Posts tagged adventure

Celebrating 3 Thriving Years of On My Canvas – And Future Plans

And just like that, On My Canvas completed three thriving years on the internet.

Congratulations to us all who have been part of this budding platform through which I want to spread love, life, and hope. I cannot thank my readers enough for sticking with me all the while, for sending me immensely inspirational messages day and night, and for asking me to write more and more. On some hard days, I could not have done it without your endless emails and witty comments.

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Your Guide to Finding Isolated Hotels in Madikeri, Coorg

We all have been stuck inside homes for about six months now. Though usually, I am planning a birthday trip around this time of the year, as September approached I got anxious that I might want to go somewhere. But would I be able to step out of Bengaluru or even my house?

Then I remembered the article I had written on traveling in the Pandemic. For those who have read the guide know that I only suggested traveling by car to an isolated homestay or a guesthouse near the woods. Thus you can change your view, hike around, be in nature, and even work with the lush forest swaying in front of you. 

Remembering my idea, I started searching for isolated hotels in Karnataka (I don’t feel like crossing the border, yet). But as I pored over hundreds of hotels and guesthouses over various websites, I decided to dedicate an entire guide to isolated hotels in Madikeri, Coorg as most of the properties I liked were from this area. 

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Chile Visa Fiasco – When I Was Stranded at the Bolivia-Chile Border

When I Couldn’t Get a Chilean Visa at the Border and Bolivia Wouldn’t Take me Back.

My cheeky Canadian friend Alison walked towards me from the immigration counter at the Bolivia-Chile border in San Pedro de Atacama. Fanning herself with the green Chile tourist card that boasted her free entry into Chile for ninety-days, she smiled.

Now it was my turn. The young immigration officer looked at me and gestured me to come closer. I walked to his desk. He asked for my passport. I slid my blue passport through the gap under the glass that stood erect between us. 

Instead of handing me a green card as he issued to other tourists, the officer turned the pages of my passport and squinted to read the various visas and immigration stamps I had collected over the years. When he found my Chile temporary resident visa stamped on one of the passport pages, he asked for my RUT. 

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A Surreal Drive Up to the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, Bali

A Misty Day at the Ulun Danu Temple, Bali

Located on the shores of the Lake Bratan in the Bedugul region of Bali, the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, or Pura Ulun Danu, is a popular Bali temple and one of my favorites. The road to the temple undulates up and down with majestic views of the Bedugul highlands throughout— the Ulun Danu temple is at a height of 1500 meters.

When I visited the Pura UlunDanu I didn’t know that the drive would be so surreal and that we were driving to the second largest lake in Bali which irrigates the entire Bedugul region’s rice fields.

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A Scooter Expedition to Goa’s Secret Butterfly Beach

In Search of the Hidden Butterfly Beach, Goa

The sunrise at the Butterfly beach is beautiful, said Manveer, our Airbnb host. Then he gulped down his entire glass of orange juice.

But where is this Butterfly beach? Didn’t you say it was hard to find? I exclaimed.

I will show you the directions on the phone

Manveer walked to our table. He swiped right on his son’s photo wallpaper on the phone, tapped on the Google map application, and zoomed in.

I was staying at Manveer’s place, which is on the Agonda beach in Goa, for the second time. The first visit was two years earlier when I had gone to Goa to get some alone time. 

Remembering that fun trip when I had read Hemingway while basking in the sun on the beach and watched India England one-day series with an English traveler, I showed up at Manveer’s Airbnb again, this time with a friend. As soon as Manveer recognized me, our friendly banter began in no time.

Though I wasn’t sure if Manveer was avenging me for my raillery by sending me to this secret Butterfly beach in Goa, the idea of watching a romantic sunrise on an isolated beach thrilled me. 

We decided to go to the Butterfly beach the next morning to watch the sunrise and have a picnic by the seaside.

After devouring a dinner of grilled Kingfish, with charred eggplant, juicy cherry tomatoes, proud broccoli, and crisp zucchini along with a big bottle of Budweiser on a beachside grilled-seafood restaurant run by a Goan chef, we went to bed at ten that night. But not before packing our swimwear, water bottles, a few aloo parathas that we had asked Manveer’s cook to prepare for us, and a towel to spread on the beach.

As my room didn’t have air conditioning and April’s hot air scorched even at night, I sprinkled water on the curtains and the bed and then left the windows wide open. This sprinkler trick from my IIT Delhi days when summer used to be cruel and students weren’t allowed to keep air conditions or water coolers have come handy many times.

Soon I was sound asleep. Our alarms woke us up before dawn.

We put our backpack in the dickie of the rented Activa, and I drove while my friend sat behind. 

If you are from India or have traveled enough in India, you wouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that there were no streetlights. My friend switched on the flashlights of both our smartphones. 

The early morning cold breeze ruffled through our hair and woke us up. We were finally going to see Goa’s Butterfly beach which Manveer had been praising non-stop since the day we had arrived.

Adhering to Manveer’s advice, we followed the Google maps directions to the Leopard Valley gate, ahead of which lay a secret mud path that was to lead us to the Butterfly beach. When I drove by the gate slowly, we both searched for a clearing in the dense forest that fringed the roads on both sides. But we couldn’t see any path. I turned around and drove even closer to the forest to spot a trail while my friend flashed the torches on the sleepy black foliage. 

After a few minutes, we saw a narrow clearing on our left that seemed promising. But a mud trail ran through the dense forest on the right side of the road, too.

Though we couldn’t hear the Indian ocean and we had gone too far from the beach to direct ourselves using the sea’s orientation, I assumed that the ocean was on our right side. A faint recollection that Manveer had somewhere mentioned a right nudged us towards the right track, too. 

My friend spent a few minutes understanding which direction was right and which was left, a conundrum he hasn’t solved in the twenty-seven years he has been on this planet.

