Tag Archives: travel

Will be in US for the next two weeks

Well guys, a quick update.

I am travelling to Sunnyvale, CA tomorrow morning and will be back in Bangalore in two weeks.

It is a business trip and the first week is packed with lot of meetings. So if you have sent me an email, expect a delay in the reply ;)

Unlike the last few times, I have only one full weekend this time and I haven’t planned anything yet. Might atleast go on a city tour around SFO I guess.

The worst part of travelling to US from India, is that you have to sit in a flight for 20 hours :( . I have loaded my Kindle with a couple of books and I guess it would last for the entire trip. Meanwhile if you have any recommendations that do let me know, will load it up in my Kindle.

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Things to keep in mind while traveling in Bhutan

The following are certain things that you have to keep in mind while traveling to Bhutan, which I came to know after my recent trip to Bhutan. I thought of writing about them here so that it is useful for others who are also planning for a trip there.

Getting into Bhutan

There are two ways to get inside Bhutan. One is to enter via Phuentsholing and the second option is to fly up till Paro and land there. To come out of Bhutan you can use the above two routes or come out through Samdrup as well. But you can’t enter through Samdrup.

Visa and Permit

For Indians you don’t need a get a visa in advance to enter Bhutan. You can get the permit on arrival, either at Phuentsholing or at Paro. You will initially get a permit for 7 days at Phuentsholing and using it you can visit only Thimphu and Paro. To stay more or visit other restricted places which I visited like Haa valley, Punakha or Bumthang, you need to renew your permit in Thimphu. The immigration office is located at Norzin Lam in Thimphu.

Timezone

Bhutan follows a different timezone than India. It is GMT + 6 hours, which is 30 minutes ahead of Indian standard time. Once you cross Phuentsholing all times which are displayed are in Bhutan timezone. We missed our bus to Thimphu from Phuentsholing because of this timezone difference.

No smoking

Bhutan has a very strict policy about smoking. Smoking or sale of tobacco products is completely prohibited inside Bhutan. The fine is pretty high and it also includes jail time if you are caught. So be aware of this rule.

Dress code

Bhutan has a strict dress code for its people but it is pretty relaxed for tourists. Bhutan nationals are supposed to wear their national dress (Gho for men and Kira for women) on all formal occasions and places like government office, temples, Dzongs, monasteries etc.

For tourists when you enter Dzongs you should wear full pants and shirts with collars or full sleeves. The easiest option is to always carry a jacket and just wear it when needed. Even though not needed if you happen to buy a Gho or Kira, then they will be very happy to help you wear it. But keep in mind that it is not that easy to wear and are generally quite expensive :)

If you are anywhere near their national flag, you should remove your caps or hats. Also remove your footwear when you enter a holy place or temple. Most of the time it is clearly specified whether you have to remove your footwear or not.

Language

The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha but pretty much everyone can understand and speak Hindi and English. Almost all the taxi drivers and shop keepers can also speak English. So it shouldn’t be a problem.

However if you learn a couple of words in Dzongkha like Thank you (Kadriche) or Hello(Kuzuzangbo la) and speak to them, they are very happy.

Photography

Photographing People

Bhutan people are generally shy and if you want to take a photo, it is always good to ask them. In our experience mostly they said yes. Also it is a good manner to get their postal address and send a copy to them. But don’t ask for their address if you don’t plan to send it to them.

If you happen to see anyone from the royal family then you should not photograph them, even if they are in the public place.

Photographing Places

Most of the places including Dzong and monasteries are okay to be photographed expect places where the deity are kept. The good rule of thumb is that if you have to remove your shoes, then it is not okay to photograph. Also when in doubt just ask someone and they will let you know.

Driving

You can take your own vehicle from India inside Bhutan and drive it with your Indian license. But for that you have to take a permit at Phuentsholing. You would need all relevant documents for your vehicle like RC book, pollution certificate etc. To drive Bhutan registered vehicles you need either a Bhutan license or international vehicle and can’t drive them with your Indian driving license.

