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Turtuk. Not many have heard about this remote hamlet on Shyok river in Ladakh. In fact, we had missed out going to this lovely place in our last three trips to Ladakh.

This time we had resolved to go and check out Turtuk. To say that we loved our visit is an under statement! This is one of the most spectacular drives in Ladakh.

Ladakh is all about road trips. After four visits to this beautiful region, we are still not satiated. There is always a new place to explore. Many a times, it is the journey which is more fascinating than the destination. Even in case of Turtuk it was the same. The Turtuk village is charming and lovely. But it is the journey which keeps you mesmerised with changing colours of mountains and river!

Let us take a you through our picturesque journey to Turtuk!

As we leave Hunder, we cross the bridge and see the small Hunder Gompa and drive on. The sight of chortems around makes it a pretty sight.

We drive on the lovely road flanked by mountains on one side and Shyok river on the other. The afternoon sun is lighting up the mountains on either side. We get the first glimpse of what is in store!

We continue to get mesmerised by the colourful mountains even as we cross the Thoise airfield

We continue to drive along Shyok. The mountains become more rugged and colourful. Shyok broadens its flow showing off lovely sand banks.

The road gets narrower. The river broader….

We cross Skuru, Chalunka and Bogdaung villages which are along the river. The river continues to give us company flanked by spectacular mountains!

We cross a lovely bridge and the landscape gets better and better! This bridge used to be the Indo-Pak border before 1971 war.

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We all know that Valley of Flowers in the Himalayas is a paradise. The number of Flower varieties in Valley of Flowers must be in hundreds. These flowers are so beautiful that you will never be satiated. The beauty of the Valley of Flowers is that not all flowers bloom at the same time. So unless you are a botanist and working on an assignment, you will never be able to capture details of at the flowers!

But the flower varieties in valley of flowers we saw when we went for the trek in August 2010 were so many that we were mesmerised. We missed Primulas which bloom early in June but we were compensated by yellow spread of Ligularias!

Here are the flowers we could see and thanks to Macro lens, we were able to capture them for eternity! Don’t worry about their names. Even we don’t know that! Just enjoy the lovely flowers.

Blue berries

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This is a classic Ladakh Trip Itinerary by Air & Road for 7 days with daily plan which will cover important places in the region and inspire you to return back again for more!

Ladakh road trip is always exciting. Having been there three times on road trips, we would love to go there again to explore any day. Ladakh is not one destination. It is a vast cold desert land with spectacular sights. One can spend months exploring its beautiful landscape.

Ladakh has to be explored by road. Nothing less. By car or motorcycle or by bicycle.Many a times, it is the journey through the rugged snow-capped mountains that brings joy. Ladakh road trip helps you explore Lovely lakes. flowing streams. Wild flowers. Monasteries. Mountains. Desert sands. It is never enough when you embark on Ladakh travel!

We give here a detailed daywise itinerary for 7 days which will help you to explore Ladakh by car or motorcycle. This is a classic Ladakh trip itinerary by air and road. We will try to give information to the best of our knowledge and what we have experienced.

Quick update – Srinagar – Leh road is open for traffic. Manali – Leh road is not yet open for traffic. Check details in “Travel Tips” section.

The Summary of Classic Ladakh Road Trip

  • Circuit – Leh – Lamayuru – Alchi – Kargil – Leh – Hunder/Diskit (Via Khardunng La & Nubra Valley)  – Pangong Tso – Tangtse – Leh
  • Total Distance – 890 KMs
  • Total number of Days – 7 days. Departure on 8th Day.
  • Google map – https://goo.gl/maps/BW3EZyYfF9q

Daywise itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival in Leh

  • Book your flight to Leh. Make sure you get a window seat! Ladakh from Sky is awesome! (Please click on the pictures in this post to see them in larger size)

  • Keep your camera and binoculars ready 15 minutes before arrival.
  • If you are coming in group, make sure many have window seats!
  • The flights to Ladakh arrive into Leh in the morning. This gives you enough time to get acclimatised.
  • On arrival, drive straight to your place of stay
  • On this day, just relax. It is very essential not to exert yourself today. You will feel it how tough it is to even climb first floor! Don’t worry. If you are well acclimatised, you will feel good gradually.
  • In the evening, take a leisurely stroll in Leh bazar.

More pictures of Ladakh from the sky can be seen in this post on this blog 

  Ladakh from the Sky – Mesmerising Mountainscape!

