Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Dhanaulti... Holidaying the peaceful way...

Its April 2013... Its been four months since my last vacation and for me it was too much. I was tired of Delhi crowd and routine work. So, my freaking mind shoved me to take a break as early as possible.

I am one of those lucky people whose relatives reside in tourist spots. Mine are in Mussoorie. I was just dying to move out of Delhi for the weekend. I thought to go to Dhanaulti (near Mussoorie) after some googling.

(I always google before going somewhere). The results were perfect as per my requirement. Dhanaulti is a small hill station 24 Km from Mussoorie and 29 Km from Chamba as it is located between the two. We can board a bus to Mussoorie and from there, we can either take bus, shared taxi or private taxi to Dhanaulti. Its around 10 hour journey. This much information was readily available on net.

Then I called up my brother in Mussoorie to ask about the place. He straightaway alarmed me against my wish claiming it to be a boring place where I won't have anything to do... Hey Bro.. Who wants to do anything... M on a holiday!!!

So now decided. Dhanaulti. That's my destination for the coming weekend. I again googled about this little town (town is a huge word for Dhanaulti.. even village is big!!!) and booked Hotel drive inn. Its centrally located near the only tourist attraction. And now I was waiting for the weekend to come. Till then, I was ready to bear crowd and work.

Here comes the Friday and we booked our seats in A.C. bus from Anand Vihar to Mussoorie. We could also chose to go to Dehradun through Volvo and then any bus from Dehradun to Mussoorie. That makes the journey much more comfortable. Train is also good option.

We started from Anand Vihar at 11 O'Clock in the night and reached Mussoorie at around 6.30 in the morning. There we had some tea and snacks till we waited for the bus for Chamba that would take us to Dhanaulti. God! we were tired like hell!!! The 1.5 hour long route is twisted around mountains. Headache and nausea come along easily. But the moment we reached, the air of Dhanaulti washed away all our tiredness.
On the way to Dhanaulti

The journey to Dhanaulti form Mussoorie is like a roller coaster ride. But its worth the pain.  Its sheer delight to enjoy the natural beauty of the place. Unlike Mussorie, Dhanaulti is still untouched of urbanisation. Just pure air, water and sooo much of nature to soak in.

The bus dropped us exactly in front of our hotel.  The place was so calm and peaceful. The air seemed so heavenly.
Amazing views all through the way
 It as around 9 in the morning. There wasn't much staff in the hotel but still they were ready to help in best way possible. We got into our room, freshened up and rested for an hour. By this time, we started feeling hungry. We put warm jackets and shoes (It was wonderfully cold even in summer :-)) and pulled ourselves out of the comfy room. 
 Just in front of the hotel exit, we could locate so many eating options. We wandered up to the Eco Park (That's hardly 5 minutes walk from hotel Drive Inn). And finally settled for Maggi and Aloo paratha. We didn't want to indulge too much into eating as we were in full mood to spend entire day cherishing the beauty of the place.

Entry to the Eco Park

After having our Brunch, we headed for Eco Park. It is the main attraction of Dhanaulti. 

There are two Eco-parks, "Amber" and "Dhara" about 200 m apart. Its a small forest area managed by forest department and local people. The entry ticket is 20 Rs. 

As we entered, there were few kids playing in the park. We went ahead and enjoyed the serenity of the place. 
Flowers at eco park

Flowers at eco park
 Long deodar trees, fresh flowers, lush green surroundings and serenity of the place was enough to mesmerize any city folk.
Me at peace

Its a place so tranquil, so quiet that we forgot all our worries.
Highest point at the park

In a small toy tunnel at the park
Highest point at the park
The pics might look ordinary as I am no great photographer. But the whole atmosphere was magical. Everyone surely deserves to feel the magic.
Other end of the tunnel

View Point- It gives extraordinary view of snow clad Himalayas
 We spent around 3 hours in the park and by now our hungry stomach was crying for food... :-(

Just near to the park were few restaurants. They don't offer very hi fi menu but yes, good food and nice hospitality is promised. I don't know whether it was the effect of pure enviro or happy folks of Dhanaulti, even plain water was so tempting. We had some snacks in the restaurant and then we headed off to our hotel.

