Saturday, December 3, 2011


Yapahuwa,Yapawwa,Visit Sri Lanka

On the way from Colombo to Anuradhapura, we went to this place. We did not know much about this place but it was recommended by our Sri Lankan tour operator. It turned out to be a really great place. This doesn't seem to have come on to the tourist map yet. There were very few tourists there.

Yapahuwa was one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka. Bhuvenakabahu moved the capital from Pollonurawa to Yapahuwa fearing attacks from the kings from south India. The tooth relic was brought along and kept in a fortress in this place. We were told by our guide, that the steps were deliberately kept narrow so as to slow down the ascent of potential attackers. This fortress was attacked by the Pandyan forces who succeeded in capturing the Tooth Relic. After this, the site was abandoned and was used by Buddhist monks.

An envoy was sent to India by Emperor Kublai Khan of China, with an offer to exchange the Tooth of Relic for a fabulous treasure. Before he could reach the Pandyan courts, King Parakrambahu of Sri Lanka himself went to the Pandyan court and retrieved the Sacred Tooth Relic by means of negotiations

More photos below

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage,Visit Sri Lanka
Enroute to Anuradhapura, we had a stop at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. This was started by the Department of Wildlife Conservation in order to care for and feed orphaned elephants found in the jungle. The elephants are daily taken to the river for bathing, baby elephants are bottle fed. 

Feeding time is 8:00 a.m. At 10:00 a.m. the elephants are walked to the river for bathing. Do ensure to look up/confirm the timings when you plan your visit here. 

We missed the feeding time, though we were able to see the elephants being bathed in the river. To see the elephants interacting with each other, bathing, playing is a joy.

Discounts on entry fee can be obtained on producing Indian passport. Credit cards not accepted.

More photos below

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Old Parliament,Visit Sri Lanka
First stop on our tour of Sri Lanka was Colombo. We took the Jet Airways flight 9W256 from Mumbai to Colombo. This is a direct flight and reaches Colombo at 4:45 in the morning. This enables you to have the entire day to yourself for site seeing. If you want to take the tour at a easy pace, then I guess this option is not the ideal one. We were put up at the Global Towers. Have put a detailed review of the hotel here.
After a brief interval to freshen up in the hotel, we began our local site-seeing tour. Local site seeing covered the popular Pettah Market, the famous Muslim Mosque down 2nd Cross street, old colonial buildings in Fort, old
Parliament of Sri Lanka, the popular Galle Face, Town Hall and the Independence Square where Sri Lanka gained independence from the British in 1948. All except the Independence Square were 'done' sitting in the bus.

One option that we had selected as part of local site seeing was a trip to Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya. It is believed that this is one of the 3 places in Sri Lanka that were visited by Buddha. Buddha visited the site to quell a quarrel between two Naga princes who were fighting over a jewelled throne. After Buddha showed them the futility of their quarrel, both of them converted to Buddhism and 
Visit Sri Lanka,Kelaniya Rajamah Viharaya
offered the throne to Buddha. Buddha refused the offer.A pagoda was built at the site. This throne was buried in it as a relic. The pagoda was destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th century. It was later rebuilt in the 18th century during the Dutch rule. The temple has very good painting depicting important historical scenes. You can also see the statue of sleeping Buddha over here.

It is traditionally believed that Vibhishana, Ravana's brother, moved the capital of the kingdom to Kelaniya after Ravana's defeat. There is a shrine dedicated to Vibhishana here. 

We had our lunch at Green Palace Hotel which is very near the Global Towers. I would recommend it for its Indian fare. It is economical. Especially loved the Chole Bhature there. 

More photos below

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sri Lanka

Just returned from a tour of Sri Lanka. With a history of more than 2000 years, 6 UNESCO world heritage sites, smashing beaches, hillstations and wild life sanctuaries, Sri Lanka has a lot to offer.

We had decided for a slightly longish tour of the country (10 days as against 6-7 days that are generally offered by the travel companies) so that we could cover as much of this beautiful country as possible.We decided to go along with Walkerstours who are one of the local operators in Sri Lanka. I would recommend planning a tour through them for anyone travelling to Sri Lanka. Because of their local knowlege, we were able to see a number of places which are not covered by operators from India. And these were really great places. I studied the itineraries of some of the other operators and found places like Anuradhapura, Yapahuwa, Mihintale and Yala National Park missing from them. They helped us prepare a customized itinerary for the tour. We were provided a fantastic 33-seater bus for our travel within Sri Lanka. All the people we interracted with including the person planning the tour, the guide, bus driver and helper were very helpful. The hotels provided to us at couple of locations were really great. Overall our experience with WalkersTours was great. 

