Monday, November 4, 2013

Kanha - Call of the Wild
We did the "Call of the Wild" tour conducted by MPTDC. This covered Jabalapur (Bhedatghat), Kanha, Badhavgarh and Panchmarhi. Needless to say, Kanha/Bandhavgarh were the highlights of the tour. With an area of around 1000 sq kms, this is one of the biggest parks in India and famous for its tiger population. The jungles of Kanha were the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling novel, Jungle Book.

Our arrangements were done at the Baghera Log Huts. This is a great property. The food and accommodation is ok but the location is fantastic. It is within the national park. You get the feel of living in the jungle.We were able to see gaur, deer and monkeys from within the property. We were really lucky with the tiger sightings at Kanha. We got sighting for nearly each safari that we took. 

The last sighting of the tiger that we had was special. As we were returning from the safari, we came upon a group of gaurs which were witnessing a fight between two males. The males were right in the middle of the road, and there was no way we could have crossed them and made our way ahead. We had to take a long route back. The light had already reduced a lot when we saw this adult male tiger walking towards us. We scampered back, took a reverse and then went off the road. He continued majestically along the road, totally ignoring our jeep. The experience of seeing the tiger in the wild, where he is the king, is really overwhelming. This is the experience that got me hooked up on wildlife

Below is a link to the poor quality video of a great sighting. 

Another video of a sighting in Kanha 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

South Bali (Kuta)
For the last leg of our tour to Bali, we moved our base to Kuta. We stayed at Ramayan Resort and Spa. Check out the review here.

This is a very touristy place and I guess it is the area which receives the maximum visitors in Bali. It has a number of hotels, restaurants (providing different cuisines), bars, etc. Kuta beach is a favorite amongst visitors and gets a number of surfers here. We witnessed the Mumukur ceremony here which is supposed to be similar to the Shraddha ceremony performed in India.

We ate at the Queen's in Kuta which offers authentic Indian cuisine. We loved it so much that, we had all our meals in Kuta here.

We did a short half-day site-seeing tour during our stay here. Our first stop was at the Garuda Wishnu Kencana. It is a cultural center where you can see Balinese dance in its open air amphitheater. We saw the Barong dance performance there. Barong is a lion like mythological creature of Bali. Barong represents the good and is an enemy of Rangda, the demon queen who represents the bad. The battle between Barong and Rangda is featured in Barong dance. 

Check below for the performance schedules at the center.

It has huge statues for Vishnu and Garuda. This is still a work in progress. When completed, it will depict Vishnu riding the Garuda and will be the tallest statue in the world. The partially completed statues are beautiful and worth a visit even with the current state of completion.

From here we went to Uluwatu. This was a fitting climax to our tour to the beautiful island of Bali. The temple is located at the edge of a cliff. You can walk along the edge of the steep cliff which offers spectacular views all along. The sound of waves of the roaring Indian Ocean is a constant companion. After seeing a grand sunset we made our way back to the hotel.

Bali has lots to offer. By the end of the vacation, we had collected some fabulous memories of the place and were left with the feeling that given the time, there was so much more that we could have experienced. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mount Batur

We had read some great reviews on the climb to Mount Batur but were really unsure of whether we will be able to do it. Finally a part of the group decided to "go for it". (The youngest was 9 years and the eldest was 66 years).

The climb to the top of Mount Batur needs to start early enough so that you reach the top to catch the first rays of the sun, which is a spectacle. We started from our hotel at 2:30 a.m and reached the starting point for the climb by 3:00 a.m. We arranged for a guide from the Mount Batur Guides Association for the climb, which is a must, given that the entire climb happens in the dark. The guide services come along with a package deal for breakfast which includes eggs, bananas and tea/coffee. These taste divine after the exhausting climb to the top. Torches are provided for, which prove useful. Carry sufficient water along, but ensure that it doesn't weigh you down during your climb. You can also get pull-overs on hire here as well. We opted for pullovers as the air was chilly, but they soon became an unnecessary load to carry as we started the climb. 

It took us a around 3 hours to get to the top which enabled us to be there in time for the sunrise. The sunrise was spectacular. We sat down to watch this spectacle unfold before our eyes, sipping on our warm cups of coffee. It was a very peaceful experience and took away all the fatigue that was felt due to the hard climb.

Mount Batur is an active volcano. It has a height of 1717 meters. From the top you can see the Mount Agung in front of you and the beautiful Lake Batur below.  Mount Batur last erupted in the year 2000.  The last major eruption happened in 1972 in which a village below got destroyed. You can see the black patch caused by the lava flow.

After seeing the stunning sunrise, and having the energy boosting breakfast, we walked around the area to see the caldera. One can see a number of crevices through which volcanic steam is coming out. 

When you start the descent, you actually realize the height and the steepness of the climb which had happened in almost total darkness earlier in the morning. Climbing down was fairly fast and took us around 2 hours.

A tiring experience, but I would say one of the must-do experiences in Bali!!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

West Bali

The start of our Bali tour was from here. We stayed at the Medewi Bay Retreat. Check the review of the resort here.

Day 1

Bunut Bolong: Literally means a hole in the tree. This is considered a holy tree. Its so huge that the road passes right through the tree. Situated in a forested area, this makes for a good stopover.

