Kerala: human by nature

On our travels across the length and breadth of India, we often come across brilliant people who make the trip, that much special. And talking about kind people, Kerala comes to mind almost instantly! A state well regarded for its natural heritage and beauty, Kerala is a land of beautiful people and rich flora and fauna, where experiences amalgamate with memories to stay in our hearts forever! It is the great appeal of this diverse state that keeps calling us back.

In our quest of finding offbeat places even in a popular destination like Kerala, we have made connections that will stay with us always. Telling all the stories will be no less than a novel. Hence, we will share three stories where our experiences were enriched by human touch. We hope you like reading this blog and plan for your Kerala trip as soon as Covid19 restrictions are removed!

kerala tourism human by nature

THE UNEXPECTED NATURALIST – THEKKADY

“Sir, did you not go for a safari today?”

“No, we reached late!”

“Worry not Sir, I will make sure that your day is not wasted.”

Thekkady is a must visit for anyone who loves wildlife as much as we do. The entry to the stunning Periyar National Park, Thekkady is a small town, located right on the edge of the forest. The KTDC Aranya Nivas and Lake Palace will be the best choice for anyone wanting to take in the jungle vibes completely! We arrived at Aranya Nivas a wee bit late for the afternoon boat safari. Disheartened, Joy and I took a walk to Periyar House, the other KTDC property for some chai and snacks. Both the properties are located inside the forest and one can hear the melodious songbirds heading home, constant chatter of crickets and a whole lot of evening activity in the jungle. Feeling satisfactorily spooky, we headed back to Aranya Nivas. At the gate, the guard welcomed us with a big smile and instantly, we started chatting with him about Periyar. The conversation on top ensued.

Mutthu (Name changed) told us, “We have very special guest from the jungle, who visits the periphery of the property every night.”

“I will call you Sir, if he comes today.”

Waiting with bated breath we went back to our room. The intercom rang sharp at 8.55 PM, Mutthu’s voice buzzed.

“Sir, please come to the gate now. Our guest is here!”

It took us just a few seconds to reach as we darted with our cameras, and there it was! A fully grown Porcupine, just beside the secure fence of the hotel.

I had never seen a live Porcupine before in my life and i squealed in joy! The little prowler went around in circles for a bit giving us a chance to take a good look at his spikes, his head and the cute little rodent feet! Immensely grateful, we thanked the guard for his timely intimation and giving us a real taste of the jungle, without going on any safari! It was an incredible moment and just by being kind, he etched his place in our hearts. People who you connect with in a strange new place, basis a common love for jungles and wildlife, are the best kind of people according to us!

THE ADVENTUROUS NAVIGATOR- MUNNAR

“Tea bushes have to be old to be tasty. This estate has over 150 year old tea plants.”

We were travelling from Kochi to Munnar via Kumarakom and Thekkady. It’s often the journey that brings you the most exquisite and unexpected encounters, we have noticed.

Meet Varghese Thomas – a small business entrepreneur from the Shola Hills of Munnar who came to pick us up and take us to our next destination near Munnar.

On hearing where we wanted to go, he took a few moments to fathom the route, taking us to a remote corner of the state. There were road blocks for construction, on the way. Undeterred by the longer route, he joined us on an adventure and willingly offered to take us to some places off the beaten track on the way!

Varghese calls Chinnakanal, a little village on the foothills of the Shola Mountain Range his home. On our journey towards Shola Crown Munnar, a luxurious retreat just outside of the main city, nestled in the cardamom plantations of Shola range, he told us many stories. In his childhood, he had ridden ATB’s across these forests, chasing elephants! Enthralled by his knowhow of the land and the people, we got immersed in his incredible stories on the road. He also showed great interest in aerial photography when we stopped on the way to fly the drone. Apparently, he himself has worked with quadcopters for mapping topography of the area in the past!

Varghese Thomas on the left

He took us to Anayirangkal Dam where the views took all the stress of a city life, away from our minds.

Next on the way, Varghese stopped by a tea estate and introduced us to a couple of tea workers who were on their way home for lunch. After exchanging greetings and our purpose of travel, they kindly asked us to take a photo of them, and we obliged happily! After all, it is the human connect that makes the photographs on social media so special.

He explained to us the history of tea plantations in Kerala, the age of the plants we were looking at and finally, broke a few leaves and crushed them to let us smell the fragrant aroma of fresh tea leaves. His knowledge about not just destinations but the inherent history of the place, filled us with awe. After spending a day in Munnar, Joydeep had to travel back to Kochi for another trip and Varghese escorted him late evening through the hilly roads of Chinnakanal safely, where elephants often come down by the road. The next day, he also came forward with a helping hand when my cousin who was supposed to join us from Bangalore, got lost due to road work diversions in the main city. A timely phone call and my brother was on his way with Varghese’s wife and daughter who were luckily in the Munnar town! They escorted him back to Chinnakanal to their home, offered refreshments and allocated another driver from their village, to drive him back to the hotel after an exhausting day! Varghese Thomas – we will never forget you.

A CHEF’S APPETITE- WAYANAD

“Sir, do you need anything more to eat?”

“No Selva. We are too full already!”

When in Kerala, aside from everything beautiful, the food is worth writing a whole blog about! The variety of food aside, the love that Malayalis have for feeding others is remarkable. We had taken a short trip to Wayanad back in 2017 with a few friends. Arriving at our stay high up within a coffee estate during high monsoon, our excitement was doubled when the estate jeep escorted us uphill through roads that we will never dare to drive on with a standard car.

Once fresh after a shower, we headed to the dining room for a surprise that took over our trip for the next few days. An unforgettable platter of delectable food, prepared by the in house chef at Marmalade Springs Resort, was in front of us. There was fish fry, chicken kerala fry, mixed vegetables, beans curry, rotis, rice, daal and a few more items, ending with a homemade dessert that left no more space in our stomach. And the sojourn had only begun!

The dinner spread

The next morning, a huge breakfast spread awaited our attention, and when we were unbelievably full, we asked for the chef. A gentle looking man with polite demeanour appeared before us and introduced himself as Selva. Language barrier was not a problem to express how delighted and grateful we were for his incredible hospitality. What happened next was bewildering and funny for us urbanites.

Selva, always happy to feed guests.

Selva ran away as if he remembered something and came back with a few baskets, refilled with breads, puris and more omelettes for each of us! Breaking out in a laughter, we had to politely apologise as we had already eaten so much. The expression on Selva’s face was of disbelief and a little hurt i believe. We felt heartbroken at that and asked the Manager to kindly express our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for his food, and assure him that we will eat well at lunch.

The next few meals, Selva kept running back and forth from the kitchen whenever we asked for a second serving and brought us way more than we could eat! The beauty of Wayanad is the monsoons had already charmed us, and got us to relax and enjoy the amazing views from our resort. In fact, in order to digest all that food, we decided to take a walk down to our car and head to a nearby waterfall hike while it rained heavily. All because we didn’t want to see Selva sad at dinner if we couldn’t eat properly. We had never met anyone like Selva before or after this trip, at least not yet! His eagerness to serve guests ensuring happy tummies, gave us so much joy, it is perhaps indescribable in words.

Such, is the love of the people of Kerala, that keeps pulling us to this beautiful state full of adorable surprises like these stories! At the end of it all, there is nothing more true than the tagline of Kerala Tourism, #HumanByNature.

We made a tribute video on the beauty of Kerala with a legendary Malayalam poem by Chnagampuzham Krishna Pillai. Watch it below:

You should checkout this brilliant campaign video created by the Kerala Tourism Department that captures the true essence of this world famous destination, in its glory!

This post is written in collaboration with Kerala Tourism. The experiences described are personal.

A TIGER TALE OF LOVE: MUKUNDRA HILLS

“LOVE may have the strongest arms, but it can still fall short of an embrace.” – Unknown

Love, an emotion that still transcends any scientific reasoning and keeps surprising us. An emotion not just limited to us humans, but seen all around nature. From swans pairing for life to hornbills dying at the death of it’s partner, there are multiple instances of love and bonding seen even amongst animals.

But this tale ,as unique as it may sound , is the love story of two Tigers, never seen or heard before.

India is the last stronghold for the TIGER. With a world population of only 3800 tigers left in the wild, the jungles of our subcontinent is home to 78% of them, the last count as in 2018 being 2967 . With successful conservation efforts in states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Assam and Uttarakhand, the tiger population is fortunately increasing. But with growing numbers of these big cats, come increasing cases of human animal conflicts. Rapid decline of the buffer corridors to these jungles pose a threat to the wandering tigers as they come in contact with villagers or attack grazing cattle for an easy meal. Often these conflicts result in casualties on both sides, with farmers poisoning waterholes to take revenge for their stolen/dead cattle.

Rajasthan : The Tiger fortress

Rajasthan has been the tiger stronghold since the early days. The Ranthambore fort, used by the Rajputs and British viceroys as hunting grounds, killing thousands of tigers for sport and the prized hide for a trophy, is now the prime home to the Queens tigresses of Ranthambore, namely Machli and her lineage of impressive royal bengal tigers.

With tiger population rising in the Ranthambore National Park, efforts are being made to revive the erstwhile tiger reserves of Sariska National Park and find new habitat in the upcoming MUKUNDRA HILLS TIGER RESERVE.

This is where the tale of our lovebirds set afoot.

Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve is unfurled across four districts – Kota, Bundi, Chittorgarh and Jhalawar covering an area of 759 sq km in Hadoti region of Rajasthan. The core area of the new tiger reserve is around 417 sq km and buffering zone covers around 343 sq km.

Earlier known as Mukundra Hills (Darrah) National Park, it is a combination of three wildlife sanctuaries namely Darrah wildlife sanctuary, Chambal wildlife sanctuary and Jaswant Sagar wildlife sanctuary.

