10 must do things when you are in India

 

  1. Attend a festival – We have so many festivals in India that every month you can count a few.  India is the most colorful land when it comes to festivals. No matter which month you go, there is always something going on. Although few big festivals are Holi, Diwali and Dussehra are the main festivals.
  2. Attend a marriage – Indians have big fat weddings and some of the riches are famous for show off as well but it’s worth attending a marriage when you are there as it is an easy way to immerse yourself in the culture and get the feel of the soul of Indian culture in short time that too with a lot of fun.
  3. Cook an Indian meal – You will learn so much about different spices that Indians use in their food as well as the reason to use them. Ever spice has a property that helps either in digestion or healing or something else in your body that you will discover when you try cooking some of the stuff. Do learn how to cook ‘daal’ and ‘saag’. You would be able to boast when you go back that you can cook some Indian food and guess what lots of people around the world love Indian food.
  4. Watch any classical dance performance – We have many
  5. Go to temple and worship in traditional way. Every evening devotees gather to sing praise in temples and it is music to ear and one of the things that you must experience
  6. Eat at the stalls by the side of streets – Give it some more time when you arrive in India as you might be new to this kind of non-hygienic way of eating but locals eat on such place almost every day. Even the corporate professionals walk down the street from their work place to enjoy some snacks every now and then. Make sure that you eat something that is cooked in front of you and not sitting there for quiet a while. There are some hygienic but little expensive options to try the same things in good restaurants like Haldiram where hygiene is guaranteed. Although many Indians think it doesn’t taste as good as the roadside food but it should be fine as long as you can get the feel of various food here. Like everywhere else you can also get McDonald here but with an Indian touch. Although I would suggest to avoid that if you are not feeling home sick.
  7. Shop from the street market and bargain the price – One of the surprising experience you might have when you buy something less than 20% of the actual cost. You need to know that most of the times shop keepers rise the price when they think you are a foreigner. So make sure not to get ripped just because you are travelling. One of the tricks to get a good bargain is not to show much interest otherwise they are smart enough to know that you like the stuff and you might be happy to pay any price they ask for.
  8. Live with a local family – This is the closest you can see and live the soul of the very culture in any country. And India is no different. So make friends and try to live with some one’s family and eat home made food. I bet you wouldn’t regret it.
  9. Get a pic on a rickshaw and bus – You will see the difference immediately from other places. It’s fun though.
  10. Travel by train – I know its is a little bit tough and scary at first but after listening to many fellow traveler I can say one thing. You can see true India here. Just few hours of journey and you will make lots of friends and hear many stories. But make sure you keep your bags around you all the time in case something is not insured.
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Top 5 crazy things you can do in India

India is a land of spirituality and festivals. People go to India for different reasons. Some of them are listed here:

Spiritual Meditation Yoga
Exotic Culture Food
Travel a new country Attend a marriage Seventh wonder – Taj Mahal
Stop Over Work Study – very less
Trekking Adventure Live

But there is a crazy side of India as well and five of them you can do are listed here.

  1. Diving with elephants – You must have heard of diving with sharks, whales, dolphins and many other sea life creatures, but elephants. Yes, you can do such things in India in Andaman. Its a good location for diving. Emerald Isles is the place where you can either snorkel or dive with this amazing elephant called Rajan.
  2. Feed rats – Don’t throw the food if a rat has bitten it. It doesn’t sound very appealing right, but there is a temple in India where people feed rats and eat the food bitten by rat with high regards. It is a house for more than 20,000 rats and spotting a white rat is considered auspicious for religious purposes.
  3. Self driven car – It’s very unlikely that you will get a car that can drive itself. But something that can never happen anywhere can happen in India. Yes there is a place in Ladakh called Magnetic Hill where if you stop your car and put it to neutral then it will start moving at the speed of 10-20 KM per hour. No it is not a ghost town but there are some
  4. Live in a tree house  – Why not, live the dream you had since your childhood and live in the tree house in Kerala. Vythiri Resort provides a comfortable to live in a tree house where you will have all the luxury you can imagine with an amazing view of this bird territory.
  5. Auto-rickshaw race – Now this is not so out-of-the-box after all. But still sounds a bit wired. This challenge  is called MUMBAI XPRESS. This 14 days challenge will cover 1900 KM (approx. 1180 miles) and can be done in a team of two. It starts every year in August from Mumbai and ends in July in Chennai. You can see the variety of the geography (from hills to valley and beaches) doing this if you ever fancy going completely crazy. http://www.rickshawchallenge.com/trips/mumbai-xpress/