Banjar Hot Spring: Natural hot water spring which is said to have medicinal values. The approach road has a lot of road side souvenir shops. 

Brahmavihara-Arama Meditation Center: This is a Buddhist monastery. This has a terraced structure with various buildings and structures present at different levels. At the top most level, you get to see a miniature version or Borubudur  which is supposed to be the biggest buddhist temple. From the top, you get good views of the surrounding hills and the ocean. Entry to the monastery is free. You will need to cover yourself up properly for entry.  Long pants/saris are fine. Sarongs are provided at the entrance for those who need to cover themselves up.

Pulaki Temple: This is one of the biggest temples of Bali and is beautifully located. On one side you have the ocean with the forested hills at the back. One can see a number of monkeys in the premises. We were warned by our driver to be careful of our cameras, specs, etc for fear of the monkeys. Here again you will need to cover up properly - sarongs are available at the entry. We were advised to make "voluntary donation" for the temple here, which we obliged.

The the temple was built to commemorate the arrival of Javanese saint Nirartha to Bali. The surrounding forest has a lot of monkeys and it is said that when Nirartha arrived, he was escorted by the monkeys. As a sign of gratitude, Nirartha established this temple and made the monkeys its guardians. Another story related to this temple is that Nirartha feared that his daughter would be abducted by the king. So he brought her to this place. He then made the entire village invisible. It is believed that to this day, the invisible poeple exist. They are called gamang and are made offering by the people here

Palasari Cathedral: Had never read of this and still cant find it in google searches. But glad it was included in our tour by resort which arranged our transport. Beautiful place. Peacful.

Day 2

Butterfly Park: The days highlight was going to be the Ulun Danu temple. Enroute to the this, we went to the Butterfly Park at Tabanan. Glad we did this. Saw some really big butterflies.

Ulun Danu: This is one of the iconic temples of Bali. It is featured on the 50,000/- IDR note. It is situated at a relatively higher altitude. It was overcast on the day,  and the weather was refreshingly cool. It is a complex of temples. The 11 storey temple is dedicated to Vishnu and the 3 storey temple is dedicate to Shiva. These temples are surrounded by the lake Beratan which is the major source of irrigation in central Bali.

Day 3

Day 3 was check-out time and time to move to our next location (Ubud in Central Bali). Enroute, we visited the Bali Zoo. It is fairly well maintained. The tree cover meant that even though we reached there in the afternoon, it was not at all uncomfortable. There are special timings for feeding the animals, bird show, etc. Check them out before starting off in the zoo.

Enroute to our hotel in Bali, we visited centres for gold and silver crafting, batik and wood carving and  handicrafts. Most of our souvenir shopping happened here.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dzongu - places of interest

Dzongu is the untouched heaven in the northern Sikkim with a striking beauty. Mountains, streams, waterfalls, thick forests, tiny beautiful Lepcha hamlets, absolutely pollution free air and divine calmness is what characterizes the place.  It has been recently opened up for tourist and it is yet to attract hoards of the tourist as tourism is not well developed yet. Only 4-5 Home Stays are available.  This makes Dzongu a very memorable experience in itself. There are no standard itineraries available to explore Dzongu. You have to make the plan on your own with the help of Home stay owners. If you indeed want a non-commercialized nature stay, this is the place. Walking, trekking, taking baths in rivers/waterfalls/hot water spring, birding, running behind the butterflies, visiting tiny hamlets, enjoying local cuisine and staying in traditional Lepcha houses is what you can enjoy here. Below given information would help you plan your stay. You can plan a week's visit to this area still you wont cover all of it.

Lingdong Village

The village is situated in Lower Dzongu. One can easily see Mangan on other side of the valley. River Tista flows through the valley which separates Dzongu from Mangan/North Sikkim highway. There is Home Stay available here (Dzongu Lee) where we stayed.
There is monastery uphill between Lingdong Village and Barfok village. Its 1 hour easy trek from Lingdong. The specialty of this monastery is it is for nuns. On the way, you can see Cardamon fields. You can enjoy the breathtaking view of the mountains from this. When we visited, it was a time for festival called Eung-ney. Monks there invited us for the fast-breaking lunch. It was a superb feast for us.
4 kms from Lingdong towards south to Hee Gyathang, passes Rin Khola rive which further meets Tista down the valley. Immediately after you cross the bridge on the river, one can easily go down to the river bed and enjoy bath. There is another bamboo bridge used by locals to cross the river which one must experience.


Hee Gyathang Village

Hee Gyathang Village lies in Lower Dzongu and can be easily reached from Lingdong. It has a small sacred lake decorated with prayers flags.

Namprikdang  Village

A model of a Lepcha house constructed in its traditional style is built at the confluence of river Teesta and Rongyoung. Surrounding environment of the museum is a perfect spot for family picnic. The confluence is just a 5 minutes walk from there.

Lingzya Waterfall

Half an hours drive from Lingdong village in interior Dzongu towards Pentong passing through Nom, Passingdang, Mantan, Shibim villages lies this wonderful waterfall. At Mantan, one road goes right to Tingvong/Lingzya villages and the one goes left towards Ruklu-Ringdem. The drive is scenic passing through mountains and bridges and tiny villages. Though the water was cold, having bath under the rapid stream is something we didn't miss.

