Showing posts with label Travel blogger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel blogger. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A fascinating road trip: Gurugram to Bikaner



A stretch of smooth roads lined with trees on both the sides was hubby's and my dream. We could think of no place around NCR especially when Gurgaon authorities are on a tree-felling spree.  Post our trip to Sikkim in October 2018, we were planning a road trip this time. This was when after multiple discussions and research we zeroed in on Rajasthan. So we formulated a road trip from Gurgaon to these three cities in the exact order- Bikaner, Jaiselmer and Nagaur.

Let me help you plan a great road trip from NCR to Bikaner.



Choose the right time:
Rajasthan must be visited in winters, ideally from mid of September to mid March. Since temperate soars to 50 degree Celsius, summers is NOT the right time to visit Rajasthan, unless you are too fond of heat or want to leverage low price in off-season.
We chose first week of March (2019) when winter was slipping away slowly before the onset of summer.

The right clothing:
While summers can be harsh, winters are equally brutal. Carry clothes in cotton or breathable facbric in summers. Do not underestimate winters. From long jacket to woolen caps, you need it all.
P.S- We hadn't packed much of woolens and the first day in Bikaner was spent battling the biting cold.



Roads:
The road condition from Delhi to Bikaner is excellent. Thankfully there are no potholes or unmarked bumpers. Barring a few places after Manesar, the roads are smooth.


 There isn't much traffic on the roads which makes driving even more pleasant. he roads get crammed up when you are about to reach Bikaner.



Distance:
The road distance from Gurgaon to Bikaner is 462 km via NH8 and NH11. If you choose NH52, it will be 502 km. It takes 8 hours or more to travel from Delhi to Bikaner. Once you enter the city, the view changes to an laid back, cluttered old town. The city traffic would slow you down. Since Bikaner is one of those old cities that has not modernized much, be prepared to drive through the narrow crowded lanes.
P.S- Hotel parking places are on the roads, not within the hotel premises.

The route: 
1. Delhi-Bahadurgarh-Rohtak-Bhiwani-Chirawa-Jhunjhunu-Mandawa-Fatehpur-Ratangarh-Bikaner (NH709 &11)

2. Delhi-Rewari-Shahajahanpur-Behror-Kotputli-Reengus-Sikar-Laxmangarh-Fatehpur-Ratangarh-Bikaner (NH709)


3. Gurgoan-Rewari-Narnaul-Chirawa-Mandawa-Fatehpur-Ratangarg- Bikaner (via NH11)

We drove on route 3 (NH709)


Enough greenery on both the sides of the road was soothing while the balmy sunshine caressed us on the gentle winter morning. The latter was trying to shine through the layer of fog and the weather was pleasantly cold.  I must say, roads in Rajasthan are just so amazing. Driving never felt so good. The journey was enjoyable and we looked forward to an equally great holiday. Thankfully Google Maps guided us well and did not take any diverted route. As we sped on the highway, pieces of sandy lands started to appear and after Ratangarh vegetation turned scanty. The moment we entered the city of Bikaner, we felt the massiveness. Jam-packed market-place, the chaos, colorful houses, vibrant turbans of men, narrow lanes, the laid back vibes, we enjoyed it all. Plus the old part of the city has a railway line running through the busy market. It was a sight to behold, when the people stood clear of the rail line, halting across the barriers watching the train pass by. I had known that such kind of market exists in Thailand. My first brush with this hence happened in my own incredible India. 

Struggling through the congested lanes, we made our way to hotel Oyo Babu Heritage by lunch time and prepared for the day-out.

The lanes of Rampuriya Haveli

Our Itinerary:
We left from home at 5 am
We made it to our hotel in Bikaner by 2 pm.
Had lunch and rested for a while
Left from hotel at 4 pm to tour Rampuriya Havelis.




This is how you can plan a safe and glitch-free road trip by ticking off your essentials- 
  • Get your car serviced to avoid breakdowns 
  • Check car's tyre pressure and fuel tank  
  • On long road trip your car is prone to breakdown, flat tyre or overheating. Carry your car tool box just in case. 
  • Carry enough drinking water with you. I always carry my Milton Kool Rover Water Jug (11 liters capacity) on my road trips. This jug has traveled places with us! 
  • Pack dry snacks. Dhabas are not too frequent on lone highways.  
  • Please do not litter or trash plastic anywhere. Ultimately it goes into our own water bodies. Be a responsible traveler. 
P.S- We made the trip in March 2019. Also, the blog post made it to the list of trending posts of the day on Indiblogger home page. 
Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers


Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Jewel of North Sikkim - Gurudongmar Lake





When a sparkling blue lake in the middle of a cold desert with crystal clear sky above leaves you speechless, you know you are at Gurudongmar lake in Sikkim. Dramatically perched atop cascading hills, 18000 feet above sea level, the place leaves you breathless, literally. Even the harsh terrain, sub-zero temperature and close proximity to China do not deter people from visiting this gem of North Sikkim. After having heard so much about this gorgeous place, husband and I finally made it there.
The pristine Gurudongmar Lake of Sikkim

As beautiful as this place looks, it is equally difficult to reach. Here is how you can plan your journey to Gurudongmar Lake.