Popularly known as Darrah wildlife Sanctuary, this haven is just 50 km away from Kota. The name ‘Darrah’ means ‘pass’ in the local language that was derived by the localities as this place served as a pass during the wars by Marathas, Rajput’s and British. The beautiful park and scenic beauty are located between the mountains of Mukundra and Gagrola . Along the boundaries of the valley, four mystic rivers flow namely Ramzan, Ahu, Kali, and Chambal

The Chambal valley has been romanticized by India’s film industry , telling tales of the exploits of the region’s dacoits in much the same way Hollywood idolizes the gunslingers of the Old West.

But in truth, organized violence of the Chambal has largely faded. The bad men are now mostly dead or doddering. By the early 2000’s, massive police operations, the use of helicopters, and inexorable road building left the lawless with no place to flee.

Once home to exotic species like the Asiatic Cheetahs, the tiger reserve was a hunting preserve which belonged to Maharaja of Kota, Sir Umed Singh II and later succeeded by his son Maharaja Bhim Singh II. Often helping the British viceroys on hunting expeditions , Bhim Singh was a sharp shooter and was Captain of the Indian shooting team at the Singapore Shooting Championships in 1969, at the 1976 Summer Olympics and at the 1978 Asian Games. Today this vast stretch of hillocks and grasslands is home to some of India’s last remaining Gazelles or chinkaras.

THE STORY OF THE NEW TIGER RESERVE

Darrah was declared a (Protected area) wildlife sanctuary in 1955. The Darrah wildlife sanctuary was declared as Mukundra Hills National Park in 2004.

The park got the nod from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in 2013 and the state (Rajasthan) bagged its third tiger reserve in the form of the Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve.

The Stage is set:

In October 2017, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) gave in-principle permission for the re-introduction of Tigers into the reserve from Ranthambore National Park.

MT1 aka T-91 [Alphonso / Mirza]

MT1 aka Alphonso

The first to be re-located was T91 [ Alphonso / Mirza]. T-91 is from the fourth litter of Tigress T-30 aka Husn-Ara of Ranthambore. She gave birth to her fourth and last litter of one male and one female cub, fathered by T-3. Little is known about T-91 because her mother, T-30 spent most of her time out of the tourism area. After the death of his mother, T-91 set off to establish his own territory. Male tigers wander for miles in search of their territory , rich in prey as well as avoiding conflicts with other males. T-91 went out from Ranthambhore and reached Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary, Bundi. The Forest Department tranquilized it and shifted it to Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve in April 2018. He came to be known as MT-1 , the first tiger in the new reserve.

To initiate re-population of tigers, a female was introduced into the reserve in December of 2018.

MT2 aka T-106 Sultana

Cub T-106 with Noor (Mother). Source: Ranthamboreguides.com

Owing her name to the Sultanpur area of Ranthambore national park where this tigress used to be found, she was the daughter of T-39 [Noor] from her third litter , fathered by T-57 [ Shingst]. First seen in March 2016 at the Sultanpur area, she is also related to the lineage of the famous tigress Machli. Her Mom T-39 was born to Tigress T-13 of Ranthambore, the sister of Tigress Machli (T-16) .

Two and a half years later she was tranquilized on 18th December 2018, and made her journey to her new home, the Mukundra Hills Tiger reserve.

Renamed as MT-2, she was kept in a 26 hectare enclosure at the new reserve to be monitored at her new home. Now home to the new formed couple of Mukundra Hills , the forest officials rejoiced on 2nd June 2020 as MT-2 was spotted with two cubs, but the story had only begun.

ENTER MT3 aka T-98 [ Ranjha/ The lover boy ]

Source: Ranthamborenationalpark.com

Like the twist in tale of a bollywood script, this tiger got everyone in the wildlife fraternity bewildered when he embarked on a journey of 150kms in search of his lover.

The tiger, known as T-98 in Ranthambore, and MT-3 in Mukundra Tiger Reserve, was born to the tigress T-60 and tiger T-57, along with 2 siblings. The first time he was seen was in March 2016.

T-98 possessed a free and adventurous spirit from his early teenage years. It wasn’t long before he fell in love with the tigress MT-2, as both of them inhabited the same sultanpur area in Ranthambore National Park. 

With the forest officials having played God relocating his love interest to Mukundra Hills, T-98 had grown quite aggressive, and it was in one of these moments of aggression that he attacked a woman who had ventured into the forest to collect firewood. 

Unable to bear the separation with his lover, T-98, set off on a long and arduous journey spanning 150 kilometers. He crossed three districts, and the River Kali Sindh, eager to rejoin his mate. The journey, as well as the peculiar behaviour exhibited by the tiger, left everyone surprised.

The authorities have been unable to comprehend how he made his way to the exact spot where the tigress had been relocated. How he managed to reach right outside the enclosure where MT2 was being held is another mystery. Such tiger behaviour has never been documented.

After his arrival at Mukundra, T-98 was renamed MT-3. The forest department, aware that he posed a danger to MT-1, kept him enclosed as a safety measure. MT-3 and MT-1 were caught fighting across a wire fence. Even though the fence protected them from injuring each other, the anger and heartbreak of MT-3 was palpable. Not all love tales have a happy ending, and the tale of T-98 was certainly not a happy one.

Check these videos of the fight between the two males

MT-2, the tigress for whom he had undertaken such a long journey, had already paired with MT-1 , first mating and then producing cubs. His epic journey, although dare-devilish, had left him brokenhearted. 

What happened next left everyone sad and the conservation program hanging by the thread.

MT-3 was found injured in close proximity to the water point in Mashalpura forest area. Probably injured by a Neelgai [ antelope] during a hunt he was found limping with injuries on his leg. The monitoring of the tiger was subsequently intensified, and a pet was offered to it, which it consumed with no problems whatsoever.

However, since T-98 showed no improvement in his limp, a special team was called upon to tranquilise it. But before they could put that plan into effect, he was dead. The postmortem revealed that he was suffering from Bovine Tuberculosis, cardiac shock & lung infection.

According to the forest department, T-98 had turned anaemic, with large amounts of fat deposited in his body, leading to the blockage of heart chambers along with severe lung infection. That ultimately led to his death.

MT-3 passed away on 23rd July 2020 , 4 years of age ,leaving a legacy of unrequited love, an event rarely seen in the big cats.

Even more alarmingly, the radio collar on MT2 female went unresponsive on 29th July 2020. After a search for 3 days the forest official found the decomposed body of MT2 in the forest. 10 days after the death of her lover, MT2 had passed away in a territorial fight as was revealed in an autopsy, with one of her cubs missing ,as the forest officials fought against time to save the other cub.

But who killed MT2 ?

THE FINAL PIECE OF THE PUZZLE

On 12th April 2019, Mukundra Hills Tiger reserve was introduced to another grand-daughter of Machli,

T83 aka Lightning.

Daughter to the ruling Queen and iconic tigress of Ranthambore , T-19 [ Krishna], the story of her childhood has been documented in the Nat Geo Documentary Clash of Tigers. Perhaps the most innocent tigress of ranthambore, she spent her childhood with mother, Krishna, sister (T-84 Arrowhead) and brother (T-85 Pacman) at zone no.2, 3 4 and 5 of the forest. After becoming a sub adult, she started to spend most of her time in zone no. 3 and 4. But her timid nature soon got her into trouble as her own brother T-85 Pacman pushed her out to the periphery of the park . She was often seen in the Amma Ghati area.

Lighting was spotted outside the park near hotels early morning on 19 October, 2016 when she had killed a Neelgai, and was later rescued from a well that she had fallen into on 14th November of the same year.

With her movements increasing around the periphery, an area densely populated with hotels etc, the forest officials decided to relocate her to the Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve on 12th April 2019. She is now known as MT4.

THE RISE OF THE NEW QUEEN

Tigers are known to fight and kill other tigers for territory or mating rights. Sometimes male tigers kill other cubs to bring the female to oestrus and give better chance of survival to his lineage. Could it be that MT-2 died in a fight with MT-4? Did Lightning kill her to become the new queen of Mukundra ?

The answer to what happened in Mukundra will remain a mystery along with the list of secrets of the chambal valley.

However as Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest would justify, unknown to the forest officials, camera traps have recently spotted MT-4 , Lightning with cubs of her own. Aged around 3-4 months it seems Lightning gave birth to 2 cubs in May 2020.

As the tale of 2 lovers , Ranjha [ MT-3 ] and Sultana [ MT-2] ends in sorrow, a new story rises as Mirza [ MT-1] and Lightning [ MT-4] with their cubs take the throne and responsibility of tiger conservation in the third and newest tiger reserve of Rajasthan .

The story of the Chambal Valley continues…

REMOTE WORKING BEYOND 2020: TIPS & TOOLS

December 2017: Chandreyi came up to me and said “I wanna quit my job. I want to take a sabbatical and travel.”

We had been working on our travel page The Moonchasers for a year now. Having traveled almost 20,000kms just in 2017, our minds were brimming with stories from remote parts of our country as well as some abroad. But this was becoming hectic for both of us.

Managing a travel content platform with full time jobs; C working as a PR professional and I, working as an Architect in a real estate corporate set-up came with its own sets of challenges. During this time, we were successfully squeezing in trips over long weekends and clubbing available holidays into longer vacations. Editing the content that we captured during our travels, be it through words on a blog post or post processing the footages to make a film, took more time than we had anticipated.

So C’s coming up to me and expressing to quit was no surprise.

“So what would you like to do next?” I asked.

“I want to travel more and establish this baby we have created. I want to utilize every possible opportunity in the coming year to travel and explore our passion further.”

And so, we set out to make some legitimate plans for pursuing the life of a digital nomad when travelling. I was managing my dual job role of being an architect as well as a traveler / film maker through 2018, while C turned every weekend into a travel opportunity!

WHO CAN WORK REMOTELY?

We are living in an unprecedented time. The concepts of working from home has taken the front seat for organisational functionality and business continuity due to the Covid19 pandemic. However, since the advent of digital transformation and tools in workflow and project management, remote working has slowly made its way into the lives of people with greater aspirations. Over the last 20 years, many professionals have made the switch from full time, office based roles to being more flexible & independent. Today, there are roughly 3 different categories of professionals moving to a remote working setup.

