Travel Tips for Visiting London

London

Travelling to London in this day and age is a lot easier than in yesteryear. However, with any trip there are always variables that you must consider in order to ensure that your trip goes as safely as possible. With flight times approximately 10 hours from Delhi to London, the last thing you want is to face a series of hurdles upon arrival that you are ill prepared for. So, with all that in mind we have devised a comprehensive list of tips and information to help you on your trip.

The list is mainly focused on helping save money for backpackers as London is reported to be the 15th most expensive city in the world to visit as per English newspaper Daily Mail. And if you’re not careful, you too could fall foul of a series of expensive charges that you could have easily avoided if you’d taken the time to research ways to cut costs and adhere to your budget.

Buy tube or bus tickets immediately…

Taxis or cabs around London are scandalously overpriced, so you must avoid them at all costs unless you’re desperate to get somewhere in a short space of time. Using the tube or bus is relatively affordable compared to the cabs. Also, if you use the tube then you will eliminate the terrible traffic that’s in and around London itself.

Use short stay parking if your relatives are picking you up

This is more of a money saver for both you and any relatives or friends you have if they are picking you up from the airport. Like many leading airports, Gatwick one of London’s largest airports, has advanced parking services. Parking4Less states that Gatwick has short stay options, which can come in handy to drivers. This is useful for anyone who needs to pick you up as they can conveniently park their car for a couple of hours at an affordable price. Note: this is especially ideal if your flight is delayed and they have to wait extra hours.

Always use hostels over expensive hotels

There are so many hostels in and around London that you will never be short of options. However, make sure that you always book reservations in advance. Helpful websites such as Agoda can help you find the ideal hostel for you at a relatively cheap price.

Explore London’s museums

There are so many amazing museums in London; you are really spoilt for choice. But the best thing is there are also so many that are free to enter. Time Out recently published an article that gave their readers a run down of the ‘Top 10 Free Museums in London’. The list features Science Museum, Museum of London, British Museum, Natural History Museum and many more.

I know I am only touching the surface with the above list but hopefully this will initiate some other thought provoking ideas to research when you are planning your visit to London. If you have already visited London, however, by all means leave your travel experiences below in our comments section.

Glaciers Galore – Wonders of Himalayas

Hemkund Sahib

One of the most fascinating things about the Himalayas is the cold and firm Glaciers that you encounter on the route. Most cases, these glaciers are broken off, fallen from the top of a pass or covered atop a flowing mass of heavy water! Well, what’s more adventurous is when you actually have to walk the thin lines, no pun intended, and cross the terrains in order to get to where you have to.

Crossing the Glacier en route Valley of Flowers, Western Himalayas

Crossing the Glacier en route Valley of Flowers, Western Himalayas

While getting a real good grip on the glaciers is sometimes quite the challenge, the feeling of the pounding heart to set the right footing ahead gives you an adrenaline rush to make sure that you don’t lose your foot and tumble off into the valley or the water flowing below! A feeling that you cannot imagine anywhere else, even on the world’s toughest and scariest bridges. A glacier covered over a stream of flowing water is no less than one of those bridges themselves!

Water flowing below the glacier en route Valley of Flowers

Water flowing below the glacier en route Valley of Flowers

Another really amazing experience I’ve had was when the glaciers formed a cave at the foothills of Vasudhara waterfalls across the Indo-Tibet border in Western Himalayas. As soon as you stand beneath the glacier, you’d probably feel that you’re in one of those cold storages, minus the smell of the meat! One of the best feelings I’ve had ever was when I dozed off for over an hour after a 10 km trek at the foothills of Vasudhara falls beneath this Glacier cave. Truly spectacular!

Caves formed by Glaciers at Vasudhara Falls

Caves formed by Glaciers at Vasudhara Falls

To top it off, if you find a melting glacier across the mountains, make sure you collect the water from that glacier in your sipper and drink the rejuvenating and fresh cold stream of life as you would imagine. Tastes like no other water you have ever had!

One of the most enchanting feelings about these bodies is how smartly nature works it’s ways and makes sure that there’s enough room against the water body so as to ensure that people or animals can walk by and there’s enough weight, strength and firmness that unless there’s an extreme situation all works out just about right. The mix of the thrill and the adrenaline along with the feeling of refreshing company of the natural wonders make you think about how the universe has subdued itself to blend in to whatever is as natural as it can be. What do you think?

Mountains are always calling!