The only way to reach  Gurudongmar is from Lachen via Thangu. So the first step is to travel to Lachen through the curvy and rough roads. Be prepared for traffic jams, long convoys of Indian army trucks, landslides, sudden change in weather and heavy rainfall. We travelled for almost seven hours from Gangtok to reach Lachen at 7 pm. It was pitch dark and luckily it poured after we checked into our homestay. The place was in ruins and looked like a bus shelter. Located in the wilderness with no market place around, we had to settle with the bad food cooked in the dirty kitchen. Our room was in bad shape. Though on our request they changed our room, we could not sleep at all. I don't want to talk about the horrible night.

Since your travel itinerary would include a night stay in Lachen, do read reviews online in advance.  Also, your travel agent or driver would have obtained your entry passes which are verified while entering Lachen. (All tourists need to have permission to enter North Sikkim in advance).

Know how to plan your trip to North Sikkim. 

Post spending one night in Lachen, you would be required to leave early morning for Gurudongmar after another bumpy ride of almost five hours. Once the Sun touches the mountain tops and the balmy sky brightens, you would get the incredible, to-die-for mountain view. The sun played through the tree tops, painting the mountains velvety green while we watched, mesmerized. 



Breakfast point at Gurudongmar


All vehicles are checked and passes re-verified at Gurudongmar entrance which starts around 7.00 am. Since tourists leave from the hotel at dawn, breakfast is served at cafes or tiny home stays at the checkpoint. While our driver was out for our passes verification, a warm Sikkimese family served us breakfast in their home kitchen with authentic antique aesthetics. A river flowing by, a foggy mountain view, friendly furry canines, the movement of army vehicles and the chill in the air multiply your excitement to witness the lake. Advisable to eat well here and take washroom break, since no settlement is found ahead.

Warming up post breakfast. Isnt the view stunning?

My furry encounter and happy selfie



Post a journey of about two hours you are required to halt again, where the passes are checked for the last time by army officials. It was here when I saw water frozen and restless female tourists in makeshift washroom queue. Don't expect any luxury here because even Indian army personnel work hard to arrange basic necessities for themselves. Yet they serve the nation with a smile.


Ship of the cold desert

Vegetation starts to vanish as you ascend higher. The intimidating brown mountains, the herd of massive yaks and little streams of rivers with a thin layer of ice greeted us. You would be enticed to get off your car, but the narrow roads and difficulty in breathing wouldn't let you.  Though the last 15 kilometers through barren landscape towards the lake point is smooth.

Towards Gurudongmar, after the last checkpost





Finally, when we got off the car to witness the marvel of nature, I was speechless. My fatigue vanished at that splendid view.  The pains we took to reach here proved to be worth.  The sight was too good to be true. The shimmering blue water of the lake looked so inviting with the clear sky beautifully embracing the towering mountains. I stared at the blue stretch with brimmed eyes, breathing slowly, trying to forget the low air pressure.









At this high altitude, it is recommended to move out within half an hour or else the low pressure takes a toll on you, causing nausea, breathlessness, rapid pulse or hallucination. Soaking in the beauty as much as we could, we bid goodbye to Gurudongmar. The place is etched in my memories forever.

On the way back, your driver would take you to Chopta Valley or Kaala Pathhar if mentioned in your itinerary and then back to Lachen for lunch.

Some safety and health tips for Gurudongmar:
-In case you have an ill, aged person or a child with you, do not take them to Gurudongmar. Lack of oxygen creates several problems. Mind you, medical facilities are not reachable, so are phone networks.

-Since it is located in the northernmost mountains of Sikkim, the place remains cold throughout the year. Needless to say, you would wear warm clothes and carry extra as well.

-If you have altitude or motion sickness, carry medicines with you.

-Advisable to keep ready to eat food with you, especially if you are travelling with elder or younger ones.

-Plastic water bottles (the packaged branded ones) are not allowed anywhere in North Sikkim. Carry your own sipper lest you should be penalized. Packaged juices are available and surprisingly allowed to be sold, but please do not leave the trash there. Non biodegradable plastic tucked between rocks or popping out in water, is a huge turn off. Plus, plastic remains in the ecosystem forever , polluting the planet. It shows the least amount of respect one has for the planet, humanity and self.

