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..

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tso Moriri and Tso Kar

Day 6 & 7 - Pangong Tso

Day 8 - Leh - Tso Moriri

Well, today was the day to start for another expedition..Tso Moriri, (official name Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve), a lake at an altitude of 15000 + feet at a distance of 240 Kms from Leh towards south east. It is considered to be one of the best lakes in India and there is lot of discussion on net amongst tourist making comparison of Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri. We were waiting for our own judgment. We planned our journey as Leh-Karu-Upshi-Chumthang-Mahe-Korzok. Korzok is the small hamlet on the banks of Tso Moriri. Estimated travel time was 6 hours without break, so we started early at 8.00 AM.

Indus .
First 36 Kms leg of travel is same as that goes to Pangong Tso. 13 Kms ahead and you are at Upshi from where you can drive straight to Manali or take left turn for Chumthang/Mahe. And from here the totally different landscape starts. While the journeys to Nubra Valley and Pangong Tso were marked by uphill drive passing through passes, this aint have any pass on this route ! And Indus River would accompany you for the next stretch of 130 KMS till Mahe bridge. Travelling right through the valley by the side of Indus has its own panoramas to offer you. You just go on enjoying those breathtaking views, stop wherever you want. 

Bridge on river Indus.

You would come across very few settlements and couple of army posts en route. We stopped at Chumthang to see the hot water springs which are supposed to be very near to the riverbed. But there wasn’t any..Inquired to the army soldier, he showed one place and said wait for 10 minutes, it would come up !!!  And it did to our shocking surprise. The magic continued for another 10-15 minutes and vanished suddenly leaving the place dry as if nothing has happened. The kind soldier also showed as 2-3 other small hot water springs.
After pending an hour or so, we left ahead, drove till Mahe bridge from where took right turn for Tso Moriri which was 60 Kms from here. Indus would leave your company now and you embark on a different terrain, Changthang plateau..the place of nomadic Chungpas. Road conditions were not so good, we continued. After 40 Kms of drive, we came across this small lake called Tso Kiagar, a salt water lake.

Tso Kiagar

20 Kms further and we were to the destination. At army check post, you have to submit your permit documents before you proceed towards the lake. It was about 4 pm and was cloudy, so lake wasn’t showing its charming blue colors. But the snow capped mountain on the backdrop, though partly covered with clouds, was adding to the beauty of the lake. I could imagine how beautiful it would be on a clear day. Hoping to its serene view next day, we checked in into the tents and had a walk in the town. Shore of the lake wasn’t very near for a quick walk. For environmental consideration, the lake is fenced and all settlements and tents are bit away from the lake. The lake was very much visible from the tents and spent that evening shades of lake in twilight.  

Tso Moriri

Day 9 - Tso Moriri - Tso Kar

With a very hope of seeing clear sky day, left for the shores early morning. After a walk of 20 minutes, we were there. Mother nature was however not very favorable. It wasn’t very cloudy but wasn’t clear sky either. Spent 4 hours wandering here there at leisurely pace, a really really calm place. Forgot that I was looking for clear skies :-) As seen in pictures, the lake seems wonderful on a clear day with dark blue colors and snow capped mountains on its backdrop. It has its own beauty, no sense in comparing with Pangong Tso. Whether you see it on clear day or not, it is worth visiting. It was proud to see that the tented camps, The Nomad Camps, is run by a nomad woman using laptop for management, booking confirmation etc. !.

Tso Kar

Common Hoopoe
At around 12, we left for Tso Kar. Tso Kar is around 60 Kms from Tso Morori in Rupshu valley. On the way, we could see a couple of temporary settlements of nomadic Chungpas along with their Yaks and Pashima goats. The journey was mostly on plains. Soon we were able to see the lake. It isn’t that beautiful as other famous lakes. It is known as White Lake due to immense nature of salt that gets deposited on the banks of it. We could smell the salty air. We couldn’t drive to the shores, so took a walk of 15 minutes to reach there. Tested the water, it was too much salty ! Legend is that the lake was almost double its current size but got shortened after the earthquake. The place is actually favorite amongst bird lovers. Marshlands surrounding the lake has given shelter to various species of the birds. We were able to spot Common Hoopoe, Brown headed Gull, bar headed goose and amazing black necked crane among others. You can surely spot Kiang (wild ass) in numbers in Tso Kar. Spent rest of the day watching lake and birds around.

