Heritage travel and ecotourism comes together at Phaltan

Uncharted places that are not on the map as a designated tourist destination often show the potential of a unique experience. That is exactly what Jakson Inns has achieved for the almost forgotten Phaltan, located 110 kms from Pune.

A highway ride is common for Mumbaikars, usual destinations being Pune, Kaas Pathar, Lonavala, Goa, Ratnagiri coastal lines and more. On a roadtrip to nowhere in particular, Jakson Inns just happened to us for a stopover initially. Phaltan is one of those places where you may stop for a night before continuing your journey, but it gives you a neat, functional and enjoyable itinerary. Variety of experiences curated together by the hotel entices you to stay back.

What started as a journey in search of an offbeat experience, turned out to be a complete weekend getaway at a highway side hotel. May sound odd, but you need to read this article in full to know how The Moonchasers found a weekend, worthy of sharing with you as a recommendation.

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Satara district marks a historically and economically significant side of Maharashtra, also known for its forts, waterfalls and religious festivals. Lands that host major industrial facilities also caters to 60% of the states sugar production, thanks to sugarcane farming all around the plateaus. Only about a four hour drive from Mumbai, Phaltan is an amalgamation of sustainable energy with agriculture and history. From solar farms and windmills powering an entire industrial belt and a 3 star hotel, Jakson Hospitality brings a piece of ecotourism on its very premises spanning 6 acres.

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The property is a proud LEED Platinum Rated Building, harnessing its energy from natural resources. The hotel has 69 deluxe rooms, 4 suites, a contemporary bar, a vibrant multicuisine restaurant and a luxury spa. It also has a gorgeous pool and basketball court, and bicycles (We made good use of it for a midnight track race) suited for families. A full service gym is also open for guests.

Apart from providing a wholesome Malvani cuisine, the staff ensures you get a taste of the local culture. We were taken to a beautiful windmill farm to watch sunset over the plateaus sipping on an exquisite Sauvignon on the first day.  The giant machines start screeching and creaking to pick up speed with the evening breeze, adding a bit of charm to the whole setting. We also made a new friend at the table top!

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A barbecue night followed on the hotel grounds, prepared by the chefs on the spot. They went an extra mile to prepare a giant Khakhra for us (Baked thin crackers made of mat bean and wheat flour). Sumptuous food calls for a good end to an amazing day and we had a very comfortable room, again carefully and professionally serviced to get a good night’s sleep.

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Breakfast awaited us by the poolside on the second day. After gorging on mango shakes and masala omelettes, our destination was Thosegad Waterfalls. Maharashtra comes alive with the monsoon and this waterfall too shows its true beauty ripe with the rain water. However we had a fun time walking up to the lake and made a mental note of coming back here again in a couple of months as the rains intensify.

Stories of emperors, conquerors and rulers fascinate the reader. But what happens when you get to walk into the homes once inhabited by the characters from the pages of history books! An experience curated only by Jakson Inns that needs a special permission, made the highlight of the trip.

Phaltan is known in history for being home to Sai Bai, Shivaji’s first wife as she hailed from this once prosperous taluka. Manmohan Rajwada, was named after Mudhoji Manmohan, who ruled the Phaltan State between 1860 to 1916. It was once the maternal home of Sambhaji Maharaj, son of the founder of the Maratha Empire.

An architectural delight, the Rajwada palace compound consists of the main residential building, an ancient Ram Mandir, spacious courtyards and long halls called chowks. The interiors reflect rich heritage design with intricate hand-carved wood work in the columns and arches. The rich colour palette in the paintings and tapestries across the palace exude a royal yet contemporary selection of art. All rooms open out onto a central courtyard, or a chowk, demonstrating a common feature of period Indian architecture, allowing air circulation for hot summers. It was an obvious delight for J for his love of symmetry and marvellous architecture. On the other hand, I was marvelling at it’s spaciousness and rich historic elegance which oozes out with every step you take within the premises. Every turn opens up to a corridor full of footprints of the Royal family of Phaltan.

All of this, coupled with a Maharashtrian chulha made lunch and a pomegranate plucking session where you can taste the sweetest fruits right on the field, we feel Jakson Inns has successfully merged the business of hospitality to boost the local economy as well. To understand the actual potential of rural tourism, eco tourism and farmland visits, it is a great way to spend a weekend here instead of just stopping over. The richness of experience makes itself a desirable destination. Where else can you get a private sunset sipping wine with your loved one, walk about vast pomegranate fields and sugarcane farms, go into the very rooms where once queens lived and feel the wind in your hair ?