In case you are planning a trip to Zero Point in Lachung, read this.

P.S- This trip was in October 2018.
Also, the post made it to the top most list of posts on Indiblogger home page.

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Touring Rampuria Havelis, Bikaner


With intricate art and vibrant colors inching throughout the exteriors, the cluster of Rampuriya havelis in Bikaner is a visual treat. This lesser known city of Rajasthan is an offbeat place to travel. Thanks to these colorful havelis. Located in the old part of the city, Rampuriya havelis were homes of the wealthy merchants many decades ago. Had the heritage property not been turned into a heritage site by the authorities, they would have been in ruins, hence damaging the chances of the little tourism they get. Visitors are not allowed to enter the havelis but can tour the lanes and settle with capturing the beauty through lenses.

Rampuria Havelis Bikaner
Rampuria Havelis Bikaner

Guarded by an aged man donning traditional Rajasthani attire, these havelis left me with a mystic charm. If the buildings look so gorgeous on the exterior, imagine the rich details of the interiors.

Guarding the heritage


The bulky locks with chains on the doors, the colorful windows, the carvings and paintings on the walls date back to the 1400's. Imagine 600 year old buildings! As I walked through the tiny lanes, the view of the adjacent buildings intrigued me deeper into the old city.









Intricate art 



Rich details in every corner 


Ancient homes so beautiful

Vibrant colors of the architecture

Old  is always gold




The grandeur of the past  




ENTRY FEES-
None.

BEST TIME TO VISIT- 
The heritage buildings can be visited any time of the day, though I suggest morning or evening for photography in better light. Day time can get extremely warm with unbearable heat in Summers..

November to March is an ideal time to visit Rajasthan which otherwise scorches with 50 degree centigrade temperature.

HOW TO REACH
One can easily reach the place via auto or taxi. If your hotel is close by in the old Bikaner city, you might was well walk.

GOOD TO KNOW- Bikaner is a small town of Rajasthan with still developing infrastructure. While the old town charm remains the same, do not expect good roads or open spaces. The lanes are congested, air pollution is high and the old town is quite untidy.

P.S- This trip of mine was in March 2019. The post made it to the top post of the day and was featured on Indiblogger home page.

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers



Sunday, November 4, 2018

Himalayas Calling - Here's the perfect itinerary for North Sikkim





Sikkim, the jewel of North East, is a small state yet has so much to offer. Explore more about North Sikkim and the best plan for a North Sikkim Trip. 

Things you need to know before planning North Sikkim trip- 

-A non resident of the state cannot travel to the northern part of Sikkim. To enter the borders of North Sikkim, you need a permit, which would be obtained by your travel agent or driver.
-In case you are a biker, you have to arrange for your permits through an authorized travel agency.
-Carrying plastic water bottles in North Sikkim is not allowed. Hence carry your own sipper or water bottles. A surprise check may lead to a penalty of Rs. 5000. 
-Being close to China, security threats are high and being in a rough terrain, chances of mis-happenings too are high.
(See the rough broken roads that look scary)



Cost of travelling to North Sikkim:
-In case you are traveling solo in a group package, the cost would be between 3-4k. (May go higher in peak season.) This cost includes food, accommodation and site seeing for 3 days, 2 nights.
-In case you are travelling as a group/couple, the package cost would range from 19-25k for 3days 2 nights (May vary depending on the number of days and season).
-Travelling solo booking a full car to yourself would be a costly affair. (Might cost 20-25k)


 Places that are usually included in North Sikkim itinerary-

Lachen- Gurodongmar Lake- Chopta Valley- Thangu- Kaala Pathhar
Lachung- Yumthang Valley- Hot Water Springs- Zero Point

For your convenience, have a look at the map of Sikkim to understand the location and Geography.



The itinerary for North Sikkim 

Usually visitors are picked from Gangtok. However if you have booked your stay in some other place, do let your travel agent know about it (the cost of package may vary thereafter) 

Day 1- Gangtok to Lachen (Overnight stay in Lachen)

This is a 7-8 hours of journey by road. Narrow curvy roads with potholes and landslides in between may slow you down at times. Nevertheless the journey to a green paradise is absolutely sunning.

On the way you would get to see Seven Sisters Waterfall (The waterfall that falls through seven steps), Singhik Village for the view of enormous Kanchendzonga range and the gorgeous Chungthang confluence.