Day 10 - Tso Kar - Hemis - Leh

Himalayan Marrot
Spent the early morning on the shores of lake watching birds, Kiang etc and started return journey. We chose different return route i.e. Tso Kar – Debring-Moore Plains – Tanglang La – Upshi-Hemis-Leh. From Tso Kar to Debring, you would come across various birds. Debris is the place which is on Manali-Leh highway on Moore Plains. Moore plains is basically a vast plains of around 50 Kms in length. To enjoy its full beauty, one must travel from Manali to Leh on bike. On this route, you will cross another pass, Tanglang La at an altitude of 17480 feet. This was the third highest pass in Ladakh we were crossing !
At 3.00 PM reached Hemis Gompa, considered to be the richest and most famous monastery in Ladakh. Allow at least 3-4 hours to visit the monastery. Copper statue of Buddha and Museum is a must see in this gompa. Museum has lot of antiques on display and the collection keeps on changing as this monastery has vast collection of it.
We stayed late to see the prayers of the monks and left for Leh. Next day was rest and then return journey, but surely with a wish to visit it again.

Inside Hemis Gompa

Links :

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Singpore - the Lion Country

"SINGAPORE" OR "Sin-ga-pura" in Sanskrit meaning the Lion City and so the Lion head symbol "MERLION"

Had planned to visit this beautiful Country in 2006 October but probably was not destined then ...After 6 years we chose the best time of the year to visit this LION COUNTRY ... The December of 2012 ..just before the Christmas Eve

This is the peak season but I chose as it is also the season of deals

My 4 year daughter was so excited with just the thought of sitting in the plane ... but we were curious as she had traveled on a plane as a baby but not as a kid so was unsure if she would get motion sickness or something similar..but all went superb .. kids have there way of adjusting she just avoided eating anything and we did not force.. :)

Guys this writing is for those with family  and not for honeymooner or couple as they might want choose more interesting attractions in Singapore like the Clarke Quay, a romantic candle lit dinner in the cable car from Harbor Front to Sentosa

Perils/threat of reaching Singapore hotel early during peak time popped it's head .. we did not get an early check in , our hotel was full and visitor staying in our room had not checked out .. and we had now 4 hours to spend

Leaving our bags to the reception care we hit the Singapore roads.

Main criteria while looking for hotel was proximity to MRT and in no time we were in front of Farrer Park train station. Our hotel was located at 270, Jalan Besar. We were happy about this fact that we chose the right hotel.

Tired from the flight .. our scanner started looking for restaurant names that would give us our "INDIANISED MASALA TEA" AND our eyes rested on MUSTAFA CAFE. Straight into the cafe the order flew 2 masala tea and 2 bournvita.
After refreshments we spent some time at the Mustafa centre,Farrer Park Station(gathering info) had lunch.
Strolled the Syed Alwi Road,Kitchner road before checking into our hotel. This locality was very very close to Little India. Restaurants for all tastes have their presence. This area is very very busy during evenings.

Back in our rooms we slept for a couple of hours and started tour-de-Singapore.

I kept my plans floating as there was a dependency on how kids adapt to the weather,water food change

 After taking a couple of hours rest we got ready and decided to reach the city hall train station and spend the evening walking around. Instead of taking the train we took the bus from  our hotel. Cost us $3 (4 of us) to reach City Hall train station.
City Hall area is so much like South Bombay with all the office-goers, commercial buildings, the CBD area.
Standing there I could see the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Buildings. So we all started walking in that direction and found ourselves besides the Merlion .. a big tourist attraction. We all tourists were doing the same thing ... capturing the moments in different form and formats. One thing I like to do , observe different gadgets and if i see something interesting, I do not stop myself from taking it's review from that user. From the Merlion we walked all our way to the Marina Bay Stands. It was long beautiful stretch with bay on one side and huge tall concrete structures on the other side. We met a friend there , had dinner at the food court. I had Laksa.. I just loved it..!!!

   Universal Studios 
Jurong Bird Park
   Night Safari
Google Information center would  give all the information one would need to know about the above attractions.I gave one day to each of the attraction as kids would get overly tired and my son wanted to board every ride.

