30 December 2014

Melbourne Dreams and a Giveaway!!!!

Are you a die hard Cricket fan planning a trip to Melbourne for the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup or a Tennis fan, wanting to be there for Australian Open, and if you thought Australia was all about Cricket, Tennis and Kangaroos, here we are to prove you wrong. Have you checked Tanmay and Rohan's videos, who went on Melbourne Escapade, and came up with some amazing stats and facts on Melbourne.
Melbourne Cricket Ground
Melbourne the capital city of the Victoria state of Australia, knows how to plan with its contemporary and modern buildings, while still preserving its history, heritage and art. While the Eureka Skydeck gives you the breathtaking bird's eye view of Melbourne city from its 88th Floor, the city also preserves the world's oldest remaining exhibition pavilions, the Royal Exhibition building, and Puffing Billy steam train operating since 1900.
The historic Puffing Billy and the Eureka Skydeck
While Queen Victoria Market with its 1000s of stalls, has everything for a foodie and shophalic, the Hosier Lane makes the city World's greatest street art capital with its amazing street art. 
Street Art and the Queen Victoria Market with a tram
While the yester year City Circle tram, takes you through the city covering its iconic places, the contrasting helicopter ride and hot air balloon, takes you through the tour of 12 Apostles and Vineyards.
Hot air Balloon over the Yarra Valley and Helicopter tour of 12 Apostles
While Melbourne has more than 850 wineries for wine lovers, Melbourne also is the coffee capital of Australia satisfying the taste buds of thousands of coffee lovers. Equally satisfying Strawberry lovers, with its acres of Strawberry farms and Phillip Island Chocolate Factory, with tons of chocolates going into creativity.
Strawberry Farm and Chocolate Village at Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
Love long drives, then drive the Great Ocean Road through the forest, mountains and ocean capes, with the view of 12 Apostles, else just watch seals, penguin parade or relax and rejuvenate at the Peninsula Hot Springs with massage, mud wraps, hot stone and steam treatment.
Hot Springs at Peninsula and the Great Ocean Road
Seals and Penguin Parade
This place is the proof for one of the legendary sea journey's of 1878, Loch Ard Gorge Beach, named after clipper ship Loch Ard, which ran aground at the Muttonbird island, finishing 3 months old journey from England to Melbourne.
And yes how could you forget Kangaroos, when being in Australia. Ballarat Wildlife Park, the best place where you get to encounter free roaming Kangaroos, Koalas, Wombats, Tasmanian Devils and more.
Koalas and Kangaroos
So wouldn't you love to visit this wonderful place, a place for everyone!!! 
After treating your eyes with the wonderful virtual tour of Melbourne, its time to treat you with a New Year gift. So whats that, which amazed you the most in Melbourne, answer the question and win a gift voucher from Victoria Tourism.
How to Win?
All you have to do is watch the videos, Tanmay and Rohan's Melbourne Escapades and answer this simple question.
"Which of these places would you want to visit in Melbourne and why?".
You have to leave your answer on the comment section of this post. 
What you Win?
One best answer will win Rs. 500 gift voucher.
Till when?
The contest ends on 4th Jan 2015. So hurry, spread the word.
PS: The contest has been extended by a day, it ends on 5th Jan, hurry..
The Giveaway is closed and the winners will be announced soon..
Terms and condition: 
The decisions made by jury with respect to the winners shall be final and binding in all respects.
Wish you all the best for the contest and A Happy Year, ENJOY!!!

Thank you all for being part of the contest, the winner is, 
Congrats Ruby Singh!!!
PS: All images are sourced from Victoria Tourism website and the author doesn't own them.

