Category Archives: travel

Kerala Tourism

Kerala Tourism

By Soliya Phadnis

Yes! God’s own country! Could there be a more appropriate synonym for Kerala? Lush green fields, endless tea estates, backwaters, magnificent temples and much more awaits you in this enchanting land. A region rich in cultural heritage, contributing to most of what we see today, Kerala is inviting in every way. A destination that boasts of nature and culture together is that of a lifetime. With a range of trips with customized itineraries and packages to get the most of your trip, you’re spoilt for choice. My trip to Kerala started with Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala, I was definitely in luck. The cultural and religious aspect of this place is abundantly evident, the highlight being the “Thrissur Pooram”, a festival celebrated in the month of April-May. Originally known as “Thirusivapperoor”, the city witnesses a huge number of tourists during the festival.

The beauty of the land lies in the majestic hills of Munnar, the palm flanked stunning beaches along the Malabar Coast, tranquil maze of backwaters flowing through rice fields of Kumarakom and Alleppey, and the captivating forests of Thekkady. I’m sure the diversity in the geographical features of this mystical land and the amalgamation of culture, traditions, dances and the local cuisine is sure to appeal to you! Kerala tourism has been recommended by almost every person I have come across, and you need only one visit to understand why it is God’s Own Country.

  • Pristine Alleppey– As is famed for its houseboats; it was definitely on the list of places to visit. A stay on the houseboat along the backwaters gives you an opportunity to witness the beauty around in form of paddy fields, tiny chapels amidst the green foliage, fishing nets etc. I remember the local cuisine being served on banana leaves which by itself is a unique experience. If you plan a trip to Alleppey, September through May is the time.

  • Munnar– Definitely on everyone’s list, most likely for its rolling hills with tea estates lying amidst misty valleys surrounded by an air of serenity. The winding roads to Munnar may affect a person with the slightest motion sickness however, at the end it’s all worth the effort. The cool climate the relaxed feel was a little respite from the other warm places around. The place still retains the old world charm with its dainty bungalows overlooking waterfalls and the mighty mountains.

  • Kozhikode– Also known as Calicut, the place boasts of its historical past and a cultural and educational excellence. Abound by undulating hills; the nature plays its wonder on this place. The one thing you cannot forget of Calicut is the authentic Malabar cuisine. The Kalummakaya and Chatti pathiri are amongst the other lip smacking delicacies. The bustling city is home to some of the finest institutions like the The National Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Management.

  • Wayanad– In the local language, it translates to ‘the land of paddy fields’! Endowed with scenic beauty, the region is home to around fifty tribes, making it an exotic experience. You may also choose to visit the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Tusharagiri Waterfalls and the Edakkal caves amongst many more sights. The plethora of options shows you the diversity in beauty of this place. A certainly recommended

  • Thekkady– Home to the famous Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, the scenic splendor and its diverse wildlife lures visitors from across the globe. From elephants and tigers to sambars and gaurs, the sanctuary provides a visual treat within thick forest. Boating is one adventurous option as well that brings you closer with nature. Kerala tourism department has made provisions to take you to the middle of the forest either on elephants or walking, which is an amazing experience.

Kerala tourism, thus boasts of a diverse beauty, a blend of history and culture, traditions and nature, and not forgetting the delicious spread. The gorgeous land with its temples, churches, beaches, hills and forests beckons a visit only to give you an unforgettable experience of a lifetime. My one trip to Kerala didn’t stop there since I wanted so much more of the place that the following year saw me going to a different part again!

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Monsoon in Goa

A kaleidoscope of cultures that have blended together to bring out the best of Goa! Touched by pristine sun-kissed beaches and sumptuous seafood, Goa is one of the most beautiful places to unwind. Whether it’s the expansive countryside greenery, the colorful market at Anjuna or the hustle and bustle of Panjim, Goa is in every way a bliss wherein the kind smiles of the Goans and the tendency to stop by for a short chat, makes it livelier.