Ruklu-Ringdem Village

 From Mantan take a left towards Kayeem and Ruklu-Ringdem villages. Those villages are on opposite side the valley, other side being Lingzya waterfall.  Rongyoung river divides the valley which further meets River Tista. Somewhere near Kayeem, there is a hot spring with separate enclosures for males/females. You can soak in the bubbling Sulphur water at a leisure. There is a small restaurant just ahead of the hot water spring which serves tea/Maggie etc. On this route from Mantan to Kayeem, on a clear day, you can see Mount Khanchendzonga.

Other locations

Below are some other spots which we didn't visit but gathered information about it from Gyatso Lepcha, owner of the Home Stay (for future planning).


A trek through bamboo groves from Passingdang village takes you here. The trek offers breathtaking views of the Mt Khanchendzonga. It also has a monastery. There is Home Stay available in Passingdang village (Mayal Lyang homestay) .

Tingvong & Kusong

Both the villages are in interior Dzongu on the mountain slope before Lingzya waterfall. Tinvong village can be reached by road. Kusong village requires an hour of trek upwards from Tinvong. On the way to Kusong, there is monastery.  There are two Home Stays available here (Tingvong Home Stay and TECS Homestay).


Pentong and Sakyong

These are the last inhabited areas of Dzongu giving very closure view of the snow clad mountains. By road you can only go only upto Lingzya and after that it takes around 5 hours or so trekking through dense forest. On the opposite side of the valley lies another village, Sakyong. From Sakyong, you can trek to Ruklu-Ringdem village through Leven village.


Keushong is considered the most beautiful place in Dzongu which has a very beautiful lake, also called as Keushong Lake, surrounded by hills. It takes 5 days to complete the trek from Tingvong. On day 1, you reach Tholung Monastery and take a halt. Next day you reach Keushong, third day at Keushong and other 2 days to return through same route. You need to arrange in advance with the Home Stay owner who would arrange Lepcha guides.

Links :
North Sikkim & Dzongu information
North Sikkim - places of interest
Photo Gallery

Gangtok and North Sikkim - places of Interest

Gangtok and Around


Roam around on MG Road. Do visit Allen’s Kitchen for Tibetan delicacies. There are various other places in Gangtok which can be covered in one day. But we didn’t include in our plan.

Changu Lake :

Tsomgo(Changu) lake is situated 35 km from Gangtok on the Gangtok - Nathula highway which forms a part of the old trade route from India to China. Stop at lake while returning from Nathula Pass.

Baba Mandir :

A temple built in his memory  of a soldier in the 23rd Punjab Regiment, who drowned in a stream near the spot.

Nathula Pass :

Nathula is a pass on the Indo Chinese boarder The pass was traditionally used by merchants of India and Tibet for trading (silk route). It is covered with snow for most part of the year. It is open only on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Its very cold place with temperature below zero even in May.   Totally covered in fog and snow around, do visit it. You can go right up to the border fence where you can see Chinese soldiers just a meter away.

On the way to North Sikkim

Tashi View Point

6 kms away from Gangtok on the North Sikkim Highway, offers an astounding view of the hills and valleys. Khangchendzonga can be seen on clear day from here. Phodong and Labrang monasteries can be seen on opposite hills.


Kabi Longstok

A place of worship where historical treaty of blood brotherhood between the Lepcha and Bhutia community was signed. There is a small monastery nearby. Its 20 kms from Gangtok.

Seven Sisters Waterfall

32 kms from Gangtok on the North Sikkim Highway. A must stop place.


64 kms from Gangtok, a district headquarter for North Sikkim. You have to take west for Dzongu and towards north for North Sikkim.

Singhik View Point

12 kilometers away from Mangan towards the north, this view point offers picturesque view of Mount Sinolchu. From the viewpoint you can see confluence of River Teesta and River Kanaka.


30 kms from Mangan, the town of Chungthang is present at the confluence of the rivers Lachen and Lachung  Chu, tributaries of the River Teesta. Here the road bifurcates to take different routes for Lachen and Lachung.

North Sikkim


At an altitude of 9000 feet, this small beautiful town is famous as overnight stop for onward journey to Guru Dongmar lake. Stay here gives much needed time for the body to get acclimatized to high altitude.

Thangu and Chopta Valley

While going to Guru Dongmar lake, some 36 kms from Lachen, you halt at Thangu for breakfast. Thangu has some wooden houses and military camps nestled in the alpine meadows. The place offers breathtaking scenic view of high snow capped mountains and Alpine environment. While returning from the lake, one can visit the small and beautiful Chopta valley.


Gurudongmar Lake

At 17200 feet on a vast plateau very near to Indo-Tibet border lies one of the high altitude lakes of the world which is also a sacred place for locals. At this altitude, you are most likely to get clear blue skies which renders the scenery astonishing surrounded by perennial snow covered mountain tops. Lake is almost frozen during winter. It’s a rough drive of around 5 hours from Lachen but million times worth it. Without Guru Dongmar lake, trip to North Sikkim is meaningless.


A very beautiful and picturesque Bhutia village settled in the Alpine valley on the banks of River Lachung is a base camp for surrounding attractions like Yumthang Valley, Rhododendron Sanctuary and Zero point. But the town, settled at an altitude of 8800 feet, itself is a worth exploring. Lachung Monastery on the slopes of the hill can be a good small trek from the town.



