Off the beaten track

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Do you remember what your doctor ordered you to do, to keep your body happy and healthy? Err, do apples ring a bell?

Great! So if I ask you what it is that you should do to keep your soul happy? What would you say?

Well in my opinion it has to be travelling.

Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if every couple of months, we would be able  to take short weekend getaways, far away from the hustle and bustle of the daily life.

A chance to stay in a fancy hotel, eat delicious food prepared by top chefs, lie on the beach drinking cocktails and going shopping sounds like the ideal way to de-stress away the daily grind.

Of course there is no doubt that indulging in luxe travel is absolutely fabulous, but sometimes let’s make that adventure junkie in us take over and have us explore new places as they are meant to be seen.

So how about getting off the beaten path and away from sponsored tourism?

If you really want to ‘see’ the place and ‘feel’ the experience rather than just taking a vacation, then here are some ways you can go about it.

Try backpacking

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Rather than staying at five-star hotels or dining in Michelin star restaurants, go away from the glitz and glamour of tourist hot spots. Try Backpacking. It allows you to see a destination in a completely different way. It’s a much more humble way to get around and appreciate a destination for what it really is beyond the conventional tourism.

Of course you’ll mainly be traveling on foot and or by public transport which will enable you to really immerse yourself in the place you’re in, allowing you to see it as the locals would and not simply as a tourist. You’ll be discovering places that you simply wouldn’t come across if you were on package tour. Not only is it an inexpensive way to travel, but it can give you really meaningful experiences. You will leave a place feeling as though you know it, rather than just skimming the surface like you would as a tourist.

Stay somewhere different

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PC:Kerela Tourism

Instead of staying in a hotel, why not look into different accommodation options when you travel? For instance if you are in Kerela, try staying in a houseboat. The experience you will have will be like no other. Or you could choose an AIRBNB rather than an upscale hotel. It’s a lot cheaper and can completely change the feel of your trip. There are plenty of websites which offer home stays and vacation rentals with the entire house if needed.

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I have personally had some amazing stays at Washington DC and Montreal at comfortable and well maintained AIRBNB’s .  Although these were a little further out from the main tourist destinations, it allowed me to stay in a location that I may have never found, had I stayed at a hotel. Or if you are solo traveller you could look into travel hostels, these are cheap and cheerful and can be a great way to meet other travelers.

Once you’ve decided on your destination, do your research and consider different options for where you could stay. Going with something a bit more unique such as Houseboats, or Swiss Tents could add another dimension to your trip and make it extra memorable.

Speak to the locals

Speaking to the locals is one of the best ways to find places that are off the beaten path. There are certain streets that bring out the vibe of a place. And speaking to locals would certainly help in exploring it.

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On my recent trip to Singapore, walking through the streets in Kampong Glam, I was pleasantly surprised to find Haji Lane. It’s fabled to be one of the narrowest streets in Singapore. The street had some quirky and vintage boutiques, funky graffiti on its walls and quaint cafes.

Neal’s Yard in London was another such gems I found on my travels.

Google and travel guides will, of course, tell you all about popular places and the things that you want to see, but there will be so many additional things that you’ll be able to discover by chatting to the people that live there.

Travel off season

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Most destinations will have a peak season and an off season, mainly dictated by the weather. Ideally try going during either on an off peak or shoulder season. Not only will it be less expensive but it will be less busy. Sure, there won’t be as many shops, eateries, clubs and other hot spots open but as a traveler, this won’t be the kind of thing you’re looking for anyway.

On the downside, there might be not so ideal weather conditions during the off season depending on where you go, so do your research and go prepared. For example, many hotels in Goa have excellent packages during the monsoon season between June-September.

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Travel, should not be a break from everyday life. Travel should be the time when you feel the most normal, centered, and at home.

There is no high more intense than being someplace new, and feeling like just a little piece of a vast, vast world.

 

Happy Exploring!!

madhavi

A photo walk through the charming lanes of Old Delhi

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Old Delhi, the former walled capital of the Mughal Empire, and one of the world’s most distinctive historic quarters, never fails to attract tourists for its captivating energy and heritage walks.

