Month: January 2016

GoNews: Government of India Announces List of 20 Upcoming Smart Cities

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On January 28, 2016, the Union Government announced the names of the first 20 urban areas that will be developed as smart cities under ‘Smart Cities Mission’. Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, while announcing the list, said, “Implementation of smart cities plan will showcase integrated planning. The investment of Rs 50,802 crores has been proposed in selected smart cities and towns during the five-year period.”

Smart cities
Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bhubaneswar_smart_city.jpg

Following is the list of 20 smart cities:

1. Bhubaneswar, Odisha

2. Pune, Maharashtra

3. Jaipur, Rajasthan

4. Surat, Gujarat

5. Kochi, Kerala

6. Ahmedabad, Gujarat

7. Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh

8. Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

9. Sholapur, Maharashtra

10. Davangere, Karnataka

11. Indore, Madhya Pradesh

12. New Delhi Municipal Council area

13. Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu

14. Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh

15. Belagavi, Karnataka

16. Udaipur, Rajasthan

17. Guwahati, Assam

18. Chennai, Tamil Nadu

19. Ludhiana, Punjab

20. Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

What is a Smart City?

A ‘smart city’ is one which is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability. Some of the main features of these smart cities include assured water and power supply, efficient urban mobility and public transport, sanitation and solid waste management, strong IT connectivity, e-governance and citizen participation and safety of its citizens etc.

Few Facts:

  • These 20 names were selected from a list of 98 cities, submitted by the state governments, during a competition held last year.
  • There are five capital cities in this list.
  • These 20 cities were shortlisted based on certain criteria like feasibility of the proposal, cost-effectiveness, result orientation, strategic plan, citizen participation etc.
  • The government will invest approximately Rs.50,802 crore in these chosen smart cities, over a period of five years.
  • The second phase of this plan is supposed to engulf the next 40 cities.

So friends, gear up for a smarter India!

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A Rendezvous with Rajasthani Food in Jaipur

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Tucked between rugged hills and besieged walls and speckled with traditional erstwhile monuments, Jaipur boasts of fairy-tale grandeur. However, apart from its majestic forts and royal havelis, it has more stories to unfold. Along with its impressive architecture, Jaipur is a striking name for foodies too. Elaborate meals served on huge impressive thalis and typical Rajasthani food churned in royal kitchens illustrate indigenous traditions typical to the state. On my visit to Jaipur on New Year, this is what I discovered. Its food angle is worth experiencing and appreciating. My 48 hours trip was an epicurean tour with my friend that took me from old traditional restaurants to modern cafés. Come, let’s live those memories for a while.

Chokhi Dhani

Rajasthani food
Traditional Rajasthani thali at Chokhi Dhani | Photo Credit: Debatree Saha

Ahh! Jaipur and Chokhi Dhani is inseparable! Nestled around 21 km away from city centre, this ethnic village captures the vibrant spirit of Rajasthan. Food is an integral part of Chokhi Dhani and dining over majestic thalis is a lifetime experience. My platter had Bajre ki Roti with dollops of butter, Chawal, Daal, Gatte ka Sabzi, Bajra Khichda, Kadhi, Lehsan ka Achar, Dhaniya Chutney, Salad, Roasted Papad, Moon Dal Halwa and Bati Choorma. Golgappas and hot milk on earthenware glasses were also available in food stalls. My tummy was super-saturated! We had chosen the Traditional Rajasthani Dining Hall, but options like AC Royal Rajasthani Dining and Multi-cuisine Buffet Dinner can be tried too.

Laxmi Misthan Bhandar

Rajasthani food
Daal Bati Churma at Laxmi Misthan Bhandar | Photo Credit: Debatree Saha

To be frank, reaching there from MI Road was difficult. We drove past narrow alleys, old lanes and distant hills to reach the age-old sweet shop cum restaurant in Johari Bazaar. The doorman with his long moustache made way to an over-crowded sweet shop. Huh!! How can I forget it was 1st January? After waiting for long, we managed to get a seat and ordered Daal Bati Churma, Sweet Lassi and Virgin Mojito. After all, LMB is known for its authentic Daal Bati Churma cooked with heaps of desi ghee. It tasted heavenly and the lassi was an icing on the cake. Pack along Rajasthani specialities like ghewars, milk cake, and definitely, Payaz Kachori.

Rawat Misthan Bhandar

Very close to Sindhi Camp Bus Stand on Station Road, Rawat Misthan Bhandar is the only choice for food lovers like me. And being a tourist, how can I miss their lip-smacking Payaz (onion) Kachodi. Thanks to our auto-wale bhaiya for introducing us to Rawat. The crunchy golden Dal and Onion kachoris stuffed with lentils and onions taste delectable when consumed hot. Treat your tongue with Rawat ka Kachori before bidding adieu to Jaipur, just like me.