24 December 2014

Kutch Diaries - Rann of Kutch

Previous Post on Kutch Diaries, Kutch Diaries - Travel Plans
Our day 1 at Kutch was the tour of Kala Dungar and White Rann(Greater Rann of Kutch). Rann of Kutch(the Greater Rann/White Rann and the Little Rann) is a shallow wetland which submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry during other seasons. The Rann of Kutch is famous for its marshy salt flats which become snow white after the water dries up each season before the monsoon rains.
We reached Bhuj by 9 in the morning, after freshening up, we left for Kala Dungar, the highest point in Kutch. Kala Dungar is 90km from Bhuj and the road is in very good condition. But you don't have any good restaurants on the way, till Toran resort which is also 85km from Bhuj, so better carry enough munchings for your drive. At Bhirandiara, which is around 53km from Bhuj, there are two routes, one to White Rann and other to Kala Dungar.
Permit to White Rann: At Bhirandiara village you get permit to enter the White Rann, as White Rann is at the India-Pakistan border. Our guide suggested us to take the permit, as the counter was not crowded(it could also be got while returning back from Kala Dungar). The permit can also be got at the Gujarat Police DSP office at Bhuj near Jubilee Grounds(closed on Sundays and 2nd and 4th Saturdays).
Permit charges: Rs. 100 per person and Rs. 50 per car. You need to produce id proof, better carry a photo copy of your(including family members) id as well.
Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav, Kutch, Kalo Dungar, Kala Dungar
Kala Dungar or Black Hill is the highest point in Kutch, and you get the view of the white desert from here. On the way to Kala Dungar, we drove through Khavda village. Being very close to Pakistan border, this village gives you a glimpse of any Pakistani village, men in Pathani suits. We drove ahead to Kala Dungar. As we near Kala Dungar, the road up hill is very narrow, and we were said, during peak vacation season, that route is mostly heavy in traffic.
There is a temple on the top, your vehicle reaches till the temple, then after you can take a camel ride or go by foot for another 100meters. Then there are stairs to reach the peak. The peak gives you an awesome view of the desert, a white stretch beyond boundaries. But with the misty weather, we could hardly make out the horizon.
Kala Dungar, Rann of Kutch, Kutch, Kalo Dungar, Kala Dungar
View of Rann from Kala Dungar
Kala Dungar, Rann of Kutch, Kutch, Kalo Dungar, Kala Dungar
View of Rann from Kala Dungar
Kala Dungar, Rann of Kutch, Kutch, Kalo Dungar, Kala Dungar
On the way to Kala Dungar is Toran Resort, by Gujarat Tourism. While returning back from Kala Dungar, we had lunch at Toran and headed to White Rann.
We reached back to Bhirandiara and took the deviated route to White Rann. This route is full of ads by Resorts and Handicraft stores. Its another 35km drive from Bhirandiara which reaches you to White Rann.
First you get the Tent City, the temporary tents for the Rann Utsav. Then, you get the stalls selling Kutch handicrafts and food stalls(The Rann Utsav). The stores have the traditional handicrafts from across Kutch and India.
Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav, Kutch, Gujarat, Gujarat Tourism
The Gateway to White Rann
After spending time here we drove to White Rann. You submit your permit at the final check post just before entering the salt flat. Vehicles are not allowed with in this, while you can take camel ride, to reach the end of the road(around half a km). While we were told, you can drive till the road end, during rest of the year(when Rann Utsav is not on). The crystal clear salt flat spread through the horizon leaves you mesmerized. The white salt stretches till your sight reaches.
Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav, Kutch, Gujarat, Gujarat Tourism
The World's largest Salt Desert
Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav, Kutch, Gujarat, Gujarat Tourism
The crystal shine salt
Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav, Kutch, Gujarat, Gujarat Tourism

As part of Festival, they have adventure sports, and folk performance at the White Rann too. Also are camel rides and pony rides.
Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav, Kutch, Gujarat, Gujarat Tourism
Performance at the white desert
Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav, Kutch, Gujarat, Gujarat Tourism
  
Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav, Kutch, Gujarat, Gujarat Tourism
After sun set, we drove back to Utsav stalls, had snacks, shopped Kutch souvenirs  and drove back to Bhuj by 9PM. Though the road is very lonely, its quite safe and as it was Utsav time, there was enough traffic.
Stay connected for more on Kutch Diaries.

Next Post on Kutch Diaries Kutch Diaries - Rann Utsav, A Photo Essay

20 December 2014

MaxLife i-Genius Young Singing Star Grand Finale!!!