This place is an inspiration for travellers seeking to do something new, know something more about a place and have a great time. In fact, MTDC has Phaltan listed as a heritage and eco-tourism destination.  Taste the perfect contemporary bohemian lifestyle with a touch of history at Phaltan. At the same time, enjoy sustainable hospitality with a comfortable stay for your next weekend getaway from Mumbai or Pune.

Note: The Rajwada stands as a private palace and is not a tourist spot, nor does it allow anyone to get inside other than guests of Jakson Inns.

Here is a video showing you all about Phaltan:

The Art of Travelling ft Travel Hacks

Your perfectly planned vacation sounds fancy on social media but when you pay huge sums for the same, or stay in a hotel where the facilities aren’t top notch, it’s not all that grand, right?

Be it the transaction fees, trip costs, hotel rates or beating hunger pangs after a long airport hauls, there are some unavoidable circumstances. But, every problem has a solution is what we firmly believe! Here’s a list of travel hacks which will help you travel better. Use them all, and promise yourself a hassle-free trip to your dream destination.

#1. Flight hacks

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Picture Source: Pixabay
  • Sign up for airline emails which will constantly keep you posted with the flight fares and the discount rates.
  • Try booking your tickets on Tuesdays or Thursdays for you might be lucky enough to get a dip of 10% on your ticket charges.
  • Travel during the shoulder season, i.e the month before or after the peak season. During this time, there’s a sure shot reduction of flight charges by 20% and this has been suggested by the experts at Pickyourtrail in one of their articles on travel hacks.
  • Enable private browsing whilst you are checking for the flight rates. This is done to prevent the travel sites from tracking your IP and increase the cost of the flight tickets.

#2. Pre Travel Hacks

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Image Source: Pixabay
  • Roll your clothes over folding. This occupies less space and gives you more room to keep other goods.
  • Pack your socks or other tiny items of clothing inside a rolled shirt or dress since they require very less surface area.
  • Carry a collapsible laundry bag.
  • Once you are done with packing, place a dryer sheet on top of the clothes since they prevent them from smelling odd and also keep them fresh.
  • Always scan your passport, important documents, itineraries and email them to yourself. By doing this, you’ll have a proof of everything in case of a theft or loss.
  • Call up your bank and intimate them on your foreign travel for, they wouldn’t hold you for any suspicious activities during your tenure in the international lands.
  • Mark all of your items of baggage as fragile. By doing so, your luggage will not only be safely handled but also be in the initial round of baggages sent out in the unit.

#3. During Travel

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Image Source: Pixabay
  • Carry your own water bottle so that you don’t have to search for snack spots or wash basins to quench your thirst whilst waiting for your airlines.
  • Hold your nose and blow out after the flight takes-off. This will clear your ear-block.
  • Carry a pen before you reach the customs section. Most of the flight assistants will not have them and you might have to wait for someone to lend you which in turns delays your process.
  • Press the button in the ring area of windows. You can tint the window glasses by doing so and this saves you from the morning bright light.

#4. On Arriving

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Image Source: Pixabay
  • If you want access to the local currency on arriving at the airport, head to the nearest ATM machine and withdraw cash. The international debit charges will be lower than the charges held by the currency exchange unit. More currency related tips can be found here!
  • Head to baggage claim as soon as possible. Waiting for baggage could be tedious, and waiting for it with an ample lot of crowd can never be entertaining.
  • If you have checked-in at the hotel, unpack only the essentials. Taking out all the clothes and making yourself feel home could be very pleasing but, it’s never an easy task to repack the commodities.
  • Check for the toiletries and neatness of the restroom before you start using it. If you find a dip in cleanliness, you can always ask for a reimbursement or reduction in the room rates.

Did you find these hacks useful? Let us know! 

You can visit PickYourTrail to plan an itinerary of your choice, hand picked and customized as per your need.

Would you like to add your travel hacks to this post? Help us expand it with your inputs in the comments!

Adventure trails in Durshet – a weekend exploring the lush Western Ghats

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Beautiful day at Durshet Forest Lodge

Monsoon is the time to be happy. In a dry state like Maharashtra, arrival of monsoons not only brings relief to the people, but also pulls off a curtain from the landscape, covering it with lush, rich greenery. Being city animals when all you want to do is appreciate nature, its vastness and its majestic expanse, what does one do?

You take a trip off the beaten track! Just as we did last weekend with Nature Trails Resorts in Durshet, a lesser known gem located at only 95 kms from Mumbai, in the Raigad district. The idea was to get out and explore something not so far, and Sterling Holidays came to our rescue. With a motto of #joyofdiscovery , the legacy of the renowned hospitality major comes at play through its modern approach to travel. We were joined by a bunch of new faces on our journey, each of them vibrant and full of interesting anecdotes about the joy of exploring.