If you are going to drive your own vehicle then be mindful of the rules. Almost everyone drives below 50 Km/per hour and there is absolutely no horn. Also the entire country doesn’t have a single traffic signal and I guess that should pretty much explain it ;)

Taxi Tariff

Almost all the taxi tariff are fixed by the government and is generally considered a bad practice to bargain. We found it to be cheap if we hire the taxi for the entire day or still cheaper if you hire it for the entire trip. We hired a taxi for 8 days and paid 3000 Nu per day.

Most of the taxi’s are 4 seaters and if you are in a group of 5, then you have to hire two separate taxi’s and they follow this rule pretty religiously.

Food

Most of Bhutanese food is like Indian food, but they are very very spicy. They don’t add chilies to dishes but pretty much the entire dish is made out of chilies. You have to specify the spice level when you order Bhutanese food. You can try out some of these Bhutanese dishes, which we found to be very good. Ema Dhatse (chillies and cheese), Kewa Dhatse (potatoes and cheese) and Shawa Datse (mushroom and cheese). You also would get rice and dhal pretty much everywhere.

You can also try out kokka (a special type of noodles), channa and tea for breakfast which are also very good.

Trekking

Multi-day trekking is extremely expensive. The cost is around $150-$200 a day. It is because of very stringent rules regarding trekking and disposal of human wastes. There are lot of opportunities for half-day hikes which doesn’t require guides. You can also try out mountain biking and there are lot of beautiful trails available throughout the country. Mountain bikes are available for full day rent and the cost is around Nu 1000 per day.

Rivers and Lakes

Most of the water bodies (either rivers or lakes) are considered to be sacred places. Contaminating them or throwing stones or garbage into them is considered to be a serious offense, so be mindful of them. Fishing is also prohibited in most places.

Pedestrian Day

Every Tuesday is Pedestrian Day and no private vehicles are allowed on road and people are encouraged to walk or use bicycle. In small towns all taxi’s are allowed and in big cities like Thimphu and Paro, taxi’s are allowed based on their registration number. Taxi’s with odd and even registration numbers are allowed on alternate Tuesday’s.

Dry day

Every Tuesday is also a dry day and selling of alcohol is prohibited throughout the country.

Mobile and GPRS

It is very easy to get a local pre-paid GSM sim. You just need your permit and activation is instant. Calls to India are charged 5 Nu/per minute. There is no 3G and GPRS is very expensive. It costs around 10 NU/per MB and the connection is not that great. In Thimphu there are a couple of restaurants that provide free wifi. (The cafe and Ambient Cafe. Both are near the clock tower). In other places you can go to an Internet cafe and the cost is around 60-90 Nu per hour.

Update: Total cost

A couple people were asking me what was the total cost for the entire trip. I just did the accounts and it came to around Rs 17,500 per person for two weeks in a group of 5. If the number of people in the group is less then it might have be slightly high.

If you are planning to travel to Bhutan and if you have any specific question leave a comment below and I will try to update this post with the answer.

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Bhutan Trip – Itinerary

After reading about my recent Bhutan trip, lot of people were asking me for my itinerary. I thought of sharing it here so that it is useful for other people who are also planning for a trip to Bhutan.

Day 1 (15-Sep-2012)

Bangalore -> Kolkata -> Bagdora -> Jaigaon

Took an early morning flight from Bangalore to Kolkata. In Kolkata, we had a layover for 5 hours. So we went to some near by places like Maha Lakshimi temple, Bellur Matt etc. From Kolkata we took a flight to Bagdora. After reaching Bagdora airport, we took a pre-paid taxi to Jaigaon, the Indian border town from the airport. Usually it should take you around 4-5 hours (around 180 Km) to reach but for us it took close to 8 hours because of huge traffic jam caused by a landslide. One important thing to note is that there is a 16 Km stretch near Jaigaon, where the road is extremely bad. It will take at least an hour to cross this stretch, of course with some severe back pain. We stayed overnight in a hotel in Jaigaon opposite to the India Bhutan border.

