Written By: Niyati Shinde

Ladakh.  Beautiful, effervescent, colossal and mesmerizing.  Gorgeous monasteries, snow capped peaks, burning sun, freezing winds, stark naked mountains and lush green valleys- a destination right out of a vivid fantasy.

When a couple of my friends contacted me to ask whether I would like to join them on a trip to Leh, I jumped in joy and did a happy dance! (I also may have fallen and sprained my ankle while attempting to dance, but that’s not important!) Leh has always been on the top of my wanderlust wishlist (Leh, Rajasthan, the Seven Sisters and Ireland!). An instant yes and a couple of tedious and tiresome months of waiting later, we were all set to board a flight from Pune to Srinagar. A total of 9 people, half the group members were unknown to me. However, a few rounds of antakshari proved to be the perfect ice breaker and we all got along like a house on fire!

The Leh travel itinerary was simple. Day 1- Arrive in Srinagar and straightaway drive to Sonmarg. Day 2, travel to Leh.  Day 3- Spend the day in Leh acclimatising. Day 4 was for Leh-Nubra Valley journey via Khardungla Pass. Overnight stay at Nubra Valley.  After a return journey to Leh, day 6 was for Pangong Lake. Overnight stay at Pangong Lake. Day 7 was reserved for the return journey to Leh from the lake. Day 8 was Kargil. Day 9 was for Kargil- Srinagar-Pune. Looked perfect and simple enough to be carried out to the tee. But nature had its own plans!

The day we reached Leh, it started raining heavily. Infact, our hotel staff told us that it hadn’t rained so much in region since ages! Due to the downpour, landslides had blocked approach roads towards Nubra Valley as well as Pangong Lake. And so we were stuck in the town for a couple of days. It was like Leh did not want us to leave its motherly shelter. As a saying goes, ‘there’s no use trying to rush fate, because the best things in life are worth the wait’. Luckily for us, it never rained throughout the day and we could make the most of this bad situation. We rented Royal Enfield bikes, wore our safety gear and explored this fantastic town at our own pace. We shopped like crazy, rode up to the Shanti Stupa, climbed up to the Kali Mata Mandir situated within the Spituk Monastery campus, visited the humbling Hall of Fame, explored Leh Palace and gorged on mouth-watering Ladakhi food.

But there was only so much we could do without being bothered by the feeling of helplessness. And so, one day, having decided to leave Leh, we convinced our driver Mr. Dorji to take us to Pangong Lake, or atleast to the point from where authorities were sending travellers back due to road blockage. This time, fate was on our side! By the time we reached the checkpoint, the roads were cleared and were open for travel!

After a thrilling ride full of deadly curves and blind turns on a not so smooth road, we got the first glimpse of Pangong Tso and we were left speechless. “Beautiful” someone exclaimed, “mesmerizing” said someone else, “magical”, “is this for real?”, “are we on the same planet?”, “huh?! Am I dreaming?” followed! The truth is, Pangong Lake is beyond description. No words will ever do justice to its beauty and vastness. If only Shakespeare were alive today, he would have invented a word fit enough to describe the Lake! Or maybe even he would have been at a loss for words!

Very few people get to see the beauty of the lake. Located remotely, reaching it is a tough task. And that’s what makes the journey even more special. Pushing your limits, traversing rugged terrains and then being welcomed by such a stunning site- the journey is definitely worth it.

Our tent accommodation was right near the lake. Just picture this. Sitting in the night near a cozy bonfire, under the light of a million stars, with an almost full moon’s shimmering reflection in the lake as a backdrop. Yes. That’s what we got to do! The bonfire has since been extinguished, but the memories of that night still linger on.

After a memorable time at Pangong Lake, we left for Leh. Due to lack of time, we could not cover Nubra Valley, but we did go to Khardungla Pass- the highest motorable road in the world. At that high an altitude, I started getting a throbbing headache inspite of taking proper medication. But, a bowl of Maggie and a cup of Kahwah later, I was back to my normal self!

We had to skip our stay at the stunning Kargil town as well. However, we did pay homage to the brave souls lost, at the Drass War Memorial. The memorial is a humbling reminder of the fact that we all are safe in our homes because of the sacrifices of thousands of army men. A reminder that freedom is not free, it has to be fought for.