Explore this stunning place that’s home to striking Portuguese architecture, forts, and quaint churches and temples.

The advent of monsoons turns most people away from Goa, but who says not to visit Goa during the monsoon, rather ‘off season’ as many prefer to call it? The blooming natural beauty and greenery that goes as long as your eyes take you, Goa offers more reasons to visit during monsoon and witness its breathtaking beauty in abundance.

Although beaches are rather quiet and most shacks shut down during this time, you still have better chances of finding some neat accommodation and local restaurants that serve delicious Goan food.

The best part is probably the fact that luxurious staying could cost you 50% lesser than the peak months. This is one of the best times to witness the canopy of green covering the countryside. Also known for its trekking trails, these appear luscious green during the rainy season, inducing life into the trek. Probably a trek along the dense greenery that gives you a glimpse of the Dudhsagar falls at its mightiest.

Swimming in the seas at this point may not seem like a good idea, with rough waves dominating the otherwise tranquil sea. Although that mustn’t deter you from visiting Goa- if you’re the adventurous one, you must try white water rafting in Mandovi River for a thrilling experience.

Likewise the Chapora fort on the Vagator beach is one of the most pristine sites to catch during the rains. Beaches like Mandrem and Arambol are the best to immerse in the moment and enjoy the rains, while if you want to catch up on some action, Baga and Calangute are probably your bets bet.

While accommodation prices are really low, bike rentals too are reasonably low, and surely a trip during the rainy season will save you a lot of bucks. Goa comes alive during this time of the year with its Sao Joao festival that follows young men jumping into the river to retrieve gifts thrown into the waters by the villagers. A fun sight to witness, you’ll agree to the fact that fun in Goa never goes off with season.

Few more festivals that continue offering reasons for celebrations are the Sangodd festival that has fishermen pay their respects to Saint Peter, the Touxeachem Feast and Bonderam flag festival.

August/ September welcome the Ganesh festival with great ardor and enthusiasm. You’re bound to fall in love with the rains that Goa because they look heavenly and feel absolutely refreshing.

While Goa boasts of beauty in all its splendor during the rainy season, there are some other states too that make a great holiday destination at this time. Munnar in Kerala, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu and, Coorg and Agumbe in Karnataka and Pondicherry are a few places that’ll make you enthrall in the monsoon. The surrounding beauty with the backdrop of a stunning foliage and enchanting waterfall lures travelers into exploring this time of the year.

Pros and Cons of Solo and Group Travel

– By Soliya Phadnis

Traveling is known to be the best teacher in life. There is so much you achieve with traveling- it widens your knowledge, fills your bucket of memories with cherished moments, enriches your experiences and transforms you! Are you planning on taking a vacation? Are you wondering whether you should be heading out all by yourself or being a part of group or two, ten or more? It’s best to know what suits your priorities and preferences to make a wise choice here.

Solo traveling has always been a dream for most travelers around the world, however there are so many who wish to take the impromptu trip but are apprehensive of a number of things. With a lot depending on your personality, if you are the kind of person who finds solace in absorbing the beauty of a place all alone, independent traveling is just for you. As nerve-wracking as it seems the freedom that traveling solo brings to you is unparalleled. You may chose to stay back on a hillside simply to enjoy the sunset, rather than zoom to the other end of the city to witness some play. There is no room to worry about going all the way to your favorite art gallery only to see it closed will probably have ruined your partner’s day. It’s your day top salvage and chalk a new plan- all about a learning experience. There is no binding on the amount of time you wish to explore a place, neither a strict schedule to follow. Traveling independently gives you a chance to resolve all problems, take your own decisions, be prepared for the unprepared and makes you a stronger person. There is no wait time for others to get ready and your trips starts when you start- you get to do just what you want and go just where you want! So step out, get lost, find your way and move on with the off beaten track, and find true joys in there! One of the best things about a solo trip is that self indulgence, sometimes delving into the deeper side and make a connection with your soul, getting out of the monotony of life and breaking the bonds for a while. Mistakes are your own and triumphs will turn out to be a mater of celebration!