When I saw that the mud track was laden with broken stones and bricks, I transferred the driving rights to my friend. While I was a novice scooter driver, he had been driving for eight years. 

My friend clutched onto the left handle of the scooter, over my hand, and I slipped out from the right side. Then he handed me both the phones with their flashlights on, and I leaped onto the scooter seat behind him for when you are in a dark jungle without phone signals or any kind of help until far far away, you cannot be your usual sloth-like. 

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This was the beginning of the path we took.

We drove on the rocky pathway which soon started twisting and curling like an angry snake. The tree branches and bushes that overgrew on the path from both sides suggested that not many people drove on that road(cut) way. If your attention is gone for even a second, you would either skid on a rock or an imposing branch would hit you in the face. 

The beach was most probably deserted. Manveer wasn’t the bad guy after all.

Though a bit disoriented, my friend is a good driver, but I still got down of the scooter whenever the path felt too rocky to not fall flat onto a stone. The blue arrow of the GPS crawled, but the landscape, which would have been clear if we had loaded the map offline, was now blank. When we didn’t spot any landmarks that Manveer had mentioned, we knew we were lost.

Soon, cicadas, crickets, and half-asleep birds started breaking the silence of the South Goan jungle. Indian flying fox bats flitted between trees.  

Every few minutes, our white Activa would screech and grunt as if begging us to take her back to a less hostile path. We could get stuck in the mud or skid on the stones at any time now. We couldn’t see much. We didn’t know the route. Our phones had lost networks a while ago. And the dense jungle seemed to be getting deeper with every meter. 

Even though we knew we were neither approaching the Indian ocean nor the Pacific, we kept driving. In a few minutes, the darkness started slipping away slowly. Sun must have been shining close to the horizon as the tall trees that towered above us seemed to be rooted in the twilight. Birds chirped dissolving away the melancholy of the night. Every pixel was suffused with a light whose source we still could not see.

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Random scenes from the drive when we came out of the wilderness.

Hunger pangs rising from our stomachs now erupted into our throats. We were now driving on a steep trail covered with tiny sharp stones. I kept insisting that we could still find the beach but my friend concluded that to go further was not only a stupid idea but most probable a dangerous one.

My emergency driver declared that he wouldn’t drive any further. And I finally obliged.

We turned around and tried retracing our way through the dense forests. While driving back we stopped a few times to wander into mangroves and plucked yellow and green cashew nut fruits. We also went inside a farm and picked the fallen mangoes. But suddenly a swarm of honey bees surrounded us, and one of the many red ants bit my friend’s arm. And we thought that the farm owners hadn’t employed any guard.

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Exploring the Goan jungles.

Instead of going to the Agonda beach, we went to Palolem to have breakfast.

Palolem beach was lively. 

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Fishermen rushed around the beach in their half-folded lungis, some pushing their boats into the ocean, and some pulling their fish-loaded boats out of the sea. Fisherwomen paced up and down the beach in their half-folded saris and red round bindis adorning their forehead. 

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Silvery wafer-thin fishes gazed with their open eyes while throbbing against the red plastic net hoping to get some water. Crows and kites took turns to pick these tiny ones out of their nets. 

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https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/pw/ACtC-3dOGbsyUFzhJu_XlcxTTXeHa85VKIQOFZPHlUIuZbSz3zAwe9PCWf4pI3CJROTlr8rmYrZM7WXT1dLDnuMB6uDsFGf7quFXi6H1x-u8kX5qVTUzeDucJNYQ9PDlk9Hrn9D1Pl_u_rCyOYo6mJl_yJP31w=w667-h1000-no?authuser=0

Travelers and locals watched the ocean and the beach waking up to the day’s hustle.

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After having a heavy breakfast of some more aloo parathas, juice, and tea at a restaurant, we drove home. Our search for Goa’s Butterfly beach had failed us. 

We handed over the mangoes to Manveer’s kitchen staff. When Manveer saw us handling fruit with so much passion, he asked us if we could climb a papaya tree in his backyard to pluck the ripe papayas. 

Stop teasing us. You don’t know where the beach is. Do you?

Where did you go?

We drove to the Leopard valley gate, then didn’t take the path next to it, as you had told us, and then went further searching for a mud trail. Then we went towards the right side on a rocky path.

Why did you avoid the trail that runs next to the Leopard Valley board? That is where you had to go.

I was finally losing my patience. 

You had told us not to go inside the Leopard Valley ten times. So we avoided that trail and went on another mud path. It was a deadly trail.

You had to take the path going from the Leopard Valley board. That is not the Leopard Valley gate. That is just the marketing banner for the nightclub. I had warned you from going inside the actual Leopard Valley club.

Why would you not tell us to take the path next to the marketing banner? And why would you ask us not to go inside the Leopard Valley if it was not even on our way? 

He smiled. I could have punched him but we hadn’t established fighting rules. 

So we had to take the path that ran adjacent to the obscure wall on which “Leopard Valley” was painted. It was not the gate to the nightclub but just awareness propaganda.

We had no chances of finding the butterfly beach for we had taken the wrong path since the beginning. And we had ignored the correct trail because Manveer had given us puzzling instructions. Or we were just two confused souls in general.

Then Manveer showed us the entire Butterfly beach directions on his phone and my friend put markers on his Google map. Then we downloaded the offline Google maps for the entire South Goa. 

The next morning felt like a Deja Vu. We were driving in the dark again, had flashlights on, there were new aloo paranthas in the bag, but this time we took the Leopard Valley path. This one-hour drive was much simpler and when we reached the end of the motorable trail, we found two bikes parked. 

After a little walk through the forest dense with koronda berry, we were at the beach. 

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Once we were at the butterfly beach, we realized that we cannot see the sunrise from there as the ocean was on our West. Something Manveer had never mentioned when he said that you should go there for the sunrise.

The sea was calm but the sky was cloudy. As expected, the beach was almost empty. Apart from us, there was only a small group of men who had climbed higher onto one of the rocky cliffs that circumscribe the beach. 

