Tag Archives: India

REVIEW: MapsWithMe Travel App

Travel is getting tech savvy and the mobile devices boom has enabled the traveller to carry the world in his/her pocket. Now your mobile device helps you call, stay connected socially and help you find your way on the move. I love twitter and I happened to come across the MapsWithMe service during one of those fun events like #ttot.  I’m always curious about new technology and I was drawn into checking out their website. Two words, offline maps & no-grey-screen maps came out glaringly.  I downloaded the app and I was seriously impressed, so I decided to get in touch with them and review their product. MapsWithMe have been very kind to have offered me their Pro version.  Here’s what I liked about the product.Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-05-44

So, when you download the app and launch it for the first time, it does a small download to get the world map in place. Once that’s done you are ready to kick off.  The user interface is very intuitive. You can get your way around all its features very easily and usually within a tap of a button.  When you selected the region you want to explore or plan to travel to, just download the detailed map of that place.
This is great for those who love to research and know about their destination well in advance and it also lets the whimsical people find places that fit their fancy.  I love to plan my trips, even to the exact minute if possible and I really would find this handy. The biggest positive in all of this is that it is completely offline. Once you’ve downloaded the detailed map for a region/country you can search for a little food stall right at the corner of a street offline!

Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-06-20 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-12-41 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-11-28 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-11-46 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-07-37 Screenshot_2013-11-23-22-07-18
The maps are rich in details. You can search for food joints, shops, hotels, sights, entertainment, atms, and even transportation individually or see them simply overlaid on to the map. The GPS constantly gives you the correct direction and the distance from your marked destination.  Another helpful feature in the app is the note tool. You can pin down locations that you want to visit and add a note to it. It’s a handy tool especially when you are unsure of how you plan to spend your day while travelling.

The biggest pro of this app is that it works offline.  MapsWithMe gives a great viewing experience to the user as it doesn’t get those grey patches you typically see when you zoom into a map online. I downloaded the detailed map for India and I was impressed by the quality of information that the maps gave.  I’d surely recommend this app for digital nomads and frequent travellers.

You can check out the features and download the app for your iOS/Android device by clicking on this link: http://mapswith.me/en/home

Do leave your thoughts on this review in the comments below!

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TC Original: My Tryst with Caviar

Caviar in Russia
Caviar in Russia

Eating caviar will never be as fun as the first time I tried this supposed delicacy.  Now I am a foodie inspired by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Bear Grylls but when it came to actually trying new food, I was a bit hesitant.  It was of course the first time I stepped out of India and I had a hard time adjusting to the bland, almost tasteless food that Russia had to offer.  No don’t get me wrong, there are certain cuisines in Russia which have some hints of flavour and taste, but that’s for another blog post, I’m going to tell you about my tryst with caviar in this one.

I’m very choosy about my sea food. Living in Mumbai, I do have a large variety in terms of fish but I am snooty. I prefer eating fresh produce, found in my Uncle’s backyard in Goa.  If anyone’s ever had fresh sea food, you wouldn’t dream of having fish that has been brought in over many days from the high seas.  Moscow and Kazan, the cities I was staying in, unfortunately imported all its sea food from the coastal regions of the mammoth land mass, so fresh ‘Riba’ (Fish in Russian) was completely  ruled out.  There was however one thing that got me curious, Caviar.  Russia is famous for its caviar and I surely wanted to try it once!

Now the method of having caviar in Russia is to take a slice of bread. Plaster it with an inch of butter. Open the golden tin of caviar and scoop out the orange little balls with a spoon onto the bread and butter.  Spread this evenly and prepare to take a bite.  This was a bit difficult for me as I could smell the distinct odour of old fish.  It was I must say, extremely revolting.  I closed my nose and shoved the piece of bread in and started the awkward munching, hoping against hope that I don’t puke it out. Just when I thought the worst was over the little eggs started popping off in my mouth, oozing liquids that accentuated the taste of fish.  Now that’s where I realised it was an acquired taste.  Beer is bitter, but everybody loves that bitter tang that it imparts. I couldn’t brave myself up for another slice of bread with caviar. Enough of adventure for a day, I thought.  A fellow traveller with whom I was sharing the caviar tin with had a ball laughing at my contorted face.  Mind you I had paid 600 Roubles for a 100 gram tin of caviar.

It was a troubling experience for me honestly, but here’s the funny thing. I think I’m going to try caviar once again.  It’s not to prove a point or act even more stupid. It’s simply to relive that memory and in the process hope to may be acquire the taste.