Dhanaulti is a small hilly area so it gets closed early in the night. So, we came back again to have dinner in the same restaurant at around 8 in night. We enjoyed simple dinner.
Rhododendron (Buransh) flowers

You must be thinking if there is anything special in Dhanaulti. Yes. Apart from tranquility and simplicity, we noticed Rhododendron juice selling in almost every shop. We asked one of the shopkeepers about the juice and came to know that it is the juice of local "Buransh flowers". Its good for heart and controls high Blood Pressure. The taste is so good that once we tried it we could not resist buying as much as we could carry. Its a must buy in Dhanaulti.
 As I was unable to click the pics of buransh flowers, I have taken this pic from  "A Wandering Mind" a wonderful blog by Anuradha Shankar.

After a great day, we returned back to the hotel and rested to get up early with the birds... When in Dhanaulti, you don't need to set the alarm. Birds take care of that.

we had booked shared taxi earlier day. So, at 8 a.m. sharp we finished our breakfast and headed towards Mussoorie. Just make sure to prebook shared taxi as private taxi is costly as well as it devoids you of enchanting journey with locals. We booked shared taxi but we never regretted that. 
Journey with locals

The taxi wala was allowing everyone to enter and kids were allowed to travel for free- truly a rare gesture. Everyone was helping each other to settle down, to put their luggage and even with less space everybody was managing happily. Throughout the journey, it seemed, everybody knew each other. 
This was the life at Dhanaulti. Simple, pure and peaceful...

Mussoorie... An Extension to our Dhanaulti trip

As we left quite early in the morning from Dhanaulti and had the train from Dehradun at around 11 in the night, we had almost whole day to spare. What could be a better way than exploring the queen of hills..
We wandered like nomads and enjoyed ever bit of our journey. As it was an election day, most of the shops were closed. Still we found some of them open. There is a huge market between picture palace and library.  
There is a famous Tibetan restaurant "Kalsang". Its a treat for non vegetarians.

 As Mussoorie was established by Britishers, its architecture belongs to that era only. We loved the way the raods are built. Beautiful lampshades, handrails, benches take you to the colonial era.

Through the aesthetic handrails
Under a vintage lampshade
That’s a b’ful bench

There are beautiful wall paintings engraved all over the walls of Mall Road. This is something I never saw at any other place. Quite an interesting way of enhancing the beauty.

Decorated walls
Horses on the wall- Mall road

There was so much beauty but one thing that was ruining the obvious charm of this hill station was rapid urbanization. There is construction going on almost everywhere. Mountains are being looted for their resources. This tree was crying out the fate of urban Mussoorie. Unlike Dhanaulti, nature feels neglected in this part of hills.
After walking upto library, we took a halt and then again started walking instead of taking a cab. Walking, riding, biking are best ways to travel. It gives you ample time to sink in to the aura of the place. 

From library we had to go to Apple valley. I have my Bua ji living there with her family. It was around 5 km long trail and walked our way.

After taking rest and having a wholesome breakfast, I insisted my sister-in-law, Khyati to accompany us to nearby Tibetan temple. We were in no mood to waste a single moment at home. So, we visited this beautiful temple. 

Temple front

Me & Khyati in temple premises

Majority of residents in Apple Valley are Tibetans. This area has a mark of their culture in everything.

Central School for Tibetans

 While returning, Khyati wanted to exercise her vote, so we went to Tibetan school, the polling centre in that area. It was a nice school, specially opened for Tibetan kids.
Election Day

There are a lot of other places in Mussoorie like Campty Fall, Company Garden, Lal Tibba but due to lack of time, we compromised with this much only.

Visit to the school marked to the end of the evening as it took a long time for Khyati to vote.

Just after some great food and tea, we left for Dehradun from where we had to board the train to Delhi. 
That was all about our two day trip to Dhanaulti and Mussoorie.
Back to office but with a refreshed mind....