World’s End is here, what you are going to do? Please don’t Jump at least – Part 4 (Travel faster or Fast Travel – Sri Lanka in 7 crazy days)

Yes I really mean it – don’t jump when you see World’ end. You will see what I mean. So in continuation of my last three posts here is the fourth one and hopefully we will finish with the journey soon. Here are the links to my old posts in the series in case you are interested, although there is no as such dependency hence you can enjoy just this post as well.

Part 1: https://talkingexperience.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/travel-faster-or-fast-travel-sri-lanka-in-7-crazy-
days
Part 2: https://talkingexperience.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/go-go-go-rest-of-sri-lanka-is-waiting-part-2-travel-faster-or-fast-travel-sri-lanka-in-7-crazy-days/
Part 3: https://talkingexperience.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/time-to-slow-down-wait-one-more-day-to-go-before-that-part-3-travel-faster-or-fast-travel-sri-lanka-in-7-crazy-days/

And now that we have enjoyed one of the most amazing train ride to Nuwara Eliya, time to explore this city located at an altitude of 1,868 m (6,128 ft) and one of the most important location for tea production. So do remember to drink tea here 🙂

It was almost 3 AM when I got here so first thing I wanted to do was to find a place to live. As always I depended upon the local expert advice and got a home stay after some research around the area – close enough to be able to walk to the main market and far enough to get it in budget. But it’s a very expensive place to live as compared to other towns as most of the things are imported in this town. But after talking to locals they feel it’s worth as the water here is purified and tap water is drinkable as compared to the other towns and many other good things about the town in spite of high taxes. After arranging my stay in a small lodge, owned by a very friendly family, I headed to find my favorite Sri Lankan food – Kottu (roti/bread made with various vegetables). I try to look for places where locals eat as such places have got more authentic food and also you get to meet locals at times. I end up meeting few people who could speak Hindi (my native language) in one of such local restaurant. They treated me like a VIP, and to be honest after such a long and tiring day I just loved it. They also told me a little bit about how to get around and places worth visiting here. I was lucky to witness a festival, a Hindu procession, that they were celebrating that day in the town as well. And then I visited a local temple.

I bid goodbye to my new local friends in the restaurant and it was time to mingle with the family where I was staying. I had a really nice conversation with them and they told me about a place called – ‘World’s End’. I listened to the name and that’s it. It was something I had to see as the name was so fascinating that I had to see what’s it all about. Now to remind you, in Sri Lanka there is entrance fees on most of the things. And the this was one of the most expensive places to visit. As there is no public transport to get here so you have a choice from hiring a car to an Auto-rickshaw. Also it takes at least 3 hours (with speed) to visit this place and 1.5 hours to get here. So in total at least 6 hours time is needed. One more tip: This is actually a very high place (you will see the details soon), and the weather here is clear mostly in the mornings only so the earlier you start, the better it is. Also if you can get some locals to show you around then it is awesome because the fees for local is lot less than foreigners (4500 Sri Lankan Rupee) and 3500 Rupee for Auto-rickshaw hire. So here I was, about to start my journey to the world’s end and was about to find out the truth. Is it really the end of the world? I was so excited and it reminded me of movie 2012. Is it going to be more adventurous than that. Lol, lets find out.

There are two main places here – World’s End (870 m) and Mini World’s End (270 m). Depending upon which way you choose, you will arrive at one of them first and then another 0.5 KM will take you to the another spot. Its about 8 KM walk that also includes a waterfall called – Baker’s Fall. A very beautiful and scenic place but requires some climbing down to it. Although locals makes it looks simple even in their floaters but be careful as it might be slippery and steep so keep your stuff in a bag and good shoes will help as well. And do not worry about getting dirty in the mud as it is also a possibility. Weather wise this place is amazing as every half kilometer the weather changes and you might get a chance to see sun, rain and fog all in few hours. So keep a jumper and a rain jacket with you in case you prefer to stay warm and cozy.