Few interesting things that might be of use to you.

  • If you are going to take the train tickets , the MRT refunds you $1 from your ticket when you reach the destination. So if you are going from Farrer park to Harbour front station, the ticket cost is $2.70 per adult and $1 will be refunded by returning the ticket at Harbour Front.
  • If your kid is below a particular height(3feet) irrespective of age.. the kid can travel free of cost.
  • You get two day pass at train station for Universal Studios / Sentosa Attraction. If one of those days is a weekend, cable car ride  to Sentosa Island is included. 17 rides on Sentosa are free. Ofcourse do not expect star attractions to be included.   (Underwater World/Songs of the Sea)
  • Buses do not refund if you pay in excess of fare, I donated $1SGD.
  • The Souvenirs that you get all the attractions are expensive .. i found same stuff at Mustafa to be heaper.
  • Keep One full day each Universal Studios/Sentosa/bird park / zoo. 
  • Carry a stroller or you can rent one at each of the attractions.
  • Carry raincoats
  • For Sentosa carry your swim wear, Ports Of Lost World is simply superb for kids. Kids play on the water slides and you can enjoy nice chilled beer or wine
  • Teleivision Sets are extremely cheap here (as compared to India) ...I noticed so many people check in TV sets at the airport.
  • Avail of GST return before you board your flight back home
  • Your Singapore is pretty useful app for your mobile while you are planning your trip as well as when your are in Singapore 
  • We could carry dry India snacks without any hassle. Instant source of energy for kids.
  • Dolphin Show at Underwarter World, High flyer Show,Lori's Loft at Juron Bird park were pretty impressive, Song of the Seas,Sky luge, Segway Butterfly Kingdom at Sentosa are good to be on the top of your wish list for Singapore.

I'll end here with the hope that readers find this article informative.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Andaman Travel Guide...

Hotel : SeaShell Portblair..

I booked a total tour package 9 days at seashell .. both PB and Havelock..

The hotel in PB is at a good location provided you are taking the Deluxe Sea View rooms.. I suppose those are the only rooms from where you can get the awesome view of the ocean..

The staff over there is courteous but but but they are very very slow.. If you order something to the room, they might take an hour or even "forget" to send it up..


Check if you are going in the offseason.. if thats the case then you can always ask for discounts..
I was not offered a single penny discount as I was there during the peak season 25th dec to 1st jan..
The only complimentary stuff that they offer to a couple is a "candle light dinner" at havelock..

Are you going to Havelock also?

Havelock is great place to be..
Seashell Havelock is also an amazing place to stay at..
The view from the hotel is awesome.. there is kind of a private beach that every hotel there has..
the only problem they have is, they dont have geysers and so you wont get hot water for bathing..

Travel -
I had a tour package with the hotel itself and it cost me a lot for travel. There are other modes of transport, like taxis and rickshaws at Portblair.. At Havelock one would also get bikes on rent..

Sightseeing the most important part :

In PB -

1. dont miss the Cellular Jail..
2. Go to Wandoor (Gandhi Marine National Park) also called Jolly buoy..
3. I would say you can skip Samudrika and Anthropological museum without even thinking.. this is if you are not interested in seeing the museums..
4. Carbyns Cove beach..
5. Ross Island/NorthBay/Viper Island - there is a tour boat which takes you to all three in a days time..
6. Chidiya Tapu - for the beautiful sunset and the biological park..

In Havelock -

1. Radhanagar beach.. Around 20kms road travel from seashell havelock..
There are no water activities here.. but the beach is one of the amazing beaches i have seen till now.. You can spend around 2-3 hours in the morning here.. Then you can do something else for the remaining time..

2. Elephant Beach.. Boat ride takes you there..
-- You can do snorkelling (costs Rs.200)
-- Glass Bottom Boat ride (costs Rs.200) -- avoidable..
-- Speed boat ride (costs around 300 or so)
3. Scuba diving - If you dont do this in Havelock then you have missed a lot..

-- I booked my scuba through Barefoot resort. Costs Rs.4000/- for a fun dive.. but its worth every penny.. and oh yes, you DONT need to know swimming for this..

You can add Neil Island to the itinerary.. I couldnt..

