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When it comes to Russia, you may not have heard of Sakhalin Island. The first images of Russia that enter an Indian traveler’s mind are the St Basil’s Church and Red Square in Moscow. These are probably followed by the ornamental churches and palaces of St. Petersburg. But, thousands of kilometers away from the cultural treasure troves of European Russia, which will witness an unprecedented boom of tourists thanks to the FIFA World Cup in June-July, is a stretch of land that is blessed with an abundance of unparalleled natural beauty. And a population density of one person per square kilometer.

One of the 16000 Lakes on Sakhalin Island – Far East Russia

I am talking about the Russian Far East, an area that spans 6.2 million square meters. And borders Siberia in the west and the Pacific Ocean in the East. One of the most diverse places in the Russian Far East is Sakhalin Island, an island that is just north of Japan. The island occasionally makes it to the headlines of financial newspapers since ONGC has a large stake in an oil and gas project there. But it is largely unexplored by travelers, given its distant location.

With 16,000 lakes, numerous mountain ranges, diverse wildlife and more than 1800 kilometers of coastline, the island is a treat for visitors in all four seasons. It’s attractions warrant a separate visit in each of its colorful seasons. This article will focus on the summer since the summer months are just around the corner.

Sakhalin Island – Fusion architecture Sakhalin Regional Museum with its Unique Fusion Architecture

The southern half of Sakhalin Island was under Japanese rule from 1905 to 1945. This led to these parts having an ever-so-subtle Japanese heritage. The most famous building on the island now houses the Sakhalin Regional Museum. It was the main administrative building of the Japanese when southern Sakhalin was called Karafuto.

The building in Sakhalin’s capital city, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, at first glance resembles a Japanese palace but has very distinct European architectural elements. This fusion style has no parallel in any other part of Russia or in Japan.

The well-maintained garden with its fountains is a place for families to bask in the summer sun. Temperatures in the summer rarely rise above 25 degrees Celsius.

It also houses a fine collection of natural and historical artifacts. In fact, the island has been inhabited since the Paleolithic age.

There are numerous symbols of a one-time Japanese presence in the southern part of Sakhalin Island. There is even an old and unused railway line from the port of Kholmsk to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk that is popular with bicyclists.

Read More – Hindu Culture & Indian Deities in Japan

As a result of an economic boom caused by the development of oil and gas projects, several Japanese restaurants opened by businessmen from Hokkaido serve the most authentic Japanese food you can expect in Russia.

Gagarin Park and Gorniy Vozdukh

One of the highlights of a visit to the capital city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is a trip to Gagarin Park, named after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

A beach bordering the forest at Sakhalin Island

The central park is on the outskirts of a major forest range and has a large lake, as well as walking and hiking trails. It also has a nice set of cafes and children’s amusement park.

Further ahead is the Gorniy Vozdukh Ski resort, which is closed in the summer but has a working gondola. There are breath-taking views of the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk from the top of the resort. It also makes for a great picnic spot in the summer when the city has long days that culminate with a sunset after 10 pm.

Sports enthusiasts in the city can hike all the way up to Chekhov’s Peak, which stands at 1044 meters above sea level. The hike is a treat for botany fans as the vegetation changes from sub-tropical to alpine, and bamboo forests give way to paths full of Rhododendrons.

Warm lakes Warm Lakes of Sakhalin Island – Far East Russia

As I mentioned earlier, the island has 16,000 lakes, most of which freeze over in the winter months. Summer is a great time to swim in them or take part in water sports. The lakes are all within an hour’s drive from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and their shores make for great camping spots.

The most scenic of the lakes in southern Sakhalin is the Izmenchivoe, which is separated from the Sea of Okhotsk (northern Pacific Ocean) by a narrow strip of land. It’s a popular spot to fish for scallops. The mud on the banks is believed to be therapeutic and used for treating skin diseases.

Okhostkoye Beach and Cape Velikan Okhostkoye Beach – Sakhalin Island

The fishing village of Okhotskoye gets transformed from a frozen white wonderland in the winter to a beachside resort that is popular with sunbathers in July and August.

The beaches range from rocky to sandy and face the east. Don’t even think of taking a dip in the water, given how cold the water is. In the warmest days in August, the temperature of the water touches 10 degrees Celsius.

Further ahead from Okhotskoye is Cape Velikan, which has a large number of natural sea gates. A drive through pine forests with a large and active bear population brings you to this surreal marine wilderness.

Read More – Must sea things in Kyoto, Japan

Marine wildlife The coastline of Southern Sakhalin

From seals to the endangered Western Grey Whales, the island is blessed with marine wildlife. The whale species, believed to be 30 million years old, grow to a length of up to 15 meters. It weighs 40 tons!

The whales come every summer to a feeding area near the eastern coast of Sakhalin Island. They feed on shrimp and small fish.

Visitors to Sakhalin can also take a day trip to the Tyulenniy or Seal Island to see large colonies of seals. Seals are also visible from many of the island’s beaches.

Fishing enthusiasts visit Sakhalin in the summer to try their hand at catching salmon that come to the island for spawning. The most delicious of the salmon species that come to the island is the Southern Pacific Cherry Salmon.

Getting There: Sakhalin Island – Far East Russia

Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is connected to Moscow with daily flights (8 hours and 50 minutes). There are also daily flights from Vladivostok (1 hour 20 minutes), which is well connected to Asian cities such as Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Saigon.

Free Visas for Indians

Indian citizens can obtain a 9-day free permit to visit the Russian Far East here

This is a guest post by Ajay Kamalakaran. Ajay is the author of Globetrotting for Love and Other Stories from Sakhalin Island. Do check out his book on Amazon for some interesting stories from this obscure corner of the world.

All Images have been provided by the author.

The post Sakhalin Island – Where Russia meets Japan appeared first on Inditales.

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Long Himachal & Spiti Valley Road Trip is the only way you can admire the beauty of valleys of this Himalayan state of India. There is no other mode of transport you can take to the most treacherous road on earth. You have to take the narrow roads carved out of the sometimes sturdy and sometimes fragile mountains. You drive along the mighty rivers like Satlej and relatively calmer ones like Spiti River. For miles sometimes, you are the only one on the Himachal and Spiti Valley road trip.

15 days Himachal Road Trip Alka trying to capture the Himachal and Spiti Valley Road Trip on phone

Most Himachal Road Trip stories are full of adventures but ours was a rather smooth travel. We were mentally prepared for some landslides as it was July. We were prepared to park ourselves on the roadside while waiting for the landslide to be cleared. It seems the Yatra Gods were with us, and we had a smooth drive all through 17 days we were on road.

Roads scooped out of mountains in Himachal

Road Trip across Himachal Pradesh is by default a slow mode of travel. The narrow roads force you to move consciously, admiring them and fearing them at the same time. The landscape moves from lush green Apple country filled with Apple and other fruit orchards in Kinnaur to rugged mountains of Sangla Valley to the naked barren mountains of Spiti. The faith moves from being Hindu to being Buddhist. Color moves from green caps to colorful Buddhist flags. The water as an element is never far away on Himachal Road Trip, either as a river or as a lake. They are always sacred.

Spiti Valley Road Trip

So, let me take you through all the stops we had on this 15 days or two weeks of Himachal & Spiti Valley Road Trip.

Day 1 – Shimla Rashtrapati Niwas or Viceregal Lodge or Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla

We began our journey from Shimla. Alka and I took an HPTDC night bus from Delhi, and believe me this is the first time we ever met. After landing in Shimla, we met our driver Ravi who was to be our most valued companion on this Himachal & Spiti Valley road trip. I must say, having a good driver is a blessing in itself. We took the taxi from Shimla as the hill drivers are used to driving in the hills and also because the local taxi associations prefer that.

In Shimla, we visited the erstwhile Viceregal Lodge and enjoyed a lovely guided tour followed by a walk in its gardens. We met Prof Chandramohan Parsheera who told us about a lot of offbeat places that we can see on this trip. His guidance proved valuable.

Day 2 – Thandedhar Hatu Mata Mandir

Shimla to Thanedhar is about 70 km and lovely drive overlooking the Apple Orchards. Out next night halt was at Thanedhar where we discovered the story of Himachal Apple, surrounded by apples just short of being ripe enough to be eaten.

From Thanedhar, we did a day trip to Hatu Peak and Narkanda. What I remember the most is our morning and evening walk – meeting the local women, picking up fallen fruits, sitting by the river and listening to stories. We also gathered information about our journey ahead.

Day 3 – Rampur Bushahr & Sarahan Padam Palace – Rampur Bushahr

Thanedhar to Sangla was a long drive, though the distance is just about 150 Kms. We started early morning and stopped at Rampur Bushahr where we fell in love with Padam Palace. I discovered the Narsimha temples on the banks of a ferocious Satlej.

We also took a small detour to meet Bhimakali at Sarahan in her beautiful stone and wood temple.

I still remember the Rajma Chawal we had on roadside Dhaba’s, and the invitation by locals to come and stay with them.

It was almost dark by the time we reached our Banjara Camp at Sangla on the banks of Baspa River. The whole night I heard the roar of Baspa, and with the first morning light, I stepped out to look at it flowing in full force.

Day 4  – Sangla

We spent the day visiting the villages of Chitkul, Rakchham, Sangla, and Basteri. Chitkul has some of the most beautiful views of the Sangla Valley. At Basteri village we saw the making of a wooden temple dedicated to Badri Narayan.

Hear the Baspa River Flow... - YouTube

It was Baspa that stays in my heart from the two spent on its banks.

Day 5 – Rekong Peo & Kalpa

It was a short drive from Sangla to Kalpa, just about 40 km. On our way, we did a small hike to Kamru fort – the ancient wooden fort of Sangla valley with a living Kamakshi Devi Temple in its complex.

One of the peaks of Kinner Kailash Range

I remember the Sutlej River flowing along was at its ferocious best. We roamed a bit in the town of Rekong Peo where that was dominated by the green Kinnauri caps everywhere. It was a sunny day and the markets were bustling with activity. We also looked for pine nuts but it was not the right season.