  1. Digital Nomads – Designers, creative professionals, travellers, developers etc.
  2. Work from Home (Covid19 induced)
  3. Entrepreneurs and freelancers

HOW DO DIGITAL NOMADS TRAVEL?

Work while travelling – its possible!

To support your passion of travelling with a full time job, is to address both; with set targets, short term goals (say Quarterly) and a professional approach that one would take at their job. The key is to never forget that what you do is what you love.

Travel plans should ideally begin at the start of the year in accordance with the holiday list. Clubbing long weekends with available casual leaves that your company provides to plan for vacations is a smart idea. Keeping an eye on leaves carried forward should you have some, it’s wise to not let them expire and plan well in advance for that one big trip. If you have a profession that allows you to work from anywhere, this planning can take place much before as well.

Once done with travel plans, one needs to structure the day immaculately to enable REMOTE WORKING. This involves using technology based services to plan your day well in advance. Fix time to work remotely out of your hotel lobby or rent a nearby co-working space, should you be staying in a place with poor WIFI. Hostels also offer work spaces with internet connectivity in most destinations for digital nomads.

REMOTE WORKING 2020

While the term remote working has taken a completely new definition in the current pandemic, this gave me the opportunity to reflect back on the tricks we have adapted and been following to manage my dual Job roles in the past 2 years.

Recently I was invited to be part of the GLOBAL TRAVEL MEET 2020 on a fireside chat with Co-working space, NomadGao‘s founder Mayur Sontakke on ‘Tips and tools for Remote working’.

Remote working today means ‘work from anywhere’ , a culture, largely driven by technological advances that make it possible to work seamlessly regardless of location i.e. between the office, home, client site, coffee shops, airports etc. Modern day technology allows employees to work remotely, as if in the office, from anywhere, on any device, at any time.

WHY WORK REMOTELY?

Employees are more likely to enjoy greater job satisfaction and motivation from attaining a better work-life balance. Additionally, remote workers maybe more productive as they experience fewer interruptions and distractions than in an office environment

Flexible working can enable cost savings for both companies and employees. From an organisational perspective, cost savings are accrued through the reduction in overheads, lower printing costs and the opening up of desk space within the office. Personal cost savings are primarily linked to less commuting travel. 

Remote working allows employees to manage their personal responsibilities (such as childcare, or care for a family member) and attend health and other routine appointments without losing an entire day of work, thereby reducing absenteeism. Moreover, working remotely allows those recovering from illness or new mothers, for example, to return to work more quickly by working from home, thus improving labour retention. This higher retention translates into cost savings, through lower induction and recruitment costs.

Remote working also has a positive impact on the environment by enabling companies and employees to reduce their carbon footprint e.g. smaller offices, fewer commuting hours. Refer to the slideshow below to understand more about efficient remote working.

THE CONCEPT OF CO-WORKING

Co-working is not a new term. The first books which praised the power of Co-working, were already published in 1628. Yet they only admired the co-working power of God and its representatives. The concept changed over time into what it is today: a representation of working independently, but together. Most coworkers work as their own God. They are freelancers who share common values.

One of the main components of succeeding as a remote worker is of course, your work space.

Atmosphere is everything! It can change your ability to be productive, and even worse, it can hinder the actual work you’re able to do (i.e. horrible or NO WiFi at all).

WiFi Tribe has had a lot of experience scoping out some of the best co-working spaces around the world. Here are some of the spaces that have a mix of amazing decor, tranquil energy and yummy food! Just perfect for making sure you have a productive work day, so that you can go out and play!

HOW TO WORK REMOTELY?

Sold on this lifestyle?

We admit the appeal of being anywhere and working is quite a catch! The idea of waking up and living your life in a way that is most suited to your personal and professional goals, along with your habits and idiosyncrasies sounds almost too good to be true.

PS: this way of living is possible for anyone, no matter where you’re at in life right now.

Tools for efficient remote working

  • Project management apps – Slack, Trello, Calendly etc
  • Naturally lit, bright spaces to work in
  • Creative inspirations –
  • Cloud Storage
  • Connectivity/Remote desktop
  • Security tools
  • Automation Tools
  • Micro Apps
  • Video conferencing
  • Team Chat apps

Even with all the support from organisations, people may find it difficult to completely shift to a remote working model. It is indeed a forced push due to the pandemic where people are finding it hard to work in isolation, without immediate access to many resources and colleagues, that one is used to. Human interactions are reduced in a remote working setup and especially today when one has to manage finding a calm workspace at homes, it may increasingly affect the mental health of workers. The shift is indeed indicative of the future however remote working should continue to be a choice for those who can and do have the mindset to implement and develop a productive workflow while working from anywhere.

Have you found remote working to be helpful? What are the challenges you are facing? Tell us more and lets have a discussion about the best practices for making WFH a pleasant experience. Tell us your concerns/feedback in the comments below.

Stay Review: Holiday Inn Express Sector 50 Gurugram

Covid19 Advisory: We do not advise any non-essential travel until Covid19 lockdowns are removed.

Holiday inn express sector 50 gurugram business hotel review

What is the one thing that you look for when choosing a stay for a business trip? Is it the brand that takes precedence or the amenities that helps you deal with busy business days? We will share a few tips here along with a complete review of Holiday Inn Express Sector 50 Gurugram.

#MoreThanReady!

Yes, that’s the hashtag for the IHG group of business hotels meant for short stays, business travel and transiting travellers! And we happened to get a good taste of the amazing hospitality at Holiday Inn Express Gurugram Sector 50 while on our way to the Himachal for an aimless, carefree, budget backpacking trip!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1246.JPG
DCIM100GOPROGOPR1246.JPG

You may be wondering how does an international chain of business hotels fits into the picture of a backpacking trip?

The secret to our random travel plans being successful largely depends on how we start the trip.  A pleasant stay for all earthly comforts at the beginning and the end of a trip. Ensuring we start and end with good sleep, comfortable living and good amenities is a crucial part of being able to detach from work life and be ready to go back to it after a trip.

We are not exactly budget backpackers, but the idea of backpacking holds true even for us. You take all your belongings in a backpack, and you wander off, stay at hostels on the go and try to do everything in your own, with as little expenses as you can manage.

However, for city dwellers like ourselves, we will be lying if we said we don’t like being a little extra for staying in good hotels only. Hence, IHG hotels came to our rescue, offering a very reasonably priced stay with amenities one expects from a business hotel, and made us #MoreThanReady for our rough and tough journey ahead.

Check out our Instagram Post:

Besides being a review post of Holiday Inn Express Sector 50 Gurugram, this blog also has a little story about how we found a friend at the breakfast buffet!

What to expect at Holiday Inn Express Gurugram?

Amenities

·         Express Check In – This is perhaps the most tourist friendly rule that you’ll find only at reputed international hotels like HIEX. Check in is 24×7!

·         Express Wi-Fi- No need to panic about bandwidth or connection here!

·         Express Breakfast – The most incredible part of the package because its such a huge spread! Be #MoreThanReady before you head for a day full of meetings or being on the road!

·         Express Shower – Do we need to explain this? Get ready super fast!

·         Express Service – Goes without saying, excellent, prompt, smart service can be expected at all Holiday Inn Express hotels!

·         Express Checkout – Same as check in. No matter how late or early your flight is, they will bid you farewell with a smile!

·         Express Locations – 14 locations in India and counting!

Review checklist and our rating for HIEX Gurugram:

Transfer – 4.5/5

If you are staying within the Aerocity then this is not going to matter. However the Sector 50 hotel arranges for airport pick up and drop 24×7 so you can make use of it no matter what hour you land in New Delhi.


Comfort – 4/5

Business hotels have comparatively smaller rooms but what caught our attention was the neatness of design in each room at HIEX Gurugram. Carefully designed and curated for the weary business traveller, their rooms are super cozy!

  • Sleep – Comfortable high quality bedding and linen makes sure you fall into a peaceful slumber.
  • Food & Coffee – HIEX runs a 24×7 cafe for business travellers walking in at all hours. They are also very kind to cook up something if you feel too hungry late night! The lobby area has a great spot for finishing up some work or read a magazine before heading back to your room!
  • Breakfast – One of the highlights as a large buffet awaits you every morning at HIEX! Staying true to the #MoreThanReady concept, HIEX buffet spreads are healthy, sumptuous and preps you for a day full of meetings or inter city travel!
  • Amenities – From concierge to express laundry, you have all the amenities you could possibly come across on a short trip. The gym is fully equipped for an early start to the day!
hiex gym gurugram
HIEX Gym
  • Location – IHG runs two Holiday Inn Express hotels in New Delhi, and the one at the Aerocity needs no explanation. It is the best idea for a long layover from IGI airport! The HIEX Gurugram however serves the traveller needing access to the city. Sector 50 is approximately 20 Kms from the international airport and it makes the perfect hub for business around the region.
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HIEX Gurugram Lobby Area

Pricing

Despite the International Hotel Chain tag, the rates of HIEX group of hotels is surprisingly reasonable. Club it with your corporate ID or IHG Reward points and you can have a stay for as low as just Rs. 2000! The IHG hotels offer many rewards, loyalty benefits and offers to registered members. To locate any of the 14 Holiday Inn Express hotels in India and make a booking, visit here.

Covid 19 Disclaimer from the hotel: We are Open! During this time, in accordance with the local government guidelines & to safeguard the health & wellbeing of our guests & employees, breakfast will not be served as a buffet. Instead guests can order from a set menu which maybe collected from the counter or will be delivered to the room. Please note the Fitness Centre will remain closed until further notice. Inconvenience regretted.

Disclaimer: The Moonchasers were hosted by the property, but like always, we only share what we experience. 