Day 2 – Leh – Alchi – Lamayuru – Mulbekh – Kargil

Distance – 225 KMs

Route map – https://goo.gl/maps/LXWS9f9Sux42

Itinerary

  • Today you will go for a lovely drive to Kargil. This will not only help you get acclimatised well but also help you appreciate mesmerising landscape of Ladakh.
  • Leave at 6 AM
  • The drive to Kargil is a fascinating mix of desert and greenery!
  • As you leave Leh, you climb towards Nimmu and here is your first glimpse of what will be in store for next few days – lovely combination of mountains and desert landscape, spectacular green valleys and crystal clear rivers!
  • Stop for few minutes at Indus Valley view point and enjoy the valley flanked by Ladakh ranges
  • Drive for few kilometres and stop for a gorgeous view of Indus and Zanskar confluence.
  • As you cross Gurudwara Pathar Saheb, keep looking for the signage “Magnetic Hill”. This is a geographic marvel! Check it yourself.
  • For next few hours drive along Indus river. Notice the fantastic colours of the mountains glimmering in morning light!
  • Reach Alchi and get marvelled at the murals in the famous monastery. Have breakfast here
  • As you near Lamayuru, get stunned by spectacular moonscape!
  • The setting of Lamayuru monastery is stunning! Spend an hour exploring the monastery.
  • Return to highway and start climbing to Fotu La the highest mountain pass on this stretch at 11,500 feet. This is an interesting stretch of the road looping all the way up with stunning landscape all around! On reaching Fotu La, stop for few minutes to absorb 360 degree views!
  • Driving down from Fotu La presents you stunning desert landscape with weather worn mud structures looking surreal!
  • Continue your journey on the highway and stop at Mulbekh Chamba on the highway.
  • Visit Buddha monastery at Mulbekh Chamba and get mesmerised by the massive rock-cut Maitreya Buddha statue. Have lunch here.
  • Reach Kargil by evening for night stay.

Day 3 – Kargil – Drass (Kargil War Memorial) – Cave monastery – Patthar Sahib – Leh

Distance – 348 KMs

Route map – https://goo.gl/maps/agVFacBS2qp

Itinerary

  • Depart Kargil at 6 AM. Drive to Drass to visit Kargil War Memorial.
  • Check out our detailed post on Kargil War Memorial here
  • After 45 minutes in War Memorial, have breakfast at Drass which is close by.
  • Drive back to Leh along Drass and Wakha rivers. The Wakha valley is beautiful with mountains on either side. Mountains look different when you drive to Leh now!
  • After Hotel Snow heights on the highway, take a detour to most fascinating monastery – Cave Monastery!
  • After Mulbekh, you are in desert landscape again. Rugged mountains with snow-capped peaks with colourful villages thrown in welcomes you.
  • Climb up to Fotu La pass and enjoy the view from the pass.
  • Driving down from the pass is a fascinating one. The curvy roads will lead up to Lamayuru.
  • Notice the colourful mountains as you drive towards Lamayuru.
  • The few kilometers after Lamayuru will treat you the fascinating landscape of moonscape!
  • After Lamayuru, you will be joined by Indus. Continue to get fascinated by the landscape.
  • Stop over at Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, one of the holy shrines of Sikhs and take blessings of Guru Nanakji.
  • Reach your place of stay in Leh and relax for the night.

For more details and lovely pictures of this part of Ladakh road trip from Leh to Kargil, please check out these posts on this blog

Here is a quick glimpse of this journey from Leh to Kargil.

Spituk Gompa in the morning

Panoramic view of Indus Valley from the view-point

Confluence of Indus and Zanskar. In winters Chaddar trek starts here.

Lovely view as you enter Nimmoo

Notice the colours of the mountains as you drive along Indus!

This is a lovely stretch of Tarmac!!

A Fauji convoy on the highway with Indus as company!

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This is a classic Ladakh road trip for 7 days which will cover important places in the region and inspire you to return back again for more!

Ladakh road trip is always exciting. Having been there three times on road trips, we would love to go there again to explore any day. Ladakh is not one destination. It is a vast cold desert land with spectacular sights. One can spend months exploring its beautiful landscape.

Ladakh has to be explored by road. Nothing less. Many a times, it is the journey through the rugged snow-capped mountains that brings joy. Ladakh road trip helps you explore Lovely lakes. flowing streams. Wild flowers. Monasteries. Mountains. Desert sands. It is never enough when you embark on Ladakh travel!

We give here a detailed daywise itinerary for 7 days which will help you to explore Ladakh. This is a classic Ladakh Road trip. We will try to give information to the best of our knowledge and what we have experienced.

The Summary of Classic Ladakh Road Trip

  • Circuit – Leh – Lamayuru – Alchi – Kargil – Leh – Hunder/Diskit (Via Khardunng La & Nubra Valley)  – Pangong Tso – Tangtse – Leh
  • Total Distance – 890 KMs
  • Total number of Days – 7 days. Departure on 8th Day.
  • Google map – https://goo.gl/maps/BW3EZyYfF9q

Daywise itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival in Leh

  • Book your flight to Leh. Make sure you get a window seat! Ladakh from Sky is awesome! (Please click on the pictures in this post to see them in larger size)

  • Keep your camera and binoculars ready 15 minutes before arrival.
  • If you are coming in group, make sure many have window seats!
  • The flights to Ladakh arrive into Leh in the morning. This gives you enough time to get acclimatised.
  • On arrival, drive straight to your place of stay
  • On this day, just relax. It is very essential not to exert yourself today. You will feel it how tough it is to even climb first floor! Don’t worry. If you are well acclimatised, you will feel good gradually.
  • In the evening, take a leisurely stroll in Leh bazar.

More pictures of Ladakh from the sky can be seen in this post on this blog 

  Ladakh from the Sky – Mesmerising Mountainscape!