Peacock Restaurant

Rajasthani Food
The delicious Laal Maas | Photo Credit: Debatree Saha

The rooftop restaurant near Vidhakpuri Police Station will initially surprise you with its scenic setting, graceful ambience and astonishing views of the surrounding. My platter had only Laal Maas (traditional spicy lamb curry) and tawa roti, because Peacock is famous for this Rajasthani non-vegetarian delicacy. Like all, I too had to wait to get a seat. Apart from the taste of the food, its decent pricing surprised me too. If you are a meat lover like me, do visit the Peacock Restaurant for its authentic Laal Maas.

If you favour Italian and Chinese, then also Jaipur is ideal for you. Here are two of my favourite picks:

The Chocolate Room

Me and my friend, both were aliens to Jaipur, but food is what we died for. While exploring the newly opened World Trade Park at Malviya Nagar, Jaipur, we had to stop at The Chocolate Room. The small aesthetically decorated Italian Café (not to mention 100% veg) at the food court spread aroma of fresh cakes, sizzling pastas, pizzas, pancakes, toasts, coffees, smoothies and more. We started with sipping the delicious smoothies- yogola mix and very berry and gradually shifted to Mediterranean Pasta. Well, if you ask about price, I would say, ‘be ready to feel a bit of pinch in your pocket’. Nevertheless, getting hold of an authentic Italian café in Jaipur is not an easy affair. Give it a try!

Marigold Restaurant

Rajasthani Food
Schezwan Salt and Pepper Chicken at Marigold Restaurant | Photo Credit: Debatree Saha

The in-house restaurant of Golden Tulip hotel (where I stayed) at MI Road is a haven for food-lovers. Not to forget is its widespread buffet breakfast that offers American delicacies to Indian favourites like Aalo Parantha, Poori sabzi, Idli, Uttapam, Daal Pakoda and lots more. Marigold too expertise in Laal Maas. Thanks to the chef for making our New Year dinner a gourmet affair, one with Schezwan Salt and Pepper Chicken and veg Hakka Noodles.

They all looked royal and tasted yum! In fact, the trip is to be remembered more for our culinary experience. You too can plan one soon!

Best Travel Hacks to Help You Enjoy an Economical Trip

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Well, for some, travelling is sheer fun- just pack your bags at the drop of a hat and wander off. But for those who take travelling a bit more seriously and do indulge in rigorous brainstorming before-hand, we have jotted down few important tips, just to help you plan your vacation better. When the thought of travelling becomes more taxing than fun, what you need is a slight dose of ‘travel hacks’ relief syrup.

Now, we all think that going on a vacation means heavy expenses, from booking of flights and hotels to shopping, eating or touring. But, little do we know that with slight planning and management, we could do all of what we want to and that too, well within our budgets, with these easy and simple travel hacks. 

Travel hacks
Graphical representation by Priyanka Sharma

Airfare Does Not Cost a Fortune

    • The first thing to do is book cheap flights. Now the best way to do this is by analysing fares on different flight comparing sites. There are ample sites to choose from, so be wise.
    • Before booking, carry out a general survey on those days in a week when cheap tickets can usually be availed. Well, Tuesdays and Wednesdays have just turned great!
    • Find off-peak flights, if possible, ones that will force you to either get-up in the wee hours of the morning or keep you awake till late hours (reward- cheap airfare).
    • If you are not tight on schedule, then go for flights with long layovers. Not only will the flight price be low but you get the added advantage of a mini-visit of a new place (of course with a visa and if your ticket permits).
    • Well, if you have already racked-up thousands of frequent flyer miles and points by signing-up for credit cards or shopping through online portals or swiping cards at restaurants, it’s your chance to redeem those miles and points for a more affordable travel.
    • And if you are the one who is always on the move, then you could sign-up with frequent flyer groups as well to avail free flights.
    • It is not advisable to book tickets way too much in advance, well you might regret missing out on occasional discounts.

Make Smart Accommodation Choices

    • When it comes to lodging, stop flooding hotels. You could opt for home-stays or family-run businesses as well. You would not only end-up saving on some cash but enjoy a different experience altogether.
    • In today’s world, where everything and everyone has gone e-smart, it is no big deal to find accommodations where free WiFi can be easily availed. This will help you save a considerable amount on internet packs.

Travel the Desi Way

    • So you are in this new place and hungry. Eager to try-out something nice but have no idea where to go. Just relax, several food apps are there to guide you to the restaurant of your choice.
    • Once done with your pett puja, you would be ready to tour the city. Instead of zooming away in AC cabs, try walking, cycling (if possible) or otherwise avail public transports. This way, you meet more people, get a chance to talk to locals and learn more authentic and interesting facts about their city.

