Travel Category

Sightseeing and Eating Out In Mumbai

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Last weekend I did something I hadn’t done for years - which was a weekend trip with the family to Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, the city of Bollywood, and perhaps India’s most cosmopolitan city. Not too much seemed to have changed in Mumbai, except that the roads seem to be getting even more crowded than before if that was possible!! One thing that has changed though is the drive from the Airport to South Mumbai (The area with all of Mumbai’s tourist attractions) via the Bandra Worli Sea Link, an architectural marvel that not only looks great but also cuts the travel time to south Mumbai by almost 30 minutes. After spending just a few hours in Mumbai, I was convinced that south Mumbai, and the areas close to Nariman Point and the Gateway of India, were the only places where a tourist would want to be in while visiting Mumbai.

Worli Sea Link

The must-see and do’s of Mumbai, would be the the Gateway of India, Mumbai’s iconic monument facing the Arabian sea, built to honor the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary during the British Raj, a drive past Marine Drive, Mumbai’s popular promenade facing the sea, a visit to Mani Bhavan ,a house where the father of our nation Mahatma Gandhi spent a lot of time, that has been converted into a small museum … one of the must do’s in Mumbai would be having a cup of tea, or rather a High Tea, with pastries, scones, and kebabs and at the Sea Lounge of the Taj Mahal Hotel. Next, to the Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Hotel is possibly the most photographed building in Mumbai.

The Taj Mahal Hotel with Gateway of India

The two other activities that I would highly recommend in Mumbai would be, first the Heritage Walking Tour, and then the Elephanta Island trip. The Walking tour that we did start at the Gateway of India, lasted about 2½ hrs and we walked past many of Mumbai’s colonial heritage buildings and landmarks including the Regal Cinema, Elphinston College, the David Sasoon Library, the Victoria Train station, the Prince of Wales Museum, etc. We loved the walk, wasn’t too tiring in spite of the weather, and the architecture of this area, coupled with the energy that surrounds you while you are on the streets of Mumbai, made it well worth the effort and I would certainly say it’s a must-do. The Elephanta Caves, a few miles into the sea, accessible by boat (a very basic public boat service is the only way to go) were next on our agenda. A World Heritage Site, the rock-cut Elephanta Caves, built between the 5th and the 8th centuries, house temples mainly dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva – another must-do for visitors o Mumbai. Just one suggestion—if you can, avoid doing the Elephanta trip on Sundays and weekends - the boats can get extremely crowded.

Enough about sightseeing... the foodies that we are, we also decided to sample some of Mumbai’s restaurants, Trishna and Mahesh’s (both located in South Mumbai close to the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Marine Drive) was tops as far as Indian food went, and among the others we tried, Mumbai’s famous Olive Bar and Kitchen (in the western suburb of Bandra) and Le Pain Quotidian (a European style eatery located a stones throw from the Gateway of India) were great places to eat at.

The author, Kapil Goswamy is the Managing Director/CEO of Trans India Holidays, based in New Delhi, India.


A Cycling Tour Of Old Delhi

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Last Sunday, instead of lazing at home and catching up on my sleep, I decided to do something a bit more adventurous—a Bicycle tour of Old Delhi. I had read about "Delhi by Cycle" on the internet, and their concept of exploring the narrow lanes of Old Delhi and its sights on bicycle got me interested. Booking the tour was really easy and I choose their trip called the "Shahjahan Tour".

Cycle tour in Delhi

Reached the tour starting point (Opposite Delite Cinema in Old Delhi) at 6.30am and found these bright orange bicycles and our tour guides in orange tee-shirts waiting. There were 4 other people on my tour and two guides. After a small briefing, we started the cycle tour. It took me a while to get used to riding the bicycle (I hadn’t ridden one in years), but got in the rhythm soon—fortunately, cycling is one of the skills, which if you have learned once, you never forget. We cycled in single file, with one of our guides in the front, leading us through the narrow lanes and another one, in the end, to make sure no one was left behind. It wasn’t really my first time in Old Delhi, but Old Delhi at this time of the day felt like a new experience with its sights, smells, and sounds. It was a very different perspective to the city where I have actually lived for almost 15 years. Though it being Sunday morning, most shops, etc. were closed, but the lanes were still full of a lot of activity. We stopped briefly at Fatehpuri Mosque, a storehouse in the Spice market, a South Indian Temple in the old city area, before heading onto the Civil lines. Had quick stops at the famous Maiden’s hotel and Lt Governors House, before breaking for a cup of piping hot tea and biscuits at a roadside tea stall.