Mountains

The mountains are always calling! Yes, that’s a thing about being an avid lover of the mountains and trying to experience the best of the beauty that a trek offers you.

One of the things that I always keep in mind is to make sure that I take a trip every year to Himalayas to get one thing straight! I Love Mountains! Most importantly Himalayas. Ever since I started trekking to Himalayas about 5 years ago, I’ve enjoyed going there every year, be it a trek, a bike hike, a camp or whatever else is in the offing, there hasn’t been one occasion when my heart told me to go and I haven’t.

One of the reasons why I love hiking, mountaineering and especially in the Himalayas is that it sets your perspective right! Every time I’ve been to the Himalayas, I’ve come back as a different person, more for the better if I must add. A journey across the escapades of snow brings clarity to your mind and soul that no other place can.  Mountaineering or even taking a walk across those serene plateaus or valleys always make you wonder if your life is what you want it to be. And if it isn’t there’s a huge chance that you’ll go back and take charge of what matters most as the clarity you get after each visit makes everything just about right.

Another reason that mountaineering and hiking makes me happy is simply to know that, the feeling of control that we try to surpass each and every day is nothing if you don’t have a specific goal in mind. Hiking those long routes, enduring those steep slopes, climbing those daunting hills make you realize that no goal is impossible to achieve. Your belief in your abilities and more importantly your will increases manifold if you climb one of these steep passes. There was a time when I almost gave up while scaling to 15000 feet at Hemkund Sahib as the climb was utterly steep. But I kept going and when I reached on top, nothing else mattered. The victory and surmounting all odds made the journey joyful! Endurance is a big learning especially on these hikes.

Last, but not least, Mountains always teach you to adapt, adjust and try and make the most of your surroundings. One of the trickiest but important lessons you learn from mountaineering is that no matter what happens, you have always got to ‘LET GO.’ That’s the best trick you’ll ever learn and remember for life as it helps you in all aspects of your journey in life or otherwise. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t ever say no when the Mountains are Calling!

Adventure and Magnanimity – #Timexpedition to Dudhsagar Waterfalls

One of the best things about life and travel is a feeling of adventure that surrounds us. The minute you have tasted any form of it, it becomes an addiction of sorts. In a good way though, it’s the best thing to have happened to me in all my journeys so far. While I love climbing the mountains, trekking and my partner in travel Feet on the Map loves beaches, oceans and water, this was a perfect combination of both. We had the opportunity to see the renowned Dudhsagar Waterfalls which was laden across green, lush jungles on railway tracks and had an element of magnanimity in itself. And around the same time, I had just received my Timex Expedition watch which was a perfect partner in my travel to set the pace to an adventure of a different kind. That’s when we began our #Timexpedition to Dudhsagar Waterfalls! We were raring to go especially after having seen amazing photographs of this beautiful phenomenon across various blogs earlier.

The #Timexpedition Begins...

The #Timexpedition Begins – The day I received the amazing Watch!

Having said that, there was a certain sense of exploration that we hadn’t done before. This was our first trek together and also a first visit to a waterfall in the country. I would be lying if I said we didn’t enjoy this experience, cause this must have been one of the best experiences of our lifetime for sure, and not just for our travels together. One of the tough things about this journey was that we squeezed it over a weekend and we were going rugged backpacking taking a train journey from Pune to Kulem and back over a two day period. So with very less time available we had to make sure we made the most of this journey.

One of the tricky things about this journey was that, we had to make sure that we got off the train very early in the morning at around 4:00 AM at either Castle Rock or somewhere just near Dudhsagar waterfalls. The time the train stopped for, was only a mere 30 seconds, or so we were told by the Mumbai Travelers, a group with whom we were traveling for this trek. So come what may, we had to make sure that we got up as early as 3.50 AM in the morning. Thankfully, the #Timex alarm came to the rescue, especially since I didn’t want to use up my phone battery and save it for some amazing shots in the morning.

Setting the Alarm to rise and shine early

Setting the Alarm to rise and shine early

Well, thankfully the train was delayed and by the time our destination came, we were all up and ready to make sure that we get off the train to take a short hike towards the waterfalls. And what’s more, the train stopped more than 30 seconds so all 40 of us could get off easily and regroup.

