Browsing Category travel

Riding the Yangon Circular train – Memoirs from Myanmar

Riding the Yangon Circular train – One of my best day trips from Yangon, Myanmar

When you search for things to do in Yangon, riding the Yangon circular train comes as one of the top activities. Pictures of travelers surrounded by sleepy Burmese people carrying overloaded bamboo baskets in the Yangon train would fill the internet feed. 

Those Yangon train pictures promised to offer an insider’s look into the local life of the city. So after exploring Yangon for a day, I decided to get my piece of the train.

The little girl inside me who grew up in India riding trains suddenly sprang to life. Before heading out of my hotel, I packed a small bag with my wallet, camera, water bottle, and strode towards the Yangon Central Railway station. 

Finding the train station wasn’t the easiest task. When I arrived at the Google map location for Yangon Central station, I couldn’t find the place. 

A few locals gestured me to climb the bridge at the location. When I did, I could only see the railway tracks from up the bridge, but I couldn’t locate any ticket booth or platform.

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Lovely Things To Do in Inle Lake, Myanmar

Located in the Shan state of Myanmar, Inle Lake is a huge freshwater lake. It is surrounded by mountain ranges from all sides.

Measuring twenty-two(22) kilometer long by eleven(11) kilometer wide, Inle Lake seemed so big that it reminded me of Lake Titicaca that is shared between Bolivia and Peru. People inhabit both these lakes.

While I was trying to find the things to do in Inle Lake Myanmar, only a few travelers talked about visiting the Shan, Intha, Padaung, and Pa-O communities that live on, around, and above the lake in the mountains that so gloriously encircle the lake.

So what was the highlight of the Lake Inle as per most of the people?

I had seen traveler’s feed stuffed with Inle lake fishermen balancing a conical net on their one feet while the other leg rested on the stern of a long wooden canoe that is ubiquitous on the lake. In other Inle pictures, I had seen frail men maneuvering the wooden oar with one leg and their other leg perched on the stern.

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Myanmar Visa for Indians – A Complete Guide

This guide to the Myanmar visa for Indians lists all the possible Myanmar tourist visa options for Indian citizens — Myanmar visa on arrival for Indians, Myanmar e visa for Indians, and the regular Myanmar travel visa from the Myanmar embassy in Delhi.

I had booked a flight to Guwahati and, then from there, I was to enter into Burma by land (always my preferable travel option) via the Moreh (Manipur)/Tamu (Myanmar) border.

But my Northeast India and overlanding into Burma plan was disheveled by the protests in Guwahati. Land travel was impossible under the given conditions, and I canceled my flight ticket and a stay in the Maujuli island, the disappearing land of the east.

As I booked a flight to Yangon, I decided to apply for a Myanmar online visa (evisa) to be assured instead of depending on a visa on arrival as the trip already seemed to be jinxed. Also, I didn’t want to wait in queue for long at the Yangon international airport.

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Bangalore to Dandeli – A Day in the Dandeli Jungle Camp

From Bangalore to Dandeli Jungle Camp

Our Dandeli trip started with a bus ride from Bangalore to Dharwad. Dharwad to Dandeli is about 55 km, and we booked a bus to Dharwad instead of Dandeli for we couldn’t find any direct ac and sleeper bus from Bangalore to Dandeli.

The bus journey was like any other night stay, except the desperation of the travelers for the occasional pee halts. If you ever use the sleeper buses in India, remember that you will sleep well but also remember to pee before you board the bus. And irrespective of how sleepy you are, if the bus stops in between and the conductor shouts that they are stopping for the toilet, drag yourself out of that questionable blanket and make use of the break. You never know when the bus will stop the next time.

Our bus journey was about 10-hour, and when I opened my eyes, we were approaching the Dandeli town. Now, we had to make way to the Dandeli Jungle Camp.

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Kali Adventure Camp – A Day on the Banks of Kali River, Dandeli

Introduction to Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary and Kali Adventure Camp.

Though just 100 km from Goa, Dandeli is mostly absent from the travel itineraries of Indian and foreign tourists. Whenever I ask my foreign friends about their India tour, they mention Varanasi, Hampi, Goa, Dharamshala, Amritsar, Jaipur, Spiti Valley, Kerala, but never do they speak about Dandeli wildlife sanctuary. Even most of the Indian travelers visiting South India don’t have Dandeli in their list of places to visit in Karnataka. 

What is to be seen in Dandeli? What is Kali Adventure Camp?

Dandeli is a city in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, India.

I have spoken in detail about the Dandeli town in my article on Dandeli Jungle Camp where I stayed deep inside the Dandeli forest. But to give you an idea, Dandeli city is located in the Western Ghats, and the entire surrounding area of Dandeli is a forest. 