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We took off our shoes, climbed up a cliff, and ate our paranthas. The fatigue from waking up so early for two days straight got hold of us and soon I found myself fast asleep on the rocks. 

My friend shook me up. We went into the water a little bit but it was cold in those early hours. 

Well, at least we had found the beach. It would have been nicer if instead of early morning, we had gone there for a sunset or during the afternoon to just sit and relax and swim and play. Taking a boat up there is also a good idea. 

You would see amazing photos of Goa’s Butterfly beach on the internet. Most of them are taken by drones and the photos I share are the best I could manage with a phone(I was camera-free then). 

The beach was empty, the trees rustled, and I could hear the ocean cracking against the rocky cliffs. That was more than one can ask for from a morning. 

And more than the view on the Butterfly beach or its emptiness, I had loved the journey to the beach. After all, it had taken us two days to find it.

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Some hazy pictures as if this was from 1970s.

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How to reach Butterfly beach Goa, India?

You can also go to the butterfly beach from Agonda beach or Palolem beach in a boat. Maybe I would do that the next time.

And if you want to drive to the beach, then follow the route that I am sharing in this screenshot.

I was torn between the idea of sharing the directions to butterfly beach versus keeping it a secret. But I had to give in as a travel writer who wants to share the beautiful places in the world.

Please be respectful. Leave the beach clean. While walking to the butterfly beach Goa I found so much plastic and wrappers at one spot that I was ashamed. It is always a good idea to bring back some garbage from pristine natural places and do our part.

I am only able to share the route to this secluded beach on my blog assuming that we all will help it clean and will respect other travelers there. No loud music, nothing of the sort that could make others uncomfortable.

If we all keep the beach clean, I would assume that I did the right thing by sending you there.

Now it is up to you.

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A close look of the directions.

Where to stay in South Goa? Is there a good place to stay near Goa Butterfly Beach?

Stay at the Forget Me Not Resort on Agonda beach if you are looking for a comfortable and right-on-the-beach stay. Manveer, his wife, his cats and dogs, and his staff will do everything to make you feel comfortable and ensure that you have a good time. Or browse for good places to stay in Goa here.

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Will you go to the Butterfly beach in Goa? Tell me in the comments.

Featured Image licensed under CC BY 2.0 license. Thank you, Nicolas Vollmer.

Image licensed under CC BY 2.0 license. Thank you, Gili Chupak.

Sunrise and Shan Noodles at Mandalay’s U Bein Bridge, Myanmar

A Travelogue of the U Bein Bridge, Myanmar.

 

U Bein Bridge is in a township of Mandalay called Amarapura, which was once the royal capital of Myanmar. 

Amarapura, literally the city of immortality in Pali(अमरपुर in Hindi), was the capital from 1783 until 1857, for almost 75 years. In 1857, when entire India was about to burst in its first revolt against the British East India Company, Burma’s King Mindon was building Mandalay as his new capital.

In the construction of the capital, the King wanted to use the old material from Amarapura as the second Anglo-Burmese war, (in which many Indian soldiers fought as one can see the graves of the sepoys in a Yangon cemetery), hadn’t left the royal treasure in blooming conditions. Elephants obeyed their king’s wish by hauling the building material over the 11-kilometer distance between Amarapura and Mandalay. 

 

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U Bein bridge, a 1.2 kilometer-long teak bridge, spanning Taungthaman Lake, was built during this move by the then-mayor U Bein. He put the 1000 or so Burma teak columns from the royal palace to good use as one can see in the picture above and below.

 

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We are not talking about Mumbai’s sea link or the US’s Golden Gate bridge, but this footbridge is the oldest teak bridge in the world. (And contrary to popular belief, perhaps not the longest wooden bridge as Guinness World Record says Horai Japanese bridge holds this title.). Taking the name from the mayor, the U Bein bridge has already stood sturdy for about 170 years with only some of its wooden logs replaced by concrete. 

U (in the mayor’s name) here serves as a respectful prefix, something like Sir, or maybe Lord. I request the Burmese readers to please let me know the real implications of U in the comments.

 

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I was at the U Bein Bridge on a cold December morning. As it was the dry season of Burma, the water level of the lake was low. I have heard that in monsoon(June-September), the water from the lake almost kisses the bridge. 

I often say, when in Burma, do as the Burmese, and rise before the sun kisses the sky yellow. As my friend and I had decided to spend that December dawn at the popular Burma bridge, we brushed and plonked our sleepy selves in a kind tuk-tuk. 

When we arrived at the West end of the bridge in Amarapura, tourists and locals had already starting to flock. Swarms of crows were flying out and about. The faintly blue sky was studded with light clouds that the rising sun filled up with an orangish hue. 

It was almost as if someone had dropped a dollop of orange on an otherwise white pool.

 

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Related Read: Exploring Inle Lake, Burma

 

I couldn’t miss the hoards of tourists who had stationed themselves on the lake’s west bank to click the pictures of a fisherman. The entertainer was putting on a show by casting the fishing net in the lake. The travelers, mostly Chinese, captured his every move, and one could sync the click-click of the camera shutter with the fisherman’s muscle movement.

On that note let me tell you that more than 220,000 Chinese travelers had visited Mandalay city through January to April 2019: an increase that irritated locals in a way that it was published in the Myanmar Times

 

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Well, we can’t blame the tourists here as all credits for the showmanship go to the Burmese fish guy. Once, I was taught how to throw the fishing net by a Malaysian man on the banks of the Kinabatangan river. And as you can expect, I failed, horribly. My teacher, though, caught small fishes in his first throw just minutes after my embarrassing display of clumsy body movements.

 

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If you see wooden boats on the West end of the bridge, you can request the boatman to take you on a ride on the lake. I don’t know how much the ride costs, but well, you are in Myanmar.