Monday, 8 April 2013

Go Go Goa...

A year back, when we were planning our trip, we had several places in mind but certainly not Goa. One fine day, on a friend's suggestion, we started exploring what best we could make if we travel to Goa and over Internet itself, Goa started unwinding its wonderful colours.
And till date I thank my friend for suggesting Goa.. As we don't believe in package holiday, we mangaed our tour on our own. Goa is a paradise for tourists. We get no. of options for everything.

How to Reach:

By Air:
Goa is well connected to all major cities in India. Some airlines fly directly to Goa, but most international flights arrive via Mumbai.
We boarded our flight from Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi. We left at around 3 p.m. for a 2.5 hour long flight to Goa. Landed at The Dabolim airport in Vasco da Gama -the Goa's only airport in Goa.

By Rail:
Indian Railways connects Goa with direct train services from Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Mangalore, Kochi, Kolkata, Thiruvanantapuram, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. The destination station is usually Madgaon in South Goa, one can also choose to get down at Thivim in North Goa.
Most travel agents will book tickets for a small fee, but be aware that trains do get busy and you need to book in advance. Do not leave booking your ticket to the last moment as you may be disappointed.
Though, it is the best option for budget travellers but usually people prefer train travel as compared to Air travel as Goa by train is a real pleasure because the route passes through greenery and many tunnels. Goa is also connected to Pune via the Belgaum Miraj line. A railway station most tourists tend to miss is Thivim, which is served by most trains and is located very close to the popular beaches of North Goa.In case of pre booked hotel, its always good to consult your hotel about which station to get down and what are the means to further reach to the hotel. Many hotels provide pick and drop services. In case you dont have a pick and drop service, cabs are always available everywhere in Goa. Though the price may seem to be high as compared to rest of India, but being the hottest tourist destination makes us pay that.

By Road:
There are several bus routes from various cities. Buses from Mumbai, Mangalore, Bangalore and New Delhi can also be hired but with a advanced booking during the crowded seasons (particularly during the Christmas-New Year rush, for Carnival, or when other Indian regions have school holidays when families travel).
Kadamba Transport Corporation is the Goa state-run transport service. For internal travel in Goa, it is the best and cheapest option. The buses are really good.

Our Experience-

Air of Goa welcomes you the moment you step down. Goa has a nicely managed Airport. It doesn't look much like an airport, but its nice and neat and clean. Plus, you have decent options for food.

After coming out of the Goa Airport, we got surrounded by a bunch of cab drivers. As we didn't know much about local transport, we bargained for a Swift dezire. The driver was friendly and comfirtably dropped us to our Hotel in Parvorim Goa. We could also take a bus to Panaji and could get cheaper cabs thereon. But considering the late hours and lots of luggage, cab seemed a better option.

Now we had 8 whole days and we had to plan our itenary. Here's how we planned our trip

Day 1 (1Dec 2012) : 

 We reached our hotel, and in no time we were out to plan our next 8 days. As we reached quite late, we just fixed our Bike for the rest of the days.We hired an Avenger @ 400Rs./day. During off season, it can be bargained to 300. Scooters are also available for 200-300/ day.

Although Goa is a wonderland for non vegetarians and drinkers (You can actually find a wine and kaju depot every 200 metres and that too at cheapest price! And Goans love sea food!),  we had our dinner in nearby Pure Veg restaurant ! Yes, we found Pure Veg Restaurant in Goa and that too just in front of our Resort. Navtara is a chain of veg restaurants in Goa and we loved the food. We just wondered here and there and played carrom and TT in resort for the rest of the evening.

Day 2: 
Our day started by waking up late and having heavy breakfast. We then headed off to Calangute Beach. Our resort provided shuttle service but we preferred our own vehicle. Its a pleasure to ride through the clean and green roads of Goa. At every turn we could find a signboard so we didn't feel any difficulty in reaching the beach.

A sunscreen, a hat and a pair of sunglasses are must have in Goa. We purchased the same at market near Calangute. And we had to bargain a lot.  