Day 2 – Leh – Alchi – Lamayuru – Mulbekh – Kargil

Distance – 225 KMs

Route map – https://goo.gl/maps/LXWS9f9Sux42

Itinerary

  • Today you will go for a lovely drive to Kargil. This will not only help you get acclimatised well but also help you appreciate mesmerising landscape of Ladakh.
  • Leave at 6 AM
  • The drive to Kargil is a fascinating mix of desert and greenery!
  • As you leave Leh, you climb towards Nimmu and here is your first glimpse of what will be in store for next few days – lovely combination of mountains and desert landscape, spectacular green valleys and crystal clear rivers!
  • Stop for few minutes at Indus Valley view point and enjoy the valley flanked by Ladakh ranges
  • Drive for few kilometres and stop for a gorgeous view of Indus and Zanskar confluence.
  • As you cross Gurudwara Pathar Saheb, keep looking for the signage “Magnetic Hill”. This is a geographic marvel! Check it yourself.
  • For next few hours drive along Indus river. Notice the fantastic colours of the mountains glimmering in morning light!
  • Reach Alchi and get marvelled at the murals in the famous monastery. Have breakfast here
  • As you near Lamayuru, get stunned by spectacular moonscape!
  • The setting of Lamayuru monastery is stunning! Spend an hour exploring the monastery.
  • Return to highway and start climbing to Fotu La the highest mountain pass on this stretch at 11,500 feet. This is an interesting stretch of the road looping all the way up with stunning landscape all around! On reaching Fotu La, stop for few minutes to absorb 360 degree views!
  • Driving down from Fotu La presents you stunning desert landscape with weather worn mud structures looking surreal!
  • Continue your journey on the highway and stop at Mulbekh Chamba on the highway.
  • Visit Buddha monastery at Mulbekh Chamba and get mesmerised by the massive rock-cut Maitreya Buddha statue. Have lunch here.
  • Reach Kargil by evening for night stay.

Day 3 – Kargil – Drass (Kargil War Memorial) – Cave monastery – Patthar Sahib – Leh

Distance – 348 KMs

Route map – https://goo.gl/maps/agVFacBS2qp

Itinerary

  • Depart Kargil at 6 AM. Drive to Drass to visit Kargil War Memorial.
  • Check out our detailed post on Kargil War Memorial here
  • After 45 minutes in War Memorial, have breakfast at Drass which is close by.
  • Drive back to Leh along Drass and Wakha rivers. The Wakha valley is beautiful with mountains on either side. Mountains look different when you drive to Leh now!
  • After Hotel Snow heights on the highway, take a detour to most fascinating monastery – Cave Monastery!
  • After Mulbekh, you are in desert landscape again. Rugged mountains with snow-capped peaks with colourful villages thrown in welcomes you.
  • Climb up to Fotu La pass and enjoy the view from the pass.
  • Driving down from the pass is a fascinating one. The curvy roads will lead up to Lamayuru.
  • Notice the colourful mountains as you drive towards Lamayuru.
  • The few kilometers after Lamayuru will treat you the fascinating landscape of moonscape!
  • After Lamayuru, you will be joined by Indus. Continue to get fascinated by the landscape.
  • Stop over at Gurudwara Patthar Sahib, one of the holy shrines of Sikhs and take blessings of Guru Nanakji.
  • Reach your place of stay in Leh and relax for the night.

For more details and lovely pictures of this part of Ladakh road trip from Leh to Kargil, please check out these posts on this blog

Here is a quick glimpse of this journey from Leh to Kargil.

Spituk Gompa in the morning

Panoramic view of Indus Valley from the view-point

Confluence of Indus and Zanskar. In winters Chaddar trek starts here.

Lovely view as you enter Nimmoo

Notice the colours of the mountains as you drive along Indus!

This is a lovely stretch of Tarmac!!

A Fauji convoy on the highway with Indus as company!

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Are you travelling to Japan first time? Then this is for you! This is the best time to travel to Japan. It is Cherry Blossom time!

When we said that we were travelling to Japan, many friends started giving suggestions. From the horror stories of non availability of Vegetarian food and language issues, we were flooded with many do’s and don’ts.

Now that we are back after a 10 Day trip, we thought of sharing these 7 essential tips for anyone travelling to Japan first time. Here they are……

1 Silence

Trains are silent so are many public places!

Why do we say this?

Japan is a silent country! We are not kidding. This is because Japanese culture gives a lot of importance to silence unlike other cultures which are loud and boisterous. You will never see Japanese shouting on the roads or public places. When they speak, it is generally in low tones. They don’t speak loudly over their cell phones. If they are watching a video on their phone, they will invariably be having a head set. This is something which you will notice immediately when travelling to Japan first time!

Japanese are extremely polite in their day today behaviour and silence is part of that. You will hear announcements in trains asking you to keep your phone in silent mode, not to disturb others and not to make calls unless emergency!

So, if you are in Japan, behave like Japanese. Don’t be loud. Don’t shout at the top of your voice. Make sure you have a headset if you are watching a phone. This does not mean they don’t enjoy loud music. They do. In night clubs!

2 Discipline

Witness the famous Shibuya crossing during peak hour and you will see what discipline is!

Take a look at this. This is the market area at famous Shintoji Temple in Tokyo. Thousands come here and it is spic and span!

Japan must be the cleanest country in the world without trash bins! We are not joking. You won’t find trash bins in Japan everywhere. As a practice, Japanese take their trash with them and throw it in first available trash bins!

Japanese are highly disciplined. They also have immense patience! They form queues for everything and wait for their turn. We never saw anyone jumping the queue anywhere!