TC Original: Tips for Travel in Russia

Russia is huge and I mean massively huge. It’s half of Europe going all the way to Alaska in North America. I recently travelled to Russia visiting the cities of Moscow & Kazan. Both these cities are beautiful and have their own unique charm. It’s got the European charm that everybody loves and at the same time it has something unique that sets it apart from rest of Europe.  Elements of the ‘Mysterious Russian Soul’ are there in the air and you can feel it when you interact with the people.  Below are some tips which I gathered from my trip.

Visa & visa registration:
Now the Russian tourist visa has a bit of red tape, at least in India. You can get a tourist visa of 30 days maximum and you ought to have proof of hotel reservations for your duration of stay. You need to have an official ‘Invite’ from a tourist agency. They usually charge you anything between 20$ – 30$ for the ‘Invitation’ and a little more if the Russian embassy in your city requires a hard copy.
Once you’re in Russia, ensure that you register your visa with the local post office or immigration office. If you stay in a hotel/hostel, they will do it for you as it’s their lawful obligation.

Internal Travel:
Internal travel in Russia is as modern as it gets. The preferred mode of transport between major cities is by train. Long haul journeys can be fun. It’s recommend trying the Trans- Siberian line. Moscow to Vladivostok is an interesting journey you can try! It would surely be value for money.  In Moscow the metro is great for internal transportation. Places which are further away from metro stations are easily connected with buses.  Kazan on the other hand is much smaller. I’d surely recommend visiting the stunning new Metro Stations.
Kazan Metro

(Kazan Metro)

People & Culture:

Hollywood movies have demonised the Russian and created a negative image of Russians all around the world. Well, the fact is that they are as human as anybody else. The women are drop dead gorgeous and the men are thorough gentlemen (most of them at least).  The culture of Russia is welcoming. There is a huge diversity with people having different ethnicities like Marie, Chuvash, Slavic, Tatar and many more. It’s amazing to see how the communist rule unified all these different ethnicities under one banner. People is Russia love to have a good time, enjoy life  and after all that is done, work hard. Every town in Russia will have a ‘Banya’ a community pool and you are sure to find a ‘Piva’ (Beer) Store next to it.  It’s not advisable to visit them, but if you’re adventurous by all means go for it.

Language:
The official language is Russian, however there a many dialects and sub-languages within the country. Almost like India, the language changes after every 30-50 kms.  Russian is easy to gather and understand if you are attentive.  You can try learning some of these words:

Pri-ve-yt – Hello
Zd-rast-we-tya – Formall Hello
Da – Yes
Neyt – No

Baton – Bread
Vada – Water
Kuri-tsa – Chicken
Spa-ci-bo – Thank you
Bye – Pokah

Money:

The Russians use the Rouble as their currency. Thankfully it trades at 2 INR to 1 RU.  Things are generally expensive in Russia. Sadly the simple jobs don’t pay so well but all the prices are of European standard.  If you eat simple and local you can easily survive in 400 roubles a day for food.

Did you find this helpful? Do leave your comments below, I’d love to chat up!

Jim Corbett National Park Trip by Brian

This post solely covers my trip to Jim Corbett National Park which is located 250 kms from New Delhi. It does not contain anything other than the subject. No, not even my rant or my abusing you. Nothing more, nothing less.

Deer in the forest

So you live in and around Delhi but do not know how to approach the Park. You have heard that getting a booking is difficult and is little complicated to get reservation inside the park. You do not even know which is the off season or on season. You just packed your bag with a jeans and few t-shirts to try your luck for an accommodation at the park.

Right then, you landed at the right place to get more than a first hand information without approaching the agent.