We enjoyed on the beach but even in December, sun can make you feel tired. Beaches are for early morning and late evenings. At that time, we can click best pics too.

Crowd @ Calangute

Panaji Market-Closing time
 Then we ate and shopped and returned back.
In the evening, we went out for some arbit ride to Panaji, had dinner. 

While returning it got too late and as our restaurant at resort  would have been closed by now, we searched for some milk bottle ( U can imagine how it could be- seaching for milk in city of alcohol!!!). But, we managed to get a polypack from a nearby general store!  

Our resort manager suggested us to visit Aguada Fort the next day. Its the same fort where a song sequence for Bollywood movie " Rang De Basanti" has been shot. How could we miss a place with a filmy history! And it turned out to be a photographer's paradise...

Day 3:
Just like the day before, we started off late and reached Aguada by afternoon. Midway, a beatiful beach can be found. But we stopped there only while returning. It offered boat rides and fresh coconut water and a nice calm place to rest.

As we reached Aguada, sun was shining bright and I didnt regret bringing heavy water bottle. We carried Wet facial tissues also along with some juice.
Way to Aguada fort

The Fort is beautiful and offers great scenic beauty. We just explored our skills and took some really b'ful pics.

Stairs inside fort

Some Filmy Shots!
View from top of Aguada

Beautiful Lighthouse

 After a tiring tour of Fort Aguada, we were exhausted and we returned back, This time we stopped at the small beach en route. Had nariyal pani, took some rest got some pics and moved on. 


Kingfisher Villa
There's a Vijay Mallaya Villa en route. By the time we reached our resort, it was tea time. We were famishing and road side vada pao and tea turned to be our savior. We could find vada pao anywhere and we just loved the Goan street food.


We rested at our resort in the evening (Just look at the way the housekeeping guy decorated our room at the resort. Everyday we found new designs!!!). 

After dinner we came out to feel the Goan nightlife and it turned out to  be more mesmerizing than our expectations. The sea roars like anything in the night and the parties go on in the beach shacks and we could just roam in the tranquil atmosphere . We were there on the beach till midnight, walking on cold sand and that marked the end of our day before we headed towards our resort.

Roaring water in the night

Day 4:
When you come to Goa, everybody back home expects kaju and fenny :-) Being a teetotaller, my husband preferred only Kajus. So, we headed off to Panaji Market. There we found a nice shop with decent price. 1 Kg for around 500/-. He suggested some fruit jellies and Aam papad. And we didn't regeret spending there. We bought the most delicious jellies and aam papad.

In the evening we again headed towards Baga beach.

Day 5:
Chapora Fort
We had seen the crowd at Calangute and now we were in a mood to go to somewhat less crowded beach. The nearest we could locate was VAGATOR. Moreover, it was nearby another filmy fort- "Chapora Fort".

Our resort manager told casually- 'Sir, the way to Vagator and Chapora is a bit tricky but you wont have any problem locating it.' And yes, it was tricky, and far more than the casualness delivered. We had become habitual of finding ways through signboards but after a certain distance, there were no signboards on the way to Vagator. And we hardly located any living being (except insects! and they did not help us!!!). Finally, a foreigner, may be Russian, saw us in turmoil and guided us to The Chapora Fort.

So, as I told there is a filmy connect to Chapora! (I love films!). Famous bollywood flick Dil Chahta HAi was shot here. It is fort only by name, Now, we could only locate some ruins of this fort.
But, the breathtakingly beautiful view it provides left us spellbound. Here are a few pics. These are taken by amateurs like us and we can only imagine of what a professional photographer can create here...

View of Vagator from Chapora

Fort Exit

After Chapora, we were feeling tired, there we found a guy selling Cold drinks at the gate of the fort.

From here, we headed off to Vagator and we forgot all our tiredness once we were inside beach water. Under the supervision of security divers, we enjoyed within the safe boundaries of the beach.. Even safe limits were amusing...