Date: 17 December, 2014
Venue: Taj Lands End, Bandra, Mumbai

Every child is blessed with one or the other talent, an amazing vocal, theater skills, a hidden author or anything for that matter. Its we parents who need to recognize their hidden talent and nurture them to better their future. 
MaxLife Insurance has taken up such an initiative to recognize the hidden talents from across the country. i-Genius programme which was launched in 2010, has become a benchmark initiative in the country to recognize young talent. They have connected with over 20 lakh children across the country through their i-genius Scholarship, Young Authors Hunt programme and this year's Young Singing Stars. MaxLife Insurance along with leading music label Universal Music India, launched ‘i-genius Young Singing Stars’ programme, a nationwide search for young singing talent. This unique competition provided exciting platform for aspiring and talented young singing stars, giving children aged between 8- 15 years the opportunity to have their songs heard by industry professionals and a chance to have their own music album. Through a rigorous three phase selection process the panel of jury shortlisted many top performers. The video conferencing round resulted in the final short listing to top 10 who went through mentoring sessions with Salim Merchant and Shraddha Sharma. 
Few of we bloggers from Blogadda, were invited for the grand finale of the i-Genius Young Singing Star, which was held at Taj Lands End, in Mumbai. As always, I was there quite on time to the event, joined other bloggers. 
The event started off with mesmerizing performance by host for the evening Mansi Scott. Mr. Rajesh Sud CEO and Managing Director, Max Life Insurance and Ms Anisha Motwani, Director & Chief Marketing Officer, shared the journey of i-Genius YSS. How the platform was made available to all children who dream big and aspire to achieve greater heights. Out of 1.26 lakh entries, 9,000 plus entries were by under-privileged children as a result of a special inclusion drive conducted by Max Life in 7 cities. Devraj Sanyal, Managing Director - Universal Music Group and EMI South Asia said, it was the most amazing talent he had witnessed in his career. And those Young Singing Stars were truly the future of India and Universal & EMI were proud to be an integral part of the process of discovering and nurturing those future stars. He added, he was excited and eagerly waiting to start recording the albums and singles and introduce the Young Singing Stars to the world at large.
Salim Merchant and Shraddha Sharma performing for the evening
Then was the introduction and performances by the jury for the evening Shraddha Sharma, a Youtube superstar who has over million fans following her music on Youtube, and Salim Merchant, a leading composer and director who has directed over 40 movies.
The super talented i-Genius Stars
Panel of Jury Devraj Sanyal, MD - Universal Music Group and EMI South Asia, Salim Merchant, Music composer and director and Youtube SuperStar Shraddha Sharma
Followed by two rounds of performances by top 10 finalists who kept everyone engaged with their amazing vocal. To add to the melodies for the evening, were the performances by Kavitha Seth and Raga Trippin', a unique band of six, who perform non-instrumentally music, solely depending on the sounds and rhythm created by their voice. 
Mansi Scott and Kavitha Seth
Raga Trippin'
The Top 10 finalists
The event ended with the announcement of the two winners, Shrada Shreya amongst the seniors and Shivam Ahuja amongst the juniors who won an album contract, whilst the 8 finalists won 'single song' contract with Universal Music Group.

18 December 2014

Traveling With Kid!!!

I love traveling and have been lucky enough to be married to a passionate traveler and been blessed with a travel enthusiast kid. Most of my travels are with family, and you know what, traveling with a 5 year old is not all that easy. Yes, you need to take every care of their comfort during your travel to enjoy your trip. Here is my list of does, to travel with kids,