Of course independent traveling has its perils as well like loneliness, security conundrums.  You need to know that there WILL be problems and you will feel very alone and sometimes may end up feeling lonely. However, with a little planning, preparation and common sense, you can sail safely through rough spots. You will be spending more time on figuring out how to proceed and get most of the experience that you had come for. Safety is a big issue in some countries especially for women travelers, although with right amount of precautions, there would be little hassle. Without someone to watch your back, it may seem highly unsafe, hence, it is better to understand the regulations and safety concerns of your destination. The first trip on your own could be a learning curve, posing more issues, simplest ones being meeting and talking to new people. Thus, understand the advantages and be prepared to face unprecedented events and make a choice. It is rather interesting and enriching to embark on a journey by yourself, fend for yourself, deal with issues and come back truly rejuvenated. Your best counsel is you so if something doesn’t feel right, don’t go for it.

On the other hand, a group tour will take you all over the world, to the destination of your choice, with ten other people having the same choice of place. Shuttling from one to another with a scheduled itinerary and a guide is of course a complete opposite of an independent trip. While travel is simply about exploring different places, knowing other cultures and meeting new people, the medium in which people choose to explore differs. As such group tours come in various sizes and kinds. However, they also turn out to be cheaper than a solo trip as group discounts can be availed for most attractions. Safety is an issue that is well taken care of in groups and lesser chances of things going wrong since there has been a good amount of pre- planning. You will seldom feel lonely as there will be a companion to talk with or share with. You may just find a friend in there! For those who do not see themselves going on a solo trip, organized tours work the best to step into the unknown.

However, there will be differences in preference of areas and interests. The strict schedule of organized trips will leave little opportunity for ‘alone time’ or probably to spend more time at a museum. You won’t get a chance to plan the places and hence not everything on the itinerary will interest you. The hardest part is quick traveling- not getting enough time at a place may seem annoying and you may end up missing out on a number of things to see/do. Clashing personalities and difference in opinions will sometimes give a tough time. Big crowds and lack of flexibility may at some point seem like a hindrance. And one of the most important that you may miss out on is interaction with the locals which is an experience in itself- something worth devouring. There is so much you learn and understand when you interact with people from the place and that is one of the reasons we choose to travel.

Thus, no matter what you choose, it is imperative that you plan wisely and make basic prior arrangements before taking the plunge. But, traveling will cleanse your soul and be sure to come back as a new person, to only plan another trip!

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness occurs when a human is acutely exposed to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude. It normally occurs above 2400meters or 8000feet. Anyone and everyone can be affected by altitude sickness. Most people can ascend to about 2400m without difficulty.

Altitude sickness is also known as altitude illness, hypobaropathy, “the altitude bends” or soroche.

It has 3 forms.

Mild altitude sickness is also called acute mountain sickness. It is similar to having a hangover. It causes nausea, fatigue and headaches. It is very common. Some people are affected mildly while some feel awful.

If a human experiences acute mountain sickness, then there is a chance of it developing more serious forms of altitude sickness like HAPE and HACE, both of which can be fatal within hours.

Acute mountain sickness (or AMS) can lead to HAPE (or high altitude pulmonary edema). Excess fluids accumulate in the lungs. This can be life-threatening and can happen to anyone who goes above 2400m. If you experience any of the following symptoms then you may die soon

  • Difficulty in breathing or breathlessness
  • Cough
  • Weakness or decreased exercise performance
  • Chest tightness or congestion
  • Blue skin color
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Crackles or wheezing, while breathing, in at least one lung field

In some cases, HAPE can cause a high temperature fever and coughing up frothy spit.

One of the main causes of HAPE is a shortage of oxygen which is caused by lower air pressure at high altitudes.