We drove up to Kalpa and stayed bang opposite the Kinner Kailash Range. Clouds went up and down the peaks, and we kept struggling to find the peaks we recognized. Alka was unwell, so she took rest while I went around Kalpa town, looking at wooden houses and temples. The landscape is amazing with tiny villages living on the edges of sharp cliffs.

Day 6 – Nako

Kalpa to Nako is about 100 Km. On this drive, I got the first glimpse of the cold desert. As we approached Nako, we were mesmerized by the barren mountains that looked like giant piles of sand and would come crumbling down if touched. I have never seen such a clear and crisp blue sky.

Nako Village Road

At Nako, I discovered the best village level tourism management organization – absolutely inspiring. We went for a village walk and the sacred lake, admired the paintings in an old monastery as the Nako Youth Club youngsters took us around, all for Rs 50/-. They keep the village clean, have solar panels installed and beautified the village. It remains a model village in my mind since then.

Next day, on the way to Tabo, we explored the Giu Monastery that has the Mummy of a Lama in sitting position.

Day 7 – Tabo Tabo Monastery Complex

60 odd km of scenic drive brought us to Tabo – a small village on the banks of Spiti River, best known for its ancient mud monastery. We wanted to visit the monastery and then move on to Kaza, but Tabo held us back and we decided to spend a night there.

A Lama took us through the exquisite paintings, we walked to the ancient caves and the surprise discovery were ancient rock art.

Day 8 – Dhankar Window with a view – Pin River from Dhankar Monastery in Spiti Valley

It was about 50 km drive to Kaza that in my mind was to be the pinnacle of this trip. We took a small detour to visit the fragile Dhankar Monastery that does not allow more than few people to enter as it might collapse. I wondered how our monks lived in such remote places on the cliff edges. What stays with me from Dhankar is the view from monastery window of the Pin River flowing below. The sharp steep roads leading to the Dhankar monastery seemed as if they have been laid for us alone with no one else in sight.

Day 9,10 – Kaza Langza village near Kaza in Spiti Valley

Kaza was our hub for 2-3 days to explore the small villages around this biggest town known for ecotourism and the highest retail petrol pump in the world. We explored monasteries like Key that give you a vantage point view of Spiti Valley, and villages like Langza, Rangrik. Due to rain, which is very unusual in this region, we could not go to Comic and Hikkim but then we saw the rare rain there.

Kaza stays in my mind for its vistas with a hint of greenery.

Day 10 – Kunzum Pass Flowers & Snow at Kunzum Pass

Kunzum Pass was our reason to chose July to travel – it is a small window when this Pass is open. It was a sense of achievement when we stood there with the Kunzum milestone as the string wind tried its best to take us along. I would remember the colorful vistas of Kunzum with shepherds with their sheep grazing around.

You cannot stay at Kunzum Pass, we just stopped here on our way to Chandratal Lake.

Day 11 – Chandratal Lake Does it not look like a bowl – Chandratal Lake

Chandratal was my magical moment on this Spiti Valley road trip. We reached the Chandratal camp around lunch time and quickly headed to Chandratal. We had discussed earlier than 5 km long Parikrama of Chandratal at 15000+ feet height will be tough for us. However, once we reached there, we decided to do the Parikrama and the way it happened effortlessly – remains magical to me to this day.

It was a surreal feeling to live in the tents surrounded by snow peaked mountains with stars almost dropping from the sky.

Day 12 – Rohtang Pass A melting glacier – one of the many we saw on Spiti Valley Road Trip

Chandratal to Manali was a long and difficult drive as we had to cross many streams with big boulders in them. Our car did get stuck at one place, but the fellow car drivers on the road helped it out. As we approached Manali, its green color suddenly looked so inviting. It was in sharp contrast to the barren mountains were in for last few days.

We had a Bhutta or a Cob Corn at Rohtang with a feeling that sounded like ’return to civilization’. In Manali, we planned to eat good food, chill around a bit before returning to our own worlds. It was meant to be a celebration of completing a dream trip.

Day 13 – Naggar Wood Carved viewpoints of Naggar Castle

We spent one day at Naggar discovering the wooden architecture of Kullu kings, their memorial stones, the art galleries and the Himachali heritage, along with some beautiful temples.

Day 14 – Manali

We roamed around on the streets of Manali, visiting temples of Hidimba and Vasishth. We merged with the tourists on the mall road, we sat back and had coffee and then in the evening we say next to the Beas that was full of water.

Sapera Been from Manali - YouTube

In the evening we listened to this Been by a Sapera, that I heard after a long time.

Day 15 – Manikaran Manikaran Hot Springs

At Manikaran, we witnessed the hot springs right next to the ice cold Parvati River near the famous Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara.

We said bye to Ravi at Kullu where we boarded our bus to Delhi.

If you click the links above, you can zoom into each part of our journey

Even after three years, the journey remains fresh in my mind. Spiti Valley is the most beautiful part of India.

Things to know before planning the Spiti Valley Road Trip 2 Week Himachal & Spiti Valley Road Trip Itinerary
  • We did the trip in the first half of July as we wanted to do both Kunzum and Rohtang pass. Spiti is a summer destination. It is practically cut off in winters.
  • Travel slow, this region demands time as well as acclimatization. Take time to let your body get used to high altitudes.
  • Take a local taxi from Shimla or Manali, the local drivers not only know the roads, they also have a network of drivers who are a big help in case your car is stuck somewhere or if you need a backup vehicle.
  • There are Himachal State Road Transport Buses that ply on all these routes, but they are few and far in-between.
Naked Cold Desert of India – Spiti Valley Road Trip in Himachal Pradesh Vegetarians
  • Both Alka and me are vegetarians, so we literally had Rajma Chawal or Dal Chawal every day, till we reached Kaza where we had Thukpa. Food is basic but fresh. We did carry some dry fruits with us for the long driving stretches and we did buy some local fruits wherever possible.
  • Use local youth clubs and companies like Spiti Ecosphere to do trekking. It supports the local ecosystem.
  • We moved on an average 50 km a day on this Spiti Valley Road Trip and that could mean spending 3-4 hours in the car at times, as you just have to move very slowly.
The rugged landscape on our Himachal & Spiti Valley Road Trip Medicines
  • Carry all possible medicines you may need. Even if you are fit and fine, carry some common medicines as your body has to go through different altitudes and temperatures.
  • You must carry a jacket to protect yourself from wind as well as cold. Keep your body covered as the sun can be harsh during the day.
  • BSNL SIM cards are the only phones that work on most of this route. All other phones work only as cameras 😊
  • You find ATMs and Petrol pumps in limited places. We got petrol from Rekong Peo and Kaza before hitting Manali. It helps to carry cash as ATMs are not only limited but are refilled infrequently.
Banjara..
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A flock of migratory Seagulls at a beach, Goa

Birding in Goa is our favorite pastime. We see birds everywhere, in the fields behind our home, in the villages not too far from us, on islands just a ferry ride away, by the Goa backwaters, in jungles of the Goan hinterlands. Not to forget the ones who come to our balcony and on coconut trees in our building.

Brown-headed Gull at a beach, migratory birds of Goa Top Places for Birding in Goa

We see a rise in birding tours in Goa. A lot of companies engage birding experts to take the tourist on birding trails in Goa. So, we thought of giving you our list of best places for birding in Goa.

A pair of Black-rumped Flameback Woodpeckers on a coconut tree Carambolim Lake Carambolim Lake Goa

Situated behind the Karmali Railway Station in North Goa Carambolim Lake is a quiet lake that birds love. You can see birds in hordes. In thousands, they are sitting on the edges of the lake like they are there for a conference or a big celebration.

A flock of Lesser Whistling Ducks

Pro Tip – Step into the fields around Carambolim lake to look for many other birds. Do not forget to ask the field owners before you step in.

Ruddy Shelducks in flight Curtorim and Maina Villages in South Goa A flock of Wooly-necked Storks, Migratory Birds of Goa

Imagine a thin strip of coconut tree lined road going through wide fields on both sides with a backdrop of hills. This is Maina village near Curtorim in South Goa. This is birding heaven in Goa. You have to look on fields on either side or on the wires running up, you will be spoilt for choice.

Asian Openbill Stork in flight

Read More – Walking with the birds in Maina

Long-tailed Shrike Goa University Campus Brahminy Kite in flight

Goa University is built on a plateau. Walk behind its library building and you will pass by few buildings and many trees. Stand in front of any trees and you will see birds flying around. Look for a dry tree with no leaves and this is your best bet to photograph birds.

A pair of White-throated Kingfishers

Pro Tip – After a long birding walk, eat the student snacks or food in one of the canteens. It is like going back to college days.

Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Chorao Island Common Kingfisher bird with a catch of Fish

Honestly speaking this is not the best place for birding. This is where a lot of people land up because of the bird sanctuary tag, but we have never found many birds there. However, this is a great place to take a small boat and go through waters and spot birds that live on the edges of the river. Just take a ferry to Chorao island and wander around or take a boat ride in Mandovi.

Western-Reef Heron Moira Backwaters Indian Pond Heron

Reaching here is a bit tricky, but these backwaters of Mandovi river lies somewhere between Uccasaim and Moira. You can walk along the waters and see many birds away from any road and hence traffic.

Rose-ringed Parakeet in flight

Read More –  A Walk Through Moira Backwaters

Soccorro Plateau – North Goa Indian Peafowl Male

Like most plateaus in Goa, Socorro plateau is a haven for birds and birdwatching in Goa. Just walk around the narrow roads and keep looking up, on the trees.

Pilerne Plataeu A flock of Black-headed Ibis in flight

This is close to Saligao in North Goa. You may have crossed this on your way to famous Baga and Calangute villages. Although you can find birds in most deserted parts of the Pilerne industrial estate, our favorite spot is closer to Nerul river.

Purple Swamphen in flight Verna Plateau A flock of Glossy Ibis in flight

This plateau in South Goa is also an industrial estate, but if you can get a bit away from the industrial corridors, you would see wilderness and yes, birds.

