Outlook Traveller http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ Outlook Traveller en 2017-09-22 02:43:42 Photo Feature: Lens Art by Ganesh H. Shankar https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/1-Feature-Image_Panoramic-Elephant_Shot-at-Corbett-National-Park-May-17.-This-is-made-using-very-slow-shutter-speed-and-precise-panning-for-artistic-effects.-2.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/photo-feature-lens-art-ganesh-h-shankar/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/photo-feature-lens-art-ganesh-h-shankar/ 2017-09-21T16:57:38+05:30 article When art meets nature Ganesh H. Shankar has been focusing on nature photography for over two decades. His passion lies in using nature creatively and artistically in every frame. The act of making images or images themselves is insignificant compared to the mystery of nature, of which we are all a part. All that I can do is just wonder about it, maybe for rest of the life, Ganesh says in his artists statement.

You can see more of Ganeshs fine art nature photography on his website NatureLyrics.

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Top 10 Bonedi Bari Durga Puja https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/featured-image-4.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-10-bonedi-bari-durga-puja/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-10-bonedi-bari-durga-puja/ 2017-09-21T16:15:43+05:30 article Come to Kolkata to see how the traditional, aristocratic houses celebrate Maa Durgas visit to her paternal home For the greater part of the year, life in the palatial mansions of the old aristocratic families of Kolkata is no different from their neighbours. But as Durga Puja approaches, each one turns into a hub of activity. The passage of time may have dimmed the ostentatious display of wealth and forced some rituals to be cut down but the celebrations in these 200-odd households, dating back to anywhere between 150 to 400 years ago, have retained the old flavour.

Most of the homesteads have their own thakur dalan, which is a public courtyard, often with pillars and verandahs reflecting influences of European architecture. In keeping with tradition, the idols are placed on a single platform against a single semi-circular background (chalchitra). Painted afresh, the thakur dalans with their old chandeliers, take you back to a different era.

Here are 10 Bonedi Bari Durga Puja celebrations you cannot miss in Kolkata:

Sabarna Roy Choudhury Family
It was from this family that the English East India Company acquired the three villages of Sutanuti, Govindapur and Kalkata in the 17th century to later consolidate it into what became known as Calcutta (now Kolkata). The family has branched out since, each branch with their own Durga Puja celebrations. But the one most famous is the familys Atchala Pujo dating back to 1610. You cant miss this Pujo because its said to be the oldest in the city! Located in Barisha, in the southern part of the city, the Pujo is held in the Durga dalan with two rows of graceful columns marking the boundary.

Where: 26 Sabarna Para Road, Barisha

Courtesy Wikipedia

Sovabazar_Rajbari_02

Raja Nabakrishna Deb Family
The Durga Puja celebrations at Sovabazar Rajbari is centuriesold.While everybody waited for the goat to be sacrificed, it managed to escape. Surrounded by a roaring crowd, it ran up the stairs and took shelter at the feet of Maa Durga, narrates Soumit Narayan Deb of Sovabazar Rajbari in north Kolkata. Radhakanta Deb Bahadur was the head of the family then. He consulted the priests and said that there would be no more goat sacrifices. Thus began the sacrifice of singi fish (Asian catfish) instead. The Deb family Durga Puja became the talk of the society (Calcutta was yet to be founded) when Raja Nabkrishna Deb feted Robert Clive and other officers of the English East India Company in 1757. It was the first time that non-Hindus were allowed to see a typically Hindu household celebration from the nach ghor or dancing room situated along the buildings exterior as non-Hindus were not allowed to see the thakur dalan or the interiors, says Deb. This year, the family will celebrate its 261st year of holding Durga Puja. This Pujo has very interesting distinctive features, for example, the lion has the face of a horse.

Where: 36 and 33 Raja Nabakrishna Street, Sovabazar, North Kolkata

Badan Chandra Roy Family
The homestead of the Badan Chandra Roy family in Colootola (Central Kolkata), belies the dinginess that surrounds it. One of the best kept residences of old Kolkata, it still houses the descendants. The sprawling Eye Department of the Medical College in College Street stands on land donated by this family. The arched thakur dalan, where the 160 year-old Pujo is held, is fronted by a beautiful quadrangle marked by pillars topped by decorative lamps. Why you cant miss this Pujo? Ours is a Vaishnav household, so we do not have animal sacrifices. We use fruits instead to perform the symbolic sacrifice, says Pashupati Roy, a senior family member.

Where: 2A Gopal Chandra Lane, Colootola, North Kolkata

Purna Chandra Dhar Family
Not far from the Badan Chandra Roy family home is the house of Purna Chandra Dhars family. This Vaishnav household does not worship Maa Durga in her demon-slaying pose. Instead, she is worshipped here as Abhaya Ma. The seated idol has two hands instead of ten. At her feet are two seated lions. Maa is surrounded by her children and her hand maidens. The Pujo is 157 years old in all but was not performed in this building for a while when the building was ransacked during the 1946 riots and the family had to seek shelter elsewhere.

Where: 32A Debendra Mullick Road, North Kolkata

Pathuria-Ghata-flickr

Khelat Ghosh Family
Located in Pathuriaghata in North Kolkata, this homestead has probably the grandest thakur dalan in the city. The marble corridor, over 80-feet long, and the grand dancing hall (now Khelat Ghosh Memorial Hall) are awesome. One unique feature of the Pujo is the ablution of the Naba Patrika or nine leaves used in the rituals at the house itself. Also there is a tradition of offering homemade sweets to Maa. Go visit this Bonedi Bari to see the grandeur!

Where: 47 Pathuriaghata Street, North Kolkata

Manjit Singh Hoonjan

Shibkrishna-daw-family

Shibkrishna Daw Family
Located near the (now-infamous!) Vivekananda Road flyover in Jorasanko in North Kolkata, the Shibkrishna Daw house has been maintained beautifully and has been used for many film shoots. The household Pujo was started by Shibkrishna Daws father in 1840 but it was the successful businessman son who added the glitz and glamour to the celebration. The thakur dalan sits pretty overlooking neat columns and overhanging balconies. You should visit this Pujo because people come to see the attire and the gorgeous gold and silver ornaments of the idols.

Where: 12A Shibkrishna Dawn Lane, North Kolkata

Chandra Family
It was Subal Chand Chandra who began Durga Puja at his Jorasanko home way back in 1761. But then the family shifted to their Jhamapukur home and continued with the tradition from 1840. The idol is very different from the one usually seen in other Pujos. Goddess Durga sits on the lap of her husband Shiva in the borabhoi mudra (assurance-giving pose).

Where: 24A Bechu Chatterjee Street (Near Thanthania Kalibari)

Rani Rashmoni Family
Located in Janbazar in Central Kolkata, not far from the Esplanade Metro Station, is the home of Rani Rashmoni built in the 19 th century. It was she who founded the Dakshineswar Kali Temple. After her death, the Pujo has been continued by the families of her daughters. Now divided into two parts, the Durga Puja that can be approached through the Free School Street entry of the house was started by the Rani herself.

Where: 13 Rani Rashmoni Road, Janbazar, Central Kolkata

Radha Gobinda Mallick Family
It is said that Radha Gobindo Mallick settled in the Bhawanipore area of south Kolkata way back in 1860. But it was only in 1925 that the family Pujo was shifted from his ancestral home to its present location. This household Durga Puja is popular also because of the famous father-daughter film-star duo, Ranjit and Koel Mallick.

Where: Mohini Mohan Road, Bhawanipur, South Kolkata

Bhukailash Rajbari
It was Maharaja Joy Narayan Ghosal who began the Durga Puja about 300 years ago at the Bhukailash Rajbari located in Khidirpur in the western neighbourhood of Kolkata. This traditional household is better known for its twin Shiva temples built in 1781. One of the Shiva-lingam is 15 feet tall and the other is 12 feet. However, we do not worship the clay idol that you usually see. We have an asta-dhatu idol, who is referred to as Patit Pabani Ma, says Satya Shubhajit Ghosal, one of the scions of the family. One of the reasons you should not miss this Pujo is because of getting a chance to gorge on traditional bhog which is distributed to all visitors on Nabami.

Where: Bhukailash Rajbari, Kanchan Colony, Babu Bazar, Khidirpur

See wbtourismpuja.in & wbtourism.gov.in for more details and download the Sharadotsav App by the Dept of Tourism available on Google Play Store

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Sri Lanka: Cantaloupe Hotels https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/SriLanka-featured-image.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/sri-lanka-cantaloupe-hotels/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/sri-lanka-cantaloupe-hotels/ 2017-09-21T13:06:12+05:30 article Cantaloupe Aqua and Cantaloupe Level will make you fall in love with the southern coast of Sri Lanka twice I like to stop at airport souvenir shops and admire the postcards on display. These evoke in me a strong sense of yearning: I must visit, soak in the culture and breathe the air of the places these postcards display. Maybe then, on my way back, I will purchase them as mementos.

Things, however, panned out differently in the three days I spent on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.

Every view was postcard-worthy. For instance, at the beachfront boutique hotel, Cantaloupe Aqua, the waves often breached the fence and entered the wooden front deck. They always brought in a crab or two. The glimmer of these displaced crustaceans shells in the dying light of the day announced their arrival just before the sea creatures scuttled back into the sea. Similarly, from the roof of the hillside Cantaloupe Levels, another boutique property, I could see the in-house swimming pool, with its pink, blue and green tiles, juxtaposed with the vast bay, which seemed to have aquamarine tiles of its own.

I had come to this side of Sri Lanka as a visitor to the Kingdom of Cantaloupe. Obviously not an actual kingdom, Cantaloupe Hotels is a hospitality group that brands itself this way. It even has a coat of arms as a logo. Its portfolio consists of the two aforementioned properties, with some more on the way.

But what makes them unique? At dawn, I was driven from Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo, to Cantaloupe Levels, located on a headland in the coastal town of Unawatuna in Sri Lankas Galle district. Tropical surroundings, red soil, shimmering ocean, and the many ponds and bays became visible with the sunrise. By the time we arrived at the hotel, the nearby Rumassala headland, its adjacent bay, a distant lighthouse and an inconspicuous beach were sunlit. It was then that the answer dawned on methis breathtaking scenery in its fully illuminated glory is what sets this place apart.

Cantaloupe Levels was chic on a whole new level. I noticed polygons everywherethe tri-coloured rectangular pool lay adjacent to a pentagonal lawn with a sitting area. This was further connected to a square garden. The multi-cuisine restaurant was somewhat hexagonal, and allowed a 270 view of the surroundings. Finally, there were three floors, with every floor smaller in area than the one below it. Proportions and shapes aside, design features that stood out included the many pure-white panels, railings and pillars. This whiteness was balanced out by the colourful Warholesque paintings in the hallways.

I spent a lot of time at the Clique Bed Lounge. King-sized beds were placed in a line on a poolside deck, where one could relax and swig Sri Lankas iconic Lion beer. The comfort of the bed and the hearty amounts of lager in my tummy had me snoring the whole afternoon.

And that pretty much set the tone of my stay at Cantaloupe Levelsa day filled with calm and laziness. At times I plopped down on the curvy loungers, at other times I sat with my feet dangling in the pool. My travel itinerary said relax by the pool/rest multiple times, and that was exactly what I did. I was allotted a Superior Silhouettes room. These were supposed to be the smallest, but they were far from small. Minimalism and simplicity dictated the rooms layout, and the bay-facing window wall was a nice surprise. I walked into the bathroom to unearth a treasurethe jacuzzi.

The room I was allotted at Cantaloupe Aqua was even more sumptuous. This hotel opened in 2010, the groups first property. As the name suggests, it is a beach resort. Located just about 15 minutes from Levels, it is designed to bring out Sri Lankas coastal beauty in all its splendour. I stayed in an Aqua Ultra Zen room, which was a sizeable duplex suite. The moment I entered the black-and-blue themed room, a sitting area greeted me. My king-sized bed was a walk up a staircase to a mezzanine floor. The front of the room had a spacious balcony that overlooked Aquas deck and the ocean beyond. The palm-fringed south coast is home to turquoise waters, and Aqua was so intimate with them, I felt as if I were aboard a ship.

I found at Aqua a bohemian vibe and elements of an art-deco architectural stylesomething that Levels also boasted of. My eyes were more sensitive to the curves here than the polygons, which was a telling difference in terms of design. But the colours remained similarly plain and unpretentious. I crossed the lobby to reach the front deck, filled with cream-coloured umbrellas, sofas, an infinity pool and loungers. Adjacent to it lay the restaurant, Coconut.

Both Coconut and the unnamed restaurant at Levels served us delicious Thai, European and Sri Lankan food. The executive chef, Nandana, welcomed me at Levels with authentic Sri Lankan breakfast fare: two kinds of idiyappam, one made with red rice and the other white (string hoppers or rice-flour pressed into noodle form), kiri bath (rice squares made in coconut milk), onion sambola and coconut sambola (both rice accompaniments), and fish curry. The food was refreshingly light, unexpected given the smorgasbord of rice- and coconut-based dishes. At lunch, things were taken up a notch. Two of the kitchen staff came carrying a tray the length of a fully-grown human being with a variety of meats, vegetables and carb accompaniments laid out on it. This monster feast, Nandana told us, was called ekamuthu-kema, which in Sinhalese means a sense of unity. Cantaloupe Hotels director, Nadeem, who joined us for lunch, was glad to rattle off the many items of this dish: saffron-hinted yellow rice, string hopper kottu (similar to kottu roti, which is the famous Sri Lankan chopped-up roti but made using string hoppers), fish ambul thiyal (marinated tuna wrapped in pandan leaves), lamprais (rice cooked with chicken stalk; a Dutch influenced dish) and mango curry, among many other meats, curries and chutneys.

Another highlight was the cooking demonstration Nandana held for meat Aqua. Sri Lanka is known for its cinnamon, which he used in most of the dishes. Its rich aroma was a pleasure to my nose, and so was that of the pandan leaves, another popular ingredient in Sri Lanka.

I also encountered cinnamon on the morning I went for a boat safari on the Madu Ganga. From Ambalangoda, about 50km from the Cantaloupe Aqua, we stopped by fish spas, a Buddhist temple and the more scenic parts of the surrounding mangroves, arriving at an island where a woman peeled cinnamon from its inner bark. I gladly bought some.

The southern coast also came with a host of other attractions. We took a circle around the Japanese Peace Pagoda, a five-minute walk from Levels, before trekking down to the secluded Jungle Beach. We then visited the tidy Galle Fort in Galle city, a Portuguese, Dutch and British marvel that has withstood tsunamis and provided its rulers with a titanic stronghold. Along its cream- and beige-tiled walkways, we saw black vintage cars, artistic souvenir shops, boutique cafs and quaint ice-cream parlours.

As our three days drew to a close, my eyes had adjusted to both white-themed Cantaloupe properties and the vivid colours of the southern coast of Sri Lanka. The prospect of returning home, on the other hand, felt colourless.

When I passed the souvenir shop at Colombo airport on the way back, I didnt give the postcards a second glance. Their magic had gone. No postcard could be prettier than real life. All I had, and ever needed, were my memories.

The Information

Location
Cantaloupe Aqua: 127km post, Palutugaha Junction, Habaraduwa, Talpe.
Cantaloupe Levels: Bona Vista Road, Rumassala, Unawatuna

Accommodation
Aqua: 15 rooms (standard rooms, duplex suites and hotel suites.)
Levels: 9 rooms (standard rooms, deluxe suites and design-oriented suites)

Tariff
Aqua from $130; Levels from $175

Contact +94-11-722-1485; cantaloupehotels.com

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Madhya Pradesh: A Guide to Orchha https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/orchha1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/madhya-pradesh-guide-orchha/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/madhya-pradesh-guide-orchha/ 2017-09-20T16:52:45+05:30 article Orchha combines the architectural beauty of a medieval town with the secluded charm of a village Once the capital of the Bundelas, Orchha is now a quaint riverside vacation spot.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Orchha Fort Complex

Like all splendidly built forts, the one at Orchha too can be spotted from a distance as it stands tall, right in the middle of the town. Unlike a lot of other forts in India, however, the fort is not perched high atop a mountain, but is located next to what is a small, but busy, market today. Surrounded by water on all sides, the citadel was well protected from enemy attack.

A flight of steps leads to the Diwan-e-aam, the traditional site of the kings interactions with his subjects. Look up to admire the beautiful paintings adorning the ceiling. Painted using natural colours, these are remarkably well-preserved and have never been retouched.

To the right of the Diwan-e-aam, up another flight of stairs, lies the Raja Mahal. This complex served as the residence of the king and his six wives. The Diwan-e-khaas is at the entrance to the mahal; this hall was meant for the kings ministers to hold discussions with the sovereign. Beyond it is the dining area that was meant for the king and his queens, which features a 16th-century painting. Walk past Sheesh Mahal, which is now a hotel and restaurant run by MP Tourism (see Where to Stay on p380) to Jehangir Mahal. This palace was commissioned in the 17th century by Bir Singh Dev as a gift for Mughal Emperor Jehangir. To the right of this mahal is another structure known as Rai Praveen Mahal, constructed by Prince Indrajit Singh in honour of a famous dancer and poetess called Rai Praveen.

Entry Indians ?10; Foreigners ?250 Photography ?25 Videography ?250

Tip The fort entry ticket is valid for all the monuments/sites in Orchha

Ram Raja Temple

This temple, down the road from the fort complex, does not look like a traditional place of worship, and for good reason: it was originally the palace of Raja Madhukar Shahs queen Rani Ganeshkuwari, and used to be known as Rani Mahal. According to lore, she was a follower of Lord Rama and sanctioned the construction of this temple. While it was underway, she kept an idol of the lord, which she brought from Ayodhya, in her palace. When the time came to transfer the idol to the temple, it was found to be immovable. Therefore, the palace itself had to be turned into a temple. It is notable also because it is the only shrine in the country where Rama is worshipped as a king.

Entry Free

Chaturbhuj Temple

The massive Chaturbhuj Temple never received the idol it was originally built for. It currently houses a shrine containing an image of Radha and Krishna. The temple is built on a 4.5-m-high platform, with its towering shikharas dominating the tiny hamlets skyline.

Entry Free

Laxminarayan Temple

The Laxminarayan Temple enjoys a fantastic, though isolated location. Built by Bir Singh in 1622, it is a well-preserved rectangular structure. This edifice is an interesting mix of temple and fort architecture, with battlements on top. You can climb up to the upper level of the temple, which affords breathtaking views of the fort and the Chaturbhuj Temple. There are galleries around the inner walls of the temple and an open courtyard in the centre. Stop to admire the beautiful paintings adorning the walls and the vaulted ceilings. The subjects of these paintings range from stories of the epic Ramayana, to mythical, martial and secular scenes, including an unusual and noteworthy depiction of two European-looking soldiers drinking at a table. These paintings are excellent examples of the mature phase of the Bundelkhand School of Art, which flourished in this region between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Entry Same ticket as the forts, valid the same day. However you cannot buy it here, so head to the fort first

Bundela Cenotaphs

Head to the southern bank of the Betwa river and visit the 15 cenotaphs, known as chhatris, of the Bundela rulers and the members of their family. The chhatris rise on a square platform and hold the ashes of the cremated princes and princesses.

Entry Same ticket as the forts, valid the same day. However you cannot buy it here, so head to the fort first

Sound and Light Show

The show depicts the history of Bun-delkhand on the walls of Raja Mahal.

Entry Indians ?100; Foreigners ?250 Timings MarchOctober: 7.308.30pm in English & 8.459.45pm in Hindi; NovemberFebruary: 6.307.30pm in English & 7.458.45pm in Hindi

Rafting

One of the best ways to see the chattris, and to have a quintessential tourist experience, is to go rafting down the Betwa. Madhya Pradesh Tourism Dev-elopment Corporation organises rafting down the river during season, starting from the bank in front of the chattris.

WHERE TO STAY

You can stay at MP Tourisms Sheesh Mahal (Tel: 07680-252624; Tariff: ?2,5909,590), the former hunting lodge of the Bundela royal family. It enjoys an enviable location, right within the fort complex. It also has a restaurant. The Bundelkhand Riverside Retreat (Tel: 252612; Tariff: ?4,600) has several rooms with balconies facing the Betwa River. Amar Mahal (Tel: 252102, 252202; Tariff: ?5,6009,900) overlooks the fort. The Orchha Resort (Tel: 252222/ 24; Tariff: ?4,6505,250) is built near the chhatris on the banks of the Betwa at Kanchana Ghat. MP Tourisms Betwa Retreat (Cell: 084349102398; Tariff: ?2,5904,290) is located down the road from the Chaturbhuj Temple, close to the edge of the Betwa river and the Boat Club. Accommodation is in spacious rooms as well as tents and has a restauant.

Friends of Orchha (Cell: 09919 774261; Tariff: ?600850; W orchha.org) is a rural homestay, operated by the NGO of the same name, and can be reached by going half a kilometre past the Laxminarayan Temple. The stay with local families helps funnel money into the local community and allows tourists a unique and wonderful staying experience.

WHERE TO EAT

Most of the local eateries are concentrated around Ram Raja Temple.

The delicious north Indian and Indianised Chinese fare served in the hotel restaurants is decent enough and they all welcome guests from outside. Just phone earlier to be sure that seats are available, though.

FAST FACTS

When to go OctoberMarch, when the weather is pleasant

Tourist Offices

MP Tourist Office, Railway Station, Jhansi, Tel: 0510-2442622

MPSTDC, Hotel Sheesh Mahal, Orchha, Telefax: 07680-252624

STD code 07680

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Gwalior Airport (121km/ 2.5hrs). Taxi charges around ?3,000

Rail Nearest railhead: Jhansi (18km/ 30mins) is linked to many cities. The train Bhopal Shatabdi (No. 12001) from Delhi is convenient. Taxi to Orchha costs approx ?600, prepaid auto ?250

Road The NH2, NH3 and NH75 are the highways that connect Orchha to Delhi, Gwalior and Jhansi Bus State transport buses cross Orchha from Gwalior. Private buses also run between Jhansi and Orchha

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A Quick Guide to Tripura https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Tripura1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quick-guide-tripura/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quick-guide-tripura/ 2017-09-20T16:50:05+05:30 article From exploring the rock-cut sculptures of Unakoti to admiring the stunning architecture of the Ujjayanta Palace in Agartala, there is a lot you can do Agartala

Enjoying a location on the banks of the Haorah River, Agartala seems unlike any other state capital. It has the charm of a small town where life goes on at a fairly relaxed pace, and instead of the hustle-bustle of big cities, visitors here experience a serene environment and friendly locals. It derives its name from the words agar a valuable tree from which a perfume is procured and tala meaning store-house, which put together mean a store-house of agaru tree. It also serves as a superb base for exploring various monuments and lakes in the surrounding areas.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

The city boasts of natural beauty, with pristine forests, roaring waterfalls and beautiful valleys in its vicinity.

Ujjayanta Palace

In the heart of the city lies the Ujjayanta Palace. Built in 1901 by Maharaja Radha Kishore Manikya Bahadur, this gleaming white structure is set in the middle of Mughal-style gardens with a lake. Built in the Indo-Saracenic style, the palace is topped by three imposing domes, the most striking of which is the 26-m-high central dome.

The palace now serves as the Assembly House of Tripuras state government and is closed to the public, except for one wing that has been converted into a museum with an impressive collection of royal and cultural artefacts. Its interiors are breathtaking, with a beautifully tiled floor and an intricately-carved wooden ceiling. The floodlights and dancing fountains in the gardens surrounding it make the palace a stunning sight at night.

Benuban Vihar

Situated at Kunjaban, in the northern part of Agartala, Benuban Vihar is one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples of Tripura. This small Buddhist shrine houses exquisite metal statues of Buddha and Bodhisattva, both of which are of Burmese origin. Buddha Poornima, the festival commemorating the birth of the Buddha, is celebrated here every year with much fervour. The event is attended by people from surrounding areas.

Gedu Mia Mosque

Located in the Shibnagar area of Agartala, the Gedu Mia Mosque occupies the pride of place for the Muslim minority of Tripura. Built using imported white marble stones, the imposing mosque features a number of minarets and there are sprawling gardens that surround it. The doors of the mosque are adorned with carefully selected works of art.

The founder of the mosque, Gedu Mia, earned big profits after bagging a lucrative contract for constructing an airport in Agartala from the last princely ruler, Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya, in 1942. He contributed a part of his profit towards building this exquisite mosque.

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel Welcome Palace (Tel: 0381- 2384940; Tariff: ?1,0993,499) and Ginger Agartala (Tel: 2411333, 2413337, Cell: 09856033739; Tariff: ?3,9995,999) are the best options featuring the usual amenities such as restaurants and Wi-Fi.

Location On the banks of the Haorah river, 2km from the Indo-Bangladesh border

Unakoti

Just about 8km from the sub-divisional headquarters of Kailasahar town, lies Unakoti Hill. Home to the largest bas relief sculptures in India, Unakoti is famous for its massive stone and rock-cut sculptures that have been carved out from the hillside. Surrounded by lush greenery, this place is also a Shaivite pilgrimage site dating back to the 8th or 9th centuries CE or perhaps even earlier and is, therefore, dotted with the ruins of ancient temples.

The most famous amongst these awe-inspiring carvings are the central Shiva head and gigantic Ganesha figures. The former, known as Unakotiswara Kal Bhairava, is about 30ft high. Its most striking feature is the intricate headdress, which is 10ft high by itself. The headdress of the central Shiva is flanked by Goddess Durga on one side standing on a lion, and Goddess Ganga on the other sitting atop a capricorn. Besides these, there are several other detailed sculptures including Nandi bulls, Hanuman and Ravana. Unakoti is also well-known for the Ashokastami Festival.

WHERE TO STAY

Two good accommodation options here are Unakoti Tourist Lodge (Tel: 03824- 223635, Cell: 09856071270; Tariff: ?8051,856) which is located near the Head PO in Kailashakar. It has 12 rooms and arranges meals on request. The Juri Tourist Lodge (Tel: 0382-2231921; Tariff: ?575978) in Dharmanagar has nine rooms, Wi-Fi, parking and arranges meals on order.

Location In the Kailashahar sub-division of the Unakoti, 160km NE of Agartala

Udaipur

Tripuras historic capital, is situated on the banks of the Gomati River. About 53km from Agartala, Udaipur can be easily accessed via road from the capital city.

Referred to as the Lake City, Udaipur was the capital of the Manikya kings, till Maharaja Krishna Chandra Manikya Bahadur moved the capital to Agartala.

Udaipur is dotted with many beautiful lakes and ancient temples. The Tripura Sundari Temple is the holiest shrine for the people of this state, while some of the popular lakes, which are frequented by tourists, include Kalyan Sagar, Mahadeb Dighi, Jagannath Dighi, Amar Sagar and Dhani Sagar. THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Tripura Sundari Temple

Also known as Matabari (Mother Goddess), the Tirupati Sundari Temple is amongst the most revered shrines in India, on account of being one of the 51 shaktipeethas of the Hindu religion. Constructed by Maharaja Dhanya Manikya Debbarma in 1501, the temple is dedicated to Goddess Kali, who is worshipped here in the form of Soroshi.

On the eastern side of the temple lies the vast Kalyan Sagar Lake, which is home to tortoises. Devotees offer prayers to the tortoises and feed them puffed rice and biscuits. The temple is, hence, also referred to as Koorma Peeth, koorma meaning tortoise.

A fair, organised at this temple every year during Diwali, attracts over two lakh devotees.

WHERE TO STAY

Run by the Tourism Department the Gomati Yatri Niwas (Tel: 0381-223478, Cell: 09436127759; Tariff: ?8051,150, dorm bed ?100) near Bhuvaneswari Temple has eight rooms and a five-bedded dorm. Meals are on request. Gunabati Yatri Niwas (Tel: 267939, Cell: 09856916882; Tariff: ?600805, dorm bed ?100) near Tripura Sundari Temple, has eight rooms and a dorm.

Location In the Gomati District of Tripura, 48km SE of Agartala

FAST FACTS

When to go OctoberMarch

Tourist Office

Tripura Tourism Development Corp, Sweatmahal Palace Compound Road, Agartala. Tel: 0381-2325930, 2317878, W tripuratourism.gov.in

STD code Agartala 0381

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest Airport: The Agartala Airport is 12km from the city centre. The city is well-connected by air to Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati. Air India, Jet Airways and Indigo offer daily flights

Rail Nearest Railhead: Kumarghat (160km) and Dharama Nagar (200km) provide rail connections to Agartala. Both the stations on the North-East Frontier Railway, connected with Lumding and Guwahati, which in turn are connected with Kolkata and other major stations

Road NH44 originates from Agartala and runs northeast across Tripura into Assam. It enters Meghalaya and joins NH40 near Shillong Bus Services available from Guwahati to Agartala round the clock

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A Quick Guide to Vythiri https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/vythiri2_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quick-guide-vythiri/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quick-guide-vythiri/ 2017-09-20T16:44:34+05:30 article Vythiri will welcome you with its thatched-roofed houses and soothe you with its pleasant temperature There are very few places that can offer a holistic experience, combining wilderness with responsible eco-tourism and the comforts of a modern holiday, and the Wayanad District is one of them. Vythiri with its untouched natural wealth offers ideal conditions for a quiet retreat and restful time-off. The district is known for being the least populated in Kerala, which becomes extremely trangible in the quietude of the hills around Vythiri, where footfalls sound loud against the backdrop of impending silence.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Soochippara and Kanthanpara Falls

The 28-km drive along serpentine roads that meander through picturesque settings will take you from Vythiri to the end of the motorable road near Soochippara. A 1.5-km walk from there will bring you to Soochippara Waterfall, cascading down from a height of 200m. Adjacent to Soochippara, on the rocky side, are the Kanthanpara Falls. Smaller and slightly quieter than Soochippara, about 30-m-high, they make for an ideal picnic spot.

Entry ?20; Students ?10 Parking Two-wheelers ?5; Cars ?20; Heavy Vehicles ?50

Lakkidi

Lakkidi, one of the highest points of the Wayanad District at almost 3000ft above sea level, is known as the Gateway of Wayanad because of its location at the crest of the Thamarassery Ghat Pass. Most tourists stop by here for the gorgeous views and incredible photography. Another interesting local sight is the Chain Tree, a giant ficus tree bound to the ground by chains. It is said that an adivasi youth was killed by a British engineer here and his soul haunted the place in a vengeful rage, until a priest chained his spirit to this very tree.

Pookode Lake

Pookode Lake lies on the way back to Vythiri from Lakkidi. It is not unusual to sometimes find the entrance to the lake crowded with hundreds of holidaying families. You can go boating and kayaking here. You can also visit the aquarium in the lake complex. The walkway around the lake offers a welcome relief from the melee.

Entry Adults ?10; Children ?5 Timings 9.00am6.00pm Pedal Boat Charges ?30 for two people; ?50 for five people

THE INFORMATION

When to go May to September are the really wet months. It is advisable to carry a jacket or a pullover

Tourist offices

District Tourism Promotion Council, Pookode Lake, Vythiri, Tel: 04936-255207

District Tourism Promotion Council, Civil Station, Kalpetta North, Tel: 202134

District Tourism Promotion Council, Collectorate Office, Civil Station, Kalpetta North, Tel: 204441, Cell: 09446072134, W dtpcwayanad.com

STD code 04936

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest Airport: Karipur International Airport, Kozhikode (88km/ 2hrs). Prepaid taxis to Vythiri ?1,700 and to Kalpetta around ?2,000

Rail Nearest Railhead: Kozhikode (62km/ 1.5hrs). Taxis to Vythiri and Kalpetta ?1,500 and ?1,700 respectively

Road Vythiri is on NH212 that connects Kozhikode to Kollegal via Mysuru. From Kozhikode, take NH212 up the Thamarassery Ghat Pass via Kunnamangalam to Lakkidi, Vythiri and Kalpetta Bus Kozhikodes KSRTC Bus Stand has connections to Kochi, Thrissur, Palakkad, Bengaluru, Mangaluru, Coimbatore among others

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Canada: Top 5 Things to do in Ontario https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/featured-image-3.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/canada-top-5-things-ontario/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/canada-top-5-things-ontario/ 2017-09-20T16:42:57+05:30 article Add these attractions to your itinerary to make the most of your trip to Canada Named after the great Lake Ontario, this province is the second largest among 13 Canadian provinces and territories and home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the capital, Ottawa. Here's why you should visit Ontario.