      Travel hacks
      Explore new places on foot | Photo Credit: Sudipta Basu
    • Avoid organised tours. No point in mechanically moving in a pack and being guided everywhere. Stick to your group (no matter how less or more you are in number) and travel at your own pace.
    • Carry empty water bottles. Refill where-ever possible. Maybe you won’t save a fortune but then you would simply keep adding to your nest egg.
    • Try off-beat destinations and travel off-season.

      Travel hacks
      Try offbeat destinations like Chopta | Photo Credit: Indraneel Biswas
    • Pack smart, carry light. Mix-n-match your apparels.

Finally, Few More Handy Tips

      • Buy travel insurance.
      • Plan your finances before-hand.
      • If you are travelling abroad, check currency rates in advance.
      • Prefer rails. Try avoiding ‘no-frills’ airline policy cause most flights will offer you practically nothing except a seat and take you to and fro more remote airports, which ultimately will be more physically taxing for you.

So friends, here’s a thumbs up to a more planned, organised, tension-free and pocket-friendly vacation. Do drop-in to share your experiences.

Happy Travelling!

GoNews: 2016 Edition of Goa Carnival to Start on February 6

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Goa Carnival, which is about to take place between February 6 and February 9, 2016, is expected to be the most colourful and vibrant editions of the festival. The carnival is believed to be the biggest highlight of Goa as well as rest of India. It not only aims to promote unity, harmony and peace, but also showcase Goa’s glorious past and long drawn traditional practices.

Goa Carnival
Street decorations in Miramar at the Goa Carnival 2013 | Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GOA_CARNIVAL_2013_03.JPG?uselang=en-gb

The carnival will be held across four places in the state- Panjim, Margao, Vasco and Mapusa. This year the state is working in close association with Brouhaha International, an arts organization located in Liverpool, United Kingdom, to make its 2016 edition titled ‘Destination Carnival’ a premier state tourism event. There will be an elaborate exchange of ideas across countries like UK, USA, South Africa and India.

Anticipating a larger tourist footfall this year, the state authority has made elaborate safety measures, like increased deployment of police force across all tourist spots, to ensure complete security during the carnival.

Goa Carnival
Beach front in Goa | Photo Credit: Bhawna Grover

Let us also take a quick glance through some adventure activities and additional services that are about to be launched by Goa Tourism Development Corporation soon:

Amphibian Tours: Goa will be the first Indian destination to introduce amphibious vehicles in the country. Service of these vehicles is expected to resume from February and will take tourists on exciting tours like duck tours to the hinterlands of Goa. Already experienced this in Singapore or London? Now try in India too!

Heritage Boat Cruise: Goa is set to introduce two heritage boat cruises on its backwaters. The four-hour cruise will include lunch/dinner and typical Goan live music and dance extravaganza.

Motorised Paragliding: The adventure sport is expected to be operational in Goa from the first week of February.

Hop-on Hop-off Bus: The bus service is about to start very soon in Goa. It is expected to make travelling in Goa convenient and will also provide easy access to other tourist attractions.

Come, experience a safe and pleasant stay in India’s beach capital during the four-day gala carnival.

GoNews: Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, Becomes World’s Best Hotel of 2016

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Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, bags the best hotel in the world award by TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice of hotels 2016. The hotel has proudly bagged maximum number of awards (7) across different categories. Also, this is the very first time that an Indian hotel has won the honour.

Umaid Bhawan Palace
The grand complex of Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur | Photo Credit: Gaurav Das

Built between 1928 and 1943 for Maharaja Umaid Singh, the royal palatial hotel, now managed by Taj Group of Hotels, proudly holds the status of the ‘best hotel in the world’. Equipped with 347 luxury rooms and decorated by 26 acres of lush gardens, this massive Indo-Colonial styled hotel has remained a hot favourite amongst luxury travellers from across the world. Also, the extravagant palatial hotel is the hottest spot for palace wedding amongst celebrities. From the wedding ceremony of Bollywood couple Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to the 50th birthday celebration of Nita Ambani, the hotel has been the witness to many such unforgettable events. Its immaculate architecture, magnificent décor and luxurious hospitality contributed to its prominence.

Umaid Bhawan Palace
Swimming pool at Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel, Jodhpur | Photo Credit: http://www.umaidbhawan.com/picture_gallery.htm

As the name suggests ‘Travellers’ Choice Awards’, the hotel has been recognized and appreciated by global travellers for its impeccable service, traditional hospitality, luxury, grandeur and value for money. Umaid Bhawan Palace has been chosen the winner on the basis of reviews, ratings and opinions posted by millions of travellers in one year.