Divar Island Slender-billed Gull in flight over Mandovi river backwaters

Take a ferry boat from Ribandar or Old Goa and get down at the island of Divar. Walk around and you would see not just birds but also crabs on the edges of Mandovi River next to the mangroves. You can see the locals fishing in small ponds. Birds are in the fields, on the naked wires and on trees which are not aplenty on this island. Do you know Divar island is the favorite of the advertisers, you would have seen it in many ad films.

Wooly-necked Stork in flight Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary Black-crowned Night Heron in flight

This Goa birding location is where the famous Dushsagar falls is located. As you trek to the falls or walk through the tracks leading to Dudhsagar falls, you will find birds. You just need to be away from noisy tourist vehicles. Birds do not like too much noise.

Read More – Dudhsagar – The Most Beautiful Waterfall

Merces Plateau White-bellied Sea Eagle in flight, Birding in Goa

This is a plateau that connects Panjim to Old Goa that would soon be full of new age buildings. Till then enjoy the views of Mandovi, some backwaters with the birds of Goa.

Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary Baya Weaver, Birding in Goa

Cotigao wildlife sanctuary at the southern tip of Goa is home to many hidden streams and waterfalls. With so many water bodies around, birds cannot be far away. Keep your telephoto lenses ready.

Read More – Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary 

Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary Purple Heron in flight

The Mhadei wildlife sanctuary is located in the hinterlands of Goa, away from its popular beaches or main towns. You would typically go here for whitewater rafting during monsoons. Go here for birding anytime.

Red-whiskered Bulbul Beaches like Morjim or Miramar A flock of Sandplovers in flight, Miramar beach

During winter months, Goa gets some amazing seabirds Seagulls, slender-billed gulls, Caspian terns. Most birders would head to Morjim to see these birds but we usually meet them at our neighborhood beach at Miramar.

Lakes & Fields White-cheeked Barbet with plenty of berries around to savor

In general, if you sit quietly near any lake or field in Goa, the birds of Goa would oblige you generously. We sometimes just stop at random places, closer to water bodies and fields, and more often than not this is our birding in Goa.

Wire-tailed Swallow Birds Sighting in Goa Beaches

Goan Beaches less frequented by Humans receive huge flocks of migratory birds like the Gulls & Sandpipers. Brown-headed Gull, Black-headed Gull & Slender-billed Gull are the most sighted. Sandplovers, Common Sandpipers, Little Stint, Sanderling are sighted in flocks by the beaches. White-bellied Sea Eagles are also spotted by the beaches and Mandovi river & Zuari river estuaries.

Shallow Backwaters, Lakes, Paddy Fields, Marsh Lands, Backwaters

Waterbirds like the Herons, Ducks, Egrets, Bee-eaters, Kingfishers, Drongos, Storks, Ibis, Cormorants, Darter, Jacanas, Plovers, Lapwings, Kites, Pigeons, Doves, Bee-eaters, Cuckoos, Rollers, Hoopoes etc are easily seen by these water bodies. Purple Swamphen, White-breasted Waterhen, Lesser-Whistling Ducks, Ruddy Shelducks, Indian Pond Heron, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Western-reef Heron, Wooly-necked Stork, Asian Openbill Stork, Lesser-adjutant Stork, Common Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Little Cormorant, Oriental Darter, Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Black-headed Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Red-wattled Lapwing, Greater Sandplover, Lesser Sandplover, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Plum-headed Parakeet, Black Drongo, Ashy Drongo, Brahminy Kite, Black Kite, Indian Peafowl, Rock Pigeon, Spotted Dove, Laughing Dove, Eurasian Collared Dove, Green Bee-eater, Blue tailed Bee-eater, Asian Koel, Lesser Coucal, Greater Coucal, Indian Roller, Hoopoe are among the relatively easily sighted birds.

Hinterlands, Plateaus, Wildlife Sanctuaries

Woodpeckers, Hornbills, Swallows, Bulbuls, Babblers, Barbets, Eagles, Pheasants, Parrots, Owls, Wagtails, Shrikes, Flycatchers, Sunbirds, Orioles, Starlings, Weavers, Waxbills etc can be spotted.

Black-rumped Flameback Woodpeckers, Black Eagle, Shikra, Crested Serpent Eagle, Jungle Fowl, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Spotted Owl, Indian Grey Hornbill, Great Hornbill, White-cheeked Barbet, Barn Swallow, Wire-tailed Swallow, White-browed Wagtail, Paddy-field Pipit, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Brown Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike, Jungle Babbler, Grey-breasted Prinia, Ashy Prinia, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Little Spider Hunter, Purple Sunbird, Indian Golden Oriole, Black-naped Oriole, Common Myna, Jungle Myna, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Baya Weaver, Scaly-breasted Munia, White-rumped Munia, Indian Silverbill. There are several varieties of these birds that are hard to identify without some expert help.

The Presence of so many varieties of Birds in Goa is a hallmark of the Biodiversity and beauty of nature. Nature lovers, Birding in Goa can be a great experience, additionally, you will find more biodiversity over and above birds.

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The post 15 Best Places for Birding in Goa You Must Explore appeared first on Inditales.

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Dwarka City is ancient and obviously full of stories. Wherever you go, you will find stories talking to each other. As a traveler, there is so much to see in this temple town on the banks of Gomti River.

Dwarka – Gomti Sangam

History of Dwarka pre-dates even the Mahabharat era. It has been a continuously inhabited place for the longest known time. Imagine the layers you can discover as you walk around this Dwarka City – best know known for temple tourism.

I am listing 15 things to do in Dwarka City.

Visit the Dwarkadhish Temple Sri Dwarkadhish Temple – Dwarka

People visit Dwarka for this temple, so do visit this temple once in the morning and once in the evening.

Read our detailed post on Dwarkadhish Temple Watch the Flag Change at Dwarkadhish Temple

The 52-yard flag of Dwarkadhish temple is changed 5 times a day – thrice in the morning and twice in the evening. It is a spectacle to watch. The family sponsoring the flag brings the flag in a ceremonial procession – singing and dancing. The Guggali Brahmin climbs the Shikhara of the temple and changes the flag. There is a loud cheer as the fluttering flag come out.

Visit the Rukmini Temple Ancient & Gorgeous Rukmini Temple – Dwarka

Rukmini is the reigning queen of Dwarka and Dwarkasdhish. Your visit to Dwarka is not complete till you visit her too.

Read More – Rukmini – the queen of Dwarka & Dwarkadhish

Tulabhar Weighing Scale for Tulabhar – Dwarka City

If you have read the Rukmini story, you know the origin of Tulabhar. If not, go read that first. As you walk along the Gomti River lined with many small temples, you would come across the large weighing balances hanging from the ceiling. You might see a person sitting on one scale and the grains on the other. This is Tulabhar – literally meaning weighing the grain for donation according to your weight.

When I entered one such temple, the priest looked at me and told me my exact weight and how much it would cost me to do a Tulabhar. I was stunned, that is some professional expertise. He then went on to explain me the details of Tulabhar.

Donation of 7 items weighing equivalent to your weight is what gets you Moksha or liberation in Dwarka, as mentioned in the scriptures. The 7 items that are donated are – Wheat, Sugar, Urad Daal, Moong Daal, Desi Ghee or Clarified Butter & Oil.

There are three categories of Tulabhar – Uttam, Madhyam and Sukshma and their respective rates per kg at the time of writing is Rs 120/-, Rs 80/- and Rs 40/- per kg respectively. What changes in these three categories is the mix of 7 items, so the last one may have Desi ghee only as a token?

If you are wondering where this donation goes, the priest told me that it goes to widows living in Dwarka, small temples, and poor brahmins. On a lighter note, at a place like Dwarka, Brahmins cannot be poor. This can be your motivation to lose weight too.

Ride a camel on either bank of Gomti River Camel Ride at Dwarka

One bank of Gomti is full of temples and ghats, the other is a sandy patch with a small beach next to it. You can ride a camel on either side of the Gomti.

On the ghat side, the camel walks right next to the river. As I watched small children taking a ride, I was a bit scared but the children seem to be enjoying.

On the other side, there are 5 sweet water wells that are supposed to be the 5 rivers brought here by 5 rishis. The names of the rivers and rishis are mentioned on the small boards next to the wells. These wells may have been the initial reason for this city to be set up here. Right now, all you see are two small temples dedicated to Laxmi Narayan and Ambaji. Laxmi Narayan temple has an old Gufa and a marker saying the footprints of Pandavas or Pandav Charan. There are also the footprints of the 5 Rishis who brought the 5 rivers here.

You will see a bunch of camels resting or walking here. If you are lucky, you may see one running like I did. Go for a camel ride or just sit on the sandy banks lined with piles of stones.

Sunrise at Sudama Setu on Gomti River Sudama Setu – Dwarka City

Dwarka is one place where you can see a lovely sunrise and a stunning sunset – almost at the same place.

For sunrise, there is no better place than standing at Sudama Setu – the cable bridge joining the two edges of Gomti River. This relatively new bridge has been built by the Reliance group. It is ticketed, so you have to wait for the ticket window to open in the morning to use it.

The bridge, the sunrise and the meeting point of Gomti with sea – all look simply stunning as the morning rays fall on them.

Across the bridge, the river is lined with a walking path punctuated with neat benches to sit. I sat there for some time. On the opposite bank, the Dwarkadhish temple was reflecting in the waters of Gomti. At the ghats, people were taking dips and the rituals were going on in the temples. The river as it meets the sea – I know it is an illusion as the river no longer exists and it is the sea water that fills the river channel. Still, it is a lovely visual, something that would stay with me for a long time.

You can also walk along the Gomti ghat and visit the small temples. Do see the Samudra Narayan temple at the edge of Gomti and the sea. This is one of the oldest temples in the city.

Sunset at the Dwarka beach Sunset at Dwarka Beach

The best place to see the sunset in Dwarka city is at the Badkeshwar Mahadev Temple. This is an ancient and small temple located on what must have been an island at some point in time. You can walk to this temple and have an unobstructed view of the sunset on the sea.

Sunset was beautiful, but when I looked back at Dwarka City from here, I could see the city on the rocks. Yes, the city is on high rocks against which the sea waves keep hitting. At places, they have made a cave-like way through the rocks. It felt like the city is nibbling the rocks of Dwarka.