Niagara Falls & the Wine Region
Straddling the international border between Canada (Ontario) and United States of America (New York) are the three famous waterfallsHorseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Fallscollectively known as Niagara Falls. The Canadian side of the Niagara Falls, that is, the Horseshoe Falls, is the largest of the three and one of Canada's most popular tourist attractions. Niagara Falls, the city, has a number of entertainment options such as the Skylon Tower (observation deck), MarineLand (aquatic theme park), Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum, Fallsview Waterpark, casinos among many others. You can even get a heli-tour of the falls, get behind the waterfall with their Journey Behind the Falls, or even better, get on their Hornblower Niagara Cruises, to enjoy the majestic falls.

Toronto Islands
This chain of small islands in Lake Ontario is another destination you can't miss. There is the Toronto Harbour, Centreville Amusement Park, a frisbee golf course and Hanlan's Beach for your amusement. The island is a great destination for recreational bicyclists and those interested in canoeing and kayaking. Bike Share Toronto operates bicycle stations for public. You can reach the island by either ferries or by water taxis.

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
Located in Toronto, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada has nine attractionsCanadian Waters, Rainbow Reef, Dangerous Lagoon, Discovery Centre, The Gallery, Ray Bay, Planet Jellies, Life Support Systems and the Shoreline Gallery. Dangerous Lagoon is an underwater tunnel and features exotic marine animals like sharks and stingrays; Discover Centre has hands-on activities like underwater viewing bubble and a touch pool where visitors can touch living fossils.

The Distillery Historic District
This pedestrian-only village is famous for its restaurants, art and boutiques. Home to Gooderham & Worts whiskey distillery and many heritage buildings, the old neighbourhood now houses modern facilities that will both attract and entertain visitors.

Inniskillin Winery - Extreme Canadian Icewine
Popular for its icewine prodution, Inniskillin Winery plays an important role in Canadian wine industry. Explore the world of icewine with Inniskillin's Extreme Canadian Icewine Experience. Get a private wine tasting session in their underground cellar.

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Madhya Pradesh: Kanha National Park https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/DSC_0094_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/madhya-pradesh-kanha-national-park/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/madhya-pradesh-kanha-national-park/ 2017-09-19T15:56:23+05:30 article Head to the land of 'The Jungle Book' for the perfect wildlife holiday The vast grasslands of Kanha National Park, stretching over an area of 2,000sq km, are surrounded by the Satpura Range. Comprising the Banjar and Halon valleys of the erstwhile princely provinces of Central India, Kanha became a hunting ground for the British between 1879 and 1910. In 1933, it was established as a sanctuary and was eventually declared a national park in 1955. Though Kanha is one of Indias better protected Project Tiger reserves, conservationists do have their worries about this national park. This is due to its proximity to impoverished villages, and its closeness to Nagpur, which is a known illegal wildlife trade hub in Central India.

Entry Indians ?1,320; Foreigners ?2,640 per vehicle, per round, upto six pax Fee for Kanha zone Indians ?1,980; Foreigners ?3,960 Timings OctoberJune: 6.00amnoon & 3.306.00pm

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Besides the elusive tiger, there are a host of other attractions here. The park authorities are most proud of the presence of a rare species of barasingha (swamp deer) which was brought back from the brink of extinction through concerted conservation efforts. Also keep an eye out for dholes, or wild dogs.

Jeep Safari

You can now only go on a jeep safari. Elephant safaris have been discontinued in the park. The safaris are held in the mornings and afternoons. Jeeps can be hired from the MPTDC office. If you are staying at a camp, you can opt for their vehicles and guide.

Safari Timing 5.3010.30am & 3.30 6.00pm; dependent on sunrise and sunset according to season

Birdwatching

There are as many as 300 bird species here, both resident and migratory. Shravantal is a beautiful water body where the chances of sighting exotic birds are very high. Note that you cant get down from your vehicle in the core area of the sanctuary, but you can always walk along the trails in the buffer zone

Blackbucks

Do look out for the blackbuck, which is one of Kanha National Parks best acquisitions. The antelope became extinct in the park in the 90s, but was reintroduced through translocation in 2011. Although half of the 50 animals brought in here died, the survivors are now breeding well. Wildlife officials monitor their movements carefully to protect their numbers.

THE INFORMATION

When to go NovemberMarch is the most comfortable time to go

Wildlife/ Tourist offices

Kanha National Park, Field Director, Kanha Tiger Reserve, Mandla, Tel: 07642-250760, Cell: 09424792001, W kanhatigerreserve.com

Tourist Information Counter, Khatia, Tel: 07649-277242

STD code Mandla 07642 Kisli 07649

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Jabalpur (Kisli Gate is 165km/ 4hrs) connected by flights from Delhi, Mumbai and Bhopal. Taxi ?5,0006,500 approx return fare. It takes about 5hrs to Mukki Gate

Rail Nearest railhead: Jabalpur, connected to all metros and many big cities across the country

Road From Jabalpur take NH12A to Mandla. This route brings you to Kisli gate. To reach Mukki Gate, at Mandla switch to state roads for Mocha via Bamhni. From Mocha, head for Kumadehi and on to Baihar. Mukki Gate can also be accessed from Nagpur via Gondia and Baihar Bus Private buses and MP Tourism canter services are available

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8 Things to See in Mandu https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Rupmati_Pavilion_01_fi.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/8-things-see-mandu/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/8-things-see-mandu/ 2017-09-19T15:45:37+05:30 article A treasure trove of magnificent ruins, Mandu is home to some exquisite examples of Mughal architecture The City Gates

The citadel of Mandu had 12 gateways. The Delhi Darwaza, to the north of the fort, serves as the primary entrance. To the east lies the Jehangir Gate. You can also visit the Sat-sau Sidhi or Seven Hundred Steps, the Bhagwanpur Gate and the Tarapur Gate.

Jahaz Mahal

Jahaz Mahal literally translates to ship palace. This palace owes its name to its unique shape of an anchored ship.

Entry Indians ?15; Foreigners ?300 Timings Open all day Photography Free Videography ?25

Hindola Mahal

This structure was called Hindola Mahal or the Swinging Palace because of its slanting walls. Shaped like the alphabet T, the aesthetic appeal of this simple building remains unparalleled. Palace Ruins

To the north of Munj Talao lies a cluster of ruins, believed to be remains of the royal retreats of the Malwa Sultanate. The royals probably retired here to enjoy music, poetry and art.

Jami Masjid

Hoshang Shah, the first king of the Malwa region, started building this mosque, but it was completed by Mahmud Khilji. This elegant mosques central niche has been exquisitely decorated with verses from the Quran.

Baz Bahadurs Palace

Built much before Baz Bahadur came to power, this palace is an example of Mughal and Rajput grandeur. The main feature of the palace is a courtyard with halls and rooms on all four sides. These were the kings quarters as well as spaces used for public meetings.

Roopmatis Pavilion

Beyond Baz Bahadurs Palace lies Roopmatis pavilion on the lofty crest of the hill. It offers a gorgeous view of the palace as well as the Narmada.

Hoshang Shahs Tomb

Believed to be the inspiration for the builders of Taj Mahal, Hoshang Shahs Tomb was the first structure to have been made in white marble. This austere monument emulates the reverence that the subjects held for their beloved ruler.

Rewa Kund

This revered lake is frequented by people undertaking the Narmada parikrama or circumambulation.

THE INFORMATION

When to go OctoberMarch is the official tourist season but catch the beauty of Mandu during monsoon (JulyAugust)

Tourist offices

MP Tourism, 42, Residency Area, Opp St Paul School, Indore, Tel: 0731-2499566

MP Tourism, Paryatan Bhavan, Bhadbhada Road, Bhopal, Tel: 0755-2778383

Malwa Resort, Mandu Tel: 07292-263235, W mptourism.com

STD code 07292

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Indore (99km/ 2hrs), connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Bhopal and more. Taxi ?2,500

Rail Nearest railhead: Indore; connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and Bhopal. Taxi as above

Road Regular local buses ply on the Bhopal-Indore-Mandu route

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3 Places to Visit in Meghalaya https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Meghalaya1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/3-places-visit-meghalaya/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/3-places-visit-meghalaya/ 2017-09-19T15:32:56+05:30 article From mysterious living root bridges and limestone caves to breathtaking waterfalls and pristine lakesMeghalaya is paradise SHILLONG

Surrounded by rolling hills, the British fondly dubbed Shillong as the Scotland of the East. The city still appears to bask in the British legacy as is evident from its culture and architecture. As is the case with most northeastern towns, Shillongs society is highly anglicized.

Orientation

Taxis are available for travelling in and around Shillong. However, a great way to explore this crowded city is to set out on foot. Much of the citys streets go uphill, so walking around tends to get a bit tiring, but is fun nonetheless.

Meghalaya Tourism Development Corporation (Tel: 0364-2226220) arranges customised day tours by taxi and bus for sighteeing for ?2,800 for 2 pax and ?400 per head respectively.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Wards Lake

Locally known as Nan-Polok, this lake is amongst the landmark sites of Shillong. Wards Lake is situated about a kilometre away from the centre of the city, near Raj Bhawan. Even in a place as scenic as Shillong, Wards Lake makes for a spectacular sight, complete with isles and bridges. The lake also offers boating facilities. Its shimmering waters bustle with numerous visitors paddling their boats, irrespective of the season.

You can buy packets of puffed rice and popcorn available on site to feed the colourful fish in the lake. However, you might have to jostle for space on the bridge to feed them, as it is as popular an activity as the boat rides. Alternatively, you can take a walk along the winding pathways that meander around green mounds and flower beds surrounding the horseshoe-shaped perimeter of the lake.

Lady Hydari Park

If you fall in love with Wards Lake and end up seeking a similar site, then head to Lady Hydari Park, located just behind the Shillong Civil Hospital. Lady Hydari, wife of the erstwhile governor of Assam, commissioned this park, which also houses a small zoo, aviary, deer park and a museum. The park is remarkable for its well-manicured lawns. Stretching for over a kilometre, it is filled with rhododendrons, roses and an abundance of other colourful flowers, as well as drooping willow trees.

Adjacent to Lady Hydari Park, but still tucked away in the woods, is the breathtaking 13-m-high Crinoline Falls. At the foot of the falls is a natural swimming pool. The waterfall is quite popular amongst tourists and photography enthusiasts. A restaurant nearby offers a variety of delicious food items.

Spread Eagle Falls

Spread Eagle Falls derives its name from its unique shape of an eagle spreading its wings. Locally known as Umkaliar and Sati Falls, this waterfall lies in the Shillong Cantonment area, on the outskirts of the city. Spread Eagle, like most other attractions in Shillong, is a spectacle of surreal natural beauty. However, do mind your step here as the rock edges tend to get slippery and the walk can easily become treacherous.

Laitlum Canyons

A treat for adventure enthusiasts, Laitlum Canyons is a largely unexplored destination in Shillong. The place is a 45-minute drive from the city. Needless to say, the beauty of this place will leave you spellbound. A trek to the summit will reward you with panoramic views of Shillong, surrounded by lush hills and bamboo plantations. The best time to visit the canyon is around noon, when the sun reaches its peak and the mist gradually clears up. It is a long trek and might not be suitable for everyone, but the splendid views are worth the effort. Keep your camera handy, as every sight will beg you to take a shot.

Tip Wear comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes as this is a long trek

Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures

This three-in-one institution comprises a museum, a research centre and a publication centre for preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of the northeastern states of India. The museum has a unique structure the seven-storey high hexagonal building rises to form a flame, signifying the unity of cultures. The centres seven floors are devoted to each of the seven sisters of the Northeast. The 17 galleries here display cultural artefacts, such as weapons, costumes and orna-ments, musical instruments, as well as paintings from these states and housing patterns. The expansive library contains 10,000 volumes of literature. Try the museums Sky Walk, for sweeping views of Shillong.

Timings 9.00am5.30pm summer; 9.00am4.30pm winter Closed Sunday W dbcic.org

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

The Orchid Lake Resort (Tel: 0364- 2570258; Tariff: ?2,2504,495), situated on the banks of Umiam Lake in Barapani, is a great place to get away from the city. Run by the Tourism Department, the resort has 27 rooms, a restaurant and bar, organises sightseeing and boat rides. Ri Kynjai Resort (Cell: 09862420300/ 01; Tariff: ?7,00012,000 is a beautiful boutique property near Umiam Lake.

Hotel Pinewood (Tel: 2223116/ 46; Tariff: ?2,80010,000) was built in the 1920s on the pattern of an English country home. Run by Meghalaya Tourism, it is a few minutes walk from the Wards Lake. The hotel has a golf course and a billiards room. Royal Heritage- Tripura Castle (Tel: 2501111/ 49; Tariff: ?4,5009,000) was the private residence of the Tripura royal family.

The veteran Hotel Polo Towers (Tel: 2222341-42; Tariff: ?5,95010,950), situated near the Polo Grounds, has 51 rooms. Hotel Centre Point (Tel: 2220480, 2229839; Tariff: ?3,0007,500), situated in Police Bazaar, has 31 rooms and its own restaurant and bar. Hotel Alpine Continental (Tel: 2220991, 2223617; Tariff: ?4,3666,292), located opposite Congress Bhavan near the Police Bazaar, has 31 rooms with room service, a restaurant and bar. The Shillong Club (Tel: 2225497; Tariff: ?2,5004,500) takes in guests on prior notice. It has 21 rooms on offer, a bar (for members only), restaurant and various indoor sports facilities such as billiards, table tennis and snooker.

MAWLYNNONG

In 2003, travel magazine Discover India declared Mawlynnong the Cleanest Village in Asia. The road from Shillong to Mawlynnong passes through such diverse terrain that it takes time for one to come to terms with the fact that you are still within the geographical bounds of the same state. A sharp turn leads past an enormous range of tablelands, while another through meadows. Just as you begin to get used to these landscapes, a third turn leads you past a hamlet and the next past a quarry. In the midst of this changing terrain, finding Mawlynnong might not be an easy task, owing to the lack of signage along the route to the village. Hence, it is advisable to be accompanied by someone who knows the location.

Orientation

Located in the Pynursla block of East Khasi Hills, the picturesque village of Mawlynnong stretches along the India-Bangladesh border. Shillong serves as a good jumping-off point to Mawlynnong.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Walk Around

Even though the state is blessed with unprecedented natural beauty, this fairy-tale village raises the bar even higher. The narrow, winding road leading to Mawlynnong takes you past fields, hills, streams and stark wilderness.

As you enter the village, you will be greeted by the 100-year-old Church of the Epiphany, an elegant black-and-white structure surrounded by orange and palm trees. You may have to park your vehicle in the field adjacent to the church and start walking from here. Dont miss the treehouse nearby. This seemingly fragile-looking, but charming, tree-house affords stunning views of the plains of the neighbouring state of Bangladesh. Note that it takes great agility to climb the three bamboos that form the pathway from the ground to the treehouse.

The concrete road cutting through the village will take you past small wooden houses with colourful gardens, unravelling why Mawlynnong is known as the cleanest village not only in India, but also in Asia. The village has around 80 households, a majority of which are on a mission to keep the village spotlessly clean. There are bamboo baskets tied to trees outside every house to prevent people from littering. All this waste is collected in a pit, and later used as manure. Residents take turns to clean the roads, which are lined with flowering plants. Littering is a punishable offence and plastic has been completely banned in the village.

Boasting a 100 per cent literacy rate and being extremely environment con-scious, villagers are devoted to protecting the surrounding forests. The concrete road ahead of the village leads to a clearing where stands the villages only eatery, Halathygkong. The thatched sitting area looks out over to the clearing and one could not ask for a more serene setting. The eatery serves the most flavourful rice thali around.

After a hearty meal, resume your walk. The region awaits you with its numerous gurgling streams, majestic waterfalls and several viewpoints.

Tip Be sure to keep your camera handy

Living Root Bridges

There are a number of living root bridges across Meghalaya, most of which can be reached by undertaking a long trek. These formations are unique to the state. The most easily accessible of these is the living root bridge located in the neighbouring village of Riwai.

This hamlet is only a couple of minutes away from Mawlynnong, and has found its way on the tourist map because of the bridge. As you enter Riwai, a small clearing serves as a parking lot, and it is surrounded by many eateries selling local dishes. A paved road takes you to the ticket counter.

Set in verdant environs, this single-decker bridge at Riwai spans over a gushing stream dotted with rocks. The living bridge was fashioned from the roots of the rubber fig tree by the Khasi villagers in order to cross over the stream. Such root bridges become stronger with time, and take 10 to 15 years to become fully functional. The bridges are, however, strong enough to hold the weight of upto 50 people at a time. Visitors can even descend to the stream below and take a dip in the cool waters.

Entry ?10 Timings Sunrisesunset

Sky View

Another attraction is the Sky View, or Machan, a 26-m-high watchtower made of bamboo. The structure was fashioned by Rishop Khongthongreh, a local school teacher. The steep climb to the top will lead you to a spot offering a birds-eye view of the village, as well as distant views over neighbouring Bangladeshs verdant plains.

Although there are other vantage points that offer panoramic vistas of the Bangladesh plains, but this particular spot must not be missed, simply because of the thrill that the climb involves.

Entry ?10 Timings SunriseSunset

WHERE TO STAY

Mawlynnong Guest House (Tel: 2502420; Tariff: ?3,000) has two rooms on offer. The facilities may be basic, but cater to your comforts.

Location In the East Khasi Hills District, 80km S of Shillong Air Guwahati Rail Guwahati

SOHRA

Once the wettest place on earth, Sohra still remains a much-visited destination in Meghalaya. The distinction of being the wettest place currently lies with the neighbouring village of Mawsynram. A trip to Sohra will reward you with unparalleled views of its diverse terrain. During summer, the weather is just the right mix of warm sunshine and cool breeze. In winter, the temperature drops as low as 4 degree Celsius.

Orientation

A two-hour drive from Shillong, Sohra is an excellent day trip option. It can be covered on foot, and a taxi can be hired to see sites nearby. Visitors from Shillong will have to hire a cab for the entire day.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Seven Sisters Falls

Locally known as Mawsmai Falls, this waterfall is located a kilometre south of the village of Mawsmai. The falls can be viewed from a deck by the side of the road. This viewpoint overlooks a valley with the cluster of waterfalls plummeting from the cliff. The limestone cliff segregates the falls into seven parts from where the Seven Sisters gets its name. The waterfall, with a drop of 315m, is one of the tallest in the country. Bear in mind that in winter the falls are reduced to a trickle.

Thangkharang Park

Another popular tourist destination here is the Thangkharang Park, situated around 8km from Sohra. A treat for nature lovers, it abounds in exotic orchids and other rare plants endemic to the area. The main attraction here, however, are the breathtaking views of the waterlogged Bangladesh plains, as well as of the majestic 305-m-high Kynrem Falls. A deck at the edge of the cliff, affords spectacular views of the falls.

Dainthlen Falls

On the way to Sohra, a road to the right leads to these spectacular 8090-m-high falls, around 2km before the village begins. The waterfall derives its name from the legend of a thlen (Khasi word for snake). According to the myth, there was a thlen, an enormous demon python, that used to live in a cave in this area. Tired of the snakes evil ways, the locals decided to slaughter it. Adjacent to the spot where the thlen was killed lie these falls. Spread across in the shape of a semicircle, this waterfall is popular with tourists. The force of Dainthlen reduces during the winter months, but during monsoon, it appears akin to a smaller version of the roaring Niagara Falls.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort (Cell: 09436115925, 09615338500; Tariff: ?2,7303,825) lies in Laitkynsew, 16km from the town. Closer to the town is Saimika Park and Resort (Cell: 09863020718; Tariff: ?2,5004,000) with clean rooms and great food. There is also Hotel Polo Orchid (Cell: 09856000222; Tariff: ?4,34911,900) and Coniferous Resort (Tel: 03637-235537, Cell: 09436178164; Tariff: ?1,6003,000) .

Location 52km SW of Shillong

FAST FACTS

When to go All year round. However, December to February can be very cold, and June to August very wet

Tourist offices

Directorate of Tourism, 3rd Secretariat, Nokrek Building, Lower Lachumiere, Shillong, Tel: 0364-2226054, 2502166, 2500736, W megtourism.gov.in

Tourist Information Centre, Police Bazaar, Shillong, Tel: 2226220

STD code Shillong 0364

GETTING THERE

Air Shillongs Umroi Airport (32km/ 1hr) is connected by Air India to Kolkata. Taxi to town is about ?600, bus ?100 per head. However, Guwahati Airport (128km/ 3hrs) is better connected to other cities. Taxi costs ?1,500 (Indica) and ?3,500 (Innova). Shared taxi to Shillong costs ?300 per head

Rail Nearest railhead: Guwahati is well-connected to all major cities of India. Meghalaya Transport Corporation (Tel: 0364-2223200) bus services (3.5hrs/ ?250 per head) operating from 6.00am5.00pm, are coordinated with train arrivals and departures at Guwahati. Shared taxi is ?300 per head

Road From Guwahati take NH37 and NH40 via Dispur, Jorabat, Barnihaat, Nongpoh and Umiam Taxi Local running charges are ?18/ 25 per km (Contact: Khasi Hills Tourist Taxi Stand, Police Bazaar, Shillong; Cell: 09863023694) Bus MTC bus to Shillong available from Guwahati ISBT Helicopter This service can be availed from Guwahati to Shillong (20mins) and vice versa (Contact: Meghalaya Helicopter Service Cell: 09859021473)

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Restaurant Review: Cafe Tesu, Essex Farms https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/featured-2.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/restaurant-review-cafe-tesu-essex-farms/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/restaurant-review-cafe-tesu-essex-farms/ 2017-09-19T14:01:13+05:30 article Cant make up your mind whether you want coffee, pasta or sushi? In Cafe Tesu, indulge in all! The outside walls, a gorgeous shade of blue, immediately lifted my mood as I was walking into Caf Tesu. Recently opened in Essex Farms (Aurobindo Marg), this caf has got its colours spot on. The ample lighting on the pristine white walls, and huge windows offers a sense of spaciousness. Add to that the wooden seating arrangements, the bright flamingo on the wall, and you have a funky yet soothing place to chill.

I love my coffee in the mornings and tea in the evenings. As I was handed the menu, the glee on my face could barely be concealed. Cafe Tesus four-page menu offered umpteen delicious coffees and teas, sourced from the very best (Devi and Anandini Himalayan Tea, respectively). For coffee aficionados, theres an option of pour over or fresh press. I chose the former and indulged in the Whiskey Barrel coffee and Ivory Coast Mocha coffee. Definitely full marks to both. The whiskey flavour was strong but not overpowering, while the mocha paired beautifully with the coffee in the other.

The food menu is eclectic, to say the least. Cafe Tesu offers a mix of regular staples along with dimsums and sushi. First up, among the small plates, came the Miso salad. Fresh and delightful, crunchy and tangy; the salad was perfectly balanced and a must-order when you visit the cafe.

The Smokey Borya Chicken, wok-tossed with bullet chillies, is a winner. The smoky aftertaste with every crunchy bite makes this item hard to share, even though the portions are enough for two.

The Double-cooked al fungi was scrumptious, giving the vegetarians an option to choose their starter. The balls made from different mushrooms and cheese, seasoned and deep fried can be eaten as is; the chipotle mayo is not required, unless you really need that extra flavour.

Personally, I can live on sushi. Cafe Tesu serves them in pieces of four, eight or twelve. To taste both options, I ordered the asparagus tempura and spicy salmon. Though the plating was impressive, on a personal front, Im not a fan of mayo with sushi. But scrape it off and the sushi is good to go. For first-time visitors, they serve four kinds of sushi in vegetarian and non vegetarian options, so if you cant decide, I suggest you devour them all.

Dimsums are high-up on my Chinese cuisine list. Cafe Tesu serves six kinds (three of each) and I chose the chicken and chives, and chilly garlic vegetables dumplings. As the bamboo basket cover was lifted, hot steam escaped, signalling my taste buds to get ready for a subtle explosion of flavours. While I enjoyed the chicken and chives dimsums as the filling was perfectly steamed and well-seasoned; the vegetarian option fell short of my expectations.

Italian food is a dinner staple and theres nothing better than to eat fresh pasta with wine after a hard days work. While the alcohol license for Cafe Tesu still hasnt arrived, the penne primavera will make you forget the lack of wine. The taste of fresh vegetables, olive oil, penne and parmesan, served in a big black bowl, made for good pictures, and more importantly, a satisfied belly. Bold flavours are carefully balanced out giving diners a meal that hits all the right spots. I will, at some point, go back and have another crack at this wide-ranging menu.

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Folklores from Uttar Pradesh https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Bijnis-Woman-featured.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/books/folklores-uttar-pradesh/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/books/folklores-uttar-pradesh/ 2017-09-19T13:53:47+05:30 article A collection of fun, bizarre and exaggerated stories Film director and scriptwriter Tanuja Chandra has taken all the folklore she acquired from her mausis, buas and chachas and presented them in a delightful book. Bijnis Woman has intriguing stories, woven mostly around women of Uttar Pradesh, many of them so bizarre and exaggerated in their narration that one might have a hard time believing them. But that is the nature of tales passed on through generations of families, often peppered with dramatic add-ons in each retelling. From a religious Tiklibaaz bhaiya who visits the under-lit streets of women dancers only to have an accidental rendezvous, to Gomti Upadhyay, the most beautiful woman in her village with a mysterious headache, the book paints some unforgettable characters. It makes you recount all the unbelievable stories you heard as a kid on otherwise dull Sunday mornings spent at home.

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6 Lesser-Known Parks to Visit in India https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Featured-Image.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/6-lesser-known-parks-india/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/6-lesser-known-parks-india/ 2017-09-19T13:22:31+05:30 article These parks are the underdogs of wildlife parks in India but are home to some endemic varieties of flora and fauna It is that time of the year again when we start planning wildlife holidays. Obvious picks being the likes of Corbett, Kanha, Ranthambore, or Kaziranga. And why not?

But when we are speaking of wildlife in India, we can't just limit ourselves to tigers, rhinos, wild asses, lions and more tigers. How about the rare and elusive sangai deer, golden gecko, the vulnerable Blythe's Tragopan or the critically endangered pygmy hogs? The following list is on lesser-known parks and what makes them unique and why they should be explored.

Keibul Lamjao National Park, Manipur
The world's only floating sanctuary is home to the very rare and endangered brow-antlered deer or sangai (endemic to Manipur). Keibul Lamjao National Park is unique as it comes and yet it is lesser-known. The park is located on the southern part of Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater lake in eastern India. Loktak Lake largely consists of floating biomass, locally known as phumdi. These phumdis constitute 3/4th of the total lake thus giving it the look of a floating national park.KLNP is also home to the rare marbled cat and Asian golden cat. The park and the phumdis are alsogreat for birdwatching.You might also see raptors like black eagle and shaheen falcons, a few species of hornbills like the brownbacked, Rufus-necked, wreathed, pied and the great pied are found here. Sangais are very shy by nature but if you are lucky, they can be seen navigating the phumdis. Hog deers are now found only in the park.

Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary, Nagaland
Located in Kohima district, KNCTS is an undisturbed forest reserve and a protected area rich in avifauna. This sanctuary is home to the vulnerable species Blythe's Tragopan, the state bird of Nagaland. The dense virgin forest is the perfect destination for birdwatching. The immediate neighbouring villages of Khonoma and Dzuleke are a safe haven for birds such as Blythe's Tragopan, Naga wren babbler, Assam laughing thrush, mountain bamboo patridge, crested finchbill and many more species. The forest in these areas are conserved and protected by locals themselves. Community conservation drive has been a major force behind protecting the sanctuary's biodiversity.

Orang National Park, Assam
Also known as mini Kaziranga, Orang National Park shares similar features as the more popular Kaziranga National Park. It is located in between the two districts of Darrang and Sonitpur. The park attracts a lot of migratory birds, waterfowls and game birds, and is also home to the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, Bengal tiger, elephants, wild buffaloes and the critically endangered pygmy hogs. Orang is the only other park in India where you can find the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, all the more reason why this park needs to be in the big picture. (Note: there are less than 2000 of these rhinos in the wild out of which larger population is in Kaziranga and the remaining ones in Chitwan National Park in Nepal; however, Orang is the second home to this species of rhino in India)

Sri Venkateshwara National Park, Andhra Pradesh
This national park is better known for its many waterfalls. However, as lesser-known as it is, this park has rich avifauna. Birding enthusiasts will be happy to know that the globally threatened yellow-throated bulbuls, critically endangered Oriental white-backed vulture, grey-fronted green pigeon, are found in this park among many other species of birds. Leopard, sloth bear, hyena, small Indian civet, four-horned antelope, Indian giant squirrel and slender loris are some of the interesting species found in this park. The park's densely forested valleys are also home to the gliding lizard and the Indian golden gecko.

Dachigam National Park, Jammu and Kashmir
Because of variation in altitude, this park has uneven regions ranging from grasslands to rocky outcrops. Due to this feature, Dachigam's vegetation consists of alpine pastures, scrub vegetation and coniferous forest. A sub species of elk, Kashmir stag or hangul is found here along with other species like the Himalayan black bear, yellow-throated marten, long-tailed marmot, leopard cat, to name a few. Dachigam National Park is also a good place for birding with species like Himalayan monal, the near-threatened Himalayan vulture and bearded vulture, Himalayan rubythroat, among many others.

Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, Tamil Nadu
This park, located in the districts of Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin, is a part of Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve and consists of 21 small islands and coral reefs. The only way for public to get into the park is by glass-bottomed boats. The park's main attractions, apart frommarine herbivorous mammal,dugong, are coral reefs and marine animals. October to March is the best time to visit the park. The beautiful reefs are also known as 'underwater tropical rainforest'.

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ITC Maurya: Kaya Kalp https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ITC-Maurya-Featured-image.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/itc-maurya-kaya-kalp/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/itc-maurya-kaya-kalp/ 2017-09-19T13:04:12+05:30 article This spa's signature massage is designed to relax the entire body If youre looking for a dependable city spa, with top-notch treatments and where consistency is key, look no further than Kaya Kalp at the ITC Maurya. The pomegranate, beloved of the Mughals, runs as a prime motif through the spa and adds judicious lashes of colour to an otherwise soothing colour scheme. It is also the star ingredient at Kaya Kalp. All the usual treatments are there, of course, and then there are the journeys, and I am, unsurprisingly, drawn to those. I enter the womb-like embrace of the spa for my 120 min Exotic Pomegranate Journey. It begins with a sugar and pomegranate scrub. The pomegranate is believed to be a deep-cleansing antioxidant. Along with the brown sugar, it gently exfoliates the skin. I feel all stress rapidly abandoning my body, which shortly emerges luminous and soft. A Kaya Kalp Signature Massage follows. My therapist, who happens to be Thai, offers me a choice of massage oils. I pick a somewhat unusual one: eucalyptus.

