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LALITGIRI - The Pilgrimage from Ancient History!

Flourished under the patronage of legendary king Ashoka, the kingdoms of Magadh and Kalinga became important centers from where Buddhism spread to the outside world. Present day areas of Bihar-Jharkhand used to be the kingdom of Magadh and parts of Odisha-Andhra Pradesh composed Kalinga kingdom. At their peak these places were often referred as most prosperous regions on the earth and were full of amazing temples and universities imparting ancient Indian knowledge. However, with passage of time dust accumulated on these sites and these places gradually faded out from the eye of common people. In fact, many got buried with layers of earth and since then have been waiting to get resurfaced in future.

With the development coming to these areas, many of these extinct places are coming to life. One of the such places I came to know during one of my visit to this part with lots and lots of things to discover was Lalitgiri. Lalitgiri is situated at a distance of 10 kilometers beyond the River Virupa in Cuttack district, about 90 kilometers from Bhubaneswar which is the capital of Odisha state.
Excavations in this region have indicated towards existence of very ancient Buddhist complex. With the discovery of Lalitgiri, and stitching together the chronology of event with iconographical similarities, the timeline of Lalitgiri goes back to the 2nd century BC. Based on this, Lalitgiri can be safely considered as one of the most ancient Buddhist establishments. So I was about to walk into one of the lost chapters in our history, with due excitement. 

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Trek to Laxman Temple/ Hemkund Sahib

Laxman Temple/Hemkund Sahib, at a height of 4300 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.

This is the place where Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of Sikh community, did intense meditation to please Lord Brahma. Please by the austerity Lord Brahma commanded Guru Gobind Singh Ji to take birth in Kal-Yuga in order to kill demons and protect holy people. Undoubtedly, the Hemkund Trek is a steep challenging trek and you will often hear from the locals there that – “Mountains are for FIT not FAT”. You trek from 9,600 ft to 15,000 ft in just 6 Kms and that’s what makes it a tough trek.

Place remains open to the world from June to October and for rest of the year it remains snow clad.

Journey to the Hemkund 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 Hemkund Trek and Valley of Flowers 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.


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Modern Stylish Tallboy - Hyundai All New Santro

Way back in the 1990's a relatively unknown name from South Korea entered the Indian car market and dared to compete with well established Maurti, Ambassador and Tata. It was the time, when compact/ small car buyers were accustomed to small engines and a features deficit product. It was then, Hyundai introduced the Santro, which claimed to offer superior technology, features, space and interior quality, that were often neglected or better unheard till then. Most important Santro offered "Power Steering" as standard fitment and made driving a comfortable affair.

Very soon Santro was the preferred choice for Indian Car buyers and changed the dynamics of Indian Automobile Sector. Sales figures are sufficient enough to indicate the magic Santro left on its proud owners. 
  • From 58,646 in 1999, sales figure reached to 65,515 in 2000. 
  • Trust and excitement continued with average sales nearing 1 Lac per year over the next decade. 
  • November 2006 - Santro crosses 10 Lac sales in eight years.
Despite high demand, Santro was discontinued in 2015 after 16 years of love affair with Indian Roads. It was a heart break moment for numerous Car Lovers across the country, however the memories never left the Indian Car Buyers. 

23rd October 2018 was the day when Santro made a comeback to rule the Indian roads. At a Grand launch ceremony attended by Shahrukh Khan, Media and leading Bloggers from India, curtains were pulled off from "All New Santro". 
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Day out in Beijing

Beijing, capital city of China is one of the ancient cities on Earth with more than 3,000 years of recorded history. Evidence of human ancestry dating back to 700,000 years ago has been found in the southwest part of Beijing, where the remains known as 'Peking Man' were found.
Amidst one of the tightly packed trip to Beijing got some time to check out the City of Beijing. Landing in Beijing at 1:00 PM, had no option but to run wherever I could have in the available one half of the day.
As I always say, best plans should be kept in the earlier part of the program. So to explore Beijing attractions, I dumped the luggage in hotel room, took the Metro/ Subway map in my hand and started to “Tiananmen Square”. Tiananmen Square is one of the most popular and renowned spot around the world. There is no tourist who comes to China, leaves without a visit to this place. 

