INDIA TRAVEL - 5 MUST SEE PLACES ON MY BUCKET LIST IN 2019

Hi friends! I hope you must have planned or started to plan your adventures for this year. After all, new year means new explorations and new learning. I am sure you must be looking forward to traveling to some of the most exotic places on earth. I, for one, have my bucket list of must see places this year and I sincerely hope that things move as per the plan and I am able to visit all these beautiful locations. So, here I am going to share my bucket list for the year 2019 with you all.

1. KUTCH RANN UTSAV - First up on my list is Kutch Rann Utsav, which I had to postpone last year. Organized by Gujarat tourism in the Kutch region of Bhuj district every year, this is a celebration of the local culture and a display of ethnic pride. Held every year from 1st November to 28th February, the Rann Utsav is an extravaganza of ethnic food, dance music and crafts. The Rann of Kutch is one of the largest salt deserts in the world and the Rann Utsav is a festival to be enjoyed under the open skies. The magnitude of the festival can be gauged from the fact that entire Bhuj district goes festive during this period and for the finale of the festival, a special big tent city is set up near a village called Dhordo. This tent city comprises of 400 AC and non AC tents. The shear scale and grandiosity of the celebrations is enough to leave you awestruck. The white sands  of the desert shining through full moon nights gives a thrill of a different kind. 


Rann utsav, Kutch
GLITTERING RANN UTSAV
Image - gujarattourism.com


Kutch Rann Utsav, Gujarat
TENT CITY AT NIGHT
Image - visittnt.com

Rann Utsav Tents
VIEW OF TENT CITY
Image - rannutsavonline.com

And the best part is enjoying amazing performances by local artists, sitting around a bonfire outside your tent. You would cherish every moment of it.


Rann Utsav celebrations
FOLK DANCERS AT RANN UTSAV
Image - weekendthrill.com

2. KHAJJIAR - Second on my list is breathtaking Khajjiar in Himachal Pradesh. Also called the Switzerland of India, this heavenly place is located near Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh in north India. This is a unique place in the sense it provides you a rare combination of lakes, forests and pastures. At an altitude of 6500 ft., the beauty and landscape of Khajjiar is sure to mesmerize you. Khajjiar lake, encircled by green pastures and lush green Deodar forests will leave you spellbound. The serenity and natural splendor of the lake will rejuvenate your body and mind. You can get a very good view of Dhauladhar range of Himalayas from here along with snow covered peaks. The green meadows and dense forests add to the charm of the place. For adventure seekers, there are enough options like horse riding, trekking, zorbing and paragliding. The nine hole golf course in Khajjiar is situated in the midst of lush green landscapes is simply breathtaking. The picturesque village around Khajjiar are an added attraction. You can just go exploring the naturally beautiful country side life, their culture and enjoy the local cuisine with them. Roam around in apple orchards of Khajjiar and surrounding villages.


Khajjiar, Himachal Pradesh
KHAJJIAR
Image - andhrawishesh.com

Khajjiar near Dalhousie
KHAJJIAR IN IT'S FULL GLORY
Image - india.com

Khajjiar Lake, Himachal
KHAJJIAR LAKE
Image - wikipedia.com

Zorbing at Khajjiar lake
ZORBING AT KHAJJIAR
Image - traveldglobe.com

3. SURAJKUND INTERNATIONAL CRAFTS FAIR - Next up is Surajkund International Crafts Fair. This is one event, I don't want to miss for two reasons. First, it is held in my hometown and second it has such an amazing assembly of craftsmen from around the world,who showcase their craftsmanship and wares to the world audience through this fare. This is an annual fair held in Surajkund in Faridabad near Delhi. The fair is organized in the first fortnight of February every year. It is a 15 days affair. Artisans from various countries participate and display their products. The fair ground is a sprawling complex spread over an area of 40 acres. There are cultural troops from different countries which enthrall you with their live performances. And then there is multi cuisine food complex to satisfy your testebuds. Here, you will not only get to eat dishes from different states of India but from the participating countries also. You can pick up what you like from handicrafts, garments, home decor, utensils, display items and even some innovative gift items from here.