 

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I didn’t hop on a boat. As I moved my attention from the drama, I saw that the sun was coming up the horizon. After taking a few photographs of the sunrise behind the bridge from different angles, I climbed up. 

 

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Soon I was surrounded by the many locals, tourists, vendors, and monks, who were all starting their day, along with me, at the Mandalay bridge. Some were exercising, some were photographing, some paced up to the other end, and the others were just hanging out.

I saw many photoshoots in that hour or two when I was at the top. Couples were getting clicked together. Some dressed in Elvis Presley-ish clothes were photographing each other in turns. And a few, like me, wanted to capture others’ lives on their camera roll. 

 

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Though all the articles on the internet suggest seeing a U Bein bridge sunset, I found the sunrise there quite calming, and, of course, gorgeous. As a result of the internet advice, the number of people at dawn was definitely lesser than the number of people who would head to the bridge in the evening.

 

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For us, travelers, the bridge was all about sightseeing. But the locals have been using the bridge to go from one end of the lake to the other for more than a hundred years now. Children go to school by walking across the bridge. Monks go asking for alms via the bridge. Men and women get to their work, some of them carrying bamboo baskets over their heads, through the bridge. Some locals were even on bicycles giving the photographers a perfect silhouetted shot while the bridge lay spanned across the lake. 

 

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The reflection of the sun and the bridge in the lake water caught my eye. So after we had clicked and rested and relaxed in all lengths of the bridge, we got down to walk around the lake.

 

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While we strolled under the bridge, we found small restaurants and snack shops run by locals. One such restaurant not only served as a quick tea joint but saved two homeless travelers by giving the keys to their bathroom which we used to full advantage. 

 

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The girls from the restaurant helped us wash our hands by pouring water, and I was suddenly sent back to my parent’s home. 

In my small hometown, we lived traditionally and wouldn’t even touch the tap with our potty hands(excuse me for the childish language but I believe I never grew up for that is how I still refer to this business.). And when I say potty hands, I am being literal for we used traditional Indian style, or squat, toilets. Neither did we know about toilet papers nor did we have hand showers that most of us can’t live without. 

In the absence of a better tool, we cleaned ourselves by throwing water from a mug, and if need be, used our hands, too. I would spare you further details as Wikihow has explained this process generously. When one family member would exit the bathroom, the other would come with the precious jugful of water. The culprit would lather her hands with soap, and the helper would pour the holy water.

No one judged because soon it would be the turn of the other person. 

And that happily forgotten childhood scene was repeating now. The only difference being that I had wiped myself with toilet paper, my hands were clean, and instead of my family, two young, benevolent, but giggly, Burmese girls were washing my hand while their mother, also giggly, instructed them from the background. 

 

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Friends, always carry toilet paper in Burma.

After this long toilet saga, I would not feel bad if you leave this travelogue right now. But what are travel stories without a bit of truth? Haven’t you ever been stuck abroad in a toilet without any toilet paper or a hand shower and no one to call? What did you do? And let us not blame Asia. My Airbnb host in Kelsterbach, Germany forgot to keep the toilet paper in the bathroom, and what followed on that period day is a story that I will tell in another lifetime. 

Life was slow in that family-run food shop. And I can’t even imagine how it would be to run a restaurant under a bridge. But with the lake and the stunning nature shows and lost travelers looking for the toilet, it wouldn’t be that bad?

 

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Now feeling fresh, we walked to the Amarapura market near the bridge hoping to eat. 

 

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My friend had been hypnotized by the Shan noodles. So when we asked about them at a family-run food shop, and a little boy nodded, we ran inside. 

I would tell you more about Shan noodles in upcoming Burma stories, but for now, I thank Burma for introducing me to the great Shan noodles. I even bought a few packets of the noodles from the San Bogyoke Market in Yangon and now I make them back home in India. Just fry some garlic in oil, add chunky tomatoes, some spices, and add this to boiled Shan noodles. Voila.

 

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We ate Shan soup, snacked on the tea leaf salad, and sipped herbal tea. Soon the restaurant filled with families and some more giggling and smiling ensued.

 

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What a morning it was! And as if the sunrise and the shan noodles weren’t enough, I caught sight of a Burmese longyi shop that seemed to carry simple designs and none of that floral overhyped.

 

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Not this one. That one. Not brown. Colorful. Not printed. Plain. Not silk. Cotton, please. And a few more this and that later, I found myself wrapped in the perfect, striped, multicolored longyi that would come home with me. And by chance, I am wearing the same longyi while writing this piece.

Some souvenirs and sunrises are to keep I guess. 

 

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Where to stay in Mandalay, Burma?

We stayed at the tall Gold Leaf Hotel in the main Mandalay area. Even though it is a big hotel with the standard, dull check-in and check-out process, not something I prefer as I am a homestay and a small guesthouse person, I liked the place for its view and vibrancy. 

The other, practical reason to stay at Gold Leaf was that in that New Year’s week not many hotels were available. Damn these world travelers. Gold Leaf has a large breakfast buffet with unlimited soup. There, I sold it. 

Click here to see the prices and book the hotel. If you want to avoid the corporate-ness of Gold Leaf, go here to see other hotels in Mandalay. 

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What is the best time to visit Mandalay city and the Mandalay bridge?

Winter is a good time to visit Myanmar, but summers are not. Avoid the months of May to July. 

August would bring a lot of rainfall, so humidity, but lower temperatures.

December was perfect weatherwise. Mornings were a bit cold and breezy but afternoons would be warmer and not hot at all.

 

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Would you love to see the sunrise at the U Bein Bridge, Mandalay? Do let me know if you buy a longyi.

 

Like this post? Please pin it so that others can find it on Pinterest. Thank you. 