I walked along the edge of the Dwarka city and looked at the rock formation on one side and tourists enjoying camel rides on the other. The black and white lighthouse stands tall at the other edge of the beach. It a perfect place to take pictures with the lighthouse.

Do spend an evening here watching the sunset when you visit Dwarka.

Gomti Arti Gomti Temple in Dwarka

Just like there is Ganga Arti in Kashi, Rishikesh, and Haridwar, there is Gomti Arti in Dwarka. It is not as elaborate or grand. It is a simple affair that takes less than 10 minutes.

You can go to small Gomti temple, next to the Gomti Ghat and check out the exact timings of Gomti Arti. In March, it happened around 6:30 PM.

Visit the presiding deities of Dwarka Bhadrakali Mandir – Dwarka

It is easy to assume that Dwarkadhish is the presiding deity of Dwarka. In a way, he is, but then not really. Krishna is the king of Dwarka and is worshipped in that role. The presiding deities, who existed here even before Krishna decided to make Dwarka his new capital are Shiva as Siddheshwar Mahadev and his Shakti as Ma Bhadrakali.

Their temples are small and ordinary today. You may have to ask around to reach them. Siddheshwar Mahadev temple has a lovely lamp lighting ceremony in the evening. There is an old stepwell next to the temple. Bhadrakali temple is on the main road and is surrounded by many other temples.

Visit the Sharda Peeth

Dwarka has the privilege of being home to one of the four Peethas set up by Adi Shankaracharya. As part of Dwarkadhish Temple complex, they have a lovely temple, some beautiful libraries and some very knowledgeable people you can meet. This is where I picked up the book that is my best source of knowledge on Dwarka. I also met the author of the book Prof Jaiprakash Narayan Dwivedi.

You must listen to the chanting done by the students of the Sharda Peetha in Dwarka. It is an experience in itself.

Visit More Temples in Dwarka Swaminarayan Temple at Dwarka

Some other interesting temples in Dwarka city include:

  • Swaminarayan Temple
  • ISCKON Temple
  • Gayatri Devi Temple
  • Shankaracharya Temple – in ruins but you can see the remains of an ancient structure
  • Mira Bai Temple in the same temple as Samudra Narayan Temple

Just walk around in the streets of Dwarka and you would

Look for Birds in Dwarka Demoiselle Cranes – Dwarka

Wherever you see a patch of water in and around Dwarka City, you would see many birds. I could see a lot of small birds in the bushes while driving around.

But my best catch was these Demoiselle Cranes that I found on an estuary on the way to Dwarka. There were so many of them flying around – a sheer joy to see and capture them.

Ride a Chhakda

This is a unique vehicle that runs on the motorcycle engine but can carry 12-15 people. You would see these colorful Chhakdas running around the city. You just cannot miss them. Try riding them based on how confident you are.

Visit the Oldest Stone Inscription of Dwarka City Oldest Stone Inscription in Dwarka

A stone inscription dating back to 2nd BCE can be seen at ASI Dwarka office. It is a fairly large triangular stone. Though I could not read the inscription, it was good to see the inscription and the conservation work being done by the ASI in Dwarka.

Buy some Dwarka Souvenirs Things you can buy at Beyt Dwarka – Corals, Conch Shells, Toys and Indrajaal

Most popular Dwarka souvenirs are, of course, the image of Dwarkadhish himself. You can have him glass box or a photograph.

Chakrashila – Best buy from Dwarka would be these stones with a wheel like circular formations on them. These are essentially corals from the sea, but their unique formations make you curious. Some of these are extremely lightweight and can float in water. Outside many temples, you would see a huge rock floating in the water. Some people even end up making offerings to them.

Conch-shaped sea shells were another interesting find. You can always buy the regular conch shells if you like.

Gopi Chandan is a popular souvenir to pick from Dwarka City. It is the dried soil from Gopi Talaav. You can find it anywhere in Dwarka souvenir shops.

Travel Tips for Dwarka City Things to do in Dwarka City
  • Dwarka is well connected to rest of by railways. Dwarka railway station is one of the westernmost railway stations in India.
  • The nearest airport is Porbandar that is 100 km from Dwarka City
  • Bus connectivity is available from most of Gujarat.
  • Dwarka City starts working early morning and sleeps during the afternoon. Plan your day accordingly.

Recommend you read more on Dwarka:

The post Top 15 Things to do in Dwarka City, Gujarat appeared first on Inditales.

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Hyderabad has a long and diverse history. It has its ancient balancing rocks from the Deccan Trap – still its oldest residents. It has been a place of tribal inhabitancy, you can see their presence in the names of the localities. Hyderabad has been home to richest in the world. It is now home to IT industry and some of the most valuable sportspersons of India. There are several Museums in Hyderabad for you to visit and spend some quality time.

Museums in Hyderabad to Explore

Museums in Hyderabad take you through the journey of ancient and modern Hyderabad. Explore them whenever you visit Hyderabad. Get to know the city better.

Salarjung Museum The Salarjung Museum – Must Visit Museums in Hyderabad

Salarjung museum is the most well-known museum in Hyderabad. It stands elegantly on the banks of Musi River in pristine white colors like the open wings of a bird. It is difficult to believe that all this was the collection of a single man – Salarjung. This is one of the few buildings that was built to house a museum like National Museum in Delhi.

A veiled Rebecca in stone, a talking clock, and some delightful paintings are the pride possession of Salarjung Museum. Salarjung Museum has to be the first must-visit museums in Hyderabad for any traveler or museum lover.

Sudha Car Museum – Craziest of Museums in Hyderabad Cricket Bat shape car at Sudha Car Museum

Sudha Car Museum is my most favorite museum in Hyderabad. It celebrates creativity and innovation. It also tells you what one person with a passion can achieve. You would love the cars in various shapes and sizes. Who can think of a car as a cricket bat, or a toilet commode or a Nikon Camera?

Read More – Sudha Car Museum, Hyderabad.

I call it the most whacky, most innovative museum of India.

Purani Haveli Museum

Purani Haveli was the residential palace of the Nizams of Hyderabad. It now houses many things including the Nizam’s Museum.

What makes Nizam’s museum unique is the double story Nizam’s cupboard, with 124 doors spread on both sides of a 120 feet long room. There is a manual lift that would have taken the Nizam up and down. Yes, it is the world’s largest wardrobe.

Read More – Purani Haveli Walk in Old Hyderabad.

It is another quirky museum in Hyderabad that introduces you to the most miser but the richest person on earth – The Nizam of Hyderabad. The clothes displayed here are fairly simple – mostly white Lucknavi kurtas.

You can also see miniature paintings with Nizam family genealogy painted in a very creative way.

Telangana State Museum

Public Gardens is home to a few museums in Hyderabad. The biggest and the most important is the Telangana State Museum. I visited it when it was still the AP state museum. It has lovely Buddhist sculptures from Amravati and you can see the relics of Buddha in a casket. There are lovely Jain images in the Jain gallery. Kakatiya architecture in form of door jambs is worth admiring.

Read More – Museums at Public Gardens – Hyderabad.

Health Museum

Health museum in Hyderabad is also located in public gardens. It is a small but a unique museum that aims to emphasize the health and hygiene. The single room will actually take you back in time. But nonetheless, it is one of the museums in Hyderabad.

Archaeological Museum – Gunfoundary Signature Stone Door Jamb from Warangal

This is a typical ASI museum in an interesting circular architecture, that reminds me of Student Centre at Panjab University in Chandigarh. You must see the exquisite Kakatiyan door jamb here. And also the pre-historic remains of Hyderabad region especially the ones that tell about age-old burial practices.

Birla Science Museum and Planetarium Dinosaur Leg Bones displayed at Birla Science Museum

A pillared walkway on Naubhat Pahad next to the pristine white Birla Mandir leads you to a huge glass and steel building. That is Hyderabad’s Birla Science and Planetarium. It is a lovely museum that explains basic principles of science with models and experiments. It will bring out the kid in you, it will take you back to your school science books.

At another level, there are remains of Dinosaurs and the model of underwater excavations in Dwarka.

Read More – Birla Science Museum & Planetarium, Hyderabad.

Institute of Culture Art Gallery

This art gallery exists in the premises of Birla Science Museum on Naubat Pahad. When I visited there was a lovely display of Vishwaroopa of Krishna. The lower story had contemporary paintings by painters like Gurcharan Das and themes ranging back to epic stories.

Nirmala Birla Museum

Another museum in the Birla Science Museum complex. This one has the best collection of porcelain, dolls, ivory items, Bidri work and Tanjore paintings. This is one of the best-kept secrets of Hyderabad. If you love museums, this is where you should spend a lot of time. I still remember an inverted Nataraja that I saw there many years ago.

Chowmahalla Palace Chowmahalla Palace, Hyderabad

The lovely colonial-era palace complex of Nizams of Hyderabad located at the other end of the Laad Bazar in the old city of Hyderabad is a charming museum in itself. At the Durbar Hall, you can see large Belgian Chandeliers. Elsewhere you can see old radio sets and interesting old clocks. There is a vintage car collection for those who love these old but working beauties.

Read More – Charminar to Chowmahalla Walk.

Nehru Centenary Tribal Museum – Banjara Hills Diorama outside Nehru Centenary Tribal Museum

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are home to many tribal communities like Chechu, Lambadas, Porja, Yerukala. Some of these tribes lived on the hill that is now the posh Banjara Hills area of Hyderabad. It is befitting that the tribal museum in Hyderabad is located on this very hill. The museum has dioramas depicting the lifestyles of various tribes. You can actually do a comparative study of the tribes here.

Read More – Tribal Heritage in Banjara Hills.

My favorite part here is the life-size dance scenes.

Jagdish & Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian Art

This is a private museum and you can visit it only with prior appointment. I had the pleasure of meeting Sh Jagdish Mittal and he is one treasure on Indian Art. His home is full of books on Indian Art. He is an author of many books on Indian Art. I still remember how well preserved his Rajasthani miniature paintings were. Check out their website for more details.