Important Tips :

1. Carry Umbrella.. It can rain anytime there.. Or a raincoat..
2. Carry Odomos..
3. Some basic medicines, ask your doctor and carry them along with you.. as medical assistance is very limited..
4. Carry Electral/Glucon-D just in case, PB/Havelock have some other brands ..

Adding my itinerary just for reference :
Day I:>> Pick up from Airport.
:>> Visit to Carbyn's Cove Beach.
:>> Light & Sound & Sound Show.

Day II:>>Depart to Havelock. -- ferry (Makruzz) at 8.45am.. reaches havelock at 10.30am..
:>> Snorkeling at Elephant Beach.
:>> Mangrove Dinghy Ride.

Day III:>> Scuba Diving @ 4000/- per pax.. happens early in the morning..

Day IV:>> Trip to Radhanagar Beach
:>> Evening - Country Fishing.

Day V :>> Return from Havelock By Makruzz. 3.45pm is the timing.. so you have the whole morning for doing sightseeing.. but the checkout at seashell is 11am..

:>> Check in at Sea Shell, Port Blair.

Day VI(29/12/10):>> City Tour( museums & cellular Jail) -- skip museums.. arent worth even a penny..

Day VII(30/12/10):>> Visit to Three Island.

Day VIII(31/12/10):>> Trip to Wandoor. (Jolly buoy)
:>> Visit to Chiriya Tapu & Shopping

Checkout from PB seashell is at 7.00am.. So check at what time you have the flight and let them know in advance if you would need to stay back for more time..

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Vrindavan, Mathura & Govardhan

Sewa Kunj, Vrindavan

We started our tour with a visit to one of the most important religious places for Hindus - Krishna Janmasthan. Mathura, Vrindavan & Govardhan are places where Krishna spent his childhood and these places find mention in various stories related to his childhood and youth. Mathura is around 150 km from Delhi. It took us around 3 hours by road to reach Vrindavan (which is around 7 kms from Mathura). 

Vrindavan was the site of a forest where lord Krishna is believed to have performed his Ras Lila with Radha and the other gopis. The forest cover not longer exists. Sewa Kunj still has a patch of forest where Krishna and Radha still perform the Ras Lila. A temple room is prepared daily for the divine couple to rest. The Banke Bihari temple is the most popular temple in Vrindavan. The idol in the temple was found by Swami Haridas (who was the guru of the famous 'navratna', Tansen).

During the reign of Akbar, the ban on building new temples or reconstruction of temples destroyed by the Mughals was lifted. The construction of the 7 storey Govind Dev temple was undertaken by Raja Man Singh during this time. Post Akbar, the ban was re-imposed and the Govind Dev temple could not be completed.

From here we continued on to Mathura where we had planned our overnight stay. We stayed at Hotel Brijwasi Royal. You can find the review of the hotel here.

First stop was the Keshav Dev Temple, the birthplace of Lord Krishna. It is a huge complex that is very well maintained and one can sense a spiritual atmosphere within the premises. There is high security for entry to the temple. No bags/phones are allowed. These need to be deposited at a counter near the entrance.

Aurangazeb destroyed the Keshav Dev temple and built a mosque in its place. The place was won over by the rulers of Bharatpur and was later passed on to the Marathas. The Marathas built the shrine which shares its walls with the mosque. It is built under ground in such a way that one gets the sense that he/she is entering a prison cell.

Next stop was the Dwarkadhish Temple. The way to the temple is through small alleyways. One needs to either walk or take a cycle rickshaw to reach the temple. The temple has a very beautiful statue of Krishna. It is a beautiful temple with intricate carvings and beautiful paintings. This temple draws huge crowds during the holi festival. This temple is featured in one of the episodes of the BBC documentary,"The Story of India".

From here we went to the banks of the Yamuna. We took a boat ride along the river. One can visit the Vishram Ghat. This is the place where Krishna is believed to have rested after killing Kansa.
mathura, vishram ghat,

From here we proceeded to Govardhan which is around 32 km from Mathura. This is the location of the story of Krishna in which he saved the people of the village from the wrath of Indra by lifting the Govardhan mountain. In addition to the temple of Krishna, the 21 km 'Parikrama' of Govardhan is considered to be very important.

Some photos below..