Travel At Comfort:
  • Food: My daughter is already 5, but still I take every care to have her wants. My travel bag always has Soya Milk tetra packs, energy bars, dry fruits. I make sure that, she has proper meals with us and in between I feed her with my healthy add-ons. I always carry enough water along to keep her hydrated and prefer fresh fruit juice or tender coconut water to those packed aerated juices.
  • Sleep: Your kid needs proper rest during your travel to keep them up for your exploration. We try to manage our journey during evenings, so that we avoid traveling during mid-day sun and also she can have a proper sleep at night at hotel. Even small naps during short drives wake them up fresh. My daughter always wants her blanket while sleeping. Her fav blanket is the first thing which goes into her travel bag.
  • Clothing: A perfect choice of clothing according to weather and place is a must when you are traveling with your kid. Simple, inside out outfits, which serve dual purposes go great for travels, they reduce your baggage too. 
  • Hygiene/Medicine: I take every care of the hygiene of my kid during my travel, hand sanitizer, wet wipes and first aid box are a must in my travel bag. 
Travel Made Joyful:
  • Keep them engaged in your trips, ask them to click few of your photographs, they would love to do that. Though I always prefer keeping my kid out of technology and games during my travel and want her to enjoy the travel, at certain time, during our long drives, mobile games or video games keep her engaged.
  • Let them free, let them be creative, let them explore the place in their own way, still keeping them safe. For instance, during my trip to Ranthambore I had to restrict her from certain things during our Jungle Safari, while I let her free at beaches to play and be creative with her sand arts.
  • Consider your kid's interest while planning your travel. Travel to places, which would keep kids engaged too. For instance, a trip only to heritage sights or religious places would bore your kid, include sands, snows, water and wildlife to your trips.
  • Who wouldn't love shopping, be it kids or us? Shop souvenirs of their interest. Let alone shopping, trust me even sea shells picked from a beach or peacock feathers from a wildlife safari, would be treasured by them for ages. 
Even after you are back, keep refreshing their travel memories, by showing them those travel photographs once in a while. You would be surprised to hear about their travel memories. So, do you travel with your kids too, do share with us, how you make your travels joyful with them.

16 December 2014

Kutch Diaries - Travel Plan

Am back from my short trip to Kutch and have lots and lots to share. The Rann of Kutch, its heritage, the Kutchi food, the handicraft, wildlife and more. So here is a series "Kutch Diaries" about Kutch, which I will be sharing in next few posts.
I can't even recall since when Rann of Kutch was in my 'to visit list'. I had been waiting for months now, for this trip. Mr. Bachchan's ad on TV and "Revealed - Rann of Kutch", the new series on Discovery Channel, everything just added to plan my trip soon. When I told my mom, I was planning my trip to Kutch, the first thing she asked me was, "Is Kutch the name of a Place?". She knew Kutch from decades as the thread work which she had done on her dresses, during her college days.
 
Mr. Bachchan's ad on Kutch, makes anybody fall in love with this place(I loved the Hindi version, watch the English version here)

Kutch district in Gujarat state is the largest district of India, with Bhuj at the center being the administrative headquarters of the district. Kutch literally means something which intermittently becomes wet and dry, a large part of this district is known as Rann of Kutch(the Greater Rann and the Little Rann) which is shallow wetland which submerges in water during the rainy season and becomes dry during other seasons. The Rann of Kutch is famous for its marshy salt flats which become snow white after the water dries up each season before the monsoon rains. Kutch is also known for the treasure of handicrafts the place offers, embroidery(Kutch work, patch work and more), block painting, bandhani(tie and die), mirror work, bead work, weaving, pottery, leather work, brass bells. Kutch is also a treasure of wildlife and migrant birds. Detailed posts on Kutch in following posts.

With long Christmas weekend, we planned our trip for 24th to 28th Dec, but I missed my train ticket booking just by few hours, and my booking went to waiting list. So all I had to do was, to connect my Kutch trip with Ahmedabad, if I had to travel by bus. We gave it a thought, a 2days trip to Kutch along with a day's halt at Ahmedabad. But, then we instead planned for just 2days trip exclusively for Kutch during the second weekend of December, as train tickets were available for all weekends except Christmas.
So we were ready with our train bookings, Bhuj/Kutch Express 11th Dec to 14th Dec. Me and daughter joined hubby at office and left for Bandra Terminus to catch our train. Our train itself gave us a glimpse of Kutch, with so many people from Kutch in the traditional Kutch attire.

Travel Plan:
Travel Tips:
  • Bhuj is around 335km from Ahemadabad. Its well connected with rest of India by road, rail and air.
    • GSRTC buses connect Bhuj to other places of Gujarat.
    • Bhuj is 16hours journey from Mumbai by train and 8hours from Ahemadabad.
    • Bhuj has airport, with regular flights connecting to major cities of India.
  • Best time to visit Kutch is December to March, during Rann Utsav which this year is 1st December to 5th March 2015 and ends on Holi festival with celebration.
  • Climate: The temperature was as low as 14 degree at night when we visited, which compared to Mumbai was very much chill. The temperature during summer reaches as high as 50 degree Celsius.

