My friend Piyush and I were en route to Lachung – a remote village in North Sikkim, India. We had booked a package covering Lachen – Lachung – Yumthang over one night and two days for Rs1500. We were received at the pickup point by our twenty year old driver, Sontosh. Even before we began our journey to Lachen, we bonded really well with the driver and had become friends with him. We were ten passengers in the jeep who together travelled well-adjusted even with our mixed preferences and differences.
Piyush and I were sitting next to the driver and had direct access to the stereo so we kept mixing the playlist, entertaining Sontosh who was having a good laugh.
The roads were rough and it was drizzling when we started but, it did not prepare us for what was to come next.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the most iconic sights in the city of Bristol. The bridge has been attracting visitors for almost 150 years. The bridge spans the picturesque Avon Gorge. This bridge joins Bristol and North Somerset. It is entirely funded by tolls since its inauguration in 1864.
In the year 1754, wine merchant William Vick had left 1000 pounds in his will to the society of merchants who managed the port of Bristol. He also stated that when the money grew to 10000 pounds it should be used to construct a toll free stone bridge across the Gorge. But, the construction of a stone bridge was not possible as it would block the large ships from entering Bristol.
By 1829, 8000 pounds were collected. There was a hunt for a plan of constructing the bridge. A competition was announced to find the best plan. The statement of the competition is as stated below:
Just arrived in Delhi and do not know where to go?
Here are the top Delhi points of Interest
Agrasen ki Baoli
Agrasen ki Baoli is a 60-meter long and 15-meter wide ancient step well on Hailey Road near Connaught Place, Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, India. However there are no records to prove that who built Agrasen ki Baoli. It is assumed that it was initially built by the legendary king Agrasen, and was rebuilt in the 14th century by the Agrawal colony. It’s one of the best places in Delhi to spend your weekend with friends .
HOW TO REACH:
You can reach Agrasen ki Baoli by New Delhi , Metro station . It is about 3km from New Delhi Metro station . You can take an auto or a taxi to reach there.
ENTRY FEES :
*The Baoli is 60m long and 15 m wide rectangular step well. It has 103 steps made of red stones.
* People believe that evil spirits reside here.
* UNESCO declared the tomb a World Heritage Site in 1993.
Just outside the country’s first pod hotel is a busy street with the city’s metro construction work going on in full swing. Amidst the usual chaotic traffic, the famous red BEST public buses make their way into the bus depot nearby. Urbanpod Mumbai is located on the first floor of a corporate park adjacent to the SEEPZ bus depot. Looking at the location you cannot gauge the silence inside the hotel. It is Mumbai’s first step towards minimalistic living. The minimal décor and doors that open only with keycards live up to Urbanpod’s motto – #StaySmart.
The founders of Urbanpod Mumbai are entrepreneur duo Shalabh Mittal and Hiren Gandhi. This hotel is inspired from a similar chain in Singapore. The capsule hotels or pod hotels however you like to call it, were first established in Japan in the 1970’s. Businessmen looking for accommodation after missing their last train home used to stay at these hotels. But now this trend is picking up globally with pod hotels popping up in various countries. But will this concept pick up heat in India?
The customer service and staff at Urbanpod Mumbai is top notch. The general manager Mr. Ajay Pandit himself had handled my booking over the phone. A day prior to my check-in I received this mail:
I entered the floor of the building when the receptionist flashed his keycard at the main door. It’s been just over a month since the hotel has opened and not many guests are present. The entire floor is unusually silent and all you can hear is the hum of the central air-conditioning. The receptionist gave me a keycard to access my pod. Before you head to the pod, you have to take off your shoes and place them in a locker which opens with the keycard provided (talk about #StaySmart). Once you have placed your shoes, you are handed over a welcome kit consisting of clean towel, a bottle of water and the television remote. The entire experience feels like you are going to be held captive but all this changes once you get past the door and feel that you are part of a Sci-Fi space odyssey.