We set out on a rainy Saturday morning from Mumbai and reached the Durshet property in about two hours. Welcomed by the lush backyard and luxury tents, we were utterly happy that we chose the right place. Vóila!

After munching on hot Misal, we set out on a tour of the property that extends till the edge of the river Amba to the back. Being a seasonal stream, the river bed was only awaiting a little more downpour and it will be flowing, making for a great kayaking experience, in a resort near Mumbai! Who could imagine that?

It was also Father’s day the very same weekend and we met a bunch of children playing around and excited to go on an adventure trip later in the afternoon. We played cricket under drizzling skies and bonded with them before our rappeling session. The fun fact of visiting here is that we came across a large variety of travellers. Families seeking a weekend getaway, a summer camp for kids, corporate groups and friends looking for an active weekend in the jungle and people like us, who never lets go of an opportunity for a little adrenaline boost!

The real joy of exploring is in being out there, and we did exactly that after lunch. We hiked across the property’s 15 acre forest to find a rope bridge – called Burma bridge. After a wobbly walk across the structure, a sudden downpour got us drenched from head to toe. Honestly, the feeling of being in a jungle and getting completely soaked is one of the best we can recommend to you. Next up was ziplining, a short but cute stretch and J and I both had quite fun jumping off in our wet clothes. Failure however was awaiting me at the Tarzan Swing down below. I promise i tried very hard to reach the edge of the trough but it was a slip of half an inch! Result? I ended up in the pool of water below and climbed back up completely wet, again! #ExploreNatureTrails

The boys went rappeling after that and managed to beat the average record by completing the task in just above 90 seconds. What can I say, J is born with mountain instincts, I suppose!

Durshet has a curious history with the richness of being a battleground in the time of the Maratha Empire. The rivers, the meadowing valleys and strange rock plateaus added to the significance of these jungles as an impregnable land during wrfare. Such charming history led the founder of Nature Trails, Mr. Hari Divekar to look at this piece of land as the ideal location for his adventure camp 20 years back. A strong history of being an ecological conservationist, closely associated with Dr. Salim Ali and the Bombay Natural History Society led Hari to try and preserve the essence of the natural terrains of the ghats, ideal for training children in adventure activities and physical training.

So whats so special about Durshet Forest Lodge?

  1. It is spread over 35 acres of forest land
  2. It has both budget and premium options for stay
  3. It has amazing adventure activities for beginners and if you like to spend your time trying out new things like ziplining, rappeling, rope climbing and more
  4. The food is authentic Maharastrian and delicious!
  5. You wont feel once that you are only 95 Kms away from Mumbai. Its lush!

Nature Trails has four properties in Durshet, Kolad, Dabhosa and Sajan respectively, all in Maharashtra. With their 20 year old hospitality and adventure travel expertise, they are now a part of the famous Sterling Holidays. This adds to the portfolio of stay options and the recent addition of luxury tents, which are by the way beautiful, comes as a welcome offering for those who don’t mind paying a few extra bucks for greater comfort. Let us also tell you, the views from the brand new pool at the property is a +1! We recommend Nature Trails for families and groups of friends looking for a taste of adventure, have a chill weekend or even a day trip (yes they have that option) in the lap of nature.

You can participate in the #LookWhosChilling contest by #LookWhosTalking and win exciting prizes. Click here for more information!

Check out our latest video for a full experience at Nature Trails Durshet:

You can check here for booking: www.naturetrails.in

For more pictures from the trip, you can always go to @dmoonchazers

Tell us your recommendations of #weekendgetaways near Mumbai in the comments to help us explore better!

Next up on the blog: Kundalika River Rafting Camp

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‘Travel Store’ by Snapdeal

We were looking for items for our ‘Travel essentials for women’ list when we came upon the Travel Store by Snapdeal! Honestly it cant get better. They are curating this awesome store with everything you will need when traveling, well almost!

snapdeal-new-logo-7591The recently launched Snapdeal travel store brings to all travel aficionados a handy list for travel necessities within a single window, helping customers buy with ease everything that they require for their vacation this summer. How awesome is that!

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Here is the list of travel must haves from Snapdeal to make your travel comfortable and entertaining. We will be adding to this list our recommendations of travel essentials.

  • Have you picked the right accessories?