Being one of the city’s most crowded and chaotic areas the sights, smells, and sounds fill you up with a sensory overload. The lively bazaars, ancient shrines,  monuments, tombs and forts, bustling bazaars, centuries-old heritage sites, and winding back alleys make you forget about the chaos , the dusty lanes and the innumerable people around to relive the rich history and the lost glory of the Mughal era.

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UNESCO World Heritage the Jama Masjid-the largest mosque in India and one of Asia’s largest ,houses sacred relics of the Prophet Mohammad and an ancient transcript of the Quran. Built in a Mughal style of architecture with its Islamic, Indian and Persian influences, the mosque is known as “ Masjid e Jahan Numa”, meaning “a mosque that commands a view of the world.

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One of the most unexplored monuments of Delhi, spread Across 256 Acres Of land, The Red Fort, an icon in India’s struggle for freedom, has two primary entrances – Delhi Gate and Lahore Gate. Red Fort used to house the legendary Kohinoor Diamond in the Diwan-i-Khas.

 

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The fort’s entrance through Lahore Gate opens out onto Chhatta Chowk, aka Meena Bazaar once the shopping centre for the ladies of Mughals, has a long arched passageway that used to house the most exclusive royal tailors and merchants. It’s now a market area with many shops selling souvenirs and handcrafts.

 

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Gauri Shankar Temple built in honor of Lord Shiva, has a lingam believed to be around 800 years old, as well as statues of Shiva, Parvati (Shiva’s wife), and their sons, Ganesh and Kartik.

 

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Digambar Jain Temple-The focal devotional room (first floor) has images and statues of revered Jain figures such as Lord Mahavira and Lord Parasnath. There’s a bird hospital on the temple compound.

 

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Sisganj Gurdwara, a Sikh temple built at the place where, in 1675, the Mughals killed Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh Guru.

Cycle-rickshaws

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Old Delhi’s main strip, Chandni Chowk-is in fact the heart of Old Delhi. It’s said that Chandni Chowk, meaning Moonlight Square, got its evocative name from the moon’s reflection in a large pond of water. Apparently, the pond existed in the square in front of the present-day Town Hall but the British built a clock tower over it (the clock tower collapsed in 1951). Gradually, the whole street and adjoining area became known as Chandni Chowk.

 

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Khari Baoli, is home to the largest wholesale spice market in Asia. Spices connected India to the West, and the market at Khari Baoli Road has been in business since the 17th century. You’ll get to see huge sacks of spices being transported and sold.

 

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Naugarha– In Hindi, naughara means nine houses and gali is alley. Naughara Gali is an alley where nine colorful Jain havelis were built in the 18th century. This little hamlet is complete with an exquisitely carved white marble Jain temple at the end of the lane. Its interiors have some magnificent murals and paintings.

 

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Walk into a bylane and you enter Kinari Bazaar which specializes in wedding paraphernalia, such as glittering tinsel decorations and ornate bridal accessories and mainly jewelry.

 

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Ballimaran has wholesale shops selling a choice of specs, stylish sun glasses and lenses. Down a quiet lane stands an old dilapidated structure which was once a Haveli. This mansion was once home to Mirza Asadullah Khan, better known as Mirza Ghalib; one of India’s most celebrated and quoted Urdu poets. Now a heritage site under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the memorial museum displays the objects and other things used during those times to make it look like the actual dwelling of the poet.

 

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Delhi’s largest books market Nai Sarak has thrived for decades by buying and selling old text books. Nai Sarak also has everything from fourth hand college books to textbooks for competitive exams, from brand new fiction to first edition Hindi non-fiction. In the midst of all this happy chaos, this road also serves writers, artists, scrap bookers and crafters. Writing and art material from foreign brands abound if you know where to look.

 

 Half the fun of visiting Old Delhi is getting there; the other half is its food.

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Jalebiwala, This jalebi shop aptly named, ‘Old Famous Jalebi Wala, has been around since 1884; having been in operation for the past four generations of the family now. A 140 year old sweet shop enormously famous for the piping hot, thick and juicy, freshly made jalebis that they offer.

