsmen’s art.

Planet Baobab occupies the second place on the Lonely Planet’s list of the most extraordinary hotels. This hotel has the most beautiful amalgamation of grass and huts that you will ever come across. The special feature of this renowned hotel is the 4,000 years old baobab trees that make up most of its landscape.

The Prendiparte B&B in Bologna was one of the few European hotels that made it to the list. It is one of the very few B&B left in the city. The rooftop view of this single suite is probably the best that you can get in all of Europe.

most extraordinary hotel

South Africa boasts of two of the three best valued hotels according to the list. The local currency exchange rate is a major reason for the ever increasing tourists’ turnout in the country. The Backpack in Cape Town sits pretty at the top of the list after being accredited by Fair World Tourism. It is renowned as the best African hotel. The Inkosana Lodge and the Sydney harbour YHA occupied the second and the third places respectively in the list.

In the eco list, the Lapa Rios hotel of Costa Rica occupied the top spot. The waves of the Pacific Ocean at an arm’s length add to your heavenly experience. The second place in this list was occupied by South Africa’s Bulungula Backpackers. Jointly owned by the local Xhosa community, the hotel is one of its kinds. According to some travellers who have visited the hotel, its overhead sky is one of the clearest that you will ever come across.

 

Hyderabad Airport will get International Hub status in 2014

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Hyderabad Airport

The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad has been chosen as one of the airports to be developed as an International hub by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. This announcement was recently made in the Rajya Sabha by K C Venugopal, Minister of State for Civil Aviation.

As the name suggests, an international airport is the one having facilities for entry and departure of international traffic. The body called ‘International Civil Aviation Organization’ (ICAO) decides on conferring the stature of ‘International airport’ to any airport within the contracting state. These airports differ from the normal airports in the fact that they provide customs, immigration and clearance facilities to the arriving customers. Other checks like the public health and the agricultural quarantine can also be duly carried out at an international airport.

The striking difference between an international hub and an international airport is that the former has all the facilities of the latter, but in large volumes. An international hub is designed to handle a lot more customers than an international airport. Also, the connectivity of an international hub, be it the domestic network or the international network, is much more enhanced keeping in mind the large and varied volumes of the passengers arriving at the airport.

The Civil Aviation Ministry of the Government of India has zeroed in on 6 airports in all to be developed as international hubs.  Apart from the Rajiv Gandhi Airport in Hyderabad, the other chosen airports are the Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and the Chennai International airports. The government is taking a number of steps to expedite the entire process. A standing inter-ministerial group has also been formed, after a Union Cabinet meeting in May last year, in order to have sure that there are no delays in the developments. They have been given the responsibility of making sure that these aviation hubs become a reality as soon as possible.

 

Indian travellers flying with Etihad Airways to US can now clear USA customs at Abu Dhabi

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Etihad Airways

Eithad Airways is one of the best and well known airlines operating from the Middle East. It is the flagship airline for United Arab Emirates. Since inception it has expanded its services to South East Asia and has been a popular airline with many Indian travellers prefers Etihad for flying to their favourite destinations around the world.

Indian travellers flying to the US on Etihad Airways now have something to cheer about! According to a recent development, the Indian travellers will now be able to clear the US customs and immigration formalities at the Abu Dhabi Airport itself and arrive in the US as a domestic traveller. This saves the passengers from waiting at the US airport in long queues to clear all their inspections at the arrival.

Etihad Airways stated that there will be special counters set up at the Abu Dhabi airport in order to make sure that the process is breeze and without any hassles. The Etihad Airways’ passengers can also complete their Health inspections and Department of Agricultures’ inspections at the Abu Dhabi airport before boarding the aircraft. The move has been highly appreciated by a number of frequent travellers as it is bound to save a lot a time for them. This news was long awaited as Etihad Airways has for long been in line to get such a clearance from the US authorities.

Also, the Etihad Airways is now offering enhanced connectivity to the Indian air travellers by connecting them from Chennai, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Kochi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode via Abu Dhabi to New York, Washington DC and Chicago. The good news doesn’t end here! Etihad Airways is also expanding its network to Jaipur in April. The other cities expected to join the network are Los Angeles in June and Dallas-Fort Worth in December.

 

Holi Land – Colours of India in Technicolor

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Crazy season is upon us.