Early in the morning as we got off the train

Early in the morning as we got off the train

It was foggy, misty and a bit of dampness in the air made us realize that we are all in for the beautiful escapade and the streams of the waterfalls would certainly make for a delightful view as soon as we reach there. But before we even got there, we could find some teeny tiny waterfalls scattered across the mountains besides the railway tracks. But what made for most of our morning to start off fresh and early was the amazing weather and the beautiful landscape that surrounded us. Couldn’t ask for a better Sunday Morning! :)

Foggy Morning and a Beautiful Landscape

Foggy Morning and a Beautiful Landscape

With a little water on our toes, fresh air in the backdrop and after a quick round of introduction among fellow travelers, we were moving towards the enormous waterfalls! It was something all of us were excited to get a glimpse of!

Trekking-towards-Dudhsagar-IMG_1683

And boy, what a glimpse we got! This was the distant view of Dudhsagar Waterfalls and if it looked this amazing and this humongous at a distance, I could only imagine how it looked up close and personal!

Magnanimity at it's best - Dudhsagar from a distance

Magnanimity at it’s best – Dudhsagar from a distance

Didn’t take us long before we could reach the foothills of Dudhsagar waterfalls and everything had suddenly become hazy and there was  a huge stream of water falling and blowing and the winds were blowing streams of drizzle all across our face and I could barely see with fog covered spectacles and being totally drenched at the foothills of the waterfalls. Not to say, it mattered much to my #Timexpedition, thanks to it’s 200 m water resist. Heck, it wouldn’t matter if I took a dip in that stream below the waterfalls, but I’d be a foolish adventurer to do something like that. Nonetheless, the view and the experience at the foothills was so amazing that we didn’t want to leave despite spending a good 3 hours at the foothills, followed by some breakfast and tea.

Dudhsagar Upclose

Dudhsagar Upclose

 

At-the-foot-of-Dudhsagar-Falls

At the foothills of Dudhsagar Falls with my #Timexpedition

After all the fun at the waterfalls was over, it was time for us to head back to Kulem. But this time around it was a daunting trek back to the station and it was a good 14 km stretch. I wanted to make sure that I lap this fast so that we have enough time to freshen up, have lunch and then board the train in the afternoon at around 4.30 pm to go back to Pune. Well, of course, the Chronograph came into action. The trek was going to be fun as there were some really amazing sights on the way. Of course it was going to test our endurance, but a close encounter with the nature and the local wildlife it offered was worth the walk.

Friendly Banter with a local crab

Friendly Banter with a local crab

A wild centipide in action

A wild centipede in action on the Railway Tracks

Route towards Kulem

Route towards Kulem

With that kind of view and a beautiful morning, who’d worry about trekking 14 kms! Well, not as easy as it may sound. I haven’t trekked in the last year, so I was a bit rusty. But over a period in time, with a will to keep going, we all set foot and made sure that we got to Kulem on time! Exhausted, elated, beautified if I may say so, it was an arduous trek that gave a grand finish to our journey. And what a journey it was! An expedition, a wild adventure and last but not least a memory to cherish for sure! Truly what makes it a #Timexpedition! Something that’ll be framed in ‘Time’ for life!

Finished the trek in 4 hours!

Exhausted and Elated – Finished the trek in 4 hours!

Blueberry Travel Trails over the weekend

One of the best things about Mumbai is that there are plenty of options that you get over the weekend for getaways. Monsoon typically is a great time for people in and around the city to just take a hike to some really amazing destinations that offer them plenty of respite especially from the hectic buzz most people face during the weekdays, slogging it out in the City of Dreams! While otherwise most nearby destinations like Alibaug, Murud, Gorai, Vasai, Mandva offer great beach destinations, monsoons is all about some really amazing nature trails! And of course for that we have the great Sahayadaris to trek over the weekend. Almost every other trekking group in and around Mumbai becomes really active during this time and most people love to go for these treks. Some people are hardcore trekkers, while others, not so much.

In such case one of the best things that people who don’t trek as much and still love nature could always opt for eco-trails. On one such day before the onset of monsoon, Feet on the Map and I decided to head for a Blueberry Trails weekend getaway to Kolad! While most people enjoy going to Kolad for river rafting and adventure activities, this was more of a weekend getaway with a bit of nature, waterfalls and some adventure activities lined up for us. What started off as a little off day cause of no sight of rains, turned out to be an enticing journey especially with some really great captures that we got and most importantly, the beautiful people we met on this trip. Memories to cherish forever. A short photo-essay of this trip will hopefully try to recreate the magic!

Railway tracks enroute Kolad

Railway tracks enroute Kolad

Enroute Kolad - Picture Perfect Painting

A quick snap captured from inside the bus en route Kolad!