India-Bhutan Border

Day 2 (16-Sep-2012)

Jaigaon -> Phuentsholing -> Thimphu

We took the permit from the immigration office and crossed the India Bhutan border gate (which is just an arch) and reached Phuentsholing. The border town at the Indian side is called Jaigaon, while the border town at the Bhutan side is called Phuentsholing. From Phuentsholing we took a taxi to Thimphu, which is the capital of Bhutan. The ride will take you around 5 hours (around 180 Km). This stretch of the road is extremely scenic and there are around 5-6 major water falls on the way. We did the mistake of traveling there after dark, but found out what we missed on our way back. If you are planning to take this route, make sure you do it at day time and keep a camera handy. We reached Thimphu pretty late and stayed at a hotel in Norzin Lam.

It is also possible to go by public transport. The cost for the bus to Thimphu is around 200 Nu (Bhutan currency, which is almost equal to Indian currency) and you have bus every 30 minutes till 4:30 PM Bhutan time (GMT + 6 hours, which is 30 minutes ahead of Indian time)

Day 3 (17-Sep-2012)

Sight seeing in and around Thimphu.

Visited a couple of places like Telecom Tower, Dechen Lakhang, Archery stadium, Tashicho Dzong and Buddha Point which is present on top of hill. Out of all the places, I liked Buddha point a lot. The Buddha statue was massive and also the view from top of the hill was amazing.

Budha Point in Thimpu
From Buddha Point in Thimphu

Day 4 (18-Sep-2012)

Thimphu -> Paro

The permit that you get at Phuentsholing is valid only for 7 days and you can visit only Thimphu and Paro using it. In order to visit other places or stay longer you need to extend your permit at Thimphu. So we went to the immigration office in Norzin Lam to extend our permit and also to get permission to visit other places in Bhutan. It took us a couple of hours, since the officers were busy because of some meeting.

After getting the permit, we took a taxi to Paro. Paro is around 60 Km from Thimphu and it will take you around 2 hours to reach there. After reaching Paro, we stayed in a hotel in the main street of the town.

Paro is a very beautiful valley and you can catch a glimpse of it in the below photo.

Paro Valley

Day 5 (19-Sep-2012)

Sight seeing in and around Paro

The highlight of the day was the hike to Tiger’s Nest (Paro Taktsang). It is a Buddhist sacred site and temple complex located in a cliffside of the upper Paro valley. It took us about 3 hours to climb up and around 2 hours to climb down. It was really an amazing place and I might a separate blog post about this place.

Below are some photos of Tiger’s Nest.

Tiger's Nest
Tiger's Nest

Day 6 (20-Sep-2012)

Sight seeing in and around Paro

Visited a couple of places in the Paro valley like Drukgyel Dzong, Paro Rinpung Dzong, Kyichu Lhakhang and National Museum. Out of all these places, I liked Drukgyel Dzong, which is an old ruined fortress and Paro Rinpung Dzong, which is the main administrative office and monastery in Paro.

Most of these places are near to Paro and you can hire a taxi to reach these places from Paro.

Day 7 (21-Sep-2012)

Paro -> Cheli La -> Haa Valley

We hired a taxi for the next 8 days at 3000 Nu per day and left Paro to Haa Valley. On the way to Haa valley, we passed Cheli La, which is one of the highest mountain pass in Bhutan. It was very cold at Cheli La, and you could see the below photo, to find out how chill it was. After Cheli La, we reached Haa valley, a very small and cold town. We stayed overnight in Haa valley.

Cheli La
Cheli La

Day 8 (22-Sep-2012)

Haa Valley -> Thimphu -> Douch La -> Punakha

We visited the Indian Army camp (photo below) in Haa valley and then left to Punakha. To reach Punakha we had to go through Thimphu. Between Thimphu and Punakha we passed through Douch La. Reached Punakha a little late and found it difficult to get room, since the hotels are spread apart. This is was the only place, where we had little struggle to get the room.

Indian Army camp in Bhutan

Day 9 (23-Sep-2012)

Sight seeing around Punakha and Wangdue

Punakha was little hot when compared with other places. We went to Chimi Lhakhang (temple of the famous fertility king Drukpa Kinley), Punakha Dzong and to an Iron Bridge which was build over the Punakha river. We also witnessed Tsechu, the local festival in Wangdue. If you are interested in cultural dances etc, you will really like these festivals.