An attendant will accompany you till your pod. There are lockers outside the pod to place your belongings. The pod is very futuristic and signifies minimalism to the point. The pod is equipped with touch control light switches, USB ports, charging points, a mirror, a safe, and a television. Headphones are provided for the television so that the other astronauts (read guests) are not disturbed. There is also a mini fire extinguisher inside the pod. The attendant then went on to explain all the controls present on the panel inside the pod much like how a flight attendant does. You will feel you are part of a movie inside the pod.
I then went around the hotel exploring the different arrangements and facilities available. There are a total of 140 pods at Urbanpod Mumbai. The owners plan on expanding to other metropolitan cities and build a user base in India. There are four categories of pods:
Classic Pod: This is the pod in which I stayed. There are rooms on the entire floor containing sets of 8 to 10 classic pods each. This makes it almost like a dormitory with pods placed over each other. There are a total of 106 classic pods.
Private Pod: You enter the private pod from the side. Some private pods have an extended area outside where you can sit. There are 6 private pods in total.
Ladies Pod: They are classic pods but just have a separate zone from the other pods. This is done as a security measure to encourage solo female travellers to stay in a minimal co-living space. There are 18 pods in the ladies zone.
Queen Pod: They are nothing like the capsules and are as good as a double occupancy room. This is meant for two people and has a queen size bed, a work table and a television. All this minus the fancy panel controls. There are 10 Queen pods in all.
The hotel has a common hand wash area and has 12 common bathrooms. Laundry services are available on demand as well. The bathrooms are big and very clean. A carpet covers the entire floor. There are stamps and maps of different countries lined across the walls. As you see the pictures of the pods you must be wondering whether it is claustrophobic inside. I would say surprisingly no. Each pod is 7 ft x 3 ft which is spacious enough. Only thing that plays with your head inside the pod is that it is completely white and you may at times feel like you are inside an institution.
If you are an introvert this place is heaven for you as there is not much human interaction in the hotel as your pod is SMART enough to ensure a comfortable stay. There is a cafeteria near the reception that has two personal work stations and many chairs and counter seating. Complimentary breakfast is provided. The tariff of the classic pod varies around the Rs. 2000 mark. The remaining pods are just a steep increase from there on. The pricing of Urbanpod Mumbai is justified because it is in close proximity to the airport. My overall experience at the pod was very different from the usual hotels. It can be considered a novelty experience for now but the market has huge potential to grow in the future. Urbanpod Mumbai is definitely an experience you should not miss.
You can book your stay from booking.com and reserve your pod without a credit card.
What do you think of minimalistic living? Do you think that pod hotels will be the next big thing in India? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Internet usage in India is on a steady increase. Our honorable Prime Minister, Sri. Narendra Modi has also put forth his vision for a digital India. Looking at this trend all major companies are starting to create their presence online. Here’s where digital marketing comes into picture. With a properly planned online content strategy and a well optimized ad campaign a business or company can reach a large audience at a very minimal cost. Approximately one billion dollars have been spent on digital marketing in India and this number is only on the rise. The job potential in this field is great; almost every business or company is onboarding digital marketers to keep up with their competition.
How can you learn digital marketing in India online?
There are a number of blogs and courses online that you can follow and develop your skills. A few of the leading sites are hubspot.com, moz.com, neilpatel.com, and udacity.com. You can also refer to youtube video tutorials on digital marketing.
The complication in studying from various sources arises personally, since I am already in a full-time job and also run my travel blog I find it hard to devote time to search through different sites and piece together information in order to learn digital marketing. Also, just theoretical knowledge isn’t enough to get you job ready. You have to get your hands dirty and learn from your mistakes as and when you put your skills to the test.
Why did I choose the Digital Marketing Nanodegree program by Udacity ?
The Digital Marketing Nanodegree program by Udacity helps to build an overall understanding of Digital Marketing. It follows a structured and practical approach which motivates my learning.