Kaya-Kalp-SpaTreatment-Room

The signature massage is designed to relax the entire body. My therapist is methodical and uses rhythmical movements and soothing strokes to relieve muscular tension and enhance well-being. The last leg of my journey is the Indian Foot Massage. Afterwards, there is pomegranate juice and a spring in my step. According to Richa Sharma, GM, Corporate PR, ITC Hotels, the spa journey I undertook ties in with ITCs Responsible Luxury ethos, where they seek to imbibe history and heritage with modern techniques that enhance guest experience. Acknowledging how pressed for time all those busy executives are, Kaya Kalp has also launched 20 min Brisk spa treatments. I told you, Kaya Kalp at the Maurya should be your go-to city spa.

Kaya Kalp is for in-house guests only. Exotic Pomegranate Journey for ?,500, taxes extra (+91-11-26112233, itchotels.in/wellness/spa.html)

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Periyar Tiger Reserve https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Periyar1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/periyar-tiger-reserve-2/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/periyar-tiger-reserve-2/ 2017-09-18T16:11:11+05:30 article Here's a quick guide to one of India's oldest protected areas The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Thekkady, is one of the oldest protected areas in the country. The Mulla Periyar Irrigation Dam, constructed in 1895, inundated a large tract of forest land and created a 26sq km lake, which is the main watering hole of the reserve today.

Entry Indians ?25; Foreigners ?300 Timings 6.00am5.00pm Photography Free Videography ?250 Vehicle Entry ?50200

Tip Binoculars are available on hire but are generally in a very poor condition

Things to See & Do

Boating
The hills around the lake provide food for elephants, gaur and sambar, so the boat rides provide the best views.

Boating fee KTDC ?150; Forest Dept ?150 Timings 7.30am, 9.30am, 11.15am, 1.45pm & 3.30pm

Walk in the Wild
This educational nature walk covers 45km and lasts three hours.

Fee ?300 per person Timings 7.00am, 7.30am, 10.00am, 10.30am, 2.00pm & 2.30pm

Jungle Patrol
There is regular patrolling of the fringe areas of the forest, and this programme lets you be part of the patrol groups.

Fee ?1,000 per person Timings 7.0010.00pm, 10.00pm1.00am & 1.004.00am

Bamboo Rafting
This full-day programme involves trekking and rafting through different habitats,. The guides take you inside the forest for a trek and then back to your raft to sail back in the evening.

Fee ?2,000 per person (inclusive of food and entry fee) Timings 8.00am5.00pm

Border Hiking
This is a full-day hard trek oriented towards conservation. The trail passes through altitudes of 9001,300m, offering the tourist several breathtaking and gorgeous views.

Fee ?1,500 per person (includes refreshments) Timings 8.00am5.00pm

Periyar Tiger Trail
The programme covers 2035km of area, depending on the route chosen, which passes through hills and valleys, giving tourists a great chance to spot wildlife. For a 1N/ 2D trek, the charges are ?5,000 per person; for a 2N/ 3D trek, the cost is ?7,000 per person. Armed guards accompany the groups.

Tip The two programmes can only be undertaken by the medically fit and those in the age group of 1565

The Information

When to go Visit between September and March to enjoy birdwatching and summer is good for spotting wildlife

Wildlife/ Forest Dept offices
Deputy Director (Project Tiger), Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady, Tel: 04869-222027, 23750, Tourist Information Office, Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, Behind Private Bus Stand

Kumily. Tel: 222620, keralatourism.org

Eco-tourism Centre, Ambady Junction, Kumily, Tel: 224571, Cell: 08547603066, STD code 04869

Getting There
Air Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, Nedumbassery (190km/ 4hrs). Taxis to Thekkady cost ?4,3704,860

Rail Nearest Railhead: Kottayam (110km/ 3.5hrs). Taxis to Thekkady will cost ?1,6812,281

Road Thekkady is 5km from Kumily on NH220, which links Kollam to Theni in Tamil Nadu via Kottayam, Peermade and Vandiperiyar. Thekkady lies on SH19, which runs from Munnar to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary Bus The KSRTC Bus Stand at Kumily (Tel: 04869-224242) is connected with many places in Kerala

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Kerala: Alleppey Backwaters https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/alleppey-backwater5_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/kerala-alleppey-backwaters/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/kerala-alleppey-backwaters/ 2017-09-18T15:56:59+05:30 article Explore Alleppey's captivating scenery of lush greenery, canals and waterways The backwaters of Keralas Alappuzha District are the USP of India's jewel Kerala. In tiny coastal villages, strung together by the intricate network of canals and lagoons, the day begins and ends on water. Quotidian life continues pretty much at the same placid pace as it must have eons ago. Road rage is a distant memory when life moves at 20km an hour, water flows gently, unendingly for miles around, and traffic has to slow down because armies of ducks have paddled into view.

Backwater Cruises
Most backwater cruises will take you on a standard route. However, if you want to venture deeper into the narrower canals and remoter villages, you will have to request the boatmen and customise your trip. If you want to hire a private boat, the charges are more or less the same.

Motorboat ?600 per hour for 5 pax; ?1,000 per hour for a full 10-seater boat; Speedboat ?3,000 per hour (34 pax); Overnight houseboat stay for a couple Non-AC ?6,500; AC ?7,500; Day cruise for a couple ?6,500, inclusive of meals

You can start your backwaters tour from a number of places, including Ernakulam, Kumarakom, Kottayam and Kollam. The stretch from Kayamkulam Lake to Kochi via Alappuzha is much preferred.

Trikkunapuzha
The association of Alleppeys houseboat owners runs the Coir Village Lake Resort (Tel: 0479-2482210; Tariff: ?2,4004,300) on Trikkunapuzha Island, just south of the lock that separates the freshwater of Alappuzha backwaters from the saltwater of the Kayamkulam region.

Kanjipadam
The Green Palace Health Resort (Cell: 09446917533, 08289933715; Tariff: ?3,5005,000) is a family home that has been refurbished to become a hotel. The house is on a peaceful island, with its own rice paddies at the rear. The new cottages on the riverfront are very comfy indeed, and of course, the resort offers Ayurveda.

Champakulam
Kuttanadu River Resort (Tel: 0477- 2736248; Tariff: ?9004,500), down the canal from St Marys, is a new place with cottages in a courtyard. The cottages are clean, functional and air conditioned. The service is friendly and they also have a comprehensive kitchen.

Triveny River Palace (Tel: 2737114; Tariff: ?4,5007,500) by the Pampa river has a swimming pool, spa as well as Wi-Fi. Akkarakalam Memoirs (Cell: 09446366066; Tariff: ?5,500) is a beautiful property set in a 150-year-old home in Ponga village, with seven rooms in two cottages. You can fish, take canoe and motorboat rides, observe toddy tapping and go on village walks and farm visits.

Manimalathara
Emerald Isle Heritage Villa (Tel: 0477- 2703899, Cell: 09447077555, 094957 77888; Tariff: ?4,3007,300) is a little jewel of a homestay. The house, a 150-year-old tharavad, has polished wooden beams and gleaming red-oxide floors. It fronts a canal, and the property is a maze of little fishing ponds (where they catch karimeen for their own table) and banana and coconut trees. They also have their own Ayurvedic set-up.

Alappuzha
The huge Lake Palace Resort (Tel: 0477-2239701/ 04; Tariff: ?8,00020,000), at Chungam in Alleppeys Thirumala has opulent water-villas on its own private lake. If youre looking for a luxurious break, this will do.

Punnamada Backwater Resort (Tel: 2233690, Cell: 09446433692; Tariff: ?12,00020,000, houseboats ?24,000 30,000), next door to Kayaloram, has larger rooms, of better value. The villas with a view are quite something. Both hotels have their own spas. Keraleeyam Heritage Home and Ayurvedic Resort (Tel: 2231468, Cell: 09847050711; Tariff: ?2,3433,476) is pretty basic compared to its neighbours, but it is distinguished by being a home, over 70 years old that fronts the backwaters, and it claims to being a part of an actual Ayurvedic dynasty. It is still run by a family that has its own Ayurvedic brand. They have charming cottages.

Palmgrove Lake Resort (Tel: 2235004, 2243474; Tariff: ?2,3003,500), is a basic place with bamboo cottages. Though, not with the same amenities of the others, it is a cheaper and quite charming alternative.

Muhamma
Kovilakam Lakeside Villa (Tel: 0478- 2861275/ 76, Cell: 09447151644; Tariff: ?3,5004,000) is a small place with a few rooms and it has a very nice setting, right on the quiet lakeside. There is a nice-looking restaurant and the rooms are clean. All the rooms at the Lemon Tree Vembanad Lake Resort (Tel: 2861970; Tariff: On request) face the Vembanad Lake. There is a swimming pool, an Ayurveda spa and a gym.

Purity at Lake Vembanad (Kochi Tel: 0484-2216666; Tariff: ?6,500 19,900) is a beautiful hotel from the Malabar House group with an amazing art collection. All rooms have terraces and verandahs overlooking the pristine Vembanad Lake. There is a swimming pool, yoga and a spa here.

Varanam
Vembanad Backwater Resort (Tel: 0478-2582235; Tariff: ?2,0002,500), in Varanam, faces the backwaters. You can go cycling, go on village tours, watch cultural shows, get a massage or take a boat to explore the sights.

Shanthitheeram Heritage Lakeside Resort (Tel: 2582955, 2583379; Tariff: ?2,4002,600) has Kerala-style cottages with AC and non/ AC rooms. There is a swimming pool and Ayurveda.

Thaneermukkom
KTDCs Suvasam Lake Resort (Tel: 2584218; Tariff: ?1,5002,000) has well-equipped rooms as well as a multi-cuisine restaurant.

Olavipe
Thekkanat Parayil (Tel: 0478-2522255, Cell: 08589069115, 08589079115; Tariff: on request) is a gorgeous homestay. The food here is delicious. The house, while strictly not a waterside property, is a short walk away from its own private jetty on the Kaithappuzha backwater.

Fast Facts
When to go August to May is the best time to visit this area weather wise. While deals during the monsoons are attractive, and it is the best time for Ayurvedic treatments, there is no way to guarantee availability and safety of boat travel during the rains

Tourist offices
District Tourism Promotion Council, Near KSRTC Bus Stand, Boat Jetty Road, Alappuzha, Tel: 0477-2253308, 2251796, dtpcalappuzha.com

Tourist Information Centre, Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, Near Boat Jetty, Alappuzha, Tel: 2260722, keralatourism.org

STD code 0477

Getting There

Air Nearest Airport: Kochi International Airport at Nedumbassery (100km/ 2hrs) has daily flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. Taxi to Alappuzha costs ?1,8002,000

Rail Alleppey Railway Station is connected to Ernakulam, Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and many more by Jan Shatabdi, Sampark Kranti and several Express trains

Road Alleppey is on NH47, which also connects major cities in Kerala such as Ernakulam, Palakkad, Thrissur and Thiruvananthapuram Bus Alappuzhas KSRTC Bus Stand (Tel: 0477- 2252501) has frequent services to most cities in the state

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Manali: A Global Village http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/manali_global_village/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/manali_global_village/ 2017-09-18T15:46:46+05:30 article Manali offers that haunting beauty to which places in the lower Himalayan ranges can only aspire Manali has a distinctive reputation as a global village that has been bolstered by its popularity with backpackers.

This famous hippie haven has riverside cafs that waylay your senses with promises of scrumptuous soups, pastas, hummus and pita, momos, pancakes, along with soul-soothing ginger-honey tea. Rohtang Pass, which is a gateway to the barren but beautiful reaches of Ladakh and Spiti, can also be reached from here.

Manali has something for everyone. There are numerous old temples for the believers to visit and plenty of organised adventure activities for the thrill seekers to enjoy. But best of all, Manali offers that haunting beauty to which places in the lower Himalayan ranges can only aspire.

Things to See & Do
Manali is actually a collection of three adjacent hills, each with a village and an old temple: Old Manali (Manu Temple), Vashishtha (Vashishtha Temple) and Dhungri (Hadimba Temple).

If you enjoy exploring, walk to either the Manu or the Vashishtha Temple, past Old Manali or the Vashishtha village respectively, and soak in some serenity, which you can especially enjoy out of season. Fifteen minutes past Old Manali, you can sit on the rocks by the Manalsu stream. Further on, a shepherds trail goes up a hill. Some half an hour along this rather narrow path, the valley yields utterly enchanting views of the river that is eventually seen emerging through a thick forest. Past Vashishtha village, walk through some woods and land up at the Vashishtha waterfall which is a wonderful sight to behold. Walking through Old Manali is an absolute treat.

In MarchApril, you will able to watch butterflies flit around and beautiful apple blossoms greet you. By September, luscious apples dot the trees. In May June, you will be able to see the locals at work, spreading the new crop in their courtyards and using their bullocks to separate the husks.

The 400-year-old Hadimba Temple, also known as Dhungiri Temple, framed by towering deodars, is worth visiting. Come here early in the morning to see the dark wood on its sloping roof glow like burnished metal. Near Nehru Park on the Mall Road, take the path to the protected Van Vihar stretch. This is a beautiful 20-minute trail that runs parallel to the Manalsu stream through enchanting pine and deodar woods.

The 51-km climb up to the 13,400-ft-high Rohtang Pass (open usually in JulySeptember) is formidable. On the way is the village of Nehru Kothi (15km), where you can savour phenomenal views of the mighty Beas River.

Further along are the Rahalla Falls. Once there, savour the stunning panoramas of peaks and glaciers, and the glorious Lahaul Valley below. Rohtang is cold, so rent coats, snowboots and gloves. These are available at many points on the road.

If you're here during winter, head on the Rohtang Route to Snow Point, which is not a fixed point, but is the spot closest to Manali with ample snow. Amble around in snowshoes, build a snowman and have a snowball fight with your friends.

Manali is an unbeatable arena for adventure sports. Go paragliding at Gulaba or Phatru, both accessible from Solang. If youve got the nerve and stamina, go rafting (May to mid-June; end-September to mid-October) on the Beas. The 16-km rides start at Pirdi and terminate at Jhirhi.

Manali is an excellent rock climbing destination (Contact Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports - Tel: 01902-252342, 253789; adventurehimalaya.org).

The city is also good trekking territory (early April to mid-June; from mid- September to mid-October), and Rohtang, the gateway to Lahaul, Spiti, Leh and Ladakh, sees plenty of activity.

The trek to the frozen Beas Kund, the source of the Beas, is a must-visit. There are trekking and adventure sports operators on the Mall Road and lower Circuit House Road.

Manalis Mall Road is packed with shops selling woollens and winter wear, toys, fruit wine and much more. The HPMC outlet on the Mall stocks Himachali jams, chutneys, pickles and wine, and the very rare apple pickle that you will find only in Manali.

Manu Market, just off the Mall has bookstores, handloom stores and grocers. Many shops here stock second-hand goods sold by departing backpackers, so if youre buying any imported edibles, be sure to check expiry dates.

You can pick up yak cheese from the German Bakery. You can also find shops stocking dried fruits, nuts, saffron and churan here.

Where to Stay
Theres plenty of choice in Manali but if youre heading here during tourist season, make sure that you book your stay in advance. Johnson Hotel (Tel: 01902- 251523, Cell: 09816045123; Tariff: ?3,200) has well-appointed rooms and cottages. The lovely cottages of Leela Huts (Tel: 252464; Tariff: ?5,50012,000) are recommended too. Negis Hotel May Flower (Tel: 252104, 250256; Tariff: ?3,4556,000), next to Circuit House, remains a popular option with its excellent Continental cuisine. Hotel Snowcrests Manor (Tel: 253351/ 54; Tariff: ?2,500 7,200) is away from the rush of the bazaar, Banon Resorts (Tel: 252490, 253026, Cell: 09418095359; Tariff: ?6,00018,000) is in the midst of apple orchards. Highland Park Manali (Cell: 09816043949; Tariff: ?6,0009,000) is four kilometres from town on the Rohtang Pass Road. If you want a place by the Beas, check out Manu Allaya Resorts (Tel: 252235/ 38; Tariff: ?7,66618,666). HPTDCs Rohtang Manalsu (Tel: 252332, 253723; Tariff: ?1,6003,000) is a budget option near Nehru Park. Hotel Beas (Tel: 252832; Tariff: ?1,8003,600) has rooms overlooking the river.

For those looking for cheap options, Old Manali village is a treasure-trove of guesthouses. Rockway Cottage near the river is the nicest.

Where to Eat

Among Manalis best restaurants is Johnsons Caf. You can head there for well-made pasta and the grilled trout.

Chopsticks, on the Mall Road, serves Tibetan and Chinese cuisine. Negis Hotel May Flower is known for its Continental food.

Be sure to visit Caf Amigos (aka German Bakery) opposite Nehru Park for cakes, croissants and coffee.

Tuck into south Indian fare at Swamijis Madras Caf, or north Indian meals at the Himalayan Dhaba, both located on the Mall. Go for momos and apple cider at Mount View. In old Manali, try the home-made noodles at Tibet Kitchen. For authentic Italian, stop at Roberta Angelones Il Forno, on the way to the Hadimba Devi Temple.

Fast Facts
When to go Every season offers a reason to visit Manali. The weather is best in spring and summer. Manali is covered in snow and absolutely beautiful between the months of January and February, when the slopes of Solang attract the skiing crowd

Tourist offices

HPTDC, The Mall, Manali, Tel: 01902-253531/ 2325

HPTDC, Chanderlok Building, 36, Janpath, New Delhi, Tel: 011- 23325320, 23325233, hptdc.nic.in

STD code 01902

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Bhuntar (50km/ 1.5hrs). Taxi costs ?1,500

Rail Nearest railhead: Chandigarh serviced by the Shatabdi from Delhi. Taxi (7/8 hrs) costs ?4,000 to Manali

Road It's a 565km/ 14hr drive from Delhi Bus An AC Volvo bus leaves Delhis ISBT Kashmere Gate at 7.00pm

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Himachal Pradesh: BaseraBy the Tirthan https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Basera-Featured-Image.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/himachal-pradesh-basera-tirthan/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/himachal-pradesh-basera-tirthan/ 2017-09-18T15:20:01+05:30 article For spectacular views of the Tirthan River and cloud-capped mountains We have found the perfect riverside getaway, far from the madding crowds. Perched on the idyllic banks of the Tirthan River in Kullu district, Citrus County Farm Stays resort BaseraBy the Tirthan is the next best thing to home. Located at 5,100 ft, the resort offers five cottages, each of which features spectacular views of the river and cloud-capped mountains. Whether you like to lounge by a babbling brook, read a book and sip chai, or get lost on untouched nature trails, Basera delivers. The area is home to 300 species of birds. You can go fishing for trout, discover one of the many hidden waterfalls, trek in the nearby ranges, go biking, cross the river on a zipline, or visit a village. The Great Himalayan National Park is just a 1.5 hr walk away. Tariff: From ?5,500 plus taxes Contact: +91-9815077880, baseraattirthan.com

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Tamil Nadu: Puducherry https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/puducherry3_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/tamilnadu_puducherry/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/tamilnadu_puducherry/ 2017-09-17T12:08:02+05:30 article Every corner of this little town exude colonial charm The French built a base in Pondicherry in 1674. The town was planned with a canal dividing it into the Ville Noir (Black Town), where the masses made their home, and the Ville Blanche (White Town), where the foreign expatriates and French diplomatic corps thrived. When the French turned the town over to India in 1954, a number of people who stayed on chose French citizenship. French is still an official language of this Union Territory. Puducherry (previously called Pondicherry) charms tourists with its tree-lined avenues and painted colonial buildings.

Things to See & Do

Beach Road

The wind-swept Beach Road is lined with 18th and 19th century buildings including the War Memorial, the 88-ft-tall lighthouse and the French Consulate General. Running parallel to all these stately buildings is a popular promenade.

Rue Dumas

The oldest street in the city, this is where the first French settlers lived. Today, it is home to the Hotel de Pondicherry set in a 19th-century villa, the immaculately maintained Ecole Francaise dExtreme Orient, the statue of Joan of Arc and the Notre Dame des Anges Church.

Pondicherry Museum

This beautiful building, with its huge rooms, wide windows and high ceilings, has a collection that includes Chola bronzes, beads and coins from the Roman-era excavations at Arikamedu, old local vehicles, and other interesting artefacts.

The Tamil Quarter

The streets are narrower here, the houses smaller and the temples bigger. A few traditional houses are still left untouched; most others have metamorphosed into urban dwellings. The Mansion of Ananda Rangapillai built in 1738 is a unique specimen of Franco-Tamil architecture. Rangapillai (170961) was one of the most successful agents (dubash) of the French Compagnie. This unique house has a Tamil ground floor and a European first floor with a courtyard in the middle. Unfortunately, visits are no longer encouraged by the owners.

Immaculate Conception Cathedral

The Church of the Immaculate Conception is the biggest church in Puducherry. This stately late-Renaissance structure was rebuilt in 1791.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

The pearl grey-and-white Ashram buildings are the most orderly part of the city. Only the area where the mortal remains of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, Indian nationalist and philosopher, and his spiritual partner, The Mother, are interred is open to the public. A visit to the Ashram is conducted in pin-drop silence. The rooms where The Mother and Sri Aurobindo lived are open to viewing only on certain days of the year.

Tip The Ashram Visitors Information Centre (Tel: 2233604) can be contacted for visiting days and timings

Where to Stay & Eat

Hotel de LOrient (Tel: 0413-2343067; Tariff: ?3,5008,000) has excellent food. Villa Helena (Cell: 09787826845; Tariff: ?4,5006,000) is a heritage option and Maison Perumal (Tel: 2227519; Tariff: ?8,650) is run by the CGH Earth group.

The Information

When to go NovemberFebruary

Tourist offices

Puducherry Tourism Dev Corp, Beach Road, Tel: 2335371, tourism.puducherry.gov.in

STD code 0413

Getting There

Air Nearest Airport: Chennai (169km/ 3hrs) Taxi ?2000 approx

Rail Convenient railhead: Chennai Central Road. Its a smooth ride down the East Coast Road from Chennai Bus Every half hour from CMBT in Chennai

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A Quick Guide to Ooty https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/nilgiris7_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quickguide_ooty/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quickguide_ooty/ 2017-09-17T11:53:02+05:30 article Explore this hill station's breathtaking natural beauty and picturesque vistas Ooty was a realm of tribal people (the Todas) and shola forests till the British annexed the Nilgiris in 1799. Over the years, the city hardly ever called by its original name, Udhagamandalam took its place as a Nilgiris tea-plantation hot spot and served as the summer headquarters of the sahibs who ruled from Madras.

Today, Ooty is south Indias most famous hill station. Tourists throng to this scenic destination, especially during the summer, because of its breathtaking natural beauty and picturesque vistas.

Things to See & Do

Walks and rides around the hills are the best way to enjoy a holiday here. Wildlife enthusiasts can consider a visit to the Bee Museum where the Nilgiri Natural History Society is based.

Ooty Lake

Ooty Lake is this hill towns most famous tourist spot. The lake itself is hedged by beautiful trees on the far side. Vendors sell flowers, snacks and toys at the entrance. Boating is the prime attraction. There are also game shows and a mini-train ride on offer.

Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden, built in the 1840s, is a popular tourist haunt, and has a variety of trees, shrubs and flowers from all over the world.

Rose Garden

The Rose Garden is a small terrace atop a hill off Etiennes Road. The season to be here is April, when there are more than a thousand varieties in bloom.

Churches

Built in 1829, the Protestant St Stephens Church is the oldest church here. Union Church and Holy Trinity Church, Gothic and Tudor in appearance, with stained-glass windows, intricately carved pews, and inscribed plaques, are worth a visit. St Thomas Church commands a lovely view of the lake, and the Kandal Church houses what is said to be a relic of the cross on which Christ was crucified.

Wenlock Downs and the Ninth Mile

Wenlock Downs is a famous picnic spot. It is a vast stretch of green grassy knolls. Pony rides are also on offer. On the way to Wenlock Downs lies the Ninth Mile, another lovely picnic spot.

Nilgiri Toy Train

The Mettupalaiyam-Ooty Passenger on the narrow gauge promises a scenic hilly ride and a wonderful experience.

Dodda Betta

At 8,696 ft, this is the highest peak in the area. On a clear day you can also see the plains of Coimbatore and the Mysore plateau. Theres a telescope in a high-up viewing chamber.

Where to Stay

Ooty offers a variety of stay options, but during peak season its best to make reservations well in time.

Tajs Savoy Hotel (Tel: 0423-2225500; Tariff: ?10,20019,400) on Sylks Road is located in one of the oldest buildings in Ooty and has been a hotel continuously since 1841 under different names. It offers well-maintained, stylish rooms. It also has a games rooms, billiards and a gym.

Fernhills Palace (Tel: 2443910; Tariff: ?9,00028,000) is part of a large property south-west of town and is owned by the Wodeyars of Mysore. Holiday Inn Gem Park (Tel: 2441761/ 62; Tariff: ?7,000 16,000) on Sheddon Road is well equipped with a disco, central heating, a health club and even a temperature-controlled swimming pool.

There are three hotels clustered together off Havelock Road in the northern part of the town. Howard Johnson The Monarch (Tel: 2444408/ 18/ 20; Tariff: ?3,5006,800) is a bulky structure which seems a bit out of place among the rolling hilly landscape, but is a good option.

A lovely experience can be had at the colonial bungalow called the Kings Cliff (Tel: 2452888/ 89; Tariff: ?4,1007,750). It is set in a charming 130-year-old property, amidst lovely trees and lawns. It has tasteful dcor and wonderful food. The rooms come equipped with fireplaces. The Willow Hill (Tel: 2223123/ 4123, 2444037/ 758; Tariff: ?1,7005,200), next to Kings Cliff, has a good location looming over the town.

Among the downtown hotels, Hotel Nahar Nilgiris (Tel: 2442173, 2443685; Tariff: ?2,5004,000) is located in the Charing Cross area. It has a restaurant and a coffee shop.

Also in Charing Cross is TTDCs Hotel Tamil Nadu (Tel: 2444371/ 77; Tariff: ?1,9003,200), which is always a dependable option. The affordable Reflections Guest House (Tel: 2443834; Cell: 09843637974; Tariff: ?1,200) is walkable from Ooty Station and located bang on the northern shore of Ooty Lake. Hotel Lakeview (Tel: 2443580/ 82, 2443904, 2440978/ 83; Tariff: ?1,9002,650) also has good views of the lake, from beyond the western shore.

Where to Eat

Ooty does not have many stand-alone restaurants, but many hotels have restaurants meant for walk-ins. Earls Secret in Kings Cliff is highly recommended, especially for Continental dishes. Tiffanys in The Willow Hill is good for the views and the food. They serve Indian and Continental.

In the centre of the town, Nahar Hotels Sidewalk Caf offers salads, soups, pizzas and pastas. Shinkows, opposite the Nilgiri Library, is a good option for non-vegetarian Chinese.

Fast Facts

When to go All year round. Summer can be crowded. Ooty is delightful during and after the monsoon rains (JulySeptember), and fun in winter (DecemberFebruary)

Tourist Office

Tamil Nadu Tourist Office, Wenlock Road, Ooty, Tel: 0423-2443977

STD code 0423

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Coimbatore (96km/ 3hrs). Taxi costs ?1,6002,000

Rail Udhgamandalam Station on meter gauge is connected to Mettupalaiyam (51km/ 1.5hrs) by the Nilgiri Mountain Express. Its a 5-hr-long scenic ride.Mettupalaiyam has broad gauge connection with Chennai. Nearest major broad gauge railhead Coimbatore Junction, connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram

Road From Bengaluru, Ooty is a comfortable hill drive.There are scenic stretches as you pass through the Bandipur and Mudumalai National Parks and some medium hairpin bends en route to Ooty via Gudalur Bus Volvo bus services (9hrs/ ?800 approx) from Majestic Bus Stand in Bengaluru. The ultra deluxe overnight bus to Ooty from Chennais Metropolitan Bus Stand takes 14hrs and costs ?530

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Whats on Your Plate, NYC? https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/featured-image-2.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/whats-plate-nyc/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/whats-plate-nyc/ 2017-09-17T08:00:57+05:30 article Heres a list of food mashups that are going big in NYC Are you in New York City and happened to be a foodie? And by that we mean a brave foodie. If Yes, heres a list of some quirky food creations that, some thought, would give an edge to the same old normal food. On that note, a serving of spaghetti doughnut, please!

Mac and Cheese Spring Roll
Take the traditional baked macaroni and cheese and wrap it in a roll and fry it. And now you have a new variant of snacksMac and Cheese Spring Roll. Find this in the 24-hour restaurant Cafeteria located on the 119 Seventh Ave, Chelsea, Manhattan.

Burgrito
Its almost cruel to separate burgers and fries, they belong together. Better still, bring them closer, wrap them in a tortillanow you have a burgrito. A creation of Burgritos (173 4th Ave, Gowanus, Brooklyn), the dish is minus the buns and instead you have all the goodness of a burger and fries wrapped in tortilla.

Spaghetti Doughnut
If you are worried about sweetened pasta, this is not it. You will only be eating spaghetti shaped like a doughnut. Makes spaghetti eating less messy, isnt it? Or shall we say, spaghetti on the go? If you are at the Smorgasburg, grab one of these by Pop Pastathey come in six flavours, bolognese and carbonara included. You can find Pop Pasta in 90 Kent Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Cereal Bagel
Americas favourite breakfast staplescereal and bagelnow in one form! The folks at Bagels R Us (13-13 40th Ave, Great Kills, Staten Island) mix cereals into the dough and out comes cereal bagel. You can add moreslather your bagel with cereal-infused cream cheese.

Cruff
This got the warm and cold together. Warm glazed doughnuts stuffed with cold ice-cream and toppings of your choicefrom gummy bears to cononutheres a new way to eat your ice-cream. Grab one of these at the Stuffed Ice Cream in 139 1st Ave, East Village, Manhattan.

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Explore the Best of Arunachal Pradesh https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Arunachal1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/explore_arunachal-pradesh/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/explore_arunachal-pradesh/ 2017-09-16T14:28:14+05:30 article Home to picturesque mountains, unexplored passes, tranquil lakes and famous monasteries Itanagar

The picturesque town of Itanagar, Arunachal Pradeshs capital, is located in the southern foothills of the Himalayas. Pleasant weather, rich biodiversity, and vast stretches of breathtaking landscapes make Itanagar a superb destination for long holidays, throughout the year. Home to a large number of Nyishi tribals who speak a language of Sino-Tibetan origin, the city is known for its unique culture and friendly populace.

A visit to the citys Craft Centre and Emporium is the best way to acquaint yourself with the impressive collection of handicrafts that Itanagar has to offer. Itanagar also has a bustling market, where visitors can browse through a range of handicrafts from across the state.

Things to See & Do

Itanagar was declared the capital of Arunachal Pradesh in 1974. Situated at an elevation of 350m, the quaint town is renowned for its fine Tibetan architecture and varied tribal culture.

Ita Fort

Constructed in 15th century CE by the Ahom dynasty, Ita Fort lends its name to this town. The fort is in the centre of the Capital Complex and has three magnificent entrance gates. It was an imperial structure, and is said to have been constructed using 80 lakh bricks. Now, only the ruins remain, standing amidst sprawling gardens and offering splendid views of the city.

Ganga Lake

Also known as Gyakar Sinyi, this popular picnic spot is 7km from the city. The charming lake is surrounded by thick forests. The lake is frequented by locals and visitors alike, but still manages to remain serene, enabling one to enjoy solitude. You can carry some food and feed the fish in the lake, and even enjoy a boat ride.