River Trail Kolad

The boat we took to River Trail

cat, kolad, nature

A cute kitty at Eco-Trails Nature resort where we stayed

Warli Painting

Warli Painting on the walls of River Trail resort

Ecotrail Kolad

A trail laden with beautiful plantations on our way to our cottages!            

Swing at Ecotrail

Swing in the woods at River Trail

 

Kundalika @ Sunset

Sunset at the Kundalika River

Laughing Frog

Laughing Frog

Me holding Striped Keelback

A striped Keelback, before we set it free in the wild.

Striped Bronzeback

Striped Bronzeback we discovered on our way to the waterfalls


5 Most Beautiful Himalayan Towns

Originally posted on AsiaRooms

No matter how much I write about this beloved destination that I adore, there’ll never be enough to express the awe inspiring, breath taking, beautiful wonders that the Himalayan Mountain Range brings to all! While trekking within the Himalayas during the summer is quite a popular thing to do, there are many other ways to enjoy the magical spirit of the mountains – especially if you aren’t an ardent mountaineer, a huge trekking enthusiast or an avid lover of walking across the mountains. For starters you could try experiencing the beautiful serene towns that lie at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, and these five are my recommended.

1. Joshimath, Uttarakhand

The city of Joshimath serves as a good base to explore the mountains and smaller towns across the North Western Himalayas in the Garwhal and Kumaon reigons. If you drive 250km southwest, you will get to the holy town of Rishikesh and Haridwar, a glimpse of the beautiful escapades in the Uttarakhand Himalayas. From this place you can drive up to Govind Ghat, which is the base for the trek to the Valley of Flowers National Park. 20km away is also the beautiful skiing resort in Auli. Auli is known to be a skiing paradise in the Kumaon Himalayas. If not for skiing in the winters, this place makes for spectacular views and a ride on the cable car ropeway is quite fun even during summers. With a sneak peek towards many beautiful regions within North Western Himalayas, this is the perfect spot to snuggle up and relax if you want a peaceful retreat away from the madness of cities.

Auli is a famous skiing resort in the Kumaon Himalayas

2. Leh, Jammu and Kashmir

Leh was the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh. It now forms part of the Leh district in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. Though this is a huge stretch and has beauty varied with geographical diversities, it is more popular for its roadtrips on high altitudes, and the view of the expansive and different landscapes it has to offer. More importantly, the lakes and waters of this place make for magnificent viewings. On one side, there’s Tso Moriri and on the other side by the India-China border is Pangong Tso Lake. If it were up to me, I’d just go and settle down in this beautiful haven. With beautiful monasteries, the highest motorable road and the cold deserts of the Nubra Valley, Leh has a lot to offer and makes for a great stay especially during the months of July to October. What’s more, there are direct flights to Leh from Delhi, making the commute a lot easier.

With the view of the Himalayas in the backdrop, Tso Moriri Lake is a magnificent stopover

3. Kaza, Himachal Pradesh

Situated in the Western Himalayas, Kaza is the gateway to the forbidden valley of the Great Western Himalayan Kingdom, known as the Spiti Valley. While getting there is an arduous task without any direct flights and the roads being one of the most dangerous in the world, once you’re there, the experience makes up for all the bumps and backaches you’ll incur on your journey there. Check out the views across Rohtang Pass and the short hike to Chandertaal Lake, and yes, once you’re there, the opportunity to visit one of the coldest villages in the world, Kibber, at 14,200 feet is the most blissful experience you’ll ever discover. One of the most spectacular views is of a gorgeous tall statue of Buddha sitting in the middle of nowhere, looking out onto the majestic mountains. The feeling you get out there is nothing short of magical.

Take a short hike to Chandertaal Lake before arriving in Kibber, one of the coldest villages in the world

4. Darjeeling, West Bengal

Known as the Queen of Hill Stations, Darjeeling is one of the prettiest towns in the North East Himalayas. As soon as you near the town, you’ll start to see views of the Kanchenjunga Peak. But there’s more to this place than just that view which almost sits in the background no matter which part of town you’re in. Darjeeling has some amazing restaurants, beautiful vantage points and a splendid ambience with its rustic Victorian legacy having served as a British hill station in the past. Wake up early at 4am for a visit to Tiger Point for a stupendous view of the sunrise. On your way back down, you can visit theGhoom Monastery, Japanese Pagoda which has some really amazing statues of Buddha in different poses.  Darjeeling is also famous for its teas, so stop by for a cup of Darjeeling tea as you view the sunset on the terrace of the century-old Keventer’s Café.