Now that I am running out of space in this post so I will continue in next post with the closing of this series. But next destination is full of natural places that you can visit for free. And also a very heart warming story is waiting for you that melted my heart as I was about to get a bit frustrated of being treated like a tourist (money spending machine) all the time. So hold on as I will be back soon. Till then Stay healthy and keep smiling 🙂

Time to Slow down? Wait one more day to go before that – Part 3 (Travel faster or Fast Travel – Sri Lanka in 7 crazy days)

I am back 🙂 I know you have enjoyed the last two posts and hope I can share as much as possible in this post with you as well. I didn’t intent to make it a series here but had so many pics and so many incidents to share that turned out that can’t be written in one post. So after last two posts here comes some adventure and more relaxing way to travel in third post 😉

Here is the link to last two posts in case you haven’t read them already or want to read again 😉 Although to be clear there is not much dependency so you can go ahead and read this only as well.

Part 1: https://talkingexperience.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/travel-faster-or-fast-travel-sri-lanka-in-7-crazy-days/

Part 2: https://talkingexperience.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/go-go-go-rest-of-sri-lanka-is-waiting-part-2-travel-faster-or-fast-travel-sri-lanka-in-7-crazy-days/

Now that I was done with Sigiriya, I took another bus to get to Dambulla, city famous for cave temple. It takes almost 40 minutes to get there. But to be honest I felt its more over a stop over for few hours and better to continue to next destination after this if you don’t want to spend time in one place only. I checked out the Cave Temple.

Now that I had seen the temple it was time to go to another city where I could be more comfortable staying and might get a chance to go out. Kandy, my next stop, was like a town in India (Nainital – near my home town Almora). Its main attraction is the lake in the center of the town. It has got a feel of hill station to it. And I really felt glad that this is where I planned to stay finally.

 

It was this feeling that made me more energetic after already been to two towns before getting here. Now the next task ahead was to find a place to live. It was close to 4 PM so not much time in hand but still enough. So I stated walking around the lake. I saw a road going uphill and started walking on it with my backpack. It was a rough walk after a tiring day but then I was not going to settle down with just any Auto-rickshaw telling me where I can stay as they always quote a higher price. And by now I was in the country for 4 days so felt like I am already an expert (which was a mistake really to be this over confident). I kept walking and then I realized the higher you go the more expensive the hotels were. I talked to few locals and they pointed out to few directions I could go and I finally went to a home-stay but at this height, not even home stay was cheap. I gave up and as directed by one of the locals, I finally took an Auto-rickshaw and went to find a better and cheap place to stay that can fit in my backpacker’s budget. Note: You don’t have backpackers much in countries like this (other than Colombo). But it’s still cheaper to get a room at your own.

I finally found a really nice place and that too very cheap in a hotel. And it was time to get some food as my physical strength was giving up by now. I got fresh and headed to the town now. Got some local food like last time – Kottu (roti made with various vegetables). I loved it and was eating it almost everyday. This time I was really brave and determined to at least try few Sri Lanka dishes and one fruit, one sweet-dish and if possible one local drink. And guess what – I tried them all. And you know what now I am already feeling hungry talking about it 🙂 So after food and some desert, I was ready to go out for a drink. I met a polish guy who was also willing to see some nice club in the town. The more the merrier and we headed to a nice place and I tried the local drink called Arrack. Also spelled arak, it is a distilled alcoholic drink made from either the fermented sap of coconut flowers, sugarcane, grain (e.g. red rice) or fruit, depending upon the country of origin. It was really strong and I felt right to order just once. And was happy enough that I could still remember the way to home..lol. Don’ t worry I am never that drunk as directions are like my sixth sense and if I know the  way then I can always get my way no matter what.

Next morning was so beautiful that I could not complain to get up early. I had inquired the last evening where I wanted to go today – ‘Bahirawakanda Viharaya’. Its a 88 feet high Buddha temple on top of a hill and provide a bird’s eye view of the town.