Coming as it does about a month after 14th February, this is the original Indian day of love and romance. The festival of colours is a time of love and romance and is celebrated and sometimes abused by most of north India as certain liberties are taken by one and all.

Some people use this as an opportunity to abuse (verbally) their neighbours, friends, enemies, bosses and generally anybody passing by on the streets. Others use this as a chance to tease members of the opposite sex and some even cross the line and molest. People get drunk at 8 in the morning and others stay stoned all day. A lot of people stay indoors and grumble while others leave their home in the morning only to return after 3pm for a bath and then head out again for round 2, 3, 4 and so on.

Colours of India

Vast hordes of people head home from their karmabhoomi, to be with family and friends. North India witness’s people heading to HP, UK, UP and Bihar and the trains are overloaded. The India Railway runs many special trains to handle this rush of happy people heading home. You can well imagine the topic of conversation on these trains.  People heading home for the festival have loved ones on their mind.

Art imitates life and in the imagery of India Cinema, Holi is often expressed in a colourful wet kiss of young love. Let’s travel around and check out this Holi land.

Location #1. Holi in Uttar Pardesh.

Holi in Uttar Pradesh is like innocent young love. Allow me to explain.

Holi in Uttar Pardesh

The heartland celebrates Holi like no other; this is the land of Krishna in Mathura and the Holi celebrations there are of course legendary. Further east is the land of Ram and Ayodhaya; the land of rice and cows. Even further east is the land of the Shiva and the Ganges. All these places in this Holy Land celebrate Holi in unique ways and have inspired our ideas of what Holi should look like and the way it should be celebrated, but it’s the Holi of Banaras that is the show stopper and as the fertile grounds for romance to blossom it is unbeatable. Location, Location, Location as they say.

romance the festival of Holi

Anybody who has any idea about small towns knows that for love to blossom cycles and cycle rickshaws are the most important ingredients. Add to this recipe of romance the festival of Holi and you have the situation to launch a 1000 Mills and Boon…..

 Festival of Holi

Holi in Banaras

WOW, you have just got to love the power of Holi in Banaras, you can almost taste it and it’s sweeter than Banarasi paan, I love young innocent love, continuity be dammed.

love the power of Holi

Uff kya scene hai, kya look hai, kya love hai. HAAI !!!! Mein Mar Jawaan !!!!!

Location #2. Holi in Gujarat

Holi in Gujarat is HOT, like the red chillies that the state is famous for, love over here sizzles like the smouldering Deepika and the smoking hot Ranvir.

love over here sizzles

This Holy land oozes with the milk of human kindness and is once again graced by Krishna and hence it automatically qualifies to be the playground for colourful Holi stories and legends. Anybody who has any idea about anything to do with Gujarat will tell you that like everything in Gujarat, Holi and Love have to start with “Garbo Ramye”???? That means shall we dance the Darba???? Like the Cycle Rickshaw is essential for Love in UP the Garba cannot be separated from LUV in a Gujarati heart. So first they dance.

essential for Love in UP the Garba

Then the girl makes like she can’t control herself and is like all over the place with feeling.

place with feeling

Then the poor Gujju boy is like OMG OMG OMG !!!!

Gujju boy

Then the girl, Gujju girls are cool like that, lets the poor Gujju boy have it, I did mention Crazy season is on us.

Gujju girl

Wow, Rang aur Khushboo Gujarat ki is always a Visual Spectacle especially Visible during Holi, Sorry Mr Bansali, I just could not resist that.

Location #3. Holi Moly in Mumbai

Some important things to note while on the subject of Holi and Romance and all that tends to go wrong when these two things get together. Anybody who knows anything about Holi, knows that while there are a good many good people having good clean fun (see what I did there) out there, there are also wolves out there and Mumbai is no different.

Holi and Romance

One should always be careful not to get into situations that may cause physical harm, like the one here, in which the girl is heading for a humped, err i mean bumped, backside.

girl is heading for a humped

While the above image seems like “harmless” fun, you could be in bigger trouble if you get into something like this.

fun and romantic

Hmm … don’t know if this is fun and romantic.

Hmm ….have a Safe Holi and Happy Travelling.