I liked the Iron bridge very much. It was a completely different experience to walk in the long, swinging hanging bridge. Checkout some of the photos which we took in the iron bridge.

Long Iron Bridge
Long Iron Bridge

Day 10 (24-Sep-2012)

Punakha -> Wangdue -> Pele La -> Trongsa -> Bumthang -> Jakar

We left Punakha a little early and reached Jakar down in Bumthang at around 4 PM. On the way we crossed Wangdue, Pele La and Trongsa. The entire drive was very beautiful and took about 9 hours. Bumthang was slightly hot during the day and cold during the night. Locals call Bumthang as second Switzerland and it lived up to its reputation.

Day 11 (25-Sep-2012)

Sight seeing around Bumthang and Jakar town.

We went to Jakar Dzong, Wangdichholing Dzong, Kurji Lakhang and then attended the Tsechu at the Tamshing Lakhang. Almost all places were very beautiful and picture perfect.

Day 12 (26-Sep-2012)

Sight seeing around Bumthang and Jakar town.

Went to Burning Lake, which is arond 13 Km from Jakar. It was very beautiful and we tried to get into the water, which was very cold even though the sun was very hot. After coming out of Burning Lake, we parked our car near a small bridge and got into the river. The water was very clean and cold and it was a very nice experience. We spent about 2 hours there in the river itself.

Aswin and Subbu did mountain biking for the entire day, while I did it only in the evening. There are lot of trails for doing mountain biking and you should definitely try it out if you are in Bumthang.

Day 13 (27-Sep-2012)

Bumthang -> Trongsa -> Pele La -> Punakha -> Douch La -> Thimphu

It was a long drive and it took us about 12 hours (257 Km) from Bumthang to Thimphu. The entire drive was very beautiful and on the way we entered Trongsa Dzong from the eastern gate. We reached Thimphu in the evening and went for shopping since almost every shop had a sale because of the local Tsechu festival.

Day 14 (28-Sep-2012)

Thimphu -> Phuentsholing -> Jaigoan -> Siliguri

The drive from Thimphu to Phuentsholing is very beautiful and you pass numerous majestic waterfalls on the way. There is a small stretch of road near Phuentsholing where it is always misty and you could witness lot of past landslide areas. We were both sad and glad, sad because it was our last day in Bhutan and glad that we did this trip. We crossed the border around 2 PM and you could immediately notice the cultural difference. We were greeted with heavy vehicle horn sounds as soon as stepping inside Jaigaon.

We had lunch in Jaigaon and took another taxi to Siliguri were we stayed overnight.

Day 15 (29-Sep-2012)

Siliguri -> Bagdora -> Kolkata -> Bangalore -> HOME

Our flight from Bagdora was at 2:40 PM, so in the morning we went around Siliguri, even though it was very hot. We went to “Hon Kong Market” which is a famous place to get cheap electronics stuff. After that we took a taxi to the Bagdora airport, took flight to Kolkata and then took our connecting flight to Bangalore. Reached home at around 10:30 PM and slept in my bed after around 15 days :)

Itinerary Recommendation

If you have only a week to visit Bhutan then I would recommend you to visit Thimphu and Paro. If you have around 10 days then make sure you visit Thimphu, Paro, Haa valley and Punakha or if you have 15 days like us then you could also include Bumthang to the list.

Update

I have also written about the things that you should keep in mind while traveling to Bhutan.

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Kadriche Bhutan

(For those who don’t know Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan the title means “Thank you Bhutan” ;) )

“Ohh my god, what a country?” All of us were saying this phrase at least a couple of times everyday during out stay there. Druk (pet name of Bhutan) is no ordinary country. You experience the charm and magic of one of the world’s most enigmatic countries.

My initial plan was to spend one week in Bhutan and the next week in Sikkim. We enjoyed Bhutan so much that I changed my mind immediately after entering Bhutan. You feel that you have entered a completely different world just after crossing the border between India and Bhutan.