This 1200 square km forest is known as Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary or Dandeli National park, which is also known to be the second-largest wildlife sanctuary in Karnataka. Kali Tiger Reserve, that was previously known as Anshi National Park or Anshi Tiger Reserve, is part of the Dandeli Sanctuary. The sanctuary is now under the protection of the Karnataka government. 

As Dandeli lies in the Western Ghats, you can expect the forest to be dense and hilly. From a high viewpoint in the Dandeli wildlife safari that I took later, I saw how thick the forest was. 

The sunlight never reaches some parts of the forest, our guides from the Kali Adventure resort told us. I didn’t doubt them for I saw cauliflower-florets-like trees standing neck to neck fighting for space and air on all the rolling hills of Dandeli sanctuary. From that far, I didn’t see even an inch of empty ground.

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Your Appetizing Penang Travel Guide – Delectable 3 days in Penang 

What to do in Penang in 3 days

    1. Introduction to Penang
    2. 3 days in Penang — My Penang itinerary to fun and food-filled trip to Penang.
    3. Day 1 — Art, Street food, and historical places to see in Penang
    4. Day 2 — Penang hill, Clan jetties, and a seafood dinner at hawker center with live music.
    5. Day 3 — Penang National Park for nature or Hin Bus Depot for street art and Batu Ferringhi beach to end the day with a golden sunset and good food.
    6. Have only two days in Penang?
    7. Important information – Planning your trip to Penang
    8. Where is Penang Island?
    9. Where to stay in Penang city?
    10. How to reach Penang, Malaysia?
    11. What is the best time to visit Penang Island?
    12. Where to exchange currency in Penang?
    13. What would be your Penang trip budget?
    14. Resources to help you visit some of the Penang famous places.
    15. Supplementary reads to this Penang Travel Blog

Introduction to Penang 

After a short walk under the bright sun from the bus stand to my guesthouse in Georgetown at Lebuh Carnarvon, I put my bags in my room and went out for a stroll. For those who don’t know, Georgetown is the capital of Penang state or the Penang island.

I was famished after a long bus drive from Taman Negara, and Carnarvon street seemed like the right place to be. Little did I know that soon I was to be lost in the labyrinth of the streets of Penang flaunting exquisite art and some delicious Penang food.

The streets seemed empty, and I wondered if there were any tourists. A friend had questioned my Malaysia trip by saying that the only thing to see in Malaysia was Penang.

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What to Eat in Penang – The Seafood Lover’s Guide

What does this “What to eat in Penang” Guide Contain?

  1. My crazy journey with food and how I can’t stop eating fish but now I eat more responsibly. (Though this is a good story along with some dependable resources to eating fish sustainably, if you are short on time, you can click on the below sections directly to jump to the food in Penang.)
  2. Why food hunting in Penang can be overwhelming for first-time travelers to Penang?
  3. Brief introduction to the Penang food culture.
  4. Best street food in Penang for seafood lovers.
  5. A note to the vegetarians and pescetarians reading this Penang food guide
  6. Translations of some important food items from English to Malay to help you navigate Penang food
  7. Best food courts in Penang.
  8. Where can you find the best hawker food in Penang?
  9. Where should you go if you want to eat the best Indian food in Penang?
  10. Which one is the best restaurant for Nyonya or Peranakan Cuisine?
  11. Best restaurants in Penang/Best restaurant in Georgetown Penang.
  12. Where should you go if you want to eat the best seafood in Penang?
  13. Which one is the best seafood restaurant in Penang?
  14. How to travel in Penang to eat the best food in Penang?
  15. Where to stay in Penang for food?
  16. Great Instagram accounts for finding best food and restaurants in Penang.

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Finding Stories and Street Art in Penang

Penang is a spicy potpourri of Chinese, Malay, and Indian ethnicities. But I didn’t realize how thick this gravy of cultural mix is until I went to Penang.

On my first day in Penang, I stayed in a Chinese guesthouse, ate rice and fish curry at a Muslim Malay restaurant, and my evening stroll took me to Indian food stalls proudly flaunting crispy samosas.

Wait. What was happening?

Indian Malaysians, who were mostly from South India, told me that many Indians were taken to Penang to work as laborers during the 130-years rule of British over Malaysia. Penang port was the main trade route for traders from China, Spain, Arabia, and India, and the British wanted their chunk of the trade.

A Malay Chinese whom I met while hiking the Penang hill cleared my doubts about the origins of Chinese Malays. He said that the Chinese sailed to Malaysia in the 18th century to trade and work as laborers.

Over time, all three ethnicities blended to form the current Penang.

While the Chinese relished the Malaysian coconut flavors, Indians used sweet-chili sauces in their curries, and Malaysians ate biryanis and noodle soups with the same fervor. Given the rich mix of the three cuisines that the island is blessed with, the question of what to eat in Penang and what to do in Penang can be more complicated than you think.

