Katarmal Sun Temple - Almora

Visit here is all joys and a curiosity that how such a mammoth construction took place at this place..

Lanes of Istanbul - Where civilizations merge

Being one of the oldest cities on this earth, Istanbul is a delight to history lovers...


A place which has been lying forbidden and disconnected from the mainland. Malana still follows their culture and traditions...

Temples at Batesara

Around 350 temples are estimated to have existed here. Excavation work is ongoing to restore temples of a lost era.

Murud Janjira Fort

In 15th century AD, this majestic structure was constructed inside the Arabian Sea to protect the kingdom from the pirates.


Untouched beauty, unbridled love, riot of colours the nature is here and how well the people add to it.

March 18, 2018

Malpe Fish Market

Around 2 km. from the Malpe beach is the Malpe Fish Market. Unlike not so known beaches of Malpe, this fish market is in fact one of the most important fishing port in not only Karnataka, but in India. With hundreds of boats parked at any time during the day the visit to Malpe Fish Market is not less than like a carnival for tourists as well as explorers like us.

This fishing harbour not only caters to state of Karnataka but is also a selling point for fishes arriving from the neighbouring States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The variety of fishes coming here is just amazing; with hundreds of thousands of local fish as well as squid, cuttlefish, shellfish and along with mackerels, sardines, prawns, crabs, lobsters, sharks, stingrays and practically whatever you want. 

There were tons and tons of fishes all around, and more were being continuously unloaded from the coming fishing boats.

Fishes are unloaded from the boats into the boxes, sprayed with fresh sea water and stored on ice for subsequent selling to interested buyers.

There are two systems to sell the fish here: one is on the basis of the number of boxes the buyer wants and the other is through an auction that takes place at the harbour itself. The fish is auctioned and sold on the spot to the highest bidder before the next lot of fish is unloaded.

Fishes were present everywhere. Being a strict non-eater of fishes, the smell of fishes was trying its level best to drive me out of this place. However, excitement of visiting the fish market for the first time in my life, kept me going. Nice surprise to see the ladies playing the prominent role in trading the fishes with buyers. At times we got a few critical looks from the women traders, probably they have judged that we are no-buyers of any type of fishes. You need to be very quick in order to buy fish for yourself as the auction finishes much before you may think of putting your bid.

Refrigerated trucks/ containers are always waiting for their turn to get loaded with the fresh fishes to supply throughout the country.

Next time whenever I will see a fish being served anywhere, probably I will recall this visit to Malpe Fish Market and the eco-system which starts from early morning to ensure non-stop supply of fresh fishes to all fish lovers.
Keep exploring Guys...

March 17, 2018

11 Best Things to do in Singapore

Singapore is a paradisiacal island loved by everyone who visits it. For those who haven’t seen it personally wish to visit there for its magnificent attractions. After all, how often do you see the rags to riches story come true for a country? An island country marred by invasions and tortures rose to become the world’s favourite travel destination all by the hard work of its people and their warmth, Singapore is every bit worth your travel bucket list.

While on your next trip to Singapore, here are the 11 best things to do you must experience.

1.       Take a tour of Tiong Bahru

The most happening hoods of Singapore, the Tiong Bahru is lined with row after row arts and decorative shop-houses. It is a residential estate crowded with some of Singapore’s best food and lifestyle establishments. You can also visit the heritage-rich places to know more about the cultural side of this island city. Filled with restaurants, bars and shop houses rest assured you are spoilt for choices here. Don’t forget to try chwee kueh (rice cakes steamed to perfection with preserved radish toppings) and lor mee (braised noodles), the specialities of Singapore.

2.      A Visit to the Marina Bay

No trip to Singapore is complete without visiting the majestic Marina Bay area. With the rise of Singapore to a cosmopolitan city-state, the Marina Bay has seen changes of gigantic proportions. The Marina Bay Sands- a $5.5 billion complex is the focal point of the bay with almost a world-record holding structure and grandeur. With amazing options such as the Science Museum, Casino, dining options, shopping and nightlife choices; there’s no way you should miss out on spending an enjoyable evening at the Marina Bay.

3.       Universal Studios Singapore

A one-of-a-kind theme park in the South-East Asia, Universal Studios Singapore, has more than 20 attractions in themed zones like the Hollywood, Ancient Egypt, Madagascar, New York, Far Far Away, and the Lost World. There are two water themed rides and five thrilling roller coaster rides to give your heart and adventurous pace. The glamourous world of movies, enchanting rides and slides, and the straight from the movie tale characters are there to offer you a time of your life. It is nothing you would have imagined and every bit perfect for the complete entertainment of your family.