I was already on my way to this place as I was missing some exercise so I planned to walk to this place. It’s an hour walk at max and very pleasant if you start first thing in the morning, although I started around 10 AM. But it was fine anyways. I made sure that I keep my sandals with me in my bag (just in case I loose it as I could not afford walking back barefoot). It was a treat for eyes to see this very big statue of Buddha. It has got a little museum with different wall cravings on it. It was a nice and refreshing walk back to the town.

Now it was time to head to the most important location for tea production in Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya. It is located in the hill country of the central province in Sri Lanka. Its name means – City of Light. If you ever go to Sri Lanka then the train ride is a must. So you better get ready for one of the most amazing train ride through a very beautiful breathtaking scenery.

Go go go….Rest of Sri Lanka is waiting – Part 2 (Travel faster or Fast Travel – Sri Lanka in 7 crazy days)

So where were we…yes it is in continuation of my last post as I promised..but don’t worry if you missed that as there is no such connection that you would need to know something in advance to read this one. So go ahead and have your share of fun – at my expense 😉

Here is the link for my last post though in case you are thinking what fun you might have missed:

https://talkingexperience.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/travel-faster-or-fast-travel-sri-lanka-in-7-crazy-days/

Now I was in the bus to Polonnaruwa, second old capital of Sri Lanka. Although after visiting Anuradhapura I was not going to be surprised to see thousands of years old buildings and their remain I thought but being a traveler you are always curious for unseen and new places and things. So here I was in another town. It was a bit difficult to get seat in the bus so I preferred to stand like many other locals and tried to use my biceps muscle power to keep myself from falling on the floors or outside the door as I was close to the front door. I then realized that I had made some good biceps picking up my backpack in last few weeks of travelling in Nepal and here. Not that I am going to use it as my strong point as I am not into body building or something but it helps when in the plane or other places I can just lift my big backpack with one hand and fit it into any high place at my own…hehehe..funny though 🙂 But finally when I gave up and sat on the floor then a gentleman offered me his seat as he was getting down. I enjoyed sitting for half an hour and got ready to meet this new town and enjoy what it has to offer now.

It was evening and I was very happy with myself now as I had enough time to find a place to live and get some decent food after all this hard work. Yes, this is what I call hard work when I travel – successfully execute challenging targets ;), like getting at places on time…hehehehe…See I told you, you are going to have fun on my expense…go ahead I don’t mind.

I saw one guy approaching me with a card of a hotel and he told me that he can offer me great price. But here I was all over-confident about my capabilities of finding a better place than this. So I politely raised my hand in a gesture of saying no and started walking towards the town. I walked for 15 minutes and saw a bunch of girls walking towards my direction. Being a girl I felt that it will be easy to communicate with the same gender. But what I didn’t realize was that none of them could understand even a single word of English. Now that was a sign of trouble. I regretted the decision of not listening to the guy at the bus stand. But with my attitude it got hard to go back so I continued. See sometimes tiredness of travel can make you stupid and rude. And I walked into another hotel which was way too expensive than what I was already been offered. But my luck is good at times and I saw that guy again. This time I was very happy to see him and he asked me instantly if I am happy to stay at the hotel he mentioned. Next minute I was on my way to the same hotel with good price and close to the market.

I got a nice big room for my own. In Sri Lanka there is not much of a backpacking culture but if you are travelling with your friend then its very cheap to get a room and it gives you more privacy and freedom rather than sharing a place with 6-7 other people at times. But still both have their pros and cons. Anyways soon after getting fresh I got an awesome deal that if I want then the same guy can arrange an Auto for me to see the town and it was 3 PM so I didn’t really mind it as it could free me the next day to explore more places. Soon I got the auto and started taking pictures of this new awesome and old place. This place had the same rule – either buy the pass or get the auto rickshaw to show you around. I was too tired to walk all around it so I chose the second option.

Entrance Ticket for Polonnaruwa

Entrance Ticket for Polonnaruwa

This place took me by surprise due to its tall and huge buildings and remains of the kingdom. Nothing like Anuradhapura and I felt good about my decision to come here. I was taking so many pictures to make sure that if I miss any details then I can revisit them again. Also here are some of those cherished memories for you as well.

