Sunday, March 19, 2017

An early morning trek to Ghangad Fort

Ghangad is a short but exciting trek offering the thrill of trekking over difficult patches in portions and some heart trembling moments when you cling on to a thin wire of hope for support.
It great for training beginners. And the view is just splendid.

Duration : 30 mins - 40 mins

Why to choose this trek:

1) Great for only morning treks like Sinhagarh. It offers a mind view of two sides of the mountain .
2) Easy to reach. The route to Ghangad offers amazing landscapes from Tamini Ghat. So it's a bonus.
3) Don't need to plan ahead. Don't need to carry much stuff if you planning to return same day.
4) In rainy season, the waterfalls in the valley area are amazing. We plan to do it this rainy season.
5) Barely any crowd. We encountered no one. Absolute silence and just the wind blowing , animal sounds from the forest . It was just a trekker's dream come true.

Our Plan :

We started at 3:30 .
Climbed and reach back home by 12 AM .
It's an hour long journey . We went via Lonavala and came back by Tamini ghat. The roads are in good enough condition.  So no worries.

Ghangad Fort road
Road to the fort. The right side mountain is Ghangad fort.

Ghangad Fort Information boar
Information board 

Ghangad fort map
Map of the fort
Ghangad fort view sunrise
View of sunrise from the fort

Ghangad fort gate
The gate to the fort

The morning sun up from its sleep. Amazing view from Ghangad fort.
Panorama of the valley from Ghangad fort during sun rise
A huge fallen rock creating a cave. Best location for camping overnight.

View from inside the cave 
Our group 

At the gates

The landscape from the wall..This is shot of the valley behind the fort..Absolutely breath taking view.

Beside the water above..Me on the left..My friend Aditya on the right.
Panorama from the top of the hill..wide shot
On the top of the fort...amazing background

We walked towards the valley below...The view of the ghats from there are unbelievable.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

One day trip to Malshej Ghat

Maharashtra offers a host of choices when it comes to hills ,valleys and forts.  Activities like trekking or rappelling are most popular here. 

Malshej is one of those places that will offer you its own specialty. 

  • Rocky mountains, deep gorges, 
  • Beautiful tunnels , roads snaking around. 
  • Uncountable waterfalls.
  • Dense forest and its habitat. 

It's a power package for a day. One day escape from the daily hassles of life. Western Ghats for you ladies and gentlemen.

How to reach:

A road trip will be the best option. You don't want to miss the chance of stopping anywhere you want and click pictures or just stare in awe. 

How to plan:

  1. Start at early morning 6 AM.
  2. Reach Malshej in 3 hrs.
  3. Straight away park at the MTDC.
  4. Have break fast at the restaurant inside.
  5. Stroll behind the hotel . There is a beautiful pathway made for tourists.

Walk way around the MTDC 

Find a good waterfall. Enjoy bathing in it. It's just awesome .

 Return home before night.

Best time to go:

Rainy season. June - August


Before you plan, check latest news about the place. It gets closed for days due to erratic landslides and various other natural disasters frequenting the area.

What to carry:

1) Camera with rain pouch.
2) Lots of water.
3) Change of clothes
4) Towels.
5) Food etc.


Don't plan staying . Its extremely costly during peak months (Min 4000-5000 Rs). At night , you can barely see or venture outside your hotel. A window facing room is of no good at such weather.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A week long vacation to Himachal

Shimla city
Shimla City houses

Himachal has many meanings. And true to its meaning, I believe, the snow clad mountains is where the God's live.

Me and my wife made this 10 day trip from Jan 27th to Feb 5th 2017 starting from Delhi Airport.