All most every place in Bhutan is so scenic with high mountains, breath taking valleys, majestic water falls, crystal clear water in rivers and streams, beautiful Dzong, fantastic monasteries, nice whether and I could go on. But more than the beauty of the place, it is the hospitality of the people that convinced me to stay longer.

Pretty much every one in Bhutan is very polite and goes out of their way to help you. Their life style is very relaxed and you could never find anyone in a rush. Almost everyone follows the law and most importantly no one drives rashly. In fact there is not even a single traffic signal in the entire country. I guess this could pretty much explain it :)

We had lot of instances where people from all walks of life (from a taxi driver to a owner of a big hotel) went completely out of their way to help us.

Towards the end of the trip we were so amazed that me, Aswin and Subbu have decided to try out the Bhutanese way of living (like being polite and helpful to others) and especially the Bhutanese way of driving for at least a week to see how it feels. If possible I am planning to continue doing it as long as possible in Bangalore. Wish me all the best :)

I am glad that I did this trip and it is one of those trips that you will remember for a very long time.

Over the next couple of days, I will be writing more about my trip, including the itinerary, places you should not miss, things you should prepare for while visiting Bhutan etc. So stay tuned.

Update

Here is the writeup by Aswin, who also came with me to Bhutan.

I have also written about the things that you should keep in mind while traveling to Bhutan and my itinerary.

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Traveling to Bhutan

I have been quite silent in my blog for sometime now. There are lot of things happening around (more details soon) and one of them was that I was planning for a trip to Bhutan and Sikkim.

I have traveled to most parts of India expect north-east and with this trip, I could claim that I have covered most parts of India :)

Initially I thought of doing a bike trip, like my last western ghats trip but then decided to not to. I Will post more details about the trip, with photos once I am back.

I will be back by the end of this month and till then my phone will be switched off and if you send me an email you will get a response only after I am back.

And regarding the secret project, you might have to wait till I am back ;)

Update

I have also written about my experience, the list of things that you should keep in mind while traveling to Bhutan and my itinerary.

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My first experience with snowfall

One of the advantage as well as disadvantage of living in the southern part of India is that, you never get to witness snow fall. We get to witness snowfall only in movies or in malls where it is just cotton and not real snow.

But during my recent series of vacation, I witnessed snowfall for the first time ever in my entire life. It was one of those memorable moments in my life.

I was returning to India from US and my connecting flight was in Frankfurt, Germany and it is where I witnessed snowfall :) My flight got delayed a bit, but who cared ;)

I didn’t know till then that snow while falling is soft. I always confused it with ice and assumed that it would be hard. When I got down from the flight, snow was floating in the air like a feather and it slowly kissed my skin. After it touched me, it slowly melted into water droplets. It was one of those memorable moments of my life, which you will remember for a long time.

Following are some of the photos that I took using my mobile, while enjoying the snowfall. I seriously wished that I had a decent camera with me at that time.

Snowfall in Frankfurt Airport Snowfall in Frankfurt Airport Snowfall in Frankfurt Airport Snowfall in Frankfurt Airport

I also took these photos when my flight was over Iceland. You can see the frozen Atlantic ocean along the shore.

Flight over Iceland Flight over Iceland Flight over Iceland

One more highlight of the trip is that, on four consecutive days, I boarded 4 flights, visited 6 airports and landed in 3 different countries in 3 different continents.

Let’s see if I get a chance to break my own record ;)

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My plan for December

Regular readers of my blog would now that I generally will be busy in December travelling. But this year, it’s crazy ;)

Here is an outline of my plan for December. You yourself can figure out whether it is crazy or not :)

I am leaving to Goa on 1st of December for team outing with my teammates and will be back to Bangalore on 3rd night. Then the next day (4th Dec) I am leaving to US on a Business trip. After spending two weeks there, I will be back to Bangalore on 21st Morning. That evening I have a party at office. And after that, my office is closed for forced year-end vacation in which I will be travelling again (even though I haven’t finalized the place yet).