Adventure Activities

The city and its outskirts offer plenty of outdoor activities such as rafting, trekking and angling. Trekking is a popular activity here, with Itanagar-Pashighat being a famous trail. It passes through Ziro and Daporijo. Other trails are the Jong-Tawang and the Jorhat-Tawang trails.

Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the Itanagar Wildlife Sanctuary. It is home to antelopes, Himalayan black bears and over 400 bird species.

Where to Stay & Eat

Hotel Donyi Polo Ashok (Tel: 0360-2212626-27; Tariff: ?4,6507,500) is the best choice here. Hotel Todo (Tel: 2290347, Cell: 09774282545; Tariff: ?2,0004,950) and Hotel Blue Pine (Tel: 2212042; Tariff: ?1,2002,500) offer well-furnished rooms and dorms. The restaurant onsite serves Indian and Continental dishes. Hotel Kameng (Tel: 2212869; Tariff: ?1,2002,000) is also a good option.

Location In the Papum Pare District Air Lilabari (60km) in Assam Rail Harmuty (33km) in Assam

Tawang

Tucked in the northwestern corner of Arunachal Pradesh that juts into Bhutan, and is shouldered by Tibet, the small hill town of Tawang has had an eventful history. It was here that the 14th Dalai Lama and his entourage quietly crossed over into India from Tibet in 1959, taking an impossibly arduous route; and it was also in Tawangs vicinity that a pitched battle was fought during the Indo-Chinese War of 1962.

Tawang is notoriously difficult to navi-gate, owing to its location at an altitude of approximately 3,505m and a harsh mountain terrain. Apart from the one road connecting Assam to Tawang, helicopters used to be an easy, albeit expensive mode of transport, but the service was stopped when the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Dorjee Khandu, was killed in a fatal helicopter crash in 2011. Despite the difficult route and an inhospitable terrain, every year Tawang sees a reasonable number of tourists who come here to soak in its natural beauty and to visit the ancient gompas.

Things to See & Do

Half the fun of visiting Tawang lies in getting there, as it involves driving through the plains of Assam and the mountains of Arunachal beginning at Guwahati or Tezpur and following the age- old trade route linking Tibet to the Brahmaputra Valley. A laid-back town, Tawang, comes alive during festivals. The most important of these is Losar, the Buddhist New Year, in February or March. The three-day Torgya celebration is held every January to ward off evil spirits and natural disasters.

Sela Pass

At 4,048m, Sela Pass is the highest motorable pass in the Northeast. The road to Sela involves a steep ascent, and is usually marked by fog and traces of landslides. Caution is advised while driving up the last mile, which is particularly treacherous.

About 20km down the road from Sela Pass is the Jaswantgarh War Memorial, named after Jaswant Singh Sawant, who played a crucial role in the defence against Chinese forces in the 1962 Indo-Chinese War. The camp has a statue of the soldier, his personal memorabilia and plaques recounting his tenure in the army. There are graves of other soldiers, and bunkers dating from the days of the war.

Tawang Gompa

The largest monastery in India and the second largest in Asia, Tawang Gompa boasts a picturesque location atop a hill. On one side of the gompa, the slope gently spreads into a valley, while on the other side is a sharp cliff-face, making the place susceptible to landslides. It is advisable to avoid visiting the place during monsoons.

Officially called the Gaden Namgyal Lhatse, the monastery was built in the 17th century. The gompa follows the Gelugpa sect of Mahayana school of Buddhism, and is associated with Lhasas Drepung Monastery. It is said that this association, as well as its location so close to the border with Tibet, is partly the reason China has incessantly laid claim to Tawang.

The monastery has living quarters, a library, and can house 700 monks at a time. The highlight of the monastery is the massive three-storey du-khang or Assembly Hall, at the centre of the compound. A museum (Entry ?10) within the complex displays masks, statues of Buddha dating back to the 10th century and scriptures and manuscripts from the 17th century.

Timings Sunrisesunset Photography ?20 Videography ?100

Urgelling Gompa

Built in 1489, the Urgelling Gompa makes for a great day hike from Tawang. About 6km by road, downhill from Tawang Gompa, this is where the 6th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Gyamtso, was born in 1683. The monastery is closed most days, but ask for the caretaker who holds the only set of keys to open it for visitors.

Tawang War Memorial

Just outside the town, the Tawang War Memorial stands tall, commemorating the soldiers of the Indian army who lost their lives in the 1962 Indo-China War. The structure was blessed by the Dalai Lama in 1997. Names of over 2,000 soldiers are inscribed in gold on black granite plaques that surround the structure. The memorial has two halls, which house maps and photographs from the time of the war, and recreate the story of soldiers with sound and light.

Where to Stay & Eat

The best hotels are located in the main bazaar and provide basic facilities such as hot water and TV. Hotel Shambhala (Tel: 03794-222348, Cell: 09436652814; Tariff: ?8501,500) and Hotel Nefa (Tel: 222419; Tariff: ?9001,800) are good options. Other decent hotels include Hotel Gorichen (Tel: 224151; Tariff: ?8001,800) and Hotel Buddha (Tel: 222954; Tariff: ?1,0001,500).

Location At an elevation of 3,505m, near the Indo-Bhutan border Air Tezpur (360km) and Guwahati (532km), the latter is better connected with daily flights Rail Rangapara North served by the Guwahati-Naharlagun Express and Kamakhya M25 Express

Namdapha National Park

A few kilometres from the town of Miao, the Namdapha National Park is the largest protected area in the Eastern Himalaya Biodiversity Hotspot. The park stretches along the international border between India and Myanmar.

Established as part of Project Tiger in 1983, Namdapha NP has a core area of 1,808sq km and a buffer zone of 177sq km. The vegetation here changes from tropical moist forests at the lower altitude to montane forests and alpine meadows at the higher elevations. The lower reaches, have a dense undergrowth, with abundant bamboo and canebrakes. With trees reaching as high as 150m, the jungle has a thick canopy.

Namdapha is home to tigers, leopards (both clouded and snow), elephants, red pandas, deer and even the endangered hoolock gibbons. The park is also home to several avian species, including white-bellied herons, white-winged wood ducks, pied falconets, and five species of hornbills. A variety of butterfly species, such as the koh-i-noor, red caliph, cruiser, wizard and fluffy tit, also live in these environs.

Orientation

The entrance to Namdapha is located close to the town of Miao. After you drive past the entry gate, its a 22km drive to the campsite of Deban, set up by the Forest Department. Deban is the farthest motorable point as well.

Things to See & Do

Deban

Located on the northern banks of the Noa-Dihing River, Deban is an excellent base for exploring the park. The site is a haven for naturalists, offering plenty of birding opportunities. It also offers amazing trails for trekking.

Treks

Trekking is the only way to thoroughly explore Namdapha and experience nature at its wildest. The first part of the trek involves crossing the Noa-Dihing River. When the flow is less, you can simply walk on the stones and cross the river over shaky yet reliable wooden bamboo bridges, but when the water level is high, you will need a ferry (arranged by the Forest Department) to take you across the roaring rapids.

While it is possible to trek 14km to Bulbulia the third base camp and return to the starting point the same day, it can be extremely tiring and is only recommended if you are pressed for time. However, if you can manage a couple of nights in the jungle, you will be able to sight both birds and animals during the early hours as well as during sunset. It is simply stunning if you get to photograph them. Be careful, though.

The trail from the river will take you up an incline for about 300m, before you walk a short distance along a ridge to the picturesque Haldibari campsite. Set up an overnight camp and listen to the sounds of the jungle the birds calling out to each other, the hoolock gibbons sounding off warnings and the rustle of leaves in the wind. The next campsite, Hornbill Glade, is only 5km away, but the path that leads to it is nothing short of enchanting, with rays of sunshine filtering through the dense tree canopy.

Tigers can be mostly spotted in the parks core area, in the interior of the jungle, which is nowhere close to navigable. Even today, the Forest Department finds it an uphill task to set up monitoring and image-capturing devices in order to determine how many tigers there still are in the park. So, while you may not run into a tiger during your time there, which might make you scoff, remember that you are on foot, so take due caution when visiting these areas.

Where to Stay & Eat

There are few staying options now in Deban. But there are a few small eateries in the market where you can get by.

The Forest Department has a Forest Rest House (Tariff: ?450). For reser-vations, contact the Field Director, Namdapha National Park, Miao (Tel: 03807-222249).

Tip Book your stay well in advance. Charge your electrical devices beforehand

The tourist huts in Deban, especially, enjoy a spectacular location near the river. Theres no electricity or running hot water; the camp organiser will be happy to heat water over fire, if need be. Solar lamps are provided, but youll also get a box of candles if you stay in the huts.

Location Adjacent to the Myanmar border Air Dibrugarh (197km) in Assam Rail Tinsukia (150km) in Assam

Ziro

Pretty much at the edge of the Indian map, a trip to Ziro is worth the effort for the smell of the mist, the taste of the breeze and the sound of the forest.

T

Ziro town, comprising the original Ziro village and the new town Hapoli, doesnt have too many tourist sights to offer. After navigating the town, hire a taxi (?58 per km plus fuel) and head out to the Apa Tani villages that are at a distance from the new town. Its best to reach the villages before 7.00am; or else youll have to wait until evening, when the villagers head back from the fields and bamboo groves.

Mithun-spotting

A cross between the wild gaur and the buffalo, the mithun prefers the quiet of the forests and the Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, 38km away, to the banter of the villages and towns. The Apa Tanis too let the mithun be, until, that is, theres a bride price or a fine to be paid or a sacrifice to be made.

Government Handicrafts Museum

Situated at the other end of the new town Ziro, this outlet is the best place to buy souvenirs, including Apa Tani weaves, cane and bamboo products.

Festival harvest

Being an agricultural community, festivities are often timed around agricultural activity and the cycle of the seasons. The Mloko Festival (MarchApril) is celebrated at the beginning of the agricultural cycle, and is associated with the popular local sport, Bobo. Bamboo poles are installed in open spaces with cane ropes stretched between them, on which the locals perform acrobatics.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Ziro has just a few stay options. Among these, the Circuit House and Old Ziro Inspection Bungalow stand out for their frozen-in-time quality and excellent locations. Situated on a hilltop near Pai Gate, the Hotel Blue Pine (Tel: 03788-224812, 224974, Tariff: ?1,3203,500) has 30 rooms with hot water, attached baths and a restaurant. It also offers travel assistance. Ziro Valley Resort (Cell: 09856910173, 08729947186; Tariff: ?1,2004,000), located in Biirii village, has 15 spacious rooms, with a restaurant and arranges treks on request. Hotel Pine Ridge (Tel: 224725; Tariff: ?1,3001,500) has 20 rooms and a restaurant.

Location In the lower Subansiri District Air Lilabari (100km) Rail North Lakhimpur (91km)

FAST FACTS

When to Go MayJune, OctoberMarch

Tourist Office

Directorate of Tourism, Government of Arunachal Pradesh, Papum District, Itanagar, Cell: 09436040531

Permits

Deputy Resident Commissioner, GS Road, Rukiminigaon, Dispur, Guwahati. Tel: 0361-2412859, 2416720

Deputy Resident Commissioner, Parvati Nagar, Tezpur, Assam, Tel: 03712-260173

Resident Commissioner, Government of Arunachal Pradesh, Kautilya Marg, ChanakyapuriNew Delhi. Tel: 011-23013844, W arunachaltourism.com

STD code Itanagar 0360

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Lilabari in North Lakhimpur (60km). Taxi costs ?4,0006,000 per day (seasonal), which includes fuel, vehicle and driver

Rail Nearest railhead: Naharlagun (12km) in Assam, served by Guwahati-Naharlagun Express. This train also connects Rangapara North. Buses and taxis connect Naharlagun to Itanagar

Road From Guwahati (430km) take NH37 to Kaliabor, then NH37A to Tezpur and NH52 to North Lakhimpur Bus State and private buses operate (1112hrs) daily between Guwahati and Itanagar from ISBT

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Kolkata: Rooted in History https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/kolkata7_fi.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/kolkata_history/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/kolkata_history/ 2017-09-16T14:10:39+05:30 article Here's a quick guide to Kolkata's wonderfully quirky history Kolkata carries an almost crushing burden of history. Spawned in the sandbanks of three malarial villages by the Hooghly, Kolkata flourished. From being a minor trading outpost in the lower delta of Bengal, it mutated into the second capital of the British Raj in almost no time.

Kolkata is an enchanting city, which glittered in the sun all too briefly before the tides of history swept it back to its primeval lair. Even for a visitor to the city, there is no such thing as a first impression. The very name Kolkata carries with it a freight of associations, most of them harking back to the Age of the Empire. Many of these associations were negative, ranging from the Black Hole of Sirajuddaulah to Kiplings chance-erected, chance-directed city. At the same time, Kolkata was a beacon of light in the heady days of the Bengal renaissance. Its inhabitants wrote and printed books, set up schools and colleges, went to the theatre, founded businesses, measured the heights of mountains, ate beef and drank wine, aped the British, agitated against the British and beat them at football. It is almost impossible to take a step in Kolkata without becoming aware of its wonderfully quirky history.

Things to See & Do

Nimtala Ghat

We do not know the name of the ghat where Job Charnock (an administrator of the English East India Company, who was traditionally regarded as the founder of this city) landed in 1690, but we do know it was not far from a huge neem tree and a Kali temple. Charnock would often sit under that tree, shooting the breeze with his friends and smoking his hookah. The tree burnt down in 187980. No trace remains of the spot which legend and facts have conspired to designate as Kolkatas first recorded adda. But the ghat, which took its name from the gigantic neem tree, Nimtala, is very much in evidence. This is also where Rabindranath Tagore was cremated and a small garden on the riverbank commemorates this event.

The Riverside

The most enjoyable part of the waterfront is on the other end from Nimtala. To explore this riverside, the best thing to do is walk. An ideal place to start is from Prinsep Ghat, almost directly below the imposing Second Hooghly Bridge, named Vidyasagar Setu. Overlooking the river, it is a beautiful monument to Sir James Prinsep, who is most famous for deciphering the Brahmi script on the stone edicts of Emperor Ashoka in 1837. A sparkling white memorial of Palladian entrances and fluted Ionian columns, it is surrounded by a well-maintained lawn where one can relax and watch the river flow. A small path to the right leads to the Circular Railway terminal. A ride on this is also an excellent and a quicker way of seeing the riverside. Buy a ticket for a ride till Sovabazaar and you will be speeding along the various ghats with their own unique flavours. To continue with the walk, go from Prinsep Terminus to the Outram Ghat, from where the Strand, or the promenade along the river, starts. The Strand is perfect for a stroll or to indulge in a plethora of quality street food. Some of the best chaat-makers in the city congregate here.

If you are in the mood, go for a leisurely boat ride on the century-old fishing boats. Charges will be around ?100150 an hour, after negotiating.

If you tire of the riverside, get off the ghats for an hour. Cross Strand Road and head for Eden Gardens. These, along with the Strand and the Esplanade area, together formed the main recreational area for the English during the Raj. The gardens, stretching over 50 acres, with pathways shaded by huge mahogany, mango, palm and banyan trees, are a peaceful place to sit and soothe your eyes on the greenery. These were laid by Lord Auckland in 1841, then governor-general, who named them after his two sisters Emily and Fanny Eden. There is also a large moat and, most significantly, a three-storeyed Burmese pagoda in red and matted golden yellow, which was brought in from Myanmar by Lord Dalhousie. Eden Gardens Stadium, arguably the best cricket venue in the world, shares a common boundary with the gardens, which are open from 5 in the morning to 6 in the evening.

Cross Strand Road again and you will be in front of Baboo Ghat, which was built in 1838 and named after Babu Rajchandra Das, a rich zamindar and the husband of the fiercely independent Rani Rashmoni (17931861). When the East India Company banned local fishermen from the waterfront, the rani leased a part of it and let the fishermen fish in it, and in retaliation blocked her part of the Hooghly with massive ropes, thus effectively stopping the Companys ships from sailing along the river and forcing the Company to lift the ban. Baboo Ghat, with its beautiful Doric frontage and covered pavilion, used to be the place where the Bengali nobility and their families came for a dip in the Ganga. It is now one of the most important ghats for the religiously inclined and, every morning, it explodes with people and rituals.

Brabourne Road

Situated midway as it was, between the White Town and the native Kolkata, Brabourne Road was once the place for commercial ventures. The foreign communities who came to make a living in Kolkata Chinese, Armenians, Jews and Muslims from the Middle-East all settled here. Many of the cuisines that are now a staple part of Kolkatas diet were first sold here stir-fries, kebabs, rolls, biryani, and even sandesh!

You can also see an extraordinary number of different religious structures which coexist within a radius of less than a hundred metres. The most conspicuous is the Portuguese Church, the first Catholic church of Kolkata. Built in 1747, the two towers of the church, with crown-shaped cupolas topped with crosses, are cinematic in their grandeur. The interiors exude old-world charm, with stained glass windows and beautiful columns framing a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Across the road stands the Maghen David Synagogue, built in 1884 amongst the ruins of the Neveh Shalom, which, built in 1826, was Kolkatas first synagogue. Standing in the middle of a garden-compound, the synagogue is a beautiful red brick building with exquisite Venetian windows.

Some distance away is Armenian Street. The Armenians, now numbering just a few hundred, were the first foreign community to settle in Bengal in the 15th century, and were bankers and ministers in the nawabs court. And so the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth, in a mango- and jamun-tree filled compound, is the oldest church of Kolkata. It was built in 1707; though the present structure, with its unique rounded spire, dates from 1724, when the original was burnt down.

Benoy Badal Dinesh Bagh

Benoy Badal Dinesh Bagh is also known as Dalhousie Square. One of the oldest areas of the city, it was once called Dihi Kolkata. A huge water body called Lal Dighi lies at the very centre of this quartier facing it on the northern side is the historic Writers Building, the seat of the West Bengal Government. Originally built in 1777 as a red brick, barrack-like structure to house the clerical staff of the East India Company, it was given a Corinthian-like Renaissance faade in 1889. This then became the seat of British power in Bengal till Independence. It was in the corridors of this building that the young freedom fighters Benoy, Badal and Dinesh fought a desperate gun-battle with a huge police contingent in their attempt to assassinate the notorious police commissioner Charles Tegart and became martyrs.

At the crossing of Netaji Subhash Road and Koilaghat Street is the awesome General Post Office, with its shiny golden, high-domed roof over a huge rotunda. White columns of combined Ionian-Corinthian style support the building. The GPO was built in 1864 on the site of the ruins of the original Fort William, which was destroyed by Nawab Sirajuddaulah in 1756. There is also a Philatelic Museum in the same complex.

The area in and around BBD Bagh is so chock-a-block with heritage buildings that it would be impossible to list all of them here. However, mention must be made of St Andrews Kirk, located in the middle of a traffic intersection next to the Writers Building and possessing one of the tallest steeples in Kolkata.

From here, one walks down Council House Street till one reaches the tall iron gates of St Johns Church. The compound inside is a minefield of mausoleums dedicated to the history of what was once the second city of the empire. An octagonal structure with a short, domed roof is Job Charnocks mausoleum, perhaps appropriately in a strange mixture of Neoclassical and Islamic styles.

Another stately pile in the vicinity is the Town Hall, which was financed by public subscription and completed by Lord Minto in 1819. It has been renovated with much fanfare not too long ago and is now used to felicitate Nobel Prize winners and the Prince of Kolkata, Sourav Ganguly.

The Maidan

Maidan is the name given to the extensive greensward that stretches from Esplanade to the Victoria Memorial. At any given time, you can witness dozens of cricket or football matches in progress. And towering over all of them would be the 150-ft-tall Ochterlony Monument, now known as the Shahid Minar. From here, one can walk across Curzon Park and plunge once again into the sea of humanity at Esplanade. The eastern intersection is occupied by the decaying Whiteway Laidlaw Building, once the biggest and most magnificent departmental store east of the Suez. You will pass row after row of once-splendid buildings including Hogg Market, more popularly known as New Market. This was built in 1874 by Stuart Hogg. Though much of it was burnt down in 1985, the main structure still remains.

Chowringhee Road

Back on Chowringhee once more (this, by the way, is the thoroughfare which stretches all the way from Esplanade to the Birla Planetarium), you pause for a moment before the never-closing gates of the stately Grand Hotel, rebuilt after its earlier avatar was destroyed in a fire in 1911 (if ever a city was known for its pyromania, it is this, it is this, it is this...). Giving it a run for its money in the heritage stakes is the utterly idiosyncratic Fairlawn Hotel on Sudder Street, a hotel run by a feisty Armenian. Both hotels are within striking distance of the Indian Museum containing the 2,000-year-old gateway and balustrades from the Bharhut Stupa in Madhya Pradesh, Buddhist sculptures of the Gandhar School, Kalighat pats, Tibetan thangkas, paintings from the Company school, and so on.

Indian Museum Entry Indians ?20; Foreigners ?500 Timings 10.00am5.00pm, Closed Mondays

By now, you will have almost reached Park Street. Notice the stern faade of the Asiatic Society, founded in 1784 by the great Orientalist William Jones. This depressing building contains invaluable manuscripts, print holdings and antiques.

Timings 10.00am6.15pm Library Closed Sundays Museum Closed Weekends Tel 033-22290779

You can spend a restful half-hour walking among the dead in the Park Street Cemetery. This opened in 1767 and those who have done their homework can look out for the tombs of firebrand poet Henry Derozio, the legendary beauty Rose Aylmer, William Jones and Major General Charles Hindoo Stuart a man who went native with a vengeance. It's no wonder then that Park Street was originally known as The Great Burial Ground.

Walk down Chowringhee and sooner or later you will spot the marbled dome of the Victoria Memorial. The memorial was conceived in 1905 by Lord Curzon, who seems to have fancied himself as a sort of latter-day White Mughal, building splendid monuments. This sprawling Baroque building, built entirely with white marble, along the lines of the Taj Mahal, was completed in 1921 and still remains a showcase of imperial grandeur. Inside the building are several exhibitions of relics from the colonial past paintings, uniforms, arms, photographs, and even a piano used by Queen Victoria.

Entry Gardens ?10; Gallery ?20 Timings 10.00am4.30pm Closed Mondays Tel 22231890

Tip Sound and Light Show is currently discontinued

Adjacent to the Victoria Memorial is the average Kolkatans favourite church St Pauls Cathedral, consecrated in 1839. This is where the city congregates to witness the Midnight Mass before Christmas Day. An excellent choir performs here on Easter and Christmas. A high vaulted roof, majestic arches and stained glass behind the altar characterise the inside of the cathedral.

North Kolkata

The north-south divide in Kolkata is not just geographical. It extends to food, habit and even pronunciation. However, as far as heritage goes, the north wins hands down. The most remarkable building here is the early 19th century Marble Palace, located off Central Avenue. For some strange reason, you are required to seek permission from the Board of Tourism to go in, but a tip to the gatekeeper usually works. The palace is still owned by the descendants of the original patriarch, Nilmoni Mullick. As a result, sections of the palace are out of bounds, but whatever you are allowed to see leaves you truly gobsmacked. It is practically dripping with Venetian chandeliers, Belgian mirrors, sundry statuary paintings (including a Gainsborough and three Rubens, we are told) the standard of which, however, is far from even.

Marble Palace timings 10.00am4.00pm Closed Mondays & Thursdays Tel 22693310

Tip Entry permit is available from the tourist office in BBD Bagh (Open 10.30am4.30pm)

Moving northwards along Central Avenue, we soldier on to Jorasanko, a piquant locality where fish-markets rub shoulders with some of the most outr palacesin Kolkata. Pride of place is taken by the bizarre Tagore Castle, built in 1867 by Darpanarayan Tagore and modelled on the Neuchwanstein in Bavaria. One really has to be quite intrepid to find these places and most tourists seem to prefer the more serene environs of the Jorasanko Thakurbari, the family mansion of the Tagore family. The house is now part museum, part Rabindra Bharati University.

Other attractions in this area include two Jain Temples, Parasnath on Belgachia Road and Sitalnath near Dinendra Street-Manicktolla Main Road. Nakhoda Masjid on Chitpur Road is modelled on Akbars tomb in Sikandra. The ancient Feringhee Kali Temple on Bowbazar is so called because it was refurbished in the 18th century using a bequest from the Portuguese balladeer Antonio Cabral, who wrote much Bengali verse in praise of Kali. And the Sea Ip Chinese Church, up Rabindra Sarani, has the typical peaked roof and curling eaves of Chinese architecture.

Where to Stay

Among the top end hotels in Kolkata, The Oberoi Grand (Tel: 033-22492323; Tariff: ?9,7501,25,000), on JL Nehru Road, wins with its location and old-world charm though many prefer the Taj Bengal (Tel: 66123939; Tariff: ?10,25040,000) on Belvedere Road.

The other usual suspects in this exclusive class are The Park (Tel: 40049000; Tariff: ?14,00020,000) and ITC Sonar (Tel: 23454545; Tariff: ?16,5001,25,000). Hotel Hindustan International (Tel: 22802323, 22830505, 40018000/ 80; Tariff: Rs 13,00022,000) and Peerless Inn (Tel: 33016124, 44003900; Tariff: ?14,00020,000) are evergreen favourites despite the stiff competition from new kids on the block.

Two less expensive options, The Astor (Tel: 22829950/ 57/ 59; Tariff: ?5,00013,500) and the Golden Parkk (Tel: 22883939; Tariff: ?9,00011,000), are both conveniently located in the heart of the town.

Good bets too are the more pocket-friendly Fairlawn Hotel (Tel: 22521510/ 8767/ 0125; Tariff: ?3,5004,000), which claims to be more like a club than a hotel, and Hotel Royal Garden (Tel: 33132147, Cell: 09836940037; Tariff: ?3,0004,500) on Park Street. Roland Hotel (Tel: 24757780; Tariff: ?3,6004,300) on Roland Road, 1km from the Esplanade Bus Stand, has well-appointed rooms and suites. The service is friendly and cuisine on offer is not bad. Panasia Continental (Tel: 66122099, 24851528, 65110217; Tariff: ?4,7007,000), close to Minto Park and the Laxminarayan Temple, is popular with both leisure and business travellers. Hotel Heritage (Tel: 25706925, Cell: 09830388810; Tariff: ?2,0003,000), just 2.5km from the airport, has 44 rooms. They arrange car rentals, rail and air bookings and guided city tours.

Where to Eat

Whatever your budget and tastes, eating out in Kolkata is not a problem. The city is a melting pot of various communities and food is usually cheap. But stick to mineral water, as even filtered Kolkata water often has a high arsenic content.

For good Bengali food, try Kewpies Kitchen on Elgin Road and Suruchi on Elliot Road. Aaheli at the Peerless Inn, is also very good.

Nizams, behind New Market, is where the kathi roll was invented. It is known for reasonably priced Mughlai food. Mughlai cuisine in Kolkata includes the Irani style of cooking with its chaamps, kormas and biryanis. Shiraz on the Park Street-Mullick Bazaar Crossing is among the better Irani joints here. Others in that same bracket are Kwalitys, Peter Cat and Mocambo. Badshahs, across from New Market on Lindsay Street, also maintains high standards.

For an authentic Bengali meal at reasonable prices, nothing beats the Bhojohori Manna chain of restaurants, which has several branches in Kolkata. Oh! Calcutta is a famous chain now, serving excellent Bengali dishes.

Old Chinatown in Central Kolkata, is great for an atmospheric Chinese breakfast sold off barrows. Do arrive by 7.30 am. Try Jimmys Kitchen on JC Bose Road and Eau Chew on Ganesh Chandra Avenue.

Fire and Ice in Kanak Building on JN Road serve authentic Italian food in a cozy atmosphere.

Pop into Nahoums of New Market for Jewish sambusak and baklava, or Kookie Jar (at Rowdon Street, Salt Lake and Alipore) for excellent savouries and confectioneries. Decrepit as it is, Indian Coffee House near College Street is where Calcuttas adda culture finds its pinnacle; decades of debate still fills the atmosphere! And then, theres always singara and dalpuri (kochuri in winter) at the nearest sweetshop. Be sure not to miss the delicious puchka or churmur made by street vendors.

For best sandesh in town, Girish Chandra Dey and Nakur Chandra Nandy is the place.

Fast Facts

When to go The cooler months are best (October to March). Avoid the waterlogged monsoon and humid summers, but autumn is a good bet with all the pujas, especially Durga Puja

Tourist offices

Tourism Centre, 3/2, BBD Bagh (East) Kolkata, Tel: 033-22436440, 22488271, Cell: 09836621200, 09051496258, 08334870300

Tourism Centre, 18-19, Muktadhara, Gole Market, New Delhi, Tel: 011-23342334,wbtourism.gov.in, wbtdc.gov.in

STD code 033

Getting There

Air Kolkatas Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (14km from city centre) has daily flights to New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Patna, Pune, Varanasi, Ahmedabad, Agartala, Nagpur, Port Blair and many more

Rail Kolkata is served by Howrah and Sealdah stations, both well connected to several cities in India

Road NH2 links Kolkata to Delhi via Varanasi, Kanpur and Agra. NH6 traverses the breadth of the sub-continent, linking it to the port of Hazira on the western coast via Kharagpur, Sambalpur, Raipur, Nagpur, Dhule and Surat

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Gujarat: Fascinating Lothal https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Lothal2_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/gujarat_fascinating_lothal/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/gujarat_fascinating_lothal/ 2017-09-16T13:31:03+05:30 article Lothal, one of the ancient sites of Harappan culture, was well ahead of its time Lothal is located between the Sabarmati River and its tributary Bhogavo, in the Saurasthra region. The sea is today over 19km away from Lothal, but at one time, boats from the Gulf of Cambay could have sailed right up to the spot. Exploration of the Sabarmati Valley in the mid-1950s led to the discovery of Lothal and several other Harappan sites, thereby adding a new province to the extent of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Excavation was carried out at Lothal between 1955 and 1962, after which the site as well as the on-site museum were set up for tourists.

Things to See & Do
The car drive to Lothal will seem like you're heading to the middle of nowhere, and it is indeed hard to grasp what a crucial role Lothal has played in the history of the subcontinent, having connected the region to glorious and admittedly more popular civilisations westwards, such as those of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Archaeologists have dated this site to as far back as 2450 BCE, wit the Harappan period ending around 1900 BCE, transitioning into what is known as a Red Ware Culture in 1300 BC.

The modest-sized settlement was roughly rectangular in plan, surrounded by a wall that was initially made of mud and later of burnt bricks as well. There was a burial ground in the northwest section of the settlement, outside the enclosing walls. The main citadel included an elevated area where you can now see remains of residential buildings, streets, bathing pavements and drains. Walk around the complex to admire the surviving structures.

Lothal would have been an important part of the Harappan civilisation not only for its rich cotton and rice-growing areas, but also for its bead-making industry. The beads and semi-precious stones found in Lothal attest to a great level of artisanal skill, and many of these beads have been found in Mesopotamia, evidence of robust trade. Over time, a neatly planned town-ship was constructed, a quintessential feature of the Mature Harappan phase, along with a dock for ships. Though only a small portion is now visible, the original town was divided into several blocks of one or two metre-high platforms made of sun-dried bricks. These platforms served as common plinths for a group of 20 to 30 houses, and a mud-brick wall of 13-m-thickness gave protection against floods. Some of the houses in the main area were quite large, with four to six rooms, bathrooms, a large courtyard and a verandah.