Yumthang valley, also known as 'Valley of Flowers' for the boom of rhododendrons. It’s a very scenic place gifted with green meadows, pine and silver fir forests, waterfalls and streams.
The hot spring is located close by the Yumthang village on the banks of Lachung River. The hot water is rich with sulplur.
The Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary in Yumthang valley has more than 24 species of Rhododendron flowers and various other species of flowers.  Best season to visit this place  is from April to May end.



Yumesamdong (Zero Point) is very close to the Chinese border about 26 kms from Yumthang and at an altitude of 15300 feet.  It is the land of perennial snow. The stretch from Yumthang village passes through the rugged mountains. Ezilia, a plant used as incense, fills the air with fresh scent.

North Sikkim and Dzongu

It was a time for freak out tour with school friends. After quite a deliberations, zeroed down on tour to North Sikkim and Dzongu in Sikkim. Main destinations planned were Guru Dongmar Lake, Yumthang Valley, Dzongu and  Nathula Pass and stay in Gangtok for permits.

When :

May 16, 2013.

Weather :

Mix of cloudy and clear. Occasional rains in Dzongu, Lachung and Nathula Pass. Minimum temperature was 5 Degree Celsius at Lachen.  Nathula pass was very cold with temperature below zero and very foggy.

Itinerary :

Day 1 : Arrived at Gangtok from Siliguri. 120 kms journey takes 4 hours along the banks of river Teesta. Finished the paperwork with the agent for the permits of onward journey. Rest of the day spent wandering at MG Road. Overnight @ Gangtok.

Day 2 : A days excursion to Nathula pass, Baba Mandir and Changu Lake. Started at 09.30 AM and returned by 06.00 PM to Gangtok.  Nathula pass is 56 kms from Gangtok. Overnight @ Gangtok

Day 3 : Started  at 09.00  AM for  North Sikkim to reach Lachen. Lachen is overnight stop for Guru Dongmar Lake. 120 Kms from Gangtok, journey took around 8 hours due to frequent stops at various places like Tashi View point, Mangan, Singhik, Kabi Longstock, Seven sister Water Falls and numerous other waterfalls, Chungthang Confluence. Overnight @ Lachen.

Day 4 : At 04.00 AM started for Guru Dongmar Lake which is 62 kms from Lachen. At 06.00 AM, 36 kms from Lachen, had a halt at small and beautiful town Thangu. Reached lake at 09.00 AM. At 11.30 AM started the return journey for Lachen via Chopta valley. Rest at Lachen and proceed to Lachung via Chumthang. Lachen to Lachung distance is 47 kms and took 3 hours. Overnight @ Lachung.

Day 5 : Full day excursion to Yumthang Valley, Yemesamdong (Zero point) and Shingba Rhodendron Sanctuary. Yumthang and Zero point are 24 kms and 47 kms respectively from from Lachung.  Overnight@Lachung.

Day 6 : Roaming around in beautiful Lachung village, visited Lachung Monastery. Had planned for Katao but it is closed for tourist now. In the afternoon started for Lingdong village in Dzongu and reached there by 06.00 PM with a break at Mangan. Lachung to Lingdong distance is 59 kms and took 4 hours.

Day 7, 8 and 9 : Explored various areas of Dzongu.

Day 10 : Return to Bagdogra via Singtam. 

See details of the places visited on other pages, links given below.


Stay :

  • Gangtok : Hotel Pandim, Bhanu Path. A very beautiful location in upper Gangtok from where you can see the Gangtok and the valley. Away from hush bush of the crowd.
  • Lachen : Snow Valley. A small hotel inside the village with good view of surrounding mountains. Clean hotel with a very good cook.
  • Lachung : Season House. 1 km uphill  from the Lachung village. A wonderful lonely location with stunning views of mountains and Lachung Village.
  • Lingdong, Dzongu : Dzongu Lee Homestay. A very beautiful location in Lingdong village facing the valley and River Teesta. Wooden rooms are neatly maintained. The family was very cooperative and enthusiastic. Gyatso, a young university student helped us explore the forests and accompanied to various places. Delicious local cuisines are something different one would experience.   Morqu (made of local cheese and  butter), chutney made of cheese, Champa (sweet made of floor, ghee and sugar), salt tea, tea momo, kaudey (some sort of soup) are something you would enjoy. And not to mention locally brewed fresh millet beer (which tastes more like a red wine) which is to be seeped in using bamboo straw ! 

Permits :

Nathula Pass, North Sikkim and Dzongu are restricted areas and require special permits to enter. 6 copies of Photo Identity (Passport/Driving License/Voter Card/Adhar Card) PAN card not accepted. And 8 passport size photographs. Permits are arranged by the tour operators.