The discipline on the roads is exemplary. Whether it is a driver or pedestrian, you will find them following traffic rules 100 percent. You will never find a Japanese crossing the road at a place where there is no Zebra crossing! Neither do you find a driver honking or changing the lane without an indicator! We did not find a single traffic policeman on the road during our stay!

Smoking in public places is not done.

We Indians are opposite to Japanese. So, please make sure that you follow what Japanese does. Make sure you are well-disciplined and well-mannered.

3 Transport

This was a scariest part of our pre-trip anxiety! When you are travelling to Japan first time, this leaves you confused.

With so much of information  on what and how to use transportation, we were relieved to see the excellent way the Japanese have managed their transport. Once you understand the nuances of Japanese transport, it is a cake walk. Here are few things that will make you comfortable.

  • From Airport
    • The best way of reaching your hotel from airports, is either by Airport express or Limousine buses. We strongly advise limousine buses as they are very convenient to reach city hotels unlike Airport express wherein you have to change over to Metro lines at terminals.

The bus is very comfortable and convenient

  • As soon as you pick your luggage and exit, you will see a signage for limousine buses. Go to the counter and take the ticket. You can also buy tickets online on their website https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/ The person at the counter will tell you which bus stop you should board. Come out of the door and you will find bus stops.

The friendly counters of the bus!

  • You will find assistants in each bus stop. Show your tickets and luggage. They will guide you & give you a receipt for your luggage which you should show when you get down to take back your luggage.

Bus stops are well numbered and managed as above

  • Get inside the bus. You will have a screen giving you route and the stops. There will also be announcements before arrival of each stop. Don’t go to sleep. When your stop comes, get down, show the receipt, collect the luggage.
  • If your hotel is next to bus stop, then walk to it. Else, take a taxi and go the hotel.

Travelling in city

    • The best option is Metro. Japanese love their trains and everyone in Tokyo or other cities travel by Metro.
    • Tokyo metro must be most exhaustive network in the world which will confuse anyone travelling to Japan for first time. But, you don’t have to worry about it. Every station has excellent sign boards informing users all details about different lines.

Stations have excellent signages for all trains. Just follow them

  • Keep a metro map. Follow the signs and you will comfortably reach your train. An excellent way of using the metro in Tokyo is using Google map. Enter start and end point and Google map will tell you which line to take  and how far is the nearest station, where to change over to different line etc! This is too good. Follow Google map. See this example from our experience below.
  • Travelling inside Japan
    1. Japan rail has excellent network of regular express trains and Bullet trains.
    2. Take a JR Rail pass – buying it online will save some money – which is the smartest way of travelling in train in Japan. However this pass does not work for Bullet trains. Take JR rail pass if your itinerary covers many places.
    3. Every station has clear signage for JR trains. Follow that and you will reach the platform ( in Japan they are called tracks)
    4. Here is a nice website for reading more on train travel in Japan. This is very helpful when you travel to Japan first time. https://www.seat61.com/Japan.htm
  • Whether it is metro or regular railway station, you will always find friendly railway staff who will help you at stations. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  • Taxi is very expensive in Japan. Very few Japanese use it. Unless, you have a big luggage to carry, avoid taxis. Most of the taxis have automatic doors. The right side doors are permanently locked for safety!
  • Lockers for baggage – This is an excellent service in Japan. Almost all stations has excellent locker facility for storing your bags. Please use them if needed.
  • Bullet trains
    • Riding on Bullet trains really scared us off with too much information. But, we will tell you that it is the coolest experience you can get. And it easier too.
    • Don’t worry if you are carrying big bags. Though there are no proper storage area for big bags like you find in Europe trains, the leg space in bullet trains are sufficient to place them in from of you!

There is enough space to keep your luggage in front of your seat

  • Each row in bullet train is made of three seats and two seats with aisle in the middle. If two of you are travelling, make sure you book two-seater so that you can comfortably keep the luggage in front of you.
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It is summer time. You want to head to hills to cool off but don’t know how to go about it! We make it easier for you with this detailed road trip guide from Bangalore to Coorg, Ooty, Munnar & Kodaikanal!

This is the eleventh in the series of Road trips from Bangalore – 11 Exciting Options with Itineraries! with all details like route map, places to see and stay, daily itineraries to help you explore heritage, mountains of western ghats, waterfalls, wild life, beaches etc…….

Yes, as road trippers we love to drive to destinations. We love the freedom road trips provide us to stop, look and explore.

We are sharing details about 11 exciting road trips from Bangalore exploring heritage, western ghats, wild life, beaches etc…….. These road trips , cover not more than 300 KMs in a day. The plan is to cover for a week extendable for another one or two days. It also provide you an option to just plan for as many number of days you wish to.

This is a classic road trippers dream holiday. Driving through lovely hills, Bangalore to Coorg, Ooty, Munnar & Kodaikanal road trip is a refreshing drive. Distances are not much. Views are amazing. Food is great. Many options to stay. Here we go…..