We could not spend a lot of time in Srinagar. A quick shikara ride later, we all headed towards the airport to board our Shrinagar-Pune flight. This was the end of our journey. Inspite of having a wonderful family, fabulous friends and a dream job, I sometimes complain about my life. But, after meeting people who have been away from their loved ones for months on end, be it our driver Mr. Dorji, the shopkeepers in Leh or the many shepherds we met on our way to Leh, I realized the value of my easy lifestyle. I don’t have to sleep in the open in subzero temperatures. I don’t have to climb mountains barefoot and I definitely don’t have to go without having a bath for days on end! Meeting such fabulous and modest people was definitely an eye opening experience.

We travelled because we wanted fun, adventure and a break from monotony. But we found what we needed. We found solace.  In each other. In ourselves. We travelled through different states, different regions and different religions. And through it all, we found humanity.

I quote Mary Ritter Beard, “Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living”.

About the author: Niyati Shinde is in love with life. Travelling, trekking, reading and writing are her passions. Her wanderlust takes her places, shows her beautiful sights and lets her meet amazing people. She also has an ebook of short stories available online.

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 174 user reviews.

No longer the preserve of maharajas, luxury travel abroad is a popular new pastime for India’s growing wealthy classes.

Have money, will travel. Until recently, this maxim applied to only a select few resident Indians, but as India wakes up to (and even begins to influence) the juggernaut of globalisation, more and more upwardly mobile citizens have the means to escape the everyday. Many are doing exactly that – and doing so in style. Luxury travel is no longer the preserve of maharajas and land barons, and as the traveller demographic opens up, so too do the farthest reaches of the globe in welcome.

It wasn’t always like this. Centuries ago there was little concept of luxury travel in India; those who had money had farcical amounts of it, and might have kept a palace in each of the locations they most enjoyed. The British then came and built forts and luxury accommodations primarily for themselves which, over time, became increasingly used by India’s growing elite. For these travellers, travel was less about exploration and more about simply escaping the everyday – as this excellent article in Time points out – and they took with them the food, habits and comforts of their own particular culture, be it Bengali, Gujarati or Punjabi, with them. As this elite class swelled gradually in size through the 20th Century, Indian tourists were generally confined to their own borders due to the prohibitive cost of international travel. In any case, that preference for one’s own culture meant that most folks wouldn’t really be interested in seeing the Eiffel Tower anyway, especially if they had to eat French food afterwards.
As the world became better connected, a new set of destinations all over the world opened up, and in the last ten years, intense competition within the airline industry has seen an exponential increase in the number of flights in and out of the major metros and an accompanying decrease in cost. In addition, the influx of Western-style media into India has given birth to a new breed of globalised Indian citizen clad head-to-toe in label clothing and inundated with images of foreign countries – both by the raft of cable channels beamed from abroad, and by Bollywood films shot there. While elite domestic resorts like the Park Hyatt in Goa and the Leela in Kovalam still attract more Indian guests than foreigners, for many the cultural attitude towards travelling has reversed: the familiar is boring, let’s go somewhere different.

High-end travel agencies make these voyages into the unknown considerably less daunting. The Indian travel agency may not have completely moved beyond the one phone line/one photocopier/one surly proprietor model, but alongside those ramshackle establishments are agencies that really will manage everything for you. With groups like Kuoni/SOTC, Cox & Kings and Thomas Cook, the flight, the hotel bookings, the sightseeing day trips and the places to eat are all calculated and arranged down to the minute. This is exactly the kind of organisation foreign visitors to India tend to avoid, but wealthy Indians are often accustomed to having their life set up just the way they like it, and while ‘on tour’ they equally expect everything to run like clockwork.

So, what are some common destinations? It depends upon one’s main reason for travelling. If it’s just to escape the heat (or cold),  that stunning scenery behind Shah Rukh Khan or Kareena Kapoor in the latest Bollywood blockbuster is always popular, with places such as the Swiss Alps or New Zealand on every travel agent’s list of tours. Trendy businessmen might opt for a shopping weekend in London, for even though they can buy expensive suits back home, they can’t duplicate that exclusive feeling of stepping into a London boutique. For families, well-known holiday spots like Paris, Los Angeles and Sydney appeal for their safety, ease of navigation, availability of high-end shopping outlets – and, of course, for the fact that they are easily recognisable to friends and colleagues back home. Stories of Machu Picchu’s grandeur may register little more than a raised eyebrow, but a photo with Captain Jack Sparrow at Universal Studios is almost guaranteed to impress.