People at Surajkund international crafts fair
MEDAGASCAR STALL

Folk artists at Surajkund
FOLK ARTISTS PERFORMING

Handicrafts at Surajkund fair
MOROCCAN HANDICRAFTS ON DISPLAY 

4. BERINAG - This beautiful hill destination is next on my list. Also known as the "town of snake temples" (Nag in the name means snake), Berinag is an epitome of natural beauty. Situated in Pithoragadh district of Uttarakhand, Berinag is a serene hamlet, away from the hustle bustle of the cities. It is located at 160 km(100 mi) from it's more famous and bigger cousin, Nainital, at an altitude of 1860 m(6100 ft). It is an ideal place to connect with nature. You can get a majestic view of some of the crowning peaks of the great Himalayas loke Trishul and Nanda Devi. You can even get a view of Nepal Himalayas at a distance from here. A hidden jewel of Berinag are it's lush green tea gardens. The Nag Devta temple is the main snake temple erected here and is quite popular. There are not many tousist spots around Berinag but this is a place to soak in as much nature as you can and spend some quiet and relaxing time. Unwind and connect with your inner self at Berinag.


BERINAG, Pithoragadh
BERINAG
Image - euttaranchal.com

Himalayan peaks at Berinag
SNOW CAPPED PEAKS AT BERINAG
Image - tripsuggest.com

Nagdevta temple, Berinag, Uttarakhand
NAGDEVTA TEMPLE
Image - uttarakhanddinman.com

5. RAVANGLA - And Ravangla in Sikkim is ultimate. Visiting some of the most beautiful temples and monasteries, indulging in adventure sports, going for trekking, exploring the surroundings and then relaxing with a cup of coffee. That is Ravangla for you. Located at an altitude of 7000 ft, Ravangla is a small town in Sikkim, in north east India. It is 65 km(40 mi) away from state capital Gangtok. You are sure to fall in love with the landscape and tranquility of this place. With Kanchenjunga peaks in the backdrop, it presents a breathtaking sight. The exotic flora and fauna of Ravangla is making it a very attractive destination. The quaint town serves as base for many treks. Some other Himalayan peaks visible from here are Mt. Sinalchu, Mt. Kabru and Mt. Pandim. Ravangla is also a bird watcher's delight as it attracts a lot of Himalayan birds. And if you are a photographer, then head straight to Ravangla to click unending number of pictures of mesmerizing surroundings.


Buddha park, Ravangla, Sikkim
BUDDHA PARK

RAVANGLA, Sikkim
RAVANGLA
Image - guide4travel.in

Tea garden, Sikkim
TEA GARDEN AT RAVANGLA

You may also like - SIKKIM BEYOND GANGTOK, A PLACE FOR ALL SEASONS - PELLING

So what is in your bucket list for 2019? I would love to add to my list above. So do let me know in comments.

HAPPY TRAVELING!!

INDIA TRAVEL - HOW I MANAGED MY TWO DAY TRIP UNDER 2500 INR (35 USD)

Hello friends! This is the beginning of the new year and my best wishes to all of you for wonderful explorations during 2019. Welcome to my first post of the year. With explorations come the money matters and in that respect, I am pretty sure that each one of you would love to spend as little as possible to explore as much as possible. For a compulsive and inquisitive traveler like me, it becomes imperative to go with a tight budget. It not only enables me to manage my finances rationally but also gets me out of worry for my next trip. I hope you all would agree with me on that.

But traveling on a shoestring budget comes with it's own set of problems. There would be some hardships that you must be willing to endure. I know some of you are already saying, "been there, done that" :). But there are many among us, who would love to get new ideas on saving money and traveling on a tight budget. This is as true for solo travelers as for family or group travelers. Nobody wants to splurge money unnecessarily but everyone likes to get most out of whatever they are spending.