Advantages of the Nanodegree program:
1. This program is made by partnerships with industry leaders like Google, Facebook, HubSpot, Hootsuite, Moz, and MailChimp, who are leaders across the entire digital marketing ecosystem.
2. Udacity believes in hands on learning. Over the course of the program you will be completing 9 projects in various domains of digital marketing. These projects can be used as an online portfolio for recruiters.
3. The hiring partners for India are Paytm, Razorpay, Zomato, Zoomcar and Instamojo. 4. You will be assigned a mentor who will help you throughout the course. There are also forums for students to discuss their projects and doubts.
5. Udacity provides personalized support right from the enrollment to placements.
The more creative you are the better digital marketer you will be! So why not get started right away in building your digital marketing career. Digital Marketing Nanodegree
7 unique ways in which Bhutan stands out from the rest of the world:
Bhutan prioritizes Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product:
His Majesty Jingme Singye Wangchuck, the former king of Bhutan believed that rather than measuring the progress of the country based on the amount of money the country earns, it should be measured by the happiness of the people and factors contributing to the quality of life.
Bhutan is a country without traffic lights:
Thimpu is the only capital city in the world to have no traffic lights. The intersections are manned by police officers gracefully guiding the traffic. The low population of the country makes the need for traffic lights void. Although, the government had installed traffic lights in Thimpu but recalled the installation the next day as it caused a lot of confusion.
Bhutan has a national dress:
The Gho for men and Kira for women is the national dress. All citizens have to wear it to government offices, schools and formal gatherings. The Gho is a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt known as the kera. The kira is an ankle-length dress consisting of a rectangular piece of woven fabric. It is wrapped and folded around the body and is pinned at both shoulders, and bound at the waist with a long belt.
Bhutan has one of the world’s most challenging airports:
Paro airport is the only international airport present in Bhutan and was also the only airport in the entire country up until 2011. Surrounded by peaks as high as 5,500 meters and consisting of just one runway, this airport requires pilots to undergo special training before they can land here. There are only a handful of certified pilots that can land in Paro. It is in a deep valley and on the banks of river Paro Chhu which makes for some breathtaking views.
Bhutan prioritizes environmental conservation:
The forests and animals are protected, the government passed a rule stating that 60% of the country should be forest area. This shows how much the Bhutan cares about nature.
Bhutan has a unique national animal:
The Takin is a rare mammal found in the north western and far north eastern parts of the country. Thimpu has a Takin preserve where you can find these animals in their natural habitat. They look like they have a goat’s head on a cow’s body. Since this animal has a lot of mention in Bhutanese folklore it was declared the national animal by the king.
Bhutan has traditional architecture:
As stated by law, all buildings in Bhutan must reflect traditional architecture. This is why every house looks so picturesque with their doors and windows having intricate woodwork.
I am happy to announce that I have collaborated with folks over at Hungry Tripper. Do check their website, they have a travel contest also running with up to Rs. 10,000 prize money up for grabs!!. I have published the article about Lavasa on their website.
I reached Margao at 8:30 pm. I had booked an Airbnb that cost me Rs. 2000 for 3 nights. Aaron was my host and his house was about 10 minutes from Colva beach by scooter. He was really kind and dropped me to the restaurant Kentuckee on Colva beach, which is quite famous for its food in that locality for dinner. My dinner was very simple; fish curry and rice with a fish steak. All the places from where I could rent a scooter were shut, so I had to walk back home. The streets were completely dark and deserted with the occasional lights from the vehicles passing by. The 20 minute walk felt a lot longer than it should have and I went to bed immediately, as I planned on starting early the next day.
The locals in Goa are really friendly and helpful. The watchman of the building where I was living at gave me details of a scooter rental place (Valencia Rental, Colva 09921348359). They gave me a deal of Rs. 900 for 3 days to rent a scooter. I headed to Majorda beach. This beach wasn’t as clean as the other beaches I had visited. There is a Lagoon on the beach but it is quite dirty and I would not recommend entering it. There were a very few people on the beach, probably because it was quite early in the morning. I had breakfast at a stall on the beach; Hot cup of tea along with pav and potato bhaji all for just Rs. 30.