The Circuit

Bangalore – Coorg (Madikeri) – Ooty – Munnar – Kodaikanal – Bangalore

Total distance – 1388 KMs

Google map of the circuit – https://goo.gl/maps/kFjBSbyvYDS2

The Itinerary

Day 1 – Bangalore – Madikeri

Distance – 257 KMs

Google map – https://goo.gl/maps/dghbSupmX5n

Leave around 7 AM. Have breakfast on the way on Bangalore – Mysore road. You are spoilt for choices here. Depending on when you leave you can have breakfast of Kotte Kadubu in Kamat Loka Ruchi near Ramanagaram, Tatte Idlis in Bidadi, Iyengar cuisine of Pongal – Karnataka style – Vada at Kadambam after Channapatna, Khara Bath/Masala Dosa at Shivalli Tiffin room after Channapatna or Assorted breakfast menu in reliable Adigas in Maddur, Maddur Vade and Masala Dosa in Maddur Tiffany’s in Maddur. If you are coffee and doughnut kind of person you can stop at Cafe Coffee day or McDonald’s. For those who want some non veg stuff, there is Empire and many hotels as well.

At Srirangapatna, look for deviation to Coorg highway via Belagola. Follow the sign boards of Evolve Back or Tamara resorts if confused!

Stop at Bylakuppe to visit Tibetan Golden temple and monastery. The drive to Bylakuppe from the highway is beautiful flanked by miles and miles of maize fields. Savour the ambience of the temple. If possible, meet a monk and get to know more about the temple. Look for locally manufactured Tibetan handicrafts especially beautifully woven carpets with Tibetan motifs.

The Golden temple

The monastery

Return to highway and drive on for few kilometres and after Kushalnagar stop at Kaveri Nisargadhama – a small island formed by Cauvery river. Walk over the suspension bridge. Enjoy a swim in the river – note for safety instructions  and follow them.

Hanging bridge over Cauvery!

Stop over at Amanvana Spa resort next to Nisargadhama for a beer and Biryani for lunch. A beautiful resort, the restaurant is on the banks of Cauvery. If your wallet does not permit, then go for excellent South Indian Thali at Athitya or similar restaurants in Kushalnagar town.

Drive on to Madikeri or any home stay/resort you have chosen in Coorg.

Relax for the day or if energy levels are high visit Raja Seat in Madikeri for sunset and serene Omkareshwara temple in the evening.

Lovely view of valley from Raja seat!

Day 2 – Explore Madikeri & Surroundings

Distance – 160 KMs

Google map – https://goo.gl/maps/gNPR5ibV9gr

Visit Dubare elephant camp before breakfast and follow it up with a rafting on the river if interested.

After breakfast head to Talacauvery – 45 KMs from Madikeri – to see the place where river Cauvery takes its birth. The temple is small and nothing great. But the surroundings are beautiful. Nestled at the foot hills of Brahmagiri wild life sanctuary, it is a quiet and serene place. Return back for lunch.

Temple for Godess Cauvery @ Tala Cauvery

View of Brahmagiri ranges from the view point in Tala Cauvery

After lunch and rest, drive to Abbey falls. Walk down the steps to get a good look of water gushing down.

Abbey falls

In the evening, walk around Madikeri bazar and also visit the Omakareshwar temple if you haven’t done on previous day.

Return to Homestay/Resort for night stay.

Day 3 – Madikeri – Ooty

Distance – 265 KMs

Google map – https://goo.gl/maps/kzztSfaawpN2

After Breakfast drive to Iruppu falls. This is a beautiful falls…..higher than Abbey. Spend some time here and drive to Ooty. This is a nice drive through tea gardens. Take a small deviation to explore “Phantom rock” a huge rock formation which looks like Phantom’s head!

Cascades of Iruppu falls!

Phantom rock!!

You can stop for lunch at Gudalur and then drive to Ooty. On the way, stop over at shola grasslands at Valley View point where many duets for movies have been shot!

Shola grasslands

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Are you travelling to Japan for first time? Then this is for you! This is the best time to travel to Japan. It is Cherry Blossom time!

When we said that we were travelling to Japan, many friends started giving suggestions. From the horror stories of non availability of Vegetarian food and language issues, we were flooded with many do’s and don’ts. Now that we are back after a 10 Day trip, we thought of sharing these 7 essential tips for anyone travelling to Japan for first time.

1 Silence

Trains are silent so are many public places!

Why do we say this?

Japan is a silent country! We are not kidding. This is because Japanese culture gives a lot of importance to silence unlike other cultures which are loud and boisterous. You will never see Japanese shouting on the roads or public places. When they speak, it is generally in low tones. They don’t speak loudly over their cell phones. If they are watching a video on their phone, they will invariably be having a head set.

Japanese are extremely polite in their day today behaviour and silence is part of that. You will hear announcements in trains asking you to keep your phone in silent mode, not to disturb others and not to make calls unless emergency!

So, if you are in Japan, behave like Japanese. Don’t be loud. Don’t shout at the top of your voice. Make sure you have a headset if you are watching a phone. This does not mean they don’t enjoy loud music. They do. In night clubs!

2 Discipline

Witness the famous Shibuya crossing during peak hour and you will see what discipline is!

Take a look at this. This is the market area at famous Shintoji Temple in Tokyo. Thousands come here and it is spic and span!

Japan must be the cleanest country in the world without trash bins! We are not joking. You won’t find trash bins in Japan everywhere. As a practice, Japanese take their trash with them and throw it in first available trash bins!

Japanese are highly disciplined. They also have immense patience! They form queues for everything and wait for their turn. We never saw anyone jumping the queue anywhere!