9 reasons to visit Sri Lanka when Covid passes

While deciding for a tropical beach holiday with a mix of culture and adventure sometime around J’s birthday thats in November, the choices were varied that year! We often face such dilemmas, and perhaps its most often the flight tickets which plays the veto. In the current scenario however, it will be wise to stay home, and avoid all leisure travel until the world can get a free pass from the deadly corona virus that has got every country by the horn.

The calling of a neighbouring country that topped the Best Country to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet was hard to ignore. It was an easy choice too given the budget constraints and its proximity to India.

We spent 10 days in the island nation and explored what we could fit in our itinerary, that only left us craving for more. If you are intrigued by the vast natural beauty, improved tourism and cultural diversity of this once war torn country, here is everything you need to know!

  1. It has a 1340 KM long coastline!

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Imagine the sheer number of pristine beaches that you could explore, for kilometres on foot! When in Sri Lanka, explore white sand beaches of Ahangama with stilt fishermen or walk along the beautiful coastline of Tangalle, take surfing lessons at Arugam Bay or Hikkaduwa, have a romantic wedding shoot at Hambantota or hit the eastern coast for the gorgeous Trincomalee, beaches are plenty in this country!

2. Ancient history and Buddhism

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Meditating Buddha at Aluviharaya Temple, Matale

Buddhism is in the heart of Sri Lanka while sharing a cohabited religious space with Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. It is the oldest Buddhist country with India being wiped off of Buddhism virtually, and preserves the most original and pure form of Buddhism – the “Theravada tradition”. Ancient stupas and ruins conform to this and you as a traveller can find a million pieces of Buddhist tradition strewn across the width of Sri Lanka. The country has been constantly warred since centuries due to it’s vulnerable geography and it’s richness in natural resources inviting invasion by colonists and kings and traders. However, it managed to preserve deep roots to Buddhism alongside other religions. In fact, it was at the Aluviharaya Rock Temple in Matale where the revered Pali Canon (sacred scriptures with teachings of Buddha) was inscribed for the first time in history. 70% of the population are Buddhist in Sri Lanka and you will find it to be a peaceful, disciplined way of life with the locals. We could not squeeze in a visit to the Cultural Triangle apart from a visit to Sigiriya, which only gives The Moonchasers more reason to go back!

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Gate to the Rock temple

3. Strict Laws

If you are planning on going on a ‘let loose’ trip, better be in the city and more touristy locations than venturing into the local side of Sri Lanka. The nation is very strict against any form of drug abuse and if you are caught with even a wee bit of marijuana, you can be in serious trouble. Travellers sporting tattoos of Buddha, remember to cover them up because you will be disrespecting their religious faith when in Sri Lanka. And that, causes even more trouble, including deportation.

4. Food

This is the part I was looking forward to writing the most!

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Food is delectable, gorgeous and flavorful in Sri Lanka. Indians may find some similarity with the style of dishes but the taste buds are in for a surprise! Europeans and Americans might find the food a bit spicy but for Australians who have travelled to Asia before, its a treat. Bananas are there in every meal as dessert, you can have a choice of vegetables that taste brilliant or meat (chicken/pork/fish/duck). Vegans too will find wonderful appetite here inland. Some of the places like Nuwara Eliya and other remote locations may not be fancy but if you grow a taste for egg hoppers and sambhal, you will have a great time.

5. Transport

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World’s most scenic train ride – Kandy to Ella

Traffic is generous outside the cities and the roads are scenic, so if you are driving through, remember to have your DL along with an IDP and a permit from the Colombo RTO. Local transport is extremely cheap and effective. You can take buses to most places, and where not be sure that the train will take you. For booking tickets you can check at any station and get it yourself. For big groups, booking through an agent will be better however avoid paying exorbitant rates for the same.

6. Ceylon tea

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Damro Tea Factory – Nuwara Eliya

Tea was brought to the island country by the Portuguese and British colonists from China and since then it has been a flourishing industry. The famous Ceylon Tea is grown, processed and packed in tea estates and factories spread around the Knuckles Mountain range and has high aromatic taste. A visit to a tea factory is a must if you have a nose for varieties of tea. Till today, the little town of Nuwara Eliya wears the hat of a British Tea Colony and is called ‘Little England’ by the locals. You can pack a bag of flavoured teas, BOP tea and silver leaf tea on your way back home if you like. There are about 15 other varieties to choose from.

7. Natural reserves and wildlife

Sri Lanka houses and protects 26 national parks covering 5734 square kms! Its basically the size of Norfolk in England.  The most prominent finds will be peacocks and so many of them, the junglefowl and elephants. If you are out in the sun you will find plenty of land monitors lurking about in search of warmth and food. On a good day one can spot a majestic Srilankan leopard or a rare sighted sloth bear.

While traveling to Srilanka keep separate budget and time for jungle safaris as you can get lucky or spend hours in the jungle looking for game. The jungle camps are steeply priced than normal accommodations, more so due to the remote locations and challenges of over tourism. For wildlife enthusiasts and jungle lovers it is a paradise though as there are special camps that allow you to stay inside the core area even at night. We experienced luxury glamping with Ruhunu Safari Camping and would highly recommend their services for anyone wanting to spend time in the wild.

9.  Shortcuts for a 10 day trip

It is a great idea to travel locally using trains and buses or ride a tuktuk on your journey. If you are on budget, restrict the number of stops you’ll make and pick places which can act as a base for multiple activities. This way you’ll spend less time in commute and more in exploring. Set aside a day to enjoy the world’s most scenic train route between Kandy to Ella. Smart travellers hop on at Peridaniya station to avoid crowds and travel in second or third class as tickets are mostly available. Do not listen to guides who try to tell you otherwise. The most scenic part is actually between Hatton and Haputale, two perfectly pretty mountain hamlets that could be worth a visit. Here are some shortcuts we found helpful on our trip, hope you find them useful!

  • Take a cab outside the airport in Negombo, negotiate. If headed to Colombo city, don’t pay more than 600 LKR.
  • Do not ask questions about the war, they don’t appreciate you meddling with their terrible past. Militants are employed as helps, cooks, tuktuk drivers in search of a living. It may upset them.
  • Cover your knees and elbows when entering a sacred temple. The Buddhists are not staunch or violent but it’s great to respect their way to earn theirs while you are in their country.
  • You will save a lot of money traveling by buses and trains. Its a tad bit time taking but if you are interested in exploring the country, take that time out and enjoy the ride.
  • World Heritage Sites and protected monuments do not allow drone photography so be sure to check your airspace before flying. We managed to fly early morning at Sigiriya but did so from a great distance from the gates.
  • Research well because it can be overwhelming. We felt we didn’t see 30% of Sri Lanka in 10 days, traveling like maniacs everyday. Prioritise your kind of places and have a great time.
  • While you cant fit everything in an itinerary, for your first visit, do not miss out on Sigiriya Rock, Ella train, willowing tea estates and waterfalls, Portuguese lighthouses and pristine waters on the southern coast and the fort city of Galle. Couple it with beautiful mix of modern and traditional architecture in Colombo and great coffee, you have yourself a very inviting vacation in Sri Lanka!

Watch our Sri Lanka in 5 minute video to know what we are talking about:

What the traveller in you should do on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and if you are not meticulous like us to have a whole 10 day trip to the jungles planned in advance, let us help you out! Believer of St. Valentine or not, when V day falls on a Friday, the expectations meant to soar. We understand the situation (or plight) of those who could not find time to plan something special for their sweetheart. So this year, J and I decided to share a few cool ideas to help you make your V day a !Friyay! and more, because the weekend can be clubbed too!

We did not want to share the typical gift ideas because there are plenty of them out there. To be honest, we do not celebrate Valentine’s day with special vigour because i celebrate my birthday just two days later and it essentially, always is fun! Read more about it on our latest Insta post!


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Here is a list of 7 things you can do this Valentine’s day to surprise your partner/spouse/valentine

1. Valentine’s Day Special Electric Bike Tour with BLive
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This Valentine’s day, gift an experience to your loved one. Rekindle the romance in a new style. Explore the unexplored destinations on BLive electric bike tours. Choose quality time over busy bustling restaurant waiting-lines. Choose nature, heritage, local experiences over expensive crowded places.
Choose BLive and choose a new way to romance. Choose to throttle away from the crowd to hear the love stories from the past. That’s not it, let the music set the feel and don’t shy off, ask your date for a dance on those beats. With a touch of romantic ambiance, end your e-bike ride relishing some local cuisine.
Explore the cities of KochiGoa, or Jaipur on BLive electric bike tour.
Price – Starting from Rs 2,124/-
Location: Goa | Kochi | Jaipur
Date: 14th Feb 2020
2.Underwater proposal anyone?

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Scuba Aliens in Goa is offering to help couples plan and execute proposals under water while scuba diving in the midst of sea life, corals or even at a ship wreck site off the coast! While there are tonnes of people offering Scuba Diving, only about 6 are PADI certified of which Scuba Aliens is a front runner with PADI certified Instructors as well.
Costs: INR 3500 (plus taxes)  and upwards
They are offering a couple scuba dive with special photographs, a cake and other such offerings to execute an ethereal proposal, underwater. Cool!
3. Indulge in mountains with your beloved
Rangri homestay Manali
Homestays of India is providing a 10% discount to couples on selected homestays across the whole country!
Take it from the traveller in us, nothing beats a cozy homestay experience in the mountains with your loved one this weekend. Feel at home, eat hot local food and enjoy genuine hospitality with your partner. Valid only for those couples visiting homestays in this week ending 16th Feb. Minimum stay – 2 nights.
Locations include Bhubaneshwar, Uttarakhand (Multiple properties), Mount Abu, Udaipur, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka. You can check the properties here.
4. Want to stay lost in luxury?
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For south or western India based couples, head to Kahani Paradise for a luxury filled, quaint and romantic weekend.
Perched atop the hills and affording 360º views of the contrasts of sea- and forest-scapes, Kahani Paradise offers a world of quiet indulgence amidst nature in Gokarna. With 6 suites, a Drawing Room, a Swimming Pool, Spa and Dining Room that overlooks a teeming garden, Kahani Paradise is unlike any other villa in India.
Privacy is paramount, and without a neighbour for miles, the villa is yours and yours only.
The good folks here offer special arrangements for groups and couples. The above image is from the step well candlelight dinner they organised for our friends at The Next Checkin! You can head to their insta to see more of the property on highlights!