That age-old desire to flaunt more wealth and status than your neighbour ties into another growing sector of the luxury travel market: weddings. Shifting your son’s or daughter’s wedding to foreign country is still a rare thing, but if you can manage it, you’ll be the talk of the town. This from the Wall Street Journal tells of nuptials in Macau and Bangkok and bills of up to USD$5 million – that’s over 22 crore rupees – with nearly a thousand guests flown from India, along with full catering staff and a host of top entertainers. The location is not chosen only for a hotel’s willingness to submit to the parents’ lofty requests, but also for its attractiveness as a tourist destination, which makes doubly certain that all the guests will return home with nothing but good things to say.

Put simply, Indians embarking on luxury travel are no longer satisfied with the attractions of Rajasthan, Goa or the Himalayas. Globalisation has brought foreign travel destinations within much closer financial, logistic and cultural reach for modernised Indians. Most still go for the recognition factor of the world’s best-known spots, but the spirit of adventure has been planted. There’s a saying in Kerala that even if you go to the Moon, you will find a Malayali; when the first commercial space shuttles are launched, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see a group of Indians at the head of the queue.

Barnaby Haszard Morris

3 Nov 2010


Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 172 user reviews.

When it comes to travel, almost half of all Kiwis spend more than 10 percent of their annual income on holidays, making the most of each trip by prioritising their time and pre-booking adventures.

New research commissioned by Visa looks at the travel habits of New Zealanders and Australians, noting differences and similarities between the trans-Tasman counterparts when it comes to researching, booking and taking holidays.

In New Zealand, 85 percent of Kiwis choose to book the majority, if not all, of their holiday activities before heading away, compared with 88 percent of all Australian travellers.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 243 user reviews.

This article is written by Srinidhi Hande. Srinidhi is a Business Analyst by profession and a Blogger by passion.

Of the few international airports I had explored in recent past (including Dubai, JFK, Colombo, Sau Paulo and Santiago), I find Changi international airport in Singapore more equipped to engage passengers. The reason I say so is because while all airports are loaded with duty free supermarkets trying to sell stuff, Changi offers lot of value added (most of them free) services to enable passengers make their wait a pleasant experience.

Below are some of the provisions at Changi airport, which I couldn’t find in other airports I’ve been to.

  • Free leg massage chairs: Enjoy nice massage to your knees and foot at various massage chairs. No charges. In other airports, this service will be chargeable
  • Free big screen display: Enjoy favorite game at some of the big screens. No charges- killing couple of hours is not an issue
    • View aircrafts from up close (few other airports also facilitate this)- you can get close view of aircrafts landing and taking off. I clicked below picture while observing the landing and take offs
    • Kids play zone: free playing materials for kids to kill their time
    • Free internet- many airports offer this. But I found very few kiosks in Dubai and Colombo. Changi has considerably large number of kiosks to access internet, so you’ll not have to wait for long
    • Sky trains for inter terminal moves. (JFK had Air train connecting terminal to city though)
    • Clear Signages- In Dubai, I found an Indian restaurant in terminal 1 purely by luck. In Changi, restaurants and other facilities were easier to find due to adequate sign boards indicating what is where.
    • Changi airport authorities are very active on social media, responding to comments and concerns.

    Changi on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fansofchangi
    On twitter : @FansofChangi

    Below: Casino counter at Changi Airport… 30SGD for a ticket

Changi also offers free city tours to those passengers who have couple of hours to spare before their connecting flight. If only I had this option in Dubai, I could have explored Dubai twice by now.

No wonder Changi is rated as one of the best airports in the world.

Srinidhi Hande

23 June 2012


Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 210 user reviews.

The market is flooded with smartphone apps that help air travellers navigate their journey, from checking in to receiving updates when a flight is delayed.

But by the end of 2012, these apps may not be necessary. Apple’s new operating system, iOS 6 (a free update for most recent versions of the iPhone and iPad), will include a built-in app called Passbook that will function like many air travel apps combined.

Using your various frequent flier accounts, Passbook will store the information about your upcoming flights. On the day of your flight, the app will use your device’s geolocation service to recognise when you’ve arrived at the airport and open the relevant boarding pass, complete with a barcode for the gate agent to scan. Passbook will also provide gate status updates and include a hotel-booking tool.