4.      Singapore Night Safari

Take a trip to experience the journey of world’s best nocturnal animals at one-of-its-kind, The Singapore Night Safari. This nocturnal animal kingdom is not only a tourist haven but also a research and conservation centre in Asia. With more than 1000 animals and 59 exhibits, there’s plenty to keep everyone excitingly awake during the night tour. The nocturnal animals include one-horned rhinos, gazelles, Himalayan vultures, wilder beasts, jackals, hyenas, elephants and many more. The trip also includes a special Creatures of the Night show for your entertainment. With animals sourced from various parts of the world such as Asia, Europe, Africa, and America, this place is considered to be the most family friendly destinations in Asia.

5.      Relax in Sentosa

Sentosa is an island dedicated to extreme fun and entertainment for people across all ages. Sentosa has Universal Studios Singapore, SEA Aquarium, and Adventure Cove Park. If you want to feel adrenaline rush, enjoy The Flying Trapeze, iFly Singapore, and Mega Adventure. Don’t forget to enjoy the sandy shoreline of Palawan Beach at the southernmost tip of Continental Asia.

6.      Gardens By the Bay

This huge futuristic park in the bay area of Singapore is colourful and majestic. Take a stroll in the impressive skywalk offered by the famous tree structures to experience what natural may mean in the future. The sea-shell shaped green houses recreate the atmospheric condition of chilly mountain climate which allows a number of exotic species to grow and blossom. This place is the perfect mix of mother nature and the modern life of metropolis. The crowd favourite, Cloud Forest is 114-feet-tall and features a mini mountain and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

7.       Visit the beautiful Birds at Jurong Bird Park

A haven for bird watchers spread over 49 acres, Jurong bird park is at the highest point in the Jurong Hill. It includes an African waterfall with the largest Aviary that includes over 600 free flying birds of more than 50 species. There is a corner named as Dinosaur Descendants that includes all the flightless species of birds such as ostriches, Emus, cassowaries, and rheas. The Wings of Asia section has over 200 species of Southeast Asian birds that you can view and enjoy. At noon each day, a thunderstorm is simulated and is followed by a light drizzle to give the birds a natural environment. The ambient is made similar to rainforest and a special nectar mix is available for the visitors to offer to the lories. The Penguin Coast section is a house to penguin species such as Humboldt, macaroni, rockhopper and king penguins. You can also see cape shelducks and gulls.

8.      Go on a Shopping Spree at China Town

An iconic landmark of Singapore Chinatown is famous for shopping, and a feel of little China in Singapore. A perfect place for low-priced souvenirs, Chinatown is ideal for foodies too. With countless food hawkers and restaurants to choose from you are spoilt for choices in the Chinese cuisine. If you want to learn more about the history of Chinatown, visit the China Town Heritage Centre at the Pagoda Street. It will take you through the memory lane of how immigrants who migrated to China lived a hard life and were the main people who founded Singapore. Other famous attractions included the Thian Hock Keng Temple, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, and Maxwell Road Food Centre.

9.      Singapore Flyer

The Singapore Flyer is the one of the largest observation wheel in the world. It beats the London Flyer by over 100 feet and moves at a speed of 0.21 m per second. With a 360 degree panoramic view, the scenery from the top looks stunningly different during night and day. You can view the amazing  Raffles Place, Empress Place, Padang, Marina Bay and the Singapore River from this observation deck.

10.  Visit Little India

If you want a little piece of India during your visit to Singapore, go to the Little India. The authentic Indian cuisine served in the hole-in-the-wall restaurants gives you an idea of rich Indian food and culture. You can also visit temples, the bountiful Indian food markets and take part in the festivities that is a common routine throughout the year.

11.    Go to the Singapore Botanical Gardens

Initially, an unused plantation, the Singapore Botanical Garden is spread over an area of 60 acres and is the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. This garden played a significant role in developing agriculture in Singapore and the surrounding region. With more than 150 years of rich history, this garden is a part of the success story of Singapore. Scholarly Botanists and casual visitors can be seen in this garden throughout the year. As beautiful as it looks, the National Orchid Garden is famous for the wide variety of species and spectacular colors to help you relax your senses.

There can be an unending list of the best things to do in Singapore. There are backpackers living in the country since so many years and still don’t feel like leaving the place as they are still exploring it. Singapore is a place that grows on you and is definitely a worth visit for every traveller.