The unique characteristic of urban Harappan settlements is in the division of the city into a citadel or Upper Town and a Lower Town. It is assumed that social differentiation existed in Harappan society, and that the ruling class would have lived in the Upper Town, where the houses included paved bathing spaces, underground drains and a well for potable water. But the Lower Town was also equipped with crucial civic amen-ities. In fact, drainage and water facilities in the Harappan civilisation are stunning examples of early urbanisation in the Indian Subcontinent. The streets would have been paved with mud-brick, and gravel. Houses belonging to artisans such as coppersmiths and beadmakers have been identified on the basis of the presence of brick kilns, raw materials and artefacts.

The most distinctive feature of Lothal is the dockyard, which is on the eastern edge of the site. The structures design shows a clear understanding by its architects of tides, hydraulics and the effect of sea water on bricks. The mechanisms of the dockyard are truly impressive for its time, with provisions for maintaining a regular level of water by means of a sluice gate and a spill channel. There is a mud-brick platform on the western embankment that may have been where goods would have been loaded and unloaded.

The Indus Valley Civilisation
The Indus Valley Civilisation (broadly 33001300 BCE) extended from present-day northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest India. The civilisation flourished in the basins of River Indus and the now dried up River Saraswati.

The piecemeal discovery of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, in present-day Pakistan, during the first half of the twentieth century, led to the discovery of an extremely important and exciting part of the Indian subcontinent's past. The count of Harappan sites is over 1,000, of which over 400 are found in present-day Pakistan and 600 in India. However, the number of these sites that have been excavated and analysed is woefully low. It is important to note that the geographical area covered by the Harappan culture zone is expansive, with some sites found in Afghanistan, in the Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan, in Jammu, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat in India. In Gujarat, two of the most prominent sites are Lothal and Dholavira. The Harappan culture is into three phrases the early Harappan, mature Harappan and late Harappan. The early phase was the formative one, with the beginnings of urbanisation; the mature phase was the urban, full-fledged civilisation-mode phase, while the late Harappan was the post-urban phase, when the cities declined.

The civilisation was South Asias first urban culture. Archaeological evidence has shown us a great deal about the civilisation, such as its vibrant craft traditions, urban planning and extensive trade networks, but many lacunae in knowledge still exist, not least the non-decipherment of the Indus script.

Archaeological Museum
Set up in 1976, this museum hosts a large display of artefacts found during the excavations. You can also look at archaeologists conjectural plans for the town, including the bead factory, and the original expanse of the dockyard. Displays include terracotta ornaments, beads, seal replicas, shell, ivory, copper and bronze objects, figurines repres-enting animals and humans, painted pottery, as well as objects recovered from burials in the cemetery site. One of the most fascinating finds in Lothal was a burial of two people together in a brick-lined grave; a replica of the same can also be seen in the museum.

Entry ?2 Timing 10.00am5.00pm Closed Fridays

Where to Stay & Eat
A good place to stay while visiting Lothal is the Utelia Palace (Ahmedabad Tel: 079-26445770, 26763331, Cell: 09825012611; Tariff: ?5,0007,000), a heritage property in Utelia. It is about 4km from Lothal heritage sites, en route to Palitana, and offers 20 rooms and a restaurant. Meals cost extra (Breakfast ?450, lunch/ dinner ?750). The palace is closed during the summer months of May and June.

Fast Facts

When to go All year round, but OctoberFebruary is most pleasant

Tourist Office

Gujarat Tourism Office, H.K. House, Ashram House, Ahmedabad, Tel: 079-26589172, 26578044/ 183, gujarattourism.com

STD code 079

Getting There

Air Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport (90km/ 1.5hr). Connected to the major metros and international destinations like Singapore, Dubai and London. Taxi costs ?14 per km (return fare chargeable)

Rail Ahmedabad Junction is connected to most cities in India including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Pune, Indore, Jaipur, Jammu, Chennai, Goa, Kozhikode and Kochi through Shatabdis, Rajdhanis and express trains. It is also well connected with major cities in Gujarat by daily passenger and express train services. Taxi as above

Road Bus GSRTC (079-25463409, 25463382/ 96) has a local bus service from the Naya Bus Stand in Ahmedabad at 7.00am daily (?50) to Lothal

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Explore Gangtok https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Sikkim1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/explore-gangtok/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/explore-gangtok/ 2017-09-15T16:38:15+05:30 article Here's a quick guide to Sikkim's capital city Gangtok
Undulating roads, gently sloping valleys, stunning sunrises, and unforgettable views of the mighty Khangchendzonga mountain are just a few of this citys attractions. Its ethnic diversity, growing urbanism, and efflorescence of culture a mix of the old and new makes Gangtok the cosmopolitan capital of the region.

Located on what used to be a busy trade route into Tibet, this is a fascinating place, defined as much by its mixed population of Tibetans, Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalis, as by the reputation it enjoys of being both the most developed city in the northeast, as well as the most mired in problems associated with urban sprawl. But venture further enough into the lanes and the upper parts of town, and you will be rewarded with a glimpse of a few traditional houses.

Orientation
The Rangpo-Mangan Road, or NH31A, is the road that cuts through the town, as it were, and on either side of it, for several kilometres on, you will find hotels and restaurants of varying sizes, authenticity and views.

The best way to get around Gangtok is through the black-and-yellow taxis that populate the town. Most go on a shared basis on certain routes, starting from various taxi stands, so enquire before getting into one. The cost per person, for even the longest journey, say Deorali to Enchey for example, is minimal, compared to taking a full taxi. However, for those in a group who are seeking the comfort of having the taxi take them exactly where they need to go, and wait for them, a full taxi may be preferable. All taxis carry an official rate charge.

Spend at least two to three days in the city, as theres much to see and do within the city limits itself.

Things to See & Do
As you leave Siliguri and head towards Gangtok, watch out for the beautiful Teesta river on the left and the inventive anti-speeding road signs all over. Faster brings disaster. Drive, dont fly. After whiskey, driving risky. It is not rally, enjoy the valley.

The city has many sightseeing spots such as Ganesh Tok and Tashi viewpoint, but to truly enjoy the town, simply walk around. On a good day, you can see Khangchendzonga and the rest of the range in all its majestic glory. The view of the peaks change colour through the day, owing to the Suns rays.

The towns best shopping areas are the Main Market on the pedestrian-friendly MG Marg, and the local produce bazaar in the Khangchendzonga Shopping Complex.

The Ridge
Just above the main town, and a few minutes walk up from the bazaar is the Ridge, a beautiful stretch of flat road lined with lush trees. This is where everyone comes for a stroll, where visitors have a chance to mingle and talk with the locals. With gorgeous views on either side, this shaded area is a lovely stretch to take a break, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and drink some tea at one of the nearby stalls.

On one end of the Ridge is the chief ministers official residence, the White Memorial Hall. This two-storeyed structure was built in 1932 and named after Claude White, who was the first political officer of the state. At the other end of the Ridge is the beautifully designed Palace Gate. Tourists are not allowed inside the palace, but you can gaze at it from the outside. Stop by the gorgeous Tsuglhakhang Temple, close to the palace, which is open early in the mornings or during major festivals.

Also near the White Memorial Hall is the Flower Exhibition Centre with a variety of orchids on display. If youre in Gangtok in the months of March and April, do make sure to stop by for a wonderful visual treat.

Entry ?10 Timings 9.00am5.00pm

Enchey Monastery
This monastery is located above the Ridge, and shouldnt take more than fifteen minutes if you decide to walk it. Enchey literally means the high, strong place, and it lives up to its name, perched on the upper slopes of the town.

The monastery was built in the middle of the 19th century on a site that was said to have been blessed by the Tantric master Druptob Karpo. Traditionally built in the Tibetan style, its charming and vividly painted porch holds murals of protective deities. The place comes alive in December/ January when the vibrant, unmissable Detor Chaam masked dances are performed here.

Spend a morning here listening to the hypnotic chants of the monks during prayers. Locals often stop by to pray before going to work.

Timings 4.00am4.00pm Monday Saturday; 4.00am1.00pm Sunday

Namgyal Institute of Tibetology
The museum within the Namgyal Institute is a must-visit. Situated in the lower part of Gangtok, in Deorali, the museum includes a stunning collection of ancient statues and artefacts in a building that is equally impressive. Established in 1958, this institute holds one of the largest collections of Tibetan works in the world outside of Tibet.

The museum exhibits a rare collection of ancient manuscripts dating back to the 11th century, statues, ritual objects and thangkas (paintings). The display is dominated by a majestic silver image of Manjushri, the Boddhisattva of Knowledge, brought from Tibet. There are captions explaining the displays.

Entry ?10 Timings 10.00am 4.00pm; tibetology.net

Himalayan Zoological Park
The Gangtok Zoo more formally known as the Himalayan Zoological Park is a beautiful, lush hillside treasure of wild flowers and misty views. Located right next to Ganesh Tok, this open zoo is spread across 205 hectares of mountainous terrain and is a great place to visit for long walks and the chance to spot rare animals.

The animals are kept in conditions relatively close to their natural habitats the enclosures are large open spaces and are far better off than their counterparts in other Indian zoos. Look out for the snow leopard, Tibetan wolves, some red pandas, Himalayan palm civets, leopard cats, and several species of colourful Himalayan pheasants.

Entry ?25 Timings 9.00am4.00pm FridayWednesday Vehicle fee ?40 Videography ?400

Viewpoints
There are three stunning viewpoints that all taxi drivers in Gangtok will insist on taking you to. Ganesh Tok, located ahead of Enchey Monastery, is full of colourful prayer flags and offers brilliant views of the city. The on-site eatery is a great place to sip on some chai while taking in the vistas in front of you. If you have your own mode of transport, drive 4km past Ganesh Tok to Hanuman Tok, which enjoys a lovely hilltop location. The third place is Tashi viewpoint, located 4km northwest of Gangtok, next to the road that leads to Phodong.

Where to Stay
Gangtok has a wealth of options, ranging from the high-end and luxurious to the simple and economic. On the upper end of things, one of the best options is The Royal Plaza (Tel: 03592-280232, 280032; Tariff ?9,30037,000). Located in the valley-facing Upper Deorali, the Sarovar Hotel property is just far enough from the hubbub of Gangtok proper to allow for some peace and quiet after a long day of touring around.

Boasting two restaurants, and its own in-house casino, the Plaza is a top-notch choice for those looking for a luxurious home away from home. The multi-cuisine restaurant Orchids is excellent, especially for their Chinese and local Sikkimese offerings. Do try the thukpa and the delicious momos.

On the lower end of the scale, the best mid-range option is undoubtedly Mintokling Guest House (Tel: 208552/ 204226; Tariff: ?2,2502,500). Located on Bhanu Path, the guesthouse enjoys a serene location away from the din of central Gangtok that most tourist hotels are unfortunately witness to. The family-run establishment is simple and has spacious rooms, and is fitted with furniture. The traditional food at their restaurant is delicious and the mountain views from some of the rooms are stellar.

Other options in Gangtok include the highend Hotel Nor-Khill (Tel: 205637; Tariff: ?9,45014,000), which was built in 1932 and was once a royal property. Decked with historical photographs and furniture dating back to that period, the Nor-Khill is quite the plush place to spend a few days. Another good choice is Mayfair Spa Resort and Casino (Tel: 2250555/ 666; Tariff: ?14,00050,000), which also comes with its own casino, spa and excellent dining options.

Hotel Sonam Delek (Tel: 202566; Tariff: ?1,8605,579) and Chumbi Residency (Tel: 206618; Tariff: ?5,0006,000) are both situated on Tibet Road and offer good amenities. Their locations are also an added attraction.

Where to Eat
Gangtok has a wealth of culinary options for the discerning foodie. From fancy sit-down restaurants to smaller cafs and bars perfect for some unwinding, to streetside stalls serving hot thukpas and steaming momos, you will never be left wanting for variety or quality.

MG Marg has some decent eateries. Gangtalk, 9ine and Taste of Tibet serve Sikkimese food. Amongst the cafs, Bakers Caf is a good choice. There are excellent bars on MG Marg and Tibet Road, of which Caf Live and Loud is especially recommended for its ambience and live music. Alcohol is sold fairly cheap across Sikkim; do get the souvenir fireball whiskey as a keepsake.

Around Gangtok

Rumtek Gompa (23km)
Rumtek Monastery, also called the Dharmachakra Centre, is located in the small hamlet of Rumtek, that has come up around the monastery. The walled complex houses the main prayer hall, several religious buildings, schools and even some lodges and hotels for tourists who want to spend a quiet night away from the hubbub of Gangtok.

The monastery here was built as a replacement for the Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet, which had been partly destroyed during Chinas Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. You can see a painting of the original monastery as you enter the Rumtek compound. The most unusual feature of the monastery is the fact that it is manned and guarded by army personnel. The Kagyu sect, or Black Hat sect, derives its name from a seemingly priceless black hat that is traditionally worn by the Karmapa, or leader, of the sect.

Upon the death of the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, in 1981, a bitter feud began within the sect over two candidates, both of whom were presented as the legitimate heir to the Karmapa title. Both in fact have been separately enthroned as the 17th Karmapa, and perform ceremonial duties accordingly, but have never met. Until the dispute is settled, the black hat, apparently woven from the hair of angels, is kept locked in a box and secured by the aforementioned army personnel, so as to prevent it from flying back to the heavens.

A giant throne sits empty inside the main hall of the monastery, awaiting the 17th Karmapa, if one is finally chosen.

Entry ?10 Timings 6.00am6.00pm, rumtek.org; taxi fare to Rumtek Gompa from Gangtok is ?2,000

Tip Note that past the parking lot is a steep uphill slope that you will have to walk up to get to the entrance of the monastery

Nathu La and Tsomgo Lake
Visiting Nathu La and Tsomgo Lake is unlike any other experience in India. Youll have to apply several days in advance through your hotel or travel agent, get up at the crack of dawn, get in a long line of cars, and slowly inch your way past the checkpost, all before 10.00am, because, after that, no cars are allowed to head that way.

Tip Private vehicles are not permitted to go to Nathu La. Foreign tourists are unfortunately not allowed. There is a tight restriction on the number of vehicles allowed every day, so make reservations as early as possible

Entry Two passport-sized photos and ID Timings WednesdaySunday

When you first leave the stacked buildings and roads echoing with the cacophony of horns and start to drive upwards towards the border, theres a fair chance youll be so awestruck at the surroundings that youll forget to photograph the moment.

With army personnel comprising the only populace in the mountainous region, the drive to Nathu La can feel like driving to the end of the world. That is, of course, if the Chinese army monitors the end of the world, as a signboard will ominously warn you 5km short of Nathu La.

Standing at a height of 14,140ft, and located a farther-than-it-sounds 54km from Gangok, Nathu La, literally translated to the listening ear pass is the Indian border post with China, and perhaps the only spot where soldiers stand on either side of what actually is just a barbed wire. Its one of the three trading posts between India and China, reopened for border trade in 2006, and has now become a tourist destination. On the other side of the pass is Tibets Chumbi Valley, heavily manned by Chinese guards.

The pass is an offshoot of the historic Silk Road. Before it was sealed during the Sino-Indian War in 1962, mules carrying goods walked the pass between the two countries. After the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950, Tibetan refugees used the pass to flee to Sikkim. The pass was also used by the Dalai Lama himself in the year 1959 when he fled China and sought exile in India.

The skirmish in 1962 that resulted in several deaths on both sides have been commemorated at two war memorials, one at Nathu La and another at Sherathang, 5km below Nathu La.

The ascent to Nathu La is dramatic. When you get there, you will be warned by all from the driver, to the soldiers and even signboards telling you to watch your steps as you climb the 90 steps to the border sketched by barbed wires. Additionally, people are advised not to spend more than 2030 minutes on the top, so you will have to figure out ways to navigate the steps, sometimes slippery from the melting snow, and always crowded. Now, get on top and see China on the other side. The view is a reminder that borders are really, truly artificial and that the mountain range on the other side is the same as the one on which you stand and will be walking down.

You will drive past Tsomgo Lake to go up to Nathu La; but rest assured, there will be enough time to come back down, park your car, climb onto a yak, amble past the lake, marvel at the vistas and the clear water (unless youre standing at the edge where trash abounds). Located at a dizzying height of 12,400ft, its a stunning sight to behold. The water comes from the snowy mountain slopes, so the lake never dries up completely. In winter, the lake is often entirely frozen, but this is sadly changing with new climate conditions.

Where to Stay & Eat
It is mandatory for all taxis to be back in Gangtok latest by 4.005.00pm, so there are no options of accommodation here. For food, there are small cafs at major sites, and also between Gangtok and Tsomgo. Some people experience altitude sickness at this height, so do carry lots of water and some salty snacks it helps.

Fast Facts

When to go MarchJune and October November

Tourist Office

Sikkim Tourist Information Centre, MG Marg, Gangtok. Tel: 03592-209090, sikkimtourism.gov.in

STD code Gangtok 03592

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Bagdogra Airport (126km/ 4.5hrs) connected to major cities. Taxi to Gangtok costs ?3,500

Rail Nearest railhead: New Jalpaiguri Station (121km/ 4.5hrs). Taxi costs approximately ?3,500

Road Gangtok is connected to Siliguri via the well-maintained NH31A. It goes past Kalimpong before arriving at Gangtok. A seat in a shared taxi can cost between ?300 and ?500, while a full hired taxi will cost ?2,000 Bus City Runner bus from Siliguri (4.55hrs; ticket ?85)

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Gir Forest National Park https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/gir-national-park2_fi.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/gir-forest-national-park-2/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/gir-forest-national-park-2/ 2017-09-15T16:18:05+05:30 article Here's a quick guide to the land of Asiatic lions The story of Gir and its lions is full of maharajas and shikar, the sunset of the Raj, the early efforts of the Bombay Natural History Societys first conservationists and the emergence of Indias post-independence wildlife protection policies. Over hundreds of years, maharajas hunted big cats for sport but it was the British, with their sophisticated weapons, that put a nail in the coffin for the lion in India; well almost. In the early 20th century, the lion population of Gujarat suffered a tremendous setback. The famine years, from 19011905, forced the animals to hunt for food in human settlements and target the human population and livestock. The man-animal conflict that arose from this desperate situation was brought under control by the Nawab of Junagadh the district that most of Gir falls within today when he decided to undertake the supervision of a project to save the few remaining lions of Gir. Lion numbers rose and apart from a few initial hiccups in the wildlife protection programme following his death, shooting was rigidly controlled. While elsewhere in India lions quietly vanished, in Gir they were given half a chance.

On 18 September 1965, Gir was formally declared a Lion Sanctuary. In 1974, it was declared a national park and nature reserve. Today, the Government of Gujarat has declared an area of 1,421sq km as the Gir Protected Area, and an additional 500sq km has been made a buffer zone. The estimated 359 strong count of lions in this forest indicates that the project for recuperating the species, to bring it back from the brink of extinction, has been largely successful.

Even then, the imminent threat of extinction of the Asiatic lions still hovers dangerously close over the Asiatic lions. Having been bred from less than 20 specimens, the present-day population of Girs lions shares the same gene pool.

The Asiatic lions (distinguishable from their African counterparts only by a few morphological differences) share the forest land with villagers and livestock, not to mention a number of myriad industries that are waiting in the wings to turn Girs natural resources into hard cash. But as of now, there is a law to prevent this eventuality.

The Gir forest, stretching over an expanse of 1,412.13sq km, is one of the largest tracks of dry deciduous forests in the world. The landscape here is mainly undulating. Seven majestic perennial rivers drain the area: Hiran, Saraswati, Datardi, Shingoda, Macchundri, Ghodavadi and Raval.

The entry gate of the park is at Sasan, on the southwestern border of the national park. Entry tickets to the park are issued by the reception desk at the Sinh Sadan Guest House in the Forest Department Complex located near the main gate.

Jeeps are available for hire at the main gate. Sinh Sadan, run by the forest department, arranges day safaris (private open jeeps permitted with forest guard/ guide), as does the Lion Camp Safari (tie up with the forest department), located 3km outside the park.

The safari routes cover areas where lion sightings are high. Trips are also arranged to the tourist attractions such as the Interpretation Centre at Devalia (11km from the entry gate on the Sasan-Malia Road, within the park precincts), the Crocodile Breeding Centre near Sinh Sadan, the Kamleshwar dam (10km from the entry gate) inside the park and to Tulsishyam, 135km from Sinh Sadan.

Entry Indians ?8001,000 (6 pax); Foreigners ?4,8006,000 (6 pax) Timings 6.00amnoon Vehicle fee ?1,300 Guide fee ?250 for first 4hrs, ?20 for every additional hour Photography Indians ?200; Foreigners ?1,200

Things to See & Do
Gir, besides being the lion country, is a birdwatchers paradise. The Gir forest offers its visitors much more than a glimpse of the wilderness. An estimated 2,375 distinct fauna species thrive in the protected ecosystem of Gir. Though the park is quite dry, crocodiles and other wildlife thrive around the few scattered perennial water sources.

Lion Jeep Safaris
There are seven designated tourist trails in the forest open to jeep safaris, where visitors can try and spot lions in their natural habitat. Tourists are permitted to take their own vehicle but must be accompanied by a forest guard or a guide. Or they can join a safari arranged by the forest department or the Lion Safari Camp. Sinh Sadan arranges an open jeep safari from the entry point at Sasan.

Gir Interpretation Zone
To reduce tourist pressure within the forest, the forest department has created a 412-ha Interpretation Zone at Devalia which is a short drive from Sasan. There is a chain-linked fenced lion area, primarily to stop the awful lion shows within the park.

Crocodile Vigil
The Crocodile Breeding Farm, located near the Sinh Sadan Lodge at Sasan, where crocodiles are bred for release into the wild, is worth a visit. About 10km away, on the Hiran River, is the Kamleshwar dam. The dam is also a great place to spot crocodiles.

Tulsishyam (135km)
The temple and hot springs at Tulsishyam draw wildlife enthusiasts and pilgrims alike. The strong smell of sulphur permeates the air.

Where to Stay & Eat
The top choice is The Gateway Lion Gir Forest (Tel: 02877-285551; Tariff: ?7,20015,500), a lovely property with good food and great views on offer. There is also a spa, gym and a swimming pool. The restaurant here serves delicious non-vegetarian dishes. The Lion Safari Camp (Gurgaon Tel: 0124-4477971-73; Tariff: ?12,000, with meals) in Chitrod offers 21 luxury tents. The Fern Green Forest Resort (Tel: 285999; Tariff: ?9,00011,000) is an elegant property with cottages, villas and tents, a multi-cuisine restaurant, swimming pool and spa. All these are located by the Hiran River.

Sinh Sadan (Tel: 285540; Tariff: ?1,0003,000) is a government guest-house, with its large premises full of trees and gardens and a canteen. Other good options include Amidhara Resort (Tel: 285950/ 60, Cell: 09879616542; Tariff: ?5,0008,000) on the Sasan Tala Highway; Anil Farm House (Tel: 285590, Cell: 09879001098; Tariff: ?4,2005,500); and Hotel Green Park (Cell: 09426558708; Tariff: ?3,2504,250) in Bhalchel. All boast of in-house restaurants and swimming pools. Camp Leo & Gir Pride Resort (Cell: 09016644600, 09537577222; Tariff: ?4,0007,000) is a farm stay with rooms. The Maneland Jungle Lodge (Tel: 285555; Tariff: ?4,800, with meals) is another option. Hotel Annapurna (Tel: 285569; Tariff: ?8001,500), opposite the park gate and Hotel Rajshree (Tel: 285740; Tariff: ?1,0002,000) are some of the budget options available.

Fast Facts

When to go The park is open from 16 October15 June. The summer months are scorching hot, with the temperature hitting 43?C. Best time to visit is definitely late November to early March, when the temperature can drop to a cool 10?C. Go there for Asiatic lions

Wildlife/ Forest Dept Office

Deputy Conservator of Forests, Wildlife Division, Sasan Gir, Dist Junagadh-362135, Tel: 02877-285541/ 621 (Office), 285540 (Guesthouse), Fax: 285641, Email: wildlife_ad1@sancharnet.in

STD code 02877

Getting There
Air Nearest airports: Ahmedabad (415km/ 7hrs), taxi ?810 per km; Rajkot (160km/ 3hrs), taxi ?611 per km

Rail Nearest railhead: Junagadh (65km/ 1.5hrs). The Jabalpur Express Intercity and the Somnath Express ply daily between Ahmedabad and Junagadh. Or take a train to Junagadh and a taxi to Sasan Gir Road The drive from Ahmedabad to Junagadh is smooth. Expect a rough ride on the last 10-km stretch, a forest road Bus Volvo buses run from Ahmedabad to Junagadh (?350400 per person); from here to Sasan Gir, mini-buses charge ?50 per person and luxury buses ?100. State transport buses make the 2-hr trip between Junagadh and Veraval via Sasan Gir throughout the day

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A Quick Guide to Kanyakumari https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/kanya1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quick-guide-kanyakumari/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quick-guide-kanyakumari/ 2017-09-15T15:50:36+05:30 article Explore the land of three seas Kanyakumari is the southern-most tip of mainland India and is the meeting point of the three seas surrounding India: the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

Though the idea of Kanyakumari is big, the town itself is tiny everything is within a radius of five kilometres. But this space is packed with hotels, tawdry restaurants and souvenir shops, making for a town that is less attractive than what its location deserves.

For most tourists who come to Kanyakumari, it is a place of worship. They come in droves to genuflect before Kanyakumari (literally, the Maiden Goddess), and the gigantic statues of Swami Vivekananda, who meditated here, and Thiruvalluvar, the pithy Tamil poet all of them on the seafront.

Kanyakumari also offers spectacular views during sunrises and sunsets. Its not everywhere that you can watch the sun rise from the sea in the morning and, later in the evening, plunge back into it.

Take off to Suchindram, a charming temple or pack a picnic and head for the Dutch fort at Vattakottai, with its natural beach. There are a couple of other beaches too and though they have little to offer in terms of infrastructure, the drive down is likely to be a pleasant and enjoyable one.

Things to See & Do
Right on the beach, the ancient Devi Kumari Temple that lends its name to Kanyakumari houses an idol of the virgin goddess Devi Kanyakumari made of blue stone.

It is believed that the temple once stood on the Vivekananda Rock, and the natural footprint-shaped indent found there is said to be that of the Devi herself. (The footprint is now enclosed in a shrine.) It is said that the temple was rebuilt on the main-land when sea erosion broke down the rock.

In 1892, Swami Vivekananda is said to have meditated on this rocky outcrop, now called Vivekananda Rock before he started his philosophical journey. The memorial was built in 1970. It can be reached by a government-run ferry. It's a very popular tourist destination. A meditation hall is attached to the memorial. Its design incorporates myriad temple architectural styles from all over the country. On a rock nearby is a 133-ft-tall statue of Saint Thiruvalluvar (built in 2000), the author of the famous Thirukkural couplets, a masterpiece of Tamil literature written many centuries ago. It weighs about 7,000 tons. The 1,000-year-old Guhanadeeswara Temple dedicated to Shiva was built during the Chola reign. It has a pleasant garden but the original stone temple itself has been revamped with plaster and paint.

Padmanabhapuram Palace, built around 1601, is a granite fortress that was the residence of the Travancore rulers. On the southern shore of Kanyakumari is the Tsunami Memorial Park, a monument that pays homage to the lives lost during the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.

On the rocky seafront at Kanyakumari, a boundary wall of sorts has been constructed above the shoreline. There is a walkway here thats frequented by bead sellers, ice-cream vendors and hawkers with seashells, starfish and conches. Sothavillai Beach has some gazebos, a viewing tower and a small snack shop. Sanguthurai Beach is down the road from Sothavillai. You can also visit Thekkuruchi and Muttom Beach, and Thengapattinam Beach. The last is an old maritime town with a 1,000-year-old mosque.

Where to Stay
Sparsa Resorts (Tel: 04652-247041/ 42; Tariff: ?5,4007,200) is a luxurious property located near Sunset Point. They have a play area for kids, offer free Wi-Fi, and a swimming pool.

Hotel Sea View (Tel: 247841; Tariff: ?2,3004,200) is the biggest hotel in Kanyakumari. It has spacious rooms, good views and a luxurious ambience.

Hotel Tri Sea (Tel: 246586; Tariff: ?1,2007,000) on Kovalam Road is a short walk from the seashore. Hotel Tamil Nadu (Tel: 246257; Tariff: ?750 3,000) is located by the shore, on Beach Road. Hotel Singaar International (Tel: 247992; Tariff: ?3,0006,000) is on the Main Road. They have a restaurant, bar, pool and a childrens park.

In the middle of all the noise is Hotel Maadhini (Tel: 246387, 246887; Tariff: ?1,0002,000) on East Car Street.

What to Eat
Kanyakumari is known mainly for the delicious south Indian dishes that many of its restaurants serve.

The restaurant at Sparsa Resorts is good and serves fresh seafood. They also have a bar. Hotel Sea View also has a multi-cuisine restaurant that is worth trying. Hotel Annapoorna on Sannathi Street, near the beach, offers a range of sumptuous south Indian vegetarian food. Saravana Restaurant, on the same street, also offers the same. Srikrishna Restaurant, also on Sannathi Street, is immensely popular.

Archana is Hotel Maadhinis garden restaurant. They also have an AC restaurant by the same name. If you're in the mood for proper seafood when youre visiting Kanyakumari, you will be disappointed as, at most restaurants, the closest you get to it is fish fry.

Fast Facts
When to go NovemberMarch. Avoid the hot summers and Puja holidays in OctoberNovember, when the place is crowded

Tourist Offices

Tamil Nadu Tourist Office, Beach Road, Kanyakumari, Tel: 04652-246276, Cell: 09176995871

STD code 04652

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Thiruvananthapuram (87km/ 2hrs) Taxi costs ?2,000. Bus fare is ?85

Rail Kanyakumari is served by two trains in the morning (7.00am and 10.30am) from Thiruvanathapuram. It is also connected to Chennai

Road Bus Regular buses (private and government) ply from Thiruvananthapuram ( 2.5hrs/ ?85160), and Chennai (16hrs/ ?400700 approx)

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Explore Bodh Gaya https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/bodhgaya1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/explore-bodh-gaya/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/explore-bodh-gaya/ 2017-09-14T17:07:35+05:30 article The most important place of Buddhist pilgrimage Bodh Gaya is like the sanctum sanctorum of a temple. The site of the enlightenment of the Buddha, Bodh Gaya has today become the most important place of Buddhist pilgrimage, drawing people from all corners of the globe. The chirping of the birds and the soft chants of Buddham Sharanam Gachchami will soothe your spirit as you walk on this hallowed land. Nuns, monks and laypersons of varied ethnic groups sit in meditation in the Mahabodhi Temple complex, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2002. They have made their way here, to tread, even if momentarily, on the path shown to them by Prince Siddhartha, who became The Enlightened One here.

Orientation
On the road from the Gaya Railway Station to Bodh Gaya, one immediately knows when the congested streets of Gaya are left behind: when a scenic countryside spreads on either side of the road, with the Phalgu River on the left. This town in rural Bihar has received considerable funding from abroad, especially from the Japanese government, one of the reasons why it is surprisingly well-developed in terms of infrastructure. The main road is the Bodh Gaya Road, which is the one leading from Gaya into the town itself. All the main sites are located around this and almost everything is within easy walking distance from the main temple complex, the hub of the town. Cars are available on hire (?500). The other modes of transport here are battery rickshaws, cycle rickshaws and autorickshaws; the maximum fare to any of the sites should not exceed ?350. Bicycles are also available for hire in many guesthouses.