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On Nainital and Mukteshwar: A Lake, Deodars and Maple Leaves - part 2 of 2

We left for Mukteshwar at around 11 AM. Somehow it got cloudy again and the roads got under thick white mist. It took a while to drive out of the town since there were many people on the road. Soon it started to drizzle and it felt good. Mukteshwar is at a height of about 7200 ft and is right in the middle of Banj Oak and Deodar forests. The forest is evergreen and mostly covered in mist. You can see that green moss and lichens have taken over the whole forest since it rains here almost every day, even in summer. 


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On Nainital and Mukteshwar: A Lake, Deodars and Maple Leaves - part 1 of 2

We left home while it was still dark. Dark clouds were high up but it was not going to rain. The morning was warm and there was no wind. I woke up at 4 and was out on the road by 5 AM. The drive started pretty smooth and we were in Haridwar by 6:30 AM. The road is mostly wide with little traffic in the morning. The most interesting and exciting thing about this route is that it runs through Elephant corridors. The area has a large population of deer, wild elephant and leopards. You can see roadside signs with jumping deer, crossing leopards and elephants.
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Shri Krauncha Giri, Kumar Swamy Temple - Discovery of Chalukya Legacy

Whether you are travelling on the road or off the road, you are never far off from a wonderful Offbeat Spot. Such is the beauty of Land called India. 

The era of Vijayanagara empire has been often called as the most prosperous region ever to have happened, on this earth. Other than the majestic Hampi Kingdom, this region also has some impressive monuments which are yet to be explored. While meandering in this region came to know about a panoramic temple on Krauncha Giri (Giri means Hill in hindi language), somewhere nearby.
Search for that exclusive temple took me to the Swamimalai Forest Range, wherein lies the legendary Krauncha Giri mountain. I had no idea that I was going to walk into a legendary chapter of our Mythology. Legendary…? 

Located 10 km away from Sandur in Bellary district, this mountain is the site of the famous Kumar Swamy temple (also spelled as Kumaraswamy/ Kumaraswami). The  Kumar Swamy Temple complex consists of 2 temples dedicated to Lord Karthikeya and Goddess Parvati (Mother of Lord Karthikeya). Lush green mountains in the backdrop make a perfect canvas for this temple.

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Hawaii for the First Timers: How to Plan the Perfect Getaway


It is only plausible that you have kept Hawaii in your list of must-visit destinations for quite some time, because duh! It’s Hawaii! It has been a dream destination for all of us 90’s kids who have grown up watching every favourite character on television or films going to Hawaii for a dream vacation, relaxing in the beach, indulging in a fair share of water sports and enjoying the Hawaiian coastal weather to the fullest.
However, whenever these characters used to visit the beaches it was given that they know their way around, putting up at the best of places, enjoying the best of cuisines and making the most out of a short trip in general (Cinematic Liberty anyone?). The scenario IS possible though, given that there aren’t many places in Hawaii where you would be completely disappointed with the experience but the truth is that Hawaii has a lot to offer in terms of its islands. Each of the islands has its distinctive culture and diverse things to offer to a person who is visiting for the first time.
Though accommodation is seldom a problem with comfortable Hawaii rentals available at affordable prices with stunning views (since every place in Hawaii is a breathtaking locale in its own) and each morsel of the Hawaiian cuisine is delectable, the true challenge when visiting Hawaii for the first time is deciding which all places to visit and more importantly which places to leave out.  The most popular destinations, namely, the Big Island, Maui, Kauai and Molokai, each with a completely different set of characteristics, different flavours and different things in store for people who visit them. Confused? Don’t worry, we have come up with a list that you can consider as your guide if you are visiting Hawaii for the first time.