Itinerary:
Day 1: Kala Dungar, White Rann/The Greater Rann of Kutch
Day 2: Bhuj city tour, Mandvi city tour
You should definitely go for two separate day tours for Bhuj and Mandvi, but we didn't have time. Since we were there during Rann Utsav, we came across all the artisans working at the Rann Utsav stalls, else you would need one complete day for Bhuj city and the villages around Bhuj, to get a glimpse of the Kutchi artisan's work. Do check out About Travel web-page if you would like to visit the handicraft villages.
Kutch, Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav,
Rann of Kutch

Stay and Food: We had booked our stay at Lalchand Thavar Jain Mahajan Wadi(contact 02832-222369), a Jain guest house, but open for Hindu too. They also have Jain Bhojanalay, where they serve Gujarati Jain food. The guest house is just next to Bhuj Bus station and around 3km from Railway Station.
Tariff(Double Bedroom):
Non A/C: Rs. 500
A/C: Rs. 800
Delux A/C: Rs. 1000
Kutch, Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav,
The traditionally crafted Kutch Bhunga(mud huts) at Toran Resort near White Rann
  • There are many hotels around Bhuj Bus Station, and Swami Narayan Temple Trust is another place where you can stay at, at budget.
  • There are lot of other Resorts, in and around Bhuj city, which offer luxury stay options, Rann Village, Toran Resort are few of them. 
  • During Rann Utsav, Gujarat Tourism set up the Tent City, offering accommodation near White Rann. Most of these Resorts offer you pick-up and drop facility, to and from Bhuj station. 
  • You should definitely taste Kutchi food when you are in Kutch. Most of my meals were Gujarati, for the two days. There are many South Indian, Punjabi and Fast Food centers in Bhuj as well. Market road in Bhuj, is the place to taste street food, most of them are Dabeli though.
  • Gujarat is a dry state and alcohol is prohibited.
Kutch, Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav,
Yummy Gujarati Food
Tour: We had booked our taxi with Hari Om tours and Travels for both the days.
Tariff(this might vary during peak season):
Maruti Swift Dzire, for 4 people
A/C: Rs. 8/km, mini 300km per day(Rs. 2400)
Non A/C: Rs. 7/km, mini 300km per day(Rs. 2100)
  • Its better to hire taxi to visit Rann of Kutch. 
  • Bhuj city and near by villages can easily be explored by autorickshaw as well. 
  • The other option for Mandvi is, take GSRTC or any private bus service from Bhuj to Mandvi and hire an autorickshaw at Mandvi for the city tour.

Shopping:
  • If you are visiting Kutch during Rann Utsav, the best place to shop is at the stalls set up at White Rann. 
  • There are many Handicraft shops in Bhuj.
  • Craft Parks set up at the near-by villages, Hiralaxmi Memorial Craft Park at Bhujodi village(around 10km from Bhuj) is one of the option.
Kutch, Rann of Kutch, Rann Utsav,
A stall at Rann Utsav
PS: Extended Tours in Kutch from Bhuj:
One Day tour to Dholavira, which contains the ruins of the ancient Indus Valley civilization/Harappan City. Dholavira is around 220km from Bhuj.
One Day tour to Little Rann of Kutch, which is world's last refuge to Indian wild Ass, and the area is declared as Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary. This is around 230km from Bhuj well approached from Ahmedabad than Bhuj.

Updated on 20th Nov 2015
Rann Utsav 2015 - 2016 is from 18th Nov 2015 to 29th Feb 2016

Next post on Kutch Diaries Kutch Diaries - Rann of Kutch

10 December 2014

The Lesser Known Hoysala Temple - Lakshmi Devi Temple, Doddagaddavalli

On our day trip to the lesser known Hoysala Temples in Hassan district, after Koravangala and Mosale, we had lunch in Hassan and headed to Doddagaddavalli. Doddagaddavalli is off Hassan-Belur road. We reached the temple by around 4, by then the care taker/guide was about to leave. But he opened the temple for us and guided. While he told, since it was a week day there were no much visitors, watchman is there 24 hours and he opens the temple for visitors in his absence(till 5/6PM).
Hoysala Temple, Doddagaddavalli, Hassan, Heritage site, karnataka, Karnataka Tourism 
There are 92 Hoysala temples in Karnataka. These temples are known to be Ekakuta, Dwikuta, Thrikuta, Chatushkuta and Panchkuta, depending on the number of shrines and towers. Lakshmi Devi temple in Doddagaddavalli is a Chatushkuta temple, with four shrines and towers, also are four towers at the four corners of the temple compound. Each gopura(tower) has the kalasha and Hoysala crest at the top.
 Hoysala Temple, Doddagaddavalli, Hassan, Heritage site, karnataka, Karnataka Tourism