Travel budget
CHECK YOUR BUDGET

So, when I was planning for my last trip, I decided to set a very tight budget and check myself if I could manage within that. And it involved letting go of some of the comforts, which I could have had otherwise. And then there was the question of amount of time that I would be able to spend in the budget I had planned.

After considering all factors, I finalized a two day trip to Bikaner in Rajasthan. Bikaner is not a very big city and is a border city. It is about 500 km(312 mi) from my native place, Faridabad, which is again about 40 km(25 mi) south of national capital New Delhi. 

I booked an overnight train from Delhi to Bikaner as the train route doesn't pass through my city. Although it was peak winter (I traveled only last month i.e. December'18), I purposely booked a non -AC coach ticket. So I saved both the ticket as well as night stay. I knew it would be tough to travel non-AC in peak winters but I was prepared, both mentally as well as physically. I did the same for my return journey also. So the total train ticket cost for return journey came to just INR590.


Bikaner junction railway station, Rajasthan
BIKANER RAILWAY STATION

Then I checked and found that there was accommodation available at Bikaner station itself. So I never thought of booking a hotel room and instead booked a bed in the dormitory of the railway station. I made this booking online. I was not sure about the condition of the dormitory so booked only for one night. Actually the dormitory bed is booked for 24 hours slots beginning at 8 o'clock  every morning. And my train was scheduled to arrive at Bikaner station at 7.10 am. So it suited me perfectly. And this 24 hours bed booking cost me just INR200. There are non AC rooms also available at the station, which would have cost INR500.(There are AC rooms also available at major railway stations).


When I checked into the dormitory, I found it pretty decent. Nead and clean with comfortable beds and not much crowd. There were two washrooms attached and hot and cold water running(who would have expected that in a dormitory?:) ). Beds were quite comfortable. So it more or less justified my decision. Now the question before me was that should I extend the booking for another 24 hrs, considering that I was to catch my return train next night at 10.30. Which meant, paying for additional 24 hours but availing the facility for only 14 hrs (since my early booking expired at 8 am next day). But after doing cost benefit analysis, I concluded that I must keep the accommodation till the time I left Bikaner. So I got my dormitory bed booking extended by another 24 hours by paying additional INR200. So far, the cost of my to and fro train journey and my stay in the city - INR990.

Now coming to traveling intra city. Traveling in Bikaner is fairly cheap. The main mode of transport being autorickshaws and owing to short distances, they don't cost much. However, if you wish to travel to spots outside the city, then you have to shell out bigger amounts. But traveling inside the city will cost you not more than INR10-20 one way. So in two days, that I was in the city, I spent about INR160 in two days on local travel and further INR80 on entry tickets to monuments. So, the total spend so far INR1230.


Local travel cost
SAVE ON LOCAL TRAVEL
As for food, it is again not very expensive in Bikaner. And me being a veggie, made it easier for me. You can have a fullsome veg meal(and the city primarily serves veg meal), for INR150. Therefore, I spent roughly INR400 per day on three meals, including breakfast. This adds upto INR800 for two days. My total cost so far INR2030.

And finally, my cost for travel from my city to Delhi Sarai Rohilla station and back was INR270, which included the metro train fare to and from Delhi and autorickshaw fare to and from metro station to railway station. The grand total adds up to INR2300 (which comes to 32 USD roughly). I hope my maths is correct because I was never brilliant in maths :).

So INR2300 is all that I spent on a trip from Faridabad to Bikaner and back. I left home on Tuesday evening and was back on Friday morning. 

You may also like : Very Useful Tips to Save Money on Travel

Looking back, I feel I did fairly well. I don't only hope but I am sure that some of you will take a cue and plan your next adventure keeping the above economics in mind. And let me stress the fact that not once during my journey, did I ever feel uncomfortable or deprived. On the contrary, it turned out to be very enjoyable and refreshing experience.

All the best to you for your next travel.
TRAVEL SAFE, TRAVEL ECONOMICALLY!!

CHEERSSSSSS!!!!