Sunrise and Shan Noodles at Mandalay’s U Bein Bridge Myanmar u bein bridge photography | u bein bridge sunsets | u bein bridge sunrise | Mandalay city | Amarapura Myanmar | Myanmar Travel | Southeast Asia travel | Photo Essay | Travel stories from Myanmar | Southeast Asia Travel | Burma Backpacking | Most beautiful sunrises photography | Countries to visit in Southeast Asia | places to visit in Burma #myanmar #burma #travel #budgettravel #offthebeatenpath #Asia #southeastasia

Serendipitously Spotting Sloth Bear and Leopard in BR Hills, Karnataka

From Bangalore to BR Hills – Venturing Into the Hearts of Karnataka Jungles.

Biligiri Rangana Betta hills or popularly known as BR hills lie about 180 km south of Bengaluru. 

Just a 4–5 hours drive away from Bangalore, it is no surprise that the hills make for a perfect weekend getaway. Having been stuck in the city for two months straight for personal reasons, I was in desperate-need-of-greenery-and-fresh-air and quickly finalized upon Biligiri Hills as my weekend destination. The trip was with my husband so it had to be short to accommodate his full-time job. But even a 2–3 days road trip soaked us in so much nature that we savored it through the next few months of the dry pandemic era in which even stepping out of our tiny abode for groceries felt like a luxury.

I hadn’t expected to see much wildlife in BR hills, as my ventures into the hearts of the Karnataka jungles (such as the Dandeli Sanctuary) before hadn’t borne me much fruit, or, to say, I never saw the big cats or even the tail of an errant elephant. But little did I know that my desire to see Karnataka wildlife would finally come to color in the Biligiri Rangana Hills, officially known as the BR Hills Wildlife Sanctuary which was formed in 1974. 

At an altitude of 3500 feet above sea level, BR hills stand where the Western Ghats meets the Eastern Ghats, and make for an ecological hotspot. In addition to the location exoticism, the BRT wildlife sanctuary is quite large, 540 km² in the area to be precise, and is also an official tiger reserve.

 

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Map of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve(part of Western Ghats). Source: http://www.cepf.net/ / CC BY-SA

 

Not only did we see two sloth bears, at different times, sprinting across in front of our jeep, but we also spotted a leopard hidden behind the thickets, wild bisons appearing all macho, mama and baby chital(spotted deers), an Indian grey mongoose tottering around, a tortoise couple resting on a log in a pond, vultures and owls perched on high and dry tree branches, lone sambhar deers, barking deers melting us with their innocent eyes, Malabar squirrels nibbling through nuts perpetually, colorful birds of various kinds, langurs, wild monkeys, and wild boar. Phew. 

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Travel Inspires Change and One Small Change Can Transform Our Life.

Everything begins with a story.

Let me recite a story from Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habits. This is a true story of a woman named Lisa(as per the records) who was the subject of a scientific study for understanding behavioral change and habits.

Please note: Though the story is the key to appreciate this article, I am summarizing the story for those readers who don’t want to read it. If you want to read the story, go to it here. Else continue reading the summary. 

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Things To Do in Chile – 50 Incredible Experiences

My List of top things to do in Chile.

Table of Content.

  1. Best Things To Do in the North of Chile
  2. Best Things To Do in the Central Valley of Chile
  3. Best Things To Do in the Lake region, known as Los Lagos in Chile
  4. Best Things To Do in the South of Chile, known as Patagonia
  5. Some General Top Things To Do in Chile.

 

I spent six months in Chile that were spread across July 2016 to April 2017.

Here I am sipping coconut water and writing about the best things to do in Chile, but a few years ago, I didn’t know much about Chile. I just decided to travel to Chile and teach English there on an instinct.

After I had been to Chile, an artist in Pushkar told me that Chile is like a long river, flowing on the edge of the American continent. And Pablo Neruda describes Chile as a long, thin ship. Running from the Atacama desert in the North to almost into Antarctica in the West, every corner of Chile has been well-planned by nature to surprises its residents and travelers alike. 

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Te Quiero, Chiloé

The island of Chiloé in South Chile will be marked in my memories forever. When I applied to the English Open Doors program in Chile, I didn’t realize that the program would give me some of the best times of my life.

Run by the government of Chile and the United Nations, English Open Doors invites international volunteers to teach English to government school students in Chile. As a near-native English speaker, I could apply for the volunteer program.

Until I landed in Santiago, I didn’t know that I would be placed in Chiloé. When the program coordinator told me that I had to teach students in Castro, the capital of Chiloé, I ran back to my room and Googled Castro.

Rainbow-like stilt houses lined up against an azure shore. Velvety-green hills filled my screen. Stout lambs grazed over those hillocks in groups. Steam smoked out of a chimney in a hut-shaped roof.

Wooden churches were flaunted in abundance. Legendary and mythical were the keywords on-screen.

Azure rivers, dense national parks, fresh seafood brought a grin to my face.

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11 Top Things To Do in Peru – And My Bonus Secret List

Top Things to do and Best Places to Visit in Peru

The five weeks that I backpacked in Peru flew by me. I didn’t have to go out of my way to look for the top things to do in Peru.

While one moment I was hiking down the Colca Canyon, another moment I was tasting the indigenous Peruvian food cooked in earthen pots in Arequipa. One day I was walking in the rain-sodden streets of Puno in my pink rain jacket, the next day I found myself playing with a cute little girl on one of the faraway islands of the Lake Titicaca

If the sunny plaza del armas of Cusco was the hangout for the afternoon, the evenings were spent cooking quinoa in the hostel kitchen with French and Mexican friends. Machu Picchu was a two-day trip, but the Manu National park in the Amazon rainforest was a four-day journey. 

Taking a bus to the Sacred Valley near Cusco was as much on the plan as finding my way to the isolated Temple of the Moon on the outskirts of Cusco. Eating huge meals in chifa restaurants was as tempting as gorging upon roadside cheese empanadas. 