Pack the right items for your travel. Travel pillows, eye masks, earplugs in different colors and patterns, to classy yet simple luggage and duffel bags. All available on Snapdeal a click away

  • Entertainment Quotient

To make your travel more fun, while allowing you to document your travel, click pictures and listen to music. The Snapdeal travel store has an extensive range of DSLR cameras, bluetooth speakers, rechargeable batteries, power banks to make your trip more memorable

  • Dress up & look your best:

Carry the most essential yet trendy clothing and look your best during your trip. Casual shirts, jackets, sweaters, boots, flip-flops, t-shirts, beachwear, dresses, pack all these are must-haves to for all travel goals

  • Road Trip:

Road trips are fun-filled journeys. To ensure customers are able to avoid exertion, Snapdeal has launched essential accessories such as car back rests, car inflatable beds, GPS device, tracking compass

  • Go Hiking:

For adventure trips like hiking, don’t forget to carry hiking boots, active wear, hiking tents, headlamps, rucksacks, sleeping bags to make it a hassle free yet thrilling journey of a lifetime.

Snapdeal Travel Store provides a one-stop destination to buy must have products for a vacation in mountains, beaches and more. So, think no more and head to the Snapdeal App available on your mobile from the comforts of your own home. For more details, visit – https://www.snapdeal.com/offers/travel-store

25 Super exciting brands to discover at The Lil Flea’s 4th Anniversary

The Lil Flea Blog

Well, well, aren’t we excited to treat you with a welcome present for our 4th anniversary!

Presenting you a selection of brands from the 300! coming to this edition, handpicked for your own tastes by our team of top notch curators to offer you the luxuries of choosing and discovering brands to kill for:

B:Kind– Well, doesn’t the name say it all! B Kind’s luxuriously handcrafted delights offer us a chance to overview handcrafted brilliantly cut women’s wear for the daily crux.

B kindBlue Baksa– Quite literally a baksa full of surprises, shoes from Blue Baksa are crafted with love and a dash of giggly humour. The brand explores the needs of cosmopolitan ladies using chic styles, varying heel sizes and bright but oh so sophisticated colors.

Blue BaksaAureole– Woven with a deep rooted love for cultural heritage and timeless style, the Aureole outfit takes Khadi from the Indian…

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A colourful gathering – know Gangaur of Shahpura

Festivals in our country are quite plentiful. In all honesty, i find it quite appealing that the colours and variety of festivals across the states is the perfect representation of the abundance that nature and faith has given people for centuries. Talking about the diversity in festivals, one may instantly connect with Rajasthan – the land of history, conquest, beauty and hardships of life, architecture and valour, vigour and kingship.

Rajasthan is truly the land of festivals not because there are many, but because the strong character of every celebration. The colours, ambient mood, majestic locations make for gorgeous stock photography and experience while covering them. It has become one of the major triggers attracting a plethora of Instagrammers, Bloggers, content creators to come here. Tourism has flourished tremendously in the last decade or so.

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Since i lacked a good photo, borrowing one from the very talented Shivam Sharma of Udaipur (@shivam_photofactory – Instagram)

Following the lead, I managed to get myself invited by this year’s Gangaur Festival celebration at Shahpura Haveli, wee 65 kms from the pink city of Jaipur.

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Google Maps

A celebration of spring and harvest, where women dress up in their best jewelry and garments to pray for good fortune and welfare of their husbands, Gangaur 2018 was a treat to the eyes and senses. A group of Instagrammers were invited to witness the grand celebration at the Haveli, which has resumed its pomp after long 40 years.

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Idols of Gauri Mata and Isar Maharaj
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Prayers offered by the women to the deities at Rawa Moti Mahal

There is a fascinating story behind the origin of the festival, just like any other religiously devotional stories. After Parvati won Lord Shiva’s heart through her unfailing devotion, she came back to her paternal home during Gangaur. She blessed her friends with marital bliss, which is what this festival signifies. The whole environment just came alive when the pious deities of Isar Maharaj & Gangaur Mata were regally taken around the streets, people were offering their prayers and devotion to the deities.

What I liked best was the fact that the women followed this celebrations so passionately, married or unmarried, to celebrate the piety of Gangaur Mata. Rani Ratnakumari Foundation, led by the honourable Rajmata Gunwant Kumari from the family of the erstwhile rulers of Shahpura for empowerment of women, brought back the festival to native Shahpura after a gap of 40 long years. 

We attended a beautiful procession carrying the idols which was organised by the Royal family. In a city teeming with tourists and photographers from everywhere, it passed through the vivid markets of the town, and not to sound boastful but had an amazing camaraderie of horses, camels, traditional folk dancers, brass bands from Punjab, lancers etc. We were told that Gangaur is celebrated across Rajasthan but it has a special meaning to the natives of Shahpura. This year, Rani Ratna Kumari Foundation had organised a much grand procession as compared to the celebrations Shahpura has seen. Cultural events and felicitation ceremony at Shahpura were held in association with Rajasthan Tourism. It was truly a festive paradise. Being my first ever in Rajasthan, gangaur has left a very colourful impression both on my mind and my Instagram feed!