(Contributed by Neha Singh)

March 3, 2018

Trek to the Enchanted - Valley of Flowers

Valley of flowers, at a height of 3046 meters above sea level, lies in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand state. Challenging trekking route and spectacular beauty of the mystical valley has always tempted botanists, nature lovers, foreign tourists and adventure lovers. Valley boast off over 500 species of wild flowers of unparalleled appearance and fragrances.

Although the picturesque valley remains open to the world from June to October, but it’s great to visit the valley around June, July and August, when the flowers are in abundance. For rest of the year valley remains snow clad.

Journey to the valley starts from Haridwar, where you can easily hire a cab for your entire trip. Below is the entire itinerary in brief. 

1. Haridwar to Govindghat - Around 300 Kms
2. Start from Haridwar - Cab is recommended. Very less frequency of buses.
3. Route: Haridwar Rishikesh – Devprayag – Jayalgarh Srinagar – Rudaprayag – Karnaprayag – Nandaprayag – Chamoli – Pipalkoti – Joshimath – Vishnuprayag - Govindghat
4. Govindghat – (Motorable-4Km) – Poolna (Trek 10 km) – Ghangaria – Total 14 Kms
5. Split routes from Ghangaria for Valley of Flowers Trek and Hemkund Trek

Drive to Govindghat around 300 Kms, which would take 10 – 12 hours of time to reach depending on the road conditions, please expect land sliding at various points throughout the drive.

Go past the scenic Rudraprayag, which is one of the Panch Prayag of Alaknanda River, the point of confluence of rivers Alaknanda and Mandakini.

Mountain beauty is spectacular throughout the route.

Vishnuprayag, confluence of Alaknanda River and Dhauliganga River, will be the last prayag in this road trip and from here Govindghat is just 8 km. If you reach Govindghat in the evening, it’s recommended to stay for the night and start the trek next morning.
Plenty of hotels are there at Govindghat, apart from hotels you can also try staying at Gurudwara Sri Gobind Dham. In the morning take a cab from Govindghat and get down at Pulna, which is 4 km. away. From Pulna, the actual trek, of around 9 km., starts for Ghangria.

Trek with minimal luggage and expect to complete it in 4 to 5 hours. You will get refreshed and energized while trekking along with the mountains and river flowing.

Camping/ Hotel or Gurudwara – All three options are available at Ghangria to stay at. If you get a chance then see the documentary on valley of flowers, less than half an hour, shown by valley of flowers information centre there. Enjoy the hilly food at night and get ready for next morning to trek to valley.

Ticket window opens at 7 am in the morning and entry remains open till 12 in the noon. As you are not allowed to stay in the valley, it’s better to start the trek as early as possible.

No wonder valley of flowers in one of the best treks in India, walking through the mountains and along with the river streams.

As soon you have trekked around 2 km., beautiful valley opens up and you will simply be awestruck by the incomparable, exceptional beauty of the nature.

Some of the rare species of valley, which continuously attracts botanists, adventurists from all over the world.

Be aware of the prominent species found in the Valley of Flowers.

Meanwhile continue enjoying the heavenly landscapes and amazing Valley of Flowers weather.

Popular legends around the valley:
1.    After the battle of Mahabharata, while going to heaven, Pandavs saw extraordinary flowers around the river and Draupadi immediately wished to see the flowers, thereby visiting the entire valley.
2.     During the battle of Ramayana, Hanuman, great devotee of Lord Rama, brought Sanjeevni boon from this valley itself, there saving Laxman’s life.
Staying overnight in the valley is prohibited, so plan your day well and be back to Ghangaria at dusk. Below Map may of some help in planning your Valley of Flowers Trek.

Keep Travelling Guys.

February 13, 2018

A quick trip to Chennai

Revisiting the grandeur of Pallavas is a must when in the capital of Tamil Nadu.

Nature sometimes does love to show its humorous side. So, here I was trying to escape the chill of the north. A quick getaway to Chennai looked like a sign from heaven.
Being a light traveller though did attract a worried 'your luggage is very less for two days ma’m' from the chauffeur, little did I know that his concern would actually translate into one. Who would have imagined that otherwise much-dreaded heat and humidity of this city would choose to be a no-show just when desired! 