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Cost: Suite stay starts at INR 25000/-
Step Well Dinner: INR 35000/- per couple
5. Looking for a romantic dinner in Goa?
yu hotel
A candlelight dinner might sound cliched, but don’t we just love it, when it’s that time of the year.  Located on the bustling street of Candolim just a short distance from the famed beaches of Goa, Yu Hotel’s international restaurants present to you a personalized candlelight dining experience with menu tailored by one of the best Chefs.
With a variety of dining options, the celebrations specially curated Valentine menu and a bottle of wine at INR 1200. If in Goa this weekend, you can book tables with Yu Valentine’s offer on their website for an incredible candlelight dinner.
Where: Yu Hotel, Goa
For further query, contact on- +91 0832-6717272
6. Bengaluru! Indulge in wilderness with Tee Pee Culture

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The Teepee Culture is India’s only Wilderness Festival. It’s Edition 2.0 is happening on the foothills of Nandi Hills, Bangalore from 14-16 February 2020. The festival is a perfect getaway for not just friends and family but also couples who want to Discover Wilderness and learn from the experts, veterans, artists and a community of conscious nature lovers.
The 3 day long festival will have nature trails, learning workshops, music, astronomical observations, adventure, art and culture, eclectic performances and much more.
Cost: INR 750/- onwards
Passes for the festival are available on BookMyShow and Townscript.
7. Overnight Camp Stay near Namma Bengaluru
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Findmyouting.com is organizing Valentine’s special packages for an adventure camping with luxury tent stay experience at an hour’s drive from the Bengaluru City. Q Mango Forest resort enchants you with mango orchards, lakeshore scenery and adventure activities curated for Valentine’s Day this year. Includes lakeside view stay, bonfire, candle light dinner and more. 
Price: INR 2999 + taxes per couple
Time: 05:30 PM Check In |1100 AM Check Out
For inclusions and booking head to aurafoothills.findmyouting.com
Lastly, women’s apparel brand W has some cool fashion tips for the quintessential Indian woman who also loves to celebrate Valentines day with elegance!
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This V-Day, revive memories of that first red rose moment and celebrate your day with your loved ones. Choose this red round neck all-over printed dress with the beautiful chunky neck embroidery details for a cozy dinner and casual lunch date. This dress can be teamed up with hoops and heels for a chic look!
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It’s a day where one wants to make every moment special for their partner. Choosing this royal red round neck solid kurta with solid sharara pants and complementing it with white dupatta will definitely steal your partner’s attention. This can be paired up with rusted danglers and high heels!
You can buy these online on Nykaa.com or WforWoman.com 
That’s it from us!
We wish you a very sweet, love filled, peaceful weekend and Valentine’s Day.
Toodles 🙂

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Best heritage stay near Mumbai-Pune: Fort JadhavGADH

“A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies – all of the things that quite literally make us who we are.” – Unknown

Wondering why the heavy quote?

If we have to explain our connection to our heritage, every small and big events that happened to our collective culture, this quote kind of summed it up. Historically seen, most modern cultures have emerged from times of bloodshed, conquest and battles. During those events, many buildings of historic and military importance were built and destroyed. Over hundreds of years, civilisations of the world have tried to preserve and prevent further destruction of these marks of our history. UNESCO and Archaeological Societies have and continued to work towards the preservation of monuments, forts, castles, churches, temples, mosques of historical value. But when you look at a culturally rich nation like India which has had influences from the north, south, west and far east, it is incredibly difficult to locate, protect and preserve every single monument of importance. Some of these properties are flourishing today as resorts, museums, places of interest thanks to private interest.

In this blog, we will take you on a journey through 300 years of history and experience of the grandiose of the Maratha regime at Fort JadhavGADH – Maharashtra’s only Fort Heritage hotel. Located 2 hr drive away from Mumbai in the Saswad region of Pune, this hotel provides one with the luxury, comfort and beauty of the Sahyadri Mountains (The western ghats of India).

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The story of Fort JadhavGADH starts from the man who himself was as strong in mind and body as the stone structure he created. Pilaji Jadhavrao, the then Maratha General who built this fort. But before we take you to Fort JadhavGadh, lets dig a little deeper into its history.

In 1707, Chhatrapati Shahuji, the grandson of the great Chhatrapati Shivaji, was released after 21 years of imprisonment by the Mughal ruler Shahjahan. The Mughals still controlled the Maratha region but were losing some ground because of Aurangzeb’s death. It was during this time that Shahuji thought of a comprehensive plan. His ultimate goal was to bring back the lost glory of the Maratha empire and recapture the region from the Mughals. He was also an excellent judge of characters. Therefore, he appointed a select group of loyal men, to spread far and wide across the region and recharge the quiescent emotions of the people.

It was this select group of men of honor that Pilaji Jadhavrao was a part of. With a keen focus on the mission assigned to him, Pilaji lost no time in gathering able men across Jadhavgadhi and Saswad area and to train them to fight for the victory of the Marathas. Power of the mind or the sword, whichever instrument seemed more befitting for use at a particular situation, Pilaji used most assuredly. It was through the heroic efforts of men like Pilaji Jadhavrao that Chhatrapati Shahuji finally sat on the throne of the Maratha empire. Pilaji Jadhavrao breathed his last in 1784 after leading a long and fulfilling life of a true patriot, serving the Marathas till the very end.

Why are we telling you this?

Because the Fort at JadhavGadh played a crucial role in forming the resistance and fighting the Mughals. Today, this property rolls up as a quaint, exclusive heritage stay experience for the peace seeker from nearby modern cities. It is also the closest heritage stay experience you can take your expat friend to, to experience the essence of Indian heritage and hospitality.

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Th entrance darwaza

Our stay in Fort JadhavGADH brought us a step closer to the beautiful Maratha history, with a touch of exuberant hospitality. Located on a lone mountain, just 40 Kms ahead of Pune, this place ticks all the boxes for the perfect stay away in luxury for a relaxed holiday.

The eccentricity in the small things catches one’s attention from the moment you walk in. The sound of royalty greets you as soon as you enter Fort JadhavGADH, as you are greeted by the Mavlas (soldiers during the period of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) who play the tutari and guests are welcomed with a traditional tilak on the forehead.  Quirk is everywhere here. The General Manager is called Killedar (Fort Manager), the manager at the reception is called ‘Swagat Kaksha Vyavasthapak’ (One who manages guest reception), and the swimming pool in the fort hotel is called ‘Kund’. The Chhajja is the quaint all-day dining, Kholis are the rooms.  The Pilaji Darwaza, Maha Darwaza, Gadhicha Darwaza, Kund Darwaza, Purandar Darwaza, rock stairways, they all tell a story.

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Kholis or standard double rooms

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Sunset over fort walls at Fort JadhavGadh

You would be amazed to know that they continue to maintain an in house Art museum where ancient Maratha artefacts, handicrafts are kept for visitors to see. You are guided by an audiobook (we felt its a really thoughtful idea) where you can learn about each of the items and mentionable places within the premises.

A total of 58 rooms comprising of Royal Suites, Darbari Suites, Varsha Suites, Hill View Dalaan, Chaavni’s, & Kholi’s, Neem Forest Cottages, are spread across the fort’s three wings – making it an ideal luxury destination near Pune. The interiors are a mix of old-world charm and contemporary luxuries making it an ideal holiday resort near Mumbai. Fort JadhavGADH welcomes you to experience a regal retreat at our luxurious suites, cottages and tented rooms at one of the best resorts near Pune.

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That guys blows the horn when you walk in!

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Window seats for you, Monsieur!

A leisurely visit to Fort JadhavGadh with your friends or family is quite ideal.  The poolside is at the top of the fort and has the best vibes ever with that ancient neem tree in the courtyard. The Spa is decently equipped but makes up for that with their professional service and the pool view. All in all, a very pleasant and x=cozy property with the right mix of modernity and heritage.

Highlights:

  1. Cozy rooms with fort elements like jharokha windows, chajjas to look out the valley

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The Maharaja Suite

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The Chajja in our balcony

2. Quaint, quiet surroundings

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When modernity meets heritage

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Enjoy looking up during your stay at Fort JadhavGadh

3. In house restaurant and coffee shop

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Chajja is your perfect place for a post breakkie read!

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Pruned hedges and a sprawling garden

4. Banquet and conference facilities

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Follow us to Fort JadhavGadh

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The Payatha restaurant houses quirky artefacts and an indoor lotus pond!

5. Mind blowing pool and spa area with cabanas

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Kund – our favourite place at the property

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Take a dip while you can!

6. Activities at Fort JadhavGADH:

Shivaji Martial Arts – DaanPatta

This is a 45 minute show that takes place at our royal lawns or at ‘Payatha’ at the backdrop of the fort wall.

Fort JadhavGADH is the only hotel of its kind with an in-house museum.
Fort JadhavGADH’s rooftop restaurant comes alive with ‘Ghazal or Musical Nights’ filling the air with a nostalgic ambience. Ghazal nights is on Saturday, while musical nights are on Sunday.
We enjoyed two lovely performances, one by a singer and one by an excellent flautist during our stay.

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Bathroom goals anyone?

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Chill and watch the clouds pass by

Heritage hotels are rare and expensive! Fort JadhavGadh is the perfect mix of heritage, luxury and modern amenities within your budget for a blissful holiday with friends or family. Cozy rooms, great food and superbly amazing pool side which will blow your mind away!
The Orchid Group of Hotels has some great offers on their membership plan. You can check it out here.

Disclaimer: The Moonchasers were invited by the property for a staycation. Reviews provided are from our own experience.

