EXPLORING INDIA : From Kaziranga to the Himalayas to the desert of Jaisalmer to the backwaters of Allepey to the sun baked coral beaches of Lakshadweep....A first hand account of exploring this beautiful country.
From the colorful Valley of Flowers to the blue lagoons of Lakshadweep to the white sand beaches of the Andamans;
From the snow clad hills of Tawang, or wilderness of Ladakh to the sand dunes of Jaisalmer - chronicling the journeys of a traveller and photographer.
Yet there is so much left to see...so many places left to explore...
Indian Railways is planning to hit the popular tiger circuit of Bandhavgarh and Kanha in Madhya Pradesh with launch of its special train 'Tiger Express'. The services of the semi-luxury train will commence from June 5, the World Environment Day, at Delhi’s Safdarjung railway station. This service is a collaboration between the Railways and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). Packages are available though IRCTC.
This is the first time that Indian Railways will operate a tour package on the wildlife circuit. Apart from luxury trains like Maharaja’s Express, the IRCTC also offers tours packages on the desert circuit, Buddhist circuit, Bharat Darshan , etc.
The five-night-six-day tour will cover Bandhavgarh and Kanha national parks in Madhya Pradesh, apart from Dhuadhar Falls of Bhedaghat, Jabalpur. The “Tiger Express” will only have first and second AC accommodations, with fare starting from Rs.38,500. The parks in MP currently have the highset charges for safaris in the country. The fare includes train ticket, local AC transport, accommodation and food. “The tour will include two tiger safaris at Kanha national park and one at Bandhavgarh, apart from accommodation at three-star hotels. Our prices are affordable keeping in mind the services provided and there are no hidden charges,” said IRCTC spokesperson Sandip Dutta.
Indian tourists travelling to Malaysia can now avail the e-visa. The e-visa system was launched on April 15, 2016. The visa will be processed between 24-48 hours. The processing fee is $25 (approximately Rs 1660) with visa fee of Rs 1000 and transaction fee of Rs 50 online. The total estimated cost is Rs 2710, the payment for which can only be made online. The visa however will be single entry and valid for 30 days. This may be a problem for tourists going to Malaysia and Singapore together using Air Asia services. It should be noted that Kualalumpur is the hub of Air Aisa and hence if you are to change aircraft at KL, then you will have to go through immigration. Therefore you may need multiple entry visa. During my trip to Singapore, KL and Langkawi using Air Asia services from Delhi via KL, I needed multiple entry to Malaysia. I had obtained paper visa for around 1500 rupees. The paper visa was multiple entry with same 30 day validity.
Malaysia received as many as 722,141 tourists from India last year, making the country the 6th largest contributor in terms of tourist arrivals. More information can be gathered from http://www.imi.gov.my.
Soon after acquiring a Sterling Holidays membership in 2014,
I set out to explore its resorts in and around Delhi. While the experience of
its leased resorts at Corbett and Sariska was mixed, we liked the Sterling
owned facility at Mussorie. It was then named as Pine Hill, located 2.5 km off
the mall road, along a pleasantly walkable road with a gentle slope. The 94
room resort is laid on a hill face with a stunning view of the Doon valley,
specially at night. A lot of construction was going on at the site during our
visit. Half of the resort was under renovation. Thomas Cook had acquired
Sterling couple of months back prior to pur visit in 2014. The money being invested by the new owners to
upgrade this facility was on display. We expected that Mussorie was probably on
a path to be classified as a Gold Class resort. We had stayed for 3 nights in a
spanking new room that year. There was something special about Pine Hill, exuding
a kind of lazy charm to give you feel of home in the hills. We had planned to
return here for a longer stay.
Sunrise view from Sterling Dancing Leaves, Mussorie
We did return to Mussorie in 2015 for a longer period of
stay on the long weekend of Dusserah. Renovation is now about 90% complete. The
renovated facility has got a new name. It is now called the Dancing Leaves. The
view from refurbished restaurant is stunning. A new gym and spa is in place. A
lift to cut the flight of 200 plus steps from reception to the bottom most
level cottage by half was under testing. A swimming pool is also planned,
though I doubt how many will use the pool at coolness of 6500 feet.
As I was familiar with the layout of the resort, we decided
to take a room lower down the hill for an unhindered view of the valley. Some
of the upper rooms, though easier to access, have almost no view. Though this
involves climbing up and down the flight of steps many time, we took it as an
opportunity to get ourselves some fitness. Once the lift becomes operational, commuting
will be much easier.
Rooms are quite spacious and aesthetically done. A studio
unit is meant for 3 adults. However the unit is large enough to accommodate a 4th
adult with an extra mattress. Kitchenette is well equipped with microwave,
fridge and utensils. One of the attendant told me that rooms are better than the
JW Marriot resort, where he had worked earlier. JW Marriot’s Walnut Grove is
one of the prime property in Mussorie with charges of 15k plus per night. Being
a Sterling member, per night cost for me was coming to about 2500 for 3 adults.
This cost is calculated after taking into account my membership cost for 80
years and Annual Maintenance Charges. As I had already paid the one time part,
I had to shell out only 850 rupees per night for my stay.
A dazzling Dehradun as seen from from my room in Sterling, Mussorie
Sounds wonderful. But I will also like to tell you about the
flip side of it. My stay was on a long weekend of Dusserah and therefore I
expected a rush. I had to plan well and book exactly 3 months in advance. I
could do it because I have a premium / red season membership. For someone
having lower season membership, it would have been near impossible. This is the
problem with all timeshare holidays, be it Sterling or Club Mahindra.Don’t expect to holiday on short notice.
These companies are selling memberships every day, but their room inventory
expands at snail’s pace. So the demand for each unit of room is increasing
every year. If there is 3 customer for a room today, it will soon become 5 or
more. Though there is a worldwide norm for this, these Indian companies have
not set in any upper limit.
I had wrote in detail in one of my earlier posts about pros
and cons of Timeshare Holiday membership. One of my reasons to buy a timeshare
is to spend few days in peace, cocooned in a remote place, devoid of constantly
ringing telephone, incessant noise and pollution of cars. I have matured from a
sightseeing tourist to a leisure traveller. Being a wildlife photographer, most
of travel takes to me national parks, most of which has become noisy and
crowded. Some of the jungles are peaceful, just because they are difficult to
access. Most of these timeshare resorts are located away from town centres, and
hence provides you that peaceful ambience where you can enjoy the silence and
unwind. Dancing Leaves, Mussorie certainly provides that ambience, with the
mall road just half an hour’s leisurely walk. Or just take a leisure walk by
the resort along the curves of the hill every morning and evening. We certainly
have returned fitter and rejuvenated from our five days stay. We are looking
forward to our next holiday there.
Blogger, Traveller, Photographer. An engineer by qualification (BE - Production), supplemented by an MBA degree, I work as a HR professional for one of the largest Indian corporate - ONGC- a Govt of India enterprise.