Ohh, by the way, did I mention that I have two weekends in US and I am planning to go Las Vegas in one weekend and to New York in the other.

And did I mention that I am missing two other outings from office because I don’t have enough days in December ;)

Is it crazy enough :)

So if you sent me an email and if I haven’t responded back, then you know why :)

Meet you all in 2012 guys.

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Trip to Western Ghats

Long time readers of my blog, would know my love for travel and treks. Last week we had a long weekend and I completed my dream trip. (If you have been following me on Twitter, then you would have know about, since I was tweeting about it pretty frequently)

Me and Aswin have been planning for this for quite some time and the following are the places we visited.

Day 0 (Aug 30 2011)

The initial plan was to start from Bangalore at around 5, so that we can reach Hassan in a decent time. We got delayed by rain and were able to start only at 7:30 PM and by the time we crossed Bangalore it was already 9.

We had a quick dinner and started towards Hassan at around 9:45 PM and reached Hassan past midnight. After a few minutes of search, we found a decent hotel and went to sleep at around 1 AM.


View Day 0 – Bangalore, Hassan in a larger map

Day 1 (Aug 31 2011)

Thanks to Aswin’s alarm, we got up early in the morning and started at around 7 AM and reached Belur around 8 AM. We had a quick breakfast at Belur and started towards Chikmagalur. The road was awesome and we stopped in a couple of places for photo-shoots.

I couldn’t resist it when I saw this Banyan tree :)

Can you do it?

From Chikmagalur, we went to Kemmannugundi through Mullayanagiri.

Mullayanagiri is the highest peak in Karnataka. By the time we reached the top, it was drizzling and the place was completely covered with mist. I was just wearing a sleeveless t-shirt while the others were all shivering :) You could see the frost which deposited on me in these photos.

mullayanagiri-4 mullayanagiri-6 mullayanagiri-5 Frost on my body On top of Mullayangiri

The road was good until Mullayanagiri, but it was the last 20Km to Kemmannugundi. We reached Kemmannugundi at around 3 and had omelettes as late lunch in a road side shop.

We wanted to visit Hebbe falls on the same day, but the locals told us the road is not good and it is better to go there the next day early in the morning. We then visited Kalhatti water falls and went to Bellavara and stayed in a home stay.


View Day 1 – Hassan – Belur – Chikmagalur – Mullayanagiri – Kemmannugundi in a larger map

Day 2 (Sep 1 2011)

We got up early again, (thanks to Aswin’s alarm) and hired a jeep to go to Hebbe falls. The jeep took us on a sloppy road for around 11 Km and stopped. We had to trek the last few Km of leech infested forest, cross 3 streams to go the Hebbe falls.

It was one of the most amazing falls and as we went close to it all of us started to shout in joy. We were in the middle of a deep forest inches away from an amazing water fall with no other human nearby for alteast another 10 km, with only leeches as company ;) The locals told us to use neem oil and gun powder which was very effective against them, but we still had to donate a few ml of our blood to them :)

Update: Checkout Aswin’s blog post about our Hebbe falls trip as well.

Hebbe Falls Hebbe Falls Hebbe Falls

After spending a couple of hours in the falls we came back to our home stay and stated towards Udupi. We wanted to reach Udupi before it gets dark but it started to rain heavily and we had to stay at Kalasa.


View Day 2 – Kemmannugundi – Hebbe Waterfalls – Kalasa in a larger map

Day 3 (Sep 2 2011)

We started early in the morning (again you know how ;) ) and drove through the Kudremukh forest area. This drive was one of the awesome drives of my life. We were driving through rain and the road was covered with mist with just a few meters of visibility surrounded by huge treas. On the way I also spotted a tiger club right in the road.

From Kudremukh we reached Udupi via Karkala and Manipal. After having lunch we started to Maravanthe Beach. At Maravanthe beach the tide was heavy and we spent a couple of hours playing in the beach like kids :) Check out some of the photos which were taken while we were playing in the beach.