Rainbows dancing over countryside skies filled the days and trains whistling while they rushed past the scenic high Andes filled my memories. I remember the colorful potatoes I dug on the Amantani island but I also cannot forget the pink-purple-red-black chips I made in the Puno hostel with the rainbow of potatoes I bought from the local market. 

Peru was poetry.

There are so many places to visit in Peru that a first-timer to Peru can feel a bit overwhelmed with the choices. As I realized that the internet is filled with Peru must see places, I decided to make my guide a unique one.

So my What to see in Peru list is divided into two — 

    1. A standard list of the best things to do in Peru that will give you an idea of the cities, towns, and islands to see and the activities you can do. 
    2. A list of things to do and unique places in Peru that I personally found the most special — you wouldn’t want to miss these on your trip to Peru. 

Let’s get it rolling my good friends. 

watching the countryside from cusco in peru

Best things to do in Peru – List 1

1. Visit Cusco, Peru 

Cusco is the fairytale land of Peru that is situated high above in the Andes mountains. At a height of 4000 meters, Cusco was once the headquarters of the Incas, the impressive rulers of South America before the Spanish, who left intriguing historical sites spread around the city. 

You need about two weeks to see the major attractions of Cusco, go to Machu Picchu, visit the Sacred Valley near Cusco, and spend some time in Cusco markets. If you want to do a long hike to Machu Picchu, then see the next bullet (and then two weeks ain’t enough.) 

What is my favorite part of the city? The vibrant streets, unplanned carnivals, the plaza del armas (or the main square), chaotic markets, small stalls selling chicha murada (a local purple drink made with corn), and the Andes surrounding the city that makes for a perfect afternoon walk. 

The best tip to survive Cusco – As Cusco is at a high altitude, give yourself a few days to acclimatize before doing any strenuous physical activity. 

For more detailed information on the things to do in Cusco and the logistics of traveling Cusco, refer to the linked guide. 

cusco- cathedral top things to do in peru.jpg

2. See Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world (one of the most famous places in Peru but for good reasons)

I am sure you have heard about this wonder of the world settled in the south of Peru. Machu Picchu is the royal citadel that the Incas, the same people we were gossiping about before, built at a height of 2500 meters in the Andes range outside of Cusco. 

While more than a million people visit Machu Picchu every year, you can get to this palace in many ways. 

Either take a train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes(the town where you spent the night to visit Machu Picchu in the morning), walk from Ollantaytambo(ruins near Cusco), or hike the popular Inca, Salkantay or Lares trails with a tour or on your own to arrive at Machu Picchu. 

I walked from Ollantaytambo and then hiked up from Aguas Calientes to reach Machu Picchu. You can read my guide to visiting Machu Picchu by yourself to plan a trip to this historical site. And if you are too worried about planning all by yourself, consider this full-day Machu Picchu tour that will take you from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back with all train, taxi, bus, and the site tickets included.

My favorite part about Machu Picchu? The journey to Machu Picchu itself. The citadel sitting gloriously in the Andes was majestic, especially when you visualize how it would be to live there in your royal attire. But the bus journey from Cusco, then the walk alongside the railway tracks, climbing the 3000 stairs to the top early morning, and throw a one-way train to the mix along with some new friends, it had to be special. 

The best tip to survive Machu Picchu – Arrive at the ruins early(6 is the earliest) to make the most of your trip and to avoid crowds. 

see machu picchu one of the must visit places in peru

3. Get into the Amazon rainforest from Cusco or Iquitos (Go here if you aren’t sure where to go in Peru next)

If I repeat one more time that I had dreamt of going to the Amazon and even volunteering there since I was a little girl who watched way too much Discovery channel with her parents, you would kill me.

So let me say that if you are in Peru, or traveling anywhere in South America, go to the Amazon rainforest. 

You don’t have to necessarily go until Iquitos to see the Amazon jungle. You can visit the Manu National Park, part of the Amazon Rainforest Peru, from Cusco. There are options of three to seven-eight day trips and this is the time to go all-in I think. 

I have written all about the Manu National Park in Peru so start planning your trip now. 

My favorite part about Manu National Park? The feeling of being inside a fifty-five million years old thick rainforest where tribes that have never seen civilization still live unseen and untouched.
The best tip to survive the Amazon jungle — Remember that you are in the jungle and the insects and bugs are not the intruders, we are. 

 

4. Don’t skip Puno, a town on the shores of Lago Titicaca (One of the Peru must see)

If I had skipped Puno, as many travelers suggested, I would have missed the best part of my Peru trip. 

Puno is a small town located in the South of Peru on the bank of the Lake Titicaca, the largest, highest, and deepest lake in South America. Lake Titicaca is shared between Bolivia and Peru. Legends say that the God Viracocha made the sun and the moon (and possibly the Incas) in the Lake Titicaca, and hence the lake is quite an important site for both Peruvians and Bolivians.

I spent about fourteen days in Puno and the islands on Lake Titicaca and loved every minute because the places were nothing like I had ever seen and the people were friendly. 

Though I have written about all the amazing things to do in Puno and Lake Titicaca, I can add that this cultural town has delicious fried trout, forgiving countryside, empty beaches, and unlimited access to about 42 Titicaca islands each of which has its own unique culture, sights, and potatoes. 

If you are fretting about planning a visit to the islands, try this two-day tour to the Uros, Amantani, and Taquile island. You stay with a Quechua island family that feeds you, clothes you, and dances with you. I loved the tour and hope that my skirt doesn’t come off the next time I go dancing with the family. 

Puno is also the border town to Bolivia. 

Thank me later, alligator. 

My favorite part about Puno and Titicaca? Getting soaked in rain and then rushing back to the hostel to get some coca tea. Or maybe hiking in the countryside and chatting with the friendly locals. Oh maybe walking along the beach with nothing on my mind. I don’t know. 