Acute mountain sickness can also lead to HACE (or high altitude cerebral edema). Excess fluids in the brain, leads to the swelling of the brain and this can happen because of the physiological effects of travelling at high altitude. Some of the symptoms are

  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Clumsiness
  • Stumbling
  • Laziness
  • Excessive emotion
  • Excessive violence
  • Fever
  • Coordination of movement
  • Discomfort or pain in the eyes due to light exposure or by presence of actual physical sensitivity of the eyes
  • An altered mental state
  • Severe headaches
  • Hallucination in some cases
  • Stupor
  • Blurred vision
  • Paralysis

Drowsiness and loss of consciousness can occur shortly before death.

It occurs when the body fails to acclimatize while ascending to a high altitude. It also occurs because of oxygen deprivation.

Treatment of HAPE and HACE are

  • Immediate descent to lower altitudes is absolutely essential
  • Dexamethasone and acetazolamide should both be given, if available
  • Pressure bags and oxygen gas can buy time

The main causes for altitude sickness are

  • Ascending faster than 500m per day
  • Exercising vigorously at high altitudes
  • Lower levels of oxygen at high altitudes

Every one including a physically fit person such as an Olympic athlete can get altitude sickness.

To prevent high altitude sickness, one must ascend slowly. One needs to acclimatize the body properly and get used to the altitude at every level. The body can acclimatize beautifully however, it needs enough time. It could take up to a week to adapt to an altitude of 5000m.

Only one drug is currently known to prevent AMS and to be safe for this purpose: acetazolamide (diamox). It causes some minor side effects, such as tingling fingers and a funny taste in the mouth.

Content reference

http://www.altitude.org/altitude_sickness.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altitude_sickness

There is no known cure for altitude sickness. Although these methods have been tried and it helps in reducing symptoms

  • Stay well hydrated throughout. Before you hit high altitude ensure that you have had 0.5 litres of water atleast half an hour before. Ensure that every night before going to bed, you have 0.5 litres of water.
  • Force yourself to eat even if you have slight headaches. Having slight headaches is normal.
  • Slow down and don’t force yourself to go faster.
  • Ascend slowly.
  • Go high, sleep low. You can go to a high altitude but ensure that you always sleep at lower altitudes.
  • Stay positive.
  • Enjoy the nature.
  • Breathe deeply if you go breathless.
  • While climbing stairs, go one step at a time. If you feel breathless, stop, take a minute to recover and then start climbing again. Slight breathlessness is normal.
  • Staying fit is also a key. Altitude sickness can hit even the fittest of the people, but that doesn’t mean one should not be fit. It is better to tackle altitude sickness with a fit body than an unfit body.
  • Regular pranayama exercises like simple anulom-vilom if started a couple of months before the trip to a high altitude destination can help in better breathing.
  • Simple 30mins brisk walking, if started a couple of months before the trip to a high altitude destination can also help in improving levels of fitness.
  • Ensure that you are dressed in layers. Even if you are indoors, ensure that you only take off the top most layer. The heat should never escape the body.
  • Don’t stay indoors. Be outside in the cold rather than the warm indoors. It helps in better acclimatization.
  • Some say Coca helps. Consult your homeopath.
  • Don’t drink alcohol as it tends to dehydrate the body.
  • Take the first day to acclimatize to the altitude. Take it easy. Rest for a couple of hours before you go for a short walk the moment you land at the high altitude destination.
  • Avoid caffeinated products as they tend to dehydrate.
  • Have the local food as far as possible.

Descend to a lower altitude if the symptoms get worse. Consult the doctor. Use oxygen to increase oxygen pressure. Diamox is easily available over the counter in Leh-Ladakh and Nepal. Resort to that in case of bad nausea or bad headaches.