Rural Museum at Shilparamam Shilparamam Hyderabad

Shilparamam is like Delhi Haat – you have artisans selling handmade and handcrafted products. There are areas marked for performances and events. This is a place that usually bears a festive look. There is a small rural museum or recreation of the rural atmosphere of the region. It is not really a museum in the real sense of the word, but then it is a place you would enjoy visiting.

Do look out for the coin jewelry of the tribals of Andhra and Telangana region here.

Mythology Museum – Surendrapuri Durga outside Surendrapuri Mythology Museum

Mythology Museum is at Surendrapuri, a little on the outskirts of Hyderabad. It is a unique museum that re-creates the world of Hindu epics and its Devis and Devtas.

Read More – Mythology Museum – Surenderpuri.

Natural History Museum – Nehru Zoo Tortoise at Nehru Zoo Hyderabad

Natural History Museum at Nehru Zoological Park takes you for a walk through the natural history of the earth. You can see the rare white tigers at the Hyderabad Zoo.

Read More – Nehru Zoological Park – Hyderabad.

The post 15 Must See Museums in Hyderabad appeared first on Inditales.

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In our ‘Inspiring Travelers‘ series, we talk to our dear friend Jai Bharathi, who has just finished the ‘Road to Mekong’ expedition.

Piya Bahadur – Road To Mekong Expedition Road to Mekong Expedition

Road to Mekong was a 17,000 km biking expedition. Across six countries by 4 Indian women – Jai Bharathi an architect, Shanthi Susan – a police constable, Piya Bahadur – an education consultant, and Shilpa Balakrishnan – a corporate professional.

Let us talk to the captain of the ‘Road to Mekong’ expedition – Jai Bharathi.

Jai Bharathi Interview

Tell us about the Road to Mekong Expedition. How did this concept happen?

In 2015, a couple of us biker friends went on a motorcycle trip to every bikers dream trip to Ladakh. I took care of the entire planning. We could easily ride through all the hurdles and completed the journey. As we got close to the completion question of what next popped into our minds. And we were thinking of doing Kanyakumari to Kashmir (K2K) as our next big ride in 2016.

Around the same time, the news went viral about the new road connectivity to Thailand via Myanmar. Before even we started to plan for K2K, we knew very soon we should aim at riding to Thailand. Time passed and with few old friends and new, we set out on our K2K ride in May 2017. As usual, I took care of the entire planning and we successfully completed yet another 8600 Kms ride. We were back from the trip and as the thought of 27 days journey on road started to sink in, a dear friend of mine reminded me of the road trip to Thailand on July 5th. Got back to my fellow bikers with whom I always dreamt to ride to Thailand. In less than 3 days all of us agreed to set out on our next big journey to Thailand in November.

Go UNESCO Challenge Winner - YouTube

Just in another 10 days, I happened to meet Mr. Venkatesam, Principal Secretary Telangana Tourism at a friend’s Photography show. My other friend Visha reminded the Secretary about my keen interest on UNESCO travels. And soon he asked me when and where do you want to travel next.

In a split second, I told him about our plan to ride on a motorcycle to Thailand. He instantly agreed to support. I immediately asked him I would like to do it with four of my other friends. He was more than happy to extend his support and suggested we do it as an expedition covering all possible ASEAN counties along with production crew.

That’s when a mere journey to Thailand via Myanmar suddenly grew bigger into an expedition covering India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Earlier we thought of T2T Expedition, Telangana to Thailand. After adding the other countries we were not happy with the title and were looking for a better name. That’s when Piya came up with Road to Mekong as we were traveling through the Mekong region.

Tell us about the 4 of you and how you came together for Road to Mekong expedition?

Jai Bharthi, Shilpa, Shanthi & Piya – Road to Mekong Girls

2012 was the year which changed my perspective towards travel. Visiting all the UNESCO sites in India and winning a fun challenge. It boosted my planning skills to explore whatever I can in short breaks. In 2013 along with Prasanna, we started the Hyderabad Chapter of Bikerni, an all women motorcyclists association. From then on we did several rides. Through that, I met Shilpa who moved from Mumbai to Hyderabad on work in 2015 at JP Morgan. We have been on several rides. And admired each other’s passion for riding especially long trips. We both always thought of going to Thailand together.

In 2016, a common friend introduced Piya to me. And soon she started riding with us for city rides. Piya used to work as Regional Head for US IEF then and would join us only for short rides due to the paucity of time. When we just returned from K2K ride, she was generally catching up to know more. When I mentioned about our upcoming trip to Thailand. In two days she got back asking if she also can be a part of this journey. I instantly agreed. And there was no looking back. Piya has studied architecture from SPA, Delhi and did her Masters from Buffalo, NY. They moved back to India and she worked with ISB and US IEF.

She just put down her papers to start with her stint at educational consultancy and around the same time she heard about the trip. A mother of two college-going daughters, it would have been a tough decision to go on a motorcycle trip for close to two months. But guess she was destined to carry forward her father’s legacy. Her dad, who is around 72 years now, went on a motorcycle trip with his friends back in 1979 for three months.

Towards the end of 2016, again a common friend of mine introduced Shanti to me. Shanti works with SHE teams, women police team in Hyderabad and would still be hesitant going on a motorcycle as she had faced humiliation earlier. After riding with us for a couple of short city rides she started getting more confident. Her brother saw the passion she had for riding and they decided to buy an Enfield. When Telangana Tourism was interested to fund the entire expedition, my friend Varun with whom we actually planned to travel stepped back from the trip and said now that you are getting funds you should take those people who truly are passionate and deserve to be on such trips.

Instantly I thought about Shanti. Her two little children weren’t a big hurdle for her. But her government job would definitely be a hindrance for her being on the trip. I went up to her senior officials and requested them to send her on duty as we were anyways planning to talk about Telangana’s SHE teams as a key to women safety. They agreed and Shanti was on a dream journey.

How did you plan such a long expedition? As this covered so many countries, talk about the regulatory requirements of the multi-country trip?

Girls will be Girls even if they conquer the world on Bikes

Initially, it was just two countries and a few states in India. But with the support from Telangana Tourism, it grew bigger and we planned to cover 6 nations apart from India. The paperwork to cross land borders was of course very tedious. Especially because these routes had hardly seen few people crossing over land. And hence there were no set rules written anywhere on how this can be done. It was mandatory to hire a local guide and get the permissions to the routes we had planned. It was double trouble as we had another 8 member support crew traveling with us, which included the drivers and the production crew.

Ministry of Tourism, India agreed to extend further support. They roped in Ministry of External Affairs to support us as this was to promote India’s tourism and especially women safety. MEA informed all the Indian Embassies in the counties we were traveling to and they were of great help in expediting the paperwork required for the expedition to run smoothly.

Taking the motorcycle from India and not hiring it in those counties was another big challenge. The paperwork to get the bikes cross the land borders wasn’t that easy either.

What was the fascinating part of your journey?

Biking on Road to the Mekong

The fascinating part was how we four rode together irrespective of our riding experiences. Both Piya and Shanti were new to long distance riding and the maximum they rode was around 200 Kms in a day. Shilpa and I took turns to lead and tail to ensure the four of us are together at any given point in time. Though we all came from different backgrounds and lifestyles the fact that we rode together overcoming all our differences to ride 17000 Kms and reaching back homes safely without even a single scratch or not even a flat tyre on any of our bikes is worth to be best of our memories.

What were your biggest challenges before, during and after the Road to Mekong expedition?

Breaking Borders – The Road to Mekong Girls

Biggest challenges before and during the Road to Mekong trip were mostly with the paperwork associated with government sponsorships. And the permissions needed to ride through these countries. Soon I realized this is going to take longer than usual 3 months. And gave up all my other bread-winning projects and focused only this for close to 8 months before we could set out on our journey.

After coming back, the success of the trip only added more work than rest. Now since we have so much content generated we are busy deciding whether to do a web series or a documentary or both. Anything would easily take up another six months which of course we are more than happy to do.

How did you get the funding for Road to Mekong expedition? How difficult was it to get sponsors?

It was not very difficult to get our major sponsors Telangana Tourism, Bajaj Auto & Incredible India as all of them were more than convinced with our passion for motorcycling. But an expedition of this level with 12 member team was getting more expensive than planned earlier. We approached several private firms and everyone spoke so much giving us high hopes but never actually did anything to support. Ultimately we had to request our existing sponsors and they did their best to support us with increasing budgets.

Tell us some anecdotes that left a lasting impact on you and your team on this Road to Mekong expedition.

Joy of Travel – The Road to Mekong Team at Vietnam

When we were almost close getting back home, around 60 Kms to Nagpur one random stranger spotted us stopping by and looking at 575 Kms board to Hyderabad. Looking at our gear, he knew we were on some long road trip. A mechanic turned farmer to take care of his land this young man insisted we stop by and allow him to host us to at least a cool drink. He said ‘Hamare Biradri Ke Log Aaye Toh Pehchan Na Mushkil Nahi Hai’. He himself loves riding motorcycles and felt we were all fools who dream to ride and very few can understand the joy it brings.

What is your biggest takeaway from Road to Mekong expedition?

Irrespective of our differences, being together and working as a team towards a single goal anything can be achieved.

You traveled through countries that do not often come to India, did they ask you any questions about India?

On Road to the Mekong

Yes, they often wondered how we ‘Indo‘ were with our culture and what we eat. Especially in Myanmar, they would see the beauty in our eyes even when we were completely geared up. They were fascinated by the average height of us Indian women and they always felt Indian women are very beautiful.

What do you like the most about Biking? Would you like to do some slow travel at some time?

Biking has let me unfold my true potential of not just riding but also bringing people together and exploring the world around us. Yes, I would like to do few slow trips as well if I had the luxury to.

Read more on the other Inspiring Travelers on IndiTales:

The post Road to Mekong – 4 Indian Women, 17000 Km, 6 Countries appeared first on Inditales.