The Plan

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Delhi to Shimla drive
Shimla to Manali

The Execution

  • We suggest you to start from Chandigarh. Reason being, it has a well-connected Airport, ISBT bus terminus and railway station.
  • Average journey time between cities is 7 hrs. Plan for 2 days stay each at Manali, Shimla and Amritsar. 
  • People starting from Delhi airport can catch a bus from airport itself (Indo Canadian was hell costly I admit...1800 Rs per head till Chandigarh) or from ISBT Kashmiri Gate (Book a HIMSUTA Volvo from here . It will cost around 1100 Rs per head). 
  • If you have not visited Amritsar, include that too in your plan. Otherwise, take an extra day at Dalhousie of Dharamshala to regain energy to travel back. 
  • Budget should be 22000 per head starting from Chandigarh. 
  • All hotels in all Himachal Cities provide breakfast and dinner (Only Veg) inclusive of prices. So don't worry about meal expenses. 

    The Journey

    Waiting at Pune airport. Flight got rescheduled. We left finally at 10 PM. 

    Waiting at Pune airport for our boarding call
    After reaching Delhi, we quickly caught the indo-canadian bus for Chandigarh in the hope of catching another bus for Shimla. The bus, I admit, was amazing but instant booking cost us a lot. Please book it online and get better prices.

    Next day we reached Chandigarh, contacted some Tour planners, and waited for our car to arrive while we raided on a nearby food joint and had awesome Parathas with huge cubes of butter and dahi.

    We wanted to eat just one each but ended up eating 5. Oops. 

    Our car arrived soon. A Mahindra Verito. Not bad. Driver was polite enough. We started for Shimla. Himachal here we come.

    First Glimpse of the Mountains


    The name Shimla is derived from the deity Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of Kali. Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh and also the largest city in the state. It's at an altitude of 2206 meters above mean sea level. You can find pinedeodaroak and rhododendron trees all around the city.

    Shimla City houses at Sun set while we took the alley road to the Mall

    Shimla houses sunset view


    Christ Church at night

    Christ Church Shimla Night Shot

    Shimla City Panorama from our hotel

    Shimla City Panorama

    At Khufri, taking a horse rise. Our young horse master. 

    Walking is not at all suggested. Get the boots, as the wet mud is knee deep


    On Road to Manali. 

      The mountain peaks had more snow now. The jungles denser. 

    Snow range on route Manali.
    Manali had received heavy snow in the past week . The roads were full of snow stacked around all dirty. It does create a mess I have to admit.

    Hadimba Temple

    I liked this place. Located between the woods , tall Deodar trees all around. There was also a forest area you can visit after purchasing a ticket. We loved it. 100 ft tall cedar trees all around. The sun barely gets an entry.
    The Tall Cedar tree heads were invisible to us.

    There is a small frozen lake in the middle of the woods. The whole scene felt like a setup of Game of Thrones behind the wall .

    Visit to Guru Vashisht Temple 

    At the parking point, where road to Vashisht Temple begins

    The hot water spring sounds tempting but, 10 or more people bathing in a water tank was not so  attractive.

    The Left wooden structure is the main temple

    In the day time, we visited the famous shopping mall or whatever it was. Its called "Club House". Everything is exorbitantly costly here. So warning. Don't buy anything here. I will say, it's worth a visit.

    Drifter's Inn & Cafe

    We were looking for lunch and I found this place called Drifter's Inn on TripAdvisor. You will have to walk on a steep road a bit to reach this spot (1.5 km from the club house). But I guarantee it's totally worth. We crashed right in.

    Meat balls with spaghetti
    Chicken burger with fries
    Cheese Mushroom.
    Irish coffee and some brandy.

      Every dish was tasty. We thanked our stars again. This was a lucky catch as every other place was closed and I feared the 1.5 km walk might go useless.

      Van Vihar. 

      This was a chance to get near the Beas river in all its glory. We saw few people rafting around in the shallow water. The local park is well maintained. A welcome break from the long journey. Also try a famous local dish available around its gates.

      The Tibetan Monastery

      My first ever monastery. I have never visited one before. We discovered this in the middle of the market around Mall road in Manali.

      The Manali Mall road

      Obviously at the end of the day, you will be looking out to shop and eat something. After all, Mall roads are the most happening places in every hill station. You can shop all kind of things here from Jackets to souvenirs. I found everyone wearing Jackets of brand "North Face" . Obvious duplicates. But at 1000 Rs, they are a steal.