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Travel guide to Rann Utsav: Kutch

If you are planning a visit to India anytime in the months of November – February, one of the brightest idea to experience a culturally rich event would be to attend the Rann Utsav. While the event itself takes place in a huge tent city at the White Rann or better known as Little Rann of Kutch, there is plenty to see and do in the Kutch region that will keep you busy!

We visited the Rann Utsav last year with our lovely friends at Stargazing Mumbai and spent 4 days exploring the riches of the Kutch.

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You cannot be all sane at this insane place!

To give you a little context to the images you see next, here’s a few things you may need to know:

  1. The Great Rann of Kutch is one of the biggest salt flats in the world, spanning over 30000 square kilometres between the Gulf of Kutch and the mouth of Indus river in Pakistan.

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There is no other place like a salt flat! Clearly!

  1. It comprises of three distinct parts, the Great Rann, the Little Rann and the Banni grasslands
  2. Nearest city with an airport is Bhuj, 80 Kms from the tent city
  3. The Rann Utsav is closest to the village Dhordo, however stay options can be explored depending on what you want to see more and conveyance available
  4. Kalo Dungar (Black Hills) and Dholavira (ancient village excavated from the Harappan civilisation) are easily accessible from Bhuj/Dhordo

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We simply couldn’t get over the fact that we were looking at Pakistan, somewhere beyond the misty Rann

6. Kutchhi food is a must try, however you can expect to find non-vegetarian food in Bhuj.

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Kathiyavar Thali at Anjar town

7. Visit the Agariya at work at a salt farm, stay in a Bhunga (earthquake resistant circular huts) and wear the Kutchhi traditional dress for an epic photoshoot.

8. Local communities are rich in handicraft and artworks. More on this later in the post!

Check out our video from Rann Utsav here for a better visual of what to expect!

How To Reach?

Rann of Kutch is accessible by road from Mumbai or Ahmedabad. Super smooth roads and red dust makes it a visually enjoyable and comfortable drive. After reaching Bhuj by air, you can book a taxi to reach Kutch. Alternatively you can self-drive from Mumbai or hire a chaffeur driven car from Avis India at great prices!

Where to stay?

We found the Tent City to be opposed to our choice of stay for the high prices. However you get access to the white desert in the early or late hours if you are staying here. There are activities like paramotoring and night jeep drives along the salt flats if you stay at the venue. However, we chose to stay at a friend’s farmhouse which also doubles up as a homestay for peaceful travellers. Located close to Bhuj in the town of Anjar, Ganesh Baug is a quaint Kutchi residence with the right amount of stillness in its bounty of orchards. The host is a warm, elderly gentleman who is not only a great human being, but also is the most knowledgeable person to ask about the region and culture. The home can accommodate families/big groups in its spacious rooms. Rates are reasonable at Rs.1500 per person per day. You can book it on AirBnb by clicking on the property name.

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Aerial view of Ganesh Baugh

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Fruit -full orchard

What to see around?

Bhuj – You have to dedicate two full days to explore everything worth seeing around Bhuj. Plan accordingly if you are interested in history, art and handicraft! To start with, the ancient Prag Mahal and Aaina Mahal (lined with European style mirrors) at Bhuj are standing even after the major earthquake that hit this town in 2002. Spend 2 hours to explore the fort area. You can then head to Sujan – a handicraft centre (be ready to shop!) . We did a short detour to Ajrakhpur – the original home of Azrakh silks! The development of this remote region is largely dependent on NGOs forming communities and infrastruture for the local artisans. From textile to metal work, leather goods making to salt farming, there are incredible gems all scattered around Kutch.

Ganesh Baugh helps you plan your itinerary and recommends the places below as top 10 visits around Kutch:

– Visit the Mandvi beach and the old shipping yard of Kutch.

– Heritage walks through the palaces in Bhuj.

– Visiting the Banni Grasslands.

– Walk through Nirona Village, a village famous for Rogan art.

– Narayan Sarovar

– Hill Garden

– Bauter Jinalai Temple

– Jesal-Toral Samadhi, a sacred tomb where the mortal remains of Jesal and Sati Toral were buried.

– Kala Dungar (For an epic sunset and drive to India Bridge)

– Handloom sites: Shrujan, Khamir, Kala Raksha Museum, Bhujodi and Ajrakhpur.

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Use the orchard at Ganesh Baugh to click sunrises or star trails like Wandering Stargazer did!

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The magical sunset colours are best enjoyed from the view point at Kala Dungar

So what are you waiting for? Plan a trip to the Great Rann of Kutchh and experience sights you have never seen before!

A bonus tip for a completely offbeat item on the list. Read on!

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Lyari River Rock Formation. Image Source: Flickr

Is that a lion about to pounce ? Deep inside the Kutch region of Gujarat, India, you’ll find a dried river bed in winter months. The river is called Layari and it dries up completely in winter months only leaving white salt sediments, making a large area of amazing rock formations accessible to humans. Hardly anybody goes there. The local villagers are blissfully unaware of this amazing attraction. Millennia of water, wind and sand had sculpted spectacular shapes here. A landscape of mineral rich rocks sculpted by the monsoon fed Lyari River, Kutch. The river originates in the Banni Grasslands – a vast oasis for wildlife on the southern edge of the salt-flats of the Great Rann of Kutch. If you are there just after sunrise then it’s a surreal experience. The colours look so soft that you feel your fingers will go through the rocks. It’s indeed hard to believe that People from India go to antelope canyon but never visit this place.

Disclaimer: The Moonchasers were hosted by Ganesh Baug however we only write what we experience.

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A photo series from Japan: Autumn Foliage

Going to Japan in autumn was perhaps the best idea we had all this year. Nature is turning gorgeous there and we couldn’t wait to bring you a glimpse of the tranquility we found. Across shrines, temples and world heritage sites, we experienced the early Koya in it’s glory. Check the images below.

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Oncoming fall in Tokyo

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Shrines and prayer walls

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The touch of Koya in Kyoto

hiroshima fall japan koya futaba

Walking amidst nature in Hiroshima

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Zozai Ji shrine at Fuji Kawaguchiko

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Nagoya lit up with Koya bloom

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Shrines getting prettier with Autumn

We got hit by two typhoons during our 15 day trip but nothing deters Japan and the fall is coming on with hues of red, orange and yellow on the Japanese maple scattered all around the landscapes.

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Kanazawa colours were the best

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How can you not love those skies

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Hiroshima blooms in glory

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Mesmerising pagodas and fall

 

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6 ways to have a Green Diwali this year

Diwali is the festival that the whole of India celebrates together. Celebrated across many Asian countries with much fervour, diwali is a celebration of love and light. A promise of success and prosperity, diwali has also essentially been celebrated with bursting wonderful looking firecrackers. We remember this from our simpler childhood in the small town of Durgapur,  when the rising AQI wasn’t in our peripheral understanding of the world.

Today, only about 10-15 years from those fiery, happy evenings, we are worried, concerned about leaving a planet with insufficient breathable air to our next generations. Let us admit it that we all caused it. In small ways, however, if each of us can start making changes with their personal choices, the world would definitely try to breathe again. So this Diwali, like the last few, we will celebrate only with candles and lights instead of burnt paper and gunpowder producing poisonous gases and adding them into our ecosystem. As it is, the others are not going to stop, are they?

We bring a few recommendations of saying no to one time use products and instead choose a #GreenDiwali for yourself and your family this year. Hoping to be the first of many years to come.

Go cracker free – This is the most basic item on our list and should be on yours too. We know it feeds the mouths of little children in remote villages, but it also worsens the air they will grow up in. Make a choice, Say no to crackers. If not just for the air, for the poor pets who are currently preparing to get under the couch or crawl up on the bed to feel safe. Choose #poonchoverpataka this year instead!

Say NO to chemical products and offer healthy gifts to friends and family. Choose cruelty free products from The Eco Trunk – India’s first vegan, cruelty-free portal for lifestyle products that is kind to animals and humans alike. You can purchase a variety of products from apparel to home decor on their website.

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Price Range: Rs. 190 – Rs. 7,500

Gift Plants!

Make your home’s air pure with some plants. You can get them potted or choose to buy your own style of pots that goes with your home decor. Spoilt for choices, get a pack of air purifying plants from online websites or from your nearest nursery. We are nurturing our plants and they add much needed greenery and positive energy to our home.

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Price Range: Rs 600 – 1500

Availability: Nursery Live or Ugaoo

Personal Care with love

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If you are looking for a personalised gift boxes that resonates with someone who loves using Ayurvedic items, check out Amrutam Official’s self love gift collection. Amrutam Self Love Gift Box contains Ayurvedic recipes for your skin and hair care, made with a blend of more than a hundred herbs. Each of them carefully chosen for your health and beauty. A personal recommendation, once you use their products, you will not want to go back to your shelf products.

Availability: Amrutam Official

Price Range: Rs. 500 – 3800

Consumable Gift Hampers

Diwali with Marriott

With the festive fervour setting in, Marriott has curated a selection of indulgent festive delicacies to celebrate the season with its unique offerings under “Diwali with Marriott”Handcrafted to perfection by Marriott’s own chefs, this bespoke limited-edition artisanal hamper will raise the temptation quotient for the perfect celebrations.

From pralines, bonbons, cookies, florentines, tarts to traditional favourites like the Nankhatai and Laddoos, this uniquely crafted delicacy box features an array of interesting and creative fusion of modern and traditional treats. The hamper is available for a limited period at select properties in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Indore, Jaipur, Kolkata, Bengaluru & Pune for INR 5,000++.

Availability: Call on +91 90046 16506 or log onto www.diwaliwithmarriott.com

Celebrate with candles and lamps instead of wasting electricity. Use battery powered LED lights and cruelty free rangoli colours to add festive touches to your home!

And something special for Delhi since they will be engulfed in dangerous smog post the celebrations:

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DETTOL SiTi SHIELD  PROTECT SMART MASK  AND MICRO FAN

Have a very happy, safe, prosperous and green Diwali! 🙂

Love,

The Moonchasers

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Now Marrakech has an Oberoi too!