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Porbandar – I first heard this name when we were supposed to write an essay in Mahatma Gandhi in school. Forget Porbandar, Gujarat was also a distant land growing up in Chandigarh. Then came the age of the Internet. And I saw fellow travelers traveling to Porbandar and sharing images of the house where Gandhiji was born. The rich green brackets of his house stayed in my memory as a reminder that I have to visit this place sometime in the future.

Kirti Mandir – Porbandar

On my recent visit to Dwarka, I had to travel via Porbandar. So, I decided to explore the city made famous by its two sons – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Sudama. I expected it to be a small town. As my flight descended to land at the Porbandar Airport, I was surprised to see a fairly large town with multi-story buildings and flyovers.

Before heading to Dwarka, I took a detour to Porbandar. Kirti Mandir or the Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace is the most popular and most visited place in town. We parked our car next to a market where all I could see being sold was spices. There were huge ornate buildings around it. It is a rich, affluent town.

Kirti Mandir – Porbandar

Let us look at a bit of Gandhi History before we go around his birthplace.

Gandhi History Portraits of Gandhi – Porbandar

The home in Porbandar where Gandhi Ji was born was brought by his great-grandfather Harjivanji Rahidasji Gandhi. He bought it from a local lady called Manba as a single story house. By the time Gandhiji was born on Oct 2nd, 1869, the house had 3 floors. With rooms and corridors put together the house has 22 rooms as per information board at the property.

Gandhiji’s father and grandfather were the Dewan’s of the kings of Porbandar. It is quite a prestigious position and the house or haveli reflects their social status.

For more on Gandhi, check out the Gandhi Heritage Portal.

Kirti Mandir Gandhi House in Porbandar Greet and Beige Haveli of Gandhi’s

The original Gandhi house stands on the left side of the huge and ornate Kirti Mandir. You enter the house through a plain wall which seems to be a later addition. It announces – Birth Place of Mahatma Gandhi Ji. You enter and find yourself surrounded by tall pale walls outlined in green. The doors and windows are in bright cheerful green color.

The main door to the house is on the right. Front courtyard has pillars and wood carved frame – all in green.

Details of the wood carved door jamb – Gandhi House, Porbandar

A black and white photo of Gandhiji and Kasturba hangs on top of the main door. The doorjamb is intricately carved. I could see the Ganesha on top in red color. And parrots hanging on like brackets on either side. You enter and see the room and the exact place Gandhi Ji was born. A Swastika marks the place and a big photograph of his, hangs on the wall above it. I wonder if the delivery would have happened in the room so close to the main door, but then what do I know.

Spot where Gandhi Ji was born – Porbandar

I moved around the house and saw some intricately carved but small jharokhas. There are small cupboards with green plain doors with walls around them painted in red. Some of the niches were decorated with paintings in multiple colors. And the parrots seem to be a favorite subject.

Painted Niches of Gandhi House – Porbandar

To go up and down, there are wooden stairs which are kind of scary. ASI has put thick ropes that you can hold on to and go up. I wonder how in pre-electricity days, people moved up and down these steep steps.

Other Houses of Mahatma Gandhi Kasturba House in Porbandar

A passage from Kirti Mandir leads you to the back alleys of Porbandar. Just around the corner is the parental house of Kasturba, born as Kasturba Kapadia. The 19th CE house is as big if not bigger than the Gandhi house. A small office sits in one room of the house. I went around the house and located a few kitchens and wondered why. The officer on duty told me that the house was shared by many brothers. And each had his own kitchen, makes sense. A case of a few neutral families living together.

Kasturba Gandhi’s Paternal Home – Porbandar

Kasturba’s house in Porbandar too had steep wooden stairs joining the different floors. What was most interesting in this house was the cooling system. A series of water pipes run through the walls. The water flowing through these pipes keeps the house cool.

Walking between the two houses I wondered if young Mohandas and Kasturba played in these very lanes.

Kirti Mandir The Kirti Mandir – a memorial for Mahatma Gandhi at his birthplace in Porbandar

Kirti Mandir is a memorial built for Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi that includes his house. What is interesting is that the construction of Kirti Mandir started in 1947 when Gandhiji was still around. In fact, it seems he handed over the papers of his house to be a part of Kirti Mandir. Unfortunately, he passed away by the time the construction was completed.

Seth Nanjibhai Kalidas Mehta, also a resident of Porbandar built this memorial to Gandhi. He paid for both the land and the building. You may know his more famous son – Jai Mehta, the industrialist, and the IPL’s Kolkata team’s co-owner.

Gandhi & Kasturba Portraits at the center of Kirti Mandir

The centerpiece of the Kirti Mandir in Porbandar is the life-size portraits of Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba. On one side are a souvenir shop and a small picture gallery. I wish the souvenir shop had some good things to buy. It was ironical that a couple of hours ago I was at Mumbai Airport with a high-end shop selling Gandhi Souvenirs. The picture gallery has family pictures including a Gandhi family tree graphic.

On the first floor, there is an elaborate picture gallery that has Gandhi’s life portraits. You see him from as a well-dressed kid to his suited booted personality in South Africa to his lungi avatar during the independence movement. In a way is also a journey through late 19th and early 20th CE India.

Sudama Mandir or Sudamapuri – Porbandar Sudama Mandir – Porbandar

We have all heard the Krishna Sudama story. But not many of us know that Sudama was from Porbandar. In the story, he traveled from Sudamapuri to Beyt Dwarka. Sudama and Krishna had studied together at the Sandipini Ashram in Ujjaini.

Temple dedicated to Sudama & his friend Krishna is a temple complex. You see the wall murals depicting Sudama’s feet being washed by Krishna as the Rukmini fans him. In some murals, both Rukmini and Krishna are washing his feet.

Murals depicting Krishna – Sudama – Sudamapuri

There is a labyrinth called Lakh Chaurasi in front of the temple that literally would mean 84 Lakhs. This number is traditionally associated with the number of lives you have to go through before taking a human birth.

The main temple is a small but lovely temple with a pillared hall in front. This temple is about 100 years old that was built at the same place as an old 12th CE temple. Inside the temple, you can see both Dwarkadhish and Sudama. Outside the temple is a well called Sudama Kund. Behind the temple are some smaller temples dedicated to Harsiddhi Devi & other deities. A reasonably well-maintained garden surrounds the temple with sculptures depicting the Krishna-Sudama Story.

Somewhere in Porbandar

Driving around Porbandar, I could see many colonial-era ornate Havelis with beautiful windows and doors.

My readings tell me that Porbandar is home to one of India’s oldest Planetariums.

Porbandar is well connected by Air, Railways and road transportation. Porbandar Airport has a snacks shop that almost looks like a roadside stall. I wish the cost of Chai was also comparable.

The post Porbandar – the Birthplace of Gandhi & Sudama appeared first on Inditales.

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Mykonos Greece – this is how it stays in my memory

“… as the bright pink bougainvillea flower fluttered down to the pristine white cobbled ground near my feet, I couldn’t help marvel the allure of the countless hues of magnificent blue spread out in front of me in the ever-changing façade of the Aegean sea, shimmering in the sunlight of the golden hour, mesmerising me, holding my gaze, refusing to drop my attention for even a second. In that moment with the sun on my face and the cool powerful gusts of wind in my hair, I experienced bliss …”

Mykonos Greece at Dusk, Image – Shutterstock

We had heard and read a lot about Greece, a place of diverse landscapes, more than 3000 years of rich history, excellent food, perfect climate and lovely people. Our wish of visiting this dreamland came true in June 2017 when we planned for a week-long tour with a good amalgamation of history, fun and Greek food. We were very excited to visit this country known for being the birthplace of Democracy, Olympic Games and much more.

Mykonos Greece

During this trip to Greece, Mykonos came as a side dish, which turned out to be like a dessert – the best part of our journey. Mykonos is one of the most beautiful Greek islands known for its exquisite beauty and serene beaches. After receiving enough dose of history at Athens, we were looking forward to a good 3-day relaxation at Mykonos and Santorini Island.

Ferry From Athens to Mykonos Piraeus Port – Athens, Greece

After breakfast at our hotel in Athens, we reached the main port of Athens, Piraeus Port, to embark on Blue Star luxury Yacht waiting to ferry us to the island of Mykonos. This Royal yacht had ample deck area at different levels across and one was close to where we were sitting. It was very windy on the deck. It had already started drizzling and the sky was overcast. Initially, I was engrossed in enjoying the beautiful weather, the flowing winds, and early morning chill. It was only after the drizzling stopped that the beauty all around struck me.

Aegean Sea Hues of Blue at the Aegean Sea – Mykonos Greece

All around us was deep blue Aegean Sea which is an elongated embayment of Mediterranean Sea. Living in Goa for a good part of my life, sea & beaches are not new to me. Apart from Goa, I had seen seas at other places in India as well as rest of Asia. But I’ve never seen a sea as beautiful as the Aegean Sea. Crystal clear turquoise blue water took the top position in my heart amongst all the water bodies I had seen so far. Numerous Blue hues, divine clarity accompanied by wonderful weather can only be seen to be believed.

Panoramic view of islands from the Mykonos ferry

Slowly islands of Syros and Tinos moved past us. We were stunned by the beauty of the architectural landscape of these islands. We had a panoramic view of a perfect mixture of Cycladic and medieval architecture. The characteristics of Cycladic architecture are white cubic houses, cobblestone streets, pristine windmills and ubiquitous blue domed churches.

From ferry deck, we were able to see countless marble stairs between the narrow paths, lined by lovely houses with colored doors and windows that led to the top of the island. We were fascinated by the exquisite view of the islands and wanted to land on each of them. But these islands were not our destinations. Hoping to observe this architecture from close we looked forward to our trip to Mykonos Greece.

Evening at Mykonos Evening at Mykonos Beach

After providing us with an excellent 5-hour scenic experience the yacht landed at the destination. Mykonos, also called the island of winds lived up to its name and welcomed us with it’s fresh and pleasant wind. We were told that Mykonos island is the most popular and cosmopolitan island of the Cyclades. It is also considered to have one of the world’s most famous beaches and parties.