Just when I was reliving the childhood memories of the shores of Mahabalipuram, heavens decided to open. The accompanying winds were pleasant at first as they sang in tandem with the crashing waves, making it a perfect setting to appreciate the seventh-century Pancha Rathas or Five Rathas. A part of UNESCO World Heritage Site in Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, the monolithic rock-cut structures are also popular as Pandava Rathas. Despite no connection with Mahabharata or any religious significance as the structures never reached the sanctification stage, the five chariots are still named after the epic’s characters – Yudhishthira, Bhim, Arjuna, Nakul-Sehdev and Draupadi respectively.
While the Draupadi ratha resembles a hut, and the Nakul-Sehdev one being simple with little embellishments, the rest three are examples of architectural elegance. The Dharmaraja or Yudhishthira ratha and the Arjuna ratha are quite similar with four and three-tiered carvings on the roof respectively. The former is, however, the tallest one. The lion-mounted columns of the Bhima ratha, and its apsidal architecture is quite stunning. Though referred to as temples also, dedicated to Vishnu, Indra, Durga, Shiva, it is quite likely that their design reflects the wooden temple chariots of the Dravidian era.
The stand-alone elephant, meanwhile, is what makes you fall in love instantly. Called Gajaprishthakara, meaning elephant’s back, for that is what you see first as you enter the compound; it has to be the most perfectly-sculpted elephant you would have laid your eyes on. The bull, Nandi, besides Arjuna’s ratha, though a fine specimen, ends up looking like a poor cousin in comparison. And, you can definitely find many of his siblings at the Shore Temple, which gets its name from its location on the Coromandel shore overlooking the Bay of Bengal.
Standing pretty like an old guardian, more so with dark clouds up above and a drizzle adding to the aura, among the gardens and ancient courts, this Pallava dynasty structure is one of the oldest stone temples of South India. Though no longer a worshipped temple, it makes for magnificent background every year for Mahabalipuram Dance Festival which is held in the month of January-February. Also built under the rule of king Narasimhavarman II and a UNESCO World Heritage site, it stands on a 50 sq. feet. platform and rises 60 feet.
Marco Polo and the European merchants and seafarers called the site Seven Pagodas, one believed to be the Shore Temple, probably due to its pyramidal shape and multi-tiered carvings on the top. The 2004 tsunami not only exposed an old temple built entirely of granite blocks on the shore, it also renewed speculation about the seven pagodas, six of which were always thought to be submerged under the sea. Built of cut stones rather than carved out of one giant rock, Shore Temple is a complex of three temples housing shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and Vishnu, seen reclining on the Sheshnag in one of them. Then there is a carved stone panel, called Shivaskanda, in which you can see Shiva with goddess Parvati and their sons Vinayaka and Karthikeya. The legend has it that Indra had become so jealous of the splendour of this place that he flooded the area and submerged everything, with only few like Shore Temple having survived that.
It was only after hours that it dawned upon me that the dusk had quietly set in while I was admiring the way mere rocks and stones can take awe-inspiring shapes. More so when the lights from the vehicles create a light show for you at Arjuna’s Penance, an enormous stone carving on two boulders. While many believe that the relief shows Arjuna undertaking a penance to obtain a rare weapon, some think that it portrays the legend of the River Ganges’s descent to earth. Whatever the reasons, it is one of the most beautifully-carved structures at Mahabalipuram.
By then wet feet and clothes were making me shiver a bit; quite uncharacteristic of Chennai. The nature, however, didn’t stop at that. It was only after it drenched me more than a couple of times due to sudden showers in the next few hours that it finally stopped it antics and left me with a dry pair for the journey back.
Travel Diaries editor Garima Verma was hosted by AccorHotels.
The French Hospitality brand recently added Novotel-Ibis combo property, on Chennai’s Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR), also known as the IT hub, to its long list of properties in the country. Novotel, the upper midscale brand of AccorHotels has 153 rooms while economy ibis has 189 rooms, giving the guests a wonderful mix of four-star and three-star to choose from. Their food is another major attraction apart from the cosy rooms and various amenities. With the launch of this property AccorHotels now has 53 properties in India divided among its 10 brands.

While Novotel has a corporate touch to it, the ibis seems more youthful with its bright décor (and, the common ice dispenser and ironing board on each floor). And, for the ones who make their what-to-eat list for every journey, Novotel’s casual dining restaurant, The Square, is quite a delightful place. With both international and regional flavours on offer, it tickles and then well satiates your tastebuds. The live cooking stations help you put on the thinking hat of a chef and experiment. The dessert bar is an absolute not-to-be-missed, because if you do the appetizing display of flavours and colours (check the picture below) might give you sleepless moments.

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February 8, 2018

Govardhan: Where Lord Krishna played

The 21km parikrama of the hill is both spiritual and a test of fitness.