 

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Amidst Old Delhi’s architectural marvels, rests the Paranthe Wali Gali- an enigmatic emblem of India’s culinary heritage serving a variety of the city’s classic street dishes paratha, a stuffed Indian flatbread.

 

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Known for the magical flavours, Old Delhi is known for the delicacies that one cannot forget for life. And, one of those dishes is ‘Daulat ki Chaat’-the dessert that melts-in-your-mouth and can warm-up-your-heart. Available only during the winter season (November-January). The special chaat uses milk as the main ingredient and the end result is a foam like heavenly soufflé.

 

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Right close to Chandni Chowk metro station lies Natraj Dahi Bhalla a perpetually mobbed corner stand. It offers just two items- Dahi Bhalla and Aloo Tikki. Both of these are worth a taste.

 

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If you hate summer then a refreshing lassi  is the best solution to cool you instantly. This creamy and refreshing Yogurt based drink is just out of the world. Served in one of the oldest shops Amritsari Lassi wala in Chandni Chowk there is a reason for you to put it on your “must try” lists.

 

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Where there’s smoke, there’s flavor – Matia Mahal street just opposite Jama Masjid Gate No. 1, has a number of street vendors selling Nalli Nihari, kababs and various non veg curries which will surely satiate your meat cravings.

 

 

If your world revolves around food, and you also like to spend time exploring heritage, culture and different cuisines then Old Delhi is one of the best places in the world to fulfill that desire.

 

🙂

Madhavi

 

 

 

 

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Is being Insta-worthy really worth it?

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The golden sunset was like nothing I’d seen before. An expanse of the sky mixed in with a cocktail of colours -baby pink, magenta, bright orange, yellow, violet and grey. It was a fluid painting in motion.

The dreamy location was the Tanah Lot. A Balinese temple perched high on the rock, facing the wide open ocean.

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The setting was perfect with the crashing waves below, and the dramatic colors of the dusk sky in the background, glowing softly with the spectacular light of the slowly setting sun.

There I was, completely mesmerized by the brilliant sight, waiting patiently for the sun to loving merge with the ocean when suddenly; a hand was thrust in front of me.

Holding the latest iPhone, the hand took picture after picture of the sunset, hoping to capture the wonder on a 14-centimetre screen.

I was annoyed and distracted. My moment was broken.

Why did this happen? I asked myself. I wanted to witness this daily and magical ritual.

I wanted to “feel” the moment.

I wanted to stare at the magic of the sun drop its curtains for the day.

I was not thinking of capturing images on my phone to relive it later. No siree!!

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I admit that Instagram is just great. And the fact that it is something quick, something that you can just do on the go, is probably its biggest appeal.

While travel companies, agents, hotels, cruise ships, tourist locations, airports and airlines have started to reshape their businesses with visual posts in mind, becoming Insta-famous is a double-edged sword.

But as the Instagram effect continues into 2019, destinations are thinking of ways to fight back–and fight off the teeming hoards of selfie-stick-wielding visitors, specifically to those places which are unable to handle the massive footfalls.

Instagram has gone from something fun we do when we travel i.e. clicking pictures of ‘been there, done that’ to becoming the main reason to travel.

It’s not just about ruining others’ good time, living space and nature; it appears that the quest for the perfect ‘Instagram selfie’ and travel shot is also destroying people’s lives.

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A recent study into death by selfies found that 259 people died in a six-year period while attempting to capture the perfect selfie.

Photogenic destinations like Cinque Terre, Barcelona, and Santorini are starting to limit how and when tourists visit in hopes of preserving the landmarks for the future.

Where does this leave us? Travel photos have been around for decades and they’re not going to stop. The responsibility for keeping people safe might have to fall to government and local bodies.

Can pictures or rather instagramming them, do justice to the visual drama, the vibrancy happening in front of us. Sadly the ‘likes’ and the ‘comments’ are ruining the pleasures of “living in the moment”

For as long as humans have experienced wanderlust, travel has always been made sweeter by the tales we get to recount and narrate for family and friends, long after the holiday has been over. But in today’s image-obsessed world, unfortunately we have traded the “art of story telling” into a Insta Story that vanishes after 24 hours.

 

❤ Madhavi