The discipline on the roads is exemplary. Whether it is a driver or pedestrian, you will find them following traffic rules 100 percent. You will never find a Japanese crossing the road at a place where there is no Zebra crossing! Neither do you find a driver honking or changing the lane without an indicator! We did not find a single traffic policeman on the road during our stay!

Smoking in public places is not done.

We Indians are opposite to Japanese. So, please make sure that you follow what Japanese does. Make sure you are well-disciplined and well-mannered.

3 Transport

This was a scariest part of our pre-trip anxiety! When you are travelling to Japan for first time, this leaves you confused.

With so much of information  on what and how to use transportation, we were relieved to see the excellent way the Japanese have managed their transport. Once you understand the nuances of Japanese transport, it is a cake walk. Here are few things that will make you comfortable.

  • From Airport
    • The best way of reaching your hotel from airports, is either by Airport express or Limousine buses. We strongly advise limousine buses as they are very convenient to reach city hotels unlike Airport express wherein you have to change over to Metro lines at terminals.

The bus is very comfortable and convenient

  • As soon as you pick your luggage and exit, you will see a signage for limousine buses. Go to the counter and take the ticket. You can also buy tickets online on their website https://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/ The person at the counter will tell you which bus stop you should board. Come out of the door and you will find bus stops.

The friendly counters of the bus!

  • You will find assistants in each bus stop. Show your tickets and luggage. They will guide you & give you a receipt for your luggage which you should show when you get down to take back your luggage.

Bus stops are well numbered and managed as above

  • Get inside the bus. You will have a screen giving you route and the stops. There will also be announcements before arrival of each stop. Don’t go to sleep. When your stop comes, get down, show the receipt, collect the luggage.
  • If your hotel is next to bus stop, then walk to it. Else, take a taxi and go the hotel.

Travelling in city

    • The best option is Metro. Japanese love their trains and everyone in Tokyo or other cities travel by Metro.
    • Tokyo metro must be most exhaustive network in the world which will confuse anyone travelling to Japan for first time. But, you don’t have to worry about it. Every station has excellent sign boards informing users all details about different lines.
       

Stations have excellent signages for all trains. Just follow them

  • Keep a metro map. Follow the signs and you will comfortably reach your train. An excellent way of using the metro in Tokyo is using Google map. Enter start and end point and Google map will tell you which line to take  and how far is the nearest station, where to change over to different line etc! This is too good. Follow Google map. See this example from our experience below.
  • Travelling inside Japan
    1. Japan rail has excellent network of regular express trains and Bullet trains.
    2. Take a JR Rail pass – buying it online will save some money – which is the smartest way of travelling in train in Japan. However this pass does not work for Bullet trains. Take JR rail pass if your itinerary covers many places.
    3. Every station has clear signage for JR trains. Follow that and you will reach the platform ( in Japan they are called tracks)
    4. Here is a nice website for reading more on train travel in Japan https://www.seat61.com/Japan.htm
  • Whether it is metro or regular railway station, you will always find friendly railway staff who will help you at stations. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  • Taxi is very expensive in Japan. Very few Japanese use it. Unless, you have a big luggage to carry, avoid taxis. Most of the taxis have automatic doors. The right side doors are permanently locked for safety!
  • Lockers for baggage – This is an excellent service in Japan. Almost all stations has excellent locker facility for storing your bags. Please use them if needed.
  • Bullet trains
    • Riding on Bullet trains really scared us off with too much information. But, we will tell you that it is the coolest experience you can get. And it easier too.
    • Don’t worry if you are carrying big bags. Though there are no proper storage area for big bags like you find in Europe trains, the leg space in bullet trains are sufficient to place them in from of you!

There is enough space to keep your luggage in front of your seat

  • Each row in bullet train is made of three seats and two seats with aisle in the middle. If two of you are travelling, make sure you book two-seater so that you can comfortably keep the luggage in front of you.
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We were in Kumbh Mela last week. To say that was an awesome experience is an understatement! We say it is a “once in a life time experience”.

Here are solid 9 reasons why you should pack your bags to Allahabad before curtains come down on Kumbh Mela 2019 in first week of March.

Please click on pictures to see them in larger size.

1 It happens once in Six years!

One of the many Dwars or Entrances to the mela

Yes. This is actually “Ardh Kumbh mela” as Maha Kumbh Mela happens every 12 years. So better hurry up. You may miss a chance next time and crowds will only increase. Earlier the better is the best advice we can give!

2 It is Huge

Extending over 1 to 20 sectors, it is mammoth! As seen from the Vaishnav Ashram hill

At night!

Roads in Sector 16. Well laid roads makes it easy.

Skyline of Sector 16 where are many Akharas are!

Lost and found area. Notice that there is no one here except cops! Kumbh is legendary for missing persons landing here!

It is Mammoth! It has to be seen to be believed. The infrastructure is mindblowingly enormous. Check out these details.