Things to See & Do
It takes a maximum of two days to cover all of Bodh Gayas sites. Even a day is enough, with a night halt in one of the hotels. As elsewhere, night journeys are not recommended to be on the safer side. There are several prayer meetings, but perhaps what remains etched in memory is how beautiful the temple complex looks after it is lit up with thousands of candles. Bodh Gaya is also home to the Magadh University campus, near which lies the Cantonment area as well as the small and sparsely used airport.

Also known as the Main Temple, the present structure is said to be similar to the stupa originally built by Emperor Ashoka. The temple enshrines a huge Buddha statue, seated in the cross-legged, earth-touching pose, over the spot where the Buddha is believed to have gained Nirvana. The shrine is surrounded by richly carved stone railings the oldest remains of Bodh Gaya. There is also a beautifully landscaped park for meditation in the south-eastern corner of the complex, but permission is required from the main temple office to enter it.

The temple complex also marks the seven different places where the Buddha spent a week each after his Enlightenment. There are abundant references to the Bodhi Tree in the Jataka Tales. It was under this huge pipal tree, just behind the main shrine, that the Buddha spent his first week after attaining Enlightenment. The present tree is the fifth-generation tree of the original Bodhi Tree. The temple complex is very serene in the morning hours.

Adjacent to the wall behind the main temple, flags of different hues and gold-plated engravings adorn the 7-ft-high red sandstone Vajrasana, the Diamond Throne, or the Seat of Enlightenment, made by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century CE, and said to be the navel of the earth. Small metallic lamps make the pedestal glow. In front of the railing that encloses the Vajrasana are the footprints of the Buddha, gigantic footmarks engraved in blackish-grey stone, with the wheel of each foot signifying the Dhammachakra Pravartana (turning the wheel of dhamma).

To the north of the main temple is Cankamana, the place where the Buddha spent the third week of his Enlightenment, walking up and down along a stretch, in meditation. The spots where the Buddha stepped now feature black stone lotuses and they are considered as sacred as the image of the Buddha.

To the north-west of the main temple is the roofless shrine called Ratnaghara, where the Buddha spent the fourth week of his meditation. According to legend, while he remained here in deep contemplation, a multi-hued ray of light emanated from his body. These colours are used in the prayer flags of all countries embracing Buddhism.

It is believed that Lord Buddha spent the fifth week of meditation under the Ajapala Nigrodha Tree, which is a little away from the eastern gate. The Buddha spent the sixth week at a spot to the right of the main temple, near the Muchalinda Lake, which is encircled by a tree-lined path. The statue of the Buddha in the middle of the lake, with a huge serpent protecting him, reminds one of the legend for this setting, in which the Buddha was so lost in prayer that he did not even notice a storm lashing at him. When the lord of serpents, Muchalinda, saw the Buddha getting drenched, he came out of his abode and gave him shelter.

To the southeast of the temple complex is the Rajayatna Tree, under which the Buddha spent the last, that is the seventh, week in meditation. Here, by sheer chance, Lord Buddha met two merchants from Burma (present-day Myanmar). They took refuge in him. And thus the famous hymn came into vogue: Buddham Sharanam Gachchami (I submit myself to Lord Buddha). Demarcated by a stone plaque, it is the last stop for the devotee as he leaves the complex.

Timings 5.00am9.00pm Photography ?100; Video ?300

Tip Footwear may be handed over at the designated place before entering the complex

Location The first major building seen to the left as one enters Bodh Gaya, in the centre of the town

Other Pagodas & Shrines
Several Buddhist countries have built their own pagodas and temples in Bodh Gaya. All the shrines below are open from 9.00amnoon and 2.005.00pm.

Built in 1934, the Tibetan Monastery (a 5-minute walk to the west of the Mahabodhi complex) is the biggest and oldest monastery in Bodh Gaya. The Burmese Vihara (by the banks of River Niranjana on Gaya-Bodh Gaya Road), built in 1936, has two prayer halls and a large statue of Lord Buddha. Close by is the Thai Monastery (1km west of the Mahabodhi complex), which has golden rooftops that also give it the name Golden Monastery. It was built in 1957 by the Royal Kingdom of Thailand to commemorate 2,500 years of Buddhism. The Indosan Nippon Japanese Temple (1km southwest of the Mahabodhi complex), built in 1972 73, is designed along the lines of an ancient Japanese wooden temple, and features paintings related to the important events in the Buddhas life. Renovated in 1997, the Chinese Temple (5-minute walk to the west of the Mahabodhi complex) was originally built in 1945 and has three golden statues of the Buddha. To the north of the Japanese Temple is the Royal Bhutan Monastery, which unusually has clay carvings on its inner walls. The Vietnamese Temple (5-minute-walk north of the Mahabodhi Temple) was most recently built, in 2002, and has a serene statue of Avalokiteswara, the peaceful avatar of Buddha.

While in Bodh Gaya
The Archaeological Society of India Museum (entry ?5; 9.00am5.00pm, closed Fridays), 1km NE of the Mahabodhi Temple, is quiet, small and methodically curated. It houses priceless objects found in excavations in the Mahabodhi Temple complex, and is a must-visit.

Most of the monasteries in Bodh Gaya offer meditation courses for a nominal donation. Courses in Vipassana meditation are also run by the International Meditation Centre (Tel: 0631-2200707) throughout the year. The routine is a bit hectic but a great experience and one can attend as many days as one wants for a fee of ?300 per day.

Where to Stay & Eat
The All India Bhikhu Sangha (Cell: 09934611480; Tariff: ?300) offers comfortable rooms with attached baths. Hotel Tathagat International (Tel: 0631-2200106-07; Tariff: ?3,5005,500), with a travel desk and multi-cuisine restaurant, is one of the best among the mid-range options. Hotel Mahamaya (Tel: 2200121/ 221, Cell: 09204791699; Tariff: ?3,5006,000) offers clean and good accommodation. You could also try Hotel Sujata (Tel: 2200481; Tariff: ?5,5006,500) for its ofru, the Japanese community bath facility. In the high-end bracket, The Royal Residency (Tel: 2201156-57; Tariff: ?3,3609,000), located on Domuhan Road, has a bar, restaurant and also arranges sightseeing. The Lotus Nikko Hotel (Tel: 2200700/ 89; Tariff: ?6,00010,000), near the Mahabodhi Temple, has a restaurant. Budget options include Bihar Tourisms Siddhartha Vihar (Tel: 2200445/ 127; Tariff: ?8001,800) with 13 rooms. Hotel Sujata Vihar (Tel: 2200445; Tariff: ?750) has 9 dorms with 45 beds, a restaurant but a common toilet. Hotel Embassy (Tel: 2200711; Tariff: ?1,2003,000), is opposite the Thai Temple.

Om, opposite the Jayaprakash Narayan Park entrance, is famed for its breakfast menu. Fujia Green, near the Tibetan refugee market, serves great Tibetan and Chinese, while Shiva Hotel, near the temple entrance, serves Indian, Chinese and Continental. There are also restaurants in high-end hotels that pander to foreign palates. However, the best food options are offered by the makeshift tents that come up near the complex in DecemberFebruary. They specialise in Japanese and Tibetan cuisine, besides a variety of snacks, veg and tofu dishes. The momos, thukpa and Chinese fast food dishes served here are simply unmissable.

Fast Facts

When to go On Buddha Jayanti (April May) the temple complex is lit up with thousands of candles. From December January, the Dalai Lama presides over the Kalachakra Festival

Tourist offices

Tourist Information Centre, Bihar Tourism, Bodh Gaya, Tel: 0631-2200672, Cell: 09471006726

Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee, Tel: 2200735

STD code 0631

Getting There

Air Gaya (14km/ 20mins). Taxi fare ?600

Rail Gaya Junction

Bus Regular bus services are available from Gaya, Patna, Nalanda, Rajgir, Varanasi

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The Roseate: Aheli Spa https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Aheli-Featured.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/roseate-aheli-spa/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/roseate-aheli-spa/ 2017-09-14T16:56:48+05:30 article The traditional hammam treatment at this spa will leave you feeling as good as new I am a confirmed spa glutton. Therefore, I seize any opportunity to gourmandise. Now that age is catching up and aches and pains abound, I can even justify opportunities to indulge as being necessities. One such opportunity brought me to the doors of Aheli Spa, at The Roseate. Just off the Gurugram Delhi stretch of NH-8 nestles this oasis of calm. As soon as one turns into the gates, the city din fades away. A stark yet imposing entrance area reveals a teasing glimpse of the more tranquil environs of this urban resort. I walk past grand lawns interspersed with water bodies, high ceilings and tall looming pillars to arrive at the spa. After a quick analysis, Sushma Rai, the ever-smiling spa manager, picks two treatments for me. First is the Traditional Hammam, a trending and high-demand package. And, yes, its a far cry from the get naked, sweat it out, be scrubbed down thoroughly by a hefty lady routine.

After a short steam, my therapist escorts me to a stone bench near a large sink continuously spouting tepid water. The ritual begins with a gentle hairwash followed by a medley of scrubs, washes and packs which purge all physical impurities and leave me feeling as good as new. The eclectic list of ingredients includes saffron, neem, eucalyptus, organic honey, vitamin E, basil and cocoa butter.

Another indulgence follows. The Aheli Signature Therapy employs pine essential oil, which has antiseptic, antifungal and anti-rheumatic properties, besides helping the respiratory system and easing muscular stiffness. Crafted to cater to individual needs, the massage weaves in Swedish, aromatherapy, shiatsu and Thai techniques, leaving the body totally relaxed, invigorated and uplifted. How fitting that Aheli lives up to the meaning of its name: pure.

Price: ?6,500, taxes extra, each for Hammam and Aheli Signature
Contact: +91-11-30158580, roseatehotels.com

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A Quick Guide to Bhuj https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Bhuj1_FI_2.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quick-guide-bhuj/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quick-guide-bhuj/ 2017-09-14T16:55:53+05:30 article Visit Bhuj for its ancient temples, tall hills and a deep sense of serenity Hot and dry, a harsh land to inhabit, very sparsely populated, Kutch is nevertheless a fascinating place. This district in northwestern Gujarat is effectively an island, with the mighty Arabian Sea to its west, the Gulf of Kutch to its south and the Greater and Little Rann to the north and east.

Bhuj, the capital of the former state of Kutch for almost 400 years and now the headquarters of Kutch District, is a mix of the ancient and modern. Compared to metro cities such as Mumbai or Delhi, Bhuj is a veritable oasis of peace. But by Kutch standards, it is positively bustling with life. With good stay options and connectivity, Bhuj is also the best base for exploring the rest of this interesting region.

You drive into it on a road flanked with hills that are crowned with a forts ramparts. These are the Bhujiya Hills from where Bhuj gets its name. Unfortunately, the main city is mainly remembered for the devastating earthquake of January 2001, the scars of which are still apparent.

Things to See & Do

Darbargadh Palace Complex
Close to the Swaminarayan Temple is this complex, which houses both the Aina Mahal and the Prag Mahal. The first thing about Prag Mahal that hits you is how incongruous it looks its European architecture standing out amid the crumbling ruins of the complex. Tall and stately, with Gothic windows and Corinthian pillars, it seems like an object out of a space-time warp. The palace itself is imposing, and the intricate carvings on the walls and the jaali work on the jharokhas are exquisite. There are the unmistakable symbols of erstwhile royal pursuits yellowing photographs of young men in sports attire, and walls of trophies, comprising lions, deer, bears and even a hippo. However, everything has fallen into a state of disrepair.

Aina Mahal, the mirror palace, was added to the complex in the 18th century, during the reign of Maharao Lakhapatji. It was designed by the legendary Ramsinh, who survived a shipwreck off the coast of East Africa, reached Europe, and over 17 years learned skills such as shipbuilding, stone-carving, glass-blowing and tile-making, and eventually introduced them to Kutch.

Damaged in the earthquake, Aina Mahal is still the prettier of the two palaces. The hall of mirrors would have, in its heyday, put Oriental and European palace rooms to shame. Even today, lined with stained white marble, mottled mirrors and fading daguerreotypes, it awes visitors.

Museums
Kutch Museum is the oldest in the region and contains the best collection. The Bhartiya Sanskriti Darshan (or the Folk Arts Museum) has a collection of local textiles and artefacts. Also visit the Sharad Baug Palace, which is built amidst beautiful grounds.

Hamirsar Lake
Depending on the time of the year, Hamirsar Lake, in the western end of Bhuj, may be dry and therefore largely deserted, or full of water, and surrounded by merry making families.

Where to Stay & Eat
There are a variety of stay options in Bhuj. The best amongst them is the Hotel Prince (Tel: 02832-220370; Tariff: ?3,375 7,575) on the station road. Hotel Lake View (Tel: 253422; Tariff: ?9001,300), Hotel Ilark (Tel: 258999; Tariff: ?2,600 6,000) and Prince Residency (Tel: 230236; Tariff: ?1,5004,100) are other decent stay options in Bhuj.

For food, besides the restaurants in the hotels, Green Rock Hotel located opposite the Bus Stand is a great option for anyone who is in the mood for sumptuous Gujarati thalis.

Around Bhuj

Mandvi (60km)
Mandvi, a little seaside town with a beautiful beach is south of Bhuj, on the southern shore of Kutch. It is also well known for its cottage shipbuilding industry and batik work. For many centuries, Mandvi was a famous seaport in Kutch, having trading links with South Africa, Zanzibar, Malaysia, China and Japan, and the building of small ships has been going on here since the 16th century. There is a beach here, but a more attractive one lies a few kilometres from town, part of a seaside resort called The Beach at Mandvi Palace. Next to it is a small palace that tourists can visit.

Things to See & Do

Shipbuilding
Shipbuilding takes place on Rukmavati river, which runs through the town. The ships are small and have a Dutch influence. You'll see workers busily creating structures from wood: climb up a ship and find someone who will explain the craft.

Mandvi Town Beach
This beach is frequented by locals in the evenings, who congregate here to relish the ragda patties and gol gappas, feed seagulls and enjoy their evening walks.

Vijay Vilas Palace
Also called Mandvi Palace, this elegant 20th-century structure was a residence of the erstwhile rulers of Kutch. It now hosts a guesthouse .

Where to Stay & Eat
The Beach at Mandvi Palace (Tel: 02834-277597; Cell: 09879013118; Tariff: ?8,000) offers comfortable, air-conditioned tents and an exclusive, pristine white-sand beach. The restaurant is open to non-residents. Vijay Vilas Heritage Resort (Tel: 277700; Cell: 09898944958; Tariff: ?6,0009,000) is in the Vijay Vilas Palace Complex, with eight suites and a restaurant.

Fast Facts

When to go OctoberFebruary are best for explorations

Tourist offices

Gujarat Tourism Office, HK House, Ashram Road Ahmedabad, Tel: 079-26578044-43, 26589172

Sanctuary Game Warden, Little Rann of Kutch, Bajana, Patdi, Surendranagar, Tel: 02757-226281

STD code 02832

Getting There
Air Ahmedabad Airport (10km/ 0.5hr). Connected with major Indian cities and international cities. Bhuj Airport connec-ted to major Indian cities. No pre-paid taxis or autos available at Bhuj Airport

Rail Trains from Ahmedabad. Prebook taxi/ auto from Bhuj Railway Station

Road From Ahmedabad take NH947 and the GJSH18 to Dasada. Then take GHSH18, NH947 and GJSH22 to Morvi. Morvi to Bhuj lies on NH8A Bus Private buses from Ahmedabad to Bhuj available

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The Temple Town of Thanjavur https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Brihadeswara_Temple_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/temple-town-thanjavur/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/temple-town-thanjavur/ 2017-09-14T16:51:09+05:30 article Get a glimpses of Thanjavur's lost grandeur They call it manji soozh Thanjai the mist enveloped town. In December, January and February, a mist rises from the Cauvery at dawn. It swirls through the area and wraps itself like fine muslin around the lofty temple towers, ramparts and palaces. For a short span of time, the town looks as magnificent and mysterious as its history warrants. Then the sun comes out, the mist vanishes and Thanjavur puts on its everyday face, dusty and crowded. But still, you can sometimes see glimpses of its lost grandeur flicker through.

Things to See & Do

Brihadeeswara Temple
This is the temple around which Thanjavur grew. Locally called Periya Koil (Big Temple), the Brihadeeswara Temple, spans an area of 33,000sq ft.

The sanctum has a single block of granite, 25.5sq ft wide, as its roof. The 13-tiered vimana (tower over the sanctum) is over 197ft high. The lingam inside is 12ft tall and so is the monolithic Nandi Bull facing it. The stone shikhara (pinnacle) that perches over the tower weighs nearly 80 tonnes, an amazing feat of engineering. The temple was, for the most part, built of granite blocks, though no granite is available for miles around Thanjavur. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Entry Free Timings 6.00amnoon and 4.008.00pm, open all days

Shivaganga Fort
This 35-acre fort was modified by the Marathas in the 17th century and includes the temple complex, the Schwartz Church, the Royal Palace along with two museums, and the Shivaganga Tank and Park to its north.

The Royal Palace must have been wonderful once upon a time. Today, the walls have crumbled, the interiors are damp and the tunnels have all caved in. However, inside are the Rajaraja Museum and the Art Gallery, both of which have a stunning collection of rare Chola bronzes and granite sculptures.

Museum Entry ?10 Timings 9.00am1.00pm and 3.005.00pm Sound & Light Show ?50 Timings 6.45pm (English)

Tip Photography is not allowed inside the Rajaraja Museum

The Saraswati Mahal Library boasts of a staggering collection of 44,000 palm leaf manuscripts besides paintings and writing equipment.

Entry Free Timings 10.00am1.00pm and 1.305.30pm

The small Palace Museum closeby exhibits the personal collection of the royal family: arms, clothes, paintings and so on. The Schwartz Church was built in 1779 by Raja Sarabhoji II for the Danish missionary Rev Christian Fredriech Schwartz. The rosewood pulpit from which Schwartz preached still stands, as does the rosewood pew where the king liked to sit and pray.

Where to Stay & Eat
Hotel Ganam (Tel: 04362-278501; Tariff: ?2,3005,000) and Hotel Oriental Towers (Tel: 230450; Tariff: ?2,700 5,000) are decent options.

The Information
When to go It rains in November and early December. But soon after is the best time to go. Thanjavur celebrates Pongal in mid-January

Tourist Office

Department of Tourism, Govt of TN Tourism Complex, Gandhiji Road, Thanjavur, Telefax: 04362-230984, tamilnadutourism.org

STD code 04362

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Trichy (54km/ 1.5hrs). Taxis into town cost ?2,000

Rail Thanjavur Junction is connected to Chennai by the Chennai Express

Road Bus Services are available from Chennai via Trichy from Koyambedu bus stand

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Oh Food, Glorious Food! https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/featured-1.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/kolkata-durga-puja-food/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/kolkata-durga-puja-food/ 2017-09-14T15:28:51+05:30 article Durga Puja in Kolkata is synonymous with foodfrom street food to bhog, the city offers a myriad of choices for foodies to indulge For anyone who has lived in Kolkata for long, Durga Puja is more than just a religious affair. Preparations for the coming year begin almost as soon as the current Pujo is over and hence, Durga Puja is a way of life for the people of Kolkata. The five daysof celebrations are a heady mix of food, love, culture and a good dose of lively chaos.

Most festivals in India share and support a single concept. They might be multi-lingual or multi-cultural but they all have one unique common quality i.e. binding communities. Its an opportunity for communal bonding, and Durga Puja is one such festival, says well-known radio jockey Mir Afsar Ali, who is also a television anchor and actor.

There areseveral small aspects that give Durga Puja its present identity - from the actual Pujo, the adda sessions to the food of course! You cannot miss Kolkata's food, especially during Pujas, if you consider yourself a serious foodie.

The day of an average Bengali during this period begins with several bharsof tea, at least two different newspapers, a few radhaballabhis (yes, those deep fried stuffed beauties) with cholar dal (Bengal style gram lentil, sweetened like the average Kolkata population). Its hard work for the local or para sweet shops but during Pujo, they tend to get the combination ready as early as7am(sometimes even earlier) so people can fill themselves up after a long night of pandal-hopping.

If you find yourself in Kolkata, some noteworthy places to try the famous Bengali breakfast are Sri Hari Mistanna Bhandar in Bhowanipore, Mrityunjoy Ghosh and Sons on Sarat Bose Road near Lansdowne Road and the famous Nandalal Sweets in Sukiya Street.

Luchi is another typical breakfast item in Kolkata. Most holiday breakfastsinclude a plate of luchi with aloo dum. But, somehow, other than Bengali fine-dining restaurants like Bhojohori Manna or 6 Ballygunge Place, luchi isnt usually found in any general shops whereas radhaballabhis can be found aplenty.The Durga Puja bhog too always includes luchi, but more on that later.

Breakfast done and dusted, its time for adda. What is adda? In other words, it is when you sit with a bunch of friends and have hearty discussions about almost everything under the sun - from politics, food, music toMohun Bagan. And before you know it, its time for the lunch. The quintessential fish thali (sometimes with meat) is always a good option.

Mostgood restaurants in Kolkata prepare their own version of the set lunch (rice, dal, fish, vegetables and aloo bhaja) along with an a la carte menu. But lets not forget the typical Bengali 'pice' hotels (with the freshest catch of fish and rice served on a banana leaf). They give restaurants stiff competition by serving equally scrumptousfares at a fraction of the prices. Few noteworthy 'pice' hotels in the city are Adarsha Hindu Hotel in Gariahat, Swadhin Bharat Hindu Hotel in College Street and Siddheswari Ashram near New Market.

The insiders or whove given chanda (i.e. donation) are entitled to get the Prasad of the goddess aka bhog. Its usually khichuri with labra (mixed vegetables of sorts) and porebhaja (fried vegetables). However, youll still be served bhog if youre not on the list. Its Durga Puja after all and the bhogs are a massive affair.

The evening starts with the arati (in front of the goddess) and the gathering soon shifts to somebodys residence. Snacks are devoured while another session of adda begins. Mostly chanachur and chips rule but a couple of Bhetki fish fingers never hurt anyone. And thats how the locals get ready for a night of revelry, food and pandal-hopping.

The dinner formula on most days is simple RBC. What you ask? RBC translates into Roll, Biryani and Chowmein mostly from roadside vendors. The kathi roll is such an important way of life for the locals. A rolled up paratha with egg and little chunks of meat smothered with sauce, onions and lime juice. Rolls shops are aplenty but one can check out Nizams and Baadshah at Esplanade, Kusums on Park Street and Bedwin at Gariahat.

Biryani here means the Kolkata style - ittar flavoured with a huge chunk of potato without which the dish is a strict no-no. Though one can give the biryani a miss during Durga Puja because shops tend to make it in massive quantities and it never turns out the way it usually tastes on regular days. However, in case you want to taste it, head to Shiraz at Mullickbazar, Zeeshan at Park Circus, Mezban at Ripon Street or Royal at Chitpur.

The chowmein a.k.a hakka noodles are mostly prepared at the roadside stalls along with rolls. Some even use a strange mix of spices which can include five-spice powder and leftover chicken gravy! While heading to proper Chinese restaurants, the locals love devouring the roadside variety during the Pujo from the many lanes and bylanes of the city.

In between this chaos, please do not forget the lifeline of us Kolkatans sweets. We love sweets. We eat them when we are sad, we eat them when were happy, we eat them on any occasion basically! Varieties of sandesh is usually the main choice but never forget the ones dipped in syrup or coated with sugar. Head to Bhim Nags in Bow Bazar for ledikini, Girish Chandra Dey and Nakul Chandra Nandy near Girish Park for sandesh and of course KC Das for the rosogolla!

So, on this happy note, come to Kolkata during this Durga Puja and we promise you a gastronomic experience youre not going to forget anytime soon!

Indrajit is a Kolkata-based food blogger whose lip-smacking articles can be found onmoha-mushkil.com

See wbtourismpuja.in & wbtourism.gov.in for more details and download the Sharadotsav App by the Dept of Tourism available on Google Play Store.

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The Lodhi Hotel, New Delhi | The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/The-Lodhi-New-Delhi-1.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/lodhi-new-delhi-leading-hotels-world-ltd/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/lodhi-new-delhi-leading-hotels-world-ltd/ 2017-09-13T13:07:44+05:30 article The Lodhi Hotel becomes the only hotel from India to join the prestigious LHW The Lodhi, New Delhi finds itself in elite company as it joins The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd (LHW), a curated collection of independent luxury hotels around the world.

Established in 1928 by several influential and forward-thinking European hoteliers,the consortium started with 38 initial members. With their eight-decade-long commitment to providing unforgettable, authentic travel experiences, LHW selects only hotels that meet their high standards for quality and distinctiveness.

What makes this achievement more special is that it is the only one from India on the 375-member coveted list. Spread over nearly seven acres on Lodhi Road, The Lodhi offers 48 rooms and suites, most of them featuring a private plunge pool and an expansive balcony.
Tariff: From approx. ?12,400
Contact: +91-11-43633333, thelodhi.com

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West Bengal: Cooch Behar https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Coochbehar1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/west-bengal-cooch-behar/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/west-bengal-cooch-behar/ 2017-09-13T10:00:55+05:30 article All that's left of this erstwhile princely state is the architecture Cooch Behar, a quiet, unobtrusive small town, used to be a seat of princely grandeur. Its opulence in the heyday of the rule of Cooch Behars Narayan-Koch kings lasted till Indias independence in 1947. What remains of that legacy is the architecture. Burnt red-brick structures highlighted by arches, cornices and Corinthian columns are scattered all over town, particularly around Sagar Dighi tank.

The landscape of the town is marked by at least 22 tanks. The Torsa River, flowing down from the Eastern Himalaya, runs alongside the town before taking off towards Bangladesh. Besides the temples dotting the town, the real draws are the indigenous people of Cooch Behar District Rajbanshi, Toto, Gorkha, Mech, Rabha, Lepcha and Bhutia whose distinctive dress and traditions are just as attractive as memories of a once-flourishing royalty.

Things to See & Do
The 19th-century Cooch Behar Royal Palace was built on classical Italian lines. Its construction began during the reign of Maharaja Nripendra Narayan, and was completed in 1887.

A part of it is now a wonderful museum that is worth visiting. It showcases imported oil paintings and chandeliers, sepia-tinted photographs of royalty, antiquities and much more unearthed from Gosanimari, where the old capital of the Koch kings was located. Laterite and sandstone sculptures from as far back as the 7th century CE are also on display, although, unfortunately, only a few are intact. A gallery shows the lifestyle of Cooch Behars indigenous people.

The most spectacular of the town's 22 tanks is Sagar Dighi, with grand structures all around it. The buildings around the tank, built mostly between the 1880s and 1920s, are now the offices of the district administration. A popular hangout in the evenings, the tank attracts beautiful migratory birds in winter.

The Madan Mohan temple complex has a dazzling white one-storeyed structure as its centrepiece. Its a fine blend of Hindu (low, sprawling porch in the front), Islamic (scalloped arches and bulbous pillars) and Central Asian (dome with tapered peak) architectural traditions.

Another temple, the Baneshwar Shiva Temple, has an interesting roof in the Bengali do-chala (parted on top and slanting on either side) style.

Madhupur Dham, a serene retreat, is dedicated to the Vaishnavite spiritual guru Shankar Dev, who fled his native Assam in the 16th century to avoid persecution by the rulers, and found asylum with Koch king Nara Narayan.

Where to Stay & Eat
Hotel Ellora (Tel: 03582-224318, 222125; Tariff: ?8004,100), near the palace, and Benfishs Maharaja Tourist Complex (Tel: 223094; Tariff: ?4001,000) are the best choices. The other options are Hotel Royal Palace (Tel: 222210, 230731; Tariff: ?9003,000) and Yubraj Hotel (Tel: 231710, 227885; Tariff: ?800 3,000). You have the option of eating at the hotel restaurants or visiting the Mall, which is located opposite the palace.

The Information

When to go NovemberMarch; DecemberJanuary for migratory birds

Tourist/ Wildlife Offices

Tourist Information Centre, Zila Parishad Athithi Nivas, Kutcheri Modh Suniti Road, Cooch Behar, Tel: 03582-231527

STD code 03582

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Bagdogra (150km/ 5.5hrs) connected to Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati. Taxi costs about ?3,000
Rail New Cooch Behar Station is connected to major cities
Road From Siliguri, take state highway to Managuri; SH and NH31 to Cooch Behar via Dhupguri and Sonarpur Bus North Bengal STC buses regularly run from Siliguri Junction between 6.00am and 6.00pm

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A Quick Guide to Bhubaneswar https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Bhubneshwar3_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quick-guide-bhubaneswar/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quick-guide-bhubaneswar/ 2017-09-13T10:00:46+05:30 article The abundance of magnificent temples showcases the architectural excellence of Odia sculptors From atop the Dhauli Hill, the highest point in the region around Bhubaneswar, the view is picturesque a lissome river meandering lazily through lush green paddy fields. As you savour the scene, remember that youre probably gazing at the site of one of the oldest battles known in Indian history the Kalinga War in the 3rd century BC that transformed Ashoka the Conqueror into a great pacifist monarch.

The most distinguishing feature of this city is the abundance of magnificent temples that showcase the architectural excellence of Odia sculptors.

The Bhubaneswar of today lacks the aesthetics of its previous avatar. The new parts of the city came up when it became the new capital of Odisha, taking over from Cuttack. This modern capital has been developed by engineers and architects with a clearly utilitarian ethic, and can appear somewhat soulless.

Things to See & Do

Temples
Legend has it that there were originally 7,000 temples in the city, built over 700 years. Only 600 have survived the ravages of time and iconoclasts. They can be divided into three loose clusters that can be explored on foot.

Tip With the exception of the Raja Rani Temple, entry to all Bhubaneswar temples is free

The Lingaraja Cluster
Built in the 11th century, the imposing 185-ft-tall Lingaraja Temple is considered the quintessence of the Kalinga School of Architecture and the most important temple in Odisha. The sheer size and scale of Lingaraja defies belief. It is surrounded by a large courtyard full of smaller shrines. The 8th century Vaital Temple is worth a visit. You can see life-size chlorite stone statues, beautiful carvings and erotic sculptures here.

Tip Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the Lingaraja Temple

The Raja Rani Temple Cluster
The Raja Rani Temple, also from the 11th century, stands in splendid isolation amid well-manicured lawns. Incidentally, the name of the temple has nothing to with any king or queen; it refers to a type of sandstone locally called rajaraniya.The carvings, wonderfully baroque and indulgently sensuous, are stunning.

Entry Indians ?15; Foreigners ?200 Timings SunriseSunset Photography Free Videography ?25

The Mukteswara Temple Cluster
The Mukteswara Temple cluster has two important shrines Parsurameswara and Mukteswara. Said to be built around 650 CE, Parsurameswara Temple is the best preserved of the earliest temples in the region.

The relatively small 10th century Mukteswara Temple has a beautiful arched gateway and exquisite carvings.

Nandan Kanan Zoological Park
Acclaimed as one of the most well-maintained zoos in India, Nandan Kanan is an open-air zoo carved from natural forests. The zoo also includes a botanical garden. Both are separated by a lake and spread over a scenic landscape of several hundred acres. Because of amenities such as wheel chairs and battery-operated vehicles, the zoo bustles with visitors. However, the botanical garden is an oasis of calm and serenity.

Entry Indians ?25; Foreigners ?100 Timings 7.30am5.30pm Closed Mondays

There are Forest Rest Houses by the side of the lake. For bookings, contact the Director, Nandan Kanan (Tel: 0674-466075/ 77; nandankanan.org)

Museums
The Odisha State Museum has an amazing collection of palm leaf manu-scripts. The oldest manuscript here dates back to 1690 80 different folios make the Geet Govinda, an important work in the Krishna Bhakti tradition, by the 12thcentury poet Jayadeva.