Sri Lanka provides Visa on arrival for tourists. Though, starting 1-Jan-2012, tourists will be required to apply for visa before travel. Visa application can be done online at We decided to go to the embassy to get our Visas stamped before the travel. Charges for tourist visa for Indian nationals is Rs. 150/-. The Lankan embassy in Mumbai is near Fountain (in the same building as Central Bank of India). Documents required were
- Visa form
- Photo copies of return tickets
- 2 passport size photos
- Forex taken for the trip

Had taken a Travel Card from ICICI which for our forex during the tour. Though ATM coverage is good in general, acceptance of Credit Cards in some of key locations was absent. For e.g. the entry fees for Anuradhapura are substantial. Credit cards are not accepted here and we could not spot a ATM in Anuradhapura. So always better to carry Lankan Rupees. Entry fees to major attractions are substantial. We got good discounts on producing our Indian passports though.

Opted for Dialog prepaid sim for our mobile connectivity. Dialog counter is present at Colombo airport. You can load the sim with 1000 LKR (850 LKR talk time). We had absolutely no coverage issues at any of the places we visited. This option turned out to be very economical as well.

We covered the following places during our tour
Will write more on these places shortly. 

There is a song in Marathi which goes like this "Ramya hi swarga hun Lanka....." (can be translated as "Lanka is more beautiful than the heavens").  By the end of the tour I was convinced of this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kaas, Satara

The Kaas plateau is around 22 km from Satara. Near the end of the monsoon season, it puts on display, carpets of flowers of different colours and shades. This makes for acres and acres of great walking trails. Though we missed the "peak" season by a week, we were able to see endless varieties of flowers which gave us a feel of how it would have been a week back. Saw few birds there as well. 
kaas,kaas pathar,kaas satara,incredible india

At the end of the plateau, near the banks of the Shivsagar lake, lies the Bamnoli village. Here there are many options for boating in the Shivsagar lake.

Hotel Rajatadri makes for a good place for lunch once you have finished your morning stroll of the Kas plateau. It is on the way from Satara to Kas. The Punjabi Thali was tasty and is recommended

More photos below.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Khajjiar,Himachal Tourism,Travel To India,Hill Stations,Meadows,Khajji Cottage
Khajjiar, with its green meadows and dense forests is often called mini-switzerland or Switzerland of India. This is one of the major destinations for people going to Dalhousie. But, given the beautiful surroundings, this makes for a good staying option for 2-3 days.

HPTDC operates Hotel Devdar here and this makes for a good staying option here. There a multiple types of rooms offered by the hotel. But staying at the Khajji Cottage is an experience in itself. It is secluded, being situated at the far end of the meadows. There is a dedicated caretaker who stays in a small caretaker's bungalow behind the  
Khajji cottage. Review of the hotel is available here. Khajjiar has lush green meadows surrounded by dense forest of devdar trees and a small lake in the center. There are number of activities that can be done here like horse riding, zorbing, etc.

The distance from Dalhousie to Khajjiar is around 25 Kms. and takes about 40 mins. Enroute to Khajjiar, there are 2 beautiful spots that can be covered.

Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary: The kalatop wild life sanctuary has a very thick and dense forest cover. Very little sunshine come through. Hence the name. 3km from the entrance to the sanctuary, there is a tourist bungalow. With a entrance fee of Rs.200/- we were able to take our vehicle up to this bungalow. It has a fabulous setting and has been the location for some of the Bollywood films. I regretted not having researched this option, as it would definitely have been quite an experience. The caretaker there, made some Maggi noodles for us, which in that setting, tested heavenly. Khajjiar,Khajjiar,Himachal Tourism,Himachal Tourism,Incredible India,Incredible India,Hill Stations in India,Hill Stations in India,Kalatop,Kalatop

Dain Kund: This is another scenic detour that can be taken before reaching Khajjiar. The 6km route toward the top is breathtaking. Once you reach there, you need to do a trek of around 40 min to visit a local temple there. All in all, a must-do spot.