After a month of climbing hills and walking a lot in the Northeast, I was quite confident of acing the parikrama with flying colours. The locals, however, were not too sure of us city-dwelling folks aiming at completing the whole round in one go.
So, as a few of them advised to perform the parikrama in two parts, self-doubt set in. The smaller part of the parikrama is 9 km (popularly called choti parikrama); the husband and I decided to accomplish it first. A km into the trail, we could make out that all the people performing the parikrama were barefoot. Quite a dilemma for us that was. Carrying a bit of guilt in our hearts we asked an elderly gentleman if it was okay to wear shoes. “Beta, bas bhaav hona chahiye mann mein, kaise bhi laga lo (your heart should have the feelings for the Lord, that is all that matters),” he said. And, isn’t that is all that should really matter?

As we traversed through various settings, from the woods on one side of the path and open lands on another, to houses lining both sides of narrow lanes, the colours and confluence of so many believers just amazed us. The bright red of vermillion being sold on the carts, multi-hued dresses for ladoo-gopalji in every other shop, the ramshackle buildings still hinting at that lost glory and architecture or the big and small temples all through, it is a treasure trove for curious minds and excited hands at the camera.

Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu temple, Uddhav Kund, Radha Kund, Mansi Ganga and Kusum Sarovar are must-visit. Built in red sandstone, the temple has wonderful carving and reflects the life of the spiritual leader who not only popularised chanting of Hare Krishna but also located the lost holy places associated with Lord Krishna.

While quite a many stoppages meant a little delay, still we could finish the 9km goal in 3.5 hours. Feeling glad, we then treated ourselves to a round of chaat, crispy golgappas and the husband’s favourite kulhad chai and hot dry-fruit milk. We were more than excited to take on the bigger (badi parikrama) the next morning.

An early and quick breakfast (make sure never to fill up your tummy too much as you might feel sluggish) coupled with lovely sun made sure we were in the best of spirits to tread the spiritual path and even check on our fitness level. Unlike the choti parikrama, this one is not so full of wonderful distractions and has a broad road and a walkway on the side all along to aid your speed.

The Govardhan Hill, though not very high and at some spots quite low in height, however, is visible only in this part of the full parikrama. The legend has it once Pulastya Muni came upon Govardhan Hill in the Himalayas. He requested Giriraj’s father Dronachala to let him carry the beautiful mountain to Varanasi. While Dronachala gave his permission with a heavy heart, Govardhan made a condition that, “I will go with you, but wherever you place me to the ground, I will not move from there.” As Pulastya Muni was passing by Braj Bhumi, he got an urge to respond to the call of nature. Thus he had to place Govardhan down. He tried with all his strength, but Govardhan would not move. He became very upset and he cursed Govardhan that, “Everyday you will reduce in size equal to that of a mustard seed”.
Hence, the hill that was miles and miles high, reduced to a size where Lord Krishna was able to perform his pastimes easily. He even famously lifted Govardhan once for days at end to protect his fellow villagers from the wrath of Indra. Now its highest point is just about 80 feet.

A tale of two states, as the bigger parikrama goes from Uttar Pradesh to Rajasthan and back, its main attraction is Poochri Ka Lautha and Daan Ghaati Temple at the end where you can thank the Lord for giving you a chance to be at this holy place and offer prasad
When the saints told us the day happened to be amavasya, considered auspicious to perform parikrama, it felt as if the things were meant to be in a divine way. And when we saw a lot of people performing the tough dandavat, we promised ourselves that next time we could at least try to walk barefoot. Dandavat parikrama, which can take days, weeks or even months, is performed by standing in one spot, offering prayers by lying flat on the ground. One then places a stone where the fingertips touched the ground in order to mark the spot, the routine repeated for every stone, the number of which can go up to 108. Standing up, one moves to the stone marker and again offers the prayers. When it’s time to call it a day, one has to retreat to a place to rest and start from the same spot the next day. Sounds like an unachievable feat, but as they say, if you have faith, the will surely finds a way to your heart. And, we saw many examples right there.

Travel Diaries editor Garima Verma was hosted by Shri Radha Brij Vasundhara Resort & Spa.
Located within the first two km of the bigger (12-km) parikrama, the property is spread in an area of 26 acres. Boasting of a wonderful location with landscaped gardens and cottages, it indeed has the potential to become the top option for stay in the region. It is, however, issues like cleanliness and service that leave a lot to be desired.

As understood, the resort is quite a hit for weddings and family functions. For those visiting for complete relaxation and calm, that could be a problem since wandering guests in such functions tend to forget their room number a bit too often. And, waking up in the middle of night to see confused faces would not be anyone’s idea of vacation.

The food is always worth the wait and would make you come back for more. Almost every preparation on the menu (even if you sometimes may not find everything available), be it the delectable paneer tikka masala that goes so well with the khasta roti, Gujarati poha in the breakfast or dum aloo, are soul-satisfying.

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