Entry Indians ?10; Foreigners ?100 Timings 10.00am5.00pm Closed Mondays Tel 2431597

The Tribal Museum houses objects depicting tribal social and cultural life photographs of healers, musical instruments, handmade wooden guns, and items relating to tribal worship practices.

Timings 10.00am5.00pm Closed Mondays Tel 2563649

The Regional Museum of Natural History exhibits skeletal remains of animals, information on endangered species and photos of wildlife sanctuaries of Odisha. The gigantic egg of an elephant bird (now extinct), sourced from Madagascar, is a rare exhibit.

Timings 10.00am5.00pm Closed Mondays Tel 2567114

Pathani Samant Planetarium
Named after a famous astronomer, the planetarium has regular shows and special programmes such as night sky watching. Light, sound and water shows are held from October to June.

Entry Adults ?30; Children ?20 Timings 2.005.00pm Closed Mondays Tel 2567653

Ekamra Kanan
Also known as the Regional Plant Resource Centre, a vast expanse of green lawns, flower gardens and a lake provide much succour during sultry summer evenings. Major attractions here are the migratory birds, a children's park, boating and a musical fountain. However, the main park is open on all days (8.00am7.00pm).

Ekamra Haat
Browse through stalls selling ethnic handicrafts. Terracotta, crafts and handloom exhibitions from other states are held throughout the year. A couple of food kiosks serve Odia snacks and meals too.

Timings 10.00am10.00pm

Dhauli
Dhauli is where Ashoka was overcome with remorse in the aftermath of the Kalinga War. He embraced Buddhism and spent the rest of his life spreading the message of non-violence.The famous rock edicts (dated to 257 BCE) here describe Ashokas philosophy of life. One can also visit the Shanti Stupa atop Dhauli Hill and enjoy the splendid view of the Daya River winding its way through paddy fields.

Timings 6.00am6.00pm Sound & Light Show Entry ?25 Timings 7.007.35pm; 7.458.20pm (English, Odia, Hindi)

Tip There is no show on Monday

Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves
The multi-tiered rock-cut caves of Udayagiri (ancient Skandagiri) and Khandagiri symbolise Jainisms cameo in Odishas historical drama. Comm-issioned by the great Jain king Kharavela, they were meant as dwellings for Jain monks. Cave 4 or Rani Gufa in Udayagiri is a two-storeyed structure with attractive sculptures. Cave 10, Ganesh Gufa, has a statue of Ganesha and two elephants. Khandagiri is disappointing, with disintegrated statues of Jain Tirthankaras.

Entry Indians ?15; Foreigners ?200 Timings 8.00am5.00pm

Where to Stay
For luxury, try the Trident (Tel: 0674-2301010; Tariff: ?12,00025,000), Mayfair Lagoon (Tel: 2360101, 6660101; Tariff: ?7,00040,000) or Toshali Sands (Tel: 2547720; Tariff: ?6,60015,000). Less costly options are Ginger Bhubaneswar (Tel: 6663333; Tariff: ?3,4994,299), the OTDCs Pantha-nivas (Tel: 2432314/ 515, Cell: 09861126800; Tariff: ?2,200), Hotel Nandan (Tel: 2534346; Tariff: ?15001,800) and Hotel Pushpak (Tel: 2310185; Tariff: ?2,4005,000).

Where to Eat
Several places in Bhubaneswar serve an authentic Odia meal: Dalma, near Nicco Park, Odishi at Bapuji Nagar, Swastik Plaza and Mayfair Lagoon (both near Nayapalli) and Hotel Crown in Nayapalli. Chandni, at the Trident, is expensive for the city but worth the cost. For vegetarians, Hotel Harekrishna is often the best bet. About 12km away, en route to Cuttack, is the Kalinga Sweet Market at Pahala village a row of roadside shacks selling superb Indian sweets.

Fast Facts

When to go OctoberMarch

Tourist office

Department of Tourism, Government of Odisha, Paryatan Bhawan, Lewis Road, Bhubaneswar, Tel: 0674-2432177, Cell: 09437196064

STD code 0674

Getting There

Air Bhubaneswar Airport is connected to all the metros and many major cities
Rail Bhubaneswar Jn is linked to Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi and many more
Road Long drive from Kolkata (420km/ 10hrs) but its smooth highway driving
Bus Overnight buses are available from Kolkata. There are state transport bus services connecting Bhubaneswar to all cities of Odisha

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Explore Hampi https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Hampi1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/explore-hampi/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/explore-hampi/ 2017-09-13T10:00:37+05:30 article Hampi is the abode of bygone ruins, rusty colors and fascinating landscape Born out of a resurgent Hinduism determined to prevent the incursions of the Delhi Sultanate into the Deccan, the Vijayanagara Kingdom took root in Hampi. Though it kept Delhi at bay, it was in constant battle with the Bahmani Kingdom to its immediate north.

It was a cosmopolitan kingdom in many ways. In addition to being populated by an ethnic mix, Muslims too lived and traded within Hampi. They were allowed to build mosques and bury their dead, were recruited into the army and intermarried with Hindus. A good amount of trade passed through Hampi, as is attested by Portuguese travellers, despite the fact that the really big players were the coastal chieftains, especially those on the West Coast.

The kingdom took root in the environs of Hampi when Harihara and Bukka, two brothers from the Sangama family, established an empire around 1336. In all, 23 kings from four dynasties ruled the land over a period of 300 years. Krishnadevaraya and his half-brother, Achyutaraya were its most legendary monarchs. They were finally defeated in the battle of Talikota in 156465, which resulted in mass-scale pillaging of Hampi. Such were her riches, it is said, that it took hundreds of elephants more than six months to carry the loot out of Hampi! To this day, the local guides recall legends that speak of precious stone-embellished temple sculptures. Now, of course, missing. Pillaging of a different kind over the last century has made UNESCO declare Hampi a World Heritage in Danger.

There are frequent buses from Hospet to Hampi, which is best seen locally by auto, bicycles, scooters, and the not-to-be-missed coracle. There are heritage walkways along the Tungabhadra River, and from the Vitthala to the Virupaksha temples. But it can get very hot so cycling might be better. Hire them at ?100 a day from Hampi Bazaar or your hotel. Both can be taken on the boat across the river for an extra ?20. To get to Hampi from Virupapura Gadda and Anegundi villages, where most of the accommodation is, the ferry or coracle costs ?15 per head. Service is 6.00am6.00pm. If you prefer an autorickshaw, a days seeing hire costs ?800.

Things to See & Do

The Sacred Centre
The Sacred Centre of Hampi is along the riverside and comprises temple complexes such as the ancient Virupaksha Temple, as well as those dedicated to Pattibhirama, Raghunatha, Balakrishna and Vittala. The distinctiveness of the Vijayanagara style of building lay in the construction of mandapas and huge gopurams called rayagopurams. Around each of these temples rose habitation comprising residential areas with quarters named after the king who built them or after main deities of the temples. Thus, we have Virupakshapura and Krishnapura, each with a bazaar street in front of the respective temple. Hemakuta Hill, to the right of the Virupaksha shrine, has many temples and is good for a birds eye view of the complex.

Take the Chariot Road (Ratha Veedhi) at the base of Matanga Hill. En route is the Kodanda Rama Temple, about 60ft above the rippling Tungabhadra. Bathe your feet in the simulated whirlpool below. Its called the Chakra Thirtha. Here youll find 5ft idols in the Temple of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita, carved out of a single rock. The view of the river during the rains, from this vantage, is fantastic.

The Vittala Temple, whose construction began in 1513 under Krishnadevaraya, was never completed. Nevertheless, it is a lovely place with musical pillars and halls. It has a beautifully carved stone chariot in its courtyard, which is reminiscent of the Sun Temple in Konark.

There are many open, pillared structures, probably mandapas. The walls of some of the mandapa-looking constructions may have actually disintegrated since they were made of wood with thatched superstructures. Down the road to Kamlapura is the Badavi Linga which means small or poor linga. The 12ft linga, built in black granite, is any-thing but poor or small.

The Royal Centre
Palaces, zenanas and baths, as well as the Hazara Rama Temple meant for royal worship are located at the Royal Centre. Such a wealth of structures has not survived from any other kingdom, not even the powerful Cholas of the Tamil Nadu region.

Vijayanagara reached its zenith under Krishnadevaraya. Temple construction was given top priority and no aspect of life was ignored. Travellers accounts talk of wrestling competitions, dance, mock battles, astrology and music.

The Lotus Mahal and the Elephant Stables are in remarkably good shape. Some historians say that these were built after the ransacking of the city but recent evidence suggests that they were contemporary to the other ruins. The other buildings are also examples of Indo-Muslim architecture. In the Lotus Mahal, for instance, the arches are distinctively cusped and its chhajjas or window awnings bracketed, as is found in Muslim structures. Even the Elephant Stables have a dome over each individual stall. There is another enclosure close by, a water pavilion, which could have been the Queens Bath. A stepwell in Maharashtra-style has been recently excavated here, indicating the reach of the Vijayanagara Kingdom.

Vittala Temple & Palace Area entry Indians ?30; Foreigners ?750 (same day ticket for both) Timings 10.00am6.00pm Open all days KSTDC bus tour Full day, ?300 per head Timings 9.30am6.30pm

Bouldering
Hampis huge rocks are also a hotspot for bouldering. The main climbing hangout is Goan Corner. Kishkinda Trust (Cell: 09449284496) offers equipment and instructors. A short guide to bouldering in Hampi can be had at canpirra.com.

Where to Stay
The burgeoning development of accommodation options in and around Hampi has been a godsend for travellers who previously relied on basic homestays. In the high season you need to book in advance. A popular new addition is the Hyatt Place Hampi (Tel: 08395661234; Tariff: ?6,5009,500) located off SH40. Hampis Boulders (Cell: 09480904202; Tariff: ?7,00014,000) at Narayanpet, Bandiharlapur Post, arranges sightseeing, treks and nature walks.

In Kamalapura
Right near the Hampi ruins, is the KSTDCs Mayura Bhuvaneshwari (Tel: 08394-241574; Tariff: ?1,8504,500). The hotel organises sightseeing tours.

In Hospet
Check out the cottages (21) on offer at Jungle Lodges and Resorts Hampi Heritage & Wilderness Resort (Cell: 09449597874, 09620903133, 094814-28680; Tariff: ?4,0196,553 per person with meals and some activities). The swanky Royal Orchid Central (Tel: 300100; Tariff ?7,5001,50,000) on Station Road, has several restaurants, a bar, a swimming pool and spa. Hotel Malligi (Tel: 08394-228101; Tariff: ?2,5005,000) is a decent option, five minutes walk from Hospet bus stand.

Where to Eat
Mango Tree Restaurant is among the better eateries here. Goan Corner is popular with visitors. You can also try Funky Monkey, Laughing Buddha and Ranju Restaurant. The most popular eatery, however, is the Venkateswara in Hampi Bazaar. Rahul Guest House accepts walk-ins. Authentic Lingayat meals are only available at Shankar Hotel on the main Hampi Road.

Fast Facts

When to go The monsoon (July September) and winter (November February). Catch the three-day Hampi Festival in November

Tourist offices

Tourist Infocentre, Hampi Bazaar, Tel: 08394-241339, Cell: 09538430065, karnatakatourism.org

KSTDC Tourist Office, Taluk Office Circle. Old Fire Station Bldg, Hospet. Tel: 221008

STD code 08394

Getting There

Air Nearest airports: Hubli (162km/ 4.5hrs), connected to Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Taxi ?820 per km. Bengaluru Airport is approx 350km away. Taxi ?820 per km

Rail Nearest railhead: Hospet (13km/ 45mins). The perfectly timed Hampi Express leaves Bengaluru City station at 9.00pm every day, and reaches Hospet at 7.00am. Taxi to Hampi costs ?1,800 (return) and charges ?600 for a drop. An autorickshaw will charge ?200 to Hampi. ST buses are also available. Sightseeing taxi (return) from Hospet charges about ?1,8002,500

Road To drive to Hampi from Bengaluru, follow NH4 to Tumkur and on Chitradurga. Stay on the NH4 Chitradurga bypass. Stay below the flyover intersection to catch the right turn onto NH13 for Hospet via Hosahalliu. NH4 is a good run till Chitradurga, but NH13 offers a bumpy ride. Travel during the day to avoid heavy night traffic Bus KSRTC night bus (Rajhamsa Executive Bus) runs daily from Bengaluru to Hampi. Also connected by deluxe and ST buses.

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New Delhi: The Imperial Spa https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/imperial-featured.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/new-delhi-imperial-spa/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/new-delhi-imperial-spa/ 2017-09-12T17:27:51+05:30 article The signature synchronised four-hands massage at The Imperial is a spa-junkie's dream come true Of course, theres a lift, but to make a grand entrance, nothing can beat the gently winding staircase down to the Imperial Spa. Natural light floods this subterranean world of long passages and Moroccan arches. Attendants flutter around you, offering a Vitamin C-packed welcome drink, cold towels and the spa menu. The spa is unique in having a Sufi theme, with verses by mystic poets like Rumi and Kabir etched liberally across the space. In fact, their range of skincare spa products is also called Sufi and includes seven heavenly massage oil blends, each offering different benefits. I walk right into the aroma of the Oil of Kabir wafting in the air. This frankincense and neroli blend has a woody, resinous and fragrant aroma, and is said to uplift. So I stick with it for my Imperial Synergy, the spas signature synchronised four-hands massagemy first ever.

In retrospect, all I can do is wonder. What took me so long? There is nothing in the spa universe like a synchronised massage. But, first, I submit to the soothing ministrations of a hydrotherapy pool, another debut. In the treatment room, my therapists, Philla and Mimi, work in stunning coordination. I had requested deep pressure, and the long, firm strokes dont disappoint. Emerging in a happy fuzz, I am handed a small note with suggestions for areas that need attention and can be addressed in a future treatment. I began as a four-hands massage newbie, but by the end I was a bhakt. Maybe its like Rumi said: What you seek is seeking you.

The driving force behind the spa and its Sufi theme is director Jacqualine Tara Herron. She joined the spa before it launched in 2010, helmed it till 2014, then left to develop a wellness retreat in China, before rejoining the Imperial in 2016. It is her passion that imbues the spa with that special imperial quality. Besides the spa, there is a salon, as well as a health & racquet club. They also retail the top-end Natura Bisse skincare range. While the spa is for resident guests only, the salon is open to all (and they do offer a few M,massages for their female guests at the salon). Id say the spa is worth checking into the hotel for. Theres an in-house Ayurvedic doctor and traditional Ayurvedic rituals and spa cuisine are on offer. The treatment rooms too are each unique in their own way. Among them, the lavish Moghul Suite (top pic) comes with its own steam, sauna and bath, and is the setting for a pull-out-all-the- stops four-hour couple treatment.

Imperial Synergy from ?8800/75mins, taxes extra (spa reception: +91-11-41116210/1, salon reception: +91-11-41116323/4, health & racquet club: +91-11-41116212, theimperialspa@ theimperialindia.com, theimperialindia.com)

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Rock-Cut Caves of Ajanta-Ellora https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/AJANTA-ELLORA1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/rock-cut-caves-ajanta-ellora/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/rock-cut-caves-ajanta-ellora/ 2017-09-12T13:46:56+05:30 article These two rock-hewn monastic-temple complexes are great examples of classical Buddhist art and architecture Ajanta
Over a 100km away from Aurangabad, past the arid topography and volcanic provinces of the Deccan Plateau, lie the Ajanta Caves remnants of a Buddhist monastery complex of enormous proportions and significant historicity. Once the abode of hundreds of monks, whose quest for truth and learning led them to these mountain halls, today the complex is awash with pilgrims and tourists who come to witness the greatest example of Classical Buddhist art and architecture in the world.

The caves at Ajanta were constructed to facilitate a peaceful environment for Buddhist monks. Location was key for the monks who wished to remain undiscovered and undisturbed.

Each of the caves is believed to have had its own private access to the river below, by way of a staircase. The steps no longer exist, having been eroded over the millennia.

Historians believe that the caves were built in the 2nd century BCE during the Hinayana era the earliest phase of Buddhism. As Buddhism retreated from this part of the world in the 5th century CE, the caves were abandoned.

Things to See & Do
A terraced pathway runs the length of the arena, making it simple for visitors to explore the chronologically labeled caves. Although it takes you past all the caves, there are some that demand more than a cursory perambulation. Cave 1, a vihara (monastery), is one of the largest caves and also one of the most handsomely ornamented.

The Buddha statue in the sanctum is in the vyakhyana mudra (gesture of explanation) with bodhisattvas (the Buddha in his previous lives) on either side. It is believed that the scene is a representation of the sermon at Sarnath.

Cave 2, also a vihara, is similar to Cave 1, with the addition of two sub-shrines as well as chapels. The doorframes and pillars are elaborately carved and the ceiling is extensively painted.

Cave 4 is the vihara that was left unfinished, but still attracts visitors for its sheer grandeur. It houses a massive Buddha statue in the sanctum.

Cave 9, the oldest chaityagriha (prayer hall), has an apsidal layout. It has a nave, an apse and aisles, which are divided from the main area by a colonnade of 23 pillars. In the centre stands a globular stupa balanced upon a cylindrical base. There are paintings on the pillars and the ceiling depicting the Buddha.

Caves 16 and 17 are renowned for the most number of tales from the Jataka painted on the walls, while Cave 26 is magnificent owing to its massive representation of the Buddha in the parinirvana mudra (gesture of salvation) and the outstanding statuary that covers every inch of the walls and ceiling.

The historical value of the complex is unprecedented. However, time is gradually catching up and signs of wear are more evident that ever. Even so, the maginificent caves of Ajanta are an archaeological treasure.

Entry Indians ?30; Foreigners ?300 Torch ticket ?15 Timings 9.00am 5.30pm Closed Monday

Ellora
Although constantly outshone by its counterpart Ajanta, Ellora still holds a certain appeal to the discerning traveller as it is one of the largest rock-hewn monastic-temple complexes in the world. Located about 30 odd kilometres from Aurangabad, the caves of Ellora were carved out of the step-like formation of volcanic deposits in the Western Ghats. There are 12 Buddhist viharas, 16 Hindu and five Jain temples in Ellora.

Things to See & Do
An 8th-century structure, created under the patronage of the Rashtrakuta dynasty, the Kailash Temple was conceived as the mountain home of Shiva and his consort, Parvati.

The temple stands tall in a huge court, guarded by two elephants and two ensign staffs. The base plinth is carved with statues of elephants, lions, tigers, Sphinx-like beasts, and dragons with bulging eyes, which bear the temple on their backs like a chariot. Sculptures of goddess Lakshmi and two dwarpals (doorkeepers) oversee the entrance. The surrounding two-tiered galleries swarm with 10-ft-high, imposing sculptures of the gods.

There was an intense surge of activity in Ellora that began in the 6th century CE and continued for over 500 years. It is interesting to note that the initiation of these establishments in Ellora almost coincides with the abandonment of the Ajanta caves.

The Buddhist Caves (112), at the southern end, are the oldest dating back to 500750 CE. The Hindu Caves (14 29) date between 600 and 870 CE and the Jain Caves (3034) are further north of the escarpment and can be traced back to 800 CE and late 10th century CE. While the comparisons with Ajanta will never cease, Ellora is an architectural marvel in its own right. It is a conglomeration of the iconography of three different religions, and therein lies its uniqueness.

Entry Indians ?30; Foreigners ?300 Timings 7.00am6pm Closed Tuesday

Where to Stay & Eat

In Ajanta
The MTDC Holiday Resort (Tel: 02438- 244230; Tariff: ?1,2002,105) is located 5km from the caves. The hotel has a restaurant with a bar. Ajanta T Junction Resort (Tel: 02438-244033; Tariff: ?2,136) is another MTDC property that is located close by. Though it is wiser to eat at your hotel, you can try MTDCs Kanhaiya Kunj situated near the bus stand or the Vihara Restaurant, a multi-cuisine restaurant located near MTDC Holiday Resort, Fardapur.

In Ellora
Hotel Kailas (Tel: 02437-244446, 244543; Tariff: ?2,0003,500) is the only good hotel in Ellora. Travellers keen on visiting Ellora are advised to book their stay well in advance. MTDCs Ellora Restaurant has moderately priced dishes, thalis and cold beer. Heritage Restaurant at Hotel Kailas serves Indian as well as Chinese dishes. The Milan Restaurant is an excellent snack stop. Ellora also has several roadside stalls that sell delicious bhajias.

Fast Facts

When to go The winter season (NovemberFebruary) is the most pleasant time

Tourist Office

MTDC Holiday Resort, Station Road, Aurangabad, Tel: 0240-2331513

STD code Aurangabad 0240 Ajanta 02438 Ellora 02437

The magnificent Kailash Temple, Ellora

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Chikalthana Airport, Aurangabad (Ajanta Caves 102km/ 3hrs; Ellora 28km/ 1hr). Taxis to Ajanta and Ellora charge ?2,800 and ?1,850 respectively

Rail Nearest station: Aurangabad

Road Bus Non-AC/AC sleeper, seater and Volvo buses ply daily from Mumbai to Aurangabad. Fare ?5001,200

Getting to Ajanta Take Jalgaon Road from Aurangabad to Fardapur. At Fardapur T-Junction, take an MTDC Green Bus (AC/ non-AC: ?20/15)

Tip Autos, taxis and sedan chairs are permitted only up to Fardapur T-Junction

Getting to Ellora Taxis and buses available from Aurangabad to the MTDC Ellora Visitor Centre (EVC), 200m from the caves. Parking is available. No vehicle is permitted to go from the main gate to the caves. The MSRTC Green Bus transfers you for ?1020 (Non-AC/AC)

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Maharashtra: Land of Sai https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Shirdi1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/maharashtra-land-sai/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/maharashtra-land-sai/ 2017-09-12T13:26:00+05:30 article Here's a quick guide to Shirdi On 15 October, 1918, Sai Baba attained samadhi (salvation, not death), but in Shirdi his presence is very real even today. Shirdi is all about this wandering ascetic, for without him this would have been just another village in the heart of Maharashtra, with a population of a thousand odd citizens.

The deep bass of drums, the higher octave of prayer bells and cymbals seeking divine attention, the rhythm of the pujaris chants, all make for an enthralling spectacle.

Things to See & Do
Distances seem exaggerated in Shirdi. What is referred to as the other end of town is, in reality, a breezy 10-minute walk through narrow lanes fringed by stalls selling flowers, sweets and other items that devotees offer to Sai Baba.

Samadhi Mandir of Sai Baba
In this shrine, a life-sized Italian marble statue of the saint presides. There is invariably a long line of devotees waiting for a darshan. Be prepared to wait for up to three or four hours on Thursdays, the special day of the saint, and on weekends, holidays and during festivals. Since the temple has a limited capacity, entrance is on a first-come basis. This means getting there early or obtaining a special VIP pass from the Sansthan office the previous day.

Aarti Timings 4.30am, 12.00pm, sunset & 10.30pm

Dwarkamai
This is the mosque where the 20-year-old Sai Baba took up residence in 1858 when he first arrived in Shirdi, and where he spent the remainder of his life. The two-level structure houses portraits and relics of Sai Baba and some items of everyday use that belonged to him.

Chavadi
To the east of Dwarkamai is the place where Sai Baba slept on alternate nights. It contains the wooden bed and white chair that were used by him.

Thursday Palki Procession
Every Thursday, a palkhi procession is taken through the streets of Shirdi. A framed photograph of the saint, along with the slippers he wore, the chillum (traditional pipe) he smoked and the stick he carried, are taken out on a palanquin hoisted on the shoulders of priests. The procession starts at 9.00pm from Samadhi Mandir and proceeds to Dwarkamai and then back to the main temple.

Gurusthan
This is a shrine built around a neem tree under which Sai Baba sat when he first came to Shirdi. In front of the portrait of Sai Baba enshrined here is a shivalinga and a Nandi bull. Photographs of the 12 jyotirlingas are also kept in the temple.

Lendi Baug
This is a small garden that was watered every day by Sai Baba, who would rest under the neem tree here.

The samadhi of Shyamsunder, a horse that would bow whenever it passed Sai Baba, is also located here.

The Information

When to go All year round

Information, Executive Officer, Shri Sai Baba Sansthan, Shirdi, Tel: 02423-258500, shrisaibabasansthan.org

Tourist Office

MTDC, Shirdi, Tel: 02423-255194-96

STD code 02423

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Aurangabad (130km/ 3hrs). Taxi fare ?3,0003,500

Rail Nearest railheads: Sainagar (2km); Kopargaon (13km/ 20mins). Taxi ?1,1001,500. However, the most convenient connection is with Manmad (57km/ 1.5 hrs). Taxi ?1,5002,000

Road From Nashik take SH10 via Sinde, Sinnar, Vavi and Zagade phata Bus Plenty of ST buses ply to Shirdi from all major cities in Maharashtra

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Explore Jodhpur https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Jodhpur1_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/explore-jodhpur/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/explore-jodhpur/ 2017-09-12T12:30:42+05:30 article Here's a quick guide to the Blue City and its architectural masterpieces There is something magical about Jodhpur. I knew that when I first set foot here as a child and my most recent visit only confirmed that belief. Pink sandstone and clear blue skies greeted me once again as I stepped out of the train into the hustle and bustle of the Station Road. A lot had changed and yet, nothing had. Jodhpur was no longer as green as it used to be, and the winds of modernity had taken away some of its delectable small-town feel. But, like a reassuring constant, the Mehrangarh Fort loomed over the skyline, as it did in my blue-tinted childhood memories.

History
Rao Jodha of the Kanauj family founded the house of Jodhpur in Marwar, the Land of Maroo or death, thus named because of the regions extremely hostile living conditions. Their first capital was at Mandore, an honour which went to Jodhpur after the Mehrangarh Fort was constructed towards the end of the 15th century. The fort was built with defence in mind, and the slopes and the sudden twists and turns in the structure were meant to hinder the movement of enemy elephants. There was good reason for this too the state was often at war with the neighbouring Rajputs and Mughals.

Nevertheless, the Rathore clan managed to hold on to its possessions and expanded over time. It eventually rose to become one of the strongest and biggest kingdoms of Rajasthan, along with Mewar and Amber.

It is said that at the time of Independence, Jodhpur was so prosperous that it was slated to be the capital of the new state of Rajputana in the Union of India. However, because of its distance from Delhi, and assorted political factors, it lost out to Jaipur.

Jodhpur is Rajasthans second largest city. The Old City that lends it the name Blue City is to the north, around the Mehrangarh Fort. The original capital of Mandore lies to the north of the town. The Station Road is the hub of all activity. A good place for shopping, it has several budget hotels and travel agencies. The airport is situated near Ratanada, 6km from the main town.

Jodhpur has good local transport, comprising buses and autos. The main bus stand is at Raika Bagh and the local buses take you almost anywhere within Jodhpur and also to Mandore and Kaylana Lake, on the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer Road. Autos dont run on meter and what you end up paying will mostly depend on your bargaining skills. The most comfortable way of moving around is to hire a taxi from a travel agency or hotel. The average fare is ?10 per km. Uber and Ola cabs are also available.

Things to See & Do
Jodhpur Town can be covered in two to three days in a leisurely manner. While Rohet and Luni dont offer much by way of sightseeing, the heritage properties here are excellent stay options, provided their high tariffs are not a deterrent.

Umaid Bhawan Palace
The palace is a magnificent structure thats representative of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, and is made of sandstone that has been put together without the use of mortar. Umaid Singh, the then Maharaja of Jodhpur, ordered the construction of the palace in order to give relief and work to the people affected by the famine of the late 1920s. The project took 15 years to complete and gave employment to 3,000 artisans. In 1977, following the abolition of the privy purses, the current royal Maharaja Gaj Singh converted a part of the palace into a hotel. Today, the palace is divided into three sections: the royal apartments, the hotel that is now run by the Taj Group, and a museum. The royal wing is closed to tourists. To enter the hotel, one has to pay an entry fee of ?6,000 per head. Eating and drinking expenses are charged extra. The museum houses royal artefacts collected over the years, such as crystals, clocks, crockery. The clock collection is perhaps the most interesting of all.

Location East of the town, adjacent to the cantonment Museum entry Indians ?30; Foreigners ?100 Timings 9.00am 5.00pm Photography Not allowed

Mehrangarh Fort
The most imposing structure in Jodhpur is also the biggest fort in Rajasthan. Built atop a 150-m-high hill in 1459 by Rao Jodha, the fort has withstood many a battle, as is evident today from the marks of cannonballs on the fort walls. The entrance ticket has to be bought at the main entrance at Jai Pol, built by Maharaja Man Singh. From here you can either climb up or take the elevator service. For me, the best part of any visit to the fort is the walk up to the ramparts, and beyond that to the mandir located in one corner of the fort. The view from here, of the entire city, is simply breathtaking. To the south you can see the Umaid Bhawan Palace and closer to the fort, the Old City, famously painted blue to ward off Marwars terrible heat.

There is a museum here with an exquisite collection of artefacts, including some very fascinating war booty and even more fascinating armoury (perhaps some of the deadliest looking swords one might ever get to see). The first several rooms of the museum are arranged around a courtyard called Sangar Chowki, where coronations were held until 1952. Inside, in the delicately worked sandstone apartments, there is a wonderful collection of palanquins and elephant seats (howdahs), the outstanding one being a silver howdah gifted by Shahjahan. It is decorated with a relief of lions, whose faces look peculiarly like shocked Rajput warriors. Up one level is a room full of excellent miniature paintings in the Marwar style of the 18th and the 19th centuries. After this comes a series of apartments decorated with gilded wood, Murano glassware, Chinese tiles, an opulent mix-and-match from different regions and historical periods that covers every available square inch of space. The royal splendour of the first family of Marwar is evident in the spread of costumes on display.

The Zenana Mahal and the Phool Mahal have frescoes and stained glass. If you want to pick up souvenirs, the museum gift shop has designer items as well as stalls run by local craftspersons.

When youre done with the museum, turn left and take a short walk past the Chamunda Mata Temple to catch wonderful views of the Old City. Exit the fort via Loha Pol, where you can see handprints of Raja Man Singhs widows, who committed sati in 1843. On your way down youll pass Rao Jodha Ka Phalsa, where folk musicians will greet you. This used to be the last point of the old fort in the times of Rao Jodha. Walk past Fateh Pol and turn right for Jai Pol to exit the fort. To get to the Old City go straight down from Fateh Pol.

Entry Indians ?70; Foreigners ?600 (this includes the charge for the audio guide) Timings 9.00am5.00pm Photography ?100 Videography ?200 Guide fee ?200 (for 4 pax) Elevator fee ?40 mehrangarh.org

Jaswant Thada
This is a marble cenotaph that was built by Sardar Singhji in the memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, who ruled over Marwar in the latter part of the 19th century. Jaswant Singh tried to set up a welfare state and was known for his reform measures. The grounds became the crematoria for subsequent rulers.

Entry Indians ?15; Foreigners ?30 Timings: 9.00am5.00pm Photography ?35 Videography ?50 Guide fee ?80

Mandore
Mandore, the erstwhile capital of Marwar, lies on the outskirts of Jodhpur, about 9km north of the main city. The Mandore Gardens today are better known for the cenotaphs of the former rulers, built not as chhatris but like temples. The Hall of Heroes and the Shrine of the Three Hundred Million Gods here are worth a dekko. Further on lie the ruins of the abandoned Mandore City, which today serve as the stage for a number of cultural programmes. Also at Mandore is a temple dedicated to Mirabai.