Cycle tour in Old Delhi

Post the tea break we headed back towards the Old Delhi area. Once again cycling through the narrow lanes, but now it was getting busier and we were getting tired. Passed through the Chandini Chowk market, stopped at the Red Fort and Jama Masjid. By this time we had spent about 2½ hours riding and covered about 12 kms. Feeling exhausted and hungry, our small group headed towards the last highlight of the tour, which was the breakfast stop at a restaurant behind Jama Masjid (it was meant to be the famous Karim’s, but it being the month of Ramadan, Karim’s was closed). Had a hearty breakfast of fresh bread and daal (others had Nahari meat curry instead). Post breakfast a short ride back to our starting point, for goodbyes to our guides, who were really nice guys, and other group members.

I’m really glad I took the tour, it rekindled my love for cycling and I promised myself to buy a cycle and start cycling at least on the weekends and very importantly, allowed me to look at Delhi differently too. I would recommend the tour to anyone who is reasonably fit, who enjoys cycling and wants to discover the sights, sounds and smells of Old Delhi.

The writer, Rajesh Kaushik is the General Manager of Trans India Holidays in New Delhi, India.


India Tourism — A Case of Missed Opportunities

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It is certainly true that India as a tourist destination offers a whole lot more to tourists than most other destinations can, from the peaks of the Himalayas to the Tea Gardens of Assam to the backwaters of Kerala, to the white sandy beaches of Goa, and above all, monuments like the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world--- India has all of this and much more , but sadly, India gets fewer tourists than most of its competing nations.

There are quite a few reasons as to why India only gets a minuscule percentage of the world’s tourists. Prominent amongst these are our lack of infrastructure, visa’s being difficult and expensive, the perception regarding lack of safety and security, etc.

When it comes to infrastructure, sadly, we are way behind our neighboring countries or other Asian destinations – the drive from Delhi to Agra has improved and is now world-class, but, when you look at other highways, it’s a sad situation. The drive from Jaipur to Delhi, a distance of about 250 kms, could take up to 7 hours! Likewise, the drive from Bangalore to Mysore, a distance of only about 150 kms, could take up to 5 hours! It is just not the roads or the lack of them, it is basic facilities like clean toilets that are lacking in most of our highways.

Then there is air connectivity – while things have improved quite a bit in the last few years, our national carries Air India, unfortunately, hasn’t done much to improve connectivity to India from major tourism producing countries. Compare ourselves to Dubai or Singapore, where the national carriers because of their strength, network, and connections, bring in thousands of tourists.

A lot of tourists intending to travel to India are deterred by the high cost and the time taken to obtain a Visa for India. With short lead times and last minute vacation planning becoming more and more common, travelers obviously choose destinations that are easy to get to in terms of the visa. Competing destinations like Thailand, Singapore, Hongkong, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc, either require no visas at all or have visas that are available on arrival. Even countries like Turkey, that are serious about their tourism, have introduced e-visa that can be obtained on the internet.

As a country, we have so much to show, in terms of history and culture, but, unfortunately, greed and dishonesty seems to have crept in, and crept in so deep, that it mars the tourist’s good experiences too! Tourists visiting the Jama Masjid (the largest Mosque in India ) are forced to pay a camera fee when there is actually nothing to be paid. Tourists traveling in auto rickshaws often end up paying 3 or 4 times the usual fare!

We really need to get our act together , and the Government needs to understand the importance of tourism, both in terms of its cultural exchange value , and in terms of its economic value, and do things that will attract visitors to our shores--- getting our act together on the infrastructure front , lowering of taxes on tourism product ( taxes in Delhi for example constitute almost 40% of the Hotel costs) , ensuring the safety and security of tourists travelling (particularly female travellers), would be the first steps towards this .

We also need to have more leisure activities for tourists, travellers are very happy to see monuments, forts, and palaces, but a lot of them even want nightlife and evening entertainment, good golfing facilities, etc, facilities which sadly, most of our tourist destinations lack. For example, Goa, India’s most sought after beach holiday destination, does not till date, have a world-class Championship Golf course something that every other beach holiday destination offers.

Having said all of this, India certainly does have lots to attract tourists, monuments like the Taj Mahal, Tiger Reserves like Kanha and Bandhavgarh, the frozen deserts of Ladakh, the pristine backwaters of Kerala, the 400-year-old temples of Southern India, the list is actually endless !!!


Udaipur -- India's Lake City

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Udaipur, the " Sunrise City " as it's name literally translates to , or the " City of Lakes ", is truly on of Rajasthan's or for that matter India's gems. Quite different from any other destination in India, Udaipur is actually an ideal place to end a hectic Rajasthan tour at. 

The city and the lakes that it surrounds are magical, and the City Palace certainly worth a visit. 