  •  Tent City in Kumbh Mela – 4,200 premium tents for tourists and Public accommodation, with a capacity of 20,000 beds
  • Sanitation – More than 1,22,000 toilets , More than 20,000 dustbins with liner bags, More than 15,000 sanitation workers 40 Compactors and 120 Tippers for disposal of waste , More than 2,000 Ganga Praharis/Swacchagrahis are being engaged as foot soldiers….the experience is excellent
  • Traffic Planning – 300 kms roads in the Mela area , 1,795 Pontoons to be used for developing 22 Pontoon bridge, more than 84 parking areas for parking of more than 5 lakh vehicles , shuttle buses and thousands of CNG auto deployed
  • Police Plan – 40 police stations , 3 female police stations , 62 police out posts, 40 Fire fighting centres 15 fire out posts 40 watch towers
  • Adequate arrangements for ration , drinking water

But this should not deter you or scare you from going there. It is extremely well organised. It is very clean and the government has left no stones unturned to make this a safe event where people can enjoy the “Kumbh experience”

3 It is celebration of faith

Sadhus of Nirajani Akhara

Sadhus in procession

Faith drives India. Kumbh is no exception. 50 Million people gathered on the holy day of Mouni Amavasya on 04 february to take a dip in the confluence! This is the largest congregation of human beings on the earth! You will never find so many of them moved by faith congregating in one place. Villagers, city dwellers, foreign nationals…….people from all walks of life come to Kumbh to get their Punya. Don’t miss it.

4 It is an experience of life time

You will find many such camps of different akharas where sadhus stays and discourses held.

Akharas lit at night

Yes. We said that. The people, the infrastructure, the events, the experiences…….You have to be there to feel the fervour, the smell and colours of Kumbh. One can’t write about it!

5 Get a chance to meet Sadhus

Naga sadhus in Junaa Akahara

Rudrakshi Baba

Senior baba of Niranjani Akhara

We don’t meet them every other day. Sadhus come down to Kumbh Mela from different places. Whether it is naked Naga sadhus of Junaa Akhada or transgender Sadhus from Kinnara Akhada…..here is an opportunity to meet up with them and speak to them. There is nothing to fear and they welcome you if you want to spend time with them to get to know their mystical experiences. You can’t do it anywhere else!

6 To take a dip in the Holy confluence

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Republic Day parade in New Delhi on 26 January every year is a grand spectacle! This is the day India became a republic in 1950. The day we adapted Indian Constitution – the longest in the world!.
It declares India as
sovereign, socialist, secular,[7] democratic republic, assuring its citizens of justice, equality, and liberty, and endeavours to promote fraternity among them.
It is always a memorable experience to watch the republic day parade. For Poorna, it is nostalgic and he can relate to the different regiments which participate in the parade. The valour, the history and the colours of these regiments are the stuff stories made of.
The misty morning of Delhi enlivened by the lovely martial music and the steps of our soldiers, cadets and young kids in their school uniforms…..After marching contingents, you always have those lovely tableau of the different states. The patriotic fervour is to be seen to be believed. A proud moment for every Indian.
We were there two years back. But we did not take camera or mobile phone as they are prohibited. Howeve, here are some nice pictures from Press Information bureau from the parade we saw two years back.
Here are essential tips to watch the Republic Day in Delhi
  1. If you have any contact in government, get a pass. That is the easy thing to do. Like the saying goes, “Beg, Borrow or Steal” and get a pass. It is worth it! We had got the pass through a friend!
  2. If you are not able to manage a pass, buy tickets. If you want reserved seats then the price is Rs 500 and unreserved tickets are sold for Rs 100 and Rs 20. Tickets will be sold at various places in New Delhi as below till 23 Jan 2019.
    • North Block circle
    • Sena Bhawan (Gate 2).
    • Pragati Maidan (Gate 1 at Bhairon Road).
    • Jantar Mantar (Main Gate).
    • Shastri Bhawan (near Gate 3).
    • Jamnagar House (opposite India Gate).
    • Red Fort (inside August 15 Park and opposite Jain Temple).
    • Parliament House Reception Office
  3. The ticket counters are open daily from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. All ticket counters will be closed in the morning on January 23, due to full dress rehearsal of the Republic Day Parade. However, from 23rd to 25th January 2019, the ticket counters at Shastri Bhavan, Jantar Mantar, Jamnagar House and Sena Bhavan will be open till 7 p.m.
  4. Buying tickets for the Republic Day Parade is a very frustrating experience. Only a certain number of tickets are allocated for sale at each ticket counter per day. No online booking for republic day parade tickets is available as of now.
  5. Demand for Rs 500 reserved seating tickets is high and the supply is small. So be there in the queue early when counter opens. Only one ticket per head with production of ID card lie Driving Licence, PAN or Aaadhar.The 100 rupee tickets are easier to obtain. Only two tickets can be purchased per ID card. The 20 rupee tickets are usually readily available. Reserved tickets have seat near main stage where as others are in different enclosures.
  6. Irrespective of the type of tickets you have, reach well in advance to get the best seat. The republic day parade timing is 9.30 AM to 11.30 AM. If you want to get best place and a seat, you should be there by 6 AM when gates open. Please keep in mind that it will be cold in the morning and cover yourself well. Also carry your food/water or eat something before going.
  7. Always carry an ID like Driving Licence, Aadhaar, PAN card etc. The security staff at entrance may also ask for it.
  8. Parking is a major challenge. You will be asked to park very far away in dedicated areas. Either you have to walk up to your enclosure or take shuttles. It is a real pain and we also endured it. It is better to come by taxi or metro.
  9. Mobile phones, cameras, and all other electronic devices are not allowed. There will be strict security check. Sometimes people take risk and sneak it in. It is your choice.
  10. All entrances are closed before the National Anthem starts. The complete parade will be for two hours. Please make sure you have water and some eats with
  11. Finally, If you don’t get a ticket, don’t forget to watch on your TV at home! It is spectacular !
This year – 2019 – is special as we have few women contingent from Assam Rifles – Poorna served in it – leading the parade. Here are few pictures from the rehearsal we have found from Rediff.com
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“What are the important things Indians should remember while travelling in Europe?” This question was asked by many of our friends when we returned from a fortnight trip to Europe few days back.