Tips  and General Information:

  • Tours to North Sikkim and Dzongu needs to be arranged through authorized tour operators only who arrange for permits, travel, stay and sightseeing.
  • Detail of various locations in Sikkim and authorized tour operators can be found on Govt. of Sikkim?s informative site
  • Most of the tour operators arrange either for North Sikkim or for Dzongu but not both. We got one tour operator who arranged for the combined tour. There are very few tour operators for Dzongu who are basically owners of their respective home stays. 
  • It is not necessary to book the entire tour in advance. One can land in Gangtok and then contact these tour operators. 
  • It is advised to stay at least for a day in Gangtok to find the tour operator, negotiate, book the tour and submit papers for  permits. Permits are given on the date of travel only, so there is no need of advance booking. 
  • It is advisable to book the hotel for stay in Gangtok to avoid time required for searching. If you cant, don't worry. There is no paucity of hotels in Gangtok.
  • Separate permits are required for North Sikkim, Dzongu and Nathula Pass.
  • There is heavy rush for permits to Nathula pass, so ensure that you reach one day in advance before this tour and give papers to operator as soon as possible.
  • Tour for North Sikkim and Dzongu are all inclusive i.e. travel, stay, food including the en route lunches and sightseeing. Ensure that you are clear on inclusion and exclusion with your tour operator. 
  • Generally, tour in North Sikkim is covered till Yumthang only. If you want to go ahead till Zero point, you have to pay extra to the driver. (Rs. 2000-3000). This is type of a kickback for the driver which I feel is worth considering the adventurous driving they do !!
  • For all the journeys, be it Siliguri/Bagdogra to Gantok or North Sikkim Tour or excursion to Nathula, you have option of shared vehicle or special vehicle. Needless to say, its worth to spend on special vehicle considering the leisure at which you can stroll in the heavenly beauty.
  • For Dzongu, again, its worth to have special vehicle. If your tour operator includes Dzongu then you don't need to worry. Else you have to reach Mangan and then ask the Home stay owner to pick you up from Mangan.
  • Don't engage special vehicle at your disposal in Dzongu for all the days. 1-2 days you can keep just for walk/treks.
  • April/May are peak season for Sikkim, but we didn't find it crowded in North Sikkim as most of the crowd prefers Nathula/West Sikkim. In Dzongu, there are only 4 homestays, so no question of crowd.
  • You don?t need heavy woolens in May even at Guru Dongmar or Lachen/Lachung. Usual winter wear with woolen cap/ hand gloves is sufficient. Not to forget goggles for Zero point where sun is bright and snow too white !.
  • Even though Guru Dongmar lake is at an very high altitude of 17200 feet, we didn't suffer high altitude sickness and could easily spend 3 hours with little dizziness. (At an altitude of 14200 feet at Khardung La, Ladakh, you can hardly stay there for half an hour !!). May be slow accent makes your body acclimatized.
  • Sikkim is very prone to landslides leading to tourist getting stuck en route. So before you travel, make sure of the weather condition and roads are open. 
  • Start as early as you can for Nathula Pass/Baba Mandir as both the places remain open till 02.30 PM only.
  • Guru Dongmar lake is open till 12.00 noon only, so make sure you reach there before 09/10 AM. If you are staying in Lachen, you have to start at 04.00 AM.
  • Most of the tour operators offer 3 days package of North Sikkim which is short for the vast area. Plan for at least 4 days.  
  • Don't estimate traveling times based on the distance. Roads in Sikkim tend to be poor due to heavy rains and frequent landslides. 
  • Ms Rinjong Lepcha (, owner of Dzongu Lee Homestay in Lingdong arranged the combined tour of North Sikkim and Dzongu. It was planned well without any issue. Their wooden Homestay at Lingdong is really a nice place to experience traditional stay. The entire stay was made memorable by her family.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Central Bali (Ubud) - Bali Bird Walk, Goa Gajah

After spending 3 days in West Bali, we moved our base to Ubud for the next part of our tour. Ubud is the cultural centre for Bali with lots of art shops related to gold and silver work, wood carving, stone carving and batik as well as a number of museums.

We stayed at the Agung Raka Bungalows. The review for the resort can be viewed here. We had our lunch at the Indian Delights restaurant. Food was OK. Malai Kulfi was outstanding. :)

Day 4 of our tour started with the Bali Bird Walk. Lonely Planet has mentioned Bali Bird Walks as one of the top 10 experiences in Bali. Hence we decided to try it out. We just loved it!! We are no birders, mind you. But we thoroughly enjoyed it. Check out their website at

Su, who manages these walks has lots of knowledge about the birds and is good at spotting them.  Additional bonus is the information that she shares with you regarding the Balinese way of life, the crops, spiders, flowers, etc. If you love nature, you will love the walk as it takes you through lush green paddy fields of Ubud. Su carried with her some extra binoculars which helped as we had not come prepared for birding. It is a 3-4 hour. Tour cost is 37$ which included lunch at the end of the walk.

In the afternoon we started a short tour to see places around Ubud. We started with the Tegenungan Waterfall which is around 10 min from Ubud. Though the height of the fall is not much the waterflow is very high. 

Next stop was Goa Gajah, which in Balinese means Elephant Cave. This 9th century cave has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage sites Tentative list. The entrance of the cave is very ornately carved. Inside one can see the statue of Ganesha and a Shivalinga. Do take a guide here as there are no information boards here. The guide told us that Agastya Rishi built a temple here in honour of river Ganga. There are 7 statues of goddesses from which water flows into a bathing pool. One can see some relics of old Buddhist temple as well. 