Android, the largest rival smartphone platform to Apple, doesn’t yet have a similar service for its devices. So for travellers with Androids, or for those of us who prefer to stock our phones with several apps, here are a few that specialise in making the air travel experience run smoothly, with functions that will remain useful even after Apple’s new Passbook app debuts.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 168 user reviews.

About Barcelona

Set against a backdrop of culture and history, Barcelona has emerged as Spain’s most cosmopolitan city. Its glorious Gothic architecture, medieval style layout and fascination with art portray only one side of the city. This city is a year-round holiday destination. Ideal weather ensures the beaches are always buzzing, the markets are always bustling, and the avant-garde chefs always have plenty of mouths to feed. A city of pleasures, whether you’re there for the sights, the cuisine, the culture or the beaches, the pulse of this city guarantees a good time.

Spain is made up of 17 autonomous communities, Catalonia being one of them. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and one of its four provinces. It is the second most populous city in Spain after Madrid, and one of the Mediterranean’s busiest ports.

Home to legendary architect Antoni Gaudi, much of the city’s landscaping reflects his typical charming style. The city was also home to Picasso for a while and showcases much of his work. Legendary football team, FC Barcelona, calls this city home as well, and has a museum dedicated to them.

Places to See and Things to Do

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 274 user reviews.

This article is written by Charu Kesi. Charu is  a freelance writer, travel photographer, compulsive blogger, wanderer, qualitative researcher, among many other things.

About a decade or so earlier, Melbourne woke up and decided that it had had enough of playing second fiddle to Sydney. In the constant Melbourne-Sydney rivalry, somewhat like that between Mumbai and Delhi, Melbourne kept coming up a poor second. This city did not have anything attention-grabbing, not an Opera House and spectacular harbour, nor was it blessed with proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.

So, like the famous Avis ad of the 1960s, which said (in relation to Hertz): “We are only No. 2, so we try harder”, Melbourne tried harder. And last year, it was voted the most livable city in the world in the Economist Intelligence Unit survey (with stiff competition from Vienna and Vancouver). While it may not have any iconic landmarks, it does have oodles of charm that makes you slowly fall in love with the city.

Head to Melbourne to make the most of early winter weather. As a local friend remarked, “Melbourne does winter very well.”

So, my list of Melbourne must-dos here –

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 295 user reviews.

This article is written by Muni & Nidhi from Delhi. They are both Indian souls traveling India, China, North America and exploring food and photography out of hectic office life.

It was a surprise to see too many turbans and fellow Indians in a single International flight :) . The flight was Air India (Delhi to Toronto) and beginning of our North America chapter. Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario. We already had bucket list in mind for our travel and which is still growing up.

Our overall experience for Airlines Review – Air India (Delhi to Toronto) is 3/ 5. But the Plane landing was just awesome and the smoothest as compared to others.

Now let’s get into some technical….

01:45 AM IST: Boarded to our flight to Toronto from New Delhi’s IGI Airport Terminal 3 by Air India. This is an International Flight but din’t felt to be one exactly.

The leg space was not so good and spacious so we felt bit fixed and uncomfortable. Though you can enjoy the multiple language audio/ video entertainment including the facility for on air shopping. The attendants were very polite and in Indian traditional attire.

We reached the Pearson Airport at 7:45 AM EST. Flight duration 15 hr approx. We reached Canada in the morning and were waiting to get to the roads. But all this jet lag and only option we left with is sleeping.

Ok, so enough of technical and details. Now lets have our reviews and feast for eyes. :)

A look at the seating area and leg space for the economy class of Air India Toronto flight.

Our Reviews for Air India Airlines:-

Flight Type: International
Class: Economy
Cost: 63, 436.00 INR one way
Luggage limit: 2 pieces X 23 Kg Check-in and 8 Kg hand*
Food/ Quality: Good Veg :)
In flight Amenities: Audio -Video -AC power -Food -infant
Seats/ leg space: Low quality / not spacious
In-flight entertainment: audio/video entertainment in multiple languages, on air shopping
Duration: 15 Hrs
Fee of booking via card: Yes in case for international card, Liable with your bank
Option of choosing seat: Yes (Available online)

Finally reached Toronto Pearson International Airport, YYZ, Canada. Definitely a chilly reach and all new air to breath :) . It was a freezing experience to sit for 15 Hrs, but worth it. So stay tuned for our growing bucket list and all new series to reveal…

Muni & Nidhi

18 June 2012


Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 267 user reviews.