Udaipur certainly has enough to spoil luxury travelers, with its three top hotels, The Lake Palace, The Oberoi Udaivilas and the Leela Palace all vying for the top dollar paying tourists. Each has its own uniqueness, the Lake Palace of course has its iconic status and history, the Oberoi Udaivilas boasting of its state of the art rooms and top notch service, The Leela with its amazing 200 degree views of the Lake, and the City Palace! Well, tough to choose between them, but our CEO who recently travelled to Udaipur seemed to say that in terms of sheer location and views, the Leela is hard to beat.  

Staying in Udaipur isn't just about luxury accommodation, there are a number of very nice and atmospheric moderately priced accommodations available around the Lake too. One's that stand out, in terms of overall location and value for money are the Amet Haveli, with its gorgeous Ambrai restaurant, the Udai Kothi and the Jagat Niwas Palace (a few scenes of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel were shot here).

Coming back to one's reasons to visit Udaipur ( other than to just relax ), the City Palace, the Jagdish Temple and the Gardens are surely worth a visit and for those interested in Rajput history, there is the Chittorgarh fort less than 90 minutes drive away and  for the spiritually inclined, there are the temples of Nathdwara, Eklingji and Nagda. And, of course to soak in the atmosphere, a walk through the old town is really recommended. 

 

Author Bio: Anshul is a travelogue by passion and a digital marketer by profession. He is working with Trans India Holidays for more than 2 years. Being a travel freak and a wildlife enthusiast, whenever Anshul finds himself free, he pens down his experience in the form of blogs to share it with the world.


Why You Should Visit India Once In A Lifetime!

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"India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most destructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!" -Says Mark Twain.

These lines by Mr Twain well-describe the in-depth features of mysterious, magical and magnificent India. Over the years, this country has witnessed different eras under different rulers, seen many dynasties taking over and watched different cultures assimilating under one entity. The diversity in language, culture, religion and heritage has made this country the most distinguished and amazing place on Planet Earth! Hence tourists from across the world throng India to explore the pristine and serene surroundings.

You will definitely fall in love with this country after watching the dazzling wonders in the form of vibrant architecture, the rich cultural trail, the beauty of nature spread throughout and the varied variety of caste, creed, and religion. If you become a guest to India, you will be able to explore the most varied and vibrant nation which has smartly marked its place on global tourists' maps. Let's share five reasons why you should visit India once in a lifetime!

1. You can explore the oldest culture in the world: Do you know that Indian culture is the oldest one? Despite being ruled by Mughals and Britishers for a long time, this country has managed to retain its customs and traditions. There's hardly any culture in the world which is as varied and vibrant as India. 

Literature, dance, music, art, and craft, etc have all been an integrated part of Indian culture. In this country, the arrival of each season is welcomed by a festival and folk dances are performed to celebrate it. The exquisite cuisine also defines the start of a new season in different parts of the country. It's the Indian cultural magic that has spread the marvel of bindis to bangles to yoga across the world!

2. Glance at astounding history and incredible sights: India is blessed with architectural marvels. As the country's history interweaves its cultures, the religious symbols and cultural indicators blend to form beautiful structures. And hence comes out the beautiful display of the most exquisite architecture which is treat to the eyes.

3. Step into the spiritual world: Spirituality and mystical charm, since years, have drawn people from across the world to India. This country has been the land of spiritual leaders and saints. Arts like Yoga and Ayurveda, coupled with religion, have helped evolve the existence of spirituality in India. The country has seen different religions like Hinduism and Buddhism originating here.

Thus, a chunk of travellers visit India seeking spiritual solace! Haridwar and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Bodhgaya in Bihar, Tiruvannamalai and Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, etc are a few sacred places thronged by travellers.

4. Experience the adrenaline rush: You can feel the adrenaline rush in almost all regions in India, no matter whether you are in East, West, North or South India!

There are plenty of options for adventure enthusiasts to feel the adrenaline rush. From trekking in Himalayan tracks to paragliding in Goa to facing the rush rapids in Rishikesh to biking tours in Arunachal Pradesh, India is a treasure trove for adventure lovers. The adventure lust can also be quenched by being in states like Goa, Lakshadweep, Andaman, and Kerala where different adventure activities can hold your breath.

5. Spot the big striped cats in jungles: India is home to a variety of wild animals and houses 102 national parks, 43 tiger reserves, 528 wildlife sanctuaries, and 13 biosphere reserves. You can explore tigers in Jim Corbett, Uttarakhand or watch beautiful birds in Bandipur National Park, Karnataka, trace Asiatic lions in Gir forests and see rhinos and Bengal tigers in Sundarbans.

India's multitude of national parks, reserves, and conservation areas are among the most amazing ones to see on the planet.

There are many more reasons you should visit India. Now, see how and when you can make it happen to explore this country which is filled with culture, history and architectural wonders!

 

Author Bio: Archana Sharma is freelance writer who is passionate about her profession. Travelling is something that excites her. She has been in the creative field for over 15 years and has been writing for print media and digital media.