      The first thing I wanted to see here , was the stadium. It looks awesome. What a back drop. I can't imagine how the players get to this place. It obviously must be awesome to play here. One thing to note is, no tourist stays at Dharamshala City. They stay at McLeodganj. I suggest you do the same. There's a good shopping street there too , so ladies,  please don't worry. Do try the local momos. Most residents are tibetans here , and the veg momo we tasted was I think, the real deal.

      We walked to a nearby temple and then to a water fall called Bhagsu's water fall. Then we visited Dalai Lama's residence. I was fascinated by this place. It's residents. People praying. Practicing Yoga. I'm loving it.

      River beas among mountains. The journey to Dalhousie is spectacular all the way.


      Our last spot. This is famous Chamba hills. Surrounded by the Dhauladhar Himalayan range. Absolutely spectacular. We took a stop just to stare all around us. Its hard to capture this in one frame. The hotels here are mostly British made bungalows converted. A taste of history perhaps.

      What we learned

      Himachal trip will always be a long trip. So planning is important. And we want to suggest you from our experience,  a few things.

      1. Shimla

      • Plan for  2 days minimum stay. 
      • At weekdays, you will find less crowd here. 
      • PLEASE choose a hotel near the mall, because you will frequent the mall a lot (I know that).
      • There are many good restaurants and shopping options around this area you don't want to miss.
      • Hotels here charge 300 Rs for room heaters . But I think they under powered to heat up a small room. So skip it. 

      Places to visit and tips related:

      The Mall 


      • Visit this in the evening. The lights look amazing. Night view of Shimla is priceless.
      • Take a walk on the famous street.
      • Try local made momos. They are quite tasty. Mostly they sell Veg momos only. 
      • There is a lift system to take you to the mall. There's usually a long queue and a ticket system to avail this facility. We took it the first time but never took it again. I would suggest you walk between the houses .
      •  Find your way to the top. Its fun and you get so many views from different angles. On the way, you will find so many interesting shops, food options. We tried the local Veg Momos here. They were so tasty. There is also a cake shop that sells English style cakes. They were amazing. We went there twice

      Jakhoo Temple 


      •  Please carry a wooden stick as monkeys pose a problem here. Don't carry any food with you. 
      • The 109 ft tall statue of Hanuman Ji is visible from a long distance. You might want to check that out from your hotel.
      • Carry any Prasad in a bag. Don't carry it in your hands.



      1) The only way to reach the main spot is by horse ride. DO NOT try to walk to this place. The road is an absolute mess.
      2) Rent boots. Do not use your own shoes.
      3) Ask the horse controller to be with all the way. Ask him to take you to the final gate. Do not let him drop you before that.
      4) Pay 500 Rs per head max to horse vendor and don't forget to note down his mobile number because you need to call him when you want to return.

      Summary : There are many other spots to visit in Shimla but I think that will take much more time. For a 2 day visit. This is as much as you can do. If you have more time, do have a look at this link for more info on other spots.

      2. Manali 

      • 2 days minimum stay.
      • Solang Valley and Rohtang pass are two major spots people want to see here. But conditions are unpredictable in winter here. And because of that, the roads get closed (We faced this). Please ask your package provider for details of conditions here.
      •  People planning for Manikaran, please note that its a 50 km journey up and down. So you need a full day to visit this spot. May be next time, Still there's a lot to do here. 

      Places to visit and tips related:

      Hadimba Temple

      Its a sweet walk to the temple. Do now miss the small forest entry which is on the right side of the temple. Most people miss it. 

      Adventure Activities

      Kullu is mostly for adventure activities. Paragliding , Rafting etc. At this time of the year, the river depth was not enough for a good rafting experience. We saw most boating crews just ...well....Boating around. So analyse the conditions before you choose to do so. 

      Vashisht Temple

      This spot is famous for the famous hot water baths. You will need some preparation to do this, And its pretty crowded. The water is not HOT , but I'll say WARM at most. If you are fine with taking bath with a lot of people around in a big tank, please do it. 