This article is written by Anuradha Goyal, an IT professional  & consultant and a travel writer, based in Hyderabad, India

From the time I landed in Malaysia, from every local person I heard that Malaysians love to eat and they must have a minimum of six meals a day. Some of them were so skinny that I kept wondering where do those six meals go, but it was true that there was always ample food in sight.

At the MITBCA, we used to reach the venue after a heavy breakfast, only to be greeted by piles of colorful tempting food. They were not just serving snacks, but a whole range of meals. Then at mid morning break there was more food. At lunch food is expected, but the morning routine repeated at the afternoon tea, after which I was told there would be supper and dinner. Hmm…that makes it six meals a day.

In the evenings I went walking around China Town and Bukit Bintang and all I saw was food and food. Carts full of food, some lined in an inviting way, some raw, some cooked and some semi-cooked. In the most basic setup, the focus was just food, the aesthetics were provided by the way food was arranged, the way the colors were played with and the way the aroma filled the place.

The presentation of food was interesting in both the formal places and the streets. I found the concept of a rotating set of bowls in a formal table very unique. Fruits always came in various shapes and sizes that made us pick up the camera before picking up the fork but they would call for another post to do justice.

In Melaka, I had this soup that was served in the raw coconut and you can eat the pulp of the raw coconut after you have finished the soup. For a vegetarian like me, it was a sheer delight to get these dishes. In my 6 days of stay I had more Tofu than the rest of my life. Though I must say on the street there are limited options for vegetarians.

Since we were all bloggers and social media experts, people would first click and tweet and then eat the food. A case of tweet before you eat. In fact a tourism Malaysia official joked that at KL airport we weigh you as you come in and you are not allowed to go back if you have not gained at least 5 kgs and with the amount of food we got to eat, that’s not too much.

Moral of the story is that when in Malaysia you can get lost in food. If you are a foodie, Malaysia should be on top of your list of to-be-visited places.

Anuradha Goyal

17 June 2012


Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 250 user reviews.

This article is written by Neeraj Narayan. When Neeraj is not busy watching cricket, dimpling or doubling up as a Dilli tour guide, he likes to masquerade as a travel/sports writer.

Once upon a time Julius Caeser said “Veni vidi vici”. When translated to english it means “I came, I saw, I conquered” but methinks he was showing off a bit. Not that we should grudge him that joy, face it we are talking about a dude who captured half of the western world and managing to look serious at it even though he was wearing a skirt the entire time. Anyway, what it also means is that the guy got to see a lot of beautiful places in the world, something that we all hope and dream to do too. There maybe a lot of reasons why people hesitate to travel to international shores, and the prime one is the costs international travel involve.

Friends, Romans and countrymen, let cost no longer be a reason that dissuades you from travelling international for today we bring to you, after days of meticulous research (appraisal approaches, hence the drama) a list of the best international holidays under Rs 40, 000. Take a look and if ye love one so much that you plan that as your next holiday, well mate, you can come and hug me, but anything beyond that then you better be necessarily female.

1) Phi Phi Islands (Thailand) :

Phi Phi Islands

If Thailand was the Batman movie, Phi Phi  would have  been  its ‘Joker’. If the former were a game of Tennis, Phi Phi would be its Federer –  sublime and delicious.  It is Thailand’s poster boy and superstar island.

Approach the island on boat, and it looms up from the sea like an intimidating fortress. Towering cliffs give way to a beach-fronted jungle, and twenty bucks says that you shall run across the sand like a child, yelling with joy as soon as you set foot on the island.

Many a discerning traveler would say that Phi Phi is probably the only reason why one should land at Phuket. Unlike some of its bigger cousins like Phuket and Pattaya, the Phi Phi islands are still unravaged  by the evils of tourism.  While Phi Phi Don Island has no roads and just miles of white sand, pretty cottage resorts (budget prices) and a sea rich with coral reefs, the smaller Phi Phi Ley does not have any inhabitants at all. It is as if you have stepped back in time, and visited one of those Pirates in the Caribbean islands.

They say that charmers are always cocky of their appeal, at superb ease with themselves, and  have an air of freedom that cannot be tied down and will leave you yearning. Phi Phi is no different.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 276 user reviews.