Seven Sisters Waterfall



Lachen Accomodation- Lachen speaks of many homes stays and small budget hotels. Your travel agent would have made your booking in advance. My stay was a nightmare, so I would skip talking about it. Ask your agent the name of your accommodation and search for reviews online.   If you find your stay to be pathetic, call your agent and protest.  

Day 2- Lachen to Gurudongmar, Chopta, Thangu Kala Pathhar, back to Lachen (Stay overnight)



An early morning drive from Lachen will take you to Gurudongmar Lake, a breathtaking fresh-water lake at an altitude of 17375Ft / 5225M.

Your hotel/home stay will provide you with packed breakfast (usually bread butter jam) or make a pit stop at check post in the village where you can enjoy maggi, thupka and tea.

The first check post opens at 7:00 am where your documents would be checked and approved for entry. The next stop is fifteen kilometers further where the final checking is done. Since washroom facilities are limited, advisable to get relieved wherever you stop. Same goes for eating joints.
Pit stop for breakfast in Lachen


The entire journey from Lachen to Gurodongmar is bumpy and quite rugged. Only the last few kilometers before Gurodongmar is smooth. Nevertheless all the pains taken would seem worth when you look at the sparkling blue water of the beautiful lake. As the legend goes, the lake in the 15th century was blessed by the Sikh leader Guru Nanak and stopped a part of the lake from freezing in order to provide drinking water to villagers in Winters.






P.S- Do not run or do strenuous activity since lack of oxygen would make you feel breathless, nausea,  tired, weak.

While returning from the Lake, visit Chopta Valley or Kala Pathhar for the beautiful mountains. In Feb-March Chopta Valley blooms with colorful flowers and feels like paradise. Thangu Village is the name of the settlement across the Chopta Valley. Further Kala Pathhar (the black mountain) awaits you with lush green landscape and snow in season. An early morning departure and a super-bumpy ride would leave you exhausted as you return to your hotel in Lachen for Lunch. Get some rest and depart for Lachung. (2-3 hours journey). Spend the day at leisure exploring the local culture or just letting the wind caress your face.

Day 3- Lachen to Zero point, Yumthang Valley, Hot Spring and back to Gangtok. 

Wake up early to catch the morning beauty. Leave from your hotel with your packed breakfast around 6:30 am and head to Yumthang Valley. (A 25 km stretch). The serene river flowing through the green pasture land with the snow capped mountains in the background is a view to die for. No kidding!  Further, the drive through Yumthang Valley seems straight out of a postcard.
Yumthang Valley
The Himalayan lifeline through Yumthang

Throughout the beautiful journey on the curvy roads dotted with vibrant tree tops, do wave back to the army personnel and make a pit stop at the Army canteen named "Jalebi Point", for hot jalebis and samosas. Zero Point, the last outpost before China Border offers you an out-of-the-world feeling and if lucky you might experience snowfall. It just feels amazing how you made it to the last border post of India with China on the other side. 


Zero Point

Return to Lachung for lunch. Soon after drive to Gangtok and end your memorable road trip as you check in to your hotel in Gangtok. 
Lachung Accommodation- There are several homstays in Lachung. Dont expect royal hotels in this remote part of Sikkim. Homestays are cosy, neat and beautiful. We recommend Kalden Residency, run by two friendly sisters. They rooms are bright and pretty, the view from the tiny balcony opens to infinite lines of sky touching the touching the  mountains and rivers. Its one amazing place to stay in.
https://www.makemytrip.com/hotels/kalden_residency_i-details-lachung.html

While booking your trip, do keep in mind- 
-Your package cost must include food, lodging and permissions. At any point in time should the driver ask you to pay for anything, deny.
-Usually Zero Point and Kaala Pathar are not included in the itinerary and they charge Rs 3000 extra for each point.
-Negotiate well and they might include it in your travel plan. It is advisable to skip Chopta Valley and Thangu. (They are just view points and included in the itinerary for the sake of it)
-Your package cost will not include anything extra. Not even a bottle of water. Carry your own sipper.

Be prepared for the following in North Sikkim- 
-Shops sell products at high price (as they have to get things from Gangtok). Stock up with popcorn, dark chocolates and light snacks to beat nausea and hunger pangs.
-Even in the month of May or June, the weather remains cold.
-Always carry your original documents and a copy with you all the time. You might be asked to prove your identity by Army. 
-Do not take pictures of Army cantonments or artillery. Failing to adhere to these might get your phone/camera confiscated. 

Feel free to get in touch in case you have queries for North Sikkim. Would be more than happy to help. 

P.S- This trip of mine was in October 2018 . Also, the post made it to the top post of the day on Indiblogger homepage. 

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers



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