Can you do that? oops... Me and Rat Enjoying waves Enjoying waves

From Maravanthe Beach we went to Batkal. By the time we reached Batkal, it was around 6:30 PM and we had a dilemma. Jog falls was another 90 Km away and it had already started to get dark and it was raining heavily. When we asked a couple of locals, they said that the road to Jog falls in a ghat road surrounded by deep jungle. After some minutes of discussion we finally decided to do it :) The look on the local people’s face said how crazy we are getting into ;)

It took as close to 3 hours and 15 minutes to cover the 90 Km of bad ghat road in pitch dark with pouring rain. We reached Kargal at around 9:45 PM and took a room and rested.


View Day 3 – Kalasa – Kudremukh – Karkala – Manipal – Udipi – Maravanthe Beach – Jog falls in a larger map

Day 4 (Sep 3 2011)

The next day we woke up late, and lazily roamed around Kargal and went to Jog falls after having breakfast.

The board on the way to Jog falls claimed it to be “World famous” and when we reached the falls, we felt that it indeed was “World famous”. It was massive and had around 4-5 mini-falls. We had to climb down 1500 steps to get to the place where the water was falling and it was worth it. Once again, the kid inside us came out and we were playing the water.

Me and Rat after getting up early in the monring

After that we also went to another viewpoint, on top of the falls from where we could clearly see the edge of the water falls. After Hebbe falls, Jog falls was one of the highlight of the entire trip :)

Jog Falls From the edge of the falls From the edge of the falls Side view

After spending almost the entire day in Jog falls, we went to Sagar and had dinner at a friend’s place.


View Day 4 – Jog falls – Sagar in a larger map

Day 5 (Sep 4 2011)

We again woke up lazily on Sunday and from Sagar, went to Shimoga, met another friend and then came to Arasikere. At Arasikere we had lunch and then started racing towards Bangalore. We reached Tumkur at around 5:30 PM and reached Bangalore at around 8 PM.


View Day 5 – Sagar – Shimoga – Tumkur – Bangalore – Home in a larger map

I was soo dirty and tired when I reached home, but was really happy that I did this amazing trip when I was young and had the energy to do it. Thanks Aswin, Rat and Subbu :)

Some facts

  • Total distance travelled – 1200 Km
  • Duration – 4 nights and 5 days (Didn’t book any hotel before hand :) )
  • Total expense – Around Rs. 5,000 per person (Plus Rs 20,000 ring that I lost :( )

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Travelling to Malaysia

I recently went to Malaysia for vacation and thought of sharing my experience here, like my other trips so that it would be helpful for those who are planning for a similar trip.

Itinerary

April 20th (Day 0)

Took flight at 6:00 PM (IST) and reached Kuala Lumpur at 00:30 AM (MST) the next day.

April 21st (Day 1)

Sight seeing in Kuala Lumpur. Saw Petronas Twin towers and KL tower.

Went for a trek and ATV driving in the nearby forests. (Would be writing more about it as a separate blog post)

Took the train to Arau in the night

April 22nd (Day 2)

Arrived at Arau and went to Kuala Perlis to board the ferry to Langawi.

After reaching Langawi, hired a rental car to go around the island.

Water sports at the beaches of Langawi. (More about it in a separate blog post)

Spent the entire day at beach

April 23rd (Day 3)

Went for Island hopping.

Shopping at Langawi and it was duty free ;)

Boarded a ferry back to main land. And then boarded a bus back to Kuala Lumpur.

April 24th (Day 4)

Some more shopping in Kuala Lumpur.

Tried various cuisine’s.

April 25th (Day 5)

Went to Batu Caves

Packed up stuff and went to Airport.

Boarded flight from Kuala Lumpur, back to Chennai.

Getting Visa

Till last year, it seems that you can get an on-arrival visa for Malaysia. But now they have cancelled that for India and you have to get a visa before you travel.

I got my visa through Thomas Cook and it took me around 4-5 business days and the fees was Rs. 1300

You would need the following documents as well

  • Your Passport
  • Copy of Address proof
  • Copy of your tickets
  • Leave letter (if you are working somewhere)
  • A covering letter

When you are applying for the visa, mention that you want multiple entry visa and generally you will get a multiple entry visa, which would be useful if you are planning to visit other South East Asia countries as well

Foreign Exchange

The official currency of Malaysia is Ringgit. So you would need to get them before you travel.