      Van Vihar

      This is a park near the river Beas. I'll suggest you to take a snack break here. Enjoy the river flowing close to you. 

      Summary: Manali too has a lot to do. Lots of travelling to spots around. So if you plan to visit most of them , plan at least 4 days. For 2 day visit, you can visit local spots and choose some of the distant locations . 

      3. Dharamshala

      • 1 day minimum.
      •  Dharamshala has nothing to see but McLeodGanj has a lot . So stay near this place.
      • Take a walk to  the Bhagsunath temple and Bhagsu Fall. 
      • Visit the shopping road nearby. Try again the local momos. They are Tibetan styled. 
      • Visit official headquarters of all Monastry. Dalai Lama's residence. This place is awesome. 
      • There's a micro pond called Dal Lake. It's an OK place. You might choose to skip this if you don't have any time. 

      Shopping Tips

      I usually dislike shopping for souvenirs but, when you are with your family, I think its better to ;) . 
      Major spots for Shopping are 
      • Road to Shimla Mall 
      • Manali Mall road & Club House
      • McLeodGanj Road 
      • Mandi Market (You will cross city en route Manali  for sure)

      What should you shop for

      • Good yet cheap jackets, duplicates of other brands. Get these from Manali.
      • Authentic Branded jackets. The collections for Jackets at these cities are much much better than our cosmo cities. 
      • Other winter gears, like fur caps, Kullu shawls and Jackets, Khadi shirts. 
      • The String of flags with Mantras . You can't miss this. 
      • Rhododendron soaps
      • Apple Cedar. This is something you won't find so cheap anywhere .  
      Places to eat

      Shimla: Cafe Shimla Times. The ambiance was awesome. There was a band playing. Liked how people crowded this place and enjoyed dancing & singing along. 

      Manali: Drifter Inn. It's ideal for snack style lunch. You will find all good hotels on the road to Manu Temple. 

      McLeodGanj and Dalhousie: It's better to stick to your hotel's kitchen food as there are only average options which are more of hotel , not restaurants. 

      Wednesday, September 7, 2016

      Kerala : How to plan for a lifetime's experience

      Kovalam Beach
      Kovalam Beach

      I have been planning this for months and it finally came along in the best time. A full stretch Kerala trip with Kanyakumari as an added bonus. I will not tell you what to do, but HOW to do it. How to plan your dream Kerala Trip. 

      Caution: Mine was too comprehensive. Needs high energy and will be quite tiring. 

      I chose the monsoon theme..I wanted to be in the middle of the action. This is the only place in India which offers monsoon as a tourism opportunity. I was lucky. I expected super heavy rains. Instead. I ended up right in between the rainy season and summer which was Perfect.

      Advantages in travelling in mid August

      • Rainfall almost over.
      • Waterfalls at their fullest.
      • Greenery all over the state.
      • Backwaters, beach sides and rivers all very clean.
      • Abundant coconuts to enjoy.
      • Hotel rates brought down.
      • Less crowd everywhere.
      • Festive Preparation going on.
      • Shopping becomes pocket friendly.
      Our route map:


      Day 1
      Day 2
      Day 3
      Day 4
      Day 5
      Day 6
      Day 7
      Day 8
      Day 9

      Why should you go by train ?

      Konkan railways is different from all others. Amazing sights . Beautiful waterfalls (some of them were huge). Lots of tunnels. Breathtaking rivers and bridges. Glimpses of the Arabian sea every now and then. It's a journey everyone should make at least once in his lifetime. (We took the Sampark Kranti from Panvel)

      Our Journey through photographs

      Kovalam Beach Side

      Lighthouse standing guard at Kovalam Beach
      Walking along the beach is such a joy

      Sunset at Kovalam Beach

      Alleppey Beach beside our resort
      Sunset at Alleppy beach

      A tiny boat with the sunset in background..Just amazing view
      What's Kerala without Coconuts

      Kerala offers various kinds of Coconuts. The water and the pulp inside are both consumed
      Different kinds of coconuts can be found everywhere.