It is not only Umaid Bhawan Palace that has left an impeccable footprint on Indian Travel and Hotel Industry, but other names like Oberoi Vanvilas, Taj Rambagh Palace, Orange County Resorts and Bougainvillea Guest House have also made their ways to the world’s best hotels. Rajasthan remained at the top position amongst all Indian states followed by Kerala and Karnataka.

Best Indian Destinations to Enjoy Bachelor Party with Your Friends

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Breaking the rules, drinking beer, reckless plans with friends is kinda old fashioned! Gear up folks, it’s time to celebrate your freedom once and for all with your Gang of Wasseypur! 🙂 This investment of celebrating love, life and your bachelorhood is worth every penny you are about to spend.

This time around, go for a theme party that suits everyone’s interest. Here’s my pick:

1. For those party animals in your gang, hit the party capital of India aka Goa, and enjoy the last few days of your freedom like never before. Plan the trip such that those awesome parties popularly known as ‘Full moon’ parties are not missed. These parties can also be witnessed at the breathtaking islands of Andaman and the hippies spot, Mcleodganj at just pocket-friendly rates.

Bachelor Party
A still from Dil Chahta Hain

2. For those adventure freaks in your gang, gear up to experience the thrill of your lifetime. You don’t have to plan big and spend much on international tours. One can experience world-class treks in India like the famous Roopkund trek. Celebrate in style with leather jackets, sunshades and heavy metal bikes on the road to Leh. Adventure sports followed by bonfire and camping can be relentlessly enjoyed at Rishikesh and Manali. A visit to Seven Sisters on bike is one adventure one shouldn’t miss, especially those high on thrills!

Bachelor Party
A still from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

3. For those homies in your gang, visit places like never before, try the untried. So if in the capital, do not forget to pay a visit to the PCO Bar, Hauz Khas village, shopping streets and chill the desi way. A gym and steam visit with your gang for a day would be rewarding just before a week from your wedding.

Bachelor Party
Hauz Khas Village | Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hauz_Khas_Complex

4. If you have a silencer in your gang, choose  nature walks to picturesque and private places for spending your days away from the heavy touristy destinations. Visit Sula Vineyards in Nashik and enjoy India’s only wine company with a chance to see the making of wine. You could also enjoy a cup of tea amid the flavours and aroma of tea plantations in Assam. Coorg in Karnataka with its serene ambience could be another option to relax. Enjoy being you!

Bachelor Party
Sula Vineyards, Nasik | Photo Credit: Aparna Saha

5. For history buffs in your gang, a visit to the country’s most architecturally-rich places, entangled with rich heritage and culture would be a great idea. Rajasthan is where you can enjoy in royal style. A quick tour can also be made to South India, where your spiritual and historical yearnings are satiated at par.

Bachelor Party
A still from Rang De Basanti

These places offer more than you can ask for! So pick your gang and head-straight to your preferred destination to celebrate the final innings of your bachelorhood. Write to us so that we can help you plan your perfect holiday, at pocket-friendly prices. Get set, go!

Well, we think these destinations in India are great for a bachelor party. If you would like to add more to this list, feel free to comment.

GoNews: Dilli Haat Gears Up For The Great Indian Food Festival

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Eat, dine and make merry! After all, it is food that unites us all.

The Great Indian Food Festival being held at Pitampura, Delhi, on January 23rd and 24th, 2016, is all about local street food delicacies brought from different parts of India. Delhi is crazy about street food and with this festival, you will get a glance of how other Indian states too savour their road side dishes.

Food Festival
Traditional Indian Thali | Photo Credit: http://www.facebook.com/GreatIndianFood/photos_stream

Great Indian Food Festival is going to feature vendors with generations of culinary experience. Be a part of this food fiesta in the heart of the capital and get lost in the aroma of tandoori chicken, Lucknawi kebab, Amritsari kulcha, dhokla, petha, daal-bati churma, Hyderabadi biriyani, rasam-vada and much more. Places like Amritsar, Lucknow, Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Gujarat and Jaipur, which you have always heard of and their street food delicacies you always wanted to eat, will now be available at your doorstep.

Food Festival
Pav Bhaji in the making | Photo Credit: http://www.facebook.com/GreatIndianFood/photos_stream

Both foodie and non-food lovers, bring along your friends and relatives to this gala gastronomic affair. Remember to come early, because those plates overloaded with chole bhature and dahi bhalla tastes great when served fresh. Need not worry, entry is 100% free.

Some quick check outs of the Great Indian Food Festival:

Location: Dilli Haat Pitampura, Delhi

Date: January 23, 2016 – January 24, 2016

Time: Jan 23, 2016 at 11:00 AM to Jan 24, 2016 at 11:00 PM

Entry: Free

With winter hovering during that time, the festival is expected to be a real hit.