Talking about imperial cities that are popular amongst world travellers, Marrakech ranks quite high. In the Kingdom of Morocco! We have been eyeing this country for a while now and imagine the excitement when we heard The Oberoi group is opening a new luxurious property there!

The land of mosques and souq, Morocco is a truly breathtaking locale and offers visual treats probably like no other city, with its beautiful patterns and designs you see often n Instagram! This week, The Oberoi Group announced the highly anticipated opening of The Oberoi, Marrakech.

Grand Canal View - The Oberoi, Marrakech

A luxury resort with warm hospitality and picturesque views of the Atlas Mountains that will open to guests  on 1st December, 2019.

Grand Canal - The Oberoi, Marrakech

The property is located in twenty-eight acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, fragrant citrus orchards and olive groves with spectacular views of the snow – capped Atlas Mountains. The resort is located twenty five minutes from the Djema el-Fna square and the ancient walled city which makes it super easy to explore the various sites around.

The design of this luxury resort has been inspired by the magnificent history of Moroccan architecture. The courtyard of the main building incorporates the design of the historic Medersa Ben Youssef, built in the 14th century and one of Marrakech’s most famous historic monuments.

Medersa Ben Youssef Marrakech

Medersa Ben Youssef Courtyard

The Oberoi, Marrakech has 84 spacious and luxurious rooms, suites and villas; seventy-six of which have large private pools and private gardens. The rooms and suites have been thoughtfully laid out for maximum privacy.

Announcing the opening of the resort, Mr. P.R.S. Oberoi, Executive Chairman, The Oberoi Group, said, “We are delighted to announce the opening of The Oberoi, Marrakech. We look forward to extending The Oberoi Group’s presence in one of the world’s most exotic destinations. Several Oberoi Hotels & Resorts have been recognised as amongst the best in the world. I am confident that The Oberoi, Marrakech, with its exceptional location, aesthetic design and committed team will offer the distinctive Oberoi service to travellers from around the world.”

The Oberoi, Marrakech has three restaurants featuring diverse International and Moroccan culinary experiences. The bar and the terrace overlook the extensive gardens and the Atlas Mountains. That sure gets us excited to visit and take in the pleasures of everything Morocco has to offer!

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The Oberoi Spa with an indoor pool is located on a natural water body and is surrounded by orchards. The spa has private therapy suites offering authentic Moroccan and Ayurvedic treatments. Guests can also experience the Hammam and herbal therapies. But we can’t wait to see the pictures from this place when the property opens!

Hospitality is for everyone and hence the kind folks at Oberoi have built a children’s activity centre within the premises for families travelling with children.

Additionally, it also has a 300 square metre function room and smaller meeting rooms for social and corporate events. The resort claims to offer authentic Oberoi Experiences to enable guests to explore the best of the destination’s vibrant culture and historic monuments.

Unparalleled luxury, exquisite design and Oberoi Hotels’ legendary service have impressed travellers world over, again and again. It will only be a little before The Oberoi, Marrakech becomes the preferred choice for discerning travellers looking for a unique and personalised way to experience Marrakech.

If you are planning a trip to Marrakesh, you can use the comprehensive resources at Lonely Planet to start with.

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Goa Travel Guide: Experience culture with these Art cafes

Living in Mumbai always posed one silver lining to both of us – its proximity to Goa! Despite being the most frequented holiday destination in India, Goa holds a very special place in our hearts. You must be wondering why Goa of all places is special to us when we have visited so many other, supposedly more exotic locations. Well, it is a unique love story between The Moonchasers and the offbeat Goa through our tinted glasses.

Goa happens to be the birthplace of our blog, vlog and everything that we do today for travel. It might sound like a fairytale but sitting on a deserted fishing boat, parked loosely in a tidal creek, watching as the moon casts its light on the shoring phytoplanktons is one of our favourite things to do in this union territory.

Today, tourists are taking a deeper interest in understanding the culture of the natives in Goa and engaging with them while on vacation. Nearly 80 lakh tourists visited Goa in 2018* and according to Goa Tourism, the numbers have jumped tens of lakhs every year since 2012.

Goa tourism arrival statistics

Source: Goa Tourism

You may want to not recognise that despite all the charm, Goa also attracts a strange segment of rowdy tourists who visit with zero respect and responsibility for their actions, demeanor and impact on Goa. They go for the nightlife and cheap booze, with shady intentions of misbehaving with women and with a sad motivation of sleeping with a foreigner woman during his stay. You read it right, we are saying it aloud. Goa attracts uncouth travellers too, who not only stop at being rowdy but cause enough problems for those around. We have made such wonderful friends with people we have met, stayed with, travelled with and explored with in Goa that it deeply saddens us to hear about their experiences with such crowds, quite alarmingly frequently!

This blog post is to provide insights to the better traveller on what’s new in Goa that can make for a great holiday destination still very much! Trust us when we say, Goa continues to be our favourite beach destination in India and will be for years to come!

In our 17 or so visits to this gorgeous beach state, we have explored more than 30 beaches, ate at homestyle cafes and made hundreds of friends who always welcome us with warm hearts and epic Goan food. More and more locals are opening up their homes to guests, taking cooking classes for them, or showing them around the fishing villages from the view of a native or simply helping them find Instagrammable spots on the mountainous terrains or lush village roads. Goa is not about just the beaches any more. Goa has evolved.

In this article, we bring to you 6 cafes that will make your trip to Goa extra special just by their simplicity and craft. If you visit any of them after reading this, don’t forget to tell us about your experience!

Artjuna Cafe, Anjuna

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Artjuna cafe is a hub for expats in the North Goa area and is located on the road to
Anjuna Beach and Wednesday flea market. The café is situated outside an old
Portuguese style house in a beautiful garden, with a trendy lifestyle store inside the
house and a popular covered event space offering regular yoga, mixed martial arts
and other workshops. Their coffee is a good accompaniment to the delicious desserts they serve in partnership with couple run Patisserie Delicieux. It remains open in the monsoon and people come in regularly for activities such as mixed martial arts, yoga classes, movie nights and a well stacked bookshelf. 

Our choice: Shakshuka and Chia Seed pudding with Watermelon feta salad for an appetising breakfast.

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Jamun Smoothie for a healthy breakfast

Cafe Bodega, Altinho, Panjim 

This cafe is not only a cafe but an art house offering classes for children to adults. The beautiful courtyard and gallery housed within a Portuguese bungalow makes for a great space for conversations and art appreciation. Do check out their fresh baked desserts for your sweet tooth!

Bodega UrmiBodega wall

Caravela Cafe & Bistro, Sao Tome, Panjim

A hidden gem in the heart of Panjim! Run by a father-son duo, Caravela Cafe is cosily tucked in the by lanes of Sao Tome and also has a beautiful homestay, on top of the cafe that serves the best coffee and amazing food. Try out the prawn rissois or beef xacuti to taste the sensationality of their recipes! When at Caravela, say hi to Carlos Uncle and ask him to give you a little tour of Goan history. His warmth and knowledge makes us go back every time we are in Goa!

Saraya Goa, Porvorim

Saraya was created to be a space which touches the Goan community, by helping young aspiring artists, spreading awareness on alternatives and new ways of living , by being an example on how new structures and ideas of living can be even more beautiful and enjoyable as most people are stuck with copying the tried and tested ways of construction, eating , living , etc. which are proving to not only be harmful for the Earth but are also dry and boring.  It is essentially a space created to inspire change. It is still a work in progress and  the owners have many more ideas on making this place even more harmonious with Nature, one step at a time. Founded by Architect and INterior Designer Deeksha Thind in 2014, Saraya hosts numerous workshops and events throughout the year.

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The Project Cafe, Assagao

A gourmet cafe and living space that originated from an idea of a design consortium of creators, The Project Cafe is one of the best places to take in art in the setup of a 130 year old Portuguese Bungalow. It has a residential space as a melting pot of ideas and inspiration fro creators and artists.

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The Project Cafe: Interior

Carpe Diem, Majorda

A true art gallery cum cafe, Carpe Diem houses some of the best artworks by artists from different genres. An old Goan bungalow with phenomenal artwork lining the walls, it opens up to a beautiful indoor garden serving as the cafe area. In addition to the space that serves as an Art Gallery, are a small courtyard behind the chapel, a couple of rooms, a kitchen, a larger landscaped backyard and even a stage area that go to form space that can be used for creative learning experiences of all sorts.

 

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Carpe Diem Art Cafe with its cozy ambiance and gourmet menu provides the perfect opportunity to sit back and unwind with a good book.

While waiting for a coffee or a signature sandwich like the ‘The Meat Eater’s Club’ or a sweet/savory waffle, browse  through the lifestyle store with its wide range of offerings, from apparel and ceramic products to gifts and souvenirs.

Carpe Diem interior 2

Carpe Diem Cafe

Carpe Diem Interior

They are open 6 days a week, Tuesday – Sunday. 10 am – 7 pm. The outdoor stage provides a great space for performance based events here!

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Timeless Dharamshala at Blossoms Village Resort

What comes to your mind when someone says Dharamshala?

Well, if not for the gorgeous cricket stadium that is the apple of all Himachali’s eyes, Dharamshala-Mcleodganj is also home to H.H the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Yes you heard that right! In fact, this city is lovingly called ‘Dhasa’ – an acronym for Dharamshala and Lhasa since it houses the Central Tibetan Administration or the Tibetan Government in exile. Did we get your interest just about now?

Located well within 500 kms from NCR and about 200 kms from Amritsar, this is one of the favourite destinations for a weekend visit to the Himalayan foothills. Not just so, Mcleodganj brings a unique flavour of Tibetan culture in a modern Euro-American setup, right in the heart of an Indian shepherd’s village. The Tibetan settlement in this twin city has all the appeal of a meditation retreat to attract peace seeking travellers, who visit and most often end up staying for months.