From Khajjiar, you can plan a half day trip to Chamba. Chamba is an ancient city and has a number of old temples. 
  • The Bhuri Singh museum make for a good visit and has sections showcasing the ancient literature, coins, paintings, etc of the region. It also has a number of old photos of the city which make for interesting viewing. 
  • The Laxmi Narayan Temple is the oldest and the largest temple in Chamba. 
  • The Chamunda Devi temple, dedicated to goddess Kali is beautifully located and provides great views of the majestic mountains and the Ravi river flowing by.

More photos below

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Dalhousie,India Hillstations,Incredible India,Travel to India,India Photos,Himachal Photos,Subhash Chowk
Went to Dalhousie in the first week of May. This was the second stop on our journey - the first being Dharamshala. The road from Dharamshala to Dalhousie was covered in 3 1/2 hours. (around 140 kms). We stayed at the Manimahesh Hotel operated by HPTDC. A review of the hotel can be found here. Bookings for the hotel can be done online here.The hotel is situated very near to the taxi stand from where you can plan your local site-seeing. There is a tourist information center here as well.

A 2-3 hour taxi tour covers all the sight seeing points that Dalhousie has to offer like Panch Pula, Saat Dhara and Subhash Bowli.The real fun, I feel, is in walking around Dalhousie. The walk from Subhash Chowk to Gandhi Chowk offers some great views.

Shopping can be done at the Tibetan Market situated near Gandhi Chowk. One can shop for mementos, trinkets, bags, handicrafts, etc. The prices though looked to be on the higher side.

People staying in Dalhousie, generally plan a trip Khajjiar. My suggestion is to plan a stay at Khajjiar. More on this in the next post.
Francis Church,Dalhousie,India Hillstations,Incredible India,Travel to India,India Photos,Himachal Photos,Subhash Chowk
Slightly longer tours from Dalhousie can cover the Chamera Lake which offers a variety of boating options, the Bhadrakali Temple which is one of the important local temples and the Rock Garden.

Dalhousie, Himachal Tourism, Himachal Photos, Incredible IndiaDalhousie, Himachal Tourism, Himachal Photos, Incredible IndiaDalhousie, Himachal Tourism, Himachal Photos, Incredible IndiaDalhousie, Himachal Tourism, Himachal Photos, Incredible India
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Dalhousie, Himachal Tourism, Himachal Photos, Incredible IndiaDalhousie, Himachal Tourism, Himachal Photos, Incredible IndiaDalhousie, Himachal Tourism, Himachal Photos, Incredible India

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kangra Fort

This is the largest fort in the Himalayas. This may be amongst the oldest as well. It finds mention in the war records of Alexander the Great. It is situated around 20 kilometers from Dharamshala. This is a well maintained fort. A well designed audio guide is available for visitors.

Kangra Fort, Himachal Tourism, Incredible India, Himachal Photos,

During the course of its history, it saw ferocious wars being fought with Mahmud of Ghazni, Jehangir, the Gurkhas, Maharaja Ranjit Singh and finally, the British. The British occupied the fort till 1905, when it was heavily damaged by an earthquake.

There is a Jain temple and a Laxmi Narayan Temple within the fort's precints. The Laxmi Narayan Temple was a beautifully carved temple. This was almost completely damaged in the earthquake of 1905. Only the back facade of the temple remains. But it does give an idea of what the grandeur of the temple would have been in better times. 

The fort provides some great views of the surrounding lush green valley and the Himalayan snow peaks in the distance.

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Monday, June 6, 2011


Dharamshala,India Hillstations,Incredible India,Travel to India,India Photos,Himachal Photos, Club Mahindra
With the summer around, and a week available with Club Mahindra, we decided to book its resort in Dharamshala in the first week of May. This was my first experience of Club Mahindra. I had heard a lot of good things about their hospitality, but was still pleasantly surprised when we experienced it. More on the resort review can be found here.

Kingfisher operates flight IT 4351 from Delhi to Gaggal. Club Mahindra resort is around 15 km from the airport. The weather in Dharamshala was hot. A slight drizzle on one of the days cooled down the place. 