Dhikala main entrance

Dummies guide to Jim Corbett National Park

1. Catch Ranikhet Express from Delhi to Ramnagar. By Delhi station, I mean Old Delhi station not the New Delhi one. As on date, the train departs from Delhi (DLI) at 22:35 and reaches Ramnagar (RMR) at 5 am the next day.
2. The train has the number 5013. Reservation to Ramnagar should be easily available.
3. After reaching Ramnagar, take a tempo (shared auto) which are available just outside the station. They will drop you at the booking office of Jim Corbett National Park.
4. The booking office opens at 6:30 am and issue day safari tickets to other parks inside the Jim Corbett Park namely Dhikala, Bhijrani, Jhirna etc. The safari tickets are very limited which are 30, 20 in number for different parks.
5. Tickets are strictly issued only to visitors but not to agents who stand in the line.
6. If you are given a form to fill your details, that means your safari to one of the parks for that day is fixed. You have to talk to the gypsy guy who is going to take you for the ride inside the park and have to write the vehicle number on the form.
7. Gypsy’s are available right in front of the office itself.
8. You have to pay nominal charges at the counter ranging in the range of Rs.150 to 200 to get an entry inside the parks.
9. You then take your gypsy with a driver and head straight to the park to which you have the permission.
10. You have to pay Rs.900 to the gypsy driver who takes you inside the park for the Safari. The price may vary depending on the park that you are going to visit.
11. It will take two hours for you to complete the safari and the driver will drop you back at the booking office or where desired in Ramnagar.
12. It is mandatory to hire a guide at the Park. He charges Rs. 250 for no reason after explaining a few things on the history of the park.
13. It is advised to take food stuff like fruits, cool drinks, water bottles with you while going for the safari.
14. If you do not want to book a gyspy, there are also Canter rides. Canter is like a mini bus which should cost you cheaper. It is Rs.600 per person for the ride.
15. That is how you are done with your day safari more or less.

Beautiful Ramganga river

Booking an accommodation at Jim Corbett National Park

You planned to stay for a day at the Park? Then you have to book accommodation at the office.

1. The ticket counter to book accommodation at the Park is adjacent to the ticket counter that issues the safari tickets. Accommodation counter opens at 8:30 am as on date.
2. It is not that easy to get accommodation to stay in the park. Dhikala is the main place where you preferably want to stay. It is the important gate as compared to other entry gates.
3. If you cannot get a room or dormitory or hut at Dhikala, you can try for a place to live at a different place like Gairal, Kande etc.
4. Gairal is the place where we stayed in and it is 20 kms far from Dhikala.
5. Reason to prefer an accommodation in Dhikala is you get a chance to go for a safari early in the morning so you get a chance to see more animals.
6. Accommodations will also be available for a day stay in other entry gates like Bhijrani, Jhirna etc, but if you take an accommodation there, then you can only visit that particular park.
7. You cannot go for a safari in Dhikala if you take accommodation in other gates.
8. The facilities at the resting place are neat and they also serve you good food. So you do not have to worry about that.
9. As long as you get a stay in Dhikala, the gypsy driver will stay with you all day. You can go for a safari ride in the evening which starts at 3:30 pm and an early morning ride which starts at 6:30 am.
10. Gypsy driver charge you Rs. 2500 for both the safari’s. He should drop you back to Ramnagar or at your desired location the next day.
11. Whether you are one person or four persons, the gypsy charge should be the same.
12. If you are living in Gairal hut, the driver should charge you Rs.3000 for your stay because Gairal is not inside Dhikala. It is 20 kms away from Dhikala and it takes a 1 hour ride from there to Dhikala to go for a safari inside Dhikala.

Gairal hut

How will be the food and accommodation?

Accommodation in Gairal is very neat. They also serve you food at their canteen at reasonable prices. Even though there is no fan you do not find it necessary to use. Lights will be available in the night for few hours. You have a emergency back up light though.

Gairal hut should cost you Rs. 950 for one day. All the accommodation places are surrounded by electrical fencing so there is no possibility of any animal sneaking in to your location. You should check out your room by 11 am the next morning no matter whatever time you have checked in.

My room in Gairal hut

I have tried to cover as much of known information as possible. Pictures were taken from a camera mobile and you have to bear with the quality. I hope this is helpful and would present you a clear picture of the trip before your travel. If this is not enough, do drop in a comment and I will share whatever I know.

In any case, if your plan has failed and you could not get an accommodation, you can always head to Nainital which is 64 kms from Ramnagar. It would take 3 hours to reach there. You can approach the Corbett office the next day with better preparation.

Credit – This awesome article with pictures can be found HERE:

TREKKING: NEPAL VS. INDIA on himalayantrailtrekker.blogspot.in

With the risk of pissing off some partisan, hardcore Himalayan trekkers, I’d have to say that Nepal and India offers the best treks in the Himalayas. The other countries sharing the Himalayas have spectacular places and mind-blowing scenery as well, but trekking in Bhutan is a bit expensive, Pakistan and Afghanistan have some security issues to sort out at the moment and travel in Tibet lacks the freedom to explore without government interference.