While admiring the street art in Penang, I felt that the cultural evolution of Penang had been pasted onto Penang streets in a raw and hilarious manner.

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Finding Sloth Bears in Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Hampi

Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Hampi, Karnataka – Home of Indian Sloth Bear.

I have grown up in a small town in North India where pet cows and chirpy parrots in the balcony are still a thing. 

My mother has grown such a lush garden that while growing up I always spent my evenings looking at the garden activity when bulbuls flew home or the tailor birds settled in their chosen tiny branches. A Sunday was less about Popeye or Duck Tales and more about protecting ripe guavas from monkeys who were attracted to our garden from miles. When we got relief from the monkeys we were chasing away squirrels who were adamant to build their nests out of our school socks. 

My affinity for animals often sends me to national parks around the world. No prizes on guessing that you can also find me strolling in Indian jungles just to get a glimpse of the local animals. 

When I traveled to Hampi this September, I hadn’t even heard of the Daroji Sloth bear sanctuary. But when I got to know that Daroji is just an hour away from Sanapur, my stay in Hampi, I postponed the ruins and other things to see in Hampi to another day and instead we jumped in our car to drive straight away to the Daroji sanctuary.

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Timeless Places to See in Hampi, Karnataka – India’s Unforgettable Ruins

Lost in the lost kingdom of Hampi. 

Everyone travels to Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to see the ruins of the ancient Vijayanagar empire that was once the richest, they say. But I didn’t visit Hampi just to see the ruins. My favorite part about Hampi was the nature that cradles Hampi in her lap as if sympathizing with her for the tragedies the empire suffered.

Also, this was not my first time in Hampi, and I was better informed about the place.

My first trip to Hampi from Bangalore was about a few years ago. Back then I had made a list of places to see in Hampi that included the main Hampi attractions such as the Virupaksha temple, the Vitthala temple, and the other ruins that form the groups of monuments at Hampi. That was a three-day Hampi trip from Bangalore that only left me wanting to see more of this archaeological wonder of the South.

When I traveled to Hampi the second time recently, I didn’t make a Hampi itinerary. Why?

When you Google search about Hampi, you are bound to get overwhelmed by the number of things to do in Hampi. Hampi images filled with historical buildings and unbelievable boulder arrangements amidst a lush spread of fat palm and tall coconuts would not only leave you amazed but bewildered.

I feel you.

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Manali to Naggar – Time Traveling in Himachal

Manali to Naggar Village, Himachal Pradesh.

Who would think that just 20 km away from Manali, India’s top tourist destination, lies the Naggar village, a town that refuses to think beyond stone temples, apple orchards, and wooden huts accommodating both cows and their humans equitably.

Manali to Naggar bus ride took about an hour. After roaring along with the Beas river for a while, the bus passed through tiny countryside settlements halting at them shakily. Call those clusters of country houses a hamlet or a village, but more often then not, the bus had to stop for cows unabashedly crossing the roads or villagers dashing to the opposite side with baskets of farm-fresh apples on their heads.

Once you get down at the main road at which Naggar village peeks from the high Himalayan hills that rise above the Beas valley, one has to trudge up a steep uphill road to get close to any of the Naggar’s many historical attractions some of whose origins are still unknown.

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7 Quirky Ways to Experience India’s Most-Wanted Hill Station Manali

My Manali travel blog to offbeat Manali and the best places to visit in Manali.

I would take an unknown trail leading to a strange place over a popular trek any day. I leave a city from its bus stand if I see it is crowded. Staying alone in one tent amongst the hundred empty ones makes me feel like a ninja. Ditching the most popular restaurants in a city I get lost in the back lanes to find local treats.

The road less traveled is my home.

Otherwise, why would I wander alone in South America for nine months while Europe waited or stalk wild orangutan around the Kinabatangan river in Borneo when a national bird park in Kuala Lumpur was a fifteen minutes walk or become a blogger while I still get software engineering job offers from TimesJobs or hitchhike in the deserted Spiti alone when I could have just stayed on under the blossoming apple trees of Parvati Valley.

My unexpected love affair with Manali, India’s summer queen, started when I arrived there for a day to travel to Spiti the next morning. Though the counter at the HRTC bus stands and the many travel agents in Manali told me that the road to Spiti wasn’t open yet, I shuttled between the tour agencies that fringed the rickety lanes of Old Manali until I found one who understood that I wouldn’t take no for an answer. 

But on that one day that I spent in old Manali, I walked in the colorful old market of Manali that is catered to please the ones on the Hummus trail, got enticed by small coffee and confectionary shops right in the middle of a tiny street lined with guesthouses, the green hills around Manali called me to walk along them, the various local dishes sizzling out of Manali restaurants’ kitchens made me hungry, while the Manaslu and the Beas river flowed in all glory. 

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