Next in the itinerary were the famed rice rields of Ubud. The lush green rice terraces are a site to watch and a good place to stop and spend some time. They rank high on the list of experiences on TripAdvisor and Lonely Plant. Bali Pulani Agro Tourism Farm is near by. You can see various spices been planted here. They offer free coffee tasting session where you get to taste various coffee flavors including the Luwak Coffee which is their specialty. 

The Luwak coffee is made from beans of coffee berries eaten and excreted by a furry animal called Asian Palm Civet. There is a Civet on premises whom you feed the berries and make your contribution towards preparation of this world famous coffee :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I had seen some great photos of Bali and when RCI bookings for Medewi Bay Retreat were available for May we took the plunge. We did this booking and then started doing the research for the destination.  I bought the lonely planet pocket guide for Bali and Lombok for this. But while reading this realized that there is almost zero coverage for West Bali where the resort is situated. This got us reading more on the destination. Below are some notes
  • Bali is a relatively small island. About 140 km west to east and 90 kms north to south.
  • The roads in Bali are narrow which results in longer journey times. Eg from the airport in Kuta to our resort in Negara, it took us 3.5 hours.
  • It lies 8 degrees south of the equator and has warm climate through out the year (between 23 and 33 degrees celcius). It is fairly dry between May to August. We did get to experience heavy showers in the evening on one of the days of our 8-day tour.
  • ATMs availability is fairly good. But do carry cash as well. For entry fees to some of the places, only cash is accepted. Also, if you intend to take a visa on arrival, you will need to pay the 25$ fees in cash. While leaving Bali, you need to pay Passenger Service Tax which amounts to 1,50,000/- IDR. This again needs to be paid in cash.
  • Get acquainted with the conversion rate for your currency with IDR. If you have a currency converter app on your mobile it will prove very useful. Prices in IDR seem to be very steep but are not really so. :)
  • In the arrival area of the Bali airport, you will find lots of brochures placed there by various tour operators. Collect some so that you can get reference material for planning your tours there. Most of the brochures also have Bali maps.
  • These brochures advertise package tours. They also advertise for cars on rent (including driver and petrol). We preferred the car-on-rent option. It cost us around 50$ per day. This turned out to  be more economical and gave us much more freedom with respect to time, places to see, etc
  • 90% of the population in Bali is Hindu. Every village has a temple dedicated to Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Children are taught the Gayatri Mantra in their school. One of their newspaper is currently printing stories from the Mahabharata on a daily basis.
  • Though Ramayan and Mahabharata are revered here, there are no temples for Ram and Krishna here. 
We had originally booked the Medewi Bay Retreat for the entire stay of our tour. But, during our research, we realized that travel times would be very high, especially when targeting places in central and south Bali, and we split our stays.  We planned our stay so that we stayed in West Bali for 3 nights, 2 nights in central Bali and 2 nights at South Bali.

More details on the Hotels and sightseeing to follow.

The below site is a good source for reading on Bali

Additional photos for Bali can be seen below

Sunday, April 28, 2013


It rarely happens that we decide to go to a place because we like a particular hotel or resort. The interest being more in terms of seeing and experiencing the place. But this is what we more or less did. The last time we had gone to Dapoli we had stayed here and the memories of that stay pulled us back. 

Aryawarta is a collection of well maintained bungalows which are available for your stay. Staying in these bungalows has its own charm. The one we got - Atharva, was fabulous. The interiors are good but what is better is the tastefully done landscaping. A good lawn, lots of cashew trees, bird houses and a good veranda to enjoy your morning cup of tea.
For more information on Aryawarta check

The meals, part of the package, are also great. They have a white board in the dining area which announces what is coming up for the meals. The meals are so good that by the time you get up to wash your hands after the meal, you take a peek at the white board to see what is coming up for the next meal.

Dapoli as a destination is a very good option. Dapoli + Aryawarta, means that you can have 3-4 days of holidays which involve great beaches, old temples, sea forts, great food and comfortable stay. Mumbai to Dapoli is around 6-7 hours drive.  

Have listed below the places that we visited. There are many which have not got covered here.
Murud: Murud has a 18th century temple of goddess Durga.  A short distance from the temple is the beach. It is a beautiful, long beach which is good for swimming. This is beach is seeing lots of visits from tourists and was fairly crowded. Thankfully, stalls for eatables have not yet come up on the beach.  Sand biking and bullock cart rides are available here.

Karde Beach: Around 12km from Dapoli, this is another beautiful beach. Here, you can get a chance to see dolphins in there natural surroundings. A early morning visit to the beach allows you to catch boats which take you into the sea to watch the dolphins.

Kadyavarcha Ganpati: This is yet another old temple located at Anjarle around 25 km from Dapoli. The drive is very scenic with great views of the sea. We got a smashing sunset here when we last visited the place.

Keshavraj Temple: Around 8 km from Dapoli this temple is located in village Asud. This requires a small trek of about 30 min from the main road. The road takes you through trees of coconut, betel nut, mango, cashew nut and jack fruit. The tree cover provides shade from sun for nearly the entire route. It involves a slight climb up a hill via stone steps.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Dandeli was on my wish list after I read a travel article which indicated that it had the largest concentration of black panthers in India. This interest got me reading on Dandeli and I found out that it is also a fabulous birding destination and is also a good place for white water rafting.