This leaves these 2 countries. So which is best for trekking, Nepal or India?

Trekking Service : Nepal vs. India (1-0)
Trekking in India is often a more lonely experience than trekking in Nepal. Which can be good or bad, depending on what you want. For beginners, Nepal is definitely easier if you go to one of the 3 well-established trekking areas:AnnapurnaEverest and Langtang. You’ll still have to do some serious high-altitude walking, but there will be lodges on the route and typically more trekkers to run into and chat with. This eliminates the need to carry your own food and camping gear, and independent solo treks is not as dangerous when there are more people around, even if they are strangers (risk of getting lost, immobilized by accident).

Camping treks : Nepal vs. India (0-1)
However, if you prefer to go completely remote on a camping trek, India is just as good as Nepal, if not better. Places like Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh (esp. between Manali and Dharamsala) in north-west India has some fantastic routes that really takes you into some very remote and wild parts of the Himalayas. I guess this is a bit like trekking in Nepal in the 1950’s, before the tourist discovered it and the Nepalese started catering to trekkers.

High-altitude trekking : Nepal vs. India (1-0)
At 18,200 feet (5550 meters), Kala Pattar in Nepal’s Everest area is one of the highest “easy-trekking” peaks in the world. Some of the high passes in the same area (Cho La, Renjo La and Kongma La) reach almost the same height. And the Thorung La pass on the Annapurna Circuit (5400 meters / 17,700 ft) is probably the highest mountain pass in the world with that many trekkers passing over each year – it’s ten’s of thousands! But the show doesn’t stop there. So many other high-altitude trails in Nepal, but at 6000+ meters, it’s starting to turn into mountaineering. To mention just one, Mera Peak at 6476 meters (21,247 ft) is still classified as a trekking peak. Going to India, trekking trails can still easily be found over 5000+ meters. I don’t know if I’d call the Stok Kangri Peak (6123 m / 20,080 ft) a ‘trekking peak’, it’s definitely challenging but easier that other 6000+’ers in the area. Think I’ll have to give the point to Nepal on this one because of the relative ease of “normal” trekkers reaching 6000+.

Cheap Trekking : Nepal vs. India (0-1)
When it comes to prices, both countries are relatively cheap to be trekking in. Guides and porters (“Sherpas”) can be hired for 10-20 dollars per day. (A little note: Don’t underpay these guys. They are doing a tremendous job. And pay extra if you require special skills and experience.) It’s my feeling that Nepal is a bit cheaper for normal trekking, but going into certain areas requires hefty fees in Nepal. Dolpo and Mustang trekking fees used to be minimum 1000 USD per person, now somewhat lower. I don’t much care for these extortionist fees, which is why I’ll give India this point.

Trekking Safety: Nepal vs. India (0-0)
Nepal used to have a Maoist insurgency raging, but that ended in 2006. Even then, trekkers were never really targeted except for “donations” (involuntary, but not too hefty). The highest trekking risks in Nepal are from landslides, avalanches and plane crashes. Bus / jeep accidents and thieves are other things to watch out for. It happens, but not much. Comparing to India, hmm… I don’t have exact statistics, but taking the total numbers into account, don’t think there is much difference here. Roads and airfields are probably a bit better in Inda than in Nepal, but it’s my feeling that crime is higher in India. Certainly, in the upper part of the notorious Parvati Valley, one needs to fare with caution. Nepal or India? Split decision on this one.

Conclusion : What’s best, Trekking in Nepal or India? : Final Score = 2-2!
Sorry, I can’t proclaim a general winner here. So many factors make up a great trek: Good weather, view of snow-capped peaks, cultural encounters, high-altitude landscapes, good food, friendly people, diverse trails… Both India and Nepal have all these. Think I’ll just say that trekking in India is a bit more wild, whereas trekking in Nepal is a bit easier to arrange and complete. It’s up to you to choose which you prefer!

Credit: Read the complete article HERE

Backpacking India Part-II: A Parallel Journey by Kusum Sanu on Scrapbook.