Hoysala Temple, Doddagaddavalli, Hassan, Heritage site, karnataka, Karnataka Tourism 
The temple is said to be built in the year 1114 A.D, by Kallahana Rahutha(from Kolhapur, Maharastra), a wealthy merchant in Hoysala court. The place was called Abhinava Kolhapura, connecting it with Kolhapur. The main deity of the temple is Kali also called Aadhi Shakthi, Maha Shakthi, in polite mood, so called SoumyaKali. At the foot of the goddess is the demon Shumbha Nishumbha, the goddess is said to be in her polite mood after killing the demon.
Hoysala Temple, Doddagaddavalli, Hassan, Heritage site, karnataka, Karnataka Tourism
There is SaptaMatrike(7 forms of Goddess)on the top of the door, and Nagakanye and Vishakanye(maids of Goddess) on either side of the door. Guarding the sanctum are Bhuta and Preta, very rare sculptures in skeleton form, found no where else.
Hoysala Temple, Doddagaddavalli, Hassan, Heritage site, karnataka, Karnataka Tourism

Hoysala Temple, Doddagaddavalli, Hassan, Heritage site, karnataka, Karnataka Tourism Hoysala Temple, Doddagaddavalli, Hassan, Heritage site, karnataka, Karnataka Tourism
Opposite to the sanctum(facing the Kali idol)is the shrine of Kalabhairaveshwara(a form of Lord Shiva), while we were told, there was a Vishnu idol previously, which was stolen and then a small idol of Kalabhairaveshwara was placed at its place. The platform has Garuda(Vishnu's vahana/vehicle).
Other deity in the temple include, Mahalakshmi(to the left of sanctum), which resemble the Mahalakshmi idol, at Mahalakshmi temple of Kolhapur. And its a very rare sculpture of goddess Lakshmi in standing posture, while goddess Lakshmi is mostly found in sitting posture. The goddess here hold Shankha, Chakra, Gadha, Hasta, while most Lakshmi idols are found to be holding Lotus. 
Hoysala Temple, Doddagaddavalli, Hassan, Heritage site, karnataka, Karnataka Tourism
And to the right of the sanctum is Boothanatheshwara, in the form of Shiva Linga. So its believed that you can't worship the lord, by laying down, as you have idols of god and goddess on all four directions and worshiping the lord by laying down, will point your toes to one of the idols.
Hoysala Temple, Doddagaddavalli, Hassan, Heritage site, karnataka, Karnataka Tourism

Hoysala Temple, Doddagaddavalli, Hassan, Heritage site, karnataka, Karnataka Tourism

Hoysala Temple, Doddagaddavalli, Hassan, Heritage site, karnataka, Karnataka Tourism
There is a small opening at the back of the temple compound, which opens to the lake. It was locked and we didn't get to reach the water. The care-taker was from Hassan and wanted to come along with us, but we had to say no, as we had Bylahalli to visit.
Driving Direction:
Doddagaddavalli is around 18kms from Hassan off Hassan-Belur Road. After driving around 15km, there is a Karnataka State Tourism board on the left hand side. Take that route, you cross two or three small villages, Chikkagaddavalli and others, drive through to reach Doddagaddavalli. You need to drive through the narrow lanes of the village, ask for directions from the locals, they will guide you. The temple is just next to a lake, and the road ends just at the gate of the temple. You can connect your visit to Doddagaddavalli, while planning Belur( if you are planning in private vehicle). There are Karnataka State Road Transport buses from Hassan too, but very limited.

6 December 2014

My Airbnb Wishlist!!!