We were tired like hell but how could we miss the famous "Wednesday Flea Market at Anjuna beach". Again we followed signboards and reached the market. 

Here you can find anything from jewellery to dresses, from craft work to local spices and anything that can be found in Goa.

 Thats enuf for the day... Rest of the things could wait till next day:-)..

Day 6:

Yesterday's fatigue was still there. But that could not stop us to travel around 65 Km to visit the famous Dudhsagar Waterwalls. The day before, we took out a print out of route from Dona Paula to Dudhsagar. Apart from the signboards, the Goan people have pretty fair idea of distances so, we never thought twice before asking about the route and the distance from people around. We reached at around 12.30 p.m. But the best time to reach is before 10 in the morning. At that time, its easy to get shared jeeps (the only means to take you through the rugged way to the waterfalls). 
The journey

 They charge around 2200/- per jeep and allow maximum 6 persons to share. If you don't get enough people, you anyways need to pay full amount. So its better to reach early to find fully shared jeep.
The route towards falls


Once, we hopped on to our jeep, the tedious journey through uneven terrain and 2 rivers to cross, started.

We got only 1 hour at the waterfall till the jeep driver waited for us and we tried to make the full use of that 1 hour.


Railhead in front of the milky waterfall

The Dudhsagar Waterfalls
Then we returned back. The journey to and from The Dudhsagar proved to be equally amusing as the waterfalls and we didnt feel the fatigue 65 + 65 Km ride.

Here are some pics of the exotic route:

Our road mate-Avenger

Green Goa

A ride worth all the pain


Another turn
Day 7:

Till now, we had not went for any water sports as I was scared of them. But, it was our last day in north Goa and suddenly in the morning, we decided not to leave any fun that we would to regret later. So, we went to Calangute.

 In Goa, Calangute and Baga serve for water sports. Rates are fixed by Govt. and you just have to buy the ticket and board tour favorite ride. No need to bargain. We just paid 100 bucks to a shack for giving us a safe for an hour.

We explored 3 of 4 rides available- Paragliding, bumper ride, banana ride. Scooter was also there but we left it.

  Paragliding is a real fun. We left in our boat to distance about 500m from the shore. And then the fun started. Then the boat guy asked if we wanted water dip. We payed 200 extra (apart from the ticket) and took 3 dips also. And whoosh... It was certainly worth it!!!


After having our fun rides, we collected our things from the shack locker. There they played live music and everybody joined the music and dance.

That was the last bite of North  Goa as we left for our 2 days trip to south Goa. It took us around 3 hours and we reached by the evening. This time we opted for local bus. We got a drop from hotel to Panaji and from Kadamba bus station in Panaji, we boarded deluxe bus for south Goa.

As we reached our hotel in south Goa, we found the area comparitvely calm and less occupied. The facilities were also not at par with North Goa. Every moment we were missing our stay in North Goa. The rest of the evening went peacefully in the resort.

Day 8 (The Last Day):

This was the last day of our trip, we wanted to have loads of fun but south Goa is meant for peace. So, the noon went by in resort and nearby area. In the evening, our taste buds pulled us out of our sheets and we searched for some tea and snacks. We ended up in nearby bar cum cafe. The bar owner was a jolly guy who told us about the nearby beaches and a silent noise party organized on Saturday nights.

We decided to go to Palolem beach and on our way to the beach, we stopped for some tea. We left from the place and forgot our camera. Suddenly, we heard some chaos.  Few minutes later complete market was looking for us. A European guy found our camera and made everyone look for us. Its really true, no one will cheat you or steal your belongings. If u forgot something, you get there back and it will be there waiting for you.

If it had been some other place, I would have lost all my memorable pics. But not in Goa! Thanks to that foreigner guy.


Then we enjoyed sunset at Palolem. This beach offers sports like kayaking and boating. 

Later in the evening, we wondered about the idea of "Silent Noise Party". It was a different experience altogether and left us with nothing more to ask from one trip.

That way, with lots and lots of memories and lots of souvenirs we departed from Goa with a promise to return back and make new memories...