From my previous backpacking trip (Part-I) I have learnt one thing! When traveling not to have a dictating plan … have complete flexibility. No restrictions of booked train reservations, flights or hotels. Take the available public transport to get to the next destination. Moving forward from one town to another, passing through the forests and deserts, carrying a load-full of bitter-sweet memories, lingering taste of local food, lessons learnt from the past mistakes, knowledge gained from the strangers and a 40L backpack with bare necessities.
What does travel mean? Moving from one place to another for few days, stay in a hotel, eat in restaurants and collecting pictures? Different people have different definitions for travel, different reasons to travel … I too have my own reason! I have an intense inner compulsion to travel! It doesn’t matter where I am heading to, I should be on the move looking forward to something! Where will this search for unknown things end? I have no idea.
With the backpacking trip in the state of Madhya Pradesh- The heart of Incredible India they say, I pushed myself to the edge … Since then, in unknown places I find myself wiser than before! Not to pre-judge anything or anybody, understand more of a situation, have more sympathy and compassion, at the same time know how to differentiate fake from the reality. I have realized people in India are more interested in personal information. At times, I cook up a story instead of telling truth. I find people are interested  in  stories more than reality, otherwise Bollywood wouldn’t be such a huge industry 🙂 And also, I got used to hop over the disgusting spit and cross the roads without loosing my life or limbs.
Travelling in India is a very different experience, the country is so diverse. Physically it is one single journey. And then, also is a cocktail (journey) of religious, spiritual, adventurous, cultural and heritage all combined. I call my trip was a Parallel journey… Visiting and exploring new places had  unexpected opportunities of pilgrimage. Along with the adventure of traveling I was enjoying the knowledge of legends associated with the places. From my childhood I have been listening to the stories of Hindu mythology from my very religious Mother. And I was thrilled to visit those places which stand as proof of those stories.
I visited the cities of IndoreBhopal and Jabalpur, followed the call of the wild toChambalKanhaPench and Bandhavgarh National Parks, tried to read the history on the stones of ManduMaheshwarBhojpurVidishaGyaraspurUdaypurChanderiKhajuraho andOrchha, got soaked in the beauty of the forests and waterfalls of Pachmarhi, admired the valor of Rani Lakshmibai in Jhansi, Shivapuri and Gwalior, followed holy River Narmada from her birth place Amarkantak to her confluence with River Kaveri in Omkareshwar, had Ram Darshan in Chitrakoot, wandered on the streets of sacred city- Ujjain, got lost on off beaten paths to VidishaGyaraspurUadaypur and Bhojpur, and visited the principal center of Buddhism-Sanchi. The list of destinations and monuments apart, the experiences along the journey to them were life changing.
I took buses and trains for transport. I took a train from Gwalior to Bhopal, my 2-AC ticket was still in waiting list #1 even after the chart was prepared. I hardly knew anything of general compartments in trains, I never knew ladies compartment existed! I was nervous and excited at the same time! The travel had brought an opportunity to experience something which I had never done before! I purchased the ticket and waited for the train to arrive. When the train arrived there was a deluge of people and I was shocked to sense that! Before I could react I was helplessly pulled away by the crowd. There was no chance of getting out of that mass of people. And then without even realising I was inside … there was no place to sit or to keep my backpack. A kind women told me to get on the upper berth pointing at a little space and I obeyed her. Then she told me I would be comfortable there otherwise me and my luggage wouldn’t survive! Few others asked me why was I in this compartment. Why shouldn’t I? I asked. According to them foreigners have a lot of money to spend and hence shouldn’t crowd the general bogie and be in reservation compartments instead! I was not comfortable with that kind of hostility. I sat there for 5 hours wondering why people of Madhya Pradesh thought I was a foreigner! Couldn’t get an answer!! My wild guess would be my hair and my backpack!

Getting off the train was another adventure all together! A flood of people was trying to get off the train and another flood was trying to enter through those narrow doors! After 2 minutes the siren blared! People went frantic … So I got off the train on the other side of the platform, yes that is on the tracks, only to realize the siren blaring was from another train!! Ha ha … what a mess?! Now, after walking on the tracks I tried to get on to the high platform. A kind grown-up boy pulled me up along with my backpack! I feel in those 5 mins of “disembarking drama” I might have lost a KG of weight because of anxiety! I was worried that if I missed the station I might have to take another train back and travel in general compartment!!! I would never forget my 40-days backpacking trip to Madhya Pradesh and the journey in (ladies) general compartment. Even saved the journey ticket as a souvenir 🙂

Look for me to report on individual destinations and many interesting things about Madhya Pradesh in coming weeks 🙂

PS: The picture of a male- Marsh Harrier (?) was taken at Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary,Karnataka.
—Leave a comment to tell me about your dramatic experience 🙂

You might also want to read other posts in Backpacking India series … Click HERE for list of links.Credit – This AWESOME article is on Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.