Next up, I headed to San Jacinto Island. This island is just a few kilometers to the north-east of Dabolim airport. Silver Gate bridge connects the island to the mainland. This destination is quite underrated and you will not find many tourists here. The island is famous for St. Hyacinthi Church, which celebrates its feast on the last Sunday of September. There is also a chapel on the island that has an underground tunnel leading to the other side of the river. The island is majorly a residential area and life on the island is slow. There also is an old lighthouse, from the top of which you will get a breathtaking view of the Goa coast.
22 km North of San Jacinto is the statue of Dona Paula. This place is a popular tourist attraction and was very crowded when I reached. The fishermen of the area have a collection of ghost stories about Dona Paula. They say that on pitch dark nights and sometimes at the stroke of midnight, she rises from the sea and roams the area, wearing a string of pearls and nothing else. I did not stay here for long and proceeded to Panjim.
Our Lady of immaculate Conception Church in Panjim stands out with its great Portuguese architecture. The entire exterior of the church is bright white. I reached here just around 2 pm and the church was closed for visitors till 3:30 pm. I had a quick meal at George’s Restaurant opposite the church. The pork vindaloo with pav was delicious. The interior of the church is very colorful and has a lot of gold plated carvings. The main alter is dedicated to Mother Mary. On the 8th of December every year the church celebrates its feast with all fervor. The church is decorated with white and blue flowers and there is a procession led by a brass band that plays the festive fados. The procession usually ends with a fireworks display.
The churches of Goa have preserved their heritage and give a sense of calm when you enter them. To explore some more churches I made my way to Old Goa or Velha Goa. Se Cathedral is the largest church in Asia; it is dedicated to St. Catherine. The Cathedral has amazing mosaic work, soaring ceilings and very intricate wood carvings. In the adjoining compound is the Basilica of Bom Jesus. The Basilica is a UNESCO world heritage site and contains the tomb and mortal remains on St. Francis Xavier. His body is placed in a glass coffin under the shower of gilt stars. 3rd December is annually celebrated as the feast of St. Francis Xavier. Once every 10 years his body is taken around Old Goa before scores of pilgrims. The next will happen in the year 2024.
By this time it was already 6:00 pm and I wanted to get back before it got too late at night. I grabbed a quick street snack of pork sausages and pav for Rs. 50 and set off for Colva. Benaulim beach is around 10 minutes from Colva, Johncy’s restaurant is one of the most famous places to eat there. I reached Johncy’s at 8:30 pm and enjoyed a sumptuous meal of tongue roast and butter garlic prawns and headed back to my room. The next day I had planned on visiting ancestral Goa.
Ancestral Goa of the ‘Big Foot’ Museum, is a miniature Goan village describing Goa – like it would have been a 100 years ago. It is located in Loutulim. There are different sections depicting the way of life and the history of Goans. There is a rock with an imprint of a foot. Legend has it that a generous land owner who used to help the poor was taken advantage of and left penniless. He asked the Gods to give him a place to pray, the Gods gave him one hot stone on which he stood on one foot and prayed. Looking at his devotion they took him into heaven and his footprint was left behind. The museum thus gets the name ‘Big Foot’ from this legend. There is also a laterite sculpture of Sant Mirabai strumming her tambori. This sculpture is the longest laterite structure in India. An ancestral Portuguese home is present right opposite the museum. The entry fee for the house and museum tour together is Rs. 170. The guide that takes you around the house is very informative and you learn a lot about how the people used to live centuries ago.
Before setting out on my trip I had asked friends for suggestions about places to eat and to see. Star Light restaurant by the river in Assolna was one of the top recommendations for food. I went here for lunch. Their Calamari (Squid) stir fry is the best you can have. I had lime soda and beef chilly fry for Rs. 290. The location of the restaurant makes it an ideal place for reading or just sitting and relaxing. You cannot miss this place!