In Malaysia most of the hotels don’t accept credit cards and you might have to pay by cash. So it is better to carry cash with you.

If possible try to avoid getting your money exchanged in Thomas Cook. They were quite costly. Try to get it from some small but authorized money exchanges or banks. You might get some good exchange rates. Also try to avoid getting money exchanged at Airport. They were extremely costly and were nearly 40-50% higher.

An alternative is to use your international debit card in the ATM there to get cash. My ICICI bank debit card worked there and the exchange rate was also good. But it seems that Malaysia comes under a list of countries where card tampering happens and after coming back to India I got a call from ICICI customer care and they replaced my debit card. The same thing happened with my credit card as well. So if possible don’t use your primary card there.

To exchange money you would need the following documents

  • Your passport with visa
  • Your tickets

Also don’t forget to keep the receipt given by the money exchanger with you. Sometimes you might need it, especially in customs.

Air tickets

I booked my tickets though AirAsia and they turned out to be extremely cheap. They also have a couple of offers for other South East Asian countries as well. Check their rates before you book your tickets with other airlines.

Also for return tickets make sure you buy some extra baggage as well. Believe me, Malaysia is a great place for shopping and you might end up with lot of bags. In fact, I ended up buying separate bags to get back the stuff which I bought there ;)

It takes about 3.5 – 4 hours by flight to reach Malaysia from Chennai.

Climate

I went during the month of April and it was extremely sunny. So those of you who are worried about your skin, don’t forget to carry Sun screen creams :)

While talking with the local people I came to know that the climate is same pretty much the entire year. So you may not need winter clothes while travelling to Malaysia.

Time Difference

Malaysia follows MST time zone, which is UTC + 8 hours. So when you compare it with India, they are 2.5 hours ahead.

If it is 2 PM in India, it would be 4:30 PM in Malaysia.

More Updates

Over the next couple of days, I would continue to write about my experiences so stay tuned :)

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Trip to Savandurga or the fort of death

Long time readers of my blog would know about my love for travel especially long bike trips. This past weekend me and Aswin along with a couple of friends planned for a trip to Devarayanadurga. But then we came to know that there was some local festival in that area and after some drop-outs, three of us (me, Aswin and his roommate) finally decided to go to Savandurga.

Bike Ride

We started at around 6 AM on Sunday and started driving towards the nice road. From Nice road we went to Mysore road. After crossing Wonderla we stopped for having breakfast. From Mysore road we took right towards Magadi Road and reached Savandurga at around 9:00 AM.

Climbing to the top

The main speciality of Savandurga is that it is one of the largest monolithic rocks in the world. It is very smooth and bald and is very difficult to climb since you have no steps or support. You have to literally walk, climb, roll or crawl to get to the top.

Savandurga Savandurga

On the way you also have to pass through some caves, trees, ruined forts and patches of long grass. There are markings in the rock which shows you the trail that you have to follow.

We started climbing at around 9:30 AM and reached the top at around 11:00 AM. By the time we reached top, we were tired but the view from the top was really worth it.

Savandurga Savandurga

There is also a small structure on the top with a Nandi statue.

Savandurga

Getting down

We spent around 90 minutes on top and after a couple of photo-shoots, we started to climb down at around 12:30 PM. Climbing down was tougher than climbing up, since it was very steep and you don’t have much to grab on.

It took us around an hour to climb down and once we were down, we clinched our thirst by drinking lot of tender coconuts.

Drive back

While coming back we came through the Magadi Road and reached city at around 3:30 PM.

It’s a nice place for a one day trip/trek. Climbing the hill was a nice experience and the view from the top makes it really worth it.

Photos

You can also check out the other photos which I took from my Flickr page.

PS: I went for a trip to Malaysia towards then do April and I am yet to blog about it. Will do it soon once I get some free time.

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