This was our first trip to Europe and it was a fantastic experience. While every travel is fun, travelling in Europe is a different ball game. It is different from travelling anywhere else. We felt that way after having travelled in America and Asia. ( You can check this post which will help you in travelling by air inside USA – 10 Tips for Smooth Air Travel in America!! )

We thought of listing important things Indians should remember while travelling in Europe so that they won’t end up with disappointments and have memorable travel experience.

This is because, we Indians take for granted many things in India while travelling! While it is not so outside the country. Especially in Europe and America.

Here is our list of things Indians should remember while travelling in Europe! Please read on….

1) Bottled Water is expensive!

Yes. We in India routinely ask for “Bisleri” wherever we go while travelling! Don’t do that and burn your pocket! Water is expensive than Wine in Italy and expensive than Beer in Switzerland and Germany!! You bet.

So, don’t ever buy water. Just drink tap water. Every European does that. Indians should follow them. Be an European in Europe!! It is safe to drink tap water.

In fact, in cities like Rome they have water fountains at many places and Romans fondly Call them “Nasoni” or “Big Nose”!. Carry a good water bottle and keep filling it.

It really gets hot and humid in summer and you need to drink lot of water. This is the first and most important of things Indians should remember while travelling in Europe!

2) Train is the best

You may not like to travel by Indian Railways. Yes, it is slow and not very clean though lot of improvements have taken place of late. But when in Europe just stick to train. They are the best mode of transport.

Whether it is from one country to another or within the country or within the city. Train is the best. They are fast. They are clean. They are efficient. Moreover, the train stations are centrally located and you don’t waste time commuting from airport to your hotel. At many places the metro station is next door.

In fact, we were nervous when we were watching the notice board in Milan, Italy. The platform for our train was not allotted till 10 minutes before departure! When platform was allotted, everyone boarded the train in ten minutes and the train departed in time!! That is the efficiency. While travelling in train, please keep these things in mind.

  • Buy ticket on-line. It saves time.
  • Make sure you have kept at least 15 minutes gap for connecting trains.
  • No need to take a hard copy of ticket. A photo of the ticket with clearly visible bar code is enough.
  • Reach railway station at least 30 minutes before departure. Check the platform in the notice board for your train and board at the coach allotted.
  • Big luggage have to be kept at designated racks in the coach which will be next to entrance. They are safe. Small luggage can be kept overhead.

Unless you are going for a long trip beyond 15 days, it does not make sense to buy Eurorail pass. The best website to check the train timings is http://www.loco2.com You can book tickets here as well

3) Book on Airbnb 

We did not book on Airbnb and we realise the mistake. These are convenient and much better than hotels and typical B&B. Hotels are expensive and not great value for money.

Most of the time, you are out on the streets exploring and will be returning to the place only to sleep. It is good to stay in Airbnb properties. Choose a moderately priced ones and make sure that they provide the following basic things

  • A Microwave to heat food
  • Hairdryer
  • Laundry facilities if available
  • Hot water
  • Private bath room

If you are backpacking, then hostels are a good bet. But, please keep in mind that they will be basic. One good resource is HostelWorld

4) Book your accommodation near Metro station/Bus stop

It is important that you choose your place of stay next to metro station or bus stop. Public transport is excellent is Europe and it is the most convenient mode of transport. Since, there will be so many places to see, it is essential that you choose a place that is near the bus stop or metro station.

5) Taxi is expensive

Taxi travel in Europe is expensive. Uber is not there everywhere and even if it available, they don’t come cheap. Unless it is really necessary avoid taxis. Even while commuting from airport to your place of stay and vice versa, use airport express. While moving around the city use Metro or city bus.

6) Be prepared to walk

When you are in Rome, be a “Roaman”!! Yes. When you are in Europe, walking is the best way to explore cities. European cities are extremely pedestrian friendly with lovely footpaths.

Make sure you wear a good walking shoe. No high heels please. Cobble stone paths in Europe is very common and high heels will not help. If you are planning to wear a new shoe make sure it is used in India before bringing it with you.

7) Food is expensive

This is one thing we realised. Yes. Food is expensive in Europe. You invariably spend a minimum of 20 Euros for a simple meal! Thus, carry ready to eat stuff with you or buy them in a grocery shop – which is difficult to find in Europe unlike USA – and heat it in your place of stay and eat. Dinner can be done likewise while lunch can be eaten while exploring the city.

8) Book day tours

There are so many things to see in European cities, that you will get confused. No one website will provide all the information needed to explore the places. While one can do a research and list out all the places that needs to be explored, it sometimes becomes a herculean task as every place of interest will have an entry ticket which can be bought online. You then need to preserve it and show them for entry.

Thus, the best alternative would be to go for day tours by local travel companies. It may work out little expensive, but solves a lot of head ache! Viator or any local agencies are a good bet. Most of the major train stations and airports will have a tourist office and you can get details there.

9) Don’t forget your Medicines

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