The best tip to survive Puno — Get a good place to stay if you want to slow down here. Cozy hostel was pretty great. 

visiting lake titicaca is one of the top things to do in peru and you can see lady by the Titicaca shore here

 

5. Wander in the white city Arequipa 

Arequipa is a city in the South of Peru that is known as a white city as its houses and its buildings are made of sillar, a white volcanic stone.

While El Misti volcano looms above Arequipa, the center of the city is filled with neoclassical cathedrals, ancient nun monasteries, museums and mummies, colorful markets, and even one amazing Indian restaurant called India along with many great Peruvian ones. Either take a free city tour(no countryside visit) or get this GetYourGuide four-hour tour that takes you through the city and the countryside with a local guide.

You can spend a few days in the city but make sure you also plan a trip to the Colca Canyon nearby. And the mention of this canyon brings me to my next point. 

My favorite part about Arequipa? Sitting on the first and second floor of the plaza and watching the people from there. 

The best tip to survive Arequipa— Tonnes of tour agents will buzz on you like bees insisting you to book a Colca Canyon tour with them. Tell them you went there already. 

the white city of arequipa and el misti volcano one of the best places to visit in peru

6. Make sure you experience the Colca Canyon near Arequipa

Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon is located about 200 km from Arequipa and almost tops the list of the places to see in Peru. If you hike, there is no doubt that you should hike down the Canyon with a tour or on your own. 

Whilst in the canyon, take time to talk to the villagers who farm and live on the slopes of the canyon. Oh, doing this hike on your own gives you ample time to do this. 

Read my honest guide to the Colca Canyon hike to plan your journey. If you are not into hiking or just not in the mood, think about this guided tour with a local that will take you to wildlife and Condor viewpoints, to the El Misti volcano viewpoints, and drive you to the Colca Canyon. 

My favorite part about the Colca Canyon? Watching the panoramic views and letting the surreality of the canyon take over. 

The best tip to survive Colca Canyon Hike — Take the climb slowly and don’t let the guide push you into hurrying or feeling guilty. 

hiking colca canyon in arequipa peru.jpg

7. Visit Lima but don’t get too comfy there else you will miss something that you really want to see

Like every other capital, the beach town of Lima is a mix of hip bars and pubs, fine restaurants, skyscrapers, and baroque cathedrals and plazas (because it is a colonial city). 

Seaside Barranco is the safest and the most beautiful place to stay. You can find a good hostel in the Barranco area here. Relax at the beach, play football, eat delicious ceviche, visit some cathedrals, and practice some Spanish with the locals while enjoying the nightlife. 

Or go for a pre-arranged night live magic water show with dinner, take a full-day Lima culinary and cultural tour, eat through a four-hour tour where you taste 16 dishes at 8 restaurants while exploring Barranco with a local (or choose this vegan option), or immerse in a Shanty Town tour run by a local NGO that takes you through the real-life of Lima and helps you interact with the community.

I have covered how can you keep safe in Lima in the last section on staying safe in Peru. 

My favorite part about Lima? I haven’t been to Lima but after reading so much about it and talking to my friends I think I would just love to lie on a beach and eat ceviche.  

The best tip to survive Lima — Don’t overstay, a lot of my friends told me.  

lima in peru.jpg
Oh, you can paraglide in Lima.

8. Get those surfboards on in Máncora

I am not into surfing but they say that Mancora, a border town next to Ecuador, is your best bet to surf in Peru. Mancora is 17 hours by bus from Lima so you better surf there if you go. 

If you are in Mancora between July and October, you can see humpback whales breeding in the Pacific. 

My favorite part about Máncora? That I never went there. Hey, I don’t surf. But I miss the whales.

The best tip to survive Máncora — Avoid the expensive beachside and stay in the quiet Playa del Amor.

 

9. Sandboard in Huacuacina and drink wine in Ica 

Huacuacina is a little oasis in the desert in Southwest Peru that is also known as the Everest of the desert for some of the dunes are 300 m high. Ica is the closest town to Huacuacina.  

If you want to try sandboarding, Huacachina has a good reputation amongst travelers. Also, buggy riding, in which you sit in a 12-seater buggy while a driver takes you around the desert at steep angles, has given some travelers quite a heart attack. When you get bored of sandboarding, go try some local wine in the wineries of Ica. 

My favorite part about Huacuacina? I didn’t go there but I wish I did. Huacuacina had me at the Everest of deserts and I love (almost) freefalling on steep slopes.

The best tip to survive Huacuacina Book an evening tour to avoid heat and to watch the sunset.

sandboarding in huacachina in peru.jpg

10. Take a flight over the mysterious Nazca lines (one of the most absurd places to see in Peru)

Nazca lines are geoglyphs that are shaped like animals, plants, and other designs and are located about 400 km in the South of Lima. Though there are many theories around their origin and time, no one knows for sure why and how the lines got drawn in the coastal plains. Experts say that the lines are at least 1000 years old. 

If you fly above the Nazca desert, you can see these mysterious figures that some contest could be the work of the aliens.  

Have a look at this 35-minutes Nazca lines flight (starting from Nazca city) with a local guide. 

My favorite part about Nazca lines? That they are mysterious. 

The best tip to survive — I think you can manage a half an hour flight without any tips but do read up a little bit about the history of lines so that you can make the best of your trip. 

 

11. Choose Huaraz as your base and hike in the Peruvian mountains, the Cordillera Blanca (One of the top things to do in Peru for the hikers)

Peru is a heaven for hikers as the country is home to the Andes mountains, the second-highest mountain range in the world. 

If you love hiking, make sure you keep some time to visit Huaraz in the North-West of Peru. Huaraz is about 3000 meters above sea level and its bordered by the snow-capped Cordillera Blanca in the east. 

The Huascarán National Park which encompasses most of the Cordillera Blanca houses the 70 tall (4000 meters and above) peaks, even Peru’s tallest mountain, Huarascán, and about 200 lakes. 

Make Huaraz your base and explore the mountains. 