By Rajesh Baruah

MYTHS ON CRUISING

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Cruising

When it comes to trying out something different while travelling, cruising inadvertently finds its place in the list. However, a number of people drop on planning it out and prefer other options for travelling. A detailed study on the reasons behind the depreciation in the number of people opting for cruises revealed some common myths people often form thereby, missing out on a once in a lifetime experience. This article intends to clear out the notions people form about cruise vacations.

Cruises burn a hole in your pocket

Cruises burn a hole in your pocket

One of the major reasons why people don’t even consider cruising as a way to spend vacations is because they believe that it would cost them a fortune. There was a time when it was indeed an expensive package that included every amenity provided on the ship but the times have changed. Now, you simply don’t have to pay for anything extra that you aren’t using. The basic fare just includes accommodation, meals and general amenities like gymnasium and swimming. Anything that comes under the tagline of ‘extra’ is charged only from people who actually use it. So, if you are not sipping that ‘red wine’ or ‘bottled water’, nobody is going to charge any amount from you. Pay for drinks only if you go for them.

Cruises are jam-packed

Cruises are jam-packed

Hearing about the figures might scare you out naturally but it is completely unfair to say that it is a crowd full of people and individuals looking for some peace and tranquility cannot get a place for themselves. Just the way hotels house a number of people but are never counted as crowded, cruises will also find places for you to read a book or listen to music peacefully.

Dining at an assigned time and with annoying people is a part of cruising

Annoying people is a part of cruising

Hell no! Traditionally, cruises did allocate table and time for passengers but not anymore. You do not have to eat with that horrendous guy sitting next to your table. You can always sit with your group of friends and dine whenever you want. Ships, these days offer alternate dining options and places so that passengers can choose from their list of likes.

Cruises are thronged by party people

Cruises are thronged by party people

Another notion that quiet and introvert people often form is that it is the party people who arrive on cruises. If you are on a cruise, it is obvious to have parties and celebrations on-board but it absolutely normal to find non-alcoholics, vegetarians and passengers who prefer silence over loud music. The probability of finding a counterpart of party animals is as high as those who believe in dancing their heart out. There’s a connection you’ll find in every traveler on a cruise, all of them love exploring the world through their eye lenses.

Cruises are not meant for seasick

Cruises are not meant for seasick

Numerous people believe that they would surely go homesick on a cruise however, with the plethora of fun activities today’s ships provide you are bound to enjoy beyond expectations. Seasickness is extremely rare nowadays and even if someone does feel nauseous there’s always medical help on-board.

Cruises are only for people who love beaches

Huh! Are you kidding me? I am one of those people who has always had a dislike for beaches. Never have they attracted me the way they do to everyone I seem to meet but there’s something about cruises that makes me fall in love with them everytime I step on a ship. It is completely untrue that you wouldn’t like cruising if you don’t like beaches. Cruising is more about the love for travel than simply trying to fall in love with the waters. It gives you a chance to meet different people from different parts of the world and often gifts you with friends for life.

Cruises bore you out

Cruises bore you out

No way! This is one myth doing the rounds for a long long time and nobody has actually tried to put a light on it. I’d like to ask a question to everyone who thinks cruising is boring. How on earth can you find cruising boring with all the fun activities doing the rounds and so many people to interact with? There’s something special for everyone’s tastes and likes. There are some really wonderful performances in the evening and numerous classes on different forms of art and music from different parts of the world.

Cruises are for the oldies and turn out to be highly irritating for guys and kids too

guys and kids

There may be a number of oldies who happen to be a part of such cruises but that in no way makes it a boring ride. It’s an altogether fun experience to know about their life and all the interesting and crazy stuff they did back when they were young. Moreover, there are an equal number of family people and singles travelling in a cruise for whom various forms of entertainment sessions are organized by cruise professionals.

Cruises disconnect you from the outside world

Cruises disconnect you from the outside world

Hundred per cent untrue! Ships have news dailies coming out on a regular basis featuring all latest updates about the world including news, sports and entertainment, technology, travel and everything that makes the world talk. Moreover, they also provide television and internet access that keeps passengers stay connected with the world all along.

These were some major myths people form about cruises due to which they lose out on the opportunity on exploring something totally fantastic and mind-blowing. The next time a relative or an acquaintance tells about how boring a cruise could get, redirect them right here. Now, what are you waiting for? Go, get a cruise booked for yourself and enjoy the waters like never before.