My long-awaited trip is happening next week, am off to Rann of Kutch on 11th. Lot of culture, tradition and food to be experienced and shared on the blog. Meanwhile I am already planning a trip for the year to come. Planning north of India, for somewhere in March of next year, during my kiddo's vacation.
Here is my virtual trip I have been planning, its Mumbai - Chandigarh - Shimla - Kullu/Manali - Dharamshala - Dalhousie - Amritsar - Mumbai. Just next to the travel plans, is the accommodation. Just when I was looking out for the accommodation, I came across Airbnb.
Airbnb is a marketplace to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 34,000 cities and 190+ countries. 
Travelling with a kid in really not a easy task, you need to take care of so many things, like using the kitchen at the stay, hot water supply for 24 hours and so much. Considering my big list of wants at the place, here I shortlisted few of the accommodations, I would like to stay at. 
Chandigarh: My first halt of the trip would be at Chandigarh, I chose this home stay Castle Casa Service Aprtment. This home stay at top floor of a spanish style Villa, is centrally located near the Rock Garden and  Sukhna Lake. Being very close to the tourist attractions, it would be a perfect place to stay at, and explore the city at ease.
Shimla: The best part of visiting a hill station is the picturesque views and the awesome weather. Look at the view of the serene valley of Shimla city, through the large glazed windows of the bedroom of Aura of the picturesque hills,  isn't it awesome. This 1BHK apartment has all the basic amenities and a perfect place for a family, with a kid to stay at.
Kullu: KANGRA Cottage made in pure traditional & ancient Kathkunia style (dry stacking of stone & wood without cement), with mud plastered walls from inside blending perfectly with deodar wood work, beautifully carved teak furniture, handmade tussle silk curtains, traditional brass fittings make a perfect blend of aesthetics and class. The cottages with mini bar, mini fridges, study, separate dressing, fully furnished and equipped toilets and personal lawns. The picture speaks it all, isn't it a perfect place to enjoy the snows.
Dalhousie: The next halt is at Dalhousie, just 24km from the Mini Switzerland of India, Khajjiar, Hotel Monal at Dalhousie will be my choice for a night's halt. Though it isn't a luxurious place, the stay is easily accessible.
Amritsar: For the stay in Amritsar, this home stay seemed a better choice. Very well connected to important places, just 2km from Railway station and 6km from International airport, and close to most of the tourist attractions. So it would be my choice, to explore the city and its culture.
So go explore Airbnb site and make your next stay memorable.
WIN WIN!!
Sign up with Airbnb(through the link) and get a credit of Rs.1,544($25) for your next stay!!! 

PS: Its a virtual tour and part of blogging campaign "Airbnb WishList" by Indiblogger and Airbnb.

4 December 2014

Bana, a wild stretch amidst civilization!!

As my dad was stuck with some urgent work, one of my cousins took me, my mom and my daughter to the tour of Hoysala temples. Just when we were heading back to Hassan after Mosale, he told us about this place Bana, which is a small wild stretch, which has lots of peacocks. My daughter, after hearing peacocks wanted to visit. 
An anthill on our way
Bana/vana(forest in kannada), not sure if this is the actual name of the place or its just called bana, pointing the forest. On Hassan - Mysore road, just as you reach Mosale Hosahalli village, take a left turn, which crosses the railway track. After crossing the railway track take the first right. Drive through, ask for direction with local, as there is no driving direction anywhere. You cross two or three villages, then there is a board to take a right turn(to a temple, which is in that wild region). After driving half a kilometer, you enter the wild and hear peacock's calls, which is just a surprise stretch of wild, amidst the civilization. 
 
Just as we passed a small water channel, we found a peacock at a very long distance.
As you drive through, there is a temple, am not sure about the temple, as there was no board and there was nobody to even open the temple doors, but we found lot of peacock feathers out there. We were told by the locals that there are more than 500 peacocks around that area. 
 
While driving back, again we were stopped by peacock's call, we could make out it was somewhere very close, but by the time we could spot it, it escaped and this was the best I could click.
 We spotted this beautiful bird too, I couldn't find its identity(updated: its a dove), and lot of beehives.
Bana is around 19km from Hassan. You can reach Mosale hosahalli by any KSRTC bus playing between Hassan and Mysore. From Mosale Hosahalli, Bana is around 5km, for which you can take an auto from Hosahalli. 
You can easily combine the visit to this place, along with the visit to Mosale, Nageshwara Temple.