Kaylana Lake
On the western outskirts of Jodhpur, about 11km from the city, lie the Kaylana and Takhat Sagar lakes, adjacent to each other, separated only by a narrow strip of land through which the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer Highway passes. The Kaylana Lake is a picnic spot where visitors can go boating. Even though Kaylana is not clean, it is still popular with the locals, given the picturesque landscape.

Shopping
For tie-dyed fabrics, head to Kapra Bazaar, and for silver jewellery, Sarafa Bazaar. National Handlooms, which has branches on Nai Sarak, near the Circuit House, Pratap Nagar and Gandhi Maidan, and Thar Handlooms and Lucky Silk Store, all near Sojati Gate, are good for saris, dupattas, block-printed textiles and suit pieces. The best place to shop for traditional Jodhpuri mojaris and jootis is Juti Corner, right across the railway station. The area between the Palace Road and the Circuit House has a number of antique and woodwork shops. Doors, jharokhas, chowkis and Jodhpurs trademark miniature wooden musicians may be picked up from here. Prices start at around ?250, and can go up to a lakh or more! Some of the better known handicraft stores in Jodhpur include Lalji Handicrafts, Shekhawati Art Emporium, Rajasthan Art Emporium, Maharani and Heritage Art School.

Where to Stay
Accommodation here suits various budgets and, since the sights in Jodhpur are well spread out, which area you stay in doesnt matter much.

The Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace (Tel: 0291-2510101; Tariff: ?45,0008,00,000) is the most obvious option for those who can afford a royal experience. With its quiescent splendour, the hotel offers the facilities of a luxury spa, an indoor swimming pool and other sports facilities.

An excellent heritage-cum-homestay option is the Ratan Vilas Haveli (Tel: 2614418; Tariff: ?4,2507,500), on Loco Shed Road, a 1920s villa set in a garden, centred around a pretty courtyard, with exquisite antiques dotting the house. Ajit Bhawan Palace (Tel: 2510410; Tariff: ?10,0001,50,000) has a rather grand ambience. The rooms are exquisite.

Hotel Durag Villas (Tel: 2512298; Tariff: ?8001,800) is in a comparatively quiet location, and is furnished in traditional Rajasthani style. Mandore Guest House (Tel: 2545210, Cell: 09829147470; Tariff: ?2,950), located near Mandore Gardens, offers 18 garden cottages and also arranges trips to Bishnoi villages. Its restaurant is quite famous for its Rajasthani cuisine.

Indrashan Homestay (Tel: 2440665; Tariff: ?2,570), located in Jodhpurs High Court Colony, has a handful of AC double rooms. The rooms are charming and spotlessly clean and the best open into a lovely courtyard in the middle of the house. The food is exceptional.

Where to Eat
The Chokelao Mahal Terrace is an evening restaurant at the Mehrangarh Fort. The tables are laid out on the ramparts, and you can enjoy a beautiful view of the lit-up city as you enjoy a traditional Rajasthani thali. Remember that it is better to book in advance because you may not be able to get a table otherwise.

The Gypsy restaurant chain is extremely popular. The Gypsy Dining Hall in Sardarpura is known for its thalis. The chhach is noteworthy.

On the Rocks near Ajit Bhawan is one of the more upmarket establishments in Jodhpur. It has a bar and a discotheque. It also boasts of a lovely confectionery. The kachoris, samosas and mirchi vadas at Sojati Gate are not to be missed.

Fast Facts

When to go October to March is the best time to visit Jodhpur

Tourist Office

Tourist Reception Centre, RTDC Hotel Ghoomar Campus, High Court Road, Jodhpur, Tel: 0291-2545083, Cell: 08769347849

STD code 0291

GettingThere

Air Jodhpur Airport, connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Udaipur

Rail Jodhpur Junction, connected to major cities. Taxi ?500 upwards

Road Travellers from Delhi should turn off NH8 on to NH14 at Beawar. At Bar, turn right onto NH112 to Jodhpur via Nimaj Bus Plenty of buses connect Jodhpur with in-state cities like Jaipur

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10th Edition of Grand Prix Season Singapore https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Grand-Prix-1.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/10th-edition-grand-prix-season-singapore/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/10th-edition-grand-prix-season-singapore/ 2017-09-11T17:14:37+05:30 article Adding a whole load of fun lifestyle events to the world of Formula 1 racing On the 10-year celebration of Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, the lifestyle event, Grand Prix Season Singapore (GPSS) brings an exciting range of fun-filled activities for everyone to enjoy from September 8 to 17, 2017. Now as this goes beyond the race track, there are race-themed entertainment activities such as Amber Lounge, The Original FORMULA 1 Party, The Podium Lounge, Sky Grande Prix, C LA VI, The Landmark Circuit, Boudoir Blanc and also included are race-themed dining experiences and Jazz music. Great news for race ticket holders, for there are interesting discounts on attractions, dining, shopping and tours, and a chance to be a part of concerts by Calvin Harris, Ariana Grande, The Chainsmokers, One Republic, Seal, and Duran Duran.

For information, visit www.yoursingapore.com/gpss, www.stb.gov.sg or www.visitsingapore.com

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Le Mridien in Goa https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/LMG.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/le-meridien-goa/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/le-meridien-goa/ 2017-09-11T17:08:03+05:30 article Le Mridien opens doors to its 10th property in India Paris-born brand Le Mridien has beached on the golden sands of Goa. Its 10th property in India officially opened this month in Calangute, just 600m away from the popular beach. The North Goa property offers 146 stylish rooms, the iconic Le Mridien Hub, an all-day diner, three caf-bars including a poolside and a whisky bar, and a library lounge.
Tariff: From ?6,650
Contact: +91-8322267777, starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien

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Weekend Getaway: BaseraBy the Tirthan https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/tirthan-valley.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/weekend-getaway-basera-tirthan/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/weekend-getaway-basera-tirthan/ 2017-09-11T16:10:33+05:30 article Head to this resort in Tirthan for a relaxing weekend break We have found the perfect riversidegetaway, far from the madding crowds. Perched on the idyllic banks of the Tirthan River in Kullu district, Citrus County Farm Stays resort BaseraBy the Tirthan is the next best thing to home. Located at 5,100ft, the resort offers five cottages, each of which features spectacular views of the river and cloud-capped mountains. Whether you like to lounge by a babbling brook, read a book and sip chai, or get lost on untouched nature trails, Basera delivers. The area is home to 300 species of birds. You can go fishing for trout, discover one of the many hidden waterfalls, trek in the nearby ranges, go biking, cross the river on a zipline, or visit a village. The Great Himalayan National Park is just a 1.5hr walk away.
Tariff:From ?5,500 plus taxes
Contact: +91-9815077880, baseraattirthan.com

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Portugal: Fairytale Palaces https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/featured.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/portugal-fairytale-palaces/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/portugal-fairytale-palaces/ 2017-09-11T15:35:38+05:30 article A breathtaking, Unesco-cited 'cultural landscape' lies just an hour away from Lisbon Straight out of a Disney movie, was my first reaction when we rounded a corner and spied the Pena National Palace atop a hill in the distance. Fort walls, towers and minarets reminiscent of a medieval castle, and bright, bold colours that reminded us of fairytale illustrations, this quixotic structure is one of many fascinating sites in Sintra, a town about a hour from Portugals capital Lisbon. Built around the 1830s, the Pena Palace served as the summer residence of Portugals monarchs in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Situated commandingly above the town, the fortified walls, multiple entrance gates and lookout points testify to it having been a stronghold against any invasion. But the playful, flamboyant architecture, a mix of Gothic, Islamic and other influences, also suggests that it was more than simply a place to keep the royal family safe. The intricate sculpting on the walls reminds one of the ornate Gothic cathedrals that dot many of Europes cities. Inside the palace, the living quarters (many rooms open for public view) display furniture, tapestry, carpets, and carvings and paintings on the ceilings, all of which are typical of the expensive and somewhat gaudy tastes of the high-born of those times.

One part of the interiors stands out in stark contrast to the rest: the collection of exquisite line drawings and wood etchings of King Ferdinand II, who was responsible for much of the palaces early construction. His attention to detail is evident in the depictions of everyday life, of people, dogs, nature.

Given all of this, it is not a surprise that the Pena Palace is a World Heritage Site, and considered one of Portugals Seven Wonders.

The walk up to the palace (though one can also drive) from Sintra town is itself rewarding. Through the Liberdidad Park, a botanical garden with some interesting vegetation, then into some lovely forest, there are many vantage points to take in the surrounding landscapes. With a bit of a detour, one can also visit the much older Moorish Castle, now mostly a long, snaking fort wall.

Though more than a thousand years old, going back to the medieval era, it seems to be recent in the context of the history of human occupation here. The first settlers were possibly in the early Paleolithic period (3.3 million to 300,000 years ago), followed by a series of settlements, invasions with uprootings, and resettlements, right up to the present town of Sintra with its residents and ever-growing population of tourists (itself increasingly becoming an invasion!). The town is dominated by the imposing and well-preserved Sintra Palace. It was built in the 15th century and is also part of the World Heritage Site complex. In contrast to its colourful cousin, this palace is sober, the predominantly white walls complemented by tiled brown roofs. But it has its own charm, a combination of Gothic, Manueline (Renaissance), Moorish and Islamic (Mudjar) architectural styles. It has a fascinating selection of tiles, reflecting the tile-making tradition of the region, with a diversity of motifs and designs going back to when the craft started in 16th-century Portugal under Arabic influence. A painted ceramic tile from one of the souvenir shops is a great buy, presumably helping the local economy and the continuation of an old tradition.

Other sites of interest dot the Sintra complex. The town itself, especially if you escape the crowded main streets, has a unique blend of colours, architecture styles, tiny cafs and shops with local products, art and craftwork on house walls, and other elements that a wanderer not aiming to only tick off the tourist highlights would find of interest. Further up the hillside are sites like the Monserrate Estate, with its Arabic influence. There is an extensive forest area with a mix of Mediterranean and Atlantic plant species (and many exotic ones in the Pena Palace gardens spread over 200 hectares). There is a lot of mountainous terrain to explore, with the 16km-long Sintra Mountains (also called Monte da Lua, or Mountain of the Moon), extending towards the Atlantic Ocean and Cabo da Roca, continental Europes most westerly point.

The information

Getting There
There are hopping flights between Delhi and Lisbon, starting from about ?40,000. To travel to Sintra, 25km west of the Portuguese capital, the best way is by train from Lisbons centrally-located Rossio station. The train is cheap, and takes just about an hour (see cp.pt/ passageiros/en). There are also buses available.

What to See & Do
Relevant literature is available at the tourist information centre close to the station in Sintra, as well as online. Architectural sights include a variety of palaces, castles and religious dwellings, such as the Pena National Palace, Sintra National Palace, Convento dos Capuchos and Queluz National Palace. Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point of mainland Europe. There are some nice beaches as well, Praia Grande being the most popular. Much of what we have written about above can be covered in a day trip, but two days are recommended for a more leisurely outing, including delving deeper into the history and nature of the area. There is a variety of accommodation available in Sintra town, including Casa Miradouro (from 90; casamiradouro. com), a 19th-century manor house in the historic centre of Sintra, and the luxurious Hotel Tivoli Palcio de Seteais (from 344; tivolihotels.com), which nestles in the Sintra mountainside and boasts magnificent gardens and a panoramic view. More information is available at visitportugal.co

 

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Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Good-Night-rebels.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/books/good-night-stories-rebel-girls-100-tales-extraordinary-women/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/books/good-night-stories-rebel-girls-100-tales-extraordinary-women/ 2017-09-11T13:51:28+05:30 article 100 brave women you should know One look at our cruel world and you wonder what everyone was reading when they were children. And what toys they were given. Raging debates, led by feminists, over fluffy pink things for girls, and things with triggers and wheels for boys have thankfully led to greater awareness about the sensitisation of kids through cultural artefact. Children today are perhaps reading a greater variety of literature that is not geared towards raising them in gendered boxes. Lovingly put together by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, founders of Timbuktu Labs, a childrens media innovation company that seeks to build a community of progressive parents and children, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a step further in that direction. It brings together stories of 100 women and girls, from all over the world, who believed that the obstacles placed in their paths as women and girls were not insurmountable, who followed the songs on their lips and the dreams in their hearts to realise their potential. Warrior queens and partisans, leaders and activists, surfers and scientists, writers and musicians, and even a handful of fiery pirates people these pages. Each tells a story of a womans fight for survival in a gender-divided society, the pushing of boundaries, the will to be free in an unfree world. Many portraits in this delightful volume do not have an easy fit with the history of great men and women, many are virtually unknown, and yet each of them has the potential to inspire a modern reader, child or adult.

Good-Night-rebels4

Each vignette is but two pages, with one life lived with passion explained through a core event on one page and an illustration on the other. Sixty women have illustrated the book, each with a distinctive style. Coy Mathis, the transgender child, the Mirabal sisters who made dictators run scared, Rosa Parks, who said a simple no to racism, and Jacquotte Delahaye, the fiery pirate, are my favourites. One does wonder, however, if living their lives as individuals must be enough for our rebel girls, or should their sense of responsibility also help them recognise that gender oppresssion is systemic, not directed at particular girls and women. This is also why we do wonder why Hillary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher (or for that matter, Catherine of Russia) find a place in this volume. While they may have individually fought againt odds as women, they held up gender divides through their political positions on war and evisceration of welfare systems, in turn affecting lives of scores of real girls and women in their countries.

Good-Night-rebels1

Even so, I spent several delightful hours reading these stories aloud to my four month- old nephew, who was mesmerised by the illustrations. We want to start early, you see. Without doubt, this book is a wonderful step towards inspiring our rebel girls (and nice rebel boys too) to change the world.

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A Quick Guide to Gwalior https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/gwalior1_fi.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quick-guide-gwalior/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/quick-guide-gwalior/ 2017-09-11T13:36:58+05:30 article The city is galore with beautiful monuments, palaces and temples Gwalior is essentially a small city with its obligatory share of chaos, but it still bears the stamp of a place that has seen much grandeur. Once the capital of the Marathas and the Mughal emperors, it is now the seat of the Scindias, an erstwhile royal family. Gwalior is usually spoken of in the same breath as its majestic 10th-century fort, which dominates the whole region from atop a huge bluff. The great 14th-century traveller Ibn Batuta spoke of Gwalior as being a 'fine town of white stone', as did the Governor General of Bengal Warren Hastings, who called it the 'key to Indostan'. Today, the city may no longer have that important a position on Indias political or cultural map, but time has not managed to tarnish all its majesty.

Things to See & Do

Gwalior Fort
This 8th-century fortress has been integral to the history of this region and has often been described as the pearl in the necklace of the forts of Hind, a quote originally attributed to the Mughal emperor Babur. Everything about this looming fort, with its jagged battlements and lofty towers, is larger than life. It is over 3-km-long and rises 91m above the ground level.

Entry Indians ?15; Foreigners ?200 Timing Sunrisesunset; open daily Videography ?25

Tip Palace entry ticket also valid for Sas Bahu Temple and Teli Ka Mandir

The beautiful Man Singh Palace is also located in the complex. The famous Sound and Light Show takes place here.

Sound and Light Show Indians ?100;

Foreigners ?250 Timings MarchOctober: 7.308.15pm (Hindi), 8.309.15pm (English); NovemberFebruary: 6.30 7.15pm (Hindi), 7.308.15pm (English)

Urvai Jain Sculptures
The Jain sculptures at Urvai Gate display impressive sculptural traditions. Dating back to the 15th century, these giant monoliths include several representations of nude tirthankaras (the 24 great Jain teachers). The sculptures were defaced by Babars invading army in 1527.

Gujjari Mahal Museum
This museum has a varied, if somewhat scattered, collection of artefacts and sculptural fragments from Gwalior and around. The Madhya Pradesh State Archaeology Department displays over 5,000 antiquities here, which were originally owned by Maharaja Madho Rao Scindia, former ruler of the city, in 1922. The striking artefacts in the museum include a priceless 9th-century Shalbhanjika (detailed sculpture of a woman standing near a tree and grasping at a branch) and some decorative pillars.

Entry Indians ?20; Foreigners ?100 Timings 9.00am5.00pm Closed Mondays and government holidays

ASI Museum
The Archaeological Museum was established by the ASI in 1993, in the building, which in colonial times served as a jail and hospital. Sculptures displayed here date from the 1st century BCE to 17th century CE.

Entry ?20 Timings 9.00am5.00pm Closed Monday

State Protected Monuments
Vikram Mahal is a rather simple palace which was constructed by Raja Man Singhs son and heir Vikramaditya. Karan Mahal was constructed by Kirti Singh, the second ruler of the Tomar dynasty. Other important monuments in the complex include the Jauharkund, Dhondapur Gate, Jehangeer Palace and Shah Jahan Palace.

Sas-Bahu Temple
The name Sas-Bahu means mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, however the temples actual name is Sahastra, which refers to a multi-armed Vishnu. The complex comprises two shrines (Sas and Bahu) dedicated to Vishnu. The platform on which the Bahu temple stands affords a fantastic view of the walls of the fort and the city.

Entry The Man Singh Palace ticket is also valid here

Data Bandi Chod Gurudwara
Sikh Guru Hargovind Singh was kept as a prisoner in the Gwalior Fort during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir, though he was later released. Through the efforts of the Guru, 52 other prisoners were also supposedly released. A resplendent gurudwara called Data Bandi Chod was built by the Sikh community to commemorate this important event.

Entry Free

Teli ka Mandir
Teli ka Mandir is the tallest and most stunning monument in the Gwalior Fort compound. It is also presumably the oldest structure; archaeologists having dated the site to the 9th century CE.

Entry The Man Singh Palace ticket is also valid here

Tombs of Tansen and Ghaus Mohammad
Situated in an old residential colony are the mausoleums of legendary musician Tansen and his teacher, Ghaus Mohammad. It is also on these grounds that an annual music festival called Tansen Sangeet Samaroh is held in the month of December.

Entry Free Timings 9.00am5.00pm

Where to Stay
One of the best hotels in the city, Neemrana Groups Dev Bagh (Tel: 0751-2820357, Cell: 09300270011; Tariff: ?4,5006,500) is a heritage property. Housed in buildings dating back to the 17th century, the hotel has 15 rooms furnished with four-poster beds. The in-house restaurant serves multicuisine a la carte and buffet meals. Taj Groups Usha Kiran Palace (Tel: 2444000; Tariff: ?7,650 35,000) has luxurious rooms and facilities such as a restaurant, bar and a pool. MP Tourisms Hotel Tansen Gwalior (Tel: 2340370, 3249000, 4010555, 4010666; Tariff: ?2,9904,290) has spacious rooms and pleasantly green grounds. Hotel Landmark (Tel: 4011271/ 73, 2345780; Tariff: ?3,6509,990) offers deluxe and superior rooms, a fitness centre and a restaurant and bar; and Hotel Banjara (Tel: 4077589, Cell: 09826252999; Tariff: ?1,0001,800) is a good choice. Central Park (Tel: 4011140/ 43, 4042440; Tariff: ?6,00011,000) on Madhav Rao Scindhia Marg has 100 rooms, a restaurant and bar; and Hotel Gwalior Regency (Tel: 2340670/ 74, Cell: 09301127750, 09755569675; Tariff: ?3,7006,600) on Link Road has similar facilities. Hotel Shelter (Tel: 2376209/ 11, Cell: 09630096401/ 03/ 04; Tariff: ?3,0006,500) on Tansen Road has a restaurant and bar.

Hotel Grace (Tel: 2340110/ 11, Cell: 09229123344; Tariff: ?1,6992,500) and Hotel City Palace (Tel: 2636787; Tariff: ?9602,640) are budget hotels. Hotel Surbhi (Tel 2443265; Tariff: ?9001,375) in Naya Bazaar is small and basic.

Where to Eat
In Gwalior, it is best to eat at the hotel at which you are staying. Most have their own restaurants, mainly serving north Indian fare. You might also find a few Continental and Chinese dishes on the menu. The city has a few standalone restaurants. The multi-cuisine India Coffee House serves delicious south Indian fare, Kwality Restaurant is popular for its non-vegetarian dishes. Moti Mahal Delux serves Mughlai and Chinese vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian. The Mansingh, in DD mall, offers good ambience and great food.

Fast Facts

When to go OctoberMarch, when the weather is pleasant

Tourist offices

MP Tourist Information Centre, Hotel Tansen, 6A, Gandhi Road, Gwalior, Tel: 0751-2234557, 4056726, Email: gwalior@mptourism.com

Gwalior Tourist Office, Railway Station, Gwalior, Tel: 4040777, mptourism.com

STD code 0751

Getting There

Air Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindia Air Terminal (10km northeast of the city) is currently served by flights from Mumbai only. Please check at the time of booking. Taxi ?500

Rail Nearest railhead: Gwalior station. Daily services provided by the Taj Express and Shatabdi from Delhi and Agra

Road Gwalior is well-connected with cities within the state as well as with Delhi, Indore and Kanpur Bus Regular services available from Delhi, Agra, Bhopal, Indore, Jhansi, Khajuraho and many other destinations in the state

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Chhattisgarh: The Tribal Affair https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Chitrakote_Falls_Latest_FI_.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/chhattisgarh-tribal-affair/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/chhattisgarh-tribal-affair/ 2017-09-11T13:29:18+05:30 article Explore Bastar's bountiful nature and fascinating tribal culture Going native is the only way to fully explore and enjoy Bastar, the tribal heartland of Chhattisgarh. During my one-of-a-kind trip, I was determined to immerse myself in every aspect of the tribal way of life. So over the next week, I ate what the tribal communities ate, including their staple mandia pej (gruel made of millet), consumed mahua and salfi (toddy), participated in their festivities, including a goat sacrifice to propitiate a tribal goddess, witnessed cockfights, and even gate-crashed a tribal wedding. I also sampled a local delicacy called chapra. Id heard of it as a chutney made of red ants, which people consumed for its medicinal properties. But what I ended up trying wasnt the paste that I had come to expect, but a ginger and garlic preparation that teemed with live ants!

To travel to the Bastar region is to enter an ethereally beautiful land, whose allure remains under-appreciated, largely owing to an exaggerated association, in popular perception, with Maoist activity. Despite its violent reputation, Bastar won my heart.

Things to See & Do

Chitrakote Falls
The sight of the 100-ft-high Chitrakote Falls, especially after the monsoon, can be truly mesmerizing. You can hire a fishermans boat (approx ?100 for 30mins) from the banks of the Indravati River to get close to the falls.

Kanger Valley National Park
This park is home to the endangered Bastar hill mynah. Go underground into the Kutumsar Cave, which lays claim to being one of the deepest in India, and see a treasure trove of natural art that dates back millions of years. You will be able to see stalactite and stalagmite formations of limestone, sculpted by nature at the glacial pace of an inch every 6,000 years.

Tip Not recommended for those who feel claustrophobic in dark, narrow passages

Entry ?25 Timings 8.00am4.00pm Closed 15 June1 October

Danteshwari Temple
This 14th century temple, located in Dantewada, is one of the country's 52 venerated shaktipeeths.

Anthropological Museum
Located in Jagdalpur, this museum show-cases interesting elements of tribal life and displays artefacts collected from tribal villages including dresses, weapons, paintings and sculptures.

Timings 10.00am5.30pm Closed Saturdays and Sundays Tel 07782-229356

The Information

When to go September to March is the best time to visit Bastar

Tourist Office

Chattisgarh Tourism Board, 2nd Floor, Udyog Bhavan, Ring Road No. 1, Telibandha, Raipur, Tel: 0771-4224600, cgtourism.choice.gov.in

STD code 0771

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Raipur Airport (285km/ 6hrs) offers connections to many cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bhopal and Nagpur amongst others. Follow NH43, via Keskal and Kondagaon to Jagdalpur district HQ of Bastar. Taxi rates from the airport to Bastar range from ?8 10 per km (Contact Rahul Car Rental, Cell: 09669411411).

Rail Nearest railheads: Raipur and Bilaspur. The railway stations are linked to many major metros and cities. Taxi as above.

Road Follow NH43, via Keskal and Kondagaon to Jagdalpur district HQ of Bastar Bus NH 43 offers good connections from Raipur by a fleet of excellent private express buses to Jagdalpur and Bilaspur.

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Chilika Lake Bird Sanctuary https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/chilkika3_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/chilika-lake-bird-sanctuary-2/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/chilika-lake-bird-sanctuary-2/ 2017-09-11T13:19:24+05:30 article A quick guide to an ornithologist's paradise There is something magical about Chilika. The brackish water lagoon is a vast expanse of blue water, encircled by low undulating hills. Declared a Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance in 1981, and popular both for its birds and dolphins, Chilika boasts of pristine natural beauty.

Things to See & Do
Chilika is best explored by boat and most of the popular destinations within the lagoon can be covered in a day. It is possible to hire boats from Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC). Guides can be hired from Barkul, Satpada, Rambha and Balugaon. Barkul is the most convenient base for exploring Chilika.

Speedboat fee ?1,500 per hour (10-seater). Ferry services are run by the Inland Water Transport Department, from the mainland to the inhabited islands. There are many private boats as well. A visit to Nalabana and Kalijai may cost about ?3,000 per hour (in a 10-seater)

Nalabana Bird Sanctuary
A dense habitat of thousands of resident and migratory birds, Nalabana Island is an ideal place to go birdwatching.

Tip Visitors are prohibited from alighting on the island and have to catch sights of birds from the boat

Kalijai Island Shrine
The abode of goddess Kalijai, the Kalijai island is perhaps the most frequented tourist site on the lake. This small rocky island houses a temple. Interestingly, apart from a priest and some staff in the temple, no one else inhabits the island.

Cruising at Mangalajodi
A cruise along the narrow waterways amidst a thick concentration of nala grass (a kind of weed) is a unique experience. Private boats can be hired for ?400500 per hour from the jetty at Mangalajodi with local guides (about ?300 per trip), and food can be cooked and served on the boats on request.

Birdwatching at Brahmapura
The island fringed with casuarina groves, is an ideal place to unwind, relax and indulge in birdwatching.

Dolphin-spotting at Satpada
While Irrawady dolphins can be spotted in other parts of the lagoon (over 100 dolphins are estimated to reside here), the largest concentration is at Satpada. You can hire boats run by the OTDC (Tel: 06752-262077, 222664; Timings: 10.00am2.00pm) to see them.

The Information

When to go OctoberFebruary, when migratory birds arrive, is the best time to visit. Avoid the monsoon season

Tourist/ Wildlife offices

Chief Wildlife Warden, Prakruti Bhawan BDA Apartment, 5th Floor, Nilakantha Nagar, Nayapally, Bhubaneswar, Tel: 0674-2564587, 2565016

DFO, Chilika Wildlife Division, Balugaon PO, Khurda District, Tel: 06756-251125, Cell: 09437133489

Tourist Office, Govt of Odisha, Baghra Road, Near Pvt Bus Stand, Baripada, Tel: 06792-252710, odishatourism.gov.in

STD code 0674

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Bhubaneswar (90km/ 3hrs to Barkul/ Chilika). Taxi costs about ?3,000

Rail Nearest railhead: Balugaon (5km/ 20mins) is connected to Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Amritsar. Taxi costs ?400

Road From Puri, take the Brahmagiri Road to Satpada entry point. Buses (?35) and taxis (?1,000?1,400) are available. From Bhubaneswar, take NH5 to Barkul, the other entry point to Chilika via Khurdha and Balugaon

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Exploring Madurai https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/madurai2_FI.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/exploring-madurai/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ot-getaway-guides/exploring-madurai/ 2017-09-10T10:00:21+05:30 article Here's what you need to know about the ancient city of Madurai Madurai's history can be dated back to the 3rd century BCE. Today, even with the mess of traffic snarls and ugly development, the city is absolutely mesmerising in its own unique way.

Things to See & Do

Meenakshi Temple
The temple complex and its surrounding areas are spread over 60,000sq m. There are no less than 12 gopurams, and the South Tower is the tallest at 150ft. The Thousand-Pillared Hall (the actual number of pillars is 985) is now a museum. The paintings, photographs and icons are a must-see. The temple itself is an extended art gallery of sorts, with over 30 million pieces of sculpture and stucco images. The Sundareswarar shrine within the temple precedes Meenakshis in antiquity. It is here that Lord Indra supposedly found a lingam by the banks of a lake, in a forest of kadamba trees. Today, the lake is venerated as the Potraamarai Kulam (the Golden Lotus Tank). Though it has more weeds than water now, it is still a lovely sight, lined by a colonnade of granite pillars.

The Mukkuruni Vinayakar shrine, with a colossal idol of Ganesha, is splendid. Sangam littrateur Ilango Adigals Thiruvilayaadal Puraanam (Divine Games) is painted on the temple walls note the beautiful restoration near the Meenakshi shrine.

? Entry Free Timings 5.00amnoon, 4.009.30pm Cameras Still ?25, Tip Videography is not allowed

Koodalazhagar Temple
This is a Vaishnavite shrine, richly endowed with gold and silver artefacts. Look for the shields on the main deities, the vessels in which tulsi water is served, and the jataari (the sacred crown that is used for blessing devotees).

Thirumalai Nayak Palace
Built in 1636, this palace is a fine synthesis of Indo-Islamic architecture. The superb rectangular courtyard endures the rubble of repairs with rare dignity. It is the backdrop for a passable Sound & Light Show.

? Entry Adults ?50; Children ?25 Timings English narration 6.45pm

Gandhi Museum
This museum gives an account of the Independence struggle. The blood-stained shawl that Mahatma Gandhi wore when he was shot dead is on display here as well.

? Entry Free Timings 9.00am1.00pm, 2.005.45pm Cameras Still ?5 Videogaphy ?100 (only by permission)

Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam
This artificial reservoir built by Tirumalai Nayak in the 17th century has now been reduced to a pond. It is filled in time for Teppotsavam, the splendid float festival.

Where to Stay

Royal Court (Tel: 0452-2350555; Tariff: ?4,0007,500) and Poppys Hotel (Tel: 4210411; Tariff: ?4,5008,500) are good options.

The Information

When to go OctoberMarch. Catch Pongal festivities in January and the Chithirai Festival in AprilMay

Tourist Office

Dept of Tourism, Govt of TN , West Veli Street, Madurai, Tel: 0452-2334757

STD code 0452

Getting There
Air Madurai Airport (10km from city centre), connected to Chennai, Bengaluru, Coimbatore and Mumbai. Taxi into town costs ?550 approx

Rail Madurai Junction, connected to all metros except Kolkata. The overnight daily Pandyan Express from Chennai (8hrs) is your best bet

Road Smooth drive down NH45 and NH7 from Chennai Bus A bus leaves every 10 mins from Chennais CMBT

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https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/cafe_srinagar_kashmir.jpg http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/srinagar-winterfell-cafe/ http://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/srinagar-winterfell-cafe/ 2017-09-10T10:00:14+05:30 article Check out this GOT-inspired caf if you're in Srinagar The Game of Thrones (GoT) fever seems to have gripped the entire country. As the fictional battle for the Iron Throne rages on and the North readies itself to face the Night Kings army, a caf based on the television show is gaining popularity in Indias real-life northSrinagar. It is aptly named Winterfell Caf after the North domains seat of power in the GoT universe. It opened in December 2016 and features tavern-like, wood-themed dcor and seating, along with merchandise, posters and even a replica of the Iron Throne. The caf hosts plenty of screenings, creative events, workshops and musical performances. If youre a Stark at heart, take your pack to this cosy caf on your next trip to J&Ks summer capital. As they say, winter is coming.

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