In addition to a number of birds (we saw over 100 during the trip), we also got to see the malabar giant squirrel.

How to Reach:
Hubli is the nearest airport which is around 75 kim from Dandeli. Direct flights from Hubli to Mumbai have been started by Spicejet. Train from Mumbai is also convenient. Take the Puducherry Express (11005) from Dadar  (DR) and get off at Alnawar (LWR).  This is an overnight journey and takes you to Alnawar by 10:30 in the morning. Alnawar is around 35 kms from Dandeli. We arranged for our pickup from the resort who charged use 1200/- for the journey which took around an hour.

We stayed at Kali Adventure Camp is one of the several resorts operated by Jungle Lodges and Resorts (govt of Karnataka undertaking). We just loved our stay here. Check out review for the resort here. Booking can be done at

The resort allocates a staff member for all your activities. If you plan to do birding, ask for Shashi. He has over 30 years experience in birding and helped make our birding experience that much more enjoyable. The resort charges on a per person basis based on the room type that you opt for. Charges cover breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, evening snacks and various activities (transport if involved).

Our tour was a purely birding tour. The manager at the lodge meets and plans your activity according to your choice. Out itinerary was as below

Day 1: Arrive at the lodge. After lunch proceed for wild life safari. (Our safari was washed out due to heavy unseasonal rains)
Day 2: Early morning birding at Timber Trail. Return to resort for breakfast. Relax. Coracle ride. After lunch proceed to Ganeshgudi.
Day 3: Another session at Timber Trail.

There are a number of things that we could not try for paucity of time. But one can do white water rafting, Kavala caves, Syntheri Rock, etc.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


With no dearth of information available on famous hill stations like Kodaikanal, there isn't any need to write a blog. But would share "how to spend a week in Kodai" as I had a long stay of 8 days (!!) for a real relaxing holiday.


Stay :

Kodai By Lake. Recently renovated, rooms are spacious and well maintained, has a classy British Colonial look. Hotel is at a walk distance from Lake in isolated location, a real calm place. Activity room of the hotel is ok types. Superb food quality is worth mentioning. It being a Christmas week, each night had some themed Gala dinners which offered awesome delicacies of Malabar, Continental, Caribbean cuisines.
Kerala Ayurvedic Center run by the hotel is also worth to soak your body in relaxing mood. Its run by professionally trained staff is Ayurvedic massage and offers various packages which you can use during a week long stay.

When : 

Last week of December 2012. Being a holiday season, I was fearing a mad rush, but thankfully, it wasnt so.

Weather : 

Clear and was at its best. Temperature hardly went down to minimum 8 degree. I was expecting much more chilly winter. Daytimes were cool and pleasant making it a perfect time for walks and short treks.


Things to Do and places to see:

Kodai is best enjoyed at the slow pace. Walking, cycling, trekking, horse riding should be the mode of transport. Places like Kodai Lake, Coaker' Walk etc. should be visited during different times of day like early morning, daytime, late evening, in fog etc. to experience the different colors and mood of mother nature.

  • Kodai Lake is best place for a walk of 4.5 kms around its perimeter. So it is for cycling. Shikara boats offer a magnificent rides especially when its foggy.
  • Coaker's Walk provides very picturesque view of the valley and plains. Depending on the time of visit, you would different depths of the valley. Make it to it early morning, in noon and late evening. Also, preferably take a walk of 3 kms from the lake to Coaker's Walk. While returning you can easily get a cab or walk till Bus Stand to get a cab. A walk to La Sallete Church past TV tower would be a pleasant experience of passing through woods.
  • Bear Shola Falls is another attraction which can be covered on foot. Its around 2 kms from Lake.
  • Bryant Park situated on the banks of lake on eastern side can be visited during any of the visits to the lake. Not a very great place but do take a walk inside the park along its periphery.
  • A walk of 3.5 kms from Lake would take you to Solar Observatory which is more than 75 years old. You can watch the scheduled shows on Friday (10 - 12 AM).

  • Do take a walk of 10 kms right from the Lake to the Dolphin Nose passing through Coaker's Walk, TV Tower, La Salette Church, Pambar shola, Pambar falls, Vattakanal down to Dolphin's Nose. You can hire a cab as well but you would miss a great journey of walking through the woods. If this is too much of a adventure, take a cab till Coaker's walk and then take a walk of 7 kms. But bear in mind that you wont get a cab on return journey until you come back again to Coaker's walk. We along with a kid of 6 years could easily make this trip both sides walking. Also, on the way from Pambar falls till Dolphin's nose, you would come across many small eateries offering tea, water, cold drinks, snacks etc. Dont do much of daring near this place. A very deep valley awaits beneath for you !. Once you are there and have enjoyed Doplhi's Nose, take a walk in opposite direction to see magnificent view of other side of the valley. While returning, we could spot 3 bisons standing very near to the road. Plan one total day for this trek of Dolphin's Nose.
  • Arrange a cab for half a day to visit places like Devils' Kitchen (or Guna Caves), Green Valley View, Upper Lake View, Pillar Rocks and Pine Forest. At Guna Caves, just dont return from this spot in hurry, instead take a 10-15 minutes walk uphill on right side to reach the peak through dense woods to see the valley. You can spend one hour or so at this place.