I wanted to see the sunset at a beach, so I decided that I will visit a few beaches before going back to Johncy’s (Yes, I loved the food so much that I went here again). Zalor beach was where I stopped first; this beach is very clean and had only foreigners, probably because it isn’t very popular. Cavelossim beach was my next stop. White sand and few people, my kind of beach. After a walk along the shore it was about 5:30 pm and almost sunset. I moved on from Cavelossim to Varca beach. There were group of local kids playing football on the beach. I couldn’t resist myself and joined in. We played until sundown; it was a perfect end to my Goa trip.
Hope you liked the travel series! Stay tuned for more tips and travel stories. Happy Travels 🙂
Winter being the migratory season for birds, the pink Greater Flamingos from Siberia migrate to Iran and India. A quaint little town Bhigwan in Maharashtra is where you can spot these flamboyant birds. Flamingos, Herons, Cranes, Marsh Harriers, Tawny Eagles, Sea Gulls are just few of the many birds you will come across at the small town of Bhigwan.
Bhigwan is situated at one end of the Yashwant Sagar reservoir which is the catchment area of the Ujain dam. It is about 100 km from Pune. Bhigwan is flocked with migratory birds between late December and early February, hence it is also known as the ‘Bharatpur of Maharashtra’. Bird lovers from all over Maharashtra make their way here to witness the symphony created by these magnificent birds.
To reach Bhigwan you have to take the Pune-Solapur highway. There are two places in Bhigwan that are famous for flamingo spotting; Diksal and Kumbhargaon. We went to Kumbhargaon. You have to drive approximately 2 kms ahead of Bhigwan before taking the exit to Kumbhargaon. The sign boards are well placed, so you will not have a problem finding the place.
Sandip and Nitin Nagare (09767571734) are local residents and they will help in arranging a boat for you. The cost for a boat that seven people share is Rs. 100 per person. You can also hire an entire boat for yourself at Rs. 800. The birding experience lasts for about 2 hrs. It is also possible to stay overnight in tents beside the lake. The Nagare’s are very helpful and friendly. You should call them up a day before and discuss your plan so that they can arrange the boats, accomodation and food for you. A bird guide will accompany you on your excursion.
Make sure you plan your trip such that you reach the place by 6:45-7:00 am, before the weather starts getting warmer. This also is the best time to get the perfect lighting for photography. If you are a photography enthusiast, unless you have a high tech camera phone or a camera with good zoom lens, you may get disappointed. The boat ride does not take you very close to the flamingos as it may disrupt their natural habitat. We were lucky to see a flock of Flamingos fly over us. The alighting of the flamingos is a sight you must not miss. Our boatman bought a bucket of fish from a local fisherman during the ride and attracted the Sea Gulls towards us by feeding them. The experience of watching the Sea Gulls sweeping over our heads and diving into the water to get the fish was thrilling.
So get your binoculars and cameras ready and head towards Bhigwan for an amazing experience of birding!
Get to Palolem beach at around 6:30 am to catch the beautiful sunrise over the coconut trees. Just at the entrance of the beach there is a tea stall run by Babu. Do have the bruns (hard buns) along with tea and scrambled eggs. Babu is very welcoming and you are bound to get chatty with him. The moment you step onto the beach you will be bombarded by boatmen quoting prices for a tour that takes you dolphin spotting and then to two islands – Butterfly Island and Honeymoon Island. They quote a cost for the entire package around Rs 2000 to Rs 2500. Make sure you bargain; I struck a deal of Rs 1700 for a trip duration of 2 hours. It was around 7 am and there were very few tourists on the beach. Since I was travelling alone I had the whole boat to myself. The larger the group the cheaper it would be for you.