We spent 4 days exploring the streets of Mcleodganj and learning about Tibetan arts in Dharamshala with our friend Nidhi from http://www.untravel.in Before we jump into the details, here is a quick list of things to do/places to visit from Dharamshala:

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Naddi Sunset Point: Magical Sunsets at Dharamshala

    1. HH Dalai Lama Temple Complex, Mcleodganj
    2. Namgyal Monastery
    3. Triund Trek
    4. St. John’s Church
    5. Kareri Lake Trek
    6. Dharamshala Cricket Stadium
    7. Norbulingka Institute of Tibetan Arts
    8. Pong Dam (Maharana Pratap Sagar)
    9. Masroor Rock Cut Temple
    10. Naddi Sunset Point
    11. Indrahar Pass Trek (opens seasonally)
    12. Kangra Valley paragliding

Now that looks like a long list so let us take you on a visual journey of our experience where we covered 50% of the items mentioned above.

Staying inside Dharamshala city was not going to be our choice since we prefer quaint, offbeat places. Blossoms Village Resort in Sidhpur, just on the edge of the main city was our home for this trip. We stayed in one of their luxury cottages and were blown by the hospitality and innovation that these guys bring to the table. Our room was elaborate and vintage, with ornate furniture and big wide windows. The old world charm reflects perfectly in the decor and the modern world peeks at you from a chic bathroom. Our little porch was beautifully adorned with pots and plants, bringing the garden outside right to our cottage.

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Luxury suite for two: Blossoms Village Resort

As we explored the property, the staff informed us of evening showers which are quite regular in Dharamshala. After a quick lunch at the in-house rooftop restaurant, The Cliff, we headed straight to the Norbulingka Institute.

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Explored Tibetan culture at Norbulingka Institute, Dharamshala

When you step into the Institute, be ready to be transported to a world of ancient art and culture. The big Buddha in the prayer hall called for some quite moments of contemplation before we walked around the institute, talking to various heads of departments for metal art, Thangka painting, Tibetan language studies and more. They also keep a spectacular collection of ancient Buddhist scriptures in a beautiful wooden room. The afternoon sun gladly guided us through this treasure trove of Tibetan culture.

Our hosts at Blossoms Village arranged for an epic barbecue night to follow at The Cliff restaurant afterwards. We drank the best cocktails and made merry with the other guests at the restaurant, one of them who runs the Cold Mountain Pottery Studio took us for a quick show around of the space. You can spot the items made at the studio if you drop by to the famous Illiteratti Cafe in McLeodganj.

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Romancing at cozy corners of The Cliff restaurant

CLiff Drink

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Secret Garden Restaurant at Blossoms Village Resort

Dharamshala has a timeless charm to its life. Days are bright and sunny most of the time while evening calls in clouds from the mountain ranges just behind, making for the best ever sunset hues in the sky. We idled on our second day and spent some quality time in our beautiful cottage. While breakfast was served in our suite, we took the morning to pay a visit to Illiteratti Cafe, followed by the HH Dalai Lama Temple complex in Mcleodganj. Sitting by the Dal lake on an overcast afternoon was followed by a bakery hunt in the streets of Mcleodganj. The locals are superb bakers and are so innovative in everything starting from their recipes, cafe decor and even packaging. At Woeser Bakery, a cute small hidden cafe under the stairs on a building, you’ll get your purchases in recycled packaging made from used milk cartons and such. We were late but made it just in time to grab the last piece of carrot cake that they are so famous for! We also went to Norling Cafe, a tiny home stye Tibetan Cafe and had the best mutton momos of our life! When it comes to food, Mcleodganj will never disappoint you with so much to offer.

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Mesmerising views of Dhauladhar range: Dharamshala

Our second evening was lit up with a music band performing at The Cliff back at Blossoms Village. What we loved most about this was they bring in local talent to entertain their guests and it sure adds a lot more value to your experience of traveling to Himachal.

Blossoms Village Resort offers superior, premium rooms, cottages and luxury suites (where we stayed in). You can make your booking here

We went in February so trekking was out of question (roads were blocked with snow). Our time in Dharamshala was spent with good people, great food and amazing hospitality. If you don’t mind spending a couple of days in peace, this might be just the perfect place for you!

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Organic farm living only 50 Kms from Mumbai

Arwa1Retirement is somehow supposed to be a scary thought, something to plan for years. We have seen our parents evolve post retirement and become avid travellers, at least from what they used to be! They even love going on hikes despite the age and failing health. Suppose we had it in our genes to start blogging and pick travel as our genre. It is true it wasn’t the plan, but from what its worth, let’s make retirement exciting !

Living a city life becomes imposing to so many, after spending years even! A somewhat similar concern drove the owners of Arwa Farms to think seriously about the land they owned in Dahanu. Situated amidst rice fields and sparse village huts, the sprawling landmass was waiting to be cultivated. Veteran photographer and journalist Fawzan Hussain decided to dig back into his family ancestory and bring back the profession of the great-grandfathers back to life. Yes, farming. Because not only does it provide you with chemical free, organically grown fruits, vegetables and cereals; it allows them to learn on the land everyday and produce fruits and vegetables to sustain life at the farm.

Cycle Area

We were invited to visit the property and understand how a completely organic farm works. Fawzan showed us the organic dung fertilizer that they make at the farm itself to be used on the produce. The range of items he cultivates at Arwa is simply fascinating. From papayas, mangoes, custard apples and sapota, cereals and paddy also finds space.

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Whats more! The farm can accommodate 14 guests at a time, making it an ideal destination for a calm family weekend getaway or even for groups of friends. Plastic is completely banned on the premises and Fawzan ensures the guests get the right vibe of being organic in the smallest details. The bathrooms have organic soaps and shampoo, kitchen sports clay pots and pans, plates and glasses sourced from the heart of Mumbai city, Dharavi.

Lobby Area

Spending a night under a skyful of stars sitting at the terrace having hot pakodas with him gave us an opportunity to experience the real farm life. The comfy beds and especially the one with the garden view was the boy’s absolute favourite for a night time stargazing. We are so thankful to the amazing staff at the kitchen who made delicious food, made from the fresh farm produce. An equally appetizing breakfast coupled with organic green tea refreshed us before the drive back home.

Zia Yoga 2

If you are interested in learning how to farm, do visit this place. Fawzan also organises workshops and to introduce kids to the idea of farming and crop cutting seasonally. A seasonal visit may also allow you to grab a bagful of ripe mangoes to take back home! We brought back some organic stevia for our diabetic parents because whats better than an organic replacement of sugar, right?

You can book Arwa Farms on AirBnB  or Booking.com

Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald is a must watch at IMAX Inox

Today it is 21 years since the first Harry Potter book was published by J.K. Rowling and it has been a world of adventures for kids and adults since then. There are probably a handful of 90’s kids who haven’t used a HP reference in their lives or been exposed to the world of magic through books or movies from the #HP series. Now, Harry’s story is over and Rowling has helped us understand the background of her magical renderings through the prequel story in her latest books.

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We have to say, it is one of the best things that could ever happen. A world of fantasy that draws comparisons with Narnia or LOTR by J.R.R.Tolkien, cannot just be left to go into oblivion, right?

We are so thrilled to have seen the second edition of Fantastic Beasts on a large screen with phenomenal surround sound in the cozy comfort of Inox theatre. While you may have your tickets booked already for the new release today or for the weekend, here is a little dope on what to expect without being too revealing.

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Drawing from where we left of in ‘Fantastic Beasts and where to find them’, the story starts with a series of events leading up to yet another adventure by Newt Scamander, obviously commissioned by none other than Albus Dumbledore. Fantastic Beasts 2 is however not so much about the younger Dumbledore, played by the phenomenal Jude Law. It is a story of untold emotions and memories, finding new creatures that will take your breath away as Newt sets on a journey to Paris to find Credence, the obscurus.

A few refreshing new faces add charm to the storytelling where you see Theseus Scamander, Newt’s elder brother come into the picture as a devoted yet headstrong Ministry Official. A turning point will come with the introduction of Leta Lestrange, played by the beautiful Zoe Kravitz. You may remember her from the role of Toast from Mad Max: Fury Road. The Lestrange family has been a key element of the plot even in the HP series and it is only admirable that the backstory is woven so well with Leta’s past having a serious impact on Credence’s questions about his identity. One more interesting addition is the character of Nagini, played here by the slender and pretty Claudia Kim. You know who Nagini is, don’t you? (Hint there)

The star-studded cast has Johnny Depp as Grindelwald who predictably does a marvellous job of being dramatic where its needed. Honestly we would have liked a little more of Jude Law as the charming middle-aged Dumbledore, but resting assured that there will be more of him in the next edition. That is all we are going to tell you about the story, period. Expect to have comic relief amidst the serious turn of events leading up to an unfathomable discovery of Credence’s true identity, as elaborated by Grindelwald which leaves us shocked and stunned. To tell you the truth, we still haven’t been able to digest, relate, emancipate or understand it. But we will leave it to you to believe or not.

Coming back to the wonderful movie experience at INOX, here is what we loved!

  1. Big screen – The Zouwu (You will know what it is when you watch the movie) looked so extravagant. The graphics of the movies is superb, which was made so much better on a jumbo screen at IMAX!
  2. Quality of the image and surround sound – A graphical, VFX heavy movies is not enjoyable if these two things are compromised. So glad we chose IMAX for this.
  3. Food & beverage – We could barely look away from the screen throughout the movie. It was keeping us hooked so thank to the staff at Inox, we had filled ourselves with huge tubs of popcorn and snacks while gorging on the crazy visuals.

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We watched Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald at Inox R-City Mall, Ghatkopar in Mumbai. It is a special theatre because of the beautifully lit lobby area which automatically transports you to a fantasy world. The interiors are absolutely gorgeous, especially the lighting design. Its a 7 star luxury experience of theatres, we would say.

So book your tickets now and go watch this much awaited fantasy film with your family, friends, kids of friends and everyone else at Inox!

Disclaimer: The Moonchasers attended a secret screening of the film on invitation and opinions expressed in the article are our own and not sponsored by the brand.