  • Spear one day for visit to Berijam Lake. Arrange a cab for full day exercusion to this magnificient lake. At 9.00 AM reach the District Forest Office to get the permission. Its around 28 kms from Lake. On the way, you can stop and spend time on numerous view points of the valley. You can spend the day walking along the lake, visiting local temple and just strolling inside the forest. keep in mind to take food and water bottles along with you.


Tips :

1. I booked cab through hotel for Coimbatore Airport to Kodaikanal. There is no need to book in advance. One can book on the spot at Combarore airport at much cheaper rate. (INR 2800 against INR 3500). Also, while returning booked the local cab which charged INR 2500 !
2. Try to reach Coimbatore (if you are taking this route) before 02.00 PM so that you can enjoy the scenic 4 hour drive to Kodaikanal.
3. En route, do stop at Palani to have local south indian delicacies for your evening snacks.
4. Dont engage local tour operators/hotel for site seeing. They tend to cover too many spots for a day. Instead book a taxi and provide your tour plan so that you can enjoy at your leisure. I booked a cab from the Taxi stand just outside the Hotel and used same cab for all sight seeing for return journey to Coimbatore Airport.
5. Try to visit Berijam Lake during your initial stay, reason being it requires Forest Department's permission to enter the area and Permission is given on daily basis and not in advance. Also, Forest Officers might decide not to give permission on any day due to reasons like Animal troubles, Government visits etc. I got permission on second attempt.
6. You can get the information on various trekking spots and hire a guide at tourist center. Tourist Office (Govt. of Tamil Nadu): Township Bus Stand Rest House Complex (Next to Bus Stand), Kodaikanal, Phone: 241675.   

Monday, January 28, 2013


Keoladeo Ghana National Park (Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) was always on my mind after I read about it in one of the travel magazines. With more than 200 species of birds and a number of migratory visitors in the winter months, this is designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. We got our booking for Club Mahindra, Kumbhalgarh and decided to take in  Bharatpur as well. Though the distance between Kumbhalgarh and Bharatpur is around 400km, it is a easy overnight journey by Mewar express from Bharatpur to Udaipur. Kumbhalgarh is around 90km from Udaipur.

We stayed at the Bharatpur Ashok Lodge. Check out the review here.

The park is a paradise for bird watchers. Even for a nature lover this is great. No vehicles allowed inside the park. You can get either walk, take a cycle richshaw or hire a cycle to go around the park. Cycle-rickshaw drivers charge around Rs. 70/- an hour. Cycles are available for Rs. 50/- per day. You can also opt for guides at the ticket counter. They charge around Rs. 150/- per hour.

We went around using the cycle-rickshaw. We found our drivers to be very knowledgeable. They told us that they had training from the forest department for bird identification. They seemed to know the english names of the birds that we saw, which was impressive. I havent done sufficient study of the birds to be able to identify them and hence wasn't able to check on the accuracy of the names provided :) . 

This park was a popular hunting ground for the local Rajas. One can see a wall in the park which notes the date and the amount of hunting done. This area was converted into a sanctuary, thanks to the efforts of the noted ornithologist, Dr Salim Ali. 

Though the park is the star attraction of Bharatpur, do plan a visit to the Deeg Palace as well. This is around 35 kms from Bharatpur. The palace is in a good condition. Do opt for a guide. We were told some great stories of the erstwhile princely state. 

The Bharatpur palace is also in good condition and has been converted in to a museum. When we went there, renovation work was underway. Would recommend a view of the city from the terrace top of the palace.

Our itinerary for Bharatpur
Day 1: Start from Mathura. Visit Govardhan. Reach Bharatpur Ashok Hotel. Take lunch and start birding
Day 2: Morning and afternoon tours into the Park. Lunch at hotel. Visit the information gallery in the evening
Day 3: Early morning tour into the Park. Return for Breakfast. Start for Deeg Palace. After site seeing return to Bharatpur. Visit Bharatpur palace. Return to hotel. After dinner, proceed to Bharatpur station for the Mewar express to Udaipur.

More photos below...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Birding at Kavdi..

Kavdipet, also known as Kavdi, is a small little village just about 20kms from Pune, on the Pune-Solapur road.
The village interests a lots of birders so make their way in the early morning mist to reach the small dam.

How to reach :

From Mumbai, take the old NH4..
Do not take bypass at dehu road..
Instead keep going straight through dehu road.. chinchwad etc..
Keep following the directions for Solapur, which are pretty visible nearly throughout..
Once you NH9.. Keep going till you reach the first Toll booth..
Cross the toll and keep looking for a small little village name called Kavdipet (its not Kaavdipet)..
Take a left and keep going straight.. You will reach a railway crossing..
Keep going straight till you reach the so called river.. This is where the birds are found..
One can walk on the dam type structure to go on the other end too.. do explore the area..

You can find lot of bird activity especially in the winters..
List of birds that I saw during my first visit.

Wagtails (White-browed, Yellow)
Ducks (Brahminy, Spotted, Garganey)
White Eye
Ibis' (Black headed, Glossy)
Kingfisher (White Throated, Common)

Travel Tip :: there were no tea stalls.. no shops when i visited in 2011.. so make sure you carry water and snacks.. Please do not litter the area..

Here is a compilation of my clicks..