After we reached a beautiful beach resort with the calm turquoise blue sea at our doorsteps, our enthusiasm was dampened a little by a fresh bout of drizzling. It was our daughter whose spirits were affected the most. If this weather continued, it would hamper our visit to the city pedestrians and famous windmills scheduled for the next day. But then worrying doesn’t help anyone. Instead, we concentrated on our evening on the beach. Fortunately, the drizzling stopped and clear blue sky emerged.

As I said, being from Goa, beaches were not new. But Mykonos was a different experience altogether.

The Mykonos Beach

It was a clear blue sea with a very clean beach. Beach-beds were spread everywhere and people were having fun. But very few people were actually in the water. Once we reached close we realized why.

Way to the Sea at Mykonos Greece

The sea bottom was hard volcanic solid surface. The coarse sand on the beach looked as if brought from somewhere else to give it a beach effect. As we entered the water, so welcoming, blissfully cold, absolutely clear and full of colorful harmless tiny fishes, we realized there was an obstructive ridge running along the beach inside the water. Beyond this natural ridge depth of sea drastically increased. We feared to hit our heads on the ridge while swimming. So we thought it is better to return to shore and enjoy.

We captured some beautiful photographs of the evening sea. Slowly the night crept in and we had one of the most beautiful moonlit skies. The Aegean Sea was shining in the moonlight like a shimmering platter of jewels. We were so mesmerized by the beauty of the night that for some time we were completely oblivious to the fun and frolic going on behind us on the beach.

Later, the evening was followed by dinner by the beach at the resort. There was not much choice. The resort is at a distance from the city center and was not accessible at that time. So we had to be happy with whatever was available. At least we had excellent visuals to make up for it. The mind was totally engaged in the visual treat all around, and the stomach did not complain. Around us people were busy dancing and partying, something Mykonos Greece is tagged for.

Greek Pedestrians Mykonos Greece Pedestrian

Next morning after breakfast we set out to visit pedestrian at city center. The city center is more commonly called principle village or ‘Chora”. There was a small bus stand in front of the resort gate which provided bus services to the city every half hour from 8 am to 8 pm. The city center was around 15 minutes’ drive from the resort.

Greece is known for its pedestrians. They are generally pristine areas buzzing with different activities like exotic shops, residences, cafes, restaurants, art galleries etc.. The lanes are so narrow that no vehicles are allowed inside. The name itself must have given you the idea that we are supposed to move around on foot.

In Athens, we had this experience in Monastiraki. But it was more of a flea market with clothes and souvenirs shops, restaurants and some bargaining shopping. There was nothing exotic or aestheticism attached to it. On the contrary, it was very crowded and congested.

Mykonos Greece Pedestrians

We had heard about the beauty of Mykonos Greece pedestrians before. And got the first glimpse of it as soon as we entered the village through a narrow lane. We were entering into a different world altogether. The first thing that caught our attention was a beautiful combination of white, blue and pink. There were small rectangular houses, at the most two storied. They had pure white walls with bright blue doors and window. The narrow paved pathways were also spic and span white. Invariably all houses had bougainvillea vines which were full of bright pink flowers.

Although the houses were old, they had immaculately maintained interiors and exteriors. Some of these were actually used as residences, while many housed shops, cafes and art galleries. We started walking in the lanes and realized that they were a big maze.

Shopping in Mykonos Greece Inviting shops of Mykonos Greece

Walking on the narrow lanes we saw exotic shops for readymade garments, shoes, cosmetic jewelry, Dry fruits, and souvenirs. Although most articles were high-end products, garments made of soft Greek cotton and certain souvenirs attracted our attention. We did some shopping for ourselves and our loved ones.

Art galleries at Mykonos Greece Art Gallery at Mykonos Greece

We saw many small art galleries while walking on the lanes. They were all privately owned galleries, exhibiting a variety of artifacts. What I liked most was the hospitality shown by the owners in each gallery we visited. They would enthusiastically explain each artifact and tell us about the artists. The galleries were open to all and there was no entry fee.

Mykonos Windmills Famous Windmills at Mykonos Greece

While walking on paths, we generally followed the direction of winds coming from the sea. That brought us out of the maze, face to face with the sea on the other side of the pedestrian. Looking towards our left we noticed the famous Mykonos windmills. Each of them had round shape, white colored walls, pointed roof, blue doors and small windows. We could not see the mills from inside as they were all closed. None of them are currently in working condition.

One of these windmills has been transformed into a museum.

I was told that there are currently 16 windmills on Mykonos of which seven are on the hill of Chora. Built by the Venetians they were primarily used to mill wheat and barley. Their use gradually declined and ceased production in the middle of the 20th century.

Cafes, bakeries & restaurants

In between shops and galleries, there were traditional bakeries serving freshly baked items. One of them showed us his traditional oven in the room behind the counter. We saw exotic as well as simple cafes, catering to the visitors. But one thing was common in all. They were all small in sizes, seeing the space constraint in the area. We tasted some local goodies and bought some to bring home.

Laid Back restaurants at Mykonos

Then there were beautiful restaurants, mostly semi-open, serving vegetarian and non-vegetarian Greek food along with continental spreads. As people say, Do in Rome as the Romans do. We had sumptuous Greek delicacies for lunch that day. Our souls were satisfied. After food, we were served local Greek wine on-the-house.

After lunch, we had another round of Chora and the seashore. This time we made a point to buy replicas of Mykonos windmills as souvenirs. We explored remaining galleries and shops till it started getting dark.

We wanted to come out of Chora to catch the bus back to the resort. The funny part was that we kept reaching the sea again and again. The maze of paths was trying to confuse us and was challenging the child in us. Fear of missing the last bus, made us ask for directions at each junction. Saying goodbye to a beautiful experience, we boarded the bus.

On-route to Santorini

After a fun-filled dinner, we had much-needed rest at the resort. Although tired physically, our spirits were relaxed and happy. The next morning we started for Mykonos port to reach Santorini by a high-speed boat. I may talk about our beautiful experience at Santorini next time. Till then, bye.

This is a Guest Post by our friend Madhumita Tamhane.

Madhumita is Telecommunication Engineer and a retired Professor. She is an ardent traveler and enjoys embarking on trips with her family. She is also associated with IndiTales Hindi as a translator from English blogs to Hindi blogs. Above photographs credit to the Author.

The post Mykonos Greece – The Island of the Winds appeared first on Inditales.

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We all know Rukmini was the first queen of Sri Krishna. She is the one he first married, followed by Jambavati and Satyabhama. The popular image of Sri Krishna associates him with Radha more than any other Shakti in his life. When you go to Braj Bhumi it is all about Radha. It is more of Radhakshetra – the area where she dominates. When you are in Dwarka – it is all about Rukmini. Radha is present but most people bow down to Rukmini.

Ancient & Gorgeous Rukmini Temple – Dwarka

This was the first time I personally saw Rukmini’s prominence, I was intrigued. I heard her stories in Dwarka. And I visited her temple that still stands outside the Dwarka’s city limits. I saw the board’s announcing Rukshmani (that is how people of Dwarka call her) Vivaah or wedding. After I came back home did a bit of reading. And there is so much I learned about Rukmini – the princess of Vidarbha, the incarnation of Mahalaxmi and the Pattrani or primary queen of Sri Krishna.

Lets first visit her lovely temple.

Rukmini Temple – Dwarka Rukmini Temple – Dwarka

The Rukmini Temple stands about 2 km away from the Dwarkadhish Temple in Dwarka. In fact, the temple is not even within the city limits – it is well outside the city. In the good old days, it may be a jungle where the Rukmini temple stands. Standing alone next to a small water body with lots of birds in it, the temple probably belongs to 12th CE contemporary of the main part of Dwarkadhish temple.

The entrance of Rukmini Temple – Dwarka

The Rukmini temple has a tall Shikhara that still has old carvings on it. I could see many Madanikas or beautiful women on a panel that goes across the Shikhara. The base is an inverted lotus, followed by a row of elephants. Niches have Vishnu images. A typical Nagar style of temple architecture is on display. A bright saffron flag flutters on top of the Shikhara.

Sculptures on the outer walls of Rukmini Temple – Dwarka

The erosion of stone due to the proximity of sea can be seen.

The mandapa though has a dome roof. I assume it is a medieval addition or replacement to the original temple.

Story of Rukmini

When you visit the Rukmini temple, the priest will first tell you the story of Rukmini and then let you enter the temple in a batch. Inside the temple, there is a lovely image of Rukmini and all around there are paintings depicting the legends associated with her.

Details of Rukmini Temple – Dwarka

Rukmini Temple complex has a temple dedicated to Amba Devi, the Kul Devi of Krishna.

Outside the temple is a loan stone pavilion – the purpose of which I could not gather. There are groups of Sadhus outside the temple with the Rukmini photograph.

Sadhus outside the Rukmini Temple in Dwarka

It is a small temple but it has its own personality, away from the city full of so many temples. It stands apart just like the presiding deity it houses.

Why is Rukmini Temple Away from the City? Rukmini Temple at Gopi Talaav near Dwarka

The story goes that Rishi Durvasa, who happens to be the Kul Guru of Yadavas, had his ashram at Pindara – some distance away from Dwarka. Krishna and Rukmini went over to invite him for food with all their chariots. Remember, Rishi Durvasa was known for his bad temper and quick anger. He agreed to come but, on a condition, that the chariot would not be drawn by horses or any other animals but by Krishna and Rukmini themselves. They agreed.

Boards announcing Rukmini Vivah

Now Rukmini was a queen not used to pulling chariots. After a while her throat was dry and she looked at Krishna. He understood she needs water. He pressed his right toe into the earth and out came the Ganga. Rukmini had the water. She was so thirsty that she forgot to offer it to Rishi Durvasa first. This made him angry and he cursed that the couple would be separated and live apart. This is why Rukmini’s temple is away from Dwarkadhish temple. They are still living Durvasa’s curse.

Even at Dwarkadhish temple in Beyt Dwarka, Rukmini is present as Mahalaxmi and not as Rukmini.

There is a small temple dedicated to Rukmini at Gopi Talaav.

They even say that Rishi Durvasa cursed that Dwarka would be infertile and nothing would grow here. That also remains true to this date – the dry land around Dwarka has nothing growing here. The man had worked around to mine salt here is another tale.