By Harshita Srivastava

Common Mistakes of a First Time Backpacker

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Travelling is an experience and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. A true traveler will never feel tired on a Monday morning at office after a weekend getaway. In fact, his fingers will be moving on keyboard, trying to give words to his journey. A true traveler will be found talking about his encounter with nature with his colleagues or he might just be posting everything on his photo blog. Every time you feel like exploring or the pangs of curiosity make you restless, a traveler is born. Most of us in the crowd are backpackers while there are many who wish to be one. However, as a first timer, few mistakes are bound to happen. They say you learn with mistakes but at times you can avoid a few if you are warned beforehand. So, we thought of sharing some common mistakes of a first time backpacker.

backpacker

Carrying a Lot of Weight– You simply don’t have to carry those high heels or soccer shorts that you may or may not need. Simply carry the general stuff you require. All thanks to technology, you don’t need to carry those heavy guides as you can have all of those in mobile phones. If you do need to carry something to read, better take along just the one you’d actually read. Plus, instead of taking the high end first aid kit, just carry the basics. A number of people carry sewing kit with them but seriously, how many of us actually know how to mend torn denim? All you need is 2-3 bottoms and top, a pajama and necessary clothing, a simple first aid kit and utility, maximum two towels, slippers, some snacks and a water bottle. Always remember, it’s you who has to carry your luggage so make it as light as possible.

In any case, it’s pretty common to shop when you travel. So it is better to carry the least so that you can shop to your heart’s content.

backpacker

Selecting a Troublesome Partner– The goodness and worthlessness of a journey largely depends on your travel partner. If you have an incompatible partner, your experience might just turn foul. There could be times when you might want to eat a plate of dimsum at the roadside but your partner may care more about hygiene, than the sheer joy you get in eating those lip smacking bags of steamed vegetables and chicken. Always remember that a good friend might not necessarily be great travel partner.

Adjustment is a key aspect to be looked into when choosing a partner for your backpacking trip. There may be times when you wish to stay a little longer but cannot because your partner doesn’t want to. In such cases, you have no option other than dumping the plan or abandoning your partner all of a sudden. So, instead of damaging relationships as well as an expedition, try choosing a partner with your mind, not heart.

backpacker

Trying to See Too Much– This is something a number of first timers do. What people don’t understand generally is that they are on a holiday and they need to relax in the cool winds instead of running about from one means of transport to another. Go slow, take your time to explore. Going on too fast won’t let you take in the essence of the place you are at. It is okay to cover just two destinations in a week but it is never okay to rush through five places at a go. Always remember, you aren’t there to increase the count of your backpacking experiences, you are there to travel around, to observe the hues and shades of the area you are in. There’s always a ‘next time’ for all the attractions missed.

backpacker

Booking Too Much in Advance– Booking hotels in advance is a good decision. In fact, during the peak season it’s best to get your rooms booked well before time to avoid the pains of looking for an accommodation on your arrival. But, booking for a paragliding session or a boat ride could be harmful in case you do not end up going there due to some issues. Therefore, think before you plan out each and every detail of your journey. It’s good to be a planner but going too much into the intricate details before even landing there can be dangerous. Your flight might get late or you may simply go busy enjoying other attractions or may be, you just want to rest but have to go for river rafting just because you’ve booked and paid for it. So, think before you leap.

backpacker

Clinging to Your Inhibitions- A quite normal problem that majority first time backpackers’ face is clinging to their inhibitions. It’s okay to be nervous but it is never okay to let yourself away from an experience of a lifetime. Just because you are afraid of heights, you don’t really have to get scared of it all your life. You have to get over it and the best way to overcome the fear is letting go off the inhibitions. If rest of the people around you can do it then there’s no point you can’t. It is okay to shout out of fear, it’s alright to ask him to stop in the middle of the flight, it’s okay to weep out of horror, you just don’t have to care about what others will think. Neither do they know you nor do you. Those who know you, will understand what it takes to say ‘yes’ to something you’ve been saying ‘no’ all your life.

backpacker

Live life, don’t just exist. The highs make the traveler in you braver and stronger.

Now that we have warned you about the problems you could face, we hope you make a wise decision and have a wonderful trip. Bon voyage!