Ladakh, the mystery

Ladakh

The land of clear waters, snow capped mountains, shimmering lakes and more beauty as far as your eyesight can take you- Ladakh is a visually stunning and culturally rich region high in the Indian Himalaya. This picturesque region is self sufficient which is a commendable achievement owing to the short season in which crops can grow and the limited arable land where water is laboriously channeled from mountain streams. The rugged wall of mountains around Ladakh lends a spectacular view to the region during all seasons. Buffyfish takes you on a trip to Ladakh through the winding mountainous terrain. With stupas and mud brick houses spread across the region, explore the beauty of nature and culture come together.

Nubra Valley

Indisputably the world’s highest motorable pass, Khardungla is located at 5602 meters and is a gateway to Shyok and Nubra valleys. In ancient times, Nubra formed a part of the overland trade route between Tibet and Turkestan. This Silk Route is also known as the Valley of Flowers and is one of the greenest regions of Ladakh. Unravel the legends of the silk route as you cross the formidable Khardungla along with Buffyfish’s expert guides. The scenic splendor of the region is a visual treat for the visitor.

Diskit

This was a stopover for caravans between Tibet and Chia during ancient trade times. Diskit gompa, situated on a mountain is the one of the most beautiful views. The Maitreya Buddha that stands at a height of 106 feet is another attraction of this region.

Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri Lakes

The striking deep blue color of the lake and the mesmerizing view around is what catches the eye.  The shimmering reflection of the mountains in the ever changing blue and green water of this lake is another striking feature.

A spectacular site in Leh, Tso Moriri Lake is a serene and a beautiful place to be at. Tso Moriri is located in the district of Rupshu, south east of Ladakh. The lake is surrounded by barren hills to which the snow capped mountains lend a striking backdrop. Situated in the midst of mountain peaks, shuting it off from the outside world, Mountain Lake is another name for Tso Moriri. Having no outlet, the water of the lake is brackish however, barely evident. As a matter of fact, the lack was once upon a time a popular source of salt.

Alchi Gompa

Alchi Gompa said to be one of the oldest is more than 1000 years old is situated on the banks of River Indus. The monastery is famous for its murals on the walls although most are in need of restoration. Brightly painted large images on the wall of the monastery along with other miniature paintings of Buddha make the monastery a piece of art. Alchi Du-khang and the Sum-tsek are the two main temples of Alchi, however there are many more that you could explore. Sum-tsek, a three tiered temple is the oldest in the Alchi Monastery.

Lamayuru

Dating back to the 11th century, Lamayuru monastery was founded by Mahasiddhacharya Naropa. This is home to more than 150 monks and has a rich collection of wall paintings, carpets, artifacts. The monastery has some caves that have been excavated from the mountains and are situated on a high cape overlooking the entire village and valley. Also known as yung drung (swastika), it has an 11 headed, 1000 eyed image of Chenzing. The Yundrung Kabgyad festival is held at this place during summer, on the 28th and 29th of the second Tibetan month.

Turtuk

The last village on the India Pakistan border, Turtuk is a peaceful village located in the Shyok River Valley. Turtuk, in every sense is a treat to the visitor- visually and culturally. Untouched by heavy tourism, the place has maintained its charm and a conversation with the locals is a delightful experience. The village is divided into three areas- Chutang- lower area, Yul- oldest area and Farol- most monasteries and guesthouses are located. During winter, the other two areas move to Chutang, which literally means river plain.

A journey with Buffyfish will take you through the enchanting mountainous region that unfolds the beauty within in forms of nature, culture and tradition. Colorful fluttering prayer flags are seen all over that are said to spread spiritual messages with the mountain breeze. Making one of the most beautiful places of India, Buffyfish’s trail through this region of Leh Ladakh will leave you wanting for more of it!!!

When in Rome, do as the Romans!

When in Rome, do as the Romans!

– By Smita Deo

Animish, Sheetal, Abhinay and I were fast asleep in the train bound to Italy from Nice. Abhinay was sleeping towards the door of the coupe.