My favorite part about Huaraz or the Peruvian mountains? I love the mountains and the challenge they pose. Also, I haven’t visited Huaraz yet as I didn’t even know about it back on my Peru trip. So I have one amazing thing left to do for sure.

The best tip to survive — Get acclimatized first before hiking in the high mountains. 

huayhuash-peru.jpg

Now the most awaited list.

My list of the coolest and the most unique places to go in Peru – List 2

These are highlights from my Peru journey.

Here I have added only the best places to visit in Peru and things you shouldn’t miss. Things that aren’t highlighted about Peru, but you would regret if you missed them and heard about them from someone later. 

  • Overeating at chifa restaurants in Puno — Chifa is a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian and I think everyone deserves at least one chifa meal. I found most of the chifas in Puno.
eating peruvian cuisine in peru.jpg
This is not chifa, but Peruvian food, in general, is pretty good.
  • Getting soaked in rain and rushing back to the hostel to drink coca tea — Peruvian monsoons are from January to March. You can think about avoiding Peru in rain for hiking is tough in that season, but if you love monsoon, try to get in Peru for a few days of the monsoon at least. 
  • Watching trains go by — You don’t need to be on a train. Just keep an eye out for trains in the countryside of Peru. 
  • Drinking coca tea — Though South Americans drink coca tea as it is energizing and help with the altitude, you can make a few friends while sipping coca tea on an idyllic afternoon in the hostel.
  • Find the farthest islands of Lago Titicaca and visiting them — While keeping my base as Puno, I visited Uros, Amantani, Taquile, and a few more islands on the lake. My travel friend and I would spot the most isolated tiny piece of land on the lake and asked our favorite travel agent to get us there. She always did. And then we stayed with the family for an extended time. If you are looking to slow down or for some solitude or a closer look at the Peruvian island life, I suggest you find yourself a reliable travel agent and get onto that boat to explore another island out of the 42 every few days. I have shared the link to the Titicaca guide above but here it is in case you don’t want to scroll up.
  • Soaking in rain on a tiny boat with an Aymara family on the giant Titicaca huddled under a plastic sheet while having to pee — The wind was crazy, the waves were high, and the rain crashed harder every passing minute but that boat ride is still one of my most memorable days from Peru. You can’t recreate the same memory but I hope you find your own. 
  • Just sitting by the Titicaca shore on the islands

lake titicaca island in peru.jpg

  • Visiting the Sillustani ruins from Puno (one of the best places in Peru) — The journey to and fro from Puno was more exciting than the ruins but the ruins are out of this world as well. 
peru countryside landscape peru.jpg
I captured this view on the bus journey from Puno to Sillustani.
  • Visiting the Temple of the Moon near Cusco — Walk beyond the temple and find that tiny stream gurgling through the neon grass. Walk beyond and hike through those mountains where farmer families live away from all. Keep walking and you would soon find a way back to Cusco. I have written more about the temple in my Cusco guide
  • Cooking in the hostel with all the fresh vegetables, spices, quinoa, and potatoes —Make the many-colored potato chips with the colorful potatoes. 

potatoes in peru.jpg

women with potatoes in peru.jpg

  • Filling my water bottle with chicha murada bought from a roadside vendor who also sold amethyst stones(A must do in Peru )— Who needs water?
  • Pubbing in Cusco with hostel friends — I don’t party a lot while traveling but sometimes places and people call for it. Cusco is a great place to hang out at night. But be safe. 
  • Watching the Cusco carnival — When in Peru, plan your city visits as per the festivals. 

cusco cathedral square in peru.jpg

  • Buying stones and silver — My jewelry trinkets are my souvenirs from around the world. Centro Artesenal Cusco is a great place to shop for some unique stones and abalones studded in silver. I still have mine. 
  • Obsessing over the Amazon — Don’t miss it.
  • Staying put in a city longer than I had planned — While Peru has a lot to do, it is also that one country where you should slow down if you can. 

I hope you enjoy both the lists but follow only your heart.

titicaca sunset in pery.jpg

Safety Tips for Peru

  1. Avoid ATM threats – Never carry more cash than you need. Keep your cards and extra cash at the hotel after you have withdrawn. Think about getting a travel card in which you keep topping up from your main account so that your main account stays off-limits to the robbers.
  2. Wear a fanny pack for your important stuff. 
  3. Book a safe transfer from Lima airport to the hotel here, especially if you are arriving at night. Not all taxis in Peru are legal and you can read more about it here. Only hire the four-door legal taxis. 
  4. Carry your camera sling style or wear it on your neck.
  5. Keep your valuables with you on the bus. Make that bag a pillow but don’t leave it on the shelf above the seat. 
  6. Don’t get distracted if someone (even an old lady) throws paints at you or make your clothes dirty on the road. These are just distractions to rob you off your bags.  
  7. Don’t go alone in unknown streets after the sunset. Duh.
  8. Drink spiking is known in some pubs in the big cities so never leave your drink alone.
  9. Contact the Policia de Turismo (Tourism Police) if something happens with you. Here are some of the contacts of the government’s tourist protection committee. 
  10. Carry LifeStraw (a water bottle with an inbuilt filter) with you as tap water in Peru is not clean to drink. I have been using this bottle for over a year now and I have avoided buying so many plastic bottles because of it. Saves plastic, saves money, and saves time and energy.

 

Are you still wondering what to see in Peru? Which of these places in Peru did you love the most? Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments.

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This guide to the best places to visit in Peru also has a secret list of my favorite things to do in Peru. Inspired by a 6-week Peru trip. Must Visit Places in Peru | Peru must see | What to see in Peru | Top things to do in Peru | best things to do in Peru | Peru safety tips | Where to go in Peru | backpacking Peru | Peru solo female trip | Most beautiful places in Peru | Peru backpacking trip | Peru travel tips | food in Peru #peru #southamerica #perutravel #solofemaletravel #Cusco #lima

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