It was sunset again – my weakness for some reason 🙂 Yes, I know it sound romantic but I think I am in love with nature then…hehehe. So I started taking pics of the sunset. Please note that in pilgrimage places you are asked to leave your footwear outside the gate at most of the places. Tip: Try to keep it in your bag. Why? Here is the answer – After I returned from the temple, I could not find my sandals on the gate. I searched it for 30 minutes with head torch. Not that it was a gift that I could not live without, but I had to walk  to the next temple barefoot, which believe me is not very comfortable for your feet on concrete and uneven ground.

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I got a bit angry at the fact that whoever took it didn’t even think of the inconvenience that would cause to the owner. But who thinks that right. I got a very beautiful on my way to the next temple in the night though. So I would take that as a reward.

I got home a bit upset and went to a hotel to get my food. After dinner I got normal again with my smiling face. Also I tried Sri Lanka breakfast (Hopper and String Hopper)

20130326_190645 20130326_190544for dinner which I didn’t have a clue is actually eaten for breakfast, till I read it under the breakfast menu the next day somewhere. I also tried the Watalappam (sweet dish). And then I retired to bed with content heart and peaceful head finally.

Good morning! New morning and new  things to look forward to. What else you want in life? But unfortunately my adventure never leaves me feeling this way. I paid for my hotel and caught a bus to next place – Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock. Its a 200 meter high rock basically which was chosen by the king Kasyapa for his capital due to security reasons (it was easy to see from the top of the rock if some one was approaching the castle). I got dropped on the way from where I was supposed to get another bus to Sigiriya. When I arrived there then I was informed that I have to pay another 30 USD.

Lion Temple

Lion Rock

Now this was enough as I was paying everywhere and this was not in my budget (poor planning). But I was not going to back down by this fact so God listened to me and a local told me that he can show me another temple from where I can actually see Sigiriya clearly and would need to pay only 2 USD. What a deal, I got ready instantly. I went to this temple with him as he was happy to show me around (nice people).

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This temple is called ‘Pidurangala’. You can have an awesome view (carry binoculars if you need a super close view). I visited temple and then the local guide told me that I have to keep walking to the top.

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Due to the trees I was not sure how much clear view I was going to get of Sigiriya. But I had lost my appetite to see it due to the high entrance fees really, specially when you have to pay to see every damn thing. Pardon my language but that was how I felt really. So I kept climbing the stairs. Stopping on my way to take pictures and then again climbing up.

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My heart beat was high in unusual manner and I though it might be due to this exercise. But then I realized my feet are giving up. And I had to sit down on a rock. Instantly I calculated the time we took to get here and a quick observation of my situation made it clear that I was going to faint soon as I was dehydrated. Wow, that can be taken as a big zero for my carelessness. How could I not carry water? How could I be so careless? Everyday I do drink enough to keep me going but today I had no water and as I woke up late so skipped my breakfast as well. No lollies or any snacks in my bag. That’s it. I felt that it was over. At this strange place with this strange person, I am in deep trouble now. I asked the guy to bring me water. First he denied asking if I can walk back rather. But after insisting he got ready to get me some water. I literally prayed to God and said sorry for being so irresponsible. Then I found a place to lie down and get some air as I was breathing hard. Then not sure why but started thinking what would James Bond do in my situation to hide the passport and other important things I was carrying in my bag to secure them. See this is called movie buff when you are about to faint but still thinking that you are smart as James Bond….lol. But fortunately I didn’t have to show my smartness and I was feeling better soon. Also the guy brought me some water and I drank all of it. Then what, we started climbing again. Crazy right….yes I know. But I came here so far then how could I turn back. So I kept moving and after some rock climbing, as its not as easy as Sigiriya (proper stairs are available there), we arrived at the top. And there it was awesome view of the Lion Rock (Sigiriya). I felt alive again. This was the 360 degree view for which I worked hard till now. It was worth I would say.

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On the way there was this most amazingly beautiful statue of Buddha as well. Now why don’t I continue in another post. Hope you enjoyed this post and come back to read another one. Hopefully tomorrow 🙂

Me - All revived after this nice view in-front of me out of nowhere

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Road less travelled but memories much cherised

I am back with some more pics of Almora …hope you like it 🙂