At around 2:30 am Sheetal and I got up from deep slumber because of the commotion in our coupe only to realize that we were robbed of our money.

Abhinay was calmly sitting with a grin on his face, but the rest of us were in a total state of shock. I was wondering, “How the hell did this happen?” The ticket collector we approached for help didn’t pay much heed to us.

After an unsettled feeling we reached Rome at 7:00 in the morning. Sine we were short of money we quickly opened the Frommers for cheap accommodation and we came across a camping bungalows called “Flaminio”. After we booked ourselves we got on to the bus to get there where an old women cautioned us to be careful with our valuables. My first reaction was to hug my haversack and protect whatever was left.

Flaminio seemed like a good place full of caravans. We were also escorted to one by the manager. The place was neat and clean and the campus provided us a swimming pool, tennis court and restaurant too.

After freshening up and grabbing a bite we took a bus to the Vatican city which is right in the center of the city and where the St Peter’s Basilica stood proud in front of us. It is Italy’s largest, richest and the most spectacular Basillica. The interiors are lavish with spectacular work of art: Michelangelo’s Pieta, his soaring dome and Bernini’s 29m high baldachin over the papal alter. Once you in the nave the enormous size of the church becomes apparent. It has a space large enough to accommodate 60,000 visitors. It was truly amazing to be there.

We headed off to the Vatican museum that boasts one of the world’s greatest art collection. One should not miss going there.

I was too hungry and tired to move without lunch the aroma of freshly ground coffee that comes out of the cafes was amazing.

After sharing a carafe of the local wine and a hearty lunch of Pasta carbonara in a Trattoria we set off to the Sistine chapel. The chapel was outstanding with some mind – blowing paintings all over the ceiling painted by Michelangelo between 1508 – 1512.

We headed to the Forum place where the Romans would discuss their political and other issues. The Colosseum was at a walking distance. It was a run down building, which is said to have been a place where the prisoners would have to fight the beast in order to entertain the king. We spent a lot of time there enjoying the beauty of the place.

We called it the day off after the Colosseum. After eating the Pain Au Chocolate (chocolate puff) we returned back to our caravan to crash.

The next morning after a heavy breakfast of fried eggs, toast and some warm coffee we headed to Naples in a train. It is Italy’s largest city and is one of it’s oldest, most artistic city.

Its archeological treasures are among the worlds most impressive, and its swag of palaces, castles and churches make Rome look positively provincial.

The food servs up the country’s best pizza, pasta and coffee and many of its most celebrated seafood dishes, street snacks and sweet treats. We had some amazing pasta and pizza on one such street. The taste of which I remember even today. Naples is a master piece.

We headed to Pompeii from there. It is a vast archeological site in South Italy. Once a thriving sophisticated Roman city. Pompeii was buried in the meters of ash and the pumice after the eruption of the Mt Vesuvius. One must visit this place.

The next morning we went to see the Fountain of Tretie. The myth is you throw a coin in the water and make a wish and its said that it comes true.

We headed for the Pantheon from there. It was beautiful the glass dome showering the sunlight inside was spectacular.

Rome was really beautiful and I don’t think one should miss anything there and must enjoy the place, the culture and the vast beautiful architecture.

Signing on this note I will share with you one of my favorite pasta recipe

FETTUCCINE CARBONARA

INGREDIENTS:

280 gm bacon rashers chopped

375 gm fettuccine

3 egg yolks beaten lightly

1 cup cream

½ cup parmesan cheese

3 tbsp chopped fresh chives

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt to taste

METHOD:

i. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the bacon till crisp.

ii. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water or as per instructed on the pack.

iii. Combine the pasta in a large bowl with the egg yolks, cream and cheese and cook on a low flame till it turns creamy. Don’t over cook it or the yolk will scramble. Sprinkle the chives and serve along with crispy garlic bread.

About Smita Deo

Smita Deo is a food blogger and loves to cook food and feed her near and dear ones. She often blogs on meatroot.com.