      Waiting for sunrise at Kanyakumari was such a unique experience..One side Indian Ocean, another side..The Arabian Sea
      Poovar Backwaters

      Poovar Backwater was a good experience.


      An hour long boat ride in the forest. We saw an elephant herd.
      Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

      Munnar Tea Gardens

      Kochi beach with Chinese fishing nets

      The harbor at Kochi is a busy one. You can see huge ships crossing it, all day and night.

      The oil industry can be seen at the right corner. Ships keep crossing every now and then at Kochi Harbor

      We finally got caught in rain at Kochi . It nevertheless made the scene more captivating.

      Huge ship entering , while a couple leisurely walks by.

      Very Important Tips

      Before you journey starts
      • Book for trains from the list of Konkan Railways that suits best for you. (You can refer this link)
      • Book your train at least 2 months before. There's plenty of rush in these trains.
      • Plan your trip from the bottom of Kerala to the top (Hence,  book train till Trivandrum i.e Ernakulam Railway Station) . Catch return flight from Kochi. 
      • Book the train and flight YOURSELF. DO NOT let a travel company book them for you.
      • For each city you are going to visit, note down good hotels fitting your budget from good websites like TripAdvisor or MakeMyTrip. Then book your vacation from makemytrip or similar travel organizer. Tell them, that you have already bought tickets. They need to plan according to you. Also handover the list of hotels , so they book only from your chosen list.

      What to Pack (The most important things)

      • Rain gear (Umbrella, raincoat, lots of plastic bags)
      • Rain proof Foot gear (My Quechua all weather sandals were enough for the whole tour.), Extra bathroom flip flops for beaches.
      • Extra fold-able bag to bring back all shopped items.
      • Laptop (A DSLR is going to need constant flushing of photos)
      • One light jacket (Munnar might be chilly)
      • Towel, Swimming gear, Cap.
      • Binocular.



      Visit the Shangumugham Beach same day as you arrive, at evening. Preferably, book the "Uday Suites" hotel (Book online. Use as much vouchers as possible) . From there, it's walking distance to the beach.


      Plan your Kanyakumari trip from Kovalam. Start at night 2 AM , so you can reach before Sun Rise.

      Backwater experience:
      We suggest, you visit the Poovar Backwater cruise. It's worthy, very private and beautiful. Visit this link for an idea.
      Beware: Bargain very well. Take the 1 hr trip ONLY. Any longer is not worth. Pay only max 1000rs per head. No more.

      Choose for a resort along the beach side. Let it be far from the city. You will love the stay. Nothing but clean sea shores, beautiful sun sets. And the sound of the roaring sea. (Please carry mosquito repellents too).

      Suggestion: If possible, do not choose to live on a houseboat. I heard it is highly boring and costly. Not worth it. It's your choice. 
      Note : You can still visit them for some time, if not stay.

      Choose a hotel with a great view. Read review comments before you book. 
      Visit the Tata Tea factory. (There's nothing to eat there, so have your breakfast before you start).

      While in the city, choose a hotel in the midst of the market. Stroll around the market and you will get an idea of the richness of the local market in spices, chocolates, and art. The Martial Arts and Dance show is also nearby centrally placed. Shows start at evening . Around 200 rupees per head per show. Don't miss that.

      Stay at a hotel near the sea beach. It feels European. It's fun to walk around the coast. Lots of classy hotels to dine. Also check timings for all visiting spots (churches, museum or zoo are closed on some odd days). While going to airport, ask the driver to cross the sea on steamer (the car itself rides on it).


      This might be the favorite part of many people. Kerala has lots to look out for. 

      Saaris and other clothings: From Kochi, or Trivandrum
      Chocolates: From Thekkady and Munnar.
      Banana chips: Anywhere.
      Spices: Thekkady and Munnar
      Tea: From munnar local market.
      Artifacts: They are very costly. So bargain well.

      In all, enjoy the most. Eat, explore, sit beside the shore, and gaze. Bon Voyage.

      Kovalam Beach road. Watch the amazing sunset.