Visit O’ahu for the Best of Good Times and Good Life: 
Does a vacation for you truly equate to the most relaxing time of the year? Then no questions asked, O’ahu is your pick of the trip. O’ahu has got the best of the beaches, food and culture to offer. Almost 75 per cent of the native people call ‘the Gathering place’ their home. The city is crowded in general and it might look a bit too crowded at the bus stations or at the sidewalks since it is here that the all the amenities of a city life can be enjoyed, but beautiful beaches and amazing forest hike trails are just a few miles away, if you are looking for a quick and tranquil getaway. Not to mention the historical museums that you might catch a sight of while putting up here.
Another one of the major attractions of O’ahu is the amazing food that is available here. All of Hawaii’s A-list chefs with their A-list preparations have chosen O’ahu as their base, and fusion menus find their own, sweet way into your tables. Not only that, there are food trucks spotted and the Farmers Island Market in here at O’ahu and if a trip for you translates into passing out into a food coma, then this is the place for you. 

Go on an Adventure Tour in the Big Islands:
If you want your fair share of adrenaline pumping activities, then you must make your itinerary keeping the Big Islands as your focal point. Hawaii is technically a volcanic archipelago and some say, in spite of the multicoloured sand beaches and the impressive lush forest ranges present, the main attraction of Hawaii is the lava tour you get to experience here. Kilauea in Hawaii is the world’s most active volcano and for hikers, it is a dream come true to travel through the barren surroundings of the volcanic mountain. You can even spot volcanic eruptions, hot and slick lava and other dried up remains that will make your hike a thrilling experience.
Emerald valleys, ice cold waterfalls merging into pools, lava flows colliding against lush rainforests and the loftiest summits are the things these places are made up off. Also, extra points if you are a wildlife lover because the Big Islands is the place where you can spot spinner dolphins and sea turtles along with some awe-inspiring coral gardens that are packed with vibrant coloured fish. However, the best rare animal spotting can be done in the winters, where you can catch a glimpse of the humpback whale in all its glory. 

Surf and Surf in Maui:
For some of us, beaches mean endlessly indulging in water sports. It is a truly rejuvenating experience when you can let go and become a total water baby. Maui provides you with that opportunity. Surf and surf in the well diminutive waters of the Maui and experience an adrenaline rush like never before. There are a lot of surfing schools which help you train so that your surfing experience is safe and sound. Apart from that, Maui like O’ahu offers you a good eating experience too. Maui is home to a lot of upcountry pastures where the beef is grass-fed and thus you can have a meaty affair to remember for your lifetime. Apart from that, Maui also provides you with an opportunity to hike with the bamboo forest and lofty ridgetops. 
Though there are a lot of other places you could very well visit in Hawaii, these places form the crux of the Hawaiian heaven. The choice of your places also completely depends on your choices as an individual and what you are looking to get out of a trip. However, rest assured, you can never be disappointed when you visit the Aloha state. 

So lets pack your bags and book your tickets to Hawaii.  

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Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, Alwar

1.      One Man who brought the Rolls Royce company to its knees and
2.      One of most haunted place in the world.
What is the relation?
The man was King Jai Singh, who bought entire available fleet of Rolls Royce (6 cars) on one day in year 1920 and ordered the municipality to use the Rolls Royce cars for garbage collection at his kingdom. Those were the times when Rolls Royce were used to sweep the streets in India.
The haunted place is “Bhangarh Fort” where entry before sunrise and after sunset is prohibited by law. Still not making sense. Let’s add one more point in the list;
3.      A temple dating back to the time of Mahabharata, that is approx. 5000 years back.

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7 destinations in Europe that will make you go OMG

Who is to ask if you want to spend your evening sipping tasty wine at Florence, catch some opera action at Vienna, or say, just settle for a high-tea in Liverpool? With so many lovely things to do, a trip to Europe will constantly have you on your toes. But to make the best of it whilst touring the continent, you have to be prepared. Take a glimpse through the list of top 7 destinations to visit in Europe that will make you go OMG. Once done, start packing your goodies, and strap your feet into comfortable walking shoes to embark on the greatest European venture.