Darjeeling was a British hill station that is popular for its tea plantations

5. Mcleod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh

If you want to experience cool weather all year round, complete with chilly breezes, magical misty roads and some serious time and space to think about the meaning of life, then you’d want want to head to Mcleod Ganj. Located in the suburb of Dharamshala, it is also home to the Dalai Lama’s Temple known as Tsuglagkhang Temple. The town is also nicknamed “Little Lhasa” due to the large population of Tibetans living there. For me, a visit to the temple during prayer times was an enchanting experience. Whether you believe in any form of God or not, the spiritual journey is something that you’ll cherish for quite a while. The town centre gets crowded due to the hoards of tourists that come from all over the world to catch a glimpse of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but you can quietly slip away to a small part of town called Naddi. It’s quiet, beautiful and serene here. Either way, don’t miss Mcleod Ganj, especially if you’re in Manali or New Delhi.

McLeod Ganj is home to the popular Tsuglagkhang Temple, known as the Dalai Lama Temple

Buland Darwaza, Agra, Bharatpur, Jaipur, India, Travel

Magnanimity and Fortitude of Buland Darwaza

Some stories are part of legends and some stories are ‘Legendary.’ While I dawn upon a realization that most journeys have that one story, one place, one person, one experience that gets etched into memories of the travelers, there are stories that remind you that there are places that are etched in History and more importantly a passion that is driven by the stories of our past.

One such story was when I took a journey across Rajasthan and Agra about five years ago and stumbled upon this place via Bharatpur en route Agra. While we were on a traveling spree and covering city after city trying to experience the ruggedness and rustic nature of wonderful structures, cultural heritage and beautiful serenity of the magical monuments across India during the World Heritage Week in 2009 we were blinded by the magnanimous structure of the ‘Buland Darwaza’ on the outskirts of Bharatpur in a place called Fatehpur Sikri on our way to Agra.

‘Fateh’ stands for Victory and ‘Buland’ stands for powerful, stentorian and it is not just mere irony that this Indian Monument from the Mughal era was supposed to be built in this place. This Darwaza (gate/door) was constructed by built by the great Mughal emperor, Akbar in 1601 A.D. at Fatehpur Sikri. As we passed across the beautiful and green road structures on our way to reach the Buland Darwaza, as soon as we witnessed the huge structure, it made for an awe inspiring look on our faces only to realize that the structure had more to it. While you approach it closely and realize the marvel of the sculptures and inscriptions on the gate, you realize that this is sheer art created from a marvel back in the 16th Century. Akbar built the Buland Darwaza to commemorate his victory over Gujarat, there is some folklore which has a lot more to speak about this monument.

The Graves of Salim Chisti's Descendants

The Graves of Salim Chisti’s Descendants

Two things that you will only get to know when you go there. There is a Dargah inside the Buland Darwaza outside of which, you’ll find multiple graves of the Salim Chisti Dyansty. Even today his descendants reside within the complex and Dargah area, and whoever dies will be buried within those confines. It was believed that Salim Chisti already lived in the area where the Buland Darwaza stands today.

Salim Chisti's Dargah

Salim Chisti’s Dargah

Before it was built, it was nothing but barren land in the woods where the holy prophet practiced his religion. The Mughal Emperor Akbar, is believed to have consulted him because his wife was unable to give birth to a child. After which, Akbar’s wife gave birth to a baby boy Nur-ud-din Mohammad Salim, at Fatehpur Sikri. He is also known by his imperial name Jahangir (30 August 1569 – 8 November 1627), was the fourth Mughal Emperor who ruled from 1605 until his death in 1627. And of course, no wonder he was named Salim, after this holy man Salim Chisti.

Another interesting thing about this place is a underground subway, which is now closed, however in those days, it was a direct passageway to Emperror Akbar’s Fort in Agra, now known as the Agra Fort! This was built for a safe passage as well as convenience if ever Akbar wanted to consult with Salim Chisti, who he highly regarded. What marvels of ancient archaeology, I must say.

The entire sight is plain beauty and while you’re there, you must marvel and admire the beauty of the ancient Mughal architecture and of course look around and speak to a few locals who’ll give you some inside stories of this place.  And no wonder it’s called Buland Darwaza, for truly it is sheer Magnanimity and Fortitude in its elements!