Legends of Rukmini

There are 3-4 popular legends associated with Rukmini that mostly come from Srimad Bhagwat.

Krishna – Rukmini Vivah or Wedding Krishna Rukmini Vivaah or Wedding

Rukmini was the princess of Vidarbha – the area around current day Nagpur. This is why she is also called Vaidarbhi. She was born to Bhishmaka – the king of Vidarbha. She was to be married to Sisupala – the king of Chedi. However, she had heard so much about Sri Krishna from so many people including Sage Narada that she has made up her mind to marry only Sri Krishna. In fact, Bhagwad Puran mentions that Rukmini thought only Sri Krishna is equal to her in gunas or an equal match.

Rukmini is believed to be the most beautiful women ever in Indian Scriptures. She is, after all, an incarnation of Mahalaxmi. As Laxmi, she is Narayan’s Shakti and as Rukmini, she is Krishna’s shakti.

Rukmini Patra or Letter Rukmini Patra – the world’s first love letter!

She wrote a letter to Sri Krishna telling him about her intent to marry him. Rukmini asks Krishna to kidnap her when she goes to the temple through this letter. She sends this letter through a messenger. Different versions say that messenger was Hanuman or Garuda or Brahmin. Her letter is all of seven shlokas.

The printed version of this letter is available for anyone to pick at Rukmini Temple in Dwarka. I picked up the Hindi version. Printed in Red on white paper, it has the original 7 Shlokas in Sanskrit with Hindi translation. Scholars can give hours of interpretation of these 7 Shlokas but you do get the comprehensive message that she has sent. She begins by praising him, by telling him she wants to marry him and then telling him the exact way to capture her in the middle of her wedding proceedings. She does not miss the possibility of war and bloodshed. In the end, she leaves a threat or you can read it as cajoling – if you do not come I will wait for births till you come.

Rukmini Letter reading

This letter is still read every day at Dwarkadish temple before the deity is put to sleep. It is said that women who want to get married to their desired man should read this.

Krishna kidnapped her as per the plan. They got married at a village near Porbandar called Madhavpur Khed on the Ekadashi or the 11th day of the Chaitra month. Then they again got married in Dwarka.

Even to this day, the wedding procession goes from Dwarkadhish temple to Rukmini temple and marriage ceremonies are performed. The wedding takes place in Beyt Dwarka and Madhavpur Khed as well.

Rukmini had 9 sons and one daughter. Her son Pradyuman went on to become the successor of Sri Krishna.

Tulabhar Rukmini – The Incarnation of Mahalaxmi

The story goes that Satyabhama the third wife of Krishna was tricked by Narada to donate wealth worth Krishna’s weight. Satyabhama accepted and made Krishna sit on side of the weighing balance. On the other side, Satyabhama put all her wealth – all the gems and jewelry she had, but it could not match the weight of Krishna. She begged the wealth from other wives but still, nothing happened. In the end, she requests Rukmini to help her out.

Rukmini put a single leaf of Tulsi Plant and the weighing scale tilts the other way. When everything but the Tulsi leaf is removed the scale still tilts towards the leaf. The message is that you can win Sri Krishna only by devotion not by wealth.

The tradition of Tulabhar still goes on in Dwarka. On the banks of Gomti river, you can offer 7 types of grains equivalent to your weight. This is supposed to be one of the recommended things to do in Dwarka to attain moksha.

Rukmini at Pandharpur Sudama visiting Krishna and Rukmini

According to Talking Myths portal, there is a story that brings Rukmini to Pandharpur in Maharashtra.

It is said that Rukmini being the chief queen had to be respected by all other Gopis and queens. Once Radha did not get up to show respect to her while she was with Krishna. This annoyed Rukmini and she left Dwarka in anger and came to Dindirvan which is now Pandharpur.

Krishna, his cows, Ganga and Govardhan Parvat followed Rukmini. The two finally made up and served a feast of Kala – the dish made with curd and Maize to everyone present. The tradition of serving Kala still continues during the annual Pandharpur yatra.

At other places, Rukmini gets a mention when Sudama visits Dwarka. People wonder what has Sudama has done to get fanned by Rukmini herself.

Do you know more tales of Rukmini? Tell me!

The post Rukmini Temple – Meet the Queen of Dwarka appeared first on Inditales.

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We have all been watching the wonderful performances of our sporting heroes in the Commonwealth Games. I was thrilled to see Manika Batra win a gold in Table Tennis, as this was a game I once played. And I remember training at the community center in Panchkula with the dream of winning a medal and Manika just lived my dream. I had tears in my eyes.

With some pride and satisfaction, I started working on my travel blog. My thoughts were still inside the stadium and I wondered why are we not traveling with the sports events? As it happens on the internet, one thing leads to another and I ended up looking at the upcoming sports events. The search got refined to see what is happening in the cities that I would like to visit.

Travel with Sports, Image – Shutterstock

So, I landed on the UEFA Champions League page. This popular and prestigious continental club football league has its semi-finals and finals coming up in April and May. Surfing around the UEFA website, my eyes stopped at the destination where the last 5 matches are to be played. I also stumbled upon this the Axis Bank Mastercard UEFA Champions League Offer that would give two winners a free trip to the finals of the Champions League. The idea is more you spend the more are your chances of winning a trip for two to the finals at Kyiv. Others can win autographed merchandise from UEFA.

Now, you can surf and find these destinations or come with me on a virtual dream journey across these 5 cities in 5 different countries.

Liverpool – United Kingdom

Remember when I spoke about 8 English Cities you must explore, Liverpool was one of them. I mentioned how this city of Beatles is a football crazy city. It is home to two football teams Everton FC and Liverpool FC. What makes this city very interesting for me is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City.

Liverpool Beatles – Liverpool

Now this UNESCO tag has not one but six different locations in the Liverpool city. All of these are somehow related to the maritime history of the city. These are the Pier Head, The Albert Dock, The Stanley Sock Conservation Area, Duke Street Conservation Area, the Castle Street conservation area or the commercial quarter and William Brown Street Conservation Area or the cultural quarter. You guessed it, it is the last area that I would be spending time at – as it promises art galleries and museums.

Besides this, Liverpool is the pop capital of the world, so it must be a good place to introduce yourself to some pop music.

Liverpool is the venue for the first leg of the first semi-final of UEFA Champions League 2018 between Liverpool FC and AS Roma on April 24th.

Munich – Germany

Do you know the city of Munich is named after monks who once ran a monastery here in the area that is now known as old town? Munich is best known for Oktoberfest – but that happens in September-October and we are talking about April-May.

I would like to see the old town that pretty much dominates the skyline of Munich followed by a visit to the residential palace of Munich. And I am told it houses one of the best museums in Europe. I am keeping one morning for a walk around the English Garden. It is fun to compare English gardens around the world. Remember, we have already taken you to English Gardens in Kandy, Singapore, Victoria BC.

Since my mind is still stuck in sports, I would love to take a guided tour of the Olympic stadium of Munich. Built for summer Olympics of 1972, it was a futuristic design aping the Alps.

Munich is the venue for the first leg of the second semi-final of UEFA Champions League 2018 between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid on 25th April.

Madrid – Spain

Apart from being the capital of Spain, I have always known Madrid for being the headquarters of World Tourism Organization. What excites me about Madrid is the fact that its streets are full of sculptures.

Plazas of Puerta Del Sol stand for the ceremony of the eating of 12 grapes to bring in the new year here next to the clock tower. Who would not want to visit Plaza Mayor for the world-famous bullfights of Spain and Madrid? A guided tour of the Royal Palace that is still the official residence of Spain’s royal family is a must-see for any history enthusiast like me. Then, there is museum triangle the various parks to stroll around.

“No one goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night,” said Hemingway about this city. So, you have to explore its nightlife and find it out for yourself what is it that keeps the city awake through the night. For the football fans, there is a mandatory tour to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium or the Real Madrid headquarters.

Madrid is the venue for the second leg of the first semi-final of UEFA Champions League 2018 happening on 2nd May.

Rome – Italy

If you are a regular reader of IndiTales, you know that I love ancient cities. Rome remains on top of the ancient world cities that I want to visit. I can only imagine myself walking around in the streets of Rome bumping into sculptures, ancient buildings, talking to them, observing the modern Rome peacefully co-existing with the ancient one.

Colosseum – Rome

While I have to see the popular tourist haunts like the Colosseum, the Forum Romanum, the Pantheon, throw coins at Trevi Fountain and pay my respects to its museum, I am keener looking at the life as it has changed in the same living quarters overages. In between all these, I have to taste the Italian Expresso Coffee and some wood baked Pizza.

Olympic Stadium at Rome is the venue for the second leg of the first semi-final of UEFA Champions League on 3rd May 2018.

Kyiv – Ukraine

Navigating the cities of Semi-finals, I reach the city of finals – Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Now, this is a city I do not know much about. So, Google came to rescue once again and as I started reading, I discovered yet another ancient city living on either bank of the River Dnipro.

Kyiv Stadium at Night, Image – Shutterstock

The moment I read about the Chernobyl Museum, I was able to connect it to the dominating news of the 1980 – the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, one of the worst tragedies in human history. Then I discovered that Kyiv is home to St Sophia’s Cathedral – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Instagram shows me lovely images of gardens and piano players in the streets of Kyiv. I am sure there is a lot to explore and discover.

My reading tells me that I am going to have fun with tongue twister names of the places in Kyiv. Kyiv or Kiev itself is an interesting controversy.

Kyiv is the venue for the finals of UEFA Champions League 2018 happening on 27th May.

Planning to Travel with Sports

As I was mentally planning this trip in my head, yes, this comes naturally to travel bloggers. I wondered how I would be jumping 5 countries, not counting the ones I would pass by. There are 3 different currencies that work in these 5 countries. How do you plan your day to day expenses? A potential answer lies in the Forex Card instead of carrying cash in any currency. Visas are another story though – that would take another day and another post probably.

Would you like to Travel with Sports events? Which sport and which event would be your choice?

The post Travel with Sports Events like UEFA Champions League appeared first on Inditales.

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