1. Paris
Image credit - https://pixabay.com/en/eiffel-tower-lights-fountains-1280022/

Paris has the eyes of an ample number of tourists every year. Majorly because of the delicious cuisine and the eye-captivating art collections it holds. It's always a good time to take a stroll by River Seine which flows through the city. The river is fringed with museums, churches, and buildings sporting a Neoclassical architecture. A visit to Musée d'Orsay is a must and for designer clothes shopping there's no better place than Champs Élysées. The boutiques in the Le Marais lane also houses nice collections. A selfie from the top of Eiffel Tower doesn't require second thoughts, does it?

2. Greece
Image credit - https://pixabay.com/en/beautiful-landscape-sea-summer-1927327/

With absolutely no limits for white-coated hillside towns, hidden caves with small pools - Greece is a stunner for real. The cities of Mykonos and Santorini in Greece with their pristine beaches and nightlife clubs are bound to entertain you to the fullest. The islands of Pano Koufonisi, Paros and Antiparos have their own share of bliss, thanks to the coastal terrain. History buffs can take a tour of the Acropolis where they can marvel at the ancient architecture and later check out Hephaestus Temple.

3. Rome
Image credit - https://pixabay.com/en/rome-the-vatican-italy-1945033/

Rome is a city of seven hills and it has multiple scenic hubs which will bring out the good feels in you. The mystery buzzing about the Vatican City and the leftovers of the Colosseum will get you curious for real. Enjoying the ever-delicious pizza at a cafe on Piazza Navona, and later visiting the Pantheon & the Roman Forum will complete your Rome tour.

4. Salzburg
Image credit - https://pixabay.com/en/mountain-alpine-wild-emperor-2444712/

Salzburg is the birthplace of the ever famous composer Mozart. It's also known for Alstadt where explorations can be done. Adding more josh is the fact, the movie "Sound of Music" was shot here and a special tour of this place is a must. Make sure to add Salt mine trek and underground lake cruise to your Austrian vacation.

5. Amsterdam
Image credit - https://pixabay.com/en/amsterdam-night-canals-evening-1150319/

Just be very sure of grabbing a pack of cheese fries and a can of Heineken beer when you are in Amsterdam. The buildings here have vibrantly shaded ceilings and gorgeous interiors. Head to the Museum district where you can spot the Van Gogh Museum. An alternate to this is the Rijksmuseum, which houses the best works of Vermeer and Rembrandt. De Pijp is famous for fancy restaurants and Vondelpark erupts with multiple attraction spots. Theatre addicts can enjoya show at the Royal Theatre Carré and later party scenes at its best can be witnessed at Leidseplein.

6. London
Image credit - https://pixabay.com/en/london-eye-ferris-wheel-london-945497/

A trip to London will never ever disappoint you. History tales and modern day happenings join hands at this wonder of a city. Gawk at the historic Tower of London and Tate Modern. A visit to Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye Ferris wheel and the Tower Bridge doesn't require special callouts. Head to Cabinet War Rooms if you are looking to check out what the English army had in store during the war times.

7. Barcelona
Image credit - https://pixabay.com/en/barcelona-railway-station-680182/

Fondly referred to as the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, Barcelona is where you will drown in amazing art and architecture. You can find energetic life at Las Ramblas with a series of narrow streets and alleys packed with cosy restaurants. A tour of Antoni Gaudí's masterpieces is also suggested followed by a stadium tour of Camp Nou where football legends like Xavi, Iniesta have played.

With just the right list to tour Europe, you can squeeze the best out of the vacation. It only gets better when you have the experts recommending you with where to go and the top activities to try out. With the travel experts at Pickyourtrail, get the best out of Europe. Based in Chennai, the tech-travel startup specializes in personalized international vacations and is a great place to quench your thirst for travel.

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