McLeod Ganj is a short drive from Dharamshala. All the major site seeing spots are in McLeod Ganj. Located at a higher altitude, this was perceptibly cooler than Dharamshala. The Dalai Lama's residence is in McLeod Ganj. Other spots covered as part of local site seeing are the Bhagsu Falls and the St John in the Wilderness church.

There are a number of tours that can be planned out of Dharamshala. Spots covered include
  • Azhangar Mahadev Temple: Shiv mandir
  • Norbulingka Institute: The Norbulingka Institute was founded by the current Dalai Lama in order to preserve the Tibetan art and culture. The institute is a non profit organisation which provides training in Thangka paintings, metal work, wood carving etc. We asked a local official if someone can guide us around the institute. He pointed us to an official who took us around the institute and explained to us the various art forms being taught and the courses being offered. There is a store within the premises which sells Thangka paintings, etc. The proceeds for the same go towards the fees for its students.
  • Baijnath Temple: This is supposed to be one of the 12 jyotirlingas
  • Gopalpur Zoo: Very few animals here. Can give this a miss. Himalayan Black Bears can be seen here.
  • Tapovan: This is one of the important centers of Chinmay Mission. The samadhi of Swami Chinmayananda can be seen here. 
  • Vajreshwari Devi Temple: One of the Shakti Peeths 
  • Gyuto Monastery: This is one of the most famous Tibetan monasteries. It specializes in the study of Tantric meditation. 
  • Kangra Fort: This is said to be the oldest fort in the Himalayas. This has mention in Alexander the Great's war records.
  • Jwalamukhi Devi Temple: The temple is dedicated to the Goddess of Light. What is unique about this temple is that there is no idol in it. An eternally burning flame coming out of rock, is worshiped as a manifestation of the goddess.
  • Chintpurni Devi Temple: One of the Shakti Peeths. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Qutub Minar

On the recent trip to Dharamashala, I had a day's stop over in Delhi. We utilised this to see the Qutub Minar. This is one of the 3 UNESCO world heritage sites in Delhi. The other 2 being Humayun's tomb and the Red Fort.

This is the world's tallest brick minaret. The construction of this minaret was started by Qutb-ud-din Aibak who won Delhi from the Prithviraj under Muhammad of Ghori. It was subsequently extended by Iltutmish and Alauddin Khilji.

Qutub Minar,Travel Delhi,Incredible India,UNESCO World Heritage SiteIncredible India,Qutub Minar,UNESCO World Heritage Site,Visit Delhi,Visit India,Tomb of Iltutmish
Tomb of Iltutmish

The complex has a number things to see like the Ashoka Pillar, Tomb of Iltutmish, Tomb of Alauddin Khilji and the Alai Minar. The ASI has installed an audio guide system in this complex. It is available in multiple languages. Different places in the complex are marked with numbers. On pressing that number in the audio guide, you get the information for that particular place. This is a must-try for the visitors to the complex.

Qutub Minar,Delhi,Ashoka Pillar,UNESCO World Heritage Site,Incredible India

Other places of interest near this complex are the Jain Temple and the Lotus temple.
Jain Temple,Delhi,Incredible India,Visit India,India PhotosIncredible India,Lotus Temple,Visit Delhi,Visit India
Jain Temple
Lotus Temple

Sunday, February 13, 2011


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Lonar crater was created due to the impact of a meteor hitting the Earth. A huge salt water lake has been formed within the crater. There is a MTDC resort near the crater. This is an ideal option when planning to see the crater. Overnight stay and early morning trek into the crater would be ideal. The manager at MTDC resort arranged for a guide into the crater. Taking a guide along is a must unless you know the area. The guide took us down the crater to the lake's edge. On the way we saw a few old temples. Of note is the Daitya Sudan temple which has very beautiful carvings.

The lake water is alkaline in nature with a pH value of 11. The guide had brought along a litmus paper to display the alkalinity of the water. He also displayed the magnetic nature of the soil around the lake using the magnet that he had brought along.
The brochure that we bought on Lonar Lake mentions that it is a habitat for a number of birds and animals. Was able to see some ducks. The guide mentioned that Flamingos visit the crater in the months of Jan/Feb.

Lonar,Crater,Meteorite,Aurangabad,Incredible India,Visit India,India Photos,Travel To India

Lonar,Crater,Meteorite,Aurangabad,Incredible India,Visit India,India Photos,Travel To India

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More photos below....