The festival has a charm to itself, despite being celebrated largely with the women fasting for long periods. However, the reason for associating with this particular celebration was due to the great work done by the royal family through the Rani Ratna Kumari Foundation, fondly known as RRKF India.

They are working towards a holistic development in the economic condition of the villagers through job creation for the women. Initiated and supported by the erstwhile rulers of Shahpura, RRKF promises to provide aid and support to the women who in turn can benefit from the revenue generated for the education of their kids. I think it is a great initiative and this festival adds to the many colours of truly empowering the society. We would definitely go back to this celebration again to experience more of the tradition, would you? Tell us in the comments!

 

 

Misty mountains, rain and friends – Magical Wayanad

It was the monsoon of 2017, that time when Bombay got almost flooded, again, remember! We were all set for our trip to Bali, all the bookings being done well in advance. Traveling to a different country for the first time ever, the excitement, caution and pre-planning gave us a lot to think about. Yes, we do not have money to travel the world just as yet!
Joy helped chalk out the itinerary for 5 nights and 6 days. The brilliant part was we were doing so many things on different corners of the island paradise in so less time. But lets keep that for another story. This story is about an impromptu plan, a bunch of crazy friends in a car and Kerala in the monsoons.

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Cure to travel hangover- another trip!

We had two days left from the scheduled leaves after our return. To fill that up and cure the hangover from being mesmerised in Bali, which we were pretty sure we would, we had to plan something. It is almost impossible to head straight back home after such a long awaited trip!
So, we booked ourselves on another flight to Bengaluru the same night as our return. Crazy as it was, we did manage to come back home, drop beach bags and pick up the road trip packs, making it back to the Mumbai airport, well, just in time!.
My cousin picked us up from the Bengaluru airport on a Thursday morning, and we were joined by my school friend. We headed for Wayanad after stocking up for the road (the essentials of course and some beers).
Despite being in Bangalore for over three years, I had never really travelled to Kerala. Wayanad seemed like the best place to absorb the richness of the monsoon glory, starting our interaction  with Mallu Land.
Moving on, we had some epic moments on the way right from being refused toilet access at a local resort, asked to share our beers with some local boys taking a dip in the pond beside the highway, to hunting little town markets in search of smoking papers. We could find none after hours of wandering about.
The best part was when we reached our resort in Kalpatta, little outside the main town around 7 PM. The Manager, Mr. Sunil had called us  prior and told us we will have to park our car and take the resort jeep to reach our cottages. Little did we know what was in store for us all tired and jet lagged from back to back flights and a 6 hour drive. It was drizzling slightly.

A Jeep ride like never before!

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Upon taking a wild jeep ride (it felt like we were in the arms of Kong, who is climbing a mountain blind! No joke.) for straight 20 minutes in pitch dark blackness, pouring sky and the eerie sound of crickets, we reached the mountain top. Mr. Sunil of Marmalade Springs welcomed us with hot coffee from the estate and an invitation to dinner. We were the only guests that night so one can imagine the lovely Malayali cook to shower us with his culinary specialties. We stuffed ourselves to the brim because the food was yummier than anything I had had in the whole of South India! Forgot to take a picture. OOPS!
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Marmalade Springs Coffee Estate

The balcony of our cottages opened straight to the beautiful valley below, and we thoroughly enjoyed catching up on long lost conversations as a family for the night. Next morning started with sumptuous breakfast at the courtesy of Selva, who was thrilled to get double the amount of whatever we asked for. The view was simply breathtaking after all the rain from previous night. The lush was fresh and blooming, the mist was slowly clearing and the swans at the little pond were visibly unhappy with our arrival. It was the perfect setting for a great start to the day.
We headed out to explore a few monsoon musts after a curious and bumpy ride back to the bottom of the resort. It was only in daylight that we discovered the beautiful coffee estate surrounding us. Little coffee beans were hanging by the bunches on every bush. Sunil later explained that the coffee picking season will start in December and we must visit again to get a hands on experience of roasting and brewing the best of Nilgiri coffee!
We visited the Banasura Sagar Dam, hiked to Meenmutty and Soochipara waterfalls and got drenched in the fresh raging waters with almost all our camera gear. A speedboat  ride at the dam under the monsoon sky added a special memory to our archives. Having friends who will always jump around with you with the same energy is a powerful emotion. We are glad to have such people travel with us!

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The second part of this trip calls for a special treat. We have made a video for you all from the first day too! Stay tuned for updates!
Check out the photos below and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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