You will start off with Dolphin spotting, there will be one guide and one boat rider accompanying you and your group. The guide spots the dolphins in a distance and the boat rushes to them and then shuts off the engine so as to not scare the Dolphins away. I was lucky to spot quite a few of the friendly creatures. You will then head to Butterfly Island. Butterfly Island is a very tiny bay nestled between rocks on either side. The water is clear and the sand is clean however you are advised not to swim here as after a few feet from the shore there is a trench. If you arrive early in the morning you can get the entire bay to yourself. Sit for a while, take in the sea breeze and forget your worries. There is a stream that is present in the center of the island that leads into thick foliage. Try and stay away from it as I saw people using it as a restroom. The name is derived as the shape of the rocks in the background looks like the wings of a butterfly. Next up, is Honeymoon Island. During high tide the entire beach is submerged underwater. We went there during high tide and hence could not disembark here. During nights there are parties that happen at the beach and you can rent out a shack to stay overnight.
If you have conveyance at your disposal you can go from the southernmost tip of Goa to the northernmost in a span of about 3 hours. I did not want to rush my trip a lot and just decided to go around South Goa. In the evening of the second day I had booked my stay at Colva and had to leave Palolem by 6:30 pm. So I decided that I will go north up to Cabo De Rama and come back to Palolem by 5 pm to return my scooter and head to Colva by bus. The ride from Palolem to Cabe De Rama took 45 minutes. The roads are well marked, even then I had my google maps on just in case I get off path. 5 minutes before you reach Cabo De Rama fort, you will come across open fields that lead to a cliff. The view from the cliff is spectacular. The water down below is so clear that you can see the rocky sea bed. The cliff is lined with coconut trees. You have to be there to experience the serenity. I just sat at the edge of the cliff for a good half an hour admiring what nature has to offer.
The fort is to the extreme left hand side of the cliff. Before you go there, please go to the right. Once you reach the extreme right hand side you will come across a pathway that takes you down the side of the cliff. It opens up into one of the most beautiful white sand beaches I have seen. This is Cabo De Rama beach. The beach has one hut for the life guard and there is a lagoon that runs through at the back. The lagoon is covered under the canopy of coconut trees. Just lay on the beach get sun tanned, maybe have a picnic here under trees with your friends. Clear blue water makes it irresistible to take a dip and just feel like floating there all day. I then went on to visit the fort. I went on towards the fort from the beach. Cabo De Rama fort is the largest and one of the oldest forts of Goa. There is the church of Santo Antonio inside the fort. The church is in brilliant condition and is still used by devotees. The cliffs of the fort drop directly into the sea. You get a panoramic view of the Colva and Cancona stretches of South Goa.
After witnessing the breathtaking views from Cabo De Rama I began heading back South towards Palolem. The next beach I stopped at was like a piece of heaven. Cola beach nestled beyond a hill this place is paradise. This is by far the best beach I visited in South Goa. Cola is situated 14 km south of Cabo De Rama. You will see a dirt road exit at the side of the highway that leads to the beach. Take proper care while handling a two wheeler here as it is very bumpy. The beach has a clear blue lagoon as the river flows into the sea. Sometimes during high tide the warm salty water of the sea mixes with the cool sweet water of the river. There are just two resorts on the beach and they are quite expensive. Cola beach has soft golden sand and the lagoon is lined with terraced coconut trees. Do not miss out on visiting this beach, it is totally worth the effort it takes to find.
It was 2:30 pm by now and I started to get hungry. There are just two shacks to eat at on Cola beach and they are not light on the pocket. So, I suggest that you head to the nearby Agonda beach. Agonda is a slightly more commercial beach and has a substantial amount of tourists. On the approach road to the beach I stopped at a restaurant and had a fish thali along with fish steak for only Rs. 300. The beach has a number of huts that you can rent out and stay at. I took a nap on one of the beach chairs before returning back to Palolem. I reached Palolem at 5:30 pm and returned my scooter to Shubham. At his place I met a fellow solo traveler from Pune Sabyasachi. He is a freelance travel photographer and blogger. He was to rent the scooter after me and offered to drop me at the Canacona bus stand. I took a bus to Margao at 6:30pm, the cost of the ticket was Rs 30.
Stay tuned for the next part that begins at Colva 😀